Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Enigma of Dr. Edward Gray (I of III)


The Letter

The clock on the wall read 6:49. Another 71 minutes to go, the writer thought. He knew he had to make this quick.

The desk lay before him, flittering in the firelight, scattered with material; loose sheets of paper, little notes scrawled with writing, various files and other research books – framing his figure, framing his life, in more ways than one.

Outside, against a bitter gray October night sky, the rain howled. In a strange way, the din helped him think, concentrate. The sounds of rickety horse carriages being pushed on the cold pavement, even that of the raindrops being smattered on the window, they provided a peculiar comfort. Silence would no doubt have disturbed the ideas within him.

And so he began writing.

68 minutes.

*   *   *   *   *

The demons from my past plague me.

Let me tell you a tale, something that happened back in October, 1876, on a night not unlike this one. It was all a mistake, I tell you. I had been dragged into it by accident, not knowing the repercussions that could have befallen me.

I have nothing to lose now, so I shall revive that experience which I had long tried burying.

A pagan rite; that was what I had been in. The feverish chants in the candlelight still echo in my mind. We had raised from the gates of darkness a malevolent spirit.

I remember the blood that had been spilled as it raged out of control, lashing out at us, its tormentor. I was one of the three who survived. We formed a pact with each other, using our combined strength to suppress it.

I mention this very briefly, because that only serves as a background to what is happening to me now. That very scene has been playing out in my mind for the past few months. I did not give it much thought at first, thinking of it as a revisit to a sin from long ago. But it persisted. Persisted until I became obsessed with that spirit.

So I ran through whatever I could find regarding the Occult. I lusted to perform a rite once more, to feel such primeval, unrestrained energy under my command.

Two weeks ago, I summoned the very same Daemon yet again. It connected to me; showing me what it had seen, the things such an ancient spirit had felt. It showed me what I could be if we merged. I Enticed, I allowed myself to link with it. I felt it all to be a strange dream.

It was only later on that I realized it had possessed me. It was strange; for I had not felt it that way. I always assumed I was the one in power. Coming of the daze, I tried forcing myself out of its terrible hold; I battled within myself to seize my own body. I managed to struggle free.

But my respite was short. Unearthing my old contacts, I found that the other two survivors from the rite had been brutally killed under mysterious circumstances.

It then dawned upon me that the spirit could have used me to carry out this task. I realized it was exacting its long held vengeance.

The worst is yet to come. I am the only one remaining.

*   *   *   *   *

The man stopped the narrative at this moment.  He looked up at the face of the clock, which read 7:36. There wasn't much time left. Dipping his quill into the inkpot yet again, he continued the diligent scratching on paper.

*   *   *   *   *

And so tonight, on the 19th of October 1889, I write this letter not knowing what is to become of me. The clock ticks. And I do not think there is much time left. The very Creature I had set free is on now on my trail. There is no telling when the hunger of this monstrosity will cease. Hoping it will end with my death, I leave this letter to warn the rest of the city of the evil I have opened the door to.

I only hope that I may be forgiven for the terrible deed I have done.

Dr. Edward Gray

*   *   *   *   *

12 minutes remaining. He looked down at the letter, folded it and placed it in an envelope before sealing it. For now, all he could do was wait.

*   *   *   *   *

At exactly 8 p.m., a mutilated corpse lay in the middle of the room.


The Body

Whatever my role that is to be in this case, I know I have to make my moves carefully. As Inspector James Morgan, I had to be vigilant.

It was 10 p.m. in Central London. I don’t usually like working late, but here at 17 Moreau Street, there was something that required my attention. There was a body, or what was left of it, at my feet. It was that of Dr. Edward Gray.

He had been my friend.

The other officers of Scotland Yard looked pale as they went through the room, inspecting the body. I didn’t blame them.

The scene of whatever the incident that had taken place was a bloody mess. As far as I could see in the dim gaslight, the grotesque remains of Dr. Gray suggested he lay on his back in a twisted, contorted position. The lush floor carpet of the study was in chaotic streaks of blackish, dried blood and entrails of the man. His face had three gashes made on it, rendering him almost faceless. The most bewildering detail in the disarrayed slices of flesh, however: a foul, crude cavity in his chest. His heart had been ripped out.

A hellish sight to behold in the orange glow, with our shadows as silent spectators.

I felt sorry for my new assistant, Master Alan Stafford. It was only the first murder case he’d witnessed firsthand. I had called him to the site as it soon became clear to me what this particular affair may concern.

“And this is exactly how you found the body?” I heard Inspector Henry Wilkins ask me. Inspector Wilkins was one of the longest serving men I’ve known, a colleague I’ve come to trust.

I nodded slightly.

“My word. A real butchery, this one,” remarked Wilkins. “Can’t say London hasn’t seen its fair share of them. But something this savage… And that too, involving a high-profile gentleman -- Dear God.”

I took off my hat, bowing my head slightly. “I should have been here sooner, Wilkins. I was to meet him, you know. I had an engagement with him at half past eight, as I had every week. However, he hadn’t answered the door. I went round to his neighbour, but old Mrs. Moore told me she hadn’t heard a word from Gray. He’d inform her if he was planning on going outside.”

“- Poor woman’s having a fit.”

“I waited another hour before finally, fearing the worst, I called the police. If only I’d been in here earlier, perhaps...”

Wilkins patted my shoulder. “Look Inspector, Don't take this upon yourself. If there’s anything, let me handle this. Unless the Scotland Yard has reason to believe it would require the services of The Division, we’ll take this as another regular murder.”

“Inspector Morgan? I think you should see this, sir.” One of the detectives handed me a sealed envelope, ignoring the senior next to me. “This was on the desk.”

And as I read Dr. Gray’s letter inside of the envelope, I reminded myself I needed to be involved in this.

I head The Division of Extraordinary and Paranormal Investigations of Scotland Yard. More than a millennium ago, Britain had been declared a Pagan nation. We believe the demons of the past still haunt us. We may be at the dawn of a new century, Masters of machine, and harbingers of the Steam Age, but I fear Victorian England has its own phantasms. Even in such a modern day and age, I have evidence to prove that our division involving the Supernatural is necessary.

“Inspector Wilkins, with all due respect, I believe this is something the Division should involve itself in. The letter only proves the presence of more mystifying elements under the surface.”

Henry Wilkins solemnly tilted his head.

I made my way to the desk of the deceased doctor. It had placed on it an assortment of books, mainly concerned with the occult. He had obviously been doing research of some sort.

If his letter was to be believed, he had made contact with demonic forces, been possessed at least once and Heaven knows what else.  Could this be taken as the babbling of a madman? Or was there more to it than met the eye?

I could not say why, but I felt a sudden chill in the room. These four walls held absent ghosts I must unearth.

But that would be for another time, a more appropriate one.

“Very well, gentlemen,” I raised my hat and stepped out of the room, leaving the others in the clutches of uncertainty.


The Investigation

“It’s absolutely queer happenings, this.” The Chief made clear his view of the killing to Inspector James Morgan, sitting at his table at the Scotland Yard Headquarters.

“Wilkins handed me his report this morning. I heard from him you want to lead the Investigations.”

Morgan shrugged. “I feel it is only so necessary, Sir,” he replied. “I somehow - I feel responsible for his death.”

“Your visit to his home, I see. Wilkins made a mention of that.” The Chief took in a puff of his cigar.

“I am obligated to bring an end to whatever happened to him, to find out the truth,” He started.

“Fair enough.”

Morgan reverently acknowledged his decision with a bow, and was about to walk out of his office, when the Chief called out. “Morgan. You don’t suppose…I mean; I read what the letter was about. Do you really think a person of repute like Dr. Gray would be involved in such hideous rituals?”

The Inspector thought for a while. “I fear there is every possibility of it, Sir. Do not forget, he was my friend. Why a man such as he would want to do this is far beyond my comprehension. On the other hand, if one were to read his parting letter, we may conclude he may well have been bordering on insanity. But that is the funny thing about men. You never know what they’re capable of until you see them at their worst.”

“As for - well, I think we have enough to say that the Beast is exceedingly real.”

“All too true,” Morgan agreed. “and it’s loose, on the very streets of London.”

“God help us all. We must do what we can to stop this.”

*   *   *   *   *

In the afternoon, Morgan sat with the research material from Edward’s desk. He had taken all of his files and papers from his study as well. There was a lot he had to sift through, and he feared it might take him a chunk of time to find out specifically what Edward had been involved in.

“Sir? Anything I can help you with?” Stafford opened his door a crack and inquired politely.

“No, no. But I’d rather you ran through our observations from last night once again. And cross check with Wilkins’ report with the Chief. Only to see if we’ve missed out any detail.” And he went straight back to his work.

Just like any other case, he had instructed Stafford beforehand to take down all of Morgan’s observations concerning the room and Dr. Gray’s home. He made it a point that it was always Stafford who took down his notes. He never preferred writing anything himself.

Always keen to impress, his assistant had gone down to Mrs. Moore’s by himself for a second round of questioning in the morning. It was common sense, he felt, to make sure the interviewed was not intimidated, and he noted that she had given even more information than she had yesterday to the police.

He had been about to bring up what she had told her to Morgan, but he thought the better of it, seeing his superior so engrossed in his work.

“And Stafford,” The Inspector broke his line of thought. “This case may take us far longer than usual to solve. I do hope you know what you are involving yourself in. Many a man has died in search of answers to mysteries beyond the threshold of the normal.”

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