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All These Bodies

All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

In the summer of 1958, the “Bloodless Murders,” sometimes called the “Dracula Murders” depending on which paper you were reading, were all over the news. They started in Nebraska, went through Iowa and Wisconsin, and ended in Minnesota. There were seventeen victims of the Bloodless Murders, all found with slit wrists or sliced throats or deep gashes on their inner thighs. Every victim died seemingly peacefully of blood loss, but, as you can gather from the name of the spree, there was no blood found at the scenes. This was the story of the century and it was shared by Marie Catherine Hale, the only person found alive at any of the crime scenes. Was she a victim or was she responsible? What follows is Marie’s story as told to Michael Jensen, a seventeen year old boy who wanted to be a journalist.

The last night of the killing spree, Michael and his buddy Percy were hanging out in Percy’s old barn, talking about girls, when Percy’s dad showed up and told them to get the dogs and come with him. Michael’s dad, Sheriff Jensen, was out at the Carlsons’ house where Widow Thompson reported that the Carlson family had been murdered. The only survivor was the baby. And the fifteen year old girl covered in blood standing in the living room. Marie Catherine Hale was a pretty girl who seemed much older than her fifteen years, and for some reason, she decided to tell her story to Michael, but not just yet. It could be because he was the sheriff’s son, or it could be because he’s the only person who might believe her story.

After the Carlsons’ funeral, Percy and Michael talked about how there were too many people there, people that just seemed to be there to be part of the sensation. They also talked about Marie Catherine Hale and how Percy heard she was going to be charged with all the murders even though she’s just a small girl. In Minnesota, where the murders ended, she couldn’t be charged for the murders if she was just an accomplice, but in Nebraska, where they started… she could be. The boys decided to go to the park with some other friends from school, which led to them going to explore the Carlsons’ house. Inside, they found a rolled up rug with a little bit of blood on it. Outside, they saw a face that didn’t belong to anyone they’ve ever seen before.

Some guys from the police station showed up to get them out of the house, and Michael ended up paying penance by cleaning the floors of the prison. He worked there some and it used to be his house, so it wasn’t so weird that he’d be there. What was weird was that this was where Marie told Michael about Mercy Lena Brown, a girl from the 1800s who was accused of being a vampire and her heart was cut out of her corpse, burned, and fed to her brother to stop him from becoming a vampire, too. She actually died of tuberculosis… and so did her brother. While Michael was there hearing about this terrible story, he also asked if the police saw anything out of the ordinary at the Carlsons’ house, maybe any footprints in the flowerbeds… Nope.

Not long after this, the district attorney from Nebraska showed up, Benjamin Pilson. He was sleazy about Marie being a pretty girl and wanted to take her back to Nebraska because there, she could be capitally punished just for being an accomplice, whether she actually committed any crimes or not. This of course freaked Marie out, probably his sleaziness did too, and so she declared that she would only tell her story to Michael. Everyone got into a fuss about this, but ultimately, after talks with judges and officials from the other states involved in the murders, Marie was allowed to tell Michael exactly what happened to her. Pilson didn’t agree, fought it every step of the way, and forced Michael to tape record his sessions with Marie.

The interviews began shortly afterward and everyone at school and around town started pestering Michael about his part in the process, but he was determined to do the right thing and interview Marie even though she was a girl and everyone knew that a girl couldn’t kill all those people. He asked her about the man who did all the killing, but she never revealed his name or his location. She did reveal that he used a straight razor and drank the blood of his victims. You mean like a vampire? Yes, that’s exactly what she meant. She also informed Michael that the first victim that was found wasn’t actually the first victim at all. The first, and second, victims were Marie’s mother and stepfather. She refused to give their names, but the interview had to stop there for the day. If she would just give the name of the blood drinker, all this could stop and no one would care about her anymore at all. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.

In between interviews with Marie, Percy was the only one who stuck with Michael. One day after school, they got in Percy’s car for a drive and talked about girls and dances and Percy nudged Michael’s arm. Except he didn’t. Both his arms were on the steering wheel… and a snake crawled out of a bag on the seat. YIKES. They almost crashed in the school parking lot and one of the officers, Bert, came running to help. He rescued the snake and took it home as a pet. Who would put a snake in Percy’s car? Was it a prank or something worse? Surprisingly, the snake incident was forgotten for a while.

Pilson continued badgering Michael and his father about the interviews. Michael did have to tell his dad about the blood drinking part because Pilson found out and decided everything that Marie said was a lie and it was all a waste of time. Sheriff Jensen was happy to keep the interviews going for as long as necessary because while they were going on, there were no more bloodless murders to deal with. Pilson didn’t care. He was even more intent on getting Marie to Nebraska and to the electric chair. He took Michael out to lunch one day and was awful to him. He showed him pictures of all the victims and insinuated that Michael had something going on with Marie and said if he didn’t get a name, she was going to die.

Even if Michael didn’t really believe the vampire stuff, he decided to investigate and borrowed a bunch of vampire books from the library and started teasing Marie about it. She wouldn’t relent though. She told Michael that he didn’t always kill his victims, sometimes he just fed. Then she showed off all the scars on her arms. She warned Michael not to go out alone and when he asked why? Should he be worried? Should his family? Marie didn’t answer. Then Michael asked why the blood drinker left her on the night of the Carlsons’ murders, she revealed because he wanted her to get caught.

Later on, Michael and Percy spent some time in the woods behind Percy’s house. This time, instead of talking about girls, they talked about vampires. Then they got separated. Michael wasn’t worried, he practically grew up in those woods. But then he noticed something. A carving in a tree. A deep carving of a weird symbol. Michael told Percy that Marie said the blood drinker could still be in town, watching. So they decided to search the woods for him. They followed footprints that didn’t belong to either of them, but they did not find anyone. Michael told his dad and the guys at the station, but they didn’t find anyone either.

Michael talked to Marie about it and she revealed that the blood drinker was just showing off, playing games. That is unsettling. One day after church, Michael and his mom went to visit the widow who lived nearby the Carlsons and she said to Michael that she saw Steven Carlson the night he died, taking them inside his house. When Michael asked who the them was, the widow got confused and said it was just Steven and his girlfriend. Again… unsettling. Michael asked Marie about it and then they started talking about why the blood drinker was able to kill people without causing a fuss. Why no one put up a fight. It turns out, some of the victims did fight, or try to run. But only because he let them. He liked playing games. They argued a little after that, about why Marie would go along with those games, why she didn’t run away and why the blood drinker didn’t kill her. Because he protected her and told her that after they were finished, she’d never need to be protected again. To Michael, that sounded like a motive for murder, going along with killing people in exchange for eternal life...

Michael stayed away from Marie for a while after that conversation. He spent some time talking to Nancy, the secretary at the jail, who also spent a lot of time with Marie. They talked about why no one seemed to put up a fight whilst being murdered, but she decided that maybe they didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. Like people judged Michael for his feelings for Marie, they judged Nancy, too. She lost her daughter and husband in a fire years before and has moved on with her life, but the townsfolk couldn’t handle that. The scandal!

Another scandal surfaced soon after that. Remember how Michael forgot about the snake incident with Percy? After walking his sister Dawn home from school, they arrived at the front door to see the snake nailed there. No one in town fessed up to this ordeal, but does that mean the blood drinker did it? Or was it someone else? Michael went back to see Marie after that to ask why the blood drinker would mess with his family like that. She claimed to not know who did it, which just made Michael angrier. Everyone in town was terrible to him and his family because of her. If only she’d tell him the truth!

Later that night. Percy took Michael to a party. They spent the evening hanging out and drinking beers with boys from the football team that were friends with Steven Carlson. They decided to go to visit Steven’s grave, but when they got there, they did not celebrate Steven’s life. Instead, they threw beer cans at Michael and put a loaded gun in his face. They tried to kill him because of his connection to Marie. Before they could pull the trigger though, one of the guys caught sight of something carved into the back of Steven’s headstone that freaked them out. It was more of the same symbols Michael and Percy saw carved into the trees. They reported the carvings to Sheriff Jensen, but not the attempted murder.

Michael went back to interview Marie again after that encounter, and they talked more about the individual murders and more details of each one. Sometimes the blood drinker would chase his victims, other times, he wouldn’t. One time in particular, he made his elderly victims see himself and Marie as their grandchildren. He made Marie shave the man and get them dressed for bed. Then he killed and drank them. Michael asked why Marie ever went with him in the first place. She revealed it was because everyone always told her she was a bad girl. Everyone but him.

The next time Michael tried to visit Marie, he had to wait. Mr. Pilson had come back to tell Marie that he was taking her back to Nebraska soon. One of the victims left textbooks behind with things written inside, but the police didn’t immediately put that together. He also discovered something else. Michael tried to stop Mr. Pilson and told him that Marie is telling the truth, but of course Pilson didn’t believe that. Then he commented on how sometimes the tape recorded interviews started in the middle of conversations and how it was because they were talking about things of a delicate nature. Sexual things. Because Marie is sixteen and pretty. Then he left back to Nebraska. Michael’s dad asked him after this conversation if he wanted to stop interviewing Marie, but no. He can’t. There’s no way she ever could have killed anyone.

While Pilson was gone, Christmas came and went and Michael’s family gave Marie gifts. She said it was the nicest Christmas she ever had, which is dreadfully sad. Then, one night in January, something weird happened. Michael heard tapping outside his window, like someone throwing pebbles. He expected it to be Percy, but instead, it was the blood drinker. Standing in the street. Throwing pebbles hard enough to chip Michael’s window. He ran downstairs with a baseball bat to bash the guy in the street, but instead of being in the street, he was in the living room. He told Michael to ask Marie how much blood she drank. And then he disappeared.

When Pilson returned, he came back with some crushing information. He learned by listening to the tapes and putting together some context clues that Marie gave a fake last name and with this knowledge, he discovered that her mother and stepfather were reported missing. We already know from previous chapters that they’re dead, but Pilson didn’t know that. He also believed that Marie’s stepfather was the man responsible for the murders and that he and Marie had a sexual relationship that she seduced him into. He said that with this information that Nebraska has the better claim on her and he’s taking her back. And he told all the newspapers.

After the story was released, Michael was pretty much tortured by reporters, but he never commented. He did go to see Marie to check on her and to see why it would be so bad if all the murders were pinned on her stepfather. She’d just need to tell Pilson where he was. Of course, she wouldn’t tell Pilson anything, but she would tell Michael. She finally revealed to him the location of her mother and stepfather’s bodies and he went along with Pilson and the police and FBI to locate them. However, when they arrived at the house and pulled up the floorboards in the basement… Marie’s mother was there. And another woman who owned the house. But not the stepfather. Who could have moved his body? Marie was sure he was dead and under those floorboards. Michael talked to Pilson about it and asked why he released the information to the papers because surely that would have inspired the actual blood drinker to go there and further set Marie up for all the murders. Well, Pilson didn’t care about any of that. He didn’t care about the truth at all.

Michael couldn’t take it. He knew Marie didn’t kill anyone and didn’t deserve to die. So he snuck out of his house and had planned to break her out. Nancy was there sitting with Marie since they didn’t have much time left together and she was just going to let them go without a fight at all. But Marie refused to go. And she told Michael one last bit of information. She told him about what happened the night the Carlsons were murdered and why she was covered in blood.

Marie and the blood drinker met Steve Carlson on the road and went with him into their house. Everything was perfectly fine. Steve’s mom started making a pie and they sat together and chatted. The blood drinker told Marie she had to be the one to kill them. But when she realized there was a baby, she didn’t want to do it anymore. But she had to. The blood drinker forced her to. She started with Steve but couldn’t do it, so she moved to his father. She slit his throat and began to drink. But she couldn’t stomach it. The blood drinker had to help. And then he killed the mother. When it was time to kill Steve, Marie refused and forced herself to vomit up the blood she drank. It covered her from head to toe. She told Steve to take the baby and run, but he wouldn’t. Then she told the blood drinker to just kill her and leave her behind. But he wouldn’t. He killed Steve and left the baby and Marie behind. Michael was so shocked that Marie really killed someone.

Soon after that, Marie was charged with the murder of her mother, Audrey Cody. That’s the only one she was charged with, but Michael heard someone say you could only electrocute her once, so it didn’t matter as long as she was dead. But she wasn’t sent to the electric chair, she requested hanging. After the trial and the hanging, everyone pretty much forgot about the search for Marie’s stepfather. They forgot about the blood drinking and the symbols carved and the missing blood and the man in Michael’s living room and the snake stuff and everything. After the hanging, Michael received a letter from Marie, asking him to go to Nebraska, to dig up her corpse and to burn her heart. He got Percy to give him a lift and together they dug her up. The story ends with Michael lifting the lid of the coffin, begging Marie to come back.

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