The troll nodded, still not quite able to hide its happiness and appetite for the fresh vampire meat that Jerry Cooper had brought to it at the pond. The night air was still and thick with humidity from the recent deluge of a tropical storm. The breeze that had been sweeping the storms across the sky had fallen off for the moment, and Jerry noticed he still couldn't hear a single animal or bird anywhere in the immediate area. The troll Jerry had taken to calling 'the Guardian' wasn't so much guarding the region by the pond but slurping and crunching the former occupants of the territory. Again, Jerry was pleased with his decision to help the troll relocate away from his neighborhood to the business park. The vampire shuddered with the riot of images of just how ugly things could have become once the cops began their search for Edna's body, the same body currently taking up residence somewhere in the gullet of the troll along with her poodle, had the troll stayed in Jerry's backyard canal.
"Night air not right," the troll said while still looking excitedly at the large, as-of-yet unopened, Rubbermaid container filled with the bits and pieces of Celina that Jerry had fit like a puzzle into the plastic tub. Both predators could easily smell Celina's body. That the troll didn't inquire about the sun burnt flesh scenting the immediate area told Jerry that it had feasted on more than one vampire in its history. It wasn't unheard of for trolls to clean up during vampire wars, and that was part of the bargaining Jerry had done in the past with mountain trolls in the Michigan area over the centuries when he had reigned as Master Vampire of Detroit and beyond.
It took a second for Jerry to notice what the troll was talking about scenting the air. It wasn't just the rotting vamp or dead animals -- even with the stack of bones next to the log -- it was something pooling in the area nearly toxic in odor. A miasma of stench that was just out of range for humans, but as the troll and vampire were both definitely not in the human realm, they could detect the smell. Since vampires didn't need to breathe Jerry hadn't immediately noticed the odor. As trolls did breathe they got the smells first. 'Not right' was an understatement.
As if to taunt them both, the winds picked up at that moment and blew the scent away from them. Something clicked inside Jerry's memory. The smell wasn't of the human world but the underworld. It was brimstone and death with an overlaying aroma of terror. He'd last smelt it when picking up the blood box from the creature. A fecund layer of blood and bile worked its way into Jerry's memories, of the hell-bound creature he'd tracked down and made a deal with to construct the vampire-paralyzing blood box, and the associated vials of elixirs that had come with stern warnings. Now Jerry wasn't so sure those warnings were enough. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle and lift like a dog's hackles when danger approached. Even with the air moving the smell away Jerry knew they were being observed.
"Guardian, has that odor been here all day?" Jerry wanted to cover his bases before making any decision. Time was precious but so was life. Jerry had just finally started to live his again and didn't want to jump to any false conclusions.
The troll shook its massive head, denying the scent. That worried Jerry. Quite a bit.
"Just now. New, but old." Great, it looked like the troll wasn't as clueless to the origin of the scent as it had first sounded.
"It would seem so." Jerry wasn't ready to confront the creature in the dark night with only the troll to get his back. The feeling of being watched wasn't going away, but it had lessened to a nagging suspicion rather than focused fury and attention. Whatever was watching them wasn't there to attack them, but simply interested in what was going to happen next. It wasn't like it was a cop or some human who'd feel morally outraged, or use some other nonsensical mental device that made fools rush in when smarter creatures shied away from the action. What it was he didn't know for sure, but definitely not of human mettle and most assuredly of a supernatural origin. Jerry wasn't sure if it was the actual creature that created the blood box for him, or another of its kin. Actually, he didn't even know if the creature had others like it. The politics of the supernatural world was convoluted and Machiavellian. Sometimes things that kept to the shadows were meant to be there, and in Jerry's worldview, left there.
The troll seemed to draw the same conclusion, as it opened up the opaque Rubbermaid tub and began to root around inside. It immediately found the red biohazard bag on top and opened it and sighed, "Very nice."
With large hands it tore open the rabbit blood container, and its thick gray-black tongue laved at the inside, removing any droplet of congealed blood left staining the inside. It used Jerry's blood-drenched shirt as a napkin and dabbed uselessly at its maw dripping with saliva and drool. All the cloth did was smear the blood more around its face. Sitting next to the now-open container the troll began sucking the flesh off Celina's bones. Once it completed a part, it tossed the bones at its feet. Noticing Jerry watching, it volunteered, "Bones good snack for later."
That answered the stray thought Jerry'd had about the bones still on the ground. Trolls he'd bargained with hadn't kept anything but simply ingested everything owed. This troll was decidedly different than the ones Jerry had known, something he still wasn't sure was good or bad. The clothing on Celina's body was naturally in tatters given the hack job Jerry'd done on her corpse but the remnants didn't slow the troll down one bit in its consuming the vampire. With bits of cloth dangling rather unappetizingly from its slobbering lips the troll tried to have a dinner conversation with Jerry.
"You find only one?" Jerry'd promised many vampires for the troll to eat in their bargain.
"For now. Others will be brought to you after I am done with them." Jerry wasn't weak of heart, but the masticating of the troll was more than mildly disturbing, not to mention visually horrific. There were small bits of flesh dripping off the creature's lips onto its stomach, which was noticeably growing as it tore into Celina's parts. For some reason the whole thing began to resemble a hillbilly chowing through a bucket of chicken pieces to Jerry. The scattered chips of bone fragments at its large hoary feet, and the gesturing it did with its hands while talking at Jerry were all reminiscent of something he'd seen when stalking hunters in the woods over the years. All they needed was a large burning campfire and a bottle of moonshine, and the picture would be complete.
The massive head nodded as the creature tossed a femur onto the rapidly growing pile of bones. It fished out the forearm where Jerry had removed Celina's hand and sucked on the end, noisily removing the marrow. The troll's face positively glowed with delight.
"Vampire very bad." Some of Celina's marrow obviously stored memories for the troll from the look on its face.
"Yes, Guardian, very bad, as are all of her cohorts that I will happily supply to you." Jerry found his eyes glancing away at the joy the troll was emoting. It was a disturbing vision for him, which came as a surprise. He didn't regret killing Celina in the least, but that the troll was getting something more than just simply a meal didn't sit well inside his skin.
And the burnt flesh of Celina was being devoured by the troll, with thick strands of saliva dripping off its face, making Jerry aware that soon there wouldn't be anything left of the vamp but her bones. He wasn't sure if he was supposed to stay and watch the troll consume the entire corpse, or if it was considered rude to stay. The older trolls he'd dealt with prior to this one had always snatched the victims up and tore through them in wickedly fast bites. This troll seemed to savor each morsel like it was a gourmet dining experience. Edna, on the other hand, had been chomped in half and swallowed foot-wiggling fast.
Again the troll wanted to talk around slobbering vampire bits, "Bad vampire made more."
Jerry was shocked that the troll could pick up that much information from Celina's flesh and marrow, but it was correct. "Yes, she made more. They are rogues and will be dead soon enough."
The Vampire Council did not allow their enforcers to create minion and fledglings, but that hadn't stopped Celina from creating a small family. With her death those vampires and slave humans were up for grabs or instant death by any vampire who desired to play. If Jerry hadn't been so focused on getting to Ben Richland before the vampire fled to the West Coast he would have been snacking on those creatures himself. Part of Jerry wondered if the Council hadn't known all along about Celina's little plan, and that was how Jerry'd gotten so close to her. Her death could easily be another one of those Byzantine plots and plans concocted by the Council. Not that he thought they were overly bright at times, but they were diabolical -- he knew that for a fact.
His dark thoughts weren't slowing the troll's consumption of the vampire pieces in the least. It pulled out Celina's left foot and chewed off the toes quickly. Jerry decided he really didn't need to watch any more.
"Thank you, Guardian, for your assistance. I will be back soon." The troll gestured towards the nearly empty tub and waggled Celina's toeless foot at the box.
"You want back?" At least that was what Jerry thought it said through the crunching and smacking of its lips.
"No, you keep for now." There was no way Jerry wanted to be driving around with a blood-stained container after dark in Boca Raton. Besides, from the looks of things, the troll would lick the 'bowl' clean given enough time, and who was he to deny the creature its fun?
Jerry was pretty sure it would have said more had he not sprinted away. There was something disconcerting about watching the troll dine on the vampire instead of the usual chomping and ripping. It made him question the alliance slightly, but then it wasn't like he had a ton of choices.
Since he'd moved down to Florida from Michigan he'd only gone out to the infamous Everglades once. The swampy land filled with alligators, apex predators, and other equally nasty animals hadn't interested him in the least. He could still smell in his memory the fetid scent of vegetation rotting at the base of the trees and vines that twisted in the winds. A fire off in the distance had added another layer of odor to the nostril-burning bouquet that seemed to float over the entire known world. The burning grasses, ash and soot, shadowed with some dead and dying animals that were being consumed by the flames, filled the air. He could easily smell the human remains of victims decaying in the murky depths as well as those buried in shallow graves at the base of larger trees. But what really pushed him back on his heels was the hint of magic wafting on the tainted winds. There were many unknown supernatural creatures that made the Everglades their home, and he didn't have any desire to tangle with them then or since then.
So he'd pretty much consigned his fates to be entwined with the troll's, but he didn't see that he had to stay and watch it salivate over Celina's bones. He had to find Ben and get some answers before it was too late. Sighing, he made his way back to the gap in the fence. He needed to find a place to sleep. Dawn was coming.