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THE MONSTERS OF SPIDERS' REST

Title: The Monsters of Spiders' Rest

Series: N/A

Author: Jane Tesh

ISBN: 978-1-60975-203-3

Product Code: BK0140

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 242

Release Date: November 2017

Cover Price: $17.95

Our Price: $17.95

 

 

 

Additional Formats Available: Coming Soon

 

 

 

 

Book Jacket

 

Life isn’t easy for a spider, especially for Flickfoot, an intelligent spider created by Dr. Vil, a mad scientist who has died, leaving him to fend for himself in Spiders’ Rest with his two companions, Plinks and Jellyroll. The spiders are not alone, with other creations, including a hoard of monsters living in the woods around the Andrean city of Specter, monsters kept at bay during New Season by the Specter Exterminating Service, including Holly Dark, a young agent determined to destroy all monsters, even spiders.

 

When the doctor’s grandson, Tylin, decides to move in, Flickfoot realizes he may have an ally, if he can convince Ty that the spiders are harmless. But as horrifying and threatening as Dr. Vil’s monsters are, Flickfoot discovers far worse creatures plot to take over Specter. He needs Ty’s help, even though Ty has connections to the mysterious Star Cult and a secret that could ruin everything.

 


 

Book Excerpt

 

 

1

 

 

 

Let me tell you, it is not easy being a spider. For one thing, there’s the unwarranted reputation. Sure, we’re all icky scary things that can’t wait to leap on unwary people and bite them with our poisonous fangs, or trap them in our webs and suck them dry. We have way too many legs and way too many eyes. We’re just not natural. We’re friends with witches and anything that lives in the dark, and we love to creep around in haunted houses.

What about a spider who’s a hero?

That would be me.

My name is Flickfoot. I am pretty quick on my feet. But I’m even quicker when it comes to solving problems that would make a lesser arachnid curl up faster than a dead wasp on a window ledge. Trouble is, I’m saddled with two other spiders who are nowhere near as clever as I am. We’re stuck with each other, however, because of the unusual circumstances of our existence, which I will explain as we go along. Right now, all you need to know is I am the brains of the team and the one who saved the day. And the night. And possibly the whole planet.

 

*   *   *

 

Trouble began when we found out that our house, the house we were born in, the house that had been our home for as long as we could remember, was going to be sold.

Jellyroll was the first one to see the sign, and since she couldn’t read, she came running to me.

“There’s some writing outside.”

I was almost finished with my latest web, right at the tricky part where if I didn’t attach it properly to the corner, the whole thing would collapse. “It can wait.”

Jelly swayed back and forth on a long piece of webbing. “Okay.”

“Keep still. The air currents are disturbing me.”

She plopped herself onto the ceiling and waddled closer. “That’s really nice. It looks just like the one in the other corner.”

“Of course it does. It’s my latest concept.” I often liked to put identical webs in all four corners of a room.

“What do you think the writing means?”

“I won’t know until I read it, will I?”

“Maybe it’s about cake.”

Everything in Jelly’s world revolves around food. “I doubt it.”

“I’m tired of flies.”

“That’s all we’ve got.” Which wasn’t entirely true. We had mosquitoes and moths and the occasional beetle.

“I miss cake.”

“That’s not likely to happen again.”

“I miss Dr. Vil.”

I missed him, too, but it didn’t do any good to get sentimental. “He was old. He died. People do that.”

“He always made sure we had cake. And soup. And sandwiches. And—”

“Yes, all right. No need to go down the whole grocery list.” One last little bit to attach, and this room would be finished. I leaned over carefully.

“A sign! A sign!” an excited voice cried.

Snap! The thread fell apart and my web sagged. “Plinks, you idiot!”

“What did I do?” Plinks pattered up the wall, his thin legs pumping. “Oh, forget your stupid web! There’s a sign outside!”

“Jelly already told me. No need to get so excited.”

“But one of the words says ‘sale.’”

Plinks can read just enough words to be dangerous. “Are you sure?”

“Come see for yourself.”

All three of us trooped across the ceiling and slid down the curved banister to the front parlor. I paused for a moment. The room, like everything else in the house, was just as Dr. Vil had left it. The white sofa and matching chairs trimmed in silver and black, the shiny black cushions decorated with spider web patterns picked out in silver and silver fringe and tassels, the low glass-topped coffee table, the beautiful silky gray draperies that were so easy to climb, the spiral candles of pearl gray and cream in heavy silver candlesticks on the mantel, the soft carpet with its design of black and white flowers. So many times we’d relax on the carpet in front of the fire while Dr. Vil told us stories about the outside world and how we’d better never go there because regular people wouldn’t be able to deal with three intelligent spiders the size of small dogs. One intelligent spider, anyway.

Plinks was already at the front door. “Come on!”

We crawled under the crack to the porch, and scurried up the porch railing. In front of the house was a sign on a little post.

Jelly hopped up and down on the railing. “What does it say? What does it say?”

I hurried across the lawn and stood back for a better view of the large black letters. I never realized how three words could fill me with so much horror.

House For Sale.

Plinks tried to sound out the words. “Ho oo us ee fuh-fuh sale.”

“House for sale.”

“Oh! That first word is house. Why isn’t it spelled h-o-w-s?”

Jelly caught on before he did. “House for sale? Our house? Somebody’s going to buy our house?”

“What?” Plinks gaped. “Can they do that?”

“They can and they will,” I said. “This is a nice big house, and it still has all the furnishings.” Rich, beautiful furnishings. I was a little surprised the place hadn’t been robbed, but then, with a reputation for creepy things going on inside and a name like Spiders’ Rest, not many people were brave enough to investigate.

“But what will we do?”

“We’ll stay, of course. It’s our house, too.” And when the new owner moves in, we’ll hop out. Surprise! Look what came with the house! No extra charge! My brain was racing. “No need to panic. We’ll keep to the shadows until we figure out what to do. Maybe we’ll get lucky. Maybe it will be someone who doesn’t mind spiders.” Very large talking spiders. “Maybe no one will buy the house.”

Jelly perked up. “Maybe they’ll bring cake.”

 

*   *   *

 

We sleep on top of the canopy in what used to be Dr. Vil’s bedroom. That night, Plinks and Jelly curled up in the black folds and were soon snoring, but I couldn’t sleep. I made my way up one bedpost to the chandelier and from there spun a thread to the corner. I’d hoped making a web would keep me from thinking about what could be a very bleak future for the three of us. But it didn’t.

The house had been our home for more years than I could count, first as tiny black and gray spider babies, and then, after a few of the doctor’s treatments, as the large, extremely attractive spiders that we are today. I’m especially handsome. Jelly is cute in a roly-poly way with white fur and touches of pink around her eyes and mandibles, and Plinks is all legs. Still, your normal Andrean would not find us pleasant looking. They never think how bizarre they appear to us with their odd plank-like bodies and curious faces. Noses, for example. I’ve never understood why the noses have to stick out like that. And now, after all this time, one of these weird Andreans was going to stick his or her nose where it didn’t belong.

I needed a plan.

Jelly and Plinks would go along with whatever I decided, no problem there. The problem was what to do? Dr. Vil was the only person I’d ever dealt with. I knew his habits. He used a communicator device to order food, which was brought to the house by a delivery man who always put the bags on the porch and hurried away. The doctor had no relatives, no visitors, no friends, except us and the others he created. As for those others—well, they were roaming the woods and causing more trouble than the doctor ever imagined. I’m not sure he meant for them to become so dangerous. Still, they had a stake in keeping people away from this part of Specter. Maybe if I reached out to them for help.

I would find a way.

 

*   *   *

 

Several days went by and we almost forgot about the sign in the front yard. The weather was damp and dreary, and I had many more corners to decorate. Plinks enjoyed racing down the long shiny halls. Jelly tried recipes to make our diet of flies and mosquitoes more palatable. Her Green Beetle Cake was not a success.

Then one rainy afternoon, we heard footsteps on the porch and the click of a key in the front door. We were down the banister in a flash and up to the living room chandelier, our best observation post. We heard voices and two people stepped inside the house.

The first was a stout Spectran man with round white patterns on his black face and slicked back hair. He gestured to the room with a flourish. “As you can see, sir, nothing has been disturbed. Everything is just as your grandfather left it.”

Grandfather? We stared at each other and then peered down at the second man, a slim young man dressed in a black suit and floppy black tie. To my surprise, he was completely white without any patterns, at all. Even his untidy hair was white, although he didn’t look much older than twenty Spectran years. His very dark eyes looked around the room with interest.

“He doesn’t look like Dr. Vil,” Plinks whispered. “He doesn’t even look Spectran.”

Jelly leaned forward for a better look. “I think he’s cute.”

“Shh, both of you.” A grandson of Dr. Vil’s? He’d never mentioned a family.

We followed along the ceilings as the stout man showed the young man all around the house, pointing out various features like the parquet floors and crystal chandeliers, the excellent view of the woods, the fully furnished bedrooms, the many bathrooms, the kitchen with almost new appliances.

The young man gazed around in admiration. “It’s all beautiful.”

When the two men returned to the living room we scuttled to the other side of the chandelier for a better view.

 The stout man rubbed his hands together. “Well, Mr. Vil, I believe that’s everything. Any questions?”

“I overheard someone in your office say the house was haunted.”

 “Mere rumors, sir. Nonsense. My instructions were to show you the house, and if you didn’t want it, then it was to be sold.”

“Oh, I want it,” the young man said. “It’s perfect.”

Perfect.

I felt a thrill go through all eight legs, and I could tell by the others’ expressions they felt the same. “House meeting,” I said. “Bedroom. Now.”

I ran quickly across the ceiling and up the stairs to the bedroom canopy, my mind whirling with ideas. I’d been afraid the house would not sell and fall into ruin, or catch fire and burn, or be sold to someone who would tear it down and rebuild it into something spider-free. Then where would we go? The forest was huge and dark and filled with fogs and mist. I doubted we would be welcomed by our fellow-creatures, except as tasty snacks.

I was the first one to plunk down into the silky black folds of the canopy. “Is everyone here? Plinks? Jelly?”

Plinks slid in beside me. “She’s always late.”

Jelly rappelled from the ceiling to land with a thump. “I’m here!” She gave Plinks a kick with one of her back legs. “I’m not always late.”

He growled at her. I motioned for silence.

“All right, everyone, things are looking up. This fellow may or may not be a monster-maker like his grandfather, but he seems to love the house. If we’re quiet and keep out of his way, I don’t see why we couldn’t stay.”

Jelly gave a little bounce. “I want to stay. I was born here.”

Plinks rolled all his eyes. “We all were.”

She rolled into a ball. “But what about food? Are we ever going to get anything good to eat?”

“Calm down.” I held up my four front legs. “Here’s what I propose we do. We wait and see what the grandson is like. If he’s like Dr. Vil, then we have no problem. If he’s anti-spider, then we’ll have to take action.”

“I’ll be happy to bite him,” Plinks said.

“Not a good idea,” I said. “If he dies in the house, the SES will come, and we’ll all be dead.”

We shivered. The Specter Exterminating Service was extremely thorough, especially during New Season.

Jelly unrolled and looked up at me worriedly. “So we just wait?”

“What else can we do?”

“I don’t get it,” Plinks said. “Dr. Vil never said anything about a family, and this fellow doesn’t have patterns. Maybe he’s an imposter.”

“Then tell me why in the Three Worlds would he travel all the way out to the Phaselands to live at the edge of the woods in an old haunted house?”

Plinks didn’t have an answer for that. Neither did I.

 

*   *   *

 

We didn’t have long to wait. The next morning, I was awakened by the sound of a key in the front door, footsteps, and the thud of two large suitcases on the living room carpet. I crept out of my favorite ceiling crack and peered down at the young man. “This is quite the palace,” he said. “Needs a good dusting, but it’ll do.”

Jelly crept up next to me. We watched as the young man examined the white sofa and chairs, the glass tables, the black and white rug, the lamps, and the draperies. He checked the fireplace and the windows and then moved on to the adjoining dining room. He admired the dining room table with its eight matching chairs, the pictures on the walls in their ornate silver frames, pictures of mountains and clouds and sky, and the chandelier above the table with its many crystal spears that caught the faint light and sprinkled rainbows all around, the only little bits of color in the room.

Plinks joined us as we followed the young man up the huge staircase to the second floor. He looked in every bedroom and finally stopped at Dr. Vil’s. Dr. Vil had been fond of black, so everything in his bedroom was black: the furniture, the bed, the curtains, and the rugs. This seemed to suit his grandson, as well. He brought his suitcases up to the bedroom and began unpacking his clothes.

“He’s very handsome,” Jelly whispered. “But why is he all one color?”

“I don’t know.”

Plinks came up behind us. “His name is Rupert.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s on his books. Rupert Tylin ValEndise Vil.”

“Have you already been snooping in his things?”

“No. He left his books on the table. I just flipped over the cover and looked inside. And he’s from Traditional City. I looked on the suitcase tag.”

“Did you see any food?” Jelly asked.

“Oh, yes. There was a great big bag of spider chow just for you and a pack of gourmet flies.”

She started to clap her front legs with joy but paused. “Wait. Is this a joke?”

“Of course it’s a joke! He doesn’t know we’re here.”

“He will if you two don’t shut up,” I said.

“And there were two of Dr. Vil’s best candlesticks,” Plinks said.

“What?” I turned all eight eyes his way. “What are you talking about?”

“In one of Rupert’s bags.”

“Wait, you mean he took them off the mantel?”

“Maybe he wants to move them to another room,” Jelly said.

I didn’t think that was what he had in mind. “Show me, Plinks.”

We scurried back to the living room. Sure enough, the ornate candlesticks poked their heads from the young man’s black duffle bag.

I recalled how delighted he’d been by all the beautiful items in the house. “This is not good.”

Jelly still didn’t understand. “What’s wrong? Why is he taking these?”

“I would really like to ask him that question.”

But we had to remain hidden and watch as the young man cheerfully packed several more of Dr. Vil’s expensive and valuable things into the duffle bag and carried them out.

“This is dreadful,” Plinks said. “Is he going to take all of the doctor’s treasures?”

“I suppose they belong to him now.”

“I hope he doesn’t take everything.”

But Rupert Tylin ValEndise Vil seemed satisfied with only one bag full. He didn’t come back for another load. We weren’t sure where he went, but he was back before nightfall and fell asleep on the sofa. We crept down for a closer look.

Plinks peered down from the arm of the sofa. “Why doesn’t he have patterns like the other Spectrans?”

“Maybe that’s why he’s been away,” I said. “Maybe he didn’t like being different, so he went to Traditional City. All kinds of people live there.”

“How do you know that?”

“Dr. Vil read me a book about it.”

“That doesn’t explain why he’d want to live here.”

“As long as he takes care of the place, I don’t care. Jelly! Don’t touch him!”

Jelly drew back her front leg. “I just wanted to feel his hair. It’s so pretty.”

“You’ll wake him, and then we’ll all get squished.”

“He has a kind face. I don’t think he’d squish us.”

Plinks puffed himself up. “I’d like to see him try.”

I thought he looked kind, too, but Dr. Vil had constantly told us to stay hidden. “He could be the nicest person in the worlds and have a fear of spiders. We don’t want to scare him away.”

“Oo, what’s this?” Jelly’s attention was caught by an odd-looking case on the chair. We moved over to examine the case. Jelly fiddled with the latch. “Maybe this is where he keeps his food.”

I started to tell her not to pry when the latch clicked and she opened the case.

“Oh,” she said, disappointed. “It’s a banjo.”

I looked at the sleek black instrument. “Jelly, it’s a violin.”

“So, he’s a musician,” Plinks said. “That’s good. We could use some music around here.”

“I like music,” Jelly said, and before I could stop her, she reached out and plucked one of the strings. The sound was slight, but the young man turned over, frowning in his sleep, and we shot up to the ceiling. He shifted position, but didn’t wake.

“We left the case open,” Plinks said as we scurried for the stairs.

“I’ll come back later,” I said. I wanted us safely away before Jelly decided to something else equally foolish.


 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

The next day, we watched as the young man made himself at home. He decided Dr. Vil’s bedroom suited him, so he hung his few items of clothing in the closet and arranged his other things in the adjoining bathroom, in the chest of drawers, and on top of the bureau.

“Where are the groceries?” Jelly asked plaintively. “Doesn’t he plan to eat here?”

Plinks was skeptical. “He probably doesn’t know how to cook.”

But Plinks was wrong. We watched the young man unpack, and then he left. He came back about an hour later with several bags of food. Jelly could hardly stand still on the molding.

“Food!”

“No,” I said. “If we start taking food, he’ll call the SES.”

“He’s bound to drop a crumb or two. Let’s see what he bought!”

I had to admit I was curious and hungry, too. We watched from the kitchen ceiling as he unpacked bread, cheese, eggs, tea, fruits, and vegetables.

“Cheese,” Jelly said with a sigh.

After stocking the refrigerator and the kitchen cabinets, he took out a frying pan and made scrambled eggs and bacon.

I thought Jelly was going to faint with delight. “Bacon!”

“He’ll eat it all,” I warned. “Don’t even think of going down there.”

But the fragrance was so tempting, all three of us crept a little closer on the edge of the wall.

“I hope he’ll be messy,” Plinks whispered.

He wasn’t. He washed all his dishes, scrubbed out the frying pan, and then swept the floor. Not even a crumb of bacon survived.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “Tonight we can check out the cabinets.”

We followed him to the living room. He sat down on the sofa and gave the violin case a glance. I couldn’t interpret his expression. I’d managed to sneak down the night before and close the case, not before admiring the beautiful instrument. Engraved on the case was the name “Rupert Vil” in flowing script.

“Is he going to play it?” Jelly asked.

“I don’t know.”

A sharp knock on the door startled him and sent us running for a dark corner of the ceiling where we could see as he opened the door. There stood a severe-looking young woman in the trim gray and silver uniform of the Specter Exterminating Service. At first, I thought he had called the SES to fumigate the house, but this woman was on a mission. She had dark curly hair and dark eyes. Her patterns were beautiful white stripes on black. She seemed taken aback. “Rupert Vil?”

“Yes, that’s me. Good morning.”

She recovered her poise and was all business. “Good morning, sir, and welcome to Specter. Holly Dark, Team Six. I was informed that Edmund Vil’s grandson had arrived to take possession of the house. Since you may not be aware of the dangers, I’ve been assigned to you for New Season.”

“New Season?”

“For about six weeks, sir, this area will be crawling with monsters. Your house is especially vulnerable, being at the edge of the woods. I’m here to make certain all is secure each night and to sound the alarm should the monsters attack.”

“Okay.” He sounded as if he didn’t believe her. “What sort of monsters are we talking about?”

I knew exactly what she was talking about.

“All kinds. Red Horns, Great Grays, Fanged. Do you mind if I come in and have a look, sir? I want to check your doors and windows.”

He stood aside to let her in. “Come in. And I go by Tylin, please, or Ty.”

She gave him a brief nod and inspected every possible way a creature could enter the house. We followed her. She was younger than the other SES agents I’d seen. I wondered if this was her first assignment.

“This girl doesn’t look like much of a threat.”

Plinks disagreed. “That big old gun she’s carrying looks threatening to me.”

She returned to the living room. “Mr. Vil—Ty. Everything looks secure. I’ll be back tonight to patrol the area. Meanwhile, please take all proper precautions and do not venture into the woods.”

“Do you have to rush off? Stay and have some tea.”

“I really couldn’t. I’m on duty.”

“Tonight, then. Come early and have some dinner before you go on patrol.”

“That’s most generous, but I couldn’t.”

“Why not? It’s the least I could do for all your help.”

“I’ll check with my superior, sir, and see if that’s acceptable.”

Jelly poked me. “He likes her.”

“Shh.”

Ty saw her to the door, and when she had gone, stood on the porch, frowning at the woods. “Monsters. Good gods, what nonsense.”

“Uh, oh. He isn’t going to go into the woods, is he?”

“Jelly, hush.”

“The others need to know this is Dr. Vil’s grandson.”

“When the time comes, we’ll take care of it.”

“I’m starving,” Jelly whimpered. “Can’t we get something now while he’s out here?”

“Plinks, will you stand guard?”

With Plinks acting as lookout, Jelly and I hurried to the kitchen and found a box of cereal we could open. She stuffed the round crunchy pieces in her mouth and sighed in satisfaction. I ate at a more reasonable pace.

“Not too many, Jelly. We don’t want him to notice.” She nodded, her mouth full. “I’m going to get Plinks.”

While Plinks took his turn, I watched Ty. He sat on the top step of the porch, his gaze distant. What could he be thinking about? When he got up, I tensed, ready to dash back to warn the others, but he went into the living room. He unlatched the case and took out the black violin. He tightened the bow and slid something over the taut hair. He placed the violin under his chin and played a brief melody. I’d never heard anything so sweet and melancholy. Then he played something quick and fierce, his fingers flying over the strings. It was amazing. It made me want to dance and swing from my web.

I felt a current of air beside me and saw Plinks and Jelly staring down, Jelly with a piece of cereal halfway in her mouth.

“Wow, he’s good,” Plinks said.

Abruptly Ty stopped and put the violin away, closing the case with a bang.

“What happened?” Jelly asked. “Why’d he stop?”

 Something had happened with his music to make him so upset. I couldn’t imagine what that something could be. If you had the power to create such a beautiful sound, why would you ever give that up?

 

*   *   *

 

That evening, Ty went back to the store and returned with two more bags of groceries. Then he made dinner. Plinks, Jelly, and I watched from a corner of the ceiling. If anyone had been watching us, they would’ve seen three spiders with their mouths hanging open. Dr. Vil cooked very few things, depending on sandwiches for his main meals and the occasional stew. Ty fixed a creamy soup, a salad, a delicious smelling meat dish, green peas with little onions, and a fruit dessert.

“We are the luckiest spiders alive,” Jelly said.

“None of that is for you,” I reminded.

Ty found the white table cloth and set the dining room table with Dr. Vil’s best white dishes, the ones with silver trim. He located the crystal glasses in the top cabinet, the ones the doctor never used, washed all of them, and took four to the table. From one of the grocery bags he pulled a bottle of wine, uncorked it, and poured two glasses. The other glasses he filled with water. The remaining pair of Dr. Vil’s silver candlesticks with half burned candles sat on the table. Ty hunted for matches in the kitchen drawers.

Jelly wanted desperately to help. “They’re on the mantel. Should I go get them?”

“Then what? Drop them on his head? He’ll figure it out.”

Ty rummaged in another drawer. “He has all these candles, so there must be matches somewhere,” he said to himself. “Where did I see—? Oh, in the living room, of course, where the fireplace is.”

“Told you,” I said smugly.

Ty found the matches next to the candles on the mantel and returned to the dining room. I had to admit with candlelight shining on the clean china, silverware, and wine glasses, the effect was beautiful, but I didn’t like the way Ty fingered the lovely items as if assessing their value. He couldn’t possibly be thinking of selling these things, too!

When Holly Dark arrived and saw all the food on the gleaming table she was as impressed as we were. She slipped the large gun from her shoulder and hung it by its strap from the back of her chair. She wore two smaller pistols in her belt, as well as an array of knives. A small silver medal, the Silver Claw and Leaf for Rescue, was pinned to the collar of her trim gray uniform. “You didn’t have to go to all this trouble.”

He held her chair and she sat down. “You’re my first guest. I thought I’d go all out.”

She had a very nice smile. “Thank you.”

The SES agents I’d observed patrolling the woods during New Season had been serious men and women. Holly Dark soon reverted to Soldier Mode.

She politely declined his offer of wine. “I really shouldn’t. I’m on duty. SES wasn’t aware Dr. Vil had any relatives, Mr. Vil. I mean, Ty. We were a little surprised to learn you’d claimed the house.”

Ty moved her wine glass aside. “He had only one son, my father, who moved to Traditional City when he was in his teens.”

Long before we came into existence.

“That’s where he met my mother. She was from Dreenum.”

Plinks and I exchanged a nod. That explained the lack of patterns.

“Since Father didn’t ask permission to marry her and she wasn’t Spectran, Grandfather said they weren’t welcome here. I don’t know how he heard about me.”

“But you plan to stay here?”

“For the time being, yes.”

She took a bite of the meat. “This is an excellent roast.”

“Thank you.”

“What do you plan to do, if I may ask?”

“I haven’t quite decided.”

“I couldn’t help but notice a violin case. Are you a musician?”

He poured himself another glass of wine. “I play a little.”

Wow, that was a whopper. If he was trying to impress this woman, why lie to her about that?

She helped herself to more salad. “I know several restaurants in town who might hire you as a chef. This is all delicious.” She wiped her mouth with the white cloth napkin. “Are you aware of your grandfather’s profession?”

Now she was getting to the real reason she agreed to have dinner with him.

“I knew he was a scientist. I’m not exactly sure what his field of expertise was.”

Messing around with nature, I wanted to say.

“He was under investigation for aiding and abetting the monster population.”

Ty stopped eating. “Aiding and abetting—how does somebody do that?”

“By creating monsters.”

He laughed. “You’re joking, right?”

“I assure you, this is not a joke. Let me explain about New Season. Every year at this time, the monsters that live in these woods descend upon Specter every night with the intention of destroying property and killing innocent people. Thanks to the SES, they rarely succeed.”

His smile faded. “Are you telling me my grandfather is responsible for these monsters?”

“Not all of them. We aren’t sure where most of them come from, but Dr. Vil, for some insane reason, created some of his own, and those have joined the original group.”

“Let’s say I believe you. Created them how? What was he trying to do?”

“We don’t know. I have been assigned specifically to this house with the hope of not only protecting it and you from the raids, but finding out how Dr. Vil made these creatures and how to kill them.”

We shuddered and moved further back into the shadows. “These creatures” included us.

“You can help by allowing me access to all areas of this house.”

Not the lab. She can’t find the lab!

I don’t know if somehow Ty heard my plea, or if his understandable skepticism made him cautious. “I’d need to think about that.”

Holly Dark took a sip of water. She looked eager to search the house, but her superiors must have told her not to push too hard. “Very well. May I come back tomorrow?”

“Yes, of course.”

For the rest of the meal and through dessert, they spoke of other things. We learned that Holly’s parents had been killed by monsters, which explained her determination to wipe out the creatures. She shared a house on Silver Street with her older brother, Barton, who was also an SES agent. He was the leader of Team Seven, and according to Holly, had so many medals he couldn’t wear them all. Her one silver medal was for ten monster heads. Ten more and she’d graduate to gold.

“Eeeuuw,” Jelly said.

She was telling him about the many different kinds of monsters when we heard the deep tolling of the alarm bells. Holly immediately leaped up, snatched her gun from the chair, and hurried to the front door.

“Close and lock all doors and windows! Thanks for dinner!” And she was gone.

We heard the front door slam and lock. Ty returned to the dining room, shaking his head. “Lovely, but crazy. Just my luck.” He stood looking at the remains of the meal. There was quite a bit left over. Plinks and Jelly quivered in anticipation. As Ty carried the plates and bowls into the kitchen, Jelly spun a thread and began to lower herself to the table.

Plinks and I hauled her back. “Have you lost your mind?” I said.

“I want a grape,” she said. “I can grab one while he’s in the kitchen.”

“No grapes!”

“But he’ll put them all away, and we won’t be able to get them.”

“You don’t know when he’ll come back. He’ll catch you.”

“I can be really quick.”

“No!”

Ty returned for another load of dishes. This time, as soon as his back was turned, Jelly slipped down, her front feet reaching for the fruit. When Plinks tried to pull her back, she swung wildly, her thread snapped, and she fell into the soup with a huge splash.

We watched in horror as Ty, alerted by the noise, came back to the table. Unaware, Jelly slurped up the rest of the soup and then grasped the rim of the tureen and heaved herself out onto the tablecloth, shaking one foot and then another and another. She loped off across the table to the fruit dish, leaving a zigzag trail of creamy footprints. She’d seized a fat grape in her mouth when she glanced up and froze. She cringed, and Plinks and I held our breath, waiting for the inevitable blow.

Ty stood just as still, eyes wide with shock. “Good lord. Are spiders this big in Specter? Is this what Holly meant by monsters?”

Jelly spit out the grape and began to cry. “Oh, no! Don’t call the SES!”

He grabbed the back of a chair for support. “Did you just talk?”

Jelly ran behind the sugar bowl. “I’m sorry! I’m hungry, that’s all. I won’t eat much, I promise.”

“What are you?”

She peeked out. “I’m Jellyroll. Please don’t squish me.”

Plinks and I exchanged a sad look. It was all over now. Maybe if we could reason with him, he wouldn’t kill us but agree to put us outside. It would be cold and uncomfortable, but at least we’d be alive. We slid down to the table, keeping a safe distance. At the sight of us, Ty gasped, but stayed upright. I bowed.

“Sorry to drop in on you like this, sir.” Even in such a dire situation, I couldn’t resist a play on words. “I’m Flickfoot and this is Plinks. I assure you we’re harmless, ordinary spiders. Your grandfather created us.”

We waited worriedly as Ty took several quick breaths to steady himself. “Y-you have faces.”

Dr. Vil kept all of our lovely and useful eyes, but he tinkered with our features. We still look like spiders, of course, but the doctor liked to experiment. I am very handsome, Plinks looks a bit rakish, and Jelly looks sweet with her especially long eyelashes.

Ty took a quick glance toward the ceiling. “Are there more of you?”

“There are just the three of us. We’re the last. Please sit down, sir, and relax. We aren’t going to hurt you.”

He remained standing. He rubbed his eyes. “I know I had only two glasses of wine.”

We remained motionless, wondering what he would do. The tense moment was interrupted by chomping noises. I turned to see Jelly chowing down on the grape. She met my disapproving glare and stopped.

“What? Can’t I have a last meal?”

“I can’t believe you’re eating at a time like this.”

“It’s really good.”

“Do you even realize how serious this is?”

“I don’t think Ty is going to hurt us.” She looked up at him and batted all eight sets of eyelashes. “Are you?”

He’d been listening to our quarrel in disbelief. He slowly sat down and placed his hands flat on the table as if to keep himself from falling over. “Let me get this straight. My grandfather took regular little spiders and made you bigger and able to talk.”

“That’s it exactly,” I said.

“How? How it that possible?”

“We don’t know. We woke up one morning like this.”

“Does anyone else know about you?”

“No, and judging from your reaction, we don’t think they should.”

Jelly spoke with her mouth half full. “The SES would kill us.”

“The SES—” He pushed himself up from the table so abruptly, we ran to each other and huddled in a ball. “Those monsters Holly was talking about. Did my grandfather really make those, too?”

I carefully poked my head up. “Some of them.”

There was such a long pause I was afraid he’d gone into a permanent state of shock. Then he said, “You’d better tell me all about it.”

 


 

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