On the Edge of Time


Book Four 
Part Five 

The Time & Place: Sunday afternoon, June 20, 1937, Chicago's South Side. All alone at Eula Mae's home, Claude Frollo and his 21st Century lady are about to lay plans to trap Marcel Rougelot. Read on...

Finally, a big break in this case...And it was all confirmed last night! Sunny and Julian told us...Marcel is working for Sunny's dad, in Sunny's house! The man IS literally under our noses...And Claude Frollo, the man from medieval France, actually thinks he can take this man down --Tomorrow! But what if...? Aunt Eula and I had a long talk this morning after church...She is so sweet, but Senovia still has her reservations about the 'romance'...Eula told me she had a surprise for me this evening...Got Wendell to take her to the lake for the rest of the day...

"Are we daydreaming, my love?," asked Claude Frollo as he fiddled with the radio dial. He smiled as he heard the myriad of voices and music emanating from this fabulous machine. He had determined that this would be a quiet Sunday, and that we should still have Marcel Rougelot believe he is free of our pursuit.
Last night, at La Tulipe Noire, Sunny and company confirmed that Marcel Rougelot, a fugitive from medieval Paris, was indeed employed by Eddie Rathbord, and he was going under an assumed name: 'Martin Forester', according to Claude, was Marcel's maternal uncle. "How stupid of him!," declared Minister Frollo, "But he still thinks he is in the clear...Those mysterious messages have done just that!"
I also learned that Johnny, the Rathbord chauffeur, was one of that tight network of Frollo spies. Johnny, as it turned out, was Marcel's 'tail', and Johnny reported directly to Claude Frollo if 'le Chameleon' so much as sneezed. The wealthy fiancé, Julian McNaney, also a Frollo spy, promised Claude Frollo that he and Sunny wouldn't breathe word one. "That odd man Edward hired...I knew he was Rougelot the minute I laid eyes on him," was what Julian said to us just before we left the club.
Then there were the glimpses into an ever-growing mystery. Vixen revealed, at least what she was allowed to reveal, that Aunt Eula and I are indeed Isabelle LaCroix's descendants. But what does that have to do with Marcel Rougelot? Did he know Isabelle? Why didn't he bump her off?
Then I learned that Claude Frollo and Julian McNaney had met before, but how? As far as I knew, except this one time, Claude had never been to 1937 Chicago, however he managed to recruit Julian as spy. Hmm...What if Marcel finds out anyway? What if he figures that everyone is watching his butt...? And why won't people tell me EVERYTHING?! Even my own parents promised not to reveal too much...Damn Claude, for once, please level with me...I know you want to protect me, to protect Nadine...Oh Nadine, my baby...What if Marcel transports himself to MY time?! To 2004? Then what...?!

Again, Claude Frollo, who had just tuned the radio to some lively music, reassured me, "I know what you are thinking, darling Nisha. Believe me, with M. McNaney, Vixen, Johnny, and Fern watching Rougelot's every move...My love, I finally believe this shall all come to an end." I put down my needlework and looked at him with tired, and worried, eyes.
"And what if it doesn't? Claude Frollo, I may not sound very optimistic, but you know Marcel's mind...He may very well up and leave..."

I sighed in frustration and fell back in the big red wingback chair which was Aunt Eula's favorite. Claude noticed my utter weariness with this manhunt, with the nearly fatal chances we had taken. He put down his book, arose from his easy chair, then knelt before me. To the sophisticated sounds of Cole Porter, Claude Frollo held my hands and kissed my mouth over and over.
Did I detect a slight quaver in his voice? Perhaps, but what he said to me finally made sense; I had to leave first thing tomorrow morning. The things he said to me; the things he revealed...

"And that my love, is why you must return to your time. I simply cannot allow any misfortune befall you. It's for your own good, and for Nadine's." He kissed me deeply and fully; I could feel his warm breath waft across my face. Claude Frollo then laughed a bit, saying, "At last, we can indulge our passion, albeit briefly. Actually, I rather enjoy this peaceful little scene...Domestic tranquility..."
He sighed then added, "When we return to your time, I fully intend to make the most with my daughter. Nisha, I can't get over how much she has grown, how utterly brilliant she is. Unfortunately, in my time, I haven't the luxury to brag about my little pride and joy..."
I tightly embraced him, kissed his thin sensuous lips then made a few observations of my own. "Sugarbritches, we need to be prepared in case she asks questions, and I know she'll ask plenty. Nadine may be only five, but that child seldom misses a beat. Honey, sometimes when I look at her, it's like looking at myself at that age. And I can't get over how much she smiles -- just like your smile -- all broad and bright. But it's a childlike smile, with all those cute, tiny baby teeth; she's so adorable when she smiles, just like her father."

With that thought, we fell out laughing while the medieval magistrate embraced me then returned to the radio. He stopped momentarily to inform me of Vixen's next broadcast, "To be given tomorrow afternoon. Our wanted man will finally find himself in a hopeless situation."  I certainly hoped so, for this entire adventure was beginning to sour for me. In the back of my mind I had this horrible feeling that things were about to take a dramatic turn, and for the worst.
But for now, I enjoyed this quiet time with the man I loved. Aunt Eula picked up on those sparks flying between Claude and me all last night. It was her idea to lend us her home for the rest of the day while she and Wendell spent the day up in Evanston. It was a Sunday Claude Frollo would never forget: A nice homecooked dinner complete with fried chicken and homemade rolls was greatly appreciated.
In a way, we both needed this downtime, and this moment -- early evening -- was particularly relaxing. Soft music wafted from the radio, I sat in my chair doing cross stitch, and Claude, casually reading the Saturday Evening Post, sat in the chair a few inches away. This little domestic scene was so sweet, so charming; somehow I wished it would never end.
A song wafted from the radio, I think is was "The Way You Look Tonight". Like magic, Claude Frollo whisked over to me and said, "May I have this dance?" Soon Claude and I swirled about the living room to the instrumental stylings of Paul Whiteman's Orchestra. How romantic, how deliciously divine and attentive Claude was to me. He had promised he'd make up for all the pain and misery, and he did just that and more. He even crooned the lyrics as we dipped and glided around the room. I laughed when I wondered what the neighbors might say if they decided to snoop.

Afterwards, Claude mentioned Eula's son, Alvin. "Why haven't we met him, Nisha?"

I had told him what I could about Alvin, but the details were scanty at best. All I remember was what Momma related about her young cousin. "I seldom saw Alvin; he and I were about the same age...Aunt Eula doted on that boy so much. Sent him to private school, summer YMCA camp, bought him the nicest toys and clothes. I remember the last time we visited and Alvin showed me his new Mickey Mouse windup toys. My goodness, that boy had everything!"

Claude Frollo sighed as I continued to relate my mother's memories. At last he said, "It is such a pity...But we cannot meddle with history. No! Apprehending Marcel Rougelot is our top priority. I am still holding you to that promise...You are to return home tomorrow."
"OK, Claude, I understand," I said sadly, knowing that a tragic event was only two days away. Then I asked, somewhat uneasily, "But what about you? Are you going to personally arrest Rougelot?" 
"Not yet darling. I have to return to Paris,  to my time; there is yet another piece to this puzzle that..." 
"You mean there's more to this than just nabbing a serial killer?"
"Precisely, my love. I also intend to speak to Jehan again; perhaps, if we are fortunate, we may be able to predict Rougelot's next move."

Far to the north of us, at the Rathbord residence, a little drama was about to be played out. Predict Marcel's movements? How? The man is so unpredictable; he is always one step ahead of us.


In the Rathbord garage, Julian and Johnny talk, but...
"OK, Johnny, it's got to to work right or else Rougelot will slip through our fingers again. Your job is to keep an eye on our man, but don't let on that we know all about..."

Julian McNaney leaned against the 1936 black Cadillac, lit another cigarette, then continued to explain his "no fail plan" to finally capture 'Le Chameleon'. Julian, who had made his fortune in the entertainment industry -- he owned a chain of movie and vaudeville houses -- was also one of Frollo's most unusual spies to date. The millionaire angle was genuine, but he was actually a late 20th Century man who decided to make the 1930s his permanent base. He was a time traveler just like Frollo's friends, and lately he had been His Grace's medieval Paris liaison. It was Julian who had sent those odd messages to Marcel. It was Julian who had exploited to the fullest his espionage expertise.
Claude Frollo, who had strong suspicions of a connection between Marcel Rougelot and, perhaps, another person involved, recruited Julian at Fern's urging. "He can get in and out of places like you won't believe! Did you know he used to work for the OSS? Then the CIA? Yeah, then he did all this contracted covert operations stuff. I'll tell you, Claude, Julian's one crackerjack guy. For this particular case, I think he's your man."
And so Julian found himself traveling back to 15th Century where he accepted Claude Frollo's challenge: "Find out all you can; if there is a connection, then I must have absolute proof."
Actually, at the time when Frollo hired Julian (back in the previous spring), this particular case wasn't remotely related to "Le Chameleon".  However, Julian had just uncovered something crucial -- Marcel Rougelot was working for someone else, and that person wanted Marcel to kill Colette Bouchard.

"And that, my dear Johnny, is why I have to head back to the 15th tonight. I mean, I got video, voice samples, photos, fingerprints, the whole nine yards. Those medieval folks never knew what was what...Can you visualize me placing that mike under that table at Victor Jouet's tavern? Those poor slobs didn't know that their conversation was being recorded!"

Johnny took a healthy swig of beer then said, "Listen, man, I know His Honor's gonna be plenty interested but we got to take this Marcel cat back to his time. I mean, what if he kills again...?"
"Don't worry, Johnny. We now know where the man lives; all we do is wait for Claude Frollo to give us the high sign..."

The hired chauffeur lowered the hood on the Caddie, then reached inside to switch on the ignition. "This thing sounded strange last night, so I decided to do some tinkering...Ooh, listen to that purr..."
Stubbing out his cigarette, Julian smiled. "Yeah, that's one reason I decided to stay here. You know, when music and movies were really classy, just like these cars..." Suddenly, while Johnny rechecked under the hood, Julian felt a crushing blow to his head. Johnny heard this, and without looking up said, "Drop something, Julian?" He turned around only to see Marcel Rougelot standing behind him grinning broadly.

"So, Johnny, you are not a chauffeur but a Frollo spy, and so is M. McNaney...Ah, so Claude Frollo is still alive, and so is his lady..."

Without hesitation Marcel raised a heavy pipe over Johnny's head, but Johnny was quicker. After a brief struggle, Marcel kicked the hapless chauffeur repeatedly until Johnny was quite unconscious. Not stopping to clean up, Marcel fled from the garage, from the Rathbord residence. He knew he couldn't go home to his Loop apartment; Frollo could be waiting for him. Instead, Marcel spent the night on the docks not knowing that someone else would, in due time, tell the police everything. He also didn't realize that, when he fled the garage, the car was still running. Marcel Rougelot, a man of the 15th Century, was not one to know that a running car and a locked garage make a deadly combination.


Much later that night, a phone call...
Eula and Wendell had returned home only minutes ago when the phone rang. Where was Alvin? He had spent the weekend in Evanston, with Willie, one of his schoolmates who was the son of Minnie Hadley, one of Eula's very best friends. Eula Mae allowed the boy to stay "One more night -- We're going swmming then Aunt Minnie's taking us to the zoo." Of course, Eula, being the indulgent mother, gave her permission. "But come Wednesday morning, I'm coming to get you.", she told Alvin.

Claude had hoped to meet the boy but expressed, "Perhaps another time, when everything isn't so rushed." So we listened to Eula's stories about her trip to Evanston, her friend Minnie, and a pleasant picnic by the lake with Wendell and two very rambuncitous six-year olds. 
"The weather's been so nice these days...I hope it stays like this Tuesday night. Baby", she then said to Claude and me, "I'm sorry you two have to go home, but..."

That was when the phone rang; it was Fern. I volunteered to answer it as I had left the number with nearly all our 21st Century companions. "Hello? Fern! Oh man...Where have you been? Huh? He did what?! Oh God no! Oh wait, Fern,  here's Claude."
Claude Frollo had just returned from the front porch when I handed the phone to him. His expressions changed several times as Fern explained the latest complications. During the course of the one-sided conversation, Claude Frollo dropped the phone; he seemed to swoon slightly. Eula sensed this and said, "Your Honor, I hope it isn't bad news..."
I picked up the receiver then told Fern to come to Chicago at once.

"My dear Eula Mae," sadly said Claude after he had regained his composure, "your friend, Sally, is dead -- murdered last night. And Julian..."

Now I felt a slight fainting spell coming on. "Claude, what about Julian...?"
He finally said, "Sunny found both him and Johnny, in the garage...The car was on...There was a struggle...Danisha, darling, both men suffered...what you call 'carbon monoxide' poisoning...And Marcel Rougelot is gone again...He is still in Chicago, but hiding out...somewhere."

Ernie sets a trap...Claude gets a earful...Where's Marcel Rougelot?

TIME 4:6 

Copyright ©1999 by FrolloFreak®

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