Almost finished, Laurel Dewhurst thought to herself as she made her way to
the Rue de Chatalie. One last message she had forgotten to deliver at this
address. She didn't know who was lodging here, she had left the message under
the door as instructed and left. Secrecy was so important on this mission.
She reached the house and let herself in, wondering that she did not have to
wake the concierge to let her in. She tiptoed up the stairs and headed to the
door she had gone to before. In the silence the sounds of voices reached her.
A man's and a woman's voices were coming from the apartment.
As Laurel stood there on the landing, debating on her next
move, she heard the latch on a door. Suppressing a cry of alarm she ducked
into a dark corner in the wall. She practically held her breath as a shape
she couldn't but recognize emerged from a room at the end of the hall. It was
none other than the figure of Armand Chauvelin himself.
She shrank further
back into the niche she had hidden herself in. Her clothes were dark, dark breeches, and a deep brown shirt. She shut her eyes and prayed like she had
never prayed before. The footsteps moved away from her and down the stairs,
pausing at the bottom. Laurel heard a door shut in the distance and she
Slowly she left her niche in the wall and slipped down the hall to
pause before the door Chauvelin had just left. Chauvelin? Why would anyone
from the Guild be seeing Chauvelin? Unless..unless, there was a traitor in
their midst. Who was it?
Laurel ducked into the doorway next to her, racking
her brain for an idea, then it hit her. She retreated back to her corner at
the head of the stairs and pulled from her pocket a scrap of paper. She
scribbled a hasty note on the back with a pencil she had in her other pocket.
Thank you, Percy, she said to herself, for it was his example she followed
when she absently stuffed the pencil and papers in her pockets before leaving
Meet me in alley between the La Vialge and 12 Rue de Claire,
Laurel scribbled her best imitation of Chauvelin's signature,
which she had seen only once. She was betting that whoever this was didn't
know the signature any better than she did. It was a weak plan,Laurel knew,
but pressed as she was it was the only one she had.
Once again she made her way down the hall. A floorboard squeaked and Laurel
winced, halting in her tracks, just waiting for someone to discover her. When
nothing happened she took a breath and continued on. She reached that blasted
door and slipped the note beneath it. She hurried with all due speed back
down that dark damp corridor and to her corner that had served her so well.
Her patience was rewarded when moments later someone emerged, cloak
drawn over their head tightly as if already feeling the bitter winds that
whipped the city outside. In the gloom Laurel was unable to catch the face.
She shut her eyes again. Would to God she had been invisible at that moment.
To Laurel Dewhurst's tortured imagination, the woman seemed to look directly
at her hiding place. But it was just imagination, for this mysterious person
Laurel heard the tread down the step and then the quiet, almost
imperceptible shutting of that outside door, as well as the grumbled
complaints of the concierge, interrupted from his sleep by the movement.
Laurel waited another five minutes; she had sent the woman half way
across the city in the dark. That gave her an hour, maybe more, to do what
she had to. Fighting back self-disgust at her overt actions, Laurel once
again made her way down the hall, stepping directly on that blasted squeaky
board again. A curse that would have shocked Tony and Percy, any well-bred
Englishman, or woman, for that matter, slipped through her lips.
She wasted no more time. With the utmost care she continued down the
hall and tried the door that she had just so recently seen vacated. Locked.
She bit back another curse.
Of course it's locked, you half-wit, she thought
furiously to herself. She had to get into that room. Bribe the Concierge? No
that would in all eventuality just end with Laurel exposed and the rest of
the Guild in danger. Pick the lock? Now there was an idea. Her hair was piled
on top of her head and held in place by the cap that sat there. That cap was
held with nothing other than a hatpin.
Taking the hatpin out she knelt in front of the door and summoned up all that
old useful knowledge from when she was in school and several of the older
girls had snuck out. She pushed the pin into the lock and jiggled it about,
finding the catch. She heard the lock spring and was sure the whole house
could hear it. Try the latch. Her heart was racing when the door swung open.
Laurel stepped inside. She shut the door softly behind her and looked about
It was dingy, but clean as far as Laurel could tell in the darkness.
A window looked out over the dark street. The room was in blackness, with
only the moon and the dying embers of a fire to light anything.
Laurel managed to find a candle and light it by the embers in the
fireplace. She looked about the small room. A bed, a desk in the corner, a
small table in the middle of the room. She moved to the desk. There were
papers spread on it and a pen lay discarded atop them. She set the candle
down and began to shuffle through the papers, mostly in English, mostly just
incomprehensible notes, an address or two, the forged letter from Laurel, a
note from Eliza. Laurel sighed in frustration and a spark of hope. Perhaps
she was imagining things. There could be hundreds of explanations. As she
searched through the papers on the desk she found a key, carelessly abandoned
in the corner of the desk. Taking the candle she scanned the drawers of the
desk until she found what she was looking for. A locked drawer.
It took Laurel but a moment to open the drawer and realize what she
was looking for lay inside. A single paper, written completely in French. Her
breathing quickened as she picked up the paper and sat in the chair. She held
it closer to the candle. Her heart and hopes sunk.
the letter began. Laurel caught her breath. Kulmstead, the only traitor to
the league, of course.
The information you sent me regarding the recent activities of the
English spy known as the Scarlet Pimpernel is of great interest to me. I
shall come to you at you lodgings at midnight. Be there waiting for me and
inform your concierge that I shall be along.
Citizen Armand Chauvelin
Well that would explain why her entrance did not wake the concierge and why
the front door had remained unlocked. People had been expected. So it was the
wife of Percy's only traitor. That would make sense and Laurel admonished
herself for not having realized it sooner. Laurel herself knew the woman and
would have sworn herself to the other's sincerity.
With a start Laurel realized she had stayed too long. She quickly
folded the paper and slipped it into her pocket. Then she locked the drawer
and replaced the candle, blowing it out as she did so. There was nothing she
could do about this right now, short of lying in wait for the woman and
taking her down herself. Laurel had the feeling that would get no one
anywhere. If Eliza knew about this in time though the plans could be changed.
Lives would be saved, her brother's, Percy's, Andrew's, men who had protected
her and been her close friends all these years. She was not about to let this
woman destroy them.
There was no way of knowing what Kulmsted had told Chauvelin or
others but there was no mistaking that Chauvelin knew of the plan. As she
hurried from the room she caught sight of a figure hurrying through the rain
that had begun while Laurel was inside. Lady Kulmstead, returning and no
doubt in a fury. Laurel dashed across the room and pulled the door shut
behind her. She had left the room exactly as she had found it. Hopefully,
Lady Kulmsted would disregard the unlocked door.
Heedless of what noise she may make Laurel scurried to her corner.
There was no way she could get out without passing Kulmstead on the way, so
she would wait.
She heard the door open below, the concierge's grumpy voice as he let
someone in, a tread on the stairs, then a figure came into view in the gloom
and breezed by Laurel's hiding spot. The lady paused on her threshold as she
realized her door was open, but seemed to disregard it and stepped through
the door, closing it behind her.
Laurel wasted no more time. She dashed down the stairs as quietly as
she could, let herself out of the house and dashed through the streets of
Paris in the pelting rain. She made her way through the growing storm at a
full run, to where she knew Eliza Hastings was lodging with another Guilder.
She arrived there, out of breath, cold, and soaked to the skin, but the
letter was safe, wrapped in her cap inside her shirt.
She pounded on the door.
A cautious voice called out in French, "Who is it?"
"Eliza, for heaven's sake let me in!" Laurel's own voice sounded
strained and harsh to her ears, and she had a feeling she would have a cold
for her pains this evening. The door was pulled open and Laurel staggered in,
heedless of what she must look like, drenched with rain, her hair straggling
down her back; exhausted and horribly upset, it was all she could do to
stumble to the cot with Eliza's assistance. There was someone else in the
room who dashed off at a gesture from Eliza.
In panting, broken sentences Laurel appraised her leader of what had
occurred and what she had discovered.
Eliza jumped to her feet, staring at her like she had become
something to be feared. "You...you must be mistaken."
"M'lady, there can be no mistake...I know what I know," Laurel said
Lady Hastings twisted her hands in her skirt, her thoughts evidently
"My friend, if..if what you say is true.."
Eliza shook her head in frantic denial. "You speak of.."
"Of treason," Laurel interrupted. She felt her fear and despair
overtake her again and her shoulder's drooped. "Believe me, I know...but
there can be no other explanation. One of
the Guild has changed sides."
A glass shattered on the floor, but Laurel paid it no attention.
"It's the Lady Kulmstead."
She pulled out her hat and then the letter and
handed it to Eliza.
"There is your proof," she said. "There can be no doubt
the revolutionary government of France now knows of our plans and of any
plans of the League known to us. They must be changed, Percy must be warned
and Lady Kulmstead punished accordingly," Laurel had said what needed to be
said. She managed to add on, "I couldn't do anything there. As the leader,
you are the only one that can oust her," before she passed out from sheer
exhaustion on the narrow cot.
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