Past the point of no return

BY : spikesbint
Category: M through R > Phantom of the Opera
Dragon prints: 31287
Disclaimer: I do not own The Phantom of the Opera movie(s), nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Chapter 13
Honour among thieves


Erik encountered very few travellers on his journey into to Paris, unlike his preceding visit. There were a few wounded soldiers limping back to their homes and farms in abject defeat. He paid them little heed as he focused on his task ahead. As he neared the boundaries of the city, he found some trees in which to shelter his horse, before continuing on foot. He pulled his hood over his head and kept to the shadows. One hand rested on his sword the other on one of his pistols as he drew nearer. The stench of death hung heavily on the air and invaded his nostrils.

He touched the handkerchief on his wrist to remind him why he was here, to save or find a man he cared nothing for. He would break into the very gates of hell for her; he mused. Moreover, kill all of hells minions if she demanded it of him too. Christine had been naïve in her request, she had asked him to become the very thing that she abhorred…a killer. He was ready to take lives to achieve his purpose, but he was not so sure that his heart was in still in it. Not that killing had ever given him pleasure, all the people that had died had been a means to an end. None of them truly innocent and he could not see the wrong in it, even if she could.

He pulled back momentarily as a regiment of enemy soldiers marched by, and then he continued on his way. As he entered Paris, it dawned on him that this war was far from over. He could sense it in the mood of the Parisians and in the whispers on street corners. They would not submit to the Germans without a final uprising. They were too proud a nation to give into a conquering one without question. If he was to find the Vicomte then it had to be soon, and before the real fight for Paris began.

He slipped into the darkened alleys, which he had come to know well. Silently he made his way towards his old lodging house. Erik knew the rooms were still held for him as he had paid the lease well in advance. No one paid any attention to the black clad figure that moved silently through the street and entered the rundown building. There seemed to be secret meetings of all kinds going on, so one more furtive figure was hardly cause for concern. He sneered in distaste as he lit a candle and looked around the Spartan room. It was more dilapidated than he remembered. Probably due to most of his days and nights being spent in an alcoholic stupor he admitted to himself.

Erik wasted no time in stowing away the few possessions he had brought with him. He walked out into the hallway and to the apartment at the end of the hall. He knocked loudly on the proprietor’s door. The Fasset family were a known band of thieves and ruffians, but they feared him enough to leave him be. They were not stupid people; they knew danger when they saw it. He would not be here at all if it were not for one member of the family whose help he needed. An eyehole was snapped open as someone looked through it cautiously, before deciding to admit his or her caller.

Moments later the door was opened and Madame Fasset stood there. Fear tinged the greedy glaze of her eyes as she looked at Erik. He had paid them well in the past and the opportunity to be enriched was never lost on her. She wiped her hands on her grubby apron and looked at him expectantly.

“Monsieur we had thought you were not returning,” she looked at him nervously with a toothless grin.

More like hoped he would not, he thought. “Is Jean here?” asked Erik, dismissing the woman from his thoughts already.

A smallish youth of about thirteen years, made his way to the door. His cheeks smeared with dirt and his ragged clothing had seen better days. When Erik looked at the boy, he saw himself at that age. The lean desperate look to his features he knew well. However, beneath the muck, unlike him, this young boy had the face of an angel. With grimy blonde curls, mostly tucked beneath the cap he wore. He almost seemed out of place in this brutal surrounding. Bruises of different shades marred his forearms, which bore witness of the life he lived.

Erik smiled at him, looking almost ghoulish behind the covering of his mask, but the young boy was the only one in this degenerated family that seemingly had no fear of him. He greased Madame Fasset’s hand with a few francs and she shut the door on them, leaving them to talk in the hallway.

“I need your help little one. Someone is lost whom I need to find. The name you are looking for is Raoul, Vicomte De Chagny. I would do it myself, but I fear you will cut a less obvious figure on the streets of Paris than I. Firstly I want you to go to where they are holding the war dead and see if he lays there. If not I am sure you know where to find the information I am seeking. Here are fifty francs for your troubles. Tell your mother that I gave you forty,” said Erik.

He knew any money that he gave the boy would end up in his parent’s pockets to feed their varying addictions. He patted the boy on the shoulder and watched him leave. Satisfied that the wheels had been set in motion and all there was to do was to wait for Jean’s return, he went back to his room.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Christine could not sleep. Her thoughts were haunted with images of both Erik and Raoul whenever she tried to rest. She still held the rose that Erik had given her just before he had readied himself for the journey ahead. Its petals had already started to darken and wither at the edges, but while she kept it close, it felt as if its owner was with her still. She breathed in its fragrance. She would always associate the smell of roses with him, if she lived to be a hundred years old. She allowed herself a little smile at the thought.

A gentle knocking on her door surprised her.

“Christine, are you awake?” came Meg’s voice.

“Yes, come in Meg,”

Meg entered the room and quietly closed the door behind her. Christine struggled to sit up in the bed. “I couldn’t sleep and wondered if you would like some company,”

“Me neither. It’s been a long day,” sighed Christine.

“Where did you go earlier, was it to Erik?” asked Meg.

“Yes it was. I asked him to do something for me and he has gone,”

“What do you mean and what was it that you asked of him?”

“To bring Raoul back,”

Meg gasped at her words, before looking at Christine. “What if Raoul is still alive and he kills him? He has tried to before Christine. With Raoul dead there is nothing to stop him from having everything he desires…namely you,”

Christine shook her head. “No Meg, he will not kill Raoul…if he is alive. I trust him to fulfil his promise…to bring him home,”

“And if he is living, what do you think will happen when Raoul finds out that you have been deceiving him with the phantom. You may be carrying Erik’s child and importantly a child that should have been his, Christine.”

“I cannot think about that any more tonight. It will drive me to insanity Meg,”

“I am sorry Christine. I meant to come here to offer consolation and comfort, I did not mean to pass judgment on you,”

“You cannot say anything that I have not already scorned myself for a thousand times over. Come lie next to me and we will tell each other stories like we used to when we were in the dorms together at night,” Christine smiled at her.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Erik had been awake all night. He was tired, but could not sleep. He was still awaiting Jean’s return. He got up from the chair he had been sitting in for many hours, debating whether to retire or not when there was a sharp knock on his door.

“Who is it?” he asked.

“Jean Fasset, monsieur. I have some news.”

Erik flung the door open and the boy walked inside. He eyed the half-eaten loaf of bread that sat on the table, hungrily. Erik noticed where the boy’s gaze rested. He tore off a chunk and flung it at him. He knew the pain of cold and hunger all too well. The boy devoured it greedily while Erik sat down and tapped a hand on his leg, barely reigning in his impatience to hear what news Jean had for him.

“Well?” he asked.

The boy wiped his mouth across the back of his sleeve before beginning. “I asked in all the places you told me and a few you didn’t. It seems they are still trying to locate the body. Quite embarrassed by it too, losing a Vicomte,” He grinned, continuing. “After that, the trail had grown cold and then this cove grabs me in the street and wants to know why I am interested in the Vicomte. Nearly shook me half to death he did,”

“What did he want?”

“Money, I had to give him all of what you had given me earlier. Says he has heard something about where he might be. You know how after battles, thieves and robbers scour the fallen for money and possessions?”

“Yes, I am aware of it,”

“Well, it seems that a member of the DuPont gang might have him. Their family were among many who cleaned up after the battle last evening. They make me and mine look like the blessed saints, but that is unimportant. Anyway, one of them was in a tavern late last night crowing about how he had picked the prize this time. He had found some aristocrat half-dead. It sounds as if he was in the middle of relieving this gent of his worldly belongings, when he found his papers on him. Took him off over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes to his hideout,”

“For what purpose?” asked Erik.

The boy rubbed his nose. “Just my guessing monsieur, but I think he plans to ransom him off. A pretty sou could be earned from such a thing,”

“Where do I find these DuPont’s?” asked Erik.

“Ah, now that’s the rub. No one knows for sure, but rumour has it they inhabit the slums of Les Marais,”

Erik handed him a 100 franc note, “Find out the exact location and I will make it 500,”

The boy took the money offered. The DuPont’s were not a gang to go up against. If he were found out, they would have no scruples in slitting his throat. However, there would be a beating for him if it were discovered that he passed up the chance of making some money. Maybe it would buy him some time from the sting of his father’s belt. His hand hesitated over the proffered money before he snatched it out of Erik’s hand and tucked it under his cap.

“Leave it to me, I will have the information you want before nightfall,” he grinned at Erik cheekily.

Erik hardly noticed the boy’s exit as his thoughts wandered in the direction of Christine. He focused his attention back on where the child had been standing, mildly surprised to find himself alone again. He undressed and got into the bed, trying to get comfortable on the horsehair mattress on which he lay. He closed his eyes and slowly drifted off, knowing that rest was imperative if he was to have his wits about him for the coming hours ahead.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Night was just falling as Jean returned to the lodging house. He awoke Erik with the urgent knocking on his door. He quickly dressed before answering it.

“I have the information you were looking for,” he gasped, out of breath, as he told Erik the address of the DuPont’s hideout.

Erik paid the boy and continued dressing himself. He put on his black cape and concealed his pistols and sword beneath it. He swapped his usual white mask for a black one and stepped out into gloom of the mutual hallway. He had gotten down several streets before he realised that Jean had been following him.

He turned around quickly, just as he saw the boy try to melt into the shadows. “Come out Jean, I know you are there,” He watched as Jean slowly detached himself from the gloom and came forward. “What is your purpose in following me?” He asked him

“I thought to lend a hand monsieur. Two pairs of hands are always better than one in a sticky situation,” the boy smiled at him artlessly.

“Fine, but the first sign of trouble and you are to leave,” warned Erik.

This young boy brought out feelings in him he had never thought himself capable of. Maybe he would not make such a harsh father after all, he mused. The thought warmed him for some reason as they made their way through the alleys together. As they ventured further into the Les Marais district, they encountered fewer people on the streets. It was as if the night had drawn an unspoken curfew on the area, where only the very stupid or the very criminally minded dare venture after dark.

Erik had no fear of this place, those that had nothing, feared nothing. He had Christine for sure, and the promise of a child, but for now they legally belonged to another. Moreover, by some madness he was here at the gates of hell to rescue the means of his despair and all at her bidding. For several moments, a private battle raged within him, he could leave here, return home, and pretend that none of this had happened and she would believe him. It was probably nothing more than a rumour and in all probability De Chagny was indeed lying dead somewhere and as of yet, undiscovered.

The sound of breaking glass made him instantly wary. Jean motioned to him as he watched a man weaving his way unsteadily along the street, from the effects of too much wine or ale. The drunken man cursed loudly at the sight of his broken bottle smashed against the cobbled stones.

“Monsieur that is Philippe DuPont. Quietly now, even under the effects of drink he is a dangerous man.” whispered Jean.

Erik smiled a self-confident smile to himself. Jean was obviously was unaware of the nature of the man he was with. It was time to disillusion the boy and acquaint him with his true self. He pulled a length of rope from his cape and advanced silently towards his intended prey. Within seconds, he had it around the man’s neck as he pulled him into the shadows and proceeded to strangle the life out of him. Erik sneered at the man as he visited death upon him like a dark angel.

As the man’s body lie at his feet, he looked down at Jean. For the first time he read a new respect for him, laced with fear, in the young boy’s eyes.

“How many more are there?” asked Erik.

“Well there is one less monsieur, but there are five brothers in total,”

They walked a few yards further until; Jean motioned for them to stop outside a foul looking building that could barely be called one. Erik looked around him. The rats roamed freely, feeding on the stinking refuse that littered the streets. Here only misery and despair were to be found. He could hear it in the hungry cries of children and see it in the dead eyes of women that sold their bodies on street corners.

“If we attack the DuPonts is there likely to be any resistance from the locals?”

“Non, they are feared and hated even among their own class,”

“Before we storm their dwelling I need to know how many are within. Do you think you can arrange a diversion? If the Vicomte is not there then I will have just relieved the neighbourhood of five parasites and all will be well with the world regardless.”

“There will be only family inside. They trust no one and I can assure you that the man you seek will be inside also. The DuPonts never could resist the urge to boast about their deeds,”

Erik was taken aback as Jean picked up a large stone and hurtled it through the window of the DuPont house and ran off into the shadows. “Is that diversion enough for you monsieur?” he grinned as he hid himself.

These thieves and murderers were only marginally smarter than they appeared; sending out just one brother to see who had dared to break their window. He was a large man, with beady eyes that combed the darkness. He held a pistol in his hand, as he walked unwittingly in Erik’s direction. Erik slipped one of his daggers from his boot. He weighed it in his hand before throwing it at the man, striking him deep in the chest. He only had a moment to register surprise before he fell forward onto the street. Erik took his victim’s gun and wasted no time in concealing the body.

With the odds narrowed at three to one, he waited to see if they would send out another. Ten minutes passed before another man appeared at the doorway.

“Gaston, where are you?”

“Probably out screwing some tart if I know him,” came the raucous laugh of another from within. “Our brother will be back. Come in, you are letting all the heat out from the fire,”

Erik threw a pebble out into the street. It caught the man’s attention. The man instantly removed a large knife from his back pocket and advanced on Erik as he stepped out of the shadows to meet him. The man lunged himself at him and he easily sidestepped the man’s clumsy attack. The other man was stronger than he looked. However, he lacked in brains and Erik easily outmanoeuvred him several times, slashing him with his knife. The man fell to his knees, weakened by his injuries. He threw back his head about to call out, as Erik delivered the coup de grace and sliced through his throat, severing his vocal chords, and leaving him to fall in the street like the refuse he was.

Jean watched in horrified fascination at the deadly expertise of the man before him. Now only two men stood within Erik and his goal. He took out his pistols and advanced on the house.

“Jean go home. This is not your fight,” Erik told him as he heard the boy follow him.

“Non monsieur, there is an honour even among our class; I will not leave you to go into the fight alone,”

Erik studied the determined look in the boy’s eyes, before sighing deeply; knowing that demanding he leave would be pointless.

“Very well, you had better take this,” said Erik, as he bent down to pick up the fallen man’s knife and handed it to him.

TBC


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