Elsie performed her solo dance as faultlessly as ever. She kept her mind clear and focused and one hundred thousand miles from Ambrose Smith.
It wasn’t until she’d staked the last vampire that she had a moment to think of Hildreth.
If he were here right now…
She climbed on top of the Williards’ family mausoleum and sat in the center. She pulled out her cell phone and called Hildreth.
She listened to it ring over and over and wished him to answer it.
“Uhh, hi. This is Hildreth Mayhew. If you’re trying to get a hold of me, I’m not here right now. Obviously. Umm. Leave a message at the beep and I’ll call you back and get back to you and…stuff. Yeah. Bye.”
“Hi. This is Elsie. It’s been busy over here. Why does Havaton have so many vampires? Who’s changing all of these people? If I could find who’s responsible. If I could stake that vampire and break this cycle. Maybe then I’d be able to have a peaceful night. Who knows? I’d might even be able to retire.”
She sighed. “I wish you were here with me.”
There was a click on the other end. “Elsie?”
The weight on her heart lifted. “Hildreth.”
“I’m going to be coming home soon. I just need one more day, one more training session. I’m close to where I want to be skill-wise. I need Master Shinowa to test me. Then, I’ll know.”
He fell silent.
She didn’t speak.
“I miss you, Elsie. I’ve tried to play hooky, but, you know, it just isn’t the same without you.” He chuckled. “Do you know I threw Master Shinowa yesterday?”
“Threw him good.”
She laughed. “I’m sorry I missed it.”
“Elsie.” He hesitated.
“Hildreth. What’s wrong?”
He sighed. “I don’t want to be the one to bring this up. I don’t. Not now.”
Long, long pause.
“I hate this. I hate him. Last time we saw that vampire was back in Pinkerlee.”
He exhaled. “I’m not accusing you of anything. Just please. Know that. Understand that.”
Another long pause.
“Hildreth, what are you trying to ask me?”
“Do you know if he’s still in Pinkerlee?”
“Why would I even know that? I don’t keep tabs on him.”
“I know. I know.”
One more long pause.
“Someone killed Master Shinowa’s brother over in Indust City. A vampire killed him.”
Her heart sank. “And you think Ambrose did it.”
“I don’t know, Elsie. I’m just being paranoid. I’m sure I am. I mean, come on! What are the odds of it being him? At least, 10,000 to 1. I don’t know if that would be considered good or bad odds, but at least 10,000 to 1.”
“Is Master Shinowa all right?”
“Yeah. He’s taking it a lot better than I would. I’d be beyond a mess or an emotional wreck. I’d be a full out disaster site. But he is hurting. I wish there was something I could do. Some way I could help him. Some way I could make it right. But I…I can’t. If it is him, if that vampire is the one who did it…”
“You aren’t thinking about confronting him, are you?”
Disturbingly long pause.
“Of course not.”
“Hildreth don’t. Please don’t. I don’t want you to go anywhere near him. He’ll hurt you. He’ll change you, just to spite me. Please stay away from him.”
“You’re worried about me.”
She frowned at the obvious smile in his voice.
“Elsie Vansing, you’re worried about me.”
“Because I know him. I know what he’s like. I know what a rotten, spiteful—”
“And you’re worried about me.”
She sighed loudly. “I don’t know why that makes you so happy.”
“I love you, Elsie.”
“Promise me that you won’t go hunting him down. Promise me.”
Fifteen second pause.
“I promise. I can’t wait to come home to you.”
She closed her eyes and she could see Hildreth’s face. “Be safe.”