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Chapter Seven

The Time & Place:
21st Century America, in an undisclosed location. Julian McNaney, one of Claude Frollo's most unusual and useful spies, mulls over this latest assignment. This man has some issues of his own. Read on...
He sighed as he sat at the little table and stared out the window on this bright, brisk October afternoon. What an odd place for a secret meeting – a second-rate hotel room in a decidedly rundown part of town. The name of the hotel, or the town for that matter, wasn't important. What mattered was the current situation and accuracy of the information at hand. Who'd want to kidnap Évrard Ouimet's son and why? Was this truly the work of Gypsies or, as Julian suspected, an inside job?
The mystery visitor arrived at the appointed hour and as this man related a few key pieces of evidence – and the peculiar circumstances of the sole eyewitness – Julian became increasingly aware that this was no ordinary case. This particular crime occurred in 1495 Paris, and Julian was dealing with 15th Century mindsets complete with all the characteristic bigotry and narrow worldview. If what this guy says is true...
"This guy" was none other than Jehan Frollo who took a rare time trip just to recruit Julian. The intrepid Mr. McNaney, a man blessed with dark movie star good looks (he's said to resemble those dashing matinee idols Robert Taylor and Tyrone Power), initially wanted to refuse such an assignment, especially in light of his current state of health. But since this was a high profile kidnapping – the Minister of Justice's own nephew of all people – and that innocent people were quickly being accused of this crime, Julian reluctantly agreed.

"But, Jehan, I need utmost cooperation from everyone – that includes the Ouimets, you, your brother, and this eyewitness."
"Say no more, Julian," replied Jehan Frollo, "as you already have Claude's and my undying support. It is Philippe Ouimet who troubles me. He's taking what evidence there is – that ransom note for one – at face value. He is convinced that the Gypsies have Orry, but I can tell you, Julian in all honesty..."

Julian nodded as he listened to Jehan Frollo tell all the evidence thus far. How good it was for Jehan to look up Julian personally. It was Julian who helped Jehan out of a precarious situation last summer, and Jehan never forgot that. Not long ago, after the "Dottie-is-really- Danisha" caper, Jehan, as result of injuries sustained in a rescue attempt, became addicted to pain killers. At first it was 21st Century drugs, such as Percodan. Then, when he could no longer take the time trips for the drugs, he relied on herbals and raw opium. His addiction was so out of hand that he nearly died from an overdose. It was this past summer that Jehan realized he needed help, so he sought out Julian.
What a godsend! For Julian sat up with Jehan during the three harrowing nights of withdrawal. Jehan remained – still remains – clean and sober for months, and focused on getting his life back on track. He currently worked for Alain and Renée LeBeau, a couple who excelled in textile trade and dressmaking. But now, it was Julian who seemed to need some help healthwise.
This morning the man appeared to be in constant pain despite his usual cool, urbane demeanor. Julian McNaney, still the stunner with his dark eyes and glossy black hair, lit another cigarette as he hammered out the final details for this investigation. He looked at Jehan with twinkling eyes and said sardonically, "Isn't this about right? I'm still doing what got me in this shape in the first place."

He grinned, took a nice long drag, then, concluded, "Jehan, I want you to gather all parties involved at Évrard Ouimet's place. I need to check out every person who's had close contact with that kid. Then I wanna take a peek at the ransom note...I take it Judge Ouimet hasn't..."
"No, Julian, he left it with Évrard."
"Good! That means I can get handwriting samples from everyone – and I mean everyone. No one is without suspicion...Now, do you still have that map?"

"You mean the one to the real Court of Miracles? Yes, Julian, and I've let no one see it."

Julian sighed as he got up and changed into more serviceable clothes for 1495 Paris. Something is amiss and he could bet good money that the kidnappers were literally under their noses. The true perpetrators want to blame the Gypsies, because "people like us" don't commit such heinous crimes. Yeah, spread a few lies, plant phony evidence, then let some poor sap take the fall while....

"Come on, Jehan, let's get out of here. Something tells me Orry's days are numbered...and so are the Gypsies'."


At the same time, at the Court of Miracles, in its new locale, very near 1495 Paris, the prime suspects discuss the very case!
The word on the street was that somebody, or several somebodies, had been spreading vicious rumors that the Gypsies snatched Judge Ouimet's nephew. Someone had faked a ransom note, and that dastardly person actually demanded money in exchange for Orry Ouimet. There was an "eyewitness" who, that same fateful morning, saw "suspicious looking characters" at the scene of the crime. This guy gave Judge Ouimet's and his men full descriptions: A little Gypsy girl accompanied by two other Gypsy women and a little white goat. That description matched those of the individuals standing before Clopin now.

This a fine mess, thought the Gypsy king, and just when the Court of Miracles found a new home and the people were, for the most part, secure from Ouimet's men. No one knew this place's precise location – Clopin and Julian took great pains in keeping the new Court of Miracles as undercover as possible. In fact, not even people who professed to be friends of the Gypsies' – Quasimodo, Phoebus, or Frollo's New World lady – knew the Court of Miracles' precise location. 

Initially, it was Julian's idea to situate the elusive Gypsy home in an area he knew would off limits to most of Paris' populace, including Judge Ouimet. It was an island in close proximity to la Ile de la Cité, a deserted wilderness that in reality wouldn't be inhabited for another century or so. That was according to Julian, who was true to his word. Ile de St-Louis, a wild, untouched stretch of land just east of the heart of Paris but far removed from the nearest neighbor, was the ideal for the Court of Miracles. It took much getting used to, what with none of the trappings of urban life – it was as Esmeralda put it, "Living in the country without leaving town."

Actually Clopin rather enjoyed this wild untamed land with it's endless dense forests, freshwater lakes, and marshes. An apt hiding place for the Roma, where neither Judge Philippe Ouimet nor Claude Frollo could ever find. No one would ever suspect this uninhabited land, almost "unlivable" according to a local who assessed the island, as the "almost" permanent home of Paris' ever-growing Gypsy population. 
But there was always a chance someone, one of Ouimet's spies, would discover the Court of Miracles. Thank Julian and Clopin who laid an intricate obstacle course full of booby traps. No wonder any of Ouimet's spies had failed to find the Court of Miracles; very few survived their first few moments on the island. The security system was that impenetrable. False roads, deep pits, mud bogs, tripwires that activated rigged crossbows, explosives, snare nets – All of these devices and more greeted anyone who decided to snoop around without authorization.

Whew! So far, the traps worked and the Gypsies were safe—until now. Who knew, despite the careful planning and precautions, that the Gypsies' near undoing would come in the form of a household servant and an aging prostitute. Clopin pondered all ramifications as the little group recounted the moments leading to Orry Ouimet's kidnapping.

If only that servant was here, thought Clopin, as he listened to Katerina's eyewitness recount of the crime. How dare this dastardly one commit the worst of offenses; how worse still to blame other, "more likely" suspects.


Meanwhile, outside a popular Parisian hangout, the talk centers around the kidnapping – suspicions and accusations fly...
The group of citizens started small – just under a dozen – then swelled so nearly forty, then fifty. Whatever commanded their attention? A household servant started the conversation – Well, actually he was approached by another citizen with questions about the tragedy that recently befell the servant's employer. Naturally, the servant was more than eager to share his suspicions with anyone who would listen. Carefully selecting his words, Imbert l'Etrange recounted the moments leading up to Orry's kidnapping.

"Of course, I, having to keep watch over young Master Orry, saw those evil Gypsies lurking near Frollo's lady's home. You know, young Orry likes to visit Frollo's daughter. Although I didn't see them take the boy, I did see a little Gypsy girl and another couple linger in that alley only moments earlier..."

Ah, nothing like a few well placed, exaggerated lies to whet the crowd's appetite for mob justice – and throw the suspicion off himself, thought Imbert. But in his mind, it wasn't outright lying; it was just reiterating what the general populace knows about Gypsies – that they're notorious child stealers.
"After all," Imbert reasoned to the crowd, "people like us – normal God-fearing people at that – would never think of doing something as awful as kidnapping a child. Now, I tell this to you: my employer's brother, Philippe Ouimet, our most noble Minister of Justice, has yet to arrest the guilty party. I say we find the Court of Miracles ourselves, apprehend the heathen scum who so mercilessly snatched a little boy from the his father's bosom. Then we shall make them pay their crimes. Why wait on Minister Ouimet, who at this moment, is dragging his feet..."


"I don't like this, Hugues," said Quasimodo as he quaffed his ale. "Imbert has everyone believing the Gypsies have Orry, but deep in my heart I know it isn't true. There's a witness somewhere; anyone could've seen the crime. Why won't that person step forward. Sure would save Minister Ouimet a lot of work."

Hugues Jouet, old Victor's son and the manager of La Belle d'Avignon, stroked his plump chin and ran his fingers through thinning black hair. "Ah yes, I don't envy the man one bit, what having to search for his own nephew – his brother's child at that. What a time for Frollo to be away..."

He paused a bit to gaze out of the window and watch Imbert stir the crowd. What is it about this man, this Imbert l'Etrange? The man simply is not all that concerned about his young charge. 
"Hmm," Hugues said after a long silence. "According to my father, Imbert has been in here several days prior to the kidnapping. A woman accompanied him; she goes by the name Fabrisse...A...umm...working girl, if you will. They sat there."
Hugues indicated a lonely table in a back corner. Now Quasimodo was intrigued. "Tell me more, Hugues." 

"Papá says they sat there together, just the pair of them, almost all afternoon and evenings talking about something. At first we thought the man and woman were lovers, but Jehan Frollo thinks..."

"Jehan Frollo? What does Jehan suspect?" Just as Quasimodo spoke a voice came up from behind. "Quasi, we need to get over to Évrard Ouimet's...Both Jehan and Julian are there, as well as Minister – er, I mean, the former Minister Frollo."

Quasi, looking rather puzzled, asked, "Why us, Phoebus? What do the two of us have to do with..."

The bell ringer paused, gathered his thoughts and said as it all dawned on him, "Oh I get it. So, Frollo's figured it out, or did a certain someone confess?"

"I'll let him tell you once we get there. Come on."

Quasi paid for his drink, bid Hugues good-bye , then exited the tavern with Phoebus. Just as they were leaving Imbert walked in with a pair of gentlemen. As always, he requested wine for his party then escorted his companions to the back table, away from prying eyes and ears. 
Once served, the first man spoke. "Imbert, despite the misfortune that has befallen your master's family, you still owe debts. We intend to collect our share, Imbert, with interest..."

The second man chimed in, "And you promised us 500 florins, more than enough to take care of your debt..."

"Gentlemen," the servant replied, "I promised I'd have your money; I fully intended to ask M. Ouimet for an advance. But with Master Orry missing and all..."

The first man glared at Imbert with an awful fire, saying through clenched teeth, "Well, you had better come up with the money by sundown tomorrow, or we'll take it out of your hide!"

Imbert tried not to look frightened; indeed, he kept a tight rein on his emotions. No, must not show my fear – or guilt. It might tip their hand... As Imbert continued to chat with his companions, his eye was caught by a familiar plump female form. Fabrisse rushed through the door, scanned the room, then silently motioned to Imbert. She looked worried, concerned, and a bit apprehensive.

"Gentlemen," he announced as he arose from the table, "my lady friend and I wish to be alone. But you have my solemn promise: I shall, without fail, have what you seek tomorrow at sundown."

That's all the men needed to hear. They said nothing as both prepared to leave, but the first man leaned over to whisper, "You had better have those florins, or else!"

As soon as they left, Fabrisse rushed over to Imbert. After a few pleasantries, the pair sat in a hushed huddle. Hugues Jouet glanced over every now and then, trying to fathom about what those two could possibly be so secretive. If he only had super hearing!

"Imbert," the aging courtesan hissed, "Frollo has returned! And he's brought along one of his spies! A man named Julian. And Jehan Frollo's with them, too! They're visiting Évrard Ouimet as we speak."

The servant's face blanched; the man reeled a bit, took a healthy gulp of wine, saying, "Are you sure, Fabrisse? Why, Claude Frollo supposedly departed for the New World just last night. He'd be gone for months...And Jehan Frollo's there as well?" 
"Yes, Imbert. What do we do?"

Imbert stroked his chin then drained his wine cup. He had a plan, a plan to throw Frollo and friends off the trail. "It can't fail, Fabrisse. We send another note tonight, detailing the drop-off procedures. Then I want you to come forward as an eyewitness...Tell them anything that would shift blame off of us. When Évrard drops off the money, I want you to release the boy the moment I return. Then I'll take care of my obligations." 

"But what about the Frollos, and that spy?"

Imbert smiled thinly, saying in an endearing voice, "My dear Fabrisse, that's where you come into play again. Since Jehan Frollo is – or was – one of you regulars, I want you to keep the man occupied. Fill him with enough wine and passion to distraction. As for the spy, well, you let me handle Monsieur Julian-whatever-his-name is."

After a brief silence and upon downing his second cup of wine, Imbert suddenly thought of something. Where's Philippe Ouimet, the current Minister of Justice, and Évrard's elder brother? Fabrisse could answer that as well.

"I have my sources...Hmm...One of my young protégés has His Grace...umm...'tied up' at the moment. But I can tell you this, Imbert: Philippe Ouimet knows nothing of Claude Frollo's return. In fact, according to Beatriz, Judge Ouimet has intimated that he flatly refuses any help from Frollo. As far as he's concerned, it's Gypsies who have Orry. He's sent out more spies in search of the Court of Miracles."

Ah, thought Imbert, so Philippe has refused any assistance from Frollo, and His Honor is still looking for the elusive Gypsy hideout. Ooh, things are working in my favor after all.

"Fabrisse," he said ecstatically as he leaned forward and kissed her cheek, "I can't thank you enough for all your help. And when this is all over, I shall reward you handsomely."


To Chapter 8

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Fanfic Collection #2
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