"Danisha, do you mind locking up? I'm taking Eula up to Evanston right now, if we can ever get through this crowd."
So said Wendell Parsons shortly after the bad news arrived, and I had the good sense to stay behind to console my great-aunt Eula Mae. Although I promised Claude Frollo I'd leave for the 21st Century, Aunt Eula needed me, and justifiably so.
A few hours ago, we were joyously celebrating Joe Louis' victory. Claude Frollo and I had a few bitter words, but smoothed things over -- we can't stay angry with each other for long.
Then the news came.
There was an accident at the lake, near Evanston. Alvin, Eula Mae's
six year old son, and his friend Willie had been invited on a boat ride
with some older boys. At the time, it seemed innocent enough, but Alvin
being a curious child, had leaned too far over the edge of the boat. He
wanted to watch gulls dive for the crumbs he and his friends had pitched.
The boy lost his footing, slipped, then fell into the water.
At once, two of the older boys and Willie's father dove in after little Alvin. But their valiant efforts were in vain; the current was too strong and the waters were too rough even for the best of swimmers. They managed to recover the boy's body but resuscitation came too late -- Alvin was already gone.
When the news reached Aunt Eula's ears, she immediately fell apart.
As much as Claude Frollo wanted to spare Wendell Parsons all this agony,
the medieval judge knew when not to meddle with past events.
"What could I have done?", Claude later said to me, "I could, perhaps, had arrived a day earlier, and fetched the boy myself. However, you are aware of changing the outcome...Danisha, just think of what could have happened if Alvin had lived."
So I accepted the harsh hand life and fate dealt Eula Mae, and watched her slowly transform from a radiant, vibrant woman to the shattered shell my mother remembered. At that moment, as Wendell led Eula out to the car, my thoughts turned to my own child. Nadine, my sweet baby...Claude Frollo's pride and joy...Mommy's coming home as soon as she locks up and...then Papa will be home...Grandma said you baked cookies for us...How sweet...
"Hey! Open up in there!"
My mind was jolted to reality by incessant pounding on the backdoor.
When I peered through the peephole I spotted a short stubby thirty-something
man. By the light of the alley's sole street lamp I could make out his
face -- chubby, dark -- almost reminiscent of Danny DeVito. Obviously one
of Aunt Eula's street friends...probably out celebrating...Oh what the
Ever so cautiously I opened the door wide enough so I could speak to the man. He seemed frantic, out of breath, and very nervous. Then he eyeballed me up and down, realized I wasn't who he'd thought, and said, "Hey, you're not Eula. Damn, for a second I thought I was seein' double." I managed to smile and relax; it was obvious this man meant no harm.
Opening the door a little wider, I introduced myself, then asked him what he wanted. The man's small dark eyes widened as he replied, "Boy, folks 'round here was right on the money -- You and Eula could pass for twins! But hey..."
He rubbed his hands together, adding, "Well, I thought I'd catch up with that judge friend of yours...You know -- ooh, la la! -- that fancy Frenchman."
How did this man know about Claude? Immediately he answered my question.
"Don't worry, doll, Eula Mae told me all about you and your boyfriend.
Oh by the way," he continued as he extended his hand, "I'm Ernie Iaria...I
knew Eula's husband, Murray from way back."
Ernie, still eyeing me, broke out in a broad winning smile, saying, "Geesh, that judge guy really knows how to pick 'em...He's one lucky man. Lookin' at you, doll, I can tell the man's got good taste."
I only smiled then again asked Ernie what he wanted. "Oh, ain't nothing much, doll...I just dropped by to pay my respects to Eula Mae...I heard what happened to her kid..."
"Yes, Ernie, that was a shock. Wendell's driving her up Evanston..."
Ernie, shuffled his feet. then swiftly changed his tone; he sounded angry, upset. "Not to change the subject or anything, but that Judge Frollo guy...I heard he's after Marty Forester...I think your man's gonna be pleased that I saved him a few steps..."
Now I was somewhat alarmed for I recalled an earlier message from Jacki Terrell concerning Marcel Rougelot, aka 'Martin Forester'. At last report, Jacki had tracked Rougelot to April 1968 -- oh yes, he took off, just like that. But the message didn't come through until after Claude and Julian left to arrest Marcel. I had contacted Claude via the pager but received no reply; I just chalked up everything to crossed communication. Besides, I reasoned, once the medieval judge and 1990's spy reach Marcel's Loop apartment, then discover Marcel has flown the coop...
"Ernie, if you're looking for Claude Frollo, he and Julian McNaney have
gone to the Loop to find this Marty person..."
"Hold it -- Did you say both McNaney and this Frollo guy went to Marty's old...Damn! We gotta go!"
Ernie Iaria tugged at my arm and frantically begged me to come with him. There was that nagging premonition again; I could strongly sense that something awful was about to happen.
"What's the matter, Ernie?", I asked as I double-checked the locked
"I'll explain everything once we get there...Right now, we need to pick our way through all that crowd. Come on!"
Ernesto Iaria's timely appearance was a godsend -- Somehow, help comes
in all forms..even in the form of a short, plump, balding, has-been 'wiseguy'.
The Chicago millionaire looked at the good judge and flatly said, "Your
Grace, it's what we've both suspected for so long, but the evidence surely
Frollo grew impatient. "Yes, yes...and the sooner we apprehend Rougelot, the sooner I can finally interrogate that dastardly..."
Claude sighed as he readjusted the black Fedora that Nisha playfully said made him look, "Rather like a medieval Eliot Ness". Claude Frollo smiled a bit, then finally said, "Julian, we have to approach Rougelot carefully; we have no room for surprises. I suggest that once we are inside..."
The two men stepped off the streetcar while they continued to fine-tune their plan to arrest Marcel Rougelot. The five block walk to the apartment building, the long walk up five flights to 'le Chameleon's' room, would all be in vain...
At that same time, about four blocks back, two people emerged from a
beat-up Model A. At least that's where the driver of the truck let them
"I can let y'all off over by Union Station, but I ain't goin' no further," said the driver as he eyed the man and woman with suspicion. But tonight, with much of Chicago celebrating Joe Louis' hard-won victory, the driver didn't seem to mind offering a ride to a former Nitti boy and an attractive colored woman.
Then the oddly matched couple handsomely rewarded the driver; he had never seen so much money at one time. His eyes lit up like a Roman candle on Juneteenth when he exclaimed, "All these here tens and twenties...Hey, you folks must be in a hurry!"
The little wiseguy only replied, "Buddy, spend that on your wife and
kid...And pray you got us here in time."
"Ernie Iaria, I don't care if you're Capone's long lost kid and she's Ethel Waters! You know I don't allow no coloreds in here! So take your Negro friend and scram!"
I stood there in the cramped entry hall while Ernie argued with the
building super. With Claude and Julian only seconds away from certain disaster,
I only wished that this man would lighten up, let go of his petty prejudices
and please allow us upstairs. My left hand dove repeatedly into my dress
pocket, just to feel that bracelet. I don't know why I all the sudden brought
it with me. Perhaps I thought it would bring me luck.
Some luck! At this moment, Claude Frollo is walking in on a trap...Ernie, punch this guy's nose...do something!
Ernesto Iaria tried to shove his way past the super, and cursed the
man with, "Dammit, you rotten greaseball! That French guy and Julian McNaney's
gonna get hurt...Come on! Let us up!"
Suddenly, I asked Ernie, "Did you say you lived on the fourth floor, Ernie? And that...umm...'Martin' lived just two doors down?"
Ernie looked at me quizzically; his eyes widened as if to say, "Say, sister, you thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?"
Then out loud, "Uh, sure, Nisha...Marty and me was friends and all..."
The thirty-something wiseguy then told the super, "You know, buddy,
I'm sorry to have caused you any misconvenience...I'll take my friend and
we'll be out of your hair...Say...?"
From his jacket pocket, Ernie pulled out a box of Lucky Strikes, then handed it to the super. "No hard feelings, pal...Here, have a smoke on me...Go on!"
Just as the super reached for a cigarette, Ernie dropped the case, causing both men to bend down to retrieve it. Ernie glanced up in time to give me a cue. Like lightning, I bolted up the stairs -- all five flights -- screaming my head off.
"Claude! Julian! Wait! Don't go in there!"
At last, after shoving the super to the floor, Ernie stormed up behind me and joined my frantic screaming. "Hey, wait up! Don't go inside...!"
We -- Ernie and I -- out of breath, our legs aching from the frenzied
dash up five flights, called out to the two figures just seconds ahead
of us. The taller, older of the pair turned around in time to see us flying
down the dark, foul-smelling corridor. He recognized me at once, and he
was not too thrilled that I was still in 1937 Chicago. At once, Claude
Frollo glared hard at me as he spoke through clenched teeth, "Danisha,
why on earth haven't you returned home? Julian and I are this close to
apprehending...Oh damn it all!"
I could tell that Claude was not very pleased, but I had to explain. "Honey, I stayed just long enough to console Aunt Eula, then Sunny and Wendell drove her to Evanston...they have to identify Alvin's body..."
I stopped to catch my breath, then continued, "...I was going home as soon as I locked up and all...But Ernie here came by just in time..."
Ernie Iaria, sensing that I was becoming increasingly incoherent, and that Claude was more than slightly livid with me, spoke up, "Your Honor, Mr. McNaney...You's two can't go in there, you see? Marty done flown the coop and the cops..."
Impatiently, the medieval magistrate shoved the hapless man aside, while Julian McNaney, with pistol in hand, stood by the door waiting for Claude's signal. "Out of my way, you fool!", Claude said roughly as he turned the doorknob. My heart pounded hard and fast as I pleaded with Claude Frollo to stop. He glared hard at me, saying, "We shall discuss trust and responsibility later..."
Opening the door, Claude Frollo nodded to Julian. His Grace managed to set one foot inside when Ernie Iaria exclaimed, "Don't take another step!" Now I had to do something, and fast, because Claude Frollo repeatedly ignored our warnings as he and Julian proceeded inside the apartment. Suddenly, something inside me snapped; two men were inches away from certain disaster.
"CLAUDE FROLLO, YOU STUBBORN OLD...GET DOWN!"
No sooner had Claude's foot tangled onto fine wire that I sprung into action. Within a split second, Claude's foot tripped a wire, which caused the hidden ironing board to fly out of its walled prison. Something was strapped onto that board. Julian must have seen it as well because all three of us -- Ernie, Julian, and I -- found ourselves tackling Claude Frollo to the floor. Like magic, the rigged Tommy gun sent bullets flying through the room. All we could do was to hold each other down, and pray that the gun would soon empty itself. It was a close call for all of us, but the true horror had yet to reveal itself.
So said Claude Frollo as he held me tightly to him; he kissed me repeatedly
as he voiced his gratitude over and over. Once the gun emptied its deadly
load, Julian McNaney examined the trap Ernie had rigged. He finally said
to us, "I don't think I've seen a better constructed trap...Ernie, I know
you meant well, but a lot of people could've gotten killed."
Ernie, still trying to fathom the possible consequences of his handiwork, sat down on a rickety chair. He took out an old handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his face. "Geesh, folks, I didn't think this would happen...You know, I only wanted Marty to get what's comin'..."
He turned to Claude Frollo and said, "Your Honor, I ain't never meant for you's guys to get hurt...Now this place'll be swarming with cops...Which reminds me..."
Ernie got up, went to the bed, then reached under to retrieve some items.
"I thought you's guys'd be interested in this stuff...I found it when I was digging up dirt on Marty...The cops never found it."
Ernie's facial expressions changed several degrees of disgust as he turned over the boxes and bags to Claude and Julian.
"What the hell...?", gasped Julian as he opened one box.
"Julian", I asked somewhat tepidly, "Claude, what is it?" I wished I hadn't asked.
This was why Claude wouldn't divulge much on 'Le Chameleon'...Look at this...Why? I've only read about monsters such as Gacy, Speck, and Dahmer...Oh, Claude, this has to be...
I wanted to throw up on the spot, for Julian and Claude examined a few of Marcel Rougelot's 'souvenirs'. These were mementos of his recent murder spree: Sally's severed finger, which still wore the gaudy rhinestone ring, stuffed in a matchbox; there was Nathan Smiley's handkerchief smeared with the poor man's blood and brain tissue. One box contained pint-sized Ball jars of blood, tissue, sinew, bone.
"Yes, Nisha," Claude finally said, "Marcel takes...if you will...pieces
of his victims. He saved Colette's..."
He stopped himself then turned away as if he didn't want us to see the tears.
"...He severed Colette's hair after killing her...and her toes...her
Then Claude went on to tell me that Marcel, in his haste to flee 15th Century France, had left behind a journal which detailed all of "Le Chameleon's" murders. Claude then said, "It also chronicles this conspiracy..."
I didn't quite understand. "Conspiracy? Claude, this...What...? Serial killers don't do murder for hire..."
But when Claude and Julian explained it all, I finally realized why Claude Frollo was so hesitant to take me along on this manhunt through time. My mind did flip-flops as the two men proceeded to tell me of a plot to murder Colette Bouchard -- a plot that would've eventually spread to me, and to my daughter.
Then onto Isabelle...kill her as well...
Oblivious to the ever-growing crowd outside in the corridor, and the
wail of police sirens, I immediately flew into Claude Frollo's arms and
sobbed, "I want to go home, Claude! I want to go home to our baby!" I felt
myself swoon away; I wouldn't know anything else until I awoke in my own
bed, in my own home, in my own time.
END OF BOOK FOUR
A despondent lady...Marcel Rougelot haunted by his past...A kidnapping...Claude Frollo undertakes a perilous journey...
CLICK HERE FOR "TIME:Transistion 3"
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