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February 19, 2024

The Building 15

By Lydia Manx

The wind was definitely picking up outside on the patio. Jerry Cooper could hear the wind chimes of one of the nearby homes clattering and smacking against the frame of the house discordantly. He truly despised wind chimes. He didn't find them to be in the least melodic or even somewhat soothing, but rather a distraction from hearing any nearby threats or possible prey in the area. Inside Edna's home he'd decided to change up from his original plan to clean up the mess the troll had made snacking on the owner and her dog.

Looking around the cluttered home he found a leash that had been used to walk Mister Peaches. Mister Peaches wasn't going to need it anymore since he was inside the belly of the troll Jerry'd sent on to a new home, north, away from his home in Boca Raton, and instead near his work building. He hoped the yapping dog hadn't been electronically chipped; that could definitely bring some unwelcome attention, but there wasn't any way he could change that, so he pushed it from his mind as if sheer will could make the possibility of a dog being electronically leashed go away. Realistically, Edna hadn't struck him as overly wealthy or much up on the modern times. Chipping dogs was pretty much a post Gen-X baby boomer generation habit, not some over-eighty-year-old lady's thing. The leash would be instrumental in the plot he'd crafted for the missing dog and owner. Further exploration of the old woman's home yielded another necessary item.

Behind a bathroom, just off the main living room, he came back with an old thin, threadbare floral housedress. He dipped a corner of the housedress into the large pool of blood from Edna's death. The troll hadn't torn her into bits, as trolls usually did to their victims, but the result was still a messy puddle of blood from its biting her in half. Edna's small eighty-plus-year-old frame had made its way into the creature's mouth leaving no visible signs of her demise, except for the one lonely shoe and a two-foot pond of blood rapidly thickening and coagulating with the hot evening air.

The only signs of Mister Peaches, Edna's toy poodle that'd gone down the gullet of the troll first, had been some minor scratches and scrapes Jerry noticed near the back door on the flooring and the rather welcome silence. The yipping apricot poodle hadn't been quiet for that long ever since Jerry'd moved into the neighborhood. The vampire could attest to the fact that the dog barked all the time, day and night. Maybe the lack of sleep was the reason why the dog had been so high strung. It certainly had worn on the nerves of the neighbors, from what he'd overheard. Not by choice, but when the nattering women had passed by his bedroom window they'd made sure to voice their anger at the loud, persistent barking.

Not that it mattered much to Jerry, the dog wasn't going to exactly come back and cause trouble. He'd told the troll he'd meet it in three hours and that he would clean up the mess left behind from the troll's snacking. His original idea was actually to physically clean up and use bleach like it was water but another thought had cropped up that appealed to him far more. His cleaning skills weren't the best anyways -- servants had done that in the past few decades, and he well knew it wasn't his strong suit even before he'd had a household staff.

He took the leash to the edge of the canal and tore it apart with his bare hands, which was easy enough to do with his vampiric strength, and then he tossed it down the side of the Intracoastal where it spread out upon hitting the various rocks and outcroppings just like he'd wanted. Carefully he walked back to the house, slowly wringing the blood in droplets onto the dead grass and broken pathway along the way. Once he arrived back to where the shoe had been dropped from the troll's hungry mouth, he pushed the housedress into the blood and literally dragged it outside to the canal about a foot from where he'd dripped Edna's blood. Back at the channel's edge again he tossed the garment down towards the water while watching it land half in and half out of the murky waters.

Thus from all appearances Edna had been in a tussle with a hungry gator, trying unsuccessfully to get her cherished Mister Peaches free from its maw. After the imaginary gator chomped down on the poodle, the reptile then had scrabbled its way up the wall and come after the small, old woman. The signs of Edna having been grievously injured were easier to stage than bothering to use the available household cleaning supplies. Currently not having any servants to call, it suited Jerry more to leave a disturbing crime scene rather than a beautiful house. The struggle was accentuated by the splatters and spatters of blood Jerry'd flung from the blood-soaked gown before tossing it into the water's edge next to the shredded dog leash.

The obvious conclusion would be that a gator got the dog and then its owner. Just plug in a troll for a gator into that equation and it would be accurate. Jerry smiled. The sounds of hoof beats pattered through his brain as he left the artfully crafted scenario that wouldn't lead any humans to look for a zebra. Giving the scene one final glance he crept out the front door, keeping to the shadows. Quickly he found the invisible path and made his way home.

** Jerry decided that the troll would come in very handy in disposing of the Vampire Council's enforcers. The council didn't advertise who they used to deliver their messages of pain and destruction. They preferred to keep to the shadows in all walks of the night. Rumors, whispers and innuendos served their purpose, just as much as misdirection and chaos had served his in the past. He very well knew if the troll found out that the vampires that Jerry was planning on offing were the council's hellhounds -- so to speak -- that he may have some explaining to do. But that was a remote possibility since the troll accelerated the negotiations at its own risk; it had failed to ask direct questions that could have perhaps revealed Jerry's own dark reasons for wanting the vampires dead.

It certainly worked in Jerry's favor that the troll had been hasty and obviously starving while talking with him about the give and take of their negotiations. Ultimately the troll would pay the price with the Vampire Council, but it didn't really bother Jerry -- if anything, a secondary supernatural doing his dirty work just made it all the more appealing. If the troll felt betrayed by Jerry's sparse information it had only itself to blame. Trolls could be proud and stubborn when needed.

As Jerry drove the all-too-familiar back roads towards work, he decided he'd park his car just out of the immediate area so as to not be seen by the guards at the main gate of the business park. Usually, on work nights he'd have driven right up and exchanged nods with the human manning the complex while being flagged to proceed through the gate. Tonight he'd walk in and meet with the troll. As he parked his car in the nearby supermarket parking lot it dawned on him that he was feeling a rare emotion. It wasn't at first recognizable -- he'd actually thought that he was well beyond the age of feeling much of anything, as he'd grown so jaded by everything. Anticipation for the hunt ran through him. He actually was looking forward to the beginning of his rightful return to power, and to extracting retribution for his pain, losses and overall discomfort.

A fissure of happiness chased the rare emotions. He wouldn't have to hide once he'd disposed of the executioners. His triumph over the vampire council's henchmen would make him beyond touch and legendary.

A thick cloud cover kept the shadows darker and deeper than usual. The promise of rain in Boca Raton had arrived just after Jerry'd gotten into his car. The torrential, tropical downpour didn't leave prismatic rainbows wrapping the scenery in a sparkling, clean package -- photo ready and pretty. Instead palm fronds usually ripped from the tall swaying trees peppering cars and the road in equal measure. They reminded him of large predatory birds swooping from above plucking their prey off the streets and meadows. He wasn't overly fond of feeling like prey.

Like a spigot yanked shut, the rain abruptly stopped just as he'd arrived at the supermarket parking lot where he was going to leave the car. The humidity was high, almost like he was walking in a human body temperature fog. Happily he slunk off into the vegetation that edged the parking lot backing the golf course that was near his office building. Rapidly walking, he quickly made his way to the spot he'd told the troll about nearly three hours prior.

His eyes automatically noted the unnatural stillness as his sensitive ears listened for any brush movement or thuds of footsteps approaching. His heart jumped to his throat when the troll popped up from the large pond just two feet from where he stood. He froze and waited to see what the troll thought. Again it had the grimace of what appeared to be acute pain on its ugly face. Jerry'd already figured out it was the troll's equivalence of a smile. Rivulets of water ran off the creature, as it stood with the pond hitting it mid-thigh.

"Water perfect. You true to troll." It slowly made its way up the side of the grass-lined pond, which was pretty much a man-made extension of the marsh wetlands the state had long decimated in their attempts to 'civilize' nature. In the furthest corner from the road there were thickets of tall reeds and marsh pampas grass. The sawgrass was lingering on one edge waiting to take over the pond from all indications. The dense vegetation that framed much of the huge pond was nearly impassible but Jerry knew it suited the troll. The small waterway trickled out at the corner into another canal keeping the flow of nature heading ever so gently towards the Atlantic.

"Guardian, I need to go away for a few nights. Will you be able to settle your family in or will you need more time before I return?" It was a gracious way to abandon the troll, Jerry thought. The colonies of feral cats and rabid possums and raccoons would be fairly decimated in the time he'd be away, but it wasn't like there was a shortage in the state of any of those animals.

The wicked smile fell from its face -- a slight shake of its massive head with droplets flying and spinning around its face framed the moment as it reluctantly admitted, "Alone for now. Okay, you go. How many nights you need?"

For the troll to admit that it had no family shook something inside Jerry. It was a grave admission and unsettling. He dismissed a momentary thought that perhaps this particular troll was as rogue as he. His own personal history with trolls up in Michigan had led him to believe that rogue trolls were scarce. His right-hand vampire, Ron Stoddard, had told him that trolls kicked out of their clans or families were slain within days, after what amounted to a free for all hunting then slaughtering that went on until every mouthful had been chewed. As far as Jerry knew no trolls survived the regional hunts as they were little more than dead men walking once their rogue state was declared.

"Guardian, you are needed here." Jerry hadn't made his way to Master of the City in Detroit without the gift of charm. He preferred the violent and viscious skills he possessed more, but he wanted the troll to feel beholden to him, and the troll was famished for more than just sustenance. It craved attention.

The troll was still ankle deep in the water, seemingly rooted. Jerry noticed that it looked much larger than earlier when he'd watched it slink off the back porch of Edna's property. So Jerry kept his counsel and waited to see what more he needed to do.

Its massive shoulders rose and fell as it seemed to work to construct a sentence.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-05-16
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