"Fabrisse, this has to work!," said Imbert l'Etrange in hushed tones. Too bad they couldn't meet elsewhere, less public, but this would do for now. Besides, reasoned, Imbert, people will think that, "You and I, Fabrisse, are merely conducting business transactions -- They think I am one of your regular customers."
To which Fabrisse had wished that Imbert was one of her regulars and not a hanger-on looking for a free quick thrill whenever he felt like it. However, for some weird reason, she came to love the plain looking man with the lank hair and expressionless eyes.
Imbert did have a nasty gambling habit that left him nearly broke every
weekend. Despite the comfort and privilege of being in service to Évrard
and Orry Ouimet, Imbert never managed to keep money in his pocket. He was
somewhat like Jehan Frollo: always ready for a good time of women and carousing,
and his financial situation suffered from those vices.
Yet Imbert, unlike Jehan, was never the spoiled sort and hated asking for handouts. It embarrassed him to ask his employer for a few sous to tide him over until the next month. The man's gambling habit was that bad, and now it cost him so much that he resorted to desperate measures to pay off his debts.
Only problem was to convince Fabrisse to go along with the plan, since Fabrisse knew Paris better than most. Besides, her connections with a few leading citizens would throw suspicions off both of them. She really didn't like what Imbert suggested but Fabrisse reluctantly agreed, carefully remembering her role. Imbert l'Etrange had it all planned out. He had a motive; all he needed was the precise opportunity, and an alibi.
That opportunity -- and the alibi -- was now playing in an elegant courtyard a few blocks away.
Nadine Frollo, her dark eyes shining, and mindful of what her mother told her weeks ago, nodded at Katerina, saying, "Yes, that's the way! Go ahead, Trina."
Orry Ouimet held his breath as Trina -- as Nadine called her -- held a clear glass marble between her fingers just as Nadine showed her. Squinting one eye shut and holding her tongue between her teeth, Trina took aim and fired. All but three brightly hued "aggies" sped out of the circle. The girls laughed; Orry looked embarrassed.
Beaten! And by girls no less!
Still giggling, Nadine comforted her friend with, "Don't worry, Orry. We aren't playing for keeps. Mommy won't let me anyway."
She went on to explain that the marbles once belonged to her grandfather and that, "I have to put them back in the big bowl after I'm finished playing with them."
Both kids understood and resumed their game, but both Orry and Trina were concerned about "getting caught". For Orry, it meant another possible punishment for visiting Nadine Frollo despite his father's prohibitions. For Katerina, it was merely setting foot on this property, and playing with her newfound friends. The friends weren't just any Parisian children. Nadine is the formidable Claude Frollo's daughter! And the boy? Nephew of the current Minister of Justice, Philippe Ouimet.
Trina, as most of her people, feared, even hated, both men, and for good reason. Claude Frollo, who had been Minister of Justice for nearly thirty years, made it his mission to eradicate the Gypsies from Paris. Frollo hounded the Romany mercilessly; at times he'd have them killed outright or, if the mood struck him, made them suffer the painfully worst of tortures.
But that was then...
Through both her mother, la Esmeralda, and Clopin, the self-proclaimed King of the Gypsies, Katerina learned much about then-Judge Claude Frollo. Naturally the girl feared the man; however, recently she found herself drawn to the mysterious, intriguing "New World" woman to whom Frollo lost his heart many years ago. From Clopin, Trina learned that Danisha had to be kin to Guillaume Sarrasin and Isabelle LaCroix.
Guillaume, née Jawara, brought up from present-day Senegal, was
a former slave who still made his living as a craftsman. His daughter Isabelle,
née Binata, was baptized into Christianity as an infant, and of
first generation French. At age sixteen, she married Vincent LaCroix, one
of France's leading spice merchants. It had been said that Danisha and
Isabelle favor each other so eerily. In fact, it was Clopin who, during
his sojourn to Nantes to recover from injuries and to hide out from Frollo,
stayed with Guillaume. The old Mandinke prince opened his home to anyone
-- A time-honored custom in his homeland iss to show the greatest hospitality
to the lowliest.
From that day, Clopin resolved, Frollo notwithstanding, that no harm would befall the New World woman and her child. Yes, the Gypsy king was aware that little Nadine Frollo and Trina had become secret playmates, and that Danisha didn't seem to mind, as long as Claude Frollo never found out. That the two girls became best buddies tickled Clopin to no end.
Claude Frollo's daughter, a child of mixed heritage at that, maintaining
a friendship with a Gypsy child. Imagine Frollo, whose hatred and persecution
of the Romany were legendary, purposefully and totally kept in the dark
about his own child's secret friend. And that the mother allows it!
Of course, Katerina, despite her street savviness, still couldn't grasp the gravity of the situation. She was aware of the secrecy, and that Frollo had yet to discover the clandestine friendship between Nadine and herself. Trina also recalled how she and her mother came to the aid of Jehan Frollo and a then out-of-her-mind Danisha Wood.
That whole "Dorothy Ducharme-is-really-Danisha" finally dissolved a
decade of animosity between Danisha and Esmeralda. It all made sense now,
at least to Katerina, who at this very moment enjoyed an intense game of
marbles. Her playmates, worlds apart from that of Trina's, had yet to learn
bigotry and hate. Nadine's mother saw to it that her child would never
foster such prejudices, and successfully stood up to the child's father,
Trina recalled overhearing a certain conversation between Frollo and Nisha; it was after Trina had to "disappear" whenever Frollo came to visit. She recollected how Mlle Danisha, in subtle yet deliberate ways, voiced her opinions on her country's sometimes strained "racial and ethnic relations". Trina didn't understand it all but she remembered Frollo listening intently as Danisha detailed many an atrocity inflicted on her people.
Oh my goodness, from what Nadine's mother describes, it's been even worse for her own people, in her own country! But why does she remain Claude Frollo's lady? Does she know how horribly he used to treat -- still treats -- us?
It was strange, thought Trina, to be welcome in a Parisian home -- the only home in town ever open to people like her. Why would Frollo's lady ever consent to such a thing? Then again, if Claude Frollo indeed knows about the children's friendship, why hasn't he put a stop to it? Of course a child Trina's age -- just shy of nine Decembers -- still did not thoroughly understand her current situation and its conflicting nature. Katerina, whose mother la Esmeralda nearly caused Claude Frollo's downfall so many years ago, merely shook her head and continued the marble game with her newfound friends.
How long had she been here? Hours it seemed, and those hours were like Paradise. No one shooing her away because she's one of those "evil" Gypsies. No one calling her degrading names or threatening her with prison. No guards to hassle her. Within the safe confines of this courtyard, Trina passed away the afternoon playing marbles with Nadine and Orry. Soon after, Nadine's Tante Cherie would treat the youngsters to gingercake and warm sweet cider. Nadine would then teach Trina more hand clapping songs, such as "Mary Mack" or "Playmate". Then Esmeralda would appear at the courtyard gate, quietly beckoning to her daughter, "It's time to go home."
Home? To what? A deserted island adjacent to Ile-de la Cité,
an island that in reality would not be inhabited for at least another century.
That's what that strange man told Clopin many months ago, and that the
Court of Miracles finally has a new locale. Neither Claude Frollo nor Philippe
Ouimet knows the precise location, Clopin cautioned his people, so tell
Yes, tell no one, not even Frollo's daughter or Judge Ouimet's nephew, even though those kids could be trusted with the most intimate of secrets. Unfortunately, it's the adults who have big mouths...
Trina's heart sank as she departed to leave her new friends. Orry and Nadine stood close to Tante Cherie and Clarice; Trina clung to Esmeralda. The women chatted briefly; Esme asked Cherie, "How is your sister?" To which Cherie Wood replied, "She's well but extremely busy. I told you she may have to move..."
The conversation continued like this with Cherie keeping a close listen
for the immediately recognized baritone voice booming from the house. Yes,
although Frollo had spent much of the day in 21st Century New York City,
he had the ability to return to Paris in his own time period.
And that is what happened within the next few minutes, cutting an impromptu visit short. The retired Minister of Justice's voice could be heard from within the house; as that voice grew closer, Esmeralda and Trina knew that was their cue. Soon both Gypsy mother and child exited the courtyard and soon disappeared down the narrow alley.
Over the next two days, no one -- save Imbert l'Etrange -- ever detected Esme or Trina's many comings and goings. The Ouimet family attendant, a desperate man in desparate situations, finally had all he needed to put his nefarious plan in motion.
To Chapter Five!
Copyright©2001 by FrolloFreak® AKA "The FanFiction Diva"