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December 04, 2023

The Complex 40

By Lydia Manx

Jerry Cooper had finally conquered two of the strongest vampires on the East Coast with the help of an ancient spell. He'd only seen it done successfully once well over a century or two ago and thankfully it worked on Ben Richland and his longtime companion Leonardo. The two vicious vampires he currently had ensnared by the magic had freely roamed throughout the United States feasting on gullible humans as they pleased with no Vampire Council reprimands or banishment by other vampires. They eventually had separated, but that had been rectified now through Jerry's little enchanting sort of intervention. They had been pulled from their physical vampire bodies and formed into a shade of them both in a single wavering ghost-like entity that shared both of their thoughts and features. Their faces flickered back and forth over the spot where most humans had faces and they weren't very happy that they weren't able to return to their bodies unless Jerry released them. A fate for the two captive vampires that was yet to be guaranteed by Jerry with a nod or aloud.

"So yeah, Benji boy was doing Celina. This is not exactly news to anyone," the Lenny spirit spit out with more than a bit of anger. Jerry found it telling that a jealous tone had crept into the vampire's whispery words. The winds of the now active hurricane made the warehouse noisy. Rain was now pounding inside through the broken window pane and the humidity was suffocating.

Ben fought control and continued in an angry, bitter voice, "The Council called and said that you had been warned time and time again to report to them for some infractions of the Code and you'd finally crossed the line once too often. You were to be an example to all rogue vampires and to other Master vampires who weren't complying."

The words rang true. Jerry readily acknowledged, at least in his own thoughts, that he hadn't paid a bit of attention to any of the supposed rules much less 'Code' of the vampires that the newly formed Council kept drilling into the American vampires as law. They flattered themselves thinking that they were equal to the rulers of old Europe, and tried to dictate the behavior of any fanged vampire in the New World. They hadn't been around long enough for Jerry to visit and he certainly wasn't one to run when called. He stopped opening their letters and never returned any of their calls at least a decade ago. He figured any envoy sent to speak with him was dealt with by his fledglings and minions easily, as there hadn't been any great disturbance in his world in that time frame until the arrival of Celina and Ben's crew.

Lenny pulled forward and added, "You weren't supposed to survive and the Council had told Ben you hadn't."

Before capturing the two vampires at the Camino Real Bridge Jerry had only known Ben. Lenny was a Council's pet vampire and initially little more than a slight distraction to Jerry until he'd tapped into the vampire's memories. Ben and Lenny had run around for decades causing trouble and having vampire sort of fun until Lenny left Ben. Ben was bitter, but Lenny had the vampire trait of self-absorbed narcissism down to an art and never thought anyone couldn't love him. Jerry noticed that Lenny had begun to take him seriously, and in keeping with his sense of self-preservation he was working on the best way to keep his fangs. Lenny had realized that Jerry wasn't going to just let them go without some sort of give and take. Add in that the pliers still rested next to Ben reminding both of the vampires of Jerry's promise to yank teeth out at any sign of lying or partial answers was a further example of Jerry's wicked nature. Lenny's face had taken on a bleak, sallow appearance both in the spirit form and on his own lifeless features roped down to the boards nearly shin height. The vampire was torturing himself with notions, and Jerry was happy to see that at least one of them was smart enough to realize that he wasn't just going away.

Ben's face pushed back and he stupidly asked, "Yes, why aren't you dead?"

Jerry's fledgling Julia stepped forward slightly at the angry question, then she slipped back as it dawned on her that she didn't want to touch the ghost of the two vampires. Jerry hadn't told her anything about the magic, and she didn't want to mistakenly get her spirit sucked into the action. Jerry nodded slightly his approval at her assessment of the situation. He smiled with his fangs fully exposed and said, "Guess it just wasn't my time. Too bad I can't say the same for you two."

Both vampires attempted to physically retreat from the shadow form and ended up with both of their faces flickering back and forth across the blank slate of features. It was disconcerting to say the least. Jerry decided to ignore the bizarre show and ask his questions. The night wasn't going to last forever.

"Once the Vampire Council told you to destroy me and mine what steps did you take?"

Again Jerry went for the overbroad question. He figured the less he said the more they would work to fill in the blanks without his having to show his hand. If he asked directly who had betrayed him they would have something to barter with -- while if he just kept asking what they did he figured he would be able to discover that information.

Lenny's face came back into focus and he answered, "Benji-boy wiggled his ass up to Detroit to negotiate with the crew who was going to get what part of your kingdom."

The tone of the shade wasn't exactly like Leonardo's speaking voice but the slight dig at Ben had a definite bite to it. Lenny wasn't risking his teeth for his buddy. Ben pushed back into view and said, "Yes, I went to Detroit and set up the punishment. We didn't divide up the property until later."

The ring of truth sat poorly with Jerry, but he couldn't fault the vampires for not liking what he heard. Shooting the messenger could have its role in negotiations, but in this case it would spell true death to both of them. He could easily pull most of their teeth without killing them, but he wanted to save as much of the pain and loss once he knew the answers. Unnecessarily torturing the vampires earlier than needed could also backfire and one of them could decide to be noble and sacrifice himself for the other. And the spell he was using could snap both of the vampires minds -- a nasty side effect he'd witnessed once and it hadn't been pretty.

Jerry let the silence stretch so one of them would feel compelled to fill the empty space. Even after decades of being vampires these two hadn't learned nearly as much as his own fledgling. Julia kept her thoughts to herself and didn't chime in to break the silence. Not that it was truly quiet; the hurricane raging outside was definitely a contributing factor to the noise inside the building. The rain was torrential and the occasional sounds of large thumps of uprooted trees and bushes added into the mix. The snake he'd crated hurled its body against the insides of the box and the discordant thuds made Lenny wince both in spirit and on his near-corpse body. The vampire's body was very lightly tied to his spirit but still stronger than Jerry expected. Most vamps would've been unable to twitch but Leonardo was not the usual vampire, it seemed. That bothered Jerry but he wasn't going to deal with him just yet.

The steady increase in the python's self-abuse cracked Lenny's control and he snarled, "Fine, next Ben and Celina met up with your clan one by one before she captured you. Ben, fill in the spaces before this vampire decides to start yanking teeth."

Lenny's words broke the silence and Ben rapidly began to spill out details of the deaths of Jerry's clan and minions. He didn't filter his words and had the deaths not been so shocking and personal to Jerry, he probably would have yanked an incisor just to stem the flow of words. Each name or brief description cut deeply through Jerry. Julia's eyes were locked on her Master and she clenched her fists. She wanted to pummel Ben, it was easy to see, but remained silent and listened. Jerry wondered if it had occurred to her that the manner of horrific deaths of his family could easily be her fate. He didn't speak but just listened.

"And finally we tracked down your right hand vamp -- something Stanley, Stormy, or Stoddard? Who can remember that shit?" Jerry looked with dead eyes at the shade of Ben speaking very matter of factly about decimating his entire world. That he didn't bother to even remember all of their names further illustrated to Jerry why he had to kill this Council-pandering leech. He remembered the names of all the vampires he'd destroyed, not necessarily their minion and humans but the vampires all held a place in his memories.

Seeing the look, Lenny cut in with, "Ben really doesn't remember the names. He has killed too many." It sounded nearly like bragging to Jerry but he let it slide. He wanted this information -- he'd asked for it after all.

"Yeah, so that vampire gave us the vial of your blood and ..." Jerry snapped his head up and mentally tuned in to everything Ben offered. Despite his best intentions he found himself mumbling obscenities under his breath, and tried to keep his temper under control. That his own blood was given by one of his top vampires was now confirmed. He didn't want to show his hand how important this piece of news was, so he continued to let Ben ramble. And Ben did ramble.

"... the vial of blood was enough for Celina to feed to that weird black box. She had the van set up and already knew pretty much all your routines. You didn't know we'd been filming you and your clan for a few weeks before we hit, did you?" Again the slight bit of pride slipped into Ben's shadow-filled voice but Jerry let it pass without a word. "Not that it mattered. We had the inside corner on your world calling us nightly with reports of where you were going and details about what you were wearing and if anyone was with you." Ben's shade did let a slight grin cross his lips but Lenny focused and briefly made an appearance before Ben resumed talking.

"That vampire of yours had been promised free passage to leave Michigan as long as he was gone before the next dawn. We couldn't risk you reaching out to him. The Council gave me a potion for him. He didn't want to drink it. He thought we'd planned on poisoning him. The Council would have but your lieutenant claimed to have documentation and recordings of us in secure places. They decided to let him go and have him killed at a future date." Here Ben paused as if catching his breath, which was unnecessary, but it gave Jerry a much needed moment to compose himself. He was stunned by the betrayal. All the years of building his territory and Ron Stoddard had taken it all away from him.

Ben went back to detailing how his crew had killed off every single vampire, minion and human associated with Jerry's clan down to the children of the humans. Some of it had been done while he was being held in the suburbs of Detroit in that house inside the silver lined coffin. But not all of it. The humans had been killed off with 'tragic senseless accidents' or the much beloved 'murder-suicide.' The graphic descriptions of those deaths weren't all new to Jerry. Some of the stories had been hissed at him when they were torturing him. But time had pushed back those memories, and hearing them from Ben's spirit drove that spike of pain and loss deeper than previously. Lenny had faded back and let Ben run the show. Julia was rocking slightly with her arms around her waist obviously to keep from ripping into the vampires. Jerry let Ben talk for another half hour. The spirit shape flickered a few times as the energy was fading. He had to make a decision soon as to Ben and Lenny's fate. The time was approaching and he knew soon the choice wouldn't be his, but the spell would make a choice and that never ended well.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-09-10
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