The following is Ms. Nisha's account of what happened the night of the Great Paris Fire. The second half is based on Claude's recollection.
I cautiously peered from under the trap-door leading to our storm cellar. I always wondered why Fern would want to build such a thing where tornadoes are such a rarity. For now, that cellar was the perfect shelter from 'Hurricane Frollo'.
I didn't understand. Why is this guy masquerading as the Minister of Justice? Why the feverish search for a particular gypsy dancer? Why just put an all-points-bulletin out, just I like I advised Claude months ago. "Saves a lot of time, and it gets results", I told him. What is with this Esmeralda chick, anyway?
A lot of things just didn't add up. First there was that strange meeting with who I thought was Claude Frollo, only to realize that that man was a fake! A woman can tell with a kiss, and that man was not my Claude! Then, later that day, soldiers swarmed the city, searching for Esmeralda. 'Frollo' ordered all buildings burned because, in his estimation, people were 'uncooperative'.
Some of my neighbors had their homes burned, that's why I hid in the storm cellar. I figured that 'Frollo' would recognize me from this morning----I knew he'd harm me. I had to get out of Paris; it was becoming increasingly unsafe to stay here. But I was worried about Claude----What has happened to the real Claude Frollo?
And what about Quasi? Surely this sham Frollo wouldn't hurt my little buddy
At the last minute, I put my special pager in my pocket. If Claude's still alive, he'll try to contact me. I shuddered at the thought that
Claude may be badly hurt----or worse. And, I hoped he had his pager.
No telling what could transpire once that fake got his hands on that wonderous communicator. What if he figures it out? What if he actually USES it? Not too many people know about that device.
I was almost out the door when, at that moment, my pager went off. It flashed and beeped loudly as a frantic message scrolled across the screen:
Danisha...My love...That man...not me...not Claude Frollo...I'm locked in...dungeon...Malus and that gypsy king....drugged me....plan to kill me...once Paris is burned to the ground...Darling, please...help me....
Claude's alive! And he's in trouble!
But how am I going to gain access to the Palace of Justice? That sham Frollo may be there, and...Hey!
Then I remembered the key. Besides, Claude showed me several 'secret' passageways within the Palace. Maybe I could rescue my Claude. I may need some help...
Claude Frollo was awakened by a strangely familiar voice. "Get up, Claude Frollo!"
Claude opened his eyes and sat up. He was thankful the drugs finally wore off, but he had to be extra-cautious. Once again, Claude feigned the perfect 'wiped-out' demeanor. He sat up; his eyes widened in shock. How did they manage this? It's like looking in a mirror...He...He looks just like ME!
Claude Frollo stared directly into the eyes of his double. This fake smiled at Claude, then began to speak. "Your Grace. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is..." The man paused for a few seconds, then finished, "...Claude Frollo." He laughed wickedly. Claude shot the man a withering look. "You may have fooled the people of Paris, Captain Phoebus, the guard, but..."
The fake Frollo interrupted with laughter, saying, "Oh, my dear Claude, I have the whole of Paris in an uproar. Some citizens are already calling for Claude Frollo's head----Your head!"
Claude shuddered as he realized the conspiracy against him was working. They actually intend to destroy me! Leave me in the clutches of angry Parisians... Claude shuddered again, truly and profoundly frightened of his pending doom.
Just then, Malus entered the cell. Look at him, swaggering like the worst...where's his gypsy companion? Malus walked up to the fake Frollo and said, "Looks like you two've met." Then he turned to Claude, asking, "I suppose you're wondering about my friend. Let's just say that things have gone a little off-schedule." Claude looked at Malus then the fake. He asked, "What do you mean?" Claude was truly frightened, for he had a strange feeling something had gone wrong.
The fake Frollo then said, "Your Grace, it seems your young bellringer has 'feelings' for this gypsy girl. He and Phoebus fell for our little trap, didn't they young Malus?" Malus laughed, "And how! It all went like clockwork. Clopin and his boys are ready to hang your friends, then Esmeralda stops the 'execution'. It was priceless!"
Claude, still worried about the fate of his young charge, asked again, "But where is your partner, and what have you done with Quasimodo?" Malus and the fake Frollo laughed at the same time. Then 'Frollo' said, "Oh, dear Quasimodo is safely locked away in the belltower; he shan't escape again. I want him to watch the execution of his friends."
Claude gasped, "Execution?"
'Frollo' chuckled, "Why, Esmeralda is to be burned at the stake tomorrow at dawn. Phoebus will be the next to die, then that self-proclaimed gypsy 'king'. And as for that poor mis-shapened..."
"You wouldn't dare harm that boy", Claude said through clenched teeth.
"But, Your Grace", said 'Frollo', "Quasimodo is too much of a liabilty; I simply can't have all these loose ends." He drew closer to Claude Frollo, then said, "Besides, after the citizens of Paris dispose of you, guess who becomes the next Minister of Justice?"
"Surely you don't mean...", Claude said with astonished expression. The imposter interrupted, "Why not? I'm having so much fun! And let's say that the one who really wanted that post will finally get it!"
Claude's eyes never wavered from this man; he carefully scrutinized every inch of this imposter. Oh no! It can't be...HIM! We thought he was dead! After all these years...The King appointed me instead of him...a twenty-year-grudge...and it's all come down to this...death to me and to those I care about...Has he hurt my beloved...
Malus turned to leave. "I'll go check on poor Phoebus. My dear cousin...so close to death...", he said with a wicked laugh.
As soon as Malus left, the fake Frollo drew closer to Claude. He emitted an evil chuckle as he began, "Ah yes. I had a visitor early this morning, a lovely thing. Unfortunately, I had nearly forgotten that you had so many pretty lovers. This one was...well..." He sported a wide, evil grin.
"I know how you operate...I swear if you've harmed so much as a hair", began Claude warningly, "I'll make sure you..."
At once, the sham Frollo laughed. "Oh, my dear Claude, I assure you I haven't harmed your precious mistress. It may please you to know that I spared her home; I intend to meet with her again, perhaps apologize for my conduct..."
He then ran his tongue across his lips as he added, "And then, perhaps sample some of her charms. I must say, you certainly have excellent taste, even if I'm not wholly attracted to la belle d'Afrique---That is what she is, isn't she?" He laughed as he said, "Mmm...I can almost taste her sweet kisses..."
He laughed again as Claude lunged for the faker's throat, but the sham Frollo was quicker. In an instant, he knocked Claude to the floor. Claude swooned from the immediate shock of pain. He then heard his double say, "If I were you, dear Claude, I'd think about your upcoming execution; after all, this is your last day on earth."And with that, he swept fron the cell.
Alone at last, Claude Frollo reached under the pile of straw and grabbed his special communicator. He began coding another message:
Darling Nisha....please hurry!....they have Quasimodo...locked in Notre Dame....plan to kill Phoebus....I know that man...he means you harm...please dearest...help me!
Claude Frollo lifted his eyes heavenward and silently prayed:
If ever I needed Your help, it is now...My life...The lives of those I love...are at stake...Please help me!
On to Part 4!
Copyrightę1997 by FrolloFreak