"Mr. Frollo, when Ms. Wood died did you cry?"
"I liked Nadine's mom. She was so nice."
"When are you coming back, Mr. Frollo?"
"Your clothes are sharp! I like your hat."
"Black and purple are my favorite colors too!"
"I wish my daddy could wear a hat like that."
"Tell us another story, Mr. Frollo. I want to hear the one about your friend. I think his name was André."
Claude Frollo, the visitor from 15th Century France, surrounded by sixteen
21st Century five and six year olds, seemed to forget his despair and thoroughly
enjoyed himself with these kids. It was odd, he thought, that at one time
he said to Danisha, "I was never that patient with young people". But here
he was, chatting up a breeze with the little ones, enjoying their youthful
sprightliness and wonderment. In that half hour he told them stories so
vivid that the children could sense centuries old people and places: Gothic
cathedrals, noblemen and their ladies, brave soldiers marching off to war.
The little eyes lit up in amazement when Claude told them all about the
Place de Notre Dame. However, for this afternoon, the talk soon centered
around Danisha Wood, Nadine's mother and Claude's beloved. What those kids
said to him gave him so much comfort.
"Don't worry, Mr. Frollo. You have a lot of pictures so you won't forget her."
"I cried when my grandpa died so it's OK to be sad."
"Are you and Nadine really going to Paris tonight?"
That last question amused Claude Frollo to no end. Indeed, he had entertained whisking his daughter to 15th Century Paris just for the evening. However, with the demands of school, dancing lessons, and Girl Scouts -- and the fact that her grandparents cherished Nadine's company even more -- Claude Frollo thought it wise not to keep the child bouncing from one century to the next.
"No, Jessica," he gently replied whilst holding both his daughter and another classmate on his lap, "Nadine and I will go to Paris when the new judge is officially sworn in." The other classmate, an inquisitive, irresistible little boy, piped up, "Does that mean you don't put people in jail anymore?" The medieval judge laughed out loud then replied, "My boy, this time another man is now taking over my job while I enjoy my retirement. Why, now I can sleep late, enjoy my country house, and spend more time with Nadine whenever I want."
The children gathered closer to him as he told them yet another story. Some stroked the soft black velvet of his tunic; others simply marveled at the man himself. Two little girls snuggled next to him whilst his own daughter held onto his hand and planted upon it numerous kisses. They played with the hat -- the 'chaperon' -- with its long black silken veil; they marveled at the many rings that adorned his gracefully slender fingers.
Yes, I needed this...A chance, as Nisha always said, "to get out from under". Danisha, you have done that as well, uncovering this side of me...Never would I imagine myself so much at ease around children...
...And the wonders they've done for me...
Gerry leaned back in her chair, took out a hankie to wipe her eyes,
then admitted to Claude, "Some assistant down at the coroner's office was
going through paperwork and spotted Nisha's autopsy report. He noticed
some overlooked data..."
Claude Frollo was now a little more than merely curious. What if Phillipe's hunch was right all along? What if Danisha was truly murdered? "Overlooked data? Geraldine, we all know the official report stated she died of heart failure."
"Yes, Claude, but the report showed traces of some substance in her bloodstream. Some toxic of herbal origin, the coroner says. They want to exhume her body to perform another autopsy. Naturally Joe has forbidden such a thing."
Frollo sat back, his eyes surveying the spacious kitchen, the very room which was one of his favorites. If she were alive now, this room would be filled with delightful aromas...My Nisha, ever the culinary artiste...
He grinned a bit then grew serious as he explained the latest suspicions
of the present Minister of Justice. "Phillipe Ouimet, my successor, bandied
about the notion that Danisha met with foul play. But how? As of Christmas
Day, Marcel Rougelot was dead; those conspirators were in custody and awaiting
execution. I don't understand it. We all thought Nisha's declining health
was due to stress...Wait!"
He paused, arose from his seat, and paced the room. His eyes still scanned the shelves, the cabinets. In a flash, he disappeared into the pantry, at last emerging with an unusually beautiful container. It was a little wooden box of the finest ebony, not much larger than a standard poker deck. On the lid was a hand-carved scene of exotic African wildlife complete with these words: "Je ljubav zauvijek?" (Is love forever?)
"I remember the box; Bernard LaCroix carved this several weeks before he died. He later gave it to Danisha but how it turned up in...I never got a good look at this lid before; this is unusual...Why, I don't ever recall Bernard carving such a quote...The words do not match the illustration..."
Claude Frollo handed the box to Gerry then told her, "I don't know why it didn't dawn on me until now. Geraldine, Nisha received that box Christmas Day; John Elmore and Vixen dropped by with gifts. John handed that box to Nisha and said it was from a friend..."
"But, Claude, I don't understand..." Gerry studied the lid's illustration and the words, then opened the box. Inside was a lone piece of candy; much had been consumed. Now it finally hit home for Gerry Wood. "I remember this. There were about five pieces and Danisha ate several -- I kidded her about not sharing." Claude Frollo then went on to explain his suspicions. "Think of it, Geraldine. Danisha hadn't one drop of wine nor spirits, not since we returned from 1937 Chicago. And she didn't overindulge her appetite as was her usual pattern during the holidays. So it had to be this confection. I recall the note inside the package; it read 'For You and Only You -- Share this with no one'. Nisha thought it was one of her many 15th Century friends but I never recognize the handwriting...She fell ill almost immediately."
He made a few turns of the room then said to Gerry , "I want you to contact Fern. Have her take the remaining candy to her chemist friend for analysis. In the meantime I need to confer with Vixen and Johnny; perhaps they know from where that box came, and who might have sent it." A sick feeling came over him, but he was still baffled. That carving, and those words...
"Claude, the words on the lid. I don't recognize the language."
"I believe the words are in some Slavic tongue -- Croatian or something -- That's another thing I'd like Fern to do." He snapped his fingers and asked, "Danisha's device. Is it still...?"
Gerry stood up, took Claude's hand then smiled as she said to him, "You know she always kept it in her dresser drawer...I know, honey, you just want another excuse to check on your baby."
Frollo grinned. "You know me too well, Madame Geraldine." Then he grew serious as they ascended the winding staircase. "If indeed Danisha was murdered, we'll have to be extremely careful. You forget that this case straddles more than five centuries. It means involving your 2005 prosecutors AND the 1495 Ministry of Justice. Pinpointing exactly who's responsible will be difficult at best." As they rounded the hallway to Nadine's room, Geraldine Wood expressed hope that her daughter did indeed die a natural death. "If this is true, that someone actually killed my baby, how are we going to explain it all to Nadine? How are we going to tell her that someone deliberately hurt her mother...."
Gerry stifled back a sob as Claude silently comforted her; yet, inside, his rage boiled. How cruel, not only to deprive my daughter of her mother, but to let the parents suffer in agony! When I learn the truth, and the guilty party is brought to justice, Phillipe had better make him or her pay dearly, painfully...
Highly nervous and apprehensive, the Frollo spy knew he had made the
ultimate blunder -- His carelessness now made everything extremely complicated.
Johnny's friend Dorothy, a woman from 1962 Detroit got her hands on the
Timescape thus accidentally transporting herself through time portals.
"But to where?", Johnny thought out loud. Then there was the matter of
breaking this news to Julian and Vixen. "How am I going to explain this?
I never meant for Dottie to see, let alone get her hands on, that thing;
now she's gone -- somewhere."
After some serious thought, Johnny came to the conclusion that Dot might have blasted herself to 15th Century France. After all, he reasoned, the thing was set for 1495 Paris; perhaps that's where Dot ended up.
He threw a few items in a bag: some serviceable clothes for the period, plus a packet he retrieved from a safety deposit box the day before. Taking out his Timescape, Johnny Elmore synchronized his coordinates; then, with the bag slung over his shoulder, he soon vanished in a blaze of white light.
His eyes temporarily gazed at the queen-sized bed -- the very bed he and his beloved shared for so many years. They slept, laughed, and loved in that bed with its rich royal blue satin comforter and the many plush pillows. It was also in that bed where Claude rocked a weakened Danisha that New Year's Eve.
And she died in my arms, right in that very spot...
"Claude, I can't find it," was what Gerry said to him; that finally
jolted him back to reality.
"What do you mean you can't find it?"
Geraldine Wood searched the dresser drawers, the vanity, the jewelry box, the closet. Where was Nisha's transtemporal device? "Claude, believe me that Nisha put that thing away right in that drawer," she said, pointing to the dresser. "I was right here in this room with her that day." Now Claude was concerned; he asked, "Geraldine, has anyone been in this room...?"
"You mean since Nisha passed? No one's been up here other than Cherie and myself, and that's just to dust and vacuum. Why we haven't begun to go through her things, not so soon after...All of Danisha's things are just as they were before she died." Then again, they thought, so many people had been in and out of the house during the past week. Claude Frollo's earlier suspicions grew stronger when he realized that one of those many callers might have slipped upstairs and taken that device.
Suddenly, Claude felt it again -- that odd feeling he sensed that very night following the funeral. What was that? Could it be that it was Danisha, calling to him from beyond? But...yes, perhaps she suspected something as well....
"Geraldine, I don't mean to sound so apprehensive -- even accusatory
if you will -- I have this deep suspicion that we have disloyalty running
rampart. Whoever has that device stole it for a valid purpose. Proving
theft, and an ulterior motive, will not be easy..."
Just then Claude's transtemporal communicator beeped madly. It was a frantic message from Jacki Terrell, co-inventor of the Timescape.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but someone got hold of Nisha's device, and this person took an unauthorized time trip...And you won't believe this but Johnny Elmore, that man who helped you and Julian back in 1937 Chicago, has also blasted himself through time portals. The problem here is that Nisha's device is now on lockdown -- I recently installed a similar program on all your devices ever since that Rougelot fiasco. That means whoever has that thing can't be tracked nor can they ever return home...I traced that trip from 1962 Detroit...How did Danisha's device end up there? This is a mystery to Tony and me...we believe you have a right to know, but to tell the truth neither Tony nor I know what's going on.
A timely arrival...Evrard and Orry...What's up with Johnny?
Go to Chapter Four!
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