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CHAPTER 8

  • John strolled into the sitting room and suddenly stopped short. He never expected to find Nico there, having just heard a car exit the compound. Recovering quickly, he moved to a sofa and sat down. The gang leader was just locking up a leather briefcase and didn't even look up as John walked in. He got up and vanished behind a curtain, leaving the case in the parlour.
  • John still had not gotten the chance to investigate what lay behind those curtains. The fact that it was out of bounds to everyone but Nico made him very eager to see what the master spider was keeping there. Presently, his attention was on the leather case. He looked intently at it, as if willing it to pop open and show its contents. Nico suddenly re-entered the room and John quickly shifted his attention to the ground.
  • "We're going on a road trip, Mr Baldwin," Nico murmured, picking up the case.
  • "To where?", John asked, noticing for the first time that the man was fully dressed, bow tie and all.
  • "What did I say about questions? Get moving. We leave immediately."
  • "I... I've gotta change," John managed, getting up to his feet.
  • "No time. We're late. You're driving."
  • Nico suddenly threw him a bunch of keys and he barely caught it as the gang leader stalked outside, looking very much like a dignified businessman.
  • John, keys in hand, followed him outside to find a convertible awaiting them. How many cars does this guy even have, he asked himself as he looked the car over. It was a late model Chevrolet, red and sleek. Getting into the driver's seat, he turned on the engine, enjoyed the sweet purr for a second and sped the car past the already open gateway.
  • There were exactly five people in the car, Nico was in the front with him while the rest occupied the back. They were immaculately dressed and looked like respectable businessmen, but John had no doubt that behind the clothes they were all like Nico, if not worse. He sped through the evening traffic, stealing occasional glances at the men through the rearview mirror.
  • "Take a left," Nico suddenly ordered.
  • John promptly swung the car into what seemed like a cul-de-sac and slowed down. Looking around, he saw a large but dark building to their left. He could barely make it out at this time of the evening. It was night already.
  • "Keep the engine running," Nico said as he stepped out of the car followed by his three friends. "We'll be back in a minute."
  • John silently watched them as they walked briskly towards the dark building. As they went through the main entrance, it was as if the darkness had swallowed them. He wondered how they managed to find their way in the dark. We're they bats?
  • **
  • John waited for several minutes, but the men still did not return. So much for a minute, he grumbled. After a few more minutes of waiting, he was starting to get worried. Then he saw one of the windows of the building suddenly illuminated by a bright flash followed by another and yet another. He quickly turned down the volume of the music he was listening to and he distinctly heard the sounds of gunshots. Before he could think of what to do, he saw four figures rushing out of the building's entrance. Most of them were fairly running, but one of them, whom John rightly guessed to be Nico, was only walking rapidly. Yet, with each step he took, he covered more distance than the others, despite the fact that they were jogging.
  • "Go, go, go," Nico ordered just as his hand made contact with the door of the car's passenger side.
  • The rest of the men quickly jumped into the back seat. That was when John saw them - three men with guns running toward the car and firing wildly. He quickly pulled the car out of the cul-de-sac onto the street, swung it 90 degrees and sped off, putting up the roof in the process. The men ran after them for a while, but they soon stopped, contenting themselves with squeezing off a few shots at the speeding Chevrolet.
  • When they were far down the road and no more shots could be heard, Nico visibly relaxed and sighed deeply.
  • "Good job, Baldwin. Good job," he murmured.
  • "Thanks."
  • In the dim light, John thought he could see the signs of a faint smile creep across the master spider's face.
  • When they arrived the mansion at last, John packed the car and followed Nico into the parlour while the other men dispersed to only God knew where. Nico, dropping his case on the table, slumped into a chair. Reaching for a bottle of rum, he took a swig and stared at the case as if lost in thought.
  • "I want to inform you of my decision," John suddenly began with no prior warning.
  • "What decision?", Nico asked, taking another swig.
  • "I've decided to move to an apartment of my own. I wanted to inform you personally, s..."
  • "No," Nico simply said, taking yet another swig and continued staring at the case on the table.
  • "What?", John was surprised and confused.
  • "Nobody's going anywhere, Mr. Baldwin," Nico returned, fixing him with a cold, hard stare. "This mansion is big enough for everyone."
  • "But..."
  • "No buts! Nobody leaves. End of discussion."
  • With that, he picked up the case and vanished behind his curtains. John stayed behind and glared angrily at his back as he left. He had earlier been informed by Mina of a vacant apartment and he had been glad to hear it, but this latest intelligence from Nico shattered all his hopes of quiet albeit partial independence. He paced angrily back and forth and shook his fist at no one in particular. But the sudden entry of one of Nico's ruffians and the surprised look he gave him made him quickly exit the parlour and head straight to his room.