Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 16 of 39

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With trembling hands she closed the inner door quietly behind her. Her mind was racing and she could barely keep it on one thing or another without it flicking off in a completely separate direction. For brief moments earlier, when she was finally alone on the balcony, she had wondered if this whole thing had been engineered; them leaving France and ending up in New York, Philippe whittling away their wealth at a ridiculous pace.

The thoughts of a conspiracy were quick to subside. It was all Philippe, that part at least. It was Philippe's idea to move across the ocean and it was his idea to throw money away as if it was rubbish. Erik had not planned that part, he had simply known that she was in America and once again the unnerving feeling of being watched was back and prominent.

Other thoughts that entered her mind were: how had Jack so easily befriended Philippe? She admitted that the man was a fool but he did not let any old person into his circle, although apparently, once they were in, he was more than happy to be duped by them. Also, how much did Jack really know? He seemed so well informed about certain things and yet utterly clueless of others.

She entered the dining room and poured herself a large sherry, hoping that the liquid could ease her shaky nerves. As she sipped, more thoughts, more realisations, more truth pummelled her like fists. Jack had been in their home, had spent time alone with their son, and now she realised that they could not trust him. Philippe continuing to drink, despite Raoul's warnings that it would cause his profit harm. The beautifully, hand carved arches… without words they had Erik written all over them and the fact that she should have seen it all along sickened her.

Raoul's sudden illness.

Her heart flew to her mouth. She had only Jack's word that he was alright and now she felt a hot jolt of panic race up her spine. She leapt to her feet and ascended the stairs faster than she had ever done before. Throwing herself to the bed, clutching her husband's face in her hands, feeling his warmth, seeing his eyes open…

'Christine, whatever is the matter?' he asked, no grogginess from sleep, he could clearly see the alarm in her eyes and he was suddenly wide awake.

She swallowed, Erik prominent in her mind. She could still see him, as though he were standing right next to her. 'I was worried,' she said, laying a soft kiss to his forehead and letting go of his face, all the time trying to steady her breathing and pounding heart.

Raoul sat up and stared at her. The room was dark but neither Raoul nor Jack had closed the curtains and so the light from the lamps outside and the moon above lit their faces. 'You're cold,'

It was not the first time she had heard that, that evening but she forced a smile and, then, forced a lie to the one man she knew she had no right to lie to. 'I'm fine,'

'Then why the panic?' he asked, reaching for her arms so that he could rub her shoulders in an attempt to comfort and warm her.

'I should not have let you come home alone,' she said, without really addressing his question. What answer could she possibly give him? I raced up here because I thought that Erik had poisoned you… there were more questions than answers at that moment and she did not feel that she was quite ready to deal with either.

'I feel fine now,' he said, reassuringly. 'I must have needed the sleep,'

She glanced at the clock on the mantel, it was after midnight and Raoul had been sleeping for a few hours. She allowed herself to wonder what they had been slipped into his drink.

'You must have,' she said, and touched his cheek. He placed his hand over hers and pressed it to his face, the warmth of his palm was familiar and soothing.

'Are you sure that everything is alright?' he asked, his eyes brimming with concern.

She nodded, heart rate slowing returning to what felt, at least nearly, normal. 'I'm just glad that you're feeling better,'

He smiled. It was such a warm smile, so genuine and real, and it spread to the whole of his face and touched his eyes, making them sparkle each time. His smile was never changing, even if everything else was.

'I am going to check on Benoit,' she said to him, standing. 'Then I will come to bed,'

He nodded, looking tired again, and by the time she had made it to the doorway she knew that he was asleep.

Benoit's bedroom was at the other end of the corridor but on the same side. She cracked the door open as carefully and as quietly as she could, and tiptoed inside. His bed was under the window and his drapes were tightly closed, she could only just see his little body under the masses of quilt.

She pulled the blankets up to his chin hoping not to wake him but could not resist stroking his hair and kissing his forehead. Slowly his eyes blinked open and she whispered a gentle apology.

'You're home,' he said, his voice clouded with sleep.

'I am,' she said as she shushed him softly. 'I'm sorry I woke you, go back to sleep,'

His eyes dropped and he smiled, 'Goodnight mama,' he said.

'Goodnight, sweetheart,' she said, feeling her throat catch and tears make their way to her eyes. She watched quietly as he drifted back into peaceful sleep, her beautiful, sweet boy. A long time past before she could move and when she did, she slipped back into the corridor and sighed. Her back pressed to the wall, she rested her head back and swallowed hard.

Rage, fear… sorrow… emotions swirled within her and none came to the surface, all instead choosing to comingle in her heart and mind. If she was honest with herself she would admit that she did not know what to feel. Deep down she knew that she should tell Raoul but then that would be the end and also break their contract. She knew Erik well enough to know that this would never be accepted.

But how could she continue to lie to her husband… again?

Jack sat in the cab staring in the direction of Christine's home for a very long time after the door had slammed shut behind her. He had found the whole issue, the entire confrontation, utterly disturbing and had not even been close to being in control of it. Not really knowing what to do, or how to solve the problem now, he took once last glance towards the house and then prompted the driver to continue straight.

He had no idea where he was going, he needed to be alone and he needed the air, the carriage and a long journey seemed as good a plan as any. After all, it was about the only plan he had got.

Years ago, a man had spoken to him in much the same way as Christine just had. Spitting bitter insults and jabbing anger in his direction. The man had not faired nearly as well as Christine. Neither of them had seemed to understand that he had a job to do. The man ended up with a broken hand and several teeth missing, and a threat on his family.

He had towed the line ever since.

On that occasion and on many, similar, since and before, he had felt no guilt or remorse whatsoever. His whole life had been filled with jobs such as this and never before had he had any problems with what he was doing nor had he let anyone speak to him in such a way. It was the first and last time it would happen.

The unusually quiet streets of New York were peaceful and comforting. He loved the night. It was because of this that Schwarz… Erik Schwarz… had hired him in the first place. On the surface of his business was the reputable theatres, the entertainment centres, the fun that other people had. Underneath were the things that Jack dealt with, the blackmail, the threats and the not quite so legitimate contracts.

It wasn't that Schwarz was above doing this work himself, Jack had seen him in action more than once and certainly did not want to see it again, it was just that he was busy. Jack was convenient, not too expensive, worked hard and was efficient, what more would an employer want?

Jack smiled to himself.

Christine had been right to suggest that Jack was afraid of Schwarz. He was afraid of him and had few qualms about admitting it. Schwarz was a terrifying character. Once, when Jack had first started working for him, he discovered that one of the builders was stealing timber from the yard. Jack had been sent to warn the foreman, gently. When it did not stop he warned the builder, a little more firmly. Finally, after that did not work, in the dead of night Schwarz and Jack found him at the seawall.

One minute Schwarz was standing next to Jack, the next he could find him nowhere. Jack confronted the builder, who was drunk, but seemed to get nowhere. Out of the blue, Schwarz was behind the builder. He dragged him kicking and pleading to the edge of the wall overlooking the ocean and held him, one handed over the edge. Jack remembered that the ocean was vicious beneath, bouncing up the wall violently, and he likened the waves to twisted hands clawing up wall.

Schwarz had looked down at the builder and had said, 'You've been stealing from me,'

The builder had struggled but to little effect.

'I asked you to stop,'

'Please,' the builder had said. 'I have a family, I can't swim,'

Schwarz had actually chuckled, 'Are you sorry?'

The builder nodded upside down, one of the strangest things Jack had ever seen.

'Will you pay me back for what you stole from me?' Schwarz had asked him.

The builder, seeing his way out, had nodded more frantically. 'I'm sorry,' he had said, fear tinged with hope in his voice. 'I will pay you back,'

Schwarz had pulled him in and dropped him onto the ground. The builder had been breathless and terrified but he looked relieved. Schwarz turned and looked at Jack, though his face was neutral something in his eyes made Jack pause and hold his breath.

The builder had pulled himself to his feet and there was barely any distance between the two of them when the builder said, 'Thank you sir,'

Schwarz did not turn. 'You don't have a family,'

The builder had looked nearly as confused as Jack felt.

'You lied to me,'


'Don't compound it further,' Schwarz had said, sounding a little too calm.

Jack remembered his blood running cold.

'I'm sorry,'

Schwarz had turned quickly and, with two hands, pushed the builder in the chest. The builder had stumbled backwards, caught his foot on the edge of the wall and with a scream tumbled down into the ocean.

Jack had stared at Schwarz, 'He will drown,'

Schwarz had shrugged his wide shoulders. 'Does that bother you?'

Did it?

'No,' he had replied.

'He won't drown,'

Jack had frowned at him.

'I suspect he is already dead,' Schwarz had explained. 'I should think he cracked his skull on the way down and if not then, when the waves threw him into the wall,'

Jack had said nothing more.

The clunking of the carriage over a hole on the road jolted him back to the present and he glanced up and out of the window. He recognised the street and asked the driver to pull up in front of a small house a little further down the road.

When they arrived Jack sat quietly and stared at the upstairs front window. There was no light from within and the curtains were closed. For a long moment he considered going to the door and knocking.

The driver turned to him, 'You want to get out here?'

Jack's heart somehow ended up in his mouth. It was tempting to get out, but he knew better. Not only was it late but he was not welcome anyway.

'No,' Jack replied, finally. 'Just… take me home,'

'Yes sir,' the driver said.

Jack felt empty.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 16 of 39

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