Friday, February 10, 2017

Fiction Friday - Vol 7 Tales of Vengeance, Bk IV: Unlawful Detentions, Ch 1 & 2

Book IV: Unlawful Detention

Chapter 1: Arrest of Two Flemings

Jacques used his 20L reward from the last werewolf hunt to pay Norbert back and to throw a celebratory party at Les Deux Cheveau Tavern. On their way to the tavern, Norbert and Cobweb noticed two men in somber black clothes following them. After the celebration, they noticed the same two men loitering in a doorway across the street and mentioned that to Jacques. Norbert said, “I have had enough of these foreigners following me.” The three Guards decided to confront their tail. They walked over to the doorway. Norbert introduced himself as “Norbert Thibeaut, Cardinal’s Guard” and demanded they state their names and their business.” 

Norbert heard one of the pair say, “I told you that was him.” He realized that the dark clad man was speaking Dutch. In answer to Norbert’s questions, the two said they were Flemish tourists. One, who spoke French, was named van Duurkoop. The other, who did not, was named van Ekkel. The two said they were resting in the doorway after walking about the city sightseeing. 

The three Guards took the two strangers into custody until they produced their papers or passports to confirm their identities and their permission to be in France. The two claimed their papers were with their traveling companion who was a Flemish noble. While Norbert and Coweb went to the inn where the strangers were staying, Jacques played cards and drank with the two men and kept them under his keen eyed gaze. The Flemings were staying at the Inn of the Black Stork located on the Left Bank. There Norbert and Cobweb learned that the men’s traveling companion was the Baron van Aaldenberg who Norbert remembered from Brussels where the Baron had competed in the shooting contest. Also Baron Aaldenberg was an associate or familiar of Fray Roderigo the Spanish Inquisitor who had imprisoned Norbert. 

Aaldenberg showed the Guards papers which confirmed the identities and permissions for van Duurkoop and van Ekkel. On their return to the Châtelet, Norbert fumblingly tried to explain why they had arrested the two Flemings to Jacques de Rotondis. Rotondis, who had been an Ensign in the Picardy Musketeers before he joined the Cardinal’s Guards, was often assigned as an acting officer of the day. 

The next day the three friends learned that the arrests had resulted in a letter of protest from the Spanish Ambassador, Don Antonio who had complained to Cardinal Richelieu himself about the arrest. In consequence the three were called into Père Joseph’s office where Gaston was already present. Père Joseph gave the three a dressing down and ordered them to apologize to the two ‘tourists’ and to see that they were freed right away. The three agreed to apologize then Norbert explained that part of his motivation was his fear of the Inquisition and he asked Père Joseph for protection from the Inquisition. After they left, Gaston gave the three a second dressing down during which Norbert said he would leave Paris to which Gaston replied, “That would be desertion.” Norbert then asked Gaston to send him on an assignment away from Paris and the Inquisition. Gaston frostily asked, “Monsieur, do you believe you are entitled to special consideration?” 

Norbert said “I thought my cousin the Captain would help me.”

Curtly Gaston immediately ordered the other two out of the room. Then he told Norbert that his request was refused and asked Norbert “Name of the devil, Are you trying to ruin my career and yours? Don’t ask me to play favorites, especially in front of others.” Norbert apologized. 

Gaston continued, “Your pleas to Père Joseph embarrassed me and the Red Guards. We don’t need the Grey Eminence’s protection. We are the Cardinal’s Red Guards and we take care of their own!” Gaston then called the other three back in and told them that “With great difficulty, I have managed to persuade Père Joseph to give you a chance to redeem yourselves after this mess you have caused. And for your sake and mine, do not fail.”

“You are to take the new guard, Jean-Yves Barreau. Monsieur Barreau is new, so I want to hear your evaluation of his abilities afterward…Oh, and try not to get him killed. He is, after all, new.”


Once again the three friends found themselves in Père Joseph’s office as they, along with the new recruit Barreau, listened as the Grey Eminence told them that the secret plans for a new weapon, called a Step-Rocket, had been stolen from the Arsenal by a thief hired by the English. “These rockets could change the face of warfare. Fortunately through my agents I have learned that the thief is to turn the plans over to Henry Rich, Lord Kensington. Kensington is one of King James’ favorites and one we suspect he has used before for secret missions. The plans are contained in a manuscript printed in German with marginal notes. Here is a copy of an illustration from the frontispiece of the manuscript.”

At Père Joseph’s word, a masked woman stepped out from behind an arras. “This is La Dame de la Rose (the Lady of the Rose). She will assist you. She is well acquainted with Lord Kensington and can point him out to you. The exchange is to take place tomorrow in the Place Maubert. You are to use any means necessary to recover the manuscript and to prevent the plans from falling into the hands of the English heretics.”

“This mission is vital to the security of France. I have my reservations, but your Captain has sworn that you are the men for this job. Pray you do not fail him…or me. 

“You may go.”

Cobweb, who had grown up on the streets of Paris, explained to the other three Guards that the Place Maubert was a market square on the Left Bank that served the Latin Quarter. The market is a frequent rendezvous for students from the various colleges and all sorts of strange conversations by the students could be overheard over the sounds of the farmers and merchants hawking their goods. In Cobweb’s grandfather’s time the square had been the place of execution for heretics sentenced to death on the orders of the Bishop of Paris. Norbert realized that the Inn of the Black Stork where Baron Aldenberg and his two companions were staying was close by the Place de Maubert.

Since none of the four Guards were familiar with Henry Rich, Lord Kensington they decided they should meet or observe him prior to the exchange. They asked La Dame de la Rose to arrange something. She said she would try, but that there wasn’t a lot of time before the exchange, but in the meantime she showed them a miniature with a painting of Lord Kensington inside. Given the importance of the mission they wanted to surround the square with Red Guards, but they learned that most of the Guards were assigned to protect Cardinal Richelieu and that the remaining available Guards were assisting Gaston with a different mission in Paris. So success with this assignment was up to the three friends and Barreau, the newest member of the Cardinal's Guard.

Chapter 2: Lord Kensington’s Detention

Painting by an unnamed artist gives a sense of the enclosing buildings and the triangular plaza.

Agents of the Cardinal[i] had learned that a hand-off of the stolen rocket plans was scheduled for that afternoon in the Place Maubert, the market square for the Latin Quarter. The plans were to be given to an English Agent, Henry Rich Lord Kensington. Norbert, Jacques, Cobweb, and Jean-Yves were ordered to prevent the handoff and recover the stolen plans. Previously the mysterious la Dame de la Rose had shown them a miniature painting of Lord Kensington and she had agreed to be in the square to help them to identify Henry Rich. Norbert’s servant Mel was there to assist them in their efforts. The Guards and Mel spread out so that they could watch the several entrances and exits to the market.

With de la Rose’s help, they spotted Lord Kensington in the Place Maubert. They confronted him and his guards, who were concealed in the market crowd, tried but failed to prevent his apprehension. At which point he calmly identified himself, “I am Rich, Henry Rich, Lord Kensington.”

He coolly disputed their authority to apprehend him and refused to be searched. In response, Cobweb drew his sword and detained and searched Rich at sword point. He personally put his hands on Rich who protested loudly and objected most strongly to the Guard’s actions. Although Rich was not wearing a sword, they confiscated his cane and threatened him with arrest even after he informed them that he was a nobleman and a friend of King James of England.

During Kensington’s detention and search, Jacques had noticed a furtive youth with short blond hair who was wearing a knapsack. He called on him to halt and then gave pursuit when the youth fled. It seemed he was not the only one after the youth as several swordsmen appeared out of the crowd and tried to hinder his pursuit, but despite their efforts he successfully chased the youth into Norbert’s arms. Once the giant had grabbed the suspect, he immediately realized the youth was actually a girl. Inside her knapsack they found a manuscript and several loose pages with diagrams and tables of numbers. 

They decided that they had found the manuscript and the rocket plans. Now that they had the missing documents and the girl, the Guards released Lord Kensington. They had thwarted his attempt to obtain the stolen plans. Unfortunately they were unable to observe any contact between the Englishman and the courier and they had no proof that he had been involved in the theft. And they had annoyed a well connected member of the English Court.

The Cardinal’s Guards brought the girl and the documents to Le Tour Dubois where they presented the lot to Captain Thibeault. He quickly scanned the manuscript looking in particular at the marginal notes and the diagrams. Then he ordered the four to accompany him and to bring the girl as he led them to see Père Joseph. Later they learned that the girl who was carrying the manuscript was "Kat" Yskert a daring, female cat burglar. Yskert had seemed particularly embarrassed at being apprehended by the Guards.

After the incident, Lord Kensington sent a letter of complaint to the French Court and personally wrote to his friend, King James I of England. But before the first protests arrived at the French Court the four Guards involved were nowhere to be found. At Père Joseph’s suggestion, Gaston had already sent the four out of Paris on a mission that he hoped would keep them away until it was safe and politic for them to return to Paris and resume their regular duties.

[i] The thief, "Kat" Yskert, had used a crazy beggar named Romain Light Fingers as a cut out to arrange the handoff. His job is to tell the buyer where to deliver the payment and pick up the “item.” Agents of the Cardinal were able to get information on the handoff from Light Fingers.

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