Chapter Fifty

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After breakfast, David packed his satchel and left the hotel, pausing to marvel at the richly decorated interior of Wormser Dom. He sat in the pews, awestruck by the exquisite stained-glass windows soaring all around him. After nearly half an hour of wandering throughout the cathedral, he headed out, shivering as he met the cold dampness of the January day.

I can see how the peasants would have been coerced to support this hypocrisy with the comfort, grandeur and promises inside. Then they left their hard-earned money behind and headed back to their lives of squalor, sacrifice and suffering, awaiting an imaginary hereafter in heaven while the priests and bishops lived comfortably. What fucking crap.

He pulled his collar up and tightened it around his neck as he walked into the shopping district. His scanning of shop windows showed him that though Worms is prosperous, it is not at the level of Mannheim and Ludwigshafen. After forty minutes of comparing, he opened the door and entered Wormser Walduhren und Zeitmesser.

David showed his display to the elderly woman who greeted him, and after examining it for a short while, she shook her head. "Men prefer pocket watches, and women like pin watches." She fingered the one on her dress front.

"Thank you. These are selling very quickly in Mannheim, and I thought they might do well here. May I speak with the owner?"

"He's not in until noon. You can come back, but he'll tell you the same."

David thanked her again, and as he headed out into the street, he thought. Maybe the clock and watch shops have the wrong market. He continued through the maze of streets to reassess jewellery shops he had seen earlier, and a quarter hour later, he entered Adler Goldschmied und Juwelier.

The clerk examined David's display and scanned the sheets of information, nodding as she did. "Herr Eisenstein will like these." She headed to the rear of the shop and was soon back with a short, white-haired man.

David told him about the success Herr Engelhorn was having with the Rolex watches in Mannheim, and he offered a similar exclusivity for Worms to Herr Eisenstein. As he filled out the order form, he discussed the main selling features, slowly turning their conversation to other topics.

"I noticed a large number of soldiers as I drove past the Kaserne. Are they preparing to head to the Front?"

"Most of the regiment has just returned from there for redeployment. But my son's battalion is always here for guard duty with the prisoner camp."

"Interesting. I hadn't thought about that; the prisoners. There's more than just fighting involved in a war."

"Much more. You're fortunate your country has remained neutral. The suffering extends far back from the Front, and the effects of the war are now being felt throughout the country."

"But that should soon be over. I was reading the Mannheimer Tagblatt that the war will be won by the end of February."

"Hah! It was by the end of the year four months ago. The longer the war continues, the less believable are the published stories. Many now question whether we're being told the truth about the war."

"Onto more pleasant thoughts. I'm looking for a fine restaurant for lunch. I'm tired of sausage and spätsle."

"It's a shame you can't get into the officers' mess at the Kaserne. My son has taken me there on several occasions, and they seem to have no difficulty getting the finest of delicacies. But, if you don't mind overpaying, there's the dining room of Hotel von Hohenthal. The Imperial staff stay there when they visit from Berlin. It's back toward the Dom in Marktplatz."

"The hotel will likely be more comfortable than the hovel the Thomas Cook agent reserved for me last night."

"Where was that?"

"Hotel Domblick. I had told him I wanted a view of the cathedral."

Herr Eisenstein laughed. "The view is all they have. But don't be concerned. More than only you have been caught by their name. You need to inform your agent."

David packed his papers and display case in his satchel, then he stood and extended his hand. "I should be back with your order within two weeks. If you have any questions, you can wire me here." He handed his card to Herr Eisenstein.

"JD Meier. What's the JD?"

"Jacob David, but I use my middle name."

"So funny. Mine is David Jacob, but I use Jacob."

"May I call you Jacob?"

"Yes, most certainly, David. I look forward to your next visit."

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David left the shop and headed toward the market square to find Hotel von Hohenthal. As he approached, he noted two large black touring cars sitting in front of the hotel, both with IA licence plates. He entered and crossed the wide lobby to the registration desk, and he was pleased there were rooms available.

After he had shown his passport and had been registered, he bought a copy of the morning edition of the Wormser Zeitung, and headed up to his room, thinking as he rode the lift. They treat themselves well. But, so do our own senior officers and government officials. He chuckled to himself. Look at me; I'm doing the same thing.

He removed his overcoat as he entered his room, set his satchel down and settled into the deeply cushioned chair as he reviewed his two sales calls. Wonder if that's the normal attitude about wristwatches? Are they seen as decorative; as jewellery, not as dependable timepieces?

So, the regiment is being redeployed. Wonder from where? To where? When? Why? He picked up the newspaper and began reading.

 Wonder from where? To where? When? Why? He picked up the newspaper and began reading

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