Erik sat in his house by the underground lake, alone, sipping tea, and gazing into the fire. Could it have been just yesterday that Christine had left? Some moments, he felt like a pent up animal, others so empty that he could barely stand. He wanted to go watch her; see her lovely, silken hair play across her shoulders like the train of a gown made of the most illustrious fabrics in the world; her lips, red as apples, full of love and joy and laughter; her delicate, pale skin that seemed to be poured over her slim little finger from the real angels, the ones who resided in Heaven. But most of all, he wanted to hear her voice. That voice, which recalled the tinkling of bells, the soft treble of the finest violins and the high, airy carefree whistle of a delighted songbird all at once. He could hear it, in his head, singing his own music, tantalizingly caressing every note as though each one was a newborn child. Oh, he wanted to go, just to observe her from the shadows! But he had promised her freedom, as long as she remained in the opera house; as long as she kept the ring. Erik rarely made promises, but when he did, he never broke them.

So free his beloved must remain: out of his sight, out of his earshot. Erik felt sudden anger rise in his chest: suddenly, he sympathized perfectly with an active volcano. He knew exactly what she would do with her freedom. Exactly. She would court about with that boy, playing with him little games, as sophomoric as their old pastimes of building sandcastles and whispering Breton tales. They would dance about the opera hand in hand, in a glorious game of play-house, where Christine was the bride, Raoul the husband, and the upper labyrinth of the opera house the vast domain of this good king and his queen. She would giggle with him, her rosy cheeks flashing for him, the lovely little bells that were her laughter resounding for him.

But then, as she had promised, she would return. She had promised as he had promised; he trusted an angel of Heaven to keep its word. She loved him for himself, he knew she did, because she had burned his mask, and looked upon his rotting skull for days without fear. She had dined with himthough he rarely felt comfortable enough to eat before this vision, she had made pleasant conversation with his as if he were a human being, and she had sung with him. Together, they made the music of the gods; their voices soared and ascended the innumerable floors of the opera house effortlessly to take their places among the clouds.

But now, the house was empty, and silent, and Erik waited, twiddling his bony thumbs, for her call to ring out from across the lake.

Finishing his tea, Erik rose to go and wash the cup. An inexplicably disgusting smell was wafting through the house; it had been since Christine had left. Wrinkling what he had of a nose, Erik checked the kitchen for anything rotten. Unable to find the source of the pungent odour, he opened the front door. Perhaps it was just staleness; airing out the house would expunge the disagreeable scent.

Unsure of what to do, he went to his room and began to scribble down some cursory notes, barely hearing them as he wrote. His hand shook; he did not know why. Perhaps his longing for Christine was the source of this bizarre clumsiness.

Eventually, his rebelling muscles caused him to knock the whole bottle of ink across the paper. Frustrated, he crumpled up the would-be composition and threw it to the floor. The smell had remained. It was beginning to drive him mad. Determined to discover where it was coming from, Erik searched every room in the house with the diligence of a private detective. He passed Christine's room, however. He had also promised her that this room was hers alone, that he would not breach its walls unless she requested him too. And as before, he kept this promise.

After turning the entire place upside-down, Erik had no luck. The open door helped a little, but the odour was still there. He began to tap his foot compulsively, lost in deep thought, when someone strolled through the open door.

The Persian looked around the house; it was a mess. Erik stood right before the door, his entire body vibrating as if it were deathly cold in the house, his foot tapping the floor uncontrollably, fingers repeatedly running through his sparse hair.

The Persian had not come to visit Erik for several weeks: he was not sure he could face him after what had happened that night. Never had he breached the threshold of Erik's underground home before: Erik had seen to that. But today, the door stood open, and Erik did nothing to stop him.

"Hello, Daroga," said Erik, remaining where he was.

"Hello Erik," the Persian replied, uncertainly, looking around him. A rancid odour hung over the whole place: the smell of death. "What is that smell?"

"I don't know," replied Erik. "I've been trying to get rid of it since Christine left, but it refuses to clear up."

"Erik, that brings me to what I came to talk to you about," the Persian started slowly. "Christine Daae and Vicomte de Chagny have been missing for several weeks. Do you know anything about it?"

Erik laughed. "My dear, stupid Daroga, how could Christine be missing for weeks, when she was just here yesterday?"

The Persian felt his heart speed up just the tiniest bit. "I thought you had agreed to let her go with the Vicomte. You promised me, Erik. Before I left that night, you promised me."

"Of course I let her go. She and the Vicomte can play at engagement all they would like. But in the end, she will return to me. She loves me for myself, Daroga."

"And the Vicomte?"

"The Vicomte is none of my concern. I have no idea where he is."

The Persian began to worry. "But just weeks ago he was hear…with me…rescuing Christine."

Erik looked at the Persian. "What in god's name are you talking about?"

Now the Persian grew more frightened. His hand went to the pistol in his pocket. "Two weeks ago…the scorpion, the grasshopper…the torture chamber…Christine Daae…"

Erik snarled, "Two weeks ago was the night of the gala. Christine had not even been here yet."

The Daroga backed away. "Erik, are you mad?"

"My friend, you seem to be the one who is mad. All this insane talk of scorpions and grasshoppers…"

"Erik, how could Christine Daae have been here yesterday? I have been watching you for the past two weeks…"

"You what!"

"Yes, for all of our own good. I came back the day after. And nobody has gone in or out of this house."

"You impertinent little booby! I have killed men for far less, Daroga…" Erik said, his fists wringing his sleeves murderously.

"What is wrong with you, Erik?" the Persian began suspiciously, "Why are you shaking like that? What is that awful smell? Where is it coming from? What really happened after I left? What happened to Christine and the Vicomte? I waited all night Erik, but I never saw them leave here. I never saw them leave."

"You are mad Daroga!" Erik shouted, reaching for his Punjab lasso. But the Persian was ready. He whipped out his pistol and pointed it to Erik's head. Erik's arms went limp.

"Very well, friend," he snarled.

"Where is the Vicomte?" asked the Persian through clenched teeth.

"I told you, you simpleton, I don't know! If you are so desperate, why not simply ask the Count?"

"The count has been dead for two weeks," said the Persian. It was all he could do to keep his gun hand steady. "You killed him!"

The Persian saw Erik's eyes widen. Then, the wretched man fell to the floor, writhing and shrieking nonsense. The Persian kept the gun on him, but loosened his grip. His eyes were full of pity and contempt. "You always did remember only what you wanted to…" He sniffed the air. The smell seemed to be coming from a room in the back of the house. He lowered the pistol and turned his back on Erik, keeping a hand at the level of his eyes for safety. As the Persian traversed the house, he could hear Erik crawling after him, scuttling across the floor like some dreadful insect, but he did not look behind him.

He arrived before the door he sought. As he reached for the handle, Erik threw himself in front of him, knocking his hand away. "No!" He shouted. "That's Christine's room! I promised it was hers alone! I promised! I promised…" He broke down into sobs once more, sliding against the door until he was a heap upon the floor again.

The Persian opened the door.

"I can't believe I did this!" Erik sobbed, looking at his hands as though they were the most detestable creatures he had ever seen. "I never wanted too…I couldn't think…there was just anger and red, red everywhere! The world was blood Daroga! I…I…I don't know what I did! It just happened…so fast…" That was all the Persian could distinguish before Erik went into hysterics once more.

Closing the door slowly, the Persian helped Erik to his feet, and led him to the couch. There, Erik collapsed once more. The Daroga went to make the wretched man some tea. The poor creature had punishment enough: the two lovers would be together in Paradise, and Erik would not be with them.