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 Curse of Collecting

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PhantomnessFay
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PostSubject: Curse of Collecting   Sat Jun 09, 2012 1:23 pm

This is the Prologue to a new story. The story is about a collector that has found the death's head mask of the infamous Opera Ghost and the consequences of doing so.

What makes a spirit cling to objects? What do spirits want when they linger in the world of the living instead of moving on? Please read on and perhaps these questions will be answered.

Please R&R. Enjoy the prologue to Curse of Collecting.

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

Prologue

Arthur Pembroke looked thoughtfully through the display window of a quaint antique shop on Dorling Lane, a side street he had never before seen or heard of in London. The black death’s head mask on the wall behind the counter caught his eye. Certainly in all of his 45 years of collecting he had seen many a death mask, where a cast is made of a person after death. This peculiar thing was not a death mask, but rather a mask in the fashion of a human skull all in black. It bore no frills or ruffles. Nothing ornamental about it; only a black skull with holes for the eyes and for nostrils.

Pembroke lost track of time as he ran his fingers through his dark, chestnut colored hair and straightened his dark suite. Only briefly did he turn to his limo and nodded to the chauffer leaning against the passenger side. Then he turned back to the shop, opened the door and entered. A bell sounded to herald his entrance.

The musty smell of dust, aging wood and long since dead tainted the air round about. The room didn’t seem so small as cluttered with busts, figurines, full sized statures and wall mountings of whatever imaginable.

The bell sounded again as a tall, stocky man with a receding hairline rushed in.

“Arthur! Arthur, stop! You agreed to wait for me outside,” the stocky man, huffed as if walking made it difficult to breathe.

“Binky ol’chap, sorry about that. I just couldn’t contain my collector’s curiosity. It’s magnificent! Absolutely magnificent!” Arthur replied referring to the death’s head mask.

From his coat pocket Binky pulled out a handkerchief and mopped away the perspiration. In a moment, a very thin elderly man emerged from the backroom. The intensity of his hazel colored eyes seemed to draw attention. The old man took slow deliberate steps as if to be sure he didn’t lose his footing.

Those intense hazel eyes ticked a look to both men before asking what he could do for them.

Arthur pointed to the death’s head mask in the case behind the counter. The old shopkeeper hesitated.

“Are you sure? I really don’t like to take it down if you aren’t sure you want it,” commented the old man in a weak, cracking voice.

Binky grabbed Arthur’s arm and pulled him back to whisper some suggestions. Arthur nodded his agreement.

“Can you tell us something about the mask. Don’t see many of those types about.” Binky mopped his brow again.

“This bloody think is rumored to have belonged to the Opera Ghost who was said to haunt the Paris Opera House in the late 19th Century. I wouldn’t recommend handling it too much and whatever you do, don’t ever put it on!” The old shopkeeper got excited and his voice went all the way up to a squeak since he forgot to take a breath during his overview.

The alleged history of the mask intrigued Arthur and he wanted it all the more. He had a collection of odd paintings, photographs, statuettes, busts, you name it, but he did not have a death’s head mask. He even had the death mask of some local dignitary from England’s parliament, but nothing, absolutely nothing like this.

Was there really an Opera Ghost? Thought Pembroke to himself. He knew Binky, his business partner and friend for many years, believed in the Opera Ghost and the mask. He also knew that Binky believed in the paranormal and superstition.

“Why do you tell us not to handle the mask too much and don’t put it on? Not that I would, mind you. Things of great age can be quite fragile,” Arthur finished before glancing at the mask.

With an unsteady voice, the old shopkeeper explained that several people who owned the mask previously had handle the mask and even tried it on, only to experience dire consequences. A curse if you will. Each person handling the mask excessively experienced nausea and soon grew gravely ill. Some underwent treatments at the local hospital for severe vomiting and dizziness. Those who actually put on the mask went stark raving mad, or at least that was the rumor and what the newspapers said.

“Personally, I would never touch the bloody thing without gloves. Now if you’re still interested in buying the mask, I’ll take it down, but I won’t if you just want to touch it, put it on and such,” the old man seemed firm in his ways.

“I say ol’fellow, how much are you asking for it?” Binky took a step closer to the counter and looked up at the mask.

“1,940,040 pounds ($3,000,000.00 US dollars),” came the reply. Neither man reacted or seemed startled at the price. Arthur quickly agreed.

This forced the old man to climb up on a step stool, unlock the glass case and before touching the mask, put on his gloves. He then carefully climbed down, teetering now and again, but when both feet touched the floor, the old man gently sat the infernal thing on the counter and again warned the men not to touch it. Then the old fellow pulled out a strange looking metal box from under the counter, opened it and placed the mask inside. Oddly enough, the box seemed to conform to the size of the mask. Binky commented on the strange occurrence, but Arthur asked him to be silent and pay the man.

The old shopkeeper took out a couple of pairs of gloves and put them in a bag. Then he locked the metal box with a key and handed it to Arthur as Binky counted out the exact amount of pounds. Quickly the old man collected all the money, put it in a banker’s moneybag and nervously handed the bag containing the gloves to Binky.

“Here. Please take your purchase and leave. Remember, there are no returns or exchanges. I don’t ever want to see that thing again,” said the shopkeeper.

Arthur made no reply when he picked up the metal box and smiled. Binky opened the door, thanked the shopkeeper and the two men left.

As soon as they got into the limo, they opened the box. No one even had a thought to use the gloves. A sardonic smile crept across the younger man’s face as he lifted the mask from the metal box. Binky seemed enchanted with the thing as well, as he couldn’t take his eyes off it, especially when his business partner placed the mask over his own face.

Instantly, the masked conformed to the face. It fit perfectly as if made for him. The eyeholes did not display the brown ones of Arthur Pembroke, but instead, tiny embers glowing from hollow sockets. A maniacal laugh erupted from the death’s head. At last, the Opera Ghost had found a new home.

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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:06 am

Well this does indeed promise to be very interesting. I am caught, my friend!

Please do carry on again soon.


Very Happy D
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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:58 pm

Ah, I've got your attention Slytherliggie. Excellent! So now I give you the next chapter.

Please R&R. Enjoy!

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

CHAPTER 1

New York City One Year Later

Mallorie Hancock stepped back from the door with the glass window displaying the name of Antiquities Then and Now in bold almost chilling font. The young reporter came here following a lead on the recent rash of events, which had more than a few upset at the Metropolitan Opera.

Her hand froze on the doorknob when voices arose from within. A rumble and rustle sounded just before a middle-aged man in a dark business suite flung open the door that tripped a tiny bell. Mallorie jumped back with a gasp. The man glared at her a second, before saying a few choice, angry words to the resident of the office. Then he pushed past her and stormed down the hall to the elevator.

Not sure what to make of the poor display of temper, Mallorie pushed back her shiny, brown hair, and took a deep breath before entering.

The place looked more like a museum then an office. Small figurines cluttered a couple of desks, while the shelves against the four walls held everything from sculptured busts to tinny looking photos in antique frames. Everything looked really old and smelled like it too. A musty, stuffy atmosphere closed in as Mallorie allowed the door to shut on its own, again sounding the bell.

“Who’s there?” asked a male voice from the next room.

“It’s me, Mallorie Hancock, from the New York Times. I called earlier about your statement in this month’s 'Treasures of Yesterday'.” Her voice wavered a bit for she felt somewhat uneasy after the commotion.

A young man in his mid-thirties appeared in the doorway of the other room. His light brown hair a little disheveled as well as the shirt and trousers.

“I thought you were coming at one o’clock,” he snapped.

“I apologize if I’m here at an inconvenient time, but it is one o’clock. Are you Mr. Christian Lawson?”

Looking at his watch, the young man made a face, mumbled something under his breath and then replied, “Yes, yes come in, sit.” He pointed to a chair in the room behind him. Then he moved back and allowed Mallorie to pass and sit down.

“Mr. Lawson…”

“Call me Chris. Everybody does. What can I do for you?” Chris sat behind a desk filled with scattered papers and a laptop.

Mallorie pulled out a small recorder and sat it on the desk between them. “Do you mind?” she asked. Chris just waved his hand and shook his head. Then she turned on the recorder and continued.

“In this month’s issue of 'Treasures of Yesterday', you made a comment about a mask being stolen from a small museum in the lower East Side. You said it was a black death’s head mask.”

By nature Mallorie generally felt brave and aggressive. This made her excel as one of New York’s finest reporters, but for some reason she felt intimated instead.

“Not a museum, a library. A dinky, little library whose only attraction was this creepy mask. So what about it?” growled the young man.

“I can see I’ve caught you in a bad mood…”

“Dallas Porter put me in a bad mood. Not you. So just asked the blame questions. I’m a busy man,” Chris ran his fingers through his hair, messing it up even more.

The young woman swallowed hard. “You said the mask was cursed. That if someone put it on they went crazy. That they took on the insanity of the legendary Phantom of the Opera.”

“I said that. It was in my ledger. My late uncle sold it to some billionaire, who went mad. Somehow it wound up as a display in this library and someone stole back…I mean someone stole it.” Chris started sweating. Tiny pearls of perspiration formed on his forehead and streamed down his face.

The intimidation faded from Mallorie as she leaned in and looked the man straight in the eye.

“You said, ‘someone stole it back’. Who stole it back?”

“No. No I didn’t. I said stole it,” this time Chris felt nervous and jittery.

Snatching up the tiny recorder, she replayed it. Then she stared him the eye again and repeated the question. “Who stole it back? There has been a lot of mayhem at the Metropolitan Opera lately. Performers, crewmembers and even the audiences complained of accidents, hearing disembodied voices, and seeing something lurking in the shadows. This didn’t happen until this mask came up in your comment in this little known magazine.”

“Why are you questioning me like this? Like you said, it was a comment in a little known magazine. The Phantom of the Opera is just a story made up by some down-on-his-luck Frenchman at the turn of the 20th Century. How is it that you even know that Treasures of Yesterday even exist?”

“I’m the reporter. I ask the questions. Not you. The managers of the Metropolitan are freaked out after receiving several notes scrawled in red ink demanding money or else. Out with it. Who stole back the mask?”

Christian Lawson let out a long sigh. From the way the young woman spoke, he knew she would not back down. If he didn’t tell her about the mask, she would find out from someone else and then it may be too late.

At this, Chris calmed down and invited Mallorie for coffee. She agreed. Chris made sure to power down his laptop and lock the office door before they left.

At the coffee shop, the two began to talk like civil human beings. Here, Chris explained that Arthur Pembroke and his business partner Harold (Binky) Billingsworth purchased the death’s head from his uncle who lived in London at the time. After the purchase Pembroke disappeared and the mask reported stolen by Binky. Accordingly, neither the mask nor Pembroke was ever seen again, until the mask turned up two months ago at the dinky library. It always seemed a challenge to get the residence of the lower East Side to read, let alone enter a library, but for some reason the mask attracted a crowd every day. Even after it disappeared, adults and children alike still came to the library in hopes that the mask had returned.

“What’s the deal about the curse?” Mallorie sipped her tea and poked at her salad.

For a moment, Chris said nothing. His attention fixed on some children playing in the street. Collecting had never been his first love. He didn’t mind it, but since his uncle’s retirement, he had to take charge of getting rid of all the junk collected over the years, and this made him crazy.

“Are you listening to me?” Mallorie asked again bringing him back to the real world.

“Huh?”

“What’s the deal about the curse? Why would you say it was cursed?”

“I didn’t say it, my uncle did. At least his ledger did. Uncle Silas doesn’t talk much about his collectables or collecting like he used to. He just wants to go fishing, eat pizza and drink beer.” The young man sipped his coffee and returned to staring out the window.

A half smile crossed the reporters face. She could feel the man softening up. Then she asked what did the ledger actually say.

“The mask washed up on the shore of the entrance of the underground lake at the end of la Rue Scribe in Paris. Some say Christine entombed the Opera Ghost in his home when he died. Some say the house was flooded and he drowned. Some say gypsies cursed the mask…” his voice trailed.

“And you, Chris. What do you say?”

No answer.

“Are you listening to me?”

Again no answer. A little frustrated and angry, Mallorie leaned across the table to give him a punch in the arm, but then she followed his look. There on the sidewalk, watching the children play, stood a very tall thin man, dressed in a dark colored fedora, a black cloak and over his face, a black death’s head mask.


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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Mon Jun 25, 2012 2:02 am

For a moment there I almost didn't follow the jump in time... So, the original guy who bought it disappeared and so did the mask. Then all of a sudden it reappeared, drawing many "fans" so to speak... Interesting. With the reappearance of the mask I almost want to assume the reappearance of Mr. Arthur Pembroke is on its way...


Very good, my friend. I sense a chilling story to come. Please do continue again soon, my friend.



D Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Jul 01, 2012 12:28 pm

Good to see you again Slytherliggie. Sorry you nearly missed the timeline. My bad. I will have to be more precise next time. So happy you are liking this so far.

Here the next chapter. A rather short one, but most informative I hope.

Please R&R. Enjoy!

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


CHAPTER 2

Sotheby’s Auction House

Harold (Binky) Billingsworth sat far in the back of the seats filled with collectors from all over the world who came to bid on some of the finest works of art, jewelry, furniture and antiquities. His stocky built made it uncomfortable for him to sit in regular chairs, so this one was a bit larger in the seat and generally kept there for his use since he did frequent the place.

A rather tall, thin man of forty leaned down and whispered something to Binky, which appeared to make him upset and surprised. With much effort, Binky pushed himself up from the chair and followed the thin man to another room.

After Binky entered the almost empty room, the thin man looked around to make sure no one followed them. Then he closed the door gently. Quietly, the man motioned for Binky to follow him to a box setting on a chair in the corner. Gingerly, the stocky built gent opened the box. His eyes widened as he picked up the death’s head mask from the packing peanuts. It looked the same as when he first saw it one year ago.

“Where did you find it?” Binky asked admiring the thing.

“I’d rather not say, sir. I do hope this pleases you and Mr. Pembroke,” replied the tall, thin man. His voice wavered and sounded unsteady. The beady eyes shifted constantly as he twisted and twirled his long mustache.

Without hesitation, Harold (Binky) Billingsworth reached into his pocket and pulled out a check made out to Dallas Porter for a large sum of American dollars. Quickly, the shifty character snatched the check, looked it over and then tucked it away into the inside coat pocket.

“Tell Dallas Porter to be ready for another assignment. And for you, Langley, a tip,” Binky slipped a one hundred dollar bill into the man’s hand. Langley grabbed up the money, made a short bow before scurrying away like a frightened animal.

The death’s head looked back at him with the stare of a dead man having a sardonic grin. It had to be hidden. Locked away to it would never be stolen again. Carefully, Binky returned the hideous thing to the box where he coved it with the packing peanuts. Then he picked up the box and headed for the door.

Balancing the box with one hand and reaching for the door handle with the other, Billingsworth paused only once when he heard muffled cries coming from the box in hand. At first he seemed startled. Had he heard a cry from the box?

The cries sounded again. Muffled, but nevertheless, a cry coming from the box. The mask? Billingsworth shuttered, but continued to open the door and leave with the cardboard container.

Gracie Square Hospital

Several mental patients both men and women roamed the halls and recreation room of the mental hospital. Several orderlies in light blue smocks and pants oversaw the goings on of the patients. In the corner, playing chess with someone no one but he could see, sat Arthur Pembroke. Dressed as if going to a business meeting, Pembroke carried on a conversation with his invisible chess partner while he moved his knight.

To him, the unseen player pondered its next move since Pembroke fell silent. After a few minutes, the opponent’s bishop moved.

Still babbling to the empty chair, Pembroke finally looked up to see Binky smiling down at him with a fairly good sized cardboard box in hand.

“How is the game today Arthur?” asked Binky as he set the box before him.

“Bloody horrible! I had no idea O.G. was such an expert at chess. Almost no use playing against him. He’s beat me three games straight,” Pembroke sputtered as he mopped his face with a handkerchief. Binky said nothing, just smiled.

Pembroke looked at the box and then at his business partner. “What’s this?”

“Open it,” came the reply.

Gingerly, Pembroke opened the box and shuffled through the packing peanuts. When his fingers touched something sturdy and hard, he grabbed hold and quickly pulled it from the box.

The black death’s head.

All of a sudden, a hush fell over the room. Everyone’s attention rested on the mask. Something about it made their skin crawl and their hearts race with fear and panic, but nothing could keep their eyes away from it. They couldn’t help but stare back into hollow eyeholes that seemed to look back at them.

Even the orderlies froze.

In a low, menacing tone, a disembodied voice said, “At last, you’ve found it. It’s so difficult breaking in a new mask. That’s one less for the Punjab Lasso.” Immediately, maniacal laughter followed, increasing in volume sending everyone, but Pembroke and Binky running from the room in terror.



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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Jul 08, 2012 11:12 am

Well no one has been by. Guess they are all busy with summer vacation. Ah, well, I miss Slytherliggie, EriksComposer and syoonchannel, but I cannot wait. Hopefully all will catch up.

Here is Chapter 3 for Curse of Collecting. Please R&R. Enjoy!


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


CHAPTER 3

At the coffee shop


No one in the coffee shop seemed to notice the man in the death’s head dressed all in black with a fedora and cloak. The children continued playing and adults just moved about to and fro, all in their own world,

The reporter’s instinct got the better of her, making Mallorie abandon her food to see who the stranger was. Chris didn’t feel like moving. One sees and hears too many weird things when collecting selected items. At the moment, he just wanted to catalogue his uncle’s collection and put them up for auction.

As if coming out of a trance, the young man blinked and shook his head. Then he realized he sat alone. Where did Mallorie go? The commotion outside made him turn to the window.

In the street

Pushing her way through the busy street, Mallorie hurried toward the man in the mask, but as soon as she reached the children at play, he vanished. In confusion, she looked about visually searching for the stranger.

Gone. He just was not there. How did he move so quickly? The streets didn’t seem crowded enough for him to blend into people moving along the sidewalk or the children at play.

Finally, Chris joined her in the street. He looked worried.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“You saw him, didn’t you? The guy with the fedora and black cloak?” Mallorie asked still looking in all directions, hoping to get another glimpse of the odd creature.

“Who?” Chris didn’t want to admit he’d seem him too, so he just pretended to see nothing.

“Don’t give me that. I know you saw him. Black death’s head, black cloak…”

“Come on, Mallorie, don’t tell me you saw the Phantom of the Opera?” Ooo, that’s scary.” He said in light mockery. Looking at this watch, he offered to hail a taxi for her. Frowning, Mallorie refused. She preferred to go on foot in search of the masked man that no one seemed to see.

“Thanks for lunch, but I need to find that man. I’ll be in touch. Just tell me where I can find this Binky Billingsworth.” The young reporter tossed a silky strand of hair from her face. In the sunlight she appeared even more beautiful. For a moment, a brief moment, he felt the urge to steal a kiss, but then thought better of it. What would folks think of Christian Lawson kissing a beautiful, young woman he just met in public?

Cocking her head a bit, Mallorie slid on her sunglasses. “What’s wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?”

No answer. Chris couldn’t think of a reply that wouldn’t make her crazy. So he just smiled, backed away and nodded. The young woman puzzled a moment, then rushed off to see if she could find the man in the fedora and cloak.

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


After chasing shadows down dead-ends for an hour or so, Mallorie Hancock stood on the corner of the street several blocks from where she started with her hands on her hips. Maybe he was just a guy in costume, like in a play, she thought. Or maybe he was going for an audition. That’s it! Lots of actors walk around in costume when going for auditions.

Harold (Binky) Billingsworth seemed easier to find then she thought. The young woman, looked up at the directory before her, which read: Pembroke, Billingsworth and Porter Suite 4411

They almost sounded like a law firm, but actually the three partnered in one of the largest companies dealing with antiquities. In today’s economy, the corporation of Pembroke, Billingsworth and Porter made more money now than ever before. One thing in their favor, they always offered something rare and unique to their customers.

The offices anyone could find, but actually getting an audience with either of the men deeded nearly impossible. The receptionist told Mallorie that Pembroke would be out of the office for sometime due to business in Europe. Billingsworth had no more room on his calendar for another appointment until three years from now and Porter simply refused to see anyone.

Porter. Then it dawned on her that this must be the same Porter Chris had the argument with when she first walked into his office.

“Is Mr. Porter’s first name Dallas?” inquired Mallorie.

“Yes,” came the reply.

“Please tell Mr. Dallas Porter that I would like to speak with him about the black death’s head. Tell him I was in Chris Lawson’s office when they were arguing,” the young reporter smiled. The receptionist mumbled something to herself as she dialed Porter’s number. To her surprise, Porter changed his mind and agreed to see Mallorie.

Porter’s office looked just like what most people perceived a fancy, high rise office would look like, mahogany desk with matching chair behind and before it, pictures of flowers in pastel scattered about on various walls, and of course, a huge picture window with a view of New York City.

Dallas Porter sat behind the desk as Mallorie walked in. Only then did he arise and shake her hand and offered her a chair.

“So you know Christian Lawson and the silly pile of junk his uncle gave him, huh? Sorry you had to see us quarreling. You know how it is when you try to get some cooperation and none is found,” Porter smiled and returned to his chair behind the desk.

Mallorie smiled. “I’d like to ask you something about the death’s head that was recently exhibited at a small, local library but has now gone missing. The rumor has it the mask belonged to the legendary Phantom of the Opera.

At this, Dallas Porter burst into loud, almost boisterous laughter. He responded as if someone had told a terribly funny joke. The young woman didn’t know if he mocked her or what. Part of her felt embarrassed enough to run and hide, while the other part grew angrier and angrier by the minute.

“Did I say something funny?” she asked.

Porter laughed so hard he had to struggle for breath. “I do apologize, but you almost sound like you believe in fairytales.”

“Then forget I said Phantom of the Opera. I understand Christian’s uncle sold the death’s head to your two business partners Pembroke and Billingsworth. When the mask went missing so did Pembroke. Then the mask turned up at a library not far from here and now it’s gone again. I think you can enlighten me. Please, will you help me?” Mallorie did well to hide her anger and fear and use her feminine wiles to get her answers.

For a moment Dallas Porter said nothing. He smiled at her adoringly, and straightened his tacking looking tan jacket that made him look like a big game hunter from the distant jungles of Africa. His ruddy face seemed friendly enough, but something didn’t click.

“How about a drink Miss Hancock? Perhaps an early dinner? I should like to be comfortable when I share information with you. However there is a price for what you request,” Porter grinned like an imp.

“Price? You want money?” the pretty reporter frowned a little trying to understand.

“Not money. There is something Christian Lawson has but won’t sell for any amount of money. I want you to help me get it.”

“What are you talking about?”

Dallas Porter ignored the question but motioned for her to look out the window.

Outside, standing in the doorway of an office building across the street stood the tall thin man wearing a black death’s head, dressed in black wearing a fedora and cloak. The same man Mallorie saw earlier watching the children play outside of the coffee shop. The same one she’d been chasing all day.

“There is a ledger Lawson has that contains not only items purchased, amount sold for and who bought it, but a smattering of history behind the article bought. I am sure there is something in that ledger that will tell me how to get rid of the man in the fedora that has been haunting me for a year, ever since Pembroke and Binky bought that cursed death’s head.

Mallorie didn’t know what to say or think. She didn’t believe in ghosts. Neither did she believe in curses, which she knew the mask was rumored to be. This will make a fantastic story if she and her sources of information live long enough for her write and publish it.

“Who is he? Have you tried to talk to him?” Mallorie asked as she stared at the man in the fedora. The staring hollow eyeholes sent a chill through her. It felt as if death personified stalked its prey, ready to spirit away the unsuspecting soul

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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Wed Jul 11, 2012 3:48 am

So so so so sorry for not getting here sooner. My internet access is still a bit sketchy, I hope it will be resolved again soon. I am very interested in what is to come, the buildup sure is good...

It doesn't surprise me that O.G. is a wonderful chess player. I would like to know what exactly happened during the time that Pembroke had the mask, I'm very curious.

I wonder what Mallorie is going to ask our man in the fedora and cape, or indeed, if she's going to ask anything...


Please do continue again, my friend, do not be disheartened if I do not reply in a timely fashion, I do have your story saved and opening every time I open my browser, so I do read whenever I get access to the net.


Lots of love, your faithful reader,
D Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:06 pm

So good to see you Slytherliggie. I just forgot you were having Internet problems. Hope they get fixed soon.

I am happy that you like the new chapters. See what you think of this one.

Here is the next chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!


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

CHAPTER 4

Sidewalk; doorway of high-rise

On the way for a bite of dinner, Mallorie Hancock and Dallas Porter made their way through the busy streets only to pause at the doorway of the high-rise where the cloaked man wearing the fedora and black death’s head stood. Somehow, he managed to keep to the shadows in the corner. People passed going to and fro, not even giving him a second look. The reporter in Mallorie wanted to stop and question the odd character. However, Dallas pushed her on.

Instinctively, the young woman whipped around, to return to the thing hovering in front of the high-rise. Again, Dallas tried to stop her, but this time she reached the doorway before him.

Looking at the death’s head actually gave her the creeps. Another shiver went up her spine. Empty hollows made her feel she looked at a corpse. She tried to speak; yet no words came. The death’s head nodded a greeting and tipped its hat. Then like all specters it stepped backward in the glass door and vanished.

No one could be more startled than Mallorie. She nearly jumped out of her skin. The loud gasp from her lips made Dallas let out a breathy, “Oh!” For he too saw the thing disappear.

“Please Miss Hancock. Let’s go. Trying to communicate with the dead is not the best idea,” Porter pulled her back. With her mouth still agape, Mallorie stared at him wide-eyed.

Was someone playing a trick on me? Was this a holograph? Or something primitive like smoke and mirrors? These thoughts filled her head as she gingerly stepped back and moved on with Porter.

Dinner at Angelino’s usually drew a crowd. Most everyone loved the quaint little Italian restaurant with the old-fashioned checkered tablecloths and bottles of Chianti decorating the room. Yet, tonight seemed extraordinarily empty and quiet.

At the moment, Mallorie didn’t feel hungry. A shot of bourbon sounded better than food. Dallas ordered the same. For a while neither spoke a word. Twice she had seen this ghostly creature in the same day. The Metropolitan Opera gave the description of the same character she just saw vanish before her eyes.

When the drinks came, both she and Porter downed them like water and then ordered another.

“All right Mr. Porter, what in the Sam Hill was that thing? It looked like Gaston Leroux’s description of the Phantom of the Opera. Given the play is still running on Broadway, I was willing to assume someone was just a fan until I saw it back into the glass door and disappear. What is going on?” Mallorie grabbed the drink from the waiter’s hand before he could set it down.

Porter opened his mouth to reply, when Harold (Binky) Billingsworth burst in. He hesitated a moment to check his surroundings as if looking for someone. The maitre d’ exchanged a few with him and then pointed out Mallorie and Porter.

He raced to their table and starting babbling like a fool. Nothing he said made sense. Seemed like Arthur Pembroke had taken a turn for the worse and doctors sedated him heavily and but him in isolation. Everyone learned to accept his chattering to someone they couldn’t see, but now Binky and everyone in earshot could hear a disembodied voice answering Pembroke and making comments. The doctors blamed Pembroke’s dilutions coming to life when a weak and sick mind begins to throw his voice like a ventriloquist to validate an invisible person were there talking to him or perhaps a ghost. Either way, the doctors blamed the voice from nowhere on Pembroke.

This would shatter their business if news like this leaked out. Their widely known partnership could not have anything to sully the good name. Having an insane business partner did not make for good PR.

When Binky finished, no one spoke for a long time. He was hearing things while the reporter and his last sane partner appeared to be seeing things. They agreed that the weirdness only happened when he and Pembroke bought the mask.

“Why do you think I gave it to the library?” sputtered Binky before throwing back a straight Jack Daniels. “I never thought you’d bring the bloody thing back.”

“I had to. Every time I saw Arthur he complained about missing the blasted thing.” Dallas frowned and motioned for more drinks. “Now I’m sorry I just didn’t leave things the way they were. What does it want?”

“Who?” asked Mallorie. “What does who want? And how does this figure in with the chaos happening at the Metropolitan Opera?”

“Arthur adores the opera and thought it would be bloody fun to wear the death’s head to a performance. Then all hell broke loose. I actually thought the Phantom was merely a story; a figment of some poor delusional Frenchman’s mind. Now I don’t know what to believe, “ as the last word fell from his lips, Binky dropped his drink, the glass shattering upon impact to the floor.

Across the room, at the table in a forgotten corner, partially hidden by shadows, sat a cloaked figure, wearing a fedora. Shadows covered its face. Something like eyes glinted now and again when the dim light struck it just right.

Porter nearly choked on his drink and Mallorie drained of color. When the waiter returned with more drinks, the three asked if he could see the cloaked figure in the corner. The waiter ticked a look to the table and replied, “Yes, he’s been here quite often the last few months. Always orders the same thing, merlot topped with a hint of chocolate.”

Mallorie couldn’t take it any longer. Abruptly she arose and marched over to the cloaked figure. Covered completely by the shadows and hat, the face looked up at hers as if to ask what she wanted.

“I beg your pardon, but it seems you’ve been in a number of places where I have today and I want to know if you are following me.” Her voice trembled a bit and her hands shook. As hard as she tired, she couldn’t hide the fear.

The figure said nothing. The sweet scent of the full-bodied merlot mingled with a hint of chocolate intoxicated her, even more than the bourbon she’d been throwing back. Suddenly, everything began to swirl around her. The world began moving so quickly. Shadows moved and then, and then…

When she came to, Mallorie found herself looking up into the ruddy face of Dallas Porter and the pale, chubby one of Binky.

“What happened my dear? Are you all right?” Asked Binky fanning her with a napkin. Dallas handed her a cup and saucer of black coffee.

Mallorie sat up from the sofa in the manager’s office and sipped the coffee. After wrinkling her nose, she set the strong java on the coffee table before her. Her head pounded, but the fear was gone.

“I asked the man in the hat if he was following me and now I’m here. What happened?”

Binky ticked a look to Dallas. “We aren’t sure. You were saying something one minute and then on the floor the next,” replied Dallas.

“Where did he go? The man…”

“By the time we reached you he’d vanished. Poof! Disappeared!” Binky shuttered at the thought.

“What is going on?” demanded the reporter. “Why does he/it keep popping up?”

“Not sure except it all happened when we acquired the mask,” sighed Binky. “…that infernal death’s head mask!”





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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Jul 15, 2012 3:48 pm

Well, this is getting intriguing. I wonder what is going to be happening next? So she passed out and our man in the hat disappeared... Could this mean something special? You have got me hooked again, my friend!


Please do continue again soon!


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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Jul 22, 2012 1:30 pm

Yes my dear Slytherliggie everything I write has a meaning. If I've got you hooked I still that Phantom charm.

Here is the next chapter. Read this one closely. You don't want to miss any details.

Please R&R. Enjoy!

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

CHAPTER 5

Office of Christian Lawson

The office looked even more cluttered than before and the desk had a new pile of paperwork. Chris sat behind the desk sorting, tagging and logging the figurines in one of his ledgers. This was the original one that dated many years back. There were at least six more after this one, but which one did Dallas Porter want?

In the hallway outside the office lurked Mallorie Hancock reporter for the New York Times. She knew if she asked Chris about the ledger he’d dismiss her instantly. So she decided to wait until he left the office to go snooping.

At 12:15 pm Chris came out of the office and locked the door behind him. Mallorie figured he’d leave for lunch or a drink at around this time. As soon as he entered the elevator and the door closed, the young reporter crept to the office door. Removing a pick from her purse, she inserted it into the lock, jiggled it around a little until she heard the lock click. Smiling, she opened the door and slipped inside. Making sure to close and lock the door behind her, the reporter hurried to the back room, the actual office where Chris sat working. She rummaged through the handwritten ledgers one by one, but she didn’t find anything listing the death’s head. Looking around she tried to think where Lawson would hide the most sought after book.

Filtering through the papers on the desk seemed useless. Too much to go through.
After so long, she gave up and turned to leave when her eyes noticed a box beneath the table across from the desk. It looked half buried in research books on antiquities from various part of the world. One book in particular caught her eye, The History of the Death’s Head.

Just as she picked it up, she heard the lock of the door click. Someone was coming. Panic struck hard as she looked about wild-eyed for a place to hide. Under the paper ridden desk. Quick as wink, the reporter, book in hand, ducked under the desk. Who or whatever entered the office did not belong there. If it had been Chris Lawson, he would have bounced in and hurried to his desk. This person took its time to rummage through whatever the outer offer held. The footsteps sounded heavy as they made muffled thudding sounds on the carpet.

After what seemed an eternity, the being moved into the office. Here the rummaging continued, first with the papers on the desk, then to the books on the floor and then the boxes.

This time, a key entered the lock and whoever came in, knew their way about. And they weren’t hiding. The bouncing steps moved quickly to the desk. The cut of the clothes and shoes gave away the wearer as Christian Lawson. Apparently, he attempted to resume his sorting, tagging, and logging.

What puzzled Mallorie, drawing herself up into a tight ball under the desk and clutching the book to her chest, where did the intruder who came in after her go? She didn’t hear them leave or even move about as if to hide. Where did they go?
Several hours went by. Mallorie nearly fell asleep all balled up beneath the desk. Finally, Chris stirred from his seat and rose up, stretched his arms over his head and then with a rattle of his keys headed for the door. As soon as she heard him go out, closing and locking the door behind him, she decided to poke her head out from under the desk. Her legs had nearly no feeling and she felt light headed. The lack of circulation and minimal oxygen will do that to a person.

The room had no light except for whatever filtered in from the street. The young woman sat the book down a moment and stretched her arms above her head and arched her back, that’s when she saw it. From other room a head poked in to get a look at her. The partial silhouette of a tall, thin person with a hat and cloak glowered in the doorway. The eyes looked like tiny embers from a dying fire.

At this the young reporter froze. No mistaking it saw her, for now it looked right into her eyes. The same thing she saw in the shadows of the Italian restaurant last evening; the same hovering in the office front across the street from the offices of Pembroke, Billingsworth and Porter.

More than anything she wanted the story, the really nitty-gritty of what caused all the fuss at the Metropolitan Opera and what haunted the men who purchased the death’s head, but was it worth coming face to face with the devil himself?

At the moment, her breath came no more. She began hyperventilating. The thing in the doorway neither moved nor made a sound. The impending horror of anticipation made her mouth dry and her hair stand up on end. In the past, Mallorie never believed in omens, premonitions or a portend of what’s to come, but staring into the eyes of what appeared as Death, made her believe and brought her close to fainting, again.

Clutching the book, Mallorie tried to move out from around the desk, but how would she pass the cloaked figure?

As she moved from around the desk, the thing stretched out its hand. Did it want her or the book? From the streetlight streaming into the window the hand gleamed pale, like bone. Its touch felt icy cold and stiff like that of a corpse. A shriek of fright issued from the reporter and she dropped the book. Everything went completely black as she fainted once again.


The next day, Mallorie Hancock found herself looking up into the handsome face of Christian Lawson. Sunshine flooded the room and the sofa beneath her felt soft and comfy.

“Where did it go?” She asked with faltering voice. “It stood here, in the doorway last night.”

Chris frowned a bit. “I found you lying on the floor outside my office. What did you see last night?” He placed a cool, wet washcloth on her forehead. When she tried to get up Chris gently pushed her down.

“Take it easy and drink this. You’ll feel better,” he handed her a cup of hot tea. Gingerly, she took it and sipped carefully. The warm liquid felt good sliding down her throat.

“What were you doing here?” asked Chris. “When did you arrive? I left at 8 pm. I didn’t see you.”

“It came in after before you returned from lunch. You didn’t see it?” panic sounded in her voice.”

“Okay Ms Hancock. When I left, no one was here. When I returned no one was here. ”What are you talking about? Who did you see?”

“There was only the dim light from the street, but I know it was the thing or man with the cloak and hat wearing the death’s head. The same one we saw watching the children at play just out side of the coffee shop.”

Chris frowned, trying to understand what she meant. His mind had drifted off while watching the children play, but he didn’t recall seeing a man in a hat and cloak wearing a death’s head. What was she talking about? He said to himself.

“I could hear it moving about in the room, then you came in after lunch. There really is no place to hide…” her voice trailed while he mind tried to make sense of things.

“Were you in my office when I went to lunch?” Chris didn’t like what he heard.

“Yes, yes, I picked your lock. When I heard someone at the door, I thought it was you and ducked under the desk.”

“What were you doing in here? And I could file charges of breaking and entering. What I heaven’s name were you trying to do?”

Her mind didn’t register ‘breaking and entering’. Everything seemed confused. What actually happened last evening? What did she really see?

After handing Chris the teacup and saucer, she arose and looked around for the book, The History of the Death’s Head, but couldn’t find it.

Then she whipped around with undaunted confidence and bravery and said, “I came here looking for the ledger with the posting of the death’s head your uncle sold to Pembroke and Billingsworth. But I found a research book called, The History of the Death’s Head, now I can’t find it. There is something weird about that mask…” Mallorie’s voice trailed again as Chris grabbed her arm in mid sentence and whirled her around.

“I don’t like people breaking into my office. If you want something, ask me. Secondly, I don’t know who you are talking about. I didn’t see a man in a hat and cloak watching the children at play. You rushed out like you’d seen a ghost. I only saw the kids. Lastly, Dallas Porter wanted the ledger you’re talking about. He’s just as crazy as you are. There is nothing in the ledger about a curse. My uncle is an eccentric. He could tell you a tall tale and then sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.” Chris released her arm.

“Are you saying I’m crazy? I saw what I saw. I followed that man or thing all the way to the offices of Pembroke, Billingsworth and Porter. It stood across the street looking up at the office of Dallas Porter.” Mallorie continued.

“Dallas is full of it and so are you. Next time ask me if you want something. Don’t break into my office. Now if you don’t mind, I have work to do.”

The reporter knew she had worn out her welcome. Lawson could have called the police, but he didn’t. Mallorie gathered up her purse and stormed out the door. Chris stood quietly a moment after the door slammed. Then he reached under the sofa and pulled out the book Mallorie had clutched to her breast the night before, The History of the Death’s Head. Now he realized that someone else had interest in it as well as the reporter.

Once again, he bent down and reached under the sofa and pulled out another ledger. This one was labeled, London, England. He knew what Mallorie Hancock wanted. Yet he didn’t want to share its content with her.

Going back to his desk, Lawson set both books down on a pile of papers. After seating himself, he opened the ledger and thumbed through the pages until he reached the one listing the black death’s head.

According to the notes, a warlock originally owned the death’s head. Cursen Bathory, the warlock created it from enchanted clay and used it for a number of unholy reasons. One of where he could be in several places at once and could speak without being seen. The mask eventually left his hands when he sold it to a disfigured architect who worked on the renovation of the Garnier, the opera house once known as the Paris Opera House. Warlock notes indicate if the mask was worn for too long madness occurred and the subject of the enchantment would manifest. The only way to remove the madness and stop the manifestations…summon the person who invoked the spell.

This made Chris stop cold. Summon the person who invoked the spell? That sounded like superstitions hogwash. But then, an awful lot of folks seemed interested in the mask, the ledger and anything else that had to do with it. Suddenly a sharp coldness went right through him. Was the something Mallorie saw in the office the night before still there? He felt like he was being watched.

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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:33 pm

I know Slytherliggie has some Internet trouble. Hopefully she will get it fixed and we'll see more of her.

I suppose EriksComposer and syoonchannel are busy. It is summer after all.

Still, I am posting the next chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!


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

CHAPTER 6

Office of Dallas Porter

The office chattered with faxes coming through on the fax machine. Dallas argued with someone on the phone while his administrative assistant dropped another pile of papers on this desk, along with a large mug of his favorite coffee. Porter never liked handling items that have difficulty going through customs.

Before being purchased by Charles S. Winson, another jeweler in New York, “The Eye of Brahma” or the Black Orlov an alleged cursed black diamond found its way to the Paris Opera House in 1875 where some monarch put it into a ring. Accordingly, before the final account of all the deaths incurred by its previous owners a young prima donna named Christine Daaé wore it in all her performances in Faust, especially on the night she disappeared from stage in front of hundreds of people. Rumor had it the exquisite diamond was given to her by the resident Opera Ghost, O.G., and also known as, the Phantom of the Opera. Now the cursed thing set in customs awaiting the signature of authority to pull it out and send it to Sotheby’s Auction House in New York.

Porter took a sip of coffee alternately while yelling into the telephone, when he suddenly looked up to see a haggard Chris Lawson standing at the edge of the desk staring at him with tired, bloodshot eyes.

Setting the coffee mug down, Porter said a few more sharp words to whoever sat on the other end of the phone and then slammed down the receiver.

“For Heaven’s Sake Lawson, what happened to you? You look like death wormed over,” Porter took another sip of coffee. “Sit down or say something. By the by, how did you get past my assistant?”

“With all the running round you have her doing, it wasn’t hard.” Chris replied as he fidgeted with the tail of his jacket.

“You told me you would sign for that black diamond we acquired from India, but it’s still in customs. Be a good chap and give us a signature so we can get it to Sotheby’s,” Porter handed him a clipboard with some papers attached. Lawson shook his head and pushed it away.

“Why did you send Mallorie Hancock to steal the ledger from my office? I told you there was nothing in it to help you. Get the stink away from me. As for the diamond, I’m having it returned to India. That’s where it should be anyway.”

This didn’t set well with Porter. After slamming down his coffee mug again, he rose up from his chair and moved around the desk menacingly.

“We had a deal. The Eye of Brahma would come to Sotheby’s and after the auction; you’d get 15%. More than generous I’d say. As for the reporter, I didn’t tell her to steal the bloody ledger. I told her I tried to buy it from you. Which I did. Have you gone mad? We were supposed to help each other.” Porter glared at Lawson. The closer he came to invading Lawson’s space, the more it made Chris sweat.

With a sudden burst of fire, Chris collared Dallas Porter and shoved him against the wall. “LEAVE ME ALONE! THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO FOR YOU. THE LEDGER IS WORTHLESS!” He shouted. Then he released the man’s collar. Quickly Porter pushed the crazy man aside and straightened his own clothes before telling his assistant to call security.

Chris said nothing more. Before security arrived, the dejected young man turned and headed for the door. For a brief moment, Porter ticked a look out the window and there in the office front of the building across the street stood the chap in the death’s head, wearing the fedora and cloak. Dallas Porter shuddered at the sight of it. For some reason, Chris turned back and saw the look on Porter’s face, which drained of color. This made his hands shake and his heart beat incredibly fast.

This time he had to admit seeing the thing. Why no one on the sidewalk saw it he may never know, but one thing for certain, that blame diamond ring held in customs would merely add to the impending terror. What did cloaked figure want? Why was it here? And above all, who sent it? A few questions like this crossed his mind.

Without another word, Christian Lawson ran from the office. He didn’t bother to wait for the elevator. Instead, he used the stairwell, hopping two steps at a time.

Downstairs, he raced through the revolving doors.

Gone! The thing no longer stood in the office front across the street. Where did it go? He wondered. Haunting Pembroke, Billingsworth and Porter was one thing, but haunting him? Why? First he thought to go back to his books, but then another thought hit him. His uncle.

New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue

The New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue looked like most modern library. Besides shelves and shelves of books, a particular section held rows and rows of computers and a couple of huge printers. Chris always loved the silence of a library. Many times he only wanted to hear books speak to him and not people. A few patrons nosed about looking for books, audio recordings or someone of knowledge to talk to.

Behind the reference desk sat a slender built, elderly man with thinning hair and the most intense hazel eyes anyone has ever seen. Taylor Pine. Chris’ beloved uncle who dumped all the collectables on him. The same who sold the black death’s head to Binky Billingsworth and Arthur Pembroke.

The old man’s eyes lit up at the sight of his nephew, until the young man got closer. Now he could see the worn, frazzled look in Chris’ face.

He stood up, hugged his nephew and asked what troubled him. When Chris related the weird happenings, the cloaked figure and the ring stuck in customs, the old man shuddered and shook his head.

“Walk away from it, lad,” Taylor Pine spoke in a kindly British accent with a hint of Brooklyn. “I had hoped you wouldn’t get caught up in the wake of the Phantom, but you have. Don’t bother about cataloging or anything. Chuck it all, even if you have to put it all in the garbage, just let it go.”

“Uncle Taylor, what’s happening? Is there something in my office or am I going insane?” Chris pulled up a chair and sat with head in hands.

His uncle looked away with a tear in his eyes, “a little of both I’m afraid.”

Quickly Taylor Pine brushed the tear from his eye before anyone saw it. Looking about, he recalled a book he thought might help. After whispering something to Chris, the old man toddled off to find the book.

OCCULT

The precise section Pine wanted. The book he pulled from a nearby shelf had the title, “The Curious Life Of Cursen Bathory”. It looked worn and dingy and smelled musty with a hint of dampness. Also, it held at least two inches of pages that Bathory calligraphed by hand.

Upon returning to the reference desk, Taylor Pine set the ancient tome on the counter and nudged his nephew. “Read this. Go. Sit at that table over there. I’ll be here ‘til closing time. Nothing will bother you.”

Taking the book, Chris arose from the chair, patted his uncle’s arm and moved to the table of his uncle’s choosing.



Last edited by PhantomnessFay on Thu Aug 16, 2012 10:24 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:33 pm

Hopefully everyone will soon be back to catch up.

Here is the next chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!


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

CHAPTER 7

Metropolitan Opera


Midday at the Metropolitan Opera brought a lot of hustle and bustle rehearsing for the opening of Faust, albeit, a more modern, upbeat version. Present day wardrobe replaced the 16th Century one used to tell the story of why Faust sold his sold to old scratch.

The orchestra in mid-song stopped abruptly when the diva let out a squeal as she dodged a suspended prop that nearly fell on her. A number of curse words flew threw the air as the diva rose up from the stage with the help of most of the cast and crew.

Abigail de Fiore, 28 years old reigning diva of the Met’s Faust, tossed back her silky, blond locks as she screamed out more obscenities to the director and producer of this year’s masterpiece. Accidents occurred ever since the announcement of La signorina’s agreement to play the lead role.

New York Times reporter, Mallorie Hancock stood off stage observing all the chaos, listening to foul language and most of all, watching the shadows where an eerie voice spouted out threats of death if it didn’t get its way. The disembodied voice seemed to come from everywhere at once. The entire production came to a screeching halt as the voice demanded Heather Palmaroy of Denver, Colorado, a petite young singer of about 16 years old, play the lead in Faust instead of the magnificent Le Signorina Abigail de Fiore whose fame preceded her.

At this, Mallorie shook her head as she visually searched the rafters for a sign of the blackmailer. The story sounded too much like Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. Someone had to be mimicking the beloved novel in order to get free publicity. Nothing like near death to bring a production to the public eye. In spite of the cloaked chap wearing the death’s head and hat nearly scaring her to death, Mallorie set aside all fears and began to analyze what just happened.

The cloud prop, which hung directly over the spot where Abigail would sing one of her heart wrenching songs, simply fell due to a frayed rope. Was the rope worn? Mallorie examined it. Actually it didn’t look frayed, but rather cut, a clean cut. Someone or some thing committed the act on purpose.

The voice had to come from the sound system. Although no one appeared to recognize it, she felt sure it came from the phantom she’d been chasing for a day or so.

The young reporter tried to get the diva to give her an exclusive, only to have security remove her from backstage.

However, the shy, but lovely, little Heather Palmaroy did not hesitate to tell what she knew of the “accidents”. Accordingly, they came from a secret admirer of hers. A dashing gentleman who only looked out for her best interest, since her only chaperone had been appointed by the producers since Heather’s parents could not be with her.
Dashing gentleman? Questioned Mallorie to herself. Obviously, the child suffered from reading too many Victorian romance novels or watching too many romantic comedies. No one used the phrase, “dashing gentleman” nowadays.

“Are you familiar with the story of the Phantom of the Opera?” Mallorie began her interview.

Heather smiled and in her shy, Southern way, blushed and declared it the most famous love story of all time due to the long running play by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

The reporter cleared her throat and continued. “Before it was a love story, most viewed it as a tale of horror. A grotesque but gifted eccentric gives singing lessons to a young girl at least thirty years his junior. That in itself is a bit horrifying.”

“Oh, but you didn’t understand. I love him. He is most kind and gentle. Save from the boys in my home town of Florence, South Carolina, I’ve never met a man any more of a gentleman. Why he saved my honor and life when I was attacked by three hoodlum a couple of months ago.”

The mini recorder continued running as the reporter asked her to explain. The girl’s explanation made Mallorie cringe and shudder at what it suggested.

According to Heather, she had taken a walk around the block on a warm, evening prior to sunset when three young men in their late teens or early twenties jumped her, one holding her arms behind her, while the other two attempted to kiss and fondle her. Before she could even take a breath, all three men laid dead before her on the sidewalk. From the last one a cloaked figure wearing a hat down around its face, pulled a disgusting yellowish rope from around his neck. Indeed an act of violence committed, only to save her honor and life.

For a moment, Mallorie said nothing. The recorder kept running, capturing dead air. Nothing made sense. In that brief moment of silence, she looked across the dressing room at at a poster advertising for Faust. The executive producers’ names caught her eye. Pembroke and Billingsworth. They funded the play. Binky said his business partner love the opera. So the mayhem at the Met connected with them and they had the death’s head. Some things were falling into place.

A knock at the dressing room door interrupted her thoughts. Heather called out for the person to enter. The door burst open with a crisp pop and there stood a ruggedly handsome chap with dark sandy colored hair and the most hypnotic blue eyes she’d ever seen. He towered in the doorway and ticked a look to the reporter.

“Curt, I was only chatting with Ms Hancock for a few minutes. She is a reporter from the New York Times. Ms Hancock this is our director, Cursen Bathory.” Heather finished the introductions. With a wicked smile, Bathory took Mallorie's hand and gently pressed it to his lips.

“Enchantez, mademoiselle!” he stared into her eyes, which almost stole her soul away.
She could barely speak and things began to feel surreal. Every inch of the man seduced her. The scent of his cologne intoxicated her. The sound of his voice with that lovely English accent excited her.

Heather gave a faint smile, excused herself and left the room. Bathory excused himself but asked if he could take Mallorie to dinner. Before she realized what she did, she had given him her cell phone number and resident address with permission for him to pick her up at 7 pm.

After he left the room, she felt incredibly sad and heartbroken. She wanted to be with him. How could he leave her? Then it hit her. What made her feel this way about man she just met?

Then her cell phone rang. Chris asked to see her for a few minutes. He wanted her to come to the library. His office would be closer, but he couldn’t go back there just yet. He felt the need to share his research with her. Something very interesting about a warlock named Cursen Bathory and the bad mojo he wove into the mask.

“Did you say Cursen Bathory?” Mallorie snapped back to reality.

“Yes. He’s the warlock that fashioned the death’s head from some sort of weird clay,” replied Chris on the other end of the cell.

“Are you sure about the name? Because I just met a man with that name.” Mallorie puzzled a moment.

“Yes, I’m sure. This was back in the late 1700’s. I’ve been reading his journal, penned by his own hand. It’s in the library because it has a lot to do with noted anomalies throughout history. It’s much like a “believe it or not” type of thing. Can you be here before five? I’m getting tired,” Chris finished and gave a long sigh. “Besides, I think my office is haunted by whatever you’ve been chasing.”

Quickly, Mallorie agreed to meet him right away and hung up. A lot of information and emotions ran through her mind and body. This would prove to be the most excellent story a reporter could ever ask for if she live through it. As she arose to leave the dressing room an icy chill ran through her.


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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Aug 12, 2012 11:37 am

Here is another chapter. Short but to the point. Please R&R. Enjoy!


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

CHAPTER 8

Metropolitan Opera

When people see something out of the corner of their eye, or think they see a faint silhouette, but not, they usually say, “my eyes are playing tricks on me, or shadows are playing tricks.” But is this true? Mallorie wondered about this as she pushed thorough the cast, pausing now and again when she thought something moved in the shadows or some dark, forgotten corner. Yet, a second look assured her nothing existed there. Empty space. Could this be real? Were her eyes playing tricks on her?

The exilherating voice of Cursen Bathory sent a tingling sensation through her entire being. She really wished she had nothing to do but to bask in the glory of this man, this Adonis, but unfortunately, she had to move quickly to find out what Chris babbled about on the telephone.

New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue

Finding Chris seemed quiet easy since he sat at the table near the reference desk in the far corner of the library. After polite introductions of Mallorie to his uncle Taylor Pine, Chris sat the big handwritten book before her. The caligraphy made the journal a bit difficult to read, but the accounts in the book, all hand written by Cursen Bathory deemed him a warlock of the highest magnitude and most dangerous.

Originally, a death’s head fashioned by Bathory from enchanted clay found itself in the hands of dying eccentric in 1789. The old man wanted to be healed of the many desolating ailments killing him, but above all he wanted eternal youth. For that period of time, the wish appeared common in many folks, but unfortunately, not everyone owned an enchanted death’s head. Bathory had wanted it for himself, as the properties in the mask were like no other. Doctors of that day couldn’t begin to analyse the material of the mask.

Mallorie looked up from the musty tome and glared at Chris. Other than the author of the journal having the same name of the director at the Met, she saw no reason to keep reading. Thinking the death’s head to be magic, cursed or otherwise enchanted didn’t make any sense. Things seemed crazy enough. She wouldn’t waste anymore time.

Chris saw the disbelief in her eyes. “On the phone, you told me you had just met a man by the name of Cursen Bathory. Isn’t that a little too coincidental?”

“The name means nothing. Many people are actually named John Smith or John Jones, but it doesn’t mean they are using an alias,” the young woman snapped. Deep down she knew he spoke the truth, but she didn’t want him or anyone to know that something did lurk in the shadows of the Met; disembodied voices whispered in the great halls, and the unseen waited patiently in the dark.

Without a word, Chris turned to the page nearing the back of the book. The author left a sketch of himself. Not common for journals of that time, but the emphasis of remaining the way he looked in 1789 needed to be made.

A rather loud, unexpected gasp left the reporter’s lips. Uncle Taylor shook his head knowingly. The sketch looked just like the man who called himself the director of the Met’s Faust. On his finger, the Eye of Brahma, or Black Orlov the black cursed diamond. Chris recognized it and so did Uncle Taylor, but Mallorie refused to hear anymore. The very thought of Cursen Bathory, the man she met, made her weak in the knees. She craved him and nothing in the world would make her believe he would be over two hundred years old. Nothing!

Chris wanted to tell her what he experienced the night before, that something unseen had settled in his office. Probably the same cloaked figure wearing the fedora and death’s head, but Mallorie refused to listen. Abruptly she arose and said a few choice words to Chris. She used low, quiet tones so as not to disturb other library patrons, but the level did rise now and again.

At the moment, she forgot how frightened she felt that night in Chris’ office; alone, in the dark while an unseen entity watched in the dark, and then tried to reveal itself. No longer did she shudder at the whispers in the great halls or roaming shadows in the Met creating accidents. All she could think of --- Cursen Bathory, his lips, his arms, and, and then she blushed at her naughty thoughts, and turned on her heels to leave.



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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Thu Aug 16, 2012 7:49 am

Hey guys!
Wow! New story!!!!

It has great plot and I love it!!!!
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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Thu Aug 16, 2012 10:21 am

Syoonchannel, good to see you. I am so happy you like this new story.

Did you ever finish Erik's Journal? I completed that a little while ago.

More to come on Curse of Collecting. Stay tuned.

Thanks!
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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:02 pm

I can't beliave my previous post here didn't go through! I am so so sorry! This is getting so intriguing, I promise you, I am nailed to my chair! Please do continue again soon? I would love to see what happens next.



Ps. Go have a look on my facebook profile - my birthday cake I uploaded yesterday. It was epic!

Loads of love
D
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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:44 pm

Slytherliggie is it your birthday? The cake is gorgeous! A Phantom of the Opera Cake. I love it. Here is a belated wish for a Happy Birthday!

Your kind words made my day. Thank you so much.

Here is the next chapter. R&R. Enjoy!

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

CHAPTER 9

Sidewalk outside the Library


The streets grew very busy during the close of business each day. Cars of all types jammed the road, as well as honking taxis and crazy delivery trucks. Vehicle fumes polluted the air and burned the eyes, yet no one noticed the cloaked chap with the hat pulled down tightly around his face lurking in the doorway of an empty building that used to be a stationary store. The only reaction to his existence happened when an old man stopped to allow his cockapoo to sniff around. At the very whiff of the stranger, the dog looked up into empty hollow and yelped. Then it took off like a bullet dragging its elderly owner behind it.

Mallorie Hancock burst through the library doors and out on the sidewalk. Turmoil rumbled throughout her being. The big clock on the nearby bank building said five o’clock. She needed time to think before having dinner with Mr. Cursen Bathory who may or may not be a two hundred plus year old warlock. The uneasiness returned. Especially when she saw the cloaked figure in the doorway across the street.

On her heels came Chris from the library. He felt like they still needed to talk, but she refused. His heart seemed to leap into his throat at the sight of the cloaked thing with the fedora. Mallorie ticked a look from it to Chris.

“Not now. I need to get ready for dinner. Get out of my way,” she demanded. Chris wouldn’t budge. He pretty much knew with whom she would have dinner.

“You are not listening to me. You followed that thing across the street for an entire day and then thought you saw it in my office. Well it is in the office. I felt it and thought I saw something.” This made the reporter stop and take notice.

“I know you’re a big girl and all, but you need to consider who this Cursen Bathory really is. My uncle is trying to help us. If you want a story, then talk to me instead of running off.” Chris looked determined.

With a long sigh, Mallorie agreed to call him after her dinner date. If Bathory was what Chris suspected, then she would need to know the subject better in order to get the facts for her article. However, this could mean risking life and limp for the story of the century. But that was all a reporter lived for, a scoop, an exclusive on the most fascinating story ever.

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

For some reason the young reporter felt unusually sensual this evening. After a luxurious bubble bath, Mallorie slipped into a slinky, clinging black sleeves dress, which hugged every curve and stopped just three inches above the knee. She thought to put up her soft dark tresses, but if Mr. Bathory had his way, her hair would be cascading down about her beautiful face and shoulders.

A black Cadillac Escalade came for her, complete with a chauffeur and Mr. Bathory. He didn’t want a limousine; it attracted too much attention.

In truth, a handsome man of any age, especially with money, commonly attracted the opposite sex, but Cursen Bathory did so as if he held celebrity status. As soon as he stepped out of the car, women began to gather around him. The chauffeur had to act as a bodyguard to help him make his way pass the doorman and into the apartment house.

With the craving she had for him, Mallorie couldn’t wait in her apartment. She got swept up in the group of women ogling at the man and trying to rip off his clothes. Quickly, he collected the beautiful young reporter and hurried her into this Cadillac Escalade.

For a while, the evening went on with much flirtation, a lot of champagne, excessive laughter and idle chatter. Something came over the young reporter that made her forget the real reason she should be talking to the director of Faust. At the moment, she forgot everything, except those gorgeous baby blues and the craving she had for his lips and arms.

After some time, the restaurant became too crowded for the Bathory, so he took her to his penthouse. Here they would be alone.

Mallorie had boyfriends in the past, but none made her feel like the director of Faust. His lips fired a passion that tingled up and down her spine and then directly to her groins. The woman lost all will to say “no”. At the moment, this man could do anything he wanted to her, anything…especially since his lips gave her butterfly kisses down her throat as they moved down to her bosom.

Out of the blue, her cell phone rang. Lust clouded her mind and all she could hear were the beating of two hearts. When she didn’t answer her cell, several very loud knocks came to the door; a persistent knocking that nearly brought the house down.

The look on Cursen Bathory’s face could almost kill. He flushed a deep scarlet and his eyes blazed with murder. Without a word, he jumped up, removed his shirt, which barely hung from his beautiful body and threw it on the floor. Mallorie laid on the sofa in only her bra and panties.

In anger, Bathory flung open the door to find Christian Lawson with his mouth open, trying to make up an excuse. Before Chris could say anything, two mighty hands grabbed him up by the shoulders and tossed him across the room, destroy a couple of potted plants and shattering the glass door leading to the balcony.

The sound of shattering glass and the scream of a familiar voice snapped Mallorie out of her trance. Immediately, she realized she needed clothes and quickly found her dress and slipped it on, as she yelled at her would-be-lover to stop killing her friend. Yes, at this moment, she had to admit to herself that Lawson was indeed a friend.

”Please, stop! You’ll kill him. He’s a friend. He didn’t mean any harm!” shouted Mallorie at the top of her lungs.

Chris scrambled to get away from the crushing hands of the man with blazing eyes.

Cursen paid her no attention and continued charging his opponent, when Mallorie came between them, begging for the young man’s life.

“What is he to you? Looks like more than a friend.” Jerking about, he backed Chris against the wall, amid Mallorie screaming and begging for his life, grabbed him by he shoulders and threw him through the open door.

Turning to his object of affection, he ordered her out of his apartment.

“I’ll have my chauffeur drive you home,” he snapped labored for breath.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know…” Mallorie tried to apologize, but Cursen cut her off.

“Just get out,” he snapped again. At that moment, his brawny chauffeur appeared in the doorway.

“Please take Miss Hancock home. I want to be left alone.” With that he gathered up his shirt and sent into the bedroom. Mallorie could say nothing. Her mouth agape, she looked around her in shock. The chauffeur motioned for her to come with him.

As they reached the hallway, Chris had disappeared. Where did he go?

Downstairs in the garage, the chauffeur opened the back door for her. She adjusted her dress and then slid into the seat. The door closed. Without a word, the chauffeur climbed into the driver’s seat and slammed the door. Before they left the underground garage, a shadow shifted. Mallorie blinked hard a couple of times. The chauffeur saw it as well, since he sat silently staring out the windshield. The locks clicked. Then he warned her to remain in the car no matter what happened until they reached her residence.

“You see it too? The shadow I mean,” the reporter gripped her clutch tightly.

“It’s always here. Watching. Waiting, ” came the reply.

“Watching and waiting for what?”

“For my master.”

“You mean your employer, don’t you?

“He is my master. Now be silent.” With that, the engine started and Escalade took off amid the darting shadows.



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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Aug 26, 2012 1:01 pm

Looks like the last days of August are keeping everyone busy. Cheers to all.

Here is the next chapter. Please R&R even if it is short. Enjoy!


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

CHAPTER 10

Headlines

Article in the New York Times by Mallorie Hancock:

OCCURANCES AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA ACCIDENTS OR HAUNTINGS?

For the past ten months the Metropolitan Opera or Met as fans lovingly call it, has experienced falling props from high over the stage, a large number of cast and crew slipping and falling, sheet music disappearing, as well as strange whispers and shadows moving in dark corners. This sounds like the plot for a Stephen King novel, but these are all eyewitness accounts given by the cast and crew of Faust, the Met’s next production.

Le Signorina Abigail de Fiore the Met’s current diva and star of Faust was nearly crushed when a heavy prop suspended over the stage fell and nearly killed her yesterday. Le Signorina was not available for comments, however she is unharmed, but very shakened.

Cursen Bathory, director of Faust also available for comments, did announce rehearsals would cease for the next two weeks until police investigations has been made of the unfortunate incidents.

Rumor has it that the ghost that used to haunt the famed Garnier or Paris Opera, commonly referred to as the Paris Opera House, now resides at the Met and is up to his old tricks of accidents and blackmail. For those of you not familiar with the description, I am referring to The Phantom of the Opera best known from the novel by Gaston Leroux and the long running Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

This reporter gives no personal statements until police investigations are complete. Therefore, the questions is posed, what do you, the reader think? Accident or haunting?



Cursen Bathory tossed the newspaper on the breakfast table. The frown on his handsome face made it clear the article not only displeased, but also upset him. He never wanted this in the paper, any paper.

The telephone rang as Bathory sat sipping his coffee. His chauffeur, who served as his butler, cook and housekeeper answered it. Upon covering the mouthpiece, he announced that Binky Billingsworth wanted to speak to him.

Without a word, Bathory held out his hand for the telephone.

Binky announced the receipt of the black diamond called the Eye of Brahma, or Black Orlov and asked if he wanted to pick it up.

“I understand you have the mask as well,” said Cursen Bathory in his refined English accent. Something about his demeanor seemed to change, not just his mood, but his physical features as well.

The chauffeur knew to stay away from his master when he began to change like this.

“Yes, we have the mask, but I cannot release it until you tell me what I need to know,” retorted Binky. His voice sounded gruff and impatient.

Bathory did not address the mask again. Instead he agreed to pick up the ring and then hung up.

The chauffeur said nothing more, but left the room quickly. Bathory’s eyes blazed with tiny gold/orange flames. His entire body erupted with a crimson glow. Sustaining the amount of magick in his body made it difficult to handle when he grew angry. Mallorie had promised no publicity, but clearly in front of him, in black and white set the article she vowed she wouldn’t write.

The second thing, which angered him, came when Binky refused to give him what rightfully belonged to him, the death’s head. Misuse of the mask could drive the wearer mad, among other things and apparently the other things now manifested themselves.

Mortals appeared as such fools. Now he’d have to show them the difference between a haunting and an accident. And above all what is really meant by cursed.



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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:49 am

Awesome! I wonder what Bathory is going to let happen? And is he involved in the 'hauntings'? Please do continue again soon, my friend!
D Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Sep 02, 2012 12:41 pm

Thank you Slytherliggie. You pose some very good questions. Very good indeed. We shall see.

Here is the next chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!


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

CHAPTER 11

Gracie Square Hospital


The mental health care unit of the hospital seemed unusually full this time of year. Since Arthur Pembroke had the means for private housing on the premises, he took full advantage of the facility so that he and his unseen friend could be alone.

All the nurses, male and female as well as doctors had all seen pretty much all types of mental illness, but the kind that Dr. Edward Morales tried to diagnose for Pembroke sent chills through the staff. Commonly patients have a conversations with themselves, but when the game pieces, in this case chess, moved on its own, this scared the living daylights out of everyone, including the good Dr. Morales, an elderly man with stooped shoulders and a great receding hairline with a fringe of pure white hair.

The voice answering Pembroke clearly did not belong to him. It came in a deep whisper with menacing tones. The laughter, however, came in hideous, extremely loud outbursts; some might say maniacal, which grew in volume.

Binky Billingsworth sat with Pembroke in his private quarters while he sported the death’s head. Binky felt this really caused all the trouble. Trying to keep the mask away from his business partner deemed impossible once Pembroke had the thing in his possession.

With the death’s head on, Pembroke lost all of his own personality and identity and became someone very different from himself and very cunning, if not evil. His voice changed to that of the disembodied one that would answer him when he didn’t wear the mask. He would walk around wearing a black felt fedora and lavish ebony colored cloak with a dark suite.

At first, Binky thought his friend merely acted out his thoughts as an exercise prescribed by the doctor, but not so. No acting involved. Pembroke did not pretend to be what he called the Opera Ghost he became the Opera Ghost.

At the moment, Binky sat patiently waiting for Cursen Bathory to meet them at the hospital, as he listened to the chattering of the thing possessing his business partner’s mind. If Bathory hadn’t insisted on meeting them at the hospital, he would rather have met at the office. At least it didn’t appear haunted, as did the hospital.

Cursen Bathory burst through the door, his dark blond hair tossed about, his ruggedly handsome look shadowed with turmoil.

The Opera Ghost saw him first and began to recite something in French that gave Binky goose bumps. Bathory ticked a look to the chattering cloaked creature.

“The death’s head is mine and so is the Eye of Brahma,” Bathory referred to the ring.

“I would gladly part with the mask, but I find it impossible to get back from him, especially when he is wearing it. It seems to become his second skin. As for the ring, that does not come without cost. It took me nearly two years to find it and I’ve lost three employees to boot. I don’t know what you are Cursen Bathory, but regret ever meeting you,” huffed Binky. The Opera Ghost had since fallen quiet as it eyed Bathory through dark, empty hollows.

“He really is the Phantom, isn’t he?” Bathory walked around and around the now silent figure. “The death’s head suites him.”

“Confounded man, the bloody thing has driven him mad,” Binky raised his voice.

“Not so. It has made him more sensitive to the world we cannot see. Shall I say to other worldly things,” Bathory grinned wickedly.

“And the ring? What do you want with the ring? You don’t appear to be a lover of fine jewelry. The bloody thing is cursed like this damnable mask,” Binky got up and moved toward the door.

Cursen Bathory sat in the chair quietly for a moment to study the creature in the cloak. The thing cocked its head from side to side like a beast studying its prey. Poor Binky shuddered to be in their presence.

“Who are you anyway?” came the question directed at Bathory.

For another moment, he remained silent. He had to choose his words carefully, He couldn’t just blast him with a surge of magick like in the old days. The 18th Century seemed so much simpler then. One could eradicate ones enemies without a single thought to consequences. Nowadays he’d have to contend with the letter of the law, police chases, arrests, attorneys, and jail. Of course he could make them all disappear, but he still had to give an account of his actions to warlocks over him. With magick and supernatural beings there was a code of ethics. One wrong move could ruin his reputation and his disguise as a director of fine plays. Yes, yes, there was too much at stake in the modern world. Blast the modern world!

Without another word Binky motioned for Bathory to follow him as he left the room. When they reached the outdoors, the warlock asked what he planned to do with his nutty business partner. This made Binky blurt out the thing, which had been bothering him for a long time.

“All this insane business started with the mask. Then you show up asking about it and the ring. Ever since we acquired the blasted mask something that looks like the Phantom wearing the death’s head has been following me and my other business partner. It’s nerve racking. Everywhere we go we see this thing in a cloak and hat looking like the bloody grim reaper. I’ll gladly get you the ring and somehow get that mask away from Arthur if you will get rid of the bloody ghost that haunts us!” Binky looked him square in the eye as he spoke in low, distraught tones.

Cursen Bathory gave a lopsided smile. He had them where he wanted them.

From Pembroke’s private quarters a strange, other worldly voice reminded, “Remember, I am not to be toyed with and cannot be banished.” At this the men turned the creature in the hat and cloak. Even Bathory had a chill run through him.

With the black death’s head on, Arthur Pembroke looked like a decaying skeleton with clothes. The hollows for eyes burned with tiny embers. Cursen Bathory considered himself a fine warlock, but the Opera Ghost had powers of his own, even from the grave.



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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Sep 09, 2012 12:22 pm

Looks like no one has visited this thread. Hopefully someone will be by soon.

Here is another chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!

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

CHAPTER 12

Metropolitan Opera Main Stage

A couple of police detectives piddled around the main stage of the Met examining props, especially the last one that dropped from the ceiling. They bagged it and took it for closer examination.

Cursen Bathory gave his statement to the tall stocky built detective name O’Brien. The other one called Reynolds got a statement from diva Abigail de Fiore and newcomer Heather Palmaroy.

The diva seemed more angry than scared. Her eyes flamed with such deep emotion. When she spoke her words seemed to rattle off with the same even tone of a jackhammer.

Heather on the other hand, spoke with soft, gentle words, almost shy, but never a harsh word for whoever caused the “accidents”. After all, an “accident” happened unplanned and unintentional according to the young singer. Faint laughter floated in the atmosphere. Both detectives’ ears perked up. They heard the laugh, but as they slowly surveyed the stage and the empty seats where the audience usually sat, they found nothing out of place.

Reporter Mallorie Hancock watched tentatively from the shadows. At the moment, she couldn’t face Cursen Bathory after the way Chris ruined her evening with Bathory and after she printed her first article on the chaos happening at the Met.

From the distant dark corner she could still see the upset and discontent in Bathory’s face. As she eavesdropped on the investigation, she felt as if something lingered in the shadows with her. The laugh sounded fairly close. She suspected an unhappy crew member getting back the Met for a pay dispute or some minor, but common employee complaint, yet she only saw shadows moving around her, and heard disembodied laughter and a voice or two.

The entire walk through, bagging evidence and getting statements took about an hour. Actually, the detectives thought the entire string of accidents stemmed from a prank. Who played the prank, they didn’t know yet, but from just eyeballing the scene, witness’ accounts and the evidence, this deemed no more than a childish prank. They want to close the case then and there, but their superior had asked them to at least go through the motions of an honest and true investigation before announcing they’re suspicions.

As the detectives turned to step off the stage, a rather large bag of sand, used as a counter weight for the curtains came plummeting down to the stage in a rather quick and abrupt fashion. It missed both detectives by a hair’s breadth.

This showed a whole new light on the investigation. The rope on the sand bag, like the one bagged, displayed a clean cut. No frayed edges. It looked deliberate. Both detectives went through every corner and every inch of the catwalk, stage and backstage. They even combed the orchestra pit.

Nothing.

The director and two cast members of Faust left at the permission of the police. Only the detectives hung back for one more look, before they, too, cleared out. Mallorie made sure to keep hidden. Something or someone other than she lurked in the dark. If she were superstitious she may have believed that the Opera Ghost haunted the Met, but reason stared in the face. Impossible!

Then without notice, a darkly clad figure stepped out into the dimmed stage light. It wore a hat pulled down around its face and a long, black cloak. When it turned around, Mallorie let out a tiny gasp. A black death’s head tends to melt into the shadows, but the tiny embers illuminating the empty hollows appeared rather disturbing. After all, could a human skeleton actually be responsible for dropping things down on selected people? Mallorie shuddered. Part of her wanted to leave, but the reporter half wanted this story very badly.

The same reporter half of her nearly made her step out to approach the death’s head figure, but Cursen Bathory strode back on stage and addressed the thing. He knew it. Called it by name. Wait! What was the name? She didn’t quite hear it, since Cursen chose to speak so quietly.

The cloaked thing nodded its head in agreement and then vanished back into the dark from whence it came. This time Cursen hung back and visually surveyed the theatre. What did he know? Why did he know this cloaked thing that haunted her and the business partners of Pembroke, Billingsworth and Porter?

Office of Chris Lawson

Late afternoon found the Lawson office quiet and deserted. Faint footsteps broke the silence as did faint sounds of paper rattling. The fading light of day soon gave way to the uncertain shadows of twilight. Things moved in the closer as darkness spread across the city. Streetlights shown through the windows giving an eerie look to the empty office. More movement produced the ledger Dallas Porter wanted to buy, but Chris refused.

A rustle sounded from the door. The office fell quiet. Chris Lawson flung open the door and flipped on the lights. Alone, he hesitated in the doorway. Remembering his feelings of being watched drifted back to him. Such a feeling felt scarier than knowing what/who watched him.

He stepped over the threshold and closed the door behind him. As he carefully looked about, all seemed undisturbed and in its place. His gaze dropped to the boxes under the table against the bare window. There the gapping flaps of the open boxes appeared to mock him. Obviously someone had rummaged through them looking for something.

Quickly, he went to the boxes and looked through them. The ledger was gone. But who? Mallorie? At one time she had looked for it. Did she return for another look and get lucky? Surely he thought that the book was safe.

A faint noise came from the next room where his desk stood. Carefully, Chris moved to the room and flipped on the light. There standing by the window stood a cloaked figure with the fedora pulled down tightly around the face.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” Demanded Chris, trying to hide the tremor in his voice.

To his surprise, an actual human voice came from the cloaked figure as it removed the hat. There, standing before him…Arthur Pembroke.

“My apologies ol’chap. Didn’t mean to startle you, but you have something I need to borrow. This bloody ledger,” Pembroke drew the ledger from beneath his cloak.

“I know you have questions. Suffice it to say the black death’s head you’ve heard about has driven me to the point of insanity on occasions. However, I’m not too far gone to know that someone else is playing the game.”

“What are you taking about? My uncle sold you the death’s head. Everyone said that you were in the funny farm. So how is it you break into my office, dressed for Halloween and talk to me as calm and sane as anyone I know? How do you know me and how to find my office? What’s going on?” This time Chris grew angry. All fear fled. He felt like someone played him for a fool and at the moment, he wanted to knock Arthur Pembroke winding.


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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:52 pm

Goodness it's quiet. No Slytherliggie, no EriksComposer and no syoonchannel. Hope everybody is well.

Anyway here is a short chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!


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


CHAPTER 13

Office of Chris Lawson


Chris glared at the cloaked figure with much fire. What excuse did Pembroke have for breaking and entering? Whatever the reason it would not be acceptable. Chris reached for the ledger, but Pembroke withdrew the book and placed it back into the inside of his cloak.

“I’ll return it when I have reviewed it,” he replied.

“I am not giving you permission. Give it back or I’ll take it back. And while you’re here looking like the Phantom, what is wrong with you? You tell me the mask has driven you insane at times. I hear you are in Gracie Square Hospital. How did you get out?”

Lawson took a step toward the cloaked man. Pembroke backed up and whipped out a rope-like thing from the inside of his cloak. It had a sickening yellow color. He didn’t feel like answering anymore stupid questions. He wanted out. The ledger he had and he’d only come for that.

Not recalling the story of the Phantom of the Opera, Chris did not recognize the yellowish colored rope as the Punjab Lasso, the signature weapon of the infamous Opera Ghost. Therefore, he took another step without raising his hand to the level of his eyes and immediately got the surprise of his life when the rope looped around his neck and tightened with an unearthly grip.

Air no longer flowed into his lungs. The Lasso now crushed his windpipe. Gasping in panic, Chris Lawson frantically clawed at the rope. The world around him grew dim. Somewhere in the decreasing light he heard another voice, but couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. Muffled sounds and a different voice addressed his assailant. He heard himself gagging in the panic for air. In a moment all went black.

Outside the Metropolitan Opera

On the sidewalk just outside the Met, Mallorie Hancock listened to her cell phone ring the office telephone of Chris Lawson. She wanted to share her findings and suspicions with him, but he didn’t pick up. If only she had his cell phone number. Quickly she hung up and stared about her for a moment. So far, the sidewalks looked normal. No cloaked man with a hat lurked in storefronts or on street corners. What a relief!

As she turned to hail a taxi, she spied Cursen Bathory getting into a black Cadillac Escalade driven by his chauffeur. Not wanting him to see her, she stepped back into the crowd, but too late. His chauffeur stepped out of the car and approached her.

“My master wishes your presence. I am to drive you home or anywhere you wish,” said the chauffeur. He stared at her with dark eyes that seemed to have no whites. Bathory certainly scared her, but so did the man in his employ. And why did he always insist in calling Bathory his master?

“I have an errand to run. I’ll just take a taxi. But thanks anyway,” nervous Mallorie tried not to trip over her words. At the moment, unnerved seemed like an understatement. She felt terrified. For some reason she could sense the icy stare coming from the Cadillac Escalade.

The chauffeur would not take “no” for an answer and reached out for her arm, but for some reason she knew what he’d do, so she backed up and quickly turned on her heels and pushed her way into the crowd. Cursing under his breath, the towering chauffeur lumbered after her.


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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:04 pm

Still too quiet. Where is everybody? Perhaps with school starting everyone is busy.

Anyway, here is the next chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!

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

CHAPTER 14

Office of Chris Lawson


The office fell quiet after all the gagging and strangling stopped. Pembroke loosened the lasso allowing Lawson’s unconscious body to hit the floor with a gruesome thud. Still in his dark cloak and hat he ticked a looked in direction of the voice giving him direction. There by the closed door stood a very tall, gaunt man with the most hideous disfigured face he’d ever seen. The face alone looked like a death’s head. The hollows held eyes sunken so deeply, they almost went unnoticed, except for the occasional glint of light that struck them at selected times. A few sprigs of black hair hung about the back of his neck and few more scattered about his head. And lips, well there didn’t appear to be any. No nose either. He looked like a living skeleton. The looked like yellow parchment.

Pembroke referred to him as O.G. or Lord Spectre. The thing looked more like demon than man. He, too, wore a black cloak, but no hat. Pembroke handed him the death’s head, which he promptly place over his horrible face.

“Please remember not to kill for everything. This puts you in more jeopardy of getting caught. They already have you in a lunatic asylum. At least it’s better than le Pitié-Salpêtrière.” O.G. sputtered a bit with a light French accent behind the mask. Wearing it caused his voice to sound muffled or eerily ethereal. Pembroke said nothing. O.G. floated through the door with Pembroke close behind, only he had to literally open the door to leave. That is the problem with being corporal; you can’t walk through walls or float through doors.

As the two made their way to the elevator, O.G. reminded Pembroke what purpose he had in life. Arthur Pembroke nodded in agreement. The elevator doors opened and the two stepped in. The doors closed.

Back in Lawson’s office, the telephone rang several times, before Chris began to rally. Holding his throat and gasping, he looked about for the ringing phone. Try as he did, he couldn’t seem to pull himself up. Getting oxygen into his lungs seemed difficult. He nearly died. Finally after much panic and gasping he began to suck in air as normal.

Then it occurred to him that another person stood in the room giving direction while Pembroke strangled him. But who?

The ringing persisted. At last Chris rolled over and forced himself to stand. Then he shuffled to the desk where the telephone sat. With a faint whisper of a voice, the poor man answered the phone.

“Chris? Is that you?” he recognized the voice on the other end as Mallorie Hancock.

“It…it’s me,” he stammered a whisper.

“Are you okay? You sound terrible.”

“Your friend Arthur Pembroke tried to kill me,” came the reply.

“What? I’ll be over there in a few minutes. Just stay where you are,” and with that Mallorie hung up.

Chris couldn’t go anywhere, even if he wanted to. He still had trouble getting airflow into his lungs and he still felt light headed.

As he fell back into the chair behind his desk, he found himself drifting. Not dead, but not very alive. Voices swam around in his head, as did faces, some he knew and others he didn’t. A ring popped into view, a black diamond ring. Then the death’s head appeared and lastly Cursen Bathory. The very person he didn’t want to see. An eerie glow pulsed behind Bathory and the look he gave could kill.

The next thing he knew a cold compress mopped his brow and a sweet feminine voice said his name. As he slowly came back to the real world, the lovely face of Mallorie Hancock came into focus.

“Come on Chris. Stay with me. I’ve got to get you to a doctor or at least out of here. I just provoked old scratch and he’s after me.” The young woman pulled the half conscious man to his feet. The poor man rubbed his throat and then coughed a little.

She half dragged him into the hallway, slammed the door behind them and pulled him toward the elevator. From the count down of floors, someone was on their way up to them. The young reporter’s eyes widened in fear as she repeatedly punched the button to go down. Still, she didn’t hear another car coming up, only the first one, which was almost there.

With a pounding heart full of fear, Mallorie helped Chris to the stairwell where they began a long and arduous decent.

Each step down made Chris strain for breath. His throat still felt tight and he could still feel the sickening yellow lasso tightening around his neck. The only thing that seemed to light a fire under him came when Mallorie said, “Do you want to die? If you don’t move faster, neither of us will see tomorrow.”

A statement that sent a chill through him and made his feet wake up and take flight. Suddenly, he moved so quickly he nearly left the young reporter behind.

Twelve floors. The two scrambled down the stairs from the twelfth floor and not a moment too soon. Outside, they saw the black Cadillac Escalade waiting in the taxi zone. Mallorie identified the car as belonging to Cursen Bathory, which lit another proverbial fire under her gasping companion.
Quickly, they slipped into the crowd and headed the opposite direction from where the Escalade pointed. Never in their lives had they felt such terror. Fear of a mere mortal trying to kill them couldn’t feel as terrifying as the horror of a supernatural power.

After running for so many blocks, they finally hailed a taxi and ended up at the library where dear Uncle Taylor worked.

As they stumbled into the building, they stared about them. The library appeared normal. People of all ages, color and creed sat or wandered about with their books. In the far corner at the rear of the ground floor, they could see Taylor’s desk. Without a word, they hurried to him.

However, as the drew closer, they saw him talking to a tall thin figure in a black cloak and ebony colored fedora. This stopped them dead in their tracks.



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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:19 pm

Again too quiet. Hope someone comes by soon.

Here is the next chapter. Please R&R. Enjoy!

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

CHAPTER 15

Inside New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue

The library seemed pretty crowd for a weekday. People bustled all around Chris’ Uncle Taylor and the tall, thin person in the black cloak and fedora. A few greeted his uncle and some stopped for directions, but no one seemed to notice the cloaked figure.

Mallorie pushed Chris aside, since he still seemed to have a problem recovering from nearly being strangled to death. He lingered at the front, rubbing his throat, as he coughed now and again.

When the young woman moved closer the figure seemed to fade until it vanished.

“Taylor, do you remember me?” asked the reporter, as she got closer.

A big smile crossed the old man’s face. “Of course I do. Mallorie isn’t it? Reporter from the New York Times, right?” he replied in a gentle English accent.

“Right.” At this, she turned back to where Chris lingered and motioned for him to come to her and his uncle. “Who were you talking to?” she asked as she turned back to the old man.

“Talking to? I wasn’t talking to anyone particular. Several asked me where certain books or authors were. Some just say “hello”. Taylor Pine puzzled at her question.

“When we walked in, you were talking to a tall, thin man in a dark cloak and hat,” Mallorie grew fearful and her brows knitted together. This all seemed like a nightmare. Could there really have been a Phantom of the Opera? Did this spectre now haunt her and the New York Metropolitan?

“No one like that has been in here to my knowledge, let alone talking to me. Are you sure?” Uncle Taylor grew suspicious as well as fearful.

“Yes,” replied Chris as he drew closer. “We saw him and you, but when Mallorie got real close, he seemed to vanish.”

“It’s the curse!” the old man hissed under his breath.

“Your curse tried to strangle me earlier in my office,” the young man moved around the tall desk where his uncle normally sat and made himself at home in the comfy office chair.

Uncle Taylor frowned and asked him to explain. After recalling the incident with Arthur Pembroke, dressed like the Phantom of the Opera and trying to strangle him, he then asked what was really in the ledger that everybody wanted? He’d read it over several times. Sure there were descriptions of items purchased and sold, but what could possibly be in there that anyone would want to kill for? Had Dallas Porter sent his business partner to do what he couldn’t?

“Are you sure it was Pembroke? He’s been put away in Gracie Square for some time now.” Uncle Taylor puzzled.

“I’m sure. He’s been in the news enough. I even called him by name. When I tried to take the ledger from him he whipped out some sort of weird yellow rope and tried to choke the life out of me.”

“The Punjab Lasso,” muttered his uncle half aloud. His mind wandered visions of a cloaked monster strangling people with its signature weapon.

“The what?” Chris frowned.

“The lasso the Phantom is famous for using to kill his victims,” replied Mallorie.

“It’s made of catgut. Originated in India many years ago when he was there as a young man,” added his uncle.

“Come on. I don’t believe in curses or the Phantom. The nut that tried to kill me was a man, not a ghost.”

“Shooo, keep your voice down. This is a library,” reminded his uncle. Then he whispered for them to meet him at his apartment at 8 pm, when he got off work. Chris and Mallorie protested. They needed help now, but the old man persisted, so they took the key he offered and left the library to hail a taxi.

As soon as the young man and woman left the building, Taylor Pine turned to the bookshelves in the corner. Someone or something peered from around the shelves. The eyes blazed like tiny flames. Then it disappeared all at once.


Taylor Pine’s Apartment

Pine lived in a small section of Queens in a shabby little apartment on the fifteenth floor. If the building had an elevator living upstairs would be great, but after climbing fifteen floors, one could get pretty worn out, especially since fear ruled the mind and the body labored to get back to normal after having the life nearly choked out of it. Poor Chris felt this way. He throat had opened up more, but after fifteen floors, gasping became necessary. Mallorie helped as much as she could, then finally they reached their destination.

Inside, the room appeared barren except for a ratty sofa, a few scattered chairs and a scarred up table near the stove and refrigerator. Obviously used to eat on and whatever.

Bits of plaster peeled off from the walls and ceiling. A couple of windows covered with raggedy curtains of faded flowers adorned the room. Since they found no bedroom, Mallorie investigated the sofa and found the pull out bed.

As soon as Chris laid down, footsteps sounded ascending the stairs. The two kept quiet and remained in the dark. A little sun shone outside, but not much. The only other apartment on this floor stood across the hall. However, the footsteps stopped at Taylor Pine’s door. Had his uncle gotten off early?

The doorknob rattled. Mallorie and Chris said nothing. Neither moved a muscle. Generally, the two never showed fear. Chris grew up in a rough neighborhood and knew how to handle himself, until snagged by the Punjab Lasso. Even Mallorie knew her way around the rough parts of New York, especially if she wanted a story, but this thing at the door made a chill run through both of them.

Scuffling sounded in the hall and then a very loud knock came to the door several times, then to the walls around it. If this had been the manager or landlord, they would have identified themselves and opened the door with a key. This knocking seemed very much out of order. Especially the knocking all around the door.

After a bit, all fell silent. Nothing moved in the hall. No footsteps went downstairs and none moved to the apartment across the hall? Was someone or something just standing at the door?

Gingerly Mallorie tiptoed from the pull out bed to the door. Putting her ear to the door she listened to see if she could hear the slightest movement, but to hear surprise, she heard breathing. Laborious, almost panting-like breathing, if one can call that breathing. The sound startled her and she made a soft, ever so quiet gasp, but whatever stood on the other side heard her and again pounded on the door.

Both she and Chris drained of color and their hearts seemed pretty close to being in their throats as the pounding continued along with the heavy breathing.


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PostSubject: Re: Curse of Collecting   Sun Oct 07, 2012 1:23 pm

Once again I am all alone. Crying or Very sad

Hope someone comes by to read soon. Here is a short chapter, but it is meaningful.

Please R&R. Enjoy!


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

CHAPTER 16

Inside story of the New York Times


ACCIDENTS AND DISEMBODIED VOICES AT THE MET

Investigations are still under way at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in conjunction with the alleged “accidents”. For several months objects dropping from catwalks overhead and warnings from a disembodied male voice have threatened the cast and crew of Cursen Bathory’s Faust.

As police Dets. Reynolds and O’Brien comb the theatre for clues it seems they have encountered falling backdrops and sand bag counter weights as well. Both detectives were nearly squashed by falling objects that seemed to have been hurled at them or by ropes deliberately cut by someone or something known. Voices seem to come from nowhere directing threats as well. Det. Reynolds, a 15-year veteran of the New York Police department says they have even received strange notes written in red ink demanding that they leave or suffer the consequences. No conclusions or speculation from New York’s finest yet.

At the moment, the search of the theatre has not turned up any clues as to why the accidents continue or who owns the threatening voice. Specialists working with the police have been brought in as consultants. For now, these specialists wish to remain nameless until they have completed their investigation.

Most of the cast and crew swear the Met is haunted. This is the 21st Century. Do we still believe in ghosts?


The article didn’t really say much, but it did show that the police still searched for a reason the accidents and threats kept happening. To Cursen Bathory this sounded way too much like the workings of an old customer, one who went by several names, O.G., Opera Ghost, The Phantom of the Opera, but to him, he was just plain Erik. A faceless fiend whose downfall came at the hand of a beautiful young woman named Christine Daaé. Could this monster be back in the mix of the human race? He would think by now he would truly be a “ghost”, but then he should talk. Truth be told, Cursen Bathory himself should have been in a mausoleum centuries ago.

Like the first time the article ruffled his feathers. Obviously, Mallorie Hancock was a journalist first and a woman last. Anything for a story. How could she slip by him? For this reason he sent the “knocker” to flush her out. A knocker was a creature of darkness that must be summoned by means of the dark arts to track down someone who threatened his well being. Too many more news articles like this last one would soon have the police tapping at his door and he just couldn’t have that.

A glace at the wall clock displayed the hour of 10:00 p.m. Something should be contacting him shortly. Good news he hoped. He needed to be rid of the reporter and the meddlesome Chris Lawson. Right now, he wanted the Eye of Brahma and Arthur Pembroke/death’s head. Once he possessed the cursed diamond and death’s head untold power would be his. And what about the Opera Ghost? He’d send him back to hell where he belonged!

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