It was around 9pm when the brothers, accompanied by Cyril, took their first steps outside the Bridge House since their arrival.
The three men had spent a productive day researching every scrap of information they could glean about the dark shadow of hell that Jack had cast across Whitechapel, a poverty-stricken corner of London, all those many years ago; and so, newly recovered from his earlier indulgence, by early evening Dean was clamouring to get out and 'tear the sick asshole a new one'.
So when they stepped out onto the pavement outside the Bridge House, they were well armed with knowledge, with theories and with equipment.
Not, however, with umbrellas.
Dean looked up at the soupy charcoal clouds that tumbled across the sky, scowling as the rain pelted down on them.
"I say it again," he snorted; "when does the sun ever shine in this friggin' country?"
Cyril barged past him, seemingly unconcerned by the rain; "it's night time yer bleedin' gonk; sun wouldn't be shinin' anyway!"
Myrtle, trundled along a latticework of darkened, winding streets, which grew wider and busier as she approached Waterloo again; the soft glow of orange streetlamps, diffused by the falling rain, flickered across the curves of her gleaming black bonnet, and illuminated shimmering rain-soaked pavements.
Dean glanced out of the window, noticing they were already passing Waterloo station again, and tried to hide a smirk as he listened to the agricultural chug of Myrtle's heavy duty diesel engine. If baby was a panther, then Myrtle was some lumpen, half-witted, grass-eater she would hunt.
Feeling Sam nudge his shoulder, he looked across to see that they were about to cross Waterloo Bridge, one of many bridges across the Thames. It was their first sight of the great old River.
Cyril looked back at his fascinated passengers; "we're crossin' the water boys, you had your shots?"
The Winchesters glanced through Myrtle's rain-spattered window and stared mesmerised down the length of the river as it weaved like a silky black ribbon through the city, it seemed alive with the lights of London shimmering and dancing across it's surface.
Their eyes widened when they saw the stately Tower Bridge in the eastern distance; it's twin towers brightly illuminated against the inky night sky, standing proud and tall, a resolute sentinel guarding the pool of London.
Dean's nose squashed against the window as Sam leaned across him to get a better look.
"Dude; personal space!"
Cyril was born in London, just like his father, his grandfather and lord only knows how many generations of Toebones before them. He had lived amongst the thrum of the city his entire life; he had raised his sons in London and he totally expected, hoped even, that he would die in London.
He had crossed one or more of London's bridges practically every single day of his sixty three years, and still the day never dawned that he didn't feel a little flicker of excitement, a tiny lump of pulse-racing joy in his throat every time he and Myrtle took the trip across the water and looked down upon London's beating heart.
Behind him, his passengers heads swivelled to and fro as he pointed out passing landmarks, the Millenium Wheel, County Hall, the gothic majesty of the Palace of Westminster and its famous clock tower, known popularly as Big Ben, which was in fact the name of it's massive bell which for over one hundred and fifty years had sonorously announced the hour across central London.
As Myrtle dodged the traffic, still plentiful, even at the late hour, Cyril called back to his passengers; "that bridge over there," he announced, pointing to an iron bridge a little way along the river; "Blackfriars Bridge, that is."
The name clicked with Sam; "like Blackfriars Pier?"
Cyril nodded; "exactly, the pier's just beside the bridge. That's where the first vic was found," he reminded the brothers.
"We lookin' there?" asked Dean.
Cyril shook his head, "no point; it was four weeks ago, tide would have come in an' out each day since then, washed away anything worth lookin' at."
Finally, Myrtle rolled to a shuddering halt in a small side-street not far from the bridge they had just crossed and Cyril parked her up.
The three men climbed out of the cab into a wall of black drizzle.
Rooting around, Cyril filled his pockets with things he thought he would need; matches, flashlights, crucifix, and a couple of modest weapons.
He turned idly to see Dean standing beside Myrtle casually loading his Glock.
"What you bleedin' doin? He gasped, shoving Dean's hand down behind his back; "yer can't go waving' guns around on the streets of London - guns ain't legal 'ere, you've gotta have licences an' stuff."
Dean stared at the older man aghast as the rain dripped off the end of his nose.
"How the hell d'y hunt then?"
"I'm not sayin' us hunters don't use 'em, we jus' don't bleedin' advertise the fact yer daft sod."
The three men trudged through the misty drizzle, and listened, against the white noise of the city, to Cyril recount his investigations so far. "I took Myrtle up to the old Bailey yesterday."
"That's where the second murder happened," Sam confirmed.
"That's right," Cyril nodded; "the Old Bailey is the central criminal court of England and Wales," he explained; "but it was built over a hundred years ago on the site of the old Newgate Gaol - lot of dark and brutal history there."
"Our asshat should feel right at home then," offered Dean grumpily.
Cyril and Sam grinned; the rain was not improving Dean's mood.
"I wen' round the place like a bleedin' bloodhound," Cyril continued, "not a trace of anything interesting."
"What exactly are we looking for?" Dean asked, pulling his collar up around his neck and cringing as a stray raindrop tickled a chilly path down his spine.
"Cyril shrugged, "buggered if I know," he sighed, "something, ANYTHING that might give us an idea of when and where this bastard is goin'ta strike next."
The brothers nodded in agreement as they obediently followed Cyril along the busy road.
"What about the last murder," prompted Sam, "that was only a couple of days ago."
"Yeah, that's where we're going now," Cyril smiled; "c'mon we're almost there."
Eventually, they stopped.
"This is Fleet Street," Cyril announced, seemingly disregarding the fact that they were all standing in front of a long white sign which said 'FLEET STREET' in big black letters.
"For nearly two hundred years, up until about twenty years ago, this used to be where all Britain's national newspapers were produced and printed," he hesitated; "the newspaper reports about the original Ripper attacks would have been written and printed right here all those years ago."
The Winchesters looked up, scanning their surroundings. Aside from the magnificent church behind them, there didn't seem to be anything special about the long straight road, and it's tall buildings which bore down on them.
"What happened twenty years ago?" asked Sam.
"What happened?" Cyril repeated bitterly, "bleedin' progress happened, that's what."
"Some geezer decided he didn't need men to print newspapers, only computers; so all the newsgroups took his lead and headed over to swanky new premises out east," he snorted contemptibly. "Near two hundred years of history wiped out in the space of a twelvemonth."
Sam suppressed a smile, he'd only known Cyril a day and a half and already had him pegged for a 100% gold-plated technophobe.
"That's a freakin' shame," agreed Dean.
Sam grinned at his brother; technophobe number two. He looked up at the imposing buildings either side of them.
"So what's here now?" he asked.
Cyril shrugged; "bleedin' suits," he answered dismissively; "banks and commerce and finance houses. They all turned up and sucked the life and soul out of the place."
"Bleedin' bankers," he huffed sourly.
They began to walk along the street.
"You should have seen this place thirty years ago," Cyril reflected; "it was alive."
His face broke into a smile as he remembered the halcyon days of Fleet Street; "middle of the night while the rest of London was asleep, well as asleep as it gets, this place was buzzin'," he recounted enthusiastically; "vans an' lorries tearin' around, drunk journos fallin' out of the pubs … even the ground was throbbin' beneath yer feet with all them massive presses running three storeys down in the basements of all these places around you."
The Winchester looked around and tried to imagine the scene.
"I used to make a bleedin' mint running the hacks around at night, especially when a big news story was breakin'.
He sighed wistfully; "good days…" and watched as his companions wandered away for a moment, looking around curiously.
They took in the tall, stately buildings which loomed over them either side of the narrow street; after what seemed like an age, they walked back to the older man.
"Where was the girl's body found?" asked Sam.
He pointed to a striking building opposite them; "the basement of that building," he stated matter-of-factly.
The brothers stared up at the building, it's magnificent glass façade, black as jet, curved over them, tapering like the prow of a ship.
"That was the Daily Express Building," Cyril announced, "it still kept the name after the paper left."
"The police couldn't understand how he got in there, or got out again without trippin' the alarm," Cyril added,"but you know what it's like; there's things we know and they don't."
Sam glanced knowingly at Dean and they both nodded in understanding. Hunting was a common language spoken all over the world.
"See, the thing is, London's one of the most low-lyin' cities on the planet," Cyril began, "so there's a whole network of drains and drainage channels down underneath us that have been laid down over the years ever since the first caveman came to live by the Thames and got his bleedin' feet wet."
"Add to that the fact that in a city this old," he continued, "you've got centuries worth of tunnels, vaults, dungeons, cellars, crypts down under there and that's before you get onto more modern stuff like the sewers and gas pipes and the underground with all it's tracks and stations and then the second world war bunkers."
The Winchesters nodded, fascinated, and with a sinking sense of foreboding that all this talk of deep holes underground meant that they were going to be getting dirty sometime soon.
"The fact is, there's just as much stuff going on under London as there is on top of it," Cyril stated; "an' all them bleedin' dark and grubby places is a great environment for all the dark and grubby things we hunt."
"At least they'd be out of the rain," grunted Dean,shivering glumly.
Cyril smiled, "so over the years, generations of hunters have built their own underground network, linkin' a load of them different places to make life a bit easier for us when we're down there."
"Cool," Dean was genuinely impressed.
"Mostly the law don't know about it," Cyril explained; "and the ones that do, don't ask."
Sam smiled; "very wise!"
The three set off, the Winchesters following Cyril's lead as they ventured further along the street.
"Fleet Street gets it's name from the River Fleet which runs along it."
Sam glanced at Dean who looked utterly perplexed and was clearly just itching to point out the fact that there was no river in sight.
Cyril rolled his eyes; "underground," he added.
"It's a tributary from the Thames," he explained; "little more than a stream. Now it's just part of London's drainage system."
"Some of those hunters tunnels run between the River Fleet and the basements I told you about," he continued; "I think he used one of them to get about, and that's what I wanna go get a look at."
"You wanna go down there?" Dean confirmed pointing at the ground.
"Yeah," Cyril replied.
"You wanna go down in some freakin' drain."
Dean sighed; "awesome."
Reaching inside his jacket for three small flashlights, Cyril smiled; "look on the bright side son, you'll be seein' parts of the old city the tourists normally don't."
Dean grunted sourly.
"Oh well, we're already soaking," Sam sighed, looking up into the leaden sky at the relentless drizzle; "what the hell!"
It was scarcely half an hour later that the bewildered brothers found themselves following their guide along a surprisingly large brick culvert; it's massive vaulted chambers and dark arched ante-chambers reminiscent of a cathedral except for the six inches of murky, frigid water splashing around their feet, and an active population of rats which would have made a very poor congregation.
Sam's eyes darted around as he took in the awe-inspiring dimensions of the place.
At the same time Dean's eyes were attached firmly to his feet as he warily stumbled around the massing banks of small, writhing bodies that populated the edges of the water.
That, along with the pervading smell of mould, stagnant water, and dilute sewage wasn't exactly benefiting his still delicate stomach.
They hadn't been walking long when Cyril gestured for them to stop; "we're right under the Express Building," he whispered, trying to keep the echo down; "through there is the hunter's tunnel to the basement.
He pointed his flashlight into an impenetrably black archway which swallowed ther beam of light like a gaping black maw
The three men set to studying the entrance to the tunnel, and every inch of the damp, mould-crusted walls around it.
Dean had gone wandering off a little way, idly scanning the tunnel when he saw a shape a few yards ahead of him through the gloom, half submerged in the water.
Squinting through the darkness, he turned the flashlight on it and his heart sank.
"Sam! Cyril!" he half called, half hissed.
He pointed to what he had seen, "looks like your third meatsuit," he mumbled to Cyril.
They stood looking down at the body that lay at their feet on the edge of the water. It was a young man, his face blackened by the demon's exit, his clothes drenched in blood. None of it his own.
"Damn it!" Cyril roared angrily, and rubbed his head; "I had a feeling we might find some poor bastard down here."
"I'll ring the water authorities anonymously," he sighed, "they can come and get him; we can at least make sure he gets back to his family."
They stood in silence, still staring through the blackness at the body.
"I hate this bleedin' job" Cyril growled, and stomped off back the way they had come.
"I don't hate the job," Dean sighed, glancing at Sam who looked genuinely shaken; "I hate the things that make us do it."
Making their way back along the Fleet was tougher than the trip in as they were working against the current; but eventually, they made their way back to the manhole they had entered through.
Climbing out, the Winchesters stood round, huddled against the rain as Cyril replaced the metal cover, and shook their wet boots out onto the equally wet ground.
Cyril had disappeared towards a phone box to make his call; "I'll make this call, then we'll head back, I need a bleedin' drink." Sam guessed that drink wouldn't involve ale if Dean had anything to say about it.
He looked up wearily through the misty drizzle at the tall illuminated façade of St Bride's Church, it's magnificent spire looking over Fleet Street like a protective beacon.
For centuries it had been known as the 'Church of the Press'; London's spiritual home for the printing industry and the written word, but now it was just another church; diminished like the famous street it watched over.
Diminished like the hope of any success amongst the three despairing figures that stood before it.
Cyril, emerged from the call box; "right, lets go, my girl's waiting," and they began the walk back to Myrtle; at least there would be a kind face and a hot meal waiting for them back at the Bridge House.
They paused for a moment as Cyril's phone rang.
He picked it up, smiling a greeting to the voice on the end of the phone, but the smile fell rapidly as he took in the terrible news that it was imparting.
"Shit," he croaked weakly; "there been another one."
Dean yawned and leaned back into a long, vertebrae-popping stretch; arms reaching for the ceiling, his fingers threaded together and crackled like splintering wood.
Fatigue was really starting to bite. His eyelids drooped lower with every second bent over the small desk in their room. His back ached like a bitch and his hunched shoulders felt like he was carrying the weight of the world on them.
He rubbed, burning, tired eyes, and his knuckles came away damp with tears of aching sleep-deprivation.
On the cluttered desk in front of him, besides mountains of books, papers, maps and their overworked laptop was a mug, a shallow drain of cold coffee settled in the bottom of it, and a near-empty flask of whisky, recently filled from one of the Bridge House's very own optics by Cyril; 'don't you go tellin' Josie, she'll have my bleedin' guts for garters.'
Dean had to admit, it was a nice, smooth drop, and went down a lot easier than Bobby's gut-rotting firewater.
Behind him, Sam was flaked in an untidy tangle of limbs across the bed.
As exhausted as his brother, he had done the wise thing; 'can't think straight if you're too tired' and reluctantly settled back for a short power nap.
Dean's body begged to follow his brother into oblivion, however brief, but his conscience wouldn't permit it.
After what he saw on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral two nights ago, he wasn't sure he'd ever sleep again.
"Shit - there's been another one."
Cyril stood before them, shaking; his phone clenched between white knuckled fingers, wide-eyed with horror.
"Another Ripper murder?"
Cyril nodded mutely, gasping as if he was struggling to catch his breath; "St Paul's Cathedral, they've found some poor girl gutted on the steps of the Cathedral."
The three men set off to run the short distance through the driving rain towards the great green dome which loomed over the London skyline.
Allowing for Cyril's shortcomings as an athlete, it was a few minutes before they finally reached Paternoster Square. The open space before the cathedral was usually a scene of peaceful reflection, of tourists staring in silent awe up at the mighty building and of calm serenity.
Tonight, it was a scene straight from the depths of hell.
They were confronted with panic and chaos; a riot of flashing blue lights, disturbed uniformed figures shouting into walkie-talkies, arms waving and voices raised. Hastily hung strips of red and white crime scene tape fluttered around the square, an ambulance stood with it's brightly lit interior gaping open pointlessly and in the midst of it all, a sad, blanket covered lump lay motionless in a pool of blood on the steps in front of them.
The brothers had scarcely had a chance to rationalise what was happening when they saw Cyril talking to a young police officer.
"Inspector Beckham, Scotland Yard," he announced confidently, brandishing his ID, these two gentlemen are detectives Jagger and Richards, on secondment from the New York PD;" he turned and gestured behind himself.
The police officer looked up at the two tall, rain-sodden strangers in front of him, they nodded smartly; "anything we can do to help, officer" announced Dean in his best authoritarian voice.
The officer ducked under the tape and led them to the body, and it was only when they were under the lights of the cathedral that they could all see the young man was clearly shaken. His face, red eyed , was wet, not just from the rain.
"It's awful, sir, she's been gutted," he muttered; "been in the force four years an' I've never seen nothing like this."
"Mind if we take a look?" Cyril enquired quietly.
The officer nodded; "do what you need to do; if you don't mind sir, I'd rather not look at it again."
Cyril was many things, but he was, among them all, a father. He gave the young man's shoulder a reassuring squeeze and smiled kindly; "you done a good job, son; go on, off you go – just see we ain't disturbed."
Gutted was such a small word.
A neat little soulless word, it went no way towards describing what had happened to the poor woman laying at the feet of Cyril and the Winchesters.
Sam had staggered away from the sight puking violently, trying his hardest to aim as far away from the cathedral steps as he could physically manage; surely puking over holy ground must count as desecration of some sort.
Dean was by his side in a moment, rubbing soothing circles over his brother's heaving back, grateful for the diversion to take his mind off the rolling nausea in his belly and avoid puking himself.
The poor woman hadn't just been murdered, she had been mutilated, eviscerated. This wasn't a killing, it wasn't even a slaughter; it was the motiveless destruction of a pretty young woman, a total demolition and ruination of a human body.
The bloody crater of her plundered body cavity was an offence to any right thinking person.
Dean stared over Sam's hunched back at Cyril's grizzled face, bloodless with shock.
"No-one touches this bastard," Dean snarled; "he's mine."
And so it was that the brothers found themselves two days later, ensconced in their room, poring obsessively through book after book, map after map. They had scoured the darkest recesses of the internet, wheedled a shedload of research out of Bobby, and relieved the local library of every remotely demon-based volume it possessed.
They had discussed theories, argued points, offered encouragement and shouted abuse.
Cyril, for his part, had shut himself away in his study grafting his phone to his ear as hour after hour, he spoke to every contact in his book in the despairing hope that one of them may be able to supply any nugget, any scrap of intel that he could cling to.
The three men had barely eaten, despite Josie's sterling but ultimately unsuccessful efforts at trying to compel them to do so, they had barely slept; every atom of their being was thrown into the effort to discover when and where this monster was going to strike again.
So far their combined efforts had amounted to naught, and the only thing the Winchesters had to show for their trials was a brown stain on the wall where Dean had thrown a half-empty mug of coffee at it in a fit of frustrated temper.
Taking one last glance back at Sam, sleeping fitfully behind him, he slumped miserably at the desk, kneading his throbbing temples as his eyes flickered between his increasingly illegible notes and an ancient map of demonic summonings that Bobby had faxed over.
He went over the theories and established facts again in his whirling mind.
Firstly, there was the wet weather. He'd heard it rained a lot in England, after all, it wasn't described as a 'green' and pleasant land for nothing, but this much? It hadn't damned-well stopped since the Winchesters had set foot in London. Was the weather part of the atmospheric upheaval that often accompanied demonic activity? If it was then this was one friggin' powerful sonofabitch they were dealing with.
Then there were the timescales.
The first two murders were almost three weeks apart; twenty days to be precise. The third exactly one week afterwards. The fourth murder had been only three days later.
His head drooped as the time periods whirled and danced in his mind. Whatever he did, he could apply no logic to them; multiples, factors, prime numbers, the Fibonacci series … nope.
Just complete randomness.
The victims, unlike Jack's original set of victims were not exclusively prostitutes. Victims one and three this time round were, victim two was a barmaid on her way home and victim four was a nurse on her way to her night shift.
None of them had anything in common, except that they had been in the wrong place at the worst imaginable time, and all had been hideously mutilated in the same way as that pretty young girl that still haunted Dean's thoughts.
Just complete randomness.
Finally there were the locations.
Blackfriars Pier, Old Bailey, Fleet Street, St Paul's Cathedral; A river crossing, a penal relic, the history of London's newspaper industry, and a massive and ancient seat of Christian worship. Aside from the fact that they were all dotted fairly evenly around a cosy area of central London, north of the Thames, there was nothing to link any of them.
Just complete randomness.
Dean took a slug of whisky, and chased the burn down his throat with a deep sigh.
He reluctantly knew the time had come when he had to give in to common sense, to his crushing fatigue, to the despairing hope that everything would fall nicely into place when he approached it in the morning with a fresh pair of eyes.
The time had come to follow Sammy's example. He had to sleep.
Dean felt himself wilt, and his head sunk slowly toward the desk, coming to rest on a crumpled pile of papers, the topmost of which was an ancient list of demon summonings faxed by Bobby. His eyelids flickered as he began to sink into unconsciousness and the last thing he saw blurring into darkness were words beneath one of many ornate sigils printed on the crumpled paper.
'To summon a myriad, which is 20,736 of Hell's minions'
His drooping eyelids snapped open, and he stared at the words.
'To summon a myriad, which is 20,736 of Hell's minions'
Dean felt a chilling rush of adrenaline as he stared at the words.
'… 20,736 …'
Twenty days, one week - seven days, three days.
He started to pant, his hands shaking and his heart pounding as he picked up the piece of paper and stared at the numbers.
"Sammy," Dean gasped, he turned and slapped Sam's ankle; "SAMMY."
Sam grunted, rolling over and groaning as he drifted back to wakefulness.
"Dude?" he mumbled, scraping a hand through wild hair.
One glance at his brother's pallid, drawn face, wide eyes, sunken with fatigue, his shaking hands as he clutched a dog-eared piece of paper to his chest, and suddenly Sam was wide awake.
"Look," Dean gasped voicelessly, he thrust the piece of paper into Sam's hands and pointed at the sigil.
Sam's brow furrowed as he squinted at the faded print on the fax; he shook his head slightly in defeat.
Looking up at Dean he shrugged helplessly.
"LOOK," demanded Dean pointing at the faded print; "twenty, seven, three, six," Sam looked again.
"Twenty days, seven days, three days …" Dean explained dizzily; "you work it out."
Sam's mouth worked silently, as he looked up at Dean; "six days," he whispered.
Dean nodded eagerly.
He'll kill six days after the last murder.
Dean's nod gained pace, "four days time."
Sam stared at the piece of paper for what seemed like an age.
"This sigil," Sam began; "it's used to summon 20,736 demons?"
Dean's eyes widened in fear; "it'd be the end of days."
a/n according to my research, this is a 'genuine' demon summoning sigil - Google it - go on, I dare you!CHAPTER 6
"We need to get Cyril in here," Dean barked urgently.
Nodding in agreement, Sam disappeared rapidly, looking for the older man.
Dean blinked, staring at the desk, he allowed his tired eyes to drop out of focus. Funny how the threat of a demon-fuelled armageddon didn't seem to make him feel any less exhausted.
Friggin' annoying really.
He scratched his head and yawned again, just as Sam charged back into the room dragging Cyril, heavy eyed and unshaven, behind him.
With his braces askew, crumpled, tea-stained shirt and sparse hair in disarray, Cyril didn't look in any better shape than the Winchesters, a fact which they both found mildly comforting.
Cyril listened intently as Dean showed him the summoning sigil and outlined the brother's theory of it's link to the Ripper's killing spree and more importantly, the timing of the next murder.
His tired eyes lit up; "good job, fellers," he exclaimed wearily,"so now it looks like we know the day it's gonna happen, and given that all the other four murders happened after dark, we can narrow it down to a period of a few hours, but now we've got to work out where."
"And, something else," Sam added, "is the sigil itself."
He stared at the other two men with a shrug of confusion. "The Ripper would still need to draw that sigil to complete the summoning and I haven't seen it anywhere while we've been investigating this job."
The three men fell into a thoughtful silence as they stared at the small diagram on Bobby's fax; a perfect circle atop a horizontal line; relatively simple as demonic sigils went.
"Carved into the bodies?" asked Dean.
Cyril shook his head, "not reported on the mortuary reports and something like that wouldn't have been missed."
"Didn't see it on that poor girl at the cathedral either," Sam added with a shudder as he remembered the horrific sight.
"At any of the locations?" Dean theorised.
Cyril shook his head again; "not at any I've looked around."
The three men sighed in unison.
"Okay, one thing at a time," Cyril dropped down heavily onto the bed and kneaded the crooked dent that served as the bridge of his nose.
He flexed his aching shoulders, "I think the first thing we need to do is try to work out where the next bleedin' murder is going to happen;" he looked up at the two men beside him; "if we can find that, we can take a good look round the place, see if we can get any ideas about that bleedin'sigil."
Dean nodded in agreement and picked up the dog-eared map, casting weary eyes over it yet again.
Sam and Cyril both peered over his shoulder, scanning the map and the four murder sites which Dean had circled in firm black marker. Dean continued to stare at it blankly, just looking, not seeing. He'd spent so long staring at the damn thing he was sure it would be burned into his retinas for the rest of his life.
Cyril absently reached round Dean towards the desk, more specifically for Dean's flask. Taking a sip, he scowled in disapproval when he found it empty.
As he irritably tossed it back on the desk, he glanced idly at the sigil again.
Then back at the map.
"Cyril," Sam's voice was loaded with concern; "you okay?"
Cyril glanced between the sigil and the map again, watched in worried curiosity by the brothers.
"Oh, bloody hell," he muttered beneath his breath.
"What?" The Winchesters were now both looming over the seated man, "Cyril, talk to us, what is it?"
Cyril looked up, shattered.
"Gimme a bleedin' pencil, quick," he gestured toward Dean who spun round and rummaged amongst the masses of paper coating the desk until he found a pen, and placed it without hesitation into the outstretched hand.
"Look," Cyril drew a rough line between the marked points on the map, like connecting the dots; Blackfriars Pier to Fleet Street to Old Bailey to St Paul's Cathedral.
The resultant line formed an incomplete perfect circle.
Cyril looked up at the brothers.
"I know where the next murder is going to be," he announced quietly, and completed the circle.
The completed line terminated back on the bank of the Thames, only this time, a very short distance east of Blackfriars Bridge, mirroring the location of the pier on it's western side.
There was an inordinately long silence as the Winchesters took in what they were seeing; it was Sam that eventually spoke.
"It's a circle, but what does that prove?" he asked; "the sigil is a circle on a horizontal line, what you've got there is just a circle."
Staring at the map, Dean felt his heart sink when he realised he knew what Cyril was about to say.
Cyril pointed to the Thames; "the bleedin' river; look, there's your straight line."
The Winchesters stared at the map and the blue ribbon of the Thames coiling it's serpentine route across the paper. It couldn't be a coincidence that the circle of murders sat atop one of the few stretches of the river that was relatively straight.
"Holy shit, the river completes the sigil," whispered Sam.
"That's it," Cyril gasped, thumping the map with his fingertip; "that's where the last murder will be."
"What's there?" asked Dean.
"That side of Blackfriars Bridge is a part of the Thames bank called White Lion Hill," explained Cyril.
"If he wants to create a perfect circle, he's gonna need to keep things symmetrical," Cyril continued; using his thumbnail to measure the distance between Blackfriars Bridge and Blackfriars Pier, he measured the same distance on the other side of the bridge.
"I reckon our man's gonna strike right there," he punched the map with his index finger triumphantly; "right in the middle of White Lion Hill."
Dean stared at the map for an age before he spoke; "we've got to be sure; we've only got one chance to do this right."
"And getting it wrong isn't an option," added Sam solemnly.
Cyril dropped the crumpled map down on the desk, then stood up and stretched; "well we've got four days to make sure we get it right first time," he sighed, "and the first thing we're going to do is get some bleedin' kip."
"But what …"
Cyril glared at Dean, "look at yer, son; you're bleedin' knackered. We're all knackered," he snorted; "bleedin' two-an-eight we're all in, we couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery, never mind prevent the end of the bleedin' world."
Dean glanced sideways at Sam, and despite the overwhelming gravity of the situation, he saw that Sam was struggling not to laugh.
"Nope, didn't get a word of that," announced Dean.
Cyril shook his head fondly; "let me put it another way then, If you don't get your bleedin' arse in that bed and get some rest, I'm gonna send Josie in here to tuck you both in."
A look of alarm crossed both brother's faces.
"She'll probably wanna read you a story too," he added.
He awoke feeling sharp and refreshed, and Dean had had to grudgingly admit that Cyril was talking sense, insofar as the Winchesters could actually understand him, when he had insisted that they had all got some sleep.
As well as talking sense, he was blunt, tactless and appeared, in his own crotchety way to have the Winchesters best interests at heart.
Dean wondered briefly if he was related to Bobby.
He certainly shared Bobby's devotion to the job, and no-one would argue that the stakes of this particular job were so unthinkably high that it required dedication of the highest order.
And that is what it got.
The following four days were spent in a frenzy of exploration of the stretch of Thames bank identified by Cyril's discovery. White Lion Hill was a busy exposed road, but beside it, Thames-side, was a separate walkway, at a lower level than the road; with a high concrete wall on it's land side, and waist-high rails on it's bank side, it was narrow, isolated and shadowy under the leaden, sunless sky that still loomed over London. It was also not heavily used after the evening rush had subsided.
This was the place. There was no shred of doubt.
Measuring distances, gauging sightlines, finding shadowy nooks in walls and corners where they could hide themselves so not to be seen by their quarry, the three men planned their ambush to the finest detail. Contingencies, cover stories, escapes and worst-case scenarios were all discussed at length and agreed down to the most finite details.
The only scenario that was totally discounted was failure.
The sun began to set over the Thames, staining the water with shimmering ripples of crimson and gold in the fading light. It would have been magical to watch the Sun's amber glow give way to the twinkling lights of the city as darkness fell across it, but tonight was not a night for appreciation of beauty.
Tonight was a night for destruction; the eradication of ugliness, of evil.
Tonight was a night for the discharge of a terrible duty.
Dean promised himself that if they succeeded tonight, he would be sitting in one of the many bars beside this great river with a cold beer tomorrow - not any of that lukewarm poison that Cyril drinks - and he would take the time to truly appreciate the London sunset.
He reached round and, purely for reassurance, ghosted a palm over 'the' knife which was tucked into the waistband at the back of his jeans; a salutary reminder of the grimness of their task tonight.
Sam leaned back against the wall, trying to remain as invisible as possible, a job which had become much easier as darkness had fallen; he had found a narrow alcove to tuck himself into - no small feat for someone his size. Glancing back, he squinted through the gloom and saw Dean who had found an equally small alcove around twenty yards away and looked just as uncomfortable. Cyril was stationed a little way further along near the point where the road was swallowed by the dark underside of the massive railway bridge beside them.
He flexed aching shoulders, and shivered in the chilly dampness that pervaded the breeze, then paused as he heard the resonant tones of Big Ben chiming in the distance. The chimes told him that he had been in that spot for three toe-numbing hours, and aside from a steady, now pretty much dwindled to nothing, stream of passers by, most of whom had completely ignored the three strange men lurking in the shadows, the most exciting thing to happen all night was when a passing Jack Russell had dropped an alarmingly large packet right beside him.
He shifted from foot to foot, feeling cold, stiff and uncomfortable, and desperately trying to push nagging thoughts that they had got it wrong out of his mind.
Thoughts which evaporated instantly when he heard a terrible scream.