Yet More (Semi)Parallel Lives... "Great Race 1906"...Part XXI


 

Suggested Race Theme (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

On reflection the Count found himself a hair nervous following his little morning tete-a-tete
with Mrs. Fate-Walthrop...

First concerning the practical...What if she spoke to Seidelmann about his little scheme?...

The General had rather antiquated notions about loyalty to one's allies...Despite his recent
willingness to expand his horizons beyond his oath of allegiance to the State it was likely he
would frown on Hellsdorf's fickleness...

However...It should be possible to present her tales of his treachery as an attempt to split them
up...Divide and conquer as the General himself might say...

Equally important...Perhaps even more so to a man like Hellsdorf...The humiliation...

Rejected...By a American commoner...A mere peasant, really...And in front of the maids...

Even if they'd thought she was the Princess...He knew...

And rejected in favor of that little...pygmy...of hers...

Even more unsettling...That stare of hers...

He'd seen one like it only once before...In the eyes of a leopard while on hunt in Africa...

And she'd obviously sensed his fear...Enjoyed it...

Well...He'd deal with the Walthrops at the proper time...And enjoy her fear as she pleaded in
vain...First for her husband's life...

Then for a quick death...

After all...That was the von Hellsdorf family way...Tradition and all that...

More bad news awaited Count von Hellsdorf in the late afternoon...

One of General Seidelmann's men reached him with the grim news that both Mr. Walthrop and
the Great Angel had escaped their respective dungeons...

And were nowhere to be found...

The General felt a conference was called for...Immediately...

The Count sighed...Politics...

What a bore...

However...

He agreed to a brief meeting with his partner...Given that the situation was now in flux...

***

A claim of severe headache managed to keep the decks clear for Buffy-Millie to stay in the Royal
Suite through the afternoon...She was surprised to find the staff accepted her condition without
comment...

Actually her Royal Highness had been having a lot of æheadaches' lately...Usually cured with a
large dose of alcohol...

That she did not request a large dose of that medication was far more of a surprise...
***
No word from the Angel Special in days...Not even since Angel and Hezekiah had reached the
Morovian capital...

Hercule LeGrand, now awaiting events in his offices in Paris, pondered the situation...

His idiot son was no doubt stumbling around...Posing for cameras rather than securing what
should have been an easy victory...

The only good news was that the Walthrops had likewise not been heard from...

Well...Perhaps it was time for Father to lend a hand...

Yet again...

***
The agitated Miss Macluay was shocked out of her rantings on hearing the arrival of New York
City's finest...

Betrayed...she thought in shock...Looking frantically for Willow...Who with the fear-crazed
Mears was huddled behind her desk...

"Willow!!!...Can't you see we are meant to be?..." Miss Macluay fired into the ceiling...Then
pumped three bullets into the picture of Alex on the wall...

"It's his fault...I'll find him and kill him..." she announced...

The police were smashing through the building's front door and hurtling up the stairs with their
usual decorum...

"I am a fool for love..." Miss Macluay announced...And raced for the window, climbing out...

My God...Willow thought as she pulled the panicky Mears to his feet and looked at the window...

What a horrible thing...A tragedy...

The Cause...And dear, dear Alex...In jeopardy...

The police ran in firing...She and Mears ducked for cover...

"All right, you...Anarchist!!!...Bolshevik!!!..." the sergeant commanding the force called...

"Come out from there!!!..."

Shoot her the minute she pokes her goddamn head out, Georgie...the sergeant whispered to his
squad leader...

"Sergeant O'Connery?...Is that you?..." Willow called...

She and Alex had learned the need to get close to all leading members of the NYPD...To avoid
the occasional fine, citation, raid, false arrest...

"Mrs. Harris?...Stand down, ya damned bloody fool..." O'Connery told Georgie...

Willow cautiously emerged from behind the desk...Mears choosing the better part of valor...

"Where's our madwoman?..." the sergeant asked Willow...

Out on the ledge...she told him...

"She's insane, poor thing..." Willow noted...

"So...Take no chances, shoot to kill..." she told Sergeant O'Connery who nodded...

We'll handle things ma'am...Don't trouble yourself...he smiled...

Boys...he called to his men...

After all, Willow reflected...The Cause must be kept from embarrassing scandal...

And dear Alex's life must be protected...

"She really thought we were meant to be together..." Willow noted to Mears who was beginning
to breathe again...As the police sharpshooters began looking for suitable positions...

Well...Not in this life...she noted to herself firmly...
***

A brief conference with General Seidelmann left the partners agreed on at least two points...

Their only hope was to continue with the plan as far as the coronation went...With Seidelmann
increasing security around the Palace and the cathedral where the ceremony would be held...

And they must make use of their remaining prisoners...To prevent LeGrand and Walthrop from
acting...

To that effect, the Count would return to the Hellsdorf castle where Miss DuBois and Hezekiah
were being held...And bring them...As openly as possible while under tight guard...To the
Palace...Where they could be used to greatest effect should the two escapees show their heads...

And the Count thought to himself, rather agreeably, as he headed home...A little preliminary
torture could not but help to improve the situation...Making it clear that he and his partner were
quite serious...

A delicate touch would be required of course...Inflicting agony without risk of death...
Delightful...

Sure to make up for the tiresome events of the day so far...

Besides who better than a Hellsdorf?...A family where the practice of torture was an ancient and
cherished family tradition...

Pity her Royal Highness' came from a less traditionally minded branch of the family...

***
Yet More (Semi)Parallel Lives... "Great Race 1906"...Part XXII...

Walthrop and LeGrand had smuggled themselves, disguised as monks, into the
newer...Relatively...Of the two Hellsdorf family castles...

Where Miss DuBois, Hezekiah, and Walthrop mistakenly believed, Buffy-Millie were being
held...

Unfortunately...It being the evening before a major national and religious event...Namely, the
royal coronation...There was a major chapel service in the works for the monks...From which no
brother monk could withdraw himself without attracting very unwanted attention...

Still, at least they were inside...And undetected...

At the first opportunity during the service, Angel hissed yet again to Walthrop...

"Are you absolutely sure, Max?..."

They're here, they're all here...he assured him...

He'd been right about the cars, hadn't he?...Angel had seen them on the ground floor from the
balcony as they passed, hadn't he?...

And he...Max...Was likewise right about this...

Besides there was only one truly important mission here...

"We've got to go save Millie..."

***
Buffy-Millie, having been forced to assume the identity of her royal twin, was in the royal
apartments of the Palace, rehearsing tomorrow's role under the watchful eye of General
Seidelmann who felt it was best to stay by her as closely as possible...

While continuing to keep the escape of her husband and LeGrand a secret from her...

"...And, as the last full measure of Our devotion to Our people..." Buffy-Millie read from the
speech given her by the general... "We renounce a crown which We feel Ourselves unfit for and
consign..."

She paused and frowned at Seidelmann who looked expectantly at her...His white mustache
wagging as he mouthed the words of her speech along with her...

"Who's gonna believe that I'd...She'd...Just up and renounce the throne, all of a sudden?..." she
asked...

It's widely known Her Highness has great doubts about herself, the general noted calmly...And
her increasingly reckless behavior has led many to my conclusion about her fitness for the
throne...

"She might just be nervous, you know...What gives you the right to decide on her fitness?..."

A lifetime of loyalty to my nation and the monarchy, Seidelmann noted, stiffening...

"This is Morovia, Mrs. Walthrop...Our ways are not your ways..." he added...

Thank God, she thought...
"Well, why don't you just call Parliament or Congress or whatever and have them decide?..."

This is not England or America, Mrs. Walthrop, Seidelmann explained patiently...We have no
legislature...And there would be many, many potential and unfit candidates for the throne when
the ruling family abdicates...

"Like the Count?..." she noted...Looking for an opening to mention Hellsdorf's little offer of the
morning...

Nothing like driving a wedge between two partners...

The General smiled ruefully...Yes, Hellsdorf was a candidate, though rather lower on the totem
pole, thankfully...

"He might be looking to up his status..." Buffy-Millie began...

"Indeed...His original scheme was to marry Her Royal Highness...Which is why I was so willing
to allow him into this scheme of ours as a partner..." Seidelmann smiled...

There was always the chance she might change her mind and accept that fool...So it was best to
keep him under thumb...

"Did he make you an offer, my dear?..." Seidelmann asked pleasantly... "I should have been
surprised if he didn't..."

Well, so much for driving a wedge...she thought...

There's always the direct approach...

"What's really going to happen when this is all over?..." she asked him... "Are you going to let
us...All of us, even the Princess...Just go?..."

"I've given you my word, my dear lady...Indeed it's only Hellsdorf who has something to worry
about...He will not be joining our new government, I'm afraid..."

Hmmn...The general being a man who tends to put cruel necessity before honor on occasion..I'd
say we're dead hands down, she thought...

But there was still the coronation...She might have a chance there...Although the guards would
doubtless be his men, there might be just that minimum of loyalists she'd need...

Please continue...Seidelmann politely urged... Our time is limited and you'll have to get to bed
soon...

"...And consign the burden of government to the following council, comprised of the most
trusted and August of Our advisors...." she continued...
***

Hellsdorf was pleasantly musing on the joys of a lengthy session of carefully applied torture as
his carriage entered the castle grounds...And rolled into the courtyard where the two cars of the
Great Racers had been stored...

Where he was spotted on emerging by Walthrop watching the courtyard from the open balcony
of the chapel where he and Angel were continuing their monkish devotions...

"Something may be up..." he hissed to LeGrand, pointing out Hellsdorf as he passed through the
courtyard into the main castle chamber...

"We'd better be ready to move..."

Besides, Walthrop noted...There was now a prominent player available for trading purposes...If
they could catch him, it would definitely tip the scales in their favor...

Angel nodded...At the very least he'd very much like to renew his acquaintance with the
Count...On more equal terms...

"What about weapons?..." he hissed back...Max's cell bar was all well and good for conking the
occasional guard or isolated monk but for taking on the large castle force...

Let me get to our car and we'll have all the firepower we need...Walthrop assured him...

"Max?..." Angel looked at him...

Walthrop sighed...

"I tell you, they're there..."

***

"He said he'd be back...Lousy little..." Miss DuBois angrily noted to Hezekiah, now sitting in the
adjacent cell...With the still unconscious Princess occupying that to his left...

"Worthless little..." she added...Hezekiah continuing to listen patiently...As he had for the past
several hours...There being no alternative...

Leaving me here like that...Ungentlemanly in the extreme...she again pointed out to Hezekiah...

Who couldn't help enjoying seeing the tables turned on the intrepid Miss DuBois...Who seemed
rather bizarrely shocked at having encountered someone as ruthless as herself...Much as he had
to admit the situation was a critical one...
If not dead...The most likely prospect, Hezekiah noted....Walthrop had probably headed straight
out to free his wife and they might even now be on their way to Paris, thumbing their noses at
their trapped competitors...

After all, it was the course he'd of taken if the roles were reversed...

***

A slightly wounded Miss Maclauy was being dragged off by several of New York's finest...

"Wait for me, Willow!..." she called to Mrs Harris, turning to her as she was led past... "I'll be
back...After I kill him!..."

"Don't fret dear..." Willow called back... "They'll take good care of you...In Ohio..."

I understand the clinic there is doing wonderful things with brain surgery these days...she noted
to Sergeant O'Connery...

Really?...he noted...Must see about visiting that young woman out there once she's...Cured...he
thought...Attractive little Bolshevik, that...

Nice that she'd didn't end up smeared on the sidewalk...Or riddled with bullets...

He nodded pleasantly to Mrs. Harris and headed out...

Well...Alls well that ends without too much bloodshed...Willow thought...

Alex is safe...And the Cause spared needless embarrassment...

Hmmn...Alex is right...I really must be more careful about screening new employees...

"Mears!..." she hollered...Warren jumping to his feet...From where he'd continued to crouch
under the desk throughout the incident...

"We have a paper to get out...Remember?..."

Yes, ma'am...Warren nodded nervously...Still shaking from recent events...

Get my husband on the phone...Time our consulting editor/columnist got back to work...And
started winning back our advertizers...she noted happily...

"And book a train reservation for me and the children for tonight, after eight...I need some
indepth consultation with him..."

Yes, ma'am...
By the way, she asked...Any word on the Great Racers?...

***
Yet More (Semi)Parallel Lives... "Great Race 1906"...Part XXIII...

At the Hellsdorf castle, a brief break in the monks' devotions for a late dinner provided a chance
for a hasty strategy conference...

Brother monks Angel and Walthrop had decided on noting Hellsdorf's arrival that it was about
time to leave holy orders...

But they would need to divert the Count's guards while one of them freed the prisoners below...

"Can you get past the guards and make it to the dungeon entrance?..." Walthrop asked Angel...

Nodding pleasantly as another monk passed by...And resuming...

If you can look out for the others, I think I can keep the guards here occupied...Just wait until you
hear me go...Then head out...Ok?...Max looked at LeGrand...

And...Don't forget my wife...

"I'll get there...And I won't æforget' any of them..." Angel told him...

The signal was given for the return to chapel devotions...The monks began to collect at the
chapel door...

Just keep the guards busy...Angel concluded...

"Right..." Walthrop carefully headed for the open balcony overlooking the courtyard where the
Great Racers' two cars sat...While Angel moved toward the chapel hallway leading out to the
central part of the castle...And the lower levels, including the dungeon...

Suddenly with a loud cry, Walthrop leaped off the balcony, to a tall column which supported part
of the heavy ceiling...And quickly clambered down until he was close enough to Buffy-Millie's
Hannibal Super Twin 8 to leap onto the roof...Which he immediately did...Dodging the first wild
shots of the startled guards and swinging down and into the car almost as quickly, before Angel
had reached the door of the chapel...

"Here come the Marines!!" Walthrop hollered as he started the Hannibal's engine and elevated
the body to maximum height...

The guards looked at the car in astonishment...Which turned to panic almost immediately as Max
sighted them with the main cannon...Courteously granting a cluster of several a couple of
seconds' grace to flee before he blew up the spot where they'd been standing...
Pity dear Mil couldn't be here...To witness her greatest creation's finest moment Walthrop
thought as he chased a wildly scattering group of guards around the courtyard...What bullets
some were able to fire glancing off the heavily armored sides of the Hannibal Super Twin 8...

Yeah!...He thought as he blew up a doorway through which some guard reinforcements had just
come...A triumph of her principles of simple and sturdy yet elegant design...

She'll be so pleased...

"Fools?!...What is going on here?!..." Hellsdorf bellowed, having come out to the upper floor
balcony to learn the source of the disturbance...Which placed him exactly at eye level with
Walthrop...And the Hannibal's cannon...

Which the Count having caught sight of...And having seen the look on Walthrop's face...He
turned and fled inside...

Just as Max fired into the balcony after him...

"Sorry you can't stay for the party...But, please...Accept our card!!..." he called merrily after the
fleeing Count...

Such a shame Mil can't be here...She'd be on the car floor, snorting with glee by now, he
thought...

***

Sizing up the situation from the shattered hallway he'd run to, as his shaken guards fled past him,
the Count realized his one chance was to immediately secure his remaining prisoners for use as
hostages...

He hurried down towards the dungeon...To find Angel LeGrand waiting for him in the hallway
outside the dungeon door...

"Greetings, Count..." Angel smiled...Displaying a foil...

"I take it I'd be right to assume you have a key that unlocks this door?..." Angel noted...

The Count urbanely returned his smile...And nodded...

The last time we met I was unable to accept your earlier invitation to a little fencing
practice...Angel went on...

Perhaps...If you would care to indulge me now?...He tossed Hellsdorf a foil, and assumed fencing
posture...

"By all means, Mr. LeGrand..." the Count smiled, bowing slightly...And likewise assumed
position...

But I must warn you, he noted to Angel...I am somewhat pressed for time...So this will have to be
quick...

"I'll do my best to accommodate you, sir..." Angel smiled coldly...
***
A brave remnant of guards in the courtyard attempted a charge at the chassis as Walthrop
perched above in the elevated body of the Hannibal...Which a cannon shot at their feet quickly
dispersed...

A clean sweep of the field...Max noted happily...

Unfortunately, the car could not pursue the enemy into the castle hallways...Although he could
blast a few doorways wide enough to enter a short ways...

And guards were still hiding in the halls, somewhat protected now from his occasional shot...

He considered...If he stopped his diversion and tried to reach the dungeon on foot, odds were that
the guards would rally...And there were still too many of them for him and LeGrand to deal with
without the peacemaking ability of superior firepower...

He'd just have to hold as many as he could here and trust that LeGrand could handle the situation
at the dungeon...

***

From their cells, Hezekiah and Miss DuBois could hear the sounds of Walthrop's cannonfire, the
guards' panicky screams, and a closer sound of swords clashing...

"Some big doings going on, up there..." Hezekiah noted...

"Bet the Boss is in on it..."

Hmmn...Miss DuBois pondered...If order was breaking down up there, perhaps a guard or two
would be more amenable to the persuasive powers of the American dollar...

And she had kept her checks for drawing on her Sentinel expense account...Surely the Harrises
would agree that this was the sort of emergency situation in which Willow had told her to feel
free to call on the full power of the New York Sentinel...

Not to mention making a great entry in her chain of stories...The Sentinel reporter saves the day...

Yeah, the Harrises would definitely approve...So long as the bribe were within reasonable
limits...And this was, after all, Eastern Europe...Where a little cash goes a long way...

"Hey, guard!!..." she hollered...

***
"Your form is excellent, Mr. LeGrand..." the Count complimented him as their foils clashed...

"And yours, sir..." Angel graciously returned...

Hellsdorf took advantage of Angel's pause to return compliments to slash in at him, slightly
nicking his hand...

Angel threw him back and in return, slashed his tunic...

"Excellent, Mr. LeGrand, a very nice comeback..." Hellsdorf smiled at him...

"But...Time and tide wait for no man..."

And moving in, slashed hard at him...

***
Apart from a minor challenge by two guards attempting to drag in an old cannon from the castle
ramparts...One which, Max noted, would probably have blown them up anyway if they could
even have succeeded in firing it, as he drove them off and then blew up the old relic...There was
little for him to do except keep the guards hiding in the halls...

Still...He also serves who only stands around waving his big stick...As his old friend Teddy
would have said...

But he was anxious about Millie...And Miss DuBois...LeGrand seemed to be taking his time...

God, I hope they're not all down there quarreling all this time...he sighed...

***

"Mr. LeGrand...What the hell are you doing?..." Miss DuBois called to Angel as she and
Hezekiah, followed by an extremely nervous guard emerged from the dungeon...

Hellsdorf raging at his faithless guard who ran off, clutching his bribe...Official note drawing on
the famous New York Sentinel newspaper corporation...Good in any bank in America or
Europe...

Angel looked at them in surprise...And with a certain degree of disappointment...He had planned
such a much more dramatic rescue...

Still, no reason his adoring fans needed to know the exact details of how this little incident was
resolved...

Hellsdorf now backed off and moved towards a door...Leading to a small antechamber with a
large open window facing the river Morovia...He climbed the window and turned to face
LeGrand and the others...

"Running away, Count?..." Angel called after him...

"As a famous Englishman once said, Mr. LeGrand... "He who fights and runs away...May live to
fight another day..." And so, until that other day..." Hellsdorf threw his sword at him...

"Please excuse me, my friends..." the Count bowed... "I have a boat waiting..."

With that he turned and leaped...

Unfortunately he, not being a Professor of Physics and Mathematics like Buffy-Millie, had
misjudged the force he would generate in leaping from such a height...And on striking the little
boat waiting for him below, sank it on impact...

Angel, Miss DuBois, and Hezekiah looked out...Only the broken remains of a boat on the water
visible...

However it was too dark for them to see a solitary head poke up a moment later...And quietly
swim to shore...

"Hello...What is-hic-going on here-hic?..." her Royal Highness asked groggily, having stumbled
her way out of the open cell and up to the dungeon door...

***
The remaining guards continued to occupy the halls...Though a few surrendered at the sight of
her Highness...

Angel and the others, carefully made their way to the courtyard...Capturing and disarming guards
as they went...

It was getting on timewise...Nearly 3 am now....And the coronation was set to begin at 6,
according to a captured guard...The General having moved up the time as much as possible...

***

In the Palace, the ladies-in-waiting, rather put out themselves by the hastily rushed schedule, had
awakened Buffy-Millie for the long and tiresome procedure of coronation dressing...

They were not surprised to find her in a rather irritable mood...Her Royal Highness had never
been a morning person either...

Naturally General Seidelmann and his guard arrived early...A dutiful guardian of her Royal
person...
***
Max had been husbanding his remaining cannon shots...Not that there was any shortage of
ammunition in the car's stores...Just...He'd have to get out to reload...And he doubted the guards
would allow him a moment's grace...

But he was now quite nervous...And considering leaving the car and striking out for the dungeon
with a few of Buffy-Millie's hand grenades and a pistol or two...When suddenly Angel, Miss
DuBois, Hezekiah, and Buffy-Millie?...Nope, the other one, he realized...Emerged from a
hallway, with several hands-tied guards in tow...

"Hey?..." he hollered...Hopping out of the car, clearly terrified...

We had a deal, Angel...he glared at Le Grand...

"Where is she?!..." he cried...Looking desperately in the direction of the hallway...

Even Miss DuBois couldn't be angry with the poor man...He was so obviously terrified for his
wife...

***

Yet More (Semi)Parallel Lives... "Great Race 1906"...Part XXIV...

Hercule Le Grand pondered the situation in his office in Paris...

Still no word on the Great Racers, in particular his son, Angel...Nothing even from Hezekiah, his
trusted operative...

And the Morovian border had been closed for the upcoming coronation...

Frustrating for any devoted parent...And for a man of power like Le Grand...Doubly so...

And with so much riding on the outcome...The fate of Le Grand Motors...

Well...At least he had had the chance to see to the situation on the route to Paris...

Whatever was happening right now, if Professor Fate survived her little Morovian adventure, she
would have some surprises awaiting her on the rest of the way to the finish line...

And his "special operatives" had been prepared as well...And made fully aware of the
consequences of failing him if he had need of them...
Besides, if his worthless son had bumbled his way into an early grave, public sentiment was sure
to provide Le Grand Motors with an enormous sympathy windfall...

Not the worst of all possible outcomes at that...
***

"So...You left Miss DuBois and Hezekiah to fend for themselves?..." Angel angrily accused
Walthrop...

"If I hadn't...You'd all be sitting in your respective dungeons right now..." Max retorted...

We have to do something to save Millie, he insisted...

"What we have to do is put a stop to what is going on right now...As for your wife, she's
cooperating with Seidelmann and probably happy to go along with it..." Angel told him...

Just like her to do anything to get one step ahead of me...he noted...

Walthrop glared at him...She'd do anything to get ahead of him?!...

"You pompous bag of wind!..." he yelled at Le Grand... "After all you've done to her!..." he
began...

What I've done to her?...Le Grand looked at him...

"Let me tell you something, little man!...Do you want to know why that perverse wife of yours
has been hounding me all these years?!..."

Walthrop smiled at him...Coolly...

Miss DuBois hastily tried conciliation...

"Mr. Le Grand, I'm sure the Professor is not a partner in this scheme...And Mr. Walthrop did
bring you back as he promised..."

A great mistake on my part...Max noted...I should have left him there...

Not helping, Mr. Walthrop...Miss DuBois noted...

"Excuse me-hic-my friends...I think I really-hic-should be getting to my coronation..." her Royal
Highness politely interrupted...

Hmmn...Right...Angel noted...

We'll deal with all this later...After we scuttle the General's plans...he told Walthrop...
"We can't just go storming in there..." Walthrop noted, furiously... "Millie's life is in danger..."

I'm sure Mrs. Walthrop will be fine, Miss DuBois assured Max...He frowned...

"In any case, we've got to stop the coronation..." Le Grand told them...

The guards now completely fled, they headed out to the cars...Walthrop alone in the Hannibal,
following behind the Angel Special...

Yes...Thought Walthrop...We'll settle things between us later...Watching the Angel Special
narrowly...

The two cars emerged from the castle courtyard and proceeded down the road leading into the
capital...

Walthrop let the Angel Special pull about 100 feet ahead of him, targeted its right rear wheel, and
fired the Hannibal's cannon...Swerving to avoid the other car as it swung off the road...

He'd stop the coronation in his own way, thanks...Waving off to the others as he passed...

***
The royal procession had reached the great cathedral in the heart of the capital, about two blocks
from the Royal Palace...

A still exhausted Buffy-Millie was having difficulty managing her heavy outfit, as well as trying
to remember her speech, her proper ceremonial responses, and waving to the hastily assembled
cheering crowds...

Troops well placed throughout, she managed to notice...

The procession entered the cathedral where the court, more crowds of citizens, and a very ancient
and rather doddery Archbishop and his priests awaited them...

An elderly Archbishop who was rather miffed that the ceremony had been moved so far up in
time...And began the ceremony almost immediately...

The General took his place near her, as she knelt for the opening prayers...And she noted the
cathedral was likewise full of troops...No doubt hand-picked by her faithful Armed Forces
Commander...And loyal solely to him...

Still...All she'd need were a few waverers...Who would at least hesitate to shoot their own
Queen...

She and her ladies rose to move by the throne set up by the main altar...

No one, not even General Seidelmann...Who had been carefully watching for any sign of
Walthrop or Le Grand...Caught the slight movement in the crowd near the ladies-in-waiting or
the brief ripple in Buffy-Millie's extremely long train...

The procession reached the throne area...Buffy-Millie turning and standing in front to face the
Archbishop who came forward to her...

***
The ceremony was unavoidably long and slow...Despite the General's best efforts to speed things
up...

Buffy-Millie soon found herself starting to pass out...As were many of the spectators...And the
ancient Archbishop...

But, finally...The elderly clergyman motioned for the crown to be brought over...Took it in his
hands...And climbed a small step-ladder to place him above her head as she knelt...

He positioned the crown over her head...And began the longest prayer of the ceremony...

Stay awake...Buffy-Millie told herself...Soon as the crown is on your head, you're Queen and
we'll see if the General's men will rethink their position in a changed situation...

Something pulled at her from underneath her gown...

"Buffy..." Max hissed... "Buffy..."

She looked down...The Archbishop fortunately was now barely awake, droning on by rote...

The crown just above her head still clamped firmly in his grip...

Max?...His head barely concealed by her voluminous skirts...

"The jig's up, dear...We've got to get out of here...Now..." he hissed...

She looked up and around the great chamber...The General was looking at her...

And looked down at her skirt...Oops...Definitely time for a quick exit...

She rose suddenly...The crown on her head...The Archbishop woke and blinked at her...Was it
over?...It didn't seem quite as long as it should...

She smiled brittlely at the Archbishop and turned hastily towards the startled rows of
spectators...And the nearest exit...

"Max..." she hissed... "Follow me...Stay down..."
She strode stately and grandly down the main corridor...The startled ladies ran to catch her train...

The General hopped up from his seat, signaling to his men...But they couldn't risk shoving the
royal guards and ushers aside...Yet...

"Your Royal Highness..." he called to her, chasing after her and her train... "Your Royal
Highness..."

Should be Majesty, now should it?...Most of the spectators and attendants wondered...

The Archbishop tried to wave a blessing at the retreating Queen...

Just as she, with Max half-crawling, half-running underneath, reached the great doors, two of the
General's men caught up to them...

"Your Highness...You must return to the ceremony..." one called to her...Grabbing at her train...

One of the ladies, shocked, slapped at him, knocking Buffy-Millie off-balance...

Max rolled out from under her skirt...

The General running up, yelled at his men...

"Seize him, shoot him..."

Buffy-Millie, with a touch of Slayer strength, picked up her husband and tossed him at the door
before the men could grab him...

She made it through the great doors of the Cathedral just after him and the huge crowd outside
went wild...Guns and then cannons firing, bands breaking into their tributes...

The General came up after her on the steps...

"You must come back and finish the ceremony!..." he called to her...

"Like hell!..." she called back...Removing the crown and tossing it into a garbage can...

They ran for the Hannibal...

The General brought up his men and ordered them after the Walthrops...

Others came up from the guard holding back the crowd...Blocking them off...

They turned and ran for a nearby building...Part of the Royal Palace's kitchens...

Clearly some kind of treachery afoot, the other guards noted...Several of the officers began
consulting...

There were rumors about the General and his associates and their plans circulating around...

Perhaps...

Seeing the other officers beginning to consult, the General realized he must act quickly or lose
the prize...He hurried away after Buffy-Millie and Walthrop, calling on those of his men nearby
to follow...

They entered by the door the Walthrops had taken...
***
Angel and his companions had arrived...They ran for the Cathedral with the Princess in tow...

"Must stop the ceremony..." he gasped to the guards by the great doors... "There is an imposter
being crowned..."

"General Seidelman is a traitor..."

They called their officers...

"Where is the other?...The other Princess?..." Hezekiah called to them...

They pointed at the doorway where the General and his men had just entered...

LeGrand and his friends ran for the door, the Princess dazedly chasing after them...

The guards looked at each other...Should we?...

And followed, leaving a couple to explain as best they could to the officers now coming up...

***
The Walthrops ran down the hallway leading to the royal kitchen, passing through a couple of
doors and emerging onto a long catwalk...Above the main kitchen floor where sweating cooks
were frantically preparing the coronation dinner...

The cooks looked up to see...Her Royal Highness above them, attended only by a small blonde
man in a monk's cowl...

They doffed their caps, several who could, kneeling...

She smiled benevolently, waving a bit...

"What'll we do?..." Buffy-Millie hissed to Max...
Just keep waving and walking...he told her...

The General and several of his men entered the kitchen...On the ground floor...

Seeing the Walthrops above, he called to them...While motioning to his men who made for the
stairs to the catwalk...

"Your Royal Highness, you must come and finish the ceremony!..."

The cooks looked in confusion at the General and Her Royal Highness...

"General Seidelmann is a traitor!..." Buffy-Millie called out...Looking at one large cook...

"You there, I appoint you commander of the Morovian Armed Forces...Arrest General
Seidelmann at once..."

The large cook looked blankly for an instant...Then called on his mates to do their duty...Several
climbed up after the soldiers who'd started up...While he and others surrounded Seidelmann...

"You...Peasant!!..." the General fumed at the large cook who stiffened...

The dignity of the Morovian Armed Forces being at stake...As well as that of the Royal
Kitchens...

"Shoot them!..." the General cried... "All of them!..."

"Lads!...Your Queen's in danger!..." Walthrop called to the cooks...Who were now grabbing any
implements at hand...

"Damn you, you fools!" the General raged... "That is not the Queen!"

Two soldiers had reached the catwalk...Buffy-Millie kicked at one, Walthrop jumped at the
other...The cooks climbing up grabbing those remaining on the stairs...

The soldier Buffy-Millie had kicked fell over the side of the walk and plunged into the giant
coronation cake...Spattering cake about...

The cooks looked on in shock... And fury...Moving on the soldiers still on the ground floor...A
general fight now broke out on the stairs and the ground floor as more of Seidelmann's men
entered...One lifted a pistol and aimed at the large cook...Who tossed the nearest available thing
at him...

A pie...

Pandemonium...The soldiers were too hemmed in to fire and the fighting spread across the entire
vast kitchen...Pies, soup, salad, and various implements flying about the room...

The General tried to shout things to order...A volley of pies struck him...

Buffy-Millie and Walthrop remaining trapped on the catwalk, kicking and scratching at the
various soldiers who managed to stumble up the stairs through the mass of fighters...

"Arghh!!..." Buffy-Millie wailed as a bowlful of salad splattered her...Followed by several pies...

Duck, sweetheart...Max helpfully suggested...

"Oh, no!..." she pointed ...What?...he looked after her point...And was covered with a mass of
gelatin...

That...she smiled sweetly at him...Kicking back yet another soldier...

One has to give the General credit, she noted to Max...His men keep trying...

Angel, Miss DuBois, Hezekiah, Her Royal Highness, and a group of loyal soldiers entered the
ground floor...

And found themselves immediately involved in a major fracas...The cooks not quite certain who
to fight now...

***

Angel pushed his way through the crowd of closely packed fighting men...Where the devil was
the General?...And Millie?...And, having lost track of his comrades almost immediately...Miss
DuBois and Hezekiah?...

An apparition appeared before him...Vaguely resembling Miss DuBois, if she were completely
covered in flour, pies, and various other food items...

"Miss DuBois?..." he inquired politely...Pausing to punch back an angry soldier...

Follow me...he waved...Plunging into the crowd...

My God...She thought...Wiping pie off her face...

There's not a speck on him...In the middle of all this...His suit and hair are still absolutely
perfect...

He paused to look back at her as she followed him...

"Have you seen Hezekiah?...Or the Princess?..." he asked...She shook her head...Splattering pie
and salad about...

Still not a bit struck him...Uncanny...

"Boss!!..." A sorry-looking Hezekiah emerged from the crowd...

"Where's Her Royal Highness?..." Le Grand asked him...

Hezekiah pointed back towards the doorway...Several cooks surrounded Her Royal Highness,
now rather the worse for wear, clotheswise...But looking...Rather pleased...And excited...

I can't be that bad a future Queen, she was thinking...If all these people are willing to fight for
me...

General Seidelmann, captured by the large cook, was dragged over to her...

"General!..." she glared at him...

Your Royal Highness...I can explain...He mumbled nervously...

"You are under arrest..." she told him...

Take him away, she nodded to the large cook who bowed and smiled...

She smiled back...Cute fellow...And very brave, obviously...Hmmn...

Maybe I don't have to marry that moronic Rupert at that...she thought...

***

Walthrop noted to Buffy-Millie that things below seemed to be gradually moving in their favor...

And the fighting at the far end of the walkway was subsiding a bit...

Perhaps, all things considered, it was time to consider...

"Leaving?...A grand idea..." she agreed...

Best not to have to waste time clearing our names of involvement in Seidelmann's little scheme...

Do I look as bad as you do?...she grinned as they made their way along...

Worse...he noted...

Nice to have you back in any condition...I was getting a little worried...he added...
She smiled as demurely as she could under the circumstances...

Dodging several fighters as they finally reached the exit...
***
Miss DuBois, Angel, and Hezekiah now struggled back through the crowd towards Her Royal
Highness...

Hearing even more commotion from above, Hezekiah looked up at the catwalk and saw the
Walthrops exiting...

"Boss!!..." he grabbed at Angel, pointing...

"Leave them for now...We have to see to the Princess..." Angel noted...

A soldier swung at them, hitting Hezekiah and flattening him...A second, next to him, managed
to finally pull a gun and aimed at Le Grand now only a foot away...

"Angel!!" Miss DuBois screamed, grabbing the next thing at hand...Another pie, naturally, and
tossing it at the gunman...Who ducked, and was in turn hit by a cook...

Unfortunately Miss DuBois' pie did make contact...With Angel...He staggered...

Suddenly several pies struck him all at once...

Oh...Miss DuBois held a hand to her mouth...

"Mr. Le Grand...I'm so sorry..."

Angel spit a little pie out of his mouth...And looked at his splattered coat for an instant...

Quite all right, Miss DuBois...Unavoidable under the circumstances...he smiled...

Well...She noted to herself...At least the teeth are still as white and sparkling as ever...

***
"Lets get out of here, Max..." Buffy-Millie told him as they paused in the hallway outside the
kitchen catwalk...

Hearing guards moving about, they ducked into a side corridor and made their way along until
they reached a large and fairly empty hall...The palace's small chapel...

But not totally empty...

Hellsdorf, a bit the worse for wear from his dunking, smiled at them as he emerged from a corner
with several guards...Pistol in one hand...Sword in the other...
Must keep a set in every castle...Walthrop noted...

"Well...well...Professor Fate...Mr. Walthrop...Not departed yet, I see..." Hellsdorf

"A pity..."

"For whom?..." Buffy-Millie looked at him...

Hellsdorf smiled again...Just the lips...

"Hardly worth my effort...However...Dealing with you two will give me a momentary
satisfaction..."

He waved the guards back...And tossed his pistol to one standing by the wall...

And moved in on them...Waving his sword gently at them...

Keep away from him, Max...Buffy-Millie hissed to Walthrop...Very sharp and pointy sword
there...

Hellsdorf leered at her...

"You and this fool of yours have interfered with my plans for the last time..."

"You know...You really should be heading for the border, Count...I don't believe you're too
popular with the government just right now..." Walthrop told him...

All in good time, Hellsdorf assured him...

After he had dealt with them...

He ordered a guard to toss Walthrop a sword...

"Pick it up, sir...Unless you prefer to fight without one..."

"That is not very gentlemanly, Count..." Buffy-Millie looked at him... "My husband has never
fought with a sword..."

Then this will not take long, Mrs. Walthrop...the Count grinned...

No door out available behind them...The Count blocking the nearest one in front...

Hmmn...No guns...No other sharp objects...No weapons concealed on her person...

"Max?...What do you want to do?..." Buffy-Millie looked at him...
Now she wants my opinion...he thought...

"I think we'd best be backing up dear..." he told her...Holding the sword stiffly in front of him...

"First...I shall nick your ears...Like a squealing pig..." the Count told Walthrop...Slashing at the
tapestry beside him...Cutting it in two...

Very sharp and pointy sword...Buffy-Millie noted...

"Next...I shall prick the flesh above your heart to mark the spot for my final blow...Later..." he
slashed off the head of a wooden figurine on the table beside them...They continued backing
down the length of the room...

...Then the eyes..."

"The legs...Slicing your hamstrings and leaving you blind and lame...Fit only for the slaughter..."
he sneered...

Quite a road map, Walthrop thought...Buffy-Millie pulled him back...He stumbled, bringing a
laugh from Count von Hellsdorf...Who raised his sword a bit and pointed it now at Buffy-
Millie...

They'd run out of room...

He came a bit forward, closing in on them...Cornered now...He lowered his sword...A pleasant
smile...Leering at them and leaning toward Walthrop...

"Then I shall leave your blinded, lame carcass...And begin carving your wife's chicken legs..."

Buffy-Millie glared...Walthrop glared...

An aristocrat ought to know a little manners...And hitting her in her most vulnerable spot...The
looks...

"Hey!!..." They stepped forward together angrily...Walthrop still holding his sword out...

Stabbing the somewhat over-confident and definitely too close Count...Who went down,
gasping...

They looked at each other...And stepped over the corpse...Hand in hand...

Nobody talks that way about a Walthrop's legs...

"There's nothing wrong with my legs...Is there, Max?..." she asked him as they headed out to the
car...The palace guard still being too occupied to interfere with them...
Absolutely not...he insisted...The fellow was just a boor...

You can't let people like that get to you...he noted...

The Count's few remaining guards were likewise too preoccupied with the now attacking Royal
Guard to interfere...Or in some cases just too startled at the sight of Hellsdorf down...

Hearing cannon-fire at the front of the castle...Buffy-Millie suggested a quick departure...

Letting him drive...While peering at her legs...

They weren't that bad...she thought...A leetle on the skinny side...
***

Yet More (Semi)Parallel Lives... "Great Race 1906"...Part XXV...

The Walthrops were not sorry to see the last of Morovia...Pausing just past the border at a small
village to spend the night and make minor repairs to both car and person...

Given their mutual dousing in pie, cake, and other foods during the fight in the royal kitchens of
the Palace, a bath was a vital necessity...

And one which, partially given the fact that their small Romanian inn had only one tub, and
partially given Buffy-Millie's inclination, they shared...Despite a certain crowding...

She was quite content for once, savoring their joint survival...And the fact that they were now in
the lead and as the crow flies only about 800 miles from Paris...Though the route as mapped was
rather longer, in order to take the Great Racers throughout several major European cities,
including Rome...

Hercule Le Grand, Angel's father and chief sponsor of the race, had insisted on a route through
Europe which would maximize publicity for the race and LeGrand Motors...While also providing
plenty of opportunity for his agents to act if their efforts should be required to stop the
Walthrops...

Only one problem...Though he had been deeply relieved to recover his wife without damage from
General Seidelmann and Count von Hellsdorf, Walthrop was still...Rather quiet....

However, despite her natural tendency towards defensiveness in matters of the heart, and her
general impatience with his attitude, she had decided he'd earned the right to have her make the
first move...

And after all, she suspected the root cause...Angel Le Grand...And her hesitation about discussing
the full extent of their past relationship...

After dinner she suggested a stroll through the little town...And began the conversation as
forthrightly as she dared...

After noting the lovely sunset and beautiful lengthening shadows on the nearby Carpathian
mountains...

The quaintness of the little village...

And the cleanliness of the empty streets...Even with the dirt roads and all...

"Will?...Are you angry with me about something?..." she finally asked him...

Not...Angry...he told her...

Great...Nothing I like better than the taciturn type...she noted...

"Don't be this way, Will...If you have something to ask me about, ask me..."

I...Ummn...Have nothing to hide...she went on...

"I mean if this is about Angel..."

Arghh!!!!...he groaned...Stalking ahead...He turned and stopped...

"Does everything between us have to revolve around Angel Le Grand?..." he asked...

Oh...Ummn...Well?...She looked at his annoyed face...

This is about something else?...she asked, puzzled...

"I miss my children...And my home..." he noted...

I've allowed myself to be dragged around the world on this ridiculous race, at a ridiculous
expense...And for what?...

"To be with me..." she looked at him firmly...Catching him by surprise...

Yeah...he nodded...Looking away...

I know the whole thing seems ridiculous at times, Will...she told him quietly...And that I have
been incredibly selfish in going ahead with this...

"But I have to prove I can do this..."

"Were you and Le Grand lovers?...Back at Princeton?..." his turn to catch her...
Ummn...Forthrightness failed her...As it usually did on this subject, despite her earlier
determination to hold nothing back...

And after all, she'd hardly call one night...Lovers...

Hmmn...How best to put this...

"I thought this wasn't about Angel..." she dodged...

He glared at her...

"So...You were...Well, old news really I suppose..." he muttered bitterly...

But you might be honest with me about it...He looked fiercely at the wall of a building by their
side...

"It was only one time..." she blurted out, desperately...Sobbing...

The night I...Buffy merged with me...Millie...

***
So...Noted Miss DuBois as the Angel Special wended its way carefully up the narrow mountain
road...

This is Transylvania....

Funny, she thought...Somehow I have the oddest feeling...That I should be taking a position to
defend myself or something...

Must be from that Dracula novel I read a couple of years ago...

Odd...LeGrand noted...Place has a familiar feel to it, somehow...

I hate Eastern Europe, Hezekiah thought, watching the long shadows forming as the sun sank
over the mountains to the west...Just plain hate it...
***

She felt much better having finally told him about it, Buffy-Millie noted to Walthrop as they
walked along...

Weight off my chest...

"You know how it is, Max...This things build up and you..."

He remained silent...And frowning...What?...she wondered...
Max?...I told you everything...she pointed out...

And it was before we met...Fell in love, married...

"Be fair, William..." she went on...

Do you still think of him?...He looked at him...

She choked, laughing a little...Think?...Of Angel Le Grand?...

"The word æthink' and Angel LeGrand don't even belong in the same...."

No...He cut in, sharply...I mean the other one...The Angel from Buffy's world...

The vampire you said you had to kill when he turned evil, I believe...

Angel?...That Angel?...she looked at him...

He looked away...

"I've never worried all that much about that moron Le Grand, Millie..." he told her...

I can handle him...

"But this other one...The more I've thought of it...The more I can't help thinking...He's the real
one you must've cared for...LeGrand just fit the picture..."

And what happens...When we die?...Will you leave me and go off to join him?...

She stared at him...Will?...

Talk about planning for the future...

"Will...I have no idea what Buffy is going to do...In her existence..."

And I assume her soul will have its own path to take even in the afterlife...

But as for me, it's William Walthrop so long as my soul exists...

"And if you merge back into Buffy...When all's said and done?..." he looked at her...

Max?...I can't give you a guarantee what's gonna happen in the next ten minutes...How can you
possibly expect me to guarantee the afterlife?...she looked at him...

He turned and stared at her...
"I know I will always be in love with you, Millie...Here and beyond..."

Wow...she blinked at him...Nine years of marriage and he still gets me with things like that, she
thought happily...However...

Her reference to the next ten minutes had been quite appropriate...

"Professor Fate?..." A tall, gaunt, iron grey-haired old man emerged from a corner...

Rather piercing eyes, she noted...

"Or, should I call you...Buffy Summers?..." he smiled at her...

Holy...Nope, definitely not good ole Ben in another body...

Somehow I recognize him though...she noted...

Walthrop looked at him and her...Another old acquaintance from her other existence?...

Suggested theme...Dracula's Tale(O Fortuna)...

"I am Volgrode Dracula...Count Volgrode Dracula..."

"The Count Dracula?..." Walthrop stared at him...Buffy-Millie had told him of Buffy's encounter
with a rather oily young Dracula in her world after they'd read the Stoker book one night...

I think my wife has had the pleasure...he looked at Buffy-Millie...Who shook her head...

Not me, dear...And even Buffy hasn't met this one...she thought...

"Buffy...who?..." she asked the Count brightly...

Funny...she noted to herself...He does seem familiar...

Oh, my God...she thought, suddenly...That's right...We're in western Romania...Transylvania...

And I'm not the Slayer...

Wait...Ben...Benedictus told me there were no vampires in this world...

Have no fear of me, my dear...the old man smiled, noting the look on her face...I am not the
vampire of Mr. Stoker's colorful book...

"I am, however, an Immortal..."
***

A rather colorful group of horsemen...Gypsies...Angel noted to Miss DuBois...Had ridden up to
and surrounded the car...

Hezekiah considered the situation and looked over at the Boss...Gun in my door side pouch, knife
in my holster...he noted quietly...

Angel waved him to wait...No need to risk an unnecessary confrontation...

The leader seemed friendly enough...And spoke excellent English...

Quite a charmer, Miss DuBois noted...Tall, long-haired, handsome with a smile that almost
equaled LeGrand's in sparkle...

Have I the pleasure of addressing one of the Great Racers?...the Gypsy Leader asked Angel
pleasantly...

Angel nodded...Angel LeGrand, he introduced himself...And my friends...He introduced Miss
DuBois and Hezekiah...

He seemed...A hair disappointed...But continued without stop...

"My master owns the castle in the valley and would be honored to offer you its shelter for the
evening...This area is plagued with all kinds of bandits...And other dangers...By night..."

And he is?...Angel asked pleasantly...

The Gypsy grinned... "I hesitate to say it, my friend, for fear you will laugh...But he is...Count
Vladimir Dracula..."

Not, I should hasten to add...The vampire of that imaginative Irishman's book...he grinned at
Miss DuBois' startled look...

Although he was privileged to play host to Mr. Stoker during the gentleman's travels in our
country...And has throughly enjoyed the rather amusing publicity which a few old tales he agreed
to Mr. Stoker's incorporating into his novel has generated... he explained...

"Rather a boon to us all, in terms of tourism..." the Gypsy concluded...

Indeed...Angel agreed...After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity...

"We'd be delighted to accept the Count's gracious invitation..." he told the Gypsy...

Then, sir...Let me welcome you properly...the Gypsy smiled...

"I am Count Vladimir Dracula..."

Please forgive the costume...I rather enjoy traveling about with my friends here...It allows me to
avoid some of the trappings of aristocracy ...he noted...

And my family has been a protector of the Roma people for centuries...

He rode over to Miss DuBois and gallantly kissed her hand...

"Madame...My home and all in it at are your disposal..."

He's good...The Boss is likely to have competition for once...Hezekiah noted...Eyeing LeGrand...

I could still shoot him if you'd like, Boss...

"This way, my dear friends..." the Count rode to the front of the car and began riding slowly
down the road...

His men formed an honor guard about the car and they followed the Count...

Great...Hezekiah thought...Another aristocrat...

A night with Count Dracula...Miss DuBois grinned to herself...What a entry this is going to make
in my stories...

Hmmn...Angel noted...Have the oddest feeling about this place...As if I should know it
somehow...
***

Yet More (Semi)Parallel Lives... "Great Race 1906"...Part XXVI...

Buffy-Millie looked at the elderly Dracula...

"Then the one I...er Buffy met was..."

"My great-grandson, Vladimir...Or rather, his counterpart in that universe..." old Dracula
sighed...

But...Walthrop, inexperienced as he was with vampires and Immortals in general, was doubly
cautious...

"How it is that you are Immortal, yet not a vampire, sir?..."

Like to know the answer to that one myself, Buffy-Millie thought...

And how he knows me..er Buffy...And his counterpart...er great-grandson's counterpart...

The gaunt man smiled...

"There is no Hellgate in this world, my son...And in those happy worlds where there is no
Hellgate, humans are left unplagued by the demon races...Although..."

Humanity is quite capable of generating sufficient evil to destroy itself on its own...

And Immortality, even without the horrors of the vampire demon, can be a dreadful curse...To
those who cut themselves off from their fellow creatures...

Landau...The name hit her...Now I know why he looks so familiar...Buffy-Millie realized...

He looks just like that actor, Martin Landau, in Buffy's universe...

***

The mountain seat of the Dracula family was anything but the gothic ruin of Stoker's tale...

A spacious, comfortable estate...With battlements and courtyard in the older section it was true...

But all the latest conveniences...Even a dynamo supplying electric power for lights and
machinery...

And a distinguished, quite human, set of family members to add their warm hospitality to the
young Count's...

His mother, the Countess Varina...Sister, the fair Elisabeth...And his dear cousins, Margarete and
Dulcinia...All eager to welcome the famed American adventurers...

"Vladmir had sworn to find you for us..." Dulcinia told Angel shyly...Clearly smitten...

We've been following your race in the newspapers as best we could...

"Wonderful stories..." Elisabeth noted to Miss DuBois...

She herself hoped to take up journalism one day...What with all the new opportunities opening
for women...

She'd been considering enrolling in the new University at Bucharest...

A career plan dear Vladmir enthusiastically supported, she proudly noted...

He bowed and smiled...A bold and brave new world...

Especially now that our homeland is again free, he noted...
The Countess shook her head, smiling...New ideas, new inventions, new spirit...The new century
makes one dizzy...

"Oh..." Margarete looked at them... "What about your competitor. Professor Fate?"...

Fascinating woman...Dulcinia noted...

Still in the running...Angel noted a tad grimly...

"A great pity we couldn't have had both teams to stay with us..." the Count sighed...

But...Perhaps we'll see the dear lady later...

The young Count had already showed rather a strong interest in Millie Fate-Walthrop, of all
people...Angel noted...Asking a number of questions about her of him as they proceded to the
castle...

And it was clear to Angel, had truly hoped to encounter her on the road...Rather than his Angel
Special...

Yet he seemed quite pleased to have Miss DuBois as his guest...Especially after returning from
the stables where he and his Gypsy comrades had secured the horses...

Almost as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders...
***

Old Volgrode explained the situation which had led him to unmask his true identity...

He was the famed Impaler...Who had struggled to hold back the Turkish armies after the fall of
Constantinople, the great Byzantine capital...

Victorious on the battlefield, at least for a time...He'd been defeated by the suicide of his beloved
wife...Elisabeth...After Turkish foes had convinced her he had been defeated and killed...

Hmmn...So Mr. Coppola got that part of the story right in his movie...Buffy noted...

Medieval warfare was always a cruel and brutal business, Old Dracula sighed...But after his
wife's...murder...he'd given new meaning to the words... "No mercy"...

And when she was denied a burial in sanctified grounds as a suicide...He'd turned against the
church, handing many of its surviving leaders over to the Turks...Losing the support of many of
his devoted followers...

In rage, he'd offered himself to the dark powers, demanding victory, long-life, and a chance to
rejoin his beloved...In exchange for his very soul...
And been cursed for it by the churchmen he'd betrayed to the Turks...

With the result that his bargain had resulted in short-lived victories and a curse of
Immortality...He was condemned to watch his country and people fall into the hands of the
infidel...And be instinctively shunned by all men...

But at least, not a deranged mighty killer...Buffy-Millie noted to herself...

Wow...My new universe looks better all the time, she thought...Glancing at her dear Will...

As for his beloved, old Dracula continued...He'd finally encountered her reincarnated form...A
very nice girl...A young Englishwoman...Clairvoyant...

"I believe you knew her ill-fated counterpart, my dear..." he looked at Buffy-Millie...

Her agony reached across the dimensions to me...Until at last your dear friends gave her peace...

Dru?...Buffy-Millie thought...The original Dracula's reincarnated wife?...

Well, alternate universe...

"So...what happened?..." Max asked politely...Interesting, if crazy story...

Well...He'd sensed her reincarnation, journeyed to England in hopes of reawakening his
beloved...

Only to realize that to win her back would require her own pledge to the dark forces...Which he
refused to ask of her...

The act which had won him a measure of redemption...And given him hope that he might one
day achieve peace and reunion with her soul...

Unfortunately...It had also resulted in a measure of renewed contact with the family...Who no
longer instinctively drove him away...

He'd been unable to resist it...A chance to pose as a old family member, returned from long exile
abroad...

And in time to see the power of the Turks gradually crumble away...Until his lands were free
again...

Then, that Irishman, Stoker, had come...And well...

He couldn't resist re-telling the tales of the past...With a little of what he'd sensed over the
years..As an Immortal...Of his counterpart's existence...As a vampire...
Just adding a little color to the story...

But he'd not realized that his young descendant, like his great-grandson a Vladimir, had been taking the stories of the Immortal
Prince Dracula to heart for years...

What with the liberation of the homeland and all, it was naturally a most romantic time...

And the boy was even more fascinated by his elderly relative's new tales of the vampire
Dracula's powers...

Seeking more information on his own, he'd uncovered enough to suggest that the legends and
tales of his elderly "granduncle" might be true...
***

"My current descendant is obsessed with the family legends..." Old Dracula noted sadly...

And, God forgive me...In my loneliness I encouraged his interest...

Now he seeks to acquire even more than Immortality...

The powers of a vampire demon...Those of the Dracula surviving in your dimension, my dear...he
noted to Buffy-Millie...

"Not likely, sir..." she replied, a little grim...

My counterpart staked him months ago...

"But the power and the demon who created him...Still live on..." Old Dracula noted...

In the Hell linked to your Buffy's world through the Hellmouth gate...

But, how could he?...Unless...she looked at the old man...Who nodded...

What?...Max looked at them...

"He's going to try and create a Hellgate...Here..." she said in shock...

Great...In my new and demon-free world...It took me long enough to get used to there being no
demons and my not having Slayer power, she thought...

And where...I have children?...

"That doesn't sound good..." Max noted...

"No way...No God-damned, f-ing way!..." she shouted...
Ummn, sorry sir...

The Count nodded...No offense taken...

He'd been expecting Professor Fate to be full of surprises...

"Can he really do this?..." Max asked...

If he acquires the right materials...Old Dracula noted, looking at Buffy-Millie...

Hmmn...What would it take to create and open a Hellgate?...she wondered...

Well...If there was a Dawn in this existence...I'd say...

Oops...Dawn...

Made from...

Me...

"By any chance, does he need me to make his gate?..." she asked...

It was good to know Professor Fate/Buffy Summers lived up to her/their reputations, Old Dracula
noted...
***

It was not that the boy was evil by nature...the Count wished them to understand...After all, the
procedure did not require the death of the subject...Merely a small amount of Slayer blood would
suffice...

But the boy's desire to protect their long-oppressed land and keep its new-won independence was
so great that his judgment had been clouded...He'd blinded himself to the danger of allowing
such evil a door into the world...

"Not unlike his ancestor..." Old Dracula sighed mournfully...

Well...Walthrop smiled at his wife...Looking at the Count...

We're nearly out of Romania now...We'll simply keep an eye open for your descendant and his
"friends"...Shouldn't be that difficult with a hundred miles' distance already between us...

"Unfortunately, young man, the problem is more complex than that..."

There is another potential Slayer in this universe alive at present...And she is also at hand,
possibly even closer to his grasp...
"Faith's alive in this dimension?..." Buffy-Millie wondered, half to herself...

Well, she might even be nice here....

No, my dear...The one you refer to was stillborn in this dimension...It is another...

***

"Well..." Max sighed... "If we don't even know who the lady is...How can we prevent your
descendant from using her blood?..."

But you do know her, my young friend...Old Dracula looked at him...

She is traveling with your competitor even as we speak...

***
This occult stuff was a bit trying, Walthrop noted...Stretch of the credulity bone and all...

Still if Millie believed it...He'd accept it...

On faith...In her...
***

"Miss DuBois?!...Willow and Alex's reporter?...A potential Slayer?..."

Hmmn...I always did have a strange feeling around her...Buffy-Millie noted...

But ever since she kissed Will in Siberia I've put it down to jealously...

***

Yet More (Semi)Parallel Lives... "Great Race 1906"...Part XXVII...

At the inn of the small Romanian town where they'd heard old Dracula's incredible tale the
Walthrops had retired for the night...It being pointless to try to reach the Dracula estate after
dark, old Volgrode had noted...

Besides, the Hellgate ceremony would require a full moon, not due for one more day...

"You really believe that old man?..." Max asked Buffy-Millie...As they undressed...

He knew me...As Buffy...she pointed out...Looking at her husband narrowly...

You said you believed my stories about Buffy's world...she noted...

Or were you...?

"I believed you...I believe in you..." Max told her quietly...But...

This means giving up our lead...Turning around in hopes of catching LeGrand and company...

"We could easily miss them by dozens of miles over these mountain roads..." he noted...

Then no harm done...If they've avoided a meeting with the young Count...We turn round and
catch up...she replied...

"What about you, Mil?..." Walthrop looked at her...

"The young maniac wants you even more than Miss DuBois...If you fall into his sights..."

She looked at him...Appreciatively in part...Her sweet little Walthrop...Long time no see naked,
there, sweetie...she thought...

Turning serious, she pointed out the danger...He couldn't begin to comprehend the disaster the
opening of a Hellgate on this Earth would be...The suffering and misery inflicted on countless
thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of innocents...

Not to mention a serious hindrance to her scientific career...Having to go back to Slaying and
all...Probably full-time, too...

***
The Count's adoring female relatives were delighted to show Miss DuBois their latest modern
convenience...A small communication station equipped with telegraph, telephone, even the new
wireless telegraph...Where she could quite easily file her latest stories to the Sentinel...

Even beats carrier pigeons, she happily agreed...

Young Vladimir for his part was eager to show LeGrand and his assistant around the estate...In
part, a model farm for the rest of Romania...Equipped with the latest in modern farming
machinery...Artificially lit, well enough even to brave a dark Transylvanian evening...

Margarete and Dulcinia eagerly tagging along, clearly under the spell of LeGrand's dazzling
smile...As the Count's sister Elisabeth smilingly noted to Miss DuBois after they'd stayed behind
at the communication station, the intrepid reporter having nearly two weeks worth of stories to
file.

Hmmn...Miss DuBois frowned...Well, she'd preety much given up on him after the incident at
the Siberian landing...

Not that she ever had had any interest in Angel LeGrand outside the race...Whatever Millicent
Fate-Walthrop might suggest to the contrary...

Still...No reason he had to run about, strutting for these young country girls, making an utter
jackass of himself.

***
It was his great hope, Vladimir noted to Angel, to diffuse these modern techniques among the
local farmers in various ways...Upgrade their production methods and eventually boost the entire
nation's agricultural output...

Angel, as befitting an apostle of the age of Technologic Progress, heartily commended the young
Count's efforts...While taking proper time to bestow his trademark smile upon the women and
young children of the estate farmers who had gathered at the main barn to welcome the gallant
American.

Hezekiah carefully watching the general situation...

After Morovia, he had no intention of taking any more chances than necessary.
***

Though it was bit annoying...And more important, a modest setback to Social Advancement,
Wilhelmina "Willow" Harris had returned the reins of the New York Sentinel to Alex...On paper
at least...

Benedictus, in his guise as Millie Fate-Walthrop's heartily recommended friend, crusty middle-
aged Dr. Ben, had pronounced his patient reasonably fit again, although he continued to warn
against resuming the old lifestyle. Stressing the need for less pressure and, above all, quiet...

His health still being a question mark to some extent, Willow had no intent of letting Alex
reassume the huge workload of the past...Not to mention having throughly enjoyed the day-to-
day management of the paper, she was loathe to give it up completely.

For his part, while he still hoped to find a buyer for the paper, Alex was happy to be at least
officially back in the saddle...And home...

Home now being however a quieter place along the Hudson from which he commuted by rail
several days a week, Willow daily...

And at least Willow finally had a proper title...Co-publisher and assistant managing editor...
His little way of saying "thanks" and apologizing for not properly recognizing her many
contributions in the past.

Though the failure of her little scheme to increase female employment was galling, at least the
family business was slowly reviving after its near collapse.

And the intrepid Miss DuBois' stories were playing no small role in that revival.

Though they remained a secret source of guilt for Mrs. Harris...Having been afraid to let the
public in on all the details of the background of their correspondent.

To let the public know their favorite newspaper series was the work of a Black reporter?...The
readers had accepted her being a female, even allowed it to stimulate their romantic
fantasies...But to learn their great Angel had been accompanied...At times, alone...By a young
and beautiful Black woman? Who'd won their admiration for her courage and forthright manner
which shone through her stories?

Asking a lot of the 1906 reading public...On the other hand...

Alex felt it was best to leave things be...Miss DuBois had not expected, indeed had to some
extent recommended against, their revealing her background until the race was over and the
series complete...Presenting the public and the journalistic profession with a fait accompli.

And another major Social Experiment just right now might deprive their star reporter of the one
forum where she could make her bid as an equal, even a leader, in the profession...

Well, Willow noted...If her co-publisher and senior managing editor really thought Miss DuBois
would be in agreement...

And as long as they would...Eventually...Make a proper announcement at the right time...

***
"So..." Miss DuBois grinned at Elisabeth...About 25 or so, she judged...

What's it like?...Living in the castle Dracula...As a member of the actual family?...

Not on record...she quickly noted...Unless you don't mind...

Elisabeth grinned, rolling her eyes...Oh, God...Ever since the Irishman and his story came
out...she noted...

People from all over...Stopping to gawk at them...Asking them if they were vampires, drank
blood...Of course, Vladimir loves the tales of the vampire prince who saved his country...Can't
seem to get enough of them...

"A pity our "granduncle" Volgrode is away for a visit...He's an expert on all the old legends,
especially that rather unsavory Impaler of ours..." Elisabeth told Miss DuBois.

A distant cousin of my grandfather, actually...He could tell you stories that would make your
readers tremble in their beds...Mr. Stoker got most of his material from him.

***
At young Vladimir's urging, Elisabeth and Miss DuBois joined them, along with the Countess,
at the main barn for a pageant which the estate farmers' children were staging for the famous
guests...

Excellent material for a reporter, he'd noted...Snippets of all the traditional dances and music,
plus patriotic oratory from a few local magistrates...A little sampling of the best...And worst, he
added wryly...That Romania had to offer.
***

Castle...Dracula...Willow wickedly beamed at Alex as she read Miss DuBois' latest...Just arrived
by telegraph from Romania...

"The Castle Dracula?...The Dracula?..." Alex looked at her...

Willow grinned and nodded.

Well, actually not the vampire of the story...But the actual estate and family...she noted.

Alex grinned back at her...When this hits the newsstands tomorrow...

"You, sir...Are a genius..." she tickled her husband...Gently...

Gotta remember the old ticker...

Of course the doctor did say sex was permissible now...Within reason...

And she had the reason.

"No word on old Millie and Will?..." he asked...

No..But she's fine, I'm sure...And was in the lead last time anyone saw her...Willow noted...

We'll hear from her soon...

Mil always seems to land on her feet.

***
Just before dawn the next morning, old Volgrode came by to awaken the Walthrops...Finding a
rather anxious Will already up, dressed, and pacing...

Besides, Max noted, as Volgrode brought him downstairs to breakfast...

How could anyone sleep the way Millie snores without her special nose plug?

He looked across the inn table at the elderly Dracula...Hard to believe the old fellow was
really right in the old noggin...And yet...He believed Millie's stories of Buffy and her world...

Somehow...At times...He almost felt a part of them.

And if this fellow were telling the truth...Was an Immortal...Then fast action was imperative...

And perhaps...Just this once...He looked at the stairs to the upper inn where Millie was sleeping.

Just this once...He should go it alone...Considering the potential danger if the young maniac
Count was really as determined to proceed with his crazy scheme as old Volgrode had
indicated...

He explained his thinking to the old man...Who sighed and nodded...Perhaps it might be best to
proceed without Professor Fate...Especially if young Vladimir had not secured Miss DuBois and
would not listen to reason...

Old Volgrode could sympathize with a young and loving husband ready to do anything to protect
his beloved wife.

***
Hezekiah reported the grim news early that morning...To the Boss in private...

The Angel Special was out of commission...Damage to the transmission...

Something had apparently smashed into the underbody...Perhaps on these rough mountain
roads...Possibly accidental...Hezekiah noted...But given the situation.

He'd suggest they see if anyone had seen any sign of the Walthrops in the vicinity...

Angel frowned...Millie already had a sizable lead thanks to Max's little send-off in Morovia...

"How long to fix?..."

Well...Impossible without replacement parts...However the young Count had quite a little
machine shop here...And with his communications center to order the parts...

"If we can get the parts in quick...A day's work..."

Angel nodded and went to the dining room where Vladimir, anything but the stereotypic
aristocrat was hard at work planning his daily schedule...

He shook his head at the news...A blow to his dear friend, naturally...And yet, for him and his
family...A cause for celebration...An extra few days' visit with their delightful guests...

Transylvania can be dull at times...He smiled...

As for the replacement parts...They'd go immediately to the telegraph and place the proper
orders...

And of course, the workshop was at Hezekiah's disposal.

He was sure they'd be back on schedule within the shortest possible time.

LeGrand gratefully accepted his host's offer...By the way, though?...

Any word heard from his men or the telegraph on Professor Fate's whereabouts?

"Not a word, my friend..." Vladimir told him...

Hopefully the intrepid lady has met with no accident on her journey...But my men will be
keeping a sharp eye on all possible roads...In case she has not already pressed on...

We may yet have the pleasure of entertaining all of you...he grinned...
***

Part XXVIII...

Max...? Buffy-Millie looked around the room...

William?...She called down the hall...

"Did you see my husband?..." she asked the innkeeper...Hurrying down in her robe...

"The gentleman has left, my lady..." the innkeeper told her...

With the older gentleman...Very early this morning...Left you this note...

A brief jot from Will explaining that he and old Volgrode had decided it might be best if they...

"#$%!!...#$%&ing idiot!!!"

Damn him!...she stamped the floor in rage...

The innkeeper stared...He knew enough English to know the oaths the lady had uttered where not
those of your typical 1906 English-speaking gentlewoman tourist...

She raced to the inn door...Car gone... "DAMN HIM!!!"...she bellowed...

We were a team...Is this teamwork?!...
Victorian...Well, Edwardian, I guess now...Chivalry rears its ugly head...

Thought I'd gotten all that crap out of his system...Well...

The one area where I wish he were more like Angelis...

A little neck-saving cowardice on his part would suit me just fine...

Besides...Here I am...All alone on the Transylvanian border...

God knows what could happen to me...While he's off to visit the Estate Dracula...

A rather nice country estate if old Drac was telling the truth and not off his rocker...

Oh, Will...Damn it I love you for wanting to keep me safe, but damn you...You need me...

Oh God if I lose you now...Stuck here in this miserable, crappy, backward alternate universe...

Not that I don't love Mom, Papa, and the kids...

All right, girl...Focus on the practical...

Come on, "Professor" Fate-Walthrop...retired Vampire-Slayer...Think of something...

She sighed...And turned back to where the innkeeper and several other guests were watching her
carefully...

These English and American women...All crazy...One told his companions...

"Do any of you have a car?..." she asked, looking at them...

They stared at her...

Hmmn...What's the Romanian word for car?...she thought...And turned to the innkeeper...Who
warned her that no cars were in use about the area

However...
***
Meet them...Early?...Kristine Fate, mother of Professor Millicent Fate-Walthrop, looked at her
two young charges...Amelia and Philip Walthrop, young sister and brother of Millie's dear
William Maximilian Walthrop...

"We thought we could go to Vienna...See the city and meet them when they come in..." Amelia
noted...

It's just a train ride from here in Paris, Phil noted...

Kristine looked at her husband, Professor Constantine Fate, who frowned a bit...

"We have enough money saved..." Amelia looked at them...

And Phil will be my escort...

"We just want to see that they're ok after the trip..." Phil put in...

And I was thinking of studying art in Vienna later on...Amelia added...

Well...the Professor looked at his wife...Who was uncertain...

This was a little sudden...she thought...

"Of course...This is a rare opportunity for them..." Constantine noted to her...

And I tramped all over Europe as a college student...The poor man's Grand Tour...

"We'd only be a few days away by train..." Amelia noted...

"But..." Kristine hesitated... "What would you do once they came in?...You couldn't ride back
with them, it might slow them down..."

Well...If they can't take us...We telegraph you how they're doing, tour Vienna for a couple of
days, and head back in time to see them cross the finish line...Amelia concluded...

After all, they'll never tell you when they write or telegraph if anything's wrong...she pointed
out...

"So.." Constantine grinned, a twinkle in his eye...

"You two intend to act as our spies on our intrepid pair..."

Ummn...Well...

"Kris...Let them go...They'll never have a chance like this again for years..." he smiled at his
wife...

Well...What about the arrangements?...she began...

"Hotel, train, and traveling papers..." Amelia presented a sheath of letters and papers...

Very respectable hotel...Phil chimed in...
"Ja..." Amelia agreed, demonstrating her command of German...

***
On coming down to breakfast the Countess Dracula and her daughter and nieces were delighted
to hear that the Great Angel and companions would be with them for a few days longer...

Through as Elisabeth especially was quick to note, it was dreadful that their progress should be
held up with the race reaching its climax...

Not at all, Angel gallantly assured her...It only amounted to a slight hindrance...More than made
up for by the charm of their dear host and hostesses...

Hezekiah caught the slight frown on Miss DuBois' face as Angel paid court to the beautiful Miss
Elisabeth...

Oh, brother...

And speaking of brothers...He'd caught a slight gleam in the young Count's eye as he watched
Miss DuBois watching Angel and Elisabeth...

He sighed inwardly...

God, no wonder he preferred machines to people...None of this nonsense with machines...
***

A messenger brought the latest telegraphic messages in from the Angel Special to Hercule
LeGrand's desk at his Paris office...

At last...

A friendly greeting from his soft-headed son...Informing him cheerily that they had reached
Romania...But would be held up by repairs in Transylvania...At the Estate Dracula, of all places...

Hmmn...Dracula?...Dracula?...Hercule thought...Where have I heard...?

He was, as were his companions, in excellent spirits and health, and hoping his dear father was
the same...He was...

Angel LeG...Hercule crumpled the message and tossed it into the wastebasket...

Fool boy...Delayed again...Probably more by a pair of pretty eyes and a small horde of reporters
than by repairs...

Still...Perhaps his agents in Bucharest could have been of help...If the damned posturing fool had
bothered to send him his precise location...
In any case he'd have them check on the Walthrops' location...Perhaps if they were still in the
wilder reaches of the country...An "accident" could be arranged...

He scanned the other message...Ah, Hezekiah's report...

Hmmn...At least a little more information...The car had been damaged, apparently by accident,
although Hezekiah had doubts...

Repair parts on the way and he had sufficient facilities but no word on Professor Fate-Walthrop
and co...

Damaged, eh?...Well, one must hand it to the dear Professor...A lady whose determination and
ruthless pursuit of a goal came somewhat near his own...

No doubt someone had switched infants at birth...

A handwritten note came in from one of his "operatives" watching the Fate family in Paris...With
special attention paid to his "special" if reluctant, assistants, dear Amelia and Philip Walthrop...

They were making preparations to leave on their own for Vienna...To meet the Walthrops...

Excellent...

After all, of all his agents, their past performance in stopping Professor Fate-Walthrop had been
outstanding...

Just so long as he could continue to trust in their fear of being exposed to their dear brother and
sister-in-law...

But...If not...The race was reaching its climax in Central Europe...A field where his agents were
well placed to deal with the intrepid Mr. and Mrs. Walthrop...

And if necessary their dear young relatives...

***


Yet More (Semi)Parallel Lives... "Great Race 1906"...Part XXIX

A remarkable vehicle, old Volgrode noted to Walthrop as the Hannibal Super Twin8 smoothly
negotiated the rutted Transylvanian mountain paths that passed for roads...

"It appears your dear wife is as great an inventor as her counterpart is a Slayer..."

Hmmn-hmmn...Max agreed...But he was a little curious about his companion's remarkable link
across the dimensions...he told old Volgrode...

How clear were his impressions of the world of Buffy Summers?...And his vampiral
counterpart?...

Of course, he'd been told a great deal by Millie...Max noted...And he'd met her dear friend, Ben,
likewise an Immortal...With a similar multidimensional link...

Still, to have a chance to pick up additional information...he went on pleasantly...

On the one being he feared most...he did not say...

The one who might possibly yet have a unbreakable hold on his Millie's heart...

A chance Max couldn't pass up...And a major part of why he'd sought to handle this one with the
old fellow on their own...

***

Lovely...thought Mrs. Fate-Walthrop...As she jounced along in the bone-rattling old claptrap of
the innkeeper's carriage...

Just lovely...

Here I am...A Professor of Physics and Mathematics...One of the handful of female such...

A technical whiz...If I do say so myself...At least in early twentieth century technology...

Having an insight into the twenty-first century no less...Heck even further if Star Trek got the
twenty-third and -fourth centuries right...

Reducing to rattling after my husband in this horse-drawn old thing...

If you can call that broken-down old mare a horse...More like a walking horse-corpse...

Well...Thank God the Millie in me knows how to run these things...Buffy never got on a horse in
her life...

Hmmn...Wonder if I could at least improve wheel/axle efficiency on this thing?...

***
While Angel assisted Hezekiah in what work could be done on the car until the replacement parts
arrived, the young Count gallantly offered the intrepid Miss DuBois a personal tour of the estate
grounds...

She'd only seen the barest minimum yesterday, he noted...And nothing of the spectacular views
offered by the mountains surrounding them...The noble Carpathians...

Excellent views for photographic purposes he pointed out...

Naturally his dear sister Elisabeth would join them...The party shortly expanded by the earnest
entreaty of his cousin Margarete to join them...

Dulcinia preferring to stay behind and assist the Great Angel in his work...

Well...Sounded like they'd be well chaperoned...Miss DuBois noted...Accepting the invitation
with thanks...

Perhaps...A bit of a pity she smilingly mentioned to Angel as she took her leave...

The young Count Vladimir was such a charming fellow...Would have been rather pleasant to
have a chance to hear his stories of his ancient and beloved country...In private...

Oh...brother...thought Hezekiah...Watching Angel's reaction...

And noting Miss DuBois' poorly concealed satisfaction...As she strolled out with Margarete to
meet the others, twirling her parasol...

Well...At least it'll give the Boss a reason to get out of here plenty quick...

***
Did she find it...Difficult?...Elisabeth asked Miss DuBois hesitantly...As they followed an eager
Vladimir and Margarete up a rough mountain path...

As both a woman...And a person of the Black race...To make her way in the world?...

She knew, Elisabeth noted...That there were few women...Of any race...Who'd achieved a
position like hers...

"It's been Hell...At times..." Miss DuBois replied, grinning...

Yet...Elisabeth went on...She'd clearly managed to retain her womanly sweetness and grace...

Really?...Miss DuBois asked...Carefully wending her way up the trail...

My mother would be very pleased to hear you say that, Countess...she smiled back at Elisabeth...

She was always afraid I'd become a bit...Hard...

Used to worry no man would want such an independent little lady like me...she noted...
"I hardly think she has anything to worry about on that score..." Elisabeth smiled...

Certainly Mr. LeGrand is quite taken with you...

Ummn...Mr. LeGrand?...Miss DuBois hesitated...

"Our relationship is strictly professional...For the duration of the race only..." she hastily noted...

My traveling with him and Mr. Hezekiah was an unfortunate necessity...

"I shouldn't think traveling with Mr. LeGrand...Unfortunate..." Elisabeth replied...

And your stories have suggested it hasn't been...Awful...For you...she smiled...

Even if he is, perhaps...A bit...she grinned...

He is...A great deal...Miss DuBois grinned back...

"Ladies!..." Vladimir called down to them from the ledge above...Margarete likewise...

Come and see...

"But...As to your career..." Elisabeth paused...

Is it...All consuming?...

They toiled over the last bit of rough trail...To stand on the wide surface of the ledge...

The view indeed a magnificent one...

Well...Miss DuBois looked at her...

It does take up a good deal of my time...

Ah...Elisabeth nodded...

Then there is little time in your life for...Romance?...she smiled...

Hmmn...As in...?...With Angel LeGrand?...

"Well, Countess...One makes time for the essentials..." Miss DuBois noted quickly...

"I hope I do not speak too frankly, Miss DuBois?..." the Countess paused...

"I'm simply curious about the nature of your relationship with Mr. LeGrand..."
My God, not her too...

How is it that three of the most intelligent, rational-minded women I know...Professor Fate-
Walthrop, the young Countess here, and myself...sigh....Find themselves unable to avoid
obsessing over this egotistical twit...

"Not at all, Countess...And yes, my journey with Angel...er, Mr. LeGrand...Has not
been...Awful..." she added...Smiling at the Countess...

After all... One should leave one's options open...she thought...Countess Elisabeth is beautiful
and charming...And intelligent...

And unbelievable as it may seem at times, that third characteristic actually seems to hold as
powerful attraction for our Mr. LeGrand as the other two...

Not that I would ever suspect that there's any depth to him...Beyond the bottomless pit of his
ego...

Perhaps, he admires it in view of making up his own deficiencies...Not all that unheard of,
actually...

In any case...No reason to concede automatically to the first beautiful, charming, intelligent
minor royalty we encounter...

Simply a matter of principle...

Not as if I would ever be so foolish as to consider...

"You see...My brother has asked me to speak to you..." Elisabeth smiled sheepishly...

Oh...Miss DuBois blinked...

Wasn't expecting that...

"Ah..." Vladimir came over...

Have I not kept my promise to show you the most magnificent view in all your travels?...he
grinned at Miss DuBois...

Who smiled, nodding...

A moment, he smiled, raising a forefinger...And dashed back to Margarete...

She eyed the young Countess...Elisabeth shrugged a bit, smiling...

"Vladimir was hoping you might consider a stroll with him this evening..."

He's very kind...Miss DuBois smiled...

"He would ask himself...But it's not quite proper form in our country for a young man to ask a
lady directly..." Elisabeth explained...

"And while he generally shuns it...He would not want to treat you with anything less than proper
form..."

Really?...

"Ladies!..."

The young Count was calling to them from where he and Margarete had spread a lunch...

She looked over to where the young Count was waving...

Hmmn...

"You can tell your brother this lady would be delighted..." she grinned at Elisabeth...
***

"Well...?" Angel looked at a frowning Hezekiah...

Now getting his first clear view of the damaged parts, just removed...

"I can't see how we couldn't have felt this on the road..." Hezekiah told him, looking at the
smashed transmission...

Even those roads...

Deliberate, then?...Angel looked at him...

I'd put money on it, Boss...his assistant noted...

And it would have had to have happened when we were away from the car...he added...

Recently...

"Ruling out Millie..." Angel noted...

"Unless the Perfesser has been following us...And got into the place here..."

Hmmn...With Millie, anything is possible...Angel thought...
However, even she wouldn't waste that much time on a few days' sabotage...

"Whoever it was...Someone wants us marooned here..." Le Grand concluded...

Bout the size of it, Boss...Hezekiah nodded...
***
Walthrop and his companion reached the ancestral lands of the Dracula clan late that afternoon...

With night approaching, at old Dracula's suggestion, he and Walthrop put into a small inn about
six miles from the Estate Dracula...

Well protected by loyal servants and even more loyal local Roma families...Devoted to the death
to the noble family which had protected them for centuries...

Quite literally, old Volgrode noted...

"So..." Max regarded him as they sat at a secluded table in the inn...

"Tonight's the full moon..."

His ceremony takes place tonight?...

"If he has all he needs...And I believe we should assume he does..." the Immortal replied...

Well...I suppose...We could just go over on a social call...You being a member of the family and
all...Max looked at him...

I could let LeGrand know what's up...And that's that...

Though it might be rather a job to convince him I wasn't off my nut...

"The boy is aware I am opposed to his efforts...And has ordered his men to prevent me from
interfering...Or contacting the rest of the family..." Volgrode noted...

Even if we could penetrate the grounds and reach his dear mother and the others, he would
simply flee with the dear lady and perform his ceremony elsewhere...In secret...

"We will have to interrupt the ceremony itself...Tonight..."

Well...Max thought...Could be worse...We do have a bullet-proof car with medium cannon...

Certainly better odds than with those stake things Millie's counterpart Buffy used in her battles
with the vampiral Dracula...
***

"Now this..." Willow grinned...Looking over at Alex...On the floor beside her...

Is the way to put a newspaper..."To bed"...

She rolled over and on him...

"Transylvania...I love it!..." she cried with glee...Rolling him around with her...

A faint sound from the side door...She winked at Alex who grinned back, brushing her hair from
her face...

"Mears!!!..." they cried together...

A crash from behind the door...

That'll teach him to watch us from the keyhole...she noted...As a very nervous Warren entered...

"Ah...There you are..." Alex looked up at him...

Last proofs are ready for the special edition...

The Great Racers in Transylvania...

"Home of...Dwracula..." Willow hissed wickedly...Shaking her hair over her husband...

Warren tried not to stare at his employers, wrapped around each other on the floor of their
office...

In rather disheveled condition...

He grabbed the proofs off the floor where Alex indicated...Averting his eyes...And hurried out
the door...

Quite a tale for the gang in the press room...

"Our Warren disapproves of hanky-panky, sir..." Willow grinned at Alex...

Fellow really needs to get out more...Alex replied...

***

Part XXX....
***
A shrieking voice echoed through the Carpathian foothills...

"I have climbed...Highest mountain...I have run through the fields...

Only to be with you...Only to be with you..."

Professor Buffy-Millie Fate-Walthrop in pursuit of her Max was finding herself in a surprisingly
pleased state of mind...And indulging in a little return to the music of her past...er...Future...

Fortunately, no one in earshot but the poor old horse...

Off on a mission to save the world...And William Maximilian Walthrop...

Just like old..er well, you know...times, she couldn't help noting to herself...

No one could lay the charge of selfish self-indulgence on her for this one...In fact, she was
risking not only her life, but all the effort she'd been making in the Race...

This was a true old-fashioned Slayer mission...Or would "futuristic" be the proper word?...

And a romantic quest...

Though he might fuss, she knew Max would be pleased...Guys love it when their girlfriends,
wives, etc, risk life, limb, and fortune to save them...

Can't call this "taking him for granted" she noted happily...

Gotta remember I'm supposed to be furious at him...Unless he's hurt or...Oh...

She cracked the whip...The horse sighed and moved a fraction of a hair faster...

Hmmn...She frowned at the coughing, wheezing horse...And pulled over to give it a brief rest...

If ole Bossy...Or whatever you call a broken-down old horse like this...Makes it...

***

One of the Count's mechanics, a young fellow, had come forward to speak to the Great
Angel...He'd heard from his employer that the Great Racer was anxious to press on as soon as
possible and had a potential solution...

He could jury-rig a temporary repair...Which would enable them to reach one of two small border
towns a hundred or so miles away...To which the new parts could be diverted...

It would at least allow them to travel somewhat further in the right direction while awaiting the
parts...And could be ready by tomorrow...

Hmmn...Obliging...Hezekiah thought...

Has quite a knowledge of transmissions does he?...

He'd done considerable work on the family's cars the young fellow explained shyly...

And would be only too happy to have a chance to see the famed Angel Special's works...

Angel thanked the lad graciously...And was pleased to accept his offer...

"We'll do her together..." Hezekiah put in hastily...

There being only so much room to work, Angel decided to check on Miss DuBois...

Which Hezekiah reluctantly accepted, choosing the protection of the machine over the man...

At least the Boss could...To a certain limited extent...Protect himself...
***

Angel, directed by the Countess, with a cow's-eyed Dulcinia as his guide, caught sight of Miss
DuBois and her party as they came down the mountain trail...Miss DuBois' parasol gaily twirling
in the breeze as she stood next to young Dracula...

Hmmn...LeGrand frowned at he eyed them more closely through his binoculars...Always at hand,
of course...

The Count speaking animatedly to her about something as he pointed out the view...Miss DuBois
clearly quite pleased at his attention...

Hmmn...

"Did you catch sight of them, Mr. LeGrand?..." Dulcinia asked, eager to be of help...

Yes...He noted...

They seem...Quite well...

"It's a lovely view up there..." Dulcinia noted...

And Vladimir has an excellent eye for the most romantic views...

Indeed...Angel smiled at her...

"Well..." he flashed his best at the young girl...Quite a lovely young girl, he had noted...

"Shall we go meet them, Miss Dulcinia?..." offering an arm...

Oh...She stared at those famous white teeth...yes...Accepting the proffered arm with a poorly
concealed enthusiasm...

***
After a quick scouting of the estate grounds to form a plan of action for the evening, Max and old
Dracula had settled in at their inn...Dracula filling in some of the details of the story he had told
the Walthrops earlier...

And what he knew...Or had sensed, rather...Of his vampire counterpart's and Buffy-Millie's
world via his multidimensional link to his Immortal counterparts...

Must be difficult having multidimensional visions popping up at the odd moment, Walthrop
noted...I mean keeping them straight and avoiding being taken for...Well...

A crazy man?...Volgrode smiled...

Well...One gets used to it...There are a handful of other human Immortals here...Including a
former god, a doctor...

A very kind and helpful fellow...Gave me a great deal of help in adjusting to my new state...

"Benedictus?..." Max asked...

Ah...Volgrode smiled...So you know him...

Friend of my wife's...She and her twin had a little run-in with his sister, I gather, back in her old
world...

"I had planned to seek his aid in this...But you and Mrs Walthrop being at hand...And time so
short..."

Hmm-hmmn...I understand completely...Walthrop nodded...

"Pity Millie hasn't had a chance to develop some of the high speed transportation devices she's
told me about...We could have Ben here in a few hours in her world..."

Amazing...old Dracula shook his head...

"I rather look forward to seeing the future these days, you know..." he smiled...

Now that I've been able to rejoin my surviving family and all...

Provided of course we can repair the effects of my foolish self-indulgence...he shook his head
sadly...

***

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