- 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
Casa Blanca, Arizona
From inside the laundromat, it was impossible to tell what season it was. Through the floor to ceiling windows up front, it was plain to see that it was a typical Arizona day of full, glaring sun, but no matter the weather, the owner/operator kept the air conditioner blasting at near freezing temperatures.
Aside from the owner, currently in his office just off from the folding tables and within view of the detergent vending machine, there were only two patrons at the moment.
One was a native girl n her late teens, early twenties. She was skinny and shapeless under her pink and blue ‘Flamingo Martinis’ concert tour t-shirt and loose, khaki cargo shorts. Her hair black hair was haphazardly drawn into something resembling a bun and mashed under a Flagstaff Scorpions baseball cap. She had her focus concentrated with laser intensity on the genuine antique pinball machine set between two more modern arcade cabinets. She wasn’t doing well, but with every fall, she just swiped her phone for another game.
The other patron was also a Native American; a broad shouldered, powerfully built man in his forties dressed in jeans and a black button down shirt. He was seated in the area between the folding tables and the windows looking out onto the street. There was a tablet computer in one hand and a stylus and the other as he did his morning crossword in one window while skimming the headlines in another.
Another old school touch, retained just like the pinball machine, was the bell mounted over the door. It jingled merrily as three new customers entered.
The first was a black man with braids and a very nice suit. He stepped into the cold and took an exaggeratedly deep breath as if he’s just discovered a new world. White strips of cloth wrapped his hands and feet, as if he’d been injured, but he walked with an easy gait and slowly twirled a six foot staff of wood in his hand with no signs of pain or discomfort.
Behind him came a tall, white woman with blonde hair. She wore an off the rack suit with a skirt, all in some color that blended dark gray and dark purple. As opposed to the first man, she moved ponderously, as if she were being weighed down. From behind a pair of dark glasses, she swept the room with bodyguard efficiency.
Last of all was another man. He might have been black too, but his face mingled other heritages as well. He was in a dark sport coat and trousers with no tie. He looked more curious, albeit skeptical than anything else. As the other two stepped further into the laundromat, he hung back, leaning easily against the nearest folding table to the door.
The man doing his crossword pretended to still be doing his crossword, even as he tried to keep track of what the trio were doing.
“Maybe you can find a place in your stories to coin a new phrase.” Terrell King said to Anansi as the other man wandered over to the detergent machine to inspect the various soaps and soap accessories it had to offer. “Fourth time’s the charm?”
Anansi smiled at the adorable picture of a stuffed bunny on one of the fabric softener labels. “You laugh because you think it wasn’t intentional. The Gila River Community is very large, and I thought it a shame and a bore just to drive straight through to our destination; especially not when there is a museum to be visited along the way. Ignoring that would have been criminal, don’t you agree?”
He was asking Susan Polanski, who shrugged. “I guess it was interesting. I think there’s a lot to be said about the boat races we went to before that though.”
“Isn’t there?” Anansi agreed. “Competition. A wonderful source of conflict, and one with such variety.” He stroked his chin introspectively. “But Terrell is right; we can’t delay forever.”
“Does that mean we’re where we’re supposed to be this time?” Terrell asked.
Anansi made his way over to the man doing his crossword. “Indeed.” He sat down heavily, leaning the staff against his shoulder and staring straight ahead. A friendly smile spread across his face.
“Perhaps you don’t recognize me, my friend, but it is good to see you again.”
Slowly, the other man put his tablet aside. Staring straight ahead in imitation of Anansi, he thought for a long moment before asking, “So you are the Spider.”
“Does the ‘the’ still vex you?” Anansi chuckled, “That I am the Spider, and yet, you are only Coyote? The capital letter still means a great deal, don’t you think?”
The other man shook his head. “No, there does not vex me. Because I am not Coyote.”
Pretense of a casual, almost indifferent meeting shattered. Anansi’s head whipped around to look directly at the other man. “And yet you knew to call me Spider.” He said, probing. “If you’re not who I thought you were, then who are you?”
“No one you would expect.” the man smiled a smile of someone who knew they were confounding someone used to doing the same to others. “In fact, not someone I expected to be, I assure you.” His gaze traveled lazily back to the window. “Coyote tells me that you enjoy stories. Not just for what they are, or what the mean to others, but the whole of them and their parts. Would you like to hear a particularly interesting twist?”
Anansi nodded and faced forward once more. “Coyote knows me well, even after all this time. Yes, I would very much like to hear this twist, especially if Coyote says I will enjoy it.”
“Forgive me if I’m not as good of a spinner of tales. I prefer to be brief and to the point: My name is Henry Lane. I am Maricopa, but I live in Flagstaff with my family, not in Gila River. That was Coyote playing with your expectations.”
An eyebrow twitched and Anansi grinned. “Well played.”
Henry nodded. “Yes. But here is the thing I find strange. I remember hearing the story from my grandfather when I was very young; of Coyote as the Maricopa people see her. I know that most people believe that all native peoples thought Coyote a harmless trickster, or even a hero, but to the us, according to my grandfather, he was an ignoble creature, the heart-thief.”
Once more, he turned to face Anansi and waited to catch the Spider’s eye. “And yet, over the past year, I have grown to know Coyote. To appreciate her, and understand things I couldn’t expect the generations that came before to… be cause none of them was Coyote’s father.”
Susan and Terrell were witness to a first in their time spent with Anansi: they saw the knowledge god completely caught off guard. He was surprised to find that Henry wasn’t Coyote, but it was nothing like the utter shock that came now.
For more than a minute, he was rendered speechless.
Then the girl at the pinball machine started laughing. She never stopped playing, but she laughed all the same, her play suffering all the more for it.
“You never even spared me a second look when you came in.” She observed. “I could either as a victory in fooling you, or a defeat in seeing how far you’ve fallen, Anansi.”
But Anansi didn’t seem to see the humor in it. Rising from his chair, he nodded to Henry before walking briskly over to her. “Coyote.” He said firmly, then lowered his voice so Henry wouldn’t hear. “You’ve let that poor man think that you’re his daughter? That there’s anything more than memory left to us after they die and we–”
“She didn’t die.” Coyote focused on the game, but her voice was strained.
Anansi stared at her in horror. “What?”
“Ida Lane didn’t die.” She said. “It was cold and I tried to help her. But it was so cold… I didn’t think it was enough. When I felt what I thought were her last breaths, I took over. But Ida was a very strong girl and I kept her warm long enough for the sun to rise.”
Concern warred with pure, academic interest in Anansi’s features. “But if you entered her body and it wasn’t at the moment of death…”
“She’s part of me now. Or I’m part of her. Even you wouldn’t be able to describe it. We’re the same person, but in places, I stick out more, and in others, she does.” Coyote shook her head. “Just like this. I’m trying to explain this to you like I’m just Coyote and talking like Ida is someone else and it feels weird.”
“Some examples, perhaps?” he suggested.
“That might help.” She finally stopped playing to think. “Okay, how about this? Whenever I smell a steak cooking, my mouth waters and I just want to sink my teeth into it. But the second I do, I feel sick to my stomach because I’m a vegetarian and can’t bear to think of that poor dead cow.”
Anansi rolled that around in his brain. “I can vouch for you having never shied away from fresh meat before. This is very strange.”
“We are very strange.” Coyote pointed out. “Do you even know how and why we’re back? Well, not back but you know what I mean.”
He shook his head. “I’m interested in finding out how it began, but I’m focused on making my own purpose at the moment.”
“Which is why we’re both here right now.” She agreed.
She shook her head. “Only that you were around. We’ve always been connected like that; the same thing that holds our being together runs between us. That’s how you found me, right? And that’s how I knew you were coming.”
Anansi laughed, the earlier tension forgotten. “And you just couldn’t resist laying a trap for me.”
“As if you wouldn’t have.” She cast a fond look over at Henry, who was watching themas any good, concerned father would. A smile, a wave, and then she forced herself to focus on Anansi again. “So tell me about this new story you’re writing.”
“I never called it that.” He defended.
“But we both know you were thinking it.” Coyote flicked her gaze over Terrell and Susan, knowing almost instantly that Susan had listened in on the entire conversation. “I see two principle characters, plus yourself. Myself would make four, but that’s not how your mind works. Threes, fives and sevens. Which is it?”
Anansi was forced to put up his hands in acknowledgment of her swift dissection of his thought process. “It will be seven in the end, but I’m not counting myself.”
“Of course. It wouldn’t be epic without a large group. And… a noble cause?”
“More noble than the know.” Said Anansi, also looking at his two companions as well.
“Keeping the mystery in things even for your friends. How much do that know about you?”
“The better question is ‘how much do they believe?’” He admitted, leaning on his staff.
Coyote swiped her phone one more time, setting the pinball machine up for another round. Instead of taking it herself, she stepped aside and gestured for Anansi to take over. He smiled and stepped up to do so.
“I’m not as subtle as you.” She pointed out. “I’m even less subtle now. I… Ida is very excited to have powers. I like to show off. That’s how Papa knows.”
“Henry?” Anansi was doing better than she had at the game, but not by much. She swiped her phone again for him. “I should ask the same question you did: how much does he know? How much does he believe?”
She smiled fondly at her father. “Papa thought I had manifested as a psionic at first.”
“Descendant.” Anansi corrected. “I suggest you learn that quickly; Mr. King is sensitive about the distinction.”
“That’s one of your new friends?”
Anansi chuckled a little. “The man over there looking at me as if I were a doddering old uncle who was good to him once, but now has senility.”
“Ah. He’s a descendant? What are his powers?”
“Contact control of plant matter. He can shape and strengthen wood and paper.”
“Ooo. Very cool.”
Anansi gave her a sidelong look. “Ida?”
“It’s very strange that you’re not only Coyote anymore.” He sighed, actually playing better in his absentmindedness. “But you haven’t finished answering the question.”
“Oh. Right. Papa didn’t believe it at first, but he does now. It was hard for him to accept this; more than it was for me, really. And I don’t even know how to apologize. I saved his daughter and stole her too. I’m gong to miss him when we go, but I’ll be going to college soon anyway. Anthropology major, if you can believe it. I was going to study mythology to supplement it, and now I am mythology.”
Anansi raised an eyebrow as the silver ball once more eluded his flippers. “Does that mean you’re coming with us?”
Her face split into a grin that was for a brief moment, razor sharp.
Later that night, Wendell Leiter answered a knock at his door and quickly wished he hadn’t.
Susan was standing there in the same outfit she’d worn to the laundromat. Context gave it a very ‘mafia hit-woman’ feel, as did her usual hard stare. Despite himself, Wendell took two steps back before remembering himself and attempting to recover through posturing.
“So you’re back from whatever it was Tommy and I weren’t needed for. Did you need something?” Ignoring his attempts to save face, she stepped into the room and closed the door. The action sent a chill through his bones.
“Calm down, Wendell, I’m not here to hurt you.” She says briskly, looking around the room. No matter where they stayed, Wendell went to troubles to make the room look lived in; staging it with magazines and fast food cartons. A fake lifestyle and a fake personality. He did it out of force of habit. Watching him when they were in view of the public made her uncomfortable, as he so completely inhabited a new skin as he needed.
She stepped past him and went to standing the middle of the room. “I came to ask you a question: do you still think Anansi is trying to swindle us?”
“Of course.” He didn’t move, just turned to keep her in view. “What, you’re not starting to buy it, are you?”
“I’m just starting to think that we don’t have nearly as much of the picture as you think. There are strange things going on in the world. I keep up with the news providers wherever we go and it’s all the same; new powers, bizarre creatures, and things that can’t be explained away with descendants and cybernetics. I’m not saying he’s a god, but what if he’s something different from you or Tommy, or me, or even Terrell? Trying to scam him ‘back’ might be a very bad idea.”
Her agitation made him bold. “I thought you were a rational woman, Sue. If he was the great and powerful Oz, why hasn’t he done anything to prove it? No; instead, he gives us that line about how we wouldn’t believe it. It’s classic grift. What even got you thinking along those lines?”
“You haven’t met the new girl. I heard them talking and this is way different than what we think. I’m just giving you fair warning, Wendell. That, and you can count me out of whatever you’re doing.”
Wendell wandered over to the couch in his room and flopped down. “I can’t believe I’m hearing this. What? You think he’s going to kill me?”
Susan folded her arms. “I’m not saying that. It’s just that I’ve seen guys who did exactly what you’re doing now. They thought they knew the rules, knew all the nuances of the game and it turned out that they weren’t even at the right table. Make that mistake at the wrong time and it can kill you even if someone isn’t looking to kill you.”