The old man sat in his wheelchair and looked down, out of the third floor window onto the street below. Though Spring had officially arrived in London, it was slow to make its presence known for the day was overcast and misty. A light rain every now and then, slapped against the glass windows of the mansion. The old man was worried. Would he come as summoned? Or would he not acknowledge the request at all? For once in a long time, the tension that the old man felt was palatable. It hummed throughout every fiber of his being making him feel more alive than in years. It was worth the wait to feel like this again.
Though large, deep wrinkles slashed mercilessly through the white, now pasty complexion, the eyes were alive as ever and could make out the headlights of the arriving car, muted through the fog. The Packard wound its way up the long, wide driveway, slowly and surely, almost as if it were alive. The elderly man could make out a tall distinct figure dressed in the latest fashions, including the long black topcoat that swept behind him, exiting the chauffeured car. Once out of the car, the visitor donned a black fedora in an almost lightening-fast manner as if the rain might be something more than a mere nuisance. Gloves. The old man thought he caught sight of black leather gloves and the almost imperceptible flash of something else. Eyes. Red eyes.
"Your visitor has arrived, Dr. van Helsing," the distinguished young butler announced, startling the old man out of his quiet reverie.
The old man turned toward his young servant. Was he ever that eager to please his elders in his youth? Van Helsing couldn't remember. He sighed and said slowly, "Take him to the largest of the sitting rooms on the first floor. I will meet with our guest there shortly."
"I'll have the maids bring some refreshments for both of you." the butler answered.
"Oh, I think he has already eaten." The old man's response made himself laugh once, short and sharp.
The butler backed out of the room and left quickly, to greet the guest, his face filled with equal parts confusion, concern and fear. His master's laugh had been the most unnerving thing that he had ever heard.
Van Helsing waited for another servant, this time, a young girl, to slowly wheel him to the elevator in the main hall. The old man did not seem to mind the wait. He knew his guest had all the time in the world.
The young maid accompanied van Helsing onto the lift and down to the first floor. She wheeled him out of the elevator and down the hall toward the sitting room. Her heels made short, sharp sounds on the polished wood floor.
Van Helsing's guest rose immediately as good manners demanded he should as the old vampire hunter and his maid entered the sitting room. The two men had not seen each other face to face in over forty years but, to Abraham, it had felt more like a century. Before this meeting, van Helsing would have said that creatures such as the one greeting him today never appeared to age. Was it a trick of the light or were there actually more lines to the creature's face since he had last saw him? Van Helsing's guest did look older, more toward the fifties than the forties. But the eyes. They were still the same. Bright green now and alert as ever. They fixed on van Helsing. Hypnotic. Waiting.
There was one awkward moment as the old man's guest strove to decide whether to put out his hand or not. This was remedied when van Helsing offered his hand and the larger, whiter hand of the guest closed firmly around his. Cool, yet not noticeably different than his own hand. Van Helsing had been correct. His guest had dined previous to this visit.
Both men sat facing each other, the newly arrived guest settling into a luxurious leather chair. Besides the voices of the two men, the crackling fire in the massive stone fireplace was the only other sound in the large room.
"Dr. van Helsing," the guest said in a rich baritone voice that carried throughout the sitting room.
"Vlad Dracula," the old man answered quietly, "I was not certain you'd answer my letter."
"Well, Doctor, it has been some time now. And many of the people we both knew are now dead."
"Yes, though I admit it was quite a shock when Mina passed away last Winter."
Van Helsing thought back quickly to two of the friends that he had both loved and admired, Mina and Jonathan Harker. Harker had become a prominent lawyer but had put too much of his money and trust in the market. Both were shattered several years ago in the Crash. Whether it was from this or just from the day to day running of the successful firm, Jonathan had succumbed to a fatal heart attack soon thereafter. Mina Harker, left in financial ruin, struggled to piece together a living, mostly relying on the kindness of old friends and family. Though van Helsing had offered his financial support, to his chagrin, she had only accepted the smallest gestures. And mostly, that was not enough to prevent her from dying close to bankruptcy. The last Winter was brutal, harsh and Mina lost her fight with pneumonia.
"I was at her bedside near the end," van Helsing said.
"As was I," Dracula replied.
"Yes, I had heard rumors that you had resurfaced," the old man assured him. "And I also heard that Mina's diary went missing soon after her death."
"Truly I tell you, I had nothing to do with it, " Vlad smiled icily, all teeth.
"Mina always kept one. Right to the end." van Helsing continued, "It would be a shame if such a thing fell into the wrong hands. But then, I have been plagued with doubts all my life. You." The old man looked directly at the vampire, "you were my main worry. I had wondered for years if we had not really killed you that day at Castle Dracula. And now, now I can see, that my doubts were correct."
"Don't you mean your fears, Dr. Helsing?" the vampire softly goaded the old man.
"No, I have changed since we last saw each other," van Helsing said.
"Yes," Dracula laughed softly, "you were given an honorary knighthood by the King. Or so I heard."
"The rumors are correct," the elderly vampire hunter admitted. "There was a large vampire infestation during the First World War. With Ghoul attacks. I had to call in a few of my friends from the Continent to take care of the problem quietly but decisively."
"And the King gave you money to build all this," here Dracula swept his left arm indicating the mansion and its riches, "just for killing a few vampires?"
"We did such a fine job with the first vampire infestation that the King has kept us on call, as it were," van Helsing said proudly. "We're now known as the Hellsing Organization and it is our job to keep England safe from all future vampire attacks."
"So, then, the question is," the vampire asked, "why didn't you and your new organization hunt me down when you knew I had remained in England after Mina's death?"
"Because," the old man answered, with a stronger voice than he had had for years, "I have a proposition for you."
"Which is?" Dracula asked, his curiosity peaked but with a measure of caution.
"To join my organization," van Helsing answered firmly.
Dracula stopped, then started to laugh heartily, "If I may, Doctor, that is a good joke. If that is all you called me here for, I'm afraid you already know my answer. The past is the past and I'm all for letting bygones be bygones but for mortal enemies to join together? I'm sorry, my answer is 'No'." The vampire leaned down and reached for a small bell set on a table next to his chair. It would summon the butler who would bring him his hat and his coat.
Van Helsing reached across and grabbed the vampire's wrist, stopping the motion. He made one last appeal to the vampire, "Dracula…Vlad….Where are you going?"
"Home," the vampire answered him.
"Yes, home. Home to your Castle and your backward peasants who spit at you and run. Home to hide with only your dreams of Mina left…"
"Be careful what you say to me," Dracula snarled at the mention of Mrs. Harker's name and pulled his wrist free of van Helsing, though he did not make another move toward the servant's bell.
"In any case, " van Helsing continued, "you and I are alike in that we don't have much left in this world. As for me, it is physical. Though I now have this organization, my health deteriorates rapidly."
"Which reminds me," the vampire added, "you should be dead already. You've almost lived past the span of a normal human being."
"Yes, that is what I'm talking about," van Helsing's eyes became fever-bright. "Getting back to the first World War, when I needed help, I recruited some of my friends. All of whom were vampire hunters who were trained in the occult. And now, working for me, they had left the universities. Hence, no restrictions. No limits.
"So?" Dracula answered, "I find that I'm still not impressed."
"My colleagues, my friends, we found….power beyond your wildest imagination. Assuredly, we put this power to good use and used the magic to defeat the vampires. However, we still have the books. And we still have unlimited power. All of it. All of it could be at your disposal…"
"I'm listening," the vampire answered and motioned for van Helsing to continue.
"Dracula, Vlad. Underneath everything, you're a warrior. And though you were now content to go back to your country, wouldn't you like to again be that warrior of old?"
"Perhaps," Dracula answered, cautious.
"I can make you all that," van Helsing assured the vampire. " And more. Much more. If you join with me….with my organization, you'll have more power than you ever dreamed of. Nothing will stand in your way. Not holy objects, not silver bullets. Nothing. You will fight, for me, of course, but you will be nearly invincible."
"And how does this all serve your needs, Doctor.? " Dracula said, "You always were a selfish man."
"Though I have all the riches that have been provided by the King for myself and my organization, my health is deteriorating by the day. Unfortunately, only magic goes so far for us mortals. I'm told I have less than five years left."
"And what happens when you die?" the vampire asked, "I had also heard that you had been married. Had a child."
"Oh, yes, " the old man replied, "I have two sons, Arthur and his younger brother, Richard. They are both presently at boarding school. Though I am glad that Arthur is the elder and is therefore, my heir. Richard is so impetuous and fool-hardy. I am worried about the boy." The old man sighed as if he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders," But, perhaps, I am only guilty of feeling favoritism. You know, my wife died giving birth to the younger son."
"Rumor also has it that your wife bore a striking resemblance to Mina. Or so I was told, " the vampire said, cuttingly.
"You told me not to bring her name up again and so I will not." Van Helsing answered. "I want no further talk about the dead today. This conversation is for the future. For my organization. And, for England."
"Unlimited power, you say?" the vampire asked the old man again.
"And I get to war and kill? Revel in battle and live in glory as of old?"
"Yes," van Helsing said again, "though what you will be killing will be other vampires."
"If that is what it takes to become as powerful as you say, then I am definitely interested in your 'proposition' as it were."
"Ring the bell for my servant," van Helsing commanded the vampire. Dracula did and a young maid appeared, coming to the back of the old man's wheelchair.
"Come, then, Vampire," the old vampire hunter motioned to Dracula, "walk with me to lift which will take us to the basement below this house. It is there, where the Hellsing laboratory is and thus, where we can fit you with true power."
Van Helsing, Dracula and the maid walked out into the hall toward the lift. The vampire followed eagerly while the maid pushed the old man who seemed lost in thought. "A new name for a new age, I think, " the old man said to the vampire. "From this time onward, you shall be called Alucard."
"Alucard," the vampire said, rolling the new name around in his mouth, like candy. "Yes. Yes, I think I will like it here."