They did not head back to the plane; instead the Spider went back to the hospital and flopped himself in the musty office chair. Scribbling in a small brown leather notebook, the Spider ignored Dan’s attempts at conversation until his China Man brought him a stack of papers. As soon as he took the stack of newsprint from his assistant, the Spider leapt to his feet and began reading furiously.
“Professor Irons tipped his hand, killing Alexander Kinkaid like that.” The Spider growled.
“How so?” Dan asked, trying to peek over his shoulder.
The Spider laid out a newspaper, the New York Times, dated January 13th, 1920. Before Dan had a chance to read any more, the Spider picked up the paper and opened it, quickly flipping through the pages. Dan was not sure if he was reading them or not but if he was he was doing so at an incredible speed.
“Irons is a many of great appetite, great curiosity,” The Spider said. “He is also known for taking great offense at those who mock science.”
The Spider flipped the paper around, folding it so Dan could read it.
“That Professor Goddard, with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react — to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools,” Dan read aloud. “That’s a pretty strong statement.”
“Yes. And they are wrong. A rocket can operate in a vacuum.” The Spider said, folding the newspaper back up. “I know. I’ve flew in one.”
Tossing the paper on the desk, the Red Spider began to pace the small office. Dan was forced to sit down to make room for him.
“It was a rocket propelled explosive that destroyed Mr. Kinkaid’s office and took his life. Fired from a dirigible.”
“Okay.” Dan said, unable to think of anything else to say. He could not keep up with the constant leaps from one topic to the other that the Spider seemed to enjoy.
“Why not use his impressive new robots to kill Kinkaid? The metal knights?”
“Too big to put on a balloon?”
“There is that, Dan, but they could have marched up the stairs. No, I think the robots were an old project for Professor Irons. He probably began building them years ago. But the rockets, this is a new avenue of interest for him. This is something else that has gotten his attention.”
The Spider stopped dead in his tracks.
“Irons, a genius inventor in his own right, meets Alexander Kinkaid. Together they hammer out a series of metal automatons, built by Irons with steel supplied by Kinkaid. They have a falling out over Jessica, who uses Irons to get back at her father.”
“How do you know that part?” Dan asked quickly.
“Daughters always have some grudge against their father’s. Some kind of reverse Oedipus syndrome,” the Spider said, waving his hand to dismiss the train of thought.
“Now Irons has something else in mind. Something to do with rockets.”
“But what about Jessica?”
“What about her?”
“Why did he take her?”
“She’s beautiful Dan. Obviously he wanted her.”
“But it can’t be just for his own pleasure, I mean the man is too old to. . . “ Dan did not want to continue with that thought.
“No. This isn’t about teenage lust or perverted passion. He wants Jessica for something else, something he believes is a great honor.”
“What are we talking about here Spider? Some kind of box social for maniacs?”
“What does a man who has everything want? What does a man who thinks he is unstoppable do with himself when he’s conquered all Earthly challenges?”
“You’ve lost me here, Spider.”
“As I said earlier, this wasn’t about the robots. It’s about the rockets.”
“What does he want Jessica for?” Dan pleaded.
“He wants a date, obviously.” The Spider said calmly.
“Where is he planning on taking her?”
“To the other side.”
Suddenly a chill ran up Dan’s back.
“The other side of what, Spider?”
“Why, death of course.”