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April 22, 2024

The Building 10

By Lydia Manx

Jerry sat back onto the cushions of the smaller sofa facing the Intra Coastal Waterway (Boca Raton's name for the rivet cut through the city to the Atlantic Ocean) that was nearly in his backyard. The edge of the channel was calling the night that much closer and at times it seemed it called dawn even quicker. The heat still rolled through the open windows even long after sunset. Humidity was there just out of reach reminding him that the winters in Florida were mild even when he wasn't. Mosquitoes, practically the Floridians' state bird, flitted inside and back out with no screens to hamper their flight or disturb his enjoyment of the yard. The mosquitoes never bothered him. He'd discovered that most insects never bothered vampires right after he'd been first turned. He didn't know why, or truthfully much care, but it made the dark nights far more tolerable. The iguanas mostly steered clear of his home also. He'd tossed the ones that troubled him into the canal with little concern for their survival. The non-native reptiles could and did swim easily to the safety of the other side of the channel and onto the nearby rock outcropping that lined the water's edge. Once the iguanas dried off they would continue to crawl up the sides of the canal to find a place to recover far away from him.

Winters were worse for the pushy iguanas. They actually could freeze to death if they didn't find shelter and warmth before their blood thickened and they were unable to move to safety. Jerry could somewhat empathize with the frozen in place iguana-sicles after his experience with that evil black box that the vampire council's enforcers had used on him in Detroit a few years back. It still seemed like last week, not like a couple of years had passed at all. But the frozen iguanas could and did thaw if brought out of the cold in time. Unlike him, if he weren't able to find his way to safety his survival wasn't nearly as guaranteed. Jerry didn't much care one way or the other what happened to the angry reptiles. He didn't toss them into the canal during the winter because the feeling of their partially frozen skin was repulsive to him. Instead he usually ignored them frozen on the walkways and around the house and instead he let the house cleaner deal with them.

Living in the southern states wasn't like his reign in Michigan, where he had over a dozen human servants to tend to his daily needs. His finances had been greatly reduced with his self-imposed exile to Florida. With his clan literally torn apart, he didn't have the desire to rebuild his empire with any new vampires, fledglings, much less any human minions. And even if he had the political backing of the vampires behind him in Detroit working in his favor, the vampire council would have made any reemergence nearly impossible. Cash was always king in both the human and vamp dynasties. When he'd been held captive for nearly half a year the vampire council had completely decimated his funds and family.

The council had taken all of his money, homes, very luxurious ones at that, not to mention all the blood offerings that were his natural due as Master of the City. If he'd stayed in Detroit he knew that the council would have just sent another team of axe men and they'd already sold his lands off to another vampire by the time he got free. He had no empire left to fund his resurrection. All the human lawyers in the world couldn't reclaim his lands for him. He well knew how the council would fix any legal interference by him. They could push into any human attorney's mind and force them to drop the case and if that didn't work there'd be another tragic -- yet horrific -- gangland slaying that would befall the advocate. The move south had been his only true choice at the time. Besides, he was seeking vengeance not property rights and nebulous land titles.

His concession to playing at humanity and not a vampire Master was that he employed a household service that sent over a woman while he was working in the evenings. She cleaned the dust from the shelves, plumped the pillows and vacuumed the rugs. He paid the service through his checking account, not liking the feeling of handing money to a woman in his home and possibly having to deal with awkward questions about his living arrangement or becoming personally involved with a woman. He recognized his weaknesses without question. The only way he even knew that it was a woman who cleaned his home was her scent she left behind after she'd gone. There was the occasional vase of fresh cut flowers artfully arranged over the mantel of the seldom-used fireplace. He found the touches oddly human. Vampires didn't tend to cut flowers but throats.

Part of the service offered by the cleaning company was grocery shopping. He picked random food items from a generic list the company provided and emailed them every other week. After the larder and fridge were stocked he'd take various cans out and empty them down the garbage disposal. To keep the appearance of a man who ate he also donated various canned and package good to a local shelter anonymously. He found the never-ending bits and pieces of faking humanity to be irritating but necessary. Over the months he'd been held and tortured, he'd learned that one can never be too careful.

Something glinted in the canal and Jerry watched a fish flop up from the water and gasp at the air -- out of its element temporarily. He thought it was a bass but couldn't be sure. He could remember the rare feeling of vulnerability the night he'd been grabbed.

The vampire temptress who'd tossed him like a sack of garbage into the mud-dappled white van hadn't liked how he'd glared at her. She'd been busy chatting on her cell phone while seemingly deliberately hitting every pothole on the street. He didn't much care for the young vampire and she'd easily read his distain in his eyes. She had spun the van nearly in a completely circle while stomping on the brakes on the icy, rutted road. Then she tossed the cell phone onto the van's console -- it was still on -- and jerked the driver's door open. She didn't bother to shut off the vehicle or even close the door. She yanked the panel's side door open nearly taking it off its track.

"You see here, Master," she'd snarled the title with as much loathing as possible given her soft tones, "The Prince of Detroit act is done. Even now you should recognize that your snatch was a planned event -- not a random act of kindness," she had grabbed the front of his shirt and flashed her fangs while spitting out, "Ten more minutes and you'll know what I mean."

She'd physically thrust him backwards causing his head to thump painfully against the bottom of the large casket also sharing the cargo area. He'd pushed back with his mind, calling upon any souls near and had been relieved when he felt a tingle of energy flow back. Using the little bit of power that he'd been given he'd pushed his fangs out of his gums.

The black box, with the slice of light near the top, had been flashing blue like a disco ball, shining and flickering. The hum grew louder and the box began to vibrate. She still had a piece of his shirt in her hand and he had struck like a venomous snake downward on her exposed wrist. His reward had been a mouthful of her blood while she'd shrieked and shook his fangs free. It didn't matter because the bit of her blood tied him briefly to her. Just like that he'd known that she was an enforcer sent from the vampire council to slay his clan along with dismantling his entire vampire network. She'd been correct -- his abduction had been thoroughly planned, even down to the completely empty street and nearby buildings where he'd been pulled out of his reign as Master Vampire.

The rich crimson blood had freed him enough to say, "Celina Holston, my pleasure."

She had slammed him in the stomach, then bodily lifted him up, and with a ferocity he'd never assumed she'd possess, she'd ripped back the lid on the coffin hanging over his head and tossed him inside like he was a common sack of rubbish and the trash tin was overly rank.

Slamming the lid shut on the casket, she had sneered through the Plexiglas cut out window that was on the top of the coffin, saying, "See how ya'all like that bed! Pleasure my ass."

He didn't think she meant it. A feeling of anger had washed through him and he knew it was from her blood flowing through his body that he'd even been capable of hearing her thoughts. He'd offer to pleasure her but he didn't think she was in the mood. Something of his very thoughts had flowed back to her and he'd heard her shriek.

Jerry had flinched involuntarily when her face had loomed over him like a demented gargoyle, the plastic distorting her features just ever so slightly. Her fangs had glistened with spittle and her eyes filled with self-righteous fury. Even through his clothes he had felt the singe of heat that surrounded him. It was then he'd caught sight of what lined the coffin's interior. Silver-blessed icons and figurines that numerous souls had venerated, loved, and prayed upon letting their tears and dreams stain the metals, while instilling a higher power to the trinkets and collectables. He could feel the press of generations of humanity all over his skin. They all sang out at his presence and it wasn't a pleasant sound. The back of his right wrist had struck the edge of a sliver embossed crucifix when the vampire, now with a name -- Celina Holston -- jammed the van into gear and hit another pothole.

He'd bit at nothing with the jolt from the dip in the road inside the coffin while still tasting her blood inside him. Everywhere he'd looked, every way he'd turned or tried to turn resulted in him catching another glimpse of centuries of blessed objects -- he had hissed uselessly at the images that seemed to be taunting him.

Then he'd heard her clearly from within the casket as she spoke into her cell phone.

"I'll tell ya what that scream was -- littl' ol' me! I thought that the damned blood box kept him like frozen, immobile and not able to move." She had radiated anger and it fed Jerry inside the coffin. He still could taste her on his lips and inside his body. The box and silver blocked much of the connection but not all. He'd smiled with glee. Her emotions were feeding him. It wasn't as rich as her blood but it gave him hope.

"Again, why did you scream?" The deep voice had boomed into the phone and Jerry had heard him perfectly.

"The son of a fuckin' bitch chomped on my wrist is why I screamed!" Celina hadn't been driving with any skills, but angrily forcing the van down the urban street. It seemed that there were more potholes than stop signs, or she was just running through the intersections in a hurry to get to wherever it was that they were heading.

"What do you mean? Are you saying that he bit you?" The question had snarled through the air. Celina had spun the vehicle in a sharp turn then snapped back, "Get off your ass and come outside and see for your own damned self!"

The phone was audibly snapped shut as the van careened around another corner and bumped over something to come to a rather abrupt stop.

Yet again he had been jostled around the interior of the horribly lined coffin striking silver and pain all over his body. The driver's door was opened from what he could hear. Painfully enclosed, the vampire had tried to sit up inside the casket. He hated being confined and especially in a casket not of his choosing. His link to Celina hadn't disappeared but grown distant like a childhood memory -- vague with lost imagery just out of reach. The unknown box that had been tormenting him hummed even louder as he tried to pull at the vampire bodies he could hear outside the van. There hadn't been any humans nearby from what he could tell.

Flashes of faces, fangs and a brief glimpse of some fur, but still he had only a slight tenuous connection to the bubblegum shaded lips of Celina -- for she had been reduced to little more than that as a rolling wall of black hatred that rapidly flooded her mind pushing at his in the process.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-04-04
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