Dec. 23, 1633
“Where is it? It’s late,” Heinrich muttered under his breath as he waited impatiently for the tram. Soon he would be out of this nest of heretics. Soon he would far away from this cursed city, this Grantville, the so-called city from the future. He smiled. Soon he would be rich. Then he heard the rumble of the tram wheels on the tracks. “Finally, here it comes,” he said aloud, ignoring the looks he got from the shoppers standing around him at the tram stop.
The tram was one of the “Motor Trams.” He thought about finding the secret to that “motor” and how it would make him a rich man. No, he forced the thought to the back of his mind. I have enough right here. He patted the pack he carried.
The tram came to a lurching stop. As luck would have it, he had to wait while nine other people boarded. At the front of the line were two boys and an older man; all three had packages. Heinrich took them for up-timers from their clothing, but the boys were chattering away in German. Behind them were four women loaded down with packages and two men carrying tool boxes. When he finally was able to board there were no empty seats.
He had ridden trams for two weeks and they were never this crowded what was special about today? He studied the people. Were any of them here to watch for him? Was it a trap? A man tapped his shoulder from behind. “Move on to the back and make room for the rest of us to board, please.”
Heinrich dropped his money in the fare box and moved toward the rear of the vehicle. His pack banged into the ends of the seats and once into the shoulder of a large woman. So much for being inconspicuous. He felt like everyone was looking at him.
“Sir, would like a seat?”
Heinrich looked; it was one of the boys he had seen getting on the tram.
“Sir, would like my seat? I like to ride standing up and you could put your pack in the overhead rack.” The boy pointed to the tray hanging from the ceiling over the seats.
Heinrich clutched his pack tightly to his chest. “Nein. I will move to the rear.” Then grudgingly he added, “Danke.”
Heinrich moved toward the rear of the tram until he could see out the rear window. He studied the people on the street; it looked like no one was following him. The tram stopped with a lurch; Heinrich almost lost his footing but was able to recover. Four people shoved past him to get off and he was finally able to sit down.
“Now I’m on my way.” He sighed as he sank into the seat and drew odd looks from the people around him.
“Traveling someplace?” the old woman sitting beside him asked. “Maybe you are going to visit relatives?” She tapped the pack on his lap.
“Nein, just going home from work.” Heinrich pretended to go to sleep. Stop asking questions, you nosey old woman. Luckily the woman got off at the next stop.
When he opened his eyes, Heinrich saw that the tram was clearing out; each stop saw more people get off than on. Finally there was only the man and the two boys riding behind the driver. The tram bounced to a stop in front of a large house; the man and one of the boys got off. “Is this the last stop?” Heinrich called out. “I need to get off.”
The driver answered, “I stop at the top of the hill to refuel. That is the last stop. After that we head back to town.”
Heinrich gathered his pack by its straps and started moving to the door. He was surprised to see the boy scoot out the door as the tram came to a stop. Heinrich was just stepping down from the tram when he heard the driver say something out the window to the boy. Heinrich turned to look and his pack tangled with his legs and he stepped on a patch of ice. “Oh, merde.”
* * *
“Slow down. This is a patrol, not a horse race!” Juergen looked back over his shoulder and could see that Marvin was having a little trouble guiding his horse around the bushes that crowded the path. He realized he had finally found something he did better than his partner. Then his horse side-stepped to avoid a pile of snow and almost brushed him off against a low-hanging branch. Juergen grabbed the saddle horn and decided that “better” was just a matter of “not as bad as” and not a mark of skill. Their horses seemed to be aware of their inexperience and Juergen was sure they ran their riders into things on purpose.
He and Marvin had given up their police cruiser because of a plea from a fellow officer. Just a quick switch in the duty roster and they were doing the boundary patrol and riding the circumference of Grantville.
“Cheer up, Marvin. Look around, think what we would be missing if we were in the cruiser. We wouldn’t be able to see the beauty of the winter if we were going past it fast in the car.”
“Yeah, I’d really miss having melted snow running down my back under my jacket and freezing my butt off,” Marvin grumbled. “To say nothing of the way I’m going to feel tomorrow. That is: how I’ll feel, if this nag doesn’t toss me off and break my neck before the end of the day.”
“I’m starting to think you don’t enjoy riding,” Juergen teased.
“Well, I think . . .”
“Squack . . . Car One to Patrol Two; come in, Patrol Two,” the handi-talkie hanging on Marvin’s saddle interrupted.
“Patrol Two.” Marvin answered the radio after getting his horse under control.
“What’s your location?” Juergen recognized the voice of Chief Frost.
“We’re about a quarter mile from the Badenburg road, maybe half a mile out from the edge of the Ring.”
“Get to the road and ride back toward town. I’ll meet you before you get to the edge. Out.”
As soon as they reached the road they spotted the chief’s Jeep Cherokee. Chief Frost was not alone, but accompanied by two other policemen.
“Get down off those horses, boys. You ride like sacks of potatoes.” Chief Frost laughed as he waved to the other two men. “Günter and Horst will take the rest of your patrol. I need you for something else.”
* * *
In the jeep Chief Frost explained what was going on. “We have another death that looks like a murder. Since you’re my experienced investigators, it’s your case.”
Juergen felt uncertain; he didn’t feel like an experienced investigator. He and Marvin had gotten lucky on solving the Cooper case so fast.
Marvin must have felt the same way because he turned to Frost and said, “Chief, you know we’re not that good. Surely there’s someone else you could give this one to.”
Chief Frost gave them a serious look. “Marvin, Juergen, I know you’re not detectives, but you’re the closest I have. Besides, the people in town think you’re super sleuths, a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe. Perceptions count. So you’re it.”
* * *
It was easy for Juergen to spot the crime scene. The ambulance and the police cruiser parked near by gave it away. The crowd of people standing at the end of the tram tracks was also a dead give away.
“You haven’t moved the body?” Marvin asked when he saw the ambulance.
“Nope,” Chief Frost answered as he parked. “I figured he’d keep as cold as the weather is. We had to let them move the tramcar, but we kept the driver. Other than that, the scene hasn’t been changed.”
Juergen thought about what the chief had told them on the ride. “Uh, Chief Frost, you said the witnesses said the man was shot as he got off the tram?”
“That’s right, just as he stepped off. Why? Do you think it’s important?”
“We might need to search the tram. He might have dropped something as he went down.”
Frost turned back to the Jeep. “I’ll radio and have someone search it.”
“Marvin, what do we do first?” Juergen asked.
“Same two and two, just like we did before. We look at the body, interview the witnesses, and then survey the crime scene. We can hope it adds up to four. If not . . . well, we can always hope.”
Juergen looked at the body and realized that he hadn’t seen many men as dead as this one. The man was lying on his left side and it was clear that most of his chest had been opened up. You could clearly see his internal organs. There was a lot of blood on the ground, mostly under the body but some had started to run downhill and had puddled against the tram track where it was freezing.
He squatted next to the body, trying to keep out of the almost frozen blood. “Marvin, what was he shot with? I never saw a wound like that before.”
“Damned if I know. It looks like someone held a shotgun to his chest . . . but it would have to be a big shotgun.”
Marvin stood up and called to the other policeman acting as crowd control. “Has someone taken a picture of the body’s location? We want to move it to check for an entry wound. This may have been caused by a bullet coming out.”
“Way ahead of you,” answered Chief Frost as he walked up. “I thought this was worth a couple of Polaroid pictures,” he added, then handed over two photographs. Juergen realized that the chief was taking this as a serious case. The police department didn’t waste their dwindling supply of precious Polaroid film for anything average.
They rolled the body onto its stomach and pulled up the jacket and tunic. “Damn,” Marvin whispered. “I was hoping for another wound. Then we’d know if it was a rifle or not.”
When they rolled the body onto its back, Juergen took his first good look at the man’s face. It had been a pleasant face. Now it held the slackness of death. “Marvin, I know this man. Well, I don’t know his name, but he has attended my church for the past few weeks.”
“Maybe Pastor Kastenmayer knows his name. We’ll check. Look at that hole in him. I don’t think even a ten gauge could make that big of a wound.”
Juergen was feeling a little sick at his stomach, but he had to finish this. “Marvin, look at how his clothing is burned around the wound. The gun had to be close.”
“Maybe the autopsy will tell us something.” Marvin stood up. “Chief, do you know who’s doing the autopsy?”
“I just had the dispatcher call the medical center and Doc Adams is ready right now. So when you finish with our victim . . .”
Marvin looked at Juergen. “I’m done for now. Anything more you need to see?” Juergen shook his head and started to stand up, but Marvin stopped him with a question. “Partner, are you sure this guy goes to your church?” He held up a chain studded with jet beads, then let it dangle from his hand.
Juergen could see the crucifix on the end. It was a rosary.
“You are still a Lutheran, aren’t you?” Marvin said. “I don’t think this man was.”
“I to go to St. Martin in the Fields and he was there last Sunday. I saw him talking to Pastor Kastenmayer. Where was that crucifix?”
“Inside pocket of his jacket; it fell out when we rolled him over. Curious . . . why would a Lutheran have a rosary? On the other hand, why would a Catholic go to a Lutheran church?”
Juergen could think of a number of reasons a Catholic might attend a Lutheran church, but they didn’t apply in Grantville. “Maybe he was new in town and didn’t know he could go to any church.”
“Hmm . . . Possible. But I think it’s a reach. We’ll just file this under clue for now.”
Marvin and Juergen walked over to where Officer Ralph Onofrio had the witnesses. “What have you got for us, Ralph?”
“This is Dieter Martens, the driver and Gerd Schultz, who was the only other passenger. I got both their statements, but I knew you’d want to talk to them.”
“Thanks, Ralph.” Marvin turned to Juergen and added, “Same as before, Juergen. You ask the questions; I watch them as they answer.”
Juergen nodded, then studied the two witnesses. He knew the Schultz boy and that his family lived with Henry Johnson whose house was just at the bottom of the hill, so he wasn’t surprised to see Henry standing with him. The other man, Martens, was new to him.
He waved Martens over and asked, “Herr Martens, can you tell me exactly what happened? I know you gave Officer Onofrio your statement, but I would like to hear it from you. Who knows, you might remember something new.”
Martens seemed to relax a bit upon hearing his own language. “Can your questions in the American be answered? I need the practice,” he responded.
When Juergen nodded, Martens continued. “I had just stopped and was watching Gerd, who was on the other side of the tram, when I heard a gunshot. I turned back and saw that man on the ground. No one was near him. He had just stepped off the tramcar and bang he was dead.”
“Was anyone else on the tram besides you and Gerd?”
“Nein, the dead man was the last passenger. There are not many people who ride to the end of the line. Gerd likes to ride up here and ask me questions about the tram. I drop him off when I start back to town.”
“Do you remember where you picked up the dead man?”
“Ja, he got on in the center of town. The tram was crowded with Christmas shoppers and he kept banging his bag into things.”
“He had a bag?” Marvin asked.
“Ja, there it is.” Martens pointed to a large canvas pack by his feet, then slapped his head. “I am sorry. I forgot to tell the other policeman.”
“It’s not a problem,” Marvin responded. “Let me have it while you and Officer Neubert finish.” Marvin took the pack and looked in it.
“Herr Martens, did you see who shot him? Or anyone waiting by the tracks?” Juergen asked.
“Nein, there was no one close to him. I didn’t look that way until I heard the shot, but there was no time for anyone to run away.”
“Do you know the man’s name? And did he ride the tram often?”
Martens looked relieved that there was a question he could easily answer. “Ja, he rides the tram every day for the last few weeks. But he normally rides out to the other side of town. He was always with two other men . . . rednecks, if you know what I mean. They called him Pickles. I think it was a nickname.”
“Any idea who the other two men are?”
“I don’t think they are their real names, but they called each other Ape and Monkey.”
Juergen swore a small oath under his breath. That had to be the Hart brothers. He had hoped never to have any dealing with Ape Hart again. “After you heard the shot and saw Pickles on the ground, what did you do?”
“First I checked to see if he was hurt. The other officer was quite clear I should tell you I moved the body. I rolled him up on his side. He was face down when I got to him.”
“And where was his pack, his bag as you called it?”
Martens thought a moment. “It was under his legs, like he had dropped it and then fell on it when he was shot.”
Juergen made sure he noted where the pack had ended up. It seemed important, but he didn’t know why. “All right, Herr Martens. Then what did you do?”
“I told Gerd to run down to his house to call for an ambulance. I thought Pickles was dead, but you never know. With all the wonders the Americans have they might save him.”
“Herr Martens, are you carrying a gun?”
Martens opened his jacket and revealed a flintlock pistol. “Company policy; all drivers are armed. It’s a U.S. WaffenFabrik fifty caliber and I have not fired it today.”
Juergen looked at the pistol and confirmed it was indeed a fifty and had not been fired. Then, he turned to Marvin and asked, “Anything else we need from Herr Martens?”
Marvin looked up from the pack he was searching. “Herr Martens, is your tram horse-drawn or do you have one of the motorized ones?”
Martens smiled, “I am trusted with Motor Tramcar Number Four, the newest. I have also driven a bus, but I like the tram better.”
The pride in Martens voice made Juergen thankful he had learned to drive. “Thank you, Herr Martens. If we need to talk to you again we will contact you. If you need a ride back to town, I’ll get you one in a minute.”
“Nein, I don’t want to be a bother. I shall wait for the next tram.” Martens wandered over to join the crowd that had gathered at the crime scene.
Juergen looked over at Marvin. “Have you found any thing we can use?”
“Nope, but it looks like he was planning on taking a trip. He had clothes and a bit of food in here along with a few little things. One weird thing though is this.” Marvin held up a yellow legal pad.
“What is written on it, Marvin?”
“Gibberish mostly, or some kind of code. Interview Gerd and we’ll look at it closer.” Marvin went back to digging in the pack.
“Gerd, I am ready to talk to you,” Juergen called. Gerd and Henry walked over.
“Office Neubert,” Henry said formally. “I want to be with him while you question him. Sort of ‘in loco parentis’ as it were.”
Juergen recognized the Latin tag from his police training and knew it meant in place of the parents. He was actually glad to see Henry with Gerd. Normally if the questioning had to go very far or if it looked like Gerd was going to be charged with a crime, he would have had to call for a juvenile officer. Now, with Henry here, he could treat Gerd as an adult.
“Hi, Juergen,” Gerd responded. Then he corrected with a smile. “I mean, Officer Neubert. Sorry. I forgot this was official and you are working.”
“It is not a problem. Now, can you tell me what you saw?”
“Sure. We were coming home from town. We had just got on the tram and gotten settled when that man over there, the one who was shot, got on. He had that pack and was having trouble finding a seat because the tram was crowded. I offered to let him have mine; but he said no, and stood in the back until people got off and he could sit down.”
“Did he do or say anything that caught your attention on the ride out?”
“No. I was talking to Wendel and wasn’t paying attention to anyone else. He had a bunch of burns on his hands, though. I noticed that when he bumped the pack into my seat.”
“Damn,” Marvin said and walked over to the ambulance.
“Anything else, Gerd?”
“Nothing until we got to the house. The man asked if this was the last stop. It was like he had never ridden the tram this way before.”
“So you were up front while Herr Martens drove to the top of the hill?”
“Yes. Whenever I can, I ride up around the loop and some times Dieter lets me help refuel the tram from the gas tank.” Gerd waved to the large natural gas tank in the middle of the loop of track. “I am going to be a mechanic, and want to learn all I can about vehicles.”
“Did you actually see Pickles get shot?”
“No. When Dieter called out last stop and stopped the tram, I was off and walking to get the cover off the fuel hose so he would be able to hook it to the tank.”
“So Herr Martens was not fueling the tram?”
“No, but . . . Juergen, is Dieter going to get in trouble? I know he isn’t supposed let me touch the fuel hose, but if I help him we have more time to talk.”
Juergen looked and saw Marvin was still over by the ambulance. “No, Gerd. We’ll leave the part about you and the fuel hose out of the official report. I don’t think Dieter had anything to do with the shooting.”
“Good. I would hate to get him in trouble.”
“Let’s get back to what happened. Finish telling me what you saw and heard.”
“I heard that man say something and then I heard the shot. Dieter yelled for me to come quick. I ran around the tram and there the man was, lying on the ground. When I saw the blood I froze for a minute then Dieter told me to run to the house and call for help.”
“Did you see anyone when you came around the tram?”
“Nein, and not when I ran to the house either. After I called, Onkel Henry and I ran back up here. We didn’t see anyone then either.”
“Gerd, do you remember what the man said right before you heard the shot?”
“Yes. It was just one word and I don’t know what it means. As close as I can come is ‘Med.'”
Juergen looked at Henry. “Anything you can add, Herr Johnson?”
“Nope. I was filling my bird feeder when I saw Gerd running down toward the house. I didn’t even hear a shot. We came up here as soon as he had called the police. But I can tell you from what I saw of the wound that was no ordinary gun that killed him.” Henry patted Gerd on the shoulder. “Go on, now. Run and tell your mother that everything is all right.”
When Gerd ran off, Henry said, “Juergen, find out who did this. I don’t like people getting shot this close to my house.”
“We will do our best, Henry. You know we’ll do our best.”
“Well, that’s all a man can ask for,” Henry said as he walked away.
* * *
Juergen checked his notes to make sure he had everything clearly written. It had started to snow again so he had to lean forward to shield the notebook with his body. Marvin had finished with the ambulance and walked back to the tracks where they had first seen the body.
When Juergen joined him, Marvin said, “The kid was right. He had a bunch of small burns on his hands that we missed. It looked like they were cigarette burns, but . . . I don’t know.”
“Marvin, it just doesn’t make sense. Pickles was shot at close range, but neither Gerd nor Martens saw anyone close.” He looked around the area. “The closest tree is a good twenty paces away. Where did the shooter hide?”
“Good question. We’ll put it with the other questions. Who is our victim? We can’t keep calling him Pickles. And what was he shot with? And what was he doing out here?”
“Pastor Kastenmayer can tell us who he was. And we are going to have to talk to Ape and Monkey; it looks like they knew the victim. Maybe they can give us some idea what is going on.”
“I wouldn’t bet on it. Well, we need to search the area before this snow covers everything up. Though with the herd of people that have tromped over the site, I doubt we’ll find anything of value.”
Juergen and Marvin walked the crime scene. They went out what seemed a reasonable distance for the wound on the dead man and worked their way back to the tracks where the body had been found.
“Juergen,” Marvin finally said in disgust. “This is a waste of time. Any clues that were here are covered with snow and have been stepped on by at least three people.”
“Ja. I am starting to study my own foot prints.”
“I know the feeling. Let’s get a cruiser and go talk to the pastor. Then we’ll hunt down Ape and Monkey and see what they have to say.”
As they headed over to talk to Chief Frost, Marvin asked, “I know it is my turn, but would you drive? I want to look through the things I found in the pack.”
Juergen was a bit surprised. Since he had learned to drive, they had practiced a strict rotation on driving. Plus, Marvin seemed depressed. “Marvin, is something wrong?”
“You mean other than having a four-legged monster try to break my neck all morning, and spending the last hour looking at a man’s insides? Yes, there is. If we don’t figure this case out, you know we’ll be the laughing stock of the whole town. But if we do figure it out, we’ll be the first ones called whenever someone manages to get himself killed. Working a homicide case is damn depressing. I hoped the Cooper case would be our only one.”
Juergen couldn’t understand what was bothering his partner. As far as he was concerned, this was the best part of police work. Solving a crime, finding the bad guys, making an arrest that was what made everything else worth doing.
After they told Chief Frost what they had found and what they wanted to do next, he waved them to a cruiser. “Take Ralph’s cruiser. He can ride back to the station with me. I’ll put out a BOLO on the Hart brothers and have them come to the office.”
Ralph had a bit of advice. “Be careful. The road back to town has a lot of icy spots.” He paused a moment. “I’m glad this is your case and not mine. It looks like a tough one. But not for you and Marvin; I bet you already have a couple of leads, right?”
Juergen then realized what Marvin had meant about being a laughing stock if they failed to solve this case. “Ja. We are going to check out a lead right now.”
* * *
Just before they arrived at downtown Grantville, Marvin looked up from the material he had been studying. “Pull over. I want you to look at this.” Juergen stopped the car and Marvin handed him the legal pad. “Tell me what you think.”
Juergen studied the writing. It was block print. The letters were hand-written, with the letters were written in groups that should have been words, but they were not words. It was gibberish or maybe some kind of code. “It doesn’t make sense does it, Marvin? It is written like an American would write, but it is not English. And it is not German either.”
Marvin smiled. “It’s like a Crypto-quip in the newspaper.” When Juergen still looked lost, he continued. “A letter substitution, instead of writing A for A, you write B and so on.” Marvin placed two strips of paper on the pad. “I found these in the back of the pad.”
The two strips were about half an inch wide and the shorter was about six inches long. The longer was about twice that length. Both strips had block printed letters and numbers running their length. On the shorter the letter A was first then B, C, D, and so on until it ended with the number 0. On the longer strip, the lettering started with the number 1 and proceeded to the letter Z, then repeated the entire list.
“Ah, I see. You substitute 1 for A and so on. Without the key no one can read it. JUERGEN becomes 0KH75D.”
Marvin nodded. “You got it. But we don’t know what his starting point was. With just these two strips there’s a possible thirty-six codes, depending on where he started.”
“And he might have made another strip one that started with B and ended with A for example,” Juergen noted.
“Yes. Or maybe even one with the letters scrambled. We’ll just drop this one in the chief’s lap. Maybe he can figure it out or take it to the Army and let them do it.”
“You think Pickles was a spy, don’t you?”
Marvin looked disgusted. “Yeah. And that’s all we need to make this case a real loser. We might never figure out who killed him or why. Besides, even if we do figure it out the perp will be long gone. Damn, I hate murder cases.”
Juergen re-started the car. “Are we still going to see Pastor Kastenmayer?”
“Yeah. We’ll do what we can, but I bet this one isn’t going to get solved easily. Maybe not ever. Stop at the police station; we’ll drop the pack, the legal pad and the code key off for the chief to look at.”
For the rest of the drive Juergen thought about what Marvin had said. He had heard all the stories people were telling about spies and had discounted most of them. He knew that the leaders of the other nations of Europe wanted to know what was going on in Grantville so there would be some spies. He had never expected to find himself in the middle of dealing with one.
Just as they were pulling into the station parking lot, the chief’s Jeep appeared behind them. Marvin jumped out of the car and flagged him down. After a quick conference he was back in the car. “On to Saint Martins. The boss is calling in someone from the Army to look at the legal pad.”
* * *
Juergen was very careful driving through town. There were areas of ice and piled snow on the streets that got worse as they neared the other side of town and wound their way up the hill that marked the other side of the Ring of Fire area.
* * *
Juergen was pleased to see Pastor Kastenmayer standing by the door of Saint Martin’s in the Fields Lutheran Church. It appeared he had just finished sweeping snow off the steps.
“Pastor Kastenmayer, may we speak to you?” Juergen called.
“Ja,” the pastor answered, “I just finished here, though it looks like a lost cause. There will be more snow.”
“Pastor, this is my partner, Corporal Marvin Tipton. We would like to ask you some questions.”
The pastor extended his hand. “I am very happy to meet you, Herr Corporal Tipton. I am always glad to help the police.”
Marvin shook the pastor’s hand. “Pastor, we want to ask about one of your flock. Well, we think he’s one of your flock.” Marvin pulled out the Polaroid that showed the victims face without showing too much of the wound. “We wanted to check if you knew this man. Juergen thought he had been in church for the last couple of weeks.”
The pastor studied the photo. “This man is dead?” When Marvin nodded he continued, “I will say a prayer for his soul. He is Heinrich Grün. He first came to our church two weeks ago. He had letters from a pastor in Luebeck and another in Magdeburg introducing him as a good Lutheran.”
Marvin looked closely at the pastor. “Sir, the way you said that it sounds like you had a few doubts?”
“Ja. From my conversations with him, I felt he was not, shall we say, a true believer.”
“I see. So he was just going through the motions?”
Pastor Kastenmayer chuckled. “I like that turn of phrase. Ja, he was just going through the motions.”
“Sir,” Juergen interrupted, “can you think of any reason he would have had this?” He held up the rosary by its chain, so it dangled from his hand.
“As a Lutheran, there is no reason Herr Grün would have a rosary. But it is silver, so it may have been loot. He was, or had been, a soldier. He never told me that, but from the way he acted I knew.”
“One last question, Pastor,” Marvin said. “Do you know where he was living and working here in Grantville?”
“Nein. I know he had found work, but I do not know what he was doing. As for where he lived, I think he had rented a . . . what you call a small mobile home. But I don’t know where.”
Marvin flipped his notebook shut. “Thank you. You’ve been a help. Now at least we know who Heinrich was.”
“It is nothing. Tell me, Herr Tipton, do you attend church? Are you a member of a congregation?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve been a member of the Methodist Church since I was twenty.”
“Ja, gut. And your wife? You are married?”
Marvin answered realizing the pastor was looking for converts. “My wife, and my son, Danny are also Methodists. Thank you again for your time. We have to run.”
At the car Marvin moved to the driver’s side door, “It’s still my day to drive.” Juergen handed over the keys reluctantly.
Once the two were buckled in, Juergen grinned at Marvin’s discomfiture. “We are a small church. Like any good pastor he wants to make us a big church.” Then in a more serious note added, “Marvin, I do not think that rosary was loot. If Pickles had it as loot I think it would have been in his pack, not a pocket.”
The radio interrupted, “Dispatch to Patrol Two.”
Juergen answered, “Patrol Two.”
“The chief has just changed your radio call sign to Investigator One. So go investigate, over.”
That was Mimi Carson, one of the dispatchers. Juergen thought he heard a laugh in the background. It seemed that the rest of the department was expecting the case to be already solved. “Investigator One, clear.”
Marvin hit the steering wheel. “Now it starts. I told you we were in for a little ribbing. If we don’t solve this, we’ll be the butt of jokes for the next couple of years.”
“Ja . . . but I did not think it would start so soon.”
“I think we should swing by the Medical Center and see how Doc Adams is doing on the autopsy. He might give us a clue. If not, all we have left is Ape and Monkey.”
“We know we can find Ape and Monkey at the 250 Club later tonight, if no one spots them earlier. There is no sense in scouring the town for them.”
Marvin grunted and drive toward the Medical Center. Juergen could tell that Marvin was not looking forward to a trip to the 250 Club. He started to say something but was interrupted by the radio, again. “Dispatch to Investigator One.”
“We have a medical emergency at the water works. The ambulance is out of service on another call. Code three.”
“Investigator One, on our way.” Juergen switched on the lights and siren.
* * *
They were met at the water plant by a young woman who was obviously flustered. “Where is the ambulance? We don’t need the police. We need an ambulance.”
Marvin tried to calm her down. “Stacey, what’s the problem? Take a deep breath and tell us slowly.”
Stacey continued yelling. “We don’t have time for this. Where is the ambulance? Nancy O’Reilly just went into labor. We have to get her to the Medical Center.”
Juergen was already on the radio. “Investigator One to Dispatch. We have a woman in labor. We will transport; alert the medical center.”
“Run and open the door of the water plant,” Marvin said. “I’ll get the car as close as possible.”
Juergen ran to the door as Marvin dove back in the car. He heard Stacey, still yelling in the parking lot. “Why today? She was just here to pick up the water records to make up the bills. You can’t put her in a car; we need the ambulance.”
* * *
The entire staff was gathered around an obviously pregnant woman who was lying on the counter. “Frau O’Reilly, we have a police car beside the door. Do you want us to take you to the Medical Center?”
“Yessss,” the pregnant woman answered in a shrill voice. “I think it’s time. The baby is coming.”
Marvin came through the door carrying a blanket. “Quick! We’ll get the blanket under her and carry her to the car.” Marvin’s plan proved impossible though, when Mrs. O’Reilly screamed. “Now! The baby is coming now!”
Juergen ran to the counter and scooped Mrs. O’Reilly up, one arm under her knees and one under her shoulders. “Get the door, Marvin.”
The car was so close to the door that it was a few steps before Juergen had slid Mrs. O’Reilly into the back seat. Marvin got behind the wheel and Juergen called, “Drive fast! I am not a midwife.”
* * *
Marvin tore through the streets of Grantville. He was spurred on by the sounds of Mrs. O’Reilly’s grunting, gasping, and moaning in the back seat. Just as they reached the Medical Center parking lot, he heard the soft, then loud and healthy cries, of a new born.
“It’s a boy, Frau O’Reilly. A healthy boy,” Juergen said as he pulled up to the emergency room doors.
Two nurses whisked Mrs. O’Reilly and her new son out of the car and on to a gurney. Marvin and Juergen were left standing there with stunned looks on their faces as mother and child disappeared in to the emergency room.
“Da-a-a-mn,” Marvin said in an awe-filled voice. “I’ve been a cop for over twenty years and that’s a first. You did good, Partner. Real good.”
“I . . . I did very little. Frau O’Reilly did all the work. All I did was keep her calm.”
“Well, you handled that like an old pro. Been a midwife before?”
Juergen grinned. “Only for a sow delivering piglets. I do not think we should tell that to Frau O’Reilly.”
* * *
“I saw Doc Adams heading for the emergency room,” Marvin said. “So we can run past the office and see if the chief has anything and catch the doc later.”
“Ja, we should see the chief. Then we still need to find Ape and Monkey.”
“Yeah, and we need to find out where Heinrich was living.”
* * *
As soon as the two had exited the car at the police station, someone yelled, “Hey, Marvin. I heard you were looking for me. Well, here I am.”
Juergen turned and saw Ape Hart and his brother, Monkey.
Marvin answered, “We have a few questions about a friend of yours.”
“Ask away. We have places to go and people to see, so let’s get this over with.”
“Inside.” Marvin waved toward the police station. “We can use a nice warm interview room instead of standing out here in the cold.”
“Sure, Marvin. That’s what I like about you. You’re always so reasonable.” Then Ape pretended to see Juergen for the first time. “Hi Off-I-c-er Neu-b-e-rt.” Ape stretched his name out. “I haven’t seen you for a while. We still have some unfinished business.” Then Ape and Monkey headed for the door.
“Do you want to question them separately or together?” Juergen asked in a low voice.
Marvin thought for a moment. “Together, for now. Ape will want to show off for Monkey, so we might get more out of him than if they are apart. If he starts pulling Monkey’s strings too much, we can split them up.”
* * *
Marvin led the way into an interview room and soon the four men were seated at the table. “Ape, Monkey, Officer Neubert has a few questions for you.”
“Sure, then you get to sit back and watch us. I’m on to your tricks Marvin,” Ape answered. “Watch him, Monkey. He’s a sneaky old bird.”
Marvin laughed. “No flies on you, are there, Ape? Go ahead, Officer Neubert.”
Juergen slid the picture of Heinrich Grün across the table. “Herr Hart, do you know this man?”
Ape looked at the picture. Then he really looked at the picture. “That’s Pickles Grün. I wondered why he didn’t show up for work today. Look, Monkey. Isn’t that Pickles?”
Monkey took the picture and nodded. “Sure as the world. That’s Pickles. He looks deader than a rock, too.”
Ape had to get a dig in. “When he starts to rot, he’ll be a real sour Kraut.” Ape laughed at his own joke which started Monkey laughing.
Juergen tried to get the interview back under control. “Where do you know him from?”
“Why, from here in town. Where else? This is where we live.” Ape paused, then continued. “Look, Neubert. First off, Pickles wasn’t my friend. He just worked for me and I rented him a camp trailer. Second, me and Monkey didn’t have anything to do with him getting killed, so I resent you and Marvin here telling every cop in town to look for us. We ain’t murderers, as much as you’d like to think so.”
“Herr Hart, I never said you were a murderer. We just want to find out all we can about Herr Grün. You said he worked for you. Where is that, and what did he do?”
Ape grinned. “Shoot. Everyone knows me and Monkey are in the primer and percussion cap business. We make primers to reload cartridges and caps for cap locks. Call Paul Santee or Henry Johnson; they both buy from us. I bet every cartridge you cops buy has our primers in them.”
“Yes, Ape. I had heard something like that.” Marvin leaned forward. “Talk has it you and your brother blew-up about half of Salt Lick Run.”
Ape looked a little defensive. “Ah . . . uh, the explosion wasn’t our fault. It was the Krauts we had working for us that messed up. We weren’t even there.”
Marvin leaned back in his chair. “Ape, you surprise me. If I remember correctly you did well to finish high school and Monkey dropped out. Now here you’re doing something that takes a working knowledge of chemistry.”
Monkey laughed. “It don’t take no chemistry. Just mixing stuff together.”
“Which might explain the explosion,” Marvin said.
Ape slapped the back of his brother’s head. “Shut up, Monkey.” Then he tried to explain. “Rodney Jessup set it up before he went to Magdeburg. He’s our other partner. We’re making mercury fulminate. We got a nice little setup over east of town, in a barn. Rodney sends us the mercury and nitric acid from Magdeburg and we make the alcohol ourselves.”
Juergen had to ask. “You do this yourselves?”
Ape gave him a condescending look. “Of course not, Neubert. We have, oh, ten or fifteen Krauts working for us. That stuff is dangerous to mix. And it is touchy while it’s drying. It’ll blow your hand off if you’re not careful. Me and Monkey wouldn’t touch it.”
“And Heinrich Grün worked for you? Making this fulminate of mercury?”
“Yes, Pickles worked for us. He was one smart kraut. I was about to move him up to foreman.”
“Herr Hart, could Pickles have gotten some of this fulminate and taken it out of your barn?”
“Sure. Though why he’d want to, I don’t know. Even dry, it’s pretty nasty stuff. It only takes a pinch to set off a cartridge and we don’t make more than an ounce or two at a time.”
Ape jumped up from his chair. “I see where you’re going with this. You’re trying to say me or Monkey killed him for stealing from us. Neubert, you’re almost as sneaky as Marvin. Well, it won’t work, boy. We were at the barn all day today and we have witnesses to prove it. Nice Kraut witnesses, just to make you happy.”
Juergen also stood. “I don’t think you killed Pickles, but I do think he stole from you. And why do you call him Pickles?”
Monkey started laughing. “His name was Heinz Green. What should we call him, catsup?”
Ape looked at his brother in disgust. “Shut up, Monkey. This is serious.” Then he looked at Marvin. “We’re done here. We have nothing more to say.”
“Ja, Herr Hart,” Juergen said, “I think we have heard all we need from you. You and your brother are free to go. Some one will be out to look at the camp trailer you rented to Herr Grün.” Then Juergen used the line he had been saving since he heard it in that old television show. “Don’t leave town.”
Ape just shook his head, “Come on Monkey, we’re out of here.”
Juergen had a strong desire to wash his hands. But his thoughts were interrupted when Marvin said, “Idiots. We’re overrun with idiots. They just made my day complete, the idiots.” Marvin was fuming.
“Calm down, Marvin. Who was it that told me to always stay calm and collected? I remember that was you.”
“You’re right. I did say that. Well, we can’t let idiots spoil our day.” Marvin almost screamed the word idiots and punched the wall next to the door.
“Feel better now?”
“Yes, I do. Let’s go tell the chief what we have.”
* * *
They found Chief Frost in conference with another man.
“Boys this is uh . . . Herr Smith. He’s with the Army. He’s here to tell us about that note book you found.”
The first thought that went through Juergen’s mind was ‘spy’ then he realized it was ‘spy catcher.’
Marvin was more outspoken. “With the Army, but not in the Army, Herr Smith?”
Herr Smith laughed. “Well, Chief, you told me they were smart. Yes, I am with the Army, but not a soldier. As you seem to have guessed that I have the honor of working for Don Francisco.”
“Boys, have a seat.” Chief Frost waved to the two empty chairs. “Herr Smith has been telling me some interesting things about the body we have over at the Medical Center.”
“Was he a spy?” Juergen had to ask.
“Yes, and a rather inept one,” Herr Smith said. “It was rather silly to keep his code key with his notes. In fact, it is rather embarrassing that we didn’t catch on to him sooner.”
“We’ve figured out he was after how to make fulminate of mercury,” Marvin said. Then he told Chief Frost and Herr Smith about the interview with the Hart brothers.
“Yes! That explains it,” Herr Smith exclaimed. “He had the entire process for making the stuff in his notes. It looks like we’re going to take a closer look at the Hart brother’s activities.”
Juergen smiled. It was nice to know that Ape and Monkey were soon to get a visit from Army Intelligence.
“Herr Smith, can you just lay out all you know about Herr Grün,” Marvin asked. “The way we’re going, this is going to take some time.”
Herr Smith smiled; Juergen noticed his smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Ah yes, Heinrich Grün, as you call him was really a Frenchman. From some papers we found in the lining of his pack, his name was really Henri Vert. It was another mark of his ineptness to just translate his name to German. He was sent to Grantville to find out how to make percussion caps.”
“By the French?” Juergen asked.
“Well, he might have tried to sell his information to the French, but the person who sent him was an Italian.”
“An Italian? Which Italians? What are there, ten or twenty countries in Italy now?” Marvin interjected.
“Nein, he was not sent by a country. He was sent by an Italian gun maker; one Giovan Antonio Beretta from Brescia, in the Republic of Venice. It seems Herr Beretta wants to know how to make better guns.”
Marvin’s hand dropped down to touch the Beretta in his holster. “Yeah, I guess he would.”
“So,” Chief Frost asked, “what we have is a case of industrial espionage gone bad?”
“Yes, Chief Frost. Exactly,” Herr Smith said with another of his half smiles. “It is not really my business, but I am glad to be of help. I hope you will keep me informed.”
The Chief’s phone rang; the others in the room were only able to hear one side of the conversation. “He is? Well, tell him we’ll be right over.” Frost hung up the phone, then looked at Marvin. “That was the Medical Center. Doc Adams just finished the autopsy and he wants to give us the results in person. Herr Smith, if you like you can tag along.”
* * *
Doctor Adams was standing beside the sheet covered body. He started his presentation as soon as the door closed. “Well, you gave me an interesting case this time. I haven’t seen anything like this for years. In fact, the last time must have been in the first couple of years I was in medicine. That time, it was a miner who had a bad habit of carrying blasting caps in his shirt pocket.”
The chief interrupted. “Doc, are you saying he was killed with blasting caps?”
“No, Chief. Your man was killed by a snuff can.” When he saw the perplexed looks on their faces, the doctor continued. “Look here.” He held out a metal tray covered with small bits of material. “This is all bits and pieces of plastic I removed from the wound. If you look close you can see the paper is still attached to some of them.” Juergen leaned closer, he could see a bit of print on one of the pieces. It formed the letters Sk.
Doc Adams nodded. “My best guess is that your man here was carrying something explosive in a plastic snuff can. Not much use for them after the tobacco is gone. He might have been using it for storage. Anyway, he jarred or crushed it enough and it exploded.”
“Doc, would mercury fulminate do it?” Marvin asked.
“Yes, and it fits in with the scorching on his clothing. Those burns on his hands are older and are acid burns. From what I know about making fulminate, it fits.”
“Herr Doctor, if this man was carrying the fulminate inside his coat and fell getting off a tramcar, would that cause it to explode?” Juergen asked.
“Son, you get enough fulminate in one place, it can explode just from looking at it. Falling on it is sure to set it off.”
“Thanks, Doc. You solved our case for us,” Chief Frost commented. “Now, if we can find a quiet corner with a desk we’ll finish up and be on our way.”
“Use my office. It’s just up the hall and it’s unlocked.”
* * *
“It looks like we’re going to have to write this one off as ‘Death by Misadventure,'” Chief Frost said. “Though, it would be more accurate to call it ‘Death by Stupidity,’ but I don’t think we should put that in the report.”
Then the chief looked up from the papers in front of him and saw the look on Marvin and Juergen’s faces. “Boys, you did a good job. No one could have done better and everyone will know you did well, because you’re now my official investigators. Juergen, sew a stripe on your sleeve, you’re a patrolman first class, and Marvin, you’re a sergeant.”
“Well, it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick,” Marvin said after the chief and Herr Smith had left.
* * *
As they were leaving the Medical Center, Juergen walked over to the front desk. “Fraulein, can you tell us anything about Nancy O’Reilly? She was brought in with a new baby.”
The receptionist ruffled through the papers in front of her and answered with a smile. “Mother and son are doing well. He was a fine healthy boy; eight pounds, nine ounces.”
Juergen and Marvin smiled, then turned to leave.
“Officers,” the receptionist called. “Were you the ones who brought her in?” When Marvin nodded she handed him a note. “Nancy made me promise to give you this if you stopped by to ask about her.”
Marvis read the note and grinned. “This is what makes police work worth doing. Mrs. O’Reilly thanks us for this afternoon.” When Juergen smiled, he continued, “Oh, by the way, she named the boy Sam. Samuel Juergen O’Reilly.”
Juergen just stood there with a stunned look on his face.
“You know,” Marvin commented, “this has turned out to be one damn fine day after all.”
* * *