The field was surrounded by roses, but when I looked closely the roses were all dead. There was just one that had bloomed to its highest quality, the rose that Jack was holding between his fingers. He was looking at the distance into the growing mist. I climbed to my feet and stood there, wondering how I’d managed to get here. The place was completely deserted and it seemed like there was a void beyond, like nothing else existed other than the field of dead roses.
“I’ve been waiting for you, Riley.” Jack said in his deep voice, I couldn’t forget that voice. I’d missed hearing him speak since the last week. He had a smile on his face, but I couldn’t be sure what was going on in his mind. He was difficult to read as usual.
He raised his hand towards me, beckoning me to come to him. I started walking with shaky legs unsure of myself. Contrary to his appearance in the hospital where he wore an ugly hospital gown, here he was dressed in a black suit, and I wondered how my imagination was able to conjure up such an impeccable image.
Was this a dream or had I teleported into some other dimension?
I started walking towards Jack when I stumbled upon something.
A severed arm.
I gasped in horror and took a step back. It was only until a few seconds later that I realized that there wasn’t just one arm on the floor but a lot of other severed body parts lying upon the bed of dead flowers. An arm, a leg, foot with painted toe nails, an eyeball staring up at me. A huge raven came flapping its large wings and began feasting on the human eye, pulling at it. My breathing was erratic. It was the most disturbing thing I’d ever seen.
“Don’t look down, Riley, it’s only posing as a distraction to stop you from listening to what I have to say.” Jack’s hand was still raised towards me. “Come to me.”
I gathered up some courage, and did what he told me to, ignoring the mess of the body parts on the ground. I walked towards him. When I reached close to Jack, he slid his arm around my waist and pulled me against him. Really close.
Curiously, I touched his cheek and I was partly taken aback that I could actually feel him. “Wake up, Jack.”
“I think I’m getting lost in this darkness with each passing day. I don’t know how to get out of here, Riley; I don’t think I have enough time.
Mesmerized, my fingers traced his eyes, then his nose, his cheeks and his lips where he kissed my fingers. “You’re really here. You’re real!”
Jack pulled me in a tight embrace; his face was buried in my hair. “I’m sorry for summoning you here, sweetheart, I was so lonely. I needed to see you.” He nuzzled the crook of my neck and I could feel the warmth of his lips there, his hot breath and his strong fingers splayed on my waist.
I sighed in pleasure. “I miss you, Jack. You have to wake up for me and for Ezra. He’s beside himself worried about you.”
“Listen to me carefully, Riley. I don’t know when or if I will wake up. You need to remain vigilant and on your toes every time. Ezra needs to stay with you.”
“I can take care of myself.” I assured him.
His caramel colored eyes stared at me with suspicion like he didn’t believe me. “We’re at a disadvantage so far. The killer will take its next victim on the seventh of April.”
“How do you figure that?” I asked.
“Mad-Dave died on the first of January. Remember Nurse Roxy? Third of February. Madeline on the fifth of March. There is a pattern that the detectives failed to see while they were too busy looking for other details. The killer is doing the killings at the odd numbers of every month.”
“But what about Brady Wolfe?”
“He died on twenty-sixth of February which is a dead-giveaway that our original killer is not the one who did it. Twenty-six is an even number. It messed up the killer’s pattern but he still decided to move on.”
“So that means the person you saw who killed Brady Wolfe that day wasn’t the actual killer.” I said.
“It’s not. That was a hired killer and I highly doubt it has anything to do with the one we’re after.”
“All those detectives and the FBI waiting for you to wake up are going to be disappointed.”
“They are.” Jack touched my hair. “I have a hunch about something, and you’re not going to like it. I have a suspicion about the killer.”
He said something and I stared at him in horror. “That’s....that’s not possible, Jack...”
“I’m sorry, Riley, but you needed to know.”
I woke up in bed covered in sweat, the thin fabric of the nightgown clinging to me. I heard the sound of the footsteps and the door to my room opened. Ken switched on the night lamp and settled down beside me. He had a worried expression on his face.
“Are you alright? I heard you scream.”
I realized that I was breathing hard and my heart was pounding against my chest.
“It was a nightmare.” I assured him.
He brushed the hair away from my face. “What was this nightmare about?”
“I need water.”
I’d downed an entire glass of water, contemplating how I was going to talk about this. “Did you meet Aaron?” I inquired.
“No. I didn’t.” Ken responded. “He’s not showing up at work, and hasn’t answered any calls. I wonder what’s going on.”
“That’s strange. I hope nothing bad happened to him.” I was genuinely worried about Aaron now. Despite what Paul and the others had pointed out, I still found it hard to believe that Aaron would be capable to kill somebody. “Ken, if I were to ask of your opinion about the killer, who do you think did it?”
Ken scratched his head appearing bored. “I don’t know. Paul, I guess.”
“And yet all the evidence so far is against Aaron. He hadn’t even shown up at the station for questioning after that night Maddy was killed.”
“Strange indeed.” Ken said. “Look, I have to wake up early tomorrow morning; do you think you can pick up the groceries in the afternoon?”
“Sure, and then I’m going to the hospital to see Jack. I’m meeting Ezra after that. I’ll be late so I don’t know if I’ll be home for dinner.”
I saw his features turn hard. Ken was furious. “What the hell is wrong with you, Riley?”
I stared at him in confusion. “What did I say?”
“That psychopath is in a fucking coma, he’s half dead as it is and you’re still going day after day to see him. What are you getting out of this?”
“Ken, that’s enough.” I said in a soft older sister scolding voice. “I told you my feelings about Jack, and that’s not going to change no matter what you say or anyone else so you may as well get used to it.”
“Why don’t you see it? Jack’s savage and killed so many people ruthlessly. Let’s assume for one goddamn minute that there’s a miracle and he somehow wakes up from the coma and let’s say they do catch this killer, what then? You’re going to start dating killers now?”
“He’s not a psychopath and he’s not a killer! Stop saying that. Jack was being framed and that’s the only reason he’s slipped into this coma in the first place.”
In a maddening rage, he threw open my drawers and pulled out all my private journals where I’d written about my researches and thesis. He practically flung one such diary in my lap. “This. This is what had gotten you so damned obsessed with serial killers and now you’ve taken one step too far. Riles, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this. You’re sick and you need help asap.”
“Open the journal.”
I opened it and saw what I knew I’d see. “Yeah. All my research about deviant minds. What’s weird about that?”
“What’s weird, sister is that you’d always been into the crazies and as soon as you were introduced to one charming, good-looking lunatic in the hospital you decided to stick to him like a fucking leech.”
“Mind your language with me, Kenneth!”
Ken was staring at me like I really needed help. “You’re obsession is so strong that you started to think it was love. If Mom and Dad were alive, do you think they would be proud of you? Do you think they would like you sneaking killers into your bedroom?”
“You knew Jackson was here that day?”
Ken laughed. “Of course, I did. How stupid do you think I am?”
“I’m not a child anymore; I know the difference between what’s right and wrong. Ezra is doing his best to find the killer. It’s only a matter of time before the killer is behind bars.”
“I’m exhausted.” Ken said in a tired voice. “Night.”
I was relieved he was exhausted because even I didn’t have the energy to continue bickering with him.
“Good night, Ken.” I said, “And keep my bedroom door open.”
I knew Ezra and Flint would stare at me like I’d grown several horns on my head if I told them how I’d seen Jack in my dreams and how he’d given me information about the pattern of the murders so I excluded that part and said I’d managed to come up with the theory. Ezra had a pencil poised in his hand as he stared off into the distance. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee was enticing. I took a sip of the beverage and a bite from the sugar glazed donut.
Finally Ezra said, “It’s a good guess but at this point the killer probably did the murders on odd numbered dates on purpose just to confuse us and put us on the wrong trail.”
“It’s possible that it is true and you’re wasting time looking into something that isn’t even important.”
“You’re going to teach us how to do our jobs now, Riley?” Flint asked in a joking way, he was smiling but I didn’t miss the serious undertone to it.
“Of course not, but you guys should really look into this. According to the calculations made so far, the next murder could be on the seventh of April.”
Flint and Ezra looked at each other and I hated when they did that. It was the signature looks that FBI’s and police officers exchanged during movies or tv shows when they were in on something that the third person wasn’t a part of.
Flint cleared his throat and looked at Ezra. “She deserves to know. I think we should tell her.”
“Tell me what?”
“Your brother Kenneth was here earlier this morning before he headed to work.”
“And he confessed.” Ezra said.
The coffee cup rattled in my hand and spilled on the floor but I couldn’t pay attention to it and neither could the Agents.
“What do you mean he confessed? What did he confess to?” I asked. “Are you suggesting that my brother is the—”
“He said he knows the killer and has proof against them.” Ezra cut me off mid-sentence.
“Well, who is it?”
“He says it’s you.”
A.N: Hey loves, sorry for keeping you guys waiting! I'm really excited to write the final few chapters now that the story is soon going to end. In addition, you're going to get to read an Alternate ending and some bonus chapters.
If you enjoyed reading the chapter, I'd love to see your thoughts in the comments below