Sometimes, it is best to begin at the end.
Angel Hands, by Cait Reynolds, begins at the end of The Phantom of the Opera, revealing, for the first time, the true story behind Leroux’s fantastical tale and the real fate of the Phantom himself.
When the Opera de Paris is purchased and renovated, years after a mysterious fire nearly destroyed it, the Phantom finds himself unexpectedly resurrected – in the form of a young boy hired by the manager’s daughter to play pranks on the cast, crew, and audience. After all, the return of the infamous “Opera Ghost” can only be good for ticket sales, and Mireille Dubienne is determined to see her father’s investment become profitable.
Plain, shrewd, and proud, Mireille pours the rage of her disappointed hopes and looming spinsterhood into helping her father manage the Opera de Paris and making it a success.
What she doesn’t count on is the real “Opera Ghost” deciding he no longer wishes to be an understudy in his own domain, the theater that Mireille believes is hers.
The Phantom and Mireille push each other to the limits of their cunning to control and manipulate each other, with no game too low to play. With each passing day, the stakes get higher, until surrender is no longer an option for the Phantom or Mireille.
Every trick and betrayal drives them toward a startling truth that will change more than one life forever: you can’t love what you hate…but you can desire it.
A Note from the Opera Ghost
Chers Mesdames et Messieurs,
It is a curious thing to be a legend in one’s own lifetime, or perhaps more accurately, a lifetime in one’s own legend.
As with all lives and legends, certain things about my story are quite true, while others have been exaggerated to the point of farce. Perhaps one of the worst of these offenders has been M. Gaston Leroux himself with his ridiculous pulp penny dreadful. Allow me to state here once and definitively that I have never referred to myself in the third person. Nor do I have the ability to breathe, sing, and swim at the same time. Nor did I possess a torture chamber in my house.
Good heavens, who would think of such a thing?
M. Lon Cheney in the 1920’s cinematographic presentation of my story did not help matters much. Both he and M. Leroux seem to have taken an extraordinary delight in greatly exaggerating my deformities. That is not to say that I did not posses a face that…well, not even my mother could love my face. It is also true that I wore a mask.
However, let me assure you that my eyes are not yellow, nor do they glow in the dark. I have a fully-formed nose. I do not have jaundice, nor do I smell like rotting flesh. I was never skeletally thin—except for that brief, unhappy period of my life when I traveled with the gypsies and lived off little more than sips of water and regular beatings. In point of fact, my ‘work’ about the opera house kept me quite fit, and I never lacked for food with the opera house kitchens so conveniently located next to one of my secret passages.
Ah, yes. The secret passages and infamous mirror. There, I will admit to the truth of it all. My opera house was riddled with passages and trapdoors of my own invention. The mirror was my particular triumph, and non, I regretfully inform you that I will not share the secret of how I achieved it.
But the Opéra de Paris—oh, I beg your pardon. This is another misconception I must clear up. M. Leroux would have it that I was a great architect who had been responsible for the entire design of the Palais Garnier, which enabled me to build my ‘lair.’ Please tell me that you, dear readers, are not so foolish as to assume that one man could design an entire opera house? Charles Garnier had a veritable army of draftsmen, clerks, and engineers working with him to design his Third Republic monstrosity.
No, I inhabited an older—but only a little smaller—opera house known as the Opéra de Paris, situated in a quartier not far north of where the Garnier would eventually be. Eventually, it was torn down—a casualty of Haussmann’s mania. It has been forgotten about, along with so much of the Paris I knew.
But, change is inevitable, n’est-ce pas? Even I, who thought my existence to be a single life sentence of isolation and darkness, found that people and circumstances combined to render my life far more interesting and varied than I have ever anticipated.
This brings me to the more modern incarnations of my tale. M. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a musical production on a scale that is somewhere between the Opera Garnier and Le Lapin Agile in terms of both music and spectacle. However, he did get certain aspects of my story surprisingly correct.
I did fall in love with a young opera singer and had my heart broken by her. I also did set fire to my opera house—though, I did not do it by crashing the chandelier onto the stage, nor did I ignite barrels of gunpowder (per M. Leroux’s fantastical ideas—I mean, come on, man! Where would I be able to purchase such large quantities of gunpowder and keep it dry while storing it in a damp cellar by an underground lake!).
In truth, the ‘love story’ of the singer and her valiant suitor is mostly correct. I loved her. She loved him, and he loved her. I went mad with love, and there were those who stood in my way and paid the ultimate price for it. In the end, I was redeemed from madness by her compassion. She and the boy left me, a shell of a man with a broken heart skulking about the shell of an opera house with ash for a stage.
There was no Persian police chief involved in any way, shape, or form.
I have never been to Persia in my life.
Ah. I digress again.
The world thought my story ended that lonely, smoky night when my love left me. In point of fact, however, one could say that was actually when my story truly began.
It is now my great pleasure to set the record straight and hopefully restore my legend to merely a lifetime.
Your most obedient servant,
Postscript: I have used the actual names of all persons involved. Except my own. It would not do to have one of those pesky ‘cease and desist’ letters find me.
Cait Reynolds lives in Boston area with her husband and 4-legged fur child. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking delicious meals, running around the city, rock climbing like a boss, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes. Reynolds is able to pull from real life experiences such as her kidney transplant, and her writing reflects her passion for life from having to face the darkest places and find the will to laugh.