17 Security

Rene Bonfils – 21 June 1355

Thierry entered the room as if he owned it. John found himself motionless, too surprised to do anything.
‘It’s Thierry!
John moved forward to block his progress into the room but it was too late! Thierry ignored John and advanced towards Ximene and the map.
“This is remarkable” he said, as though no one else in the room had ever seen it.
“It looks as though this triangle represent some form of a guide and the lines which intersect at the right hand side, top and bottom seem to be what the observer is intended to notice.”
John immediately felt the same resentment he had experienced at Muret.
He has only been in the room for seconds and he is trying to impress Ximene, trying to make other people seem irrelevant.
At the same time John could not help but be impressed.
He has only looked at the map for an instant and yet he had summarized its purpose admirably. What is it about this clever man which causes me so much concern?
He remembered that the Earl of Salisbury shared his concerns.
What was it the Earl had said?“Learn to trust your feelings!”
Thierry launched into a series of questions.
“Which area does this map cover?”
“Is it local to the chateau?”
“Where did you get this information from?”
Ximene noticed John’s hesitation. She realized it was up to her to exert some control over this intruder.
The last time I saw this man I granted him a brief audience, during which he had presented his important message with respect. Now he is behaving as though I am subservient to him!
“I don’t think that is any of your business,” she told Thierry.
“In any case, this is our private room which you entered without invitation and I would now like you to leave”
John was surprised by how haughty she sounded, quite different from the Ximene he had been living with. Thierry was totally unimpressed. He returned Ximene’s fiery glances with a steady gaze
‘I am only trying to help you. I will, in any case, play a leading part in enabling you to escape to Sicily. I have no idea what you have stumbled across here but it would not surprise me if what we are looking at is quite possibly a treasure map. Do you realize that? Do you know what kind of treasure?’
Estevan sensed the growing tension and excused himself.
‘You must come and see me John, sometime in the next few days. I would like to give your leg a final examination to make sure there are no long term complications.”
John readily agreed realizing that Estevan was opening the opportunity for further conversation, in private, and away from Thierry.
Once Estevan had left the room Thierry made a judgment
“Be careful not to mix with the likes of him. He looks like a Moor to me and you cannot trust them”
Ximene protested immediately.
“That man, whom you say we cannot trust, saved John’s life, will you please leave our room wait for us in the cellar below”
Thierry did not move. His look said that he pitied her poor judgment.
‘I have come to find and possibly rescue Don Fernandino, do you either of you know were he is?
Ximene struggled to remain calm.
‘We do know where Don Fernandino is and he will return soon.There will be no need to rescue him.’
‘A week possibly two weeks, no longer!’
Thierry ignored Ximene’s request to leave and continued his examination of the map. “I have seen one of these three dimensional maps before. One was used to train sailors in the correct selection of lanes from the Mediterranean through the Sea of Marmara and on to the Black Sea past Constantinople. If you bend down so that your eye is at the level of the board it is mounted on you can see the actual shape of the hills just as they would be in reality”
It looks as if I am going to have to throw him out of the room. How can someone with so little feeling for others be so astute?
Thierry continued to talk impervious to the effect he was having. “When I came in you were discussing with that Moor that the targets both lay on the same north south line. I now intend to remain here until Don Fernandino arrives. If what you say is correct, that he will be away for a week or more, we should go to those targets and see what we find!”
John looked at him quereously. He explained that he had tried to do that by tracing the line from Brenac church and the difficulties he had experienced. Thierry talked to him as if John was an idiot. “Look at this would you? Someone has done all the work for us “ He produced his compass from his pocket. “A simple sailor’s tool, which you have seen before”
He spun the map around until what they now knew to be the north south line actually lay north south. He then laid the compass on the northern target.
“Look at this line which runs to Brenac from the northern target runs at an angle of 32 degrees south of west or if you prefer 32 degrees north of east if viewed from Brenac.”
He then bent down.
‘Even though that target point lies in a hollow on top of this mountain; the ridge of the hollow has a distinctive shape. If we were to make a drawing of that profile and make a note of the angle of three notable features then when we visit the actual place, by lining up the features in real life we will be able to find the exact point of the target!’
Again John was impressed. He tried to evaluate how co-operative or trustworthy Thierry might be in circumstances to his own advantage. Obviously Ximene was having similar thoughts.
‘Thierry can I have a few minutes to talk privately with John.’
There was an extended silence, which showed that Thierry wanted to object. Ximene realized the purpose of the silence and pursued her request. ‘Thierry?’
Finally Thierry acknowledged her insistance and withdrew down the staircase. Ximene waited until she was sure Thierry was out of earshot and turned to face John. She spoke urgently but almost in a whisper.
“He obviously has skill which could help us, especially in the use of that device capable of identifying north. I know we could do similar things using the fact that at noon each day the sun is directly to the south. To have that facility at any time of the day is exactly what we want”
John looked earnestly at Ximene.
“Is there any way we can test whether Thierry is a Cathar or a very believable impostor?”
Ximene thought for a moment.
“Well we could question him about Cathar beliefs but if he is a clever impostor, he could have learned all that, just I could answer questions about the faith of the Church of Rome.” She hesitated. ‘The absolute test is a man’s approach to a woman. Men who have been brought up by the Church of Rome tend to see women as inferior beings. They believe they have the right to take advantage of any woman who they consider “available”. No one brought up in the Cathar faith would ever make such an assumption. As you have learned so well, it is necessary first to express your admiration for a woman and then await her acceptance of your suit.’
She saw the sudden glint in John’s eye.
“Absolutely not! He is a very attractive man but I would never offer myself as
“available” as part of a test!
John shook his head
“Sorry that is not what I was suggesting”
Now it was John’s turn to hesitate.
“I was only thinking about how we might use him. He might be useful to us but I could not bring myself to trust him. The Earl of Salisbury, who is very experienced, believes that he knows far more than he should. Suppose we did find something valuable, would he betray us to keep it for himself?”
Ximene again hesitated.
‘Íf we use him we could then mount a watch and if he tries to slip away, arrest him’
‘Hmmm now he has found us here we should probably do that anyway’
She looked at John appealingly ‘You could arrest him couldn’t you John?’
John nodded agreement but internally had serious reservations.
I have no knowledge of how well he can fight. His sword looks as if it is more for decoration than serious use, but… I just don’t know!’
He pulled on his sword.
“If that is what you have in mind I had better make sure that my weapons are close to hand. First let me talk to him.’
He stopped and the gleam reappeared in his eye.
Ah! I know what we can do. We can involve Estevan if he is willing. With two of us to keep an eye on him we should be safe enough”
Thierry was waiting at the bottom of the staircase effectively blocking John’s exit into the cellar. John reasoned that as Thierry could have no advantage in trapping them in the upper room it was more likely to be just an unfortunate example of his aggressive tendancies.
“Excuse me, Thierry” John pushed past him
“we have a need to talk.’
John turned before he reached the centre of the cellar, Thierry had his back to the stairs. Ximene appeared on the stairs behind him,
“When we last spoke Thierry, you were on your way back to Port Vendres. As I understand it you have permanent role with “Les Etoille”. Is your visit to us now part of that role?
Thierry answered reluctantly.
‘In a way yes, because I volunteered to rescue Don Fernandino, a deputy took over my role in Port Vendres. Then when I left you as we approached Foix, I was tracked by a Guillam, a supposed friend of Don Fernandino’
‘Guillam left with Don Fernandino without letting me know where he was going. I have no means of knowing whether this person Guillam was actually a friend, although Don Fernandino greeted him well enough. It is possible that Don Fernandino is still in danger.’
John waited patiently, he knew that at least this part of Thierry’s story was true. From behind Thierry, Ximene nodded, which John took to mean some form of approval. Thierry continued
‘My superior in ‘Les Etoile’ gave me the task of finding Don Fernandino and perhaps rescuing him yet again… or reporting his unfortunate demise. I have been given an appointment in the security branch of ‘Les Etoilles’. In theory I now work for Don Fernandino…that is if he ever returns’
John’s eyes opened wide at the thought that both Thierry and himself were in the same business. However he thought this left more than one question unanswered. He chose to pursue the most obvious one.
“How did you find us here?”
Thierry now responded willingly.
‘I was on the dockside when Don Fernandino was first attacked. Waiting for him was a gypsy wagon drawn by gypsy horses. When I first rescued him he was very keen to keep the wagon and a huge array of gypsy merchandise safe. From this I concluded that he intended to use a gypsy identity, as cover during his escape. I also knew that he would have been using back routes during his escape plans and concluded that either he or Guillam or perhaps both of them would have tried to position themselves somewhere on the escape route. I hired a gypsy, who knows the Romany language loaded the wagon with the merchandise and came north through the Gorge d’Algy’
‘All this was just conjecture?’
‘Yes but I had to start somewhere. I had discovered that there are two gypsy festivals during the summer months. The really big one is at Les Trois Maries, near Marsailles but that is too far away to be relevant. The second one is, however, at Rennes les Bains, just down the track from here. That would have been where Don Fernandino would have joined the gypsies’
‘Still conjecture’
‘ If you had worked in security, you would know that you have to back your own intuition’
John bristled
‘You have, yourself, on your own admission, only worked in security for a matter of weeks’
Ximene pushed past Thierry ‘Boys! Boys! Thierry please stick to the story.
Thierry responded with unbridled aggression.
‘But he keeps interrupting me’
“ He is actually just checking his understanding of what you are telling him, but I agree he is doing it in an unnecessarily aggressive manner.’
John could hardly believe what he was hearing, it seemed to him that Ximene was siding with Thierry. It showed on his face
Ximene continued somewhat coldly.
“I have personal knowledge, which John has never shared, which confirms the validity of your story so far.”
John glared at Ximene. Again she had sided with Thierry, who was a totally unknown quantity, and what was this about information she had not shared with him.
Ximene sensed John’s unrest and guessed one of his concerns.
‘It was whilst you were unconcious John. I heard Guillam and Don Fernandino discussing the original plans for escape.’
‘Oh. Oh!’John softened the tone of his voice but was determined to keep control.
‘Please continue Thierry’
Thierry glaced at Ximene seeking approval to continue and possibly seeking to extend her support. She nodded, John fumed.
“It was just after the festival at Rennes les Bains there were streams of gypsys going south. Many of them were heading for Perpignan, a big enough town for them to peddle their wares. We became like a roadside warehouse enabling them to replenish their supplies. We drove a hard bargain, they would have been suspicious otherwise. All the time we were bargaining I made sure we talked about the festival and what they had done there. Eventually one family told me that they had camped on the plain above Rennes les Baines and that they had seen a most unusual sight. A young man and woman riding naked on two magnificent grey thoroughbred horses. They had followed them, part out of curiosity part to see if there was a chance of stealing the horses. However they lost track of them close the summer palace of the Bishops of Albi – Chateau Mazerou.
John was now horrified.
We were not careful enough! How many other people saw us?
“If you were told that, they could have told other people”
‘Relax, it would have just have seemed like a fairy story to anyone else. I would have been the only one talking to the gypsies who would have known the significance of what I was told. I knew it must be you, as a saw the grey horses on the ride from Muret to Foix, but naked? He gazed at Ximene, mentally stripping her.
Ximene knew only too well what he was doing and blushed.
She now asked a question partly to deflect attention from her embarrassment.
‘But how did you find your way in here.’
‘I circled round the chateau and saw little of interest. There are another set of modern stables against the northern wall but there were no grey horses. Then I came down here. The need to thread my way through the pile of decrepit old waggons and various farm implements outside the doorway nearly put me off, once I was inside, the clean empty shelves were a give away. There was not a spec of dust on them!’
Suddenly John felt very vulnerable.
“ If you could find your way in then so could anyone else!
Thierry turned to face John his half smile transforming into a snarl.
‘You underestimate me John. Don’t forget that I am a member of “Les Etoilles’ with considerable experience. We have many secret rooms in which we can if necessary hide people. I knew exactly what I was looking for. Generally speaking this is an extremely good safe house.’
John jumped on this last piece of information.
“If you have been in Les Etoille for a “considerable’ time then you would know how to prove your identity to another member of Les Etoille?
‘Of course’
‘Ximene, we should ask Maurice to join us and find out if he knows how to identify a member of “Les Etoille”.
Ximene pulled him to one side and whispered urgently. ‘I don’t know John, another piece of information I gained when you were unconscious is that Maurice is not a member of “les Etoilles’
‘But he works with them he may know”
After a tense hour Maurice emerged from the tunnel and confirmed he had the skills and knowledge to identify a member of ‘Les Etoille.’
He asked Ximene and John to leave whilst he performed the check. They retired to the upper room. He joined them within five minutes.
“His credentials are first class’
John’s eyes narrowed. As far as he could remember that was the exact phrase Paine De Roet had used when he introduced Thierry at Muret. Did the phrase have some specific meaning? Maurice continued speaking.
‘However that only confirms that Thierry is a relatively high ranking member of “les Etoilles”. It does not tell us anything about his current objectives or wether he has been “turned” by some external paymaster. If so we may all be in danger, never let him out of your sight. Let him sleep in the second chamber off the bathouse down here. The screen can be locked from the outside”
Ximene thanked Maurice who departed. She turned to John.
“ We really could use him and what he told us had a ring of truth’
‘ I agree, but I want to ask one more question.
They descended once more to the cellar
After informing Thierry that they were satisfied with his story, which John hoped would make Thierry relax, John suddenly asked the question.
“How did you prove to the managers at the chateau that you were a member of “les Etoiles?”
Thierry gazed at John with an even, steady gaze.
“I don’t think you would really expect me to tell you that, would you?”
John was now totally satisfied. It was exactly the right answer from someone involved security!
“No, but with your experience in security, you will not be surprised to know that we will never let you out of our sight and you will sleep every night in a locked room!’

The most dangerous woman in the world