The Spider’s Seven #10 – The Genius (Part 3)

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series The Spider's Seven Vol 1

One day ago

“A lot of this seems to hedge on how the doctor reacts to Susan’s ‘heart attack’.” Terrell pointed out. They had cloistered themselves in Wendell’s room to get the final rundown of the plan together. Terrell and Susan were on opposite ends of the love seat while Wendell paced in front of them.

“Terrell, let me tell you a secret of my profession.” Wendell stopped and looked the other man in the eye, unblinking. “Every con relies on the mark’s reaction. That’s why you have to learn so much psychology to pull even the simplest grift. We can depend on Riggs because I know the man now.

“I dove into his life and, from the many pieces of personal information he lets float around free on the net, I’ve put together a shockingly complete profile on him. Not only can I tell you with ninety percent certainty how he’ll react to that, but I can predict what he’ll have for breakfast the next morning.”

Susan folded her arms. “Alright, then explain to us. Put us at ease that you know what you’re doing.”

“Gladly.” Said Wendell, resuming his pacing. “See, it’s my personal theory that every person has a key emotion; some little button in their soul that’s easier to push then others and once you push it, they stop thinking.

“Like way more people than is healthy for society, Riggs runs on fear. Not just any fear either; he’s scared of losing his comfort. Money, influence, reputation; those are the things he’s about. He’ll do anything to pay off his gambling debts. Anything, that is, but sell his expensive American Motor Cars Avenger. Hell, he talks freely online about how he hates his job—except the pay is too good and the prestige too high to give it up.

“The second we threaten that, he’ll stop thinking and leave all the brain work to whoever suggests anything half-plausible.”

***

The elevator opened into the parking garage and Wendell exited, pushing Susan in a wheelchair with Riggs right beside him.

“That’s my car there.” Riggs produced a key toggle and hit several buttons in succession. The lights came on, the doors unlocked, and the engine started. He scurried ahead of them to open the back door. “Here, she can lay down back here.”

Still acting the part of concerned husband, Wendell pushed Susan over, then moved to help her up. In doing so, he took her hand and held it tenderly. “Everything is going to be alright, honey. I’m not going to let anything happen to you, I swear.”

He was a good actor. If he’d been more handsome, he could have made it in Hollywood instead of Jersey. Even Susan had to look away from him and concentrate on faking symptoms. It got even worse for her when he wrapped her in his arms to lay her down in the back of the car.

Mission or no, she was sure he was having fun with her at that point and made a note to make him pay for it.

Once she was down and as comfortable as they could make her, Wendell straightened up from bending over in the car and let his eyes ‘happen’ to fall on the truck.

“Oh no…” He said in sotto voice.

“What?” Asked the now nervously frayed Riggs.

“The truck.”

“What about it?”

Wendell gestured around him. “We’re leaving. We don’t know how long it will take—what happens if someone sees it and notices that there’s no one here it belongs to.”

Riggs’s face lost some color. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

Appearing deep in concerned thought, Wendell drummed his fingers roughly on the metallic blue paint job of Riggs’s Avenger. It was a beautiful car, sleek and dynamic with tinted windows and custom everything.

“Ah! How about this: I drive Anna to the hospital in this and you come behind me in my truck?”

***

Four hours ago

“Again,” Susan leaned on the counter of the car rental agency, a cup of complementary coffee in one hand. Through the window, she watched Terrell talking to one of the rental agents. “What do you do if he takes you up on your suggestion?”

“Trust me.” Wendell said out of the side of his mouth, nodding as their rental agent appeared with the keys to the pickup. “There’s no force; heaven earth or man’s dying wife that can make him give us even a chance of stealing that damn car.”

***

Riggs pursed his lips, stalling as he tried to come up with an excuse not to let someone else behind the wheel of his car. At the same time, he knew that questions about the truck would lead to questions about what happened to the security tape during the time the truck was there. And that could land him in a lot of trouble.

It took too long to come up with a solution, and if ‘Mrs. Price’ really had been having a heart attack, no jury in the world would have convicted her panicked husband for taking his keys and peeling out of the parking garage.

“I know the car better.” He finally said. “I can drive faster. You come behind me.”

Wendell nodded and then pretended to remember something else. “My palmtop with all my notes on it! I left it in the diagnostic room!”

Already set up for the rope-a-dope by the previous problem and its solution, Riggs was quick to snatch his security card off his neck and toss it to him. “Go get them and hurry. We’ll head along without you.”

Not once did it pass through his head just how many breeches of security protocol that constituted, or how massive the reprimand could be from just that.

***

“We could have gone down the stairwell in this time.” Flo groused, but only halfheartedly. She was more concerned with folding and refolding several sheets of paper she’d nicked from a garbage can as they passed.

Terrell shook his head. “Bad idea. The stair alarms are rigged into the fire system, not the security system. And we couldn’t bypass that.” He kept his eyes on the elevator doors in front of him.

“Then I would have expected we would have popped the doors and slid down the cables all the way to the bottom.” Flo suggested. She was building up a handful of origami cranes.

“That is how I got up here, but we have a problem now: the others went down to the garage, so the carriage is blocking the door we’d need to come out of.”

Flo folded one large sheet of formerly crumpled paper into a funnel and dropped the cranes in before starting in on a complicated array of twists and crimps. “This whole escape-slash-rescue seems to be poorly planned out.”

“I would agree.” said Terrell just as the doors opened, revealing a grinning Wendell, holding up Riggs’s security card. “Except it keeps surprising me by working as planned.”

***

One day ago

The trio was sitting around the holographic display in the main room. The sound of Anansi watching old movies in the other room occasionally trespassed on them as they worked with a wireframe of the hospital.

“And so I take Terrell and our new friend back down the elevator to the truck. She hunches down in the front seat, Terrell, you go back into the false took box, and we’re home free.”

Susan scowled and pointed to two dots already outside of the building, one red to represent her, the other yellow to represent Dr. Riggs. “Not all home free. You forgot me. I’m still in the car with Riggs on my way to the hospital.”

Wendell laughed. “but Susan, it’s so simple, I didn’t think I needed to tell you.”

She gave him a cold glare. In the other room, a gruff voice from one of Anansi’s movies said something about ice skating uphill.

Huffing, he sighed. “Fine. Here’s what you do…”

***

Dr. Riggs made record time reaching the city proper of Swanson, especially taking into account the rain-slick roads. He pulled right up to the receiving area for emergency room patients, only to be shocked in finding ‘Anna Price’ sitting up and opening her door.

“Mrs. Price!” He exclaimed. “Wait, let me get that for you. Let me get you a wheelchair in fact.”

Susan gave him a tired smile. “You’ve been so good to me, doctor, but I can’t ask you to do that. What if someone sees you bringing me in? It might raise questions.”

Despite what Wendell might have had them believe, Riggs wasn’t a bad person. He was amazingly unethical, had bad habits, and was easily panicked, but that didn’t put him very far behind on the curve. The idea of leaving a woman having a heart attack on the curb was out of the question.

“No. Sit still. I’ll be right back.”

He was out of the car and rushing around to the main doors before Susan could protest.

She quickly realized just how big of a problem that was. If he went inside, he would tell the staff and she would be admitted for a heart attack. And if that happened, not only would there be a record of her being in Swanson, but the doctors would quickly find nothing wrong with her.

Worse, she might be admitted for observation, meaning they’d still be in town when the mental health center learned it was missing a patient.

“Doctor!” She called after him, causing him to stop short. She only had one shot at this and little time to think. Might as well go for broke. “I… feel better. Honestly.” She stood up, making sure to remain slightly shaky and unstable to prove it.

“Besides, I couldn’t live with myself if one of your colleagues saw you and asked questions. If you just help me to the door, I’ll be fine.”

***

Fifteen Minutes Later

The pickup slowed down in front of the overhang protecting the emergency exit of the hospital before rolling to an idling stop just up the street. Minutes later, a brown and tan colored van pulled up right in front, where Susan was waiting.

“Your cynicism almost screwed me, Leiter.” she growled as she climbed into the seat beside the driver. “Riggs wouldn’t just leave me, he had to make sure I got in okay and he would have tried to help me sign in if I didn’t pretend to recover and even then, he didn’t really buy it.”

Wendell ignored the acid in her tone. A win was a win as far as he was concerned. After the job was done, the rest was just needless detail.

“Susan, I’d like you to meet Flo Akron, the lady we did all this for.” He set off again, following Terrell, who was in the pickup.

Flo was on the bench seat behind them, dutifully folding a twist of paper around a cube made of folded paper. She nodded when Susan looked back. “Thanks for your help. I was working on a plan to get myself out, but I’m not going to turn down help if I can get it. So your boss is going to let me actually get back to work?”

“He has some things he’d like you to put together for us,” Wendell said, “But he’s not exactly a taskmaster.”

“So this is the Goddess of Grenades?” Susan asked.

Flo laughed. “Alliteration. I like that.” She flourished a bit as she tied off the last bit of her paper twist. “You’ll want to let your boss know though; my therapist suggested to me that I should focus my work in a less lethal direction. Well, he said non-lethal, but that doesn’t exist. You can drown in a tablespoon of water, or die from a cut as small as a centimeter if it’s in the right place, you know? And chemical agents are always a crapshoot.”

“That’s… comforting to hear.” said Susan nervously.

Flo didn’t even notice her tone. “I agree with him though. The spirit, not the idea of non-lethal. It’s easy to kill people with a grenade, but that’s hardly exploring the applications of the core concept and I believe that’s what talent and skill should be about. So if he wants a lethal grenade, I can give him a list of wholesalers, but I’m done with that for now.”

Susan smirked as she saw Wendell roll his eyes. The expression faltered as she thought back to his ‘concerned husband’ act. It was all part of the plan, a bit of good acting that was necessitated by their covers, but without knowing it, he’d dragged up a memory that twisted her insides.

For once, it wasn’t Wendell’s fault, but she wanted to hit him for it.

Fighting the urge, she nodded to Flo. “I think you’ll get along just fine with our boss.”

“Good.” chirped Flo. “So let me show you something else a grenade can do. It’d be better if there were a thousand, but I don’t have the time or paper.”

Before either of the others could ask what she was talking about, the cube she’d been working on flew into the front half of the van. The impact unraveled folds and seams, releasing energy stored in twists and crimps that multiplied thanks to their configuration.

Twenty-five paper cranes flew into the air.

Flo grinned at the shocked expressions she got. “I call it a Luck Dispersal Shell.”

“We’ll need it.” Wendell groaned.

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< The Spider’s Seven #9 – The Genius (Part 2)The Spider’s Seven #11 – The Monster (Part 1) >>

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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.

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