Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Fiction: Vol 6: City Tales, Book IV: The Case of the Curia Crimes Ch1 + Ch2

IV: The Case of the Curia Crimes

Chapter 1: The Case Opens

One fall day in November, Father Marcel Delage stays late to meet Father Signoret after morning mass. Father Delage asks the Jesuit to help him bring a criminal to justice. Father Delage is the Vicar General  of the Curia of the Archbishop of Paris. From him, Signoret learns that a large sum, at least 4000L, is missing from the Curia Treasury and that Archbishop Jean-François de Gondi has closed the case and forbidden him from investigating further. No culprit has been found or punished, though the Archbishop has recently removed Father Antoine de Vassé from his position as Chancellor of the Curia. The Chancellor has access to the funds and acts as the treasurer for the diocese. Father de Vassé happens to be a member of the Gondi family; his mother is the sister of the Archbishop. However, Father de Vassé is still a member of his uncle’s Curia. Father Delage hopes that if Signoret can provide evidence of the crime, then Delage can bring the evidence to the Archbishop and persuade him to reopen the case. That way the thief may be caught and punished.

In addition to Fathers Delage and de Vassé, the other members of the Archbishop’s Curia are Father Herbert Labarre (SR 9) the Official of the Diocesan Tribunals, Father Charles de Landry (SR 8) an Ordinary Curia Member, and Father Basil Chastel (SR 8) another Ordinary Curia Member (SR 8).

For assistance, Signoret asks his cousin Guy to help him solve the case and Guy uses his Spy Network to keep an eye on Father de Vassé and to investigate the other Curia members. They learn that, despite his powerful family connections, Father de Vassé’s application to the Bishop’s Club has not been approved.

Exploring the club connection, they discover that the club was originally founded by an ancestor of the Archbishop and that Father Delage is a member, Father Labarre is one of two Club Secretaries, and the Archbishop is, by club tradition, one of the Chef du Clubs. Several other friends and acquaintances are also members (see the membership list below) and using those connections Guy and Signoret apply for membership.  Guy is successful which allows the two to visit as member and guest without the need to rely on other friends for invitations.

They obtain a list of the membership. Club officers include:

  • The Premier Chef: (who though not mentioned by name is not a viable suspect).
  • Chef du Club: Ernaldus Galhardi Vicomte de Hulhac and Colonel of the Regimente de Navarre (SR 11).
  • Club Treasurer: Brian Chastel Banker and brother of Father Basil Chastel (SR 8).
  • Club Treasurer: Louis Lefèvre Seigneur de Caumartin (SR 9).
  • Club Secretary: Phélix de Prevost Vicomte le Limoncourte member of the Noblesse des Robe and Duelist of the Fratellenza di Giganti (SR 11).
  • Manager du Club: Guy's friend, Vicomte "Chancie” de Chambre avant-garde fashonisté, member of Bassompierre's Party (SR 11).
  • Manager du Club: Marcel Chrétien du Frugereix member Gendarmes of France, company du Condé (SR 8).
  • Manager du Club: Alexandre Hardy, dramatist (SR 6).

Ordinary club members include:

  • Quennel Baron St. Giron (SR 12).
  • Gilles de Cessey Vicomte de Bouvard is an officer of the Club Saint Louis in Toulouse, from which he enjoys reciprocal privileges at the Bishop’s Club in Paris (SR 11).
  • Grymonde de Trebouchard a student at the Benedictine school in Paris (SR 8).
  • Father Alphonse Rossi a Curate of a Paris church (SR 6).
  • Gabriel Naudé, Librarian to Henri de Mesme (SR 6).

From several club members they hear a rumor that the Bishop’s Club is short of funds. Guy questions his friend Chancie, who is a Manager at the club, and Chancie confirms the rumor and he tells them that neither membership nor revenue generating events have declined so revenues cannot have decreased. Nor is Chancie aware of any additional or unusual expenses that would result in a funding shortfall for the club. Guy and Signoret find the fact that funds are missing from both the Curia and the Club at the same time to be suspicious. They wonder if the two events could be linked.


Gaston takes up his duties as an officer in the Picardy Regiment and spends his free time as a Fencing Instructor and practicing with Master Sainte-Pierre, where he frequently sees Guy who is training privately with Master Saint-Pierre, learning the tricks and ploys of the French-style from the Master.


Meanwhile, Norbert continues his apprenticeship with Binet’s Grand Troupe of Players. After learning from the Impresario  that the missing couch was used by the troupe’s chief writer, Salvatore Machiavelli, as a place of repose to refresh his creative energies and that without out it, the writer is unable to create. Norbert agrees to provide the Impresario with an additional 50 L to purchase a replacement for the repossessed sofa. In return for this additional largesse, Norbert is given the guarantee of a part on stage in the upcoming play. He learns a bit about the play which is a comedic parody in the style of the commedia della arte. The writer, Salvatore Machiavelli is upset at all the changes that one of the backers, a Baron, is insisting on. The changes seem focused on the part that Acton the Magnificent is playing, which is that of the Soldier who is, by tradition, a Spaniard. The backer insisted that the Soldier be a Frenchman named Gaston with a very large, much worn floppy hat and that he speak in rhymes. After Machiavelli had created rhyming dialog the backer insisted on ruining the rhyme and breaking the meter. “An atrocity!” says Machiavelli. These and other changes seem arbitrary and several of them seem likely to decrease the show’s popularity. Yet, despite the Impresario’s warning, the backer insists on keeping all the changes.

Norbert’s part will be a true challenge to his acting skills. He is to play the statue of Poseidon in the fountain. He will wear white makeup and costume to look like marble and he will operate a foot pump that causes water to flow out of a tube on his head so that it looks to the audience like water is spraying from the statue’s mouth. The main target for the water is to be Gaston the Soldier.

Chapter 2: Positions of Eminence

Two weeks or so after the Royal Masquerade, Cardinal Richelieu arranges for interviews with those responsible for saving him from the Spanish Assassin known as the Left Hand of God. First, he summons Father Signoret who, after a short wait, is shown into a relatively spartan chamber with a blazing fire in the fireplace, a table with a series of maps, and a large desk at which the Cardinal sits reading some correspondence.

While waiting for the Cardinal to finish his correspondence, Father Signoret is inspected by a black Persian, one of several cats who lounge about the room. Noticing this, the Cardinal says, “Ah Father, I see you have already met Lucifer. Either he likes you or he is just expressing his gratitude to you for helping to save his master.” Richelieu mentions that the Jesuit’s name “has been brought to my attention.”

“I hope your Eminence has heard only good things” says Signoret. Richelieu continues watching Signoret without responding.

Eventually he says, “So I wished to meet you in person. To thank you for your assistance and to learn more about you.” Signoret volunteers that he is fluent in Latin and Spanish, is a master swordsman, and a scholar of history. Richelieu speaks to him in fluent Spanish and Latin, asking him various questions to test his knowledge of history. Signoret finds Richelieu is quite well read and the Jesuit is happy that his answers seem to satisfy the knowledgeable Cardinal. Richelieu says that he could use the services  of someone like Signoret.

“I would be interested to learn in what way I might serve your Eminence,” Signoret says.

“As my confidential secretary I believe I could put your talents with language and your knowledge to great use. We might be able to engage all your talents. That is, if you are willing.”

“I am, your Eminence.”

Richelieu picks up a small bell on the corner of his desk. Immediately after ringing it, a door opens and a man wearing the robes of a Capuchin friar enters. “Joseph, I have given Father Signoret a position as one of my secretaries.”

“Indeed, your Eminence?” The voice is cold, but a familiar one. It is the voice of the Cardinal’s ally, Peré Joseph, the grey eminence.

“Yes, Joseph. I want you to find a place for Father Signoret. See that he settles in and has everything he needs to make him comfortable.”

“I shall see to him…personally, your Eminence.”

“Very good, Joseph.”

Peré Joseph leads Father Signoret to an office with a desk, lit by a small window, a single bookcase, and a small sofa that could serve as a day bed. “I trust this room will suit you. And that you will serve his Eminence efficiently…and loyally.” The words, though neutrally said, seem to be both a promise and a threat.


Next Cardinal Richelieu summons Gaston, who ends up in the same chamber and in similar circumstances, although no cats decide to inspect the soldier or his uniform. Richelieu thanks Gaston for saving his life and asks how his recovery is progressing. “No lingering effects, I trust?”

“None your Eminence. I was most fortunate that Fabré, the apothecary who treated me, had already encountered that poison and had an antidote ready to hand.”

“Then your health would not prevent you from accepting a position that may, at times, require some strenuous exercise?”

“I assure you I am quite healthy your Eminence.”

“Good. This recent incident shows that the enemies of France will stop at nothing to eliminate me. And to prevent this, His Majesty has graciously consented and requested that I create a new company of Guards to see to my own safety. These Guards will be part of the Maison du Roi, but under my comman. And I would like, you Monsieur to recruit this company and to be its first Captain. 

Gaston was stunned. “Me? Your Eminence?”

“You will need to select capable men and the troop will of course need distinctive uniforms. You will speak to my private tailor about that.”

“Me? You Eminence?”

Richelieu turned, then walked over to where Gaston stood. He put one arm around Gaston and led him over to a table covered with maps. Gesturing at the maps, the Cardinal continued, “I have enemies. Enemies who threaten me and who threaten the sovereignty of France. I need someone to head this new group of Guards. To recruit them, train them, form them. To keep me safe…and to see that France is safe. Can I count on you Monsieur to help me? To help…France?

Gaston straightened, a soldier at attention. “I am your man, your Eminence.”

Richelieu smiled slightly. “Good. Can you find men, skilled men for my Guards?”

“Skilled blades are available, your Eminence. But they will not come cheaply.”

“Then funds shall be made available. Now about the uniforms, I have some sketches here…” 

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