Geraldine Wood put down her morning paper and took Joe's pager -- That
wondrous communicator that allowed them to keep in contact with their daughter
whenever she was in medieval Paris.
"Here", she said with exasperation, "This blue button activates the message mode. Punch that then the instructions on the screen pop up. Then punch in Nisha's code and type your message." Joe finally got the screen to appear then asked his wife, "OK, now what is Nisha's code again?"
Gerry sighed, "PS121. Make sure you enter it exactly right or else your message won't reach her."
At that moment the phone rang; it was one of Gerry's church friends.
Joe knew this would be a long conversation but he couldn't wait for his
wife's assistance. This information is too important to wait...Maybe
Claude could use this when he and André present that box to the
Once again, Joe got confused when he began to enter the code. Now, what was that? 'PS1'...or was 'SP2'...What?!
He had knocked over his coffee cup, spilling the warm brown liquid into the saucer. Thank goodness it didn't spill out onto the table! Now, what was that code? Oh yes, 'SC1024'...Is that right?
That was the code Joe entered, not knowing that the message he was about to send would NOT reach his daughter, but someone else...
I let myself as usual, then walked the length of the many corridors
to Claude's private chambers. Somehow, I had a feeling that Claude was
beginning to have his doubts about Francois's guilt. But it was all there:
The broken locks, the empty chest, the keychain, found in Francois's quarters.
It did seem rather odd that Lt. LeSabre found these items so quickly.
No matter...Claude will get to the bottom of this...And if Francois DID take Theodora's box, WHERE IS IT!
Indeed, that priceless box was no where to be found, even after Claude
had the Palais thoroughly searched. Poor Claude was so pre-occupied with
finding that box, and so beside himself knowing that he would have to explain
all this to Étienne and André.
Oh Claude...I shouldn't have deserted you last night but...There's something wrong, something terribly wrong... I also knew that Claude probably hadn't slept much, so I brought him an early morning treat: Blueberry muffins and a thermos of coffee. He should like that...Besides, I had to do SOMETHING with all those blueberries!
"Good Morning, Danisha! Did you sleep well, my love?", Claude greeted
with a kiss. Unusual, he'd be wiped out from all this...
"Morning, sugarbritches. You look well rested, but..."
I was shushed with another kiss as Claude beckoned me to close the door -- and lock it. "Claude? What's up?"
Over our breakfast, Claude explained that he knew all along that Francois
didn't take that box; rather, he had a fairly good idea that this was an
inside job. "The only thing I need is proof", he whispered to me. He leaned
back in his chair, savored his coffee and muffins, then asked a favor of
me. "Sure, Claude, what?"
Claude Frollo grinned because he knew what he about to ask me -- Oh please Claude! Not the...
"My sweetness, I want you to pay our Francois a visit -- just a friendly, personal visit. Question the boy; the least he knows could very well break this mystery."
I started to protest, but is was no use. Claude knew I always hated the dungeons, but I assured for him that, under these circumstances, "Heck, I'd move in down there if it would help Francois."
At this statement, Claude fell out in gales of delighted laughter. "No, my dearest, that will be quite unnecessary." He then said he was heading out to the d'Arcy estate, "To check on Phoebus and Daniel. I have yet to contact Fern, what with the theft and all."
The grin grew broader as he added, "Ah yes. I've sent a rather terse message to Jehan via special courier. He is to drop whatever he's doing and return home."
My smile broadened as well; my curiosity ran wild as I replied, "And what awaits the wayward brother, Claude?"
Claude's eyes lit up with wicked delight as he replied, "Ah, you'll see, my dearest...You'll see."
"Claude!", called out a young female voice, "Wait! I need to tell you something important!" This was Covielle, Claude Frollo's 21st FSM.
"Covielle! My dear, whatever's wrong?" Claude greeted his FSM #21 with
smiles and hugs, again asking what was wrong. Covielle took several deep
breaths while Claude tenderly caressed her back and shoulders. She went
on to explain how, on that same Saturday night Claude spent with his 14th
FSM, she spotted a large man take something from the Minister's plant stand.
"I had dropped by, but you weren't there. I supposed you were with another of your ladies." Covielle continued, "Anyway, Claude, I waited for you but fell sleep in your study. I was sleeping in that big chair when I heard him."
"Heard what, Covielle?"
Covielle replied, "I couldn't make out his face but I knew he was a big man, with dark hair and beard. He took something from that curious looking plant stand, then he left. But I followed him."
Covielle further explained how she followed this man who was soon accompanied
by a soldier -- "That awful Lt. LeSabre" -- and two boys. The four had
gone down to the dungeons then returned with a heavy iron-reinforced chest.
"I stayed hidden in the shadows, but I saw it all."
Claude Frollo was now even more intrigued. "Tell me more, my dear."
Then Covielle revealed how she followed the men to Francois's room --
"He wasn't there, you know, for he had gone to Victor's tavern." The remainder
of her recollection consisted of the four men emerging from Francois's
quarters, carrying nothing but a small wooden chest.
"Oh yes, Claude. I heard this breaking noise -- as if they were breaking heavy iron -- But when they came out, they had nothing but this wooden chest. That's when I saw the big man take the chest and leave."
Claude Frollo mulled over what Covielle said, and it was all beginning to fit.
That's it! He IS involved in this after all! And they've framed Francois...The scoundrels! No, we must keep up the pretense; let them think this little caper worked....Not even the cleverest criminal in the world can outsmart Claude Frollo! My 14th, and my 21st, FSM will each receive a 'special' reward for a job well done!
He embraced and kissed Covielle, then sweetly said, "My sweet Covielle, thank you for this timely news. And as a token of my gratitude...My dear, have you ever been to the Loire Valley in the fall of the year? There's a marvelous chateau located near one of the best vineyards in France. I believe a few weeks of wine, music, passion..."
At this invitation, Covielle returned the kiss, smiled, then asked, "When do I start packing?"
Astride his stunning black stallion, Claude Frollo was presently en
route to Chateau d'Arcy when his pager went off. He smiled, flipped the
device open, then began to read what scrolled across the screen. Within
seconds the Minister's expression changed; Claude was indeed puzzled.
This message is from Joseph Wood, for Danisha. Poor man! He must've mixed up the codes...This is interesting...
I showed that photo to Sue Seldon and she recognized that box right away. She's meeting with me today to fill me in on that 20-year-old research project. Honey, you won't believe what Sue found out! I mean, this is major! Can you tear yourself away for an afternoon and make that time trip? Sue's bringing copies of the original research. And to make it worth your while, I've bought some really delicious barbecue from Pa and Ma's. I knew that would do it! (smile) See you around noon.
Claude Frollo reread the message, then put spurs to Snowball and sped
to Chateau d'Arcy. All along the way, he pondered Joe's message: "Sue's
found something major!"
What if that was Daniel's 'abandoned' project? I have to know...If it will save Francois's life...and capture four thieves...But...
As Claude neared the estate an idea quickly came to him. Of course! Why not go to the 20th Century myself! After all, I, as part that select group of time travelers...YES! Why, I can find out things those thieves will never know! Now, how to send a message to Joseph...
After hitching Snowball in the d'Arcy stables, the Minister of Justice took out his pager and coded a message to Joe Wood.
I've received Danisha's message by accident... Apparently you misentered the codes, but No Matter...There has been a theft and your information is vital in cracking this case...I understand your colleague has uncovered the original research...It may please you that I may have partially uncovered this mystery as well...Call it a hunch but...May I call on you -- now? There is precious time to lose as a young man's life hangs in the balance.
Oh yes...Did you say 'barbecue'?
Claude Frollo smiled, and was ready to walk the few feet toward the
caretaker's cottage. But, looking at his pager, and, mulling the recent
revelations, Claude decided not to check on Phoebus and Iggy. No, this
is more important.
He sent a message to Nisha:
My darling Nisha:
I've received vital information regarding this case. I have to leave for the afternoon but expect me home before dark. Ah, yes. Do you remember where I stashed the...er...extra key? And do you still remember the secret passage that leads from the dungeons to the outside? I think our Francois is about to make a little...umm...'jailbreak' -- Tonight! Do not make a move yet, my Danisha, for I'll explain everything when I return. Let's just say that four, perhaps five, very large nasty rats are about to fall into my trap. I love you, sweet lady.
There -- I know she'll come through for me. Now, Joseph, I hope you'll
come through for me.
Then, concealing himself within the barn, Claude Frollo pressed the red button, and vanished in a blaze of white light.
When I received that odd message from Claude, I did as requested and found that hidden set of keys. I remember all right...Behind a loose stone...
Of course, that meant keeping Francois company until Claude Frollo returned,
although I hated being down in the dungeons for any length of time. But
it was time well spent as I got to know more about this special young man.
As Claude related to me, Francois was orphaned at the age of five -- His father died before Francois was born; Francois's mother died while giving birth to her second child. This chid, who died the day after Madame Patou's death, was fathered by man who Madame Patou had taken in as a boarder. His identity is still unknown.
Anyway, at age ten, Francois enrolled in Fern's orphans' school and became one of the brightest, most talented boy in the building. Fern later told me that Claude was so impressed with Francois that he wanted to take the boy on as sort of apprentice. It was Fern who personally recommended Francois for a private study program; a program pioneered by Fern, with assistance from Dwayne who had organized innovative vocational programs in the 20th Century.
I had always been impressed with this young man, so much that, deep in my heart, I knew he couldn't have stolen that box. No! This was a frame-up! And I can bet good money that the guilty party was...
My mind was brought back to the present when Francois suddenly said,
"Pardon?", I asked.
"You are Ethiopian. I can tell from your features; you are definitely not a Gypsy." I smiled then informed Francois that I was from "The New World", and that I was of African descent. He became extremely intrigued as I told him everything about my country -- But NOT about my time.
Soon thereafter, Francois finally confessed, "I was with her, Mlle.
"With who, Francois?"
"Jeannette, that cute little maid. She and I have been seeing each other ever she came to work at the Palais."
Francois went on to tell me that he returned to the Palais that Saturday
night, only to run into Jeannette, then spent the night in HER quarters!
He also maintained his alibi that he and Jeannette were out that Sunday
"I didn't want to say anything, because I didn't want Jeannette in trouble," said Francois.
Now it all makes sense...But who else knows of this little romance...Claude? Do you know that your protégé and maid are an item? I have to know...
At once, I banged on the door and asked the guard to let me out.
"Where are you going, Mlle. Nisha? I thought you'd stay and chat longer."
I replied, "I'm heading out to Chateau d'Arcy. Hopefully I'll run into
His Grace. If what you say is true, and if we can get Jeannette to corroborate
your story, then..."
Francois's chubby face lit up when I said that. "Mademoiselle, you'd do that for me? But what about Minister Frollo? He may not approve of me seeing one of his servants..."
I shot back, "Honey, after I convince His Grace of your innocence, he just may personally bless your little romance!"
Of course, once again, I had to cover up this little party before Claude
returned. And, to my surprise, Claude wasn't the least bit upset when he returned to
relay the most wonderful news. Even Iggy would be drawn into Claude's
scheme to trap a few nasty thieves.
Then, like Iggy said, "It done hit the fan!"
Yeah, especially when Claude learned the identity of the REAL mastermind
behind the theft. Uh huh...And when Iggy found them...It was a rude awakening
To Part 9!
Claude recruits Iggy...The aging hippie overhears a conversation...LeSabre spills the beans...Nisha sobers up a 'flying' Phoebus...A mad chase through time...
©Copyright FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.