Masquerade

Chapter 2: What an Entrance!

by Myshawolf (myshawolf at yahoo.com)

General Disclaimer

Chapter 2: What an Entrance!

Sherlock looked out at New Paris. For as much as it had changed, he could still see some familiar structures. The Cathedral of Notre Dame still stood tall, its gargoyles standing guard over the sleepless city. From the hovercoach he recognized the tip of Apolloís lyre that graced the rooftop of the Paris Opera House -- a place that he was going to grow quite familiar with in the next few days.

Lestrade gazed out over the city as well. She saw more things that were familiar to her than Holmes did. Paris was a city that was constantly changing. However, several had remained the same through the centuries, as if they refused to change their structure because time wanted them to. She spotted the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. She could see the splendor of the Louvreís entrance and of course the beauty of the Paris Opera House. Something snagged her attention.

High on top of the lyre, a great black flag was waving. Soon it moved to the other end of the lyre. Beth blinked at the moving flag. She looked at Holmes whose attention was also focused on the moving object.

"What is that?" Lestrade asked, "I donít remember a flag on top of the Opera House."

"Itís not a flag. Itís a person up there," Sherlock whispered.

"How? No one has ever been able to stand up there for that long. Itís not even ground," Lestrade pointed out.

"No doubt our Phantom can."

Lestrade watched as the top of the Opera House faded from sight, as did the figure. Sherlock was wearing one of his calculating smiles. She settled back in her seat as she waited for the hovercoach to arrive at the New Parisian Police Headquarters. Her friend was going to meet them there.

High on top of the Opera House, a figure cloaked in black stood effortlessly. Its sapphire blue eyes stared at the rising sun. Tonight, it would make a point to all of Paris, especially that meddling count. Certainly, he was free from prison earlier than anyone else. The blue eyes narrowed at the thought of him free for a crime that he should die for. Now he committed the gravest mistake of all, by making demands on the opera company, threatening its very existence by pushing untalented singers into its ranks. The figure smiled to itself. He'd thought he could meddle in the Operaís affairs because he killed the Phantom; he was in for a treat, since the Phantom was very much alive.

The management understood the Phantomís position. They'd even asked for its help in scaring off this particular patron. The Phantom couldnít disappoint them or Paris. Tonight, Paris would realize that the Phantom was alive and well. Nothing would make it go away. Not this time, not ever again

Tearing its blue eyes away from the beautiful sunrise, the figure began its descent from the lyre. There were things that were needed to be done. It had to prepare for its opening night. The managers were kind enough to make sure that the police werenít present for this performance. That would ruin things if it were caught. Silently the figure descended into the heavens above the Operaís stage.

Lestrade walked into the Parisian police station with great confidence. She hoped that Chief Inspector Leroux was still in. Sherlock looked around the modern police station. He noticed one bulletin board that was covered with newspaper clipping. One headline stood out from all the rest.

Phantom Murdered?

Before he could walk over to the board, his thoughts were interrupted when a voice shouted out.

"Beth Lestrade? Is that you?" a man shouted from by the board. He was a little taller than Sherlock, with a full head of grey hair. His hazel eyes twinkled with happiness as he bounded over. He scooped Lestrade up into a bear hug.

"Uncle Etienne. W-we are in your office," Beth stammered as she reluctantly returned the hug.

"And Iím off duty. I see you got the file I sent you." Etienne smiled as he set her down, "My, how you have grown. Your father would have been proud of you. Now who are your friends?"

Lestrade blushed as she introduced everyone, "Sherlock Holmes and Watson, this is my fatherís best friend and our Parisian liaison, Chief Inspector Etienne Leroux of the Surete."

Etienne extended a hand toward Holmes, "Itís a pleasure to meet you, sir. Welcome to New Paris."

"Itís definitely different from what I remember," Sherlock remarked.

"It has changed somewhat, but it will look more familiar when we go toward the historic district," Etienne assured him, "Now let me take you to breakfast and I can fill you in on what is going on with this case."

"Lead on, Uncle."

After a light breakfast and some explaining, Etienne waited for their reactions. Sherlock seemed to be in deep concentration as was his niece through friendship. Etienne smiled; those two made a beautiful couple. He remembered a little over a year ago, when Beth ran the idea by him of bringing Sherlock Holmes back to life. Etienne smiled wider. He was so skeptical of the idea then; now he was eating breakfast with the worldís greatest detective.

"Chief Inspector Leroux," Holmes started.

Etienne held up a hand, "Please call me Etienne or Leroux. Chief Inspector is far too formal for my liking. Iím sorry. Please continue, Monsieur Holmes."

Sherlock smiled as he continued, "Monsieur Leroux, when did this particular manifestation of the Phantom appear?"

"In what way?"

"The strange incidents that you mention in your report?"

"Those have been ongoing ever since the death of Mademoiselle Christine Daae, one of the main players in the original tragedy of the Opera Ghost. They have come in many forms. The only fatal ones are to those foolish enough to purposely hunt down the Phantom. Our Phantom doesnít hunt for victims. They come to him."

"What about the most recent manifestations?"

"Music being heard in the theater area at strange hours, sets being tampered with -- a few people have claimed to see a figure in black flying among the ropes and catwalks above the stages, and voices are heard singing certain parts if the singers canít get them right. Those are the most recent minor events."

"What are the major ones?"

"People have claimed to encounter the Phantom at different places in the Opera House, especially the rooftop or by Box Five. Last night, we were called to one on the local graveyards. A crypt was broken into and one of the perps was spotted fleeing the scene. A figure dressed in black. The other matches the description of your rival, Professor Moriarty," Etienne elaborated, "Word on the street is he is looking for the Phantom. No one knows why."

Lestrade added, "Or they are not telling."

"Either way, we must start looking at the Opera House." Sherlock suggested, "We will need to find the Phantom before he does."

"The opera company wonít be that cooperative with you," Etienne remarked.

"Why ever not? We are here to help them," Watson said.

"Well, the Phantom has become their guardian angel in a sense. He protects the members from harm, whether it is from each other or a patron. Several believe he is their good luck charm, especially with the Count de Chagny back on the streets." Etienne sighed.

"Count de Chagny? He was the one who shot the Phantom a few years ago," Lestrade realized, "Why is he hanging around the theater?"

"He is their principal patron -- or his family is. From what I hear, he is trying to bully the Opera managers into doing things his way. Tonight, they asked that no police be stationed at the Opera." Before Lestrade or anyone protested, Etienne smiled as he produced a set of tickets, "However, a friend of mine in the Opera gave me these tickets. We can be there in an unofficial capacity."

"We can observe all the patrons and company members for anything out of the ordinary," Lestrade commented.

"And possibly the Phantom. My friend feels that something big is going to happen tonight," Etienne informed them as he paid the waitress, "We are going to have a long night ahead of us. So let me get you to your hotel so you may rest."

The opening night of a new production was always a big deal at the Paris Opera House. Patrons dressed in their finest clothing, trying to show off. Some looked downright antique or inspired by old fashion trends. Sherlock felt a little out of place in his dress clothes. Leroux had picked them up earlier and informed them of the reception that was being held beforehand. He believed they could pick up some clue that way.

So Sherlock now stood in the lobby of the Opera House. He was bored as he looked across the crowd. Watson joined his side after a few moments of talking to one of the dancers.

"Pleasant girl," Watson commented as he walked over, "Where is Inspector Lestrade?"

"Chief Inspector Leroux took her to meet the managers. They should return soon." Sherlock smiled. In truth he felt the need to recover from the shock Lestrade gave him when she showed them her dress for the evening. It was a stylish black dress that fit her well. Sherlock had never seen her dress as a woman. Normally she wore her uniform when he saw her. Just when he thought he had her figured out, she showed him another facet of who she was.

Sherlock scanned the room, trying to take in everyone there. His eyes locked on to a young man dressed in evening clothes of the Victorian time period. A hat graced his head in a way that disguised his hair and face. A cape was draped over his arm as was a cane. He engaged in conversation with a young Arabic man who stood at the top of the stair. Holmes left the two to gaze at the other occupants of the stairways. Soon Lestrade joined them. She drew Sherlockís gaze from the stairs back to her.

The three friends were unaware that they were being observed. On the landing that led to the balcony stood Moriarty, incognito. His eyes narrowed on Holmes. What was he doing here? Was he here for the Phantom as well? There was a wild goose chase that Holmes could gladly go on. Moriarty had turned to go to his box when he spotted a young man coming up the stair. His clothing reminded Moriarty of the fashion in his day.

The young man was joking around with another young man of Arabian descent. The Arab was the older-looking of the two, with his messy hair and beard. They stood on the landing, laughing together. The young man in the evening clothes turned to see Moriarty staring at them. He tossed Moriarty a smile.

"Bonjour, Monsieur," the young man smiled brightly before turning to his companion. "So is everything okay?"

"Just as you said it would be," the Arab answered.

"Excellente, Nadir. Merci."

Before the Arab, Nadir, could answer, music began to play loudly. Moriarty turned to see a young man with blonde hair and stylish clothing walks through the crowd. He glanced up at the two young men and froze at the look in the young menís eyes.

Both sets of eyes blazed with hate, pure and simple hatred from the elegant man in the crowd. The younger ones were a more bright blue, similar to the ones he had seen in the crypt. His hands, though gloved, looked like they want to wrap themselves around the manís neck and squeeze. The Arab noticed the murderous gaze as well and cleared his throat.

"Iíll take you to your box before we have a dead body that needs burying," Nadir whispered as he led the young man away.

Moriarty watched them go. Never had he seen such hatred before. He had felt it at times in his life but he never seen in the face of another. It left him with an odd feeling he couldnít quite name. He turned to see the elegant man in the company of the Operaís managers. Absently, he wondered what made what about this man that caused such hate. As the fop disappeared down the hallway to one of the boxes, an elder woman gazed at him with such hate as did the older man who joined her.

"He has a lot of nerve coming here like he owned this place," the woman spat.

"The Count de Chagny wonít be so confident when he leaves. Now everything makes perfect sense." The man grinned evilly. "Come, Madame Giry, we will be needed on the stage before the performance starts."

The two left quickly back down the stairs. Moriarty walked towards his box where Fenwick was waiting. It was going to be an interesting evening. Still he couldnít get those blue eyes glowing with such intense hatred out of his head. It stayed with his through the overture. Soon he realized what opera was being performed. Faust was one his favorites, a story about temptation and betrayal. The darkness tempts the light from its post and consumes it.

The performance was flawless in every way, except that the lead singer who played Marguerite, the object of Faustís lust, just couldnít sing. Her voice was absolutely horrible with no redeeming qualities. Moriarty wondered why he'd even bothered coming, with such true abuse of music going on. He glanced across the theater to the sight of a man sitting in the back of his box. His face was masked by the shadow. His posture spoke of boredom and annoyance towards the whole affair. Moriarty watched as it raised its hand and made a fist.

Suddenly a horrible sound emitted from the stage. The actress playing Marguerite turned a bright red from making such a sound. The whole theater was dead silent. The singer composed herself and began to sing again. The fist unfurled and then closed again. Another croak was heard. A low chuckle echoed through the theater as the audience sat transfixed. The singer tried to continue on, but only croaks were coming out of her mouth as demonstrated by the clenching of the hand. A loud laughter rang through the theater.

"Behold, her singing will bring down the chandelier," a dark voice announced loudly. Moriarty looked up to see the chandelier begin to rumble and shake as the young lady continued to sing. Finally she broke down crying. The chandelier began to quiet down again.

Moriarty watched as the elegant man from earlier stood on the edge of the box next to his and shouted out loudly, "Who are you? Show yourself! I the Count of de Chagny demand it!"

"A murderer dares call me out," the voice laughed. "What will you do if I donít comply, Monsieur? Shot me like you did before?"

A hush fell over the crowd. The Count visibly paled at that declaration.

"No, itís not possible!"

The figure sitting in the box across from Moriarty stood up and gracefully walked towards the front. It stopped short of revealing exactly what it looked like. Moriarty could swear it was smiling.

"I quite assure you that I am who I claim to be. With all your money, Count, you can avoid all the trouble you cause. Except here. Here I rule. You have no power here."

The Count went from shaken to defiant, "Prove it. Only cowards hid in shadows."

"Since you ask so kindly."

With the ease of a cat, the figure leaped on to the railing of the box. It was crouched low, so one couldnít see its features just yet. Slowly and with grace it straightened itself up, revealing its black evening clothes and cape. Soon it stood straight, its masked face glared at the Count with intense hatred. The Count collapsed under such an intense gaze. The Phantom smiled sardonically.

"Mayhap a little warning is in order. Stay out of MY opera." The figure declared as it pulled out a cane and pointed it at the now calm chandelier. The chandelier quivered as the cane locked on to it.

With a quick movement the figure snapped the cane towards the stage. A tremor passed through it. Then it began to fall. Screams were heard from the audience as it passed over their heads and crashed right into an empty stage. Moriarty stood up to see the damage. As he did, he spotted Sherlock standing as he looked at the now empty box.

Moriarty realized something. The Phantom was alive and well. The Count didnít kill him. Maybe this trip wonít be a waste after all. He watched the pandemonium that was happening down below with a smile. He had to find the man who caused this.

Sherlock pushed his way through the crowd toward the stairway to the box where the Phantom had appeared. Behind him, he could hear Lestrade ordering people out of their way or at least trying to. They must reach that box before any vital clues disappeared. He took the stairs two at a time. He glanced to see Beth Lestrade matching his pace. Tossing her a smile, they reached the door of Box Five. They walked in to find that the box was empty.

"Zed, how did he leave?" Lestrade grumbled, "We would have seen him leave."

"Eyes and brains, my dear Lestrade," Holmes stated as they swept the box, "However it appears as if he has slipped away for now. Do you think the Chief Inspector can seal this box for us until tomorrow?"

"I think he can, Holmes. We need to ask him."

"Then letís, before anyone else thinks to look here."

They made their way to the main lobby. Leroux was directing people out the main doors, trying to bring order out of chaos. Holmes noticed that the New Paris police were swarming in. He turned to go down the stairs when Lestrade grabbed his arm. She pointed to a young man with long dark brown hair. He was dressed in old-fashioned evening clothes. He stared intently at one the portraits that hung in the lobby. When the police had emptied into the main he turned away from the picture and walked out of their line of sight back towards the main stage.

"Beth! Sherlock!" Leroux shouted as he came up the stairs, "Any luck?"

"No, Uncle. But could you see if someone could seal Box Five for us?"

"Of course. Come, we'd better let the detectives do their work. I have convinced the managers to see us in the morning. The Count is certainly angry about the Phantom being back," Leroux remarked. "They are particularly eager to see you, Mr. Holmes."

Holmes made a noncommittal sound as he searched for some sign of the young man. As they got closer to the ground floor, he could see one face from another. Leroux made a clear path for them through the crowd. Watson had already hailed a hovercab when they reached him. Leroux helped them in, with a promise that he would call when he knew what was going on. Leroux watched them leave as Nadir approached him.

"Was that who I think it was?" Nadir asked.

"Yes, Khan. It was."

"This is a dangerous game you have brought them into."

"They can help, if you let them."

"Are you sure that they can? The Phantom wonít see it that way."

"The Phantom can see it any way the Phantom wants. The Count is screaming for his blood. It wonít be long before he persuades the Commissioner to start the hunt."

"You know, I pity the fool who goes in there and picks a fight with something that he doesnít understand."

Nadir smiled as he turned away and began to walk away towards la Rue Scribe. Leroux silently watched him leave. What is going to happen now?

On to Chapter 3!

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