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February 19, 2024

The Building 14

By Lydia Manx

Jerry Cooper stood up and began to pace at the edge of the canal. He could see lightning in the distance and wondered how much longer before the rain came. He didn't want to appear too eager to end the chat or the troll could become suspicious of the vampire's real reasons. Despite their lumbering appearance and broken speech pattern they were not stupid, just different. The troll seemed receptive to Jerry's overtures of a new killing ground and one that was out of his immediate neighborhood.

"No like here. Too many dead walking." That took Jerry back for a minute. He hadn't smelt any zombies or undead around the area. Then it dawned on him that the troll wasn't crazy about the old folks, which was why it tried to snack on the dog first to fill its belly. Jerry didn't know if trolls could read the minds of their prey like vampires but he was perfectly sure that the eighty-plus old woman must have tasted vile. Her mind had been a quagmire of aged thoughts, dreams and half recalled recipes.

Even though Jerry was taken aback, it made sense; he didn't like to just fang into anyone. He wanted the full bouquet of flavors with fear and blood flowing into him while his donor wiggled and squirmed on the tips of his teeth. He rarely severed the artery of the aged, just a peek into the minds of folks like Edna was enough to turn his stomach and their blood wasn't rich and full of life but pre-embalmed and rancid. He figured that trolls could have just as discerning palates -- not that he'd ever have thought so after some of the battles in Michigan that he'd witnessed. The trolls had torn apart more than a few humans, werewolves and vampires at his command and not a morsel ever went to waste from his recall. There could be a bit of spatter and splashing of innards but not enough to recognize and identify. But with the new forensic sciences even that was changing. Cleaning up a kill could take longer than the actual battle. Which was why the scorched earth policy was pretty much mandated by the vampire council and other supernaturals trying to remain hidden.

"Understood. Do you trust me enough to travel to where I tell you?" He figured he could get the troll near the complex by running up the Intracoastal and a quick hop across the highway to the business park.

Jerry regarded the troll with a slight smile. That pond that was near his work that he was planning on 'giving' to the troll in Boca Raton would be the staging area for the decimation of the oh-so-revered vampire council and their horrid lapdogs. The pain and suffering he'd endured at their hands still burned at him.

Before he'd fled Michigan, (or relocated his current operations was how he'd chosen to think of the flight south to Florida) he'd been the dark prince of Detroit as well as much of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Great Lakes region. After over a hundred plus years of his reign, the interference of the council had recently put him rather harshly on the bottom of the rung. He hated starting fresh on the opposite end of the country, but he had been too drained after being freed from his dreadful incarceration by the council enforcers to do anything immediately. They'd slain his minion and fledglings while giving away his home and his hard-earned land.

Celina Holston had been bait in the trap sprung on him, and it was his turn to flip the tables and put her down like a mad dog. The troll would be a part of that well-deserved lesson -- the first of nearly a half dozen vampires who had to be destroyed for their participation in his downfall. That he was even still alive wasn't known by any of the council-owned vampires, he'd discovered in his research. He'd made the mistake of living like he had no enemies once -- that wasn't going to happen again any time soon. After two years of studying the council, he'd seen Celina caught unexpectedly on camera at a local news studio. The newscast confirmed for him that it was actually her in South Florida, not some unfortunate human with the same name. It was a sign that the time was now. The troll eating Edna after she'd come to Jerry for help just further illustrated that everything was falling into place. He'd use the weapons given him and delight in destroying the vampires.

The troll nodded its approval in reply to Jerry's question of trust. It wasn't a complete lie -- as he needed the troll to trust him and any intelligent troll would know that vampires rarely were trustworthy. Even though the troll should trust Jerry, it knew that negotiations were cast in stone between vamp and troll. The promises and deals made between them would be binding. Negotiations that usually took weeks or months at the minimum were nearly done in less time than it took to slit and sip from a throat of a willing victim. Times were changing. The wind picked up and he could hear a nearby awning flapping in beat to the breeze. The rain wasn't far off.

Dropping from the retaining wall where the troll had been sitting, it landed with a solid thump on the ground. The earth literally shifted beneath its feet -- a small cloud of dust and dirt settled around its large ugly feet like low lying fog -- impenetrable yet wispy.

"How go there? Get lookie at?" The troll's gravely tones were tinged with hunger.

Jerry Cooper was nobody's fool and figured out quickly he'd better give the troll directions before it decided it was craving some well-aged vampire meat. Not that he'd necessarily be killed by the troll, but he didn't want to waste the time healing again if he did do battle with the troll. He could still hear the rumbling in its stomach as it digested Edna and Mister Peaches. Jerry pointed out to the Intracoastal butting up against the back of the yard saying, "You can go up the waterway north less than five miles and from there it is a matter of working through a few yards and tributary canals and across a large golf course."

A dark shudder ran over its scaly body that was odd to witness, Jerry figured out quickly that his words excited the creature.

He continued to explain the landscape and the various peril areas across the terrain, letting the troll nod as it absorbed the details. Jerry knew that trolls had phenomenal memories and if they were given directions they followed them to the letter. Well, except for the times they were crossed or betrayed. That resulted in a call to arms for all the troll alliances that usually ended up in massive blood loss and deaths. One vampire who'd ruled a part of Ontario Canada made the mistake of thinking that she didn't have to play by the terms after the four years of negotiations. Her greed cost her half her clan and all of her lands.

The trolls horrifically gouged the few vampires that remained from her clan. They had missing eyes, legs and arms that they were unable to heal because there had been wild magic involved in the confrontation. She had been carted off to face the vampire council and was never heard from again. It was a cautionary tale whispered between vampires about trolls and their abilities. Since she'd broken her word, there were no repercussions from the council and the trolls were given her land as just spoils of conflict. Nobody was willing to label it more than that since the resulting troubles could have easily continued for decades if not centuries. So the great 'Canadian Conflict' went down in the supernatural history books not as a war, but just a stupid rogue vampire who violated the terms of her agreement. The council quickly labeled any vampire causing harm not under their direct command as 'rogue'; they also tossed a few of their own onto the fire at times in order to prevent utter chaos. But that harkened back to the basics in Jerry's book -- most vampires weren't necessarily deserving of trust.

"What you want for trade?" Now the troll decided to enter the fray and needed something to give to Jerry in return for the new area being offered. If he made the terms too vague or the trade sound too demeaning the troll would be forced to decline the offer of a new dwelling and they'd have to negotiate more. Drawing the proceedings out wasn't desirable to him in the least.

"The blood of Night Ones who betrayed me." It was a general set of terms but a light came into the troll's eyes. It was agreeable to the notion.

"Number of betrayers?" Jerry swore he saw a string of drool running from its lips to the now broken path beneath its feet.

"Six." The number could slide three or four either way and it would still be a worthy offering. Jerry knew that offering up other vampires to the troll would gain it status within the troll world. And with it there was a chance to become legendary in the troll nation, win or lose. Something that Jerry hoped would happen.

Nodding, again with the disturbing smile on its face, "Six -- good. Ten -- better." It let a woof of laughter that was ominous. Maybe he'd find more vampires and humans to add to his current list. It didn't hurt to keep on the troll's good side.

"Go now? Talk more later?" The troll was getting agitated and dark clouds were steadily rolling in with the rain-scented wind.

"Why don't I clean up a bit here, then meet you in three hours at the west side of the pond -- in the back corner furthest from the street?" It wouldn't take that long for him to clean up nor the troll to get there but it would give Jerry time to plan a bit and the troll time to feed along the way. Not to mention allow Jerry a moment to grab a sip or two.

A flitter of delight and a chortle of what Jerry was assuming as happiness bubbled from the troll. Jerry got the feeling that this troll was probably female or an unmatched younger male. He was leaning more towards the former because of the chortle and that the negotiations hadn't taken forever and a night.

The female trolls Jerry'd dealt with in Michigan tended to have a practical side that could be lacking in the older more jaded males. Not that Jerry'd screw up the conversation by saying anything that could be misconstrued as labeling the troll's sexuality. He knew better. Nodding it said, "Three hours, west corner furthest from street. You come alone."

It wasn't asking but setting terms.

"Agreed, thank you, Guardian," Jerry ventured a title.

Instead of puffing up and beaming the troll dropped its head and said, "Three hours." It shuffled its feet a bit.

There was more going on in this area of Florida than he'd realized. The behavior of trolls was usually fairly consistent no matter where they were. That this troll was nibbling on dogs and old ladies was abnormal.

Adding in that the troll's demeanor was nearly beaten when normally it would have thumped its chest or puffed up and beamed pleasure at the title. Jerry saw no way of asking for any information just yet, as it could give the troll a reason to question how strong a clan he had backing him. As Jerry didn't currently have a minion much less a few fledglings waiting for him back at his place it was best to do his own research.

Besides Jerry was growing weary of living like a human, the torturing hours of mind numbing work with little reward, minimum contact with others of his kind, also the harsh realities of getting blood while maintaining a low profile -- which wasn't easy. Not that he was overly picky some evenings, but still he was discrete. He didn't need unwanted council attention. Rogue vampires were often careless in their feeding habits, causing unrest amongst the humans. When the humans were upset, they began to question anyone odd or different. And vampires weren't exactly mainstream. The council took great pleasure in correcting rogue vampires to a fatal level. Thinking of his own losses, he knew how hard it could be.

He blinked and the troll was gone. A small splash of water broadcast its arrival at the canal. The colors of its hide blended easily with the water and a bird called out from across the channel. Jerry didn't know if it was a warning to other birds upriver or a curse at the troll's departing back.

Groaning deeply he quickly made his solitary way back into Edna's empty home. Looking down at the shoe and blood spilled on the tile an evilly delightful idea came to him. He smiled and began to plot.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-05-09
Image(s) © Lydia Manx, Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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