People need a purpose in life, lest they sink into a morass of self-indulgent indolence and unfulfilled ambition, where Jack had wasted so long wallowing. So, when he saw Jeremy walk arm in arm with his latest waif prey, he threw aside self-doubt and embraced his insanity with renewed determination.
It didn’t matter if Jill was a ghost or hallucinatory delusion, what mattered was he was doing something, for the first time in years. If that meant beating an innocent man to death because his imaginary girlfriend told him to, well, sometimes it’s better to grab anything than nothing.
They followed the couple from a distance, attempting a brisk but casual pace as they crossed Kemp Town, hit the promenade and headed west past the dusky bustle of Brighton as it was lighting up for the evening. Jill was silent, steaming beside him, so Jack tried to brighten her up by talking about the bleakest subject imaginable, her own death.
“What’s it like being a ghost?” said Jack.
Jill harrumphed. “I’m not sure if that’s what I really am. I feel like an echo, just floating here before I’m forced to leave. I know if you touch me, I’ll be gone, and I’m not ready for that yet, I want to see this through before I go.”
“What do you remember… about…”
“Dying? Not much. Like a strobe light of feelings. Pain, crying, screaming. Almost like I wasn’t really there. I can’t seem to focus properly to put it all together.”
Jack felt the same about his own distorted memory of the previous night. Screaming, pain, falling, hitting the pavement, burning, sizzling oil. Fractured micro-dreams he couldn’t even construct a sentence from.
So, being dead was like a hangover, with approaching sobriety even scarier than what got you drunk. He took a swig from his flask. Not yet.
“We always figure out how to resolve things when it’s too late don’t we?” said Jill. A smile half flickered across her. “Story of our lives.”
They turned up Montpelier Road and watched Jeremy guide the girl into a large white Regency block that had seen better days. Hanging sheets in some of the windows and peeling paint denoted the once proud house had been converted into bedsits.
Jill gasped. “That’s the place Jeremy manages,” she said. “I do remember that now. He was going to get me a room here.” She looked at Jack. “When I needed one. He’s done the same for other girls in the shelter too… oh…”
“You ever see any of them again?” said Jack.
Jill shook her head. “When you’re working with people on the rocks you don’t want them to be regulars. You always hope they’ve moved on to something better.”
They stood and stared at the many windows and closed door of the shabby building. A red light flashed in the basement before black out blinds were pulled. There was a gaggle of laughter as a trio of students tripped out the front door, letting it swing close in it’s own time. Jack nipped across the road to catch it before it slammed shut.
This was it, he thought. Embrace your purpose. Stop a murderer, or become one, and in so doing find himself.