Chapter 4: Something More
“John?” Jack said in shock as I entered the morgue. “Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be at work?”
“Ed gave me the rest of the day off,” I said as I plopped down at his desk. “Actually, he gave me a lot of time off.”
“What do you mean?”
I sighed. “He thinks that I’m out of my mind so he said for me to leave until I get my head straight. I’m still getting paid though, which is good.”
“Why does he think you’re out of your mind?” he sat down on his desk.
I looked at him for a moment before standing up and placing my hands on his shoulders causing him to face me.
“Ok, you know I’m a good man, right?”
“Yes,” he said awkwardly. “I mean…I would assume..."
“I woke up this morning naked and my clothes were hanging on a string. They were wet as if I washed them which I can’t remember doing so. I also have no idea how I got these lovely scratches down my cheek.”
“What does that have to do with you being a good person?”
“This morning I found out that the J.W. Cannibal committed another murder last night. Lenora Holmes was his latest victim and last night I met her. That was the last thing I can remember before waking up naked.”
He looked at me for a moment as he tried to figure out the situation. “That’s not good, John."
“I agree…so what do you think? What does this all mean?”
“I don’t know. Did you get drunk last night?”
“No! I was returning home from my mother’s house. Why does everybody keep asking if I was drunk?"
“And that’s the last thing you remember? Meeting Lenora Holmes?”
He arched his brow. “What are you getting at?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you are responsible for these murders?”
“I don’t know!”
“Ok,” he said. “Then what does this all mean?”
“John, I honestly doubt that you’re a killer. Maybe you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“That’s what I told Ed but he doesn’t think so. He said that somebody could be framing me. I’m surprised he didn’t assume that I was the killer.”
“He probably does but won’t tell you because you’re his friend.”
“You think so?”
“Do you think I’m a killer?”
“No,” he said without hesitation. “You’re not, John.” He patted my cheek. “Do not worry about this.”
“Is Lenora’s body here?”
“Yes, it is,” he got down off the desk then headed over to one of the metal drawers in the wall. He pulled out the drawer revealing a blue naked female body. In her chest there was a red hole flayed open displaying no heart inside. Also, her throat was cut straight across.
“So he took the heart,” I said.
He nodded. “Yes and cut the throat just like he normally does.”
I examined the body closely as I felt sickened by the fact as I had just met the woman last night. I can see her clearly breathing and speaking while she lived yet here she was…lifeless and pale.
I knelt down beside her, with her flesh inches from my face. I placed the back of my hand on her delicate neck, feeling the painfully cold temperature of the dead.
“I should mention something now that you’ve brought it up,” he began.
I looked at him as he grabbed Lenora’s hand. “There was blood and skin under her fingernails, as if she had scratched somebody.” He regarded towards the fresh scars on my cheek.
“No,” I said. “How could…?”
“I don’t know, John. But I’m positive that you’re not a sadistic killer.” He chunked his rubber gloves in the trash can then walked over and slid her body back into the wall.
“No, but Abelian is soon going to catch on to what’s going on. He’s already suspecting me to be the Ripper and this is just gonna confirm his suspicions.”
“I thought you said you proved your innocence to the inspector.”
“I did but I can see the suspicion in his eyes sometimes,” I explained. “He tries to deny it but he can’t control what he feels and frankly I don’t blame him. During the Ripper case last year, there was a point where I began believing that I was the killer even though I knew I wasn’t. That case really messed with my mind.”
He walked back over to his desk then sat down in front of me. “What is it about Jack the Ripper that causes you to obsess over him?”
I thought about this for a long time before I answered and when I finally did, the answer wasn’t short. “There’s just something about him that pulls me to him. There was this incident last year right before the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, I was walking down the street in the middle of the night. I was returning home from Scotland Yard. It was only me on the street that night but I felt a presence shadowing me. I picked up my pace every so often until I was running down the pavement away from this invisible force. I hopped into an alley hoping to hide from whatever it was. After a few minutes I decided that it was safe so I turned out of the alley and came face-to-face with my shadow. He wore a top hat and a cape and his eyes were like pale ice. I wasn’t able to see the details of his face as it was dark outside but the streetlights reflected in those eyes.
“I backed up and we stared at one another for a long moment before he disappeared into the morning mist. To anyone else it would’ve been just an awkward encounter but to me it was something more. The man was familiar to me and I couldn’t put my finger on it until days later. That phantom which stalked me that night was none other than Jack the Ripper. I’m not sure how I know but I do. I never saw that man again but every time I’m alone at night and I catch a glimpse of a similar shape, I wonder if it’s him.”
“Do you think he took an interest in you just as you did him?” Jack asked curiously.
“Most likely. My name was splattered all over the bloody papers after I was arrested for the first murders.”
“That’s quite the terrifying story,” he said, “Do you believe that the Ripper is responsible for the J.W. Cannibal’s work and is trying to frame you, considering the possibility of him knowing you?”
I sat there baffled but what Jack had just said. I had never considered that. “You know, that’s really interesting,” I said astonished.
“Do you believe it possible?”
“I don’t know, and not knowing these things really frustrates me. It’s like a puzzle I’ll never solve. I give myself migraines from dwelling on the Ripper.”
“It’s like you hate him so much you love him, John.”
“He is rather fascinating,” I admitted. “I just can’t fathom how brilliant his mind is.”
“You’re an odd fellow, you know?” Jack said with a smile. “Not many out there are so fascinated and enchanted by a man that likes to slaughter whores.”
“I guess I’m just a bit different than others.”
“You asked me when we first met why I found you so interesting,” he pointed one of his long pale fingers at me, “That is why I have gained such an interest in you, my dear friend. You are different. True, you live a rather repetitive average life but your mind is out of this world, for you are beyond your time.”
Nobody has ever told me that I was interesting or out of this world. To me, Jack is unlike anyone I have ever encountered so to hear him say the same about me is just astonishing.
“I’m…um, not sure how to respond to that, Jack.”
He leaned in closer to my face causing me to look at him. “Then don’t,” he said quietly.
I was once again intimidated by his closeness. I gasped a little as I looked into his eyes which were just inches from mine. My heart thudded against my chest a bit faster than normal and I felt as though I couldn’t move.
“If I tell you something,” he began with a whisper, staring into my eyes. “Do you promise not to tell another living soul?”
“Um…” I swallowed. “You can tell me anything.”
He opened his mouth to speak then bit his lip. “The door.”
Cocking my head to the side, confused, “What?”
My heart leapt at the sound of somebody knocking at the door.
Jack and I glanced at each other before he progressed towards the door.
“Act natural…if you can, killer.” Then he opened the door.
“Hello, Phineas,” his smile was fake as hell. “Please, won’t you come in?”
“Everything alright, Jack?” Phineas asked as he entered the morgue cautiously.
“Yes, I was just busy.”
Then Phineas saw me. “Well, hello John! It’s a pleasure to see you again, sir.”
I tried to smile. “And you as well, Dr. Charles.”
“So, Phineas,” Jack began as he stood in front of me cutting off any conversation Phineas wished to start with me. “What can I help you with?”
“Inspector Abelian dropped these files off from the J.W. Cannibal case, he said he would like you to take a look at them.” Jack took the yellow files out of his hand gingerly.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Certainly,” he looked at Jack and then at me and then back at Jack. He cleared his throat, “Well, I should be getting off then. The two of you have fun. Of course, I don’t know how much fun one could have in a morgue.”
Then Jack turned around. I expected him to pick up on the conversation that was interrupted but he went back to another subject.
“So, this…cannibal. Who could he be? Do you think it’s yourself?”
I stared up at him for a long time before saying quietly. “I don’t know.”
“You seem to not know a lot of things, John.” He said as he approached me with his hands on his hips. “Why do you think that is?”
I didn’t respond. I just hung my head down. I felt as though he was scolding me for something that I had done wrong.
“Let me guess,” he said as he kneeled down in front of me, looking up into my eyes. “You don’t know?”
I swallowed before saying. “I should go.” But he grabbed me before I could stand up.
“John,” he spoke with kinder eyes. “I’m not angry with you. It’s clear that you are confused about everything that is happening to you. I’m sorry that your mind is playing tricks. How about you stay longer so we can discuss the possibilities, eh?”
I nodded. “Yes, that would be brilliant.”
“Now,” he began to pace in front of me. “I believe that somebody is framing you.”
“You agree with Ed, then?”
“As much as it pains me to say…yes, I agree with that pompous fool.”
I laughed. “Damn, you really don’t like him.”
“He doesn’t like me so I’m just returning the feeling.”
“Who would want to frame me?”
“Jack the Ripper?” he considered. “It’s a possibility but why would he feel the need? You know?”
“John!” he clapped his hands together. “Wake up! You’re a bit out of it and I don’t blame you but I need your mind thinking. What happened to my perceptive detective, huh?”
“You know, when you get louder, your French accent gets more intense.”
He couldn’t help but smile at my random statement. “Since we are discussing the matter, are you saying that we are going to hunt down Jack the Ripper?”
“I guess so. Who else would feel the need to frame me? Even though I was his hunter last year, I find it odd for him to have a personal vendetta against me. Perhaps this isn’t the Ripper. What if it is somebody else?”
“Who else do you have in mind?”
I thought about this for a moment. “I haven’t the slightest.”
“We need to go back in time, John,” he said as he stopped in front of me. “We need to trace back to whenever you came in contact with a person whom could have possibly felt a certain way about you that would make them want to frame you for murder.”
“I can’t really think of anyone,” I admitted. “All of my life I’ve been loved by many. As a younger man, I never really knew anyone as I had no friends. There was no way that somebody could have wished to quarrel with me and if they did then they would certainly stick out in my mind.”
“You can never be sure about these things, for even your closest friend could be your worst enemy.”
“My closest friend…” I began to think. The only person I had in mind was Jack but he obviously wasn’t framing me. Then the lightbulb switched on in my head. “Henry.”
“Henry Smith,” I said with wide eyes. “My mother said that he was coming to London soon with his fiancé. I was actually going to invite you to the pub with us. I don’t know of his arrival but he would be considered close to me.”
“Would he have any reason to possess a distaste for you?”
“Not that I can think of. According to my mother, he wrote to her that the reason he was traveling back to England was because of me. He said that he had missed me greatly and wanted to become friends again, like we were in the old days. But I can’t think of any reason he would want to put me behind bars. We were best mates when we were younger.”
“Did you betray him in any way? Perhaps you did something that hurt him.”
“No,” I said. “I would never and I would certainly remember.”
“Well John, no offense, but your memory hasn’t served you well lately.”
I sighed. “That’s true. But why would Henry want to do something like that to me? I could never imagine him like that.”
“Things aren’t always what they seem, my friend, for our own minds can blind us from the truth.”
“Especially when the truth is hard to accept.” I looked up at him. “You would never lie to me, Jack, would you?”
We held a stare between us for a long moment before he straightened up his back and put his hand on his heart. “With God as my witness,” he began. “I solemnly swear that I will never lie to you, John Wilkinson. Only the truth will escape these lips.”
I started to copy his actions but he stopped me. “You don’t have to swear to me, John.”
“Why? How can you trust me?”
“I can see in your eyes that you will never lie to me. You possess an honest soul.”
Lying in bed that night, Jack’s words swarmed around in my mind like a thunderstorm that never ended.
“Things aren’t always what they seem, my friend, for our own minds can blind us from the truth.”
His voice echoed in my in the dark depths of my mind. But that wasn’t the only thing that kept me awake last night as I kept deconstructing Jack.
He was just a man, not some holy being, but I began depicting him as such. There was something about him that I could not place. I felt as though I’ve known him before, maybe in another life or some other time.
Whoever this mysterious man is, he’s somebody that I’ve known for a lifetime, for I’ve been waiting for him.