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July 04, 2022

The Building 9

By Lydia Manx

Jerry Cooper, the new and vampiricly enhanced one -- not the one dead in the basement of an abandoned Detroit building, sat glued to the television set in his Florida home, waiting for another glimpse of the 'semi-retired' vampire anywhere in the background of the last bit of evening news. He wasn't physically Crazy-Glued to the TV, but parked dead center in front of the cursed box, watching. He ignored the night calling him outside and simply stared. Ever since the local news director had unexpectedly cut back to the studio from the live shot of a dead body, Jerry'd been reliving the first time he'd seen her. She'd been the bait in the council's vampire trap and damn tasty looking bait at that. He'd been coming home from an evening meeting alone for a change, which had soon proved to be part of the carefully orchestrated kidnapping of him off the streets of his very own city.

He still couldn't believe he'd been so foolish as to think he had been untouchable. The nearly five months of being held captive by the council's henchmen and woman had given him plenty of time to contemplate where it had all gone wrong. Ron Stoddard, his second-in-command, had usually walked with him back to his lair but that evening he'd been pulled to a problem in another part of the town. While walking by himself he'd been distracted by a lovely vampire who'd stumbled and injured her hand. The lure of the blood was what first caught his attention, but it was the utterly vulnerable look that pulled him closer.

She was a soft-speaking vampire, something that rarely lasted a decade. That had made his mouth water. As the reigning hierarchy in the Detroit area, he was allowed to poach from any and all vampires as his due: seniority had its privileges. Her voice was sweetened with a lazy Southern drawl -- light and airy making him think of spun sugar and caramel melting on his tongue -- her small mouth painted a delicious pink. When her fangs had come out and she had licked her gash shut, he'd walked even closer to her. Looking back, he figured the cat-like lapping of the wound was well thought out.

That wasn't the most disturbing bit that had happened. What had knocked him flat was that he couldn't connect to anybody in the immediate area. He'd attempted to pop into her mind automatically when he neared her. He couldn't read her thoughts. He had reached out further for any humans. He had tried again to touch her mind as a fellow vampire. He should've easily been able to find a blood volunteer from any creature in a city block for his pleasure and their pain. Instead he'd found nothing. Not a trace of people with their little thoughts of survival or even her, even while she was standing less than a foot from him. She should have been easily rolled by his mind. Somehow he'd been trapped. His head swam in confusion, and he was dizzy. He had been little more than a field mouse frozen by the cat's stare. Jerry'd been tempted by a feline of the vampire persuasion. He'd stepped closer to her to see if he could help, then he had found that he couldn't pull away. The humming sound that seemed to be linked to her had continued to vibrate through his body.

It was like the ground had enclosed his feet and he was unable to leave her side. A feeling of slight panic had raced through him and he'd attempted to shift a foot off the ground to no avail. She'd casually flipped out a small cell phone and punched a few buttons and then said, "I got him."

Abstractly, he'd noticed that the pretty vampire was still talking with her soft breathy Southern drawl, so he concluded that hadn't been faked, unlike her stumble into the trashcan where she'd sliced open her soft, white, little palm. When he was frozen in place it had dawned on him that she'd intentionally 'fallen' and cut her hand open to distract him and make him notice her. It was like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, he'd disjointedly thought while he'd tried somewhat frantically to jerk his foot off the pavement. It worked, but then he had tripped instead of walked. The nearby trashcan hadn't caught his fall, but instead, the edge of the muddy white panel van parked next to the curb, that he'd half noticed when he'd been drawn to her side.

She'd pulled out a key fob and clicked some buttons on the remote control device that caused the large side panel door to slide open softly on the van he was leaning against, and she had unceremoniously manhandled his limp body into the vehicle. She was much stronger than her soft voice. She was a vampire and had the strength of a dozen men; there was little softness in her hefting him inside the van. He'd fallen in, and without being cushioned, he rather abruptly face planted onto the metal unlined floor. He had been half inside the van and half out, but didn't have the ability to move from the undignified position.

He had been growing fuzzy and his eyes were swimming. The hum was louder in his ears and through his unwilling body. He'd glanced up from the dirty floor of the van and was momentarily confused by the large shape that loomed over him that was already inside the cargo area. Then his vision had cleared briefly as she easily tossed his limp legs and feet all of the way into the van. She'd pulled the sliding door shut with a firm and particularly ominous thud. The big shape looming him over in the cargo area of the van he'd seen had the decidedly uncomfortable appearance of a casket. The vampire had hopped into the driver's seat and was naturally back on her cell phone. Jerry had nearly become jaded to how easily women chatted on cells while wandering all over the road. The icy roads weren't helping her navigational skills any, he had quickly figured out from how the back end of the van kept fishtailing.

"Honey, it wasn't even hard! Like you promised like nobody came out and Lord above that device you had me use worked like an absolute charm." She had been somewhat breathless with her excitement.

She had laughed lightly and snapped shut the phone, not even bothering to glance back to see how he was. And what he had been at the moment was extremely angry and unable to lift a fang to free himself. He'd heard an odd hum and had seen that there was a two foot square black box with a four-inch swath of blue light that blinked in the slit at the top of the horrid device.

Something must have alerted her to his slight movement and interest in the still humming black box. Her eyes had flickered over him, but she'd hit another bump in the road and actually was forced to concentrate on the road for a second. Jerry had been also distracted, as the smell of absent vampires was sickeningly strong inside the closed space. He could detect fear, anger, resentment and the most frightening of all aromas -- acceptance. Vampires stuffed inside the van had accepted the punishment being given as if it was fated or even expected. Oddly none of the vampire scents were even remotely familiar to him. He had known in his soul that he'd never accept that the vampire council had the right to dictate where and how he ruled. He'd been walking the night for centuries, not decades, and never saw any of the council as worthy of respect, much less the position of control over him and his.

A very deep pothole had jarred him and his face had smashed down on the metal bed of the flooring in the vehicle.

The vampire had laughed, "Comfortable back there, sugah? Sorry, I didn't have much time to clean up." Her eyes had sparkled mischievously in the rearview mirror she'd tilted so she could watch him.

The van had windows in the front part of the vehicle, but there hadn't been any back windows or windows on the passenger's side, so it wasn't like she was using that mirror for much anyways. A claustrophobic sensation had chased over his skin. They hit yet another dip in the winter-ravaged road, further bruising his body.

He had desperately needed blood. All the stress was starting to wear on him and even though he'd fed recently the drain from whatever that box was doing to his mind and body was also pulling at his hunger. He had wanted use of his limbs and fangs soon. The state of limbo he'd currently found himself frozen in had begun to agitate him.

The unknown Southern vampire had caught his eyes glaring up at the rearview mirror, watching her. All she'd done in response was chuckle. He'd felt his ire rise with the condescending retort.

"Ya'all having a problem back there?" The honey-coated sarcasm didn't escape his notice but there hadn't been anything he could do yet. He'd pushed out his thoughts and had fleetingly found human's minds as they sped down the rutted road but they were foggy and distant like he was blanketed deep beneath the earth -- which he knew personally wasn't a good thing for vampires or humans.

Jerry had worked his lips and found he could croak out, "No, lovely coffin, and you drive divinely." Both were lies but he had been pleased to find his vocal cords. Nothing else had been working on his body so he'd take what he could.

She'd giggled a bit distractedly and then her phone had rung. Naturally the ring tone was annoyingly "I Wish I Was in Dixie," giving him further cause to wonder how a Southerner ended up in Detroit. Winters in the upper parts of the country could be brutal; he'd figured her to be more of a hothouse plant like an orchid or another exotic strain of flower. He had stifled a chuckle of his own; his scattered thoughts wouldn't go over well. Personally, he'd wished she were in Alaska buried deep under the frozen ground or an ice flow or the middle of a volcanic eruption in Hawaii.

"Hon! What ever are you doing callin' me? You know I am driving." She had giggled again.

Thankfully his vampiric hearing hadn't diminished with all the whammy-bammy things that had been happening. He couldn't move or really connect with anyone's thoughts and feelings but he could still listen. A deep voice had answered her.

"I am making sure he didn't beat the box." The vampire had chuckled at his joke. Somehow Jerry had known he was talking about that odd box right behind the driver's seat facing him, not the casket above his head -- at least not at the moment. The blue light was oddly hypnotic and he had found he was getting dizzy again. Part of him had wondered why the younger vampire driving wasn't reacting to the box like he was.

"No, whoever gave you his blood did us a favor. He's struggling but not able to move." She purred and had taken a sharp turn, causing him to bash into the coffin hovering above his head. The casket was on top of the accordion-framed cart that funeral parlors usually draped with well-placed black skirt.

Jerry had wanted to scream and ask who'd given his blood to the unknown vampire on the other end of the call. But instead he had listened and waited. The idea that some unknown vampire had somehow stolen some of his blood and given it to another vamp was haunting him as the female vampire continued to natter into the cell phone. He had known it could only have been some fledgling or vampire allied close to him -- it wasn't like he went around popping open a vein so anyone could sip.

The vampire had cast his mind back to the past few months; it came to him that he'd used an ancient crystal goblet a few moons ago but that was licked clean by the time he'd been done with the ceremony -- he was nearly positive. The thoughts of betrayal within his clan had briefly gnawed at him but he'd arrogantly dismissed the ideas as delusional. Frustrated, he'd cast his thoughts out with a forceful anger -- the blue light began to strobe quickly and the hum grew louder.

To his fury laughter had bubbled out of the Southern Belle -- "He's sure as the sunset trying to fight the box."

A gruff chuckle from the unseen vampire and then, "Not that it matters, you are getting closer, I can feel you now."

She'd wiggled her eyebrows in the mirror at Jerry who was still frozen and had said, "See here, it's not going to help. Just calm yourself."

The last thing he had felt was calm, and he wasn't given to listening to upstart vampires. Something of what he felt must have rolled over his face because she had stomped on the brakes, and the van spun in a fast circle through an empty intersection.

Once the van had rocked to a stop she said to her caller, "Just give me a second, darlin' I need to give this vampire an adjustment."

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-03-21
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