All For One- Chapter Thirty-Eight
38. An Overheard Conspiracy
André’s mind was whirling. Gabrielle de Montpellier and Sabiné du Luçon were the same woman, and he knew her most intimately. She was in league with the Prince Condé and the Duc de Vendôme and helped them kidnap Anne of Austria last year. He always felt that neither Condé nor César had the intelligence or the presence of mind to even attempt such a bold undertaking. He had suspected that Sabiné was much more than she seemed, but he had no luck in finding her, as she disappeared like so much smoke. He had not forgotten her, for she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever known. He was also intrigued by her involvement. There was just something about the bad girl. Now he finds that she attempted to seduce, and thereby discredit the Duc de Luynes.
She was nobody of any importance. How would she gain from either Anne’s disappearance or de Luynes’ fall from grace? Maybe the question they should have been asking was: who benefits?
“So my question is why a duke of Spain is interested in the comings and goings of the French nobility?” asked Sabiné or Gabrielle or whoever she was.
“You know that our King is primarily interested in peace,” said the Spaniard, whom André could only assume was Calderón. “He has no interest in Europe, but rather of the new world. Are you familiar with our holdings in the low countries?”
“Very familiar,” she said, and André finally understood. She was Flemish; he could hear it in her voice. The accent was slight and almost indistinguishable, but if you knew what to listen for, it revealed itself in a few little ways.
“Each day that peace reigns in the low countries, the more they crave their independence. Also, more and more land becomes French land, and our King does nothing to halt the advance. When your Queen, our former Infanta, sent her message to our King, a few of my allies thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to destabilize the French monarchy.”
He could see her smile. “Well the King is no threat to anyone. He doesn’t bother to rule his own Kingdom. His mother is still the Regent even though he is seventeen,” she said. “However, he has an advisor, a rather ambitious weasel.”
“Who would this weasel be?” asked Calderón.
“The Grand Falconer, the Duc de Luynes,” she said. “He has the King’s ear, and it will only be a matter of time before he convinces the King to assume command.”
“So this de Luynes,” Calderón mused, “he should be eliminated?”
“It would be advantageous to us both,” she said.
There was a pause, and André wondered if Calderón was pondering the idea.
“If I do this,” he began, “and I can arrange it, what would I receive in return?”
“The halt of any acquisition into Flanders,” she said.
“You can guarantee this?”
“I speak for my master, and he has the ear of the Queen. All he has to do is whisper and it is done.”
“And who is this master of yours?” he asked.
“The marshal of France and the first minister, Concino Concini.”
André’s mind spun. That Italian bastard! He should have known. It made perfect sense. Concini’s authority depended on Marie d’Médicis remaining in power for as long as possible. If the King starts to assert himself, then Concini’s influence would diminish. He had to eliminate all of the King’s potential advisors. That is why he had Anne of Austria abducted and when that failed, he must have had Marie attacked on the road to Madrid. De Luynes was the most apparent target, and now he was about to be assassinated.
“I have heard of this Concini,” Calderón said. “I have heard that the people of your country hate this man because he is an Italian and he raises their taxes.”
“Yes, that is true,” she said. “But they do not understand that he only taxes them in order to provide services to the people.”
“And now he wants to kill this de Luynes?” Calderón said.
“Absolutely,” she said.
“Tell me of this de Luynes,” Calderón said.
“He was the son of one of the late King’s advisors,” she explained. “As such he was raised in court. He is a professional sycophant. Since the King was a little boy, he was always in attendance as the King’s companion. The King is a child. He can not yet distinguish between someone who is a close friend, someone who could be a potential advisor, or someone who is just manipulating him for political gain. De Luynes’ entire life has been to flatter and befriend the King in order to reap the benefits the King could bestow. He is a Duke because the King wanted him to be, not from his own merit. He is a lump that is simply taking up valuable space.”
Calderón thought. “If he is so enamored of the King, he would be difficult to get close to.”
“That is the trouble. Getting to him would be the equivalent to getting to the king,” she said.
Calderón chuckled. “I can do it.”
“Not me personally,” he said, “but we have men here in Paris that could perform this action tonight.”
She was surprised. “Really?”
“The best way to assure peace is to be prepared for war,” Calderón said. “Just because our king is a pacifist doesn’t mean there are those in the Spanish hierarchy that are prepared to let France march over the Pyrenees. There are men within the Louvre, waiting for the winds to change.”
Even though they were separated by a wall, both André and Milady were shocked. Spies of Spain in the Louvre? Milady wondered if Richelieu knew of this.
“You can eliminate de Luynes, then?” she said, calming herself.
“Easily,” Calderón said.
“If you can do that,” she said. “Then you will have my master’s gratitude.”
“And the end to any advance into the Low Countries,” Calderón reminded her.
“Of course,” she said.
“Be warned,” Calderón said. “If your master does not keep his share of this arrangement, I will have no choice but to reveal his treachery to the world.”
“Of course,” she said. “I understand.” She suppressed a smile. She more than understood. She was counting on it.
André had heard enough to convince him that he had to warn someone soon. He was hoping that Calderón would reveal more specific information, such as the time and place of the assassination attempt, but the Spaniard was quiet. He heard the scraping of furniture on a wood floor and realized that someone had stood up. He slipped away from the doorway and hid down a hallway. He heard two pair of footsteps as Calderón and the woman he knew as Sabiné exited the drawing room. He caught a glimpse of her as she walked past. She was still as beautiful as he remembered. He snuck forward to watch her see her Spanish accomplice to the door.
After Calderón left, she turned back from the door and walked a few steps. She stopped suddenly and held still. André froze. He was in a crouched position in the hallway. He could see her, and if she looked his way she could be able to see him, even in the dim light. She was still. Was she listening? Had she heard something? He couldn’t see her eyes, so he didn’t know where she was looking. His legs were starting to ache, but he dared not move. Finally, she seemed to give up and walked back into her drawing room.
André wondered if she had heard him. He stood slowly. He had to get out of the house, but he didn’t know how. He cursed that he didn’t have a strategy for exiting the house before he entered. He had to leave without alerting this mystery woman to his presence. He waited until he didn’t hear her. He crept slowly, placing a toe down softly to avoid the sound of his heavy boot hitting the wood floor. If he had thought about this situation before he would have removed his boots. He had to move slowly, for each step was a potential alarm. He crossed the floor, passing by the drawing room. He couldn’t see her directly, but he noticed her reflection in the mirror. She was sitting calmly, her face to the mirror, but not making eye contact with it. He decided to hurry before she looked in the reflective glass. He stole slowly towards the staircase. He was only a few steps away when he felt something hard strike him on his back.
He fell to the ground with a grunt. He felt another strike to his shoulder. He rolled away and looked up. Gabrielle or Sabiné stood over him, holding a poker from the fireplace in both hands like a broadsword. He noticed her bare feet. She must have taken off her shoes and snuck up behind him. She swung again, aiming for his face. He turned away but not in time to avoid the sharp point of the poker gouging his left cheek. He scrambled to his feet.
She finally got a good look on him, and her face registered first shock, then hatred.
“You!” she scowled. “De Valence.”
Panting, he grinned. “I told you. That is not my name. Not do I believe that Sabiné du Luçon or Gabrielle de Montpellier is your true name.”
“I don’t care who you are,” she growled and swung her poker. André could dodge rapier cuts from well-trained men, avoiding a poker swung by a woman was no difficult feat.
“You’re working for Concini,” he said.
An evil grin crept upon her face. “You heard that?”
“I heard everything,” he boasted.
She paused and André was confused. She backed away, and simply ran. André was puzzled, but he wasn’t going to question. He ran right to the front door and darted out of the building. He ran down until he found himself on the Rue St. Antoine. He finally had a chance to breathe. She was obviously running for her life. She knew she was caught and now she had to protect herself. André decided that he would report this to Luynes, and come back to arrest this woman if she chose to return
Milady, as we know Gabrielle de Montpellier was merely another alias, watched André run away. He heard the misinformation that she was working for Concini. Even if de Luynes survives the attempt on his life, Concini would surely be blamed. A few minutes earlier, when she was back in her house after she let Calderón out, she heard a floorboard creak and she knew she was not alone in her house. She removed her boots in the drawing room and when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw André reflected in her mirror, she had to find out what he knew. It was not her plan to have her home invaded and her conversations overheard, but once she knew that André thought she was working for Concini, she simply withdrew and allowed André to run away, thinking he was playing the hero, but really supplementing her plans.
She looked at her house. It was nice while it lasted, but she had to return to the Bishop. They had to cover her tracks once again.
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-Seven
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One - Chapter Thirty-Nine
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel