So, now that I'm home, what is next for me?
When Claude and my parents told me everything, I went into a tailspin. Learning what Johnny -- a lifelong friend at that -- did to me, and the repercussions that followed, caused a near-breakdown for me. Momma said I was so outraged, so out of control, that I had to be heavily sedated just to calm down. Then I spent several days in a near-catatonic state. My dear Claude was so worried about me, and he agreed with my family that I needed special attention. So they packed me off to a private psychiatric clinic where I spent the past two months just trying to deal with everything. It wasn't easy at first, learning to trust again; however, with the constant presence of my family and friends, I steadily made progress.
So what happened during those two months?
Firstly, I finally learned the fate of a lifelong friend, a man who
ultimately used that friendship to pursue his own selfish ideals. When
I introduced Johnny Elmore to Claude Frollo, I thought the two would get
along splendidly. Perhaps Johnny, given his experience as a professional
investigator, would've improved his skills while working as a Frollo spy.
Claude himself initially praised Johnny's tenacity and supposed willingness
to learn so much more. But things didn't work out quite like I had hoped.
Secondly, I finally learned about the man I nearly married. Evrard Ouimet and Claude Frollo had been longtime friends but within a month that friendship was now irreparably damaged. Of course, as I reasoned with Claude, if it wasn't for Evrard and Clarice I probably would've died. Then again, there's Orry, a little boy who I'm sure is completely devastated over the outcome of this terrible situation.
I could've killed Johnny for all the fallout of his harebrained scheme, but I had to get in line because, in the end, so many wanted a piece of this man.
Back in sixth grade, when I wrote that first Dorothy Ducharme story,
I had no idea it would come back to haunt and nearly destroy me. I still
regarded Johnny Elmore as a close friend, someone I knew would never resort
to such viciousness. What I never understood was how he hid those 'feelings'
for me all these years. I mean, everyone who knew the man loved him for
his wit and easygoing charm.
To be sure, we all grieved when Johnny nearly lost his life back in '37 Chicago, but I scarcely weep for him now. All I feel is pity. Over time, I'll be able to find it in my heart to forgive him, but I'm sure Claude, and anyone else deeply affected by the man's actions, will have a tough time saying, "You are forgiven."
However, in time, I may forgive, but it will take many long months, even years, before I truly forget the hell Johnny put me through.
When I ate those gumdrops during the holidays, I had no idea they'd
produce a deathlike sleep. I remember reading long ago about a similar
case where a man once slipped his mother a potent toxin which did the same
thing to me. The stuff did exactly that: make the unlucky person who partakes
of it appear, for all practical purposes, dead -- no breath, no pulse,
nothing. Afterwards, the guy inherited all of Mama's estate. One
problem: the woman regained consciousness about three months after her
'death', and that changed everything. That's what Julian explained to Claude
about "the formula" -- the brainwaves continue to work so the person's
faculties are still intact. It also makes 'brainwashing' easier. In an
unconscious state, that person, like myself, is suscepitble to all kinds
of suggestions. No wonder I wholeheartedly believed I was Dorothy and forgot
my true identity for an entire month
I know it sounds like a bad soap opera or a far-fetched Danielle Steel novel, and I imagine Johnny felt thar he'd never get caught. His two fatal mistakes were making me believe I was Dorothy Ducharme and taking our Timescapes along to 1962 Detroit, where he had hoped he and I would live happily ever after. I'm sure he didn't mean to lay it where I could see it, but since I made Dottie a curious sort, I had to pick it up, examine it. When I depressed that red button, things suddenly became, "Inside out, upside down, and totally crazy."
So what has happened in these two months since my 'resurrection'?
Jehan Frollo suffered second degree burns and deep lacerations. I
got a look at the wounds while transporting him to Chateau d'Arcy, where
Fern stashed the '59 Chevy equipped with a Timescape device made especially
for motor vehicles. The wounds were deep and ugly; Jehan was in considerable
discomfort and Claude and I endeavored to keep his mind on getting better.
Apparently he cleared the blast in time but took its brunt in the thigh and back. If Jehan had hesitated a moment longer in pursuing me running after Nadine, he would not be here today.
At first we feared a spinal injury, but that was not the case; the
tremendous loss of blood was indeed truly life-threatening. Out of a cherished
memory (Claude once saved my life by donating his blood), I donated my
blood to save Jehan's life. It was my way of saying "Thanks" to a man who
for so many years has been the brother I never had. I often joked to Momma
that if she and Daddy had a boy, he'd be just like Jehan -- all spoilt
rotten and possessing an irresistible charm and not an ounce of ambition,
thanks to three sisters who'd pamper and love him no matter what.
Jehan, in light of my problems, chose to spend his recuperation with Iggy McMullen. No one else seemed to mind since the two free spirits were so much alike, although Iggy had gotten his act together long ago. Somehow, I had hoped the same for Jehan; I had expressed that hope in a letter to him a few weeks back.
Jehan, according to Iggy, seemed to hold me in higher esteem than before. "To Jehan, you're the next best thing to sliced bread," said Iggy during a recent visit. "Jehan went on and on how Claude is so fortunate to have you, and how heartbroken Evrard Ouimet was when everything came out. But, Nisha, the way he carried on whenever we mentioned your name...Ever since that day he found out you were still alive, Jehan's essentially put you upon a pedestal."
Jehan has always felt close to me, but I never knew exactly how close. We always shared good times together, even though he maddened me with his love of excess. He and I shared -- still share -- a special bond, yet I detected something else during a recent visit. It was nearly a month ago today, and Iggy brought Jehan out to the clinic. He appeared a little paler and thinner than usual but that was expected given the extent of his injuries. Nonetheless, my heart leapt for joy the moment I laid eyes on Jehan. All during that visit, Jehan did what Iggy suspected: He praised me with the most flowery, flattering words.
Why did Jehan stare at me so? Why did he hold my hand as if he didn't want to let go? I swore I heard a muffled sob when Jehan and Iggy left after a lengthy visit. Somehow, I got a feeling that during my time as Dottie Ducharme something happened, although I could never quite recall it.
Just a few days ago, Jehan Frollo returned to the 15th Century a little older, a little wiser, but far more melancholy. Claude claims Jehan has been spoilt by postmodern comforts. "He seemed rather reluctant to depart," Claude explained with a smile, but there was something else eating at Jehan and I couldn't figure it out.
Then there's Johnny... When Julian and Clopin pulled that whammy on John Elmore, my former 'friend' got his just deserts and then some.
They made Johnny confess to everything, then forced him to drink
wine laced with that same formula. With Johnny knocked out, Julian and
Clopin planted suggestions into Johnny's mind -- suggestions that would
in turn be an apt explanation of my premature "death". When Johnny Elmore
regained consciousness, he found himself locked up in a filthy, dank, fetid
cell deep within the Palais dungeons. He hadn't the faintest idea how he
got there, or who dumped his unconscious body on the Palais steps. All
Johnny wanted was to go home, to the 21st Century.
Within the next few weeks Johnny did return to his own time, but not after Phillipe Ouimet forced the 'truth' from him. To be sure, Johnny never said a word concerning Timescape; instead, Johnny admitted to drugging me, 'hypnotizing' me to believe I was Dorothy, and framing Clopin.
Judge Ouimet, an acid foe to the Gypsy presence in and around Paris, didn't want to believe the Gypsy king was totally innocent, but he bought Johnny's confession enough to make the man suffer several deserved 'punishments'. It was the "Claude Frollo-got-even-with-BC" scenario all over again, although Phillipe went a little too far with the torture.
As a result, Johnny, by the time he was returned to his own time, totally lost all sense of reason. A few days later, a mentally stripped John Elmore, armed with a confession penned and signed in his own hand, found himself sitting in a 21st Century courtroom. The prosecutors, the judge, even Johnny's defense attorney never bought the man's story of time travel, medieval torture chambers, and Gypsy street dancers. Obviously this Elmore is insane, they thought, despite the coherency of the confession. And what did that confession say? Everything except the Timescape, transtemporal adventures, and, especially, the 15th Century French Connection. Johnny confessed to drugging me in the same manner that guy did to his mother. He admitted to spiriting me away to Detroit (not 1962 Detroit, mind you) and the brainwashing. In the end, Johnny Elmore, the man who has been one of my best buddies since third grade, was sentenced to life without parole for attempted murder, kidnapping, illegal possession of a controlled substance...
Oh God, the list of offenses is endless, and Johnny waived his rights and begged the judge to give him the maximum penalties. He deserved no mercy, no pity, he said to the judge, just put him away for a long time where he can't hurt anyone ever agian.
Hmm...I wonder...What exactly did Phillipe do to Johnny? Had to be the works...But no matter, it's all over and Johnny has plenty of time to think about what he did to me -- and to everyone else.
Presently, Johnny is now an inmate at a correctional facility for the criminally insane. Perhaps, in time, I may pay him a visit, just to get some answers. But for now, he is out of my life for good. If truth be known, I never want to see him again.
When Claude Frollo told me how I -- make that "Dottie" -- nearly
became Madame Ouimet, I became even more intrigued with Claude's longtime
friend. Of course, with things as they now stand, Evrard has distanced
himself from Phillipe and Claude.
All during my rehab, I requested news of my 15th Century friends. Unpleasant stories soon filtered back that Evrard and Phillipe Ouimet were on 'the outs'. Evrard even blamed Jehan Frollo for not leveling with him about "Dottie's" true identity. But Orry and Clarice, despite all the fallout, expressed to Claude Frollo how much they wanted to see me again, but only when things were more settled. Claude also forwarded messages from the LaCroixes -- Vincent and Isabelle -- who now knew who I was. Isabelle told Claude that she was flabbergasted when she learned my true identity and that I was indeed a distant relation. (Claude Frollo was exceedingly cautious not to reveal that Isabelle is a direct ancestor on my mother's side -- and that she had another dead ringer descendent: My great Aunt Eula Mae).
But getting back to Evrard...
Over the years since I've known Claude, he's told me much about the
Ouimet brothers. I met Phillipe that same summer I met Claude Frollo, although
I sensed the man somewhat a cold fish, if you know what I mean. If folks
thought Claude Frollo the poster boy for denial and repression, Phillipe
would be Frollo's closest competition. No, don't get me wrong; Phillipe,
like Claude, is pleasant once one digs under that thick dour veneer
he's built up over the years.
To be truthful, and I'm surprised Claude hadn't detected this, it is Phillipe's lack of confidence which is the problem. No wonder he's so bitter towards Evrard -- It's sort of an inferiority complex on Phillipe's part. Evrard, the apple of François Ouimet's eye, slowly became the object of resentment, as if to make up for Phillipe's shortcomings. Of course, when one has such a low opinion of his own capabilities, then he needs an outlet upon which to vent his frustrations. It makes one feel more superior. In a way, I had an idea Phillipe actually envied his brother, but hid that envy underneath a blanket of resentment and bitterness.
Of all the men I know in powerful positions, Phillipe is the most
unsure of the power and responsibilities handed to him. To be sure, Claude
Frollo had hoped that Phillipe would become more self-assured in his duties
as Minister of Justice. My guess is that Evrard's sudden reappearance undermined
what fragile self-esteem Phillipe had left.
No doubt that Phillipe Ouimet, under the belief that he botched a case, had determined to tender his resignation. Julian informed Claude of that and the former Minister of Justice successfully convinced the present magistrate to rethink the decision.
"After all," Claude Frollo told a despondent Judge Ouimet, "I am always here at your disposal, should you ever need advice or assistance."
I have a feeling Phillipe will need all the help he can get in the months to come.
My mind races back to Evrard...
In all these years, Claude often spoke of Evrard Ouimet in such glowing terms; the man seemed so fascinating that I could hardly wait to meet him. However, in light of what transpired, I dread ever crossing paths with him. If I ever return to 15th Century Paris, we are bound to run into each other. What feelings could the man possibly have for me now? What do I feel for him? And what does Claude Frollo feel for me in light of my nearly becoming Mrs. Evrard Ouimet? Oh my God, what if Evrard and I were intimate...?!
No, we weren't. Clarice forwarded that piece of news after Claude Frollo inquired about that very subject. I know he trusts me and would never doubt my devotion and fidelity. But deep down I know he's still reeling from past event even if he doesn't show it. I want to flat-out ask him but I'm afraid he'll accuse me of doubting his feelings. No matter, as he says, because he assures me that everything will settle down by summer....
I just received an interesting message from Julian. It seems he talked Claude Frollo into establishing a sort of private agency. Julian's message read in part:
"He didn't want to at first but I convinced him that Phillipe Ouimet needs all the help he can get. Besides, we both know Claude Frollo can't stay idle for too long. The man has far too much expertise to let it go to waste. Why not go into the private detective/spy business? It's guaranteed big time income and keeps the skills sharp. You and he can become a transtemporal Nick and Nora Charles of sorts, and I'm not just saying that, because you two have style and class. Plus, you make a dynamite couple...I apologize for all things that went wrong..."Oh Julian, I never blamed you for all this; Johnny had you duped as well. We're all victims...I just hope I'll see you again...There's something mysterious about Julian and no one knows a thing about him -- excpet Fern. Oh well, no matter, Julian will surface again...
Hmm...a private detective/espionage agency..."Frollo and Company". Has a nice ring to it but needs work. It has to sound super classy...
Oh yes, I nearly forgot a few folks -- people of whom I thought wouldn't lift a finger to help me. They came to my aid in so many ways, although Claude still has his reservations about the Gypsy presence. Perhaps, as his futuristic friend and lover, I have gotten Claude Frollo to ease up on his prejudices. Because, like it or not, I told him long ago, the Romany are fairly much a permanent fixture throughout Europe. They will make their way to the Americas as well. So all efforts to thwart the Romany were all in vain. However, in time, I told him, final remedies for the Gypsy 'problem' resulted in one of the ugliest chapters in world history. We truly don't want to discuss this, Claude, but we must...
"So, Claude Frollo, whatever feelings you may still have, you'll have to be grateful to those who bent over backwards for me. Johnny used Clopin; he hoped that very bigotry would get him off the hook and leave blame with Clopin. Claude, what Johnny did was tantamount to what has been done to my people, and that was falsely accusing us of crimes we didn't commit. And those accusations held up because it was generally believed all us were naturally immoral and criminally inclined...So many innocent people went to prison, even executed, simply because they were Black. Johnny thought that because Clopin was Romani, and that Phillipe believed all Gypsies are evil, then Clopin would be an easy patsy. He might as well had incited a lynch mob to go after Clopin. That makes what Johnny did even more despicable, because he forgot how it was in our grandparents' generation..."
I think pleading my case that way won Claude over, yet, in
the back of my mind, I felt it wise not to mention a certain Gypsy dancer.
Yes, when I finally make it back to the 15th, I want to look up Esmeralda
and thank her. Julian passed along my gratitude long ago, but I want to
meet her face-to-face. And I want to meet her daughter. From what Jehan
told me about her, Katerina has all the charm and street spunk of her mother.
Now Julian reassured me that the Gypsies had moved to an undisclosed location not far from Paris, but the new Court of Miracles is so remote and non-descript that Phillipe has yet to find it. Even Claude has no idea where the famed Gypsy hideout is; Julian never told him or Phillipe. Perhaps Julian felt it all necessary to protect the very people who tried to protect me.
Claude and Nadine just went out the door; he said they were going to buy her ice cream, and a few surprises for me. OK, it's a lovely day, and it's a short walk to the shops. Perhaps I'll join them...
He's so sweet to me and to Nadine; so few men openly display such affection. I really should count myself fortunate that Claude is so attentive, so devoted. Fern told me that Claude nearly lost it the day of my 'funeral'. Quasimodo informed me of his master's long lonely days and nights shuttered in Chateau duPré. Phoebus, the D'Arcys, Pierre, and nearly every friend and acquaintance passed along messages to that same affect: Claude Frollo's shock and pain following my 'demise' never abated; the poor man even forbade all conversation about me. He missed me that much and couldn't face life without me.
He does love me; he still needs me...
Oh well, like he says, no matter. Whatever path our lives take within the next few months, I hope it will be smooth and relatively free of needless suffering and pain. But somehow, I can't resist this feeling that everything will not be all peaches and cream. Something will happen this summer, culminating into something bigger, more unsettling...
No, Nisha! Push those thoughts from your head. You, Claude, and Nadine
will weather this together. Whether or not marriage is in the cards, that
does not matter now. What matters is the strong bond and foundation we
have built and maintained all through these years. Nothing or no one will
ever pull us apart again, because we are family, and family sticks together.
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