Early April, 1634
Dusk came early that evening with a light, intermittent rain. Four, in the shadows, watched the old man walking down the alley. He used a cane and wore a wide-brimmed hat and a long coat of some heavy cloth that shed the rain like feathers off a waterfowl. He was softly singing to himself.
Compared to the watchers, he was richly dressed and easy prey for those in need. A short run, a shove, some blows, sift his pockets, and take his purse and that coat. A knife would be the finish. They were four to his one. It would be easy.
The old man stopped and appeared to listen. Had they given themselves away? He left the alley and stepped towards the entrance of a shop—a well-lit shop.
He was getting away! Run! Catch him!
The old man thought he heard someone behind him. His leg ached with every step. His destination, a cabinet shop, was just a few yards away, across the cobblestoned street and two doorways down, when he heard a splash. Someone had stepped into a puddle. He turned to look back behind him, back down the alley where he had walked a few moments before.
Four men were running towards him not more than fifteen yards away. Two of the men had knives in their hands; the others had bludgeons or some sort of metal-shod truncheon. Their intent was obvious. He completed the turn, dropping the cane and sweeping back the oilskin coat that uncovered the up-time pistol that had been holstered at his waist.
As the coat flipped away from his belt, he drew the pistol. When the sights leveled on the nearest attacker, he fired. The sound was loud and distinctly different from the boom of a down-time weapon. It echoed, the sound reflecting off the nearby buildings. He shifted his aim slightly and fired again . . . and again . . . and again.
The last attacker staggered, tripped, and fell only a few feet away. His knife skittered across the cobblestones as he slid to a stop at Archie Mitchell’s feet. Archie remained in a slightly crouched stance, pistol sights sweeping from side to side searching for any further threats. There were none. He heard nothing other than the ringing in his ears from the reports of the pistol.
Archie stepped forward, ready for any movement, and checked the bodies. Young men, he thought, out for an evening’s fun, mayhem and profit. Or . . . mercenaries, perhaps? They were not as young as he thought at first glance. They were well-muscled and well-fed. No, they were not ordinary cutpurses. He kicked the knives and bludgeons away from the bodies in case one was shamming.
He scanned the surrounding buildings. Some were dark, abandoned, not uncommon in this part of Suhl. No faces peered from windows; no lights appeared in darkened rooms, no sound of someone running to investigate the shots in the night. Curious. And where is the watch?
Archie looked at the bodies. They had sought a victim and had found something else. He replaced the half-empty magazine in his pistol with a fresh one and holstered the pistol. Next, he stooped to pick up his cane, the scattered fired brass, and then, grunting softly, he straightened and placed the spent brass in a pocket. With cane in hand, he continued towards his destination where Heinrich Buch was waiting. Someone there could fetch the watch. As he walked, he resumed singing softly, “St. James Infirmary,” alert for others who might wish to interrupt his walk. He did not notice that his leg no longer ached.
Friedrich Achen watched silently from the shadows. Frustrated, he stepped back further into the darkness and slipped quietly away.
Early March, 1634
Judge Riddle sat behind his office desk. Harley Thomas, Dieter Issler, and Max Huffman were present, seated in well-padded side chairs. Archie Mitchell, however, was late.
Harley, Max, and Archie had been discharged from the Army just three hours previously. An hour before, with their families watching, Judge Riddle had sworn Max, Harley and Archie in as new SoTF marshals and Dieter as a SoTF deputy marshal.
The day was bright with a light southern breeze that brought a warming hint of spring. The warmth was a welcome break to the cold of winter and had melted the season’s last snow. Vina Thomas and Greta Issler had decided to hold the ceremony on the Thomases’ front lawn followed by a small reception. They prepared a selection of light pastries accompanied by a punch made from apple cider and ice cream. Frank Jackson had provided some unknown punch ingredient of approximately 100 proof. The new officers had been sworn in using the Issler family Bible, an enormous book that appeared to be old enough to have been printed by Gutenberg.
The marshals and deputy were now in Judge Riddle’s office. Everyone was present except Archie Mitchell. Judge Riddle was about to ask Harley if he knew where Archie was when he heard footsteps in the hallway—footsteps that included the tinkle of jingle-bob spurs. The door opened and Archie Mitchell stepped into the office.
“Good God Almighty!” the judge exclaimed. “What the hell is that?”
Archie walked into the room and said, “Sorry I’m late.” He wore Tony Lama boots with spurs, dark brown canvas pants, and a white shirt with an accompanying black string tie. Over the shirt was a five-button leather vest; on his head was a light gray Stetson hat. Around his waist was a wide leather belt and holster on the right containing a Colt single-action .45 caliber revolver and a second pistol, in a cross-draw configuration, on his left-front side. The pistol belt contained a number of large, fat cartridges in leather loops. He carried an oilskin coat called a duster over one arm. The other hand held a cane.
Judge Riddle glanced at Max and Harley. Max’s face was turning red and his shoulders were shaking. Harley was not as constrained and was openly laughing—loudly.
Archie stepped up to the desk. “Since you’ve made me a marshal, I thought I’d wear my marshal’s uniform.”
Max spoke up, “That’s Archie’s SASS costume. He was a member of the Single Action Shooting Society up-time. They dressed up like that.”
Riddle looked at Archie, his face turning red in anger. “Be very glad I’m not in court. If I were, you’d be looking at five days for contempt.” He was not sure if he was being mocked or not. He needed this character, so he decided to overlook this affront to his dignity.
Archie’s look of surprise and hurt finally convinced Judge Riddle that Archie’s intent was innocent. Well, maybe not innocent, but at least not contemptible.
“Sit down, Archie, and don’t try my patience.”
After a moment to collect his thoughts, Judge Riddle said, “I have your badges here. I asked Morris Roth to design and make them. My initial thought was to make them from some silver dollars I had collected, but Morris convinced me that would only attract thieves. Morris got together with Ollie Reardon and made these. Ollie had some stainless steel and brass stock left over from some job. Morris designed these badges. I had in mind something like the Texas Ranger badge, a five-pointed star inside a circle. Morris had other ideas. He likes six-pointed stars.” He gave a slight grin.
“Dieter, come here,” said the judge. “This is your badge. As a deputy, your badge is entirely stainless steel. Morris stamped your name, today’s date, and the serial number on the back. Your badge is number four.” Dieter stepped up, and Judge Riddle pinned the badge on Dieter’s shirt.
“Max, Harley, and you, Archie, stand up,” he said again. “The marshal’s badge, like Dieter’s, is made of stainless steel. The difference is that the points are brass-plated leaving the center as polished stainless steel. You are all equals as Marshals so we decided to assign the serial numbers in alphabetical order. Max, you have serial number one. Archie, you’re number two, and Harley is number three. Wear them in good health.”
He pinned the badges to the three new marshals and motioned them to sit down. “After much discussion with the other judges, Mike and Rebecca, Ed, and Frank, we decided to initially assign each of you marshals to some specific tasks as we build the larger service. Max, Doc Nichols doesn’t want you to do much fieldwork for awhile. Since you were a first sergeant in the US Army, we believe you would be ideal as the executive officer of the Marshal’s service. Harley, we thought the best area for you would be the marshal in charge of training since you did most of the tactical training for the old Marion County Sheriff . . . among other duties yet to be assigned. You’ll be in the field, too. Since you hurt your knee again you’re on leave until Doc Adams clears you for full duty.”
Judge Riddle paused for a moment, looking at Archie and shaking his head slightly. “Archie, we had thought that you would be the best for the marshal in charge of field operations. I’m having some second thoughts after seeing you in that outfit, but the decision has been made. Don’t disappoint me.”
“Uhhh, yes . . . I mean no, Judge, I won’t.” Perhaps, Archie thought, dressing up wasn’t such a good idea.
“By the way, how’s the leg?”
“Well, for the most part, it’s healed. Doc Nichols is being cautious, I think, but he said it will get better if I continue with the PT.” Archie had been wounded in the leg the previous spring, and the wound had gotten infected, laying him up for months. The infection had caused some permanent muscle damage to his thigh and hip, hence the cane. He no longer needed it but he had become attached to the cane. It was made of hickory with molded alloy ball on one end and a steel cap on the other. It could be handy at times, he had decided—a knobknocker his grandfather would have called it.
Nodding to Archie, Riddle agreed, “That’s what Doc Nichols told me; you’ve been released for duty.”
Judge Riddle continued, “Max, for the time being, I want you to set up an office down the hall. The first task is to build a table of organization and equipment. All of us will be involved in that. One of the first tasks will be recruitment.”
Turning to Harley and Archie, he said, “Harley . . . don’t go hurting that knee again! I know he deserved it but next time, get someone else to kick the SOB in the ass.”
Judge Riddle paused and looked at Dieter. “You are the only deputy marshal available, at the moment, to take cases. Fortunately for us, everything’s quiet at the moment.”
Riddle looked at the quartet again before he continued. “Archie, I would like you and Dieter to go to Suhl and find a suitable place for a court. Suhl has been a thorn in our sides since last year so we think one of the first courts should be there—establishing a presence of law and order so to speak.”
“The district court system is still being designed, how many courts, how many judges, their area of responsibility, all that. The current plan is each court will have a presiding judge who’s in charge and two or three associate judges to help and take cases. You’ll need to keep that in mind when you look for a courthouse. We’re planning to place a troop of Mounted Constabulary there as well but that’s not your concern once they’re in place. They’ll use the old Swedish garrison barracks. It’s been turned over to us. Check it out when you get there, hire some people to clean it up and make any needed repairs. See if there is a site nearby for the court.”
“How many constables will be in the troop?”
“Here is a copy of the proposed table of organization. It’s still subject to change. Officially, it will be the 1st Mounted Constabulary Troop when it’s all said and done.”
Archie read the document. A captain, a sergeant, and ten constables, plus a saddler, farrier, blacksmith, medic, radio operator, and file clerk.
“Some of the headquarters folks, like the blacksmith, farrier, and saddler may be local people hired to fill just those functions,” Riddle continued. “I would like you to spend some time with my son, Martin. He will go over everything in detail to answer any questions you may have. Do you think you could leave Monday for Suhl? That will give you nearly a week to get ready for the trip. We’ll hire a bailiff to take over the admin for the court in May.”
“Yes, Sir,” Archie replied. “Monday will be fine. Dieter?”
“That is fine with me, too.”
“Well, that’s it, everyone. Any questions? If not, then the meeting’s over.”
Late April, 1634
The sky was slightly overcast as Dieter rode up to Archie’s home trailing a packhorse. In front of the house was a light wagon with a horse already hitched and another horse tied to the rear. In the back of the wagon were a saddle, worn and cracked, saddlebags, and two of Archie’s old footlockers. Marjorie Mitchell was standing on their porch giving Archie a kiss and hug. They had been married over forty years and weren’t used to being apart.
It was time to leave. “Bye, Marj. See you in a month?”
” ‘Bout that, I think. Be careful, Arch.”
Archie nodded and carefully stepped down his front steps using his cane to support his weakened leg and carried his lever-action Winchester rifle in his other hand.
“Where did you get this wagon, Archie? I’ve not seen one like this before.”
“I had it built in Saalfeld last year. It’s called a buckboard. The wainwright built it from some pictures I had. A hundred years ago, Grantville time, these wagons were as common as automobiles were in the twentieth century.”
“It doesn’t appear too sturdy.”
“It’s not designed to carry heavy freight, just people and stuff, like a small pickup truck. Plus, I can haul more stuff than using a packhorse. Doc Nichols suggested that I not ride a horse yet.”
“What are you doing with that old saddle?”
“That was my grandfather’s. He used to be a cowboy in Oklahoma before he married my grandmother. I’ve heard about a saddle maker in Suhl. I’m going to have him make me a new one based on this design. I did some horse swapping last week and got a couple of good, sturdy riding horses. This is mine,” Archie said pointing to the horse tied to the back of the wagon. “Marjorie’s old saddle fits her roan, but mine, the pinto here, needs a new saddle. My old saddle doesn’t fit.”
Dieter wasn’t too familiar with horses or saddles. He just rode whatever was available. The new horse was a mottled white and brown.
He knew Archie had owned several horses before the Ring of Fire. He’d not thought about it much. Now that he had seen the wagon, he could see how useful it could be. Maybe he should talk to Greta about a wagon and some horses? He was well paid as a deputy marshal. Perhaps they should invest some of that money.
“Dieter, why don’t you put your gear in the back of the buckboard and tie your pack horse to it. It’s forty-five miles or so, a two-day trip to Suhl. That’ll free your hands if it becomes necessary.”
Dieter did so. The packhorse was to be his spare. Both of the horses had been assigned to him with his transfer to Suhl. Everything he and Archie needed for the trip, until their wives arrived, was now carried in the wagon. He frankly stared at the footlockers and bags that Archie had loaded in the wagon.
Archie, seeing Dieter’s expression said, “One of those footlockers is full of ammo, .45 Long Colt for my Winchester ’73 and my revolvers, and .45 ACP for my two Colt Commanders.”
“I brought .45 ACP and 12-gauge double-ought, too.”
“Good, I’ve some 12-gauge, too, a mixture of double-ought and slugs. Ammo weighs a lot. That’s why I decided to take the buckboard—and I can haul enough fodder for all our horses. Grazing won’t be all that good yet this time of year. Help me get this tarp over the bed and we’ll be off.”
Archie made sure the tarp covered the wagon bed in such a way that it would drain rainwater before he climbed into the wagon. A thick pad covered the seat to provide more comfort than would just hard wood. The steel leaf springs under the seat creaked. The pad helped soften the ride but Archie wasn’t going to complain. Marjorie had made it using an old foam rubber camp mattress.
Once seated, he inserted the rifle against the front mudguard into a clip designed for that purpose next to his Winchester Model 1897 pump shotgun.
“Let’s get going.” He released the brake and snapped the reins. The wagon started off down the street. Dieter kicked his heels, caught up with the wagon and rode along side.
Marjorie watched the wagon and rider depart down the street toward Highway 250 and the road that would eventually take them to Suhl. She stood on the porch, watching, until the two turned the corner down the block and passed out of sight..
She gave a sigh. She and Greta had work to do to move two households to Suhl. Time to get busy.
Late April, 1634
Archie and Dieter arrived in Suhl in mid-afternoon. The sky had gotten darker. They had been rained upon a few times during the trip. Both wore their oilskin dusters to help shed the light rain. The string of wagons they had joined continued on towards Franconia leaving them at the gate.
After passing through the east gate, Dieter and Archie separated. Dieter proceeded to the inn where they would stay while Archie drove the wagon towards the saddler’s shop.
He guided the buckboard through the streets towards the shop of the saddlemaker, Johann Zeitts. Archie would leave the pinto with Zeitts to allow him to make sure the saddle would fit. The new saddle would cost about the equivalent of forty dollars and the old cowboy saddle, he guessed. We’ll haggle some. Archie suspected that Johann would get the better side of the deal with a template for a new style saddle. I wonder if I could get a new saddle for Marjorie if I traded that old McClellan cavalry saddle?
Johann Zeitts’ shop was located in the southern edge of town. He had started life as a cobbler. In fact, his son, Hans, still worked as a cobbler in a corner of the shop. Johann had become a saddlemaker by accident. One of the leading members of the Suhl council wanted a new saddle, and Johann had made a bid for the job.
He made saddles using techniques learned as a cobbler. His technique, using small brass nails and hand stitching, was new. Several competitors in the area were copying his methods, but Zeitts was more skilled. His business had grown and he was able to acquire a combination shop and home for his wife, married elder son Hans and younger son Christian.
Hans Zeitts saw the wagon pull up in front of the shop and walked out to welcome Archie. His father wasn’t present, he said. Hans led Archie with the wagon and horses through the gate into the fenced-in area behind the shop where a small stable was located. The stable had room for several horses, with three already present. Hans helped Archie stable and groom his pinto.
“Your wagon and horse will be safe here while you meet with my father. My younger brother Christian normally takes care of the horses and the stable, but he’s shoeing some horses at the moment. He’s a farrier and journeyman blacksmith,” Han explained.
Johann arrived just as they finished with the horses. The elder Zeitts entered the front of the shop at the same moment Archie entered from the back, followed by Hans carrying the old saddle.
“Wie Gehts, mein Herr! Guten Tag. I’m Marshal Archie Mitchell from Grantville.”
“Welcome, welcome, Herr Marshal Mitchell. I see you have arrived safely.”
Why would I have not arrived safely? There’s been no outlaws anywhere near here, Archie thought. The comment surprised him. He was under the impression that Suhl was mostly quiet and peaceful after the late unpleasantness with the gunsmiths and the CoC the previous year.
He dismissed the comment and followed Zeitts into the main workroom where Hans placed the old saddle on a wooden trestle that could be adjusted to meet the size of different horses. Johann lifted the stirrups, examined the leather fenders, skirt, cantle, and seat.
“Hmmm,” he muttered. He flipped the saddle upside down on a nearby table to see the saddle’s wooden tree visible through holes in the rotten leather. Hans rubbed his chin and hummed again.
“Ja! Now I see the differences. It is similar to some Spanish designs.”
“True,” Archie agreed. “The design evolved from saddles used by Mexican vaqueros up-time and they had Spanish ancestors. It is a working design to allow a horseman to ride comfortably all day.”
“Do you want any embellishments? Any silver?”
“No!” Archie chuckled, “I’m not rich. I just want a good working saddle . . . well, maybe a bit of leather tooling and embossing if it isn’t too expensive.”
“Very well.” Johann seemed a bit disappointed.
“When could you give me an estimate for cost and delivery?”
“Oh, yes, uhhh, tomorrow? Noon?”
“Noon, it is. I’ll be here. I’ve other business in Suhl, but I’ll make a point of being here at noon or as close to it as I can.”
“Would you be available for dinner tonight, Herr Mitchell? Our quarters are above the shop, and I would like you to meet my wife and family.”
“Thank you! I would be grateful, Herr Zeitts, but I’m not alone. Deputy Marshal Issler is with me.”
“Bring him, too. We would like to have both of you. Besides, it does me honor to host the new marshal and his deputy.”
Archie drove his buckboard back into town to the Boar’s Head Inn where Dieter waited. The State of Thuringia-Franconia had a contract with the innkeeper to house them and their horses and gear until permanent quarters could be found. The innkeeper was being exceedingly helpful. He wanted them to remain at the inn as long as he could keep them. The SoTF was paying half again his current rate. More coins in his pocket.
Whoever had made the arrangements had requested a ground floor room in light of Archie’s injury. When Archie arrived, the innkeeper led him and Dieter to an area in the back of the inn where three rooms had been reserved for them.
It’s a suite! Archie thought when he entered. The front room contained a desk, chairs, a table that could be used for conferences, a sideboard that appeared to be well stocked, and waist-high cabinets. A strong-room had been built out of a small windowless closet-like room off the main room for storage of their guns and ammo. It would also keep secure the funds that had been given to him for the purchase of the new courthouse and incidentals. Off the central room were two others made up as individual bedrooms. A door on one side of the central room led to the inn’s bath, jakes, laundry, and an exit to the inn’s stables in the rear. Someone had made an excellent choice in choosing this inn. He was surprised the innkeeper was so accommodating.
The innkeeper appeared and asked for permission to take Archie’s buckboard and horse to the rear stable. “My stableboy will feed and groom your horse, Herr Marshal Mitchell. It will be in the stall next to Herr Deputy Marshal Issler’s horse.”
“Danke, Mein Herr. I appreciate your courtesy.”
The innkeeper left.
“Nice place, Dieter,” Archie said.
“Ja. He bowed to me when I arrived. I almost thought he was going to add a von und zu to my name. I think he’s glad to see us.”
“I got the same impression from Johann Zeitts. It makes me curious. Everyone is happy to see us. It makes me wonder why.”
“Perhaps I should wander around and listen to gossip? No one would think twice about me . . . at least for the next day or so, until I become known.”
“Start tomorrow . . . and dress like you live here.” Dieter was dressed much like Archie: oilskin duster, Western-style boots, pants, shirt, leather vest, and a copy of Archie’s Stetson hat—Archie’s unofficial idea of a marshal’s uniform. “Tonight, we have dinner invitations with Johann Zeitts and his family.”
It was dusk when Archie and Dieter arrived at the Zeitts’ shop and home. Darkness came early this time of year. Johann welcomed them and introduced his wife Elizabeth, his son Hans and Hans’ wife Lena and Johann’s younger son Christian. Hans and Lena’s two children were already in bed.
Johann and Elizabeth’s ages were betrayed by their white hair but both appeared to be quite fit. Hans and Lena were in their late twenties. Christian was several years younger and had the shoulders and grip of a blacksmith. Hans was slighter than his brother although his hand was as calloused as that of the elder and younger Zeitts.
“Welcome to our home,” said Elizabeth. “We are very happy that you accepted our invitation. Follow us, please.”
She led them upstairs to the family area. It was much larger than it appeared from outside. Johann and Elizabeth had a separate room for themselves. Christian had his room, as did Hans and Lena. The rest of the upper floor was for common use by the entire family.
Dinner went well. Elizabeth and Lena had prepared a leg of mutton, roasted to a crisp, and a form of bread pudding for dessert. They had finished the dinner when, from the stables outside, they heard a scream from a horse. Everyone hurried downstairs, led by Hans and Christian who grabbed a lantern before leaving the shop. Hans saw two men in the stables with one of the horses. One had a knife in his hand.
Christian outran his older brother and yelled at the two intruders. One ran out of the stable and into the darkness. The other, the one with the knife, was slower. Christian threw the lantern at him and it hit with an audible clonk! The man stumbled, and fell to his knees.
Dieter arrived next and rolled the man over. A bloody dent in the man’s temple from the heavy brass lantern was clearly visible.
Christian ignored the other man who had disappeared in the darkness. He ran into the stable checking the horses.
“He was trying to hamstring the horses!” he called, pointing to a slash on the leg of one of the Zeitts’ horses. He soothed the shivering horse and examined the wound closely. “It’s deep, but I don’t think he cut the tendons.”
Dieter checked the other horses. “The rest appear to be all right. I don’t see any wounds.”
Archie and Johann were the last to arrive. Hans picked up the lantern and relit it. He held the lantern closely to the face of the body. He, like Christian, was shocked. Christian clearly had not intended to kill the intruder, just stop him from hurting the horses.
“You know him?” Archie asked.
“No,” replied Johann.
“Nor I,” added Hans.
Christian walked over and looked closely. “He’s one of Achen’s men. I’ve seen him around.”
“Who is Achen?” Dieter asked.
“He’s . . . well . . . I . . .” Christian was hesitant to say more.
“Friedrich Achen is . . . uh . . . a . . . he calls himself a businessman. He has, what he calls ‘a private security firm.’ You pay him a fee and he guards your home and business,” Johann said.
“If you don’t, things happen,” Christian added.
“His men came around wanting me to sign up for their protection. I refused. That is what the watch is supposed to do.” Johann said.
“Except the watch is seldom seen after dark,” said Hans.
“It isn’t seen much during the day, either,” Christian added.
Archie nodded. It was the old protection racket. He hadn’t expected to see it here, in this time, but there was no reason why it shouldn’t have occurred to someone.
“Did you report it?” Dieter asked.
“No. Why? It isn’t illegal,” Johann replied.
“It is if it includes intimidation and extortion.”
“What do we do with the body until the watch comes?” Archie asked.
“Leave him there,” Christian said. “The watch will show up eventually.”
“Okay. Be sure it’s reported in the morning if they don’t come tonight.”
Dieter Issler rose early the next morning. The sky was still gray. It was that time of morning just before dawn. He dressed as a down-timer, hiding his pistol inside his knee-length coat. His wide-brimmed hat would not draw attention. His boots were of up-time design but were unlikely to draw attention.
He left the inn and headed toward the riverside gate. That gate was not the one they had passed through yesterday. He was curious if it was manned at this time of the morning. Some cities in the SoTF had become complacent and failed to keep their gates well-guarded. As he walked, he kept an eye out for anyone about to dump their night soil. He didn’t want to get splashed.
Archie, having finished an early breakfast, had one of his Colt Commander pistols disassembled on a large cloth on the table when the innkeeper announced a visitor. “Herr Marshal, Bürgermeister Feld would like to see you.”
“Send him in,” Archie said rising to greet the burgermeister.
“Guten Tag, Herr Marshal.”
“And to you, too. I’m glad to see you. I had planned to see you later this morning but now will do. Please sit and please excuse the mess. I like to clean my weapons after they’ve gotten wet. It rained often on the way here.”
Feld glanced at the pieces of the pistol, a collection of small, finely engineered pieces of a Model 1911 pistol, one of Archie’s Colt Commanders, laid out neatly on the thick cloth. “Ruben Blumroder would like to get his hands on that.”
“He is the . . . not the guildmaster because there is no guild as such here. He’s the leader of the Suhl gunsmiths. He’s also our representative to the new legislature. He’s quite influential.”
“I wouldn’t object if he wanted to examine it. The pistol is easy to copy, the springs aside. It’s the ammunition that is difficult. How did you know I was here?”
“Word gets around. The militia guard on the east gate sent word that you had arrived. A message from Grantville said you were coming. We didn’t know when.”
“Well, it isn’t any secret. My deputy and I are here to secure a site for the new SoTF district court.”
“Yes. It will provide justice and legal services for the district—administer SoTF law. The judges will report directly to Judge Riddle, the chief justice of the SoTF Supreme Court.” Archie removed an envelope, wax-sealed with Riddle’s official court seal, from his saddle bag on the floor.. “I have a letter for you and for the city council.”
Feld took the envelope. It was addressed to him and to the Suhl council. He weighed it in his hand. It was impressive. The envelope was heavy paper. Up-time, perhaps. He looked up to see Archie watching him.
“Should I open it now?” he asked hesitantly.
“If you wish . . . as soon as you sign this receipt,” Archie replied extending a form letter and pen to Feld.
Feld looked at the receipt form as if it were a serpent. After a silent moment, he reached for the form and signed it with Archie’s pen.
“Thank you, Herr Bürgermeister. I’ve already given you a quick review of its contents,” Archie said, nodding toward the envelope in Feld’s hand.
“I suppose our . . . difficulty last year is why the court is being established here.”
“I wouldn’t know. There are difficulties in Franconia and I assume the Mounted Constabulary will be sending many patrols there.”
“They won’t stay here?” Feld said with some alarm.
“There will always be some here at headquarters, but most of the troopers will be patrolling the main roads and areas away from the larger cities.”
“We don’t have many watchmen. The militia mans the gates and the city wall.”
“That reminds me. I noticed the militia on my arrival. Who is the wachtmeister? There was an incident last night. A man tried to hamstring some horses and was killed during the commission of the crime.”
“Crime! Uh, we don’t really have much crime. Herr Heinrich Buch, one of our council members, oversees the watch and represents them, among others, in the council.”
“How many watchmen do you have?”
“I’m not sure of the actual number. Herr Buch is the de facto watchtmeister. I think they’re thirty-five or forty.”
“Well, the militia protects the city; the gunsmiths take care of their part of Suhl. The rest of Suhl is quiet. There haven’t been any complaints and the cost is expensive.”
“Suhl looks to be prosperous. You shouldn’t have any difficulty raising the funds to add more.”
“There are . . . concerns.”
Archie watched the bürgermeister sitting across from him. The situation wasn’t new. Cities always seem to shortchange their safety whether external or internal, especially when no danger was on the horizon. “Neither the SoTF Court, the Marshal’s Service nor the Constabulary is responsible for running Suhl. You are. It’s up to you and the council.”
“Yes, yes, we know. When we heard the rumor that the Mounted Constabulary was coming we thought . . .”
Archie said nothing. He was beginning to understand why he and Dieter were being welcomed so enthusiastically. “My deputy and I work for the court and answer to them. Suhl is your responsibility. I would suggest you and the city council review your needs. I believe you have some. That said, to whom should I report the incident?”
“Oh, well, Herr Buch, I suppose. We rarely have anything untoward reported.”
“Very well, I’ll pay him a visit. By the way, would you suggest someone I could see about what is available for a courthouse? The constabulary will use the former Swedish barracks.”
Feld seemed startled at that piece of information. “I’ll check with the council. One of them should know. I’ll ask them to see you.”
“Good, good. I appreciate your assistance.”
Feld glanced at Archie, looked down to the envelope still in his hand and nodded. Rising, he said, “I’ll present this to the council. Guten Tag, Herr Marshal.”
“Guten Tag, Herr Bürgermeister.”
Dieter found the riverside gate manned by a very young militiaman, an apprentice to a local gunsmith he discovered. The youngster had a blue cloth tied to his sleeve and he was watching a farmer pass through the gate in an ox-drawn cart. The gate guard was unarmed as far as Dieter could see. He was just standing at the side of the gate watching people go and come. After a brief conversation, Dieter discovered the name of the inn favored by the journeymen and master gunsmiths. It was helpful. He decided to check the barracks next. He expected them to need minor repairs being unused over the winter.
After Feld departed, Archie had some time before his appointment with Johann Zeitts. The hard wooden chair made his hip ache, and he felt tired. He hadn’t slept well. The bed here was a simple pallet on a wooden frame. He would be sixty this year and he seemed to feel every one of those years. God, I miss the twentieth century. Marjorie was bringing some of their furniture when she and Greta came to Suhl. He hoped she would be able to bring his recliner. Hard beds made him restless and cost him sleep. Sleeping on the ground these last couple of days didn’t help, either. It seemed the only time he could sleep well was in his recliner.
The innkeeper’s wife cleaned up the remains of breakfast and swept the floor and the hallway to the stable. Archie made a mental note to tip her for her efforts.
He reassembled the Colt Commander, inserted a loaded magazine, chambered a round, and slipped it into his shoulder holster. The other Colt Commander was already on his belt. Rising from the table, he picked up his hat and walked through the inn’s common room and out the front door. Johann Zeitts would be waiting for him at his shop. Archie hadn’t taken but a few steps before he saw a familiar face.
“Hi, Archie. How are ya?” Anse Hatfield said. “I heard you were in town so I came over to visit.”
“Anse! Good to see you. It’s been, what, a year or more since we last met?”
“Yeah, ’bout that. It’s good to see a familiar up-time face.”
“I was just going out. I have an appointment.”
“That’s OK, I’ll come along if that’s all right? We can talk along the way.”
Dieter approached the barracks and was surprised to see a number of workers on the site. They appeared to be tearing down the palisade walls. He walked up to the one who seemed to be in charge and asked what was going on.
“None of your business,” Dieter was told.
“I’m Deputy Marshal Issler.” Dieter showed them his badge. “That is SoTF property and the barracks of the Mounted Constabulary troop that should be arriving shortly. That makes it my business.”
“Don’t know anything about that. I was told to tear down the walls and that’s what I’m going to do.”
“Who’s your boss?”
“That’s none of your business, either. Now go or we’ll make you go.”
Dieter saw that he was outnumbered by six to one. He’d better pass this to Archie. “I’ll be back. I strongly suggest you have your boss here when I return.”
“. . . I managed some leave to talk over some business with Pat Johnson, on condition I bring back more guns, so I’ll be leaving in a few days to rejoin the army. There won’t be many up-timers here after that, just Pat, the Reardons, Gary and Gaylynn, and maybe one or two others,” Anse Hatfield said.
“Marjorie is coming in a few weeks along with Dieter’s wife, Greta. I don’t think there will be any more up-timers here after she arrives.” After a pause, Archie said,
“You just didn’t come to see me because we’re old friends. What’s on your mind?”
“There’s a problem here, a gang. I was starting to get a handle on it but now I’m leaving. I wanted to fill you in and ask if you’d look into it.”
“A gang that’s running a protection and extortion racket?”
“Yeah, among other things.”
“I’ve heard. I met one of them last night who was trying to cripple a horse. I understand he’s one of Achen’s men. Who is this Achen?”
“I don’t know too much. I’ve heard that he’s the new son-in-law of one of the city councilmen. They don’t try much in my part of town but they work the rest of Suhl and outside the gates. The watch never seems to be around when something happens. When they finally show up, they don’t do much. No one is caught and things just seem to get worse. It’s getting so that it’s not safe on the streets after dark.”
“I thought the Jaegers were helping to take care of things?”
“Only in our part of town, and most of them are gone.”
“That’s twice you’ve said, ‘my part of town.’ What do you mean?”
“Where the gunsmiths are, their shops and homes. After the, ahhh, incident last year, they’ve kept the peace in their area. The city council is supposed to handle the rest of town. They don’t. They think the militia is enough . . . you can’t keep the peace by manning the walls and gates with unarmed boys.”
“And the watch?”
“They seem more interested in patrolling the ‘better’ parts of town. The homes and businesses of the council members and others.”
“I met with Feld, the bürgermeister, this morning. He said they only have thirty-five to forty watchmen for the whole town.”
“I know. It’s one of the problems here in Suhl. Saves them money, don’cha know. I’m surprised the council hasn’t called for help. I’ve heard rumors that the council is deadlocked on that.”
“They need about seventy-five to a hundred men if they are to have good day and night patrols,” Anse continued. “They think the militia will fill in for their lack of watchmen. The militia has to provide their own weapons, and most militia members work for the gunsmiths and their families.”
“Where have I heard this before?”
“Yeah. Almost like old times.”
“Dieter Issler is my deputy—do you know him?”
“No . . . don’t think I do.”
“He’s out scouting the town. I’d appreciate it if you’d have a talk with Pat and Gary and ask them to keep their ears open and give us a holler if they hear anything we should know.”
“I can do that. I’m glad Pat and Gary aren’t in the army. I don’t really want to go but I haven’t a choice.”
“They kicked me, Max Huffman, and Harley Thomas out of the army and made us marshals. Frankly, I’m glad I’m not in anymore.”
“I better get back. I’ll drop by one more time before I leave.”
“Thanks, Anse, I appreciate it.”
Ruben Blumroder looked up from his workbench when Anse walked through the door. “Did you meet him?”
“Yep. I think ol’ Arch will do. He asked me about Achen before I had a chance. He’s already got some feelers out gathering information.”
“Tell me about him.”
“He’s hard to describe. He’s a SoTF marshal now. He was a deputy sheriff up-time, an army vet, up-time, not just here. He’s a combat vet, too.”
“What’s he like?”
“Well, like many up-timers, Archie has some . . . eccentricities. He has always been a cowboy fan. Have you heard about Westerns?”
“Ja, but I don’t think I understand.”
“Westerns are stories about the American West in the nineteenth century—the American Frontier. Archie lives it. Up-time he was a member of a group that had action shooting matches using old-style weapons—revolvers, rifles, usually lever-action, double-barreled shotguns, weapons that were common in the nineteenth century. Sometime they even shoot from horseback, and they dressed up in costumes like those from the West. Archie, too. Like I said, he lives it.”
“Is he crazy?”
“No. Absolutely not. But, when we up-timers arrived here in the middle of the Thirty Years war, it was a shock. People reacted differently. Some did well, some didn’t. Everyone was affected in some form or another. Living as a real Old West marshal is Archie’s way of coping—but don’t doubt his competency. That would be a mistake. His, uh, eccentricity aside, he’s a tough lawman.”
“Good! We need someone like that.”
“I think Archie will do.”
“I have a meeting tonight with some of the other craftmasters. I’ll tell them about our new marshal.”
“Guten Tag, Herr Zeitts,” Archie said as he entered Zeitts’ workshop.
“Guten Tag, Herr Marshal.”
“Well, what do you think.” Archie pointed to the disassembled saddle on Zeitts’ workbench.
“I can do it,” Zeitts affirmed.
When the haggling was over, Zeitts and Archie had an agreement. Zeitts would finish the saddle in two weeks unless there was an unforeseen circumstance to delay delivery.
Archie and Johann Zeitts were shaking hands on the deal when Christian entered the workshop with the aid of his brother. Christian had been badly beaten, one eye almost closed.
“What happened?” Johann asked rushing to Christian’s side.
“Achen’s men caught him outside. They were looking for their man who didn’t come home last night. It was their two on Christian until I arrived.”
“Where are they?” Archie asked referring to Achen’s men. “Are they still around?”
“They ran up the street. I don’t know where. Don’t go after them,” Han said. “They outnumber you.”
“I think I can handle them.” Archie said as he left the shop. Outside he surveyed the scene. Zeitts’ shop was next to the city’s wall. A ring road ran parallel to the wall with homes and shops lining the cobblestoned street. A number of people were out walking the street but none appeared to be watching Zeitts’ shop.
“They ran that way,” Hans said, pointing to the left. The street ended where it met another that led to the eastern gate.
“Danke. Tell your father I’ll look into this.” With that, he stepped into the street and proceeded in search of Christian’s assailants.
The buildings on the left side of the street abutted but did not actually touch the city wall. This gap provided space for wall maintenance and access in time of need. The right side of the street was like the left with narrow alleys appearing from time to time between buildings giving access to another alley to the rear.
I need a map, Archie thought. This place is a maze. You could hide an army in these alleys and no one would know.
Archie reached the intersection without seeing anyone or anything suspicious. He had stopped a few passersby, asking if they had seen two men running down the street and no one had . . . or at least would not admit that they had. That was the problem with a gang. People were intimidated. Individually, they were at the gang’s mercy. If they united, the gang would be ineffective and would soon be removed or would leave for easier pickings.
Archie headed back to the inn. He’d not had any lunch, and he was getting hungry. After he had eaten, he thought he would visit Ruben Blumroder. He seemed to be the real leader of Suhl. Maybe Blumroder would have more information.
Achen’s two men watched the marshal walk past the alley where they had hidden themselves. Achen would not be pleased with their failure to extract information from the younger Zeitts.
Friedrich Achen was sitting in a corner of the taproom of Der Bulle und Bär, his favorite inn, when his two men entered. They walked over to Achen’s table and sat.
“What did you find?” he asked.
“Nothing. We were interrupted. Zeitts’ brother and some neighbors came before we had the younger one softened up. The new marshal was there, too, so we left.”
“Conrad’s dead. One of the Zeitts, maybe the marshal, killed him.”
“How did you know?”
“Feld told my father-in-law who told me. Also, the other marshal, the deputy, was nosing around the barracks. He told the men to stop working. They refused but the deputy will be back, probably with the marshal to stop them.”
“Shall we be there, too? Together we would have enough to take both of them.”
“Do so. Keep watch. When the workers refuse, join them and overwhelm the marshals. Don’t let them get away.”
“You want them dead?”
“No, not yet. I need to know why they’re here.”
“Your father-in-law doesn’t know?”
“He says not. I’m not sure I believe him.”
“We’ll find out. The marshal doesn’t look all that strong. He uses a cane.”
“Go. Wait for them as long as it takes.”
After following the directions from several people, Archie arrived at Ruben Blumroder’s shop located on the same street as Pat Johnson’s US Waffenfabrik. He heard a shot from the rear of the building. Instead of entering the front, Archie walked down the adjacent alley to the rear where Blumroder and a couple of men were testing long arms. He stood watching them load the long guns with patched balls. Rifles, he assumed. The target was a wooden board attached to a large square wooden post that was at least a foot on each side. There were numerous holes in the board.
Bam! One of the men fired the rifle which produced a cloud of white smoke. Archie noticed the rifle produced significant recoil.
Guten Tag! Archie called as another shooter stepped forward to the line.
Ruben Blumroder, at least that is whom Archie assumed the older man was, appeared startled when Archie called. He turned his head swiftly and gave Archie a quick inspection. He stepped away from the other two, who ignored Archie’s interruption once the elder man started walking towards the visitor.
“Herr Marshal Mitchell, I presume?”
“The same. I assume you are Herr Ruben Blumroder?”
“The same,” he said with a grin. “I was going to visit you when I had some time. Herr Hatfield told me you arrived yesterday. And here you are. What is the occasion for your visit?”
“I don’t want to interrupt your work but I would like to talk with you about Suhl. I understand you will be the city’s representative to the SoTF legislature.”
“Ja, that’s so. The craftmasters and their people elected me. We outvoted our opponents.”
“The craftmasters were able to control fifty percent of the votes?”
“Not alone . . . but with some other allies, we did.”
“Politics,” he confirmed. “Come, let us go inside. I have some cider that I’ve been thinking about all day.”
Archie chuckled and followed Blumroder into the rear of his shop. Inside the door, Archie stopped to let his eyes become accustomed to the unlit room. The few light sources were the open door and two windows facing the alley that Archie had used to reach the rear of the shop. To one side were three rifling machines next to a small forge that appeared to be used to make small metal pieces that would eventually become parts for the rifle’s lock.
Blumroder walked down the aisle to a table where rifles and long arms were assembled. He picked up a rifle and handed it to Archie. “This is a copy, as best we can determine, of your Kentucky rifle. It’s .50 caliber. Pat Johnson had a . . . magazine? . . . catalog? . . . that had an exploded view of this rifle. We created our molds from that and refined the final product to be this rifle.”
To Archie, it appeared to be very much like a flintlock Kentucky rifle he had once fired. The smooth honey-colored wooden stock, forearm and ramrod were expertly finished and varnished with fine checkering at the grip behind the trigger and at two points along the sides of the forearm. The brass side-plates and patch-box were polished to a mirror-sheen that brought out the detail of the light engraving depicting a hunting scene. He hefted the rifle and found it to be perfectly balanced. “A fine piece of work,” he told Blumroder.
“Danke. It is intended as a gift for the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. A working rifle, not some pretty piece that will never be fired. I can’t say who ordered it but the commission was very welcome.”
“I repeat, a very fine piece of work.”
“A man who knows his weapons, I see.”
“Of necessity. A reliable, accurate firearm can mean the difference between life or death. A man can be known by his weapon. I’m used to mine.”
“If I may ask . . .”
Archie chuckled. “I’ve nothing fancy. He pulled his duster aside from one side to reveal a Colt Commander in a side holster, then pulled the other side of the duster aside to reveal a second Colt Commander in a shoulder holster.
“Ah, yes, the Colt model 1911A1. Anse Hatfield carries one.”
“Almost, these are the Commander model,” he said pointing to his two pistols in turn. “The 1911 has a five inch barrel, the Commander a four and one-half inch barrel. It’s not much shorter but it can make a difference if you have to draw quickly.”
Blumroder walked into the shop where he had an office—a side room from a larger space where his apprentices and journeymen worked small pieces of metal to insure they fit exactly into molds. This was the current method of standardizing parts. It worked well enough and helped keep parts interchangeable, more or less—a new concept introduced by up-timers. Using molds wasn’t as precise as using a milling machine but would do until those tools became available.
After they were seated, Blumroder asked, “What can I do for you, Marshal?”
“I came, mainly, to introduce myself. Anse Hatfield, whom I’ve known for years, paid me a visit this morning. He mentioned that you were one of the city leaders. I’ve found it’s best to know the PTBs.”
“Excuse me, Herr Marshal, ‘PTBs?’ ”
“Powers That Be. Folks like Herr Feld—and you. I keep forgetting few here know all our language foibles.”
Blumroder chuckled. “I’m not in the same category as Herr Feld. I’m just a local craftmaster.”
“Who effectively controls at least a third of the city.”
“Um, uh, well, yes.”
“And is the recently elected member to the SoTF legislature.”
“True, as well.”
“I think that qualifies you as being one of the PTBs, don’t you Herr Blumroder?”
“Anse said you were different, Herr Marshal.”
“Just call me Archie, if you would.”
“Very well . . . Archie, and please call me Ruben.”
“Thank you, Ruben.”
“Now, what can I do for you, Archie?”
“Information, really. Anse alluded to some troubles here in Suhl—different from last year. A gang, he said.”
“Yes, Friedrich Achen. He arrived a year or so ago. Married the daughter of Heinrich Buch, one of the city council members. No one seems to know from where he came. He has, as Anse had said, no visible means of support. He hangs out at Der Bulle und Bär, one of our more disreputable inns. He has a gang that extorts money from the shopkeepers, selling ‘protection.’ The watch, really the city council, hasn’t done much to curtail Achen’s activities. It’s not our, the militia’s, responsibility, either. Achen knows better than to bother us.”
“The city’s militia. However, we—the gunsmiths and the remaining Jaegers, are the largest contingent of the militia. The Jaegers answer to us . . . me . . . for the moment. Patrolling is not a responsibility I—we want. It’s been thrust upon us. We ensure our people are safe. That’s all we can do.”
“I see. It’s not my responsibility, either. But, like you said, sometimes it is thrust upon us.”
“Have you met the council, yet?”
“I met with Herr Feld this morning. He arrived on my doorstep bright and early. I had some documents for him and the council and gave them to him. The SoTF will be establishing a district court here in Suhl. I’m here to find a suitable building for the court. And a troop of the SoTF Mounted Constabulary will be stationed here in the barracks.”
“I suspect the documents may disappear if he doesn’t like their contents.”
“I don’t think so. He signed a receipt . . . and I have copies.”
“I see Herr Feld’s reputation has gone before him.”
“Don’t know about that. It’s just a standard precaution.”
“I wouldn’t wait, Archie, to meet the council. I’ve been told there are workmen dismantling the barracks. If you don’t lay claim, there may be no barracks, shortly.”
Archie sat silent for a moment. “Danke, Ruben. I’ll get on that.”
“I have a meeting tonight with other gunsmiths and craft masters. If you don’t mind, I’ll tell them about the new court and the Mounted Constabulary.”
“Feel free. It’s no secret.”
“Thank you for coming, Archie, but if you don’t mind, I have some apprentices to oversee. Some need to be constantly supervised.”
Archie chuckled. “I understand, Ruben. That is true even up-time. Guten Tag.”
“Guten Tag, Archie.”
Dieter arrived at the Boar’s Head Inn in time to see Archie enter before him. “Archie!” he called. “There’s a problem.”
Archie turned at the entrance to their rooms and asked, “The barracks?”
“Ja. It’s being torn down.”
“I know. Ruben Blumroder told me. He’s the head of Suhl’s gunsmiths. He’d be the master of the gunsmith guild if there was one.”
“I told them to stop but they refused and there were six of them to my one.”
“Get your gear. Let’s pay them a visit.”
Dieter disappeared into his room to shortly reappear dressed much like Archie—boots, canvas pants, white shirt and badge, leather vest, gun belt, shotgun on a sling and covering all, his duster. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”
They arrived at the barracks a few minutes later. “There they are. That one,” Dieter said pointing to a man in a leather coat watching the others, “is the leader.” To one side were two other men leaning against a partially dismantled palisade wall.
Archie walked up to the man in the leather coat. “Are you the boss of these men?”
“I’m their overseer. So what?”
“Then I’m ordering you to stop work and leave—immediately.”
“I don’t take orders from you.”
“You do now. That’s SoTF property, and it’s my responsibility. I have my authority here,” he said exposing his badge.
The man turned and shouted to the workers, “Get them!” and drew a large knife from under his coat.
Archie stepped back, shifted his grip on his cane and swung, knocking the knife from the overseer’s hand. He slid his hand down to the other end of the cane, and on the backstroke hit the overseer’s forearm with the alloy head breaking both bones. The overseer shrieked at the sudden surge of pain.
Archie heard a click behind him. Dieter had switched off the safety of his shotgun that had been unseen under his duster. He had it leveled at the rest of the workmen. From the corner of his vision, Archie saw the two leaners running towards him. He turned and punched one in the stomach with the steel foot of his cane. That one bent double from the punch blocking the path of the other before falling to the ground in a huddle. By the time the other attacker had stepped around the first, the cane’s alloy head was swinging towards the attacker’s jaw. It hit with a crunch and both attackers were out of action and on the ground.
The fight was over. Two men on the ground. One standing clutching a broken arm and five others with hands up, eyes on the muzzle of Dieter’s shotgun. Archie was panting and wheezing. I’m outta shape.
“Do you happen to know if Suhl has a jail, Dieter?” he asked between pants.
“I don’t, either. Let’s tie their hands and march ’em to Ruben Blumroder’s place. I think he’ll have a place to put them or tell us where’s the jail.”
Archie only had one pair of steel handcuffs. He and Dieter carried rawhide thongs instead of cuffs. Between the two of them, they had enough for the six men still standing.
“Archie, I think this one is dead,” Dieter said examining the one huddled on the ground.
Archie checked to two on the ground. The first one, the one he’d punched with the steel foot of his cane was clearly dead. He opened the man’s shirt to reveal a purple blotch covering most of his stomach. His cane punch must have ruptured some internal organ and the man had hemorrhaged to death. He checked the second man. He was dead, too. The alloy head of the cane had impacted the hinge of his jaw. His skull had caved in. Hit him too hard. I need to practice with this cane more often.
“Dieter, take the bossman’s coat and cover these two. We’ll send someone for ’em later.”
Anse Hatfield was standing in the doorway of Ruben Blumroder’s shop when he saw Archie and Dieter approach with their prisoners. “Ruben!” he yelled.
Blumroder, hearing the urgency in Hatfield’s voice, strode quickly to join him.
“Archie’s been busy,” Anse said, “Told you so.”
“Ruben, do you have somewhere to stash these folks?” Archie asked when they reached the doorway.
“I could find a place, a storeroom I suppose.”
“Neither Dieter nor I know if Suhl has a jail. I assume there is one?”
“Yes, below the council chambers in the rathaus. I don’t think it’s been used much, not since last year.”
“I don’t think that jail would be the best place just now. Can you keep these people out of sight for awhile, until the Mounted Constabulary arrives?”
“I can do that.”
“Good. Dieter, go with them and get our cuffs back. I think we’re going to need them.”
Blumroder spoke briefly with one of his journeymen. He and a couple of apprentices armed themselves with pistols and marched the six down the street.
Archie sighed. “There are two dead men at the barracks, Ruben. Could you send someone to get them?”
“They were waiting for us. The one with the broken arm was the boss of the crew tearing down the barracks. He refused to stop work and drew a knife on me. I have a sneaking suspicion the two deaders may have been a couple of Achen’s men. While Dieter and I were taking care of the workmen, those two joined the fight. They rushed me and I got careless. I hit them too hard—with my cane.”
Ruben eyebrows rose. “You killed them with a cane?”
“Unintentionally. I hit one too hard in the head with this—” He raised the cane to show the molded alloy knob. “—and punched the other too hard with this.” He pointed to the steel-capped foot of the cane. “They got too close to me. I had to use what I had. I was rushed.”
Ruben nodded. “I understand.”
“Does Suhl really have a watch? I’ve been here two days and I haven’t seen one yet.”
“They do. I don’t know their patrol schedules. They don’t come here because we take care of ourselves. The council has not asked the full militia for help. Truthfully, I haven’t really paid much attention.”
“I’m thinking the watch should be rebuilt from scratch with a professional wachtmeister who can properly train, organize, and lead the watchmen. The only ones I’ve seen on watch are your militiamen at the gates.”
“There are some on the walls, too.”
“Guess I didn’t look hard enough. While I’m thinking of it, I need someone to help me survey the barracks and see how much damage has been done. I’ll need to hire some workmen to fix it up, repair any damages, and ready the place for the constabulary troop.”
“I’ll speak with some of the other craft masters. It’s about time for our weekly meeting. I’ll ask them to send you a man or two—tomorrow?”
“Good. Tell them we’re staying at the Boar’s Head Inn. If I’m not there Dieter Issler, my deputy, will be. Feld is arraigning a meeting for me with the council sometime tomorrow.”
A messenger from the burgermeister arrived early the next morning. The council would meet with Archie later that morning. Archie sent a messenger to Anse Hatfield asking Anse to join him at the meeting. Anse knew, at least by reputation, many of the council members. Archie would have preferred to have Ruben Blumroder there, too. But that would appear to be political favoritism, Ruben being an SoTF official. If he needed a local representative, they would not be surprised to see Anse standing next to Archie. These folk understood family ties. They’d view the two up-timers as kith, if not kin.
Ruben had been good to his word. A master carpenter arrived early. He and Archie discussed the issue with the barracks. “Herr Heinrich Buch owns the barracks property,” the carpenter said. “I heard he bought it from the council. He said he planned to build a warehouse on the site. It is prime property.”
“I’m going to find out about that. It wasn’t the council’s property to sell. It belongs to the SoTF.”
“I only know what I’ve been told.”
“Is that going to be a problem with you? Herr Buch claiming it?”
“Nein. You said you would pay for the survey. It’s guilders in my pocket either way.”
“How long will you need for the survey? A day? Less?”
“Not a day. A couple of hours at least.”
“Would this afternoon be good?”
“Have you met my deputy, Dieter Issler?”
“Ja, when I arrived.”
“Come back this afternoon. I have a meeting later this morning. If I’m not here, Dieter will go with you. He’ll keep anyone off your back in case someone objects.”
“I’ll be here.”
The carpenter departed. Archie glanced at his watch. It was time to meet Anse at the rathaus.
Archie was limping slightly when he arrived at the rathaus. He had been more active than usual. He had not been in a fight since he was wounded the previous year. He realized age was creeping up on him.
Anse Hatfield was waiting when Archie arrived. “Hurtin’, Archie?”
“Feelin’ mean and ornery?”
“You’ll need that with these folks.”
The rathaus was a three-story building, the only one in Suhl as far as he knew, Anse said. The ground floor was an open space used for large meetings, weddings, and festivals. The city council met in a room on the second floor. The top floor contained offices of city officials and departments.
Archie’s leg hurt more after climbing the stairs. If he needed to be feeling mean and ornery, he was ready. He and Anse walked into the council room. Herr Feld sat at the head of the table. Six other councilmen sat along both sides leaving Archie and Anse to sit at the end, opposite to Feld.
“Welcome Marshal, and you, too, Herr Hatfield,” he said. Without giving Archie the opportunity to respond, Feld introduced the other six members of the council. Heinrich Buch sat to Feld’s right, Archie noticed. Each councilman nodded in turn as he was introduced.
“We are here at your request, Herr Marshal, ” Feld said.
“I appreciate you acting so swiftly, ” Archie began. “I am SoTF Marshal Archie Mitchell,” he said speaking to the entire council. “I assume you have read the documents I gave you, Herr Feld. Has the entire council read them?”
“No, I’ve not had time to make copies. A couple of the councilmen have read them but not all.”
“By chance, I have a copy with me. I’ll read it to the council.” Which he proceeded to do.
Several councilmen interrupted as he read asking for clarification of one point or another. When Archie came to the part about renovating the barracks, Councilman Heinrich Buch interrupted. “That’s my property!”
“No it isn’t. It is owned by the government of the State of Thuringia and Franconia.”
“Noelle Murphy transferred ownership to the city council. I bought it from the council!”
“Noelle Murphy didn’t have that authority,” Anse replied. “She was very aware of the limits of her authority. No one knew it had been transferred to the SoTF until Marshal Mitchell arrived.”
“I have the document here. Right here! It’s proof that she did, whether she had the authority or not. You can’t take back what she has done.”
“May I see that document?” Archie asked.
“No! It is my only proof.”
“It is a transfer of ownership to Suhl, not you, Heinrich,” Feld said. “Give it to him.”
Grudgingly, Buch gave the document to the councilman sitting next to him. It was passed, councilman to councilman, until it reached Anse Hatfield.
Anse glanced at the document and looked up. “It’s a forgery.”
“What!” exclaim Heinrich Buch jumping to his feet.
“Look at it, Archie,” Anse said. “Look at the signature.”
“What about it?” Archie asked.
“Look at it. Is it written by someone who is right-handed or left-handed?”
Archie looked down at the document again. “Right-handed. Why?”
“Noelle Murphy is left-handed. I carried messages for her whenever I went back to Grantville. Whoever wrote this was right-handed.”
“You’re a liar!” Buch shouted.
“If I am, it can be refuted in a few days. I can send a radio message for samples of Noelle Murphy’s signature. They can get here by courier in a couple of days.”
“They’ll be fakes! You just want to steal my property.”
“Now why would we want to do that when no one outside Suhl even knew you claimed the barracks?”
Buch stood white-faced, trembling. Abruptly, he sat. He muttered something to Feld who in turn said, “We await your proof, Herr Hatfield.”
“In the meantime,” Archie said, “I’m having the barracks surveyed to determine what is needed for its full restoration. No work will be done until the council has proof the transfer of the barracks to Suhl was fraudulent. I also warn you now that the Court of the State of Thuringia-Franconia will be very interested how this all happened.”
“. . . that was the end of the meeting,” Archie told Dieter. “I’m very glad Anse was there. Otherwise, we’d be in a mess, a big lawsuit probably. Just the thing to kick off the new court here in Suhl. So how was your afternoon with the carpenter?”
“Interesting. A stonemason joined us at the barracks. Apparently, the Swedes had built a stone armory for their munitions and a stone outbuilding that could easily be converted to be a jail, guardhouse, whatever you call it. Strong fitted stone walls and floors, and thick iron studded doors. A little dark, no windows, but the stonemason said those could be added if we wanted.”
“I think we’ll have to do that. If we make that the holding prison for the court, the prisoners will need access to light and air.”
“He’s coming by here tomorrow. I can tell him then. He and the master carpenter will draw up some estimates for us, cost and time to do all the renovation.”
“Good. Now, we have to find a courthouse.”
“I think I found one.”
“Right next to the barracks. You remember that building right next to the place where the wall had been torn down?”
“It’s part of the barracks. It was quarters for the officers and their headquarters. They didn’t like the spaces in the barracks proper so they included that building when they appropriated the property for the barracks. I was told Buch had owned it before it was seized by the Swedes.”
“That explains much.”
“Yes, it does.”
“I didn’t go in today but I think we should give it a look over as soon as we can.”
“I agree. Tomorrow?”
“Let’s see, the carpenter and stonemason are coming in the morning. We could go with them. I don’t remember any other appointments, do you?”
Their conversation was interrupted by a knock on their door. The innkeeper entered. “Herr Marshal, this message just arrived for you.”
“Danke. I appreciate your promptness.”
The innkeeper left to return to the taproom in the front of the inn. Archie tried to read the message but it was handwritten, and poorly at that. “Can you read this, Dieter?”
“Well. Uh, it’s from Heinrich Buch. I think he is offering an apology and would like to meet you tonight at . . .” he glanced at his watch, a gift from Greta, “at around 9 PM, if I’m reading this right. His handwriting is terrible!”
“Huh! I wonder what he wants? After the meeting today, I wouldn’t think he wants to meet for hugs and kisses.”
“What?” It was another of Archie’s witticisms that always surprised Dieter.
“Never mind. Ask the innkeeper to send a messenger to Buch and tell him I’ll be there. Remind me that we need to budget for messenger service.”
“I’ll do that. Is it alright if I don’t go with you? One of my horses has cast a shoe. I’d like to take it to Christian Zeitts and get it shod.”
“Go ahead. I don’t think Buch is going to try anything, not now that all has been exposed.”
Archie entered Buch’s shop. The smell of burned powder still lingering on his duster and clothes.
Heinrich Buch approached from the rear of the cabinetry shop. “Herr Marshal.”
“Herr Buch. I think you have a mess out front. There are four dead bodies.”
“I heard.” He sighed. “I need to confess.”
“Luring me here to be killed?”
“No! No, I . . . I didn’t know what was planned. My son-in-law told me to invite you here. He . . . uh . . . he forced me.”
“My daughter. She’s six months with child. Achen beats her. I’m afraid he’ll kill her.”
“Isn’t that frowned upon?”
“Yes, no, the church won’t interfere. It’s not against the law if it’s just a beating. There’s no one.”
“I know how that can be. I’ve seen it often enough. Back up-time, if something like this occurred, a man gathered his friends and family and fixed the problem, put the son of a bitch in the hospital. No one talks, nothing can be proved.”
“I don’t have anyone that I could trust to not talk. This whole scheme with the barracks is his idea. He told me to build a warehouse and storefront at the barracks. When finished, it and the building next to it could be sold for three times what it cost me.”
“And what did it cost you to buy the barracks?”
The price Buch gave was astonishingly low. “Who pushed this through the council? You?”
“Feld. He gets a percentage of the profit when the buildings are sold.”
“Somehow, I’m not surprised.”
“Now, where can I find your son-in-law?”
“He’s usually at Der Bulle und Bär this time of night. He lives, sometimes, here with my daughter. They have rooms upstairs. But most of the time he’s there.”
“Will he be there tomorrow?”
“He should be.”
“Don’t warn him I’m coming.”
“No—no, I won’t.”
“I think Suhl needs a new councilman and bürgermeister, don’t you?”
Buch didn’t speak but just nodded and hung his head. He’d be lucky to get off with some jail time and a heavy fine. He and Feld both. The SoTF was hard on public corruption.
Archie wished he hadn’t given Dieter time off to get his horse shod. He wasn’t up to bracing Achen in his own territory. He didn’t know how many men Achen had. Seven of them were now pushing up daisies. He could easily have more. Tomorrow would do. He and Dieter would scout Der Bulle und Bär. If Achen was there, he and Dieter would arrest him . . . one way or another.
He headed back to the Boar’s Head. He felt fine. The adrenaline hit made his aches and pains slip away.
He walked through the Boar’s Head doorway and made his way over to a table in the corner. He didn’t drink much but once in a while, he liked a beer. “Ein bier, Mein Herr,” he called to the innkeeper. The beer arrived in a large mug, still foaming. The innkeeper brewed it himself. It wasn’t what he liked, but in the time since the Ring of Fire, he had become accustomed to the down-time brew. It would do.
Archie slept late the next morning. He had left Dieter a note on his bedroom door to postpone the follow-up with the carpenter and stonemason for a day. He and Dieter had law business to attend to today.
A visit to the jakes, a bath, and he was ready. He retrieved his Model 1897 shotgun from their makeshift armory and dumped a handful of double-aught shells in his side coat pocket. He loaded the shotgun with five more shells of double-aught buck. The shotgun was once known as a trench gun. It had a twenty-inch barrel, and, at one time, a bayonet lug. Archie had never owned a bayonet for the shotgun. He was well off without it. All a bayonet did, in close quarters, was get in the way.
Dieter stood waiting. He, too, had his double-barreled shotgun ready and his Colt 1911 on his belt. The two walked out through the front of the Boar’s Head Inn, Archie in front with Dieter following. The innkeeper did a double-take as they passed. They were armed and appeared ready for business.
Der Bulle und Bär was in a part of Suhl that Archie had not yet visited. It was nestled in the shade of the city wall. Archie and Dieter walked up to the entrance. Dieter opened the door and stepped aside to let Archie enter first.
Archie walked in and stepped to one side. Dieter followed and stepped to the other side. Neither were silhouetted against the open doorway.
Schlick-schlock! The strange sound caused Achen to look up, interrupting his conversation with his last two men.
“Friedrich Achen,” Archie said. “You are under arrest for fraud, extortion, assault on a SoTF marshal, and murder. Place your hands on your head and stand up!”
Achen looked into three shotgun barrels, the double-barrel in Dieter’s hands and the one in Archie’s. Both marshals stood covering the inn’s common room, their six-pointed badges clearly visible in the dimness of the inn.
No one moved. Then, Achen slowly raised his hands, put them on his head and slowly rose. The other two sitting at his table didn’t move, neither scarcely breathed.
“Step forward and turn around.”
Achen did so.
“I’m using my good steel handcuffs on you, Achen. The rest of you—don’t interfere. Stay where you are and don’t move until we’re gone. Don’t follow us either. We can take you all out if necessary.”
The room remained silent. None doubted his word. Archie and Dieter pulled Achen with them and backed out of the room. Dieter kept watch as they headed for Ruben Blumroder’s shop.
“We REALLY need a jail, Dieter.” Archie said as they neared the gunshop. “This is just getting repetitious.”
A Mounted Constabulary trooper dismounted outside the entrance of the Boar’s Head Inn. The inn’s stableboy took the horse’s reins and led it to the stables in back for watering while the trooper went inside the inn. “Where may I find Marshal Mitchell?” he asked.
“He’s in back. Wait. I’ll get him,” the innkeeper replied and disappeared into the rear of the inn to reappear a few minutes later with the Marshal.
“I’m Marshal Mitchell.” he told the trooper.
“Sir, the 1st Mounted Constabulary Troop with Frau Mitchell and Frau Issler should arrive in two hours. Captain Gruber sent me ahead to tell you.”
“That’s very good news, trooper.” Archie, walked back to the rear doorway and shouted, “Dieter! They’re here. Want to ride out to greet them?”
“Yes!” Dieter replied from the rear of the inn.
Archie returned to the trooper and said, “Have a beer on me while we saddle our horses. We’ll ride back with you.”
“Danke, Herr Marshal.” The trooper never refused a free beer. He took his time to finish it and then walked out the front entrance in time to see Archie and Dieter appear on horseback with the stableboy leading the trooper’s horse.
“Lead off,” Archie instructed after the trooper had mounted, and the three departed.
They rode down the road that ran along the river until they found the troop and several accompanying wagons coming towards them. Archie saw Marjorie sitting on one wagon. Greta was seated on another. Both wagons, covered by waterproof tarps, were heavily loaded and driven by MC troopers.
“I think Majorie and Greta brought everything but the kitchen sink,” Archie said to Dieter as they approached the troop. Archie greeted the officer in the lead and then rode down the column until he reached Marjorie’s wagon. Dieter rode on to the next wagon and Greta.
“Hi, Marj, I’ve missed you,” Archie said pulling up next to the wagon.
“Arch, I missed you, too…I’m glad to be here. You’re looking good.”
“Feel good, too. I was really whupped when I first got here. Dieter and I had some troubles but that’s all cleared up.”
“I see you got a new saddle.”
“Yeah, I made a good deal. Where’re your horses?”
“My mare and the gelding are in the string back behind the wagons with the MC’s spare horses. I rode most of the time, but too much made my rear hurt. I’m not up for long rides on horseback anymore.”
“I hear ya. Dieter and I found a nice house in town. It’s two stories and big enough for all of us with room to spare. It’s not far from some new friends of mine, Johann Zeitts and his family. I think you’ll like them.”
“I brought your recliner and our bed. I had to disassemble them to get everything in the wagon but I knew you’d want them.”
“Thank you. I really miss that recliner. The beds here are OK, but my leg starts hurting in the middle of the night.”
Captain Gruber rode up next to Archie and introduced himself. “Is the barracks ready, Marshal?”
“Almost. The workmen should finish up today—just minor stuff. The trooper barracks and the stables were finished first. I left two tall trees standing for the radio antenna according to the instructions I received.”
“Good. I brought a permanent radio station with me and two radio operators. They’ll work for the court. Did you find a blacksmith, farrier, and saddler?”
“Yes, I did. Johann Zeitts and his son, Christian. I have them under contract to give you twenty hours each, each week. Johann Zeitts is a saddler. He made the saddle I’m sitting on. His son, Christian, is a journeyman blacksmith and farrier. I don’t think you’d need them more than twenty hours a week.”
“No, that should be sufficient. The horses were all shod before we left.”
“Before I forget, I did make one commitment for you.”
“There’s been a shakeup in the Suhl city council. The city watch has been pretty much ineffectual. They’ve not been competently led. The militia has been manning the gates and the walls but that’s all. The new city council has asked for some suitable watchtmeister candidates. I told the council that you would provide troopers to help train the watch and help patrol the city until a new wachtmeister takes over or for two months whichever occurs first.”
“Hmmm. I think I can do that. Some of them can do double-duty for a while.”
“I’m glad you agree. I was put into a spot, and I hate to make commitments for other people. My deputy and I have been helping to improve the watch’s overall capability and with some on-the-job training on a few promising watchmen. We’ve been making random patrols through the city with them but we’re just two and when the court is established, we’ll have our own work to do.”
“I must start sending out patrols as soon as I can, but we’ll need some time to get everything set up and to rest the horses and men before we start. I think we can work something out.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
“You are very welcome, Herr Marshal.” Gruber kicked his heels and rode up to the head of the column. Archie stayed with the wagon and Marjorie.
They rode silently for some time, he on horseback and she on the wagon seat next to the driver. Archie broke the silence, “I really missed you, Marj. I don’t like living alone.”
“What? No dancing girls in that inn?”
Archie laughed, “No, no dancing girls. I hope you like the place Dieter and I found for us. It was a bakery at one time. I had some walls added to divide it into two apartments, one for us and the other for Dieter and Greta.”
“It sounds good, Arch . . . Arch, I’m ready to go home.”
“Me too, Marj, me too.”