"Not a problem." And Jerry Cooper was correct, and he saw a way to fix the container of food that was bothering his fledgling. They got over the bridge shortly and as they turned a corner onto Federal Highway, they saw a man with a shopping cart shuffling along the sidewalk.
Rolling down the window next to Julia he called out, "Excuse me, mister?"
The man lifted his head, and with blurry eyes he looked at them, nodding. He answered, "Yes?"
"We have to get to the airport for a flight and can't eat these wings while driving. It you don't mind, we'd like to give them to you." Jerry pushed pleasant thoughts of caring and concern with his words. He didn't have time to play and knew the homeless man would savor the treat.
"Sure, it's okay." The man's eyes gleamed as he came over to Julia's door. They handed out the Bru's Room to-go bag, and the man practically went invisible after he accepted the meal. Jerry knew that the man would inhale what he needed, and trade out the extra to other humans also hidden in the shadows. The storms that had been flooding the streets and shutting down the power had to keep more than a few homeless folks huddled under bridges and in abandoned homes trying to stay alive. Julia smiled as Jerry rolled the window back up and said, "Thanks. That makes me feel better somehow."
Despite Jerry's conversational gambit with the homeless man, they did not continue towards the Fort Lauderdale or Miami Airport but went back towards Deerfield. They had a few hours before Ben Richland would be at the Camino Real drawbridge and Julia was getting a bit agitated.
"What's wrong?" Jerry finally asked as they crawled through the back roads of Broward County.
"I don't know," she admitted.
Jerry waited for his fledgling to figure out what was bothering her. He didn't much care, but there wasn't too much more to distract him for the next few hours, so he let her talk. The rain returned, making him have to pay attention to the other drivers. Traffic accidents caused more vampire fatalities than most humans knew. They also left some oddities that defied the usual explanations. Decapitated vampires could simply be reduced to ash and dust given the right circumstances and heaven only knew how the insurance companies explained the lack of insurers to sue after an accident to their clients. Jerry figured they just paid out the ass and pretended to care.
Julia finally said, "There's something wrong here."
Laughing, Jerry said, "Yes, there is. But what do you mean?"
"Everything is this giant void. It's like voices are missing," Julia pegged it in one. Jerry thought carefully how he would explain that his creating her made the void that she was feeling. Shrugging, he caved and said, "They are. With your creation we stopped the noise around us. It was part of the package." He simply explained the vampire ritual without going into more detail. He well knew that the ancient ritual was responsible for her feeling the missing 'voices' because basically he'd drained the territory with his spell.
She became his fledgling while he sucked the lifeblood out of vampires within five hundred miles. Okay, that wasn't completely true, because it ended up being a tad further. The vampires he pulled from started reaching out in turn to their lifelines, and yanked on those threads, which began the ripple effect that spread out beyond the initial five hundred or so miles and went all the way up the East Coast and throughout the Caribbean and parts of Central America. Naturally that attracted the attention of the Vampire Council, but without any vampire on the Eastern seaboard except for Jerry and Julia with any powers, they were blind.
Jerry liked them being blind. Given his painful 're-education' by Ben Richland and his crew it seemed only fitting. They stuffed him in a coffin and for that he definitely owed them a tad bit of payback. Celina was dead, but at least her body would serve some purpose. Most of her was already was filling the belly of a beast. Jerry shuddered at the memory of watching the troll sucking the marrow from her bones, and crunching the bits and pieces left after chewing off the sun-burnt meat. All of which reminded Jerry of the buckets of fried chicken eaten around the campfires of hunters he'd tormented and drained over the years. Some issues remained firmly stuck in one's mind, Jerry had long concluded.
She tilted her head and listened to something off in the distance then said, "I see."
What concerned Jerry was the fact that she seemed to hear something that he wasn't privy to, and it convinced her of his words. There wasn't any time to chase back what stray thought had given her the push to listen, so he shoved it back into his head and nodded. They continued winding through the various streets and neighborhoods while Jerry began to work out how he was going to confront and capture Ben. From everything Jerry'd found, Ben Richland wasn't an ancient vampire, and Ben wasn't like Celina with his own minions and rogue fledglings. No, Ben was worse. He honestly believed that he was above the basic vampire and worthy of praise simply because he'd been given power by the Vampire Council.
That was something that Jerry wanted to explore at fang tip, along with who had given the Council his own blood. He knew that it had to have been someone close to him. He didn't go around opening a vein for anyone to pull down a pint. His bloodletting was closely tied to ceremonies with fledglings and minions. But somehow the enforcers had been given enough of his blood to fuel a black blood box that nearly killed him. That was just one of the many questions that he had for Ben. He had others, but that was one of his top two.
They continued in silence. There wasn't much that Julia had to offer so early in her life as a vampire to Jerry, but in time -- if she survived -- he very well recognized that she could easily become quite important to him. He thought that she could be the beginning of his new family. That an ancient ritual with his power had forged her meant that she wasn't the usual fledgling created by a Master Vampire, but something exceptional. That was a good thing in Jerry's opinion.
It wasn't anywhere near eleven o'clock, but Jerry was getting itchy. He knew that Ben Richland had arranged with the Vampire Council to meet up with a contact on the Camino Real drawbridge in Boca Raton. Nobody had said who was meeting Ben much less which side of the bridge where that was supposed to occur. Jerry wasn't even sure that Celina Holston had ever been told the name. Ben played his cards close to his chest.
Jerry'd peered into Maxwell's mind to find out more about Ben while at Julia's house, waiting to see if she survived her turning. Being turned into a vampire wasn't some romantic folly, but a true commitment. There wasn't any turning back from becoming part of the fanged set. Maxwell was a flunky of Ben's. He wasn't a fledgling or minion but more like a 'fan.' He considered Ben his mentor. From the creepy peek inside Maxwell's view of 'reality,' Ben had bitten off more than his fangs could chew.
Finally Julia asked, "What's the plan?"
Like Jerry even had a plan. He wasn't going to share his lack of direction to his fledgling and instead he smiled and said, "No worries. I'll tell you what you need to do when the time is right."
He thought it was a good answer. He wanted Ben with a red-hot passion that he couldn't even begin to explain. Ben was part of what Jerry liked to call a 'delusion of reality.' Jerry knew the Vampire Council was behind Ben's activities and Ben didn't have a clue what the Council did. Jerry on the other hand had a clear picture of what the entire Council did for kicks and giggles. And not just because he was detained by them, and in turn Ben at their behest, but also because they'd been doing their damage for decades. He'd been an idiot and not listened to other Master Vampires ranting about the injustice and unreasonable rules and laws.
The Vampire Council had created a new world for Old World vampires. They'd imposed their laws on vampires that had lived for centuries. Jerry had been told about them, but he'd not been concerned, since he was in Michigan living his life. He never thought they'd come for him. When Celina had distracted him and captured him, he'd been shocked. When Ben had tried to break him and kill him, he'd been angry. And once he was free, he swore vengeance. They'd taken his family from him, not to mention all of his land and monies. For that he would make them pay. He wasn't really picky. Celina had paid with her blood and her life, but she hadn't given him much information that he hadn't already had. Hopefully Ben would change that.
If not, there were plenty of other vampires he still owed a visit.
Continuing in silence, they drove through half-lit neighborhoods and completely blacked out areas. Jerry found it interesting that the wealthier humans had electricity, often while two blocks over, the edgier hoods weren't enjoying the simple pleasures of lights and air conditioning. There was no logical reason for the lack of power other than money talks and poverty walks. The traffic lights were hit or miss and some extreme hits. Accidents were pulled over to the side streets at times, and other times tangled in the middle of the intersections, causing them to have to swerve to avoid the mess.
Finally Jerry admitted, "Julia, you may not survive meeting Ben and the other vampire."
"I know," she acknowledged without a whimper.
"Does this bother you?" He asked gently while trying to get the measure of his new fledgling.
"Not really. You've shown me the world in a whole new light. If I survive this, you will let me torment and kill William, right?" Her voice was as light and relaxed as a mother trying to rock a baby to sleep. That impressed him.
"If that still interests you. If everything goes according to plan, we'll probably be relocating," he offered, as if she had any say in what happened. The illusion of control could be far more persuasive than the threat of violence. He wasn't above using violence when it suited him, but he wasn't stupid enough to think might was the only way.
Julia nodded and asked, "Do you think Tony will come through with the papers and ID like requested?"
Jerry chuckled and said, "One way or another. I think something I may have snuck into his mind won't give him much of a choice in a few hours."
He'd decided, once he'd actually handed the money over, to plant a seed or two inside the drug-addled mind of the sketchy forger, old Tony. Not only wouldn't the scumbag ever get to 'nail' the nice waitress, but he'd find it impossible to think of doing anything but creating the best possible IDs for Jerry and Julia. He'd have them by the coming evening or die trying. Literally. The human's innate self-destructive mindset had given Jerry the opportunity to hammer inside a failsafe bit of commands. Jerry wouldn't have to drop a fang tip on the jerk. He'd literally take a running dive off the Deerfield Beach pier after injecting steroids into his neck. Jerry thought it would nearly be worth the man's failure just to see how the news spun that little oddity. Floridians had some extremely stupid criminals Jerry'd discovered as he'd perused the newspapers while bored at work. Admittedly not all of them were native Floridians, but still it was like they put something in the water that pushed men and women to do some extremely stupid things. The newspapers devoted entire sections at times to the bizarre behavior of the locals.
Julia smiled and said, "Okay, Sire." She was content to allow him to guide her. Jerry knew that she was slightly tired from all the excitement of being around so many flesh and blood humans and resisting the call to feed.