People Like Us

Chapter 15

The Time & Place:
Ile de St-Louis, the Court of Miracles' "temporary" location. While Julian is off to the old mill to gather more evidence, Clopin, Phoebus, and Quasimodo debrief each other of last night's situation...And interrogate a couple of citizens caught snooping. Ooh, a call to arms to avenge an "accident". Read on...
Clopin, stroking his scraggly black chin whiskers, stared at the two men with marked amusement. This pair of everyday, non-descript Parisians, looking for a quick thrill and promised wealth, stumbled upon the island by accident. In the full throes of their quest, they didn't notice the lone boat containing Katerina drifting toward Ile de la Cité; all they focused on was finding the elusive Gypsy hideout and earn a 5000 livre reward in the end. That was the string of lights seen last night on the other side of the river, only most of those folks looked elsewhere. Only these two men dared to invade the Court of Miracles; and now, if allowed to escape, they'd tell Judge Philippe Ouimet and Claude Frollo everything. 

No, reasoned Clopin, we take no chances... 

Last night, the pair barely got out of their boat when they walked right into one Julian's traps – a carefully concealed net that snared the unfortunate intruders moments after they stepped onshore. Earlier, Clopin ordered his people further into the woods, retaining only a handful of his best muscle men – and Julian McNaney. Only problem was a still-missing Katerina, and now a missing Esmeralda. This has been one hellish night capped with the most distressing news as reported by both Clopin's spies and the captive men.

Apparently things went wrong at the old mill – that's where Évrard Ouimet was to drop the ransom in exchange for his captive son Orry. According to the Hebert, one of the intruders captured, Judge Ouimet led a charge on the mill after Orry failed to emerge. Soon after, Philippe Ouimet met the business end of a rigged crossbow; he was gravely injured and, at last report, was sinking rapidly. 
That's why Julian left so abruptly, and only after Quasimodo and Phoebus arrived with Katerina. Julian had to be assured of the child's safety. The girl had only left the island in search of help. She remembered her mother's tales of Notre Dame's bell ringer, about his compassion and zeal to help others in distress. This is why, out of desperation, she sought Quasi; the torchlights across the river alarmed the child to action. 
Katerina, sneaking her way to the cathedral, overheard men talk about Orry Ouimet's kidnapping and how they intend to find the Court of Miracles. There was talk of a call to arms once the news of Judge Ouimet's untimely, and live-threatening injury spread about. "It's those cursed Gypsies, that's who did it! I say find 'em and kill 'em all!" 

This is what Katerina reported to Clopin who in turn took advantage of Quasi and Phoebus' presence. At the same time, by some odd miracle, Julian received word that Orry was indeed found alive and safe. The boy fingered the true culprits – what Julian had suspected all along – and Clopin and company had to figure how to spread the word about Paris. 

So now, Clopin, still eyeing the captives this fine autumn morning, told Quasi to spread the word of Orry's release, and of the truth. The Romani king had hoped the citizenry would believe a bell ringer and an ex-soldier, both of whom most of Paris held in high regard. The only other things left to do was releasing the prisoners then find Esmeralda. No one knew the dancer's whereabouts; Clopin had his people comb the area but no Esme could be found. 
Phoebus ventured, "Perhaps she went into the city, looking for Katerina..." 
"Hmm," replied Clopin, "maybe you're right. Since it is still, as Julian says 'touch-and-go' for us, I'll leave it to you and Quasimodo to find Esmeralda. No telling what trap she'll walk into." 
"But what," asked Quasi, "to do with these two men? Can't hold them captive forever...People would get suspicious if these two turn up missing..." 

Clopin agreed that the men should be released, but only after they solemnly swear not to reveal one word about their captivity. 
"Even though," Clopin sneered at the men, "you have been blindfolded ever since your timely arrival, there is still a chance you would blab to the nearest soldier, or to Frollo even." 
Hebert, the first man, shook his head in fear; his voice quaked as he stammered out a reply. "N-n-no, sir! I won't tell! Just let me go! I have a wife and children waiting for me at home. What will they do if I should..." 

"If you should turn up dead?," said Clopin. "Consider yourselves fortunate that we don't have you hanged on the spot! That's what we've done to spies and intruders who dare disturb our little nest." 

With that, Clopin finally explained the fate of several of Judge Ouimet's spies – that those men were either killed outright or merely imprisoned elsewhere. "And we're not about to reveal that, even as Minister Ouimet lay dying in the Palais!" 

Phoebus and Quasimodo listened to Clopin, recalling a similar incident long ago. They had stumbled upon the Court of Miracles while searching for Esmeralda. Clopin and his boys were ready to execute both men for trespassing, only Esmeralda was there to stop the hanging. How fortunate now, thought the ex-soldier, that Julian – a Frollo spy at that – was here last night to foil a potential invasion. How more fortunate still that these two now held prisoner... 

This Hebert is really sorry he came out here; he's scared out of his wits. He truly wants to go home unharmed. Maybe he won't tell, but this other man... I

ndeed, the second man had remained strangely silent the entire night and into the morning. He said nothing as Clopin interrogated him, only venturing that Hebert, "Offered me a ride into the city. I got lost out in the country..." 
This man's appearance, at least to Clopin, was rather odd; the clothing was not that well-fitting. His voice was tinged with an unfamiliar accent – far more drawl than Frollo's "New World" friends. Something about this man did not set too well with Clopin, so the Romani king asked, "You've been rather silent, sir. Do you mind me asking your name? Your companion here has cooperated in the extreme, but you, however..." 

"Look!," the man suddenly blurted out, "I only wanted to find out what this Julian guy had on a man named Claude Frollo. All I remember is getting into the car with Julian; he said he'd take to where I'd find Frollo! I remember a bright light hitting me in the face, but I think I slept through it – it was a long drive....Then he pulled over...Said he needed to check the engine, so I got out to stretch my legs and walk around....I didn't know where I was...Then, before I knew it, Julian took off without me. He left me stranded in the middle of nowhere!" 

Well, when the man finished, Quasi and Phoebus nudged each other. What did he mean that Julian was taking him to Frollo? What if Julian really isn't as loyal to Frollo as he professes? For the ex-solider and bell ringer, the man's confession meant that yet another chink in an airtight secret. This man was from the future, surmised Quasimodo, and Julian's brought him here for a valid purpose. 
Clopin, not comprehending all this man's words – such as "car" or "engine", pondered a bit. Hmm, so Julian brought this man here to meet Frollo...I wonder why Julian did such a thing, and what this man wants with Frollo... 

Finally Clopin announced, "Turn Hebert loose, but keep on the blindfold lest he tell others of his surroundings. Take him back in the boat; let him off where I told you. He is not to remove that blindfold until you tell him." Clopin's men complied, adding, "What about the other one?" 

The Romani king smiled, saying, "Oh, I think Monsieur...Er...I believe I didn't catch the name." 
"Wade," the man replied, trying to work his way out of his binds. "Auburn Wade." 

At once, Quasimodo rushed to Clopin and whispered something. Clopin's facial expression changed abruptly at this new information. Without ceremony, Clopin ordered his men to, "Take M. Wade deeper into the forest; keep him bound and blindfolded for the duration." 
Then to Wade, Clopin hissed, "How dare you torment Guillaume Sarrisin's kin! Long ago I made a solemn vow that no harm, even if she is Frollo's lady, ever befall her – especially not by my hand. You, M. Wade, shall pay for harassing a fine lady and her child!" 


Sometime later, out at the mill, Julian McNaney gathers evidence...And he ponders many issues – such as his own fate...
Carefully examining the rigged crossbow, Julian mentally ran through those moments leading up to an accident meant for someone else. Memories momentarily engulfed Julian as he recalled Ernie Iaria building a similar booby trap to snare a serial killer. That was 1937 Chicago when Frollo and company tracked the murderous Rougelot. And now, here in 1495 France, another booby trap, this time Minister Ouimet was the arrow's unfortunate recipient. 

At Frollo's last report Philippe Ouimet lay dying, and Frollo took it upon himself to act as Minister of Justice until this madness finally ceased. It hadn't been all that pleasant for the intrepid Mr. McNaney, a self-made millionaire from the late 20th Century, who on this day nursed a nagging cough, hoarseness, and intense pain deep within his body. Julian downed yet another dose of morphine. He hated taking drugs, but he needed them for the pain. Julian's thoughts turned to Jehan's brief bout with drug addiction, and Julian was there to help Jehan get clean and sober. 

"No more clean and sober for me," Julian muttered to himself as he stooped to pick up a curious item. "What's the point? I'm terminal – that's what the doc said." 
He examined the item – a wooden token of sorts with a golden butterfly etched on the front. On the backside were these words: "Le Papillion Doré", and a date: "Octubre 1495". Now where had Julian heard that name before? "Le Papillion Doré....Hey," he muttered as he lit another cigarette. He wrinkled his nose as he took a long drag. "Who cares? Too late to quit anyway – I'm a goner so might as well enjoy..." 

Julian continued to ponder all the physical evidence thus far. The button and fabric fragment found at the crime scene proved that Imbert l'Etrange was the guilty party; this token found today at the mill proves that Fabrisse was here last night... 

"No! That's not it! Jehan had Fabrisse all doped up back at the tavern...She was so zonked she couldn't negotiate her way to the chamber pot." 
At that moment, a prison cart flanked by many soldiers came into view. At the head of this company was Gervais Trigèré, Judge Ouimet's second-in-command; Gervais was a distant cousin to Phoebus. As they neared the mill, Julian waved and called out, "Hey! How about a lift to town! I got more evidence!" 

He stamped out his smoke as Gervais, a pleasant yet no nonsense man astride a fine dappled gray Percheron announced, "We have the villain Imbert l'Etrange in custody, M. McNaney. Your man at Maison des Chénes came through for us – He had l'Etrange tied and gagged before we arrived." 
Julian grinned. "So, Benny came through for me; I owe him one." 

The party came to a momentary halt as Julian moseyed to the prison cart. He eyed the hapless man with a mixture of contempt and disgust, saying, "You know, Imbert, your actions and deceit nearly caused a bloodbath last night. I don't think Évrard will ever forgive you for what you did to his son. Hell, I don't think I can forgive you for the lies you spread around town. Blaming other people for your dirty deeds is lower than low. In my opinion, the penalty you'll pay isn't nearly harsh enough." 

Julian's eyes rained sheer hate for the man; then he returned to Gervais. "Sir," said the assistant judge, "as soon as we return to Paris, I intend to interrogate both l'Etrange and his accomplice. I have a sneaking suspicion that both were involved with the misfortune that befell Minister Ouimet. If he dies..." 

Upon hearing this, Julian took out that wooden token, handed it to Gervais and said, "Found this in the mill this morning. My guess is that it was dropped last night. Now it couldn't have been Fabrisse 'cause she never left the tavern. Imbert could've dropped it, but he wasn't inside when the soldiers stormed the mill. Note the date on token. Does that mean anything?" 
Gervais Trigèré carefully examined the token, flipping it over and over. "Hmm...The Marquecoin brothers – Hervé and Jacques – hand these out every month. It's to stimulate business, they claim." 

Now Julian was rather intrigued. "You think these men might've been out here, last night, before the ransom drop?" 
Gervais replied, "I would make a safe guess they have...Perhaps it was a trap for l'Etrange, but..." 

Julian winced in pain again as he finished Gervais' sentence, "Minister Ouimet walked in on it instead...We have to interrogate Imbert and Fabrisse, then find those Marquecoins. Methinks they've played games with the wrong guys." 


Back at the Palais de Justice....
Évrard Ouimet stood outside the door of his brother's bedchamber. Claude Frollo was in there now, with Philippe and the surgeon. It wasn't good, said the surgeon, as he explained the extent of Philippe's injuries. The arrow had apparently pierced a main artery; there was damage inside. There was nothing to do but wait for the inevitable. 

Évrard's mind did flip-flops as he tried to fathom all that Claude had told him. Time travel? A genius couple who made such astonishing breakthrough? Are Danisha and her friends actually from a futuristic nation, and not the "New World" as Évrard's contemporaries know it? He pondered still those wondrous devices in Nisha's Parisian home, and of the other wonders Orry so enthusiastically reported. It was difficult to grasp all what Claude Frollo explained, but the last thing Frollo told him... 

My Orry? Taking a "time trip"? To 21st Century "America"? He and Nadine, through cunning secrecy, maintained a steady correspondence... 

"Nadine...Nadine Frollo saved my son's life!" 

It all came together, but not all at once for Évrard who, at Philippe's insistence, waited outside the chamber until Claude finished. What is so urgent that Philippe will not share with me? Why did he insist that he speak to Claude Frollo in private, and not wait for the priest? After all, whatever is weighing on my brother's mind should be confided to a man of God, not a retired city magistrate. 

Évrard, not wanting to wait idly by anymore, made his way back to the colonnade. There he stood and watched the usual parade of citizens going about their daily routine. As he watched, Évrard felt a twinge of guilt – and rage. Guilt over the intense sibling rivalry between himself and Philippe; rage toward a man Évrard wholeheartedly trusted, a man whose services were given as a wedding present... 

"Imbert betrayed me; he endangered the life of my little boy; he endangered the lives of innocent people..." 

The gentleman from Marseilles broke down into tears, thankful that his son was indeed safe, enraged that others so cruelly betrayed him. I wonder, he thought, if Imbert had anything to do with Rixende's depression and subsequent suicide? 

The truth behind Rixende's suicide, Imbert's treachery, and a fiercely guarded secret was currently discussed behind the locked doors of Philippe Ouimet's private chambers. 

Claude Frollo's booming baritone soon resounded from within, "Philippe! No! How could you keep such a thing from me?!" 

Whatever is all that about?, wondered the priest who just arrived and chatted briefly with Évrard. Yes, thought Évrard...

What has distressed Claude Frollo so?


To Chapter 16!

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Fanfic Collection #2
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