SPIDER floated in his drug-induced haze. This was going to be a good trip—everything felt perfect. He didn’t give a damn about what was going on around him. Everything was focused inside his head. He could control that. His rotten, pisshead of a family didn’t mean shit and neither did anything else. Spider lay down on his crappy bed and closed his eyes, enjoying his self-administered escape from all the crap, shit, and dirt the rest of the world heaped on his shoulders. Closing his eyes, he flew high above the world, propelled by his own imagination. The euphoria never lasted long enough, and this time was no exception. Just about the time he was really soaring, the wind died, and he fell back to earth.
His head ached and he opened his eyes, shaking the way he usually did when he was coming down. He reached for the bottle of water and drank, staring at the walls of the cheap motel room he’d managed to get for the night. Tomorrow he would have to look for a permanent place to live, somewhere, but for today he was warm and dry. As Spider got up, slowly, the room spun, and he had to steady himself before walking toward the bathroom. He closed the door behind him and sat on the cool tile floor, waiting for the last of the drugs’ effects to leave his body. He drank more water and felt marginally better. His vision slowly cleared, and as it did, the depths to which he’d sunk became readily apparent. The floors and walls were stained with God knew what, and as his mind cleared, he stood up and brushed off his clothes. Who knew what he’d just been sitting in? Breathing deeply, Spider brushed his teeth using the last of his toothpaste.
After using the filthy toilet, which looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in months, he left the bathroom. The rest of the room at this “no-tell motel” wasn’t much better. The bedspread was stained with things that would have made Spider shudder a few years earlier, but now he really didn’t give a fuck. It was a bed, and it was one he wouldn’t have to share with some stranger if he didn’t want to.
His stomach rumbled, which surprised him. Usually he didn’t eat much. After grabbing an old jacket out of his bag, Spider left the room, shoving the key in his pocket before walking two doors down to the greasy spoon.
Inside the restaurant, which had as much cheer as his hotel room, he ordered coffee and a burger from the surly waitress, who scowled at him as she took his order. Spider tried to smile, but then he turned and saw a bit of his reflection in the window. He barely recognized himself. He hadn’t shaved in days, and his eyes were drawn, with dark circles under them. He turned away because he couldn’t stand to look at himself any longer, and waited for his coffee, staring down at the table.
Once the server placed the mug on the table and filled it from the pot, she left right away, without saying anything. Spider reached for the sugar packets, dumping half a dozen into the hot liquid. He stirred it up then sipped and felt the hot liquid warm him from the inside. He felt even better once the sugar hit his system. Waking up further, he peered around the restaurant without looking as though he were looking. The clientele was what he expected: a few off-duty hookers, other guys like him, and, of course, the guy in the corner who looked like he owned the place.
The thing was that Spider didn’t fucking remember exactly where he was. He knew he’d left Grand Rapids in a damned hurry and had simply gotten on the freeway. He hadn’t been heading anywhere special. Searching his addled mind, he tried to remember the last signs he could remember along the drive. But he hadn’t paid any attention and had only pulled off the road when he was low on gas. He gave up, muttering to himself, because it didn’t fucking matter, anyway. He’d eat, sleep tonight, and then fill up the car in the morning and drive some more. In the back of his mind, he knew he’d also need to score some more junk somewhere, but he wasn’t too concerned about that. In places like this, getting what he needed would be easy.
His food arrived, and Spider bent over his plate, concentrating only on his ravenous appetite. He cleaned the plate in a matter of minutes, only stopping to chew and to occasionally gulp some coffee. When he finished eating, he waved to the server for a refill, and she brought it, looking even surlier, if that was possible. She filled the mug, and Spider added more sugar before letting the liquid cool and then drinking it down. The waitress brought the check, and he slapped enough bills on the counter to cover it before getting up to go.
The restaurant door swung closed behind him, and he shoved his hands in his pockets, walking back through the night toward the hotel, exhaustion quickly catching up with him.
“You need anything, buddy?”
Spider turned around and saw the guy from the corner of the restaurant sitting inside a brand new BMW with the driver’s window lowered. Without answering, Spider ambled toward the car. They talked very briefly, and he handed over the money, receiving a bag of what he’d need in the next few hours. Spider didn’t stay to watch the window glide up, but he heard the wheels spin on the gravel as the expensive car pulled out and headed up the road.
Spider shoved the bag in his pocket and walked the rest of the way to the hotel. He opened his door and went inside, then closed and locked the door behind him. He took off his jacket, threw it across his bag, and then collapsed onto the bed. He kicked off his shoes, closed his eyes, and almost instantly fell asleep.
Spider never slept very well for very long, and when he woke, the ancient clock by the bed told him it was three in the morning. He rummaged around in the dark for the baggie of pills and popped one, swallowing it dry. He lay back down, closing his eyes, and soon blessed blackness overtook him.
SPIDER expected to wake up in the dingy hotel room, but when he opened his eyes, he was staring at a clean white ceiling, and unexpectedly warm, soft bedding caressed his skin. He must be dreaming, was all he could think. The room was dark, and he rolled his head to see that the bed he was in had rails, and they were up. The feeling of being caged in made him panic for a few seconds until he turned his head again and stared up at the ceiling.
Then he tried to raise his hands but found they were tied down. So were his legs. Now his entire body shook with fear. What in the hell was happening to him?
Spider screamed, and the door opened. “Calm down, you’re fine,” a woman said as she walked in. “No one’s going to hurt you. The way you were thrashing for the last two days, we had to restrain you for your own protection.” Spider noticed that she didn’t make any move to untie him. “Just relax and you’ll be fine. Would you like something to drink?” She lifted a cup with a straw in it to his lips, and he drank a few sips. When she took away the cup, he looked around some more and realized he had an IV in his arm. “We had to flush the toxins out of your body.”
“How long have I been here?” Spider asked, the tightness in his chest increasing. “Where’s my stuff? If anyone stole it, I’ll….”
She actually laughed at him. “The police brought the bag they found in your hotel room. It’s in the closet, and nobody touched anything.” She stepped closer, and Spider saw she was a small woman with white hair and piercing eyes. “Of course they took the drugs they found and are deciding what to charge you with.” She folded her arms over her chest. “You’ve been in the hospital ranting and raving for almost three days. Do you want something more to drink?” Spider shook his head. “Then lie there quietly until the doctor and the police come in to talk to you.” She left the room, and Spider closed his eyes.
Shit, he was in a whole lot of trouble now. Spider sighed and went back to staring at the ceiling. He had nothing else to do. Turning toward the single window in the otherwise empty room, he saw it was still dark outside. Suddenly tired again, he closed his eyes and drifted off.
Spider woke and nearly screamed before his brain kicked in and he remembered where he was. Peering around frantically, he pulled at his restraints and vibrated on the bed. His body was covered in bugs, and he couldn’t see them or swat them away. “Help me!”
The door opened and two nurses rushed in. “You’re fine,” the male nurse said while the woman tried to soothe him.
“I’m covered in ants. They’re everywhere,” Spider cried, pulling and yanking at his restraints, desperate to get up and away.
“There’s nothing on you. It’s your mind playing tricks on you as the drugs leave your system,” the man said in a level, soothing tone. “There’s nothing wrong, so take a deep breath and calm yourself. There’s nothing we can give you to make the sensation go away. Your body is fighting the withdrawal of the drugs and you just have to get through it.” Spider felt the nurse rub his arm. He would have pulled it away, but he couldn’t. Eventually, the sensation eased, and he sensed that they’d been telling him the truth. There were no bugs, and it was truly all in his mind.
“Take a drink and relax,” the nurse said, holding a straw near his mouth. Spider drank and drank before lowering his head to the pillow. He was covered in sweat, the sheets sticking to his body. “I’ll get his bedding changed,” the man said, and the woman nodded and left the room. “Now, you behave and don’t try anything, or I’ll call in one of the other nurses. And they aren’t as pleasant as I am.”
Spider thought of a million wisecracks he could say to that, but the size of the man made the words stick in his throat. The guy’s arms were big enough to snap him into two, so he simply blinked and nodded at him. The nurse pulled the curtain closed and tugged off the bedding, placing it on the chair. “You remember what I said, or so help me, I’ll lay you out, hospital or not.”
The man unhooked Spider’s leg restraints and one of his hand restraints, moving it to the rail on the other side of the bed. Then he pulled off the lower sheet. It took a while, but eventually Spider was lying naked in clean linens. The nurse continued working, and soon Spider was in a new gown and once again covered by a sheet and blanket.
The nurse gathered the linens and got ready to leave the room. “We’ll be in to check on you soon,” he said as he passed a man in uniform walking into Spider’s room.
“Just what I needed, the cops,” Spider groaned, reminding himself to say nothing. The officer stopped at the foot of Spider’s bed, staring down at him.
“You’re lucky to be alive, did you know that?” Spider stared but said nothing, trying not to betray his surprise. “The drugs you took were tainted, and if the motel clerk hadn’t knocked on your door when he did, you probably would have died.”
“So?” Spider retorted. He’d had close calls before—big whoop.
The police officer moved closer to the bed, his eyes blazing with something Spider didn’t fully understand. “You could have died because the pills you took were so strong they would have dropped a horse. You’re damned lucky they didn’t kill you.” He moved still closer, leaning over the bed, and Spider tried to turn his head away, but it didn’t do any good. “If the manager hadn’t discovered you, that would have been it,” he ground out through his teeth. “As it was, you were out of it for almost three days. At first we didn’t know if you were going to live.” The touch of concern in the officer’s voice confused Spider and he wanted to ask about it, but kept his mouth shut.
“What do you want from me?” Spider asked.
“The name of the guy who sold you the junk for starters,” the officer told him.
Spider shrugged, which was all he could do with his hands still restrained. “Do you think you could get me out of these? I’m not some animal.”
“Cooperate and I’ll think about it,” the police officer said. This guy was hard-nosed, there were no two ways about it, and Spider figured that was the best deal he was going to get.
“I don’t know who he was. I saw him at the diner near the motel and he had what I needed. He took off in a fancy Beemer, and that’s all I can tell you.” Spider figured what little he could give the cop was probably something they’d have already gotten if they had talked to the people at the restaurant, anyway. “Now get me out of these,” Spider said as he rattled the side rails the restraints were attached to.
The police officer stared at him for a few minutes, like he was trying to decide if Spider was telling the truth. He must have seen what he was looking for. “I’ll speak to your doctor and see what he thinks. But you’re in the security wing of the hospital, and we’re still deciding what we’re going to charge you with, so whatever happens, don’t think for a minute that you’re getting out of this anytime soon.”
“Great, fine,” Spider said. Like he cared.
The officer walked toward the door, but stopped with his hand on the handle. “I suggest you think about your life and where you’re headed,” he told him, and Spider rolled his eyes. The last thing he needed were the philosophic ramblings of some cop. “The drugs nearly killed you. Does your own life mean so little to you that you can lie there and just shake that off?” The police officer turned on the overhead light, and Spider blinked as his eyes adjusted. “What happened to you, kid?”
Spider said nothing, staring back at the police officer. He’d had plenty happen to him, but he wasn’t about to talk it over with some stranger—and a cop, no less. “You don’t know nothing,” Spider retorted.
“I don’t, huh?” the cop countered, and then he walked to the closet and hauled out Spider’s bag. “The clothes in here are either stolen or you come from money. These jeans are three, four hundred a pair.” The officer threw the pants over Spider’s legs. “The shirt costs nearly as much. Need I say more?” The officer stared at him. “What’s your name, kid?”
“Spider,” he answered.
“Your real name? I bet there are people out there looking for you who can help.” The officer shoved Spider’s clothes back in the bag and tossed it into the closet before closing the door.
“No, there’s not,” he answered and turned his head toward the wall. “There’s no one who gives a damn about anything about me.” Spider swallowed but said nothing more. The lump in his throat and the water in his eyes were because of the drugs leaving his system. It had to be. He didn’t want to be feeling any of this shit and he longed for a hit of anything that would make the feelings of vulnerability and loss go away, at least for a while. His stomach clenched and his hands began to shake in the restraints at the thought of something, anything to take this crap away.
“You might be surprised,” the officer said, and Spider turned his head toward him, curling his lips in a sneer.
“You don’t know shit, and I’m not going to tell you a fucking thing.”
The officer shrugged, and all the stuff he was wearing made a creaking sound. “We took your fingerprints and DNA while you were ill, for identification purposes. If you won’t tell us, then we’ll start running them through the system and see what comes up. Chances are we’ll get a hit on something, and who knows what we’ll find.”
“You can’t do that,” Spider said indignantly. “I have rights.”
“You’re a suspect in a crime without proper identification. We can take the steps necessary to identify you, including fingerprints and DNA. If we find out other things along the way, then we can use those as well.”
“Bastard,” Spider said, but he turned away. “Don’t expect me to help you, then.”
“You’re only helping yourself if you tell us who you are,” the officer said.
“Why should I tell you anything? You haven’t seen fit to tell me who you are,” Spider challenged, glad to be in control of something. He knew he had very little control over anything, including his own body, as long as he was restrained in the bed, and that scared the shit out of him. He’d spent years with no control and very little say about anything and anyone in his life. He fucking hated that and had long ago vowed not to let it happen again—a fucking lot of good that had done him.
The officer thought for a second. “Deputy Duane Keenan.”
Spider swallowed hard. “Bartholomew Van Andren, but I want to be called Spider.”
The deputy stared at him like he was trying to figure out why the name was familiar. Spider knew the moment the deputy figured it out: he widened his eyes and opened his mouth slightly in an “O” shape before closing it again. “Thank you,” the deputy said as he opened the door.
“You are not to contact my family in any way. I still have privacy rights,” Spider threatened. He tried to sound as threatening as he could while restrained to the bed, but he realized he was totally at the mercy of the deputy, who nodded and left the room without another word.
Spider stared at the ceiling until a nurse came in. She talked to him a bit and took some blood before leaving again. No one told him anything about what was going on, no matter how many times he asked. A few times, he wondered if he shouldn’t shut up and be thankful he wasn’t in jail. Finally, after waiting most of the day, a doctor came into his room, along with a nurse.
“The majority of the drugs are out of your system, and we’re going to remove the restraints; however, they will be reinstated at the first sign of any misbehavior on your part,” the doctor said. “I’ve also ordered a number of psychological tests, and you’ll be meeting with a counselor extensively over the next few days. If I could, I’d like to book you into a rehab center, but since there isn’t one available at the moment, we’re going to do this the old-fashioned way.” He opened a cabinet and made notes on a computer while he talked. “Do you have a place to stay once you get out of the hospital?”
“Not really,” Spider admitted. He could probably go back to the hotel, but his money wasn’t going to last very long. That is, if he still had any at all.
“Well, we’ll have to see what the judge says once we release you.” The doctor continued typing and then locked the cabinet again and turned to leave. “I’ll be by again later, and I repeat, any trouble and the restraints go back on. If we have to, we’ll move you to the psych ward.” He glared at Spider for a few seconds to reinforce his threat and then left the room.
“You heard what he said?” the nurse asked, and Spider nodded. The nurse removed one of the wrist cuffs and then the other. Spider rubbed his wrists lightly while the nurse removed the chest and leg restraints as well. “If you feel panicky or a little out of it, ring the bell before you do anything stupid. We can help you if you let us.”
Spider nodded, but didn’t answer. He seriously doubted that any of these people were really interested in helping him. His own family hadn’t been interested, so why should anyone else be? He was on his own, and the only person he could rely on was himself. He waited until the nurse was done and had left the room. He tried to get out of bed, but the IV in his arm prevented much movement. Somehow, he managed to get the door to the closet open and reach his bag. He climbed back into bed, setting the bag on his legs. He opened it and pawed through his things until he reached the bottom of the bag.
He couldn’t find it. Turning the bag over, he dumped everything out and rummaged through it from one end to another. It was gone. All the money he had in the world was gone. “Damn it!” he said out loud and thought about throwing the bag against the wall, but they’d only lock him up again if they thought he wasn’t being a good boy. The bastards. He shoved his things back in the bag, then he dropped it on the floor and stared up at the ceiling again. What in the hell was he going to do now?
SPIDER spent two days talking to psychologists, doctors, nurses, and the police. The only good thing to come out of it was that Deputy What’s-his-name told him that they’d found his money and that it was locked up as part of his personal effects. The psychologist was totally useless, and after days of feeding him so many lines it wasn’t even funny, Spider was beginning to think they might let him go soon. Hopefully, he could find his car and actually get the hell out of here.
“Well.” The deputy appeared in his door as Spider was watching afternoon television. “It looks like it’s official—you’re so full of shit that none of us know what to do with you. You’ve told the psychologist so many stories he’s starting to think you’re psychotic, and you may very well be, but I get the feeling you just like messing with people, so I’m going to lay it out for you.” He stepped closer to the bed, glaring at Spider. “We can press charges for possession, and first offense or not, judges in this county don’t like people bringing down-state shit into their county. You’ll go to jail, and we’ll see to it that you’re put in a cell with the biggest men we can find. They’re really going to love you.”
“Big deal. You think I’m some sort of virgin or something?” Spider crossed his arms over his chest in defiance of the fear that had started to well inside.
“You need help before you screw yourself up so bad you can’t ever find the way out. The drugs are out of your system and you haven’t had anything in a week. Technically, you’re clean, probably for the first time in months. Have you looked at yourself in a mirror?” The deputy opened the closet door and angled the mirror so Spider could see himself. “I’ve seen piles of day-old dog shit that looked better than you did when they brought you in.”
Spider looked in the mirror. His cheeks were no longer hollow and the black circles under his blue eyes were gone. His hair was still shaggy, but it was clean, like the rest of him, and his eyes weren’t as dull-looking as they’d been when he’d glanced at himself in the hotel. Of course, that could have been the grease on the diner window, but he doubted it, no matter how much he wanted the cop to be wrong.
“Why are you bothering?” Spider asked before looking away. “You don’t give a crap about me.”
“Are you stupid?” the deputy asked, stepping closer and getting right down in Spider’s face. “I know who you are, and the way I figure it, you started drinking when you were a teenager, probably stealing from the liquor cabinet at home. Maybe you started sneaking cigarettes. Then you started smoking pot in high school because your friends did it, and by God, you had to do what your friends did or you wouldn’t be cool, even if your friends were the stupidest fucks on earth.” The deputy moved close enough that Spider could smell his clean breath. “You were already in that far, so when things didn’t go easy and nobody wanted to hire your sorry ass, you started smoking more, and then got into pills and God knows what else. See, I’ve seen it and heard it before. Blah, blah, blah.”
“If I’m so blah, blah, blah, then why are you here?” Spider challenged. “Just let me go and I’ll get out of your hair and be long gone. You and your precious county will never see me again.” Spider backed away, and Duane—that was his name—moved closer.
“Because you aren’t too far gone. Whatever you’ve been taking, it hasn’t been that long, and you have a chance to get away from the junk. You’ve been here a week and your body is already rebounding. If you’d been using for a long time, you’d still be a mess. Whatever death wish you had can be left behind.”
“What are you, some sort of goody two-shoes?” Spider shouted into the deputy’s face.
“No. But I’m someone who’s seen plenty of people ruin their lives, and I thought that maybe you were smart enough to take the opportunity to change yours.” He moved away. “Guess I was wrong. Get yourself a lawyer, and I’ll see you in court.” The deputy turned and walked toward the door.
Spider figured he should probably just let him go and take his chances in court. But the deputy knew as well as he did that this wasn’t Spider’s first offense. He’d been in trouble before, but it was all juvenile stuff. Those records were supposed to be sealed, but that didn’t mean shit when it came to court. His friend Jamie had found that out the hard way. In a split second, Spider made his decision.
“Wait,” he said as the deputy was about to leave the room. “What do you want me to do?” After all, he didn’t have much to lose.