Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
At no point during the night was she more than a half-mile from the police station, but the park was thinly lit, and the road snaked through forest in both directions. I took a personal interest in her story after I learned about how badly her body had been mutilated. The details continue to flood in, and I am still working to tease apart the evidence. What is undeniably clear is that a killer still roams free. He is out there somewhere, and he is stalking new victims in the neighborhoods that I call home. For this reason, I can for now only insinuate many of the things that I know. To reveal certain details would be to paint a target on my own back, and so they cannot be shared here. With that said, here are the facts as I understand them about the night that “Smiling Jane Doe” died.
They named her that way because her lips had been peeled away with a blade. It was her bared teeth, glinting like wet porcelain in the dawn’s light, that first drew the attention of the jogger who discovered her body. The park where she died is a famous one, and Smiling Jane Doe was not the first woman to be murdered there. I fear putting too fine a point on the location of this place, so let me just say that this park is located inside my nation’s capital. You have likely heard this park’s name before. Locals will be glad to tell you about how the unlit roads wind deceptively through the wilderness here, and how those same roads become especially treacherous at night. They might also mention how the bridges arc high over the lower roads beneath them. These are the sort of bridges that make push-and-fall murders appear neatly like suicides.
Smiling Jane Doe was from out of town. She was likely in the city that weekend just to take in the sights. No abandoned car was ever found that could be tied to her. If at some point she had been carrying a purse or a wallet with ID inside, then it seems that the killer took that clue to her identity with him. We can’t yet guess how or why she had traveled to the district, or where it was that Jane called home before she died. It’s possible that she was hitchhiking and found herself here entirely by chance. Or instead, Jane may have been visiting this place deliberately. Maybe she traveled here with a happier purpose in mind for herself, and she simply remained outside a little too late after dark.
Here are the events of that night as plainly and as accurately as I can describe them. Smiling Jane Doe tried to flag down a car that was traveling through the park at approximately 10:40pm. The car’s driver was a female in her late thirties, and this crucial witness unfortunately continued down the road without stopping her vehicle. The driver would state later that she barely saw Smiling Jane Doe there in the darkness, and did not notice her until the victim was close enough to narrowly avoid being hit by the car.
In this particular park, and especially at that time of night, no driver can be judged too harshly for refusing to stop for a stranger. After all, carjackings sometimes begin with the false premise of a woman in need of help. Our witness driving past was a mother of three young children. I hold no ill will against her for making that choice. As the car disappeared around a bend in the road, Smiling Jane Doe fled instead into the thickly-wooded forests of the park. She was trying to lose her attacker, and the dribbling trail of blood across the road indicates that her pursuer had already made some progress in causing her harm.
If she had pressed a little farther into the woods, she might have caught the lights of the consulate buildings on the far side of the park. There were security personnel there, and they were surely keeping watch all night. They could have saved her easily, had she just made it far enough to be seen. Unfortunately, at some point Jane Doe doubled back the way she came. I believe she did so in an attempt to lose her pursuer. The night would turn out to be a litany of heartbreaking moments in this way. Jane Doe came so close to salvation more than a dozen times, but split-second decisions are rarely the wisest ones. This is especially true when someone is in mortal terror. Smiling Jane Doe squandered her chances to survive, and each time she did not realize what she had done. Any one of us might have suffered precisely the same streak of bad luck, and especially on a night like that.
She found more winding road as she pressed through the trees, but she could not guess where she now stood in relation to the rest of the twisting roadways in the park. Jane followed the path to one of the park’s elevated bridges. As I mentioned before, these bridges loom fatally tall over the ground beneath them. They are the kind of structures that can make murders look like accidents or suicides.
It was at this point that Jane spotted an ambulance speeding over the bridge from the opposite direction. She attempted to make the vehicle stop, but the ambulance was already responding to a critical situation on the northwest side of the city. It continued on without her, and would soon arrive at the scene of another gruesome homicide. I believe in fact that Smiling Jane Doe’s killer had two victims that night, but the details of his earlier murder are a story for another time. For now, I intend to honor Jane Doe by somberly describing the facts of her death alone.
She was alone on the bridge once more as the ambulance sped away. I believe that Smiling Jane Doe then saw her killer approaching from the shadows. She likely considered jumping from the bridge, hoping perhaps to end the awful pursuit once and for all by plunging to her death. This assumption is supported by the bloody footprints that were found on the bridge’s upper railings.
Trace evidence suggests that she decided at the last moment against leaping. She continued on with footfalls that indicate a sprint. She was fleeing down the road. At this point it bears mentioning that Smiling Jane Doe was indeed barefoot, and that she was bleeding from her feet due to the loss of her shoes. I believe that our unknown killer confiscated Jane’s footwear simply to torment her. Evidence indicates that he did a great many things that night which were intended to prolong the chase of his human quarry. I believe that our killer caught up to Jane Doe several times before she reached the roadblock. He would injure Jane in some new way each time, or else do something that restricted her movement on foot. This is why he took her shoes. He let Smiling Jane Doe continue attempting to flee at least four separate times. It sickens me to this day to consider it.
The DNA evidence collected from Jane Doe’s body indicates that she met two distinct assailants before her death. It is my theory that after fleeing from the bridge, Jane Doe found a pedestrian walking along the dark road in the opposite direction. I suspect that he was moving up the road and toward the bridge when she found him. Jane Doe must have begged him for help, and I can only imagine the horror that she felt to learn that the pedestrian was in fact an accomplice of the killer.
From the psychological profiles, I feel confident that this second man toyed with Smiling Jane Doe before revealing that he understood exactly what kind of peril she was in. I believe that he restrained Jane Doe, and allowed the killer to catch up to her once again at his leisure. It was at this point that our killer most likely carved out her eyes.
Police reports indicate that exhausted road flares were found on either side of the road from where the mutilation of Smiling Jane Doe likely began. This would imply that the killer and his accomplice built a fake roadblock, probably in passable imitation of a city-authorized detour. They were preventing traffic from flowing naturally through the park. In doing so, they ensured that no witnesses would enter the road where they tormented Jane in her last moments. The spirals and aimless trails of dried blood at this location imply that our killers allowed Jane to continue trying to flee from them. They let her keep attempting to save her own life for most of another hour. Now blinded, Jane could not navigate the dense underbrush and trees. If by some chance she managed to wander too far up or down the roadway, it would be a simple matter for either the killer or his accomplice to shove her back towards the center of their sick arena.
On the night that I learned most of these details, I remember praying that there was nothing more to be discovered. I asked God for my research to prove that she simply bled to death there. It would mean at least that Jane experienced no more fear, and that she felt nothing when they cut away the skin from her face. The coroner’s report would grant me no such mercy, however. Smiling Jane Doe was given drugs to keep her awake. Her mind likely understood and bore witness to those last moments of her life even more vividly than the killer himself can claim to remember them.
No family ever came forward to claim Smiling Jane Doe. How could anyone guess that their daughter had ended up that way? If you were told, could you even accept it? I went to see her in the city morgue before she was incinerated. Ever since then, I have worked daily with investigators to bring her killer to justice. What was done to her cannot go unanswered. The details I have excluded here have been excluded deliberately. This has been done to protect the dignity of the dead. There is more yet besides that remains unknown, even to me.
Let it be known: I have absolutely no plans to take my own life. I do not intend to die in a certain park that will not be named (but can certainly be guessed.) If I am found dead in that particular park, then it means that the killer has learned something about me before I was able to learn something about him. I don’t intend for that to happen, though. I will do my best to outwit him. There are far too many unhappy ghosts in that strange patch of wilderness already, and I do not wish to join them. By the grace of God, may my work help Smiling Jane Doe find peace.
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Check out David Feuling’s critically-acclaimed trilogy of novellas, The American Demon Waltz, now available on Amazon.com.
All three novellas in the trilogy described below are included in the compilation:
“Bravo Juliet” is a survival horror military thriller, and the first novella by acclaimed fiction author, David Feuling. It tells the story of an elite soldier serving under US Army Special Project: Acrylic Geist, before she is betrayed and left to die in the wilderness of war-torn Vietnam. Brutal injuries, debilitating sickness, and the growing Lovecraftian threat of “The Maw” test not only Bobby’s will to survive, but her grasp on sanity itself.
“Witness to Those Waiting” is the second book in the “Bravo Juliet” series. Master Specialist Barbara Balk returns to investigate the subterranean mazes carved out beneath Kosovo’s towns and streets. From her entry through the Ngordhje churchyard, she must face undead horrors and ancient evils alike in her quest to return to the surface with answers.
“Vechnaya L’Vitsa” pits Corporal Barbara Balk against new foes in the depths of U.S. Covert Command Outpost (USCCO) #241. Leading a team of six soldiers and tasked with defending the experimental LISEMEC superweapon until it is ready to fire, can Bobby hold out long enough while under siege? Her resolve will be tested by supernatural forces, enemy sabotage, and the expansive Antarctic wasteland itself.
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