What? That's the end of the narrative? What kind of stupid ending is that? Damn, you readers are gonna want me to write in some kind of clear-cut conclusion, aren't you? Oh, all right, but I'm upping this book's cost by fifty cents a copy.

--Gaston Leroux

After reading the Daroga's narrative, I felt gypped. I'd just paid five francs for a manuscript without a freaking ending! So, I marched myself down to his house and demanded my money's worth.

He explained that when he woke up after the whole torture chamber disaster, he was lying on a bed in Erik's place with a raging headache. "Errrrgh," he groaned into his pillow. "I must've drunk a whole keg last night." Then he caught sight of Raoul, passed out on a nearby couch. "Gah! Now I remember." He fumbled in his pocket, looking for his pistol. "Stay away from me, Erik! You'd better not forget I was captain of the wrestling team at Manzenderan A&M!"

"Oh, do settle down, Daroga," Erik chirped cheerfully, appearing in the doorway. "Christine, dear, get our guest here a spot of tea."

"Huh? You just tried to cook and drown me, and now you're offering me tea?"

"Oh, are you still hung up on that silly little torture and murder attempt? Do move on, Daroga. You're being childish." Christine came in and handed Erik a cup of tea. "Thank you, dear. Here, Daroga, drink this. Chamomile always has a calming effect on me."

The Persian looked to Christine questioningly. She didn't say a word, she just made a "cuckoo" gesture behind Erik's back and mouthed the words "mother issues".

"Now," Erik continued, "do you want to go back to sleep for a while, or do you think you feel up to sitting on the couch and playing board games for a while?"

"Are you going even more insane than usual?" I shrieked incredulously.

"Shh!" whispered Erik. "You'll wake the boy!" He gently draped a fuzzy yellow blankie over the sleeping vicomte. "Little fella's all worn out. No more staying up till midnight going swimming for him."

"Christine?" The Persian decided to try getting some answers out of the girl again, as Erik was obviously mad, drugged, or a little of both. But she was busy packing Erik's ventriloquist dummy Herbert into a large black box, which she was attaching heavy iron weights to. "Oh, I understand. If I had to marry Erik, the creepy puppet would definitely be the first thing to go."

"Talk to her again and I swear I'll rip your tongue out!" Erik snarled, so embarrassed even his mask seemed to be blushing.

The Persian sighed with relief. "Whew. There's our Erik. You had me worried for a minute."

"You should count yourself lucky. Christine talked me into taking you and the kid back up to the surface, but if you get on my nerves, let's just say you might meet with an unfortunate accident on the way up." Then Erik suddenly turned cheerful again, threw a blue blankie over the Persian, turned on a musical mobile decorated with sea creatures, and switched on a purple night light. "Sweet dreams, sleepyheads."

When he got back to the surface, the Persian did some asking around, and found out that Philippe de Chagny was dead. Apparently, his corpse had been found in the tunnels under the opera house, slathered in green Jell-o, with a pool scoop stuck on his head. It is said that the night he was killed, everyone in the opera house above heard his scream of, "AAAAAAGGGHHH! The singing skeleton man! Raoul, I'm sorry I called you crazy! Olivier, I'm sorry I let Mom and Dad lock you in the attic!"

The Persian, of course, tried to do the honest thing and go to the cops, but when he told them Philippe had been murdered by Phantom of the Opera and his pet sea monsters, all they did was give him some pills they'd confiscated in a drug raid earlier that day. So, hoping that someday someone would read it without bursting into uncontrollable laughter, the Persian sat down and wrote his unfinished manuscript.

Then a few days later, Erik popped in for a visit. "Hey, Daroga…. Missed me?"

"Not really. I've still got the third degree burns to remember you by."

"Such a …kidder!" Erik swung an arm around his friend's shoulders.

"Why do you keep talking like that? Is your asthma acting up again?"

"Yeah. I…ran all the…way here. And there's a…lot of pollen…in the…air today."

"How many times have I told you to take you inhaler with you when you know you're going to be exerting yourself?"

"I just forgot. Sue…me," panted Erik.

"What are you even doing here after you tried to kill me? Give me one reason why I shouldn't call the cops on you!"

"You're just…never…going to let this…whole attempted murder…thing slide…are you?"

"Never mind that now. What have you done with Raoul de Chagny and Christine Daae?"

Erik babbled on as if he hadn't heard. His ears had a tendency to get stuffy when he was exposed to too much pollen. "I came to tell you I'm going to die."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, rest assured, I'm crying on the inside. Now where are Christine and Raoul?"

Erik was still yammering. "I'm dying of love…and a severe, untreated heart disease…but mostly love!" Erik began to dance a jig, then started gasping for air and blacked out. Sighing, the Persian got one of the Phantom's spare inhalers from a closet and shoved it into his mouth. He came to after a minute. "Whew. Thanks, Daroga. That was a close one."

"Don't do that again." The Persian shuddered. "It's dangerous. Not to mention it's disturbing to watch the Phantom of the Opera dance that way. Even the musical had the sense not to show us that."

"Sorry."

"Now, if you're not going to tell me what you did you Christine and Raoul, will you at least show me where you left their mangled corpses so I can give them a proper burial?"

"I didn't kill them! I know my track record with these sort of things is pretty bad, but can you just hear me out?"

"Very well."

"Christine got a little upset with me when I started drowning you guys in my torture chamber, so she made me a proposition. If I let you and Raoul go, she promised she'd try not to kill herself. Eventually, we worked out a compromise. You got to leave, and Raoul got to spend the rest of his miserable life chained up in my dungeon instead of experiencing a quick merciful death, and Christine got to throw away Herbert. Also, I had to go to counseling to get my mother issues taken care of, and I had to give her that cute little Mephistopheles bobble-head doll I got from Monsieur Richard."

"Dang. I was hoping you'd leave that to me when you died. So then what happened?"

Erik giggled absurdly, and it was almost as frightening as the dance had been. "Then she let me kiss her. Actually, at first, she had me give her this sissy little peck on the forehead. But I decided that wouldn't do. If she was to kiss me like that in front of all my gothic bad-boy buddies, I'd never live it down. So, trying to remember everything I'd seen at all the makeout parties I've spied on over the years, I gave her a real kiss. Then I started crying."

"Then what?"

"She got all huffy and said, 'What? I'm not that bad of a kisser, am I? Raoul never complained!'

"She was about to stomp off indignantly, but I held her back. "No, no, honey, these are tears of joy. I'm sorry about all the trouble I've caused. I think I'll let you go and marry your little boyfriend after all. I can die happy now.

"She just stared at me for a few minutes like I was from Mars, then started screaming at me so loudly I thought the tunnels would cave in. 'You mean to tell me that you've kidnapped me, tortured my boyfriend and the Anonymous-Foreign-Guy-With-Some-Vague-Connection-to-You, killed various bystanders, and drugged a whole team of techies for essentially no reason? Plus, I've already done my makeup and hair! Oh, no, no, no, buster, we're getting married now whether you like it or not!'

"After a few minutes, I managed to convince her to leave with the boy. 'I'll only ask one thing. I'll let you know when I'm dead, and I want you to come back and bury me. Nessie and the Siren have a tendency to chew on corpses that are left lying around in the open.'"

By this point, the Persian was crying like a little girl. He'd always been a softie, and this "chick-flick" style tragedy was getting to be too much for him. Not wanting this to get back to the rest of the Gothic Baddies, he sent Erik away.

Three weeks later, the Daroga noticed a copy of the Parisian Enquirer at the newsstand on the corner, proclaiming in bold red letters that Richard and Moncharmin had called off their wedding. As he flipped through the pages, searching for the article, a small ad in the back of the paper caught his eye. "Two Bedroom Lair for Rent! Lakeside property, fully furnished, pets okay. P.S., Erik is dead."

Epilogue

See? The Opera Ghost was real, and I've got witnesses to prove it! SO THERE!

The old managers, Debienne and Poligny, will back me up on that. Then again, they're not really a reliable source. They also believe in UFO's, Santa Claus, and the Boogeyman.

Then there's Richard and Moncharmin. They wrote the whole incident off as a practical joke. That theory had a lot of holes in it, but since the ghost gave them back all their money a few days after it happened, they weren't particularly interested in him anymore.

And I found a whole bunch of the ghost's secret passages while snooping around the opera house, and I found a whole bunch of graffiti in his old dungeon that said, "Raoul de Chagny wuz here", and I found a bunch of Loch Ness Monster footprints all around the lake. Try and write that off as a coincidence!

The Persian was the best source of info. He told me about the Phantom's past. Apparently, there was a reason he had all those mother issues, and spending several years in a traveling freak show after he left home didn't help to normalize him any. After he left the freak show, he dropped off the face of the earth for twenty-five months, six days, and two hours, then turned up on the floor in a Persian bar. The Persian (the guy who tried to help Raoul save Christine, not one of the gazillions of other Persians in Persia) was working his way through college as a bartender there at the time, and they got to be buddies.

Erik enrolled at the Daroga's school, Manzenderan A&M, on a magician's scholarship, and they both graduated with honors. The shah and sultana were at the graduation, and Erik immediately charmed them with his "coin behind the ear" trick. (Back then, this stunt was a brand new, cutting-edge innovation.) The shah made the mistake of giving Erik power over the whole country, and it wasn't pretty. Erik was as murderous then as ever. He killed people who had only committed misdemeanors. He killed people who stared at his mask. He killed people who sneezed in his presence. He killed people who wore blue on Thursday. You get the picture.

None of this bothered the shah. However, when he found out that a certain phantom had been moonlighting as an architect for the Sultan of Turkey, he decided Erik had gone too far. The daroga, who had been made chief of police, was ordered to hunt him down and execute him. Funny, you'd think somebody smart enough to run a whole country would realize that it might not be such a bright idea to have the best friend be the one to carry out the execution.

After the daroga snuck him out of Persia, Erik hitchhiked over to Constantinople and went to work for the Sultan full time. However, he hadn't been there more than a year or two before he had to call the Persian to come smuggle him out of there, too. Having had his fill of Middle Eastern monarchies, Erik went back to France and started his own construction company. He had always been interested in architecture, plus he really seemed to enjoy wearing those hardhats for some childish reason. When he was hired to help build the Garnier Opera House, he suddenly decided that it might be fun to give up his relatively normal life as a contractor, dig himself a labyrinth under the opera house, move into it, and never see the light of day again. (?)

Then he met this gullible girl name Christine and got all obsessed with her, yatta yatta yatta, you know the drill. Anyway, while I was snooping around down there, I tripped over an old skeleton that I think was Erik's. It was wearing Christine's ring and clutching a broken ventriloquist's dummy. Ever since then, I've been passing petitions around, trying to get Erik's skeleton put where it rightfully belongs; hung up on a wall in the National Academy of Music for the tourists to gawk at. I'm sure the reclusive Phantom would have loved that. What? It's supposed to be a gesture of respect, you nitwits! Oh, forget it.

The End