Meeting of Minds
Van Helsing was in a foul mood. It wasn’t the weather – no, the spring sun shone and it wasn’t even near raining. It might have had something to do with a very clever warlock who was always one step ahead of him. First, it was Moscow. He’d tracked the warlock there, but all that remained of Ben Larkin was a cheerful note telling Van Helsing to grow some brains.
Carl had found this extremely funny and even offered to grow just that. The friar, not surprisingly, had received a face full of pistol. The next time, it was Rome. Larkin had left a huge poster hanging in one of the main streets, proclaiming Van Helsing as a man with air between the ears.
The reward for his arrest or death had dropped considerably after that. Not that Van Helsing liked a price on his head, but it did hurt the pride.
Now it was New York. Grumpily, Van Helsing made his way from the docks to a nearby carriage, struggling to keep his heavy satchel slung over one shoulder. He forked over the required fee of passage to the nearest – cleanest – staying rooms. The carriage rattled along noisily, driving his headache even deeper between his eyes.
Van Helsing resisted the urge to smash the window frames in his impatience. He wanted to find Larkin now before the warlock left another stinging clue. But he knew he needed a place to root for the night. It wouldn’t do to have a quick nap in some alley where traffic noise could bombard him very easily.
The carriage shuddered and skidded, sloping suddenly to one side. Van Helsing cursed. The driver opened the door and apologetically pointed out the wooden wheel. The broken, rotting, far from fixable wooden wheel. Van Helsing cajoled his money back and threw his bag over his shoulder.
It seemed every manner of person found an excuse to walk right into him. The working class shouldered by, chores heavy on their minds. Then there was the richer variety with eyes of scorn. Van Helsing was a little put out that no one seemed to find his appearance worrying.
Deciding he wasn’t going to be getting anyway for a few hours, he made himself comfortable on the grass surrounding a behemoth construction he’d found to be identified as Brooklyn Bridge.
“I’m going to hang, draw and quarter you,” growled Van Helsing to himself. “You and Carl both, Larkin.”
The friar had been rather taken over with gales of laughter over his recent misfortune. Van Helsing had his pride.
A boy ran past, laughing. It was clear it was his father running after him. Van Helsing smirked mercilessly. Someone else was chasing a phantasm. The misery of it all made him very cheerful. Both were well attired and this puzzled Van Helsing. Surely an upper class family could afford to hire a nanny?
“Charles Stuart Otis Walker Gareth McKay Mountbatten!” the father shouted out the mouthful expertly.
The boy skidded to a stop, ducked his father and ran off in a different direction, which just happened to bring him into a collision course with a sitting Van Helsing, who was minding his own damn business. Well, not really.
“Sorry sir,” the boy said cheerfully and got to his feet. “I’m Charlie.”
Van Helsing had his dignity, on most occasions, and being sprawled over the ground with his bag’s non-alarming contents strewn all over him accounted against his dignity. The father caught up, struggling to keep several notes from falling out of his pockets. He helped Van Helsing to his feet. “I’m terribly sorry for my son’s behaviour. I will compensate any inconvenience he has given you.”
“Just my peace and quiet,” Van Helsing said dryly.
The other man sighed. “Don’t I know what you mean. I’m sorry, we haven’t been properly introduced. I am Leopold Mountbatten and – ” The man chose this moment to ruffle his son’s hair affectionately. “This is my son, Charles.”
He waited, obviously for some recognition on Van Helsing’s part. The hunter hadn’t heard of the man and didn’t care for it. Leopold turned to look at the bridge and sighed his approval. “This will stand for many years to come.”
“Not everything stands forever,” Van Helsing pointed out, trying not to let his agitation show. Why wouldn’t this Leopold just go away?
“This will,” Leopold proclaimed and bent over to grab his son’s collar before Charles could get away from him again. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“I didn’t give it.”
Van Helsing was obstinate if something was bugging him. Carl insisted he was obstinate most of the time. The silence of the other man bugged Van Helsing, so in frustration he said, “Gabriel Van Helsing.”
He wanted to see Leopold flinch at the name, like Europe did. But instead, Mountbatten looked politely puzzled. “That’s Dutch, isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Van Helsing admitted. “I know little of my past.”
He was beginning to wonder if America had heard of him at all. Probably not.