Grantville, October 1635
Bo-ring, Joseph Calagna thought. His convalescence was over and until spring he could sit at home. But Mom and Dad were, like, stifling him. If his brothers were still home, he could have gotten away from all that “my son was injured stuff.”
He looked around the Thuringen Gardens, which at the moment was almost empty, and his eyes settled on the small stage. He grinned in memory. Back before the war had heated up, he and the guys had been standing there as Mountaintop, when Wiley Hanson announced them as the greatest rock and roll, blues, and country western band. Of course Dane Stevenson, Jr. the lead singer, had corrected him by saying they were the only such band, but still they had dreamed that one day it would be true.
That had been what he wanted.
But the war had intervened, and they had gone their separate ways. Dane and Dallas Chaffin were both in the Marines in Magdeburg. John Joe Coffman had gone TacRail as had Kevin Fritz. Joe had been in the Imperial College of Science, Engineering, and Technology until the push to take Western Poland had begun, and he ended up at Zwenkau with the Third USE Division.
He looked down at his leg. He’d been unlucky there. Before the Battle of Zwenkau, Joseph had been surveying a rickety bridge to make sure they could take wagons across it. One of the cart horses went mad at a crash of thunder, running away with the cart. As it did the animal knocked him down and the wheel ran over his lower left leg, shattering the bones. Luckily the EMT had stopped the bleeding, but there was a three-inch chunk of bone that had been pretty much gone. They’d done what they could, but he would walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
So he could take the pension and find a job, or go back.
As he sat there in his misery, he heard someone singing softly. There was a girl, seventeen, maybe eighteen wiping a table nearby. She had been humming, but had begun singing a hymn in German.
“Did you know your voice sounds like Stevie Nicks?” Joe asked. The girl looked over her shoulder, and he wanted to sink into the ground. Great, and what would a girl from seventeenth-century Germany know about a singer from the twentieth?
“Several of you people here have told me this. But I have never heard the man you speak of.”
“Woman.” he corrected. “A singer with a band called Fleetwood Mac.”
“Ah.” She gave the table a last wipe. “That makes me feel better. When I came to your town last month, I had an infection in my throat. I used to have a good voice when we sang in church. Now . . . I sound like a raven.”
“No, I kinda liked her voice.” He sat up. “Joe. Joe Calagna.”
She looked him over very carefully. “If you promise not to make a noise like a horse neighing, I will tell you my name.”
Intrigued, he promised.
“My name is Sibylle. Sibylle Blücher.” She watched his face, and knew he wanted to make the noise. “I do not understand why the name Blücher makes your people do that.”
“An old movie named Young Frankenstein. There is a character named Frau Blücher, and every time her name is mentioned, the horses rear and neigh.” He sipped his beer. “I think it is because it means glue made from horses.”
“But it does not mean that.” She corrected, looking confused. “Leim is the correct word for glue.”
“So . . . you’re new in town?”
“Yes. My father was a boot maker in Wurzen, near Zwenkau.” She blushed, looking away. Then she asked in a hesitant voice, “You like my voice this way?”
“Sure. Stevie Nicks is as an attractive woman as you are, and her voice is a boy’s wet dream.” At her confused look, he waved it off. “Don’t worry about it. Open mouth, insert foot, chew vigorously, as my mom would say.”
She looked at him for a long moment. “I think that would hurt a great deal.” He chuckled, and she joined him. The barman yelled, and with a wave she went to carry more orders.
Joe showed up the next day, hoping she would be working, but he didn’t expect her to stalk over and smack him in the face with a wet bar towel. “My voice is something for a boy to have lustful dreams about?” she shouted.
He rubbed his face, blushing. “Listen, I didn’t mean it like that literally! Well, actually I might have meant it that way, but it’s only a figure of speech!”
She snarled, spun on her heel, and stormed away.
He sat down, but as far as she was concerned, he was invisible. Finally Wiley took pity on him, bringing over a stein. “What did you do to piss her off, Joe?”
“I commented that her voice was like Stevie Nicks, and when she asked if I liked her voice I said I did, because Stevie’s voice is a young boy’s wet dream.”
Wiley wiped his face. “So that’s why she asked me what a wet dream is. And let me take a wild guess. You didn’t explain the term to her, did you?” Joe shook his head. “Boy, when you talk to women, don’t just wave things off. Explain. It beats the hell outta getting a bar rag in the face along with her screaming at you. And saying ‘maybe you meant it’ loud enough for everyone to hear didn’t help.” The old man shook his head, and headed back to the bar.
Joe sat there miserable, sipping his beer, trying to get the taste of shoe leather out of his mouth. The story of my life, he thought. I couldn‘t get laid if my name were egg.
Sibylle came over, and Joe was already flinching. She thumped down a stein. “Herr Hanson has told me you are too stupid to lie.” She gave him a slight smile. “So you are forgiven.”
“Not too stupid.” Joe replied, returning a smile just as narrow. “It’s just if I stick to the truth, I don’t need to remember the lies.”
“So, you are honest. That is good in a man.” Her smile widened. “So when you say you liked my voice, you meant it?”
“And when you said you might have meant it in the other way?”
He shrugged. “I don’t talk to a lot of women, except for teachers, salesladies, my mom and sister. So I said what I was thinking, like an idiot.”
“Learn to not do that.”
“I will, eventually. Look we got off on the wrong foot. So people have told you your voice sounds like Stevie Nicks, but no one told you Stevie was a woman?” She nodded. “When is your next day off?”
“Why?” She was wary.
“Because I have a record collection from my grandfather’s time up to when the Ring of Fire happened. You can come by my place, and you can hear some of them. Including Stevie.” Her face grew even more wary. He suddenly remembered that in this day and age, unmarried women didn’t just visit unmarried men. “Or should I ask your parents?”
“My father died when the Swedes invaded. My mother and I came west avoiding the armies until she died not far from your town. I live now in a boarding house until I have enough money to find a place.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.” She nodded as if it was a given. He took one of the paper napkins, and wrote on it. “Look, bring a friend or chaperone. But make sure they can sing too.”
“Why must they sing?”
“Because I used to be a member of a band. The other guys are all off in the service, and I really miss our jam sessions.” He explained that term too.
“Band? As in band of thieves?” She asked making him laugh. “So perhaps with others there to participate, we can all sing together?”
She took the napkin. “I am off in two days. We will come then.”
Knowing as much about entertaining a woman as a pig knew about algebra, Joe was in a tizzy for the next day. He asked the German women that lived in the house if they could help him clean his own garage apartment, and they grinned and chattered between themselves when they discovered he expected female company. There was little soda in the town. Sassafras, the main part of root beer grew only in Asia and the New World, ginger grew in India, or what was known now as the Mughal Empire, which was used in making ginger beer. Both, therefore, were hideously expensive. As for juices, he’d zoned and not bought any. But his mom was a member of what he jokingly called the Tea of the Month Club, and he’d snagged some of it. There were a dozen different teas from breakfast tea (Both English and Irish) to the Constant Comment varieties.
He had been asked by the family next door to his parents to house-sit while they were on vacation, and given the use of the add-on to the garage to live in. When the Ring of Fire happened, the house had been left vacant. The local bank actually carried the mortgage. Joe had found that he actually liked living alone, so he bought it ‘as is.’ The two German families that had moved into the house paid enough to service the mortgage along with his own share of it, which was about a fifth of the total. They had helped him move all of the memorabilia of that missing family into the single-car garage and he’d carefully gone through it for things of value to sell until there was just some old clothes and his own stuff. The back yard which had once been something he hated because it was a lawn that needed mowing had become a truck garden. The garage itself had become the band’s practice room since pretty much all of their families had universally loathed having them “making a racket” at all hours of the day.
But in all of his careful preparations, he hadn’t realized that he had forgotten to set a time for Sibylle to arrive.
So bright and early, he staggered blearily to the door in his shorts to find two women standing on the landing. He took one look, then slammed the door, cursing a blue streak. “Give me a minute!” he shouted, then limped into his bedroom, hurriedly dressed, and came back to the door.
They were still standing there, and the blond woman with Sibylle asked in a Bavarian accent, “It this a custom? Opening and slamming the door when people come?”
Joe looked at Sibylle, who was struggling not to laugh or even smile. “No. I didn’t set a time to visit, did I?” They shook their heads. “All right, my bad.” At the confused looks, he explained. “Come in, please.”
They stepped in, looking around in wonder. “You have all this space to yourself?” The blond asked.
“This is large enough for a family!”
He looked around. It was only twenty by twenty, four hundred square feet with a wall between the bedroom and the adjoining kitchen living room, and his study area. It had been huge compared to what he had down the block. This is what a family would have? Both girls looked around in wonder. As if they expected a dozen other people to come out of the small bedroom area. “We’re used to having more space than you have these days.”
“As you would say, we have gotten off on the wrong shoe—” Sibylle said.
“Yes. This is Magdalena Heinbach, who came from Ingolstadt in Bavaria about a month ago. Magdalena, this is Joe Calagna.”
“Well, come in and have a seat.” He waved toward the conversation pit around the television, a sectional couch and two armchairs with a coffee table. Then he walked over to the kitchenette. “I have a dozen different teas, and some of the very stale coffee left over from what my father had when the Ring of Fire happened. I know you guys are used to broths, but I didn’t think to have the Schulers or Kleins bring some over and forgot to buy any juice.” He put on a kettle. The girls came over, each chose a tea, and he got out cups as the kettle heated. Once they had their drinks, he walked over to the entertainment center.
“Thinking about it, I found four different women with voices like yours. Two were famous in my time. The other two, well, they were known, but Kim Carnes is what we call a one-hit wonder.” The girls listened raptly. He had found that women singers were a rarity outside of the churches and the occasional festivals in this time. So hearing a woman being not only a singer, but also a lead singer, was a surprise.
“I see what you mean.” Sibylle commented as the song ended. “Her voice is not unlike mine.”
Then, one after another, he played them all. Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes,” Which again he had to explain. This time using his VCR to show them an old tape of a Bette Davis movie.
“These women,” Magdalena played with her cup. “What did they do when they were not singing?”
“As I said, both Tina Turner and Stevie Nicks were famous. They did nothing but singing.”
“That is impossible. Surely they had work they did!”
“Not up-time.” Joe replied. “If you could make a name as a singer, you could do that, and make a lot of money doing it.”
His cuckoo clock sounded, and before he could reply Magdalena looked at something around her neck, and commented, “Your clock is off.”
She pointed at it. “The clock. The time is not right.”
“How do you know?”
She held up the necklace. On the end of it was a small watch. “I got this at one of your, ‘garage sales.’ It is a wind-up watch from your time. It was not working, but I bought some small brushes and screwdrivers, and it does now. It is relatively accurate. That clock is not.” She stood. “May I?” He nodded, and she took it down, opening the back. “Ah, it needs cleaning.” At his blank expression, she added, “My father was a clockmaker. He began having trouble with his eyes a few years ago, and they became cloudy.”
“Cataracts,” Joe said. At her look he added. “That’s what we call that condition. The lens of the eye starts to become cloudy, and soon you go blind.”
“Yes,” she murmured sadly. “He was going blind. For the last few years I was the one who had been doing the repairs when clocks needed it. When the guild found out, they would not let me take over the shop.” Her voice became sarcastic. “Women cannot become clockmakers. The guild master in Ingolstadt suggested I marry his son.” Now her voice was full of vitriol. “The pig was fat, ugly, smelled of beer and garlic, and knew what a clock was only because he worked in his father’s shop. But he was of a family of clockmakers, so he could run the shop.”
Magdalena put the clock back. “I did not bring the tools needed to do the work your clock needs. What do you mean by bogus?”
“Sorry. It means fake, and in our time it is what we say when the reason given is insulting. What did your father do?”
She kept looking at the clock. “Yes, it was as you say, bogus. As for my father, we were shopping in the market. I had bought some turnips, and the bag was heavy and I called him. He had been speaking with a neighbor, and followed her across the road. He was killed when he crossed the road toward me, by a horseman riding down the road fast who could not stop the horse in time.”
“I came here when I refused to marry the pig and the Guild took over the shop.” She looked at his curious expression. “Coming alone was not difficult. I was dressed much better than I am now, and if you pretend to be a noble or a servant of them, guards assume you are. I sold the clothes to buy my first meal in three days.” She waved it off as if it didn’t matter, and sat again. “How is it that no one, the church or your family, objects to you playing music?”
“As for parents, they usually let you do it when it’s still at the garage band level. That means you and friends play music, usually in the garage, which is where we store our cars and trucks. But that’s because going from garage band to famous is really hard. So they just think of it as a hobby until some record producer hears it and hires you.”
“So, it is a hobby.” Sibylle commented. “So you wish for us to take part in this hobby with you? You have no friends to sing with?”
He explained the band Mountaintop, and how all of them had been in the military when the war began. “I was thinking, if you two would like to sing together, and if we can get some people who can sing and play instruments, we can start our own band.”
The two women looked at each other. Then their heads came together, and they whispered. Finally Magdalena leaned back up. “You do not know what my voice is like. All I know are folk songs, and of course, hymns.”
“Well, belt it out, sister.” He sighed. “Belt it out means sing.”
“But I am not your sister.”
“A lot of people back up-time, when they became members of a group would call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’.”
“Perhaps if you would stop using these odd phrases, we would not need them explained,” Magdalena commented tartly. She thought a moment, then began singing a Catholic hymn in Latin.
Joe listened, then stood. “Come on.”
He went out on the stairway down, went down to the ground floor, and opened the garage door. Then he went along the wall, reading the labels on the boxes. With an ‘aha!’ he moved some of them and took down a box marked ‘Music.’ Bemused, the girls followed him back upstairs, and he began going through the old records instead of the stacked CDs. “Here it is!” He pulled out the album, and went to the record player. Then they listened to “This is Dedicated to the One I Love” by the Mamas and the Papas.
What he didn’t expect was for Sibylle to retort. “How arrogant!”
“These people are singing to their lovers at home, yes?” He nodded. “But do they say, ‘I miss you and will pray for you’? No! They say ‘I could be satisfied with your love, but I expect you to pray for me!’ And not only that, demand that they look into the heavens and say ‘I do this for my lover!’ ”
“Uh . . . Magdalena?”
“What was that other musical instrument in the background? I know the sound of a Spanish Guitarra, but the other? It is not a harpsichord, nor is it a virginal.”
Having seen the old Star Trek episode where Trelayne played a harpsichord, Joe knew what it was, but he had never heard of a virginal, causing the woman to explain. It wasn’t until later that he chuckled at the turnabout.
Sibylle, it proved, was critical of lyrics. When he played “Scarborough Fair,” she commented that pretty much everything the man expected of the woman was impossible; make a shirt without seams? Buy an acre of land between the sea and shore? Reap the crop with a piece of leather and bind it with heather, which he had to describe?
When he looked up, it was almost noon. “Hey, let’s go to the Gardens for lunch. I’m buying.”
They agreed, and they were soon at a table. Like most people of their era, the girls were not into heavy meals, so he chowed down on a half-pound cheeseburger—a deer burger since it was ground venison today; with sheep cheese, while they had grilled cheese sandwiches.
They talked mainly of music. Sibylle had only been to church; first the Lutheran then Catholic ones, then back again to Lutheran because of the penchant of the nobles outside of the USE forcing everyone to convert, sometimes on pain of death. Magdalena had gone with her father to the houses of the rich to pick up clocks to repair or repair on site, so she had heard the instruments she commented on. In the corner, a young man was playing a mandolin, just noodling from what Joe could tell, since he wasn’t well-versed on the popular songs of the times.
Finally he finished his beer. “So, you guys interested in forming a band?” He raised his hand. “I know you are not guys. It’s an expression.”
Sibylle looked at the empty plate before her. “I would love to sing again, and have people appreciate my voice when I do.”
“And the music is thrilling.” Magdalena was finally becoming more talkative. “There are many women singers?” she hesitated, “Are? Will be? Might be? Talking of the future is so hard!”
“Tell me about it.” He raised his hand again as she started to speak. “It’s a sarcastic comment when it’s something bluntly obvious to the person you’re speaking to. We know that just arriving here must have created a different universe. We don’t even know if Tina Turner will ever exist. The black people, Moors you call them, came originally as slaves, so if our government is able to stop the slave trade, her ancestors might never come to the New World. Think of someone with that voice stuck in a village not much beyond the Stone Age.” He sighed, explaining yet again.
“But we need a few more, unless you two can play.” Both shook their heads. “We could start something like Peter, Paul and Mary, but for a real band we need a keyboard player, at least one more string player, and a drummer.”
“Only one?” Magdalena asked. “I was sure there was more than one drum, and you would need several drummers.”
On the way home, the girls chattered, and it was agreed to issue a broadside looking for new blood. Yet another explanation.
With that planned Joe introduced them to the Disney musicals.
“Pardone.” The same mandolin player was standing at the door two days later.. “You need someone who can play a string instrument for this band?”
“Yeah,” Joe said. “What can you play?”
The young man shrugged, “My father is a luthier in Naples.” At Joe’s blank look he added, “He makes and repairs string instruments. He sent me here to examine the work of your Ingram Bledsoe?” Joe nodded. “Such instruments! But I do not have the skill to make the parts, and he uses premade ones. As for me, I worked in the shop, and when someone comes to buy, or pick up an instrument they have ordered, you must prove it is of quality, that means you must play it, no? So let me see . . .” He cocked his head. “I can play the violin, viola, cello, bass violin and guitarra.”
“Why are you not home working in your father’s shop?” Magdalena asked.
The young man laughed. “Wood and I, we do not get along.” He held up his hands. “The mere thought that I might use a fret saw upon a plank causes it to split in horror! I am much better playing an instrument, rather than making one.”
“I like him,” Sibylle commented. “He makes you appear sane.”
Joe laughed. “Well, are you free?”
“Inexpensive, not free,” the Italian replied, causing them to chuckle. “But my time is my own.”
Joe looked at the women, then tapped his chest. “Joe. This is Sibylle and Magdalena.”
“I am Gaspare Vanducci.”
Gaspare was dragooned into carrying one of the amps while Joe carried the other. Sibylle carried the guitar case, and Magdalena the box of sheet music. Joe opened the case, then bent to set up the amps.
“What is this?” Gaspare was holding the electric bass, looking at it confused.
“A bass guitar.”
Gaspare snorted. “I have seen them in Senor Bledsoe’s shop. They look nothing like this! Where is the soundbox? It is a flat piece of what is it, fiberglass? With strings.”
Joe chuckled. He finished hooking up the amp to the plug, and slid the other one into the hole in the guitar. Then he flipped the amp on and to the lowest power setting. “Try it.”
Gaspare held it, and strummed it. They all jumped when the mellow bass sounds came from the amp. “This . . . box. It is what I have heard called an amplifier?”
“Yeah, amp for short. But you don’t strum a bass, you pick it.” He got out his own guitar, which was an acoustic. They watched him as he went through the start of “Classical Gas.” Gaspare leaned forward, watching his fingers, then leaned up, and did a similar riff. “Cool.” Then he explained, again.
Gaspare sat the instrument down. “As you said, cool. Do you have a record where I can hear this?”
Joe dived back into the box. His mother loved Dire Straits, specifically Mark Knoffler, the lead singer in “Money for Nothing,” which had a good bass line in it, and Huey Lewis and the News where the bass player was highlighted in “Jacob’s Ladder.”
These songs did not go over as well. The clashing metal of Dire Straits caused him to have to turn the sound down, and the lyrics of “Jacob’s Ladder” set off Magdalena, who protested the attitude. It came to a head when Joe played “Dust in the Wind” and “The Devil went down to Georgia” to show bands that used the violin.
“Your people are so irreligious!” Sibylle burst out.
“And dealing with the devil?” Gaspare asked stunned. “Man cannot defeat such with only his own skills!”
Joe looked at the band, then said, “All right. Not ready for that yet.”
“Wait! What do you mean, not ready yet?” Sibylle watched him like a hawk.
Joe sipped his coffee, thinking. “Religious freedom means a lot to us from up-time. We enshrined it and the right of free speech in our Constitution as the very first amendment because we could look back at centuries where it wasn’t there. The war that was being fought when we arrived . . . the people in charge say it is for religion, but it wasn’t. You have Catholics conquering the small provinces, and ramming their religion down your throats, and a year maybe two later, some Protestant doing it again. Look at Sibylle! She’s been Lutheran, then Catholic, then Lutheran again, in just the last decade! In our time they had been fighting a war in Ireland that spanned eight centuries that started with an invasion, then became one supposedly about religion.
“So we decided when we created the United States in our universe, that you can be whatever religion you want to be; but you have to allow others that same right. Like your own churches, ours do not pay taxes, but they are not allowed a direct voice in the government. The church, by whatever name, does not have a say in the way the laws are created except by protests, which is a citizen’s rights. And that the churches, are supported not by the governments with taxes, but by those who worship there.
“Our neighbor to the south, Mexico, had civil wars after their independence almost like crops growing because the church interfered whenever they didn’t get what they wanted. And sure as hell interfered again a few years down the road. So we could see what could have happened to us.”
Melissa Mailey, one-time history teacher when he had been in high school would have been astonished by that succinct First Amendment explanation. His comments silenced the others.
“But . . . but . . . do you not fear for your souls? These lyrics, they trivialize the devil, and mock the church!” Sibylle burst out. The others were nodding. Odd, he thought, two different religions represented, but that much they can agree with! “The church is mother, the church is father, the church protects! Without the church, we would have no one to intercede with Jesu on our behalf!”
“That is what religious freedom is all about! You have the right to have no religion! And there were what they called religious bands. So both sides have a say.” He waved his arms as he stood, going to the record box again. “The entire Protestant Reformation began because Martin Luther tacked up a series of arguments he was willing to debate with the priests of what was it, Wurttemberg Cathedral!”
“That was Wittenberg,” Sibylle corrected. Her tone added ‘you dolt.’
He pulled out the video tape. “I liked this before I knew what the song was about. It was by a short-lived Christian rock band named Mr. Mister.” While he didn’t know it, “Kyrie Eleison” was a perfect song, since that was what the Catholic church called the opening song of the mass. “Lord grant mercy” in Greek. It was one of the few things the two opposing churches still had in common.
“You seem to know something of the religious debate without claiming a religion, Joe.” Gaspare commented.
Joe shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. “Hey, I’ve spent years hearing first our own people back up-time debating it, and hearing the Germans who live here now going at it. I know that Luther had found practices inside the Catholic church doctrine that violated the word of the Bible, and they excommunicated him over it.” He looked at them. “He wasn’t trying to start a religion, any more than Jesus was when he came. He was trying to put the religion of his birth back on track. Jesus died for that.”
Magdalena waved her hands. “But we are not anointed! How can we face the devil ourselves without God’s priests beside and before us?”
He snorted. “And when the leaders of the church on both sides are venal men grasping for power, how are they any help? We face him the same way man has always faced him. God gave us free will, and resisting him is what we must do to go to heaven. You have heard of Doctor Faust? That is the ‘man cannot succeed’ version of a story named ‘The Devil and Daniel Webster’ in our time. A man who makes a foolish contract with the devil and escapes because since he’d signed a contract, he has a lawyer help him win free.
“But we mainly all believe that God expects you to make mistakes, and also expects you to bust your hump fixing the problem. At least that is what Father Mazzare always tells us.” He looked around the group. “Yeah, I’m Catholic. But religion shapes my life. It doesn’t define who and what I am. I do that.
“So, sure we appear irreligious. Because freedom of religion also allows the freedom to have no religion, or not use it to deny you the free will God gave you. And as for dealing with the devil, Gaspare, one of the things they believed all the way back to signing the Constitution, was that the rule of law is paramount over religion, and that includes the church. So you can’t pass a law that makes someone join your religion. You can’t persecute others because they are not of your faith. You can go to heaven or hell as your own actions dictate. Find your own place.”
From the door, another voice replied. “What of those who don’t know their place, up-timer? Or are told that they do not deserve one?”
They looked at the young woman standing there. While she was obviously a down-timer from her dress and accent, she had ink markings on her face that would have labeled her a Goth back up-time. But unlike that stereotype, her shoulder-length hair was the color of ice.
Joe took it with good grace. He had left the door open so no one could say they were acting improperly, and it was getting cold. “Please, come in, close the door so we won’t freeze, and introduce yourself so we can continue the discussion.”
She blushed, and did as he bade. “Anna Freyasdottir.” Joe noticed the two women flinched at the name, and wondered why.
“That’s an odd name. Daughter of Freya?”
The girl looked at him defiantly. “My mother was not married when I was born. So I am a bastard.” Her entire posture and tone challenged him to make something of it.
“So?” Joe stood again. “I know we can all use something hot to drink. I have coffee and several teas. Which would you prefer?”
She snorted. “As if I have ever tasted tea! You have no broth?”
He shook his head. “Some boiled water, some iced tea I haven’t drunk yet, and some beer.”
“Beer,” she said. He shrugged, drawing off some beer for her, then for Gaspare and Sibylle.
“What is that on your face?” Sibylle asked. Anna didn’t cover the scrawling marks, she merely looked back with that same defiance.
“I think she learned about the people called Goths of my time,” Joe said. “Ink tattoos. A big thing when I was in school with that crowd. You can look tough at school, and wash it off before you go home.” He looked at it. “Nicely done.” She looked at him, then gave an incremental nod.
“Now, you were asking about those who have no place, or are told they do not deserve one.” She nodded. Joe sipped his coffee. Damn it, right now he wanted a beer. No help for it. “The churches of my time still argued about it. The ones who used it were always pointing out why the old days were better. Why something dead for a century and a half was still proper.
“I’m talking about slavery in my world. What you call Moors we once called property. People owned as chattel, as if they were a horse or a cow you can just buy at a market! The Bible was rewritten to say that their suffering was what God wanted, that God had made them slaves because it was their place! And your own nobles use it, don’t they? That God made you a peasant, or a nobleman, and that it was God’s will that the peasants should bow because God made you less worthy.
“Let’s just look at the people who came from my time first. Doctor Nichols. Every ancestor of his came there jammed into a ship for transport. A quarter to a third of them died being shipped as cargo. Almost a hundred and fifty years had passed when I was born, and there are still those who think they are little better than animals. There were people still who think they can turn back the clock, make it like it was.
“He was raised in a ghetto where he was expected to stay and just die. Just as bad if not worse than Jews are treated now. But he fought back. He joined a street gang, committed crimes to support his family. And when he was caught, he was given a choice. Go to jail, or join the Marines. He served our country during one of the nastiest wars our people ever fought. Then, instead of sinking back into that place, he became a doctor, arguably one of the two best doctors in this world and time.”
He lifted his hand, and had two fingers up. “Mike Stearns. He was a lot like Dr. Nichols. More disrespectful of authority than an actual criminal from what Dad said. But he was forced to join the army instead. He fought as a professional boxer, then went to college. But he returned home to take care of his injured father, and was the local head of the United Mine Workers of America before coming to this time. So a low-level politician; someone who is on a city council as a guild leader perhaps.
“Since we have arrived, he was the chairman of the emergency committee that worked out what we needed to survive. He was President of the New United States when Gustav Adolphus created the Confederated Principalities of Europe, then Prime Minister of the United States of Europe when that state became the State of Thuringa-Franconia, and is now a major general commanding the USE Third Division I served with. If he dug a pit filled with hot coals, and told any of us that we could walk across it barefoot if we believed him, none of us would have hesitated.”
He stood, poured himself a beer, and resumed his seat. “Jeff Higgins, the husband of Gretchen Richter? He was the same year as me in high school. He was still a child by our definition. He fought his first battle protecting his future wife from being gang-raped, and instead of just dragging her off to his bed as she expected, he asked her to marry him. He designed and had built the first spar torpedo in this world, and sank a Spanish ship off Amsterdam with it. He’s now a lieutenant colonel commanding the Third Division’s tenth regiment, and was my own commander at Zwenkau where I was injured.”
Sibylle flinched. He suddenly remembered that first meeting. Her home town hadn’t been that far away. “Have you heard of the Hangman Regiment?” All of them nodded slowly. “He’s the commanding officer. When some of our own troops decided to go back to pillaging and raping like they used to, his men were the ones who shot the sons of bitches. We don’t allow our men to commit such acts.
“Now take those of your own world who have gone beyond their ‘God-given station.’ Rebecca Abrabanel. A Jewess who was cast out by the ghetto in Amsterdam because her father was declared heretic. She came here. She became the National Security Advisor to Mike Stearns, married him, was elected as our senator to the CPE, and remained so under the USE. If you were asked to point at the most influential member of the Fourth of July Party, over half of the members would point at her first.
“Gretchen Richter? A printer’s daughter forced to be a camp whore by some of Count Tilly’s men. She fought to save her family, and that was not just her blood. It was every one who needed protection. She married Jeff Higgins, the first German woman to marry one of us, and with her own hands formed the Committee of Correspondence which is the backbone of our modern democracy not to mention the army. She’s in Dresden right now, creating yet more people who believe that we—” His hand swept across them all. “—deserve a right to speak in our government.
“Her brother Hans? Forced to fight for Count Tilly, he became the first German down-timer pilot in our air force. When it came time to fight, he sank one Danish ship with rockets. Then, injured and dying, he rammed his airplane into another ship, sinking it as well.”
He looked at Anna. “So whatever place God put you in when you were born, we Americans believe you can become what you will.” He grinned. “But if He really feels you are exactly where you belong, He’ll stop you.
“So, Anna, why are you here?”
She looked around, arrogant. “I am in your high school, just as they are.” She pointed at the other two girls. “I have been practicing with the . . . drum set?” Joe nodded at the term. Then she held up a copy of their broadsheet.
“You have been practicing on an actual drum set?” She gave him another nod.
“Then we need to introduce you to a piece of instrumental music.” He began going through the older tapes. “Wipe Out.”
Watching her pounding the table with her hands during it, he thought they had struck gold. Her face was transformed, she was no longer the belligerent young girl. She had become someone totally into the music.
There was a knock on the door. “Come in!”
The door opened, and his father stuck his head in. “Joe, I got a buck, and your mother is almost finished roasting it.” He looked around the room, then back at his son with one of those “butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth” looks. “She said get your clothes back on and beat your buns over to dinner, or she’ll send me back to collect you. Oh, and she said they should come too, since they are more important than family.”
Joe looked around. The looks the others were giving him were priceless. Sibylle looked like she wanted to roar with laughter. Magdalena as if she thought Joe should quail away from what would obviously be a beating or verbal chastising. Gaspare was grinning as if this was normal in his home. Anna merely looked at the man, and dismissed him with a sniff.
Joe immediately considered and rejected the first four things he thought to reply. “Tell Mom we have four guests, Dad. And thank you for the invite.” As soon as the door closed, he muttered, “There are times I wish I was an orphan.”
“I heard that!” came a shout from outside, and Joe groaned.
“Family. You can’t live with ’em, and it’s illegal to shoot ’em.” Joe sighed.
“They honestly thought we were all . . .” Sibylle blushed.
“Nah. Mom knows I’d tell her if I was going to do anything like that. Dad was a young man once upon a time, and knows the signs. And Father Mazzare would have a fit if he thought I was!”
“Why go to your parents home to have a meal?”
“Well,” he was embarrassed. “I never learned how to cook much. Oatmeal, burgers and steaks, that kind of thing. The Schulers or Kleins sometimes send me some stew during the day, but Mom is one of those old-fashioned Italian mothers.” He put on a heavy Italian accent, even thicker than Gaspare’s. “Eh what? you nothing but skin and bones! Mangi, mangi!”
Magdalena drew Sibylle and Anna aside for a quick huddle. “Then first we eat, then you will come to the store and we will buy food to cook. Do you have, what is it called, a slow cooker? A crock pot?”
“Mom might have one she’s not using. But I want to show Anna the drum set first.”
Again they trekked to the garage. It was starting to get dark, and like every American, he merely flipped the light switch. To him there was no surprise when the light came on. The down-timers had been able to create lightbulbs, but it had taken the intervention of Other People’s Money, the mutual fund, to make them cheaply. So almost five years after the up-timers had arrived, electric lights were still rare.
Anna walked over running her hands across the snare drum as if it were a lover. “The sticks. Where are the drumsticks!” she cried. Joe went to the box marked “Band Paraphernalia,” and opened it. He handed her the drumsticks, and for the second time that evening, she came to life. She snatched them, sat on the stool, and began giving them a rapid rendition of the tom-tom part of “Wipeout.” She stopped, frustrated, and turned to see several bemused smiles. “What?” She demanded harshly.
“You’re really into it,” Joe commented drily.
She ran her fingers over the snare drum. “It is what I do. I have been here since before the Union of Kalmar. Eighteen months, and these were my only friend. Two hours a day at the school, four hours every Saturday.”
“Well you and your friends can decide on curtains later. We had better go before Mom sends out the posse.
“Oh, How To Deal With My Parents 101. If they ask questions, just tell them the truth. Dad can spot a lie behind him a mile away at a whisper. And you all know the Spanish Inquisition?” They nodded. “Mom is a dental tech over at Doctor Sim’s practice. If they saw her at work cleaning people’s teeth after we ran out of Novocaine, they’d add it to their repertoire. Oh, and Mom is really into hugging.”
The instant they were in the house, his mother descended upon them. As he had warned them, his mother hugged each of them as he introduced them. He’d worried about Anna, and when she hugged the girl, he thought for a minute she was going to start screaming and punching. But instead after a frozen second, her head fell against Mom’s shoulder, and her arms came up to return it. She had the same beatific look she’d had “banging on the bongos” as Dire Straits said.
But it was not the wrath of God, it was a mother who had two boys away from home, and only one close enough to visit, “But he doesn’t come over that often!”
“Mom, you’re Italian, not Jewish.” Joe said. At the curious looks from his new friends he added. “Like the old joke back up-time. How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb? ‘Don’t vorry about me. I’ll just sit in here all alone . . . in the dark.’ ” His parents chuckled, and when they understood that it actually was a joke, the others joined them. “Whereas, if you changed it to an Italian mother—”
“Joe, get in here and change the light bulb before I sic Father Mazzare on you!” His father quipped. Again that response from Anna, but in reverse. For a moment, she had a snarl on her face, and her hands had become claws. He looked at Sibylle, who touched her hand, and Anna eased down off of red alert.
“I’m not sure which is worse. The fathers, or the sons,” Vicki was saying as she shook her head in mock sorrow. Then her eyes settled on the girls. “Why look at you! You’re nothing but skin and bones!” She looked confused as the younger people laughed. “Well come on! We don’t want it to get cold!”
Dinner was a lot of fun, and Joe remembered when it had been just him and the family. Vinnie was down in Fulda now doing his service with the SoTF National Guard, Johnnie was a doctor in Nurnberg. The parents asked questions with all of the skill you’d expect, but so politely that the down-timers might not have even noticed.
Joe offered to wash the dishes, but Vicki put her foot down. “I want more than a light baptism for the dishes. If you girls will help?” All of the women left the room, and his father looked after them.
“Nice bunch,” Dad commented. “So, you’re going to do some more of this band stuff again?”
“Dad, I don’t have to go back before spring. There are enough combat engineers out there, and Doc Adams tells me I should let the leg get a bit stronger before I go back into the field. If I push it . . .”
“I understand. Your mother was worried, is all.”
His mother came back into the room. “Joseph Ralph Calagna! Why didn’t you tell me they didn’t have a lot of clothes?”
“What?” It was like being savaged by your bunny slippers.
“Sibylle only has two sets of clothes! Magdalena is a bit better off but sold her best to buy food, and Anna has no coat!”
“Mom . . .”
“Don’t Mom me!” She looked at Gaspare. “Your friend there seems to be better dressed. Do you have a winter coat?”
“I was thinking of buying—”
“Buy nothing! You two. With me. Now!”
They were dragged into the garage where all three girls were, and Vicki began bustling around, pointing at boxes. Soon all of the down-timers had a small stack of clothes including warm coats.
On the way back to his place, Anna snorted. “Your family is not only undecided who you might love, but they also cannot even choose if it is a man or woman!” At Joe’s blank look she added. “Giving clothing to a woman is what a man would do as a courtship ritual. Having your parents do it is almost a betrothal!” Then she pointed at herself, without a coat. “As for cold, this is a mild spring day back home!”
He was defensive. “So they’re as clueless as I am. Sue us!” They all laughed at that.
So with laughter and sharing, the band was born.
That meeting took place the week before Halloween, and Joe was getting ready. While primarily a Celtic holiday, the children of Grantville had taken it as their own as children always have. There was no prepackaged candy any more. So the “treats” were baked treats, or fruit, fresh or dried. Not that the kids cared. It was the dressing up and being given things that mattered.
He had asked Frau Klein, the best baker, and had three plates of oatmeal cookies ready when he heard a knock on the door. He turned, plate in hand, even though it was early yet.
But it wasn’t kids, it was Anna. The coat his mother had given her was missing a sleeve. Her frantic eyes met his. “Let me in! Please!”
He stood aside, and went to the pot simmering on his stove to pour her some broth. She took it wordlessly, warming her hands with the cup before sipping.
“My mother’s husband,” she snapped. “He is trying to buy his way into the new cannery they just started here. He can make the cans for them to coat with zinc. If he does, he can become a partner. But the canner has a son.” She shrugged. “He intends to marry me to the thing.”
“That is not legal here!”
“It is in Hesse Kessel, or in Bohemia.”
“I’ll call the police. We have to stop him.” He walked to the phone, and dialed. He’d barely gotten an answer when there was pounding at his door. He gave the address as the pounding became someone obviously trying to break the door down, and he dropped the phone to run into his room. When the Ring of Fire happened, he had brought his own weapons to his new home. He went past the Remington .300 to snatch up the twelve gauge, loading it.
“You little slut, you will come home now, or I will drag you!” a man roared.
“Oh, so you finally found a pig to buy to offer as my dowry?” Anna screamed back. “Marry that troll to it instead!”
“You will marry him willingly or I will bind and gag you!”
“Go ahead! But I warn you now, I will kill him as he sleeps if he touches me!”
Joe slammed open the door in time to see the heavyset man punch Anna off her feet. He racked the slide, and as the man turned, he had the shotgun to his shoulder, aimed between his eyes. “Step away.”
“This is none of your concern!”
“You made it my concern when you broke down my door!” Joe snapped. “Step away or by God they will carry you away in a hearse!” The man stepped back, turning to leave. Joe could hear the siren coming. “If you take one more step, I will kill you.”
“I will pay for the door—”
“To hell with the door! You struck a woman in my home! So stand there until the police arrive!”
He could hear feet pounding up the outside steps, and raised the shotgun as he touched the safety. He’d forgotten to even take the damn thing off!
Emil Zollner was first through the door, his gun out. Behind him was one of the female officers, Elsa Shenck.
The intruder pointed. “Arrest him! He threatened me with his weapon!”
“Quiet.” Emil snapped. “I know who lives here, and it isn’t you. All right, Joe?”
“Yes, Sergeant Zollner.” He turned the shotgun, jacked the slide to unload it, then dry fired it.
“Wait here, please.” Zollner holstered his weapon, jerking his head. “You, come with me. Elsa . . .” He jerked his head toward Anna, who was snarling at the man. Whatever else he had done, cowing her wasn’t part of it.
“Please, Herr Calagna. Step into your room, and close the door. I must speak with the girl.”
Joe did as instructed, racking the gun, dumping the shells into the box. Then he sat on the bed as the shakes hit. He’d always been like this, terrified before action and shaking like a leaf afterward. When he’d been at the battle of the Wartburg, he’d been unable to fire at first, then as the other rifles had cracked, he’d lent his fire to suppressing the soldiers that had been futilely trying to shoot out the lights. But he’d always been sure he was a coward. That was why he’d shifted to the engineering school when he’d gone to Imperial Tech.
But there had been no hesitation here. Maybe it was the instinct that drove a vixen to attack a wolf digging up her den and kits. This was his place, damn it!
There was a knock, and he looked up. “Yes.”
“Will you come out please?” He did as told, and Anna went into his room instead. He told the gentle woman what had happened, explaining the band they were forming. While she looked like a sweet and gentle mother, Elsa had been one of the first women to join the force, and racked up a number of kills during the Croat raid back in 1632. He didn’t know why Anna had chosen his home to flee to. Maybe because Magdalena and Sibylle were sharing a room in a boarding house with three others, and she might not know where Gaspare lived. He didn’t know himself for that matter.
Elsa closed her notebook. “Stay here, please.” She stood, and walked out. He went to the refrigerator, and made up an ice pack, then put on the kettle. He knocked on the bedroom door, and when Anna opened it, he handed her the ice. “Come out here and sit on the couch. Use that to reduce the swelling. I have water heating for a hot water bottle.”
Silently she did as he told her. Her eyes were still flaming. He suddenly understood that her belligerence was more insecurity than anything else. She only felt comfortable drumming. It was her escape from the world.
Zollner came back up. Joe poured a cup of coffee, which the officer accepted gladly. Elsa took a cup of broth. “I don’t understand what’s going on,” Zollner admitted.
“He has never liked me. There is no shame in Iceland if you are a child born without a father. Everyone knows who your mother is. Back home, he always introduced me as ‘my wife’s daughter.’ But since my mother died, since we have come to the Germanies, he has taken to calling me ‘My wife’s daughter, the bastard,’ or ‘My wife’s bastard child.’ ” She took the hot water bottle without a complaint. “Now, when he can gain something from my existence, now I am his stepdaughter again.”
“Herr Járnsmiður claims he came to collect his stepdaughter, and you threatened him after breaking your own door.” He waved before Joe could speak. “If you had, you would have needed to use your shotgun to break the lock like that, so I know he’s lying.
“So I have breaking and entering, and assault and battery. The judge can make charges for giving a false statement to the police and attempted kidnapping. Do you want to press charges?”
“I don’t know if it would help,” Joe admitted. “These days it’s a fine for both, making him pay for the door. And is it a crime to take your own daughter home?”
“Well, there is that,” Zollner said. “But he’s the kind who isn’t going to let it go. Does this girl have a place to stay other than here?” Joe explained the situation.
“Maybe with my parents.”
“No. I will not wish to cause them problems.”
“Please.” She looked at Joe. “I will find some place else.”
“Stay here.” Everyone looked at him. “The girls told me I had a place large enough for a family. I can take the couch, and you can put the chair against the door to keep me out.”
Zollner shook his head. “We’ll lock him up overnight. You have an address for these two girls?” Joe handed them over.
“No phone there, yet. We’ll pick them up and bring them here. Maybe they can find her a place where her stepfather can’t get to her.”
“Maybe,” Joe said. This would cause problems. Just picturing the explanations he’d have to give his parents caused him to groan.
Half an hour later, Sibylle and Magdalena arrived. They descended on Anna, hugging and whispering. Joe made broth for them, and then sat as far away as he could as they looked daggers at him. Right now, having a Y chromosome was not a good thing. He closed the door to block the cold, but had to open it every few minutes because of trick-or-treaters.
Finally it was late, and all of the cookies had been given away. He turned off the porch light, and jammed a chair against the door to keep the heat in. “Sibylle?” She looked up. “The bed is big enough for two, but someone will have to sleep on the floor. If you will help me, we can get more blankets from downstairs.” He motioned to the couch. “I’ll sleep out here.”
Minutes later they were back to find Anna hugging Magdalena, who looked as if she had just been told something surprising. Joe figured it would be better not to ask, carrying all but two of the covers into the bedroom. The girls went into the bedroom, and he made up the couch to sleep. Great, just great.
Grantville, November 1635
The next morning he awoke to find Magdalena and Sibylle just sitting there, watching him sleep. He watched them chuckling at his condition as he made some of the last of his coffee. Trade with the Ottoman Empire had restored the supply of coffee and tea, so he could get more tomorrow, but the price of just a half-pound bag was a little steep without a Starbucks logo on it. As he did, Sibylle folded the blankets, and he was able to sit without being in bed, as it were.
“How is Anna?” Joe asked.
“Still asleep,” Magdalena said. “But we have another problem.”
“Of course we do,” Joe said. “What now?”
Magdalena blushed. “Last night, when both of you went down to get the blankets, she was holding me and crying. Then . . .” The blush went deeper. “She . . . kissed me.”
“Wow. And I missed it.” He looked up into her glare. “Hey, you’re both cute. I would have liked to see it, that’s all.”
“Men.” Magdalena sniffed.
“How did you feel about it?”
“I was shocked. Women do not do that together.”
“I understand the rules against it. So is this going to cause problems between you guys?”
“I do not think so,” she admitted. “I told her I did not have feelings for her that way. It is something I expected some day with a man, not another woman. She accepted that, but still . . .”
“In our time, it was not really accepted, or not really allowed. But it isn’t against the law any more, unless you want to get married. As long as she doesn’t start acting like a jealous lover, I don’t see it as a problem,” Joe told them. “So, what’s the plan?”
“We all have school today” Sibylle said. “Can you perhaps find her a place to live?”
“Sure. She can stay here until then.” The bedroom door opened. Anna looked at them, blushed furiously when she saw Magdalena, then went to the stove to pour some broth. She came over, sitting on the couch as far from everyone as possible, and held it in her hands silently.
“Anna.” She looked up at him. “You can stay here until we find a place for you.” Her eyes grew wary. “Hey, I have to buy a new lock for the door, and I can have one of the carpenters install a locking doorknob for the bedroom door, and give you the only keys.” She looked pensive. “I don’t want you to get hurt. And if letting you stay here will protect you, I’ll do it.”
“He will not give up,” she whispered. “He can take me across the border into Hesse Kassel, or into Bohemia, and use their laws to force me to marry the boy.” Her eyes moved to Magdalena, then away as if she were a mouse trying to pretend the cat was not there. “I am sorry, Magdalena. Perhaps I should just leave and let it happen.”
“No.” Magdalena leaned forward. “I have seen you drumming. It is something you seem to love. This is your best chance to make that dream come true, as it is for Joe to have his band again.” She held up an admonitory finger. “But no more kissing.”
When Anna looked to Sibylle, the girl’s hands came up. “Do not kiss me either!”
“You can always kiss me,” Joe joked. All three girls looked at him with varying looks of amusement or scorn. “I’m joking.”
“What will your parents say?”
“Hey, I’m an adult!” He cringed away from their looks. “I’ll explain it, and they’ll understand. I hope.”
The girls got ready, and left for school. Joe called about the locks, then walked down to the street to the store, bought a paper, and came back to look at the want ads. The local paper wasn’t as large as it had been before the Ring of Fire, only eight pages. But two of them were advertisements, and he went through them to find an apartment for the girl. While he had been there, he had talked to the salesgirl and manager, and he sighed. He’d have a lot of walking today.
Finding a place for Anna wasn’t going to happen when Joe and the girls put their own investigations together. They had asked around, but they found the stepfather had been there accusing her of everything but devil worshiping or witchcraft. Of course, making those accusations would have him facing the judge, since they weren’t going to let an inquisitor or priest try her for that. Not here.
His parents had offered, but he pointed out with both of them working, she would be unprotected during the day after school.
But he learned a lot about Anna, or at least other rumors. The nicest thing she was called was Icicle Anna, and the fact that she had hit some boy who grabbed her was right up there, including the suspension she’d drawn for it.
But being accused of theft pretty much kept her from finding a place. After Sibylle had told him the man had been lurking on the way to the school, he had taken the girls to the woods, and taught them how to fire the .38 M&P pistol. Just holding it where Anna could see it had brought a dangerous light to her eyes, so he didn’t trust her with it. That was why he entrusted it to Sibylle.
So for the foreseeable future, he had a roommate, worse yet a female roommate who didn’t seem to like men at all. No problem there, really. When he thought of finding out if a girl liked him, he kept seeing Sibylle’s face. So Anna was safe.
They still had not found a keyboard player, but he wasn’t worried yet. While he had been out, he had gone by the school to let Mr. Wendell know they would like to get one. He also found where the down-time musical students hung out. The music of the future that might have been had brought a number of them to Grantville, and he was able to find some who would notate the music, and others to translate the lyrics. Since Amideutsch was what most of them spoke, they translated them into that as well as German.
He returned home, and opened the garage. He stood there looking at the boxes of his own stuff he had kept, memories of another time and place long gone. Almost everyone who had come back had done it, at least a little. He remembered the old lady who had died that first winter. When they had gone through her garage, she had hoarded every piece of junk mail everyone on the street had thrown away, as if that would keep her in the twentieth century. They had needed a pickup truck to carry it all. But not to the dump. Someone on the emergency committee had ordered everything they might have considered trash to be sorted.
He’d seen coupons from the grocery store’s last up-time sale being sold as souvenirs in the museum.
He looked at one set of boxes longingly. He opened the box, taking out an issue of Penthouse. He and his brothers had watched the people who got that, along with Playboy and all the much smuttier magazines like Vultures, and would descend upon their trash to gather them up. Hell, all the young boys had done that. His older brother Johnny had even gotten into manga, and collected a dozen different titles of those as well. Not to mention the stash of the guy who had lived in the house. He must have thought of nothing but! I wonder what these are worth?
“More lustful thoughts?” A voice asked from right over his shoulder. He jumped, dropping the magazine. The girls had obviously gotten home from school. Sibylle picked it up, and began thumbing through it. “Obviously you do have such thoughts.” She held up the centerfold. “Think of me perhaps dressed this way?” Her tone was like when a woman asks if a dress made her look fat. He suddenly pictured her dressed, or rather undressed that way, and the instant it formed, he suddenly pictured her as an Amazon warrior poking him with her sword in the offending member. Not a good idea . . .
He gave them the same line every man who is caught with one would use. “I read it for the articles.”
Sibylle merely returned her eyes to the centerfold. “Oh yes, she has such nice . . . articles, does she not?” she asked the other girls rhetorically.
“I was going through my old stuff—”
“No doubt,” Magdalena replied.
“Will you let me finish?” The girls looked to Sibylle, and he felt like the wrong answer would make him roadkill. “As I was saying, we need a place for Anna to stay, and I was looking for something to sell to pay to turn the garage into a home for her. That way my parents won’t kill me, and she won’t worry about me looking at her ‘articles.’ ” He looked to Anna, who was going through the magazine, looking intently at the pictures.
“As long as they are going out, and not coming in.” Magdalena tried to take the magazine, but Anna’s grip tightened. “Can we help?”
He looked at the two girls. “You’re never going to let me live this down, are you?” They shook their heads. “Just great.” He turned back to the stack of boxes. “All right, just the top two boxes are magazines like that.” At the arched eyebrows he added. “Three young boys! They aren’t all mine!” The eyebrows were not convinced. “So if you will count them to keep me away, I will start on these, which have games, some of my books, and action figures.”
“No, Magdalena will count those.” Sibylle said. “I will help you with the rest.”
Rather than just having one hell of a garage sale, he decided to go through the mutual fund Other People’s Money to ask for advice on selling them. They had given him a name, and an oily man with a Swiss accent came by to look over the inventory. He made an offer to buy all of it outright for what he considered an outrageously large sum, and Joe had turned to hide his stunned expression. How much? While he stood there, the man had raised his own offer twice before Joe could even turn around. Even with paying off his chunk of the mortgage and the remodeling he planned, it still would leave a good amount of money for his children.
If he ever had children.
Five days after Anna moved in, there were workmen putting down a wooden floor and insulating the walls to convert the garage into another living area. His desk was moved into the living room, and an enclosed inside staircase with the locking bedroom door now on the upper landing allowed access to the upper floor. It would have been too difficult to build in a new kitchen and bathroom, so Anna could come up to take a bath or make dinner, though he kept the two-burner hotplate that allowed her to have her own pot of broth and installed a Franklin Stove to keep it warm.
A small quiet boy from the school came to apply as the keyboardist. Esteban Flores was shy, and had worked in an organ repair shop in Amsterdam where his family had fled from Spain after being accused of being Marranos, “secret Jews.” One of the only ones that had actually been Jews. At first his family wasn’t sure how they would be treated in this strange nation. Krystallnacht, which had happened only a few months earlier had made him bolder, but not much. He gloried in the electric keyboard that could imitate the musical instruments he had heard and played, going from harpsichord to piano to organ with a flick of a switch.
And always, cutting across the borders, was music. Every minute they spent together as a group was filled with three generations of music from the Big Bopper to Starship, from Hank Williams to LeAnn Rimes, from Peter, Paul and Mary to Heather Alexander as a member of a band named Phoenyx. The only thing they didn’t try was heavy metal, because he didn’t want to poison the well.
And when they weren’t listening, they were playing and singing. In fact when their rent came due, the girls had moved in with Anna. Now a lot of his neighbors joked about how he had his own harem.
Then came the day when they stopped playing, and looked at each other. The second week of November. The song was “Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac, and it sounded good.
“I think we’re ready,” Joe said.
“Are we?” Sibylle asked.
“Oh yeah.” He set down his guitar. “Come on, the Gardens.”
“Again!” Sibylle wailed. She knew what Joe had in the bank, and invested in OPM. He was well off by any standard unless you compared him to the Higgins Sewing Machine Company or to OPM itself. He could afford it.
“Not to eat, you twit. We’re going to talk to the owners and see about a paying gig!”
Of course, it wasn’t a paying gig as he would have known it before the Ring of Fire. If they were liked, the owners of the Gardens would let them play for drinks, food, and passing the hat for cash. But it was a start. The one person he hoped to see was there, and he asked Bennie Pierce, who had introduced the Germans to modern folk music, to come home for a chat. Bennie set him straight about trying to introduce them to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” His adopted daughter Minnie had lost an eye when the University students in Rudolstadt had assumed that a mistranslated folk song had been a Catholic one.
So it was that a few days later, they set up on stage. Sibylle looked like a deer in the headlights as they finished, taking their positions. “Calm down girl, They won’t shoot us,” Joe commented checking the tune on his guitar. “I hope.”
“Oh, that makes me feel so much better,” she replied in a whisper.
“If they try, stand behind me so I die first.”
“If you die, so will I,” she whispered. He looked at her stunned, then was even more stunned when she kissed him. He could see she was surprised herself.
He stood there, his lips still burning from the kiss as the crowd whooped and hollered. Sibylle made a motion like go on, and he turned toward the crowd. “Well, everyone, even if we die on stage tonight, I know I’ve been given a taste of heaven.” There was raucous laughter and applause at that. “So let’s start off with something for all of you baseball players. ‘Right Field’ from Peter, Paul and Mary.”
As he played and sang about the awkward kid in right field, he watched the crowd. The older people from up-time who had heard it before were grinning by the first time he got to the end of the chorus “Watching the dandelions grow.” When it got to the last verse, where the boy catches the ball, the Germans were having as much fun.
They followed it with “Puff the Magic Dragon,” with him singing back-up to Gaspare, and Magdalena singing the female part. Then Gaspare took up the violin to play as Joe and Sibylle sang “The King of Elfland’s Daughter” by Heather Alexander. “Wipe Out” highlighted the skill Anna had, skill that was growing literally by the day. They got a standing ovation for that.
It was both exhilarating and exhausting. Finally they started into “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, and that had the up-timers cheering, and the Germans sort of enjoying it up until then. But the applause from the Germans had been desultory. They knew an up-timer sang it, and they were not as religious. But the song had been right on the edge of their comfort zone.
Joe froze. The worst thing for a garage band was to have the audience against them. He couldn’t think of what to do!
Sibylle noticed him, and adjusted her mike. Then she began to sing. Not what Joe had planned, but a love song of sorts. “Somewhere Out There” by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram from the movie they had watched, An American Tail.
The band picked it up, and he found himself singing the male part, the audience was entranced. When they got to where it was a duet in truth the audience was riveted. The song ended, both of them looking at each other, then Sibylle moved closer, and leaned up, kissing him again.
Then the up-timers began shouting and applauding. They were followed rapidly by a lot of the Germans. Learning about up-time music from the Voice of America radio program, they had been primed for that last song, and saw it as an American would have.
Finally the applause died down. “That’s it for tonight. If you liked what you heard, you know who to talk to! But for the last, let’s introduce you to the band! Gaspare Vanducci on bass guitar and violin! Esteban Flores on keyboard! Anna Freyasdottir on the drums, Sibylle Blücher and Magdalena Heinbach on vocals.” He waited until the applause died down. “I’m Joe Calagna on rhythm guitar. And we’re United Voices!”
Politically, the nation was facing problems. With the emperor struck with aphasia, and Chancellor Oxenstierna pushing to turn back the clock, everyone was worried. Joe hadn’t paid it much attention. The gigs had gone from twice to three times a week, and they were feeling good. Esteban and Magdalena being caught kissing gave them a lot to laugh about. Just picturing the smaller man standing on a step up so they were face to face was enough to cause them to chuckle.
After hearing the soundtrack to Mulan, they had added a new song. “A Girl Worth Fighting For,” with Joe doing Yao, Gaspare doing Ling, Magdalena doing Chien-Po, Esteban doing Chi Fu and Sibylle doing Mulan. Of course they changed their singing styles to match; Joe lowering his voice and growling it, Gaspare sang a half falsetto, Magdalena drew a laugh from the up-timers being supermodel thin, but singing a part in the movie itself of a huge fat man. Esteban, who had refused to sing before did the Imperial Minister Chi Fu because that was what his voice actually sounded like.
The men in the audience, a lot of them ex-mercenaries, loved it.
They went back to Joe’s place, and he snatched up his mail as they went into the lower apartment. The others were laughing and talking about what to add next while he went through it. Bill, bill, telegram. He opened it, and read.
“Joe, perhaps we can add “Tell Me Lies” by Fleetwood Mac?” Sibylle asked. He ignored her. Then he walked with leaden feet to the staircase. “Joe? Is something wrong?” He went upstairs silently, and the door slammed with finality.
“He won’t answer,” Sibylle told them after knocking the next morning.
“What is wrong?” Anna asked. She’d changed a lot since she met them. Joe had stood to protect her, given her clothes and a place to live. Joe’s mother hadn’t been clueless about Anna’s reactions. She’d visited him after Anna moved in, and told him Anna’s reactions looked like she’d been physically, possibly even sexually, abused. He told the other band members when she was not around, and they had acted like a family.
Both of the other men were protective, and at one point when a drunk had gotten too close, they had smoothly formed a wall of flesh to stop him.
She felt she owed him, no, owed her friends something. The new Anna was like night and day, as long as her friends were right there.
Esteban pushed Sibylle gently aside, and drew a slim dagger. In a moment, he pushed the door open. At their looks, he merely said, “A misspent youth.”
Joe lay flat on the floor of the living room, an empty whiskey bottle by one hand, and beside the other, the telegram. Sibylle knelt beside him, as Magdalena read it.
IT IS WITH DEEP REGRET THAT WE REPORT THAT SGT KEVIN FRITZ IS MISSING PRESUMED DEAD AFTER THE ATTACK ON INGOLSTADT BY THE BAVARIANS
Joe held his head as he sat up. A gentle hand pushed him back down. “Here, take these.” He opened his eyes enough to see the blue pills, and he snatched them, washing the aspirin down with a sip of water. “We read your telegram. I am so sorry, Joe. ”
He gave a grave chuckle. “Back up-time there was a band named the Beatles. One of their members was named John Lennon, he was murdered by some son of a bitch because Lennon had once said that the Beatles were more important to American kids than God. When I read that telegram, all I could think of was the old joke they used to tell that my parents remembered. ‘How do you arrange a reunion of the Beatles? Three more bullets.’ ” He looked at the glass, and it shattered in his hand. “How do you do it for Mountaintop? Four.”
His depression didn’t lighten up all that day, or the rest of the week. Both Sibylle and Magdalena took days off to sit with the morose man. But as the sun came up on the fifth day, his eyes lighted on the shelf where all of the tapes and CDs were. He stood, and to everyone’s alarm, began going through them, throwing the ones he didn’t want aside. Finally he stood, holding two of them. To hell with no heavy metal! “We’re learning these for the next gig.”
“But that’s tomorrow!”
“We’re going to learn them.” He turned. “That son of a bitch Oxenstierna sold us out. He had to have something to keep the National Guard occupied! He must have helped the Bavarians take the city. He killed my friend, and killed my dream! And he’ll destroy us as well.”
“Please, Joe. We’re just a band. We’re not important,” Gaspare said.
“Oh yeah?” Joe snarled. “He has to humble the up-timers to get his way. Turn back the clock five years to get his way, and he damn well knows we aren’t going to just give it to him. So look at what happens.”
He pointed at Anna. “Do you want to marry the pig your stepfather wants? Because it’s the old law.” He pointed at Magdalena and Esteban. “Have it be illegal for you to love him? Or to marry her?” He stood there like Moses coming down with the Ten Commandments to find everyone partying around the golden calf. “So we’re going to rally the people. We’re going to let him know, right here, and right now, that he’s not going to get his way.” He held up the tape and the disc. “And this is how.” He considered. “But we need a bagpiper.”
The next day, the manager tried to stop them, but the band set up. The crowd was angry and frustrated, the National Guard was already marching south to Regensburg, and they knew it was war yet again. One thing they didn’t want was something sweet and gentle like they had been playing up to now.
Joe stood there, and every eye was on him. As finally the grumbling died, he spoke. “One of my best friends may be dead in Ingolstadt right now. We all lost people we know there. The chancellor is trying to set back the clock, the Bavarians are invading, and we’re angry.
“But I don’t think you’re angry enough. So this is what we say to the Crown Loyalists and the Ox!” He signaled, and Anna began the intro. Then Joe began singing “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. The crowd stared at him, but as the lyrics got through to them, the men began to pound the tables along with Anna’s beat. When they got to the last verse, only drums and hands clapping, everyone was pounding or clapping along with them. When the song ended there was a roar of acclaim.
Joe let the applause die, and motioned. “So much for them. But we have this to warn the Bavarians, the same thing every nation who ever fought us in a war learned the hard way. Don’t mess with the US!” The Scots bouncer had found them a bagpiper, and he along with Anna led them into the next.
Sibylle sang it with a snarl, as they introduced the seventeenth century to March of Cambreadth from Heather Alexander’s solo album, Midsummer.
Magdeburg, March 1636
Franz Sylwester watched his wife silently as the carriage took them home. He took her hand, and she looked at him, broken out of her concentration on the task she had accepted. “If you want to change your mind . . .”
She shook her head. “When Mary asked, I was stunned. I could have said no, but I thought . . . I started it, Franz. I could have stayed silent, I could have been the quiet little Hausfrau instead of commissioning and singing Das Lied des Volkes.” She looked out of the window on her side of the carriage.
“No, you could not.” Franz pulled her to him, burying his face in her hair. She snuggled into the hug. “Not my Marla.”
“Now instead of just rallying the people to be willing to fight, I have to convince them to rally to support the one thing they have seen as a plague on the land for almost twenty years. To cheer our soldiers into battle.”
“It is your chance to be a cheerleader at last,” he said blandly.
She pinched him.
“Now explain again, what is this USO?”
Grantville, March 1636
In Grantville, they went into high gear. Deanna had the equipment loaded onto the train the same day they received the telegram. Researchers at the State Library went through the music that reminded men of America what they were missing. They were helped by Benny Pierce, who had a lot of folk songs, and a memory that spanned what his father had told him of WWII. So among the music was a song already in German, one that had reminded German men what they left at home. They depended now on the small crystal radios.
Crystal radios were cheap to manufacture and extremely low tech. The largest expense was the lead sulfide crystals called galena. There were dozens of manufacturers in the USE, and while it wasn’t common knowledge, in the nations that surrounded them.
American radio stations before the Second World War were routinely heard in Europe. Of course, the government seized all of those high powered stations before that war, and limited commercial broadcasting to only fifty kilowatts or less afterward. It is a little known fact that the first entertainment radio broadcast in 1902 was heard in Norfolk Virginia over six hundred miles south of the broadcast site in Brant Rock, Massacuttetts, and an unrecorded distance into the Atlantic.
Poznan, Paris, Rome, Brussels, Berlin, and Vienna were a lot closer than that.
But there was the Maunder Minimum to worry about. Without the ionosphere they had in the twentieth century, it might not reach the entire country. But there were ways around that . . .
They could always rebroadcast from other radio stations . . .
Atwood Cochran stamped his feet, knocking off the snow at the door of the Thuringen Gardens. He was barely seated when the beer hit the table in front of him and picked it up, chugging. “May God bless you, Wiley.”
“What’s been keeping you busy?” Wiley asked.
“It’s going to be announced in about . . .” He looked at his watch. “. . . ten minutes. You listen to the Voice of America, right?”
“Every night, Mr. Cochran.”
“Marla Linder and some others are going to start our own version of the USO. She’s going to do a one-hour show tonight, calling on performers from across the USE to volunteer to entertain the troops.”
Wiley looked at the clock, and went to the radio turning it on.
Magdeburg, Capital of the USE
Marla Linder took a deep breath. She had done this before, singing into a mike, but never with such an audience! In the audience were dukes, counts, knights, and their wives alongside business men. People who had heard and responded before. That heartened her.
“I bid you all good evening,” she began.
Since it was early in the window, they heard it quite clearly in the Gardens.
“Early this year we were treacherously attacked by Maximillian of Bavaria. Many of our soldiers died in Ingolstadt. Betrayed by Axel Oxenstierna, who we now know arranged that attack with our enemy for political gain. The situation is desperate. We are still at war with the Poles, and soon perhaps the Austrians will attack our allies in Bohemia. Tonight I call upon all of our people to not lose heart.
“But it is not we who will bear the brunt of that horror. It is those brave men of our armed forces who will fight and die on our behalf. When all is said and done, we will owe them a debt that can never truly be repaid.
“So I call on those within our nation with gifts. Those who sing, traveling players, any who can bring a light moment to the dreary lives they live right now, I call upon you to contact the closest government office and volunteer your service to the United Service Organization.
“If you cannot play or sing, you can still help. Treat our soldiers with respect when you meet them on the street or in the inns. Find those from your village who have no one at home who care for them, or ask about lists of them, and write them letters! Show them that they are in your hearts, and in your prayers.
“We cannot offer money as yet. We may never be able to pay you for these gifts you give to our men. But you will earn the respect of your emperor, and my own thanks. And we—myself, the orchestra you will hear, and our troupe—answer that call tonight. For one hour before the opera begins, we are going to do our humble part. Part of the proceeds of this evening’s performance will be donated at the request of the members of our troupe to pay to fund the USO, along with my salary for this performance. Records of this performance will be up for sale, all proceeds going to that fund.
“So to our brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen wherever you are. From the siege lines of Poznan to the Franche-Compté, from Dresden to Regensburg, from Bavaria to the Baltic, this show is for you! And to our enemies who can and will listen to it, be warned. Our men do not fight just for pay, they fight for a dream! A dream of peace that you threaten. The disloyal members of the Crown Loyalists have tasted what comes from that. Axel Oxenstierna has learned and paid in full measure for his hubris. And so shall you if you threaten us!” She took a deep breath as the audience was on its feet, applauding, screaming and cheering, with a loud roar of “Gott Mitt Uns!” from some of the Swedes. “Maestro! Let the show begin!”
For the next several weeks, as post riders carried the recordings further and further from Magdeburg, it was heard again and again.
The people in taverns across the nation, in homes whether mere cabins or mansions, men in their tents in Saxony enroute to Ingolstadt, in castles across Europe listened as the opera troupe gave a performance for the soldiers of their nation.
The record went on sale almost immediately.
The pickup stopped, and the tired passengers piled out, moving their equipment. Joe sighed, rolling his shoulders. “Whose idea was it to go on a recruiting tour?” he asked rhetorically.
“I think it was you, Liebchen.” He glared at Sibylle, who snuggled up to his side. “But we are known across the state now, my love. And President Piazza praised us in Bamberg.”
“Yeah. His thanks and a buck will buy me a beer.” He looked at the sign. “Which reminds me . . .”
“First we set up, oh great band leader.” Anna growled as Gaspare helped her down. Esteban, stacked her drum cases on the dolly, and she grabbed it with ease and started in. “The sooner we do, the sooner we can all drink.”
She pushed open the door, and waved as Wiley called her name. Eager hands helped them with the gear, and Joe moved around, linking microphones and amps, plugging them in. Gaspare and Esteban set their instruments while Magdalena and Sibylle helped Anna.
Joe stripped off his coat, looking around the crowd. Except for Mr. Cochran, they were all regulars. He walked over, turning on the equipment, then took his place. “Everyone, we’re dog tired. We’ve been across Thuringia and Franconia this last month, on a recruiting tour for the National Guard. You’ll be pleased to know that recruiting is up by ten percent statewide. So tonight, we’re taking requests.”
“The King of Elfland’s Daughter!”
“Puff the Magic Dragon!”
“The March!” At the call a dozen voices echoed it. Joe pretended surprise. Ever since they’d sung it the song was requested every night. “All right, the votes are in! ‘March of Cambreadth’ from Midsummer.”
Sibylle moved up beside him, “As if you didn’t know,” she whispered.
“Smart ass.” He motioned toward the side, where the newest member of the band Ian Taggart blew until the bag was full, and at a nod, Anna began the martial beat as he played. Then Sibylle began to sing.
The crowd listened, at times shouting lines along with them as the band played. When they reached the end the crowd was on its feet, shouting and applauding. They didn’t play for long, only about one half-hour set. Then they began to pack up to go home.
“Excuse me.” Joe looked up from where he had been coiling up the cables.
“Oh, Mr. Cochran.” He stood and shook hands. “What did you think?”
“I liked the whole set. Haven’t heard ‘Kyrie’ played like that since the song first came out. But that one everyone requested. The march?”
“ ’March of Cambreadth.’ My grandfather sent Mom a copy of the album Midsummer by a singer named Heather Alexander back when I was in high school. She had the same song without the pipes and drum on another album by the band she used to be part of along with ‘The King of Elfland’s Daughter’, which we also do.”
“Can I talk to you about something new?”
“Sure.” They went over to the corner. The band members looked up, shook their heads, and went back to their work. They were almost finished with Magdalena and Sibylle taking over rolling up the cables when the two men came back over. “Guys, Mr. Cochran wants us to join the USO.”
Atwood explained. “But we will not be paid—” Esteban said.
“It’s a duty, Esteban,” Magdalena said.
“I was just saying, my love. I will not make my rent—”
“As if you sleep in that bed,” she retorted, kissing him.
“I wanted to hear your answers first,” Atwood told them all. “It wouldn’t have affected what I am about to say, but I needed to know how fast I’d have to be back here with a tape recorder. I want your band to sign up for a recording deal. I’ll press them out as fast as we can because that first song will be on your first one.”
“No.” They all looked at Sibylle in astonishment. She looked up at Joe. “We will have ‘The King of Elfland’s Daughter’ on one side. And ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ on the first one.” She reached up, holding his face in her hands. “Two dreams, of a young boy and his dragon, and two people of different worlds finding love. And those dreams making one dream—” She hugged Joe. “—come true for us all.”
“Hey, you heard the boss.” Joe laughed.
“Always remember that, my love.” She kissed him.
But they weren’t singing the most famous song heard when they arrived in Regensburg a week later. The bus and truck that carried them were met by a cavalry patrol from the city. When they found out who they were, the troopers asked about that song, the one that Marla Linder had finished her performance with. Since they didn’t know it, the soldiers sang it for them. And unbeknownst to that grand lady, it was already being sung in several nations.
“Another one.” Franz held up one of the telegrams. While she had only sung a benefit for the USO’s inauguration, Marla had been receiving the lion’s share of the offers from performers. But some of that flood were still for her personally.
“Who this time?” She asked.
“From of all places, Poznan. They have requested copies in Polish and Latvian.” She took it as he opened the next.
“So that is what, the French, the Spanish in Italy wanting it in Spanish and Italian, Venice, Vienna in German and Magyar, the Dutch, Danes, Swedes, Finns. Who else? The Turks?”
“No.” He held out another. “From the Czar. He wants it in Russian too.”
When the song had become popular with the troops, Marla had talked Atwood Cochran into making records in German, and instead of paying her, he would instead give them to the troops and families of troops. She shrugged. “Send a telegram to Atwood. We’ll do the records for them all. But they will pay for them if they are not part of our country.” She looked at Franz, but he was concentrating on yet another telegram.
“This one was sent by diplomatic pouch to General Brahe, then was carried to the nearest telegraph station. It’s from France, wanting records. In French. The ‘Marseillaise,’ suitably rewritten.”
She leaned back in her chair. “I think the original was quite good enough.”
“I hope not,” Franz said. “He’s offering a lot of money for it. With a lot of zeros.”
She took the missive, and read it. “Oh, my.” She grinned, then handed it back. “Tell him I will decide if the lyrics he wants are worthy.”
He snorted. “After all, it is only money.” She swatted him as he opened yet another. “You can add Norwegian and Icelandic to it.”
“You are famous. I am but your humble violin player and orchestra conductor.”
“Shut up, dear.” Marla retorted mildly. “Bennie told me, but I didn’t really believe him. Why is ‘Lili Marlene’ so popular?”
The aide to the garrison commander of Regensburg can be excused for what happened. The VOA had arranged for a live broadcast before the Third USE Division arrived, and the up-timers told him of the repertoire of the band that was coming for this first-ever USO show. But the poor lad had only listened to chamber music before, and was buried in the names of just the bands they had borrowed songs from.
Plus he’d never been before a live mike, and that increased his nervousness. So as he stood there, stunned, he fell back on one of those names. “People of Regensburg and the United States of Europe! Your attention for . . . Fleetwood Mac!”
As the band ran out, Sibylle asked, “We’re who?”
“No, that would have been The Who. Just go with the flow, baby,” Joe hissed back, taking his place. “Hello!” Then he started the intro to “Rhiannon” from their new namesake.
And so it was that Fleetwood Mac gave their first live radio performance.