1636 The Viennese Waltz – Snippet 09

Chapter 4: Open Season

June, 1634

Higgins Hotel, Ring of Fire

Judy the Younger stretched on her bed in her suite at the Higgins Hotel. Mom and Sarah hadn’t moved to Magdeburg yet, but Judy wanted to get settled before they left. Getting to stay in Grantville had been a massive struggle, but worth it. She wasn’t staying on her own. Her parents wouldn’t go for that. But Delia Higgins was considered a good influence. Mostly, Judy admitted with some chagrin, because Delia wasn’t buying Judy’s schtick. Most adults, Judy could get around, one way or the other. Not Delia. “Some people just aren’t charmable,” Judy muttered resentfully, stood up, and padded across to her desk. Not that she was really all that resentful. She just felt that she was supposed to be.

Judy’s desk was oak, built since the Ring of Fire with a combination of up-time equipment and down-time craftsmanship and was a masterpiece. Literally. Judy knew the master. The whole top two floors of the Higgins was like that. Furniture, art, all made in a fusion of seventeenth-century craftsmanship and twentieth-century tools and techniques. Vernon Bruce, Delia’s Scottish interior decorator, would have nothing less in the penthouse, even if Delia didn’t care. Delia had given him his shot by hiring him to decorate the Grantville Higgins and now he was in high demand. She was his patron. Delia Higgins and David Bartley tended to do that . . . collect retainers almost against their will. So did Mike Stearns, come to think of it. They couldn’t all be natural leaders, could they? Well, Mike Stearns was. With Delia and David, though, it was something else. People saw opportunity in them and down-timers, especially, responded with personal loyalty. That happened to almost any up-timer who didn’t screw it up. Not all the time, but a lot.

It had happened to the Barbies, that was for sure. In a way, the American Equipment Company disaster had been a godsend, and not just because it had got them together with the Ken Doll. It had also done really good things for their reputation. Everyone knew that they bought that company after it was already a failure in a big way. The fact that they had gotten most of the investors out with their skin intact had done wonders for their reputation, both for fair dealing and for sharpness. Judy decided that she really did need to do something nice for the Ken Doll for coming to their rescue like that. Which brought Sarah to mind. For some reason Judy couldn’t see, Prince Karl was totally bonkers over her sister. The trick would be to get Sarah to notice.

In retrospect, Judy was amazed that Sarah had ever gotten together with David, because she didn’t think Sarah would notice even someone as blatant as David was. Karl was a lot more subtle. A lot more careful. So careful that there was no way Sarah would see what was going on. He understood the up-timer rules pretty well, but love and sex were delicate areas any time. So Karl was doing his friendly flirtatious bit as a sort of a shield. But it was a shield that would keep Sarah from realizing he was really interested in her.

Judy picked up the phone. There was no dial tone. Instead, after a slight pause — no more than a couple of seconds — a voice came on the line. “Higgins Hotel switchboard. How may I direct your call?”

“Hi, Elsbeth. It’s Judy. Would you set up a call to Prince Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein for me and call me back when it’s through, please?”

“Sure, Judy. Anything I should invest in?” Judy could hear the laughter in Elsbeth’s voice. Elsbeth worked the switchboard and was training to be a concierge, but she didn’t invest in the stock market. It was a running joke between them with Judy touting the most ridiculous nonexistent stocks she could think of.

“Sure! Casein dildos are expected to rise, due to reports of a splintering problem with their nearest competitor.” Elsbeth would never tell a dirty joke, but loved to hear them. Judy could almost hear her blushing and could hear the suppressed giggling.

“You are so bad. I’ll get your call.” Then the phone went dead.

It was only a few moments later that it rang. “What can I do for you, Judy?” Prince Karl sounded a bit distracted.

“How’s your phone security, Karl?” Judy asked “Elsbeth won’t listen and wouldn’t talk even if she did. How is it on your end?”

“I suspect Frederic listens, but he won’t talk.”

It was an important question. Places like the Higgins and large properties like Karl’s Grantville estate, or Prince Vladimir’s estate, had live operators while the larger exchanges had electromechanical routers.

“Oh. I don’t think that’s good enough.” Judy checked her schedule. “How about dinner at the penthouse, say, Thursday night?”

“Is it important?”

“Maybe. I’m being a busybody, Karl.”

“Hm, I wouldn’t want to miss that. But I have a dinner with Stavros Thursday. Something about steam engines for Greek fishing boats. Could we make it Friday?”

On Friday Judy had a date, as usual. This one to a play at the Grantville High Theater. The Desk Set, reset for the new timeline in Magdeburg with the Spencer Tracy role recast as an Up-timer Girl and the Katharine Hepburn role as Down-timer Guy. It was the opening and Judy’s sources said it was a hoot. “Sorry. Booked up Friday and Saturday. What about Monday dinner?”

“That should work.”

Higgins Hotel, Ring of Fire

The elevator operator took Karl up to the penthouse of the Higgins, where he was met by a maid who took his cloak and showed him to the small dining room. Delia was there, overseeing the staff as they put out the first course.

“Welcome, Prince Karl. David’s in his office and Judy is on the phone, but they should be in anytime now.”

“Just Karl, please, Frau Higgins,” Karl said. “In Grantville ‘prince’ doesn’t seem appropriate somehow.”

“Then call me Delia, Karl,” Delia said as her grandson David Bartley came in.

“Good evening, Karl,” David said in Amideutsch. “What’s Judy the Baracudy up to now?”

“I don’t have any idea, but it will probably be profitable.”

“Just networking,” Judy said, coming in behind David. “Nothing sinister.”

David snorted in disbelief and Judy stuck out her tongue.

They took their seats and talk turned to business. The Higgins Hotel was doing well and getting a reputation as the swankiest hotel in the Ring of Fire area, though the new hotel that was to be built on the bluffs overlooking the south side of the Ring would probably beat them out for view. A new Higgins was under construction in Magdeburg and Karl spent some time lobbying to get one in Silesia. In return, Delia lobbied him to write King Fernando in the Netherlands about putting one in Amsterdam. They talked about the American Equipment Corporation debacle and Judy the Younger brought up Sarah’s objection to the whole deal, with Judy bashing Sarah, and Karl jumping to her defense. David spent his time being evenhanded, and Delia watched over the whole thing.