Spring, 1634

"I have to decide within the week," Leopold Cavriani said. "I have no hesitation, of course, about leaving my daughter Idelette here with the Reverend and Mrs. Wiley. She will learn practical business from Count August von Sommersburg's factor, the count being one of the clients I am serving as a consultant. However, the question of her preparation in the theory of mathematics and accounting as applied to business still remains. The thought of apprenticing her to another woman is one that appeals to me. Your up-time concept of 'role model.' However . . . "

"I can't tell you whether Aura Lee would be a good person to apprentice your daughter to, Mr. Cavriani. I've only got an eighth grade education. She's got a degree from WVU and she worked for the state government for years before she married Joe. Then she worked for the county right up until the Ring of Fire. I can't judge how good she is at her work, but they kept her on at those two jobs. They were the only ones she had during twenty years. She wasn't what they call a job-hopper." Juliann Stull looked across the table at Inez Wiley and Leopold Cavriani. Cavriani noted that the woman did not have the near-perfect teeth of so many up-timers. Hers were crooked and discolored, one of them visibly missing.

"I can talk to other people in regard to your daughter-in-law's professional qualifications," Leopold Cavriani answered. "But in regard to Idelette's training here in Grantville, I am concerned with more than that. Mrs. Wiley does not personally know the younger Mrs. Stull well." He smiled. "She did, however, suggest that no one is likely to have a more realistic appraisal of a woman's character than her husband's mother. Perhaps, even, a critical appraisal. I have learned a great deal about Mrs. Aura Lee Stull—that, for example, she is one of the daughters of Willie Ray Hudson of the Grange and thus stems from a family of political influence in Grantville. I am concerned now with her . . . "

"Morals." Inez said flatly. "Ethics. 'Role model' in that sense, as well as her education and social status. Mr. Cavriani is concerned about his daughter's well-being in all ways."

"If you're thinking about that story that went around, about what happened at the restaurant in Fairmont," Juliann answered, "it's true. That's exactly what they did, her and Joe."

"If you might pardon my ignorance," Cavriani said, "what story?"

Juliann leaned forward a little, her arm resting on the back of her chair. "It was in September. That would have been 1987. Joe called and wanted us—me, Dennis, Tom and his wife and Harlan—to come over to dinner at a fancy restaurant in Fairmont. When we got there, it was all set up. Not one of those banquet rooms but a big table set up in the regular dining room. Flowers and candles on it and stuff. With Willie Ray and Vera, Debbie and Chad, Ray and Marty and their kids arriving at the same time and the waitress taking them to the same table. And I thought, 'Oh, hell and damnation.' Pardon my French, if you will, since Methodists aren't supposed to cuss. Not even to themselves."

The heavyset old woman paused and took a drink from her root beer. For her, Cavriani thought, "old" was the right word rather than "elderly." The mother of Chief Justice Riddle, the formidable head of the Grantville League of Women Voters, was "elderly." Eleanor Jenkins, the president of the Red Cross, was "elderly." Juliann Stull was just old. Old and worn, in the way old people were worn in his own seventeenth century. She was over eighty, Mrs. Wiley had told him. Tough, but old.

"So we sat there," she continued. "The waitresses brought salads and everybody sat there being real polite about what they said. Then the waitresses brought roast beef and baked potatoes with broccoli and everybody sat there being real polite some more. It's not as if the family of the state representative had a lot in common with the family of a miner who got crippled up with black lung, started drinking too much, ran out on his family, and died in a flophouse in Florida fifteen years later. I was a cleaning lady when Joe was growing up, working two jobs to keep food on the table. The only reason I ever knew that Garland had died was that the black lung people in the regional office in Parkersburg tracked me down and told me I was entitled to widow's benefits. But everybody was real polite. Especially because the restaurant had a lot of perfect strangers in it who were eating their dinners, too. Which might be why Joe and Aura Lee had the table set up out there instead of in a banquet room."

"I think I can visualize the scene," Cavriani said. He was also keeping in mind that this woman's son Joe was currently serving as secretary of transportation for the State of Thuringia-Franconia and had become, since the Ring of Fire, a man of considerable political importance and influence in his own right, given the importance of roads and railroads in the new world that was developing. Owing little or nothing to his father-in-law's influence. From the origins his mother was now describing. With Marcus von Drachhausen, the noble son-in-law of Count August von Sommersburg, who was in turn one of Cavriani's own employers, serving as deputy secretary under him. Wheels within wheels . . .

Juliann heaved herself to her feet. "I don't mean to be rude by standing up, but I've got to straighten this bad leg out every now and then. Then, the waitresses brought the pie and coffee. Before people could go on being real polite, Joe got up and said that he and Aura Lee had gotten married at the courthouse in Charleston the week before. That the state transportation department had transferred him from Clarksburg to Morgantown, that Aura Lee had quit her job with the state and gotten on as a budget officer for Marion County, and that they'd bought a house and would be living in Fairmont."

Inez Wiley smiled.

"That just sort of laid there for a while," Juliann continued. "Then Dennis called for the waitresses to bring champagne for a toast, which sort of distracted all the other Methodists into wondering whether they really ought to drink it or not, even though there wasn't any minister at the table. That brought a little relief. And the waitresses brought fancy glasses with stems and poured the champagne and Dennis toasted the bride and groom. Then Joe said, 'Plus, we're going to have a baby in March.' And Aura Lee said, 'We didn't see any point in prolonging the agony by putting off telling you that.'"

"That's what I thought, perhaps, that you needed to hear, Mr. Cavriani, before you made your decision," Inez Wiley said. "Something else to take into consideration, perhaps, is that the only other woman in Grantville who really has the academic preparation to provide Idelette with the level of training you want for her is Carol Koch. Her mother-in-law was left up-time. But, uh, Ron and Carol got married in December 1979 and Ronella was born in June 1980. So in a way, it's six of one and a half-dozen of the other. Not to mention that neither of them is Calvinist."

"Do you have any Calvinist female mathematicians or accountants in Grantville?" Cavriani asked.

"Not as far as I know. Not up-time trained ones. Ashley Jennings was brought up PCUSA-Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, which is real liberal—and joined the Church of Christ when she married Terence Sterling, which is probably worse than not ever being a Calvinist at all. Enoch would think so, at any rate." The wife of Grantville's Free Independent Presbyterian minister and by default universal Calvinist minister smiled.

"You observed Carol in action at the Rudolstadt Colloquy, of course," Inez continued. "Shortly after that, when Leahy Medical Center in Grantville began cooperative efforts with the medical school at Jena, the faculty there asked for someone to teach statistics. So Grantville sent them almost the only person we had available to teach statistics for a year. Someone told me that when the dean looked up and saw who their new adjunct faculty member was, he came close enough to dying of apoplexy that the cooperating medical team had to be called in."

"If Mrs. Koch is in Jena, then she would not be available as—what was the word—Idelette's mentor, would she?" Cavriani asked.

"After the end of the current semester, Carol will be working for the state government. Tony Adducci has asked her to take a job at the Department of Economic Resources. Aura Lee works for the Grantville/Ring of Fire local government, so you might want to think, too, which level of government you'd rather have Idelette studying while she is with us."

Juliann, who was still standing, looked down and interrupted Inez. "I've never had a thing against Aura Lee, mind you, since that's the question Mr. Cavriani came to get answered. I don't have a thing in common with her, but nothing against her. She must have had a dozen chances, in all those years between when Joe started going out with her and she finally married him, when she could have done something that would have broke his heart and spirit. But she never did. So I'm not going to hear anyone say a word against her."

"All those years?" Cavriani asked.

Juliann switched her gaze to him. "They were already eyeing each other before Joe went into the army after he finished his junior year. Back before Grantville had this big consolidated high school. That was 1973 and she was sixteen, then. They saw each other whenever he came back and they wrote back and forth. I know that because when he got out of the army, he had a box with five years' worth of letters from Aura Lee saved up in it. Which makes me sort of think that it would have been when he was home on leave the summer of '74 that they got to the point of 'gone fishin',' instead of just 'a wishin'.' If you take my meaning. He even managed to get leave and come back to take her to her senior prom. That was '76; they cut it so close that Dennis picked him up at midnight after the prom itself was over to take him to Fairmont to catch the bus back and her father came later and picked her up from the after-prom party."

"Knowing that she had attended with Joe?" Inez asked.

"There ain't no flies on Willie Ray Hudson, Inez." Juliann picked up her root beer. "There wasn't nothing sneaky about it. I know they saw each other as regular as possible all the time she was at WVU. He got out of the army in '79. The army was the best deal anyone could have imagined for Joe. He came out with his high school diploma plus all sorts of certifications, including fire fighting. He was in transportation the whole time. Then he got the GI bill to take a technical course. She graduated in '80, right in time to land in the middle of the storm about her sister Debbie seeing Chad Jenkins and then getting married to Chad Jenkins. Which she ducked out on by getting a job in Charleston and not coming back to Grantville."

Juliann took another sip. "I guess you could put it this way. I don't think they got married because they were having a kid. Not a case of, 'you can't fool Mother Nature.' I think they decided that the time had come to have kids if they wanted them at all, so they got married once Mother Nature decided to pick up the option they gave her, so to speak."

It didn't take Leopold Cavriani long to sort through the implications of that rather convoluted statement. He still found the marriage customs of the up-timers somewhat confusing, as in this apparent case of fidelity precedent to matrimony for a period of nearly a decade and a half—not unique by any means, he knew—whereas others entered into formal matrimony and then dissolved it with quite dizzying speed. Not to mention the concept that in the up-time world, children had been regarded as an . . . optional . . . aspect of marital relations rather than their essential purpose.

"I've never had a thing against Aura Lee," Juliann repeated. "Especially not since they named their girl for me instead of for Vera Hudson."

Even though Juliann's voice was raspy from years of chain-smoking, the cream in it could have been skimmed, whipped, and spread on top of strawberry shortcake, Inez Wiley thought.

* * *

"You do not know of Barbarossa?" Count August von Sommersburg looked at the secretary of the treasury of the State of Thuringia-Franconia and blinked. The story of Barbarossa was well known. "Even the encyclopedias of the up-timers recall the emperor who is said to be sleeping beneath the Kyffhäuser mountain in northern Thuringia, not far from my own lands."

"I don't doubt that they do," Tony Adducci said. "I've just never happened to come across him myself. My wife Denise might have, or my sister Bernadette. They have more education than I do."

Leopold Cavriani looked at him, thinking that the man was extremely intelligent, although he had little formal education compared to several other of the SoTF officials, with only two years of what the up-timers called "college." This did not bother Leopold, since he had no university training at all, himself. The Cavrianis sent only those family members who appeared to be in need of a somewhat more sheltered life into the academic world.

Adducci, an UMWA man, had become widely respected since the Ring of Fire for his reading into economic issues—partly, as he said himself, courtesy of his librarian wife's research skills. He had run for election under the Fourth of July Party right away in 1631 and was surprised when Mike Stearns picked him for secretary of the treasury of the NUS, now the SoTF. One son in the army, two sons still dependent upon him, and—Cavriani smiled—a daughter whose arrival two months before had bemused her parents more than a little. Baby Rosemary was twenty-one years younger than Tony, Jr.

Since the Ring of Fire, Adducci had been diligently reading up on the financial material that his wife and sister loaded on him and complaining with some humor that the Chinese word for strife was two women in the household. For three of those years, his statement that if a daughter was added, he might as well resign like the original secretary of treasury had been considered a joke by his colleagues.

"By those writers and dreamers who have had a vision of a Germania greater than the thousand squabbling principalities of the Holy Roman Empire," Cavriani said, "Emperor Frederick Barbarossa has been considered greater than Charlemagne in some ways. If he had not been betrayed by Henry the Lion, he might have been greater in all ways. Historians say that he died as an old man during the Third Crusade, drowned while crossing a river in Asia Minor. His body was never found."

"Then what's he doing in Thuringia?" Adducci asked.

"German folklore says that he never died at all," Cavriani answered. "That he, with his heroes, is there in the bowels of the Kyffhäuser, under the ruins of the Hohenstaufen castle. That in the hour of Germany's direst need, he will reappear in all his one-time power and glory."

"Sort of like King Arthur." Tony got up to refill their coffee cups.

"Supposedly," Count August said rather ruefully, "all of this is no idle fancy. It is said that once upon a time a peasant entered into the great cavern on the south side of the mountain and saw the emperor sleeping there in a magnificent room. He was sitting in an ivory chair at a marble table. His red beard had grown right through the table. There is another story of a piper who played for him, to entertain him during his centuries of sleep, and received a hat full of gold as a reward. Or other musicians who were rewarded with poplar branches that turned into solid gold as they walked home. About every century, it is said, a living person has been admitted into the presence of the sleeping emperor."

"Was this because he was interested in current events?" Adducci asked rather drily.

"It is said that each time he asked three questions. 'Are the ravens still flying over the mountain? Are the dead trees still overhanging the cliff ? Has the old woman awakened ?' Each time, the visitor answered, 'Yes, Yes, and No.' Each time, Barbarossa replied, "Then I shall have to sleep another hundred years."

"What did each question mean?"

"The ravens led him to battle. So if they were still at his mountain, there was no battle he needed to fight. The dead trees would blossom when it was time for him to come forth. Those who study the lore of the ancients believe that the old woman was the giant druidess who confronted Drusus and prophesied that the Romans would come to disaster, who was too old to follow Widukind's retreat, so he buried her under a pile of stones with the words, 'She will come back.' Come back to prophesy disaster to the enemies of the Germans, of course."

"I think I've got it," Tony Adducci said. "Frederick Barbarossa is for you guys here in Thuringia what Jock Yablonski was for us in the United Mine Workers back in West Virginia."

Count August blinked in turn.

"Here," Tony said. "Let me tell you about Jock."

He'd tell him about Jock, Tony thought to himself. He just wished that he didn't have to tell him about Tony Boyle at the same time. Sommersburg had found that history of the Pendergast Machine in Kansas City that Melissa Mailey stuck into the books designed to teach him about the American political system a lot too inspirational already.

"His name was Jablonski, really, but he spelled it with a 'Y' so people wouldn't pronounce it wrong. Joseph Jablonski. Jock Yablonski."

* * *

Tony got up. He talked better when he was standing up, walking back and forth. "Jock was born in Pittsburgh—that was in Pennsylvania, the state just north of West Virginia. As far as geography went, it was all part of the Appalachian highlands, all part of the great coal fields. He went into the mines as a boy. His father was killed in a mine explosion. He moved up through the business side of the union. When he was only twenty-four years old, he was elected to represent fifteen thousand miners on District Five's executive board. That board made union policy. He was active in UMWA politics for nearly forty years. John L. Lewis, the greatest of the UMWA presidents, called him his right-hand man. Lewis said, 'Whenever I have trouble in the coal fields, I need him.'"

"John L. Lewis?" Cavriani asked.

"You can find him in all the encyclopedias if you look. He was famous," Tony shrugged off the interruption. "There wasn't any real democracy in electing the UMWA presidents. When Lewis died, an old man, one of the vice-presidents, stepped into the office, and he appointed Tony Boyle as vice-president, who succeeded in turn. Boyle was no militant—didn't confront the owners on safety issues, for example. He actually opposed the extension of benefits for black lung disease—coal miners' pneumoconiosis—by the Pennsylvania legislature, and was furious when Yablonski went over his head to get it passed. Called it insubordination. Boyle was also a manipulator—turned the districts into trusteeships, which meant that the membership wouldn't be allowed to vote for their district officers any more. He'd appoint them."

"I take it," Count August said, "that democracy was not universally appreciated up-time. Not even in your West Virginia."

Tony Adducci smiled grimly "You take it right. It's funny in a way. Just like you have your Barbarossa right here in Thuringia, the crisis in the conflict between Boyle and Yablonski came to a head right near Grantville. You've maybe heard people singing the song about the 'Mannington Mine Disaster.' It was at Farmington, right beyond the border of the Ring of Fire, heading east past the high school. There was a big explosion in Consolidation Coal Company's number-nine mine. Ninety-nine miners were inside; only thirteen managed to escape right away. They got eight more out later. That left the rest of them to die underground. Seventy-eight men."

He continued to pace. "It was a disaster, but it wasn't a surprise. Safety people had known for a long time that cold weather increased the danger of methane. But there weren't any special warnings; they didn't follow the federal safety regulations, either. Boyle didn't show up until more than two days later. All dressed up, with a rose in his lapel. He didn't say anything about the safety violations; he didn't speak with the families of the victims; just went back to his office in Washington, D.C. Even praised Consolidation. After fifteen more explosions, the company sealed off the mine to cut the fires off. With the men still down there."

"This, I take it, was not a popular move," Cavriani commented.

"According to Jock's son Ken, Jock said, 'But that sonovabitch Boyle. With those people dead in the mine, how could that bastard stand up and praise the company's safety record the way he did?' And Jock decided run against Boyle in the next election."

Adducci slammed his fist down on the table. "Boyle had control of the machine. Jock lost. But Tony wasn't satisfied with that. He set some goons from District Nineteen to get rid of Jock. Three months later, about, Ken wondered why his father hadn't shown up for the Inauguration Day events. He went to the house and found his father dead. And his mother and sister. Brutal. Jock had five gun shells pumped into him; his wife Margaret two; his daughter Charlotte two. They were shot in their beds. Blood all over their beds."

"Somehow," Count August commented, "most of your books about American politics do not seem to include episodes such as this."

"Of course they gloss over them, especially the school texts. That's why it's up to us to remember. What's that quote? 'People who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.' In short, then," Tony Adducci summed up, "Jock Yablonski led the fight against corruption in the UMWA. He fought against Tony Boyle and his machine. He didn't go away just because he was dead. A couple of months after he was murdered, people organized the Miners for Democracy. It tried to accomplish reform from inside the organization. Also worked to improve mine safety conditions. To get better health benefits for all miners.

"Three years later, a federal judge overturned Boyle's election on the grounds of massive vote fraud. The court ordered a new election. MFD ran a slate and won. It wasn't all over like magic, then. There was vote fraud again in District Thirty-One a year later. It was five years before Boyle was convicted of arranging the murders. As they say, 'Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.'"

"It is," Count August said, "a truly magnificent mythos. Worthy indeed of comparison with Barbarossa. I had not realized that you had such."

"Myth?" Tony was shocked. "I was eight years old when Boyle's thugs shot Jock Yablonski. My daddy had taken me to lots of his rallies." He reached out across the table, extending his arm and turning his hand upwards so that the count could see his palm. "I've shaken his hand. There's a snapshot at home, somewhere, showing me doing it. I was just a little kid, four or five years old, maybe. But I shook Jock Yablonski's hand myself."

He got up. "Dad's here in town. He's not in very good shape, but if you're willing to come and listen to him, he'll spin you yarns about Jock Yablonski for hours."

* * *

"Arch Moore's problem," Horace Bolender said, "was that in his last term, after 1985, he got so greedy that he didn't stay bought. He'd take a bribe from one party; then go out and take a bigger one from someone else. Now that was corruption for you—more than would fly even in West Virginia state politics. Gaston Caperton beat him in 1988. Gerry Simmons worked on Caperton's campaign. If you look at his kids, the first one was born that year and they named him Gaston C. Then the other two boys are Jay and Bobby, for Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd. Big time Democrats politically, those Simmonses, most of them."

"Ah," Marcus von Drachhausen asked, "what was the final disposition of this governor's corruption?"

"He was prosecuted and sentenced to five years in prison in 1990. If he'd been content with what he collected from 1969 to 1977, he'd have got away scot free. There's a lesson in that. 'Don't let your reach exceed your grasp or what's a prison for,' to misquote somebody."

"It didn't hurt Shelley, though," Norman Bell pointed out.

"Shelley?" Drachhausen raised his eyebrows.

"Arch's daughter, Shelley Capito, that's her married name. She got elected to the United States House of Representatives five years after Arch went to prison. That would have been ten years before the Ring of Fire happened. It was a political family, after all. Arch served in the House himself. You can't keep them down for long."

Drachhausen understood how that worked completely. He was, after all, married to Louisa, the elder daughter of Count August von Sommersburg. The von Sommersburg line had not survived in Thuringian politics for almost four hundred years by allowing occasional setbacks to get them down.

"One of the U.S. attorneys who prosecuted Arch came out and made some mealy-mouthed statements. Stuff like, 'Throughout the history of man, government officials have strayed from the straight and narrow. Other states have had a history in the past of having very serious corruption problems.'"

"Haw, ain't that the truth, though," Daniel Cunningham said. "Compared to New Jersey, West Virginia smelled a lot like a rose. Though, of course, Wally Barron—he was governor back in the early sixties—ended up in prison for corruption, too. Though it took the nice Nellies ten years and he eventually went down for jury tampering connected with the trials in which he was acquitted."

"The fact is, though," Bolender pointed out, "that there was just about always some do-gooder chasing down people and putting them on trial. That's one of the hazards of doing politics American-style, Drachhausen. I used to keep a scorecard. Between 1984 and 1993, the U.S. attorney's office convicted nearly a hundred state and local officials. That included five people pretty high up in the governor's office and four members of the state legislature. Nine sheriffs, thirteen deputy sheriffs. Several lobbyists or staffers. Busy little beavers, those federal prosecutors."

"The immediate problem," Bell pointed out, "is that your boss, and Marcus' boss here"—he pointed to Drachhausen—is one of those do-gooder types. Personally, I think we're going to have to keep an eye on Tony Adducci. Or he's going to be racketing around yelling about rigging of state purchasing contracts. Or about taking bribes from big companies." He threw a significant look at Drachhausen. "If they can't get you for what you actually did, they'll get you for extortion, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, or tax evasion. If we all tried to run a railroad their way, nothing would ever get done."

Bolender shook his head. "The fact remains, Arch took twenty-five thousand dollars as a political contribution on the understanding that the contributor would get a bank charter, but the corporation never got it. That's just not honest. The least you can do, when you take a bribe, is deliver the goods. Especially when you're putting on the pressure and saying that if you don't get the bribe, you'll see to it that the charter or whatever never makes it through the normal channels. It was that second part that let them get him on extortion."

"What I find most unnerving," Marcus von Drachhausen said to Bell in private after the meeting, "is not that your officials were corruptible but that, ultimately, your prosecutors indicted them and your juries convicted them."

"Hell, Marcus," Norman said. "Nobody ever claimed that it's a perfect world. You do your part. Keep an eye on Adducci for us. We'll do our part.

* * *

"Part of the problem, of course," August von Sommersburg said, "is that the county itself will become extinct at my death. As Gleichen did with the death of the last count, which has posed so many interesting administrative and legal problems for the administration of Thuringia."

"But you have daughters," Tony Adducci protested. "One thing that I do know is that back early on, when we were still the NUS rather than the SoTF, Congress changed the law so that daughters can inherit equal with sons. You were in the House of Lords then, what's the Senate now. You voted for it yourself."

"Louisa and Elena can now inherit my property. They cannot inherit my title and jurisdiction. There is a distinction."

"Well, why not?"

Count August looked a little abashed—an expression that did not sit well on the face of a man who normally resembled a portrait entitled "Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken as a Pirate."

"I was a second son. While primogeniture does not generally prevail in the Germanies as it does in England, nonetheless there is a limit to how often a small principality can be subdivided and still support its rulers. When my father died in 1603, my older brother was already married to a woman of equal birth and had two sons. He and his wife were young and healthy. I had become very fond of one of my mother's ladies-in-waiting. A noblewoman, of course, but of the lower nobility. Not of equal birth. I bargained with my brother. If he would consent to a morganatic marriage for me, I would, naturally, not have children with inheritance claims. It was done. I married in 1603. All seemed well. My brother and his wife had two more sons before his death in 1607. But all four died as children, the last of them in 1608, just a year after his death. So I became count and count I still am. But my daughters cannot become reigning countesses; they do not hold the rank."

"Your wife has been dead for years. Why didn't you remarry?"

Count August provided him an explicit, not to say somewhat embarrassing, explanation of the medical problems that, occurring as a result of advancing age, made it impossible for him to contract a canonically valid second marriage and rendered such an attempt at marriage futile for the purpose of producing heirs in any case.

Count August didn't seem to find it embarrassing at all.

It occurred to Tony that any number of Grantville men with whose wives the count had flirted unashamedly over the past three years would be most relieved to hear it. Not, of course, that he would ever violate a confidence. On the other hand, this wasn't the confessional. Perhaps just a hint, in a couple of cases, wouldn't come amiss.

Count August, however, was proceeding onward to other thoughts. Primarily those associated with his disappointment in his son-in-law, Marcus von Drachhausen. The man was turning out to be, as time went on, not to mention as the military successes of Gustavus Adolphus went on, too Saxon in his allegiance for Count August's tastes. Given the nature of the divorce laws that prevailed within the Ring of Fire, and that the laws of the Ring of Fire did not automatically assume that a wife's domicile was that of her husband, might it be possible for his elder daughter Louisa to shed this encumbrance and retain custody of their three children?

"I know that I used my position as senator to get him appointed as your deputy in the first place," the count said rather apologetically. "But I really did not have many options two years ago. Now, however, if I can arrange a divorce for Louisa once the child she is currently expecting has been delivered . . . If we get rid of him, then so can you."

"Might your daughter not object to this?"

"I can't imagine why. He's closer to my age than he is to hers, not to mention that he is often personally unpleasant. We had to accept him in order to placate Saxony in the matter of a border dispute—a lawsuit that went bad, unfortunately. If she comes to Grantville to receive its superior medical services during her delivery—why, I really do not see any pressing reason that she should leave again."

Tony advised him to consult a lawyer. Preferably two lawyers, one up-time and one down-time. He mentioned in passing that Laura Koudsi had just opened a suitable practice. Not that he would ever resort to steering, but Laura and her family were also parishioners at St. Mary's.

* * *

"Why don't you meet with both of them?" Inez Wiley suggested. "Together. I called Ron Koch and Carol has come to town for a meeting with Tony Adducci. That might give you a better idea. I'll see both of them at the League of Women Voters this noon, I'm sure. Carol would never miss it when she's here. Lunch is about the only time that working women can get together, so we keep the meetings short and snappy."

Cavriani nodded. "That might be best."

"May I make a suggestion?" Inez asked.

"Since this will profoundly affect a girl whom you have agreed to foster in your home, most certainly."

"Bring Idelette along. So you can see whether she hits it off better with one of them than the other."

* * *

The people who hit it off were Carol Koch and Aura Lee Stull. They had seen one another at meetings before, but their paths had not really crossed previously. While Cavriani, Inez, and Idelette watched with fascination, they sank deeply into shop talk, digressed into the fact that they both missed jogging even though it really wasn't necessary in a world where most people walked everywhere they went, and then meandered into children.

Although they were only two years apart in age, with Carol actually the younger, her children were several years older, so she started discussing opportunities for higher education, down-time apprenticeship possibilities, and similar matters that were clearly of enthralling interest to both women. After which they went back to shop talk and provided an entertaining version of what each knew about the adventures of the three draconian lady auditors who had taken on Franconia and triumphed over it, more or less.

"I have been lonely, a little," Carol was saying. "Almost all my friends were over in Fairmont, in the church there, and clubs. Or wives of men we knew through Ron's work, though those were more acquaintances. Pleasant to see, now and then, but not really friends. We hadn't had our house in the country here very long before the Ring of Fire and I'd never really had any reason to come west, over to Grantville. The only thing that kept me sane, that first year, was that Ron is really my best friend and always has been, ever since we met."

That led to a discussion of their meeting while she was an exchange student in Germany, the fact that they had known right away, "um, about ten minutes later," that they really must marry each other just as fast as they could persuade their respective families that it was a good idea, the negotiations with the families that took quite some time since they thought that this decision was too impulsive to be wise, and the like.

Aura Lee reciprocated with her own confidences. Her friends, too, had been in Fairmont. At the time of the Ring of Fire, they had only recently purchased a house on the far eastern edge of the territory included in it. "It's near the Edgertons," she said. "In fact, it was Ardelle Edgerton who told us it was on the market. It's been interesting, I suppose, but overall, I wish now that we'd stayed in Fairmont."

She paused. "Except, of course, that Joe has done so well here. This time suits him. He has a real career, not just a job. Not that he wasn't doing fine up-time. Joe's fifteen years younger than Tom, you know—that's Harlan's father, Tom and his wife were left up-time—and thirteen years younger than Dennis. Far from a spoiled youngest. That's not really irrelevant. He went into the army in 1973. Missed the fighting in Viet Nam. Spent his whole time in transportation and then went to work for the state highway department when he got out in 1979 and finished his technical course. Joe's not the . . . smoothest . . . guy in the world. His edges have filed down quite a bit over the fifteen years since we got married, just maturing, but . . . when I got out of college—that's nearly twenty-five years ago now—he certainly wasn't what my folks, especially not my mother, would have preferred for me. Much less five or six years before that, when we started dating."

"Family problems?" Carol asked sympathetically.

"I wasn't going to sneak around the fact that I liked Joe a lot better than I liked any other guy. We wrote. Perfectly harmless letters, once a week. Spring of my junior year in high school, he'd written back in October about a racial problem that had broken out in the barracks in Louisiana. I was taking American Government, and I asked him if I could use the letters as part of a class presentation on the general topic of race relations in the armed forces. He said that was fine, so I did. There wasn't anything embarrassing in our letters—I took those two to class and used them as one of the exhibits. The teacher actually called Pop and asked him if he knew that Joe and I wrote to each other. When Pop said that yes, he knew, and the letters went out on Monday morning as regular as clockwork, that sort of took the excitement out of it for everybody else, I think."

After some time, Inez cleared her throat and suggested that they really ought to come to the topic of the meeting, which was the training of Idelette.

Leopold Cavriani smiled. "Tweedledum and Tweedledee went forth to fight a battle," he said.

Inez looked at him with some confusion.

"Papa has come to love your nonsense rhymes," Idelette told her solemnly. "I think he means that Mrs. Koch and Mrs. Stull are very alike. Such as both of the Tweedles had a common interest in the rattle. I do not think he means that they are likely to battle. Are Mrs. Fodor or Mrs. McIntire or Mrs. Utt back in Grantville yet?"

"No," Aura Lee said. "All three of them are still in Franconia."

"I would like to mentor, or be mentored if that is how it is said, with one of them," Idelette said. "It seems that their lives are more interesting than learning to be an accountant here in Grantville."

Leopold looked at her and said, "No." Quite simply, "No."

"I had a fight in an alley in Jena at the end of the Rudolstadt Colloquy," Carol offered helpfully. "The police actually put me in jail. Ed Piazza had to bail me out."

Idelette looked at Mrs. Koch with distinctly increased interest.

"Carol will be starting a new job," Aura Lee said. "I already have one trainee, so it would be less stressful for me to take a second than for Carol to try to mentor Idelette while she is starting a new job. Plus, she's pretty well finished dealing with teenagers and I have one who's fifteen and one who's twelve, so I'm still in the middle of it."

Carol looked at her gratefully. "Of course, that doesn't say that Idelette couldn't come over to the SoTF administration building occasionally, if something out of the ordinary is going on. Plus, I do have experience in mathematics tutoring, if she needs more work in theory."

Cavriani had a strange feeling that the decision had been taken out of his hands. And he wasn't even sure how.

This was not a common experience for him.

He was, at least, sure by now that either of these women, or both of them, would make a suitable "role model" for Idelette. He thought of one of the strange, wailing songs that Ed Piazza's wife Annabelle was accustomed to play on the mechanical music reproduction system in their home, the "stereo," about a "one man woman." These two, though, were each securely in possession of the husband she wanted rather than mourning for "the man who got away." He had no further qualms in regard to, as Mrs. Wiley had put it to the elder Mrs. Stull, "morals; ethics."

Not, in either case, a conventional role model. But then, by bringing Idelette to Grantville, he had determined already that her life would not be the conventional one of the daughter of an Italian merchant from Geneva.

* * *

"I do advise you, from a professional standpoint, that in the long run you will do better if you have somewhat less sticky fingers. As long as you are doing business in the SoTF. Specifically as long as you are doing business in the immediate region of Grantville itself. There are certainly a more than sufficient number of perfectly legitimate opportunities for making a profit. Such as the sale of gravel and concrete to the government at a reasonable price, without bribery to obtain the contract. If you are underbid, look elsewhere to make your sales. Presuming that you have presented an honest estimate, the contractor who underbid you will shortly be bankrupt and you will be able to obtain the contract the next time the state issues a request for proposals."

August von Sommersburg looked at his consultant. Facilitator.

Cavriani looked back. The Genevan was clearly unimpressed by the fact that he was addressing a member of the higher nobility of the Holy Roman Empire. Or, these days, of the United States of Europe. The hereditary head of the county of Sommersburg within the SoTF, at any rate.

"Owing to the fact," Cavriani continued, "that people like Adducci appear to have little patience with some of the scams currently under way in which certain individuals are tempting you to participate. It is also my impression that Mrs. Stull's husband, the secretary of transportation, has minimal tolerance for manipulation and rigging. Just because you have ascertained from statements made by your son-in-law that corruption was far from unknown in that up-time world does not mean that it would be prudent for you to engage in it here. As I read in the report that Marcus von Drachhausen provided to you concerning his conversation with Horace Bolender and his associates, those convicted and imprisoned in West Virginia included several legislators. They will not consider you immune because you are a senator."

"I will take your advice under consideration," Count August said rather mildly.

"Specifically," Cavriani concluded, "it is my impression that the project being floated for the construction of a baseball stadium in the Grantville-Rudolstadt-Saalfeld 'metro corridor' is something that the lovely up-time stories define as a 'tarbaby.'"

Count August fingered his beard. "In the meantime, I wish you well on your journey to the Upper Palatinate."

* * *

"So your assignment, should you choose to accept it . . . " Tony Adducci grinned at Carol Koch.

"Is to burrow into the Department of Economic Resources and get the goods on Horace Bolender at this end, while the auditors you have in the field get it in Franconia."

"I've specifically sent Noelle Murphy off to Franconia in the company of a couple of down-timers to see what she can turn up there. I told her to concentrate on the bid-rigging specifically rather than doing general auditing the way the gals have to. It's almost amusing that we have the cloak-and-dagger business stashed away in Economic Resources, right under Horace's own nose."

"I have to admit," Carol said, that I'm a little surprised to find out what family she belongs to. No one would dream that Noelle and that oaf Keenan Murphy who hangs around the 250 Club came from the same parents."

"They didn't," Tony said, almost a little reluctantly. He always felt a little bit like he was betraying the home team when he had to put one of Grantville's generally known but not officially public pieces of history into words for people like the Kochs who had not really been a part of the town before the Ring of Fire.

"Noelle's officially a Murphy, but Francis and Pat—you may have met Pat; she works for the sanitary commission—had been separated for a couple of years when Noelle was born. Pat took the three girls right after Patty was born and moved to Fairmont. She'd had it up to here with Francis' drinking. He came in thoroughly soused one Friday, four hours after he'd gotten off work, picked Patty up, and dropped her." Tony was uncomfortable. The episode of the Murphy separation had not been one of the high points of the history of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Grantville, the way it had been handled.

But he went on. "Keenan was a handful, even then. Now they would call it hyperactive, I guess. ADHD or something. He stayed with Francis' parents here in Grantville, but Paul and Maggie never could handle him. Never could control him."

"Oh," Carol said.

Tony chewed on his mustache a minute. "That was, I guess, about three years before Denise and I got married. Everyone at St. Vincent's was talking about it. Old Father O'Malley preached a homily about it, trying to shame Pat. Talk about a pre-Vatican-Two priest. Her parents walked out of mass. Anyway, Francis and Pat haven't lived with each other for twenty-five years, even though they're still legally married. Not divorced. Irish Catholic families, not Italian Catholic families—bunch of uptight Puritans, if you ask me. My wife Denise excepted, of course. She's Pat's cousin. Pat got Noelle baptized over in Fairmont. Denise and I are her godparents, so I feel some extra responsibility for shipping her off somewhere potentially dangerous."

"Nice men!" Carol said. "If they had their way, the women in their families would spend their lives neatly wrapped in cellophane, padded with cotton batting, and securely locked in a bank vault to make sure that no harm would come to them." Her tone was rather tart.

Tony looked at his new recruit a little dubiously. It was sometimes a bit hard to follow her train of thought. But he went on. "Pat only moved back to Grantville three or four years before the Ring of Fire, looking for someplace cheaper to live because Noelle wanted to go to college. Something had to give, money-wise. The three older girls were on their own by then. They didn't come through the Ring of Fire; they were living in Fairmont."

"I'll take the job on," Carol said. "Starting as soon as the semester is over in Jena. Even if I don't come up with any indictable dirt for you, Economic Resources has enough on its platter that they can keep me gainfully employed and I'll be earning my salary fair and square. But I'm going to have to ask around. Put some questions here and there. Not being a native of Grantville, I don't really know where all the bodies are buried and which closets have skeletons that rattle."

Tony nodded agreement. "Just be discreet."

* * *

"How close is Elaine Bolender who's the head of the state library to Horace Bolender and that bunch? Carol Koch asked. "You know, she's married to Albert Wilson, but she's gone back to using her maiden name since the Ring of Fire."

"Let me think. She's Pam Bolender's sister." Aura Lee started working her way through the complex web of Grantville relationships. "They're Dick Bolender's daughters. Dick and Jim are brothers, so they're first cousins."

Idelette sat listening, drinking a root beer and absorbing the things that she would need to know to meet the expectations that her father had for her when he brought her to this town.

"Elaine's married to Albert Wilson. Before the Ring of Fire, he taught industrial arts at the high school in Fairmont; he's been up at the oil field in Wietze now for almost two years, in the military. He was a veteran. Pam's married to Lowry Eckerlin, Lowry Junior. He's down in Franconia, doing law enforcement."

"Elaine and Pam aren't as close personally to Horace and Laura Jo as you might think, though, for first cousins," Inez Wiley inserted into the conversation. "Oveta and Mildred, Dick and Jim's wives, have always sort of rubbed each other the wrong way. Mildred's a Jenkins—some kind of cousin of Chad Jenkins' father. You've probably met Chad."

Carol nodded her head, glancing at Aura Lee. The expression of mild distaste on her face was quickly replaced by one of controlled neutrality.

One more thing that Aura Lee and Carol have in common, Inez thought. It was amazing how many women didn't particularly like Chad Jenkins. Well, perhaps not amazing. A lot of women, especially those who were securely attached to someone else, were annoyed by a man who was always more or less testing the waters. Not with serious intent, but just automatically taking their temperature.

What Inez said aloud was, "Oveta's a Sanderlin. They're from Marion County, but not from right around here. They didn't move to Grantville until the Depression."

Of course, Carol thought to herself. They've only been "right around here" for seventy-five years or so. I wonder how Inez classifies the Kochs. I'll have to ask Aura Lee when we're talking tete-a-tete some time.

What she said was, "In that case, I think that I will ask Elaine some questions in regard to Laura Jo Cunningham. Horace Bolender's sister, that is, who is the executive secretary of the Grantville Research Center. I haven't been on the job very long, but it seems to me that almost every new economic development proposal that comes along has gone through the research center at some point. It's often their researchers who put the actual paperwork together on behalf of the would-be investors. Somebody is feeding inside information to Horace Bolender before the proposals come up before the board. In a lot of cases, people I think are fronts for him are managing to tie up just one little thing that's crucial for each proposal before the boards ever consider them. Which means that once they are approved, he has leverage to get himself in on the ground level to take some shares or it can't go forward."

* * *

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