Friday, January 13, 2017

Fiction Friday: Vol 7 - Tales of Vengeance | Bk II: Mayhem, Chapter 3: Finding Durgo

Chapter 3: Finding Durgo

Angel the bartender and Elisa the barmaid

Gaston sent Norbert along with a new guardsman who went by the nom de guerre of Cobweb, to try and locate Durgo and his gang. It was the middle of February. The wind was icy cold and the two men were grateful for the heavy cloth tabards they wore beneath their cloaks. Cobweb said, “I might know a guy who could help us. But I haven’t seen him in a while and he’s going to be skittish especially if he sees our uniforms. Let me talk to him alone.” Then Cobweb reversed his tabard to conceal the white cross on incarnadine red of the Cardinal’s Guard and wrapped his cloak tightly around himself as he went into a pretty seedy looking neighborhood. He consulted a friend from the old days, a pickpocket who went by the name of Speedy. Speedy confirmed that the descriptions they gave sounded like Durgo the Lucky and Mainard the Nailer. He told Cobweb that he had heard that Durgo was seeing a soiled dove at Le Pomme de Pin.

Le Pomme de Pin or Pinecone was a small tavern in a rough, cramped neighborhood on the Île de la Cité located somewhere between the Palais du Justice and Notre Dame cathedral, which meant it lay between the authority of the Archbishop of Paris and that of the Constable of Paris. People said that neither the Archbishop’s Guards nor the Provost’s Archers would enter that neighborhood with anything less than a platoon of men at the ready. The Pinecone was one of the oldest taverns in Paris, with a long and seedy history as a rendezvous for cutthroats, gamblers, and n’er-do-wells since its location on the edge of the two jurisdiction made it convenient hideout for wanted men. 

They went to Gaston for reinforcements and he assigned Jacques and agreed to accompany them himself. To avoid being recognized they each removed their tabards, which they left behind in Gaston’s office. Norbert donned the green jacket and striped pants that used to wear when he performed as a a juggler; Jacques put on old clothes that made him look like a down on his luck soldier; Cobweb covered his clothes with a tattered cloak that looked like he had lifted it from someone’s rag pile; and put on some old clothes and his old hat. Beneath his cloak he wore a buffcoat. They separated to attract less attention. Cobweb led Norbert and Jacques while Gaston, who had been there before, traveled alone.

Inside, the tavern was dim and smokey, its interior distinguished by a number of pillars, each carved to resemble the pine trees that gave the place its name. Norbert had his tame rat, Hercule, perform tricks to entertain them while Cobweb questioned Angel the bartender. Angel was a large muscular man with the look of someone who had made a career as some type of heavy muscle in the past. But aside from a terse, “What’ll you have?” Angel had little to say.

Jacques ordered and got drunk. Then he got drunker. Hercule’s tricks were interrupted by the tavern’s cat, who found the plump rat far more fascinating than did any of the guests. Norbert had to scoop up Hercule and place him back inside his doublet which the cat then watched closely. Meanwhile, Cobweb flirted with Elisa, the Pinecone’s barmaid, to see if she might be more forthcoming. Elisa was cute and tiredly flirtatious. When asked about Durgo after being given a generous tip she directed Cobweb to Margot, a soiled dove who she said had spent a lot of time with Durgo. 

Since rat tricks weren’t drawing any attention except from the cat, Norbert decided to try wrestling. He and a large mercenary with a foreign accent arm wrestled for beers. Norbert beat the man, a big Sergeant from the Italian Regiment. Then he wrestled a huge, ugly giant of a man named Vaast Cassé. Norbert lost when Cassé head butted him then nearly dislocated his wrist.

Cobweb chatted up Margot, a soiled dove who used to be sweet on Durgo. It wasn’t clear to Cobweb exactly who had dumped who, but one thing was clear. Margot was in a jealous rage because Durgo had two-timed her with a red haired hussy named Ygraine. Cobweb sympathized with her plight while trying to get her to tell him more about Durgo. She was clearly afraid of Durgo because of his extremely violent nature and she didn’t want to be seen ratting on him. But she agreed to meet Cobweb in the alley outside to transact some private “business.” He joined her in the alley and his pretended sympathy and a large payment eventually persuaded her to reveal the location of Durgo’s hideout which was in a run-down apartment building across from the cemetery of Saint Nicolas on the Rue de Montmorency. 

They left the Pinecone and took a look at the apartment building before returning to the Gaston’s office in the old Tour Dubois tower to plan. Cobweb added that fact that the hideout wasn’t very far from the Temple so the location would be convenient for a gang of thieves since the Temple grounds were often used by thieves as a sanctuary from the civil authorities.

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