Hildreth sat up. “What’s wrong?”
Elsie plastered on a fake smile. “Nothing. It was just an annoying spammer trying to sell me Medicare cards for only $4.99 a month.” She laughed and it didn’t convince her. “Can you believe it? Only $4.99. But with interest you can’t even begin to—”
“Elsie. I mean it. What’s wrong?”
Her smile fell. “Who said anything was wrong? I’m fine.”
He sighed. “Oh, why do I have a bad feeling this is Ambrose related?”
“You don’t have to blame him for everything.” She hated the anger and sharpness in her voice. “This isn’t his fault.”
“Fine. Don’t talk about it. Hold it all inside and let it eat your brain like spaghetti.”
“There’s nothing to hold inside. It’s all gone.” Her anger went flat. “I didn’t even have the courage to say hello.”
He sat up straighter. “He was here?”
“No. I called him.” She looked at the window. “I called him and he answered. I heard his voice.”
“What happened? What did he say to you?”
She shook her head. “He wanted me to talk. He begged me to talk, but I just couldn’t. I can’t explain why I hung up on him.”
Hildreth was silent for a few minutes. “What will you do? Are you going to call him back?”
“It kills me to say this out loud, but you should.”
She looked at him. “Why?”
“That’s why we came out here. So, you could face him and figure out what you really want. Stop hiding from him, Elsie. Face him.” He smiled. “Even if it’s just on the phone.”
He leaned forward and squeezed her hand. “Just do it.”
They exchanged a long, quiet look.
She pulled her hand away and called Ambrose.
Hildreth sat back and waited.
The phone rang once before Bored, Unenthusiastic Woman spoke up, “The phone that you are trying to reach is currently out of order. Good-bye.”
Elsie ended the call and considered her options.
She went into her Contact list, selected Mark Caten, and pressed Call.
The phone rang five and a half times.
“Hello. This is Elsie Vansing. I am one of Mark Caten’s employees. Yes. Hunter. I need to speak to him regarding an urgent matter. Thank you. Yes.”
Elsie listened to Celine Dion belt her way through “Pretty Little Angel Eyes”. She didn’t care for Celine’s interpretation. Especially when she scatted the entire second verse.
“Hello? Is this Elsie?”
She snapped out of her Celine Dion daze. “Yes.”
“You can’t even imagine what a surprise this is. How—” He chuckled without any humor. “—delightful it is to hear your voice. You see, I thought you were dead.”
She went stiff as she remembered Ambrose’s warning.
He sighed. “But good help is so hard to find. I told my assassins to bite you. It didn’t matter to me if they killed you or changed you. I left that to their discretion. And the idiots chose to blow up your house without even verifying that you were inside. Can you believe such ineptness? I can’t.”
“So, he was right.”
She shook her head. “Nothing. Mark, I need your help.”
“Of course, you do. And I’ll help you, if you help me.”
“What do you want?”
“Tell me what you want first.”
“I need you to tell me where Ambrose went.”
“Where Ambrose went? Do you mean Ambrose Smith, that little ingrate?”
“Yes. Where is he?”
“He isn’t home?”
“He’s gone. He packed up and left.”
“So, he’s gone and skipped out of town. And he’s gone and left his lover all alone. Hmm, poor Elsie. I feel your pain. I really do. You know what? I can help you. I can tell you where he is.”
“If you tell me where you are right now.”
A whole cathedral’s worth of alarm bells went off in her head. “I don’t need to tell you that.”
“Okay. I can play that game too. I don’t need to tell you where Ambrose is.”
“Do you even know where he is?”
He laughed far too loud in her ear. “That’s the lovely part. I won’t tell you and you’ll never know. You’ll never find your vampire lover again.” More uncalled for laughter.
She waited for him to stop braying in her ear. “I think you’re lying.”
“You don’t know where he is and you’re mad about it. I can only guess that you have your own set of issues with him.”
“Set of issues? Set of issues? Ha! That’s putting it far too mildly. I could tell you what he’s done to me, but I don’t feel like reliving all of that misery. I would like to kill him, of course, but I’m sure the idiot will come back here soon enough. For some reason, the little brat wants to kill me. I can’t even imagine why.”
“So, you don’t know where he is.”
“I didn’t say that. You’re just putting words in my—-”
She ended the call.
She looked down at her phone. I could call Mark back and ask him to send out his searchers. But he would undoubtedly tell the searchers to kill Ambrose. I could report him as a missing person and have the police search for him. But Ambrose would just kill them. I’m sure of it. What else can I do?
I have to let him go. She went into her voicemail and listened to both of his messages. She pressed seven for each one.
She put her phone back into her purse.”So. That is that.” She leaned forward and laid her hands on top of Hildreth’s hands. “I’m fine. I can finally see my next step.” She smiled. “And I’m fine.”