Masquerade

Chapter 8: Revelations and Cheap Shots

by Myshawolf (myshawolf at yahoo.com) (9/15/03)

General Disclaimer

Nightmare walks out with a sign: No notes. Mysha is currently reading a new book.

Nightmare: She is also looking for walk-ons for the next few chapters. Volunteers must tell her what job they would like in the opera house. You have until 9/30 to let her know.


Chapter 8: Revelations and Cheap Shots

Sherlock escorted Beth into the restaurant. They were armed with more information on the mysterious Erika Noir. Beth felt they should take a more friendly approach with the young lady since she had helped save her. Beth had never told Sherlock that she felt a strange kinship with the young singer. She felt it wasn't appropriate to mention it. This whole thing seemed to have taken a dark twist. Beth froze when she spotted the Count sitting with his entourage. Unknowingly, she clutched Sherlock's arm tight.

"Don't worry, my dear Lestrade. He will get his in the end." Sherlock soothed as they entered the main dining area. Before they could take a step farther, Erika Noir came walking up. She was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. She stopped in front of them.

"I'm glad you are okay, Inspector. The Phantom told me what happened." Erika smiled, "Please, won't you two join us? The theater company has been talking about you two nonstop since you walked in."

"Actually, we wanted to talk with you, Mademoiselle Noir," Sherlock replied.

"Really, well, at least eat with us. Then we can talk afterwards," Erika compromised.

"An excellent idea." Lestrade smiled as she pulled away from Holmes and walked over to the noisy table of theater people.

Erika smirked at Holmes. "Just walks right in, doesn't she?"

"One of her more admirable traits," Sherlock sighed as he followed her. Erika watched them. Her mind began to think of ways to get them together. Silently, she glared at the Count. She was about to walk over to his table when she noticed the detectives watching her closely. Smirking, she turned and walked away.

Unlike her meal last night, Beth thoroughly enjoyed this one. She laughed with Buquet's jokes and listened as Madame Giry told her stories of the Opera House. She turned to Sherlock to see him in a deep argument with the lighting crew over the old limelights that were still used. Erika smiled at Beth when Madame Giry turned to Beth.

"So, Inspector," Madame Giry began solemnly, "I hear that the Count has marked you as his next conquest."

Erika spoke up first, "Really, Melissa. Must you ruin the poor girl's meal by bringing that scum up?"

Buquet agreed, "Oui. She doesn't need that right now. Ignore her, mademoiselle, she has lousy timing."

Nadir took a seat by Holmes and stated, "Besides, Holmes is with her. You don't need to worry about her now. I've heard of your exploits in New London. You are very capable with your cane."

Holmes added hastily, "My Inspector Lestrade can most definitely take care of herself."

Lestrade choked on her wine when she heard the words 'My Inspector Lestrade' came out of his mouth. Erika handed her a napkin. Lestrade took gratefully and wiped her mouth. No one commented on Holmes' possessiveness. In fact Nadir even distracted them by asking how the rehearsals were coming. Erika took advantage of the cover to whisper to Lestrade.

"To answer your question from the other day, yes." Erika said into her ear. Lestrade looked at Erika in surprise. Erika motioned for Lestrade to follow her. Lestrade nodded and followed Erika away from the table. Sherlock was about to follow when Nadir stopped him.

"Don't worry. Erika will protect her. Also the Phantom will be with them," Nadir said. "Besides I'm sure you have a few questions for me."

"Indeed I do." Sherlock remarked as he turned towards the normally reserved Nadir.

Erika stepped out into the cool night air. She loved the nighttime. Turning, she waited for the Inspector to come out. Lestrade stepped out and walked up to Erika. Erika continued down into the garden that was behind the restaurant. Lestrade fell in step beside her. Beth turned as Erika began to hum.

"Little Lotte thought of everything and nothing," Erika sang softly.

Beth smiled. "My father used to tell me stories like Little Lotte."

Erika seemed surprised, "Really? Lotte was a story that has been passed down through my family. I thought I was the only one who had heard of her."

Lestrade shook her head, "Despite everything, whenever I feel scared and alone I remember Little Lotte. She's helped me survive some of my worst ordeals."

"Like what chased you from Texas," Erika observed.

Lestrade nodded silently and asked, "Erika, why do you and the Count hate each other?"

Erika stopped walking and turned towards Lestrade, "He took away someone that I cared about greatly. He killed them in cold blood when they protected me and tried to kill me too."

Lestrade was about to ask who, when she realized the answer. "Your father?"

Erika nodded sadly and looked up at the night sky, "Yes. My father and I were walking home one night along the Rue Scribe. We had just heard that I would go to Milan to continue my training and were going to celebrate, when the Count ambushed us. He knocked my father down and came after me. My father jumped in front of me and took the shot that was meant for me. My father told me to run and I did. Mon Dieu, I can still hear the other shots. When I turned around, my gentle father was lying on the ground, dying. I ran back and drove the Count off. He wasn't expecting it and ran away. My father died in my arms as I tried to save him."

"I'm sorry," Lestrade consoled as she saw the tears in Erika's eyes.

Erika wiped them away and said, "Can anyone blame me for wanting him dead? When he went to jail, I went to Milan. The need to get away was great. I still have dreams about that night my life changed. I was angry that he was allowed out as if his crime wasn't all that bad."

"And you came back. We knew you had returned at least a week prior to your appearance at the Opera," Lestrade stated.

Erika laughed gently. "I came back to see if he had changed. After your ordeal and Calotte turning up dead, I knew he hadn't. Merde, I knew when I first saw him strutting around the Opera House that he hadn't. So I allied myself with the Phantom to take him down and make him pay for everything he had done to those who come to the Opera House."

"You are a friend of the Phantom, then?"

"My family has always been close to the Phantom." Erika smiled mysteriously. "Your detective is trying to discover that connection."

"He is? Well, we discovered quite a bit about you."

"Really? Like what?"

"You didn't just study music in Milan. You took several courses at the local science university."

"Please continue."

"We couldn't access your records on those courses, but I have a feeling some of them dealt with physiology of the human body."

"I'm intrigued. How long was I there for?"

"At least three years, since you graduated early. Then La Scala accepted you into its troupe full time."

"Anything else?"

"I don't think so."

"Very good work, Inspector. I'm very impressed. Not too many people bother to look that far into my background. Now may I tell you about yourself?"

"Yes, of course."

"You were born in Texas. Your father used to live New London and you still have several family members there. He went to a Texas university and settled there. He married a local schoolteacher and they had one daughter, you. Your father died during a raid on a gang's hideout when you were seven. You took his death very hard and since then were determined to become a U.S Marshal. You were valedictorian in your high school. However during your senior year something happened that led you to ultimately leave Texas. Your grades slipped around early May and you transferred to a boarding school in New London. You stayed there for an extra year to get the training needed to get accepted by the New Scotland Yard Academy. You are the youngest person to ever reach Inspector." Erika ticked off gently and smiled at Lestrade's shocked look, "You are not the only person who does her homework."

"Does the Phantom know all this?"

"Yes, he does." Erika sighed softly. "Beth, what happened to cause you to run? You know my reasons. Tell me yours."

"I'm not ready to talk about it yet. If I tell anyone, Sherlock would be the first to know."

"I understand. He is your closest friend."

"Yes, he is."

"You love him a lot," Erika stated finally.

Lestrade sputtered in response. Erika smiled mysteriously. She heard some rustling around her but ignored it until the Inspector was back inside. Lestrade decided to change the subject quickly.

"Erika," Lestrade said quickly, "what happened to Christine Daae? The Phantom won't tell Holmes."

"That is another reason why there has al ways been a rivalry between the Phantom and the de Chagnies. They have always fought over the love of a woman." Erika sighed, "In the end someone from each side must die. It is a cycle that will continue until the end of both families."

"That doesn't answer my question."

"It wasn't meant to. I think you should head in before your detective begins to worry."

"Are you coming?"

"In a moment. I need to be alone with my thoughts." Erika stated as she looked at the stars. Lestrade wanted to say more but instead walked back to the restaurant. She could tell from how Erika was standing that she didn't want to talk about it. Lestrade left the garden and returned to the table to see Nadir and Holmes laughing. She smiled as she sat down next to Holmes, where she belonged.

Out in the garden, Erika closed her eyes as she fought against the memory of the night her whole world changed. She had stood out here that night with her father as they stared at the stars. He loved looking at the night sky. His favorite spot was the top of Opera House. Erika wiped her eyes and went to turn around. She ran right into Moriarty who stood there unmasked. They stared right into each other's eyes. Moriarty was unsure of what to say. He had overheard the conversation between Erika and Lestrade.

"Fancy meeting you here." Erika spoke up at last, "I take it you saw his reply."

Moriarty felt relieved when she brought up the Phantom, "I intend to do as he suggests."

"Then you are either very brave or very foolish."

"Holmes has been sniffing out his trail. I will find the Phantom first."

"Why do you want the Phantom, anyway? You are intelligent enough that you don't need his mind. Besides, too many geniuses tends to lead to a struggle for dominance."

"I want his inventions. It is rumored that he has made several advances in technology and science through the years. Considering your background in chemistry, I'd say he had probably made several advances in the area of chemicals and medicine. Or do you not have several degrees in chemistry and botany?"

"I may have underestimated your ability to gather information. When did you decide to focus on me?"

"After our first meeting. You greatly intrigued me, Mademoiselle Noir. Not many people do."

"The mysterious is always attractive. People will always follow a mask." Erika stated. "Bebe Jarret, from the book House of Gold."

"Your mask is a beautiful one."

"Why, Professor, are you flirting with me?" Erika joked softly.

Moriarty smiled and took her hand. Gently he kissed the inside of her wrist and flashed her smile. Erika's heart stopped and a blush crept into her cheek.

"I intend to win this game of wits, mademoiselle," Moriarty promised softly. "Until we meet again."

Moriarty walked back into the garden leaving Erika alone with her thoughts and feelings. Merde, Erika thought, he doesn't fight fair. Erika turned back to the night sky. The stars winked at her. Erika sighed and began to walk towards the restaurant. She didn't notice the ionizer that was pointed at her. Suddenly pain burst through her upper body and a shout left her lips as she hit the floor of the garden.

Moriarty was almost out of the garden when he heard the shot and the shout. He turned and ran back into the garden. Common sense told him he should leave before he was spotted, but Erika was still in there. He came upon the clearing where he left Erika to see her lying on the ground, passed out. A dark figure was about to shoot her again when Moriarty made his presence known by running towards Erika's assailant. The figure turned and disappeared back into the bushes.

Moriarty was going to give chase but remembered that Erika was injured. He knelt next to her to examine her wound. It wasn't too bad. She would be okay, but he needed to get her out of here before whoever attacked her returned. Gently, Moriarty picked her up. In the distance he could hear footsteps approaching. Silently he ducked behind a set of bushes. He could see Sherlock and Lestrade arrive onto the scene. He began to sneak towards the entrance and bumped into Nadir. Before Moriarty could blink, Erika was in Nadir's arms.

"You had better go, monsieur, before they see you. The Phantom wouldn't want you to be caught," Nadir stated seriously.

"Someone tried to hurt her."

"I know, and I promise you that they won't succeed. Trust me, Monsieur Moriarty, she is safe with me." Nadir vowed, "Now hurry, before they find you."

Moriarty relented. He knew he couldn't carry her away. The Phantom was watching over her and if she went missing, he would search for her. Moriarty nodded and ran towards the entrance of the garden and into the street. He didn't want to verbally spar with Holmes right now. Nadir smiled when Holmes and Lestrade joined him.

"Is she...?" Lestrade asked, concerned.

"No. It's very shallow. I can take care of it." Nadir sighed.

"Come, Lestrade, we need to head in and question the Count. He disappeared from his table before the shot was fired. He may know what happened," Sherlock suggested, knowing they wouldn't get any more out of Nadir.

Nadir nodded his goodbye and left the garden carrying his load. Buquet spotted him carrying Erika and walked up. Nadir asked him to call Danesh and tell him that Erika was hurt. Nadir stepped into a cab and left the restaurant. The Count stepped out of the crowd with a smirk of triumph on his face. Satisfied with the results, he walked away from the restaurant. Now for the Inspector.

Erika woke up in a strange bed. She sat up, causing Nadir to fall over with a scream. Danesh began to laugh as he came forward with some food. Erika smiled as she took the tray. Nadir dusted himself off and grumbled at the other two.

"Sorry, Khan, what was that?" Erika joked and winced at the pain in her shoulder.

"He's been hovering over you like a mother hen," Danesh smiled.

"Speaking of which, what happened?" Erika asked as she spooned up some soup.

"Someone tried to shoot you. Lestrade and Holmes will be over a bit later to check on you. They found an abandoned ionizer in the garden and two sets of footprints -- one leading back to the restaurant and the other leading away," Nadir explained as he sat on the bed.

"The filthy Count," Erika growled.

"He has an alibi. Several people saw him at the front entrance when the shots were fired. But I don't think he is totally innocent," Danesh sniffed.

"We are all agreed on that point," Nadir stated, "The question is, what to do now?"

"The show must go on. Tonight is the Masquerade Ball and I will attend as originally planned," Erika remarked. "I refuse to give the Count the satisfaction of not showing up."

"That's our little sister," Danesh said with pride as he checked Erika's bandages.

"I agree. But I think the Phantom needs to make an appearance as well," Nadir grumbled.

Erika brightened up, "Nadir, did I hear you right? Are you encouraging the Phantom to make a public appearance?"

"Against my better judgment." Nadir sighed. "Is there anything you will require from your home?"

"My costume, Nadir, and Ayesha. Tonight, I will leave no doubt in the Count's mind that he should not mess with me." Erika grinned evilly.

All of Paris spent the day preparing for the annual Opera Masquerade Ball. Holmes and Lestrade went out with Leroux looking for some costumes. Lestrade picked out a beautiful medieval gown of blue and silver and a pair of fairy wings. Keeping with Lestrade's choice, Holmes found an excellent costume of King Arthur. Later they went to Nadir's apartment to see Erika who loved their costumes.

"Belle! Very beautiful, Beth. You will look like a real queen in this. You should have Madame Giry do your hair," Erika suggested when she saw the gown and clothing, "And Monsieur Holmes, You will look like a real king in that outfit. I hope you keep track of how many people kneel to you."

"Where's your costume, Mademoiselle Noir?" Sherlock asked.

"You will see it at the ball. It's a surprise. I also hear the Phantom will be appearing," Erika confided gently.

Nadir coughed gently, getting everyone's attention. "I'm afraid Erika needs her rest in order to be ready for the Ball. We will look for you there tonight." Nadir smiled as he walked them to the door and slammed it shut.

That night Holmes began to change into his costume. Lestrade was changing in the bathroom. Holmes enjoyed dressing up in disguises. They allowed him to be more than what he could be. He could be someone other than the Great Detective. He just finished applying the makeup when the bathroom door opened and Lestrade stepped out. Holmes froze in the motion of tightening the cap on the putty at the vision in front of him.

Lestrade's brown hair was curled and braided with bluebells intertwined. A few stray hairs framed her face. The dress clung to her curves in a tempting way. Sherlock felt his throat go dry as he noticed how the two colors brought out her eyes. What caught his attention was a silver pendant that hung around her neck. Sherlock walked towards her, entranced by the transformation.

Lestrade's heart was pounding in her ears. Holmes's eyes never left her as he walked over. Gently he reached for the pendant. His warm hands barely brushed her cool skin, but the contact was enough to stop her heart from beating. After a few minutes, his blue eyes met hers. Lestrade nearly bolted back into the bathroom when Holmes hit his knees.

"I am at your service, Queen Mab." Holmes smiled at her.

Lestrade felt relief wash over as she joked back, "Arise, brave knight. There is no need to kneel, since we are both of royal blood."

Holmes jumped up. A mischievous twinkle gleamed in his eye. He offered his arm which Lestrade took willingly and together they left for the ball.

Moriarty clasped the black cloak around his shoulders. Fenwick handed him a white mask similar to the real Phantom's. Moriarty put it on and stared in the mirror. It wasn't a bad costume. He would lure the Phantom out of his hiding place tonight. He turned to Fenwick.

"You know the plan," Moriarty stated darkly.

"Yes, master. I will look for the signal as we have planned." Fenwick nodded.

"Good. Don't fail me," Moriarty growled as he left the room. He pulled on a pair of white gloves and placed a black fedora on top of his head. Tonight he would meet with the Phantom.

Myshawolf peeks up from The Complete Phantom of the Opera:

Hey, if you review, I'll make omelets with the eggs I threatened last chapter. And yes, I am obsessed. *smiles widely* You know you love me that way.

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