TW02 The Timekeeper Conspiracy NEW (7 page)

BOOK: TW02 The Timekeeper Conspiracy NEW
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"Then what could have become of him?" said Hunter.

Moreau shrugged. "Perhaps he had some business with those friends of his, from Flanders."

Hunter frowned. "Friends from Flanders?"

"Yes, five of them," Moreau said. "They were with him the last time he was here. And the time before that, too."

"Can you tell me anything about them?" Hunter said. "It could be important."

"They were a rough lot," Moreau said. He shrugged again. "Still, Doctor Jacques has friends from all walks of life, no? Not my sort, though. Not my sort at all. They would all grow silent whenever I approached their table, as though afraid that I would overhear their conversation."

"What did they look like? Perhaps I know them."

"They were all large men," Moreau said. "All except one, who was very slight and thin. About like so," Moreau said, indicating his own chest level. "Three of them were dark, rough-looking, as I said. One was bald. Him I remember very well. He was a bull, that one, a giant of a man. They didn't speak much, at least, not to me, but they were not French, that much was certain."

"They did not know the language," Hunter said.

"Oh, no, they knew the language very well," Moreau said, "but they learned it elsewhere. They had some sort of accent, but I could not place it."

"What about the fifth man?" Hunter said. "The slight one?"

"Ah, yes, him. I thought he was a girl, at first." Moreau chuckled. "It was a bit embarrassing. I called him 'mademoiselle' and it seemed to amuse the others and it was only then that I saw he was a man. A very young man, no more than a boy, really. Some boys, in their youthfulness, well...."

"Yes, I understand," said Hunter. "And some young girls look like young boys sometimes, especially if they are not wearing dresses."

"Quite so," Moreau said, visibly relieved. "Still, this one ... he wore his hair quite long, much longer than is the fashion. And it was like spun gold, Monsieur. Most unsettling.
French, now, was flawless.

A real gentleman, that one. I heard Doctor Jacques call him 'Adrian.' " Moreau lowered his voice. "An English name, no?"

"Could be," said Hunter. "I know no one by that name. This all sounds very mysterious, Moreau."

Moreau looked around, then leaned closer to Hunter. "Tell me, Monsieur," he said, "Doctor Jacques.

... I have never known him to, that is, he has no . . .
leanings, has he?"

"I don't know," said Hunter. "What makes you say a thing like that?"

Moreau shrugged again. "One learns a thing or two in this business, Monsieur. After all, you must admit, it does look strange. Five strangers, four of whom are decidedly not French and the fifth with an English-sounding name, all speaking in low voices in the corner...."

"I see what you mean," said Hunter. "But political intrigue? That does not sound like the Jacques Benoit I know."

"One never knows for sure, Monsieur," Moreau said. "Intrigue seems to be the watchword of the day. I would hate to learn that Doctor Jacques was in some sort of trouble."

"So would I, Moreau. So would I. Listen, if you should see him before I do, tell him that I'm staying at the Luxembourg. Ask him to come and see me on a matter of some importance."

"I will, Monsieur Laporte. And if you should see him first, you tell him that he has friends who will stand by him, eh? If there is trouble, you tell him to come to old Moreau."

Hunter looked at Moreau and smiled. The burly Frenchman had a face that looked like old leather and broad shoulders that suggested a previous trade more strenuous than being a tavernkeeper. If there would be trouble, Jack would do well to have someone like Moreau beside him.

"I'll tell him," Hunter said.

He left the tavern feeling very worried. Something was definitely wrong. Jack Bennett had disappeared without leaving behind any message whatsoever. With Jack, that sort of thing simply didn't happen, unless those men had something to do with it and he had not had time to leave a message. But then, according to Moreau, those men had been with Jack for at least a week and they would not have known the signals that Hunter and Jack had arranged between themselves. Jack should have been able to leave word if something out of the ordinary had occurred. But he hadn't.

Those "friends from Flanders" made Hunter nervous. Jack didn't have any friends in Flanders that he knew of. Then there was Moreau's description of them.
Spoke French excellently, but with an accent that Moreau, an ex-seaman, could not place. Perhaps it was because it was an accent unknown to this time.

""Where are you, Doc?" Hunter mumbled. "What have you gotten yourself into?"

He was so preoccupied, he didn't notice that he was being followed.

Andre realized that she owed Hunter a great deal, but there was a limit to any obligation. She had promised Hunter that she would learn to act like a lady, but she had never promised him to play that role continuously. Nor had she promised him to, as he had said it, "stay put" in their apartments.

He had brought her to another time, to another world, and he expected her to stay in their hotel unless told otherwise. Yes, she owed him a great deal, but she did not owe him blind, unquestioning obedience. He had developed a tendency to order her around and she didn't like it. She understood that he was only being protective, because he knew much and she knew little of this time, because he was in his element and she was in an alien environment. Still, that did not make her confinement easier to bear.

She felt herself dependent upon Hunter and she didn't like having to depend on anyone. She never had.

She liked feeling caged up even less.

In the 12th century, at least, she had known the rules. In England, she had been able to make her way alone. Hunter had spent many hours with her, teaching her to speak 17th-century French. The task was made easier by her knowledge of the Norman tongue, but it had proved bothersome when Hunter would not speak to her in any other language. He had explained that they would be in 17th-century Paris for an indefinite amount of time and that it was of paramount importance for her to know the language.

Surprisingly, even though the constant repetition and the boring drills were tiresome, she had discovered that learning a new language came easily to her, far more easily than learning "the gentle art of acting like a lady," and only slightly less easily than learning how to use a rapier. Already, Hunter was no match for her. Her progress had astonished even him. Yet what was the point in knowing all these things if she was to be denied the opportunity to put them into practice? What was the use in learning how to act like a 17th-century Parisienne if she remained constantly within the walls of the Luxembourg Hotel, seeing no one, going nowhere?

"A lady never wanders through the streets of Paris unescorted," Hunter had said.

Well, perhaps a lady didn't. But then, she had never promised him that she would be a lady all the time.

She had inquired as to the whereabouts of the nearest tailor and the carriage took her to an exclusive little shop, patronized only by the wealthier citizens of Paris. The tailor had readily accepted her explanation that she was buying a surprise birthday present for her little brother, who was almost exactly the same size as herself. He had summoned a seamstress to measure her, telling Andre that when she presented the suit to her little brother, he would be more than happy to perform any necessary alterations free of charge. If the tailor or the seamstress were surprised at her unusual height and dimensions, they kept their comments to themselves. If the lady had arms and shoulders like a laborer's, that was no concern of theirs, especially since she didn't even remark upon the price.

The white silk shirt would feel good against her skin and the black brocade breeches would be infinitely more comfortable than skirts. The high leather boots would be a distinct improvement over her dainty little shoes. The doublet and cloak were also in rich black brocade, "the finest cloth available," the tailor had insisted. He had also insisted upon the "necessary lace adornments" about the collar, sleeves and boot tops, without which no proper gentleman could consider himself dressed. A dark red sash would complete the ensemble, along with an ornately plumed hat that would feel much more comfortable upon her head than that abominable wig. Attired in this manner, she would look like a dashing, well-to-do young cavalier. The tailor was ecstatic when she ordered two more suits, identical in nature.

Still, he was not so ecstatic that his aesthetic sensibilities did not demand that he press upon her a change in color at the very least, if not in cloth. It made little difference to her, so she ordered one suit in burgundy and one in mauve. Delighted with himself, the tailor threw in several pairs of gauntlets in matching shades and two extra baldricks. "Oh, and a full complement of handkerchiefs, as well," he added, magnanimously. He thanked mademoiselle profusely for her business and promised that the clothes would be delivered to her hotel.

Andre spent the remainder of the morning driving around Paris. Hunter would be angry, but she didn't care. After all, it wasn't as though she was some pampered, helpless woman wandering about Paris alone and unprotected. She viewed the city from the safety of her carriage and she was perfectly capable of protecting herself if the need arose.

She didn't care for much of what she saw. Paris was dense and crowded and noisy beyond belief.

How was it possible for people to live like this, like rabbits in a warren? If this was an example of what the future held in store for her, she wasn't at all certain that she wanted any part of it. Yet, on the other hand, there was a majesty to Paris, a beauty and elegance that far surpassed anything she had ever seen before. As the carriage passed the Louvre, she gasped. The Palais du Louvre was a far, far cry from the castle strongholds of her time. No builders of the 12th century would ever have been able to achieve such grandeur. Compared to Louis XIII, Prince John of Anjou was a peasant. The carriage took her along the Seine and she marveled at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, towering over all the other buildings on the Rue de la Cite. How had its builders been able to construct such a massive edifice; how had they built the majestic flying buttresses? If this was what the architects of the 17th century could achieve, what wonders awaited her in the 27th? She drove through the Marais, where the Knights Templar had once held their fief—a large, vast fortress of a temple built in 1107. That reminded her of one Templar in particular and, for a moment, there was a sinking feeling in her stomach as she recalled Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, the man who had murdered her brother, Marcel. She had avenged her brother's death, but it had not made the pain of her loss easier to bear. At present there was no trace of the temple. The Marais was now a residential area, the square filled with red brick and white stone buildings three stories high with window surrounds. On past la Place Royale, the carriage drove by the Bastille. The Bassin de Parsenal brought water from the Seine to the moat around the prison. Andre looked upon the massive stone walls and thought of the people rotting within them, never again to see the light of day. Hunter had told her a great deal about Paris, but seeing it for herself made her realize for the first time just how primitive she must seem to him, a man to whom
wondrous city would seem backward.

It was nearing noon and she decided it was time to turn back. There was still much more of the city that she had yet to see, but there was no point to trying to see it all in just one day. It would have been impossible, at any rate. As they passed the Carmes-Dechaux, Andre directed the coachman to stop for a while. Here was a small pocket of silence in the bustling city. She got out and walked slowly toward the convent, a large and windowless building surrounded by barren fields. Here, at least, there was something of the flavor of her time. She walked along the side of the building, running her hand along its wall. Curiously, although she had done nothing for the past several hours more strenuous than sitting in the carriage, she felt exhausted. She would just rest here for a moment in the peaceful silence of the courtyard of the nunnery. As she came to the corner of the building, almost to the inner courtyard, she heard the sound of running footsteps and hesitated. Foolishly, she had left her rapier behind in the carriage, along with her dagger. She was unarmed. She spun around quickly, but the footsteps were not coming from behind her. Cautiously, she peeked around the corner.

The running figure burst into the courtyard and paused a moment, out of breath. It was a young man, blond and bedraggled, wearing old and dusty clothes and a rapier that seemed far too long for him to handle. He glanced quickly around the courtyard and his gaze fell upon an older man, with a bandaged shoulder, dressed in the uniform of the king's musketeers, sitting casually atop a hitching post and picking at the mud upon his boots with his rapier.

"I trust I am not late, Monsieur?" said the blond youth.

The musketeer slowly raised his head, while he continued prodding at his boot absently. "No, you are quite punctual," he said. "I, myself, have only just arrived moments ago. I shall, however, have to beg your indulgence for a short while, as I have asked two friends of mine to be my seconds and, as you can see, they have not yet arrived."

"Ah," said the young man. "Ah. Well. I must confess that, since I am new to Paris, I have no seconds, Monsieur."

"What, none at all? Do you not know anyone in Paris?"

"Well, Monsieur de Treville...."

"Yes, well, he would hardly do, would he? The captain of the musketeers is hardly in a position to disobey the edict against dueling. Well, I must say, this is most irregular. Dueling with a youth who has no seconds, not good for appearances at all, I am afraid. I'll have the air of a boy-slayer."

"Not so much so," said D'Artagnan, bowing slightly. "After all, you do me the honor of drawing a sword against me while you still suffer from a wounded shoulder. I am afraid it is I who shall suffer from appearances, Monsieur, if I should kill a man whose wound prevented him from properly defending himself."

BOOK: TW02 The Timekeeper Conspiracy NEW
5.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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