Chapter 15

" Only Then, Can You Belong To Me..."

A cold, calculated smirk broke across Philippe de Lamonde lips as he stood looking out the

window...the major obstacle in his way had been eliminated and the moving of the boxed treasures

would precede as planned. With the main tunnel collapsed, it would be child's play...especially now

since the production had been shut down, Finally, at last he would be able to live the luxurious

lifestyle he had dreamed of. Grabbing his hat from the coat rack, he slipped into the trench coat

pausing only long enough at the door to shut the lights off.

" We should be able to enter the building now..." V said as he and Erik watched de Lamonde exit

the opera house and enter the waiting car. Erik followed V from the shadows and up the steps into the

entryway of the opera house stopping to stare in awe at his new home.

" Sometimes, I have to pinch myself...just so I know I am still alive and this is not a dream..."

He spoke softly as his gloved hand reached out to touch the newly renovated grand staircase.

Memories flooded through his mind as he closed his eyes and the smiling face of Christine Daae

appeared, quickly replaced by Kristy Churchill's

"Erik..." V placed his hand on his friend's arm..." we have to go...de Lemonde's office is this

way." Together, they headed down the lighted hallway, but had gone only a few steps when a voice

called out.

" Dr. Penway?"

V turned. " Alfred, I am sorry to disturb your night, but Mr. Mauer and I left some paperwork in my

office earlier we need to retrieve. " V smiled at the night watchman.

The older man smiled ." You know the way sir..."

" Thank you. Good night Alfred."

" Good night sir."

V and Erik continued down the hallway until they reached the manager's office. Pulling his keys

from his pocket, V opened the door quietly and they slipped inside.

" Where should we start?" Erik asked switching on the torch, looking around.

" Start with the file cabinets...I will search de Lamonde's desk." V replied pulling out

the main desk drawer, beginning to scan paperwork with his torch. " Look for anything out of the

ordinary."

They had been in the office over an hour, when Erik found several papers stashed in the bottom

of the last drawer. " V, I think I may have found what we were looking for." He handed the paper to

him.

Scanning the page quickly, V looked up at Erik. " This is a list of all the antiques I discovered during

the restorations..." he paused tucking the list into a pocket of his jacket. " I moved them to an

undiscovered cavern off the main hallway... I was going to present it to Evey and the University after

the premiere..."

" We have to stop him." Erik glared into the shadows.

" According to the paper, they are moving it tonight." V let out a deep breath.

" I am suppose to meet Kristy tonight in the main tunnel."

" They will be using that tunnel tonight to move the antiques." V's voice dropped, "But there is

an entrance way from Rue Scribe (1) that leads into the depths of the opera house. I used it when

exploring the underground. We will be able to intercept them in the tunnel system close to where

the pieces has been stored."

" If de Lamonde hurts Kristy in anyway," Erik stared at V, hatred burning in his eyes, " I will

kill him."

Meg Leary walked beside Kristy as they made their way down the sidewalk back toward the

opera house. " I can't believe he canceled the show...after all the hard work we had done..."

" Well Dr. Penway said he was going to get to the bottom of it...even Evey told de Lamonde

that we had passed inspection..." Kristy replied, her voice full of encouragement.

Meg let out a deep sigh.

" Meg!" Her name rang out across the street and she looked up to see Raoul de Chagny

hurrying toward them. " I just heard. What happened?"

" de Lamonde closed the production down..." Kristy looked at him, " He said we had not

passed the final inspection."

" That is ludicrous..." Raoul answered, " I was there with Stephen and Erik when the inspectors

signed off on the building."

" Raoul..." Meg looked up into the deepest blue eyes she had ever seen. " Do you think this

may have something to do with the Phantom?"

Kristy felt a cold shudder run through her body. " No! The Phantom would never do anything to

sabotage the opera. It is his home."

" There is something going on... and we need to get to the bottom of it." Raoul stated looking

at Kristy. He turned to Meg, taking her hand in his, smiling. " I will pick you up at the opera house

tonight around 8."

" I will be ready." Meg smiled as his lips met hers in a soft kiss.

Raoul bowed his head slightly. " Ladies."

Meg watched as he disappeared down the street and out of sight.

" Well..." Kristy crossed her arms and smiled at Meg. " How long has this been going on?"

A deep red covered Meg's face as she smiled shyly. " Not very long...it's just for dinner."

Kristy giggled. " Looks to me that it's more than dinner..."

Meg looked away quickly, then back at Kristy. " Did you know that Gaston Leroux actually

used a relative of Raoul's as a character in the story? Seems Raoul's family were patrons of the real

Paris Opera House." She paused momentarily. " And Raoul is almost the spitting image of his

ancestor."

Kristy took a deep breath. "Well, that answers a lot of questions about Erik's behavior

anytime he and Raoul are together." She thought to herself as they reached the entrance of the

opera house. " I hope you and Raoul have a wonderful evening..."

"What about you Kristy? Will you be seeing Monsieur Mauer?" Meg asked climbing the stairs

with her.

" I think I will be staying in tonight..." Kristy replied, " I have some reading I want to get

caught up on..." she paused, smiling at her friend, " besides, Eric is busy working on the final plans

for opening night."

"He really believes that the show will happen, doesn't he?" Meg spoke softly.

" If he and Dr. Penway have any say in it...a few weeks from now, we will all be performing

on stage at the newly renovated London Opera House." Kristy smiled broadly at her friend.

Meg glanced at her wristwatch. " I have to get going...Raoul will be here soon."

Kristy gave her friend a gentle hug. " Hurry...go get ready...you don't want to keep Raoul

waiting..." She watched as Meg hurried up the staircase and toward the auditorium where she would

follow a passageway to the bottom floor of the cupola that had been remodeled into two floors of

dance rehearsal space. (2) Grinning, Kristy headed for the secret tunnel entrance that would take her

to the underground and rendezvous with her Phantom.

The light from the torch lit up the tunnel that the workmen had found completely by

surprise when the renovations to the last section of the underground had been started. It was only a

stroke of luck that de Lemonde had overheard them talking among themselves a couple of days after he had found the antiques in a small cavern that had been used as storage by the original opera house.

There were six others who would be with him in the cavern to move the treasures to the location de Lamonde had set up. In a matter of hours, he would be a rich man, and this opera house be damned! Up ahead, de Lamonde could see light flickering around in the darkness as he approached slowly.

Inside the cavern, on one of the ledges hidden deep within the darkness, Erik sat quietly, watching. V was somewhere in the main cavern system scanning the darkness for any movement in the tunnels. If anything happened to Kristy, Erik would never forgive himself. He reached down and felt his Punjab lasso secured to his belt.Having lived in India and acquired an incredible skill in the art of strangulation, when participating in the Sultan's games, he would make them lock him into a courtyard to which they brought a warrior — usually, a man condemned to death — armed with a long pike and broadsword. Erik had only his lasso; and it was always just when the warrior thought that he was going to fell Erik with a tremendous blow that the lasso would whistled through the air. With a turn of the wrist, Erik tightened the noose round his adversary's neck and, in this fashion, dragged him before the Sultan and Sultana, who sat looking from a window and applauding. (3)

The noise below snapped Erik back to reality when de Lamonde entered the cavern. He was talking to several of the men gathered around when the sound of scuffling caught Erik's ears. Looking up, he caught sight of a young woman being roughly escorted into the opening...it was Kristy!

" Well, well...what do we have here?" de Lamonde sneered.

"Found her nosing around in the main tunnel boss..."

" Miss Churchill...it seems you do not know how to keep your nose out of business that does not concern you." de Lamonde approached her. " What a shame it is that you will never see the light of day again. Get rid of her!" He sneered.

" You harm the girl and your life is forfeited to me!" Eric's voice rang across the cavern, echoing off the walls.

The men released their hold on Kristy as they frantically searched the darkness. " It's the Phantom!"

" Aye!" another agreed nervously as they turned to de Lamonde, fear in their voices. " Mr. Lamonde, ye didn't tell us we 'd be fightin' the Phantom over these trinkets..."

" Leave the girl, or de Lamonde will have your blood on his hands!" The Phantom's voice rang out again, in concise demand.

The two men sprinted from where they stood leaving the opera manager standing in the dim light.

" Come back here you cowards! I paid you to do a job!" de Lamonde yelled as he grabbed Kristy roughly, pulling her to him. " You want to play games...let's play! " Pulling the pistol from his coat pocket, he laid it against the girl's temple. " Show yourself, or I will kill her!"

Eric looked at the scene evolving in front of him...he wasn't close enough for the lasso to reach de Lemonde's neck, and a chilling fear encased his body. He needed to buy time for V...his friend was close by, he could sense it...but could he buy enough time to save Kristy's life? Slowly, he began the climb down from the ledge landing a few feet away from where they stood. Turning, he stared into the smirking face of the opera house manager.

V watched as Eric stood staring at de Lamonde. Slowly, he took one of his knives from the belt and moved it into a throwing position. The angle of the throw would be a difficult if he

wanted to slice the man's wrist, and not cause any harm to Kristy. He only had one shot at this, and it had to be perfect! Quietly, he moved into the per-determined location to unleash his justice.

" Well, well, well..." de Lamonde laughed crudely, " so the so-called opera ghost does exist."

" Leave her go..." Eric moved toward them.

" You are in no place to give orders to me!" de Lamonde glared at the white half-mask dimly glowing in the light. " You're not a ghost...take off that mask we can see who you truly are."

Kristy searched Eric's face...she couldn't let him unmask for her sake. She had to do something.

" I unmask for no man...especially not you..." Eric replied as Kristy began struggling in de Lamonde's arm giving Eric the time to make his move. He had only gone an inch or two when the glint of a steel blade flew past his head and embedded in the wrist of de Lamonde, his pistol dropping onto the cave floor...

Kristy flew into Eric's arms, crying gently on his shoulder as he watched the man withering in pain in the dirt.

" Inspector Finch is on his way..." V spoke as he walked from the shadows toward de Lamonde. Reaching down, he retrieved his knife and placed it back in the leather belt with the others.

" Take Miss Churchill back to the opera house, I will remain here until Finch arrives."

de Lamonde looked up at the Fawkes mask staring at him. " Who the hell are you?" He asked as he wrapped his fingers around his bleeding wrist.

" You may call me V."

A laugh escaped between parched lips..." V is dead...Creedy and his bunch killed him...I know, I was there..."

V felt his gloved hand tighten around one of the knive's pommel, then relax. Slowly, calmly he spoke. " I for one do not believe in rolling dice nor in consequences," he paused tilting his head at the man, " but I do now believe in ghosts."

de Lamonde blinked his eyes trying to understand the meaning of the words.