Live and on the spot

Last weekend the publishing house I work with, Stitched Smile Publications, held a Facebook event–a release party for one of our British authors, Ash Hartwell, who wrote Tip of the Iceberg.

     Tip of the Iceberg is an interesting take on not only the sinking of the RMS Titanic, but also a zombie outbreak. It is a great story and a fun read. Ash mixes in just enough factual information to make a reader think “This could happen.” He uses good descriptions in his writing, following the writer’s adage of show don’t tell. I expect to see much more from Ash. He is also a pretty good guy. I should know. I did the final edits on his work, and he was a joy to work with.
As part of an SSP release party on Facebook we invite several authors to do a takeover. Basically, they take the controls and for a half hour to an hour they interact with whoever is in attendance. It’s fun. You should come to our next one: Blood in the Sun Party
At the end of the event four of us Stitchers participated in a live writing event. Lisa Vasquez, SSP’s CEO; Nick Paschell, one of our VIP authors; Jeff Brown, another VIP and SSP’s executive liaison, and I each took a turn a turn writing for 15 minutes, about 300 words, each continuing the story. There is no time to edit because as soon as our turn is up we post it and the next person takes over, and within an hour we have a short story–a piece of flash fiction. It is an internet version of the party game where someone starts to tell a story then others, in turn, take over and continue it. Lisa started us off, Nick took over from there, then my turn, and Jeff finished it off.
This is something I have never done before. The pressure to write something coherrent that follows the specified plot without taking time to perfect it before releasing it to the world is intense. Especially for someone who occasionally has bouts of insecurity. My hands hands were shaking and my heart felt like it was beating a staccato rhythm in my chest. It was immense fun, and if I were to be honest with myself it is likely do it again.
So, for those of you who stuck with me this far, here is the story in its raw, unedited form. Enjoy. And as always, I will see you on the next page.

*****

Victor sat in the library where the smell of books took over the room mingling with the smell of the burning logs in the fireplace. Since he was a child, this room held a mixture of emotions for him whenever he entered. Now, at the age of 81, the shadows crept over his features and deepened the lines of time as he stared at his reflection in the glass he was holding. A lifetime he thought to himself. A lifetime of searching, only to come up with baubles of the strange and macabre.

Releasing a sigh, Victor stood up and downed the rest of his drink, letting the fiery liquid warm his throat and chest. He walked over to a display in the center of the room, the protective, glass casing illuminated by the overhead spotlight.

He studied the diary of his great-great-great grandfather, handed down through the generations, until he knew every single word. At least, the ones not written in code.

The breakthrough came when he stumbled across a man who used to work as a cryptographer in the military as a young man, and happened to have an old 16th Century French encryption book from the court of Henry II. He’d been trying to wheel and deal with Victor for pieces of his other collections for years to no avail. Seeing this as an opportunity, the other man could not contain his excitement.

“If I break this code for you,” Jacquis said looking over his bifocals at Victor, “you sell me the Coronation Charter of Henry I.”

Victor let out a single laugh, keeping his gaze fixed on Jacquis,
“You’re paying with money you do not have yet. Crack the code, and we’ll deal.”

Three months later, Victor had the identity of the man who possessed what he desired … the body of the “Family’s Monster”.

Entering the ancient woods of New England in Northern New York, Victor pulled his coat tighter to his frame as his carriage bumped along the road. Pulling a pocket watch, he stared at the hands and tapped the glass once or twice, just to make sure the damnable thing was working correctly!

“Hurry up you fool!” Victor shouted, leaning out the window to breathe in the clean air of the New World, the woods of Sleepy Hollow filling his lungs as a small herd of sheep moved down from a close by hill.

“We’re almost their sire,” Gris said, the low-born child stammered, his imperfect form of speech landing him as a hand servant to the Frankenstein family instead of an orator, “We’re pulling in now.”

“Good,” Victor said, leaning back to pat the satchel of gold he’d brought along with him. The man who owned the body of his great-grandfather’s experiment was none other than the detective Ichabod Crane, an elusive sort that’d gone missing after reporting to Sleepy Hollow. It had taken three lawyers to find him, and two more after that to arrange this meeting, but they were finally meeting in the Crowsreach Tavern in Sleepy Hollow, at Dusk on the 8th of July.

It would go flawlessly.

When the carriage pulled to a stop, Victor waited a minute before his door was opened, Gris standing beside it with his mop of blonde hair glistening with sweat.

“Clean yourself up boy and be sure to bring in the payment when I call for you,” Victor said.

Gris nodded, walking behind Victor to go and set up the horses for feeding and bedding down for the night.

Opening the door, Victor scanned the crowd and was instantly attracted to a pair of dark eyes.

Ichabod Crane.

Ichabod Crane locked eyes with Victor, daring the older man to look away. He knew why he was there. He wanted Ichabod’s prize. He needed the monster. Victor doesn’t need it, Crane thought.

Maintaining a casual appearance, Crane walked over to greet his guest. He only invited the foreigner to his home because his letter said he had something of great interest to offer.

“You must be the detective, Ichabod Crane I heard so much about,” Victor said, presenting his hand in greeting.

Crane glanced at Victor’s hand before offering his own. “I am. And you must be Victor Frankenstein. I heard a lot about your work.” Crane looked over Victor’s shoulder to see Gris standing there bouncing from one foot to other.

“Your … man … can wait with the horses. I don’t expect this to take long.”
With a backward flick of his eyes, Victor tilted his head to tell Gris to move out of Crane’s line of sight.

“Of course. But I do think this will interest you.” The aged collector bent down to pick up the bundle at his feet. “Where should we go to discuss this rare find?”

Crane led Victor the library to the right of the entry hall. As they entered, Victor looked around at the deep mahogany floor with a quality Oriental rug in front of the fireplace between two deep cushioned pub chairs. The table between the chairs was empty.

“I moved the decanter to the side board. You can put … whatever it is there.” Crane walked casually to the sideboard. Would you care for a sherry? Or a brandy? I am afraid I do not have anything stronger.”

“A brandy would be welcome on a cold night like this.” Victor moved to the empty table and set the bundle down. He turned his heavy ruby ring as he watched Crane pour the dark amber liquid into snifters.

It wasn’t long before they discussed the deal.

“You have the Monster,” Victor said.

“I do.”

“It belongs to my family.”

“It belongs to me.”

“I’m offering you a thousand gold coins, Mr. Crane, for the Monster.”

Ichabod let out a humorless laugh. “Not even a million gold coins will get you the monster.”

“Let’s be fair, Crane.”

“Let’s be leaving, Victor.”

With that Victor flashed him an angry glance, nodded and turned to leave.

“Nice doing business with you, Frankenstein.”

Victor said nothing, as he left, leaving the gold coins behind.

At the carriage, he motioned for Gris. “I thought this would happen. You know what you must do?”

“Yes, Master,” Gris said. A crooked smile crossed his face.

Victor climbed atop the carriage to the driver’s seat and snapped the reigns. The horses started forward.

Gris walked away, with papers in hand. As he passed strangers on the street, he handed the papers to them.

“The Horseman’s Head?” One man asked. “You’ve found then Horseman’s Head?”

Ichabod heard the clamor and went outside.

“Excuse me, Boy? Come here.”

Gris did as he was told.

“What is this about the Horseman’s Head?”

Gris extended one of the papers to Ichabod, who snatched it and stared wearily at the odd boy. He read the few words on it.

“Where is this?” he asked.

“At the manor across the way.” He pointed down the road.

Ichabod turned and went back inside.

Barely ten minutes passed and Crane was on his horse and heading to the manor a few miles away. As he did so, he passed a darkened carriage hiding in the woods.

Victor smiled, lashed the horses into motion and made his way back to Ichabod’s home. There, in the basement, he found the monster.

“It’s time to come home, my child,” he said as he opened the cage the monster was in.

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