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Chapter 13 Journey Into Fear

  • Shrike led Spyder up Broadway toward North Beach.
  • Behind an abandoned furniture warehouse near Battery Street, they ducke_hrough a hole in the hurricane fence and stomped through weeds and smashe_lass to the back of the building.
  • Spyder, who had broken into more than his share of warehouses, spotted _mashed window near a rusting fire escape on the second floor. "Looks like w_an get in through an upstairs window," he said to Shrike.
  • Shrike was feeling her way along the back wall of the warehouse. When she cam_o a door, she jiggled the knob, but the door was locked.
  • "Hey, there's an open window," said Spyder.
  • Shrike kicked in the door with her big boots. Her cane had already flicked u_nd transformed into a sword. She held it in striking position as she strod_nto the warehouse. Spyder was impressed, but kept quiet.
  • "Stay behind me," she whispered.
  • "Hear anything?
  • "Rats. People. Shh."
  • The interior of the warehouse was a black hole decorated with a few grime_indows inlaid with chicken wire and decorated with graffiti. Shrike move_autiously, but quickly, seemingly sensing where the trash and broke_urniture lay and avoiding it. Spyder stumbled along behind her trying to kee_p.
  • "Is it all open down here or are there any rooms?" Shrike asked him.
  • Spyder tried to see as deeply as possible into the dark. "I can't see much, but it looks all open down here. I think I can see some offices upstairs."
  • "Show me."
  • Spyder led Shrike upstairs and she checked all the rooms until she found on_hat was still locked.
  • "Move back," she told Spyder.
  • Faster than his eye could register, Shrike bought her sword arcing down an_liced the padlock off the door. The lock clattered to the floor noisily. Hal_f it skipped way and rattled down the stairs. Spyder heard low voices fro_he edges of the room.
  • Shrike turned toward the darkness and leaned casually on her sword. "You'r_ll welcome to stay here, but anyone stupid enough to come through this doo_ill end up like that lock."
  • The interior of the office was dusty and littered with paper and rat turds. I_ooked as if it might have been a records office. Old filing cabinets stoo_gainst one wall along with a tilting, three-legged desk. Spyder had stayed i_orse places, but not recently. He described the scene to Shrike, who walke_rom wall to wall, pacing off the room.
  • "Would you push the old furniture into a corner?" she asked.
  • When he'd dragged the rusting junk out of the way, Spyder said, "There wer_ome old sofa cushions and maybe a futon out there. I'll go get them."
  • "If you want to sleep on mildewed trash, feel free. I prefer something clean."
  • Shrike had her pop-up book open to a page that, in the dark, looked like _cene from The Thief of Baghdad. She whispered a few words and the storag_oom was flooded in light and warmth.
  • The light came from burning braziers set at each corner of the room. Th_loors were covered with Persian carpets and bright pillows. There was a_normous bed against one wall and storage vessels and cabinets against th_pposite. The place smelled instantly of incense and spices.
  • "Welcome to my home away from home," Shrike said.
  • "When I was five, I had a metal folding cup that I thought it was the cooles_hing in the world," said Spyder. "But I was wrong."
  • "I'm glad you like it. You're my guest. Please sit down. Are you hungry?"
  • "Now that you ask, yes."
  • Shrike dropped her coat and sword onto the big bed and went to the cabinet_ithout hesitation. Spyder sat down on the edge of the bed watching her sur_ovements. Even though it was occupying an alien space, he thought, this wa_learly her room.
  • "I've been on the road for a while, so I'm not really Suzy Homemaker thes_ays," said Shrike, opening and closing the cabinets. She came back to the be_ith a couple of bundles. "All I have is some wine and focaccia."
  • "The breakfast of champions," Spyder said.
  • "My glasses are all broken, so we're going to have to share the bottle,"
  • Shrike said.
  • "That's okay. It'll give me a chance to look butch for once tonight."
  • Shrike smiled and sliced the wax and cork from the top of the bottle with th_dge of her sword, then handed the wine to Spyder. It tasted like wind felt a_he top of a hill on a summer night. He handed the bottle back to Shrike.
  • "Wow," he said.
  • Shrike took a long drink. "Don't forget to eat, too. Give it a chance, an_his wine will leave you half-naked, shoeless and wearing a dog collar, wit_nly a vague memory of how you got that way."
  • "Does the wine have a sister?"
  • "You wish."
  • Between bites of spicy focaccia Spyder said, "You're not at the Coma Gardens.
  • How is your client going to find you?"
  • "Magic."
  • "You're not much like most girls."
  • "I'm going to take that as a compliment."
  • "That's how it's meant."
  • "Slow down on the wine, pony boy. You don't want your mouth getting too fa_head of your brain."
  • "How long have you been living like this? Out of your little magic book?"
  • "A long time. Since… Almost half my life."
  • "You and your business partner, the one I'm standing in for."
  • "He'd be the one."
  • "What happened to him?"
  • Shrike chewed with great deliberation for some time. "He was killed b_ssassins. Hellspawn."
  • "You don't ever do anything halfway, do you? It's not enough that your frien_ot iced. He was done in by hell's hit men."
  • "I didn't ask for an exciting life, believe me. I crave boredom."
  • "I know the feeling."
  • "I don't remember what seeing is like," Shrike said.
  • "You used to be able to see?"
  • "Yes. After I went blind, I could still remember things. Colors. Moonlight. M_ather's face. It's all gone now, though."
  • "When you cut that lock, I thought you were playing me. A pretty girl jus_retending to be blind to look less dangerous."
  • "You're not the first person to think that," she said, and took off he_hades. "But I really am blind."
  • Spyder looked at her for a long time. He wanted to be sure that what he wa_eeing wasn't a trick of the fire light. Shrike's eyes were fractured, lik_racked glass. The misshapen pupils were ants trapped in amber. Shrike's eye_ere bright, but dead.
  • "That can't be natural," he said.
  • "I was cursed."
  • "The bastard lover you talked about?"
  • She nodded. "It's a story I don't feel like telling right now. " Shrike dran_ore wine and lay back on the bed. "I've answered enough questions for now.
  • Tell me about you, Spyder Lee."
  • "I'm a Leo. I like wine and focaccia, Seventies Kraut-rock, and I dig chick_ith their own swords." Spyder lay down next to Shrike and kissed her hand.
  • She let him, he noted, but a moment later she put her hand on his chest t_eep him from going any further.
  • "Slow down, pony boy."
  • "Sorry," he said. "To answer something you asked earlier, I'm not Spider Clan.
  • Or, Hell, maybe I am. My father loved cars and he loved James Dean. I'm name_or the model of Porsche Dean raced. It's also the car that killed him."
  • Shrike laughed. "You're named for a dead man's car?"
  • "I think the saddest day of my father's life was when I saw my first Jame_ean movie and only thought it was okay."
  • "What did he do?"
  • "Nothing. We already had some problems, then he just sort of lost interest i_e. He wasn't mean or anything. We just didn't ever talk much after that. _hink I broke some kind of sacred bond I didn't even know was supposed to b_here. It was his own fault. He took me to see Journey Into Fear. The old ma_ad James Dean, but on my planet, Orson Welles was the man to be."
  • "I've heard of him. Tell me more."
  • "Citizen Kane's still the greatest movie ever made. People don't even kno_hat it's a pure special effects flick. It all looks so real, so natural. Yo_ever stop believing you're watching the rise and fall of the richest man i_he world. And Journey Into Fear. Most people haven't even heard of that one.
  • Welles directed it, but didn't get a screen credit. He was just a little olde_han I am now and was already washed up in Hollywood. He plays a Turkish cop.
  • He looked ten feet tall. I wanted him to be my father and I wanted to be hi_t the same time." Spyder sat up and fumbled in his pockets for a cigarette.
  • The wine had left him light-headed, but happily so. He found half a pack o_merican Spirits and lit one. Shrike held out two fingers in a V shape. Spyde_laced the cigarette there. She took a drag and handed it back to him.
  • "I always wanted to do something like Welles," Spyder said.
  • "Be washed up at an early age?"
  • "No, dummy. Do something great. Something permanent. Even if it was just a ne_attoo style. Something that would tag some little part of the universe that _ould point to it from Heaven or Hell and say, `I did that.' That's mine."
  • "And here you are, huddled in a warehouse with a blind stranger surrounded b_noring winos."
  • Spyder brushed stray hairs from Shrike's face. "I'm not complaining."
  • "What's it been, two minutes?"
  • "Thank you for pointing that out, princess. Okay, I told you my shameful fil_eek secret. Tell me yours."
  • "You already guessed it. I'm a princess."
  • "Like with a crown or did your daddy just dote on you?"
  • "Both. I even had my own castle. Well, a wing of my father's. Before it al_ame down around us."
  • "Let me guess: the bastard lover?"
  • She nodded. "He was a general in my father's army. Unfortunately, we were in _eriod of prolonged peace. Without anything to conquer, some generals can gro_estless. When he wasn't screwing the king's daughter, he was studying magi_ith the most powerful wizards he could bribe or blackmail. He studied har_nough that he became a powerful wizard himself. Powerful enough to depose m_ather, throw my lands into chaos and make himself king."
  • "Damn. He's still running things?"
  • "No. He went completely mad. Some of his senior officers were still san_nough to see this. They banded together and killed him, burning his body an_cattering his ashes in three different oceans."
  • "Why didn't you go home?"
  • Shrike frowned. "He still has potent allies in power. And I don't even have _usiness partner, much less an army." Shrike held out her hand and Spyde_gain placed the cigarette in her fingers. She smoked quietly. "I didn'_ntend to tell you because I thought you'd laugh at a princess caught up in _asty little fairy tale."
  • "How does the fairy tale come out?"
  • "The princess dies," said Shrike, handing the cigarette back to Spyder. "I_he story goes on long enough, that's how they all end. It's what happens i_etween that matters."
  • "I never kissed a princess before."
  • "You think you're going to kiss one now?"
  • "Pretend I'm a ten-foot tall Turkish cop. That's your type, right?"
  • Shrike laughed and when Spyder leaned down to her, she didn't pull away.
  • Spyder felt her hand in his hair and she kissed him back hard, as if sh_adn't kissed anyone in a long time and had missed it. She rolled on top o_im, grinding her crotch into his as they tasted each other's mouths. Spyde_lipped his hands under her shirt, sliding over smooth skin and hard muscle, to cup her small breasts. Whatever cord or clasp was holding Shrike's hai_ack came undone. Her hair fell in fat dreads and braids halfway down her bac_nd brushed Spyder's cheeks. Mostly black, her hair was streaked purple, crimson, yellow and grasshopper green. Spyder rolled Shrike onto her back an_inned her hands above her head. He kissed her and ran his tongue down th_ide of her throat. When he bit her shoulder, her legs wrapped around him an_queezed. Spyder felt her shudder.
  • Shrike broke her hands free and took Spyder by the shoulders, telling hi_ravely, "I am a princess and I order you to take off every stitch of clothin_t once."
  • Happy to play the diplomat, Spyder did exactly what he was told.
  • Later, covered in sweat, focaccia crumbs and spilled wine, Spyder kisse_hrike on the neck and said, "Tell me more about the princess biz." Shrike wa_urled against his side, her head tucked into his neck. "Is your kingdo_omewhere I would have heard of?"
  • "No. It's not even in this Sphere. Where I'm from, magic runs the world. You_phere built the internal combustion engine. In mine, we transmuted gold int_ead."
  • "Do you miss it?"
  • "I miss my home. And my father."
  • "Did he escape?"
  • "He's dead. I don't even know where he's buried."
  • "What about your mother?"
  • "My mother died when I was born. I never knew her."
  • "Sorry. What's the best and worst part about princessing?"
  • Shrike thought for a moment, running a hand idly around Spyder's nipple. "Th_est part was the shoes and learning to fight. The worst part was stat_inners where you had to be charming with a full mouth."
  • "Did the princess have a horse named Princess?"
  • She pinched his nipple. "I didn't call my horse Princess because he wouldn'_ave liked it. He was a hundred shades of gray and terribly sick when he was _olt. I nursed him and when he grew strong, I named him -Thunder."
  • "Thunder is just the boy version of Princess."
  • Shrike bit his ear.
  • "Why was your partner murdered?" asked Spyder.
  • "I don't know."
  • "Was it for someone you two killed?"
  • "Maybe."
  • "Does it have something to do with this new client?"
  • "I honestly don't know. But, yes, it could."
  • "Peachy," said Spyder. "By the way, when this is all over, can I tattoo m_ame on your ass, princess?"
  • "Kiss me and I'll think about it."