Room 617, Higgins Hotel, 7:20 AM, June 6, 1636

 

Alfonso Caparelli heard the knock while he was washing his face. He yelled, “Come on in, Gertrude,” and reached for a towel. He was still drying his face when a hand covered his mouth and a strong arm pulled his head back. Then he felt the stab, low in his back but angling up. He tried to pull away, but he was off balance and his struggles, as much as the actions of his assailant, moved the long, narrow blade around inside him. His struggles weakened quickly, and when he was released, he fell to the floor, unconscious, and continued to bleed.

****

The wielder of the knife wiped it on the dying man’s shirt and put it away. Then, carefully avoiding the spreading blood stain, went over to the desk and perused the papers. None of the papers in the desk were of interest, and were left scattered on the desk and floor. Two ended up close enough to the dead man that his blood soaked them. Next came the file cabinets. The victim’s filing system was esoteric at best. Again, nothing that would be of interest to the killer’s employer. However, there were some papers that the murderer found interesting. Those were folded and hidden, for later perusal. Then the killer stepped to the closed door and listened. Hearing nothing, the killer opened the door, stepped out into the wide hallway, closed the door, and walked away. In the room, Caparelli continued to bleed to death.

****

Twenty minutes later, Gertrude knocked on Alfonso Caparelli’s door and, getting no response, used her key to unlock the door. The middle-aged, hefty, German woman opened the door, then screamed.

****

Detective Lieutenant Leonhard Himmel, Mounted Constabulary, got out of the police car and looked at the Higgins Hotel. Leonhard had been a medical student, then a soldier, and for the last three years, a police officer in what had evolved into the Thuringia-Franconia Mounted Constabulary, often called the State Police. He had been called in because someone had called the brass, and because even a city the size of West Virginia County didn’t have the resources to support much in the way of a forensic unit.

He had also watched every police procedural movie or television show that had been brought back in the Ring of Fire. That wasn’t because he wanted to, so much as because it was all they had, aside from some instructional manuals, to tell them how to be up-time style police. He had taken the courses and knew about things like fingerprinting and blood typing, that they could do, and things like DNA testing, which they couldn’t. He had even read Sherlock Holmes, and listened to a lecture by Dan Frost on the errors Arthur Conan Doyle made about what did and didn’t constitute evidence. After that, he had almost never used it. Most crimes were open and shut cases. Some idiot stabbed some other idiot in front of half a dozen witnesses. Someone burglarized a house or committed a fraud. But Leonhard was a conscientious cop, so he gathered the evidence in a careful and conscientious manner. Besides, it impressed the civilians.

He walked into the lobby and was directed to an elevator bank, mostly skipping the mall portion of the hotel. The elevator was waiting. As soon as he got in, the operator closed the doors and turned the handle, and the elevator started to rise. Leonhard was still a little thrilled by elevators, and the Higgins Hotel had big fancy ones. He watched as the dial make its way to the six and the operator brought the cage to a stop with barely a jolt. The elevator man, about thirty and short an arm, used the one he still had to point Leonhard to the right.

“What have you got, Alfred?” Leonhard Himmel asked Sergeant Alfred Bauer of the West Virginia County Police, when he arrived at room 617.

“Not nearly as much as I’d like,” Sergeant Bauer said. “Most of the residents of the floor are already out and about. And the ones who aren’t, didn’t see anything. The room was tossed but we don’t think much was taken. Once we get the body out, I’ll question the maid to try and get a better read. Could be a robbery, but again, we won’t know till we get an inventory of what was here.”

Leonhard considered. “Have you dusted the place for prints?”

“Nope. As soon as I got the word you guys were being called in, I stopped messing with stuff,” Alfred said. “You can dust the place.”

Leonhard grimaced. “I got a call before I came out. Delia Higgins called the brass. Word came down that we are to assist.”

“It’s the Higgins, and that means it happened right under the noses of the Grantville hoity toity,” Alfred said. “What did you expect? And Press Richards, well, as soon as it got to looking political, laughed about dumping it on you guys.”

“Right,” Leonhard agreed. “So we dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s on this one.”

Alfred nodded, “As long as it doesn’t come out of our budget.” Then he waved at a couple of people who were waiting just down the hall, being held back by a uniformed officer.

“The hotel detective and the floor concierge.”

“Right. I’ll talk to them.”

****

The hotel detective was a man Leonhard recognized from several of the classes he had taken. “Friedrich, how did you end up here?”

“It’s good money, Leonhard, and free room and board while they’re at it. I’m in a suite up on the eighth floor,” Friedrich Hoffmann said.

Leonhard nodded. “Sounds nice. But why hire you?”

“Mostly, it’s been petty theft. There is a lot of wealth of one sort or another around here, and it can be pretty tempting.”

They talked shop as Friedrich led them down the hall to a room. “This floor has a conversation room, as well as the baths. The guests can reserve it on a first-come, first-served basis. Johann, here, is the floor concierge. He manages that and the bathing rooms, as well as the staff for this floor.”

“So how often did Herr . . .” Leonhard looked at Alfred.

“Herr Caparelli.”

“. . . Herr Caparelli, use the conversation room?”

Apparently Johann didn’t need to look it up. “Three days ago was the last time. On average, he would use the room about once a week.”

“Is that usual?”

Johann nodded. “It’s a way of impressing clients. The conversation room is booked by someone most afternoons and almost every evening. In fact, it’s booked most mornings too. Including this one. We moved the party down to one of the conference rooms.” The conversation room was a large room with a chandelier in the center of the ceiling. It had a round table with chairs, a couch and a couple of easy chairs, surrounding a coffee table.

He waved Leonhard and Alfred to the couch, and sat in one of the easy chairs. Friedrich took the other easy chair.

“How well did you know Herr Caparelli?” Leonhard asked Johann.

“I know how he liked his shirts pressed. I know what his favorite foods were, and how often he scheduled baths. About his business . . . well, I know that he kept papers in his room and I scheduled his time on the computers. Some, but not much. They are expensive. What he did with that time, I didn’t inquire. Our guests’ business affairs are theirs, and we make a great effort to be sure that their privacy is respected.”

“You have to understand, Leonhard,” Friedrich added, “millions of American dollars can change hands in this building on any given day. Someone who knew what was going to happen in a meeting room like this might make their fortune at the expense of our guests. That wouldn’t be good for the hotel.”

They talked about the victim, a personable man, friendly and easygoing. Also a fairly generous tipper, and he wore the very best clothing. Johann sniffed. “He tended to overdress for his actual station.”

Somehow, Leonhard got the impression that Johann was not a fan of Alfonso Caparelli. Johann probably knew a lot more about what went on on the sixth floor of the Higgins than he would willingly tell. Leonhard understood. There was something almost feudal about the staff of the Higgins. Like the retainers of a noble house, they didn’t talk about the guests, at least not to outsiders. The problem was that their reluctance to speak of their guests could hide a host of sins.

“Apparently whoever did this was looking for something,” Leonhard offered. “Could his papers have had enough value to justify the murder?”

“Maybe.” Friedrich sounded doubtful. “No offence, Johann, since I know you know your guests well, but most of them are the financial guppies, not the sharks. If you were going to commit murder for the papers in someone’s office, you would want the fourth floor where the corporate offices are, or the penthouse.”

“Considering that neither Master David Bartley nor Judy Wendell is in residence at the moment, it would be the fourth floor,” Johann said. “And please don’t underestimate our guests, Herr Hoffmann. Granted, it’s not often that any of their arrangements are that valuable, but they are the backbone of our business community. And sometimes they are involved in the founding of new businesses that grow quite large.”

Yes, Johann definitely took a proprietary interest in his guests.

****

“Yes sir,”  Ralph Schreiner, the elevator man, confirmed. “I was on duty, but I didn’t take any strangers to the sixth. It’s not allowed. We can’t keep track of all the short-term guests, but the sixth is all long-term guests and we get to know them. Besides, long-term guests get identification cards with their picture and room number on them.” He glanced over at Friedrich and continued. “It’s hotel policy. If we don’t know the person, we ask to see their ID and tell them the sixth is for long-term guests.”

“It must be difficult keeping track of them all, Ralph,” Leonhard said. “How many guests are on the sixth floor?”

Friedrich interrupted. “There are ninety-seven guests and nine staff living on the sixth floor at the moment. Not all of the staff that live here work on this floor, and some of the staff that work on this floor live off premises.”

“That’s a lot of people and this isn’t the only floor. You must spend a lot of time looking at ID.”

Ralph was definitely looking uncomfortable and sneaking glances at Friedrich. Leonhard got the impression that checking IDs was a rule that was honored in the breach rather more than Friedrich would approve of. “Is it possible that someone might have slipped off the elevator this morning without you noticing?”

“No, I didn’t bring anyone to the sixth ‘cept Lucy Serona, who brought up the breakfasts for the regulars.”

“Regulars?” Leonhard asked noting that Ralph’s Amideutsch had a bit more hillbilly than most down-timers.

“That’s Frau Keller in 604, the Kusters in 605, Herr Pfaff, 611 . . .” Ralph was reeling them off as though to prove his knowledge.

“No. I mean, what makes them regulars?”

Friedrich interrupted again. “The guests can eat in their rooms, ordering from room service or go down to one of the restaurants. The regulars have their breakfasts pre-ordered. It’s easier for the cooks that way, and there’s a discount.”

Ralph took over. “They make up trays and put them on a cart and Lucy brings them up at seven. Well, about seven ten, actually.”

“Was Caparelli a regular?”

“No. Mostly he had the breakfast buffet down in the Oak Room, like a lot of them. They have scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy,  fruit jellies and, well, it’s serve yourself. All you can eat.” Apparently Ralph was a foodie.

“The buffet down in the Oak Room is inexpensive for long-term guests,” Friedrich added and Leonhard seriously considered ordering the man out.

Instead, Leonhard asked him, “Why’s that, Friedrich? An egg costs the same, doesn’t it? So does a muffin.”

“No, actually it doesn’t. The biggest thing that puts restaurants out of business is not being able to predict how much food they are going to need over the course of a day or a week. And it’s a percentage game. If you have twenty customers on Monday and forty on Tuesday, it’s a lot more of a problem than if you have a hundred twenty on Monday and a hundred forty on Tuesday. The Oak Room averages six hundred to six fifty breakfasts a day. They know just how many eggs they are going to need, how much bread, how much jam, how much pancake batter, and so on. Because they know that, they can order food in bulk. It makes it cheaper and Mrs. Higgins passes the savings on to the long term guests, especially those that pre-pay.” Friedrich stopped, and actually blushed a little. “Ah, Anna is in the commissary department and it comes up in staff meetings. Besides, you asked.”

“If we can get back to the point . . . You said the only one you delivered to the sixth was—” Leonhard looked at his notes. “—Lucy Serona. Did you pick anyone up?”

“Yes, a bunch of them. Probably thirty between when I came on at five and when Gerty screamed. Most of them between six and seven.”

There were two elevators. The other elevator operator, who had been on duty also starting at five, was less certain, but didn’t remember bringing any strangers to the sixth floor.

The fifth floor was all short-term guests. So was the seventh, and there were staircases just next to the elevators. So the murderer could have been anyone in the Ring of Fire. Especially since, according to Friedrich’s girlfriend, the Higgins did a booming breakfast business. Anyone could have stopped in for murder and a bite to eat.

 

Mounted Constabulary Station, 4:30 PM, June 7, 1636

 

“What have you got?” Leonhard asked Gloria Papenheim.

“Too much and too little. There are a lot of fingerprints all over Caparelli’s apartment. Most of them are his. The maids’ prints are also common, and some other staff, but there are at least a dozen that we can’t identify.”

“Where?”

“There were papers all over the place and we’re not entirely sure where they started out. We think that the unidentified prints are mostly from his desk. In any case, they don’t even prove that the person touching the papers was ever in the room, just that they touched the papers at some point. The good news is that while we have lots of extra prints, we have one set on a lot of the papers. I can’t prove it before Judge Tito, but I’m pretty sure that set belongs to our killer. The maid said she polished the furniture three days ago. They do light cleaning, empty trash cans and the like, every day. They do more serious cleaning once or twice a week. The last time for this room was Tuesday afternoon. And the same set of prints that is on so many of the papers is on the filing cabinet and the desk. That gives us a time frame.”

Gloria—or, more properly, Maria Gloriana Papenheim—was a small woman who had at some point had her nose broken. She had been one of many camp followers who had had the good fortune to be with the army that the up-timers defeated at the Battle of the Crapper. She was quick to point out that she was no relation at all to “that bastard Pappenheim.” She was also what the up-timers called an “anal retentive,” or sometimes called “obsessive compulsive.” She was very precise about everything, which made her the perfect head for the Mounted Constabulary Forensic Unit. She was nice enough, but irritating in her insistence that everything be done the same way, every time. Her mouse-brown hair was cut short and she always wore overalls, a heavy shirt, and boots. When working a crime scene, she added up-time rubber dishwashing gloves and cloth booties. She went to considerable effort to conceal the fact that she was a woman.

“What can you tell me?”

“Not much yet.” Gloria looked around. “He was stabbed from behind by someone who knew what they were doing. Judging from the amount of blood, whoever it was made a mess of his internal organs. A thin-bladed knife, but probably a fairly long blade. Eight inches, I’d guess, but we won’t be able to confirm that till the coroner gets around to him. There were a lot of papers in the room, and it’s a safe bet that he ran his business out of it. We’ll know more after Sandy has a chance to go over the papers.”

“Okay. Meanwhile, I have to go back to the Higgins and soothe the ruffled feathers of Delia Higgins. Tell the coroner that this is a priority and light a fire under Sandy.”

****

The killer laid out the papers in careful order. There was time. It was necessary to wait for the newspapers to announce the death of Alfonso Caparelli. That would be the confirmation. Meanwhile, the killer was interested in the papers found in Alfonso’s room. Alfonso was a liar and a thief, but he was a sharp cookie. Something here might be very valuable back home.

Next stop: the library.

 

Mounted Constabulary Station, 7:20 AM, June 8, 1636

 

“Alfonso Caparelli was a con man,” Gloria said pedantically. “According to Sandy, his private correspondence demonstrates that he had intentionally oversold stock in several companies he was involved with. Companies that were supposed to have one or two thousand shares, in fact have as many as fifty thousand shares.”

“Well, there’s motive,” said Alfred.

“Not necessarily,” Gloria corrected. “Very little of this would be apparent unless you had access to the records that Caparelli kept in his room. The people who owned some of the stock didn’t know that the people who owned the rest of the stock existed. And it would be hard to tell whether the lower-than-expected dividends were because the company had more stock out, or simply was having a bad quarter.”

“Check it out anyway, Alfred,” Leonhard said. “Get some of the accountants on it and find out who knew they were being ripped off by this guy. And check out his bank account.”

“Bank accounts,” Gloria said. “He had three at the Grantville National, two at the credit union, and two at the Abrabanel in Badenburg.”

“Why so many?”

“We’re not sure yet. But he has one personal account at each bank, and at least one business account that he had access to. I think it was all part and parcel of keeping people from knowing what he was doing.”

“How much money did this guy have?”

“If the stuff in his room was accurate, he had about a hundred thousand, between the personal accounts, and as much as half a million dollars in the various business accounts. But I’m pretty sure that he’s not the only one that had access to the business accounts.”

“Alfred, would you call the banks and get those accounts frozen till this is resolved?” Leonhard asked. “From what Gloria’s been saying, there are going to be law suits.”

“Sure.”

“So, tell me more about this con man,” Leonhard continued. “And while you’re at it, tell me what a con man is doing in the Higgins Hotel.”

“What do you expect them to do?” asked Alfred, “Run background checks on everyone who rents a room?”

“Well, it would certainly be convenient.” Leonhard grinned at the sergeant. “Besides, it would be in their interest too. It can’t be good for business to have someone like this guy staying in their hotel. Never mind. I’ll have a chat with Friedrich about it.”

“You can have a talk with him, but they have no means of finding out what someone did in Hamburg, much less Italy.”

“Do we even know where in Italy he was from?” Leonhard looked at Gloria

She shook her head. “Not yet. Sandy is still going over his papers, but he’s not finding much of a personal nature. And, so far, nothing at all before he showed up in Grantville about a year ago. He checked in at the Higgins as a short-term guest for about a week, then rented a room on the sixth floor and went into business.”

“Went into business with who? Who was he involved with?”

“David Bartley, for one,” said Gloria. “But Herr Bartley is somewhere in Saxony with the Third Division.”

“Maybe. But his man, Kipper, was in town not that long ago to visit his wife . . . right in the Higgins. And Johan Kipper was a mercenary for years. If Bartley wanted this guy dead, Kipper could do it, or find someone to do it,” Alfred said.

“But what’s the connection?”

“There are two major ones,” Gloria said. “First is that mercenary company of Bartley’s, the one that makes clothes. There are documents in his file cabinet that indicate that they want to get control of the company away from Bartley.”

“So what? Bartley owns lots of companies.”

“Not since he got forced out of OPM, he doesn’t,” said Alfred.

Gloria held up a sheet of paper. “According to this, Bartley wasn’t forced out of OPM. Instead, he was planted on Stearns to introduce the becky, so OPM could do financial manipulation.”

“What’s that?” asked Leonhard.

“A memo from Franz Kunze to Bartley, dated two days before his sabbatical started, talking about credit instruments for Third Division,” Gloria said. “That was before Bartley was transferred to Third Division, so apparently the fix was in. And there are suggestions that Becky Abrabanel was involved because of her connection to Uriel, and through him to Wallenstein, ah, King Albrecht.” She pulled another paper. “Apparently, Wallenstein is a secret Jew. And the Jews are taking over Europe with their financial manipulations.”

Leonhard was gaping at her.

Alfred laughed. “It sounds like this guy was writing for the National Inquisitor.”

“Maybe, but the documents look genuine,” Gloria said.

“We’ll check it out,” said Leonhard.

“Are you nuts!” Alfred blurted. “Sorry. But even if it’s true, you don’t want to go there. This is David Bartley we’re talking about, and Rebecca Abrabanel. You could find yourself walking a beat in Suhl, if you didn’t end up on the wrong end of a discussion with the CoC.”

“We will go where the evidence takes us, Sergeant. That’s our duty. I don’t care how rich or connected they are. They are, as of now, persons of interest in a murder investigation.”

****

“So, Johann, did you know that Herr Caparelli was a thief?”

Johann was silent for a long minute then nodded. “I suspected, sir. You can’t help overhear things, but our guests have a right to their privacy.”

“Well, in this case, your respect for his privacy may have caused his death. And, certainly, it contributed to the crimes he was committing against others.”

“I didn’t know! I simply suspected, as I said. And what would you have me do? Shall I go through your papers in case you might be taking bribes? Turn them over to the newspapers for examination? Or should someone that lives in the Higgins have fewer rights than you have?”

“That’s a pretty educated argument, Johann.”

Johann smiled. It was, and he knew it, because he was repeating a lecture that he had gotten from the hotel manager, Maria Elisabeta Cotta. She was the daughter of the mayor of Eisenach and a cousin of Franze Kunze, which was how she had gotten the job. But she was very good at it and if the Higgins Hotel was Delia Higgins’ kingdom, Frau Cotta was the prime minister. She had given Johann a nice long lecture about the rights of their guests when he had been hired and another when he had been promoted to concierge. Up-timer law gave people the right to be secure in their person, and Johann respected those rights.

****

“Thank you for seeing me, Herr Kunze,” Leonhard said politely, as he was ushered into the office in the Higgins. Franz Kunze, the chairman of the board of OPM, still lived in Badenburg, but he kept offices in the Ring of Fire. His were on the fourth floor of the Higgins Hotel. Herr Kunze was wearing a suit of black fabric of up-timer cut, but with the intricate embroidery of wealthy down-timers, and a lace-covered cravat.

“That’s fine, Herr Himmel, but I do have another appointment soon, so if you could get to the reason for your visit?”

“It’s about a memo you sent David Bartley a few months ago.” Leonhard handed over the memo, which might not be the best police procedure, but he wanted to see Kunze’s reaction.

Kunze looked at the memo casually, then stopped and read it carefully. “I didn’t write this.”

He didn’t sound like he was lying. But then, someone like Kunze would be able to sound like he was telling the truth when he was selling you your own shoes. Besides, what else was he going to say? “Do you have any idea how this might have gotten into the room of a dead man?”

Kunze shrugged. “Maybe he wrote it? I know I didn’t. Is this about that fellow who was murdered two floors up?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, if he was trying to pass this sort of thing off, perhaps some of his suckers got wise to him,” Herr Kunze said, sounding very up-timer. “I certainly never had any dealings with the man, not at my level, you understand.” He looked back at the memo. “He does have the format right, I’ll give him that. Aside from the content, it could be something my assistant wrote for me.” The memo was a carbon copy, typed on an up-time electric typewriter. The carbon wasn’t signed, but that, too, wasn’t particularly unusual. It was an internal memo, not a contract. No reason to sign it. As Kunze had said, the format was the standard for OPM and a dozen other companies, and the page header was the OPM logo.

“I’d like to have our forensic people examine your typewriter to determine if this memo was typed on it.”

“You what? Are you accusing me of lying?” Herr Kunze looked shocked. More importantly, he looked pissed off. And proceeded to prove just how pissed off he was. “No, you may not take my electric typewriter and play with it because you have a wild hair about an obvious forgery. And if you want to speak to me again, make an appointment through my lawyer.”

****

Leonhard got a warrant and got the typewriter. Extensive analysis showed that, no, the memo had not been typed on Herr Kunze’s typewriter, but though that did suggest it was a forgery, it didn’t take Bartley off the hook. Such a fake would clearly hurt Herr Bartley’s reputation because, no matter the evidence, not everyone was going to believe it was fake. So Leonhard interviewed Delia Higgins and Darlene Kipper. Both those ladies were less than pleased to see him and more than happy to let him know just how displeased they were.

 

Mounted Constabulary Station, 10:40 AM, June 9, 1636

 

“What?” bellowed Major Groschen. “You were dissatisfied with offending Delia Higgins, Franz Kunze, and Darlene Kipper. Now you want the Vice President on our backs? Tell me, Himmel, is it that you feel you need more exercise? Is that why you’re trying to get us both demoted to foot patrol?”

After raking him over the coals, Major Groschen did end up giving him permission to interview Vice President Helene Gundelfinger. It wasn’t really all that surprising. Leonhard had a good record for clearing cases. However, the VP was in the capital at the moment and he would just have to wait.

****

“Herr Joachim Gross?” Sergeant Alfred Bauer asked.

“Yes. What can I do for you?” Joachim Gross was a fussy little man in meticulously clean clothing. He was wearing an up-time style business suit, pale blue with a ruffled linen shirt and no lace collar. His hair was oiled and his mustache waxed.

“It’s about Herr Caparelli.”

“Oh yes! Such a tragedy. I barely knew the man, even if we did live on the same floor.”

“Really? According to his notes, you were partners in several ventures. The fluorescent lighting company, for one.”

“Oh yes, that. I never should have let Herr Engel talk me into investing. Was Caparelli involved in that? It was a minor matter of business. I meant that we didn’t socialize together. He was Italian, you know.”

****

Joachim was relieved when the policeman left. At least they weren’t asking about the Spanish type-setting machine. The new mimeograph sheets were much cheaper than a page of manually-set type, but they only had an effective lifetime of a thousand or so copies. Up-time typesetting machines were expensive and in very limited production, but the Gaige Compositor was invested in by no less a historical figure than Sam Clinton! And from what Don Gonzales had said, it was quite a successful investment too. It had flexibility that only computers could surpass.

Joachim had been concerned when he had seen Caparelli hanging around the conversation room while he and several of his clients and patrons had been discussing the investment. Now, though, with Caparelli dead, it should be safe enough. Except now these stupid police were nosing around. Don Gonzales had made it clear that this was one of those inventions that the up-timers didn’t even realize was there, like the primers.  If they found out about it, they could spoil the whole thing. They could build Gaige Compositors much faster with their industrial base, and look at how fast they had taken over the mimeograph market after they finally remembered them. Joachim called his lawyer and asked his advice. The last thing he wanted was to have a bunch of cops horning in on his investments.

 

Mounted Constabulary Station, 3:30 PM, June 11, 1636

 

“What is it with you, Leonhard?” Major Groschen asked tiredly. “I have a note from an attorney that you’re using your investigation to pry into confidential business matters. And warning that should your investigation reveal those business matters, we will be sued.”

“From who, sir? Delia Higgins or Franz Kunze?”

“No, thank goodness. Someone named Joachim Gross.”

“He lives on the same floor as Caparelli did, and he was apparently involved in business matters with him.”

“All right. I’ll have a chat with the lawyer about how suspicious it is when you try to impede a police investigation. But, for the sake of my ulcers, would you please try to be more circumspect?”

“Well, sir, it turns out ulcers aren’t caused by stress, but by a bacterial infection.”

“Get out!”

Leonhard got.

 

Mounted Constabulary Station, 11:20 AM, June 12, 1636

 

“Well, this is interesting.” Helene Gundelfinger was in Grantville for some meetings. “I didn’t actually have much investment in the whole American Equipment Company takeover, and certainly not on the A.E.C. side. At the same time, if these papers get out, it’s going to look like I have, because I do intend to support House Bill 317.”

“Why, ma’am, if you don’t mind my asking?” Vice President Gundelfinger was taking this a lot better than Delia Higgins had, and incredibly better than Darlene Kipper.

“Because we need the railroads, and this bill—as unfair as it is and as many people as it’s going to hurt—is necessary to get the sort of investment in railroads that we need.”

“If you say so, ma’am.” Leonhard Himmel had gotten Gloria to read the bill once she had found the memo in Capparelli’s papers. The bill, in essence, empowered railroad companies in Thuringia-Franconia to do the next best thing to expropriating property along their routes. Gloria said that it would be challenged in the courts, both SoTF and USE, if it passed. She also wasn’t at all sure that it would pass, even if it did have the Vice President’s support.

“I hope you people have discretion, because that piece of paper is just the sort of thing that could cost me the next election. Even though it’s as fake as a three dollar bill, it’s inflammatory enough to cause a lot of damage.”

And that probably explained why she was being so nice. She didn’t want the memo leaked.

****

Signora Ponte looked at the police sergeant with scant favor as he explained his mission. She looked at the hand-written note that purported to be a buy order from her husband to acquire five hundred shares of Ponte Clothing, sniffed and turned around, going back inside. “Come along, then,” she said over her shoulder. She went to a roll-top desk and pulled out some papers. “Here is a sample of my husband’s handwriting.”

Sergeant Alfred Bauer took the letter and looked at it. It was an order form for fifty bolts of white wool. It was a form, but there were several written words.

“For longer documents, we have a typewriter in the office. Serena has become quite a good typist.”

Sergeant Bauer started to put the form in his pocket, when Signora Ponte interrupted. “I will need a receipt for that, Sergeant.”

****

The whitewashed board had pins holding up notes and pictures. There was David Bartley, and a line from him to Kipper, and from Kipper to Captain Ponte, the mercenary captain who ran Ponte Clothing company for David Bartley and might be trying to wrest control from him, though it was seeming less and less likely as time went on. It was starting to look like most of the documents and notes that filled Capparelli’s secret files were forgeries.

“So why is Ponte still up on the board? Because if I were Kipper, I just might use Ponte or one of his mercenaries to take care of the troublesome Herr Caparelli.”

“Not me,” said Sergeant Bauer. “I’d use one of my old friends who had no connection with Bartley at all.”

“Then you’ve got a mercenary that has no particular reason to be loyal to Bartley with information that could ruin him.”

“Do you really like Bartley for this, sir?”

Leonhard Himmel shrugged. “Not really. But he is as good a suspect as any other.” He looked back at the board. There was Joachim Gross. Bauer figured the man was hiding something, but didn’t know what. There were half a dozen of Capparelli’s clients, people that he had gotten to invest in ventures. There were fairly complete records of those transactions. Three more people who lived on the sixth floor of the Higgins, and were mentioned in Capparelli’s files. And almost any of them might have had a motive to kill the man. Not that they had all been losers. Several had been making money off the stocks that he had convinced them to buy. Not usually as much as he had promised, but some.

Leonhard sent out more people to interview everyone they could find. In all that hay, there had to be a needle somewhere. At least, that’s what he told himself.

 

Mounted Constabulary Station, 9:50 AM, June 13, 1636

 

More pictures were pinned to the whitewashed board, and they’d discovered how Capparelli used the forged documents. He would leave the document on his desk or on a table, half-covered by another document . . . to be discovered by the sucker. And then he let them essentially “blackmail” him into letting them invest their money with him.

There were several people they interviewed who started the interview horrified by Capparelli’s death, and ended it wanting to throw a party for whoever had stuck the knife in. There were also some who tried to look like they were sorry about Capparelli’s death, but didn’t quite carry it off.

Leonhard and Bauer weren’t entirely sure how much of that was real and how much was just a difference in acting ability.

“I hate dealing with the business community,” said Bauer.

“Why?” Gloria asked. “The privilege and power?”

“Naw,” Bauer drawled in Amideutsch. “It’s that they’re all such skilled liars. Give me a drunk who stuck his woman’s lover any day.”

“We’re fucking nowhere,” Leonhard groused. “We have a dozen possibles. No one saw anything, except that one man who remembers some guy walking down the hall at about the right time. And we don’t even know if that had anything to do with the murder.”

“I wonder how the cops in all those up-timer books managed to get their villain every time,” Sergeant Bauer said, then snorted. They all knew that it was because it was fiction. Dan Frost had explained that, though the arrest rate for violent offenders was a hell of a lot better up-time than it had ever been down-time. Even up-time, in real life, it didn’t compare with what the TV cops managed.

“It’s because in real life there’s a shotgun on every frigging mantlepiece, and they almost never kill anyone. In fiction, every frigging clue is significant.

“Okay, Alfred. Go talk to Herr Kroft again. See if you can jog his memory, how the man was dressed, anything.”

****

“No, I don’t remember much about how he was dressed. It was all down-time clothing, but . . . Wait. Now that you mention it, I think his clothing was in the Italian style.”

“Where in Italy?”

“Do I look Italian to you, Sergeant? What do I know of the difference in styles between Rome and Sicily, or Florence, for that matter? He looked Italian. That’s all I know.”

****

“We could go looking for any Italian who was checked into a hotel,” Alfred suggested, but not with any enthusiasm.

“No. All that would get us is a list of Italians in the area . . . and not a complete list, for that matter. I doubt, for instance, that Lucco Ponte is checked into a hotel. Why should he? He has a perfectly nice house.”

“We could show Herr Kroft a picture of Lucco, though I don’t think I’d use him. Maybe Captain Ponte.”

“Come up with a photo array, a dozen Italians including Lucco Ponte and his brother.”

Herr Kroft wasn’t sure, but the one that looked most like the man he had seen was Officer Ricardo Barbato, who had been on patrol in Bamberg at the time of the murder.

Another dead end, but they questioned the Italians in Capparelli’s notes again, anyway. Ricardo Doria didn’t look any more like Officer Barbato than Lucco Ponte did. So they showed him the picture of Officer Barbato and asked him if he knew anyone who looked like that.

“Not really. But he looks a little like an enforcer for a Venetian family. Fellow called Sivori. . . . Yes, Giovanni Sivori.”

Alfred was half-convinced that Doria had given him the name just to get him to go away, but he checked it out anyway. Giovanni Sivori had arrived at the Ring of Fire on June fourth, and was still in the Higgins, on the fifth floor.

****

“Tell me about Signore Sivori,” Alfred said to the desk clerk who had been on duty when Sivori checked in.

“I’m sorry, officer,” the girl said. “But I don’t remember him at all. At least not by name.

“He’s on the fifth floor, room 530.”

“530. . .  No, nothing. Well . . . I think there was a guy who wanted to stay on the fifth or seventh, but the seventh is all suites, so he chose the fifth. But I don’t know if it was on the fourth or the third of June. We check in a lot of people, you know. I can’t remember what all of them looked like.”

****

One look and Alfred knew him. By type, anyway. This man was a killer. He might have other skills—probably did, in fact. But this man could kill easily at need. Alfred recognized the look because he saw the same look in the mirror every morning when he shaved. It didn’t necessarily mean that the man was a villain, just someone who would do the deed without hesitation or regret.

He asked his questions and Signore Sivori was clear in his answers. Yes, he had heard about the murder. No, he didn’t know anything about it.

Alfred handed the morgue photo of Caparelli to Sivori, who took it and looked at it. Putting, Alfred noted, his right thumb on Caparelli’s shoulder. That ought to give them a print. Alfred was careful not to smudge the photo when he took it back. “Do you know this man?”

“I don’t think so, but I might have seen him in the Oak Room. I had dinner there several times, and breakfast. I mostly lunch in town.”

“Why are you here in Grantville?”

“I’m here doing research for my patron.”

“What are you researching? And that patron is?”

“Why do you need to know that . . . Sergeant, is it? I don’t mind telling you what I have done and where I have been, but my patron is a private man. Neither will I tell you what I am looking for in the State Library.”

“All right. We’ll leave that for now. But don’t leave town without checking with us.”

Alfred went back to the station in a hurry. He had a hunch about this guy.

****

“It’s smudged and it’s not the best paper either, but, yes, I think it’s a match,” Gloria said. “You could have done a better job of preserving the evidence.”

“Hey, I was sneaking the print. I couldn’t very well stick it in an evidence bag while the guy was watching.”

“Well, all I can make out is a six-point match. Too much smudging. Six points isn’t enough to be proof, but it’s strongly suggestive.”

“Is it enough to bring him in?”

“It’s enough to bring him in for questioning. I doubt it’s enough to get an arrest warrant. Heck, even if we had a perfect match, all it would prove is that he was in the room and lied about it.”

Leonhard, who had been listening, said, “Bring him in. We’ll have a talk and give him some coffee. Maybe get a better set of prints.”

****

There was no answer at the room door. Nor was Signore Sivori at the State Library. They had no picture of him, but put out an “all points, wanted for questioning” notice.

****

“It doesn’t make sense,” Leonhard said. “The guy arrived in Grantville on the fifth and killed Caparelli the next morning. Then he just hung around till he noticed us getting close?”

“Well, he could have had dealings with Caparelli before and come back to kill him.”

“There is no mention of Sivori in Caparelli’s records,” Gloria said.

“So maybe it was from before Caparelli got here. Or maybe Sivori gave a false name when he checked in.”

“No. Remember, Doria recognized him. He’s the one who gave us the name.”

“So Sivori was a real name. Have another talk with Doria, Alfred. Gloria, go over Sivori’s room with a fine-toothed comb.”

The Mounted Constabulary didn’t find anything of much use in Sivori’s room. They got more prints, enough for a solid match to the prints found on Caparelli’s file cabinet,  which they were pretty sure were the murderer’s.

****

Three weeks later, the file was moved to cold cases. Not because there was much doubt about who had done it, but because it was a big world out there, and their chance of finding Sivori was slight. There was an open warrant on the man, with a description, but they had never gotten a photo of him.

It wasn’t something that made any of them happy, but it wasn’t all that uncommon, either.

“I wish I knew why,” Alfred commented as he picked up the box with the files and evidence to take to the locker.

“We probably never will,” Leonhard said.

 

Six months earlier, Room 617, Higgins Hotel, 2:30 PM, January 14, 1636

 

Alfonso Caparelli waved in the clients. “I’m sorry about the conversation  room. Someone else got in ahead of me, but I’ve ordered up some of the sausage rolls and I managed to get some actual orange juice.”

The guests came in and Alfonso guided them to the sofa bed, then took a seat at his desk. In this case, it was even true that Alfonso was sorry about the conversation room. It was a more impressive room to have guests in, especially when one of the maids brought in coffee and donuts or wine and canapes.

Signore Garibaldi waved away his apologies, “The room is fine, a nice room, and we aren’t here for the decor anyway. Right? Tell me about this process of yours.”

“The solar purification machine is one of those up-time ideas that is both incredibly simple and amazingly useful.” He went on to describe the basics of the process, which was fairly standard and in a cheat sheet the library put out, but he managed to make it sound like he was the one who did the research. The principles involved were perfectly valid and the device would, in fact, work just fine. It would also be both more expensive and less robust than he implied.

Signore Garibaldi listened politely, but didn’t buy. That wasn’t unusual. Alfonso was a good salesman and every good salesman knew you didn’t make every sale or even most sales. So he fed them danish and orange juice, gave them one of his special business cards that had a dot matrix picture of him, Caparelli Investments, and the address here in the Higgins, and invited them to come see him again the next time they were in town. Once he had seen them out and escorted them down to the lobby, he went back to his room.

Room 617 was a single occupancy on the sixth floor of the Higgins Hotel in the Ring of Fire. In the year of Our Lord 1636 there were other Higgins Hotels, but the one in the Ring of Fire was special. To Alfonso Caparelli, the address was enough to justify the rent. The room was fourteen feet wide and twenty-three feet long. It had a toilet and a sink. There was a shared shower and a bathing room down the hall.  He had a sofa bed and along one wall, there was a desk and file cabinets. They were down-time made and provided by the hotel, but he didn’t bother with them now. Instead, he sat at his desk and turned the switch for the radio. The room, like almost every room in the Higgins, had piped-in music that could be accessed by the flipping of a switch. He turned up the volume, leaned back and just listened to the music.

 

The Barbaro family home in Venice, February 7, 1636

 

“It was a lovely room we stayed in. It was on the fifth floor of the Higgins.” Signore Garibaldi smiled.

“Do they really have running water in every room?” asked Angelina Maria Barbaro.

“Yes. At least, in our room. In fact, our room had its own bathing room with something they call a shower. Of course, not all the rooms were as grand as ours. There was this funny little man, Caparelli, who tried to interest us in a business venture. He lived there permanently, on the sixth floor. His room had running water but no shower. They had a bathing room down the hall.” He leaned conspiratorially down to the young woman. “I heard that Delia Higgins wanted to have a bathtub and shower in every room, but she was overruled by the Germans on the board of OPM. You know the Germans. No sense of modesty at all. They probably even shared the bathing room between men and women.”

Angelina took a step back. “You were saying you discussed business with this Caparelli fellow?” Angelina didn’t want to talk about communal bathing with this over-stuffed Livorno merchant.

Signore Garibaldi nodded yes. “He wanted me to buy into a company making water something or other. Oh, I have his card and it has one of their up-time photographs on it. . . . Or was it a dot something? Anyway.” He reached into a pouch and pulled out the card and showed it to her.

Angelina managed to keep her face from changing expression, but she could almost feel the blood draining out of it. “How, interesting,” she managed. “What kind of picture is it again? I have seen some of the up-time photographs and this doesn’t look like them.” She turned, looking for her brother. She saw him, and waved him over.

“Paolo, come see this image that Signore Garibaldi brings us from Grantville. It’s different from the photographs we have seen, is it not? Besides, we may want to do business with this . . . Caparelli . . . was it?”

Signore Garibaldi looked a little confused, but passed the hand-sized card across.

Angelina saw her brother’s mouth tighten and apparently so did  Signore Garibaldi. “Is there a problem?” he asked.

“Not at all,” said Paolo, grinning now. “It’s just very different than the photographs I have seen. Hmm . . . what business did you say this Alfonso Caparelli was in?”

“Oh, he’s just one of the men of affairs in Grantville,” Garibaldi said. “Has his fingers in lots of pies, but didn’t have anything that I was willing to become involved with. But he did well enough to stay at the Higgins on a permanent basis. See, on his card? Room 617, Higgins Hotel. If you’re interested you can write him there.”

It was clear to Angelina that Garibaldi was starting to wonder if he should perhaps have invested in whatever Caparelli had been selling. One look at the picture was all it took for her to know that Alfonso Caparelli was actually Alfonso Caponi, a minor thief who had gotten poor Antonio to invest in his shipping venture. Antonio had gotten friends into the business, and that had lead to his death. And almost to a war.

Caponi had gotten away before anyone had realized that the shares in the shipping venture he had sold were not actually his to sell. It was a big world, and her family had realized that it was unlikely they would ever find him. But now . . .

****