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February 19, 2024

The Building 8

By Lydia Manx

The former vampire royalty, now calling himself Jerry Cooper in Florida, recalled waiting for at least another two hours before making his way cautiously out of the library. None of the librarians at the Detroit Public Library had come back after they'd left and they had simply locked the doors and without power they didn't bother to trigger the security alarm for the structure. The power and back up generators had been disabled earlier, and the alarm didn't even chirp as the night grew longer. The humans sent to trap him, the vampire using the Internet to find Ben Richland or any of the council's lapdogs who'd imprisoned him, had given up after a few hours of searching and went back into the blizzard attacking Detroit. That worked in his favor. He remembered what had happened during that incident in the library where he'd nearly been discovered. He hated that he'd been cowering in between the floors inside the dumb waiter while the humans had searched.

Eventually he was out in the ice and deep piles of snow; the forecast of near blizzard conditions predicted had actually been accurate for a change. The snow had buffered the sounds and created an isolating insular feeling in the blanketed city. His walk away from the library was slow and he was weary. As he was trudging back to his current nest, it dawned on him that could be possibly a bad move. He'd been assuming that the watchers who'd cut the power on the library didn't know exactly who or what they were looking for inside. Having already been captured once, he didn't feel like playing the fool two times in a row. It never paid to underestimate the council, he'd finally concluded. Without hesitation, he'd changed his direction and had gone away from his newest home. Eventually he'd found an abandoned building and made his way to the basement where he had huddled in the dark and slept restlessly.

The next evening, the new Jerry Cooper began the next stage of the transformation of his existence. He had given up his world, his land and all of the long familiar locations to end up in Florida as a security guard. He didn't have to work that evening, so instead he watched the evening sky fill with stars as he pondered his options. It was more than a little ironic that he, a now dethroned prince of sorts, had ended up punching a time clock and living like a regular human while building a new life. He hadn't made any fledglings or even taken a human slave for a minion. Since he'd headed south from Michigan along the snowbird trail to Florida, the loss of his clan still haunted his dreams and colored his nightmares. But the time had come and he knew that he needed to finally start making some moves.

When locked up in the casket in the house in a Detroit suburb he'd figured he was going to be dead long before he was freed. Part of what kept him going was the thought of the punishment he would dish out when he finally escaped. The agony of the silver-lined coffin had been unbelievably torturous as designed. What he hadn't counted on was it taking so long to track down the council's pet enforcers. They didn't always work as a team, he'd discovered through careful research from the computers in the office building he 'guarded'. Admittedly he used a little of his vampiric powers to gain access to the system fully. The IT department had kept odd hours so any irregularity was easily dismissed. To fix part of the problem, Jerry added in a bit of his own personal charms though a vampire mind push or two that made them all take the blame automatically for any gaps found in the computer time and usage. He couldn't count on the vampire council taking the time to set up the same team again for his convenience, so he would have to take the vamps out one at a time. And from what he had found he wouldn't have to go far. There was one of the captors currently living in Florida on the beach. Semi-retired it seemed from all appearances, but Jerry wasn't exactly sure.

After reliving his 'recreation' from the reigning vampire Prince of Detroit to the lowly security guard called Jerry Cooper, he felt it was time to take out the viper in his own backyard. He flipped on the TV to watch the local nightly news. He was amused by the saucy women pretending they understood what they were talking about while obviously reading the teleprompters delivering the local death count, weather and social banter. He never understood the humans' fascination with mayhem and death. When they were faced with it personally they certainly didn't seem to greet it with the same enjoyment.

A silver-haired man stood in front of the latest crime scene in Miami and stared directly into the camera's lens while talking about how the occupants of the well-lit home directly behind him had been gunned down by unknown assailants. Jerry could tell that the news reporter had once been somebody by the way he intoned his words and tried to keep a grim face. The vampire also knew that the man couldn't give a damn about the occupants of the home and wished he had the guts to get a gun and shoot up the neighborhood. It wasn't a racial bias, but anger at the downward spiral of his own life. Jerry didn't have to use any of his vampiric senses to read the reporter's body language. After a couple dozen decades plus of watching human behavior, Jerry found that it was an easily acquired skill.

A young sobbing woman wearing a thin cotton summer dress was pushed into the frame and began rambling about how nobody knew anything and the babies were all dead. She was no more than twenty or twenty-five with beautiful skin and a pleasant smile. Thick tears ran down her face and she wrung her hands holding a blue and white dishcloth spattered with blood. He figured the blood wasn't hers because he couldn't see anything on her that appeared out of sorts other than the tears and uncontrollable sobs.

The cameraman shifted angles away from the woman now growing quite hysterical, and Jerry saw a crew of cops standing around while one of them lifted a corner of the cloth that draped a bloody body. The gore of the assault on the human body was visibly spilling out onto the lawn and at home for the causal TV viewer. The news crew inside the studio were stunned when the director cut abruptly back to them. There was no snappy dialogue as the segue went from the live scene to the stage where the newscasters read their pretty words. Jerry laughed at the deer-in-headlights looks on the two anchors' faces. He stopped laughing when he caught a glimpse of one of the makeup girls as she ran off camera. She was the 'semi-retired' vampire that had settled in Florida. She was the reason he even watched this newscast. He'd found out three months ago she worked in the station. It was a sign.

The news team quickly fussed with some of the scattered prop paperwork on the top of the news desk they sat behind, while somebody out of sight began filling the lead anchor woman's ear with solemn words, while she carefully framed her features to match the words flooding her empty brain. Jerry stared at the TV, willing the vampire to stroll back onto the set. Naturally she didn't. The other anchorman said that they'd get back to the horrific scene as more news developed. From the display of the body that had been glimpsed by viewers Jerry seriously doubted they'd be going back 'live' any time in the immediate future. He also doubted that they'd be using the same cameraman anytime in the foreseeable future.

It was all he could do to sit and watch the evening news continue. He had to figure out how to get that vampire. Her features were etched into his brain like the religious icons that had lined the casket in Detroit that had viciously branded his body. Most of those marks made with the blessed silver had nearly faded, while his memory of her was as fresh as if he'd seen her yesterday.

She'd been the bait for the trap the council's vampires had used to get him and slaughter his entire clan.

The vampire bait was a delicately featured girl. She had shoulder length light brown hair. Her large hazel eyes were framed with thick lashes and a small-pursed set of lips -- which she'd lavishly coated with a shade of bubblegum pink lipstick. He had known immediately that she was a vampire after he'd seen her stumble by a large white and mud coated panel van. Part of the reason had been because her fangs snapped out and she hissed while holding her injured hand up to her face. Her blood had dripped like gemstones to the pavement. A nearby garbage can had caught her mid-tumble, it appeared.

Jerry had been going from one of the clan meeting houses to his current lair when she'd caught his eye. He preferred to walk most evenings. Usually two or more of his fledglings or a few of his favorite minion escorted him. That evening his second-in-command, Ron Stoddard, had had to quell a problem over in Royal Oak and he'd declined to snag anyone else from his clan to escort him. The weather had been cool and the city was quiet.

Forgetting any normal cautions once seeing the gorgeous creature's tongue dart out from between her fangs and lave at the bloody gash, he had sauntered towards her saying, "Are you alright, my child?" While he'd watched her tongue roll across her sweetly colored lips, she had looked at him from over her rapidly healing hand.

He could easily see that she wasn't much older than two or three decades in her vampire life and she had exuded a certain vulnerability that he rarely saw in any vampires male or female. It didn't do to smell or act like prey around ego-centered vampires, a lesson that was usually learned quickly by his fledglings. She was wearing modern clothes, which he wasn't in favor of with in his clan. Usually his fledglings and minions wore elegant attire, evening dresses and gowns, tuxedos and tailored suits, when in his company. The vampire facing him had on a pair of skinny jeans, a soft lavender hoodie and a pair of running shoes -- extremely modern.

"Oh, aren't you just the sweetest thing!" Her voice matched her body -- soft and honey-filled -- a Southern drawl spoken in the barest of whispers. Jerry, as the Prince of the City and reigning Vampire Master of Detroit, had shed any sense of self-preservation and went even closer, because after all, it was his city.

He did a quick mental push into her mind and was shocked. She hadn't registered in his head at all. Automatically he'd mentally reached out to pull from his power base of vampires nearby and then received an even ruder shock. Everyone was gone. He had felt like a large bell jar had descended from the heavens, cutting him off from the entire world.

She had been still smiling at him with her fangs sharply displayed for any passing human to see. Looking around, he'd seen that there weren't any people actually on the street. He'd tried to mentally drain a human from inside one of the nearby buildings and was astounded to find that the call bounced unanswered. He couldn't recall not being able to touch another's mind in at least a century. It had been like only the young vampire woman and he were left on the face of the earth.

A chill had chased down his spine as he looked right and left. She stood looking puzzled.

"Honey? What's wrong?" Her sugar laced words had tangled in his mind, while there was an odd clicking noise in the distance that had seemed to shadow her talking. Then he'd felt like she'd slammed him to the ground with a sledgehammer and a smile. He'd felt confused and disoriented. There hadn't been any reason for her to hold such a sway. The clicking noise had turned into a low hum and he had shivered. He'd fed just an hour before and he wasn't even hungry. Her eyes had been meeting his and he'd felt a nudge of something more than just recognition.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-03-14
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