People Like Us

Chapter Ten

Time & Place:
Revisiting the crime scene, Julian McNaney and Jehan Frollo comb for evidence...

"Well, well. What do we have here, Jehan?."

Darkly handsome with his glossy black hair and finely wrought features, Julian carefully dislodged a piece of torn cloth from the gate's hinges. Apparently there was a struggle, judging from the mashed flowers, matted grass, and general disorientation of the footprints. Thank goodness it didn't rain or else all this evidence would be destroyed. Julian smiled with satisfaction as he placed the fabric shred into a clean white handkerchief.

"All we have to do, Jehan, is match this baby. I'm sure whoever the kid tried to fight off isn't wearing whatever this came off of."

Jehan Frollo scanned the immediate environs of that back street. Not much more here other than usual trash, along with the occasional bit of greenery or clump of flowers. His eyes fell upon something odd – a silver button with the initials "O.O." engraved. There it was, lodged between the cobblestones. Jehan exclaimed to Julian as he bent down to pick up the precious item, "Ah! A button, and not any button, mind you, but Orry's."

Julian carefully examined the button, noting the lack of corrosion. "Take a peek, Jehan," he said holding it up to the light. "No signs of wear and tear. If this button had been out any length of days, then it would've been run over, stepped on..."
"In other words, Julian, this button's been here...Hmm...How long?"

Julian replied just before wrapping the button in the handkerchief, "It was lost yesterday morning. The kidnappers must've pulled it off in the struggle. Which means, unless the kidnappers made Orry change clothes, that kid has a missing button." Pondering all the evidence thus far, Julian McNaney expressed to question residents in the immediate area. After all, he reasoned, "Somebody saw something peculiar...Say, which reminds me..."

"Say no more, Julian," said Jehan Frollo. "I reassured Felise that no harm would come to her...She'll cooperate as long as Cherie and I are there to lend moral support."

The 21st Century spy smiled, saying, "I knew I could count on you. All right, let's talk to Mlle LaCourbe later on. Right now, I want to mosey over to the ol' tavern. If what you told me about those two is correct, then I can bet good money that they'll be there yet tonight."

He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a curious looking object. Jehan Frollo smiled wickedly as Julian explained, "All I have to do is plant this under the table, and—Voila!."


Back in the tower room at Maison des Chénes...
A very determined Orry Ouimet spent a good chunk of the afternoon fiddling with that device. Oh what a rotten fate! To have this splendid New World invention and all I can do is send messages...

Hello! Wait a minute! Yes! Why not send Frollo or his lady a message?

Problem! Orry didn't have the PINs necessary to send Claude Frollo or Danisha a frantic call for help. With such a wondrous toy as this in his possession, Orry surely could extract himself from this dreadful captivity; then he'd be able to identify that pair who snatched and imprisoned him. For now, all Orry could do was to play with buttons. Out of desperation, he activated the message mode just as Nadine taught him, pressed a series of indiscriminate codes, then proceeded to tap out a brief note.

Who gets this please help me. I am captive in the tower room at my father's home in the country. Imbert and that woman did this to me. M. Frollo if you get this, help me.
Orry Ouimet
An hour later, at La Belle d'Avignon...
The tavern teemed with patrons; Victor and Hugues Jouet could thank the Almighty for favors granted. Despite the tragedy of Orry Ouimet's kidnapping, those faithful patrons still gathered to sample Victor's fine ales and wines, and perhaps catch up on neighborhood gossip. The chief topic of conversation was little Orry's kidnapping, with suspicions and accusations flying about that Gypsies stole the boy. 

The tavern was a-buzz with the latest information – make that misinformation. It was crowded, noisy, but in control. As long as that awful Imbert l'Etrange isn't here, pondered Hugues, then everything will remain relatively calm. But let that man, and that whore in his company, set foot inside this place, and both Papá and I will kick them out.

"No, don't do that, pal," whispered the handsome visitor from the New World. "Let them come on in. See, I'm helping Claude Frollo find Orry, maybe nab the kidnappers in the process."

The Jouets recognized this man at once: Julian. "Ah, you're the gentleman who helped Frollo capture that horrible killer this past Christmas," said Victor.
"Yes," replied Julian, "and I want to know if either Imbert or his lady friend has been by here."

Hugues could answer that. "Not today, no."
He then waved his huge hand toward the back of the tavern, saying, "That's where they usually sit...They sat there almost everyday for the past two weeks before the boy was kidnapped."

Jehan Frollo came up from behind Julian and asked old Victor, "Did you tell Julian my suspicions?"

The old proprietor emeritus fingered his huge snowy mustache, glanced up at his mother Sarah Jouet's portrait, and said, "Not yet, Jehan, but I can tell you about those men who came by this morning...They sat back there, at that same table. I believe, Jehan, that you know them."

Jehan raised an eyebrow quizzically. "Two men? With Imbert?"
Victor could only say that the men were, "Your old gaming buddies – Hervé and Jacques."

Now Jehan's interest was quite piqued as he inquired about the men's business with Imbert. Victor Jouet replied that he was not present but Hugues was. To that the younger Jouet offered that he didn't hear all of the men's conversation, but, "What they said to Imbert left the man a bit unsettled. He appeared nervous, desperate even. When Fabrisse came in Imbert quickly ended the confab. Then the men left."
"Hmm," pondered Julian; then he said to Jehan, "Let's go over to that table, just to see Imbert's face if he happens by here. Then, Jehan, we'll have to meet with this Felise LaCourbe and get her to make out a signed, sworn statement."

To Victor and Hugues he said, "Bring over some of your best Burgundy. I believe we may have this case solved by evening's end – and bring Orry Ouimet home." Once Julian and Jehan settled at the remote table, and after Victor personally served them, Julian very deftly fastened a tiny object on the table's underside. Jehan Frollo didn't question this move as he knew precisely what Julian did.

"Ah, one of your 21st Century spy toys – a listening device no less..."
"And I can safely guess that Imbert and Fabrisse will sit here later tonight," Julian whispered. "They'll sit here, plan their next move, say something incriminating. All the while they'll have no inkling their every word is being recorded. And..."

He stopped talking long enough to take in snatches of customers' conversation. They all talked about the kidnapping and that it was Gypsies who took that child. They discussed ways of finding the Court of Miracles, thanks to an incentive recently posted by the Minister of Justice. Time was of the essence, and Judge Philippe Ouimet, out of desperation, appealed to the general populace. One patron brought in a handbill promising a handsome reward 5000 livres in exchange for information concerning the Court's precise location.

Julian, upon hearing this, got up from the table, then asked a patron, "Mind sharing that, pal? I could use that kind of money myself."  The man obliged with a toast, "Here's to a successful hunt, sir. And may the best man win, for I intend to find the Court of Miracles first!"
To which dozens of customers echoed those words; they all wanted to find the elusive Gypsy hideout. The only question was where to start looking, and the only men there who could help were not about to reveal that knowledge.

Returning to the table, Julian said, as he glanced out the window and noticed Imbert and Fabrisse walking towards the tavern, "Let's get out of here and back to Évrard Ouimet's place. Then we're going to the Court of Miracles. I can't believe Judge Ouimet did something so stupid; he's stirred up these guys in the worst possible way..."
"Meaning?," asked Jehan.

Julian McNaney took a heavy breath and winced in pain; once outside, he lit a cigarette, saying, "Clopin and his people could be facing a raging lynch mob, then my very future could be jeopardized."

Jehan didn't understand right away, then suddenly realized that since Julian was from the future, if there was an outside chance...

The enigmatic postmodern spy only replied in hushed tones, "You're the only person I'd trust with this information, outside of Fern and Danisha. I can't even share this with your brother out of fear that he may accuse me of betrayal—that I was just using our friendship, which is far from the truth..."

After taking a deep long drag, Julian finally admitted to Jehan, "I'm mostly of Irish-Welsh descent, and I have a bit of Cherokee and Crow. But I also have a tiny drop of Gypsy blood in me...Esmeralda is one of my ancestors. If those hotheads should find, and possibly kill her and her little girl, I cease to exist..."


At that same time, at Évrard Ouimet's home, the heartbroken man receives visitors...
Even though the man standing before him was Judge Ouimet – his own brother – Évrard could do without his "expertise". Ever since Orry's kidnapping, brother Philippe did very little, in Évrard's opinion, to find the boy. All Philippe managed to do was to appeal to the general populace with promise of a handsome reward.

"I can't believe you did this, Philippe!," he stormed at the judge. "If anything that would put my son's life in danger, it's every citizen swarming all over to find this Court of Miracles. Do know what could happen? The kidnappers may become desperate, even kill Orry! My son, my only child –YOUR nephew...!"
"Dear brother, hear me out!," Philippe blurted with hands upraised. It's true; the Minister of Justice hadn't a clue of the Court of Miracle's exact location. Neither did he have concrete evidence that the Gypsies actually have the boy. All Philippe Ouimet relied on was his own petty prejudices and bigotry to cloud his better judgment.

Évrard could stand no more "wishy-washiness", and prepared to give his elder brother the ear-thumping of his life. But the words never found their target as two additional, and timely, arrivals: Claude Frollo and Anseau Flambert.

The former had departed the Palais some hours ago; he claimed he had to attend business at his Parisian townhouse. The latter entered from the courtyard; he carried another note that was mysteriously wedged in the gate. Claude Frollo, the retired Minister of Justice, outstretched his hand but Philippe was quicker.

"I'll take that!," Judge Ouimet snapped. He quickly scanned the ransom demand, crumpled it, saying, "Évrard, these unholy demons want 500 florins to be delivered tonight. You are to bring the money alone. Only then will they release Orry."

A now worried Claude Frollo spoke up. "Philippe, we must exercise caution. What does the note say about soldiers...?"

Judge Ouimet cut Frollo off, just like that, with, "Never mind, Frollo. I'm in charge!"

To Évrard, he ordered, "Bring the money to the old mill. My men and I shall not be far behind. If anything goes wrong, my men have orders to storm the place." Glaring at Frollo, Minister Ouimet proclaimed, "Nothing will go wrong, for this must be the Court of Miracles. We will bring Orry home safe and sound; then the Gypsies shall pay dearly for their heinous crimes –– with their lives!"


To Chapter 11

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