Epilogue: She does as she pleases
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby
The first I knew of any of this was the following night. I woke up to see that my coffin was open. Standing above me was Nora O’Donnell.
“I thought you should know as soon as possible, Detective Kammen,” she said to me with a sad look on her face. “Ivy McIlwraith is dead. She died to provide the power needed to end the conflict between Martha Fokker and Edward Cross.”
It hit me in the gut, hard. I had to struggle to breathe for several seconds. Ivy gone. It didn’t seem possible. She had survived death before. What had she done? I tried to speak. It took me three tries before I could. “I don’t understand.”
Nora nodded slowly. “No reason you should. A ghost sorcerer is all energy, and nothing more. Ivy deliberately expended all of her energy to end the sorcerers’ war and to help get your friends reinstated on the police force. And she succeeded. The mayor and police chief just agreed to the reinstatement of the vampire police a few hours ago.”
I felt a great surge of relief and happiness. But it got all tangled up inside my feelings for Ivy. She was gone. That was a big hole in my life. Big? Enormous, unfillable. Ivy had guided, advised, befriended, and loved me for most of my life. And between the good news and the bad, I found myself crying, sitting up with Nora’s arms around me. After quite a long time, I finally got myself back under control. And then I looked beyond Nora and saw the other coffin, Jenny’s coffin, Jenny whom I had killed.
Nora must have felt my change in mood, because she abruptly jerked my head to face her. “No, none of that. Jenny was a mistake in your past. Cry for Ivy, but Jenny will live, just as you do.”
Hmph. I wasn’t so sure that’s all that great an idea, but I didn’t want to disappoint this girl. At least she was trying. I looked for something to wipe my eyes, and Nora handed me a handkerchief. I dabbed at them. Once I felt a little better, I gave it back to her and said, “What now?”
That cheered her enough to break out into a big smile. “Martha will take charge of your recovery. She’s going to be leaving Chicago soon, and will take you with her. I think she figures she’s done all she can for the rest of her children. You’re the problem child now.”
The way she put that just cracked me up. I laughed, she laughed. And my recovery began in earnest.
What you’ve read is not the story you’ll find in the official history of the creation of the Chicago Police Department’s Vampire Bureau. Edward Cross does not appear in that story at all. And Martha Fokker is said to have been trapped and slain by Ned’s force. Cross and Martha actually worked together to create a convincing fake charred corpse of Martha. With every remaining sorcerer in Chicago still under Cross’s control, no one challenged the corpse’s authenticity. Officially, Martha was dead, and the “dead” vampire cops had been avenged.
Cross remained the supreme sorcerer in Chicago for the remaining sixteen months of his life, but he retired from city politics to spend his time with Love. With Cross no longer opposed to the vampire cops, Mayor Daley proclaimed the official creation of the vampire police at a press conference on the evening of October 25, 1969, proudly taking credit for the idea as he introduced Ned. Ned still had to give way on some points, as he had expected. The Vampire Bureau wasn’t called that. Instead, it became the “Special Task Force for Supernatural Law Enforcement.” And Ned was only given the rank of Lieutenant. In the long run, neither mattered. Everyone called it the Vampire Bureau, and Ned became so well-known and the bureau so successful that his low rank became an embarrassment to CPD. They eventually had to jump him up the ranks to make him the equal of the other bureau chiefs.
The Vampire Bureau was a great success. After some court rulings and laws passed to make what they did legal, the vampires became a useful element in law enforcement in Chicago. Crime rates plummeted when perpetrators realized that night no longer protected them, that they might end up the prey of vampires if they were caught. After a decade of eying Chicago’s declining crime rates, Milwaukee decided to start a vampire bureau, using Chicago’s as their model. Since then, half a dozen other cities and three state police forces in the Midwest have followed suit. Every vampire cop gets their training in Chicago, and not one takes up a badge until Ned O’Donnell gives his approval.
By being a success and a positive example, the vampire cops blazed the way for vampires coming out into the open among humans. Vampires still aren’t citizens, they’re still considered legally dead for some purposes (though many have bank accounts), but in practice they’ve won acceptance, at least in the cities. Nowadays humans even date vampires, weird as that would have seemed in 1969, when Sally and I were the oddest couple around.
Ned took on a lot of responsibility, and he deserves much of the credit for the success of vampire cops. He’s been the head of the bureau continuously since its inception, providing it with leadership and guidance, as well as serving as a personal example on the streets at times. Vampires age very slowly, but Ned now looks a decade older than he did in 1969. It’s really because he’s become more serious, more mature, than due to any physical change. He wears it well, even so. And when he lets his guard down, he admits to being a happy man.
The next largest share of the credit has to be given to Walter Zalensky. For all my fights with him, I knew he was a good organizer, something Ned needed. He was also smart about politics. Zalensky pushed hard on Ned to actively recruit minorities and women into the bureau, against Ned’s previous inclinations. The Vampire Bureau became the best integrated unit in CPD, and that brought it a lot of good will and insulated it from some of the criticism directed at CPD in the 1970s and 1980s.
Zalensky’s no longer with us, though. Despite being a desk cop if there ever was one, he died in the line of duty. Ned had made sure that the story of how his cops had taken down a sorcerer by themselves got wide circulation (without explaining precisely why the sorcerer attacked them). Between that and the generally demoralized state of sorcerers in Chicago after Cross’s death in 1971, it was years before any sorcerer dared attempt to challenge the Vampire Bureau. But in 1993, a new sorcerer in the city tried to assassinate Ned. Zalensky sacrificed himself to save Ned’s life.
Besides Zalensky, a surprising number of the people associated with the origin of the Vampire Bureau have either died or disappeared. My sister Kate died only six years later of a cerebral hemorrhage. At least she died in style, in the arms of a 23-year-old. The four husbands she had accumulated by that time all willingly served as pallbearers at her funeral.
A lot sadder was Sally Truax’s fate. Martha forbade her accompanying me when she took me out of Chicago, and Nora asked for her assistance in helping Jenny cope with her new life. Sally had already expressed an interest in helping, so she could hardly refuse. So Sally stayed in Chicago. Once the Vampire Bureau was set up, she got at least one of her wishes, and left Internal Affairs to become the human liaison for the Vampire Bureau. For a decade Sally Truax was the daytime public face of the bureau, and was a great success in the job. She then went out to Milwaukee to help start up their vampire police unit by playing a similar role.
She seemed happy. One month before she turned sixty, she had herself turned into a vampire and became an official vampire cop. And then on her birthday, she deliberately stayed outside to watch the sun rise and to be burned to death. She left a note telling people she had planned things that way, and that they should not grieve for her. She also sent me a very long letter explaining why. I’ve read that letter many times. I wonder if I could have changed her mind if I had known, if I could have spoken to her. And then I wonder if that would have been the right thing to do. Sally called her death an act of atonement. I have to respect that. And that’s all I feel proper to say about her death.
Make Love Not War stayed in Chicago until Edward Cross died in 1971. Then she just simply dropped out of sight. No doubt she’s doing her best to avoid drawing attention to herself, lest the sorcerers’ council figure out just who she is and what she’s done, and execute her for her crimes.
Martha decided that with Ivy dead, I was her responsibility. She was supposed to be dead as far as Chicago went, so she changed her name, bleached her hair, and took me to Los Angeles, where she knew some vampires she wanted to consult in working out my rehabilitation. While she was there, she enrolled in a nursing program, and stayed in L.A. until she became a registered nurse. She had seen the sort of field medicine the radical protesters used in Chicago when they were hurt by the police, and decided she wanted to be able to do better. You can call it her personal atonement for Vic, too, and you’d probably be right, though she’d never admit it. That being a nurse also made it easier for her to get access to blood banks didn’t hurt. Ned about hit the ceiling when he heard Martha was collecting an R.N., figuring there was no way Martha could have taken all the classes and got the necessary experience while out only at night. How she did it is unknown, but Ned had her checked out by nurses he trusted, and they told him Martha was properly qualified. Shortly after that, Martha declared me “as cured as you’ll ever be,” left town, and, like Love, dropped out of sight.
One more person vanished, leaving a mystery that remains open to this day. During her junior year in college, Nora O’Donnell walked out the door of her dorm one evening in the company of a woman whom Nora said was her identical twin sister, and who looked the part, even down to wearing the same clothes and hair style. Three people remembered seeing them walking down the street, laughing and talking. And then they vanished, without a trace. No bodies, no more sightings, no explanation of who the other woman really was, since Nora had no twin of any kind. It hit Ned hard. He keeps a photograph of Nora on his desk to this day.
Edna the waitress got married, had four kids, and is now a grandmother. After years of being a full-time mother, she went back to waitressing “for the people to talk with.” I make a point of stopping in to see her on my infrequent trips to Chicago. I can still make her laugh.
Eric the Red and Scratch Wilson both decided in 1971 that being vampire gang leaders with Ned and the vampire cops running the show wasn’t much fun, and left the city. Eric died in Atlanta a few years later. Scratch went to Detroit, but didn’t stay long. Where he went after that is unknown.
Once Martha declared me cured, Ned offered me a job back in Chicago in the Vampire Bureau. And he’s done so several times since. I’ve turned him down every time. I can manage my sadistic desires even better now than when I was human, but I won’t take the risk of disgracing Ned’s cops if I should again lose control. Besides, Jenny Roberts, the girl I tortured and killed, is still in Chicago. Nora and Sally, and later Sally and Ned, served as unofficial guardians as Jenny came to terms with what I had done to her and learned how to live as a vampire. With those influences, and a bit of help from Zalensky, it’s not surprising that she’s now one of Ned’s vampire cops. She and I have met a few times, but it has been very uncomfortable for both of us.
So instead of returning to Chicago, I became the first vampire private detective in Los Angeles. It helped that Ned was willing to put in a good word for me. I’ve done well at it. I have a love/hate relationship with the LAPD, the love being when they want my expert consultation or help with a supernatural problem, the hate being those occasions when they decide they want to stake me. It’s a life.
I usually work in L.A., but a few years ago I had a job that took me to Atlanta. There I ran into Flora, who used to be Darlene’s partner. Believe it or not, Flora’s partner in Atlanta is even taller and scarier than Darlene. Flora told me Darlene is in Miami, and still holds a grudge against me. Somehow I’ve never felt like visiting her to find out for sure.
I never intended to write down an account of those days in Chicago in 1969. As far as I was concerned, the way Ned and company spun it into a legend was fine. But over the years I gradually accumulated accounts of those days. Martha encouraged me to write mine down while I was under her care, as a way of exorcising my old troubles. I badgered her in turn for her account. She resisted for a long time, but finally gave in. One night, she sat down, threw herself into a trance, and gave me what sounded like a moment-to-moment recapitulation of what she had been thinking and doing, which I tape-recorded. It was an extraordinary performance. It also took her several nights. And I don’t say she was always truthful, or revealed everything.
Once I had those accounts, I went looking for others. Ned willingly wrote up his account. Ivy’s I got from the journal she kept, which Ned found in the Chicago Public Library for me. Nora kept a diary, in several volumes, but the only bit Ned ever found was a typescript transcription of parts from 1969 that turned up in the bottom of one of her bedroom dresser drawers. I never saw Love again, but Martha got an account of that day from her in 1971, just after Cross died but before Love left town. I often wonder just how she got it from Love, for the account is more self-revealing than Love normally was.
Sally’s account comes from her long letter to me announcing her intended suicide.
The story you’ve read is my edited compilation of all these accounts. I’ve tried to keep the flavor of the author’s characters and writing styles, not always successfully.
There are gaps and mysteries still in this story. Most of these I don’t expect to solve. That’s not much different than many of my cases as a detective. Not every detail matters. And we never know everything.
I’d like to have had an account from Edward Cross to explain what he knew and did in more detail. He died before the idea occurred to me.
I’d really like to know exactly what Love, Nora, and Ivy did to Martha. She did decide to become a nurse after that. And she was well-behaved in Los Angeles. After I read Love’s account of that night, I asked Martha, “Do you have any idea how they changed you?”
Martha gave me one of her unfathomable looks and replied, “Changes like that don’t persist unless they either work with the subject’s natural character or are reinforced regularly by more sorcery.” And that’s all she would say on the subject.
I did manage to solve one question after getting Ned’s account. Those stakes that Martha kept lying around? I asked her about them. It turns out Martha makes a point of hunting down and killing rippers. In fact, that’s how she met Vic. She didn’t make him a vampire. She killed the ripper that had turned Vic into one.
Ned and the other vampire cops who are Martha’s children get together once a year for a private celebration. And one of the questions that always comes up is where Martha is. Ned worries that Martha has a tendency to think of herself as indestructible, which she isn’t. He doesn’t say so, but I suspect he also worries that Martha might turn vicious again. I think he’d like to find her and bring her back to Chicago so he could keep an eye on her.
He may get his chance very soon. Eight nights ago, a vampire gang war broke out in New York City. Follow-up in the media has been very sketchy. Even the vampires’ web sites in the city have been silent. And then tonight I got on the Internet and found that a reward has been offered for the capture or destruction of a ripper living in New York City. I didn’t pay the story much attention, as it is unlikely that an NYC vampire would turn up in L.A., until I saw the picture. While the name is different, and the hairstyle, too, I’m pretty sure I recognize the vampire who is accused of being a ripper. It’s Martha.
Maybe she has turned ripper. Maybe she hasn’t. I have to wonder. I’ve been a detective a long time now, and you get a feel for what’s true and when someone’s feeding you a line. There’s something suspicious about the story they’re telling about Martha. But I’d be hard put to tell you just what.
Sorcerers are hunting Martha, but they can’t have caught her, not if they are offering a reward. If she’s still in the city, and a ripper, there will be some dead sorcerers soon. But my gut tells me Martha has fled New York City. There are too many sorcerers living there for her to stand against them, and she’d realize that. Hot-tempered she may be, but she’s not stupid. Far from it.
I’ve taken the time to write all this up, so there’s some record of what Martha was really like in Chicago. And now I’m going to wait. If Martha’s on the run, she’ll eventually have to go to Chicago or come here. Ned and I are the only allies she can count on, that she can be sure to find. And if she comes here, I have to be ready to deal with her, either to help exonerate her or to kill her.
The end of
Good conclusion; has a feel of nostalgia, as it should since Shylock is looking back on events and characters, with no little fondness. Nice little twist to the end: is it or isn’t it Martha.
I await your next offering – in December?
The story of what’s going on in New York forty-plus years later is ultimately tied up with dating between humans and vampires. And that’s all I can say at the moment.
I expect to be writing something in December, but am too fagged out right now to figure out what.
Yea, I remember weird emails at 2 am UK time, and the CFS was hitting me hard, and I’m wondering what the friggle jack are you on about. Yes, please do something with that dating agency.
“Special Task Force for Supernatural Law Enforcement” — You do know the current title for the series that used to be called “Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre,” don’t you? http://www.exhibitapress.com/
Have you already explained rippers in this story? I know I’ve read about rippers in one of your other stories (that you haven’t posted here) but don’t recall if rippers were mentioned in an earlier chapter of “Martha’s Children.”
Now we know how the chapters came from so many different points of view. Nice work pulling it together plausibly!
What happened to Nora sounds like a story in and of itself.
The fact that all but the first section of this chapter is narration rather than action or dialog slows it way down. I know it would make things much longer otherwise — and possibly lead to multiple chapters of dénouement — but it just goes to a crawl and stays there. I don’t read a lot of novels these days, but I have a feeling that this tone is more in line with older novels, say, from the 19th century.
I had not recalled Wolff & Byrd’s current title, but I had to use something, anyhow.
There is a chapter called “Of kings and rippers” earlier in “Martha’s Children,” explaining what a ripper is. And Martha mentions the term a few times in her POV chapters.
Explaining the story also explains a few problems I had. I could not think of a plausible way for Kammen to get hold of an account from Cross . . . so there’s no account from Cross’s perspective, though it would clear up several things, like how the sorcerers’ war came about in his mind. Ah, that must remain lost to us!
Interesting that you feel the pace slowed down, and that the ending seems more 19th century. Dickens could do something like that. Then again, in one sense, so does the film “Animal House.” I probably could have done a faster-paced version from Kammen’s perspective by having him visit Chicago or Milwaukee for Sally Truax’s funeral (which he did do). Needless to say, that would have meant dropping some of the information from this chapter, but not all that much. If I’d done so, I’d have to recast the last section as a phone conversation between Kammen and Ned in 2013, but I am very reluctant to do so. Kammen and Ned are friends in a very real sense in 2013, but there’s still a level at which they don’t trust each other. And Kammen is keeping a few secrets, too, which he wouldn’t want to reveal to Ned. I guess I’ll have to see how the sequel works out before deciding whether to change this section, and how. But the feedback is most welcome. This is the longest epilogue of its type I’ve written, and yours is a warning that longer could be unacceptable.
I think the wrap up works and epilogue in general. I found Sally Truax’s fate to be the most unexpected and yet seemed fitting.
Someday I’m going to have to figure out how to write her story.