Prologue: Drury Lane, Scene II (Michael)

   
"No, you wouldn't have anything to be ashamed of." Theo said, smiling as he unlocked the door to the basement and ushered Michael downstairs. "And I've got to admit, I'm curious."

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The Theatre Royal at Drury Lane was, as mentioned, a very old building. And such an old building tended to accumulate. Over the decades, it had gathered up the detritus of a hundred productions, and it's maze-like basement and sub-basements were a treasure trove of theatrical history. It was possible for a determined costume designer to still find hats or wigs from the great Edmund Kean's day, or a full dresser used in a production from the 1920s.

But Michael and Theo weren't going that far, only under the stage. They were beneath the main stage, a cramped, claustrophobic space of pulleys and trap doors and rope systems, where material could be moved swiftly and invisibly for whatever the production was up above. There were large Xs made of electrical tape on the dusty floor, and incomprehensible mechanisms abounded.

According to Penrose's instructions, Michael was to call out Montjoy's name, and then to wait.

As Theo admitted to being curious, Michael smiled, but inside he felt a stab of worry. If Theo was curious, that meant he wasn't going anywhere fast. As they walked, Michael tried to think of a way to get rid of him, but nothing came to him immediately. There was always the option of distracting him - after all, Theo might have been flirting with him. But Michael kept that in reserve.

When they were finally there, Michael cleared his throat nervously. He'd never tried to call on a ghost before. He had no idea what would happen. But he was going to try it anyway. Humans tended to explain away things like ghosts. If it came to the worst, he could whack Theo on the back of the head and claim he'd blacked out. But Michael really didn't want to do that... especially since there was no guarantee it would work anyway. "Well. I'm supposed to call out Montjoy's name when I'm ready... so here goes... Montjoy!" Michael called, watching Theo, studying his reaction. He was almost more interested in Theo, and whether he had been hitting on Michael... but even if he didn't find out today, there was pleny of time to find out later.

"One of the weirder ways of calling for an assignation, I've got to say." Theo said, raising an eyebrow at Michael's odd actions. "You and your friend must really appreciate old tragedies."

But nothing happened, nothing at all. There was only silence, as Michael waited and Theo poked around the archaic props of the basement. Minutes ticked by, and just as one was beginning to get antsy, Michael heard a voice.

"Here... in front... of the organ." The voice said, a horrible, raspy croak. It was coming from the center of the stage, near where an ancient, antique pipe organ had been stored, and then left when it was too big too move.

"What the hell?" Theo said, looking at Michael with a frown. "Some joker." But he moved towards the pipe organ nevertheless.

At Theo's comment, Michael just smiled and said, "Well, you fit the meeting to your surroundings, don't you? I wasn't exactly going to show up with coffee," he teased, more to relax himself than anything else. He was nervous. A werewolf calling a ghost? It struck him as a bad idea, even without a human present. As the minutes ticked on, a knot of tension formed in Michael's stomach. This was going nowhere good, he was sure of it.

With a voice like the one that spoke, Michael would have imagined himself jumping. But he didn't. Maybe it was the surroundings, or maybe now that he knew more about spirits they seemed less threatening, but Michael didn't find the voice frightening at all. As Theo moved forward, Michael reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. "Wait. Maybe I should go first," he suggested. It was his meeting, after all. "Hello?" he called, because really, what else did you say when confronted with a ghostly presence? He wasn't going to identify the voice by calling Montjoy's name again. It would be better if Theo never figured out who this ghost was, but that seemed fairly unlikely. Still, Michael took no chances, and just hoped that Theo wouldn't connect the dots while feeling certain that he would.

"Alright." Theo said, falling into step behind Michael. He didn't stay where he was, but then, in this dark and spooky basement, who could blame him? "This is very weird."

The organ was an old thing, but Michael and Theo both came to a stop in front of it, looking at the giant contraption. Then, even as they watched, one of the keys pulled itself down, and the basement resounding with the organ's dusty sound. Another key pulled down, and again there was a blast of sound, joining its partner. A third key, and a third sound.

"Going... down!"

There was a creak of machinery, and the space in front of the old organ suddenly fell open, the trapdoor concealed cunningly beneath the dust of ages. It was a huge old trap-door, a dozen feet to a side, and Michael and Theo plummeted downwards, down the old elevator shaft, into the darkness. Theo screamed, and then there was a sudden and ugly crunch as the two of you hit the ground. Theo screamed again, this time in pain rather than terror, but at least he was alive to scream. With the same creaking sound, the trapdoor shut itself, and Michael and Theo were engulfed in the darkness.

Michael takes 2B damage, which he heals within a few turns. Theo is less fortunate, and takes 3L damage.

"What, the, hell." Theo whimpered. Michael, blessed with much better night-vision than the human, could see that Theo had fallen into a small wooden footstool, a sturdy-looking thing. He was clutching his side, and his face was a grimace of pain. "I... broke something. Oh god, argh..."

"By the clack-smack-cracking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes." The voice sounded, somewhere up above Michael. The werewolf couldn't tell how far he'd fallen. Twenty feet? Thirty feet? The walls of the shaft were wood and dirt, carved deep into the London soil, but there were doors set into the walls, one of them at ground level, others higher up. All of them were firmly shut, except for a single door open, perhaps twenty feet above Michael's head. That one was open, into further darkness.

"You're used to getting what you want, aren't you, handsome. People just love your charisma, your face. They eat your words up like the rats eat the cheese in a trap. Oh, boss, where do you think you are?" This was no ethereal whisper on the wind. It was the voice of something with a body, something rasping and damaged and hideously wrong. "What's a breather like you doing calling my name?"

I'm in deep shit, Michael thought, as he stood from the fall. He crouched beside Theo, wishing he knew anything about broken bones. But more important was dealing with an apparently pissed off ghost, or they might find themselves in even worse shape than they were now. "Theo, its okay, I'll get us out of here," he murmured to the director, giving his shoulder a squeeze in what Michael hoped was a comforting way.

Then Michael stood, as a disemodied voice spoke. "Actually, rats don't like cheese all that much," Michael anwered matter-of-factly. Maybe antagonising a ghost who had already dropped him through the floor wasn't a good idea, but they weren't getting out of here by being meek. He had to show some bravado. "My name is Michael Oliver. Sophie Penrose sent me. With this," he said, pulling the letter out of his jacket pocket. Michael hoped that the pain meant that Theo wasn't listening, because it was just getting worse - not only was he conversing with a ghost, but he'd just dropped Penrose's name when she was supposed to belong to a secret club. He'd just have to talk to Theo later, and make sure none of this got out.

"Now, if you don't want this letter, then thats fine with me. But if you do, then lets have a civilized little chat," Michael continued. He was trying to be firm but fair, but a ghost's sense of fairness might have decayed with his body. Michael had never dealt with one directly, but he had decided to treat this one like a wild animal - try not to piss it off, and don't show a weakness for it to exploit. Of course, he already had a weakness lying on the floor with a broken bone or more... but it was best not to think about that. He'd just have to bargain with this thing and get Theo out of there - with a promise to make it up to him.

Theo gritted his teeth through the pain, but he looked barely able to move. "The hell, Michael..." He said, and tried to stand up, before coming back down with a crash and a gasped oath. He must have cracked his hip, something unlikely to go away easily.

"Sophie Penrose?!" The rasping voice said, sounded dumbstruck for just a moment. Could ghosts be surprised like that? "You must have really spat in her soup, boss, to get stuck with this suicide mission. Tell me, boss, did you call her ugly? Fat? Or did she just see that pretty little face of yours and pull a Snow White's Queen on you?"

"But let's see what everyone's favorite little queen-kinslayer-bee wants from me."
The voice said, and it chuckled, a croaking sound like a corpse's death rattle. It was coming from the lone, open door, this much was becoming clear. "Toss it up here, boss. You've got good arms, don't you? Handsome, muscled things, must work out a lot. All the little people must shower you with their love. Throw it over here boss, into the dark door."

Glancing back at Theo, he gave him a reassuring smile. "Just trust me. You'll be okay, I promise," he said, although he wasn't sure he believed it himself. The poor man - landing head first in Michael's problem. He would make it up to Theo, somehow. But he'd figure out how later.

Michael threw the letter as requested, ignoring the comments on his physique. Instead, he focused on Montjoy's dislike of Penrose. "I've never met her before," Michael admitted. They say "they enemy of my enemy is my friend" - since Michael wasn't yet sure that Sophie Penrose was his friend, it wouldn't hurt to see if he could get a little more information on her. "She came to see me today, and told me that Lesley Oleander found out who I was. I'd heard of him, vaguely, but not her. She made me an offer," he added, wondering if Montjoy would know what he was talking about. If he knew Penrose, then it probably wasn't a stretch to imagine that he knew her contacts. "But I didn't trust her, so I suggeted a trial run." A thought occured to him then. "Is that why I'm here? She was offended that I didn't jump on her little bandwagon?"

The letter sailed through the air, and Michael thought he saw a flash of movement, something moving too far in the darkness for him to make out thoroughly. There was the sound of shredding paper, as something in the darkness read through the letter. Montjoy must have had even better night-vision than Michael, but then again, did ghosts even need night vision?

"I don't know, boss, I avoid the pretty little princess much as I can." The hideous, rasping voice chuckled. It was a sound to haunt nightmares. "Guess I'm smarter than you, boss, but then it must be hard thinking when someone's as handsome as you. Out of practice, are you boss? Must have said something that Sophie really didn't like."

"Michael..." Theo said through gritted teeth. He'd managed to get himself up onto the stool despite the pain, and was looking around now as his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. There were bits of theater props here, an old costume, another stool, a bent trombone. The detritus of the ages. "Who is that?"

"You haven't told him?" The deathly voice gloated. "I'm hurt. Am I so soon forgotten? Fair Rosamund? Farinelli? A Blot in the 'Scutcheon? Little before your time, eh, boss? Well those days are long past. Nowadays it's just Monty."

"If you dislike her so much, why would she want you to have that letter?" Michael aked, curious despite himself. Penrose and Montjoy seemed to be enemies - or, at least, Penrose was Montjoy's enemy. So if they were in conflict, why send a letter? Why not come in person? What would Penrose gain from it? Michael was starting to form a picture of Penrose in his head, that of a self-centered woman that used people to her own ends. It was then that Michael made up his mind - he'd have nothing more to do with her. "I suppose I must have upset her to deserve this as punishment," he quipped. Montjoy could dish it out, but could he take it?

As Theo spoke, Michael held in a sigh. Why would people never listen when they were asked to trust? "Leave him out of this," Michael answered Montjoy, a sharp edge creeping into his voice. It was Michael's fault that Theo was stuck in here - so Michael would see him out alive and... well, perhaps not unharmed, given his current state. But hopefully without further harm. "He knows who you are, Monty. He just doesn't know that you're still around. Even used your title when we spoke about you."




 

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