"Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes."
--Benjamin Franklin, a letter to M. Leroy 1789--
I am the exception that proves the rule, LaCroix thought. Exception. Exemption. He giggled quietly to himself as his victim's pulse fluttered and then went still. Mmm. So many flavors, this one. He worried at the neck wound a little and rubbed his face into the long hair, enjoying the bouquet of expensive soaps and unguents, such a contrast to the coarse tangles and scratchy beard. Good to the last drop. He giggled again and settled the corpse into a sitting position between his legs, relaxed against its shoulders and let the memories come.
Reading the dead from their blood –- it wasn't the most common of abilities. His whole line could do it, but of course he was the best. Poor stupid Nick had treated it mostly as nightmare or fever dream, and dear Janette seemed to regard the phenomenon as a diversion, like dramatic performances she could take or leave alone –- soap opera, she had called it once. LaCroix didn't pity her, exactly; she always seemed to do well enough for herself. Perhaps it was a woman's thing, to so lack ambition, to overlook the opportunities life set in one's way. He would never really understand her, nor she him, and they were both happy with that arrangement.
Mmm. Memories flooded over him as the blood hit home. LaCroix controlled them easily, fishing their stream for useful tidbits as he had once picked crayfish from the pebbles in his faraway youth. Self-made millionaire –- it had been decades since he'd had one of those. Widowed, three sons –- dead, legitimate but estranged, illegitimate and estranged. Perfect. Oh, and rich, richer than Croesus. Ruthless, too. Oh, my friend, he thought. Perhaps I should have kept you by me for a while. Enjoying the story of this dead man's life, reveling in its telling, LaCroix smiled and giggled again and again as the instances of perfidy and perversity flowed by. What a labyrinthine personal life! Ah, well. Treachery was amusing, no doubt, but it could be an awful lot of work to deal with such a one. Perhaps it was better as it was.
All done. LaCroix made sure of keeping all this man's life as long as he'd need it, perfect memories preserved almost as well as his own. They would make it incredibly easy to impersonate his prey.
LaCroix had evaded Death many times since his first decisive victory in the shadow of Vesuvius. Evading taxes required only a little more effort, though it had to be done more and more frequently as the world's governments became so relentless about keeping track of every single person in it. It was usually best done at the same time as changing identities, shedding one persona as soon as the revenue department started becoming too annoyed and picking up another. The generation of a dead body was frequently useful. And fun. Sometimes he picked his next life carefully, and sometimes he just took potluck.
He had really hit the jackpot this time, he thought, as he dressed the body in his own clothes and carefully positioned it in the driver's seat of his car. He'd already prepared the ignition system and the fuel system to perform their last duties to their owner. He'd picked the perfect curve on the winding road. His vampire strength made child's play of maneuvering the vehicle into the correct trajectory, with none of this nonsense about leaving the transmission in Neutral or the engine off. It went up like a roman candle. LaCroix stayed for a little while, enjoying the flames of his funeral pyre.
"Goodbye, Lucas Cross," he called. "Hello, Lionel Luthor."
At the distant sound of sirens, he lifted up into the air and flew off to arrange his new business to his liking. LuthorCorp, despite a number of interesting setbacks in recent years, was a lovely ripe plum. He'd extract a fortune from it before killing off Lionel Luthor again.
And he wouldn't pay taxes on it, either.
(Crossover of "Forever Knight" with "Smallville." "Smallville" is owned by DC Comics and/or the WB and/or Millar & Gough and/or Tollin & Robbins. "Forever Knight" was invented by James Parriott, and the rights to it and all its characters probably belong to Sony or Columbia/TriStar. )