The Monster Hunter's Daughter: Scene II
profits. This hotel was a prime example; despite being mired in this cesspool of a town, it was doing very well. She walked outside into the small courtyard behind the hotel. It had a small fountain that burbled quietly, and the stone walls made it seem like something out of another century, an effect enhanced by the bits of old statuary. She stopped near an old piece, a bust of a viking warrior set in between two overflowing flower planters. She reached out and touched its stone cheek with the back of her left hand.
“I’m not sure if they like you doing that,” said a mild voice.
“I don’t think they’ll mind,” Rebecca said wryly, not turning away from the statue just yet. “The piece belongs to me. It’s one of my forbears; the man who legend says first settled our family in the low countries.”
“That sounds like something belongs at home.”
“If we had much. Our holdings in the Netherlands were sold long ago. I maintain some property in England. But I haven’t been there since my husband died. No, it’s better to be where someone can see it.” She studied the stern visage of her warrior ancestor. Harald Helsing had been a monster hunter, the stories said, hunting Loki’s children through the bogs of the old country. Back then it had been mostly werewolves. A few generations later her great grand father would happen on the deeper cancers of the serpent-souled, those cursed by Jörmungandr’s children. That’s when things had gotten dangerous. A werewolf would rip you apart. A vampire bloodline would destroy your family, disgrace its name, and salt the earth where it burned your home. The old wound on her collarbone burned with the memory.
She turned. The mild voice belonged to one of the young men from the meeting: one of the managers of this hotel. He was pretty enough, in a clean-cut androgynous way, with deep dark eyes and olive skin and slick black hair. She flashed him a smile. “Countess Rebecca Helsig,” she said, holding out a blue-nailed hand. He took it, but neither shook it or kissed it, just lifting it in a polite gesture that was somewhere between the two.
“I know,” he said. “You had a lunch meeting with the directors. I’ve also heard your grandfather’s name, before you moved to England. It’s kind of famous,” he continued with a smile. “In more than one circle.”
She laughed. “So you know what we were before we were anglicized. I’ve heard all the jokes,” she said. “Don’t worry.”
“Have you?” He asked, and a serious look crossed over his face. “Is that all they are? Just jokes?”
She frowned a little, but then the wisp of a smile reappeared. “I haven’t seen that kind of long face since my doctor asked me just how many partners I had.”
The man blushed scarlet.
“Aw, he blushes. How sweet.” She tilted her head, quietly appraising him. “You’re kind of cute, in an over-manicured puppy sort of way. What do you know?”
He looked down, then up. “Some,” he said quietly. “I know that the Arcane Studies departments that have sprung up across the country in the past few decades aren’t as ridiculous as people say. I know there are things that treat humans like prey; and I know that there is little someone like me can do to stop them.”
“Then you know more than most,” she said. “I’m readjusting my opinion of you.”
“Since you’re not laughing at me, I’m assuming the name Van Helsing has some reality behind the legend. So I’m glad you’re here.” He took a deep breath. “Miss Van Helsing, this city is full of vampires, and nobody is doing anything about it.”
“Nobody?” She asked. “I heard there was an Arcane College in town. Surely someone there is attending to it.”
“You would think so,” he said. “But you’d be wrong. I hear they have some kind of a truce going.”
“A truce? Between mages and vampires?” Rebecca looked back at the bust of the warrior. “That’s absurd. You don’t treat with the serpent in your garden; you cut that poison out.”
“There was a girl murdered,” he said. “Drained and left in an alley. It looked like a vampire kill, but the mages still haven’t acted.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I see,” she said. “You know a great deal. What was your name?”
“Matteo,” he replied. “And it’s an interest of mine. I don’t want to end up dead, you know?”
“A good philosophy. Do you know anything about where they hunt?”
“There’s a bunch that operate an industrial club near the docks,” he said. “A retrofitted warehouse, I think.”
“I think I know the place.” She looked back at him and gave him her best smile. “I’m going to have to go clubbing this week, I think. Thank you Matteo. You’ve been great.”
“Are you going tonight?”
“No,” she said. “I don’t think so. I have some more meetings today, and I am waiting for some supplies. And I may want to visit the mages tomorrow, to find out just how compromised they are.” She looked back at the statue. “But do not worry, Matteo. A Van Helsing has come to town, and she will purge this cancer with fire and steel.”