Closing the door, behind his departing new friend, Cagliostro smiled to himself. He turned, and surveyed his discreet rooms in the Marais. The Marais, was a part of Paris that was home to the unfashionable part, of fashionable society. But, it was still a place to meet people you’d like to meet. The Italian could only afford these small apartments, they were enough. If he could figure out how to achieve this latest commission, he could pay for larger accommodations. How, was the question? Discretion was everything, but publicity was everything else. It wasn’t as though he had partners he could trust. He was looking at a job that had to be very publicly discreet. This would require some careful thought.
He turned his mind to his next visitor, who should be along in a few minutes. A regular, and a reliable fellow, but a bit brash. The knock came, as he was pouring out a small glass of port. Setting down the drink, he went to let the man in. But, it was not the man, not a man at all. It was a young woman, another of his clients. One who was ultra discreet. Jeanne de Valois St. Remy. He bowed, she brushed past him and was in the middle of his room before the door was closed.
“Monsieur, I need you help.” An unusual start for her.
“Madame, you know, I am always delighted to assist you in any way I can, but this is not the right moment for you to be here.”
“I do not have many choices.”
“Yes, but I am expecting company and your need for discretion...”
“Discretion be damned.”
“But, madame, so does he.”
She looked around the room. There was a bay window and heavy curtains.
“I can wait there if I need to. I have no one else I can turn to, and I need assistance, now.”
He looked at her again. This was very unusual, she was normally the heart and soul of calm discretion, and from her results, calculatedly daring. The woman in front of him looked tired, and was clearly desperate. Now a desperate woman, to a man like Cagliostro, would normally be viewed as an opportunity. But not this woman, she was dangerous. Something about this tickled his memory, he was trying to remember, something he had heard recently. The knock he had been awaiting came, and recollection and choice, went in the same instant. Frustrated, he pointed at the window,
“Alright, it is a mite obvious, and all of my guests are suspicious, but you may get away with it.”
She took her place, and pulled the curtain over. He closed his eyes and shook his head, before going to the door. He opened it, held it back, and la Motte walked in. The first thing he spotted was the closed curtain, and Cagliostro, following la Motte, was met with the point of a blade. He stopped. La Motte had his finger at his lips and looked none too happy. Sweeping the blade across the room to face the window, in two strides and one movement, he snapped open the curtain. He found himself looking down the barrel of a pistol. His head jerked back, he frowned, and his eyes narrowed, something about this was familiar. Following the line of the arm he reached Jeanne’s face, and he stepped back. He bowed, sword now pointed at the floor about a foot ahead of his toe.
He looked up, and found she had not put away the pistol. He stood, sheathed his sword. A little more slowly, she put away the pistol. Without turning away from her eyes, la Motte asked.
“Cagliostro, my friend, you have not introduced us.”
Cagliostro had taken the opportunity to re-attend to his drink, and was in the process of pouring two more. He looked up.
“If we are all finished waving weapons around, you might like to take a drink, and a moment.”
He brought over a tray with three glasses of port, and offered his company refreshment. They took them, and he walked back to the seats by the fireplace. Before sitting, he said,
“Monsieur, may I introduce, Madame Jeanne de Valois St. Remy.” She curtsied. “Madame, monsieur Marc Antoine Nicholas le Comte de la Motte.” Cagliostro sat, the others joined him and he continued.
“Now madame, you were in the process of saying?”
She frowned at la Motte, but the Italian waved her on, “If you need my help, I think I might well be asking this gentleman to join us in any case. You can trust him.”
“Is he an assassin?”
That got both their attention, and they turned to her, finding her stony faced. Cagliostro considered, and remembering the gossip, he nodded sharply.
“I see. Would I be right in guessing, this concerns recent rumours about your younger sister. She has taken the veil.”
“Yes sir, it does.”
“I know you are a woman of considerable resources, but assassination is not cheap and it’s a little, extreme.”
“Not extreme enough.”
La Motte looked at each of them in turn, before holding up his hands.
“I’m sorry, you have the advantage of me, I do not understand. Killing someone, for taking the veil seems, to put it mildly, very extreme.”
Cagliostro cannot stop the smile, he covered it with a cough.
“You are right, it would be, but I don’t think her sister, is whom madame has in mind to kill. Would you like to enlighten our friend madame, if it isn’t too painful.”
“I will, sir. My sister, is the kindest, gentlest girl, with the most open heart ,you could ever meet…”
And Jeanne related the story of her sister’s encounter with the Cardinal, as far as she knew, and of her frustrating meeting with the Queen. As she finished la Motte smiled and raised his drink to her. She frowned.
“I’m sorry madame. I am sympathising with your frustration. I have had a few moments with things being, disappointingly less than I’d hoped, recently. Oddly enough, I had an encounter with your friend the Cardinal, or at least, I believe it was he, there are a lot of them about Paris these days.”
So, he told of his recent encounter, and its frustratingly worthless prize. Cagliostro finished his drink, and admired the candlelight through the crystal. He smiled.
“So my two favourite, and most reliable, suppliers.” They each gave a slight bow. “A wicked Cardinal, a beautiful woman, and the most valuable necklace in Christendom. You know, we might have something here.”