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February 19, 2024

The Complex 19

By Lydia Manx

With all the supernatural feasting taking place, blood was freely running in the homes lining the canal and throughout the city. So nobody clustered inside was actively poking a head out to see what was happening by the large fountain in the middle of the roundabout west of the Camino Real drawbridge. Not that any of them would have believed their eyes had they been watching. Human nature was good at hiding from itself the uncanny and unusual when need be -- and Jerry Cooper well knew the locals needed to watch to their own safety rather than spying on others. The local vampires were busy sucking down pints of any stray humans who hadn't bothered to evacuate with the next possible hurricane approaching or the backlash from the one that had just skirted the region.

The fountain was dead in the water, so to speak, since it wasn't being powered and the stagnant water was splashing up and down the sides as stray gusts of wind danced across the leaf-strewn surface. The two standing vampires meeting next to the fountain didn't seem to notice it. Maxwell -- who wasn't standing -- wasn't faring well since Lenny'd arrived.

Jerry could sense that the humans that lived near the area weren't peering out their windows spying on the unfolding scene. Max's beating had been nearly silent, but nevertheless there'd been some noise. Not that it mattered -- Lenny and Ben weren't concerned in the least. Watching them, Jerry figured that neither of them would be able to hold their own if attacked by a frightened strong human. They weren't vampire enough to survive too much, Jerry well knew. That was what he was counting on as he tried to figure the best approach to capturing Ben alive. The other two vampires next to the fountain he wasn't as worried about, as they easily could be collateral damage used to distract Ben while he attacked. Admittedly, he did want to hear everything that Lenny had traveled to tell Ben all the distance from the Council. It wasn't absolutely critical to his existence, but he suspected it could be important in the future.

The two vampires, Lenny and Ben, were standing over the rapidly cooling Maxwell. Max wasn't a corpse yet, but he certainly wasn't feeling like getting up and breaking into song and dance. Jerry had been standing with Julia on the side of the street in the underbrush of dense, lush tropical foliage watching the meet between Lenny, the Vampire Council's envoy, and Ben Richland. Ben being the very same somewhat infamous executioner for the Council who'd tried unsuccessfully to kill Jerry a few years ago in his territory of Michigan.

That incident had caused Jerry had to abandon his beloved Michigan and head south on the snowbird trail to Southern Florida while he healed and plotted his revenge against the Vampire Council. One of the vampires who had helped capture him was now troll food over by the office he worked at -- a nice semi-secure industrial park. Oh wait, Jerry recalled that not all of the vampire was in the troll's stomach. As it was, her head and right hand, which currently resided a block or two away in the trunk of his car inside a Rubbermaid container, weren't gone and long forgotten. He recalled that the nasty vampire wasn't completely troll food with a slight smile on his lips. He'd considered dragging the little tub of fun with him when he went to confront Ben at the drawbridge, but once he'd created Julia he didn't think it was necessary. She'd keep.

Besides it wasn't like Celina Holston could fang into anyone and grow a new body. Without a heart to pump blood, she wasn't able to heal as usually vampires could after being extremely injured. The head was little more than a trophy to display and torment Ben with when the time was right. Or it could be used to ship out to the Vampire Council with a message or two about executioners and their real purpose in life. Which brought him to his current perch -- watching the meet between Ben and his old friend Lenny. Maxwell wasn't doing so hot after his beating but he was still alive.

Julia was still watching the unfolding meet with a somewhat awed look on her face. It dawned on Jerry that he had been the only vampire she even knew about a scant twenty-four hours prior,, and at the time they'd met she'd been too drunk to care much. Her suicidal thoughts added into the mix, making her uncaring about the idea of vampires and she didn't even care if he'd killed her. In fact she'd invited him to fang into her and make her pain go away. Instead he had a better thought, and once he'd turned her she knew the concept that there were big bad things that went thump in the night, but she'd not seen any others until the ones across the road showed up.

Now she was watching those three vampires interact quite poorly. Lenny had started off the meet by kicking the blood literally out of Maxwell in an attempt to screw with Ben. And from all the innuendo Lenny really had a hard on for Ben. And from everything they'd overheard it didn't mean Lenny felt that just emotionally. The two vampires had some sort of history from their actions and words. Poor beaten Max fell to the Council's dog rather solidly. Had Maxwell lifted a fang to help himself or resist the vampire, he would have paid with his life. As it was it was touch and go since there wasn't any free blood around to feed the quickly-weakening vampire. All in all it was quite the delightful dinner theatre in Jerry's book.

Lenny said, "Well, he'll either live or he won't. I don't much care which personally but I am concerned if he old enough to die a true vampire death or will we be stuck with a corpse?" The vampire had a slightly nasty smirk on his face as he glanced down at Max. Jerry amazed at how totally focused the vampires were. Considering they all knew that someone had drained all the vampires for hundreds of miles, not a one of them looked up from their little drama.

Max moaned, "Still can hear you. Screw off -- I'm not dead yet."

Jerry had to hand it to the vampire he certainly had some moxie. Lenny arched an eyebrow at Ben and commented, "Nice to see you still know how to pick them, Ben."

"Yeah, whatever. And again why exactly are you here, Lenny?" Ben wasn't playing with Lenny, but trying to find out what the Vampire Council meant by sending a vampire he knew to a meet that they'd commanded. Lenny wasn't sharing everything quickly, but in dabs and drips -- much like Max's diminishing blood level. Lenny was grinning because he knew his being sent was irritating Ben.

From his meet-and-greet with Celina he knew that she hadn't known why the Council's vampire was visiting Ben, but then she'd been out of the loop for a while. Before he'd killed her, Jerry'd slipped into her mind and he'd also seen her emails between Ben and her in the past few months, and knew she wasn't in the least aware of why Ben was being visited personally by a Vampire Council's vamp. Celina had had her own little agenda that didn't involve the Council.

"Told you the Council wanted you to feel comfortable while I passed on all the necessary information." Lenny wasn't making Ben 'comfortable' in any manner.

"Fuck you, that's bullshit. I think you personally asked to be sent." Ben looked upset by the notion. Lenny was now smiling even wider with his fangs out.

"So what if I did? It's not like you had a choice. The Council was sending someone to talk with you and why not me? They figured you'd be happier seeing a friendly face." Lenny was still smirking widely. Ben sighed.

"Yeah, whatever. Again. Why are you here? What more do you have to tell me?" Jerry watched a vein throb in Ben's neck, as he grew more and more agitated. It pleased Jerry more than he'd expected. The sight of Ben being tormented by another vampire was sweet.

Lenny just smirked. It seemed to drive Ben crazy and Lenny well knew it. The whole time they were teasing each other more and more of Maxwell was disappearing. His blood was flowing into the cracks and crevices in the ground and neither vampire seemed to notice.

That wasn't so in Jerry's corner of the street. Julia's fangs were out and she was shallowly breathing in and out, trying to calm herself. The earth was absorbing the vampire's blood and his fledgling was craving the taste. Jerry didn't want to drop his glamour to school her into a calmer state, so he waited to see if she could relax and control her desires.

Julia continued to shiver for a minute or more then stopped. Jerry was mildly curious what caused her to suddenly stop. He figured it would take her more time -- then he saw why. Maxwell had sat up. He was behind Lenny who was still bantering and tormenting Ben. They'd yet to discuss what caused Lenny to visit Florida. Lenny was too busy enjoying the smart-ass repartee he and Ben were exchanging to actually say anything of value.

Max knew what would make him feel better and had slowly been inching his traumatized body upright. Jerry didn't have a clue what was going through the vampire's mind since he wasn't dialed in, but he saw what had caught Julia's eye. Maxwell crossed a boundary when he literally threw himself across the foot or so distance between Lenny and him. And lightning fast, his fangs were in Lenny's calf and he was drinking from the Council's envoy.

A soft hiss of amazement came from Julia as she instantly understood why that wasn't a smart move. Lenny was visiting on the recommendation of the Vampire Council to explain something to Ben -- pretty much Maxwell's mentor -- and the beaten vampire was drinking from a Council's enforcer. His fangs weren't giving up and slowly Max was gaining a bit of strength. Lenny was completely shocked and hadn't moved since the vampire had latched onto his leg.

Ben, on the other hand, flew to the two and began pleading with Max to stop.

Maxwell began to heal -- not vampiric fast but definitely faster than a human -- and he didn't detach from the vampire.

Lenny finally spit out, "Get your pet off me or I'll kill him."

Ben said, "Kill him and I'll tell the Council about that time in Amsterdam."

Lenny froze and said, "You wouldn't."

"I would and I could add a few more tidbits if needed."

Max detached and wiped the line of blood-laced drool beneath his lip and said, "Thanks, you owed me."

Lenny sighed and said, "Crap. This is bad. Now Maxwell is part of this mess."

Ben reminded him, "You started it. Had you restrained yourself and conducted yourself like an adult instead of kicking Max damn near into a coma none of this would ever have happened."

Maxwell was blissed out still on the ground and he looked up to Lenny and said, "You drank quite a few pints of blood since you were drained by the ritual that hit us all."

It wasn't a question.

"So?" Lenny challenged while not denying the charge.

Jerry saw a sly expression go across Max's face when he added, "And you didn't let any of the humans live. Is that something new the Council is advocating? Slaughtering stray humans?"

Maxwell really didn't know when to curb his tongue.

Ben reached over and smacked Max hard across the face. "Silent. Are you truly mad? I can't protect you forever. And Lenny won't let you continue to disrespect him."

Max ducked his head and mumbled nearly inaudibly.

He wasn't completely silent as both Jerry and Julia could hear his softly spoken words.

Lenny heard them too and repeated what Maxwell had said. "Excuse me? 'Leonardo doesn't deserve any respect'? I don't huh?" Lenny looked ready to pop.

Ben said, "Enough, both of you. Max, you stay right there. Lenny, come over here."

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-04-09
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