Regular footsteps sounded in the empty hospital corridor. A young woman walked straight towards a specific room, head held high. The room was on the third floor of the hospital, in the internal medicine ward. Her brown high heels sounded overly loud in the otherwise quiet area.
Although it was already 10 a.m., only a handful of nurses, patients and visitors were around. When she stood in front of the right door, the brunette woman straightened her blue wraparound skirt and the champagne-colored silk blouse and tightened the knot of the belt around her waist. Then she opened the door and stepped into the room. It was a double room, but the first bed was unoccupied. She went straight past it to the second one, where a young man was sleeping. A chair beside his bed suggested frequent visitors.
The woman sat down in the chair, placing her brown clutch decorated with a small lighter bow in her lap. The man looked so peaceful lying in the bed. His face was completely relaxed. She gently pushed
a strand of hair out of his face and then took one of his hands in hers.
Apparently he hadn't been sleeping too deeply, because the touch woke him up and he slowly opened his eyes, blinking a few times to get used to the light in the room. He immediately recognized who had woken him, smiled at her and raised her hand to his mouth. She couldn't help smiling back at him. He breathed a gentle kiss on her small hand and rested it on his chest, close to the place that two weeks ago had almost ended his life. Today all that remained was a large bandage. Neither the man nor the woman sitting by his side said anything. They just enjoyed the moment in silence, looking deep into each other's eyes, glad that they were still together.
Almost an hour passed, before their precious moment was broken by a doctor entering the room. "Ah, Madame Bonancieux, I had a feeling, you would be here again," he said, smiling at her. His patient, who was still confined to the bed, didn't seem to like it.
"Do you have good news for us, Doc?" Constance asked.
"Of course. I spoke to your local physician, D'Artagnan, if you take it easy for a while and make sure that the wounds are checked daily, you can go home tomorrow."
At Chateau Fontainebleau, high heels clacked through the corridors of the venerable old building. The wearer, a young blonde woman, was busy checking her cellphone, answering e-mails while walking. The servants who encountered her, stepped aside and let her pass, partly out of courtesy and partly because her eyes were fixed on her phone, so that she wasn't really aware of her surroundings. Due to the high temperatures, which by now had found their way inside even the thick walls of the chateau, she wore a salmon colored cocktail dress decorated with ornaments. So as not to show too much skin for her meeting, she had also chosen a champagne colored blazer. Her shoes were of a similar color, while her handbag, which held a tablet with the most important data, matched the color of her dress.
She went through the door into the council room, where a number of employees were seated at various tables, working on their laptops. One of the men noticed her and came over.
"Ah, Anne, I hope the meeting at the bank was successful. We acquired some property in Paris and digitized the accounts. You'll find an exposé of the current overseas companies at your desk."
"Thanks, Pascal, I'll look at it immediately." Anne took a seat towards the back of the room, facing the window. She took the tablet out of her back and set it up, then she opened the exposé and looked at the documents. Two weeks had passed since the incident with Marmion. The bodyguards had been able to prevent any more killing. She and Constance had been saved by Aramis and had not been hurt.
At least not physically. However, she was still in shock and glad, that Aramis spent almost every night with her, so she didn't have to be alone, since she suffered from frequent nightmares. Now she buried herself in her work. Constance had understood, she had done the same. When she wasn't with D'Artagnan at the hospital, she was at the desk next to Anne, and together they took Louis's business empire to new heights.
A lot had happened in the last two weeks, but Anne's thoughts returned back to the task at hand. She had to report their success and the current situation to Louis, who had mostly withdrawn from business matters. However, he was still CEO and in most cases the only authorized representative.
She collected the necessary documents and her tablet and left the room to go to Louis. She found him on the sofa in his sitting room, still in his pajamas and a bathrobe.
"Anne, how is the busy bee?" he asked, not looking up from the newspaper he was reading. On a small table beside him, a cup of coffee was steaming.
"Louis, nice to see you. I need you to sign some documents and I would like to give you an update," she said.
"Just put the documents on the table over there and I'll sign them. As for the update, I don't need it, I trust you to do the right thing." He looked up for a moment, but he couldn't meet her eyes for long.
Anne saw, what she had already seen two weeks ago. Out of all of them, Louis was affected the most. He blamed himself for all the deaths and tried to distract himself with women, drugs and alcohol. In first days, she had found him completely stoned in the bathroom and had notified Treville immediately, who had taken the necessary measures. The next day, Louis had been hungover, but with a halfway clear head again and the whole incident had been kept so secret that only she and Treville knew about it. In the following days, Louis respected his limits, but he withdrew from all business matters and spent most of the time in his rooms, hardly ever seen anymore in the corridors of the chateau or in Fontainebleau. Things couldn't go on like this any longer, and Anne had an idea, how Louis could regain his former strength. She sat down beside him on the sofa, not minding that he paid more attention to the newspaper than to her.
"I have news from Feron. Our prospective projects at the Cote D'Azur are in the final preparation phase, and we can begin realizing them soon. However, Feron requests the presence of both of us."
"I think my esteemed brother will be able to finish things on his own. We're only opening a branch office there, the headquarters will stay at Fontainebleau. Paris is still the place where deals are made."
"Yes, but I think your presence will speed up the process and show the local people your appreciation. And I could get a clearer picture of the situation at site," Anne argued.
Louis put down the newspaper, but he still wasn't looking at her. "Anne, I don't think my presence will have any positive effect."
"No, that's not true." Anne put her hand on his and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Louis, we have been the victims of a madman. Please, you have to try to come to terms with this. And I think a trip like this would help all of us with that."
"How could a business trip help us?"
"Well, we could combine business with pleasure. We'll build up a network, admire Feron's work and help him where necessary, but on the whole we'll just take a vacation. I think it will be good for all of us to leave the chateau behind for a couple of days."
Louis thought about it. Anne felt that she had managed to get through to him somehow and she didn't want to pressure him any further. "Just think about it, we can discuss it tomorrow." She stood up and left the room, leaving Louis on the sofa, staring thoughtfully into the air.
As every Monday, Treville and Athos had their weekly briefing. Athos was currently summarizing the measures that had already been implemented after the hostage situation to prevent further incidents. "We increased the number of guards. All servants who have even the slightest connection to Marmion have been laid off with severance payment."
Treville nodded. He trusted Athos to know what needed to be done, when, and how. He hadn't chosen the man as his second-in-command for nothing.
"Nathan' probation isn't over for some time yet, but I think especially in the current situation we should consider our demand for competent employees. He has proven to be loyal more than once." Athos had taken a liking to the young man.
"But he doesn't exactly fit our profile for the security team. He doesn't fulfill the physical requirements," Treville argued. It wasn't derogatory, he was just voicing what Athos had thought about himself.
"That's true, but those of us, who do fulfill the physical requirements, can't do half the things he does with technical equipment."
"That's true as well. Maybe we've come to the point where we can't just rely on strength and tactics, but have to take the chateau into the digital age. Very well, talk to him. Ask him, if he wants to stay, you have my approval."
Athos nodded thankfully. Having Nathan in the team would make things a lot easier in the long run. Honestly, none of them, not even his three friends, were as good with technical matters as Nathan. "Aramis is still recovering from his injuries. His ribs are healing well and he helps us with administrative work. Also he keeps an eye on the new recruits and helps with their training. You know how he is, he won't take it easy, but I think in a few days he'll be back to full duty." Athos continued.
"That's good to hear. We're operating more or less with a skeleton crew at the moment, so we need all hands on deck." Treville glanced at the personnel roster, which had become considerably shorter in the last couple of days. "Porthos helps out the guards, taking over a shift here and there. All in all we've managed to cover all areas."
Athos paused for a moment, only continuing when Treville looked up. "I couldn't find Marmion. I'm still looking and followed a few leads, but they all got cold over time."
"Athos, we will find him." Treville wanted to reassure him. It was terrible that Marmion had managed to get away, but there had been more important matters during the rescue, no one was to blame for his escape. So far, Marmion had remained undetected. Even the police hadn't been able to find him. On the other hand, if the king's men were unable to find him, why should the police fare any better.
There was a reason after all, why the people of Fontainebleau and Paris called the "musketeers" first and the police secondly.
"How's D'Artagnan doing?" Athos asked.
"Better. The doctors will release him tomorrow. His wound is healing well. He has to take it slow and easy and Lemay needs to examine him regularly, but there won't be any lasting damage." Treville had only gotten the good news an hour ago himself, and he was especially glad about it. On the day of the attack, it hadn't looked too good for the youngest of the four friends. All the better that things had turned out alright in the end.
"Athos, I need you to cover for me tonight," Treville said. Before Athos could protest, he raised his hand and continued. "I know you want to continue your search for Marmion, but for tonight the hunt has to pause. I have important matters to attend to and I want to know the chateau is in good hands in my absence." Athos nodded, disgruntled. They couldn't afford to give Marmion any more of a head start than the man already had, but Treville wouldn't have made the request, if it wasn't of the highest priority.
"What are you going to do? Do you want one of the men to go with you?" He looked at Treville questioningly.
"No, thanks, I'll deal with it on my own," Treville answered, ending the meeting. Athos rose and left the room.
Around lunchtime, Constance came back from the hospital. One of the recruits and three guards had accompanied her, but had stayed outside the room at the hospital. They said goodbye at the door and Constance went to Anne's rooms.
"Hello, Anne," she said. Her friend looked up from the newspaper she had been reading. "Ah, Constance, you come at the right time, I've just been served a light lunch. Please take a seat."
Constance put down her handbag and joined Anne at the table.
"So, how's D'Artagnan?" Anne asked, while they were eating. Lunch consisted of sandwiches and salat, since they both weren't really hungry.
"Much better. Apparently he's well enough, that he can be released tomorrow."
"Oh Constance, that sounds wonderful, I'm so glad for you!"
Constance beamed with joy. "Yes, he needs to take it easy for a while, but we'll see much more of each other now, and I don't have to drive to the hospital every day."
Anne nodded, glad to see Constance happy again. Her friend had had a difficult couple of weeks.
"How is Aramis doing?"
Anne blushed. Constance was the only person who knew about it and although between them they talked freely about it, she still wasn't really used to it. "He's okay, His injury is healing well, and he has a lot to do training the recruits and helping with the restructuring."
Constance nodded. A lot of things were changing at the Chateau, it was a time of renewal. A large number of personnel had been let go and everyone was wary of hiring new people. No wonder after what had happened. In order to turn their discussion to more positive topics, Anne told Constance about her work. Since she spent the mornings at the hospital, Constance missed some of the meetings, but Anne completely understood and always brought her friend up to speed over lunch. "The finances are looking good and I think we'll close the business year with a substantial plus."
Constance nodded. She hadn't expected anything else, since everything Anne touched turned to gold.
"Feron, Louis' brother, has invited us to come to the Cote D'Azur," Anne continued.
"He has?" Constance was slightly confused.
"Yes, he'll open a branch office for Louis there and is in the last planning phase. I think he wants to brag about it to us. It would be a good opportunity for us to get out of the chateau."
"Oh yes, especially for Louis. I hardly see him anymore."
"He has mostly withdrawn from business matters, and he wasn't very enthusiastic about the trip either."
"He has a lot to get over. Just talk to him again about the trip," Constance suggested. Sometimes you had to give people a little nudge in the right direction.
"You're right, I'll just have to make him consider it. He'll see that a change of scenery will be good for him."
After his talk with Athos, Nathan was on his way back to the guard room. He wanted to give Marc and Henry, who had also become a good friend, the good news. Both of them were standing in front of the lockers, discussing the new weapons.
"Oh, hey, Nathan," Marc greeted him. Henry turned around to him, since he had been standing with his back to the door. "We've been waiting for you. You have your fitness test to get through."
"Forget about the fitness test. Athos just talked to me. He spoke with Treville and my probation is over, I'm definitely a part of the team now!" Nathan said, grinning widely. He was rarely so open with his emotions, but here at the chateau he had immediately felt at home. And now he had arrived in the team and with the other security men.
"Man, I'm so happy for you!" Henry said, patting his shoulder appreciatively. "Congrats, dude", Marc said as well.
"Let's celebrate! Tonight, the cave?" Nathan suggested.
"The cave?" Henry was confused. "The cave is a bar in Fontainebleau. We discovered it last week," Marc explained. "Okay, then let's check out this cave," Henry said, laughing, but then his expression changed.
"Hey, man, what's wrong?" Nathan asked. Marc already had an idea.
"I just hate sitting around here all the time. With D'Artagnan in hospital, I don't have assignments anymore," Henry said.
"I told you that's going to change again. Grapevine has it that D'Artagnan will be released soon," Marc tried to reassure him.
"Exactly, that's what I heard as well. Come on, you can boss me around now. Although I don't have to take the test, Athos told me I have to work on my fitness. Let's go jogging." Nathan and Marc dragged Henry outside.
"Have you heard that the king has a woman?" Marc asked as they were stepping through the door into the garden.
"A woman?" Nathan didn't get it immediately.
"Well, a woman, a lady friend. Someone has seen her in his bedroom. And another guard saw her coming out of the room at night, naked and wrapped only in a blanket," Marc recounted the rumor.
After the talk with Constance over lunch, Anne had found new courage and went to see Louis again. Before she reached the door, it was suddenly opened and a woman came running out. She laughed charmingly and was not exactly dressed for the occasion. Louis ran after her and chased her down the corridor.
Anne was so surprised by the scene playing out in front of her that she stopped in her tracks and watched the two of them. Louis was so taken in by the beautiful stranger, that he didn't notice Anne's presence. Porthos stood near the door and watched the scene just like Anne. Unlike her however, he wasn't quite so surprised by it. He had gotten used to things like that since he tood the occasional double shifts and had been posted to the king's rooms a couple of times. Once Anne had managed to take her eyes off the frolicking couple, she noticed Porthos and went over to him. Porthos noticed that she was blushing, apparently the situation was uncomfortable for her.
"Porthos, do you know the lady with Louis?"
Porthos nodded and leaned down to her conspiratorially. "Yes, Madam. That is Milady de Winter, the king's new love interest."
Night had fallen over Paris. Treville had parked his car, an unobtrusive limousine, two streets away and walked along the dimly lit streets of the city. In the middle of the Rue du Dr Magnan he stopped beneath a streetlight. It wasn't especially bright, but it would be easier to see him there.
A short time later, he hadn't even needed to take his phone out of his pocket to while away the time, a luxurious limousine arrived and stopped at his lantern. Without waiting for permission, he opened the rear door and got into the car. When he had closed the door again, the car drove off. Like the outside, the inside of the car was made only of the finest materials. However, Treville didn't really notice the splendor of it, he immediately turned to the man sitting beside him.
"Monsieur Treville, do you have what you promised me?"
Treville nodded and handed over and envelope.
"Thank you. Maybe I should do more business with you," the man said, tapping on the shoulder of the chauffeur. "I think not, Monsieur Savoy." the captain said.
The chauffeur stopped again and Treville got out of the car, which then drove off into the inner city. Treville looked around, but didn't see anyone, so he returned to his own car.