Chapter 3: J.W. Cannibal
“KILLER ON THE LOOSE IN LONDON!” the headlines were bold and black on this morning’s paper, for nobody could miss them!
This new killer had struck again just last night around dawn. The body of George Collins was discovered right outside Scotland Yard. Inspector Abelian was baffled and came to the pub to deliberate.
“How could he possibly get away, John?” Abelian asked in disbelief. “He was right outside my office.” He sat there before me leaned over the bar with a pint sitting next to him and a fat cigar in his hand.
“I don’t know, inspector. This bloke is crafty.”
He nodded in agreement. “He leaves nothing behind. He’s clean and cunning…just like the Ripper.”
“You don’t think…?”
“No,” he cut me off, “The Ripper is long gone from London and he is never coming back.”
“Why wouldn’t he? He got away before without the police on his coat tail. Prey is easy here on the east end.”
He sighed as he rubbed his eyes stressfully. “Don’t remind me how much of a failure I am, John.”
“What are we gonna do?”
“I’m going to the morgue to see the autopsy of Stacy Owens and now George Collins. Are you still coming?”
“Good. I’m gonna need you in this case.” He grabbed his hat then stood up. “I need to get back,” he popped his hat atop his head, “The boys at the station need me now more than ever.”
I watched him leave the pub with heavy burdens on his shoulders. I can’t imagine the position he’s in. For the past few decades, he’s been the head inspector at the Scotland Yard and never came in contact with a case he couldn’t crack until the Ripper came along. I think he blames himself for the Ripper’s escape. The killer had outsmarted him and now he believes he’s incapable of doing his job which isn’t the case at all.
He’s just afraid of failing London again.
Throughout the day I couldn’t get this case off my mind. The Ripper was also running through my mind as I pondered the possibility of this new guy actually being the man himself.
If this murderer escaped I think it would not only kill me but it would also take Abelian’s life. He can’t take another unsuccessful case. He’s old and probably won’t be alive for much longer so this case needs to be solved.
Even though London’s east end is violent and full of crime, it’s not every day we come in contact with a single individual committing a sequence of murders. True there might be a murder but the culprit would be caught before he could start a series of killings and they’re never this gruesome.
Ordinary killers don’t disembowel their victims meaning that even though this guy might be an amateur as Jack said, he’s still extremely dangerous. These kinds of killers don’t just stop which is how I know the Ripper is still out there spilling blood.
But where is he spilling it?
“Stacy Owens,” Jack said loudly, “Twenty-three years of age. Cause of death: hemorrhaging. Her jugular was cut rendering her silent,” he placed a gloved finger on the long red slit across her throat. “Carefully, he removed her kidney while she was still conscious. There was considerable damage to her intestines and lining of the stomach from the bedpost.”
“This guy’s a sexual sadist,” I said in the midst of this.
The naked blue body of Stacy Owens lied before us on a metal table as Jack spoke and gestured to her wounds. Next to her on a separate table the body of George Collins was displayed.
“What about Collins?” Abelian asked. “Anything different?”
“Yes,” Jack said as he approached the dead man. “His heart was missing but his kidneys were intact. But the cause of the death was just the same as Owens; he bled to death from the slit throat. I did find something grasped in the victim’s hand.”
He walked over to his desk and pulled out a plastic bag. Abelian examined the bag with scrutiny. “J.W.?” he stated.
In the bag there was a silver pocket watch with the initials “J.W.” engraved indicating to me that this killer must be of great wealth.
“Where did the victim get this?”
“I suspect it’s from our killer,” Jack said with his arms behind his back. “It certainly doesn’t belong to Collins here. He didn’t have the money for something like that. I’d say our killer is wealthy. It would cost him greatly to possess a pocket watch as fine as that one.”
“So his initials are J.W.?” I said as I examined the watch. I felt as though I had seen it before somewhere but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
“That could be anything from Jeffrey to Jason! Who knows?” the inspector said in frustration.
“It’s a clue, nonetheless,” I said. “We never received anything like this from the Ripper.”
“Speaking of,” Jack went back to his desk and pulled out yet another plastic bag. “I also found this in Collins’ coat pocket.”
Inside the plastic bag there was a newspaper article from last year. It recalled the murder of Mary Ann Nichols: the Ripper’s first victim.
“Why would the victim have this?” I inquired.
Jack shrugged. “Strange, isn’t it?”
I looked at Abelian who was baffled. “No,” he just said, “No. The Ripper is gone.”
“Fredrick,” I said. “Why would this be on the victim? The killer must have placed it there. He’s trying to tell us something.”
“He’s certainly not telling us that he’s the Ripper,” Jack said suddenly.
The two of us looked at him.
“How do you say?” I asked.
Jack walked over to me then took the bag out of my hand. He pointed to a place in the article then began to read, “A man called George Collins found Nichols early this morning on Buck’s Row.” His blue eyes flickered to me.
“He was at the crime scene,” I said. “But what about Stacy Owens and Jennifer Milton?”
“Prostitutes that were seen with Nichols on the night she died. I did some research after I found Collins in that article.”
“He’s killing everyone related to the Ripper case. Why?”
Jack shrugged. “I don’t know. But it’s brilliant, isn’t it?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“But why would he want their organs?” Abelian asked. “That doesn’t make any sense. If he was just offing people that were related to the case he wouldn’t go to trouble of removing their organs.”
“What do kidneys and hearts have in common?” Jack asked.
The three of us stood there in silence before I came to a grim realization.
“What is it, John?” Jack asked as he saw the light in my eyes.
“Kidneys and hearts,” I stated. “As humans, what do we do with animal organs?”
Then I saw the lightbulb switch on in Jack’s head. “We eat them.”
“So, what? The killer is eating the organs?” Abelian asked wide-eyed.
“A cannibal,” I said.
“In London,” Jack smiled, “I never thought I’d see the day.”
“The Ripper was suspected of cannibalism during the murder of Annie Chapman. He took her kidney then mailed it to Scotland Yard allegedly half eaten.”
“So, this could be him then?” Jack asked. “The Ripper?”
“It’s possible,” I said. “If this is the case then there will be many bodies to come.”
I looked at Abelian who was freaking out internally. “Are you alright, Fredrick?”
He took a breath. “I’ll be alright. I need to get back to the Yard.” He put on his hat. “John, this guy has got to be caught. London will not be ravaged by this…this…J.W. Cannibal.” Then he left the morgue.
I turned to Jack who was putting the bodies back in the wall. He pulled off his gloves then chunked them in the trash. “Well, this has been exciting.”
“I know,” I said as I sat down on his desk. “A cannibal in London. Why does everything happen here?”
He shrugged. “I think London attracts madmen.”
“How is it possible to have two sadistic killers, two years in a row, both starting out on the same date?”
“It could be the Ripper."
“No,” I said, “This guy is different. I can feel it. But why would he want to kill the people involved in the Ripper murders?”
“It’s all very strange.”
“Which is why you should come over for a drink tonight.”
I viewed him skeptically. “Is that really a good idea?”
“Yes! You don’t have work tomorrow, neither do I. Let’s celebrate this cannibal.”
“Alright!” I said as I hopped off his desk. “Let’s go.”
Everyone was off their face.
People were dancing all over the place in the barn-like saloon while Jack and I sat at the bar engaging in a relaxed conversation. The two of us were laughing as we threw alcohol down our necks.
“So, a cannibal is on the run?” Jack asked. “Crazy, eh?”
“Keep your voice down,” I warned. “I don’t want anyone to hear you and freak out.”
“I’m sure they’ll figure it out sooner or later. The paper tells all. Ever considered cannibalism, John?”
“Excuse me?” I asked, off guard. “That’s an odd question.”
A cheeky smile crossed my lips. “Honestly, I’ve looked at woman and considered it.”
Jack covered his mouth in shock as he laughed. “John Cassidy Wilkinson.”
I smiled. “I am a little odd.”
He nodded. “True…but so am I.”
“I guess we’re just odd ones against this world together.”
“I guess so,” he sat there for a moment in thought. “What about the Ripper?”
“What about him?” I asked confused.
“Do you think he’s odd like us?”
After a moment I slowly nodded. “I’m sure he is.”
He half-smiled then took a drink of his gin.
“Do you think he’s responsible for these crimes?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No.”
“I don’t either. I think somebody is framing him. Jack is better than this.”
For a moment, I was confused before realizing that he and the Ripper share the same first name. I laughed a little. “You are.”
Jack didn’t smile or even speak. He just sat there staring at his drink with an intent expression. “I am.”
“John!” Jack said laughing. “What are you saying? I can’t understand you.”
“Yes you can. You’re the one who’s uh…speaking languages.”
“I’m speaking languages, am I?”
“Yes,” he plopped me down on his sofa.
“You’re a mess,” he said as he sat down next to me.
“I am so drunk.”
The two of us laughed.
“So am I, my friend.” Jack rubbed his eyes. “What time is it?”
“Who cares?” I said loudly. “We’re young!”
“Shhh!” he said as he covered my mouth. “I have neighbors.”
“Sorry,” I whispered. “I’m kind of obnoxious when I’m drunk.”
“Kind of?” he asked.
I giggled as I ran my fingers through my hair. “Well I had a great time!”
Jack covered my mouth again. “John, be quiet,” he tried desperately to contain his laughter but my stupidity was too amusing.
I grabbed his face and my him look at me. “You’re very pretty.”
He laughed. “Thank you, John.”
“Like you would make a beautiful woman…not that you’re not a beautiful man but like…” he covered my mouth again.
“Stop speaking,” he said chuckling. “You’re just making it worse.” He rolled his eyes. “You need to go to sleep.” I fell back against the sofa then released a long exhalation.
“You act like a child when you’re drunk, you know that?”
“No I don’t. I’m very mature.”
“Go to sleep, John,” he ordered as he stood. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
I pulled the blanket Jack had left over me and closed my eyes. My mind was all over the place thinking about serial killers and Jack. I thought sleep would never come but, around three in the morning, I had fallen into a deep slumber.
Swallowed in darkness in a tunnel with a bright light at the end. It seemed as though I would never get there. The light was so far away, it would take me a lifetime to reach it.
I couldn’t run towards it, for my legs wouldn’t allow it. I was only allowed to walk at a relaxed pace. Upon approaching the light I was a bit hesitant though my body did not reflect that as I was unable to stop.
No matter how hard I tried my legs would not stop walking towards the light. The end of the tunnel engulfed me in seemingly eternal white luster. Everything was so clear and white. Like the tunnel, I thought it would never end but it suddenly came to a stop at a red door. I gripped the golden doorknob then slowly turned it. The door seemed to have sucked me inside as the white vanished and I was enclosed in blackness once more.
Before me sat a man at a desk but I couldn’t see his face as his back was turned to me, though I could see his bloody hands. His hair was dark and messy. But the one thing that really caught my eye was the silver pocket watch which hung from his belt. The initials “J.W.” glistened in the moonlight which protruded from the window.
After a moment of standing there and staring at the back of the stranger’s head, I stretched out my hand towards him. The closer I got the darker the room seemed to be. Finally my hand fell onto his shoulder almost like a magnet and the man automatically stood up causing me to back up.
Slowly he turned around but it was so dark that I couldn’t see his face in full detail. Then lightning flashed outside lighting up the room and illuminating the stranger’s face.
But he was no stranger. The face belonged to me.
A wicked smile and beady eyes distorted his face. Blood smeared his lips and flesh hung from his teeth. I looked down at the desk to find a heart lying in a silver dish half-eaten.
His wicked laugh echoed throughout my nightmare as I ran out of the door and away from such horrors. No matter how fast I ran his laugh continue to boom in my ears as if he were right next to me.
Over and over again, I could hear him calling my name. “John! John! JOHN!”
“John Wilkinson!” Jack yelled as he shook me awake. I grabbed a fistful of Jack’s shirt prepared to punch him in the face but he gripped my arm.
“Whoa!” he said. “Calm down. It’s just me.”
I sighed in relief as I released him. “I thought you were me.”
“Nothing.” I sat up and ran my fingers through my sweaty hair. Perspiration had stained my forehead and clothing.
“Did you have a nightmare?”
“Yes, and a dreadful nightmare at that.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not really. These murders are haunting me.”
He squeezed my shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll catch the killer. You’re quite astute.”
“You think so?”
I stared into his stone-like eyes for a moment before looking down at his teeth and I was reminded of my nightmare. I pulled away from his touch. “You know, I should go.” I stood up. “I need to go visit my mum.”
“That’s probably a good idea. I’m sure she needs you now more than ever considering her illness.”
I reached to grab my coat but realized that it was already on me. “Well, I guess I’m just gonna leave.”
He smiled in amusement. “Goodbye, John.”
To be perfectly direct, I would much rather spend the entire day with Jack but I had to do my duty as a son and visit my mother. She’s very ill meaning that her days with me are numbered.
My mother’s house is located not far from my own. It’s a rather small one-story wooden place with a small window. I knocked on the door and, after a few minutes, she opened. When she saw me her eyes lit up and she yelled with joy.
“Oh Johnny boy!” she wrapped her thin arms around my neck then placed a big kiss on my cheek. “I’m so tickled to see you, darling. Please come in.”
I entered her small home and took in the warmness of it. My mother, a very small woman, has long gray hair that she always keeps in a braid down to her waist. Her eyes are a lovely shade of forest green and her cheeks are still as pink and rosy as ever. Age hasn’t taken too much of a toll on her but her illness has caused her to lose weight which really shows in the hollows of her cheeks and those ever so purple sad bags that droop her kind eyes.
“Come sit down,” she gestured to me.
I sat down on the old hickory chair as she poured me a cup of hot tea.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. “Don’t you work today?”
“No, I get Sundays and Mondays off thankfully.”
“You seem a bit dazed, love. Are you alright?”
“Yes,” I said with a smile. “I was drinking last night and I’m paying the price this morning.”
She shook her head. “You men and your drinking. I’ll never understand. You’re still working at the pub, I presume.”
“Oh, he’s just lovely.”
“Oh!” I said in remembrance. “I made a new friend.”
“Yes. I actually spent the night with them last night. We’ve a lot in common and…we’re getting pretty close.”
“Well, she sound like a lovely girl.”
For a moment, I was unsure of what she just said. “Oh, no!” I said laughing. “My friend isn’t a girl, mum. He’s a man, his name is Jack.”
“Oh!” she laughed. “The way you were talking about the lad I thought he was a lady you fancied.”
“No, he’s just a really good friend.”
“Sounds like it,” she smiled. “I’m glad you’re making friends. I remember when you were younger you always had difficulty fitting in.” Then she looked as though she was remembering something terrible but she shook it away and smiled. “But you’re a man now and you’re getting on in the world. Speaking of which, when are you going to find yourself a wife?”
I chuckled. “I don’t know, mother. I haven’t met anyone yet.”
“Well, I’m getting on in age and I would like to meet my grandchildren.”
I looked at her after she said that and I observed her drinking her tea. Somehow I knew that she wouldn’t live long enough to meet her grandchildren. I knew that this illness was going to kill her. It wasn’t something that I liked to think of but I knew it was true and I think she did as well, but she would never say it in front of me with the fear of upsetting me. But I knew the horrid truth.
“Do you remember Henry Smith?” she asked suddenly in the midst of my thoughts.
I thought for a moment before my memories came back to me. “Yes! I remember Henry."
Henry Smith was my very best friend and we became mates when I was about ten years old. He’s originally from Kentucky but his family moved to London when he was about nine.
We didn’t meet in school as I had only about a year of education but he lived down the road from me in a big white house. After my father’s death, when I became the man of the house and Henry would come over and help me with the farm work.
Sadly, when he was eighteen, his family moved back to Kentucky and I haven’t seen him since.
“Why are you mentioning Henry Smith?” I asked. “I haven’t seen him in years.”
“Well, he wrote me recently and he’s coming back to London with a fiancé on his arm. He was wondering if you were still around to come to the wedding.”
“Of course! When will he be coming?”
“His ship left about two months ago. Henry said that his ship will arrive next weekend.”
“That’s remarkable!” I said in excitement. “And he has a fiancé? Blimey! That’s brilliant!”
“Yes it is.” My mother smiled brightly. “He’s certainly missed you, for you were all he wrote about in that bloody letter.”
“I’m definitely looking forward to this weekend.”
“Maybe you, Henry, and that Jack fellow can go and have a pint some time. Won’t that be nice?”
He’s not a very social chap, for I have no idea what he’ll do if I invite him to a pub with another person. I don’t know Jack that well. Given, I do know his past but I don’t know him completely when it comes to his social life.
He doesn’t come off as the type of person that likes people. But I’m sure he’ll like Henry as he’s quite a witty lad. Jack’s quite amiable so I know Henry will like him.
Henry’s about a year my junior and I’ve always been the mature one. Then again, I became a man at a very early age, diminishing my childhood.
I stayed at my mother’s for another hour reminiscing on the past and discussing the present.
But we did not discuss my father.
It was about three in the morning when I had finally gone home. I had helped my mum with some chores around the house and then we talked for hours. An entire month had passed since I had seen her last so we had to catch up.
According to her doctor, the illness she has is getting worse meaning that her time is limited which frightens me. She’s the only family I have in this world and I’m not sure what I would do without her.
Walking the dark streets of the east end has always made me paranoid but, for some reason, tonight I felt relaxed. The Ripper's Hour had set upon me, meaning that nobody was on the streets but it didn’t bother me as much as it used to.
I felt rather content for once, alone at night. Normally flashbacks of the Ripper’s crime scenes would come back to me and I would become a bit spooked but not tonight. I wasn’t afraid anymore which I found to be strange. I had no reason to not be afraid anymore.
But that feeling quickly went away as I felt a presence behind me.
I could hear footsteps following mine and they belonged to heavy boots. I felt as though something was crawling on my back as I thought of who walked behind.
Suddenly I turned around quickly startling the person behind me who was not a serial killer but a young lady.
“Oh dear!” I said breathlessly. “I thought you were a serial killer!”
“Excuse me?” she asked. She was American.
“Nothing, I’m paranoid. I heard you behind me and I thought you were someone else. I offer you my most sincere apology, for I did not mean to frighten you.”
She smiled at my kindness. “It’s fine. You can’t really trust anyone anymore.”
“Yes, ma’am. Unfortunately, you are correct in that statement.”
I looked at her for a moment. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“No, I’m originally from across the Atlantic but I moved here a few years ago.”
“Really?” I asked. “Why?”
The entire time we engaged in conversation I was deciphering her appearance, perhaps a little too curious while doing so. Granted, she was youthful and beautiful and my initial thought was that she could've been a whore but her appearance said otherwise.
Her body was concealed in a long thick coat, along with a fluffy scarf that wrapped around a delicate pale neck. She looked clean and she wore a fancy hat upon her lovely little head.
She laughed. “Yes, London’s east end is rather violent. I mostly came here for a friend.” She looked at me for a moment as if she was trying to figure something out. “What’s your name? If you don’t mind me asking, of course.”
“It’s John,” I said as held out my hand. “Wilkinson. John Wilkinson.”
She took my hand and, to her surprise, I kissed the back of it. “Oh,” she said as she blushed. “You are an original British gentleman.”
I just smiled, attempting to hide my blushing.
“My name’s Lenora Holmes.”
“Lenora,” I said slowly, “Shining light, in English, it means.”
“Really?” she asked. “How did you know that?”
“I read a lot of books.”
She laughed then looked at me skeptically. “Well, John, I really should be off. Considering the time, a lady really shouldn’t be out this late, especially with that killer on the loose.”
“Yes,” I said in agreement. “That would be terrible to see such a lady as yourself on tomorrow's front page."
I didn't realize it at first, but that statement was inappropiate. I'm not entirely sure what I was trying to get across with such a statement but I'm certain it offended her.
She smiled slightly then continued down the street. I watched her walk away until she disappeared around the corner.
I thought this to be a rather odd encounter, for she seemed as though she feared me. I can understand why considering all the crime that’s went down over the past year but I’ve always seen myself as a gentleman.
I’ve always tried to be rather polite to ladies and warm but she seemed to be afraid of me. Maybe she knows me from the pub.
After I was arrested at the pub in front of all those people during the Ripper case, I gained a shady reputation. People know my name and I still receive suspicious looks when I’m out and about. I don’t think that’ll ever change.
Looking down the street where Lenora disappeared, was the last thing I remember from that night as the world started to fade into blackness.
The morning light awakened me as it protruded through my window, piercing into my closed eyelids.
I covered my face to hide it from the light leaking through the curtains, groaning as I rolled over. I lied there for a moment deciding whether or not I should get up and dress myself. I knew that I was late for work as I could tell from the sunlight. Normally when I wake up for work it’s so early in the morning that the sun still hasn’t appeared. As I got up I realized that I wasn’t wearing my night gown.
I was completely naked.
Why was I naked? I wasn’t with anybody last night. My mind couldn’t remember much. The last thing I can recall is watching that woman Lenora walk away and then I woke up nude. I wasn’t drunk last night so there’s not a reason why I shouldn’t remember anything.
I finally rolled out of bed then practically dragged myself into the bathroom just to find yet another mystery. My wet clothes from last night were hanging across a string which hung from the ceiling. They smelled of soap as if I had washed them.
Why would I wash them?
Lying on the side of the sink was the silver pocket watch from the case. I had forgotten that Jack had let me have it so I could examine it further. I picked up the watch and fingered the engraved initials as I thought about who they could possibly belong to.
Looking in the mirror I gasped in shock as I saw the two scratches on my cheek. They were small and red, for they had to have come about last night during the time which I lost. But how and who? Without thinking too much on the matter, I doctored them up real quick then began getting ready for work.
“Blimey, John!” Ed said as I entered the pub. “What the hell happened to your face?”
“I don’t know, to be honest.” I admitted. “My memory is a bit hazy. I can’t recall much from last night.”
“Were you drunk?”
“No, I was completely sober. I had just gotten back from my mum’s house. That’s the last thing I can remember.”
“When did you go home?”
"A few hours before dawn."
“Really?” he asked curiously. “Did you see anything odd?”
I looked at him confused. “What makes you say that?”
“There was a murder around that time.”
He nodded. “Yes.” He pulled out the newspaper and placed it in front of me.
The words “J.W. CANNIBAL ON THE EAST END”.
“J.W. Cannibal,” I said aloud as I remembered Abelian calling the killer that the other night when we discovered the pocket watch.
“A woman called Lenora Holmes was killed last night,” Ed explained. “The killer took her heart this time.”
“Lenora Holmes...” Why did that name sound so familiar? Then the lightbulb switched on in my head and I gasped in realization. “I saw her last night.”
“You knew her?”
“No, I met her last night. I was walking home and I felt like somebody was following me. I turned around real quickly to find a lovely woman walking behind me. I actually frightened her. She told me her name was Lenora Holmes.”
“Why are you always involved in every crime case, John?”
“I don’t know. Crime is just attracted to me.”
“Have you spoken to Abelian about this?”
I shook my head. “No, I woke up late and hurried here…I also found my clothes hanging from a wire. They were wet and smelled of soap, as if I had washed them but I don’t recall any of this.”
“That’s very strange, John. You should go speak with the inspector.”
“Why?” I asked with a chuckle. “Would he have an idea about my memory loss?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s some coincidence that you met Lenora last night, during the time she was murdered. Doesn’t this all sound odd to you?”
I looked at him for a long moment before I realized something. “I look like the killer.”
He just stared at me.
“You know I’m not, right?”
“I know,” he said. “But you have to admit, it’s been two cases in a row that you were involved in. Bloody hell John, you were arrested last year for the Ripper case. What is going on?”
“I’m at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“It’s too often, John. There must be a reason.”
“I’m not a killer.”
“What if you’re being framed?”
“Framed?” I asked skeptically. “Who would want to frame me for murder?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know but it’s obvious that there’s something suspicious going on here. You need to figure out the truth before something bad happens.”
"Plenty of bad things have already happened, Ed," aggressively sighing before running my fingers through my hair, "What should I do?"
“Take the day off work and try to get to the bottom of this,” he sighed. “I’ll be fine without you but I need your head straight if you’re going to work here. Don’t come back until it is.”
I just gawked at him. “Ed, I need to work.”
“I'll still pay you but I can’t have you showing up late all the time and having a hard time remembering things. I need you clear-headed and, right now, you’re not.”
I sighed. “Alright. I’ll go and try to get my head straight.”
“Good, because I need the old John back.”
Those words really meant something more to me. The old John was gone and had been gone since the Ripper case. My personality and life has changed so drastically since last year. And now, here I am, unable to remember important details. How could I have possibly gotten these scars on my cheek? Everything was so strange and unclear, for I didn’t know what to do.
It was about to get even stranger.