Chapter 9: Enter the Red Death

by Myshawolf (myshawolf at (9/20/03)

General Disclaimer

Myshawolf: HI!!! Okay here is the next chapter. But first I have a few notes. For Jaka, Queen Mab is the queen of the fairies according to Celtic lore. Northstar, I'm sorry if it seems forced. I'll work on that and here's a cookie for catching the clue in chapter 7. I'll give anyone a pizza if they can figure out which bloodline Ruelle the current is from. YamiStarFireDragon, thanks for volunteering. I think that is everything.

Nightmare peeks out: The omelets, you idiot.

MW: Oh yeah. Northstar, what spices do you have? I only have cheese and bacon. *smiles* On with the show.

Chapter 9: Enter the Red Death

The party was in full swing by the time the major players arrived. However, the main staircase was roped off. Leroux joined them with a smile. When Holmes motioned to the roped off area, Leroux sighed.

"It is tradition that the managers introduce the troupe to the revelers," Leroux explained, "just as it's tradition for the Phantom to make an appearance."

"When will they do that?" Lestrade asked loudly to be heard over the crowd.

"Soon, hopefully. I think the managers are waiting for the main patrons to arrive; then they will start the show." Leroux considered as he searched the crowd. His eyes fell on a young man dressed as an Egyptian high priest. Danesh waved them over. Leroux led the way.

"Sherlock Holmes, Beth Lestrade, I want you to meet the head chef at the Café Seine, Danesh Nemo -- boyfriend to the Opera's own Nadir Khan," Leroux introduced.

"It's nice to meet you two again under much more pleasant circumstances." Danesh smiled.

Lestrade cleared her throat. "Holmes, I'm feeling a little dry. I'm going to get a drink."

Danesh pointed her toward a barely visible table. "That's one of the refreshment tables. Be careful, Mademoiselle Lestrade. The revelers can be a little rowdy."

"So can the members of the Opera," Leroux pointed out with a frown.

"Now, now, Nadir was very drunk when he tried to hit on you last year," Danesh laughed.

Lestrade walked away from the conversation with a smile on her face. She slowly made her way to the refreshment table when she ran into a tall Phantom. After all her run-ins with the real deal, she knew it was a reveler.

"That's a great costume," she commented as she passed. The 'Phantom's' eyes narrowed at the sound at her voice.

After a few moments, he swept into a bow and said, "Thank you, Mademoiselle Lestrade."

The 'Phantom' walked away with a definite spring in his step. Lestrade watched him go and wonder how he knew her. She tried to place his voice and came up short. Deciding that he was a member of the troupe, Lestrade shrugged it off and continued to the table. She poured herself some punch and took a sip. She spotted an overly ornate bullfighter approaching her.

"Ah, Inspector, I was hoping to see you again," the Count stated dramatically.

Lestrade's eyes flashed with anger, "Zed off. You are lucky I'm an officer of the peace or I would tear you into little pieces. It's very tempting to help Erika Noir when she does it."

"Erika Noir," the Count growled, "is not all she appears to be."

"She is more truthful than you," Lestrade spat back and smiled sweetly. "Now if you will excuse me, my escort is waiting."

The Count seethed as Lestrade turned her back to him. Moriarty listened from a distance and smiled to himself. Bravo, Inspector, he thought to himself. He watched the Count carefully. Maybe he was the key to getting the Phantom to appear. He glanced at the main staircase to see the two managers come into view. Moriarty walked to the front. He wanted to be front and center for this. He glanced over to see Lestrade rejoin Holmes without further interference from the Count.

Moriarty turned his attention back to the managers. Madame Firmin was dressed as a she-devil. Monsieur Firmin was dressed as a priest. They stood on the first landing. Underneath their masks, Moriarty could see that they were beaming brightly to the audience.

Madame Firmin spoke first. "Welcome, friends, to the annual Masquerade Ball. This year we are pleased to welcome back the daughter of a former employee. She has graciously agreed to fill in as prima soprano until a replacement can be found."

Monsieur Firmin added, "If we are lucky, it will be never."

The crowd laughed lightly while Madame Firmin scolded her husband. "Andre, please. As I was saying, Erika Noir has come back to Paris to sing. Her father, Erik Noir VI, was the first chair violin in our orchestra. He played for many years and often tutored our own violinists and singers. Erika used to sing in the corps before her father's tragic death five years ago."

Suddenly a voice high above shouted, "Hurry, Firmin, we don't have all night! Erika doesn't want her life story told."

Another voice agreed, "Oui, we want to join the fun."

Madame Firmin sighed loudly. "Opera people. Fine. Maestro?"

Suddenly, beautiful music filled the room. Lestrade smiled as she recognized the play it was from. She turned to Holmes and leaned over.

"This is from the play The Phantom of the Opera." Lestrade whispered. Holmes nodded and smiled as he listened. It was beautiful music. Holmes felt someone brush by and spotted a clown walk by. Across the way stood a wolf. As the music began to turn dark, Sherlock noticed the managers walking towards the center of the crowd. As the managers opened their mouth to speak, the wolf stepped forward.

The wolf looked at the clown who had also stepped forward and whispered, "Monsieur Firmin?"

The clown whispered low as well, "Monsieur Andre?" then singing in a feminine voice, "Dear Andre, what a splendid party!"

The wolf sang back, "The prologue to a bright New Year."

Suddenly an enchantress joined them singing lightly, "Quite a night! I'm impressed."

A female demon shouted from the stairs, "Well, one does one's best."

Together they sang loudly and raised their imaginary glasses to the managers, "Here's to us!"

The wolf smiled at the crowd, "I must say all the same it's a shame that 'Phantom' fellow isn't here."

High above the demon on the stair case, the Opera company descended singing. Lestrade smiled to herself. It was a beautiful sight. Holmes smiled as well. He had yet to see Erika.

Paper faces on parade
Hide your face
So the world will never find you!

Every face a different shade
Look around
There's another mask behind you.

Moriarty was impressed by the array of costumes. Each member showed off their costume to the delight of the crowd. The members circulated on the main floor while a few stayed on the stairs. Moriarty spotted two figures running down the stairs. One was male and dressed as an Egyptian Pharaoh in his finery. Moriarty recognized him as Nadir. The other was definitely a woman in a long medieval gown in the colors of red and gold. Her brown hair was littered with red ribbons. Her mask was red and gold, but had an eerie death look to it. Was that Erika?

Soon they reached the landing and sang loudly to the crowd, "But who can name the face?"

The chorus took back over. Erika smiled out over the crowd. Her eyes sparkled with an energy no one had ever seen before. Nadir motioned that they move to the side as the other principals came down the stairs. Erika moved to one set of stairs while Nadir moved to the other.

Erika slowly stepped down the stairs. She scanned the crowd as she waited for her next line. She spotted Holmes, Lestrade, Danesh, and Leroux standing together. They seemed to be enjoying the song. Her eyes moved away from her friends and found the Count glaring at everything around him. Erika smiled; if the Count was unhappy it just made her day. Her blue eyes fell upon a tall Phantom that stood on the edge of the crowd. Her mind snapped back to attention when she heard Monsieur Firmin's voice sing, "What a Masquerade!"

Erika walked down the stairs singing, "Think of it! A secret engagement! Look, your future bride! Just think of!"

Nadir sang back, "But why is it secret? What have we to hide?"

Erika walked to the center of the floor as the other members move away. She turned to Nadir and sang urgently, "Please, let's not fight."

Nadir sang back, "Christine, you're free."

"Wait till the time is right."

"When will that be? It's an engagement, not a crime. Christine, what are you afraid of?"

"Let's not argue."
"Let's not argue."

"Please pretend."

"I can only hope I'll."
"You will..."

Together as they stood facing each other their voices combined, "Understand in time!"

Soon the wolf jumped up to grab Erika and spun her into a dance. Several members began to waltz together, and quickly change partners. Erika laughed as she was spun from one partner to the next. Buquet spun her a little too hard and she bumped right into the tall Phantom. He caught her before she could fall. Their eyes met and Erika gasped as he held her. Feeling several people watching them, Erika thought quickly. She stepped out of his arms and pulled him into the dance as if he was always a part of it. He seemed grateful to her. As they moved together with a grace few people possessed, Holmes began to recognize it from somewhere.

Suddenly the company stopped dancing and began to sing the final verses of the song. The Phantom snuck back into the crowd away from Holmes' view. Erika stood by Nadir without her impromptu partner.

Grinning yellow, spinning reds
Take your fill!
Let the spectacle astound you.

The crowd burst into thunderous applause. Danesh left their side and hugged his boyfriend. Erika smiled widely at the approaching detectives. Nadir placed an arm around Danesh's shoulder.

Danesh pouted, "Is there something you two are not telling me?"

Erika broke out laughing while Nadir frowned. Danesh looked between the two confused. Erika calmed down long enough to say something.

"Merde, Khan. I know your boyfriend better than you," Erika chuckled.

"What was going on? I thought the managers were going to sing," Leroux asked.

Nadir smiled, "They were taking too long. Krissi and Frany took matters into their own hands with some help."

"Krissi, in the wolf costume, is the member of the stage crew. She does set design. Frany the clown is a viola player in the orchestra," Erika explained.

"And the enchantress and demon?" Holmes asked.

Erika smiled wider, "Star North from make-up and Areku from the chorus, I think, were those two."

"They were interesting to watch," Lestrade added.

"And this is one of their calmer days," Erika joked. "They'll be over here in a moment to meet you two."

True to Erika's word, the wolf and clown came running up. They stopped right by them. The wolf turned to Nadir. Nadir had a half-amused expression on his face as if he knew what was coming. Before she could speak, the clown cut in.

"You were here the whole time, right?" Nadir stated before either could speak.

"Right. When did you get ESP?" the clown asked in awe.

"I think we used him as cover one too many times," the wolf commented dryly.

"Who did you get this time?" Erika questioned, but she had her answer by the grin on their faces.

"The Count." both piped up at the same time.

"I got him with some of Krissi's disappearing ink." Frany motioned to her squirt flower.

"Except it's corrosive to silk," Krissi groaned, "What kind of idiot wears silk to one of these things?"

Danesh choked back a laugh. Nadir tried not to be amused by their antics. He really did. Erika didn't even bother hiding her pleasure. The two troublemakers turned their attention to the two detectives.

"It's nothing personal between us and the Count." Frany sighed.

"He is just way too arrogant for his own good," Krissi supplied helpfully.

"If you cover for us, we'll give you a piece of very sound advice." Frany brightened when an idea hit her.

"Let's hear the advice first." Lestrade smiled.

"When in the lower levels, keep your hands at the level of your eyes," Frany stated seriously. "For your own protection."

"We've heard that before. Why is that?" Holmes asked, interested in what the two young ladies had to say. The two glanced at Nadir for permission, Nadir nodded, as did Erika. Solemnly they glanced at each other. Krissi went first.

Very quietly, she whispered as she rubbed her neck, "The Punjab Lasso is down there."

Frany nodded, "They protect the Phantom's home. They are especially bad when a de Chagny kills the Phantom's love."

"Mademoiselle Daae was the first victim of that feud." Krissi added sadly, and then clamped her mouth shut when she realized she said too much. She turned to Erika and whispered, "I'm sorry, Mademoiselle Noir. That is your story to tell."

Erika grinned sadly, "It's okay, Krissi. I think the Count has given up on you two. Go and have fun."

The two smiled and waved goodbye as they ran back into the crowd. Lestrade found Holmes smiling at their antics. She knew he was thinking of the Irregulars and how those two would get along fine with them. Lestrade turned to ask Erika something about the two troublemakers, only to find that she had disappeared. So had Nadir and Danesh, she noticed.

"Where did they go?" Lestrade asked to no one in particular. Holmes was partially listening as he scanned the crowd for the tall Phantom. Soon, a waltz was playing. Several dancers were on the makeshift dance floor. Holmes noticed how it was less crowded there. He gripped Lestrade's hand and pulled her with him.

Lestrade was surprised to find herself out on the dance floor with Holmes. Holmes positioned them to dance in the only way he knew how. Lestrade tried to follow his lead. After a few missteps, they began to glide gracefully across the floor. Lestrade smiled as she enjoyed the feeling of dancing with someone who didn't want to hurt her later. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Buquet dancing with Erika. Erika smiled the older man much how a niece smiles at a beloved uncle. This was her home. Lestrade doubted that Erika would run away from the Opera House again. Lestrade smiled at Holmes as she thought of her little family in New London. That was her home.

Erika danced with Buquet happily. She had never realized how much she missed the Opera Company in her time away. Now she was home. She laughed at a joke Buquet told her. She was finally home. Buquet turned when someone tapped his shoulder. Erika looked at the young man dressed as the Grim Reaper. He didn't talk but motioned that he would like to cut in. Buquet graciously moved aside, allowing the man a dance.

Unnerved by the man's hard stare, Erika accepted his grip. They began to dance. The tall Phantom watched with narrowed eyes as Erika flinched from the man's grip on her hand. Soon the man tried to lead her from the dance floor. Erika began to fight against his grip silently. She didn't want to draw attention. The tall Phantom stalked over and grabbed the man. Before the man could retaliate, the Phantom knocked him out with one punch. Certain the threat was subdued for now, the tall Phantom turned to Erika.

"Are you all right, Mademoiselle Noir?" he asked gently. Erika stopped rubbing her wrist at the sound of his voice. She knew that voice.

"Oui, Just a little banged up, is all," Erika stated carefully as she eyed the man in front of her.

The Phantom nodded. He offered her his arm which Erika accepted gladly. They couldn't talk here, not with the whole Opera company and patrons watching. Erika didn't want him to be caught, at least not by her doing. The Phantom walked them up to the Box Level.

Barely, he heard Erika whisper, "You are a brave or a foolish man, Professor Moriarty."

Moriarty whispered back, "I prefer cunning, Mademoiselle Noir."

Erika chuckled lightly when they reached the landing. Shouting was heard below. Both turned to see Buquet and Madame Giry trying to get the crowd's attention. Erika grabbed Moriarty's arm and pulled him off to the side. They moved to an open spot and watched to see what the duo had on their mind. Erika had a good idea since she had suggested something to them.

"Ladies and gentlemen!" Buquet shouted, "Your attention please! We would like to demonstrate a tradition here in the Opera."

The crowd quieted to a quiet murmur. Buquet beamed happily as Madame Giry spoke up, "Now as you know, it is a tradition during the Masquerade Ball to kiss in the new season. We found two couples who are willing to show us how."

Moriarty watched amused as the wolf and clown from earlier herded Holmes and Lestrade in the center of the dance floor. The crowd began to cheer loudly, showing their approval. Nadir and Danesh walked out as well. Erika smiled widely as Lestrade and Holmes looked distinctly uncomfortable.

"Here are our couples!" Buquet laughed jovially as he walked over to Lestrade and Holmes, "My lord and lady, we ask that you bring good fortune to the Opera House by kissing each other to start the new season."

Before Holmes and Lestrade seemed affronted by the request. Lestrade began to protest when Madame Giry interrupted her, "Mademoiselle Lestrade, do you want the opera to suffer a misfortunate event because you are afraid of Monsieur Holmes?"

The crowd laughed as Lestrade blushed a bright red for having the truth so blatantly put out. She made a quick decision to prove them wrong. Before Holmes could react, she quickly pecked him on the cheek. Scenes from the night she was drugged flooded back, causing her to jump away from Holmes. The crowd hissed their disproval at such a short kiss. Buquet seemed disappointed, but Madame Giry shook her head.

Madame Giry sighed, "It's all right to be nervous, Lady Lestrade of the Fairies. Why don't we let our Pharaoh and High Priest show you how it is done."

Nadir smiled brightly as he turned to his boyfriend. Danesh grinned wickedly as he grabbed Nadir and kissed him possessively. Erika started laughing at the sight of Nadir caught off guard. Nadir was the most feared man in the Opera House while Danesh was the gentlest man Erika knew. The sight of Danesh ravishing Nadir's mouth in a dominant way was a hilarious sight to anyone who knew the two. When Danesh broke off the steamy kiss, Nadir staggered a bit, causing the crowd to start laughing. Nadir was grinning like a fool as he grabbed his boyfriend. Danesh was laughing with the crowd as Nadir pulled him away.

Moriarty glanced at Erika's face. Her amused smile seemed to have become sad and wistful. He reached for her hand, hoping to distract her. Erika looked at him and flashed him a brighter smile. He was about to ask her what was wrong when Buquet caught his attention.

"Now back to our other couple since Nadir Khan seems to have other things on his mind," Buquet announced. Lestrade and Holmes looked distinctly trapped as the crowd began to cheer them on. Holmes realized that there was only one way out. He took Lestrade's arm and turned her towards him. He whispered softly to her as he pulled her close.

"Forgive me."

MW looks up: Yeah, I'm sure you can figure what happens next. Next chapter is the second half of the party. Remember to review or I won't give you an omelet.

On to Chapter 10!

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