"It's your move, Joe," said Wendell Parsons, while he grinned in anticipation.
It was another lost cause, this checker game, for Joe had yet to beat his
longtime mentor and friend. The two men sat in relative silence as the
game progressed. Yes, it was rather quiet with Geraldine Wood and the grandchildren
out of the house. Joe's middle daughter, Vernice, had just arrived with
her brood. Those three bundles of energy -- Annie, 11; Dante, 16; and Tubber,
9 -- instantly filled the house with their youthful exuberance.
Yet, even the children's presence and the gaily decorated house had failed to lift Joe's sagging spirits. His eldest daughter, Danisha, was presently accompanying her medieval Parisian lover on a dangerous manhunt through time. But she is a grown woman, past forty at that -- Nisha can take care of herself, and Claude...He won't let anything happen to her...
It was Geraldine, though, who remained the family rock. She was perfectly aware that her daughter had undertaken a perilous mission, and Gerry secretly endured a mother's anguish. But Nisha loves him...Besides, neither one would jeopardize his or her life -- they have so much to live for...
Even Danisha's sisters had expressed hope and offered up numerous prayers for their sister's safe return. They blamed neither Claude nor Danisha, for deep down they knew of the unbreakable bond that kept those two divergently different people together all these years.
So, for today, Geraldine called Wendell and requested that he come over and help Joe out of his blue funk. Then she packed up children and grandchildren, and treated them to a day of holiday shopping and fun.
All alone in the sun-kissed family room, Joe and Wendell sat at the
game table; Joe stared blankly at the checkerboard while Wendell waited
patiently. At last the elderly man spoke, "Joseph, I know you're thinking
about Danisha, but you shouldn't worry so...Things will be all right, for
I can feel it."
Joe Wood sighed, removed his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. He hadn't slept very well ever since Nisha left her own time, of course this wasn't helped by the presence of...
"Joe, aren't you gonna move, or are you gonna sit there all day and brood?"
Wendell sat back in his chair, looked intently at his friend and said,
"Son, I think you need to know what's going on. Danisha should've told
you all but she probably didn't want you to worry..."
Joe interrupted. "WORRY?! Wendell, she takes off to God knows what time period. She has yet to contact us -- Something is wrong, Wendell -- It's not like her, and to top it all off, she..."
Wendell shook his head. "But she loves him, Joe. And he loves her. Did you ever stop to think that he wouldn't allow anything bad happen to her?"
Joseph Wood sighed, replaced his glasses, and moved his red checker
to an adjacent square. He said at last, "They are an interesting pair.
You know, he saved Danisha's life, a long time ago. Sometimes, though,
Wendell laughed, replying, "And I thought the same thing when Eula and I were courting, despite all the tongue-wagging, gossipy ..." Professor Parsons stopped himself long enough to make his move -- a quadruple jump over all Joe's remaining checkers. "You may be one smart man, Joe Wood," triumphantly exclaimed Wendell Parsons, "but you still can't play checkers worth a damn!"
The old man's raspy laughter pealed out loudly and gleefully while Joe himself broke down in good humor. Yes, that did the trick...I needed this...
Just then, that pager, that marvelous transtemporal communicator, beeped madly. Wendell raised an eyebrow; he knew what it was as he owned a similar device himself -- courtesy of Jacki Terrell at the request of Judge Claude Frollo. But this was Joe's pager, and the anxious father flipped it open and began to read the message that scrolled across the screen. Joe's once-cheery expression suddenly changed.
"Oh no...Oh no...Not..."
"Joe, what is it?"
"My daughter and her friends have arrived in 1859 Tennessee, near Woodbridge Landing..."
Joe reread the message, then handed to Wendell, saying, "All right,
Wendell, out with it! What's with this 'across-time portals' nonsense?
And don't think I don't know that you're involved...!"
Wendell Parsons adjusted his own wire-rimmed glasses, and read the message. "Lord have mercy on them all. His Honor is in for a rude awakening -- Slavery in his time was nothing compared to that of...Woodbridge Landing!"
Wendell Parsons, his wrinkled, nut-brown, eighty-seven year old face looking even more aged, finally confessed to his friend, "Joseph, as I said before, Nisha should've told you all this, but right now...You have a right to know everything..."
He set the pager down, then began to explain it all to a soon-to-be
very confused and profoundly worried Joseph Wood. "Joe, it all started
about a year ago, when I got the strangest message from Tony Terrell. He
took me on a little trip...I had no idea Tony and Jacki did all that! I
thought I was dreaming. But, anyway, once there, I met this Judge Frollo,
and he needed my help..."
While listening to Wendell Parson's wild tales of time travel and of a certain medieval judge who desperately needed the elderly scholar's help, Joe Wood couldn't get Jacki's message out of his mind. My own daughter, at Woodbridge Landing! She knows the history behind the place...It's where...I certainly hope Claude keeps her far away from that place...but...
He doesn't know about old Caleb...Or does he...? Claude surely wouldn't let any tragedy befall my baby...
The message scrolled repeatedly across the screen; Joe never bothered to clear it.
Joe & Gerry:Who, thought, Joe Wood, is Rougelot? And why is Wendell babbling on and on about...
It's us -- Tony and Jacki -- We are home now but this may be the safest way to contact you. We just received a message from Claude -- Nisha blacked out when she learned Rougelot had fled to 1859 Tennessee, near Woodbridge Landing.
They are now safely tucked away in Jeremiah Smiley's place -- 'they' meaning Claude and Nisha, Fern, Iggy and Cissy. Claude says not to worry though -- Nisha came out of it early this morning. He's left strict orders that she NOT leave the house at all. It's for her own safety. We'll stay in touch.
A spice merchant from Nantes...a mulatto boy murdered in medieval Paris...and a woman named 'Isabelle LaCroix'...Wait a minute!
Joe sent up a silent prayer. O Heavenly Father. Watch over my child and her friends, for they will need all the strength and endurance...
His heart ached for his daughter, for Claude Frollo, and... This can't be happening!
"Wendell, don't leave out one detail! I want to know EVERYTHING!"
End of Transition One
Go To TIME 3:1
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