"All right, Claude Frollo, give it to me straight -- WHY did you send Iggy and Cissy back, but keep Fern? And why did you involve Vixen? Doesn't she know of the danger? I don't want to see anymore people hurt."
So said I to Claude as he sat down at the breakfast table while I kneaded biscuit dough. The family with whom we were staying had yet to awaken, so I volunteered to prepare breakfast. Cooking is one of my many therapies, and I was in dire need of release ever since Claude rescued me from my two-day hell at Woodbridge Landing. Charles Woodbridge, the son and heir, was within seconds of forcibly raping me when Claude Frollo burst through the door. Expertly wielding his dagger, Claude quickly and deftly stabbed the life out of Charles. Despite my relief, and the fact that Claude has saved not only my life but the lives of others, I still couldn't get over the way Claude smiled as he ripped that dagger through Charles' body. I wonder if he smiled like that when he tortured BC...I never questioned his 'interrogation' methods, why should I feel any different now? I knew the man when I met him; I knew what he was like even after I had...
"Danisha, my love, I hope you will understand why I killed Charles,
and why I seemed to...uhh...enjoy it." I only nodded, then proceeded to
cut out neat circles of dough. Claude Frollo sat at the table, enjoying
freshly brewed coffee and scanning the morning Tribune. He only
glanced up every now and then just to admire my 1930's everyday chic, and
my way with biscuit dough. He finally said, "Danisha, I do believe it is
time I admitted to you..."
Claude put down the paper, then proceeded to tell me what I had suspected all along -- Claude was under tremendous pressure to apprehend Marcel Rougelot and bring the man to justice. I heard it all: the King's ultimatum to Claude Frollo; how Claude had enlisted Wendell Parsons; and how 'le Chameleon' had ended Collette Bouchard's life just days before Bernard was slain.
"Nisha, I have been beside myself ever since...My love, Hubert d'Arcy was devastated upon discovering Collette had been murdered. She was Madame d'Arcy's favorite...Utilizing, in part, your 21st Century crime-solving methods was the only way I could finally get an 'inside track' on Rougelot. Wendell Parsons was a godsend."
What could I say? I knew deep down Claude Frollo's days as Minister of Justice were indeed numbered. However, I kept asking myself why Claude would involve other people when he knew perfectly well the risks involved. Claude then returned to the original subject: Why he killed Charles Woodbridge.
"That, darling Danisha, was necessary. You see, my love, when I learned of Rougelot's current location, I discovered that..."
He went on to explain that the people with whom we lodged were descendants
of Josiah, the house servant at Woodbridge Landing. The Warfields would
have survived to make their marks on the Chicago Renaissance, with or without
Claude's interference. As it turned out, Josiah had a son who had successfully
fled Woodbridge Landing during the 1840s. This man, Ethan, took the name
'Warfield' in honor of the Chicago family who took him in and provided
Ethan with an extensive education. Ethan Warfield was one of the old settlers'
-- those pre-Civil War former slaves and free people who chose Chicago as their permanent
home. Of course, Josiah's now-altered future would further cement the Warfields'
upwardly mobility in Chicago's African American community.
"It seems you knew what you were doing, Claude. But..."
I stopped myself, then wiped my hands before popping the biscuits into the oven. My voice softened as I went to Claude with open arms and many kisses. "Claude, I thank you for saving my life. I don't know what I would've done if you hadn't...I know you had your reasons for killing Charles. Perhaps it was the shock of seeing..."
My words were silenced with his kiss: a long, deep, lingering oral embrace which I welcomed wholeheartedly. Finally, within those few fleeting moments, we could openly express our love for each other. I knew that, in this slice of 1937 Americana, interracial relationships were still frowned upon. although Black/White love blossomed despite the wagging tongues and disapproving looks. Claude Frollo, you did it for me...Seeing Charles' near-ravishment of me was too much for you...I understand now, and I would've done the same thing...I would've killed Charles myself, and I most definitely would've enjoyed watching him suffer...
"My love,' said Claude after several passionate kisses, "I am sending you home before the week is out. Now, before you protest, and I know you will, please hear me out."
"Dearest, ever since we embarked upon this manhunt, I have witnessed
your torment, your pain. Darling, I had to tell your parents...It was the
only right thing to do." Claude Frollo continued to pour out his
heart, and told me that he'd never forgive himself if I ever again face
another dangerous situation. Of course I, being one to question anything
and everything, pleaded my case, ultimately convincing Claude to let me
stay at least two more days.
"After all, sugar, Chicago of 1937 is quite unlike 1400's Paris or 1850 Washington. I can really help you out this time because I know this area. Besides," I finally reasoned, "Marcel Rougelot wouldn't dare come down to Bronzeville -- As long as he stays put in his Gold Coast digs..."
Again, Claude shushed me with a kiss, then softly chuckled and said, "All right, my love, you may stay two days -- That is all! But do promise you will stay out of trouble, after all, I gave your father my word that I would take care of you..." He embraced and kissed me with such sweet passion that I nearly forgot about the biscuits.
"Aack! Please don't let them burn!", I exclaimed to the delight of Claude Frollo. "My love, I remember the first time you baked these little wonders for me..."
I short-circuited this trip down memory lane when a sudden thought popped
in my mind. Actually this had been bothering me ever since Marcel Rougelot
fled 1850 Washington.
"Honey, what if Jehan didn't tell Marcel everything?" Claude Frollo raised an eyebrow at the mention; I further explained, "Marcel doesn't know about the message mode. I mean, every message he's left has been handwritten..."
Claude Frollo's eyes immediately widened with amazement; I could sense his brain cells working overtime. At last he said, "My love, I do believe we may finally play that trump card. But first, our Vixen will cause Rougelot to become quite unglued."
"But Claude, surely you won't put her in any danger."
"On the contrary, Nisha. Rougelot does not know Vixen; besides, he will only hear her voice."
"Ah, so that's what Fern meant by 'Our girl is going on the air'..."
While I envisioned Vixen, all dolled up like a 1930's screen star, and
delivering the hottest gossip this side of Lakeshore Drive, I felt my mouth
twitch into a smile. "Claude Frollo," I said as I embraced his slim body,
"I do believe you will succeed this time. Lulling Marcel into a false sense
of security..." Claude Frollo returned the smile, only his was more broad,
more devilishly delicious.
"All of this shall finally come to an end, Danisha. Rougelot may think he knows this city, but...I am so grateful to have you..." His lips covered mine; I could feel our passion rising. But not right now! After a few seconds, I stepped back to admire Claude's 1930's outfit, courtesy of Fern and Dwayne Grigsby. It was the most flattering ensemble of slim-fitting black trousers, vest, white shirt, and purple-striped tie. The gold vest chain and pocket watch added a smart touch. I couldn't keep my eyes off his gorgeously tall slender figure -- His appearance was almost reminiscent of a well-read scholar and educator, or, perhaps, a seasoned politician. "Honey," I finally said, "you look like a President! Maybe you should dress like this more often."
He returned the compliment as he twirled me about the kitchen. After three days of fitful sleep and dreadful nightmares, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Gone was the shattered woman who had narrowly escaped a vicious sexual assault; I actually felt happy. Of my late 1930's attire of a simple house dress, white apron, dark pumps, and softly waved hair, Claude Frollo pronounced that I looked like "One of those screen sirens -- tender, tough, sweet, yet oh-so deliciously and wildly passionate." And with that, we embraced once more, our lips locked, our minds oblivious to the sounds coming from upstairs.
Senovia Warfield, an attractive woman in her late forties, was the first
down; and I could sense that, despite Tony's preparations, she held some
reservations about opening her home to a stranger -- particularly to someone
like Claude Frollo. No, No, I don't mean she knew everything about
Claude, but the fact that he was white and of high social status both unsettled
and intrigued her.
Walt, on the other hand, seemed quite taken with this "distinguished Frenchman", but Senovia....
"Oh my goodness!", began Senovia as she entered the kitchen, "You didn't
have to do all this! Danisha, you are so nice!" She surveyed the table
all laid up with colorful Fiestaware, eggcups, and juice glasses. I had
even cut some flowers from Senovia's backyard. Everything was sparkling
and complete. She smiled as the aromas of familiar food reached her nose.
"Mmm...Everything smells so good...Ham, grits, eggs, biscuits..."
Didn't she notice her other guest standing nearby? She barely spoke to
"Good Morning, Madame Warfield. I trust you slept well," Claude graciously greeted his hostess. Senovia Warfield was quite taken by surprise; but then again, Claude Frollo had been nothing but polite and gracious to this woman. She stammered brief reply, "Uh...Oh Good Morning, Mr. Frollo. Yes, I slept very well." Claude gave her one his most winning smiles as he continued, "Ah...Nisha is a marvelous cook! She told me she wanted to do this as a surprise..." The conversation continued as such, with Claude Frollo praising my culinary talents to the hilt. He even mentioned to Senovia how I had surprised him with a similar meal, "Nearly ten years ago, when she came to Paris for the first time; she had exposed me to some of your delightful blues and jazz." Being ever the gentleman, Claude never mentioned a certain performance -- my rather scorching performance of an old Ray Charles song -- followed by our first night of passion. OK, Claude, don't let on too much...
Senovia smiled at Claude then expressed her concern for me. "When Anthony brought you all here, and then Mr. Frollo told us what almost happened to you...Honey, I was sick to my stomach. You two must really mean that much to each other..."
Let me say now that Senovia would soon warm to Claude Frollo, but his presence in 1937 Chicago -- in Bronzeville, on the South Side -- was a rarity.
Chicago: The Midwest Metropolis, the Queen by the Lake, Frank Nitti, corrupt politicians, Haymarket, Capone, muckrakers, bootlegging, Debs, Pullman porters, Black Sox...and so much tension...In 1919, the "Red Summer"...This city had seen a lot of changes...What is that Sandburg poem? I read it to Claude during our first trip here, only that was back in 1996...Oh yes...
...Tell it across the miles of sea blue water, gray blue
I am Chicago, I am a name given to me by the breaths of
working men, laughing men, a child, a belonging. *
*(From Carl Sandburg's "Chicago Poems")
Then there's the "other" Chicago:
The South Side, Bronzeville, the Black Belt...The African American population is second only to that of New York City...
Being from Indianapolis, the quintessential Midwestern city -- large
enough to qualify as 'urban' yet small enough not to be overwhelmed by
big city problems -- I'm still in awe every time I visit Chicago, the true
Midwestern Metropolis. It has to be the combination of size, space, situation,
and an amalgamation of peoples that's unrivaled in this part of the country.
OK, I'm not tooting my own horn simply because much of my mother's family
still lives there. Chicago, for me, has always been my escape route, my
safety zone. There I can lose myself in nature, culture, art, and people.
Despite the many ethnic tensions of recent years, Chicago's citizens had
always managed to rise above adversity. Through the scandal ridden 1920's,
the Depression, and two World Wars, Chicago keeps "toddlin' along". That
survival spirit shone especially bright on the South Side, amongst the
ever-growing African American population. From 16th to 67th Street on the
north and south, and the railroad and Cottage Grove on the west and east,
respectively, lies that area known as the 'Black Belt', also known as "Bronzeville".
Within that narrow strip of land 250,000 African Americans lived, worked,
and played together. It was cramped; it was crowded. However, in our present
environment, in a spacious home "Out South", Claude and I seldom saw the
heart wrenching poverty and squalid living conditions of our northern neighbors.
We were also spared much of the violence that was so common in the northern
section of the Black Belt.
But Claude Frollo was about to experience something quite unique, something wonderful. It was the year that saw the flowering of Chicago's African American cultural scene with its accents on music, literature, and the visual arts. It was also a period where that distinctive Chicago-style jazz came into fruition. It was also during that summer when a young man from Detroit would, within four days, instill a pride in his people like no one else before him. Wendell Parsons was right about that night of the 22nd, "It was Jubilation unprecedented; that is, until..."
A young man bounced into the kitchen as I began clearing the remains
of breakfast. he was rather short in stature, with a smooth nut brown complexion,
short wavy dark hair, and a neatly clipped mustache. He peered at me over
his wire-rimmed glasses, then glanced at Claude as he addressed his aunt.
"Oh, don't worry 'bout me, Aunt Novie. I had breakfast..."
His eyes fell on me again then, after a few seconds of silence, said, "Danisha...I'm sorry to stare so, but you look just like Eula!" Claude Frollo quickly picked up on this, then glanced at me as if to say, "My love...Eula? Isn't she...?"
Then the young man spoke to Claude, "Mr. Frollo, sir, Eula has asked me to personally invite you and Danisha to La Tulipe Noire this evening." I glanced at Claude who by now was totally rapt with this young man. The medieval judge smiled at him and said, "My dear Wendell, kindly inform Madame Reynolds that we shall be delighted to visit her little cabaret."
He then looked at me with smiling eyes; he picked up on my utter shock but remained steadfast as he arose from the table, took me aside and said, "Nisha, my love, I do believe you'll be quite pleased."
What?! Claude knows about Wendell and Aunt Eula? What gives? What if we run into Rougelot? What if things go haywire? And what if...? So, I'm about to meet my great-aunt Eula...a woman who I only knew through old photographs -- and my mother's memories.
"The Black Tulip of Bronzeville"...Vixen on the air...Sunny...The Minister of Justice levels with Danisha, and enlists more help...Marcel panics...
To TIME 4:2
Copyright ©1999 by FrolloFreak®