by Steve C.
"But it's not fair, Uncle Gustav!" Max cried, hardly believing what he had just been told.
"I'm sorry, Max, but my decision is final," the old man answered, still packing his red bag with the vampire hunting devices.
"Chris and Sophie harldy know anything about vampires compared to me. I'd have a better chance of surviving than they would against anyone." He had a hold of Gustav's arm now, and his incessant pulling eventually turned Helsing around in anger. He took hold of the boy's shoulders, looking directly and seriously into his eyes.
"Max, I told you already, this is a vampire like no other you have seen or read about or been told about before. A boy your size and age would be the perfect target, and I can't take the responsibilty for getting you killed."
Max didn't answer him, but looked down at his feet, a gesture of concession.
"I'm sorry, I really am. But it's just too dangerous for you to go with us." He let go of Max's shoulders, and turned around to continue packing the bag. "This vampire has nothing in him but disease and rage. He must be stopped, and without further loss of life."
"All right, fine," the boy answered, quite crestfallen. He looked back up at his great-uncle, gray hair, bad back, weak bones and all. How could he lecture on the safety of a hunter against the vampire described earlier? Wouldn't an aging vampire hunter be just as much of a target as a small boy? And Max wasn't all that young, either. He had gone up against Dracula, the Dracula, a hundred times, and survived them all. But there would be no more pleas this time. For all the boy cared, Gustav could go and die if he wanted to. It wasn't as if Chris or Sophie would be able to save him.
And thinking of them, Max left his uncle, still angry, to go and see what his brother had to say about things. He walked up the stairs, face drawn into a scowl, looking at the Cross of the Magyars as he passed. That would stay here, no doubt, even if Gustav had hired a baby-sitter (which, thankfully he hadn't) for protection.
He continued up, feeling like he was now part of a minority that had no say or thoughts in the government of the household, being judged only by age and not qualifications. He tried to let go of the sudden hatred he was feeling toward Gustav, but it obviously wasn't just going to pass by lone will.
The corners of his mouth still pointed violently downward and his eyebrows trying to copy their example, Max walked into his and his brother's room, where Chris was packing a back-pack with a shirt, socks, and change of underwear. Next would follow the larger crosses, his walkman, and maybe a hat he wouldn't wear on the road-trip to their destination.
"Hey, Max," Chris said, looking up at his brother. "What's so funny?" he asked, smiling, then going back to the packing.
"What did Uncle Gustav tell you about this vampire?"
"Uh..." Chris started, squinting his eyes. "He said that we had to go and destroy him as soon as possible, because he was a threat to hundreds of lives or something like that, right? You were there, Max."
"I mean after I left to start my packing," he said, gesturing to the bag on his bed that would never be zipped.
"Nothing," Chris said honestly, not looking up to the boy.
"Don't lie to me," Max said, his arms folded across his chest. "What he tell you guys while I was gone?"
Chris stopped, sighing, and turned around on his knee to face his brother. They were almost at eye-level, Chris just a little bit below the look of suspicion and hate.
"Well, he started by saying you were always way too paranoid, then he made fun of the way you talk, then he said that you would never leave this house again if you ever left the orange juice carton in the fridge with one drop left."
Max was not amused. "Fine, if you don't want to tell me, maybe Sophie will," he said, trying to push his way past Chris, but eventually having to go around the boy that was almost twice his size.
"Yeah," Chris called after him, "she always blurts out things that are supposed to be kept secret, doesn't she?"
Ignoring that, Max walked down the hallway to her room, walking in, where she was also packing.
"Knocking is still practiced as a courtesy, isn't it, Max?" she asked, not looking up from her job of carefully folding her clothes.
"Why can't I go with you guys?" he asked loudly, Sophie rolling her eyes.
"I don't know, Max. Uncle Gustav said you're too young, and he probably knows better than you or I."
"What's too young? This guy can't be any worse than Lucard."
"How do you know that?" she asked quickly, turning and looking at him.
Max shied from the question, mainly because it rang true with him. Not only that, but the stories Gustav had told the three of them were very representive of something much more evil than Dracula could ever be. Needing to respond, though, he mumbled, "I just do," and left, lowering his head.
Sophie went back to her packing, zipping her bag up and putting it on. Just then Gustav yelled up to them that it was time to go, and she left the room, meeting Chris in the hallway.
"What is wrong with your brother?" she asked Chris, walking with him down the stairs.
"If I knew do you think it would make a difference?" he asked back, getting a smile out of her, which he tried to do a lot these days.
"No, I guess not," she said, as they came to the foot of the stairs.
Gustav was waiting on them, holding his suitcase and red bag. "Are you ready?" he asked, looking very nervous and jittery.
"Yes," they answered individually.
"Max!" he called up the stairs. "We're leaving!"
No answer came, and Helsing looked to Chris. "Is he up there?"
Chris turned and looked up the stairway, expecting to see him pop his head out of the hallway and say good-bye. "He was in our room," he said after a minute, the three not seeing or hearing a word.
"Max!" Gustav yelled again, a little sterner this time. "I said we're going!"
There was a slight pause, and then they heard: "I heard you the first time!" in a voice that had never come out of the boy toward them.
Gustav sighed, said, "All right, let's go," and led Chris and Sophie out, letting them walk past as he reached the door. He looked up to the stairway, feeling bad for the boy, but remembering who they were going to meet.
"It's for your own good," he whispered. "You're just not old enough to deal with this."
He closed the door behind him, locking it securely, and prepared for the long drive ahead.
Continued in Part Two.