What REALLY Happened

Part 12


The hours clinged stickily like day-old caramel corn on a hot summer day. I waited and waited for Claude to return; all I could do was pace the room. That and read a little, play some music, and frequently go to the window, watching for Claude Frollo to stroll up to my door at any time.
The King, finally convinced of Claude's story of the drugs, the imprisonment, and the Great Frollo Switch, was now in conference with Claude Frollo, Andre d'Arcy, and a few key members of the French government.
Claude Frollo needed to be re-introduced to the citizens of Paris as soon as possible, and His Majesty would perform that job himself, in a public address to be delivered within the next few days. Of course, that would mean that Claude would have to stay out of sight. But where could he stay? My Parisian house was out of the question, since the neighborhood was busy with the rebuilding of burnt-out homes and shattered lives. Most Parisians had still not recovered from the events of last week.

Claude...what's taking so long? Where's Jehan? I thought he was coming over with Quasi...Poor Quasimodo...wonder how he took it when he found out his adopted father is alive and well. Claude said everything has to go as smoothly as possible...but..I wish I knew what was going on out there...
My thoughts then focused on Solange Marchand, Marie-Louise d'Arcy's niece--Jean-Michel du Champs' daughter. I hope this dude didn't harm her...HIS OWN DAUGHTER!
What about Malus? Where's he in all this? Why hasn't he surfaced? Where's Esmeralda and Phoebus? From what Claude told me about her, I can see why he wanted her punished so badly...and then there's Phoebus...
Claude said Phoebus was a bit of a dimwit...OK as a soldier, but...I suppose being out on the battlefield for so long does rattle one's mind...Not one person I've known has come back from war without some of their sanity gone... And where's Jules? Lord knows what could happen if he actually has that gun! And Claude wants this Jean-Michel so badly...what if Jules gets to him first? This sure is one big mess...I wish Claude didn't tell me all that...
It's all like a bad soap opera...

I sat down, poured myself a double shot of bourbon, then began to recount, once more, the incident that shattered a friendship and so much more.

*************************

Claude told me that he and Jean-Michel de Champs became friends via Andre d'Arcy, who at the time, was about to marry Jean-Michel's sister, Marie-Louise. Jean-Michel, like my Claude, had women by the scores, even though he was married to Madeleine de Noialles.
As Claude told me, Jean-Michel flaunted his affairs to the point of embarassment. Too many times, the du Champs family had to cover-up for Jean-Michel's numerous indiscretions. One of those 'conquests' was a young pretty Parisianne named Adele Trigere.

Adele knew Claude from way back---when she was a young child. She and Jehan were playmates; and, even though she was three years older than Jehan, they became close friends.
Adele was only sixteen at the time of the banquet. She was very pretty, with a mass of dark-blond hair, and huge deep-blue eyes. Adele's beauty was the talk of Paris, and her father was extremely flattered when Madame d'Arcy invited Adele and her family to share in Andre's and Marie-Louise's happiness.

Claude told me that it was the year that he was appointed Minister of Justice. Jean-Michel, who coveted the post for himself, was congratulatory in public, but privately grumbled that "It should have been me!" Jean-Michel was never a particular favorite with the King, nor within the Ministry of Justice. He was sloppy in his work, whined incessantly when things didn't go his way, and drank himself to a stupor. Of course, there were the many women, despite his seemingly happy marriage to Madeleine. Claude told me that Maddie put up with her husband's failings, not out of love, but out of pity. Maddie married Jean-Michel at a time when no other woman wanted him.

As Claude related to me, Adele attended this banquet given in honor of the d'Arcy engagement. Jean-Michel, of course, tried to 'make time' with this young Parisanne, but Adele, being so young, but also sensible, firmly told him repeatedly, "But you are a married man". He was insistant but Adele remained firm.
She sought the company of the Frollos, preferring Jehan's zany, juvenile antics to Jean-Michel's lecherous advances. Claude had hoped that she and Jehan would eventually become more that than "just friends".
Claude told me that the rest of the evening went on pleasantly, although Jean-Michel drank to the point of embarassing his sister and future brother-in-law. Claude made no bones about it: Andre d'Arcy actually hated his betrothed's brother.

A few weeks later, after the d'Arcys were married, Adele decided to pay Claude a visit at the Palace of Justice. Claude was not there at the time, but Jean-Michel du Champs was there. He and Claude had words earlier that day. Claude Frollo, who could stand Jean-Michel's dissipated lifestyle no longer, discharged him from his duties at the Ministry of Justice. "I hated doing this to him, but I had no other choice", Claude told me.

As I said, Claude was away that afternoon when Adele came by for a surprise visit. She walked into an empty courtroom only to find Jean-Michel du Champs there, all alone, busily packing his belongings. Claude is not sure of the events that led up to the actual incident--even Adele's recollection was a bit fuzzy. But there was no denying that Jean-Michel, enraged that Adele once again refused his advances, forcibly raped her on the courtroom floor. Jean-Michel then told Adele not to breathe a word, or he'd "silence" her for good.

Three months later, Adele finds herself pregnant. She had no choice but to tell Claude Frollo everything. She told Claude about the surprise visit, how Jean-Michel forced himself on her, and how he had threatened her if she told. Without a doubt, she was carrying Jean-Michel's child. Claude told me that, at the same time, Maddie was expecting. Jean-Michel, now working for a local merchant, busily played the proud expectant father.
"The way he loudly announced to all of Paris how 'elated' he was to finally have a son. Nothing disgusted me more. Here he had a wife who was, at least, devoted to him, and carried his child. Yet, here was another poor girl, also carrying his child. He never gave it a thought. He treated the entire incident as if it were some minor inconvenience."

Jean-Michel du Champs and Claude Frollo soon had a stormy session behind the closed doors of the Palace of Justice. Claude outright accused Jean-Michel of forcible rape, although "in our time, such crimes were virtually unpunished". Jean-Michel then re-opened old wounds: the missed opportunities, the discharge at the hands of his 'friend', and the scandal that would ensue once word got out that Adele was pregnant. Andre would have Jean-Michel's head for sure.

And word did get out, as Adele tearfully confessed to her parents what had happened. Adele's father stormed into the Palace of Justice demanding satisfaction. Claude had no choice but to reveal the identity of Adele's 'seducer'. Before long, both families discovered the awful truth. Maddie threatened to leave Jean-Michel, and "expose you for the monster you really are". Andre d'Arcy nearly called Jean-Michel out; he actually challenged his brother-in-law to a duel. It was Claude Frollo who talked Andre out of doing something Andre might later regret. Even Marie-Louise turned her back on her brother. Jean-Michel du Champs soon became somewhat of an outcast throughout Paris society.

Adele left Paris when she was four months into her pregnancy. It was Jehan who kept in touch with her, and kept Claude informed of Adele's welfare. Claude even sent Adele a little money "to help the little one get off to a right start."

One stormy spring night, Madeleine du Champs and Adele Trigere gave birth to their respective off-spring. Adele's baby boy was named Malus.
"Why give the child that name -- it is beyond all comprehension!", Claude exclaimed to me. "The very word, 'malus', means 'bad', 'evil'. I wouldn't doubt that Jean-Michel chose the name! Why, the child was marked from the very beginning!"

Maddie du Champs, whose pregnancy was difficult in the extreme, painfully and toilsomely gave birth to a strong, beautiful baby girl, who was promptly given the name 'Solange'. Claude told me, "It was Madeleine's grandmother's name."
Although Solange was a healthy baby, the lengthy and painful labor took its toll on Maddie. She lingered only two days after Solange's birth.
Jean-Michel was distraught, or appeared distraught, over the death of his wife, and the possibility of him being stuck rearing a child alone scared him to death. He mysteriously left France, seemingly never to return.
Jehan Frollo, on one of his journeys to southern France, would run into Jean-Michel du Champs ten years before that fateful day in January. Just the few, tension-filled words between them was all Jean-Michel needed to plot his revenge. Jehan would have no inkling of Jean-Michel's deadly plans, that is, until Jehan and I discovered that who we thought was Claude Frollo was, indeed, an imposter.

I asked Claude what happened to Adele. He told me that Adele returned to Paris ten years later, and had married Alphonse de Chateaupers, a successful merchant from Lyon.
She and Alphonse had two children: Jules, aged five, and one-year-old Renee. Malus, now thirteen, was adopted by Alphonse, out of love for Adele. Malus was a handful; he was constantly in trouble. He had many run-ins with Claude Frollo, who told me that "the many hours spent in the stocks, the floggings, the other acts of...what you call 'toughlove'...did little to turn this boy around. My heart went out to Adele; she and Alphonse did all they could with this delinquent son."
Of course, they now had Jules and Renee, two sweet-tempered children who demanded their parents' attentions, despite Malus' slow slide into self-destructiveness.

Meanwhile, Solange enjoyed an idyllic existence with the d'Arcys. It was during that same the year when Adele and Alphonse met a tragic death---drowned in a boating accident---that Solange met Thierry Marchand. Three years later, they became engaged, then married the following summer. It was that same summer when I came to medieval Paris with Fern, and met Claude Frollo.
Claude then told me that Malus, although responsible for the rearing of his siblings, became even more dangerous, roaming the streets with gypsy street thugs, and, neglecting and beating his brother and sister.

"You were right in your comments, of how certain decisions and actions affect so many lives", Claude said to me.

***************

And it's all come down to this...Malus has found his father...but how? I know why Jean-Michel wanted Claude out of the picture...but what would Malus gain from all this? What else is there? There has to be something that goes much deeper...someone else is involved...I just have this feeling that Jean-Michel has someone else working for him...someone else who is close....or was close to him....

I poured myself another drink---I needed to numb myself. I needed something to blot out all the pain and confusion wrought by one man and his no-good son. Someone knocked on my door. Whoever is that? Claude?

I cautiously opened the door, and to my surprise, was greeted by Jehan and Quasimodo. "Quasi! My little buddy! Am I glad to see you!"
We immediately embraced each other, truly and thankfully happy that we were finally reunited. "Nisha!", began Quasi, "I'm so glad to see you again!" We embraced once more, then I glanced about.
"Where's Claude?", I asked Jehan.
Jehan Frollo replied, "Claude is still at the Royal Palace, still in conference with the King. He sends his love and will be here shortly."
"But Jehan", I said, "Claude sent me a message. He said you and Quasi are heading fo the Court of Miracles. Surely you'd wait for him; it's all he's wanted, to find this place."
Jehan answered, "Oh, my brother definitely wants to find the Court of Miracles, but with Jules possibly running about, Quasi and I decided to go there ourselves. Will you tell Claude that---when he returns?" I said I would, then I asked about Solange.

Jehan said, "She's still missing. That's why Claude wants you to stay here---in case she should turn up. Andre is deeply worried about his niece. Her husband is due to return tomorrow."
"Thierry's coming home?", I asked. Then I added, "Maybe Solange is here in Paris, to meet her husband---as a surprise. But surely she would've informed her family."
Then Quasimodo replied, in a deeply worried voice, "Let us hope that Solange is safe."
I then asked Quasi if he's seen Esmeralda or Phoebus. "I've seen neither one of them since the day after that fake Frollo died---I know everything, you know. My master told me."

So Esmeralda is nowhere to be found..neither is Phoebus...and Solange is out there...somewhere....and so is Jules, armed with a deadly firearm...maybe he's gone to the Court of Miracles...maybe he's actually planning on....Oh God...I think I'm gonna be sick....

"Jehan, you and Quasi best be getting to the Court of Miracles. Perhaps Jules went there after all. Let's pray that he hasn't done anything stupid."

GO TO PART 13!

Copyright FrolloFreak FSM#14, 1998


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