The Net Tightens
Just across, from the domestic scene in Jeanne’s apartments, a more martial one. The Comte Rochefort’s sargeant was sitting on the edge of the large table, while one of his men was engaged with a young woman. A tray of mugs and plates, all empty, sat on the table behind the sargeant. Without a knock, the door opened and three large gendarmes walked in. The sargeant stood, his hand on his sword. His companion, groped for but failed to reach his weapons, sitting on the table beyond the tray.
“Calm down.” The gendarme captain said.
The sargeant relaxed, and the young woman, disentangled herself from the trooper, and picked up the tray, heading for the door. The gendarme tapped her shoulder as she passed.
“Bring us a few wet ones would you?”
“Coming up.” She answered.
“So, why are we so honoured to see you lot this evening?” The sargeant asked.
“No hello? No, I’m pleased to see you? After all we’ve spent on you?’ He turned to his men, “There’s gratitude.”
“Yeah, yeah, what’s up?”
“Clearly, you lot aren’t. The world could be falling apart, and you’d never know, would you?” He pointed at the man who’d been cuddling the young woman.
“We’ve been watching.”
“Right. Then, I don’t need to tell you it’s all about to kick off.” The gendarme said, sliding his hands into his belt, and leaning back against the wall. His men, stood on one side of the door and by the window. The sargeant looked a bit nervous, but had lots of front.
“Yeah, we’ve been told.”
“Good. So, on pentecost morning, where are you lot going to be? I know, you won’t be in the palace, those stuck up shits in the Gardes, are too precious for that.”
“Yeah, you’re right, we’ve been told to be on the road to Auxerre, ‘in case’.” The sargeant said, relaxing a bit.
“In case? In case of what? Surely the Comte Rochefort, doesn’t doubt his friends in the Gardes Françaises?”
The sargeant snorted, “I think he might.”
“So why Auxerre?”
“He thinks, the Comte Rochefort that is, la Motte, is going to bolt south. Fence the necklace in Switzerland, and head off to Spain.”
“Seems a bit round about.”
“He thinks the pantomime in Troyes, was because la Mote is from the south and so…”
‘So, he’ll go south to his friends?”
“What if I told you, he’s going to go north?”
“If he gets away.”
It’s the gendarme’s turn to laugh, “He’ll get away alright, I don’t know how yet, I don’t really care, what I want, is to catch him.”
“And you think he’ll head north.”
“Sure of it.”
“Where are you going to be then?”
“The main road to Calais?”
“You seem pretty sure of yourself.”
“He used to be my man, remember? They can hold him at every border, and in every large town within a thousand miles of Paris, and more. But, not in England.”
The sargeant thought about that, and nodded after a bit.
“Alright then, England. But why are you telling me, if you’re at Senlis? If he’s going to Calais…” and he held out his hand, as though it was a done deal.
“Yeah, he’s heading to England, and I’d say Calais, lots of English there. But it’s not the only road out of Paris and I can’t put men on all the roads without letting him know, what’s up.”
“So you want us to…?”
The gendarme captain grinned, “Exactly, I want you, to cover for me.”
“Even at the risk, we’ll get him?”
“I’m sure he’s going to pass Senlis, but…”
“But he might go by Boulogne.”
The captain grinned again, and pointed at the sargeant, speaking to his men, “ You see boys, this is what I like to work with, clever chaps who can work things out, on their own.”
The sargeant wasn’t impressed. “So you want us on the Paris, Boulogne road?”
“Where? Let me guess, Amiens?”
“A fine town, good food, lots of girls and the beer.” He kissed his fingers, as the sargeant smiled.
“But, what if our man, decides, the Boulogne road isn’t for him, and he’s gotten tired of northern beer, with all that Arrageois swill, in his belly. What, if he’s thinking, the crooked road out of Paris is clever, but the straight road is better?”
“The sargeant frowned, “But, then he’ll go by Senlis.”
The gendarmes captain shook his head slowly, “I don’t think so. I think, if he heads to Boulogne, he’ll turn off and move back to the Calais road.”
“Yeah, I can see that, but it’s a bit far from the Calais road, he’d be better hanging on until Amiens.”
“Well reasoned. I don’t care. If he’s going to Amiens, he’s going to Beauvais. If he goes that way, you’ll get him there.”
The sargeant was thinking, and agreeing, when his man piped up, but was forestalled by the return of the young woman with the fresh beer. They all shut up. She put the tray down, and waited for a moment, and then got the message. When she’d gone, they all turned to the sargeant’s man.
He swallowed, realising he was the centre of attention. “I was just going to say, um, what if, what if you’re in cahoots with him and he’s really going by Auxerre?”
The gendarme nodded and repeated, “What if we’re in cahoots with him? We worked with him and so, we do him a favour by tipping him off, in the biggest robbery in history? That it?”
“Yeah.” Then he looked around the room, and developed the impression his Parisian colleagues were less than impressed, “I mean, you might…”
“We might, it’s not out of the ball park. I don’t think it’s unrealistic. If you think that, you go to Auxerre, and wait for him there. I don’t give a shit. But I’ll let everyone know, if he passes through Beauvais, who’s to blame.”
Warmed, by the not extreme rejection of his thoughts, the trooper followed up, “But what if, on the other hand, you want us to go the Auxerre, because you know he’s going by Boulogne?”
The Captain turned to the sargeant, “That one would keep me awake at night.”
The sargeant grinned, “I’ll have to run it past the bosses anyway, but I trust you.”
“Like I said, I don’t give a shit. He could go a hundred ways out of Versailles and we’d have to put a ring of iron round it, to be sure. But I don’t think he’ll head south. Let me know.”
They took a long steady drink of the beer, and left without speaking again, as the sergeant and trooper watched. When they’d gone, the sargeant looked at his man, and shook his head.