The guards at the gate had both the entrance and exit bars down, keeping anyone from driving in or out without first speaking with one of the men. Jerry found it amusing how quickly both men came to talk with him. Normally he found their banter annoying, and just one minor inconvenience, but with the cops at Edna's home and the band of news vans waiting to pounce on any of the residents coming or going, he enjoyed the attention. The usually open exit gate wasn't much of a deterrent had someone really wanted to exit, but the guards actually had guns and weren't afraid to shoot from the stories told.
Rolling down his window, Jerry greeted them both with a casual, "Evening gentlemen. How are you both doing?"
"Ah, Mr. Cooper, doing fine as frogs hair. You looking good. You not working tonight?" One of the two asked. Jerry never bothered to get either of their names, but made sure to leave them both bottles of liquor and a nice hefty tip every year for the holidays. It kept them from slowing him down leaving. The community didn't require exits of residents to be monitored, but the two guards would every now and then claim security issues required a check of vehicles. Currently he knew that they were just using Jerry's exit as an excuse to piss off the line of cars waiting to enter the community.
"Nope, have a day off --so to speak," here he winked at the guards since they both knew Jerry worked evenings. They chuckled and pretended to give a look inside the vehicle. "No gators with you?"
"Not tonight. I may have one in my backyard when I get home, I hear." They all laughed merrily at the exchange and one of drivers in one of the cars on the other side beeped their horn impatiently. The other guard spun and mentally marked which driver had been rude enough to interrupt his amusement. He shook his head and said, "Well, it's going to be a long fucking night for that loser. I heard tell there could be reporters smuggled inside a car coming inside. Gee, I think we just got a volunteer for an extensive search. What ya say, Artie?"
Jerry concluded the guard still leaning on his window frame of his car must be Artie. Not that he'd bother to retain that information. Once he returned to his full vampiric glory he planned on getting a few minions trained to keep track of shit like that again for him. He was tired of having to manage his own empire.
"Adam, I say it's going to be a long night for them all." They all chuckled again. Then Artie waved Jerry through saying, "Have a good evening now, Mr. Cooper."
"You both, too." And he slid the guard nearest him a pair of twenties. Besides the bottles and envelopes Jerry regularly tipped the men even though it wasn't 'allowed' by the community rules and regulations. He knew what it was like working all too well. He wasn't a big fan of jobs and knew a little something extra went a long way to keeping nosy people happier and less likely to ask too many annoying questions.
The guard took the bribe and tipped his hat saying, "You really are a good resident. Call us when you need to come back in and we'll make sure to clear a path."
Jerry laughed and said, "I may just pull an all-nighter. I have a friend I need to catch up with and the cops are all over my street."
"True that. You take care now." And Artie and Adam both waved him through the opened gate with huge grins before spinning back to the lengthy line of cars waiting. Jerry saw Artie flash the money to his partner in his rear view mirror and knew that he bought himself some points with them. It never hurt.
A few of the braver souls tried to block his path waving microphones while being filmed by men and women hoisting large cameras on their shoulders. It pissed Jerry off because it reminded him of the Vampire Council's set up in Detroit. They had wanted to film his forced confession and subsequent death. That didn't really work out how they'd planned it, but still, it was a sore spot for the vampire. He didn't slow his car one bit and nearly hit one of the foolish men with a shellacked, black hairstyle that looked unmovable.
Amazing how much a person could hustle when a couple thousand pounds of steel and fiberglass didn't slow down. Even inside the car Jerry could hear the profanities fly from the man's mouth. He smiled, knowing that too was taped.
This brought up the fact that his vehicle also was now captured on film, and some slick producer would soon be using bribery at the local licensing bureau to find out where Jerry lived inside the complex. He ground his teeth slightly, but decided there was nothing he could do at the moment and not to over think the situation. His fingers flew to the car's stereo system and he selected the CD function. Soon the car was filled with music. He had loaded in some John Coltrane, Miles Davis and other jazz greats. The sad blue music brought a smile to his face.
It wasn't long before he was pulling into the warehouse where he had Celina Holston stashed. The vampire hadn't been lucky in the weather during the day from Jerry's calculations. He walked in slowly after double-checking that there hadn't been any intruders. He could sense Celina was still alive -- barely. He'd stocked the fridge with more than just odd vials from the creature that'd created the blood box for him. Animal blood wasn't the most satisfying of meals, especially cold from the refrigerator, but it was more than the enforcers had done for him in Michigan. It would serve to do little more than sustain the vampire for a while. There was nothing of substance in old blood, but simply the liquid value. No enjoyment or healing properties. It was basically the equivalent of a child's cheap, chewable vitamin tablet, something that needed to be supplemented with a real meal.
And Jerry didn't plan on serving anything real to Celina in the near future. He wanted her to experience some of what she and her crew had put him through all those years ago. He couldn't strip her of much since she was basically a rogue vampire with limited resources, but he would take what he could from her and rejoice in the pain he would cause. As it was, he knew her minion had started searching for her. He wondered when they'd discover the death tableau he'd set up at her home. That was going to be fine entertainment once it hit the airwaves.
He shut the door softly knowing perfectly well she'd heard him. He didn't say a word, but listened to her struggling with thoughts. And she was struggling. She was barely conscious and from the aroma in the largely empty warehouse the sunlight had done some serious damage to her. He rounded the large crates that surrounded the crash cart he'd strapped her to and saw the somewhat blackened near-corpse on the surface. Her carefully groomed features and soft lips were gone. Her hair had begun to gray and her skin was cracked and gray-black in places. She wasn't a large woman to start and the sun had baked off some of her finer features.
He didn't bother talking to her. Jerry could hear her screaming in her mind, but he knew that she was so reduced that anything she attempted to say would be little more than garbled words and chance phrases. Instead he walked to the small refrigerator and pulled out one of the many containers of blood. Being a smart ass, he'd had them labeled with a single word for each type of animal's blood. This one said bunny. He liked the idea of feeding her rabbit blood. He wasn't giving her any sort of predatory creature's blood, since there could be a trace of power even in the cold blood. No, he had quite a few containers of docile creatures that had been drained of their blood carefully over time by a demented young man he'd employed to do just that. He didn't consider the boy a minion because there was nothing redeemable in Jerry's eyes about the human. The boy didn't have the grace or intelligence to ever become much more than a menace to himself. He lacked the drive of a sociopath. The human had accepted the side job offer to cautiously drain blood from the local children's petty zoo creatures for a price. He believed that Jerry was a researcher from a college working on typing genetic markers he'd found in the various Florida wildlife and then comparing them with captive creatures to see if the zoo animals were less stressed than the wild ones.
The boy believed that he was helping, and that it was more humane to drain the blood from well-loved petting zoo creatures by him than a stranger. Jerry hadn't even needed to push the kid much to do the job. The boy was gullible and broke -- a combination that had often worked to Jerry's advantage over the years. Over three months, the kid had brought Jerry many blood-filled containers. Each time Jerry peeked into the boy's mind to make sure he was bringing blood from only prey. Jerry never found that the kid lied, so after he got enough to fill his current needs, he thanked the boy and paid him the agreed-upon price. He left it open ended whether or not he'd need more at a future date in case Celina coughed up more names than he expected. He didn't expect Celina to tell him everything, but at least he'd have Ben Richland before he ran out of blood. That he knew.
He opened the container and set the lid on top of the fridge. He knew exactly when she could smell the blood because her fangs snicked free of her gums, and she snarled out an inarticulate sound of hunger and anger. He smiled and watched her shudder with need. "Hello, Celina. How was your day?" She opened her eyes and stared at him and the container. She didn't reply but simply gazed at him. He took his right index finger and stirred the blood with a slow hand. Pulling the blood-coated finger up he went over to her face and let the thickened blood drop into her mouth without getting too close. He wasn't stupid enough to see if she had summoned an ounce of vampiric power in the time she waited for his return.
Her mouth opened like a baby bird waiting for him to regurgitate a meal to her. Instead he slowly dipped his finger in and out of the container and let droplets fall into her mouth. Deliberately he missed her fangs and she was forced to work the blood with her tongue to get anything inside her properly. Her stomach wouldn't use the blood as well as her fangs he knew. With each little taste she shuddered and shook on the cart. He continued to drop the rabbit's blood without a word while she tried to get every particle of blood in her veins.
Jerry gave her less than a tablespoon of blood in this manner before he abruptly stopped and walked away. Her mind wasn't focusing yet, but he didn't want to stand there wasting too much time. He needed to break her down more. He capped the blood and returned it to the fridge without another word. He could hear her whimper in her throat. "Well, you seem to have enjoyed your time in Florida from everything I've read." He leaned against the fridge his arms crossed and waited to see if she would reply. "Fuck you," she spit out, with blood-coated lips.
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