Authors note: Thanks for all the great reviews. It's time to catch the killer…
Aramis watched from his hiding place as d'Artagnan walked along the road, the young man was careful to pause outside the butchers long enough to draw attention to his suspicious behaviour. A man walked passed and d'Artagnan picked his pocket, carefully secreting the stolen money bag in his own pocket. Aramis glanced across to the building opposite the butchers Porthos was watching from a window, he nodded to Aramis who smiled. The plan was working, Lambert had taken an interest.
They had two more volunteers for d'Artagnan to steal from ready to walk down the road. One more disguised musketeer and Constance, who had been more than willing to help them out.
D'Artagnan was looking for his next target, Barbotin, in a borrowed doublet wandered passed, Aramis smirked as the musketeer did not look very comfortable in the fine jacket. D'Artagnan stepped forward and skilfully took the jewelled dagger that was pushed into Barbotin's belt. If Barbotin had noticed he did not react.
Next came Constance with a basket over her arm, she paused to look in the window of the bakery, d'Artagnan passed her and took a handkerchief from her basket as he did so. Pretending not to notice Constance wandered off along the road, her part in the pantomime complete.
Aramis was impressed, Porthos had clearly taught the young man well in the few hours since they had come up with their plan. And d'Artagnan was making the thefts only obvious to Lambert. It would not do if someone else were to notice and draw attention to him. Porthos signalled Aramis that Lambert was on the move. The butcher had pulled off his apron and left his shop to follow d'Artagnan along the road.
As d'Artagnan walked away with Lambert following, Aramis and Porthos emerged from their respective hiding places and followed at a discreet distance. As they reached the end of the road, d'Artagnan deliberately turned off into a quite alleyway. This was going to be the hardest part, d'Artagnan had to allow himself to be caught and the rest of them had to watch it happen, without interfering.
They could not prove Lambert was responsible until he had attacked d'Artagnan. But they also needed to catch him before he hurt their friend, or worse.
D'Artagnan turned into the alleyway, he knew Athos was watching from across the street and that Aramis and Porthos would be following. When he had become aware of Lambert leaving his shop he had made his way along the road, hoping the man was following him. He could not risk looking back. Now that he was in the quiet, away from the bustle of the main road d'Artagnan could hear Lambert's footsteps behind him.
The footsteps gained in pace and as d'Artagnan turned he was grabbed and an arm was pulled across his neck, squeezing. The butcher was strong, d'Artagnan fought back. He thought, as his vision blurred, that he probably would not have been able to fight the man off even if he was making a concerted effort.
For a few seconds' he wondered if the plan was a good one. Then he did not think at all.
They hurried to reach the turning, Porthos peeked around, in time to see Lambert dragging a limp d'Artagnan into a building off the alleyway. Athos joined them from across the street.
'Our plan seems to be working,' he said as he led the way towards the door that Lambert had taken d'Artagnan though.
Whilst Aramis continued passed to try and find an alternate entrance Porthos and Athos pushed the door open. The building, clearly unused, was dusty with cobwebs littering the walls and ceiling. It was also quite dark, there was a dim light coming from the dust covered windows but they did not have much to work with.
They stood quietly by the door for a few moments. A creak above them indicated where they should go. They trod carefully, not wanting to give themselves away, as they climbed the steps to the first floor. A flicker ahead of them told them what they needed to know, Lambert had found a place to deal with his latest victim. They crept forward.
Ahead of them they could see Lambert standing in front of a table, he had his back to them. Lying on the table was the prone form of d'Artagnan. Lambert was pulling off d'Artagnan's doublet and shirt. Porthos glanced across at Athos who was ready to rush in at any moment. They knew they had to wait until Lambert did something to incriminate himself. They were waiting for him to employ the silver knife on d'Artagnan's back.
Once the unconscious musketeer had been stripped to the waist, his doublet and shirt carefully put to one side Lambert turned him onto his front. D'Artagnan had not stirred, Porthos noticed the marks around the man's neck, Lambert had throttled his friend until he was unconscious.
Lambert reached into his pocket and pulled out the knife, he leaned over d'Artagnan and pressed the tip of the blade to his skin.
Athos stepped forward, his gun levelled at Lambert.
'Stop right there, put the knife down,' he commanded.
Lambert's hand stilled, he turned and looked at Athos and Porthos. Porthos advanced towards Lambert, his gun also drawn, but held down loosely in his hand. He reached Lambert and leaned forward to take the knife from his hand.
Lambert reacted quickly, he pushed Porthos back then grasped the edges of the table where d'Artagnan lay and tipped it over throwing the unconscious man to the floor, the table landing on top of him. Porthos had stumbled back and fallen over a pile of discarded ropes.
Athos fired his gun but missed his target due to the sudden movement of the man. The gun spent he barely had time to react as Lambert rushed from the room via a different door.
Athos looked across to Porthos who was scrambling up. Satisfied that Porthos would look after their unconscious brother, Athos took off after Lambert.
There was only one route the man could have taken, a second staircase further along the building would take him back down to the ground floor and a possible escape. Athos hastened toward the stairs.
A crash and a shout from below had him quicken his pace. He reached the top of the stairs in time to see Lambert, grappling with Aramis. Lambert had Aramis pinned to a wall, the knife he was still holding was aimed at Aramis chest. Aramis was struggling to keep the largely built butcher from stabbing him.
As Athos rushed out of the room Porthos rushed to d'Artagnan. When d'Artagnan had been tipped off the table he had landed on his back, the table then toppled on to him. Porthos pushed the heavy table off his friend, he breathed a sigh of relief when he could not see any obvious injuries.
Porthos felt along d'Artagnan's chest for any injuries, but could find nothing. The young man was going to get away with a few bruises around his neck, and possibly a headache when he woke up.
D'Artagnan groaned and tried to sit up, Porthos helped him, manoeuvring him to lean against the wall.
'Did it work?'
'Yes, but Lambert has run off, Athos has gone after him…'
D'Artagnan tried to get up but Porthos grabbed him and pushed him back to the floor.
'Take a minute will you.'
A shout from the ground floor had them both scrambling up.
Athos ran down the stairs towards the two men fighting below. Aramis was trying to push the bigger man off him but lacked the strength. It was clear he had been surprised by Lambert who had managed to pin him to the wall with one hand, the butchers big hand was squeezing the marksman's neck.
Aramis was struggling for breath but his main focus was on the knife in Lamberts other hand. Aramis was trying to push the knife away from his chest, but was not succeeding very well. Athos grabbed at Lambert's hand, but alerted to his approach Lambert forced his arm back quickly and caught Athos in the face with his elbow causing him to stumble back a few paces, stunned. The action had also caused Aramis to lose his grip on the murderer's hand. Using his new-found freedom Lambert thrust the knife forward, but Aramis managed to shift his position slightly, the knife cut into his shoulder. The injury was clearly not serious enough to satisfy Lambert, who pulled his arm back for another attempt.
This time Athos was better prepared, rather than try to grab Lambert, he ducked forward and pulled Aramis' gun from his weapon belt. He took a step back and levelled it at Lambert.
'Drop it. I will not ask you again.'
The hand around his throat tightened a little as Athos spoke to Lambert. Aramis was starting to feel dizzy. Lambert released him and stepped away. Gasping in air, Aramis slipped down to floor. His hand reaching for his neck as he did so. He watched as Porthos thundered down the stairs and grabbed Lambert, who did not resist him. Porthos reached out his hand for the manacles that Athos pulled from his pocket.
D'Artagnan, crouched down beside Aramis and looked at his shoulder, 'that will need stitches,' he said as he gently pulled the fabric of Aramis' doublet and shirt away from the wound.
'How did you find me out?' asked Lambert angrily, Porthos had him pushed against the wall as he attached the manacles to his wrists.
'Flowers,' said Porthos, 'perhaps if you had not smelt to pleasant we would not have caught you.'
Lambert huffed, he had no response.
'Why not just kill Belrose? Why did you have to attack and murder so many people?' asked Aramis.
'I would have been an obvious suspect otherwise,' replied Lambert, 'Nadine, would have suspected me…'
'Madame Belrose doesn't know?' asked Porthos.
'Of course not. She wants to be with me but wouldn't even consider leaving him. I wanted us to leave Paris, but she wouldn't have it. She was happy to spend time with me, but then she went back to him. Silly bitch's too loyal.'
Porthos forced Lambert down to his knees and then onto his stomach. He held the murderer there.
Aramis looked across to Lambert who was staring at him, 'I remember you, I was going to make you the first one I killed, but I got disturbed, a bit longer just now and I might have managed it.'
Porthos shoved Lambert, eliciting a smirk from his captive.
'Why did you attack the little girl? Have you no conscience?' asked d'Artagnan as he helped Aramis to stand up.
'I got disturbed with her as well…I would have like to…'
They did not find out what Lambert wanted to do with Louise as Porthos punched him hard across the jaw knocking him out.
'I don't think we want to know monsieur,' said Porthos to the unconscious murderer.
As Lambert came around he was hauled to his feet by Porthos and Athos. He tried to speak but found himself gagged. Porthos winked at him, 'we don't need to listen to you anymore.'
Athos pushed the door open and helped Porthos to force the non-compliant man out into the street. Lambert tried to wriggle out of their firm grasp but stilled when he was confronted by four further Musketeer who took over his custody and steered him away.
They began to make their way back to the garrison, Porthos walking with d'Artagnan, whilst Athos fell into step beside Aramis, glancing across at him.
'Really? He was going to kill you. He tried to kill you twice.'
'Yes, but he didn't…' replied Aramis.
'You really should be more careful.'
Porthos glanced back, 'he won't change.'
Aramis smiled, 'when there are so many lonely women, whose husbands are busy elsewhere…'
'Just be careful,' said Athos with a sigh, realising that even the recent events would not change the musketeers' ways. He just hoped that Aramis would not get himself into any more trouble due to lonely women. His charming friend seemed to be a magnet for them.
Authors note: I admit that some of the victims' misdemeanours were a bit tenuous but our murderer was not all that bothered, they were a means to an end.
I can think of at least two books where this idea is used, the great Agatha Christie's 'The ABC Murders', and Lee Child's 'One Shot' (the first Jack Reacher film). Both have the murderer killing several innocent people to cover up the murder that they wanted to commit.
The Commandments I used are the ones used in the Catholic Church, as I said in an earlier chapter there are many slight variations (even within the various Catholic websites I went to!).
I am the Lord your God
You shall have no other gods before me
You shall not make for yourself an idol
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
Honour your Father and Mother
You shall not murder
You shall not commit adultery
You shall not steal
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
You shall not covert your neighbour's house
You shall not covert your neighbour's wife