Hildreth sat alone. Just one small island in the middle of an ocean of blue hard-backed, hard-seated train chairs.
He sighed and leaned his head back. “At least they aren’t benches. I don’t know what I would do if they were benches.”
He closed his eyes.
His mind ping-ponged from thought to thought to topic to topic to Elsie to Ambrose. It stopped there and hit the floor.
Master Shinowa will give me the advice I need. He’ll tell me the best way to fight that monster and win. He’ll give me the training I need to defeat that vampire.
And I will defeat him.
I will not lose this time.
He thought of Elsie. I now have something to fight for.
I need to win.
His phone rang.
He answered it. “Hello. Mayhew talking.”
“You said you were going to call me in a few minutes. Guess what, stupid? It’s been a full hour and twenty-nine minutes.”
Hildreth sighed. “Look. I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you.”
“Sorry doesn’t cut it. I want results.”
“Oh, what? You’re going to be all informal on me? You think that I’ll—”
Hildreth swallowed his pride and it was like swallowing broken glass. “Sir.”
“Ahh, sir. See? That is how you’re supposed to address your betters. None of that last name only rubbish. When are you going to kill him?”
“Sir, I told you earlier that I would take care of it. Nothing has changed. I will put an end to that vampire’s sorry half-life. I just need to visit my master.”
“Sounds like avoidance behavior.”
“It isn’t. Believe me, it isn’t. I will return. I will—”
“Yeah. Yeah. You’ll marry your hunter wench and all of that personal business bullfeathers before you attend to my business.”
“That was my general plan.”
“Forget it. I’ll just call Elsie.”
“At least she knows where her priorities lay.”
“Please don’t. You can’t. She’ll fail. I know she will.”
“Oh, you must be a real banger of a lover if you can diss her so easily.”
“He has a hold on her. One, I might add, he does not have on me. I need to do this, Mr. Caten. It must be me. Do you hear me all right? Do you understand what I’m saying all right? I need to be the one who stakes him. No one else.”
Mark Caten laughed. It was not a pleasant sound. “Oh, look at that. Someone has a personal vendetta. Cute.”
“There’s no vendetta. I only want to protect her.”
“Oh, you only want to protect her. La la la. How nice. You weren’t there to protect my daughter when that monster killed her. No one was. You didn’t see her mangled body. I did. It killed me. I want him dead, Mayhew. Now. Right now. Tear his heart out. Shred him. Break him. Crush him into pulp.”
“I will do that, sir. After I am wed. After I—”
“I WANT IT DONE NOW!”
Hildreth winced. “I would do it now. Gladly.”
“Good. Then we have nothing further to discuss.”
“But I am not ready to face him. Not yet.”
“So, you’re useless.”
“I am not useless. Just give me a chance, sir. And give me enough time. I will do it. Maybe it won’t be as fast as you would like.”
“Like? Try demand.”
“Exactly. But I will do it. I swear I will. I will not fail.”
Mark Caten fell silent.
“Just give me the time I need.”
“Okay. I’ll let you play your cards. Let’s see, Mayhew, if you win or lose.”
“I will win.”
“Time will tell that story. However, do keep this in mind: I will not be put off forever. If you don’t complete this mission within two months, I will call Elsie.”
“Or I’ll call her now. It’s your choice, Mayhew.”
He stiffened his posture. “I will complete it within two months. I swear I will.”