"All right, Richard, what did you call me down here for? It's my day off work and I intended to spend it not working."
Richard de Changey glanced over at his lovely young colleague and hid a smile. Christine Daae's long blond hair had been roped into a fluffy ponytail and her glasses kept sliding down her nose. She looked more seventeen than twenty-seven, and like she'd rather be in bed, asleep, than anywhere else.
"Sorry, Christine, but this guy just came in, and I really need a second opinion on him."
Christine sighed. "Can't you handle him?" she said, though Richard knew she didn't mean a word of it. If anyone was the poster-girl for job devotion, it was Christine.
"Just go and talk to him, Chris. Okay?"
Christine managed something distantly related to a smile. "Okay," she said. "Where is this mystery guy?"
"Down in cell three. Be careful, though, he's a bit... unhinged."
This elicited a laugh from Christine. "Please, Richard. I'm a criminal psychologist. 'Unhinged' is my specialty."
"This one's a little different," Richard said. "Really, watch yourself in there."
Christine threw him her real smile now, too wide for her face and blindingly adorable. "Don't worry," she said. She pulled a battered composition book from her purse and stuck a pen in the her mess of blond curls and headed down the hallway, muttering softly to herself. Richard followed behind.
Cell three was at the end of the hall. Behind the glass, Christine could see a man sitting at the table. He sat ramrod straight, long hands folded on the table. Christine shot Richard a curious glance, but opened the door anyway and went in.
The man at the table looked up when she entered, staring her down with unnerving golden eyes. His face was covered by a black silk mask and he was dressed impeccably in an expensive, perfectly tailored suit. His very black, very shiny hair was smoothed back from his face and his abnormally long hands were covered in white gloves. Christine looked at him, her eyes narrowing. Compared to the other patients she had seen in this facility, there seemed to be nothing wrong with him. Of course, that didn't mean a thing; plenty of mentally unhealthy people gave the impression of being perfectly all right until you actually spoke to them. He studied her with an unwavering gaze, no emotion evident in those odd eyes, and she felt a chill run down her spine. She sat across from him and forced herself to look at him head on.
"Hello," she said. "I'm Christine."
"And I am Erik," replied the man. His voice made her insides shudder. It was deep and musical and eerily beautiful. Listening to him speak was like tasting the most decadent dark chocolate. But then, she thought, too much chocolate makes me want to puke.
"So, Erik," she said, "would you mind telling me why you think you're here?" She pulled her pen from her hair without breaking eye contact.
His mouth – the only unmasked portion of his face – quirked upwards. "Well, I'm not entirely sure," he said (his voice was so velvety you could say "he purred" without exaggerating in the slightest), "but I believe it's because I killed a man and your friend over by the door -" Here Christine glanced over and saw Richard standing by the window, looking in with a concerned expression. " - is quite convinced that I am insane."
Christine stared him down over her glasses. He stared back almost sardonically. "Excuse me," she said after a moment, and went out the door. "Richard," she hissed, "what are you doing?"
"Feeling guilty," he said. "I don't think I should have let you go in there."
Christine frowned. "Go back up front; your hovering is just weirding me out. You don't need to worry."
"Are you sure?" Richard said uneasily.
Christine smiled. "Perfectly. Go on, I'm fine."
"Well...all right..." With several glances backwards, he left her standing outside Erik's cell. Christine turned and went back inside. Erik was leaning languidly back in his chair, looking for all the world like a cat who'd got the cream.
"Did you get that sorted out?"
Christine raised her eyebrows. "I'm supposed to be the one asking the questions here, Mr..." She paused and looked down at the file Richard had given her. "Mr...Do you have a last name you didn't bother to give to the police, by any chance?"
"I don't," said Erik cheerfully.
"All right, then..." She wasn't sure what to do with that. "Why do you say that Dr. de Changey believes you're insane?"
"Well, I'm here, aren't I?" he said simply.
This conversation was rather unsettling. Not that those didn't occur often in her line of work, but this one unsettled her in a different way. She felt like those strange eyes of his were stripping her down to the bone. "Do you think you're insane?"
"That's all relative, isn't it?" Erik said. "Whether or not I think I am insane is not relevant because if I indeed were insane, my perception of reality would be – shall we say – a little warped, wouldn't it? And therefore my definition of insane would be quite different from yours."
"Yes, I suppose it would," Christine said, growing even more confused with each passing second. She opened the manila folder. "Why did you kill that man, Erik?"
He shrugged. "Oh, no reason really. It's not that important."
"I disagree." She nibbled reflexively on her pen cap. He was smiling. She stopped. "Did he do anything to you? Insult you?"
"No. I told you, Miss Daae, there was no reason."
She leaned her chin on her hand. "Have you ever killed anyone before?"
"Well, of course I have. Isn't it obvious?" He looked down his nose at her. "Come, Miss Daae, you're supposed to be a professional."
Christine frowned, nettled. "You have no record. There isn't anyone with your name in our computer system. All the information I've got on you is in this file." She tapped it with her fingernail. "So forgive me if I seem a bit uninformed." That had come out more sharply than she'd intended
Erik laughed outright. "Oh, I like this," he said, more to himself than to her. "Miss Daae. Joseph Buquet was the thirty-second man I have killed. Obviously, I am familiar with the refined art of assassination."
"I see," Christine said. She scribbled a few notes in the folder, then stood and tucked it under her arm. "I'll be back in the morning. I hope we can have a more productive conversation then?"
"Oh? I thought tonight's conversation was extremely productive," Erik said with a smile. Christine, now barely able to hide her annoyance, bit back a snarky retort, turned on her heel, and stalked out of the cell. She thought she could her a warm, rich laugh rolling behind her. Her shoulders tensed, but she kept her head high until she was out of his sight. But even then, she had the uneasy feeling that he could see through walls.
Richard leaped to his feet the moment she opened his office door. "Well?"he said. "What do you think?" His big brown eyes scanned her face anxiously.
Christine massaged the bridge of her nose. "I think he's an asshole."
Richard snorted, then frowned.
She sighed. "I hate diagnosing so quickly. But, I mean, he's basically a textbook antisocial personality. You saw that too, right?" Richard nodded. Her shoulders dropped, and she ran a hand through her hair, forgetting it was tied back. "But still... He unnerves me, Richard. Sometime about him genuinely frightens me. It's like he knows what I'm going to say before I say it. Or he's five thousand times cleverer than me and knows it. Or both. He's holding things back on purpose just to toy with me. I think...I think he thinks of it as sort of a game."
Richard patted her back. "Let's go take our minds off this, okay? What do you think of a drink? Or two or three? Might help."
Christine smiled thinly. Why not? she thought. It's not like I'll be getting much sleep tonight anyway.
So at long last, this is my attempted reboot of an old story. Let's see how she goes, eh? Thanks so much for sticking with me, guys.
Lots of love,