"Push, Danisha! We're almost there!"
"Claude...It hurts so much..."
"Don't think like that, darling..."
"Here comes the head!"
"Breathe, my love!"
"Push, Nisha! Come on, you can do it!"
"Oww! Claude, I...I don't think I can do this...Don't have the strength..."
"Yes, you can, Nisha! One more push, my love..."
"Here she is! Mr. Frollo, Ms. Wood, say 'Hello' to your daughter..."
What is that playing in my head? A man's voice urging me to push and
Dottie Ducharme hovered in and out of consciousness, her mind replaying red letter dates from the life of Danisha Wood over and over. Deep in her subconscious, Dottie could hear a man's booming voice; she could actually feel his hands upon her body as he urged her onwards. Then Dottie remembered more...
"I treated Claude to luncheon...I had no idea Nadine was about
to make her debut right then and there..."
Dottie, her subconscious state still very much in charge, rambled on about events that only her creator knew.
"Claude and I shared a piece of chocolate cream pie...He loved to indulge
my sweet tooth ever since I got pregnant. I did gain a little weight...But
he didn't seem to mind..."
Deep in her altered state of consciousness, she recalled how those pains came almost immediately after lunch. She thought it was a reaction to too much food, especially the rich creamy pastry she craved so during those last few weeks of pregnancy.
"The pains came rather quickly, and poor Claude was so beside himself with worry...I took along my cell phone, just in case; I called the hospital and my doctor. Then, like magic, my sister Cherie happened to pass the restaurant and recognized my car...She came inside then saw me. She could tell that I was going into labor..."
"We barely got halfway to the hospital, then the pains came about a minute apart...My water broke...Cherie had to pull into a nearby parking lot while Claude cradled me in his arms...A cop, then a man from the barber shop across the street happened by...I had my baby right there in Cherie's van..."
"Everyone was so wonderful, and I'm forever thankful that this pregnancy wasn't as difficult as feared. I don't know what could've transpired if I needed a C-section, or if Nadine was turned around, or she couldn't breathe, or..."
She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling for a few moments. She
said nothing as a million memories rushed before her mind's eye. Blinking
a bit, she arose from the bed; she studied her surroundings. Like pieces
to a complicated jigsaw puzzle, things began to fall into place, but not
too readily. For there was still the matter of facing three men who had
touched her life so profoundly. One she loved and remained faithful to
for more than a decade; one she adored as the brother she never had; one
she met only a few fleeting days ago. Only one was destined to remain
at her side for life. The others would suffer the worst heartbreak imaginable.
Dottie Ducharme's eyes danced about the room, her senses taking in every sight, sound, and scent. She stroked the lacy bedspread. "This belonged to Grandma." She sat at the vanity table, stared into the mirror and winced as she struggled to jolt a stalled memory. A spritz of perfume allowed a few pieces of that puzzle to find their spaces. "He loves this fragrance. I wore Shalimar the day we met."
But which man?
She peered out the window, watching citizens going about their daily
routines in the dim daylight. A dreary, overcast day never kept these folks
from carrying on with life, she thought. Silently, she noted a few passersby.
"That's Pierre Mannette; he lives next door. And there goes Hugues Jouet,
on his way to open the tavern...And that's..."
Her eyes narrowed as she assessed the tall slender fellow who paused before the house and conversed with the soldier standing watch. "Jehan!," she exclaimed. Without hesitation, she rushed down the stairs, only to be greeted by a stranger standing in the foyer.
"Tante Clarice? May Nadine and I accompany you to the shops today? Perhaps, if we're good, you will stop at Chantelle's and buy us a sugarplum." Clarice smiled as Orry took Nadine by the hand and said, "Here, Nadine, the sweet shop is near la Place de Notre Dame. Perhaps we will see the bell ringer..."
Madame Flambert watched her little cousin walk hand in hand with little Nadine Frollo. What a handsome pair they make! Orry's creamy skin, dark gray eyes, and curly black hair complemented Nadine's coloring. Clarice wondered, "Only two years separate them. Would Claude Frollo object to an arrangement...? Why not? Orry and Nadine, in a decade or so, would make a fine match...Their children would certainly be the most beautiful on earth..."
She silently crept back up the stairs just as John Elmore headed for that trapdoor. Now, thought Dottie, is my chance. If I can make it the the backstairs and out the rear door...
Being ever so quiet, Dorothy quickly rushed to the backstairs. She made it downstairs without detection; however, once she reached the door and actually turned the handle, she felt a hand upon her shoulder.
"Going somewhere, Dottie? Or should I say 'Danisha'?"
Saying nothing -- Dottie's vocal chords seemed to shut down the moment
Johnny laid hands on her -- she picked up a ceramic ewer that sat near
the door. Why she instinctively knew it was there didn't quite click, but
Dorothy could care less as she swung the heavy vessel and crashed it onto
John Elmore's head. SMASH!
Elmore reeled and crumpled to the floor. No, the blow didn't quite leave him unconscious, but he became disoriented long enough for Dot to make a quick exit.
Tearing down a narrow, darkened alley, Dorothy gathered her billowing skirt every now and then, only to nearly trip on the fine velvet that trailed the ground. Tears ran down her bronze face while a million images continued to race through her mind. "Johnny called me 'Danisha'," she mentally surmised. She had to stop, to catch her breath, to gather her thoughts. Is he following me? Why did I fall for his sob story in the first place? Why didn't I listen to Miss Winnie when she said there were so many dishonest people out there...
Hey, this alley seems familiar...
There was something about that dingy trash-strewn alley that somewhat
jarred that foggy memory. "This is where Claude and I shared those last
moments together, that summer. It was during that farewell party...."
Visions of a tall, slender, gray-haired man with sharp angular features and a winning smile flashed before her eyes. Dorothy repeated his name over and over, "Claude...Claude...I need you, I need you..."
Just as Dorothy finally began to piece it all together, she felt the
presence of someone. Taking no chances, Dottie, grabbed the first thing
she saw: an old board. "Just the thing -- a nice thick two-by-four." Hiding
within the shadows, she raised the board only to be accosted from behind
by Jehan Frollo. He embraced her and sweetly kissed her cheek, saying,
"My dear, we searched the house but you were not to be found. Elmore had
returned but he got away. Judge Ouimet and my brother are en route as we
Then, in an almost hushed, disheartened voice, Jehan added, without further elaboration, "He knows, my dear. Claude knows everything..."
"Hey! Come back here!"
The words boomed down the alley as Jehan and Dot turned to the voice's
direction. "Johnny!", screamed Dottie in horror as the man came charging
for them. "This way! We must reach the cathedral; we can hide there until
Ouimet and my brother comes..."
The pair raced through one alley and the next, but nothing they did could shake Elmore off their trail. The dim daylight coupled with tall cramped buildings made navigation difficult and dangerous. Just as Dottie felt a tug at her hem, she let out a shriek as Johnny had finally caught up. Jehan Frollo immediately stepped in front of Dottie while Johnny made a few half-baked comments.
"So, the wayward brother figured it all out, eh?" The right side of John Elmore's face sported an ugly reddish-blue bruise where Dorothy whacked him. "You know, Jehan, if you had stayed out of this, then 'Dottie' and I would've been long gone. Yeah...Me and her would be back in 1962 Detroit, or Chicago, or New York...Where ever we could hide out..."
Dorothy shot Johnny a hot look and said, "You really killed her, and had hoped to suck me into your plan! But why did you call me...?"
Just then, an old man came hobbling towards them. His face wasn't visible,
and his body, bent over with age and illness, was concealed within a tattered
woolen cloak. He was barefooted ("Aren't his feet cold?" thought Dottie.).
The elderly man waved his stick at Jehan and Dottie as if to urge them
in their escape. Then, without warning, a little girl darted out from the
opposite direction, tugged Dottie by the hand, and said, "Come on! This
way to Notre Dame!"
It was Katerina, the same child who danced for Dorothy those many days ago. But Johnny wouldn't let go of Dottie, and that's when the 'old man' went into action. Throwing off the cloak, the elderly peasant turned out to be a Gypsy woman of striking beauty. Her coal black mane swirled about her dusky face; the bright green eyes rained fire and defiance as she brandished the wooded staff. In an instant, that staff found its target: John Elmore's belly. The force of the blow sent Elmore to the ground, yelping and thrashing in agony. In his efforts to arise, the woman's aged white goat delivered a sound 'butt' to Johnny's posterior, sending the postmodern man headlong into a nearby trash heap.
Seeing their chance, the woman took Dorothy by the hand and said, "Let
Clopin take care of him...Come on!"
She looked at Dottie with an insatiable curiosity coupled with an uneasy wariness. But Dottie paid the woman no mind as she and Jehan raced towards their freedom. Who was that woman? Some say that she and Danisha were sworn enemies. The Gypsy had once collaborated in a crazy plot to rid Paris of Judge Claude Frollo, and incurred the wrath of one of Frollo's lovers -- namely Danisha Wood. It was more than a decade ago when Mlle. Wood and la Esmeralda had it out right there in la Place de Notre Dame. From then on, the two women became bitter foes; yet, now, Esmeralda felt a twinge of empathy for Nisha.
After all, she surmised, we are mothers, looking out for our kids...
As the four figures disappeared down the alley, Elmore stirred himself
to action. Ow, that goat really hit me where it counted. Fumbling through
his pocket, John Elmore suddenly panicked. He didn't have it! He had none
of it! His Timescape and that last grenade were gone! Oh God, I left my
Timescape in the cellar and Jehan must've lifted it while I was out. And
that last grenade...I swore I had two of them when Clopin's boys nabbed
me. They were right there in my jacket pocket...
Must've dropped out when I escaped the old mill; that one must've went off when I detonated the other...
Scrambling to his feet, John Elmore shuddered when he realized that he was moments away from capture -- whether by Judge Ouimet or Claude Frollo or...
Without means of escape, Johnny knew it was only a matter of time before the whole truth came out. But he did it, and now "Dottie" may never snap out of her drug-induced trance. Only thing to do was to find "Dottie" and go into hiding. After all, he reasoned, she has her Timescape...
He started up the narrow alley when something -- someone -- tugged at
his tunic hem. Clopin and Mander! "Well, well. If it isn't Frollo's turncoat.
Knowing Frollo, he may be very well within encountering Mlle Ducharme...Or
should I say Mlle Wood."
The Gypsy King chuckled as Mander immobilized John Elmore's arms and gagged the man's mouth. He stood before the former spy and said, "You shall dearly pay for double-crossing me, Elmore! Let Ouimet and Frollo find your wretched body on the Palais steps."
Clopin stepped closer, adding, "You shall be hidden away for the time being, safe and sound...And with no means of escape!"
So with that, Johnny Elmore was unceremoniously dragged away to an undisclosed location. One more ill-timed, unplanned, impulsive action and its consequences would take its toll on Claude Frollo before John Elmore would find himself back in familiar territory.
Claude Frollo wiped a tear from his eye as he emerged from the house.
Where was his beloved Danisha? Judge Phillipe Ouimet, waiting outside with
his soldiers, gave his captain final orders, then strode up to Claude and
said, "My friend, our contacts tell me that -- er -- 'Mlle Ducharme' was
seen running towards la Place de Notre Dame. Jehan is with her and no doubt
that Elmore is hot on their trail."
He sighed in frustration. "Claude, if you were still Minister of Justice then none of this would've happened. How did I foul up something so simple. How did I let Elmore slip past our noses?" Then, with an air of dejection, "Why I ever agreed to take over the Ministry of Justice is totally beyond me...."
Claude placed his hand upon Phillipe's shoulder, saying, "I asked myself the same thing all the while I was tracking Marcel Rougelot..."
Just then, Evrard Ouimet happened by; he was decidedly and understandably
distraught that Dorothy had yet to return. "Phillipe, she's been gone all
night, and I'm at my wit's end." He turned to Frollo and offered an apology.
"I'm so sorry to have screamed at you like that but with Dottie missing..."
Frollo interrupted, "My dear Evrard, your brother and I are in the middle of a delicate investigation....Your lady is, I'm afraid, in danger...Evrard, when the time comes, you'll need to hear us out..."
Evrard Ouimet turned to his brother in reply, but before he could get
the words out, the sound of a loud explosion ripped through the early morning
air. "'Whatever was that?!", Phillipe asked alarmedly.
"Sounds as if it came from la Place de Notre-Dame," Claude Frollo replied. He felt it again -- that stubborn premonition of impending disaster. Frollo's heart ached as he and the Ouimet brothers raced towards the square. Like clockwork, several children and their mothers ran from the chaotic scene, shouting, "La dame de Frollo est vivante! Elle est vivante!"
It was all true...Danisha is indeed alive. But the scene that greeted Claude
Frollo as he and his companions reached the square literally broke the
heart and mind of the man whose iron will and strength had already been
pulled to the limit.
TO CHAPTER 19!
Copyright©1999 by FrolloFreak®