Whodunnit?

Here is your preview of the story.

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?"


That is the end of the preview.
Only active subscribers can read the full story.
If you would like to, please subscribe.
We hope you enjoyed the preview.

About David Carrico

David 2013-03-03 small

David 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 has 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, which was nominated for the 2017 Dragon Award for Best Military SF or Fantasy novel. David is currently working on a solo project.