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February 26, 2024

The Building 24

By Lydia Manx

Jerry Cooper was still stunned by the new side to Tricia he'd seen since he'd arrived at her home an hour or so ago trying to find out about Celina Holston's address. His pet hacker and somewhat inconsistent blood donor turned out to be living quite the life down in Southern Florida. Her talent for stealing men's money and bleeding their bank accounts as easily as he liked to tap into veins allowed her to live. Once she'd tried to steal from him years ago, and instead of killing her outright he created a source of blood for him to suck down now and then. But the evening had shown him that she had been near him too long and was starting to exhibit signs of vampirism. Tricia Sanborn aka Georgia Peaches needed to go away tonight. And he had just the way of disposing of her -- on Celina's fang tips. She was perfect bait and he loved the idea of using Celina's own weaknesses against her like Celina had been used to trap him.

She was finally driving with both hands on the steering wheel instead of on him or in her lap. She began talking again distractedly -- obviously the near miss with the highway patrol had shaken her up. When two idiots racing their cars down the freeway towards Miami redirected the cop from coming up to ticket Tricia for weaving around in traffic and driving poorly, it helped avoided some unpleasantness with the officer. Jerry knew had they been pulled over his true nature would have emerged for sure. He wouldn't have been able to sustain the illusion in her mind that he was just part of her imagination, and the cop would have ended up bleeding down his throat for sure because he'd have needed the blood to control her. Mentally shaking his head, he knew why he avoided humans. The complications of maintaining a 'normal' human life were well beyond his daily dose of patience.

"Damn, I so don't fucking want to call back Millionaire Morty. I mean come on, with that sorta 'handle' he probably needs a little blue pill to even look attentive. There is no fucking way those were shots of his junk he emailed me. That body was rockin' and had abs to cream over. Hell, Morty is probably his real first name. I just keep hearing bad schlocky stand-up jokes in my head whenever he wants to get off in my ear." She dithered about her obligation to troll for more money while glancing at the map now and then.

"Fantasy boy, you are sure fucking quiet when I am driving. I guess I don't bring you out with me enough to multi-task any more than the basics, huh?" In fact she had never driven Jerry anywhere and when he had his way with her she wouldn't ever again. Until then he'd let her keep thinking it had to do with operating a car in somewhat heavy traffic and trying to find Celina's house that made him so quiet.

She went back to questioning why they were going to Celina's house. That was pretty funny, because the reason she was now fascinated with Celina was due to Jerry's interests in the support staff job Celina held at a local news station. Another part of the problem he now faced was because he'd damn near stroked her out pushing that idea into her head, and adding some back-story to make her crave seeing the 'nearly' a movie star lady. What he hadn't realized initially was that she was practically drained dry from all the work, so little food and not to mention his sucking out a pint or two of her blood earlier. Once he saw her stumbling around her home, he risked a quick peek into her mind where he gathered she'd been sleeping less than an hour or two at a time for weeks while cracking her latest conquest's bank accounts. She preferred married men who were caught up playing with something on the side but would settle for arrogant men when bored. Mentally he patted the pocket where he'd stuffed her back up flash drive to all of her local and offshore bank accounts with passwords and phrases. He really had used up all of her lives pushing through her stubborn will and her lust-filled desires in order to get her to download her information. Her paranoia was well warranted, but it didn't matter to him because his needs were stronger. Much stronger.

"I don't need to talk because you like me silent and listening to your every word," Jerry said softly, giving her a chance to feel better about the lopsided conversation. Besides, the more she talked, the less he had to dip into her mind. She wasn't tightly wrapped mentally to begin with, but all the shoving of 'facts' into her tonight was starting to cause the seams of her tattered mind to rip apart. When she blew it, he well knew that it wasn't going to be attractive in the least.

He could hardly wait to see her spin off the planet. His smile was wide, without any fangs. but nevertheless she said, "Damn, you look scary right now. Why the hell do I want you to look scary? Fuck, I'm losing it. Hell, I won't call Millionaire Morty just yet. Maybe after my makeover. I can't believe Celina was actually on camera tonight. I hope I remembered to TiVo it. I want to see how she walks. There is something about her that is hypnotic. I'd heard about the magic in her fingers and can see it on all the anchors' faces. They glow when Celina does them."

Some of the tales that he'd spun into her mind mostly had her convinced that she was fantasizing all of the evening while nodding off in front of her computer. But a small part of her brain knew that it was real, and she kept driving and trying to obey the basic rules of the road. She drove fast and a tad restlessly, but she didn't try to cross into oncoming traffic or run lights. The panic over the highway patrol car trying to pull her over chunked out some of his subliminal controls, but hopefully not too much as he really didn't need to have a battle for dominance over her while she was driving.

Soon they were pulling off the highway and she began weaving her way through the streets printed out on the MapQuest directions. A block from Celina's house Jerry abruptly bit out, "Stop." He put serious force behind the word, and she spun the wheel, moving the car nearly perpendicular to the curb.

"What the hell? Fuck, that hurt!" She rubbed her forehead while the car hummed, still running.

He reached over and turned off the engine. Even in gear the car stopped. She automatically ratcheted the gear shift on the steering column out of drive and into park.

"I didn't think this was the address." She peered at the dark house with the foreclosure notice plastered on the door and a dilapidated 'For Sale by Owner' sign waving in the breeze. The lawn was burnt straw-like in color and texture and there weren't any flowering plants bordering the path to the doorway like some of the other houses had when they first arrived in the bedroom community between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The neighborhoods all ran the gamut of well-kept to dilapidated, depending on when constructed and how it had been financed.

Jerry noticed that most of the block Celina lived on had abandoned and foreclosed homes, and from a slight scent in the wind a few dead animals had wandered inside the ones that had been broken into during the down market. The street reminded him eerily of the one in Detroit where the Vampire Council's enforcers had stashed him while they tried to break him over three years ago. The irony of it wasn't lost on him. Tricia was still muttering swear words and unanswered questions. He was busy trying to see if he could hear Celina's thoughts or any other vampires in the area. He didn't think the Council allowed their vamps to collect their own personal fledglings, but human minion were certainly allowed and they tended to create problems. He knew from the past that Celina had used various humans to thwart rogue vampires condemned to punishment who had dared to disobey some obscure rule of the Vampire Council.

"Oh, I need to fix my face!" She brightened up and cranked the rear view mirror towards her eyes. She yanked the purse off the floor and began to slather on some more lipstick and lacquered her eyelashes with the mascara wand after dipping it in and out of the small container.

"What was I thinking? I mean, please, here I was driving right up to a premier make-up artist's home with my lipstick chewed off. Too bad it's not daytime. My skin glows so nicely in the sun." Jerry mentally shook his head at her verbal nonsense. For as brilliant as she was with money and bank accounts, she could be an absolute ditz about other things. He'd never spent that much time around her so he hadn't realized how shallow she could be.

Jerry let her fuss while he kept listening for any awareness of his presence. It wouldn't do to think he was 'ambushing' Celina and find out she was ready and waiting for him to show. He didn't need a repeat of his months in Detroit. Automatically he rubbed at one of the silver marks on the underside of his left forearm. The ridges were not as pronounced as they used to be, but still he knew it was one of the many patron saints' medals that had lined the box. St. Blaise to be exact. The patron aint of blessed throats. The irony of that wasn't lost on him later when he figured out who it was seared into his flesh. The Vampire Council was diabolical in their forms of torture and seemed to have a sense of mocking humor at the same time. If it hadn't been burned into his body, he probably would have been greatly amused.

There weren't any answering whispers of minds that he could sense from his cautious journey out into the immediate area. There weren't many souls to be touched one way or the other, so it didn't take long for him to become aware that Tricia was still trowelling on the cosmetics in anticipation of meeting Celina. That also amused him, that draining some blood from Tricia's veins not only had given her a connection to him, but apparently it had tainted him a bit since he usually wasn't so giddy. Normally he'd have been furious finding himself sullied like that, but knowing she was going to be useful in death or in her dying at the very least made him more tolerant.

"There, now I am presentable." She flashed him a sly grin and waited for his approval.

"Ah, you are a vision." He laid it on a bit to keep her distracted as he mentally gave her the notion to get out of the car and walk the block or so to Celina's house. He wasn't going to trail after Tricia like a ghost but instead work his way around the back of the houses to make sure he got the drop on Celina when Tricia came calling. He knew that his vampiric scent had changed since she'd last been around him. Living as a human in Florida along with the careful rebuilding of his own body meant nearly a complete replacement of every molecule of blood in his body. And having been near the troll also gave him a different scent. That was part of supernatural creatures' natures. The magic traced through the various supers, leaving and lingering in odd ways that 'flavored' the meat as it were. He'd need every bit of skill to capture Celina and keep Tricia under control. He regretted not getting a chance at the highway patrol officer's throat upon consideration. Biting back a sigh, he waited until Tricia opened the door before moving with vampiric speed out of the passenger's side past her onto the street. Like before, she shrugged it off to her 'imagination'.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-07-18
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