This book should be available now so this is the last snippet.

1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 62

“Because he’s the guy with the camera and the dark room. Until someone starts making more photographic supplies, Fred’s the best we have.”


Jonathan was feeling ill. He’d just killed a man, and now he was sitting in an interview room at the police station opposite Officer Estes Frost describing what had happened. He looked up when the door opened. An attractive American woman in her late twenties entered.

Estes looked up. “Hi, Dita. I’m just about finished with Jonathan.” He turned back to Jonathan. “This is Dita Petrini, licensed professional counselor.”

“A shrink?” Jonathan asked. He felt able to smile, even if only slightly. Surely they wouldn’t be calling in a counselor if they were going to arrest him.

“You’ve just experienced something very traumatic Jonathan, and Chief Frost asked me to have a little talk with you before you were released.”

“I’m free to go?” Jonathan asked.

“Sure,” Estes said, “just as soon as you sign your statement.” He smiled at Jonathan. “Hey, you’re a hero, and we don’t arrest heroes.”

Jonathan knew he was going to be sick. He held a hand over his mouth, shot to his feet, and made for the door.

“To your left, three doors down,” Estes called out as Jonathan passed through the door.

Dita turned to Estes. “What’s to the left three doors down?” she asked.

“The men’s toilets.”

Dita nodded. “I guess Jonathan’s going to be otherwise engaged for a while, so I might as well drop into the other interview room and check on Richelle.”

“You do that. I’ll let you know when Jonathan comes back.”


Richelle had both arms around Lenya, who was still wrapped in Jonathan’s jacket while she still had Lenya’s blanket draped around her, as she sat at the desk in the interview room. Across the table from her sat Officer Erika Fleischer, whom she’d met when she first arrived in Grantville, and one of the female dispatchers, who’d been called in to record the interview.

While Officer Fleisher and Frau Carson conferred over the interview notes Richelle mentally reviewed the fight. In her mind’s eyes she could see Jonathan perform the knife counter she’d first seen Tommy Karickhoff demonstrate at the self-defense course, and she remembered Herr Karickhoff saying that it wasn’t easy to stick a knife into someone with that move. In her mind the action slowed down until she could see the deliberate effort Jonathan made, driving his knee into the pommel of the knife to drive it home. She’d seen the look in Jonathan’s eyes, and she knew he’d been trying to kill her step-father’s brother. “Is Jonathan in trouble?”

Erika looked up from the interview transcript. “From what you’ve said, and the evidence at the scene, it appears to be a clear case of self defense.”

Mimi Carson nodded in agreement. “Jonathan was protecting a young mother attacked by a knife welding man. He could have emptied a gun into him and there still wouldn’t be a jury that would convict him.”

Richelle relaxed. Jonathan wasn’t going to get into trouble for saving her.

The door to the interview room opened and Dita stepped in. “How are you holding up, Richelle?” she asked as she stepped into the room.

“Okay,” Richelle said. She’d had a number of counseling sessions with Frau Petrini, and knew her reasonably well.

“She was worried about Jonathan being in trouble,” Mimi said.

Dita turned and smiled at Richelle. “Chief Frost is treating it as a straight case of self defense.”

“Can I see him?” Richelle asked.

“He’s not feeling very well at the moment,” Dita warned. “Last I saw of him, he was making a mad dash for the men’s toilet.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Richelle demanded as she shot to her feet.

“I think it’s started to hit him that he’s just killed a man,” Dita said. “I’ll be scheduling some counseling sessions with him when he’s feeling more himself.”

Most of what Dita said was said to Richelle’s back as she ran out of the interview room.

She found Jonathan kneeling in front of a toilet, crying and shaking. She adjusted Lenya’s blanket until it covered both of them and held Jonathan tightly. “You saved me, Jonathan. You did what you had to do to save me.”


Erika, Mimi, and Dita were still looking at the door when Tracy Kubiak turned up.

“Where’s Richelle? How is she?” she demanded.

“Richelle’s okay,” Erika said. “She’s a little shaken, but basically unharmed.”

Tracy slumped and swayed. She had to plant her hands on the interview table to maintain her balance until Dita could maneuver her into the chair Richelle had recently vacated. “Where is she?”

Erika, Mimi and Dita exchanged looks. “I think she went looking for Jonathan,” Mimi said.

“That’s good,” Tracy said, a smug smile appearing on her face.

“I hope you aren’t imagining a romance, Tracy,” Dita said.

“Of course not. Jonathan’s six years older than Richelle, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have a crush on him.” Tracy said.

Dita pursed her lips and shook her head. “He’s still a guy, Tracy, and Richelle still has issues.”

“I thought she was getting better,” Tracy said. “Under the circumstances, you’d expect her to hate Lenya, but she absolutely loves her daughter.”

“She does,” Dita agreed, “and for a very good reason. Her step-father’s abuse stopped when the community discovered that Richelle was pregnant. Then, her pregnancy kept her alive when they executed her abuser. In Richelle’s mind, Lenya saved her.”

“Oh!” Tracy mumbled.

“Yes, oh,” Dita agreed. “Richelle’s got a long way to go before she recovers from what happened to her, if she ever does.”

July 4, Grantville

Richelle stood beside Jonathan watching the Fourth of July parade march past. Perched on Jonathan’s shoulders a happy Lenya followed the beat with her hands on his head.

Suddenly Jonathan hunched his shoulders and reached up for Lenya. “Someone, who shall remain nameless,” he told Richelle, “needs her diapers changed.”

Richelle glanced at the back of Jonathan’s T-shirt as he lifted Lenya. Yes, there was a damp patch around the neck. She felt a grin coming and tried desperately to smother it as she reached out to take Lenya. Then she saw the look on Jonathan’s face and lost it. She pulled Lenya close before turning and running, laughter ringing out as she ran.

Jonathan caught up with her a short distance down Market Street from Main Street. “It’s not that funny,” he said as he caught up.

Richelle struggled to stop laughing. “You should have seen your face.”

“It’s a bit awkward to see your own face,” Jonathan said.

Richelle wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes and smiled at Jonathan. Surprisingly enough she’d enjoyed the day in town with him. He was fun to be with, and he was safe. A movement to the side attracted her attention and she stopped laughing as she recognized a couple of the boys who’d been pestering her. They stared at her for a while before bolting.

“Who were they?” Jonathan asked.

A quick glance confirmed that Jonathan had seen the boys, which probably explained their hasty departure. They didn’t want to mess with Killer Fortney. “I don’t think I need to worry about any of the boys at school pestering me again.”

“Were they a couple of the guys who’d been pestering you?’


“Then it looks like your mother’s plan worked.”

“Yes, but I’ve really enjoyed today. Thanks for agreeing to walk out with me.”

“Hey, no trouble,” Jonathan said. “I’ve enjoyed today too.”

They fell into step as they headed towards Trelli’s GoodCare pharmacy, where they’d stashed Lenya’s baby buggy rather than struggle with it in the crowd. “I still want a gun,” Richelle said.

“You can’t have one. The law’s pretty clear on that. You’re what, sixteen?” Jonathan asked.

“In September.”

“Right, and the legal minimum age to openly carry a gun is eighteen.”

Richelle skipped around in front of Jonathan and looked imploringly at him. “You’re twenty-one. We could get married.”

“What?” Jonathan roared. “People don’t get married just so they can carry a gun.”

Laughter rippled from Richelle as she stepped up beside Jonathan again. “And you call yourself a West Virginian.”

“Yes I do, and I can just imagine your Mama Tracy’s reaction if we told her we wanted to get married.”

Richelle grinned back. “The explosion would be impressive.”

“Which is why it’s not going to happen.”

“Of course it isn’t,” Richelle agreed, although she would have preferred that Jonathan not be quite so empathic about it not happening.

They walked in companionable silence towards Trelli’s GoodCare pharmacy. Richelle noticed the signs advertising the new Dr. Gribbleflotz alchemy sets in the window. “Why are they pushing the alchemy sets now? I would have thought they’d wait for Christmas, or at least until Halloween.”

“They couldn’t possibly miss the fourth of July,” Jonathan said.

“What’s so special about the fourth of July?” Richelle asked. “I know it’s your independence day, but what does that have to do with selling alchemy sets?”

“This is your first Fourth of July, isn’t it?”

Richelle nodded.

“Thought so,” Jonathan said. “Well, they end the day with a fireworks display.”

Richelle nodded. “So Mama said. We’re supposed to be going to the Fair Grounds to watch the fireworks tonight.” She looked up at him. “Will you be there?”

“I hadn’t planned on it.”

“Oh.” Richelle wasn’t aware of how disappointed she must have sounded until a hand landed lightly on her shoulder. She just barely managed not to try and shrug it off.

“I’ll call and arrange a time and place to meet you.”

She smiled at Jonathan, and stepped away just enough that his hand slipped from her shoulder. “That’d be nice.” Both of them stared at each other as Jonathan shoved his hands into his pockets. She was happy to see that he hadn’t taken offense at her maneuver. Maybe he understood that she hadn’t felt comfortable with him touching her. “You were explaining why Herr Trelli is pushing the alchemy sets.”

“Fireworks use gunpowder, and the alchemy sets all have the ingredients needed to make your own fireworks. There are going to be a lot of kids making their own fireworks for their own fireworks displays this evening.”

Richelle stopped to stare at Jonathan. “Are you telling me those alchemy sets give instructions on how to make gunpowder?”

“In excruciating detail,” Jonathan confirmed.

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

“Sure, but it’s a lot safer than leaving the kids to make gunpowder based on what they can find from sources like The Anarchist Cookbook. At least Dr. Gribbleflotz’ instructions contain safety warnings.”

Inside Trelli’s GoodCare pharmacy

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to buy Troy a chemistry set for his birthday,”‘ Phebe Morton said. “He’ll only be twelve.”

“Elisabeth Hockenjoss got a Dr. Gribbleflotz Junior Alchemist set for her birthday, and she’s only ten,” Tracy Morton said.

Phebe glared at her ten year old daughter. “But she’s a down-timer,” she said.

Tracy looked questioningly at her mother. “Why does Elisabeth being a down-timer mean she can have a junior alchemist set for her birthday and Troy can’t?”

“Can I help you?” Susan Little asked.

Phebe grasped the lifeline she’d just been thrown. “It’s Troy’s birthday soon, and he’s got his heart set on a Dr. Gribbleflotz Junior Alchemist set, and I’m worried that it might be dangerous.”

Susan nodded her head. “That is a reasonable fear. Of course there is an element of danger. That’s why the boxes are marked ‘parental supervision recommended’. However, the instructions for all of the experiments have all been carefully written by Herr Dr. Gribbleflotz himself. They explain in great detail how to perform each experiment, and come with warnings of what to look out for.”

“But I’ve heard that it is possible to make gunpowder and other explosives from the chemicals in the chemistry sets.”

“You’re right about the gunpowder. There’s not much we can do about not including charcoal, sulphur, and potassium nitrate. However, that’s the only ‘explosive’ you can make from the chemicals in the Junior Alchemist set. You need the intermediate set for the triiodide, and the advanced set for fulminates and guncotton.’

“You can make triiodide from an Intermediate Alchemist set?” Truman Morton asked.

“Truman, you’re not helping,” Phebe said.

“Sorry dear.”

Phebe glared at her husband, who she could see was reading the advertising for the Dr. Gribbleflotz Advanced Alchemist set. “We are not buying one of those for Troy.”

Morton grinned at Phebe. “I was thinking of getting an advanced set for me. Come on, Phebe. You know Troy’s got his heart set on a Dr. Gribbleflotz Junior Alchemist set.”

Phebe released a heavy sigh. “Okay, but you better supervise him when he’s using it.”

“Of course, dear.”