Continuing Tales


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 7 of 39

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The night was warm and the air smelled of wet leaves and victory. Jack sat opposite Philippe, in a restaurant just on the outskirts of Brooklyn, as Philippe devoured a chunk of virtually raw beef. The sight of it was enough to almost turn Jack's stomach and he wasn't sure if he was bothered more by the bloody steak or by the way Philippe was shovelling down his neck.

Between them was the signed contract, and jack reached down to pick it up, 'This is great news,' he said, feigning a little enthusiasm. 'The boss will be pleased, what a great venture to be getting involved in together, my friend,'

Jack was not Philippe's friend, of course, although the Comte did not know this. Jack was no one's friend, not really. It was safer, in his business, to keep people at arm's length but right then it suited Jack and Mr Schwarz for Philippe to think that they were best buddies.

'My brother is ecstatic about this,' Philippe said as juice dribbled onto his chin. Jack almost shuddered and wondered how this slob could have the audacity to call himself an aristocrat. 'Really thrilled,'

'So are we,' Jack agreed, nodding and trying not to focus on the grease smear across the other man's stubble. 'In fact, it could be the best deal we have ever brokered,'

Philippe smiled as he finally placed his fork on the plate, finished, 'I'm amazed he is giving away fifty percent,'

Jack shrugged, 'Anything to get the best on board.' he assured the other man, although knowing Schwarz as he did; he doubted that this was entirely the case. 'The boss thinks that with you guys and Christine on board with this, it will get a great reputation,'

Philippe nodded his agreement.

'And that's what we want,' Jack insisted. 'Reputation is everything in our business,'

Not so, he thought, but Philippe was basically too smashed to notice the irony in his tone.

'Besides,' he continued. 'The boss loves the opera, like me, as long as he comes out evens and you get your profit, he'll be happy,'

Philippe was nodding his head with such enthusiasm Jack briefly wondered if it was capable of popping off his neck of its own accord. Looking at him he knew that, under different circumstances, perhaps even in a different life, Philippe De Changy would be a formidable opponent. The man was tall, broad and looked wiry. Jack was sure that in there, somewhere, was a tough, ruthless man trying to escape but his luck had been such that he had found solace in the bottom of a bottle and his wits had drowned along with his spirits.

'Raoul and Christine are eager to meet Mr Schwarz,' Philippe said, taking another mouthful of wine.

Jack gave his best grin, 'All in due time,' he said with a wink. 'The boss is pretty busy right now, but he's looking forward to a meeting too. Like I said before, it's probably going to be a couple of months,'

'I know,' Philippe acknowledged, 'But I just wanted you to know that they asked,'

'Noted,' Jack said, keeping the smile plastered to his face. 'In the meantime, the building has been gutted so next week some time, we should meet with the architect to go over the building plans. To be sure you're all happy with them,'

'I can do that,'

Jack shook his head. 'No, the boss said he wants Christine's input, she knows the way things should be, she knows how it feels to be on the stage… you know, to interact with the audience,'

'She's just a woman,' Philippe said, almost scornfully.

Jack felt a minor bubble of apprehension at the statement but pushed it back to where it came from and said, 'A woman with a talent the boss has a lot of respect for,'

Philippe shrugged his broad shoulders, which sagged again on the way down.

'Don't know how much the boss would like you calling her just a woman,' Jack explained. 'As he has so much respect for her and all,'

The other man actually giggled. 'That doesn't worry me,'

'Maybe it should,' Jack said, unable to stop himself.

'Why is that?' Philippe asked; a stupid, wonky grin stuck to his face. 'A man with so much time for a woman's opinion sounds a bit of a sap to me.'

Jack took in a deep breath and let it out of his lungs slowly before he spoke, 'Right,' he said, trying to keep his voice on the jovial side of the emotional scale. 'We need to clear something up before you get us all in trouble. The boss, he's not the most affable guy out there. Know what I'm saying? He's a tough nut to crack and he's got a bit of a temper, alright? So, if I were you, I'd be a bit careful what you say about him… to anyone,'

Philippe stared at him for a long moment before feigning a shaking movement with his body and then bursting into loud fits of laughter. 'Sounds spooky,'

'I'm just giving you fair warning, that's all,'

'I'm not scared of him or anyone else,' Philippe said, 'Besides, I'm an investor, he isn't my boss,'

Jack smirked, 'He's everyone's boss,'

Philippe laughed some more, much to Jack's annoyance, and just when he was going to tell him to keep it down he saw her. Across the room, gliding past the bar, blonde hair pinned up and elegant as ever was Samantha. Just as he spotted her it was as if she sensed his eyes on her and she turned her head. Their eyes met and when neither broke away quickly, Jack thought for one magical moment that she was actually going to speak to him. He had just braced himself to stand when she turned her head sharply and walked away from him, her back as smooth and beautiful as it had ever been.

His heart was thumping hard and he somehow found the balance to stand up.

'What on earth is wrong with you?' Philippe asked, his laughter finally ceasing.

'Nothing,' Jack replied, mouth suddenly sticky, 'I just, er, I just remembered I have somewhere to be,'

Philippe frowned but swallowed it anyway, 'Alright,'

'I'll be in touch,'

He nodded.

Jack threw some money onto the table to cover the cost of the meal, grabbed the envelope with the contract and, somehow without running, fled the restaurant. He walked fast and hard until he could no longer see the building and when he rounded the next corner he slumped against the wall in an effort to calm his heart rate.

He felt like he had just seen a ghost.

The building was a huge structure set back on its own in the middle of what was otherwise a crowded street. Christine stared up at it in awe, taken aback by the gothic feel and design of the exterior and thinking it was probably the perfect building for an opera house. She wondered if the company had chosen the building because it was free, and completely by chance, or if some decision making had gone into it.

Philippe had already commented that he found it ugly and although she had somehow managed to hold back a quip, she could not help but vehemently disagree. 'It's stunning,' she said, as they walked through the entrance that did not yet have a new door.

'It's horrid, outdated,' Philippe said, rolling his eyes to Raoul.

Raoul stared at him. 'I like it,' he said, finally. 'I think it's ideal for its intended purpose,'

God bless her husband.

Philippe snorted. 'I had hoped that we might bring opera out of the dark ages,'

She sighed, loudly, because it was all she could do to restrain herself.

Raoul said, 'It's hardly in the dark ages, there are some incredibly modern opera houses all across Europe and they have had very little success, the building does not quite make the performance,'

His brother laughed.

'Perhaps you are just looking for an argument,' Raoul said and then brushed past him as a shorter man with cropped, black hair walked towards them.

Philippe grinned. 'This is Jack,' he said, hooking his arm around the smaller man's shoulders. 'Jack, meet my brother Raoul…'

Raoul extended his hand and Jack took it, shaking it at the same time as subtly brushing Philippe's arm from his shoulders. When he turned to Christine, his smile broadened. 'This must be Christine De Chagny, the star of the show,' His accent was thick New York but his voice wasn't too deep and she found herself smiling back.

'I'm not sure about star, it's been a long time,' she said. 'But I am certainly Christine De Chagny,'

'Well, Madame De Chagny, it's a pleasure,' he said, dipping his head to press his lips to the back of her hand.

'Call me Christine, please,' she said.

'Christine it is then,' Jack said. 'Follow me and I will introduce you to the architect… careful where you step,'

She lifted her foot cautiously over some debris and followed him eagerly, excited to be finally fully involved in the project she had been so looking forward to. The architect, Paul, was tall and thin, almost unnaturally so, and Christine could not help noticing the dark veins on the backs on his hands. He was pleasant though and clearly knew what he was doing, a feat that Philippe was not quite up to as he attempted to impose himself on the situation.

'I don't think that will work,' he said. All of the party; she, Raoul, Jack and the architect, looked over at him.

'What?' Paul asked, a little less than politely, but she could not blame him. It wasn't the first time he had disrupted the meeting with ridiculous comments.

Philippe was undeterred by his tone of voice, though, and said, 'The archway,'

Christine felt Raul sag at her side and when she glanced at him she was in time to see him release a silent sigh.

'I don't see what the problem is,' Raoul said, his voice strained but to the unknowing ear, civil.

'It's unnecessary,'

'It's beautiful,' Christine said.

Philippe turned to face her. 'Oh well, as long as it's beautiful…'

'Philippe,' Raoul interrupted firmly. 'I like the archway, it fits with the design,'

Jack nodded, 'It kind of takes you through to building, makes it flow,'

Christine gave him a knowing smile, seeing him as the peacekeeper.

'The arch stays,' the architect said.

Philippe's eyes darkened, 'I thought we were to have a say in this,'

Jack sighed. 'A say, yes, of course, but you don't get to redesign the entire thing,'

Paul smiled, 'I didn't design the arches anyway,'

They all looked over at him, expect for Jack.

'Then who did?' Philippe demanded, making a mountain out of a molehill as usual.

'Mr Schwarz did,' Paul replied. 'Therefore, they stay,'

'You all act as though this man controls you,' Philippe said.

Jack shrugged. 'He's the boss,'

'And besides, it's beautifully designed,' Christine added.

Raoul looked down at the arch design again and nodded in agreement, 'He certainly has some talents,'

Jack smiled knowingly but Christine caught a glimmer of something dark behind his eyes. 'That doesn't mean that he doesn't value your input… but he likes the arches and to be honest, so do I,'

'The arches stay,' Raoul said. 'And so do the rest of the plans, they're really very good,'

Christine could not disagree, the plans were basic but showed the way the building would open out from the entrance into a beautiful staircase, it marked where all of the archways would be and the stage was huge… perfect, really. There were some detailed designs, like a drawing of the stairs and of the archways, which were intricate and stunning.

She glanced at Paul who was chewing the end of the pen in his hand. 'When will building work start?'

'Now,' he said, with a shrug.

'Oh,' she said, surprised.

'Well, you're happy with the plans and so building work can start,'

'Will you be overseeing?' she asked, as the other men looked on… Philippe clearly agitated by the fact that a mere woman was holding a conversation with a man.

Paul smiled, 'Someone needs to,'

She glanced down at the plans and then at the delicate drawing of the arch, gently she pressed her fingers to it and said, 'And when do you think it will be finished,'

'The structure of the building is perfect and has already been gutted,' Paul replied, his attention on her and only her, making it clear that he did not share the same attitude towards women as her brother in law. 'Also, the stage is already being built and the arches have been started, as they're so elaborate… because of this, I can't imagine it taking much more than a few months,'

Jack picked up the drawings. 'I'll take these to Mr Schwarz office,' he said. 'Let him look over them and get him to agree some sort of deadline for you,'

Paul nodded, still smiling but eyes showing a hint of something strange and had she known him better she might have assumed it was worry.

When Paul walked away Jack turned to her, 'We need to start getting people in place for casting and instructors for dancing,'

Raoul took her hand in his.

'The boss is sorting the orchestra, no need to worry about that but he said the De Chagny's might have some contacts for the other bits,' he continued. 'So he's leaving that to you,'

She nodded.

'Doesn't want to waste any time though,' Jack said. 'He's happy for decisions to be made now about which opera to perform and he will go ahead and commission the set design,'

'Do you know when he will need an answer for?' Raoul asked.

Jack smiled. 'How about yesterday?'


A Phantom of the Opera Story
by Immokk

Part 7 of 39

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