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.