Claude Frollo sipped his wine, leaned back on the couch while I snuggled next to him. The storm
was now sweeping toward Ohio but we were still in the dark. The entire neighborhood was
without power and it would be at least twenty four hours before the light company could get a
In the meantime, Claude and I enjoyed this quiet time together. The candles emitted a warm, comforting glow; and, Claude Frollo himself, resplendid in his black doublet, dark purple tights and those adorable black shoes, made the whole evening that much more enjoyable.
"Claude, as I said, don't leave out one detail --- Tell it like it was." He sweetly kissed my lips, then began to recount that day when Fern had helped him corner a gang of young street hoods, and then told him about me.
The boy stared at this curious-looking woman who spoke in a language he did not understand.
Even her clothes were totally foreign. She was a rather large woman with a full, freckled
complexion; a mass of frizzy auburn curls were protected by a broad-brimmed, feather-trimmed straw hat. Her dress, if one could call it that, was on the roughest woolen sackcloth. A
bag made of fur -- What kind of animal was that? All gray with a black-striped tail -- hung at her
side. She chewed on a pipe, the likes of which this boy had never before seen.
That pipe, what is made from? It looks like honeycomb but I've never seen one quite like this...
The woman picked up on the boy's puzzlement, saying, "What's matter? You ain't seen a corncob pipe before?" The young man's face wrinkled in further bewilderment. Corncob? What's corncob?
"Come on, quit stallin'!", she roughly said to the younger boy. The youngster complied and opened the dirty little bag. Out spilled rare, costly items: gold and silver jewelry, fine silks, several velvet bags filled with gold coins.
"It was the easiest job yet!", said the third young man, his bright green eyes shining with evil delight. His dishwater-blond hair flowed in the breeze as he sorted through the valuables. But every now and then, he would glance about in fear that someone might be watching them.
The woman spoke. "Hey boy, wha's th' matter? You gittin' nervous-like and ever'thin'."
Indeed, this secret meeting with this strange woman did cause the young hoodlums unnecessary worry. For even in this remote part of Paris, under a seldom-traveled bridge, there was the chance that someone could happen by and discover their illicit dealings.
But the woman was insistent: "Bring the goodies and I'll pay good cash. Just make sure you boys ain't bein' followed."
The oldest of the group reassured his companions that there was no danger in being discovered. "After all, who'd be stupid enough to follow us here to this wretched part of town? Even the King or Minister Frollo wouldn't venture out here -- It's too beneath them."
And with that, the boy began bragging about this latest caper: The robbery of a prominent Parisian family. "You should've seen them! The old man tried to scare us with his stupid threats! And that woman! I must say, she handed over the goods when little Jacques here pointed that dagger at her! Haha!"
The woman laughed as well, her chubby face skewed in good humor as she said, "So, you fellers had those swells on the run, did ya? I bet they took off like a pack o' scalded dogs!"
She laughed again, then told the young thieves that she knew of a man who'd be "Mighty interested in this here stuff. Yep, he'd pay you boys a handsome fee for this haul. If you stick around, maybe he might show up and give you fellers what's comin' to y'all."
The boys laughed in unison upon hearing this. "Did you hear that, boys? Some old guy's gonna make us rich!", exclaimed the older boy. To this, the middle boy said to the woman, "My good madame, how can we ever thank you? You've been a Godsend, offering to fence this booty for us."
The woman smiled again, then raised her hand as if to tug at her ear; the boys did not know that this was a 'high sign', or that all during their secret meeting, they were being watched.
Suddenly, the thieves were surrounded by soldiers brandishing spears and crossbows. They didn't know what to think! Then the oldest boy suddenly realized that this was all a trap. He turned to the woman in a furious rage. "I thought you said no one would come down here! This is an ambush!"
She whooped and howled with hysterical delight saying, "Boy, ain't you the limit! I told you my 'secret friend' was interested in y'all." She laughed again, proudly announcing, "'Turn yourselves around 'cause here he comes!"
The boys slowly turned their eyes in the direction of the tall slender man astride a magnificent black Percheron stallion. His black velvet cloak flowed majestically about him; the red veil of his triangular hat flip-flopped in the breeze. And then there were the man's features: A sharp nose, thin yet sensuous lips, eyes that glared with an awful, wicked fire that few people could stand. At once, the boys recognized this man.
"Judge Claude Frollo!", gasped the youngest.
The Minister of Justice approached these baby hoodlums, saying in deep, dark, forbidding voice that only filled the boys with profound dread. "Take these thieving vermin to the Palace of Justice!"
The soldiers complied and immediately shackled the hapless trio. The oldest of the group looked hard at the woman, who by now had removed her hat and, taking the pipe from her mouth, said to Frollo, "Well, Your Grace, they're all yours."
Frollo smiled at her, saying in utmost gratitude, "My dear Fern, I wouldn't have apprehended these young...as you say...'punks'...without your tireless help."
The youngest boy glanced at Fern, then at Frollo, then kicked his older companions as he bitterly said, "This woman tricked us! She's one of Frollo's spies! How could we've been so stupid!"
To this, Frollo said, "My boy, you should've been more careful in your choice of victims, for you
see, these costly items belonged to one of my closest friends." Claude Frollo glared hard at the
boys then ordered his men to take them away. As they were leaving, Fern called out and taunted
them with a line that sent the Minister of Justice into gales of rip-roaring laughter.
"Hey boys!", she shouted out, grinning broadly, "See y'all in church!"
"That was so funny!" I laughed long and hard and couldn't stop as Claude finished his account of
one of Fern's finest hours as a Frollo spy. It was now close to midnight and the light company
had yet to come out and repair the blown-out transformer that plunged the entire area into
Claude and I were presently snuggled in my spare bedroom in the basement; he laughed again as he recounted several other times that Fern's 'hick-from-the-sticks' mannerisms paid off in the apprehension of many Parisian criminals.
"My dear Nisha, never will I forget the look on those scoundrels' faces when she said, 'See y'all in church'!" His perfect imitation of Fern's southern Hoosier twang once again sent me into gales of hysterical laughter.
"Yeah," I replied between giggles, "old Fern does that "Backwoods Annie" bit really well; I remember, back in my student teacher days, when she put on a similar performance when she introduced her students to American frontier literature."
Then Claude smiled, pulled me closer to kiss him, and began to recount what happened the evening following the Great Arrest of three nasty little thieves.
"Danisha, Fern and I had a lovely heart-to-heart talk afterwards. We conversed on a variety of topics: Jacqueline, Dwayne, Kyle. Then she mentioned you, and that's when the wheels in motion were set. My love, it was I who suggested that she personally prepare the citizens for your impending visit. Then I instructed...Well, you know the rest."
Oh yes, I know the rest...Claude knew all about this from the git-go...And he played it all off, kept me strung along even after I dissed him and broke his window...Then there was that confession of love up in Notre Dame's belltower. Later, because of a brief lapse in judgement, he would confess that he knew everything about Jacki and the time travel...and about Fern...She was his spy...
"Sugarbritches, tell me more. And what did you say to her to help convince Parisians to accept me, that is, once I arrived?"
In that dim, candle-lit bedroom, Claude Frollo began to recount a particular conversation he had with Fern, and of the 'special' arrangements for my impending arrival.
"Nisha, my sweet Nubian blossom, you know I treasure you so much; why, I knew you were special the minute Fern mentioned your name and showed me your picture." He kissed me, snuggled with me beneath that purple satin comforter, then continued his recollection.
"It was late-evening, and I had just returned from the belltower. Those little thieves were
presently locked away in my dungeons awaiting their punishment. Fern had dropped by to bid me
farewell, but not before she asked a favor of me..."
To Part 4!
©Copyright FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.