Chapter 6: ROAD TRIPS
Debbie could hardly take her eyes off the new-look Vic.
Even in the unforgiving glare of the local pizza place (where Debbie had insisted on coming with Stevie and Vic, who would be driving them home, after the Fear Leaders meeting), the new short hair (goodbye, Mr Scarecrow-head!), the absence of what looked like his grandmother’s glasses (his eyes were an almost luminous shade of green) and the addition of a shirt with an actual collar combined to make young Mr Jacobs look good.
Tony Linseed at the top of his game had never looked this good. If Vic was a pizza, Debbie was going to help herself to a nice big slice! All she had to do was ease Stevie out. Shouldn’t be too hard. Stevie was nice but inexperienced - she’d never even had a boyfriend. Unlike Debbie. Next to whom – let the world take note – Stevie didn’t stand a chance!
“Maybe I can help,” said Debbie softly, touching the back of Vic’s hand and hitting him with a Great Big Debbie Smile. “You know – to improve your social skills. I’m pretty good when it comes to talking to people, even if I say so myself, and I can honestly tell you, Vic dear, when I first met Stevie, she didn’t even like me. Can you imagine? She didn’t see how sincere I am. She just went around tellin’ everyone, ‘This Debbie is too good to be true!’ Well, don’t you believe it. I got my faults. Don’t look at me like that. I do. Everyone does. Only difference – I don’t have as many. And if you stick with me, Debbie’s gonna show you what speakin’ up and bein’ heard are all about!” beaming, she squeezed Vic’s hand.
Pulling away, Vic reached for his milkshake and took a long swallow.
Stevie glared at Debbie, who smiled at Vic.
His left eye started to twitch.
“I’m not sure this was such a great idea.”
“Wanna chicken out?” asked Keith, hunkering down over the steering wheel and keeping a safe distance.
“No way, Scoop,” replied Betty, sitting in the passenger seat. “I never could resist a man who drives a hearse.”
“Most people could. Especially a man who calls himself The Fear Master.”
“I like a mystery.”
“Just as long as we don’t wind up in boxes in the back of that thing, I can tolerate him. For now.”
“What are you going to do if he sees us?”
“Depends. All I wan to do tonight is find out where he lives. If we can do that, we have a place to start – to find out who he is, what the point of the Fear Leaders is, what he hopes to achieve … is he dangerous? If he’s just some kook with delusions of being a superhero, I could be maybe get an interview, or maybe let it go. But if he’s some kind of nut … well, that’s another story.”
“Onto Barandino Street. There’s nothing up there – not even a single house.”
“There is. One. But nobody lives in it. It’s been empty for years.”
“The old place on Braden Road. I’ve heard all kinds of stories about it.”
“That’s right next to …”
“My God.” Keith suppressed a nervous laugh.
“Any questions?” Debbie beamed at Vic.
“I’ve got one.” It was Stevie’s turn to speak.
“Yes, ma petite?” Debbie fluttered her eyelashes and touched her hair.
“When do we leave?”
“I’m with the driver,” Debbie informed her.
“You wish,” said Stevie under her breath.
Debbie sat up front with Vic (while Stevie fumed in the back) so she could give directions intended to have him drop Stevie off first (even though Debbie’s house was closer) so she could be alone with her new protégé … to help him improve his social skills … up close and personal.
“Go left,” whispered Debbie, caressing Vic’s hand on the gearstick. “Left again. Then put the pedal to the metal, and take me – all the way – to Stevie’s place!”
In the back seat, Stevie felt sick.
Up front, Debbie was falling in lust.
And Vic’s eye was twitching overtime.
“He’s seen us,” said Betty, slumping down behind the dashboard.
“No,” said Keith, slowing. “We’re all right.”
Betty smiled. Keith was all right. If he could give up the steady diet of junk food and soft drink, she might make a halfway decent physical specimen out of him. Although he was cute and cuddly just as he was.
Keith brought the car to a halt in the moonshadow of an overhanging tree and watched the hearse move slowly along the perimeter of St. Sebastian’s Cemetery, toward the big crumbling house that stood on its eastern corner.
“Is he going in?” asked Betty.
As if to answer, the hearse’s brake lights flashed on and the car turned right, entering the grounds of the house and disappearing behind it.
Keith waited. Nobody appeared. Nothing happened.
“Do we go in?” asked Betty.
“Let’s get a little closer. I want to get a look at the number plate. Did you see al the crud it had on it? I could only make out FM6 in the middle. But the combination of the address and the number plate should be enough to tell us who he is.”
“You really think he lives there?”
“Maybe not. But he might use it for … grave-robbing … black masses … or other forms of family entertainment.”
“You’re scaring me.”
Keith smiled. “A Cutter Cade fan?”
“That’s what I like about Cade – I love being scared!”
“As long as there’s no real danger, you mean.”
“Right. It’s like running – an adrenaline rush … but I’m strictly an armchair adventuress. I like to be able to put the book down and walk away from it.”
“If he is a lunatic, you won’t be able to put this down and just walk away from it. Are you prepared for that?”
“You sound like some late-movie tough guy.”
“Are you … prepared?”
“No. Are you?”
“Of course not.” Keith sounded defeated.
A full moon hung heavy and luminous over St. Sebastian, grinning down at the dead like the face of a bloated fool.
“Still, there’s no reason we can’t take a nice moonlit stroll.”
“All right. Take your partner by the hand and get ready … to tiptoe through the tombstones with me!”
Debbie stood on the corner as Vic drove away. Fighting back tears, she watched as Stevie’s silhouette slid across the front seat to rest her head on Vic’s shoulder.
Stevie … her best friend …
Right now, Debbie would like to see Stevie Weaver six feet under in St. Sebastian’s! But first she would stab her to death the way that girl got it in Psycho, and roll her headless body in the dirt. Then she’d make Vic get in the grave and bury him alive with her –
- her former friend –
- the betrayer –
- who had, as of this night, made a major enemy out of Deadly Debbie Dawe!
Notes on Frankenstein from TFM’s Journal
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin – born in London, 1797. Both parents writers. Mother died soon after giving birth.
Father then married Mary Clairmont, a woman with two children, Charles and Claire. Mary Godwin did not like Mary Clairmont but got along with Claire, with whom she would famously go travelling.
Education – not much, but tutored by father, who had an extensive library and was friends with the likes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lots of intellectual stimulation.
Later had governess and tutor, and attended boarding school in 1811. In her mid-teens was described by father as “singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire of knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything she undertakes almost invincible.”
At sixteen, she fell in love with twenty-one-year-old Percy Shelley. He was married, so they met in secret, often at her mother’s grave. Talk about perseverance!
Early 1815 - bore Shelley a daughter, who died.
Depression followed. Then she bore Shelley a son.
May 1816 - together with Claire Claremont, the young family went to Geneva, planning to summer with Lord Byron, who had rented the Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva. Shelley rented separate premises, but much time was spent at the villa, where, between bouts of sailing when the weather permitted, they wrote and stayed up late, talking. Mary called herself “Mrs Shelley” even though they were not married.
Wet weather saw them confined to the house, sitting in front of the fireplace, where they told German ghost stories, and Byron suggested they each write their own blood-curdling tale. Mary was scared of not being able to come up with anything ghostly, and thought she had failed at the task … then contemplated a body being brought back to life. “Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated.”
Experiments in galvanism meant science would meet art at the Villa Diodati!
“I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.”
Following the summer “when I first stepped out from childhood into life,” Mary worked on her short story, which Shelley suggested she turn into a novel.
1818 – Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus published anonymously, leading to speculation about its authorship – was it Mary’s, Percy’s or Byron’s?
Equally speculated upon is the time they spent with Byron, who was the father of Claire Claremont’s baby, and rumoured to be Percy Shelley’s lover. Ken Russell’s movie Gothic explores this material with his usual visual ingenuity (which he would also bring to bear on Stoker’s Lair of the White Worm, starring Hugh Grant).