Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chapter 07



Chapter Seven:
Don Juan Discovered

          As Christine once more cried against his chest, Erik was struggling against the white-hot fury that blinded him to everything but the urge to kill. If Beauvais wasn't dead, he would soon wish he was, vowed the masked man. And the other…if that disgusting pile of humanity dared to touch his angel, he would take great delight in killing him slowly. There were ways to draw out a man’s death for weeks, perhaps even months, if he was in good health and Erik was careful. The Opera Ghost knew of several cells beneath the Garnier that were left over from the Communard’s reign of terror. The man’s screams would be muffled enough by the amount of earth above them that the upper world would merely attribute them to the story of the haunted opera house. There would be supplies to purchase, naturally, as well as plans to be made. He would need to pick up bandages and a variety of drugs; he didn't want to be unprepared in case her unknown assailant proved to be weaker than he hoped.
          “Erik?” The soft, scared whisper of the angel in his arms tore the black veil of murderous rage from his eyes. Gently running his fingers through her hair, he planted the lightest of kisses on the top of her head.
          “Yes, mon ange?” His heart lurched at the sound of his name on her lips.
          “Should I go now?” Her voice was so small and wounded and scared that he instinctively tightened his arms around her protectively.
          “Never, my angel.” Erik pulled back only enough to gently guide her eyes back to his. “I promised no questions and I shall keep my word until you are ready. But know this, mon ange: if I have to, I will pull the angels from the heavens and wrestle all the demons of hell until I find those that hurt you. They will know fear and pain like none other by the time the ghost sends them to their final reward.” Christine shivered at the intense anger in his golden eyes and knew he would follow through on his vow and, quite possibly, enjoy it.

xxxxxx

          She watched his fluid movements in the kitchen and wondered how so tall a man could also be so very graceful. She’d seen prima ballerinas with less grace than her masked friend. Christine wondered if he danced at all, for his movements seemed to flow with a melody only he could hear. Underneath that lissome grace, however, was a man who was much stronger than he looked. Slim he may be, bordering on the unhealthy side of thin, but it was pure muscle. The way he moved, all sinuous grace and coiled tension, reminded her of a large cat she’d seen once at a zoo. They even had the same haunted look in their eyes. It had been clear why the caged creature was unhappy, but Christine couldn't fathom the cause for her Phantom’s anguish.
          For the first time, she looked at Erik as solely a man and not the mysterious Opera Ghost. His wore the formal suit of an opera patron and even she could tell it was made of the very finest material. He was so very tall and slim that it had to have been tailored specifically for his frame; nothing off the rack would ever fit him so well. Was he wealthy, then? Christine had heard he commanded a large salary from the managers but thought it had been part of the story and not based in reality. It seemed she needed to rethink that. When he half turned to place the pan on the stove, she realized that, even while cooking, he wore his gloves. Were his hands scarred, she wondered? Did they resemble the face he took such pains to hide? She’d noticed distortions around the bottom edge of the mask, the unusual puffiness and curl of his upper lip as if something were tugging it up towards his hairline, and concluded that he had either sustained an injury during the war, been horribly burned, or had the grave misfortune to have been born with such a face. The part that seemed the most incongruous was not the mask, which made perfect sense to her if his face were terribly scarred or deformed, but the absolutely perfect hairline. Regardless of what had caused his face to be the way it was, his hairline near the mangled flesh should have also been affected.
          “Well, mon ange, what’s your verdict?” Normally Erik would have been incensed at being subjected to such intense scrutiny, but she was different. He really didn't think she was aware of how long she’d been watching him.
          “Verdict?” She blinked up at him in confusion. “Um, well, it has to be a wig; it’s the only thing that makes any sense.” Watching the emotions swirl in his amber eyes, Christine finally realized what she’d said aloud. Horrified at her lack of manners, she immediately blushed a painful red before all the blood rushed from her face to leave her uncommonly pale. “Oh, God, I’m sorry! I didn't mean…I was just…oh, why can’t I just keep my mouth shut?” Giving up on her apology, she dropped her head into her hands with a groan. She felt even worse when he sat a bowl of freshly made soup before her and left the kitchen without a word. The depth of his anger was unmistakable in the harsh notes that he commanded from the large pipe organ.
          Scolding herself fiercely, Christine finished the soup and cleaned her dishes before retreating to the bedroom. She hoped to give him time and space to calm down and maybe allow her to apologize again later. Angry at herself and her thoughtless tongue, she grabbed the clothing he’d left for her use and marched into the bathroom. The thoughtfulness of the preparations he’d made so hastily while she’d been asleep brought tears to her eyes along with even more harsh recriminations for her rude behavior. Settling into the tub for a good, long soak she realized that, though the music was harsh and angry, it also carried a melody of sorrow beneath each and every note. She hadn't thought she could feel any worse for her careless remark, but she’d thought wrong. Eyeing the filthy and torn boy’s outfit, she decided she would repair it after all. He might yet regret asking her to stay.
          Twenty minutes later, she was dressed in Erik’s shirt and covered with the robe. Before she drained the tub, she washed her tattered boy’s clothing and laid it over the side to dry. She would mend it later. Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, Christine went in search of the Opera Ghost. They couldn't continue like this; she being so very careful not to say the wrong thing and he getting furious at the mere mention of his…peculiarities. If he wanted her to stay, and it seemed he did, they would have to come to some kind of agreement. She checked the music room first even though she’d not heard a note for the past ten minutes. Surprised to find it empty, she was about to leave when curiosity, always her downfall, drew her to the music at the piano. The notes seemed to dance along the page in red-inked chaos and yet, upon closer inspection, they formed a song unlike any she’d ever heard before. When she noticed that the song was unfinished, Christine realized that the composer was none other than Erik Devereaux, her masked host. The word genius filtered through her mind as she flipped through the rest of the music. Momentarily forgetting why she’d entered the room, she took the large stack of papers to the sofa and began reading the most amazing opera she’d ever heard of, Erik’s Don Juan Triumphant.

xxxxxx

          Once he’d heard her fill the bath, Erik had slipped up to Madame Giry’s chambers to give her a list of things he needed for his guest as well as more than enough francs to cover the cost. Pacing, he told his adoptive sister everything he knew about Christine, including her presence in England with her father shortly before the incident at Le Havre. Scribbling down an address, he asked if she could pay a visit to his Persian friend and have him try to discover if someone named Beauvais had been injured or killed in Le Havre two years ago. He also wanted him to find out who had buried Gustav Daaé and where so he could take his angel to visit her father’s grave. Finally, he wanted to know more about the two gentlemen who’d arrived earlier that day: their names, addresses, and whether or not they were to be patrons of the opera house. Angelique looked up from her notes in surprise.
“Wait…did you say Gustav Daaé? The violinist?”
“Yes,” Erik turned from the mirror he was about to leave through, “do you know something about him?”
“I do…” Angelique ran a shaking hand through her hair thoroughly upsetting the tidy bun. “His wife, Celeste, and I were the best of friends when we were both in the chorus here at the Garnier. Her voice was beyond beautiful, and it wasn't long before she became the understudy for the lead soprano. Then, a Swedish violinist was invited to Paris to play a concert. After one look at Celeste, he took a job with the orchestra in the hopes of marrying her. They married within the year and moved to Gustav’s home in Stockholm to deliver their first child. We lost touch and I never even knew if the child was a girl or boy.” She wiped a stray tear from her cheek. “Your Christine is Gustav’s child?”
Erik offered her a handkerchief, patting her shoulder gently. “She said he wanted her to contact an Angelique Morceau. Would that be your maiden name, my friend?” At her nod, he ran a hand over his face. He didn't want to lose his angel just as he’d taken her under his wing, but this was her father’s dying wish. “Should I bring her to you?”
“No.” Angelique hadn't missed the look on her masked friend’s face and, if the girl was in trouble, there was no place safer than his home on the lake. “I think she’ll be safer with you. I would like to visit her soon, if I may.”
          “Of course. Shall I fetch you tomorrow around noon? You can bring her clothing and share lunch with us.” She thanked him and informed him that she’d notify him as soon as she learned something. He’d opened the mirror to return to his home when she voiced the question he’d been avoiding.
          “Erik, did these men…violate Christine?” His shoulders slumped and he leaned his forehead on the edge of the mirror.
          “I don’t know, Angelique. She didn't say, and I’d promised her no questions. If they did,” he raised his head and even Madame Giry felt a chill run down her spine at the unadulterated menace that lurked in his eyes, “they will beg for death by the time I am finished with them.”
          As he made his way down the tunnels, he wondered what he’d say to his lovely angel. If he didn't learn to control his damnable temper he’d chase her off, leaving her at the mercy of those who’d cause her harm. Taking a deep breath, he prepared to do something he’d never felt the need to do before: he was going to apologize for his anger. He entered the house quietly and knocked on Christine’s door. The door, unlatched, swung open to reveal the empty room. She’d bathed and changed into the shirt and robe he’d left her, though he was less than pleased that she washed the rags she’d been wearing instead of tossing them in the fire. Perhaps she was in the music room? As he got closer, he could hear the voice of an angel quietly singing a familiar song; a song no one but he should know. A song from his Don Juan

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