Lecter watched as the final performance of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa came to an end and he as well as the other operagoers rose to their feet. Christine's Maria was as good her other performances he had watched over the past two months. He had become a most loyal patron of the Opera of late, coming to a show more than once if it was particularly well done. Each time he hoped Christine would take the time to speak with him privately, but she had not. He even came alone on some nights on the chance she might.
The fact that these nights happened to coincide with reported disappearances throughout Paris was purely coincidence. Lecter chuckled daily as the good citizens of Paris were warned about the person lurking in the shadows waiting to prey on a helpless Parisian as his next victim. He did not, however, like the notoriety that was accompanying these disappearances and realized that he had to do something about this Daae woman or she would quite literally be his undoing.
His frustration had now grown to the point of morbid curiosity. He had never been so blatantly rejected in his life. She was dismissing him as if he were yesterday's dishwater. That just wasn't done, not by someone like her at any rate. Not that he thought ill of her and her chosen career, but still there was the matter of his pride. Hannibal Lecter was no saint, some called him a womanizer, but he never treated a woman with disrespect. That was rude, and one thing Hannibal Lecter could not stand was rudeness. He had been kind to Christine, had gone out of his way to help her and to demonstrate a degree of concern for her that for Hannibal Lecter to demonstrate was amazing. And this is how she repaid him? Insanity.
And it seemed the more he tried to stay away, the more he tried to insist he didn't need to go to the Opera House and subject himself to another one of her flawless performances, and they were all flawless now, he had to go. When he watched her, there were times he believed the audience wasn't even there as far as Christine was concerned. Whoever it was she was singing for was lucky indeed, because she put her heart and soul into her singing. Lecter was amazed to find himself jealous over an unknown person. One thing that he liked about her, and perhaps it was the reason he kept returning, she still had not lost that innocence. The sincerity in appreciation when flowers were bestowed upon her at the end of her performances was genuine as was everything else about her. Lecter had to admit it was refreshing to see.
It was on these nights, the nights that it was a compulsion to see her that his post-opera activities were the most brutal. He knew it, he was aware of it, but he couldn't stop. Knowing that she was singing for someone else, that she didn't have the courtesy to explain to him that she was otherwise involved, and that she had accepted his initial dinner invitation at all were too much for him to bear at times. And someone had to pay for her deeds. Paris couldn't well afford to lose her, so Lecter sought victims elsewhere hoping to sate his appetite that was increasingly growing for her.
He'd thought for sure by now she'd be getting a head about her, thinking she could rub elbows with society. But she had somehow found her way to being in the position to do just that, and yet didn't seem at all interested in it. Where did her innocence come from? Was it a mask she wore? And if so what was underneath it? These were questions that Lecter knew he wouldn't stop asking until they were answered. In fact, if anything her success only seemed to make her work harder. From what he could tell when she wasn't at home she was here. He'd heard that she rehearsed for hours some days. It didn't seem like she needed to rehearse that much if at all to Lecter. But who was he to question? If it worked, and it obviously did, more power to her.
Power, a word Lecter wasn't at all a stranger to. He wondered if Christine Daae understood the power she wielded now. The city of Paris and the surrounding areas were abuzz about the new opera singer, the young girl who had dethroned the infamous Carlotta and who had not as of yet made the management regret their decision. And what was more intriguing was that she was not a true Parisian, not even a pure Frenchwoman her mother being Swedish. And yet the people came.
Lecter wasn't one to pay attention to gossip being a victim of it himself, but he had heard rumors that President Grevy was actually thinking of attending the Opera one evening while in Paris to hear the voice of the virtually unknown young woman who was taking Paris by storm. To have a performance watched by the President and if he stayed for the entire performance would be an honor that she could take pride in especially so early in her career.
Lecter had assumed that Christine was just too busy with other suitors to bother with him, a much older man. And, in truth, he would have preferred that to be the case. At least he'd know he was losing to another man not a building or a career. But from everything he had found out about her, gossip was a wonderful thing when you did want information, she had a friend from her youth that she spent time with from time to time. But everything that he could ascertain about their relationship was that it was a childhood infatuation that neither had dared turn into adult love.
And so it was well after midnight on the night of the final performance of Mazeppa that Lecter found himself in front of Christine's flat. He had just returned his companion for the evening to her home and for some inexplicable reason found himself drawn here. He sat in his coach, he had no intentions of going to her door until in the shadows at the side of her flat he saw a figure, obviously masculine by the form's height and breadth of shoulders. He glanced briefly at Christine's windows, none were illuminated indicating candles or lamps inside were on. He looked once more in the direction of the shadowy figure only to find it was gone. Had he imagined it? Lecter wasn't prone to hallucinations so he didn't believe he had.
He was about to leave thinking perhaps it was a caller that Christine had entertained leaving discreetly, she would certainly be entitled to such a thing. But then a new possibility came to Lecter. The figure he had seen had been dressed in black, perhaps the man had been here to harm Christine. Could Carlotta be vengeful enough to pay someone to harm her? He couldn't imagine anyone else who would wish to harm her. Anyone who saw her flat would know from just the outside she lived a meager existence so he couldn't imagine anyone wanting to burglarize her.
Lecter approached her door and paused briefly before ringing the bell. If it were a lover leaving discreetly he would feel very foolish indeed. If, on the other hand, his thoughts about the figure harming her proved true he wouldn't feel so very foolish. He waited for what seemed like hours, though he realized not that long had passed. Finally the sound of the bolt getting thrown and Christine's sleep filled eyes peered through a crack in the door at him, confusion quickly becoming apparent.
"Comte Lecter," she said simply unable to put much of a coherent thought together to say much else.
"I apologize for the lateness, Christine, but as I was coming by your house I saw a figure leaving from the side of your flat. I thought I'd check and make sure you were all right." If it was a lover who had just left he was either very bad at it that she had fallen asleep right away afterward, or she was a very good actress on top of her singing abilities.
"I'm quite all right, Monsieur," Christine replied sleepily, her voice mumbled. "I'm quite sure there was no one here at my home. But I appreciate your concern." She smiled slightly.
"Very well, Christine. Should you discover something is amiss, please let me know."
"Of course I will," she replied softly. "Good night then, Comte." Christine closed the door then, and slid the bolt back into place. She leaned against the door. Had there been somewhere here? She didn't know.
She had been dreaming about her father and her Angel. Her Angel sat beside her and spoke so tenderly, words she longed to here. Telling her how beautiful she was, how successful she was going to be, and how lucky He was that she allowed Him to work with her. As if she had a choice in the matter, He had chosen her after all. Now that she thought about it, though, it did seem real. It seemed like He was here and actually spoke to her, touched her. Could it be?
She padded to her room still more asleep than awake and glanced at her bed. Was that an imprint from a body sitting at the edge of her bed? Or was it simply from her brushing her hair before bed? It was hard to tell and she frowned her confusion mounting causing her head to hurt. No, no one had come into her room, her Angel had not come to touch her. Surprisingly, she was crying when she made this realization. At least if her Angel was here with her she wouldn't be so alone.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com