"Oh my goodness!," exclaimed Esmeralda who still had her ear pressed
to the wall, "when Clopin said he'd have his revenge...Hey, I wonder if
Frollo knows that his man is back in town."
The two kids listened as well; they, especially Baul, laughed with wicked delight as Clopin sprang the "surprise".
"Clopin, you duped me! Oh my God, Julian! And...and...Ernie?!"
"In the flesh, Johnny-Boy. Thought you had your tracks covered, didn't you?"
It was Julian McNaney all right, handsome as ever with his strong Black
Irish features. Some folks back in his time always said Julian bore a striking
resemblance to Tyrone Power and Robert Taylor, those dashing matinee idols
of Hollywood's Golden Age. And Ernesto Iaria? The little wise guy wannabe?
The same greasy weasel who used to be Frank Nitti's errand boy? A short
stocky man with slick black hair and beady dark eyes that twinkled with
mischief, Ernie couldn't help laughing in triumph that Johnny got "bested".
"Yessiree, buddy," Ernie finally said, "it's me all right. You see, Johnny, I really did run errands for Nitti, but I also work for Julian here. And that means I work for Frollo."
Ernie got up in Johnny's face as he continued to rub it in. Johnny Elmore, still immobilized in the rickety chair, nearly retched from the foul garlicky odor Ernie emitted. Yuck! And to think I used to hang out with this dude when we were tracking Rougelot in 1937 Chicago, thought Johnny.
Julian, Clopin, then Ernie hooted their triumph as Mander still held
the knife close to Elmore's throat. There was still the matter of "letting
Johnny go", but not so fast. "No, guys, we need to send Johnny off with
a bang," taunted Julian as he lit another cigarette.
The intrepid Frollo spy then laid it all out. "You see, Johnny, old Frollo had his suspicions about you after he finally nailed Marcel Rougelot." Julian McNaney then touched on nearly everything -- but not the time travel as Frollo cautioned Julian about revealing such things, especially when around the 15th Century folks.
Instead, Julian reiterated Johnny Elmore's "confession" in relation to Ernie's supposed cooperation in Elmore's crime of passion. Then there was that nefarious "Plan B".
Upon taking a nice long drag on his cigarette, Julian recapped the alternative plan to keep Danisha safe, that is if Marcel Rougelot remained a threat. "The plan was to spirit Nisha and Nadine away until Rougelot was brought in dead or alive," explained Julian.
"Only," added Clopin, "Madame Fern convinced Julian to nix the idea;
there was no need, at the time, to put Danisha and her daughter in such
a perilous situation."
"Especially," Julian continued, "when Clopin suggested using 'the formula' -- You know, slip Nisha some of the stuff; the stuff knocks her out. Now, for all practical purposes, she appeared to be dead -- no pulse, no breath, nothing..."
"Yeah," Ernie hissed at Johnny, "when she 'died' in Frollo' arms, it was so convincing that they even had a nice funeral for her. And I had to play your little henchman -- Get her body out of the morgue before they embalmed her, then put the dummy in the coffin just before services...Yeah, good thing I took on that job at the undertaker's...And you had me take Nisha to '62 Detroit where you brainwashed her in believing she was Dottie Ducharme. Geesh, what a worm...Nah, you're lower than worms. The stuff worked for a while, Johnny Boy, but there ain't no telling what Nisha will be like afterwards...You know, I seen guys who been on dope before, and they ain't the same even after they clean up."
Mander, still holding Johnny in a viselike grip, said, "The potion plays
tricks on the mind. The person who partakes of it may lose part of the
Clopin nodded, "Until the potion's effects wear off. My guess, dear Johnny, is that you planted suggestions in Nisha's mind while she was unconscious. You used the potion not to help Nisha but to satisfy your own purposes..."
"...And that, Johnny," concluded Julian, "is what everyone learned today -- especially Frollo and Judge Ouimet -- of what YOU did to Danisha, to everyone who loved her. I can't imagine anything else so rotten, to rob that kid of her mother and cause all that suffering to the family."
Mander, a trigger-happy sort, snapped back Elmore's head; he drew the knife's blade across the man's cheek. A hairline cut on Johnny's right cheek soon oozed blood. These guys are gonna kill me!
"Nah," said Ernie in an ominously oily voice, "don't do him in. He's
gotta answer to a lot of people -- namely Nisha's folks."
The former Nitti man turned to Clopin and explained how, "Nisha and this guy go way back, back when they was kids. Geesh, they sat next to each other in school; they shared lunches and swapped baseball cards..."
Seeing that Clopin, a man of the 15th Century, wouldn't have the slightest inkling of school, ball cards, and the like, Ernie shifted his focus on Johnny's fate. He asked Julian, "You know the folks back home are gonna ask all kinds of questions. What're we gonna do with this slime bucket? Dump him at Judge Ouimet's doorstep? Or take him back to the...Uhh...'New World'?"
Julian McNaney pondered a bit, then, after taking a final puff on the
cigarette, said to Clopin, "Yeah, why don't we dump him on the Palais steps?
Then Frollo and Ouimet can do to him what they want. Once they read Elmore's
confession, you guys are off the hook."
Now it was Clopin's turn to ponder. Oh, Julian, if your optimism rang true. Instead, the Gypsy king replied, "Julian, I can't think of a more apropos place to get rid of this refuse. However, you know what it's like for my people. Ouimet is far more intolerant of us than Frollo ever was. No, after this episode, I feel it is time for us to move on, where we'll never be found."
Clopin then grinned as Ernie and Mander forced John Elmore to drink something. Ah yes, thought the king of the Gypsies, nothing like a dose of one's own medicine...
Baul and Katerina listened with dejection as Clopin told Julian it's
time to move on. Esmeralda heard this too but didn't quite buy Clopin's
sentiments. Why, even under Frollo, the Romany managed to eke out a living
no matter how risky. But under Ouimet, who, after this adventure, seemed
to be even more intolerant, yet, at the same time, ineffective, the Gypsies
may have a chance.
"Katerina," she gently said to her daughter, "you and Baul didn't listen carefully. Clopin has it covered; I can feel it...."
But what if Jehan Frollo dies? Esmeralda shuddered to think what could transpire if the younger Frollo expires. Then it's a murder charge, that is if anyone fingers Baul as the one who threw that grenade. The last time Esmeralda saw Danisha was in the square, and that right after Claude Frollo and the Ouimet brothers arrived. The Gypsy dancer felt it wise to gather the children and slip away amid the confusion. Yet, she felt somewhat sorry for Danisha, whether Nisha was Frollo's lady or not.
She's a mother, just like me, and her daughter deserves the best, just like mine. I wonder how she's taking all this...All this betrayal and secrecy has its price. And I believe Danisha, despite all her strength -- and I admire that strength -- will not hold up...
"Gerry," Joe finally said upon settling next to his wife, "we have to prepare for the worst. There is the rest of the family, and everyone else, who need to know. Then there's the press. I never thought about that. What are we going to say to reporters? We can't reveal Jacki and Tony's invention! No one is to talk about it. So how are we to handle the media...?"
"May I suggest to tell them whatever story that will be believable."
A black-clad, sad-eyed Claude Frollo appeared in the room. He hadn't slept very well for the past three nights and the latest strain only etched deeper lines into his face. Another all-day vigil, only this time it was endless hours sitting in a hospital waiting room. For a while it was touch-and-go with Jehan. The man nearly bled to death upon arrival and held onto life with sheer force of will. Claude Frollo smiled slightly in gratitude; his postmodern lady had saved Jehan's life. I did it for her, thought Claude, now she does the same for Jehan. She means so much to me...
"Joseph," said Claude as he sat in his favorite easy chair, "Phoebus
is to bring Nadine home early tomorrow morning. I thought it wise not to
bring her here, not yet at least. She needn't be alarmed and the time spent
at Chateau d'Arcy may help take her mind off her troubles. Then there's
The parents nodded in agreement. Joe Wood adjusted the wire-rimmed glasses and said, "She needs to know everything, Claude, and it won't be easy. My goodness, the press will be all over the place once it's learned that Nisha is still alive."
"Which," rejoined Claude, "is why I suggest that our story to your news reporters must be as believable as possible. We can't reveal the Timescape -- Jacqueline and Antoine have expressed those fears in light of what Elmore did."
He arose, made a few turns of the room, then continued, "Jehan is to remain here; he is too weak to travel. Danisha did not object to taking care of my brother, and his recovery may take several weeks."
Claude Frollo's eyes dampened with tears but he maintained a tight rein on his emotions as he continued, "...My dear Geraldine, I still have Evrard and Phillipe to consider. I'm afraid the friendship is irreparably damaged..."
"How damaged, Claude?," asked Danisha, who had just entered the room
and now clad in the style of her own time. The simple deep burgundy velour
top and matching leggings enhanced her coloring. Claude watched her with
loving eyes as he devised ways to reveal to his beloved the horrible ordeal
she'd endured. She offered a slight smile as she said to everyone, "I just
talked to Jehan's doctors on the phone. Jehan will be OK -- He's resting
now, which is why I thought it best we all come on home and..."
She then noticed the concerned expressions and resumed her original inquiries. "Come on, Claude. Tell me, what went on back there? And don't lie to me because I picked up the newspaper at the hospital. Here I thought it was still New Year's Day only to discover it's mid-February!" She turned to her parents. "Momma, Daddy...What are you all trying to hide? Jehan got hurt for a reason...Too many people in the square freaked out when they saw me. No one will tell me a thing! And what's this about the press, and Johnny Elmore, and Clopin, and..."
She looked Claude Frollo dead in the eyes and told him about the man who couldn't stop staring at her. "All while we were helping Jehan, that man with Phillipe kept his eyes on me. He stared at me with such astonishment, and at you with such hatred. And who was that woman and child with Nadine? Claude, forgive me for sounding so demanding, but Jehan was almost killed today, I lost a month of my life, and no one seems too anxious to tell me a thing! And why is everyone so down on Johnny? What has he done that's so awful?"
As soon as Danisha quieted down, a tear welled in her eye but didn't fall. She felt rather shaky and weak; everyone in the room could sense that Danisha may collapse on the spot.
"Here, baby," her mother beckoned gently, "sit down. There is so much you need to know..."
Claude Frollo sat next to Nisha on the couch, his arms enfolding his
beloved. He kissed her tenderly as he began to explain everything. She
learned it all: the conspiracy, the tainted Christmas treat, the stolen
Timescape program. She then learned about how John Elmore had procured
the poison from Clopin, how Johnny spirited a 'dead' Nisha to 1962 Detroit,
and how 'Dorothy Ducharme' emerged.
"He used those stories, honey," Professor Wood said to his shocked daughter. "He brainwashed you, then he had you believing you were Dottie Ducharme..."
Her eyes now screwed up in tears, she tried her best to muffle a sob as they told her more. Oh no, Johnny did all that? He had everyone believing I was dead, so he could have me all to himself? He had hoped for Claude to meet his end at Marcel Rougelot's hands. Johnny betrayed me...He used me, and my family, and the man I love... What's this about Evrard?
"...You and Evrard nearly married, my dear," admitted Claude Frollo
as he stroked her generous dark hair. "He fell in love with 'Dottie' and
thought you would make a splendid mother for Orry..."
"So that was the boy with Nadine? That was Orry Ouimet? Who was the woman?"
Claude nodded and responded, "Clarice Flambert is Evrard's maternal cousin...It was she and her attendants who found you at Maison des Chénes, after you had taken that 'accidental' time trip...You nearly froze to death..."
It took some time for it all to sink in. However, when Claude finally handed over that packet in which contained her sorority pin, the wedding ring, and Nadine's silver charm bracelet, Danisha arose from the couch and walked to the shelves where so many photos sat. There were pictures of her, Nadine, Claude, Fern, Jehan, and...
...and a couple of Johnny and me when we were kids, in the old neighborhood...
Then there were the many awards for various academic and extracurricular activities, including one in particular.
Here's the one I got back in sixth grade...I won that after I wrote the first story about Dottie Ducharme. I even shared my good fortune with Johnny...After all we've been through as best buddies, he turns on me so nastily and so horridly...I nearly died...I nearly married a man I've never met...Claude and Nadine would have lost me forever...
She picked up the photo of herself and John Elmore at age eight. They
were third grade charmers back then; nothing could shatter that bond of
special friendship. Who knew the turbulent feelings Johnny soon developed
for Nisha? The wide-eyed innocence and happy smiles of two children in
their Christmas finery posing for the camera belied the terror yet to come
She stared at the photo for a few moments; then, in a fit of rage, she repeatedly banged the frame against the wall. She cursed over and over, her feelings of anger and betrayal finally surfaced, much to the dismay of her parents and the man she loved. "Damn him to Hell! How could he do this?! Damn you, Johnny!"
The words became more incoherent as her sobs grew louder. She lost all control of anything remotely rational as she slammed the frame to pieces. The many awards came tumbling down the moment her swiped the shelves. Shattering glass and bending metal punctuated by outright ragged bawling failed to cleanse her spirit of the hatred and revulsion she felt towards an old friend.
At last Claude reached out to his beloved; she immediately collapsed into his arms, still sobbing and screaming uncontrollably. Back when Claude Frollo killed Marcel Rougelot, he asked Fern, "Will it ever be over?"
With the events of the past month, and their devastating consequences, it was clear to Frollo that nothing will ever be the same. He raised dejected eyes to anguished parents as he pronounced, "Danisha may never recover from this..."
Oh Phillipe, to think what Evrard must be feeling now...
O the embittered words Evrard hurled at me! He flatly accused me of harboring the truth about Dorothy...He claimed I kept the news from him only to purposefully hurt him. "You knew Dorothy was in truth Frollo's lady, yet you said nothing! You've always hated me, Phillipe! Admit it! And now, you've done the most unforgivable," Evrard spat repeatedly at his brother. No, Phillipe never hated his brother and he only wanted to spare Evrard the painful revelation that occurred today. But events happened so quickly...
"Which is why I'm informing His Majesty of my resignation," sighed Phillipe dejectedly. "It is clear that I will never fill Frollo's shoes...And I've fouled up the simple task of arresting a wanted man...A man who was for many times within my grasp..."
At the present time, an enraged Evrard had immediately packed up everything
and went back to Maison des Chénes. Just being in the same town
as Phillipe did not set well with Evrard. Clarice Flambert tried to persuade
Evrard from hastily leaving Paris, and to accept the fact that "Dorothy"
really belonged to Frollo but Evrard could not be swayed. A once close
friendship was now irreparably damaged, and the already fragile sibling
bond forever broken.
Come summer, Evrard and Orry would return to Paris, and Orry would encounter the intriguing Mlle. Danisha Wood in the most unusual of circumstances. Orry had plenty to tell his father after a brief and adventurous visit to Nisha's Parisian residence. That particular meeting -- and certain details of Orry's report -- only intensified the Ouimets' curiosities concerning Claude Frollo's New World lady.
"Minister Ouimet!", called out the soldier stationed outside Phillipe's
chambers. Phillipe stirred himself from a fitful slumber. "Your Honor,"
continued the soldier, still standing in the doorway, "it's the New World
man named 'Elmore'. Frollo's man -- a Monsieur McNaney -- brought Elmore
Phillipe Ouimet roused himself fully awake. Could this be true? Elmore merely dumped on the Palais doorstep? "Where is Elmore now?," queried Judge Ouimet. To which the soldier replied, "In the dungeons, sir. M. McNaney forwarded Frollo's request that the man be extradited to the New World."
The lieutenant halted then added, "Elmore has been drugged, sir. He is unconscious. M. McNaney admitted to doing that, sir."
Phillipe Ouimet fathomed all the soldier told him, then said, "Lieutenant, where is M. Julian McNaney, now? I would like to thank him for a job well done."
That was a good question: Where was Julian? All the soldier could tell Phillipe Ouimet was that Julian inexplicably disappeared. During the following fall, however, the intrepid Frollo spy would surface again, only to assist Judge Phillipe Ouimet solve a most dangerous and complicated case.
But, for now, Frollo was grateful to Julian -- and, if truth be known,
to Clopin -- for finally entrapping one John Elmore. So, John Elmore, the
madly obsessed unrequited pursuer for Danisha's affections, soundly defeated
with the very means he imposed upon Nisha...
Still, no word on who threw that grenade, and as far as Claude was concerned, Elmore was ultimately responsible for that as well. No matter, he will pay, and pay dearly...
"Claude?," came the distant voice. He heard that voice and instantly
ascended the stairs to her room. Immediately he went to her side and cradled
her with all the love and tenderness. At last, he and his beloved were
reunited, but it would be several painful weeks -- months even -- before
Nisha fully recovered from her ordeal. However, things had changed far
too much for our transtemporal lovers. Marriage, for now, was totally out
of the picture, but they still had Nadine, a little girl who deserved both
a full time mother and father. Claude Frollo kept hoping and praying
that the ultimate May-December romance would finally meet that goal of
Yet, over the many months to follow, that unshakable foundation and unbreakable bond of love and devotion would suffer damage -- some of it irreparable. For two other men had come to love Danisha. Claude wondered about Evrard, but never realized Jehan's budding affections. Jehan Frollo would simply brood in silence, while Evrard Ouimet secretly seethed that, "She belongs to me!", and would devise ways of winning her over.
Evrard and Danisha would cross paths again: The first encounter would be pleasant but it would raise Evrard's suspicions and curiosities about Frollo's lady. The second would find Claude, Evrard, and Danisha thrown together by tragic circumstances. The entire ordeal would prove extremely awkward, even dangerous, for all parties involved.
By the outset of winter, Danisha would finally choose, from among the
three, her life mate. But who would it be?
COMING NEXT: THE EPILOGUE!
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