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June 27, 2022

The Building 7

By Lydia Manx

The new and improved vampire calling himself Jerry Cooper thought about why he'd gone back to the Detroit Public Library instead of the nearby college. Then he remembered how he felt inside the local college library. He'd been there earlier in the week, before the bad thing happened. One night he'd seen a security guard looming above the main entrance. Not in front of the library but drunkenly staggering up on the roof looking through the windows that were inset in the ceiling. Snow was falling and creating an odd juxtaposition of the potential for disaster while soft, large flakes fell around the man onto the library. Obviously the man had stupidly wandered up to the roof to peer through the panes of glass that created an atrium in the center of the structure. It made the vampire nervous and irritated him at the same time. Adding to his discomfort was that the college students in mass he'd found to be nosey and irritating.

Jerry would often look up to find that one or two of the students were staring at him while he was online trying to unobtrusively do his searches for leads on the vampires that had been sanctioned by the council to slay his clan and torture him. He also knew it wasn't because the students were in any way interested in him. That he'd once been as youthful appearing as those kids in the past was gnawing at his soul some nights. A year before he would have been easily mistaken for a graduate student or a young teacher. Not so since he'd been imprisoned and allowed to fester for months unfed in a coffin. The draining of his body and soul by the religiously silver lined casket had also aged him. It would take years before he could get enough blood and fears flowing through the draining of his victims' blood into him to repair all of the damage that had been done. The deaths of his clan had eroded his power base, which in turn caused him to appear much older than he had before his capture. He now looked middle aged and tired, and how he hated it. Another reason that he'd make the council pay for their sins.

No, he wanted no more of the college library.

On the night of the incident, as he was given to think of it, was a particularly stormy evening, Jerry recalled from the safety of his new home. Warmth permeated the bedroom in Florida even through the thick hurricane shutters. Yet he still could recall how cold that particular night had been. The snow had been falling for days in small, barely measurable amounts. Nothing that concerned the normal Michigan natives, but earlier in the day a larger storm front had blown in from the east off the lakes, and that was quickly changing the scene. Lake effect snow was how the newscasters referenced it. It was expected that the slowly building accumulations of snow on the ground were going to be buried by the approaching blizzard. The reports also claimed that the snow was already falling faster than the snow removal teams could clear the streets. It wasn't a night for the weak of heart or the warm-blooded.

As the snow unrelentingly fell down onto a rapidly buried Detroit, Jerry continued to try to research the names of the council's axe men. His anger was only matched by his perseverance. He would get his revenge. Seeing the fresh faces of the few students inside the public library further served to remind him of how much he'd lost. He had been worshipped and adored. He'd been feared and hated. But in his current shape of a middle aged man, which was all that he was or could only be described as -- he was ignored, at best, pitied and invisible at worse. The students silently gathered up their notebooks and left the immediate area without giving him a second glance. He stewed with hatred again at the loss of his youthful looks.

The night of the incident Jerry found himself sitting in the darkening library, nearly alone, while searching for any mention of the council's vampires. The vampire who seemed to be in charge while he'd been held captive in the coffin was called Ben Richland. That vamp's name had been mentioned in a glossy HR sort of PR generated piece the week before as a newly appointed CEO of one of the various companies that he knew the vampires from the council ran. Jerry saw that as a reward for punishing and killing off his entire clan. He also took it to mean that the council had decided that he was also finally dead. An icy wind blew against the windows rattling the panes and sending a chill through the few elderly patrons left huddled in the chairs reading day-old newspapers and thick books. He kept perusing the Internet for information. The news reports he had opened up on one of the computer links showed that the entire metro area and most of the southern part of the state was being blanketed steadily with snow. A warning about icy roads and possible power outages ran in a small box on the local news web sites along with a number to call if there was a medical emergency. Jerry found that funny because from all the reports he'd read he didn't see how the rescue crews would be able to respond.

As if his mockery had called unwelcome attention to the library, the lights flickered and then abruptly went off. The few patrons in the room where he was slowly made for the doors, grumbling, while the librarians called for everyone to leave from the front exit. They used small battery operated flashlights that flickered with their gesturing to guide the folks to the main exit. Jerry had just read the name Ben Richland on another site when the power on the computers went down. The back up system for powering the computers tried to sputter back to life but the drain from various library systems was too much and the computer screens went as black as the rest of the library.

Jerry walked quickly to a window and looked out to see if the power was out on the whole block or just in a few of the buildings on the street. To his anger he could see that a nearby apartment complex was still well lit. A feeling tickled through him. It wasn't from a vampire, but from a scent of a vampire. A team of four or five humans were approaching from the back of the library while there were at least two more hanging around in the front of the library. The intruders were attempting to be quiet and near as he could tell, none of the human patrons or librarians could hear them. But he could. The large Italianate-styled marble-trimmed 1920's library was huge but the acoustics resonated well enough for his vampiric enhanced hearing aiding him in his eavesdropping. And soon, from what he overheard them say, he knew that they had been sent to either capture or kill whoever had accessed the pages with Ben Richland's name. He wondered if they were looking for a vampire or just someone who didn't appear "right". As he watched a smelly homeless man layered with tattered wool and denim bits and pieces of cast off clothing shuffle by, he figured that finding someone that didn't appear 'right' could be complicated. How would they know who was the person interested in Ben Richland? It didn't matter either way -- he wasn't in the mood to tangle with them.

He also wasn't in any hurry to find out if they were better equipped to handle him than the last group, so he disregarded the staff that kept trying to push him out the front doors and slid quietly into the basement when they turned to handle one of the vagrants pitching a fit at being told that he had to go. From down in the basement he waited in the dark for everyone to leave. The humans who'd been sent to track the computer user were talking in soft whispers and taking a head count. By the librarians strict following of disaster protocol, the humans were being effectively funneled out for the watchers to pick off if needed.

Jerry wasn't thrilled by the storm and knew it was just adding to the controlled chaos. From the conversations he could easily hear outside the door he knew that they had a number of exactly how many people had entered the library. He could also hear a snapping sound that confused him for a minute or two until he figured out that someone was using a camera and taking pictures of everyone leaving. The sharpened vampiric senses came in handy but still didn't tell him how they'd ultimately find their victim from the mass of humanity fleeing. The click of the shutter effect on a digital camera was what he was hearing near as he could tell. Possibly one on a cell camera, everyone's image was being rapidly stored and probably sent out to whoever had sent them out in the storm to find him. He figured out that was how he'd be caught if he ventured out into the street. Then a curse-filled tirade scorched the air as one of the homeless men was found cowering in a bathroom stall by one of the men searching. He was unceremoniously shoved out into the foyer and told to leave by a husky voiced man. The patron swore and reluctantly left. The staff was clueless. After the library was nearly empty, he heard some of the intruding humans that had come through the back door opening and shutting doors above him. They weren't being as quiet as they'd been initially, but the sounds from the storm masked their searching. He knew he would be discovered by a physical search if he didn't move, so he looked around the dark basement for another exit.

A skittering sound from a corner reminded him that he wasn't the only nocturnal creature in the large musty basement. The rats and mice were giving him an idea. He could hear that the rats and mice filled the walls and he could easily hear them squeaking and squawking their displeasure at the intruders. He looked around the stacks of books and made his way to the nearest wall. Walking softly he found the wall by touch and began his search. The lit emergency signs gave him a little light so he could see somewhat and avoided slamming into such pitfalls as low stacks of books and a wickedly sharp fire extinguisher canister in a safety box. It didn't take long before he found exactly what he was looking for on one of the inner walls.

The library used a dumb waiter system to send books up when patrons wanted a tome that was either in special reserves or long abandoned to the dusty basement where it was rarely requested. He slowly made his way onto the dumb waiter and carefully using the ancient pulley system hoisted himself between the floors. From there he could hear the humans rapidly running down the stairs to the basement. He could hear the harsh whispers of the searchers. They had both cell phones and walkie-talkies and were in communication with the humans outside. It didn't matter, as they didn't find him. They kept thumping around, grumbling about the ill-planned mission and the wet falling snow. Eventually they concluded they'd miscounted the number of patrons that had come in the library. One man said that the Master had given them the all clear. He added in his distinctively deep voice that nobody who'd left the library had fit the description of the person the Master was seeking. The man was irritated and quite ready to go from what Jerry could sense. If they'd had brought an actual vampire with them he would have been found easily but they were only the humans with a vampire scent on them all. The voice of the Master Vampire who'd been on the phone with the man hadn't been one that he recognized by scent on the humans or by the Master's voice. That was something that followed him deep into the night.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-03-07
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