Dr. Acula’s white coat flapped menacingly behind him as he drifted toward the ER. His dark scowl sent the interns scurrying out of the way. He could feel the anger building, but his skin remained perfectly pale and unblemished by the stirring emotion. The nurses put their hands over their mouths; some even gasped as the tall man swept by. They had been here long enough to know that something was terribly wrong when his thin lips pressed together into that tight minus, and his long bony fingers curled into fists.
"Professor Van Helsing," the doctor said, bowing slightly. "I thought we had an agreement."
"It’s been a long time, Alucard," the aging man said. "Yes, I know…"
"But you decided to show up here anyway… and unannounced!"
"I wouldn’t have unless I had no other choice."
The professor stood up, with his trench coat swirling around his legs. The doctor was tall, but Van Helsing matched him in height. The dull gray eyes of the professor engaged the almost coal black ones of the doctor in a dangerous duel. Few men dared to look Dr. Acula in the eye – fewer still had the bravery to lock his dark gaze with their own.
"Well, then," the doctor said, and a smirk replaced the glare. "How may I be of… service? Is it the old back acting up again? Or perhaps hair loss? Those are very common symptoms of aging, I’m afraid."
Van Helsing sat down in the chair again and crossed his legs. His unruffled countenance was only pierced by a slight twinkle of worry, which manifested itself as a twitch in the corner of his mouth.
"This has nothing to do with my own well-being," he said slowly.
"Then why did you come here?" Alucard said, narrowing his eyes.
"You are a very hard man to get in touch with."
Alucard remained silent. Apart from the smirk, his face was a perfect mask of blankness.
"This is about an incident… a few incidents, actually," the professor continued.
"You know I’ve put all of that behind me. If you’re suggesting that I had anything to do with–"
"That’s exactly what has me worried... your non-involvement."
"You speak in riddles, old man. Out with it!"
"Do you… I mean, have you by any chance…" Van Helsing clearly weighed his words carefully. "Possibly neglected your territory as of recent?"
The smirk that had lingered on the doctor’s lips suddenly melted away. He touched his pale cheek, and the tip of his tongue swept over the white tips of his teeth.
"What do you mean?" he said in a tone that chilled the very air in the room.
"There has been a couple of rather strange occurrences, right here in the city during the last few weeks. Could it be possible that another one of your kind is encroaching on your territory?"
The doctor snorted. "Nobody has challenged me in eight hundred years… Nobody would be so foolish."
"I thought you would say that," Van Helsing said and dug out a folder from his briefcase. "Take a look at these."
The photos in the folder showed a lady in a white dress with a stream of blood leaking out of two clear marks on her neck.
"That can’t be from around here."
"Oh, I assure you it is. And it is only one out of four."
"I haven’t felt anyone… I would know if someone *of my kind* entered my domain."
"That is very strange," the professor said.
"Very strange, indeed. And while I do appreciate you bringing this to my attention, I’m uncertain of your motives… we’ve never quite seen eye to eye."
Van Helsing sighed. "Yes, that brings me to the next part – the part that I think you’ll really dislike… I need your help."
Alucard took a step back and eyed his old nemesis for signs of deceit. When he found none in the wrinkled face of the professor, he paced over to the medical refrigerator and opened it. The sight of the blood bags made his black eyes flare up red as if someone had fanned the smolder back in a fireplace. His hands ran over the plastic, feeling the squishy succulence under his fingertips.
"Why would I help you?" he said after a while. "I have everything I need right here."
"Do you remember Lucy?"
"Don’t bring her up… not now," Alucard said. "Not after all these years."
"I’m sorry, but I fear that her granddaughter might be the next victim."
"What makes you think that?"
"She’s been acting out of character lately, and a strange tiredness has come over her. Last night I found the mark on her neck. I’ve done everything I can, but it’s like my usual deterrents don’t work on this culprit. I’ve tried everything from garlic flowers to holy symbols…"
Alucard grumbled something unintelligible.
"So, will you help me?"
Alucard closed the refrigerator, his eyes red and his gums itching. He had vowed not to start again – he had retired. But the thought of Lucy’s blonde hair and that warm silky skin against his lips… he at least had to see the granddaughter before declining – she had to be in her twenties by now.
"You have me intrigued."