One. Two. Threefourfive.
We stake so many vampires.
Punch. Kick. Punchpunchstake.
Throw against street pole. Run while he’s down and stake.
Is it all for nothing?
Spin. Kick. Kickkickkick. Stake!
Is it a losing battle? One we can never fully win?
One. Two. Threefourfive. Stake!
Elsie stayed in defensive position, watching and waiting for the next one to show up.
And they will show up.
Elsie. Is it a losing battle?
She frowned. What even got him thinking about that?
Maybe he’s burned out. It does happen with vampire hunters. I just never imagined it happening to him.
Her phone rang.
She answered it. “Hello? Vansing.”
“Well, helllllo, Vansing.”
“Do you know where I am?”
“Why? You lost?”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. I’m at the usual place, usual time. You’re not here.”
“What?” She checked her watch. “Oh! I didn’t realize it was time already. I’ll be there. I just need to tag these vamps and I’ll come. Don’t get yourself hurt, captured, killed, or changed. Otherwise, I will kick you so hard your ghost will have bruises.”
“Yikes! You’re a fierce little thing. And, Elsie. That’s why I love you. Hurry on over to me. I’m waiting for you.”
“I’ll be there.”
Hildreth sat on the edge of the mausoleum, his legs dangling over the front. He looked up at the lightening sky.
She’ll be here soon.
My lovely fierce Elsie.
He tucked his hands behind his head and laid down on the flat roof.
He closed his eyes.
I’ll let her choose this time. It’ll probably be the kind of place that has kale cookies and meat-free steak.
“But it’s fair. It’s only fair.”
He fell asleep.
Hildreth stood alone in an old-fashioned garden. The air was heavy with the perfume of heritage roses. No soft butter and sweet cream scents. No pale washed out spicy peach scents.
It was the full honest to life rose scent that his grandmother probably loved.
He walked over to a wrought iron bench.
Someone was weeping.
He glanced around.
The roses shot up into hedges – thick and impenetrable.
“Who’s there? Who’s crying?”
The weeping increased in power and desperation.
He searched the hedges for an exit.
There was no way out.
And someone was crying.
“Who are you? Tell me! Who are you? Why are you crying?”
Someone kissed him awake.
He opened his eyes.
Elsie smiled down at him.
He drew his legs back onto the roof and stretched his arms. “Mmmnn.”
She ran her fingers through his hair.
“Morning yourself.” She unzipped his coat and spread it wide.
“Els?” She can’t be thinking what I think she’s thinking. I mean, doing it on top of a mausoleum? That’s just perverse.
She laid her head on his chest. “I love the sound of your heartbeat. It’s so strong, so powerful. Like it could beat forever.”
She spread her hand on his abdomen.
He sucked in a surprised breath. “Elsie.”
“I love you, Hildreth. I love hunting and knowing that you’re just on the other side of town and we’ll meet up and go somewhere to eat and it will probably be something outlandish and unhealthy and ridiculous.”
“Actually, you get to choose tonight.”
She didn’t react to that, which worried him.
“Elsie baby. What’s on your mind, huh? Besides the usual perversions.”
“Ha. Ha. Funny.” Her hand moved up to the lower edge of his ribcage. “Do you need to step away?”
“From being a hunter, I mean. Do you need to take an extended leave of absence?”
“Elsie. What are you talking about?”
“Are you burned out? Is it all too much for you to handle? Is that why you were asking me those questions? Do you need to move on to—-”
“Elsie. Oh, Elsie baby.” He twirled his fingers in her hair. “It’s nothing like that. I realize that’s what it sure sounds like.” His mind returned to Tiffany/Gabby. “I had to stake a girl. I’d seen her on the train on the way back here from Master Shinowa’s place. She was just a stupid, witless girl who thought she owned every man in the world. She was changed. I had to stake her.”
Elsie raised her head.
“She was so young, so stupid, so…so very young. Fifteen at the oldest.” He sat up. “Only fifteen, Elsie. These vampires…They…They have no boundaries. No decency. And we must fight them every night and every night and every night and they keep taking and changing and where does it end, Elsie? Where does it end?”
“It ends slowly with each vampire we kill. They’re slowly losing ground.”
“It doesn’t seem that way to me.”
“They are. Because…” She kissed his neck. “Because we are together. I am not alone in this. I have you and Hildreth. Hildreth, you have me. We’re together. We aren’t alone in this.”
She kissed him as the sun broke through the night.