The Spider’s Seven #14: The Enemy

This entry is part 2 of 14 in the series The Spider's Seven Vol 2
Wendell unfolded his reading glasses and put them on with a drawn out and dramatic breath before deigning to meet the eyes of his compatriots. Susan, Terrell, Tommy and Coyote were arrayed about the ops room. No one else was going to be joining them.
Anansi had been gone three more days with not a word from him.
Flo was still in her lab and wouldn’t have come if he bothered to invite her. Whatever chemical good humor she’d been hopped up on over the past few days had finally worn off and she was back to muttering over her schematics and blueprints. She was apparently still concerned with creating a ‘joy grenade’, or whatever Anansi put her up to, and that kept her out of everyone’s way.
And the vampire… Wendell felt ridiculous at the idea, but couldn’t bring himself to dismiss the possibility. And because of that, he couldn’t bring himself to risk letting him out of his containment. They took turns checking on him, passing food through the bars, and trying to get some information out of him through his veneer of curses and poor attempts at psychological abuse.
“Alright.” He finally said, pacing at the head of the stone topped, wooden-legged table. “I hope everyone enjoyed their time off, because I’ve actually been doing my job and seeing as Anansi is doing whatever he does, I’m taking it upon myself to move this plan of his along. Anyone with objections can leave now, and go straight to hell.”
Susan smirked at him. Coyote looked oddly proud. That was the extent of the reaction. The little band Anansi built was bored but apathetic. That was the best he was going to get.
Grabbing the remote off the table, Wendell turned on the holographic projector. Flat, glowing screens appeared and hung in the air so that the others could see.
There was an image of a boy of sixteen on the center screen. He was slightly overweight with messy, brown hair that curled around his ears and fell into his eyes. He was sitting on a hospital bed, dressed in a blue and white hospital gown with a look on his face that reminded everyone in the room of a small, nervous dog tensing before something hit it.
“This is Jerry Galloway, the boy Anansi bought us together to…” He coughed, “…deal with. Being his usual cryptic self, we know that he’s got some kind of power that may or may not be from being a descendant. All things considered, we’ll need to be prepared for ‘not’.”
The screen to the left of Jerry’s picture flashed and moved slightly forward. It showed a map of the western US with a town in Wyoming highlighted. As Wendell continued, the image zoomed in to show a typical suburb.
“He’s from here: Casper, Wyoming.”
“What’s that matter when Anansi already told us he’s in a mental hospital in Colorado?” Terrell asked.
“Because this isn’t about going in and getting him, it’s about figuring out his situation.” Wendell explained. “It’s like the con we pulled to break Flo out: information first, then action. And the first place you start with are personal history and home town.”
He took a seat finally, relaxing into the cushions of the chair before highlighting the screen to the right of the photo. “Speaking of history, this kid’s got a strange one. Sick all his life; a lung condition he wasn’t expected to live past fourteen with, no history of mental health problems. Then there’s a period of little over a month where he makes a massive recovery. Doctors are shocked, parents are elated… and that’s when Jerry suddenly has to go into therapy for violent urges.”
Wendell caused the documentation he’d found, bought and stole flick across the screen above him. “And here’s where it get’s weird: Over a year of weekly therapy sessions, he only got through eight without a severe respiratory relapse. He got sick, almost fatally sick, every time he went into therapy.”
“The therapist was causing it.” Susan guessed, her expression grim. The idea of someone hurting a child like that made her eager to meet said therapist up close and personal.
Wendell shook his head. “Not that I can tell.” A few more taps of the remote brought up the image of a Hispanic woman in her fifties. “Dr. Yolanda Contreras. She had no connection with the Galloway family before they hired her, never had anything like this happen before, and even waived her fee for all the sessions Jerry never finished. The one odd thing here is that she is his only mental health provider… and yet her name appears nowhere on his admission papers at Marble Pass.”
“What’s that mean?” Susan asked, still alert from when she thought the therapist was harming the boy. “Shouldn’t they have at least gotten her opinion or something?”
“That they should have.” said Wendell. “And yet…” He cycled the images of multiple documents for them to see. “Plus, who commits a kid to an out of state mental health facility over ‘violent urges’? This kid has no police record; he doesn’t even have a school record for fighting. Getting the crap beat out of him, but never fighting anyone.”
Tommy frowned. “So they committed him for nothing? And didn’t Anansi say that the place in Marble Pass was for descendants? What are this kid’s powers supposed to be anyway?”
“I’m getting to that.” Said Wendell, “Because it’s another interesting fact: according to every official record I could find, he’s not a descendant at all. In fact, it’s not even in any unofficial records; no blogs, social network postings, no mention in his or his family’s lives that he might have any sort of supernatural power at all.”
Before anyone could say anything about that, Wendell cleared the screens and brought up more screen shots, from the local paper’s site and a number of personal blogs and other sites. “But that’s why we go back to the home town—so we can read between the lines.”
“What lines are we supposed to be seeing in all that?” Terrell asked.
“I’ve picked up a lot of special programs over the years to profile marks and set up cons.” Wendell explained. “The most simple is just a search for commonality and in Casper, especially within a ten block radius of Jerry’s home and school, that’s mysterious and seemingly pointless theft.”
Images started to appear in the center screen as he recounted them. “The bike rack in front of the library, sections of fences, his neighbor’s mailbox, a couple of hedges. The only clue was black powder left at the scene.” He left the image of a pile of it standing between two azalea bushes.
“That looks like ash…” Susan said and the edge of horror in her tone made Wendell smile a tiny bit. She was a smart one.
“It does. And guess what? The first reports of these thefts started two days after our boy started therapy.” That small smile fell as he got to the next part. “And I also did a search for events happening around the time he was committed. What I found was a QuickTell post from the woman one street over. She let her dog out into the yard before going to take a bath, and when she went to bring him in, he was gone.”
“Oh god…” Coyote murmured, seeing where this was going.
Wendell nodded and cleared his throat. “I searched through some traffic cam pictures. I found her dog going north on Tyson Avenue… here.” He displayed the silent video of a mastiff/pitbull mix walking down the street. “At the same time, I picked up Jerry walking home from school on the intersecting street, Elm. They’re both out of camera range for three minutes, then I pick up Jerry running flat out back up Elm. I didn’t pick the dog up again.”
Silence filled the room as the video showed Jerry fleeing what they all assumed was a horrible act.
“Look at him.” Susan said in a hushed voice. “He’s terrified.”
Terrell looked down at his hand, the memory of not understanding his own powers coming unbidden to his mind. “His powers must have been firing off for weeks, destroying things at random. He wouldn’t have known what to do and he was probably scared to tell anyone, especially if he’s got a power like that and he’s being treated for violent urges.” He shook his head. “Poor kid, no wonder his had an attack whenever he saw the therapist: he was afraid she’d find out.”
Susan nodded absently. “The dog, if that’s really what happened, was probably the first thing he killed with it. That’s why he had to be committed.”
Wendell heaved a sigh and stood up. “And if we lived in a rational word where there’s not a vampire in the hall closet, a mad scientists down in the lab, and we didn’t work for a piece of Afro-Caribbean mythology, we would have just solved the case.”
The center screen changed and Jerry was replaced by a middle aged man, slightly chubby without having jowls, with a short, scruffy beard and a tan that couldn’t have originated from exposure to Earth’s yellow sun. “And that’s why I kept digging for weird and struck pay-dirt with this guy: Dr. C. Elliot Mueller, the man who signed off on Jerry’s commission. Now, the tip of the weirdness-iceberg is that while he does have a PhD in Psychology, his focus is in cult behavior and methodology.”
Coyote raised a hand. “You mean occult, right?”
“No. He said cult.” Susan was squinting to read the file he’d pulled up on the adjoining screen. “As in psychopaths preying on the lonely, desperate or otherwise vulnerable.” She met Wendell’s eye as she said the last part. He didn’t flinch, but she gave a satisfied smile nonetheless.
Wendell fought down the urge to defend what he did for a living as fundamentally different from being a cult leader. Instead, he forged ahead. “Actually this kind is more like a bunch of disturbed people getting together to reinforce their delusions. Classic horror movies stuff is what he’s famous for dealing with: pentagrams, animal blood and candles.
“And here is where we go from ‘oh, that’s weird’ to ‘dense, cold ball in the pit of your stomach’. It took a lot of cutting through false documentation and layers smokescreens, but it turns out that C Elliot Mueller used to be Christopher Harrison Elliot, whose mother’s maiden name was Mueller.”
A mug shot of a much younger, thinner, and significantly more pale version of Mueller appeared. “And we learn that Dr. Mueller should know a lot about cults, because he led one in a previous life—with a modern twist. He set himself up as the manager for SabreReady, a band out of Boston that had a satanic cult motif before he got his hooks in them. And according to the police records, he turns the motif into the real thing. Satan was replaced by the ‘Adversarial Force’ that SabreReady sang was coming to remove the hate and pain from the world by destroying all things. I… have audio clips from the internet, but there’s a reason these guys never got bigger than Boston.”
“Send that to me when we’re done.” Coyote said, “But I think you should get back to how this relates to this boy.”
“Getting to that, I promise.” said Wendell. “Anyway, the cult starts stealing and using truly enviable amounts of drugs– it isn’t long before the police get involved. Some get caught, some turn states’ evidence, and Chris Elliot disappears. By all accounts they all do their time and go on to live some pretty blameless lives… until June 11 of ’75.”
“Why does that sound familiar?” Tommy said while contemplating the images and information floating in front of him.
“It should. Anansi mentions it all the time as the day he ‘woke up’, or however it’s supposed to work.” Said Terrell.”
“Same for me.” said Coyote. “And I bet it’s the same for Aidan too.”
“Who?” Tommy and Terrell both asked.
“The vampire.”
“He has a name?” Terrell asked.
“Of course he has a name, he is still a human.” Susan pointed out.
“I tend to remove the ‘human’ label around the time someone adds the ‘food’ label to humans.” Terrell replied.
“The internet calls it Flash Day.” Wendell said, intentionally cutting off the debate. “Maybe half of one percent of the population saw a green flash, like the one you see at sunset, only in the middle of the night that day. No one seems to know what it was or what it did, but supernatural stories spiked hard that day. What also spiked hard over the next twenty-four hours? Mueller’s internet contact with his old cult. Lot’s of talk about the ‘coming’ of this Adversarial Force thing. Nothing specific, because they were too smart to mention something sensitive on the internet, but enough for me to start wondering and looking closer.
“Care to guess how many former members of SabreReady and their core fandom are now working in or around the small town of Marble Pass?”
“Wait.” Coyote said, an odd, half-wild look in her eyes. “Are you saying that there’s a cult forming out there that’s worshiping this boy as the Adversarial Force?”
Wendell nodded. “And that’s just about the right level of weird for Anansi’s tastes, I imagine.”
The look in Coyote’s eyes flickered to wild panic. “No!” She blurted out. “You don’t understand just how bad this is. This isn’t some joke about how strange Anansi or I are, this is… is a terrible, horrible,” She struggled for the words. “This is a threat to the entire world.”
Terrell stopped relaxing at that point, uncrossed his leg and leaned forward. His features creased with concern. “What are you talking about? A handful of crazies worshiping a kid, it’s bad, especially if they start making demands or sacrifices, but—“
“It’s real.” Tommy interrupted him. He’d been privy to some of the arguments over bringing Aidan in and other general ‘shop’ talk between the two gods during the trip to and from Texas. “This Adversarial Force thing. It’s a god, or a monster, or something mythological just like you or the strig… vampire… thing.” He looked like he was praying he was wrong as he looked to her and asked, “Isn’t it, Coyote?”
She ran her fingers to her hair, looking very much like the girl she partially was. “It… used to be. It’s hard to explain; harder than it is to explain Anansi or me: we’re ideas, belief, faith wrapped around magic and inhabiting mortal bodies. The Adversarial Force wasn’t even from our world. It was an idea without someone to think it up first and it did things to people, twisted them. I came from people believing in Coyote; the Adversarial Force inspired demons and ghuls and evil spirits. We’re opposite ends of the same concept.”
“Adversarial… “ Terrell started. “Are we talking about the Adversary? As in Satan?”
Coyote shook her head. “haSatan was the word for one who tested loyalty. Long ago, when people first faced the Adversarial Force, it turned friend against friend, ally against ally, loyal servants against those they served. It was seen as the ultimate adversary and earned the title, but you’re thinking of something else. It wouldn’t be considered evil though if not for how mankind remembers the Adversarial Force.”
Susan was the only one that hadn’t gone to the edge of their seat. She was scowling at the floor instead. “But what does any of that have to do with this boy and the cult that’s trying to us him?”
After a deep breath, Coyote found herself staring at the floor too. “Now that I know about this cult? I can tell you that he’s not a descendant. He’s got magic in his blood that woke up the same way everything else did on June 11. It’s a touch of destruction that right now, he doesn’t know how to control. The cult must have gotten a hold of some of the old legends that survived the Adversarial Force being destroyed the first time and now they think this boy, Jerry is an avatar.”
“So they’re going to try to use him as a weapon.” Wendell guessed. “Make all their prophecies come true, maybe?”
Tears were starting to form in Coyote’s eyes. “No. You’re still not getting it. Maybe the cult doesn’t either, but the fact is: gods or whatever you want to call us, don’t die. We can come back. We can become real again. All it takes is something to give us a foothold.”
The others looked to one another. None of them wanted to voice the epiphany that had just landed on them.
“No offense, Coyote,” Terrell said, “You’re a nice enough person and all, but I’m having a had enough time believing you or Anansi without you talking about some god of destruction being resurrected. That’s the kind of plot you see on TV, and not the kind that wins awards for writing.”
“Man, if you heard how they talk when they don’t think we’re listening, you wouldn’t be saying that.” said Tommy.
Wendell opened his mouth to say something. Susan knew exactly what it was and silenced him with a look. “No.” She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “I think it’s time we gave up on being arbitrarily skeptical about all this. Maybe we haven’t seen anything directly magical, but we can’t deny that we were bought together for a reason.”
She got up and walked around to where Wendell was sitting and took his remote, flicking back through the images and data feeds until the center screen showed Jerry again. “Maybe there is no demonic entity, or maybe there is. Either way, there’s an innocent child with a power that’s scaring him to death in the hands of people who want to use him. And even if you can’t just do it because it’s right, we’re all being paid better than we can imagine to do this.”
Folding her arms, she looked at the others and defied them to argue.
Wendell looked up at her, a single eyebrow raised. He didn’t say anything at that moment, but they both knew that there would be questions later.
To Be Continued…
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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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