In between stitches, Aramis looked at the face of the man who had come to him for help and finally spoke up to him again saying, "You're the one who has been going around with food and water for everyone. I wanted to thank you, not just for myself, but for helping me to help them."
The man smiled at the musketeer as he responded, "Someone has to feed them and it just so happens that I have little cooking skill. Everyone else is too busy taking care of their own loved ones. I don't have anyone."
"I am sorry to hear that," Aramis answered sincerely as he finished tying off the end of the thread once the stitches were completed, then quickly tore the remaining thread off and placed the spool back inside his bag.
"And I appreciate your sympathy," the man replied as he reached out to shake the healer's hand. "My name is Charles Elias. You can call me Charlie. And you are?"
When Aramis reached out to shake the man's hand, he responded wearily, "I'm Aramis, one of the King's loyal musketeers. That's why I'm here. I was on business, but unfortunately, all this, got in the way."
Charles watched the musketeer since he began to work on him, then asked again, "Are you sure I can't get you something to eat? You're looking exhausted. At least go and get yourself some rest."
"I appreciate your concern, but I assure you, I'm fine," Aramis answered softly as he looked away, then stood as he prepared to head back toward the sick. "These people aren't resting, except for those who are already dead. More people will die if I can't solve this."
"I thought I heard you mention that you weren't a physician," the man stated curiously.
Aramis replied, "I'm not, but as you can see, the Duke hasn't sent his many physicians to come to help them, so I have to and as long as there is something I can do to try to help them… That doesn't matter now. Thank you again, Charlie. Please take care of yourself as well. You will let me know if you see the man who attacked you?"
Charlie nodded and responded, "Yes, of course."
As Aramis walked off, the man smiled and watched as the musketeer continued helping those he poisoned, no matter the direness of the situation. Finally, Charles Elias walked off and when he was certain he was alone, he knocked on one of the planks used as part of the barrier, then one of the guards spoke from the other side.
"I was beginning to wonder when you were going to get in touch," the guard stated. "I can't believe you actually pulled this off."
"I said that I would," Charlie answered in frustration. "I need to get out of here. I need to talk to my proprietor."
After a few moments, a few of the boards and the posts barring the man's exit gave way and Charlie stepped outside the barricade as the man who helped set him free spoke up saying, "Exactly how many people did you manage to poison?"
Before walking away, Elias looked back at the man and replied, "Less than I would have if it wasn't for the healing musketeer you and your men managed to trap inside along with everyone else. He doesn't know what the poison is, or that I'm the one who created what's killing these people, but I'm certain that it will only be a matter of time before he figures it out. He's smart and not willing to give up. However, I'm hoping, he'll become too sick himself or even die before he can."
"Exactly where are we heading now?" d'Artagnan asked as he and his comrades finally made their way back up to the surface. "Now that we've learned of a few new suspects, one of them being the Duchess."
"If the Duchess is responsible, which I can't believe she is, she would never admit it to us," Athos stated, not having heard d'Artagnan's question.
Porthos asked, "What makes you so certain she can't be responsible for having her own people killed? You thought the same about Captain Treville, not that I'm saying that our Captain knew that those men would be killed, but Marsac was right about him being involved. I say the Duchess is as much of a suspect as anyone else. We can't simply ignore the accusation just because we can't wrap our heads around the idea of someone being a killer."
Athos turned to look at his friend as he quickly retorted, "Even if someone were to ever accuse Aramis of being a killer, or me, or d'Artagnan?"
"Well, those kind of accusations we can ignore," Porthos responded quickly and then smiled, as did Athos and the young Gascon.
"Exactly," Athos answered smugly and then became serious once again. "However, you were right before. We shouldn't simply dismiss the possibility that the Duchess may be guilty. After all, we have no problem with believing that her husband could be our killer."
D'Artagnan nodded and replied, "I agree. So, my question stands. Where are we heading now?"
Athos was about to say something until he seemed distracted again when he saw a man walk by the alley they were about to exit, causing Porthos to call out to him again, asking, "Athos? What is with you right now?"
"I've seen that man," Athos responded quietly as they started following behind the man Athos suddenly became suspicious of, causing the others to be confused. "I saw him earlier when we were last speaking with Aramis, but he was inside the barricades. I didn't think much of it at the time, but he seemed to be paying close attention to our conversation."
"If so, then what is he doing outside of the barricades now?" Porthos asked again, finally understanding what their leader was getting at. "How did he get out and where is he going?"
D'Artagnan replied, "Perhaps we should ask him."
Without looking back at his comrades, Athos answered crossly, "I intend to. Porthos, cut him off."
"With pleasure," he replied as he swiftly disappeared down another alley, while the other two musketeers continued to follow after the suspicious stranger, now starting to pick up speed upon noticing that he was being followed.
"He knows we're here," d'Artagnan stated when they all began to run until the man was suddenly struck down to the ground as Porthos came out ahead of him and punched him square in the jaw to slow him down. "Nice work, Porthos."
The man looked up at them angrily as he rubbed his hand along his now soar face and asked, "What is the cause for this assault? I've never seen any you before, so I couldn't have possibly done anything to make you want to hurt me."
Porthos lifted him up off the ground by the back of his shirt, then Athos responded, "You're right, but usually when someone we suspect of wrongdoing starts to run, that means they have something to hide and I'm guessing that you're no different. You know who we are, as I noticed you watching us very closely yesterday when we spoke to our comrade who is still trapped within the barricade, which you should be in as well. So tell me, why are you now out here?"
"I couldn't stand being trapped inside any longer," the stranger answered nervously. "I found a way to escape and since your friend inside said that he no longer believed we were contagious…"
"So it isn't the plague then?" Porthos asked quickly.
The man shook his head as he replied, "No, he doesn't believe so. He's pretty certain that someone poisoned everyone."
D'Artagnan spoke up saying, "That's a relief."
"You're right, and thankfully, I'm one of the lucky ones, but I wasn't willing to risk it, so I found a way to break free, even if that makes me a coward," the musketeer's suspect responded coldly. "Your friend tried pleading with the guards to let everyone free, but they won't believe that we aren't contagious."
"You're lying about something," Athos answered, reading the man very carefully. "I'm very good at reading people and everything tells me that you're not completely innocent. If fact, I'm willing to bet our friend Porthos behind you, who loves a wager, that you're not innocent at all."
The stranger replied, "I don't know what you're talking about."
Porthos grabbed him roughly as he spun the man around to face him, then grumbled, "Tell us the truth. Who are you? And why are you really out here instead of inside with the rest of your people?"
"It's clear that you already know why," Charlie answered cruelly. "I can't obviously lie to you, so it's true. I'm the one who created the poison. The very poison now slowly killing your friend."