I See You, Jack! Chapter 5

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I See You, Jack!

Glowing pocket-watch-like thing with word cloud.

Chapter 5

Riding had been awakened by the usual nightmares.

A kindly face, unknown but comfortingly familiar, as he'd leaned in for a kiss. . . no, not a kiss. . . a hug was more apt. . . the face suddenly split in half, a red-rimmed chasm opening up in an horrific parody of a smile. Inside that crimson maw lay death and darkness, but still, James yearned for that hideous smile.

Waking, sweat-soaked, thoughts of transformation in his head. A need to understand. Another liquid breakfast to stop his shaking, focus his mind.

There had to be something!

Riding set the bottle down and stared at the intricate web on what used to be his living room wall.

He sipped his drink, tracing each thread to and fro, searching for anything he'd missed.

From Mary Jane Kelly, 9th November 1888, back to Maria Bramwell, 2nd June 1866, skipping forwards to. . .

All the lucky souls!

James washed the voice away with more scotch.

Thirty-one killings, all witnessed multiple times with his own eyes. Victims identified, wasted lives recorded.

But not one hint of who the killer was, not one time in the hundreds of 'visits' had he seen this guy's face, a glimpse of a jawline, the flash of eyes in the streetlamps. Nothing.

Countless times, he'd sat through the Divine Ritual, marvelling at the care the killer had taken in transforming these poor fallen souls. Countless times he'd tried to follow the Architect, always losing him in the smog, or in a maze of backstreet middens, or simply wandered too far, hitting the mile limit, and frustratingly found himself back in the now.

How many times had he travelled back to the same moment but a few hundred yards away, seeking to find a location from which to track him better?

Once, just once, in all those 'visits' had he managed to follow him to a verifiable address. An address that proved to be little more than a flophouse, a place frequented by laudanum and opium addicts. Rooms purchased by the hour, no records then, or now, of the occupants. The drugs freely available from any local pharmacy.

'Who are you?' Riding traced the rough sketch he'd made. Male, certainly, five foot six to five foot ten, dressed in gentleman's apparel, black cloak, silver tipped cane.

So, probably only a few million suspects!

I am God's Divine Hand, that should be enough!

He poured another Scotch, grimacing at the modern spirit, wishing he could bring a few bottles back from his time. He was getting a taste for all things 19th century.

He'd tried on numerous occasions, but always returned with only what he'd taken, notebook, pencils, clothing, and the pocket watch.

Early attempts at taking camera and video equipment had proven fruitless. The gadgets were simply not there in the past, but reappeared upon his return.

Ditto for mobile phones and modern pens!

He'd learnt from his journeys, only taking items that existed in that time.

As the visits had unfolded, his research expanded. The notebook was filled up with times, dates, places, names, in addition to intricate descriptions of the Divine Ritual.

At the back of the book, James had scribbled images, hundreds of images, trying to recapture the crimson-mawed nightmare, convinced they had significance, we're linked in some unknowable fashion to the Architect.

Once back, Riding had meticulously transferred his notes to his computer, cross referencing each Act.

And it was fortunate he had! On his fourth trip to London, he had stupidly left the notebook on the windowsill, pressing the button without being in contact with it. He had returned, but the book had vanished. His research for that night, and the previous three, along with it!

James fretted for days that this book would suddenly appear as an historical artefact, but, as yet he could find no trace of the notebook or its grisly contents.

He took his field trips more seriously after that night.

He'd initially purchased costume clothing for his research visits, initially to blend in, camouflage 1800s-style. Riding become fascinated with the era, the styles and trends. Finding authentic, but expensive, original items in auction houses and online specialists. Each piece added to his sense of belonging, the thrill of being in another age.

Lately he'd rarely bothered to change, preferring hessian, wool, and silk to denim, cotton, or synthetics. Only dressing for the twenty-first century when he was forced out into the public gaze.

Glancing over his bookshelves, Riding caught sight of another new spine amongst his ever growing library.

Without looking he knew it would be a tale, gossip and conjecture more than facts and research, about a 'new' murder.

The first time this had happened had spooked him - how could he be unaware of a victim, oblivious of a Ritual that had transformed her nearly two centuries ago?

Quite simply, the books had not existed when he'd left.

During his field trip, his investigative research, he'd found another unrecorded Ritual (in real time for him) but, by the time he'd returned, the 'crime' may or not have been uncovered in the intervening years and 'historically' linked to the Ripper.

Seven so far, each new find sometimes spawning dozens of books, novels, poorly researched histories.

Always missing the point, but sensationalism feeding the seemingly undiminishing hunger for pulp crime, murderdeathkill through the ages. Murder mystery for the masses.

He'd stopped reading after the third. Only Riding knew the Truth of the Divine Ritual.

Let them churn out their rubbish, only he would lift the veil, shine glorious light upon the Architect, but first he needed to be sure he'd found out about every single Transformation.

Only when he'd truly understood and seen all, could he share the Beauty with the world.

Beauty? You are evolving, soon you will see!

He'd signed a three-book deal after I See You, Jack, the book merely identifying and chronicling two dozen previously unknown Rituals.

Teasing the identity of the Architect, revealing all of the Thirty-one Chosen.

The second (now being proofread) tried to explain the Ritual, divert the reader from the sensationalism, erase the gory penny dreadful portrait that time had painted of the Architect, dispel the myth of Jack the Ripper as a brutal psychopathic serial killer.

The third. . . he thumbed the pocket watch. . . buttoning his double-breasted topcoat as he left the house.

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