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     The first indication that anything was wrong was the pile of wood shavings under the entryway table. The next was the faint yet unmistakable odor of wet rodent wafting on the air circulating through the ventilation system.

     Lucien LaCroix, master vampire extraordinaire, immediately extended his senses, searching his domain for the source of these distressing manifestations of infestation. As he concentrated, he heard the rapid heartbeat of a small animal, and he carefully and silently made his way toward it. He left the entryway and crossed the large sitting room, where he discovered a trail of shredded pillow innards scattered from the sofa through the door into the master bedroom.

     He followed the trail slowly across his bedroom to where it disappeared under his bed. He lowered himself silently to peer into the dark recesses and found himself staring into two small shiny black eyes. Long teeth chattered threateningly as the creature dug its claws into the thick pile carpet in a desperate bid to dig through the flooring into the crawl space below.

     LaCroix's fangs dropped involuntarily in response to the threat, and his eyes glowed yellow as he snarled at the cornered animal. He rose to his feet, lifting the bed out of the way as he grabbed for the creature with vampiric speed. His hand closed on a wad of pillow stuffing as the rodent, suddenly exposed, scrambled out of the bedroom at lightning speed. LaCroix followed, only a split second behind it.

     The chaos that then erupted in the small, well-appointed apartment made the aftermath of a direct hit by a tornado seem mild in comparison. Furniture was tossed aside, walls and floors were gouged, rugs were torn and shredded, bookcases were toppled, and books and papers littered the uneven surface of the floor.

     Suddenly, LaCroix stopped and looked around. He realized two things simultaneously: he had lost sight of the troublesome animal, and he had completely trashed his living space. This was no ordinary rodent. No, from the brief glimpses he'd caught, it was a groundhog, a big one, and it was wily and fast, almost faster than he was, even with his supernatural speed. Looking around again at the surrounding destruction, he realized that this was war, and the groundhog was winning!

     He reached out again with his senses, searching the apartment for the annoying creature. As he searched, he realized that Nicholas was close by. Stretching his consciousness along the tenuous threads of their link, their mental bond, he felt Nicholas barely holding back gales of laughter. He knew! Oh, that devious child of his! He knew! And...he was responsible for this outrage! He had released the groundhog into LaCroix's home! Undoubtedly this was Nicholas's idea of revenge, unjustified as it was.

     After all, Nicholas had started all of this by Supergluing™ all of LaCroix’s shoes to the floor. He'd had to replace most of his footwear as a result. LaCroix had responded by injecting all of the drain pipes in Nicholas's loft apartment with a liquid rubber sealant, effectively blocking them. Nicholas apparently thought the groundhog was an appropriate response. If not for the damage that he and the animal had inflicted on his living space, he might have been tempted to laugh out loud. As it was, he set all thoughts of Nicholas aside and concentrated on finding the furry bundle hiding in the surrounding debris.

     Once again he detected the rapid heartbeat and honed in on it. Once again, the animal eluded his grasp, scampering madly into the master bedroom and coming to rest in the back of the walk-in closet.

     Giving the creature no time to escape, LaCroix closed the closet door, making sure the latch engaged as he did so. Ha! The groundhog was trapped ... with his clothes ... and ... his new shoes.

     Now what to do? His apartment was a wreck, his clothes were held hostage by an overgrown hamster, and his shoes would most likely need replacing ... again! Nicholas was going to pay for this. That cow-swilling, devious, disobedient, ungrateful scion of a ... (sigh) … Roman General! This would require some thought.

     As he thought, he moved through the apartment, righting furniture and gathering his books and papers from their various resting places. He realized that the sofa and several other pieces of furniture would have to be replaced, along with the carpet. Repairs to walls and doors would have to be made. Major renovations were in order. He'd need to contact animal control, or an exterminator. He scowled and shook his head, thinking about the inconvenience.

     Suddenly he froze. Inconvenience. His eyes glowed red. Inconvenience could be shared.... His fangs dropped once again, and a feral smile broke out across his face. Vengeance was his, and it would be sweet!


What does LaCroix have planned? Find out in The Vampire Strikes Back, coming soon!