The whine of a horse outside startled the pair. D'Artagnan reluctantly pulled away from Jacqueline and peered through the rough curtain and out the window. A carriage stood behind a line of red-clad soldiers. Mazarin.
D'Artagnan spun around to Jacqueline who was now standing just behind him. She had seen them too. They had to move fast. The guards would only take seconds to find the musketeer horse in the stable and then they would charge through the door, demanding an explanation. One they couldn't give. Not with Jacqueline dressed as a woman.
There was no time for modesty. D'Artagnan helped her out of her dress and back into her uniform, careful to avoid touching the tender spot at the back of her head. She drew up her hair and d'Artagnan went to the kitchen, pretending to be entirely immersed in his lunch. When the guards came through the door, they found a 'startled' musketeer at the table, halfway through a sandwich.
"In the name of His Excellency, Cardinal Mazarin, we demand to know what you are doing in here. This is no place for a musketeer."
"Don't you mean His Majesty the King? And there are two of us here. If you're going to threaten someone, at least get it right."
"Two of you?" The guard that spoke had an expression of both annoyance and awe on his face.
"Another musketeer; don't get so excited." D'Artagnan was disgusted at the man's obvious delight at the thought of finding him there with a woman. He just hoped that he wouldn't discover how correct his first assumption had been.
"Where is your companion then, soldier?" It was obvious that these weren't the brightest men the Cardinal had ever enlisted. He would have to point that out the next time they were speaking.
"He's in that back room. Don't go back there!" One of the men made for the door but stopped at the sound of d'Artagnan's voice. "And why not? Are you afraid of what we may find in there?" He turned once more and placed his hand on the doorknob. D'Artagnan tried to mask his concern. "Not at all, my friend. But my comrade in there has had a bit of an accident. He's resting right now." The Cardinal's guards laughed and d'Artagnan had to fight even harder to stop himself from attacking them. "Accident; you don't say! And what type of accident might this have been?" They were laughing at her now. He could deal with them laughing at him but not at Jacqueline.
"What business is it of yours? I told you he is indisposed and that should be enough for an honest man. Unless, of course, you are telling me that the king's soldiers should gain a new reputation. Just think, a bunch of heartless fools working for a 'man of God'. "
The guards glared at him but continued towards the door anyway.
Although d'Artagnan knew the coast was clear, he still didn't like the idea of one of Mazarin's men finding a musketeer in such a vulnerable state. It would just be too easy for him to come up with another reason to disband them.
The guard inched closer to the door and reached out a hand towards the doorknob. D'Artagnan held his breath, not knowing what would happen next.