Questions Without Answers
The tall clock against the far wall of the anteroom outside the Opera's offices was one minute away from striking eleven, and Christine watched it from her seat with as much fear as she would have likely watched an approaching sinister stranger in a dark and deserted street. Her fingertips fluttered over the soft bandage that had been affixed to her temple by the doctor, but she did not dare touch it for the pain that still throbbed beneath it. He had given her something for it, but it had only just begun to take effect and she knew her headache would come shredding back again the moment the chimes commenced.
"Spend the day in bed," the man had told her. But only a quarter of an hour later, she had received the police summons to appear at once in the room they had appropriated to host their investigation. Her maid, who having been sent from home in concern and had managed to force her way through the throng outside her dressing room door, had helped Christine wash and dress before she was escorted to where she now waited in trembling anxiety. The dress she now wore was cream colored and left her cold. And in far too much pain for combs or pins, her hair had only been tied back loosely to keep it from sticking to the adhesive around her injury, and thanks to it, the headache had finally begun to fade.
Eleven chimes later, however, she could not suppress a moan.
"What is it, mademoiselle?" The young officer leaning against the door opposite straightened with concern.
She withdrew her hand from her eyelids. "Will it be much longer?" she asked softly.
"I am terribly sorry, mademoiselle," was his only reply.
Raoul had been asked away from her room just before her maid's arrival by someone she had been too unfocused to recognize. She had hoped he would return before she was required to leave, but was disappointed when the next knock at her door had only been another policeman. How she wished he could be with her now, how she needed him. She had instructed her maid to wait in her dressing room for the sole purpose of telling him at once where she had gone when he returned.
"Another murder," sighed the officer who watched over her now. "Could make a man begin to believe in ridiculous rumors after all."
"Who?" asked Christine as she made herself look to him again.
"Nothing." He shook his head and then stepped quickly away from the door as it opened behind him. A man emerged and informed them that the Police Commissary was ready to see her.
Christine was led into the room and very politely offered a chair across the desk from his seat. He stood quickly and made her a little bow, the sympathy evident upon every part of his expression.
"Ah, Mademoiselle Daaé," he began. "I do not believe we have met, though I myself am familiar with you."
"You are?" she asked timidly as she settled cautiously into the cushioned chair.
"I am Inspector Mifroid." He resumed his seat. "It is my business to be familiar with all that is involved in, amongst others of course, the cases of criminal activity at the fine establishment of the Opera. And I am certain I am not the only one who regrets to realize that your name has appeared perhaps more often than any other among many of them lately."
She wrung her hands about each other slowly where they were hidden under the edge of the table and glanced to the two other policemen that stood attentively behind her in the room. "What do you mean?" she asked Mifroid.
"We will come to that shortly," he said as he flipped open a brown folder on the desk before him. "Or perhaps at a later time. I understand you have been injured and would not think of overtaxing you beyond what is necessary for the moment. In order to hasten your return to recovery, I hope you do not mind if I am blunt in proceeding with the questioning. We have spent much of this morning already speaking with your colleagues."
She lifted her eyes to look across to him again. "Questioning?"
He nodded and tapped a pen against the side of his mouth before, with no more ceremony, beginning, "It appears you were the last person seen with the victim, the Lord Amrbose d'Arcy, when he was alive. The two of you left the great crush room downstairs in each others' company alone at approximately two-thirty this morning. This was witnessed on more than one account. I will need you right now to tell me everything that occurred after that time."
"I…" Christine shook her head slowly, pressing a very unsteady hand against the edges of her bandage. "Monsieur Mifroid, I feel very unwell and most of my memories of last night are beyond my grasp…"
"You must try, mademoiselle. After all, it was your name which was written upon the wall."
She winced and attempted to fight back the frightened tears that pinched the corners of her eyes. "I remember," she began even more softly after a moment, "I remember going into the hall with him… And into another room. I remember it was empty. You must understand I was feeling ill and faint."
He nodded again with another sympathetic frown and waved a hand to one of the men. "Tell the secretary to bring the lady a glass of water. Do go on, mademoiselle."
"A glass of water!" She looked up again too quickly for her headache to bear. "It was why we went. I remember as much now. That was all there was to it…"
"You went into the hall to another room for a glass of water," he said calmly. "Where was this other room?"
"We did not walk far. There were empty buffet tables…"
"Ah," he made a note in his folder. "And then what happened?"
"We were alone." She took to slowly wringing her hands again. "He…he took me by the arm and would not let me go." Squeezing her eyes shut, she wanted to recall the memory as desperately as she wanted to black it out eternally. "I know I fought with him… I know I got away from him because I tripped and I hit my head on…on something… I…"
"Yes, yes," he interjected kindly and reached across the desk to hand her a handkerchief.
She took her time to wipe at her eyes before she could continue. "He would not let me go. I felt his hands on me… He tore my dress…He…" She clutched at the creamy material over her heart.
Mifroid's frown twisted into a frustrated grimace. He put down his pen to wave in the secretary who had arrived with the water, and then waited until he was gone again before pressing Christine once more. "I understand this is a very upsetting and difficult line of questioning for a young lady such as yourself to answer, mademoiselle. But the law begs to know every detail. You must finish your tale as precisely as you can."
"I can't remember!" she gasped.
"Did the victim abuse you?"
"The victim!" She twisted the glass she had been given between her hands and shook her throbbing head in despair.
"Mademoiselle Daaé, did Lord Ambrose d'Arcy have his way with you?"
She shook her head more violently. "I remember nothing… I… I…" She gasped for breath. "But…no… It could not be. Could it?" She looked up at him again through her tears, attempting to regain some measure of calmness. "He could not have. No."
"But it was his intention?"
"Yes," she answered with incredibly soft clarity.
"Ah, so you found yourself alone with him, feeling unwell and faint, hit your head, and fell victim to his intention. What happened then?"
"I remember nothing after. But when I awoke this morning, it was only my head that suffered."
"And you awoke in your dressing room? How did you come to be there?"
"I don't remember. Someone brought me there. The blood…it…my dress…"
"Where is the clothing you were wearing?"
"It is there still."
He nodded. "We will be needing it at once. Mademoiselle Daaé, I need you now to try very hard to tell me who it was that conveyed you to your dressing room."
She could only shake her head, her fearful eyes wide.
Mifroid put his pen down again and folded his hands on the desktop, leaning over it toward her. "The person who helped you, mademoiselle, even if he or she is responsible for the crime, is your savior from what could have been a very deplorable circumstance, don't you believe?"
"Perhaps this person," he continued, "was merely passing by and witnessed your struggle and took it upon himself to rescue a damsel in distress. You would like to thank him wouldn't you? I imagine we all would!"
"I cannot remember…"
"You do not need to protect him if it was an act of defense. The law offers protection enough in such cases."
She only shook her head again and set the untouched water back upon the desk. "Monsieur, if I could tell you…"
He sighed and sat back against his chair. "Of course, mademoiselle." He took up his pen again and began to write, saying as he did, "Is there anyone you know, or can think of, who would especially come to your aid? Or who also could potentially have been watching you with Lord d'Arcy, unbeknownst to you, and taken action when the situation turned as you have described?"
Christine's hands froze mid-wring.
Mifroid's eyes lifted from his notes expectantly.
"No…" She faltered and shook her head as she managed to speak again. "Anyone? Who would do such a thing?"
"A ghastly thing," he agreed, "but heroic, no?"
"Not even," he leaned forward slightly more, "your acquaintance and last night's escort, Monsieur de Chagny, the younger?"
The handkerchief she held almost tore where she twisted it between her hands. "He couldn't!" she gasped.
Miroid only nodded and returned to note-writing. "So you would say that there was no one at all?" When she gave no verbal response, he continued, "And, as we have asked all those we have questioned this morning, would you say you knew of anyone with a particular vendetta against the victim?"
"I…" Christine tore her gaze from where it had drifted to the mirror on the side wall of the room. "I'm sorry?"
"Anyone who might have had a particular prior wish to do him harm."
She was quiet for several moments too long before saying, "No."
Mifroid stood. "Very well, mademoiselle. As I have said, our investigation will be requiring the clothing you were wearing last night as well as any other articles you had in your possession. You have said they are just down in your dressing room. If you would be so kind as to bring them back to us immediately, it should not take you longer than a few minutes."
She tried to regain control of her breathing and nodded quickly as she rose from the chair. "Yes, yes. I shall bring them at once."
He bowed to her politely again and gestured to the policeman by the door to let her go out. A third man moved to follow her, but he was stopped by a call from Mifroid:
"That is not necessary, Bernard. Let her go alone."
But Christine knew she did not imagine the abrupt gesture the commissary made to one of them as it was reflected in the mirror at her side just before she passed through the door. It closed sharply behind her, and she found herself alone again with the clock in the anteroom.