Hildreth entered his room and locked the door.
It’s my fault.
It’s my fault.
It’s my fault.
I should have been the one to stake him.
He was my master.
Hildreth sat on the edge of his bed and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes.
His breathing came and went in hard shivers as if he were crying. But no tears fell.
They were all locked up.
my fault my fault my fault my fault.
No one else to blame.
I’m a hunter.
I know better.
I should have…
He uncovered his eyes and laid down on his bed.
He looked up at the ceiling.
All he could see was darkness.
Then, he remembered what Master Initskay had told him.
What Master Initskay had given him.
Hildreth reached into his pocket and pulled out the Gobstop 3500. He pressed the bouquet of red roses.
The top half popped open.
Light beamed out.
His breathing calmed down.
His tears fell.
“I’m so sorry, Master.”
Elsie found Hildreth kneeling beside the dead vampire.
His shoulders were slumped.
His head bowed.
She knelt behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist.
He leaned back against her. “Elsie.”
“You okay? You’re not hurt, are you?”
“Some nurse you would be, canoodling up to all your patients. Man! If I had a nurse like that when I was in the hospital—”
She hugged him tighter. “Don’t even finish that thought, Mayhew.”
He sighed – a happy contented sigh. “Don’t worry, Els. I’m fine. Just got whammied by a memory I thought I had gotten over. Elsie.” He curled his fists against the ground.
She kissed his ear. “The night isn’t over yet. We still have hunting to do.”
“Can’t we just stay here like this? Not even doing anything. Just you holding me and making me feel loved.”
“I would be all for that. But we are in an alley. Again. And there’s a dead vampire lying right there. Ew.”
“Elsie. I’m not asking for any action. I just want you to hold me. Just like this. Just a little longer.”
She laid her face against his back. “If you’re going to be that insistent.”
“Hmm.” Hildreth leaned his head back against her shoulder. “I could easily fall asleep like this.”
“You’d give yourself a stiff neck.”
“Yeah. What a way to go.”
She kissed his face down to under his jaw line.
He closed his eyes and whispered her name.
She whispered his name in his ear.
He spread his hands on the cold, dirty pavement. “Elsie baby.”
A woman sashayed into the alley followed by a younger man with greased down hair. Her hair was too big and her dress was too short. Her bolero jacket was a waste of material and space. It certainly wasn’t doing much to keep her warm.
“Well.” said the man. “Here we are. All alone.”
Hildreth opened his eyes. “Oh, come on!”
Elsie smiled with a brittle brand of sweetness. “I’ll be right back.”
The man told big-haired chick, “I know things haven’t been good between us, but—-”
Hildreth kissed her. “Go get ’em, tiger.”
Elsie stood. She walked over to the greasy-haired vampire.
Big-Haired Chick stuck her lips out. “Who’s this?”
“You two crashed into my hotel room some time ago, interrupting my fun.” She cracked her knuckles. “You’re interrupting my fun again.”
Big-Haired Chick put her hands on her hips. “Seems to me you’re the party-crasher.”
“Booo!” said Hildreth. “Lady, you’re saying the wrong stuff to the wrong person.”
“Who’s asking you?” asked Greasy-Haired Vampire.
Elsie punched him. Full power.
He staggered back and slipped on a slick patch on the pavement. He fell, half-landing in an empty cardboard box.
“Eeeee!” Big-Haired Chick rushed to his aid. “Honeybunch! You ‘kay?”
He shook his head.
Elsie rushed at him with her stakes in hand.
Greasy-Haired scrambled out of the box and ran out of the alley.
“HONEYBUNCH!” Big-Haired clomped after him in her high-heeled boots. “DON’T LEAVE ME BEEEEEHIND!”
Hildreth got up and walked over to Elsie. “So? What do you say?”
“I say we teach that vampire a lesson about running interference.”
He laughed. “Sounds like fun to me.”