She briefly looked out her tower room window, noticing preparations for tomorrow's festival. She also saw something else: a pretty Gypsy dancer performing with a rather well-trained white goat. Some changes here in Paris, she thought, what with the Gypsies arriving by the scores. Too bad Frollo has his hands full in trying to get rid of them, with him otherwise occupied, I can finally take care of some unfinished business.
She peered into the Parisian skyline; only the imposing towers of Notre Dame cathedral and the equally impressive Palais de Justice. She had visited each during her last stay in Paris: to Notre Dame with an elderly nobleman and his houseguests; to the Palais as guest of Minister Frollo.
"No time for friendly social calls this time, or rekindling any 'romance', if what I had with Claude Frollo ever constituted anything romantic."
With a sigh of disgust, Ameline Bellot turned from the window, determined to take care of a few loose ends. Word came to her that Claude Frollo might be on to her latest escapade, and she reasoned that this time there would be no mistakes in getting what she wanted. That is why she hastily returned to Paris. A thousand worries raced through her mind: What if her brother had been released from prison and is back in Calais tracking her down? What if he is working with Frollo, thus ruining her chances of gaining much sought after wealth?
She spent a good part of these past years in an old chateau not far from town; she never set foot in Paris ever since that dreaded night back in 1470. She couldn't return to Paris if she wanted to -- too many complications in what was to be an easy job. After all, her mother assured her that things were going swimmingly; their plan to hoodwink an old eccentric baron was foolproof. But events took an unexpected turn when Jacques arrived in town, looking for Ameline and Jehanne. Then there was that nosy Belgian couple who stayed with Baron de Clellaux, and those equally nosy servants, particularly the housekeeper who was a good friend to Ide Poulin. Oh, if only she hadn't pulled what she did with ﾉmile Poulin, Ide's son. Madame Poulin was Minister Frollo's servant, and Jacques had to strike up a quick friendship with ﾉmile, and ﾉmile had to tell his mother what happened, then she in turn told Frollo.
No wonder everything went haywire. Ameline would have had everything, but Jacques had to come to Paris and spoil it all. If truth were told, Ameline actually hated her brother: He was far too upright and "goody-goody" for her tastes. And she hated her father for sending Jacques in search of her and her mother.
We were having a high time, just within reach of the old man's fortune, then Jacques had to ruin it. Then Frollo further ruined everything with his ridiculous ideas of "justice". I nearly had that man where I wanted him, but meddling people wouldn't simply butt out.
So, over the past twelve years, Ameline bided her time. Her skills at fraud were still as sharp as ever. She even had the nerve to send out more inquiries concerning Aubert d'Urboise, claiming she was a long lost grandchild. So what if she's not; no one she's contacted had ever questioned her inquiries. Not even her last correspondent, a Faure d'Aubec, the baron's distant maternal cousin, ever raised doubts about her legitimate claim to a sizable dowry. In her last letter she just stated that she was to be married and that her intended husband's family demanded a dowry. At last correspondence, Faure stated that he would come to Paris expressly to see her, perhaps help her in her plight. Ah, at last, the fortune Ameline sought for so long would be hers, then she would be able to take care of a few loose ends: Claude Frollo and Jacques.
Ameline Bellot was a petite, slim lady of thirty-two autumns. Her dark blonde hair and very blue eyes were still lovely as they were twelve years ago. While not very deep in an intellectual sense, Ameline possessed sharp cunning and a certain preciousness that endeared her to those unsuspecting souls who came in contact with her.
She knew how to play people, play on their conscience, and take advantage of folks' good will. She could play the helpless, innocent female bit so well that people never suspected they were being hoodwinked. It was a trait she quickly exploited at an early age.
Often she would pretend "I lost something of value" thus gaining the innocent victim's sympathy. One of her favorite cons was to claim she lost a special gift just purchased. It was for her ailing mother, and she would cry and carry on until someone would take pity upon her and give her a sizable amount to buy another "gift for mother".
No doubt her mother was highly impressed with Ameline's increasing skills at grifting as Jehanne Bellot was a master at such games.
However, for all Ameline's gifts for conning people, she bore the scars 末 literally 末 of her last escapade. It was on that terrible confrontation with Claude Frollo and his soldiers that Ameline sustained a disfiguring injury. Her porcelain face, which was so often praised for its flawlessness, sported a long, hair-thin scar that ran down the length of the right side. Slashed with a clumsy soldier's dagger, she remembered with bitterness.
Ever since that night, Ameline seldom showed her face in public. When she did go out, her face was always concealed with a white lacy veil; its pattern was carefully selected as to help hide the scar. Not that the scar was that noticeable, but naturally Ameline blamed Frollo and Jacques for the what disfigured her otherwise lovely face.
Her thoughts turned to more pressing matters: how to convince an unsuspecting Faure d'Aubec that she is truly Aubert d'Urboise's long lost granddaughter, a product of one of the old baron's illegitimate lineage. In her letters, she fabricated a story, complete with handwritten "proof" that Aubert had a bastard son stashed somewhere in the Loire Valley, and that said son married and produced a daughter. Of course, Ameline, ever the sharp grifter, never signed her true name to any of those letters 末 She used one of her many alias instead, "Thomasse Tassin" this time. It was a name 末 and there were more aliases 末 that served her well during her early years of pulling petty scams. Not only was she an expert con woman, she also excelled in handwriting forgery, a skill that came in handy back in 1470 when she and her mother befriended Aubert d'Urboise and Claude Frollo.
The very name stuck in her mind like gooey river slime. How she hated ever striking up such an acquaintance. True, at the time she found Frollo attractive in an austere sense, but there was something about him that rubbed her the wrong way. It had to be his utter repression and self-righteousness, that tight rein he had over everything remotely human. By Ameline's thinking, if Frollo wasn't Minster of Justice, or on the right side of the law, he'd make a fine con man. He possessed a sharpness, cunning, a passion for meticulous detail, a cold methodical mind, and all those traits of which Ameline had but without the pretense of "better than thou." Ameline found him too hypocritical, authoritarian, too wrapped in ridding the world of what he perceived as all that was wicked and corrupt. She recalled certain episodes during her Parisian adventure twelve years ago, when she visited Frollo at the Palais de Justice, only to witness scores of newly arrived Gypsies being led to the dungeons. In fact, the Gypsies were, to Ameline, a peculiar obsession with Frollo. He seemed so bent on getting rid of what he termed "an unholy, corrupting influence upon our weaker minded citizens."
So what if a few Gypsies decide to come to Paris? Ameline remembered several Romani coming to Calais but never gave it a second thought. They didn't pose a threat to her or to her livelihood, but then again...
In a way, she was glad to be back in Paris just to give Claude Frollo his comeuppance. All during her years away, Ameline devised ways to get back at Frollo for ruining any more chances. No way would Frollo mess up her sweet deal with Faure d'Aubec. Somewhere in the back of her mind there was suspicion that Frollo might have been in contact with Faure, perhaps tipped the man that Aubert's "granddaughter" is nothing more than a fraud. Whatever Claude Frollo had up his sleeve, and Ameline knew the Minister of Justice could have some inkling of her correspondence with Faure. After all, Frollo had taken care of the old baron's legal affairs for years; he may have run across one of Ameline's letters.
This is why Ameline returned to Paris, and she wasted no time to finalize her plans to get Frollo out of the way. She made her point to return just in time for the Feast of Fools. Come on, think about it: Tomorrow would be a very busy day 末 crowded streets, people caught up in festivities, people caught unaware that something unsavory is brewing. It's the perfect ruse, Ameline thought. She could be just another merrymaking reveler; she would wear a disguise, a mask, to conceal her identity. Then, just as the King of Fools is crowned 末 Voila! 末 Claude Frollo would be just a bad memory. Then she'd take care of her goody-goody brother...
Ameline wanted to test it again, just to gauge its effectiveness. Upon her return to town, she sent for Mathena, Tante Lutisse's servant, just to "Help me unpack and take a message to Lutisse."
During the course of Mathena's visit, Ameline offered a treat, and Mathena was more than glad to accept it. She sneakily sprinkled just a few drops onto the servant's spiced cakes. Mathena didn't consume the tainted sweet treat right away, opting instead to take it home where she could enjoy it when her chores were finished.
All Ameline could do was bide her time. That stupid maid would have to eat that cake sometime this evening. If the stuff worked as it did in the past, Tante Lutisse would have to find a new servant.
And if it did work, Ameline figured she could simply find her way to Frollo's tent tomorrow, perhaps pull a little quick switch with the wine cups. Ameline grinned wickedly at the prospect of Claude Frollo doubled over in pain, convulsing in agony. She relished the thought of revenge so much that she wanted to make sure things would go without a hitch.
So she decided, this very evening, to take a little stroll to la Place de Notre-Dame, site of the festival. She wanted to stake out a good spot where she could easily blend in with the crowd but close enough to Frollo so she could at last put the man out of her life forever, thus her future plans would no longer be jeopardized.
One thought did cross her mind: What if that equally obnoxious, and incredibly ugly, bell ringer should spot her just as he did that night twelve years ago? She remembered him very well, and with equal bitterness. Ameline found then-eight year old Quasimodo such a bothersome little brat then, and he's probably just as troublesome now.
He'd better not spoil things for her this time, or else Quasimodo would find himself on Ameline's list of "loose ends."
Go to Chapter 5
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