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Part 8

The Red Spider sat with his feet up at the desk, contemplating their next move. Dan handed him one of the mugs that he’d found in the office and filled it with hot coffee from the pot that had just finished boiling on the stove. It was gritty but the caffeine and warmth made them both feel better after the flight. The Spider’s China Man had left; apparently his only task was to drive the Spider around, he had disappeared the moment they’d set foot inside the hospital.

“Trying to figure out our next move?” Dan asked.

Dan hated the fact he could not see the Red Spider’s eyes beneath his strange mask. The two large red lights and the smaller ones rarely blinked and showed no emotion. The mask even covered his eyebrows and forehead, making it impossible to read anything from his face with the exception of his mouth. When he grinned, the mouth gave Dan a sense of horror, not humor and he was grinning at Dan in a way that made him nervous.

“I know our next move.” The Spider said calmly.

“What is it then? Are you planning on sharing it with me?” Dan said sarcastically.

“Come on, Spider. Why are you staring me like that?”

“I am trying to figure out what size of dress you wear.” The Red Spider said in his gravelly voice. Dan could not help but swallow nervously.

Alexander Kinkaid worked furiously at his desk, signing documents and shipping manifests that seemed to double in number every year. The toupee he wore itched terribly but he ignored it as best as he could. When the door to his office opened he did not look up, not until he saw the red dress.

“Jessica?” Alexander whispered. He stood up quickly as the blonde woman strode across the room, her face hidden from him.

“Jessica! My god you’re okay!” Alexander jumped from his seat but he froze as another man entered his office. This man wore a blood red suit and a strange mask, the eyes on it large and inhuman with four smaller lights underneath that made him looking like a human insect. The man tilted his hat down as if to greet Alexander, which only infuriated the old man.

“Jessica, who is this man? What is going on here? Are you hurt? Speak to me, honey!”

The woman Alexander believed was his daughter turned around and he realized it was not Jessica. In fact, it was not a woman at all.

“Dan Chase. Reporter for the Manhattan Post. This is my . . . friend The Red Spider.” Dan said, thrusting out his hand. Alexander faces sunk in horror and depression.

“Why have you done this? Where is my Jessica?” Alexander demanded.

“I apologize for the subterfuge, Mr. Kinkaid.” The Red Spider said, walking casually around the steel baron’s office. “I needed to know your involvement in your daughter’s abduction.”

“So it’s true then, she has been taken.” Mr. Kinkaid said, slumping back down in his office chair.

“Yes. And I think you know who took her.”

Fear flickered across Alexander’s face. Dan removed his wig and sat down opposite the old man. Dan tried to sit comfortably but the dress made it difficult for him; he shifted his legs nervously trying to make sure his dress did not reveal too much.

“Can you tell me why I’m dressed as a dame, Spider?” Dan asked.

“I needed to see Mr. Kinkaid’s reaction to seeing his daughter. If a photo had been available, I’d have preferred to use that method, but I had to make due with what is available.”

“But you could have just asked me.” Alexander said.

“Apparently the police already have. You lied to them. Even worse, you’ve paid them off to cover up certain incidences, haven’t you?” The Spider asked, leaning over Mr. Kinkaid’s desk.

“According to the Pittsburgh Police, your daughter has been to see them several times. Every time the case is dropped, every time you cover it up. Isn’t that right, Mr. Kinkaid?” said the Red Spider.

“Yes. Damn it yes, it’s true. My daughter has chosen some . . . bad partners in the past.”

“This isn’t about your little girl turning into a bearcat though is it? This time it’s worse. This time she didn’t just have a fling with a bell bottom, did she? This man is dangerous.”

As the Spider spoke he leaned imposingly over Alexander. The old man began to sweat, his eyes flashing back and forth. There was fear but there was something else too, a cry for help as if he desperately wanted to confess. Dan watched the Spider closely, fascinated with how well he maneuvered Alexander. It was as if the Spider was pushing up whatever secrets the man was holding inside, pushing them up until they broke to the surface.

“I never approved of their relationship, never would have allowed it. But there was nothing I could do. He was our best customer; over sixty percent of our sales last year were because of him. I knew he was far too old for her but I thought ‘at least he’s not a punk’. I never imagined he’d become so obsessed.”

“She’s a fetching dame.” Dan said casually. Alexander gave him a dirty look.

“I know you love her, Mr. Kinkaid. I saw it on your face when you thought this reporter was your daughter. Come clean now. Do the right thing while there is still time to save her. Tell me who it is your daughter is involved with and I promise you I will bring her home to you.” The Spider’s tone was almost kind now and he placed a hand on Alexander’s shoulder.

“Irons. Sir Jeremy Irons.”

A grimace crossed the Red Spider’s face.

“You know him?” Dan asked, checking his dress. He was unable to remember whether or not he’d stashed his cigarettes somewhere inside.

“Yes,” the Spider replied. “He’s also known as The Iron Professor.”