All For One- Chapter Seventeen
17. The Scene of the Crime
Infanta. Either no one was aware that Anne of Austria was kidnapped and believed that she was currently on her way to the Duc de Rohan’s home in Brittany, or someone knew and they were very good at pretending otherwise. What truly astonished Marie was that no one apparently realized how much effort would have to go into preparing the Infanta for a trip like this. She didn’t expect the Queen Regent or the Concini’s to know, for they had everything at their fingertips, but did none of the maids realize that none of their clothes were prepared? And how did they think they traveled when all of the horses and carriages were still present?
Bertrand and Tréville accompanied Marie to the Palais des Tuileries and to her quarters. Once the door was shut, she showed them the secret passage. Keeping as quiet as possible, the three of them examined the passageway with the aid of lanterns. There was a fine layer of dust on the floor, but several recent footprints could be seen. They accompanied her to the Infanta’ room. The dust was kicked up by her quarters and no print was indistinguishable.
They searched Anne’s room for any sign. Anyone looking through the room would first notice that none of Anne’s clothes were taken with her. If she had gone to Brittany, surely she would have taken something to wear. The room was impeccable. Nothing was disturbed. Anne must not have put up much of a struggle. They didn’t find any clues in her room.
They returned to the passage and explored them further. They determined which set of prints belonged to Marie and Anne. Then they found sets of prints belonging to men’s boots. They followed them, and they led to a great wooden door. They assumed it was the same door that Anne and Marie discovered. Bertrand surmised that the men must have known of the passages before Marie surprised them. Marie was relieved, for she was worried that she had inadvertently given Anne’s captors their escape route. The two friends determined that there was nothing more that they could do in Anne’s room. They also decided it would be too obvious for one of them to constantly follow either Concini or d’Albert, so they agreed to alternate so as to not raise suspicion.
While Tréville and Bertrand attempted to gather information at the Louvre, André left Paris that morning and traveled by horseback one hundred miles southwest to Vendôme. He packed many changes of clothes including a new outfit he purchased for formal occasions. He examined the estate, but there was a thick wall surrounding the building. He holed up in a nearby tavern and kept his ears open, but he couldn’t overhear any particular bit of gossip that would let him suspect anything. He was about to attempt to find a way into the servants quarters when a carriage pulled up. It was the only activity that André witnessed since he arrived. He crept to the window and peered outside.
The driver descended from his seat and opened the door. André saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen exit the carriage in a hurry and enter the inn. He watched her briskly walk to the innkeeper and speak a few words to him. He let her into a back room. After the woman was out of sight, André casually strode out to the carriage. He approached it from the back and peered inside. It was empty.
“Your horses look tired,” he said to the driver.
The driver stroked one of the horses. “They’ll be alright. No thanks to her.”
André smiled warmly. “What do you mean, friend?”
“Oh, that one had to get here in a hurry,” the driver said.
André leaned in. “Don’t they always,” André said conspiratorially. “Where from?” he asked casually walking around the carriage.
“We came from Paris this morning,” the driver said. “Good weather for it.”
André grunted and nodded. Milady came out of the inn and André ducked out of sight. He heard her berate the driver as he ducked down low and made his way to the back of the carriage. He could see the carriage rock as she climbed inside.
Now André was very interested. Who was she talking to? He was sure that he hadn’t seen anyone else in the carriage. As it pulled away, André was convinced that this beautiful blonde woman was talking to someone hidden in the carriage, possibly the Infanta. He ran to the stable and found his horse. It wasn’t saddled, so André grabbed the saddle and strapped it on the horse quickly. He mounted the horse and hoped it had enough time to rest.
He rode out onto the road and soon caught up to the carriage. He kept a discreet distance behind it and slowly followed the carriage to a large cast iron gate embedded in a great stone fence. The gate was guarded by four uniformed men. He watched from the tree line as a guard approached the carriage window. The guard spoke with the blonde for a moment and then hurriedly ran to open the gate. The carriage rode in and disappeared within the compound. André knew this was the Duc de Vendôme’s residence. He had no proof, but he was sure the Duc was involved. Keeping close to the trees he headed back to the inn to ponder his next move.
Athos, for his part, found himself hauling pots and pans in the Hôtel de Condé, the Parisian residence of the House of Bourbon-Condé near the Rue St. Jacques. Upon recommendation from Tréville, he gained two positions on the Prince’s staff. He employed Grimaud in this affair, posing as cooks. Since Grimaud was an adequate cook, and Athos had no such knowledge, their roles for this subterfuge were reversed. Athos played the apprentice to Grimaud’s chef.
When they entered the kitchen and introduced themselves to the head chef, they discovered that the entire staff was following their master to a new location. The chef was grateful to have a few more hands to help with the move. Once all the equipment was loaded into two heavy carriages. The staff made the journey to the new location. They discovered en route that their destination was Vendôme.
Athos asked the head chef if their master had a house in Vendôme.
“No,” the chef scoffed. “The Prince is going to be a guest of the Duc de Bourbon-Vendôme.”
“Interesting,” Athos said. “Why is he bringing his entire staff?” he asked. “Surely the Duke has a staff of his own working in his kitchen?”
“You should know that his Grace is very particular about his food,” the chef said proudly. “He demands only the best. I hired you on the word of the Comte de Tréville. I hope, for your sake, the two of you are as good as he said you were.”
The group made their way southwest to Vendôme, and stopped at an inn. The staff disembarked and Athos decided to stretch his legs. He entered the inn and heard his name whispered.
He turned and saw André, who waved him over.
“This can’t be a coincidence,” Athos said low. “Condé moving his entire staff to Vendôme the day after the Infanta is kidnapped?”
“I agree, and I have further proof,” André said. André told Athos about the blonde lady in the carriage speaking to someone who was either invisible or concealed from his sight.
“It’s not proof…” Athos said.
“I suppose not,” André conceded. “But I think it bears further investigating.”
“We shouldn’t contact the others until we know for sure,” André said.
“It would make no sense to keep them from their investigation until we have some confirmation.”
“Can you get me in the mansion?” André asked.
“We can hide you with the equipment,” Athos suggested.
André nodded. “If we have proof we can send your man to Paris.”
The two men escaped to André’s room, and planned their infiltration.
- All For One- Chapter Sixteen
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Eighteen
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel