On Men and Mysteries--An Adventure in the 19th Century (3)
Author's Note: Wow, this chapter took me back down memory lane to when Erik and I hated each other's guts. A fitting "Throwback Thursday," I suppose. Again, if you haven't already, feel free to read Part One and Part Two. Here goes nothing!
I woke up, disoriented at first. I didn’t realize where I was, until I remembered the terrifying ordeal of coming into the Paris Opera. At virtually the same instant, I realized that my arms were tied to the balcony, and that I was, in fact, hanging over it. My head was still pounding, so my attempts at rationalizing this situation were virtually useless. The fact that some rope and a few inches were all that stood between me and plummeting to my doom was not reassuring.
“Well, this is pleasant,” I muttered to myself. A flicker of movement caught my eye, and a figure suddenly stepped into my line of vision. He was at least a head taller than I was, and very thin. A white mask covered nearly all his face, but he was remarkably well-dressed. I knew without a doubt that I was looking at the infamous Phantom of the Opera. All of this would’ve been a little cooler if I wasn’t terrified about dying.
“Since you didn’t answer my question, before,” he spoke, without preamble. “Who are you?”
“In case you aren’t aware, I didn’t answer you before because I was dying.” I spoke without thinking, my fear coming out as irritation.
“You are not dead now.” He answered, as if my words hadn’t even affected him.
“What an astute observation,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Although hanging off a balcony doesn’t seem very safe to me.”
“That is an incentive to get you to talk, because otherwise,” he pushed me closer to the edge, slightly. “You may end up dead, after all.”
“Alright, alright. My name is Radha, I’m Doctor’s friend, and I’m just about done with people threatening me. Doesn’t the 19th century have any originality?”
He ignored my last remark. “You’ve been threatened before?”
“Yes!” My head was finally beginning to clear. “Yes, in fact, that’s why I needed to see you. You’re, uh…the Opera Ghost, right?”
He nodded in response. I felt that calling him “Erik” right now would be assuming a personal relationship we didn’t actually have. “You said Docteur is in danger? What happened, and who is holding her?”
“Well, I don’t know the name, exactly, but there was this man in a black mask – he looked kinda like you except he wasn’t you, obviously—“ Erik narrowed his eyes in suspicion and pushed me a bit. “Hey, I’m serious, that’s what happened!”
“Your story does not seem very convincing.”
“it’s not a story, it’s the truth! I was just minding my business at this party that Doctor took me to and then this man came up to me and started threatening me with a knife and said basically everyone would die if I didn’t do as he said. He said the only way to save Doctor was to find you.”
“Did he say why?”
“All he said was that he had a score to settle.” Erik considered this, and pushed me even further. I panicked. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Do you take me for a fool, girl? I’ve lived in the Opera long enough to know a thing or two about stories. It sounds to me like you’re using the worst of clichés and trying to combine them into a half-baked narrative.”
“Yeah, because obviously, I’m such an utter idiot that I’d go galivanting towards the Phantom of the Opera’s lair just for funsies.”
Erik narrowed his eyes at me. “You are not in a position to question me.”
“Literally.” I said, wryly, managing a small smile in spite of the situation.
“How amusing.” He said, rolling his eyes. He seemed to think for a moment before asking, “If all of this is true, then explain to me why I should believe this isn’t just a tale you have concocted. How do I know that you are truly Docteur’s friend and haven’t been sent here just to lead me into a trap?”
I thought for a moment, knowing that this answer would be the most important one and not wanting my impulsive sass to ruin everything. “Doctor is one of my dearest friends, and I’d never want to hurt her. In fact, I’ve been really worried about her – so worried that the risk of coming here at this time meant nothing to me. I just want to do what I can to make sure she’s alright. And if you still don’t believe me, there’s a key to the TARDIS around my neck that you’ll certainly recognize. She doesn’t just give it to anyone off the streets, you know.”
I held my breath, hoping it had been enough. He considered my words for a moment, before reaching forward and looking at the chain. A small, idealistic part of me was upset that he had needed to see the proof, but it didn’t really matter. Silently, he started untying me, but I felt the balance shifting and was not at all inclined to plummet to my death. I had the upper body strength of a twig, so I grabbed onto him, not really caring how awkward it was. “Can you pull me up first, please?”
He seemed startled by my actions, but surprisingly, he did as I asked. When I was in a safe position, trying to cope with the fact that my legs had turned to jelly, he finally spoke. “Very well. I will help you rescue Docteur. I wonder what foolish trouble that girl has gotten herself into, this time.”
“Really?” I asked, leaning against the wall and trying to calm my heart and the adrenaline that was still surging through me. “Thank you.”
“Where did he say she was?”
“He said that you would know…” Erik gave me a look, and I immediately felt bad. “I’m sorry, okay? I know all of this is very vague and probably doesn’t sound true, but it is.”
“…if I did not believe, you would not still be alive.” That shut me up, but Erik sounded almost amused. “However, I find it interesting that you didn’t ask him to elaborate.”
“I, uh…think I might annoyed him a bit.” I said, sheepishly.
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.”
“I didn’t want to take any chances.” I went on, ignoring his remark.
“I’m surprised you were able to…control yourself.” Erik said, looking at me. “You do seem to be very good at being an annoyance, so far.”
“Yeah? Well, that makes two of us.” I muttered under my breath.
“What did you say?”
“It was not nothing.” Erik said, a glint in his eyes.
“Fine, then. Nothing important.” I replied, with a defiant look. Surprisingly, he decided to drop it.
Without another word, he started walking. I followed behind, as silent as possible. After a few minutes, I spoke up. “Where are we going?”
“…right.” The silence stretched on, but it was alright because keeping up with him was an effort in itself. The last thing I wanted was to get lost down here.
“So…do you know who he is? Or where she is?” I said, unable to hold back my curiousity.
“I have some ideas.” He said, looking over his shoulder, but not adding any further explanation.
“I happen to have quite a few enemies.”
“Enemies? You? I would never have dreamed of it.” I deadpanned.
“Shut up, girl.” He said, sounding annoyed for the first time.
“I have a name, you know. It’s Radha, not “girl.” And I don’t understand why you aren’t answering any of my questions.”
“I’ve answered all of them.”
“Well, little fille, I know better than most that all walls have ears.” He said, tone a bit darker than before, before it turned patronizing. “I trust you can give me the small gift of exhibiting some patience until we reach our destination.”
“Fine.” I muttered, feeling a little ashamed that he had to spell it out for me. But I was also upset at him. Did he think I was so much of an idiot that I didn’t know “fille” was the French word for “girl?” I reminded myself that he was the only way Doctor would stay safe, and resolved to make more of an effort to be nice, although something about his personality made that extremely difficult. At least he seemed serious about helping. Whatever else happened, rescuing her was the most important.
Everything’s going to be fine, Radha, I tried to convince myself, although a part of me was saying that such optimism was foolish. I would find a way to make things work, if it was the last thing I did.