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
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..."
to face him; Claude Frollo's eyes met
mine, and they were full
of frustration. I kissed him deeply, passionately.
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.
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."
Marcel Rougelot removed the lid, inhaled the heady
scent of peppermint,
and muttered to himself, "I wonder if Mr. Calhoun
would like a similar
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
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
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...
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
"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
'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:
Nisha: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...?
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.
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.
Go to TIME 2:3
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