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July 15, 2024

The Complex 20

By Lydia Manx

Not waiting for Lenny to move on his own accord, Ben Richland guided Lenny with a firm grip away from the still-healing Maxwell and happily, closer to where Jerry and Julia were watching cloaked in the shadows of the vegetation and with Jerry's vampire glamour. They were assuming that they were completely alone and didn't bother to even glance around again. Jerry found it interesting that they were so overly confident about their skills -- given they didn't have any. The ritual had robbed them temporarily of their basic vampire gifts, and even the blood that Lenny had taken since then hadn't given him back much more than a bit of speed and some strength. Max was healing from Lenny's blood -- Julia's mouth was open as she saw the vampiric talent clearly illustrated -- hearing that vampires healed fast this was her first time actually observing it. So Jerry Cooper and his fledgling, Julia, were nicely primed to watch Lenny and Ben continue to discuss why the Vampire Council had sent Lenny to Southern Florida to meet up with Ben. The dense brush was not completely blocking the vampires from being seen had any of the three vampires in the fountain area actually had any residual vampiric visual powers. Thankfully Jerry's moderate glamour was successful and they were able to get a free show. Or as Jerry termed it 'dinner theatre' -- he added 'of the damned' in his mind as he saw Maxwell slowly healing. There was going to be a nasty little show down between Lenny, Ben and Maxwell at some point, but Jerry was hoping it wouldn't be in the next hour or so before he could snatch Ben. He really needed some answers to his questions about who'd betrayed him in his family.

The beating Lenny had given the still healing vampire, Max, had been excessive and methodical. Had Max not latched onto Lenny and drained some blood from the visiting Council's enforcer it more than likely could have been the true death of the lower-leveled vampire. Ben was still fuming mad at Max, but he didn't see the point in belaboring the point, and simply wanted to find out what his old friend, Lenny, had come to say.

"Damn, Ben, you didn't have to manhandle me over here. I would've gone perfectly willingly with you. I wasn't going to play with Maxwell any more -- for now." Lenny said through tightly-clenched teeth.

The history between them sizzled in the evening air. The sub-tropical driven storms had abated for now, but the hurricane that had been apparently headed at one time for Southern Florida had veered away from a direct hit and was coasting along the Eastern Seaboard. It could easily whip back and hit them dead on in Boca Raton like Hurricane Wilma had done to the area around a half dozen years or so ago. The 'cone of uncertainty' was just that.

Jerry didn't want to risk exposing them just yet by sneaking a peek inside either of their carefully-guarded vampire minds. Ben might easily recognize Jerry even after all these years and Lenny was an unknown quantity that possibly could have gotten enough blood inside him in the past day to be able to notice the mental intrusion. Jerry well knew that the Vampire Council did train their enforcers against the stronger Master vampires and their talents and vampiric tricks in order to kill the Masters that crossed the Council. With Jerry the Council had cheated and used a black blood-fed box that shut down Jerry's abilities and allowed the Council's vampires to torture and torment him for months before he was freed.

"Leonardo, get over yourself," Ben said.

"Lenny!" The vampire bit back. He really wanted to stick to the new name. Neither Jerry nor Ben figured Leonardo deserved the name change, but Jerry wasn't in the equation so he let Ben handle his buddy.

"Fine, Lenny, get the hell over yourself," Ben jabbed.

Max was still healing with Lenny's blood flowing through his fangs into his body. The beating that Lenny had dished was slowly fading like time elapsed photography. Bruises and cuts were disappearing. It wasn't like Max could jump up and run a half marathon much less a hundred yard dash, but at least it didn't look like the vampire would die.

"Ben, you need to listen to me. There's a reason the Vampire Council didn't send you an email or simply call you on your cell. Things have changed," Lenny said through tight lips.

"Yeah, there's always a disaster and the world's always on the edge of being destroyed. I saw 'Men In Black'. I know the spiel," Ben quipped. Jerry was pretty shocked to hear Ben quote a modern movie. From all Ben's pontification while he was entombed in the cursed coffin in Detroit, Jerry figured he was one of the vampires permanently stuck in their death era. Ben probably had been changed at the beginning of the twentieth century, from everything Jerry'd found in his research. He'd figured that Ben was fond of theatre and written works. It was rare for vampires in the mid-level range to experience much past their human death.

Jerry very well knew it took a few decades or so to readily accept the evolution of a vampire's reality for those who would advance. Others never did -- they were frozen in time and rarely able to understand any century but their own. Jerry figured someone Ben knew had given him the movie quote.

Lenny's upper lip curled as he snarled back, "Fuck you! You wouldn't even have known that quote if I hadn't sent you the DVD!"

Mystery solved. It looked like Lenny sent Netflix movies to Ben for his cultural growth. All in all, it was another surprise for Jerry. Lenny was from another generation but had seemed to absorb the current times. That made him far more dangerous than Ben in Jerry's book. Lenny had learned to adapt. He could easily be a problem for Jerry's plans to snag Ben.

Ben growled back, "Yeah, the movie sucked. Like we are supposed to believe that aliens live among us?"

It was all Jerry could do to keep his mouth shut. He could see that his fledgling was equally challenged. Julia turned her face to Jerry with her eyes wide and eyebrows arched, but she was good and didn't say a word. The two vampires watched Lenny try to argue the existence of aliens with Ben.

"Hello? Ben, we are fucking vampires. Why can't aliens be real? You've seen plenty of weird shit in your life -- hell, who's kidding who? I've been around for some of that. So why are you so busy denying the reality of the world that you can't see what happening? Has Florida softened you that much? I know the locals are pretty damned crazy, but come on? We have seen some amazing things." Lenny was sincerely appealing to Ben.

This was not what Jerry wanted to overhear. Lenny had yet to spill everything about why he'd shown up at the Vampire Council's request to talk with Ben. Instead they were busy flirting and bantering like high-schoolers. If it hadn't been so important to find out really why the Council had sent Lenny to Florida, Jerry probably would have enjoyed the show. That and he really needed to snag and bag Ben before he disappeared to the West Coast. The ritual was mentioned and other things were alluded to, but there was something that Lenny was holding back.

Max took the moment to interrupt with a smart-ass comment, "Sheesh, why don't you two get a fucking room? Hell, Benji, now I know why you wouldn't give me the time of day. Leonardo is a nice piece of ass."

Ben left Lenny's side and cold-cocked Max back to a near coma. They wouldn't be hearing from that corner of the world any time soon. Max was definitely out for the count.

Lenny chuckled and said, "Now why didn't I do that? Okay, before the boy blunder comes to, let me tell you all that the Council wanted me to pass on."

The vampire stiffened at the 'boy blunder' remark but didn't say anything aloud. Jerry thought it was cute given the whole 'Batman and Robin' bit. Ben definitely liked being the one in charge and Max pretty much was his sidekick of questionable orientation. Lenny easily recognized the dynamics and pushed at Ben's thoughts.

"Spill it, Leonardo. Fuck it if I'm going to call you Lenny. You aren't any different," Ben growled, not allowing Lenny to toss any more verbal jabs.

"Fine. Listen closely. You've been compromised. Someone on the executioner level has been selling vampire blood to humans, and giving up locations of clans to rogues. We've lost a dozen or so strong members in the last few weeks. It seemed to start here in Florida. The Council didn't want to tell you on the phone, because we don't know who is talking. They decided that you weren't the instigator, but someone close to you." Lenny spilled it fast without a breath. Not that vampires had to breathe, but it was lightning fast, nearly racing the wind with his speed.

Ben's face was a study in confusion and panic. He well knew that the Council had put him on the short list. And it wasn't the good short list but the bad one. The ritual that Jerry'd performed to create Julia had been noticed, but the Council hadn't known about that when they'd set the meet. The selling of vampire blood was a huge no-no.

"So why again are you here?" Ben went for the direct approach.

"Because I'm supposed to help you root out the problem," Lenny answered.

Jerry gritted his teeth at the added complication. Now he had to decide if he should salvage Lenny or kill him when he snagged Ben. Decisions, pesky decisions -- it seemed like it hadn't taken more than a day or two for the damn ugly vampire politics to rear their head. Part of what got him into his mess with the Council was politics. That and his running his territory how he wanted instead of how the Council had dictated.

"Well how the hell are we going to do that now? You're as screwed as me with this ritual that's covered the area. The best we can do is kick the crap out of whoever started this crap and hope for the best." Ben arched an eyebrow at Max, still unconscious at their feet, a visual reminder of how well vampires could kick the crap out of vamps. Maxwell wouldn't be jumping up and biting anyone any time soon. Jerry wasn't sure that the vampire would even survive coming sunrise.

Lenny nodded and said, "That may be, but until we ferret out the vampire selling blood to humans, we will keep looking." "I thought I was supposed to head out to the West Coast and help with those problems." Ben sounded startled.

"Hell, no! We don't know which of the vampires associated with you is part of the rogue element. The Council decided to resolve this concern before sending you out to that matter." Lenny was smug in his passing on the information to Ben. Jerry could tell he took great pleasure in dashing Ben's hopes of escaping the East Coast. Jerry found the snotty words irritated him more than expected. Julia was watching with her eyes wide and thankfully her mouth shut. It wouldn't do to be revealed before Jerry had fully plotted out a path. He wanted to snag Ben and drain Lenny for information. He didn't know if he could take them both at the same time.

Some of what he was thinking must have been written on his face because Julia nudged him softly and arched an eyebrow.

He automatically slid into his fledgling's mind and found that she'd had an idea. He turned it over in his and didn't see any immediate problems. He connected with her mind and gave a few minor suggestions and tapped his wrist. He didn't wear a watch but she nodded and flashed five fingers. He answered with both hands up indicating ten minutes. She nodded.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-04-16
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