Rupert stood speechless as the man first waved the bobbies into his office, then sat in a chair himself, groaning in relief. "What- what's going on here?" Rupert demanded, after a minute of stunned silence.
"Didn't you hear the bobby, boy? We caught the killer. No need to go offing yourself now."
"What? No! I don't know who you think you are, you senile fool, but you've got the wrong guy. It was me, I'm the killer! I killed all those people, and I ate their livers too!" Spittle flew from Rupert's mouth as he yelled, and his eyes glowed dangerously.
"Ridiculous," said the man, lighting a cigarette. "I won't hear it."
"You- how dare you! Don't you know who I am!?" Rupert glared at the bobbies, his face a contorted demon of himself. "Which one of you incompetents let this man in here? Get him out of my office!" Already he could feel his heart pounding, and the blood in his skull threatening to blow its way out of his head. It was happening again. "You bunch of worthless stains, I'll butcher you all! I'll-I'll tear you apart! Beat you until you're a bloody puddle!" As the corners of his vision grew red, Rupert saw himself ripping and tearing through the group, stripping their flesh from their bones, breaking open their ribs to reveal their shining livers. He stood trembling from his chair, hands strained into rigid claws.
And, suddenly, it was over. Like walking out of a thick fog, Rupert was back to his normal self, the rage seemingly dispelled like steam. He blinked and looked around, suddenly more himself than he'd been for the last three months of murder. "What…"
"Ah-hah! So. That proves it." The old man slowly rose out of his chair, chuckling to himself. "I'll admit, even I had my doubts at first. But now it's undeniable." The bobbies looked at each other nervously as he turned to face them. "We're done here. William Flowers will hang tomorrow morning."
"Would someone please tell me what in the stars is going on!?" cried Rupert, who still found himself calmer than he'd been for the past month. "Who are you!? Who is William Flowers!? Why am I-" he trailed off when he saw the man's silver pocket watch.
"You know who I am, commissioner. And you know poor William is too, though you don't remember it. He's your killer." Already he was hobbling toward the still-smoldering door.
"Doctor, wait! How did you find him!? How can you be so sure!?"
Childe turned and winked at the young commissioner. "I shouldn’t say, my boy. But don't worry. I'm sure you'll remember one day."
They killed William after that. Just like that, it was over. He was never given a trial, it was straight to the gallows for him. And, up until the rope crushed his windpipe, William professed his innocence. As Rupert watched him die, he thought he might throw up. But he didn't. And, for the most part, everything went back to normal. No more bodies turned up. The people of Greytowne mourned and they cried and they celebrated the memories of the victims. And, as the years passed, they moved on. To Rupert, it seemed that the only thing that remained was the dreams.
In his unconscious mind, he still saw faces. People he never knew. It always started the same, with him following them down an alley or lying in wait beneath their beds. And it always ended the same. He never dreamt of the same person twice. But unlike his Greytowne days, the bodies were never found.
As his position rose, so did the frequency of the dreams. And so too did their intensity. He visited countless healers and apothecaries and alchemists, but no one could provide a lasting solution. Now nine years had passed, and Rupert was no closer to moving from the past. The visions only grew stronger, his anger more intense and random. And William Flowers. He still saw the man on the backs of his eyelids, flailing and choking and trying to claim his innocence. But it was too late.
The Man That Could Not Be William Flowers got up and made for the door. But just before stepping out of sight, he turned and looked Rupert in the eyes. And he smiled.
Rupert didn't know what to make of the incident. He thought and thought as he walked across the deck back to the dance hall, but couldn't imagine anything but it being a coincidence. He was mistaken. This was no William Flowers, because William Flowers had died nine years earlier. That was that.
The dance hall door opened to a room empty save for one figure. An old lady in a kitschy pink dress, digging through the ferns and bushes with trembling fingers. He'd seen her when he first boarded four hours ago. Though he was among the first passengers to board, the lady still looked like she'd been there for hours already. Dirt coated her dress, and her fingers were black and green with detritus. Warily, Rupert approached her.
"Excuse me, madam?" he said, "Did you lose something? Could I help?"
The lady jerked around to face him, and he saw tears behind her thick spectacles. "My daughter! I've lost my daughter!"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Have you seen her? She must be in this room somewhere, I left her right under this tree. Please, you must have seen her! She's only six!"
"What, that's awful! Sorry, I haven't seen her. But I'll help you look, of course! What does she look like?"
"I…" the old woman stared off into space for a while, eyes twitching. "I don't remember. I… it's been so long…" She began to cry, tears filling the lines in her face. Rupert looked at the old woman and began to feel disgust welling inside him. How embarrassing. Look at this grown woman crying like a blubbering fool. And that hideous dress. The dirt could be considered an improvement. Improper and disgusting. Grown women who grovel in the dirt like worms don't deserve to live.
He sneered and stepped back. "What? What kind of mother can't remember what their daughter looks like? No wonder she left you." He chuckled and tried to make for the door, but the woman rose and stood in his way.
"I know, I'm an awful mother! I'm an awful, horrible mother, who doesn't deserve her baby. But I'm begging you, help me find her, help me for her! Help me find my Sarah!"
"Help yourself, you old hag! You don't deserve a thing if you can't help yourself! People like you disgust me. Out of my way."
When she didn't move, Rupert shoved her to the ground. He didn't look at the old woman sprawled on the cold marble as he pushed past the double doors to the passenger quarter. It would be dinner soon, and he needed to get dressed. It was the responsibility of the upper class to show the masses how to behave, after all. Impeccable dress, implacable manners, impartial attitude – that was his creed.
As he pulled on his dark tuxedo, Rupert gave himself one last look in the mirror before smiling, satisfied. Now he was ready to eat.
Rupert wrenched himself from his reminiscence. A look at his brass pocket watch showed it was a quarter to nine – almost time for the ball. Quickly, he peeled off his sweat-drenched tuxedo and dried himself with a towel. Stars, what had he done? He threw on the first clothes he could find and raced toward the ballroom. He had to find the old gentleman from earlier. The old lady too. He didn't deserve it, but maybe they would forgive him.