Jerry Cooper inhaled deeply, feeling the wet air expand inside his lungs and inflate with the effort. The air in Boca Raton wasn't as pure as his past home in the Great Lakes region of Michigan, but it was safer. He wasn't being held at stake point in some abandoned house in the abandoned suburbs of Detroit. But nevertheless, the air was breathable. He'd told his new fledgling, Julia, that vampires had to breathe when around humans to keep the illusion alive that they were -- well, alive. He chuckled at his wordplay even while knowing he was doing it for himself as there weren't any human beings in the area.
The massive storms that had been ripping through the state had cleared out the low lying areas as flooding and power outages further put the nail in the coffin for the soft creatures. Luckily Julia hadn't fled. She'd been too focused on her imagined failings in a crappy relationship with the recently departed, but unfortunately not dead, William. When Jerry had followed her pain-filled scent to her home, he'd been rewarded with a vulnerable, available human ripe for his picking.
He hadn't had a big choice. He had needed to get off the street before he was noticed. The cops were still over in his community trying to find the body of Edna, his next door neighbor. Not something possible since a wandering troll had snatched her up and gobbled her down in two bites. He'd already had one encounter with the local cops, and escaped the gated community before any more could come knocking.
Honestly, he'd gone after the delightfully upset female with the intentions of tapping a vein and draining her dry, but instead another idea had presented itself to him. The idea wasn't initially something that he'd ever figured he'd do again. He decided to take the human on as a fledgling. He planned on using her to trap another vampire. It had been far too many decades since he'd created a child without his entourage of minions and fledglings to help. That hadn't stopped him. In fact, as he looked at his unlined hands and his smooth skin, he had helped himself by using an ancient ritual mostly forgotten and certainly forbidden in the current vampire climate.
A chill raced down his spine as he pondered that 'climate' of hate and fear that he traced directly back to the upstarts that called themselves the 'Vampire Council' -- like they'd been elected and ratified by a committee. In vampire time scale they were relatively new upon the scene, having only cooked up their little cabal a century or two ago. He hated them more than he could put into words. They had turned his lands and world upside down on a whim. He shook his head, unable to delude himself with that notion. The Council actually had stumbled upon him and his territory and found that he'd crossed some of their imaginary lines and broke a rule or seven. Hell, they hadn't a clue who or what he truly was, but nevertheless taken it upon themselves to 'correct' his behavior.
They simply had sent a cadre of executioners into his land and ripped his kingdom apart. He'd been living quite nicely in Michigan long before Detroit was much more than a trade center for fur trappers and other vagabonds wandering the vast territory. He'd been feared by the Native Americans and left alone by the few other Master vampires in the New World. His legend had lived in the nightmares of those he allowed to survive to tell the tales. He'd grown too complacent in his own mythology, and forgotten that fear bred hatred often times, and for that he'd paid dearly. Someone who knew him had betrayed him -- he didn't have a name, but would before too much longer.
The irony of it was that Jerry Cooper wasn't even his name, and here he was trying to figure out the name of who had forced him out of his life and into a whole different environment. In fact Jerry Cooper was the name of a man he'd stalked and sucked dry once he'd fled the site of his captivity and near death. He'd taken the man's life, along with all the supporting documents to allow him to migrate down the road along the snowbird trail to South Florida. His escape from Detroit had passed unnoticed from all his research, but he wasn't simply living the life of the common man; he had built his world up slowly. As the time passed, he figured that the Council had mistakenly assumed that he was gone from the earth. That was their mistake.
Yes, it was one mistake that he was more than happy to rectify soon. And he had already begun his reign of payback and terror they deserved. The Council probably hadn't heard about the death of Celina Holston -- one of the executioners the Council had sent to kill him -- as of yet, but once they did, his machinations would start to emerge. His plan was simple -- slaughter all the vampires that the Council had sent to destroy him and then find a new empire to claim. Granted most vampires stripped of all their land, monies and power -- not to mention the title Master -- tended to hide once exposed to the Council's dogs, but that wasn't Jerry's nature. He was going to rip them apart body by body as they had done to his world.
As he contemplated the overly full canal, he watched a fish breach and plummet back into its wet world. The shiny scales disappeared into the murky moss-filled channel and the ripples rolled outward from the fish's splashy reentry. The ripples were tightly banded at first, then were further apart until a slight ripple caressed the compact dirt that created the shoreline near his feet. To the casual eye the ripple was little more than a baby wave as the point of initial creation was long under the surface. The fish was forgotten and the resulting ripples were just a casual effect of another creature. That was the plan for Jerry. He was going to make his own waves. The Council had a short memory, he'd discovered in his investigations, and that was going to work in his favor.
Smiling, he felt the last of the daylight dance over his face. His smooth skin didn't react to the rays of sun hidden inside the humid gray air. Younger vampires couldn't take any sunlight in their youth, while vampires of his age could easily be day walkers with the proper amount of skin care and blood. The ritual he'd used to create his fledgling had been epic. He'd forgotten how the power that flowed back to the creator would wash waves and waves of energy into his body until after he was done. It had been centuries since he'd used the ritual, and with the density of the vampire population in modern day society he'd found out that there were some deliciously delightful side effects that he'd not noticed in the past. The draining of local vampires had been expected, but their reaching out and pulling from their kin had made a vortex of energy that flowed directly into him and through him to his creation. After he was done making his child, he saw that he'd gained new strength, and in turn found he resembled the man he hadn't been in well over three hundred-plus years. Bathing in blood for a decade he could have possibly achieved somewhat similar a look, but this was beyond anything he'd ever counted on when he'd invoked the ritual. His strength wasn't a temporary addition of human blood and their rich pain, but instead a feast of vampiric skills and souls. It was remarkable how he felt, and he knew it went down to a cellular level. Instinctively he knew that he wouldn't easily be stripped of his new body and stronger powers.
Thankfully he'd anticipated a possible return to a more youthful state when he'd moved into his gated community. Jerry hadn't figured that it would be so dramatic, but he had still made sure to cover his bets. His well-bribed guards had been told he had a nephew who was allowed to visit unescorted or announced. This meant that now he would need to get some new identification. His driver's license picture had his age well into his fifties, and now he didn't look older than mid to late twenties. Smiling, he brushed a hand through a fuller head of hair and chuckled. It was good to start his reign as a Dark Prince rather than an aged King. Even though he'd burned a few bridges in the past few nights, he was well aware of the underground community that created fake papers for humans. Florida was rich with thieves and convicts constantly recreating their past to suit their present. He would take advantage of one of those thugs once he got his fledgling settled. It wouldn't take but an hour, and with Julia's semi-catatonic state, she was easily manipulated and wouldn't be able to flee if she wanted.
He walked back inside her home and smiled. He could feel her waking up from her first sleep as a vampire. She hadn't heeded his advice about breathing, but he'd impress upon her the necessity of learning to automatically breathe in and out while around humans. It wouldn't suit him to have her killed so soon after he'd created her. Somehow he didn't see the ritual working again so quickly. He'd drained nearly the entire Eastern seaboard not to mention most of the Caribbean, well into Mexico and Central America. There was a delightful amount of vampires living near enough for him to poach, but it would take them a few nights to get any sort of strength back.
As he entered her home, he slowly went back into the bedroom where he'd left her earlier. He was careful not to use vampiric speed since she was awake. He didn't want to overwhelm her. It didn't seem to matter as she was flat on her back with her eyes blown wide open. Her features were etched with a sense of awe and wonder.
"Vampires have great hearing. I could hear your footsteps and even your breathing. But I couldn't hear your thoughts." Julia seemed puzzled; a crease appeared on her forehead as she tried to make sense of the various differences. Jerry knew that during the transformation ritual a bit of his thoughts meshed with hers to aid the process, but it wasn't something that a Master allowed a fledgling.
"That's right, Julia. And how do you feel now?" He wasn't going to mention her personal lack of breathing. That was something he'd mention later when she'd absorbed her nature more ... if she survived the coming meeting with Ben Richland.
It was all Jerry could do to not hiss at the mere notion of Ben Richland. He schooled his features, while his mind raced around looking for any more weaknesses he could exploit on the vampire. It was long past time.
Ben Richland was the enforcer for the Vampire Council who'd taken him off the streets of Detroit and tortured him in suburbia Michigan for months. The silver lined coffin with blessed religious icons and metals had created a hell on earth for Jerry. Celina had actually been Ben's tool. Celina Holston was nothing without her henchmen to back her in a fight, Jerry'd quickly discovered. She'd pulled him from his clan and shoved him inside a van and the dreaded coffin. The months he spent inside that hell hole weren't easily erased. All of which didn't matter any more as she was now little more than troll crunchies over in the Boca Raton business park near his job as a night security guard. A fitting ending for a Southern belle with an attitude, Jerry thought.