Therése, Mlle Ducharme's personal servant, parted the heavy
draperies to let in the late-morning light. She had to be as quiet as possible
lest disturb Mlle Ducharme. Poor thing, thought Therése, to collapse
so suddenly; she seemed so strong...
Ever since yesterday, Dorothy Ducharme, a vibrant idealistic woman in strange new world, soon degenerated into somewhat of a hermit. Her meeting with Evrard's brother, the Minister of Justice, went off without a hitch. The man seemed pleasant enough, even if he did come across as a repressed backwoods preacher. But it was being inside the Palais itself; the place had a presence Dottie could not explain. Why did she question the displacement of certain items in Phillipe's private chambers? And why did she go to that window and retraced the glass as if she instinctively knew that it was she who broke that window more than a decade ago? It all unnerved Dottie so much that she insisted Evrard take her home; she couldn't stand another moment inside the Palais. Of course Evrard protested, saying that Dottie needed to rest and regain her bearings. But Evrard loved her and did as requested; so while Phillipe was out hunting down Elmore and Clopin, Evrard and Dottie left for home. It had been another restless night for Dorothy as she struggled with unanswered questions; a strong premonition of doom crept into her psyche the moment she and Evrard received callers that morning. That meeting unnerved the lady from Motown so much and caused Dottie to take desperate measures.
"Bon jour, mademoiselle," Therése began as Dorothy forced
herself from the bed. "You've slept later than usual; it is nearly noon.
M. Ouimet thought it wise to allow you to sleep a little longer. By the
way, M. Ouimet is waiting for you downstairs..."
Dorothy Ducharme said very little in response as her maid chattered on about a handsome couple presently visiting with Evrard. "M. LaCroix is Minister Ouimet's cousin and Madame LaCroix is a Black from Nantes. Her father and Madame Flambert's father were brought up from Africa the same time..."
Therése went on to tell Dottie that Madame LaCroix, "is so beautiful", and how distinguished and courtly Monsieur Vincent LaCroix conducts himself. "M. LaCroix and M. Ouimet are business partners," continued Therése as she assisted getting Dorothy cleaned up and dressed for the day.
All the while Dottie kept thinking that, perhaps, her meeting Evrard
was all a big mistake. As much as she loved the man and his little son,
Dottie found herself inexplicably drawn to Jehan Frollo. No, not as a lover,
but she saw Jehan as the key to unlocking whatever memories she had stored
within. That nagging sense that she had been to this city, to this
time frame, long ago, stayed with her even more. Nothing seemed to jar
the memories loose and Dorothy now feared meeting the imperious Claude
Frollo. The very mention of the man's name sent shockwaves of fear through
her very being. Why am I feeling this way? I was so anxious to meet Evrard's
friend, now I can't stand the thought of it.
Then there's Evrard himself...He's been exceedingly sweet and attentive but...And Jehan -- what could I possibly feel for a man like that? Evrard told me the man's a spendthrift, a gambler, a habitual layabout and bounder...But why do I feel that Jehan Frollo will someday be my salvation?
Dorothy Ducharme was decked out in a simple black and gray velvet empire-waisted
dress; a pearl-trimmed comb held her upswept hair in place; and a triple
strand pearl choker graced her neck. That choker was a gift from none other
than Jehan Frollo; Therése said that he brought it round very early
this morning. "He said, Mlle Ducharme," explained the maid, "that he was
giving this to you as a token of friendship."
Stopping just short of the drawing room, Dottie checked her reflection in the mirror and studied that necklace. "Hmm," she thought, "this necklace looks like the one Mrs. Kennedy wears. But how did Jehan find something like this?" She tore away from the mirror and forced herself to appear happy and gracious in the midst of the storm raging within. Why do I feel as if I'm being chased by a wall of water? As if I'm caught in a raging storm surge and there's no stopping it. And why does my mind travel back to Jehan Frollo? His brother Claude -- what is it about Claude Frollo that scares me so?
Forcing those thoughts from her mind, Dottie gathered her trailing skirt and swept through those double doors like Loretta Young. The dazzling, pleasant smile she sported faded away as soon as her eyes met those of her guests.
Geraldine Wood and Jehan Frollo, surrounded by more than four decades
of memories, sat in the spacious attic storeroom. Nearly overcome with
emotion, she opened a portfolio which contained the writings of an eleven-year
old Danisha Wood. "Nisha was an unusually talented child," Gerry told Jehan
as she showed him the many prizes Nisha won that year.
"She wrote this story back in sixth grade, that was a year before we moved." said Gerry, "Joe was so proud of Nisha. After all these years, she saved the original...Here, read this yourself."
Geraldine beamed with pride as she handed a dog-eared folder to Jehan. Graciously accepting the work of a young Nisha, Jehan opened the folder and at once favorably commented on Nisha's neat sixth grade penmanship. "Far better than mine," he smilingly said as he began to read. But Jehan didn't get very far into the story about a young girl who tragically loses her parents only to be taken in by a kindly woman. The girl's name, the circumstances...This sounded far too familiar. Jehan Frollo needed answers and needed them now!
Sweetly and courteously he asked, "Madame, may I take this with me? My brother may want to read this. It is rather good considering Nisha's age at the time." Gerry Wood said she didn't mind. "Jehan, I had considered letting Claude see that; I'm surprised Nisha never told him about her first major school award."
The conversation then shifted to Johnny Elmore. Gerry couldn't understand
this -- Why would such a good friend turn on everyone just like that? "Jehan,
your brother had better find Johnny Elmore. That boy and Nisha were so
close as children and I hate to think he's done something dastardly..."
Jehan interrupted. "I'm sorry, Madame Wood, but tell me: Does Elmore know of Danisha's writings?" Gerry looked at Jehan curiously then said, "Honey, it was he who suggested the first name for the Dorothy character -- both were into the Oz books and Johnny liked the name 'Dorothy'. The 'Ducharme' was Nisha's idea - that was the brand name of a pressing oil I used on her hair."
Gerry continued, "Johnny sat next to Nisha from third all the way through sixth grade; they shared so much...Jehan, I don't where you're going with this? What has Johnny Elmore done that's so awful? What has happened?"
Before Jehan could answer, Cherie, the youngest of the Wood daughters, bounded up the stairs screaming and sobbing.
"MOMMY! MOMMA! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!"
Danisha's baby sister, a petite lady in her middle thirties, shrieked
incoherently. By the time she reached the top, Cherie was in tears; her
breathing labored. She appeared on the verge of hysteria when she finally
said, "Oh Momma, Daddy just called from the cemetary...Oh Momma! I can't
believe this is happening!Oh god, I can't believe it!"
Through her sobs, Cherie managed to relay her father's news. What she said sent shockwaves through both Geraldine and Jehan. The mother's mouth quivered; she nearly collapsed when she heard the devastating news. A deeply shocked Jehan Frollo, trying to fathom this incredible story, put his arms about Mrs. Wood whilst endeavoring to keep himself from keeling over. He looked at Cherie dead in the eyes and said in a hushed disbelieving voice, "Cherie, dear...Is this true? How can this be? Claude...Oh, Claude must be told!"
As Jehan retrieved his Timescape from his bag, Cherie managed to gather herself and say to Jehan, "Daddy said he's going on a time trip. Claude sent a message; he said that Daddy's presence is needed..."
Jehan understood this and said, "I think it's wise that you stay here -- Take care of your mother, Cherie. I'm returning to Paris, to my time, at once. Now that Elmore is within capture..."
That was all he could reveal -- There was no way he was to share his suspicions. Not yet, at least. Wait until Professor Wood is settled...Perhaps Claude has met "Dottie" already, then he'll finally understand why I wanted so desperately to tell him...
He tucked the notebook, along with Nisha's original manuscripts in his
bag. Before leaving he said to Mrs. Wood, "Madame, if it any comfort, I'm
working with Judge Ouimet on this case. Now that I've read part of Nisha's
little story, it may shed some light on this mystery. You see, there's
a woman in Paris claiming to be Dorothy Ducharme..."
Upon hearing this, Cherie gasped in horror. She walked over to the trunk, reached in, then pulled out several binders. "Here," she said to Jehan as she handed over more manuscripts, "Nisha wrote more of that character all through high school. She even did a few notes on a final episode, but she never wrote the final draft because she thought the plot was too violent. Here, help yourself."
Finally, thought Jehan as he graciously took young Nisha's writings, I now have positive proof that Dottie Ducharme is Danisha. And with this latest development...My God! How did it happen? How did Elmore pull it off? And what of the Gypsy Clopin?
By nightfall, Jehan Frollo knew the entire truth about "Dorothy", and Jehan thought he at last relay this information to his brother. Yet, things didn't work out quite so easily, and once again, Jehan found himself in the middle of a deadly game of hide and seek.
Isabelle LaCroix sat next to Dorothy and carefully surveyed her hostess'
features. Dottie liked Isabelle almost immediately but she detected
a peculiar curiosity in Vincent, the man to whom Evrard owed much of his
success. Perhaps it was Vincent's reaction upon introduction; his eyes
bored through Dottie as if he'd seen her before. He even asked Dorothy
if they'd met
, "Oh, perhaps last fall..."
They made a handsome couple, Vincent and Isabelle. He was of medium height and slender build; gray haired and blue-eyed, and fine patrician features. His rose-colored velvet brocade finery -- from the sweeping mantle to the enormous, feather trimmed chaperon -- contrasted with pale complexion which conveyed the appearance of a porcelain mannequin. Nevertheless, Vincent LaCroix, at least to Dottie's eyes, was an exceedingly handsome, naturally gracious man. Isabelle was a gorgeous woman in her early thirties; her skin had the color and polish of the finest mahogany. Isabelle's deep brown eyes conveyed warmth, humor, and love. Dorothy could tell that this woman was of royal blood.
Madame LaCroix turned to her husband, saying, "My dear, wasn't it Claude Frollo's lady who bore such a strong resemblance to me? I remember your letters to that effect." Then she said to Evrard, "When Clarice told me of your lady, I had no idea I'd have TWO possible kinswomen..."
Dottie remained silent as Isabelle continued to Clarice, "Vincent described Mlle. Danisha Wood in detail. He and Bernard met the woman only last fall..."
She stopped, turned to Dorothy, then took Dottie by the hand and said
to her, "Perhaps, we share the same kinsmen...Tell me, Mlle Ducharme, from
where in the New World do you call home?"
Dottie, still in a daze, stammered, "Uh...I'm from a city called Detroit...that's in a state called Michigan..."
Evrard, noticing Dottie's frustration and confusion, said to his guests, "Dorothy is still somewhat homesick for her country." He crossed the room and sat next to his future bride, saying, "She and I found each other by accident..."
Dot inexplicably panicked then quickly regrouped. At once she turned the subject by asking Isabelle and Vincent, "I understand your son was a friend of this Mlle Wood. Jehan Frollo told me about your boy's death...So tragic to lose a child, any child. Please accept my sympathies."
Vincent LaCroix narrowed eyes as he replied to Dot, "My dear mademoiselle,
it is true that Bernard and Frollo's lady were acquaintances. He often
told me how much she reminded him of his mother." He took a deep breath
then admitted to Evrard, "M. Ouimet, allow me to share this pleasant visit
with Claude Frollo. He should meet your lovely lady as soon as possible.
I'm sure he can tear himself away from assisting your brother...And by
the way, has Phillipe revealed to you this ongoing case?"
Evrard was rather puzzled, not only with Vincent's questioning, but the fact that Phillipe never told him about the murder investigation. At any rate, Vincent informed Evrard that, "Phillipe is convinced Frollo's New World lady was murdered. Which is why Claude's been so preoccupied with finding this Gypsy King and the New World man named Elmore..."
Dorothy, upon hearing Johnny's name mentioned again, instantly felt as if struck by lightning. What was that? Johnny suspected of murder? Why? Oh no, that's why he didn't want me to touch that time machine thing...He's killed someone...He's killed...Oh my God, I'm getting 'that' feeling again...
Rising from her seat, Dottie said in a quavering voice, "Evrard, please excuse me...Oh, Monsieur and Madame LaCroix, please excuse me...Evrard, I'm not feeling well...Rather faint, that's all. Please excuse me..."
Without looking back, Dottie rushed out of the room and sprinted up
the stairs, nearly knocking down Therése. The tears flowed down
her cheeks by the time she reached her room. The sobs came fast and loud
as she closed the door behind her; she stopped in front of the mirror,
lifted her swollen eyes to her reflection and heard her mind's voice say,
"Who are you, Dottie Ducharme? And why won't you let me out? Why?"
Dorothy came to the conclusion that Johnny had involved her in a murderous deed. When Katerina said, "Everyone's looking for you," it didn't make sense, but now...
Oh my God, they're looking for me because Johnny is here...They think I'm an accomplice, and I know what they do to murderers in this era -- Instant execution! I have to get out of here...Evrard, my sweet love, I hate doing this but... Jehan Frollo! He's the key to all this. I trust him completely. Now, to slip out of here without being detected...
Therése entered the room only to find her mistress hastily donning
a heavy black cloak. She said, "Mademoiselle, you shouldn't be out and
about in your state...Here, let me fetch you something to eat..."
"No, Therése!," hissed Dottie as she threw the hood over her head, "I have to get out of here for a while. Help me down the backstairs and make sure no one sees me leave. Got it?"
"Oui, mademoiselle, but..."
"No buts, Therése, just help me out and there'll be a big reward..."
Jehan shook his head, all the while devising ways to get Dottie alone
long enough to force Danisha out. If there is anything that will jar that
memory...I'd hate to think of what will become of Dottie...These last story
ideas -- Cherie was right -- it is too violent. I can't imagine anything
so ugly happening to someone so sweet, so kindhearted...
Jehan's deep reverie was interrupted by a sudden and insistent pounding on the front door. At first he thought it was Claude, but no, Claude was still at the Palais spending valuable time with Nadine. It can't be Jacqueline, and Elmore has yet to show up in town, so who could this be?
"Jehan! It's me -- Dottie! Open up 'cause I know you're in there!"
Jehan cautiously opened the door and ushered inside a very distraught, very incoherent Dorothy Ducharme. "My dear," he said as he warmly and comfortingly embraced her, "what ever is wrong? Have you and Evrard quarreled? What is it?"
She allowed her hands to caress Jehan, even though she harbored no feelings
for the man other than friendship. Dottie, her face streaked with tears,
gazed into Jehan's eyes and stammered in her dark smoky voice, "Jehan,
you're the only one I could turn to...I think I'm wanted for murder, but
I've never killed. They all say your brother is looking for Johnny Elmore
-- They say Johnny killed someone...And I'm...Oh Jehan, you have to hide
me! Right now, you're the only man I can trust; I can't tell Evrard and
I know it'll break his heart...Jehan, please tell me if I'm going crazy
because I keep getting the feeling I've been here before..."
TO CHAPTER 16!
Copyright©1999 by FrolloFreak®