Lead Me Gently Home

Chapter 17
"Throw Out The Lifeline"
Part One

(Outside Danisha's home)

Geraldine Wood rang the bell for a fifth time; she banged on the door for what she thought was the seventh time. There was no response. She looked in the front window, then walked around to the rear of the house. Gerry couldn't understand this.
Nisha's car's here...but her paper's still on the porch...The mail's still in the box...She always brings in her paper, and her mail, first thing...Why won't she answer her door?
...Even if she's asleep...She usually answers the door by now...

At that moment Jacki Darcey appeared on the front walk. She had a key in her hand, and something else: That wonderous device that can send and receive messages over time and space. It also had the power to transport its owner to another time.
Jacki espied Gerry, then greeted her with marked concern. Gerry Wood asked this young genius, "Have you seen Danisha today? I've been banging on the door for the past twenty minutes, and she still won't answer the door."
At once, Jacki Darcey unlocked Nisha's front door, then she and Gerry entered the house. "Danisha? Where are you?", Gerry called to her daughter, but no one responded. She went upstairs, searched the bedrooms, the bathrooms, even the attic. No one was home. Jacki Darcey looked in the basement -- No Danisha.

"Where is that girl?", Gerry nervously asked. "She's not strong enough to be out and about. She could risk injuring herself again - Then what?"
Jacki offered to make a few phone calls when, suddenly, the pager went off. Gerry asked, "Isn't that how he communicates with you and Nisha?"
"Yeah, maybe she's been there, or -- That's why I brought this it with me." What scrolled across the screen was not good:

My dear Jacqueline:
Danisha and I had a terrible arguement. She left here frightfully upset...We said terrible things to each other...I am afraid I am as much to blame...Please tell her I am sorry, and that I will make that trip, to your time, this evening...Tell her I will not rest until she and I work this out...Claude

Gerry was devastated. "Oh my goodness! My baby was there, with him, then she splits. It's all this mess with BC - the police have yet to find this thug, Jacki! And now, my baby's out there somewhere..."
Gerry Wood quickly regained her composure, turned to Jacki, and said in a full-of-determination voice, "Call your judge friend and tell him to get himself over here. If he loves Danisha like he says he does, then he better get over here, right now!"
Jacki complied, and coded a message:

Claude:
Nisha's missing...We can't find her anywhere...Her mom says Danisha shouldn't be out and about...It could be dangerous, even life-threatening, for her...Come NOW!...Danisha needs you!....Jacqueline


Palace of Justice, 1480's Paris:

Claude Frollo sat before the fireplace, brooding over his 14th FSM. He had never before seen nor heard such anger; yet, didn't he scream at her, rage at her, and for what?

"Only to lose her", muttered the Minister of Justice as he pored over the now-wrinkled pages of that essay -- A piece that he'd hoped would cement, at least, what he thought of as a fractured relationship. Instead, she took his words the wrong way; she felt her pride wounded, her integrity insulted. She came to him full of fire and fury, at a time when she needed a shoulder upon which to cry.
After all...she's endured so much...alone...I shouldn't have stormed away at her like that....She's had enough of that in her life...I will find her....and bring her home...
...My darling Nisha...I will not rest until...

In a fit of rageful despair, Claude Frollo pitched the journal page, as well as that manuscript, into the fire. As he watched the papers burn, he felt slightly upset.
After all, I worked on that night and day...The many long hours writing my assessments of my time...That damned journal entry! I must have hastily slipped it in...How could I have been so shortsighted....No wonder Icouldn't find it...My dearest, how I wish you were here with me...You would be so astonsished...Watching me burn this work...This glorious work...But no matter...Let it burn...It has brought nothing but pain and misery...For both of us...

Claude Frollo stood to his full height. His attire was a fascinating mixture of a five-hundred-year fashion gap. The Minister of Justice wore tight-fitting black denim jeans, a black silk shirt, a black leather vest, and tall black boots. It's enough to get me through the streets of her hometown, in her time.
Claude then donned the famous black velvet cloak, though he hesitated wearing the triangular hat with its flowing red silk veil. "If it draws unwanted attention, so be it!", he said as he adjusted the hat.
Claude decided to leave his sword at home, opting instead for the smaller, more easily concealed dagger. He took his pager/time traveler in hand, flipped it open, and nearly depressed the red button when a familiar voice called out to him.

"Claude! Claude! Wait, don't go yet! I received a message from Nisha!" It was Jehan Frollo, out of breath, frantically raving about a message he'd received from Claude's FSM.
"Claude, she sounded desperate; I feel she may do something rash! Here", Jehan said pantingly as he pulled his own pager from his pocket. "I'd hoped I'd catch you before you left. Look", he said to Claude, handing his communicator to his elder brother, "read this for yourself."
Claude Frollo's eyes were damp when he read Nisha's message; it was a message full of despair:

Dear Jehan...This will be the last message you'll receive from me...Claude and I had the biggest blow-up...I said awful things to him...It's over Jehan, and it's all my fault....I fled to my time...I landed far from my home...What does it matter, anyhow...Claude and I are finished...I hope he will find in his heart to forgive me...Maybe not...Tell Quasi I'll always love him...He's my special little buddy, you know...Tell all my Paris friends I love them, including Claude..But I can't go on like this...All hope is gone, and I'm to blame...Love always, Danisha

Claude, in full realization that his 14th FSM may do something desperate, fought back tears. He had made up mind - He was going to find his beloved mistress, no matter how long it took. He returned Jehan's pager, saying to his brother, "Jehan, I want you to come with me."

Jehan looked alarmed, and puzzled. He asked, "But why? Claude, you know I've seldom gone to the 20th Century - Only twice to be exact. Why should I accompany you to a time I know very little about.."
Claude grew impatient. "Jehan, I am asking this as a favor; I am asking this as a brother. Danisha is dire straits, and if we don't act quickly, she may..."
Claude's voice choked at the thought of Nisha possibly...

Would she? Could she be in such despair, that she would deliberately take her own life? I have to presume the worst...Blessed Maria, please help me...help my beloved...

At last, Claude gave his brother final instructions. Jehan would go to Jacqueline Darcey's home, and wait there while Claude locates Danisha, and brings her home. "But Claude, what...how am I to find Jacqueline's house? I have very little knowledge of the city..."

Once again, Claude stopped his brother. He went to his desk, unlocked the drawer that contained mementoes of his 14th FSM, and took out a small box. Claude removed something from the box, then returned the box to its hiding place. He then handed Jehan a piece of paper, and something else.
Jehan had to ask, "What is this?"

Claude replied that it was precise directions to Jacqueline's house, and, "Twentieth Century American currency. I have a feeling we may land far from her home; we may, perhaps, land in an entirely different area of town. If that happens, you will need to take transportation to Jacqueline's. The precise directions are there, on that paper."
Jehan still didn't understand. If I'm to go to the Darceys, then where will Claude...
Claude quickly answered his brother's unasked question. "I will began searching for Danisha, on foot."
"Dear Claude, do you think that's wise?"

Claude Frollo was resolute; he was determined to find his FSM.
"I'll find her, Jehan. I'll find her if I have to walk every inch of the city - and beyond!"

++++++++

Where's our heroine in all this? She's not where she should be...

It didn't take me long to figure out my surroundings. Some strange quirk in the system sent me to the Westside of town - West 16th Street to be exact. I recognized the old Bush Stadium, the old CYO football field. This used to an area full of vitality; but, now, with the decline of industry, it was a desolate stretch of old warehouses and abandoned buildings. Only a few businesses, churches, and the prerequisite fast-food joints, remained.
Don't get me wrong, West 16th was a major thoroughfare; it led straight to Speedway, home of the world-famous Indy 500. But I wasn't thinking of auto races, or heavy rush hour traffic, or anything else.

I had made a mess of everything -- Claude was right -- I had jeopardized our relationship over a two-bit punk. I allowed BC Bell to control my mind and soul, something I'd vowed I'd never let happen again, not since that night BC nearly battered the life out of me. Out of my misguided devotion, I allowed my friendship, and my love, for Claude to slip through my hands. It was over -- our special, unique relationship was finished.
Even in my worse despair, I still nursed anger towards the man I thought I loved. As I walked along 16th Street - in the opposite direction from Downtown - I pondered Claude's angry words, "It seems your inaction and indecision have affected so many lives!" He used my words against me! The nerve of him!

I don't know how long I walked, or how far; I just kept walking in a westward direction. I began to hurt; all that walking, plus the stress of that previous, painful session with Claude didn't help matters.
I sat on a bench near a bus stop, and lit cigarette - It was the next to last one. I guess I smoked up that whole pack ever since I landed back in my time. Don't need to do this again....Wreck your health over some man...

Once again, I pondered the outcome of my silence. Momma was right - Silence has its price, and what a heavy price to pay. I lost a baby, Claude's baby; then, Del and Arletta are murdered by BC, leaving Tamara and Kenya without a mother, and their favorite uncle. Claude and I were finished.
...What am I gonna tell my folks, now that Daddy's met Claude? Oh God, what is happening to me?

I thought I saw a bus looming in the distance, so I hastily took a dollar from my pocket, and waited. In those few minutes, I recalled a piece of Scripture; I think it was from Psalms, though I wasn't sure:

O Lord, why hast Thou forsaken me?

I did feel abandoned, even punished, because of my thoughtlessness. Claude was right again; I had been thoughtless, even though I thought I was doing right.
Again, I felt utterly alone. At the last minute, I got up from the bench, and proceeded to cross the street. Once on the opposite side, I paused briefly to watch the next-to-last bus make its way towards Downtown. The bus stopped briefly to pickup a woman who appeared out of nowhere. As she deftly picked her way across the busy street, I thought I heard a voice calling out to me from the bus's rear window.
Before I could react, the bus resumed its inbound journey.

++++++++

Jehan Frollo sat in the rear of the huge Metro bus - He had never seen such a vehicle!

Forty feet long...and all these seats...and they take you to wherever you want to go...and for such little money...
Now let's see...I take this vehicle to town, then get on another bus...I can't do this! I really should contact Jacqueline...after all she has one of these communicators...That lady who got on with me back in...What's the name of the area where we landed? Oh yes, 'Speedway'...She's been very helpful...told me how and when to disembark...Lots of friendly people in this city...No wonder Claude loves visiting here...

I wonder how Claude is faring? I really shouldn't have left my brother alone....Parts of this city look very rough, dangerous....Oh well, Claude can take care of himself...I hope he finds Nisha, and soon...What's this? That person standing across the....It's her! The same clothes she wore that time we rescued Claude! Yes! The very cap...the jacket! I really should get off and tell her I'm here...But I promised Claude I'd go to the Darceys...Wait! She's gone!

Jehan Frollo flipped open his pager; then, being very careful to conceal his activity, coded a frantic message to his brother:

Claude...I saw her! She's walking the north side of the street...Due east from where we landed...She's heading in your direction...I tried to get off this vehicle but couldn't...Hurry Claude! I think she's heading for the river!...Jehan

++++++++

Claude Frollo strode vigorously along the busy thoroughfare; he paid little heed to his surroundings. All he wanted was to find his 14th FSM and bring her home, no matter how long or how far he had to walk.
Danisha, where are you? I've looked up and down this damned street, and you are no where to be found! Jehan said he spotted you...near the river...NO!

"Excuse me, madame", Claude asked an elderly woman who stood next to him at the busy intersection; both were waiting for the light to change. The old woman raised her eyebrows; a bright smile broke out over her wrinkled face.
"Madame?!", she exclaimed, "Well, I'll be!" She laughed then asked Claude, "Where're you tryin' go, honey?"
Claude, slightly amused at the woman's reaction to his courtesies, asked her the whereabouts of the river. "You're goin' in the right direction. Just keep walkin' east, 'bout twenty blocks. You can't miss it."
She looked at him as they crossed the street; then, before she turned to enter the drugstore behind her, she asked, "Pardon my nosiness, sir, but you plan on doin' some fishin'?"
Claude replied, "Fishing? In a way, yes." That said, he flipped open his pager, activated the tracking mode, then raced his way eastward towards the bridge.

Please...I have to reach her before she...Tell me I am not too late...

+++++++++

Dirty, muddy water...never was navigable...polluted...deep...

I stood on the 16th Street bridge than spanned the White River, and quietly pondered my fate. No, I wasn't that desperate; but, still, I hadn't completely ruled that out. I thought of my family, and the pain I put them through. I thought of Del and Arletta, murdered by BC. Then I thought of two little girls who will have to grow up without their mother's love and guidance. I then recalled the bitter words Claude and I said to each other.

Well...he did all the yelling...blamed me for the deaths of two people I really loved...After all I've done for him! I gave up all these years, for him. I risked my life, for him. I endangered my health, for him! And now, I've ruined any chance of ever having children, because of him! Damn Claude Frollo! If I had never met him, my life would've been just fine!

I knew I shouldn't blame Claude for all this misfortune, but I needed a scapegoat, and I wasn't about to lay the responsibilty on the obvious -- Me! It's over...My relationship with Claude is over...finished...I can't face my family with this...I have to do this...

I took the key and pager from my pocket, and studied both items. The key was an ornate piece of sterling silver, made by a Spanish silversmith - Claude told me that when he gave the key to me. It was that last day, at Chateau d'Arcy, when Claude and I said our goodbyes that summer.
I examined that pager - that wonderous communicator designed by Jacki Darcey and Tony Terrell - which was also of the finest sterling silver. Dazzling amethysts encircled the edges, and the top was engraved with delicate fleur-de-lys. He suggested amethysts because, as he put it, "We both love purple; and, these stones only enhance your already flawless beauty."

Claude sent that to me...I supposed he had that put in my message box at work...Then he showed up on my doorstep, when I thought our summer romance was all a dream...

But the dream turned nightmarish, and once again I was filled with burning rage. I was angry with Claude; and, I was angry with God, for abandoning me in my darkest hour. I prayed; I even sang a hymn I learned at my grandmother's knee. Nothing gave me comfort.
In a rage, I was ready to hurl both pager and key into the dark water; but, just before I let go, the pager flashed brightly. The beeps were strong and steady. Something made me stop, and flip open my communicator. Maybe it's Jehan...or Jacki...or....or....

My darling:
I am heading in your direction, Danisha. Please, darling! Please, don't do anything rash...I will not stop until I find you...I am sorry, my love...The words should have never been spoken...I love you, Nisha...Believe me...I love you....Your dearest friend, Claude

GO TO CHAPTER 17 - PART TWO!

Copyright FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.


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