DOWNTON ABBEY MEETS LOVECRAFT MEETS NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in Deadtown Abbey.
It is a world few of us have ever known. A world of masters and servants, where everyone knows one’s place. A world of newfangled technology like telephones and motorcars. A world of vampires, werewolves, zombies, and monsters of the deep. At the center of his necropolis estate lives the Earl of Monroe, who must hold the family he loves and the servants he trusts together against the eldritch onslaught of this rapidly changing world.
“The dowager countess,” Foree intoned as Lady Velma swept into the sitting room like a peacock tasting something sour.
“Mother,” George said warmly, and rose to kiss her on the cheek.
“Velma,” Barbara said without looking up from her tea.
“Oh, dear,” Velma said to her daughter-in-law as she sat on a comfortably cushioned chair, “I’m sorry to see Dr. Logan’s facial cream is doing nothing for you. You don’t even seem to need to be in the sun to sport a hide as tanned as that of a gardener.”
“Thank you, Velma. I see that your liver spots—”
“Tonight is the Duke’s visit,” Lord Monroe interrupted, not knowing what the rest of his sentence would be, “and we will be lending a hand to help international relations.”
“Really?” the dowager countess said. “George, I would think you’d have your house in mourning after the loss of poor Stuart. Soon you will be dead, and now your wife and daughters will be thrown into the streets.”
“You’re not wearing mourning clothes,” Barbara noted, but was ignored.
“Mother, I am hardly on death’s door. And we shall see if this Johnny Shambley isn’t interested in making an offer to Maureen as soon as he lays eyes on her.”
“Johnny? It sounds like he should have Maureen as a governess rather than a wife.”
Barbara sighed so dramatically that for a moment Foree, who remained near the door to await any requests, thought a window had been pushed open by the wind.
“In any event,” George said, trying to get the conversation onto a safer path, “visiting us for dinner this evening will be the Duke of Baskerville and his friend from the Romanian embassy, a Mister Kasztelan Tarboosh.”
“He sounds Turkish.”
“He comes from one of the oldest families in Romania, I assure you.”
The dowager countess harrumphed. “People running around with Turkish names. Next thing you know, we’ll be inviting night-gaunts into the house to dine on our slower servants.” She gave the butler a tiny smile with a twinkle in her eye. They had known each other for thirty years, and she knew that he still held with the Old Religion, even though he spent most of his time with upper-class personages. “Not a bad idea, eh, Foree?”
He had a chuckle in his voice as he replied, “I think they would find it very motivating, mam.”
“You two are completely incorrigible,” Barbara said, glad the mood had been lightened. “When are our guests arriving, Foree?”
“After seven o’clock, I believe, Your Ladyship.”
George started at that information. “Seven? My goodness, that’s after sunset!”
“Indeed, sir. Apparently, the sub-ambassador is not arriving in London until quite late in the afternoon.”
“Ah, well, we must accommodate our esteemed guests. We live to serve.”
“Apparently,” said the dowager countess.
* * *
Nearly the entirety of the residents of Monroeville Hall were arranged in front of the majestic structure to welcome their esteemed guests. The family stood in a line to one side—the Earl and Countess, the dowager countess, and the three daughters of the family were dressed in their most formal wear. This was a duke, after all.
On the opposite side stood the servants of the house: Mister Foree, the butler; Mrs McDermott, the housekeeper; Mister Bubb, the new valet; Miss O’Dea, the lady’s maid; footmen Roger and Peter; head housemaid Sarah; and the two housemaids, Daphne and Buffy. Of the staff, only the cook, Mrs Gonk, and Dawn the kitchen maid remained in the house, toiling over the grand dinner. The chauffeur, “Flyboy” Grimes, was driving the car back from the train station.
The electric headlamps of the Duke’s entourage could be seen just as everyone settled into position, the house’s front electric bulbs flooding the wide semicircle of driveway with light against the gloom of night. O’Dea leaned over to Roger and said, “I’ve got this dullard to my right. Any message you’d like me to give him?”
Roger only smiled, and nudged her slightly with his shoulder.
The motorcar carrying the Duke, Mister Tarboosh, and the Duke’s servant putt-putted into the driveway. Grimes applied the parking brake and came around the front of the black automobile. He opened the rear door and out stepped the Duke, nattily dressed with his hair slicked back in the new style. After him, an impossibly tall, gaunt, pale figure unfolded himself from the backseat, the effect heightened when he placed the old-fashioned stovepipe topper on his head.
“Close your mouths!” Foree snapped at a low volume, but his baritone of annoyance made the couple of servants who had allowed their mouths to hang open in amazement or fright regain their composure quickly.
“He’s a bloody vampire,” O’Dea gasped in shock.
“They’re going to invite him into the house, sure enough,” Roger said quietly. “He’ll have the run of the entire place by midnight.”
“I recommend you both shut up,” Mrs McDermott said just loudly enough to be heard by O’Dea and Roger, but no farther, “before we all are sacked.”
“But a vamp—”
“I said shut up!” Mrs McDermott said tightly, just as Lord Monroe stepped up to welcome the gentlemen to Monroeville Hall. The Duke was as everyone remembered him: handsome, with sleepy eyes that made him look kinder than he probably was, and with a thin voice, as if he were straining to be heard.
There were bows and handshakes as was customary, and then came the words from the Countess that made the entire line of servants inwardly shiver as they heard her:
“Won’t you come inside?”
And so they did.
* * *
Ladies Maureen, Eleanor, and Sheryl whispered among themselves as they followed at the back of the line as it progressed towards the drawing room for cocktails. “You know why the Duke is here, don’t you, Sheryl?” Eleanor said across Maureen to her younger sister.
“Stop it,” Maureen said.
“No, why?” Sheryl said, naive as usual.
“To ask for Maureen’s hand!”
“Well, thank the gods somebody’s going to. But did you see that ghoulish fellow he’s brought with him? That Mister Tarboosh?”
Eleanor shuddered in response. “Maybe Mister Tarboosh will ask M—”
“Stop it, will you? I am a perfectly respectable noblewoman, and there’s no reason why the Duke should not want to marry me,” Maureen said. She didn’t actually know if she would want to marry the Duke when it came to it, but he was good-looking, and he held a fine title, even if his dukedom was from the dreadful Baskervilles. And now that Stuart was dead …
“I think he looks like a vampire,” Eleanor said.
“Oh, for goodness’ sake, are you on about that again?” Maureen whispered as sharply as she could. “There are no vampires, or werewolves, or ghouls, and the Titanic sank because it hit an iceberg. There’s absolutely no reason to say that zombies forced them to sink the ship.”
“It’s happened before,” Eleanor said sulkily.
“In fact, it has not happened before,” Maureen snapped. “Servants’ tales to spice up their rotten lives, no more. Now shut up about it and let’s get on with being the lovely ladies of Monroeville Hall.”
They continued along the hallway in silence for a few seconds, but then, right before they crossed the threshold to enter the drawing room, Sheryl leaned close to Eleanor and said, “I believe in them, too.”
Eleanor reared back as if Sheryl had bitten her ear and said, “I don’t believe in them, you prat! I was only saying that Mister Tarboosh—”
“That Mister Tarboosh what, exactly?” It was their mother, who had stayed behind at the door. She had heard them whispering and wanted to put a stop to it.
Eleanor smiled and said quietly, “Nothing, exactly nothing. I’m sure he seems quite the fellow.”
Sheryl chewed her lip. She knew Eleanor believed in the supranatural creatures that lived near Deadtown Abbey, but no one would never get her to admit anything so declassé.
* * *
“Mrs Gonk!” cried O’Dea as she blew into the kitchen like a gale.
“Ye gods, woman, you almost gave me a heart attack!”
“No heart needed once a vampire gets ahold of you.”
“A what? A vampire?” The chubby cook continued working.
“The guests for tonight include a creature of the night, I tell you. It’s the Romanian sub-ambassador. Tall as a scarecrow and just as lifeless. We all saw him come out of the car. At night.”
“Oh, it must be a monster, then!”
O’Dea ignored the comment. “Tell me there’s lots of garlic in the meal.”
“Just as much as it needs, Miss O’Dea. That might be none at all.”
The lady’s maid turned her severe countenance on Dawn’s undernourished face and said, “Is there garlic in the soup? Or on the meat?”
“No, Miss O’Dea. Tonight we—”
“Don’t tell her anything, stupid girl!” Mrs Gonk shouted. “She’ll be putting whole cloves in it to kill the vampire!”
Dawn almost dropped the soiled pan she had been carrying. “There’s a vampire in the house?”
“Don’t listen to Miss O’Dea, you silly git.”
Despite the opposition, O’Dea fixed her gaze on Mrs Gonk and smiled. “I take it you do not believe in vampires? Getting above your station, I see.”
“I believe in them well enough!” Mrs Gonk said, shoving past her to take something out of the oven. “I just don’t believe there’s any such creature in this house. It’s hallowed ground. Vampires can’t enter Deadtown Abbey. This used to be a holy place of some kind, you know.”
“Yes,” O’Dea said, “I gathered as much from the word ‘abbey.’ But there are no graves under roads or under this house, remember. He can come over the drive and keep himself inside the house, which is exactly what he’s done. Vampires are clever.”
“And lady’s maids seem not to be. Lord Monroe used to fight monsters before taking his peerage. He would never let one into his home.”
O’Dea harrumphed, turned on her heel, and exited the kitchen. But not before snagging a string of garlic from a basket as she walked out.
NEXT WEEK: PART 4 — LORD MONROE LIES ABOUT THE UNDEAD
 So nicknamed because he was one of the first daredevils in all of Yorkshire to have piloted an aeroplane.