Web of Protection

“33!” a woman said. The laughter that filled the room moments before died immediately as everyone, Tim included, looked at her. The crowd of assorted security specialists, bodyguards, and known mercenaries filled their client’s opulent living room. The rich man himself was in the room, but an assistant was asking the questions. They’d reached the last question and the assistant built it up as a major question. They all laughed when the question was revealed to be, ‘What is your favorite number?’

Tim appraised the lean, bald, tan woman that gave an answer while he wondered why anyone had a favorite number. He’d never seen her before and decided to ask around about her the first chance he had.

“You stay,” the assistant told the bald woman, then pointed at the rest of the thugs. “Spread out. 500 million to whoever catches the intruder.” Tim shuffled out of the house with the rest of the hired guns, then pulled a familiar face aside.

“Hey, Carter; know anything about bald and beautiful back there?” he asked and tilted his head toward the house. Carter, a portly man with grey frizz shook his head.

“Not much, she’s new,” he said. Tim laughed and patted Carter on the shoulder.

“C’mon man,” he said, then glanced around them to make sure they were alone. “It’s me. I’ve seen you get an immigrant’s life story five minutes before the boat lands.” Carter nodded.

“I know, and I’m telling you. She’s new. This is her first gig. I’ve got the story on her previous life too,” Carter nudged Tim in the ribs. “Anyway, the last time I gave you someone’s life story, you married her.”

“AAAARRGHHH” Someone screamed, then gunshots rang out. Carter moved to draw his gun, but Tim stopped him.

“Don’t bother, it’s a setup,” he said.

“Huh?” Carter turned to look at Tim, but relaxed. Tim’s intuition had gotten him out of more than a few scrapes. He knew he should listen, but he still wanted details. “How so?” he asked.

“The billionaire is so sure something’s going to happen that he put out the call to everyone; we both know there was Fae in there.” More gunshots and screaming was heard in the distance.  “Then his assistant interviews us with a dozen ridiculous questions. After they get an answer, they send the rest of us out to deal with ‘the intruder’ that somehow they know is here already.” The gunshots sounded closer now.

“He promised a 500 million bounty for catching the person they don’t expect us to catch. Rich people don’t get rich by giving money away.” Tim chuckled and shook his head as a figure emerged from the surrounding forest and approached the house. “Whatever’s going on, that bald hottie is the only one that this whole thing was for; it’s why they kept her behind. I bet I can prove it,” Tim said.  He pulled both his guns out from his rear holsters and held them up in the air by the tips. He walked toward the strange man.

“I give up, I just want to watch now,” Tim said. The man wore a bullet-riddled t-shirt soaked with blood stains. But the skin visible beneath the bloodied holes was perfectly tan and intact. He stopped in front of Tim and reached up to take the guns from his hands. Tim spotted a black number 34 tattooed on the back of the stranger’s hand. “I knew there was something going on with the number,” he thought.

“I give up too!” Carter said behind them. Tim turned to see Carter approaching the same way, ready to hand his guns over.

“I don’t,” the bald woman said. She emerged from the house and walked toward them. She stopped halfway between them and the house. “If you don’t want to get hurt, move,” she said. Tim noticed the number 33 freshly branded on the side of her head.

“Move!” he shoved Carter and they ran away several dozen feet. The intruding stranger laughed for a moment, then charged at the woman. She took a step back. Instead of retreating she did a twirling motion, then threw her hands forward once she was facing the stranger again. Hundreds of tiny red and black balls shot out of her hands.

The bloodied stranger managed to dodge most of them, but several still landed on him. He fell to the floor in an instant, screaming and flailing wildly.

“What the hell?” Tim wondered. He decided it was safe enough to get closer, he noticed the black and red balls that missed were crawling their way to the man on the ground. Each black widow climbed on top of the panicking man on eight spindly legs. Tim looked at the woman in awe. She also had black widow spiders crawling on her, but she didn’t seem too concerned. They crawled to the top of her head, then seemed to burrow into her skull from the top.