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January 23, 2023

The Complex 30

By Lydia Manx

Ben Richland had firmly recalled his former companion's betrayal in the not-so-recent past on the snowy mountainside near Reno -- Leonardo's abandonment and the treachery still cut deeply, even after all the time that had passed without an explanation from the current Council's envoy. Jerry very well knew when he taunted the vamp about Lenny, and if Ben knew when or even if Lenny was supposed to have checked in with the Council had been a nicely aimed shot. Ben apparently was assuming the Vampire Council would have a tighter leash on Lenny. He was their ambassador down in Florida and he'd been sent to meet up with Ben. It didn't seem to be the case that Lenny was in any way leashed by the Council from what Jerry'd gleaned from the two vampires in the past hour. Jerry hadn't seen any indications that Lenny had a set plan in place when the vampires had met, but then Ben had been too floored by seeing his old companion to analyze much of anything. A nice unexpected reward to Jerry's mind and plans.

So with Jerry Cooper's not-so-gentle nudging about everything that happened since the two first set fang sights on each other, it was causing Ben naturally to question all that he thought he knew. Add in that Jerry had already delved into both vampires' shared memories enough to discover that Ben had never suspected that Lenny would desert him all those years ago for a human, but it'd happened. The tortured memory caused the frozen vampire to hesitate, no longer moving his head freely -- as Jerry'd allowed. Jerry'd slipped further back into Ben's mind and cut off the motor skills of the vampire except for the ability to talk. Needless to say, Jerry didn't want Ben getting too comfortable and keeping the vampire captive both physically and mentally was jarring Ben from his usual arrogance and high-handed behavior.

Jerry was basically giving back some of the same mental pain that Ben had so easily shoved down his fangs back in Michigan a couple years back. Jerry had to admit that it thrilled him more than he'd ever thought possible. There was something tasty about serving back a dish to a Council's trained executioner. The vampires of the Council weren't nearly as above the law as they wanted to think. Jerry was more than happy to be illustrating that point for Ben. At stake point should the need arrive, but it wasn't quite the time for that -- yet.

Jerry jabbed ever so deeper saying, "And if Lenny was your friend, why did he not mention to you he'd be coming into town before showing up at the meet?"

While Ben digested the idea from the backseat, still frozen -- the growing winds picked up more scattered debris and slammed furiously at the structure -- as if the storm was actually alive. But in a way hurricanes were alive -- they were named, and spoken of in hushed whispers in the beginning and angry shouts and curses afterwards. Hurricanes tended to take on a personality as they grew in strength and intensity -- the current little tropical disturbance was not an exception. He knew by now that the storm was named and poised to cause trouble. Jerry didn't even know if it was even the same storm that had emptied most of the coast and some other areas often hit during hurricanes.

The tension in the warehouse was enough to cause Julia to whimper slightly. She'd barely dipped her fang tips into her new identity and the energy generated between the two vampires was nearly toxic. Jerry smoothed over his fledgling's worries with a mental caress, all the while not dropping his control over Benjamin.

The rains drummed onto the sides of the building without mercy. There was a fetid, moist, damp aroma slipping between the crevices and slight cracks around the windows and doors. The rotting smells of the vegetation whipping along the streets and parking lots from the ground and edges of the brackish canal water nearly overwhelmed the scent of cleaning fluid and freshly dead vampire. Thuds from airborne rubble smacking into the warehouse were the uneven music the storm was creating. Ben Richland kept shuddering involuntarily from the backseat of the car, but he was out of sync with the music of the night. Terror had finally begun to eat at the creature. Jerry was overjoyed. Now the real fun could begin.

Ben's eyes were wide open, but locked on nothingness. The awareness and anger he'd exhibited a few moments before had evaporated as Jerry played with the vampire's emotions, memories and basic fears. Jerry was amused by the almost existential state of being the vampire had sunk into while trying to figure out the possible exits available. There weren't any, but he allowed the captured vampire to thread hope through his mind. And he watched as Ben tried to rationalize his past, to recreate it into something other than his reality of being little more than the rabid vampire the Council set on rogues. And with the sheer fact of Lenny's being sent down to reprimand Ben, it was also beginning to dawn on the former pit bull that perhaps the Council had put Ben on their short list.

Julia was spellbound by the intensity of emotions coming off Ben. Jerry still had control over the vampire, but he was allowing the vampire an illusion of a measure of freedom that wasn't in the least bit there. Jerry was toying with the vampire. He had had years to build up his plots and plans, but the time slipped by too fast for him to savor the flavor completely. Jerry was glad that Julia was there to witness and feel the raw emotions running rampant throughout the building. He could later pull those emotions from his fledgling and enjoy what he did to the fool at his leisure. Vampires lived so long that such drama and trauma could sustain a soul for decades -- playing and replaying the good and the bad. Jerry'd kept his own spirits up during the trip down Florida by remembering the good times with his clan, not the pain and torture that Ben and his crew had inflicted on him and his. Which brought him back to the here and now of getting information from Ben -- he wanted to find out which of his clan had betrayed him. Ben had claimed to have killed all of Jerry's kin and clan, but Jerry wasn't so sure. Even years later an odd feeling gnawed inside his soul. "Ben, you mean you didn't wonder why Lenny came here instead of one of the other cadres of fools you know? Perhaps the Council didn't know all about your tortured past with Lenny. Oh wait, that's not possible because the Council knows everything! Isn't that what you kept telling me in hoarse whispers as your crew jostled the cursed silver-lined coffin you'd confined me in?" Jerry laughed softly and the sound was almost lost with the calliope of noises coming in through the gaps and ragged edges of the building. The winds whipping and whistling were creating a new death song. The music was discordant and loud. The atmosphere was charged with more than just rain and blowing breezes -- death was tainting the very air being moved. Jerry felt more alive than he'd felt in decades, in centuries. He wasn't sure if it was due to all the power that flooded every cell in his body since he'd created Julia, his fledgling, or if it was simply that he felt good finally doing something other than surviving.

Ben struggled to speak, Jerry wasn't keeping his mouth frozen but Ben's own internal torture was working to keep the vampire silent. With obvious strain etching Ben's mouth he finally snarled, "Fuck you! You're a dead man. The Council will have you torn limb from limb once your arrogant head is struck from your damned body. They should have commanded me to do that back in Michigan instead of slowly picking at your soul after we'd feasted on all of your precious kin!"

Laughter spilt out from Jerry's lips as he answered -- ignoring the taunts about his dead vampires, "Guess someone didn't think of that. Oh, that should have been your job. It was your crew that captured me. Remind me to tell you about Celina Holston's memories of that time. She really was quite upset that the Council picked you to lead the team. Something about sleeping her way to the bottom." He smiled slightly. It wasn't a nice smile to any degree.

Jerry'd snipped out bits and pieces of Celina's mind and memories during her death by his fangs that drifted back and forth in his own thoughts relatively unbidden. As he poked and prodded Ben, oddly enough more of her was rising to the surface. Unlike most of her body which was pretty much just a whisper of a memory. He wondered if Lenny could smell her head and hand in the trunk. Who was he kidding? He could still smell her flavor in the warehouse even with all the deep cleaning he'd done.

The Rubbermaid container wasn't completely air tight despite the company's advertising claims and a vampiric sense of smell rivaled that of a bloodhound. Quite literally. And even diminished with most of the vampiric skills from his use of the ritual, Lenny wasn't more than a hand span from the container and the confined space had to intensify the odor. Celina's bits having cooked in the tropical heat that came onshore with the storms. Lenny had taken enough human blood to increase his speed before he'd arrived at the Camino Real drawbridge meet. Jerry knew his sense of smell had to be sharper than a human despite Maxwell's unexpected move of fanging into the envoy to get enough blood to stay alive -- at least for a while longer.

Jerry pondered what would happen if Max survived the sunrise. The new bond between Lenny and Max wasn't precisely like Jerry and Julia's vampiric bond. Max wasn't terribly old but he was a made vampire -- as it were. The layers of complexity between the vampires was a delicious temptation of forbidden fruits -- Jerry wasn't exactly noted for maintaining the Vampire Council's list of demands and arbitrarily enforced 'laws' and 'rules'. Not in the least. Hell, that's what started Jerry's personal New World journey down the East Coast to the bottom of the country. The good old funnel to hell -- not just his words but rather well recognized by locals and media alike.

"Sire?" Julia's voice brought Jerry's focus back.

"Yes, Child?" He couldn't detect any sort of resistance from Lenny, Ben or even Julia so he wondered at her bold interruption from his musings.

"The winds are gaining strength and I can hear sirens in the distance."

She was right. The calliope of sounds had intensified around the building and a few miles away one of the country clubs had set off a rather jarring noisy warning system -- alerting whoever remained of more troubles ahead. Not like they would be able to leave. The roads out of the area were packed with cars stuck in the exodus that was slowed down by accidents, abandoned vehicles and folks who'd run out of gas waiting to escape. Jerry'd heard about it on the radio when they were driving to the warehouse. It was a case of if you weren't already out of town it wasn't a good idea to head out on the road -- it was too late. Jerry had already noticed most of the coastal crowd had long fled their expensively-maintained homes and the lesser citizens had also found their way out of the area. Rich and poor alike knew that all the carefully constructed 'safeguards' weren't always enough once Mother Nature ratcheted up her attention and winds.

"True enough, Fledgling. What is your opinion? Should I simply take little Benji's head and stick it in the trunk with Celina's and Lenny? Or let you do the honors?"

That snapped Ben back to the present with nearly an audible twang and a low growl came from his throat. Jerry had definitely stirred Ben up.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-07-02
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