Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blood is Thicker than Water: Broadstead versus the Vampires

Even though Broadstead was usually content with the idea of keeping the home fires burning, tonight he was bothered by an uneasiness that kept him on the edge of his seat. He could see Miss Armstrong was affected too, because even though she attempted her embroidery of a lovely butterfly, she sighed as she made mistake after mistake. Broadstead knew the reason for his frustration. He wasn’t quite sure he understood what events were taking shape around him. He knew there was a logical explanation for everything, and eventually one would come up to explain what was happening. He also had some slight trepidation in his mind since he let Forte on the loose, but Broadstead had every hope that cooler heads like Stewart and Hyland would keep Forte in check. Sending Hyland and Forte into someplace together was rather like sending a bull into a china shop, but at least Hyland could manage the unmanageable. In this case Forte.

“Another cup of tea?” Juliet repeated. Broadstead came out of his thoughts and took the cup that was offered him.

“Yes, thank you,” said Broadstead. “Another cookie would be nice as well.”

Juliet handed him the platter of molasses cookies made by Miss Pettijohn herself, her cheeks glowing pink as she did. Broadstead smiled back nervously. Juliet’s cheeks turned red. “Are you nervous, Miss Armstrong?” Broadstead said through a bite. “Don’t be. I’m sure everything will be fine.”

“I’m sure of that, professor,” she said. “But I must admit to some surprise.”


“Yes.” Juliet’s voice was low. “I am very surprised to find as logical and scientific a man as yourself among the associates of the Raintrees.”

“I can assure you, Miss Armstrong,” Broadstead chuckled, “I’m only on this expedition to protect Father Stewart from being misled by Mr. Forte. You can see that he is a rather greasy sort?”

“Well,” Juliet said, becoming bolder, “he does seem correct about the vampires.”

Broadstead patted her hand. “I can assure you, dear, there must be a logical explanation.” Although once again, it bothered Broadstead that he could not produce one offhand.

“I’m sure you’re correct, professor. I’ve been a great admirer of your work for some time, and it is usually quite sound.”

Broadstead leaned forward, suddenly more interested in the young woman in front of him. “You know my work?”

Juliet nodded. “At least your beetle research. You see, I intend to study beetles. At your college. When I’ve made enough money to go back to England.”

“Goodness! And how did you end up in America?”

“I wished to study some of the beetles here.” Juliet became more animated as she warmed to the subject. “So I took the last of my inheritance and came to the States. But now I have all my data and I wish to return to England to interpret it.”

“What a rarity! A woman naturalist! Who would have thought? Can I see your notes?”

“Oh yes, professor!” Juliet ran out of the parlor as quick as she could.

Broadstead watched her go. He’d often been curious about women. There weren’t too many in the beetle field. Would she be any good? Would her research mean anything? As he watched her return breathlessly with her notes, he was caught in her enthusiasm. She watched proudly as he thumbed through her notebooks. “Why, this is very good, Miss Armstrong. How patient you must have been to get notes this exact!”

Juliet nodded. “I could just watch beetles for hours, professor!”

“Oh! Me too, Miss Armstrong!” He looked up at her, and she was aglow with happiness. He had only seen such a look of admiration when his mother looked at his father. The look that he had seen as a young boy had stayed with him because his mother had died early in his childhood, but he recognized the look for what it was. Juliet Armstrong seemed to admire him greatly.

Broadstead was puzzled. They had just met. Obviously Miss Armstrong loved an idea. She did not love J. Hamish Broadstead the man, she loved J. Hamish Broadstead, the perfect scientist. Not that Broadstead was shocked. His ideas about male and female relationships were probably not what Juliet might expect. Why, back in his younger undergraduate days, he’d written a rather radical political tract discussing the idea of free love. But she, young and inexperienced, was probably not aware of the concept. And he did not intend to introduce her to it, intellectually or otherwise.

“Miss Armstrong?”


“Perhaps we should see about a scholarship for you. This is brilliant work.”

“Thank you, professor.”

“Not at all,” he said, closing the book abruptly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.” He rose hastily and looked out the window. One of Miss Pettijohn’s young ladies was crossing the street, walking toward the school. A gentleman came towards her and stopped to converse with her.

“Is something wrong, professor?” Juliet’s voice made him nervous. It wasn’t the monsters—um—ruffians—putting him on edge at all. It was her.

“No, Miss Armstrong.” Outside the gentleman was no longer a gentleman. He was pulling on the young lady’s arm. The young lady began to scream. Juliet rushed to his side at the parlor window.

“Hey,” the man yelled toward the school. Ya wanna come out and play? I got one of your little girls here!”

Broadstead picked up his can and made deliberately for the door. “Obviously someone I shall have to thrash soundly. Please stay inside, Miss Armstrong. Keep the young ladies inside as well.” Broadstead strode from the house. Juliet grabbed an umbrella from the stand and guarded the door.

When Broadstead left the school, Marion released the student. She darted into Juliet's arms at the door, and Juliet pushed her inside. She closed the door behind her, clutching the umbrella. Marion surveyed Broadstead from head to toe. “Good help must be getting hard to find these days if the best they could do was you.”

“I can assure you,” Broadstead said stiffly, “I am more than capable of dealing with the likes of you. And I have summoned the constable.”

“I'd be shaking in my boot if this were any place but New Orleans. You can expect the police maybe next week. As for you,” Marion's fist flew into Broadstead's face. Broadstead, dazed, fell to the street. Juliet rushed forward, wielding the umbrella. Blood from Broadstead's nose dripped onto his shirt.

The naturalist stood up, ready. Marion had caught him off guard once; he wouldn't catch him again. “Get back, Miss Armstrong!” Broadstead, sturdy on his feet, assumed boxing stance. He popped the vampire square on the jaw. Juliet stood paralyzed while the fight began.

Marion decided to fight dirty. He crouched and leaped on Broadstead. Juliet screamed. Broadstead and Marion tangled to the ground in a mass of limbs. Juliet raced forward and whacked Marion with the umbrella. Using one hand to throttle Broadstead, Marion backhanded Juliet. The force sent her to the picket fence of the school, where she hit her head on the boards. Still clutching the umbrella, she watched dancing brown spots cover the world, thinking that if the vampires killed her at least she would die in the company of a great man.

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