Boehmer and Bassange
The coffee house had begun to gather clients, as those who worked at night headed home, and those who worked days went to do just that. Whichever direction they were going, they all seemed to eat the same thing. Bread, cheese, those heading home, some light beer, those on the way out, coffee or chocolate. Lamotte and Rochefort, had in front of them a pot of coffee, empty, the remains of a basic breakfast, and two empty glasses, that might once have contained cognac, fortification against the night. Despite these legendary inducements to conversation, it was clear that there had been precious little of that, and they sat in silence. Not for much longer, as one of the Night Watch’s men came in to the room, and coming over to Rochefort said,
“The gentlemen have arrived, sir, and are currently opening the establishment.”
Rochefort nodded and rose. Moving more slowly, Lamotte stood and straightened his coat and slipped his satchel over his shoulder. The Watchman turned, and threaded his way back through the crowd, to the door, followed by the two aristos. As he passed the proprietor, Lamotte said to him,
“The Comte Rochefort will pay, put it on his tab would you?”
“Yes sir, thank you.”
“And a little bit extra for yourself, for getting you out of bed, thank you.”
“Right sir, thank you.”
Rochefort turned as he walked making eye contact with Lamotte. He turned away again and continued outside, but said nothing. Lamotte grinned and followed.
The rumour of robbery along with the early opening of the shop had gathered a small crowd in the street. As the watchman and the two officers approached they pulled back. The party, led by Rochefort ignored them and marched into the shop. The place was a hive of people pulling out drawers and checking stock. On the Mezzanine floor an anxious older member of staff, aproned for work, was standing with the older watchman beside the door to the vault room, which was open. The party from the coffee-house came upstairs, and Rochefort walked straight into the vault room.
Inside, the vault was open, and every drawer seemed to have been pulled out. Rochefort’s head snapped round at Lamotte, as the room had the look of having been ransacked. Lamotte was taken aback, but smiled as the larger of the two owners appeared from round the door, looking relaxed.
“How much is missing?” Rochefort asked.
“Mmmm? What? Missing?”
“From your stock, sir, what has been taken?”
Another head appeared round the corner.
“Missing? What’s missing, Charles?”
Charles turned from his colleague back to Rochefort.
“Is something missing?”
“Sir, I do not know, I presumed, given the chaos, that something was surely amiss.”
Again Charles looked around, and then back at Paul, who in turn, looked around, and then both looked at Rochefort.
“Chaos? What chaos?” as Charles Boehmer
“This,” and Rochefort waved his hand around the room indicating, everything. Lamotte stood in the doorway, grinning as he watched. Boehmer and Bassange looked again at one another, then another turn around the room.
“Do you mean our stock-take? If we are to find out if something is missing, we must first take everything out to check. We check as everything comes out, and again as everything is put back.”
“So you have checked once?”
“We have, sir, and we are checking again.”
“And is anything missing?”
“Nothing has so far, shown itself to be missing.” said Charles.
“Or not shown itself, and thereby be missing.” echoed Paul.
Rochefort looked at the men with forcefully sealed lips, and put the information he needed together in his head. His mood was not improved when, on turning, he was met by a broadly grinning Lamotte.
“It would seem you have been vindicated.” and Rochefort gave a shallow bow. Lamotte returned the bow, and stepped aside to let, the less than happy, cavalryman pass. Once past Rochefort stopped, and turned bringing Lamotte up short.
“Do not mistake me sir, you have been vindicated in that, you have not been found to have stolen anything, but, I still do not believe your story of a phantom thief, and your supposed derring-do. I doubt I shall have the occasion to meet you again, but pray sir, that the circumstances, if we do meet, are a good deal more favourable, than this first acquaintance.”
If Lamotte had a long or stinging reply to this, he held it in satisfying himself with a deep bow, and his grin, which, in truth, could not have gotten broader without dislocating his jaw. Rochefort turned, and with the Watch in tow, left. Lamotte turned round, looked at the exposed fortune, and sighed deeply, following the wounded aristo out of the shop.
A few moments later Boehmer’s head appeared round the door, watching as the last of the parties left the premises. He echoed Lamotte’s sigh. Bassange’s head appeared beside him and he looked up at the taller, larger man.
“What shall we do?”
“We press ahead. We can’t back down now especially. It was made for the court, we have to try to sell it to the court.”
“Might have been better if it had been stolen.”
“Might have? It would certainly have been better and with this crowd,” he pointed down at the door, “it would have been very public.”
“The thieves, or the fence, would have realised their mistake.”
“But would hardly have put that about.”
“Whereas, if we’d said that it had been stolen, and it had not...”
“Exactly, that would have reached all the wrong ears.”
“What a to do. We can’t sell it, we can’t break it up without admitting we can’t sell it, and it would seem we are too secure to have it stolen.”
“Who will buy it if the Queen does not?”
“Who could wear it at court if they did?”
"It could be the end of us."
They continued to stare at the door, their departing saviours, and the milling crowd, who had begun to disperse.