The Timekeeper: Chapter 2

Detective Jillian Torres hurried, almost raced, to her flat.

The image of Ellery Gilbert was fresh in her mind. Expressionless, beautiful in death as it must have been in life, serene. Serene as if she were just sleeping.  That kind of serenity only came along with painless deaths, and no murder she knew of till date had been painless, even if the pain lasted for an instant. Except if Ellery was willing to embrace it. And yet, they knew, that moments ago she had been crying for help. The mystery troubled Jillian incessantly; the pieces were different enough to belong to separate puzzles.

As if the complexity of the case were not enough, she had a nagging feeling that returned to her time and again. The case strongly felt like a Déjà vu. She had never handled anything like that previously, she was certain of that. A dream could have been a possibility but Jillian hardly remembered any dream, and even if she did, the details never stayed. She narrowed her eyes in focus, straining to recall as she went up the stairs, for any similar case she must have read about.

The sudden recollection hit her like a gust of cold air.

1885. The Murder of Janet Williams.

Jillian Torres stopped midway, sitting on the staircase to steady herself. She put her head in her hands as her mind began to draw out uncanny similarities between the two cases.  Beautiful girl, married to the rich businessman, no trace of wounds or asphyxiation. Neighbors reported a man of medium built and tall height going inside the house before the crime happened. Could both the victims have been linked in some way? Was someone notoriously repeating the methods of an old serial killer? Her mind buzzed with endless questions.

She would have to look into the case. But first, the homework given by Detective Taylor had to be completed.

She rushed up the stairs, jammed the key in the keyhole, nervous with excitement. She closed the door absent-mindedly before heading to the study. Without a moment’s delay, she started to fish out all the potassium manufacturers and dealers in the locality. Detective Taylor wanted things to be thoroughly done, even if it was not required. Jillian didn’t mind following it; thoroughly done researches more or less helped them in the long run.

It was eleven in the night when she finished the compilation. Throat parched and stomach rumbling, she put away her laptop, tiredness finally taking over her. After she had grabbed some fries and coffee from the kitchen, she took out the file containing all the information she had gathered about Janet Williams Murder Case. She noted the facts of Ellery Gilbert’s case on a scratch pad, and flipped open the file on her desk.

She flitted through the pages until she came across the most comprehensive version of the murder she had gotten from the internet.

Murder in Broad Daylight:
May 25, 1885

The Rotterdane town witnessed yet another crime yesterday, when Janet Williams was found murdered in her own house. Mr. Williams, who returned early from his trip to Greenesville, entered his home to find his wife lying dead in the living room. The living room was in a state of distress, with vases on the floor and table overturned. Mrs. Williams, 35 years old, looked serene as if she were sleeping.

Jillian smiled at the statement.

There were no stabs or cuts on her skin, although there was a pool of blood on the floor, where the body had been found. The coroner has pointed towards asphyxiation as the cause of death, though there were no marks on the neck.

The police carried out an investigation in the house, but could not find the weapon or any other significant leads to the killer. They questioned the housekeeper Mr. Glendron and the parlor-maid Miss. Wysdean, both of whom stated that the no one except Mrs. Williams was there in the house, since the rest of the helps had gone to attend a funeral.

No weapon, no evidence, nothing to link to the killer. The house was devoid of people-servants or family members. Jillian wondered if the time was well chosen.

She read on further.

Several people reported a man who was seen nearby around the suspected time of crime. Mr. Witherby, who lived opposite the Williams said, “Around 11 a.m., a tall man with medium built was approaching the William’s residence. Even in this heat, he wore a brown overcoat and his face was shadowed by a wide-brimmed hat that he wore. I am sure I have never seen him in this place, yet he seemed to know all the ways.” Mr. Witherby, who claims to have been gardening, denied seeing him leave. He also did not hear any sounds of struggles or help.

What baffles the police is the fact that the mansion had no other escape route, since it had been built on the banks of the river, and had walls 8 feet high. A reward of $1000 has been offered for anyone who can provide significant details for the mystery man. Mrs. Williams will be buried today evening in the St. John’s churchyard.

Jillian flipped over the page, scanning the contents of the file, thoughts unsettling in her mind. Were there some more cases like these, scattered along the decades?  Or did this killer pattern repeat itself after some years? It was highly unlikely that the same person could be involved, as this case was way old. Maybe an heir? Or a cult?

Or maybe, Jillian thought as she opened the window of her study, someone was doing this on purpose, just to throw them off-track. The semblance was perfect to the minutest degree, as if someone had tried to resurrect it. And the method of killing was…supernatural.

The whole case looked as if they were pursuing a ghost.

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