"He made me -- really all of us -- promise never to reveal a thing to you...At long as Marcel Rougelot remained a fugitive, you were to be kept in the dark. Claude said the silence was for your protection, and for Nadine's."
Within the sumptuous confines of the ladies' room, Vixen confessed nearly
everything. I said virtually nothing as I allowed each and every bit of
information to congeal in my mind. At this point, I finally realized why
Claude Frollo never fully leveled with me. It, the secrecy surrounding
Marcel Rougelot and what compels him to kill, was for my protection. Seems
that Jehan Frollo had revealed a great deal more about me than what was
previously known, and Claude was determined to protect me at any cost.
Now I understood why he wanted to send me home first thing Monday morning,
but I would have other ideas -- ideas that would lead to a very painful
scene between Claude and myself. But for now, I finally learned the whole
story; however, the full horror of Marcel Rougelot's homicidal insanity
had yet to reveal itself. That wouldn't come for another two days, and
Claude Frollo tried his best to shield me from that horror.
Vixen told me about Julian McNaney, a self-made millionaire who befriended Claude Frollo the previous November. That was during the same time Claude recruited the elderly Wendell Parsons to help the 15th Century judge nab a serial killer. It seems Claude had made a secret time trip; he wanted to confirm Wendell's findings on the fate of the LaCroix family. What he discovered was so remarkable; even I didn't know this: Aunt Eula and I were a direct descendants of Isabelle LaCroix. The murder of Bernard, in reality, wouldn't affect the fact that several of Isabelle's later descendants would eventually emigrate to the West Indies during the latter half of the 16th Century.
However, since Jehan revealed almost too much to Marcel, Claude Frollo wasn't about to take any chances. But why? Was there an outside chance that Claude could've predicted Marcel's transtemporal movements? Not really, but the 15th Century judge took no chances when he enlisted Julian McNaney as his 1937 contact. I still didn't know all the details, but right now, apprehending Rougelot was our top priority.
"Danisha," Vixen finally said before we rejoined the others, "if Marcel Rougelot has anything up his sleeve, well, he'll have to get past Fern. And we all know she seldom misses a thing."
"Let us hope so, Vixen. I don't think I can take much more of this."
I glanced in the mirror to check my makeup and hair. "Oh let Marcel stew in his nasty little apartment...Right now, we all need some release time. Let's party!"
"Hey, French boy!"
Marcel whirled around in the voice's direction, and it was a rough voice -- heavy, coarse, almost threatening. He turned to face the rather large woman standing behind him; she spoke again.
"Yeah, baby! I'm talking to you, Frenchie. Ernie told us all about you."
In the faint light of the street lamp, Marcel Rougelot studied this
woman, the one they called Big Sal. And she lived up to her name: Tall
and rubenesque, large onyx eyes and dark cocoa skin. Years of life on the
streets gave Sal a savviness unrivaled by her peers, and it showed on her
still-lovely face of thirty-two years. Yes, Sal was beautiful yet hardened;
she seldom held her tongue.
Marcel looked blank as Sal sidled up to him and said, "Hey, French boy! Ernie said you like a good time. I bet I can do for you real good..."
She brought her body dangerously close to his; her huge breasts lightly
grazed his chest. He swallowed hard, and endeavored to still his rapidly
beating heart. But there was no denying the unwanted desire building deep
"Madame, I only wanted to find this place, this La Tulipe Noire..."
Her laughter rang out into the night. "Man, if you ain't nothing! That place don't let in folks like us...Hey," she said, tugging his sleeve, "come on up to my place...We can have us a good time, and I ain't had a nice white boy in months. Come on, honey, let Sally take care of you."
Marcel didn't know what to think as he let Sal lead him through the
door. The building itself was in worse condition than that of his Loop
apartment. Dank, dark corridors reeked of urine and old bacon grease; vermin
scampered here and there. Marcel Rougelot tried not to retch from the foul
odors that stung his nostrils; for right now, his mind became clouded with
a myriad of memories.
Sal led him into her dingy room then began to undress and jabber on about how swell it was to "do a Frenchman".
"Yes, Lord," Sal cooed as she doffed her black satin skirt, revealing heavy yet shapely deep-chocolate legs clad in silky stockings, "I've had many a white boy but no Frenchman. Tell me what you like, Marty..."
She unbuttoned her blouse and allowed her her generous bosom to fall in his face. He hated this; he hated the idea of giving in to this black harlot. Why? Why must I always do these things? It's why I had to slay Danforth, and the others...Damn, she is nothing like Isabelle, nothing like...Oh God, those voices again! Everything is all muddled together...
Sally pushed Marcel back onto the bed; her soft hands gently kneaded
his body. She slid next to him and began to undo his shirt, then allowed
her hand to travel downwards. Her lips grazed his neck, his chest; the
hand found its target. Marcel, out of desperation, reached into his back
pocket. Is it still there? Yes, it is! Now, let me end this...
"...Mmm...Marty...You have the nicest..."
As Sal tenderly kissed Marcel's blushing cheek. she deftly and swiftly unbuttoned his pants, but he was quicker. With dagger in hand, Marcel immediately put an end to his momentary torment. Big Sal, totally taken by surprise, never reacted in time to scream.
I felt a nudge against my knee; it was Vixen whose eyes widened as she
leaned over to say, "Nisha, did you and Claude hear that? That young piano
player was Nat Cole! Can you imagine? Nat "King" Cole! Before he got really
famous!" Vixen tried her best to keep herself from going bonkers; I had
to admit that I had a tough time NOT staring at almost every famous face
that entered the room.
Claude noticed the pair of us getting all starstruck; his eyes twinkled as he decided to turn the subject. He addressed Wendell and Julian, "Gentlemen, I understand there is a...umm....'title fight' Tuesday evening. Nisha informed me of this Braddock fellow and his young challenger."
At once, Claude Frollo, the medieval magistrate, got a crash course in American fisticuffs -- a sport he usually disdains. But Wendell and Julian made it sound so fascinating, especially when Wendell mentioned that Joe Louis, "Could very well grab the championship by a knockout. He'll be the first colored champ since Jack Johnson."
The two men went on to tell Claude Frollo that they have ringside seats that Tuesday night. "Oh yes," said Julian, "Sunny and I plan to make the most of it. You know, her father is quite the boxing fan." To this, Wendell Parsons looked at me then suggested that, "Your Honor, why don't you and Danisha come along. Eula has extra tickets...You can sit with us. I can guarantee you'll have a good time..."
The 15th Century judge cut the young scholar short. "I'm sorry, M. Parsons, but I have to return to Paris Monday morning; Danisha is returning home that same day." He looked at me with stern eyes and I knew that arguing with him now was out of the question. My only response was, "Thank you, Wendell for that kind invitation, even though I would love to go...But Claude is right; we both have prior commitments."
Deep down I was seething; I mean, here I was in 1937 Chicago. One of the greatest moments in sports history was only days away, and I would have to miss it all because of Marcel Rougelot. As I sat there, smiling and carrying on pleasantly, I secretly reviled the man who had callously ended so many lives. I hated him for what he was doing to Claude Frollo; I hated him for taking advantage of Jehan's naiveté. Damn, and he sold me off...I nearly died...How much more of this can I take?
Claude immediately picked up on my wavelength; I believe he actually had a change of heart. But no, I thought, he has my welfare at heart. Besides. I've been away from home too long, much too long. We can always return to this time, once Rougelot is captured and things finally settle down...
"Danisha, Judge Frollo tells us you can belt out a pretty mean song."
Those words came from Sunny Rathbord who by now had piqued Claude's curiosity.
During the course of conversation, she had casually mentioned that, "Well,
that makes two Frenchmen in one night. Judge Frollo, Daddy hired a man
from...what was the town's name? Nantes! But his name is English...Martin
Of course, Claude made no further comment aside from "That is interesting." He glanced at Julian who in turn placed an open matchbook before Claude's eyes. I, too , read the handwritten words: "All under control".
Claude reached for my hand, clasped it, then leaned over to say, "It is nearly over, my love."
Vixen, who was still thoroughly enchanted with her visit to the Swing Era, echoed Sunny's question. Claude Frollo, anticipating this, summoned Eula, whispered something in her ear, then continued lively conversation. "What are you up to?", I asked apprehensively while Eula passed a note to the bandleader. Claude only smiled then told me to look no further than the woman standing before the microphone.
Eula Mae Reynolds addressed her guests warmly with, "Ladies and gentleman, I welcome you all here tonight. I especially welcome my very special guests, one who came all the way from France. Now, according to His Honor, his pretty lady over there is a chanteuse of the first order. Why, she's as fine a singer as Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters." She looked at me with the most loving eyes; I began to wonder if she knew my true identity. No, that can't be...But the way she looks at me, as if she knows that I have to be a longlost relative...I wonder if Claude has told her...No, he wouldn't jeopardize this case; it's way too risky...
"Now", she continued, "if we can coax her up here..."
My hand grazed Claude's as I leaned over to say, "Honey, you had to
put me on the spot like this, but I don't mind. For you, I'll dedicate
a special song."
In a flash, I found myself facing a brightly lit, and crowded, room. The band behind me, I stepped back and whispered a few requests to the bandleader. Now, I didn't recognize this man right away, but as I became more comfortable, more 'with it', he would soon join me in a madcap improvisation.
My eyes scanned the room, the people, as I launched into a series of old Gershwin standards, starting with "Fascinating Rhythm" and ending with "Our Love Is Here to Stay" (my special dedication to the man I love). During the course of the set, I dodn't qiute know what came over me -- Everything bottled up inside me came roarinf out. For nearly two weeks, Claude and I had to keep our relationship, for the most part, under wraps. Outward, public displays of affection were taboo. Then there were the near-fatal consequences that seemed never to end -- Marcel Rougelot made sure that Claude Frollo wouldn't take him down without a fight. Damn him!
I became oblivious to my surroundings; I lost myself in the music, the beat. Those jazzy, jaunty, heart-thumping, foot-tapping rhythms sent me into a fit of the 'shimmy shakes' as I belted out tune after tune. Something inside me snapped, for both my brain and voice immediately decided, "Let's see if we can scat." Soon the bandleader joined in -- that voice, that raspy, roughhewn voice sounded a tad familiar. When I allowed myself to return to Earth, my eyes nearly popped!
Louis Armstrong! I can't believe this!
Louis Armstrong...I'm doing the liveliest and most thrilling scat with
the great Satchmo!
Satch and I exchanged nonsense syllables and rhymes, stopping every now and then for him to enthrall everyone with those matchless, incomparable trumpet solos. It was all I wished for and more: A chance to let go, and release all the pent-up frustrations and tensions of the past few days. And I could tell, just from his amazed expressions and rather amorous reactions, that Claude Frollo was thoroughly enjoying himself.
It seemed Eula could sense the fire that burned between the medieval magistrate and myself, because later, she told me, "Honey, I noticed those sparks...The way he kept those eyeballs glued on you...And you, in that dress, doing all that shimmying, singing those songs. Say, I don't think I've ever heard Gershwin done that way. Why, Danisha, you have such a natural talent..."
The conversation went on like this all Sunday morning after church. Later, after services, she coaxed Wendell to take her to Evanston, "Just to spend the day with Minnie (one of her friends) and have a picnic by the lake."
Claude and I were extremely grateful to her, to Wendell. We enjoyed a most pleasant day of radio comedy, music, the Sunday funnies, and, finally, a chance to indulge our love and affeciton for each other. However, Claude Frollo's promise, "All this shall come to an end", would soon ring hollow, for in the Black Belt, bad news travels fast.
Then Fern stepped in with some timely news; I had to mention my desire
to see the Louis/Braddock bout. But Claude had other ideas...
A quiet Sunday evening shattered...The cops step in...Nisha and Claude disagree...A confrontation...
To TIME 4:5
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