(A short-story by FoxMulder89)
Victor Dufrey sat on the cold stone floor of his cell with his
back pressed against the damp, decaying wall and let out a deep
and woeful sigh as the sky fell into darkness, and another day
passed by, bringing his appointment at the gallows closer.
Sometimes he swore he heard the call of the noose-beckoning him
with a sinister hiss, wanting to coil itself around his throat
and squeeze until it felt the last breath slip from his lips-when
the wind crawled through the gaps in the walls.
Victor-once an aspiring author-stood accused of his wife's murder. Her body was discovered-in the early hours of the morning on January 16, 1897-by the metropolitan police after they received a call from the deceased's mother, Annabelle. 'Old Annie', as her friend's called her, claimed that her daughter, Elizabeth Crane, was due to come over for a cup of tea and a chat; to discuss Elizabeth and Victor's plans for when Victor finally scored that big book deal he was always babbling about. Annie had asked Elizabeth to come round for 8.00., When 8.00. Passed and Elizabeth hadn't shown, Annie became concerned-Elizabeth took great pride in her punctuality, and her consideration. If she couldn't make it, for whatever reason, she would've informed her mother immediately. Pacing along the living room-stopping occasionally to stare out the window into the dark gloom of the night-Annie gave her daughter the benefit of the doubt and agreed to wait a little longer. Maybe its bedlam on the roads, she told herself, or maybe she's waiting for Victor to come home.
An hour passed, and Annie decided that she wasn't going to wait any longer. She ran to the phone in the kitchen, stumbling over the recliner in her desperate haste, and dialled the number for the metropolitan police.
The commissioner could tell that Annie was in a great deal of distress, she was hysterical and he struggled to hear most of what she was saying through the sobbing and grizzling.
"Right, we've got the address, and yours, I'm sending two officers to both as we speak, Miss. Crane!" the commissioner bellowed, and he immediately dispatched his units ,as promised, before he'd even reset the receiver into its cradle.
The officer's arrived at Elizabeth's home with great haste. They knocked three-times-harder with each time they failed-after the third call was ignored, they breached the front door, kicking the brittle wooden door almost clean off its hinges.
"Elizabeth Crane! Elizabeth Crane!" the officer's yelled, the empty hallway carried their calls through the entire house. The echo was so strong that one would think the whole police force was standing in the hallway, downstairs.
"You search the rooms upstairs, I'll secure the ground floor and the basement!" one officer said to the other. The officers went their separate ways. P.C. Cartwright did a quick sweep of the living room, the kitchen and the basement-finding only the lit candles in their brass holders and undisturbed furniture. In the basement he saw the small round corner table with a pile of plain paper and a small pot of black ink. It didn't look like anybody had been down in the basement for quite some time; the brass candle holders were empty and covered in webs that were crawling with spiders, undoubtedly a nest. The wooden shelves mounted on the walls were bare, and a thick layer of dust levelled the surface, obscuring the colour of the mahogany wood.
"The old bats gone bloody mad," P.C. Cartwright muttered, as he shone his lantern slowly around the spacious area of the cold, damp smelling basement.
As he ascended the creaking wooden staircase on his way back to the main hallway, ready to tell his partner his opinion of 'Mad old Annie', he was met with a sound that made the hairs on his neck stand on end, and caused a ratchet of panic to pass through his entire body like a shockwave.
"Andy! Andy get up here!" the quivering screams of Constable Stone made P.C. Cartwright's blood run cold. As soon as he sensed the fear in his partner's screams, he rushed up the stairs and into the hallway.
"Collin! Where are you, mate? Talk to me!"
Cartwright grabbed the bottom of the banister and used it as leverage to swing himself around the small corner and bound up the first two-steps. He ran as fast as he could, his heart thumping frantically in his chest. He reached the top step and immediately turned and shone his lantern around the hallway, until its dull yellow bloom locked onto Stone who was leaning against the doorframe and peering around the corner into the room before him, Elizabeth's bedroom.
Cartwright rushed to his partner's side, placing his hand on his shoulder. The light from his lantern caught the side of Stone's angular face, and Cartwright could see that the young man was absolutely mortified; his face was as pale as death.
Cartwright sighed inwardly and said, thoughtfully, "You don't have to go in there if you don't think you can handle it, lad."
"She-she's just lying there…Her…Her eyes," Stone whimpered, his voice trembling and lips quivering as he spoke.
Cartwright patted his colleague firmly on the shoulder for reassurance and requested that he sit down and calm down. The rookies were never good at keeping it together on their first homicide case. People often look so unnatural in death that they sometimes appear spectral.
Cartwright took a few deep breathes, closed his eyes, and prepared himself for whatever gruelling sight awaited him in the dark room. He'd already painted the scene of a domestic dispute that got out of hand. When he finally summoned the courage to round the corner and enter the room, he expected to see Elizabeth lying face down in a puddle of blood from where she had been stabbed, or to see the body of Elizabeth and nothing but a sludgy mess of broken bone particles, blood, and sinew from where Victor had bludgeoned her to death.
However, when he took the corner and shone his light onto the bed where Elizabeth's lifeless body lay, naked and completed still, he saw a sight that was upsetting yet strangely magnificent. The tall French windows were wide open and the gentle breeze blew white silk netting in a delicate and graceful manner, the material swayed with the hypnotic rhythm of an exotic dancer. Elizabeth lay on her back with her arms posed like that of a beautiful maiden in a Victorian oil painting-one behind her head, the other by her face, the thumb and index fnger on the right hand contorted into a pinching position, as if she had been holding something-her golden locks of fine hair were neat and not even single strand was out of place. The top half of her body was exposed,-- her lower body coiled in the duvet-- her face, neck, breasts, and torso shone in the ghostly gaze of the moonlight pouring through the French windows from the cloudless sky above. Her blue eyes were clear and her stare seemed fixed on the door. The white bedding was as clean and bright as fresh snow, and there wasn't a single drop of blood on or around the victim. There was no sign of a struggle and her neck didn't seem as though it had been clamped or broken; so that ruled out any possibilities of strangulation.
As Cartwright approached to examine the sleeping maiden, a tornado of questions spun violently in his mind. How could this happen? Why was she posed like this? Where was Victor? Had he killed her?
It didn't make any sense. Cartwright placed his lantern on the unit beside the double bed and leaned across cautiously to examine the body-expecting Elizabeth to suddenly spring to life and seize him with how unnatural and un-dead she looked.
The moon provided adequate lighting, as Cartwright began his investigation. There were no bruises or lacerations on the victim's body, no traces of poison on her lips, nothing. Her skin was as cold as ice, so she was certainly dead, of that there was no doubt; no coma inducing drug used here. As Cartwright leaned to examine the other side of the bed for any traces of evidence, he spotted something that stirred his interest and suspicion further, on the pillow beside Elizabeth was a quill with a small amount of black ink on the nib. Cartwright picked the light feather up with his left hand and pinched the end between his thumb and index finger. He then raised his right hand and stabbed the end of the quill into the middle finger on his right hand; it left a small circular dimple and a black speckle of ink, but didn't draw any blood. However, if he was to do it harder…He pondered. Then it hit him, maybe Victor had used a quill to inject poison into his wife's body. Maybe with enough force-knowing that Victor wasn't exactly a small man from the casual greetings they occasionally exchanged on the streets- Cartwright quickly turned his attention to Elizabeth, concentrating so hard that his nose was inches from her flesh. He started at the top of the neck and slowly scrolled his eyes down. And then…"Ah-ha, you crafty bastard!"
On Elizabeth's throat, Cartwright had found two circular punctures-both parallel to each other and about 2cms deep.
"What have you got?" Stone bellowed from the hallway.
"You're not going to believe this," Cartwright began, "Seems our writer knows a few things about administering poison."
"What makes you say that?" Stone asked, curious.
"Two-stab wounds to the victims jugular," Cartwright replied, rubbing his fingers over the marks on Elizabeth's neck, "Slightly raised, about 2cms deep. Stab wounds without a doubt. I even found a quill on the pillow beside her."
"A quill? You think that's the murder weapon?"
"I think A quill was used, but not this exact one."
"This one's got ink on the end of it. Victor must've taken the one he used to poison her with him when he fled…bastard."
"So, should we head back and inform the chief? Have him get the coroner down here to take the poor girl away?"
"Yeah," Cartwright huffed submissively. "Not much else we can do for the poor lass now, except pay our respects at her funeral."
"I'll go and get the cart," said Stone, and he started down the stairs toward the front door and out into the street.
Cartwright looked over his shoulder at Elizabeth on his way out of the bedroom.
Such a young and beautiful woman. What a shame…
Suddenly he heard a 'whooshing' sound that startled him; and he found himself quickly reaching for Elizabeth's vanity table to regain his balance.
"Christ, what the bloody hell?"
He shone his lantern down at his feet to try and spot what it was that had almost caused him to slip and break his neck. He was surprised by what he saw beneath his foot. It was a tall, brown envelope with a torn red seal. Curious, Cartwright swept the package up and opened the lid. It was a manuscript-obviously Vincent's.
"Well, now it's evidence. Guess you didn't think you'd need it after you killed your wife, eh, sunshine."
Cartwright took the envelope with him to the cart and then he and Stone set off for the station; Stone was still quaking in his boots and, try as he might, he couldn't shake the haunting image of Elizabeth's limp, pale body from his thoughts.
The officer's arrived shortly after 11.00. And the manuscript along with Cartwright's theory was presented to the commissioner, who immediately issued a manhunt for Victor Dufrey.
The search was long, but eventually officer's apprehended Victor outside Victoria station. He was then detained in custardy until his trial, where he was sentenced to be hung by the neck until death.
After commending his men for a job well done, and feeling as though justice had been served upon hearing the jury's verdict at Dufrey's trial, the commissioner retired to his office and poured himself a celebratory glass of scotch. He said a silent prayer for Elizabeth and even one for Dufrey himself-not that he deserved it-for he too knew the pain of losing someone he loved; although he was only partly responsible for the loss of his wife twenty-years prior to Elizabeth's murder.
As he waited out the last couple of hours of his shift, the commissioner pulled open the top drawer of his desk and withdrew the envelope that Cartwright had recovered from the scene of the crime. He hadn't had a chance to look at it yet, and all art-even that of a scumbag-deserved some attention; after all, he may be the only one to see it before its destroyed. He placed the envelope on his desk and flipped the top, tipping it slightly so the contents slid onto his desk in a neat pile. He then scrunched the envelope up and tossed it into the small bin beside the filing cabinet.
What he saw on the front page of the manuscript, made his heart rise to his throat, and cold beads of sweat run down his brow and back. The title page read:
The Memoirs Of A Lost Soul
by Victor Dufrey
Beneath the title in very scruffy writing that would've been impossible for anyone to decipher-unless they had seen it before, like the commissioner had-was:
"Vampire!" The commissioner gasped. It was as if the past was coming back to haunt him. In a desperate and escalating state of panic he flicked through the manuscript until he reached the back page. It was just as he had expected-there was a decleration, just like the one he had signed when he 'earned' his promotion in the met.
"I swear to hold my oath until the date mentioned above, or suffer the consequences of my greed."
The commissioner's face went ashen and pale. He quickly sprang to his feet and swept the manuscript from his desk, throwing it into the roaring flame of his fire place. The 'night caller' had come again to another ambitious soul, and that soul had broken the sacred oath, just as the commissioner had done. The only difference between the two souls in this tale, was the commissioner wasn't about to be executed for a crime he didn't commit, and when Dufrey dies, the location of the night caller dies with him.