Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 11 of 39

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The door knocker was as highly polished as it was heavy and Jack fantasised, not for the first time, about what it would be like to have the kind of money that bought expensive, brass door knockers. He waited patiently until the door swung open and the young Benoit stood in the opening, staring up at him. The boy was thin, as all children seemed to be, and dark. His eyes were a sharp blue and his hair black, like day and night, and if it hadn't been for his warm smile Jack might have thought that the child was a bit sinister looking.

'Hello Mr Aldridge,' he said and stepped aside. Jack wondered what possessed the family to allow Benoit to open the door and why, it seemed, the boy trusted him so much. If they knew better, they would probably not open the door at all, let alone allow him inside.

'Hello Benoit,' Jack said, closing the door behind him. 'Are your parents at home?'

'Papa is out with uncle Philippe but mama is here, in the music room,' he replied. Jack cringed at the boy's honest and trusting nature, it should worry people that children were so inviting and that Benoit was prepared to tell a man he barely knew that his father was not home and that his mother was in the house alone.

Fortunately for Benoit, and the rest of the De Chagny household, Jack was not there to do any harm, he was simply hand delivering the invitation to the ball the following Saturday night.

'Where is the music room?' Jack asked as Benoit was about to leave him standing in the hallway on his own.

Benoit jumped off the bottom step of the stairs and gestured for him to follow. 'How are you?' he asked the boy, strangely curious about him.

'Oh, I'm well, thank you,' Benoit said, as he opened another door and led him inside. 'How are you?'

'Good,' Jack said, 'I'm…' he paused when he heard the singing and stared ahead at the door in front of him. He didn't need Benoit to tell him that this was the music room and that it was Christine singing inside. Ricardo Bianchi had been right, she sounded fantastic.

Benoit beamed up at him, 'That's my mother,'

Jack nodded, his breath taken by the sound of her voice.

The boy turned and ran from the room, 'Knock before you go in,' he shouted behind him as he disappeared around the corner.

Jack waited until she stopped singing and then gently rapped his knuckles against the frosted glass pane in the door. After a short moment she called for him to enter and when he did he was surprised to find that Ricardo was there with her.

'Jack,' Ricardo said, without warmth. Christine glanced at him, surprised, but said nothing.

Jack gave them both his best smile. 'Good Morning Ricardo,'

Christine returned his smile, even though the vocal coach did not. 'What brings you here Jack?'

He waved the envelope. 'Your invitation to the spectacle of the year,'

She walked to him and took the invitation from his hand. 'It was very kind of you to bring it personally,'

'We're friends,' Jack said slickly. 'Aren't we?'

'Of course,' she replied warmly. 'Can you I have a drink brought in for you?'

He shook his head. 'I shouldn't stay. In fact, if I'd known you were rehearsing I would have come at another time,'

'Don't be silly,' she said. 'Besides, it's an impromptu session anyway, isn't it Ricardo?'

Jack shot a sideways glance at the other man, who shuffled his feet and blushed pink. 'It is, I'm afraid,'

Christine was smiling warmly, 'He was in the area and decided to see if I wanted to practice,'

'Did he, now?' Jack said, turning his attention fully to Ricardo who was looking more and more uncomfortable by the second.

'You're not being paid for house calls,' Jack said, trying to keep his voice jovial but failing miserably. It would not please the boss to know that Ricardo was dropping in uninvited to Christine's home. He did not know all there was to know about the situation and he did not ask, it was not his place, but what he did know was that there was history between Schwarz and Christine, and history was not a thing easily brushed aside.

Before Ricardo could defend himself, Christine smiled, 'Ricardo is just helping me, I don't mind,'

Jack nodded at her but turned his eyes straight back to Ricardo. 'Perhaps it would be wise for you to keep your lessons to the theatre now,'

Ricardo swallowed. 'Of course,'

'We wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea, would we?'

'No,' Ricardo said.

'We all know that this is perfectly innocent but… well, rumours happen,' Jack said, his tone icy.

Christine stepped in, her smile wavering only slightly and said, 'There is no need to worry so much about me,'

Jack placed his hand over his heart and said, 'But I do, we all do,'

Ricardo was nodding furiously.

'Well, there's no need,' she insisted, looking a little uncomfortable herself. 'I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself,'

Jack dragged his glare away from Ricardo and forced what he hoped was a warmish smile in Christine's direction. 'I don't doubt that,' he assured her. 'But some people are less than scrupulous,'

He could have been talking about himself, under most other circumstances.

'Surely you're not insinuating that Signor Bianchi is one of these people,' she said. It was not really a question and her voice, though light, held a stern undercurrent.

Jack forced a laugh, hoping that it sounded real. Over the years he had become quite the accomplished actor and it had often served him well, especially when working for Schwarz. 'Of course not,' he said, aiming for earnest. 'Just that some other people, neighbours perhaps, the press… they might not see it as so innocent,'

Christine thought about it for a moment and nodded her head, though she was plainly still unhappy. Any man who thought that she was simply a little woman who did as her husband told her had clearly never seen the steely resolve in her eyes, or the way her lips pressed together when she was unhappy. He wondered, then, if she had ever been a woman to be told what to do, she looked so strong and sure of herself. Just because she often chose to be peacemaker or turn her attention the other way made her no less a strong woman.

No wonder Schwarz liked her.

'Well, I appreciate your concern, Jack,' she said and actually sounded like she meant it. Which was a very good thing. He wasn't sure what eventuality the boss would react least favourably too; Jack telling him that Ricardo Bianchi was dropping in to see Christine for private, and unscheduled, rehearsals or that Jack had managed to upset Christine himself. Fortunately for him, at least, she did not seem too displeased.

'Were you leaving now, Ricardo?' he asked, turning his attention back to the vocal coach.

'Er… yes,' he lied, wisely.

'Then let me walk you out,' Jack said, smiling.

Whether or not Christine felt the tension was irrelevant, she was too polite to say even if she had and so she saw them out and waved them goodbye.

As soon as they were out of sight, and Jack was sure that no one of any significance was looking on, he grabbed Ricardo by the throat and threw him against the wall. Most men would have fought back but Ricardo simply pleaded to be released.

'You've lost your mind,' Jack said.

'I was only giving a lesson,'

'I saw the way you looked at her,'

He felt Ricardo swallow against his hand. 'She is beautiful, it is hard not to look,'

'And yet somehow I manage it,'

'Let me go,'

'Listen carefully,' Jack hissed. 'This never happened. You didn't come here alone and this little talk, it never happened, yes?'

Ricardo nodded painfully.

'I don't tell Schwarz,' Jack said, feeling some serious misgivings bubble in his gut. 'And we forget about this,'

Again, the other man nodded his head.

'There are conditions to this,' Jack said as he let go of Ricardo's throat.

The vocal coach rubbed his neck and coughed, 'What are they?'

'You never,' Jack said, staring at him. 'I mean never meet her alone anywhere other than the theatre again,'

'Yes, yes…'

'You never tell anyone about this talk,' Jack continued. 'And you never cross us again, do you understand?'

Ricardo nodded but said, 'I didn't realise this was crossing you,'

Jack shook his head in despair. 'When we first started working together, what did I tell you?'

'Not a lot, as it happens,'

Though Jack could feel his arms tense, he resisted the pull of violence and said, 'I told you, clearly, that Schwarz had a vested interest in this, in Christine,'

Ricardo said nothing.

'I told you if you ever told anyone about this, then your secret would be made public,' Jack reminded him. 'Possibly worse,'

Again, Ricardo stood mute.

'What part of that suggested to you that it might be fine for you to pursue Christine?'

He saw Ricardo's Adam's apple bob.

Jack laughed them, the memory of that late evening conversation with Schwarz suddenly flooding back to him. 'He was right,'

The vocal coach looked at him, brows furrowed in deep confusion.

'He said that this would happen,' Jack said, shaking his head. 'He said you would fall in love with her,'

'I am not in love with her,' Ricardo protested, just a little too vehemently.

'No?' Jack asked, lifting his eyebrows.

'She's special, is all,'

He laughed again, harder this time, so much so that his ribs actually ached from the force of it. When he glanced back at Ricardo, he noticed that the other man looked distinctly offended, and this did nothing to assuage his laughter. 'She will never love you,'

Ricardo huffed slightly but had given up denying his feelings.

'I think he was right about that too,'

'She is married,' Ricardo said, thinking that this explained the reason that she wouldn't love him.

Jack doubted that this was the case at all. With tears of laughter in his eyes he clapped Ricardo on the shoulder and said, 'I don't think you're her type,'

It was interesting, how people developed views on others without even knowing them, how their perceptions were tainted by sight or rumour. He thought that now, as he watched Jack and Ricardo from the restaurant window, in a booth that was held for him and for him only. His hearing was so good that simply by opening the window at the top just a crack he could hear every word.

It did not surprise him that Jack had chosen to keep Ricardo's indiscretion to himself, at least for the time being. Jack Aldridge was indeed a tough and brutal man but he was not cold blooded nor without his humanity. He had effectively taken it upon himself to offer Ricardo a chance to prove himself. A second chance, if you will.

People who met Jack were often quick to jump to the conclusion that he was both trustworthy and friendly, because he had an easy style and an American accent. This was, however, not generally the case. To most, Jack was neither trustworthy nor friendly and it did most of the people who actually knew him, well to remember this.

He often found that one of the biggest motivators of all was fear. People feared him and so, people did as he said. It was something he was used to, being feared, and yet through experience he knew that fear was not the biggest of the motivators, although it ranked rather highly on the list. No, as powerful as fear was, love was much stronger. People would do almost anything for love, he knew this all too well, and so he understand why some people chose never to fall.

He watched as Ricardo scurried away from Jack and clicked the window shut above him. While he waited, he sipped the wine, which was powerful and fruity and not altogether pleasant. She arrived only minutes later, her blonde hair loose and fanning around her shoulders. She took the seat opposite him and smiled.

She had rather a lovely smile.

'Hello Erik,' she said, lifting the menu.

'Good evening, Samantha,'


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 11 of 39

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