Family Values

Chapter 18

The Time & Place:
Later that afternoon, Jacques Bellot decides to pay a visit...
He had to make sure Tante Lutisse had no other callers, but in a way, he truly wanted his mother and sister to know that Madame Lemer had returned to Paris weeks ago. Perhaps the shock of seeing her sister would jolt Jehanne Bellot into reality and stop running. As Jacques walked the short distance from la Place de Notre-Dame to Tante Lutisse's home on Rue de Urnis, he thought over all Quasimodo revealed. To be sure, the little one witnessed Ameline and Jehanne discuss their respective schemes. That is, Jehanne married Aubert d'Urboise, the Baron de Clellaux, thus making herself a baroness and entitled to Aubert's vast estate. Then Ameline, pretending to fall in love with Claude Frollo, the Minister of Justice, only to plot His Grace's demise once he placed the wedding band on her finger. Quasimodo also related a dream he had of Jehanne Bellot poisoning Aubert. All right, so it is a mere dream, but what if the little bell ringer's nocturnal visions turn out to be true? Jacques, once he finished his visit with Tante Lutisse, decided to take an excursion out to Aubert's chateau, gather information pertaining to the baron's "kidnapping". I can bet good money this was NO kidnapping and robbery as Maman claims. She had to kill his lordship, but where did she hide the body?

Then there was that correspondence Jules Marquette delivered to Judge Frollo. No word on how THAT meeting went. Given Frollo's reputation, Jacques surmised that His Grace obviously went ballistic the moment he read that report. The man had to have drawn up arrest warrants, and calling for an immediate trial followed by a quick execution. Jacques quaked with fear at the thought of Ameline and Maman in Frollo's clutches. But what does it matter now? THEY did all these awful crimes. THEY charmed and feigned their way into Aubert's and Frollo's good graces, only to hoodwink and defraud.
His thoughts were on Émile, a good-natured young man whose naiveté and dreams of financial success were exploited to the hilt by an avaricious Ameline. No doubt Frollo knows about that episode, and what the man is going through now upon learning the woman he nearly made his wife is nothing but a charlatan and common thief.

He strode up to the front door, knocked the customary three times before Mathena answered. The servant's eyes grew wide with surprise and delight upon seeing Jacques' commanding form. "Master Jacques!," she exclaimed with joy, "Madame is home and is anxious to see you." Mathena ushered Jacques inside and quickly announced his presence to Lutisse. Imagine Lutisse Lemer's pleasant shock upon seeing the nephew she hadn't laid eyes upon since he was a little boy.

"Jacques!," she said, gliding across the floor with the grace and polish of a duchess. She embraced her nephew quite a long time then released him, saying, "Let me get a good look at you. Mon Dieu! You are getting to be quite the handsome young man."  She then waved at her servant, "Mathena, fetch some refreshment for Master Jacques. I'm sure the boy must be famished."
Once behind the closed doors of her sumptuous parlor, Lutisse then launched into a series of questions. "I suppose you are here on Denis' request, no?"
"Yes, Tante Lutisse," replied Jacques, helping himself to the mounds of cheese, bread, spiced fruits, and red wine. "Father...Well, I'm not sure how much you know, so let me explain..."

He laid it all out: The murder of Guibert Varlet and how Jehanne may be implicated; the new evidence surfacing, spurring the Calais magistrate to dispatch via special courier a document stating said evidence; how Jehanne and Ameline inexplicably vanished in the night, supposedly boarding a ship bound for Dover. He also related how Denis Bellot discovered several documents stashed amongst Jehanne's personal papers. What was in those documents? Information on one Aubert d'Urboise, the Baron de Clellaux. Lutisse Lemer looked at her nephew with not one ounce of shock or outrage.
Naturally Jacques was puzzled as to why Lutisse did not react as expected. She, sensing the boy's confusion, explained, "Jacques, I've known all about my sister and niece's shenanigans ever since my return from Lyon. Thank Lysbette Claus for having such sharp eyes and ears. She came to me several weeks ago, telling all of how Jehanne and Ameline have 'worked' Paris society, how they schemed their way into not just the baron's heart but Frollo's as well. Now, my boy, I'll tell you this much..."
She proceeded to explain that Lysbette, taking advantage of Jehanne's absence, discovered a forged will supposedly signed by Aubert d'Urboise and Claude Frollo. The paper even had Frollo's official seal. Said 'will' bequeathed nearly Aubert's entire estate to "My dear wife and step-daughter".

 "Lysbette thought something was wrong the moment she laid eyes on Jehanne. Did you know, Jacques, that Aubert was a confirmed bachelor, that he supposedly had no intentions of marrying. Likewise with Frollo. I can't see His Grace marrying the likes of Ameline, or any woman for that matter." Jacques nodded, wondering if he should relate what Quasimodo revealed this morning. It didn't take long to do just that.

"And, Tante Lutisse, this little misshapen lad told me that he overheard everything passed between Ameline and Maman. He said Maman told Ameline to kill Frollo before the ink had chance to dry on the marriage certificate."
Then he recounted how Ameline has threatened the bell ringer with bodily harm if he Quasi ever told Frollo or anyone else. Lutisse was outdone! How can such depravity, such dishonesty, such chicanery go on right under our very noses. Not only have they – Jehanne and Ameline – committed the most despicable crimes, both have resorted to murder. Ameline, a beautiful but extremely devious girl, threatening death to Notre Dame's little misshapen bell ringer. That poor child! What the boy must have been going through.

"Jacques," said Lutisse as she neatly cut a slice of Brie, "I believe it is time to call on Minister Frollo. He has a right to know what is going on within his city. Honestly, I still can't understand, not after all these years, how Jehanne turned out so badly. It's as if she's possessed by demons, and those unholy creatures have taken over Ameline's soul, blotting out all that's good and true."
Jacques nodded again and began to tell Lutisse of Ameline's latest caper, namely scamming Émile Poulin. However, he was interrupted by Mathena who breezed into the room, her eyes all agog with awe and wonderment. Lutisse was quite put out with her servant's present demeanor, not to mention the sudden and discourteous interruption.

"For goodness sakes, girl, don't stand there gawking! Now, what is it?"
The servant responded with excited voice, "His Grace, the Minister of Justice is here to see you, Madame!"

Lutisse, totally taken aback, as was Jacques, rose from her chair, commanding, "Well, don't keep the man waiting, Mathena! Show him in!"


Jehanne Bellot, clad in her mourning black, sat in the comfortable quiet of her bedchamber. She hadn't' been out all week, not since Aubert's untimely 'disappearance and, perhaps, death'. A thin self-satisfied smile spread across her beautiful face; Jehanne knew it would be a matter of time before she produced that 'will', proclaiming her and Ameline the sole heir's to Aubert's vast empire. And then there was Ameline, just days away from becoming the wife of the most powerful man in all of France next to the King himself.
What an adventurous, productive three months this has been! Not only did Jehanne extract herself out of that nasty business of Guibert Varlet's murder, but she and Ameline had scored the coup of a lifetime. She was now the Baroness de Clellaux, and Ameline was Lady Ameline, and now people would have to regard them with awe and respect. No more kowtowing to the goody-goody likes of Denis. No more pulling petty scams just so she and Ameline can have expensive clothes and jewels. It will all be ours, and ours alone. Once Ameline dispatches Claude Frollo, everything, all our hard painstaking work will pay off beautifully.

She hadn't seen the Clauses since she so tearfully related what happened to Aubert, not that it mattered. Lysbette and Anton would simply have to bow down to her, beg her forgiveness for being so boorish and rude to her and Ameline. She was a baroness now, a member of the nobility, and the Clauses, on their next trip here, may have to find another place in Paris to lodge. No, thought Jehanne, that nosy Belgian couple are no longer welcome here. This is now MY home, and I can invite whoever I see fit. Now...once the official mourning is done, perhaps I can invite His Majesty over for a splendid banquet...Oh yes, get rid of the servants, Perrin and Margot, too. Can't have them about, giving me the evil eye and not obeying my orders, not with the King here....

As if the woman had a sort of ESP, Margot quietly knocked on the door, disturbing Jehanne's solitude. Lady Clellaux was deeply annoyed with the servant. Honestly, when the time comes, that woman and her husband will find themselves on the streets before Easter. With a feigned sob, Jehanne said, "You may enter, Margot."
The servant opened the door, took a few steps inside, then announced, "M'lady, Monsieur Claus is downstairs. He wants to see you. Something about His Lordship."
Now Jehanne panicked, but kept it not so obvious to Margot lest the servant pick up on the ruse. No, have to continue playing the grieving widow... She rose from her chair, neatened her hair and dress, gathered her handkerchief and said, "Thank you, Margot. Tell M. Claus I shall be down momentarily."


"Ah, Minister Frollo, what do I owe to this visit?"

Lutisse Lemer, not so surprised that the Minister of Justice was paying her a call, introduced Jacques, saying that the boy had information concerning Jehanne and Ameline. To this Frollo was quite surprised that Lutisse ever knew about the Bellot women's presence in Paris let alone having knowledge of their despicable crimes.

"Madame," Frollo so graciously said, "I will get right to the point. I've received rather disturbing information regarding your sister, Jehanne Bellot, and your niece, Ameline. Now, tell me the truth: Have you been in contact with either woman?"
Lutisse and Jacques, aware that they could not keep such information from Claude Frollo, a man known for detecting the slightest falsehood, and having a natural knack for getting people to confess the truth, told Frollo everything. Lutisse related how she and Lysbette Claus discovered what Jehanne and Ameline have been up to. She told him about the fake document Lysbette found hidden away in Jehanne's trunk, and that Jehanne expected to inherit all of Aubert d'Urboise's estate. Jacques then related to Frollo how Ameline scammed Émile Poulin, absconding with the boy's life savings. But he hesitated to tell Frollo about the little bell ringer, and how the boy witnessed the Bellot women discussing their respective plots. And then there was Ameline's threats against Quasimodo.

As usual, Claude Frollo detected that young Bellot was hiding something. In his lofty, imperious manner, Frollo commanded, "Bellot, I believe you're hiding something else. If you are thinking of protecting your womenfolk–"
"Oh no, Your Grace," said Jacques finally. "I have no intention of protecting them. My father sent me here to bring Maman and Ameline to justice. Sir, they are beyond reasoning with. So I will tell you this in all honesty..."

And with that, Jacques recounted following Ameline to Notre Dame, watching her go up to the bell tower. And he told Frollo how he went up there after Ameline left, only to discover the little bell ringer. He then told Frollo what Quasimodo told him: the eyewitness account of the Bellot women finalizing their plot; Ameline stealing into the bell tower, threatening Quasimodo if he told anyone what he heard and saw.
Claude Frollo, his face registering the most intense anger and outrage Jacques had ever seen, pronounced, "I thank you for all information. And I regret to inform you that I have drawn up warrants for the immediate arrest of Jehanne and Ameline Bellot."

Noticing Jacques' utter bewilderment, Frollo then said, "But capture may not be easy as I need complete cooperation from both you and Madame Lemer. I have already spoken to Anton Claus; he and his wife have told me much about Madame Bellot's activities. And my housekeeper has informed me of her son's victimization at the hands of Ameline Bellot. We are dealing with a most slippery pair, so to catch those two will take the utmost, meticulous planning. I suggest we do this..."



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