Monday, June 13, 2011

Chapter 37

Oct. 25 – 1:00am

            There was no movement outside the old opera house so either there were no guards, they were better than he thought, or they were inside. Erik was fairly certain it was the latter. Heading towards November, the autumn chill was slowly evolving into winter cold forcing most people into the welcoming warmth of central heat. His target was a ground level window that led into the basement storage rooms. From there, he could use the actor/employee tunnels to get an idea of enemy positions. Sticking to the shadows, he carefully crossed the distance from his position to flatten against the wall. He waited and listened for evidence he’d been seen or heard but relaxed slightly when there was no reaction.
            Knowing the window was likely rusted shut from years of disuse, Erik oiled up the screws that held the frame and attached a suction to the glass. As he removed the screws, he wrapped the cord from the suction to his wrist so the glass couldn’t fall through. Removing the window frame and glass, he shined a light to ensure he’d not land on debris and slipped through the opening. The many layers of dust revealed the room’s lack of use though it also revealed his presence. There was nothing to be done about it, however, so he could only hope no one decided to check the floor for footprints.
            He dripped some oil on the door’s hinges and waited until it eased into the cracks. While normally he preferred to just remove the door, in this situation that would be more noticeable than a random squeak. Erik carefully opened the door just enough to slip through and hurried to the small door that led to the hidden area under the stage floor. Mainly used for productions requiring trap doors, from the looks of it this particular section was used for storage, He was making his way towards the orchestra pit when he heard talking above him. Freezing in place, he listened closely to pinpoint their location then silently moved to stand just underneath them. Erik pulled a small dish-shaped object from one of the many pockets and attached it to the ceiling. With some minor adjusting, the muffled conversation came through the earpiece as clear as if he’d been standing beside them.
            “How much longer we gonna stay here, Morrison? You’d think they could at least provide a bit of heat in this creepy old dump.”
            “Quit yer bitchin’, Jimmy. As much money as that sweet young thang is paying us to just sit in this ‘creepy old dump’ I think we can deal with wearin’ a few extra layers.”
            “What’s she want with this place anyhow? I swear it’s haunted from all the creakin’ and groanin’ I hear.”
            “Haunted? You really need to stop listenin’ to those bums we runned outta here, Jimmy-boy.”
            A wicked grin crossed Erik’s face as he retrieved the listening device and put it away. Haunted, hmm? This could be fun. Moving as quickly as stealth would allow, he made his way to the orchestra pit and eased the door open. The only sounds were Jimmy and Morrison arguing over possible poltergeists and their volume was rising quickly. Throwing his voice into the flies, he spoke gruffly while complaining of the many set pieces that had to be raised and lowered for the new opera. As the ‘ghostly voice’ dwindled into nothingness, the two men had also fallen silent and were looking around nervously. Again, he shifted his voice to the orchestra pit though it was taking a chance.
            “Will four bars be sufficient, mademoiselle? From the top of the aria then.”
            “Who’s there? Come on out and we might just let you walk away from this.” Morrison’s voice echoed throughout the empty building and revealed its excellent acoustics. It was all Erik could do not to laugh. Mimicking the stern voice of the ballet mistress at his opera house, his next words came just off stage behind the curtain.
            “And you…you were a disgrace! Such ronds de jambe! Such temps de cuisse! Here we rehearse. Now!” As the last word thundered out, the two guards drew their weapons and spun around in a circle trying to find the origins of the ghostly voices. Glancing up, Erik grinned and threw the next line to the chandelier.
“Did I not instruct that box five was to be kept EMPTY!?” At the booming sound of the opera’s ‘ghost’, the guards scrambled from the stage and started running towards the lobby. Unable to stifle his amusement any longer, Erik shifted the direction of his voice several times so it sounded like his laughter was coming from every angle. Now he could explore without interruption.

Oct. 25 – 7:00am

The music that poured from the piano was joyful and manic and unlike anything she’d ever heard before. Refreshing her coffee and pouring a second cup for the composer, Alex wandered down the hall to the Music Room. Balancing the two mugs, she slipped inside as quietly as she could and moved to the chaise to watch the maestro. Erik’s music usually matched his moods so whatever happened last night while he was at the opera house must have gone well. As she watched his body sway with the melody, Alex could think of only one reason why he’d be so happy: Christine must have been there. She couldn’t help the tears that came to her eyes at the thought of him returning to someone who’d hurt him so very badly and deserved him so little. Setting his coffee on an end table, she stood to leave but was stopped by a warm hand on her arm.
“Alexandra?” Of course he had to see the tears that had escaped to roll down her cheeks. “What’s wrong, ma petite?”
“Nothing, just being silly and sentimental.” Alex’s smile didn’t quite reach her eyes as she shrugged off his concern. “Did you have a productive night?”
“Oh, yes,” Erik’s grin was heartbreaking. “I’ve been waiting for you to wake so I could tell you.”
“I…I think I already know, Erik,” she slipped her arm from his hand and moved to the door. “I’m very happy for you.” She didn’t get far before he’d spun her around to face him, confusion dimming some of the happiness there.
“Happy for me? What is it that you think happened, Alexandra?”
“Well…I just thought…since you’d gone there…and considering how happy you are…that…” As her voice trailed off, Erik arched a single questioning brow. “…that you’d met and patched things up with Christine.” The last came out as a rush as she stared, transfixed, at a button on his shirt. When he started laughing, she saw it as confirmation and tried once more to leave the room.
“Oh, no, ma petite chère, you’re not going to slip out this time.” He firmly guided her back to the chaise and sat, pulling her down to sit close beside him. “This time, you’re going to stay long enough for us to talk.”
Alex sat stiffly beside him and stared into her coffee. She would rather run naked through a bed of stinging nettles than listen to Erik extolling the beauty and virtue of Christine Daae. Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary as he disabused her of that notion immediately. No matter his feelings in the past, she had no hold on him now. As he began to speak, he spun the tale of his ‘haunting’ the old opera house and the reactions of the guards to his game. He even reproduced the voices throwing them around the room to give her a taste of what the two men had gone through. By the time his story had ended, Alex was leaning against his side laughing so hard he had to take her coffee or risk wearing it in his lap.
Still giggling, she looked up at him and got lost in his warm, golden eyes. As her laughter faded and her breath caught in her throat, Erik lowered his head and gently teased her lips with his. Closing her eyes, she basked in his tender kisses until she could stand it no longer. Raising a shaky hand to run her fingers through his soft hair, Alex pressed closer to him as her tongue darted out to seek entrance into his mouth. Happily obliging, Erik deepened the kiss while pulling her onto his lap. Several kisses later, he pulled his lips away and hugged her close to his chest resting his chin in her hair. Not wanting to ruin the moment, Alex quieted her fears and snuggled closer to him. She knew now how she felt about this handsome enigmatic man and that it would break her completely when she had to leave him.

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