Chapter Forty-Nine

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David sat in the Lancia for a long while as he thought. Am I encouraging or just permitting? He laughed to himself. We're all the same age, within a year or two, and we all have the same drives and desires. The condoms will protect their health, but not their lives. I reminded them a mistake might mean death. He shook his head and started the engine.

As he drove across the Rhine toward Mannheim, he continued musing. If it weren't for Maria, I'd be doing the same thing. If I told them not to, some of them would do it behind my back. He pursed his lips as he nodded. Manny would for sure; he seems obsessed. And possibly Dolf to prove himself after being jilted. Who else?

He shook the thoughts away and focused on his surroundings for the remainder of the drive into the city, where he stopped in front of Engelhorn Juweliergeschäft. Herr Engelhorn gave him an enthusiastic greeting as he entered the shop, pointing to the empty display case. "Welcome, Herr Meier. You have my order already? I sold the last watch two days ago."

"All of them sold? I'm delighted with your success. Yes, I have it here." David set the satchel on the floor and lifted a large bundle onto the counter, untied the string and unwrapped the paper.

After they had checked the contents against the packing sheet, Herr Engelhorn signed the receipt. "I'll order more while you're here. I'm pleased with how easily they sell."

While the shop owner examined the samples and entered quantities on an order form, David spoke, "I was reading a booklet from BASF, and I noted it had been founded by an Engelhorn. Are you related?"

"He was my great uncle. I was named after him. Please call me Friedrich."

"And call me David. Is the family still involved?"

"Not for over thirty years now. He had moved into medical and pharmaceutical production. Sold his BASF interests to his partners so he could concentrate on developing Boehringer. My cousins are all involved with that, but I prefer this." He looked around his shop. "More calming."

They carried on a light banter as they completed the order form, and Friedrich paid for the watches that David had brought. As he prepared to leave, David asked, "I'm thinking of seeking a shop in Worms to work with. Would that interfere with your market here?"

"Not at all. It's across the river and up in Hesse. Thank you for asking."

"I don't want to compromise our exclusivity agreement."

"I appreciate your integrity. When will you be here again?"

"I'm not sure. It depends on the roads remaining clear of snow."

"You drive all the way from Switzerland? Wouldn't it be easier to come by train and hire a motorcar here?"

"I was told the hire cars were all confiscated for use by the Army."

"They were. But private ones are available. I can arrange one for you if you wish."

"That would save the long drives. Perhaps, though, to save you the trouble, I could deal directly with the owners."

Friedrich pursed his lips and nodded. "Yes, they would likely agree to work with a Swiss, but word mustn't be spread. They're a small group of widows and wives of prisoners who are struggling to support themselves by hiring out their family motorcars. I quietly assist them."

"I would be delighted to help support them. Perhaps with an introduction from you, I could gain their confidence and deal directly."

"Yes, but you must be discreet; they fear their cars might be confiscated if they were found out. Most of them don't know how to drive, so you'll have to hire a driver or drive yourself."

David laughed. "Better than driving all the way from Switzerland."

"Indeed, it would be. I'll place a phone call to Frau Schneider."

Worms, Germany

David arrived in Worms at ten to seven, and after asking directions twice, he finally found Hotel Domblick. The maze of streets around the cathedral was confusing to navigate in the dark, and some of the lanes were too narrow for the Lancia.

After signing the register, he climbed the five flights of stairs to his room. Setting his satchel on the floor he examined the cramped space. The French may have holes in the floor, but at least they're in the room, not outside and down the hall.

After opening the curtains, the windows and the shutters, he looked out over the city. A massive shape loomed in front of him, faintly back-lit by the gaslights of the city. The Cook clerk said it's listed as having a splendid view. It's not apparent tonight. Maybe in the morning. He closed the shutters and left the window open a crack, then he went down the hall to refresh before descending to the dining room for dinner. 

A loud pealing of bells woke David at eight on Friday morning, and he rose to open the windows and shutters. Then he stood in awe as his eyes traced the lines of the massive cathedral dimly lit in the bleak overcast day. Indeed! Well worth the discomfort.

 Indeed! Well worth the discomfort

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He chuckled as he thought. The Diet of Worms. God, how we joked about that in school. I guess all students must when they encounter it. And here it is, the site of the edict.

Shivering, he scurried back to the bed, pulled a blanket off and wrapped himself in it, then went back to the window. This is where Luther was condemned for telling the truth about the distorted Church practices. Part of the start of Protestantism. He laughed. And now his followers distort what he professed.

David stared blankly at the massive building. Where do the distortions end? The Kaiser and his cohorts distorting reality to keep the people from realising the hell through which they are being dragged, leads only to a greater hell. 

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