"A Very Lucard Christmas"

by Lacey M.

Not surprisingly, late one night Alexander Lucard was still working in his office. The night in question just happened to be Christmas Eve, and Alexander had given most of his staff the night off. Except for the zombies, of course, but some of his vampires and all his few human employees were still ridiculously sentimental about the holidays. One of them had even tried to pin a wreath just above where his sliding office doors opened. Of all the nerve! Lucard finished off the most recent mound of paperwork to find its way to his desk, and strolled casually down to where his limousine waited.
          On the way home, Alexander noticed a man in a Santa suit still out begging money from the last minute shoppers. He instructed the driver to hurry past, and much to Lucard's great delight, when he looked back, noticed that a mud-snow-slush puddle had splashed the unlucky Santa in icy mud from about the waist down. Upon reaching the castle, Lucard got out at the front door, and was about to open it when--was it his imagination, or was the rook logo above his door rearranging itself into a face? Before he realized it, Alexander was staring at the image of Gustav Helsing! "Boo," the specter said. Lucard blinked. The silhouette was gone.
          "I've been staring at the figures for the Gonzalez oil rig deal too long!" Alexander shook his head. "I must need a vacation!"
          After rekindling the fire, Lucard poured himself a glass of truly excellent sherry, and attempted to rationalize his experience at the door. Without warning, a cheery voice spoke, "You'll have to forgive my shenanigans at the door, but I've always wanted to do that to you!"
          Alexander rose and turned so quickly that he nearly lost his glass of sherry in the movement, only to find himself facing another Gustav! Lucard calmly deposited his glass on the mantle, and leapt across the room to grab Gustav's neck. His hand closed on air. "How are you doing this?" he growled.
          "As though I could answer that," Gustav continued conversationally, "I really have no idea why I'm here. Maybe who or whatever's orchestrating this was kind enough to leave me some instructions as to what I'm supposed to be saying."
          Helsing dug into his jacket's "air pockets," and retrieved a rumpled sheet of paper. "Ah, yes," he smoothed it out and began to read. "Alexander Lucard, tonight you will be visited by three spirits. Heed their warnings well, or you will live to regret your folly. We know it sounds like Dickens, but we couldn't come up with anything better. The first apparition will arrive at one. No, you can't get out of this. Merry Christmas, and have a nice day."
          By this time, Lucard was back in his chair and eyeing his sherry critically. "This is potent stuff. Oh, well!" He took another gulp, and turned to where he'd last heard Gustav's voice. "Look, Helsing, I don't know what you're trying to pu..."
          Helsing wasn't there. In fact, Alexander was alone in the room. "That's it, I need sleep!" Irritated, he hurtled his sherry glass into the fireplace, and stalked off to the lower catacombs of the castle, where he kept his extremely private crypt.

A half hour later, the minute hand on Lucard's Rolex reached one o'clock. Alexander didn't notice, he was too busy trying to fall asleep. A moment later, a snowball plastered him square on the face. His eyes flew open. "Oh, GOOD! I was hoping that'd wake you!" Lucard's vision focused on the gleeful, ten-year-old form of Max Townsend.
          "Maximilian?" Alexander croaked. Then, more alertly, "How did you find me?" Just to reassure himself this really was happening, Lucard hauled his frame out of the coffin, and tried to grasp Max by his red, flannel pajamas' collar. Once again, his fingers touched only air.
          "Darned if I could tell you." Max went on to explain, "All I know is that while my spirit is here and active, my body is at home and asleep. I sacked out on the couch after rigging a camera to catch photographic evidence that Santa's a vampire. So unless you start insulting my mom, you won't do me much harm. Now follow me, and we'll tour some of your key 'Christmases Past!"
          A hole in the floor appeared from nothing and swallowed them both.
          Lucard and Max fell from the sky, and landed in a snow drift at the edge of a wood. "Cool!" Max exclaimed.
          Alexander stood and brushed himself off, while Max seemed to receive information mentally on where and when they were. "Transylvania 1441," he recited blankly. Noticing small figures playing in the snow some fifty meters off, "Hey, Lucard, is that you?"
          As Alexander looked where Max was pointing, they both glided motionlessly across the snow. Lucard blinked once. "Yes, I suppose it is."
          "Whoa! Dracula at my age! What I wouldn't give to retain conscious memories of THIS!" Max was practically dancing, but Lucard had fastened his attention on the *much* younger version of himself playing with his brothers.
          "The morning and most of the afternoon we spent in church. I, along with Radu (he must have been about three at the time), couldn't stop fidgeting the entire time. We were so eager to get to the snow, Mother was on the brink of sending us out long before the service was over."
          Then he lapsed into something that sounded like Latin. Max quietly cleared his throat. "As wonderful as hearing you recount the tales of your childhood is, we really are on a tight schedule here. So..."
          The air around them began to shimmer and swirl, as Max commented about how much it looked like hyperspace in "Star Wars." When their eyesight cleared somewhat, Max and Lucard both could see the years pass, as though all Dracula's imprisonments, his defeats, triumphs and glories were on some grotesque display for an audience of two. When the process ground to a halt again, they were witnessing the snowy afternoon in 1476 when Dracula was butchered by traitors. Though he knew he could do nothing to stop it, Alexander derived a grim satisfaction from hurtling insults at them. When he felt he had sufficiently cursed his murderers' little old grandmothers, Lucard turned to his guide. "Okay, Max, I'll bite."
          "Better not," Max warned.
          "Why have you brought me here?"
          "You'll know that when we get back to the castle." The air swirled again, and they were attending Dracula's first Christmas as a vampire. He was biting some peasant girl whose name he never bothered to find out. Virtually the next five hundred years past in exactly the same fashion. "Not to get testy, Lucard, but that last bit was nastier than Uncle Gustav's schnitzel," Max informed Alexander when they got back to the castle. "I know we have different ideas about Christmas dinner, but couldn't you have rented "It's a Wonderful Life," and stayed home, just once?"
          "I could never get past the title. Now, Maximilian, how about answering my question?"
          "You were supposed to have learned what you've done wrong these five hundred-sixty-some odd years. For one thing, you haven't had a happy Christmas since that first one we saw. I'd recommend finding someone who cares about you who'll spend Christmas with you willingly, and FAST! Seeya!" At this, Max vanished.

Lucard woke up. He was back in his cold, dark coffin. "This is getting ludicrous!" He shouted at no one in particular.
          At this point, Alexander felt the inexplicable need for vodka, and wandered back upstairs to locate some. Not that he expected to become intoxicated by it, but Lucard retained a small glimmer of hope that maybe a blood alcohol content-level of three point five would make him sleep easier. So Alexander resumed his chair at the fireplace, and attempted to inebriate himself to the best of his abilities. The hands on his watch struck two.
          "You know, if you don't want to cooperate, I could always go home." Chris Townsend appeared in the chair next to Alexander's. "I was having the most wonderful dream about supermodels and spaghetti."
          "That's quite all right, Christopher. I wouldn't dream of depriving you of whatever adventures we're supposed to have together."
          "Rats," Chris muttered, as both were sucked into a hole that had just dematerialized the floor beneath them.
          Lucard and Chris appeared in the front hallway of the Helsing home. "Because we aren't really here, you don't need to be invited in," Chris explained, as Lucard eyed the Cross of the Magyars warily. "Come on, I guess we gotta do this," Chris sighed, and led Lucard into the living room. Sophie was unpacking delicate ornaments on the couch, as Gustav unknotted the tree lights, while Chris and Max sat on the floor throwing popcorn at each other, instead of stringing it into garland. "I can't believe I'm missing Cindy Crawford to go through THIS again. Once was bad enough!" Chris started to get irritated.
          "Mm," was all the reply he got from Lucard. Another fifteen minutes, and Alexander finally asked, "What do I divine from this, except for the fact that Helsing couldn't hang tinsel properly to save his life?"
          "Take a guess," Chris answered sarcastically. Suddenly, he straightened up, took his hands from his pajama pockets, and intoned, "You are supposed to be yearning for the warm, friendly, familial kind of life you are watching, so that you will be of a rapidly changing mood by the time you get back to the castle. We don't care whether or not you're a vampire, we just think your cold, unfriendly, distant attitude towards home and family has got to go."
          Chris' eyes unglazed. "Oh, thanks for taking over my head, people!" He yelled at the ceiling.
          Lucard chuckled lightly at Chris' reaction, and asked, "How much longer must we endure this?"
          "Well," Chris glanced nervously at the ceiling, "Because there's only one 'Christmas Present,' I think this is the only part I guide you through. And I kinda would like to get back to Cindy," he added.

Alexander awoke. "I must've dozed off. Strange, but I've never had a dream that picks up where it left off every time I fall asleep. Maybe the alcohol is getting to me after all." Lucard didn't feel much like going back to the crypt, so he wandered into the upper reaches of the castle. He was making his way up the winding stairs in the highest turret of his home when the hands of his Rolex reached three. Abruptly, Alexander became aware of the fact 'Silent Night' was being played on a stringed instrument beyond a door at the top of the stairs. Consciously aware of the fact that he was totally awake this time, Lucard opened the door and stepped in. Sophia Metternich sat with her back facing him, her braided hair and pink, lace-fringed nightgown revealing a sight that made him wish yet again he could welcome her to his particular brand of the food chain. Steeling himself for yet another encounter of the Christmas kind, he sighed quietly, "You are playing beautifully, Sophie, despite such a beleaguered viola."
          Sophie flinched uncontrollably, but turned and came to the defense of her instrument. "I had to piece it back together after Max ran over it on his bike. That it is even recognizable as a viola shows my effort."
          "If I didn't know you were going to forget this," Lucard began, "I'd offer to teach you the entire orchestra." In spite of herself, Sophie looked impressed. "I believe we do have somewhere to be going, my dear," Lucard reminded her.
          "Oh, yes, of course," Sophie blushed, and Castle Lucard developed yet another hole in the ground. The air sparkled with possibilities, as both people were transported to Lucard's office. Alexander and Sophie witnessed Lucard Industries expand further and further, until it virtually controlled the world's economy. Lucard himself was still cold and avaricious, but could ruin or save any country with a single command.
          "How would seeing all this possibly convince me to change?" Alexander imagined the endless profits, and licked his lips.
          "That is a good question," Sophie replied. A telegram materialized in her hands. She read aloud, "If you play by our rules, and be a nice little fang boy, and develop a personal life beyond "Hello, my name is Dracula, I'll be your vampire this evening," you will have a greater chance of accomplishing all this in about half the time." Lucard looked vaguely shocked, but Sophie was visibly distraught by this turn of events. "How can you possibly encourage evil like his? Please, tell me you're making this up!"
          Sophie received the same glazed look Chris had had. "Of course we're making this up, dear. We only set events in motion, we can't MAKE things happen the way we'd like. As for the evil part, we can't persuade Dracula to stake himself any more than we can make you cover the Cross of the Magyars and leave your window open. We aren't the omniscient beings you believe us to be."
          Sophie's eyes unfixed themselves from staring at a patch of nearly worn out rug Lucard had put in his office after 3050. "Why, if I didn't know better, I'd almost be tempted to say you didn't like me," Lucard teased. As Sophie blinked like a person waking, Alexander continued, "Don't you think it's high time all good little girls' spirits were back in bed?" Sophie regarded him oddly.
          Alexander was in the chair Sophie had been practicing in. Reorienting himself, he hurried downstairs, to the nearest phone. He had work to do.

The next morning, Gustav came out to get the paper, still in the clothes he'd fallen asleep in last night while reading. He nearly stumbled on four presents arranged in a heap on the doorstep. Suspicious, he brought them in, but set them under the Cross of the Magyars, which did nothing. Still suspicious, Gustav opened the card. It had a festive Santa on the cover, and what proved to be an excellent schnitzel recipe inside. The signature under the glad tidings, however, left him cold. Because the Cross did nothing, Gustav decided the gifts were probably harmless, and brought them into the living room. Max was only just waking up, but saw the wrapped packages and exclaimed, "Don't tell me Santa had to leave our gifts outside because he wasn't invited in!"
          "Only if you spell Santa S-A-T-A-N, Max. These are from Lucard."
          Max was appropriately speechless, but opened the one labeled for him anyway. It was a miniature replication of a section of a family portrait, in a pewter frame. The subject of the section was a pre-adolescent Dracula. "Just so I can prove I was once your age," the note attached read.
          Gustav's present was an insanely patterned tie that proved to match roughly half his wardrobe. "As long as I never see you wear it," his tag read. When Chris and Sophie finally came downstairs to open their gifts, Chris' was a pin-up of Cindy with the inscription in the corner, "Sorry I wasn't there for the pasta. L." Sophie's present was a new viola with the message, "The offer still stands." Sophie actually retained some memory of the night before, possibly because of her ex-vampire status, but feigned she didn't know what Alexander was referring to.

Later Christmas Day, the kids went to the park while Gustav fixed Christmas dinner. The boys had a snowball fight as Sophie pretended to make a snowman. Actually, she was readying her own cache of snowballs, but she wasn't about to tell Chris and Max that. Out of nowhere, three snow projectiles hit three children consecutively before any of them could react, and knocked them all unconscious. Alexander Lucard stepped out from behind a tree, dressed in the winter version of his black trench coat, his usual black fedora, but with a red woolen scarf around his neck. An advantage of snow as powdered as this, Alexander reflected, was that one could easily hide a rock half as big as a baseball in an innocuous-looking, normal-sized snowball. Lucard carried all three kids simultaneously to his car, and strapped them in the back seat. As Alexander was driving back to the castle, a little thought in the back of his mind told him he was really going to enjoy this Christmas.

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