Claude Frollo came to me as soon as I walked through the door. He appeared worried, anxious, and sad, all the same time. "Danisha, darling", he began as he tenderly caressed my hand, "I would've forbidden this, but young Jules wanted to say something to you."
Jules! Isn't that the kid I befriended last summer? Renée's brother?
I was truly dumbfounded; then, upon quickly regaining my composure, said to Claude, "So, Jules do Chateaupers was you lieutenant. He's the one who caused you so much embarrassment." Claude nodded then led me into a small, cramped bedroom. Claude Frollo held on to me as I approached the bed where Jules laid.
Just as Jehan said, Jules was critically injured; it took much fortitude on my part to keep a sudden wave of nausea under control. Jules' head was bandaged with an old cloth, which was already soaked with blood. His face was puffy and discolored; one eye was swollen shut. I've always praised Jules for being "such a pretty child", with bright blue eyes and a mass of dark hair. Many of our Parisian friends said that his cousin, Phoebus, has eyes just as blue; but, I'd never met Phoebus. I wondered, if that was Phoebus I saw approaching in the distance. And where is Renee? Surely she'd be here with her brother...
"Jules?", I whispered to him. He managed to stir; he was weak from a tremendous loss of blood. Jules opened his one good eye and stared at me; and, even in his critical state, it didn't take him long to recognize me. "Madame?....It's really you", he feebly said. I sat by the bed and held his hand, saying, "Jules, don't try to do too much, honey. What did you want to say to me?"
Jules looked at Claude, then Jehan, then at me. "I want to thank you...for being so kind to me and my sister...Malus was horrid to you and.." His voice stopped as he rode out another wave of pain. I had to admire Jules; for one so young, he developed a particular toughness, a quality that helped him through his short, difficult life. Then he continued, "... and to Minister Frollo...he...Malus...should've left and Renee..." That said, Jules de Chateaupers passed out; even that short talk was too taxing.
I then turned to Claude and asked, "Where's Renee? And what did he mean - What did Malus do to you?" Claude Frollo fell strangely silent, then, left the room. What's wrong? Why is Claude so upset?
Jehan then said to me, "Go to him, for there's much he needs to say to you. I'll stay with young Jules." I looked once more at Jules, then, followed Claude outside. He was stroking Snowball's shiny coat, then led his horse to the water trough. I walked up to him and said, "Claude, what's wrong, honey?"
Claude turned his eyes to me; they were full of pain, sadness, and anger. He took me in his arms; and, after a short silence, began to explain. "My love, I'm sorry if I seem...what is your espression....'out of it'?" He stopped momentarily to kiss me, then continued. "I had no idea that that young man was Jules de Chateaupers...he's changed so much since..." , Claude's voice trailed off as I caressed his cheek.
"It's OK, sugar", I reassured him, then I asked, "But where is Renee? She should be here." Claude replied, "She is at the chateau...Oh, darling, you don't remember...Renée's working for Mme. d'Arcy. A seamtress, no less, and a very good one." I knew Claude was attempting to soften things for me; but, no doubt about it, Jules was dying and Renee had to be summoned to be with her brother in his last moments. I then asked, "What did Jules say to you - I mean - while I was outside?"
As soon as I had spoken, Claude became visibly agitated, his eyes were hot with anger as he crisply said, "Danisha, have you've forgotten all that?! The conspiracy? Malus is dead ,and good riddance! The things he and his accomplices did to me!" Obviously upset, he briskly walked towards the road and stopped. At once, I followed him, and called out, "Claude! I'm sorry I mentioned Malus. And yes, I may have blotted all that out but...Is that what Jules meant?"

Claude Frollo faced me, took a deep breath, and said, "My dearest Nisha, don't you remember what happened? On the day of the festival?" Claude needed to say no more, for I knew exactly what he was talking about. I remember all too well what happened. That man, once a 'friend', pretending to be Claude Frollo...and Claude would've died if I hadn't acted quickly enough...
"Don't say anymore, sugar", I said. "Malus is dead; what more is there to add." Claude Frollo tightly embraced me, and kissed my mouth. "Sweet love, I don't know what I would've done without you." He continued to embrace me when, just then, he exclaimed, "It cannot be! Phoebus?"

My eyes quickly focused on the blond-haired man fastly approaching us. He was big, muscular, handsome in a pretty-boy-turned-jock way; to my mind, he appeared more like a Hoosier "good ol' boy" rather than the gallant Captain Phoebus I had heard so much about. He wasn't wearing the armor of his rank; rather, he was dressed in 'civvies', if there was such a word in medieval France.
He was not alone, for riding with him was Renée; she appeared extremely upset. "Minister Frollo?", said Phoebus as he dismounted. He helped Renee down from his horse, Achilles; she immediately ran to me. "Madame! Is it true? My brother is dying?", she tearfully said as she threw her arms around me. I comforted Renée as Claude and Phoebus continued to converse.
"Phoebus", Claude began, somewhat alarmedly, "I haven't seen you since that day in Notre Dame. What has happened to you?" He then asked Phoebus, "And why are you here?" Phoebus, his expression a mixture of depression and disgust, replied, "Didn't they tell you? I'm the caretaker of the d'Arcy estate. I had no idea Jules was here; your sergeant at the Palace of Justice told me everything. I had to return as soon as possible."
Claude, after a brief silence, then asked, "You were in Paris? Why?" Phoebus, with a heavy heart and in a sad voice, answered, "I was looking for my wife." Claude and I were puzzled, for all we knew, Phoebus was still single. "I know you're going to be shocked when I tell you this, but...", Phoebus stopped, took a deep breath, then continued, "I married Esmeralda."

Immediately, Claude Frollo's mood changed from utter puzzlement to sheer rage. "You MARRIED her?! Esmeralda? That gypsy witch who caused me so much trouble? Oh, Phoebus!" Claude was livid! Phoebus, sensing Claude's obvious disapproval, told us, "I knew you wouldn't be too thrilled; then again, my marriage to Esmeralda was nothing but a sham from the start!"
He went on to explain how he had married gypsy dancer, Esmeralda; he managed to secure the caretaker's job after he was "discharged" from his military duties.
"After all, if I was to support a wife, I'd need a job, income." Phoebus told us that, after a while, Esmeralda soon tired of life in the country. "That's why I was in find her. I had no luck, though."
Claude Frollo softened a bit, telling Phoebus, "So, she ran out on you. How typical of her kind." Phoebus nodded, adding, "I was a fool; I should've known better. She took advantage of everyone - You, me, Quasimodo - Oh no, I forgot how she duped Quasi! That poor kid!"

At that moment, one of the guards called out to us, "Your Grace! Madame! You need to hurry! The young man is fading fast!" Immediately, we went back inside the cottage; Jules hadn't much time left. But in the back of my mind, I kept tossing about the name: Esmeralda.
Esmeralda...Now I remember her!

I encountered her the same day I had another, dangerous, run-in with Malus....


I can't believe it....three more days....then home...

Fern and I had already packed up everything and closed our Paris house. Jacki and Kyle had already returned to the 20th Century, as well as Aunt Perle. Fern moved in with Madame d'Arcy for those last few days, and I stayed with Claude at the Palace of Justice. He had invited me to spend those final days with him. Fern and I would return home on Friday morning.
It was on Wednesday that I had asked him about Malus and his siblings. That morning, I had gathered the neighborhood children in the square for one last kickball game. I didn't see Jules, but Renee showed up, sporting a black eye and split lip.
Claude said he didn't want to upset me with the "sordid details", but I finally found out what I had highly suspected. "Their parents died nearly five years ago", Claude Frollo began. "Malus, being the eldest, was responsible for the rearing of his younger siblings."
"Malus beats his sister", I said, as Claude sadly nodded.
Even in the 15th Century, child abuse was a problem - and not much has changed.
Claude went on to explain how Malus fell under the influence of street thugs, most notably, gypsy street gangs. His siblings suffered horribly from neglect and abuse. "When Fern first came, she took the little ones under her wing, cared for them while Malus roamed the streets - He was seldom home." He then sighed, adding, "If Phoebus was here - but he's been gone nearly twenty years. He wouldn't know his cousins."
Phoebus - that name again.
Claude then embraced me and kissed my lips. "I should have done this long ago."
"Done what, honey?", I asked.
Claude held me tighter. "I'm taking Renee and Jules to the d'Arcy estate. Surely, Marie-Louise can find them a place." He kissed me again, saying, "I know the extent of your concern, and I am touched. It is why I am doing this - for you, my love."
"But what's happened to Malus?", I asked somewhat apprehensively. Claude Frollo sighed again. "That I do not know. My men lost sight of him since the day of your party. But I have a feeling he'll show his face, perhaps make a serious blunder." A deliciously wicked grin lit up his face as he said, "And when he does - I'll be ready for him." Claude kissed me again, then warned me watch out for Malus; he could be anywhere.
Claude left the Palace of Justice later that afternoon to take the children to the d'Arcy estate. "When I return, Danisha," he said as he kissed me good-bye, "I'll have a special gift for you." A gift? Now what could that be?

I wasn't about to stay inside all day; I was getting a little restless. Besides, I had to get that book of Riley poetry from Quasi; I wanted to give that to Claude.
I walked in the direction of the cathedral, stopping to watch a performance given by a group of gypsy musicians. It consisted of a man on drums, a little boy playing a flute, and a woman dancing with her tamborine. Rounding out the group was a cute white goat sporting a golden earring. The crowd seemed to enjoy the lively music as the goat pranced around in time to the beat. This is so cute! She really has that goat well-trained.
The woman was young, and very pretty. Her jet-black hair flowed in the breeze as she whirled and gyrated to the music, and she had the most beautiful green eyes I'd ever seen. I couldn't help but tap my toes and clap my hands to the infectious rhythms.
Just then, the boy whistled alarmedly. A few soldiers were approaching and the gypsies abruptly ended their performance, only to stop and collect the few coins that the crowd had tossed. I fumbled around in my pocket and pulled out a handful of gold coins.
I caught up with the gypsy girl, handed her the coins, and complimented her on her performance, adding, "Cute goat. What's his name?" The girl looked at me with a curious mixture of gratitude and wariness. Then she said, "Thank you. And his name is Djali", then she disappeared down a narrow alley.
It wouldn't dawn on me until much later that the girl was Esmeralda, the one who would be Claude Frollo's undoing. If I had known that then, I could've....No...Just as Fern said...."Don't change the outcome."

I had a nice, long visit with Quasimodo, but I forgot my book! Oh well...I can get it tomorrow. I then headed back for the Palace of Justice.
Whew! It's almost dark...I shouldn't have stayed so long, but....I hope Claude's home now....

I decided, unwisely, to take a shortcut through an alley. It was a route that I had always taken in the daytime, but never after dark. I walked briskly down the alley, ever aware of my surroundings. Damn, it sure got dark! Just a few more yards and you're home..... I didn't notice the pair of strange men watching me, nor was I prepared for what happened next. I felt a hand grab me from behind. It all happened so fast; I had no time to react. The man held me fast; he covered my mouth so I couldn't scream.
I struggled in his grasp, desperately trying to get away; then, the other man approached me. He wore a colorful outfit, complete with long black gloves, and a battered, wide-brimmed hat. I think he was a gypsy, but I couldn't make out his face because it was so dark. I definitely knew the other man: Malus de Chateaupers!
The other man spoke. "Well, well", I heard him say in a heavily accented voice. "If it isn't Frollo's latest conquest."
Malus, his hand still over my mouth, said through clenched teeth, "Minister Frollo took my brother and sister - to some fancy chateau. You had to come here, with your fancy New World airs."
The other man laughed in my face as he took out a knife, letting the blade barely skim my face. My entire body trembled with fright; I kept hoping that Claude, or, maybe a soldier would happen to come by. Then the gypsy spoke, "I don't think you will be an FSM for too long, not after you find out the truth about your lover, Minister Claude Frollo."
Truth? What kind of sick game are these guys playing? And what are REALLY planning to do to me?
Malus grasped me tighter, laughed, then said, "Where shall we begin? Hmmm....there was Aranxta, Minevera, Mal, Deliah, Evangeline, Belladonna....shall I go on?"
WHAT? I already know about THAT!
The gypsy laughed and said, "I do believe she'll come around to our side." Standing so close to me I could feel the hairs of his beard, he then said, "And I can just see you...confronting your lover. Perhaps killing him in a jealous rage. Pity." The man's voice was hideously sarcastic.

I've got to do something....These guys think they're scaring me....I know all about the others...Claude told me....I understand....Please get me out of this jam.....

A well-timed knee to the groin sent the gypsy screaming and writhing to the ground. Malus, alarmed at his partner-in-crime in such agony, suddenly released me.
I took advantage of the confusion and tore out of the alley, not even stopping to see if Malus and his friend were following me. I ran out into the street and towards the Palace of Justice.Come on! Get me to the Palace! Have to tell Claude.....

In a flash, I found myself pounding on the heavy doors of the main entrance. Jehan was already standing in the doorway when I knocked. "Whatever is the matter? Why so frightened?", he asked. With ragged breath, I told Jehan to "get me inside, I need to talk to Claude!"

I told Claude everything: my unwise shortcut through the alley; Malus and that gypsy grabbing me -- I could've been hurt -- or worse.
Claude Frollo, enraged that someone had the audacity to "lay a finger on my lover", summoned his Captain to "find Malus de Chateaupers, and that gypsy vermin. Bring them to me - Alive!" Claude then took me into his arms, kissed me, and told me, "I shall take care of young Malus. He shall torment us no more."
I was relieved that Malus was finally getting his comeuppance; but, knowing how Claude 'deals' with criminals, I was uneasy. I had to ask, "Claude, exactly what will happen to those guys?"
Claude just kissed me again and held me closer, saying, "My love, let me deal with Malus in my own way. I know how it distresses your 20th Century sensitivities, but Nisha, horrible as it is, it is my duty."
I looked up at Claude, traced his handsome face with my finger, and replied, "It's OK, honey. I understand. Do what you have to do."

The next morning, I took my usual walk through the Place de Notre-Dame. A crowd gathered around the pillory to watch another hapless soul receive his punishment. Claude Frollo, astride Snowball, stood nearby.
A few soldiers tied the young man to the pillory; then, another man, carrying a long whip took his place on the platform.
I didn't mean to watch so intently; but, I wanted to see this man get his just desserts. Malus flinched under every crack of the lash as the crowd began to jeer and throw food at him.
I walked up to Claude, who saw me, and said, "I wanted to spare you of this, my love." I said nothing as I found myself silently recoiling from blow after blow; the whip was wet with Malus' blood.
"How many?", I asked Claude, finally turning my eyes away.
"Fifty lashes to be administered publicly", came the swift response.
He then helped me up into the saddle. I held on to Claude as he put spurs to Snowball.
Passing the pillory, Claude stopped momentarily and glared at Malus. Malus glared right back; his eyes registered no emotion.

Claude never found the gypsy, but vowed he would find their hideout, the Court of Miracles.
But Malus....
Who'd have thought the evil plans that he and that gypsy were hatching would nearly cost Claude Frollo his life.

To Chapter 19!

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