- The Spider’s Seven #1 – The Trickster God
- The Spider’s Seven #2 – The Penitent Thief
- The Spider’s Seven #3 – The Enforcer and the Faceman
- The Spider’s Seven #4 – The Wheelman
- The Spider’s Seven #5 – The Plan
- The Spider’s Seven #6 – The Base
- The Spider’s Seven #7 – The Myth
- The Spider’s Seven #8 – The Genius (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #9 – The Genius (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven #10 – The Genius (Part 3)
- The Spider’s Seven #11 – The Monster (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #12 – The Monster (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven Annual #1 – The Team
“Are you sure this is the place?” Coyote asked, peering out the window of the car as Tommy pulled up. The building was ancient and tiny for an apartment building; only ten stories tall. Most of the windows were covered over, but there were places on the ground floor where the black tarp used to cover them had been pulled up to let someone inside.
Coyote, or part of her, had spent most of her life in the cluster of small towns where she’d been born, but even she recognized urban decay when she saw it. And this place had all the hallmarks of a place where squatters would gather.
Beside her in the back seat, Anansi was looking at the black folder. Not reading it, just looking at the contents as if he could change them if he only tried. He nodded at her question without so much as glancing at the building.
“It is. Three weeks ago, a marine Superhuman Intervention Unit was dispatched to Enrique DeSoto Memorial Hospital, two miles from here. Two patients dead, one nurse, two doctors and an orderly. Many injured, including a member of the SHI unit.”
He flipped a page, even though the writing there didn’t pertain to the information he was running down. “All accounts say that a patent brought in for severe abdominal pain went berserk. The official word is that he was a psionic who manifested his powers and couldn’t handle it.”
Tommy looked at the two of them in the rearview. “I’ve heard of stuff like that. One day the guy’s just an average family man, the next he electrocutes a neighbor, has a nervous breakdown.”
“Lifespan of a rumor, Mr. Lowell.” said Anansi. “They grow and change like any other living thing. It’s only happened ten times in the past thirty years, by the way, according to the knowledge I’ve gathered. Facts don’t live. They sit there and exist, like statues.
“And then someone takes the fact and makes a story out of it; adds their own perspective, their own commentary and it is no longer a fact, it becomes a rumor, an anecdote, a moral,a lie. And those things are alive. They evolve like germs; drifting from host to host and being subtly changed by them. And then, like a turtle trying to convince the eagle that he is a rock, they disguise themselves as facts. So now that sort of thing ‘happens all the time’, because stories are alive and statistics are not.”
“So you don’t think this was a descendant.” Coyote was still looking at the building. It hadn’t been abandoned for all that long, despite its advanced age. The tarp hadn’t even had time to get dirty.
“Not at all. Ten times have manifesting descendants killed people in the process. Not a single time was it deliberate. This man, this monster killed with a will. His victims were all over the hospital, throats torn open, thighs slashed, wrists flayed. Does that make you think of anything?”
“It makes me feel sick.” Said Tommy.
“Because you’re a good man.” said Anansi. “It makes me sick as well. And Coyote.”
She looked over at him to find that he still hadn’t look up and couldn’t have seen her blanch at his words. It didn’t unnerve her because she knew him, knew how he worked. That didn’t make it less frustrating.
“Thighs, wrists and throat;” She explained for Tommy’s benefit. “They’re were the major arteries are, where blood flow is strongest. He tore them open to get at their blood.”
“You’ve shitting me.” Tommy said, but at the same time, he cast a wary look at toward the building. “That’s why you’ve been reading and watching all that vampire stuff in the past week? Please tell me you’re not serious.”
“Are you asking because you don’t believe us?” Coyote asked with a playful tone and a quirked eyebrow.
Tommy shook his head. “Hell no. I’m worried that you’re right and we’re parked outside a modern day version of a Transylvanian castle. I’ve known Anansi too long to doubt this kind of thing is possible.”
“The Marines seem to agree with me.” Anansi said. “They tested blood samples they got and classified him USE – Unidentified Source Entity; what they call all the strange plants and animals that’ve been turning up from time to time in the past year.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s a vampire.” Tommy pointed out nervously.
“I never said vampire.” Coyote played coy. “Anansi, did you say vampire?”
“Never.” he replied, more seriously. “I might say upir, ramanga, strigoi, jiangshi, asanbosam, tunda, nukekubi, mandurugo, strix, langsuir, vetalas, lilitu, lamia, nosferatu, gello, izcacus, moroi, vrykolakas, or motetz dam, however.”
Tommy glanced back at him through the rearview. “Every single one of those is another word for ‘vampire’, isn’t it?”
Anansi close the folder and made eye contact with him. Not really. When you say ‘vampire’, you’re picturing a certain thing; an undead human who needs blood to survive; immortal, susceptible to sunlight, usually pretty, pale and deadly. But what you’re actually referring to… allow me to put it this way: saying ‘vampire’ is equally as descriptive as saying ‘song-bird’ or ‘carnivore’.
“Every one of those is considered a vampire, but the only connection between them is that they are creatures that survive by draining something vital from a living creature. Some are humans transformed by curse or spell, some are creatures either of this world or another; and still others are crossbreeds of the two or the descendants of them.”
He opened the folder again, but this time, she actually read from it. “This is a man. If the hospital records are correct, Adam Joseph Bowling, a tax attorney from here in Austin. Something happened to awaken something in him, transformed him into a predator that feeds by exsanguination.
“That sounds close enough to a vampire for me.” said Tommy.
Coyote turned her attention to her hands. “I don’t like this.”
“We are in complete agreement.” Tommy nodded. “What if this isn’t the punk kind of vampire that looks pretty and seduces women? What if it’s the badass kind that punches people’s heads off and drinks the blood out like it’s a water fountain?”
“Not what I meant.” Coyote shook he head. “I don’t like what you’re trying to do here, ‘Nansi.”
Anansi frowned and closed the folder again, putting it down on the seat between them. “I don’t like it all that well either. But it has to be done.”
She glared at him. “And if you’re wrong? If he isn’t the vicious, unrepentant creature you came here for?”
“In the past weeks, the two miles surrounding this place have had a spike of missing persons. Almost a dozen people. And he doesn’t discriminate. A seventy year old woman and a twelve year old boy have gone missing and we both know that they are not coming back, Coyote. Because of him. This thing.”
Coyote met his eyes and refused to look away. “What if it’s not his choice? You just finished telling Tommy how there’s different types of what we would call vampire. What if there is an innocent man in there being controlled by some kind of spirit?”
“That can happen too?” asked Tommy.
“Rarely.” said Anansi, not breaking his gaze with Coyote. “And in answer to your question, that is exactly what we’re going to see. I know better to act without asking the right questions; but sometimes, the right question is an action.”
With that, he swung open his door and got out. Coyote followed through her door, her face growing sour. “You know facts, Anansi. But you can’t read minds. How do you plan to find out?”
Anansi went to the back of the car and motioned for Tommy to pop the trunk, which he did. “Why I’m going to talk to him, of course.” He was dressed as he was when he first met the team in Kansas, right down to his feet being bare but for the ever-present bandages. The shells and beads braided into his hair tinkled as he bent to reach inside the trunk.
Coyote was dressed down for the occasion; loose fitting jeans and a pink, long sleeved sweater that bared her midriff if she put her arms above her head. Her hair was tied back in a loose ponytail.
“He’s probably going to attack you right off, good or bad.” she pointed out.
“Oh, I know.” said the Spider, coming up with his staff. The bandages wrapped around one end fluttered a good foot of spare material. He made a point of planting the other end firmly on the ground and leaning on it. “That doesn’t mean I won’t still find a way to talk.”
Walking with the aide of the staff, he started toward the house.
“What am I supposed to do?” Asked Tommy who hadn’t been clued into the plan.
Coyote sighed, watching Anansi. “Just wait here.” She wasn’t fully apprised of the plan herself, and she what she did know was something she was hoping she could prevent. “And don’t park in the shade, just in case.”
Leaving Tommy frustrated, she ran to catch up with Anansi, who was already contemplating to locked front doors.
“We’re not done talking about this.” She hissed dangerously. “You say you’re doing this to make the world better. You say you want to help make the story better. But this doesn’t do either. Even if we find a complete monster who loved ever murder, what you’re planning to do…”
“Your legends say that you fought monsters at the beginning of the world.” Anansi observed, “To prepare the world for the new people to live in.” The doors weren’t locked electronically, there was a physical chain looped through the handles of the double doors.
Coyote glared at him, wondering what his game was. It was an odd feeling, being on the receiving end of cleverness. “Fighting them is one thing. Killing them is one thing. If you wanted to kill him, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“I might end up killing him.”
“After he’s been used a bait, or I guess it’s more accurate to say ‘as a lightning rod’.”
“Someone might have to die.” He said and glanced hesitantly back at the car and Tommy. Before fixating on the lock again. “None of them deserve to die. They deserve a chance to fix things, the get better.”
Coyote had followed his gaze and didn’t look back when he did. “Are you talking about the crew, or everyone?”
“Yes.” he tugged twice, sharply on the lock, the snapped his wrist and did so again. Finally, he twisted the other way and pushed upward before pulling back, hard and fast. The lock fell open and he was able to pull the chains free of the door handles.
Without ceremony, he pulled the doors open, letting sun spill into a short hall, populated only by a wall of heavily vandalized mailboxes, a staircase and an elevator. A thin layer of dust billowed up in the disturbance, but otherwise, the room remained still.
They took the first steps inside shoulder to shoulder.
“But I didn’t mention your legends because I want you to fight this monster.” Said Anansi as they silently advanced on the stairs. The elevator wouldn’t be working, and even if it was, it would give their presence away too easily.
Coyote looked around with a cautious eye. “You don’t want to fight it at all, I know that. So what was the point?”
“The point is, you remember those monsters. The eaters of men that didn’t just tears flesh, chew fat and gnaw bone. The ones that took them whole and eternally.”
She took the lead going up the stairs. There was a door at the top and she paused to listen at it. “This isn’t one of them. Anything that could be called a vampire is a predator and any predator can be dangerous because they’re built for it, but they don’t destroy.”
“No, I am not talking about this creature. I’m talking about the force we work against and the life we aim to save. If the former reaches the later before us, then you will see one of those monsters again. It will destroy—starting with the team. Our enemy is bent on this thing happening; placing most of its resources into it. And it will kill if it needs to. No one is safe.”
His eyes darkened as he reached past her to open the door. The stairwell beyond was dark.
“What I’m doing is trying to give us a buffer… and perhaps performing an experiment.”
“The buffer is what I object to.” Coyote said. “It’s the same as sacrificing someone’s life.” But curiosity was a large part of her core being and it got the better of her. “What experiment?”
Anansi smiled. “I want to learn something I don’t know already. About redemption, seeing is that’s the theme I’ve chosen here. I wonder if there’s a limit to it. How bad does a person have to be before it becomes out of their reach?”
They climbed in complete darkness, they didn’t need a light.
After a time of silence, Coyote spoke again. “That’s something I can agree to. Just drop this idea of a buffer.”
“Sorry.” Anansi said, and in the darkness, it was easy to tell in his voice that he was. “But I already told you; I can’t accept any of them dying. Maybe this is a wrong choice. Maybe I will learn a painful lesson from it. But I have to try and I have to learn. It is what I am.”
Another pause, and he added. “Perhaps that means that we have already collected The Monster.”
Coyote looked upward and opened her senses. Pain had happened in this place. Unimaginable pain so recent and so terrible that it stained the astral plane. But above that, there was revelry and exaltation at that pain and loss of life.
“No.” She whispered. “We haven’t.”
To Be Continued…