Far from convincing me that a murder had taken place, the 'evidence' of John's shirt in fact served only to increase my doubts over Marlin's claims. I had always harboured suspicions that perhaps Peter Marlin and John were one and the same, and I could not help but feel that the most likely explanation for Marlin being in possession of John's shirt was not that he had succeeded in perpetrating a violent crime, but simply that he himself was John. Certainly to weigh up the two possibilities purely in terms of probability, one had no choice but to arrive at this conclusion. This was especially true in consideration of my mindset at the time, which was to feel a certain frustration at Marlin's habit of offering me flimsy, circumstantial evidence rather than serious proof of his claims. If, as his latest communication would seem to suggest, he had killed a further four people in recent weeks, John amongst them, it should have been a simple task to collect and supply convincing evidence of these crimes. His failure to do so merely increased my scepticism.
Unsurprisingly, after the lack of interest in the severed finger, I entertained no thoughts of going to the police with this latest discovery. I felt a certain obligation however - or perhaps merely an idle curiosity - to have the marks on the clothing checked for proof that they were what they so obviously claimed to be. A contact at the local hospital was kind enough to agree to run some basic tests for me. The stains, it transpired, were indeed human blood.
I will admit to a certain amount of surprise at this discovery. The blood on the clothing is not extensive, yet is clearly more than one could obtain by, for example, pricking a finger. My own feeling was that if it were indeed blood, then it was likely to be the blood of an animal - simple enough for any hoaxer to obtain. Finding this not to be the case changed my opinion to a slight degree, and lessened my cynicism somewhat.
As a result I chose to make a journey into Ipswich that same day, and a return visit to Christchurch Park. There was a chance that John had been killed; there was also the possibility that he did not exist as a disparate individual; yet there remained a third scenario: that neither of these hypotheses were true, and that John not only existed as the person he claimed to be, but was also very much alive. This was likely to be the easiest of the theories to prove, and I hoped, perhaps optimistically, to do just that.
My second visit to Christchurch Park proved fruitless. I spent an hour walking the footpaths of the southern end of the park and the adjoining roads, lingering for some time by tree number 0905, and the first of the discovered memorials. I was not approached on this occasion, nor did I see any individuals resembling John. I maintained a high degree of vigilance throughout this time, and am satisfied (to the extent that one ever can be) that my movements were not being monitored.
From the park, I made my way to the Salvation Army hostel in Fore Street, to the south east of the town centre, and close to both Suffolk College and Alexandra Park. Staff at this hostel were friendly and polite, yet were in no real position to supply me with information: I had a single forename, probably false, a vague description, and precious little else. Whether John had spent any time in the Fore Street hostel, I could not say. I mentioned the name Peter Marlin to the two staff members I spoke with, but neither rewarded me with any flicker of recognition.
It was a similar story at the YMCA in Wellington Street, to the west of the town. I was unable to confirm John's existence, let alone his current whereabouts or state of health. Slowly, doubts about his true identity began to return. To this day I remain unsure of John's true status in this story.
The arrival of the package was followed by a further ten days of silence from Peter Marlin. It proved to be the calm before the storm.
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