Whodunnit?

Magdeburg

May 12, 1635

 

Augustus Nero Domitian ‘Andy’ Wulff looked out his window with a sense of satisfaction. The glazier and the window frame maker had finally gotten two fairly large panes of glass floated and cut and assembled in the frames and installed in his new office. They weren’t quite as smooth and as regular as the window glass he had seen all over Grantville, but they let the light in, and unless you were up close any distortions created in vision were minimal. All in all, he was happy with his new office.

And he was happy with the reason why he had a new office. The decision to split the Grubb Wurmb & Wulff legal partnership into two offices, as often as he had fantasized about it, had proven first of all to be a difficult decision to make, and second of all a challenging one to implement. But here he was, heading the new Magdeburg branch of the partnership. Karl Grubb and Leopold Wurmb, the other partners, had remained with the home office.

Truth to tell, that was one of the reasons that Andy had been more than happy to take the lead in the Magdeburg development. Karl was his father-in-law. He and Leopold, one of Karl’s old schoolmates and legal partner for years, were having some problems dealing with the impact of Grantville and the up-timers on legal matters. Better that they sit in the home offices in Grantville and take care of the routine kind of legal affairs that they were both admittedly still very good at.

Andy, however, wanted to be in the fires, so to speak. He wanted to be where the government was making decisions, where major lawsuits were being filed, and where appellate cases were being shaped to make an attorney’s reputation. In a word, Magdeburg, capital of the United States of Europe, and home base for Gustavus Adolphus, Emperor of the USE, King of Sweden, and High King of the Union of Kalmar. Paris couldn’t compare to it. Not even Vienna ranked as high now, since the Austrian emperor could no longer preface his title with Holy Roman. And Madrid was too far, too foreign, and too Catholic for consideration. So, perforce, Magdeburg.

Andy let his wife, Portia, lay the groundwork with her father about the partnership needing to expand and take advantage of their nearness to Magdeburg. When Karl finally brought it to the other two partners, Andy pretended to think about it, even to be reluctant about it, but finally allowed the others to convince him to take the lead. He could have gotten it anyway if he had declared for it at the beginning, but it simply made things go a little smoother if they thought it was their idea. And he saw the certain attraction from their side—Andy, their bristly chief litigator, would be someplace else. Leopold in particular would like that. He was still smarting from Andy’s maneuvers during the Stone mess, and Andy knew the man’s memory was long, even for a German.

Magdeburg—thriving, hustling, bustling capital of central Europe and the Germanies. Andy rubbed his hands together. It almost felt like a giant party going on all day every day. He couldn’t wait to see what would happen.

Andy heard the office clock sound the hour from the front room to the offices—ten little bongs, so 10 a.m. He turned away from the window and picked up the page on his desk. Yes, there should be a client here for an appointment. As he looked up from the page, Christoph Heinichen, his general assistant, gatekeeper, and attorney-to-be, ushered a man through the open door from the reception area.

“Herr Wulff,” Christoph said, “this is your next client, Herr Brendan Murphy. Herr Murphy, Attorney Wulff.” And with that, Christoph withdrew, quietly closing the door behind him.

Andy was surprised to see that one of his first potential clients in Magdeburg was an up-timer, but that didn’t bother him any. After all, the Stone account was one of the firm’s largest, and all the men in the family were up-timers. He was used to up-timers, and in fact, rather enjoyed dealing with them. He advanced to meet Murphy, open hand leading the way.

The two men shared a firm handshake, then Andy gestured toward the chair placed before the desk. “Please, Herr Murphy, be seated.” As the up-timer did so, Andy rounded the desk and seated his legal posterior in his own chair, placed his elbows on the desk, joined his hands, and rested his chin on his extended thumbs.

Herr Murphy was a large man. Of course, he was an up-timer, so that meant that the odds were good he’d be larger than the average down-timer. But even by up-timer standards he was large, both tall and of a considerable bulk. Not as large as the almost-fabled Tom Simpson, of course, but not far short of that size, either.

Murphy was looking back at him with a blue-eyed gaze that was clear and direct. Andy knew what he was seeing: a short slight man with dark eyes and very dark hair, whose gaze was also clear and direct. In fact, ‘direct’ could almost be what the ‘D’ initial in his name stood for.

“So why are you here, Herr Murphy?” Andy began. “There must be a number of attorneys in Magdeburg or even Grantville who you could work with. Why come to the newest one in Magdeburg?”

“Mom kept me informed about that flap between the Stones and the tax board last year,” Murphy said. “Your name was pretty prominent in the best stories that were coming out of Grantville back then, and everyone was saying that if they had any kind of legal trouble they wanted you on the case. Well, I’ve got a problem, and I don’t think I’m going to do any better than you.” He spread his hands.

Andy pulled one of his beloved legal pads out of a desk drawer—he could forgive the up-timers for a multitude of sins for bringing the concept of legal pads back with them and showing down-time papermakers how to make them—and picked up a pencil. “Tell me about it, then.”

Murphy pulled a folded paper out of an inside jacket and reached to hand it across the desk to Andy. He settled back in his chair after Andy took the paper and unfolded it.

 

Herr Brendan Murphy

USE Department of Transportation

Magdeburg

 

Herr Murphy, Greetings,

 

I am writing this letter as the attorney representing the Becker family of Erfurt. Herr Johannes Becker, the head of the family, has placed evidence before me that you have taken advantage of his family and its hospitality, by seducing a daughter of the house, to wit, Margarethe. This was apparently accomplished by various blandishments, including promises of undying love and a desire to marry her. It was rather disturbing to them when you subsequently disappeared, particularly after it became apparent that Margarethe is with child.

 

It has taken considerable time and expense to locate you, but both Frau Margarethe and Herr Becker insist that you be informed of what has developed. Frau Margarethe desires that you return and join her in marriage. Herr Becker’s message is that if you do not return, you will be sued for fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of contract. He has engaged my services in the event that those actions become necessary. I must inform you that it is possible that certain criminal charges may be lodged against you as well.

 

It would be in your best interest, Herr Murphy, to fulfill your promises and obligations. I understand that as an up-timer you may have different values or different opinions about the importance of and validity of certain beliefs. And perhaps in Grantville matters such as these are treated casually. But this matter occurred in Erfurt, not Grantville, and I believe you will find that our laws and customs do make this a serious concern. Very serious.

 

I must inform you that it is known that you are a member of the USE Army, although you are working in a governmental function at the moment. Therefore, a copy of this letter is being forwarded to your commanding officer.

 

I trust you will make the right decision.

 

Have a nice day.

 

Jacobus Agricola, attorney

5 May 1635

 

Jacobus Agricola. Andy kind of recognized the name, but he didn’t recall that Grubb Wurmb & Wulff had had any professional contact with the man. That could be good or bad: good if any contact had worked to Agricola’s client’s benefit; bad if it had been confrontational and Agricola’s client had come out on the losing side.

Agricola’s conclusion of the letter with “Have a nice day” almost made Andy laugh. Of all the up-time phrases to have made it to Erfurt, that was one of the least likely, yet there it was.

Andy pursed his lips, set the letter down, and said, “To quote my friend and client Tom Stone, ‘Wow, man.’ ”

“Yeah,” Murphy said in a tone so dry it threatened to suck all the moisture out of the air in the room.

“So . . .” Andy laid the letter down on the desktop and looked at Murphy. “. . . when did this arrive?”

“Two days ago.”

“And you’re just now bringing it to me?”

“Hey, you’ve moved,” Murphy said. “It took me two days to find you.”

“All right, point.” Andy chuckled for a moment, then sobered. “Okay, straight truth now: did you in fact get Margarethe Becker pregnant?”

Murphy reddened a bit, but responded in a level tone. “Hell, no. I’ve never been closer to Erfurt than Eisleben, and that was two years ago. To my knowledge, I’ve never even seen this woman, much less had any kind of a relationship with her. I don’t know who knocked her up, but it wasn’t me.”

Andy looked Murphy in the eyes, but the up-timer’s gaze was still direct, no shifting of eyes or changes of position. For the moment, he would assume the young man was telling the truth. He picked up his pencil again.

“Okay, let’s start putting some information together, then.”

A few minutes later, Andy looked down at his notes:

 

Name: Brendan Sean Murphy

Age: 29

Birthdate: July 2, 1974

Married: to Catrina Kennedy, October 12, 1633

Children: Thomas Brendan Murphy, born December 1634 (and another on the way)

Employed: State of Thuringia and Franconia National Guard

Detailed to the USE Department of Transportation

Rank: Sergeant

Commanding officer: Lieutenant Todd Pierpoint

Employment history: USE Department of Transportation (seconded from SoTF National Guard

NUS Army/SoTF National Guard 1631-1634

West Virginia National Guard pre-Ring of Fire

(while attending college)

 

Andy tapped his pencil point by the employment datum. “Well, if you’ve never been to Erfurt, could this be related to your job?”

Murphy spread his hands. “I don’t see how. I carried a rifle for the Army until 1634, then me and some of the other guys were pulled together in an ad hoc unit and attached to the new USE Department of Transportation. Part of our job was to help set up scheduling for the trains and for military shipments, and part of it was to establish security procedures for the trains and the train stations, and train railroad guards. I am part of the training cadre, so I’ve dealt with most of the guards at one time or another, but I can’t think of anyone I’ve dealt with who would be after me, especially for something like this. I mean, like I said, I’m married, I love my wife and stay at home, and everyone knows that.”

“Do you intend to make a profession out of the military, Herr Murphy?” Andy twirled his pencil in his fingers.

“Call me Brendan. No.” Murphy shrugged. “I mean, I could. I think I’d be good at it. And although the benefits we’d have had up-time wouldn’t be there, we could still make a good life out of it if I went command track and became an officer. But now that most of the conflicts are settled, the Army doesn’t really need me, and I promised Catrina I’d get out and settle down in one place, preferably here in Magdeburg. And moving around was painful up-time. It’s horrible now. No offense,” he said after a moment.

Andy smiled. “And I’m Andy. Having just moved to Magdeburg myself, I believe I totally understand the spirit in which you made that comment. And I agree.” He looked back down at the notepad. “I will need to know your residences and locations and times of residence since Grantville arrived. Plus any trips you may have made. I believe you mentioned Eisleben?”

“Yeah. There were a couple of others. I’ll look at my records tonight and pull that together. Should have it to you sometime tomorrow.”

Andy nodded. He picked up the letter again. “This Herr Agricola made a point of saying that he had sent a copy of the letter to your commanding officer. Do you know if that’s arrived yet?”

Murphy shook his head. “Not according to Todd—Lieutenant Pierpoint, that is. Sorry, they just bumped him up to Lieutenant, and I keep forgetting that. Of course, there’s always the possibility it went to someone else. No telling who he was told was the commanding officer. Depending on how he found out, there are a dozen different names he could have been given. Geez, it could even be on its way to General Jackson.” A horrified expression crossed his face.

Andy suppressed a smile. “Well, we will hope that’s not the case. But I have to wonder, how did she get your name if you’ve never been to Erfurt?”

“Andy, I don’t know. And that’s part of what’s really bugging me about this. If it had been someone I’d known in Grantville or here in Magdeburg, I could understand her picking my name to use for her little scam. But Erfurt?” He shook his head. “I’m at a loss for that one. It’s almost like someone from Magdeburg got to her and told her to use my name. But who?”

“And perhaps more importantly,” Andy said, “why?”

“Yeah.”

“I should also ask, is there another Brendan Murphy in Grantville?”

Murphy smiled. “You mean, outside of my five-month-old son? Actually, there is, but it won’t help anything. I’ve got a young nephew named Brendan Andrew Murphy-Chaffin.”

“How young?”

“Well, he was born in 1997, so he’s seven years old, about to turn eight in a couple of months. Smart kid, but not that smart.”

Andy chuckled, but added a few notes to the pad anyway. “No, no solutions there. And the odds of there being a down-timer named Brendan Murphy walking around this part of the Germanies aren’t good. And if there was, the odds of him being able to successfully misrepresent himself as an up-timer are even less likely.”

“That’s about what I figured, too,” Murphy said.

Andy twirled his pencil a couple of times, then set it down. “Okay, I think I’ve got everything I need at the moment. Send me that other information, and I’ll start working this with Herr Agricola. If anything comes up with Lieutenant Pierpoint or his superiors, just refer them to me. You can tell them that we are treating this as a matter of mistaken identity, although we’re not ignoring the potential for either slander or libel.”

Murphy’s shoulders slumped just a bit. He’d obviously been feeling some stress about this, which was relieved a bit now that Andy was taking the case up. Good.

“Does your wife know about this?”

Murphy’s shoulders tightened again, and a grim expression came onto his face. “Oh, yeah. She’s the one who opened the letter when it arrived. Once she figured out what it was about, she hit the roof. She knows it’s a lie, because I’ve slept beside her every night for the last year and a half, so she’s about ready to catch the train down to Erfurt and snatch this Becker woman bald. She’s got the Irish temper to go with her red hair.” He shook his head. “Not a good thing, to get on her bad side.”

Andy grinned. “Was it Shakespeare who said that the woman is deadlier than the male?”

“One of those Englishmen.” Murphy thought about it for a moment. “Now you’ve got me wondering. I’ll go nuts if I don’t figure it out. Thanks, Andy.” That last almost dripped sarcasm.

Andy’s grin widened. After a moment, Murphy responded.

“So, I’ve been really curious, might as well ask about it since we’re about done—what’s with the initials? Who has three initials?”

Andy chuckled. “Anyone who had an old classicist for a father who tagged his son with the names of three famous Roman emperors.”

“What?”

“Augustus Nero Domitian Wulff, at your service.”

Brendan snorted. “Now that’s a mouthful.”

“Indeed. And my brother’s name is almost as bad: Tiberius Claudius Titus. And I won’t tell you what he did to our sister.”

“So, A. N. D.—Andy.” Murphy nodded. “Makes sense. But that doesn’t sound like a German thing.”

“It’s not. Actually, it’s a pretty recent thing. During that affair between the Stones and the tax department, Magda Edelmannin, Tom Stone’s wife, started calling me Andy as a bit of a joke based on the initials. Portia, my wife, loved it, and after a while it stuck. And since it’s an up-time-style nickname, the up-timers like it as well, so I’ve started using it for everything except formal documentation. Short and catchy, as Tom would say.”

“I can see that,” Brendan said with a grin. “So now I can explain it to Catrina, ’cause I know she’s going to ask.” There was a moment of silence before Brendan asked, “Anything else I need to do now?”

“No, I think I have what I need to get started,” Andy repeated as he stood and stepped around the desk. “I’ll respond to Herr Agricola’s demand. Hopefully we can get this straightened out soon.”

He held out his hand, and Brendan clasped it.

“Thanks, Andy. I’ll sleep better at night, knowing you’re looking after this.”

Andy escorted Murphy to the outer door of the office, and wished him a good day. Once the door was closed, he spun and grinned at Christoph.

“Dig out the fancy letterhead and limber up your typing fingers. Dust off the Goldfarb und Meier machine and get ready. I want to overawe this Erfurt attorney.”

Christoph responded with a grin of his own.

 

GRUBB WORMB & WULFF

Non Illegitimi Carborundum

A. N. D. Wulff, Partner

 

12 May, 1635

 

 

Herr Jacobus Agricola

Erfurt

 

 

Herr Agricola,

 

Good day to you. I have been engaged by Sergeant Brendan Murphy to make a response to your recent letter wherein you accuse Sergeant Murphy of seducing a woman in Erfurt and abandoning her after she became pregnant. Not to put too fine a point to it, but your accusation is false and baseless, and we categorically reject and deny it in toto and in every detail.

 

Your letter, mein Herr, treads perilously close to slander and libel. For your information, Sergeant Murphy has been a resident of Magdeburg for about a year, and has not left the city in that time. His commanding officer and his fellow soldiers will swear to that. He is also married, and his wife is well aware that he has slept beside her every night for the last year and a half, and is also willing to swear to that.

 

Consequently, Herr Agricola, unless you can produce incontrovertible evidence that Sergeant Murphy was indeed in Erfurt, and did indeed establish a relationship with Frau Becker, you had best advise your clients to drop this matter. Either that, or find another target.

 

If this goes before a judge, I will stand in Sergeant Murphy’s defense. I assure you, your clients would not enjoy that experience.

 

I suggest you help your clients see the path of wisdom.

 

Direct all future correspondence concerning this matter to my attention here in Magdeburg.

 

Sincerely,

A. N. D. Wulff

 

cc: Brendan Murphy

 

****

 

Magdeburg

May 20, 1635

 

Herr A. N. D. Wulff

 

Greetings.

 

Having received your response to my letter to Herr Murphy, I now respond in turn. Your denial of the truth is noted. I would expect nothing less from an attorney of your reputation. Your inferred threats are also noted. That, too, was not unexpected once we realized you would be representing Herr Murphy.

 

Herr Becker is uncowed by your letter. He will press forward with his intended course of action if Herr Murphy does not redeem his honor. To do less, he states, will be to fail his daughter’s honor, his family’s honor.

 

We are not impressed by the willingness of Herr Murphy’s up-time associates to swear to his being solely in Magdeburg for the time frame involved in this matter. Nor are we impressed by his wife’s avowals. Friends and spouses have been known to shade the truth before, even to the point of perjury. It will take harder evidence than that to clear Herr Murphy’s name and reputation.

 

And if Herr Murphy is indeed married to another woman, he is now liable for charges of at least attempted bigamy, in addition to everything that was laid out in my previous letter.

 

You demanded incontrovertible proof that Herr Murphy is indeed the father of the child in Frau Margarethe’s womb. She has in her possession a memento gifted to her by Herr Murphy on the night in which he compromised her honor. It is a thin metal plate, apparently some kind of tin alloy, about two inches wide by one inch high, with curved ends, and letters deeply embossed into the plate. The letters are as follows:

 

MURPHY

BRENDAN S.

713-55-469

A POS

CATHOLIC

 

Herr Murphy informed Frau Margarethe that this was called a ‘dog tag,’ that it had very great personal and spiritual importance to him, and that by entrusting it to her he was giving her the strongest assurance he could that he would indeed keep his promise and marry her. So she gave herself to him, and he subsequently abandoned her. But this he left behind. And this, Herr Wulff, is enough to bind Herr Murphy to his words and deeds.

 

To quote yourself, Herr Wulff, I suggest that you help your client see the path of wisdom.

 

Have a nice day.

 

Jacobus Agricola

16 May 1635

 

Andy set the letter down. “Christoph!” The young man appeared in the door to the inner office. “Send a note to Sergeant Murphy that I need to see him as soon as he can make arrangements to be here.” Christoph started to turn away, and Andy added, “Make it polite.” That got a grin from the young man.

In a moment, Andy heard the typewriter start clacking. “Price of progress, I know,” he muttered, “but a quill is certainly quieter.” He put the letter in the Murphy folder, which he placed on the table behind his desk, and resumed studying the contract that one of the merchants in town had asked him to analyze.

In the event, it was a couple of hours before Brendan was able to appear. Andy looked up as Christoph ushered the up-timer into the office.

“Here. You need to read this.” Andy passed the letter to Brendan, who settled into the visitor’s chair and started puzzling his way through the German calligraphy. Andy could tell when he got to the important part. His face reddened, his free hand formed a fist sitting atop his right knee, and he muttered, “Son of a . . .” It trailed away into inaudibility.

Brendan looked up finally. Andy was resting his chin on his interlaced fingers, elbows on the desk. He said nothing; simply raised his eyebrows. Brendan sighed.

“Yes, that pretty much has to be one of my dog tags from when I was in the West Virginia National Guard back before the Ring of Fire happened. I used to carry them for good luck.” He shook his head. “No, I did not give that dog tag to Frau Becker. They disappeared about six months ago. I thought I’d lost them, and I tore the office and my house apart looking for them, and was pretty bummed out when I couldn’t find them.”

“Any proof to that?” Andy asked.

“None they’d accept,” Brendan said with a scowl. “If they won’t accept testimony from the guys or from Catrina about my location, I don’t see that they’d take it about the dog tags.” He shook his head. “Life’s a pisser, you know? I mean, I avoided identity theft problems all my life up-time, and I go back in time 369 years, and someone hijacks my identity. Who would have thought that?”

“Identity theft?” Andy’s eyebrows went up again, and he pulled out a legal pad.

They spent the next couple of minutes discussing that concept, and the various ways the thefts had occurred in the up-time. Andy made notes, the concept of an article or pamphlet starting to take nebulous form. But it wasn’t long before they returned to the topic at hand.

“So, what do I do?” Brendan asked. “This doesn’t look good, and I want it cleared up as soon as possible.”

“I don’t see any way around it,” Andy said. “We’re going to have to meet them face to face to prove to them that you aren’t the man who got Frau Becker pregnant. Plus, we also want to identify the true wastrel, to not only put a seal on your innocence, but also to provide some form of justice for Frau Becker, and hopefully, prevent him from doing something like this again.”

“And I want my dog tags back, as well,” Brendan growled. “The one she’s got, and the one he’d better still have. So, do we have to travel to Erfurt? I mean, I can get the time off, and I can get us discounted rates on the train fare, since I’m part of the cadre that has been doing the railroad guard training. But would that make me look guilty, or something?”

“Going to Erfurt would be an admission of weakness, I think,” Andy said. “But I doubt we could get them to come to Magdeburg for the same reason. But perhaps we could get them to meet us midway between the two.”

“Neutral territory?” Brendan asked.

Andy quirked his mouth. “Yes, exactly. There would be no advantages for either of us then. Both sides would be dealing with inconvenience and expense, and neither would be in familiar territory.  Hmm . . . but where?”

“Eisleben,” Brendan said. Andy looked at him. “It’s between the two, and it has a good rooming house if we need to stay over, and the train station building has a conference room that we could use for a meeting.”

“Excellent. I’ll get the wheels in motion, then,” Andy said, rubbing his hands together. “I want to win this as soon as possible. And if we manage to rub Herr Agricola’s nose in the dirt as we do that, it will be a job well done.”

Now Brendan’s eyebrows elevated. Andy chuckled. “Yes, I am a competitive spirit, Brendan. Besides, I don’t like the tone of his letters.” He rose and came around the desk to shake hands and escort Brendan to the door. “I’ll get on this and let you know what gets arranged.”

After closing the door behind Brendan, Andy turned to Christoph. “Come take a letter, Christoph. And this time, word for word. No making it politer.”

 

GRUBB WORMB & WULFF

Non Illegitimi Carborundum

A. .N. D. Wulff, Partner

 

16 May, 1635

 

 

Herr Jacobus Agricola

Erfurt

 

 

Herr Agricola,

 

Having this day received your response dated 12 May 1635, I have reviewed it and discussed it with my client, Sergeant Brendan Murphy. Your tone continues to be a bit on the pugnacious side, but perhaps it is fitting, given the less than solid nature of your case against my client.

 

We believe it would be best to resolve this matter as quickly as possible. We will not travel to Erfurt to discuss the matter, just as I suspect you and your clients would be unwilling to travel to Magdeburg. Time constraints and travel costs would be an issue for both sides. Therefore, I propose that both groups travel to Eisleben to meet there to resolve the matter. I assure you, the new railroad can provide swift transport, and once there, the matter can and will be resolved quickly.

 

We insist that Frau Margarethe Becker be present and be part of the discussions. We also insist that she bring the dog tag with her.

 

And, by the way, that dog tag is not the incontrovertible proof you presented it as. It is the slenderest of reeds, that will collapse at the application of the slightest of weights.

 

To allow for travel time and arrangements, and for making arrangements for tickets on the train and for lodging, I suggest we think in terms of the first week of June. Sergeant Murphy will accommodate any reasonable date.

 

I strongly suggest you do not encourage your clients in the belief that they will prove victorious in this assault on my client. You will do them no favors if you do. A certain restraint would be wisdom at this point.

 

Sincerely,

A. N. D. Wulff

 

cc: Brendan Murphy

 

****

 

Eisleben

June 5, 1635

 

Andy stepped onto the platform at the Eisleben railroad station, and stretched. It was amazing how quickly the miles had passed in the trip, but one still stiffened when seated on a bench for a period of time, he decided, regardless of how quickly that bench might be moving past the countryside.

He looked to each side as Christoph Heinichen and their newest associate flanked him. Good. Now, if . . . and there are the Murphys, he thought as Brendan and Catrina joined them.

“Are we on schedule?” Andy asked.

Brendan looked at his wristwatch. “Unless they are ahead of schedule—fat chance of that!—we should have close to an hour before they arrive.”

“Good,” Andy said. “Now, a visit to the pissoir, and I shall be ready.”

“Me, too,” Catrina said.

Brendan chuckled, and led the way to the indoor toilets that were now de rigueur in new public buildings.

A few minutes later they were gathered in front of two doors down a short hall from the station master’s office. Brendan opened one, to reveal a moderately good-sized room with a rectangular table and twelve chairs gathered around it. “The meeting room, obviously.”

“Good,” Andy said. He walked in and laid his document case down in front of the chair at the far end of the table. Looking around and out the two windows, he added, “Nice room.”

“Yeah,” Brendan said. “The local station has picked up a fair bit of money renting the space out for civic groups to meet in, or for traveling businessmen to meet up and have a meeting before they go their separate ways. I think some of the other stations are considering either converting space or building on to offer similar services. Not sure whose idea it was, but it’s paid well for this station, anyway.”

“And you will be . . .” Andy said.

Brendan pointed to the hallway. “We’ll be in the assistant station master’s office across the hall. They promoted the last one and haven’t gotten around to naming a new one, so the office is empty. We’ll sit there with the door closed.”

“Good. Christoph will come get you when we’re ready for you to join the discussion.”

The Murphys left the room. Andy looked to his companions.

“Christoph, I’ll sit here, so place the name cards the way we discussed. Herr Liebmann, Christoph will sit to my left, and I would like you to sit beside him to start with. We’ll call on you early, and you can move to a different seat then if you need to.”

“Certainly, Herr Wulff.” Herr Liebmann laid his own bag down in front of the indicated chair, then turned around and looked out the window. Christoph finished placing the name cards in front of various chairs, then walked over to a small side table to check on the bottle of wine and glasses that had been provided at Andy’s request. Once he was satisfied with that, he took his seat beside Andy’s chair.

Andy stood for a couple of minutes longer, then took his own seat and took a book out of his bag—an up-time book, as it chanced, a thick but small softbound book entitled The Godfather. He needed to improve his command of up-time English, and he expected this would help.

Despite his occasional struggle with up-time idiom, the book captured Andy’s attention well enough that he was a bit startled when the door to the room opened, and one of the station staff ushered several people into the room. Andy slipped the book back into his bag as the newcomers quickly sorted themselves out. They stood facing Andy and Christoph, who had risen to their feet.

“Greetings,” Andy began, giving a slight nod of his head. “I am Augustus Nero Domitian Wulff, attorney for Sergeant Brendan Murphy. This is my assistant, Christoph Heinichen . . .” Christoph gave more of an abbreviated bow. “. . . and our associate Karl Liebmann.” Karl had turned from the window to stand behind his chair. He also gave a short bow.

“I am Jacobus Agricola,” the central of the three male figures said in a slightly nasal tenor. “This is Herr Johannes Becker.” He gestured to a paunchy figure with a weary face under salt-and-pepper hair and beard who made no motion at all. “Frau Margarethe Becker.” The short and sturdy youngish woman standing beside Herr Becker bobbed her head. “And my assistant Adam Schnorr.” That was a skinny young man with a prominent Adam’s apple, which jerked up and down as he swallowed and dipped his head at them.

Andy’s gaze had assessed all of them while Agricola was speaking: dressed conservatively, not in the latest styles, and not in the finest fabrics, not even Agricola. So, that gave him some idea of who and what he was facing. Not a group that would have the knowledge—or presence—or tools and assets—of the Adel.

“Please . . .” Andy gestured at the other end of the table. “. . .your places are marked. If you would take your places and allow Christoph to serve you some wine, we will get started.”

Andy took his own seat, and was a bit pleased to see Agricola’s forehead was a bit furrowed. If his acting as the genial polite host put the man a bit off-balance, that was all to the good.

Once the wine had been provided to all in the room, Andy leaned forward and clasped his hands on the table. “Thank you for coming,” he began. “We realize it is just as much a hardship for you to disrupt your affairs and travel here as it was for us.”

“Indeed,” Agricola interjected. “And where is your client?” He gave a pointed glance at the name cards placed before empty seats.

“Unavoidably detained for a short time,” Andy said smoothly. “Sergeant Murphy will join us soon.”

“He’d better,” Herr Becker growled. “On the other hand, if he gulls you, too, at least I’ll get a laugh out of seeing you taken down a few pegs.”

Andy just smiled. He knew the strength of his position, and nothing that Becker could say would stir his anger.

“Since we are waiting on Sergeant Murphy, let us do something that I wish we could have done earlier.” He looked over at Liebmann. “Herr Liebmann, here, is not an attorney. He is, in fact, what is called a character sketch artist, and he does work for the Magdeburg Polizei from time to time. I asked him to come with us, because I wanted to see if you could describe Herr Murphy well enough that he could draw a likeness of the man.”

“What?”

“Whatever for?”

The exclamations were simultaneous from both Agricola and Becker. Andy lifted a hand in a calming gesture.

“I have good and valid reasons for doing this. I doubt that it will take long; Herr Liebmann is very good at this. Indulge me if you will, and we will arrive at the truth soon enough.”

“I was afraid this would be a waste of time and money,” Becker growled, thumping both fists down on the table, “and it looks like I was right. This is your fault, you incompetent ninny,” he snarled at Agricola. “If you’d done your job right, this would already be taken care of and this posturing clown could go yammer in the trees for all I care! Come, Margarethe. We’re leaving.”

Becker started to thrust himself to his feet, only to freeze halfway up when Andy spoke.

“Sit down, Herr Becker.” Andy’s voice was cold enough to freeze. “If you leave before we’ve resolved this, I’ll have your name and your precious honor reduced to shreds in all the Germanies. You started this, but I will finish it, one way or another. Now—Sit. Down.”

Agricola was white-faced, but said nothing. Schnorr seemed to be pressing himself into the back of his chair, apparently trying to hide. Becker was motionless, but Andy could see the anger coiling behind his eyes. He spoke again, letting his voice become like ice.

“The primary purpose of a court, Herr Becker, is not to determine who wins a disagreement. It is to determine the truth, and only after that, and in the light of that, determine a verdict or a judgment or an order. As attorneys, Herr Agricola and I share in that responsibility. And we are going to determine the truth today. Sit. Down.”

The last two words were intoned in dark cold tones. Becker’s gaze flinched a bit, and he slowly lowered himself into his chair. Andy held his gaze for a moment longer, then looked to Agricola and gave him a short nod. After a moment, Agricola returned it, although he was still rather pale.

“Herr Liebmann, if you would?”

Liebmann took a sketch board with attached paper from his bag, along with a handful of pencils, and moved over to sit in the empty chair beside the wide-eyed Frau Margarethe, who was staring at Andy. She jumped a little when Liebmann spoke to her, turning that wide-eyed gaze on him, and the hand that she raised to brush her hair back trembled a bit. Andy’s mouth quirked at that. He often had that effect on people.

Andy sat back and watched Liebmann work. The man was a master at this, he decided after a while. He engaged Frau Margarethe in conversation, asking her what shape her Herr Murphy’s face was, what she was first impressed by when she saw him, what his hairline was like, how bushy were his eyebrows . . .

When they got to more definite features, Liebmann had the young woman look at all the faces in the room and tell him which one’s nose was most like her lover’s. He did the same with the cheekbones, and the jawline, swiftly sketching them in lightly and making the lines darker only as she confirmed that they were right, otherwise he’d ask for clarification and redraw them. By now her father was standing behind them and watching over Liebmann’s shoulder.

It was not quite a half an hour later, Andy determined with a surreptitious look at his pocket watch, when Liebmann put the pencils down and held the sketch up before the two Beckers.

“You have a good eye, Frau Becker, and you describe things well. That’s good, or this would have taken a lot longer. Is this the man?”

She nodded, slowly at first, then faster. “Yes, yes, it is.”

Liebmann looked up at her father. “Herr Becker, you must have seen the man. Is this a good likeness?”

Becker ran his fingers through his chin whiskers a couple of times. “If I hadn’t seen you do it, I would have said this couldn’t be done. But aye, I think you’ve captured the man.” He directed a stony gaze at Andy. “Not that I know what this is in aid of.”

As Becker returned to his chair, Liebmann moved back to his own and passed the sketch to Andy, who got his first close look at it. A sense of relief flooded through him when he realized that the man in the picture was not Brendan. This was the one place where all of his plans and the structure of his defense could have come apart. If Frau Becker had somehow described Brendan, then in the pithy up-timer phrase, ‘all bets were off.’ He’d been sure it wouldn’t come to that, but there was still that small chance, and a small knot of tension in his stomach released as that possibility was eliminated.

“Christoph.”

That was all Andy said, but it was all he needed to say. The younger man was up and out the door, returning almost immediately with Brendan and Catrina behind him. Andy beckoned to them, and they moved along the table to stand behind the chairs their name cards were before. Both the Beckers were wearing bewildered expressions at the appearance of the two strangers, but Agricola seemed to have an expression of dawning realization on his face, and Schnorr was nodding with a rueful grin.

“Herr Johannes Becker, Frau Margarethe Becker, allow me to introduce to you Sergeant Brendan Murphy, and his wife, Catrina Murphy. Please be seated”

Both sets of Becker eyes widened as the Murphys sat down. Herr Becker’s gaze was that of a pole-axed steer, but Frau Margarethe’s hands had flown to her mouth, and her eyes manifested a silent scream. Andy felt a moment of pity for her, and moved on to get the brutal facts stated.

“I regret to inform you that the man you knew as Brendan Murphy was not, in fact, Sergeant Murphy, but an imposter. You have been duped—gulled, I believe was the word you used earlier, Herr Becker. And he almost certainly wasn’t an up-timer. There aren’t that many of them, and it’s pretty well known where they are.”

“But . . . the dog tag,” Agricola said after clearing his throat. “That is definitely an up-time artifact, is it not?”

“Indeed it is,” Andy said. “Sergeant Murphy?”

“There are two of them, identical,” Brendan said, “and they disappeared several months ago. I thought I had lost them, but they were obviously stolen.”

“If this is yours, you can surely explain the cryptic letters and symbols,” Agricola said, almost challenging.

“Murphy, Brendan S. is my name. The S stands for Sean, my middle name.

“The string of numbers 713-55-469 is my up-time United States of America identification number.

“A POS stands for A Positive, my blood type, in case I’m wounded and they need to give me a transfusion.” Andy almost grinned as identical expressions of nausea appeared on both women’s faces.

“And the last line states my religion. I’m Catholic.”

Andy looked at Agricola, who quirked his mouth and waved a hand in surrender. Andy looked back over at Frau Margarethe. “Frau Becker?” She looked up with a very drawn expression, pain in her eyes. “I hesitate to ask this, but I must. Did the man you knew as Brendan Murphy have a distinctive physical characteristic or marking?”

After a moment, she swallowed and nodded. “There were . . .three moles, forming a large triangle, right here.” She placed the fingers of her right hand just below her left collarbone. “He joked about God giving him a mark of the Trinity. I told him”—her voice broke—”that he was being sacrilegious. He laughed at me.” Tears started flowing, and she buried her face in her hands. Catrina got up and walked around the table to sit and take the sobbing young woman in her arms.

Andy looked at Brendan and raised his eyebrows. Brendan didn’t say anything, just stood and unbuttoned his shirt until he could open it up enough to show that there was no pattern of moles below his left collarbone. He pulled the shirt closed, buttoned it back up, and sat down.

There was silence for a long moment, then Andy said quietly, “Discovering the truth is painful sometimes, but it’s always better to know the truth, to know the facts of a situation. Frau Becker, I am sorry that you have been lied to, I am sorry that you have been a subject of fraud and deception. But your case is not with my client, the real Brendan Murphy. Your case is with the imposter that claimed to be Brendan Murphy.”

“That’s as may be,” Herr Becker said in a voice so dull it almost sounded like leaden bells, “but how do we get satisfaction from an unknown man? How do we get justice from a man we can’t identify?”

Andy passed the sketch to Brendan. “Do you know this man? This is who Frau Becker described.”

Brendan’s eyes narrowed. “I just might. This looks a lot like a guy we ran through the railroad guard training course sometime back.” He fell silent for a moment. “Yeah, and I think he was there about the time I lost the dog tags. Name was . . . Malcolm, I think. Malcolm Kinnard, if I remember correctly. And a Scot, to boot, which might explain why he could impersonate an up-timer so well. A German would have had a problem carrying it off for very long, I think.”

Both Agricola and Herr Becker sat up straight at that, and Schnorr began making notes.

“Can you tell us where he is?” Becker said in a hard voice. “I’d like to have a conversation with him.”

“I can find out,” Brendan said. “I’ll send a radiogram back to Magdeburg, after we get done. Should have an answer no later than some time tomorrow afternoon.”

And with that, the meeting seemed to be over. Catrina and Margarethe stood together and came around the table to Brendan, where she offered the dog tag back to him. “I hate to give it up, but it’s a lie to me, and it’s yours, so you should have it back.”

Brendan took it gently from her and slipped it into a pocket out of sight. The three of them stood talking for a few minutes. Andy waited for Liebmann to free the sketch sheet from the sketch board, then slid it into his document case. “Good job,” he told the artist.

“At least this time, the missing person didn’t turn up dead,” Liebmann replied. “Kind of a nice feeling, although it still didn’t bring any peace to them.” He jerked his head at the Beckers.

Andy shrugged, and moved down the table to face the others.

“You’re a hard man, Attorney Wulff,” Herr Becker said. “In keeping with your name, I suppose.”

“You deal with enough hard men,” Andy said, “and you become pretty hard yourself. And I have had to deal with men much harder than you, Herr Becker.”

“I can believe it,” Becker replied. “You handled me like a schoolboy, and that hasn’t happened in many years.”

Andy shrugged one shoulder.

Agricola reached out a hand, which Andy clasped. “Thank you for the reminder that our first responsibility is to truth. We sometimes forget that.”

“I have to remind myself just as often,” Andy said.

Catrina gave Margarethe one last hug, and Brendan and Catrina headed for the door. Everyone else gathered their things, and moved that direction. Andy waited for Christoph, so they were the last to leave the room. He smiled as he saw Herr Becker drop back beside Liebmann and ask, “Do you do portraits?”

They all moved back down the hallway, through the main part of the station building, and back out onto the platform. Andy started looking around for transportation so they could head for the rooming house.

Ahead of them, Margarethe suddenly shrieked, “It’s him! It’s him!”

Most of the crowd moved back, and Andy was able to see a young man in a railroad guard uniform frozen with a horrified expression on his face for just a moment before he spun and began running away from Margarethe through the crowd. Then he disappeared from sight. Andy hurried after, followed by Christoph and Liebmann.

The crowd had started to thicken, and Andy pushed through it to see Malcolm Kinnard lying face-down on the platform with Catrina Murphy sitting on his back and holding his left hand in what looked to be a most uncomfortable position. He started to move, and she twisted his hand a bit, which elicited a yell and he went motionless again.

Catrina looked up at Brendan with a grin. “Always knew that jujitsu would come in handy someday.”

He smiled back, then reached down with his big hands and grabbed Kinnard by one arm and the back of the neck. “You can let go, now.”

Catrina released her hold and stood up. Brendan seemed to levitate Kinnard, he was raised so quickly and was held with his toes barely touching the platform. “Malcolm Kinnard, just like I thought. I don’t like you, Kinnard,” he said. “And boy, are you in a heap of trouble.” A couple of railroad guards pushed through the crowd. “Guys, take him to the holding room, and keep him there until Herr Agricola here can contact the local law enforcement and figure out what to do with him. I doubt he’s going to be a guard much longer. And he’d better be there when we come for him, or you won’t be guards much longer, and you’ll be in as much trouble as he is. Clear?”

One on each side of Kinnard, they nodded firmly. “Yes, Sergeant Murphy,” one of them said. They led Kinnard away. The Beckers and their attorneys followed close behind.

“Well,” Andy said, “well done, both of you, both now and earlier.”

“I wanted to be angry,” Catrina said, “but when I saw that poor girl’s face when she learned the truth, I couldn’t be.”

“Never be sorry for your gift of compassion,” Andy said. “And yes, I said that. In the long run, compassion will heal a lot more lives than justice will.” He paused for a moment. “Just don’t tell anyone I said that.”

They all shared a laugh, then Brendan snapped his fingers like a pistol-shot. “I’ve got to go talk to Kinnard. I want my other dog tag back!”

Andy smiled at his client’s receding back.

****

About David Carrico

David 2013-03-03 smallDavid Carrico made his first professional SF sale to The Grantville Gazette e-magazine in 2004. His stories have also appeared in the Grantville Gazette and Ring of Fire anthologies from Baen Books and in Jim Baen’s Universe e-magazine. Baen Books have published a story collection by David entitled 1635: Music and Murder, and two novels written in collaboration with Eric Flint: 1636: The Devil’s Opera and The Span of Empire. David is currently working on a solo project.

6 thoughts on “Whodunnit?

    1. Michael Casajuana

      Definitely up to Davids usual exellant standard. Try Ring of Fire publication and Baen Books, not to mention earlier Grantville Gazette editions. More please.

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