But the so-called "sibling rivalry" was all in Philippe's head, and that the elder Ouimet brother truly bore no ill will toward father François' last born son.
Philippe signed as he pushed the remains of breakfast from his sight.
What to do? So much resting on his shoulders, and what a fine time for
Claude Frollo to drop everything and take off for the New World.
Minister Ouimet arose from the table, donned the familiar tri-cornered chaperon, then walked the length of the corridor to the colonnade. From there he stood and watched the usual parade of citizens going about their daily routine. From that same distance he could see a young woman hastening her way across the square. Who is that?, wondered Philippe. Looks like that girl who works for Frollo's lady. What is her name? Never mind...
Not taking notice of the girl's obviously desperate behavior, Philippe
drew his attention elsewhere – towards brother Évrard's home. Naturally
the brothers had fallen out again, this time over Évrard's "losing"
out to Claude Frollo.
Essentially, the New World woman known as Danisha returned to Paris nearly a month ago. Apparently meeting Évrard face-to-face last summer unsettled the woman so much that she had to return to set things right. And that she did when she finally got Évrard alone – with Philippe and the Flamberts eavesdropping – and told him everything. Well, almost everything: That she really loved, and was committed to, Claude Frollo. That Évrard fell in love with "Dottie Ducharme", not Danisha Wood. "Dorothy" was nothing more than a fictitious character Danisha fabricated during childhood. And that character served as catalyst for the most tremendous changes...
Poor Évrard was stunned beyond measure. The younger Ouimet brother, while conciliatory towards Frollo and Mlle Wood in public, seethed in private. He fumed that Frollo finally "won", and that the former judge obviously "coerced" Mlle Wood to turn against him. But Clarice knew better, and so did Philippe, although their pleas for Évrard to drop this petty vindictiveness and accept the fate handed him fell upon deaf ears. Philippe had already learned of Évrard's banning Orry from ever seeing Nadine Frollo; Minister Ouimet himself thought the punishment nonsensical and petty. But who was he to interfere with his brother's parenting? Besides, with the next few days, Évrard and Orry would be on the road to Marseilles. It was obvious, especially since Évrard's hopes and dreams of winning over Claude Frollo's New World lady had been dashed, that staying in Paris just made things that more difficult. Better to pick up the pieces, learn from experience and move on.
There were other matters on Philippe's mind today, such as finding the
new location of the Court of Miracles. None of his spies could pinpoint
the precise location because so few of Ouimet's spies survived their assignments.
Within the span of two months Philippe hired twenty-five spies. Those spies
were soon reported either dead or merely "missing"; it's as though they
completely disappeared from the face of the earth. The Gypsies' security
forces must be that impenetrable – far stronger than Minister Ouimet's
men or the Royal Guard for that matter.
This is insane, thought Philippe, that the Gypsies – ungodly heathens at that – could ever possess such ingenuity. After all, they're not that stupid, just lacking in normal intelligence to ever devise elaborate security systems. The Gypsies obviously have some help, and with all deliberate speed, Philippe will get to the bottom of it.
But hiring new spies was out of the question – very few actually wanted to be on Judge Ouimet's spy team. For a time, Philippe could not understand why. During the "Frollo years" people literally broke down the Palais doors in hopes of being on that elite team of espionage agents par excellence. Now, during the post-Frollo era, most spies are recruited almost by force if necessary.
"What does it matter?," Philippe exasperatingly said under his breath. "I knew deep down that appointing me Minister of Justice was a bad idea. Claude Frollo thought he had — what his lady calls — 'a winner', but they are wrong. I never was comfortable with all this responsibility thrust upon me. My mind is made up: I'm tendering my resignation to His Majesty this very evening. Let someone else, someone with more experience, take this post; I am obviously unsuitable."
How wonderful if more people in such high places could admit that they fall under the "Peter Principal" – the theory that people soon rise to the level of their own incompetence. Philippe Ouimet, a man of the late 1400's, was more than five centuries ahead of the theory's inception, but lived every bit of it and recognized his own limitations. Claude Frollo would simply have to understand Philippe's decision, and accept the inevitable.
However, Philippe's pending resignation would have to wait come evening. A sudden emergency caused Judge Ouimet to shelve his voluntary self-firing, thus paving the way for renewed glory. The good judge would also have the rare opportunity to work alongside one of Frollo's best spies, which would lead to an awesome discovery about Claude Frollo's "New World" friends.
Évrard Ouimet paced the well-appointed drawing room in his Parisian home. He had hoped that he and Orry would be on their way home to Marseilles. However, just before dawn as the evidence indicated, the boy took off again, and this time he had yet to return. As usual, Évrard suspected another clandestine journey to "that house" around the corner; both cousins Clarice and Anseau visited the home of Frollo's lady that morning, made inquiries, but found no Orry.
Imbert l'Etrange, the boy's attendant hadn't seen the child, "Except very early this morning after he left for Mlle Wood's home."
It was Imbert who routinely reported Orry's stolen moments with Nadine Frollo – he made it his business, as he related to Évrard, to follow the boy everywhere. This time, Imbert reported to his employer the following:
"Of course, sir, there was a time not long ago...I had followed Master
Orry to the lady's home only to see those cursed Gypsies not far behind."
"Gypsies?," asked a now worried Évrard Ouimet.
"Yes, my lord. In the alley that runs behind Mlle Wood's home...A little Gyspy girl and her mother frequent that place...So it made me wonder it they might have..."
Évrard pondered this a few moments. What if this is true? What if Gypsies truly have Orry? One hears of these people snatching little children off the streets, although Évrard was not inclined to believe such nonsensical rumors. Yet again...
"Thank you, Imbert. I believe the Ministry of Justice needs to handle this..."
Suddenly, a completely distraught Clarice, out of breath and sobbing hysterically, rushed into the room. She held a crumpled note in her hand and nearly fainted upon entering the room. Her husband Anseau quickly came to her side, cradled her in his arms and asked, "Whatever is the matter, dear wife?"
She replied with only, "I found this lodged in the courtyard gate," before swooning away.
Évrard took the note, read its words, then himself immediately broke down in hysterical sobs. And what did that note say? Taunting words badly written in broken French mixed with some other tongue the father didn't recognize. Misspellings, poor grammar and syntax abounded; yet the writer's intentions, despite the pathetic attempt at literacy, were quite clear:
I have your boy and I won't tell where until you bring me 500 florins before the end of the week. Your boy will die if you don't do this. Do not tell your brother either or else Orry dies. I will send more instructions tomorrow at the same time
That was Jehan Frollo, who promptly responded to Cherie's request. Something had to be done to expose two kidnappers and bring a little boy home. However there was the delicate task of maintaining the eyewitness' secret lifestyle. Jehan, if truth be known, maintained a regular and peculiarly close friendship with Felise LaCourbe, who was going under another name long before she came to Paris. They had met long in Florence, at a banquet. The then-Captain Phoebus was also in attendance yet the gallant ex-soldier could not recall meeting a woman named "Felise".
How much he really remembers; how many of those memories lay suppressed.
Anyway, Jehan was privy to many to the woman's secrets, as Felise could
trust the man. As a result, Jehan Frollo knew nearly everything about the
woman's past – except a few tragic key episodes. But he kept silent out
of allegiance to his friend. Odd, that Jehan Frollo – notorious layabout,
bounder, gambler, and general loser bar none – would keep such a promise.
But silent he remained, even in spite of his own brother.
Jehan could breath a sigh of relief, for as far as Claude Frollo and Judge Ouimet were concerned, Felise was just another recent arrival to this bustling medieval metropolis. However, in light of this morning's events, Jehan, Felise, and Cherie spent much of the day planning how to report the evidence to Philippe Ouimet. The penalty for being gay was almost always death, and it was not without extreme pain. One could be either hanged or burned at the stake; sometimes the guilty party was hanged then burned. Naturally this would come after the hapless soul suffered prior excruciating torture. This would be Felise's fate if her true identity was ever revealed, and Jehan and Cherie took pains to make sure Felise's cover was never blown. But there was another, more devastating secret that Felise swore she'd never told. Too bad, despite the cautions, that other people's treachery would nearly force Mlle LaCourbe's hand.
Well, his lady was presently asleep; daughter Nadine was playing with her dolls. Frollo worried about Danisha, and whether this media attention and the possibility of a sudden move would be too much for her. He was wrong, of course, but Nisha did conk out the moment she returned from the TV studios. It was an interview on the Today Show; Nisha was to promote her first novel, destined to be a bestseller. But most first-time writers, thought Frollo, usually don't always get all this attention. Thank Danisha's literary agent Jolley Kingston, a woman who saw herself as a female Swifty Lazar, a woman who knew how to cozy up to those who could be a new writer's greatest supporters. So, Jolley got Nisha the gig on this morning's Today, then later that afternoon's Live at Five. Then there was a major cocktail party coming up next week; Danisha would be introduced to those potential supporters.
So what happened to the job with the educational think tank? Nisha turned
it down! She felt there were enough upheavals in her life without uprooting
her daughter from all that was familiar. Yet, Nisha did intimate to Claude
Frollo how much New York City had grown on her.
"It's as if I'm Dorothy – the one from Kansas that is – and I've stepped into this fantasy world after suffering the worst storms..."
No, she didn't refer to her relationship with Frollo a "storm". She
merely alluded to the past year's events that nearly shattered that unbreakable
bond and firm foundation she shared with Claude Frollo.
"We don't need to go into detail, Claude, but I'm so grateful to have you and Nadine in my life. Maybe that's what Clarice and Isabelle meant, that I needed some closure after last year. That's why I reworked the Dottie Ducharme story, as a way to deal with these issues."
And that's what she told millions of television viewers this morning. Well, not the exact words because Danisha simply couldn't reveal everything about her "French delight".
Claude smiled as he stood, coffee cup in hand, at the window and took
in the many sights and sounds of bustling Manhattan, including the magnificant
view of Central Park. It was Jolley Kingston's idea to lodge Danisha here
at the Plaza.
"It's so classy and expensive, but Jolley thinks it's good for publicity and all," Nisha said to Claude on his first NYC visit. He silently fathomed the ramifications if his lady should decide to move here, to take up permanent residence. Hmm....
Claude's mouth turned into an unashamedly sexy, "I know something you don't know" grin. Just as Frollo pondered ways to spring his "surprise", his TimeScape went off – that wonderful device that sends and receives messages across time and space. It is also the main means of transtemporal transport. Someone had the audacity to send a message, even after Frollo repeatedly and adamantly ordered, "No messages unless it is an actual emergency."
Well, this WAS an emergency!
Now what? Claude didn't want to upset Danisha and Nadine with this news; he certainly didn't want to spoil their New York adventure. So he made up a palatable excuse – "Urgent business concerning some of my properties. My love, I must leave you now, but I shall return before the week's out..."
And what did that message say?
Claude:Jehan? Now how does Claude Frollo's spendthrift, lay about good-for-nothing baby brother have to do with all this?
Urgent! Orry Ouimet's been kidnapped. We have an eyewitness but it's rather delicate. I can't go into details now but things are getting ugly here. Already fingers are being pointed at the wrong people, and Philippe Ouimet is doing no real investigation of any kind. I'm afraid his ineptness may inadvertently get his own nephew killed. Évrard is beside himself with worry; he's been asking for your help. He says he's ready to forgive and forget.
Fern is still tied up in Marseilles, but I did get hold of Julian. He's not in the best shape but he says he'll help out his friends. Hurray back!
Cherie and Jehan
TO CHAPTER 7
Copyright©2001 by FrolloFreak® aka "The FanFiction Diva"