Jerry Cooper wasn't sure how many more body blows he could take in this twilight time of his life. Even though he looked like he was in only his mid-twenties he definitely wasn't. Hell, he was centuries old not decades, and those years had been filled with hard living at first as a human and then as a vampire. During the human years he actually hadn't been much older than his current appearance. But those times were harder and in his human life he'd been more than just a young man -- he'd been an important man who had been actively climbing his way up in the world. Then he died his human death and entered into his vampire life. And he had quite the life. For all those years were spent carving a much deeper slice of the pie from humanity. He rose over those who'd tried to push him into the mud and conquered his foes. Up until the Vampire Council decided he was to be eliminated from the face of the very earth he'd grown to love. He'd loved his area in Michigan and Canada. The territory had been earned by sweat and lots of blood over time. There had been a healthy respect for him up until the end with the exception of the Council and their little minions. Now finding out that his own blood had betrayed him dug deeply into his mind, causing him grief, leaving him with few options.
His silence was met with fear. Benjamin Richland and Leonardo were not in their physical bodies but slammed together in a magical construct of Jerry's making. In the space between their unmoving forms was a flickering wisp. The ghost of a sort was the combined spirits of the two vampires that Jerry held together with an ancient ritual and sheer anger by that point. But with dawn approaching, Jerry had to decide what to do with them. If he waited too long, the choice wouldn't be his, but the elemental magic he pulled from would do whatever it was that raw magic did. From a few events in his own history he knew it wasn't good to let 'Mother Nature' have much say in vampires' fates.
Julia, his latest fledgling, was still standing apprehensively off to the side and not quite sure what it was she should or could do. He appreciated the vampire's spunk but was well aware of the fact it was his decision for now. Finding out from Ben that it was Ron Stoddard -- his own handpicked lieutenant -- who'd given his blood to the Council in exchange for freedom and whatever else sat poorly with him. He'd never sensed his vampire's betrayal, nor in the years after did he even find a mental trace of the vampire, which lead him to believe that the Council had paid dearly for some ancient magic of their own to contain the scent and the tie. He'd heard about severing of blood and clan ties being done, but he never had seen any of them done successfully with the exception of those connections being severed by True Death. Decapitation does tend to finalize such desires for separation and final distance between vampires. Rarely did it end well for both vampires involved. Blood ties weren't something to be taken lightly.
The winds had picked up again and the hurricane was shaking the very foundations of the building. There was a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach as he could hear the screams of animals being ripped from their shelters, and trees literally following with little ability to cling to the ground. The winds were pushing through the broken pane in the warehouse, bringing in the rain and airborne debris. Even then there was still a sense of pulsing silence between the four vampires. They were all in their own ways waiting to see what would break first. Jerry knew damn well it wasn't going to be him. The steady thumping of the crated python's thick body smacking inside the wooden container trying to escape just served to further to intensify the building pressure.
Ben was first to break the silence.
"We've told you everything I know about your capturing and clan. What more do we need to do?" There was a definite whine to the voice as the vampire's face took the front of the construct. Jerry had been actually giving that some careful consideration and decided to leave them entwined for a few more minutes. He'd figured out another angle that he needed to explore before giving them their fates.
"Leonardo." It wasn't a question but a command.
Good old Lenny pushed through Ben's place on the ghost and said, "Yeah?"
He actually was smart enough to make it sound nearly like a question.
"Now share with the class what it is you know about me and mine from your insider's view of the Council." There was always a chance Lenny was holding back something to save his own ass and Jerry wanted Ben's spirit to be focused on any lies that Lenny might try to sneak past them. It wasn't like he wouldn't try to do the same thing if he'd been in Lenny's place. But just in case they both had forgotten the promise of tooth extraction Jerry tossed the pliers back and forth between his hands allowing the slight glint of dull metal to catch their attention.
There wasn't much in the way of lighting but enough for his display to be effective.
"I knew the Council hated you and had heard you were killed."
It nearly felt like he was already pulling teeth as Jerry let the information trickle through his brain. Lenny hadn't lied, but there was a depth to his words that implied Jerry needed to dig deeper. Lenny was either consciously or unconsciously holding back something that could possibly impact Jerry.
Ben was focused enough to say, "He knows more."
Tapping the pliers on Lenny's waxen cheek, Jerry said softly, "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe?.Which one should go?"
Hitting one of the back molars with the tip of the pliers caused Lenny to call out, "Wait. I wasn't lying. I just didn't know what more you want me to tell you."
It was the first time Jerry could see Lenny was finally getting the picture that he wasn't screwing around and he truly meant business.
"Fair enough. But let's just say for the record that little editing of the facts is your only pass. Next time I'll yank out a tooth." Jerry removed the metal allowing it to briefly touch the vampire's lips. He'd been allowing both vampires to feel bits of their bodies while he had them imprisoned in the construct and Lenny's face looked like death from the midst of the shadowy figure. Ben was still delusional about his place in Jerry's world, but Lenny was quickly figuring out that it wasn't a democracy by any means, and he certainly didn't have a vote.
"At first, I didn't know who you were." This rang true to Jerry's ears. Lenny added, "That was until Ben started talking about Michigan and how your clan was destroyed from the inside out. I began remembering more and more of the Council's interest in you and your territory as Ben fleshed out the situation." Jerry found it interesting that Lenny was choosing his words so carefully, after he'd seen in Lenny's thoughts all the verbal dancing he usually preferred.
"The Council had promised the vampire, Ron Stoddard, free passage out of Michigan after they gave him the potion that cloaked him from you. But what Ben didn't know was that I was sent after Stoddard about a year ago. It was like Ben had suspected, the Council had planned on killing the vampire once you were eliminated. I, too, was told you were gone from this life and Stoddard was living as a rogue. There didn't seem to be any documentation of the Council or their part in your death from the research we'd all done. So I was to capture him and finalize the chapter of your existence." Lenny paused as if to take a breath -- completely unnecessary for vampires but Jerry allowed him the moment. As it was, Jerry was feeling more anger than he thought possible. The vampire he'd once considered one of his closest friends hadn't been that at all.
Julia sensed the growing anger in her Master and shivered slightly, even though it was over ninety degrees inside the building and at least ninety-eight percent humidity -- not including the actual rain teeming inside. For Jerry it felt like he was being smothered by the heat and humidity. The pressure from the storm was also adding to his irritation.
"I wasn't able to find any traces of Stoddard. Once I conclude my business here I am supposed to continue my search." Lenny trailed off, sensing there wasn't a guarantee that he'd be concluding much of anything but a pain-filled death by Jerry's hand. Jerry waited to see if he was going to add any more information.
This was a complication Jerry didn't need. He certainly didn't have the resources of the Council, and even with all that information at his fangs, Lenny hadn't been able to find his old lieutenant. Ben pushed forward and asked, "Is that what this is all about?"
Like Jerry's questions, it was open-ended. But unlike Jerry, Ben had nothing to bargain with to compel Jerry's answer to any questions. Jerry simply ignored Ben and came to a decision. Taking a minute to catch his fledgling's gaze, he mentally asked her to stay absolutely quiet and to not move. Her eyes flickered up and down indicating yes without moving her head. She was still shivering slightly, but Jerry didn't see how she could stop short of his knocking her unconscious while he did what was needed.
Without answering Ben, Jerry began to speak again in the foreign tongue that Julia had already decided had to be Latin or some offshoot of that. She hadn't heard many languages other than the basics for Southern Florida -- Spanish, German, French and Redneck. She vaguely remembered some Latin in a medical program once she watched but nothing helpful at the moment.
The wailing outside seemed to enter inside the warehouse and latch onto the two vampires' bodies. As before, they were bodily lifted upwards with their flesh being cut into by the restraints. A moaning filled the space and both vampires began to twitch and spasm as the seemingly painful transition back into their physical bodies began. Jerry allowed them to feel every inch of their skin and all their nerves and they screamed nearly with the same voice. It was a reversal of the birth process and extremely painful. Jerry knew that the mental separation from the construct was folded with layers of throbbing magic that was linked to the two vampires past companionship and the new bonding. Julia was awed by the raw energy and suffering ripping through the space.
Jerry stopped speaking, and the misty shade of the two vampires had disappeared, and both the vampires were panting and jerking, fastened down like two pinned bugs on a board. The scent of burnt cinnamon and sulfur filled the warehouse driving out even the fetid scent of the hurricane raging outside. Even the snake had stopped making any noise -- as if it was still, the python could avoid attracting the attention of whatever predator was causing the disturbance.
Both captive vampires were still groaning and even whimpering slightly. Jerry noticed Ben was making the most pathetic mewing noise and Julia had a huge look of revulsion pasted on her features. Jerry liked that Julia was pushing herself beyond the human beginnings and starting to understand the behavior of vampires differed greatly from humans. It was looking more and more like Julia would survive the coming nights. Jerry pondered what to do next as the two vampires snapped their eyes open and stared at him, horror etched over their faces. Jerry let his fangs snick down into his smile. Things were about to change.
Coming soon: "The Pursuit"