The Red Menace: Latency

 

Wednesday, 28 November, 1635

Grantville High School Gymnasium, 1500 hours.

Caspar Weybrecht’s forehand smash had the shuttlecock shooting through the air straight at Anna Krause. It was only by virtue of her lightning reflexes that she was able to get her racket up in time, and it was blind luck that the racket was perfectly placed to rebound the shuttlecock over the net where Caspar couldn’t return it.

“Twenty all,” Norma Sims called.

Anna gave the crowd that had gathered around the hotly contested match an “I meant to do that” grin as she wiped the sweat from her forehead. Opposite her Caspar, a senior, was positioning himself to return her serve.

“Players ready? Serve!” Norma called.

Anna dropped a graceful underhand serve just over the serve line in Caspar’s court. He struck the shuttlecock back with a slicing backhand that sent it curving toward the rear of the court. Anna’s return set Caspar up to take advantage of his powerful forehand. However, this was the third and deciding set of a hard fought match and Anna had learned a lot about Caspar’s playing style. She was set for the slam when it came and her return had the shuttlecock sailing high over Caspar, toward the back of the court. He had to rapidly backpedal and only just got his racket under the bird. The shuttlecock flew gently over the net and was a gift for the waiting Anna. Caspar remained near the back of the court, ready to field the slam that she was obviously set up for, so instead, she used a minimum of force to drop the shuttlecock just over the net. Caspar dove desperately, getting his racket under it, but without enough force to lift the shuttlecock over the net.

Anna smiled down at the boy sprawled at her feet and reached out a hand to help him back up. He ignored her hand and rolled back under the net before rising to his feet. Unnoticed, the shuttlecock fell at his side.

Humpf!” Anna exhaled indignantly before raking the shuttlecock under the net. She bounced it up with the tip of her racket, and with the shuttlecock in hand walked to her serve line.

“Match point!” Norma, called. “Players ready? Serve!”

Caspar’s rejection of her offered hand told Anna that she now had him psychologically beaten. It was now just a matter of scoring the required point. Her underhand serve was high. It was a gift that Caspar couldn’t possibly resist if he wanted to save the set, and he returned it with an overhand smash that just cleared the top of the net. However, Anna hadn’t sent that gift without good purpose. She’d bet herself that tired and beaten as he was Caspar wouldn’t try anything fancy. Instead of attempting to cut the shot she firmly expected him to revert to basics and go for maximum power. That meant he’d slam in a direction perpendicular to his shoulder line, which was exactly what happened, and Anna was ideally placed to make a cross-court backhand return that caught the tired Caspar flatfooted.

“Game, and match to Anna!” Norma called to loud cheering, and some jeering, from the players who had gathered to watch the match.

Anna opened and closed her right hand several times to release the cramps built up over the three hard games as she walked to the end of the net nearest the coach. She wiped the sweat from her palm before reaching up to offer her hand to Caspar. She wanted to compliment him on the match, but he looked past her as he quickly mumbled his congratulations for her win before hurrying off toward the coach.

She was shocked at Caspar’s behavior, but before she could chase after him to demand an explanation, the coach blew her whistle for attention.

“Caspar, I know the match lasted a bit longer than expected, and thanks for sticking with it until the end. I’ll catch you later,” Norma said.

Caspar gave Norma a quick salute of acknowledgement before hurrying off to the showers. After he disappeared through the doors, Norma turned back to Anna. “We’ve had a lot of interest in our expanded Winter Tournament this year, and we need an extra open grade mixed doubles pairing to balance the draw . . . ”

“I don’t have a partner for mixed doubles,” Anna said.

“Don’t worry, I know just the person.”

Anna swung around to see who Mrs. Sims thought should be her mixed doubles partner. There was nobody behind her, just the still swinging doors out of the sports hall. She stared blankly at the doors as she slowly realized who Mrs. Sims meant. She turned in horror. “Nooooo,” she wailed.

****

The weather mirrored Anna’s mood. It was dark and miserable, with sleet rattling on her umbrella as she hurried the last few yards from the tram stop to the hospital where she was due to start her shift on the Emergency Department admissions desk.

“You’re running a little late, aren’t you?”

Anna was startled by the sound of another voice. She looked up and smiled when she identified her foster mother. “Badminton practice ran a little over time,” she explained.

“I expect you’re doing extra training for Winter Tournament,” Garnet Szymanski prompted.

“Yes, and Mrs. Sims wants me to enter in the mixed doubles as well.”

“Well, that’s good? Isn’t it?”

Anna sighed. “She wants me to pair up with Caspar Weybrecht.”

“Nice boy. Good brain in his head. He did well in the EMT program,” Garnet said.

“He’s a prig, Mama Garnet.”

Garnet shook her head. “That doesn’t sound like the Caspar I know. You must be mistaken.”

“He’s a poor sport,” Anna protested. “He couldn’t get away fast enough after I beat him tonight.”

Garnet paused. “Are you sure there isn’t a good reason why he ran off?”

Anna paused. Mrs. Sims hadn’t seemed to mind that Caspar hurried off rather than hang around after the game. “He might have been late for something, but he couldn’t even meet my eyes when we shook hands at the net.”

“He might have a lot on his mind, what with the new semester entry exams for the B.N./D.O. program at Jena coming up soon,” Garnet suggested.

Anna was distracted. That was the same program she hoped to get into, and she had a question that had been teasing her for a while. “Why does the new program lead to a Doctor of Osteopathy rather than a Doctor of Medicine?”

Garnet grinned. “In order to keep the time to gain an undergraduate degree reasonable they’ve dumped a lot of the content the universities insist is required before they’re willing to grant a B.A. Creating a new nursing degree was the obvious solution, but there was still the problem with the existing M.D. programs.”

“I would have thought that the university would have been happy to adopt the up-time medical curriculum,” Anna said, a little confused.

“You’re forgetting one important fact about the universities,” Garnet said.

“What?”

“That they are all run by men.” Garnet grinned. “There’s a lot of chest pounding and bragging rights involved, and one of the most important things Jena University wanted to do is differentiate their medical graduates from medical graduates from lesser schools like Padua and Bologna. The easiest way is to give a different doctorate to those people who have been taught the new, up-time, medical theories.”

Anna had to smile at that. Padua and Bologna were Italian universities, and until the up-timers arrived, they had been two of the highest rated medical schools in the world. Even with Herr Stone’s help, it was going to be years before Padua offered anything comparable to Jena’s medical faculty. “So anybody calling themselves an M.D. won’t have trained in the new medical techniques?”

“That’s right.”

“I wonder what Dr. Adams thinks of that?” Anna wondered out loud with her tongue firmly in her cheek.

Garnet lightly smacked Anna’s hand. “Enough of that cheek, girl. Instead, why don’t you tell me what you’ve been doing lately?

“Dr. Abrabanel has asked me to do some research for his lectures to the medical students and resident physicians.”

“Oh?”

That one word question was a good indication that Garnet knew more about her activities than Anna had hoped. “He’s planning a series of lectures on epidemiology, and he wants me to re-do my posters from last year with the current information to help illustrate,” Anna said in the vain hope that Mama Garnet didn’t realize just how much time she’d have to devote to the project.

“I know you want to make me and your family proud. You are doing that. And, I want you to know that your sister is already paying enough for your room and board, so you don’t really need to work.” Garnet paused for breath. “Anna, when are you going to make time for yourself?” she demanded.

“I do,” Anna protested. “I do make time for myself. Don’t I play badminton?”

Garnet shook her head. “That’s not really what I mean, Anna. You should be going out to parties and meeting people.”

Anna turned a beady eye onto Mama Garnet. “You mean boy type people?”

“Well, yes.”

Anna glared. There was nothing she could possibly say, so she took advantage of the fact that they were just outside the entrance to the hospital to abandon the conversation.

****

“Anna, we have a small problem,” Nell Bowers, the hospital admissions clerk, started. “Mrs. Norris has called in sick, so you’re going to have to manage the desk on your own. I hope that won’t be a problem?”

Anna paused in the action of removing her damp cloak. Sole charge of the Emergency Department desk? She swallowed a couple of times to calm herself. “No, that shouldn’t be a problem. The last two nights I worked, Mrs. Norris just watched me as I filled out the forms and the logbook. I hope it’s nothing serious?”

“Just a winter cold. Mrs. Norris should be back at work in a couple of days. Now, I’ll leave you to get on.”

Anna hung her cloak on the one of the hooks at the back of the admissions area, and settled in behind the desk. There was no one in the waiting room as she checked her supplies and sharpened a couple of pencils. She picked up her book bag and started to lay out the notes that Dr. Abrabanel wanted her to work on. “I’d better get working on this stuff while it’s still quiet.”

Anna dug into the small stack of reports she had brought with her. With a tally sheet and a precious plastic coated map of the area around Grantville, she started tracking the various cases of sickness reported in the area over the past month.

A train on the Bamberg-Saalfeld railway

Elisabeth Ochs laid her book down beside her and shuffled around in her seat in an attempt to relieve the pressure on limbs forced to remain seated for hours. Her family seemed to be coping with the journey reasonably well, but then, they weren’t six months pregnant. She caught a movement in the edge of her eyes and looked up to meet the eyes of her middle stepson. She saw the way he was looking at the cover of her novel and raised her nose in the face of his obvious contempt for her choice of reading material.

“Couldn’t you find something decent to read, Mommsy?” Twelve-year-old Hans Michael Weybrecht asked.

Elisabeth, who was happily enjoying her Regency romance, looked across to the book Hans was reading. “Saltzman, Siebenhorn, and Stoltz? You think I should be reading their Introductory Alchemy text?”

He nodded. “It’s a very interesting book.”

“I’m sure it is, and you really shouldn’t use your Dr. Gribbleflotz Junior Alchemist Set to replicate some of their experiments.”

“That wasn’t me,” Hans protested.

Elisabeth raised her eyebrows. “What wasn’t you?” she asked conversationally. She cast an eye over the youngest of her three stepsons. Eight-year-old Hermann was restlessly sleeping in the corner next to the window. “I’m sure you haven’t allowed your brother sufficiently close to your book for him to have read chapter seven.”

“You’ve already read it?” Hans demanded in shocked tones.

She turned to look at her husband who was sitting beside her with her five-year-old stepdaughter asleep across his lap. Her marriage to Nikolaus Weybrecht five years ago when she was barely eighteen had turned out much more successfully than she could ever have hoped for. Nikolaus had a sense of humor, something sadly lacking in her own father, who was a contemporary of Nikolaus. Right now, his eyes were alive with humor at the stunned look on Hans’ face.

“We both have,” Nikolaus Weybrecht answered.

Hans held the textbook protectively against his chest. “Why didn’t you say something?” His eyes switched between the smiling faces of his father and stepmother. “You didn’t like the Heinkelmanns either,” he accused hopefully.

“They are your mother’s family,” Nikolaus said.

“But they were being horrible to Mama Lisabeth,” Hans said.

Elisabeth exchanged looks with Nikolaus. His late wife’s family hadn’t responded well when he’d married her so soon after Juliana’s death of childbed fever, but Nikolaus had been desperate. He had a business to run, three sons, the eldest only thirteen, and a brand new baby daughter to care for. Most families would have understood him taking a second wife so quickly, but not the Heinkelmanns. Elisabeth was sure that one of the biggest causes of their upset, beyond her general lack of dowry and respectable family, was just how readily her stepchildren had accepted her. “They still didn’t deserve having their salon targeted with a stink bomb.” She was sure that Hans would have appeared a lot more penitent if she wasn’t so obviously trying not to laugh at the memory of uproar that had resulted when the smell started to permeate the crowded room.

“I understand it’s a most difficult smell to remove,” Nikolaus said. “So don’t be caught doing anything like that again.”

“Or you’ll be thrust upon your grandmother’s mercy,” Elisabeth finished. She was trying to be strict and condemning of the action, but Nikolaus’ former mother-in-law had always been horrible to her.

Grantville Train Station

 

Betty Jo Hunsaker struggled against the wind and sleet as she walked carrying her suitcase along the road. Somewhere ahead was a tram stop where she could catch a tram to the railway station so she could head back to Magdeburg. However, the wind was playing havoc with her umbrella and she was getting wet.

“Hey, want a ride?” a voice from the road called out.

Betty Jo looked up to see Carl Duvall had pulled up along side her in a pickup truck. She walked over to the open passenger side window. “I’m headed for the railway station,” she said hopefully.

“So am I. Toss your bags in the back and climb in.”

Betty Jo collapsed her umbrella and put it and her suitcase on the back seat of the crew-cab pickup before climbing in. She slumped down on the seat and smiled at Carl. “Thanks. It’s a lousy day to be out.”

Carl grinned and passed Betty Jo a cloth to wipe the rain form her face. “Tell me about it. If the shipment coming on the Bamberg train wasn’t needed urgently, I’d be sitting at home.”

“Well, I’m thankful you had to make the trip,” Betty Jo said.

“Yeah, no trouble. I thought you were based in Magdeburg now?”

“I am, I was called back to help revise the curriculum for the respiratory therapy course. Just a few hours on the train and I’ll be back home in Magdeburg.

****

Betty Jo let Carl carry her suitcase into the railway station. They found somewhere to sit while they waited for the Bamberg train to arrive. She was half-asleep when the train pulled in and slowly rose to her feet. She was just starting to gather her possessions when she heard the primeval scream of a mother in distress. Her head rose and she scanned the platform. She quickly identified the source and hastened over.

“My baby, my baby!” a mother wailed.

Betty Jo could see a visibly pregnant woman trying to comfort a young child thrashing about in its father’s arms. Someone grabbed her hand, and she turned to see a familiar face.

Caspar Weybrecht dragged Betty Jo closer to the distressed parents. “Papa, this is Mrs. Hunsaker. She works in the hospital. Please let her examine Juliana.”

Betty Jo reached for the child in the man’s arms. They gently lowered the child to the ground before Betty Jo did a quick assessment. The girl was breathing but showed no other response. They had to get to the hospital quickly. She peered around looking for a face. “Carl! I need your truck. We need to get this child to the hospital, now!

Carl ran up to Betty Jo, pulling the keys to the truck out as he ran. “Do you want me to carry the girl?”

“No, just get the truck.” Betty Jo turned to the parents of the child she’d discovered was a girl. “Your daughter needs to get to the hospital fast. My friend has a vehicle that can get there quickly.”

The father took the child in his arms as Betty Jo wrapped her arm around the mother and hurried them toward Carl’s truck. Caspar took charge of his younger brothers. It took only a moment to get the whole family into the big pickup, and Carl took off in a squeal of tires. Betty Jo was too busy keeping an eye on the child across her lap in the back seat to react to the startled responses of the down-timers to Carl’s driving.

****

Despite the bad weather, the trip to the hospital was mercifully quick. Carl screeched to a halt at the entrance to the Emergency Department. The vehicle had barely stopped before Carl was out and pulling the girl out of Betty Jo’s lap and into his arms. He turned his shoulder to absorb the shock of the swinging doors as the girl started thrashing again.

Betty Jo helped the pregnant woman out while her husband chivied the three boys toward the still swinging doors.

Leahy Medical Center Emergency Department, Grantville

 

Anna was deep into her mapping when she was startled by the screech of tires. She heard some shouting and the double doors banged open. Carl Duvall barged into the emergency department, a slight child in his arms. Anna didn’t need a second look to realize the child was seizing. She hit the buzzer to alert the duty crew.

Nurses and techs converged on Carl, and carried the thrashing child to the main treatment bay. Warned by the sound of footsteps coming down the hall from the main area of the hospital, Anna held out a clipboard with a blank chart. Doyle Jackson, the duty respiratory therapist, grabbed it and he headed to the treatment bay at a run, while two of his students followed in his wake.

Anna turned back to the reception area where she saw Betty Jo Hunsaker leading a woman not much older than herself, as well as the rest of what she assumed was the patient’s family, an older gentleman and three boys. By their dress, they were at least well-to-do Germans, but not local. “Willkommen, Herr und Frau . . . ” She continued in German, “To the Leahy Medical Center. Please take a seat here and one of the nurses will be out in a minute to talk to you.”

“Hello, Anna.”

Startled, it took her a few seconds to recognize her recent opponent in his heavy coat. “Caspar,” she acknowledged before giving her attention back to the rest of the family. Her first good look at the other two boys shocked her. The youngest one was obviously feverish, with matted hair and dull eyes. Anna’s eyes widened when she noticed a reddish rash extending down his forehead.

“How long have they been ill?” She asked, gesturing at the two boys.

Caspar turned to his father and translated the question.

“Ill? Not Hans as well? Juliana and Hermann have been a little flushed and unsettled the last couple of days, but we have been traveling for four days. We thought it was just tiredness and travel sickness until Juliana fell down and started thrashing when we got off the train.”

Anna glanced at Caspar. He was looking at his brothers with barely concealed horror. “Excuse me for a moment, Mein Herr. I must tell Dr. Shipley something. I’m sure that someone will be out to talk with you soon.”

Anna picked up her telephone, pushed two buttons and held the hand piece up to her mouth. “Nurse Szymanski to the ED please, Nurse Szymanski to the ED please.”

Having made her call she walked around the counter to the treatment bay where Caspar’s little sister was being examined. Everyone was clustered around the child, now still and almost as pale as the sheet draped over her. Betty Jo and Doyle were at the head of the bed, supervising their students as they used one of the precious ventilation bags to breathe for the girl. Dr. Shipley was standing back a bit, watching as the well-trained team went through the initial life supporting steps. The child was not even resisting as the senior respiratory therapists supervised the two students squeezing the bag to keep the girl breathing.

Anna edged up to Dr. Shipley. “Dr. Shipley, we have a problem!”

“Oh? What is it, Anna? I heard you paging Garnet.”

“The children out here . . . measles . . . I think they have measles!”

“Oh, great!” Garnet had come up behind the two as Anna was talking. “Doc, Anna can introduce you to the family so you can get more information from them. I’ll get things more organized here. Take a couple of masks with you for the kids out there.” She took a look around, noting that there was a student nurse in the corner busily writing down what was happening. “Listen up, people! We have a potentially infectious case here. Masks and gloves, everyone! Recorder, make sure you have everyone’s name down on the list so that we can follow up on the exposures.”

Anna left Caspar to introduce Dr. Shipley to his parents while she slipped behind the counter and gathered up her map and papers. It didn’t take Dr. Shipley more than a minute before she was showing the two boys how to tie the masks on. “Anna, you have good eyes! It looks like all three of the younger kids have the measles. I’ll have Garnet out here in a minute to go over things with Caspar’s parents, but we’ll be admitting the kids to the isolation ward.” With her hand on the door to the treatment bay, she called out, “Garnet, break out the paraldehyde. We’re probably looking at measles encephalitis.”

The next few minutes passed in a blur. The father was left to comfort his wife and the two now very upset boys while Caspar answered Anna’s questions. It was a welcome relief when the swinging doors opened and Garnet came through.

“I’m Garnet Szymanski, the nurse in charge,” she said. “Your daughter is resting comfortably now, but she is still very sick. We need to keep her for a while so we can give her the medicine to keep her stable. However, she and your younger sons show all the symptoms of measles, which is a contagious disease. So, we’re going to have to put your whole family into quarantine. One of our quarantine houses is right behind the hospital, so you can be close to your daughter.” Garnet pulled a chair over to the desk so she could sit and talk with the family without anyone straining their necks.

The father looked thoughtful, “We are familiar with quarantine houses. Most towns have them. But, Frau Szymanski, what is this ‘measles’ and what is ‘encephalitis?'”

“‘Measles’ is what we call this particular infection, because it is different from smallpox or chickenpox. All three of them start out with the high fever, feeling bad and loss of appetite, but the rashes are different. With measles, the rash is flat and redder, as you see along your youngest son’s forehead. If we were to take the masks off the boys, we’d see little white spots on red rings inside their mouths as well. Up-time, we learned that those signs, taken together, are a result of a specific infection. ‘Encephalitis’ is from the Greek words for ‘brain’ and ‘inflammation’ and means that the brain itself is affected by the infection. You might know this type of infection as a ‘brain fever.’ What it means is that your daughter is very sick, but now that we’ve controlled the seizures, we believe she’ll make a full recovery.”

Caspar spoke up. “Frau, this is something only mentioned in the EMT course I just finished. Will I learn more in the study of small life, the microbiology?”

“Yes, Caspar, you’ll learn more in your microbiology classes. Now, there’s only a small chance that your brothers will get much sicker than they are now, but we don’t want them to infect other folks, so they need to keep wearing those surgical masks.” Garnet gestured to the masks over Hans and Hermann’s faces. She stood up and offered her hand to the family. “They were almost ready to take your daughter upstairs when I came out. Let’s go back so you can see her, then I’ll have Mrs. Hunsaker escort the rest of you upstairs to see the boys settled. You, Caspar, are just young enough that you will have to spend a couple of days in the quarantine house, but it will be safe for you two, as the parents, to stay with the kids for now. Mrs. Hunsaker will show you over there after that. She’ll have to stay there, anyway, for a couple of days.”

Anna had been catching up on the last of the paper work while Garnet spoke with the family. She handed three charts to Garnet and stepped back to let the group shuffle through the doors. She could hear Garnet and Dr. Shipley explaining what had happened to the young girl, including the need to keep giving her the medicine for at least a couple of days to let her body heal.

Anna finished making her entries in the logbook, and turned back to the reports she had been mapping. She had a new urgency to her actions, looking for evidence of more cases of measles.

She didn’t look up from her work until Betty Jo and Caspar walked back into the Emergency Department lobby. Papers were strewn across the desk and it looked like the map in the middle had developed a case of measles of its own. A rattle of sleet against the windows reminded her why she’d been able to work for so long without being interrupted.

“Anna, I need the key to Snell House. Caspar has to go into durance vile until he’s cleared of infection. I get to stay as well.”

Anna passed the key to Betty Jo, who couldn’t miss the tears in her eyes.

“Honey, what’s the matter?”

Silent tears ran down her face as Anna pushed the map she’d been working on across the desk.

Betty Jo stared at it blankly at first, before the meaning of all the dots and dates registered. “Oh, my! It looks like we’ve got a full fledged outbreak starting, and we missed the beginning of it two weeks ago!”

Anna bowed her head in shame. If only she’d started the mapping as soon as Dr. Abrabanel passed her the reports. Instead she’d put it off for over a week so she could train for a silly badminton tournament.

Thursday, 29 November, 1635

The Leahy Medical Center, Emergency Operations Center, Grantville, 0600 hours

“Okay, folks, let’s settle down so we can figure out what we need to do next.” Garnet Szymanski’s voice broke through the buzz of excited chatter as she called the meeting to order.

“You should all have heard by now that we have three confirmed cases of measles in the hospital. One is in serious condition while the other two are resting comfortably. In addition to these three, we also have more than a dozen cases in outlying areas, including several reported from day cares, and at least another fifteen up-time folks with uncertain immune status who have been exposed. We’ve opened Snell House already, and the other quarantine houses should be reopened by this afternoon.”

Garnet paused to look around. This epidemic was going to be the first challenge to the Sanitary Commission since the brush with smallpox and an unknown infection back in 1632, and it was the first real test for the hospital’s new Emergency Operations Center. Everyone in the room was terribly aware of that fact.

“Early this morning, Dr. Abrabanel, as Chairman of the Sanitation Committee, issued official travel restrictions for our state. Public Health Officers have started trying to identify anybody who might have come into contact with the infected family before they boarded the train in Bamberg. The train in question was stopped and quarantined in Magdeburg before passengers could leave, so hopefully we’ll be able to control the disease there. Dr. Shipley, would you give us a rundown on what we’re dealing with?”

Dr. Susannah Shipley stood. “Thank you, Mrs. Szymanski. Each of you should have a handout covering this material, as well as the symptoms of measles. We have two major problems. Just like with smallpox, the up-timer community has low herd immunity to measles. We have a large pool of people born between 1959 and 1980 who may not have full immunity, and we have many babies born since 1999 who have no immunity at all. The other problem, and one I think we must not underestimate, is that many up-timers won’t report an occurrence of measles because they believe it is ‘just another childhood disease.'” She stopped to take a sip of water. “We need to launch a publicity campaign to ensure that all infections are reported.” Susannah glanced over at the head of the Emergency Operating Center. “Georg, you’ll have to take charge of that.”

“Radio and newspaper?” Georg Lenkert asked as he made a note on the pad in front of him.

“We’ll probably want to add an announcement on the TV as well,” Susannah answered.

“What do you want me to put across?” Georg asked.

“We need to tell people what to look for, and what to be aware of. Patients are infectious for about ten days starting from about four days before a visible rash breaks out, so they have to be kept isolated for that time.”

“How do you know to isolate someone four days before the rash appears?” Georg asked.

Susannah shook her head. “You can’t, so we’ll have to record the names of everyone an infected person has come into contact within those four days so they can be quarantined. The incubation—or latency—period runs between one and three weeks, so we have a minimum of a month of work ahead of us. We can expect that up to twenty percent of the folks in our area who get sick will need more care than they can get at home, and up to five percent will die either from the measles or from a secondary infection despite our best care.”

“I assume you don’t want me to broadcast that little snippet?” Georg asked.

Susannah stopped speaking. After staring into the distance for nearly a minute, she smiled grimly. “It might be the shock to the system the up-timers need to make them treat measles with the respect the disease deserves.”

“Dr. Shipley,” Kirk Walker, one of the Sanitary Commission’s enforcement staff, called. “I notice you’re only worried about up-timers. What about down-timers?”

Garnet winced at the question. She wondered how Dr. Shipley would handle Kirk, but it was Georg who spoke out.

“Most down-timers are already aware that any fever with a rash can be a killer, Herr Walker. We don’t need a media campaign to tell us that.”

****

Garnet escaped from the meeting room and wiped the sweat from her forehead. Someone bumped into her and she turned to see Georg beside her. “For a moment there I thought Dr. Shipley was going to murder Kirk.”

A grim smile lit Georg’s face. “No jury would ever convict, but it would have been an unnecessary distraction, otherwise I wouldn’t have spoken. Anyway, can you get me a list of nursing and medical students who have already had the measles?”

Garnet nodded. “You’re thinking about using immunes for your field teams?”

“Yes. I just hope we have enough.”

Garnet smiled. “With school out due to the quarantine, I believe we’ll have enough. I can almost assure it.”

Georg looked at her quizzically but she refused to say anything more.

Friday, 30 November, 1635

Sanitary Commission Office, Leahy Medical Center, Grantville, 0800 hours

Georg Lenkert looked up as two teens peeked into his office. “Guten Tag, Anna, Caspar. You are right on time!” He closed the book he had been making notes in and got his heavy coat. “Anna. You have your maps with you?” She held up the leather messenger’s case hanging across her chest. “Very good. Then if we’re ready, let us get our vehicle and go and collect Katharina.” Garnet had proven true in her prediction and every Commission team that had gone out in the past two days had a pair of older teens willing to help, if for no other reason than to get out of sick-child-sitting duties.

They stepped outside to a brisk but sunny day. Even the wind didn’t cut as badly as it had just two days ago because of the bright sunshine. Georg turned to Caspar. “Did you train with the new ambulance buggies in your EMT class?”

“Yes, Herr Lenkert. We had to practice working in them as they were being driven down some of the rougher roads, and also had to take a turn as the patient for the others to practice on.”

Georg grinned when Caspar shuddered. He would put money on it that he was re-living lying on a stretcher on some of those roads. “Even with pneumatic tires, the suspension can’t deal with those roads if you’re trying to go fast.”

“Tell me about it,” Caspar muttered.

****

Anna looked at Caspar quizzically. He didn’t sound stuck up when he was talking to Herr Lenkert. Maybe Mama Garnet was right about him after all. She turned her attention back to where they were going, and just in time, because just as they turned the corner they were confronted by a gleaming white carriage with a pair of horses hitched to the front. A stable boy was standing at the head of the horse on the left, while the horses had their noses buried in feed bags.

She dropped her overnight bag and walked around the ambulance, admiring the bright blue six-armed crosses that adorned both sides and each of the doors. Picked out in gold paint around the large crosses on the sides were the words “Leahy Medical Center Ambulance Corps, Grantville, SoTF”. She could only marvel that such a big wagon could be drawn at speed by just two horses, especially when the postal coaches never had fewer than four horses.

Georg joined her in her examination of the vehicle, but his examination wasn’t concentrated on the paint work, he was paying close attention to the wheels and springs. Anna followed him, paying closer attention to the construction of the vehicle. The most noticeable feature was the wheels. They weren’t wooden wheels, they were up-time tires.

“Herr Lenkert, this is very different from any other carriage I have ever seen. Is this something that the up-timers brought with them?”

Georg shook his head. “No. They had so many of the automobiles that most of them couldn’t even ride a horse or drive a team when they first appeared in Thuringia.” He rapped the wooden side of the ambulance. “This little beauty is something the Sanitary Committee dreamed up for when there isn’t an up-time ambulance available.”

“How is it possible that just two horses can pull it so fast?” she asked.

Georg rapped the side again. “This is made from plywood attached to a lightweight frame. And, that’s fixed to a box section steel chassis. All up, we’re maybe half of a ton lighter than if we’d built the same thing using our old methods and wood, and of course, the up-time pneumatic tires help.”

Anna met Georg’s grin and smiled.

“All ready here, Herr Lenkert!”

Anna jerked at the sound. She’d completely forgotten about Caspar. “What have you been doing?” she asked.

“Checking everything we need is in place and secured.” He glanced back at Georg. “I am ready to go.”

“Very good, Caspar,” Georg nodded. “Pass the feed bags to Caspar,” Georg called to the stable boy. “Anna, you’ll be in front with me navigating. Up you get.” He took Anna’s overnight bag and added it to his own bag under the seat before he helped her up the high step before climbing aboard himself. He took up the reins before glancing through the window into the cabin behind to check that Caspar was seated. Then he gave a little slap with the reins, and the horses started moving.

****

The ambulance barely pulled to a halt outside Snell house when Caspar swung open the back doors and jumped out. A young woman, bundled up against the chill and holding a large basket in one hand and an overnight bag in the other, hurried over to him. Caspar accepted the heavy basket she thrust into his arms before she tossed her overnight bag in and scrambled up after it. When he got to his seat the woman was already seated with her bags secured around her. She unwound her scarf and smiled at Caspar.

“Nice to see you again, Caspar,” Katharina Schrey said. “Betty Jo said to tell you that you’re lucky your father remembered that you had measles when you were your sister’s age. Otherwise you’d still be with her in Snell House right now, and she’s stuck there for at least another two weeks.”

Caspar gestured to the faces at the hatch separating the cabin from the driver’s seat. “Have you met Anna Krause?”

Katharina held out her hand for Anna to grasp. “Oh, I’ve heard good things about you from Dr. Abrabanel. We’re all sure you’ll get into the BN/DO program after you graduate from high school.”

Caspar stared at the blushing Anna. He’d known her for most of the semester as just another badminton player. Now, suddenly, he was confronted by the fact that she not only wanted to get into the BN/DO program just like him, there were actually important people who thought she’d get in.

“Thank you, Frau Schrey.”

“What’s with this Frau Schrey business? Georg, what have you been telling these children?” Katharina demanded. Then she turned and held her hand out to first Anna and then Caspar. “Call me Katharina. Now, Georg, can we get a move on?”

“Of course, dear.”

Caspar settled himself in his seat as best he could for the trip. It was an up-time motor car seat complete with a seatbelt, and his experience on the EMT course was that sometimes you needed it. He secured his seatbelt and glanced over at Katharina just in case she needed help, but she’d already strapped in and was actually writing in her notebook.

Rottenbach village square

After a drive of nearly two hours, made worse by the condition of the half-mile or so where the road—and calling that section a road was being overly generous in Georg’s opinion—passed through the Ring Wall to connect Route 250 to the road to Rottenbach, Georg finally pulled the ambulance to a halt outside the largest building in Rottenbach. He tossed a small coin to the stable boy who appeared as if by magic from behind the inn while Anna pulled the feed bags out of the locker under her seat. All four travelers stopped to stretch before Georg led the way into the inn.

Guten Tag. We represent the West Virginia County Sanitary Commission and we wish to have speech with the Schultz. Where might we find him?” Georg asked of the man behind the counter.

The innkeeper ignored Georg’s words and quickly rounded the counter to wrap his arms around him in a ferocious bear hug. “Georg! It’s been too long since we last met” He sobered quickly. “You are here because of the sick children?” At Georg’s nod, he continued. “The Schultz and his wife are at his daughter’s house. Two of his grand-children are sick. You’ll also want to talk to the pastor, as we’ve already lost a little one.”

“We’d hoped not to hear that kind of news so early in the day. What about the rest of the families?”

Henning Wandsleb grimaced. “The visiting nurse was through last week, just before the rash appeared. She reminded us about the need for quarantine if something like this showed up, but the mother of the dead child couldn’t stand to stay here. She disappeared two nights ago with her other two children. We sent messages to your office and the sheriff’s office as soon as we realized she was gone.”

“I haven’t seen anything from Rottenbach.” Georg chewed at his bottom lip. “Is there a husband?”

Henning shook his head. “He was killed in one of the skirmishes near Luebeck last year.”

“Does she have much money?” Georg asked hopefully. If she had money, it’d be easier to find her.

“She had only her home here and the widow’s benefit that the government paid. She couldn’t have much money in hand.”

Georg turned to Katharina, who’d been carefully filling out the case report form while Caspar and Anna looked on, exposing her to Henning’s view. His face lit up as he pushed Georg aside so he could hug her. “Katharina! A thousand pardons for not having noticed your light behind this big lunk.”

“Henning, you’d flatter a mud turtle if you thought that he’d buy your beer!”

Henning shook his head ruefully and glanced at Georg, “You have married an independent woman!”

Ja! She is that, and I love her all the more for it.”

“Let me introduce you to our assistants,” Katharina said. “This is Anna Krause and Caspar Weybrecht. They both hope to enter the new medical program at Jena.”

Henning reach out to shake Anna and Caspar’s hands in turn. “So you hope to follow Katharina’s footsteps. That is good. We need more proper doctors.” Henning smiled for a moment before turning serious again. “Enough chatting, you have people to see.” He clapped a hand on Georg’s shoulder. “But don’t leave Rottenbach without seeing me again.”

****

The church was beside a silent and empty schoolyard. Katharina was happy to see this evidence that the quarantine was in place. She pulled Anna into the lead with her and they walked to the parish house and knocked on the door. A slight figure in heavy academic robes answered the knock, and peered at the two women as he fumbled for the spectacles hanging from his neck. “Yes, my daughters, how may I help you?”

“Pastor Wilhelm?” At his nod, Katharina continued. “I’m Frau Schrey and this is Fräulein Krause. We’re Public Health Officers from the West Virginia County Sanitary Commission, and we need to ask you some questions about the child who died.”

“Ach, a sad thing. Come in, come in out of the cold” The pastor finally got his spectacles on and he noticed the men. “Are these men with you?”

“Yes, Pastor Wilhelm, but they will be going to interview the Schultz and check on his grandchildren.” She waved at Georg and Caspar, and the pair started on down the lane to the house where Henning had indicated they could find the Schultz.

“Margarethe, we have guests from the Sanitary Commission,” Pastor Wilhelm called out. There was the rattling of crockery in a distant part of the house in response to his call and a woman soon appeared at the parlor door bearing a tray loaded with several mugs, a pitcher redolent of spices and small beer, and a pile of Pfeffernüsse. “Margarethe, these ladies need to know about little Kunigunde.”

Margarethe Schrapel sniffled a bit while her husband patted her hand. “Kunigunde was my first husband’s late cousin’s youngest girl. She had a fever one day, the rash the next, and the morning after that, she was cold and blue when Dorothea went to wake her up.”

Katharina kept the interview going by gently prompting the pastor and his wife with carefully worded questions while Anna filled out the incident report form. When she thought she had everything she was going to get from them she gently wound up the interview. “Thank you for your cooperation, Pastor Wilhelm, Margarethe. You have been most helpful.”

****

Outside the pastor’s house, Anna turned to Katharina. “Where is Trassdorf?”

Katharina thought for a moment before shaking her head. “We’ll have to ask Georg. He knows the area much better than I do.”

“Do you think that’s where she has run?” Anna asked.

Katharina glared at Anna. “How should I know? Until we know where the place is, I have no opinion. Understood?”

Anna nodded glumly and they walked in silence until they joined the men. Katharina spoke first. “The pastor’s wife thought the mother might still have some family in Trassdorf.”

Scheisse!” Georg spat out angrily. “That’s six villages and the Ilm River road west of here. There’s no telling how many people she could have infected.”

Katharina cringed at the expletive, but she understood the reason for it. “We had some luck. The older siblings of the deceased child apparently had measles two years ago while the mother, Dorothea Müller, was still suckling her.”

Georg smiled grimly. “At last, some good news. Well, Matthaeus’ grandchildren definitely have measles. I’ve given the mother a treatment pamphlet and a package of oatmeal cream to help with the itching as they get better. She’s an intelligent woman and has her mother to help. We’ll check the quarantine arrangements, but Matthaeus says there have been no other cases yet.”

“But, if there are no other cases, how did these three get infected?” Caspar asked.

Georg glared at Caspar. “Thank you for your question. Next question, please.”

“You mean that is something we have to find out?” Caspar asked.

Georg nodded. “Welcome to the glamorous life of a Public Health Officer.”

The Inn at Greisheim, late afternoon

Georg pulled the ambulance to a halt outside the inn in Greisheim. Standing on the step before climbing down, he glanced to the west. About a mile to the west he could almost make out the village of Trassdorf. They’d spent the day following in Dorothea Müller’s wake, but they’d also had to inspect the villages they passed through. They were all tired, and Georg doubted any of them was looking forward to spending the night in whatever limited accommodations Trassdorf might offer. So, he stopped here. At least Greisheim had an inn.

He left the ambulance in the hands of the efficient looking groom who’d appeared moments before he stepped to the ground and herded Katharina and the two teens toward the inn.

“No sign of Frau Müller,” Georg observed.

“But also no sign that she has left a trail of death and destruction behind her,” Katharina said.

“Yet!” Georg said pessimistically. “Remember the incubation period. We could go down that same route in a week’s time and find villagers dropping like flies.”

He led his charges into the inn and after arranging rooms guided them to the dining area. Georg could feel suspicious eyes following them, and wondered why.

A serving girl guided them to a table and took their orders. She returned a few minutes later with a large tray laden with bowls of steaming stew, bread fresh from the oven, and four large mugs of beer.

Georg had just taken a bite when a burly, well-dressed man with the key of a Schultz hanging from a gold chain around his neck bustled through the door. His eyes followed the man as he strode up to the innkeeper and engaged in a short conversation before the innkeeper pointed to their table.

“You are the people who arrived in the Leahy Medical Center Ambulance Corps ambulance?

Guten Abend, Herr Schultz, I am Georg Lenkert, my companions and I are with the West Virginia County Sanitation Commission. How might I be of assistance?”

“Are you here to enforce the quarantine on our village?” the older man demanded.

Georg exchanged a smile of enlightenment with Katharina. So that was why there had been those suspicious looks when they entered. He stood up, and in a calm but deliberately loud voice said. “Quarantine? Why would we need to quarantine Greisheim?”

“We have heard that the Sanitary Commission is worried about a new epidemic,” the Schultz said.

Georg smiled most sincerely. “There is no epidemic, sir. There is merely great concern about a disease called measles, which many of the up-timers are vulnerable to, that might be passing through Grantville. Out current job is to look for signs of measles in the communities around Grantville.

“And if you find measles what will you do?”

“Isolate the sufferers, and give the poor suffering parent—because it’s going to be children that will have it—a special oatmeal cream to reduce the itching,” Georg said.

“Thank you for your information, Herr Lenkert. I’m sure that the good people of Greisheim will give you and your people every assistance.” Without a further word, the burly Schultz turned and strode out, almost knocking a younger man down in his haste to get out of the door.

The younger man backed into Georg while watching the Schultz leave. He hastily turned, all apologetic. “Beg pardon, Mein Herr!”

Georg felt something in the palm of the hand the man offered. He secured it with a thumb as they released hands. “Think nothing of it, Mein Herr.” Georg thrust his right hand into a pocket and released the folded piece of paper he’d been handed before returning to his meal.

****

Inside their room, Georg pulled out the piece of paper and read it. Then he passed it to Katharina.

“Dorothea Müller is Schultz Müller’s niece.” Katharina handed back the piece of paper. “That was a very sneaky way to pass such a seemingly innocuous note. Why not come straight out and say it?”

Georg stared at Katharina for a few seconds. “Now why didn’t I think of that?”

“You’re a man,” Katharina answered. “Men don’t think. Now, the only reason I can think of for such a discreet method of relaying the information is that Dorothea is not only the Schultz‘s niece, but she is currently staying with him.”

“Without identifying the snitch to the rest of the community,” Georg said.

“Ah, so you’re not just a pretty face,” Katharina said. “So, what do we do now?”

“We pay a call on the good Schultz and beg his assistance in checking the village for measles,” Georg said.

“And once we cross the threshold, we look for Dorothea?”

“Yes.”

****

The threshold in question supported a massive, nail-studded door. The Schultz himself answered Georg’s knock. “Herr Lenkert?”

“Herr Schultz, this is my wife, Katharina, and one of our students, Fräulein Krause. This strapping young lad is my apprentice, Caspar. I’m hoping that you or your good wife will show me and my apprentice around the village so we can check on the health of the citizens.”

The large man’s nod of acknowledgement was abrupt. “One moment.” He called to a rather dumpy but well dressed woman. “Wife! Take the Frau und Fräulein to the parlor and entertain them while we are gone!”

A smile appeared on Katharina’s face as she watched Georg and Caspar lead the Schultz away. She turned in time to greet his wife.

Wilcommen. I apologize for mein husband’s abrupt manner, but he is under a lot of pressure right now. I am Anna Maria Füchsel.”

Katharina wasn’t surprised that they had been turned over to the man’s wife, but she was surprised that, despite his domineering ways, the woman didn’t appear at all cowed. “Danke, Frau Füchsel. I’m hoping that you will help us tonight. We know that Dorothea is your husband’s niece. We only need to talk to her and check the boys out. If they are all right, we won’t need to do anything else.”

At Katharina’s words both Frau Füchsel and another woman who’d been fussing over finger food and mulled wine turned white and the ‘maid’ almost dropped the pitcher of wine she was pouring from. “Frau Müller, I presume?” Katharina continued sympathetically, “I was sorry to learn of your loss. Pastor Wilhelm and his wife told us of the tragedy.”

The woman, who Katharina had correctly identified as Dorothea Müller, collapsed in her aunt’s arms, sobbing. Katharina directed Anna to continue pouring the wine while they waited for the sobs to subside. “Frau Müller, have your sons been sick since you left Rottenbach?” Katharina spoke softly, so as not to restart the sobbing.

“No. They had the measles last year, shortly after Kunigunde was born. The visiting nurse saw them then and confirmed that,” Dorothea responded, hiccoughing slightly.

“Good! If you’ll just lead me to your boys I’ll have a quick look at them and then, when Frau Füchsel’s husband is done trying to confuse my husband, we’ll take our leave.”

****

The four women were chatting easily when the door boomed open and the Schultz strode into the room. “What is this? Wife, what are you doing?”

“Oh, hush, Hans!” Dumpy Frau Füchsel underwent an almost magical transformation when she stood up, seeming to gain almost six inches in height. “I told you that you were being paranoid. These nice ladies had no intention of putting the whole village under quarantine. They have already seen to the boys, and cleared them.”

Hans Müller knelt next to his niece, who had started sobbing again. He gently stroked her hair, and when he looked at Katharina again, tears were streaming down his face. “My apologies, ladies. We had heard that you were looking for Dorothea and her boys, and that you would have to quarantine the whole village wherever you found them.”

“Herr Müller, the Commission won’t quarantine the whole village for one case of the measles,” Katharina continued. “How long has it been since one of the visiting nurses has been around to explain such things?”

Königsee Village Square, next day

 

It was well past noon when Caspar led the way toward the ambulance that stood waiting in the middle of Königsee. Since they’d left Greisheim at daybreak they’d visited five villages, with Königsee being the latest, and covered barely ten miles.

“Still nothing more than the usual winter measles,” Georg commented to the silence.

Caspar took a moment to understand what Georg was saying. They’d been met by less than a dozen mild cases of measles. That was nothing like what he’d been led to believe the Sanitation Committee expected. Before he could say anything, a rumble interrupted the silence. Caspar looked around apologetically while he rubbed the source of the sound. The day had started before sunrise, and he hadn’t eaten for hours. His embarrassment was reduced when Anna’s stomach spoke out in sympathy.

“It sounds like the children are hungry,” Georg said. “Would you like to eat now, or later?”

Caspar sent Katharina a begging look that made her laugh. “Poor Caspar, he’s fading away. Let’s stop down by the river.”

Georg smiled back. “Very well. All aboard. Anna, keep an eye out for somewhere suitable for our picnic.”

A hundred yards outside Königsee, Georg pulled the ambulance to the side of the road. Anna took a bucket down to the stream for water for the horses while Georg tended to them and Katharina and Caspar brought out the hamper that had been refreshed in Greisheim.

“Next stop’s the new kaolin mines,” Georg announced as he dug into the hamper.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been there,” Katharina said. “What’s the housing like?”

“Not as bad as you might expect,” Georg said. “They might be mostly unskilled labor, but they have a real community spirit, which makes up for a lot.”

The Kaolin Mine

Anna had visited the mining settlement several times with the local visiting nurse while she was working on the blue ribbon project that had caught Dr. Abrabanel’s attention, the one that led him to recruit her to help with his epidemiology classes. She glanced around. Other than the addition of what looked like a water tower and a windmill to power a pump for it at the back of the main residential building, there didn’t seem to have been much change since her last visit.

“We need to split up,” Katharina announced. “Most of the children should be in the living quarters. Caspar, you go with Anna and start checking there. Georg and I will start with the diggers.”

Anna shot a covert glance at Caspar. She was worried he might object to being placed in the subordinate role. She was surprised to hear him acknowledge Katharina and accept a clipboard without any trace of resentment before joining her.

They scattered a small flock of scraggly looking chickens as they picked their way through the rather messy ground leading to the long thatched building that was the settlement’s living quarters. Anna pretended not to hear Caspar’s disparaging comments about “Peter Tumbledown” living conditions.

They were met just outside the living quarters by a bellicose billy goat. Much to Anna’s surprise, Caspar stepped between her and the animal. She gently pushed him out of the way. “His gruff is worse than his butt,” she explained as she produced part of a sandwich she’d saved when told the mine was their next stop and held it out on an open palm.

The shaggy animal sniffed at the offering before taking it delicately. While the goat licked the crumbs from her hand, Anna reached out and scratched him between the ears. “See? Hold out your hand and I’ll introduce you to Gars.” The goat finished chewing the bit of sandwich and after assuring itself that Anna didn’t have any more food sniffed at Caspar’s hand. Finding Caspar’s hands empty, Gars tossed his head and trotted off.

“The first time I came out here he chased me around the barnyard until one of the young goatherds took pity on me and introduced us.” She sent Caspar a smile hoping he’d accept her peace offering. When he smiled back, she got more serious. “Caspar, these are some good folks, albeit not the kind of people you’re probably used to dealing with. You might have difficulty understanding their accent. I think that’s why Katharina wanted me to take the lead.”

Caspar didn’t have a chance to respond as suddenly the main door to the living quarters burst open and a wave of children boiled out and hustled Anna and Caspar back into the building.

Anna immediately noticed changes since she’d last visited the settlement. For a start, the long room was warm. Immediately to her left, a potbelly stove that hadn’t been there only a few months ago radiated heat, while a pot of something simmered gently on the hotplate. The women, young and old, seated near it barely broke their spinning to look up and acknowledge Anna and Caspar’s entry. The only person who seemed to be interested in the intruders, other than the noisy children, was the teenage woman who’d obviously been trying to teach them their letters.

Anna shooed away the children that were tugging on her coat and walked toward the teacher. To her left the southern wall had a number of windows, with real glass in them, albeit in small panes, letting in sunlight. To her right, put up against the wall, were the sleeping pallets that would be lowered at night for people to sleep on. Beyond the group of long tables that doubled as the schoolroom and communal dining area, the large fireplace where the community had done all their cooking had been replaced by a large cast iron stove. She stopped and looked around. The people in this small mining community had certainly made an effort to improve their comfort.

“Hello, Anna. What brings you here at this time?” the teacher asked.

“Hello, Greta. There’s a measles scare in Grantville and the Sanitation Commission has sent out teams to check for signs of the disease in the settlements surround Grantville.”

“We don’t have any measles here. The visiting nurse was here just last week and gave us a clean bill of health.’

Anna nodded. She knew the nurse visited the settlement regularly. “I’m sure you’re right, but we’d better check.”

“We?” Greta looked past Anna and saw Caspar. “Who’s he? Your boyfriend?”

Anna tried to ignore the arch look Greta was sending her. It was difficult, and she could feel the heat flooding her face. “Caspar’s just another volunteer. We hardly know each other.”

Anna would have felt a lot better if Greta hadn’t looked at her in that knowing way.

****

Anna turned the last toddler toward his mother and gently sent him on his way. She glanced over at Caspar who was also just finishing his share of the children. Their eyes met and Caspar shook his head to indicate he hadn’t found any sign of measles either. She stepped closer enough to Greta to be heard over the din.

“How have you managed to keep the children clean in this weather?”

Greta smiled shyly and led the way to the door to the left of the larger stove. She opened it and proudly pointed out the large hot water tank that backed onto the iron stove in the new addition. “Hot water from here feeds the bath, the showers, and the tubs where we wash clothes.”

Anna was quite impressed. The first time she had been to this settlement, her first thoughts had mirrored Caspar’s “Peter Tumbledown.” Things had come a long way since then.

“Anna?” Caspar’s voice sounded loud in the now quiet building.

“In here, Caspar”

“Wow!” Caspar said from the doorway.

Anna turned and grinned. “Impressive, isn’t it?”

Caspar nodded and moved closer to give the bathroom a closer inspection. “We don’t have anything like this back home.” He smiled at Greta. “If Step-mama could see this she’d insist Papa have one just like it installed at home.”

Anna listened to Caspar and Greta comparing notes on the problems associated with keeping younger siblings clean and out of trouble in silent wonder. She couldn’t help but notice how animated he became when he talked about his brothers, sister and step-mother and father. Was this really the same Caspar she’d labeled a prig? Had she been as wrong about him as he had been about the mining settlement when he called it “Peter Tumbledown”?

“Caspar? Anna?” Georg’s voice echoed through the building and caused another eruption of noise from the children in the common room. Anna led Caspar and Greta back there to find Georg being mobbed by children demanding if he’d brought any gifts.

“Yes, liebchen, I did. But, you have to wait, as it’s too close to dinner time. Your mamas would hurt me if I gave you a treat right now. It’s for dessert tonight.”

Katharina entered the common room from the door to the right of the iron cooker right then, and the expression on her face instantly sobered the others. Greta grabbed the older girls and had them chivvy the children to the other end of the common room before returning.

“A spinster aunt who moved in last week has taken ill. The silly woman insisted on working in the clay pit even after she started feeling bad. I think she’s got influenza, and she’s pretty dehydrated. I’ve already sent someone to Königsee with a request that they telegraph the hospital and warn them we are bringing her in. Caspar, take Anna with you and get the stretcher and a hydration pack.” She turned to Greta. “You, go with them and show them where to take it.”

“What is influenza?” Greta asked as they hurried toward the ambulance. “Is Tante Ursula going to die?”

Anna and Caspar exchanged glances. Caspar turned away first. “Of course not,” Anna said, with more bravado than truth. While not as life-threatening as measles, influenza could still be a serious illness in the very young and very old. And, unlike measles, there was no long lasting immunity from the disease, which meant that everyone at this settlement was probably going to have a miserable week or two.

At the ambulance, Caspar grabbed the collapsed stretcher while Anna and Greta took blankets and Greta led them to where her Tante Ursula was lying.

They found Georg and Katharina standing over the patient talking to a couple of men.

“Oh good, you brought extra blankets,” Georg said. He helped Caspar unfold and lock the stretcher while Katharina and Anna pulled a blanket under the patient to make it easier to move her from her pallet to the stretcher.

When they were ready, Georg directed the two men to help lift the patient and in seconds she was gently deposited on the stretcher. Then, with Casper at the front left, the four males took a corner each and lifted the stretcher off the ground. “Katharina, you hurry ahead and prepare the ambulance.”

Anna followed Katharina and hurried ahead to the ambulance. They climbed into the back, and helped guide the stretcher into its rack, where they locked it in place.

The doors slammed closed behind Caspar and Anna heard the driver’s door being opened. Then Georg’s head appeared at the connecting window.

“All set back there?” he called.

“Yes,” Katharina called as she hit a switch, flooding the cabin with light. Anna blinked, not expecting that a horse-drawn ambulance would have electric lighting.

The ambulance started with a jerk, but soon settled down. Anna settled into one of the attendant’s seats and watched Caspar and Katharina work on the patient. This was a part of medicine that she wouldn’t otherwise get to experience until she was old enough to take the EMT class in the fall.

“Should I start an IV? Caspar asked.

“No,” Katharina said. “I’d rather see how she responds to rehydration by mouth rather than try and insert a needle while we’re moving. Besides we should be able to get her to the hospital inside the hour if they have a motor ambulance ready to transfer her when we get to the power station.”

“Why do you want to transfer the patient at the power station?” Anna asked. “Surely it would be faster to continue straight to the hospital without stopping.”

Katharina shook her head. “Maybe, if the horses were fresh, but they’ve already had a long day, and at the pace Georg is running them, they’ll be well and truly blown by the time we reach the power station.”

Grantville Power Plant

The high cliff of the Ring Wall was cutting off the light of the setting sun, putting the road and the power station in deep shadow. The lights outside the main office acted as a beacon, and Georg steered the ambulance toward them and the waiting motor ambulance. It was the work of just a few minutes to hand over the patient to the other crew, and Georg gathered his foursome together as the motor ambulance moaned off toward Grantville.

“We’ll call in and let your folks know that we’re staying out here at the power station. I’d rather not drive the horses any further today and it saves the horses the pull back to Grantville tonight, and back out here in the morning. With the horses better rested, we’ll be able to visit more places tomorrow. Katharina, you take the children in and show them around. Caspar, Anna, the Commission has an arrangement with the power station, so don’t worry about paying for what you eat or using up the hot water.”

Georg watched his wife lead off the teens before he turned to take care of the horses. The hot baths at the power station were something to cherish, and he couldn’t wait to sink himself up to his chin in really hot water.

The guest rooms at the Power Plant

Caspar and Anna followed Katharina over to the phone booth in the corner where she was able to get through to Garnet Szymanski, who was already on duty at the hospital. She passed on the information about Trassdorf before asking for an update on the situation at the hospital. She passed the phone to Anna while she digested the news from Grantville. Anna in turn passed it to Caspar.

Caspar was smiling when he handed the phone to Katharina. “Juliana is doing much better. Mama Lisabeth says she’s even woken several times. That is good?” he begged of Katharina.

“Yes, that’s good, Caspar,” Katharina confirmed. “Now, let’s hurry over to the cafeteria before that guts of a husband of mine can grab everything worth eating.”

They hurried through to the staff cafeteria where they loaded trays with bowls of stew and plates of bread. They’d barely sat down when Georg appeared with his own loaded tray.

“The horses are settled in nice comfortable stalls on beds of fresh straw. I only hope we’ll be half as comfortable,” he said as he sat down.

Katharina looked at her husband over her loaded spoonful of stew. “I’d much rather have a proper stuffed mattress on a spring base. No unwanted guests,” she informed the obviously curious Anna and Caspar.

With no conversation to hinder them the four quickly emptied their plates. Georg held Katharina back while Anna and Caspar led the way out of the cafeteria. “Bad news from the hospital?” he asked when the teens were out of sight.

Katharina nodded. “They’ve hospitalized Kathryn McDonnell with a bad case of influenza.”

“Dr. McDonnell’s wife?” Katharina nodded. “That’s bad. At her age it could be serious.”

“Very serious,” Katharina agreed. “With influenza around at the same time even normally minor cases of measles could assume all kinds of complications. Even worse, there are a dozen more cases of the flu reported in Grantville, and five more cases of measles that had to be admitted to the hospital.”

The couple continued on arm-in-arm. They found Anna and Caspar sitting on a bed talking.

“Children,” Georg said. “We missed everything from Königsee to here last night, so we’re going to have to go out again to finish our loop. That means we’ll need to be on the road as soon as there’s enough light to drive the horses, so get what sleep you can, because tomorrow’s going to be another long day.”

Caspar said his goodnights to Anna and Katharina, then Georg led him down the hall to his room. Katharina took a long look at Anna and smiled. “So, is he still a ‘prig and a poor sport’?”

Anna blushed. “No, I misjudged him. He was worried about not being at the railway station to meet his family. He’s actually quite nice.” Her blush intensified and she ducked her head.

Katharina reached out a hand and tipped Anna’s chin up. “Ah, liebchen, just as long as he doesn’t know what you thought there is no problem. Now, let us hurry to the bathrooms for a hot bath before bed. Remember what Georg said. We have an early start tomorrow.”

Saturday, 2 December

The guest rooms at the Power Plant

Anna sat bolt upright in bed. She woke shaking, and it took an unsteady couple of minutes, and two repeats of the noise, to realize it wasn’t the shadowy menace in her dream that was screaming, but the steam whistle of the power plant calling the first shift to duty.

She rolled out of bed, collected her clothes, and dressed quickly. Then she stripped the sheets from her bed and took them down the hall to the laundry chute before heading for the washroom where she found Georg and Caspar already washing up.

Caspar!” Katharina’s acerbic tone had the three of them jumping. “Where are your sheets?”

Anna was sure she saw Caspar flinch at the glare Katharina was sending him, and she wasn’t surprised when he hurried off.

“Let that be a lesson for you, Anna. He responds well to simple commands.”

“Am I missing something?” Georg asked.

Anna sent Katharina a beseeching look. “Please don’t embarrass me,” it said.

Katharina patted Georg gently on the top of his head and guided him out of the washroom and toward the cafeteria. “Never you mind, dear. It’s a girl thing.”

Sunday, 2 December, 1635

Leahy Medical Center, Grantville, 1800 hours

Anna was struggling to stay awake when the ambulance finally pulled into the stable yard behind the hospital. She stumbled out of the back of the ambulance, and would have fallen but for a hand from Caspar.

A very weary looking Georg and Katharina appeared from the front of the ambulance. “You two,” Georg said pointing to Anna and Caspar, “get everyone’s stuff out of the ambulance so it can be replenished and meet us in the hospital. Katharina and I need to go check in with the nursing supervisor and see if there is anything else we need to do tonight.”

A few minutes later, laden with overnight bags and an empty hamper, and nearly dropping with fatigue, Anna and Caspar made their way to the staff break room, where they each got a cup of hot coffee and laced the steaming drink with liberal amounts of sugar and cream. After a few sips, Anna felt she had the energy, barely, to peel off her heavy outer coat. She slumped back in her chair and after tucking it around her legs, smiled at Caspar who’d also removed his outer coat. “Badminton practice tomorrow afternoon is going to be fun,” Anna said

Caspar nodded. “I don’t think I’ll have the energy.”

Anna smiled. She felt exactly the same. In fact, right now, what she most wanted to do was sleep. She snuggled up in her chair and closed her eyes.

She woke suddenly when someone landed on her. She tried to move, but there was an arm, belonging to Caspar, draped over her shoulder, and horror of horrors, she’d been sleeping with her head on his shoulder. Then she realized who’d woken her. It was an old man. She struggled out from under Caspar’s arm when she realized who the disheveled man was. “What’s wrong, Dr. McDonnell?”

“She’s gone . . . She’s . . . just gone.”

It took Anna a few moments to grasp what he was saying, then her stomach sank. Dr. McDonnell seemed to have aged ten years since she last saw him a week ago. The only “she” likely to affect him like this was his wife of over fifty years, Kathryn McDonnell, and at something over eighty years of age, “gone” was unlikely to mean she’d run off with another man. A tight grip on her shoulder informed her that Caspar had reached the same conclusion. Kathryn McDonnell was dead.

Anna made a fresh mug of coffee and pressed it into the old man’s hands, folding them around the warm cup. He stared into the steaming beverage. Tears dripped into the brew as he wept over his loss. Anna put an arm around his shoulders, offering him silent support as best she could. She glanced toward Caspar, who looked as lost as she felt. He signed that he was going to get someone and hurriedly left, to return quickly with Katharina.

Anna was relieved when Katharina led Dr. McDonnell away. She watched the way Katharina tried to comfort him and reached out for Caspar. They wrapped an arm around each other’s waist and just stood there, tears of their own falling slowly down their faces.

“Do we need to post the banns already, son?” Nikolaus Weybrecht’s voice was gentle but with a hint of steel behind it. Anna and Caspar jumped apart smartly and turned to be confronted by Nikolaus Weybrecht and Elisabeth Ochs.

“You’re both going to have to learn to deal with the families of the dead and seriously ill if you want to be doctors,” Elisabeth said.

“And, speaking about the seriously ill, your brothers and sister are waiting for you. Juliana got out of the ICU this morning, and she’s been demanding to see her biggest brother ever since.”

Anna released the hand she hadn’t realized she still held as Caspar stepped toward his parents. He glanced at her once, a confused look on his face, before he turned away. He left with his father, but his step-mother stayed. She smiled at Anna.

“If you’re Caspar’s friend, you’d better come as well.” She held out a hand.

Anna swallowed. She wasn’t sure what she felt for Caspar, but she’d like to be a part of his family, even if it was just as a friend. She reached out for Elisabeth’s hand. “Thank you.”

Epilogue

Garnet watched Anna being led off by Caspar’s step-mother. “At least the Weybrecht family has something to celebrate.”

Garnet’s tone of voice penetrated Georg’s fatigue. “Explain.”

“Christie Anne Sloan’s twins have been admitted with possible meningitis. Dr. Shipley has them on paraldehyde, but it doesn’t look good.”

How many up-timers does that make now?” Georg asked.

“With complications from measles?”

Georg nodded.

She counted them off on her fingers. “Diana Flannery, Richard Eckerlin, Andrew Glazer, Eva Maria Davis, Shirley Lee Jackson, as well as Skye and Alyse Sloan. I make that seven up-time children who’ve been admitted to the hospital.” Garnet paused and looked straight at Georg. “It gets worse. Jena and Magdeburg have reported another three up-time children admitted to the hospital. Another ten children who aren’t as bad were admitted here for hydration and fever control.”

Georg released a pent-up breath. “Anybody I know?”

“Of the bad ones? Fidel Sanabria and Harry Fries in Magdeburg, and Nora Craft in Jena.”

“Norris’ daughter? In Jena? What was he doing there?”

“He was doing promotional work for his book, the Abbreviated Manual of Statistical Principles,” Garnet answered.

“So it’s spreading already,” Georg said.

Garnet knew he meant the measles. “And it’s only going to get worse. Dr. Abrabanel wants you to split your team and track down any contacts that the Weybrecht family had on their way here. We’ve yet to find our Case Zero.”

Georg looked up and Garnet could see the matching worry in his eyes. He gave her a short wave of apology. “How did that crazy lady in the film put it? It was in Spanish . . . ah . . . ‘Que Sera, Sera!’ Let me check on Dr. McDonnell and my wife. We’ll finish our reports tomorrow morning and be on our way tomorrow afternoon.”

Garnet nodded her understanding. “I’ll make arrangements for someone to stay with Dr. McDonnell while you are gone. I’ll also stop by and tell the kids to meet you and Katharina in your office by nine in the morning.”

Georg gave a gruff chuckle. “They’ll be so busy the next few days that they won’t have time to realize that the badminton tournament has been canceled because the schools will remain closed for at least another two weeks.”

****

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