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March 27, 2023

The Complex 27

By Lydia Manx

Jerry Cooper continued to watch in his mind the shared memories of both Ben Richland and his long time vampire companion Leonardo. Jerry'd yet to hear either of them give Lenny-boy a last name. He was the vampire sent by the Council to either kill Ben or bring him in line. Too bad none of them had any idea that Jerry was coming to the dance. And with the vampires dreaming and remembering their history, Jerry had the upper fang. The Vampire Council sent Lenny down to pull Ben back and instead was currently residing in the trunk of the car nearly drained to true death. Ben had been next to Jerry in the back seat while Julia had been driving them to the warehouse that Jerry had rented. Since they'd arrived at the warehouse Julia had left the car, but Lenny was still in the trunk and Ben was still remembering their past, frozen in place on the seat. Jerry wasn't ready to move the vampire because the vamp was busy reliving the past. Jerry leaned against the outside of the car inside the large warehouse and sifted through their minds.

Northern California
Along side a rising river

"No, Leonardo, we need to keep moving. If we double back we run the risk of being seen. That would destroy all of our work." Ben was firm and in command.

Lenny just laughed softly and teased, "Not bloody likely. It'd be rather exhilarating to complicate this little endeavor. Things have come far too easily to us both lately. Aren't you rather bored?" Lenny was still a good three feet from the edge of the rising river and speaking far louder than Ben liked.

"No, I am not bored. I am frustrated that you won't hurry up and get across the river." Ben's tones were sharp and he glanced at Lenny, then started carefully hopping across from rock to rock towards the other side without waiting to see if Lenny was going to make it across with him. Lately Lenny had been trying to his damnedest to provoke Ben at every turn. Ben didn't have a clue why since they'd been together for decades and rarely disagreed. It was like he wanted Ben to fight with him.

Ben took a really large jump to land on his feet solidly on the northern shore without a misstep. Lenny had started making his way over but he kept miscalculating the distance and slipping nearly off the temporary perch. The rocks weren't that slippery; it was like Lenny was off and possibly dizzy.

There had been a time he would have leaped back and tried to help Lenny, but given how he'd been acting lately Ben kept still and didn't say a word.

It didn't stop Lenny from talking, "So what is it, Benji? You afraid of a few humans seeing you? Hmmmm?" He swerved off the path Ben had taken and did an impossibly longer leap than need to reach a semi-submerged tree that was half frozen in the water. The weight of the vampire broke the log free and Lenny began dancing on the top keeping his feet moving and the log spinning slowly in the quickly rising waters. The river had picked up speed and instead of heading towards Ben the water was carrying Lenny back towards the shore they both had left. The riverbed was widening downstream and split off into two directions about three hundred yards from them. Lenny was still rocking the log back and forth, no longer spinning but no longer heading towards Ben. Laughing Lenny called out, "Guess I won't be joining you just now."

He sketched a wave and leaped back to the opposite shore from Ben. To Ben it looked like it had been intentional. Lenny often made the impossible not only happen but look perfectly plausible.

Confusion etched deeply into Ben's face and ripped through his soul. It was obvious that Lenny wasn't going to be finding him any time soon. It also made him question why Lenny hadn't simply said he needed his space. Vampires weren't always social creatures and at times their own natures made any other vampire but Sire or Fledgling basically a poison. He hadn't felt like he deserved to be considered poison, nor had he felt uncomfortable around Lenny when they were feeding or slaying humans anytime recently from what he recalled. Those times had actually been good from everything he'd seen and felt. Yet there had been those discordant moments like the taunts Lenny had just thrust at Ben before abandoning him. As he thought about it, Lenny didn't act out so oddly when they were being predators, but when they were supposed to be relaxing. Something nudged inside his stomach at the notion that in some way Lenny had planned the whole separation at the riverbed.

A bend in the stream and a few carefully placed steps put Lenny out of Ben's sight, but not his mind. He stood like a statue frozen in shock at the twists and turns of the past ten minutes. There was nothing keeping him on the shoreline of the river other than stupefied shock. After a few moments, he caved, realizing that Lenny had no intention of trying to make it across and joining Ben. His head bowed as he figured out Lenny wasn't going to even explain the reason for his new attitude. Sighing, Ben turned and began to make his way through the wild blackberry brambles that framed the river. The moon shone down, helping his steps but not uplifting his heart.

The brambles tugged at his clothes and scraped into his flesh but he didn't care and didn't try to find another path. He felt doomed. He'd missed something that was bothering Leonardo. His mind raced through the past few months, but nothing leaped out at him as something glaringly wrong or ill-planned. As far as Ben knew it had been just like every other town in the past few decades.

Reno was nestled inside a ridge of mountains and little more than that. Lake Tahoe framed one side of the town and pretty much trees, rivers and nothing much else framed the rest of the town. The various silver mines and less-than-realistic gold mines that never panned out also were in the mix. Lenny and Ben had arrived via the usual mode of transportation for the times -- wagon train. They'd left the East Coast to see what the West Coast was up to but the various snowstorms and crappy weather had stranded them in the slowly growing town.

They had arrived at the town a few weeks ago and begun culling from the various humans scattered on the outskirts of town. They didn't slay the humans, but drained them as close to death as possible. Some they had given whisper kisses and loving caresses, but there were more than a few villains in the mix, and they had avoided slaying them, simply giving them as many horrific nightmares and blood-filled dreams as possible to kick up the fun. It had been fun as far as Ben knew. But nevertheless Leonardo had left.

From the relative safety of the warehouse, Jerry continued to be immersed inside the shared memories of Benjamin and Leonardo. Julia, his fledgling, wasn't going anywhere without his approval and command. He didn't plan on giving her any such freedom so he allowed himself to continue the mental journey inside both Lenny and Ben's minds. Their shared history could give him an edge. With Ben, he needed it because he knew perfectly well the time he'd spent under Ben's control had damaged him in small -- as of yet -- unknown ways.

Northern California
Along the northern side of a rapidly rising river

Ben kept worrying how Leonardo had left him. He couldn't figure out what had set his companion off but something had.

Just in case Lenny had actually found a bridge that spanned the river he gave out a soft call, it wasn't loud by human standards but any vampire in the area would easily hear him.

"Leonardo, are you here?" Ben waited a moment for an answer.

The moonlight was illuminating the brambles and brush that lined the river. The snow had stopped falling but there was still enough of the white powdery mess to make walking slick. The wild blackberry bushes that hugged the shore were empty of any fruit -- half a year would pass before bears or people would be searching for them. He hadn't smelled any humans very close so he risked another shout out to his companion.

"Leonardo? Can you hear me?" It was a desperate plea even to his own ears. Surprisingly he heard an answer.

"Of course, Benji. I'll see ya around. You take care now." That was as dismissive as could be.

Emptiness filled his soul. He hadn't been alone for a while and Leonardo had always been a good companion and up for any adventure. He didn't seem to find anything too intimidating, and either initiated something wicked or participated without asking too many questions. His mind raced to the past few weeks and couldn't think of anything they'd done unusual. Granted Leonardo had been poking fun at him lately and giving him grief but nothing that had concerned him -- until now. Reluctantly he stomped up the side of the riverbank and towards the larger trees. The winter wind had picked up with a bite of snow in the air making the journey not only lonely but also chilling. The cold sapped the little heat from Ben's body remaining. He hadn't fed on any humans in a few nights and was losing his energy quickly. Had Lenny been with him there would have been jokes about the cold and how soon they'd be able to fang into a hot human.

Instead Ben was left to his dark thoughts and the quickly dropping temperatures. All too soon he found himself at another icy road. The most recent storm that had passed by had dropped the temperatures down quickly and dramatically. The dirt road wasn't simply covered with snow but a layer of the lethal black ice. At the very beginning of the storm the temperatures of the dirt bed of the road was still warm enough from the heat of the earth for the first flakes to liquefy and then as more snow fell the liquid turned solid and nearly invisible to anyone traveling. The road was passable but there were slick hunks of frozen ice that made travel treacherous. As he didn't have a horse or a wagon train he simply took his time navigating the path. All the time he dwelt on Leonardo's behavior. Nothing made sense.

His hunger began to gnaw at his body. He easily could wait another night or two before his need for blood made him a tad anxious. His active worrying was causing him to fret and burning much needed blood from him. Suddenly he stopped. A stray icy breeze brought something more than the approach of the upcoming storm. It brought him the scent of a succulent, sweet human. Stopping he inhaled again as another blast of winter floated by. The woman wasn't young or old, but in pain and upset. Nectar to Ben. Nearly unable to resist he began to travel the distance slowly towards the exotic aroma.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-06-11
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