Copyright Robert F. Sacco
The Brown Tarantula Parts 2, 5, 8 & 11 are at this blog
Part 11: The Hunter Becomes the Hunted
Detective Tom Slovino was having the rare good day. Before noon he knew a great deal about Delia Clarette. Without leaving his cubical he had learned that she owned the red Honda Civic he had seen at the destruction of the meth lab, had found her Facebook page and matched her pictures there to the picture of the girl in the domino mask (and of course, domino masks really do nothing to conceal ones face) and learned who her friends were, her family history, where she went to school and where she worked. He had gotten her college transcripts past and present easily. About the only thing he didn't know was her connection to the Tarantula. He figured that would come out with a search of her brownstone. This of course meant a search warrant so he reluctantly told the lieutenant what he had found. While the lieutenant schmoozed some judge into getting the warrant, Tom went down town to her place of employment, Winthrop Industries Energy Exploration Division, to nose around.
At Winthrop they were worried about her. She hadn't turned up for work this morning which was unusual, and, she hadn't even called in which was unheard of as she called in even when she was going to be five minutes late. The arrival of a police detective asking questions about her had not soothed their fears. He didn't learn much of value though. Her work didn't seem to have any relevance to the case. She was well thought of, diligent in the performance of her duties, but, lacked ambition. Some of her closest co-workers thought that she was a little odd in that she didn't date much or have much of a social life, but, they had all written this off to how time consuming it was to work and go to school at the same time.
Back at the precinct house Pearson had the search warrant for Delia's premises but, he also had a message from Winthrop Industries. Pearson said that they had called about five minutes after he had left there. Tom had talked to some management types but this call had come from the executives working out of the Winthrop mansion. They said they had information that might be helpful to him and that he should stop by before the end of the day to talk to them. This ignited a curiosity in Tom. He didn't particularly like the idea of driving out to Lakeshore and mingling with the hoity-toity at the mansion but, he had absolutely no idea what they could have for him and he was eager to find out. However, he decided to put first things first and check out Delia's brownstone.
Interviewing some of her neighbors did not produce any valuable information. As far as he could tell she was a hard working upstanding young lady who had good, friendly relationships with all of her neighbors. No one had seen her yet today but it was still early enough that given work and school, this was not unusual. One elderly lady actually had possession of Delia's spare key which meant that when she turned out not to be home, he didn't have to knock the door down, although the lady was very disturbed at the fact that he had a warrant to search the premises. The old lady couldn't make up her mind as to whether this made the police department incompetent, Tom a horrible individual, or Delia some sort of terrible person who had been good at disguising that until now. That was Delia's problem. Tom was just doing his job.
Once inside Tom confirmed everything that he had already discovered and came to the conclusion that Delia was even lonelier than her co-workers and neighbors suspected. In fact, it seemed to him, based on the contents of her home that all she did was work and study and that her home was a monument to her mostly deceased family. She was draping herself in the past and merely working in the present.
Tom was excellent at performing searches and he found the secret room with hardly any effort. Most of the effects normally stored there were out at the Donaldson mansion at the moment but the framed newspaper page from 1939 asking, "Who is the Tarantula" still hung there telling Tom everything that he thought he needed to know. Like everything else in this building, it was a relic of the Clarette family's past. In 1939 her great grandfather had some connection to the Tarantula. Delia still felt that link and had gone to help the Tarantula. Based on what he had seen at the meth lab, she was unaware of whatever his plan was that night, and she had no experience as a masked vigilante. She had gone off in search of him and had found him. The question now was, what did he do with her? Would he take her into his confidence? Let her go as an innocent, or eliminate her for knowing too much? This left him two options. He could put out an APB on her and hopefully find her, or, he could put the Brownstown, her place of business and school under surveillance so he would know if she returned to her life. Both might be hard to accomplish since this investigation was supposed to be on the QT. He would have to discuss that with the lieutenant later. If he had no other clues he just might have to stake out the brownstone himself. For now though, he had one more lead to follow up out at the Winthrop estate.
The rain had finally broken and the drive out to Lakeview should have been pleasant but Tom was lost in thought about Delia. He didn't know her, but he had come to feel sorry for her. Everything he knew about her suggested that she was a nice, albeit lonely girl. Now, excitement had entered her life, possibly for the first time and it was linked to a mass murderer who she probably saw as an agent of justice and to whom she had an emotional connection because of her reverence of her family. He thought about her pretty pink face and turned up pointed nose and hoped that she was alive and that he could help her.
At the front gate of the Winthrop mansion he was guided not to the front door but to the "business entrance". The business entrance looked like every door to a business establishment downtown, with people in a hurry coming and going, especially as the end of the day was nearing, and clusters of people smoking cigarettes. Once inside he stopped at a reception desk where he was given directions to a nearby elevator and told that the appropriate parties would be notified that he was on the way. When he entered the elevator he noted without interest that the building had four floors underground and that he was going to the lowest. When the elevator doors opened he found himself in a hospital. At first this made him wonder if the receptionist had given him faulty directions. After a moment he began to wonder why this facility was here. He could see an older rich man having medical equipment and a medical staff on hand. Lord knew that Caleb Winthrop could afford that, and, if your wealth afforded you the luxury of having your medical care at home, well, why not? He could also understand a large business facility having a nurse's office or even a first aid center for its employees but this was a full-fledged hospital or research facility of some sort. Just as he was about to get back on the elevator two men who looked like hospital orderlies approached him and one asked "Detective Slovino?" Tom nodded, they asked him to follow, and he did.
Tom Slovino had learned during time spent working the streets as a flatfoot to be aware of when he was in danger. The fact that one "orderly" led the way and that the other fell back and behind him was making him feel in danger. One: Why was he here? Two: What was this place? Three: Why send two guys to meet him? Four: Why send two really big strong guys to meet him? Five: why was one of them behind him? He tensed and prepared to move at a moment's notice but continued to look unconcerned. At the end of a long corridor were a set of double doors that looked like the doors that patients are usually wheeled through for surgery. The orderly in the lead pushed open the doors and Tom got a quick glance of something that caused his adrenaline to surge and fear to assault his rational mind. There were three operating tables in the room. Two of them had men on them surrounded by people performing some sort of operation on their heads. He was pretty sure that one of their brains was exposed. More "doctors" were forming a group around the empty table and, most terrifying of all, he saw what he thought looked like three large brains with dangling nervous systems floating in the air, crackling with some sort of energy that looked electrical. He heard the orderly behind him spring forward but the fear hadn't crippled Tom's readiness. He dodged to his left, spun on his heels and sprinted back the way they came.
One of the orderlies yelled "stop him" and people seemed to turn towards him from every direction. On both sides of him were walls, the one on the right had entrances to other rooms. If this were a real hospital you'd expect them to be recovery rooms or patient's rooms, in either case, dead ends. He remembered what looked like a nurses' station just a short distance ahead so he pushed aside a couple of men moving to block him, vaulted over the nurse's station gaining access to another corridor and began knocking over carts and small pieces of furniture behind him to slow pursuit. The problem was, now he was lost. No one had pulled any weapons and they were all acting like medical professionals so he wasn't afraid that anyone but the two orderlies could actually stop him. He hadn't pulled his own gun yet but he was ready. There was a maze of corridors and he changed direction at random but he knew it was only a matter of time before there were security guards or more orderlies cutting him off at some sort of pass. When it came, it was four men in police style riot gear leveling what looked to him like some sort of taser rifles at him. The good news seemed to be that they didn't want him dead. The bad news was, he thought that they might want to take out his brain and put one of those… things… in it. He knew that the Tarantula's armor and car were something out of a bad sci-fi movie but this was downright insane.
He pulled his gun and fired two shots at the guards. He was pleased to see that they didn't put any faith in their bullet proof vests and ducked to either side. By the way they moved he was under the impression that they hadn't seen combat. He charged right down at them, pushed through the two on the right and continued down the right corridor. He heard them fire their rifles behind him but he stayed just ahead of the wires fired out from them which would need to touch him to zap him. He couldn't keep up this pace for much longer, but, he saw coming into a view a cargo elevator platform that was going down. He jumped onto it, hit one of the men already aboard with his left palm forcing his head into a hard rock wall, fired a shot at the oncoming guards, slowing them a bit and slugged the other guy on the platform with the gun. As soon as the floor that the platform was descending to became visible he leapt from the platform. This corridor gave him hope. It was unfinished rock and looked as if it had been mined rather than constructed. He paused to take a quick breath then took off down the corridor.
He could hear the security guards pursuing from behind as he reached a cross corridor. He could continue straight or move to the right or left. He glanced in all three directions and in all three directions there were three floaty brain things moving slowly in his direction. He turned to the right and fired a bullet into one of them. The others kept right on floating towards him but the one he shot paused and slowly ejected the bullet then, resumed its approach towards him. He fired all of the remaining bullets at the brains to the right and while they were ejecting the bullets he ran past them.
The corridor soon stopped looking like mine shaft and started looking like cave. He dodged and weaved around stalagmites and tried to become soundless and blend into the shadows. He heard the security guards but the floaty brain things were quiet which was troubling. It was too dark to see anything except the guards flashlights and the crackling electricity emitted by the brains. He didn't want to give away his own position by using his penlight so he decided to get to some higher ground to take advantage of the light provided by the guards. He was once again aware that he was on borrowed time. He imagined Caleb Winthrop somewhere stroking a white cat ordering a small army to search the cave lest the secret that he is a super villain escape with Tom. He felt his way to a wall that had an incline and began to climb. He intended to sit at a high perch and watch what the guard's lights illuminated in the hopes of spotting some way out of the cave but when he reached the top of the pile of stones he had carefully and quietly climbed, he noticed that there was a gap between the incline and the ceiling. It was a small gap which made it very hard to see unless a light were shinned directly at it, and, it was just barely big enough for Tom to squeeze through, so, throwing caution to the wind, he did.
When he emerged on the other side of the hole he found himself sliding down a loose pile of rock and stone getting covered with cuts and bruises. Now completely in the dark he risked using his penlight and saw that he was in a very narrow space between two piles of rock, the one he had just slid down and one exactly like it in front of him. At the top of that pile of rock there was no convenient hole but there was a pin prick of light. He climbed to the top. The pinprick was too small for him to see through, so he slowly, and quietly began to move rock and earth aside in hopes of getting a look.
This Story is 15 parts long. Now get the whole story including parts 13, 14 & 15 at: The Brown Tarantula The Whole Story