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July 15, 2024

The Building 12

By Lydia Manx

Jerry stood still, blocking the door into his home from Edna. He was puzzled as to why the eighty plus lady thought he'd know what happened to her missing toy poodle, Mister Peaches. His mind was still trying to work through his next move now that he knew Celina Holston had been on television, very much alive and still walking the night. He no longer could wait armed with his own suspicions, as he had positive confirmation that one of the vampire council's enforcers was actually living so close. The paper and computer trail had told him the same thing, but as he well knew, vampires tended to acquire human beings with their names, lives and assorted baggage easily. Personally Jerry had found it easier to kill the human rather than run the risk of running into his doppelganger. But the council tended to support identity theft rather than murder -- a bit ironic given their own draconian style of ruling.

So Jerry no longer had the luxury of deluding himself that Celina was just a bit of human-vampire name confusion. He knew it was the Southern syrup-dripping vampire who'd tantalized him into a rather major misstep. One that he knew had cost him his entire reign in Detroit. He didn't flee immediately after he'd been sprung from the council's cursed casket, unlike some of the rogue vamps who ran upon hearing about his slain family, even though they'd only been loosely associated with his clan. Once the council had targeted his territory the rats deserted the sinking ship quickly. The expected donations of blood and money disappeared instantly after he'd been grabbed and his fledglings and minions slain. Vampire loyalty wasn't exactly a strong suit in the supernatural creatures then or now. He'd taken time to gain some strength, a new identity and start the search for his former captors.

No matter how he twisted and turned it, Celina had been the instrument of his downfall. That and a two-foot tall black box with a slice of a blue flashing light that apparently had been fed his blood. He still had nightmares about those months of being tortured by the council's henchmen. He'd never fought so hard in his life as he had to make his way down to Florida once he'd become Jerry Cooper.

"If your dog door," he refused to use the cute 'doggy' word ever, "was shut, why ever would you come to me?"

That temporarily shut Edna's mouth. She tended to only venture to his lair as an absolute last resort. Which was how he preferred it to be. He was known in the neighborhood to be silent, standoffish and when it suited him, utterly boorish as a general rule, and people avoided him like he was contagious.

In a small way it was actually an accurate statement -- not that any of them suspected what he truly was. He didn't go to the clubhouse events, wander over to the various barbecues that he was invited to at times or even put up Christmas lights -- the curmudgeon behavior wasn't too far off from how he felt most nights. The only way to stay remote and untouchable was to not interact with people on a daily basis. If he were a friend with the local humans it would make it far too easy for him to slip up one night and possibly hit a nerve or reveal his differences. Some of the humans in the area had been involuntary blood donors for past vampires, not him, he didn't shit where he slept. But he could smell past vampires in the night and he could see it in the eyes of the crones and wizened old men as they shuffled down the walks towards various nocturnal pursuits. The old clustered together trying to keep themselves safe in numbers from unknown nightmares. Buried in their subconscious was that they were all survivors from vampires, but even though none of them currently fed any creatures, in their hearts and minds they realized that they were still prey. Being seventy or eighty years old didn't automatically dull a human's survival instinct; they kept together and tried to keep busy.

Edna's brain had finally come up with a somewhat plausible excuse for disturbing him with the missing Mister Peaches issue.

"As you may already know, Mister Hank, I think three doors over," she vaguely waved in the opposite direction of her home, "just got that hip replacement surgery?" As if that would narrow the number of Mister Hanks in the area, he personally knew of at least four in a five block radius, but he hadn't 'known' about his neighbor since he didn't chat with the neighbors but he had smelt death on the wind a few nights back so Mr. Hank wasn't recovering quite as expected. Nothing he'd share with Edna since he only had his vampire senses as evidence.

He remained silent, waiting; it didn't take long for Edna to fill the dead air between them, "I need someone to check behind the stove -- once when Mister Peaches was a puppy he got stuck back there and there was a devil of a time getting him out." Edna looked upset and she added darkly, "His poor heart may have given out." Jerry sighed and pulled the door shut behind him since he gathered it was just easier to give in before she started whining. Once on the doorstep he pulled out his house key from his front pocket and locked the deadbolt.

"Oh my! This is a safe neighborhood. There's no need to lock your door." Edna seemed put out by his minor safety measure. He well knew the rear of his house was open to anyone willing to climb a high fence or scramble up the side of the canal. There wasn't much in the way of defense in the back other than his own personal weapons and fangs. The years he'd lived on the Intra Coastal Waterway there'd never been an intruder. His property wasn't huge, he didn't have any obvious displays of excessive wealth visible from the waterway and there wasn't a boat dock much less a boat parked behind his home.

He liked looking at the water, naturally, but had absolutely no interest in floating on it. He'd sense an intruder inside his home the second he opened the front door but didn't see the need to let Edna get any ideas about popping in uninvited some time down the road. He went with an acceptable answer, "I'm from Detroit, I always lock up."

She nodded at the apparent wisdom and he knew that little tidbit of information about him would be used to the utmost advantage by her at the local events, coffee klatches or sewing circles, whatever it was the old birds did clucking around during the morning hours inside the gated community. Some days he would be resting on his bed hearing the various women chatting about grandkids and cruises while sauntering on the sidewalk past his house. His vampiric hearing gave him at times unwelcome sensory overload and the ladies' voices would shrill and trill even over the loud birds in the branches outside the window.

Once out of his yard, Edna's pace picked up and she quickly minced to her own front door. Without slowing she opened the door into the house with no hesitation or attempt at caution much less personal safety. She paid with her life. The moment Jerry'd hit the sidewalk in front of Edna's house he smelt the creature. Edna's dog hadn't been gobbled up by any sort of reptile; no it'd been a water creature of a different nature -- not something that humans would even think of looking for when their pets were missing. Humans kept close to their delusions liking to quip something to the effect, "If you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras."

A supernatural zebra had made its way inside Edna's invitingly open home, and obviously from the scent still lingering in the house that Jerry could detect, had eaten Mister Peaches. Apparently it wasn't full, because as Edna burst through her unlocked door, the troll bit off Edna's head -- almost as decisively as the gator had taken out the Muscovy duck earlier on the channel.

Jerry's skin crawled with the flood of magic the troll was using. Glamour didn't come cheap and the appearance of normalcy had been cast aside once the creature chomped down on Edna's frail figure. She wouldn't be telling her friends how she'd discovered Jerry's former hometown; she wouldn't be speaking ever again. Her blood spattered out from its mouth, dripping onto her very clean beige tile flooring in drops along with phlegm-spewed troll dribble. The troll was voraciously hungry. The troll dropped the appearance of a small bent man that it had been donning with troll glamour and now it looked like a large scaly troll eating. It wasn't a pretty sight. The smacking and crunching noises weren't in the least appetizing either. Vampires could eat far more delicately if needed, but never the trolls.

Fangs out, Jerry held up a palm while watching the brown-green troll try to accommodate the still wiggling and spasmodically jerking body of the now half-eaten Edna. Her heart had stopped the second the troll had snatched her and jammed her into its mouth, and at least the mystery of the missing Mister Peaches was solved.

There was an awkward moment while the troll finished swallowing Edna. One of her shoes fell off of her foot and clattered into her blood. A slightly embarrassed look flooded its face as it loudly belched.

"Night One, why here?" Its tusks weren't extremely large, Jerry'd seen much larger ones, but from the recently departed Edna and poodle they quite obviously did the necessary job.

Thankfully, the troll was starving because the bits from chomping down on Edna were relatively little by comparison to the chewing and tearing off of limbs while savoring its meal. Trolls could leave quite a mess. The pool of blood was fairly small and the troll had quickly eaten the old woman. The intestines and bowels hadn't been spattered. Edna was only two quick bites for this troll; had she been a larger woman it would have been quite a different scene. Hell, it would have been a different scene had it taken any longer. He didn't even know if the troll was male or female; just because it had assumed the appearance of an old man meant nothing in the grand scheme of troll glamour; and he wouldn't presume to inquire since more than a few foolish humans and not to mention some young, permanently dead, vampires had made that mistake. Trolls could easily be angered when asked about their sex. Jerry always put it down to them not having much sex no matter which team they played for and on.

This troll wasn't any uglier or prettier -- if such a word had ever been applied to trolls -- than the ones Jerry'd seen and dealt with over the decades back in Michigan. The voice was old and weary, but non-confrontational. Trolls had worked for vampires in the past, and been paid handsomely in gold and land grants. A necessary transaction most times; he'd never known trolls to do a favor -- there wasn't even a word for it in their own tongue, Jerry'd been told more than once. They weren't allies per se but more like supernatural neighbors. They tended to stay out of each other's way over the centuries. Trolls weren't overly social even with other trolls, which again explained the lack of sex.

Jerry could see that this troll wasn't young and had worked with vampires before; it was in the dark gray-black eyes. Blades and hot magic forged the thick rippled scars all over its body. Jerry saw the creature in its true form; it wasn't pretty, handsome or even somewhat attractive to most creatures but no matter what a troll was always formidable.

"I happen to live in this area," Jerry wasn't stupid. For whatever reason both of them hadn't sensed the other's presence, so he had no need to give the troll a map to his front steps. Loyalty could be easily bought and he didn't have the backing of the council, another piece of news he didn't see the need to volunteer.

"I did not be told." The troll's tummy gurgled and churned noisily as it digested old Edna. Jerry briefly found amusement in the fact now Mister Peaches was reunited with his beloved owner, if only in death.

The troll's shoulders hunched as it added, "Glades too noisy now. Too many humans."

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-04-18
Image(s) © Lydia Manx, Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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