Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 21 of 39

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Jack hadn't seen Schwarz for over a week and when he entered the house through the usual rear door he was surprised to be accosted by a black dog that snarled and barked at him until he backed against the wall. Pinned there with a fear he had never felt before he shouted, 'Mr Schwarz!'

'No need to shout, Jack,' he heard as the boss seemed to appear from nowhere at his side. 'Come now Banquo,' he said, and patted his leg. The dog immediately stopped barked and obediently scrambled to be at Schwarz's side.

Then, with gentleness that Jack had no idea Erik Schwarz possessed, he reached down and softly stroked the fur on the back of the dog's neck.

Jack's heart rate slowly settled and he asked, 'How long have you had the dog?'

Schwarz glanced down at the black animal and then back at Jack, 'A little under a week,'

Jack was amazed not only by the fact that Erik Schwarz had a pet at all but also that the dog seemed so utterly submissive to him after little more than a few days. Not that Jack didn't understand the natural instinct to become subservient to Erik, he suffered with it himself, but the dog was not only compliant he seemed to do it adoringly.

The dog was staring up at his master as though he were the only person on earth.

'I'm sorry if he startled you,' Schwarz said with the faintest hint of a smile. It did not surprise Jack for one second that Schwarz got some enjoyment out of Jack's obvious discomfort. 'You don't like dogs?'

One look in the boss' eyes suggested that any answer not to his satisfaction could result in something pretty unpleasant. 'I do,' Jack said, probably too quickly. 'I was just… surprised,'

If Jack had not known better he would have said that Schwarz looked amused as he turned and led the dog through the living room to the study. Jack stood stock still, too nervous to take a step forward.

'I'm sure he won't hurt you,' Schwarz said over his shoulder.

Jack slowly began to follow, not entirely convinced after seeing the sharpness of the dog's teeth earlier. The dog stuck closely to Schwarz's side looking remarkably like the man's shadow.

'Sit,' Schwarz said and for a moment Jack stared at him in confusion, not knowing which of them he was talking to. Jack or the dog.

In the end, Jack took a seat as far away from the dog as he could physically get and turned to Schwarz.

Schwarz glanced over at him, 'You look nervous, Jack,'

Jack swallowed. 'I've had some bad experiences with dogs… in the past…'

The boss nodded his head. 'Animals are extraordinary,' he said. 'They know when you're afraid of them, they instinctively know when you are a threat and yet they are not malicious,'

'A bit like you,' Jack said, without thinking.

Erik Schwarz stared at him for a long, cold moment , his eyes almost black behind the mask and then, suddenly, he began to laugh. It wasn't a laugh that Jack had ever heard from him before, it wasn't dark and it wasn't a chuckle it was a laugh, full and earnest. Not only that but it strangely sounded like music, it had almost a melody, a sweetness to it.

'Yes,' he said, patting the dog's head. 'A bit like me,'

Jack managed a smile, finding the whole thing just a little bit strange.

'And perhaps, a bit like you?' Schwarz asked him, all laughter gone now, eyes focused on him.

'I wouldn't go as far…'

'Perhaps,' Schwarz said and unconsciously Jack knew that the conversation was over. He watched as the dog lay down at his master's feet, making sure that his nose rested on Schwarz's foot as though he could not bear to be apart from him.

Schwarz sighed, 'What is the situation with the de Changy's?'

Jack shrugged. 'Christine is acting quite normally around me when Raoul is there but when he is not, she is frosty,'

Jack was almost positive that he saw Schwarz smile but he could and would never swear to it in a court of law.

'Continue,' Schwarz said when Jack fell silent.

'She is angry,'


'And she no longer confides in me,' Jack said.

'Did you think that she would?' Schwarz asked.

Jack stared at him, confused. 'If she no longer confides in me then what point is there in continuing to follow her?'

Schwarz's eyes glimmered in the low light. 'Because I have instructed you to,'

Jack felt his throat constrict, 'I'm sorry, Mr Schwarz,' he said. 'I just… you always have a reason,'

'And what makes you think that I don't have a reason this time?'

Jack said nothing.

After a long and painful bout of silence Schwarz asked, 'Are you happy Jack?'

Taken aback not only by the content of the question but also by the softness in which it was asked, Jack momentarily lost his voice. 'I…'

'It's a simple question,'

'I think I am, yes,'

Schwarz studied him in silence and the feeling of his eyes made Jack feel uneasy and bordering on panic stricken. It wasn't healthy to fear your boss, Jack knew that, but it also didn't seem entirely logical. Schwarz had, in fact, always been civil with Jack. He had never hurt him, he rarely raised his voice and as far as Jack could remember, he had never threatened him. Although Jack had seen him do things none of them were directed at him.

'Happiness is a strange thing,' Schwarz said. 'I have felt it once or twice myself.'

Jack nodded.

'I have also seen it,' he continued. 'In other people,'

Again, Jack nodded his head.

'I don't see happiness in you,'

Unsure Jack simply said, 'I don't feel unhappy,'

'Ah, but therein lies the problem,' Schwarz said. 'Just because you are not unhappy does not mean that you are happy,'

Jack blinked. 'I'm not sure…'

'Do you enjoy your job?' Schwarz asked.

Now Jack was torn between complete honesty or lying. He stared at Schwarz's face, part covered by the bright mask, and knew that if he lied then Schwarz would probably know it.

'Mostly,' Jack finally replied and he had to force himself not to fidget in his seat like a chastised child.

'It is not always an enjoyable job,' Schwarz said and Jack inwardly sighed his relief. 'What would make you happy?'

'I…' Jack frowned. He was confused by the conversation, both tone and subject , and he had no idea how to continue. 'I don't know,'

Schwarz actually smiled. 'Most men would say money,'

'I have money,'

The boss shrugged. 'I know but you are not rich. Most men want to be rich,'

Jack stared at him. 'You are rich, are you happy?'

For a moment Jack had the horrible feeling that this wasn't really a two way conversation. Schwarz had fallen silent but his eyes remained fixed on Jack and Jack was suddenly terrified that he had made a horrible error in judgement.

'I am not happy,' Schwarz answer to Jack's amazement. 'I have been happy only twice in my life, can you believe that?'

Jack shook his head, unable to speak. He didn't really know what was happening, but he recognised it as a conversation two friends might have.

'When?' Jack asked, knowing that he was probably pushing his luck, luck that had so far not failed him. There was, of course, a first time for everything.

Schwarz was clearly a man who did not express his feelings often and rarely allowed anyone any insight into his past. The look of ragged indecision past across his face and on others, Jack had seen it many times before, but on Schwarz he had not.

'Once when I was a teenager,'

Jack found it hard to imagine Erik Schwarz as a teenager.

'But it did not last for long,'

Jack was not surprised that no real explanation came and so he remained quiet, to see if Schwarz would confide anything further. It was a strange sensation but Jack found that he wanted to hear Schwarz say more, he wanted to learn, in fact, if he was pushed he might say that he wanted to be his friend.

'And once, ten years ago,' Schwarz looked up. 'And that did not even last as long as the first,'

Jack nodded. 'Christine?'

Schwarz nodded. 'Perhaps you have known that happiness?'

Feeling his vision blur slightly, Jack blinked and turned his face away. 'Once,'

Schwarz said nothing and when Jack twisted to look at him again, his face was impassive and serious. The softness had disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. Finally Schwarz said, 'Tell me about Raoul,'

'He is being the doting husband,' Jack answered, regaining his composure.

Schwarz scoffed. 'As if he would be anything but,'

'But he spends less time with Christine now,' Jack said. 'She spends much of her time at the theatre, Raoul is torn in the other direction with Philippe,'

Schwarz smiled. 'Who is still drinking?'

Jack smiled back. 'Of course,'


'Christine and Philippe can now no longer be in the same room together,' Jack explained. 'Or even the same building… Raoul is forced to see him elsewhere,'

'Does she spend much time alone in the house?' Schwarz asked.

'Sometimes,' Jack replied. 'But she is mostly at the theatre,'

'Does she say much about him to you?'

Jack shook his head. 'She barely says anything to me,'

'She is stubborn,' Schwarz said.

Jack simply nodded, afraid to agree or disagree.

'What about the boy?' Schwarz asked, much to Jack's surprise. This was the first time that young Benoit had even been mentioned in their briefings.

'He is fine,'

'Is he close to Raoul?'

'Somewhat, yes,' Jack answered, once again confused by the line of questioning.

'Tell me,' Schwarz said. 'Does the boy share his mother's love of music or is he in Raoul's image?'

Jack shook his head, 'Benoit goes to the theatre with Christine, he likes music,'

'Yes but does he sing? Does he play?' Schwarz asked with such urgency that it almost startled Jack.

'He plays,'


Jack laughed. 'Everything, I think,'

Schwarz was beginning to look frustrated and so Jack added, 'Violin, piano, cello…'

'He reads music?' Schwarz asked.

Jack nodded. 'He's been known to write it, I believe,'

'Write it…' Schwarz said to no one but himself. 'How old is he?'

'Nine, I think,'

'Does he resemble Raoul?'

As bizarre as the questions seemed, Jack knew that Erik Schwarz did not ask questions without a purpose. Although he felt confused the look on Schwarz's face suggested that he was best not questioning what he was hearing. He knew from the flecks of gold and silver in the Boss' eyes that Jack should simply answer the questions as best he could.

He said, 'No, not really,' and then added. 'To be honest, he doesn't look like either of them. Has Christine's high cheeks though, I think,'

Schwarz was quiet for a moment before he asked, 'Does he do anything else?'

'What do you mean?' Jack asked.

'How does he play? What does he do?'

'He likes to read,'

Schwarz nodded his head but said nothing.

'He likes to play on the beach,' Jack said. 'Builds things in the sand,'

Schwarz looked up, 'What things?'

Jack shrugged, 'He copies statues and carvings… things like that,'

Again, Schwarz fell into silence. This time he did not break it. He sat, staring at the fireplace, his eyes alive but he was quiet, no longer wishing to voice his thoughts. The dog lay almost motionless at his feet, the only movement between them the rise and fall of their breathing.

Jack stood. 'Is that all?' he asked. Knowing it was and wondering what had suddenly changed.

Schwarz glanced at him and nodded his head, words had clearly dried up. Bemused and amazed Jack walked away from the living room. Neither master nor dog flinched and Jack was left to wonder what he had just witnessed.


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 21 of 39

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