All For One- Chapter Thirty-Four
34. A Visit from Calderón
Athos stumbled home. He was forgetting about all of his problems and fostering a set of new ones. He managed to cross the Pont Neuf without falling into the raging Seine below. He knew as long as he headed in the direction of St. Sulpice that he would eventually get to the Rue Féron.
As he fumbled with the door, it flew open. Grimaud stood in the doorway.
“Grimaud, help me,” Athos said.
The servant helped his master into the small quarters and deposited him on the bed in the other room. Athos mumbled something to Grimaud before he fell asleep. When he woke up several hours later, his head was pounding. His room was very clean. During his trip to Spain, Grimaud had plenty of time on his hands and had taken the opportunity to clean and paint his quarters, and it looked better than he had ever seen it. Since then his servant had even managed to maintain the level of cleanliness through the winter.
Athos stumbled through the door, shielding his eyes from the light.
“Grimaud?” he called out.
“Your man isn’t here,” said a strange voice.
Athos blinked. There was a well dressed man in his quarters. He instinctually reached for his rapier, but found it was missing as well as his pistol. He looked around; the only thing within arm’s reach was a pewter tankard on a table. He grabbed it and hurled it at the stranger. The stranger instinctively ducked while Athos charged. Athos swung a right fist and connected with the stranger’s face. The stranger shook of the blow and raised his fists.
“Please, wait,” the stranger said. “I’m not here to fight.”
“Who are you? Where are my weapons?” he barked.
“We met a few months ago,” the man said. “I am Don Rodrigo Calderón, Count of Oliva. As for your weapons, I haven’t the slightest idea.”
Athos squinted. He took a good look at the man calmly sitting in his quarters. He recognized the man. They dined with him when in Madrid and he was present during Marie’s message. That didn’t mean Athos trusted him. He took a quick scan of the room. His weapons were nowhere to be seen. He spied his grandfather’s sword mounted on the wall, but he knew he couldn’t wrench the weapon off the wall quick enough.
“What do you want?” Athos growled.
“That was a very interesting message your friend delivered,” Calderón mused. “Is it true?”
“Is what true?”
“That your Queen, our Infanta, is unhappy here,” Calderón explained. “She begged her father to invade France.”
“She’s a girl,” Athos said. “A young silly, homesick girl. Your King understood that.”
“Our King is not long for this world,” Calderón said. “I was wondering if you felt that same.”
“The same as what?” Athos said.
“Unhappy with your king,” Calderón said.
Athos seethed. “If I had my sword, I would run you through.”
Calderón nodded. “Yes, I see.” He stood up. “I think I understand where your loyalties lie. Good day.”
Calderón turned and left. Athos growled and returned to his room. He saw his weapons piled neatly on his table. It was fortunate for Calderón that Grimaud reasoned that it would be dangerous for him to sleep with his weapons.
Athos was mystified by his brief visit. He knew very little about Calderón, but he didn’t trust him.
At that moment, across the river, Bishop Richelieu was examining Number 6 Place Royale, not far from the Bastille.
“I hope you like it,” he said. “You’ve earned it.”
“It’s lovely,” said Milady, restraining her delight. “It’s large, roomy, and in the fashionable part of town.”
The room was still unfurnished, as the purchase of the house had only occurred earlier that morning. Milady was looking forward to furnishing the space, but knew she had to wait until she reported her findings to Richelieu. After all, it was his money, or rather the money from Anne of Austria’s charity, that made the house possible in the first place.
Richelieu found the only chair in the room and sat. While formal manners would insist that the gentleman stand as long as there was a lady present, his body language signaled the change in status. He was now her master and expected her report.
“I have more information about Mlle de Montbazon’s journey,” she reported. “Apparently, she met her father at Tours and finished her journey with him. In an interesting development, they were joined by the Duc de Luynes.”
“De Luynes?” he asked. “Are you sure?”
“Positive,” she replied. “There are rumors that the two of them are going to wed.”
“Have you confirmed that?”
“Not yet,” Milady said. “I have contacts with bakers, florists, chefs… You would be surprised how easy it is to find out what most of Paris society is eating. I expect confirmation soon.”
“This is an interesting development,” Richelieu said.
“I was wrong not to trust your instincts,” she said. “You said to wait until an opportunity presented itself.”
“It’s a natural match,” he said. “He’s the King’s favorite, and she is the one person the Queen feels close to. Together, they could easily influence any future policy, working the issue from both sides.”
“Just like the Concinis.”
He nodded. “Just like the Concinis.”
“I have nothing new to report of the Concinis,” she said.
“No, they’ve stuck close to the Regent, but they are getting more arrogant by the day. He even has a company of soldiers now.”
“Do you think it’s possible to nudge one to eliminate the other?” Milady asked.
“You have a plan?” Richelieu asked.
“More of a notion than a plan,” she said. “What would happen if de Luynes were assassinated?”
“The King would be terribly upset,” Richelieu said. “He would be motivated by vengeance.”
“And he would take that vengeance on whoever committed the crime.”
“Or,” she said wickedly, “whoever ordered the attack.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Go on.”
“What if Concini ordered an assassination on de Luynes?” Milady said her voice low out of instinct. “Say out of jealousy, or to eliminate him as a rival favorite?”
“Louis would have him killed, of course,” Richelieu said. “We would have to find someone to do the deed, and allow him to be captured. When, under duress, he confesses who ordered him to kill de Luynes, he says Concini.”
“If I were to claim to be an agent of Concini’s I can arrange the assassination,” Milady said. “I can say, as I always do, that the great man uses me as his go-between. Then once he is captured he can only tell what he knows.”
“I like it,” Richelieu said.
“There’s more, she said. “There’s a Spaniard in town.”
“The Duke of Oliva, Cadlerón,” she said.
“I know the name, but I don’t know him,” he said.
“From what I can gather he sits at the right hand of the Duke of Lerma, who sits at the right hand of the King.”
“If anyone would want to see the favorite of Louis assassinated…” Richelieu thought.
“It would provide another barrier between the assassination and you,” she pointed out.”
Richelieu pondered this new information. “Meet with him,” he said. “Find out what he thinks of the Duke. Lie to him if you must. If he can be our agent, that would be excellent. If not, we’ll have to find someone else.”
“We should consider another option,” she said.
“What would that be?”
“It might be possible to break the union between the happy couple,” she said. “If he were caught in a public scandal, then it’s highly unlikely that the Duc de Montbazon would be so eager for the Duke to marry his daughter.”
“So it is your intent to seduce him?”
“And to be discovered publicly,” she said. “When the Duc de Luynes is discovered with Gabrielle de Montpellier, the scandal will be enough to destroy the marriage.”
“Interesting idea,” he said. “It would cost us another identity.”
She shrugged. “That’s why we established them. I have another idea,” she said. “You are still close to Concini, is that correct?”
“You said earlier that Concini had his own men.”
“Perhaps we can appeal to Louis’ vanity,” Milady suggested. “What if he thinks that Concini is a threat to him?”
“If I convince him to increase his own personal retinue, Louis may become jealous. He may see Concini taking his place as king, and punish him for his arrogance.”
“Louis is nothing if not vain.”
“Any archer knows the more arrows you fire, the more likely you are to hit the target,” Richelieu said. “If one strategy does not work, another one might.”
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-Three
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-Five
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel