1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 20:



            At least they’d picked on him because of Wes and didn’t know anything about his relationship to Francisco Nasi. Nathan picked up his pen.


            Dear Don Francisco.


            He’d better write to Wes, too. Just in case Waters or Higgenbottom asked about it, some day. CYA. Always.





            Jacques-Pierre Dumais decided that he would talk to Velma Hardesty at the 250 Club, sitting at a table right out in the open. Why not? Veda Mae Haggerty had introduced them to one another in public. Madame Hardesty was upon occasion a waitress there. Duck and Big Dog drank there; he worked for them. It was natural enough for him to come in with them, at first, and then to come back. The regulars didn’t object, because the Garbage Guys had all vouched for him.

            If you went slinking around, someone was eventually bound to notice that you were slinking.

            As far as Jacques-Pierre was concerned, Grantville’s greatest contribution to the education of seventeenth century spies was that delightful couple, Boris Badenoff and Natasha. He had transcribed every episode of the tapes featuring the Russian pair, the squirrel, and the moose, listening to them over and over. With sketches of the best scenes, after he had learned to use the “pause” button. He sent them back to Henri de Rohan for use in training. A splendid object lesson in how not to gather intelligence. Himself, he preferred to go places where he had some reason to be and speak openly with people who also had some logical reason to be there.

            He stopped to examine the place carefully on his way in. The 250 Club had missed out on most of Grantville’s ongoing redevelopment. The building itself backed up to a rise. Above it, the hill rose fairly high. There wasn’t really anything behind the building except a narrow walkway, because it was too close to the slope. That cut had been made, Duck had told him, nearly a half-century before the Ring of Fire.

            The front of the building was a dull red. The back was painted in a faded dark green, a kind of paint that weathered, but did not peel. Part of the walkway had always been kept open to allow the beer delivery man to run his hand truck to the back door. It was hard to tell the color in places. Before the Ring of Fire, everywhere there wasn’t junk, generations of beer deliverymen and meter readers had rubbed against the paint and sworn over damaging their clothes. The rest of the walkway used to be blocked by a pile of old refrigerators, broken bar furniture, and other miscellaneous junk that eventually merged into the former scrapyard if a person went that far. The junk was gone now. The Garbage Guys had paid Ken Beasley enough to make it worth his while to let them have it. The color of the paint was a little brighter where the junk had protected it.

            Redevelopment had hit the area around it. Dumais had seen historical photographs at the museum. Before the Ring of Fire, facing the 250 Club from the road, on the right, there had been a small scrapyard with a few dead cars—not really a wrecking yard, just random accumulation—with a fence made of wired-up pieces of sheet-iron roofing. The Garbage Guys had bought up everything there, also, the owner being too cheap to donate it to recycling. Now there were new buildings and new businesses. On the left, the road curved away from you, and the parking still went around to that side of the building, not that anyone needed a parking lot any more. The next thing in that direction was—once upon a time—a failed gas station, with a rusty brown 1971 Mercury with a torn vinyl top and the right-front wheel missing parked under the portico. The car was long gone for parts. A down-time blacksmith had bought the building and stripped it. Now it was a butcher shop.


            After a full evening of Madame Hardesty’s conversation, Jacques-Pierre was tempted to give up the trade of espionage for good. He was suffering from la migraine. Getting any sound information out of the woman would be hopeless. She was utterly indifferent to anything that did not affect her directly.

            She was stupid. She was spiteful. She was frivolous. She believed in astrology and who knew what other superstitions. She spouted platitudes that she found in her horoscope.

            She was also a first cousin of the prime minister of the United States of Europe. True, Mike Stearns avoided claiming the relationship as much as possible—and had, by all accounts, long before he became the prime minister. A prime minister and a waitress in a tavern? Cousins? It would not be possible in a well-ordered world. But Stearns was an upstart and he did acknowledge the relationship in a minimal sort of way. At least, the woman had been invited to his wedding. Jacques-Pierre had confirmed that.


            If he could put ideas into that hennaed head? Ideas that she could drop into her normal conversation? It wouldn’t work in a larger community, but there were really so few of the up-timers. A comment here. An innuendo there. A veiled criticism here. A barbed jab there. Each of them the kind of thing that people who knew the woman might expect her to say, but with the added little fillip that well, she was, after all, Mike Stearns’ first cousin. Even if it was on the Lawler side of the family and they weren’t that close.

            Jacques-Pierre set out to flatter Madame Hardesty while, at the same time, seeding her mind with comments that would cultivate enough mild dissatisfaction in Grantville about the USE’s policy in regard to Louis XIII and Richelieu to persuade Mauger that it was worthwhile to keep employing him. But not so much dissatisfaction as to cause really major problems, since that was not what Henri de Rohan wanted, not at all.

            He must encourage her to undertake a self-improvement project. How? What would she understand? Ah, yes—the practice of transcendental meditation. Reduced to words she might at least pretend to understand.

            The woman was not only lazy but also not known to be interested in public affairs. So he would be careful. Of the subjects that he gave her, “new insights” she should share with others to impress them, only about one in three, maybe fewer, would have any possible political implications. Most of the positive ones would involve the need for up-timers to harbor warm, fuzzy thoughts about French Huguenots and the Calvinist exiles from the Spanish Netherlands. The negative ones would target Gustavus Adolphus’ treaty proposals. The remainder would be platitudes such as A Discontented Heart Breeds a Discontented Life. He could easily plagiarize most of them from Seneca, which the Grantvillers would soon realize, if they read Seneca.

            But they didn’t. So.