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All For One- Chapter Thirty-Seven
37. Searching for Gabrielle de Montpellier
André was beginning to feel overwhelmed. He had still not found Calderón, and he didn’t even know where to look. He would do anything for Athos, he was like a younger brother to him, but finding a Spanish Duke in Paris who did not want to be found was proving to be even more difficult than he imagined. He wanted to give up, but how could he face Athos? He made a promise, and he intended to keep it.
As difficult as that task was, he now had to contend with this new mission to find someone else: a woman who nobody knew or heard of. He didn’t like de Luynes and had no real desire to help him find his mystery woman. However, the man knew too much about their rescue mission last year and he was afraid that he would dig too deeply. Their continued safety, as well as the well-being of the French state, depended on complete secrecy.
Not knowing where to begin, he decided to make a survey of the inns and taverns in France. He enjoyed wine, probably more than your average Parisian, and he spent most of his meager pay in the search of wine, women and the occasional song. He did not have a familiar relationship with every innkeeper in Paris, as Tréville would often tease, but he knew plenty of them, and he knew that the traffic of the world passed through inns and taverns. After all, this Spaniard had to eat and drink sometime.
Armed with gold from de Luynes, he waded through the taverns of Paris. He started at his usual haunts first. He would saunter in and order a tankard of wine. Once he slid gold across the table, people talked, especially those he knew. He asked if anyone had seen a Spaniard, or anyone speaking Spanish. As big a city as Paris was becoming, a Spaniard was not quite as commonplace as one would think. After he would typically get a negative response to his Spaniard question, he would float the name Gabrielle de Montpellier. Each place he went to the name would be met with blank faces and shook heads.
The mysterious woman puzzled André. How could someone live a life in Paris without coming into contact with anyone? She had to buy her dresses somewhere, and she had to eat. Even if she would never set foot into a tavern or an inn, she had to buy food somewhere. He knew that she was invited to Chalias’ fête, so logically she had to have an aristocratic background. She must have a maid or a cook, someone who makes contact with the outside world.
During the day, he visited butchers and bakers. He talked to dressmakers and cheese mongers. He found pastry chefs and vegetable sellers. No one had heard of Gabrielle de Montpellier. He could only assume that the name was an alias and not the name she used in her everyday life. When he talked to the dressmakers, one of the questions he was asked was what kind of clothes did she wear. Of course he did not know.
He returned to de Luynes. “I need more information,” he said.
“Of course,” he said. “What do you need?”
“About twenty-five years old,” he began. He held his hand to just below his chin, to indicate a height. “About this eye. Brown hair, but solid brown, no variation.”
“As if it was dyed that color?” André asked
“Yes, perhaps. She had blue eyes. They were so pale they looked almost white. A small beauty mark, right here,” he said, pointing to his neck.
“What was she wearing?”
De Luynes shrugged. “A blue dress.”
André shook his head. “I need more than that. There are thousands of blue dresses. I need specifics for these dressmakers.”
“Dressmakers?” de Luynes asked.
“Someone had to make that dress,” André said. “If we find the dress, we’ll find the woman.”
De Luynes nodded. “I’m afraid I do not have the vocabulary to help you.”
“Did anyone else see her?” André asked.
De Luynes thought. “Let’s ask my fiancée.”
Thirty minutes later, Marie de Rohan graced them with her presence. She smiled and nodded at André, for they did share the secret of where the Queen was last year.
“My dear,” de Luynes began. “Do you remember last week when we attended the fête for the Conte de Chalais?”
“Of course,” she said. “I had a wonderful time.”
“Early in the evening I was speaking to a woman with brunette hair and a blue dress. Do you remember seeing her?” he asked.
She thought. “Briefly. I remember a woman with brown hair and blue eyes in a blue satin dress with black lace, but she left early.” She thought some more. “Actually, I think she left in quite a state. She was very angry.” She looked at de Luynes. “What is this about?”
“We think this woman is an English spy,” André said. De Luynes did not argue. It was never a good idea to tell ones fiancée or wife that a woman was throwing herself at you. “She may be a threat to the state,” André continued.
“We are trying to find her, and we think we can trace her identity through her dress. Can you remember her dress?”
“I think so. The dress was blue satin, and very deep royal blue. Keep in mind that shade of blue is very expensive. It doesn’t occur in nature, you have to have an expensive dye. It was cut down to here,” she said, holding her hand to her chest. She frowned. “I’m not doing this well. Do you have a piece of paper and something to write with?”
De Luynes fumbled through his desk. Ink, paper and a quill were quickly found. Marie dipped the quill and started drawing.
“I’m no artist, but the dress crossed the chest like this,” she drew on the paper. “Black lace trimmed the bodies on the top, down the front and down the sides. Another trim was here, along the waist. Her sleeves were made of the same blue satin. They ballooned out like this, with the same black lace trim on the shoulders, and several stripes down the sleeve. The gown itself was also the same blue satin gathered at the sides, and in a bustle in the back. The under gown was a simple black gown trimmed on the bottom with the same black lace.”
She handed the drawing to de Luynes. His eyes widened. “Amazing!” he exclaimed. “This is it. This is the dress.”
André looked at the dress. Despite her claims to the contrary, Marie de Rohan drew a simple, yet effective sketch of the woman. “I can use this.”
De Luynes shook his head with amazement. “How did you remember all of that?”
She shrugged. “I have an excellent memory. Something you’ll find out before too long,” she said with a warm grin. “Keep in mind. You men may know about hunting, or swords, or even those nasty guns, but clothing? Fashion? My dear gentlemen, they don’t teach that at the Sorbonne.”
With that she smiled and left the room. André followed shortly with the drawing. He returned to the dressmakers with a specific question: did you make this dress? He received nothing but shook heads for hours until he arrived at Dentelle Noire, a dress shop on the Rue St. Louis. He showed Marie’s picture and the girl’s eyes opened wide.
“Oh yes, that is mine,” said the young thirteen-year old dressmaker proudly, whose name was Constance. “My own personal design. Normally, I wouldn’t be allowed to make a gown like this, but we’ve been so busy lately, and she was in such a hurry.”
“Who was in such a hurry?” he asked.
“The client. She needed it for a special event.”
“Who did you make this dress for?” André asked eagerly.
“A woman of great wealth,” Constance said.
“What was her name?” André asked.
Constance thought. “I don’t remember hearing a name.”
“Do you remember what she looked like?”
Constance thought back. “She was about my height, with brown hair. She had blue eyes, I remember her eyes were bright blue, almost pale.”
André’s heart leapt. This had to be the woman.
“Can you think of a name?”
Constance shook her head. “No, I only saw her once, when I measured her.”
André cursed to himself. He was so close. “Who saw her when she picked up the dress?”
“She did not pick up the dress,” Constance said. “I remember that quite well. She wanted the dress delivered to her residence.”
André’s hope was revived. “Do you have the address?”
Constance looked concerned. “Why do you want to know, sir?”
André calmed himself. He was too close to err now. “We think she is an English spy, and the consequences are dire.”
She nodded and thumbed through a stack of papers.
“Number six, Place Royale.”
Andre could have kissed the young girl, but he chose to simply thank her and hurry out the door. He knew that the Place Royale was not very far from the Rue St. Antoine. He hurried towards the city walls, and he could see the formidable structure of the Bastille, the King’s prison, standing sentinel over the neighborhood. He could only imagine that the sight of the prison was a source of irritation for the poor residents of the neighborhood. The Place Royale was also in view of the Bastille, but the neighborhood was much nicer and fashionable. It did not take long to find Number six; a quaint house designed in what was soon to be called the “Henri IV” style.
André wondered what to do next. He couldn’t very well knock on the front door and say, “Pardon me, but are you the woman who commissioned a blue satin dress trimmed with black lace, that you wore to a soiree given by the Comte de Chalias where you attempted to seduce the Duc de Luynes?” He didn’t think he had enough breath for such a question, nor did he think any lady would be inclined to answer. Perhaps he could find a way inside, and once inside, perhaps there would be some sort of document that could link this woman to whoever wanted the Duke discredited.
He looked up and down the street. There was hardly a soul to be found, much less someone that would notice him. He crossed the street and discreetly peered in the window. The window revealed a drawing room, sparsely furnished, as if the occupant recently moved in and hadn’t fully imprinted her personality on the décor. Even though there was no one in that room, it didn’t mean the house was empty. Making sure he wasn’t seen, he dashed around to the back of the house. It was quiet as well. The lack of servants only convinced him this was the right house. If she was only just moving in, then she hadn’t had time to hire a staff, and if she were a spy, then she would want to have as few people around her as possible to minimize the leaks of information.
He knew he would meet with failure if he tried to enter through the door. Undoubtedly it was locked. He still remembered how to pick a lock from his days with the gamine of Paris, but he knew he could easily be caught. He thought about returning once the sun had set. He looked up the wall. There were several windows. Surely those were not locked. He examined the wall. It was made of brick, but there were few cracks or abnormalities. Scaling it would be impractical, if not impossible. There were no vines or trellises to climb either, but there was a wall along the side of the house.
The wall was thick stone, about twenty feet high, and was much older than the house. He could tell because there were areas of the wall that were covered in ivy. Scanning the top of the wall with his eyes he noticed there was a window very close to the wall. It was only about six feet away. This was his best chance. If he could climb the wall, then carefully walk across the top, perhaps he could leap to the window.
He approached the ivy-covered wall. Reaching up, he grabbed a handful of ivy and pulled himself up. The thick vines held his weight. He dug into the wall with his boots and found some small purchase. Slowly he pulled himself up the wall, relying mostly on the strength of his shoulders and arms, for he could find very little support or his feet. His hands found the top of the wall, and he hauled himself to the top, throwing a leg over the wall and straddling it.
He breathed hard, gathering his strength. The wall itself was maybe a foot wide. When he was ready, he got first to his knees and then to his feet. The wall was not too narrow, but the added factor of being twenty feet from the ground certainly intimidated him. If he fell, and in some miraculous turn of fate, did not break a leg, he doubted he would have the strength to climb the ivy-covered wall again. He knew he could walk in a simple straight line as long as he took his time and made sure each step was a solid one.
Step by step he walked across the wall. He felt his balance becoming more and more precarious with each step. He had taken a half a dozen steps when he realized that he didn’t have to walk one foot in front of the other. He could advance just like he was in a fight. He shook his head and cursed at himself for not thinking of it before. With the grace of a cat, he advanced along the wall, his balance perfect, honed from years of training. Before long he was facing the window.
He could see inside. The window revealed a bedroom. He could not see anyone inside, nor could he see a candle burning. However, he did see that the sash was opened a few inches. He crouched low like a cat and leapt in one mighty bound. He slammed into the window sill with his chest, and managed to grasp the ledge with his hands and arms before he fell. He pulled himself up, his waist resting against the ledge. With his left hand he slid the window open. He pulled himself through the finally open window and climbed in the room.
Standing, he quietly examined himself. His chest was sore. No doubt he was going to have a nasty bruise where his chest slammed against the window sill. Otherwise he was fine. He didn’t lose any of his weapons and everything was in working order. He looked around the room. It was a woman’s room, but like the drawing room downstairs, it was sparsely furnished, as if the occupant had only recently moved in. He crept across the room, thankful that the house was fairly new and betrayed few creaks as he snuck to the armoire against the wall. He slowly opened the cedar door revealing a dozen dresses, including the confirmation he was hoping for. There, in front of him, was the blue satin dress with black lace, exactly as Marie de Rohan had described it. He knew he was in the home of the mysterious Gabrielle de Montpellier. He closed the armoire door, and spied the nearby vanity. If there was a document or some physical evidence of a conspiracy, maybe it would be in there.
A bell suddenly pierced the silence. His heart jumped, and he had to suppress a gasp of surprise. He froze. Had someone seen him climb through the window and was now coming to warn the owner? He heard footsteps clacking on the hard wooden downstairs floor. He was not alone. He crept to the doorway and stuck his head out the door. The hallway ended with a staircase. He slipped down the hallway, staying close to the wall to avoid creaking floorboards. He heard the click of the locks and the door swinging open. He reached the top of the staircase and crept low to the floor to make himself as small as possible. He heard voices a man’s voice and a woman’s voice, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. He heard them walk across the main room and into a drawing room.
He had to know what was being said. Slowly he peered around the wall. No one was in the main room. He descended the staircase slowly against the wall, praying that the stairs were as new as the rest of the house. He slipped across the room and approached the drawing room. He could hear their voices.
“I find it hard to believe that a woman like you could be involved,” the man said in the thick Spanish accent. André’s heart leapt. Was this Athos’ Spaniard? Was it possible that both of his quarries were here tonight? How were they linked?
“That is the brilliance of my master’s plan,” the woman replied in a very familiar voice. This was no doubt Gabrielle de Montpellier, the existence of the dress proved that, but where had he heard that voice before. Was it someone he already knew? If only he could get a look at her face, but he couldn’t risk peering into the room. Crouching low he was able to see inside the room, but the two figures were not in his eyesight. His eye caught a flash of movement. There was a mirror on the wall. He could see this mirror from where he was squatting. If she would only move so that he could see her reflection. He leaned to the right and a brunette head came into view. He could see the side of her face.
“A woman doesn’t attract the same attention as a man,” she continued in that maddeningly familiar voice. “I can go places a man can not.” Finally she turned her head and Andre saw her face.
She had dyed her hair brown, but her face belonged to Sabiné du Luçon.
- All For One - Chapter Thirty-six
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Thirty-Eight
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel