Van Helsing [Secure Mobipocket/Microsoft Reader/eReader (recommended)]
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by Kevin Ryan
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Description: Deep in the mountains of nineteenth-century Carpathia lies the mysterious and mythic land of Transylvania, a world where evil is ever-present, where danger rises as the sun sets, and where monsters such as Count Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein's Monster take form and inhabit man's deepest nightmares--terrifying legends who outlive generations, defying repeated attacks from the doomed brave souls that challenge them in their never-ending war upon the human race. On order of a secret society, only a lone force of good stands against them--the legendary monster hunter Van Helsing, a man revered by some and feared by many. In his ongoing battle to rid the earth of these fiendish beings, Van Helsing must now travel to Transylvania to bring down the lethally seductive, enigmatically powerful Count Dracula, and joins forces with the fearless Anna Valerious, a woman out to rid her family of a generations-old curse by defeating the vampire. But unknown to all, the immortal Dracula will stop at nothing to unleash his master plan of subverting human civilization and ruling over a world of havoc, fear, and darkness...
eBook Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc./Pocket Books, 2004
eBookGeek.com Release Date: May 2004
121 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [Secure Mobipocket/Microsoft Reader/eReader (recommended) - What's this?]:
All formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
GEOGRAPHIC RESTRICTIONS: Available to customers in: US, PR, VI, UM
"Victor, I'm so proud of you."
Elizabeth leaned forward and Victor Frankenstein felt her warm lips on his cheek. He had to lean down slightly so that she could reach him. Though not tall himself, Victor stood a head higher than his fiancée. Elizabeth's blue eyes beamed at him. He saw in them her excitement, her admiration, and for the thousandth time he hoped that someday he would be worthy of her devotion.
Victor reached up and felt Elizabeth's shoulder-length blond curls, taking her in. As usual, she was neatly dressed, her curls tamed and close to her head. Elizabeth was always meticulous in her appearance -- even more so than Victor himself. She had chosen the brown suit and tie he now wore, and as he looked at her she gently pushed back a stray lock of his hair.
As she smiled at him, Victor found that, once again, he was drawing strength from her. It seemed impossible and not very scientific that her small, slim form could transmit strength to him, but it did. She had waited so long for him. There were the years of medical college, and then his decision to change his focus from surgery to research, which would provide a much less secure future. As a researcher, his fortunes would largely be determined by his ability to win grants and fellowships. His success would depend as much on his talents as a presenter and a salesman as it would on his skill as a physician.
And much of that success would depend on what happened in the next hour.
"Good luck, old man," Henry said, shaking his hand. Then his friend playfully batted him on the shoulder, and Victor felt himself returning Henry's goodwill. It was, he realized, the first time he had smiled that day.
Taller than Victor, Henry -- with his good looks, dark hair, and thin, neatly trimmed mustache -- had enjoyed plenty of female attention when they had been in school together. Henry had been with him when Victor had met Elizabeth, but to Victor's astonishment -- and great happiness -- Elizabeth had been completely immune to Henry's charm. She had only been interested in Victor, and they had spent hours talking that first night.
Victor was glad Elizabeth and Henry had come. His heart was still hammering in his chest, but he found himself drawing courage from them, from their simple faith in him.
Despite the fact that he was taking a substantial risk today, he felt a certainty dawning within his breast. He truly was onto something. His theories were revolutionary, but his results were incontrovertible.
"It's time, Victor. Go shake them up a bit," Henry said.
"Good luck, darling," Elizabeth said, and Victor turned and headed into the auditorium. As a student, he had been in that room a thousand times during his years of medical training at Goldstadf. He had even assisted Professor Waldman in teaching first-and second-year courses.
Now Victor felt sweat on his brow. Today the auditorium was full not of eager students but of physicians and professors of medical science -- colleagues looking down at the youngest man ever to apply for the Goldstadf Fellowship, the most prestigious fellowship in Romania, and one of the most esteemed in all of Europe. It also carried a rather large grant and access to the university's considerable resources.
Victor took his place by the podium and was warmly greeted by his mentor, Professor Waldman. The doctor had a thick mop of gray hair and bushy gray eyebrows, their salty color showing his age. Still, Waldman's posture was so ramrod straight that he looked like a first-year military cadet rather than a man just a few years from retirement. Waldman's eyes blazed with a keen intelligence that was legendary at the university. Now those eyes were looking at Victor warmly.
Nodding, Victor took his place by the doctor's side.
"And now, esteemed colleagues, it is my pleasure to introduce Dr. Victor von Frankenstein, who two years ago graduated at the top of his class here at the university," Waldman addressed his audience. "A student of mine since his first year, Victor has distinguished himself both as a surgical resident and as my research assistant. He has also been published in both The Munich Review of Medicine and The Paris Journal of Surgical Science. Today he has a presentation to make of his own work, and though he has kept the subject of it quite secret, I am certain that it will be of great interest to all of us."
His teacher turned to him and whispered, "They are all yours, Victor."
Victor nodded and took the podium as the professor stepped away. Quickly scanning the audience, Victor relaxed a bit as he spied Elizabeth and Henry taking their seats in an upper row of the auditorium. Once again he took strength from them, then began: "Distinguished guests, I welcome you." As he spoke, Victor felt his confidence grow. His work was important and he would do it justice today.
"I am pleased to see so many well-known faces from all of the fields of medical science. Surgery, orthopedics, internal medicine, and neurology. With all due modesty, I can assure you that what I am about to propose will be of interest to each and every one of you, and will have dramatic implications in all of our various fields of study.
"Nearly two thousand five hundred years ago, Hippocrates changed the field of medicine forever by establishing once and for all that there were no supernatural causes for disease, only natural ones. A few hundred years later, Galen developed the first medical theories based on the principles of scientific experimentation. In the centuries since that time, we have used experiments to learn more and more about those natural causes. Recently, Louis Pasteur revealed a microscopic world of germs. We continue to learn about anatomy and of the body as a machine. Today, our treatments and surgical techniques improve at a rate that would astonish Hippocrates, and we have learned more in the last century than we had in the nearly two millennia that came before. At the threshold of the twentieth century, we stand on the brink of new and exciting discoveries.
"However, significant mysteries still remain. All of us have seen cases that defy our explanation. We have seen identical patients with identical illnesses, some who survive, some who do not. Why does pneumonia sometimes take a healthy young man from us and at other times allow an elderly man to recover? What are the forces that promote healing? Hasten death? Why do some patients mend more quickly than others, while some never at all?"
"God," someone remarked a bit too loudly, which elicited a low laughter from the audience.
Victor smiled. He was ready for this. "Yes, perhaps God has a plan for each of us that predetermines how long we live and when we die. Yet, has God not also allowed our medical science to intervene and save lives? If this is so, then healers are truly doing His work."
The laughter ceased and Victor paused for a moment to consider his colleagues. He sensed they were prepared for what would come next. "I submit to you that there is a force underlying all of our work... a force hitherto invisible... a force of life." The audience was quite attentive now, many in it straining forward.
"We have known for some time about the role of electricity in the human body. The fields of chemical galvanism and electro-biology were born more than a hundred years ago, when Luigi Galvani caused the leg of a recently deceased frog to twitch through the application of electricity. My subsequent work has suggested the existence of a force underlying even electrical impulses: a life force, if you will. I submit to you that this life force can be manipulated and focused through the careful application of electrical and magnetic forces -- that this life force can actually be harnessed to promote health and healing."
Immediately the room broke out into dozens of separate conversations. Victor heard shock and indignation in the murmuring voices.
"Gentlemen, please!" Professor Waldman's voice boomed, silencing some but not all of the discussion.
"I know that what I am proposing is revolutionary," Victor continued. "However, is it really any more revolutionary than Pasteur's work? He introduced us to an invisible world of microscopic organisms. Is it so hard to believe that there is even more we do not know, even more that we do not see?"
"What are you suggesting? That there is a magic ray that will heal a broken limb, close a wound, clear a body of disease?" shouted a voice from the audience.
"No more magic than sulfur powder," Victor countered.
"And what if you applied enough of this 'life force' to Galvani's dead frog? Are you saying it could get up and hop away?" hooted another.
Victor answered without hesitation, "Theoretically, yes, but--"
The response was immediate. Half of the room erupted into cries of scorn, the other half into peals of laughter. Victor felt his cheeks flush, even as his own internal temperature seemed to go up ten degrees.
"Blasphemy!" a voice yelled out.
Victor found himself roaring back, "No, not blasphemy! Science!" All conversation ceased for a moment before degenerating again into chaos.
Professor Waldman called out and in a few minutes order was restored.
When the auditorium was quiet once more, Victor said, "I know that what I am proposing is extraordinary, but I ask you to read the contents of the folder now in front of each of you. It contains all of my experimental records and the findings of my research."
Looking out over the crowd, Victor saw nothing but blank faces. The response to his fellowship application would not come for weeks; however, he already knew what that reply would be.
Victor knew that he had failed: He had failed his work... he had failed himself, and... and, worst of all, he had failed Elizabeth. Still, he held his head up high, met the crowd's eyes one last time, and said, "I thank you for your time."
His face burning, Victor walked off. Even as he left the auditorium, he heard the disapproving voices of his colleagues. For this distinguished group, it was the equivalent of catcalls and the hurling of fruit and vegetables.
He stood alone in the hallway for a brief moment and then saw Professor Waldman approach him. "Victor, are you all right?"
"Fine, Professor... but it would appear that my career is over."
Waldman shook his head. "You always have a place with me. There is a great deal we can do together."
Victor knew this already. Waldman's research was good science. And the professor was making slow and steady progress: new procedures, new techniques. But Victor could not shake the feeling that a position with Waldman was all a waste of time, compared to what he could be doing, to what he could be accomplishing. He knew that in a decade his pioneering work on the life force could do more to advance medicine than the last two thousand years of study by the best minds in the world. Within just a few years, he could dwarf what Waldman had done in his entire career.
Perhaps it was arrogant and prideful of him to think it. But it was also true.
"No, thank you, Professor," Victor said simply.
Waldman studied him for a minute. "Please, Victor. This was merely a setback. Do not let it consume you, and please promise me that you will at least consider my offer."
Victor could only nod, and the professor turned away as Henry and Elizabeth approached.
* * *
It was a full four weeks before Victor returned to his family home in Romania. He had promised Elizabeth a holiday and he had made good on his word. However, his mind had never really been on the trip and she had known it. Even in their beautiful rented villa on the Seine, he had been unable to relax. Part of the problem was that he did not feel he was being fair to Elizabeth, given his new professional circumstances.
After a few days Victor had sat down to talk seriously with his fiancée. "Elizabeth, I want... I need to continue my work, on my own if I have to. There are the family holdings, a little income. I can set up a lab in the house. It won't have the staff or advantages of the university, but it's a start." His family had some means, although their fortunes were not what they once were.
"I understand," Elizabeth had responded.
"I'm not sure you do, darling. It will be some time before my work will bring results." Science, even revolutionary science, depended on experiments, data, and reproducible results. There would be years of working with animals and lower life-forms, and he would have to make do with the equipment he could afford.
"The point is, Elizabeth, it'll be some time before I will have achieved anything substantial. For some time I will be the laughingstock that I was at Goldstadf." He didn't know how to put into words what he knew had to come next. As it turned out, Elizabeth wasn't going to let him.
"None of that matters to me, Victor. I know what you are. You are the man I love. And I know I have to share you with your work," she said before he could interrupt. "If you think that I will allow this little setback to delay our life together, you are very mistaken, Dr. Victor Frankenstein. I mean to marry you and I do not mean to wait."
"But, Elizabeth, I can't offer you--"
"You have offered me yourself and that is all I want. I won't be stopped by money or the Goldstadf Fellowship board or anything else. And I can assist you in your work."
"We wouldn't have much to start," Victor had said.
"We will have everything we need," Elizabeth had replied.
At that moment, Victor had felt the cloud that had descended on him during his disastrous presentation lift. There was hope -- not only for his work, but for his life with Elizabeth.
It might not be the Goldstadf Fellowship, but it was enough for him.
Now he walked into the family home with his few servants standing ready to greet him. It was good to be back. It was evening before he had his belongings unpacked and attended to his responsibilities as master of the house.
There was quite a large pile of correspondence demanding his attention, but Victor decided to forgo that until the morrow. He sat at his desk and began making notes: If he was going to outfit a lab in his own home, he would have much to do.
He smiled as he imagined Elizabeth sitting down at the same moment to make plans for the wedding. Yes, together they could accomplish quite a bit.
Less than an hour into his work, Victor's butler, Gerald, came to inform him that there was someone at the door. Before he spoke, Gerald cleared his throat dramatically. "A Count Dracula. I asked him to return in the morning, but he was quite insistent that he see you. I'm sorry, sir, the hour is quite indecent."
It was unusual. He had heard of a Count Dracula, but this could not be that Dracula. Poor Gerald looked distressed. "It's quite all right. Let's go see to our guest."
The foyer was empty, and Victor flashed Gerald a look.
"He would not leave, but he would not enter," Gerald said.
His natural curiosity piqued, Victor went to the front door and came face-to-face with a tall man standing in the entryway. He was dressed all in black, a long coat draping his body. The clothing was formal and had a vaguely military look, of a style Victor had never seen before. Most unusual was his hair, which was long, dark, and pulled back, away from his face. Perhaps the oddest thing about him was the single earring he wore in his left ear -- a small golden hoop. Clearly the count was nobility, but Victor had never known an aristocrat who wore an earring.
The count's features were striking, with pronounced cheekbones and very dark hair. If Victor had had to guess, he would have said the man was perhaps thirty, just a little older than Victor himself. His guest certainly looked like a man in the prime of youth, but there was something odd about his eyes, which looked older than his face -- much older. Victor found himself drawn to those eyes. They were electric, intense, and... warm? No, just very interested in him. After a few moments, Victor realized that he had been staring. He shook his head; he was being rude.
"Count Dracula, I presume," he said, offering his hand.
The man nodded curtly and said, "Yes, Dr. Frankenstein. It is a true pleasure to meet you."
"Why are you waiting outside?" Victor asked.
"I would not presume to enter without an invitation from the master of the house. Particularly at this indecent hour," Dracula said, giving Gerald a quick look. Victor had the feeling that Count Dracula had somehow overheard their conversation, but of course that was impossible. Gerald seemed unnerved by the count's attention. His butler had been with the family since Victor was a boy, and he had never seen the man as uncomfortable as now.
"By all means, do come in," Victor said.
Dracula stepped over the threshold and Victor felt a sudden chill, quickly dismissing it as the result of a cool evening breeze. "Brandy?" he offered.
"Yes, thank you."
"Gerald, we will take it in the library." Victor led the count to the comfortable chairs in front of the fire, where they were surrounded by his family's many books.
"My arrival is clearly a surprise to you. I apologize for that and for the lateness of the hour."
Victor tried but failed to place the count's accent. The Romanian was fluent, but he spoke it with a trace of something else.... "Quite all right," he said.
"I wrote you some time ago announcing my impending visit," the count continued.
"I have been traveling, and I must have not opened your letter yet," Victor replied. Then Gerald arrived with the brandy.
Victor raised his glass to his guest. "Cheers."
The count returned the gesture, but put the glass down without drinking.
"I don't mean to be rude, but perhaps later," Dracula said.
Victor noted that it was odd behavior, but no less than having an aristocrat show up at one's door after ten in the evening. "What can I do for you, Count Dracula?"
The count smiled, but the gesture was joyless and never reached his eyes -- eyes that were now boring into Victor, so much so that he found it almost frightening. The feeling passed and Victor realized that he was being silly. The count had been nothing but courteous and was his guest, after all.
"I am very interested in your work. I have learned of your presentation to the university and managed to obtain a copy of your Goldstadf Fellowship application materials. I found your theories quite thought-provoking indeed."
Victor stared blankly at his guest for a hint of irony or mockery. He detected none, seeing nothing but sincerity. Until now, the only people inquiring about Victor's work were journalists who wanted to ridicule him.
"I am quite serious, I assure you," the count went on, perhaps reading his thoughts. "I have from time to time been a benefactor of scientific research. I am here to speak with you about a grant. I think your work could be very important. I have significant means and have begun to think about my legacy on this world."
His eyes looked at Victor with an intensity that made him both nervous and giddy with excitement.
"Surely, as a physician, you have imagined the enormous potential impact of your theory on the force of life. If it could indeed be harnessed, the results for mankind could be revolutionary."
Victor could not hide his surprise, or his pleasure. "I have seen great potential in my work, but so far I have been alone in my enthusiasm."
"Then allow me to offer my support... and my friendship. Perhaps together we can realize that potential. Then you can take your place among Hippocrates, Pasteur, and the giants of medicine."
Those eyes. They were magnetic, drawing Victor in and making him believe the offer of brotherhood and support -- of the kind that he had not had from a single human being. The count was his only friend.
No, that's not true, Victor thought. Elizabeth is that and more. And what of Henry? He had only just met Dracula. The bright sincerity in Elizabeth's eyes came to Victor's mind, but he found that he was uncomfortable thinking of her in his visitor's presence.
Victor had the brief, uncanny feeling that Dracula had opened a window into his mind. "I was thinking of equipping you with a full laboratory. New equipment. Anything you require to speed your research."
"My good count, I'm afraid that that is a large order. The cost would be considerable. Much of the equipment would have to be designed and built to new specifications. That is why I approached the university: I hoped to involve the physical sciences and chemistry departments.
"I assure you that my means are considerable. Whatever you need, you shall have. Just think of what we can accomplish together!"
The count rose to leave. "Begin making a list of what you require," he said. "If it is acceptable to you, I shall return tomorrow evening and we shall discuss the matter further."
Victor walked his guest to the door and bade him good night. "I don't know how to thank you, Count Dracula."
The count simply nodded and shook Victor's hand. Victor thought it felt unusually cold. Then Dracula broke the contact, looked him once more in the eye, and turned to leave.
Seconds later, Count Dracula disappeared into the night.
With his strange visitor's departure, Frankenstein felt dizzy, as if he had stood up too quickly. Had he just dreamed the whole encounter?
"Master Frankenstein? Has your guest left?" Gerald asked from beside him.
"Yes. That will be all for the night, Gerald. Thank you."
"Very well, sir," Gerald replied, and headed back down the hallway.
So it wasn't a dream. So much the better, Victor thought. Certainly the count was the answer to his prayers.
I'm lucky to have a friend like him.
No. He had just met Count Dracula. They were just acquaintances, not friends. Not yet.
Far too excited to sleep tonight, Victor went back to his office and set to work.
He would have to cancel his plans with Elizabeth for tomorrow so he could labor through the day as well. The count was offering him the opportunity of a lifetime; to be ready for their next meeting was the least he could do.
Victor felt a rush of hope for the future. Soon, the whole world will know the name Frankenstein.
Something was nagging at him through the reverie, though -- something odd. And he soon realized what it was.
Dracula had arrived at his door in the dead of night, but there had been no coach waiting for him. Not even a horse in the drive.
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