- The Spider’s Seven #13: The Absence
- The Spider’s Seven #14: The Enemy
- The Spider’s Seven #15: The Homecoming
- The Spider’s Seven #16: The Dearly Departed
- The Spider’s Seven #17 – The Visitation
- The Spider’s Seven #18 – The Others
- The Spider’s Seven #19 – The Misfits
- The Spider’s Seven #20 – The Setup (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #21 – The Set-up (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven #22 – The Set-up (Part3)
- The Spider’s Seven #23 – The Execution (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #24 – The Execution (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven Annual #2 – The Execution (Part 3)
- Spider’s 7 – Journey’s End
Spider’s 7 – Journey’s End
Things have been going so well for Mueller.
The cult had come before the Adversarial Force. He’d always been in love with the rock star lifestyle, especially the groupies. It wasn’t even about the sex for him; it was the power. The power to make people do what he wanted them to. And when he got the small taste of it local celebrity could bring with his band, SabreReady, he wanted more.
Alas, SabreReady wasn’t ready for prime-time and never would be. Sure, he managed to gather a loyal following, but his band-mates grew increasingly creeped out as it became more and more obvious that what he was amassing weren’t your normal ‘fans’.
Still, he never actually believed. The vaguely demonic god and tenets he conjured for his followers was custom made to attract disaffected teens and twenty-somethings: everyone in the world was stupid, only destruction could fix the world, hate was bliss—blah-blah-blah. It was all crap that anyone with common sense ejected by the time they were old enough to vote and drink legally. Lucky for him, one bit of cynical bullshit was true: there were a lot of people without common sense.
Even luckier for him, it turned out there really was a powerful being out there that believed in those things, and his little cult attracted its attention.
Being an actual priest and cult leader agreed with him. With the Adversarial Force’s power and his own knack for getting his hooks in people, his following had grown strong enough to infiltrate and almost completely take over Casper, Wyoming in search of the boy, Jerry Galloway.
In hindsight, he should have just found a way to quietly kill the kid’s parents instead of coming up with the pretense of transferring him across the country. It took the parents out of the picture while he did his work, but it also isolated him and the few he could insert into the Center from the others. It also apparently attracted someone’s attention if the giant magic coyote and gas grenade were any indication.
And that brought him up to the present, where he was waking up with a headache like an ax through the skull and a sore chest, presumably from laughing himself to asphyxia from the gas grenade. His headache wasn’t helped by the sound of many hard shoes tromping on the tile floor of the corridor.
He groaned and tried to roll over. If those bastards were coming back, he would show them what for.
“Dr. C. Elliot Mueller.” intoned a male voice with a military cadence. Mueller was in no shape to move at all and ended up collapsing back onto his chest, wondering who the hell this was. “Also known as Christopher Elliot.” All his other aches and pains faded. This was not good. He opted not to move at all.
“I’m Agent Jaime Esposito, Drug Enforcement Agency. I’m going to need you to keep your hands where I can see them and get up slowly.”
Mueller’s eyes widened. DEA? Why was the DEA after him? Even in the band, he barely did legal drugs, much less illicit ones.
Two Days Earlier
Shortly after hacking the security system, Wendell as Dr. Cobbworthy walked boldly to the Center’s pharmacy, humming a little tune. He swiped his ID and submitted to a fingerprint scan. After a moment of searching the ID database, the red light next to the light turned green.
“Welcome: C. Elliot Mueller, M.D.” greeted a robotic voice. Wendell grinned broadly and from inside his jacket, produced a small shopping bag.
Eight Hours Earlier
Twenty miles from the Center, Susan entered the eighth pharmacy that day with a palmtop loaded with prescriptions written by C. Elliot Mueller.
Three Hours Earlier
Terrell holstered the gun. “I’ll explain all of this later, but you need to do something about fang-face in there and I need to hide some Easter eggs.” he told Ananzi, pulling a handful of pill bottles out of a pocket.
Unable to comply with the order to stand, Mueller could only lay on his belly as two DEA agents pulled his arms back behind him and cuffed him. Esposito read him his rights as this happened. Meanwhile, another agent, holding a tablet with a bulbous attachment entered the corridor.
“I found the palmtop that hit our internal database.” He declared. (It belongs to the nurse our guy here bought with him from the Midwest.”
Wendell watched the uplink open to the cult members’ palmtops and started downloading their contact information. At the same time, he deleted a few key encryption and IP masking tools meant to run silently in the background of them.
Esposito looked up. “Warrant come in yet?”
The other agent grinned. “Oh yeah, and guess what? The contacts list is a gold mine. She has five of the top dealers on the west coast and Mexico on here—plus the police, town council and and most of the public works for the town they were in before they came here.”
Leaning down, Esposito caught Mueller’s eye. “You folks’ve been busy I wonder what I’m going to find once we warrant your palmtop.”
Three Hours Earlier
With the gas dissipating, Wendell disabled the lockdown on the hall and returned to where Mueller was lying, unconscious from euphoric shock.
“Looks like sin beats religion.” he mused, kneeling over the man. He patted him down, looking for his palmtop. In the end, he had to roughly roll him over on his stomach to retrieve it from his back pocket. Taking that palmtop, He carefully wiped down the on he’d been using as Cobbworthy throughout the entire con to remove fingerprints, then he slipped it into Mueller’s pocket, running programs linked to the Center’s security and all.
It took the two agents who cuffed him to drag Mueller out of the Center through the lobby, he was so weak form the eclectic cocktail of drugs Flo had packed into her last joy grenade. By the time they reached the lobby, other agents a taken the nurse and there was a pair of suits Esposito didn’t recognize talking to the Doctor that called in the tip that a sizable drug heist might be going down at the Center, Cobbworthy.
“Who are you?” He demanded. “He was in charge of this bust and he’d be damned if he let another agency horn in on it.
The woman of the pair turned to give him a guarded look before flashing her badge. “Agents Devlin and Rogers, FBI. Don’t worry about us, cowboy, you can do what you want with the drug bust. Dr. Cobbworthy called us in because while he was waiting for you, he started having suspicions that the boy Mueller wasn’t actually in need of treatment.”
A dark look flashed across Esposito’s face and his eyes darted to Mueller. “This guy is some piece of work.” He licked his lips. “Alright, child abductions are your play. What do you need form us?”
“Nothing much, said Devlin, “We’re going to take Cobbworthy’s statement and the boy’s. If you could send any information you pull off this dirtbag’s palmtop involving the kid to the Boulder field office, it’d be a step in the right direction.”
“I’ll make sure of it.” said Esposito, feeling good to actually be working with the feebees instead of fighting over jurisdiction.
When he’d gone and the federal presence in the room was reduced to a few guys checking through the computer at the receptionist’s desk for more evidence, Devlin, who was really Susan turned to Wendell so that her back was blocking both him and Tommy (AKA, Rogers) from casual glances. “So what all did you put on that palmtop?”
“Not much,” Wendell gave both of them a smug look and gestured for them to walk him back toward Jerry’s room. “Stolen security protocols for the Center, video editing software that will make it look like he edited me into the security camera shots of my going into the pharmacy, evidence that he doctors the admission papers for Jeremy… and just to put a cherry on top, I implicated him in a few cons I did that the Bureau still has an open file on.”
Tommy shook his head, which did double duty by allowing him to make sure no prying ears were nearby. “After we go through all this, put ourselves in harm’s way to do the right thing, you’re still a con artist.”
The smug look only grew. “Only a con artist could have pulled this off and saved the kid. The way I see it, there’s no reason being a con artist can’t be a good thing.”
Another hotel, this time in Denver. Another breakfast, this time with idle, friendly chatter instead of tension and distrust. Instead of a buffet on the sideboard, the food was in bowls and on platters in the center of the large, sectional table. Flo had moved over to a nearby couch earlier to tinker with odds and ends she’s picked up or pried off in the trailer.
“The second we got out of the car, I was counting.” Tommy said, helping himself to some link sausages “And I’m not going to lie: I was this close to just taking off and running for the doors when we started to run out of time.” He used the tongs to indicate how little time they had.
Susan laughed boisterously, “And I’m going to tell you the truth: you’d have to beat me to the door. I almost ran too.”
Wendell spread a healthy coat of butter on his toast. “There was plenty of time. I had complete faith in the two of you sticking it out and getting to Boyd.”
“Now that was a disappointment.” said Susan after taking a sip of coffee. “I thought he was this rough, tough enforcer guys. He whole time were were going up to him, I expected a fight. Then I just flashed a badge and…”
The Previous Night
Boyd’s eyes widened as he saw the badges. He took a step back as if he were going to run, then threw up both hands. “This wasn’t my idea.” He said quickly, “Any of it. It’s not me you want, it’s Mueller. He’s the mastermind. Give me immunity and I’ll tell you everything you want about the whole thing.”
Tommy and Susan gave each other side glances. Tommy spoke up first. “You’re a smart man, Mr. Boyd. Go one and head down to the lobby and deliver your statement. We’ll do everything we can for you.”
“Thank ya.” Boyd said, the relief melting years off his complexion. He didn’t wait for further instructions, heading toward the lobby as fast as he could without running.
Once he disappeared around the corner, Tommy turned to Susan, “The gas is still going to be in the lobby about now, right?”
Susan broke character to smile openly. “Oh yeah.”
Coyote clapped once and gave a little mock bow to Tommy over her plate full of eggs in various states of preparation. “That was worthy of myself or Ananzi. Very nice.”
The discussion was cut off by Ananzi tapping the side of his orange juice glass with the end of a butter knife. When all eyes were on him, he smiled that enigmatic smile of his. “Very nice is correct. The truth is that you all managed to make this plan workable where I couldn’t. You all made this story end happily where I wrote a tragedy.”
No one said a word. They hadn’t gotten an explanation as to where he’d gone and what anger they’d had for him in regard to abandoning them had been temporarily pushed aside by celebration of their victory.
Ananzi didn’t need anyone to say it, he knew it so well that he could have written it with his eyes closed. “I am a creature of stories; the spirit of the knowledge, lessons and emotion that travels down through the ages being passed from one to another through allegory, simile and object lesson. There are times when following the familiar structure and tropes blind me.
“My original plan was similar to yours, but in mine, the Strigoi was killed when the adversarial Force possessed him, thereby violently severing the creature’s link to this world. It never occurred to me to simply destroy its anchor because only death can redeem who and what Aidan Beck is.”
The sly smile became a real one. A gentle, proud one. “I left because your disapproval showed me that I needed to remember who I am, to reconnect with my roots, so to speak in hopes of coming up with a new solution. I reached the same one you did after returning to the place where I came into being and speaking to another of my kind.”
He rose from his seat, hands folded in front of him humbly. “I would have been too late for young Jerry. It is possible at that point that I would have been too late for the entire world. But as it turns out I could not have chosen better when I built this team. You worked together to divine the problem and solve it through guile and not a drop of blood was spilled.”
“That reminded me,” said Tommy, upon hearing Jerry’s name being mentioned, “I need to change into my chauffeur costume soon so I can meet Jerry parents at the airport.”
“I think I’ll play the social worker.” said Coyote. “It’ll be good after being holed up in that room for so long.”
Ananzi only warmed more at the brief interruption. “And even after we’ve won, you’re still giving it your all. I have to say that it makes an old god humble. You’ve more than earned your pay for this job. And at least in my eyes, your personal redemptions… are just a small part of your stories.”
Terrell lifted his coffee cup. “Here, here.” The others echoed the sentiment and drank to it as well. But he wasn’t done. “Of course… I don’t know about you, but my story isn’t done. I’ve got a question that needs answering: what’s the next job?”
There was a rolling laugh from the others at that, though Ananzi was quick to notice that everyone seemed to be looking to him for an answer. “Hmm, we can discuss that,” He said at length, “after loose ends are taken care of.”
Aidan Beck had never been much of a drinker as far as he could remember. Sure, he’d gotten blackout drunk in college, but he’d learned his lesson about that and if there was one excess he didn’t wallow in, it was drink.
That was why the head-splitting, nausea churning, kill-me-now hangover was in particularly surprising variety of unpleasant surprise. The light in…wherever he was…already stabbed into him even through his closed eyelids and his mouth felt like something small and furry had crawled into it, died and mummified. Ever movement he made cause his belly to threaten him with rebellion.
Fuzzy images of giant spiders, dogs with too-intelligent eyes, and jars of swirling evil flashed into his memory, but didn’t stay. Screaming faces, dead bodies and blood everywhere flash in as well, but they lingered, forming a macabre backdrop that made him worry about what he’d done while apparently roaring drunk.
For now, he felt too bad to even care. Squeezing his eyes shut until they hurt, he fought to get back to sleep. As slumber slowly crept back into his world, he hoped the nightmares of his mind would be gone when he woke.
When he woke up, he would discover that he was in the drunk tank of a police station in Overland Park, Kansas. Among the effects that would be returned to him were a set of keys to a small apartment, the receipts from three different local bars, a cheap palmtop, and an employee ID from World Spider Industries accounting division.
Even though he didn’t remember any of it, he also didn’t want to be held for psychiatric care if he let on about that fact, so he took the keys and checked the palmtop for an address.
As he left, he didn’t notice a dark man sitting at the bus stop across from the police station watching him with quiet interest.
“This is your one chance, Mr. Beck.” Ananzi said to the retreating back of the former vampire. “Perhaps you will do better this time—but if not, I will have my eye on you.”
End Spider’s 7.
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