On the Edge of Time


Book Four
Part Three
"Chicago Stories"

The Time & Place:  June, 19, 1937
...Early evening on Chicago's Gold Coast...Marcel Rougelot, who is masquerading as "Martin Forester" is presently preparing cocktails for his employer. Ever since he received that odd message, our villain is becoming quite unglued. Read on...

"...So I said to the Governor, 'Look, most of the New Deal programs seem to work, but there is always that danger of a sudden downturn.' Yes, sir, I predict that, by October, we will experience conditions almost identical to those of...Hey!"
Edward Rathbord, a tall, lanky man in his early sixties, looked almost like an elderly Fred Astaire in his sharp tuxedo, gleaming white shirt and black tie. On this Friday evening, in that elegant drawing room with its many windows so one could look out over the lake, Edward had gathered a few of his friends for a night on the town. After cocktails and dinner at home, the rest of the evening would be spent with visits to the more elegant nightspots. It was during a discussion over the success and/or failure of President Roosevelt's recovery programs that Edward caught an inattentive 'Martin Forester' dribbling very expensive gin all over the bar. This new man who Edward hired on a whim was possibly the worst excuse for a servant...

"Damn it, Martin! That stuff's expensive...What's with the butter fingers?"  Edward glared at 'Martin' while another young man echoed his words. "Yes, Martin, do try to be less careless." Those words came from Julian McNaney, Sunny's fiancé, a self-made millionaire with a progressive outlook. Julian, tall, elegant, and blessed with movie star looks (Sunny fell for him because he favored Tyrone Power), believed in sharing his wealth with those who'd advance American culture.

It was of no surprise that Edward, a liberal thinker himself, immediately took to Julian. His own daughter followed in her mother's footsteps; Evelyn Rathbord was a staunch supporter of Jane Addams and contributed heavily to Chicago's many settlement houses. So generous were the Rathbords, that many a tale passed through the streets of Bronzeville -- "Them folks shared what they had, and the Lord blessed them when the bad times hit."
Indeed, the family had suffered minor financial setbacks after the '29 Crash and during the Depression years, however Edward shrewdly invested much of his wealth not in stocks but in land and buildings. "Why have all your money tied up in little pieces of paper that will eventually blow away. Put your money where it will stay put!", said Edward on many an occasion.
The Rathbords were seen by many of their contemporaries as too visionary; they actively supported FDR in both the 1933 and 1936 elections; Edward and Franklin were briefly acquainted with each other whilst Evelyn still maintained correspondence with Eleanor.
"Put your money where it counts -- In the future of this country," Edward said to his future son-in-law after chastising 'Martin Forester'.

The new man -- the one who called himself Martin -- was a jangle of nerves ever since he emerged from the basement storage room. Whatever happened to that pleasant yet dim fellow? Only Martin could answer that -- But he wasn't about to reveal his recent troubles to anyone. Who'd believe me if I did! That message on Jehan's magic time machine..."Come home, Marcel"...Then that person said that Frollo is back in our time, and that Danisha, his lady, is dead... GOOD! Let old Frollo suffer! His lady died a slave...What a pity! Probably at the hands of that Charles...yes, he looked at her the same way Danforth looked at...

His daydreaming was once again cut short by Julian. "My good man," whispered the young millionaire, "if you wish to remain in employ here, then you must pay attention to what you're doing." Julian offered Martin a smile then said, "I know you're new to this...When everyone's out then you can go home and relax...You know, I started out as a servant..."
Martin Forester smiled as he stirred gin and vermouth together while listening to Julian's 'bootstrap' tales.  He still grimaced at the thought of these 20th Century Americans' taste for such concoctions -- these 'cocktails'. I am getting somewhat better...If only I didn't have to operate the electric things...Those switches make me uneasy...

"Tell me something, Martin", began Sunny, looking very much like a Middle American Jean Harlow -- tough and sexy, but sweet and wholesome. At twenty-five, Cornelia 'Sunny' Rathbord was the epitome of that new generation of American women who now possessed both the ballot and a role model in the White House. At least, Sunny thought, she could continue the advancement of modern American culture, especially the popular arts. Which was why, for this evening, she and Julian decided that after supper they would spend the rest of their evening at one of the South Side's tonier nightspots, La Tulipe Noire.
Both Julian and Sunny loved this new music, this 'swing', but knew of its true roots. It was not exclusive to such talented men as Benny Goodman and Bix Beiderbecke; indeed, this was the sound of Louis Armstrong, Ellington, and Calloway.

Sunny Rathbord, her big hazel eyes shining approval at the first sip of her martini, said to the new employee, "Why, Martin, your bartending skills are improving, but tell me..." He smiled, "Mademoiselle, I'm sorry I'm so nervous this evening. Must be all the new surroundings. I'm still not used to all this..."
Sunny returned the smile, then smoothed her slinky pink satin gown as she perched on a stool. She then said, "Chicago must be quite an experience for you...But you'll adjust...Tell me, where are you from?"
"I'm from Nantes, mademoiselle...Nantes, France."
"So that explains the slight accent...Tell me, what do you think of this upcoming fight between Joe Louis and Jimmy Braddock; it's all the talk of town. Why, Julian is certain that Louis can knock out Braddock in..."
Sunny then called to her fiancé, "How many rounds, darling?" Julian McNaney sipped his drink, took a few puffs on his cigarette, then said while lighting Sunny's smoke, "The word is that Joe Louis will take Braddock down in ten rounds, perhaps less." All the while 'Martin' listened as Julian began to recount a long history of American fisticuffs.
"Yes", said Edward Rathbord, "come Tuesday night, we just may very well see the first Negro heavyweight champ since Jack Johnson."
"Thus", joined Sunny, "another boon for our colored citizens. Why, Eula was telling me the other night that she had to order extra liquor just in case..."

While the three discussed the upcoming bout, 'Martin' had an idea -- a deadly idea. For somewhere in the back of his mind, that familiar urge to loosen his particular brand of destruction... Well...another opportunity...and since I didn't get the chance to kill M. Henry Clay...Yes! Why not! I wonder what the outcome will be? But first, I have to devise something...And this time, Frollo isn't here to stop me!

While the Rathbords and Julian McNaney enjoyed a sumptuous dinner then their respective night on the town, Marcel Rougelot returned to his seedy apartment near the Loop and began a few inquiries. Armed with that information, he set his plan in motion.


Meanwhile, let's see what our time traveling lovers are up to. Ah, a pleasant supper, then a night on the town for Claude and Nisha.  Read on...


"Hey, Claude". I began as I lit a cigarette, "did I ever tell you all about Aunt Eula, the club, and the Dr. Parsons connection?"

We were presently enjoying a lovely homecooked supper courtesy of yours truly. Senovia and Walter had gone out for the evening -- Friday night
dinner and bridge club -- so Claude and I had the house all to ourselves. Since I knew we were to spend the rest of the evening at La Tulipe Noire, I planned a light elegant meal consisting of pan-broiled lake trout, baked potatoes, and steamed spinach. Claude had commented that the meal "Was rather 'upscale' compared to the typical Depression era dinner." I was pleased that Claude Frollo, a 15th Century man, took the time to make those casual observations of life in 1930s America   For all of Claude's fascination with 1937 Chicago, it was the history behind my Aunt Eula and Wendell Parsons that intrigued him most. As I related to him over dinner, Eula Mae Reynolds' life as an upper-class Black American, when compared to that of the Warfields, was actually symbolic of the world of Chicago's Black elite.
"Tell me once again, Danisha. Now, the Warfields are 'respectables', and your Aunt Eula is, what is your social scientists termed, a 'shadie'. Claude Frollo took a healthy swallow of white wine, then he chuckled he temporarily changed the subject. "Thank goodness we didn't land  ten years earlier", he said, referring to the wine, and to Prohibition, "or else this would be illegal." He allowed himself a little levity  before asking me, "Beg pardon, my love, but the term, 'shadie'...?"
I commenced explaining the Black Belt's social structure: "It's not a racially derogatory term, sugarbritches, it simply refers to those people who made their money through other pursuits..."
"Umm...'other' pursuits, Nisha?" 
I went on to explain how Chicago's Black elite was actually multi-layered  -- It was structured in a way to differentiate among the Old Settlers, the established professionals, the newly wealthy, and those whose activities were not 'respectable'.
Senovia and Walter Warfield belonged to that respectable upper class --  not so much church-centered although they attended services at a nearby              Episcopal church on a semi-regular basis. As a successful pediatrician at the all-Black Provident Hospital, Walter's income was more than enough to allow him to live in a manner which he thought necessary. "If I have the degrees, the career, the prestige, then I ought to be able to live just as good as those folks up north", he said to me that morning.
That's what it was all about: To pursue pleasure and prestige, complete with all those amenities that translate into "gracious living". The Warfields' lives, since there were no children, centered around work and home. Both were active in this and that charity or community affair, whether it was YMCA, the NAACP, settlement houses, or Urban League. Then again, there was the 'home-centered' social life with its numerous luncheons, dinner parties, and bridge games. Respectable upper-class Blacks seldom indulged in the cabaret life; they formed close knit social clubs which served as necessary networks to "advance the race".
The Warfields were seen by the masses as Race Heroes. Not a week went by without a story or even a photo of Senovia and Walt gracing the pages of the Chicago Defender. Eula Mae's photo appeared in the Defender many times, too. However, those 'respectables' looked askance whenever she made an appearance in the tonier downtown shops, especially since she had dared to take up with a man half her age.

"And that, Claude Frollo, is where things get sticky. For you see, Eula, by virtue of marriage, had entered this world, but she was never fully accepted by her 'respectable' peers. Of course, when she met Wendell Parsons..."
Claude Frollo picked at the remains of his supper before he finally said, "The Warfields were understandably distressed that their nephew had fallen for Madame Reynolds, not solely with the age difference but that subtle class distinction."
He finally put down his fork, consulted his watch, adding, "My dear, I believe it is time we change into evening attire. But do tell me more of your Aunt Eula; I find her history quite fascinating."
Clearing away the dishes, I said, "Sugarbritches, you are in for a treat...a night of hot music, great company...and a chance to see Black Chicago at its best."
Indeed, our evening was full of surprises -- La Tulipe Noire was all I had expected, and more. Then again, the many people we met there -- well...

All those famous and soon-to-be-famous faces...And I got to see for myself what Wendell and Eula saw in each other...Then the connections finally began to fall into place...Sunny was there, and so was Vixen.


Meanwhile, in a dingy rooming house near the Loop, Marcel Rougelot hatches another plot, but...
Within a few minutes, the quiet elegance of the Gold Coast gave way to the teeming streets of the Loop. The noise, the filth, the near-Bedlam as streetcars, automobiles, trucks, taxis, and pedestrians vied for space. Off the El and into this world stepped Marcel Rougelot, now known as 'Martin Forester', still very much a stranger to this sprawling, filthy, boisterous metropolis. But Marcel didn't seem to mind; as long as he kept a low profile -- and at least displayed some expertise with all things 20th Century. Judge Claude Frollo and that woman named Danisha were now distant memories for Marcel. As far as he was concerned it was his good fortune to run into Jehan Frollo those many nights ago...
What a boon for me! I actually eluded Claude Frollo, and now he has to face an irate King! For once, old Frollo has failed in his duties...For once, Frollo has come home empty-handed. And now, I can continue to live in this 'Chicago' forever...Perhaps I can find a way to Washington...I'd like to meet President and Madame Roosevelt...Then I can finish what I had begun with M. Henry Clay, only this time there'll be no Frollo spies to stop me!

An unashamedly evil grin spread across Marcel Rougelot's face as he bounded his way toward that crummy apartment building he called home. Why so happy? Not only had Rougelot rid himself of Frollo's pursuit but now he could concentrate on 'other' matters. After all, it has been so long...And to Hell with whoever sent that message! I'm having so much fun...Why, with Frollo and that Danisha out of the way...

"Hey, Marty!", called our a decidedly Queens accent. Marcel, key in the door, looked up momentarily to spot Ernie, a small time hood from New York City, hurrying up the dark smelly corridor. Clearly disturbed, Marcel curtly greeted this man, "Ah, Ernie...I am rather tired...er...what do you want?"
He never warmed to Ernesto "Ernie" Iaria, a short man of thirty years with thinning dark hair, black eyes, and a cheery disposition that Marcel found so disgusting.
Ernie's dark Italian good looks and winning personality earned him many friends in the building -- except Marcel. But Ernie was determined to find out about this 'Martin' character; something wasn't quite right...
If I play my cards right, I could have this guy all figured out...Look at him with that phony Frenchie accent...Working for a swell like Eddie Rathbord...I tell ya, there's something screwy goin' on with this guy...

Ernie asked his neighbor, "Marty, me and the boys got a crap game goin' on down by the docks...Why don't you come along, maybe we can pick up a couple o' broads afterwards..."
Marcel cut in, "I am rather tired tonight -- Long day and all. Perhaps tomorrow night..."

And with that, Marcel briskly entered his apartment and locked the door. The one room was rather small and dark -- a far cry from even his accommodations at the Quayleson estate. To Marcel, this place was as close to a hovel...

...But it's only temporary...

With some trepidation, he switched on the lone bare bulb that suspended from the ceiling, sat down at the rickety table, then took out his transtemporal device. Marcel studied this wondrous thing, hoping to figure out how someone could have sent that previous message. How does one reply? I know I was told not to respond, but...
Shaking his head, Marcel then took out a newspaper clipping -- an article detailing pre-fight events. With a blank paper and an addressed envelope before him, and pen in hand, he began to write these words:

Dear Monsieur Louis,
My name is Martin Forester and I am a huge fan of your American boxing. Forgive me if my English is not good.
Monsieur Louis, I would like to meet you before your fight...Could you find the time to come to Monsieur Edward Rathbord's home? That's where I work...I want to wish upon you a personal good luck.
Martin Forester
Marcel smiled as he doublechecked the address, carefully paying attention to what was scribbled on the back of the clipping. Where did he find this address? It seemed Johnny had told him that Louis was training in Wisconsin. "Yeah, Martin, if you want to write him a fan letter..."
How nice of Johnny to provide Marcel with the address of Joe Louis' training camp! Yes, thought Marcel, things are finally looking up.
He espied a lone mouse hop up onto the table which began to gnaw a piece of stale bread. Marcel took out his dagger then slowly executed the perfect vivisection...

Poor mouse, must you squeal and thrash about so?...Just like poor Collette, Danforth, Bernard, and the others...And later, that Johnny and M. Joe Louis will meet the same fate...

Claude and Nisha at La Tulipe Noire...Vixen and Sunny...Eula Mae and Wendell...Guest Stars! A big break in a deadly manhunt...

TO TIME 4:4(I)

Copyright ©1999 by FrolloFreak®

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