Hildreth attached his last tracker button to the vampire, pulled out the stake, and ran down the street looking for that boy.
Why did he have a stake?
I just don’t get it.
If I don’t find him, I’m going to be creeped out. I mean, he appeared with a stake in his hand right when I really needed a stake.
What if he’s a ghost?
Or some sort of guardian angel?
Or the reincarnaiton of Master Initskay? Not that I believe in that sort of thing, but—
The boy darted out of a crowd of people and into an alley.
Darn it, kid! Don’t go in there!
Hildreth pushed himself to run faster. He dodged through the pedestrian traffic, listening for the boy to scream again.
He fully expeced the boy to scream again.
But the boy did not scream at all. That worried Hildreth even more.
He rushed into the alley and ran all the way to the end.
Hildreth found the boy hiding in an abandoned big appliance cardboard box. “Hey.”
The boy startled.
Hildreth crouched. “Who are you? What are you doing, running around the streets at this time of night with a hunter’s stake?”
“I made it.”
Hildreth examined the weapon, finally noticing its rough-hewn quality.
“I’ve seen you hunt before.”
Hildreth raised his head.
“You make it look…so easy.”
“Thanks for the compliment, but it’s never easy.”
“Maybe. But you make it look so. I wanna be like you. Fighting the demons in the dark. Protecting this city.” He crawled out of the box. “I didn’t think it would be so scary.” He didn’t look up at Hildreth. “I didn’t think I’d panic so bad.”
“It takes a lot of training to get over that fear and even then, the fear remains. Every seasoned hunter feels it. Even someone as awesome as Elsie Vansing. But you have to learn to use that fear to vanquish the enemy before they can kill you.”
Hildreth settled into a sit. “If you want, I can talk to your parents and see if they—-”
“My parents are dead. Vampire got ’em both.”
Hildreth hugged him. “I’m so sorry.”
If I had been there…I should have been there…I should have protected them…I know I could protected them…If I had been there…I should have been there…I could have saved their lives…
“I’m sorry.” He released him. “Do you have any relatives or family friends or—-”
“I’m all by myself.”
“How old are you?”
Hildreth considered the small boy in front of him. “A hunter’s life is dangerous. Every night is a different dance with death. All it takes is one small error in judgment. One vampire who’s stronger than you or just plain smarter. And you could be dead. You could be changed into a vampire.”
“And that’s not the hard part. Training to become a hunter is the hard part. Your master will push you and push you to be your absolute best and then he’ll push you even harder. It’s exhausting and frustrating. There will be nights you’ll go to bed, plotting your escape.” He smiled. “I know. I had a lot of nights like that. But I stayed because I wanted to show my master that I could do it. That I could do everything and anything he told me to do. That I could surpass his expectations.”
“Then, after training is all over and done with and your officially a hunter, you will have to face the possibility of staking people you know, people you love. Friends. Family. Lovers. It is not an easy life.”
“I want it.”
“Are you sure?”
“You will have to hunt all night, sleep most of the day, train when you’re awake. Then, night comes and you start it all over again. Do you want to spend your life like that?”
He nodded again.
“Are you absolutely sure?”
Hildreth stood and held out his hand. “Then, come with me.”
The boy hesitated. He stood and took Hildreth’s hand. “Okay.”