The organ at St. Mary Magdalene’s in Grantville moved into the opening strains of “Glory Be to Jesus.” Dennis Kovar poked an elbow into his cousin Dominic Grady’s ribs. “I love this hymn. It’s just so gruesomely gory,” he whispered.
“Yeah,” Dom whispered back. “If we absolutely have to serve at vespers during Lent, all that blood dripping out of severed veins makes it better.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be ‘sacred’ veins?”
After the service, Father Athanasius Kircher eyed his acolytes. Three hundred seventy years of progress between his own day and the Ring of Fire had not done much to improve the cultural level of pre-adolescent altar boys.
“Tomorrow,” he said.
The boys looked up.
“The regular acolytes at the St. Elizabeth’s chapel at the fair grounds are both down with tonsillitis. Since Dennis and Dom’s families have up-time bicycles that they can use, I want those two to serve at the chapel tomorrow evening. Father Stanihurst will be hearing confessions in English after vespers. Wait and come back to your houses with him. I don’t want you out after dark without an adult.”
“Aw, hell. Who’s serving here, then?”
“What is the proper answer, Dominic?”
“Yes, Father Kircher.”
“That’s better. Florian, you can serve here tomorrow, and . . . ” Kircher looked around the room. ” . . . Pete.” He pointed at Florian Drahuta, originally Schott, and Peter Bartolli, originally Hunyadi, two more down-time children who had been adopted by parish families.”
“So here we are,” Dom said. “Stuck at the fair grounds. I’m sooo hungry. I can’t believe how hungry I am, and it’ll be forever before we get back home for supper, since we’ve got to wait for Father Stanihurst.”
“Why wait?” Dennis asked. “I was thinking that I’d just sneak out.”
“Father Kircher said to wait. ‘Yes, Father Kircher.’ Ya, you bet’cha, Father Kircher. How does that song go. ‘Yes, your majesty’ something, something else, your majesty.'”
“We have the bikes. We can just leave.”
“What do you bet that he told Old Stanihurst that we’d be waiting. Nothing escapes Father Kircher. He’s like one of those elephants who never forget. Why did the Jesuits have to assign us a damned genius for a priest?”
“Father Stanihurst’s not really old,” Thomas Bußleben said. “More like thirty than eighty.”
“What’s the difference?” Dom shook his head. “What did the hippies used to say? ‘Never trust anybody over thirty,’ I think it was.”
Dennis laughed. “Then, like Dad says, they all got to be over thirty. Like Tom Stone. Now he’s got to be eighty, at least.”
“I’m going to starve before I get any supper.”
“You can’t be that hungry.”
“I can,” Dom insisted. “I am. I’d eat . . . ” He waded through his mental catalog of legendary up-time horrible foods, most of which he had never personally enountered. “Well, I’d eat sushi. Or . . . spinach souffle. Or . . . ” He reached for more practical experiences—things he had actually seen since his arrival in Thuringia at the advanced age of eight years. “Or that awful stuff that the Scottish guy who married Rachel Tyler fixes. Or . . . “
“I’ve got food here,” Thomas said. “Not a lot. I think that Caspar Engelhaupt stashed some, too.”
“You can eat mine if you pay me for it, but you can’t eat Caspar’s. He has tonsillitis so he’s not here and he can’t give you permission.”
“Maybe if I left him some money, too . . . “
Dennis shook his head. “Not without permission. If he’s here some evening and hungry, he can’t eat money.”
“That’s the way it is.”
Dom looked up in disgust. “You know? One of these days, if we keep acting like each other’s consciences, we’ll end up what my grandma calls ‘well-behaved.’ Okay. What have you got, Thomas?”
“Bread. It’s pretty stale. Some raw turnips, pretty wrinkled and dried up. Carrots, the same. A little cheese, but it’s probably as hard as a rock by now.”
Dom reached into his pocket and pulled out a small jar. “Anything’s good if you put enough salsa on it. I’ll take them. How much? And where’d you hide it?”
Dom wormed along on his hands and knees, following Thomas. “It’s dusty back here,” he whispered.
“Well, that’s the reason I made my hidey-hole back here. The cleaning ladies never come. What’s the point in putting my food someplace where they’d find it? They’d just toss it out. Or eat it themselves.”
Dennis smothered a sneeze. “Where are we?”
“Getting food,” Thomas said.
“That’s what we’re doing, not where we are,” Dom answered. “We’re behind the confessionals. This is my Robinson grandparents’ old house. When they got sick and moved in with Mom and Dad, they gave it to the church to make a chapel at this end of town because the refugee center was right next door, way back when Grantville was full of refugees.”
Thomas turned his head back. “Is that why it’s so weird for a church?”
“They pulled out the inside walls to make space for the altar end and the nave. That’s why it has two-by-fours here and there out in the middle to prop up the roof beams. What’s the sacristy now used to be a breakfast nook next to the kitchen. The carpenters walled in the old screened porch to make this side section where the confessionals are. That’s why the roof slants down. They bought old booths second-hand from some other church that was getting new ones and they turned out to be too tall to go all the way to the wall, so there’s this space behind.”
Thomas grinned. “Handy, isn’t it?”
Dennis stuck out his tongue. “If you’re really into sneaking into the sacristy, climbing under a table, and squeezing through the bottom half of what used to be a door that won’t open all the way any more.”
“We’re here,” Thomas whispered. “Now be quiet, because Father Stanihurst will be coming into the booth any minute. When I figured out that the back and sides of the confessional and the top and front of the bench inside it made a nice, solid, empty box, I sort of borrowed some tools, cut me out a little door in the back, put on a couple of strips of leather for hinges, drilled holes in the little door and the back so I can tie it closed with another strip of leather, and like the magician says, presto. Just be careful to hold the door up, so it doesn’t scrape on the floor when you open it.”
He collected his money from Dom. “If any food disappears from now on, I’ll know who to look for. I’m taking this money home to Mutti.” He slid sideways past Dom and Dennis, squirming out the way they had come in.
Dom stuck his hand in the hole, fishing around.
Sure enough. Bread wrapped in old, much re-used, waxed paper. Shriveled vegetables. He dusted off two carrots, handed one to Dennis, and opened the salsa, but before Dennis could take a bite, Dom put a hand over his mouth.
“Wha . . . ?”
Dom shook his head and pointed at the booth.
Something scraped. The door at the side. Now Dom waved his other hand frantically. Father Stanihurst was in the confessional and they were truly trapped. They didn’t even dare take a bite of carrot or bread. They were too crunchy. He might hear them.
A slightly different scrape. That was the curtain at the front of the booth closing, the wooden rings sliding along the wooden rod. They were stuck—and about to breach the sacredness of the confessional. They couldn’t squirm away without getting caught, not even if they managed to get their shoes off. If they could hear curtain rings on the rod, Father Stanihurst could certainly hear their belt buckles and shirt buttons on the floor.
Dennis gave Dom the look that meant, “This is the sort of thing that Grandma says we could go to hell for.”
The only way out was how they had come in. The other two booths, in use by priests hearing German-language confessions, went all the way to the far wall.
Dom curled up and started sticking his finger in the salsa and sucking it off. He stuck the jar out at Dennis, silently offering to share. Dennis stuck his finger in the salsa, licked, and stuck it back in.
” . . . richtig und aufrichtig, wenn auch nicht gesetzlich.” A man’s voice, speaking German, came from the booth next to the one where the food had been hidden. “Diese verdammten Juden . . . “
The time period for confessions ended. Penitents and priests left the booths. Dom swept the carrots back into the hidey hole as fast as he could, tied the leather strap while Dennis crawled out, and made a run for it, trying to see who had been in the middle booth talking to Father Bissel for that last session. Father van de Enden had been in the last booth, next to the far wall. They managed to be in front of the chapel with their bikes by the time Father Stanihurst came out.
“It was a woman confessing to Father van de Enden,” Dennis said the next afternoon after school. “Vrouw Mariekje who’s married to that Dutch market gardener who put up all the greenhouses out by the grade school. It was Mrs. Drahuta in with Father Stanihurst. That means that the guy who thinks it’s a good idea to burn down the Jewish church has to have been the dumpy man who crossed the street just when we got our bikes out of the rack. I don’t know who he was. I’ve never seen him at St. Mary’s, but maybe he goes to the chapel all the time.”
“What do you think we ought to do about it?”
“I don’t think we’re supposed to do anything about it,” Dennis said. “Confessions are secret.”
“They’re secret for priests,” Dom protested. “I don’t think that the ‘seal of the confessional’ applies to people who were sitting behind the booth just trying not to die of starvation. And he didn’t say okay, exactly. ‘Right and just, but not legal.’ That’s what the guy said—that it’s right and just to attack the synagogue. It can’t be. For one thing, the day care center’s just across the street and a lot of little kids could get hurt. If he knows it’s not legal, then he ought to know that it’s not right, either.”
“I dunno.” Dennis got up and stuck his thumbs in his pants pockets. “It’s not legal to be a Catholic in England. Father Stanihurst told us about that. But it’s right.” He paused. “Isn’t it?”
“I expect so.” Dom leaned his bike against the wall. “Yeah, it’s got to be. It’s always right to be Catholic, but that doesn’t mean that other folks don’t have a right to think the way they do. At least, that’s what Dad says.”
“I don’t think we ought to say anything to anybody,” Dennis concluded. “For one thing, we’d have to admit that we were behind the confessionals, and we’d end up in a million gazillion gallons of trouble ourselves.”
Nicholas Smithson, otherwise known as Father Nick, realized that if adults ever gave up, it would take only one generation for the world to revert to barbarism. Or, at least, to revert to a worse level of barbarism than it had already attained in the Germanies of the 1630s. Wherefore, he now taught the English-language CCD classes for ten through twelve year old children at St. Mary Magdalene’s in addition to his research and all the other extra work that came with the Lenten season.
He paused just outside the door of the classroom. Most of the kids were already here—the English-language class included not just up-timers and foster children of up-timers, but the offspring of meandering down-time English and Scots Catholics, an occasional Pole or Bohemian, a few Italians, a sparse representation of French and Walloons, and even a few German children from intact families who had decided that they would rather speak English all the time, or at least as much of the time as their parents would let them get away with it.
“That’s just gross,” Maria Pohl was exclaiming.
Father Nick paused a minute to place her. Oh, yes. The stepdaughter of Ingram Bledsoe, the up-time piano manufacturer.
“Gross, gross, gross,” Ottilia Halbach chanted.
He had to agree with her assessment.
“Naw, it’s not,” Aloys Carroll answered. “It’s got to be divine planning that Affenfleisch has exactly the same number of syllables as monkey meat. That’s got to mean that God really wanted it to be translated.”
“Yeah,” Thilo Scharfenberg yelled. “Groß like great. Go, God, go!”
Father Nick flinched.
He had a map on the wall of his office. A map with up-time, plastic handled, stick pins in it. He’d borrowed a box of them from Colette Carroll, Aloys’ adoptive mother.
Aloys had kin in Silesia and Bohemia both, but neither family had objected when his soldier stepfather had been killed in the Battle of the Crapper and his mother had signed adoption release papers before dying at Badenburg the same year.
Colette insisted that Aloys and his half-sister keep in touch with their blood relatives, which meant that there were pins in eastern Silesia, western Bohemia, and closer by in Schleusingen where the German translation of Greasy, Grimy, Gopher Guts had shown up.
Then there had been the clandestine priest who had been turned into the English authorities, barely made it to the coast, and ended up dropped off at Danzig when he really intended to head for the English College in Louvain. Picking up the son of a minor Polish noble to accompany to France, thus managing to pay his way, Father Mulhollin had stopped off in Grantville to see Father Stanihurst. The boy was with him, of course. There was now a Polish translation of the song, known to be in at least three Jesuit collegia in the Commonwealth.
And a Latin translation in Louvain. That had already spread to Salamanca and Venice.
Aloys was saying to one of the other students. “Bet ya’ can’t put it into French. It’s the wrong kind of language.”
“Can, too,” Blaise answered.
“Ugh,” his sister Jacqueline said.
Thilo threw an eraser at her.
Father Nick squared his shoulders and walked into the room.
“I’m worried about those two boys,” Father Nick said to Father Kircher after CCD class. “Dom Grady and Dennis Kovar. They sat quietly through an entire CCD class. No interruptions, no mischief, no inappropriate comments, no expressions of desire for the gruesome and gory. The only thing either of them asked this week is that Dom had a question as to why confessional booths down-time have curtains in the front, when they didn’t up-time.”
“I sent them out to serve vespers at St. Elizabeth’s last week,” Kircher answered. “Maybe they’re coming down with whatever germ was causing tonsillitis there. What did you tell them about confessional booths?”
“Before I could open my mouth, Thilo Scharfenberg announced that it’s because down-timers like it that way and there are a lot more down-timers than up-timers—even in Grantville now. By the time I managed to quell the resulting dispute, they all had to leave for junior choir practice.”
“Maybe next week. What would you have told them?”
“Pretty much the same thing, I’m afraid. The Council of Trent isn’t that far in the past and Vatican II hasn’t happened. With the Holy Father’s current troubles . . . and Tino Nobili on the church board . . . well, the confessionals have curtains.”
Two of the proudest new recruits to the SoTF National Guard, Otto Bußleben and Melchior Engelhaupt, led out their companies under the watchful eyes of the sergeant. Moving out into the road, almost without thinking, they broke into the fine marching song that they had learned from their younger brothers.
“Und ich, mit keinem spoon.”
Jessica Hollering, the commander’s adjutant, watching from the sidelines, shuddered, wondering how she could feel so old when she wasn’t much past thirty. Most of these kids they would be sending out to fight in the next campaign—the one that everybody pretty much knew would be coming next summer or fall—weren’t more than a half-dozen years older than she had been when she learned that song. All by itself, she thought, it would ensure that in Amideutsch, “spoon” was going to substitute for Löffel. Not to mention that the German version inverted “french-fried eyeballs” into “fried French eyeballs.”
“Doch habe ich ein Stroh!”
The companies peeled off towards Bamberg.
No matter what Dennis said, Dom thought he ought to at least find out who the dumpy man was. At that point, he realized that no matter how many Hardy Boys and Great Detective books you’ve read, actually detecting something is a different matter. First, he’d need an excuse to go out to St. Elizabeth’s again. Well, he could go collect the food. After all, he’d paid Thomas for it and hadn’t been able to eat it for fear that it would crunch.
Once he got there, maybe he could just ask someone. “Do you know a dumpy little man who I don’t know?”
That didn’t seem very precise.
He asked Dennis if he could remember anything more than “dumpy” about the man.
“Down-timer,” Dennis said. “Not a miner or a construction worker or a guy who does the kind of work that keeps himself in top shape.” He paused. “Wait a minute. You’re not planning on doing anything dumb, are you?”
“You’re not even planning on doing anything that you maybe think is smart, are you?”
“Uh, uh. I’m not planning on doing anything at all. I’m just curious. We could ask some of the kids who live out that way . . . “
“Who’s saying ‘we,’ white man?”
“Okay, then. I could ask some of the kids who live out that way . . . Just in case, you know.”
Dennis shook his head.
“They were real people,” Dom said that Sunday afternoon of March 4, 1635. “Real people, and now they’re dead. Mayor Dreeson and the Reverend Wiley and Buster Beasley. People shot and people axed. There was blood and guts all over the street when we came out of mass.”
Father Nick had clustered as many of his CCD kids as he could gather back into St. Mary’s church basement to keep them away from the violence outside.
“But none of them were Catholic, were they?” Thilo Scharfenberg asked.
“What difference does that make? We knew them.”
“I didn’t know them,” Aloys Carroll said.
“That’s because they weren’t Catholic,” Thilo said.
Dennis shook his head. “Naw. That’s because you’re not grown up, so you didn’t have any reason to know them. Ask your families, both of you. I’m sure that Watt Carroll knows them all. Well, knew them.”
Dom looked at Pete Bartolli. “Your dad, my Uncle Phil, knows them, too. I know that. Buster came into both sporting goods stores a lot.” He looked back at Thilo. “He ate at your folks’ café sometimes, too.”
“It’s one thing to do business . . . ” Thilo protested. “But . . . “
Father Nick started to intervene, but didn’t have to.
“Turn it around, Thilo,” Jacqueline said. “Think that if, oh, somebody, maybe the Ottomans, came and attacked the Catholics here in town, would you want the other people—the Baptists and the Lutherans and such—not to care because they didn’t know us? Or would you want them to help?”
The afternoon wore on and as the riots were brought under control, parents gradually showed up and claimed their children. Charlotte Kovar picked up Dom as well as Dennis very late, saying that Nora was still on duty, pulling a double shift at the hospital.
It made things awfully . . . real . . . that there was a policeman escorting her.
“Okay,” Dom said after they were safely in bed with the lights out. “What do we do now?”
“Ain’t nothing we can.”
“Yeah. There is?”
“Dom, what did you do?”
“I found out who the dumpy man is. He doesn’t live here. He’s only been here a few weeks, but I guess he had to get ready to make his Easter communion. Caspar knew who I was talking about, once I asked. His name’s Weirauch. They call him Endres, and he’s Catholic or he wouldn’t have been at confession. It was a Catholic who got those people out in front of the synagogue all wound up, Dennis. We can’t let him get away with it. We’ve got to tell someone.”
“No matter how much trouble it gets us into ourselves?”
Dom pushed himself up on one elbow and punched his pillow. He nodded and then realized that Dennis couldn’t see him in the dark. He sat up and hugged the pillow to his knees. “I think that’s where we’re at.”
“We could go confess it.”
“That wouldn’t do any good. The priest would have to keep what we said secret.”
“I’m not going to the police. They’ll tell Mom.”
“Anyone we go to is going to tell our moms.” Dom lay down again and turned over on his stomach. “I should have just stayed hungry that night to begin with. I ended up having to stay hungry anyhow.”
He thought the same thing when he got up the next morning.
“Are they having school?” he asked at breakfast.
“Oh, gosh,” his Aunt Charlotte said. “As far as I know, but I didn’t think to check.” She turned on the radio.
Most of the news was all about the riots, but every five minutes or so, the announcer interrupted to say that the schools were closed.
Dom sighed. No reprieve. For once in his life, he would really have looked forward to going to school.
“Do we have to stay indoors?” Dennis asked.
“Not as long as you stay here in the neighborhood, I think.” She stood up. “I wish at least one of your dads was in town. I wish your Uncle Dennis was in town. I’d like some backup on this decision. But no, they’re all out saving the republic.”
Dennis sighed. For once in his life, he would have sort of appreciated being grounded.
“Uncle Brian’s here,” he said hopefully. “And Uncle Phil.”
“Brian’s helping out at the hospital, just like practically everyone else in town who has had so much as a first aid course.”
“That leaves Uncle Phil.”
Phil Bartolli answered the phone and said that he thought it was okay if the boys went outdoors, as long as they stayed right in the neighborhood.
“Some days,” Dennis said to Dom as they sat on the trampoline in the back yard, “a guy just can’t win for losing.”
“So what are we doing next?”
“I’m not going to the police.”
Dennis shook his head.
“Mr. Piazza used to teach CCD,” Dom suggested.
“He’s the president, now. He’s way too busy to talk to a couple of kids.”
Dom looked up. A middle aged man, gray with exhaustion, was dragging his footsteps in the general direction of his home. Before Dennis could stop him, he got up and ran. “Mr. Adducci,” he called. “Hey, Mr. Adducci.”
Eventually, Tony Adducci managed to persuade Dennis that they did have to go to the police after all. But it was better than it might have been, because he went to Press Richards with them.
“They’re dead, guys,” Dennis announced in CCD class. “We saw them when we came out of mass the day it happened, and so did a lot of the rest of you. Dead as splat can be, and now they’re buried and in the ground.”
“They’re in heaven,” Ottilia said.
“They can’t be,” Thilo protested. “They were all heretics. I’m not even sure, from what people said about the memorial service, that the Buster fellow was a Christian at all.”
“But they are in heaven,” Ottilia protested. “They have to be. Not the attackers. They’re in hell. But Mayor Dreeson and the Reverend Wiley and Buster Beasley. They were good people. Mrs. Prickett says so.”
“No, they were sinners. All of us are sinners,” Blaise pointed out.
“Well, then, for sinners they were good people.”
“Mrs. Prickett isn’t a Catholic,” Thilo proclaimed. “Your foster mother is a heretic, Tillie.”
“Mrs. Prickett is a good heretic,” Ottilia yelled.
“Dennis was right to start with. They’re dead. Dead and buried and in the ground.” Dom whistled a note and chanted, “The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout.”
“What’s pinochle,” Jacqueline asked.
Father Nick drew a very deep breath.
Easter finally came. Sometimes, this year, it seemed like it never would. It seemed like Lent went on forever. But the church calendar said that Easter would show up on April 8, and it did, right on schedule.
“Is it wrong to celebrate,” Dom asked Father Nick as he robed for early mass. “Is it wrong to celebrate when so many horrible things have been going on?”
“Never,” Father Nick said. “Never, when you think about what we are celebrating. Terrible things happened in the days before the resurrection also, but they did not stop Jesus from rising from the grave. What we celebrate is that man’s sin cannot prevent his salvation, so great is God’s love for us.”
The next morning, the VOA early news announced the arrest in Würzburg of a man named Hans Andreas Weihrauch who was alleged by the authorities to have been one of the masterminds behind the attack on the Grantville synagogue.
Dom and Dennis felt a lot better.
Tony Adducci Sr. spent the afternoon writing a long letter to his son Tony Jr. in Basel.
On the first day of school after Easter vacation, Blaise put the French translation of “Great Green Gobs of Greasy, Grimy, Gopher Guts“ into general circulation, thereby winning a lot of bets.
Tony Jr., after he finished reading his father’s letter, made a final decision in a matter he had been contemplating for nearly two years and wrote a long letter to “Father Larry, Your Eminence.”
In Magdeburg, after he read it, Cardinal Mazzare lifted up his head and looked at Friedrich von Spee. “He’ll make a good priest, and he comes to it with enough diplomatic and political experience that he won’t be surprised by anything he sees.”
“Why?” Spee asked. Meaning, of course, whence comes his vocation?
“He says that it’s because the up-timers, the ones who have stayed behind at St. Mary’s in Grantville, really need someone who knows where they are coming from and how they think. Not all the down-time priests do. Having men with down-time attitudes there, English or German, just isn’t going to cut it, not in the long run.”
Spee raised his eyebrows.
“They all have the highest respect for Nicholas Smithson, but . . . “
“According to the boys—something that bothered them so much that they didn’t even want to think about it, much less talk about it or deal with it, and that Tony Sr. held back from the police—Father Bissel, in the confessional, did not counsel Weihrauch against his plans to attack the synagogue.”
“And Herr Adducci felt justified in withholding this information from the police because . . . ?”
“Bissel didn’t instigate the action. He didn’t apparently, even encourage it. He just . . . omitted to discourage it strongly. There was nothing the police could have done with the information if they had it. So Adducci advised the boys to omit that from their narrative. Father Kircher will be counseling with Father Bissel. Plus, there were other complications.”
“Aren’t there always?”
“Preston Richards is a Baptist.” Mazzare paused. “According to Tony Sr., there are stresses developing within the Baptist church in Grantville. Tony did not want to burden Press’ conscience unduly in his dealings with Deacon Underwood, who is, among other things, not a lover of Catholics, whom he considers to be idolaters and drunkards among other undesirable personal characteristics. So . . . “
“What about the boys?”
“Press Richards told Tony that since the police managed to find other evidence linking Weihrauch to the attack, once they knew where to look, he’ll try to set it up so they don’t have to testify. No point in making them targets for the fanatics if it’s not absolutely necessary.”
“Charlotte and Nora checked with Dennis Grady, too—he being the boys’ uncle and as tough a cop as they come. Basically, he said that you avoid unnecessary risks and try to minimize necessary risks, but there’s no such thing as a risk-free life. And if you try to make yourself one, you’re setting it up to let the bad guys win. So they both have said that they will testify if they have to and their parents have agreed—no matter how reluctantly. Not one of them wants to see Weihrauch wriggle out of a conviction.”
Spee meditated briefly on the nature of a sinful world, so awry and askew that the deeds of adult men forced children to contemplate multiple shades of gray before they had even achieved a firm grasp on the distinction between black and white. “If the younger Tony is to become a priest, then you will need a seminary to form him, Your Eminence. Here in Magdeburg, among the heretics, for they will be going out into a world full of heretics and will need to accustom themselves to . . . ” Spee paused, searching his memory for the up-time word, since there was no precise German or Latin equivalent. “Accustom themselves to interacting with them. Moreover, if you wish to form the priests it produces in your own image rather than as down-timers, then you must find time in your schedule—somewhere—to teach a significant number of its courses. Specifically, I would recommend, those in moral philosophy.”
“What d’you think? If a guy swallowed a lighted grenade . . . “
Dennis whapped Dom on the shoulder. “I don’t think that would work. A grenade’s probably too big to swallow.”
“Ja,” Thilo Scharfenberg agreed. “Remember when Cunz Kloss tried to swallow a whole hard-boiled egg and it got stuck on the way down? They had to take him to Leahy to get it up again.”
“Yeah, but if a guy did manage to swallow a lighted grenade . . . “
“His stomach acid would probably put the fuse out.”
Dom was persistent. “All right then. If he did manage to swallow a lighted grenade, and his stomach acid didn’t put the fuse out, and it exploded, how far do you think his body parts would fly? Would it be gruesomely gory?”
All of them looked at Blaise, who folded his arms, closed his eyes, and started to do mental calculations in regard to the geometrical implications of flying body parts. The variables were interesting. There would be some nice and hard like vertebrae and some soft and squishy like intestines. Soft and squishy like great green gobs of greasy, grimy, gopher guts.