- 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
Terrell King was waiting in the Twoflower’s lounge when Anansi decided to make his appearance at eleven in the morning. From the three thoroughly rifled courtesy newspapers and two empty cups from the coffee machine at the end of the continental breakfast bar, he’d expected Anansi much earlier than this.
“I’m glad you took me up on my offer.” The Spider greeted him like an old friend.
“Just tell me where we’re going and what we’re doing.” Terrell said tersely.
Anansi ignored the open hostility and breezed past him to get a cup of coffee of his own. “We’ll be going across town to the Bridges Tower.” As he explained, he added two sugars and five creams. “As for what we’re doing? We’re stopping a murder.”
It was said with such a casual flippancy that Terrell almost missed it completely. And once he grasped what was just said, he wished he had missed it. He crossed the space between them with urgency and grasped the other man by the arm. “What the hell did you just say?”
Every calm, even as the jostling of his arm sent a spatter of boiling hot coffee across his arm, Anansi smiled wanly. “I told you that we would be saving lives. This is life the first.”
That was fair. Sort of. Saving lives could very well entail preventing murders; it was the inevitable end result of a prevented murder. But that didn’t make things make a great deal more sense.
Terrell took a breath. “Alright. How do you know there’s going to be a murder?”
“Because our next recruit is a reluctant member of the Bourne Syndicate out of Trenton.” said The Spider. “To be exact, they’re an enforcer; intimidating as a matter of course, administering beatings as a matter of business, and ending lives as a matter of poor decision making.”
“Gangland murders rarely make logical sense.” Anansi explained calmly. “It isn’t nearly as intimidating as it is galvanizing to your enemies, the only time it doesn’t invite a worse punishment before the law when murdering a witness when it’s to cover up other murders, and murdering as punishment has a terrible rate for people learning their lessons.”
“I was trying to ask what that had to do with you knowing it was going to happen.”
“Oh.” He calmly sipped his coffee. “It’s because I’m the one that took out the contract.”
Both of his morning coffees rolled in Terrell’s breakfast, along with the egg sandwich he’d had before leaving his apartment. It took only a moment to that feeling to be joined by mounting rage, both at the man in front of him, and at himself for being fooled.
“You took out—“ For the second time in as many minutes, he was interrupted. This time by the mere raising of a finger. There wasn’t much reason for it to have that effect, but there was a message in that presented digit: Stop. Listen. And against every screaming neuron in his head, Terrell did exactly that.
Anansi took his time enjoying another long drink of his coffee before speaking. “It was only to draw this recruit out. They have very specific instructions: engage the target in the bar at the Bridges, gain their trust, lure them to a specific hotel room. I intend for one and two to happen, but never three, if you follow.”
Terrell glowered and lowered his voice in case anyone was listening. “Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? What if something happened to you? You could get in an accident between here and the Bridges and then someone would die.”
“You’re a very thoughtful man.” Anansi observed. “That’s another reason why I chose you.” He downed the still burning hot coffee in one gulp, then reached into the cup, producing two sealed decks of playing card. Unsurprisingly, the design on the card back featured spiders and webs.
“What are these for?” Terrell said as the packs were placed into his hand. He didn’t bother questioning the slight of hand involved in their appearance.
“In case there’s trouble.” Anansi said casually. “I can plan and make sub-plans for a million contingencies, but there will always be the unforeseen. Therefore, I prefer to stockpile my own wildcards. Pun thoroughly intended.”
Terrell snorted at this. “Fine. We should get moving if we’re going to keep you from succeeding at what you started.”
“Ah. Wordplay.” Anansi’s eyes glittered. “Perhaps you are catching on.” He started off for the hotel’s doors. “And don’t worry about getting in an accident, I’ve secured the services of the best driver on the eastern seaboard.”
There was a respectable sized crowd in the Atlantic Lounge in the Bridges Tower. The place was in the middle of the road in terms of the various bars, clubs and restaurants in the hotel/casino, sporting a night club atmosphere of perpetual pumping music and dim lighting.
At that hour, the clientele was mostly businesspeople trying to look hip for one another, and tourists seeking the hair of the dog. Both were easy enough marks and on any normal day, he would gravitate right for the one that looked like they had the most cash on hand.
It wasn’t a normal day though. A friend of a friend had given him a tip in exchange for a cut of the profits. He’d even made it easy with a photograph and the fact that she liked the Atlantic Lounge’s cotton candy daiquiris after lunch.
And there was: Susan Cortez, daughter of Martin “Gato Blanco” Cortez, who had made his fortune in Venezuela as a clearinghouse for stolen and smuggled gems. Word had it that when his skimming finally caught up to him, Cortez’s little girl had gotten out of the country with a suitcase full of pricey rocks and no idea who to fence them through.
Somewhere in Atlantic City was a quarter billion in mineral wealth and as far as he knew, only himself, his contact, and Cortez knew where it was.
Cortez was at the bar, sipping on blue and pink slush when he approached and took a bar stool two down from her own. She didn’t look like he’d imagined; an exotic and spoiled rich girl. Instead, she was very plain with no make-up on at all and a shapeless mountain of blond curls to the middle of her back.
Her wardrobe was also a bit… off. She wore a black, button down blouse and a pale blue denim vest with matching shorts. Full length, black gloves covered her arms except for a few inches between gloves and vest, and dark blue thigh high stockings and steel toed work boots did the same for her legs.
After sizing her up out of the corner of his eyes, he nodded to the bartender. She was someone he knew, like most bartenders in the city, so when he asked for a cranberry juice, she knew that a fifty dollar tip would be forthcoming if she started a casual conversation with Cortez, whom he indicated with a slight incline of his head.
His drink was in front of him shortly. All there was to do now was wait.
The bartender didn’t let him down. She leaned casually on the bar, making a job of cleaning a glass, just like in the movies. “So’ve you seen the new Brant holo-displays? The ones you can move all around the room? Wish I had the money for one of those.”
Cortex shrugged. “Don’t get the point. If you’ve got the cash, why not get a portable?”
The bartender scoffed. “I don’t know ’bout you, but I don’t want another thing I’ve gotta charge every night. Besides, half the folks on my floor do that ChargeBand shit for extra cash and stuff in that makes wireless run like crap.”
He saw his chance to jump in. “She’s still got ya there, Krista: Someone with that much money isn’t living with people decked in a ChargeBand and all their charging is probably remote. But,” He flashed Cortez a smile. “You’re missing a key issues here.”
“Oh?” She turned her head to look at him, but, he noticed, not hr body. “What’s that?”
“Fun.” He replied simply.
She gave him an incredulous look. “Fun? What’s so fun about a hologram? It’s still a glorified 3-d terminal.”
Playful disbelief came over his features, carefully selected for the moment. “What? You haven’t seen the promo videos? I’m tempted to put on a ChargeBand and spend a month waving. That should send them enough juice for a down payment on one.”
Cortez shrugged. “I guess I haven’t.”
“Well would you like to?” He unclipped his palmtop from his belt. “It’s up on Pro-video.”
Another shrug. “Sure, what the hell?” She gestured at the stool beside her and he quickly took her up on that.
They huddled close for a few minutes, watching footage of Brant Computing employees fiddling with the holographic interface, dragging it around the lab, sending it whizzing over to one another with flicking motions, and showing off some bare bones software that converted the display into a virtual football they ‘tossed’ between them with realistic physics.
When the clip was over, she nodded appreciatively and laughed. “Alright, you sold me. I think I’ll sell my apartment so I can get one.”
“I doubt they’ll be that expensive.” He said, then made like he’d forgotten something important. “I’m Drake, by the way. Drake Cameron. And you are…?”
“Um… Sue.” She said after a bit of pensiveness.
“Sue.” he repeated. “Nice to meet you. So, Sue, I haven’t seen you here before. Are you a local?”
A coy smile tugged at her lips. “If you’re trying to hit on me, maybe were should get some privacy first.” She flicked a hand in the direction of a table that was far enough away from the lunch martini crowd to give a bit of privacy.
“Sounds like a plan.” They grabbed their drinks and headed over. As soon as they were seated across from one another, he turned on the charming smile again and pointed out, “You didn’t answer my question.”
“Question?” She asked playfully.
“About if you’re local or not. Just a little getting to know you question.”
“It would be wrong to start down the road with lies.” Anansi sat down at the side of the table, a cotton candy daiquiri in hand. He gave them both a big, friendly smile. “So allow me to bring the truth into this relationship.”
“Excuse me? We were talking here.” the man calling himself Drake said, flustered.
That just brought him to the forefront of Anansi’s attention. “Let us begin with him then.” He said to Cortez. “This is Wendell Leiter, known in some circles as Samson Silk.” Drake stiffened and tried to protest, but Anansi kept being, “He is a confidence man, one of the most skilled in the region, but not so popular because he would implicate his own mother rather than spend a day in prison.”
“I have no idea what he’s talking about.” ‘Drake’ said quickly. Now that the seed of truth was planted, it was a delicate job to get around it. First he needed to get rid of the guy trying to blow his ruse.
But Anansi was addressing him before he could start his refutation. “Don’t worry that you’ll miss the big pay out. The gems and Susan Cortez are fictional. I took the plot from a webserial I read not long ago.”
‘Cortez’ started to protest, but like ‘Drake’, she couldn’t get a word in before he put everything on the table.
“And this charming lady, who is a much finer actress than I anticipated is Susan, but Susan Polanski instead of Cortez. Really, you should have been more cautious when the daughter of the South American kingpin was clearly of Eurasian descent.”
Anansi clucked his tongue at this. “But the important part is that for one-hundred thousand dollars, she took a contract to kill you. And make no mistake: despite appearances, she is heavily cybernetically enhanced and would have had no trouble ending your life.”
Susan continued to play surprised and shocked to a degree that earned her some respect in the Spider’s mind. “I don’t… what’s going on? This isn’t funny.”
The pair talked over one another trying to explain away what had just been exposed. Meanwhile, Anansi took a sip of his drink. “Mmm. It does taste like cotton candy after all.” He let them go on a bit, tripping over one another’s explanations while at the same time trying to rouse answers from him.
He weathered it serenely until some counter known only to himself ticked down. Then he held up his hand, cutting off the conversation. “Confusion, anger, panic. They are all useful emotions, but right now, they get in your way, make you ask unimportant questions. What really maters right now is that I am the man who hired both of you. I needed to get your attention.”
“You certainly have that.” Susan said in a dangerous tone. “Because if I really was a contract killer, your days would be numbered.”
Anansi laughed. “The attempt would be most interesting. But don’t you think you’ve had your fill of vengeance yet, Susan? What purpose does killing people who bear no responsibility for your tragedy serve?”
His eyes flicked to ‘Drake’. “And you, Wendell. Is this how you wish to spend the rest of your life? Does it fulfill you to take from people without ever giving in return? Can you not aspire to something greater?”
Wendell ground his teeth at the second use of his name. “That’s a lot of talk when you’re in the middle of a casino town.”
“A casino gives jobs, entertainment.” Anansi corrected him. “But you have ruined lives, more than you’ve allowed yourself to consider. Both of you.”
When Susan spoke next, it was without any of the casual, light affectations she displayed as Cortez. Her voice was edged in malicious frost, a tone that promised pain and oblivion. “I don’t know who you are and what you think you know about me, but you do not want to say another word. Get up, leave, and hope I never see you again.”
“I see that I’ve struck a nerve.” He said. “But ask yourself; when all is said and done, do you want to leave a legacy of broken dreams and corpses? I cannot absolve your sins, but I can offer you abetter choice than continuing from where you are now.”
“I warned you.” Susan said.
“Would Allen want you to add my blood to your hands?” That stopped her cold and made her expression even more murderous. Anansi continued. “Do you believe in the afterlife? Do you believe that it brings hm any of the same joy to see you murder and harm in his name as you did when he was alive?”
There was a tense moment and even Wendell was feeling uncomfortable, too uncomfortable to even speak. Finally, Susan glanced away.
The Spider extended a hand. “It doesn’t have to be this way. I called you here to offer you a chance to do the opposite: something your love will be proud of. Accept my offer and your skills, your knowledge, and your abilities will be put toward no less than saving millions.”
She stared at the offered hand. “What, are you talking about some sort of prelate thing? Becoming a superhero?”
“Not really. The good we will do; no other living person will know, save those who join us and whatever souls watch over them.”
Without her knowledge, her hand twitched toward his. She caught herself and glanced at Wendell. “What about him?”
Anansi looked at the other man, really paying attention to him for the first time. He was white, abnormally average in both height and build. Average, in fact in a lot of ways. He seemed to have been built for his brand of scheming; reasonably handsome with no remarkable characteristics whatsoever. Only the trained eyes of The Spider could tell that his shot beard was a high quality fake, as was his soft, brown hair and dark eyes.
“The same deal goes for him.” He told Susan, then addressed him directly. “You are ruled by fear, Mr. Leiter. And despite your skill, it has ruined your life. Your reputation is for betraying anyone you work with if you even sense a hint of danger or threat of prison.
“And that is why you must work alone, living your life grift to grift instead of collaborating on larger, more profitable jobs. It has made you sloppy in your desperation, as evidenced with how easily I lured you near to death with a literal fiction.” He sipped at his drink, all the while keeping Wendell’s eyes trapped with his own.
“I know that you work tirelessly to keep your mind off how many people suffer in order for you to make your living. How many marriages were broken by financial arguments you catalyzed, How many children will not attend college and better themselves because of your self debasement. How many go hungry.”