by Susan R.
Alexander Lucard walked around the crowded room full of guests. It was
his annual Halloween party and he knew everyone there. It was the usual
crowd of business associates and friends. He walked up to one of his
secretaries and welcomed her to his castle.
"Mr. Lucard, you dress as a vampire every year," she said.
"It's a tradition, " he said with a sly smile. "Enjoy your night at my castle." Alexander walked away and stood next to an open window. All of the human blood was making him thirsty, and he still had a few hours to go before he could hunt for the evening. He glanced up at the stairs and noticed a young lady, dressed as a witch, that he did not recognize. He looked more at her as he tried to search her thoughts. She was an American and she was lost. She was looking for somebody, and he had a feeling that somebody was him.
Alexander said hello to one of his guests who walked up to him, but he glanced back at the girl who was now looking directly at him. He smiled at her and she slowly made her way down the stairs and walked over to him. "Good evening, miss, I am Count Dracula," he said. "But you can call me Alexander Lucard."
She laughed at his introduction. "Good evening, sir. My name is Justine MacKenzie. I believe you've been expecting me."
"Ahh, yes. The talented painter from Philadelphia?"
"Close. Pittsburgh. I believe you spoke to my boss, Mrs. Edwards."
"Yes. She told me that she is quite fond of my castle and wants a painting done of it for her collection. She told me she was a fan of Medieval Europe."
"Yes. It shouldn't take me more than a day to paint it."
"Oh? You don't plan on staying in town very long, do you?"
"Well, I don't leave for almost a week, but I've never been to Europe before."
"I want you to enjoy your stay here. And, if there is anything you need, just ask me."
"That's very kind of you."
"My pleasure. I have plenty of art supplies in my castle, so if there is anything you need, my servants will gladly get it for you. I'll be at work during the day, but I would like it if you could join me for dinner tomorrow evening."
"Thank you, again, Mr. Lucard. I would be honored."
"What do you want to see while you are here?"
"Every museum in France. I love art. If I start talking about it too much, just tell me to shut up."
"Nonsense. I love art, as well. I have quite a collection."
"Do you have any self portraits?"
"I had one, but it was destroyed."
"I'm sorry to hear that. You seem very photogenic."
"Not quite," he said with a frown.
"Really? I would love to paint your portrait. Don't laugh, but when I saw you standing in front of the window, I thought that it would make a perfect painting. I think I would call it, 'Dracula Looking Out Into The Night.'"
"You would paint me?"
Justine's green eyes looked into his blue ones. "Only if you would let me?"
"I will pay you ten thousand dollars, plus supply everything."
"Mr. Lucard!!! Are you serious?"
"Very. And you can paint me just as you envisioned."
"You mean, as Count Dracula?"
"For ten thousand dollars, I would paint you as Caesar."
"Julius or Octavius?"
Justine laughed at his joke. "You're very charming, Mr. Lucard. If I didn't know better, I would think you were Count Dracula."
"Would that frighten you?" he asked seriously.
Her green eyes were looking directly into his. "No, I don't think it would."
Alexander believed her. He glanced over at the orchestra and they began to play "Music of the Night." "Would you care to dance, Miss MacKenzie?"
"I would love to, Mr. Lucard."
Alexander lead her out onto the dance floor. He was very happy about the thought of having his portrait done. He knew that she may be very useful to him in the future. I wonder if she would take a job with Lucard Industries? he asked himself as he looked into her eyes. She was young and beautiful. Her dark red hair rested just past her shoulders. Her skin was milky white, a feature he loved in his women. He smiled at her. "You're so quiet. What are you thinking about?" he asked, looking into her eyes.
"Where your wife is?"
"I'm not married. I live a very busy life and it's hard to stay in a relationship with anyone."
"Oh," she said quietly.
"Don't worry, Angelique. This Barnabas isn't seeing anyone."
"You've seen Dark Shadows?"
"Yes. Since you are a witch and I am a vampire, it reminded me of it."
"Well, Count, are you thirsty?"
"Very," he said as his hand brushed passed her cheek and pushed her hair back.
Justine smiled at him. "For now, can you drink wine?"
"Yes, although it is not nearly as sweet." Alexander had a servant bring him two glasses of red wine. "A toast, to my beautiful young artist. I must ask if you use photos when you paint?"
"No, I prefer for my subject to pose for the whole time. I hope you can stand for a few hours."
"I prefer it that way."
He spent a majority of the evening talking to her about art. They favored many of the same artists and Lucard was enjoying her company more and more. It was past midnight when his guests began to leave. He walked Justine out into the night and had one of his drivers pull up a car.
"It's been a wonderful evening," she said with a smile. "I'll see you tomorrow night."
"Expect me around sunset," he said. He picked up her hand and bent to kiss it lightly. "Good-night, Miss MacKenzie."
"Good-night, Mr. Lucard."
Justine MacKenzie sat in front of Lucard's castle painting away. She
spent all morning on her work and was finished by midday. She gave her
canvas to one of Lucard's servants to be kept in the castle for the
night. She decided to walk back to her hotel room and enjoy the beauty
of the small town. She couldn't believe that she was getting paid ten
thousand dollars for one painting. She laughed, knowing that she would
have done it for free if it meant spending time with Alexander Lucard.
After her walk, she took a hot shower and began to get ready for dinner. The closer sunset came, the more nervous she got. She knew she was attracted to him but didn't want it to distract her while she was painting.
Lucard was putting away the last of his paperwork when his business
manager, Marcus Danwig, walked in. "Alexander, before you go, I must
talk to you about Julia Heisenberg."
"What is it, Marcus?"
"She painted the copy of your newest painting, and was going to give it to you and make another for the museum, but keep the original to sell to some crime boss in Italy. I don't trust her anymore. Since she's been a vampire, she's become more careless and reckless than before. She's out to make money for herself, and not care about you."
"Thank you, Marcus. I never did trust her. I know now that my making her a vampire was a mistake. I should have killed her. Luckily, I can, now. I found the perfect replacement. She's a talented artist with a taste for good art."
"The young lady you were dancing with last night?"
"Yes. She's going to paint my picture tonight."
"Good for you. I never did like van Gogh's. It didn't look quite like you."
"I'm off for the night. If you would be so kind as to take care of Julia for me. I want her terminated and the original copy of that painting at my castle in two nights. I want to show it off."
"Of, course, Alexander. It will be taken care of immediately."
"Thank you, Marcus. You've always been so loyal. Don't disappoint me."
Alexander had decided that he would drive himself over to meet Justine. He pulled up in front of the hotel and saw her waiting by the door. She walked out and looked at him. "Hello, Mr. Lucard. Great car. BMW, right?"
"Yes." He drove them back to the castle where his cook had dinner waiting for them. He asked her about her life back in Pittsburgh. She had grown up in Pennsylvania with her mother, who died a few years ago. Her father lived in South Carolina. She had been painting all her life because it was a way for her to escape to other worlds. After dinner, he asked if there was anything she needed before they would begin.
"I do like to hear music. It's relaxes me."
"I'll get one of my servants to bring out my CD player. Any particular music?"
"You can choose," she said as she pulled her hair back into a ponytail. Justine put on her cover shirt and set up her canvas while Lucard went to change into his favorite evening wear. He tied his cape and walked over to the window. "Perfect, stand right there," she said as she walked over to him.
"You decide how I should pose," he said, looking at her.
"I want you to face your body a little to your left but keep you head forward. I want your eyes to be looking out into the night." He did as she said. She pushed his cape off of his right shoulder and looked into his eyes. "Perfect," she whispered as she started to lean closer to him. He made her snap out of his trance. She shook her head and walked away.
Lucard watched her as she began to sketch. Next time, my sweet, I will let you kiss me. He watched her as Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" began to play.
"Good choice in music," she said as she looked up at him.
"I'm glad you approve."
"So, Mr. Lucard, is there any particular reason you dress as a vampire for Halloween?"
"It's a tradition."
"Oh. Funny, I use to dress up as one every year when I was in high school. I would decorate my house really spooky and dress as a vampire to frighten the kids. For fun. I never really scared any of them."
"Do you like vampires?"
"Yes, but don't laugh."
"I won't. There's nothing wrong with that."
"I've always liked them. I've read lots of different books and seen over a dozen movies."
"What about them do you like?"
"I think my favorite thing is their immortality. To have lived for centuries and seen so many changes over the years. History was one of my favorite subjects. I can't even imagine what it must have been like to live through it."
"Yes, immortality is one of the best things about being a vampire. The history books leave out so much." She glanced up and gave him a puzzled look. "I can only imagine, of course."
"What else do you like about them?"
"In some of the books, they're romantic and charming. Something most men in this day and age don't know anything about."
"There are a few of us who still believe in chivalry."
"I suppose you do?"
"Yes," he said, not moving.
"Another thing I like about vampires is that they live for the night. I love the night. Don't get me wrong, I love the day, too. But, there is something about the night that almost calls out to me."
"Interesting." And wonderful, he thought to himself. "Ever dreamed of being one?"
"Occasionally. But, I don't think I could ever be one. I could never take a human life."
"In some books, the vampires can live without killing, can't they?"
Lucard asked her more questions about vampires and loved every answer she gave. In a way, he was interviewing her for his new position at Lucard Industries. Every now and then, they would take breaks and she would get some coffee to help her stay awake. She was surprised that he was willing to stay up very late in order for her to finish her painting.
It was past three am when she told him she was finished. "Do you want to have a look?" she asked.
"Yes," he said as he walked over to have a look. It was magnificent. It was a true masterpiece. "Justine, I love it! I will treasure it for all eternity! It looks so real."
"You really like it?"
"I love it! It's worth a million, not ten thousand!" A waltz began to play and he picked her up and danced with her around the room. It had been a long time since Lucard had been this happy about anything. He stopped dancing as he looked at her. He bent down and kissed her. She didn't resist but kissed him back. He kept kissing her as he slowly lifted her body and laid her down in front of the fire.
Justine had spent the night at Lucard's castle and returned to her
hotel room late in the afternoon. He wanted her to return to his castle
that night to show her a new painting that he had bought. She was
excited because he also told her that he had some great news for her.
She had no idea what it was.
Justine arrived at the castle after Lucard finished up with a dinner meeting. She walked in as he was saying good-bye to his guest. "Marcus, this is the young artist I was telling you about. Justine MacKenzie, this is Marcus Danwig, my business manager."
"Pleased to meet you," she said as she reached out her hand.
Marcus shook her hand. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Mackenzie. I'm sure we'll see each other again."
"Good-night, Marcus," said Alexander.
"Justine, I have a business proposition for you. I have a job opening at Lucard Industries that you are perfect for. I need someone to be in charge of all of my paintings and museums. I own quite a few."
"Are you serious?"
"You would get to travel all over Europe, meet artists around the world, and I would personally open up a gallery of your artwork."
"You are serious, aren't you," she said. "I will gladly take the job."
"You will make thousands of dollars a year, and you will be working for me, personally."
"I'll take it!!!"
"Great. Want to see what I bought to hang in my castle?"
"Besides my painting, of course."
"Your painting is going up here in the main hall. I have another that I want to hang in a different room. I think you will recognize it," he said as he walked her over to the large canvas that was covered with a cloth. He pulled the cloth away and her eyes widened. "I knew you would recognize it."
"'The Death of Marat' by Jean David. This must be a copy."
"No, this is the real thing. The museum in Brussels has a damn good copy."
"I can't believe it."
"Did you know that David knew Marat and was asked to paint him after his assassination?"
"Yes, I remember that from school."
"There is something else about me that I must ask you. Be honest with me. Would you like to be a vampire?"
"You're joking, right?" she asked with a laugh. He wasn't laughing, but looking straight at her. "You're not."
"Justine, there is no easy way to say this. I'm a vampire. I'm Count Dracula."
"I don't know why, but a part of me actually believes you. Dracula?"
"What is Lucard spelled backwards?" he asked.
Justine spelled it out in her mind. "Dracul. Oh, my." Justine looked at him and found herself looking into his eyes. "You are Dracula. I don't know how, but I know."
"Why are you telling me? Why didn't you kill me last night?"
"I like you. You were meant to be a vampire. You told me how the night calls out to you, but I wanted to give you the choice."
Justine knew what she truly wanted. She looked up at him and kissed him. He kissed her back and then kissed her neck just before she felt a sharp pain. She felt her body change as he drank. After he finished, she felt her mortal body die and a new hunger take over. "I'm thirsty," she said as she looked at her new master.
"Follow me," he said.
Note from the author: Anyone wishing to view "The Death of Marat" can check it out on the world wide web.