Into The Night
By Levi Garrett
The cramped cellar smelled of musty dirt and mold. A gas lamp hissed on a wooden table, periodically spitting sparks into the impenetrable darkness. What light it threw revealed a slender young man seated before the table. His thinning brown hair emphasized ears too big for his slender frame and dark, deep set eyes. A gold signet ring adorned his left-most finger.
Shelves lined the walls and the pale orange light flickered off the sharpened steel of the neatly arranged assortment of knives and surgical instruments. On another wall hung rough paintings of red and black. Some finished, some clearly in process, all depicting with an eerie beauty women in various stages of torture and dismemberment. The largest highlighted a naked woman on a bed, her head tilted at an unnatural angle, her mutilated body painted in excruciating detail.
The young man sat hunched over an object at the table, his back to the door. With hands soft and feminine, he worked chisels and fine gouges to delicately carve a knife handle made of bone. Flakes of bone littered the table as he carefully chipped and cut the intricate design. His hands worked slowly, confidently, as those of a master, not a fifteen-year-old young man.
When he finished coring out the center, where the soft marrow and blood had dried, he held his creation up into the orange glow. He turned the handle and inspected it from each angle. The steel blade shone bright, highlighting his youthful unlined face and stone cold eyes.
Bobbies swarmed near the dark alley, their handheld gas lamps illuminating rot, scurrying rats, and the blood soaked body of a dead woman.
Sir Charles Warren, lead homicide detective at Scotland Yard, stood at the entrance to the alley, his shoulders raised, his strong face quiet.
“Commissioner.” A young officer appeared next to Warren, the insignia on his black uniform depicted a Lieutenant by the name of Adams. He lowered his voice.
“You need to see this.”
Warren followed Adams as he shouldered his way through the circle of officers. They knelt next to the body of the woman.
In his thirty years on the police force, Warren thought he had seen everything he imagined one human could do to another. The evil within mankind saddened him but no longer surprised him. Until now. Until he gazed into the lifeless eyes of the young woman whose soul had been stolen from her only a few hours earlier.
Her skirt, filthy along the edges, had been lifted to expose her legs. The right lay bent at an impossible and nauseating angle, but this didn’t faze Warren. The murderer had posed the body, as these heartless people sometimes do. What made him sit back on his haunches was the slice of flesh removed from her thigh. The entire femur had been cut away and removed. The flesh lay open like a giant pair of grimacing lips.
Warren sat behind a desk cluttered with papers, files, and cigar stub-filled ashtrays in his office in Scotland Yard’s headquarters. Detectives and office assistants hustled past his open doorway, each person intent on some scrap of paper or piece of hurried conversation. On the office walls newspaper clippings and notes hung tacked next to police sketches and telegrams.
He sifted through a stack of false eyewitness accounts of the woman’s gruesome homicide given by people who’d seen nothing or, even worse, seen everything down to the highly unlikely color of the alleged killer’s shoes. Next to this stood a pile of letters, all 147 authors of which claimed to be the real murderer.
The only thing he knew for sure was they knew nothing at all.
A young detective appeared in his doorway, the white sleeves of his uniform rolled up to his elbows.
“Go on Edwards.”
“We have another dead woman, sir. From Mile End.”
Warren leaned back in his chair.
“Was the poor wretch found as the other?”
He shook his head.
“It’s beyond me, sir.”
“Well, don’t just stand there waiting for my command. I could grow old tracking the silence.”
“The skin on her back was removed.”
The young man in the cellar cleaned the bone-handled knife with a cotton cloth. He rubbed it slowly and thoroughly until each fleck of stray bone had been removed from the carvings, and the steel shone unblemished.
He lay the knife down on a piece of smooth velvet, then opened a drawer, which screeched hesitantly on its rollers. Gently, he pulled out a book bound in hand-cured human skin and laid it on the table in front of him. With his long fingers he stroked the rough leather binding, caressing it along the cover and sides. The flickering light from the gas lamp illuminated a hand-written title.
He reached for the knife and without hesitatingpressed the blade against his pale skin and sliced a small vein in his wrist. Blood ran down his palm onto the desk. With his other hand he held an inkwell beneath the flow. He let it run into the jar until the cut congealed and the blood settled to a slow trickle. He pressed two fingers on the cut until it stopped bleeding altogether. When he was done, he touched his blood stained fingers to his lips and gave the faintest indication of a smile.
He dipped a quill into the jar and began writing in the book of skin. Next to him lay a drawing, the ink barely dry on the coarse parchment. The drawing was of a woman sprawled on the ground, one leg broken and dislocated from her hip, her face contorted in pain. Her abdomen had been split open, and her intestines spilled out into the borders of the page.
The young man in the cellar closed the lid of a compact, intricately carved wooden box. He tilted the lid back open, testing the feel of the secure brass hinges and fittings. When he was satisfied, he laid inside it the bone-handled knife,
the human skin bound book, and a delicate golden locket.
He closed the box with a soft click and scrambled the seven-lettered combination lock.
Warren stood behind his desk, his hands on his hips, as his five best detectives filed into the office. Five solid, experienced men who’d been with him through some of the most difficult and complex cases London had ever seen. Today was different. Today Warren had decided to let them down, to walk away from their side.
He cleared his throat and the men stopped talking. They stood in a row in front of him, their ties were loose and they wore no jackets. The heavy pressure to solve the case meant most hadn’t gone home to sleep, but instead had laid their heads to rest on their desks for a few fitful hours.
“As you know,” said Warren, “the whole of the city is gripped with fear. Five women have been slaughtered in the span of four months. We are dealing with a deranged killer.”
The detectives shifted their weight and exchanged glances.
“Sir,” said Edward, Warren’s favorite, and commonly thought to be his eventual successor.
“There is talk in town that the killer is not a man. They have christened him Jack The Ripper.”
“I will not hear such things.”
The anger in his voice startled him. He ran his hand through his hair. It was a new age. The press had grown in influence and there was a mounting fear within the Monarchy that they would eclipes their own power over the people.
“This is a man, no doubt.”
The officers glanced at Edwards as he spoke.
“But Sir, there are no credible witnesses, no evidence. No motive can be found.”
“The only mystery here is his identity. His parents are of flesh and blood, not of the Devil and his mistress as some would have you believe.”
Warren fought to stay in control of his emotions. He was tired, and he was frustrated with the ridiculous hype that this sick killer was anything but a man like all the other psychopaths he’d seen brought to justice.
Edward continued, “The Daily News reported that he will not stop until he’s taken twenty-one souls.”
“Nonsense! You men will bring him to justice, sooner rather than later, I predict.”
They didn’t move. Edward said, “With your lead, sir.”
Warren took a deep breath. “I have retired my post with the Yard. Effective immediately.”
The men shifted and spoke quietly with one another.
“But--“ said Edward.
“I can not, and will not continue under these conditions. I have not been allowed to run my investigations as I see fit. That will be all.”
He exhaled. There, he’d done it. Let down the best men he knew and all because of an out-of-control press and public.
Edward looked as if he would speak but Warren motioned them all out of the office.
Kerosene lamps lit up the front of the grand manor house. Columns two stories high framed a set of double front doors. In the distance, horse’s hooves could be heard pounding up the drive. They grew louder. Then two bay mares appeared, pulling a brougham carriage. They rounded the circular drive, and flinging rocks and dirt beneath their hooves, came to a stop at the manor house entrance. Clouds formed from their breath in the chill night air.
The doors to the manor pulled open and two massive men escorted the young man down the stairs to the drive. Each held a shoulder tight enough that he couldn’t run, but not so tight that their grips injured him. The carriage door swung open and the young man stepped inside. One of the escorts shut the door behind him and barked an order to the driver. The carriage pulled away and picked up speed as it passed through the ornate gates of the estate.
Above, a curtain on the second story of the mansion was drawn open, and a figure watched until the carriage disappeared into the darkness.