Didn't It Blow Your Mind, Claude Frollo?


Part 11 
"Theodora's Box Takes a Dive"

Somewhere in northern Indiana, near a marshy pond, a classic Chevrolet Impala streams down a gravel road. Its passengers are quite a mixture! Two of these guys don't know WHAT to make of their surroundings. Read on...
"Where are we? And don't try anything funny!" 
Those words came from Rene Robinette as he drew his dagger close to Iggy's side. Gerard and I were in the backseat; his knife was still inches from my throat. Come on, Phoebus...Contact Claude...These guys are playing for keeps...I know WHERE we are...But do these guys know...And I know Iggy has something up his sleeve...All I can do is pray that his scheme works.

Iggy McMullen proudly announced to the two men that, "We're presently traveling near an old spot I used to frequent as a kid. Yeah , me and my buddies used to come out here many times and dump...Hey! I think we're here!" 
Iggy stopped the car, parked it, then got out, saying to Robinette, "OK, man, you want your box? Let me give it to you." And with that, Iggy went to the trunk, opened it, and removed that priceless gold box. Robinette smiled as he watched how the stones gleamed in the morning sunlight. Even I noticed how the sunlight played on the pearls and gold. This is strange, though...It hasn't the same gleam...Iggy, what are you doing?!

No sooner had we'd gotten out of the car, that Iggy, box tucked under his arm, high-tailed it to the pond. He stopped just short of the water's edge, then called out to Robinette and Gerard, "If you guys ever want to see this box again, then let Danisha go! You can have your old box, just let her go!" 
At this, Rene Robinette became extremely enraged. He motioned to Gerard, and the footman complied as he tightened his grip around my body, his knife barely skimming my throat. I screamed out to Iggy, "Let them have that box, Iggy! Gerard's gonna kill me for sure! Give that box to Robinette!"
"No! Can't you see? If I throw this box in that there pond, they have nothing! And they can fumble there way back to the 15th Century for all I care!" 

Suddenly, Gerard released me; he stumbled back, gasped and said with profound shock, "Did you say 'back to the 15th Century'? Wait! That light!" He turned to Rene, saying, "These people are sorcerers! Witches! We've fallen for their spell!" 
Gerard began to make whimpering noises as I saw my chance. Stepping up to Iggy I said, "Give me that box, Iggy. Let them have it; then we can take them back to their time. Hand it to me." Iggy voiced protests but Robinette said, "M. 'Iggy', your pretty friend speaks a wealth of good sense. Hand over that box." 
Rene paused then said to me, "And you, my dear, may hand it over to me." 
Iggy grunted but he did as requested and handed the box to me. Just then, we heard a countrified, twangy voice calling out to us, "Hey! Git on outta here! Go'on! Git! Y'all can't read? Oh hell! Someone's done took the sign! No swimmin', no fishin', an' no wadin'!" 
All eyes were on the man toting a shotgun. He was a grizzled old man accompanied by a very large, and very mean-looking, Rottweiler. The man was dressed in old grungy jeans, plaid hunter's shirt and cap. He looks just like one of those good ol' boys one sees on those fishing shows... 
The man spoke again. "Are you folks deaf?! You can't swim, fish or wade in that there pond! Now git on out of there before I sic Ol' Killer on y'all."

Rene Robinette was not the least bit upset by this non-descript Hoosier's threat; but, somehow, Iggy knew this man. Iggy called out to him, "Hey Roy! It's me! Iggy! Don't you remember? I used to come up here all the time with my buddies! You showed us your collection of NASCAR commemorative plates!"
The man blinked twice then gleefully said, "Iggy McMullen! Well I'll be damned it that ain't you! What're you doin' in that funny outfit? And why're you out here at Deeton's Swamp?" 
Rene and Gerard didn't know what to think when Iggy and Roy started up a friendly conversation. I watched both men, and I watched the dog. Oh yes, that dog's eyes never left those guys, and he growled and bared his teeth as Gerard and Rene bided their time. 

While Roy and Iggy talked about the old days, I held fast to the box, and mulled over the mention Deeton's Swamp. 
Deeton's Swamp? Why does that name sound familiar? Hmm...by the looks of the place...YES!! I read about this place in school! Hasn't changed in over a hundred years! Uncle Herb used to haul freight up this way...YEAH!! I was just a freshman in high school when Uncle Herb let me come along on one of his jobs...He told me all about that pond...There's...Hey...this box feels funny...

Indeed the box didn't have the same 'feel' as the first time I handled it. The weight was not the same, and the stones... Glass!
These stones are glass! The pearls are painted plastic beads, for the paint's started to chip off! Even I know the real thing when I see it, and this box is a fake! Wait a minute...
I flipped open the box -- No inscription inside the lid! And the gold paint that coated the bottom started to peel.
Claude, no wonder you weren't so concerned...Is this what Fern meant by...AH HA! That photo! I bet Fern and Claude had this made up...But where's the REAL box? No matter...I think this little phony's about to take a dive...never to surface again!

"Hey Iggy!", I called out, "Did you notice something strange about this box?" 
"Huh?", replied the aging flower child. Then it dawned on him as he replied, "Oh yes. And did you check the inside?" 
"Uh huh!" 
"So you know what to do." Iggy winked at me, and I winked at him.

Immediately Robinette, turning his eyes away from the dog, glared hard at me, and said through clenched teeth, "Give me that box, my girl, or else..." 
"Or else what? You know, Rene, I can let you have this box, or, I can save you the later embarrassment when you present this baby to the King." 
My smile was broad and wicked as I continued, "Rene, I know all about your little scheme to ruin Claude Frollo. And I know how bitter you are because your son, Yves, didn't make the grade. You don't know this, but it was I who recommended Yves be taken out of the program. Your kid's a slob, Rene, a slob and a layabout."
I then turned to Gerard who by now was quivering with profound dread. The dog eyed Gerard with a vicious hunger; the growls became louder as Roy fought to restrain the animal. "Gerard, I don't understand your role in all this. After all, you've been with His Grace ever since he became Minister of Justice. Why turn on him, Gerard? Why?"
Gerard swallowed hard, then admitted that he only helped Rene Robinette because, "I did not approve of Francois seeing Jeannette. What would His Excellency say to that? A student involved with a servant! It's not done, mademoiselle! It's just not done!" 
What I knew that Gerard didn't was an earlier conversation I had with Jeannette. She came to me, long before she and Francois became an item, and told me how Gerard had made undue advances toward the girl. When she repeatedly rejected Gerard's advances, the senior footman made her days at the Palais difficult in the extreme.
My eyes shot fire at Gerard, a man who never liked me simply because I was of 'Nubian extraction'. Even Claude had to take this man down a few notches when Gerard had openly insulted me -- with Claude present. It all makes sense...
Just then, I saw a flash of light in the distance. Claude! It has to be Claude! 

"Iggy! Roy! Sic that dog on these two!", I cried out as I rushed to the edge of the pond and heaved that box into that stinking, muddy water. Never to surface again!

Robinette was dumbfounded! "NO! What have you've done?! Gerard!", he motioned to the footman, "Dive in and retrieve that box!" 
It was Roy's turn to speak while Iggy fell out on the ground, laughing hysterically. Even I started breaking up. "Hey FatBoy, if I was you, I wouldn't go in that there pond. 'Cause, you see, there's quicksand down there on the bottom." Roy cracked up then said, "Yep! Stuff goes down but it never comes up! That's why I warned y'all 'bout gittin' too close!"
A stunned Rene Robinette was about to lunge at me, screaming, "You demoness! You and that sorcerer tricked us! And now, a priceless object is gone forever!" The moment Rene drew his dagger, Ol' Killer lunged at Rene, pinning the poor man to the ground." Gerard was so alarmed that he tried to leave this mad scene, only to meet the business end of Roy's shotgun. The old Hoosier said, "Easy there, FatBoy! Unless you want your butt full of buckshot, I suggest you stay right where you are. And maybe, just maybe, I'll call Ol' Killer off your friend."
Killer still had Rene in a chokehold; the dog's teeth dug into the man's arm, forcing the dagger from his hand. All Rene Robinette could do was scream out, "Get this monster off of me! Call off your dog!"
Roy and Iggy grinned, with Iggy telling Roy, "I bet Killer ain't ate much today." 
"Yeah, I cut back on his feed 'cause the vet said Killer's gettin' fat. Ol' dog's none too pleased to have his meals cut in half...Oh what the hell", he said while Killer continued to gnaw on Robinette's arm, "I'll let him have a little mid-morning snack. I mean, what's a little extra meat?"
Upon hearing that, Rene looked at us with such terror and continued to wail, "Get this dog off me!"
Killer's having a good time...Don't call him off yet, Roy...I'm enjoying this...And...

My eyes turned to the road just in time to see a familiar red minivan rapidly approaching us. That's Fern's van! There's other passengers...Claude! Phoebus!

Iggy got up, walked over to the road, and flagged down the bright red minivan. He yelled out, "Hey Fern! Over here!" The minivan stopped and three people emerged at once. Oh thanks be to God!

I ran to him, threw my arms around him, and let him squeeze me and kiss me for a few fleeting moments. He explained, "Thank goodness Phoebus sent that message. When I returned to the Palais, Gerard was no where to be found. Thank Jeannette, my love, for it was she who informed me of Gerard's...er...'sudden errand'."

Claude walked up to Gerard and shot the footman the most withering look I've ever seen. To Gerard, he said, "You should be more careful when confiding your secret plans. Little Jeannette overheard your plan to meet with Rene. And she informed me of some rather unbecoming behavior...No matter, Gerard, for your tenure in the Palais is hereby terminated --- Permanently terminated." 
Claude's face lit up with wicked delight as he moved from Gerard to Rene Robinette. He laughed sinisterly while he watched Rene struggle in Killer's grasp. "M. Robinette..."
Claude turned to Roy saying, "My good man, would you recall your animal? Although I must say the dog is CERTAINLY enjoying this repast!" 
Roy complied with a chuckle and a shrill whistle; Killer immediately returned to his master's side. But, all the while, the dog kept eyeing Rene and Gerard with a peculiar hunger.
Rene, holding his bleeding arm, struggled to his feet as he glared hard at me. He gasped in pain, then addressed Claude Frollo. "Minister Frollo, if you intend to arrest me for theft then you'd better arrest this black wench!", Rene yelled, nodding to the muddy, foul-smelling water, "For she has thrown Theodora's box into that infernal bog!"
Claude looked at me with the most playful expression and sweetly asked, "Danisha, is this true? Did you actually pitch the box into this pond?" 
"Yes, Claude."
"Ah...so I presume you discovered that the box...?"
"Oh yes, Claude, I had it all figured out", I replied with a smile, adding, "How much do you think that box is worth? My guess would be around...Hmm...Fifty bucks?"
Fern piped up and said with glee, "Make that around twenty bucks!"
With that, Claude Frollo broke down in rip-roaring laughter, and eyed Gerard and Rene with such evil merriment. He at last said to them, "My dear Rene and Gerard! Imagine; you have ruined yourselves for a fake!"
Rene and Gerard couldn't believe their ears! Immediately, Gerard went over to Rene Robinette, kicked the hapless man in the shin, and said, "You! You had to have that box! And I was fool to be sucked into your little plan! My God, Frollo tricked us! That box was worthless!" Gerard began pelting Rene with many blows, pushing Rene dangerously close to the bog. Phoebus rushed forth, and stopped Gerard from pushing Rene into a miry grave.
At last, Claude ordered his ex-Captain to shackle the two men and put them into the van. He then addressed Rene and Gerard. "You shall be transported back to Paris, to our time, where you will stand trial for theft."
His eyes were on Robinette as he finally said, "Rene, I have a lovely father-and-son cell waiting for you. Oh yes, Yves confessed to everything; and, I must say, it's the only intelligent thing he's done in his short miserable life!"
I could only griin at this comment. Hmm...father and son cells...I wonder if Claude will have matching nooses...No matter.

After the thieves were securely in the van, Fern and Iggy were presently engaged in a sibling heart-to-heart.
"Iggy, you half-pint fool! You almost got yourself killed!", said Fern as she wrapped her little brother in a smothering bear hug. Everyone -- except Gerard and Rene -- started laughing when Iggy gasped and said, "Damn, Fern! I know you're glad I'm OK, but...You're squeezing me!"

To Part 12!

Rene and Gerard get an earful, and a very 'warm' reception...The genuine box turns up -- AND we learn the real story behind the box...Some profound changes await Iggy...His Majesty pays Danisha a compliment

©Copyright FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.

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