Characters were created by James Parriott and Barney Cohen and belong to Sony/Tristar. I'm just having fun with them.
by Nancy Braman
Lucien LaCroix, the famous (or infamous) broadcaster known as the Nightcrawler, sat in a small room at the back of the Raven. He did not normally indulge in regrets, but regret, if that word was strong enough, was what he was feeling now. He regretted ever hearing of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he regretted eavesdropping on the conversation between Nicholas and Vachon, and above all, he regretted joining them at the table and opening his big mouth.
Three months previously...
Nick and Vachon, after considerable discussion, had arrived at the conclusion that this was the year: the Maple Leafs were going to win the Stanley Cup. LaCroix had scoffed.
"They have not won since 1967, Nicholas. They will not win this year, either." Having delivered what he considered the final word, he rose and started to walk away, when another voice joined the conversation.
"What would you bet on that, Lucius?" asked one of the two Enforcers who were drinking at the next table. "Your dignity, maybe?" He and his companion snickered at the thought.
"How about this," put in his companion. "You name the stakes--if they win, you pay up, if they lose, do."
LaCroix stared in disbelief. The role of Enforcers had changed considerably since vampires had become an accepted part of society. He wondered briefly if the change had caused the two Enforcers to run mad, but decided that they were just trying to be funny. He elevated his nose a notch or two.
"If the Maple Laffs"-- he sneered the derogatory term-- "win the Stanley Cup, then I will--"
--and, in a voice which carried all around the Raven, he uttered the fateful words that had inspired gasps from vampires and mortals alike.
LaCroix glared at the small television screen in front of him, as if his glare could change what he saw. The sports newscast was showing--again--the scene from the night before, with the Leafs captain circling the ice, the Stanley Cup held aloft in triumph. It seemed to the ancient vampire that they had been showing nothing else all day.
There was a knock on the door. His vampire senses told him that his son was on the other side of it. He hoped that Nicholas had come to commiserate, but when he opened the door, he had a sinking feeling that commiseration was not what Nicholas was there for. He was quite right.
"Pay-up time, LaCroix. Your audience awaits."
Nick didn't bother even trying to hide his grin. He handed over a large shopping bag, and stepped back just in time to prevent the slammed door from making contact with his nose.
"The old boy seems a little molestado."
Nick turned to see Vachon wearing a grin that matched his own.
"LaCroix? Annoyed? Never!"
Vachon chuckled and handed Nick one of the two glasses of bloodwine that he carried, and they raised their drinks in a toast:
"To the Leafs!"
"Everything set up?" Nick asked the Spanish vampire.
"All set." Vachon nodded toward a discreet corner of the Raven, where one would have a clear view of the stage. Nick looked in the direction Vachon indicated, and Miklos gave the two vampires a broad grin and an "OK" signal.
Tonight was going to be fun.
In the small room, LaCroix dumped out the contents of the bag. He did not want to do this, but as Nicholas had pointed out earlier, a club full of regulars had heard his promise, and he could not--would not--have anyone saying that the General went back on his word. As he prepared for the ordeal ahead, his glance fell upon a box in the corner. It was partly open, and he could tell that it held a wig. Thoughtfully, he walked over and pulled it out. Urs had worn this wig at the Halloween party last year. She had come as Lady Godiva, and the wig was very long. She had also, to LaCroix's disgust, worn a body stocking, and it, too, was in the box. LaCroix had a sudden idea. The vampires, and any mortals who had been there that night, would know him, but there was a large contingent of non-regulars present, and there was no need for them to recognize the Nightcrawler. He set to work at vampiric speed.
Nick and Vachon were rehashing last night's game when Alma appeared.
"Where is the old fossil, anyway?" she inquired, looking around.
Vachon spluttered into his glass of bloodwine while Nick, laughing, pointed to the "dressing room."
"Music's cued," was Alma's laconic comment before returning to her post, after giving Nick a "you-better-tell-him-because-I'm-not-going-to" look.
Nick got up and banged on the door.
Among the audience, those in the know waited with anticipation. Everyone, vampire and mortal, who had been present on the "fateful night" was there. Their attitudes tipped off the non-regulars that something unusual was about to happen. Suddenly, the rock music that had been playing fell silent, to be replaced by-- Tchaikovsky?! The non-regulars stared at one another in shocked disbelief, until they noticed that the rest of the audience had, with expectant expressions, directed its attention to the stage.
Suddenly, on the stage there appeared a figure. This obviously male figure was attired completely in pink: pink ballet slippers, pink tights, and pink tutu. This outfit was topped by a blonde wig, carefully arranged into a very large bun, and to the front of which had been sewn a panel of flesh-coloured fabric, with two holes cut out for its wearer to see through. The laugher and gasps arising from the audience nearly drowned out the music.
Janette had joined Nick and Vachon at their table. She was not pleased to see that LaCroix had hidden his face.
"Oh, Nicolas! Look what he has done!" She pursed her lips. "I think something should be done about this, hmmm?"
Her two companions nodded emphatically, and Janette slipped away from the table, unnoticed by anyone else.
The ancient Roman, trying to ignore the snickers from out front, did his untrained best to dance to the waltz from "Swan Lake." Midway through the performance, he sensed that something seemed to be leaving his body. Strangely, what was leaving seemed to be moving up, not down. Horrified, he realized that his wig and mask were rising rapidly. As they parted company with his head, he raised his eyes, which were now amber, and opened his mouth to bellow "Nicholas!" However, he froze, open-mouthed and in mid-arabesque, when his eyes met those of the author of this embarrassment. Janette's face wore an unwontedly gleeful expression as, from a platform at the back of the stage, she wielded a fishing rod with unexpected skill.
For one horrified moment, LaCroix wished he could unleash Divia on Janette and everyone else present. Then he fled.
Meanwhile, at Nick's loft...
Nat, having picked up Sydney at the vet's, arrived at 101 Gateway Lane only seconds behind Tracy. As the two women (and the cat) let themselves into Nick's loft, Tracy wondered aloud why they had been summoned.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Nat commented. "All I know is, Nick invited just about everyone, vampire and mortal, that he knows. Said if all goes well, he'd have something very interesting for us."
Sydney curled up in front of Nick's fireplace, while Nat made coffee. Tracy checked the fridge for something to eat, and found that it was well stocked for both vampire and mortal guests.
As the two women settled down to get caffeinated, other guests began arriving, some by the door and some by the skylight: Don and Myra Schanke with Jenny; Urs; the Inca; the three Captains, Joe Stonetree, Amanda Cohen, and Joe Reese; Nat's brother Richie, his wife Sarah, and their daughter Amy; Tracy's father Richard, the Commissioner, and her mother Barbara (but not together); Grace; several officers from the precinct; Alma; Janette; Bourbon; and Screed, who brought his own refreshment. The loft seemed to be overflowing as mortals and vampires mingled; and while the mortals speculated in vain about why Nick had asked them all to come, the vampires, most of whom had just come from the Raven, kept their own amused counsel.
Back at the Raven...
Miklos emerged from the back of the Raven with a flat package which he handed to Nick, who was waiting with Vachon.
"Everyone else can pick up theirs tomorrow night," said Miklos. "I still have a lot more to do, but I know you have a party planned."
"Come on back with us," invited Nick.
So the three vampires took to the sky and headed for Nick's loft.
Also airborne, but at a much higher altitude...
LaCroix sat in his private jet downing bottle after bottle of his special Private Stock. It failed to improve his mood. Three things he knew for certain: he was going as far away as he could go; he was not returning to Toronto within the lifetime of any mortal who might have been present that night; and he was going to plot his revenge. The possibility that the annoying Dr. Lambert might find a cure for vampirism, and that every vampire present in the club that night might use it, occurred to him. With vampires subject to the same laws as mortals, there was nothing he could do about it. Of course (the thought almost brought a smile to his face) she might not succeed, and this would give him plenty of time to plan, and plan he would. The ancient vampire settled down for a long flight, and opened another bottle.
Meanwhile, back at the loft...
"'Bout time you got here, partner!" Schanke spoke up as Nick, Vachon and Miklos stepped out of the elevator. "We've been eating you out of house and home! What's up, anyway?"
"Patience, Schanke, it'll be worth the wait."
Vachon squeezed himself in between Tracy and Urs, while Miklos settled near Janette.
"Some of you may not know it," Nick started by way of explanation, "but LaCroix was so sure anyone but the Leafs would go all the way this year that he made a bet with a couple of Enforcers. Tonight was pay-up night."
He opened the package Miklos had given him, inserted the tape into the VCR, switched on the television, and pressed the Play button.
101 Gateway Lane rang with laughter long after sunrise.