MC Ch. 1

Chapter 1: A warm summer night in 1969

Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.

My name’s Ned O’Donnell. I’m a cop for the City of Chicago. Joined up in 1966. I walk a beat. I’m healthy, unmarried (though there is this girl), and my parents are still living.

So how come I’m waking up and don’t know where I am or how I got here?

It’s dark. Smells a bit musty and damp, like a basement.

OK, so much for where I am, for now. Now, what’s my condition?

I’m lying down, with what is something like a pillow under my head, something more solid under the rest of my body. I can’t move. I’m tied up. My legs are bound together. My arms are bound across my chest, which is odd. That’s not the easy way to do that. My hands are free, which is even more curious. And despite how tightly bound I am, none of my limbs feel as if the circulation is cut off.

I’m not gagged. I’d already noticed that. But you don’t want to speak up unless you know who’s listening. Most likely, it’s the people who tied you up, and they aren’t likely to be friendly. I don’t think my friends got the date wrong and are throwing me a surprise birthday party. My head is free. I lift it up a bit, but it’s too dark to see much of anything. I notice my head doesn’t ache. I thought maybe I’d got hit in the head, but I don’t feel dizzy or disoriented or anything like that. So why can’t I remember what happened?

Time to find out if there’s anyone around. “Hello? HELLO? Anyone around?”

Silence.

No, not silence. There’s some creaking noises from overhead. Probably just old building noises. But underneath those, I can hear someone breathing. Whoever he is, he’s not moving, and trying to be quiet, but I can hear him. Surprising, that, since the sound’s so faint.

I’m thirsty. I’m also boiling mad. You don’t do something like this to a Chicago cop. Not unless you expect to end up crippled or dead.

So I try again. “HELLO? HELP! HELP!”

I stop. I heard the person move. He’s quiet, but definitely moving. It sounds like he’s coming down wooden stairs, and then walking on a concrete floor.

A light comes on.

I raise my head again. I’m in a narrow box, a crate of finished wood.

The guy comes into view from behind my head. Good move, that. That would spook a lot of people.

It’s not a guy. It’s a girl. Long black hair, triangular pale face, dark brown eyes, baggy blouse, dark slacks, slim build. She doesn’t look very tall, though it’s hard to judge from this perspective. Hell, she doesn’t look very old, twelve, fourteen, maybe. No acne, though.

I drop my head back onto the pillow. The ceiling overhead is exposed beam, wires, and pipes. Definitely a basement. I wonder if there are any windows.

The girl’s been looking at me, without saying a word. Probably knows who tied me up, because she doesn’t seem surprised or anything.

I try my luck. “Hey there, miss? I’m a cop and I think some bad guys got the jump on me. Could you please help get me out of these ropes?”

She shakes her head. “Not yet, Ned. We need to get a few things straight, first. And by the way, you can yell your head off. No one can hear you down here.” Her voice isn’t as high as I would expect from her size.

Time to be tough. “Listen, kid, you are dealing with an official Chicago police officer. Unless you let me go immediately, the police are going to come down on you like a ton of bricks. You are going to wish you had never been born.”

She sighs. “Doesn’t work that way, Ned. Unless I decide otherwise, your cop friends are never going to find you. They’ll never know you were here. As far as they are concerned, you disappeared off your beat four nights ago. Oh, they’re still looking for you, but they don’t expect to find you alive anymore.”

This is not good. I’ve been out of it for four nights? No. I don’t feel like I’ve been out of it for four nights. “You’re lying. I can’t have been unconscious for four days.”

She gives me a pitying look. “You haven’t been unconscious the whole time, Ned. You just don’t remember. But you have been out of it for four nights.” Her look turns serious. “I’m not going to lie to you, Ned. So long as you’re down here, I will never lie to you. And here’s a warning, Ned: call me a liar again, and I’ll punish you. Don’t treat me with respect, and I’ll punish you. Call me names, and I’ll punish you. Got it?”

I’m tempted to call her a bitch to see what she considers to be punishment. But that is exactly the wrong thing to do, at least at first. You want to explore your captor’s mind, find out a way to enlist him on your side, play on his sympathies. “OK, I’ll be respectful. How should I address you, miss?”

She narrows her eyes, looks at me without speaking for a bit. I’m about to try again, when she says, “Thirsty, Ned?”

Very. “Yes, miss.”

She says, “OK, I’m going to help you sit up and give you some water.”

She kneels down by the crate, reaches under me, and lifts me up into a sitting position, one of her hands bracing me until I demonstrate I can sit up straight. I’m not exactly fat, but I am stocky, so it’s surprising she can lift me as easily as she can. There’s not much to her.

She brings a plastic cup of water to my mouth. I try to drink it. But I can’t. It tastes horrible. I gag, spit it all out, water spilling down my shirt.

Sitting up, I can see she really is short. If she stands five feet, I’d be surprised. I start to look around, get a quick impression of the cellar, but she drops the glass and lowers me back down before I can see too much.

Time to be gruff again. “What’s the idea of giving me bad water to drink?”

She shakes her head. “The water was perfectly fine, Ned. You want proof? Tell me, what did it taste like that makes you think it was bad?”

I try to recall, can’t. “It just tasted bad.”

That puts an amused look on her face. “Of course it did, Ned. You can’t drink water anymore.”

Great, a loony. “Why not?”

“You’re a vampire, Ned.” And she opens her mouth, shows two sharp canines that are a lot longer than they should be.

I am in the shit. If this is real, I am in the shit. You see, the Chicago cops have been at war with the vampires in Chicago since last summer. A bunch of them came in with the radical scum that filled up the city for the Democratic National Convention. We found out about them, we attacked them, and they’ve been fighting back. And if you’re a cop, and you get turned into a vampire, you are an ex-cop. Period.

Strange thing is, the war’s mostly over. The vampires lost. Only a few remain, near as we can tell. So, of course, I cannot be a vampire. “You’re lying,” I say to the girl.

She shakes her head, reached over, and breaks my left pinkie finger. I get to hear it snap. Then I scream in pain. Once I get over that, I yell at her. “What did you do that for, bitch?”

“I told you, Ned, I’m not going to lie to you, and I don’t tolerate being called a liar. Or anything else for that matter. You just called me a bitch, Ned. You have to be punished.” And with that, she reaches over and snaps my left ring finger.

I was not thinking too clearly at this point. Once I get past another scream or two, I say to her, “What are you going to do, work through all my fingers?”

“You’re not too stupid for a cop, Ned. Yes, I am. Then I start working on your other bones. You’ve got 206 of them, Ned. Think about it. And once I finish with those, I start working on your vital organs. You really don’t want to see me collapse one of your lungs, Ned. So mind my rule: show me respect, or else.” She sounds serious.

I remember I am supposed to be trying to enlist her sympathies, get information out of her. Not doing too good a job, Ned, are you? Start trying. “Well, since calling you ‘bitch’ is inappropriate, how should I properly address you, miss?” Not too good a try, but I have two broken fingers.

That causes her to chuckle. Smiling, she says to me, “I made you a vampire, Ned. I also took care of you through the First Thirst. You don’t remember, but you’ve already drunk blood from humans. I’ll take care of you until you can make it as a proper vampire. Or, if you’re too stubborn, when I kill you for good. So I’m you’re second mother, Ned. You should call me ‘Mother.’”

I rebel. “I wouldn’t disgrace the name . . .”

Before I get any further, the vampire reaches in and breaks my left middle finger.

After I’d recovered from that, I decide to play ball a while. “OK, ‘Mother,’ you get your way. Is it all right if I ask what your name is?”

She grins. She seems to be enjoying this far too much. Is there such a thing as a psycho vampire? Her voice goes up until it makes her sound like a kid. “You can ask any question you like, Ned, so long as you are respectful. The name I’ve been using here in Chicago is Martha Fokker.” She sees my reaction, because she adds, “Ah, you’ve heard of me.”

I say to her, “Yeah, and I’d tell you what they say about you in the police department, but you’d break another finger.” ’Cause, you see, I really am in the shit. Christ Almighty, Martha Fokker. I am dealing with a psycho vampire, after all. Once we started destroying them, most of the remaining vampires left town or laid low. But not Martha Fokker, no. This bitch has been conducting a vendetta. She sends the CPD a little note bragging about it every time she kills another cop. And I’m the new victim.

She laughs at what I said. “You’re right, Ned. So let me make it easy for you. Your original mother still alive?”

I nod.

“OK, then when you talk about her, you should call her ‘Mother O’Donnell.’ And when you talk to me or about me, you should call me ‘Mother Fokker.’ And, yes, Ned, I know exactly what it sounds like. It was my little joke. Just think of it as a way to swear at me and be respectful at the same time.”

Mother Fokker. OK, bitch, have it your way. “So, Mother Fokker, what do I have to do to be released?”

I’d thought Martha Fokker was already enjoying this too much, but she really lights up at my use of the name. “Well, Neddie boy, it’s like this. You’re a vampire now. I’d rather you go on to have a decent life as one, instead of being staked inside of a month. So I’m going to give you lessons on how to behave as a proper vampire. Once you’ve learned enough to really understand your situation, I’ll untie you. After that, it’s up to you how long you want to stay here, or strike out on your own.”

I want to offer a sarcastic thank you, but I remember my three broken fingers. Mother Fokker must have seen the expression on my face, because she speaks up again. “I don’t really expect you to respect me at first, Ned, no matter what you say. As far as you’re concerned right now, I ruined your life. But once you try to survive as a vampire on your own, you’ll appreciate what I’m doing for you.

“You see, most vampires don’t care about the vampires they create. We aren’t great parents, as a rule. But I consider my vampire children my responsibility. As long as you show me respect as your mother, I’ll help as best I can.”

She drops the smile, looks more serious. “You wouldn’t be willing to drink blood from a normal human yet, would you, Ned?”

I shake my head. “No, Mother Fokker.”

“You know, Ned, you already have. You just don’t remember going through the First Thirst. I’ve already helped you with that. Otherwise you’d almost certainly be dead already.”

Great news. “You should have let me die,” I say. And then, before she can take offense, I add, “Mother Fokker.”

Again, she lights up. “Thanks, Ned. You can level with me, as long as you are respectful. What’s the old line, ‘keep your criticism strictly factual?’

“I’m going to leave you alone for a bit, now. You need to think about what’s happened to you. But I’ll be back before morning.”

And with that, Martha Fokker stands up and walks away. The light goes off, I hear her climb stairs and open and close a door. And I’m alone.

 ii.

My thoughts for the next few hours are not pleasant. I am tied up. The box I seem to be in? Probably a coffin. The realization chills me. Whether or not she’s really Martha Fokker, she’s treating me as if I am a vampire.

Oh, God, am I thirsty.

I still don’t want to believe this is real. The bitch could be lying. The water may have been bad. And yet, and yet, I couldn’t drink it. So? It’s not like I want to drink blood. I try to imagine the process, and don’t find it at all appealing.

I think of my parents, my girlfriend. Would I want to suck their blood? No. I’m no vampire.

Thinking of my girlfriend makes me think of some of the things we used to do. Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to until you’re married. And maybe a lot of people wait. Eileen and I, we’ve been doing it for six months. I sure as hell don’t think any the less of her for it. I mean, I’m her first, and she’s only my second.

Usually thinking about Eileen makes me stiff in a hurry. Not tonight. Must be stress or something, maybe dehydration.

I’m still moaning over my plight when I hear the door again. This time it’s two people coming down the stairs. The light goes on. Next thing I see is Martha with what looks like a woman in her thirties standing beside her.

“Hi, Ned,” she says. “Meet Linda Schneider. I drank from Linda last night. That’s why there are two holes in her neck. When I drank from her, I put her in my thrall. She’ll do anything I ask her to. In a moment, I’m going to tell her to bend down for you, and you’re going to feed from her.”

I see the holes in her neck. And that doesn’t look like a woman in front of me anymore. It looks like food. I want her. I want her neck. I can feel my fangs growing. And I fight against the hunger. I will not do this. I say to Martha, “No way in hell I’m going to do to that.”

Martha shakes her head. “Ned, I can tell you want to feed off her. You haven’t fed since last night, not that you remember. And you don’t know how to manage your hunger. So I’m going to let you feed off Linda, and when you’ve had enough, I’m going to take her away from you. You’re not going to be allowed to drain her, Ned.” She turns to Linda. “Let Ned feed from you, Linda.”

Linda gets down on her knees, pulls her hair back, and sticks her neck directly in my face. And I can’t help myself. I feel my fangs, feel the hunger, and the next thing I know I’m drinking her blood through my fangs. It tastes great. I want more. I take more. I want more.

And then all of a sudden, I feel a hand pulling my hair, pulling my head away. I slam back into the bottom of my coffin. I scream, “I want more!” I see Martha, looking at me with some disgust. “I want more, you bitch!”

I intend to curse her some more, but Martha just reaches in and breaks the index finger of my left hand. I scream in pain.

By the time I recover, Martha’s looking down at me with a pitying expression. Linda’s gone. “You in a talking mood, Ned, or will I have to break a thumb?”

I don’t answer her at first. I’m too busy feeling my world collapse. I really am a vampire. I’ve just drunk blood from another human. I am Ned O’Donnell, that really is Martha Fokker, I am now an ex-cop, and my brother cops will hunt me down and kill me.

I’m distracted from my self-pity by Martha, who reaches in and takes hold of my left thumb. “Ned?”

I look up, realize she’s going to break my thumb. So I say, “No, Mother Fokker, breaking my thumb won’t be necessary.” I pause, think of how to put this politely. “Though how you expected me to keep my head between the thirst for blood and having to admit to myself I’m a vampire is more than I can figure.”

Martha puts on that cheerful smile of hers again. Christ, she still looks far too young to be doing this to me. “Oh, that’s easy, Ned. I expected you to cuss me out. Every single one of my children has, without exception. Well, one exception, but she was a masochist before she became a vampire. You still have to respect me, though. You didn’t. So I broke another finger. Learn the lesson, Ned. I won’t tolerate disrespect, and there are no excuses.”

I was thinking about what happened, and stupidly decide to goad her. “So, Mother Fokker, tell me. Although I screamed when you broke my finger, it didn’t feel as painful as the first three you broke. If that keeps up, your punishing me by breaking my fingers won’t be so effective after a while.”

Martha offers me a thin smile. “When you first become a vampire, Ned, you still feel just like a human. But you slowly get tougher. It becomes harder to hurt you, and you feel less pain. Having a blood meal helps the process along. You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know, Ned. I’ve been a vampire a long time. If you’re still being disrespectful several days from now, I’ll up your punishment enough so it does still hurt.”

“Charming.” I say. But I appreciate Martha’s answer. She doesn’t seem to be pulling any punches. So maybe it’s time to learn a bit more about what just happened. “Mother Fokker, you said the woman there . . .”

“Linda,” she interjects.

“Linda,” I continue, “was in your thrall. What did you mean?”

Martha gives me this quizzical look for a bit. “Gad, a smart cop. OK, Ned, ever see a vampire movie? Dracula hypnotizes the young woman to come to him and give her throat to him?”

I nod.

Martha gives me a broad smile, baring her fangs. “Well, we really do that sort of stuff. As a vampire, you’ve got a natural ability to capture your prey’s attention, make them ignore anyone or anything else, make them come to you and let you feed on them, order them about, and confuse their memories. You can do a light job on them with your eyes and voice, but to really bring them fully under your control, you have to bite them. That’s the basics.”

I think about this, and then try to capture Martha’s attention by staring at her. She looks confused, and then starts laughing again. “Good try, Ned. But it doesn’t work that way. You can’t enthrall another vampire, not even by biting them and sucking their blood. Which, I should add, is considered taboo. It’s sort of like vampire incest.”

She leans over the coffin until her face is just inches from mine. “You really want to know what the experience is like, taking over a human and making them your slave?”

I don’t know what Martha’s up to, but I decide to play along. “Yes, Mother Fokker.”

She lowers her head until she’s whispering in my ear. “You’ve already had it, Ned. I enthralled you, had you obediently come back here with me, lie down in this coffin, and then I sucked every last drop of blood out of your body. And I’ll tell you, Ned. You’re kind of cute, so it tasted really good.”

And it all comes back to me. I can remember myself, see myself following Martha, lying down in this coffin and enjoying it as she sucked the life out of me. I can feel myself dying. I can feel myself enjoying it. It’s like making out with Eileen, only a thousand times better. And I’m absolutely horrified at the same time.

I can hear Martha laughing and I’m trying to scream some more when I suddenly get very tired. The memories shut down. My eyes close despite my efforts to keep them open. I don’t feel anything, but I’m still awake. And then I’m not.

End of chapter one

(Link to next chapter)

18 Responses to MC Ch. 1

  1. crimsonprose says:

    Excellent beginning. Grabbed me, no probs. Waiting now for 1st March. But I am thinking, Jim Butcher meets Anne Rice. Though that’s probably because vampires etc aren’t my usual thing (despite the grimmen) and these are the only 2 authors I’ve read of that genre. But I like the slow reveal, the natural dialogue, the sense of inevitable and then the ‘oh shit, how’d you get out of it?’ I cannot see any way forward for Ned, except to indulge fully in blood. (Which, abnormally[?], I do like the taste of.)

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Thank you, CP. That comment made my day. The rest of which, amusingly enough, is going to be spent with a pair of grad students, one in medieval English lit., the other in medieval architecture.

      I was thinking about doing a post about my reading in vampires, but to the point right now that’s actually a fair pair of choices, Butcher and Rice. Ned’s a cop, and Martha’s vampire friends have a culture that extends back, probably centuries. At this point, all I can reveal is that Martha does intend to instruct Ned on how to be a good vampire. The lessons will not be free of stress. The plan for the first several chapters is one chapter = one night, by the way.

      I confess to liking the taste of my own blood, though I don’t go out of my way to create opportunities, the last being in the fall when I sliced open my left middle finger while carving up a squash.

  2. crimsonprose says:

    There seems to be themes passing between us. Medieval English lit. I remember my disappointment to discover Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale was actually a rehashed Greek legend. At which I realised, in literature nothing is new. I’m glad Ned won’t turn bad. It’s bad enough that Harry Dresden is now the Winter Knight! The horror. But that’s what happens when you turn your back on the angels. They did offer . . .

    I wish you the best with it. It’s started well, that’s always good. But why do people say it’s bad to suck blood. Yea, I know, these days you don’t suck others, but why waste good blood from your own bleeding wounds. We’ve become so fussy.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Scruffy Harry Dresden is now the Winter Knight (whatever that means, and it sounds important)? I never got past the first book and the TV series, but coincidentally just borrowed the second book last night.

      Ned will stay true to his character; it’s how his character reacts to the conditions in which he finds himself that will drive the story. Martha . . . well, can’t speak about her yet. And yes, we can draw parallels with your stories.

      The bad reputation of bloodsucking I suspect comes from the notion of stealing life, compounded by our current fussiness, as you point out. The Swedish vampire novel/movie “Let the Right One In,” had a scene that captured this, when the boy protagonist, not realizing that his new friend is a vampire, offers to become blood brothers with her.

      • crimsonprose says:

        But in Scandinavian culture, blood-brothers was the strongest of bonds, greater than biological. And you’ve not read the Dresden Files? I didn’t realise there’d been a TV series, I only know the books, and I have to say I came to them via Jim Butcher’s other output, the Codex Alera (I think that’s the name of the very long, thick-volumed series). The Winter Court are the baddies in the world of Fairie. If you’re going to read the series I shan’t say more.
        I understand the concept of stealing life through the blood; my comment referred primarily to our C20th/C21st aversion to all bodily fluids (No more sealing deals with a spit in the hand!) 🙂

        • Brian Bixby says:

          Had only read the first of the Dresden Files, which was lent to me by the medieval English lit. grad student (which is how I now have the second, after last night). The TV series ran for only a season in 2007 (here on SciFi, on Sky One in the UK); the most common complaint by fans is that it tried to cram a whole book into each episode. Available on Hulu, but only on computers.

          For me, the Winter King is Frederick V of the Palatinate. Bohemia had been a Habsburg possession for a century, but Frederick got himself elected King of Bohemia in 1619, helping to touch off the 30 Years War. As you can guess from his unofficial title, he didn’t rule very long before the Habsburgs retook the throne.

          • crimsonprose says:

            The Winter Queen is entirely a different entity, more of former human turned into an elemental. And winter being the time of death . . .

            • Brian Bixby says:

              Does not sound good for Harry, nor compatible with his character in the original novel. Ah, well, I’ll see . . .

              • crimsonprose says:

                According to Jim Butcher the overall plot across the series is working out exactly as planned. And that is why I suggested the similarity with Ned. Good guy in seemingly hopeless situation with vampires or other evil beings. I know your schedule is loaded, and I keep recommending further reading, but it might be worth it to check out the last 3 of the Dresden Files. Things really happened, unexpected, gob-smacking. As I’ve said, this isn’t my favourite reading, but it got me hooked.

                • Brian Bixby says:

                  We ALL recommend further reading! That said, I probably will make my way through the series. Have to wonder when Butcher worked out an overall plot; doubt it was when he wrote the first book, which I seem to recall was intended to satirize the genre.

                  • crimsonprose says:

                    Considering the size of the other series, I’m surprised he has time! Yet that one too (Codex Alera) has a plot that runs through the entire series, slowly building. I think with the Dresden books (and I’ve not read all the earlier ones) once you know what’s to happen you can actually see where he’s layered the foreshadowing. I don’t see it as a sudden swerve done to attract more readers or because he needed to up the jeopardy. From a writer’s p.o.v. it definitely looks pre-planned.

  3. Judy says:

    I have a feeing I may like your vampire story more than most because of your sense of language and humor. I did read and like the Vampire Chronicles and of course Bram Stoker’s original…and the movie, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which has a killer sound track!! But, a nice dose of light with the dark makes for great seasoning. Perhaps the Ned can develop a taste for donated blood. I expect it would be like the difference between canned string beans and ones cooked fresh..but sometimes its only about the nutrition!! I am totally into this ride and where you are taking us.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Martha has raided hospitals for blood in past. Her attitude is, “Fresh prey always tastes better.” And note her remark about drinking Ned’s blood near the end of the chapter.

      Glad to have you back as a reader, Judy.

  4. Russell says:

    Talk about a change of pace! As with DLS, I look forward to how the cultural milieu (am I allowed to say that here?) will enrich your story. As you’ve already noted in another post, Chicago in the 60’s & 70’s was an interesting place — it will make quite a canvas.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Sure, you can say that here. And the vampires have their own culture, too. How much of it Ned will see . . . will be seen.

      DLS was fun to write. But I couldn’t write another one just like it, Russell, not yet, without pulling off too many of the same tricks. And way back in September, when I wrote a post on “Supernatural fiction,” I took Stoker to task for repeating himself. I didn’t want to make the same mistake. That said, there is definitely another Abigail Lane story, set in 1934, that will have to be told someday.

  5. Russell says:

    Well, if you can’t indulge in some jargon while discussing writing with other writers, when can you?
    I understand your desire to do something new. So far, MC could hardly be more different from DLS in style, tone, structure. I always enjoyed the historical context in DLS, however, and since you’ve chosen Chicago, rather than some fictional, decaying Southern mansion, I expect the setting to play a large part in shaping the events of the story.
    Hope that someday is not too far off!

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Well, I’ve sketched out and written pieces of the 1934 story, which increases the chances it will see the light of day. Abigail is 82 in 1934, long retired, but while age has changed her character a bit, it hasn’t softened it. Now that he’s been in office for a year, President Roosevelt has the time to invite his cousin to the White House for a stay. And while she’s there, he has something he wants her to do . . .

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