Chapter 12: Masks Off

by Myshawolf (myshawolf at

General Disclaimer

Myshawolf walks out with a notebook. Nightmare is right behind her.

MW: Another chapter is up. We are hitting the end of this little adventure.

Nightmare: Good. Maybe you can concentrate on Atlantis like your beta wants you to.

MW: *smiles* Eventually. Hey, Northstar, if Auron gives you too hard of a time, we can introduce him to Nightmare. Jaka, I'm working on a present for you. It should be ready by the next chapter. Iara, I'm glad someone likes the Erika/Moriarty thing. I can't think of anything else.

Nightmare: Good. Now you got graduate work to do, young lady. That research paper isn't going to type itself.

MW as she is being dragged away: On with the show.

Erika hurriedly got dressed in her dressing room. Star North watched her with a smile. Eventually she got Erika to sit still long enough to do her make up. Erika closed her eyes as Star streaked the powder across her cheeks. Madame Giry walked in. She was dressed in black in order to make her harder to see offstage.

"Are you nervous, Erika?" Madame Giry asked.

"Very," Erika admitted as she opened her eyes. "It feels like this is the final act."

"In a sense it is. The Count has refused to attend because you are singing," Madame Giry informed her.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish," Star stated as she put the finishing touches on Erika's makeup. "Now I will be waiting stage right of the wings to touch up your makeup. Now I have to hurry before Auron comes looking for me."

Madame Giry snorted, "That slave driver? I thought he was ordered to back off."

Star shrugged as she packed up her supplies. "Like that ever stops him. Got to run. Break a leg, Erika."

"Bye, Star," both ladies said with a smile.

Nadir and Danesh entered the dressing room. Danesh presented Erika with a bouquet of fresh daisies and carnation. Erika smiled as she accepted them and gave each a kiss on each cheek.

"Merci," Erika sighed as she took in their scent.

"Anything for our little sister. Good luck tonight." Danesh smiled as he hugged her.

"Your father would be proud of you, Noir." Nadir smiled.

"Your whole family line would be proud of you." Madame Giry beamed proudly, then began to usher everyone out. "Let give her a moment alone. I will be back in five minutes for curtain."

"Oui, Madame Giry," Erika giggled as she went back to getting dressed. Gently, she put on her hoop earrings. As she fixed her hair with a headscarf, one of the younger stagehands walked in with a small bouquet of red and white roses. Erika walked up to take them. She looked at the stagehand questioningly. "Where did these come from?"

"I don't know, mademoiselle. I was handed them by a tall man who was by the backstage area," the stagehand reported.

"Was he exceedingly polite and have a British accent?"


"Go back for me and tell him thank you for the roses; I owe him another kiss. And if he wants to come back here, let him."

"Oui, mademoiselle," the stagehand remarked as he left the dressing room. "Excuse me, Gaspar, Royce."

Erika watched as the two new stagehands walked into her dressing room. Gaspar closed the door. Erika watched amused as the two removed their hats and fake mustaches to reveal their true identities.

"Detectives!" Erika exclaimed, happy to see them. "You didn't need disguises to come backstage. I'm sure Nadir would have let you in."

"He almost didn't this morning," Lestrade griped.

"We are incognito, Mademoiselle Noir, because I think someone is going to try to sabotage the play tonight with a strong possibility of harming you in the process," Holmes stated strongly.

"Do you know whom?" Erika asked with a smile.

"I have a strong suspicion. Can you tell us what really happened to Christine Daae-Noir? That is the only piece that I'm missing from the puzzle."

"Perhaps some other time soon. Tonight is not a night to bring up the past," Erika said. "You'd better hurry. Buquet likes having his people in place at least fifteen minutes ahead of time."

The two replaced their masks and walked towards the door. Holmes stopped and turned around. "Tell me, Mademoiselle Noir, how close is Moriarty to the truth?"

Erika smiled sadly. "Closer than even he knows, just as are you. Until after the limelight, Monsieur Royce."

The two detectives left the dressing room. Erika sat at her vanity. She closed her eyes and folded her hands. Silently she prayed to God and her father for strength as she performed on the same stage as her ancestors. A familiar, yet dangerous presence woke her out of her reverie.

Erika flung herself to the floor as the gunshot rang out. Several bottles on her dresser shattered. Erika rolled away and ducked into the alcove that hid her cot. She heard several shouts and the sound of retreating footsteps. She closed her eyes and tried to calm down her beating heart. That was close. A voice reached her ears that caused her heart to race again.

"Mademoiselle Noir, are you all right?" Moriarty asked as he walked into her dressing room. The broken glass crunched under his shoes.

Erika opened her eyes to stare into his gray ones. She noticed that he was wearing an elastomask. Erika nodded as she let go of the breath she had been holding in. He was about to say more when Royce cleared his throat. The two looked at him.

Royce quirked an eyebrow and Moriarty realized that Royce was Sherlock. He stood, and helped Mademoiselle Noir up as well.

"Did you see your attacker, Mademoiselle Noir?" Royce asked. Gaspar stood by the door of the dressing room as if to stand guard. Moriarty smirked. Lestrade really needed to hide her stance a little bit better.

"No, Monsieur Royce, I was saying a prayer and had my eyes closed. It was a good thing I fell from my chair when I did."

Royce nodded and addressed the stranger. "Did you see anything, monsieur?"

"Unfortunately, I didn't. I was just clearing the crowd when I heard the shot."

Nadir raced up to the room and stated, "We lost him. There is no time to search the Opera House to be sure he is gone. I will advise the managers to postpone tonight's performance."

"No, Khan. That is what my attacker wants. I'm fine and can perform just as well," Erika protested.

"We can't protect you when you are on the stage," Nadir pointed out.

"I will not hide or run away anymore, Khan. I've done that for far too long. I will take a stand tonight."

"As you wish. Please be careful, my friend."

"I will. I have no intention of dying any time soon."

Nadir gave a little bow and told Erika, "I will suggest that we delay curtain time until we can be sure that he is no longer backstage."

"Of course." Erika smiled as the small group of rescuers left her room. Royce gave a long look to the stranger before leaving the room. Erika sighed as she turned to her visitor. She whispered, "It's pleasure to see you again, Professor. But you shouldn't have come."

"I thought we stopped Moran's attempts on your life."

"You did. Now the one who paid him is taking matters into his own hands. Don't worry for me. I can take care of myself."

"So I have seen. I came to wish you luck, Mademoiselle Noir. I look forward to watching your performance tonight."

Erika smiled brightly. "Thank you for your kind words, Professor. Your flowers are beautiful."

"I will go now, Mademoiselle, and take my seat," Moriarty excused himself as he kissed her hand. "Au revoir, Erika."

Erika smiled even wider, "Au revoir, James."

Moriarty smiled to himself as he walked away for the dressing room. There was a definite spring in his step as he approached the flies.

The best place to watch a play isn't from the front row or the balcony. It is from the backstage, watching not only the magic of the actors transforming into their characters, but also the stage crew working together to further the story through the changing of the sets. One can see the actors behind a closed curtain take their spots and wait for their cue.

It was easy to share the quiver of excitement that hummed in the air when the orchestra hit the final bars of the overture and the curtain opened, revealing the beautiful structure of Notre Dame. A young man stepped forward, dressed in the clothes of a minstrel. He sang about the eternal present of the great stone cathedral and the new threat of infidels to Paris. His voice rose and sunk with each word as it should. As he finished, Royce noticed that he didn't wear a microphone or any equipment to help project his voice. He turned to ask Gaspar about this.

"I'm not sure why," Gaspar answered.

Nadir walked over to them and after Royce repeated his question, Nadir smiled. "That is simple. This theater was built for good acoustics. A singer doesn't need a microphone because he can project well already, with the design of the theater. Plus, like the old-fashioned limes, the company wanted everything to remain as authentic as possible to when the theater originally opened."

Royce nodded and turned back to the stage area. The stage was in semi darkness as the lightening crew began to start up a new lime light. As the music swelled the light began to get brighter. Soon a beautiful voice began to sing softly as she describe the forces that have guided her life. At the key change, Erika burst in the glowing limelight, dressed in colorful gypsy clothing as she became Esmeralda the gypsy girl. The whole theater became deathly quiet as she sang in bright and clear voice about her life and how she came to Paris. Around her sat the chorus dressed as refugees and fellow gypsies.

Gaspar looked around backstage to see that everyone stopped to watch her sing and dance. When the song ended, Esmeralda waited for the next song to begin. The audience soon was applauding very loudly as did everyone backstage. Soon the orchestra to play, quieting everyone down. The backstage crew continued to work. Erika and the new play, Notre Dame de Paris, were going to be a rousing success.

Moriarty enjoyed the show from his position high up in the rafters. He watched the rehearsal for places the stage crew didn't go. He noticed that they didn't go too high for the stage. He watched Erika perform her best. Once or twice she would look up at him during time offstage. He had the best view in the house. He was far enough away to be hidden but yet he could still see. Next to him, Fenwick was keeping an eye out for any possible intruders. He could sense that Fenwick wanted to question him about why they were watching Erika, instead of searching for the Phantom. Ever so often, Moriarty would glare at his lackey, silencing him every time.

He refocused on the drama that unfolded below him. It was the final scene as Esmeralda awaits her death. Erika was playing the gypsy girl quite well. She seemed so alone as she pleaded for one last night to be with the one she loved, and to finally be free. Moriarty closed his eyes as her voice reached his ears.

A million stars light
This beautiful night
This is not a night to die
Let me sing and dance
Beneath the sky
I have such love to give
To give
I want a chance to live

Erika turned her bright blue eyes to the audience. They were her judge and jury. With a grace that hadn't been seen since the days of Christine Daae, she moved upstage as she sang her final aria.

For the one I love
As no one has loved
Asking nothing in return

Royce watched her, transfixed, as he had when he first heard Christine Daae. It was like the past was coming to life and trying to live again. He reached for Gaspar's hand, understanding the message of the song.

Free to find my way
Free to have my say
Free to see the day

Gaspar gripped Royce's hand as she watched Erika sing. There were tears in her eyes. She wanted to help the poor gypsy girl who was condemned to die because she loved the wrong man.

Like I used to be
Like a wild bird free
With all of life in me

Erika turned away from the audience in shame that she should be begging for their mercy. She turned her eyes to the unseen stars and sang to them.

For the one I love
As no one has loved
Asking nothing in return

A cloaked figure walked on to the stage. Priest robes could be seen under the cloak. It seemed Claude Frollo was making one last visit to the gypsy to make his final offer: love him or die. Erika didn't see him as she made her final wish to the stars.

Though this world tears us apart
We're still together in my heart
I want the world to hear my cry
And even if I have to die
Love will not die
Love will change the world

"This isn't part of the play," Royce heard Shawn whisper to Krissi.

"Go get Nadir," Krissi hissed back. Shawn nodded as he ran to find the head of security. Royce pulled out his cane, ready to fight if the need arose.

For the one I love
As no one has loved
Asking nothing in return
I'll love until love wears me away
I'll die and I know my love will stay
And I know, I know my love will stay

Erika turned towards the cloaked figure. As she turned, the figure pulled out an oldfashioned gun and fired a shot. Erika felt the bullet hit her shoulder. She collapsed to the ground. Red blood began to stain her white shift.

The figure moved towards her. Moriarty began to race towards the stairs, Fenwick hot on his heels. Royce and Gaspar ran out on to the stage, shedding their disguises as they went. Gaspar/Lestrade pulled out her ionizer and took aim at the intruder.

"Stop!" Royce/Holmes shouted, "And show yourself."

The figure turned and pulled down his hood to reveal the Phantom. A gasp came over the audience. The Phantom grinned evilly at Holmes. His brown eyes gleamed with triumph.

"I thought the Phantom was Erika's friend," Lestrade said to Holmes, not taking her eyes off the masked man.

"He is. This is a fake. The real Phantom has blue eyes. In fact, the exact same shade as Mademoiselle Noir's," Holmes stated matter-of-factly.

"Very clever, Monsieur Holmes," the fake Phantom smiled. "Too bad you are too late to stop me. I have completed my real mission. The Phantom is dead."

"Are you so sure?" the Phantom's voice asked.

The Faker's face dropped at the sound of the voice. He turned to see Erika Noir standing up. Her right hand covering her wound on her left shoulder. Her blue eye literally glowed with a dark emotion that was beyond hate. Holmes noticed her aura and presence was very different from what he had seen from her, yet it was very close to the Phantom's stance.

Erika flicked her brown hair over her shoulder. Slowly she approached her attacker. Moriarty froze halfway down the stairs. He heard the Phantom also, yet wasn't sure where he was. He watched, concerned, as Erika walked up to her attacker. She opened her mouth to sing, only to hear a different voice come out the Phantom's voice.

Erika smiled hatefully as she moved. She stopped a few feet away. Her attacker was in shock that she was still alive. Erika sang in the Phantom's voice to her attacker.

Say you'll share with me
One love, one lifetime
Lead me, save me
From my solitude.
Say you want me
Here beside you.

Erika gripped the mask and ripped it off the fake Phantom's face. Ruelle, the Count de Chagny, glared at her with pure hate. Erika moved away, holding the white mask. In a symbolic move that revealed more than any words, she placed it up to her face.

Anywhere you go
Let me go too.
My enemy, that's
All I ask of you.

The Count growled darkly. He aimed his gun again at her. Erika dove for him. The gun went off. Erika felt the bullet graze her face as she tackled the Count. A trapdoor opened magically behind them and the two fell from sight. The trapdoor swung shut, swallowing the two mortal enemies into the Underworld's night, possibly never to be seen again.

Thunder walks out, munching on an apple: Review, ladies and gentlemen, or Nightmare will be paying people a visit. Also, please check out Jaka Ray's stories and setting. She writes some interesting things.

On to Chapter 13!

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