Dan woke up slowly, feeling safe and secure in the dark, quiet library. It took a few minutes for him to remember where he was and what had happened. He rubbed the spot on his neck where the Spider had injected him with a knockout drug; there was a small pin-sized scab of blood that felt slightly bruised. He waited patiently for his eyes to adjust, there was only enough light to see the dusty book shelves on either side of him. After a few minutes he realized it was not going to get any better and he got to his feet, placing a hand out in either direction. There were shelves of books on both sides of him, running parallel to each other. Dan was unsure of which direction to go so he simply chose one and started walking. Eventually the shelf on the left turned and he followed it, wondering where he was. The shelf turned again and he turned with it, only to find himself entering a large black open space.
“Hello?” Dan shouted. His voice barely echoed back to him, the sound seemed to be gobbled up in the dark. His foot hit something and he picked it up. It was a book, but it was hard to read the spine. He opened the inside cover and could make out the large font. The book was “The SCARLET PIMPERNEL”. He decided to hold onto the book, walking around until he located another shelf and followed it further into the massive library.
The gravelly voice echoed through the dark, all around him. Dan slipped backwards on a pile of books and fell to the floor.
“I APOLOGIZE FOR KEEPING YOU. . IN THE DARK. HOWEVER I NEED TO BE SURE YOU ARE NOT WORKING FOR MY ENEMIES.”
“Spider? Is that you? Come out where I can see you man!” Dan shouted.
“HOW DID YOU KNOW JESSICA KINKAID?” the Spider asked.
“She came to my office, at the Post. She was trying to find you.”
The library was silent for a moment then Dan saw the red lights of the Spider’s mask appear in the dark, coming toward him.
“Where is she? Where’s Jessica?” Dan asked quietly. The eyes stopped twenty feet away from him.
“SHE WAS TAKEN. TWO MORE ROBOTS APPEARED AFTER I PLACED YOU IN THE CAR. I COULD NOT STOP THEM, THEY TOOK HER.”
“Who took her?”
“YOU DON’T KNOW?”
“No, of course not! I was trying to help her!”
“YES. WHY?” The Spider seemed to draw out the word ‘yes’, so it slithered like a snake. Dan knew he was being accused.
“You think I set this up? That I know who took her? I don’t, Spider! I don’t know anything! I just wanted to help!”
Dan swore under his breath and stepped back from the Spider. Stumbling backwards, he bumped into a table and heard the clatter of objects as they rolled onto the floor.
“Why are you keeping me here in the dark?”
“THIS IS MY LIBRARY, MY SANCTUARY. THE DARKNESS IS FOR YOUR OWN PROTECTION. CONTAINED WITHIN THIS WEB OF INFORMATION ARE BOOKS THAT COULD PROVE . . . HARMFUL TO THE UNINITIATED. TO YOUR RIGHT IS A FLASHLIGHT.”
Dan found the flashlight lying on the table next to him. He lifted the heavy lamp and flipped the switch. A bright yellow light cut through the darkness and for a moment the Red Spider was gone, his red eyes disappearing. Then Dan heard footsteps and saw the back of the Spider heading away from him, deeper into the maze of books. He ran to catch up, keeping the flashlight focused on the Spider.
“Some of the books here are susceptible to light.” The Spider’s voice had taken on a more normal tone, although the gritty, deep drawl remained even when he spoke more gently.
“I needed to be sure that we were not followed. I apologize for keeping you here but I needed to see your reaction when I told her she was taken. I needed to be certain you were not part of it.”
“How did you know she was in danger?” Dan asked.
“Two weeks there was an attack on the office of the New York Times. One reporter was badly injured. They told the police they were attacked by a mechanical knight. A similar story was given to police last week by a young woman named Jessica Kinkaid.”
The Spider suddenly darted to the left, and Dan followed. The shelves began to curve in the direction that they were headed and Dan thought perhaps they had reached an outer wall.
“Why were you disguised as a cab driver?”
“I was patrolling the streets. A gang of pachuco’s alerted me to the fact that you were walking around in your cups. I figured I’d keep an eye on you.”
“Don’t worry about Ms. Kinkaid,” the Red Spider said, “I don’t believe she is in any danger.”
He turned right and entered a large mechanical shop. On a table in the center of the cluttered room was a pile of machine pieces from the robot knights. A big magnifying glass on a swinging arm hung over top and there was an entire set of tools underneath the work table, primarily used for soldering metal.
“Are those pieces of the machines?” Dan asked. He picked up the severed robotic arm, feeling the weight in his hands.
“Yes.” The Red Spider swung the magnifying glass over top of a chunk of machinery taken from inside one of the robot knights.
“Made right here in the United States of America.”
“By Alexander Kinkaid. Jessica’s father.”