The Pearl Ch. 16byThistlethorn©
The Pearl part 2: Whore Spider
By Thistlethorn ©
Edited by Penn Lady
This is a copyrighted work of fiction. All rights reserved.
Chad stalked down the street, paying little attention to where he was going. He had work to finish, he knew, and no idea how to complete it. How does one kill a Jorogumo that had been turned into a dragon-centaur? This wasn't covered in anything he'd ever learned.
He turned the idea over in his head. It seemed that the human torso would be the easiest place for a strike. With what? He had a hand-gun at his apartment, but felt it might be inadequate. He shook his head. He was going up against a creature that feed off men sexually, and he was worried about the adequacy of his gun.
A gun was still something to consider. The larger the weapon, the more likely the kill. Because he was certain he wouldn't get a second shot.
The nearly-deserted street continued to go past him in a blur. The few people out took one look at his face and let him pass. For his part, Chad never gave those around him a moments thought.
He considered taking flight, but set it aside. He enjoyed it too much and couldn't afford the distraction. He had to concentrate on how to kill the Jorogumo.
For all of Chad's faults, and he had to concede more than a few, he'd never killed anyone. Threatened, on more than one occasion, but never had to carry through. However, this wasn't someone he was scarring into line. This was a predator the likes of which he had never aspired too. The actual act still disquieted him, for reasons he couldn't name.
Worse, there was nothing from his darkness and nothing from his ill-used but suddenly active conscience.
He drew in a deep breath and tried to focus; it felt as though he was on the edge of something profound. Whatever he did this night, his life would be changed beyond recognition, with no going back. An unimaginable path yawned before him and he couldn't begin to fathom its destination.
He found himself at his apartment building. He didn't even know what time it was and didn't care. Compared to his past days, he figured his roommate was getting off easy being woken up in the middle of the night.
Chad hastened up the stairs. He crouched down and wiggled aside the section of base board where his roommate hid his spare key for the many times he drunkenly lost them. He unlocked the door and entered.
The apartment was dark, which was not surprising. Without turning on a light he went to his room. Once there, he turned the nightstand lamp on and proceeded to rummage through his closet. He sensed as much as heard his roommate coming up on him. He heard the click of a gun.
"Really?" Chad asked without looking up. "Do you really think if I were robbing this place I wouldn't have taken you out first?"
The gun went down, the safety back on. "Chad?" he asked, disbelief in his voice.
"Yes." He didn't bother to turn around.
"Where the hell have you been, man?"
"You don't want to know."
There was a short pause with Chad's rummaging the only sound. When his room-mate spoke again, anger replaced incredulity.
"You fall of the face of the earth, leaving me holding the bag for your bail, the police have been crawling all over this place, and when you deign to pop back up, your only explanation is 'I don't want to know'?"
Chad gritted his teeth. He had completely forgotten about his hearing, which meant there was probably a bench warrant for him. Great. He doubted the police would accept, "I'm sorry, officers, but I was a gold finch at that time and really couldn't make it." Chad sighed.
After he removed a leather pouch from its hiding place he stood up. Pocketing the pouch, he pulled two laptops down from his upper shelf. Both were name-brand, top-of-the-line units, but one was bleeding edge technology, as they say. He plugged in the new unit and sat on his bed, waiting for it to boot up. He looked up at his roommate.
"Yes, Will, I'm afraid that's all I got: You don't want to know." The computer booted up. He keyed in a program and waited for it to run. His major had been computer programming, and he'd picked up a great deal in the time he'd studied it. Soon, the hard drive was being erased.
"And I'm sorry you got screwed in this deal," he continued. "That wasn't my intention. Just believe me when I say it was completely out of my control."
The sincerity with which Chad spoke took Will by surprise. In his time living with Chad he had associated many things with him, a short temper but a quick wit, a guy who could be fun to hang with unless you got on his bad side, and a guy who could get anybody anything. Sincerity didn't appear on the list. Neither did "I'm sorry." And the look on his face, haunted and distant and disturbed, unsettled him further. Will was uncertain how to continue with this stranger wearing his roommate's --and in the three years they'd lived together they'd always been roommates, never friends-- skin.
"Ah, yeah, that's cool. I, uh, didn't think it was intentional."
The laptop dinged. He looked it over, checked for files, and ran a diagnostic. Once he was satisfied it was clean, he powered it down and snapped the lid shut. As he stood up, he handed it to Will.
"Here, take it and pawn it. It should cover what I owe you if you're shrewd in the haggling. If not, pawn whatever else is here. I won't be back."
Without another word, Chad left Will holding the computer with his mouth hanging open. He returned to the closet, pulled down a messenger bag, a box, and a coat. He closed the closet door, grabbed the other laptop and walked around the still-dumbfounded Will.
He turned on the living room light, plugged in the second lap top and waited for it to power up. Will wandered out of the bedroom, carrying the cleansed laptop in front of him as though it might explode.
"You're just giving this to me?"
Chad didn't look up from the laptop. "Hmm, here take this, pawn it, it's yours. Yeah, that sounds like I'm giving it to you. What's your malfunction?"
"Giving a damn isn't really your thing."
Chad stopped what he was doing and looked even more distant. "Yeah, I guess you're right." He turned back to his computer. "Guess things change, shit happens and you're the lucky recipient of the fall out."
"What the fuck happened to you?"
Chad looked up again. "You. Don't. Want. To. Know. Capisce?"
"Yeah, I guess." Will tucked the lap top under his arm and walked around to behind Chad. He could see on the computer Chad was googleing something Will had never heard of.
"Jorogumo," he sounded out. "What the hell does that mean?"
"Apparently, not much to Google." Chad sighed. Every site he brought up gave generalized, and he suspected sanitized, versions of folklore. Nothing concrete, and nothing that even approximated what he'd seen. He wanted to try a more in depth search, but didn't have the time.
He shut down the computer, snapped it shut and slid it into the messenger bag. He turned his attention to the box. Upon opening it, he removed a hand gun, released the magazine from the handle and examined the amount left. Most of a magazine. He snapped it back into place.
Will continued to watch with amounting alarm. "What the hell---?" At an annoyed look from Chad, he stopped.
Chad threw his jacket on, tucked the gun in the pocket, swung the messenger bag across his body, and strode toward the door.
"You're leaving again, just like that?" Will asked.
"Yes. Skipped bail plus missed hearing equals bench warrant. It's best I'm not here. Like I said, do whatever you want with what's left. I won't be back." Chad grabbed the doorknob.
"What the fuck happened to you where ever the hell you were?" Will almost pleaded.
Chad paused by the door, then looked over his shoulder. The haunted look filled Will with a dread he couldn't understand.
"I'll tell you this: Cherish your ignorance. Because the world is bigger than you think and filled with things worse than you can imagine. And never fuck some strange woman you just met in some weird place, no matter how hot she is. In fact, don't fuck anybody you haven't known for like, at least a year. And always wear a condom."
With that, Chad was out the door.
Chad felt bad about not telling Will more, giving him a more thorough warning about the dangers of which he was suddenly aware. However, he also thought ignorance was bliss and that if Will didn't know about these things, maybe he could live the rest of his life without experiencing them. At least, Chad hoped he could. Though they had never been friends, Chad wouldn't wish this experience on him.
Chad ducked down an empty alley and pulled out the pouch. Tucked inside was cash. After confirming he was alone, he pulled it out and counted. Two thousand, as he remembered. He put it away and pocketed the pouch once more. The handgun he had was good, but he wanted something bigger.
Chad had always flirted with the seedier aspects of life. He was smart, good looking, and when he tried, charming and disarming. He could work his way into and out of groups easily, without ruffling feathers or threatening boundaries. He ran a lucrative side business trafficking in things people wanted. He was the one people went to when they wanted something on the sly and were willing to pay for good, discreet service. He had built up quite a list of contacts for any number of things, legitimate and otherwise. So getting a heavy ordinance gun wasn't as difficult for him as it would be for others.
The question was, who was the safest choice who would have something for immediate purchase. Waiting for someone to get him something was not an acceptable option. Excuse, miss killer spider/dragon person. Please stay where you are until Mr. Black Market here gets me something large enough to kill you with. Not likely to happen. Chad made his choice, and about forty-five minutes later found himself the proud owner of an automatic rifle with nondescript bag.
One uncomfortable cab ride later, and he was at the approximate site on the river. Trying to give the cabbie directions based on someplace he'd been as a hawk was a challenging task. Chad was fairly certain the cabbie suspected what the cargo might be, but as no small talk was made between them, no conclusions could be drawn.
Chad swung the gun bag over his shoulder and walked the rest of the way to the Jorogumo. Dawn was just cresting the sky when he arrived. The enormous web was still in place. Chad walked around to the hole Qiang had made in the side and looked in. The Jorogumo lay where they'd left her, amongst the ruins of her web. She was laying on her stomach, her front legs curled in front like a cat, her back legs and tail sprawled out behind. Her tail twitched, turning up dirt and debris. She wrapped her arms around her torso and her head was down. As Chad approached, she looked up. For a split second he saw the despair in her eyes, then it was covered by a mix of condescension and malignancy.
"Who are you?" There was acid in her voice.
Chad met her glare and animosity straight on, showing none of his own. "The hawk."
She snarled at him, hatred burning in her gaze. "Come here to gloat?"
Chad removed the messenger bag, them removed the rifle from its carrying sack.
"No," he said, raising the gun to aim. "I've come here to kill you." He didn't see the point of pretense.
"Your master won't like it."
"Well, I guess that's my problem, now isn't it?"
He cocked his head around the gun. He knew he should just pull the trigger, but he paused.
The Jorogumo looked him over. "You're a little new to this, aren't you?"
Chad raised the gun again. "Would you like to see how new?"
"Bravado suits you well, but not as well as honesty. Let us speak as enemies, for only enemies are honest."
"That's not been my experience." Chad's finger curled around the trigger. "I've found everybody is pretty much equally dishonest."
"I suppose there's a truth there too. Then let us speak as hunter and prey. The ultimate honesty is death."
Chad's finger tightened on the trigger.
"Oh, don't worry. I know well my part here. I am the prey, you are the hunter. I just thought I might impart some wisdom before I'm slain."
"Because your master doesn't get it," she flared, her anger ever more on display. "He initiated the hunt, he had a responsibility to see it through. All right, I started it with going after that damned fledgling, but he hunted me down. He was the victor and my life was his. It was his right."
"It was my right to die as well. But instead, he mutilates my form and leaves."
"Your life was his, he did with it what he pleased." The matter-of-fact tone Chad used was far from the trembling uncertainty he felt.
"You don't really think that, or you wouldn't be here."
"Maybe I just think you're too dangerous to live."
"Then you have wisdom. But I am done and I want this finished."
Chad's arms were becoming tired, his muscles screaming from being held in position, but there was something important here. Something he couldn't walk away from.
"Then you're not a danger."
"Perhaps I am, perhaps I am not. Your master left things unfinished and you sense the wrongness of it. You should always finish what you start, hunter. So finish his work. Please."
"So you just check out?"
"Oh, I'll be back when the cycle turns 'round." Her look softened for a moment. "You'll be long gone when that happens." It hardened again, then turned spiteful. "But the dragon won't. He'll still be alive. And we'll have our reckoning then." She lowered her head so that it was in line with the barrel of the gun. "Come then, hunter. Finish your task."
Chad stood for a moment, gripped by indecision. Then he pulled the trigger and the Jorogumo fell dead at his feet. He regarded her sprawled form, watched the blood ooze out of the head wound. Then, feeling nothing, or perhaps feeling everything to the point of numbness, he rebagged the gun, gathered the messenger bag and left.
He walked back to the city; he felt exhausted and overstimulated at the same time. He needed to walk, needed to do something. He thought he might put some order to what just happened, what was continuing to happen, but order wouldn't come. So he just walked.
As he made his way past an alley, a dark feeling ran with cold dread down his spine. He stiffened, and stopped. He peered down the alley, saw nothing, but felt a lot. Something was happening, something that disturbed him and set every sense he wished he didn't have on edge.
God, I just want to keep walking, he told himself, even as he ducked into the alley. He hugged the wall and made his way down. As he did so, voices were getting louder. They were arguing. A dark voice demanding a softer voice give way and give them what they wanted. He understood neither of these voices were human, just as he understood the object of their discussion most likely was.
About half-way down there was a dumpster. Chad stopped and, after looking around to determine no one else was about, tucked the rifle and the laptop computer under the dumpster. He wasn't sure about the neighborhood, but he didn't want to risk the sound of automatic weapons fire not being ignored. As for the laptop, he had other plans for the bag.
He gathered bricks, stones, discarded metal, anything heavy he could find to load up the bag. He slung the loaded down, and much heavier, bag over his shoulder and proceeded the rest of the way.
The alley opened up into a little alcove. Chad couldn't discern what the buildings were, nor did he much care. He looked around.
The moment he entered, both parties stopped speaking. They faded, becoming harder to discern. Chad realized they were trying to hide from him, but that he could still see them. He suppressed a shudder. As much as he hated this thing that seemed to be continually happening to him, he put it aside to see what had brought him there.
Off to the side was what looked like all the world to be a rat. A human-sized rat dressed in some form of cloak and head gear, crouched over an unconscious man. From the looks of the man, he was homeless. Chad wandered in a little further and swept the area with his gaze, trying not to look anyone in the eye. The group on the other side consisted of three individuals, their clothes ragged and their faces covered. Torn and patched pants of unknown material, maybe burlap, were tucked into biker boots. They wore tunics of dingy gray and wide brim, low slung hats sheltering their eyes and rags ties about their lower faces. They scrutinized him, their gazes crawling over him like vermin. There was something about them he instantly disliked. They were sizing him up; deciding if he was better prey then the poor old bastard on the ground.
Chad looked back over to the man on the ground and, keeping up the facade of ignorance, went over and knelt down next to him. Upon closer inspection, the man was passed out and reeked of alcohol. Chad sighed and shook his head. He raised his gaze up and looked at the rat.
The head covering and coat he wore were brightly-colored patchwork. The head piece hung somewhat like a hood, but wasn't attached to the coat. It lay over his head and hung down, with tassels weighing down the edges hanging of his snout and large eye holes set into it. There were cut outs around his ears and the rest hung down the back of his head. The coat he wore was large, with the tremendous belled sleeves rolled up at the end. The bright colors of the patch work set off the gray-white coloring of his fur, and in general seemed strangely out of place given the surrounding. As garish and out of place the rat's clothing may have been, it wasn't what Chad was the most interested in. He cocked his head and studied the rat.
The rat's brown eyes grew large when he realized the human was aware of his presence and started to scuttle back.
With a wink, Chad said, "Shhh," as softly as he could. He got what he needed, the rat wasn't the threat here. He returned his attention back to the man lying between. His face was weathered, his hair a filthy disarray, his clothes probably the only set he had. His age was hard to determine given his condition, but Chad would have placed him somewhere in his forties.
Well, old guy, hope you appreciate this.
Chad rose up and walked to the other side of the alley, his hands restlessly fiddling with the strap of his bag. He stopped in front of the pack, careful not to look directly at them. They seemed uneasy about him, either way. The lead one shifted his weight, and all of them exchanged uncertain glances. They were a little short, though not as short as the rat. He guessed about five feet, maybe a little over.
Then, telegraphing the move as little as possible, Chad swung the loaded messenger bag in an upper cut across the chin of the lead creature. In the moment of shock, he swung the bag in an arc and brought it down on the second one. He heard bones snap. He prepared to bring it around to the third one but he dropped down, grabbed the two Chad already struck, and dragged them off, disappearing into the far wall.
Chad released the breath he'd been holding, then took several more. He turned to the rat, who brought both of his hand together and bowed his head to Chad.
"Thank you, hunter. I am in your debt."
Chad shuddered at the words.
"I'm no hunter." He dumped the debris out of his messenger bag. "I'm just passing through."
The rat inclined his head. "My mistake then. I'm sorry." Something in his voice made Chad think the rat didn't consider himself mistaken. He waited a moment and spoke again. "But then, if you're just passing through, perhaps a favor before you pass along?"