The Remarkable Miss Frankenstein

THE REMARKABLE
MISS FRANKENSTEIN

Minda Webber

 

Love Spell

 

First Print: June 21, 2005

 

ISBN: 0505526379

Contents

 

A Bat in Hand is Worth Two in the Coffin
.
4

Dr. Frankenstein, I Presume
.
9

Early to Rise and No Vampire Ashes
.
17

To Be, or Not to Be, a Frankenstein
.
25

Love at First Bite
.
33

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
.
41

Imps of the Perverse
.
47

The Vampire Buster
.
53

Reconnaissance in the Garden of Good and Evil
.
58

The Good, The Bad and The Big, Bad Wolf
.
63

The Scientist Who Knew Too Much
.
70

A Neil in the Coffin
.
76

Bell, Cookbook, and Candle
.
80

Friday the Thirteenth
.
85

The Best-laid Plans of Monsters and Men
.
90

The Mirror Has Two Faces
.
96

Sex and the Cemetery
.
100

The Girl Who Cried Wolf
.
106

Rhymes of the Ancient Predator
.
111

See No Werewolf, Hear No Werewolf
.
118

Clair and Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does the Vampire Go?
.
123

The Wedding Bell Blues
.
129

The Bride Is a Frankenstein
.
132

Haunted Honeymoon
.
135

The Trouble with Hairy
.
139

 

A Bat in Hand is Worth Two in the Coffin

The
trouble with Clair Frankenstein was that she was a Frankenstein. Her ancestral name required living up to feats such as creating life and forging new frontiers in scientific discovery, no matter whose toes one stepped upon or whose grave one walked over—or in her famous uncle’s case, whose grave one robbed. In general Clair felt all her Frankenstein relations were a royal pain in the neck, their creations included. And tonight was no exception as she made her way cautiously down the steep, stone staircase in the direction of the Huntsley family vaults.

“I must have bats in the belfry,” she muttered to herself, feeling a malevolent quality to the dense air surrounding her. Suddenly she broke out in goosebumps, overwhelmed by a sense of gloomy urgency, as if destiny were stalking her with tiny catlike steps. She shook the feeling off.

Her movements were silent as she descended into the pitch blackness of the stairwell. The utter darkness encircled her, surrounded her, impenetrable and infinite. The only light came from her flickering candle, which cast gold highlights in her tawny hair and ghostly shadows on the thick limestone walls. Yet Clair could scarcely contain her excitement, for soon she would enter the room where the object of her quest was kept. Finally she would be able to put her theory to practice, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that which was both improbable and impossible. She, a mere woman, though a Frankenstein, was about to prove a shocking supernatural fact: Vampires were living and feasting in London. Skeptical scientists had laughed at her theory. They believed that few vampires existed and these all lived in Russia or Prussia. Clair disagreed. Vampires were in London. And she, Clair Frankenstein, was going to prove it by accosting one of these elusive London vampires in its own home.

Well, Clair mused, a half smile on her face, she was not actually going to accost the vampire himself yet, but she was going to view and study his coffin. If she was feeling a slight case of nerves at the idea of the blood-craving fiend that inhabited the coffin, who could blame her? After all, she was as sensible as any lady in 1828 London, including her nemesis, Lady Delia Channey, daughter of the Earl of Lon. Just because Clair didn’t faint at a drop of blood or the closing of a coffin lid didn’t mean she was any less refined.

Clair pictured Lady Delia, with her cupid-bow mouth and mincing mannerisms, the one lady of the ton who had made Clair’s life a misery ever since Clair was a young girl in pigtails. Regrettably, Clair’s childhood foe had never let an opportunity pass to politely mock her. Lady Delia was always chastising her for the many long hours she had dedicated to the advancement of the research of scientific phenomena. It was all done in Lady Delia’s most ladylike manner, of course, and always before a most amused audience, causing Clair to wish that she had developed the skin of a rhinoceros.

Ah well, Clair reflected, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride and Lady Delia would grow warts on her pert nose.

Yes, sometimes she felt as if she carried the weight of the world on her small shoulders. But Clair knew that in reality it was only the very invisible but very great weight of the Frankenstein family fame—or infamy, depending upon with whom she was speaking at the time. After all, when your uncle created a new bachelor from dead body parts, people were either extolling his virtues in scientific journals or up in arms with torches. That’s how people felt about her uncle’s creation, the monster Frederick.

How anyone could be upset about Frederick, whom her uncle Victor had legally adopted, was beyond Clair. Frederick, the Frankenstein monster, was like a brother to her. Frederick wouldn’t hurt a fly, although he occasionally ate them. And he had a heart of gold. Well, not actually gold, since Uncle Victor had tried that scientific route and it had failed dismally. But her uncle had never been one to let failure defeat him, and he had adapted his theory of creation and replaced the heart of gold with the heart of one Mr. Thaddeus Applebee.

Orphaned at an early age, Clair had been raised by her uncle. He and his sister, the Lady Mary Frankenstein, had raised Clair with love, and the freedom to think, to create and to discover whatever could be learned about the unknown world. And while her playmates and peers were being read the fairy tales of the brothers Grimm, Clair’s uncle Victor was creating his own grim tales, crossing thresholds no man had crossed before and making his name a household word. He’d shared that strange but exciting world with Clair.

Clair certainly had big shoes to fill—not only her uncle Victor’s but Frederick’s as well, and Frederick’s boot size was an unheard-of sixteen. That was why a very determined Clair had decided she must make good on this new supernatural research project with which she was involved. She wanted to make her family proud, to make her mark in the Frankensteins’ annals of achievement.

And now she had the perfect chance. The Journal of Scientific Discovery was going to publish a book on the Scientific Discovery of the Decade, along with honoring the chosen scientist with the Scientific Discovery of the Decade Award. This award was what every scientist in the world aspired to own.

For Clair, though the prestige of being classed a top-ranking scientist—a feat no woman had yet achieved—was remarkable, she had a greater goal. She wanted her theories to be published so badly she could taste it. But Clair well knew she had some stiff competition. Dr. Jekyll, a rather two-faced medical man who dealt in odd new chemical compounds, evolution and brain activity, had recently been keeping his cards close to his chest. Of course, Clair reasoned that was like Dr. Jekyll—always hiding something.

Durlock Homes, a well-known sleuth and scientist, was another contender for the prestigious award. Homes was a friend of Clair’s uncle Victor, and so she knew he was going to present a paper on something called the “Hound of Hell.” Which was all well and good, but if Clair found a live vampire— well, as alive as a vampire could be after being dead for three or four centuries—she would top Homes’s and Jekyll’s discoveries. A century earlier, Dracula had made his nefarious home in London, but townspeople had gathered together and purged London of all its supernatural creatures at that time. Most of Society didn’t even believe in shapeshifters and the undead anymore. But Clair knew better.

She would show them all. Besides, Clair thought, flushing with excitement, by the time she was done she would not only have unearthed a vampire in London but a werewolf as well. And anyone worth his scientific salt would recognize that a pair—that is, a vampire and a werewolf—beat some devilish dog any day of the week.

After her disastrous pig misadventure and her imprudent foray into that demon hunt, Clair found herself having a devil of a time getting anyone to take her work into the otherworldly as serious. Her pride was sorely pricked. But winning the prestigious Scientific Discovery of the Decade Award would validate her existence and career. She would make her family proud, even if it killed her, such as by having her blood sucked dry.

Sometimes it was so hard to be a Frankenstein. Yet in spite of it all—the tremendous pressure and desire to succeed, the sacrifices she had made for her research—Clair recognized that she wouldn’t trade her name for any other in the entire world. For when she was delving into her science, she was a whole person. She never felt more alive in her cells and in her inspiration than when she was probing and investigating the unusual and unknown, expanding the boundaries of human knowledge to their very outer limits. Her uncle Victor had taught her that.

Other women might find it tedious to spend their daylight hours with heads bent over dusty tomes, but never Clair. Her happiness was at its peak when her mind was revolving around the mysteries of the universe. Though she rarely went to balls or routs, Clair had no qualms about that social sacrifice. And it had never seemed more worth it than tonight, Clair thought, her features animated. For this moment in time was pivotal in the proving of her scientific theorems. This night was to be the pinnacle of her career and was a point of no return. She was about to make an important scientific discovery, perhaps even a life-and-death discovery to a vampire victim or two.

None of it had been easy, she acknowledged. It had all been quite difficult, in fact, Clair mused as she stumbled on an uneven stone step. But gracefully correcting the balance of her trim but curvy figure, she descended downward.

Clair frowned at both the smell of damp mustiness, like very old leaves rotting, and the thought of the difficulty she’d had in bribing Baron Huntsley’s footman. The footman hadn’t wanted to give her the information she needed to prove her conclusions—which meant the baron’s staff was either extremely loyal or extremely terrified. Clair would bet on the latter. And she was not a person prone to betting, except for charity, or on an occasional hand of whist with her aunts. Or every now and then a horse or two.

Clair pursed her pouty lips, thinking. Here she was, a solitary female alone in the house of a supposed vampire. Maybe she was a bit more of a gambler than she’d thought.

Glancing cautiously about her, Clair felt the strongest sense of menace yet. She almost shuddered at what lay ahead of her, and the frightening possibility that the coffin might spring open, the vampire popping up with fangs bared like a rabid jack-in-the-box.

“Quit trying to scare yourself silly!” she scolded the shadows. “You have your theory to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. No matter the danger from the undead. You have your research to publish,” she said. “You can’t let a little thing like a bloodsucking monster stop you. You are first and foremost a Frankenstein.”

She often talked to herself, discussing her conclusions and her strategies. “No Frankenstein has ever gone unpublished,” she continued. Then, wrinkling her brow, she realized that wasn’t quite true. Her great-uncle Aaron had remained unknown. Of course, he had believed he was a ghost. He often regaled Clair with the exploits of his hauntings, but also used being a ghost as an excuse for not publishing. He would tell Clair that everyone knew ghosts could not be expected to write anything visible to the human eye. Then she and her great-uncle would have quite the debate, which would always end when she perversely brought up the fact that everyone had heard of ghost writers.

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