Those who are reading April French's wonderful The Sons of Lilith series may have noticed, in "Idols of Silver and Gold," a remark by Nick that included the words, "...until the blood brokers start producing caffeinated blood...." For some reason, this innocuous comment gave the wackier side of my imagination a kick up the backside, resulting in the following tale.
Forever Knight and LaCroix were created by James Parriott and Barney Cohen and belong to Sony/Tristar. Winter Rasna was created by and belongs to April French, and appears with her permission. (Thanks, April!) Anyone else belongs to me.
My knowledge of court procedure is next to nil. But then again, who knows how vampires conduct their legal business? Court is now in session.
By Nancy Braman
"What's he doing here?" The question flew around the courtroom in whispers. Conjecture followed conjecture, but no one had the slightest idea why Lucien LaCroix, Toronto's resident elder, was sitting in Courtroom Number Two of the Vampire Night Court--with the defendants.
The object of their curiosity sat rigidly erect, his feet planted firmly on the floor, his arms folded across his chest, and a most forbidding expression on his face. As he waited for his name to be called, his thoughts were in the past--thirty nights ago, in fact.
He had been flying along, minding his own business, when he had felt his arm seized...
"What the--?" LaCroix turned his head, snarling, only to find himself being escorted firmly to the ground by a very tall, very burly and very ancient Enforcer. Unlike most Enforcers, this one proudly sported a badge on the lapel of his jacket.
"You can not do this to me! I'm much too old and powerf--"
"This says I can," interrupted the Enforcer, pointing to his badge.
LaCroix glared at the badge, which bore the insignia of the newest division of Enforcers. The Enforcer identified himself as Alexander of the Vampire Air Traffic Enforcers, then reached into his pocket and retrieved a ticket book.
"I'm booking you for impaired flying. We have you on videotape, bouncin' around up there like you'd had enough caffeine for a dozen vampires. Not to mention, flying low enough to risk being discovered by mortals. Just how much bloodcaf did you guzzle, anyway?"
"I had ONE glass," LaCroix growled, offended by the word "guzzle," and repeated for emphasis, "ONE!"
"Riiiiight." The V.A.T.E. continued writing.
LaCroix's eyes blazed and he ground out through clenched teeth:
"Let me tell you..."
"Tell the judge." Alexander of the V.A.T.E. was completely unimpressed by the old Roman's bluster. He tore off the ticket and shoved it into LaCroix's hand. "Your court date's thirty nights from now, but you can pay your fine any time before that at the address on the back."
He started to leave, then turned back, hovering just off the ground.
"Oh yeah, I almost forgot. You're grounded till that ticket's taken care of." The Enforcer grinned, obviously enjoying himself. "Start walkin'."
He flew off, leaving LaCroix, ticket in hand, snarling with rage.
The bang of the judge's gavel interrupted his thoughts. Then he heard the booming voice of the court clerk:
"The High Council versus Lucius of Pompeii, currently known as Lucien LaCroix."
"The charge?" queried the judge.
"Impaired flying, and flying with risk of mortal discovery." The clerk's words caused a sensation in the courtroom. LaCroix? Impaired flying? Impossible!
Judge Shaela, an imposing-looking vampire of some thirty-five hundred years, sighed. That was all she had been hearing all night, one impaired flying case after another. She banged her gavel.
"Order! Stand, Lucius of Pompeii. How do you answer these charges?"
LaCroix rose to his feet, every centimetre the imperious Roman general.
"They are ridiculous!" he answered in a coldly arrogant tone.
"Thank you; you may be seated. Clerk, call the arresting officer."
Alexander was summoned, stated his name for the record, and made a great show of consulting his notes.
"On the morning of May 14, 1998, at 0231 hours, I spotted the suspect--Lucius--flying over Toronto like he was high as a kite. This way, that way, up, down--it's a wonder no mortal eyes saw him! Anyway, I turned on my video transmitter and pursued him to an alley, where I grounded him and issued a ticket. When I told him that he was being booked for impaired flying and asked him how much bloodcaf he had consumed, he stated that he'd had one glass."
"Video transmission number, please?" asked the judge.
"Nine-eight-zero-five-one-four dash zero-two-three-one, T for Toronto, O for Ontario, A for Alexander."
The clerk, now seated at an elaborate panel of buttons, punched in the transmission number and a series of passwords, and then a screen at the front of the courtroom came to life. All eyes turned to watch.
LaCroix watched in growing horror. For the first time in his very long life, he experienced a desire to have the floor open and swallow him up. That could not possibly be him up there on that screen. It could not! He looked--why, he looked as if he were drunk! He buried his face in his hands, dignity for once forgotten. Why, oh why, hadn't he listened to Winter Rasna? His old friend had cautioned him about the potential dangers of caffeinated blood shortly after it was developed.
"Excellent beverage, Winter." LaCroix sipped appreciatively at a glass of the new "bloodcaf," as it was being called.
"Of course." The albino wine broker took a sip from his own glass and savoured it before continuing. "But be careful with it, Lucius. Overindulgence in caffeine has the same effect on us as overindulgence in alcohol has on mortals. It's also just as potentially addictive."
LaCroix raised one eyebrow. They were, of course, much too old and powerful to allow themselves to overindulge in anything, or to be affected by it if they did.
Rasna shook his head, having a very good idea of what was passing through his friend's mind.
"Be careful, Lucius," he repeated. "Be very careful."
"I would be interested in knowing just how often that 'one glass' was refilled," commented the judge rather caustically. "Stand, Lucius. Have you anything to say?"
LaCroix marshalled what was left his dignity and rose to his feet.
"It would appear..." He stopped, cleared his throat, and began again. "It would appear that I might have ... underestimated ... the effects of caffeinated blood on my system."
"Indeed. You are aware, are you not, that the High Council has declared a zero tolerance policy with regard to impaired flying?"
"I am aware--" How did one address a vampire judge? Your honour? Madame? Ma'am? "I am aware of that, your honour."
Her honour appeared pleased at this show of courtesy, even if it was calculated. However, she was not pleased enough to refrain from fining the defendant three hundred fifty dollars.
"WHAT?" roared LaCroix, eyes blazing red, courtesy and decorum forgotten. He stalked up to the judge's bench and hissed. "That is completely outrageous!"
"ORDER!" Judge Shaela banged her gavel, and glowered down at the Roman, red-eyed glare meeting red-eyed glare. "Three hundred fifty dollars. One hundred fifty for flying under the influence, and two hundred for risking discovery by mortals. You are old enough to know better. And if I hear any more outbursts from you, I will add an additional two hundred for contempt of court. Is that clear?"
"Pay the Fines Clerk in the anteroom. Case closed." The gavel banged once more. "Next case."
As LaCroix strode toward the exit twenty minutes later, poorer by three hundred fifty dollars and still seething, he nearly collided with an acquaintance who had just arrived.
"Evening, Lucius," he greeted the Roman.
But before he finished the sentence, he found himself addressing the air.
Lucien LaCroix had left the building.