Armitage - Chapter 6 - Sophia & Sebastian (Part 1 of 2)
Once Chris had dropped her off at her dorm building, Madeline decided to head over to the library to get some more work done on her research paper. She packed her book bag and made her way across campus, her thoughts swimming about Sophia’s apparent disappearance and her own attack. Were they related, she kept thinking to herself, and if so why? She silently prayed that Sophia would turn up safe but she couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something bad had happened to her. The sad and worried faces of Salvatore and Lucile Damico plagued her as she ascended the stairs to the second floor of the library.
Finding an empty table near the History section, Madeline set her bag down and took out some text books. She started reading from where she last left off, immersing herself with the Whitechapel Murders of Jack the Ripper. Madeline had begun to form some theories and ideas on these cases, most of them surrounding the numerous suspects that had been allegedly linked with the killings. She inspected a copy of Walter Sickert’s “The Camden Town Murder” that was included in the text book she was reading and frowned. She could see how Sickert had come under a measure of suspicion in regard to the Ripper killings but it seemed far too convenient and flimsy to her. The only evidence to even connect Sickert with these cases were the title of the painting and the fact that he used prostitutes as his models, but Madeline knew that many artists throughout history had used prostitutes in their work, as they were for many the only women they could find who were willing to pose semi-clad or nude. Added to that, the fact that this painting was done in 1908, twenty years after the infamous murders were committed, made Madeline all the more sceptical as to the validity of including Walter Sickert as a credible Ripper suspect. As Madeline continued to read a figure approached her from behind, walking right up to her.
‘Fancy seeing you here,’ said Abby, as she sat down next to Madeline.
‘Oh God you scared me,’ said Madeline, grabbing the table to steady herself.
‘So what you up to?’ asked Abby as she took a book from her own bag.
‘My research paper,’ answered Madeline.
‘Cool, what you doing it on?’
‘Jack the Ripper.’
‘Lovely,’ said Abby, pulling a face.
‘It’s fascinating,’ said Madeline, smiling. ‘And you know me and Victorian England.’
‘Oh yeah, you’ve got a real hard-on for that time, haven’t you?’
‘I mean, if you could have a hard-on, of course.’
‘I just call them as I see them,’ said Abby, grinning.
‘Charming. You know, I think you’re spending too much time around Ben, he’s starting to rub off on you, and not in a good way.’
‘Maddie please, give a girl a little credit.’ Abby smiled wickedly before continuing. ‘I was easily this bad way before I met Ben.’
‘I don’t know whether to applaud you or shoot you,’ joked Madeline. Abby stuck her tongue out in retaliation and the two of them laughed briefly.
‘Anyway, didn’t Jack the Ripper carve up a bunch of hookers?’
‘That’s one way of putting it,’ smiled Madeline.
‘Whatever turns you on,’ said Abby, wrinkling her nose. They returned to their respective books and Madeline continued to read and make notes, but the more that she read about those women who died all those years ago the more her thoughts kept drifting back to Sophia Damico.
‘Abby?’ said Madeline, closing her book.
‘You ever been to Salvatore’s?’
‘A couple of times, yeah. Ben took me there for our anniversary last year, it’s nice. Why?’
‘The owner’s daughter has gone missing.’
‘Yeah,’ said Madeline gravely. ‘Chris used to work there when he was at Armitage, and he dated Sophia for a while, so it’s hit him pretty hard.’
‘I bet,’ nodded Abby. ‘And I imagine her parents are in pieces.’
‘They are. We were at the restaurant earlier, it’s just so sad.’
‘Look, I think I’ve read about as much as I can for the moment. You want to get out of here?’
‘Yeah,’ said Madeline as she put her book away. ‘Reading about those murders is just depressing me at the moment. I just hope Sophia turns up safe.’
‘Me too.’ As Madeline and Abby made their way to the stairway entrance a lone figure stood silently behind a bookcase, smiling to himself as he watched the two girls depart.
‘I am sure Miss Damico would appreciate your sentiments,’ he said quietly. ‘Were that possible.’ As he stood peering through the gaps in the books a librarian walked by.
‘Do you need any help there, Professor?’ she said.
‘No no, I got what I came for.’
* * *
Somewhere deep in Armitage a piece of raw meat lay on a dirty linoleum floor, a small pool of cold blood encircling it. From the shadows a pair of unseen eyes watched and waited. After a short while a door swung open and a figure entered the room. It stopped, smelt the air, and dove instinctively for the meat, devouring it ravenously in a matter of seconds.
Still the hidden observer watched.
As the figure sat messily licking its fingers clean of the blood that had oozed down them, it suddenly snapped into a rigid pose of contorted agony. A guttural moan escaped its blood smeared mouth and the figure began thrashing manically on the grimy floor, its moans now a scream.
It works, thought the observer from his vantage point. It really works. As the doomed creature lay gasping and gurgling on the floor the hidden observer came out from the shadows and watched as it died. The last thing the wretched beast saw before all the life was extinguished from it was a tattered and hooded figure standing over it.
* * *
Although Madeline tried to assure Abby that she would be fine walking back to her dorm building by herself she insisted on accompanying her nonetheless. The two of them talked about Sophia Damico and how they both hoped she would turn up safe, and they also talked about Madeline’s attack.
‘I’m sorry we weren’t there for you,’ said Abby as they went along.
‘Abby it’s fine, really,’ said Madeline. ‘I wouldn’t wish what happened to me and Mike on anyone so I’m glad you and Ben weren’t there.’
‘But there would have been more of us,’ said Abby thoughtfully. ‘That might have scared him off.’
‘It’s just lucky Professor Mason arrived when you say he did.’
‘Yeah.’ Madeline had been thinking it over since the night of her attack and it did seem oddly convenient that Professor Mason just happened to be passing as she and Mike were at the mercy of their assailant. Come to think of it, she thought, it was odd seeing him at Jack’s. He had said something about being an old friend of Jack but that night was the first time she had ever seen him there, and she was pretty sure she had never heard Jack speak of Professor Mason, at least not in personal terms. These questions buzzed in her mind as she and Abby approached her dorm building.
‘You going to be okay?’ asked Abby as they arrived at the main door.
‘Yeah, I’ll be fine.’
‘Look Maddie, I’m sorry for calling Chris. It just seemed like the right thing to do.’
‘It’s okay,’ smiled Madeline. ‘It’s been nice seeing him again, and he hasn’t been that bad.’
‘I’ll make sure I ask next time,’ said Abby sheepishly.
‘What? Next time I get mugged?’
‘I didn’t mean it like that.’
‘I know, it’s okay.’ Madeline smiled to show she was just teasing. ‘Anyway, I’d better let you go and find Ben. He’ll pine away without you.’
‘Oh stop it,’ smiled Abby. ‘But you’re right; the poor boy is lost without me.’
‘Catch you later then,’ laughed Madeline.
‘Yeah, you too.’ Madeline made her way up to her room but when she entered she saw that the curtains were drawn. Frowning in confusion she went to flick the light switch, convinced that her curtains were open when she left that morning.
‘Please, leave the light off,’ said a voice from the darkness. Madeline jumped in fright and was about to run from her room when the voice spoke again. ‘Please, I mean you no harm.’ Fighting the temptation to run from the building, Madeline peered cautiously into her darkened room.
‘Who are you?’ she asked, ready at any moment to turn tail and run. As she continued to peer into her room, searching for any sign of the owner of the strange voice, her table lamp was turned on and standing there, in her room, was the hooded vagrant. Madeline visibly tensed at the sight of him, which he noticed.
‘I just wish to speak with you.’ Madeline hesitated for a second and then entered her room fully, not wanting anyone to see who was in her room as she had no idea how she would explain it.
‘How did you get in here?’ she asked as she closed her door slightly.
‘You can close the door,’ said the vagrant. ‘You are quite safe, from me at least.’
‘What do you mean?’ Madeline closed her door but made sure the latch did not lock, in case she had to make a quick exit.
‘You are safe from me, but not from him,’ said the vagrant, not moving from where he stood.
‘Him? Who are you talking about?’ Madeline fingered the doorknob behind her back, ready to throw open the door and raise some sort of alarm if needed, but the hooded figure simply stood there.
‘You are on the right track, follow the names,’ he said.
‘I can’t say anymore now, you are not ready, but be assured I have found a way to stop him.’
‘Mason.’ Madeline’s eyes widened at the mention of her History Professor but before she could question the mysterious stranger any further there came a loud knocking at her door. Her gaze left the hooded figure for a second and when she looked back he was gone. Madeline stared in disbelief for a moment, scanning her room for any signs of her impromptu visitor but finding none. Another series of loud knocks reminded her quickly that there was someone at the door.
‘Maddie, open up.’
It was Chris.
Madeline opened the door to find her brother looking pale and drawn, the colour missing from his cheeks and his eyes sad and heavy.
‘Chris, what is it?’
‘It’s Sophia,’ he said quietly.
‘Is she okay?’ asked Madeline.
‘Murdered, some sick bastard killed her and sent her remains to the restaurant.’
‘Oh Chris that’s awful!’ Madeline’s hand covered her mouth for a second as the grisly images filled her mind. ‘How are her parents?’
‘Destroyed,’ said Chris throatily. ‘She was their whole world, you know?’
‘Chris I’m so sorry, I know she meant a lot to you, too.’ Madeline took her brother in her arms and cradled his head while he wept quietly for a moment. She knew that under normal circumstances Chris would never want his little sister to see him cry but the sheer magnitude of this tragedy outweighed any sense of brotherly bravado.
‘Why her?’ he asked quietly, almost to himself. ‘Why?’
‘I don’t know Chris, I really don’t know.’ They sat in silence for a few minutes as the last of the tears fell from Chris’ eyes, when the subdued quiet was broken by the ringing of Madeline’s phone. She disentangled herself from Chris and picked up her phone.
‘Hello?’ she said numbly.
‘Maddie, it’s Ben. Have you heard? They found that Damico girl.’
‘Yeah I heard. Chris told me.’
‘Who is it?’ asked Chris, looking up.
‘It’s Ben,’ replied Madeline, holding her hand over the speaker.
‘How is he?’ asked Ben.
‘Pretty cut up.’
‘I bet. Abby’s too upset so she asked me to call, just to make sure you guys are okay, you know?’
‘We appreciate that Ben, thank you.’
‘Student Council’s called a meeting about it, you in?’
‘Yeah, I don’t think I want to stay here.’ Madeline looked around her room for a second, wondering where her strange visitor could have gone to but there was still no sign of him.
‘Okay, it’s in the Student Lounge, see you there.’
‘Okay, bye.’ Madeline put her phone down on her desk and looked sadly at her brother. ‘The Student Council are holding a meeting, you want to tag along?’
‘No that’s okay,’ said Chris, sniffing slightly. ‘I’d better get out of here. I want to go back to the restaurant.’
‘Of course,’ said Madeline.
‘But I’ll see you over to the meeting. The Student Lounge still in the same place?’
‘Yes, thank you. I’m sorry Chris; they’ll find whoever did it.’
‘I hope so Maddie, I hope so.’ Chris smiled weakly at his sister and took her hand in his. ‘Anyway, let’s get you to that meeting.’
‘Okay.’ Madeline smiled back at her brother and picked up her keys. ‘Let’s go.’ She flicked off the light as they left her room and as the sounds of their footsteps disappeared down the hall a figure emerged from the shadows. It moved across Madeline’s room, opened one of her books that lay on her desk, slipped something inside, and retreated back to the shadows.