I looked at my phone, and then again at the bar to make sure I had the same view lined up before I tapped Sean on the shoulder. He turned away from the androgynously beautiful person he was talking to and favoured me with a sigh. “What?”
“Take a look at this, you won’t believe it.” I waved the phone at him. He didn’t look impressed or particularly excited at the prospect. Neither did his companion.
“Can it wait? I’m having a conversation with…” his voice trailed off and he waved his hand as a prompt.
“Robin” they filled the gap in conversation for him and reached for their drink. Sean turned back to me.
“Yes, with Robin here about the problems we were having at the museum recently. I was just explaining about the self-loathing doors when you started waving your arms in the air.”
I gave him one of my deadpan states and tried not to let my annoyance sound in my voice – well at least not too much. “They’re not self-loathing, they just aren’t built very well. That’s why they keep falling off their hinges.” I peered round at his captive audience and shrugged. “Sorry to ruin the story. I just need to borrow him; we are meant to be working after all.”
I got a dismissive smile and nod, and took that as my cue to grab Sean and manhandle him into a slightly more discrete area round the corner.
“”What’s the big problem?” He asked. He was not happy with me. I showed him the picture on my phone.
“Your girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever they say they are, isn’t human.” He gave me one of those looks that promised disdain unless I backed things up quickly. “Look here. I was taking shots of the bar with the Parallax filter that Research developed; just to try it out.” I showed him the photo on my screen. He looked up and down, comparing the number of doors in the wall at the bar’s end with the number on display in the photo.
“Okay, so there’s a hidden door. Are you sure your hands weren’t shaking or something?”
“I’ve been dry for, well non of your business, but long enough for that to be a very cheap shot. I poked him in the ribs for his trouble. The next picture’s more relevant.” I swiped the gallery and there was ‘Robin’ stepping out of the hidden door. The Parallax Filter stripped aside her glamour to reveal the being beneath it.
The clothing was the same, and the ghostly afterimage, or maybe pre-image of the glamour could be made out over the real and very arachnid features of the figure with whom he’d just been sharing a booth. He looked at the image and then at the figure waiting for him. He smiled and waved.
“An ettercap, do you think?”
“Maybe? I’m not up on the spiders.” I said.
“Listen, you’ve been working at the museum for what, six months now? You’ve been cleared and briefed on the more exotic neighbours and origins of the more unusual exhibits, yes?”
“No, there’s no buts here. This isn’t a dating or social event, I’m on the clock.” Then he did look a little abashed. “Well sort of, business and pleasure, anyway – look think of this whole bar as the spiders web if you like and the door is their way in to see who’s been caught in the strands. I’m here to remind them they’re only licensed for a certain number of BLACKWIDOW interactions. Then we’ll be on our way.”
“You could have mentioned this earlier! I thought this was just a quick couple of drinks after work and maybe an unofficial debrief on how my promotion was going to roll out.”
“Well I didn’t want you to alert them by being all nervous, so sorry if I got you here under slightly false pretences. Looks like we’re too late on that front anyway.” He gestured across to the booth where ‘Robin’ had finished their drink and was preparing to leave. “You’d think intelligent hyper dimensional spiders would have more patience. Come on!”
And that’s how I started my first licensing patrol for The Museum