Chapter One Thousand Eight Hundred Eighty
19th September 1968
When Kat had first looked into Franziska Böttcher months earlier, she had seemed perfect. Sophie had needed a friend who wouldn’t judge her and at the time Franziska had been outgoing and optimistic, about to start at a new school after years of being kept separate because of her disability. It had been easy for Kat to get them placed in the same room at Hohenzollern Castle over the summer. The trouble was that optimism had taken a real beating over the months since then. Kat had not realized that Sophie would have such difficulty in trusting another person, even one who was her own age and relatively harmless. Franziska had swiftly come to resent Sophie’s constant attempts to help her. It seemed that Kat had misunderstood a few aspects of both girls, mostly just how stubborn they were. Normally, Kat thought that was an admirable feature for a girl to have, but this was hardly a normal circumstance.
Sophie jumping into a fight on Franziska’s behalf was actually a hopeful sign, over the prior year she had never tried to defend herself in such a manner. Kat couldn’t get Franziska to see that it wasn’t Sophie helping her again because she felt obligated. Pointing out that Sophie had her own score to settle with the girl who had tried to pull Franziska’s leg off didn’t seem to help matters.
Presently, Sophie and Franziska were sitting in Kat’s office with the understanding that they would be in there until they worked out their differences. This had gone on for days, with them sitting silently in there pointedly ignoring each other and doing schoolwork from early in the morning until Franziska went home late in the afternoon. Something that Kat was starting to suspect they were doing to spite each other and her. Franziska’s parents were fine with this because they had heard her talking about Sophie and thought it wonderful that she had made a friend like her.
Kat had decided that they needed a kick in the right direction after talking with Aunt Marcella, who was something of an expert in dealing with recalcitrant little girls. She had said that sometimes the bandage had to be ripped off and there was little point in prolonging the agony.
“The two of you are running out of time” Kat said, and she noticed that the girls were barely able to hide smiles. It seemed that their plan was to run out the clock. “So, in the interest of progressing things along you two leave me little choice in the matter.”
The two of them were staring at Kat wondering what she was getting at.
“Sophie’s mother beat and starved her until she was removed by the State because the abuse was deemed to be so extreme. It is something she doesn’t want anyone to know about” Kat said, “And before this year, Franziska was in a school that treated her as if she was not just physically impaired, but mentally as well. She was never allowed to do anything on her own. Now both of you know the reasons why the two of you have been holding each other at arm’s length.”
Both of the girls were completely appalled that Kat had just revealed the reasons behind their actions. She knew full well that she had just stepped over several lines in the process, but something had needed to be done.
The political cartoon featured a skeletal hand with the words Crimes from the past written on it reaching out of the grave and looming over the White House. As he looked at it, it seemed absurd to Nelson Rockefeller that he would be left having to explain what had happened four decades earlier when apparently men from the US Army had summarily executed twenty-five men who had been leaders of Bonus Marchers on the orders of Charles Curtis. A few days earlier, workers on loan from Southern Pacific to the New York Central Railroad had stumbled upon the mass grave. That was the reason why this matter was also bound up in the thorny issue of Southern Pacific’s apparent ambition to expand eastward from Chicago, into the North-East.
While history had already rendered its verdict upon the Curtis Administration, there were a lot of people demanding justice. The trouble was that the key players in this incident, Charles Curtis, Douglas MacArthur, and George Patton were all dead. The highest-ranking Officer who had been involved, though only tangentially, was Dwight Eisenhower. He had retired from the Army at the rank of Colonel and had overseen the development to the National Highway system. He was currently living at his home in Kansas, was said to be in poor health, and had made no public statements. There were others, supposedly when the New York Times had interviewed a former Sergeant they had tracked down, he had said that he had been expecting a knock on the door for decades over this matter.
For the Administration, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Election was in full swing and this was a distraction that showed no sign of going away. The public was screaming for blood, and the FBI was under intense pressure to get the investigation done swiftly. The Army had made the mistake of stonewalling at first, mostly because they didn’t want to create a precedent that would come back to haunt them.