Chapter 8: And It All Came Crashing Down
Tick! Tock! Tick! Tock!
All I could hear were the sounds the grandfather clock made as it counted the seconds. They were agonizingly long seconds that seemed to be small eternities of anguish.
I was sitting in a porcelain tub full of steaming hot water. My cheeks had flushed with red and my eyes were watery with tears.
Upon that morning, I had awoke in my bed just like any daybreak but I couldn’t recall the events before. I could remember Henry’s wedding and the conversation that Elizabeth and I had.
I also remember Jack confessing to me his sins.
But after that, everything seemed to have been erased. In that moment, though, I didn’t care what I did last night. My mind was too focused on Jack the Ripper.
How could I not see this? Jack was right, I was blinded and it was because of his friendship. I didn’t want anything to jeopardize what we had.
But now I know the truth and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. The only thing that I can do is go to Scotland Yard. Yes, Inspector Abelian will know what to do.
I pulled on my winter clothes as it was nearing the end of September. I couldn’t believe that for two years in a row, the months of August and September were haunted by the same killer.
He truly is evil.
I noticed that, as I walked down the street like any other bloke, I was receiving some suspicious stares. People seemed to avoid me for some reason. I would pass gents or whores from the pub and attempt to greet them but they would walk away quickly from my greeting.
They feared me.
I had no idea what was going on. Why do they fear me?
And then I saw the morning’s newspaper.
“LOCAL PUBWORKER A KILLER?” these were the morning’s headlines on The Star Newspaper along with my name and face splattered everywhere. My mugshot from last year was on the front page with my name in bold atop. I began to read:
Last year, the Ripper murders caused havoc amongst the citizens of London’s East End. But now, another killer has taken the lives of many and Scotland Yard suspects that it’s the same man.
A man called John Wilkinson was the only suspect from the Jack the Ripper murders. He essentially established his innocence and was released back out onto the streets. But a year later, a new killer called the “J.W. Cannibal” has slaughtered many, snatching their organs and slitting their throats, for it sounds much like that of Jack the Ripper.
Now, with recent evidence of Wilkinson being at all of the crime scenes, Inspector Fredrick Abelian of the London’s Police Department suspects this average pub worker to be the culprit of both vicious crimes. Could this be true? If so, we urge that you avoid this man. You accompany your lady friends whilst they are out at night.
Do not let your guard down, London, for this man is unlike anything the world has seen.
I dropped the paper.
They’re accusing me of murder; numerous murders! I am not a killer. Jack is responsible for all of this.
I can’t believe Abelian said such things about me. Throughout this entire case I have assisted him, I’ve questioned witnesses, and I’ve investigated all of the crimes scenes. I’ve been there through it all! How could I have possibly been the killer when I was by his side through it all?
But so was Jack.
Jack was also there through everything. Hell, he did the bloody autopsies! Oh, he’s a crafty one.
What am I supposed to do? I can’t go to Scotland Yard.
I started to walk away but stopped in my tracks and turned around. I wasn’t going to be controlled by this.
I needed to confront Abelian.
Without knocking, I busted through Abelian's office door finding him looking at case files through his circular spectacles.
“Sir,” the receptionist whined. She had followed me all the way to Abelian’s office begging me to leave. “Do you want me to get security?”
“No, Maggie, he’s fine,” he pulled off his spectacles. “Go back to your desk.”
After a glare into my eyes, she shuffled off back to the front desk.
“John,” he said with a sigh. “This is a pleasant surprise.”
“Is it?” I threw the paper flat onto his desk. “What is this?”
“Don’t John me.” I sighed. “I can’t believe that you would even consider me a suspect! I am innocent, you fool. I am not the J.W. Cannibal and I’m certainly not Jack the Ripper! I’ve been on this case since the beginning, Fredrick, since the beginning! I am not the killer.”
“If you were me then what would you think?” he asked. “Everything points to you whether you like it or not. With your perceptive mind, you have to agree that you look very suspicious in this case.”
“I can’t believe you.”
“John, I don’t have a choice. I’ve been hunting this killer down for a year now. Any evidence is crucial. If it’s any constellation I hope I’m wrong but, if I’m being frank, I don’t think I am. I think you’re the killer and I will find evidence sooner or later.”
I gawked at him in disbelief. “Fine! But once this is over and my innocence is proven…don’t ever speak to me again.”
Then I stormed out of his office.
The evening’s downpour had begun soaking me with rainwater as I walked down the pavement on a seemingly never ending path of nothingness.
What was I do? Everybody suspected me the killer which meant that nobody trusted me. The fact that Abelian thinks me responsible just hurts even more. Even my mother is afraid of me.
After my quarrel with the inspector, I had decided to visit her. She’s always had a way of making me feel better. But when I knocked on her door she told me to go away. She was crying. She said that she couldn’t believe that I was the killer, she should’ve known and that she should’ve listened to everyone and got me help.
Got me help?
I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly but I didn’t question her on it. I decided to leave her alone and go away. I didn’t want to cause her any more pain.
I can’t even imagine her devastation.
I still can’t believe that I’m being accused of murder again, two years in a row. Last year, when Jack the Ripper sent his letter with Annie Chapman’s kidney, I was sat in an interrogation room with Abelian looming over me. According to the messenger, a man dressed in a cape and a top hat instructed him to give the letter to Scotland Yard. To Abelian, this meant I was innocent.
But now, he’s having second thoughts.
Even if I was the Ripper then who would the man be that instructed the messenger to give the police the letter? None of this made sense so I didn’t understand why Abelian was pointing a finger at me.
Perhaps he’s desperate.
Everyone in London already thought me guilty before this recent headline, warranting their suspicions to be true wouldn’t be too difficult.
Subsequent to the incident with the letter last year, there’s still always been a twinge of suspicion in the inspector’s eyes.
He can’t trust anyone, I suppose.
Frankly I don’t blame him but I thought, out of everyone in his life, that I would be the last person he would suspect a liar.
Evidently, I was wrong.
I stared up at home in a way that I hadn’t before. I felt as though this would be the last time I would see it. Closing my eyes, I allowed the rain to shatter my face before retreating inside my empty house.
I could hear the rain pelt the roof but there was also this hollow sound that caused shivers to run up my spine. Darkness encompassed me, all part from the orange light that spilled from the wood stove like lava.
“Hello, John,” that French accent made my heart leap. I spun around to find Jack sitting in my rocking chair smoking a long pipe.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I backed up against the wall. I couldn’t go anywhere, for I was cornered by the wood stove.
Half of Jack's face was illuminated by the light of the fire, distorted his visage in a way that created an ominous gaze in his eyes. He blew out a long exhale of smoke before smiling. “I saw you went by Scotland Yard.”
I slowly nodded.
“What did the inspector have to say?”
“He basically accused me of your crimes. Personally, I think he’s just desperate.”
“We’ve been through this, John,” he stood up causing me to move back further, “I’m Jack the Ripper, you’re the J.W. Cannibal.”
“Stop telling me-”
“It’s the truth!” his voice grew louder. “Whether you like it or not, John, you are the J.W. Cannibal.”
“You’re mad. Get out of my house.”
He walked away, but not out of my house, for he walked to the kitchen. I heard some shuffling around and the opening of the cabinets before he returned with jars.
“What are those?” I asked as I gazed down at the jars which he sat down on the table. They contained some kind of red liquid but there was something floating within. Something fleshy.
“Those are organs,” I gasped. “Where did you get those?”
“From your cabinets,” he smiled. “These are from your victims.”
“Yes,” he nodded his head. He picked up a jar that contained a fatty organ. “I believe this belonged to Lenora Holmes,” on the side of the jar was her name written across the glass.
“No,” I repeated. “You brought those with you. I would never-”
“Oh, you wouldn’t?” he hissed. “Then explain everything to me, John. On the night of Lenora’s murder, you were the last to see her before she would be brutally murdered just an hour after. The next morning, you would arise from your slumber without any memory of the night before. Your clothes are strung up smelling of soap as if you had washed them. Perhaps you were trying to wash away the smell of blood and the red stain, although any seasoned killer would know that a blood stain is damn near impossible to get out, leaving a burnt orange shade behind.
“And let’s not forget the scratches on your cheek. Back at the lab, I found skin and blood underneath Lenora’s fingernails. If only we had the technology to see whose skin it belonged to, then we would find our killer!
“Then there’s the incident with the pocket watch,” he smiled. “Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It didn’t take me long to realize that you were the killer so I decided to do some digging. Apparently, your dear mother bought you that pocket watch on your birthday. Recognize the initials?” he threw the watch at me and I gawked down at it.
Unfamiliar images filled my mind once again and I could see my mother’s trembling hands hand me the watch with a smile on her face. I fell back against the wall in shock then slid down to my bum.
I began seeing flashes of a nightmare that didn’t belong to me and yet I could see myself clearly there.
These were my memories.
But it seemed to be a different John with his eyes of rage and lust for blood. The spine-tingling sound of skin ripping was loud in my ears. Screams followed.
I sat there staring ahead, shivering with fear.
Jack wasn’t lying but how? How could I possibly be the killer and not remember such horrid acts?
Now I was certainly experiencing a panic attack, my lungs constricting while I attempted to catch my breath which seemed to be utterly impossible.
“I’m sure you’re asking yourself why you didn’t realize your actions,” I looked ahead to find Jack leaned down on one knee staring at me.
“Why?” I asked. “Why is this happening? Surely, I would’ve remembered my crimes?”
“It seems to me that you’ve created this completely different personality that is the cannibal. You were so hell-bent on not becoming a killer and yet you’ve always been one. Looks like we were wrong all along, for you’ve been framing yourself.”
I sat there, holding my knees, monotone.
“John?” I heard Jack say. “Are you alright?”
Am I alright? I found this to be a rather absurd question. Putting himself in my position…would he be alright?
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” I managed to speak, even if I was in utter shock. “What…I mean…is there anything I can do?”
“There’s nothing you can do to take back the crimes in which you have committed.”
“I know that,” I sighed. “I meant…what am I supposed to do about this other personality that I apparently have?”
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know, Jack!” I was infuriated. “My mind is split into two people,” I stood up and began pacing back and forth. “Should I go to the police?”
“Are you mad?” he asked.
“Yes! I am!”
“Ok, calm down,” he placed his hands on my shoulders causing me to face him and to stop pacing. “First of all, you’re not going to the police. The gruesome crimes in which you’ve committed will most certainly get you hanged. Secondly, stop panicking, for it will only make this situation worse.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do then? I have nowhere to go. They’re going to catch me. I’ll get the death penalty,” my eyes grew wide and I walked away from him. “No…it’ll be much worse, it’ll be off with my head! I will go down in history as England’s most notorious killer…the most heinous man in all of Europe. Oh, blimey, Jack!”
“You need to relax, mate,” he said. “Stop speaking this nonsense. You’re in shock and that’s understandable. I say we flee the country.”
“How are we going to do that?” I asked. “And how will I do that? I can’t just leave my mother without any explanation. Granted, she already thinks me guilty but even so she still deserves my honesty.”
“You can’t tell her, John. She’ll certainly turn you in. We need to leave England.”
“Where would we go?”
“I don’t know. But there’s many countries out there which we can choose from. Don’t fret, I’ve been doing this for years.”
“What? Slaughtering whores and then fleeing?”
He glared at me. “At least I don’t eat people.”
“What about Annie Chapman’s kidney, then?”
“Shut up!” he snapped. “We cannot argue right now about which person is the worst, ok? We must work together now. You’re being closely examined by the police meaning that I am no longer safe as well. Our best bet is going AWOL. You can say goodbye to your mother but you will not confess your sins or I will personally remove your head from your body, understood?”
I stared at him in shock. “Yes…it’s understood.”
“Good, now let’s get down to business.”
And that was it.
The truth had been unveiled and I was still in disbelief but, regardless, I had to put my feelings aside. I needed to leave England as soon as possible.
For the week leading up to October, Jack and I would prepare for the journey of a lifetime. I had left my house and moved in with Jack. Every night we sat around the small kitchen table with documents and maps planning our future travels.
Fleeing the country is proving to be a lot harder than I would imagine. There was a lot of planning that had to be done beforehand.
Jack and I decided that we would flee to France. We would illegally board a ship but this trip wouldn’t take long, a little over four hours, thankfully. But our journey won’t stop there. We will continue to press east.
Basically as far away from England as possible.
At first, we considered America but we thought that trip would take too long for an illegal boarding. We would certainly be found by the shipmates and get into serious trouble. So we would remain in Europe.
But we will go to America once things calm down and we become mere stories told by locals.
Until then, we will explore much of Europe and even Asia.
The unknown which lied before was a bit frightening yet exciting all at the same time. I’ve never been outside of the U.K. and I never thought I would ever leave, especially under these circumstances.
Yet, here I am…alongside Jack the Ripper ready to go against the world. Of all the people in my life, I would’ve never thought I would run away with the man that I’ve hunted down for a year now.
But now I know him; now I consider him a friend. This is something I would’ve never expected.
I’m still unsure of what I’m supposed to do on the subject of my split personality.
This “other” John…who is he? How am I supposed to control him when I’m not even conscious of his presence? I wonder if he’s completely different than I. Is it possible that he’s an alternate figure?
“I can’t believe it,” I said shortly after taking a swig of my drink. Jack and I had strolled off to a local pub in the middle of the night to grab a pint. The two of us were sat at the back in a booth so nobody would be in earshot of our peculiar conversation.
To say the least, I was still in disbelief which didn’t shock my French companion.
“I’m a serial killer,” I stated with wide eyes.
“Firstly, lower your voice,” he said. “Secondly, I don’t think it defines you as a person.”
I gawked at him. “You don’t think me ripping the insides out of people defines me as a person? What does that even mean, Jack?”
He stared at me for a moment before smiling. “You know, your voice heightens when you get angry. I noticed that a lot with you British folk.” He chuckled lightly.
I just continued to stare at him, unamused making his smile fade.
“Anyways,” he cleared his throat. “You shouldn’t dwell.”
“I’m going to dwell, regardless. I can’t even imagine what would drive me to do such a thing.” I thought back to what my mother said about failing to get me help in the past.
I think Jack could see my confusion as he queried. “What is it?” he asked.
“My mother, when I went to go and see her after my altercation with Abelian, she said something that didn’t make sense but now I’m starting to question it.”
“What did she say?”
“Well, she believes me guilty of these murders and I remember hearing her crying and said that she failed at getting me help or that she should’ve gotten me help.”
“Help for what?”
“I have no idea.”
“Do you think it has something to do with your split personality?”
“I have no bloody idea,” I sighed. “Frankly, I don’t even know how long I’ve had this other personality, though I imagine if I had it as a child my mother would’ve surely noticed.”
“You should ask her about it.”
“How? She thinks I’m a madman.”
“She’s not wrong.”
“I’m not crazy, Jack.”
He arched a brow at me in doubt.
“Ok, maybe I’m a bit mad.”
He chuckled. “A bit?”
“But in retrospect, I am her son. Even if she believes me mad, she should love me regardless right?”
“I’m positive she still loves you, John. But I imagine she’s very disappointed and distraught. How would you feel in her position? You try to raise a child right, you love him, you care for him and he turns out to be a crazed cannibal. I imagine she blames herself as she was the one who raised you. But she is sick, John, meaning that you probably don’t have much time to talk to her so you better grow a pair and walk down there before it’s too late.”
Jack was right. My mother was deathly ill.
When I went to her house earlier today, I could hear the illness in her raspy voice. Her time was coming and I couldn’t let this be her last memory. I couldn’t let her die depressed and distraught.
And besides, I needed to know the meaning behind her words.
What kind of help did she need to get me?
I stood up suddenly, shocking Jack. “I’m gonna go talk to her.”
“Now?” he was stunned. “You’ve just consumed two pints of gin.”
“I’ll be fine.”
I will admit, I was bit hazy but I certainly wasn’t completely hammered. I knew what was going on around me and I was in control.
“Would you like me to accompany you?” he asked sincerely.
“No, I need to do this on my own but…if I’m not home in two hours, come and get me.”
“Yes sir.” He smiled. “Good luck.”
He held up his glass in honor of me and then I was off into the night to pursue the truth. My actions were a bit rash but I and my mother both needed some clarity.
Approaching her home, I hesitated on her doorstep with my fist in the air prepared to knock. The time was nearly daybreak as I hadn’t slept at all but, even so, there was a candle lit in the house. Knowing my mother's naturally gained paranoia she would never leave a candle unattended.
She had to be awake.
Finally, I had built up the nerve to knock and it took her many minutes before speaking.
“I told you to go away,” she didn’t open the door, for I could hear the anguish in her voice and it pained my heart.
“Mother, please,” I begged. “Let me explain-”
“There’s no need to explain your horrible actions.”
“How do you even know it was me? You believe the bloody newspapers over your own son?”
“I know because…” she sighed.
“Mother,” I plead. “I love you more than anyone on this planet. I need to know the truth and I deserve it…and I think you know what I’m speaking about.”
There was a long minute of silence before I heard the locks turn and she opened the door.
Her eyes were red and watery, she had been crying previously. The worry lines in her face were visible.
“Come in,” she finally said.
And I followed her inside.
“You’re correct,” she said after we had sat down in the lounge. “You do deserve to know the truth.”
I listened to her silently, eagerly yearning for an explanation.“I remember the first time that I saw him.”
“Your little friend in your head.”
I was stunned to hear her speak of it. I honestly never truly thought that she would know anything about it.
Well, I think I hoped she didn’t.
“You were just a boy, barely nine when he emerged. I’m not sure where he came from, his source will forever be unknown to me,” I could see pain flash in her eyes but she quickly waved it away and continued on, “I was asleep one night, it was probably way past the witching hour. I woke up to a noise. I thought somebody was in the house and your father was at work so I was obviously frightened.
"But I know I had to be brave because you were in the house so I grabbed your father’s gun and headed out of my bedroom with the firearm ready to shoot. When I entered the lounge, I found nothing but the front door was open. Carefully, I went outside and found you standing with your back to me in the middle of the dirt road. Only the moonlight illuminated the grounds.
“I called your name many times but you gave no sign of hearing me. You didn’t move a single muscle and, I will say, it scared me to see you like a statue. You were so still…” she stared into the fire on the wood stove as she remembered the scene in great detail before continuing.
“And then you turned around,” she swallowed. “Your face was covered in blood and in your hands you had…a head of some poor forest creature. You had its hair and skin stuck in your blood stained teeth, for you had been eating its brains,” her eyes filled with water and it slid down her cheeks.
Then her voice started to break as she spoke frantically. “And then I ordered you to drop it but you wouldn’t. I yelled at you and screamed your name so many times but you acted as though you didn’t hear me. I didn’t know what to do and then, in the midst of me yelling and moving about, I accidentally pulled the trigger causing you to fall to the ground in shock.
“At first, I thought I had shot you and I dropped the gun running to you and holding you, wailing in agony. But then, you looked up at me and said ‘mummy, what’s wrong? Why are we outside?’
“I said that you had been out here and I came to fetch you. Then you asked about the blood and the dead animal. You actually vomited at the sight of it. To me, it seemed as though you had become a completely different person in that moment. Seeing you standing there with a blood smeared face like an emotionless madman has burned a hole in my memory. You resembled a monster.
“I took you back inside and then we went to the doctor the very next morning. But all he had to say was you must’ve got hungry in the night. He didn’t see any abnormality in it. Of course, he wasn’t there to see your face. It was chilling to look into your eyes. I felt as though you weren’t my son, there was some impostor taking over your body.
“I contacted many specialists before coming across a psychiatrist here in London. He told me stories of some people suffering from two identities, that there was this completely different personality in their minds that could be triggered somehow. Many were unaware when the other personality would take over.
“I asked him what I should do and he said to just wait. I wasn’t sure what I was waiting for. He said, considering your age, it could just be a phase but I wasn’t so sure. Regardless, I took the doctor’s advice and continued on as if nothing happened. I didn’t even tell your father.” I could see the change in her eyes as she mentioned my father. “Your father…” that’s when she broke down.
She began to sob uncontrollably as she wailed with tears falling down her face.
“Mum?” I reached out for her but pulled away for some reason. “It’s ok…I know his death really bothers you. I’ve noticed you haven’t spoken about it since it happened.”
She looked at me with even more grief in her eyes. “John,” her voice was breathy, “The reason I’ve never spoken of your father at all since his death is because I feared that you would remember.”
“I have a vague memory,” I said. “I can see you crying in the snow as you clutch to my father’s lifeless body. But it’s all very blurry. There’s blood everywhere.”
She covered her face with her hands and began sobbing again.
“Mother, tell me,” I begged as I got down on my knees, gripping her arms. “I want to know the truth.”
“No,” she plead, “Please don’t make me say those words! Don’t make me recall that horrid story that’s haunted me for so long. I don’t want you to remember.”
“Please, I need to know.”
Her eyes were painful to look at as they were so full of sorrow and torment. I felt guilty putting her through this but I needed to know the truth. She was the only one who knew. I couldn’t go to anyone else.
“On the morning of your twelfth birthday, I woke you to find your father dead,” she paused to sob then spoke again, “There was blood everywhere, on the sofa, the ceiling, the walls, but they were in lines as if somebody had stabbed him numerous times bringing the weapon up and down continuously. But the crime scene was in the house, your father’s body had been dragged outside. Immediately, I knew that he had been murdered and I began to search for you.
“It didn’t take me long to find you. When I was outside on my knees before your father’s body, you emerged from the house…well, I should say that he emerged from the house possessing your body with a bloody ax in hand. Your entire body was covered in it, head to toe, blood! Oh! It was everywhere! I screamed in horror as the truth set in…you killed your father.”
She stared at me with tear filled eyes.
“I’m so sorry, John,” she whined, “I didn’t want to tell you because I thought you couldn’t handle the truth. You were so young, you wouldn’t have understood. I never mentioned anything remotely related to your father because I feared you would remember. I didn’t want you to remember.”
I stood up as my heart sank to my stomach. How could this be? I felt the tears swell up in my eyes and a gasp escaped my lips.
“No,” I was finally able to speak after swallowing the knot in my throat. “You are wrong. I could never…how could I? I…oh my God.” My mind began to flash back as it did when Jack told me the truth.
I began to see unfamiliar images once again of blood and horror. I could hear the sounds of my knife cutting into my father’s chest. I could hear his cries and pleads of mercy. I could hear the blood gargling in his throat.
I could feel everything.
“John! NO!” my mother’s wails were evident in my mind. “Why? How could you do it?”
Her voice echoed in my mind and I dropped to my knees covering my ears and screaming up at the sky.
“Who are you?” my mother asked in my memories. “Where’s my son? You little bastard!”
She slapped hard across the face, sending me to the ground. That’s when I arose from unconsciousness. Little John Wilkinson was back and confused. My mother was horrified but, nonetheless, she embraced me tightly crying into my neck. I’m asking her what’s wrong but then I see my father’s bloody body in the snow outside and everything dawns on me.
My father was dead.
I finally opened my eyes now, I was in my mother’s lounge and she was sat before me with her hands on my face.“Do not blame yourself, Johnny boy,” she whispered. “It wasn’t you, not really. It was him.”
Then I buried my face in her neck this time, and balled like a wee baby. She held me like one as well.
“It’s alright, John, it’s alright,” her voice was soft and gentle, “I forgive you.”
In the midst of this, I looked into the mirror and saw my own reflection and I saw something truly horrific.
I saw him smile.