The Phantom

Chapter Nine

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

The hours passed, and Lestrade and Watson waited at the side of the hall, Holmes still missing. In the darkness of the auditorium Christine passed from chorus girl to prima donna, into the underground lair of the Angel of Music. Up on the rooftops she and Raoul, her childhood sweetheart, declared their love for one another, while in the shadows of the statue of Apollo the Phantom listened with contempt and dismay. Lestrade waited. and as the Phantom screamed his hatred and the chandelier fell, the lights flooded back. The first half of the play ended.

"They really are very good, aren't they?" Holmes reappeared, still in disguise, as the chandelier was hoisted back up to hover above the audience once more.

"Where in the name of Zed have you been? The play's halfway through." Lestrade swatted his arm with the notebook she held,

Holmes easily caught it and glanced at the screen. He lowered his voice. "Here and there, here and there. Now, when the lights go out again, keep your wits about you and expect the worst."

The lights did indeed go out again as people returned to their seats for the second half of the play. There was a party, a giant masquerade. Colours and weird creatures swirled everywhere in a dizzying display, Christine and Raoul started to sing and then...the Red Death emerged from the top of the stage, iridescent in a magnificent costume of red velvet and silk, his skullhead bone white in the spotlight.

Watson muttered, "Oh my. the missing costume."

From somewhere off stage Mrs Lakes' voice could be heard. The entire cast stood dumbstruck. The boy playing Raoul managed to point. "Hey, you're not meant to be on yet!"

Blue sparks leapt from the Phantom's hand and pounded into the boy's chest, Raoul collapsed, twitching on the floor. Lestrade drew her ioniser but Holmes laid a hand on her arm and shook his head.

"Why so silent, good monsieurs? Have you never seen the dead before? Ten long years I have lain here, watching, waiting for my chance to rise again." His voice was hollow and echoed. He threw up his arms. Blue light sparked; mist began to bubble from underneath the trapdoors. The actors tried to move out of the way, all apart from Rachel Morris, who stood, swaying slightly, just below the Phantom.

He seemed to catch sight of her. "Cherie...Christine, come with me." He stretched out a hand to her, but all at once Rachel seemed to snap out of the trance; she began to back away. Holmes began to pull Lestrade and Watson towards the stage.

The Phantom's eyes began to glow and he snatched Rachel's wrist. "So be it. You shall all pay." He threw an arm skyward once more. All at once, Lestrade saw something jerk above them. The chandelier began to fall once more, but faster, more uncontrolled.

"HOLMES!"

But the detective kept trying to push them both through the throng of frightened people to the stage. Lestrade saw the great mass of glass plummet down for what seemed like an age of time...and then suddenly jerk and snap back, dancing on the end of a long thick chain. A few shards broke off and disappeared into the crowd. On stage the Phantom screamed and pulled Rachel towards one of the trapdoors; he bent down to pull it with his free hand...nothing happened. This seemed to surprise him more than the chandelier. He went to the next one. Same thing, and the next, and the next.

Now Holmes was running over the free space. The Phantom turned, threw something and ran into the shadows backstage. Holmes threw a young girl out the way. The silver blade hit the wall with a bang.

"Smilers," yelled Lestrade as Holmes flew into the shadows. "The kid's got smilers."

There was a shout from up ahead. "WATSON, LESTRADE." They ran forward and there on the floor was Roger, the pale mask of the first half of the play gone. His hand was turned red as he clutched his side. "How many times did I tell you to keep out of the way," growled Holmes, reaching down.

Roger jerked back. "No...not me, people here to do that... help Ray. Hands at the level of your eyes, Holmes... remember."

Mrs Lakes came running up the passageway. "Mr King, what are you doing here...Oh my God, Roger."

Holmes grabbed her. "Madam, my name is Sherlock Holmes. Get the police and an ambulance. There is a passage behind the mirror in Miss Morris's dressing room. If we are not back in an hour tell the police to smash it through... and beware what they find beyond." With that Holmes ran off into the darkness, Lestrade and Watson close on his heels.

"Holmes, what did he mean, 'hands at the level of your eyes'?" They were in Rachel's dressing room now, Holmes about to press the mirror leaf.

"Watson, the real Phantom used a catgut lasso to strangle his victims, Raoul and the Persian kept their hands level with their face." Holmes quickly demonstrated; he looked like an old fashioned duellist. "To stop the Phantom being able to fasten the knot round their throats."

The door swung open reveal black beyond.

"Remember, both of you, hands at the level of your eyes. We don't know what's in store for us now." They descended into the darkness.

On to Part 10!

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