Clique, Clique, Boom
By Bjorn Hasseler
Originally published in Grantville Gazette Vol. 82, March 2019
Calvert High School, Grantville
“Why must we attend gym?” Anna Keime groaned as the girls filed into their locker room after gym class. She was a new arrival this semester and was adeptly fitting into the social structure.
“Mens sana in corpore sano.” Junior Alicia Rice recited in a slight singsong. “A sound mind in a sound body,” she repeated in Amideutsch.
“It is . . . uncivilized,” the freshman complained.
Katharina Meisnerin was the first to head for the showers. “It is, but it leads to unlimited hot water.”
“Do you not have hot water at home?”
“Not this much,” Katharina called back. “I live up in the Brethren settlement.”
Anna had a blank look on her face. “Brethren?”
“Anabaptist,” Alicia told her. “Although that’s not a polite word.”
“Katharina is Anabaptist?” Anna asked in a low voice.
“Ja.” After three years in Grantville, Marta Engelsbergin’s “ja” had the same short A as Alicia’s “Yeah.” “I am Brethren, too. So is Barbara.”
“But you . . . you . . .” Anna stammered to a stop.
“Are nice girls who tipped you off about making sure you have gym last period,” Alicia pointed out.
Anna nodded slowly. “Ja.” She pronounced it with the longer A typical of her own German dialect. “And helped me with the rest of my schedule.”
Alicia flashed her the two-finger V on her way to the showers.
“What’s that?” Anna asked when she caught up.
“V for victory,” Alicia explained. “Can’t give you down-timers the thumbs-up—you freak out. Got this from my Grandma Ella Lou. She grew up during World War II. That was in the 1940s. But you don’t get to up-time history until junior year.”
“Or alternate history, as we down-timers call it,” Marta Engelsberg put in. She was standing under a showerhead on the opposite wall, shampooing her hair.
“It’s not alternate. It really happened,” Alicia insisted.
“Only for you up-timers. Of course, this isn’t really down-time anymore,” Marta added thoughtfully. “Not after y’all changed it.”
Alicia ventured, “It’s more of a new-time, isn’t it?”
“So, are we all new-timers now?” Marta asked with a smile.
“Works for me,” Alicia said.
“Me, too,” Anna agreed. “So, what is this Spirit Week I have heard about? Is it a religious festival?”
Several of the other girls giggled, then Marta admitted, “We all thought that the first time we heard it. But it is not. The up-timers used-to-in-the-future have Spirit Week before an important athletic game to increase their team’s morale.”
“We’re keeping it because it’s fun,” one of the other girls added. That was Lisa Hilton, head cheerleader. “Mr. Saluzzo is letting us have one each semester. But obviously there’s no Homecoming parade in the spring. That’s usually what we do on Monday. Mr. Saluzzo thinks it would be a good idea if we had a USE Day instead, so everyone wear red, black, and gold. Then Tuesday is Western Day and Wednesday is Twin Day. Thursday is always class colors, and Friday is school colors and team uniforms before the baseball game on Saturday. Then the spring dance is Saturday night. You’re all coming, right?”
Alicia and Lisa got back to their gym lockers first, simply because it didn’t take them as long to wash their shoulder-length hair, whereas many down-time girls wore theirs longer.
That gave Alicia a chance to ask a question, quietly and in English. “Western Day? How are the down-timers going do that?”
“It was their idea,” Lisa answered. “They’re all reading westerns.”
“And romance, sci-fi, and everything else,” Alicia pointed out.
“I know! Have you ever seen so many books in Grantville?” Lisa agreed. “Western Day should be easy for you. You can borrow some stuff from those studly bodyguards you have for the Bibelgesellschaft.”
Alicia just rolled her eyes.
“And for Twin Day, you and Amalia Ramsenthalerin should get together.”
“I hardly know her,” Alicia protested.
“She’s from Schwarzburg. Nice girl.”
Alicia shook her head with a bemused expression. Lisa knew everybody and was one of the social butterflies of Calvert High School. Alicia was more of an introvert, but the two girls had been playmates and then friends ever since they could remember—their moms had been best friends since high school.
“Go talk to her.”
“Sure. What do I say? ‘Hi, we don’t talk much, but I want to dress up like you for Twin Day’? Or worse, ‘Do you want to dress up like me?’ “
“Oh, stop inventing problems,” Lisa told her. “You each bring a change of clothes. Be up-timers for the morning, run in here and change during lunch, then be down-timers for the afternoon.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“No, that’s how you manage to conveniently ‘forget.’ “
Lisa waited until the girls were dressed and lining up at the door waiting for last bell. Then she struck.
The down-time girl turned toward her politely.
Lisa tugged Alicia forward. “You two need to get together for Twin Day.”
Amalia smiled. “We do look alike. Do you want to switch places like in the up-time movies?”
“Oh, no, please,” Alicia begged. “I’d blow my cover right away. Lisa—” She looked around, but the head cheerleader was already busy making sure another group of girls got involved. “Well, Lisa suggested that we both dress up-time and then switch to down-time at lunch. Or the other way around. If you want to, that is.”
“Yap,” Amalia answered. “Is that the correct Amideutsch word? A combination of the up-time American ‘yep’ and the down-time German ‘ja’? I understand it is spelled Y-A-P and not J-A-P, because that it a bad name.”
Alicia smiled back. She’s not sure about this either, so she’s babbling.
“But I do not understand that,” Amalia continued. “Why is J-A-P a bad name and Y-A-P is not? Y-A-P is also an island, smaller, further south. I found it on a map. Why are the two treated differently?”
Alicia had to laugh. The bell rang just then. “C’mon, I’ll explain on the way to the buses.”
Calvert High School, Grantville
Tuesday, April 24, 1635
“How do I look?” Amalia asked.
They weren’t real up-time jeans—it had been four years since the Ring of Fire, and Alicia had grown significantly. But fustian from Genoa or de Nimes made from thread colored with Erfurt woad or the Stones’ dyes was close enough.
“Wow,” Alicia said. “I’ve never thought of the Ring of Fire as a mirror universe before. Oh, that means—”
But Amalia was already shaking her head. “I have seen the science fiction on television. But I do not think that is how it works.”
But by lunchtime, she was rethinking that. Even though Amalia had been sitting in her own seat in Latin class, Magister Olearius had called her Fräulein Rice twice. Mrs. Selluci had been almost as bad in chemistry class.
Amalia talked her friends into a different table in the cafeteria and sat down beside Alicia.
“Hi, twin!” The up-timer giggled. “The look on Magister Olearius’s face . . .”
As soon as they had eaten, the two girls hurried to the locker room to change. After donning bodice, skirt, and scarf, Alicia and Amalia looked at each other.
“Maybe you are correct about the mirror universe,” Amalia mused.
Alicia grinned. “Let’s go see how Dr. Green reacts.”
They hurried off to Greek 2.
To their chagrin, Dr. Green was unfazed, even when Alicia unexpectedly raised her hand to answer a couple questions. After Greek 2, they had math, but were in different classes. Alicia was not a big fan of trigonometry, so as soon as class was over, she hurried off to gym with a sense of relief. That came to a screeching halt when someone grabbed her by the arm in the hallway.
“Hey!” she exclaimed.
“You don’t talk to me like that,” Acton Burchard growled. He was a fairly big, well-muscled junior, and his grip was already hurting her arm.
“Like how?” Alicia demanded. She didn’t like Acton’s big man on campus attitude and had no idea what some girls saw in him.
“You know what you said!”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Let go of my arm,” Alicia snapped.
Alicia sucked in a deep breath. “I SAID LET GO OF ME, JERK!”
Alicia’s voice carried really well. Some students ignored them or hurried away, but more gathered around.
“Leave her alone, Acton!”
That was Kerry Stevenson.
“Shut up,” Acton rumbled.
“Vat is the problem here?” a new voice asked as its owner pushed through the crowd.
It was not a teacher. Wulff Thiessen stepped forward. There was a collective intake of breath. Everybody knew that Acton Burchard and Wulff Thiessen didn’t like each other at all. Their previous fight had earned both a couple days of in-school suspension—which meant that Mr. Saluzzo had been unable to bring about a meeting of the minds.
Acton turned his back on Wulff.
Wulff stepped around to the side and leaned in close to Acton. “Let go of her.”
“Get lost, punk, before I kick your ass again,” Acton growled.
Wulff ignored that. “Let go of her, Birch.”
“What did you call me?”
“Birch. With an I. You know, one of those softwood trees that is easy to cut down.”
Acton Burchard abruptly let go of Alicia. “That’s it!” He cocked a fist.
“Freeze!” a deep voice ordered. The crowd parted before Mr. Samuels. “What’s going on here?”
“Nothing,” Acton mumbled. His hand was already down.
Mr. Samuels’ eyes flicked toward Wulff.
“I chust wanted to know why Acton had hold of Fräulein Rice, Coach,” Wulff answered.
Alicia, already immensely grateful to Wulff, upped her impression of him a couple more notches. Calling her ‘Fräulein Rice’ was a good diplomatic move, as was calling Mr. Samuels ‘Coach.’ ” He’d been the football coach before the Ring of Fire and stepped up to take over Melissa Mailey’s European history courses. If he sometimes struggled to stay ahead of down-timer students on recent history, he certainly never had any trouble maintaining discipline in the classroom.
“So would I,” Coach stated. “I’m waiting, Acton. The rest of you, clear out.”
The crowd scattered to their last period classes.
“Alicia!” one of the other girls called across the girls’ locker room. “How did you manage to be that late for gym class and not get yelled at?”
Alicia sighed as she finished dressing. Acton Burchard had spoiled what had been a pretty fun day up to that point.
“I had a note, signed by Mr. Samuels.”
“That would do it.”
“What happened, anyway?” Melissa Higginbotham asked. “I heard there was a fight?”
“Almost. That idiot Acton Burchard grabbed me by the arm and started hollering at me. Wulff Thiessen got in his face.”
“That Anabaptist keeps getting above himself,” a new voice declared in Hochdeutsch.
That was Catharina Elisabeth of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, who was not one of Alicia’s favorite people. The sixteen-year-old was the second daughter and fourth child of Count Christian Guenther of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen and Anna Sibylle of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. Since her father ruled one of the counties in the SoTF and her uncle Ludwig Guenther of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt ruled another—and was a close ally of the captain-general—that meant most people felt constrained to be nice to her, a situation that Catharina Elisabeth took full advantage of, in Alicia’s opinion.
If social butterflies (or queen bees, depending on how one felt about them) like Lisa Hilton were one of the top social strata at Calvert High School, they weren’t alone. Children of neideradel and of burghers started out with a certain amount of deference from other down-timers, typically more from those newly-arrived in West Virginia County and less from the “old Grantville hands.” And there were jocks, entrepreneurs, JROTC, nerds, and so on. Most students on the university track were planning to go into one of the professions—doctor, lawyer, or pastor—and were thus considered nerds. Alicia didn’t know what she was going to do after high school, but since she was taking the four languages of the pre-university track (German, English, Latin, and Greek) and belonged to the Bibelgesellschaft, she was considered an honorary nerd.
“Someone ought to put the sectarians in their place,” Catharina Elisabeth continued.
“Who are you classifying as sectarians?” Lorie Lee Carstairs demanded.
Alicia suppressed a smile. As a Mormon, Lorie Lee would certainly want an answer to that question, and as Liz Thornton Carstairs’ daughter, she could insist on it.
“The Anabaptists,” Catharina Elisabeth answered promptly, proving that not even daughters of the county monarchs, as they were becoming known, were going to antagonize the daughter of Grantville’s mayor. Well, technically Liz Carstairs was the interim mayor, but was widely expected to win the special election in June.
” ‘They came for the Anabaptists, and I shot ’em in the face, because we all know where that nonsense led up-time,’ ” Melody Reardon quoted from a few lockers away. “That’s what my dad says, except he uses a different word than ‘nonsense.’
Catharina Elisabeth sputtered a bit more, but that pretty much shut down the conversation. Once everyone else had moved on to another topic, Amalia Ramsenthalerin approached Alicia.
“I am sorry, Alicia. It is all my fault.”
“Acton Burchard,” Amalia explained. “He approached me this morning and thought I was you.”
“Ohhhhh.” That explains it, Alicia thought. “What happened?”
“He tried to put his arm around me, and I said him off. Is that right?”
“Told him off, I think you mean. What did you say?”
“I told him if he didn’t leave me alone, I would have Captain Saalfelder instruct him.”
Alicia laughed. The thought of Saalfelder putting Acton Burchard in his place cheered her right up.
“You know Captain Saalfelder?” Amalia sounded surprised.
“My dad’s been over to Schwarzburg to help out with some stuff and met him.”
“Oh!” Amalia exclaimed. “That Herr Rice. I did not know he is your vater.”
“Captain Saalfelder probably says he’s ornery,” Alicia ventured.
“Oh, he does—but he likes his work.”
Both girls giggled, and neither of them overheard the nearby mutter of “day laborers.”
Calvert High School Athletic Fields
8 PM, Friday, April 27, 1635
Amalia Ramsenthalerin surveyed the campfires dotted in a U-shape around the far end of the high school track.
“I understand having a dance for May Day,” she allowed. “But outside events when it is still cold? Why are the fires so far away from the school?”
Alicia Rice laughed. “Because we aren’t going to give up any of the athletic fields. I know, we don’t have a football team anymore, but that’s going to stay a football field. Who knows? In a hundred years we might have a football team again.” With a sly look at Amalia, she added, “That’s not a long time, according to you down-timers.”
Amalia returned the same look and gestured at the campfires. “So, I suppose putting the fires a hundred miles away is just a short distance for you up-timers?”
Alicia grinned. “Let’s go see if somebody has reinvented hot dogs and s’mores.”
“What is a s’more?”
They found each fire had food tables a short distance away manned by various high school organizations. Each fire also had a supply of scrap wood and branches with a couple JROTC cadets guarding it, mostly to keep everyone from burning through the whole supply in the first ten minutes.
“Ohh, proper sausages!” Amalia exclaimed.
A few minutes later, they were grilling sausages over one of the campfires. After they’d eaten the sausages, Alicia introduced Amalia to s’mores—or at least to the new timeline version of them. The graham crackers were closer to hardtack than Alicia would have preferred, and the marshmallows had a faint taste of chicken. As far as she knew, no one had reinvented candy bars, but somebody had ground up cocoa beans and mixed them into apple butter. The s’mores had cost her a non-trivial portion of her monthly spending money, but Alicia didn’t really have many expenses.
“This is . . . very sweet,” Amalia remarked.
“Not as sweet as a real chocolate bar,” Alicia told her. “At least, I don’t think so. It’s getting harder to remember things from up-time.”
“What do we do now?” Amalia asked quickly.
“Oh, we need some cider to sip while we sit around the fire and tell ghost stories.” Alicia’s answer was quick and confident.
“Oh—those stories. We have them, too,” Amalia told her.
One of the up-time students led off with the story of the headless horseman.
“Was this Sleepy Hollow near Grantville?” Amalia asked when the story was finished.
“No, it’s up in New York. That’s several hours away by car,” Alicia explained. Seeing Amalia’s frown, she clarified. “A few hundred miles.”
“Ah! This New York was another of your states.”
Somebody was telling a witch story.
“He’s just riffing on Hansel and Gretel,” Alicia whispered.
“I have heard a story much like this,” Amalia whispered back.
“Well, sure. It’s the Brothers Grimm. We got it from you Germans in the first place.”
George Hunsaker, one of the seniors, launched into another story.
“Back in 1959 up-time, the police chief arrested a young couple, the guy for writing bad checks and the underage girl for juvenile delinquency. Grantville was so quiet in those days that there was no jail, and the chief didn’t even carry a weapon, except on Saturday night.”
“You’re joking!” a disbelieving voice called out.
“No, really,” Hunsaker insisted. “Remember, there were fewer than three thousand people in town just four years ago.
“So, anyway, as they came around a curve on Route 250 that night, the prisoner pulled out a .32 and shot the chief. He died at the scene. The prisoners fled, but the girl turned herself in later.”
“What happened to the guy?”
“The police cornered him in South Carolina, and he shot himself.”
Alicia noticed several down-timers shift uncomfortably, and Amalia whispered, “That is disturbing.” After a moment, she asked, “Did it really happen?”
“Yes, it did.” Barbara Kellarmännin sat down beside Alicia. “Herr Chief Richards told me about it.”
“To warn me to be careful when I am working for him.”
Amalia was about to ask what she meant, but someone called out, “Tell them about the coed murders.”
“In 1970 up-time, two freshman girls at West Virginia University up in Morgantown went to a play. Once the play was over, they hitchhiked back to the dorms.” George Hunsaker paused to explain hitchhiking. “They were seen getting into an off-white Chevy—and then they disappeared. Everyone searched high and low for them, but nobody found any sign of them. Three months later, a mysterious letter arrived. It gave directions it claimed would lead to the bodies, and it was signed with just the letter delta. So, the police followed the directions and found both bodies. Well, mostly. When they found them, both victims were missing their heads!”
Several students gasped.
“The police traced the letter to a cult a couple hours away in Cumberland, Maryland whose members claimed to be psychic. They claimed that a satanic cult had sacrificed the girls.”
“Witches,” a down-timer interpreted.
George spread his hands. “Maybe, maybe not. There was another letter that claimed to give directions to find their heads, but no one ever found them. So, if you see any ghosts without heads here in West Virginia County, it’s not the headless horsemen. It’s the two murdered girls searching for their heads.”
Amalia shuddered. “Why do you up-timers have so many headless stories?”
“Don’t be silly. He is just making it up,” a fellow down-timer assured her.
“No, that’s the Mared Malarik and Karen Ferrell murders. Eugene Clawson confessed and went to prison, but some people think he didn’t do it.” Barbara’s statement was quite matter-of-fact.
“How do you know?”
“Herr Chief Richards again,” she answered. “And it happened some ways from the Ring of Fire.”
“But . . . witches,” someone protested. “What happened to them?”
“Nothing,” Barbara answered. She shrugged. “The up-time police knew that most stories about witches and cults were made up.”
“Witches are real!” a shrill voice insisted.
Alicia turned to see Catharina Elisabeth von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen standing there.
“The Scriptures say so,” she continued.
“They do.” Barbara sounded completely unfazed. “It does not follow, however, that everyone who claims to be a witch is a witch. Certainly, we know that many who are not were forced to claim so, under torture. In the up-time society, it was often a sign of—”
“There’s no such thing as real witches,” one of the up-timers insisted.
“Yes, there are,” came an immediate rejoinder.
Amalia leaned over to Alicia and whispered. “This is one of those up-timer/down-timer arguments, isn’t it?”
So she was shocked when she heard, “There was a witch right here in Grantville,” delivered in English with an unmistakable Appalachian twang.
Michelle Carson stepped forward. “C’mon, all you up-timers know the story. The Summit Witch.”
Oh, crap, Alicia thought.
Michelle pointed right at her. “Especially you. She was your ancestor.”
“Rebecca Gordon was not a witch,” Alicia snapped.
“That’s not how I heard it.” Michelle delivered that statement in a slight singsong. “I’ve heard her tombstone is backwards, that whenever it’s fixed, it turns right back around.”
“Because the kids partying in the cemetery keep turning it around,” Alicia shot back. She surged to her feet.
“And there’s a staircase carved on the tombstone, leading down.”
“Leading up. There’s also an open Bible carved into the top of the tombstone.”
“Not how I heard it.”
Alicia missed a beat as she realized that most of the down-timers, including Amalia, were edging away from her and starting to whisper.
“Maybe you’re a witch, too,” Michelle hissed.
Alicia spun on her heel and stalked away.
“That was unkind,” Barbara stated.
“Shut up. Maybe you’re in league with her.”
“I’m sure the sectarians are in league with the devil,” Catharina Elisabeth von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen stated.
“While I am quite confident the two of you are making false accusations to enhance your social standing here at Calvert High.”
That shut them up. For long enough, anyway.
“So where is this witch buried?” Hans Brendel asked quickly, obviously trying to fill the silence. “Was she executed?”
One of the up-timers snorted. “In the 1800s? Not hardly! She’s buried in the cemetery at Summit Church. It was up on one of the mountains, north on Flat Run Road. It didn’t come through the Ring of Fire.”
“Oh. Another story not in the Ring of Fire.” Hans waved it away.
“Well, if there were stairs down into the mountain, maybe they do lead into the Ring of Fire,” Wilhelm Greiner suggested.
“Yap, they could connect up to the mine.”
Barbara, who was still more or less facing off against Michelle and Catharina Elisabeth, favored the speaker with an incredulous expression.
“I think the witch caused the mine disasters,” Wilhelm declared.
That alarmed Barbara. Wilhelm’s influence among the other students was on the rise. But then she noticed several students, both down-timers and up-timers, were edging away from him.
“The mine disaster was caused by an explosion.” Hans Brendel sounded like he was speaking very carefully.
“Maybe they dug too deep . . .”
“Our fathers and brothers are not dwarves!” Anna Keime exclaimed. “What do you say? Flag off the play! Illegal substitution of a balrog for a witch.”
“What’s a balrog?”
“Honestly! Do you not even read Tolkien?”
As Anna continued to give Wilhelm a piece of her mind, Barbara took the opportunity to slip away. She hoped that Catharina Elisabeth and Michelle weren’t going to be an ongoing problem, but if they were, they were. Barbara was more concerned about Alicia right now—and more so after she could not find her.
Bus stop, Brethren Settlement
Monday, April 30, 1635
Barbara waited for the majority of the Brethren high school students to assemble at the bus stop the next morning. Then she called out, “May I have your attention?” She quickly related Friday evening’s events.
“We are in danger, are we not?” Rahel Klaassenin blurted out.
“Nein, I do not think so,” Barbara said. “Up-timers will not look kindly on accusations of witchcraft.”
“No,” Marta Engelsbergin interrupted. “Barbara is correct. The up-timers are predisposed to disbelieve teenage girls making accusations of witchcraft.”
“The Salem Witch Trials,” Katharina Meisnerin realized.
“But they killed people in Salem!”
“And the up-timers despise them for it,” Marta’s brother Joseph stated. “We read The Crucible in senior English.”
“Despise?” Hans Klaassen asked. “That is a strong word.”
“When we finished the play, Mrs. Kindred assigned us an essay,” Joseph explained. ” ‘What would you have done in Salem?’ A surprising number of up-time students’ essays centered around physical violence.”
“Boys . . .”
“Girls, too. Crystal Cooper got a 93. Mrs. Kindred said her essay was excessively messy—but Mr. Johnson said it was good tactics.”
“Here comes the bus.” Barbara turned to Jakob Ewert. “I think we will be okay, but please do not . . .”
The sophomore boy grinned. “Do not sass Catharina Elisabeth or Michelle? No problem. I will simply remind them that they don’t Mather.”
Marta, Joseph, and Barbara all groaned at his pun.
Calvert High School, Grantville
Barbara went straight to Alicia’s locker and waited for her. Alicia showed up just a couple minutes before first bell.
Alicia mumbled an acknowledgment.
“Are you okay?” Barbara asked.
“Don’t,” Alicia begged. She pulled a couple textbooks off the upper shelf and closed her locker before turning to Barbara.
“I couldn’t find you Friday night. I ended up calling your house.”
“Who did you talk to?” Alicia demanded.
Alicia’s eyes narrowed. “What did you do? Call from the school? Did you tell her what happened?” she demanded.
“Nein. When I got home, I called from the phone hut in the Brethren settlement. I meant to tell your mother what happened, but when she answered, I had this strong sense that I should not. I am sor—”
“Oh, good.” Alicia sounded relieved. “Don’t tell her, okay? She’d just worry. And, Barbara? Thank you for sticking up for me. But you and Kat and Marta should stay away from me for a few days. They’re going to make my life miserable. No reason to give them a chance to go after y’all, too.”
The bell rang, and Alicia hurried off.
There is more to this, isn’t there? Barbara thought.
At lunchtime, Barbara joined Kat and Marta at their usual table. Nona Dobbs joined them a couple minutes later, looking worried.
“I can’t find Alicia anywhere,” she blurted out in English.
Barbara quickly filled her in on what had happened around the campfire. “She does not want to be found. She told me this morning that we should stay away from her.”
“Yap, she told me that, too,” Nona confirmed. She took a deep breath and switched to the Amideutsch that the majority of students used outside of their German and English classes. “But I wasn’t going to listen.”
Barbara smiled. “She knows that you are her best friend and would stick by her,” she told Nona. “That is why she did not tell you where she would be.”
“Do you know where she is?” Nona demanded.
“Nein. But if we think like Alicia, we can figure it out. It appears she is skipping lunch. Therefore she has found somewhere to be where she will not be noticed. Somewhere she feels safe, and somewhere we would need hall passes to go.”
“Not the library,” Kat pointed out. “Everyone has to sign in, and people watch each other.”
“Not the band room,” Nona pointed out. “Alicia doesn’t play an instrument.”
“A favorite teacher?” Marta wondered.
“Nei-i-i-n.” Barbara drew the word out as she thought it through. “Teachers are too likely to want ‘to get the bottom of this,’ ” she pointed out. “Alicia does not want to talk about it.”
At length, Nona ventured, “Alicia volunteers to help with little kids’ Sunday school at her church.”
Barbara beamed. “That is it! On your way to your next class, go past the daycare room. Wave. Make eye contact. Alicia will know you are concerned for her. Then when you can tell whichever of us you see first that she is okay.”
Marta leaned in. “So, Barbara, what was the dance like? My parents do not let me go to dances.”
“Mine, either,” Nona put in.
They looked at Kat expectantly.
“You could have gone,” Barbara reminded her.
“There wasn’t anyone there I wanted to dance with,” Kat stated.
Barbara noted that “wasn’t anyone there” wasn’t the same thing as “wasn’t anyone” and filed that away for future reference.
What she said was, “I did not see much of the dance. I was too busy looking for Alicia. But it was a mix of down-time and up-time music. The teacher who deejays always plays ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’ as the second-to-last song, because that is what he did up-time. It fits, in an odd sort of way. Then the last song is always a slow song because the teachers would rather break up students making out than break up fights.”
“You did not get to peoplewatch,” Kat observed. “Which is why you go.”
“True, for the most part,” Barbara acknowledged. “But Karin Jo McDougal told me that she is joining her family in Magdeburg.”
Nona frowned. “After convincing them to let her stay here for her junior year?”
“Well, Hans Köhler is enlisting in the Army after graduation,” Barbara explained.
As they dressed for gym, Kat told Barbara that Nona had told her that she’d spotted Alicia in the daycare room, just as Barbara had predicted. Unfortunately, the only other thing her powers of deduction were telling her was that Mrs. Sims was expecting a certain amount of enthusiasm in gym class.
Alicia cut gym class. That worried Barbara. The daycare teachers would let her skip lunch under the guise of helping out, but not classes. And gym was a class, whether the girls thought that was fair or not.
The last gym unit of the year was softball for the girls’ class and baseball for the boys’ class, weather permitting. But since both sports involved a fair amount of standing around, Mrs. Sims and Coach Flannery liked to throw in the occasional day of something more strenuous—usually some game they had made up. A certain amount of good-natured groaning and complaining was considered acceptable when the gym teachers announced the rules—as long as one then proceeded to play hard.
Today’s game was called foosball. The students counted off by tens. Barbara was a six, so, along with the rest of the even numbers, she pulled a red mesh vest the up-timers called a pinnie on over her T-shirt. Each number was assigned to a twenty-yard section of the football field. Each team tried to kick a one-point goal or a three-point field goal or pass for a six-point touchdown. Players could move all the way across the field, but had to stay within their twenty-yard zone. Just “to make things interesting,” Mrs. Sims had introduced four hats into the game. Each team had two, and if you were wearing a hat, you could switch places with a teammate in an adjoining zone. You then had to hand off the hat to a different teammate.
Barbara was about as interested in athletic pursuits as Kat and Marta were, which was to say, not at all. She was a lot more interested in where Alicia might be. What she wanted to do was ask selected classmates if they had seen Alicia after lunch. Anna Keime, for instance, had an art class in the classroom right next to the daycare room. Barbara scanned the field and spotted Anna, also wearing a red pinnie, at the far end of the field.
Someone on the other team cleared the ball long, over the heads of Barbara and the others at midfield. Their players in the next two zones were waiting and quickly scored a goal.
“We need some defense back there!” Gary Hunsaker called from the red team’s offensive end.
Inspiration struck. “Gary!” Barbara called. “Get a hat! Switch with me!”
A minute later, Gary came running by wearing a propeller beanie. He tagged Barbara and tossed the hat at Dustin Difabri. “Dustin, come on!”
Barbara took off in the opposite direction and ran to the twenty-yard line. “Anna!”
Anna, who was basically killing time while trying not to look obvious about it, jogged over.
“Have you seen Alicia Rice today?”
“Yap. Some students were calling her a witch.”
“When was this?”
“In the hall after seventh period, outside the math classrooms.”
“Who was calling her a witch?”
“Robert Piatt, Gertrude Wandsleb, Sibylle von Treiber . . .”
This is bad, Barbara realized. Those students came from different social groupings. Robert was an up-timer, Gertrude’s father was a rising businessman, and Sibylle’s family were neideradel. If everybody was harassing Alicia . . .
Barbara took off. She questioned a couple girls in her zone. They hadn’t seen Alicia.
I need someone who knows everyone. Where is Lisa?
She spotted the head cheerleader tracking the guy with the ball. He tried to run past a couple opponents, there was contact, and the ball squirted sideways. Lisa scooped it up.
Lisa hesitated, because Barbara never called for the ball. But a couple guys were bearing down on her, so she threw it. Barbara managed a clumsy trap, turned, and kicked it to a teammate.
Lisa ran up to the edge of her zone. “Nice one, Barbara!”
“Lisa, have you seen Alicia Rice, bitte?”
“No. Wait—she should be here. What’s going on?”
Barbara filled her in.
“I am going to kill some people,” Lisa announced in a measured tone.
“Do you know about the Summit Witch?”
“I’ve heard the story, but my mom doesn’t like people talking about it, which is weird. Summit Church was Methodist, though. You could ask Reverend Mary Ellen. She might know something.”
Barbara got a couple more touches on the ball and used a ball cap with horns on it to move to the next zone. But she didn’t find out anything further during gym class.
After they’d showered and dressed, Barbara pulled the other girls aside and gave orders.
“Lisa, Nona, find Alicia, please. Make sure she is okay. Kat, Marta, tell my parents I went to the Methodist Church, bitte.”
“Where will you go after that?” Kat asked.
“It depends on what I find out,” Barbara told her.
Kat and Marta gave her all the change they had. “You might need the tram,” Marta pointed out.
Reverend Mary Ellen Jones talked Barbara into accepting a drink of warm broth. “It’s cold out there,” she asserted. Once they were both seated in her office at the Methodist church building, she asked, “What can I help you with?”
“It’s Alicia Rice. Some of the students at school have been teasing her about the Summit Witch. It started Friday night when people were telling stories around the campfire at the May Day dance. Alicia skipped lunch today and went to the daycare room. She cut gym this afternoon. I sent Lisa Hilton and Nona Dobbs to try to find her.”
“That’s not teasing,” Reverend Mary Ellen stated. “That’s bullying.”
“I do not disagree. But,” Barbara asked urgently, “who is the Summit Witch? All I know is that she was apparently an ancestor of Alicia.”
“I didn’t grow up in Grantville myself. I didn’t hear the story until Simon and I got here. So it’s not as . . . immediate for me. There was a woman named Rebecca Gordon who lived in the 1800s. Nobody thought she was anything but an upstanding Christian when she was alive. But after she died, people started making up stories. Some people are just plain mean, and they’ve harassed her descendants over the years.”
Reverend Mary Ellen looked uncomfortable. She sat there for a moment, and then said, “I’m glad you sent Lisa Hilton to find her. They’ve been friends all their lives.”
“Would Alicia’s parents know more about this?” Barbara asked.
“No, don’t ask them about it. Let’s just find Alicia.”
“Since she didn’t turn to Nona or Lisa, I would have thought Alicia would go to her mother,” Barbara suggested.
“Not about this,” Reverend Mary Ellen told her. “She would try to spare her mother’s feelings.”
Barbara blinked. That made no sense to her. “Why?”
Reverend Mary Ellen shook her head. “I cannot tell you anything further. If you want to hear the whole legend, though, Frederick Miller could tell you. He’s in Bowers Assisted Living Center.”
As Barbara made her way across town to the Bowers Assisted Living Center, she puzzled over what Reverend Mary Ellen had said—and hadn’t said. There is something more here. I think pastoral confidentiality kept her from saying more. Would Alicia’s parents be upset with her? That makes no sense.
She was surprised to see a classmate behind the receptionist’s desk.
“Barbara! What are you doing here?”
“I came to see Herr Frederick Miller. Do you work here?”
“Volunteer, for now,” Robin Kerns answered. “I think I might want to do this after graduation, though. I like senior citizens.”
“Alicia likes little kids,” Barbara stated. “That is what I am here to ask Herr Miller about, the stories that people have been teasing Alicia with.”
Robin’s expression darkened. “I heard about that. I’ll call Mr. Miller’s room and tell him someone would like to speak with him.”
From Robin’s side of the conversation, it sounded like Herr Miller did not want to talk to her.
“It is about the Summit Witch. I am concerned for Alicia,” Barbara stated.
Robin repeated that over the phone and hung up soon after. Barbara’s heart sank, but then Robin smiled and said, “Mr. Miller definitely wants to talk to you. I’ll show you to his room.”
Barbara wasn’t sure what she had been expecting Herr Miller to be like, but a tall, white-haired, generally healthy-looking man who rose to greet her with only a slight stoop wasn’t it.
“Fräulein Kellarmännin? I’m Fred Miller. What brings you to see me?”
Almost four years after the Ring of Fire, a lot of up-timers could speak German. Most could speak Amideutsch. That rapidly-developing language was more German than English, although the stripped-down inflections, word order, and technical and colloquial vocabulary was heavily influenced by English. But Herr Miller’s German sounded different.
“I would like to ask you about a Grantville legend,” she answered. “I do not believe I am familiar with your accent.”
“It’s twentieth-century German,” Miller told her. “From when I was here before.”
Barbara’s eyes widened. There were up-timers who had been to up-time Germany, even a couple who had been born there. As far as she knew, she had never met one of them before.
“When did you come to the Germanies, Herr Miller?” she asked in seventeenth-century Hochdeutsch.
“World War II. I was in the 80th Division. From the Rhine to Erfurt, then Weimar, Jena, and Gera. We took trucks to Bamberg. Might’ve driven right through here where the Ring of Fire is now. I don’t know.”
Barbara considered that for a moment. Then she said, “I would like to ask you about that sometime. But right now, will you tell me about the Summit Witch, bitte?”
“Well, now,” Miller drawled, “that’s just an old story. It’s nothing to worry about.”
“Friday night at the high school, students were telling stories around campfires. One of them said there had been a witch in Grantville. And then one of the girls said Alicia was related to her. Some of the students have been bullying Alicia about it. I can’t find her.”
She stepped back in alarm as Herr Miller’s expression completely changed. He went from affable to stony in an instant.
“Alicia? That the Rice girl? Honcho and Bettina’s daughter?”
“Ja, Herr Miller.”
“Nice girl. Always willing to help out in the nursery or with Sunday school at church.” He paused. “What do you think about witches, Fräulein Kellarmännin?”
“I think it is real easy for us Anabaptists to get accused of witchcraft,” Barbara answered in Amideutsch. “Whatever works to get rid of us.”
“Sit down a minute and tell me what happened.” Miller pointed her to a chair at a small table and sat down in the other one himself.
Once she’d related Friday night’s conversation and today’s events at school, Miller shook his head. “I was afraid that’s what you were going to say,” he growled. “Okay, let me bring you up to speed. I’ll have to do it in English. Can you follow? Good. I don’t know how this Summit Witch crap got started, but I heard it when I was a kid. Never thought a lot about it until after the war. I went to school on the GI Bill and became a teacher. Worked my way up to principal and eventually superintendent before I retired. Never had much reason to think about the Summit Witch story again until I was principal.
“Rebecca Gordon was born in Marion County when it was still part of Virginia. She married Will Hamilton. They had three kids—Lily, Jim, and Becky. She died in her thirties. Her husband died the year before I was born. Lily died young, and a couple of Jim’s kids died young, too. This was all before there was penicillin, you understand.”
Barbara nodded. “We down-timers die young, too, sometimes.”
“Just the way it is,” Miller agreed. “But a few more years, and that is going to change, like it did up-time. Jim lived into his nineties. I used to see him, now and then, over in Fairmont. His son David died in the war.”
“Here in the Germanies?” Barbara asked.
“No. Pacific Theater, fighting the Japanese. An island named Tarawa.”
Barbara remembered a conversation she had overheard. “One of the down-time girls mentioned islands named Japan and Yap. Is Tarawa near them?”
“Good girl. Tarawa was on the outer perimeter. I’ll tell you about it later. Point is, dying early has nothing to do with being a witch.”
“Now Becky married Samuel Davidson. They had a dozen kids. Alicia’s ancestor—I forget exactly which one that was—belonged to the Church of Christ. Her grandmother Rosalie Davidson belongs to the Church of Christ, too.” Miller paused and peered at Barbara. “Can you keep information quiet and not blab it all over town?”
Barbara nodded. “Herr Chief Richards thinks so.”
For the first time, Miller looked uncertain of something. “What do you mean?”
“He wants me to be a profiler.” Barbara explained her observations about the vandalism of some high school lockers last month.
“Huh.” Miller appeared to think that over for a moment. “All right. If Press thinks you’re that good . . . Tell me this, Fräulein Kellarmännin, who was bullying Alicia?”
“Catharina Elisabeth of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Michelle Carson, Robert Piatt, Gertrude Wandsleb, Sibylle von Treiber.”
“What does that combination of students tell you?” Miller held up both hands. “I’m not trying to be Socratic. I don’t know. Been retired for years now, and it takes only a couple years to lose track of the dynamics—which students are popular, which are not, which cliques run the social life of the school.”
“Neideradel, queen bees, successful families,” Barbara summarized. “That is bad. It means Alicia could perceive that other students are united against her. She made us Anabaptists stay away from her today.”
“Going to take all the heat herself, is she?”
“I believe that was her intention.”
Miller sighed. “Stupid martyr complex. Look, this is the part you need to keep quiet about. Like mother, like daughter. When I was principal, students from different cliques ganged up on Bettina Simmons. Nobody stuck up for her except for Sylvia Linder—Hilton, now—and Honcho Rice.”
“That is why Alicia and Lisa Hilton are friends,” Barbara realized. “Their mothers are friends.”
“I was hard on Honcho,” Miller continued. “Not because he beat up a couple punks to protect Bettina, but because he’d already graduated and came back on school grounds to do it. All the best fights happen after school.”
It was Barbara’s turn to think about that for a minute.
“Wulff Thiessen,” she said. “He is a Schwertler Täufer, a sword-bearing Anabaptist. He stood up to Acton Burchard when Acton grabbed Alicia by the arm.”
Miller swore, then said, “Excuse my French. Acton Burchard is involved in this? We need to find Alicia.”
“May I use your telephone?”
At Herr Miller’s nod, Alicia called Nona Dobbs. She hadn’t found Alicia. Then she called the operator and asked for the Hilton residence.
“Hiltons. Lisa speaking.”
“Lisa, Ich bin Barbara Kellarmännin. Did you find Alicia?”
“No. I looked everywhere!”
“Did you find any clues at all?”
“One of the girls said something about Alicia might get what she had coming to her,” Lisa reported.
“Pack mentality,” Barbara stated. “We need to know if they are planning something. Lisa, who is on the fringes of the queen bees . . . I apologize, the social butterflies?”
Lisa laughed. “No offense taken. But why?”
“We need to get someone to talk. Really, you need to get someone to talk. They will not talk to me. It should be someone who might not recognize you and Alicia are friends.”
“A down-timer, you mean. Like Sibylle von Treiber or Veronica von Hagen.”
Herr Miller held out his hand. Barbara gave him the phone.
“Lisa Hilton, this is Frederick Miller. I was the principal when your parents were in school. You’ll get more out of them if they think you want to help them get Alicia.”
Barbara stared at Herr Miller, her mouth open in surprise and disapproval.
“Good girl. The number here is . . .”
After Herr Miller hung up the phone, Barbara stated, “You told Lisa to lie.”
“Tactical deception wins battles,” Herr Miller told her.
“This is not a battle!”
“It most certainly is, Fräulein Kellarmännin. It most certainly is.”
Barbara crossed her arms.
Herr Miller smiled. “It’s going to take Lisa a while to make those calls. Let’s talk about Japan, Yap, Tarawa, and another place called Midway.”
Twenty-five minutes later, Barbara knew a lot more about World War II in the Pacific. They’d had that discussion mostly in English because of the large number of technical terms.
“And why did Japan lose those aircraft carriers?” Herr Miller asked.
“Because AF was short of fresh water,” Barbara answered. “Except they weren’t.”
She was still thinking about that when the phone rang.
“Miller. Hello, Lisa.” He motioned Barbara closer so that they could both hear.
“They told Alicia that they’d put hex signs up around her house if she didn’t meet them at the mine disaster memorials,” Lisa reported. “They plan to sneak up and scare her.”
“Who is ‘they’?” Herr Miller demanded.
“Wilhelm Greiner, Robert Piatt, Andreas Ritz . . . and Acton Burchard. It’s all guys who plan to scare Alicia. But it’s girls that put them up to it. Catharina Elisabeth, Michelle, some others.”
“Those boys are all . . .” Barbara fumbled for the word. “If the girls want to be queen bees, those boys want to be king bees. Is that a word?”
“Big men on campus,” Lisa supplied. “That’s what they want to be.”
“What time?” Herr Miller snapped.
“They figured they’d let it get dark first, to scare her more.” The anger in Lisa’s voice was plain.
“We’ll go get her,” Herr Miller told her. “Might give a few people some lessons, too. Lisa, make sure you can hear the phone. This might take a while.”
“All right. Good luck! Make sure you call when you find her.”
“We will.” Herr Miller hung up the phone.
“How are we going to call her from the mine disaster memorials?” Barbara asked.
“Not a problem,” Herr Miller assured her. “Come with me.”
Herr Miller stopped three doors down the hallway and knocked.
“Komm rein!” a voice called.
Herr Miller pushed the door open, and Barbara saw a youngish man in his twenties or thirties seated in a wheelchair at his desk, most of which was taken up by a couple radios.
Why does a man his age live h—? Oh, he has only one leg, Barbara realized.
“Corporal Weyh, I need a radioman. How do you feel about a desperate mission?”
“Desperate, Sergeant Miller?”
“Well, talking some sense into some teenagers, anyway. We’ll need to radio back to someone who can call the Hiltons’ place.”
Weyh pulled a sheet of paper closer. “Everyone guarding the sked tonight is a down-timer. Traffic will probably be in Amideutsch.”
“That is fine,” Barbara told him in that language. “Lisa Hilton is fluent.”
Weyh indicated the radios. “I can hold the smaller one on my lap. But I cannot do that and work my wheelchair. Und you are supposed to ‘take it easy,’ Sergeant.”
Barbara looked at Herr Miller in alarm.
Herr Miller thumped one fist against his chest. “Bad ticker,” he explained. “Not supposed to overexert myself.”
“But, Herr Miller . . .”
“I can walk to the street and catch the tram, young lady. We can take that to Market Street and rent a couple of those new battery-operated wheelchairs. I hear they’re good for about four miles, so it’s a one-way mission for them. We’ll need to radio for a pickup to come get us.”
“Herr Miller,” Barbara asked, “what if we call the polizei?”
Miller sighed. “I did that last time. Didn’t turn out like I wanted. I’d rather have a chance to talk some sense in these kids. But . . .” He went back to his room and returned carrying a long, thin bag with a strap. “Things aren’t always what they seem. Corporal, can you handle an up-time rifle?”
Miller nodded in acknowledgment. “Rifle for you, shotgun for me. I’ve got a few rounds filled with rock salt, Fräulein Kellarmännin, because I’m an ornery cuss.” He must have sensed her confusion, because he added, “I’ll explain on the way.”
It turned out the Corporal Weyh’s wheelchair folded up and fit on the tram. He used his arms to push off from each seat he passed and swung his leg forward. Barbara carried the radio. She had enough money to cover her tram fare. Herr Miller insisted on paying for himself and Weyh.
Barbara surveyed the small building in the center of Grantville. Several small motorized vehicles were lined up, and rows of batteries were being charged.
“How does this work?” she asked.
“There’s a village up north of the Ring of Fire. Arnstadt. A couple companies called Bozarth Batteries and Pomal Wagons teamed up to make them.” Miller gestured toward the vehicles. “They’re closer to golf carts than they are to wheelchairs, but they sure do help us old folks get around Grantville.”
Barbara’s eyes widened when she saw how much Herr Miller was paying the attendant.
“Herr Miller!” she exclaimed. “I did not mean for you to spend so much money!”
“Don’t worry about it. This was clearly such a good idea that I bought some stock in the company. I’ve done well over the years. I’ve got enough to stay in Bowers. Don’t really need more than that. Can’t take it with me.”
Barbara nodded in agreement with the last. “But . . .”
“I said I didn’t like how things turned out last time,” he reminded her. “It’s worth a little to me to fix that this time.” He turned to Weyh. “We better do a radio check.”
A few minutes later, they were northbound on Route 250. Herr Miller was driving the first wheelchair, if that was the right word for it. It had a small shelf in the back, intended for sacks of groceries or similar purchases. This evening, Barbara was standing there, making sure that Herr Miller’s gun bag and Herr Weyh’s folded-up regular wheelchair didn’t tip over or fall out. She was not at all pleased about that. Corporal Weyh followed in a second wheelchair, radio resting on the back shelf.
The sun was going down, and wherever trees bordered the road, it was already growing dark. Barbara was really glad she was not out here alone. Lord, keep Alicia safe, bitte. Help us find her.
The battery-powered wheelchairs were a little faster than walking. Still, it took almost an hour to reach their goal.
After a while, Weyh asked, “How much trouble are you expecting, Sergeant?”
“I don’t rightly know,” Herr Miller answered. “If they just left Alicia out here on the equivalent of a snipe hunt, not much. Do not be quick on the trigger. But sometimes a group of people crosses the line and becomes an unreasoning mob. In that case, I mean to break them.”
Alicia was cold. She’d found the note in her locker right after eighth period. Somebody had forced it through one of the slots in the metal locker door.
Komm to dat Mine Disaster Memorial abend heute oder dat zeitunger drucken dat sie und ihre mutter sind hexen. Sie wiss was geschieht hexen. Komm alleine. No cops.
The Amideutsch was straightforward enough: Come to the Mine Disaster Memorial at dusk tonight or the newspapers will print that you and your mother are witches. You know what happens to witches. Come alone. No cops.
She even added the obvious omission: It’s a trap. She knew that. But she also figured it wasn’t that hard to take out a classified ad in each of the papers. She wasn’t sure they’d run an outright accusation of witchcraft, but if you sat down and thought about it, there was probably a way to call someone a witch without actually writing “Alicia is a witch.” Plus a couple people had made sure she heard them discuss putting hex signs up around her house.
Alicia didn’t care. Nona and Lisa and the Brethren girls would stick by her. It might scare off Amalia Ramsenthalerin, though. So I guess I do care. Alicia sighed. On the other hand, she didn’t have a boyfriend to run off. This might make a pretty good filter to see if any prospects were serious . . . if she had any.
No, it wasn’t her social life she was worried about. She knew that if those classified ads were published or the hex signs went up, it would hurt her mother. She wasn’t really sure why, but her mother had always been twitchy about witches, even back up-time. Alicia had never been allowed to dress up as one for Halloween. She didn’t think it was a religious thing, ether. Her parents didn’t impose the sorts of restrictions that Nona’s family did.
Alicia shifted from where she was sitting on one of the benches placed to either side of the monument to the miners who died in the 1968 mine disaster. She’d picked the one on the right that now sat between the 1968 monument and the new monument put up just a couple months ago. Equal respect. She wasn’t sure if that mattered to whomever had made her come out here, but it couldn’t hurt.
This was either a snipe hunt, where someone was trying to strand her in the middle of nowhere, or else whomever had written the note was going to show up at some point. A grassy area divided by a small creek stretched all the way to the parking lot. That side had been safe enough until it got dark.
Alicia had snuck out of school about 2:30. She’d kept walking beside the road as the buses went by, hoping that the note writer saw her. Then she’d stopped in town to buy hot broth and steel her nerve. She’d heard the church bells ringing 5:00 while she was still en route. She’d probably been sitting here since 6:00 or so. And she didn’t know what time it was, but sunset had been around 8:00 recently. Not sure if having a watch to watch would make it better or worse.
Suddenly her name boomed out from the woods. Alicia jumped.
“Alicia Rice,” it intoned. “Witch.”
“Come into the woods and face the forces you try to control.”
“Come at once or the newspapers will tell everyone that your mother is a witch.”
“The gate is locked,” Herr Weyh observed. He didn’t have to add that the chain link fence that surrounded the whole site wasn’t something he or Miller could climb over.
“Yes.” Herr Miller dismounted from the battery-powered wheelchair. “It usually is, but there’s a path through the fence.”
Barbara saw what he meant. There was a doorway in the fence, with fencing extending out and turning west on both sides of the main fence, forming a C-shaped passage.
“No one wanted to close off access to the memorial. This was built so that anyone can walk in, but can’t go joyriding in a car or on a dirt bike,” Herr Miller explained. “Corporal, I can wheel you up to the passage . . .”
“I should do that, Herr Miller,” Barbara interrupted. “I am sure your doctor would agree.”
Herr Miller grumbled a bit. Barbara was no expert in medicine, but she had a pretty good idea that someone with a heart condition had no business pushing an adult in a wheelchair around. Where the passage turned, she had to support Weyh for a few steps while Herr Miller folded up the wheelchair, got it around the corner, and unfolded it again. Once Weyh was back in his wheelchair inside the fenceline, she and Herr Miller went back for the equipment.
“You should carry the guns,” Barbara told him.
She’d chosen the heavy radio on purpose. She didn’t want Herr Miller to overexert himself. And it was perfectly true that she didn’t want to carry the guns.
Barbara pushed Herr Weyh’s wheelchair along the paved path. She had to put all her strength into getting him across the footbridge; the wheels kept hanging up on the wooden planks. But they reached the monuments in just a few minutes.
“I don’t see anyone.” Herr Miller rubbed his chin. “How would they play this?”
“Look!” Barbara was near a bench to the right of the up-time monument. She was pointing at a sheet of paper on that bench, held down by a couple small stones. She bent close to try to read it, then decided having the information was more important than any potential fingerprints and held it up so that one of the lights illuminated the note. Barbara read the words aloud with some difficulty.
“Luring her out here was pretty low.” Herr Miller’s voice was gruff.
“But where is she?” Herr Weyh asked.
“If she went home, we would have passed her,” Barbara pointed out. “Unless she went home earlier . . .”
“Radio?” Weyh addressed the question to Herr Miller.
“Have them call the Hiltons. Lisa, was it?” At Barbara’s nod, Herr Miller continued. “Have Lisa Hilton call and ask for Alicia. I do not want Bettina or Honcho riled. Yet.”
“Ja, Sergeant.” The radio clicked as Herr Weyh started sending Morse code. “CQ CQ operator with a phone.”
Barbara heard answering clicks.
“Johannes is listening but does not have a telephone,” Herr Weyh reported.
Barbara shuddered and turned her back to a gust of wind, wondering how cold Alicia was right now.
The radio clicked again. Herr Weyh replied immediately. He looked up after sending the message. “That was Brother Nikolaus at the Fire Department. He will call the Hiltons.”
Barbara listened carefully for clicks, even though she knew three phone calls would take some time.
After a couple minutes, Herr Weyh raised a hand, as if for silence. But his radio was not clicking.
“Sergeant, I heard something.”
All three of them listened intently.
“There it is again.”
Barbara shivered, but not from the cold. That voice was not natural.
“A megaphone, I think.” Herr Miller’s voice was calm and measured. “Corporal, stay here with the radio. Keep an eye on your surroundings. I’ll leave the rifle with you. Miss Kellarmännin, stay behind me. Try not to step on anything that will make noise.”
And how did you spend your evening? Barbara asked herself. Sneaking through the woods with a veteran of World War Two.
Then she heard the amplified voice again.
“Hexe,” Herr Miller repeated. “Dat heisst witch, right?”
“Ja.” Barbara’s answer was terse.
“What we have here is one or more would-be witch hunters.” Now Herr Miller sounded downright grim.
“The note was written by an up-timer,” Barbara told him.
“Ja, the sentence structure and prepositions. Und more people are out here than just the person with the megaphone.”
“Agreed. This sort of thing requires a group mentality,” the retired educator stated.
“There will be a weak link somewhere in the group.” Barbara had learned that from the profiling materials Herr Chief Richards had lent her.
“Always is,” Herr Miller agreed. “Exploited that every time I could as principal.”
“Hexe!” rang out again.
Suddenly Herr Miller ran off to the right. Barbara watched as he moved from tree to tree faster than she would have thought he could move.
“Hexe, komm her. Zum altar. Unterschreibe dat buch dat Teufels.”
KA-CHUNK. Herr Miller did something with his shotgun, and then roared, “Freeze! You’re in my sights!” Then with absolute menace, “Ich werde schießen, wenn du rennst.”
Exactly as he said those words during World War Two, Barbara realized. If you run, I will shoot you.
Herr Miller’s shout was followed by the sounds of someone—or more than one someone—sprinting through the woods.
“Don’t you move,” Herr Miller growled as he went around the tree he’d been behind. Barbara hurried to catch up and saw a boy was standing stock-still, the megaphone still in his hands. “Sprecken Sie Englisch?”
The boy jerked a nod.
“Put the megaphone down,” Herr Miller instructed.
Barbara caught up to him. “That is Andreas Ritz.”
“Put down the megaphone, Mr. Ritz, and walk toward me,” Herr Miller instructed.
“Fräulein Kellarmännin, circle around behind him, pick up the megaphone, and call for Alicia.”
Both Andreas and Barbara did as they were instructed.
“Alicia! Es ist Barbara. You are safe now. Over here!”
A few seconds later, she heard someone crashing through brush.
“Alicia! This way!”
Barbara caught sight of her a few seconds later.
Alicia ran toward her and threw her arms around Barbara. She had a scratch across her forehead and a couple streaks of dirt on one sleeve.
“Barbara! What . . .? How? Thank you!” she gasped.
“I will be leaving now,” Andreas Ritz stated.
Before he could take a step, Herr Miller growled, “Take a step, and I will shoot you in the ass, punk.”
Ritz visibly deflated.
Alicia looked up. “Mr. Miller? What are you doing here?”
“Same as you. Staying out after curfew.”
Alicia giggled. Barbara thought that had been Herr Miller’s intention. He is a nice man under that gruffness, she decided.
“Tell me about him.” Miller spoke without turning his head or lowering the shotgun.
Alicia was still clinging to Barbara, who spoke over her shoulder. “He is a sophomore, from west of here. Out past Suhl and Mehlis. His parents are wealthy enough to send him here for school. Lots of students respect him, but he wants to be in charge.”
“That so, Mr. Ritz?” Herr Miller asked. “I take it from how uncomfortable you look that it’s plenty close enough. We are going back to the monuments.”
When they returned to Herr Weyh, they found he had captured a second boy.
“Robert Piatt,” Barbara told Herr Miller.
She knew Herr Miller did not mean “Are you sure he is an up-timer?” but rather “Why is this up-timer involved?”
“His family moved to Grantville from one of the other states a few years ago,” Barbara supplied. “His actions make me think he is still trying to fit in.” She looked directly at Piatt. “But you are running with a bad crowd to try to do that.”
“Good job, Corporal,” Herr Miller told Herr Weyh.
“Und you, Sarge.” Herr Weyh grinned. Then he gestured toward his radio.
Herr Miller nodded. “If your radio monk could make three calls? One to the Hiltons, that Alicia is okay. One to the Rices. Get Honcho and Bettina out here with a pickup truck. And one to my brother Reardon Miller, to come out here with his pickup truck and a couple boards to pick up these wheelchairs.” He looked at Barbara. “Are there phones in the Brethren Settlement?”
“There is a phone hut next to the Heydenbluths’ house. They can hear it.”
Herr Miller looked surprised.
“The Heydenbluths listen for the telephone. The Meisners keep an empty room for new arrivals. Others help in other ways.”
“Fourth call, to the Brethren Settlement. Fräulein Kellarmännin and I will be over there, questioning Herr Ritz.” Herr Miller looked at Robert Piatt. “You’re next. It’d be a good time to turn state’s evidence.”
Barbara heard tires squeal as a motor vehicle barreled around the corner and screeched to a stop in front of the gate. A man and a woman jumped out and ran through the complicated entryway. The woman ran up to Alicia and embraced her while the man took a moment to gauge the situation. He hugged his daughter and then turned to his old principal.
“You never called me that before. You always called me Clyde.”
There was something of a challenge in his words, Barbara decided. He was scared for his daughter, but, unless she was very mistaken, suppressing his temper.
“I figure an adult can decide what he wants to be called,” Herr Miller returned. “Let me fill you in. . . .” That took a few minutes.
“I am going to beat the crap out of these two.” Herr Rice’s self-control was obviously fraying.
“Do you think you could refrain from doing that if they told us everyone else who is involved?” Herr Miller asked. “And turned them over to their parents or guardians?”
“You didn’t like it when I went after the Acton cousins or Nash Collins, either,” Herr Rice reminded him. “You called the cops on me.”
“Had no choice,” Herr Miller returned. “You’d already graduated and came back on school grounds to beat on some students. Very effectively, I might add.”
Herr Rice grinned. “Tommy Ray Acton can fight. I’ll give him that. The other two were all talk, though.” Barbara watched his expression change. “You say Acton Burchard is involved? Seems like punk runs in families.”
“I think that’s what they said about ‘witch,’ ” Barbara returned.
Herr Rice turned interesting colors, exhaled loudly, and said, “Point taken. All right, Burchard is a punk all by his own self.” He peered at Herr Miller. “I bet you have a plan.”
Herr Miller jerked a thumb at Robert Piatt and Andreas Ritz. “These two walk into Mr. Saluzzo’s office tomorrow morning and tell him what’s been going on. Fräulein Kellarmännin makes sure the Brethren know the score before school, and they make sure no one harasses Alicia. You know Vic Saluzzo will try to do that, too, but a principal can’t see and hear everything that gets said in a school.”
“Huh. Seems like you always knew what we were up to,” Herr Rice grumbled. “All right. We can try it your way.” He turned to his daughter. “But I’m going to drive Alicia to school in the morning and talk to Vic Saluzzo. And, Alicia, call me if they don’t leave you alone.”
Alicia nodded. “Dad, Mom, Barbara and Mr. Miller came to rescue me.”
Herr Rice nodded. “Yeah, they did.”
He shook both their hands. It took some planning to get everyone back to Grantville.
Herr Rice insisted on driving Barbara home. “Least I can do,” he said.
When the pickup pulled up in front of the Kellarmanns’ house, Herr Rice let out a surprised-sounding “Huh!” Light spilled out the windows, revealing a lot of people inside.
The door was thrown open before they were even out of the truck, and a woman ran outside.
“Mutter!” Barbara exclaimed. Her mother crushed her in an embrace.
“Moms,” Alicia muttered. But she was grinning at her own mother when she said it.
Barbara saw Kat and Marta waiting for her.
“You called a prayer meeting?”
Her friends shrugged. “When you weren’t home by six o’clock, we called Nona. She said you were looking for Alicia and had help. We prayed, and a majority thought we should not call the polizei.” Kat looked really concerned.
“That was probably the right decision.” Barbara spoke slowly. “We need to talk this through.”
“But come in! Come inside!” her mother urged. “You, too,” she told the Rices. “Thank you for bringing our daughter home.”
“She brought our daughter home,” Herr Rice said. “I’m not a religious man myself, but I appreciate the prayer meeting. For what it’s worth, I think you’re right about not calling the police. Some things . . . you and your friends just gotta take care of ’em, y’know?”
One of the older men nodded. “Gelassenheit.”
Herr Rice blinked. “Bless you?”
“One of our guiding principles,” the man explained. “Openness to martyrdom.”
“Not exactly what I had in mind,” Herr Rice returned.
“We have . . . differences . . . about that ourselves,” Marta’s brother Joseph Engelsberg noted.
Wulff Thiessen stepped forward. “Jimmy Dick and his friends protect us on Sundays when we go to Rudolstadt to worship. It is our turn to protect someone. Alicia.”
An interesting mix of Brethren and up-time attitudes, Barbara mused. She frowned as something else occurred to her. And a mix of up-time and down-time social attitudes on the other side, too . . .
Barbara spoke before any of the elders did. “Witch hunting, persecuting us, persecuting the Jews . . . it is all the same. Persecution is persecution. Two of those who made Alicia go to the mine disaster memorials were captured, but the others will continue to harass her tomorrow. We should stand against that.”
“Can’t say as I like the idea of Alicia—and the rest of you—standing there and taking it,” Herr Rice said. “Sounds like a good way to get hurt.”
“It will be a combination of gelassenheit and the knowledge that the harassers have already overextended themselves,” Barbara told him. “Herr Rice . . . “
“Call me Honcho.”
“Herr Honcho, your principal Herr Miller was telling me about World War Two. Classmates from two or three different cliques already believe Midway Island is out of fresh water. It would not be right to not correct them.”
“This I gotta hear.”
After Midnight, Tuesday, May 1
Honcho Rice was driving home. His wife Bettina was in the passenger seat, and his daughter Alicia was between them. He slowed to negotiate a curve as they came down the mountain.
“Interesting people,” Honcho stated. “Kinda naïve, but I like ’em.”
“I’m really sorry,” Alicia spoke up. “I didn’t mean to cause all this trouble.”
“Doesn’t sound like you caused any of it,” her father rumbled.
“I know you don’t like it when people talk about witches, Mom,” Alicia said. “Even back up-time.”
Her mother sighed. “Honey, you don’t have to try to protect me. What happened to you today is a lot like what happened to me when I was your age. Some kids found out Rebecca Gordon was my great, great-grandmother and gave me a really hard time about it. Sylvia Hilton and your dad were the only ones who stuck up for me.”
Alicia put her arm around her mother. “I’m sorry they did that to you, Mom. What did you do?”
Her mom hugged her back. “I kinda rebelled. Started going to the Methodist church with Sylvia so I could go up to Summit Church and see Great-great-grandma Rebecca’s grave. Your Grandma Davidson and I . . . had some issues for a while. We’re fine now,” she added hastily.
“So what happened?”
“Well, my parents thought I should just ignore it all. It just got worse and worse until your father stepped in.”
“Ah,” Alicia said. “So that’s what you and Mr. Miller were talking about, huh, Dad?”
“Yep. If it gets bad tomorrow, Alicia, call me, and I’ll come right over,” her father promised.
Calvert High School
7:35 AM, Tuesday, May 1, 1635
Alicia got off the bus in front of the high school and saw that her friends were waiting for her.
“Thanks,” she said.
Nona hugged her. “I was worried,” she whispered.
“You guys rock,” Alicia told them.
“If we touch our caps, we see trouble coming,” Marta told them.
She and Kat headed for the main doors, slapping the poles supporting the awning over those doors. Students had taken to smacking those poles as soon as they were put back in place after the Croat Raid. The student consensus was that pacifists were exempt.
“That’s kinda ominous,” Alicia said very carefully.
On her right, Barbara slapped the nearest pole and grinned at her. A few seconds later, the pole practically rang as the Anabaptist boys hit it one after the other.
They’d just past the offices when Alicia heard the taunt, “Hey, here comes the witch!”
“Veronica von Hagen,” Barbara whispered.
They turned down the next hall and passed Wilhelm Greiner.
“How were the woods?”
Barbara risked a quick look over her shoulder. Wilhelm had quite the malicious grin on his face. More importantly, Joseph Engelsberg, Georg Meisner, Wulff Thiessen, Hans Klaassen, and Jakob Ewert were back there.
They were almost to Alicia’s locker when up ahead, Marta adjusted her white cap. Alicia saw why. Some of the varsity cheerleaders were approaching. She saw Veronica von Hagen again, Gertrude Wandsleb, Mikayla Tito—and Lisa Hilton.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the witch.” The words came in English.
Alicia cringed. She’d missed Michelle Carson in the bustle of students.
“Cast any spells lately?”
“That is not nice,” Barbara told her, also in English.
“You Anabaptist brats ought to stay out of this,” Michelle told her.
“Nein. We have decided not to.” That was unmistakably Jakob Ewert’s voice, for a wonder not sounding the least bit flippant.
The Anabaptist boys passed Alicia and formed a line between her and Michelle.
“Oh, look who has lackeys!” That was Gertrude. “Did you put a spell on them?”
“That is enough,” Joe Engelsberg told her.
“What are you going to do?”
“I heard she signed the devil’s book!”
“No, I didn’t!” Alicia retorted before she could stop herself. Great, Alicia thought. Just who we need. Catharina Elisabeth von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen.
“I say you’re a witch. In league . . .”
” ‘I saw Goody Proctor with the devil!’ ” Melody Reardon whirled around from where she’d been getting books out of her locker. Her eyes flashed. She’d delivered the quotation in English but now switched to Amideutsch. “That’s what you sound like. You sound like Salem. You know better, Michelle. Once they run off the Anabaptists, how long do you think it would take them to come after Baptists like you?”
She strode over. “This ends now. No more made-up accusations. No more bullying.”
Every student within fifty feet stopped what he or she was doing and watched.
“Get out of our way,” Michelle Carson snapped.
“Nope.” Melody crossed her arms.
“Yeah, we’re going to teach the witch a lesson.” Wilhelm Greiner and Acton Burchard pushed through the crowd.
“This is what happens to—” Sibylle began.
“Shut. Up.” Lisa Hilton’s voice carried a note of authority. “Cheerleaders had better not be bullying anyone.”
“There are three of us—”
Mikayla Tito—all five-foot nothing and ninety-five pounds of her—swung around. “No, there are two of you, who better start listening to the captain.”
Bob Davidson stepped in front of Wilhelm Greiner. “It sounds like you have a problem with my family.”
“Nein, just with the witch Alicia . . .”
“I don’t think you understand,” Bob said. “You know Rebecca Gordon’s daughter married a Davidson, right? They had twelve kids. There are a lot of Davidson descendants around Grantville. You pick on one of us, you pick on all of us.”
Alicia saw Wilhelm’s eyes darted around, probably trying to figure out if there were more Davidsons nearby. Well, that left just two. . . .
First bell rang—and nobody moved.
“There are only about two thousand up-timers left in Grantville.” That statement, in Hochdeutsch, was skillfully timed for the seconds of silence that tended to follow any bell. Catharina Elisabeth von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen continued. “And over twenty thousand down-timers. Under your own system, you are outvoted. We are in charge now.” She had a very triumphant expression on her face.
“You do not understand.” Amalia Ramsenthalerin stepped forward. “Grantville is not two thousand English-speaking up-timers with their customs and twenty thousand German-speaking down-timers with our customs. It is twenty-two thousand new-timers, mixing traditions like we mix Amideutsch. Most of us like this. That is why we come to Grantville.”
Catharina Elisabeth sniffed. “You are nothing but one of my uncle’s subjects. When I tell him . . .”
“Nein, she is a citizen who lives in Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt County,” Nicolaus Specht corrected. He was one of the JROTC officers. Alicia thought his rank might be cadet captain. “So am I. And tell your uncle what? That after he ordered that the Anabaptists be left alone, that after Buster Beasley died defending the Jews, you are going to make accusations of witchcraft? Nein. Grantville. Freedom. All are created equal—and you better treat them that way.”
“Yes,” Melody Reardon agreed.
“Ja,” little Rahel Klaassenin spoke up.
Amalia Ramsenthalerin darted a look at Alicia. “Yap.”
“Yap.” Hans Brendel stepped forward.
“Yap.” That was Anna Keime.
Other students were stepping forward. “Yap.” “Yap.” “Ken.” “Ja.” “Yap.” Robin Kerns. Cadets. Cheerleaders.
Alicia watched the color drain from Catharina Elisabeth’s face. She glanced at Barbara and saw her friend open her mouth. Alicia knew she was about to say something conciliatory.
“Shut up! You bunch of suck-up, goody two-shoes, circling up around that bitch because her feelings got hurt.” Acton Burchard strode forward. “Got your friends to protect you, huh? Some protection!” Acton shoved Hans Klaassen and sent him reeling.
Kurt Washaw tried to warn Acton. “Dude, you’re gonna to get your ass kicked by the Amish.”
Acton shoved Jakob Ewert aside and tried to lunge through the gap. Wulff Thiessen stepped in front of him. They made contact, and Acton Burchard swung.
Wulff swept the blow aside with the outside of his left forearm and buried a hard right in Acton’s gut. He made two quick left jabs to Acton’s jaw. With his left arm already high in the air from the block, the punches were awkward and didn’t carry enough force to actually hurt Acton.
But they certainly carried enough to enrage him. Acton swung a wild right. Wulff ducked and took the blow in the forehead. Then he delivered a right hook to Acton’s kidney.
Acton swore and charged in. Students scattered as Wulff swung him into the lockers, following up with another shot to the body. Acton grappled, and Wulff made no effort to avoid that. Seconds later, the two of them toppled to the floor.
Alicia froze in shock and horror until Barbara tugged on her arm. “Back up,” her friend urged her. “Just so you do not get kicked while they are flailing about.”
Acton came out of the fall half-atop Wulff. Wulff took a couple hard punches to the face, but shrimped to his right. He kicked his right leg free and up in the air as Acton bloodied his nose with a plunging right. He bent his knee around the back of Acton’s neck, pulled his ankle close, and bent his left knee around his right ankle to keep it there. Acton delivered another punch, but it was clumsy and from close range. This time Wulff caught his arm and dragged it to his own right—Acton’s left, pressing it against Acton’s neck to complete the triangle strangle.
Acton tried to rear up, and Alicia didn’t need Barbara’s observational skill to read the surprise and panic in his face. Wulff held Acton’s right arm in place with his own left—which left Wulff’s right unobstructed. He swung a right hook into Acton’s ear, then another. Acton tried to block with his left, so Wulff punched him in the arm for a while.
Acton Burchard suddenly slumped. Wulff shoved him off and got to his feet. Alicia ran over to him.
“Are you okay? Silly question. Of course you’re not. Tip your head back.”
A student gently eased her aside and pressed a bandage—a strip of cloth, really—to Wulff’s nose. Alicia recognized Lissa Mobley, a senior who was going into the nursing program. She looked around and saw another student, a budding EMT, checking Acton.
“Are you awake? What is your name?”
“Where are you? Count backwards from twenty-one by fours.”
“Clear out.” Nicolaus Sprecht’s voice carried pretty well. Alicia was shocked to see most of her fellow students disperse.
“Du bist okay?” Nicolaus asked Wulff.
Alicia rolled her eyes. He obviously wasn’t. He winced as second bell rang.
Nicolaus smiled in satisfaction. “Acton is not answering the bell, so that is a knockout, yap? I thought you probably wanted to take him out yourself,” he continued.
Wulff started to nod, but gave it up immediately. “Yap.”
“Think you can make it to the nurse’s office?”
“Ich werde bring him dort,” Alicia said. She put an arm around Wulff’s waist to steady him.
On their way down the hall, she said, “I remember what you said last night. About protecting me.”
“Yap,” Wulff acknowledged. “I do not like them threatening you.”
Dich, you, accusative, singular, familiar, her mind cataloged. You really are a language nerd, aren’t you, Alicia? Still, he could have said Sie. Does he mean . . . ?
Alicia chose her words with care. “I do not like them threatening anyone, either.”
“I do not like them threatening you.” This time Wulff changed the last word to the English.
“Some students bullied my mother about the Summit Witch when she was in high school,” she said, still very carefully. “My father and Lisa’s mother stuck up for her.”
Wulff grinned at her. “Maybe dinner und a movie before they call the banns?”
Alicia giggled. “Sorry. I did not mean . . .”
“What happened to you, Wulff?” Mr. Thomas paused, and when Wulff didn’t answer, he remarked, “In my experience, bloody noses in high school tend to come from fights. Usually at least fifty students are circled up around it watching, but somebody goes and gets a teacher.” Another pause. “I’ll ask Herr Kolb and Mr. Saluzzo to drop by the nurse’s office.”
Alicia finally made it through the lunch line, paid, and waited for Wulff Thiessen. It wasn’t fair that Mr. Saluzzo had suspended both Wulff and Acton for the next three days. She wanted to kick something—maybe a few cafeteria chairs.
But she had a pretty good idea that this was one of those times she should be ladylike, so instead she turned to Wulff and asked, “Would you like to sit with us girls?”
“Sure,” Wulff said. At least at Calvert High School, that English word had entered Amideutsch.
Alicia sat down next to Nona, and Wulff sat across from her, which put him next to Marta.
“It’s not fair that you’re suspended,” Alicia stated.
“I knew what would happen,” Wulff said.
“Gelassenheit for you Schwertler Täufer?” Marta smiled.
“What?” Nona asked.
“Oh, right, you were not there. I asked if accepting a suspension is the sword-bearing Anabaptists’ version of openness to martyrdom.” She turned to Wulff. “I am not trying to give you a hard time.”
“Be sure I will raise that possibility with my parents.” Wulff sounded just a bit rueful.
“My dad will tell them you did the right thing since it is exactly what he did when people were picking on my mother about the Summit Witch,” Alicia said.
“Excuse me? May I sit here?”
Alicia looked up to see Amalia Ramsenthalerin. “Of course. You were great this morning. Thank you. I really appreciate it.”
Amalia flushed. She sat down and toyed with her food. “Nein, I was not. I let them scare me away from you with their talk about the witch. I am sorry, Alicia.”
“If you hadn’t, I would have told you to stay away from me.” Alicia indicated the other girls at the table. “Like I told them. They don’t listen very well, though—especially that one,” she added, pointing as Barbara approached.
Barbara cut in. “Do you still have the note? Perhaps Herr Principal Saluzzo . . .”
Wulff laughed. “Oh, Acton and I were not the only students suspended. Robert Piatt, Wilhelm Greiner, Andreas Ritz, Catharina Elisabeth von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Michelle Carson, Gertrude Wandsleb, and Veronica von Hagen.”
Alicia was making her way to the language wing for the Bibelgesellschaft meeting—slowly, because quite a few students stopped her to offer their support.
“Alicia! Komm’ schnell!” George Hunsaker shouted. “Outside!”
“Why?” Alicia called back.
George grinned. “Some parents are mad about what happened this morning.”
“I do not think this is a good idea,” Kat ventured. Nevertheless, when Alicia turned toward the doors, Kat, Nona, Barbara, and Marta circled up around her.
Outside, a small group of adults were loudly giving Mr. Saluzzo what for. He appeared to be listening attentively, but Herr Kolb, Coach Samuels, and Mr. Thomas were standing a step or two back. Kolb and Samuels had their arms crossed and did not look happy. Dwight Thomas had his hands on his hips—which wasn’t very far at all from his holster.
“There she is now!” A woman pointed at Alicia. Alicia recognized Frau Hawkins, Michelle Carson’s mother. “She’s the one! She’s been telling lies about my daughter!”
“And about my nephew!”
“Who is that?” Barbara asked.
“That’s Bob Acton,” Lisa Hilton said as she joined the other girls.
“You can’t blame this on Acton!” the man insisted. “His father is out at Mehlis. Won’t be back ’til the weekend. You can’t just say it’s his fault.”
“Yes, I can, Bob,” Mr. Saluzzo explained. “Acton was part of the group that lured Alicia Rice out to the mine disaster memorials last night. That was all planned out on school grounds, during school. This morning, there was a fight. Acton swung first. I have talked to him about this before. Three-day suspension. It is not the fault of the person who was being picked on.”
Another man in the group spoke up. Shouted, really. “See, what did I tell you, Vic? You can’t trust any these Germans. Nazis, all of ’em.”
Alicia started, but Barbara’s hand closed on her wrist. “Wait,” she whispered. “Look who is coming.”
Alicia stifled a giggle when she saw the two battery-powered wheelchairs.
Frederick Miller nodded his greetings. “Girls. Nicole. Vic. Bob. Chauncey. Couldn’t help but hear you, Chauncey. Lay off the Nazi business. I was there. You weren’t. At the end they were throwing brainwashed teenagers at us. These folks aren’t like that at all.”
Chauncey Monroe pointed right at Amalia. “She is leading our boys astray.”
“What does she have to do with any of this?” Mr. Miller asked. He dropped into Amideutsch. “My apologies, Miss. I have no idea who you are.”
“Ich bin Amalia Ramsenthalerin.”
“Acton was trying to hit on her,” Barbara stated, “thinking he was hitting on Alicia. They dressed alike for Twin Day.”
“I guess in this new world, it’s easy to confuse up-timers and down-timers,” Miller offered.
Barbara flashed him the V-for-victory sign.
“Your nephew, Bob, was bullying an up-time girl,” Mr. Miller continued. “Did he learn that from you?”
“Now just a minute! You can’t—”
“I can’t what, Bob?” Mr. Miller snapped.
“Oh? Why’d I suspend you back in ’77? I seem to recall you were bullying Bettina Simmons and got your butt kicked.” Miller’s innocent tone fooled no one. “Did history just repeat itself?”
“I’m calling the cops!” Mrs. Hawkins announced.
“Do it,” Mr. Miller challenged. He turned to the man in the other battery-powered wheelchair. “Jacob, have your radio people call Honcho Rice, bitte.”
“You can’t do that!” Bob Acton shouted. He whirled back to Vic Saluzzo. “Tell him he can’t do that! That’s how Honcho got arrested last time.”
“I know. I called them myself,” Mr. Miller stated. “Principal Saluzzo, are non-students allowed on campus during school hours now?”
Vic Saluzzo’s voice was iron. “Yes, Principal Miller, they are.”
“What is that ridiculous contraption?” Chauncey Monroe demanded. He gestured toward Jacob Weyh’s wheelchair.
A down-time-style writing desk fit snugly across Weyh’s leg. His portable radio sat atop it, and Weyh was already working the key.
“That,” Mr. Miller told him, “is the communications ship.” He flipped a hinged metal arm up from a clamp on his own wheelchair. Then he turned and pulled the long, thin bag leaning against the side of the little cargo shelf in the back of the wheelchair. In a matter of seconds, he’d extracted his rifle and clamped it to the end of the arm. “And this is the gunship.”
“That’s crazy!” Chauncey Monroe declared. “You can’t have weapons on school property!”
No one laughed harder than the teachers standing behind Mr. Saluzzo.
“Things change,” Mr. Saluzzo stated. “New time, new country, new language in the halls. Their traditions and ours. But, I would remind you, just a few years ago, being accused of witchcraft was enough to get people burned at the stake. It still is, in some places outside the USE. So Calvert High School will treat an accusation of witchcraft as a threat to do bodily harm. Is that clear?” He waited half a beat. “I asked if That. Is. Clear.”
Heads were nodding before Mr. Saluzzo was done speaking.
Alicia’s head was still spinning. Students were still coming to her to offer their support.
“They’re going to miss the buses,” she muttered.
“Nein,” Barbara told her. “Did you not see Herr Vice Principal Kolb hold the buses?”
Nobody had actually called the police, but Herr Weyh and his radio friends certainly had gotten a message to her father—her parents had pulled up a couple minutes ago and were talking to Mr. Saluzzo.
Something dawned on Alicia. “Barbara? How is it that Mr. Saluzzo, Mr. Kolb, and extra teachers were out by the buses? And Mr. Miller made a dramatic entrance? And my dad just happened to be minutes away with my mom already in the truck?” She smiled at her friend. “It wouldn’t have anything to do with why you were even later to lunch than I was, would it?”
Barbara smiled back. “Herr Miller told me that ‘all the best fights happen after school.’ After this morning, it seemed like we should be prepared.”
Alicia’s mother came over. “Alicia?”
“I’m fine, Mom. And I think it’s over.”
“The way I saw Bob Acton slink away just now? Yeah, I think you’re right.” Her mother studied her carefully. “I hear a lot of students stood up for you.”
“Yap. I have some really great friends. It was . . . pretty awesome, Mom.”
Bettina Rice nodded. “You do.” She addressed the girls. “Thank you, all of you.” Then: “And there’s a young man who got suspended? One of those boys we met last night?”
Most of the girls giggled.
“Mo-o-om, honestly.” Alicia gestured to first one of the other girls, then another. “I’ve told you Marta’s brother Joe likes Kat.”
“So it was the very determined one who kinda reminds me of your dad?”
Barbara indicated herself, Kat, and Marta. “We are all staff-bearing Brethren—pacifists. Wulff is a sword-bearing Brethren. But we approve.”
“Me, too,” Lisa Hilton chimed in. “He’s kind of a hunk, Alicia.”
“So he’s suspended the rest of the week?”
“Yap. Mr. Saluzzo assigned him a paper on what he calls ‘proper conflict resolution.’ “
“Yap. Wulff already asked Kat’s brother Georg if he could go to the police station with him tomorrow. Georg works in forensics. Wulff said he’d ask one of the officers about conflict resolution and then see if he could do a ride-along. He said if they had reasonable ideas about conflict resolution maybe he’d think about becoming the first Anabaptist cop.”
Honcho Rice joined his wife and daughter.
“What do you think, honey? Alicia’s young man might want to be a police officer.”
Honcho Rice broke up laughing. “It figures. He already knows how to punch the right guy. You Simmons women don’t know how to do rebellion. You went to church. Alicia likes a guy who wants to be a cop.”
Bettina poked him in the ribs.
“Yeah, yeah, we probably ought to invite him and his folks over for dinner. That okay, sweetheart?”
Alicia nodded enthusiastically.
After hearing the story of the Highland Witch from the staff of the Mannington Public Library, I drove up the mountain to see Highland Church. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. I used the GEDCOM viewer at Rainer Prem’s website to search back through the character Alicia Rice’s family tree. The data behind the Up-timer Grid takes one branch of her family back seven generations. Another branch contained Will Hamilton and Rebecca Gordon. With the exception of me assigning “the Summit Witch” legend to Rebecca Gordon, all other family details are straight from the grid data.
Outside the Mannington police station is a monument to Chief Amos Morris, who was killed February 28, 1959 as described in the story. The student’s account of the murders of Mared Malarik and Karen Ferrell is accurate, although controversies associated with the investigation were left out for the sake of brevity.