A/N: I had such a blast writing, I pumped it up even more with my very own "Phan" Trailers. Watch them on Youtube-my user name is voyagersguidebook. I must give kudos to Gaston Leroux the original author of the fantastic novel and Andrew Lloyd Webber and his team, the brilliant artists behind the most famous musical in the world. I make reference to one or the other frequently. Both works have inspired me for this tale in many ways, along with the impeccable Lon Chaney version of the book. And of course, the creators/writers and terrific actors on Voyagers!. Without them, there would be no fan-fiction to write!
The Voyage of the Paris Opera
Chapter 1: The mystery unfolds
A low whistle pierced the air, and two male figures careened from the sky. They crashed into a thick patch of greenery and rolled over to avoid a mess of brambles and thorns.
"Bogg! I'm glad you hit the omni! They were gonna trample me!"
Jeffrey Jones still shivered from the previous event. He plucked a few leaves from his dark curls and dusted off his shirt. The Voyagers just left the Wild West and Jeffrey had been trapped on a runaway wagon with a stampede of buffalo on his tail.
"I'm glad I caught up to you, Jeff, that old gray mare wasn't what she used to be, that's for sure."
Phineas Bogg wiped dirt off his tan, suede vest and shook grass from his dark blonde hair. He had minor cuts and scrapes, but nothing out of the ordinary in this line of business. He hugged his young partner reassuringly and laughed.
"Not up for jokes yet, huh?"
"Bogg, don't knock her, she held up long enough to get you close and jump the wagon." Jeffrey replied. His face paled and he stood up wobbly.
"You're right, kid. Long live Bessie! " Phineas announced. "C'mon, lets see what's going down here in…" He opened the omni. "Paris, France. September, 15th 1896. Hmm, red light." He latched it back to his belt.
They climbed out of the shrubbery and walked onto a long footpath. The area up ahead bustled with activity. Pungent aromas from the bakeries and restaurants made their mouths water.
"This place is so familiar, I can't remember the name of it though." Jeffrey said.
"Avenue des Champs-Élysées, one of Paris' biggest hot spots." Phineas grinned.
"You would know that, Bogg."
"Yeah well, I'm a Voyager, a citizen of the world…a…"
"Yeah, yeah, I've heard this all before. Hey, I wonder what's wrong wrong? I don't recognize the date."
"That's surprising. Let's start walking and find out." Phineas grimaced at his clothes. "You know, I feel pretty under dressed for this part of town."
"You? At least you can say you're a sailor or something. I'm wearing Nike sneakers and jeans! Pure 1982 clothes."
Phineas looked him over and shrugged. "Yeah, but your shirt is like a sailor...it's got red stripes and stuff. I'll tell them you're my bilge boy."
"Aww, Bogg! Gross! That's the worst place on a pirate ship."
"What do you know? It's a term of affection. Alright, Cabin boy."
"Never mind. How about your son?"
Phineas sighed. "How about nephew?"
The weather was seasonably cool and the sun beamed across the afternoon sky. They strolled the avenue, ignoring the bemused glances and whispers in their direction. Phineas dug into the pouch on his sash and counted out five gold francs dated from the reign of King John II – A measly reward for helping the King rescue his son Louis from the Tower of London. In this time zone the value increased enough for the Voyagers to attain proper clothing before continuing their mission.
"I feel much better, don't you?" Phineas adjusted his collar and packed their original clothing into a gunnysack.
"Hey, you get to wear the suit and tie, I'm stuck looking like Little Lord Fauntleroy! Did you forget that I'm twelve, not five?" Jeffrey complained. He scratched the black britches and yanked on the silk ruffled collar. He grabbed the hat on his head. "And I am not wearing this stupid cap, Bogg! Boys should never be subjected to wearing ribbons!"
He tossed it over and Phineas shoved it in the case, laughing at him.
"I'm sorry, Jeff! It was all I could think of to get at the moment. You look spiffy, like a little aristocrat." Phineas patted his head.
"Oh jeez. Next time, I'll pick out my own clothes, please."
"Okay, wise guy. Look around, you fit right in. Now lets get something to eat...I'm sure we'll figure out what's wrong any moment now."
As they passed a crowded bar, Phineas fixed an amorous gaze on a doe-eyed woman in a pink petticoat. She blushed when she saw him staring and busied herself opening her parasol. Phineas stopped short to greet her and Jeffrey kept moving along. A sudden commotion from the bar caught his attention.
"Get out of here, Leroux! Go home and sleep it off! You wild lout!" The bartender wiped his hands on his apron and spun back inside.
"Bogg! Look out!" Jeffrey jumped to the left.
Phineas turned too late. A heavyset and beared young man in round glasses hurled straight into him and they stumbled to the ground.
"Ooof! Hey mister, be careful okay?"
The glassy-eyed man mumbled an apology in French, then repeated it in English. Phineas helped him up and Jeffrey gathered the papers that spilled out of his briefcase. He noticed the signature, 'Gaston Leroux.' His eyes widened and he tugged at Phineas' sleeve.
"Bogg, I know who this is, he's one of my favorite writers."
"You mean besides Mark Twain and Doyle?"
"Yeah, this is Gaston Leroux, he wrote The Phantom of the Opera."
Gaston grabbed Jeffrey's shoulders and startled him. "You know of the Paris Opéra ghost? How! Tell me!"
"Hey now, mister! Take it easy with my kid." Phineas pulled Jeffrey from his clutches, but Jeffrey went back to him in awe.
"Yeah! Of course I've heard of him, you wrote the book and…"
Phineas nudged Jeffrey and gave him a warning glance. "Not yet, kid." He whispered.
"I would love to write about him, but the inspiration is gone. There is no longer a Paris Opéra. What a tragedy!" Gaston bemoaned.
Phineas pulled the shocked Jeffrey aside.
"Excuse us for just a moment... Gaston." He brought Jeffrey to the edge of a small fountain. "Okay, lay it on me, what's wrong here?"
"Bogg, the Paris Opera house is historically famous, and it's the setting for his story. Gaston Leroux investigated the Opera House from top to bottom and supposedly found the bones of The Phantom! My dad took us on a summer vacation to Europe when I was nine. We took the tour, but not the underground." Jeffrey said disappointed. "Any way, it still existed in my time."
"Oh, really? This doesn't mean he won't write his story. Maybe the problem here is what happened to the Opera House itself."
"Right, thanks for stopping me. I forgot. He didn't write it until the early nineteen hundreds. He did write other things though, I think he was a journalist most of his life. But, Bogg, if he doesn't get to see the Opera House, his story may never get written."
"Gotcha kid. C'mon, we'll get the rest of the facts from him."
They went back to the disheveled man with pleasant smiles on their faces.
"Mr. Leroux, um, we're tourists here...for the first time. What happened to the Paris Opera House?"
"I was going to that area to grab a bite of lunch. Why don't you join me? I'll tell you all about it."
Phineas and Jeffrey never passed up free food. Gaston hailed a hansom cab and they went on their way.
The trio took a picturesque ride through the countryside. They pulled up to a quaint eatery, La café De Lune, situated in an area known as Rue Scribe. Jeffrey lit up excited hearing the familiar names and places. Gaston led them to a round white table a little ways from the other patrons. Phineas picked up his menu and hesitated.
"Whatever you do, don't order the escargot." Jeffrey advised him.
"Oh, a little bit of snail won't kill you, a bit rubbery for my tastes though." Bogg winked.
"You know what that is?"
"What do you think? You'd be really shocked at the entrees I've had in my lifetime, kid. Sometimes whatever crawled out of the bung hole for the day. I'll stick to the croissants."
"Ahh, a sailor! I should have guessed. Croissants! Feh! That's all American's can think to eat when they come here. Let me make the order boys." Gaston chuckled.
Gaston and the Voyagers enjoyed a delicious meal of Tartines de la Tomates and Mozarella and Brochettes de poulet au romarin, or as Jeffrey called them, chicken kabobs. As they ate, Phineas urged Gaston to talk about the Opera House. Gaston Leroux was lively and flamboyant, and enraptured with the splendor of the Palais Garnier. His stories captivated the Voyagers and he described it in luxurious detail. Gaston's breezy mood eventually sobered.
"It was exactly twenty years ago today, that the Paris Opéra burned down from a mysterious and tragic explosion."
"Explosion? How did that happen?" Jeffrey pushed the remaining tomatoes around his plate and Phineas snatched them and popped them in his mouth.
"Nobody knows, but legend has it as the Phantom's evil doing. Almost everyone inside died, including the beautiful and talented Opera singer, Christina Nilsson. She was just thirty-three and performing the lead role in La Traviata. That role started her Opera career ten years prior. From the second day after the performers moved in, they reported strange 'happenings' inside the theater. They increased when Miss Nilsson stayed that fateful week. There was even talk that she didn't die, and she disappeared shortly after her performance. No evidence was produced from the wreckage and her remains were never found... Oh, will you pardon me? My editor just arrived, I need to give him some past due articles."
Jeffrey shook his head sadly when he left. "This is all wrong. The Opera house was never destroyed, it was the entire setting of the book."
"Okay, can you give me an idea of what this story is about? You can't expect me to believe that a ghost blew up the Opera House. It sounds more like foul play to me."
"Your right, Bogg, the Phantom wasn't a ghost, but he pretended to be one. He was a tortured and disfigured man who lived in the catacombs beneath the Opera House. He was a great architect and designed a home there. His name was Erik."
"A tormented guy who lives like a hermit. This is gonna be good. What else?"
"Erik is in love with a young ingénue named Christine Daae. He's a master musician and trains her to sing better than everyone else. He pretends to be her 'Angel of music.' Later, he demands through tricks, blackmail, and murder that she is made the star of all the Operas he writes."
Phineas crossed his arms intrigued. "That's interesting, the character Christine Daae sounds like Christina Nilsson."
"That's because Gaston Leroux used her as inspiration for the book. Anyway, Christine has a handsome boyfriend named Raoul and the Phantom gets jealous. He threatens them and kidnaps her. She finally realizes he's not the angel she thought he was. He's just a pathetic weirdo that lives in a death chamber and sleeps in a coffin. He traps Raoul in the catacombs with another character and Christine is forced to make her choice. If she turns the scorpion she must marry Erik and stay with him forever. If she turns the grasshopper, he would destroy the Opera house, by blowing it up!"
Phineas took a swig of lemonade and leaned in closer, the melodramatics fascinated him.
"So what happened? What did she turn?"
"Erik is a little decent after all. He shows pity after Christine kisses him and he forces them to go away. At the end he gives this moving speech and three weeks later dies of a broken heart."
"And his bones remained hidden in the catacombs? That's what Leroux supposedly found, right?"
"According to his diaries he found the bones with a ring on them. In the story, Erik took that ring from Christine's neck. It was an engagement ring given to her from Raoul." Jeffrey explained.
"What a sad ending! Leroux has a vivid imagination but that still doesn't explain why this happened in real life."
"You heard Gaston, he's convinced the Phantom existed. How else would he get the ideas for his book? What if the Phantom was in love with Christina Nilsson? What if the whole story was actually real?"
Jeffrey bristled with excitement at his theory. Bogg shook his head, still cynical.
"Jeffrey, remember, Leroux is a journalist in the age of sensationalism. He probably wrote all that to promote his book of fiction."
"Maybe, but to his dying day he insisted the Phantom was real. They made movies about his book too. My favorite is the silent film with Lon Chaney, he did his own makeup and he was so creepy in the role!…oh, here comes Gaston."
Gaston approached and smiled wryly. "Sorry to keep you waiting, my job was hanging by a thread! Are you ready to see the grounds of what is left of Paris Opéra?"
"Yes, please lead the way." Phineas said.
The Paris Opéra was close enough to visit by foot. As it came into view, the Voyagers gasped. The once grand building sat toppled over, a burned out shell with shattered windows and thriving weeds growing out from swampland. They wiped muck from their shoes every few feet they walked.
"Gaston, why didn't they just rebuild the Opera house? Why leave it in ruins like this?"
Phineas picked up a faded poster burned around the edges. A life-like painting of a beautiful woman with flowers and curls in her hair adorned it. Her sloped and haunting blue eyes bore into him. He drew a breath, it was none other than Christina Nilsson. The poster read, La Traviata.
"Ah, there she is! Christina is said to have broken many hearts between her voice and stunning looks. A magnificent talent in her day."
"You speak as if you know her." Phineas murmured, still entranced with her image.
"Oh no, I was just a child when this all happened. I've only researched her life in the last few years and found some images. I procured a very rare phonograph of her singing. She didn't have confidence in her own talents for the invention. I treasure it. I suppose through all my hard work I've become quite attached to keeping her memory alive."
"I certainly understand why." Phineas reluctantly let the poster drift gently to the ground, It blew away with a gust of wind. "She was probably unforgettable, one of a kind."
"Yes. Those types are rare, their memories must be preserved."
Jeffrey poked around the inner sections of the dilapidated theater, but there was nothing of interest that wasn't destroyed. Phineas noticed shards of glass and broken fixtures that presented a danger and waved him back.
"I know why they didn't rebuild, Bogg. It's because of the lake in the catacombs, right Mr. Leroux?"
"Exactly, young boy. They spent a fortune the first time! It took them eight months alone to pump out enough water and lay the foundation. They had many setbacks afterward. The Franco-Prussian war began, and the fall of the Empire. Two months under that ridiculous Paris Commune really halted the construction. It opened officially for performances in 1874 and it was a lavish affair. The entire city celebrated."
Gaston developed a faraway look in his eye as he remembered the events. "We attended the inauguration. What a grand spectacle that was! The streets were packed; everyone from the poorest of the poor to the highest official was present. My family and I only got a peek of the inside lobby. The Paris Opéra was fit for a king! I believed it rivaled the palaces."
Standing among the gigantic ruins, it wasn't hard to imagine the splendor it once possessed. Gaston explained that the Government and architects decided not to put up any more money to rebuild it.
"So now it just lies here wasting away in rubble." Gaston finished mournfully. "I wish they would clear it all away. It's such a painful reminder of the past tragedy."
The Voyagers took a last tour around and gave each other a fleeting look. It was time for the next part of their assignment. Phineas excused himself and turned the omni to a week prior to the tragedy, September 8th 1876. They needed all the time they could get to solve the mystery.
Phineas took Jeffrey's arm. "I have a feeling this voyage will be tough, kid. Are you ready for it?"
"I sure am, Bogg. I think it's exciting."
Jeffrey wanted to say goodbye to Gaston, but the writer preoccupied himself taking notes. It was the perfect time to leave undetected. Phineas pushed the omni and they burst into the cosmos.