Sam shouldn't have trusted herself to pass by the bank of computers before leaving. A child of the dotcom age, her drug of choice had always been the internet. While her friends had spent Saturday nights out at some lake, sparking up, she'd been carefully ensconced in her room, tapping at her keyboard in search of something… truth, knowledge—the great Nirvana, perhaps.
Email. Search engines. Chat rooms. Databases. It all just…made sense to her. In front of a computer, she was home.
As though by some OCD compulsion, she shifted her coat and purse into her left hand and grabbed the mouse with her right. She hadn't meant to stop, but no big deal. It wouldn't kill Frank to wait the couple of extra minutes it would take for her to check her email. He had outlawed her getting a smart phone after all, stating she'd never put the thing down. If she had to hazard a guess, he was probably worried she might feel the need to reach over and check her email during sex. Not likely.
Just the thought of such activities curved her lips into a smile. Beer was great, but she expected Frank to express his thanks in an altogether different way that night.
The computer came to life under her light touch, with just the barest buzz of static electricity as the monitor awoke from sleep mode. On auto-pilot, she pulled up her email, not surprised, but nevertheless disappointed to see there were no new messages. She clicked over to her google reader. Nope. No new posts there either.
"Hmmm," she said, lowering her coat and purse to the stool beside her. Her fingers were a blur of motion as she made a quick circuit of her favorite websites. Nothing new or exciting to see. It was rather late, but still.
She rested part of her weight on the stool and opened a spider. The fat black widow appeared center screen, its cursor blinking and casting a faint pulsing light through the room. She hesitated, pushing a thick strand of hair behind her ear and darting a glance at the clock above the door.
"Blast it," she muttered, sitting down fully. "He can wait."
Perhaps it was the high of her earlier discovery, but she wasn't ready to leave off the trail she'd finally unearthed. Slow at first, her fingers sped up as she pressed on, plugging in search terms she thought might pull up more information. Soon the spider's belly was spilling over with words.
Francis Tumblety. M.O. Police. Killings. Motive. Disguise. Knife. Doctor. Capture. Alias. Ritual.
Anything she could think to add about Tumblety.
The click of keys echoed through the quiet room.
At last, she paused and read through the list of terms to see if she'd missed anything obvious. With a few more taps, she added Jack the Ripper. How that one had slipped by her, she didn't want to ponder. Finished, she hit the search button, which was in the shape of a red hourglass in the center of the spider's belly.
"I have you in my web now, Tumblety," she said, her voice surprisingly hard. A jolt of something went through her. Excitement. Anticipation. The thrill of the hunt. Sherlock Holmes may have been the greatest detective in all of history, but he hadn't had her tools at his disposal.
She watched the hourglass turn slowly, her fingers balled together in her lap as she hummed 'the itsy bitsy spider'. Frank liked to call it her theme song.
Shifting to ease an ache in her lower back, she managed to knock her purse off the stool beside her. It hit the ground with a loud plunk, jerking her out of her reverie. Frank.
"Shit." She pushed off the stool. How long had she been sitting there, waiting for what was the equivalent of a large pot of water to boil? It could take hours for her spider to troll the web. All with Frank waiting. She scrambled down on to all fours to collect the coins that had spilled from her purse. With everything back inside, she pulled her jacket on and made for the door.
A loud belch stopped her short. She whirled around.
"No way." She hurried back to the computer. The hourglass was static now, nothing but a slowly blinking icon just waiting to be pushed. The belch had been Frank's idea. Not exactly the most appropriate alert, but she had to admit it got one's attention.
She tapped a fingernail to her teeth and studied the clock again. "No biggie," she said with a shrug. "I'll just owe him."
With that, she clicked on the hourglass. Hit after hit scrolled down the screen, ranked in order of importance. Standing, she scanned them quickly, waiting for something to jump out from the rest. Nothing looked all that promising. Just the usual conspiracy theories about Jack the Ripper. Perhaps she should've left that term off the list.
She tapped her foot impatiently, half of her out the door already. But then something caught her eye that made her breath catch. Scrolling through the pages, she had nearly missed it and thought perhaps she had been mistaken. But no, when she hit the page up button, there it was, bold as day.
"What the fu.." she said, easing down on to the stool again. The website was nothing special. Just another one of the Ripper sites with pages upon pages about the canonical victims, and otherwise. One which left no man in the vicinity of London during the period of the murders unscathed by public scrutiny. Likely all bullshit anyway. Some guy with a mom fetish probably did it.
But this…this was something she hadn't expected.
Without thinking, she dialed her cell phone and pressed it to her ear, skimming the article all the while. Eventually the line clicked over to Frank's voice mail. She hung up without leaving a message, her mouth dropping open to a soft O as she reached the end of the page.
"My dear, Watson," she said, trying to collect herself. "This has truly turned into a three-pipe problem."