“Mayhew. You are not asleep.”
“I’m sorry, Master. I couldn’t sleep.”
“Hm. Come. Follow me outside.”
“It’s cold out.”
Hildreth followed his master out to the front steps.
Sure enough, it was still cold out there.
“Speak of it.”
“Speak of what you wish not to speak of.”
Hildreth tucked his hands inside his sleeves.
“Speak of Ambrose Smith.”
“I hate him.”
Master Shinowa sat beside him.
“I hate that he was ever a part of Elsie’s life. I hate that he can mess her mind so much. I hate that…I fear him.”
Master Shinowa did not speak or move.
“I hate that I feel him always hovering over our shoulders, always waiting for his moment to barge into our lives. I hate that I can’t…I trust Elsie. I love her and she loves me. I know this now. I know it. Master, I know it. But I’m just so scared that he’ll steal her away from me and I’ll never see her again.”
“That is why you are here.”
“Yes, Master. That is why I accepted Mark Caten’s job. That is why I am here.”
“Does Vansing know this truth?”
“No. And she can’t know. I can’t tell her. And neither can you.”
“Vansing is smart, Mayhew. She is clever. She will learn truth on her own.”
Hildreth shivered. “Maybe.”
“Mayhew. Do not break the bridge that leads her to you. Give her truth, not lies. Trust Vansing. Let her know the truth.”
“She’ll talk me out of it. She’ll call me a jealous idiot or something a whole more profane. And I have to do this. I have to. She can’t go anywhere near that monster. He’ll hurt her. I don’t want her to get hurt. I don’t want her to get changed. Master. I don’t want to lose her.”
“Hm. It is cold out tonight. Go back to bed, Mayhew. Consider my words.”
“Master. You aren’t going to tell her, are you?”
He smiled. “That is your truth to tell, Mayhew. Not mine.” Master Shinowa went back inside.
Hildreth sat still, silent and thoughtful.
Was that all just a dream?
Ambrose opened the black box in his hand.
Two rings lay inside – one for a woman, one for a man.
Diamonds and silver.
He touched them.
They were solid and real. They needed a lot of polishing and cleaning, but they were real.
I’m not going to question the logistics of where they came from. I’ll just assume there was a temporal anomaly and leave it at that.
All that matters is that they are real.
What I saw and heard…That was all real.
My parents. They love me. Even though I am a vampire, they still love me.
Ambrose winced as a sharp pain stabbed him in the neck. He rubbed it.
The pain faded slowly.
What was that?
The wind picked up and blew, seemingly, right at him.
He shivered and started to leave.
He stopped and smiled as an idea came to him.
Ambrose picked up one of the random downed branches and broke it into a more manageable shape.
Still smiling, he scrawled a message in the snow and dirt: Ambrose Smith Was Here.
He underlined it with a extravagant curlicue.
Feeling quite satisfied with himself, Ambrose turned and headed back to the train station.
The snow continued to fall, softly filling in his letters.