"There has to be some mistake."
A thin, virtually translucent letter shook in Raoul de Chagny's grip, though his eyes continued to remain challengingly on the solemn man before him. "She wasn't going to Paris…she was to return here directly."
The pale, Swedish policeman shook his head just once. In his eyes there was the utmost pity. He spoke French haltingly and with a thick accent, but his eyes bore right back into Raoul's. "Monsieur de Chagny, your family crest was identified."
The policeman shook his head again as Raoul tried to hand the Death letter back to him. "I am very sorry…"
Raoul's gaze lowered to the paper in a vain hope…he did not want to see those final words again.
But they stared up at him from the page in elegant script, mocking…laughing at him…
Poor Raoul! He had come so far only to lose her once more!
The policeman replaced his hat. For him it was already over. He had shown his respect for the dead, and now he could return to his own life. The world outside was bright with time and motion, and it was a world separate from darkness…from this dreadful business…from Death and anguish and the shadows of mourning…
Once it had been so simple.
Raoul could not return to that world so easily anymore. He could only feel envy for this man…for his effortless happiness…
As the door finally closed Raoul sank into the chair by the window. His fist curled slowly around the paper until it was a small ball in the palm of his hand…and for a moment he could pretend that it no longer existed. He waited several moments and listened to the silence of the house…to the little noises that were so trivial…it didn't matter… nothing mattered.
But Christine would never hear these noises again.
Raoul sobbed, quietly, while the clock in the corridor struck seven o'clock.
"What are you doing? You're supposed to be packing her things! You're so lazy, Agnes, I don't know why Monsieur le Vicomte bothered to hire you at all!"
"I'm hurrying!" A tiny blond maid scurried into the bedroom and dropped several scarves into a suitcase.
"If you fold them, you can fit far more than that!"
"All right!" Agnes huffed and started daintily folding each handkerchief, making faces at Hilda's back. A lovely crimson silk piece caught her eye, and she briefly considered slipping it inside of her blouse…
Hilda was suddenly watching her. Glaring, in fact. "Don't even think about it. It's bad luck to steal from the dead."
16-year-old Agnes shrieked and the scarf flew back into the suitcase. She shut it with a snap, blinking her heavy lidded green eyes. "Oh! Who died?"
"Mademoiselle Christine." The older woman narrowed her eyes. "Don't you work here?"
Blinking more, Agnes seemed to consider this. "I wondered where she'd gone. I thought that she was still visiting her friend…"
"Oh, no, she was scheduled to be back days ago..."
"Well, I've been busy!"
Hilda snorted and picked up a few stray scarves that Agnes had dropped accidentally. Shuffling her heavy frame to the other side of the room, she muttered indiscernible things under her breath.
"What? What are you saying?" Agnes frowned and pulled a lace shawl between her fingers. "And why are we packing all of these things if she's dead, anyway? Is he sending them somewhere?"
For the second time after learning of her mistresses' death, Hilda's tone was very sad…and disgusted by Agnes' lack of compassion. "Yes. It looks as though your services will no longer be needed…thank Heavens. He wants her to be dressed for cold weather."
Agnes stood and dropped the lace shawl, furious by the sudden dismissal. "Excuse me? Where is he taking her?"
A dark brougham made its way through the murky streets of Paris, and a light whistle was heard as it clattered to a final stop. Luminous, beautiful horses clopped impatiently, but the driver held the reins still and kept them from moving even mere inches.
The Paris Opera loomed before him as Raoul de Chagny stepped out and drew a careful breath. The building was shadowed almost entirely as several lamplights near the front had burnt out and not yet been replaced. Shaking a bit, he took off his hat…and then changed his mind and replaced it again.
Nearly burning a hole in his pocket was a key…the Rue Scribe entrance…and the one that he already knew well. It was precisely where he had escaped that fateful night with Christine in tow…as she sobbed and hardly noticed that she had ripped the lace off the ends of her gown. That gown now lay in a dutifully locked trunk in her old room at his estate. Raoul knew better than to mention it again, and neither of them acknowledged its existence.
But at this moment Raoul stood, frozen in time, and stared up at the magnificent structure with an odd feeling. If Erik was dead, as he was almost certain that he was, then Raoul had…in a way…lost to him. It was deceptive to say that he'd won Christine if, in the end, she had only returned to her Angel.
Even as Raoul thought with shameful and bitter revenge that it was far more likely the man called Erik was burning in Hell.
And not for the first time he wondered why he was here. The idea was mad…to say the least, and could very well be suicide. The Phantom of the Opera hated him like no other, and here he was…practically tromping down into his domain without even Christine as his protection. If only Christine had not made him promise…and with such an eerie fashion… Raoul had been made to wonder if perhaps she sensed her approaching demise. He could now still hear her soft plea…
"Raoul…you must promise me…that should anything happen to me… He must know."
Raoul had, at this point, ceased to ask who "he" was. "I promise, Christine… I will tell him…"
"Not just tell him…he must see—"
"Yes, yes, I promise…" Raoul had replied, impatiently. He didn't want to talk about that. He never wanted to talk about it… the possibility he hated more than anything else.
And yet he knew that it could be no other way… So he kept his promise, and now Raoul stood in the cold and the beginning of misty rain as he stared up at the object of many a nightmare.
Lightning flashed, and a shadow moved… Raoul felt a sharp tingle run down his spine. A strange sense of déjà vu began to nag at the back of his mind, and he could not help but think again about whether or not this was a very good idea…
But Erik must know. Raoul had promised her… Even if it meant risking his life to the Phantom's wrath. Raoul felt cold at the idea of explaining to him that Christine had died. Erik had entrusted her to him...and now she was dead. He should have been with her...if the world was righteous, Raoul would have died alongside his sweetheart, and would not be standing here right now. Though he imagined it was quite possible that he could be joining Christine very soon, and the idea did not phase him. He did not fear Death as he did before. The idea was almost comforting. Because after this...he would have nothing. The promise was all that was left of his life...now meaningless without his Christine...
Raoul could not think of that now. No...he had stalled long enough, and it needed to be done.
Without further hesitation, the still very young Vicomte approached the Rue Scribe entrance, to seek out Christine's beloved Angel of Music.
A man he only knew as Erik…and the Angel of Death.