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March 27, 2023

The Building 31

By Lydia Manx

"Mr. Cooper?" The cop still looked expectantly over Jerry's naked shoulder into his home. His half dressed attire was starting to bother the lady while it just made him amused. The eaves of the front porch kept the direct sun off his face but he could see rivet of sweat running down the policewoman's neck from her hairline and from her scent down her back washing away the salt and perspiration accumulating along her spine. Her large partner was also sweating heavily through his khaki uniform. The Kevlar vests they both wore made their uniforms nearly unbearable in normal weather but the Floridian sunshine and humidity made the safety wear practically a sweatbox under the best of conditions and it wasn't ideal weather for wearing layers. Add in that the current mid-morning temperatures were already bouncing into the middle of the nineties promising the rest of the day to be a scorcher.

The air conditioning was flowing from his house outward, further reminding the cops how brutal the sun was outside. The female had just asked if they could come inside his home and he blocked the doorway with his body and asked her why. She'd yet to answer. Most humans immediately were cowered into blind obedience when confronted by authority figures, but that wasn't Jerry's natural response. He wanted to snap them in half and drain them to their marrow but that wasn't a good idea given how busy it was on the street. Something was happening that required at least four police cruisers from the sounds he could hear on the street. He couldn't see the cars but heard their engines running and the radios squawking in the distance. The scent of guns and fear laced the slight breeze wafting lazily past them through the open door.

He realized perfectly well that the cops were on his doorstep more than likely because his neighbor Edna was 'missing' along with Mister Peaches her poodle, and someone had discovered that the blood trail he'd created made it look like they'd become gator bait. In all reality they had actually been troll chow and he'd been more than happy when he staged the scene to mislead anyone called in to investigate the disappearance of the elderly woman. Not that the cops had a clue about the troll from their demeanor and the slight aroma of fear rolling off both of them. The full-blown panic of confronting a gator wasn't apparent, but not far from either of their thoughts.

A troll in the area wouldn't even stumble through their minds, a fact about humans he well knew and used often to his advantage. The Florida heat was making the local gators restless along with the minimal rainfall. The heavy floral scent from various trees and bushes did little to mask the smell of death that drifted down the street. He could nearly taste Edna's blood on his tongue despite not having fed off her before the troll chomped her in half.

"Yes?" He almost made it sound like he cared.

All he truly cared about was crawling back between the sheets and sleeping another six or so hours. He wanted to be fresh and awake for the upcoming event in the warehouse where he'd stashed Celina Holston. Such a busy life he led in the past twenty-four hours, he was astounded he even heard the cops pounding on the door.

"May we please come in?" She nearly sounded like she meant the please. It was pretty rare to see manners in police around the area and from his experiences with humans in law enforcement they tended to do what they wanted and half-ass apologize later, if at all.

"Again, why do you need to come in? You woke me up. I work nights." He said with a slight vampiric push into both of their minds. Jerry didn't want to entertain the two prying cops. He knew from the lines of tension in both their frames that they were afraid to be outside. He bit the inside of his cheeks to keep from grinning at their discomfort. Alligators weren't known to be friendly and once they had tasted flesh they tended to go back for seconds. It amused him that the prehistoric creatures were similar to many supernatural creatures in that.

"We are sorry. We didn't know. There's been an incident in the area we need to discuss." The larger cop standing next to the female had a surprisingly high voice for such a sizeable man. He'd expected a deep bass tone to come from the bruiser.

The lady wanted to push past him but something in his eyes stopped her. She was nearly shaking with adrenaline and an underbite of anger at being denied immediate entry into his home. The innate fear of the unknown 'gator' on the loose battled with protocol and the legality of forcing her way inside without a warrant or a good reason.

"That's okay. Sure, come on inside." Jerry decided to allow them inside once he'd tasted how terrified they both were for all their posing. The fears were rich and delicious and made it just about worth waking up early.

He closed the door behind them as he led them into the living room which he hadn't allowed Edna to visit before she became a cautionary tale about small dogs and alligator-filled waterways. How he loved cautionary tales -- nearly as much as morality plays; seldom did they hit their intended marks: usually they provided amusement for the more elite and sardonic of both vampires and humans.

They both gawked as they walked into his living room. It wasn't overly luxurious by comparison to his homes in Michigan but there were nice pieces of art and good quality furnishings arranged around the space. Not something most of the Floridians in his neighborhood knew, but they were cataloguing his net worth obviously in trying to place who he was. In Boca Raton it didn't pay to piss off the overly wealthy, the cops had found out on more than once occasion. The view to the canal was the main focus of both of their attention as well. He caught the female shudder slightly as a fish breached the water and they all caught a brief glimpse of fin and scales before it went back into the deep.

"Mr. Cooper, were you home last night?" The male began the questioning looking at the small notebook that seemed to magically appear in his large palm. The local police weren't all the way into the twenty-first century yet, and still used notepads and pens to take down information -- something Jerry found mildly amusing. The human resistance to change wasn't new, but rather a long evolutionary process that wasn't easily overcome by bright and shiny objects immediately.

"I was in and out. I had some errands to run as it was my evening off. Why?" Jerry sat on his couch and watched the cops fidget as they stood over him trying to decide if they were allowed on the furniture. He didn't immediately gesture for them to sit, so it was a drawn out process and he could positively see the woman smolder in anger at his lack of manners. Feigning a large overblown yawn, he waved his palm over his mouth and said, "Excuse me, I am not quite myself. Please have a seat."

He momentarily cut the legs out from beneath the cops with his casual permission while sounding sincere; he knew from both of their postures that he wasn't completely in the clear. They had heightened instincts as police and sensed something wasn't exactly right with him, but couldn't quite put their fingers on it. He loved the conflicting emotions they both were exuding from their very pores.

The male stood for a second then sat heavily on one of the chairs and exhaled softly. Jerry knew he was tired and frustrated by the facts surrounding Edna's death. Okay, maybe not facts, but the appearances of a tragedy that too soon would become a neighborhood spectator sport. And quite probably someone would be bribed to allow the local news crew inside the gated community to join the circus-like atmosphere humans liked with their tragedies. Jerry really hadn't thought Edna's apparent demise would be found so quickly, but then the neighbors could be extremely nosy.

The female gave in to the temptation and sat primly on the edge of one of the smaller chairs in the room. She looked like a china doll, fragile and easily broken, as far as Jerry was concerned. The garbled voices muttering and murmuring from the radios fastened onto each of their leather belts reminded Jerry they weren't as alone as he'd like.

"One of your neighbors is missing," the officer said in his high-pitched voice.

"Who?" He played the willing straight man as he drank in their fears. The dull routine of questioning witnesses had been cleaved in half by their own knowledge and worries, making him a delightful little breakfast.

"A Miss Edna ... " here the man trailed off as he tried to find her last name in his notebook. Twin lines appeared in between his eyes as he wasn't able to read his own writing.

"The lady with the poodle?" Puzzlement and confusion flew over Jerry's face as he snickered inside.

"The poodle is missing also. It seems like there may have been an accident along the canal," the female cop added while watching Jerry's expressions closely. Her intuition was stronger than her partner's, and Jerry's answers weren't wrong but not ringing right. He mentally sifted through his responses and couldn't see what he'd said to mislead them, but some humans had sixth senses about the supernatural he'd long discovered.

"An accident? She doesn't have a boat, now does she?" He went for the obvious reasons for accidents in the canal. He waited to see how much they were telling the locals.

"Ah, not exactly, Mr. Cooper. There seem to have been some wildlife issues," the male went out on a limb and said.

The dancing and squirming the two cops were doing delighted Jerry as they were suspended well on the end of his hook. He felt compelled to reel them in and see if they were worthy opponents or just guppies.

"Not those damned pythons again? They've been seen here ever since it started getting so hot." Jerry stood up and walked to the window looking over the canal and glared for effect. The sparkling sunlight danced on the top while the murky depths held their secrets.

"Well, it appears to be more -- " the male began just to be immediately cut off by the female who interrupted with, "No, the damn gators." Fears rolled freely off them both now and Jerry bit his cheek again, happy to feed off the strong cops so easily.

He spun on his heel and gaped, "You've got to be kidding me!"

"Alligators here? I thought they only were in the Everglades, or zoos." He had practiced a curious surprised look for years before he found it rang true with humans. Vampires rarely are confused, surprised or even curious. Humans noticed when 'people' didn't look normal, so Jerry'd made the effort to look appropriate to the situation if he didn't plan on tapping the veins of all around him.

The man nodded and said, "It would appear so." Giving into his partner's revelation with a small shrug, Jerry nodded to the cop as if in sympathy. He didn't much care about the dynamics of the duo but didn't want to create any appearance of being anything other than ordinary and slightly grumpy at being woken so early in his day. The woman was still suspicious and he knew that killing them would definitely be noticed.

"So is Miss Edna going to be okay?" He went for the humor, knowing damn well that Miss Edna and Mister Peaches were not ever going to be okay again.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-09-05
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