Chapter 12: Down Once More

Erika was swift as she navigated the Depths of the Hungarian Opera House. She would have been swifter if she was not pulling Justine behind her. Justine was slow and clumsy in the dark; she kept tripping or crying out in fear whenever the torchlight flickered a certain way as to cast shadows that appeared to be people or hiding monsters.

E: "Down one more to the dungeon of our black despair.

Down we plunge to the prison of our minds!
Down that path into darkness deep as hell!"

Erika stopped at turned on Justine when she again tripped over her own feet. She pulled the bruised girl up.

E: "Why, you ask, was I bound and chained in this cold and dismal place?
Not for any mortal sin, but the wickedness of my abhorrent face!"

Up on the surface, the police who were supposed to apprehend the two phantoms organized themselves into two groups of armed men with no idea where to begin.

Grp 1: "Track down this murderer!
She must be found!

Grp 2: Track down this murderer!
She must be found!"

Erika and her victim were once again on their way. She was more annoyed than ever with this stupid child. She had not the courage enough to hold her head up!

E: "Hounded out by everyone!
Met with hatred everywhere!
No kind word from anyone!
No compassion anywhere!
Justine!"

She paused, staring her prisoner straight in the face."You know why." She got no reply. "Why?" but Justine only turned her head away.

Christine moved through the stone cellars as well, but she was two stories below the fighting girls already. She was leading the phantom away from the havoc of upstairs. After a few minutes more, they reached their destination. It was a side cavern with four torches for added light and an uneven stone jutting out from the wall on one side as a makeshift seat. She stopped and paced before him nervously. "This isn't what was supposed to happen." She stopped at looked at him. "You weren't supposed to try and kill him."

"You were supposed to sit behind him so that I could sneak you away."

She made a face. "This is still not my fault. And now it can't work. Raoul will come looking for me under public pressure, and he'll get himself lost or killed. James is going to look for Justine, and to top it all off, she's down in your lair with our daughter who just so happens to have a fascination with knives!" She was getting louder and louder as she talked. "I'm sure that can't end badly at all!"

He sighed. "Don't get worked up. It could still work, we just need to…" he stopped.

"Even you can't think your way out of this one." She sat down, simmering in anger which was slowly turning to sorrow. He sat next to her.

"I'm sorry." She was looking away from him. "I can still take you away."

She sighed and turned back around. "You know that will never work." She shook her head. "I'll just go back to him. There's no other way."

"Why should he care anymore? You found him sleeping with other women three times before. He's not even sorry. If you leave him, he can be free to choose any woman he wants."

"No. Having your wife abducted by a ghost is very bad for his position. It would have been better if the plan had worked. I could have been blamed for leaving him and he would have gotten all he wanted. But now, he has to come find me. I have to go back to him."

"You would go back willingly to a man who doesn't love you."

She turned her head once more, hot tears spilling down her face. She had known for years that Raoul did not love her anymore. She also knew that if she ran away with the phantom now like they had planned, they would be forever chased by Raoul who would undoubtedly chase them under pressure of the press. She couldn't, wouldn't do that to either of them. A part of her was still trapped in the Paris Opera House, forever conflicted over which man she loved more, for she truly loved them both.

He put a hand to her chin and gently pulled her head back to facing him. She looked up at his pale sky blue eyes. She put her arm around him, and they kissed. For the final time, for one moment they had each other. And if that was all they would get for eternity, then that would do. They did not separate until they heard the mob of people coming closer. They went there different ways without a word.

James was fighting his way through the crowd of people in the packed hallways five stories above. He was suddenly pulled to the side by a most curious of people. Christine had come to him. "Where did she take Justine?"

"Come with me, I will take you to them, but remember, keep your hands at the level of your eyes!'

"What?"

"Your hands at the level of your eyes!" she repeated, dragging him by the wrist through people, skillfully dodging screaming women and running men. "She is the most experienced of fighters and she will strike you over the head unless you raise your hands to the level of your eyes!"

They raced through the hallways until the hallways turned to dark stone. Down, down, down they raced, through twisting tunnels, down spiraling stairs, until James was sure he was utterly and completely lost himself. But Christine again seemed to know her way around better than anyone he knew. They finally reached an enormous open spiraling stairwell.

C: "Your hands at the level of your eyes!"

Ja: "At the level of your eyes."

She stopped. "This is as far as I dare to venture. When you reach the bottom of the stairs, take the second left. That is where they are."

"Thank you." She left him and started climbing up again. He began his decent into the darkness.

Ju: "Have you gorged yourself at last, in your lust for blood?
Is James now to be prey to your
lust for flesh?"

Erika despised that girl. She turned around from her work on the table and looked at Justine, sitting in the chair, obviously feeling safer now that they were someplace furnished. Erika narrowed her eyes.

E: "That fate, which condemns me to wallow in blood has also denied me
the joys of the flesh.
This face - the infection
which poisons all love.
This face, which earned a mother's fear and loathing
A mask, my first unfeeling scrap of clothing.
Pity comes too late - turn around
and face your fate: an eternity of this,"

Erika smirked.

E: "before you die."

Justine stood, which was quite a feat considering her hands were tied behind her back, and looked Erika straight in the eyes.

Ju: "This haunted face holds no horror for me.
It's in your soul that the true distortion lies."

Erika was just about to spit back a remark when she noticed someone's entrance.

E: "Wait! I think, my dear, we have a guest!

Ju: "James!

E: "Sir, this is indeed an unparalleled delight!
I had rather hoped that you would come.
And now my wish comes true - you have truly made my night!

Ja: "Free her!
Do what you like only free her!
Have you no pity?

E: Your lover makes a passionate plea!

Ju: Please James, its useless!"

Ja: I love her!
Does that mean nothing?
I love her!
Show some compassion!

E: The world showed no compassion to me!

Ja: Justine, Justine! Let me see her!"

E: Be my guest, sir."

James was on the other side of iron bars which blocked any entrance into the lair. This was on the land, but there was another wooden gate that closed off entrance from the lake. Erika pulled Justine over to where he could see her from behind the bars.

E: "Monsieur, I bid you welcome!'

She turned to Justine.

E: "Did you think that
I would harm him?
Why should I make him pay for the sins which are yours?"

She pulled from the table the knife which she had just been sharpening. It was her favorite knife; a beautiful carving knife with an ivory handle and a gold plaited rose on the end of the handle. She held it to Justine's throat.

E: "Order your fine horses now!
Raise up your hand to the level of your eyes!
Nothing can save you now - except perhaps James!
Start a new life with me -
Buy her freedom with your love!
Refuse me, and you send your lover to her death!
This is the choice -
This is the point of no return!"

Ja: "The tears I might have shed for your dark fate grow cold, and turn to tears of hate!"

An unexpected figure came through one of the many passages. Erika turned behind her to see her father, looking very disapproving. "Erika." He said, "Don't make the same mistake I did. It won't change anything."

She closed her eyes and turned her head. So she would lose her father too. It would have to be done. She did not want to do this, to take her live and forsake what little feeling James had left for her. But some people deserve to pay. They deserve to die. James pulled her from her thoughts.

Ja: "Justine, forgive me please forgive me!"

Erika looked at her father.

Ja: "I did it all for you, and all for nothing!"
E: "Farewell my fallen idol and false friend too late for turning back too late for prayers and useless pity!
P: "We had such hopes and now Those hopes are shattered!"

Ju: "Say you love her and my life is over!
E: All hope of cries for help; no point in fighting!

Ju: For either way you choose, she has to win!"
E: For either way you choose, you cannot win!

E: So, do you end your days with me,
or do you send her to her grave?"

She brought the knife closer to Justine's neck.

Ju: "Why make him lie to you, to save me?"

Erika turned back to her father. She was griped again with the unending guilt.

E: "Angel of Music, who deserves this face of the damned?
P: "Past the point of no return the final threshold His life is now the prize which you must earn!
Ju: For pity's sake, James, say no! Don't throw your life away for my love!

Ja: "I fought so hard to free you."

E:Angel of Music,"
P: You've passed the point of no return."

"I'm so sorry." She said to her father. She turned back to James, who was helplessly gazing through the bars. But suddenly, the bars lifted, the work of Erika's father, and he was thrown onto the floor of the cavern. He stood.

E: "You deceived me.
I gave my mind blindly."

"But you tried my patience." She gripped the knife. "So now make, your choice." But it was her father who spoke, and not James. She turned back to gaze at them.

P: "Pitiful creatures of darkness what kind of lives have we known?
God give us courage to show you, you are not alone!"

Ja: "You will see you are not alone!"

Erika was unprepared for what happened next. Her father reached up and tore of the mask. The face under it was unlike anything she had ever seen. It was a hideous deformity, but unlike any deformity on earth. There was a resemblance between her own and his, but in his, there was something more. She could see his entire life in one side of his face. Anger, sorrow, love, a broken heart, and then something that she could not recognize; the knowledge of being a father.

She was so stunned by what she found, she was even less prepared for the hand on her shoulder. She turned and James caught her in an embrace. He did not kiss her, for he was too shallow to ever put his mouth anywhere near hers, but the hug itself was so warm that she dropped the knife. After a long time, he let her go. She knew now what had to happen. Her head turned at the sound of the search parties getting closer.

Grp1&2: "Track down this murderer
She must be found!"

E: "Take her - forget me - forget all of this.
Leave me alone - forget all you've seen.
Go now - don't let them find you!"

James spared no time in cutting Justine's bonds.

E: "Take the boat - swear to me never to tell
the secrets you know of the angels in hell.

Grp1&2: The Phantom of the Opera is there inside your mind!""

E: Go now! Go now, and leave me!"

She made her was to the back of the lair. There was a music box there, and she sat down and turned it on. James took Justine in the boat, the wooden gate lifted by the phantom.

E: "Masquerade.
Paper faces on parade,
Masquerade.
Hide your face so the world will never find you."

Her father came up behind her. She turned to him.

E: "Father, I love you."

He smiled down at her. They could hear the echoing voices of James and Justine as the sailed away. Erika went back into the main cavern to watch them go.

Ju: "Say you'll share with me, one love, one lifetime.

Ja: "Say the word and I will follow you."

Ju: Share each day with me, each night, each morning."

P: You alone can make my song take flight.

She beamed back at her father.

B: It's starting now, the music of the night!"

They turned to leave through one of the many passages. Erika stopped, and turned back to retrieve her knife. They stepped through one of the many thresholds into the darkness, letting the passage close behind them.

Raoul, having run into Christine in one of the previous tunnels and having a long argument over whether or not she should come with him to find the Phantoms, finally agreed to bring Christine with him. The charged into the lair, accompanied by the Hungarian Police. But it was most definitely empty. Raoul went to the back to see if they were hiding there, but Christine could tell it had already been abandoned. She found the mask that the phantom had left on the floor. She bent down, and upon picking it up preceded to hide it amongst her skirts. She found pockets as useful as her daughter did. Smiling, she went back to Raoul.

Epilogue

"Get that turkey in the oven, Marie! There'll be no undercooked or bad food for the Viscount's party tonight!" Ida had recently been appointed as head chef for the Viscount de Changy. It had taken some three years since her first job in the kitchen, but she had made it! And she was not going to mess this up. She looked over at the girl who had just shoved the prepared bird into the oven as hard as she could. "Not too hard, even though it is twice the size of you!" she smiled. There was a knock on the kitchen door. Ida answered it.

The servant looked in upon the neatest kitchen she had ever seen in the household. "Um, package for you, ma'am." She held out the box in her hand.

"Thank you." Ida replied. She could afford to take a break for a second and see what she had been sent. The package was a flat rectangular box. She took off the top. There was a small note laid in the middle on top of something wrapped in cloth. The note read only, congratulations. Ida pulled out the present, and smiled at it. An ivory handled knife with a gold plaited rose.