The Phantom

Chapter Five

by TT (a.m.tilmouth.s99 at cranfield.ac.uk)

Within minutes the three men were piling into Holmes's sky car. Holmes had immediately recognised the young man at the front door, even without the heavy white stage makeup that he had worn earlier that day.

"Roger, isn't it?" The young man nodded.

"Why did you come to Baker Street instead of going to inform the police?"

"Who says I haven't?"

Holmes smiled a quick smile. "Your clothes are rumpled, your shoes are tied up so badly I daresay you will have to cut the laces to remove them, and that is your night shirt you have on under the jumper. All this points to a hurried departure, and the police would have kept you for a long while, so long that a couple of minutes to sort out your attire would not have mattered much. Am I wrong?"

Dodger shook his head and wrung his hands.

"You came to us, of course, because the young lady has confided in you about her notes."

"Yes. We are good friends, Rachel and I, and I know enough about her to tell when she's frightened, sir; and she's terrified."

Holmes closed his eyes and leaned back in the car seat. "Tell me what happened tonight!"

Dodger stared blankly at the window for a minute then began. "She told me about the notes a couple of weeks after they started. At first she was excited to get them; they were very complimentary about her singing and her acting. The ones she showed me where very...lovingly written, is the best way I can think to describe it. And then all of a sudden, they changed. They became more pushy, colder, more methodical. That's when she got scared and that's when she asked me to check on her every night before I go to bed to make sure she had got back from rehearsals all right."

"Why you and not the halls mistress?"

"I am not a particularly bright student, sir, but I study hard and am up almost every night with my course books. The time I go to bed varies; a check by the halls mistress would be at the same time every night. She didn't want to give anyone a routine to work any mischief 'round.

"But now to tonight. I finished later than usual and went to check on her, and she wasn't there, I've checked all round the theatre and under the first two floors of the stage."

Holmes's eyes opened slightly. "You are not afraid of going under the stage."

"If I were an Opera Ghost I can think of a thousand more comfortable places to hide than crouched under there." Holmes smiled slightly.

"Why haven't you contacted the police?"

He looked uncomfortable for a minute and shifted position in the back seat. "Ray's a bit of a wild child; she sneaks out now and again when the lights go out."

"To do what?"

Dodger shrugged. "Normal stuff: cinema, bowling, shuttle tag. Between us I think she hates Hawthorn; it's too strict, but her Mum wants her to be an actor so there she'll stay until she graduates."

They set down a couple of streets from the Hawthorn Academy of Arts and Dodger led them in through the faulty ventilation grate that had been an entrance and exit passed down from generation to generation of students. Dodger snuck through the empty halls like something out of a spy movie. Holmes and Watson, however, moved like ghosts in the darkened corridors. Eventually Dodger stopped them.

"We're going to go to Ray's dressing room. If you get caught there you'll be in less trouble than the girls dormitory; anyway, it's closer. Security's not that tight round here so don't worry too much." He led them past the stage and into the maze behind. Eventually he stopped at a door and bent down to the lock, taking a couple of pieces of wire from inside his sleeve.

"You can pick locks?"

Dodger looked up and smiled at the detective. "What's the point of being the world's greatest prankster if you can't get into places?" He turned back to the door and in a couple of seconds they were all piling through it into the room beyond.

The room was dark, with the slight subtle smells that all ladies' dressing rooms attract mixed with the odour of old props and stage makeup. Dodger quickly shut the door and stuffed his coat under it before switching on the light.

"The girl next door to Ray didn't hear her come in tonight. I checked around here once but you may be able to find something I didn't."

"More than likely," remarked Holmes as he bent down to examine the carpet. "Both of you stand by the door -- and Roger, I'll need your shoes for a minute or two."

Holmes examined first one shoe and then the other before handing them back to their owner. As the young man pulled them back on, the great detective flung himself down onto the floor and crawled about the floor for fifteen minutes in complete silence. Any attempts by either of his two companions to talk were silenced immediately by a sharp glare from Holmes. Eventually he pulled himself back up.

"The cleaners come in here in the evenings, do they not."

"I believe so, yes...."

"Then there were two other people in here after about six, besides you. One young lady wearing size six boots...and someone else, a man, short but not abnormally so, size eight shoes -- and I believe he has recently been somewhere extremely dusty and dirty. There is one unusual feature about him, though."

Watson started. "And what's that then, Holmes?"

The detective smiled, his eyes lit up with keen amusement. "He appears to be able to walk through walls."

On to Part 6!

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