"He has something to hide," muttered one of the many Roma present as
Johnny was brought before Clopin. How incredible, thought the king of the
Gypsies, that one man's lies and deception spelled tragedy for so many.
Of course Clopin lost no love for Claude Frollo; the former Minister of
Justice had dogged the Roma for more than thirty years. Too many of his
people had been ambushed, arrested, tortured, and outright killed at the
hands of Frollo's men -- some met their end at the hands of Frollo himself.
Such maltreatment led Clopin to join forces with Jean-Michel duChamps,
one of Claude Frollo's most bitter rivals.
However, in light of what happened during that ill-fated escapade, Clopin vowed never again to involve himself or his people in such nefarious schemes. But, years later, he returned to Paris as part of another plot to rid France of one Claude Frollo. Only this time, Clopin thought, he came to Paris in hopes of stopping Jean-Michel's grown children, Maurice and Paulette, from carrying out their murderous plan. He never wanted to see Danisha Wood, Frollo's New World lady, dead; he had developed a special respect for the woman ever since he met Isabelle LaCroix. In fact, Clopin had it figured out that Isabelle and Nisha had to be related -- "They favor each other too much."
Of course since Clopin considered Isabelle's father Guillaume Sarrisin a good friend, the Gypsy king vowed he'd let no harm come to any of the transplanted African's family -- including Danisha Wood. Which was why he sought out Julian McNaney, then a Frollo spy. The intrepid master of espionage was hired by His Grace as special agent; Frollo wanted hard damning evidence against the duChamps and the serial killer Rougelot. Julian, a meticulous sort, who considered himself a fairly good judge of character, hired Clopin on the spot. He promised he'd keep Frollo off the Gypsies' tail as long as Clopin cooperated with the investigation. And Julian was a man of his word -- Frollo never found out the precise location of the Court of Miracles.
Which drew Clopin back to the present. Johnny Elmore, another New World man, and Nisha's longtime friend, puzzled the Gypsy king to no end. He met Johnny a few months back, when it was certain that Frollo was within moments of arresting the killer Marcel Rougelot. Yet, and that seemed to coincide with Julian's decision not to implement 'Plan B', Marcel led Frollo on a perilous manhunt that too many times put Danisha's life in danger. In the end, after Frollo killed Rougelot and every one of those conspirators were safely behind bars, Clopin and Julian were relieved that Plan B was now a dead issue.
Yet there was still Johnny... Johnny Elmore came to Clopin early one Christmas Eve; he claimed he had some pertinent information, and that he needed 'the formula'. The former Frollo spy's explanation? "Uh...we found out that there's another man involved in this, and Julian wanted me to fetch your...uhhh...'the formula'." Then Johnny gave something, a little wooden box, to Katerina, Lazlo's young daughter, who in turn carved those words: "Je ljubav zauvijek?" (Is love forever?). Seems the girl and her mother, after Lazlo died as "Clopin", spent all those years in the Balkans, thus they naturally picked up the languages. "There was this elderly Slovenian couple, and they were so kind to us," recalled Katerina. She was so impressed with Johnny's devotion to his childhood friend, so much that she was flattered when he requested that she carved those words onto the ebony box. Katerina was rather puzzled that Johnny wanted that particular phrase, and in "Whatever language is fine with me. Just don't do it in French, or Spanish or English..."
Katerina admired the box itself. When she inquired about it, the former Frollo spy's only response was, "Oh I found that in a shop back home...."
She carved those words right below the wildlife scene, and Johnny never questioned the odd pairing of a Slovenian caption accompanying a depiction of West African wildlife. But Katerina raised a few questions once the news about Nisha's sudden death spread all over Paris and beyond. It was she who told Clopin, "That man, that Johnny, lied to me. He said he bought that box at Chantelle's, but the old man who runs the shop told Quasimodo that Johnny brought that box in 'for polishing'. I know because I overheard the bell ringer telling Phoebus."
And that's why Clopin became increasingly interested in one John Elmore, the man who so briefly pledged his loyalty to Claude Frollo. The Gypsy king could have kicked himself for allowing this man to use so many; now this man's presence threatened the very safety of Clopin's people.
Johnny, his eyes blinking under the harsh glare of torches, quietly
surveyed his surroundings. He had no idea where he was or whether he'd
leave this place alive. It looked like an old mine shaft but Johnny wondered
if there were such things in the 15th Century. All he knew was that time
was running out; the sooner he found Dorothy then found a way back to 1962,
the sooner he'll be out of this medieval hellhole for good.
Clopin, settling back in his chair, eyed this man with such contempt; however, the Gypsy king had no plans to end Johnny's life. On the contrary, he intended to pump the turncoat spy for pertinent information, that is, why had Johnny returned to Paris. When Johnny showed up at that old monastery two weeks ago, Clopin became intrigued when he overheard Johnny talking to Katerina. Who was this Dorothy Ducharme? And why did Johnny risk everything just to find her. Clopin wondered if this Mlle. Ducharme might be an accomplice -- "Yes, perhaps she helped him murder Danisha....Perhaps she has threatened to tell Frollo or Ouimet everything, which is why Johnny is so frantic in finding her." Seeing a golden opportunity, Clopin got his spies and contacts to comb every square inch of Paris and environs in hopes of locating Dorothy Ducharme. "My hunch," reasoned Clopin, "is that Johnny Elmore may have followed her here...and if I know him, he will kill her, just to keep her from talking."
He turned to Katerina and said to her, "My dear child, why don't you fetch your mother. I have a feeling she may want to see the man who murdered Frollo's New World lady. Then I want her to learn why she should not trust every man who claims he'll 'help' our people."
Johnny Elmore stood there in silence trying to fathom what these people wanted to do to him. At last Clopin spoke, "My dear Johnny, please make yourself at home. For you see, you are now our prisoner, and as for your Dorothy, my spies are looking for your friend as we speak." At first glance, Clopin noted Johnny's reaction: the cold sweat, the throbbing of the carotid artery through deep sepia-toned skin. Clopin then told Johnny that he needn't worry about Dottie -- "If she is indeed in or near Paris, my spies will find her, but only to protect her from you. I should've never trusted you, Elmore....Hmm, you know, Ouimet is as bad, perhaps, worst than Frollo. I have a feeling once all this comes out -- how YOU seemingly helped Frollo capture the killer Rougelot only to turn around and murder the woman he tried to protect. Judge Ouimet will have a -- what is that expression? Ah yes, a 'field day'..."
"No, man!," Johnny finally blurted out, "it's not like that! I mean...uhh...I didn't mean to kill her...and, uhh...but you said 'The Formula' wasn't that..."
"I know what I said, Johnny! But you weren't listening; you were too caught up in your obsessive love for Danisha. All you wanted was to keep Frollo from marrying her, pure and simple." Clopin then commanded his men to shackle Johnny Elmore in a remote corner of the room. From there, Johnny was always within sight; escape was impossible.
The Gypsy King walked over to his 'guest'; glaring down at Johnny, Clopin then said, "As far as your friend is concerned, I truly hope she is out of harm's way." He stroked his scraggly black beard, adding, "Somehow, I trust your Dorothy will encounter Frollo, perhaps Judge Ouimet himself. Hmm...maybe, just maybe, she has already settled in, making the most of her visit..."
As the days wore on, Johnny pondered too many questions for which he had no answers. With Clopin's spies combing the city and beyond, Johnny Elmore knew in all likelihood that Dorothy would be found. But what, if she is indeed found, would she possibly say to him? How has she fared all this time?
Strange things began to happen -- strange things triggered by a few chance encounters and an accidental discovery. The former would set the wheels of catastrophe in motion; the latter would finally explain why a certain medieval serial killer managed to elude Danisha Wood and Claude Frollo.
He had stayed on at Chateau d'Arcy since Christmas; the stab wounds were not as serious as previously thought, but Jehan was in considerable discomfort. He was forever grateful to his hosts, Hubert and Blanche d'Arcy. They especially appreciated how the younger Frollo seemed to lift Solange Marchand's spirits after the awful news arrived. Solange, Hubert's cousin, was especially close to Danisha; she had a tough time dealing with the sudden illness and death of her friend. Jehan's special brand of humor and 'good time fun' kept Solange buoyed while her world seemed to continously crash around her.
However the holidays came and went, and Jehan, feeling so much stronger, decided to pay his brother a visit, perhaps mending those broken fences. "No," thought Jehan, "this is not a call for a handout. I love my brother, and I hope Claude will not turn me out."
Now the road from Paris to Chateau d'Arcy splits at the halfway point. If one veers to the right, the d'Arcy's estate is a day's ride away. Veer to the left and, within a half day's ride, one encounters another split. The road to the left leads to Chateau duPré, Claude Frollo's place. The road to the right leads to Mansion des Chénes, home of Evrard Ouimet. Jehan Frollo, upon reaching that fork, decided, on a whim, to call on Claude's good friend. After all, he thought, it had been more than ten years since he'd seen Evrard. "And Claude had never spared a moment to call upon him...I understand he's still grieving. Perhaps I will call on Evrard then pass whatever message onto Claude...."
As Jehan guided his horse up the long oak-lined driveway, he was quite ill-prepared for the most astonishing news.
Evrard offered his guest a warm smile and a delicious repast of cheese,
fresh bread, and wine. Suddenly remembering something important, Jehan
Frollo reached into the bag he carried and produced a glass jar. The jar
was unlike anything Evrard had seen -- Large, with the word "Ball" emblazoned
on the side. A curious looking lid ("All you do is merely turn to open,"
explained Jehan) decorated with a frilly lace collar and ribbon. What was
that amber colored substance inside?
Jehan explained, "Oh, this is peach preserves. Danisha Wood, Claude's fiancée, made several jars of this last fall. My brother gave a few to Hubert d'Arcy; Hubert and Blanche thought that they should share one with you. It's rather delicious, and Danisha was a marvelous cook..."
Upon accepting the jar, Evrard expressed his gratitude then asked Jehan about Danisha. "I understand she and Claude were to be married. So shocking, for her to die just days short of her wedding. Now I understand why he hadn't the time to see me...Claude is still in shock himself; he must have loved so deeply..."
"Yes," replied Jehan between sips of red wine and bites of fine cheese, "my brother loved her very much...Did you know that they had a daughter...?"
"I believe Claude had written to me -- several months ago -- informing me of that fact. What is the girl's name?"
Evrard nodded as the two men continued to chat over old times. He was
about to inform Jehan Frollo of "some happy news for a change" when she
appeared at the far end of the grand drawing room. "Ah," said Evrard proudly,
"and here comes my happiness now." As she approached the two men, who stood
at attention the moment she announced her presence, she addressed her fiancé
"Oh Evrard, I wish you wouldn't brag on me so..."
She drew closer to Jehan, saying, "If I had known Evrard had callers...Sir, are you all right?" Indeed, she detected the slight look of shock in his eyes and the sudden blanching of his skin. "Uh, Evrard, your gentleman caller seems pleasant enough but I think he's a little tongue-tied."
Offering Jehan Frollo one her warmest, most winning smiles, Dorothy took the man by the hand, turned to her fiancé and said, "Now, M. Ouimet, aren't you going to introduce me to your friend?"
With hearty laughter, Evrard Ouimet proudly and loftily made the proper introductions. "Jehan Frollo, may I present Mlle Dorothy Ducharme. my fiancée. She is from the New World as was Claude's betrothed...From where in the New World, darling?"
Now it was Dottie's turn to laugh as she playfully explained to a very confused, very dumbstruck Jehan Frollo, "Oh, M. Frollo, don't let Evrard fool you. He perfectly well knows I'm from Detroit..."
Jehan Frollo, still in shock, his eyes never wavering from Dottie's lovely dark honeyed countenance, grasped Evrard's hand and said in a slightly shaking voice "Oh...Uh...That's wonderful news. Evrard, I...umm...wish you and your lady much joy and happiness..."
Oh my God! I can't believe this! It can't be true, but this Dorothy
Ducharme looks too much like... Claude...I MUST tell Claude!
Who are Dorothy and Evrard? Someone finds incriminating evidence...
Go to Chapter 8
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