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March 20, 2023

The Building 43

By Lydia Manx

Jerry Cooper pulled back to check on Julia. His new fledgling was still sleeping the sleep of the dead -- so to speak. He didn't want to miss anything that was happening over at Ben Richland's place so he slipped back behind the eyes of a vampire called Maxwell. Ever since he had used the ancient ritual to create Julia he had been able to trace Ben through the thoughts, minds and feelings of other vampires. He found one very close to Ben that suited his needs, and what made it truly perfect was that Maxwell was completely unaware of his unwilling participation in feeding Jerry information about -- Ben also the phone call that he was on with the Vampire Council. Deliciously he settled behind the vampire's eyes where he waited, watched and listened.

"Yes?" Ben didn't grovel at getting a call from the Vampire Council, but Max wasn't above making snarky comments under his breath. Jerry knew Max wasn't smart enough to figure out that he was being ridden like a Shetland pony at a kid's party. It was odd to be inside the dull vampire's brain with little to entertain himself, but Jerry knew the emptiness was partially from his yanking all the vampire energy to himself, stomping out many of the normal vampiric powers and skills. He still didn't see that Max had many skills other than being a giant suck up to Ben. But then, from what Jerry'd been discovering about the Council's pet enforcers, they had their own rules and bent them to their whims. Maxwell wasn't a true fledgling of Ben's, but merely acted like one as far as Jerry could figure.

"Benjamin Richland." It wasn't really a question but a confirmation of fact.

"Speaking," the vampire rolled his eyes at Max and gestured, with a rapid hand motion, for Max to fetch something.

Jerry thought erroneously that Max was going to get a paper and pen for Ben to take notes, but instead found the vampire was running to the kitchen and snagging a bottle from the fridge. As the electricity had been off nearly a full day the bottle wasn't cold anymore, and without electricity Jerry knew that the contents were simply going to be brought to Ben -- as there was no ice and no working microwave to change the temperature of the liquid. Max grabbed the top and twisted it open. Jerry could smell faintly through the vampire and knew it was human blood. Normally vampires like body temperature blood from the vein but he knew more than one would sip down on bottled blood that they microwaved to hit ninety-eight point six. Jerry wasn't a fan of bottled blood, but then beggars couldn't be choosers and he didn't think any of the vampires running around the area were up for free form feeding. They couldn't mask their true natures with glamour and would find many humans resistant to the simplest of suggestions.

Ben was stupidly nodding into the receiver, as if the Council member on the other side could see the vampire's head dipping up and down like a bobble head doll in the back of a Chevy. He snatched the opened bottle from Max's fingers, his fangs flashed out and he tipped the bottle back and swallowed deeply. A look of disgust passed over his face as the barely lukewarm liquid filled his mouth. Unlike Celina's experience with the drips and dribbles of animal blood that Jerry had taunted her with, Ben actually got a bit of sustenance from the blood. The distinctive aroma of a frightened woman came from the blood. Jerry knew there was also the under bouquet of an unexpected sudden pain-filled death. Unlike the bunny and sheep blood he'd fed Celina, the blood Ben consumed came from an unwilling victim. The woman had been panic stricken prey, chased down and caught like a rat in a field that a hawk would snack on.

"Do you understand, Ben?" Jerry resisted gritting his teeth because he thought Max might also grind his teeth, and that could prove to actually wake the vamp up that something wasn't normal. Jerry must have missed something when Max was busy getting blood for his mentor.

Thankfully Ben repeated what the Council vampire had said in a slightly angry tone, "Yes, I understand. The entire Eastern seaboard has been shut off. All the vampires in range of me outward to over roughly a thousand or so miles aren't able to use their powers and are crying for help. I am in the same damn boat. What is it you expect me to do?"

Again Jerry could feel the vampire on the other end of the phone struggling to push into Max's mind, but Max swatted the intrusion away with little thought. He instinctively protected his mind from an active invasion of a new vampire. Jerry had to wonder if it had something to do with the ancient turning ritual. It explained why it was forbidden. Not to mention a nasty bit of news to other vampires anywhere near the vampire doing the ritual.

"We expect you to track down whoever it is that invoked the ancient ritual and kill them both -- the vampire creator and the mutant fledgling." The voice was tense and Jerry thought the other vampire possibly was spitting into the receiver.

"With what? My rapier wit and a steak knife?" Came Ben's sarcastic rejoinder. Obviously the Council was too far away to bitch-slap Ben and he knew it. Jerry was appalled at the lack of control the Council had over their very own enforcers. Celina had been busy making her own rogue vampires and Ben was allowed to give the Council vampire lip ... something that surprised Jerry given the Vampire Council had been a force to be reckoned with for the last hundred or so years. It looked like things were finally breaking down in the Empire. Jerry resisted smirking because Max was starting to fidget and he could possibly notice that Jerry was riding him.

Max snickered, removing any doubt in Jerry's mind about being noticed. There was no vampire of Maxwell's level walking above the dirt who'd openly mock the Council while being watched. As it was, Ben glared at Max and used the nearly empty bottle to motion across his neck. Clearly he was telling Max to cut it out before Ben cut his throat. Jerry found that delightful. The more the vampires fought amongst themselves the better it was for him in the long run.

"Just kill the vampire and the rogue. Ben, this is not optional. You are responsible for your territory and everything leads back to your region." The voice brooked no argument. It didn't sound as if the Council had figured out where precisely he'd turned Julia or that it had been him that did the deed. Welcome news to Jerry.

"Fine, who are you sending to help?" Ben had at least figured out that he wasn't going to be able to do it on his own.

"We will send a name with the vampire you are meeting tomorrow night. You need to be careful. The vampire you are meeting has been in town for the past week and is just as compromised as you." As if the vampire hadn't realized his vulnerability already. Jerry knew damn well how it felt to be at the whim of another vampire's will and pain. That was why he was enjoying Ben's discomfort. It was just the beginning.

Concluding that Ben wasn't any more informed than he'd been before Jerry'd popped into Maxwell's brain, he mentally left the two vampires and returned to Julia's rapidly chilling body. She hadn't remembered how to sleep, so she looked dead to anyone but other supernaturals. As she was cooling, the lack of breathing would become noticeable to any stray humans. Jerry'd had seen many a vampire buried by humans during the daylight hours in his past. At times he dug them up or at least sent his minions to do the dirty deed, while other times he simply let the vampire rot under the soil for not being cautious enough in hiding. Julia was lucky that Jerry needed her and that he didn't have time to play mental games with her. He'd have to remind her to breathe once she got up.

Knowing he'd feel her awakening before she was fully conscious Jerry decided to relax a bit and enjoy the quiet. The storm had died down, and with the power off in the area there weren't any human noises to disturb him. It reminded him of early centuries when humans were few and far in between in his territory. Julia's home wasn't overly decorated or filled with tons of photographs. Without dipping too deeply into her mind he knew she was alone. The missing ex-boyfriend had been her only connection in Florida. Her family was distant and long forgotten for the most part. She was between jobs and wasn't going to be missed for a while. Those were things that worked well in Jerry's favor. Another needed break in the building of his new empire. He liked that idea -- an empire. It had been a long time since he'd even had to worry about such factors. He'd taken his territory in Michigan for granted and his title of Master of the City -- now all gone -- had been something that he thought he'd never lose. Like so many other things it had been lost during the Vampire Council's attempt at eliminating him from the face of the earth.

He rested lightly while plotting out how he was going to proceed. Ben Richland must by now suspect something wasn't right in his territory, but it didn't sound like he had any ideas of who or what had interfered with the natural flow of things. That could work in Jerry's favor with Julia's help. Her vampire body wasn't old but the infusion of magic that had created her with his blood gave a taint of ancient vampire that would easily confuse other vampires -- especially without the usual talents and skills they had at their fang tips. The draining of the local vampires was definitely going to help him in trapping Ben.

Julia was completely unconscious when Jerry finally got up to check on her. His own needs were minimal, since the ritual had created an energy field he was easily pulling from like a warm body. He didn't find himself craving any blood, but the silence was starting to wear on his nerves. The day was halfway over when he was finally too restless to stay inside. From everything he'd gleaned in Julia's mind there wasn't anyone who would come to check on her, much less even realize that she could be in any kind of distress. Her crazy ex-boyfriend had been slowly shoving her into a corner where he'd be the only one she'd depend on while he sucked the money and life-blood from the foolish woman. Jerry's intervention had prevented that particular future from happening, and instead Julia had a new life as a vampire to look forward to, instead of paying off the credit card debt the ex had buried her with while keeping from her the fact he was cheating on his mate with her. Humans liked the complexities that vampires didn't bother to even acknowledge. The idea of 'owning' another vampire mate wasn't something Jerry'd ever heard of. Humans and minions were easily controlled as were fledglings, but mates weren't something most vampires desired -- not ones of his age. He'd buried far too many female companions over the decades and been forced to lop of the heads of a few that didn't know when to leave. Not a delightful way of spending an evening, he'd found.

Deciding that Julia wasn't going to get up and go anywhere, Jerry decided to sneak out and see what kind of storm damage was in the area. He skipped using a car and instead fell into the shadows and made his way along the edges of life. Her property was on a road that ended at a small park with the canal running along the edge. There wasn't much in the way of living creatures around, he quickly discovered. The reptiles and birds were busy finding things to eat, but pretty much all the humans had fled once day broke and the power continued to be off. Jerry took comfort in the lack of humanity. It suited his mood perfectly. He watched a snake strangle a rat and thought about the night ahead. It was going to be a good evening. It was his time to conquer his own demons and create his new territory. He knew it all the way to his bones.


Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-11-28
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