Chestnut Hill, MA
A proper lady dressed all in purple strolled through the cobblestone path of a cemetery. She stumbled in fancy shoes she wasn’t used to wearing. Her corset made her feel like she was slowly suffocating to death. The hat, with all of its festooned plumage, seemed a bit much.
She reached her destination to find a grim faced man standing over a grave stone.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” she said as stepped next to the man. “This dress has at least a hundred buttons and I feel like if I move too fast they’re all going to pop off in every direction.”
“Ah yes, Annabelle,” the man replied. “Welcome to the tortures of the high society female.”
Annabelle reached her hand around her backside and tugged at the fabric. “It feels like its wedged between my cheeks but I can’t…ugh…get at it because there’s an iron bar.”
The man chuckled. “Yes. Fashion can be quite elaborate I’m afraid. In fact, I dare say at first I wasn’t sure if that was a hat atop your head or if an ill-tempered pheasant had found a new home.”
Annabelle snickered then straightened her face and looked around. “Where is everyone, Owen?”
“It will just be us I’m sorry to say,” Owen said. “I, of course, would not dream of missing the service of my dearly departed brother. But alas, the remaining Faradays have memories like elephants when it comes to holding a grudge.”
Owen was a few years older than Doc. His hair had a touch of gray. His face was clean shaven and he was starting to go bald, but there was a definite family resemblance, both in terms of physical appearance and uppity demeanor.
“That’s a shame,” Annabelle said.
Annabelle stared at the gravestone.
Elias T. Faraday
Medical Doctor. Misunderstood Genius. Proponent of the Curative Properties of Cocaine and Regular Gynecological Examinations
Accidentally Caused the Western Zombie Apocalypse.
Felt Really Bad About It.
Gave His Life to Keep it from Spreading East.
May He Be Judged Less Harshly By the Wise Citizens of Tomorrow Than the Idiots of Today
“Quite ironic, actually,” Owen said. “Elias long complained that our reputation as pickpockets held him back in life but no one ever discusses those unfounded rumors anymore. Rather, we’re known as the family of the man who zombified the West.”
“He didn’t mean to.”
“Of that I am sure but try telling that to the rabble,” Owen said. “Mother and Father can’t show their face at church anymore. Our sister and brother refuse to speak his name. Even the more respectable, wealthy side of the family has been affected. Word has it that our estranged uncle shall be issuing a letter to the press denouncing Elias and distancing himself from the Chestnut Hill side of the family.”
“That’s terrible,” Annabelle said.
“It’s up to you,” Owen said. “But I don’t think anyone would blame you if you reverted to your maiden name. It isn’t easy being a Faraday these days.”
“No,” Annabelle said. “I won’t do that. Doc’s the only one who ever cared about me. ”
“Then I see Elias chose his wife well,” Owen said. “Tell me, how did you two meet?”
Annabelle caught herself. “A house. A uh…a book house. What do you call one of those places where they keep lots of books?”
“That’s it,” Annabelle said.
“Are there many libraries in the West?” Owen asked.
“Oh a shit ton,” Annabelle replied. “One on every corner. We both reached for the same book and hit it off.”
“Oh uh…some fruity English poet,” Annabelle said. “The stone is lovely.”
“With your generosity to thank for that,” Owen said. “I only wish it could remain.”
“They really won’t let it stay?” Annabelle asked.
“Not a single cemetery in the entire city would have it,” Owen said. “I was given strict instructions that after our impromptu service here it is to be removed by the end of the day lest it be destroyed.”
“I…I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s all right,” Owen said. “I’ve enlisted some hearty men to deliver it to my home. I think I’ll put it on bricks and use it as a coffee table so I can remember my brother fondly during afternoon tea.”
Annabelle laid a rose down. Owen checked his pocket watch.
“Well, I suppose we musn’t dilly dally in getting you to your ship.”
Owen offered the lady his arm. She took it and they strolled to the road.
“Are zombies as hideous as the papers say?” Owen asked.
“And then some,” Annabelle said.
“Egads,” Owen said. “Now this expedition you’re going on. What is it exactly?”
“I’m going to educate the world on the curative properties of cocaine and gyn-a…gyn-a…I’m going to help women get their under-business checked out.”
“The latter part sounds absolutely scandalous but how will you achieve the first part?”
Annabelle reached into her pocket, pulled out a bottle and handed it to Owen.
He read the label.
“Doc Faraday’s Miracle Cure-All. Now with More Cocaine. Vampire’s Blood Free.”
Owen pulled out the cork and took a swig. He swished it around then swallowed. “Mmm…minty!”
“Yes,” Annabelle said. “The manufacturer was able improve the taste.”
“You know I head the most interesting rumor that various beverage companies are working on a fizzy, syrupy concoction that has cocaine in it.”
“Are you shitting me?” Annabelle asked. “I’ve already got ten thousand cases loaded aboard the Mystic Dawn.”
“Oh I’m sure they’ll sell quite well in London, seeing as how its a drink reminiscent of the one that ruined America,” Owen said. “Just to stick it to us Yanks. If you ask me, Parliament crossed the line when they published that letter explaining how we got what was coming to us and that they would be steadfastly rooting for the zombies.”
They reached the street. A coach with a driver waited for Annabelle.
“This is where I leave you,” Owen said. “A shame to not have known you longer, sister.”
“Leave some tea on Doc’s stone for me,” Annabelle said.
Owen and Annabelle hugged. Annabelle raised a curious eyebrow when she realized that her brother-in-law was lingering just a bit too long.
“OK then,” Annabelle said as she extricated herself and walked to the coach.
Something felt off. She patted her pocket.
Annabelle put her hand out. “My coin purse?”
Owen pulled a small leather purse out of his pocket and forked it over. “Oh my! How did that get there?”
Annabelle shook her head as the driver opened the door. He was an elderly Irishman with a tweed cap who spoke in a thick brogue.
“Pardon me, ma’am,” the driver said. “But I’ve been at this job for many a year and I thought I had the privilege of transporting just about every proper lady there is in Boston Town, but you’re new to me. Might I inquire your name?”
“Annabelle Garv…Farraday. Annabelle Farraday.”
“Aw shite. Is that so?”
Annabelle blinked. “Is there a problem?”
“Aye,” the driver said as he pulled two bags out of the coach and tossed them at her feet. “It’s not enough that you pukes subsidize yourselves by picking the pockets of decent people but now you had to go and fill the West with ambulatory dead folk! Me son just put down stakes in Nebraska and now I’ll never hear from him ever again!”
The driver hopped into his seat and was off, making sure to ride through a puddle that sprayed dirty water all over Annabelle’s fancy dress.
Irked but not defeated, she picked up her bags and started walking. She had a ship to catch.