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August 15, 2022

The Complex 31

By Lydia Manx

The growl still rumbled in the car and throughout the warehouse. The outside of the building was being pummeled by hard rain and various bits of the storm-launched rubbish that pinged and ponged the walls. A stray pebble hit one of the large panes of glass up at the top of the structure. The ringing chime of the rock striking the glass rang out and added a note to the growl that was somewhat musical. Ben Richland's growl had come from Jerry Cooper's query to his fledgling, Julia, about his impending death. Jerry planned on killing him, but not before he found out which of his clan had given the Vampire Council his blood. The very same blood used to capture him and keep him hostage long enough for Ben and his crew to slaughter his vampires and dismantle his kingdom.

Julia answered, "I think you should take his head, Sire. Even if he is the reason that I am here."

She'd picked up that had Ben not snatched Jerry from Detroit and held him captive, he would have remained in Michigan and never been in South Florida. She would have stayed locked into her human existence, missing her louse of a boyfriend, and bad life that had been spiraling out of her control. She had not known about vampires before Jerry had come into her home, but hadn't been overly worried about such creatures -- nor once she found out that they were real did she flinch. All in all Julia made a perfect fledgling for Jerry's newly forming clan. If she survived Jerry's interrogation of the Council crew he knew that she'd be the start of something he'd long forgotten. A clan again, minion and fledglings that lived to serve him -- Jerry hadn't realized how much he missed that until he'd created Julia. There was the deep pang of loss that echoed through his soul, he found himself feeling again. Scary for an old vampire, but he knew that he had to come to terms with that before too much longer.

Ben's head wasn't free to move, as Jerry had the strings to that particular puppet firmly in hand -- at least mentally. His eyes glowed slightly as he bit out, "Again, know that you will die for this atrocity. I am protected by the Vampire Council."

"So you keep claiming and yet here we have Lenny coming down to find out how your territory became the 'go-to' place for rogues and blood sellers -- according to you, all without your knowledge. One of your own crew made her own little clan under your very fangs." Jerry happily taunted Ben -- shoving the verbal knife into the vampire's cold heart.

"You killed Celina," Ben's growl was back and his eyes flashed pure hatred. He hadn't completely missed Celina's scent lost in his own thoughts and confined to the little movement Jerry allowed. Jerry could feel the bouncing overwrought feelings and stunned confusion inside Ben's mind. He was happy that Celina's death was eating at Ben, since she'd been his personal vixen temptress used to trap Jerry back in Michigan. Her erotic eyes that promised nearly as much as her honey-dripped Southern-coated words that caught Jerry's attention. Ben had deliberately aimed that vamp right for the Master of Detroit -- well knowing Jerry's proclivities from an insider to Jerry's family. An insider who very well could still walk the earth, which was the only reason Ben wasn't dead yet. Jerry figured that Ben would know who had been his downfall.

"Naturally."

With that simple word Celina's head was confirmed to be in the trunk. And now it was also confirmed that Jerry'd been the one to put it there. Ben definitely was a bit taken back by the rapid answers. Like spare vampire heads were frequently found littering the human landscape? Not hardly -- at least not until recently. There was a definite environmental impact when vampires went to war and it was war.

"And Leonardo?" The question snapped out through Ben's tightly clenched jaw.

"What about Lenny?"

The way that Jerry had asked Julia her opinion about who would decapitate Ben, he'd asked rather ambiguously, "Should I simply take little Benji's head and stick it in the trunk with Celina's and Lenny?"

For some reason Ben took that to be a declaration of both of their deaths. Jerry loved using words. His turn of the phrase didn't give up much more than that Lenny, in some manner, was in the trunk, but as to the exact state of Leonardo's body -- that was not easily determined. Jerry adored the suspense he created by not answering Ben precisely, fully well knowing that Lenny's nearly catatonic coma state wasn't easily detected even with his powerful vampiric skill, so Ben didn't have a chance of figuring it out. There wasn't enough blood in Ben's veins to offset any of the damage that had been done when constructing Julia's fledgling status at the cost of the vampires' powers for hundreds of miles around.

With that ancient ritual still resonating from Julia's creation, the vampires in the region were little more than good-looking humans without their normally impressive vampiric skills. Add in that they were simply muscle-toned bodies without the potent vampire power to back their punches until they got their fangs full of fresh blood -- it made for some issues with the older vampires who were extremely reliant on their vampire natures. Ben probably smelt both vamps, but hadn't given it much more thought until Jerry had challenged Julia to make a decision. Ben's crew had tormented Jerry when they had him with words and images of his clan that still haunted his dreams and his waking moments. His family was no longer with him and for that Ben would most definitely be paying the full price.

Once he focused, Ben could somewhat feel both of the vampires had been nearby from their scents -- the fears that had rolled off Celina before she had died were easily sensed by any supernatural creature no matter how diminished -- her death was deeply etched into the very floor of the warehouse and heavily covered by bleach. A normal human might notice something odd in the aroma of the area, but with the other layering of smells it wouldn't trigger immediate knowledge. But the mental tapping that vampires took for granted wasn't available to Ben. He was all but human with Jerry's successful draining of the area -- he had neither vampiric skills nor the useful vampire mind control to help him. The ability to mentally touch either of the vampires was currently unavailable and puzzlement etched Ben's features as he kept trying to tap into any creature. Jerry had walled off any flickers of Ben's senses. For Jerry, Celina's mind was gone for all spiritual and emotional purposes, all but the charged feelings and fears her dying blood had been gifted to Jerry when he killed her. Lenny still could be revived, but not without a few pints of blood and terror fed through his fangs. Until that point in time Lenny wasn't much more than a body waiting to be fed to the troll Jerry had nearby.

Maybe once he got everything he wanted from Ben he'd allow Lenny to drain his old companion. The compulsion to take every last drop of blood would be overwhelming. A nasty smile graced his lips at that notion. A shudder from Ben let Jerry know that his grin hadn't gone unseen.

"Where are they?" Spitting out words cost Ben some of his casual disdain he had been trying to unsuccessfully maintain in front of Jerry. As his lips pulled back, his fangs flashed and he said, "You are damned for all eternity. Tell me, what have you done with Leonardo?"

"Nothing compared to what I plan on doing to you," again Jerry slapped aside any direct answer, at the same time he poked at Ben with his non-reply.

Jerry leaned into the back seat and physically hauled Ben out while snarling, "And let us both not forget that you already damned me once. It doesn't look like it 'took' very well, now did it?"

He shook the vampire like ragdoll in his fist by the base of his throat. Ben was unable to lift a finger to help himself. While still holding the vamp by the neck, Jerry used his vampiric strength to carry the vampire deeper into the warehouse and well away from the car and any possible mental contact with the comatose Lenny. Since their connection had been so close Jerry didn't want to risk Lenny actually finding a bit of power and sizzling a mental line out to Ben. That wouldn't do at all.

As Jerry held the vampire aloft high above the ground -- nearly a foot -- Ben had no motor skills available to do anything much move his mouth. Jerry's power over the Vampire Council's enforcer was absolute. With his throat being pretty much crushed in Jerry's vice-like grip Ben was more focused on trying to stay conscious. Ben's body was dangling as if he'd already met his truth death. Jerry knew that he had to keep his anger reigned in for a few more minutes at least. He really needed to get the name of his betrayer. The Council had turned one of his bloodline successfully and that still troubled Jerry.

There wasn't any of his kindred that he could think of who'd played him false. Not that it mattered, because the images and thoughts he'd gleaned from Celina's memories confirmed the duplicity. That truth ate at him. Of course she hadn't remembered the name, but had been amused that Jerry had been misled by one of his own. But she'd in turn done the same thing to her own clan and the Vampire Council. The irony hadn't been lost on Jerry, but definitely had been reconstructed far more favorably in Celina's recall and interpretations of facts. Jerry knew humans rarely thought of themselves as vile or unredeemable and from what he'd observed, vampires fell into the same pattern of absurd rationalizations for their deviant behavior.

He cleared the crates and boxes that he'd artfully arranged in the middle of the warehouse to appear unremarkable to anyone who ventured close enough to peer inside the fairly isolated building. In the center was the crash cart he'd used to hold Celina captive while he questioned her. She'd been rather useless -- utterly focused on her own needs and wants -- having killed her before getting a name meant he'd had to focus on Ben rather than the unavailable Celina. He didn't know where he'd have to go short of the lair of the Vampire Council to get the name if he killed Ben too quickly. He wasn't under any misconception that he was going to let Ben survive. Lenny was a question mark just because he wasn't sure how he'd trap the vampire that had betrayed him without something different. And Lenny qualified as different. Ben had too much self-deluded moral fiber to be of any use to Jerry once he had a name.

Tossing Ben's body onto the cart he strapped the vampire down rapidly. He didn't have to in order to control Ben but it would be one less thing for him to have to deal with. When he'd had Celina on the cart she'd still had some vampiric strength and he had still been strengthening. Had he created Julia prior to snagging Celina it would have been a much different game. It was odd to find he had a learning curve after all the centuries of walking the earth. Shrugging to himself he felt Julia stepping carefully closer to look at Ben.

"Sire, is he dead?" She looked at the prostrate vampire with a peculiar expression on her face.

"Not yet. Why?" Jerry could still hear Ben's thoughts and smell the fears rolling off him.

"Because his throat is nearly crushed flat and his eyes are shut," she simply offered. It would have been a fatal injury for any human so Jerry could understand her confusion.

"He's just a bit under the weather," Jerry said softly and a resounding boom and bright flash of lightning punctuated his words.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-07-09
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