The Spider’s Seven #13: The Absence

This entry is part 1 of 14 in the series The Spider's Seven Vol 2
Wendell and Tommy were in what was called the employee lounge, but was really a state of the art kitchen with a table off to one side.
The two men didn’t have a lot in common, or any real camaraderie, so they were both more than happy to ignore each other as Wendell flicked through the morning news blogs on his tablet and Tommy listened to the morning Zoo DJ, Roscoe in the AM’s live-feed from Atlantic City.
This peace was broken by something hard hitting the table, causing them both to flinch and look up.
It was reminiscent of a bean pod, if it had come from the kind of bean pod that usually grew tall enough to grant access to castles in the sky, but was made of matte gray plastic with a row of LEDs along the lip. It bounced once on the table, started to roll, but instead wobbled until it found equilibrium standing on its edge with the lip facing up.
As the two men looked on, the LEDs lit: four red and one green. There was a high pitched tone and one red went out.
Vaguely, out of the corner of their eyes, they saw Flo standing in the door frame leading out into the hall. Coyote was behind her and the trickster god was watching with fascination while Flo looked more like an anxious mother watching he first child riding a bike for the first time.
Another red light went out to another high tone.
The sight of Flo, plus a thrown foreign object ignited something primal in both men and gave them a point of communality as they both screamed ‘Grenade!’ and dove for cover. Two more tones followed as they both scrambled to hide behind the range and attached counter in the middle of the kitchen. Then there was a lower one, followed by a violent hiss.
As the world hadn’t been converted to fire and shrapnel, Tommy and Wendell gave an askance look to one another and by unspoken agreement peered over the top of the range.
They were in time to see the grenade split in half and flower open. A cloud of steam whuffed out, lifting to reveal perfectly cooked bacon and eggs, each secured to the inside of one half of the device by means of plastic shields with holes drilled throughout.
“So.” Tommy said and stood cautiously, “That’s a breakfast grenade.”
“Oh my no.” Flo bustled into the room, eyes still on the device. “My breakfast grenades hold a complete breakfast for one person: sausage, eggs, hash browns, pancakes, fried apples, and orange juice. This is just something I whipped up because I’ve been so busy in the lab I don’t think I’ve really gotten to know any of you and that’s a shame.”
She gestured to the steaming feast. “Well, dig in.”
Tommy looked at Coyote, who shrugged before making his way back to the table. “Um… thanks, Flo.” He stopped at his chair, not knowing what to make of the smiling woman. “Uh… want some toast?”
“Thank you.” Flo smiled, already popping the shields out of the spent grenade. “Do you think Mr. King, Mrs. Polanski, or Mr… I don’t think I know the other man’s name at all—do you think they’ll be down for breakfast?”
“Okay. That’s it.” Wendell finally stood up and glared at Coyote. “Where the hell is he? It’s been two weeks. We’ve got some kind of monster that needs plasma packs twice daily locked up down the hall, we’ve got the Happy Home Mad Scientist filling the lab with… fur or something—”
“It’s microfiber.” Flo volunteered with a mouthful of eggs. “Anansi wants me to make a ‘joy grenade’ and I think being swaddled in microfiber plush would be heavenly.”
Tommy got up to make the toast and looked curiously at Flo. “Exactly how much research have you done on what to put in a joy grenade?”
“Oh, about a week alone testing chemical compounds to include as a component.”
“That explains a lot.”
“Whatever!” Wendell shouted. “My point is, it’s been two weeks of this and we’ve heard nothing from Anansi. He dumps that… thing down the hall on us and disappears. We’ve got no instructions and no idea what we’re supposed to be doing.” His gaze was fixed on Coyote. “Unless you’ve heard something.”
“I’ve got instructions!” Flo pointed out.
Coyote folded her arms and leaned against the door frame “All I know is that I’m supposed to make sure Flo keeps up work on the list of items he needs made and that the rest of you don’t quit. He picked us all for a reason though, so we should probably still be focusing on that little boy we’re supposed to save.”
She gave Wendell a pointed look.
He scowled at her and backed down. “I’ve got my feelers out, alright? But since none of us are hackers, I’ve got to wait ’til info comes to me, not the other way around. I’ll have a full workup on the hospital, the staff and the kid, but I need time.”
“And Flo needs time to finish the list.” Coyote smiled the smile common to all teenagers who just realize they outsmarted an adult. “So there’s that. Can we shut up and have breakfast now?”
She went to the table, but mentally, she was far away. She disagreed with Wendell on principle: he was a con man after all, and the least apologetic of the who bunch. The part of her that was Coyote should probably like that about him, but the part of her that was Ida Lane didn’t like the man much.
But he did have a point. Anansi had disappeared, simply fallen right off the map. He didn’t reply to texts, his voice mail was full, and he hadn’t left word in any of the usual places. That left her with a house full of criminals and with a captive vampire, all of whom saw her as the authority figure by virtue of the whole ‘being a god’ thing.
Except criminals and vampires historically didn’t like authority and really, she had nothing to hold them together with besides the pay they were getting. And neither Coyote, nor Ida liked not having a few cards up their sleeve.
When Wendell didn’t make any move to sit, she huffed in the same way she did when her father wasn’t buying her obvious teenaged logic. “I’ll try and contact him again today. In the meantime, can you see if Terrell or Susan want breakfast? Please?”
Wendell nodded slowly. He knew that wasn’t what she was really asking. She wanted him to walk it off and think things over. He left to go to the one place he’d been able to do real, serious thinking over the past few weeks.
“Come in.” Susan called over her shoulder when there was a knock on her door. She was still in her sleeping attire, loose sweats and a tank top, sitting at her desktop console. At the same time she bade whoever it was to enter, she minimized the window she was looking it.
It didn’t disappear fast enough to avoid Wendell’s gaze. “Pictures?”
“Why are you here?” Blunt. Unfriendly. It was her way of telling him to shut up about it. And he could take the hint.
“Flo is high on joy and threw a bacon and eggs grenade at Tommy and I.” He wandered into the room, closed the door, and leaned on the dresser. Susan’s room was vaguely unsettling to him. It felt like a real person’s room instead of the hotel vibe he got from everyone else’s.
She’s decorated, bought pictures for the walls, new lamps, and there were knickknacks on the shelves. Wendell’s own room, by force of habit, was spartan; everything that was really his was kept in bags by the door, just in case he had to clear out in a hurry. And he knew (from snooping) that no one else had bothered with any homey touches, especially not Tommy, who still routinely left to be with his girlfriend.
“So she’s self medicating now?” Susan turned around, looking disinterested. Now that they were all settled in, she didn’t make an effort to hide her prosthetics.
“Not on purpose and it isn’t making her less crazy.” said Wendell. “But that’s not the problem. It’s been two weeks, you know that? Two weeks and everyone but the ghoul or whatever his is is starting to run hog wild. None of us knows what to do, and I’m starting to think there never was a plan.”
Susan folded her arms. “After all you’ve seen you’re still thinking it’s a scam?”
He shook his head. “Not a scam exactly. But I think his eyes turned out to be bigger than his stomach if you get me?” She nodded. “Yeah. Whatever’s so important about this kid, I think he ran out of plan right around the time he bought us all together. That’s why he went and got his old friend and the ‘former’ vampire. You remember that speech he gave us? I don’t think even he bought it and that’s why he left right after. You get what I’m saying here?”
Instead of the agreement he’d been seeking, there was only silence. He looked to see Susan deep in thought. “Susan?”
She clenched her composite fists and shook her head. “Maybe you’re right, Wendell. It makes sense—as much as any of this ‘lost gods’ stuff does. But here’s the thing: I don’t want him to be wrong.”
“Come again?”
“That speech he gave. All the crap about redemption and being more than we ended up being? Wendell, I killed people. I killed people to pay for these arms so I could kill a few more.” Her face shadowed with remembered pain. “And I’m not sorry I killed those sons of bitches that off my husband. But that doesn’t make up for the people that had nothing to do with it.
“It felt right back then because, hey, they were all criminals, right? No one’s gonna miss ’em, right? But now, I realize it’s the same thing that happened to me. I thought before that I was supposed to make up for not saving hm, but now I think that was just being selfish. I want to do right for once, okay?”
Wendell couldn’t have moved in that moment if he’d suddenly caught fire. Susan was usually made of stone, save for a few rare lapses. Now, she seemed deeply disturbed at the idea that Anansi might have been wrong and abandoned the plan.
And while he still thought that the case, he saw the value in shutting up about it. “Hey.” He said.
Susan looked up, already growing more composed. She hadn’t cried a single tear through it all.
“I’ve been wrong about Anansi before. I’ve been wrong other times too. Maybe it’s just that this whole ‘redemption’ thing isn’t for me and I don’t see much reason to care past the money.” He looked around the room to avoid her eyes, “But I told Coyote that I haven’t stopped working just ’cause he’s around. Still putting together intel, casing the hospital and all that.”
“Good.” Susan said simply. And Wendell knew it was time for him to leave. Today wouldn’t be one of the days they were friendly with each other. He wasn’t going to be able to get his head together in there.
So he started to leave, only to pause with his hand on the knob. Without turning around, he said. “You know, I’ve never had a woman willing to go to the mat for me before. Right or wrong, your guy was pretty damn lucky to have you if you were half as loyal to him before… you know.”
He didn’t stop to hear the quiet thank you before he was out the door and heading down the hall.
After a mostly silent breakfast following Wendell’s departure, Coyote went where she usually did when there was nothing better to do: the TV room.
In most places, including her parents’ house, the TV room was called the living room because no one really wants to admit that the primary usage of the room was for watching the TV. Decorating a living room usually involved putting furniture in places from which the TV wasn’t easily or comfortably viewed so as to give the illusion that other things happened there and to increase the necessary housework by a factor of three.
Not so in The Spider’s lair. A door just down the hall from the study/ops room that served as the main room led into a room just for watching television and movies.
In the same, not quite normal way Anansi always made sense, so did this: the modern world put all its books in handy digital form, accessible from any mobile device, reducing the need for a library. But Anansi was focused on all kinds of stories, and in the modern world, the traditional form had moved away from books and to movies, television and webcasts as surely as it had shifted away from oral tradition centuries ago.
And so, Anansi had a room set aside for the express purpose of binging on them.
It wasn’t a very big room: there were two love seats pushed together at a shallow angle to give the optimum amount of arm rests and access to the coffee table in front of them, and behind those, the floor was elevated six inches and occupied by two obscenely expensive recliners with an end table between them.
Here was a small area off to the side of those where a mini-fridge stood with a hydration oven on top of it, and the single other door led to a bathroom. If anyone felt the need, they wouldn’t have to leave for weeks.
And as for the TV itself, it wasn’t as insanely huge as would probably be expected, if only because most of the wall the TV was attached to was actually a cabinet containing what was probably the most diverse audio-visual equipment collection outside of the Library of Congress: from a dedicated high-speed internet router, to a Betamax player, to a custom device that could transfer old cinematic film to a television screen, all were networked into the television so that if the mood struck, Anansi could watch anything he wanted at a moment’s notice, even if the last known copy was from the turn of the previous century.
It surprised her to find Terrell occupying one of the recliners, watching an old movie. Of all the members of the group, Terrell spent the least time in there, usually looking over what the others were doing in ops or the lab, sometimes appointing himself as a guard for Aidan.
“What are you watching?” She asked, sprawling out on the nearest love seat.
Ocean’s Eleven” he replied. “The original, not the 2000’s or thirties remakes.”
“I would think that after going after Flo, you’d be tired of heists.” Coyote was facing away from him, but somehow made him feel like she was looking him in the eye all the same.
“It’s cathartic, actually.” he said. “Watching them pull heists off in the movies. The Sting, The Italian Job, all of them make it look easy. All the problems are Hollywood problems, you know? Maybe you go to jail, maybe you don’t get your money, but on the whole, it’s going to turn out alright.”
Coyote nodded, eyes fixed on the screen and glittering. “It’s not like that for a real thief, is it?”
“Nope.” said Terrell, taking a sip of the cola beside him. It was too early to drink, even if Susan often did. “Not for all of us, at least. A guy stealing just because he wants money? You know, because he’s got kids to feed, or a car he wants to buy? I think it’s probably not so bad. It’s just what you do then. It’s not a job.”
“Get good at it though?” He shook his head. “And I was good. I’ve got the skills and powers to back ’em up. It was a job for me. A career. And that shit’s addictive.”
On the love seat, Coyote smiled, showing more sharp teeth than a human should have. “I know the feeling. Nothing like showing everyone just how good you are. And If you can teach them a lesson in the doing, it’s a pretty sweet thing.” She closed her eyes for a moment, savoring memories of the mighty made to look the fool and the cruel shown the same in spades.
“You’ve never played any tricks on us.” Terrell said, but his voice had an edge of suspicion. “Have you?”
“Maybe.” She sing-songed, then cackled. It took almost a minute for her to regain herself. “But probably not. I… well part of me remembers being the butt of some pretty nasty ones. Ever hear of the one where someone you’ve got a crush on asks you out, then their friends come and take pictures of you crying when you realize you’ve been stood up?”
“Teenagers can be shitty people.” said Terrell.
“Last year, they left me stranded out in the desert.” She said, voice far away. “They said I could come to a party with them, but it was just to get me out there and leave me. I nearly died.” She sat up suddenly. “So I’m going to be a lot more careful with the tricks from now on. Only for good causes.”
Terrell was silent, not knowing what to say to that.
Coyote turned and looked at him, her eyes golden in the dim. “Sorry. It’s still a pretty fresh wound. But… Anansi told me about what happened with you. That was the last night you did a break-in isn’t it?”
“Until we broke Flo out.” he confirmed and sank further back into the chair. “It felt good. Natural.”
“Anansi’s not here.” Coyote said suddenly. “I’m not sure what he’d tell you. But you know what I’d say?”
Terrell studied her for a second and his expression became less severe as he nodded. “Yeah: Only for good causes.”
Coyote smiled brilliantly and this time with the right amount of teeth. “Exactly. Only for good causes.”
They watched heist movies for the rest of the morning.
To Be Continued…
Series NavigationThe Spider’s Seven #14: The Enemy >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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One Comment

  1. MazzonMazzonMazzon

    I quite like the character of Flo. She makes me wish I’d come up with her myself.

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