All For One- Chapter Fifteen
15. A Plan of Action
Athos slept. He spent most of the night at the Point Neuf with his friends pretending to be nonchalant while looking for someone, anyone, with a blue sash. After the first hour, he was still optimistic. The Pont Neuf was truly the heart of Paris’ night life. Athos leaned against the wall and watched the parade of humanity. He saw priests. He saw whores. He saw priests with whores. He watched a street performer from Normandy by the name of Robert Guérin dance around dressed in a barrel with flour splattered on his face much to the delight of the gathered crowd. He was known as Gros Guillaume. After the second hour, his enthusiasm faded. He went to find his friends. He found Tréville playing a dice with a few shady individuals. He was losing, but Athos knew he was developing a cover so he chose not to interrupt him. After the third hour, he grew frustrated. He looked for Bertrand, and found him pummeling a tiruer de laine, a wool-grabber, who yanked on a woman’s cloak who was passing by. Bertrand could not stand such an affront to a woman, and the young hood was fortunate that his sword remained sheathed. After the fourth hour, he was annoyed. He set out to find André and spied him in the Vert-Gallant, the park at the tip of the Île de la Cité named after the late king, with a woman on each arm. He would have said something except the women wore nothing from the waist up. In the tradition of Henri IV, the Vert-Gallant was infamous for nocturnal public sexual escapades. He wasn’t surprised to find his friend there. Wishing to be thorough, he checked underneath the arches of the bridge on the paved quais. He found the huddled destitute of Paris, known as the clochards, but no one with a blue sash. By the time the fifth hour arrived, he was angry. No one with a blue slash appeared that night. His three friends met and decided that their mission was a failure.
“Someone must have recognized one of us,” André said. “Then warned the spy to stay away.”
“But we were looking for the informant,” Tréville disagreed. “He would have arrived even if the spy didn’t.”
Bertrand offered a different explanation. “Perhaps our information was faulty,” he suggested.
The four guards agreed to return home. Tréville volunteered to report their findings to des Essarts. The other three went home to catch up on their sleep. Athos arrived to find Grimaud asleep on the floor. He decided against awakening his servant and slipped into his small room. Athos’ bedroom was converted to block all light entering the room so that he may sleep during the day when he was scheduled for night duty. In the darkness, he slept for hours until the brightness of day splashed across his face.
He squinted his eyes. “Grimaud!” he snapped. “What are you doing in here?”
“There’s someone at the door,” Grimaud said in a peculiar voice.
Athos collapsed back on his bed. “Tell them to go away.”
“It’s a woman,” Grimaud said.
Athos sat up. “A woman?” he asked. “Who?”
“She will not say,” Grimaud answered. “She will only talk to you.”
“Do I know her?”
“She said you were of invaluable assistance to her yesterday.”
Athos leapt to his feet. It was either Marie de Rohan or the Infanta Anne.
“Let her know I will see her after I am appropriately dressed,” Athos instructed. Grimaud nodded and closed the door. Athos straightened his clothes and entered the room. Marie de Rohan stood in his modest quarters. Athos bowed.
“My lady,” he said. “What brings you to my humble abode?
She looked over at Grimaud. “Can your man be trusted?”
Athos blinked. He never considered Grimaud to be a threat to anyone’s secrecy. “I trust him, but if it makes you feel better I can send him away,” he offered.
“That would be best,” she said.
“Grimaud,” he said, “go to the market and get me something for breakfast.”
Grimaud nodded and left.
“Forgive me, I didn’t realize you hadn’t eaten,” she said.
He shook his head. “If he has to bring something when he returns, he can’t stand behind the door and eavesdrop.”
She nodded. “Good idea.”
“Now what is so important that you had me send my servant away?”
She took a deep breath. “Someone kidnapped the Infanta.”
Athos sat down in shock, disregarding Marie’s presence. She took no mind and down as well. She wasted no time in telling him what happened last night. Athos was stunned.
“I came to you because I didn’t know who else to trust. I don’t know who else is involved,” she said.
“I don’t know what to do,” Athos said. “I don’t know the first place to start.”
Athos stood and pondered. “We need help. I have three friends who I trust more than anything. They might know what to do.”
When Grimaud returned with a loaf of bread and a handful of fruit, Athos sent him right back out with instructions to find Tréville, Bertrand, and André. Grimaud did not complain, but left with the purpose of gathering the three guards. Athos offered some of the fruit to Marie, and she gracefully accepted, but he noticed that she hardly nibbled, so distracted she was. André arrived first, followed by Bertrand. They were confused by Marie’s presence, but Athos would not explain until Tréville finally arrived. After all of his friends were sitting around his table, Athos gave Grimaud the rest of the day off, with explicit instructions not to come near Athos’ residence until the end of the day. The servant happily left.
One they felt secure, Marie told her tale once again to the three guards, who listened intently. After her story was finished, Bertrand asked permission to examine her head.
Tréville leaned back in his chair. “This explains many things,” he said while Bertrand examined the back of Marie’s skull.
“How so?” asked André.
“It explains the curious reception I received when I went to report the events of last night to des Essarts,” he said.
Athos paced along the wall, trying to absorb the information. “What happened?” he asked.
Tréville continued. “I entered his office and said, ‘I’m sorry, sir, but our mission was not a success.’ He looked up from his desk and said, ‘What mission?’”
Bertrand delicately ran his fingers through Marie’s hair. “Does that hurt?” he asked as he pressed a spot on her head.
Marie winced. “Yes.”
“You definitely have a good-sized bump,” Bertrand said.
“He had no idea what you were talking about?” André said.
“I told him that we waited all night at the Point Neuf for an informant with a blue sash to meet a suspected spy,” Tréville continued. “He told me that he gave no such orders, there was no such meeting, and indeed there existed no such informant. I was angry and I told him that we received orders from him, and showed him the letter. He examined it and declared that while it looked like his hand, he did not write the orders. He suggested that someone was playing a practical joke on us. I was then dismissed.”
“Do you still have that letter?” Bertrand asked, sitting back down.
Tréville produced the letter and placed it on the table. Bertrand examined it.
“Athos,” Bertrand asked. “Do you have something here that was written by des Essarts?”
Athos disappeared into the other room and searched through his papers and found an old note that des Essarts had written to him a year before. Returning to the group, he gave it to Bertrand who placed it on the table next to the orders. He looked at the two papers for a number of minutes before he finally spoke.
“This is not the same handwriting as the other, but it is very similar. You can really only see the difference when they are right next to each other. Whoever wrote these orders must have had a sample of des Essarts writing and painstakingly copied his style. At first glance, you wouldn’t suspect anything.”
“You think whoever forged these orders was also involved in the kidnapping?” André asked.
“It seems too much of a coincidence,” Athos said. “The four of us, specifically us four, are sent away from the Louvre on the same night that the Infanta was kidnapped. Who gave us the orders?”
“Vitry said it came from des Essarts,” Tréville said.
“Is Vitry part of this plot?” André suggested.
“Perhaps,” Bertrand said, but he didn’t like the thought of his commanding officer involved in this conspiracy. “Perhaps he was given the letter by someone else, a messenger perhaps. We have to ask him.”
“Who else knows about the passage?” Athos asked Marie.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “Neither the Infanta nor I told anyone, but if I could find it, it’s possible anyone could have found it.
“Not just anyone,” Bertrand said. “Only someone who has frequent access to the Louvre.”
“That’s still a lot of people,” André said. “A servant may have found it easily, and who knows who they might have told.”
“We’re forgetting something,” Marie said. “Someone wrote to the Queen Regent to tell her that the Infanta and I would be visiting my father’s house.”
“Yes,” Athos said, beginning to see the complexity of the plot. “Someone, perhaps the same someone who wrote these orders, also forged a letter to the Queen.”
“You’re very lucky, my lady,” André said.
“I know,” she replied. “I could have been killed. I’m surprised I wasn’t.”
“It’s lucky you were wearing the maid’s costume,” Bertrand said. “I think you foiled their plans.”
“I think the plan was to kidnap both of you,” he explained. “Why else would the letter to the Queen mention plans to visit your home if you weren’t going to be kidnapped as well? It would be too much of a risk to leave you in the Louvre and talking. No, I think they went to kidnap the Infanta first and then kidnap you as well. You interrupted them dressed as a maid. They knocked you unconscious and hid you in the passage. They would have known you weren’t dead. When they went to your room, you weren’t there. They must have not known what you looked like, and didn’t realize that the second woman that they were to kidnap was the same woman they had stashed in the passage.”
“But why didn’t they kill me? Even if they thought I was a maid, why leave me alive to sound the alarm?”
“They might not have wanted to commit murder,” André suggested. “Perhaps a dead maid would raise too many questions once the body started to rot. Begging your pardon, of course,” he quickly added.
“Maybe they panicked,” Athos added. “They didn’t expect you to come dashing out of that passage. They dealt with you and escaped as quickly as possible. Your presence in the passage was unplanned for, and therefore something they couldn’t anticipate. You may have saved her life”
“I can only wonder that they weren’t seen by anyone,” Bertrand said.
“We weren’t there to catch them,” André said.
“What about the rest of our company? We weren’t the only guards on duty last night,” Tréville said. “Mlle Montbazon said that only four guards were in the room. Three that she saw, and one more that she didn’t who delivered the blow to her head. It’s possible there may have been two more in the hallway guarding the door. That is nevertheless only six men. Maybe. There still would have been a dozen other legitimate guards left on duty. Perhaps there were only enough men to make it appear that we were all there. They had to have seen something.”
“They must have left by the passage,” Bertrand said. “Therefore, they must have known about the passage in advance. It was part of their plan all along, to leave undetected. It is the only way something this daring has a chance of succeeding.”
“So why send us to the Point Neuf?” Athos said.
“The only thing I can think of is to fool the other guards,” Tréville said. “The only one who knew about our orders was Vitry and he left right away. The four of us were sent away so the four false guards could take our place.”
“So four men pulled this off,” André said. “But they may not have been the masterminds behind the scheme.”
“So who is behind all of this?” Marie asked.
“When you went to see the Queen this morning,” Athos asked Marie. “Who was with her?”
“The Concinis,” she replied.
He nodded. “Did they seem surprised to see you?”
“I don’t know,” Marie answered. “They were surprised to see me in a maid’s uniform. So if they were surprised to see my presence, I couldn’t distinguish the difference.”
“Perhaps we should discuss motivation,” André suggested. “Who stands to gain by the Infanta’s disappearance?”
“Anyone who didn’t want the Infanta to marry the King,” Athos said simply.
“That could be half the country,” André moaned.
“I don’t think so,” Tréville said. “If Louis remained a bachelor, he would still continue to be King,” he pointed out.
“A King without an heir,” Bertrand added.
Athos face darkened. “This kidnapping could be the first step.”
“What do you mean?” André asked.
“Say the King has no heir. What if the King is killed?”
The room grew silent. It was a horrible prospect. All the men in the room remembered that day five years before when Henri lost his life.
“It could happen again,” Athos said solemnly.
“Who then would be King?” André asked.
“That’s a good question,” Tréville said. “We need to think about who would benefit from the King’s death. Without a direct male heir, I suppose the King’s brother would assume the throne.”
“He’s seven,” André pointed out.
“Yes,” Bertrand said working though the idea out loud. “So who would want another child on the throne?” Bertrand said.
“Think about what would happen. His mother would remain Regent,” Tréville pointed out
Bertrand shook his head dismissively. “I doubt his own mother would want the King killed,” he said.
“If the Queen Regent remains in power, than her advisors would remain in power,” André said. “That Italian bastard would certainly benefit with another minority.” He remembered Marie’s presence. “My apologies, my lady.”
She waved him off. “Pay it no mind.”
“I don’t think the nobles would like her to stay in power any longer,” Athos suggested. He declined to say why he was of that opinion.
“What of the Prince of Condé?” Bertrand asked. “He was very vocal during the Estates-General. Lack of authority might be enough for him to assume power.”
“If we assume that,” Tréville added, “then we must also think about the children of the late King’s mistress.”
“César and Alexander de Vendôme?” André asked.
“They are sons of a King,” Athos acknowledged.
“Illegitimate sons,” André corrected.
“They were legitimized by Henri himself,” Tréville pointed out.
Athos sighed, frustrated. “We need more information.”
Bertrand nodded. “Agreed. Perhaps the spy we were looking for last night was ourselves.”
“What are you suggesting, Bertrand? That one of us is involved?” Tréville asked incredulously.
“No, of course not, but maybe we need to be the spies. I am suggesting that each of us gather as much information on these men.” He said. “We’re simple guards. No one would notice if we were to join their households.”
Athos thought about it. “We would need to have leave from des Essarts.”
“Leave that to me,” Marie said. “I shall suggest that the four of you accompany me to my father’s house,”
Bertrand nodded. “That would give us the freedom we need to conduct our investigation. Athos, you can join Condé’s men. André, why don’t you investigate César?”
“What about you, Bertrand?” André asked.
“I’m going to stay at the Louvre and watch Concini,” he said. “Tréville, what about that d’Albert man?”
“I can watch him,” Tréville volunteered, “but I doubt he would want the King killed. The King is the only thing keeping him in the Louvre.”
“I agree,” conceded Bertrand, “but as the commander of the Louvre, he must know about the passages.”
“He does know a lot about the Louvre,” Marie said, remembering her conversation with the man earlier that week.
The four men stood up to leave and prepare for their separate assignments. “Don’t worry, Mlle de Montbazon,” Athos said reassuringly, as he led her to his door. “We’ll find the Infanta.”
“She could be dead already,” Marie shook her head.
Athos shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he said. “They wouldn’t kill her. That would start a war with Spain.”
“Athos,” she said, worried, “what if someone wants to start a war with Spain?”
- All For One- Chapter Fourteen
The Next Chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Sixteen
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel