Astrid Schäubin was standing guard duty outside the University of Erfurt, out front with Neustatter. Freedom of religion is a good thing, she mused. But guaranteeing it is a little more exciting than civics class suggested it ought to be.
“More students,” Neustatter identified the two young men approaching.
“An honor to meet you, Fraülein. I am Matthias von Spitzer. And this is my fellow student, Friedrich von Alvensleben.”
“Miss Astrid Schäubin of Neustatter’s European Security Services.”
They stumbled over the name of the firm. Astrid explained. Von Spitzer and von Alvensleben followed up.
“Why is your company guarding the university?”
“We’re guarding the Bibelgesellschaft,” Astrid explained. “Erfurt is a little tense right now.”
Von Spitzer nodded. “The townspeople were celebrating the Congress of Copenhagen’s recognition that both the city and the hinterland are formally independent of the archbishop of Mainz. The city has been a Stadt since early ’32, of course, but it’s nice that the captain-general made it official.” He laughed harshly. “But there are unanticipated consequences.”
“Oh?” Astrid asked, even though she already knew what they were.
“The Catholics quickly realized that freedom of religion means no religious tests for public office. They lost no time nominating the archbishop’s former bailiff for the city council. A lot of the townspeople aren’t at all happy about that.”
“What do you think about it?” Astrid asked.
“I think if we all get behind one experienced candidate, we could elect a good Lutheran. But the Committee of Correspondence insisted on running their own.”
“Who did you find who is willing to take on that challenge?” Astrid asked. She tried to project a very concerned tone.
Von Alvensleben spoke up. “Actually, Matthias’s uncle is willing to run.”
“Really? That’s very civic-minded of him.” Astrid was sure there a large dose of self-interest there, too, but she didn’t see any reason to bring it up.
“He’s going to make sure that the Catholics don’t take over again,” von Alvensleben began.
Before he could say more, von Spitzer cut in. “There’s been some pushing and shoving, of course, but nothing we can’t handle. Say, this Bibelgesellschaft, you’ll be backing von Alvensleben, of course?”
“None of them are from Erfurt,” Astrid answered. “Neither are any of us from Neustatter’s European Security Services.”
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” she requested several questions later. “I need to get back to work.”
“Yes, she does.”
Von Spitzer turned and appeared to notice Neustatter for the first time. “Who are you?”
“Thank you,” Astrid told Neustatter once the two students were out of earshot.
Neustatter nodded once. “What did you learn about them?”
“Niederadel. Probably in the arts curriculum. Not serious political players in Thuringia. Just here in Erfurt.”
“Explain,” Neustatter directed.
“If they were Hochadel, we would have recognized their names. The theology students are mostly inside with the Bibelgesellschaft. Law students probably would have asked at least one question about security consultants, and they would have asked you. And law students probably wouldn’t have made so many assumptions about the uncle’s chances in the election. So they were probably arts. And they didn’t ask anything about Grantville or Thuringian politics. Their world revolves around their town.”
Neustatter nodded again. “Remember that your conclusions are only likely, not certain, and didn’t rule out medical students. But I agree with you. Anything else?”
“I think you had a good idea convincing the BGS to send Dr. Gerhard instead of Father Kircher or Brother Green.”
“I’ve heard about those scuffles von Spitzer mentioned. They sound more serious to me than he seems to think. Having Kircher around in clerical robes would just set Lutherans off. And Green would get in an argument.”
Without pointing, he said, “There’s Phillip across the street. Let’s check the guards, Miss Schäubin.” Neustatter stretched, which Astrid knew was a signal to Phillip to stick around for a few minutes.
They left Phillip out loitering out front and generally blending in with the rest of Erfurt. He was one of Neustatter’s new hires. Neustatter had assigned the other two to Ditmar and Hjalmar’s teams and taken one of each of their regulars.
Karl Recker was supposed to be watching one of the building’s other entrances, and that’s exactly what he was doing. Karl carried a US Waffenfabrik flintlock rifle, and it was at order arms—butt on the ground, right hand grasping the barrel just below the muzzle. Recker’s right arm was fully extended, holding the barrel at an angle pointed away from himself, and his left fist was on his hip. Most of the time, NESS was not into spit and polish, but Neustatter made an exception for standing static guard duty. Recker’s stance was flashy but not impractical. His rifle could be at port arms diagonally in front of him in two movements and aimed with only one more. And because nobody in Erfurt had gotten around to forbidding it, he had a bayonet fixed.
“Carry on, Herr Recker,” Neustatter said formally.
Neustatter and Astrid rounded the building to where Lukas Heidenfelder was supposed to be. Lukas was not guarding the back door. Astrid suspected that Neustatter wouldn’t have lost it if Lukas had merely been slouched against the building with weapon in hand, but he wasn’t even watching his area of responsibility. In fact, he was kissing a woman. He had one arm around her—the one holding his U.S. Waffenfabrik.
Neustatter closed in at a lope and threw a right cross into the back of Heidenfelder’s neck. Lukas’s head bounced off the woman’s, somebody’s tongue got bitten, and Lukas whirled around. Neustatter grabbed Heidenfelder’s rifle with one hand and threw a couple quick jabs with the other.
The woman started screaming and flailing at Neustatter. Astrid darted past him with her left arm up to protect her head and her right hand firmly covering her holster. She shouldered the woman away.
Neustatter hauled Heidenfelder to his feet. “Lukas!” he roared. “What do you think you are doing? A passing student could have killed you with a penknife!”
Astrid glared at the woman. “Who are you?”
“Trudi Groenewold. You are in so much trouble when my pimp . . . ”
Neustatter’s laughter cut her off. Still holding Lukas up with one hand, he fished a card out of a shirt pocket with the other. “A pimp who hasn’t been run out of town by the Committees? Really? Do you seriously expect me to believe that? Here, give him my card. Since we’re telling lies, his second can use it to contact me.”
“So he’s not . . . ” The woman closed her mouth, clambered to her feet, and ran off.
“Look, I know you and Lukas have been seeing each other. Just stay away when he’s on duty.” Neustatter turned to Astrid. “Miss Schäubin,” he directed in a perfectly calm voice, “make sure no one got past Heidenfelder. Then take the front and send Phillip back here.”
Astrid checked the inside of the building. The Bibelgesellschaft meeting was still going strong, and she could hear them discussing Jewish scholars. Apparently they’d moved on to the Old Testament. She kept going. She encountered three students, two of whom tried to chat her up. She stepped outside, spotted Phillip, and jerked a thumb over her shoulder. He sauntered across the street and around the building.
Neustatter came around the other side of the building about fifteen minutes later.
“All clear, Miss Schäubin?”
“All clear, Neustatter,” she answered.
“Lukas is at the same door as Karl.”
Astrid nodded. In a guard position that was both flashy and uncomfortable, she suspected.
“I considered firing him. He considered quitting. He still may. He considered fighting me. That won’t happen.”
Astrid sucked in her breath. “Neustatter, Lukas is angry much of the time. He might decide not to fight fair.”
“Of course he wouldn’t fight fair. First of all, I train all of you not to. Second, Lukas knows he wouldn’t win a fair fight with me. What he’s trying to decide right now is whether he can sneak up on me.”
Astrid didn’t think so, but she felt she had to caution her boss. “Neustatter, he does have a rifle. What if he just decides to take a shot at you?”
Neustatter grunted. “I’ve had to discipline Heidenfelder before. In Wallenstein’s army, a lot of men did things. The men from our village knew there were certain things they couldn’t do. Heidenfelder tested the limits a couple times.”
“I disciplined him. The captain disciplined me. I blew the captain’s brains out at Alte Veste.”
“Herr Neustatter, you scare people.”
“Fraülein Schäubin, that way there are fewer I have to shoot.”
Astrid spent the next hour or so fairly angry with Lukas Heidenfelder for complicating the assignment. Neustatter had circled the building a couple times, leaving her alone out front. Being the sole guard out front took some getting used to. Neustatter was back soon enough, though.
He had just returned from his second circuit when they both heard raised voices down the street.
“Stand ready,” Neustatter directed. “Our men are all in place, and the BGS meeting is still going.”
Whatever was going on down there seemed to have a crowd forming. After a few minutes, the crowd started moving their way.
“Miss Schäubin, send Phillip, Karl, and Lukas out here. Then you take position right outside the room where the BGS meeting is. You’ll have to watch your back.”
Astrid ran for Karl and Lukas’s door. After she’d sent all three of the others to Neustatter out front, she took position outside the lecture hall.
Not ten minutes later, the front door was wrenched open. Astrid could hear a ruckus outside. One man strode in, questioned a student near the door, and made straight for the lecture hall.
Astrid drew her pistol but kept it pointed down. “Who goes there?”
“Town watch. We’re here to question the heretics.”
Astrid swiftly considered and rejected several options. Neustatter wouldn’t want her to shoot the town watch. Besides, he was carrying only a cudgel and a short sword. Instead she stepped back.
“Sir, if you are referring to the Bibelgesellschaft, they’re inside. They’ve been inside all day. I’m sure Dr. Gerhard and the Erfurt professors will confirm that, and I’ll stay right here.”
The watchman looked her over. “Fraülein, you and your pistol may stay between the heretics and me, but I can’t have you armed and behind me.”
“That’s reasonable,” Astrid agreed and preceded him into the lecture hall.
“Doctors, please?” the watchman requested. “I’m Watchman Meinhard, investigating a murder.”
The professors, the Bibelgesellschaft, and the Erfurt theology students all poured out of the room. She fell in beside Katharina Meisnerin and Barbara Kellarmännin.
“What is happening?” Katharina asked.
“I don’t know,” Astrid answered. She was concerned that the watchman had gotten past Neustatter. But once they stepped outside she almost laughed in relief.
The watchman had left his partner outside, uncomfortably parked between the mob on one hand and Neustatter, Karl Recker, and Lukas Heidenfelder on the other. As the theology faculty, students, and BGS crowded through the door, one of the good citizens of Erfurt took the opportunity to swing his quarterstaff at Neustatter’s head. Neustatter ducked the staff and delivered a side kick to the man’s midsection. As he doubled up, Neustatter quickly relieved him of the quarterstaff. A second Erfurter jumped in. Neustatter faked a swing at his head and used the other end of the quarterstaff to sweep his legs and dump him unceremoniously in the street.
Neustatter spun the quarterstaff with practiced ease as Karl and Lukas’s rifle butts came up. The good citizens of Erfurt backed off.
“What is going on here?” Watchman Meinhard demanded.
A dozen people started talking at once.
That must be his dean voice, Astrid surmised. It certainly worked.
“Watchman Meinhard?” the theology dean invited in a normal tone.
“These citizens found blood a couple alleys from here. They believe someone has been murdered by the heretics.”
“When did this murder take place?”
“Within a few hours,” a deep voice called from the crowd. “I walked through there this morning, and there wasn’t any blood there then.”
“The Bibelgesellschaft has been inside since eight o’clock this morning,” Neustatter stated. “We’ve been watching the doors.”
“Clearly you and your men were in on it!”
“Nonsense,” Neustatter stated. “Who was killed, anyway?”
“You know! You did it!”
Neustatter planted one end of the quarterstaff in the dirt and spoke very slowly. “No, I don’t know who was killed. If I did, I wouldn’t have asked. And I haven’t hurt anyone except these two fools in the dirt who decided it would be a good idea to attack a security consultant without being sure of the facts. Perhaps the town watch could identify the body before we move on to such minor considerations as motive.”
“There’s no body,” a voice called out.
“Yeah, the heretics took it!” a nasal tone added.
“So, ah, what makes you think there’s actually been a murder?” Neustatter asked as condescendingly as possible.
“There’s blood all over the alley!” Several other people shouted contributions, too, but that was the gist of it.
Neustatter looked at the town watchmen. “Have you seen the alley?”
“Ah . . . just a glance. But we left Jost there.”
“Yes, take the heretics back to the scene of the crime.” That nasal voice from the crowd was getting really annoying.
“The heretics have been inside the classroom with us all day,” one of the Erfurt professors said. Astrid thought about it and finally dredged up a name—Niclas Zapf. Nicolaus Zapfius when he was writing.
“Yes, they have,” another professor agreed.
“And who are you?” the watchman asked.
“I’m Dr. Johann Gerhard, dean of the theology faculty at the University of Jena. And who, good sir, are you?”
“Uh, Watchman Heinkel.”
The crowd quieted down quite nicely, Astrid observed.
“It probably would be a good idea to view the scene,” Meinhard stated loudly enough for everyone to hear him. “Let’s go.”
“One moment, please,” Neustatter requested. He reached out a hand to one of the men he dropped. “Are you willing to let the watchmen sort this out?”
“As long as they make the right decision.” He accepted a hand up.
The other man didn’t. “I want your name!”
“Edgar Neustatter. Neustatter’s European Security Services. You’re with the Committees, aren’t you?” When the man didn’t answer, Neustatter sighed loudly. “A quarterstaff is your weapon of choice. You jumped in ahead of the watch. Tell Dieter Strauss hello from me.”
“You know Strauss?”
“Of course I know the head of the Erfurt Committee of Correspondence, What kind of a security consultant would I be if I didn’t know the important people in cities I operate in? If I give you your quarterstaff back, do you think you could refrain from taking a swing at me?”
“He’d better,” Meinhard warned.
The Committeeman nodded sullenly.
The townspeople and a good chunk of the university congregated at the mouth of the alley. “Jost, we brought everybody,” Meinhard told the watchman who had remained there.
“That is a lot of blood,” Dr. Zapfius acknowledged.
Astrid couldn’t see any of it. She, Karl, and Lukas were sticking to Katharina and Barbara who were in the center of the group of BGS students staying on the edge of the crowd. Phillip was mingled into the crowd.
“It was that one!” a woman shrilled.
Astrid snapped around to see a woman pointing at Neustatter.
“I saw him! He was sneaking off!”
“When was this?” Neustatter shouted over the hubbub.
The watchman who had stayed at the scene—Jost—poked at Neustatter with his cudgel “Where were you going?”
“Martial arts lesson,” Neustatter replied with a grin. “Do that again. I’ll demonstrate. It’ll be fun.”
Watchman Meinhard stepped in. “Knock it off, Jost. I’m not sure what a martial arts is—” He repeated the English term. “—but I saw him take Huber’s staff away from him and trip up Goren with it.”
“Why haven’t you arrested him?” Jost demanded.
“Because it was self-defense on Neustatter’s part and stupidity in the first degree on Huber’s part,” Meinhard answered. Huber glared at him.
Neustatter laughed. “You got that one from Dan Frost, didn’t you?”
“I did. You know Herr Frost?”
“He helped me set up my security company.”
“I see. And these martial arts lessons?”
“Fighting styles from Japan and China that a few up-timers know. Sometimes it’s nice to have a surprise.”
“So I see. Which up-timer teaches the lessons?”
Seeing Meinhard’s blank look, Neustatter added, “Gordon Kroll’s daughter. Dennis Stull’s secretary. They all work for military procurement.”
“Oh, right. I’ve met Herr Kroll. His daughter . . . isn’t she more or less betrothed to Sergeant Hudson?”
Neustatter was grinning again. “Yes.”
“He and his friend Sergeant Allen don’t like Germans. They call us Krauts when they’ve been drinking.”
“Gena is dating one of the no-Kraut men?” Katharina asked.
Meinhard looked her way. “Why does that surprise you? And who are you?”
“Katharina Meisnerin of the Bibelgesellschaft. Most of us know Gena from Grantville High School. She defended us Anabaptists once.”
Meinhard frowned. “Her betrothed may not let her do that anymore.”
Neustatter laughed again. “It’s clear you don’t know Gena very well. Besides, you are underestimating Eric Hudson.”
Meinhard blinked. “I never said his first name.”
“No, you didn’t. But I know him. It’s true that he says he dislikes us Germans. But he tends to forget that once he knows you. He likes movies—the up-time moving pictures.”
Meinhard frowned. “Sergeant Hudson was transferred to Halle. He’s courting Miss Krollin and watching movies in Grantville . . . ”
“And drinking at the 250 Club,” Neustatter added. “He’s very efficient. There’s a reason the Army put him in charge of train schedules.”
Meinhard said, “We’ll need to verify all this, of course.”
“Under close questioning,” the nasal voice added.
“That’s not going to happen,” Neustatter answered. He didn’t bother to turn around.
“This is Erfurt,” another voice spat. “Not Grantville.”
“They will be tried by our laws!” someone else in the crowd shouted.
“Thuringian law is the same in Erfurt and Grantville,” Watchman Meinhard stated.
“They shot someone and carried him off!” came a shout from crowd. “They’re working for the Catholics! They must be punished!” There was a general chorus of agreement from the rest of the crowd.
Neustatter shucked off his coat and let it drop to the ground. His holster was very visible as he turned around.
A few of the more perceptive citizens of Erfurt—and everyone who’d ever see one of the Western movies in Grantville—started moving away, thinking about such things as lines of fire.
“Calm down, all of you!” Meinhard ordered.
“We can take them!” one Erfurter insisted.
Karl and Lukas exchanged incredulous looks.
“Do something!” Astrid heard Katharina hiss at Georg.
“What do you want me to do?” Georg asked.
“I don’t know! Think of something!” Katharina was becoming frantic.
Georg started easing his way through the crowd toward the alley.
Astrid decided that Katharina and Barbara would be safe enough for the moment. They were flanked by fellow students Horst Felke and Johannes Musaeus as well as having Karl and Lukas close by.
“Karl,” Astrid said, “watch the others. I’ll cover Georg.” She slipped through the crowd after him.
Meanwhile, Meinhard was telling his partner, “Heinkel, go to the base and ask if Sergeant Eric Hudson and Fraülein Gena Krollin would please accompany you back here. Be polite. Bring Herr Kroll and Herr Stull if they wish. The whole rest of the city is here—they may as well be.”
Georg got to the front and stood there looking into the alley. The crowd was becoming increasingly aggravated. He knelt down. Astrid sighed. That would make him even harder to protect.
Suddenly Georg straightened and carefully walked a little ways down the alley. “Whatever happened, no one was shot,” he proclaimed.
Everyone in earshot turned to look at him.
“What?” Astrid demanded. “Of course someone was shot. There’s blood everywhere.”
“Not shot,” Georg insisted. “Stabbed or cut. Perhaps bludgeoned. But not shot.”
“Why do you say that?”
“The blood, it’s not right,” Georg said.
“Neustatter!” Astrid called. “There’s something you’ll want to know.” She waved Georg forward. “Explain.”
“Whoever bled here, he or she was not shot,” Georg said.
“Speak up!” someone hollered.
Neustatter motioned to the watchmen. “Gentlemen, we won’t all fit. Perhaps the two professors and then you could pick out a couple dependable men?”
Meinhard nodded. He pointed at two men. “Rudolf Schwartz. Klaus Huber. You witness for the crowd. And for the Committees.” Huber was the man with the quarterstaff.
Eight men crowding into an alley trying to avoid stepping in bloodstains was awkward at best. Once they were all at least close enough to hear, Neustatter said, “Say that again, Georg.”
“This is not blood from shot,” Georg said again. “This is blood from a blade.” He pointed at a streak of blood on the wall, three or four yards from the end of the alley. “This is artery spray. It’s about one American foot from the ground. Not head or chest level. And then whoever it was collapsed right there.” He pointed at a section of wall where the pattern sloped down to the ground, ending in a pool of semi-dried blood. It was irregularly shaped, about three American feet by a foot and a half.
“Right,” Meinhard said. “Then he picked up the body and left these footprints here.” He pointed at a couple impressions that ended in a confused tangle with a smaller patch of blood at the edge of the alley where it met the street.
“What is the point of this?” Jost asked.
“Figuring out what happened,” Meinhard told him. “Someone stepped in blood and walked to the edge of the street. There’s no blood out in the street but there is this spot. As if someone who was bleeding stopped and stood here.”
“It would have happened while they were loading the body,” Jost said.
Georg pointed at it. “That’s dripping. Uh, gravitational spatter, they call it. See how the drops here by the street are all round? And that—” He indicated a spray pattern. “is not gravitational. It’s from a new wound.” He squatted down to look closely. “There is also white stuff on the ground. I smell something, too.” He sniffed the ground. “I think it’s horseradish.”
Jost opened his mouth to argue and then reconsidered. But Huber said it for him. “So the heretics stabbed him again and then put the body in a wagon.”
“That’s not what happened,” Georg said. “Look at these blood drops.”
Watchman Meinhard frowned. “There are two blood trails. We’re standing in one of them! Everyone step back against the wall.” He pointed at the ground and traced the trail as everyone got out of the way. “One going into the alley and one coming back out?”
“Both blood trails are going in,” Georg corrected.
“You couldn’t possibly know that unless you saw it happen,” Huber stated.
“It’s very clear,” Georg countered. “The footprints come out to the street. But both blood trails are going back in.”
Meinhard took a close look. “Yes.”
“You can’t tell that . . . ” Jost began.
“Yes you can. Blood drops from a moving person aren’t round. They’re pointed, and they point in the direction of movement.”
“I don’t believe that,” Huber said.
“Please, feel free to cut your finger and walk around,” Georg challenged.
“Why, you . . . ”
“That’s enough, Herr Huber,” Meinhard said without lifting his gaze from the ground. “Why do you know all this, Georg?”
“My sister Katharina keeps staying after school for Bibelgesellschaft work. I was bored waiting, so I took the forensics class.”
“Forensics?” Meinhard stumbled over the word.
“Crime scene investigation.”
“Ah. Herr Frost has told us a little about this. He said he will say more about it on his next circuit. I remember that he said the up-timers have a chemical that shows blood.”
“Yes,” Georg agreed. “Luminol. It’s usually used to see where someone cleaned up blood. No need for it here.” Then a thought struck him, and he laughed. “But it wouldn’t work here anyway, Watchman Meinhard. You can smell the horseradish, right?”
“Horseradish causes luminol to show a false positive,” Georg said. “If we had any to spray around, I think this whole end of the alley would turn blue.”
“Have you used this luminol before?”
“No. I’ve just seen pictures of it in a book. If there is any left at all, it is not enough to let students use it.”
Meinhard was quiet for a few moments. “Could someone have put the horseradish there on purpose so that luminol couldn’t be used?”
Georg thought about that. “I believe Herr Frost would say that forensic countermeasures suggest careful planning. Given the amount of blood everywhere, I don’t think this was carefully planned. Certainly no one tried to clean up the scene. I think the horseradish is just an accident.”
“Good point,” Meinhard agreed. He turned his attention back to the scene. “Steps in the blood, tracks it to the street, spills blood there, two people come back this way,” he mused. “Steps over here around the blood pool.”
“I didn’t see that one,” Georg admitted.
“It’s just blood drops. There aren’t any footprints.”
Georg cocked his head to one side. “Why not? If there are footprints going out there should be footprints coming back.”
“This is hard ground,” Meinhard pointed out. “We’re not leaving footprints either.”
Georg thought about that for a minute. Then he stamped on the ground. “Look – I can leave a footprint if I stomp. But why would anyone stomp after stepping in blood? I’d scuff my shoes to scrape it off.”
“He didn’t scuff,” Meinhard observed. He pointed at a misshapen footprint. “Georg, he slipped!”
Georg understood at once. “He slipped in the blood and stumbled to the edge of the alley. Wait—then he stood around bleeding? Why was he bleeding?”
“He stabs the other guy . . . ” Meinhard began. “No, the other guy stabs him. No, that’s not right, because they walk off together.”
“Do we know they left together?” Georg asked.
“There are the two blood trails,” the watchman pointed out. “They never cross.” He began again. “The first man walks through the alley and stabs someone. He slips in the blood. The victim injures him at the edge of the street. But the second man arrives. They kill the victim, and they load the body on a wagon, then walk back down the alley.”
“Why wouldn’t they just ride away on the wagon?” Georg asked. “Especially since the first man was wounded?”
“So there’s a third man driving the wagon . . . ” Meinhard shook his head. “No, that is far too complicated.” He looked at Jost. “Do you have a theory?”
“Not anymore,” Jost answered. “But yours has the big blood stain made before the one next to the street. But the one next to the street is dried, and the big one is still sticky. Doesn’t that make the one by the street older?”
Astrid watched Georg and Meinhard exchange looks of consternation. Then they both practically dove at the blood stain by the street.
“Where did we go wrong?” Meinhard asked.
“I don’t know,” Georg muttered.
They kept staring at the blood stain. At length, Georg observed, “It’s not just dried. It’s clotted.”
“Well, yes,” Meinhard agreed. “Blood clots.”
“The larger bloodstain isn’t clotted like this.” Georg sounded excited. “It’s not older. This one is two different blood types!”
“The first man and the second man were both wounded at the edge of the street. This is blood from both of them. It clotted because they’re different blood types,” Georg pointed. “See the arterial spray there? It’s not clotted because it’s from only one of them.”
“Two men were injured here?”
“Since they were both hurt and left walking side by side, I don’t think they could have carried a body,” Georg said slowly. “One of them is bleeding badly. He needs help, and soon.”
Meinhard slapped his forehead. “That’s why they went back into the alley. The clinic is this way.”
Dr. Zapf spoke up. “The university medical faculty is the other way.”
Meinhard shook his head. “We’ve been seeing more and more sick and injured people being taken to the clinic. It’s just a couple of nurses. They’re not really doctors. But a lot of people don’t care.
“Jost, we’re going to follow the blood trail. Go back and tell everyone else that if they come, they have to stay back and they have to use a different alley. Georg, let’s go find these two men.”
They followed the blood drops to the other end of the alley and out onto the next street.
“It’s getting hard to see,” Georg noted.
Meinhard grunted. “Less blood, too.”
Halfway down the block they lost the trail.
“I don’t see any more blood,” Georg said.
“Me, either.” Meinhard turned around. “Form a line.”
He put Schwarz, Huber, Neustatter, Johann Gerhard, Niclas Zapf, and Jost in a line across the street, and they started slowly moving forward.
“Blood!” Dr. Gerhard called.
Several yards farther along Schwarz found another drop. After another twenty yards, they heard a hubbub as the crowd caught up to them.
Meinhard made a decision. “Jost, let’s just check the clinic. If they’re not there, we can come back with lanterns and look for the blood trail.”
They were almost to the base when they met Watchman Heinkel coming the other way with three up-timers in tow, two men and a woman. The younger man was wearing USE feldgrau. That probably made him Eric Hudson, although Astrid didn’t recognize any of them.
Katharina did, though. “Guten abend, Gena,” she called.
“Kat Meisnerin? Georg? Horst? What are you all doing here?”
“The Bibelgesellschaft came to Erfurt to meet with the university theology faculty. But people think that Herr Neustatter and his security service have killed someone.”
Gena gave an unladylike snort. “That’s ridiculous.”
“Gena. Sergeant Hudson. Herr Kroll,” Neustatter greeted them.
“What’s this about, officer?” Gordon Kroll asked.
Meinhard gave him the short version.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Sergeant Hudson drawled. “You think Neustatter and one of his men would attack someone in an alley? And then hide the body? Seriously?” He laughed.
“Why is this funny?” Watchman Jost asked.
Eric Hudson jerked a thumb at Neustatter. “The idea of John Wayne here using a partner to ambush a guy.”
“But . . . why is it funny?” the watchman pressed.
“C’mon. Neustatter goes to the movies to watch John Wayne, Harrison Ford, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He wouldn’t knife someone in an alley. He prefers a straight-up fight to all that sneaking around.”
“Plus, since you came and got us,” Hudson continued, “you already know that Gena’s been teaching him martial arts. Now if you had someone who’d been blown away on Main Street or had a broken neck, Neustatter’d be a suspect. But a stabbing? Uh-uh.”
“That’s . . . an interesting insight,” Meinhard acknowledged. He glanced at Georg.
Georg shrugged. “Don’t look at me. That’s not forensics. I think they call that profiling.”
“Let’s go check the clinic before it gets completely dark,” Meinhard directed.
Lorrie Gorrell was finishing up with a couple sick kids while Maurine Kroll tried to keep the day’s paperwork somewhat current. Someone banged on the door of the clinic. Maurine pushed back from the shelf pegged to the wall that served as a desk. Being on paperwork made her the receptionist, too. She opened the door to find her husband, daughter, and, well, probably not half of Erfurt standing there, but it seemed like it.
A quick glance didn’t reveal anyone obviously in need of medical care. “What’s going on, Gordon?” she asked. “Can I help you?”
“We hope so,” said a man wearing the armband of the city watch. “There is a lot of blood in an alley near the university. We believe there were two men injured, and the blood trail led in this general direction. One of them would have been bleeding badly.”
The door to the examination room opened. Lorrie Gorrell ushered a woman and her two boys out. She was carrying the younger, who looked about six. The older was probably nine or ten.
“Keep giving them purified water and an aspirin morning, noon, and night,” she directed, then asked, “What’s going on, Maurine?”
“They’re looking for a couple injured men, one bleeding heavily,” Maureen told her. “They must mean Griesser and Unsinn.”
Lorrie nodded. “Hans Griesser and Gerhard Unsinn came in this afternoon. Griesser had a deep laceration to his right arm, and Unsinn had a broken nose. I stitched up Griesser and did what I could for Unsinn’s nose.”
“Did they say what happened?” Meinhard asked.
To his surprise, Watchman Jost laughed softly. “I can guess. I know Unsinn, by reputation at least. He is a klutz.”
“Yes,” Lorrie confirmed. “Hurrying to bring a knife to his master.”
Meinhard nodded. “I can see it. Not quite running, but moving fast. He slipped in the blood and stumbled forward just as . . . Griesser, you say? . . . came around the corner.” He paused. “Where are they now?”
“They both lost a lot of blood,” Lorrie said. “This isn’t Leahy or Magdeburg Memorial. We don’t give transfusions unless it’s really life or death. I can’t even give Sergeant Nagel’s kids as much aspirin as I’d like to. I stitched them up and sent them to a tavern. At least they’ll get some fluids back in their systems that way.”
Maurine took a deep breath. “And I gave them some marijuana for the pain.”
Gordon Kroll blinked a couple times. “You prescribed beer and pot?” he asked his wife.
“Yes. I told them to come back tomorrow. If they need it, we’ll give them a pint of O negative and some chloram.”
Kroll winced. “Let me talk to Dennis Stull and some others. We’ve got to see about getting you more medical supplies, especially if you’re becoming the walk-in clinic for the city.”
Meinhard cleared his throat. “Any idea which tavern they went to?”
“Probably The End of the Woad. It’s closest.”
Maurine exchanged glances with Lorrie.
“Go with them,” Lorrie said. “I’ll close up here.”
Outside, Meinhard gave a quick summary that caused most of the remaining onlookers to disperse. Potential murder had been interesting; a clumsy journeyman was not. That left just three watchmen, Georg, the two professors, Neustatter, Astrid, Schwartz, Huber, Gordon and Maurine Kroll, Gena, and Eric Hudson. They filed into The End of the Woad and filled the place up.
“May I help you?” the waitress asked.
“City watch,” Meinhard said. “Looking for Hans Griesser and Gerhard Unsinn.”
“Right over there.”
Griesser’s arm was bandaged, as was Unsinn’s nose.. Both their shirts were bloodstained but they had cleaned themselves up.
Eric Hudson sniffed. “Must be our guys. That is definitely a doobie.” Gena smacked him.
“Herr Griesser? Herr Unsinn?” Meinhard asked.
“I’m Watchman Meinhard. Some citizens found a lot of blood in an alley, and they were afraid someone had been murdered.”
“Ha! Not quite murdered, although Unsinn here stabbed me when he fell.”
“Sorry,” Unsinn muttered.
Griesser laughed. “He fell face-first into my tray of horseradish, too. Busted his nose and spilled the horseradish everywhere. Sorry, Unsinn, but I’ve had enough beer and das weed that it’s funny now.”
Unsinn had clearly had enough, too. He giggled. “I slipped in the blood.”
Meinhard nodded. “We know. But where did the blood come from?”
The waitress came over with a platter of fowl and a pungent sauce.
“Some fool butchered some chickens in the alley. I saw some feathers.”
Meinhard and Georg just looked at each other. Georg shook his head.
Neustatter clapped him on the shoulder. “This was good work, Georg. You could have a future in investigation.” He turned. “And Huber? You wouldn’t be on the CoC sanitation committee would you?”
“Ja. I’ve got work to do. Fraülein Krollin, I’d like to speak with you about quarterstaff lessons.”
“Neustatter, I’ll give you a decent fight next time.” The Committeeman left.
“That explains everything,” Meinhard said.
“Chicken with horseradish sauce?” Eric Hudson asked.
“Well, except that.”
“That’s easy,” the waitress said over her shoulder as she passed by with a tray full of food. “The cook is determined to master the up-time turkey and dressing by the next kirmess. But he’s not there yet.”