portion of the artwork for Dave Clapper's story

Law & Order: The Rapture
Dave Clapper

Day One
I am incredulous and weary. If they ever made a movie of my life, I’d bet that’s how they’d describe the character: incredulous and weary. The things I’ve seen—who wouldn’t be incredulous? And as many things as I’ve seen—who wouldn’t be weary? And nobody thinks to ask, “Hey, Don? You OK?” That is my name, by the way. Don. Think Elliot knows that? Olivia? Think they ever ask, “Hey, Don, how’s the wife and kids?” Does Elliot, with his train-wreck family, clutching his rosary beads, ever look up and think, “Hey, maybe the captain has some things going on at home, too”? No. Or Olivia, with her “I know he’s a criminal, but he’s my half-brother by my rapist father, and blood is thicker than water, so of course I’m going to bend the rules and save his sorry ass”? No. Or even take a moment to wonder—Munch wonders about everything, for Christ’s sake—whether the captain might be gay. “The captain doesn’t talk about his family much. You think he’s gay?” No.

Well, I’ll tell you. I’m married. Twenty-three years. Gloria. She’s great. She understands my incredulity, my weariness, the luggage under my eyes. So after I express my incredulity and my weariness to my detectives—to Stabler and Benson and Munch and Tutuola—after I say, “Looks like we’ve got a serial murderer here,” I go home to Gloria, my soft, understanding, plump, beautiful Gloria.

Gloria knows how to measure the rings around my eyes like an ancient redwood. She knows exactly how low my hangdog expression is hanging. And tonight, it’s the lowest it’s ever hung.

“Jesus,” she says, as soon as I walk in the door, and gives me a quick kiss while I hang up my coat, and then scampers—scampers!—off to the wet bar to make me a very serious margarita. Think any of my detectives know my drink of choice? No.

“Tell me,” she says, as I slide off my loafers. She eases the drink into my hand.

“Somebody is killing off would-be rapists,” I say.

“He deserves a medal,” she says, but with pause. She knows I’m not this low over perverts.

“The killer is killing them with babies.” I take a long drink. She puzzles.

“I don’t understand.”

“He’s throwing babies at their heads. With force. Blunt force trauma.”


“Naked newborns.”

“Ay, Dios mio.”

My drink is empty. I haven’t left the foyer. Stocking-footed, jacketless, I’m slumped to the floor, my back against the door. “Do you think I could have another?”

“Of course,” she says. My Gloria.

At first, the only bodies to examine are the … I want to say victims, but are the babies not victims? The only bodies are the men, who come in, heads concussed, trousers halfway down their thighs. There are no infant bodies to be found. The detectives only have reports from the would-be victims—the women who would have been raped—that their attackers had been killed by flying, naked babies. There are considerably more men in the morgue than there are women who have reported being attacked. Perhaps a twenty-to-one ratio.

There are a lot of dead men. Which would suggest a lot of dead babies. We have no babies.

Day Two
The undercover operation was a farce. Honestly, I didn’t want to send them out in the first place. What if the killer actually did show up? Would we have been able to stop him? But Olivia was insistent. We had to stage a rape, and she volunteered to be the “victim.” And once Elliot heard that, he was damned sure going to be the “rapist.”

So while Fin and Munch took every crackpot “tip” on the phones, my other team went from alley to alley staging rapes.

I don’t want to guess what happened at each scene. I only know that no babies were hurled at Elliot. And that Vice was called in to investigate a disturbance involving indecent exposure and sexual misconduct, and had to practically pull them off each other with the jaws of life.

About the last thing I wanted to do tonight was bail two of my detectives out of jail. And before I could even reprimand them, make a show of my disappointment, they were gone. Nobody’s heard from them. I have to assume they’re in a flophouse somewhere, rutting like teenagers.

Still no babies. Some very interesting results came back on DNA tests on the men’s wounds, though. These babies aren’t human. Or they’re half-human. Or super-human. None of the chromosomes contain any nuclear DNA—they are all comprised entirely of mitrochondrial DNA. The bulk of what we do in matching DNA is based on the mitrochondrial. Also, the twenty-third chromosome contains no sexual markers. Or, to be more precise, it contains no sexual markers that we’ve ever seen before.

Every X-chromosome traces back to what is called Mitochondrial Eve, the one female ancestor that all living humans have in common. Similarly, every Y-chromosome traces back to Y-chromosomal Adam. This Adam, incidentally, is believed to have lived some fifty millennia later than his Eve counterpart. The twenty-third chromosome in this DNA contains no Adam, no Eve.

The DNA of the babies (or perhaps just one baby—the DNA in all the wounds is identical) doesn’t have any of the nucleotide markers we use to determine race, genetic ancestry, anything. And we can’t determine gender.

Whoever gets to examine one of these babies is going to win a Nobel.

In the meantime, the dead men keep piling up.

Day Three
Fin and Munch brought in a suspect. They disregarded the tips as hoaxes at first, but the same information kept coming in. An Arabic man—about half the calls just called him a terrorist—was reported to have been seen near a number of the homicides not long after they occurred. Dozens of the callers offered to describe the suspect to a police sketch artist. The descriptions they gave resulted in identical sketches. We circulated the information to our officers, and a patrolman apprehended the suspect outside a church in Brooklyn.

The suspect has no identification. The name he gave the processing sergeant is Yeshua Ben Yosef. Munch told me that this is the original Aramaic name of Jesus Christ. With this information, it was clear that we needed to bring in Huang.

Entering the interview room, Huang seemed perfectly fine. He took a bottle of water with him. The interview lasted approximately one hour. At the conclusion of the interview, Huang informed us that the suspect clearly believed he was the Messiah, but that he otherwise did not appear to have diminished capacities. Huang’s breath reeked of alcohol when he emerged from the interview room. His water bottle, examined later, was found to contain wine of an indeterminate origin.

Huang also sang an aria from Madama Butterfly. I put him in a cab and sent him home to sleep it off. The suspect, on the way back to his cell, reported that “the chosen people had been called home.”

The following also happened during the interview:
  1. Munch disappeared. Several officers state that he spontaneously combusted.
  2. The precinct was concussed by the force of several explosions throughout the city.
  3. Officers near windows were temporarily blinded by vertical, tubular flashes of light.
  4. Our switchboard was overwhelmed with calls that fell into one of two categories:
    1. reports of churches, temples, and mosques splitting in two.
    2. reports of people of Jewish descent disappearing in a fashion similar to Detective Munch.
  5. Perfect naked babies surrounded the precinct.
Stabler and Benson are still nowhere to be found. Tutuola has been hiding under his desk, sucking his thumb since Munch’s disappearance. I’m running out of detectives.

I could really use a margarita.

Should we need to preserve the corpses for an indefinite period of time, we have far more resources for such than we could have anticipated. Wives, girlfriends, family members, friends—anyone who has come in to identify a body—has turned to salt. One would think that we’d have stopped identifications (or the attempts to identify) after the first such incident. The would-be identifiers are unstoppable, though, insistent that they must have one last look, no matter how grave our warnings, no matter the measures we take to keep them out. Even as they’re pushed away, their heads whip toward the morgue and their eyes find former loved ones. Our best estimation is that we have about two and a half tons of salt.

The Cherubim—so the Arabic suspect named them—have gone. They overwhelmed us and took the one they called Yeshua with them.

I have always been comfortable in the morgue. I wouldn’t necessarily have called it “home,” but at this moment, it is my refuge, the safest place I know. The city is overrun with hysteria. In here, with my subjects, my instruments, my chemicals, and now, my new supply of preservatives, I feel safe. I imagine myself the Morton Salt Girl, a lab coat as my yellow slicker, a stainless steel telescoping tray as my umbrella.

Day Four
There is no Gloria. I return home, make my way through riots and tumbling buildings, over blood-spattered, ash-scarred sidewalks, with one goal in mind. I need the perfect margarita, yes, but even if there is no tequila or lime or salt—don’t talk to me about salt—there will be my Gloria.

But there isn’t. Where there should be Gloria, there is a charred circle on the parquet. My ring finger throbs like a phantom limb.

I get on my hands and knees where she disappeared. I try breathing life into the ashes, like maybe they just need water, the fire that took her could still be put out. My heart hurts. For years, my heart has hurt metaphorically, but now it hurts literally. With each breath that smudges her remains, my left arm moves from pins and needles to ceasing to exist.

I want a margarita.

I do not want a margarita. I want to be the young man just before that first margarita, the Don Cragen who has not yet walked into El Porton, eleven blocks from Union Theological Seminary, El Porton, where a kindly, roundish bartender named Gloria listened as she made margaritas.

Ay, Dios mia, Gloria, I do want a margarita.

There once was a Don Cragen who had not decided that his best way of serving his fellow man was to join the police. This Don Cragen understood suffering to be only of this earth, that there was a better life after this one. This Don Cragen did not have the weariness of twenty-three years on the force on his face, in his shoulders, in the rumple of his suit. This Don Cragen had not yet put all his faith into police work and science as the best means of battling evil.

Most of all, this Don Cragen did not have a file that he pored over every night, an unsolved homicide case of a pregnant sixteen-year-old girl who, before she was murdered, doted on her older brother who was studying to be a pastor, a pastor who would not preach of Armageddon and Hell, but would focus on the love in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

This Don Cragen’s heart does not hurt. And now, I realize, neither does mine. Mine has stopped. Gloria is waiting for me.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been three days since my last confession. I accuse myself of the following sins.

Father, I’ve actually committed a lot of the usual sins. I lied, was angry with people, the stuff you’ve heard from me before. But there’s a doozy this time, Father.

I committed adultery.

Twel—no, thirteen … wait … thirteen? Fourteen times.

Yes, Father, with Detective Benson.

I don’t know. Do we have time? The church is practically gone, Father. I wasn’t even sure if you’d be here, but I knew I needed to confess. The shit’s hitting the fan.

Sorry, Father.

I do want to be forgiven. I do want to repent. Because if I don’t, I know where I’m going. And I don’t want Kathy to be alone. I know that makes me sound like a hypocrite. I know. But I’ve put her through enough. Should she have to suffer through eternity because I didn’t repent in time?

OK, frankly, Father, that’s uncalled for. Who the hell do you think you are? She would suffer without me. You think it would be easy to be alone with our kids for eternity?

Fine. The hell with this. Fuck you.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been thirty seconds since my last confession. I accuse myself of the following sins.

I shot a priest.

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You. I detest all my sins because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the occasions of sin. Amen.

They’re swimming around in there. I feel them. Maternal instinct has kicked in—because I’m definitely pregnant, I just know. I had purpose in allowing him into me. But it’s too late now, isn’t it? There won’t be a world left to raise a child in. And I want this baby. I need this baby. This baby deserves to live. This baby isn’t the child of rape. This baby isn’t me.

Elliot’s gone, thank God. His guilt is so tiresome. For three days, he came inside me and put his fists through walls, screaming about his infidelities. For three days, he came back to the bed and filled me with his swimmers, his good, prolific, Catholic swimmers.

And I used to care about his wife. I was the good partner, bailing his sorry ass out of trouble whenever he fucked up. I like Kathy. But I don’t care about her anymore. My turn now. All these years of being his partner, of putting douchebags in jail together, of being the good cop to his bad—all of that was just preparation for this. Preparation to be a mother.

A mother? Yes—though most of the swimmers failed to reach the dock and I heard their little cries as they faded away, and I understand that saying about God crying when even a sparrow dies—there is one, I felt that one swimmer, strong, that swimmer! And now there is a baby within me.

But it’s too late. Too late for this world.

I never thought much about an afterlife. But isn’t that what all this is about? The End of Times? And Heaven? If, at the End, a fetus is still being carried, does it already have a soul? Does it go to Heaven?

I don’t know. I don’t know!

I need a baby to love right now.

And there they are, millions of them, taking to the sky. The killers of would-be rapists are finished with this world. They’re going home.

And there is one—he sees me as he’s about to ascend. He comes to me, touches his chubby fingers to my belly, and smiles, gives me a blessing. I smile, too, even as I cry. As he takes off, I make handcuffs of my fists, lock my hands around his ankles, and he is mine, my baby, mine. And he will be forever and always, home in Heaven.

Day Five
After I saw Olivia disappear into the sky, I went home. No Kathy.

No Kathy.

And no kids. Maureen, Kathleen, Dickie, Lizzie, Eli. Gone.

My mother, on the other hand …

“What are you doing here?” I asked her.

“I didn’t know where else to go,” she said. She wasn’t looking at me.

“Where is everyone?”

“Gone,” she said, and waved her hand. The skin on her arms flapped under her muumuu.


“Light. Smoke. Jesus took them,” she said.

“Even Kathleen?” I couldn’t help myself. Kathleen’s a damned terror.

And she finally turned to look at me, eyes all watery. She nodded and started to speak, and a six-armed angel, engulfed in flame, swooped from the sky and took her.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned! Do you hear me? Forgive me!

Day Six
I made it back to the precinct. It wasn’t easy. There is fighting everywhere. Not humans. I didn’t see any humans. Angels. And not the cute baby ones. They’re gone. The big six-armed fiery ones.

“Seraphim,” one of them told me, and his voice almost made my head explode. I clutched my skull until he was gone. When I rubbed my eyes to try to make the pain go away, my fingers came back covered in blood.

And those are the good guys.

Satan’s army is here, too. They are smaller than the Seraphim, but more terrifying. Goats’ horns, snakes’ tongues … I don’t want to talk about it. I emptied my clip into one and it kept coming until one of the angels plunged from the sky, taking it like an eagle takes a rabbit.

The angels are bigger and stronger, but they’re outnumbered.

So I went to the precinct, skulking from dumpster to alley to overturned car, like a goddamned meth addict.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been five minutes since my last confession. I accuse myself of the following sins.

I have taken Your name in vain.

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You. I detest all my sins because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the occasions of sin. Amen.

The precinct didn’t look any better than anyplace else. The morgue was filled with dozens of charred corpses and stank of sulfur, or burnt salt maybe. There was nobody there. Nobody. The same circles of soot I saw all around the city, the same circle that was left behind when the angel took my mother. Fin’s desk was a total fucking mess. I think he actually put up a fight.

But everyone’s gone. Everyone.

Everyone but me.

Why am I still here?

Please, God! I’m Catholic! Why have You taken the atheists, the agnostics, the Muslims … the Muslims, for Christ’s sake!

Forgive me, Father, etc. O my God, I am heartily sorry, etc. Amen.

But seriously … the Muslims?!

Oh, hell, yes, they tried to take me. Take me? Oh, hell, no. Who takes care of the peeps left behind?

Yeah, I saw that, God. I seen your angels come down like bullets in drive-by, and yeah, sure, now the bullets—the good bullets—finding the white people. Uh huh. And those same bullets coming for my people—you think I didn’t see that? This time, they miss?

A’ight. Fine. Fine. We cool. I know I’m profiling. Yeah, I saw the angels turn away from some priests, too, saw the demons flat eat those fuckers. And yeah, I saw the angels grab some brothers.

But this is what it is—everyone not in the sky and not in the flames—we all niggas now, right? We all the 911 call nobody’s in no rush to answer, amiright?

Well, fuck that. 911? I’m 911.

Day Seven
Ben Yosef
The seventh day, We come to rest, Elliot Stabler. The sixth day lasted a thousand of your years. The war is finally ended. The Kingdom is at peace.

You are not alone, Elliot. There are others like you. Like you, they are confused. Like you, they are disheartened. This world is a desert now. And you are all lost within it.

They can be saved, though, Elliot, and so can you. Can you lead them, Elliot? Can you lead them through the desert to the Promised Land?

It will take you forty days. I put a lot of stock in forty, Elliot. Noah endured the flood for forty days. And Musa Dagh lasted forty days. Moses endured the desert for forty years.

You survived a thousand years in a day. Can you lead these people for forty days, Elliot?

Aw, hell, no. Elliot mothafuck Stabler is gonna part the Atlantic Ocean? Hell to the no. Oh, and he peacocked his chest, “Oh yes, Lord, I am Your servant,” he says, “born to lead” is what he was thinking, I could see it, like “awww, yeah, this is what I was born to do, born to lead, born to be the salvation of what remains of humankind,” and fuck you, no. I am 911.

And bam, one shot, down goes Stabler, and my gun smokes, badass.

And some mid-level trader, not high enough to burn, but too inside to go with Jesus? He quaked, he pissed himself right there, and started saying whatever little bit of the Bible he could remember, “Yeah, though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil,” and I laughed and said, “Evil? I just shot Evil, dumbass.”

And Jesus? He nodded, and flew off home.

“Now get up,” I said to Wall Street. “Clean yourself.” I looked at what remained of the citizens of New York, the new Israelites. “We got a long walk.”

I was surprised how hard this was to write. This was the third different story that I tried to write, and this one underwent a number of revisions. I had my reasons for thinking it’d be easier. I love all three Law & Order series. A piece I recently wrote about Winnie the Pooh took about forty-five minutes to write in almost exactly the form in which it was eventually published. So this would be like that, right? Wrong.

The difficulty, I think, is in the number of writers who have created and embellished the characters of SVU over the years. The authorial voice of Pooh, on the other hand, is totally distinct, and was therefore pretty simple to emulate. The characters of SVU, while distinct in their ways, don’t (to my ear) have such imitable voices.

What finally got me going was Cragen. He’s a bit of a cipher—I can’t recall anything on the show about his personal life. Stabler has his ridiculous family. Benson has her rape fixation based on her past. Even Munch and Tutuola have their ex-wives (and, in Tutuola’s case, a son). But Cragen? Nothing. Even his counterparts on CI and the original Law & Order have pasts that are referred to from time to time. (CI, by the way, is my favorite of the three series, but Bobby? Bobby proved nearly impossible for me to write.)

So why has Cragen been short-changed? I started imagining the story that I wanted him to have. I’m mildly obsessed with him now. I watch him more closely on the show for any hints as to who the hell this guy is. And when I still don’t see anything, at least I know now who I think he is, series writers be damned.

In an early draft, in fact, the story was almost entirely about him, and the rapture was actually the construction of his own mind as he careened between a stroke and a heart attack. I still love that Cragen, and I can imagine revisiting him, excising all the other characters’ storylines, and giving him center stage absolutely.

I find that I now have this enormous soft spot for Don Cragen (and, to a lesser degree, Melinda Warner). What an odd little gift to myself that is—one I had no idea I’d be receiving.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 27 | Law & Order Issue | Winter 2010