People Like Us

Chapter One

The Time & Place:
Various. We start in 21st Century America, then travel to 15th Century Paris.  It is late September and several lives are about to take a dramatic turn within the span of a month. Sinister plots are set in motion, and dreadful secrets are in danger of being revealed.
Let us go now to the posh offices of Leigh-Gaudet Norris, Ph.D., M.S.W.  Why a 21st Century therapist? What does she have to do with events that happened more than 500 years ago? Ah, the lovely Leigh is as much a player as the 1495 French folks; for you see, Leigh's presence in the 21st very much depended upon those events. Read on...

She stood at the window, carefully studying the Downtown skyline. Overhead a jumbo jet roared eastbound -- First to Atlanta, then onto to D.C., and, finally, to New York City. In a few weeks one of her patients will be on that plane, heading for a new life, new opportunities.

Leigh Gaudet-Norris, an attractive thirty-five year old with petite figure and stylishly cropped brunette hair, sat at her desk and began a lengthy debriefing on one of her patients. As she sifted through notes and tape recordings, many thoughts raced through her mind.

Oh my goodness! So many things revealed during those last few sessions!

Deep down Leigh knew she could never reveal what Danisha told her in strictest confidence; that airtight "doctor/patient" relationship had to be just that. If it was any other patient, Leigh would use those sessions as case studies to share with colleagues, but what Danisha told her was so incredible. No way will this be revealed or shared, surmised Leigh, as she loaded a tape into the cassette player.
From the machine she heard it again: one of the final sessions with Danisha. The poor woman, a victim of a diabolical "fatal attraction" plot, still experienced turbulent emotions upon her return from vacation this past August. It was during that late summer session that Danisha requested to be put under hypnosis so she could finally put to rest "forbidden" passions and hidden doubts concerning a current relationship.
As Leigh listened intently to the recorded words, she couldn't help feeling rather guilty for complying with Nisha's requests. But it was all true: Danisha had experienced the wonders of time travel, something to Leigh's mind was only the stuff of science fiction. 
However this was NO fantasy, and the truth came out during this particular session. Leigh had positive proof that Danisha was a transtemporalist; those who had made this miraculous technological breakthrough had sworn everyone to secrecy. 
If the invention was ever revealed, then it meant a possible government and military investigation, perhaps a sheer takeover of Jacki and Tony Terrell's invention. Leigh visualized Federal agents storming the Terrell home and seizing what took several long years and millions of dollars to build. Then TimeScape, as it was called, would fall into the wrong hands, perhaps used for unscrupulous purposes...

...Then there was that nosy reporter who accosted Leigh hours after that session with Danisha. He had been here many times before, asking question after probing question. The last time he showed up was back in June; he hounded Danisha mercilessly. He followed her to Leigh's office, bided his time. Then he got on the elevator with her again and rode all the way down to the main floor.
It was there, in the very open, very public, lobby, that he immediately and flat out asked, "Who is this Claude Frollo?"
Only Danisha and her circle of select friends and family could answer that, and that reporter still hounded those who could, if coaxed enough, reveal an invention that remained a secret for more than ten years.
Of course, once the question was asked, Danisha lost it. She erupted in a volley of violent, nasty, uncharacteristic profanity. And that's when HE showed up and took up Nisha's cause.
Claude Frollo, a man of the late 15th Century, verbally tore this man apart much to the delight of many a passerby.

Hmm...That reporter said nothing, took off, and hadn't bothered Danisha or any of her family and friends since. That Claude Frollo must be some man...or else Nisha wouldn't have hung onto him all these years. Why did it take a 15th Century man to sweep her off her feet...These 21st Century guys could learn a lesson or two from this man...

Leigh thought about what Danisha told her of Claude Frollo. She recalled Nisha's stories of how they met, the many adventures they shared, the child that unique relationship produced, and how much Frollo had made Nisha's life so complete. At least, that's what Nisha said during the final session. According to Danisha, she and Claude, since returning from a relaxing yet emotionally turbulent vacation, had rekindled the fire and sparkle feared lost.

Oh God, I never knew stuff like this existed! Then I had to ask her about someone...One of my ancestors on my mom's side...His name was Guibert Gaudet, from Lyon...That's what Mom said...I wonder, from what Danisha told me, and what Cherie confirmed, if he or his parents or kids were...But that person, that late medieval Parisian Cherie befriended...can't possibly be...

Leigh pushed those thoughts from her mind as she focused on the tape. It's still so incredible!


Excerpts from the first tape...
"Well, Leigh, this is it. Well, almost the last session...I want to thank you for everything..."
"Danisha, I didn't do anything other than listen and advise. But believe me, NOTHING you've told me will go beyond these walls."

"Good! I had no idea I revealed all that, but once you put me under I guess things simply roared out..."

"It had to be said, and if your sister hadn't confirmed it all for me, even showed me herself about the time travel and all..."

"That's why we've been so secretive. We can't let anyone find out about TimeScape..."

"OK, getting back to sorting out your feelings, how is your relationship with Claude?"

"Never better, now that we're back on track...What I thought was a relationship gone sour; it was all in my head...Claude said it had to be aftereffects of what happened to me last winter...I convinced myself that it -- the fire and sparkle -- wasn't there anymore. I mean, when I was drugged and duped into believing I was Dottie Ducharme...Oh Leigh, right after last winter's ordeal, I had no idea that I nearly married another man...and the damage it did -- at least what I thought it did -- to my relationship with Claude."

"That would be this Évrard Ouimet?"

"Yes. When I finally met him this past summer...Oh man, I've fought those forbidden passions ever since I returned from Paris! Now don't get me wrong. I love Claude Frollo with all my heart, body, mind, and soul. I realized that when I had a long talk with Aunt Nola. She remembered my first serious love...I told you about Darnell, didn't I? Anyway, she said whenever Claude and I are together we have this 'glow'... You know, that certain look that tells the world you're in love. She said it is the same glow  when Darnell and I were engaged. When Aunt Nola accompanied me on that last time trip to 15th Century Paris, she said that glow wasn't there when she saw me talking with Èvrard Ouimet. I know it sounds weird but Aunt Nola sort of 'reads' people...She knows what's what, if you know what I mean...If she detected anything unsavory in Claude Frollo then I'd never pursue -- or let him pursue -- the relationship. Aunt Nola's hunches are almost always 99.99% right."

"I take it you've told Claude Frollo about Darnell?"

"Oh yes, long ago, more than a year before Nadine was even conceived. I told him about Darnell after...well, after he saved my life. I told you about the ectopic pregnancy and the miscarriage, and how Claude donated his own blood to save my life..."


"Anyway, I felt that keeping secrets from each other was wrong. So I simply told Claude everything, and for some weird reason, he understood...I told him how Darnell died in that accident during that ice storm, just weeks before we were to be married. Darnell was this close to getting his masters, and I was almost finished with school. He and I were to move to Atlanta and build this fabulous new life...I was destroyed, and I can safely guess that's the reason I made such poor choices in men...You know about my last bad relationship, with BC...I kept looking for Darnell in these men...But no one could measure up to Darnell..."

"Except Claude Frollo..."

"Leigh, when I met Claude Frollo up close and personal that first time, I felt and experienced things that laid buried deep within for years. It was as if Darnell, calling from beyond said, 'He's the one, baby, and I approve.' "

"But now, in light of this sudden shift in career, venue, everything...What do you feel for Évrard?"

"I feel nothing other than friendship, that is if Èvrard is willing to be just a friend...Orry, his son, is so sweet and loving...But Évrard fell in love with Dorothy Ducharme, not Danisha Wood. I told him that during my last visit..."

"Did you tell him how Dorothy Ducharme served self-therapy, then as a boon for your professional and financial future?"

"I could tell him so much...Évrard still doesn't know about the time travel and all...He's been asking all over Paris...Word comes back that he's still seething over the fact that Claude Frollo 'won', and he won't rest until he learns more about me and my 'New World'."


"Who knows? Maybe he thinks he still has a chance with me...He might as well forget about that...Perhaps it's to show up his brother...Poor Philippe...I forget he's as much a victim in all this...He's having a tough enough time being the new Minister of Justice, let alone console Èvrard's wounded ego...Maybe it's...Oh man, I can't figure it out."

"Think Èvrard's still sore at you?"

"Sore? What's there to be sore about? Leigh, he fell in love with a make believe character, a character I invented when I was only ten years old! I told him that..."

"I meant if he's upset that you ultimately chose Claude Frollo over him."

"That's right, and I told him that although Claude and I aren't married...My only hope is that Èvrard understood what I told him...
Afterwards, when Claude and I had that long talk, many things came out...My career change for one, and the fact that I may have to move...Geez, never in a million years would I even consider the sudden changes life hands us...My daughter's welfare and happiness is paramount to all others, but she seems just as excited about her mommy's 'big break' as.."

"But, Nisha, things worked out for everyone."

"Oh, yes, and more...Claude and I learned that we love and cherish our independence. Marriage at this late stage in life is totally out of the question. These new challenges I face are daunting enough without having to worry about a husband...All this new opportunity, literally handed to me, opens up so many worlds...I want Claude Frollo to share that with me, with our daughter..."

"How did he react when you finally told him...?"

"About the high-salaried job with an educational think tank? About the book deal? I had no idea that the book would sell! Oh man, they're talking TV and movie rights already! I re-worked that whole Dottie Ducharme story to help deal with personal trauma, then I merely sent it to several publishers on a whim. How was I to know that the thing would catch someone's eye?"

"And what about Claude?"

"Well, he says he's cool about everything. In fact, he's making a special time trip this evening...Sort of a pre-birthday visit. I leave for New York on the 5th so that gives me plenty of time to spend with the man I love..."

"Uh, Danisha...hate to interrupt, but since you are a transtemporalist, maybe you could do something for me..."

"Sure, Leigh..."

"I have this ancestor on my mother's side, a Guibert Gaudet, who lived in or near Lyon during the late 15th Century. He was born circa 1487, and the official record said he was adopted by a...What were their names? Eustache and Ines Gaudet, although I know of nothing else...Eustache had a brother and sister but records on them stop circa 1481 or 1485...Sources say the brother moved to Toulon; the sister remained in Marseilles until 1487."

"I'll do what I can, but why?"

"There were rumors that one of the siblings was homosexual...If that's the case then it would prove a point: That being gay is in the genes. I'm lesbian as is my maternal aunt. My brother is gay."

"Maybe my sister can help on that end. Leigh, Cherie's made several trips to 1495 Paris since summer, but...Hold on! She's to take Nadine along on her next trip while I'm in New York...Once I'm in New York, my schedule will be horrendous; it's why I didn't want to take my child. With all the interviews and meetings I have to attend, the poor kid will be bored out of her skull...She really needs to be around familiar faces...I've already cleared Nadine's visit with Claude...Maybe he and Cherie can do a little digging...Perhaps, through his many connections, Claude Frollo may be able to find out a few things..."


A simple request, a simple compliance. What Leigh suspected rang all too painfully true. At that very moment, somewhere in 1495 Paris, a scheme was about to be hatched and, either directly or indirectly, many lives would never again be the same.

However, an unanticipated event nearly snags that plot and, ultimately, serves as salvation for one, bitter endings for others...


Jump back to 1495 Paris...In a popular tavern not far from la Place de Notre-Dame, a customer discusses with a friend his latest difficulties. Read on...
"I don't know what to do Fabrisse. Those men, those men to whom I gambled away all my money...I gambled and lost money I didn't have in the first place. Now they are demanding payment...This plan has to work, Fabrisse, it has to!"

In La Belle d'Avignon, in a remote darkened corner, Imbert l'Estange sat with his female companion. She was about thirty; she was pretty, rather street worn, and rough, all the same. Her light brown hair was tucked neatly under a simple white cap; her "pleasingly plump" figure looked as if it would burst the seams of a dress that was definitely a size too small. Many years ago, Fabrisse was one of the better prostitutes this side of the Seine; and, by the state of her clothes, that "prosperous" business was simply no more.

Imbert was small of stature, slight of build, with lank dishwater blond hair and almost emotionless gray eyes. His attire was definitely much finer, thanks to his occupation as attendant to Orry and Èrvard Ouimet. Imbert had been in service to the Ouimets ever since M. Èvrard arrived in Marseilles back in 1481 and married Mlle. Rixende Soulè. His services were offered as a marriage gift to the newlyweds.
However, that's what was told to Èvrard; Rixende perceived it otherwise. Imbert's constant presence was a telling factor in Madame Ouimet's unfortunate suicide, and only one other person knew exactly why Andre Soulè, Rixende's father, sent Imbert.

More on those "secrets" later...

At the remote table, Imbert and Fabrisse carried on their conversation in hushed tones; the pair sat oh-so-close to each other. Naturally, to every other customer who happened to glance their way, Imbert and Fabrisse appeared as lovers cozying up with a bottle of nice Burgundy. Let them be, they murmured amusedly to themselves. But this was no ordinary lovers' confab. What these two discussed set the stage for tragedy, betrayal, mistrust, and death.


At the same time, within Notre Dame...
Once the boy reached the bottom of the north tower steps, he made a break for it. He almost didn't see the young nun coming from the opposite corridor near the landing, but the boy was decidedly in a hurry. Without looking where he was going, he nearly collided head-on with a passing nun.

"Pardon, little monsieur!," she exclaimed in a sharp scolding voice. The nun was rather perturbed by this boy's recklessness, but once she recognized him, she softened her tone. 
"Ah, Minister Ouimet's little nephew. Your name is Orry, no?"

Orry, out of breath and obviously in a hurry to leave, stammered an apology, then babbled nonstop in attempts to explain.
"I'm sorry to bump into you like that. You see, I visited the bell ringer, stayed too late. My cousin Clarice said I couldn't stay too long. She's waiting for me outside, and my father told me I'm always to obey Tante Clarice, and..."

The nun laughed, saying, "Orry, all is forgiven! I remember how it is to be a child. The bell ringer Quasimodo always fascinates the children. Did you enjoy your visit?"  Orry quickly nodded; his uncomfortable expression was so obvious.
Poor child, thought the good sister. He truly faces chastisement if he's as much as a few minutes late...

She smiled at this beautiful boy, saying at last, "Run along now to your Tante Clarice, Orry. Better yet, why not let me escort you to the square..."

Orry Ouimet, thinking he heard a voice coming from the tower steps, shook his head, stammered yet another excuse, then bid the nun good-bye. The child tore out of Notre Dame and nearly ran smack into Claude Frollo. Now he panicked! What if the bell ringer discovers those items missing? What if Quasimodo is on his way out the cathedral now? He'd surely tell Frollo.
However, Quasi had yet to emerge from Notre Dame, and Claude Frollo seemed to be in good humor today. The retired Minister of Justice grasped Orry by the shoulders and said in a crisp, firm, but not too harsh, voice, "Young Orry! You nearly knocked me down! Didn't your father teach you not to run about so recklessly?" 
Orry tried to apologize but was relieved once Clarice Flambert, his father's maternal cousin appeared on the scene. It was she who offered Frollo an apology. "Monsieur Frollo, I'm sure Orry didn't mean any harm. And he does understand the hazards of foolhardy play..."

Frollo chuckled with good humor and struck up a brief conversation with Clarice. Orry never recalled the details but he did remember his father's name mentioned more than once. The boy stood close to Clarice, burying his face into her voluminous dark blue velvet. 

Come on, Tante Clarice! I want to go home! Can't risk Quasimodo finding me, then telling Frollo that I took...
Frollo and my father aren't on speaking turns, especially after Mlle Danisha was here just a few days ago. Father was angry when she told him she didn't love him...

Alas, all was not lost on Orry's part. For you see, he kept patting the precious cargo hidden within his brown velvet doublet. Yes, it is still there. Maybe, once he found time alone, Orry could at last unlock the secret -- A secret shared only by Frollo and a select circle of people. 
Even the boy's Uncle Philippe, the current Minister of Justice, didn't know about this curious item. Hopefully, upon closer examination, Orry thought, he will reunite with the one person, other than his father, who he loved more than anything.


To Chapter Two

Copyright©2001 by FrolloFreak/Ms.Diva

Fanfic Collection #2
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