Rochefort and the Plate of Biscuits
Rochefort had been fretting. He was reviewing his notes from the last few months. His men had seen plenty of comings and goings, but nothing to indicate la Motte was up to his past dirty dealings. That little wife of his, was back and forth to Cardinal de Rohan, in la Motte’s absence. He almost felt sorry for the man, at first. He had her followed and was surprised that it seemed to be, religious. She has some connection to the church. Some discreet enquiries turned up a sister, in a convent, add that to the Grand Almoner of France. Then it turned out la Motte knew about it.
No matter how he put it together, he couldn’t see what la Motte was doing. Conversion to happy family man was not on the list of probable explanations. The description of Françoise, didn't ring any bells, but as it was “pretty house maid”, it didn’t stand out..
He had to do something. What? La Motte kept going up north, to join his regiment, as he should. It was all too ordinary, and damn fishy. Rochefort's attempts to dig about in Artois’s regiment, had nearly got him in deep water. After that, he'd decided he had to be careful. The Cardinal’s man was tight lipped, itself a surprise. He just didn’t credit the picture he was being shown at all.
Part of the problem was that Italian. What was he, a conjuror or an alchemist? People seemed uncertain, apart from the idiots who thought he was some kind of mystic. The things people will believe. He thought he was onto something when they took part in the Masques, but then, they stopped, and la Motte left the Gendarmes, with a promotion.
There, that must be it. Why did he get promoted? The girl, how did he make that marriage? She was a someone, a Valois. Not too respectable, but that was the father. It was strange she had not married, and yet, she managed to provide for herself and her sister. There were lots of rumours, but everything evaporated when he enquired and, in his experience, no one was that discreet.
So, she got favour and money from someone. The Queen was known to have a soft heart, but she cut off the sister just before she went into the convent. More rumour, but, what’s her name, Marie-Ann, was taken into a respectable convent, so those can’t be true, can they? Then that talk of a romantic marriage and huge arguments, in Troyes, was all that true? He had one of his men go down to Troyes, to check it out, and it turned out solid enough. Maybe, the younger sister was disgusted at the court, and went into the convent, cue the rumours. Then the Queen was annoyed, and she cuts them both off. Meaning, it’s find a man, or the older one goes into the convent herself. She doesn’t know much about the world, and was conned into marrying the cad, la Motte. Poor woman. She had connections, the court, the convent, and she gets him promoted to Artois’s regiment, which gives them money and gets him out of Paris. That sounds about right…
So, if that’s right, and everything fits, why does he have an itching feeling at the back of his neck? Does he hate la Motte that much? Maybe. It wouldn’t be that strange. La Motte is an item from the gutter, walking around in society, as though he belonged there. Can’t have that, we’ll turn into England. He shuddered.
He had worried the problem back and forth, for days before finally deciding to have a chat, with an old friend from the Gardes Français, perhaps the most prestigious regiment in the kingdom. Sworn to protect the king and his family with their lives if needed, though the ones he knew, didn’t take things that seriously. They agreed with him on the need to keep the rabble down. La Motte was rabble, if anyone was.
Sitting, waiting in the coffee shop, he was running through all of this in his head. He didn’t want to come across as a delusional fool, but he needed to be able to talk to someone on the inside, without drawing too much attention to himself. The Gardes, could talk to anyone, and no one would ask questions. Pick up la Motte, and encourage a frank conversation with him, and Rochefort would have answers. The colonel arrived.
Rochefort stood, holding out a hand and they shook, turning to the waiter, who slouched against the wall nearby.
“A pot of coffee, and some bread and chocolate, biscuits and some bars.”
“They serve good coffee here?”
“They do. And the chocolate isn’t too powdery, the biscuits actually smell of chocolate and taste as thought you were biting into a bar. Worth trying.”
“If they’re that good I’ll order some, for home, it will win me a smile, every now and then.”
“You’re not married are you, Rochefort?”
“Not been that lucky.”
“Or unlucky…” and they laughed. The coffee arrived. The waiter having poured, he disappeared and the Colonel tried the biscuits. He took a short moment and his eyes opened wide.
“By God, you’re right, these are excellent.”
Rochefort himself smiled, and they put away one or two. While beginning his third, the Colonel paused,
“I’m sure, nice as they are, we are not here to eat biscuits.”
“It wouldn’t be the worst way to pass an afternoon. But, no, we’re not.”
“You want to join the Gardes?”
Rochefort smiled tightly, “No, thank you. I want a different kind of favour.”
He quickly outlined his thoughts, about la Motte, and his suspicions surrounding the current events. The Colonel sat back.
“But you have no proof, anything is going on?”
“And he hasn’t been near the jewellers place, or anywhere else?”
“Not while I’ve been watching.”
The Colonel considered and then leaned forward, “Right, I wouldn’t touch him, not with a thirty foot pole, but her, now she is someone we can have a legitimate worry about. She has a dubious reputation, and she was connected to the Queen. We have to protect her majesty. We can pick her up discreetly. Asked her a few questions. See what’s what, and no one will raise an eyebrow. If we pick him up, Artois will get to hear about it and…”
He waved his hand in the air. Rochefort nodded, satisfied. He picked up a biscuit and pushed the plate toward the Colonel, smiling. He bit, and the Colonel did too.