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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Adventures of Felix Mephisto, Gentleman: Part 2

Chapter 4. In which: A Taste of Power & the Imbecility of Minions Gives Felix Pangs of Guilt

Arriving at the Baron's apartments still groggy and sore, Felix made to head off to get some sleep, but this was to be delayed. While the others divested themselves of their outdoor garments so as to get comfortable, Hugo took off his hat to reveal a shock of long hair and an obvious talent for disguise: 'he' was none other than Marie Hugo- a female, of all things! The Baron and Piedro's surprise wasn't shared by Felix, still too intent on sleep to care. But he still wasn't going to get his much needed rest, for there came an immediate and unexpected knock at the door.

Upon answering the Baron was surprised to see none other than the Constable General himself. Expressing irritation at the fact that our intrepid investigators hadn't made a report as per instructions (which Felix deflected with a reference to what had befallen that afternoon), the Constable General explained that, in the light of France's victory at the Battle of Rocroi last May, it had been decided at Court to build a series of fortifications along the Spanish-Dutch border. A certain M. Moulin- head of the already familiar Bank of the Brothers de Vittoria- was going to be in charge of funding, while some Baron de Gras was going to oversee the project. Our heroes didn't need the Constable General's word that this was relevant to their investigations, but they listened politely enough in any event.

The Constable General's amateur agents gave their tardy report thereafter. Pronouncing himself satisfied with their efforts thus far, the Constable General gave his assent to the plan to seek the Chevalier Didonner in his town house. He prepared a warrant permitting our heroes to search the premises, telling them that they could call on a patrol of his guard if their assistance should prove needful. Then he took his leave.

Felix finally got the sleep he so craved. The others whiled the time away at cards and general idling.

And so it was that, a couple of hours before dawn, our fearless four set out in a carriage to the Chevalier's by now familiar house. Confronting the door, Marie found herself baffled by the lock. Piedro wasn't so baffled, but his strength was defeated by the door being solidly barred on the inside.

Our heroes knocked.

As the door swung open, Piedro kicked it in and Felix burst through to point his pistol at the same old flunkey. Brooking neither argument nor dissent, and with a startlingly threatening demeanour, Felix explained that the man's master was a traitor to France and that he himself would suffer an accomplice's fate if he didn't cooperate fully- a point that was reiterated whenever our hero felt it needful (which was quite often, given the young man's wrathful desire for vengance on his would-be assassin and the evil fellow's masters).

Didonner's servants were rounded up at gunpoint and locked in the dining room, by which time a goodly proportion of them were hysterical- something which left Felix not quite as unmoved as he appeared to demonstrate. The house was searched. The Baron and Marie found the Chevalier's cellars, which they promptly sampled. Van Horstmann soon found a message written in a cipher the key to which had been found at the start of the investigation, which key Piedro had wisely retained. Decoded, the message revealed that a meeting was to take place in a nearby graveyard at 7 of the evening.

The Chevalier's flunkey explained that his master had departed at about 7 the previous evening, which news led Felix to believe that the undated message referred to the evening of the day just dawning. Marie and Piedro confirmed this with a quick visit to the appointed rendezvous point, where Piedro quickly found that the ground didn't show the footprints of a recent large gathering.

Meanwhile Felix and the Baron soon attracted the attention of a passing patrol of the city guard, who were deputised to fetch the reinforcements promised by the Constable General. Marie and Piedro returned and the reinforcments having arrived, it was decided to make an attempt at the basement of the bank into which so many wearers of the red kerchief had been seen to descend only the other day.

Two guards were left to watch the Chevalier's servants, with instructions from Felix to keep them securely under lock and key, while the remaining 7 accompanied our intrepid heroes up the street ready to assist in case of resistance. Face swathed in a scarf purloined from Didonner's house and red kerchief worn just so, Felix descended to the basement door and knocked.

No answer.

Some thought was given to breaking in by use of pry-bars or black powder, until it dawned on our companions that breaking into the basement of a bank in the service of the Crown might not be... appropriate. Felix in particular began to realise that- having spent his entire annual disposal and his savings in the few days of this mission, the last thing he wanted to do was to endanger the lucrative reward which he felt must be his just desserts on completion of his hazardous service to France. So our agents of the Crown returned to the Chevalier's house to consider their next move, to be astonished and stunned to find it empty.

Their first thought was treachery on the part of one of the guards- the Constable General had repeatedly warned our heroes about infiltration of his department. Felix's next thought was the cook, who he knew had keys. In any event our 4 companions made haste to the offices of the Constable General to report to him this dire news. There they discovered that the entire household of servants had been carted off to the Bastille by a guard who had taken Felix's instruction about 'under lock and key' a lot more literally than our young gentleman had intended.

Even the vengeful young Felix felt a twinge of guilt at his part in such a fate visited upon the innocent servants of a treacherous man, and he put in a plea for their release upon the conclusion of the whole affair, a plea which he hoped the Constable General would hear and attend to. Thereafter everyone repaired again to the Chevalier's townhouse there to await their confrontation with the red kerchief plotters that same evening.
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