Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Wandering Child

Part 25 of 38

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"Why am I here, Starre?"

Amanda took another swig of her first glass of cabernet. It was eleven o'clock in the morning-long past the hour she normally started drinking.

Henri Starre eyed the beautiful woman that sat in his office, his hunger for her burning in his eyes. Were she not here on business, he would gladly indulge in what many other men had so obviously enjoyed.

She wore a gown of deep ruby, with crème colored lace brushing against the swell of her breasts. Her hair was piled on top of her head, the endless black tresses teased into curls sewn about red stones that he could only assume to be rubies. Around her thin, perfect neck was a necklace of diamonds and what were definitely more rubies-presumably it had once belonged to Christine de Chagny.

He took a puff of his cigar and cleared his throat. "We are here, my dear Mademoiselle Morrigan, to discuss your plans, as well as mine."

She shrugged her shoulders and crossed her arms. "My plans? Is that so?"

Starre nodded. "You are Laurent's lover, no?"

Amanda laughed. "I have sex with him when the occasion calls for it, if that's what you mean." She arched an eyebrow. "Shouldn't you be at the opera house? De Chagny should have received that letter by now. I imagine that she will be in Paris within the next day or so."

Starre shrugged. "Shouldn't you?"

Amanda took another sip. "Laurent was going to send word once she arrived. I have no desire to wait within those dank catacombs. Besides, the smell of rotting corpses is overpowering. Laurent is a sadist...he has been executing these poor bastards faster than he can bury them."

Across from her, Starre smiled. "Perfect."

Come again?"

Hi"s smile widened. "I like you, Amanda. You have a quick wit - and dare I say it - you are smarter than anyone else in this pathetic organization. Tell me, would I be correct in guessing that you hold no allegiance toward Laurent Brette?"

Amanda waved her hand and rolled her eyes. "Clearly, Starre, if you thought that I held even a morsel of allegiance toward that pig, you wouldn't have asked me here. I hold allegiance to nothing and no one, you know that. The Commune can drown in its own refuse for all that I care."

He nodded. "You are loyal to your father."

She stopped. "My father is loyal only to his bank account, but yes. As much as I hate him for all that he is, for all that he isn't, he is the one blood tie that I have left to me in this world. To that, at least, I will remain loyal." She locked her eyes on his. "I do not know why you are asking where my loyalties lie, but I swear to you...harm him and you will not live to see the sun rise the following day."

Starre had no doubt that Amanda would deliver all that her icy threat promised and more. Luckily, he had no interest in harming Edward Morrigan. The man was, as Amanda had stated, loyal only to his checkbook.

"I asked you here Amanda, because I tire of that incompetent boy's leadership. His idiocy is beyond reproach. I refuse to be led around by a twenty something year old infant." He smirked. "The only thing that anyone in their twenties is good for is looking better than their elders."

Amanda gave a grunt of amusement as he continued.

"He has delusions of grandeur. He wants money so that he can rebuild France. He sees a world of equality and fraternity, now matter how bloodthirsty he has to be to attain it. We," he said indicating the two of them, "on the other hand, know that this is not only impossible, but ridiculous. We want money because, well," he laughed once more, "what's not to want?"

Amanda inclined her head. "Go on."

"For months now I have been branching out, making my own connections, going beneath Laurent's leadership. He murdered countless aristocrats and seized their fortunes."

Amanda snorted. "The fool could have simply blackmailed them and then their extended families...he would have taken in a much larger fortune."

Starre readily agreed. "He murders them because he has this image of 'purging' the earth. Well, Laurent Brette isn't God, and I haven't the stomach for murder...unless the occasion calls for it."

Amanda nodded. "You intend to kill Laurent?" She was surprised at how genuinely unconcerned she was.

"When the time is right," he answered. "I asked you here because I will need your help. When we are all assembled in the opera house, we shall be quite alone and unreachable."

She laughed out loud. "You told me because you know that if taken by surprise, I am an excellent shot. You would have shot Laurent and I would have assumed that you were after me as well."

He didn't disagree.

"I also need your help with de Chagny and Von Alsing."

Amanda's voice grew sharp. "You think he will be with her."

"You think he won't?"

Amanda curbed the ridiculous tide of jealousy that swept through her. "No," she said through gritted teeth. "If the two were lovers," her eyebrow twitched, "then I can't imagine he would allow her to come alone."

"I suspected as much as well." He poured Amanda more wine when she held out her empty glass. "Laurent will use 'The Viscount' as his leverage-"

She groaned. "Whose corpse is rotting as we speak..."

Starre shrugged. "What Christine doesn't know won't hurt us. Anyway, Laurent will simply get the account numbers from her, perhaps an account or two from Von Alsing, and kill them."

Amanda bristled. "Laurent won't kill Von Alsing."

"And why is that?"

Her eyes were cold. "Because I will tear his heart out before he so much as touches a hair on that man's body." Her mind reeled before the sentence even left her lips. You would kill for him, wouldn't you? You would kill anything and anyone who ever threatened him...who threatened you being with him...She wondered, had Cleopatra felt this way as she watched her own countrymen die, so in love with Marc Antony that she did not even care?

Starre's eyes widened before he laughed. "Good Heavens, can it be? Amanda Morrigan actually cares for a man?"

"You were saying something," she bit out angrily.

"I was? Ah, yes." He leaned back into the softness of his leather chair, rather pleased with himself. "As far as I have discovered, Von Alsing has no relatives. His fortune ends with him. Fine, whatever, I don't care, I shall simply take what money he has and leave his fate to you. I dare say I don't want my heart torn out."

She nodded. Von Alsing was hers to deal with. Starre was either blindly lucky, or extremely clever.

He continued. "Christine, however, has many relatives through marriage. In England, the de Chagny's are related by marriage or otherwise to the Huntingtons, the Northports, and the Greenlawns. All three are phenomenally wealthy and can be easily blackmailed.

"How?" Amanda's curiosity was well and truly piqued. Three aristocratic families would mean meant a new life, away from Paris, and away from the Commune. Even with all the money she possessed now, she was still tied to them. Starre was offering a way out through money and murder....

...a combination that she had never been too righteous to resist.

"Christine," he explained, "is the last remaining de Chagny. With her death, the title will revert to the French monarchy, which, as you well know, no longer exists. One of those families will pay dearly for Christine to designate one of their children as her heir. The de Chagny title is one of the most respected not only in France, but in all of aristocratic Europe. Especially in the haut ton of England, it will be priceless."

Amanda was astounded. She had to admit, the man had certainly planned well. Reaching into her reticule, she pulled out a hand rolled cigarette and her diamond studded lighter. "Lucky for you that she had a miscarriage." She inhaled, gratefully. "Otherwise you would have an heir to deal with."

His eyes grew cold, and Amanda felt as if someone had stepped over her grave. "And you would have," she continued, "if you had sensed it as a danger. You care nothing for death, and yet you would kill every man, woman...and France to achieve your aim... She" lightened the suddenly tense atmosphere with a laugh. "Indeed Sir, you are a doctor! I suppose you would know control over life and death better than most."

The nicotine was like liquid peace, flowing throw her lungs.

Starre seemed to reflect on something in his mind. "Yes...yes that 'miscarriage' was rather clever on my part."

Amanda nearly gagged on smoke.



A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Wandering Child

Part 25 of 38

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