It was midnight on a Saturday and Integra Hellsing was asleep. When she heard the knock at her bedroom door she reached for her gun out of reflex, then slowly put it down. "Who is it?"
"It's Walter, Sir Integra. There's a visitor for you. The night guard just called me and told me about it."
"You're waking me for that, Walter?"
"I believe you'll want to see this visitor, my lady. It's Father Maxwell, from Iscariot," answered her butler's voice through the door. "He's waiting in the small parlor."
She got out of bed and began hurriedly throwing her clothes on.
"What do you suppose he wants? Is he starting a fight? Is Anderson coming to kill Alucard?" There was an edge of excitement to her voice.
Walter, however, didn't answer, and when she opened her door he was already gone. She hurried down to the small parlor, where Enrico Maxwell sat in a chair, wearing a priest's collar but none of his other distinctive clothing. His long hair was fixed back in its usual ponytail, but his face had lost some of its belligerence.
"What are doing here, Father Maxwell?" she asked. "What kind of trouble are you planning to make for us?"
"No trouble," answered Maxwell in a voice that sounded tired and tinged with sadness.
Integra took a seat across from him. "What do you mean?"
"I'm here because..." he sighed, clearly unwilling to say what he had to. "I'm hoping there is some position available for me here."
"Position?" asked Integra, confused. "You work for the enemy, Father Maxwell."
"I did," he said. "But the Holy Father, as one of his first acts as Pope, has dissolved Section Thirteen. He cited a new commitment to peace and openness and a lack of vampire attacks."
"A lack of attacks?" said Integra, with a nervous edge to her own voice now.
"Yes. Once the freak chip ring was broken up and you people destroyed the followers of Set, there was something of a lull."
"Exactly. The last vampire killed by Iscariot was months ago in Spain. Father Anderson took care of him."
"So your regenerator is still active."
"Well mostly he takes care of the orphanage, but they'll call him out in the event any undead show up in a Catholic country. Father Renaldo was forcibly retired. The rest of our staff was re-assigned. And I... find myself rather at loose ends."
"I see," said Integra Hellsing. "Well, I honestly don't think I can help you."
"Have you no Christian mercy in your heart at all, Sir Hellsing?"
"It's not a question of that. It's just that things are quiet in England, and our staff has been rather reduced as well. We never needed to replace the men lost in the attack before I was imprisoned."
"But there are vampire attacks in England," said Maxwell. "I've seen the reports."
"Well, yes, enough to keep us busy. The Round Table has no intention of attempting to shut down Hellsing!"
"I'm sure they don't, with the current threats," said Maxwell.
"Just last week there was a vampire reported in Wales. We sent out Seras Victoria to take care of it."
"I remember that. There were no ghouls though, and no reported fatalities," said Father Maxwell in a musing tone.
"Well, no, but there was a fatal attack just last month, right here in London!" she said.
"I remember that. The victim was a convicted rapist, correct?"
Sir Integra opened a drawer in the table next to her, looking for a cigar that wasn't there. "Well, yes, he was no loss to society, but we had to get the vampire before he killed innocent people!"
Father Maxwell narrowed his eyes. "And where was Alucard when these attacks occurred?"
"What do you mean, where was he? He was here. There was no need to involve him on those occasions, though we still have our secret weapon."
"It's him, isn't it? Doing the attacks?" asked Maxwell bluntly.
Sir Integra sighed and hung her head. "Damn it. I told Walter someone was going to figure that one out."
"Few people read your reports," said Maxwell. "I trust you've been feeding the Round Table some off-the-record rumors also?"
"Yes," she said. "But we can't report false deaths without being caught. Record-keeping in the twenty-first century is just too good."
"Sending someone all the way to Wales was a nice touch."
"Yes, well, Seras Victoria had always wanted to see it," said Sir Hellsing.
"What was the last one you didn't make up?" asked Maxwell curiously.
"Glasgow, two months ago. Turned out to be a human teenager with too much eyeliner who liked to peer into windows."
"So what do your staff do all the time?"
"The soldiers train as they always did. The sorts of things soldiers do in peacetime. Seras Victoria, well, she welcomes the rest. Life as a vampire only suited her so well, though she did do her best. I believe Walter's been teaching her to play chess. And Alucard... makes trouble, though not as much he'd like to."
"So things are tough for you too?" asked the priest. "I mean if the Round Table found out..."
"Are you threatening to blackmail me, Father Maxwell?" asked Sir Integra.
"No," he said. "I doubt they'd listen to anything I had to say. And I suppose I should want to see Hellsing go down as Iscariot did, just out of spite, but I don't really."
Integra stood up. "Well I'll keep you in my prayers, Father Maxwell. What else can I say?"
"You're going to throw me out on the street in the middle of the night?" he asked.
"You mean you don't even have a hotel?"
"I barely had the money for a plane ticket," he replied. "You know, the vow of poverty and all."
Sir Hellsing stood up and shook her head. "I can't put you in the guest room. I'm not waking Walter up again to get it ready."
Father Maxwell got up and walked toward her. "I always thought you were a worthy adversary, Integra Hellsing. And a beautiful woman."
"You think if you flatter me I'll give you what you want?"
"Not really. I just wanted that on the record."
She sighed. "You may have this couch for the night. I'll bring you a blanket and a pillow."
"You are all generosity, Sir Hellsing."
He walked over and lay down on the couch, and when she came down later with the blanket, she spent a few moments looking at him, his face smooth in sleep, no trouble-making associates anywhere to be seen.
She reached out and untied his hair from the ponytail.
"You were a worthy adversary yourself, in your day, Father Maxwell," she murmured. "If you're especially well-behaved, I may eventually find you another place to sleep."
He opened his eyes. "Does that mean you have a very big bed?" he asked.
"Don't press your luck," she replied. "I'm not that bored... yet."