Friday, October 14, 2016

Fiction Friday: Vol 6: City Tales, Book III: Paris Entertainment Ch 6 + Ch 7

Chapter 6: Masquerade Part 3 | To Kill a Cardinal

Gaston ambushes and knocks out the Red Bishop who is tailing Father Signoret. Gaston binds and gags the Bishop with the Wolf costume and appropriates the garb of a Red Bishop. Gaston smiles to himself, Now I will be a wolf in Bishop’s clothing.

Guy and Signoret keep watch over the king who they believe is the target of a Spanish assassination attempt. Since the Spanish are involved and since Guy has already recognized that the Raven is the Left Hand of God, an infamous Spanish assassin, Guy stays between the Raven, who stands next to the Ambassador, and King Louis. They also in the Ambassador’s vicinity yet another Red Bishop. Signoret is suspicious of the Red Bishop, so he goes up and speaks to him. But he is spotted by the Spanish Ambassador’s aide who asks him in Spanish, “Is it is done.”

Signoret plays along saying that “Yes it has been taken care of.” But this only distresses the Aide who questions him as to why there is no commotion. Signoret’s answers are evasive and apparently more suspicious. The Aide smells a rat and Signoret quickly moves away to lose him in the crowd, but spots still another Red Bishop chasing him. The Jesuit detours across the dance floor as a shortcut to the garden. Utilizing the dance steps of his boyhood, he manages to make his way across the floor without attracting unwanted attention. However the Bishop seems unconcerned about any attention and shoves dancers aside as he runs after the Signoret. Outside in the garden, the Bishop’s steely grip grabs his shoulder as a familiar voice says, “Father it is I, Gaston.”

Relieved, Signoret sends Gaston to find Guy while he searches the garden for anything suspicious. There he spots another Red Bishop, dagger in hand, sneaking up on a courtier dressed as a Stag. The Jesuit foils the Bishop’s attack, rescuing the Stag. Signoret turns the Red Bishop over to the Stag to hold him until he can be turned over the authorities.

Meanwhile, Guy realizes that the eyes of the Raven are wrong. This Raven isn’t the Left Hand of God. Which means the King isn’t the target! Guy quickly deduces that the Cardinal, who is waiting for the arrival of his coach so that he can leave the Masquerade, may be the target. Guy quickly informs the others, sending Signoret and Gaston to see to the Cardinal’s safety while he watches the King in case this is all some elaborate ruse.

In the courtyard Signoret, while checking the Cardinal’s coach, spots a motion at an upper story balcony window. He calls out “Beware assassins!” as he heads for one of the Cardinal’s bodyguards to procure a pistol. Then he cries, “The Window!” Gaston dives dives past the bodyguards to shove his Eminence to cover as the assassin fires. Gaston is hit by crossbow bolt coated with the agonizing and deadly poison known as the Burning. A bolt that was meant for Cardinal Richelieu! Father Signoret uses the bodyguard’s pistol to fire back at the assassin which prevents him from getting a second shot. Meanwhile the Cardinal’s bodyguards think Gaston is an attacker and one of them stabs him. Badly wounded,  Gaston cries out in pain from the poison, but manages to maintain his grip on the Cardinal, keeping him down in case of a second shot. Signoret climbs the façade of the Hôtel de Bellegarde to reach the balcony window, but the assassin has fled.

Upper Level

Signoret gives chase. The assassin leads him up a back staircase where Signoret is narrowly missed by another quarrel, then onto the roof where they race along the roof edge in full view of the revelers in the garden. Revelers cry out and shots spark off the roof tiles and stonework as the alarmed Musketeers on guard fire at the two madmen on the roof. The assassin nimbly avoids their fire and somersaults down onto the south balcony. Signoret remains in pursuit. He draws his dagger and jumps down, but the assassin tosses his crossbow at Signoret to distract him, then kicks him backwards to smash through the balcony doors. As the priest picks himself up out of the shattered glass and door frame, he sees the assassin gracefully dive off the balcony into the Seine.

Signoret loudly calls out that the assassin is in the river, then jumps in after him, but the priest’s dive is less fluid and by the time he can surface and get his bearings, the assassin is already pulling himself into a nearby boat held by a pair of accomplices. Signoret yells to attract the guards. The lone assassin rows away while his accomplices flee east pursued by several King’s Musketeers who were alerted by Signoret.

Meanwhile, Norbert (who has been haplessly circling in his stolen boat) spots another boat, at first he thinks it may contain someone to help him, but hearing Signoret’s call he realizes that the boat’s occupant is up to know good. As the boat approaches, the assassin warns Norbert to be off, but Norbert ignores the order, picks up an oar to use as a giant club, and waits for the assassin to draw in range. Before he reaches Norbert’s boat, the assassin pulls a blunderbuss from the bottom of his own boat, cocks it, and fires – blowing a huge whole in Norbert’s boat. Fortunately, at the first sign of the hideous weapon, Norbert leapt out of his boat in to the cold, but comparatively safe river. As his boat sinks behind them, Norbet and Signoret are both swept downstream to the Pont du Change where they catch hold of the buttresses and exhaustedly pull themselves on shore. They obtain some dry clothes from the Jesuit House and return to the Masquerade. Where, after a time, they are admitted.

Meanwhile, back at the Hôtel de Bellegarde, Guy summons Fabre to treat Gaston’s wounds. The apothecary identifies the assassin’s poison as The Burning – the poison used by the assassins on the Pont Neuf – fortunately, Fabre has developed an antidote. He assists the Provost in his examination and finds that the Baron de Gras claims to have killed the assassin, and indeed there is a dead body in an upper balcony room. De Gras claims that he heard something suspicious, broke down the locked door, saw the assassin about to fire and shot and killed him. Unfortunately his shot was a little too late and the assassin had already fired.

The “assassin” killed by de Gras does indeed have a crossbow and a quarrel coated with the Burning poison. Signoret recognizes the dead man as Estelle Lachance. Lachance is Jesuit educated. Father Signoret was in Jesuit school with Lachance who was a few years older than Signoret. He recalls that Lachance was very dedicated and religious. He was a younger son from a sword noble family who briefly considered joining a religious order, but decided that he wanted to join a good regiment and so restore his family name and fortune. They discover several interesting clues.

  • The angle of quarrel fired at the Cardinal does not match up with the balcony where Lachance was found.
  • A servant claims to have heard the sound of a shot before hearing the crash of the door.
  • The hinges of the door that de Gras broke down are corroded and appear deformed, almost melted. This reminds Guy of the previously encountered Masked Assassins.

Chapter 7: All the World’s a Stage

In November Norbert begins his quest to become a stage actor. He searches Paris to find a theater company that will take him on as an apprentice. At one company he tries on a costume, but as he bends over, he finds the costume is far too small as it rips open across the back. At another, he accidentally lumbers into the backdrop breaking it in two. While at the door to a third, his looming and unsettling presence causes them to slam and bar the door in his face. Finally, he speaks to the Impresario, the leader of Binet’s Grand Troupe of Players and, after assuring the Impresario that he is serious and dedicated and investing 200L in the show, Norbert is invited to join the company with the roles of stage hand and apprentice actor in training.

He meets his fellow players: the playwright Salvatore Machiavelli, the lead Acton the Magnificent, the ingénue Amelie, and the seamstress Gerta.

Their meeting is interrupted by cries of distress from outside where Norbert sees two burly men carrying away an upholstered sofa while a huge, one-eyed enforcer named Le Gros Boeuf stands over a fallen extra of the troupe. Norbert asks the fallen man if he is alright and tells the interlopers to stop. Le Gros Boeuf signals his men to leave as he unlimbers his club and steps towards Norbert who barely blocks the club, but fails to yank it away from his foe. Meanwhile, Gerta tries to tug the sofa away from the burly men, but they knock her down and continue on their way.

Norbert scrambles onto a stage and dodges behind a railing as the club smashes the railing to splinters. Norbert tries to shove Le Gros Boeuf, but his huge foe shoves Norbert back into the broken railing. Chuckling to himself, Le Gros Boeuf leaves in triumph as Norbert growls in frustration.

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