Alas! A glitch! Well, I thought I had posted a new chapter and apparently all it posted was a bunch of HTML coding! Odd!
Apologies for making you wait a week later than usual. Life intervened, but in a good way :) Thank you again, truly for all the reviews, favorites, and even to the person who privately messaged me some encouragement. Thank you for that. I'm writing on a chapter by chapter base as all of my pre-written chapters have been used up! I'm glad you all enjoyed the last chapter. Here is that chapter from a very different perspective...
If I were Gaston Leroux and owned POTO, I wouldn't be dealing with these glitches!
Khan found himself far below New York on the that night. He had caught wind of Erik's calling to other workers for a secured area in a heavily wooded park just inside of New Jersey. He scoffed at Erik trying to hide such a huge cattle call of their misfit team without so much as one word to him. Erik had to have known he would find out. Still, nothing was said.
Hidden behind the brush, and untouched by Erik's posse, Khan watched as it began to rain, how Erik closed his distance with the girl, and eventually had her fully in his arms as he carried her back into the statue. Khan did not want to think of what was to happened immediately after that. He could not let it distract him from surveying the parameter to plan his route inside.
This was not a new entrance, it was simply one that was not meant for every day use, an emergency exit, more of. At the same time, Khan imagined that Erik would use this more than he would like to admit, Khan imagined that even Erik wished to have a normal walk in the park like anyone else.
An hour later, all of the security team had tapered away. It was then that Khan could go up to the statue to figure out the various codes. It was what he had been expecting. Rather than plug in endless computer codes, this was more classic, using wit street smarts. He remembered Erik telling him that he would come up with such mechanisms and traps when he was bored as a child. How many of them seemed to have simple answers that would lead to fatal endings. Then, on occasion, the answer would be simple, and anything more would be the end of a life. It took a certain level of Erik's psychology to grasp these traps and Khan only hoped that this understanding was on his side.
The statue that they had disappeared into was just what he had been expecting: a series of levers, a combination of buttons, an almost sacrificial finger into the correct hole. All very typical Erik. Once inside, blackness covered him. Not feeling the need to pull out his hand gun, he settled for a high powered flashlight instead. Before him was a series of tunnels that all seemed to lead down a slope. Knowing Erik to have a faster route than this, he pointed his flashlight to the ground. There had to be a trapdoor somewhere.
Eventually, he came across three screws and a hole big enough for a finger. As usual when it came to such holes, Khan held his breath as he stuck his finger just far enough inside to curl it around what he hoped to be a door. Fortunately, this time he was correct and didn't get his finger nicked off. His left ring finger had not been so lucky the last time he had to reassess Erik's codes and he missed having his entire finger taken by moving to the side just in time for his nail to be taken clean off instead.
There were a few clicks as mechanisms moved out of the way. Once the door was open, he shined his light down to see an incredibly long ladder with no end in sight. This was not going to be easy. This was just the type of thing that kept Erik in such good shape and Khan cursed himself for having not thought of this option before. The tunnels were an option, but they were sure to be far more traps and he didn't even know which tunnel to start at.
It would just have to be a work out for him that night. And he detested these ladder's the most. They were made especially for Erik's height. He couldn't think about it. He would just have to keep moving down. And he would have to count. Fifteen steps down there was a missing metal rod in the ladder. That was out it started. Sixteen steps after that, instead of the rod, there was a blade. Seventeen steps after that, there was a spray of what Khan was sure would be poisonous gas, but he didn't inhale to find out. This continued until he reached fifty and at exactly fifty, there was water beneath his feet.
He had finally reached the lowest level of Erik's caves. The next step would be to find out what he had to do next. The option to jump into the water was there, but cave surrounded him and the water disappeared under the rocks. Khan knew Erik would not feel the need to go much further with his traps, as anyone else in this world would have been dead, and he knew Erik wouldn't want to get soaked every time he entered his house. Shining the flashlight around he found an opening in the rock, big enough for a man to crawl through, all he had to do was scale the side of the rock to get to it.
This was turning out to be quite the work out. Khan was already drenched with sweat, even as his entire surroundings were very cold. His muscles were aching, but he had a strong feeling that if he simply got through that opening, there wouldn't be a far amount of a ways to go. With all his strength, he scaled over to the opening and once inside it fully, collapsed to breathe. It was then that he heard their muffled voices through the rock.
"I wanted to tell you of the house I've built for us in the country," It was Erik, " about how we will be able to talk in the sun every day without anyone around to glare or glance. It's all for you my love, and now you say you want nothing of it, is that it?"
Khan slowly edged himself closer to the rock that separated them. Erik sounded very strange to him, almost foreign. He didn't like it.
"What?" her voice was heard and she sounded just as strange.
"I would have told you. I was hiding nothing. It was you who did not want to listen."
"Sooner than you'd think. You will not always be caged. You outdoor freedom will be restored."
Her voice was slow now, contemplative,"And what do I have to do?"
There was a pause,"Trust me."
Khan heard no more words, he hardly even heard breathing. Something was going on and he feared just what that something was. Knowing that if he pushed forward he would make his presence known, he had to sit and wait as eventually the sounds that came to him were not what he was expecting. There was some shuffling of clothing and bodies against something, the sound of lips being pressed against something soft, and finally a quiet whimper.
Suddenly Khan was taken back many years, to a time he thought he had forgotten. It was his wedding night. His beautiful wife was a virgin as he was. He had let instinct be his guide as he pressed himself to her, wanting to melt inside of her, the sounds of moans and whimpers his guide as he made love to her on that hot summer night. A lump rose in his throat, knowing that this would never happen for him again, that she and his son were gone forever, and that everything worth anything in his life would never be returned.
"You are divine, my goddess," he heard Erik whisper, "Let me worship you, my queen."
"Erik…" she whispered back.
"This isn't right," Khan didn't find her statement convincing.
"You forget where we are. Here the rules of the world no longer apply. Here, we are the rules. You must know this."
There was another pause, the sound of lips on skin continued until, "Erik…"
"Tell me to stop. Tell me and I'll stop, dove."
There was another slight pause then, "Erik I… I can't do this."
"Then you needn't do anything." Khan didn't like his tone when he said this.
"Erik, I want the house you told me about. I want to be outside again."
Khan raised his eye brow. She was trying to gain some control.
"And you shall have it."
"I want to go back outside," She clarified.
There was a slight shuffling, then Erik repeated, "Tomorrow."
"Erik I...I'm tired now."
"I will never forget this."
"I love you Christine."
"I know Erik."
Khan couldn't hear her leave, but he imagined she had left. Some time passed and then there was a roar, an animalistic primal roar, then something was hit and shattered, and the words, "Goddamn it!"
Erik truly was a terrifying person when he wanted to be, and most specifically, when he was losing control like this. Something heavy fell to the ground and heavy gasping could be heard.
"No...no no no no…I didn't force her I...she must have...it's my face. My goddamn face!"
Another roar and something larger hit the wall a few seconds later. It was like waiting for thunder after a lightning strike.
"I gave her what she...why does she always ask for more...I gave her and now…"
Sounds of anger quickly turned into sounds of anguish. Sobbing was heard, true sobbing. Khan's ears perked up. He had to be careful not to touch the rock that separated them, in fear that it might give way to a door. It was a rarity when Erik ever gave away any sadness and Khan was always perplexed as to why this happened. He knew Erik had plenty of reasons to be sad, but whenever he showed it, that was when Khan wanted to know why.
"Christine…" He moaned, "If only I were hansom then you wouldn't be so afraid….Christine my angel…"
Even his sobbing were strangely beautiful like the rest of his voice. Leaning up against the rock, he focused on his breathing again, wanting to calm down. It was then that images of his wife came to him like a mist, a nice soft comfortable mist. He remembered the beautiful gown she wore that day, the purple orchids that she held so nicely in her long slender hands. She wore light eyeliner under her veil and it made her dark blue eyes stand out. She was everything he wanted. Her smile was all he needed for contentment. And he wanted to smile, even if it was only her memory.
He hadn't realized he had fallen asleep until a sharp pitched scream nearly made him fall out of the cave. Scrambling to catch his balance before hitting the water below, and more than likely a booby trap that was waiting inside, he woke up quickly and tried to calm his heavy breathing. Remembering himself, he slowly moved back to the wall that separated him from them, but this time their voices were more muffled and he wondered how much farther away they were now.
"D-don't come any closer!" she sounded terrified.
Erik was speaking, but his voice was so soft and hushed against the rock walls that Khan didn't catch what he was saying.
"No. No," he voice softened then, "Just stay over there."
More muffled words from Erik.
"Erik! I...I…" Khan put his ear up the rock, not wanting to believe where his mind was taking him, "Where are the lights? This wouldn't have-have happened if the lights had stayed on!"
He thought he heard her frantic breathing and he stopped breathing himself, "I d-don't want- I just want- I was fine til- I want to…" her voice caught in her throat and she gasped, trying to keep herself calm.
And that was all he heard. It was as if a barrier had brought up. Khan growled in his throat. This was what he was doing to her; trapping her down there to rot and using her at night for himself. Erik was a low man, but harming an innocent woman like Christine. This couldn't be done. He wouldn't stand for it anymore. He felt his own Fatimah being ravaged before her death, felt ever scream and whimper as she was locked away then burned alive.
This would not be Christine's fate. This was Khan's chance to do something for her that he was never able to do for his love. She was scared and wouldn't want to leave, but Khan knew just what to say to get her to follow him. Things would need to be planned out, there were preparations for both of them to depart from the country, and Khan would have to act quickly.
He was not looking forward to going back up the ladder.
Once having taken a shower that was much longer than usual, Christine opened her bathroom door to the sound of strings being played. Leaning her ear forward she heard a minor key. Sensing familiarity, she toweled off her hair then fumbled to hang the towel back up before leaving the bathroom. Her hair now hung, damp, on her shoulder, her outfit already on, she felt the music reach into her soul and pull her forward. She knew this song. She had heard it a long time ago and it had made her cry as a child. It spoke to her of loss, specifically, the loss of her mother.
Tapping the raised carpet, she opened the wall to the study where music was playing from speakers that seemed to surround the entire room, encasing it, though she could not see any of them as they were hidden from view. Erik sat in his chair, his head resting on the back of it, relaxed. A wave of feeling through music pulsed through her and she remembered the song.
"Adagio for Strings," she whispered.
"Yes," he replied faintly.
"This was the first concert my daddy played after my mom died. He said it was the only feeling he could harbor to play. I cried then."
To this he turned to her, taking her in, "You do not cry now."
"No," she leaned up against the wall for support, "I barely even remember her anymore."
"For all that time gives, it takes more, does it not?"
"I guess so."
He stood, "Come dove, no use bringing this up so early in the morning. Breakfast is ready."
Offering his hand, he waited for her to come to him, but instead she looked from his hand to his face, then hugged herself a little. He stood there, his hand outstretched for a few painful moment, then finally turned, in one sweeping motion, towards the opening to the dining room.
Once there, she looked at her perfect plate after sitting and sighed. There had been only one thing on her mind that morning and it wasn't the thing she had been expecting to invade her thoughts. The dark. Why had it gone dark? And what was going on outside the perfect world Erik had constructed for her?
"Is something not to your liking dove?"
When looking up to him, for a brief moment, she saw the look he tried to hide away, the same look that he always had, but then it was gone and replaced with some other emotion to hide it.
"Erik," her words caught in her throat and she gulped.
"Yes?" he asked after a slight pause.
She looked down to the table again and began to swirl her fork around in some scrambled eggs, "I was wondering if….if you were um, serious about...about what you said last night?"
A crooked smile formed on his half visible face, "What part in particular, pet?"
She looked up for a moment, then instantly regretted it, feeling her face grow hot at other memories she didn't want to think about. A light chuckle was heard from him.
"The part about going outside." She spat out without meaning to be so loud. Her head hung lower in embarrassment and she took a bite of her eggs to distract her thoughts.
"Oh," he said quietly and she could feel his smile fade a bit through his word alone, "You see pet, tonight may not be the best-"
"Why?" she broke off his words, her eyes wide and concerned.
His eyes narrowed, and she heard him sit back in his seat in defence. Their disagreement the former night still hung in her head and she knew that unless she had something further to offer him, that she was walking on thin ice. He cleared his throat, "It's going to rain tonight."
"It…" she stole a glance, then returned to messing up her egg display, "It rained last night."
"It will be raining all day."
She swallowed past a lump in her throat, took a sip of her water, and asked sheepishly, "Don't you have an umbrella?
"Not big enough for the both of us."
Her plate was becoming blurry and she blinked back into clarity, "You could get another one."
She found herself studying him. The way he so coolly sat in his chair, his arms spread and opened, his fingers lightly grazing the ends of the arm rests. He made himself appear so vulnerable, as if she could do nothing to hurt him. And suddenly she wanted to hurt him. She realized that crying would do nothing, screaming would do nothing, physical strength could do… physical could do…
Shaking her head she gulped a breath.
"What else did you witness your father play? I imagine you know a plethora of music for the violin."
"That's not what I want to talk about, Erik."
He leaned forward, lacing his fingers comfortably on the table, appearing as if he was giving her his full attention. "And what is it that you wanted to converse? Surely not a subject that is already closed."
His words were laced with threats, but she had to get somewhere. Things couldn't stay as they were. Last night couldn't have happened. She needed a footing in something outside of this cage, anything, even simple news.
She saw him returning to his former posture, the one that didn't make her feel like a human, rather, it made her feel like a pet, a dove, a caged thing that could content itself inside such a place, "Yes?"
"I...don't see why you told me one thing last night and another thing this morning."
"The weather is most accurate closer to the date."
"It's just rain." She whimpered, feeling her strength fade with his flat tone.
"I can't have you getting sick, dove."
"But you'll keep me down here."
His eyes flickered a moment, then, " Need I repeat that this is temporary?"
"No." She paused trying to swallow the swelling in her throat, but added, "You could show me."
"You could show me." He repeated quietly.
Her eyes narrowed and she slowly asked, "Show you...what?"
For a few moments he simply looked at her, his eyes beating into hers, until he stood suddenly, "I believe it's time for your lesson. Come Christine," He walked over to her and she refused to look at him until she felt his fingers slowly trail down her cheek, then trace her jaw line until coming to her chin. She didn't move, trying to look past him, wondering if this was her fate. He lifted her chin so that she now was arching her neck to look up to him. "Come."
The music lesson passed. If anything, Christine enjoyed it for its normalcy. She was able to focus on something else, even as he kept accusing her of being distracted whenever she faltered. A few times he distinctly said under his breath, "Last night was a set back." or "I should have known."
In the back of her mind she had a feeling he was only saying these things to get a stir from her, but her fear rose all the same and she plunged into the music with new vigor each time.
Lunch, while she mostly listen to what the inside of the Taj Mah Hal looked like from the inside, was pleasant enough. She made herself a pimento cheese sandwich on the home made bread he provided her with. It was almost too easy to ride away with him in his story-telling of places far from them. He had a knack for making everything sound beautiful in her head, but terrible in the reality whenever she asked to see these things for herself.
Just as she was about to finish her sandwich and move on to a neat pile of grape tomatoes, Erik stood from the table suddenly. Christine looked up to him in horror.
"I have to leave you. I will be right back."
"Go to your room. Only come out when I say."
Not needing to be told again she scampered off to her room, all of the walls shutting immediately behind her. Once there, she didn't know what to do and his tone of voice did not make her feel any better. She paced for a little while, keeping her eyes on the walls where the openings would be. As much as she liked the room when she needed a refuge, she disliked it just as much when she couldn't leave.
It was then that she heard heavy foot steps on the other side of the wall. They seemed widely spread and in a hurry. She heard them in the study and eventually in the hall. Someone was walking around and she knew it wasn't Erik.
Part of her wanted to call out, but then another fear crept inside of her: what if this person meant her another harm? Erik had been removing her peace with the world, the ability to trust people was fading. She didn't know who this was and she didn't like the way he moved.
The sound of her name brought her to the wall that separated her from the study.
"Ms. Daae, are you in here?"
Her voice found her before her thoughts could process, "Who is that?"
"Ms. Daae, where are you?"
"I...I don't know who you are."
"Please, we don't have time. I am the man you saw before. Are you alright?"
Was she alright? She didn't know. Who was this man? Should she lie? Erik obviously knew him.
"I'm alright. Who are you?"
"My name is Nadir. I want to help you out of here. Where are you?"
His words made her stomach jump and without thinking, she went straight for the raise in the carpet and pressed it, but nothing happened. She pressed it again, nothing. He had locked her in.
"I'm in my room. He locked me in!"
"Listen to me," she placed her ear to the wall, "I have to leave, but I will be back in seven days at the same time. Pack a small bag with what you will need to travel. I will return."
"But who are you?" The fear of another kidnapper rose in her head.
"I'm a friend. And the only friend who knows how to get you out of here. Be ready in seven days. We only have one chance at this."
Heavy footsteps were heard getting farther from her until they were gone completely. For a moment she stood there in shock. Could she have imagined this? Was that possible? Was she finally going insane? Walking quickly to the closet she looked around to see if there were any bags. Behind the door were some cubbies that held shoes and above them were purses. They would have to do. Running to the bathroom she wondered what would be needed from there.
But she couldn't pack yet. He would know somehow. And how did he not already know? Could this all be a trick? She had no idea who to trust anymore. Nothing was the same, but she had a chance to escape and whatever happened to her for trying, she had to take the chance.
Khan felt proud about himself being able to throw off enough frequencies in another cave at just the right time for Erik to visit them as he got to the bottom of the ladder. What he didn't expect was for Erik to be waiting for him at the top of the ladder once he got back up.
"And you're not dead yet?"
Erik's voice in the darkness nearly made him fall down the trap door.
"I don't believe I invited you here Nadir. What were you doing? Taking a nice mid afternoon stroll?"
Pulling the little book he had taken from Erik's library, he showed it in the beam of his flashlight, "Just looking for his. It's mine, remember?"
Erik took a step closer to examine it, "That was a gift. If you wanted to borrow it you should have asked."
Khan continued to play this coolly, knowing that any hesitation would turn him into prey, "I was under the impression I wasn't welcome in your home anymore."
"You're not and you never were." Khan heard a shuffle of clothing and imagined Erik crossing his arms. This implied a lowing of defences. This was a good thing and Khan chocked down his sigh of relief.
He stepped forward again, this time Khan took a step back, his senses still high.
"What were you doing in there, Khan?"
"I told you-"
"You know why I don't want you in there."
"Was she there?" He waited a moment then, "I didn't see her. I wondered if you were both out."
"And where would we be? Eating ice cream in Central Park?"
Khan shrugged, "That isn't my business."
"But you want it to be. Don't think I'm not aware of what you've been doing, snooping around, trying to break in and steal my happiness. This is my world, remember?"
"How could I forget?"
"I don't like what you're up to Khan. I will kill you if you get in my way."
"I know Erik," he started to fiddle with the flashlight, shining its beam away from Erik and towards the exit he knew of, "I know. I'm leaving, remember?"
Khan walked away, feeling Erik's eyes as he went. In addition to making smuggling plans to get two people out of a country without power, he noted that he would need to find another entrance as well.
Erik ran back to the underground house and straight into Christine's room. There she was, sleeping on her bed, completely oblivious to someone having had intruded. He sighed in relief, wanting to scoop her up in his arms and hold her without her protesting. Her innocents was that appealing all the time. Moving to the bed, he sat down next to her. When she didn't move beyond a light twitch in her eye lids, he leaned in to kiss her forehead.
She woke to this and looked up at him, "Erik?"
"I didn't mean to wake you, love."
"What do you mean?"
She straighted up against the pillow, her blue eyes lovely shining in the dim light of the room, "Why did you leave like that? I didn't get to finish lunch."
"A false alarm. I thought I heard someone outside our home, but it was nothing."
He moved his hand forward until it was closed around hers, "My apologies for stirring you from your lunch, but I can make it up to you."
Looking down at their hands for a moment, but without moving her hand away she asked, "What?"
"I was going to save this for your dinner, but if you would like it now, I could make the exception."
"What?" A hint of a smile glimmered in her eyes.
"Chocolate. Would you like that, dove?"
Gracing him with a beautiful smile she nodded and squeezed his hand just a bit, "I would love that."
And here's where things really get messy... in some goodbadgoodbad ways... /;)
Some Adagio for you: watch?v=izQsgE0L450