- 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
Aidan stared at the empty plate in front of him ruefully. His captors were mocking him, feeding him rare steaks, which was acceptable, but always adding potatoes, green beans or broccoli just to mock that fact that he was a man again thanks to The Spider’s meddling with his place in the natural order.
What bothered him most is that he ate and even enjoyed them.
Like a human. A worthless, weak human. He’d thought he’d shed his connection to that mewling race of apes and transcended. He would have too if it hadn’t been for the damn Spider. He’d gone from something unique and powerful and amazing back to nothing in the blink of an eye.
With a growl in his throat, he sat back and folded his arms, looking around the small room he was being kept in. He knew he was in a trailer, but that was it. He knew neither where the trailer was, nor where in the trailer the room he was in was located. There were no windows, just a small table, a cot and a commode. God, how little he missed needing a commode when he was the vampire.
He was, for the thousandth time, imagining in vivid detail how he would kill each member of The Spider’s little group if he ever got his powers back, when the door opened.
Over most of the past week, it had either been Tommy or Flo who brought him his meals, so it was a mild surprise when he glanced up to find Terrell standing there. The tall, dark man was dressed in black BDU’s, a close-fitting, dark blue sweatshirt, and a pair of amber-tinted sunglasses. He tossed a bundle of clothing at Aidan without greeting or preamble.
“Time to earn your keep, Vlad. Put those on, then we’re going for a ride.”
And then he was gone, the door closing and locking behind him.
Aidan didn’t bother to fume. In fact, as he unfolded the long, black coat, charcoal shirt and leather pants with matching studded choker, belt and wristbands—typical ‘vampire wear’—he realized that this would get him out from behind lock and key. If he played things right, he would be able to enact his vengeance sooner than he thought.
There was no clock in the room, but Coyote knew the passage of the sun and moon was surely as the rhythm of her own breathing.
Her breath had been coming fast those past two nights. She couldn’t hear what Mueller said or did when he entered Jerry Galloway’s room, but she did feel the presence of the Adversarial Force when he came. Mueller himself was an imperfect vessel, capable of being the eyes and ears of the Force on the earthly plane, and while elements and manifestations of the creature were probably always there, whispering to Jerry in his darkest hours, it grew stronger when Mueller was there.
Wendell promised her that she wouldn’t be facing off against the bulk of the creature, that it would be distracted, but that didn’t keep the mortal part of her, Ida, from fearing the confrontation while Coyote champed at the bit, ready to once more fight a monster in defense of humanity.
It wouldn’t be long now, she knew. For better or for worse. She sat up in bed and picked up the old, worn hand-puppet shaped like the top half of a smiling cat, one of the things Wendell had gotten permission for her to have in the room, up off her nightstand. It had passed the security check because the components hidden inside it had been palmed by Wendell, then replaced before and after the scan.
She made a show of turning it this way and that for the camera, then slipped her hand into the false lining inside, coming up with a bone induction earpiece. From there, she pretended to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear to cover actually putting the device in place.
Once there, the device could detect her speech through vibrations in her jawbone while sending the same directly to the small bones of her ear, allowing her to hear and be heard by the others.
“Okay.” She said softly without moving her mouth too much. “I’m ready.”
“I’ve got you, Coyote. Five by Five. Terrell is off to deliver the package as we speak.” He was at his mobile command center in the trailer, watching multiple screens. “Tommy, where are you?”
Tommy fiddled with his cufflinks and adjusted his tie in the mirror. He was still more used to dress uniform than dress suits and wanted to make sure it was right. “We’re in position.”
Beside him, Susan was watching the palmtop in her hands intently. “Boyd’s almost in position too.” she reported.
On screen, the image of a hall moved by, whatever it was mounted on moving toward a keypad-locked door marked security.
Two Days Earlier…
Ignoring his dazzling anti-charm, Susan let Boyd help her up. Once she was brought to standing, she pretended to fall into a lighter mood. “Thanks.” She said, patting his jaw. Her fingers lightly traced down his jaw, just kissing his throat—just long enough to plant a freckle-cam just below his beard line.
Then she pretended to remember the waitress picking up the debris from her pratfall. “Oh. I totally ruined your lunch. Let me buy you another… liver and onions?”
The freckle-cam showed Susan a view of Boyd’s beefy fingers punching in the code for the security door before opening it and walking in, dragging his mop and bucket with him. The camera didn’t have audio, but All Susan needed was a count of security guards and a screen shot of all the monitors of the room.
“Two guards in the station.” she reported to Wendell, “And I’m sending you the monitor’s now.”
Back in the trailer, Wendell threw the image up on the large, central screen at full resolution. It wasn’t hard to pick out the one monitor cycling through the cameras in Coyote’s room, as he’d also managed to get some posters allowed for her walls. By placing them in the fields of the cameras, he only had to look for rooms with posters in them.
“Boyd, you beautiful bastard.” said Wendell, marking the monitors elsewhere in the room that would draw attention away from Coyote’s room, then checking images of the halls to figure out where those were located. He smiled as Susan continued to send him feeds thanks to Boyd lingering in the security station.
He was no doubt on edge after the encounter in the diner, especially after they matched Susan’s image to a fake FBI identity Wendell had given her. Just to spook them more, he’d included the idea that she specialized in occult investigations. No matter that such a branch of the FBI was the stuff of fiction, the actual cultists weren’t likely to consider that.
Cracking his knuckles, Wendell looked up at his monitors, then pulled his keyboard to him. “Places everyone. It’s showtime.”
Most of the security at the Rochester Psionic Mental Health and Wellness Center was automated for the protection of both the patients and the staff. Sensors could detect if one of the patients had become dangerous and the rooms could be flooded tranquilizing gas if they threatened to become a danger to themselves and others.
At the same time, there were lock-down procedures that could isolate short segments of each hall in case someone tried to escape, or more unusually, break in. These were the responsibilities of the five-man floor team and the two sitting at the security station, monitoring the camera feeds and sensor sweeps.
On most nights, not much happened.
On most nights.
Ethan Carter took a pull of cola out of his giant-sized fast food cup and settled into his chair. “So it looks like Griggs is out for the season. No way we’re going to make the playoffs this year without him.”
Jim Tate gave the bank of monitors in front of him a once-over as he replied. “You’re selling the rest of the team short. This isn’t the same bunch of losers we had back in ’73. Every year we get better and this year won’t be different.”
He saw all five of the floor team members passing by different hall cameras and Dr. Mueller, who had regularly scheduled sessions after normal hours with a patient who was apparently very particular of when he would open up. There were also patients on screen, but no one was doing anything unusual and most importantly, no one was tripping any sensors.
“They’re still all bums.” said Carter. He craned his neck to look back at the janitor, Boyd, who was attacking a coffee stain from earlier in the day. “Hey, Boyd? You’re new in town, you’re a neutral party. Do they or do they not suck out loud without Griggs?”
He never got an answer, because an alert suddenly popped up on one of the screens.
“Ah jeez.” said Carter, pulling it up to a larger screen. He took a second to read it before finding the closest member of the floor team by the transponder in their badge and radioing them. “Hey, Reinhardt? I’ve got a door alarm on room 314.”
“Gear or back-up?” came Reinhardt’s gruff voice.
“It’s an empty room. Just need you to take a peek.” replied Carter.
“Going now.” said Reinhardt. He was on the same hall as 314 anyway, so he doubled back and went to have a look. The door was closed, but a quick touch of the handle proved that it was unlocked. All doors in the center were supposed to lock automatically unless someone with the proper badge was trying to pass them. “Huh.” He carefully opened the door to the sparse room and shone his light into it.
There was no one in the room, so he crossed to the control panel in the room and turned on the lights. Then he proceeded to check the bathroom. Behind him, the door swung closed. There was a beep, then a click as the lock came online. Then the sensors came back online and registered that there was someone inside when there shouldn’t be.
Instantly, alarms filled the security station and alerts blipped up one after the other on the screen.
“Son of a bitch!” shouted Reinhardt, futilely trying to get the system to recognize his badge. “Carter, Tate, get me out of here!”
“We’re trying!” said Tate, trying to cancel the security alerts, but every time he canceled on, another popped up to take its place. As per protocol, the automated system alerted the nearest two guards of a breech and directed them to where Reinhardt was locked in. “I don’t understand how this is happening!”
Two Days Earlier…
Wendell put his palmtop back in his pocket. There had been no unsecured frequencies connected to the cameras. There had, however, been a connection to the sensors and through them, the alarms and locks.
“Three out of five guards accounted for with the other two being on a different floor.” Wendell said. “No one is looking at your monitor with all this chaos. Coyote, go now.”
“Is Terrell in place?” She asked, quickly stuffing pillows under her bedsheets. It was cliché, but it would buy her extra minutes before anyone noticed she was gone.
Wendell switched frequencies. “Terrell, ETA?”
Terrell was once again parked outside the cult’s house. “We’re here but not in.” He was having a hard time casing the area while keeping one eye on Aidan. The vampire… or former vampire… had been quiet on the ride over and that didn’t bode well. “Just like you said, nobody’s home.”
“Of course not.” said Wendell. Everyone is at the Center, watching for the FBI to come snooping around. Given how many calls Mueller made in the past couple of days, we might have a dozen cult members nearby. Jerry is their priority one and Mueller won’t risk losing him.”
“Let’s get to it then.” said Terrell. He then looked at Aidan. “Come on.”
“Why” snarled Aidan. If he were a dog, his ears would have been pinned back. Something was tugging at him, at the core of him, bringing The Strigoi back to the surface.
If Terrell as impressed, he hid it well. “Because it’s part of the plan. And the sooner we get this done, the sooner you never have to see me or the others ever again.. Play straight with us, and you go free.” Then he held up a key fob. “And also, that choker of yours? It’s a modified shock collar used for training dogs. If you feel the urge to attack me, or some other person, I will fry the hell out of you.”
Aidan wanted to ask how Terrell expected to shock him if his arm had been ripped off, but as a human, he couldn’t make good on that threat no matter hos much he wanted too. He didn’t even have a weapon. Even the studs on his accessories were rounded instead of pointed. Not for the first time, he wished he’d worked out more when he was human.
Muttering a string of curses, he got out of the car and followed Terrell to the house.
“They’ll be in in three minutes.” Wendell reported. “Is Mueller with Jerry yet?”
“Not yet.” replied Coyote. “I don’t feel its presence.”
Wendell set a few timers, linked the system to his palmtop, then stood. “I’m going to head out anyway. He was headed there when I looked at the monitors.”
“I’m not so much worried about you as Terrell.” said Coyote.
“He knows what he’s doing and he’ll be out in five minutes anyway.” said Wendell, not really believing it himself. Terrell’s part in the whole thing was mostly guesswork, as no one had ever tried to distract a god before. Plus, Aidan couldn’t be trusted even if he was depowered.
Nevertheless, he stepped away from the bank of monitors to find Flo sitting on the couch on the other side of the trailer’s living room. There were parts all over the coffee table in front of her and she was building yet another strange grenade.
“Anything for me last minute?” He asked.
Flo pulled a ratty backpack up from where it was resting at the side of the couch. “More joy grenades, smoke—boring stuff, except this one…” She reached in and too out a device with a pyramid shaped casing and a winding key sticking out of the top. “I made it from left over chemicals from the joy grenades. It’s got caffeine and methamphetamine. In it.”
An evil grin crossed Wendell’s face. “Flo, you are a genius!”
“A mad genius.” Flo corrected proudly.
The door unlocked easily and Terrell held it open for Aidan, refusing to show the vampire his back. “That way.” He said, pointing to the refrigerator concealing the hidden altar.
Aidan took in a deep breath like a man experiencing fresh air for the first time in years. “Why are we here?” He asked as part of a long exhale.
“A distraction.” Terrell said, walking over to the house’s alarm system. He checked it with a pen light, then nodded.
“Is that all?” Aidan gravitated toward the refrigerator without thinking. “What’s in here.”
Terrell came back, pocketing the flashlight. “It’s what’s behind there that matters. Pull it open.”
Though he wanted to tell Terrell to do it himself, Aidan found that he really wanted to know what was back there. It tugged at him like a dog on a leash, like the smell of a lover’s perfume. He found himself pulling the appliance away from the hidden door without even a snarl of indignity.
Without any prompting, he stepped through the door. He was vaguely aware of the tributes to evil and brutality on the walls, of the mats and the fire pit. Something alien to him—his humanity—registered the creepy nature of the room and its contents, but it was his dark soul that was in control and that focused on the only important thing in the room: the mason jar and the waxy substance within.
He felt rather than saw that what was contained within was beautiful, perfect, correct. Pleasant warmth washed over him, an oven-heat that would have scorched a mortal man. In that moment, he was no longer mortal, no longer felt the weakness of his humanity.
The walls sang, a hymn to blood and destruction, of humanity’s destiny to perish horribly. All of these truth, the Adversarial Force shared with him, it’s dark delight at finding a like-minded creature with such destructive power impressed itself upon him.
The Strigoi was being welcomed home.
Terrell watched as Aidan stepped into the jar’s sphere of influence and ceased to be Aidan Beck any longer. The short, balding man with the hateful gleam in his eye was suddenly over six feet tall with muscles threatening to burst out from beneath gray skin.
The monster turned, flaring its nostrils beneath a hideously deformed bone crest running along its brow. Its mouth dropped open, revealing a horror show of teeth.
“Thank you.” The Strigoi said to an unseen benefactor. “You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this.”
To Be Continued…