1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 19:



Chapter 11



Frankfurt am Main


            Nathan Prickett figured he’d done his duty to common courtesy already by looking up the other Grantvillers in Frankfurt and saying hi, letting them know where he was staying. He hadn’t expected that he’d have much in common with them, except for being from Grantville, and he didn’t.

            Jason Waters was a newspaperman. He was here to establish an American-style newspaper. If he could get permission from the city council, that was. And from Magdeburg, since the guy who was publishing the big paper in Frankfurt now had a kind of grandfathered-in imperial monopoly that went back to the days before the Ring of Fire.

            The USE parliament hadn’t gotten around to abolishing monopolies yet. They probably would, but the country had only existed for less than a year and a good portion of that time, there’d been a war on. It looked like there’d be a war on a good portion of next year, too, if Gustav decided to take on Saxony and Brandenburg.

            Waters was from Charlestown and only settled down in Grantville to start with because he’d married Serena Trelli. Nathan had no idea why he’d brought Ernest Haggerty with him, unless to be a gofer.

             Wayne Higgenbottom was studying the post office system. Wayne was here because the Grantville post office had sent him. None of them were likely to stay long. It wasn’t as if Nathan had ever gone to school with any of them. Haggerty did belong to the same church—Methodist—but he was married to Bobbie Jean Sienkiewicz, who was Catholic, and didn’t attend regularly. Ernest was some kind of a cousin of Gary Haggerty and them, but not close.

            Odd, but by now, after all the time he’d lived in Suhl, Nathan had more in common with Ruben Blumroder than he did with some of the guys from back home.

            He picked up his pen.


            Dear Don Francisco,


            He didn’t have a lot to report. He’d only been here a week. But he owed the don a letter.


            Johann Wilhelm Dilich, who is in charge of Frankfurt’s fortifications, knows a lot more about city defenses than I do, or probably ever will.

            I expect you already know that way back before Grantville arrived, the father of the guy who’s the landgrave of Hesse now put Dilich’s father in jail. And, I sort of think from what I’ve been picking up, it was for unfair reasons. As soon as the father got out in 1623, he went to work for the elector of Saxony. That’s John George. He’s still working there, and he’s famous.

            I guess that worked out fine in the world we came from, because Frankfurt and Hesse and Saxony were all on the side of Gustavus Adolphus.

            Well, sort of, at least. Seems like John George was always a bit iffy, to put the best face possible on it.

            What with the war coming up next spring, though, I thought I’d at least better remind you that the guy in charge of the fortifications at Frankfurt, which is a really important city (province, I guess, since the Congress of Copenhagen) for the USE and smack on the Main River, is the son of the guy who’s in charge of the fortifications for John George.

            Just in case.

            The militia captain told me all this. He’s an old friend of a gunsmith named Heinrich Dilles. He—Dilles, that is—has been dead for almost ten years, but Blumroder used to know him pretty well and said that the captain could tell me a lot. Blumroder gave me a few other names of men to look up beyond the ones I’ve already talked to on my sales trips over here. Kolb and Mohr. Hung and Rephun. And Schmidt. I don’t exactly have high hopes of finding the right person named Schmidt. It’s a good-sized town and they don’t have street numbers.

            Otherwise, Simon Jones, the minister of my church back home, came through town, with that hippie Tom Stone’s two younger boys and an Italian woman painter, on his way back to Grantville. Funny company for him to be keeping. But I expect you’ve already heard that.


            Best wishes,

            Nathan Prickett


            “I’m not here to tell you how to put your men through drill,” Nathan said firmly. The Frankfurt militia officers were a touchy bunch, a lot of them. Not the captain, who was the head guy, but several of the lieutenants.

            “I’m a veteran, yeah. One three-year enlistment from 1986 through 1989. Not an officer. I went in right out of high school, because I couldn’t afford to start college right away. We were in the middle of an economic bust in Grantville, the year I graduated.”

            Someone asked a question.

            “College? I guess you’d call it your ‘arts faculty’ at a university like Jena. Or a ‘philosophy faculty.’ But I’d planned to major in engineering, or something technical.”

            The man nodded. “Leiden,” he said.

            Nathan didn’t catch the reference, so he kept going. “Never did get to college. By the time I got out of the army, I’d decided to start my own business, so I took a job to start saving money.” He looked around the room. “Any questions? Is that clear?”

            No more questions.

            “Okay, one three-year enlistment. ‘That’s all, folks,’ just like the cartoons say. I’ve been in the National Guard ever since, but that’s weekend warrior stuff.”

            More technical terms to explain.

            “Look, the main point is. You keep on teaching your troops to fight. I teach them how to take care of the new guns the city council has paid out their good tax money to buy.” He looked around the room again. “Any questions? Is that clear?”

            He’d learned the hard way, his first few trips over to Frankfurt for Ruben Blumroder, that “Any questions?” and “Is that clear?” were his best friends.


            He hadn’t expected Jason Waters to come tracking him down at the tavern where he ate dinner, but here he came. So he nodded. The two of them consumed stew and bread in silence for a while. Waters broke it.

            “Ever run across a guy named Wackernagel?”

            “The courier?”

            “Um-hmmn. Guess you have, if you know his name.”

            “Read it in the paper. He’s being the friendly local guide for Henry Dreeson’s trip this fall.”

            “Yeah, that one.”

            “Never actually met him. Haven’t gotten back to Grantville much these last couple of years.”

            “He works out of Frankfurt.”

            They both went back to dipping rye bread in the stew juice. That was about the only way to make it chewable, once it got stale.

            Waters broke the silence again. “He’s got a brother-in-law who runs a print shop here. Name’s Neumann.”

            “Haven’t met him.” Nathan figured that he had the home court advantage and wasn’t about to give it up. If Waters wanted something, he’d have to come right out and ask for it.

            “Higgenbottom’s run into him several times.”

            “Haven’t seen much of Wayne since I got here.”

            “You run across some pretty odd people in Frankfurt. It’s big enough that they can sort of keep themselves under the radar, if they’re careful. Not like a village, where you’ve only got a couple hundred people and they all know each other.”

            “Odd, as in peculiar? Or odd, as in this could get to be a problem?”

            “Plenty of the first around. Harmless religious nuts of various persuasions. Wayne’s thinking that there’s some of the second kind. Religious nuts of the ayatollah persuasion.”

            Nathan nodded.

            “Jessica—sister of Bill Porter over at the power plant—divorced Wayne last year. He worked in Morgantown all his life. Managed the campus mail system for WVU. Doesn’t belong to a church in Grantville. Wasn’t born there. Didn’t go to school there.”

            “So?” Nathan hated having to put that question mark at the end of his words. It amounted to giving up points. But Waters was a reporter. A word professional, so to speak. He’d probably had whole classes in turning conversations around on the people he talked to.

            “There’s at least one of the ayatollah bunches that’s gotten hold of their own duplicating machine, Neumann says. One of the Vignelli machines. Got it used from Freytag when he bought a new model. They’ve been on the market for more than a year now—the machines, I mean. A trickle at first. Now it’s a pretty wide stream. They’re coming out of Tyrol, mostly, but there are already some knock-offs on the market.”

            Nathan gave up and asked a straight question. “What does that mean?”

            “It means they’re funded. The group of would-be ayatollahs, I mean. And well-funded. Even second-hand, a Vignelli will set you back a couple thousand dollars. The price will be coming down, of course, but for now, it’s almost entirely print shops that are buying them. For small runs, they’re cheaper than setting type.”


            “Higgenbottom thinks somebody ought to know. And since you’re Wes Jenkins’ son-in-law and he’s still the grand pooh-bah over in Fulda and since they had a problem with those pamphlets a while back…”

            “You’re nominating me for the fall guy.”

            “That’s pretty much it.”