Reminiscences (Part3)


(Chapter 40)

Meeting The Terrors Of The Night, In One’s Own Home

A Visit From A Lady

It is now more than three years since Alice Howard disappeared and just less than that since I last put pen to paper to record, the major events of, my life. Now I unfortunately find that I must add a short note, after the end of the previous chapter. The reason I find that I must add this note is that, three months ago, I received a letter – signed J. Fitzjames Bart — it arrived the week after my grandson was married, to Roberta Fletcher, who is Helena Fletcher nee Fitzjames’s daughter. The letter’s writer claimed, that he had been the Horror and that he had finally taken Alice, once the twins no longer needed her. At first, I took it for a bad joke and was about to bin it, until something made me read more than the opening paragraph. Whomso had written it knew the case at least as well as I did — maybe better than I did. Several days later I read it for a second time. There were some passages, in the letter, that referred to things I had never even put in any of my reports, these included exactly what I had said, in my first meeting with John Fitzjames, about how I had cut my arm. I eventually had, Gus, my grandson, check out the other details, in the letter; they all proved to be true, even the date Roberta arrived in London, from the colonies, which was the Sixth of August 1882. So it seems that there were two Horrors or more correctly two Gifham Rippers, Roberta and John. By some mischance, I had been out smarted by a murderous little boy, who had feigned illness and frailty, to escape suspicion. It is still hard to believe that John Fitzjames was the Horror, even if, as I believe, the letter was most likely from him, despite that everyone thinks that he is dead.

I feel that it would be wrong, to rewrite what I have written about the Horror, as the letter’s insights, into the case, would only colour the way I portray John Fitzjames. Because of the letter, I have removed all details of the injuries that the victims had suffered and what lead me to concluded that the Horror was responsible for the burglaries. I feel that if the reasons for him killing, Ben Hunt, were as he claims, in the letter, then that was the only death that the Horror, or Horrors, can be forgiven. For all her faults, Alice did not deserve what Ben had planned, to do to her. The wild claims the writer made might account for some, if not all, of the more unusual aspects of the case, but those claims are most likely just the creative imaginings, of a writer, — out to exploit the case, yet again, for profit. For that reason and to protect Gus’s mother-in-law from even more sorrow, Gus and I have sworn to never to reveal the full contents, of the letter. We have instead requested that the archivist, at Bellham University, keep my manuscript there and only release it, once they are sure that certain possible authors — of the letter — are dead, most likely from drink.

Having met the University’s archivist, I have been put in contact with the current holder of the office of Dean of Religion — the same office that Augustus once held. It so happens, that due to this case, and several others I investigated, it is felt by the archivist and the Dean that my manuscript should be included in the faculty of Religious Studies closed collection, along with Augustus’s bequest of his library. Thanks to my meeting with the Dean, I have been put in touch with the prospective holder of The Howard Chair in the faculty, who is as renown as Augustus was— if not even more renown— for his knowledge of folklore, local legends and the like. Though initially, I did not really wish to meet him, I did as he is doing a paper about my old friend, Augustus. Are they letting schoolboys graduate with firsts?

If I use his name, my memoirs are to remain closed until long after he is dead, so I will Call him Prof. B.

Prof. B. does not have quite the same conversational abilities of Augustus or John Fitzjames, but he has similar unnerving habits. After I had shown him the letter, but not shown him my manuscript, Prof. B. enquired about John’s hands. His actual question was, “Did John always have a fifth ‘knuckle’ between his ring and middle fingers, as well as scaring between them.”

I confirmed this and mentioned that Roberta had also had similar deformities. This triggered Prof. B. to remind me of the epidemics — the one that ended in 79, and the two mild ones of 98 to 1900 and the one from 06 to 20. Though initially I did not see, that there was, a link, Gus checked the 99 records, for me, and informed me that it was mainly confined to the young women of those houses that had the theft-less burglaries.

After I told Prof. B. of this, he brought over a couple items from their collection. One of which was a spike like claw and the other was a preserved hand that could have been Roberta’s or John’s. Having shown me these, he told me a fanciful story, that would fit most of the facts, and then told me that Roberta, John, and most likely Alice were all what he called ‘Vampyres, not Vampires’. When I had stopped laughing, just before I was going to throw him out, he said that if I wished he could arrange for me to meet a ‘true Vampire’ or an expert, on such creatures. That was it, I had Gus throw him out and complained to his Dean, about him, not that that did any good.

Two night’s later, he turned up at my home, in a Rolls Royce, with a young woman, who made me wish I was a third of my age or younger. To say that she glided when she moved would not be anything but the exact truth. Also accompanying him were a young man and someone who I immediately recognised, for she reminded me of her mother. For her sake, I silently allowed their entry to my home. I DID NOT INVITE THEM IN.

Let me just say that, after that night, I believed everything that Prof. B. had told me as well as all John’s fantastic ravings. Seeing a wolf appear before me where the man had been, was the least of that night’s education.

Do I still think that John was one of the Gifham Horrors? Yes. Despite everything, there is little that he did, apart from the killing of the school teacher, that was unforgivable. His other premeditated kill, his brother, I can just about live with. Having just reread the file on Victor Howard MP’s death, I fear that he was not responsible for that death, even if it was drained of blood. If what Prof. B. says is true, John having drunk only women’s blood for such a long time, prior to that, he would have most likely killed himself if he had drunk all Victor’s blood. According to the Professor, Vampyres’ bodies change throughout their first year, or so, after changing, to only be able to digest the blood of their chosen type of victim — in John’s case women. There is also the fact that the blade wounds on Victor were far larger than in any other Horror murder.

Prof. B. visited me again the next day, with numerous questions about Augustus, most of which I know only to well. Now that he has asked them, I am just as suspicious of my old friend as he is, no — maybe. But for Victor’s father, I’d have never met Augustus or was it the other way round. Was Victor killed because he was like his father? The four men whose company I enjoyed the most, I now know or suspect were the most horrifying malefactors that I have ever encountered. Two of them murderous creatures of the night and well the others too sick for even Bedlam’s tender mercies. Did Victor’s father, sacrifice himself to save his sole heir? What did Alice ask of John at the his funeral? Was it always her intention to see him dead, or did she want John to kill Fletcher? Was it John who provided the bequest, that allowed that writer to try and drink himself to death and Helena to escape Victor. Looking back on this case with the knowledge I have now, as I await death’s beautiful embrace, I have more questions about it now, than I had real clues, when I investigated it. Was Sarah Jane happy, to have been chosen by Augustus to be my bait, for Bert. Maybe when I welcome the ecstatic embrace of death’s lips, I will finally learn the answers to a few of these questions.

Tonight I cast that letter into the fire, would that all enlightenment was as easily gained and lost.

Thursday, The First Of September, 1927

Chief Superintendent Drake Verdier died, of what was suspected of being a particularly virulent strain of Tuberculosis, on 13/09/1927. His funeral was held the next day, with his entombment being in the Howard family mausoleum, in Nucaman Cemetery. To the great distress of Drake’s family, that night the Howard mausoleum was vandalised. This also caused extreme outrage, within the local law enforcement and criminal fraternities. According to The Bellham Chronicle, the vault, that contained Drake’s body, had had slogans painted upon it as well as there being several attempts being made to force it open.

Due to the senseless vandalism, Drake was on Thursday, the Fifteenth of September 1927, given the honour of being placed in the groined vault of Bellham University’s chapel. Such an honour had before only been granted to the deans of the faculties and the most distinguished of the university’s alumni. With the speed that Professor Brown arranged for Drake’s incarceration there, many said that he had made the arrangements long before Drake had died.

Eleven separate murders, stretching from 3 April 1888 to 13 February 1891, were included in a London Metropolitan Police Service investigation, and were known collectively in the police docket as the “Whitechapel murders“.



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