Jerry Cooper didn't blame old Ben Richland for looking so queasy. It wasn't easy hearing such things. Fledglings could be excused for stupidity, but Celina Holston hadn't been some newbie vampire, but a long time vamp who'd been part of Ben's execution team that had been directed by the Council. Jerry'd never been given a glimpse of the betrayals in his world so it was pretty cool to see how another vampire handled such things. Ben appeared to be ready to toss his cookies.
Lenny laughed and looked over to his buddy saying, "Hello, total way. Geeze, Ben, how fucking stupid are you? After a few decades of being the Council's enforcers, it is more than common for the executioners to overstep their purpose. They are like big city cops -- graft is expected. The Council knows it and anticipates it. But for some reason the recent batch of enforcers have gone rogue faster than ever. We blame the humans."
"What?" Ben answered.
"Humans are weak. We all know it. Hell, we use it as the basis for our food. They are pathetic and don't expect anyone to challenge them. They foolishly think that they are the apex predators in the world. They give nods to alligators, sharks and other vipers, but they still think after all the history between them that they rule. Give them a few weeks in the Amazon Basin and they are dead or nearly dead." Here Lenny grinned and looked at Ben saying, "You remember our time in the Amazon don't you?"
Ben shrugged and said, "Leonardo, talk about Celina. Stop trying to distract me with our past."
Jerry stored that tidbit as a possible point for breaking Ben later. It wasn't a bad night, but not what he'd expected.
"I'll take that for a yes. Celina has started her own rogue clan. We heard about it a few months ago. Then we heard about the blood being sold to vamps and humans. You talk with her often. Hell, she's one of your biggest fans. And now the Council wants to know what's going on down here at the end of the road. Have you no control over your vampires?" Lenny went for the jugular without even dropping his fangs. He was having fun.
Ben Richland listened to Lenny, the envoy from the Vampire Council, and kept shaking his head. "No fucking way, Leonardo," Ben refused to call the vampire his preferred current name of Lenny -- not far off his usual name but enough to make Ben grimace.
Lenny laughed with flashing fangs and taunted with emphasis, "Yes, fucking way. Come on, Ben. You know damn well that vampires can go rogue. That Celina, your friend, did shouldn't be news and hell it shouldn't have come from me. You should have known. You both worked on more than one capture together. She was making other vampires. You should've smelled it on her. Ben, this is your region."
Jerry Cooper listened gleefully to the taunts and words pouring from both the vampires. Maxwell was still out of the conversation trying to simply stay alive. Ever since he'd made the mistake of draining Lenny of some of his blood to heal from the beating Lenny had delivered, it fell to Ben to correct the situation. Ben knocked him hard enough to damn near put him in a coma. Julia, his fledgling, was just about ready to run screaming into the street to give Jerry the distraction to be able to jump to the other side of the fountain and take out Lenny. Lenny was the unknown element.
Julia stopped at his command and waited. She too was interested in the conversation. Vampires were new for Julia. She had only been one for a day or so. Jerry was still waiting to see if there was anything more they could say that would give him any more power. He was tired of sticking to the shadows and wanted to start breaking down Ben for the information the executioner had about his own capture. The additional tidbits that Lenny was revealing, though fascinating, weren't what Jerry wanted.
He found himself rocking back and forth on his feet softly. That wasn't something he'd done in centuries. A sure sign his mind was busy trying to puzzle out the variations in the facts and guesses being tossed out in the heated discussion between the two old vampire acquaintances.
Lenny was still sitting next to Ben on the edge of the non-functioning fountain. The roundabout was quiet other than the vampires. No humans were out and about -- it was late and the storms had triggered some voluntary evacuations along the coastal reason.
"Ben, this isn't a joke. Celina is gone. Her fledglings and minions are being picked off by others indicating they aren't protected anymore. With the storm there was confusion to start, but once that ancient ritual zapped us all there wasn't any way to find Celina through the vampire network. Even phone calls didn't help track her down. Nobody had seen her at her job, either. Then this meet was set up because of the blood sales."
Lenny put a hand on Ben's knee, which Ben shook off by jumping up and spinning on Lenny saying, "No. Stop."
"Ben, stop what? I'm just passing on the information. Hell, you should know the Council couldn't sit on news like this. The backlash for other Master vampires is widespread. And I know we're operating on almost nothing vampiric. No skills, no talents, not even the lovely glamour aura that makes feeding easier. But someone is selling our blood. Not just to other vampires but to humans. This can't be allowed to continue." Lenny stood next to Ben and tried to catch his gaze unsuccessfully.
Jerry was startled to find Ben gazing directly at him. It caused him to start until he noticed that Ben's eyes weren't focused in the least at them, but just the direction of the two hiding vampires. Jerry's glamour was holding and Ben was just gathering his thoughts while the leaves blew in the wind and the shadows of darkness dappled the shades of gray and black.
"Ben, you have to accept it. This isn't some fairy tale you're been told to undermine your territory. There's a taint to the vampires down here. Even before the ritual was launched, the Council had decided you needed to be counseled." Lenny was trying to look serious, but he had yet to retract his fangs and was smirking slightly.
Ben didn't see it because he was still looking off in the distance trying to summon his thoughts and emotions. They were darkly complicated and delicious. Jerry drank in the vamp's emotional storm and sighed softly. He really appreciated being on the other side of the problem for a change.
He spun abruptly back to Lenny and simultaneously the vampire dropped his smile and his fangs retracted. "Leonardo, the Council doesn't 'counsel' they simply execute and dispose of problem vampires. You can't fool me. I have personally 'counseled' a few vampires to true death."
Irritated he spun back away saying, "So drop the drama and mystery and spell it out. Are you here to kill me?"
Lenny dropped his head and said softly, "I hope not."
With that Jerry gave Julia the nod. There could only be two reactions to that and both posed possible problems in the next few minutes. The first reaction would be Ben trying to kill Lenny and the second possible reaction would be Lenny going ahead and trying to kill Ben. There wasn't an awful lot of wiggle room left for Ben and he'd already established he didn't much care for Lenny's familiarity with him. Their past was obviously more than a bit complicated.
Julia saw his nod and rumpled her hair more than the wind had already done and ran directly towards the vampires screaming. When Jerry saw that both the vampires were frozen watching Julia's hysterical performance he moved with vampiric speed up and over the vampires and the fountain. And it was quite the performance. She was sobbing and yelling about the men behind her. Naturally they both looked to see if there was anyone behind her.
"Lady, calm down," of course was Lenny making the first gestures. Jerry was just an arm length from Lenny who was turned towards Julia. She was doing an Academy Award-winning performance of damsel in distress in a sexpot outfit. Jerry thought the silky skirt worked well to further distract the two vampires. The lush use of makeup along with her large brown eyes made her innocent look fly.
Since Ben was her vampire to push she ignored Lenny and got right up in Ben's face sobbing hysterically. Since she wasn't really crying, she dipped her head and pushed into his arms. The tight body hit Ben's and he was completely distracted. Lenny was still standing there with his mouth gaping open.
"Ben, something's not right about her." Was all Lenny got out before he found his body spun around into Jerry's fang-filled face.
Jerry'd decided to keep Lenny for now. If he grew problematic he'd simply kill the Council's tool. As for Maxwell, he was pretty much on his own. Jerry simply put him to sleep and with a suggestion to wake in an hour refreshed. If there was enough blood flowing Max could survive the dawn. He wouldn't remember Jerry and Julia's arrival because Jerry took the time to remove that little bit of fact from the nearly dead vamp's mind.
Lenny was frozen in place with his fangs drawn and a look of sheer horror etched on his face. Julia was busy with Ben. Jerry pushed Lenny back slowly. The vampire was like Gumby -- he folded over nearly in half backwards at Jerry's touch. He wasn't green but it could be just a matter of time.
"Not so fast, Council pawn," Jerry snarled. He'd yet to freeze Lenny's mind because he wanted to see what the lunatic had to offer.
"Damn, no way," Lenny spit out while struggling with the overwhelming feelings flooding his mind courtesy of Jerry. It was all good, since Jerry was enjoying the intrusion, because as it turned out, Lenny wasn't nearly as complicated as he'd anticipated. Instead good old Lenny was a semi-intelligent vampire who'd risen to the top by wiping out his competition. He didn't see Ben as competition but a friend -- which wasn't exactly Ben's take from the words they'd exchanged, but nevertheless Lenny wasn't willing to kill Ben right out the gate.
Jerry slid further into his mind and suggested that Lenny relax and let Jerry be his new best friend. While he was containing Lenny, his fledgling, Julia, was busy with Ben. The vamp, Ben was still focused on his fledgling's breasts rather than her fangs that had automatically slid out when she began running through Ben's mind. And as Jerry tapped into Julia he found that she wasn't so much hungry as getting horny. Ben was pushing into her as much as he could with his diminished capacity and trying to control her. She wasn't a human, so all she got from the vampire was waves of sexual energy.
To Jerry's relief she didn't try to screw the vampire but instead suggested he take a nap. He pushed a thought into Julia's mind that they needed Ben mobile in order to get him back to the car without having to carry him. She retooled her mind push, and Ben stood up and offered his arm to her. Lenny was not nearly as courteous. He was slack-jawed and waiting for Jerry's next command.
They all began the trek out of the roundabout and across the Camino Real drawbridge back to where the car was parked. It was a tortuously slow process but Jerry and Julia were capable of the feat. Maxwell groaned softly as they left but Jerry didn't need another vampire for the journey. And with the thoughts he'd pushed into Max's mind, he'd soon forget that Jerry and Julia were even there.