Leroux Condensed

By: The Lark

Disclaimer: I don't own it. Does anyone out there actually think I do?

Prologue--

The Opera Ghost is real. No, really, I've tracked down written proof and everything. I'm totally serious. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!

Gaston Leroux

The Paris Opera House, 1881:

It was the night of the gala the Paris Opera House was having to mark the retirement of its managers, and the Prima Ballerina, Sorelli, was innocently running through her lines when all of a sudden…

"AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHH!" …a bunch of screaming ballet rats burst through her dressing room door, slammed it shut, locked it, and then pushed a dresser in front of it. Super-Gluing the hinges together just to be on the safe side, they piled into the wardrobe and barred that door closed, too.

Sorelli didn't bother to try and get them out, as this was a much more common occurrence than you'd think and she was starting to get used to it. "What's the matter with you kids this time?" she asked sarcastically. "Is Bigfoot hiding in your closet? Or has the Vampire Von Krolock started stalking you again?"

"Possibly," Jammes' muffled voice replied from inside the wardrobe, "but the reason we're in here is because we just saw the Opera Ghost."

"AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHH!" La Sorelli screamed, throwing the wardrobe open and climbing inside with the girls, tossing a few of them out to make enough room. "You really saw the ghost?" She barred the door shut again. "Ooooh, tell! What'd he look like? Was he, like, some kind of oozing slime monster?"

"No."

"Oh. Well, was he wearing rags and rattling chains or something?"

Little Meg Giry shuffles her feet awkwardly. "Well…no…actually, he was wearing a very stylish evening suit."

La Sorelli quirked an eyebrow. "Oh. Well, was he all transparent when you looked at him?"

"Um…no, not really."

Sorelli, getting disappointed, stared at the ballet girls around her skeptically. "Then, what exactly, made you think he was a ghost?"

Jammes folded her arms defensively. "Hey, his face was really, really ugly."

Sorelli sighed. "Well, I guess that's a start."

"See!"

"We told you!"

There was a long awkward pause. "So, how much air do we have in here, anyway?"

"Uh-oh…"

"AAAAAAGH!"

"Help!"

In a flurry of pink ballet shoes, they somehow managed to kick the doors open again, and they all came tumbling out. Sorelli got on her feet and cautiously looked around. "Hey, there's no ghost out here. Aw, I bet you didn't even see a ghost! " She glared. "So help me, if you guys set me up for 'Candid Camera' again…"

Jammes stamped her foot stubbornly. "No, there really is a ghost. We saw him! That gossipy stagehand Buquet's seen him too! He says he's got no nose, and hardly any hair, and his eyes are like black holes, and he's all bones like a skeleton."

Sorelli listened raptly. "Finally, some details!"

Meg fidgeted uncomfortably. "Uh, maybe we should shut up while we've still got the chance. My mom knows the ghost and she says he doesn't like people blabbing rumors about his unspeakable hideousness."

Then there was a knock at the heavily barricaded door. "Hey, everybody, guess what? You know that gossipy stagehand Buquet? Well, we just found his mangled corpse hanging in the basement!"

"Told ya," Meg gloated.

Meanwhile, up in the managers' office…

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHH!" Mercier, the acting manager, came running in screaming bloody murder. "There's a stagehand down in the third cellar who's been brutally murdered! He's been hanged by the ceiling and…oh, the humanity!"

Monsieur Debienne, surrounded by empty wine bottles, looked up at him hazily. "Dude, can't this wait until later? You're really putting a damper on our retirement party, here."

Monsieur Poligny slapped him cheerfully on the back. "Yeah, sit down and have a drink. No sense in letting a silly little murder interrupt what's otherwise been a very enjoyable evening."

Monsieur Mercier gaped incredulously. "Hello? Are you people listening to me? The Opera Ghost just viciously slaughtered a guy only a few floors below our feet, and any one of us could be next!"

Monsieur Moncharmin, one of the new managers, waved a hand dismissively. "Aw, there's no ghost. The guy probably just hanged himself."

His partner, Monsieur Firmin, paused to scrawl a note in his day planner. "Note to self; introduce a program to boost employee morale."

Mercier shook Moncharmin by the shoulders. "Okay, so if the guy hanged himself, who was it that cut him down after he was dead?"

"I dunno." Moncharmin shrugged. "Maybe that vampire, what-his-name, Von Krolock? I hear he's been seen around here a couple of times lately."

The first landing of the opera house…

After hacking their way out of the barricaded dressing room with a conveniently placed fire ax, Sorelli decided to take the ballet girls around the opera house to investigate the unspeakably gory murder of their friend Buquet. It sounded like good, clean fun, perfect for a bunch of impressionable children. Unfortunately, they were so excited they forgot to watch where they were going. Sorelli ran smack into Philippe, Comte de Chagny on the way down.

Philippe was the head of one of the most noble aristocratic families in France. And he was rich. And he was fairly good looking. And he was rich, too. And he was nice enough guy. And he was also pretty rich. And he had excellent manners. Plus, he was FILTHY, STINKIN' RICH…anyways…

"Hey, baby," Count Philippe greeted. "Ya know, if you're trying to find new ways to get my attention, can you try coming up with something that doesn't involve me getting crushed into a pancake?" He rubs his bruised head. "Oh well. At least the play was good, especially that wonderful new diva Christine Daae."

"Christine Daae?" Meg spoke up. "Yeah, she was brilliant tonight. Funny thing, too, seeing as how she totally sucked a couple months ago. Must've got herself a copy of that new self help video, 'From Drudge to Diva in Ninety Days'. Anywho, shove over, Chagny; we've got places to go and corpses to ogle."

"Dang, you people already heard about the murder? You must be the most gossipy bunch of chicks in this hemisphere!"

Sorelli scowled at him. "We're nineteenth-century ballet dancers. About the only things we've got to do around here are gossiping, dancing, and occasionally milking rich noblemen for money." She paused for a moment, looking Philippe over appraisingly, then draped an arm around him. "By the way, Phil, have I told you lately how much I love that new hairdo?"

Philippe giggled absurdly. "Hehe. Thanks. Come on, let's go party." He glanced over his shoulder, waving to his little brother, Raoul. "Hey sport, wanna come with?"

"No thanks. I've got to go see Christine Daae." Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny was a shy, charming young sailor with blond hair and blue eyes. He was twenty-one years old, and dreamed of going to the North Pole. Some people said he was looking for adventure; others said he was just looking for Santa Claus. But Philippe had decided that, before Raoul went off to the Pole and either lost a limb to frostbite or joined an elven toy factory, he'd show him a little fun.

Sadly, showing Raoul a little fun was harder said than done. Either they'd drummed all the life out of him at that military school of his, or they'd put some kind of computer chip in his brain. Philippe had tried to take him drinking, and Raoul had refused, insisting that they needed a designated driver. Philippe had then suggested that they go gambling, but the boy just fallen to his knees and started praying for his soul. Finally, he'd given up and taken the kid to the opera. A small measure of hope had sparked inside him when Raoul had started checking out the girl playing the lead, Christine Daae. "That brilliant new opera singer who fainted onstage tonight you mean?"

"Yep. I'm just…uh… gonna go and…er, make sure she's all right! Yeah, that's it." He took off like a shot toward her dressing room.

TBC…

A/N: Am writing this at the request of a couple of friends of mine who had trouble getting through the original novel. Let me know whether it sucks or I should continue. Thx!