What Lies Beneath
Chapter 1- New Management.
"Oh will you hurry up André else we are going to be late!" Shouted Richard Firmin to his business partner, Gilles André.
"Calm down Richard! I'm sure that he will not mind if we are just a few minutes late…" Firmin did not take much notice of this; he was too busy checking to see if he had forgotten anything, all of a sudden he stopped dead in his tracks.
"Notes… notes." A look of utter terror came over his face, but after about ten seconds careful searching of pockets he seemed to find what he was looking for, André eyed the two pieces of Parchment he was now holding curiously.
"What are they?" He asked, reaching out a hand to take the parchment from him, Firmin moved them out of reach however, which was very easy due to the height difference between the two of them.
"Just some legal documents, they require Monsieur Lefevre's signature so that the Opera Populaire is in our name."
André smiled as they continued to walk down the street towards where their carriage was waiting for them, he was a small man, greying at the hair and with a small grey moustache to match it perfectly, with features that greatly resembled a mouse. Firmin seemed to notice his sudden jolly mood.
"What are you smiling about?" André's smile grew even wider at this. Firmin was practically the opposite of his colleague, he was tall, with dark brown hair which only had a few traces of grey in it, and had sharp features giving the distinct impression that he was the more mature of the two.
"Well, for somebody who thinks this is going to be a dead end business…" He began, choosing his words very carefully, "… You seem to be making a very large effort to make sure nothing goes wrong."
Firmin looked slightly angry when André had finished talking. "When? When did I say anything about it being a dead end job…?" André opened his mouth to reply, "… OK I may have said something about it not being a very reliable job…"
"Yes…" André agreed in a dreamy voice. "… And how often did you say that Richard? About five times a day since I suggested it."
Firmin could tell that this was going to be a very difficult argument for him to win; he pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time.
"Good heavens!" He shouted, pointing dramatically at his watch, and breaking into a run towards the carriage, which was now visible at the end of the street. "We are already 2 minutes late, and we are not even in the carriage yet!"
They sprinted down the street, getting a lot of strange looks from passers by, and nearly jumped into the carriage.
"Good morning Gentlemen! In a hurry are we?" Said the carriage driver joyfully, turning round in his seat to address the two of them.
"Yes, however did you know?" Asked Firmin Sarcastically, "…Just get to the Opera Populaire as quickly as possible please Monsieur."
Without another word, the carriage driver turned in his seat, picked up the reins to the horses and set the carriage in motion. André was in a very good mood during the trip to the Opera house, which seemed to make Firmin even angrier with him.
"I do not understand what you are worrying about Firmin." Said André after a few minutes awkward silence.
"We need to give a good impression André, and being on time is the first way to do that." Firmin snapped back at him.
"Well… It's not as though we have never met the man before, and I thought it was first impressions that always made the biggest impact." André' sounded very sly, and Firmin resigned to the fact that he was not going to be able to agree with him, so he just sat in silence for the rest of the trip.
"Waistcoat…" Monsieur Lefevre was muttering to himself in his office, "…Pocket-watch… tie…"
There was a knock on the office door, and Lefevre gave a small jump, making himself look as presentable as he possibly could, he walked over to the door and opened it slowly, though instead of seeing the two new managers he was expecting, he saw a young girl.
"Sorry to disturb you monsieur, Madame Giry sent me to tell you that the two managers will be arriving in about five minutes." Said the girl, timidly. "So it is true that you are retiring Monsieur?"
"Yes it is…" Answered Lefevre, his voice shaking.
"Is everything alright Monsieur?" Asked the girl, sounding concerned.
"Yes… Yes everything is fine; you should get back to rehearsals…" Without saying another word, the girl turned and left, closing the door behind her.
Is everything fine… everything will be much better when I am rid of this accursed place! He thought to himself, walking over to his desk, where he noticed a letter.
"Oh no…" He whispered to himself, picking it up and opening it.
He read through the letter several times, the envelope still clutched in his hand, which was shaking violently. After several minutes, he discarded the letter in the bin, and made his way over to the door, he opened it, but before leaving turned round.
"I hope we never meet again…" Then he turned and left, but could have sworn he had heard a voice say 'We won't'…
Firmin stared out of his carriage window as they approached the building, the Opera Populaire, its golden statues gleamed on either side of the magnificent staircase leading to the large oak front doors. Now that he saw the building up close, Firmin had very little doubt that this was going to be such a useless endeavour after all. The carriage pulled up at the foot of the grand staircase and the driver set the reins down and went to open the carriage door.
Firmin stepped out of his carriage, gazing at the massive opera house. André quickly jumped out of the carriage after him; André was also gazing up at the massive opera house, only unlike his colleague he was beaming from ear to ear.
"You see? What did I tell…"
"Yes yes ok! I'm still not completely convinced." Said Firmin, cutting off André before he had to endure another lecture of how he should 'listen to him more often'.
"Not completely convinced, ha!" André's voice was full of sarcasm; he could not believe that after 5 years of working together he still could not admit he was wrong…
"For all you know the inside could be completely different to the outside." Firmin was getting very annoyed with André's enthusiasm; he was still panicking about being so late.
"Just you wait, you will see that once again I am right and you are wrong." With this, Firmin started marching up the staircase, trying to ignore André, who was bouncing up the staircase looking as though Christmas had come early.
The doorman held open the huge oak front doors, and Firmin and André walked into the entrance hall of the Opera Populaire…
It was, if possible, even more magnificent than it looked on the outside, Firmin tried to take it all in, the gold decorated candelabras, the many gold statues that were on either side of the great marble staircase, the balconies, it all seemed a little too good to be true.
"Ok you proved me wrong, the inside is completely different." Said André, clearly fighting the urge to jump in joy. Firmin closed his eyes trying to find patience, which was very difficult as André was now starting to squeak with excitement.
"I still want to see our performers before I start celebrating." André's expression changed almost instantly.
How can you be so stupid Richard, you are only going to end up making a fool of yourself once again. He thought to himself, trying to think of a comeback to Firmin's unnecessary remark.
"You will be eating your words when you see them." Said André, now realizing how highly decorated and polished the marble floor was. Firmin opened his mouth, about to say something to shut André up…
"Ah, Monsieur Firmin! Monsieur André! Absolutely delighted to see you again, safe journey I trust?" A man was walking down from the main staircase, Firmin recognised him at once.
"Monsieur Lefevre! Delighted to see you too, yes we had a safe journey. I trust you have been keeping well?" Firmin's mouth was still half open as André said all this, he could tell that he was never going to hear the end of this.
"Excellent thank you very much." With this, he led André and Firmin up the grand staircase, all the while having an animated conversation with André.
"So… What do you think? Please excuse the mess it's just that the cleaner hasn't covered this area yet." André gazed up at him amazed, now wondering what the place could possibly look like at its cleanest.
They continued their tour around the other areas of the Populaire, Lefevre had decided to show them the best part of the opera house last, as he was sure that this way it would definitely secure his retirement. They continued, their voices bouncing off the walls and the ceiling echoing very loudly, but as they were so merrily engrossed in their conversation they did not seem to notice.
"So explain to me monsieur …" Lefevre's attention now turned to Firmin as André was currently admiring the fine features of the manager's office. "What made you decide to give up the 'junk' business?"
I could get used to this business… IT'S NOT JUNK! André thought with exasperation.
"Scrap metal actually monsieur." André hastily cut in, whilst throwing a sharp look at Firmin, he wished to give a better image of the business he used to run as he knew Firmin would probably ruin it completely.
"As André said, scrap metal!" Continued Firmin, a note of caution in his voice. "Well we wanted a change didn't we André? And as we saw you were advertising for new management… and that we are already quite well acquainted, we thought it would be a great new opportunity which both my colleague and I couldn't deny."
Something had just caught André's eye, in the waste paper basket was what appeared to be a letter, though it was not the letter that was interesting, underneath it was what appeared to be its envelope, which had a red wax seal in the shape of a skull.
Lefevre seemed to notice what André was looking at. "Umm, shall we continue our tour of the Populaire now then gentlemen?" He nearly shouted, very quickly.
This seemed to distract André completely; after all, he still had the task at hand of proving Firmin wrong about something yet again.
"Yes I think so!" He replied happily, walking over towards the door. "Where are we going next?"
"I will show you the dormitories next; some of the ballet dancers live and train here, so we need to give them good accommodation."
There was a long silence as they continued their tour of the Opera House, admiring all of the rooms that Lefevre showed them round. After a while, Firmin decided to start up the conversation once again.
"May I ask you monsieur?" Lefevre looked over at him, questioningly. "Why exactly are you retiring?" Firmin had a note of curiosity in his voice as he asked Lefevre this question.
"My health", he replied, "It is exceptionally challenging running this place and I thought that perhaps it was time to take my leave, I have been running it for nearly 8 years."
"8 years!" André whistled softly "I didn't realise it was that long."
Lefevre chuckled at his remark. "My dear André, that's why I am retiring and leaving you good messieurs to run this business to the very best of your abilities."
Should I warn them? No that would be stupid, you need to get out of this place and telling them about him is not the way to do it… He already knows of course what is going on… I just hope they will be able to afford to run this business after I'm gone…
Lefevres thoughts trailed back to reality and he pushed these thoughts to the back of his mind. "And I have every confidence you shall succeed, but I will warn you it isn't always going to be easy… not to put you off, but …" He stammered for a moment trying to find the right words.
"It's a business Lefevre, we understand there may be a few little obstacles along the way, but I'm sure we shall over come them, isn't that so André?" Firmin asked positively.
"We are business partners; we know what we are dealing with." André replied.
Lefevre's mind began to race and his previous thoughts flooded him again at André's words;
NO! I don't really think you do, you don't know half of what you're dealing with yet… and it isn't just the productions…
His thoughts suddenly drained from him as Firmin's concerned voice hit his ears. "Are you alright? You've gone rather pale all of a sudden." Lefevre flushed.
"Oh good heavens, I'm fine, just a little tired is all, please don't worry yourselves gentlemen… now to our final destination, the main theatre as I believe we are finished looking around the rest of the Opera house." And with that, he led them out of the dressing rooms through to the main theatre.