People Like Us


The Time & Place:
1495 Paris, home of Évrard Ouimet. A gathering of old friends and new in search of a special little boy...

Clarice Flambert surveyed the incredibly handsome man standing before her. He is so poised, so irresistibly beautiful! Such debonair manners, such style, such joie de vivre! Yet Julian McNaney, despite his dark movie star good looks, was in no mood for moonlight and romance. He agreed, albeit reluctantly, to help Claude Frollo's friend find a man's son.
That man was none other than Évrard Ouimet, a highly successful and extremely wealthy merchant from Marseilles. The son, seven year old Orry, had been missing two days; he was snatched while just inches away from Frollo's New World lady's home. As it stood now, Judge Philippe Ouimet, Évrard's brother, insisted that the case is nearly solved. 
There was evidence, although to Julian's thinking it was all circumstantial. According to the boy's attendant, Imbert l'Etrange, Gypsies were seen in the crime scene's vicinity a few hours and the night before.

"That's all that Imbert knows, monsieur," explained a still grief-stricken Évrard, "from what he has observed. He's clear that the Gypsies have my son." And, according to the Ministry of Justice, the only thing to do is to find the Court of Miracles. Another network of spies was presently combing the city and beyond, diligently searching for the famed, mysterious hideout. 
"Is your man sure of his accusations?," asked Julian as he examined the ransom note. "I mean, he could've seen Gypsies in any part of town on any given day, and now suddenly he happens to remember placing them at scene of the crime, and at time approximate to the kidnapping. It doesn't add up."

He sighed as Évrard's expression changed from sad and dejected to clearly frustrated. The father said to Julian, "But what if these people truly have my son...?" Évrard fell silent, made a few turns of the room as Julian focused once more on the note. 

He asked Clarice when and where she found it. "Monsieur," she began, "it was wedged in gate, out back. I didn't recognize the handwriting; I thought it was from one of Évrard's or Anseau's friends. When I read it..."
The poor woman could say no more as she buried her face in her hands. At this point, Claude Frollo, who had been fairly silent most of Julian's interrogation, offered, "May I see that note, Julian?"
The 21st Century spy handed Claude the ransom note who in turn scrutinized it thoroughly. Jehan Frollo glanced over his brother's shoulder; his eyes widened upon reading the first few lines. Julian picked up on this then asked, "Uh, Claude? Of the total Gypsy population, how many are literate enough to write something like that? I mean, the grammatical errors and misspellings aside?"
The retired city magistrate's expression was very businesslike, the tone of his voice rather bland. "My dear Julian, I would safely guess that it's far less than one-tenth of one percent. Hmm...A minute fraction of the peasant population is barely literate..."
"Which," interrupted Julian McNaney, "is why I suspect someone else. Look at the ransom demand."

He directed his next questions to Évrard Ouimet. "M. Ouimet, the kidnappers have demanded 500 florins. Now, we all know not too many Parisians carry such currency. Why would the kidnappers specially request a specific coin? Why not demand 500 livres? Sir, do you have...?"
Évrard replied quickly, "Why, I brought 5000 florins with me from Marseilles. I had just conducted a business transaction along the way to Paris last winter..."

He paused to glance at Claude and Jehan Frollo, then silently reminded them of a fateful journey north that winter – a journey that cost him the woman he never stopped loving. Saying nothing more, Évrard summoned his houseman to make a special trip to Maison des Chénes, his suburban home just outside Paris.

"I've kept it locked away in a safe place ever since my arrival."
"And," asked Julian, "does anyone else, other than yourself, know about that money?"
Évrard Ouimet paused a bit, then replied, "No one else other than myself, my houseman at Maison des Chénes, and my personal attendant." 
"And who would that be?," asked Julian as he hastily scribbled notes onto a pad of paper. 
"Imbert l'Etrange, but I trust the man completely. He's been with me ever since my marriage to Rixende Soulé."

Julian McNaney nodded to Jehan Frollo who by now partially figured out a few clues. Claude Frollo arose from his chair, made a few turns of the room, asking, "Évrard, where is your brother now?"  Évrard tried not to appear angry, bitter even, but he put on a brave front for his son's sake. His own brother, the Minister of Justice, had not stepped foot in this house ever since the crime was committed. Philippe somehow ignored Claude Frollo's earlier advice about sifting through and following up on each and every piece of evidence. Judge Ouimet, beyond all doubt, was convinced that Gypsies had Orry, and that these people currently held him at the Court of Miracles.

"Claude," began Évrard to his friend-turned-rival, "Philippe assures me that he's doing everything humanly possible to bring my son home safe and sound..."

Julian couldn't resist with, "But, did he interrogate the eyewitness?" 
"Eyewitness? I thought Imbert..."
"No, another person, a woman, saw the whole thing, but she's afraid to come forth out of fear the kidnappers will retaliate."

Claude Frollo frowned. "That's preposterous! If she can indeed identify the culprits, then why won't she come forward?"

Jehan Frollo sighed, replying, "Perhaps the kidnappers have already gotten to her, even threatened her with mortal harm if she told."
Julian nodded again, saying, "Which is why I want you, Jehan, to seek out this woman. Gain her trust. If we can get Philippe Ouimet to cooperate then maybe this woman will make a signed and sworn statement...Something that's legally binding..."

He glanced at Claude Frollo asking, "Would that do, sir? A signed affidavit or deposition?" 
"I don't see why it wouldn't since I've used such devices in the past. However she must, in person, identify the accused in a court of law."

Again, Julian McNaney and Claude Frollo outlined their plan to capture the kidnappers and bring Orry Ouimet home alive. "Évrard, I need handwriting samples from all your staff. Even if they're literate enough to sign their names, I want samples. Let me know of anyone who does not cooperate."

Then, "When the kidnappers deliver the instructions for the money drop, follow those directions to the letter. We can't leave anything to chance. Here's what I need you to do from your end..."

When Julian finished, Claude Frollo told Évrard, "Do not worry, my friend. We will find Orry and bring him home––alive and well. Allow me to call on Philippe. Obviously, he has yet to make a move and time is of the essence."

That said, Frollo, after exchanging the customary good-byes, departed for the Palais de Justice. Only Jehan Frollo hung back long enough to whisper to Julian, "Take those writing samples if you must, but I know exactly who wrote that note. All you need is to get her to identify her accomplice..." 
"But, Jehan," replied a now worried Julian, "What if she doesn't? She just might tip her accomplices that we're on to her."

A wicked glint lit in Jehan Frollo's eyes; he smiled thinly, the voice taking on a rather confidently sinister edge. "Oh, if I know her, I will soon have her revealing things that happened twenty years ago, rather than just yesterday."
Julian grinned a bit then turned to Évrard and said in a reassuring voice, "M. Ouimet, I'm off to revisit the scene of the crime and comb for evidence that your brother might've overlooked. I want you and your family to stay here in case the kidnappers should contact you. Let me know the moment you receive as much as a note..."

The grief-strickened father replied that he would fully cooperate, adding, "Thank you, M. McNaney, but, if and when the necessity arises, where will I be able to find you?" 
Julian replied, "I usually hang out at La Belle d'Avignon...That's where I'll be after I revisit the crime scene. I want to chat to the Jouets and their customers. Perhaps someone saw or heard something suspicious – something that may shed some light on this mystery."


Later that afternoon, out at Maison des Chénes, the Ouimets' country home just outside Paris, an attendant preps to wrap his secret mission...
The servant did as requested: Go out to Maison des Chénes, fetch the item Évrard Ouimet requested, then return to Paris without fail. Thank goodness, thought the faithful attendant, that no one followed me out here, and that no one's here to spy on me.

It was a simple mission yet cloaked in secrecy; nothing could be left to chance, cautioned his master.

Yes, conduct yourself as though it's a minor household task. If anyone should ask, tell them it's an errand – perhaps to fetch something M. Ouimet or the Flamberts left behind. Tell the suspicious sorts that Clarice Flambert's favorite mirror needs to be fetched; Orry wants his favorite toy when he is returned home.

The servant made his way through darkened corridors. He noted the furniture and other objects now draped in heavy muslin – M. Ouimet and family may not set foot in this house for several seasons. Most of the movable items are either in Paris or on the way home to Marseilles.

Up the many flights of stairs, down more corridors, to another wing of the grand house, the servant's journey ended at a locked door at the end of a narrow hall. He took out a small iron key, unlocked that door, then disappeared for a few moments. Afterwards he emerged with a iron reinforced strongbox; then he locked the door and retraced his steps. No one detected him as the house was quite empty.

Once outside, the servant secured the box in a secret compartment within the wagon bed. He resumed his journey back to Paris without incident. No one knew the man was carrying 5000 florins. If only that servant had remained in the house a few moments longer. If only he had gone to the uppermost story by mistake...


The child stirred himself from a sound slumber. How long had he been asleep? It didn't matter for the boy was tired, frightened, and profoundly worried. The moment those kidnappers brought him to this place they merely left a few instructions: Orry was to remain in this room until his father could be contacted; they left the boy three days' food and water. There was also a change of clothes, but nothing else – No books, no paper, no pens.
Then they merely untied the bag, unbound the boy's hands, then quickly left Orry all alone. Orry waited several minutes after they left before emerging from the bag.

At first he didn't recognize his surroundings, but everything became familiar the moment he looked about the room. It was a rather cramped space, about the size of Uncle Philippe's dungeon cells but not as sparse and scary. Actually it was a room situated in the uppermost story of a tower. The only light filtered through a tiny stained glass window that Orry could only reach by standing on a makeshift platform. Through that window Orry cautiously peered out. Oh yes! Just as he suspected! Those two – Orry's "faithful" servant and that horrible woman – could be seen hurrying across the grounds.

Orry thought he had means to escape but the door was locked and bolted from the outside – Orry couldn't free himself if he tried. Here he was, out at Maison des Chénes – his own home! – in a room that so many times served as a quiet place for reading, writing, thinking, dreaming. Many times his father or Clarice would join him. It was a neat room filled with lovely memories, but now it served as Orry's prison. Nearly every piece of furniture was taken, except a small feather cot, a table, and rickety chair.
Those people didn't even leave Orry a book to read. All Orry had was time to think about the consequences of disobeying his father. If only he hadn't sneaked back to see Nadine Frollo; if only he had, for one morning, obeyed his father and remained indoors.

But no, thought Orry, Imbert would've kidnapped him anyway. He knew something was not right about that man but now it was too late to warn his father. Orry's only hope was that Uncle Philippe, the Minister of Justice, would find Imbert and that woman, then bring Orry home to Évrard.

As he continued to peer out the tiny window, Orry kept hoping that Philippe and his soldiers would come storming up the road. What a wonderful way for his father and Uncle Philippe to reconcile and finally put aside differences.

Orry's thoughts soon turned to Nadine; he wondered if he'll ever see her again.

He began to cry when he heard....IT!


To Chapter 9

Copyright©2001 by FrolloFreak® AKA The FanFiction Diva

Fanfic Collection #2
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