Categories > TV > CSI2 Reviews
A CSI/Phantom of the Opera crossover. While attending a fictional conference, Gil is called upon to examine a skeleton.
"Scorpions and grasshoppers!" exclaimed the man standing next to him.
Gil turned and observed a smooth-skinned blond with a thin mustache and intense blue eyes. " Paruroctonus arenicola arenicola and /Melanoplus rugglesi/," he confirmed pleasantly, ignoring the unwarranted venom in the stranger's voice.
The man shook his head, looking abashed. "Forgive me; I should not have spoken so. Your little friends bring back unpleasant memories, that is all."
"You have unpleasant memories of arthropods?" Gil asked, puzzled.
The gentleman smiled without humour. "No, Monsieur, of a madman. But I did not mean to introduce such unpleasantness...tell me, why do you travel with these creatures? You are a collector?"
"I'm a scientist," said Gil.
"Ah. An entomologist?"
"A forensic entomologist," Gil confirmed.
"Forensic?" the man's eyes widened, and his smile grew less strained. "But then, you are the very man I need to speak with!" He held out one gloved hand to shake Gil's. "Please allow me to introduce myself, Monsieur. I am Raoul, Comte de Chagny."
Outside room 666, Raoul paused. "Monsieur Grissom, what I am about to show you may come as a shock."
"I very much doubt that," said Gil calmly.
"Nevertheless, I must ask that you suspend judgement on me until I have had a chance to explain. I am an honest man, Monsieur; please remember that when you see what lies inside." So saying, Raoul unlocked the door to his hotel room, ushering Gil inside. He carefully locked the door behind them before turning up the light to reveal a perfectly ordinary hotel room--ordinary, that is, in every respect but that on the second bed lay a skeleton.
Gil raised one eyebrow. "And this is?" he inquired.
"That is the question, indeed!" answered Raoul. "For this is either my brother's murderer, or else yet another of that fiend's innocent victims."
Gil set his carrying cases carefully on the desk, and walked over to the bed for a closer look. Next to the bones lay a black mask and a bundle of musty-smelling black fabric. Lifting this carefully, Gil found he was holding a full-length opera cloak. "I think," he said to Raoul, "you'd better fill me in."
"It began, in some respects, as a simple tale," Raoul began. "Some years ago my brother was murdered--drowned. My fiancÃ©e and I fled. There were many who believed that I had killed my own brother. In fact, we left his murderer behind at the Opera House of Paris--or so we believed.
My wife, you see, had made a promise. When she received word of the monster's death, she returned to bury him, with great secrecy."
"She buried him where, exactly?" asked Gil.
"Beneath the Opera House," said Raoul. "He had lived there for many years, hidden from the world. He ventured above ground only at night. And his grave was a secretive as his life had been; only my wife, and one other man, knew of its location. She acted out of love and pity, Monsieur, and so I cannot fault her.
But her actions sowed the seeds of my current discontent, because she alone saw the corpse of the murderer. At first I did not doubt that Erik was dead...but then I began to question it, and in truth, she could not swear to his identity. The monster was ugly and corpse-like in life, you have to understand, and when she saw him in death corruption had already obscured his features. She saw him only by torchlight, and I believe in her distress she did not carefully examine that ravaged face."
"How is he supposed to have died?" Gil interrupted.
"He died of love," Raoul said bitterly.
Gil looked skeptical. "No one dies of love," he said. "No wonder you have questions."
"And so," Raoul went on, "I contacted the gentleman who had placed the newspaper announcement informing us of the murderer's death, hoping that he could set my mind at ease. I thought, you see, that since he had been the first to know of the creature's demise, he would have seen the corpse earlier--in a lesser state of decay--and could reassure me that the fiend indeed lay dead."
"But he had not seen it at all!" said Raoul, distress in his voice. "It turned out that he had been informed of the death by means of the delivery of Erik's papers and relics, and that Erik himself had prearranged this signal."
"And so now you think that Erik had arranged to have his belongings forwarded to create the impression that he had died," Gil began.
"Yes, and left behind the corpse of some other poor wretch for my wife to find!" cried Raoul.
"And no one else saw the body?" asked Gil.
"The Persian--the gentleman who received Erik's belongings, and placed the notification of his death in the Ã‰poque--visited the site of his burial once, and was convinced these bones were all that remained of Erik."
"Convinced how?" prompted Gil.
"You see that thin gold ring, still upon the fingerbone? That was my wife's, once. Erik gave it to her, and I was with her when she lost it. Erik told the Persian that he had asked Christine to bury him with it; the sight of that ring convinced the Persian that this was, indeed, Erik."
"But," continued Raoul, his voice dropping to a whisper Erik never did return the ring to Christine. From the night she lost it on the roof of the Opera House to the day she saw it on the hand of that pitiable corpse, it was never once in her possession!"
"So you think," Gil said, "that your brother's murderer faked his own death?"
"I do," said Raoul grimly.
"Which means there's a murderer still at large?" asked Gil.
For the first time Raoul's face relaxed. "Well, no," he said. "In your reality, I suppose the passage of time has long since dealt with Erik. For you this would be merely history, of no practical consequence. But for me it is one last puzzle of Erik's, taunting me, and I must know the answer. Erik lived to construct intricate puzzles."
Gil smiled slightly. "That's interesting," he said. "I live to deconstruct them."
"So, Monsieur Grissom: can your science unlock this one?"
"In Nature's infinite book of secrecy," quoted Gil, "a little I can read. But in this particular instance, Mr. de Chagny, who may be able to read more. Let's bring him a sample, shall we?"
Downstairs, Gil made his way to a table in the corner of the bar, Raoul trailing behind.
"Gil," said the man seated at the table, nodding in greeting.
"Mr. de Chagny, this is my friend and colleague, Dr. David Robbins. David, this is the Comte de Chagny."
"Dr. Robbins," said Raoul, nodding politely.
"David, I've brought you something," said Gil, pulling up a chair and handing over an off-white disc.
"A cross-section of a long bone. Just what I wanted," said Dr. Robbins dryly. "What are you expecting from this?"
"I was wondering if it's possible to eliminate a suspect," said Gil. "Say I told you that this came from the femur of a man who had lived underground for several years, avoiding sunlight and..."
"Doubtful," interrupted Dr. Robbins.
Gil raised one eyebrow. "Doubtful?"
"Well, I suppose...did your suspect take regular vitamin D supplements?" asked Dr. Robbins.
Gil looked questioningly at Raoul. "I don't think so," said Raoul, shrugging. "Is it important?"
"Have a look at this bone. It's dense, healthy lamellar bone. Strong. In a man with no exposure to sunlight you might expect to see degeneration, a loss of density. Did he have any fractures?"
"No," answered Gil and Raoul simultaneously.
Dr. Robbins laid the bone in the center of the table, and picked up his drink. "Well, whoever this came from, there's no sign of a vitamin D deficiency, so it probably wasn't your underground man."
"It is as I feared," said Raoul. "For the second time the daroga has spread false word of the Phantom's death--but this time unknowingly!"