Not every hero stands at the forefront of battle, chopping up, or gunning down the foe. Johan Kipper, an old and worn mercenary who had done more than his share of chopping up and gunning down, finally found his hero, his liege lord, not in a great captain, but in David Bartley, a fourteen year old boy who was just trying to make sure his family could get by. A lad who was trying to protect his family by making rather than taking, by building rather than destroying. And, more, a lad who didn’t need to knock Johan down to feel tall or make Johan afraid to feel brave.
Never in his long life of war and hate had Johan met someone courageous enough to be kind.
Bartley’s Man is about love, respect and honor, and becoming wealthy in the service of David Bartley, an up-timer teenager with a brilliant mind. It is the journey of Johan Kipper, a reluctant soldier in Tilly’s tercio as he collides with the fact of Grantville’s existence. Johan decides he doesn’t want to be a soldier anymore. So he becomes what he thinks is a servant to entrepreneur David Bartley and the Higgins family.
They actually treat him like a person, in stark contrast to how he has been treated all his life by the royalty and nobility of his own time. Johan returns this genuine caring with love and loyalty as he watches David grow into manhood and he grows as a man.
June 30, 1631
Tilly’s Tercio, Outside Badenburg
Johan Kipper was hungover again, and that was good. For Johan, going into battle with a hangover was almost as good as going into battle a little drunk. It distracted him from what he had to do. He squinted as the morning sun stabbed his brain through his eyes and then shifted his pike just a little. He was in the second rank of pikes and happy enough to be there. It was a respectable position but not as dangerous as the front rank.
Johan shuffled forward, holding up his pike. They were here to teach Badenburg not to close its gates against Tilly’s army and to deal with the strangers that, rumor had it, were wizards and witches. Johan snorted and his brain rattled in his head. He winced at the pain. Wizards? This is the seventeenth century.
The tercio was moving forward, and he was busy enough just keeping his feet moving and his head from falling off. He didn’t have time to worry about putting his pike through someone or having someone put theirs through him. So he barely noticed the difference in the sounds. The enemy, at least the group in front of him, fired one ragged volley and turned and ran. Just as well. He probably wasn’t up to much of a fight.
Then Johan was bumped. He turned and Karl, the sniveling little shit, had dropped his pike. Then he saw the blood that came from Karl’s mouth and the new hole in Karl’s side. Karl was a pup, and arrogant besides, but damn! They were in the second rank, near the middle, and Karl had still been hit in the side, hard enough to knock him into Johan.
Things went downhill from there. An army, even part of Tilly’s army, could only take so much, and this one was being cut to pieces from so far away that they couldn’t fight back. It took a while, but it started to crumble. Then it broke. All of a sudden everyone was running, and Johan was running with them. But not very far. He was too hung over and, well, just too damned old to run as far as he needed to go.
After a few minutes, and on the other side of the baggage train, he stopped. He might have kept running, but he was on the wrong side of fifty, hung over, and wearing a heavy buff coat. If the damn cavalry killed him, at least it would stop his head aching. Huffing and puffing, Johan waited for the cavalry to catch him. His hands were already up when they got there.
July 1, 1631
Darlene Myers looked again at the device sitting on her work table. I’m not a god-damned electrical engineer. I’m a tech. I don’t fucking design dials, I read dials. This isn’t fair.
Darlene tried not to cry. She had been in a state of shock right after the Ring of Fire, but that was fading now. Now every time she looked up or anything went wrong she started bawling like a two-year-old. This time it was the circuitry in the gauge, a sensor that measured the speed of the alternating current. It was used to adjust draw, to feed more or less power into holding, and to keep output in balance. It also had a small integrated circuit that they couldn’t reproduce. They needed some sort of old-fashioned timing circuit. Maybe a tuning fork. But Darlene didn’t have a clue how a tuning fork timer worked. She looked again at the tiny circuit board sitting on the scratched work table.
Darlene hadn’t even noticed that the town of Grantville had troops in the field. She was too caught up in her grief. If Julie Marie hadn’t made me work that Sunday, I would have been home with Johnny and Jack. I never would have gotten caught in the Ring of Fire.
July 3, 1631
Grantville P.O.W. Holding Area
Johan Kipper had been afraid before each and every battle he had ever fought, and there had been many. But this was different. For one thing, this was after the battle, and he wasn’t waiting to fight. He was waiting to be judged. He was to be judged by a camp follower. He didn’t know the Gretchen girl well. Hardly at all. But she was the one to judge him, and that was scary. Johan was not a very good man and he knew it. He was a mean drunk, and he knew that too.
There weren’t many people who were held in more contempt than soldiers, but camp followers were. They had been the only safe outlet for the anger he felt at the way his life had turned out. At least they had seemed to be safe. Now Johan was afraid, in a way that he had never been afraid before.
What made Johan a little different from some of his fellow soldiers was that he realized what scared him. Not that he would be treated unfairly, but that he would be treated as he deserved.
He had started out as a soldier forty years ago at the age of fifteen. Absolutely sure he would become a captain. Ten years later, after having survived smallpox, he had hoped to become a sergeant. Now, he didn’t even want to be a soldier anymore, but he didn’t know anything else. His family had been in service: servants to a wealthy merchant in Amsterdam. He had run off to be a soldier.
Johan was fifty-four years and spoke a smattering of half a dozen languages. He was five feet six inches tall, had graying brown hair and six teeth, four uppers and two lowers. He had the typical pockmarks that denoted a survivor of smallpox, a scar running down the left side of his face . . . and he was tired. Tired of fighting, tired of killing, and scared of dying.
He was surprised that he wasn’t one of the ones who got his picture on a piece of paper and told to get out of the New United States. He was less surprised, almost comforted, by the lecture he got about getting drunk and hitting people. The lecture amounted to “Don’t Do It. We can always take another picture and print another wanted poster, if we need to.”
When offered a place in the army, he respectfully declined. When asked what he was qualified to do, he said he had been in service once. He had to explain what he meant. “My family were servants in Amsterdam.” He was assigned to a labor gang.
July 6, 1631
Delia Higgins’ House
Johan Kipper wasn’t in manacles as they drove up. They weren’t needed. There was a heavy screen between the back seat where Johan was seated and the front where the “Police Chief” drove the device and the doors in the back section of the self-powered cart didn’t open from the inside. They pulled off the paved street through a wide gate made of the gray metal that the up-timers had in such abundance. Once through the gate, they were on a short paved road. On one side of the road was a house in the style the up-timers preferred and just beside it one of the narrow, boxy houses that they called “mobile homes.” Across the way there was a “parking lot” like the one at the school, but considerably smaller. Behind and further down the street were row on row of white painted boxes.
The car stopped in front of the more normal-looking house and Police Chief Dan Frost turned to face Johan through the screen. “We’ve talked about your drinking and you know we can make up a wanted poster easy enough. You know you’re getting an opportunity here because you speak some English. So I’m just going to repeat this last part so you don’t forget. I don’t want to hear you’ve caused Mrs. Higgins any trouble. She’s a nice lady and will treat you right. I expect you to show her respect. If I hear you’ve given her any problems, any problems at all, you’ll regret it.”
Then the police chief got out of the car and opened the back door so Johan could get out. It wasn’t that easy. The couches in these carts were incredibly comfortable, but they were hard to get into and out of. All the while, bouncing around in his mind, were the words “Delia Higgins is a Lady.” Delia Higgins was an up-timer noble.
Carrying his woolen cap in his hands, as was proper when brought before a Lady, he followed Police Chief Dan Frost into the living room. Lady Higgins was about five seven inches tall. She had black hair going to gray, and dark eyes. And she didn’t look happy.
The police chief introduced him, and with a hand to his cap took his leave.
“Sit down, Mr. Kipper.” She waved him to a couch upholstered in a light brown fabric. She went to a big chair, a throne really, that was upholstered in leather. “Kipper? That’s an English name, isn’t it?”
“My grandda was English, ma’am,” Johan said, taking a careful seat on the couch.
She looked around, then her mouth tightened and she turned back to him. “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipper. I’m out of practice at hiring people.” She took a deep breath. “What I need is more than just a night watchman. I need a connection to this century. We have some things to do, and to do them we need someone who speaks the language and more.” She stood abruptly, and Johan jumped up in alarm.
“Come with me. I’ll show you around the place while we talk.”
They went out the front door, which she opened before he could get to it to open it for her, and they were on the front porch. It was wooden and covered. Down the steps from it was a green lawn and flowerbeds filled with flowers to make an Amsterdam tulip collector green with envy. Not that they were tulips. There were roses, bigger roses than Johan had ever seen in his life, and more fragrant too. There were daisies and other flowers he couldn’t put a name to. Lady Higgins led him down the steps, pointing out the beds and naming the flowers.
Then they proceeded down the walk and went to the “office,” as she called it. It was the mobile home.
The door they entered was across from a counter. There was a woman behind the counter who was introduced as Ramona Higgins. She seemed nervous, but Johan didn’t have much time to notice. To their left was an opening and Lady Higgins led him that way. The opening was a hall and on one side there was a sink and cabinets. “This is the kitchen,” Lady Higgins said. On the other side of the hall was a white box that Lady Higgins opened and cold air came out. The box was mostly filled with the bottled drinks that the up-timers called sodas, but there was also a plate with the clear plastic they used over it and a meal under the plastic. Meat, vegetables, and what looked like some kind of mashed something.
“This is the fridge. We’ll get the sodas out of here to give you more room, but mostly you will be eating with the family.” She pointed to another box, a smaller one sitting on the cabinet. “That’s the microwave. Don’t put metal in it. In fact, don’t use it. Not till we’ve had a chance to teach you what is and isn’t safe to put in it.” She pointed again. “This is the stove, but it’s not hooked up to gas. Plates and glasses are in the cabinets.” She opened them and showed him. She got out a glass, went to the sink, and turned a handle. Water came out and flowed down the drain. She filled the glass and handed it to him. Then she gestured for him to drink.
It was water, clear and cold. Johan hoped he wouldn’t get the runs. That often happened when you drank water, rather than wine or beer. She held out her hand. He gave her the glass and she emptied it into the sink. Then placed it upside down in a rack to drain, making it clear what the rack was for. She opened the other doors and cabinets showing him what was in them. She pointed at a green painted cabinet with shiny silver trim. “That’s the dishwasher, but it’s not hooked up either. If we need to we can get a plumber out here to hook it up, but we’ll wait on that. As I mentioned, you will be eating with the family most of the time.”
Out the other end of the kitchen hall was another room. It had a small table and two chairs but was mostly filled with the paper boxes that the up-timers seemed to favor. She waved vaguely. “The dining room. We’ve been using it for storage. We’ll move this stuff out to one of the storage containers on the lot. You’re probably going to have to do that.” She led him through the dining room into another room. It too was full of boxes. “We’ll clean out the bedroom for you, Mr. Kipper. Honestly, you’ll probably end up doing that, but I’ll get David to help you. David and Donny are my grandsons. They and their mother live with me. My son, Dalton, and his family are in town but don’t live at the lot. So, tell me about yourself, Mr. Kipper.”
Johan was uncomfortable every time she called him Mister. He’d never been a Mister in his life, so he started by saying, “Just Johan is enough, or Kipper. You don’t need to call me Mister, ma’am. I was born on an estate not fifteen miles from Amsterdam and lived there until I was fifteen. Then I ran off to be a soldier and make my fortune. It didn’t turn out so well.” He went on to give her an outline of his life as a soldier and the various posts he’d held. He’d never gotten very high, but he had been an officer’s aide a few times and she seemed pleased with that. The strange thing was that she seemed honestly interested in him, in what his life had been like.
She led him back to the dining room and through another door. This one led to a confusing place. She pointed out the washing machine that was too small to bathe in. The dryer, a metal box a lot like the dishwasher. The bathroom sink, which he understood, the toilet, which he had seen in the refugee center, and the bathtub that was almost long enough to lie down in.
Delia Higgins had expected a local, not a soldier in the invading army. The interview was uncomfortable for her.
Delia was looking for more than a night watchman. She needed a link to this time and place. She needed someone who could help her find a buyer for the dolls so she could finance David and his friends’ building a sewing machine. She had promised them that, and now that the bank had refused the loan, selling her dolls was the only way she could think of to get the money. She didn’t say that, not just yet. She wasn’t sure she trusted the ugly little man.
Johan’s appearance bothered her. First, because by any modern standard, he was a remarkably ugly man. Mostly that was because of his bad teeth and the pockmarks. By the standards of his time, he was the low end of average. Second, because part of what she needed was someone who could speak to the down-timers for her. She hired him, but she wasn’t happy about it.
The agreement was maintenance and one hundred dollars a month. Really poor pay, but all Delia felt she could afford. As for the job, Johan would live in the “office,” and he would be expected to make at least four walking inspections of the lot each night. There would be occasional errands for him to run. Long hours but light work.
For Johan, the interview was much worse. She asked her questions. He answered them in his somewhat broken English. She asked more questions, seeking clarification. This woman looked at him, really looked. She didn’t examine him like he was a horse or a dog she was thinking of buying. She really saw him. She acknowledged him like he was a real person. Complex, capable of thought. As if he had value. She was, as the English might say: “Neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat.” He could not find a place in his world where she belonged. What made it worse, almost intolerably worse, was that he fully realized that it was her world that mattered now, not his. And if he couldn’t even find where she fit, how was he to find where he fit?
She had, as far as he could see, the wealth and power of a prosperous townswoman, but she did not act right. She didn’t scorn. Johan was not a stupid man. He understood better than most what the arrival of a town from the future meant. He realized that the rules had changed. That these people could do things that no one else could do.
For instance, despite the fact that she seemed apologetic about it, the “maintenance” turned out to be much more than Johan expected. There was an indoor flush toilet and a shower. To Delia Higgins, “maintenance” included her paying for his health and dental care. It also included uniforms for work and at least some clothing for off work. It included eating as well as any member of her family did, and his own room, and a bathroom, because they had never removed the bathroom fittings from the “mobile home” —which acted as an office.
Johan was not an evil man, though he often thought he was. For fifty-four years, with one exception, he had kept his place, knowing full well that stepping out of it could mean his death. That’s a lot of habit. The thing about chains is they’re secure. They’re safe. You get used to them. Then you get to depend on them. Johan had worn the chains of lower-class existence his whole life. He didn’t know how to walk without their weight.
July 7, 1631
Higgins’ Storage Lot
From the first, Johan noticed that Master David Bartley, Lady Higgins’ grandson, was watching him. He made his rounds of the storage lot, walking along the chainlink fence and making sure that there were no holes or places where someone might crawl under or climb over, which was helped by the barbed wire that topped the fence. Johan was impressed by barbed wire. Then Johan went down the rows of containers, checking the locks on all of them and opening the unlocked ones to make sure there was nothing hiding in them.
Through it all, David Bartley was around. Not quite following him, but always there. It wasn’t very subtle, and it was clear to Johan that David wasn’t well practiced at sneaking about.
Johan tipped his cap to the young lordling whenever it was obvious that he had seen him, but the rest of the time he pretended not to notice.
Finally the lad came up to him. “Yes, sir, Master David?”
“Well, ah, I just wanted to see how you’re getting along.”
“Well enough, sir,” Johan said. “The bed in the mobile home is wonderful soft. And breakfast was fine.”
“Good then. What do you know about manufacturing?”
Johan tried not to show how nervous he was. The question seemed a trap, and one he couldn’t help but fall into. “Almost nothing, sir. I’ve been a soldier most of my life and was in service before that.”
That took a bit of explanation. Young Master David didn’t know what “in service” meant.
They talked most of the afternoon.
They talked about battles and captains, about work and honor. Then it slipped out. “Ye don’t act right, ye up-timers,” Johan said. He wanted the words back as soon as they were out, but the young master didn’t seem upset.
He just asked, “How should we act?”
“Ye don’t act yer proper place! Sorry, Master David, for speaking out of turn.”
The young master looked at him with a considering air, then spoke with an authority that Johan couldn’t ignore. “No. You’ve said too much, or not enough, and this may be something we need to know.”
Johan fumbled with the words. “Like I said, sir. Ye don’t act yer place. One minute ye’re one thing and the next another. Ye talk like a banker, or a merchant, or a lord or craftsman, or, oh, I don’t know. Ye talk to me the same way ye’d talk to yer president.”
Master David started to say something, then stopped and said something else. “How should we act? If you were hired by a lord or a merchant, how would they act?”
Johan told him. He mentioned John George of Saxony, who called for a beer by pouring the dregs of his last beer over the servant’s head. But mostly he focused on the way the nobles and important townsmen would look past you and talk to the air as if you weren’t real, but just a thing.
“That’s—” Master David said, and stopped. He looked at Johan and Johan could see the condemnation in his eyes. For a moment he thought it was directed at him. Johan was afraid then, afraid that it was all some sort of elaborate trap and he would be put out for impertinence, have his picture on a wanted poster, and have to run for his life.
“God. They must be terrified of you,” David said, and Johan couldn’t quite take it in. It made no sense. Then the lad started laughing. Free and easy, like he’d just heard the funniest joke of all time. To Johan it seemed that he was the joke. He didn’t know what it was all about, and he was scared and angry all at once. But Johan was an old man who had lived his entire life at the bottom rung of his world. Scared was very strong and it beat angry to a bloody pulp.
It took a little while for David Bartley to get himself under control. Long enough so that anger had been completely put down and Johan was just scared.
Then the lad stopped laughing and said, “I’m sorry, Johan, but your face. Looking at me like I was crazy.”
That was even harder to take. A young lord like Master Bartley didn’t apologize to the likes of Johan Kipper. Wouldn’t apologize to someone like Johan if they had a knife at his throat and a blunderbuss in his belly. But David Bartley apologized and did it easy, like Johan was owed an apology, and it was the most natural thing in the world for him to give it.
Then he said something even crazier. “I am not afraid of you.” Master David said it clearly, honestly, and without the least trace of fear. “I don’t have to trap you into doing something that would be an excuse to punish you. I don’t need to make you weak to feel strong, or safe. That’s why we act the way we do, Johan! The way that seems so wrong to you. Because we are not afraid. Not the way these German lords are, and because we are not afraid of you, you don’t have to be afraid of us.
“Here is how you should act around us. Do your job as well as you can. State your views freely. If you think I am doing something wrong, say so. I may or may not follow your advice, but I won’t punish you for giving it. I promise you that. Can you do that, Johan? If you can, you will have a place here. For as long as we can make one for you.”
Johan wanted to cry. David Bartley bought himself a man with those words. The lad might not know it yet, but Johan did. Johan might be an old dog of a soldier, but he was David Bartley’s old dog, now and forever. For Johan wanted to know how to be unafraid like young Master David. So very unafraid that he could be kind. Or if he couldn’t learn it, at least to be around it.
After Master David left, Johan thought about the afternoon. “I am not afraid of you,” the young master had said, and Johan had to believe. And the lords are. As he thought about it, Johan believed that too.
July 7, 1631
Delia Higgins’ Sewing Room
Johan Kipper looked at the Singer sewing machine in total confusion. It wasn’t that Johan was stupid, or even ignorant. It was simply that his world wasn’t filled with devices of this complexity. There were a few, but not many, and Johan had never seen one. At least not one that didn’t fill a building. What made the sewing machine worse than the telephones or the lights was that it looked like he should be able to understand it. It wasn’t all that different than a watermill, after all. Smaller, but there was a crank that turned and made other stuff happen.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed to remain in his state of confusion.
Instead, Brent Partow, one of young Master David’s friends, saw his look and—as boys were wont to do—began to explain. Which would have been a great deal more helpful if the lad had spoken a comprehensible tongue. His English had the weirdest accent that Johan had ever heard, just like the rest of the up-timers, and it just got worse as the lad got into the details of the inner workings of the sewing machine. It wasn’t the twang that bothered Johan. He had heard variations like that often enough. It was the technical words.
“It would seem a very complex piece of equipment,” Johan offered. “It would probably take a long time to make. Perhaps something simpler?”
“We could, I guess. But it would be more likely to be copied,” young Master David said. But Johan was an old soldier and an old bargainer, and he heard the lack of full confidence in David’s voice. “Besides,” David continued in a firmer voice, “the sewing machine is what we agreed on.”
So it wasn’t the best choice, just the one they could agree on. That was more than interesting. “Well, it looks very complicated to me.”
“Looks are deceiving,” Brent said. “It’s not lots of different parts, so much as lots of the same few parts.”
His twin brother, Trent, snorted at that. Frau Higgins said, “Never mind. What we’re going to need you to do is help us talk to the local merchants and craftsmen so that we can have the parts made without telling them how to make the whole thing.”
Higgins’ Storage Lot
July 8, 1631
Johan walked his rounds along the small steel buildings that Lady Delia had called repurposed shipping containers and thought about the up-timers and the children and their project. He liked them, liked them a lot. They were kind to an old soldier who didn’t deserve it, and they made him feel at home.
Johan had grown almost to manhood in Amsterdam, watching the best merchants and craftsmen on Earth go about their business. He knew that while the up-timers had great wealth, that wealth would be used up sooner or later unless they used it to build more. He understood that. He looked over at the chain link fence and shook his head. Like building a castle wall out of gold: you have to worry as much about someone stealing the fence as you do about them getting what’s inside of it.
David and Donny’s room, Higgins House
July 10, 1631
David sat at the desk and Johan on the bottom bunk. “No, the sewing machines are vitally important. And not just to us, to all of Grantville. We need to start producing goods, not just selling the stuff we brought with us.”
Johan nodded. That seemed pretty obvious now that young Master David had pointed it out.
“If we can produce a sewing machine at a reasonable price, we can sell hundreds of them, or thousands.”
Again, Johan nodded, but he wasn’t entirely convinced this time. Still, it wasn’t his place to be contradicting young Master David.
The young master continued to talk, and Johan continued to listen. He got the story of how they had decided on the sewing machine and how it wasn’t nearly as complicated as it seemed. There were only a few parts that were beyond the abilities of the local smiths. How the lack of a bank loan had probably killed their plan to make sewing machines. “And I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Johan didn’t either.
Delia Higgins’ Sewing Room
July 12, 1631
Lady Delia waved Johan to the small couch, but Johan hesitated before he obeyed her. He knew she wasn’t trying to trick him into showing a lack of respect for her station, but old habits died hard.
“I have a problem, Johan, and I think you might be able to help me with it. You’ve seen my doll collection.” She waved at a shelf that went all the way around the sewing room, up near the ceiling. That shelf was packed with dolls, some in their boxes, but most in round plastic containers that David said were old three-liter soda bottles with their tops cut off and taped together. There had to be over a hundred dolls in this room alone, and Lady Delia had them in the living room and her bedroom as well. More of them in the living room. One wall of the living room was floor-to-ceiling shelves full of dolls.
“I think they are valuable in the here and now,” Lady Delia continued, “and I want to sell them. But not at the Valuemart. I want to find a merchant who will buy them for resale in Hamburg, London or Vienna. Someplace like that.” She looked at the dolls sadly, then her mouth tightened into firmness and she gave a sharp little nod.
Johan remembered his talks with David and the Partow twins about the sewing machine project and he guessed he knew what Lady Delia needed the money for. Well, Johan knew how to find merchants and how to deal with them. He had, on several occasions, been dog robber for this or that officer. He could bargain fairly well, especially when he was doing it for someone else.
Connie Myers’ Home
July 12, 1631
Connie Myers sat beside her daughter and said, “Honey, you’ve got to stop doing this. Maybe go talk to somebody.”
Darlene sniffed and wiped away the tears. “I’ll be okay, Mom. I’ve got to get to work.” Darlene jumped up from the couch and rushed out the front door to catch the bus out to the power plant.
Connie went back to the kitchen and made herself another cup of mint tea. Not that mint tea was a favorite; it was just what she could get right now.
“You know, Dink, we’re lucky in a way,” she said.
Her husband gave her a look.
“Well, we are,” Connie insisted. “At least both our kids are with us. But poor Darlene has lost Jack and Johnny. She’s devastated.”
July 13, 1631
Johan was talking with some of the other survivors from the ill-fated attempt to take Badenburg. Unlike Johan, most of them had joined the American army. They had spent the last fifteen minutes telling him how good life was in the American army with its shotguns.
Johan was having none of it. He leaned his chair against the wall, crossed his arms, and said, “Not me, boys, I’m too old for the army life. Besides, I have it better than you lot. Mrs. Higgins made me two new sets of clothes and bought me underwear with elastic.” If he was in a place even a little less public he would have taken down his pants and shown them. He almost did anyway. He was proud of his new clothing. Instead, he focused on the clothing he could decently display. “And see my new shoes. I have another pair at home, and three pair of pants and four shirts. I’ve money for a pint when I want one, good food, and Mrs. Higgins has engaged to get me new teeth, at her expense, mind.” Which she had.
July 14, 1631
“Darlene,” said Bill Porter, Darlene’s boss at the power plant, “This is Hans and this is Karl.” He pointed at each young man as he spoke. “They will be working for you. Teach them how to read the dials so that you will have time to try and figure out how to build us some new dials.”
Darlene looked up at the down-timers and didn’t like them at all. Logically, she knew that the Ring of Fire wasn’t their fault, but logic wasn’t driving her emotional response. It was unfair that she should lose Jack and Johnny just so these down-time fucks could get an early introduction to twentieth-century tech. She looked at Bill, giving the down-timers barely a glance. “I have a lot to do, Bill. Maybe Leona?”
“Everyone has a lot to do, Darlene. Leona has her own set of down-timer assistants to train.”
And that was that.
Darlene trained them and couldn’t maintain her resentment, because they were as eager as puppies, and sharp. She learned that they were, or had been, students getting ready to study at the university at Jena on scholarship, but were fascinated by electricity. They were both, Darlene was sure, much smarter than she was. But she knew about gauges and what they did, even some of the theory. And she could read a technical manual written in English and grasp clearly what the technical terms meant, which they couldn’t. Not yet.
Delia Higgins’ Sewing Room
July 14, 1631
“Come in, Johan. Have a seat.”
Johan came in and sat carefully on the little couch in Lady Delia’s sewing room. She had her sewing chair turned away from the Singer. It was almost a hundred years old, but Johan knew that it was still up-time tech, which gave it a newness that contrasted with its age.
“We have a bunch of orders for storage space,” Delia continued. “I’ve been being a greedy old fart, and it’s time to stop.” She shook her head. “I was just so scared right after the Ring of Fire. Our whole world gone. So I hid everything away and hoped no one would notice all I had and come take it.”
That didn’t seem greedy to Johan, just prudent.
“I could have left something in the storage containers that Grantville desperately needed, something that might have made the difference between life and death for all of us. Well, it stops now. We are going to open up all the containers where the renter was left up-time, and if there’s something the emergency committee needs, we’re going to give it to them. The rest, we’ll sell at the Valuemart. That will free up the containers for renting, now that we have so many new people in town.”
Higgins’ Storage Lot
July 15, 1631
Johan slipped the bolt cutter over the lock and squeezed. The hard steel of the lock came loose. He pulled the lock out of the door and, with young Master David looking on, pulled open the door. In the storage container was a couch with cracked naugahyde upholstery. A backyard grill with butane tanks that Johan hoped were empty. This was the seventh storage container they’d opened so far and contained the third couch and the second backyard grill. There was also a chest of drawers with a cracked mirror.
“Why do people keep junk?” Master David muttered.
Johan looked at him, wondering if he was crazy. Well, not exactly. Master David often said similar things, and by now Johan was used to it. It wasn’t exactly craziness. It was just that the up-timers were so rich. They threw everything away as a matter of course. The worst damaged thing in this container, probably the plastic bag full of broken toys, was worth a small fortune.
Young Master David must have seen his look because he held up his hands. “I know, Johan. ‘I’m not asking about the here and now. But the people who put this stuff in the storage shed were doing it in the twentieth century, when this was junk. Those toys were made in China, and even new they were worth less than a month’s rent of this container.”
Johan considered what the young master was saying and understood it, mostly. The price of something depended a lot on when and where you were.
“Okay,” David said. “Let’s get it inventoried and off to the Valuemart.”
July 16, 1631
Johan ushered Federico Vespucci into the house. They’d met at the Valuemart while Johan was overseeing the delivery of yet another set of box springs for resale. He explained in Italian, “There are lots of things in the storage containers. More of the beds. Toys. Even some of the dolls like those.” Johan pointed at the wall of dolls, and saw Vespucci’s eyes go wide. Johan might as well have been pointing to shelves filled with gold and jewels.
“Not these, of course,” Johan specified. “These are the private collection of Lady Delia Higgins and so not for sale.” Johan sighed with all the pride and regret he could put into it, and Federico Vespucci looked at him, eyes narrowing.
“It’s quite true,” Johan insisted, and then made the introductions. He introduced Lady Delia, Mistress Ramona, and Masters David and Donny, giving them each their equivalent Italian title, with only a bit of rank inflation.
Johan translated as Mr. Vespucci explained that he was getting ready to return to Venice. He had arrived weeks after the Ring of Fire. Johan could tell that the merchant was desperate to be the first merchant to sell products from Grantville in Venice, no matter how he might try to hide it. Also that he wanted to buy quickly and be on his way.
Best of all, Vespucci did not speak English. The up-timers were wizards at any number of things, but bargaining, in Johan’s view, was not among them.
Well, not his up-timers anyway. Johan was starting to take a somewhat proprietary view of Lady Delia, Mistress Ramona, and young Masters David and Donny. They knew a tremendous amount to be sure, but they weren’t really, well, worldly. Which, he thought, made quite a bit of sense, since they weren’t from his world, having come from a magical future.
Thus, they lacked the simple understanding that all merchants are thieves. It was purely certain that any merchant who had an opportunity to talk directly to them would rob them blind, talking them into selling their valuables for a pittance.
While it might not have been true of all up-timers, Johan was right about his up-timers. They rented their storage containers for a set monthly fee. Bought their groceries at the store where you either bought or didn’t, but didn’t haggle over the price. They hadn’t even haggled much when buying their car. All in all, they had virtually no experience in the art of the haggle, and haggling is not one of those things you can learn from a book.
“The dolls are unique, with their posable limbs and inset hair, and are made of plastic, which cannot be duplicated, even in far-off China. Even to approximate them would be the work of a skilled artist working for months using ivory or the finest porcelain. See the lovely pink color? But, unfortunately, they are not for sale,” Johan told Vespucci. “Now, about the furniture in the storage containers.”
Federico was no fool. He knew full well that the storage containers with their furniture, even the fancy comfortable mattresses, were little more than a come-on, a way to get him here to see the dolls. He knew that the scoundrel who had attached himself to these up-timers was a cad and a thief. That he was going to be robbed blind. Federico knew all that, and it didn’t matter a bit.
Federico fought the good fight. He was a merchant after all, and a good one.
How did Johan know that plastic was so hard to make?
They brought out the encyclopedia and read him the passages about the industrial processes involved in making plastic. Which didn’t matter, since the dolls were not for sale.
He would need proof that they were authentic up-time dolls.
They could provide certificates of authentication, proof that they not only came from Grantville, but from the personal collection of Delia Ruggles Higgins. Of course, the dolls weren’t for sale.
All in all, with Johan’s deliberate mistranslations and Delia’s enthusiastic discussion of her dolls; it had the makings of a remarkably shrewd sales technique.
All of which wouldn’t have worked at all, except Federico knew perfectly well what would happen when he reached Venice with the dolls. There would be a bidding war, and the dolls would be shipped to royal courts, wealthy merchants, and everything in between, from one end of the world to the other. All at exorbitant prices. Some, a very few, would actually end up as the prized toy of a very wealthy child. Most would end up in various collectors’ collections of rare and valuable knickknacks.
It wasn’t quite enough. Federico left that night with no commitments made.
July 16-18, 1631
That might have been the end of it. Not hardly. Johan would have found something. If nothing else, they would have offered a few more dolls. That was what Federico was expecting. Or failing that, Federico would have gone back and made the deal anyway. In spite of the urgent letters he had for delivery in Venice, he was not leaving Grantville without those dolls. But a deal under the current conditions would have meant bad blood. Real resentment, the kind of anger that means the person you’re dealing with never wants to deal with you again, and warns their friends away. Says words like “thief” and “miser,” not with a half-joking, half-respectful tone, but with real intent.
In any event, it wasn’t necessary. Two weeks earlier, David had given Johan an old Playboy. It had happened at the end of a discussion of the fairer sex, in which young lad and old man had agreed that girls were complex and confusing, but sure nice to look at. He figured that the old guy would use it for the same thing he did. To read the articles, of course.
This was still the age when the quality of art was determined primarily by how closely it reflected reality. The photographs in a Playboy magazine looked quite real indeed, just somewhat, ah, more, than nature usually provides. This gave the pictures a certain amount of added artistic value. Johan noted this, and on the morning of the sixteenth, showed the Playboy to Master Vespucci, with the explanation that there were some forms of art that proper Christian ladies didn’t appreciate. It was a deal closer. It saved everyone’s pride. Several additional images were agreed on, and things were settled. Master Vespucci would get his dolls and get to keep his pride. Lady Higgins would be spoken of with respect, and even her scoundrel of a servant, as someone who knew how things worked.
The final deal was made. A consignment of selected dolls, all sizes and types, each with a signed and sealed certificate of authenticity, and undisclosed sundries, were exchanged for a rather large sum of money. In fact, most of the money that Master Vespucci had available to him in Thuringia. The things he’d been planning to buy in Badenburg would just have to find another buyer. The sundries were David’s Playboys, all twenty-four of them. And fifty really raunchy color photos downloaded from the internet up-time, that he had used the last of his color ink to print.
July 20, 1631
“All right, Herr Kipper,” Doctor Sims said. “Let’s have a look. Open wide.”
Johan opened his mouth and closed his eyes against the strange round light that surrounded the magnifying glass the doctor was using. The doctor used paddles to move Johan’s tongue out of the way and to push against his teeth, then had him sit up. The walls were white and there were big pictures of teeth and gums on the wall.
“Here’s the situation. You have a couple of cavities in the teeth you have left. I could fill those, but I don’t have any partial plates that would fit your remaining teeth. What I can do is pull those last few and set you up with a full set. I have a couple of full sets that can be adjusted to fit you. I don’t like pulling healthy teeth, and if I had access to the equipment and supplies needed to make partial plates. That’s what I would recommend. But I don’t have that access.”
Johan didn’t have to think about it long. He hated to lose the last of his teeth, but he knew they would be going anyway. He agreed.
Slowly, Johan Kipper was getting used to the up-timers, and at the same time he was coming to realize that he didn’t agree with them about how the world worked. He liked what they thought, but to him David would always be young Master David. Mrs. Higgins, whatever she insisted on being called, was always going to be the mistress of the clan, as noble in his eyes as any queen in Christendom.
It was very nice that the up-timers thought down-timers their equals, but it wasn’t true, not really.
Bargainer in Chief
July 20, 1631
Delia Higgins’ House
When Johan got back from the dentist’s office, he had another surprise waiting for him.
“But, Lady Higgins, that’s too much. Giving me any of the company is too much.”
“Nonsense. And you need to stop calling me Lady Higgins. It’s Mrs. Higgins or Delia.”
“That wouldn’t be proper, Lady Higgins. Chief Frost said you were a lady, and you own the lot and the dolls and the company. It would be above my place. And with all due deference, ma’am—” With an effort, Johan didn’t call her Lady Higgins again. He wanted to avoid the distraction. “—there’s no call, no call at all, for you to be giving a full twentieth part of the company to the likes of me. That’s beyond my pay and maintenance. You up-timers, Lord love you, are too generous by half and half again.”
Lady Higgins took a breath. “The sale of the dolls has been finalized, Johan, and you are the biggest part of the reason for that.” She stuck a finger at him. “Don’t you think I didn’t notice what you were doing. Now the company is legally formed. And the kids insisted that I get sixty percent since the start-up capital came from my dolls. Brent, Trent, Sarah, and David each get ten percent, and they insisted I get the rest. But if it’s mine, it’s mine, and I can do with it what I want. I’m giving five percent to Ramona and five to Dalton and neither of them has done a thing to earn it. I’m giving two percent each to all the grandkids. I’m giving Jeff and Gretchen five percent as a belated wedding present. And I’m giving you five percent for your help in finding the buyer and negotiating the deal.”
“What about your parents?” Johan asked. “Surely the . . .”
He trailed off as Delia shook her head. “After the way they’ve ragged on me over the whole project, they aren’t getting any. Family is family, Johan, even if they are idiots. But business is business, and you are important to the business. I want you to have a reason to want it to succeed.”
She wouldn’t back down from that at all.
Well, Johan had a reason to want the business to succeed. A powerful reason. But it wasn’t the stock, not exactly. It was that she had given him the stock and David Bartley had given him even more. David had given him himself.
There was one other reason for the gifts, and Johan got to watch as she explained it to the kids.
“I figure the thing most likely to kill the company is if you all give up on it, and the thing most likely to make that happen is if you feel you have lost control. That your decisions, your actions, don’t matter. You know and I know that it’s unlikely any of the others will ever vote their shares,” Delia said. “Maybe Johan, but he’ll probably vote the way David tells him to.’
“I remember the concern you all had that the grownups would take it away. Well, we won’t. As of now, the four of you can outvote me, and nobody can outvote you without me on their side. This was your project in the beginning and it still is. I want that clear in your minds. You kids thought it up, you did the work, and more importantly, you’ll still be doing the work. If it’s going to work, you’re the ones who’ll make it work. If it’s going to fail, well, that’s you too.
“Delia grinned a very nasty grin. “Scary, ain’t it?” She softened a bit. “I’ll be here if you need advice. So will your parents. But this is yours.”
Johan watched the faces of the youngsters as Lady Higgins said that. He could see how their expressions changed and firmed. Trust can be a heavy load, but it can strengthen even as it weighs you down.
July 23, 1631
Delia Higgins’ House
Johan knocked on the sewing room door and then stepped into the room. “You wanted to see me, ma’am?”
Lady Higgins turned away from her sewing. “Yes. I talked to Judy Wendell earlier today, and she says we need to be spending more money. Do you think you can find me another guard or two?”
“I’m sure I can, ma’am, but where are we going to put them?” Johan considered. “I guess I could share the bedroom in the mobile, and if we hire more than one maybe we could clean out one of the storage containers.”
“No, that won’t work. Maybe I can move my sewing stuff into the living room and you can stay here?”
“I don’t need this whole space, and I don’t want to push you out of your work room.” Johan had, in some ways, a better understanding of how much income was coming out of the sewing room than Delia did, at least in terms of relative value. The money Delia made from sewing paid for most of the groceries eaten by the family. Anything that interfered with that would be worse than the cost of hiring a couple of extra guards.
“You’re sure?” Delia looked around. The room was full of stuff, baskets of clothing in need of repair. By now about half of it was clothing that had been originally made down-time. The Valuemart bought old German clothing and sold it to Delia, then bought it back after she had fixed the tears and busted seams, and resold it. It was a fairly standard pattern for seventeenth-century Germany, even if Johan knew it seemed strange to up-timers.
July 24, 1631
Delia Higgins’ House
“This is the life,” Hans Bauer said.
Johan opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of beer. It was down-time made, bottled in Grantville, and pasteurized. It was good quality beer, rich and dark with flavor. Johan used a bottle opener and passed over the bottle.
“It’s sure better than catching a pike in Tilly’s tercios,” Johan agreed. “How are you liking life in the National Guard?”
“It’s better than Tilly’s tercios, but I envy you, Johan, I truly do.”
“You don’t have to, Hans. I talked to Lady Higgins, and I can get you a place here if you want.” As he was speaking, Johan pulled a plastic, microwave-safe bowl out of the refrigerator and stuck it in the microwave. As was usual among up-time made stews, it was heavy on the meat. Delicious, but heavier on the meat than most down-timers were accustomed to.
While it warmed, he pulled a loaf of bread from the cupboard and sliced off a big piece. Bread machines were present in Grantville, and while they couldn’t be reproduced down-time because they used integrated circuits, they could be repaired. The heating element, even the motors, could be rebuilt and strengthened. Bread machine bread was common in Grantville these days.
Johan stuck the bread in the microwave for a few seconds so it would be warm and passed it to Hans. Hans was a good fellow, sturdy and dependable, if not bright. He had some English, so he would at least be able to follow Master David’s instructions, and he wasn’t pockmarked like Johan was, so he wouldn’t upset Mistress Ramona. He could be counted on to make his rounds on time every night and keep a good watch.
By the time the meal was done, Hans was Lady Higgins’ second guard, and Johan went looking for a third. He also knew Dieter Eichel and Liesel Jung from Tilly’s tercio. Liesel had a little English, though Dieter didn’t have any. Dieter was okay, but Liesel was the real prize. Johan had decided that the Higgins family needed servants. It was indecent for people that wealthy not to have servants. It demeaned them even if they didn’t understand it, and it made them seem miserly to the down-timers. Liesel would go to work, and by now Johan was familiar enough with Lady Higgins to know that she would start paying Liesel soon enough.
July 25, 1631
A Smithy in Badenburg
Johan watched quietly as young Master Brent went on, again, telling the blacksmith what the part did and why. “It’s really just a lever,” Brent said, “but it’s clever how it works. This end rests against a rotating cam that makes one complete rotation every two stitches. The cam has a varying radius. As the cam rotates, the short end of the lever is moved in and out. That moves the long end of the lever up and down, pulling the thread or loosening it as needed to make the stitch. So it’s very important that each end of the lever is the right length, and while the major stresses are vertical it needs enough depth to avoid bending. The model and the forms provide you with a system of measuring tools to tell how well the part fits within specifications.” Then Brent looked at Johan to translate.
Johan did, sort of, in his way. “See the pattern drawn on the board with the nails in it?” The board was a piece of one-by-eight about a foot long that Brent and Trent had made. He waited for the nod. Then took the wooden model and placed it on the nails where it fell easily to cover the internal line and leave the external line exposed. He wiggled it. The inside line remained hidden. The outside line remained in view, as there wasn’t much wiggle room.
“See the way it covers the inside line and doesn’t cover the outside line? This model would pass the first test if it was iron.”
He removed the model from the nails and slid it through a slot in the wood. “It’s thin enough it would pass the second test.” He then tried to slip it through another slot but it wouldn’t go. “It’s thick enough it would pass the third test. The fourth test is a weight test. But if it’s good iron and it passes these, it should pass the last as well. So that’s the deal. Each one of these that passes the tests, we’ll pay you. If it doesn’t pass, we don’t buy it.”
Then the bargaining began in earnest. It took a while, but Johan got a good price. Not quite so good as he wanted, but better than he really expected. With the craftsman’s warning, “Mind, all my other work will come first.”
And so it went. Over the following days, they visited craft shops of several sorts. They ordered finished parts where they could, and blanks where the techniques of the early seventeenth century weren’t up to the task. The blanks would be finished by the machines they had designed.
August 12, 1631
Delia Higgins’ House
Johan was cleaning his pistol when Liesel knocked on the door. “Mrs. Higgins wants you in the living room. Some townsman wants to talk about the sewing machines … ”
He looked at the clock. It was two thirty in the afternoon, and he’d been out with Master David and Brent talking to a leather worker in Saalfeld till noon. He had an appointment with a smith in Rudolstadt in another hour, but this probably took precedence. He quickly reassembled the six-shot revolver that they had found in one of the storage sheds, and put on his pistol belt and the baseball cap.
Johan entered the living room.
“Johan, this is Herr Schmidt,” Delia said. The room had fewer dolls now. It gave the doll shelves a half-empty feeling, at least to Johan.
Then Delia said, “He’s here to discuss the sewing machine business. At least, I think that’s why he’s here. Between my lack of German and his lack of English, I’m not entirely sure.”
Johan gave the man a nod. He thought he recognized him through his resemblance to his son. He thought for a minute . . . Adolf Schmidt? No, that was the son. Karl . . . that was it. “Herr Schmidt, I think we talked to your son Adolph.”
“Yes. Adolph said you insisted on a surcharge if we weren’t willing to take American dollars.”
“Yes, I am afraid so. The bank of Grantville is hesitant to accept the local silver coins. And carrying large sums of silver to Badenburg is a risk, if a small one. We find it much easier to simply write a check.”
Johan reached into his right breast pocket and pulled out his checkbook. He had a bank account now at the First National Bank of Grantville.
Lady Higgins gestured them to the dining table and they all sat.
He showed Herr Schmidt the check book. “Right here, where it says ‘pay to the order of,’ we would fill in your name or the name of your company account. I really recommend that you get an account at the Grantville bank or the credit union, Herr Schmidt. That way you can turn over the check and have the money transferred to your account in perfect safety.”
Johan watched Herr Schmidt’s face and was amused. Not for the first time, either. He knew precisely what was going through the mind of the Badenburg foundry owner. How was Schmidt to know if they had the money in their account to pay the check? Considering that Schmidt was from Badenburg and not living in Grantville, he was probably also wondering if he could trust the bank.
“You can find out if a check is good readily enough. A simple phone call.” He stopped. There was no phone service to Badenburg yet, though they were putting up the phone lines for it now. Even so, it would only be the one hook up for the whole town. It was going to be a while before Badenburg had full phone service. It hadn’t been a slip of the tongue. It had been a reminder that in Grantville you could call the bank or the police readily.
They talked about money, but both Johan and Lady Higgins insisted that they couldn’t do anything final till they talked to Master David. Johan could tell that Schmidt thought it was a ploy, and Johan was willing enough that he think that. He saw no reason not to use the fact that Master David needed to sign off on any agreements as a bit of extra pressure on Karl Schmidt. But it wasn’t just a ploy. Young Master David was showing signs of turning into a real man of business.
Johan watched them as he translated, each for the other. Herr Schmidt and Lady Higgins were alike in some ways and different in others. He didn’t think Lady Higgins really trusted Herr Schmidt, which Johan felt was a good thing. The up-timers, especially his up-timers, tended to be too trusting.
Bank of Grantville
August 15, 1631
Karl Schmidt sat on a chair in the loan officer’s cubicle, and Lady Higgins sat on another. Johan stood in a corner of the small space and watched as Herr Schmidt and Lady Higgins each signed the contracts. Master David and Miss Sarah had convinced Herr Schmidt to open a business account at the Bank of Grantville, which was useful not just for the foundry’s dealings with HSMC but its dealings with all the other shops in town.
There were two contracts, one in English and the other in German, but both had been checked and they were consistent. Once Lady Higgins and Herr Schmidt had signed, the bank officer signed as witness and pulled out the notary stamp. He shook Lady Delia’s hand and Herr Schmidt’s.
Karl would be having several new devices made for his foundry, using in part money from the contract with HSMC, and having an account at the Bank of Grantville meant that he could buy a device from Olly Reardon with a check. And Olly could verify the check with a phone call.
It meant that even money spent in Badenburg was staying in Grantville.
September 10, 1631
Delia Higgins’ House
Johan opened the door for Karl Schmidt and his family. This evening Johan was wearing a dress coat with sergeant’s stripes on the sleeve. He was the Higgins’ Guard Sergeant, and this was fancy dress. He showed Herr Schmidt, his son Adolph, and his three daughters into the living room where Lady Higgins and Mistress Ramona were waiting.
Ramona had invited Karl Schmidt and his family. They had been seeing each other since mid-August. Not every day, but once a week or so, Karl would bring in a load of parts and Ramona would take the afternoon off.
In the beginning, Master David and Lady Higgins had been concerned about the developing relationship between Karl and Ramona. But David wasn’t, not anymore.
Acculturation works both ways, and it works faster on kids. Johan had been acculturating David right along. David had had a conversation with Master Schmidt. Ramona Higgins was a lady of high station, with a family which would take it very badly if she were treated with a lack of respect. Normally such comments from a boy just turned fifteen might be ignored. In this case, however, Johan was sitting a few feet away cleaning a double-barreled shotgun and adding translation and mistranslation as needed. Besides, in the discussions about the sewing machine parts, David had gotten to know Karl a little bit. He was bigoted, but no more than most, and he wasn’t a user, unlike some of David’s mom’s previous men.
Moving Up in the World
October 11, 1631
Delia Higgins’ Garage
Master David and Johan got off the bus about a block and a half away from the Higgins house, and it wasn’t until they were turning into the driveway that they realized there was anything going on. There were too many cars in the parking lot.
Usually there were one or two vehicles, most often a truck, sometimes a push cart or a horse-drawn wagon, here to pick something up or put something in the containers. Today, there were five cars and three wagons in the parking lot.
While Master David went in to see what was going on, Johan went to the storage lot office.
“What’s happening with all the cars?” Johan asked even before he closed the door of the mobile home.
“Close the door,” said Dieter. “Don’t you know we’re in the middle of the Little Ice Age?”
Johan was already closing the door. The day was cold, even for an old mercenary who was wearing the best clothing he had ever owned.
“Brent and Trent got the sewing machine working,” Liesel said. “And people have been showing up all afternoon. Karl Schmidt brought the whole family. Mr. Marcantonio is here. So are a couple of people from the Grantville bank and the credit union. The Wendells are here, and the Partows.”
“I don’t see what all the excitement is about,” Hans complained. “It’s a machine that sews. The up-timers have all sorts of machines that do all sorts of things. Mrs. Higgins already has a machine that sews. She used it to sew the patches on my coat.” Hans pointed at his coat to prove the point.
Johan didn’t try to explain it to him.
Dieter said, “Say, Johan, could you loan me a thousand dollars? I’d like to buy a horse to get around on.” He was grinning, but the question was at least half serious. They all knew that Johan owned five percent of the Higgins Sewing Machine Company.
“Huh?” Hans asked. They also knew that Johan was getting precisely the same pay that they were, not even extra for being the guard sergeant.
“That share he has in the sewing machine company,” Liesel explained carefully. Hans could get angry if you challenged his intelligence too blatantly. “Now that the sewing machine company is making sewing machines, it’s worth more. I heard people talking about it over at the house.”
“Yes, but he can’t sell it, can he?” Hans asked. “Not when Lady Higgins gave it to him. That would be . . . bad.”
“Yes, it would be,” Johan agreed. “Dieter is just going to have to save up and buy his own horse.”
“Dieter isn’t getting a horse until I have a sewing machine,” Liesel said, and both Johan and Hans laughed.
“Hans, with all these people here I want you to take an extra round through the storage lot, in case someone got lost.”
Hans nodded and went to the rack by the door. He grabbed a scarf and a fur cap, then put them and a great coat on. When he went out, he let in another blast of frigid air.
Once he was gone, Liesel told Dieter severely, “Don’t confuse him.”
“Wasn’t trying to confuse Hans, sweetheart,” Dieter said placatingly. “I was teasing Sergeant Moneybags here.”
“What makes you think I’m so rich all of a sudden?” Johan asked.
“It’s all they’re talking about over there,” Liesel said. “How the Higgins Sewing Machine Company is worth ten times what it was yesterday.”
“That, and that you conned your way into the affections of a little old lady. Took advantage of her and a bunch of kids,” Dieter added.
Dieter held up his hands when Johan turned to him. “I’m not saying it. Some of the up-timers up at the house are saying it.”
Johan bit back his response. Something about the close family inbreeding of anyone who thought that. He took a breath and asked, “What are they saying, Liesel?”
“Everything they can think of.” Liesel sniffed. “That Master David and Miss Sarah and the Partow twins are all too young to be running a company that may turn out to be vital to the welfare of Grantville. That you have been manipulating Lady Higgins.” Liesel hesitated then said in a rush, “They can’t figure out how you’re doing it the way you look, but you used your wiles on her the same way you suckered Vespucci. That the fact that Lady Higgins gave you five percent of the company is proof.”
“I knew that was a bad idea, but Lady Higgins insisted. Mostly because she was angry with her parents.”
“Why didn’t she just keep it, then?” Dieter asked, sounding truly curious.
Johan leaned back in his chair, rubbing his temples. The truth was he didn’t know why Lady Higgins gave him part of the company, even though she told him. “She said it was to give me a stake in the success of the company.”
“That makes sense,” Liesel said.
“Not to me,” Johan said. “I have my own reasons for taking care of Master David and the whole family.” He remembered that day when David Bartley looked him in the eye. “I am not afraid of you,” Master David had said, and he meant every word. “I don’t have to trap you into doing something that would be an excuse to punish you. I don’t need to make you weak to feel strong, or safe. That’s why we act the way we do, Johan! The way that seems so wrong to you. Because we are not afraid. Not the way these German lords are. And because we are not afraid of you, you don’t have to be afraid of us.” Master David had proved that since then, proved it every day since that first day. Johan Kipper had felt small and mean every day of his life. Until the day he met Master David, but Master David had never made him feel small, not once. Other up-timers had sometimes. But never Master David and never Lady Higgins.
October 26, 1631
Delia Higgins tapped her coffee cup with her spoon three times. “The first stockholders meeting of the Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation is hereby called to order. Is anyone recording this auspicious occasion for posterity?”
“I am, Mrs. Higgins,” Sarah Wendell said, holding up her dad’s digital camera.
“Me, too,” said Trent Partow, holding up a cassette tape recorder.
“I was afraid of that,” Lady Higgins said, and Johan struggled not to laugh. He wasn’t the only one. David Marcantonio was grinning and Dalton Higgins was smiling. Mistress Ramona was too, although as usual she was looking a little confused. Liesel was in the kitchen and Johan was standing by in case anyone needed anything.
“Okay. First we have some real business. It has been proposed to sell David Marcantonio two thousand shares of Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation common stock to clear the debt for the last two machines we bought from him. Do any stockholders have any objections to that?” Lady Higgins looked around the table. Her eyes seemed to rest on Dalton a little longer than on anyone else, but he didn’t object.
“Good, then. Without dissent. Sarah, go ahead.”
Dave Marcantonio handed Sarah a check for two thousand dollars and Sarah handed him a stock certificate in exchange.
Then Sarah pulled out the bill for the last two production machines and handed the bill and the check to Mr. Marcantonio. He tore up the check, marked the bill paid in full, and handed it back.
“There, Dave,” Lady Higgins said. “You’re now officially a stockholder, and as such you can be on the board of directors. I nominate you to the board of directors. In fact, I nominate you to the post of Chairman of the Board.”
“Forget it, Delia. I’ll sit on the board, but you ain’t sticking me with the chairmanship.”
“I nominate Delia Higgins to the post of Chairwoman of the Board,” Sarah said.
“I second the nomination,” Dave Marcantonio said.
“I move the nominations be closed,” Trent Partow added.
“It’s been moved that nominations for Chairman of the Board be closed. Any objections?”
For just a moment, Johan thought Dalton Higgins was going to object, but he didn’t.
“Very well. We will vote by a show of hands. All those for David Marcantonio?” Lady Higgins raised her hand even as she said it. But her hand was the only one to come up.
“Thirty thousand votes for David Marcantonio. All for Delia Higgins?”
Master David raised his hand. So did Sarah, Trent, Brent, and Dave Marcantonio. Master David looked at Johan and rolled his eyes up. Johan got the signal and raised his hand, feeling a bit weird even as he did it. Then Dalton and Ramona Higgins raised their hands. Johan counted it up in his head. Master David twelve thousand shares, Sarah, Trent and Brent ten thousand each, made forty-two thousand. Johan’s five thousand and Mr. Marcantonio’s two thousand made it forty-nine thousand, Mistress Ramona’s five thousand and her proxy for Master Donny’s two made it fifty-six thousand. Dalton’s five made sixty-one and the six thousand shares he was voting for his kids made sixty-seven thousand votes for Lady Higgins.
Lady Higgins looked around at the raised hands and the girls and said, “Oh, all right. But I nominate Dave Marcantonio to the board of the Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation. Any objections?”
There was silence.
“Let the minutes show that Mr. Marcantonio was elected by acclamation of the shareholders present.”
Master David held up a finger.
“I would like to nominate Johan Kipper to the board.”
“What?” It came out without Johan willing it. Master David hadn’t mentioned this to him. No one had mentioned this to him.
“I second the nomination,” Sarah said. “I’m a stockholder and the bylaws give me that right.”
“I third the nomination,” said Brent Partow.
“You can’t third a nomination,” Sarah said.
“I just did, didn’t I?” Brent said.
Lady Higgins tapped her coffee cup with the spoon again, and silence returned to the room. “Johan Kipper has been nominated and seconded to the board of the Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation. All stockholders in favor, please raise your hands.”
Master David, Miss Sarah, Trent and Brent all raised their hands immediately, then so did Lady Higgins and Dave Marcantonio. That only left Mistress Ramona who was voting her shares and Master Donny’s, and Dalton who was voting his shares and those of his children Mindy, Milton, and Mark. Dalton didn’t raise his hand, but after another moment Mistress Ramona did.
“With a vote of eighty-one thousand shares,” Lady Higgins said, “Johan Kipper is elected to the board of directors of the Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation. Sit down, Director Kipper. It’s inappropriate for a member of the board to stand around like he’s waiting to serve the soup. And stop calling me Lady Higgins. You’re a member of the board yourself now.”
Johan just stood there. Liesel poked him in the ribs and he hesitantly went to the dining table and sat down. Finally, he found his voice. “Chief Frost told me you were a lady, and I have seen no reason to doubt it.”
“Hear, hear,” said Dave Marcantonio then he got a twinkle in his eye. “In fact, I propose that the official address for the chairperson of the board of the Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation be lady or lord, as fits their gender. Do I hear a second?”
“I second the motion,” Brent Partow said.
Even as Delia Higgins said, “You’re out of order, Dave. Not to mention out of your ever-loving mind.”
“Motion has been made and seconded,” Dave said. “This is a stockholder meeting, Delia, not a board meeting. Any stockholder can make a motion.”
“You still have to be recognized by the chair and I am the chair.”
Master David held up that finger again.
“I move that the chairperson of the board be addressed as lady or lord as appropriate to their gender.”
“I second,” Dave Marcantonio said.
“I third,” Brent said.
Lady Higgins looked at Master David, and said. “I don’t recognize you.” Then she looked around the room. “I never saw that kid before in my life.”
“Mother,” Mistress Ramona said, shocked.
“Oh, good grief,” said Dalton.
Delia looked at her son. “You shouldn’t take this stuff too seriously, Dalton.”
“I don’t know why we’re bothering with it at all,” Dalton said. “Fine, David and his friends have got their company up and running, sort of. They are turning out treadle-powered sewing machines, sort of.” He sighed. “Look, Mom, I appreciate the gesture, but I have to get back to work.” He stood up. “Tell you what, Mom. I’m giving you my proxy. Feel free to vote my stock and the kids’ stock as you see fit.” Then he left.
The gesture that Dalton Higgins was talking about was the gift of five thousand shares of HSMC stock to him and two thousand each to his three children. Johan knew that he also had five thousand shares of HSMC. But, unlike Johan, Dalton hadn’t been involved in the design and production of the sewing machines. He wasn’t all that close to his mother and had been busy with his job and his family. Besides which, Dalton Higgins was an up-timer. He didn’t understand what sewing machines meant, not like down-timers did.
As they were leaving the house, Johan said, “You shouldn’t have done that, Master David.”
“We trust you, Johan,” Master David said. “We need someone we trust on the board, Director Kipper.”
“It’s not that we don’t trust Mrs. Higgins or Mr. Marcantonio,” Sarah Wendell was quick to point out. “But you’re out in the field with us, working with the down-timer suppliers.”
“Forget that,” Brent Partow said. “We need someone we can trust in the board meetings. Someone who isn’t going to override us—” He made little quote gestures with his fingers. “—’for our own good.’ ”
November 2, 1631
The seven girls trooped in, carrying bags. Johan watched as they set their bags on the table. Johan knew Judy the Younger Wendell and had seen several of the rest now and again since he’d been working for the Higgins family. Judy was Sarah Wendell’s little sister and the rest were her friends.
“This is Herr Gerber. He is from the Netherlands,” Johan said, “And this is Monsieur Carloni from Genoa. Fraulein Wendell, would you introduce your friends?”
Judy did, going from the oldest, Susan Logsden, to the youngest, Hayley Fortney. There was a solemn, almost tragic, air about the girls as they removed the dolls from the bags. They introduced the dolls, mentioning character traits. Like the imagined fact that one Barbie liked strawberry ice cream and another blueberry waffles. The dolls were, with a few exceptions, not in very bad shape, though it was obvious that they were dolls that had been played with, not collector’s dolls still in the box. In other circumstances, that might have made them less valuable. There were only a very limited number of up-timer dolls in the world. Add to that the cachet that anything owned by an up-timer had, and they were worth their weight in gold. More than that. In these circumstances, the fact that they were actually played with by real up-timer little girls made them more, not less, valuable. Provenance was important here, and the computer printouts that came out of the bags next proved that Judy and her friends knew that.
When Haley Fortney started saying that maybe she should keep her construction worker Barbie, the price almost doubled.
They kept some of the money they got for the dolls, a bit over a thousand American dollars, split among the seven girls. But they bought eight thousand, two hundred fifty-four shares of HSMC at the price of one dollar a share.
Those, thankfully, were the last shares sold at the initial offering price, and that because Judy had gotten an agreement on the price before the corporate papers had been filed. From now on, the price would be determined by the market. And the Grantville Exchange currently had the price at $1.57 per share.
November 14, 1631
Mobile Home, Higgins Storage Lot
“Hey, Johan.” Dieter waved as Johan came through the gate. “Liesel says that HSMC passed five dollars a share?”
“News must have gotten out about the Grantville bank agreeing to buy our loans.”
“Would you mind explaining that?” Dieter asked, as he got to the stairs to the mobile home.
“It means we can sell a sewing machine on credit, or a rent with an option to buy deal, and the bank will loan us money based on the loans we made to the buyer. We still have to pay the money back, but it means we have, or can get, cash to buy parts and generally run the business. Miss Sarah and that old crank at the bank were going round and round on how much interest we were going to be charged. She finally had to threaten to take our business to Uriel Abrabanel.”
“What does that mean?” Liesel asked, as they stepped into the mobile home.
Mistress Ramona was looking confused and Johan thought the question was at least half for her benefit.
“It means that we can sell the sewing machines as fast as we make them.”
Ramona was looking worried and, surprisingly, Liesel was too. Liesel mouthed “Later,” with a glance at Ramona.
November 14, 1631
Johan stepped into the kitchen and looked around. No one else was here. “What’s bothering you, Liesel?”
Liesel turned away from the stove. She was fixing stuffed potatoes for lunch. They were one of the recipes developed by the cooking show on Grantville TV. They were stuffed with shredded cabbage, just enough ground pork for flavor, and local goat cheese, with a bit of sage, chives, and a little minced turnip, all broiled to a brown crispness. They were one of Johan’s favorite foods.
“I was talking to Margaret, who knows Mary Gerber, who is walking out with Peter Strauss, who works in the Schmidt foundry. And she says that Peter says that Karl Schmidt is getting ready to go into competition with HSMC.”
Johan took a couple of steps, then sat down at the kitchen table. It wasn’t really all that much of a surprise. If it hadn’t been Karl Schmidt, it would have been someone else. The problem was that it would mean losing the Schmidt foundry as a supplier, and the Schmidt foundry was selling them quite a few vital parts at prices that none of the smithies in the area could match. “That will be a problem, but I don’t think he can match our price.”
“It’s not that. It’s Mistress Ramona,” Liesel said. “Whoever wins, she’s going to get caught in the middle between her Karl and Master David.”
“Oh,” Johan admitted. “I hadn’t considered that.”
“You can’t tell David,” Liesel said.
“Well, I have to tell someone,” Johan said. “It’s a threat to the company.”
He ended up telling Lady Higgins about the rumored threat to the company, and she too insisted they not tell Master David.
“Don’t borrow trouble, Johan,” Delia Higgins said flatly. “And don’t start a pissing match between David and Karl Schmidt. Let me handle it.”
December 12, 1631
Johan opened the door for Karl Schmidt and his family. He might be a director of the Higgins Sewing Machine Company now, but he still took his position in the Higgins household seriously. The rest of the Sewing Circle, as David, Brent, Trent and Sarah were being called, were already here.
Liesel and Dieter took the Schmidt girls’ cloaks and Karl’s and Adolph’s coats. It was December in the Little Ice Age. It wasn’t warm. But the central heat was running, and the house was toasty warm inside.
Johan knew what was going on and had agreed not to let David in on the negotiations. David was a good lad, but he still had a great deal of up-timer romanticism, especially where his mother was concerned. Johan knew what was going on, because he was deeply involved in the negotiations. Lady Higgins was as pragmatic about such things as a lady had to be.
Karl was going to ask to marry Ramona tonight, and Johan was worried. He understood how things were done in the seventeenth century. Karl expected a considerable dowry, but had also offered a major dower. A family merger that would make both families stronger. Marrying for money or connections wasn’t considered crude or mercenary. It was the standard practice, and marrying without proper attention paid to such concerns was flighty and foolish.
Officially, they were here to celebrate the sale of the fiftieth sewing machine, which had happened the previous week. They were making a profit on the sewing machines now, but not enough of one. It would take them years at this rate just for the investments Lady Higgins had made to be paid back.
Once they were seated, and before dinner was served, Karl said, “I would like to talk to you all about a proposal I have. I have already spoken of it to Ramona and Madam Higgins, but without your agreement they will not agree.”
Karl hesitated, then . . . “I wish to take over the Higgins Sewing Machine Corporation. I will put in my foundry to pay for fifty thousand shares of stock. I wish to wed Ramona, and with the wedding I will control her stock. Together with Mrs. Higgins, I would control over fifty percent of the outstanding stock. If you all agree, she has agreed to give me her support.”
“Hear me out,” Karl demanded, apparently unaware that no one was in any hurry to interrupt. “You four have done a tremendous thing. Four children have started a company that may someday be worth more than some kingdoms. You have brought wealth into the world, but starting a company is not the same thing as running it. Already there are others interested in producing sewing machines. So there will be competition and alternatives.
“Even if you do everything right, you will be at a disadvantage because people will not want to deal with children if they can deal with an adult. Others will find it easier to buy iron and other materials. People will say ‘Do you want to trust a sewing machine that was made by children having a lark? Or would you rather have one made by mature men of consequence?’ Besides, you have schooling yet to complete, so you will not be able to pay the company the attention it needs.”
Karl talked on. He talked about potential problems, he talked about what he would like to do, how he wanted to make the company grow. Johan listened with less than half an ear. He’d heard it before. The important voice here would be Master David’s.
David looked at Mistress Ramona to find her looking at him. Her eyes begged him not to kill this. She was almost in tears, afraid of what he would do. He looked at Lady Higgins as she caught his eye, looked at Ramona, then at Karl, and nodded. He looked to Sarah. She saw him looking at her and gave a slight shrug. And Johan watched it all.
Masters Brent and Trent were looking rebellious and betrayed. Johan watched David catch their eyes and mouth the word “wait.” David turned his attention back to Karl, and the business part of the proposal.
It was fair. Johan knew that. The foundry was worth more than twenty-five percent of the company when you included Karl’s connections with suppliers and customers, and both would increase in worth with the merger.
David looked at Adolph, and Johan followed his glance to see Adolph looking like he had a mouth full of sauerkraut. Johan knew that Adolph did not approve.
Karl was running down now.
Lady Higgins said, “Perhaps we should give the kids a chance to talk it over? Why don’t you four go out in the garden and talk it out?”
The kids headed for the garden.
The kids talked it out. Brent and Trent wanted to say no at first. It wasn’t that they found the prospect of running a sewing machine company all that exciting. It wasn’t.
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Trent, “I just hate the idea of losing.”
“What makes you think you’re losing?” David asked. “You’re gonna be rich, and Karl’s gonna do most of the work to make you that way. You never wanted to be the CEO anyway.”
“What about you?” Brent asked. “You did want to be the CEO. Don’t try to deny it. We were gonna be the chief engineers, Sarah was the chief financial officer and you were gonna be the CEO. The wheeler-dealer. So how come?”
David looked at the ground. He moved a rock with his toe. Then he said quietly, “Mom. She loves the guy and I think he loves her in his way. He’ll treat her right.”
Then, because mush is not an appropriate emotional state for a fifteen-year-old boy or a captain of industry, “Besides, it’s a good deal. The foundry will really increase production once it’s upgraded a bit.”
Sarah didn’t buy the last part for a moment. Oh, it was true enough, but it wasn’t what had decided David, and she knew it. David was doing it for his mother. She wouldn’t have fought it after that, even if she had cared, but the truth was she didn’t much care. She was more concerned now with other things.
December 25, 1631
Darlene Myers watched, unable to touch, as Jack struggled to make Christmas for little Johnny without her. They had gotten her insurance money, but without her income and with the extra spent on babysitting, finances were tight. Then little Johnny insisted, “I want Mommy!” and Jack said, “Mommy’s gone away.”
A part of Darlene remembered—even in her sleep—that she had been having this dream at least once a week since the Ring of Fire. Not Christmas day, but whatever day it was. She tried to wake up, but the dream rolled on.
They opened their presents and had Christmas dinner and then the wave front hit. It wasn’t instant. There was plenty of time for Jack to feel the fabric of space time ripped apart by the wave front of changing time, for little Johnny to cry for a mommy whose transfer in time was the cause of the wave front of changing time that was ripping apart the very atoms that made him.
Darlene jerked up in her bed, with her shout of terror dying into sobs.
January 17, 1632
Darlene entered the power plant machine shop. “What’s on for today?” She’d had the dream again last night, but little Johnny hadn’t called for Mommy. He was forgetting her. Jack would be dating again, meeting other women. Johnny needed a mother.
She forced her mind back to the present. Her job now was to read technical manuals and answer down-timer questions about capacitance and other up-timer concepts that don’t translate well into seventeenth-century German.
Darlene was trying to be upbeat, she really was. She made more money than she had up-time, but not knowing if Jack and Johnny still existed, if they were living their lives in ignorance of the disaster, the changes Grantville wrought on the universe would cause. Or if they had already been wiped away to exist only in her memory. The common belief that there were now two branches of time, that the universe of her birth was proceeding on, undisturbed by the Ring of Fire . . . It seemed to Darlene Myers that that was just wishful thinking. The laws of thermodynamics seemed to make such an outcome impossible.
Yes, the Ring of Fire was doing great things for the down-timers. But what about the up-timers they had left behind?
April 10, 1632
Sarah Wendell was still muttering. “You really should have done this a month ago.”
Johan didn’t sigh. For one thing, she was right, and he knew she was right. Which didn’t make not sighing easier, just more necessary.
Before the Ring of Fire, the bread and butter of the Wendell household had been the preparation of taxes. Now, with Mr. and Mrs. Wendell working for the Finance Subcommittee, Sarah, with help from several of her classmates, had effectively taken over. And she had been harping on the need to get the taxes done sooner rather than later.
Johan Kipper was a taxpayer. After a lot of shouting in the Emergency Committee, and the run-up to elections, citizens and legal residents of the New United States paid income tax. For the mine workers and the power plant workers, it worked almost exactly like it had worked before the Ring of Fire, and to a large extent the same was true for anyone who had a job or ran a business. Mistress Ramona Higgins, for instance, was still an employee of the Higgins Storage Facility and Lady Higgins withheld taxes from her salary every month. For Johan, Hans, Dieter and Liesel, Mrs. Higgins withheld taxes based on their salary, but had not withheld for their maintenance—which was, it turned out, taxable income.
“You would have saved a bunch of worry.”
Since the incorporation of HSMC, and Johan’s appointment to the board, he had received a salary, most of which had stayed in the bank. What really worried him was the effect the merger had had on the price of his stock. When HSMC incorporated, they set the value of the stock at one dollar a share. After the merger between HSMC and the Schmidt foundry in December of 1631, the price of the stock had gone from $9.56 to $41.32 in eight days. It had dropped a little after the first of the year, but it was still over two hundred thousand dollars worth of stock.
“Capital gains aren’t taxed till they’re realized,” Sarah continued.
“You don’t have to pay taxes on your stock until you sell it.” Sarah looked annoyed. “You ought to know that.”
Johan didn’t know why he should know that. The intricacies of up-timer tax law . . . Well, they weren’t any worse than the complex of German taxes and tithes, but they were different. And an old soldier, like Johan was, didn’t have much to do with taxes anyway.
“You have to pay taxes on dividend income. So that wedding dividend that Karl Schmidt is talking about will be taxable, but that won’t be till next year. No, the only real trouble you’re going to have is with the maintenance Mrs. Higgins provided. That’s taxable income.”
“I know that,” Johan said. “I have plenty in the bank to cover that.”
“You won’t have to. Mrs. Higgins is paying a maintenance bonus to cover the taxes on maintenance. And this year, she’s doing the withholding, so it won’t be an issue next year.
“If you had just come to me around the first of the year. You would have saved yourself a bunch of worry and I wouldn’t be doing this when I’m swamped with the taxes of half of Grantville.”
“Sorry, Miss Sarah. There has been a lot to do.” That was perfectly true since the merger.
“Even if you get a loan against your stock, you won’t pay taxes until you sell the stock to pay off the loan.”
“Really? What would I get a loan for?” Johan asked.
“To invest,” Sarah said. “HSMC isn’t the only new company in Grantville. You need a diversified portfolio. I’m managing David’s. And the twins’ and Mrs. Higgins’ portfolios, to make sure that we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. And with the merger with Karl Schmidt’s foundry, we can get an excellent interest rate from the credit union if we use our stock as collateral. There is a lot of real property involved in that.”
Johan, by now, mostly understood what she was saying. On the other hand, he didn’t know all that much about what was happening in the Grantville stock market. Not enough to trust himself to pick the right stocks. “You’re handling it for Master David?”
“Yes, and Trent and Brent. David’s busy running around for Herr Schmidt, and Trent and Brent don’t care about anything but their gizmos.”
“Would you handle mine too?” Johan said, now realizing why Master David insisted that he come over here.
“Sure,” Sarah said, smiling. “It gives me a bigger pot of money to work with.” She pulled out a document. “Look this over, and talk it over with David and Mrs. Higgins. Then, if you’re sure, sign it and bring it back.”
Johan took the document and read it through. It wasn’t that long. It was a limited power of attorney authorizing Sarah Wendell to use his stock as collateral for loans and to invest the money, along with any other money he gave her. There was a clause that relieved her of liability if the investments lost money, but even that was fairly straightforward. Johan had been looking over similar documents ever since he got put on the board. “I’ll sign it now,” he said. “It’s not the form, it’s you I trust, Miss Sarah.” He signed the document and wrote her a check for the better part of what he had in the bank.