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Stoker & Holmes Deleted Scene: Vis Bulla


This scene would have appeared in 

The Spiritglass Charade.


MISS STOKER: A Mysterious Package

The next morning, Pepper woke me just before eleven. She had breakfast on a tray, and with it was a small package. “Miss Florence said this came for you yesterday.”

I sat up in bed and poured tea, then used the Automatic Sweet-Loader to add a large number of sugar cubes. (I had to reset it twice because I liked a lot of sugar.) The bacon was crisp and the eggs were cooked inside small circles cut into the toast. I was starving, so I left the package until I’d eaten most of my meal.

The packet was about the size of my hand and wrapped in plain brown paper. A heavy silver string tied it closed. My name was written on the outside: Evaline Gardella Stoker.

A queer shiver caught me when I saw that. Very few people knew about my connection to the Gardella family tree, let alone what it meant. All of a sudden, I was eager to tear open the papers—and yet slightly terrified at the same time.

Was it from Siri?

My heart gave a lurch when I remembered what Espasia had said while channeling the spirits: You have proven yourself…worthy. You will…receive…confirmation….soon.

My heart was pounding so hard I felt ill. I looked closely at the wrappings, for once wishing Mina was here. She’d probably be able to tell me every person who’d touched the dratted thing, and where the paper was pressed and how the ink had been made.

There was no other writing on the package. No address, nor any postage stamps or markings.

I took unusual care opening the paper, saving the silver tie and unfolding the wrappings instead of tearing them. Inside was a small rosewood box. Decorative carvings of vines entwined with flowers and…stakes? Yes, those were wooden stakes. And crosses.

My heart beat faster and my fingers were suddenly clumsy. I lifted the lid to discover the case was lined with silver. It contained a velvet pouch and a small vial of clear liquid. I knew right away what it was, what both objects were. I felt weak, almost giddy with relief…and at the same time, I buzzed with nervous energy and excitement.

“Pepper, I need to send a message,” I said when the maid responded to my urgent ringing. For once, I appreciated the mechanical chime that Bram insisted we install after the velvet corded ones kept breaking.

After Pepper left to send the message, I opened the black velvet bag. As I expected, a small silver cross slid out into my palm. It was on a silver hoop and the cross itself was hardly larger than the fingernail on my pinkie. Small, delicate and ornate.

And very powerful.

I felt the sizzle even as I held it in my hand. Strength flowed through me.

Just then, my bedchamber door opened and Florence swept  in. “Good morning, Evvie! You look rested for having come home so late last night. And you ate a full breakfast too. No need for elevenses today, hmm?”

Drat! I didn’t have time to give her a minute by minute description of last night’s festivities or the Gardens—which I knew she would want. I slipped the cross back into its pouch and hid it in the box inside my pillow case.

“I slept very well. My friend Miss Holmes is coming over, and we’re to meet and talk about…uhm…seeing some of the people we were with last night. She thinks they will be at the British Museum today.” I hated walking that thin line between truth and fiction, but I had no choice. I was certain Mina would want to visit Wendy today, and so I wasn’t completely untruthful.

Although Wendy hadn’t actually been there last night.

“You’re spending an inordinate amount of time at the Museum as of late. But tell me all about New Vauxhall Gardens! There was an article in the Times this morning, and some drawings and even a photograph. Everyone who was anyone was there! Even Lord Salisbury, the Cosgrove-Pitts and the Duke and Duchess of Mayburton. The Observation Cogwheel looks very daring. But I want to hear all about it from you! And whether you saw Mr. Dancy last evening.”

Pepper returned at that moment, and I was glad to slide down from bed to get dressed and coiffed. Florence sat in a chair and interrogated me as I went behind the dressing screen, which unfolded from its position against the wall like an extending arm.

“And we have to go shopping for your gown for the soiree next week!” Florence reminded me as Pepper was finishing my hair.

Drat again. I was too busy to shop. But…I wondered if she’d let me get something from the street-fashion shop Mina used off Pall Mall. Or at least something that wasn’t the frilly, lacy Royal-style Florence normally chose.

“Miss Evaline.” Our housekeeper Mrs. Gernum poked her head around my ajar bedchamber door. “A Miss Holmes is here for you.”

“Do you mind terribly, Flo? I told her I’d go with her, and well….” My voice dropped conspiratorially. “Miss Holmes is a bit awkward in the social element, and I want to help her. She doesn’t have anyone else, you know.”

I said those words lightly, but realized with a start how terribly true they were.

Mina didn’t have anyone. No one to chat and gossip with, no one to laugh or jest with. (I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen her laugh or jest, come to think of it.) No one to shop with (although she seemed to do just fine on occasion) or even anyone at home to welcome her—or care—when she returned. She had freedom. An awful freedom.

No wonder she was the way she was.

“That’s very kind of you dearest,” Florence said with a fond smile. “I’m very happy to see you spending more time with girls—and young men—your own age instead of in that room with that dancing device. Only…does this Miss Holmes…is she…well, dearest, I do hope she doesn’t…ahem. I mean to say…is she rich? And pretty?”

I hid a smile. Poor Flo. Her competitive instincts were warring with her motherly side. Although she was a sweet, kind person, she was afraid Mina might be competition for me with Mr. Dancy—or any of the other eligible bachelors.

“She’s quite different. Neither very rich nor particularly beautiful, but striking in her own way,” I said truthfully. Then I bent to press a kiss to my sister-in-law’s cheek as I sneakily dragged the rosewood box from my pillow case. “I’m off with her. Give Bram a kiss from me when he comes home for lunch. And give my regards to Mrs. Dancy if you see her at tea.”

Before Florence could respond, I fled the room.

***

“It’s a vis bulla of course,” Mina said matter-of-factly as she looked down at the tiny silver cross. “That’s Latin for ‘amulet of strength.’”

“I know that,” I told her impatiently. “I’m the vampire-hunter, remember? But don’t you see? The séance? What Espasia said?”

Mina looked up at me, fixing her dark eyes on mine. I recognized indecision in them—something I was not used to seeing in her face.

We were sitting in the privacy of my carriage, having stopped at the entrance to Regents Park.

I continued, stressing my point. “At the first séance, I’m told the vampires are back. Then I kill a vampire. In the second séance, I’m told I’ve succeeded and that I’ll receive confirmation. And now I get this.” I gestured to the silver cross. “You’ve read the book! You know what it means.”

She nodded. “Right. The vis bulla is given to a Venator once he or she has slain their first vampire.” Then she looked up at me. “You are aware that you must wear it pierced through your skin.”

I was? I must? I glanced at the small ring bearing the cross. Siri hadn’t mentioned that. My stomach lurched.

Mina seemed delighted to have caught me unawares. So it was no surprise she continued her lecture. “The cross is forged from silver mined in the Holy Lands, which surely you are aware will repel the vampires. They are weakened by anything blessed or holy, and particularly silver—due to the fact that the first vampire was the traitor Judas Iscariot, betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver,” she added, as if I couldn’t make the connection myself. “And the cross must be steeped in holy water from the Vatican, which, presumably, is what this is in the vial.”

Right. “I knew that.” But at the same time, I was angry. How could Mina know all of this information and I didn’t?

Maybe Siri thought it was more important to teach me how to fight and defend myself against the Un-Dead than to give me all the history. Although she’d spent quite a lot of time on the workings of the Tutela.

Where the blazes was she? Was she the one to send the package? Or was it someone else?

Maybe she thought she’d have more time with me. Maybe she hadn’t expected to have to leave. Maybe she hadn’t wanted to leave.

I really needed her now.

“Each strength amulet is created specifically for the Venator it protects. No two are alike, and therefore are unique to the vampire-hunter. The vis bulla has to be pierced through the skin for two reasons,” Mina rattled on. “First, supposedly to imbue extra power and strength—which, I’m certain you’ll be able to tell me whether that’s true. And also to help resist the thrall of the vampires. And second, so that it’s always on the Venator’s person. Therefore,” she said, looking down her long nose at me, “you must wear it in a place on your person where it cannot be seen or noticed, or, worse…easily torn from your flesh.”

My belly panged unpleasantly at the thought. “Right.”

“I suggest you consider wearing it here.” She lifted a wing of hair from the side of her head and tapped the uppermost part of her ear. “It will always be hidden by your hair. And you will always have it with you.”

I nodded. That was as good a place as any. Where had my great-great-aunt Victoria had worn hers, since the fashions of that time exposed the ears? And my grandfather Yancy Gardella Stoker? Surely a man couldn’t have worn it in his ear.

“I’d be delighted to assist you in inserting it,” Mina said. I swore I heard a note of glee in her voice.

But what choice did I have?

Siri had deserted me, but I still had to take on the responsibility of my legacy.

“Let’s do it today,” I said.

***

MISS HOLMES: Our Heroine Performs an Operation

“For pity’s sake, it didn’t hurt that much,” I informed Evaline in exasperation. She was holding her ear as if I’d attempted to slice it off.

“It’s bleeding all over,” she replied. There was definite accusation and perhaps a bit of a whine in her voice. “You didn’t have to jab it in so hard and fast. You didn’t even warn me.”

I sniffed. It was my opinion that a quick and short work of anything that must be torn off, lanced or pierced was the most efficient route. “For a vampire-hunter, you certainly have a low threshold for pain.”

“Then it’s a bloody good thing I’ve got a vis bulla stuck in my ear, then, now isn’t it?” Her teeth were definitely gritted.

I looked at her, opening my mouth to respond…then closed it.

We had other things to attend to—namely a visit to Miss Louisa Fenley, and then to Miss Dearing. I considered calling on the latter first, but Miss Fenley’s private séance parlor was closer to my home (where the tools in my laboratory had been available for the installation of the vis bulla).


I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into what might have been for Evaline Stoker, had my original version of the book been published.

If you haven’t read the Gardellas, and would like to learn more about the vis bulla and the Venators, you can download the first book in the Victoria Gardella: Vampire Hunter series for FREE at most retailers.

Click here for links.

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