Hellsing Fan Fiction ❯ Rock and a Hard Place ❯ Chapter 2

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"Tony," I said, yawning. "What do you do to keep yourself awake here?" I wished I could blame it in jet lag, but to be honest, I was just bored. Working in what was undeniably one of the most beautiful art museums in the world had its merits, but I could look at statues and frescoes for only so long. I wanted espresso in the worst way, but I knew better. Caffeine was just not my friend.
Tony was busy, his attention riveted to the computer screen in front of him, fingers moving over the keyboard at a blistering rate. Something I said must have trickled through because he looked up. "Huh?"
"Never mind," I said. "What are you working on?"
"Recommendations for the new Vatican Network," said Tony. "They're getting set to upgrade sometime this coming year."
"Why upgrade it?" I looked closer at the screen.
"Partly because the current system is a mess of security leaks, but mostly to make room for the divisions we aren't supposed to know anything about," Tony explained. "Not that I won't find out anyway." He smirked.
I grinned. Never saw a computer system yet that Tony couldn't find his way into. "Which means that I'm not supposed to look at any of this, right?"
"Well...no," said Tony, grudgingly. "But since I haven't done anything yet, it hardly matters."
"You're no fun," I pointed out. Didn't matter. I couldn't read Italian anyway.
Tony peered up at me. "Fun? Aren't you the one with several carts of books to shelve yet?"
"I did most of them," I said.
"Cool beans," said Tony. "Now go finish them. I have things to do." With that, he turned around, gluing his attention to the computer monitor again.
Tony shared an ionic bond with his computer. It was surprising to pry him away from it as long as I did. Which meant it was time to shelve the books. Thankfully there were few left.
I glanced at my watch. Almost time for lunch. Today, no matter what I had to do, I was not going to eat pasta with marinara sauce with no meat again.
Not that it was bad. But two weeks straight? It was like an entire month of Fridays during Lent. If I bribed Tony with food, maybe he could find us a decent trattoria or maybe even a deli.
I was cranky, and Tony knew it. Not because of the work or the food. I'd had worse on both counts. The problem was that I was homesick, pure and simple.
Over time, the Hellsing Institute had come to mean home to me. Home, not in a sense of origin, but in belonging. I belonged at Hellsing, not here, and the strain was beginning to tell. I think Tony knew that, too.
"Hey, Evan."
"Mmm?" Tony was speaking to me.
"What do you want to do for lunch today?"
"Anything but noodles in red sauce," I said. "They remind me too much of the school lunches back home. And even those included meatballs on occasion."
Tony nodded. "How's pizza sound?"
I smiled. "Tony, you're the wind beneath my wings."
I pushed the cart along the corridor. Three more volumes and I would be done. So far, my stay had been uneventful. Apart from the stand-off I had with Maxwell, I had suffered from nothing except an extended case of monotony.
That was a bad sign. I couldn't picture Maxwell as the forgiving or the forgetful type, and had to wonder when the next confrontation would be.
Ahead of me was a priest I hadn't seen before, dressed in a long gray cassock. His hair was blond, and styled in a modified buzz cut; longer on top and short around the sides. I was no judge of height, but he seemed to be pushing the high end of six feet, easily.
Muscular, too. Even the priest's garb he wore couldn't hide that. I had the impression he could bench-press me and Tony at the same time, and without any particular effort.
"May I help you?"
He turned to face me. Strong-boned, with razor stubble along a lean jaw line. A scar down his left cheek. Green eyes, wire-rimmed glasses.
Only one man I knew fit that description. I now knew who loomed over me.
Father Alexander Anderson smiled down at me, a smile that managed to die long before it reached those icy green eyes. Glaciers were that color. But no glacier was anywhere near as cold.
His eyes bored straight through me. I felt like I had been strapped down to a vivisection table, and was about to go under the knife. And without anesthesia.
“If it isnae the wee Hellsing bairn.” Anderson's scorn was as thick as his accent.
So much for anonymity. “I guess that would be me,” I acknowledged. I looked right back at him, fighting a shudder. “A pleasant day, Father Anderson?”
"Aye," said Anderson. "Praise be to the Lord."
I supposed that made one of us, regardless of who was to blame for it. “Is there anything I can help you to find?” Not that he didn't know more about the Vatican Library than I ever would. Still, it was my duty.
“Nay,” said Anderson. “I'll no' ask anything of the likes of you.”
Blasphemer. Heretic. Sodomite. Oh, and apostate. Yep, that was me. I began to wonder if working for Hellsing counted as an eighth deadly sin. Maxwell and Company had already transformed it into a dirty word.
“Just asking,” I said, hoping Anderson would just let it drop.
No such luck. “Is it true that ye now serve Hellsing's pet demons?” More taunts. “How can ye stoop so low as to do it?”
“It's my job and I enjoy doing it,” I said, managing to rein in my temper. “If you're curious, both `demons' were fine, last I saw. And I hear Alucard's been itching for a rematch.” I couldn't resist saying that.
“Aye, that he would,” scoffed Anderson. He leaned down over me. “Mark my words,” he hissed. “I'll see the lot of ye in Hell if it's the last thing I do.”
That did it. “You know,” I said, keeping my voice even, “I'd like to think you had something better to do, but obviously you don't. And be very certain that I would not ever want to go to any Heaven that had either you or Father Maxwell in it.” I stared back up at him.
Anderson's face was now high blood pressure crimson and twisted in a furious snarl. "Mind your tongue, Hellsing scum!"
I never saw it coming. I had no idea that he'd swung on me, until I felt a freight train drive straight through my face. An incredible flash of pain, and I went down, my head pealing like church bells at vespers. I was out cold long before I ever hit the floor
I woke in a world of hurt. Tony now hovered over me, fluttering like a moth. Someone had seen fit to put ice on my face, which was considerate, since it felt like a blowtorch had been taken to it.
"Tony," I said. Oh, hell. Talking was a miserable experience in living. "Tony," I snapped in irritation, raising my voice. "Watching you twitter is making me sick. Stop that."
Oh, crud. Something in my jaw grated, and there was a whole new pain for my troubles.
"What happened to you?" Tony gaped at me.
"Father Anderson," I mumbled. That did it. No more talking.
Tony swallowed visibly. "I had better take you to the infirmary."
Right. For once I wasn't going to argue.
"Relax, Walter," I said. Several major painkillers later, and I almost felt human again, although giddy as hell. "You make it sound like he was trying to kill me. Going by what you've told me, I got off light."
"Tell me again what happened."
"He mouthed off to me, and I mouthed off right back," I said. "Yes, yes, I know. It was stupid as hell. Then he hit me, hard. With much topspin and English on it. Tony was kind enough to help me up off the floor and took me to see a doctor."
"And the diagnosis?"
"Mild concussion, dislocated jaw with a hairline fracture, several loose teeth," I recited the litany the doctor had given me. "A pretty shiner on my left eye. And if he'd hit back another inch or two, I'd be permanently deaf in that ear. As it is, it rings like Westminster chimes. Not bad for an open-hand slap, would you say?"
Walter sighed.
"I don't think he likes me much," I offered.
A long pause ensued. "Evan," said Walter, with a strong note of disapproval that managed to survive the trip overseas. "Do you recall that this visit was intended to keep you out of trouble?"
As usual, he was right. "Yes, Walter," I said.
"Circumstances have changed," said Walter. "I'm sending someone down."
"Don't tell me you're sending--" I said.
"No," came the tart reply. "His presence isn't necessary for a trifling matter like this."
“Oh," I said, my ego shriveling. Trifling, huh? It sure didn't feel that way to me.
Still I could appreciate Walter's concern. Sending Alucard to the Vatican would be pure overkill. The Swiss Guard would never stand a chance.
"Moreover, since there are no undead involved, vampires or freaks, sending him would break a long standing treaty we have with the Vatican" said Walter. "Regardless of how often they choose to violate it." Sardonic humor. "Does that answer your concerns?"
"As much as anything does," I said, pulling out a PDA. "So what time should I be at the airport?"
"The flight is scheduled to land at 20:57," answered Walter. "Allow some time for customs."
"Uh-huh. Private flight, international customs, 8:57 tonight," I said, poking and scribbling furiously. "Right. I'll be there. Talk at you later, Walter."
"Yes," said Walter, the tone of his voice as dry as dust.
I loved listening to Walter's voice. It wasn't until after I hung up the phone that I realized I had been chastened for my impertinence.
I stood waiting just outside Customs, and hoped it wouldn't be too much longer. I could be as patient as I needed to be, but I was never strong at standing and waiting.
“Evan.” I turned at the sound of an familiar, if unexpected, voice.
Walter, wearing a black leather trench coat, now stood there, overnight case in one hand and a briefcase in the other.
My jaw dropped. This was the someone he was sending?
"Walter?" I frowned. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Keeping you out of trouble," said Walter, taking a good look at my now colorful face. He sighed. "Again."
More sandpaper for my ego. I eyed him unhappily. "Aren't you the same person who called this a 'trivial matter?' What changed?"
"Nothing," said Walter. "If you recall, the issue was not that the situation was grave, which it indeed is, but whether the situation warranted sending in the equivalent of an army, which it does not."
Oh. Well.
"Okay, I can deal with that," I said.
"I'm so pleased to hear it," said Walter, one eyebrow raised.
I flushed vivid pink. "Don't get me wrong. I'm more than happy to see you. But isn't this as dangerous as hell for you?"
Walter frowned. "More dangerous than letting you wander blithely around in the middle of a holy war?"
"Okay, okay," I allowed. "I get the point." Nothing about this situation was happy making for me. Time to ask myself which was worse, being dead or being babysat.
I didn't care for either. But that was just too bad.
“Here, let me carry some of that,” I said. "So where will you be staying?" Walter handed me the overnight case.
"The British Embassy," said Walter. "I have been extended diplomatic immunity for the duration."
Meaning he now had a license to kill, provided his government did not choose to revoke it. I felt a chill creep over me. "Do you think it's going to come down to anything that bad?" Damn, I wanted to be more than an accidental cat in a sack.
"No," said Walter. "And if you can find it in yourself to pray that it does not, please do so."
Tony met us outside the main terminal. “Could you two step on it? I'm illegally parked here.”
“I'm on it, Tony, “ I snapped. “Don't get your panties in a bunch. Where's the car?”
“Four feet to your left,” said Tony, gesturing to it. Oh, so it was. “If it were a snake, it would bite you.”
I was unimpressed. “You could try opening the door, and making yourself useful.”
“Already on it, dipshit,” Tony shot back. “You could try checking it, you know.”
Walter looked nonplussed. “Do the two of you bicker like this constantly?”
Tony looked at me. I shrugged back.
“Just an old married couple, Tony and me,” I grinned, as we all piled into the car. “We just never got around to telling people about it. Right, Tony?”
“That's us,” said Tony, waiting to pull out into traffic. “Kind of like Darby and Joan.”
“Rather more like Punch and Judy, I should think,” said Walter, one eyebrow faultlessly raised. “And if you're quite finished with the comedy routine, Evan, perhaps you might introduce me to your friend.”
“Sorry,” I said, flushing at the pointed remark. “Tony, this is Walter Dollneaz. He's the Hellsing house steward, and Sir Hellsing's right hand man. The place would fall apart without him. On top of all that, he's my boss.”
Tony grinned. “Oh, that must be fun.”
Walter glanced at me. “Yes,” he said.
It was amazing how much meaning Walter could convey with just that one word. This time I chose to ignore it.
“Walter,” I said. “This is Brother Antonio Turitto, of the Order of St. Benedict, more commonly known to me as Tony. Mostly he's my bestest bud, but on occasion he's my partner in crime. We go way back.”
“So I see.” Walter inclined his head in a courtly bow. “Delighted to meet you, Brother Antonio.”
“Likewise,” said Tony, never taking his eyes off the road. “Hang on, everyone! We're going in.”
The car took off like a shot, narrowly missing a Mercedes-Benz limousine parked just ahead of us, and cutting off a Fiat trying to change lanes. I could hear shouting behind us. Tony gestured back. It was a pretty normal exchange, by Roman standards.
“I've been trying to explain to Tony about Section XIII and Father Anderson,” I said.
“Father Alexander Anderson, the one who works in an orphanage, right?” Tony looked skeptical. “I've never had any trouble with him.”
“Tony, you wouldn't,” I said. “All you've seen is his best side so far. And as far as he's concerned, you're both on the side of the angels. But if he catches you fraternizing with heathens like us, you're likely to get a lesson in comparative religion that you won't ever forget.” I looked at Walter. “Walter has had to deal with Anderson in the past. If you don't believe me, ask him.”
“I would be happy to explain at length, somewhere else,” said Walter. “As you correctly pointed out, Evan, being seen with us could jeopardize your friend's position, if not his life.”
“Holy shit.” Tony looked at Walter, his mouth hanging open. “I'd heard the rumors, but—“ He looked at me then. His face turned sheet white. “The stuff they said was so horrible—“ He broke off, mid sentence, his expression unhappy. I knew the feeling. “I mean, I thought they were making it up.”
“No,” said Walter. He looked unhappy, too.
“Hey, Tony,” I said. Time to lighten the mood. “Your place or mine?”
Tony gave me a sour look. “Ha-ha,” he retorted. “Asshole.”
“You know it,” I grinned. I looked at my watch. “Tell you what. You drop us off at the Embassy and go on ahead. We'll be there in about thirty minutes. If anyone's watching, it won't look too suspicious.”
“Think you'll make it in thirty minutes? You haven't been in Rome long enough,” said Tony. “Better make it an hour. Getting a taxi at this time of night is like pulling hen's teeth.”
“Thirty minutes, no less,” said Walter. “I have already made arrangements for transportation.”
Tony and I exchanged glances. “You know, Evan, you could learn a lot from someone like him,” said Tony.
Yet another pointed remark. Must be contagious. I ignored it, too.
“Thirty minutes it is,” I said. “Step on it, Tony.”