Murder Most Grievous: Night of the Phantom

29 Oct

 

 

Murder Most Grievous

Night of the Phantom

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Sedgwick dashed about his apartment, hastily grabbing clothing and stuffing them into drawers and closets. He grabbed a large trash bag which he stuffed with various papers and notebooks. He squeezed the bag under his bed.

“Not bad!” he thought, scanning his apartment. He glanced in the mirror and tried to smooth his hair, just as a knock came at the front door.

It was Klerique.

“Trick or treat!” she erupted when he opened it.

“Bah! Humbug!” he growled, screwing up his face into a Dickensean pose.

“That’s Christmas — not Hallowe’en! You’ve got your holidays mixed up,” she laughed as she walked past him into his small living quarters. “Not bad for a white boy,” she teased, looking about.

“We try.”

“Okay, I’ve got the pizza, and popcorn, and beer — you drink beer, right?”

“How’d you buy it?”

“A wink and a smile, my dear. Works every time.”

She walked into his kitchen and set a plastic shopping bag on the counter and began pulling out items for their night.

“And I’ve got the original Phantom — with Lon Chaney! Oooh!”

“Wasn’t he the wolf man?”

“Junior was. This was his father. Master of make-up. You’ve never seen it?”

“Um, no!”

“And then the musical. That should keep us occupied for a few hours.”

“We don’t have to watch movies, Sedge. There are other things to keep us occupied.”

“Right. I have this great horror anthology with some really creepy short stories. My favorite all-time story is ‘They Bite.’ It’s about — ”

“Down, boy! You get excited about the strangest things!”

The two spent the evening laughing and watching the films, feeding each other popcorn and pizza, and answering the doorbell when the few trick-or-treaters rang.

“So did you have a favorite Hallowe’en costume when you were a kid?” Klerique asked at one point.

“Nope — never got into it. Not trick or treating, that is. I read Poe and Henry James on Hallowe’en. Good gothic horror. No blood, no guts, no ripping or sawing and none of this!” He grabbed her and tickled her with clawed fingers.

When Christine Daae pulled the mask off the Phantom, revealing his horrid face, Klerique jumped a bit.

“What is this man’s problem?” she asked.

“Klerique — this is a classic love story.”

“Love story? Are you for real?”

“The phantom has fallen in love with Christine. He’s also a bit narcissistic — which is obvious. So he wants to develop her talent, and have her sing the lead of his opera.”

“Opera is so . . . I don’t know,” she stammered.

“Boring? Hardly! Talk about getting someone up to speed.

“But I like musicals.”

“Not dramatic enough for me. ‘Faust’ trumps ‘Annie’ every time in my book. So the phantom recognizes Christine is talented way beyond how she’s cast in the opera, and Carlotta — well, she’s an overrated diva.”

“Do you think I’m an overrated diva,” she said, batting her eyes.

“Shush. Listen and learn.”

“I’m all yours, master.”

“Exactly! Christine falls under the spell of the phantom, whom she thinks is an angel of music. ‘Slowly . . . gently . . . night unfolds its splendor,'” he sang, vibrating his voice.

“Oh, please, Mr. Phantom!” she trembled, turning her head away dramatically.

“He didn’t mean Christine any harm. It’s just his passion for her and his passion for the music were so entangled, he didn’t have any control. He did what he had to do.”

“Well, Mr. Phantom, I hope you’re gonna do what you have to do. We don’t have to finish the movies, do we?”

“Why? Gosh, you’re right!” he said, looking at his watch. “It’s getting pretty late. When do you have to leave?”

“Who said anything about leaving?”

“Well, when did you tell your uncle you’d be home?”

“Tomorrow,” she grinned. “Sometime in the afternoon.”

“What? How’d you do that?”

“Well,” she said, slipping her arms around Sedgwick, “when my friends picked me up to carry me over here, I told him I was staying the night with them. Actually, I said over at my friend’s house. And, last time I checked? You are my friend, right?”

“Yeah? Oh! Yeah!”

“Turn out the light, Sedgwick.”

* * * * *

From his car in the street below, James Ditter saw the lights in the second story apartment go out. He figured it was Sedgwick’s. It looked as though Klerique was staying the night, and Sedgwick was in for a treat. It was time for him to go home.

 

* “The Music of the Night,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 29 October, 2014

Miss the first installment of Murder Most Grievous? Click here.

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