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Chapter 4 Traffic Jam

  • It was light out when Spyder woke up, but his eyes refused to focus, so h_ouldn't read the time on the Badtz-Maru clock-radio near the bed.
  • His head felt as if someone had scooped out his brains and filled his skul_ith broken glass and thumb tacks. When he tried to sit up, every part of hi_ody ached. He rose slowly to his feet and walked stiffly to the bathroom.
  • Spyder's shoulder throbbed and when he switched on the bathroom light he sa_hy.
  • There was a long gash running across his shoulder and down his chest. He had _lack eye, a swollen lip and his arms and ribs were spotted in livid purpl_ruises. Spyder remembered the scene in the alley. It wasn't a dream. He ha_een mugged.
  • Blood from the gash had dried on his skin, gluing part of his white wife-
  • beater to his chest. Spyder stood under the hot shower until the bloo_oftened and the water soothed his knotted muscles.
  • When he stepped out of the shower, he left the wet shirt draped across th_owel rack beneath the framed Lady from Shanghai poster that Jenny hated. Th_ash on his shoulder burned and his headache was com- ing on strong behind hi_yes. Spyder slapped on some gauze squares and taped them down with whit_edical tape.
  • Christ, he thought, I was supposed to call Jenny last night and tell I wa_oing to be late. She must be pissed. Then it hit him, as it had hit hi_lmost every morning for weeks: Jenny was gone. She'd packed up and moved th_ast of her stuff to LA. That's why he'd gotten so drunk with Lulu. It was th_ne month anniversary of her desertion.
  • "No fucking way I can put ink on anyone today," he thought. It was alread_fter one in the afternoon. Spyder didn't want to go the studio, but he neede_o call his clients and reschedule. He dressed quickly into battered blac_eans, steel-toed Docs and the largest, loosest gray Dickies shirt he coul_ind in his closet. A pile of Jenny's abandoned textbooks were stacked at th_ack, The Gnostic Gospels, Heaven and Hell in the Western Tradition, A_ncyclopedia of Fallen Angels. Spyder slammed the closet door.
  • The warehouse Spyder rented was across town from the tattoo studio. He usuall_ode the Dead Man's Ducati—the bike he'd bought cheap from a meth dealer h_new down in Tijuana; the previous owner had gone missing and did Spyder wan_irst dibs?—but he felt too shaky for two wheels today. He called a cab an_aited by the curb in the warm afternoon sun.
  • "Do you have the time?"
  • Spyder was so out of it, he hadn't seen the tall man in the gray business sui_pproach him. The man was bald, but tanned and healthy-looking, with deep win_nd -sunburn creases on his cheeks. It took Spyder a second to answer.
  • "Uh, no. Sorry."
  • "No worries," the man said with a slight Shrimp-on-the-Barbie accent. "Lovel_ay."
  • "Yeah. Great," said Spyder
  • "You all right, mate?"
  • "Just a little hungover's all."
  • The business man laughed. "That's how you know you had a good time," he sai_nd clapped Spyder on his sore shoulder. "Cheers."
  • As the man walked away, Spyder saw something attached to his back. It was sor_f ape-like, but its head was soft, like a slug's. It had its teeth sunk int_he man's neck and was clinging onto his back by its twisted child-like limbs.
  • Spyder wanted to call out to the man, but his throat was locked tight in fea_nd disgust. The parasite's head throbbed as it slurped something from th_usiness man's spine.
  • Spyder took a step back and his shoulder touched a rough wooden pole plante_n the ground through a section of shattered pavement. Pigeons and gray dove_ere nailed up and down the pole. Animal heads were staked around the top. A_lligator. A rottweiler. A horse. Other more freakish animals Spyder couldn'_dentify. Each head was decorated with flower garlands and its eye sockets an_outh stuffed with incense and gold coins, like offerings.
  • Across the street, a griffin, its leathery wings twitching, was lazily chewin_n the carcass of a fat, gray sewer rat. Emerald spiders the size of a child'_and ran around the griffin's legs, grabbing stray scraps of meat that fel_rom the beast's jaws. The spiders scrambled up and down the griffin'_indquarters. Gray stingray-like things flapped overhead, like a flock o_nurled vultures. A coral snake lazily wrapping itself around the sacrific_ole stopped its climb long enough to call Spyder by name.
  • Spyder's head spun. He stepped into the street, flashing on the demon in th_lley the night before. The mugging had been real. Had the monster part bee_eal, too? He leaned his head back. Spinning in the sky overhead were angel_ith the wings of eagles. Higher still crawled vast airships. Their sof_alloon bodies glowed in the bright sun, presenting Spyder with profiles o_ierce mythological birds of prey and gigantic lotuses.
  • A cab turned the corner onto Harrison Street and -Spyder frantically flagge_t down. "Haight and Masonic," he said to the driver, trying not to sound a_eranged as he felt. Spyder slid into the backseat and as the driver pulle_way, he peered out the cab's rear window. The business man was on the corner,
  • talking to three pale men in matching black suits. Their clothes and genera_ormality reminded Spyder of bankers in an old movie.
  • One of the bankers stepped forward, reached into the businessman's chest an_ulled out his heart. Turning stiffly, he dropped the organ into a_ttachécase held up by another of the trio. That done, the third banker used _nife to carefully peel the businessman's face off. The cab turned the corne_nd Spyder lost sight of them.