Late Fall, 1635
The front door to Hair Club 250 opened. A howl of wind and a spray of sleet came through the door of the salon with a short dark-haired man. He shook himself like a dog, getting the just-mopped floor wet again.
Kim Beasley, the owner and chief stylist of the salon, frowned. The floor would have to be mopped up or it would leave spots.
“Sheeit!” She mumbled. The man was someone who worked at the Thüringen Gardens across the street. She glanced at the clock. It was nearly 6:30 and the Salon closed up at 6:00 on Fridays. Kim had stayed behind to instruct the girl she’d just hired on the peculiarities of cleaning a hair salon.
“I should have locked the door,” she muttered.
“Mrs. Beasley.” The man strode toward her. “I am so glad you are still here. I don’t believe we’ve met.” He extended his hand for a handshake. “I’m Dieter Schliemann. I’m a shift manager across the street. I have a problem, and I believe you can help me out with it.”
Kim took note that his English was fluent and polished. And he was polite. And while he was dark, he was neither tall nor handsome. She looked at the wet footprints on the clean floor and frowned again. “Yes, you do have a problem.” She agreed. “That haircut is awful. But I don’t normally do men’s hair. And we are closed for the day. And I don’t normally do walk-ins anymore, anyway.”
“Okay, I have two problems.” Dieter looked a little sheepish and ran his hand back through his wet hair. “The one you can help me with right now is that I have overbooked my private dining rooms. I’ve got two groups insisting on having a private meeting right now. And you have started renting out your waiting area on Sundays. I can pay a premium for the use of it this evening.”
“Mr. Schliemann.” If he couldn’t read the tone of her voice, Kim’s hands on her hips and her tapping foot clearly should have said she was annoyed. But he just did not seem to be noticing. She had just told him, no, and still he kept asking for a favor. “My husband has dinner waiting for me at home. I hate to disappoint him. He’s a good cook and puts a lot of effort into putting a meal together. And I am not going to leave the building unattended.”
Heloise spoke up, trying to be helpful. “Mistress Beasley, I can stay.”
Kim glanced at the stout young woman, wishing she hadn’t offered.
“Mrs. Beasley, I can cover her wages on top of paying to use the space.” While he was not reading her body language she was reading his, and he was clearly desperate. “I have tried to get both groups to give me a break and take a table in the common room. But they will have none of it.”
Kim continued to radiate hostility. She looked at him like he was something inconvenient that a storm had blown in. He shrugged and pushed onward. “Part of it is that the common area is too loud for a quiet conversation. And they each have their own musicians with them and they plan to sing their own songs.”
He shuddered at the thought of what would happen if they tried doing it in the common room. “I’ve got a band onstage, and it’s one the crowd really likes, so that isn’t going to fly. But mostly it’s that the two groups know each other.” Dieter grimaced. “And they hate each other with a passion. And they sure aren’t willing to back down. Not if it means that the other party gets the room. They’d rather die first.”
Kim was not thawing. So Dieter tried explaining. “They both come from somewhere I never heard of. And they’re both celebrating the same treaty or contract or something. I’m not quite clear, just that the date is important to them.” He looked at Kim and tried some more. “Each side claims their grandfather skinned the other side. And the great victory absolutely has to be celebrated tonight.” Kim continued with her hands on her hips, and her foot tapping still did not give him anything to work with. So he plowed on. “And if I don’t manage something, and quickly, they are likely to restart their grandfathers’ war all over again right now in the middle of my bar. And that is not good for business. I’ve thought about throwing them both out.” Dieter sighed. “But that’s bad for business too. And then they’re just as likely to have a brawl in the street regardless of the weather.”
Kim, thinking to end it, asked in a very dry voice, “How much are we talking about?”
A relieved Dieter named a price, which she knew was the full price he was getting for a room.
She had checked on what that was when she started renting out the waiting area for private meetings when the salon was closed on Sundays. Kim countered by asking twice what he offered assuming that would be the end of it.
Dieter shocked her when he said, “Done. But at that price you pay your help. And we use your linens and place settings.”
“No,” Kim said. “You still pay Heloise.”
Exasperated at letting herself get caught out, Kim said, “Heloise, get the sheets out of the closet in the kitchen and cover the styling chairs and the drying stations.” She turned to Dieter, “How many place settings will we need?”
Dieter sighed in relief, “Fourteen or seventeen depending on who comes over.”
Kim turned to Heloise and said, “When the stations are covered set out fourteen plates and flatware. Mr. Schliemann, we don’t have tablecloths or cloth napkins. My husband didn’t run that kind of business.”
“Hold off on setting the places,” He told Heloise.
Then he turned to Kim, “I’ll send over linens. And Mrs. Beasley, I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate this. Thank you. I mean it. You really are a lifesaver.”
“Well, pay your staff a premium because the tips go to Heloise,” a miffed Kim said. She really didn’t want to do this.
He nodded in agreement and left.
“Heloise, clean up again when they’re done. You can leave the dishes in the drying rack after you wash them. Make sure the door is locked when you’re finished and come by tomorrow afternoon when you get off work at the diner and tell me how it went.”
Back in the Gardens, Dieter approached the head of the Maass family. The older fellow was a thin wisp of a man and he was even shorter than Dieter. He made up for his size in raw pugnacious belligerence. With a quick sigh of relief at finding a way of avoiding an absolute, unmitigated disaster Dieter said to the old man, “Your group will be moving to our overflow accommodations across the street.”
“At the hair salon?!” the popinjay bellowed. “No way are we going to—”
His wife tugged on his sleeve. “Husband, that is where our neighbor—Niles Hanover—dances.”
The man calmed down. “Is Niles dancing tonight?”
“No,” Dieter said. “That has to be arranged in advance.”
“Oh. Well, Okay. Maybe next time. Niles is a good boy.”
Dieter had some trouble keeping a straight face but managed. He just could not come to grips with the idea that a male stripper was a good boy. “Have a beer on the house and we’ll get your dinner orders before you go over.”
“Oh, we all have same thing. Is tradition. We must have soup. Then sauerkraut with sausage. And we told you when we reserved about the cake, yes?”
“Yes.” Dieter nodded in agreement. “We have the cake ready.”
With a sigh of relief, he went to tell the other group they could have the room.
“Okay, Herr Koehler,” Dieter said. “The room is yours.”
“They are getting free beer?” The leader asked suspiciously glaring down at Dieter.
“And you are getting the room,” Dieter replied sharply. He was already losing enough money on this deal. He wasn’t giving out free beer to the party who was getting the room.
The leader looked smug. “And they are going home?”
“No, they’re going across the street.”
“To the salon?” A matronly woman asked. From the sound of her voice, you would have thought that the street in front of the salon surely must have been paved with gold.
“Yes,” Dieter replied.
“We should have gotten the salon,” she muttered. Her voice sounded bitter, hurt, and angry, and it was definitely tainted with jealousy.
“Well, you are getting the room you reserved.”
“And they are getting free beer and did I hear right, they are getting dancers?” The man was very unhappy.
“No. They didn’t reserve the dancer in advance.” It was clear to Dieter that he’d handled the whole thing poorly. He should never have had the conversation with one group where the other could hear it. Now this group was somehow sure that they were being slighted, and that the ancient enemy was somehow getting an advantage.
When they left here tonight he was going to have unhappy customers leaving with bad memories. And, worse still, he was going to lose money doing it. When he found out who was responsible for double-booking the private dining room, someone was going to get an unpaid vacation. And if it was who he thought it was, then someone would be looking for another job if he had his way about it. Unfortunately, he didn’t. She was a friend of his boss, and she could probably get away with just about anything short of murder.
When they got to the salon, the places were set with water glasses at each place setting as Heloise was accustomed to doing from working breakfast and lunch in a café downtown. The Gardens’ staff member who had brought over the linens was gone. The server who had carried over a covered wooden tub was staying. The tub held a metal bucket full of hot coals and a wooden bucket full of hot soup along with baskets of bread. He had just put the warm bread basket on each table. As soon as people sat down he started ladling soup out of the bucket in the tub where it sat on the floor. When he filled the first bowl, Heloise was there to collect the first two bowls and hurried back for two more. A second server arrived with three cases of bottled beer.
“That is not cold beer is it?” The head of the family asked. It was a reasonable question. For the most part, draft beer from kegs was room temperature in Grantville like everywhere else. A cold beer like the up-timers wanted was normally in a bottle. If you wanted a cold pitcher at the Gardens, that was fine, but you had to ask and the wait staff would tell you that the bottles were better and just as cheap. But if you insisted on cold beer in a pitcher then they would go to the kitchen and pour the bottles into a pitcher. Most places in town if you asked for a bottled beer it was cold unless you specified otherwise.
“No, sir,” The garden’s employee assured the patron. “They’re not chilled. But we can’t be running back and forth across the street with beer mugs and pitchers in this weather, now can we?” He popped the caps and started pouring the beer into the glasses Heloise fetched for him. Drinking out of the bottle really was a redneck thing in this day and age.
The empty hot tub went back when the soup was served and it returned shortly with the kraut and sausage. It was a good thing that there was a coal pot in the tub to keep the main course warm because the party was in no hurry about eating. During the soup course, they started toasting. And these people took their toasts seriously. Then they started singing.
While helping Ken wash the dishes after dinner, Kim said, “I wonder how the new girl is doing at the shop.”
“I thought you stayed till she was done?”
“Well, I did mostly, but the manager from the Gardens came over and asked if he could rent the shop for an overflow party, and Heloise said she could stay.”
“You mean to tell me that you’ve got a party of Krauts in the club and the only one watching them is another Kraut that we don’t even really know?” Ken raised an eyebrow.
“Well, when it you put it that way?” Kim raised an eyebrow back at him. “Yes.” They both laughed. “But the No Krauts and No Dogs sign ain’t hanging on the door anymore.” It had been on the front door when the building was a bar. The rowdy up-timers who had been Ken’s regular patrons hadn’t mixed well with the new locals. The new sign read Kim’s Hair Salon.
He dropped the dish rag in the sink and headed for the coat closet. “I’d better go check before they burn the place down or they walk off with the cash register.” It was a mechanical brass contraption, with mother of pearl insert keys. It had been a collectible antique when he got it to begin with. Now it was a priceless up-time relic.
Heloise heard a noise in the kitchen and went to look. An unknown man promptly asked, “Are you Heloise?”
“Yes. Who are—”
Ken interrupted her question with an answer. “I’m Ken Beasley, Kim’s husband. I’ll be at the desk in the stock room if you need anything.”
But he never got there. The Krauts were loud and rowdy. That was fine. He was used to loud and rowdy. But the tone of the toasting was belligerent. Ken’s German was passable after four years of being around it. But he had no luck at all at following the dialect being spoken in the front room. He stood in the kitchen out of sight and listened with growing apprehension. One toast followed another, and each sounded more aggressive than the last. The party had that feeling which he knew all too well. He could feel it in his bones. They were spoiling for a fight and they weren’t going to calm down or cool off or go home until they had one.
Ken picked up the old rotary phone and dialed the familiar number.
“Police station,” the phone said.
“Yeah, this is Ken Beasley at Club 250. I’ve got a fight brewing. I need some help.”
“Ken?” The dispatcher asked in shock. “What’s up? Are you okay? Are you having a flashback?”
“Look! My wife rented the shop out for an overflow party from the Gardens. And they’re getting ready to tear the place apart. Get me some help over here now! I don’t have a shotgun under the bar anymore.”
Ken heard the server from the Gardens loudly saying, “I just told you. You’ve gone through all three cases of beer. There’s no more beer. And no, I will not go get any more. I’m cutting you off. You’ve had enough.”
“Shit,” Ken said with a deep sense of dread.
“It’s going to hit the fan,” he told the police dispatcher. “Get your asses over here RIGHT NOW!”
Ken grabbed a case of beer and headed for the front hoping to delay things until the cops got there. He pushed through the kitchen door with the words, “Heloise, get in the kitchen, NOW!”
At about that time the front door opened. Ken was relieved. Then he realized it wasn’t the cops.
“Oh shit!” A group of down-timers was standing in the door screaming bloody murder in the same dialect Ken had been listening to for the last half hour. A plate still half-full of sauerkraut and sausages flew through the air splattering all over the man in the lead and everywhere else. The plate bounced off the man and broke when it hit the floor. Three or four more plates followed, accompanied by a wordless bellow of rage. Screamed invectives mingled with threats of mayhem kept coming from outside with the sleet and the wind.
The older man of the party using the salon was up out of his chair bellowing like a bull. He charged the enemy in the door, who was twice his size, in a headlong rush ending with his head butting into a stomach. This turned into a tackle filling the doorway, keeping the rest of the invading force out in the street. But it did not stop the three men who leaped up from the tables. They dashed over the two wrestling in the doorway as the wind blew sleet into the salon. The ladies were keeping three much younger boys from following. An old graybeard hobbled to the door and aimed a kick at a face. This resulted in blood on the floor.
“Heloise, I told you to get in the kitchen!” Ken looked at the server from the Gardens. “You, too. In the kitchen. Now!”
“Aren’t you going to do something?” she demanded, as she slid past him since he was half-blocking her way.
“I am doing something. I’m waiting for cops.”
As the Gardens’ employee passed him, he shoved the case of beer at him. Then he stood there and glared at the ladies standing around the tables hanging onto the boys as the sirens outside grew louder.
In short order, the sirens stopped. Shortly after that, the noise outside changed and then stopped. And shortly after that Lyndon Johnson came in.
The solid, calm, and collected young man asked, “Ken, what in the world just happened?”
The frowning younger police officer glanced at the sauerkraut-splattered walls and the sauerkraut mixed with blood on the floor. “Four men are headed to the hospital; one of them looks like he won’t make it. Six men are on their way to jail.” He glanced at the sheet-covered workstations of the salon. “I thought we were through with this sort of thing.”
Ken shrugged. “I don’t know a whole lot.”
Dieter Schliemann showed up. Ken looked at him with a half-suppressed snarl. “These are his customers. Ask him!”
“I’m sorry about this,” Dieter said.
“The breakage is extra,” Ken replied.
“That’s fair enough.” Dieter agreed with a nod.
“Any idea what it was all about?” Lyndon asked.
“From what little I’ve gathered,” the manager from the Gardens replied, “it sounds like what I was told about your Hatfields and McCoys.”
A soft snort of a sound between a grunt and a growl, along with a nod, was Lyndon’s only reply.
He understood. Like a lot of people in West Virginia, he claimed some distant kinship. That is to say, he may have had some minor family connections, to one or both of the feuding parties. And anyone born and raised in the hills can tell you when it comes to feuds, what caused them is unimportant. When it came to a feud, the only thing which matters is the feud itself.
“Herr Schliemann,” the server from the Gardens said to his boss, “we didn’t need to bring the food over in hot tubs. They’ve still got a full kitchen over here. We could have kept the food warm in their oven or on the stove.”
When Kim had heard the sirens, she came running. She took in the mess at a glance: the blood on the floor, the sauerkraut splattered on the walls and strewn across the floor, the broken plates. She shook her head. Heloise was clearing the tables so they could take their table cloths back across the street.
“When you finish,” Kim told the girl, “mop up the blood first and then clean up the mess. I’ll be doing the dishes.”
She found Ken at the kitchen sink with his sleeves rolled up looking very solemn while washing soup bowls.
She gave him a peck on the cheek and said very softly, “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
“They think one of them is dead,” Ken replied very quietly. “I never had anybody die in a bar fight before.”
The chief of police turned up while Heloise was mopping up the last of the blood. He, too, took in the sauerkraut and sausage mess, although he identified the sausages as wieners. He found Ken in the kitchen washing dishes. Kim was drying and putting away. Ken looked at the chief.
“Is he—” the rest of the question hung in the air as if not asking might make it not so.
The chief answered the question with a slow shake of his head.
“Shit,” Ken said. “I was always able to keep things under control.”
“Yeah,” the chief agreed. “It’s rough. I thought when you closed the bar it was over. Instead, it’s gotten worse than ever.”
“Hey, it wasn’t our fault!” Kim objected, on the verge of tears.
“That’s true,” the chief agreed. “But we both know who’s going to get the blame. And the Gardens’ reputation is not the one that is going to take it on the chin.”
“That’s just not fair,” Kim said with silent tears running down her cheeks.
The chief took her into his arms and held her in a fatherly hug, patting her strawberry blond head as she cried on his shoulder. “You’re right,” he said. “It’s not fair. But that’s the way it is.”
Ken grunted in agreement.
“It wasn’t fair even back up-time.” The chief sighed. “And the Good Lord knows, there ain’t nothin’ at all fair about our being here.”
Ken watched as the police chief realized he was hugging another man’s wife with the man standing there watching. The chief loosened his hold. Normally that would break the clutch. It didn’t. She wasn’t through using his shoulder. He couldn’t just push her away. Ken kept on washing dishes, and he kept the smirk off of his face. Telling Kim no was not an easy thing to do. Eventually the chief tried, awkwardly, to engage Ken in conversation.
“With the blood and the sauerkraut, that’s quite a mess you got out there.”
“Yeah. Well,” Ken sighed, “it’s damned ironic. This wouldn’t have happened when the sign on the door read ‘No Krauts allowed.’ ”