SNEAK PEEK: Adam Frankenstein: A Collection of Short Stories by Sheila English

The Gothic tale is re-imagined and the reanimated creature has returned.

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What if the Frankenstein creature didn’t die in a fire,a crumbling castle or on a glacier? What if he never died at all?

Adam Frankenstein, a product of science and magic. A creature of horror, come-to-life. In this re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s famous creature, Adam is still alive and his stories are that of legend. A lonely and reluctant hero looking for redemption and salvation through the ages.

Four stories, through the years, follow Adam as he struggles to understand his place in a world of men who would reject him, kill him. He looks to create humanity in himself while questioning those who were born with it.

Mary Shelley’s League of Supernatural Hunters: Origins of Adam

Mary Shelley learns of supernatural creatures and real meaning of the word monster as she encounters a man unlike any other. A creature not born of woman, but created from the body of a circus strongman killed while trying to save a lion tamer. She must decide who to trust, the vampire, the witch, the mad scientist or the creature. Either way, Mary’s seen enough to know she will need an army to fight those things not easily killed.

Frankenstein’s Companion

19th century England, friendless and alone in the world, Adam Frankenstein, the creation of a mad scientist and his witch lover, becomes an assassin for hire. When a powerful mage hires him to find his kidnapped daughter and kill the man who took her, Adam strikes a bargain of his own. The mage has an immortal dog and Adam will do anything to own it.

The Therapist and the Dead

Brooklyn, New York in the 1980’s was a place where monsters could blend in. Life has been long and cruel, so Adam keeps his appointment with Dr. Stein, the most expensive and sought after psychologist in the city, to talk of immortality and murder.

Adam Frankenstein, U.S. Marshal

Adam joins the 21st Century, and takes up residence in Houston, Texas. While waiting for his next mission from the League of Supernatural Hunters, he becomes Adam Frank, U.S. Marshal. His new partner is Marshal Rebecca Hughes, a by-the-book woman with a non-nonsense approach to life, with no idea who he really is, but that’s all about to change. When he wakes up dead and learns someone has stolen his dog, Texas may not be big enough to hold his wrath.

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CHECK OUT A BIT OF EACH STORY!

Mary Shelley’s League of Supernatural Hunters:

Origins of Adam

 

Chapter 1

Brompton Cemetery

1888

Bram Stoker

 

The mausoleum was empty, but not for long.  The mystery of its contents revealed to those who could never speak of it.  Bram Stoker, once a member of the League of Supernatural Hunters, now a rogue investigator, followed Hannah Courtoy through the graveyard like children playing a game of hide and seek.  This was no game, yet Hannah laughed like a young girl, despite she was older than Dracula himself. Victor Dracula, who Bram desperately hoped would appear soon, before murderous Hannah stopped running from him.

“Where are you?” Bram whispered into the night hoping Victor would make it there in time.

“Call for him, Bram,” Hannah laughed as she disappeared around the back of the mausoleum.  “Perhaps he’ll get here in time to save you and Van Helsing.”

Another girlish laugh joined with Hannah’s, and Bram’s blood ran cold.  Elizabeth, Hannah’s eldest daughter was mad as a hatter and her laugh was unique, even to the insane, as it held an unnatural tone and echoed when there was nothing in known science that would create that echo, at least not here.  The other daughter wouldn’t be far behind.  The three had travelled the earth together for centuries.  They’d tried to kill him before.  Had killed people he loved.  He was just a boy then, innocent and untrained.  That was not the case now and as his hand fell naturally to the hilt of his knife, blessed by the Bishop himself, Bram felt his heart race as the heat of revenge, so close, filled his veins.

Writing his novel had done exactly what Bram had hoped.  It had eventually drawn Hannah out.  It had also cost him all of his friends at the League.  Not that they hadn’t written of their exploits and sold it as fiction, but Bram had used his real name, the real names of others.  He’d given up secrets the League didn’t want known.  For that transgression he’d been expelled from the League to find allies elsewhere.

He’d lost sight of Eli Van Helsing, but the warlock would be close.  They agreed that finding this place was far too easy.  It was a trap, but traps are riddles and all Bram had to do now was solve it before Hannah could fulfill her plan.  Bram had solved many riddles lately, for Scotland Yard, even ones that had no supernatural ties whatsoever.  Desperation was a harsh taskmaster and Bram took most any job these days.

He stopped in front of the mausoleum.  The door stood open, a candle from within causing shadows to dance as in some macabre ritual, luring him forward.  It was impossible to see inside completely, but it wasn’t one of the larger mausoleums and with the light inside he was certain he could tell if someone were moving within.

He was familiar with this particular mausoleum.  There was much speculation on it.  Brompton Cemetery was typical, but this mausoleum was not.  The dark stone was engraved with Egyptian hieroglyphs and the large bronze door was extremely tall.  Bram cast a glance in the direction of Hannah’s grave.  Who actually lay buried in it, a mystery to him.  It wasn’t her grave that concerned him, but that of Samuel Warner, her lover, purported to be in an unmarked grave near Hannah’s. Bram seriously doubted it was Warner’s body in that grave.  Warner was as insane as his lover.  The League had files on him and his rants of a time machine.  But, time travel wasn’t the craziest thing Bram had heard discussed at the long, involved meetings held by the League.  No one really believed Warner.  Though the hairs standing up on the back of Bram’s neck, the feel of eyes on him from every direction, gave him pause to reflect.  Hannah never wasted her time with frivolous stories.  She was focused.  She was about gaining immortality and being evil, so knowing she’d made a lover of the mortal Warner caused Bram to wish he’d listened closer when Mary Shelley discussed it with the other hunters.

He pushed all thoughts of Mary from his mind.  He needed to focus, and thinking of her, and of Washington Irving, fighting over his fate, made his mind disengage from the here and now.  He couldn’t allow that, so he turned his concentration back to the witch, Hannah.

Lightning struck behind the mausoleum, thoughts of old friends, and old wounds, traded for those of self-preservation.  Bram moved to the far side of the mausoleum, eyes darting between the shadows and where he’d last seen Eli.  He rounded the corner just as a bright sphere of blue light erupted, blinding him.  He closed his eyes tight, opened them wide and repeated the gesture.  He’d seen such a light before.  Eli would only use that kind of power if he had no other option.  The power drained him physically which was not a good idea under the circumstances.

The light grew, then snapped out like someone snuffed out a candle just as Bram caught Eli’s silhouette.  A heavy thump came from the same direction.  Behind him the crackle of twigs brought him around.  The pain at his temple was his only warning.  Hannah was the only one powerful enough to fight Eli, but that didn’t mean her daughters weren’t powerful, or sneaky as Hell.  Just before it all went black he heard Elizabeth laughing, and had a fleeting thought of Mary Shelley’s encounter with Hannah.  That hadn’t ended well either.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

Dracula at Byron’s

1816 Day 1

Mary Shelley’s Story

 

Byron had gone mad, or at least we suspected that.  He’d always been unsettled, but this, this was far afield of even Byron’s usual darkness.

My sister, Claire, loved Byron even though the man would never love her in return.  She’d hoped that by introducing Byron to Percy and I, there would be some kind of magical element come from our meeting that would inspire Byron to have deeper feelings for her, as Percy had for me.  I tried to talk sense into her, but who am I to judge or advise on matters of the heart?

Byron’s doctor reached out to Percy, though it wasn’t until we were on the road, now accompanied by Dr. John Polidori, headed to Lake Geneva that the contents of the letter were divulged.  Polidori had conveyed that Byron was ill and needed us immediately, but the letter told us something quite different.   Trusting Dr. Polidori would be a challenge now that we knew he’d deceived us.

“As the personal physician to Lord Byron,” Dr. Polidori began, “what I am about to tell you must remain in the strictest confidence.  As Lord Byron himself has requested your presence as well as that of your wife and her sister I have been granted permission to share certain information that will shed light to the necessity of both your confidence and participation.”

He produced the note, glanced at Percy who nodded and its contents were revealed.

 

     Percy,

     Two full moons have passed since our new neighbor made his fateful visit here. He was more concerned that we not call upon him than that we come to know one another.  The man is truly mad, but it was his companion, not a wife, but a woman who seems to control him.  The woman is uncommonly beautiful and entirely evil.  It wasn’t long before they let their true mission be known.  My housekeeper first, then my valet, both disappeared, as well as several women in the nearby village.  The night my valet went missing I saw the woman the doctor calls Hannah.  She had lured the man out into the night using some light that came from her being. I had caught sight of this light as I prepared for bed and watched through a slit in my curtains to ensure I was not seen.  She is a witch to be sure.  What they are doing with those they take I cannot say, but to add to the horror of it, bodies from fresh graves are missing.

     Several nights ago a man who calls himself a Count, Victor Dracula, found me at the nearby tavern and convinced me he could help.  He is here now and though he seems to know much about the woman, Hannah, he is equally concerned with what her companion is about.

     Dr. Polidori had come when I told him of the valet.  He can tell you more about Victor, as he’s spent much time with him scurrying about the graveyard, trying to figure out what they’re using the dead for.  For now, I ask, no, I beg of you, come here and help me escape from this nightmare.  You are the only one I know who might come up with a plausible story that could bring the authorities here without also condemning me to the mad house.  Local authorities are too superstitious to do anything, so perhaps you and Mary can convince Scotland Yard to come?  Help me, my friend.

-B

 

It was obvious Dr. Polidori was uncomfortable reading the letter.  He sputtered as he read, wiping sweat from his brow, a nervous tick causing his top lip to quiver.

There was no reason for Claire or I to come, especially if danger was afoot.  When Percy asked about it the doctor claimed he’d recommended Claire come to sooth Byron. That Byron himself spoke of her. Claire fell into the belief Byron needed her, but I was suspicious.  Polidori fidgeted too much for my taste.  He wouldn’t make eye contact with any of us for any significant amount of time.  I never trust someone who won’t look me in the eye.

But, Percy and Claire were committed and I was merely the element that held us all together.  Claire’s sister, Percy’s wife, Byron’s friend.

The idea that Byron needed Percy’s writing talent and imagination, as well as stronger connections that might convince Scotland Yard to come was plausible.  Percy assured me he knew of Dr. Polidori, and the man was exactly the kind who’d be Byron’s physician.  Either way, Percy brought a pistol and that served to calm my nerves just as it served to frighten Claire.

When we stopped for the night Percy and I were able to discuss in the developments in privacy.  We both agreed Byron had fallen victim to drugs and alcohol. Speaking of ghoulish grave diggers and glowing witches were not the sign of a man in his right mind.  Perhaps Dr. Polidori had even prescribed the drugs and was also partaking in it.  That would answer for most of what had transpired thus far.  The doctor’s twitching and inability to hold eye contact, even some of his ramblings as Percy asked for more details, and the doctor couldn’t recall much.  It would answer for Byron’s strange behavior.

Claire thought Byron was being clever and it was all a game.  I couldn’t rule it out until we arrived, but that had also crossed my mind.  For Byron to inconvenience them all in such a way was just as possible as Byron drinking or taking drugs.

Byron was dark and dangerous, brooding and handsome, talented and taunting.  No wonder Claire loves him.

 

 

Day 2

 

I hate long carriage rides.  I was happy to have it over with, but did not look forward to the madness I was certain would ensue.  We dismounted from the carriage and Polidori instructed our driver to bring in our things.  There was little light in Byron’s home though he expected us.  Polidori was distracted the moment we arrived and at one point I would have sworn I heard him whisper, “Yes, master.” Though he denied saying anything at all when I asked him what he’d said.

We followed Polidori into the foyer and he asked us to wait there as he went further in, swallowed by shadows.  Claire, never one for patience, decided we’d waited quite long enough, but before she could follow Polidori’s path Byron stepped out of the shadows, causing Claire to squeak like a mouse.

Byron laughed and it was as though all the worry vanished.  A game it was and we’d all fallen for it.  At least that’s what I thought at first, but as he came closer you couldn’t miss how pale he was.  He had always been pale, but this was something more translucent and made more markedly so by the dark circles beneath his eyes.  Claire embraced him and he was extremely affectionate toward her, which only added to the entire odd scene before me.

“It’s so good of you to come.” Byron’s voice amplified in the foyer, a bit too loud, a bit too cheerful.

Regardless of the fact that he’d specifically asked for Percy’s help, it was Claire’s attention he sought with his good humor and charm.  She, of course, was all bliss and happiness over the change in his attitude toward her.  He’d grown cold for a time, but it was as though that had never happened, as though he were courting her with the vigor of a new lover.

“Byron, we’ve come at your urging,” Percy spoke as Byron led us into the parlor.  “Give up this game or tell us what’s going on.  It’s as though you’ve gone mad and taken your doctor with you.”

Byron frowned at Percy, not a frown of frustration, but one that caused my blood to run cold.  Byron was moody to be sure, but this look was something new, at least to Percy and I.  This was anger, a warning.  It held for just a moment and then, with sheer will, he wiped it clean and the charm had come back.

“In good time, my friend.” He smiled as he sat Claire in a nearby settee.  “The only thing longer than your journey is my story.”  He laughed and it was Byron’s laugh, not maniacal, not angry, just Byron.  “You should rest, eat, drink!”  With that he quickly moved to a cabinet and brought out five glasses and a bottle of cognac.  “Drink!” He poured equal amounts into each glass, the fifth set aside for, I surmised, Dr. Polidori.

“Shall we not wait for the doctor to begin this odd merriment?” I asked, looking around for signs of the doctor a; cold breeze blew through an open doorway and chilled my skin.

“Odd merriment?”  The new voice was masculine, assertive, yet held a hint of humor to it.

Byron jumped up as the new guest walked in through the doorway I’d been looking at.  He was tall, easily the tallest in the room, dark hair and blue eyes, so blue I could tell their color from several steps away.  It was as though energy traveled in the air around him and I felt it before he ever took my hand.  His lips touched lightly to the back of my hand, but when his eyes raised up to meet mine there was something there.  That energy lived in them, burning bright, unnatural.  He held my gaze long enough to be impolite, then one side of his mouth raised in a half smile, the light in his eyes changing back to something more, for lack of a better word, human.

“Both beautiful and strong willed.” He stood, releasing me, and shook Percy’s hand, but his eyes remained on mine.  “Delightful.  I am Victor….”

“This is Claire, the one I told you about.” Byron interrupted the greeting as he pulled Claire from where she was seated and thrust her toward the newcomer.

“Dracula.” Victor finished, then turned toward my sister.  “Count Dracula.  But, please, do call me Victor.” He took Claire’s hand and repeated the gesture he’d just offered to me. When he looked up at Claire, she gasped, likely seeing the same unnatural event of the eyes.  She blushed then and curtsied.  “You’ll make a lovely bride.”

“Bride?” Percy stepped forward, putting himself in front of Claire which I was grateful for.  “Is there an announcement I’ve missed?”

Byron laughed, which seemed cruel to me as he was aware of Claire’s feelings for him and her hope of one day being the lady of this house.  Claire seemed unaffected though, still held captive by the charming and handsome Victor.

“I only meant that Claire will be a lovely bride one day.  I was lead to believe that is her wish, to wed.” Victor stepped toward Percy, the strange light showing again, growing stronger, then fading entirely.

Percy took a step back, his hand reaching for Claire and pulling her back with him.

“Forgive me,” Victor said and nodded an apology.  “My manners are, antiquated I fear.  Byron?”

Byron snapped to attention, made introductions in a disjointed manner that caused me to rethink the cognac I’d not tried yet.

“Dinner is ready.” Dr. Polidori came, unexpectedly, from a different door and this time I did gasp, grateful it was only that and not a scream.

The strange party moved into the small, but formal dining room where humble, but suitable fare awaited.  There were two servers, both young boys, both pale like Byron.

“So, Victor, tell me how you come to know Byron,” Percy disrupted the silence.  We’d been told, through Byron’s note, but Percy was clever to ask Victor for confirmation.

“I’m looking for an old acquaintance who I believe is in this area.  I met Byron while at a tavern and he invited me to stay here, which I am grateful for.” Victor sat so still I couldn’t stop looking at him, though he’d caught me stealing glances twice before the first course had completed.  “There’ve been many misfortunes during my time here.  I fear this acquaintance may have something to do with those misfortunes.  Byron informed me you had a fertile imagination and keen intelligence. He thought you might be able to help.  And of course, now that I see Miss Claire, I know the real reason he thought to bring you all here.”

He smiled at Claire who blushed again.  Claire loved the theater, she loved attention, to act, to sing.  Now she had attention from two handsome men and the effects were worse than any cognac could be.

“Perhaps, once we’re all rested, I can help,” Percy said abruptly as he stood and pulled my chair back so I could join him.  “But, the ride was long and my wife is tired, as am I.  Let us rest for now and we’ll speak of this acquaintance of Victor’s tomorrow to see what we may do to assist.”  Percy nodded to Byron, Dr. Polidori and then Victor before looking to Claire who’d not stood yet.  “Claire? I see you’re tired as well.”

“I’m not,” she denied.  “The meal was invigorating and I’d rather stay up to find out more about this mystery.  I’ll not sleep a moment wondering what must be happening here.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I added, hoping my voice didn’t carry the desperate worry I felt in my heart at the thought of leaving her alone with Byron.  “After all it would be highly improper as she has no chaperone.”

Byron laughed, “Oh please, Mary, as if you follow convention at all!  Don’t get me started.”

It was not beyond Byron to point out that Percy and I were not legally married yet, but travelled as though we were.  There was much to prove his point, but I couldn’t let him have his way.  Before I could rebut him, Victor joined the conversation.

“I think Claire’s sister has a point,” he smiled and even I felt the effects of his masculine beauty.  “Let them retire for now and tomorrow we’ll start anew.  Everyone to bed,” he commanded.

No doubt it was a command and seats moved away from the table as those still seated stood.  Percy squeezed my hand, he frowned as though he was working to solve a puzzle, then it was gone and he turned to me.

“Let’s go to bed,” he said as though Victor’s instructions weren’t enough.  “We’ll start anew tomorrow.”

It was odd.  Looking at the others in the room it was evident some spell had been cast over them.  Why the spell had not worked on me was a mystery.  Either I had been singled out or I was immune.  It was then that Victor turned a surprised eye to me directly.  As he was the one surprised I surmised that he was the one casting the spell.  It was my mistake not to hide my immunity from him, and too late I cast my eyes away.

Nothing more was said.  Claire followed Percy and I as Dr. Polidori led us upstairs to our rooms.

“You must have an interesting, personal friendship with Byron,” I said to the doctor, now intrigued with all the players of this macabre game.

“Why, yes, but why do you ask?” he pointed to Claire’s room and we all said goodnight before he turned back to lead us further down the hall.

“You’ve been his messenger and now you’re showing his guests to their rooms.  You, yourself are a guest, are you not?”

“I am,” he answered simply.

He stopped in front of a door two doors removed from Claire’s.  He didn’t speak further about his relationship with Byron, but opened the door and waved us in.

“Sleep well,” he said, “We can all start anew tomorrow.”

The door closed and I listened to his receding footsteps before turning to Percy who was already unpacking.

“What do you think?” I asked, curious as to what he made of it all. He’d barely let us finish the last course of our supper before deciding we needed to rest.  I imagined he wanted to speak to me in private, before things progressed much further.  But, now he acted as though nothing unusual had just happened.

“Think of what?” He removed his night clothes and opened my trunk to help me with my things.  I wondered where the staff was that we were left to unpack ourselves.

“Are you mad?” I felt nailed to the floor with the shock of his nonchalance.  “What do you think of Byron asking us here under such mysterious circumstances? What do you think of him sending a guest to gather us? What do you think of Victor Dracula who, it appears to me, has some kind of supernatural power to control others’ minds.  What do you think of it all?”

We stood as statues looking at one another.  For Percy to struggle to share an opinion caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand straight.  He grimaced which he seldom did.  He shook his head and staggered to the bed rubbing at his temples.  My feet flew to him and I sat next to him on the bed, grabbing his hand.

“Mary, I have such a strange pain,” he spoke as though he struggled to breathe which only furthered my fear.  “It’s as though concentrating causes my brain to heat up.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  I’m so sorry, but I must go to bed now.  Will you help me?”

I helped him change and got him into bed.  Once he closed his eyes and gave in to sleep he appeared peaceful and I was alone.  Alone in a house with strangers, oddities and mystery.  The need to sleep called to me, but the fear of what was happening fed my body and I paced back and forth across the small room trying to determine whether or not I should dress for bed.  When I heard a noise outside the door I was grateful for two things; that I had left on my travel clothes and I knew how to shoot Percy’s gun.  I grabbed the gun and opened the door.

 

***

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Frankenstein’s Companion

 

Chapter 1

London, England 1888

 

 

He was saving her life, and she shot him.  The rain washed blood from his chest to his toes as it failed miserably to muffle the sound of her scream as he wrenched the pistol from her hand and pulled her to him, his arms a prison.  The lightning struck the sky like a fist from a cruel god, illuminating the dark London alley.  For a second the world was revealed in all its violent glory.  The woman screamed again, not because of the dead man lying nearby, neck broken, but because the sight before her was a nightmare come to life.  In that moment Adam Frankenstein, the creation of a madman and an evil witch, knew the woman he had just saved would have traded her savior for a villain without hesitation.

He covered her mouth, looking down into blue eyes that no longer saw hope of rescue, but mirrored every terror-filled face he’d ever seen.  Or, rather, that had seen him.  Adam searched for weeks to find her despite his loathing of the city and difficulties that came with needing to question, without being seen.  A cloak could hide his disfigurements, but not his large size.  Help was hard to come by even without the fear of a killer walking the streets, killing women in Whitechapel.  He’d hired a man of unscrupulous morals, questionable methods but desperate financial predicament to help him in his quest.  It led to finding the woman, but unfortunately the man kidnapped her from her lover’s apartment to an undisclosed place while he negotiated a ransom for her release.

Adam glanced at the dead body again, pants down to his knees, ass glowing white in the darkness.  Tram, or so the man called himself, apparently thought he would rape the girl, slit her throat and leave the blame to the Ripper as a way to prove he was not to be trifled with when Adam refused to pay up.

Lightning struck again and the woman fainted, saving him from another long, shrill scream.  Limp in his arms, he picked her up, threw her over his shoulder and walked to the open mouth of the alley.  The cold, the rain, the Ripper all kept the streets empty, though he felt eyes on him as he moved north where he had a covered carriage waiting.  No one called out to stop him and no whistles gave him away to the police. Adam found the carriage just as he had left it, unmolested.  He laid the woman inside, not bothering to put her on the seat, but leaving her on the floor.  He considered tying and gagging her, but doubted she would be willing to leap from a moving carriage, so he shut the door, climbed up in the seat outside, took the reins and made haste out of the city.

The horses sped along the dark road unafraid of the lightning.  Adam cursed his change of plans as one of the wheels hit a large rock jostling the carriage and causing him to twist in a way that tore at the wound in his chest.  It was a three day ride to return the woman to her father, the man who had hired him.  The old mage had requested The League of Supernatural Hunters, a group created by Adam’s one and only friend, Mary Shelley, to help find the girl but she’d not been kidnapped, she’d run away and no supernatural being had been involved other than the father himself.   The League refused him, but they owed him a debt from a previous mission in which the man had been useful in stopping a werewolf, so, knowing he was freelancing, they’d asked Adam if he wanted the job.  Adam was never part of the League, but they had a common goal; kill creatures who posed a threat.  The difference was, Adam included all creatures, not just those with supernatural abilities.  He realized early in his life that humans were monsters too and that he had no prejudice regarding who or what needed killing.

The old mage had no money to speak of, but he would owe Adam a favor and sometimes favors were more valuable than money.  The old man had recently lost his wife, so when his daughter ran away with one of the Queen’s soldiers he’d become despondent and agitated, even frantic to find her.  Adam cared little for the man’s opinion of his daughter’s lover, but the old man had shown no fear of Adam, offered him tea, food and respect, so Adam agreed to the terms.

“It is of the greatest importance to me that she is found immediately,” the old man, Stefano Polleno, said, arms waiving in the air, one hand pulling at his wild salt and pepper colored hair.  “My Helena is fragile, sick.  She’s not recovered from the death of her dear mother.  This solider has taken advantage of her, taken her from me when I need her most.  He will use her and leave her to the dogs!”

In his agitation the man accidentally kicked the small dog that had been following him from one end of the large open room of the hut to the other.  It yelped, stopping the man in his tracks and he picked the thing up.  Adam had little knowledge of dogs other than the wild ones he’d come across.  He knew humans often took them in as pets, but he’d not personally seen any this small.  The creature was no larger than a loaf of bread and certainly no heavier than the crossbow slung across his back.  It was normal in most ways, having four legs, a tail and fur, but it had unusual colors; primarily it was black and gray, but with tan markings on its face and feet.  The small dark eyes peered at him, tail wagging as the man stroked its fur, apologizing for his carelessness.

“Oh, little Bella,” Stefano cried, his Italian accent stronger with emotion.  “Am I to hurt and lose you as well?  No.  No, I do not think you would leave me, my Bella.  My loyal friend.”  He kissed the dog’s head and sat her back down, looking at her as she sat at his feet seeming to hesitate for just a fraction of a second before looking back up at him.  Stefano looked to Adam and managed a smile, less agitated after holding the dog.  “Bella is my touchstone you see,” he explained.  “She calms me.”

Adam, unused to conversation, answered, “The little creature is important to you.”

“She has been my companion longer than any,” he answered.  “There is no love or loyalty like that of a dog.  They care nothing for your station in life, your politics or …” he hesitated, looking at Bella, then Adam, “the way you look.  They love you because it is their nature to love you.  They would never leave you.”  The old man grew quiet, tears gathering in his eyes as he looked at the dog.

“Unlike people,” Adam stated.  If the old man was to be believed, the dog was unlike most people Adam knew, with the exception of Mary.  People always judged you by the way you looked, by your station in life, by what they could get from you.  And people, no matter how loyal, left you.  Unlike Adam, people died.  Adam had been created, the bastard son of science with magic as his whore mother.  Immortality was the punishment for mixing the two to create new life from death.  “But one day the creature will leave you.  It will die.”

Mary, the woman who’d helped him kill his maker and thwart the witch, Hannah, who’d helped bring him to life with her unholy magic, had died so recently Adam often forgot she was gone.  That he was now friendless.  The pain upon hearing such news had been unlike any he’d ever experienced.  He’d been shot, stabbed, burned and stoned, all quite painful but none painful like the news of losing her.  The other wounds healed, no scars to remind him of the pain he endured.  But, the wound he carried inside him that rocked him to his very soul, it remained.  Nothing healed it.  He could ignore it for a time, but it was always there.  Once he had thought being unloved and unwanted, a creature of horror too hideous to befriend, was a curse.  Now, he thought perhaps it was just another tool in his arsenal to protect himself.

“No,” Stefano spoke, taking Adam’s attention.  “No, not Bella.  She is special, you see.  When I was a young mage, learning magic from the old masters, I was given young Bella as my companion.  But, she was attacked by the companion of another boy, his was a wolf, and my Bella was ripped apart.”  Stefano watched the small dog walk near the hearth where a bowl of water stood and the little thing dipped its head to drink.  “Her heart still beat when I carried her to the old masters.  It was forbidden to kill another man’s companion.  The boy had found amusement in using his wolf to kill.  That day they banished the boy and gave the wolf to one more deserving.  They’d offered it to me, but I would only have Bella.  And so one of the masters gifted me with a talisman, pushed into the bleeding body of the dog.  He closed her wounds, leaving the talisman within her, making her immortal. And giving her special powers.”

Adam considered the animal, which seemed to be considering him.  Its eyes seemed to shine with intelligence and though the creature’s tail wagged, Adam felt its scrutinizing stare watch him with keen interest.

“Special power?” Adam asked, intrigue sparking an idea.

“Yes.  And you should know as we negotiate, Bella has the ability to detect lies,” he said with pride.

“Useful.” Adam watched the dog walk in circles before finally determining the spot was worthy to rest in.  He smiled at the simple action so inherent to dogs.

“Yes, and she can shapeshift into a cat as well.  That’s useful when I need to leave her on her own.  Cats are far more independent than dogs.”

Renewed interest pulled Adam’s attention back to the small animal who now lay in front of the fire, head on her paws, eyes closed.  Her ears stood straight, her head slightly too small for her body, but not to the point that it was the first thing you noticed.  The first thing Adam noticed upon closer examination of the creature was how soft her fur appeared.  The gray and black mixed together, black spots scattered like large freckles, varied in size.  He recalled a larger breed dog he’d seen with similar markings.  The hunters came close to his home, so he tracked them to ensure they’d not stumble across his hut.  They’d called the coloring blue merle, and though Bella was of a different breed, Adam felt confident the color was the same.  Her legs were small, but long and fine, mostly the tan that also marked part of her face.  She was a beautiful dog, but appeared unremarkable otherwise.  She was immortal, just as he was, they were alike in circumstance, living on after others die, and neither of them human.

“I need my daughter to return to me soon.  Before the next full moon to be certain.  Do not give them enough time to plan their wedding and escape.  My daughter is in mourning.  She thinks she needs this young man to help her, but it can only end in disaster,” Stefano said, wringing his hands and pacing once again.

“I want the dog,” Adam blurted out.  “I don’t care why you want your daughter back.  I would even kill the soldier if that’s your desire.  But, I want the dog as payment.”

Stefano stopped abruptly.  “Bella?”  He was genuinely confused.  “You want Bella?  But, I cannot part with her.  It simply isn’t possible.”

“Make it possible or find someone else to retrieve your daughter,” Adam stated, calm and cold.

 

 

***

22165813 - a steampunk skull isolated on white - 3d render.

The Therapist and the Dead

 

Brooklyn, NY

November 1982

 

The snow danced along the wind, becoming nearly iridescent as it spiraled from shadow to a street light where it swirled in the spotlight and out again.  Adam Frankenstein paused on his walk from Bay Parkway near Ft. Hamilton in the park and looked at the large cannon, a monument to the still-operational military fort.  Looking at the starless sky and gently falling snow he marveled at the uniqueness of Brooklyn with its loyalty to the past.  The Verrazano Bridge could be seen from where he stood, even if just a portion and he wished one day to walk the length of the bridge, that marvel of man, stretching longer than the Golden Gate by 60 feet.  Perhaps one day, he thought.  Currently it only allowed vehicles to cross it except for special occasions.

The weather in Brooklyn was as dependable as its people.  Winter announced itself even though it wasn’t officially here yet.  At 8 o’clock in the evening night was truly upon the city, dark and cold and dangerous.  Though, as Adam grew nearer to Bay Ridge, tonight’s destination, the criminal activity thinned.  Perhaps there was less criminal activity because of the cold, though Adam guessed it was between 35 and 40 degrees out, certainly not cold enough to close down this city.  It could be because the more upscale area of the city, in which he now walked, was better patrolled by police.  Likely, it was that today was the day after Thanksgiving and many were either on holiday or still enjoying the peaceful respite and gentle remembrances that this uniquely American holiday represented.  Even criminals had family who loved them, he mused.  They had homes to go to and people who wanted them.

Adam continued walking, picking up the pace so his companion wouldn’t be out in the cold much longer.  She had grumbled over his choice of her attire, finally accepting the sweater but completely refusing the footwear regardless of his insistence.  Glancing over his shoulder he saw her hanging back a few feet, still angry about being forced to do something she didn’t want to do, punishing him by refusing to walk beside him.

“Bella,” he grumbled.  “Stop pouting and get up here.”

The ten pound Harlequin Miniature Pinscher stopped and sat down in defiance.  The small dog had been his only companion for over a century and they understood each other.

Adam stopped and turned to face her.  “Get over it.  It’s cold out and you need to wear something warm.  It can’t be helped that there’s a pink poodle on your sweater.  We work with what we’ve got.”

She barked, bringing a puff of white into the air from her warm breath which did nothing to encourage Adam to remove the offensive sweater.

“Okay, once we get to Dr. Stein’s office I’ll take it off,” he relented.  They understood each other alright.  Bella understood she was in charge and Adam understood she was right. He just couldn’t let her know he understood.  “But when we leave, it goes back on.”

She hesitated, as though considering the offer, then stood and slowly caught up with him as he turned and continued on his way.

As he watched the pavement beside him turn to cobblestone he knew he’d made it to Bay Ridge.  A line of homes,  similar in structure; limestone, beveled fronts, tall stairs to the doors all encased in a line of black metal fencing and gates, lined the street as far as he could see.  Bay Ridge was called Doctor’s Row by some, but most people recalled the area from a famous movie released not long ago called Saturday Night Fever.

Where Bay Parkway had very little holiday decoration, Bay Ridge had started celebration of Christmas early.  Multi-colored holiday lights wrapped around step rails or atop fence railing, some blinking cheerily in the dark cold, some simply lighting the way for pedestrians.  Some of the small gates had large red ribbons tied to them; several doors had wreaths of holly or silver bells.

Adam couldn’t help noticing the flurry of activity within the homes, curtains left partially open, inviting passersby to peak into their joyful lives.  Children laughing as they helped decorate a tree, a couple dancing to Christmas music.  In one of the homes a window was partial lifted allowing the aroma of apple pie and caramel to drift out and ride the wind over to him and Bella.  Looking down at her he smiled as she lifted her head to sniff the air.

“Smells good,” he said, and continued walking.

Adam watched the numbers on the houses as they descended.  Stopping, he turned to look at the home of Dr. David Stein.  Stein’s home was devoid of decoration, but the light over the doorframe was bright and the stairs well lit.  The doctor’s curtains were closed with heavy drapes giving no hint as to whether lights were on or off within.  Looking further skyward, the second story windows were equally covered.

“Dr. Stein is very serious about his privacy I think,” he said as he and Bella walked through the small gate and headed up the steep concrete stairs.

The door was black with brass fixtures.  The numbers over the door were brass, the doorknob, the mail slot and the decorative doorbell.  Adam pressed the button and heard footfalls immediately.  The door swung open and a tall thin man with a long beard and mustache, dark eyes and high forehead peered out at them, a frown etched across his face that deepened when he looked down at Bella.

Adam picked her up, producing a handkerchief from his pocket and began cleaning her paws as he waited for an invitation to enter.

“You’re late,” Stein said, making no move to allow Adam in.  Instead he closed the door just a little, partially hiding himself and looking Adam up and down suspiciously.

“As you can imagine, I have a difficult time getting a taxi to stop for me.  My size is intimidating and my face, well…” Adam leaned further into the light, allowing the doctor to see his scarred face.

Stein shut the door another inch, leaving only his head sticking out.  “Yes, well, be that as it may, you’re half an hour late, so we’ll need to reschedule.”  He looked at Bella once more.  “And I don’t allow dogs into my home.  Dogs are dirty and ill behaved.”

“Not my dog,” Adam assured him, setting Bella at his feet and patting her head.  “Tonight is the only night I have.”

The man moved back as though Adam had thrown something disgusting at him, and then realized the movement caused the door to open wider and moved back to his former position.  Adam watched the man’s hand move over his chest, rubbing as though to soothe.  As though stressed to pain.

“Mr. Frank, regardless of the money, no therapist can be expected to truly help you if you are planning on having only one session,” he assured Adam.  “It’s ludicrous to think otherwise.”

Adam began to feel warmer from the inside out and he clenched his jaw over and over while considering his next move.

“You misunderstand me, Dr. Stein.”  Adam drew in a lungful of air, letting it out in a slow line of white fog.  “What I mean is that this is the only time I’m willing to meet with you to determine our relationship.  If you are unavailable this evening I’ll not be returning.”

The man appeared struck, his brows knitting together, the corners of his mouth downturned.  “Do you know who I am?”

“I do,” Adam answered.  “Which is why you are my first choice.  You are, however, not the only choice.  So, though I’d certainly prefer you, if you don’t feel you can accommodate me, I understand.”

The door opened slightly as the man considered this.  Adam had the feeling Stein had made up his mind, but was allowing them to stand out in the cold as evidence of his ire.  From within the house Adam could smell chicken soup and fresh baked bread, and underneath that was the odor of bleach, or some similar chemical.

“The price is double for the inconvenience and for the dog,” he stated.  His brows, now highly arched looked at Adam in challenge.

“You doubled your normal price to meet at your home and doubled it again to meet at night.  Are we doubling it once more because I brought my dog?”

“You are the one, a stranger, asking to do your session in my private home, at much inconvenience to me.  Then you show up late when you should have known you’d have difficulties with transportation.  You’ve already informed me that you’ve been disfigured for years, so I know you realize your own challenges.  You don’t bother asking me how I feel about having an animal in my home.  For all you know I have an allergy or a fear of dogs.  I am happy to accommodate you, but you must be equally happy to accommodate the price for getting what you want, the way you want, at the time you want.”

Adam let the seconds tick by before answering.  “I hope you’re as good as I’ve been told.  You have a deal Dr. Stein.”

“I’ll need the check tonight, or course.”  He slowly opened the door and stepped back allowing Adam and Bella to enter.

“Of course,” Adam answered.

Once inside, Dr. Stein took Adam’s leather jacket and hung it on a coat rack in the hall.  Adam removed Bella’s sweater and stuffed it into one of the jacket’s pockets.  Bella shook her body and wagged her tail in triumph.

“Follow me into my study.  Everything is set up there.”  Dr. Stein brought them down the hall where Adam noticed several commendations, certificates, works of art, but no family photos.  There were, however, several stuffed birds mounted and encased in displays along the way, leaving Adam to wonder if the chemical odor he smelled was diluted formaldehyde, or some other chemical associated with the art of taxidermy.

The study was located on the first floor.  Once inside, Dr. Stein motioned to an overstuffed chair that appeared to have been moved into the corner so that it sat beside Dr. Stein’s large desk.  The mahogany desk had a colorful Paradise Parrot mounted on a small perch on the side of the desk furthest from Adam.  A large empty space near a tall floor lamp, next to a stack of books, is where Adam thought the chair normally lived.  He took the seat, Bella immediately making herself comfortable on the rug near his feet.

Dr. Stein looked at Bella for a moment, but instead of commenting on her he said, “Would you care for some tea perhaps?”

“No, thank you,” Adam answered.  He and Bella had taken their meal at the hotel and, as a rule, didn’t accept drinks from strangers unless the drinks came sealed.

As Dr. Stein took his seat at the large desk he pulled a file from the top and opened it.  Adam saw his name, an alias, written on the manila file.

“I see you receive the paperwork I faxed earlier this week,” Adam said.

Dr. Stein peered over the file.  “Yes, it’s a great deal of information.  I’ve had a chance to read it all. I’ve made some notes here that I’ll be referring to in a moment.”  Dr. Stein had a cup on the desk already and he picked it up, sipped, and set it down again.  “What I don’t see here, or at least what’s not exactly clear to me, is what specifically you are here for, Mr. Frank?”

Adam smiled, relaxing back into the chair.  The aroma of Orange Pekoe tea wafted through the air and Adam breathed it in, savoring it.  He was more of an Earl Gray man when he drank tea, but loved the smell of fruit, any fruit. He always had.

Somewhere in the house, above them, but not directly, music played.  Adam recognized the song; Steve Miller Band’s Abracadabra, which surprised him since he had Dr. Stein pegged as a classics man.

“Is there someone else here?” Adam asked.  “I hear music.”

Stein’s eyes cut straight to the roof for just a moment.  “No.  I must have left the radio on.”

A low growl from the floor brought Adam’s attention to Bella.  Her gaze was focused on him, communicating with raised hackles and eyes that shined in the minimal light.  Adam held her gaze a few seconds.  “Bella,” he said quietly, not a reprimand, but more a release command.  She remained in place, but grew quiet once more.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Stein, what was the question again?” Adam relaxed back once more.

“Is there going to be trouble with your animal?” Stein asked, a worried look crossing his face as he leaned to the side in an attempt to see her.

“Bella is fine, doctor,” he assured the man.  “I believe I recall the question.  You asked what specifically brought me here, correct?”

Stein sat upright once more, sipped his tea and answered, “Yes, from your rather significant list of issues, I’m unclear as to what exactly you’d like to work on.  I see issues with your parents.”

Adam interrupted, “I have no parents.”

“I understand that they are deceased, but here you refer to them as your makers.  A very sterile way to refer to your parents.”  Adam started to respond, but Stein moved on.  “Are you wishing to discuss your relationship with them?”

“Not particularly, no.” Adam answered.  Looking around the room as Stein referred to his notes Adam spotted a group of vintage books.  “Do you read the great philosophers, Dr. Stein?” Adam motioned to the books.  “Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Confucius,” he read them off.  “But, you don’t have Nietzsche.  He was quite the interesting fellow.”

Dr. Stein glanced at the books for a moment, and then set Adam’s file down on the desk.  “I read that you are an agnostic.  As a man who finds Nietzsche an interesting fellow, do you agree with him that God is Dead?  Are you in a crisis of faith?”

Adam crossed his legs, then uncrossed them and shifted forward in his chair.  “I was born in a crisis of faith, doctor.  But, no, to answer your questions, I do not believe God is dead.  I believe Nietzsche had a problem with the church and that extended out to God.  He was brilliant and confused and died a shadow of his former self.”

“So are you an admirer of only Nietzsche, or of all philosophers?” Stein asked.

“Understand, I admired Nietzsche, but I disagreed with him in equal measure to that in which I agreed.  I found him fascinating, and enjoyed him.  But, I do admire other philosophers as well.  A deep and critical look at who we are as individuals and together, reflections on what drives us or makes us feel or react, it’s all interesting to me.  Human nature examining itself, devoted to wisdom, seeking it, trying to understand it.”

The music upstairs changed and Joan Jett sang about her love for rock n’ roll.  A loud thump as though a book or other object fell on a carpeted floor jolted the doctor from his chair.

“Excuse me,” he said, and then rapid footstep ascended to the second floor leaving Adam and Bella alone for several minutes.

“Bella,” Adam said her name and she was at once alert.  “I need you to go upstairs and see what the doctor has going on up there.”

 

***

22165813 - a steampunk skull isolated on white - 3d render.

Adam Frankenstein, U.S. Marshal

 

Chapter 1

 

Death had come after all these years and this time, he’d not be cheated.  Adam felt his spirit rise against the onslaught of rain pouring from the sky, coming to wash away sins and finding them stains.  The tears of God did not fall for him, he was certain.  No one, not even the Almighty would grieve for him.

Blood pooled beneath him, warm against cold skin.  Adam could see it all from his ever-ascending spirit.  Body, rattled with bullet holes, blood stains spreading like death’s virus from his body to darken the long black duster jacket he wore this time of year.  Black Stetson several feet away vibrated and danced along the pool of rushing water rivulets newly made in the violent storm.  His favorite hat, a gift from a colleague, a woman who’d once called him handsome though he knew he was anything but, was crushed in the back, the result of a blow to his head with a spike-covered baseball bat.

The sun kissed the clouds gently casting hues of gold, orange and pink across the gray morning sky.  Warmth spread across the hay field on the far side of the narrow, paved road and made a path across his sprawled, wet body as it moved into the field nearest him, one decorated with apple trees and swaying shadows.

Adam’s ascension slowed as the realization that he felt the warmth across his body signaled the potential of decision.

“Shit.”  His disembodied voice echoed in his mind.  “Exactly how dead am I?”

No great voice from the sky answered.  No devil laughed with glee.  He was an anomaly even in death.  The warmth spread as the sun’s rays fattened with the promise of a new day and the storm slowed in defeat.

“No pain,” Adam thought.  Looking at his contorted body, face up, one leg straight, the other bent, head slightly turned toward the apple trees, he realized something about himself that he’d only speculated on previously.  “Damn, I’m one big, ugly bastard.”  Six foot six wasn’t a giant, but it was notable.  In the 19th century it has been more a curse, but no more than the scars that disfigured his face and limbs.

As the light shone down on his body his thoughts struggled to escape the haze of his dying mind.  A dull ache in the region of his skull threatened and fingers like ice whispered across his spirit, pulling him up, nearer the end of his immortality.  Nearer to judgment.  If there was anything to fear it was that there really was a God, and that Adam Frankenstein would be held accountable for everything he’d done in his two centuries on this earth.  The ache grew and a burn made of ice moved down his spine.

“Take me,” he whispered without speaking.  “I’m done.  There’s nothing more I can do to atone.  Judge me.  What do I have to lose?  Other than a life full of purpose, but not love, colleagues but not friends.  What greater Hell could be waiting for me?”

Those cold fingers pulled at him once more.  The ache grew and those fingers dug in.  Torn, his mind held to his spirit, which was still tethered to his broken body and as he realized what secured him, what refused to release him into the unknown, his left side and lower abdomen sparked with pain as a name ripped his spirit from the grasp of death.

“Bella.”

 

_______________________________________________________________

Buy the Kindle/ebook version here- KINDLE

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Find out more about the author here- SheilaEnglish.com

Follow Sheila on Twitter here- https://twitter.com/SheilaEnglish67

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Chapter 2

 

Bella watched several men in stained wife-beaters moving crates from the back of a large white van and heard the cries of fear and despair.  The sun shone through the struggling raindrops, the spoils of war nothing more than thick humid air.  She knew this place.  She and Adam spent most of the night staking out the compound made of a semicircle of single-wide trailers that housed one caretaker, with the rest filled with the crates.

Looking through the bars of her prison pain brought her breath in quick and shallow.  The pain would pass, but the fear for what these bastards had done to Adam pushed the boundaries of her courage and caused tears to gather and burn.  She was the only one who knew Adam had been captured.  She had no way to contact the field office, or Marshal Hughes.  Anyone else who would help Adam lived too far away.  She and Adam had lived in Texas for six months, but Adam had a difficult time making friends.  If it weren’t for her, for their friendship, he’d have been the most solitary creature she’d ever come across.  Now she was imprisoned, he’d been taken away bloody and the question of exactly how immortal they both were was going to be put to the test.  No one was coming to save them.  They still had only each other.

Two men broke from the others at the van and walked toward her.  The rain did nothing to dampen the smell of tobacco, sweat and evil that clung to their skin.  Bella backed away as far as her prison would allow when they stopped in front of her, gazing in like she was some kind of freak.

“She sure can take a beating.”  The man who spoke appeared to be in charge.  The others followed his orders without question.  Cracked lips pulled back in a smirk revealing stained and rotting teeth. “Heard she bit Keeper pretty good.  Give her a day and let’s see what she can do.”

The other man’s head moved up and down with vigor like a bobble head on the dashboard in stop and go traffic.  She didn’t know this man’s name, but the leader, they called him JC, and if she were able to get out of her prison he’d be the first one to lose his balls.

The smell of kerosene, blood and wood smoke announced the arrival of the injured Keeper right before he came into view from her left.  Bella’s hackles went up and the growl that escaped without thought came from deep inside her soul.

“You’re not going to keep this damn dog are you?  Just throw her to one of the big dogs.”  Keeper rubbed his bandaged right hand and spat at her.  “She has to be near dead anyway.  No good for fighting.  No good as bait.  Maybe Brutus would eat her.  He eats cats.”  Keeper leaned forward; likely emboldened by her incarceration and his belief she was near death.

Bella rushed the cage door, her paw reaching through to scratch the man’s face, nearly taking an eye.  The howl of pain brought laughter from the other two as Keeper’s hand came away with blood staining the bandage from their previous encounter.

“You bitch!”  Keeper pulled out a gun, but JC knocked it down before it could be aimed.

“Look at her.”  JC pushed the man back a step.  “She’s covered in blood, but she doesn’t act as though she’s wounded.  Tough dog.  And you know our clientele love it when we pit the smaller dogs against the big ones.  She can’t be more than fifteen, maybe sixteen pounds.  She could make us a lot of money.”

“Yeah, some breed of MinPin is my guess, but I’ve never seen a merle-colored one before.  I will say, if they know this is that new marshal’s dog, it could be a main event fight.  That man’s made more enemies in a few months than I have my whole damned life.”  The man with JC peered in at her, but didn’t try to get close.  “I’ll get her back to health.  JC’s right.  This one’s a money maker.”  He laughed as Bella growled.  “She’s a tough one, I’ll give you that.  Small, but tough.”

JC nodded.  “Keeper, you stay clear of this dog. She’d got it out for you and I don’t want her damaged any further.  Let Cam here fix her up.”  When Keeper didn’t answer JC struck out with his index finger hitting the man hard in the throat.  Keeper cried out and stumbled back, but nodded.  “You touch that dog, anyone touches that dog, and they’ll answer to me.”

“Don’t sweat it, JC,” Cam said.  “I’ll keep her with me.  She bit more than just Keeper.  And not all of the men can control their temper.”

The world shifted for a moment as Cam lifted her crate.  She considered lashing out at him, but thought better of it.  She needed someone to like her.  Someone to feed her and keep her safe.  Someone to trust her enough to let her out.  Cam looked just stupid enough to be that someone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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