Fern's big body shook as she heartily laughed. I knew she was trying
to cheer me, and it worked. I really needed this, considering all the misery
I've been through - plus all the fun I was missing at work.
"You should've seen the look on Martha's face when Bob cornered this kid in the hall. It was the funniest thing I ever saw!" Fern sat in the chair next to my bed as she happily related another 'life in schools' story.
Seems Martha Johnson, an English teacher at Fern's building, put out a kid for sassing her. Then Bob Green, the department head, cornered this boy in the hall, and asked why this kid was in the hall.
"I'm chillin'!", replied the boy.
"Are you cold?", asked Bob, unaware of the term "chillin'".
"No, man! I'm chillin'!"
"Do want me to write you a pass to your locker, so you can get your coat?"
"No, man...Never mind."
I had to laugh because it was all so funny.
"Poor ol' Bob; he never gets it -- The man's so 'small town' -- I bet every kid within earshot tried everything to keep from laughing."
Fern shot back, "Including yours truly!"
I was feeling a lot better -- so much better that my doctor said I may
be able to go home in a couple of days. When I relayed this to Fern, she
was relieved, and a little concerned.
"About time they let you out of here, but aren't you somewhat scared? I mean, that BC bastard's still out there."
It was true; I was apprehensive about going home. I wondered if BC might have slipped back into town undetected. Then I wondered if he would be waiting for me, so he could finish the job. Well..he won't get his hands on Marcus...He's killed two...No, three times...
"Hey, Nisha, ever think about going to Paris? You know,
stay at the P of J, with Claude? Lord knows you need to get away for a
while, and you need peace and quiet, just for the recovery time."
Although I considered spending part of my recuperation in medieval Paris, I nixed the idea because of the obvious. I had to level with Fern, the woman who orchestrated that whole Paris-in-summer adventure those many years ago.
"Fern, you know Claude and I are on the outs; we said some terrible things to each other. Besides, he may be damning me right now; after all, I lost a child - his child."
Fern poured, for me, a cup of water. She then revealed that Claude never knew what happened to me; that's why he never showed up at the hospital.
"He'd been away on official business -- Didn't you get any of his messages?"
I told Fern I never responded to his messages, partially out of shame, and mostly out of anger. Claude chewed me out; then he split, just like that. I wanted to forgive him, but I couldn't.
Then Fern said something else, something that cleared up a lot of misunderstaning between a certain 15th Century French magistrate, and myself.
"Honey, it was me who informed Claude of the murders, and thank goodness he showed up at the cemetary, or else he... "
"Or else", I interrupted between sips of water, "Claude and my father would've never met..."
"Is he still in Paris, back in the 15th, with...?"
"Yeah, Daddy and Claude are probably tearing me down as we speak."
Claude Frollo got up from his desk, walked over to the fireplace, and
quietly wept. The news delivered by Professor Wood was too much for the
powerful, very much-in-control Minister of Justice. The tears coursed down
his finely-chisled cheekbones, and onto the fine black velvet tunic. It
wasn't often that the esteemed Minister of Justice 'lost it'; however,
on this rare occasion, he let his emotions get the best of him.
My darling 14th FSM...My Nisha nearly...lost her life...lost her baby...Oh no! She was carrying my child! If only I hadn't raged at her so...And now, I nearly lost her...My friend...my lover...Nisha, my dearest...
Joe Wood walked up from behind, and placed his hand on Claude's shoulder.
Both men stared into the massive hearth, its flames roaring furiously.
Claude managed to compose himself; he continued to gaze into the flames
when he, in a calm voice, addressed Joe.
"Professor Wood, I will say it now: I have always treated your daughter with love and respect. I have never raised a hand to her -- Oh, we've had the occasional disagreement -- She's been like a breath of fresh air."
Claude turned to face Joe; a slight smile spread across his tear-stained face. He wanted to know everything -- the sudden miscarriage that nearly resulted in Danisha's death, and, the man who was her lover.
"Professor Wood, tell me everything. How is Danisha faring?"
Joseph Wood, his eyes still riveted to the flames, sighed, then explained
to Claude Frollo that Nisha suffered, "What the doctors call an 'ectopic
pregnancy'. The tube ruptured; she started hemorrhaging, then went into
shock." Joe's voice began to crack with grief. "We almost lost
her, sir; my baby-girl almost died."
Joe took out his handkerchief, removed his glasses, and dabbed the tears from his eyes. He then went on, and told Claude, "Physically, Danisha is coming along - The doctors had to remove the damaged tissue..."
Joe paused; he could tell Claude began to recoil from Joe's descriptions
of Nisha's surgery.
"Sir", Joe graciously offered, "let's sit down; I need to tell you some other things." Claude and Joe sat by the fireplace, then Joe continued, "Mentally, my daughter is a basket-case. She has a fifty percent chance of ever having children; then, there was that double murder..."
Claude stopped Joseph; somehow, he felt that he was partially to blame.
"Professor Wood, did you know that Danisha and I are..er...How would
she put it...?"
Joe finished Claude's sentence; his words were underscored with a father's disappointment. "That you and Nisha had words? That she'd deliberately ignored her health, put her own life in danger, and ruined a friendship, just because of some two-bit, no-count street hood?"
Claude Frollo's eyes grew wide; his hands raked through his gray locks. I wonder if Nisha ever told her parents about her former lover..I have to know the truth...
"Professor Wood, you seem like a fair man, a man of integrity --
No wonder Danisha is so much like you. Her caring nature, her sweet, loving
disposition, her warmth...These are among the qualities that I found most
attractive. However, she has been unusually secretive...This other man..."
Joe leaned back in his chair, and flatly said, "Brandon Cole Bell...'BC'...that's what he goes by. This man was a part of my daughter's life a few years back, and he was no good from the start. He treated Nisha terribly: He beat her, belittled her..."
Claude leaned forward; he couldn't hide the look of disbelief. "He what?"
Joe replied, "That's right, Your Honor. BC Bell beat my little
girl black-and-blue -- He almost killed her, then took off - somewhere.
She thought she could hide this from her family, but I knew -- her mother
knew. Gerry and I decided never to discuss BC in Nisha's presence -- In
a way, maybe that was a mistake, but..."
Joe removed his glasses again, dabbed his eyes, then added, "We didn't think he'd surface again, that is, not until now."
Claude got up from his chair, walked over to the desk, and retrieved
the wine decanter and cups. He refilled the cups then asked Joe, "I
assume you know about young Marcus' encounter with this scoundrel."
Joe sipped his wine, replying, "Oh yes. Francine Terrell called my wife the day we returned from Tennessee. Gerry told me Frankie was in tears over all this." He then proceeded to tell Claude everything: How BC Bell discovered that Marcus was his child; how BC had threatened Danisha; how this man nearly ruined Del Davis' youth ministry, and used his new-found 'salvation' as means to further his life of crime; how the lives of everyone -- Fern, the Terrells, Nisha, and two little girls -- had been turned upside down by this man. Joe also recounted to Claude the awful details of the double murder that took the lives of Arletta White and Del Davis.
Claude Frollo fell back in his chair -- He couldn't believe this! My
God! No wonder she never confided in me...My darling Nisha...To think of
the torment...the agony you had to endure...alone...
Claude then asked, "This Bell villain -- Does he still pose a threat to Danisha?"
Joe emitted an audible sigh, then spoke in a voice heavy with concern, "Your Honor, the police have yet to find this man. I've had a guard posted on Nisha's door -- Then, once she's released from the hospital, my wife and I plan to keep her with us."
The Minister of Justice arose from his chair, and stood before the fireplace.
His eyes never wavered from the flickering flames as he said, "If
I were there, I'd bring that bastard to a dear account! However, as a 15th
Century man, I can do very little, that is, whenever I visit the 20th Century...Damn
this 'changing outcomes'!" Claude Frollo glared hard into the flames
as he allowed a tear to trickle down his cheek.
This man...torments my FSM...murders two innocent people...leaves two little children motherless...If only I could 'change the outcome'...I'd show him 'justice'! You saved my life, my love...Allow me return the favor...
Claude Frollo then turned to Joseph Wood; his tear-streaked face now
sported a slight smile. He took his place in his chair, then asked Joe,
"Professor, did you know your daughter once saved my life?"
Joe looked rather surprised. "My daughter did what? My Danisha saved your life?"
Claude went on to explain how Danisha Wood - "who'd always professed hating my dungeons" - took the risks to save the Minister of Justice's life. He told Joseph of the conspiracy, and of the exposé Nisha wrote. Claude went to his desk and unlocked a drawer that contained mementoes of his 14th FSM.
"I've saved several things -- her picture, some of her letters to me, a few gifts..."
Joe Wood looked at each and every item, then began to recall a few things
Danisha had in her home.
"I suppose that tapestry was from you? And that antique lace?"
Claude Frollo nodded smilingly, then quietly chuckled upon remembering the day he gave his 14th FSM that tapestry.
That was one unforgettable night...I told her all about Fern being my spy...Then Nisha decides to 'pay-back' with a sultry song...Then I return the favor...with a little... Mmm...'Dirty-Dancing'...Ooh, enjoying the fantastic delights of her delicious...Ah, Claude...Never reveal that to the good professor!
He smiled again, then handed a book to Joseph Wood. It was Danisha's
account of the conspiracy to oust Claude Frollo as Minister of Justice.
Joe read the title: What REALLY Happened: The Truth Behind the Conspiracy Against Claude Frollo.
"My daughter wrote this?", asked Joseph as he flipped through the book.
"Ah yes, Professor. It has been quite a success; the citizens talked of little else once the book - how does your daughter put it? 'Hit the streets'." He paused long enough to smile, then added, "Even the King..."
Joe Wood looked startled, and pleased, all the same time. "Wait a minute! Did you say 'The King'?"
Claude laughed, then replied, "His Majesty was thoroughly impressed by -- what he called 'This New World genius' -- that he penned a personal 'thank you' to your daughter for a job well-done."
Joe took another sip of his wine -- a big gulp this time. He looked rather bewildered, then laughed upon saying, "Well, I'll be damned! Perhaps Nisha didn't say anything to us about you, because she thought we wouldn't believe her. I found it hard to digest all of what Jacki said about time travel and all...I had no idea all this was going on!"
Claude Frollo smiled again as he locked the memories of his 14th FSM
in the their hiding place, then said, "Professor, you have a most
charming, beautiful daughter. I only want her happiness, and I'm willing
to make amends, and resume our friendship."
Then his expression changed; his features hardened. "I also want to confront this monster who has ruined so many lives."
Joe sighed, got up, and began to pace the room. He gazed out the window,
then said, "Well, you'll have to get in line, 'cause half of Indianapolis
wants BC Bell's head. Your Honor, the entire community's in an uproar,
and the people demand justice. The detective heading the investigation
has a ninety-nine percent arrest record; of that ninety-nine, nearly all
Claude sighed as well; he wanted this man, and wanted him badly. "And what happens to the other one percent? Will this bastard 'slip through the cracks'? Oh yes. I know of your 20th Century American justice system, and while I don't understand, or agree..."
Claude sighed again, "Damn! If only I didn't have this meeting with André d'Arcy and Etienne Noialles....Professor, would you deliver a message to Danisha?"
"Of course, Your Honor."
"Tell her that I will see her as soon as possible - She understands I have a very demanding schedule. Tell her I am sorry, and that hopefully we may start fresh."
Joe promised he'd deliver the message, but, "Don't expect too much,
sir. My daughter has this stubborn streak..."
"Oh, Professor, I know all about that stubbornness; and, I know just how to break it", replied Claude with a broad smile.
Joe Wood raised his eyebrows quizzically. "You managed to break
through all that ...? My goodness, once she gets her back up, Nisha seldom
lets anyone through that tough...So, you have this - Umm - technique?"
Then Joe laughed heartily, and extended his hand. "Sir, I want to
shake your hand!"
That said, the two men clasped hands, broke into uproarious laughter, then settled before the fireplace sharing more wine and engrossing conversation.
I was to be discharged within the next two days, and I was more than
anxious to get out of this place. I miss my house, my things...
My parents wanted me to stay with them, but I refused; I was independent, and wanted to remain so.
I also had this uneasy feeling about BC Bell. The police had yet to capture him, even though the entire county, plus the surrounding areas, had been saturated with cops. Lt. Matteson told me that the Sheriff's Department had spotted a man, answering BC's description, lurking near the far-Southside of town.
"I feel we're getting closer, Ms. Wood. I'm not letting this one get away." In a way, I felt somewhat secure, but still...
The day before I was discharged, my father visited me, and delivered
a message from Claude. He also told me of his initial meeting with the
Minister of Justice -- and their conversation.
"He knows about BC, honey, and he wants a piece of this man just like everyone else." Daddy told me that Claude was so concerned about me, but since Claude was so wrapped up in official business...
"I understand, Daddy. And I'm ready to make up with Claude Frollo - For everything." I had made up my mind: I was going to 1480s Paris, spend my recuperation period with Claude, and didn't care what happened to BC.
Let him rot in prison...Let him fry...He deserves everything that's coming to him!
On the evening before my discharge, Linda Davis entered my room. She carried something vaguely familiar -- That manuscript! I had completely forgotten about that!
"Danisha, I'm so glad you're all right!", Linda greeted lovingly. We embraced each other, then she sat down and handed me the manuscript, along with the translation.
"I'm sorry it took so long, but I wanted to read it myself -- I
hope you don't mind."
"No, Linda, it's OK", I said, my eyes busily scanning most of the lengthy work. I then removed a few sheets from the back; they seemed out of place.
"Oh, Nisha, that's why it took a little longer to translate. You
see, there were a few loose pages stuck in between the..."
"Loose pages? I thought Claude had this all organized; it's not like him not to have everything all squared away."
Linda Davis rose to her full height; her broomstick-pleated skirt barely
swept the floor. The bright-red hair tumbled about her pale, freckled face.
"Nisha, I read this after I had it all translated and word-processed. It's medieval history all right -- Sort of a personal reflection, a 'you-are-there' type -- It's very flowery, very grandiosely written. Some of it is boring; most of it is quite fascinating. But..."
Her voice trailed off; then she said something about those 'other' pages.
"Those loose pages were marked 'not for publication'. I translated those as well...Danisha, those pages...It's an essay...About you."
To Chapter 16!
© FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.