On the Edge of Time

Book Five 
Part Six ~ "A Hard Choice"

The Time & Place: 
Indy...Late night, April 4, 1968. A late model Mustang speeds down Talbott Street. Read on...

"Well, sir, what did you think of Kennedy's speech? I wonder what Marcel thought."

So said Tony Terrell as he slowed down the car to turn into the alley behind their temporary lodgings. Judge Claude Frollo smiled to himself; he felt as if the heaviest weight in the world had been lifted from his shoulders. Finally, he had Marcel Rougelot trapped and quickly apprehended. It was hoped that Julian McNaney and his medieval companion hadn't allowed Marcel to slip through their fingers.
"Antoine, I thought M. Kennedy's speech was one of the most touching I've heard; his way with words is amazing. I understand that two months from now, he will meet his own end at the hands of an assassin." Claude Frollo sighed, ran his long fingers through his iron gray locks, then said to Tony, "I surely hope they know what they are doing...We never actually witnessed them take Marcel..."
Tony chimed in, "Sir, remember that Julian sent a message as soon as they nabbed Rougelot."
"Yes, yes...", Claude replied, then added, "At first I was somewhat uneasy when Julian suggested he bring along..."

The two men fell silent once they neared the house. Tony doused the lights and was first out the moment he parked the car. "Sir, Iggy isn't armed. What if Rougelot decides to do something stupid?"

Claude Frollo reassured his companion that everything will finally go right this time. "Imagine, Antoine, within the next few minutes, Marcel Rougelot will be safely in custody. Now that those conspiring devils..."
He stopped himself, knowing that those who paid Marcel to kill Colette, then Danisha and Nadine were once trusted friends and colleagues. "How can they turn on me like that, Antoine? Why?!"
Tony put his hand on Claude's shoulder, shook his head, and said quietly, "Claude, who knows what goes on in people's minds. You know, it's the same question brought up when JFK was shot, then Malcolm, now Dr. King. We'll ask those same questions again when Bobby Kennedy is killed: Why do people do such things?"

Claude sighed as they walked up the steep steps to the back door. "I suppose they had their reasons, and I shall learn those reasons once Julian presents his evidence. I intend to use that proof when I interrogate the ungrateful little..."
"Sir, look!"
Tony tugged at Claude's sleeve when he looked toward the garage and espied three figures emerging from the old T-Bird. Claude and Tony knew these men right away -- one was Julian, Claude Frollo's 21st Century spy. The other? Well, he was forced to walk between the two men; his hands securely shackled.  He appeared sullen, beaten, utterly defeated. The third man towered over both of them. He was a big strapping fellow with a mop of blond hair and the merriest blue eyes.
At once the medieval judge exclaimed triumphantly, "Ah, at last!"

Julian was the first to speak as he and his companion led Marcel Rougelot through the backyard. "Claude, I thought I had a hard time convincing your ex-Captain to accompany me, but after what happened this afternoon..."
Claude Frollo knew very well what had 'happened this afternoon'; Julian had quickly conveyed those facts. Then Claude greeted his former employee. "Ah, Phoebus, while I've never quite condoned Jacqueline giving you your own device...No matter, you are here. How is my brother?"
Julian McNaney replied that Jehan Frollo, "Only suffered a couple of flesh wounds, but his assailant got away from us too quickly. The rest of the gang is now in custody though."
Throughout the conversation, Marcel Rougelot remained silent, motionless. Claude Frollo nodded silently, walked up to Marcel Rougelot, eyed the man with such contempt and hatred, then repeatedly and resoundingly rained blow after blow onto 'le Chameleon'.
"Damn you! Damn you!", Claude screamed into Rougelot's ears, "Why?! You nearly killed her -- twice! Sold her into bondage! We all nearly died because of YOU!!"
Marcel reeled from Frollo's many blows, but he remained silent; only a few tears flowed from his eyes. He knew it would eventually come to this, and he wondered what awful tortures awaited him back in his own time?
"Unholy demon!", Claude bellowed again and again as he kept pummeling Marcel. It took all three men -- Phoebus, Julian, and Tony -- to restrain the medieval magistrate. "Easy, sir!," said the former soldier. Tony Terrell rejoined, "Claude, we have him; we have them all. Just wait until we get back to your time; then you can dish it out to them all you want. Right now, we have to get little Nisha."
Claude Frollo, his breathing labored, his cheeks flushed, the eyes fiery hot, took several deep breaths in efforts to calm himself. But his eyes remained locked on Marcel's now sprawling figure, and those eyes glared sheer hate for the man. "Take him inside", was all Claude Frollo snarled as he licked the blood from his right hand; he had bruised his knuckles.


Back at Nisha's home, in her time, in 2004...
It was an elegant room, with high vaulted ceiling, intricate moldings and gleaming woodwork. Near the enormous picture window stood the Christmas tree, its lights still twinkling merrily. Packages of all sorts were stacked neatly beneath the tree's spreading branches; cards and other holiday knickknacks scattered about the room.
It was after midnight as Geraldine Wood, the only one still awake, sat in her chair; the tears rolled down her cheeks. Her eldest daughter was still in a near catatonic state, the unwitting victim of a vicious, complicated plot. Danisha's father, Joe, had finally leveled with his wife -- Danisha and Claude had spent the past two weeks tracking down a killer. He told Gerry all about the trek through various time periods. She learned that her daughter had been sold into slavery, had traveled to 1937, had met her great-aunt Eula Mae, and twice had narrowly escaped death.
"And now," Joe told his wife earlier, "Danisha, as a child, is being held hostage by this man. If Claude and his friends don't catch up with this Marcel Rougelot, then our daughter's life is in grave danger."
Geraldine dropped her book then silently wept for her child. How could this be? Why would someone want my baby dead? She recalled Wendell Parsons' revelations concerning Isabelle LaCroix, and how the Reynolds are her direct descendants. Gerry remembered her aunts and mother talk about a Afro-French ancestor named Isabelle. "Some say she was married to a big-time French merchant," was what Aunt Alva said. It is all true, thought Gerry, Isabelle is my ancestor. Claude Frollo had showed Joe and Wendell the engraving of Isabelle LaCroix; Joe was wise to make a photocopy. When Gerry laid eyes on this, she nearly fell over. She, Eula, and Nisha favor each other so much...

The shrill scream reverberated throughout the house, so loud that it awoke nearly everyone. Gerry bolted from her chair and hurried up the winding staircase to her daughter's room. Nadine! I hope she didn't wake up Nadine...my grandchild...Claude's pride and joy...

"Nisha, honey, what's wrong?"
Her daughter's voice was weak, barely audible. "Momma, get hold of Claude again. I just had that horrible feeling...I feel that one of us may not ..."


Meanwhile back in '68
"Phoebus, you and Antoine go upstairs and check on Daniel and Nisha. Julian and I shall remain with Rougelot. Ah yes, Antoine, I believe Daniel has something for you...Would you kindly run that errand for me?"  The ex-soldier and Tony complied; both men quickly ascended the stairs to where Iggy safely hid little Nisha. .

Claude Frollo motioned to Julian McNaney who immediately shoved a still silent Marcel Rougelot into a chair. Frollo, his head throbbing slightly and right hand turning an angry blue-black, sat in the chair across from Marcel. The medieval judge's eyes glowed sheer hate, that awful fire few people could stand. But Marcel remained silent. Julian stood over the man; he had one hand on Marcel's shoulder and the other on a loaded revolver.
After Phoebus and Tony went upstairs, Claude Frollo began, "Marcel Rougelot, you are under arrest for the murders of Colette Bouchard and Bernard LaCroix. I also charge you with willful flight, attempted murder, and...conspiracy to commit murder. No doubt you do understand the seriousness of these offenses, so the sentence is obviously -- DEATH!"
Claude kept his eyes locked on Marcel's emotionless face. His Grace's eyes narrowed; the mouth twitched. Claude Frollo's fingers flinched nervously. Julian knew these signs and quickly gave Claude Frollo a wordless warning. Don't lose the temper...Get little Nisha home, then take this slimeball back to the 15th Century.
Claude caught Julian's eye and understood completely; he simply continued with a recap of the past weeks' events. "Marcel, we have damning evidence against you, and against those who hired you to murder three people. We plan to present that evidence to you as soon as we return to our time. Do you understand?" Still, Marcel Rougelot said nothing as he continued to work his hands out of the cuffs. His wrists were rather thin, his hands small. Even though the cuffs were double-locked (and Julian rechecked the fit), Marcel knew that no shackles could hold him. He kept his hands under the table and deftly worked the cuffs over his skin. Claude and Julian had no idea that this man meant to escape, but to where? Marcel had no idea where to go but he knew it had to be somewhere in this city, in this time. He couldn't go home; Frollo and company now knew where he lived. What about the...er...I can't remember...I passed it one day...It's near this...umm...odd-looking road...all wooden and steel...The people here call it 'the tracks'...

Just then, two men -- Iggy and Phoebus came downstairs. The ex-soldier carried a still groggy seven year old Danisha Wood. The child was half asleep, yet somewhat cognizant of her surroundings. She began to speak in her tiny little girl voice, "Am I going home now?" She smiled at Phoebus and said to him, "I like you; you're like that big man with the ax..."
Phoebus looked at Iggy quizzically; the aging hippie replied, "Paul Bunyan, man...American folk hero...Take it as a compliment."

Claude Frollo arose from his chair, walked up to Danisha and gently said, "My child, these gentleman are to take you home." He addressed Iggy McMullen, "Daniel, I trust you have prepared  a plausible explanation..."
"Not to worry, sir. I've already called her folks and gave them the story that Nisha almost got picked up by strangers. I told them that I kept Nisha with me...Explaining the drugs is another matter...Oh yeah., old Tony did what you asked, if you know what I mean." The aging flower child gave the good judge a secret wink, and Claude Frollo nodded with approval.

Iggy then added,  "We'll just say Nisha got sick, man. That's all...She'll come out of it; old Marcel here didn't give her that much 'cause I saw the bottle when I broke into his room. There's only one pill missing. She'll be fine, a little groggy in the morning but OK."
Claude Frollo's eyes still bored through this child; she stared right back at him and said somewhat sleepily, "You are that man who brought us ice cream. Why are you looking at me like that?"
His Grace jolted himself back to reality; this child looked so much like Nadine. Frollo again gathered his thoughts, then turned to Julian, saying, "We, my dear Julian will personally escort M. Rougelot back to the 15th Century where he will stand trial for murder. I trust your vehicle is ready to go?"
Julian moved towards Marcel replying, "Yes, sir. That T-Bird may not look like much but it will get us to your time safe and sound. Thank Iggy's sister for the car; I intend to have her restored once this little drama ends."
Claude Frollo smiled then walked over to Marcel Rougelot, looked the man dead in the eyes, and said in a crisp, cool, almost sneering voice, "Marcel, there is another matter...Umm...Isabelle LaCroix...I'm sure you are anxious to meet the mother whose child you so ruthlessly murdered; for you see, she is presently in Paris, as is her father, Guillaume. Vincent sent for them -- to testify at your trial."
Marcel didn't know what to think! The man's hands, still hidden under the table, were now free from their temporary prison. Sweat beaded around his mouth and brow; his heart palpitated so hard he thought it would burst on the spot. Oh no! Isabelle...Frollo has summoned her to Paris...She's to speak against me...Now she will never love me, never have me...I've lost her forever! Frollo! He did this...and now, little Danisha...

This is MY game and Frollo is ruining it, and only I call the plays...

Like a jungle cat, Marcel lunged forward and flipped over the table, pinning Frollo to the floor. Marcel swung around and grabbed the revolver from Julian's exposed holster. With lightning speed, Marcel aimed the gun at Phoebus' head; he screamed, "Hand over the child! Now! I'll blow your head clean off, and I know how to use this...I learned back in 1850. Hand over Danisha now or else I'll kill everyone in this room!"
Everyone was stunned! How could this have happened? This was to be an easy arrest; everything was going so smoothly. Phoebus had no choice but to hand little Nisha to Marcel, who unceremoniously threw the partially conscious child over his shoulder. Iggy, Phoebus, and Julian were shocked! Four men in the same room with a madman yet no one could do anything. Marcel had them where he wanted -- helpless. A weak groan came from the floor.
Judge Claude Frollo struggled to get up; the overturned table had pinned him against the baseboard. Julian, his eyes never leaving Marcel, inched toward Claude Frollo. The medieval judge was in considerable pain; all Julian wanted was to help his friend. But Marcel, waving the gun, warningly said, "M. McNaney...And I thought I had killed you back in Chicago -- Pity! And what do you call this attachment on this firearm?"  Julian had no choice but to answer, "It is a silencer."

"Ah, so the shots cannot be heard? Good! For I fully intend to use this...Yes, I will kill this child the moment you take another step." Marcel glared down at Frollo; his mouth curved into a wicked grin as he addressed the Minister of Justice, "Your Eminence, I shall deprive you of your own happiness, just as you deprived me of mine. Urging Isabelle to testify against me -- ME! I loved her, and you made her turn on me..."
Frollo's voice started weak, but slowly gained strength as he fought off the pain. "Marcel, your mind is so clouded with nonsense...Isabelle and Guillaume knew all about your murderous spree in Nantes. Why, Guillaume Sarrisin had written to me days before you killed Bernard." Claude Frollo went on to explain that Guillaume, being the father-in-law to one of the most successful merchants in all of France, was privy to pertinent information concerning Vincent LaCroix' interests. Marcel's last victim before leaving Nantes for Paris was an unassuming street musician named Pierre du Lac, a man who Guillaume had often invited into his home. The transplanted African, ever mindful of his obligation to show hospitality even to the lowliest, had also hired Pierre to play at the LaCroix nuptials. This was the last straw for Marcel Rougelot; he felt that everyone and everything that stood between him and Isabelle should be quickly eliminated.
"Even a lowly street musician, Marcel? Pray, Marcel, in what way did this man deprive you of happiness?", was all Claude said before swooning away.

"Guillaume had a sneaking suspicion that you were involved in Pierre's death," said Julian who still eyed an injured Claude Frollo. All the while, the 21st Century spy kept praying that Marcel would let Danisha go. Come on, man...let the kid go...Claude is hurt; he's obviously in pain...
Marcel inched towards the door, still carrying little Nisha over his shoulder; her legs thumped against his back. She was still somewhat groggy but cognizant enough to ask Marcel. "Why did you hurt that man? He was nice to me. I want to go home..."
"Shut up, you little brat!", Marcel hissed, "You've caused me enough grief...They were right...You are nothing but a damned black witch, not fit enough to lick..."

The former Captain Phoebus seethed with rage as he listened to Marcel verbally damn this child. At once, he lunged toward Marcel, but 'le Chameleon' was quicker; Marcel reacted desperately. The shot was barely audible but the force of the blast sent the ex-soldier reeling back against the wall. He was hit, and hit badly, in the left shoulder.
Aiming the nozzle of the gun very close to Danisha's temple, Marcel's face contorted into horrid scowls as he once again warned, "Make another move and Nisha will die instantly." He backed towards the door, still holding Nisha at gunpoint. "No one follows me...This child will die, Claude Frollo. Make your choice: Save her life, or risk losing your own!" In a flash, Marcel Rougelot was out the door and this time he had a hostage.

Now what? Phoebus' shoulder bled profusely; he nearly passed out from the loss of blood. Julian rushed to Claude's side while Iggy tended to Phoebus. "I guess we underestimated this man," Julian sadly said as he uprighted the table that had trapped Claude Frollo. The medieval judge winced in pain as he struggled to speak. "Julian, I want you to send a message to Jacqueline, then to Fern...We have to track him...We are running out of options, and time...Rougelot may have killed her already..."
His transtemporal device beeped and once again it was a message from a heartbroken mother:

Honey, please find that man then hurry home to Nisha...I'm afraid she is dying...Nadine is calling for her Papa...Please hurry back! Danisha may not survive the night...

Ignoring his own pain, Claude Frollo immediately got up, stopped to catch his breath, then turned to Iggy and  Julian. "We are going after this man...Even if one of us perish in the attempt, I'll find the unholy monster and send him back to Hell where he belongs!"

On the surface the Minister of Justice appeared cool, confident, determined; deep inside, he was a jangle of turbulent emotions. Anytime, my beloved may pass from this world into the next...and I may not be there in time to say good-bye...

The final installments of Book Five...Our medieval fugitive hatches a diabolical plot...Claude Frollo and Marcel Rougelot finally square off...


Copyright©1999 by FrolloFreak®

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