That man was another story. Imbert l'Etrange, a man with a secret taste
for "good time" women and games of chance, could be seen in Le Papillion
Doré many an evening, gambling away what pittance he earned
as a personal attendant. It was a few weeks ago that Imbert had overextended
his credit; he bet far more than he had, lost it all, then promised he'd
pay up. Of course the money was never paid in full, and the Marquecoins
grew impatient. They pressed the man for payment only to be put off by
Odd still, that Imbert and Fabrisse got cozier right away; Fabrisse did develop a strange fondness for the homely man with the unemotional eyes. In fact, the pair had been nearly inseparable all those days up to Orry Ouimet's kidnapping. And why, thought Hervé Marquecoin, wasn't Imbert at home with the Ouimet family, and not running all over town spreading vicious rumors.
It all made sense, especially after Jacques stole up to Fabrisse's room. The woman seemed in a such a hurry; she was hastily writing something when Jacques spied on her. He never pressed her when she flew out of the tavern to meet Imbert. Both Marquecoin brothers suspected something as they waited until the lovers departed; then they searched Fabrisse's quarters.
They found it – at least an impression of whatever the woman wrote.
Fabrisse always wrote with a heavy hand, so Jacques discovered years ago.
He pointed this out to Hervé, as he carefully rubbed the impression
until it was readable.
"Great Mother of God, Hervé!," exclaimed Jacques. "They have that boy! Imbert is holding the child for ransom – 500 florins! The same he promised us!"
Which is why these men hightailed it to the old mill before Évrard Ouimet, Judge Philippe, or Claude Frollo even. They wanted to be there to give a certain servant his just desserts, but they also wanted to be the ones to bring home Orry Ouimet, thus earning a lucrative reward – plus the ransom. When they arrived at the mill they found no Orry, no Gypsies, nothing. Just the remains of a structure abandoned years ago.
"Perhaps, Jacques," said Hervé, "Imbert keeps the boy elsewhere
and intends to release him once Évrard Ouimet hands over the money."
"And what," asked Jacques, "if the man decides not to pay us? What if he and Fabrisse decide to flee Paris, with the money? Our money!"
So the Marquecoin brothers devised a trap for Imbert, a trap that would satisfy the man's debts and teach him a lesson in playing games with other people's lives. With a sinister smile, Hervé said to his brother as he indicated that they had to be quick about their work, "As Évrard Ouimet drops off the money, I'm sure Imbert will not be far behind. Yes sir, by tonight, dear brother, Imbert l'Etrange will rue the day he double-crossed us and his master!"
"I can't believe this, Fern," said Daniel "Iggy" McMullen, a short stocky
middle-aged man with a fair, boyishly round face and longish blond hair.
He read the letter again, not wanting to believe it. Even his sister Fern,
a large handsome auburn-haired lady in her late fifties, didn't want to
believe it. What that letter detailed, and what the servant confirmed,
was all true.
"I guess this changes everything for Évrard Ouimet – I take it he never knew," Iggy commented to the caretaker, an attractive matron whose loving green eyes contrasted sharply with her light bronzed complexion. This woman, surmised Fern, is of mixed ancestry, and this servant confirmed that as well.
"Yes, Madama Fern, my grandmother was of Nubian birth. She was brought to Naples as a slave to an Arab Muslim, but she escaped and settled in Florence. There she met and married my grandfather, a fine Florentine craftsman."
Quentine, the caretaker – well, she was more than a mere servant – explained
that she had lived in Marseilles ever since she was a little girl. Nearly
thirty years ago she had been brought up from Florence by Serena Morandi,
a mulatto of incomparable beauty and impeccable bearing. Serena had just
married François Ouimet, a wealthy, and widowed, Parisian merchant
and was pregnant with Évrard.
"Well, to make this story shorter," explained Quentine, "when Madama Serena accompanied her new husband and son to Paris, my mother went with them. I, however, remained behind and worked for another family – the Gaudets. I was employed as a companion to the daughter; that would be Francesca."
When Fern heard that name she probed further, and Quentine was more
than grateful to answer all questions. For you see, Quentine, as personal
attendant to Francesca Gaudet, developed a close relationship with her
"What I meant by that, Madama Fern, is that Francesca and I became more than just servant-and-mistress."
During the course of the afternoon, Quentine related more about the strange life of Francesca Gaudet, and of her siblings Eustache and Renaud. It finally dawned on Fern that she already met Renaud Gaudet, in Paris, just this past summer. He now lives in Toulon. A musician by trade who now goes by the name Raimon Cauant. Eustache married Ines d'Azur back in 1481; they now reside in Lyon with their adopted son Guibert.
When Quentine produced a miniature portrait of little Guibert, Fern and Iggy nearly fainted. "Oh man, Fern! That kid looks just like...!"
It was Quentine who, by virtue of being privy to not only Francesca's private life, but several others as well, confirmed all that letter entailed. What she told them was a long, twisted, tragic drama capped by betrayal, revenge, secrecy, violence, and suicide. After Quentine's recollection, Fern finally asked, "Honey, where is André Soulé now? Is he still alive? And does – or did he – know the whole truth? I mean, about this boy...?"
Quentine sadly shook her pretty head, saying, "Madama Fern, M. Soulé keeps to himself all these days. But I can tell you that he has sworn vengeance on the 'unholy one' who he feels caused his daughter's death."
Iggy McMullen, pondering the possible fallout if the truth was ever
uncovered, flat out asked, "Did Soulé ever tell anyone else about
Rixende's suicide letter? If he's as bent on getting back at folks...Oh
man! Did Soulé, by chance, try to contact Judge Claude Frollo?"
To this question the caretaker and Gaudet family confidante was rather taken aback. "The Minster of Justice? In Paris? That Claude Frollo? Of course not!"
She stopped herself, then snapped her fingers as she recalled a long-ago
event. "Wait! I do remember a Jehan Frollo, but that was so long ago. I
believe he is Claude's brother."
Quentine further explained that it was during the fall of 1481, at a banquet in Florence, that she and Francesca, while on holiday, met Jehan Frollo. Come to think of it, that was the same year a late 20th Century American woman named Danisha met Claude Frollo, and a few months before a solider named Phoebus would be summoned to Paris as Captain of the Guard.
"Yes, Captain Phoebus was in attendance as well. It was there that he and Jehan renewed their friendship. And..."
Quentine took another deep breath as she admitted, "Jehan discovered
the truth about Francesca..."
"But he and Francesca became very good friends, and he promised that he would say nothing about her 'peculiar' lifestyle, as he called it."
"Jehan Frollo soon learned about Francesca's difficulties. She told him that she was really on the run from André Soulé...and from Imbert l'Etrange. Jehan convinced her that the only way to escape her past was to change her name and move to where no one could ever find her."
So, the Provençal noblewoman Francesca Gaudet became poetess
Felise LaCourbe. She immediately returned to France and settled in Toulon
to be near her brother Renaud, who now went by the pseudonym Raimon Cauant.
Renaud never knew the whole story on his sister, but he pledged that he
would never say a word.
Moving to Toulon meant that Francesca could be near her married brother Eustache who lived near Lyon. That meant frequent trips between the cities so Francesca could keep in close contact. But sister-in-law Ines felt Fran's frequent visits, "would only confuse the child," so Fran simply stayed in Toulon, seeing no one and burying herself in her work.
It wasn't until November of 1494 that Fran found herself in a precarious situation. With Raimon frequently on the road, that meant Fran was left home alone. Imbert l'Etrange, of all people, accompanying Évrard Ouimet on a personal trip, ran into Francesca at an open air market. He recognized her at once and nearly blew her cover. Thank goodness an accident occurred between two peasants – one's wagon collided into another's stall. The resulting pandemonium was enough for Fran to make a hasty exit.
She wrote a long letter to her brothers and explained that she had to get away; she also wrote to Quentine explaining the same. Soon she found herself on the road to Paris.
Talk about irony!
Felise LaCourbe AKA Francesca Gaudet, was only a few weeks behind Évrard Ouimet and family. Small wonder that, upon her arrival in Paris, she kept to herself so much. Small wonder still, why she freaked that summer when she saw Évrard Ouimet, accompanied by her brother Renaud, stride through her garden gate.
"He must never know, is what she made us all swear to..."
"Swear to what, Quentine?," asked Iggy.
"To keep Évrard Ouimet in the dark as much as possible. The truth would be too much for him to handle; it would tear him apart."
His child, Rixende, a plain, yet sensible girl, married to up-and-coming Évrard Ouimet. She should've been grateful to be paired with a man who showed her nothing but affection and devotion. But no! Rixende, in defiance, still carried on an immoral, unnatural affair with another – a woman at that!
It was that Francesca Gaudet, daughter of a minor noble family, who "seduced" Rixende long ago. When André discovered the affair, he moved swiftly to avoid the ensuing public scandal. He knew the Church openly condemned such persons, even put them to death. André couldn't stand by and watch his only daughter suffer such a fate; so he married her off in hopes that she would come to her senses.
How fortunate that Évrard Ouimet breezed into Marseilles with
dreams and hopes of his own. A timely meeting with this bright ambitious
young man answered André Soulé's prayers; he arranged the
marriage at once, and Rixende could not protest. André, mindful
that Francesca and Rixende could, perhaps, carry on their illicit and immoral
affair in secret, send Imbert l'Etrange as a "wedding gift".
Imbert was to act a personal attendant to the newly wed Ouimets – at least that's what Évrard was led to believe. Imbert, in reality, was to "spy" on Rixende and report her every move to André. And, as the father suspected, it happened. Rixende, within a few weeks of her wedding, resumed her affair with Francesca. It was all in secret, of course, but the attendant Imbert was never far behind. He, with promise of lucrative payment, gladly reported to André, who told the servant to, "Take care of Mlle Gaudet in whatever manner you see fit."
What happened to Francesca? Only she, Rixende, and Imbert could answer that. She disappeared shortly thereafter, only surfacing again shortly before Rixende gave birth to Orry. Rixende kept a regular, clandestine correspondence, but it was never the same. Imbert found those letters and gave them to André. It was all that Rixende could stand, so she devised a way to get back at her father, and she did so in ways that would completely devastate the old man.
However, in the end, Rixende could not allow Évrard to ever discover the deception. It weighed heavily on Rixende's mind, so she, out of guilt, desperation, and love for Orry, took her own life. But not before she penned a lengthy, angry, bluntly worded letter to her father. It revealed all, and cautioned her father never to reveal the truth, lest he break Évrard's heart.
And it was that letter André now clutched within his withered hand – a letter that had been read several times a day for so many years. No, thought the old man, Évrard must never know the truth, so I must take care of Francesca once and for all.
Word got back to André that a woman named Felise LaCourbe matched Francesca's description. She lived in Toulon with her brother; she presently resides in Paris.
And Évrard's in Paris, right now, with Orry! No! He must never know!
"Monsieur Morté, you will do this for me, for you shall silence this cursed woman...forever!"
Jacki Darcey-Terrell, co-inventor of TimeScape, caught up in a frantic telephone conversation with Geraldine Wood, Danisha's mother. Apparently Danisha had called Jacki earlier and wanted Nadine's device updated with new PINs. No problem, thought the lovely Jacki, or "Jacqueline" as Claude Frollo always addressed her. All Gerry had to do was retrieve Nadine's device from the child's dresser drawer and bring to the Terrells. But that device was not where it was supposed to be, and Gerry, after a thorough search, called Jacki out of desperation.
Perhaps Nisha took Nadine's device to New York. That's impossible, for just this morning, while Jacki conducted checks on transtemporal messages and trips, noticed something odd. A series of messages transmitted between Nadine and Danisha's devices. But Nadine is in New York with her mother – no need to use the TimeScapes there.
At first Jacki wondered if Nadine might have sneaked her device out of the house. Again, not true, for Gerry Wood witnessed Claude Frollo deposit it into Nadine's top dresser drawer. He never explained to anyone why other than, "Once Nadine is reunited with her mother, this is really not needed."
A stumped Jacki Terrell couldn't quite figure it out until this very evening, when a desperate message appeared on Jacki's TimeScape. She read and reread it, then checked the device's precise location.
What if, she pondered, Nadine made a time trip...? No way! The kid can only send messages...
Then she remembered the "background check" promised to Claude Frollo. What she uncovered about Évrard Ouimet, coupled with this recent urgent message, all made sense. So, Nadine must've slipped him her device, and now...
Jacki got on the phone again, this time calling her husband. "Tony? I have to make a quickie time trip...No, something I promised to do for Claude Frollo, and he needs it ASAP...No, I won't be gone long...Would you pick up the boys from school...Yeah, I may be gone pass suppertime..."
It took her little time to prepare supper for her husband and sons, even less time to change clothes. Within moments Jacki transformed herself from 21st Century American urban mom into 15th Century Parisian.
"Oh please let me get there in time!"
To Chapter 12
Copyright©2001 by FrolloFreak® AKA "FanFiction Diva"