On the Edge of Time


Book Two
Part Two "


In 'Le Chameleon's' Shadow"

The Time: Mid-morning, February 4, 1850 
The Place: The D Street house, Washington, D.C. 
Our time-traveling lovers are preparing for another day amongst Washington residents. Danisha rehearses her "pre-emancipation" mannerisms. Read on... 
(From Danisha's Journals)

OK...Look down, speak with a touch of timidity...If something makes me mad, then I shut up...I may be able to speak my mind around Claude Frollo but NEVER  around these people. 
I took one final look in the mirror, and really didn't relish the reflection. There stood Danisha LeShawn Wood: Educator, scholar, savvy businesswoman -- Civic-minded, socially active, brilliant, ambitious...
"And I'm reduced to this!", I exclaimed as I adjusted the white kerchief that covered my hair. Tuck under these 'UltraSheened' tresses...What will the good folks say if they caught a glimpse of a straight-haired 'negress'? I know, I know, but...

"That dress is not the most flattering -- Your appearance is close to that of a doll."

Those words came from Claude Frollo as he sauntered down the stairs in his all black 1850's ensemble. Everything from the slim-fitting trousers to the sparkling black sealskin vest to the deep purple cravat only further enhanced his tall slender form. My baby is smiling but there's something wrong, for I can see it in his face.

Indeed, even in his presently cheery mood, there was still that air of uncertainty -- and frustration. This morning marked our second day in 1850 Washington; those days were full of marvelous adventure, but still no sign of Marcel Rougelot. Oh, there were stories about a "charming Frenchman" who had frequented the many parties and dances in and around Washington. Our problem was that we could never catch up with the man. The tracking device Jacki installed on Jehan's transtemporal device was of no use as Rougelot never stayed put long enough to be tracked. But no matter -- We'll catch him!
Essentially, for the past two days, we managed to immerse ourselves in this slice of pre-Civil War history. Fern Grigsby masqueraded as 'Fern Greenfield of Bloomington, Indiana', a wealthy and formidable widow whose temper and imperious nature were legendary (We got Iggy to spread that bit of information all over town). That 'Do you know who I am?' attitude helped out a great deal, especially where I was concerned. 
Although it was later decided that I wouldn't play Fern's 'slave', and that I'd be a free black in Fern's employ, I was still compelled to play the 'good negress'. That is, I had to suppress all that intelligence, independence, and high-spiritedness. Explaining all this to Claude Frollo was not all that simple. I thought he'd understand; instead, Claude, a man of the late 1400s, had a tough time altering his personal behavior -- With me. 
This morning, he came up from behind and embraced me; the only times we could indulge any physical affection was behind closed doors. This of course, didn't set too well with the Minister of Justice. 
"I can't stand the thought of not embracing you in public. Why, in my time, I am able to squire you around town with little..."

I turned to face him; Claude Frollo's eyes met mine, and they were full of frustration. I kissed him deeply, passionately. "Sugarbritches, we've been through this before; we simply have to keep up the appearances. I know you're not pleased with the ways of 19th Century Americans; but, Claude, we have no other choice..." 
Claude Frollo returned the kiss, held me tightly, and finally said, "My love, I am willing to keep up the pretense; after all, it is vital that we don't let down our guard for one fleeting second." He gazed into my eyes and said nothing else; then he snapped his fingers, finally saying, "That's it!"
"That's what, Claude?"
"Rougelot does not know about us -- I mean, he is not aware that..."

It didn't take long to pick up Claude's train of thought. I said, "Ah, Marcel Rougelot doesn't know about us!"
Claude went on to say that Rougelot had yet to recognize me, and that he was quite unaware that Claude and I were lovers. "As far as he is concerned," explained Claude, "Rougelot thinks you are just one of the natives. Let him think just that! As long as you are willing to go along with the ruse, then all the better for Rougelot to...How do you put it? Umm...'Blow his cover'!"
It was agreed that, for the next few days, we would continue our 'role-playing', "Until Marcel Rougelot is firmly in my grasp," declared Claude Frollo. I certainly hope so. This playing 'Fern's maid' is not doing my sense of dignity a bit of good! Oh yeah...Remember that my name is "Nancy" 'cause "Danisha" is not a 'proper' name for a Negress, slave or free...


Despite the personal sacrifices we made in the name of justice, we rather enjoyed our history lesson. For all of us, it was a rare chance to see, in the flesh, all those famous Americans who played such crucial roles in this nation's destiny. On this morning, Claude was on his way to the White House. It was hoped, as Claude assessed, perhaps an interview with the President would help shed some light on Rougelot's whereabouts. We had a few leads -- Marcel Rougelot was last seen, by one of Tony's local contacts, leaving the White House late the previous afternoon. A levee, hosted by President Taylor, was one of several given that week, and Rougelot was definitely in attendance. Claude Frollo felt now was the time to finally nail down 'Le Chameleon' once and for all.
"Hopefully," expressed the Minister of Justice, "your President Taylor or, perhaps some of the guests, may know where Rougelot is lodging."
In the meantime, Fern, Cissy, Iggy, and I continued to mingle amongst the people, perhaps gathering enough information that may, ultimately, trap Marcel Rougelot. We had no inkling that 'Le Chameleon' had committed another murder, and was presently planning his next.

An hour later, Claude Frollo arrives at the White House. This is quite a new experience for our medieval magistrate! Read on...
The Minister of Justice toured the Blue Room of the 'Presidential Palace' -- at least that's what Claude Frollo called before he left his temporary D Street lodgings. Danisha laughed long and hard when he used this term. "Oh, sugarbritches, don't go around saying that; you'll be laughed out of town. Just call it the President's House, or its more popular name: the White House."
So...this is the White House...Home to, what is the number now? Forty-three men have ruled this nation -- Forty-three! All within less than 230 years! What, I wonder, ever possessed them NOT to have a king. After all, it is divinely ordained that...But then again, right now, my own country has been convulsed by revolution; this changing world -- I am especially grateful NOT to have endured all that 'Reign of Terror'. Sometimes I wish I had never known of this transtemporal, transspatial...Then agan, I would have never met my darling Danisha, nor experience the joys of...Ah, who is this lovely lady?

Indeed, Claude Frollo's eyes met those of a comely young woman in her middle twenties. She was of medium height, slim, dark-haired, and grey-eyed. The musical southern lilt of her voice was most pleasing to Claude's ears as she addressed him. "Mr. Frollo, my father apologizes for the long wait, but he is presently with my mother."
She extended her hand. "My name is Mrs.Bliss, General Taylor's daughter." Claude Frollo raised an eyebrow as he gallantly kissed Mrs. Bliss' hand.

So the battle-scarred 'Old Rough and Ready', elected to this noble office on the sole basis of his military prowess. Danisha has told me much of General Taylor's life...He was constantly moving about -- to this and that military post -- Why, the man never stayed in one place long enough to vote! Danisha said it was this party -- the 'Whigs' -- who had nominated the man, and passed over a more able candidate; that would be M. Clay. Nisha also said that these early Americans loved military heroes...Hero of Buena Vista, she said...But No Matter...It's Rougelot we're after...Careful Claude -- Save your reservations for private discussion. I am not here to judge, but to finally capture Marcel Rougelot and bring him to justice.

"Mr. Frollo, may I offer you some refreshment? Some coffee, perhaps?" Betty Bliss smiled graciously at Claude Frollo then said that her father should be down momentarily. "My mother avoids all public life; she stays in her room most of the day." At that moment, the President of the United States entered the room. What an eyeopener for the Minister of Justice -- This unassuming, almost rough-looking man could not possibly be the ruler of this nation!
Zachary Taylor -- short, stout, grizzled, rumpled, even sloppy, of dress -- extended his hand and gallantly greeted his guest. "Mr. Frollo, I apologize for the delay." Ever so carefully, Claude Frollo studied this man, the twelfth man to sit in the presidential chair, yet the visitor from medieval France resisted making any snap judgments. Claude Frollo narrowed his eyes as President Taylor continued to converse. This man is not quite what I had expected. His dress is appalling! He...But his manners are impeccable, almost refined, but unstudied and natural...Like my Danisha...What did Fern call General Taylor's mannerisms? Ah yes, "It's that Kentucky-Virginia school of 'gentleman' behavior -- that natural graciousness and all". His daughter is charming enough...

"Mr. Frollo", began Old Rough and Ready, "I understand you are looking for a fellow countryman." Frollo graciously replied, "M. President, Marcel Rougelot and I became separated several days ago. I had hoped he had attended one of your receptions..."

At that moment, Betty Bliss, bearing a tray of fine coffee and sweets, said, "Papa, I remember a Frenchman talking to William yesterday afternoon." She then addressed Claude Frollo as she handed him a cup of coffee, "William Bliss is my husband, Mr. Frollo", then she continued, "This man, your Mr. Rougelot, claimed he knew the Marquis de Lafayette and that he was in Lafayette's company back in 1825."

Claude Frollo raised an eyebrow at the mention. "Beg pardon, Madame Bliss. Did I hear you correctly...?"
Betty Bliss smiled and added, "Oh Mr. Frollo, your Mr. Rougelot regaled us with the most wonderful tales of Lafayette's visit those many years ago. He then said that this time he was in Washington for one purpose: To meet Mr. Clay."

Meanwhile, in an isolated room in an old boarding house, Marcel Rougelot is busily occupied. Read on...
He carefully unwrapped the parcel and placed it before him. Ah...Here it is...a gift for the great Mr. Clay. Poor man, to be in so much pain, and have all this responsibility put upon you. Pity your efforts to save your country will be for naught, for I intend to end your sufferings...

Marcel Rougelot removed the lid, inhaled the heady scent of peppermint, and muttered to himself, "I wonder if Mr. Calhoun would like a similar gift...?"
Marcel dipped each candy stick into a bottle of potent poison, rearranged the candy in the tin, then carefully replaced the lid. Tying the tin with a gaily colored ribbon, Marcel Rougelot smiled with evil delight. Jehan Frollo, when I return to Paris, I shall personally thank you for your little device. I'm truly enjoying myself...

His reverie was disturbed by noises coming from the street. He peered out the window and sighed with relief. In the misty morning light he couldn't quite make out the faces; Marcel sighed with relief as he watched the large, stylishly dressed woman descend from her carriage. She was accompanied by an attractive black woman who was obviously the woman's servant.
Why should I be so concerned? Frollo can't be here! It's just some old woman and her servant...Now, to take this to Mr. Clay, then come back and do the same for the Honorable John Calhoun.
Marcel called out to his hired manservant, "Aaron, take this package to the National Hotel. Make sure M. Clay personally receives it." He handed over the beribboned tin to the young black man then returned to his desk. Aaron took the package saying, "Yes, sir, Mr. Marcel. But, Mr. Marcel, sir..."
"Don't dawdle, Aaron. M. Clay will be very appreciative of this token of kindness."

After Aaron left, Marcel Rougelot peered out the window again, only to see his servant disappear into the morning fog. He smiled with evil pleasure. Good! There is another good deed for the day. I hope M. Clay doesn't suffer too much...That cough -- His frail health -- All this talk of disunion...I wonder what would happen if M. Clay should die? Such a pity...
He then took pen in hand and began to write a short note to a young man in Harrisburg.

Dear Mr. Smiley,
I regret to inform you that your father, Nathan, has met an untimely end...
At that moment, two women enter the boarding house -- Fern Grigsby, and 'Nancy', her personal servant. Read on...
(from Nisha's journals)
"Fern, are you sure this is the right place?" I glanced around the foyer, hoping NOT to spot Marcel Rougelot; I began to feel quite frightened. This was a time that I wished I hadn't convinced Claude to bring me along on this manhunt. All that morning, I kept getting these strange vibes that something terrible was about to happen. But my fears were soon put at ease as Fern suggested that I take my mid-mornng coffee in the servants' quarters.
"Nisha, I know you hate playing this, but believe me, this is vital...Sit in with the servants; pump them for all the information you can get. They probably know more than the white folks, you know, they keep their eyes peeled and everything. If that boy was right, then ol' Marcel may be right under our noses."

With a drawn likeness of Rougelot and my communicator safely tucked away in my apron pocket, I soon found myself downstairs in the kitchen, enjoying coffee and gossip. The cook, Mammy Bessie, kept me in stitches with tales of old Washington "Back in General Jackson's time". A large, ebony-black woman in her early sixties, Mammy Bessie served me another slice of spicy fruit cake, and some welcomed news: the whereabouts of Marcel Rougelot.
"Now, Nancy", she began, "this here man come all the way from France just to meet Mr. Clay." Bessie went on about how Marcel had endeared himself to many of Washington's great and near-great. "Why he even had Mr. John C. Calhoun feelin' better." Now I was more than a little intrigued.

"Mr. Calhoun?", I asked.
Bessie quickly replied, "Oh yes, he's staying here with his niece and..."

Within seconds, I made up some lame excuse, left the servants' quarters, then quietly ventured into the hallway and peered through the partially open door. Sure enough, I saw him sitting in his chair chatting with Fern. So that's the 'cast iron man'...South Carolina's favorite son...Nationalistic 'War Hawk' soon turned sectionalist...Nullification, the feud with Jackson, the neverending conflicts with Clay, Benton, Webster...He's so...He seems so broken, physically, but I can tell even from this distance that his inner fire is urging him onward. I may not agree with his political stance (pro-slavery for starters), but I have to admire his determination, his grit...Oh, how deathly ill he looks...
John Caldwell Calhoun, aged sixty-six, sat in his chair and chatted amicably with Fern Grigsby. The poor man was clinging to life by a thread; within six weeks he would slip through Death's door, but not before he would plead the South's case once more. His shoulder length gray hair seemed impregnated with his defiant spirit. His large dark eyes glistened with an awful fire -- a fire that burned just as brightly as it did nearly forty years ago, when he was one of those bright young men destined to dominate antebellum American politics.
The Great Triumvirate...That's what the historians called them -- Clay, Webster, Calhoun...and they will meet again this time, for the last time...

Suddenly I heard approaching footsteps; I quickly hid in an under-the-staircase storage room. Peeping through the keyhole, I saw HIM! Taking the drawing from my pocket, I immediately matched the likeness with that of the man standing before the foyer mirror.
That's Marcel Rougelot! But how...? Fern was right! The man is literally under our noses! Have to call Claude, but maybe contacting Tony would be better...Where's he going?
Indeed, Marcel Rougelot exited the boarding house; I had no inkling of his destination. All I knew was that Claude had to notified at once, so I took out my communicator and began coding a 'blanket' message to Iggy, Cissy, Tony, and Claude.

It's me, Nisha. Hey, we're at Hill's Boarding House. He's here! Rougelot is here! I saw him leave the house just minutes ago. I have no idea where he's headed but please be careful. Fern is presently visiting with Senator Calhoun; we're coming home as soon as Fern is finished.
After a few fleeting seconds, I got a quick response from Tony:
We're way ahead of you. Iggy intercepted that package meant for Senator Clay. Thank Aaron for that -- he's one of my contacts. Minister Frollo is en route to the Capitol; maybe that's where Rougelot went. Oh, one more thing -- You and Fern be careful -- A trapper found a body down by the Potomac. We think it's Jeremiah Smiley's father, and Rougelot may have killed him. How are we so positive? Betty Bliss asked Judge Frollo why a man name Marcel Rougelot would wear a stickpin with the initials 'JS'. Nathan Smiley was to meet his son at the old O'Neill boarding house, but he never showed. You and Fern wrap up your business and head for home -- Jeremiah will need some consoling. I'm heading for the 15th Century and talk to Jehan. The President told His Grace that Rougelot knew Lafayette 'from way back'. Nisha, he had dates and names and everything. Minister Frollo wants to know exactly how much his brother told Rougelot. Take care and heed the cautions.
Oh God, I think I'm going to be sick. That man has killed again...What if he decides to harm Claude...? He doesn't know that we're on his trail...Or does he...?

Just at a crucial moment, Marcel Rougelot slipped through our fingers. It would soon become a deadly game of 'Catch-Me-It-You-Can' as "Le Chameleon" departed for yet another time period, forcing us to choose between apprehending a psychopath and preserving the past. It was as though Rougelot had planned it all, like he knew where he was going. How could that happen when Jehan only told him...? Exactly HOW much did that fool tell Rougelot...?

Within the next few days, and after Claude rescued me from a harrowing ordeal, things would finally fall into place.
And Claude knew this all along...

"Disunion fever"...Claude and company witness the 'Great Pacificator' in action...Rougelot taunts Claude Frollo...The Minister of Justice receives encouraging news...Danisha finds herself in a perilous situation.


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