Masquerade

Chapter 13: To the Very Depths of Hell

by Myshawolf (myshawolf at yahoo.com)
(10/19/03)

General Disclaimer

Myshawolf walks out with a grinning Nightmare.

Myshawolf: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Chapter 13. Things are going to get interesting.

Nightmare: If you ask me they already are. I'm thinking of visiting North Star for a bit.

Myshawolf: You do that and Auron will have an anxiety attack.

Nightmare: North Star won't mind.

MW: I think she will. Besides, don't you have something for Jaka?

Nightmare: Oh yeah. Since she wants a thing to argue with like me, I'm going to give her (pulls out a small ball of black mist) this. Nightmare: It's a shadow demon that will take the shape of whatever she wants. And yes, it is a smart aleck. For you, Jaka. (Tosses it to Jaka in the audience) Now to go visit North Star and Auron. (leaves)

MW: Poor Auron. He just had to show that he is afraid of her. Oh well, on with the show.


Chapter 13- To The Very Depths of Hell.

The whole Opera House was in shock at the events that unfolded on stage. Suddenly the curtain closed and the backstage went into panic. Sherlock and Lestrade walked over to approach Nadir, who was trying to restore some calm to the chorus. Several girls were weeping.

"Please, mademoiselles, you must return to your dressing rooms!" Nadir barked at them, causing several to cry harder. Madame Giry rushed over and ushered the girls away as the detectives reached him.

"Where did they go?" Holmes asked sternly.

Nadir ran a hand through his hair, "I didn't think she was that stupid."

"Where is she, Khan?" Lestrade barked. Her voice tinged with worry.

"God damn it. Why didn't she tell me what she was planning? You two better hurry," Nadir shouted.

"Where, Nadir?"

Nadir glared at Holmes, "You were snooping around, Monsieur Holmes. I'm sure you should know where to go. Hurry, you may be able to save her or him, depending what side you are on."

Holmes nodded. "Five cellars down?"

"Yes. Have your hands at the level of your eyes," Nadir insisted as he walked them over to the stairwell. "Good luck."

Lestrade asked gently as they opened the door to the cellars, "Why are you not coming with us?"

"I'm needed here. Hurry," Nadir stated quickly as he closed the door behind them. Holmes gripped Lestrade's hand. Together, they descended into the darkness.

Moriarty hurried down the stairs as fast as he could. Erika was in danger. This single thought made his feet move faster. Finally, he jumped the railing as soon as he was close to the stage. Landing silently he pushed through the crowd to the trapdoor. He could see Erika's blood smeared on the stage. His stomach turned at the thought Erika hurt, possibly dying if that second shot hit her in the chest. Soon he came to the trapdoor. On his hands and knees he looked for a trigger. He wasn't paying attention when the trapdoor swung open. Before anyone could stop him, he rolled into the darkness.

Moriarty landed with a soft thud. The light from the stage cut through the dark tunnel. Moriarty spotted a trail of blood in front of him. He looked up to see Fenwick looking over the edge. Fenwick looked away every so often to keep a lookout.

"Are you going after the girl, master?" Fenwick asked.

Moriarty answered without hesitation, "Yes. Could you throw me a illuminator?"

Fenwick fidgeted in his spot. "You love her, no?"

Moriarty wondered what that had to do with anything but replied, "When did you get nosy?"

"I made you. I have an interest in what you do," Fenwick snapped in very uncharacteristic way before jumping in.

"Fatherly concern from you? It's a little late for that," Moriarty snorted as he held his hand out for the illuminator.

"You were more agreeable as a child," Fenwick growled as he placed the light in his hand. "Just remember you loved a girl before and she treated you like dirt."

Moriarty smiled. "Erika is not Inspector Lestrade, Fenwick. She is more complex."

Fenwick shook his head. "Just don't get killed. I don't want to go through raising another one of you. Get going and find your Phantom."

Moriarty grinned widely as he bowed to his lackey and ran into the darkness. Fenwick watched him go and shook his head. Kids were so reckless. He looked up and was about to climb out when Madame Giry held out her hand to help him up.

"Trust me, Monsieur. I don't bite." Madame Giry smiled.

Fenwick thought for a moment before accepting the help up. He soon found himself surrounded with the worried faces of the Opera Company. Fenwick sighed as he began to describe what he'd seen down in the abyss.

Sherlock and Lestrade struggled along the darkened corridors. Soon they reached the fifth cellar. Lestrade gaped at the clear lake in front of them. Sherlock smiled like he had expected it the whole time. Bobbing in the water was a shabby-looking boat. Sherlock gripped Lestrade's hand and moved towards the boat. Looking inside, he spotted a pole used for steering and two cloaks. Holmes picked one up and wrapped it around Lestrade.

"I can dress myself, Holmes," Lestrade stated firmly as she reached up to fasten it. Holmes grinned as she batted his hands away.

"I want to make you aware of one thing, my dear Lestrade," Holmes remarked as she finished up, "We may not make it out of there alive."

"Erika won't hurt us," Lestrade commented confidently.

"That is assuming she is still alive," Holmes pointed out, "The Count was armed and not injured in any way, while Erika was shot. I want you to be prepared for the worst."

"She has to be okay," Lestrade insisted, "She is the first person to understand me, because as Nadir said we are alike. We both have been running from our past."

"Erika has stopped running and so have you. It's time we take a stand against this insanity together," Holmes whispered as he hugged Lestrade. In his mind he realized that he wasn't acting normally, but then again this wasn't a normal case.

"If we survive, I want to tell you why I left Texas and never went home again."

"I want to hear it. Now let's go."

Sherlock helped Lestrade into the boat. He pushed off and they drifted forward into the swirling fog that began to form over the lake. They cut through the fog in silence as if their voice would trigger any traps or alert their quarry to their presence. Lestrade felt the cold nip at her fingers and face. Repressing a shiver, she wrapped the wool cloak tighter around her. She looked up at Holmes to see if he was cold.

Holmes stared straight ahead as he steered the boat. His brow was furrowed in concentration as he tried to recall the way to go. Soon he banked to the right. Lestrade looked back out over the murky water. Soon a glimmer of light caught her eyes. The glimmer grew bigger and bigger to reveal a lumie torch. It was followed by another and another. The torches soon lead to a beautiful old house. Lestrade gasped as she looked over the old structure. Holmes docked the boat and the two stood in shock before the old house.

"How long has this been here?" Lestrade stammered.

"Since 1875, when The Opera House was built. The Original Phantom, Erik Noir, was an assistant to Charles Garnier. He supervised the building of the Opera House, especially the underground lake. I suspect that Erik decided to build himself a home hidden from the world who hated him," Holmes stated, "Garnier may have had an ego but he kept such excellent notes about one of his greatest achievements. Shall we knock on the door?"

Lestrade nodded as she walked forward. Raising her fist, she went to knock on the door. Sherlock gripped her wrist tightly, stopping it from hitting the door. Lestrade looked at him questioningly. She saw the statement in his eyes and lowered her hand. Of course the Phantom's home would be booby-trapped. Sherlock pulled out a case that held his lockpicks. He knelt down and began to unlock the door. Soon the lock clicked. Lestrade smiled as he pushed open the door and walked in first. Lestrade stepped in behind him.

The entrance room was beautifully decorated with several paintings and pieces of furniture. By the door was a coat rack. Above hung a sign carved in black walnut that read, "Please hang our cloaks here." Lestrade found the room to be quite warm and shrugged out of her cloak. Holmes carefully inspected the room with his magnifying glass. Lestrade looked around for a place to put her cloak. Spotting a chair in the corner of the room, she walked over and gently laid the cloak down. The coat rack was obviously a trigger to a trap. Sherlock looked up as Lestrade put the cloak down; something wasn't right. Why was there a chair in the entrance room, anyway? Suddenly it dawned on him.

"Lestrade, don't!" Holmes shouted as he ran over.

Lestrade set the cloak down and looked at Holmes curiously. Then, she heard the click and the sound of a heavy wheel turning. The floor beneath her shook. She felt Holmes grab her. The floor opened open and the two dropped down a tube together. Lestrade slid down the tube quickly. Behind her, she could feel Holmes sliding behind her just as fast.

The tube opened up and Lestrade fell into a bright room. She rolled along the smooth wooden floor. Holmes rolled over next to her. Distantly she could arguing and gunshots. Erika, Lestrade thought as she sat up, was in danger. Holmes sat up too and looked around. Lestrade did so as well. This room was very warm. Lestrade looked around to see that they were surrounded by mirrors. Above them was a bright light. Lestrade stayed sitting while Sherlock investigated the room.

"I have heard of such device being used by the Sultana of Persia to destroy her enemies back in my day," Holmes stated with great interest.

"What does this room do?"

"Notice how warm this room is. Well, after spending a good long amount of time in such constant heat with no respite, it starts to affect your mind and body. Heat stroke begins to set in and the mind starts to see things. Soon the victims die a long and agonizing death."

"Is there a way out?"

"I'm not too sure," Holmes admitted as he sat down next to Lestrade. "We may have to wait for either Erika or the Count to let us out."

"While you were going through Garnier's memoirs, did find out what you wanted to know about the Count's lineage?"

"Yes and no. It seems the Noirs and de Chagnies have been fighting since the 1890's. Erik Noir was the original Phantom. He met and trained a beautiful singer named Christine Daae. Christine Daae disappeared for weeks at a time, and when she returned she claimed to have been with her Angel of Music. About this time, Raoul de Chagny came back in Paris and watched Christine perform one night when she filled in for Carlotta Guidicelli. They were childhood friends and Raoul was excited to see his friend again. According to the papers a torrid love affair followed. I don't think it was that cut and dried," Holmes informed his partner as they sat and waited.

"What makes you say that?"

"Aristocrats are taught to be more discreet than the Vicomte was acting. His own brother was even having an affair at the time with the head dancer and no one knew. I think he may have loved the girl but he never had her alone. He may have tried to pursue her, but found her hard to catch because of her teacher and possibly lover. Eventually everything came to a head when Christine Daae was kidnapped during a performance. The Vicomte and another man pursued her and rescued her from the Phantom." Holmes continued the tale, "Shortly after, Christine and Raoul were married and had a child six months after the wedding. Then Raoul died during a riding accident. Christine stayed in the de Chagny home until her son took sick. Christine returned to Paris and the Opera House. She refused to take any money from the new Count de Chagny and hid in the Opera House. Monsieur Firmin, the new manager, wrote in his memoirs that he thought Christine was afraid of the Count. When she returned she was pale and had several bruises. She sang for money to help her son. I think she met with the Phantom despite rumors he was dead, and married him as she'd wanted to. The newspaper thought it was a romantic story while the Count tried everything in his power to destroy her."

"What happened?"

"No one knows for sure. She collapsed during a performance. The head of security for the Opera house, a Nadir Khan, and her new husband swept her away. In a week, she died. Two months later the Count de Chagny was found hanging high above the Opera's stage. The Count was believed to be somehow responsible for the diva's death, but no one could prove it."

"And the two families have been fighting ever since," Lestrade finished softly. Holmes nodded as he wiped some sweat away.

"There are some missing pieces of course, like what really happened." Holmes smiled, "And when did Erika become the Phantom?"

"Five years ago when her father died. The Count shot him because he was the Phantom," Lestrade realized suddenly.

Holmes smiled wider, "That would make sense and fit the time scale."

Suddenly, they heard a panel begin to shift. The two detectives jumped to their feet, ready to fight. A mirror moved to the side to reveal an oldfashioned Glock aimed at them. Holmes inched over to shield Lestrade from the line of fire. Ruelle smiled maliciously at the twosome. His eyes gleamed with a bit of insanity.

"Hello, detectives. A pity you had to follow me," the Count greeted them nastily as he waved them through the door. "Please come in. Erika is sorry she can't greet you herself, since she is dead."

Moriarty soon reached the end of the blood trail -- a wall. Somehow Erika must have gotten through. Quickly, he searched the wall for a trigger. Finally he noticed a worn stone. Desperate, he hit it. The walls emitted a growl as it moved to reveal a dark passage. Moriarty cautiously walked down it. The wall slid shut behind him.

The hallway was very dark. Moriarty walked carefully and slowly looking for any traps. He heard a click, and a noose fell around his raised hand which held the lumie and yanked up. Moriarty quickly slashed the rope with a knife he always carried with him. The Punjab Lasso, Moriarty smirked. Good thing he had his hand up. Shaking off the close encounter, he continued his trek which brought him closer to the Phantom's lair.

Holmes and Lestrade glared at the Count as they slowly moved into the main house. Holmes noticed the room was full of musical instruments. Two Stradivarius violins caught his eye that stood on the mantle above a fireplace. One seemed very familiar to him. The Count noticed his gaze.

"I see that you have spotted the Phantom's prize violins. I sure one is familiar to you since it once belonged to you. The other belonged to the original Phantom. He used it to seduce Christine Daae to follow him into hell." The Count spat and then laughed, "But I finished the war. The Phantoms won't protect the Opera House again."

"Where is Erika?" Lestrade asked venomously.

The Count motioned to the next room, "In there. I wouldn't move over there or I may shoot you."

"You are going to anyway," Holmes pointed out. The Count smiled hatefully, "Oh, don't worry, I will. It's just that your partner owes me a little something from our last encounter."

"Try it, pal!" Lestrade challenged loudly as she stepped out from behind Holmes. If she was going to go down she would do it fighting.

"In good time, my dear," the Count sneered.

Lestrade didn't say anything. She glanced at a tense Holmes. He nodded and they prepared to act on the impromptu plan. Sherlock tossed his concealed cane at the Count while Lestrade lunged for him. The Count had been expecting them to attack, since he sidestepped the cane and grabbed Lestrade. He pressed the Glock against her head. Both detectives froze at the standoff.

"Nice try, Monsieur Holmes." The count smiled. "Too bad it means I must eliminate you quicker."

Holmes glared at the Count. His eyes caught a flicker of movement behind the Count and noticed that the door was open. Everyone in the room froze as they heard the safety on a gun click out of place.

Erika's voice was tired as she moved up next to the Count singing softly, "Monsieur, I bid you welcome. Did you think I'd let you harm her? Why should I make her pay for the sins which are yours?"

"How can you still be alive?" the Count growled angrily, "I'll kill her."

Erika smirked as he pushed the gun against the Count's temple, "Order your fine horse now! Raise your hand to the level of your eyes! Nothing can save you now! Let her go!"

"I'll shoot her."

"And I'll shoot you, Ruelle, not enough to kill you quickly. But a long painfully slow death." Erika laughed wildly, "Shooting has become so redundant in our long association. Maybe I'll inject you with a deadly poison that would take weeks to kill you off and for which there is no cure. Your ancestors were particularly fond of that technique."

"Why won't you die?" Ruelle growled as he realized he was lost.

"Because I enjoy torturing you. Let the girl go. Now!" Erika ordered.

Ruelle complied as he opened his arms and dropped the Glock. Lestrade stumbled away. Holmes moved to help support her. Erika removed her gun only to hit the back of the Count's head. Ruelle slid bonelessly to the ground, out cold. Erika turned her tired eyes to her guests. Sherlock noticed her right leg was bleeding. She had changed her clothes into black pants and a white shirt. The suspenders were down and hung about. Sherlock could see her shoulder wound was still bleeding. Her cheek had a thin line of blood going across. It was a miracle that she was still standing.

"Sorry if I am not being the most hospitable hostess you have ever met, but I'm really tired right now." Erika sighed as she moved to a small cabinet off to the side.

"That's understandable," Holmes nodded as Erika placed her gun on the piano in order to open the cabinet. "You need medical attention."

"I'm going to hear that a lot tonight." Erika smiled softly as she pulled out two bottles and syringe. "Don't worry. I haven't lost a lot of blood yet."

"Erika, how did you survive?" Lestrade asked, "He was convinced you were dead."

"I'm an actress, Inspector. My father taught me many tricks before he died, since I would be inheriting his mask."

"Like changing your voice?"

Erika smiled with amusement, "The greatest skill that I've learned yet. How long did you know, Monsieur Holmes?"

"After our meeting on the terrace when Lestrade was sick. Your eyes were exactly alike."

Erika made a small noise as she swallowed two pills. She put the bottle down and picked the syringe. After inspecting it, she picked up one of the vials and filled the syringe with a reddish liquid. Erika slowly walked over to the Count and stabbed him with the needle. He groaned as Erika injected the liquid into his bloodstream. Erika grinned nastily as she pulled the needle out.

"You are such a fool, Ruelle, to enter my world and think you can walk away unharmed. This will make you more cooperative," Erika stated firmly as she stood up. "You two are lucky he didn't know that you can control the heat in the torture chamber. I have a feeling you want to arrest him and take him back."

"That would be best," Holmes agreed carefully.

"Forget it. He will not leave this place. Not after all the crimes he has committed."

"You should let the police do their job," Lestrade reasoned.

"Do you think he will really serve the appropriate time for his crimes, Inspector? He was freed after five years for murder. How long would he get for attempted murder? Two years? If that is your idea of justice, I want no part of it," Erika spat as she returned back for the other bottle.

"What are you going to do with him?" Holmes asked.

"I won't kill him. I want him to suffer for his crimes," Erika assured him gently, "But I can do a better job if you aren't here."

Before either detective could move, Erika tossed the bottle at them. It broke at their feet, emitting a white gas. Sherlock and Lestrade tried to escape the gas, but the fumes quickly overtook them. As they collapsed, Sherlock saw Moriarty stepping into the room. Then the world went black.

On to Chapter 14!

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