Title: Errand of Mercy
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Characters: Victor Frankenstein.
Summary: Baron Frankenstein commits an act of kindness on his own terms.
Disclaimer: Not my characters. Just visiting them.
Notes: This short story originally appeared in the winter 2001 issue of The Cushing Confidential, a short-lived Peter Cushing fanzine. As it is long out of print, I now feel at liberty to share the story online.
The setting is post-Revenge of Frankenstein, as evidenced by the Baron’s presence in London.
Nameless and melancholy, the whistled tune carried through the narrow streets. Dusk was beginning to settle over London as Doctor Franck made his way from his surgery on Harley Street West.
He wasn’t headed home. Home was a comfortable apartment above his place of practice. Rather, he was on his way to the old cellar three streets away which he had rented cheaply and quietly, and which was the place of his true work.
Remarkable how the environment could change from one street to the next. Between his surgery and the cellar, he had passed from an upper-class avenue to a dingy alleyway, lined with the hovels of the poor and a few seedy taverns. Franck walked on, indifferent to his surroundings.
The bark of a small dog gave pause to his whistling, and he smiled faintly. Up ahead, taking advantage of the last light of day, the landlady’s small boy and his dog were playing as they did most evenings. Franck had become used to them engaging in games of hide-and-seek around the steps leading to the cellar door, and they did no harm by being there.
Seeing the doctor’s approach, the boy tossed away the stick the dog had been fetching and stood respectfully straight. “Good evening, Sir!”
The clattering of a carriage could dimly be heard down the street, coming closer.
“Good evening, Willie,” Franck replied, smiling down at the boy. “And how is your mother today?”
“Feeling much better, Sir, after the medicine you gave her. Thank you!”
“I was glad to be of help. You and your mother have done a great deal for me.” Franck caught his first glimpse of the approaching carriage from the corner of his eye, and ignored it. “But if your mother wishes to stay well, she should obey my instructions. I want you to tell her—“
A dog’s piercing shriek and the neigh of a horse cut him short. Swiftly he turned to see the driver of the carriage leap down from his seat, as his two horses shied away from a small brown figure almost beneath them. Motionless.
With an anguished face, the boy started forward, but Franck seized him and held him back. Restrained, the child slumped in the doctor’s arms and began to weep.
“There, there,” Franck said soothingly. “Let me go and have a look. I’m sure your little dog will be alright.”
The boy sniffled and remained still. Giving him a pat on the head, Franck left him and strode into the street, where the carriage driver had finally calmed his horses. He turned from them to look unhappily at the doctor.
“I’m sorry, Sir. The little nipper simply ran out in front of the horses before they could stop. Like to have scared them half to death.”
Franck knelt beside the limp, furry figure, took off his gloves and gently probed its body with his hands.
The carriage driver peered anxiously over his shoulder. “Is it… Is it dead, Sir?”
“Not at all. It’s only shock, I'm sure.” He gathered the dusty little terrier into his arms. “I’ll take care of him, and he’ll be quite alright.”
“Oh, good, Sir.” The driver hesitated. “Is there anything I can do, Sir?”
“No need. Just be on your way—but mind you go a little slower on this street from now on.”
“Yes Sir.” Relieved, the driver scrambled back up to his place on the carriage. A moment later, the horses were once again clattering down the street.
With a sigh, Franck carried his small burden toward the steps of the cellar. The boy stood there, trembling, looking up at him anxiously and hopefully. “Can you really make him alright again, Doctor?”
“Of course I can.” Franck smiled. “But I’ll need to take care of him. I’m afraid you’ll have to be without your little friend for a few days.”
“Oh, that’s alright, as long as I know he’ll get better!” The boy beamed at him. “Thank you, Sir.”
“You’re very welcome.” The doctor reached into his waistcoat pocket for the key to the cellar. “Now, Willie, I’m going to give him a comfortable place to rest in my workshop here. I’ll have him back to you just as soon as he’s well. He’ll be running and playing with you again in no time at all.”
With a grateful smile, the boy ran off to supper.
Nodding to himself, Franck turned the key, and stepped into the maze of tubes and wires and strange apparatus that he euphemistically called his “workshop”—his laboratory. There he set to work on the lifeless body of the dog.
The heart was damaged, and ribs were broken; given the size and clumsy strength of the startled horses, it was surprising the pup had not fared worse. The ribs could mend on their own, of course… But the heart, that was the thing. The dog would have to have a new one before life could be restored.
Sudden inspiration struck the doctor, and a chuckle escaped him. “Well, my little friend, you may have given me an excuse to do Harley Street a great favor.”
After immersing the dog’s body in a bath of preservative fluid, he went out again, retracing his path through the alleys to Harley Street. He went to the very doorstep of his own surgery. It was dark now, and in this well-to-do part of the neighborhood, everyone was either asleep already or gone to a social affair that would last for hours yet.
As he made his way around the corner of the building, a small, white canine shape stalked into the moonlight, uttering a growl. Franck smiled to himself. Here indeed was exactly what he had been looking for—Mrs. Fenwick’s ill-tempered poodle. It was a small but vicious dog that dug up his carefully planted flowers and bit small children. Like owner, like pet, considering that Mrs. Fenwick was one of the most irritable and unkind people in London.
For Franck, there was a certain justice in his plan. The little cur’s heart would beat much more nobly in the chest of Willie’s friendly terrier.
He carried out his intention without remorse, and soon carried a small bundle wrapped in canvas back to his laboratory.
A week later, Doctor Franck called on Willie and his mother after breakfast.
“Ah, Mrs. Tidwell. You’re looking very healthy indeed.”
The widowed Mrs. Tidwell blushed and smiled. “Thank you, Doctor, but it’s all owed to you. You’ve been so considerate of a poor old woman like me.”
“Not at all.” Standing on the front stoop, Franck peered over her shoulder, into her small sitting room. “Is Willie somewhere about? I thought he might like to see his little dog today.”
“Oh, that he would! I’ll fetch him." Mrs. Tidwell vanished into the recesses of the few rooms that made up her home, and returned a moment later with her beaming son.
“Is it true, Sir?” he asked eagerly. “My dog is better?”
“You shall judge for yourself. Come along.” Franck took the boy’s hand and led him around to the cellar steps, where he told him to wait. He went inside, and a moment later returned with a small brown bundle of fur in his arms.
A bundle which, although bandaged round its body, was bright-eyed and happily wagging its tail.
“Oh, thank you, Sir!” The boy put his small arms around the dog’s neck and hugged it, very gently.
“There we are.” Franck carefully placed the dog in the boy’s arms. “You must be as gentle as you can with him for a while yet, but soon he’ll be like new.”
“Thank you, Sir,” the boy said again, his eyes shining with gratitude. Talking softly to his little dog, he turned and walked away. Doctor Franck smiled, and disappeared once more into the depths of his laboratory.
They could say all they liked about Victor Frankenstein—but not when it came to children.
© 2001 Jordanna Morgan