Dale tensed when the woman walked into his bar with her black leather trench coat flowing around her. Her purple crewcut and the tarantula inked on her neck hinted to him that trouble tended to follow her. Not that she herself would cause any trouble. He was sure of that; 20 years behind the bar sharpened him into an excellent judge of character. He watched her move as she walked up to the bar. The long coat hid most of her movements but she moved with the spindly grace of a long-legged ballerina. Dale could tell that she knew how to take care of herself.
“Strongest bottle you’ve got,” she said when she reached the bar. She slapped down two hundred dollar bills on the bar; then, she lifted the back of her coat to sit down on a stool.
“Rough night?” He asked as he placed the bottle down on the counter with a short glass of ice. The bar opened at 11 and it wasn’t noon yet. The woman unceremoniously, and effortlessly broke the neck of the bottle to open it. She tossed the glass neck into a trash can behind the counter that made Dale wonder how she saw it. Then, she poured the dark golden liquid into the glass.
“I did something stupid,” she said. Dale chuckled. That phrase was like, “Once Upon a Time” for bartenders. He knew he was in for a story.
“Should I expect to be questioned by the police about your whereabouts?” he asked with his best smile. She pulled the now alcohol-free glass from her mouth and set it on the bar to refill it, but she shook her head.
“Nothing illegal, just,…” she lifted the glass to her mouth again, but held it there until she found the right word. “…uncharacteristic,” she finished her thought, then downed the drink.
“How so?” Dale asked. His bar did not get much in the way of a lunch rush; he didn’t serve any food. He was in for a slow few hours until business picked up in the evening and thought her story would help him pass the time. She took another swig then gave Dale the once over.
He was a bald, stocky guy, but his arms seemed out of proportion to the rest of him. His biceps bulged under his white bartender’s shirt, and he had a nice smile.
“You got friends?” she asked. Dale smiled.
“Yeah. My group’s pretty tight,” he replied. The woman shook her head.
“I don’t,” she sighed. “I didn’t, until last night.”
“Friends are good, right?” Dale asked.
“Not if you have a possessive boss that doesn’t like you having friends.” She emptied the bottle into her glass. “When I say ‘boss’, think supervillain,” she pointed to herself. “Henchman,” she said then emptied the alcohol. “It wasn’t an issue before,” she shrugged. “Didn’t need friends.” Dale narrowed his eyes trying to gauge her. She seemed sincere and honest; but, he’d never heard of a supervillain outside of fiction.
“So, what changed?” Dale asked. “Why did you suddenly need a friend last night?”
“I didn’t need a friend…,” the woman said. She added another hundred dollar bill to the bar and gestured at the empty bottle. Dale was quick to replace it, but he took the liberty of opening it for her first. He didn’t want to deal with broken glass. “…she did.” In the back of his mind, Dale congratulated himself for spotting her as a soft heart. He enjoyed the warm feeling of vindication for a moment until the door opened again. The trouble he feared earlier walked in.
Dale had a group of rowdy regulars that liked nothing more than giving women a hard time. It didn’t usually get bad, and he was quick to warn anyone they might target. Unfortunately, they would almost certainly target the purple-haired woman. Dale knew she could handle herself, but he was worried about the damages to bar while she did. Thinking quickly he grabbed a third bottle and placed it on the bar.
“If I give you this will you leave without damaging the place too much?” he asked. Just as the woman looked up to ask him why, she was surrounded by a pair of muscleheads in muscleshirts.
“Hi there,” the one on her right said. He leaned close enough to rub his elbow against her. “Why’s a pretty girl like you drinking so early?” he asked. “Maybe we should get some lunch in that stomach first.”
“How bout it, beautiful?” the one on her left asked. “Want to join the four of us for a nice meal?” She glanced up at the mirror behind the bar and saw two more meatheads grinning at her.
“Sure thing,” she replied. “But first, let me finish talking to the bartender, and I’ve got a couple of bottles to finish. As I was saying…,” she looked at the bartender. “My new friend asked me to join her guild, and I said yes. But first, I have to leave my current one; I need to ask my boss.”
“Quitting?” the thug on her left asked. He scooted his barstool closer to her. “We got a job for you,” he grinned.
“Your boss, the supervillain?” Dale asked. She nodded. “What’s he like? Superpowered or anything?”
“He’s a giant spider,” she giggled. “Bigger than this bar.”
“Hey, Earl,” the one on her left called the one on her right, talking around her. “Crazy broad thinks she works for a giant spider. Do we want her that messed up?”
“I don’t know, Jim,” Earl replied. He craned his neck around the front of her to try and see her clothing under her trench coat. “Hard to tell if that body’s worth it.” Dale nudged the unopened third bottle at the woman.
“Please?” he asked softly. She winked at him, then spun in her stool to face away from the bar. She stood up.
“You guys want a better look?” she asked and began sliding her black coat off.
“Yeah baby!” they called. She pulled her arms out of the jacket but held it in place. She turned back to face them while still keeping herself hidden behind the jacket.
“Catch!” she shouted and tossed the jacket at them. Jim and Earl both collided together trying to catch it; and, immediately started screaming. As the black coat flew through the air it fell apart. It disintegrated into black balls and each ball had eight legs. A swarm of pitch-black spiders landed on Jim and Earl and almost blanketed them entirely. Their two friends that weren’t covered with spiders screamed and ran out the door while Jim and Early frantically tried to brush them off. Dale scooted back against the bar and watched with his mouth agape. All doubts about whether she worked for a giant spider or not were dispelled.
She walked to the bar, grabbed both remaining bottles and smiled at Dale.
“Thanks for the booze,” she said and turned around. The spiders climbed off of Jim and Earl as she passed them and started climbing up her. By the time she walked out the door, she was wearing a black leather trench coat again.