Hey, everyone! Before we start, I'd like to give out some shout-outs. First, to Gabby, my awesome BETA. Thanks for the help. Second, to Anthony, you know who you are. Happy Birthday! And last but certainly not least, thanks to Aquarian Wolf and Mr. Nobody for their wonderful reviews, and to Werecat Boy for putting this story in the Haunted Mansion archive.
And now...the moment you've all been waiting for. The exciting conclusion to The Music Box Dancer. Enjoy!
The next few days passed uneventfully, but on the morning of the thirteenth a small dispute broke out in the ballroom. Actually, it was more of George freaking out and Victoria ignoring him, but it was somewhat of a skirmish.
"Victoria, you can't plan this for to night. Leota said that…"
"Oh, pish posh! She doesn't know what she's talking about. Anyhow, there's no way of turning back now, dear. Everyone is already invited. Miss Irvine is to dance you know. Watching her at that last party was breathtaking."
"Yes, very." He practically mumbled the words to himself. Louder, he replied, "Victoria, you very well know that…"
"Not another argument," she said cheerfully. "Everything will be fine. Now run along."
She went back to her clipboard after dismissing him and went over one of the many lists clipped there. Dejected, annoyed, and a little worried George headed to the huge double doors that lead to the hallway. He hated it when she treated him like a child, but he hated it more when she didn't listen to him. After all, he was the master of the manor. He reached the doors and glanced up at the hall that lead to Leota's quarters nervously. Shaking his head, he left the ballroom and ran straight into Julia.
"I am terribly sorry, Miss Irvine."
"Julia," she corrected.
He offered her his hand, which she graciously took and lifted her up off the floor.
He noticed the pink shoe ribbons dangling from her hands and her curious attire. She wore pink tights, a black leotard, and around her waist was a black chiffon skirt. Dangling from the pink ribbons was a pair of toe shoes. Inside the shoes was a pair of worn socks that looked like they had been pink some time ago.
"Going to…practice?" Why did he always manage to get tongue-tied around her?
"Yes, as a matter of fact."
She opened the door to the ballroom to find a peculiar scene. Workers were bustling around a shouting match in the centre of the ballroom. Victoria and the organist, Wolfgang Furlong, were both red in the face.
"You can't do this! I must be able to practice!"
"Nonsense! You practice everyday all day! Not even Ludwig practices that much!"
"He is not the best organist in the world!"
"And you are?!"
"Yes! And to keep that title I must be able to practice!"
"One day without practising won't kill you!"
The workers rolled there eyes. They had heard this all before. Every time Victoria had a party, she wouldn't let Wolfgang in until just before the doors were opened to the guests. The arguments usually ended in Victoria's favor, but sometimes Wolfgang won out. Today was not one of those days.
Victoria pushed the protesting organist out the door and slammed it in his face just as he was opening his mouth to protest further. For a second Wolfgang stared at the dark wood, then he tugged on the bottom of his jacket to straighten it and announced angrily to no one in particular,
"Never have I been thus treated! I, the greatest organist in the entire world. This is an outrage!"
He stormed down one of the many dimly lit corridors still ranting. Julia and George watched him go with varying amounts of amusement on their faces.
"Is he always like that?"
They heard a small childish giggle coming from behind them. A small girl, perhaps eight years of age, was skipping towards them holding a little doll. She had dark black curly hair and bright blue-green eyes. Her doll looked exactly like her, except it looked older and had on a white dress.
Julia bent down so she was at eye level with the little girl.
"Hi. What's your name?"
"Well, I'm Julia."
"I know. My doll told me."
Julia looked at the doll and up at George with a raised eyebrow. George merely shrugged at her silent question. LL noticed nothing and went on talking.
"My mother gave me this doll. She knows everything."
"Your mother or the doll?"
LL giggled. "Both."
"LL, I hate to interrupt, but where's Prudence?"
She smiled mischievously and giggled again.
"We're playing hide and seek."
"Mmm-hmm. And I've…"
The sound of footsteps cut her off. Her eyes became wide and excited.
Julia glanced around and spotted a large oriental vase. She lifted up LL and gently placed her inside. LL just fit. She stood on tiptoe to see out. As a shadow spilled into the corridor, she whispered "Act normal" and ducked down.
The corners of Julia's mouth twitched with the beginnings of a smile, but never the less she complied with LL's request. Seconds later a young woman with her frizzy hair in a bun ran into the hallway.
"Oh, Master Gracey," she did a small, almost saucy, curtsy as she tried to catch her breath "have you seen LL?"
The girl in question squirmed and stifled a giggle.
"No, I can't say that I have."
Julia almost cracked a smile at his performance. He played the part of a snob who couldn't be bothered well, but the twinkle in his eyes and the half smile he gave her told her that it was all an act. Prudence let out a sigh of frustration as she ran off down the corridors mumbling to herself.
"…never around when there are lessons to be done, oh no. They don't need a nanny for her they need a ruddy zookeeper."
LL peeked out from inside the vase to check that Prudence was really gone. She grinned as Julia lifted her out.
"You're good." LL scooped up her doll from where she'd dropped it. She looked down the hallway that Prudence had just entered. The sound of footsteps was coming back toward the ballroom doors.
"Uh oh." LL grabbed Julia's hand. "Come on, we're going to need more hiding places."
She began to tow Julia after her down the hallway that she had originally come from. Julia waved a quick good-bye from George before she disappeared into the shadows with LL. George could hear LL quietly talking with Julia as they scurried out of sight.
"Is there going to be a party tonight?"
"As far as I know, there's going to be one."
Unnoticed by anyone, the doll's eyes began to glow an eerie green. Back in her séance room, Leota peered into her crystal ball using the doll as a sort of camera. She slammed her fists on the table in frustration. The picture in the ball disappeared into the swirling green mist.
"They're still going through with it," she thought incredulously, "I have waited for three years, and they're not going to stop me this time."
With that, she pulled out one of her numerous spell books and began to study it intently, biding her time until tonight.
That night the house was filled with people and noise waiting to see Julia. Victoria was bustling around mingling with people, being the perfect hostess, and trying to promote Julia. George, on the other hand, stood in the shadows of the ballroom and glanced nervously at the hallway that lead to Leota's quarters. Wolfgang was playing the organ, but he still muttered to himself and glared daggers at Victoria whenever he had the chance.
Leota sat at her round table ready to complete her plan. Her raven sat on a stand next to the door. Leota had sent LL down to the party with her doll. That way she could see everything. Even though the spirits were scared away by the noise, Leota was sure she could entice some of them out in the open to do her bidding.
She saw that the crowd was being pushed to the edges of the room. Julia would make her entrance soon, she was sure of it. It was almost time.
The lights dimmed and Julia came out gracefully from the shadows. The soft lighting made her glow as she started to dance. Two tiny green glowing pinpricks that were LL's doll saw everything. Leota smiled wickedly as she began to chant.
There are debts to be paid
Come to me and render aid!
In the ballroom the huge double doors flew open sending a strong gust of wind through out the room, which startled the guests and almost threw Julia off her feet. Two wispy strings of smoky supernatural material threaded their way toward Julia.
me close this sordid case
Trap her here in this cursed place.
The wisps' ends separated to form claws that grabbed at Julia's throat. Her eyes were wide with fear. George tried to push through the throng of stunned onlookers to help her. He had almost reached her when a claw clutched her throat and the room was pitched into darkness. A loud and terrified scream came from Julia's direction.
Leota smiled at the chaos she had caused. No doubt the fools would go out looking for her like she had run away or something. There was nothing to do but sit back and watch the pandemonium.
George walked into his office and collapsed in his desk chair. After they had gotten the lights turned back on, they had found no trace of Julia. Victoria had quickly formed search parties and sent them out to various places around the manor. They had searched for hours to no avail.
George sighed and ran his raked his fingers through his hair in a frustrated and preoccupied gesture. He knew what really happened, but there was no way he could prove it. Leota was trouble and he knew it.
He glanced over to his desk and was surprised to find the music box sitting there. He was sure that he had returned it to the safety of his desk drawer. He looked at it for a moment with a confused look on his face. Then he reached over and opened the box.
Tchaikovsky's music filled the office lulling his tired mind to sleep. As he closed his eyes, he wondered one thing: Where had Leota sent Julia?
The music went on as sleep claimed George. If George had looked at the music box any closer he would have noticed two important things that may have answered his question.
The twirling dancer's hair had changed from red to brown. And now her expression of joy was one of great sadness with two tiny tears running down her cheeks.