On the Edge of Time


Book Five 
Part One 
"Strangers and Friends" 

The Time: Middle afternoon, April 3 1968 The Place: Outside a public elementary school. Once again, Marcel Rougelot wanders down that alley...

What time is it? Almost two...My employer was kind enough to help me with the shopping. What an experience! This 20th Century living is a marvel. Why I can walk into any business, choose my merchandise...

Marcel Rougelot, ever careful to keep himself concealed, lurked near that school, hoping to catch another glimpse of a certain little girl. Immediately after getting off work, he stopped in the drugstore next door to the restaurant and made a special purchase. He had hoped the treat would be just the thing... 
If what Jehan said is true, then I made a wise purchase. How fortunate that one of my coworkers pulled out a pack of that...

Three-fifteen in the afternoon, and hordes of children poured out the school's back entrance. Marcel stood well within the shadows of the building; only the fence and the thick overgrowth of weeds and shrubs came between him and the children. As Marcel waited patiently his hands caressed the brown paper bag where within held a treat. Oh please, let me see, perhaps talk to her...Perhaps when I show her the treat, she will warm quickly...

On this afternoon, one child out of many caught Marcel's interest. And just think, a few days ago I'd cursed my luck...Then this...Accidently transported here, to this time, to this city...This was NO accident; that curious little time machine sent me here...That person, who wanted me to kill Colette, then Danisha, then the daughter...
Marcel Rougelot thought long and hard; he had to figure out a way to return to his own time, to 15th Century France. But, in reality, there was little to entice him home. Oh, he could, if he wanted, remain in this 20th Century New World for the rest of his life. But no, he thought, he would never fit in completely. No...It wouldn't be like home; I wouldn't have Isabelle...

What was it about Isabelle? What mysterious draw did this woman possess to cause one man so much agony? If Marcel loved Isabelle as he claimed, then why would he kill her only son? And why would someone want her dead? Marcel stooped down to the ground; his eyes welled with tears. Hidden in the shadows, Marcel softly wept as a flood of memories engulfed him -- His childhood in Essex, the abuse, his first murder, the flight to Nantes, then more murders.

"Hello. Why are you crying?", called out a child's voice. Marcel Rougelot looked up only to behold HER! That sweet dimpled, caramel countenance, the soulful liquid brown eyes, the winning smile. She peered at him through the fence; somehow she didn't appear fearful nor guarded. He said nothing as she continued to talk to him.
"I know I'm not supposed to talk to strangers, but you knew my name so you can't be a stranger."

Marcel smiled slightly, then reached into the bag. He spoke, "Nisha, I know you because I'm..."
He paused a few seconds to gather his thoughts then continued, "...I'm a friend of your parents. My name is Marcel."

Nisha looked at him in puzzlement; she knew most of her parents' acquaintances, but this man seemed different. She studied this man very carefully, and wondered why he seemed so interested in her. Weird, she thought, Momma and Daddy have friends of all kinds, but this man is not from here. He talks funny.

"Say", she asked, "where are you from? You talk different." When Marcel said he hailed from France, little Danisha lit up. She immediately launched into dozens of questions. "Have you been to the top of the Eiffel Tower? How come French food is so fancy?"
Of course, for a man of the late 15th Century, Marcel Rougelot couldn't respond to all the child's questions. It didn't quite dawn on him that this child had yet to mature. Many years into the future -- nearly thirty years hence -- she will have the rare opportunity to travel back in time. She will also meet the Minister of Justice himself, thus the sealing that initial bond of love and friendship.
Marcel and Danisha, sitting in a window well and concealed by heavy shrubbery, shared more conversation. It was so amazing, thought Marcel, that this child would warm so quickly. Noting this good fortune, and not wanting it to end too soon, he produced the bag's contents. "Ooh! Cherry Lifesavers!", she cooed with delight. "Those are my favorite."
He smiled as he opened the bright red roll. "Would you care for one?", Marcel asked as he offered her the first piece. Lucky for him that Jehan happened to produce a similar package that evening. Lucky still that Jehan, in his cups, told Marcel that Danisha, "Brings these delightful little confections whenever she visits. Quasimodo prefers the peppermint, as does my brother."

Danisha accepted the round red confection, then popped it into her mouth and said, "Thank you, Mr....Uh, What is your name?"
"Marcel Rougelot."

She smiled at him, gathered her belongings and replied, "Thank you for the candy, Mr. Rougelot. But I have to go home now...Will I see you tomorrow?" Marcel paused a bit, then smiled and only said, "Perhaps."
He thought over something, panicked slightly, composed himself, then added, "Danisha, perhaps it is best you don't tell your parents right away. They do not know I am in town; I want to surprise them." Nisha's smile grew wide as she assured Marcel, "Oh, I get it...Don't worry, Mr. Rougelot, I can keep a secret."

Marcel smiled broadly at the prospect that he was this close in accomplishing his mission. Danisha the child was simply more pliable than Danisha the adult. Marcel Rougelot did not care about 'changing outcomes' -- at least that was what Jehan said about time travel. "It's far too risky; one could literally change the course of history."

Well, thought 'le Chameleon', by this time tomorrow night, the course of history will change for so many people. "Especially for Claude Frollo...and his brother, and that bellringer...And, ultimately, for Isabelle..."


Meanwhile, in a comfortable home nearby, the Minister of Justice and company discuss strategy. Read on...
Looking out on wet pavement, incessant drizzle, and dreary gray skies, Judge Claude Frollo silently told himself not to worry. But I must worry...If Rougelot harms her in any way...My God! Changing the outcomes -- For me!
Claude shuddered to think what could transpire once Marcel had his way. What awaited Claude Frollo back in his own time? It could be anything...I may be already dead...Perhaps, I still live, but in what capacity? Rotting away in my own dungeon? Perhaps a mere existence as a hermit, on the streets, a man scorned and spurned...

"Claude? Your Grace? Iggy says this plan might work but we need your final approval..."
Those words came from Tony Terrell, co-inventor of the time traveler. Tony, his hair picked out in a short neat Afro, adjusted the radio dial as Iggy, Fern's brother, reviewed his notes. Both men agreed to accompany the medieval magistrate as they knew this era and city better than anyone. They grew up in this town, during this time, and Iggy especially remembered this era. In reality, Daniel "Iggy" McMullen spent a good chunk on 1968 in California -- Berkeley to be exact -- where he attended college. In the spring of 1968, Tony -- "Antoine" as Claude Frollo addressed him -- wasn't out of diapers. Eighteen month old Anthony Terrell enjoyed a peaceful existence with his parents in a comfortable Northside home.
At first Claude was hesitant due to the fact that both Tony and Iggy could run into their younger selves. But after some hard reassurance, His Grace accepted their help wholeheartedly. Deep down, he had the sinking feeling that something was about to go horribly wrong. Why must I think like that? I must take Geraldine's advice: Think of Nisha and Nadine...But what if HE has already made his move? Then what?

"Er, Your Honor? Hello?", said Iggy, whose long blond hair was tied back into a ponytail. Claude Frollo looked at this middle aged hippie in puzzlement and amusement. Iggy's attire screamed 1960's counterculture -- the fringed vest, the sandals, the patched jeans, the ragged bandana, the scraggly mustache. His Honor chuckled a bit at this sight; then he grew serious as he addressed the two men.
"Gentlemen, your plan to trap Rougelot must be completely fail-safe...As of this moment the man has been seen near Danisha's grammar school. We MUST exercise caution..." He eyed Tony and said, "Antoine, I trust you will take extreme care..."
"Not to worry, sir. I've already intercepted that substitute teaching job...I'm to report tomorrow morning; I won't let that child out of my sight."
Iggy then told Claude Frollo of his part of the scheme. "And I secured a post over at the Black Curtain theater...That fool Rougelot has rented a sleeping room not too far from the place..."
His Grace grew impatient, and a little apprehensive. "Daniel (Frollo always addressed Iggy by his real name), despite my sheer gratitude to you and Antoine, you still have to be careful. Rougelot knows about you; he will be able to spot you in a moment's..."
Tony grinned, then said reassuredly, "Claude, he may think he's slick and all, but he don't know this town like us." Then he added, "But what about Julian? Wasn't he to accompany...?"
Frollo replied, "No, not here. Julian is presently gathering his evidence against Rougelot -- and that dastardly pair that hired him..."   Just then Claude's pager beeped incessantly. It was a message from Julian, and it wasn't good. Claude Frollo frowned when he read what scrolled across the black screen.

I'm here in the 15th Century. I've consulted my contact and he's assured me that he'll be ready at a moment's notice. Just give us the signal.
Also, I hate to rat on a friend, but someone close to you is out at Chateau d'Arcy and she's been asking a lot of questions. Be kind...Let her do this...She has to know what we're dealing with...Stay there in '68 Indy as Rougelot may throw in his own brand of chaos...Events MUST NOT be altered...You know of the '60s riots, after MLK was assassinated? Let Iggy fill you in...Indianapolis was spared that violence...Rougelot MUST stay away from Broadway at 17th Streets. I'll keep you posted on further developments.

"So, she has recovered enough to make a time trip," said Claude as he closed his transtemporal communicator. He endeavored to keep a tight rein on his anger, yet deep down he was glad she was there. Yes, as Julian said, let her discover it all for herself. Perhaps she will return home, to her time...Once she fully understands the danger to herself, to Nadine, and to me...
"Claude," said Tony gently, "Nisha has her reasons, you know that. Let Iggy and I take over this...Hey, I got an idea...Tomorrow afternoon, just before dismissal, why don't you..."

When Tony informed Claude Frollo that the 1400's judge will have to...

"Antoine, are you suggesting that I, the Minister of Justice -- a public official, mind you -- play the part of a...? NO!" 
"But, sir, it is a surefire plan...You can keep an eye on both Danisha and Rougelot. And with Iggy not too far behind, we can finally nail this Marcel cat..."

Come the following afternoon, Claude Frollo found it necessary to compromise his dignity all for the love of his lady and child. Marcel Rougelot was reaching the end of the line, and His Grace vowed that this time nothing will go wrong. He took a few minutes to send a message to his 21st Century lady. Not a message to chastise or to scold, but a message from the heart.

My love
I know you are there, in Paris, in my time. I am NOT angry -- well -- perhaps a trifle upset. I have known you long enough that I can predict your every move...the intimacy we share runs that deep. My dearest, the end of this long nightmare is in sight. Remain at Chateau d'Arcy the duration of your visit, But you MUST return to your time as soon as possible. It is for your own good, as well as Nadine's. DO NOT go to Paris under any circumstances. I am confident that justice will finally be served. By this time tomorrow, Rougelot will be in custody.
I love you, darling...Give Madame d'Arcy my warmest regards. She and Solange will tell you all about Colette. I'll remain in touch, but...Please don't laugh when I tell you what Daniel and Antoine have planned...and of MY role...

Oh, Claude's lady got a big laugh all right. But she also got the shock of her life when she finally learned of Marcel Rougelot's murderous journey -- A journey that found its way from a family estate in Essex, to the teeming port of Nantes, and to the streets of Paris where Marcel met up with a lovely widow named Colette Bouchard. But when he encountered THEM, the real trouble began...

Marcel's bitter memories...Colette...Claude Frollo and Tony Terrell hatch Phase One...

Go to TIME 5:2

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