"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

John 8:32

Naval Headquarters

Magdeburg Navy Yard

Magdeburg, USE 0900 Hours Local

In the charming vernacular of his time, the admiral was ready to have kittens. The tension in his office was thick enough to cut with a dagger and if I'd had my druthers, I wouldn't be here in spite of my supposedly princely salary. But then, I suspect that neither would any of the rest of the people in the office. Most especially, the quietly sobbing young woman sitting in front of his desk.

My name is Gunther Schlosser and as the up-timers put it . . . I'm a cop.

Actually, I'm the Senior-Agent-in-Charge, Magdeburg as well as the Director, Naval Criminal Investigative Service. And although the titles sound impressive, the reality is that I have less than fifty men and women under my command . . . and most of them are involved in bodyguard and security work through the USE. Still, that makes me the Navy's top law enforcer and Admiral John Calhoun Simpson my boss. Like the bard says, the policeman's lot isn't a happy one and this was a case in point. The sobbing, pretty, young woman was Marine Private Angelina Rainaldi, a recruit with a seriously ill husband, a new baby and too much baggage, physical and otherwise. Her baby was the reason that we were meeting this morning.

Rather, the failed kidnapping attempt of said baby right out of her mother's quarters in the barracks, was the reason for the meeting. The attempt led to the murder of the floor duty firewatcher, radio-operator Edwina Haas, and to NCIS official attention. Luckily for all concerned, the perpetrator had met his just reward and the child was rescued unharmed, thanks to the quick actions of an off-duty military policewoman, Annalise Schuhmacher. I'd met her three months earlier during another murder investigation, our first. At that time, she had provided me with the critical clue that led to solving the murder. I'd decided that I was going to keep close tabs on her and her partner, Hans Leiss, careers. NCIS is always looking for good people and, as her actions demonstrated, my interest in Schuhmacher hadn't been misplaced.

But that still left us with two dead bodies and one of them was ours. Those of us in the Navy take a dim view of those who harm our people. So, Rainaldi had been summoned to the admiral's office to answer some very pointed questions. She hadn't come alone. Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Von Brockenholz, her battalion commander, escorted her. Some up-timers had compared him with an Archibald Henderson, whoever he was. His top kick, Charles 'Duke' Hudson, another up-timer, stood at her back.

I think there are a lot of children in Magdeburg—and not a few Marine privates—who go to bed early under the threat of a midnight visit from Sergeant Major Hudson. Truthfully, he is one of the good guys and the top architect and founder of the new Marine Corps. However, he's not what you could call Rainaldi's number one admirer. But then, the way she became a Marine was one for the books.

I can surely say, without it being an understatement, that the pucker factor was decisively high that day.

Young Angelina was sworn-in as a recruit in the United States Marine Corps—not the Navy, as everyone expected—and immediately thereafter married to a barely resuscitated groom. At the last possible moment, a supply of a powerful up-time drug had been secured, and Carlo's life saved, although he lost an eye. Angelina delivered a healthy and beautiful baby daughter shortly after the wedding. A storybook ending, right? Well . . . not quite.

It didn't take long for our community's little old ladies—of both sexes—to start to count backwards in their fingers and, possibly, toes. It became painfully obvious that unless Carlo had some hitherto unknown magical power that allowed him to be with his beloved at the right time—or that Angelina suffered from a case of immaculate conception—the baby girl was probably not his. Nevertheless, Carlo, still recovering at the infirmary, stepped forward to do the right thing and accepted her as his own. That won him a lot of extra brownie points with the whole naval community and lost her just as many. The subject was still very touchy for the Corps, especially the servicewomen.

Like the rest of the females from Grantville, servicewomen have had to contend with my century's ideas of the place of women in society; ideas that are sometimes at great odds with what up-timers understand or implement. In the eyes of many servicewomen, Angelina's actions were not helping their case. So the poor woman found herself increasingly isolated and shut out. Don't get me wrong. She was treated correctly and assisted as much as possible with child care and such. But, unlike most new recruits, she was not welcomed into the comradeship of the Corps. In hindsight, that was a mistake that cost us the life of one of our own.

****

Despite the admiral's inclination for kitten-bearing, he had maintained a remarkably even temper so far. For those of us who knew him well, this was not considered a particularly good sign. In addition to three Marines, a yeoman, my partner and me, the Navy Judge Advocate General was also present. Commander Tomas de Kratman, a former professor from Louvain in the Spanish Netherlands, came to Magdeburg to study how the Navy implemented the American Uniform Code of Military Justice. How he ended up in uniform could be attributed to the admiral's uncanny ability to cultivate and recruit capable individuals. Hudson, an earlier victim like me, once told me that it was akin to selling refrigerators to Eskimos. So Professor Kratman found himself with the unique opportunity to both see the code in action and be responsible for its implementation. Prior to Angelina and her escort's arrival, he had solemnly informed the admiral that, in his considered legal opinion, she couldn't be held liable for Haas' murder under the U.C.M.J.

That was fine with me and my partner, Brunhilde Spitzer, who was sitting calmly beside where I stood against the wall of the crowded office. It had also moved the investigation from the realm of criminal activity back to one of force protection, another of NCIS' core responsibilities. That still left some very important questions in our minds. Simply put, who was the intruder, who sent him here and would that person send more? The answers to all those questions required Angelina's willing cooperation.

That cooperation was not forthcoming.

By my calculations, Angelina was one wrong answer away from having Spitzer read her rights under Article 31 as the first step in the process that would see her drummed out of the Marines. Everyone in the room was aware of this, most especially her, which explained the waterworks as she faced the admiral. I felt sorry for the girl, in some ways. There was not much sympathy for her in the room.

Spitzer, as the only other woman present, might have been presumed to be at least an understanding listener. But she had known and liked Haas, and I could read her determination to bring those behind the killer to justice. If Angelina stood in her way, she was going to suffer the consequences. That was scary in so many ways. Of the two of us, Spitzer is the cool, analytic one who complements my tendency for more direct and aggressive action.

My partner's current inclination for bloodthirstiness and "no quarter" attitude was, in part, my own fault.

Spitzer is not only my colleague, but also my wife. Three months earlier, she announced that we were pregnant. Of course, I was delighted, but as a man born in my time, the idea of my pregnant wife doing the kind of work we do at NCIS appalled me. And when she informed me that she didn't have any plans to quit, I objected for all I was worth.

She had other ideas. There was a reason she took the name of a Valkyrie warrior maid out of the old sagas after heeding Gretchen Higgins' message. You quickly learn to not stand in her way, and even with my well-deserved reputation for ruthlessness, I do know when to back off. My dear mother didn't raise a fool. Although I suspect that she's having a good laugh at my expense, up there in heaven. So Brunei stayed on the job and I was introduced to the wonderful world of morning sickness and hormones. She isn't getting too much sleep; neither am I.

It's a good thing that I love her with all my heart.

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff