Gear Up

The men started discussing how they might defeat the jackal spiders by doing this or that and at times their voices became very excited. Emily listened to this conversation for some time, trying to gain insight on the situation. She quickly felt that their conversation had gone very wrongly, they were not discussing the right topic.

“Ahem! Gentlemen!” Emily clapped her hands three times to get their attention. “You’re missing the point of this. We are not in any way going to try to defeat anyone. If that is your goal then I will not participate. I have one goal in this endeavor and it is to find and rescue my father.”

“Oh well of course, lass. Old habits die hard I suppose.” Said Coffer as he took a swig from his flask. Emily gave him a sour look. He looked at the flask and then back to her. “The sun’s not up yet dearie” He protested.

She sighed, she had a bigger task at hand. “I will decide on what course of action we are to take in rescuing my father. Mr. Kelly, as much as I am reluctant to carry a conversation with you, my efforts to get any real answers from our esteemed Mr. Coffer have been fruitless.  Where is my father? And please be thorough in answering.”

Griffin Kelly furrowed his brow, looked up thoughtfully, took a breath, paused, put his hand to his chin and looked up again. “Ah, yes.” He said finally, and paused again.

“Well? Is it really that hard a question?” Emily Drake huffed and put her hands on her hips.

Griffin rolled his eyes and sighed. “Very well then, I suppose not but explaining the why’s of the what’s is where, it does get complicated. You did ask me to be thorough. So give me a moment.”

He looked up finally. “Alright, your father is in the old coal mines up north of the city. The spiders make their nest there and they protect it well. Your father went after what we call Mother. You see, the spiders or spider you’ve seen was a male. All of the ones we encountered have been male. That’s peculiar for spiders, usually it’s the females that are the ones you see making webs and eating flies. The females are the big ones.”

“That spider looked plenty big to me!” Emily exclaimed.

Griffin laughed slightly, “Your father calculated that a female of the jackal spiders would be about the size of an Indian elephant! But more than that, he calculated how much a female spider has to eat in order to give birth to a clutch of eggs. The amount is enormous but we’ve never seen a female out in the open. The only way we can figure it would get to this Mother would to be by the males bringing it to her. You see, the males can slowly feed from a man all his lives and the man will never be the wiser. Some men seem weaker of character than others, we’ve found that it’s often that they have a spider feeding off them consistently. We figure some men must taste sweeter than others to the devils. Some taste so sweet, that they bring a good dose back to Mother. When they find this unlucky soul, they slowly drain them dry. They become sicker and sicker and slowly perish.”

“Like my mother!” Emily gasped.

Coffer walked over and clumsily patted her on the head. “Aye lass, the consumption as it’s called is really the spiders.”

“Why didn’t my father stop them?” She began to cry with her head in her hands.

The men looked at each other, none of them having an answer to this. “I don’t know lass, I all truthfulness, Mr. Drake had mentioned that his wife had passed away but he never told me from what. It wasn’t until you told me earlier that I had known it was the spiders.” Coffer offered.

Emily looked up from her tears. “Then my father has some answering to do. When the workers come in, I have a job for them.” Emily went into her father’s office and wrote a letter to Mr. Adler, sealed it and put it on his desk. “Mr. Kelly, recharge the soda engine of the steam cutter and prepare to make for the mine when I return. Mr. Coffer, the dawn is upon us, I must retrieve some of my things from home.”

It was almost as if her father had taken the place of his daughter, there was purpose and the makings of a plan thought up by a Drake. The three men could feel the tide was now about to turn.

As Coffer’s dog cart returned to the factory, the commotion of the workers filled the air. Noisy clangs and the sounds of a steam whistle ran roughshod all through the countryside.

“Mr Adler! Do you have the panels ready to my specifications?” Emily demanded as if the mountainous german had always taken orders from her.

Siegfried Adler looked at her gravely. “Fraulien Drake, please do not follow after these maniacs.”

Emily Drake would not be delayed. Her hands flew to her hips, “Mr. Adler, you have always been a kind man and you served my father well. Tell me that you have followed my instructions to the letter and not disregarded my orders.”

Siegfried’s shoulders fell. “You vill find ze panels in ze loading yard. Von of the plates from Mr. Charles Hall iz vith them.”

“Thank you Mr. Adler I will let my father know you were loyal to him even in his absence. I will return with him by the end of the day.” she said.

“What are you up to lass?” Coffer asked.

“Take me to the loading yard and I’ll show you.” Emily smiled.

At the loading yard a cart was loaded with sheets of metal, each separated by a blanket three foot by three foot. Emily lifted one up for Mr Coffer. The sun reflected from its highly polished surface like a mirror and nearly blinded the old man. “If the devils hide from the light, we’ll bring the light to them. By erecting an array of these, we can shine light down into the mine.” She grinned broadly. “Ah and here is the panel from Mr. Charles Hall.” She picked up a dull sliver colored curved panel, a full quarter inch thick, a foot and a half wide and three long.

“Be careful with that lass, you’ll hurt yourself picking up something that heavy. Let me get it for you.” Coffer protested.

“I assure you Mr. Coffer, this panel is quite manageable. It’s made of Aluminum, very light but stronger than steel by weight. My father was interested in using it for boilers on airships.” She handed the panel to him and he was amazed at it’s lightness and strength.

“Now I must prepare. Get what things you’ll need.” She said, carrying in her bag and the aluminum panel. Entering her father’s office, she shut the shutters tight. The workers quietly murmured between themselves. It was highly unusual for a young lady to be in the factory.

Coffer wasn’t sure about going along, the last time he went with Mr. Drake, he had slipped and hurt himself badly enough that he had to be dragged out of the mine. Still, he knew he couldn’t leave Emily unsupervised.

“Very well, let’s be off!” Emily announced emerging from the office.

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Added Google Translate

SPF has been getting some attention from an international audience. To help anyone that may want to read the articles on the blog but may not be totally comfortable with english, I added a google translate widget. I know it won’t be a perfect solution but it’s the best that I can do being unilingual (I’ve tried learning other languages but never had an opportunity to put them to use).

Hopefully this helps someone out there.

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New Header Picture

I’ve been wanting to replace the header picture since putting up the site and I finally had enough to put together a collage. I think if I keep doing more artwork, I’ll change it occasionally.

If you’re an artist and want to donate some art I’m still interested!

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Swordplay

“Now all that’s left is to teach you how to fight.” Coffer said after she had choked down Jake’s curative.

“If it will get my father back.” Emily replied.

“Aye lass, you’ll get yer’ father back. He was my friend and its all any of us have thought about for these last few weeks. I only can’t rightly say what shape he’ll be in after all this time.” Coffer said as he put his hand on her head and looked down mournfully.

Emily’s eyes welled with tears but she blinked them away. “Then we have work to do gentlemen, let’s get it done.”

“You’re really going to try and train her? It would take months to get her into shape for this!” Griffin protested.

“Griffin Kelly, you of all the men here are my least favorite but I will put up with you if you do what is in your power to save my father. If you do, I will not report your burglary to the authorities. If I think you’ve acted with one ounce of restraint in this effort then I will see you thrown in the prison tower!” She said. Coffer began to laugh at his associate’s predicament but Emily turned her attention to him. “And you had better stay sober every minute of the daylight from here on in. You may have found an excuse for your filthy habit but I will not associate with drunkards. If you want to train me, it will be without a lick of the drink!”

Both men stood a bit stunned at this transformation. “Maybe she’ll make a fighter after all.” Griffin offered.

“You should have met my wife, why do you think I started drinking in the first place.” Coffer answered.

“Well you won’t be teaching her fisticuffs, I won’t allow anyone to be hitting a lady.” Griffin stated.

“So we teach her to shoot.” Coffer said.

It was well past four AM. They had tried a long gun, a pistol that Jake had on him for Coffer’s was too big for such a small girl and they even tried out Griffin’s acoustic gun. The target was a large sheet of tin three foot square. They had used near every bullet they had on them but at fifty paces she hadn’t hit the target once.

“This is hopeless, she can’t shoot.” Griffin grumbled.

“I agree, we’ve been doing this for hours with no progress.” Jake said.

“I thought fer sure she’d have some of her father’s knack. I’m dipped.” Coffer whistled.

Emily rubbed her shoulder and then tried to get her ears to stop ringing with no success. “I can’t even see that far.” she said squinting.

“And she’s blind as a bat, wonderful. Well I’m going back to my original plan. Jake, we might as well get some rest so we can go back down the mine shaft tomorrow.” Griffin huffed. “I’ll put a new charge of soda in the cutter in the morning.”

Coffer’s head perked up. “Drake always had plans and back up plans. I’ll wager he planned for this. Griff, let me see the cutter for a moment.”

Griffin looked at him quizzically, “Why? You’re not going to break it are you?”

“Just hand it over man.” Coffer waved him over. Griffin complied cautiously and Mr. Coffer examined the nozzle for a moment, turning it over in his hand. “Maybe,” he muttered.

Coffer left the building in a wink. The three others looked at each other hoping that one of them had some inkling as to what was on the madman’s mind. No one seemed to be able to imagine how the old man’s mind worked.

A few moments later he reemerged. “I’ll bet you know what to do with this!” he said as he tossed a long thin shaft of steel through the air to Emily. In a flash he advanced on her, drawing another just like it. With barely a moment Emily answered his attack by knocking his top hat off. She stood at the ready with the object in her hand, a fencing foil. Coffer lunged to strike but she deftly knocked his blade aside and gave a good jab to his arm.

“Aye that’s his plan.” Coffer said.

“I like this game, advance again!” Emily giggled.

“You’re going to send her up against Jackal Spiders with a foil?” Jake asked.

“No Jake, Mr. Drake didn’t make the cutter for any of us to use. He made it for her. He’s been training her how to use it this whole time. Probably didn’t figure he’d need to give it to her yet.” Griffin deduced. “How long have you been fencing?”

Emily smiled “Father started teaching me five years ago.”

 

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The Jackal Spider

I’ve been slacking on artwork because I’ve made a lot of progress writing lately. To show that I haven’t completely forgotten good old SPF, here’s a beastie for you to use.

The jackal spider is an enormous species of spider, previously unknown to man because of their feeding method. The jackal spider injects a venom that makes a person unable to notice it. The spider starts injecting it’s victim when they are very young but it takes time for the venom to build up in their brain so young children can sense that something is wrong in their perception. This often happens when the spiders come out at night or are hiding under the child’s bed or in their closet. The effect of the venom is weaker when the spider is in the light so the creatures naturally avoid it.

A musk in the spider’s sent gland signals their victim’s brain to not pay attention to their presence. Over the years a single spider will feed on an individual hundreds of times with their health slowly degrading.

Some people have shown a resistance to the spider’s venom and are able to perceive the spiders under certain conditions. There are also unsubstantiated reports of a cure that partly reverses the venom’s effects in some people.

Attributes
Story: 2
Intelligence: -1
Will: 3
Honor: -5
Agility: 10
Perception: 8
Strength: 4
Charm: -4

Untrained Methods

Bite Agility +1

If a spider senses that it has been seen, they will attempt to make a bite attack.

Leap Agility +2

The spider can leap great distances.

Webs Str +10

The spider’s webbing is very strong, they will wrap their webbing around themselves, forming a protective layer and wear the webbing as a garment.

Venom Per +10

The Jackal Spider waits until their victim is sleeping and will inject their venom from a very early age. They seem to be able to tell if a person has been bitten.

Musk

This trick requires that a character beat the spider’s perception score to be able to see them.

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The Formula

“You!” she charged at him, her parasol struck him repeatedly but he barely flinched.

“Siegfried, why is she here.” He turned his attention to her “This isn’t a playground for little girls.”

She glared at him. “Mr. Adler, since my father is missing, and I am his only heir, that makes this my property. Please call the constable and have him arrested for assault and theft.”

Siegfried opened and then closed his mouth as if to speak several times. He glared at one and then the other, “I helf hed enough. I em going home.” he turned, put his jacket on and stormed out of the building.

“Very well then, I’ll have to charge the cutter myself. Jake, bring it over here.” He started toward Siegfried’s workbench but she stepped into his path.

“Are you intending to steal more of my property? Right in full view?” She asked indignantly.

He sighed, “Listen young lady, you have no idea what’s going on. I’m the only chance your father’s got, so if you want to see him again,”

He was suddenly interrupted “Wrong Griffin, she’s the only chance you’ve got of saving Mr. Drake. I’d have gone with you but my days hunting are done, I messed up too badly last time.” The old man emerged from the shadows. “She can see ’em!” he grinned a wild grin. “Sober even.” He offered.

“I can’t take her into those mines!” Griffin protested. “I just lost a man fighting them, she’ll be eaten alive.”

Coffer smiled “Well, that’s your foolishness for loosing a man. You don’t take a man into those mines, you take a Drake.”

“Drake or not, she can’t handle a gun, she can’t fight, she’s useless to me.”

“Silly Boy, who do ya’ think taught her father?” Coffer was enjoying this conversation immensely. “Jake, she still has trouble with shadows, can you fix that?”

“I think I can, the same formula that got Griffin hearing them should work.” Jake answered.

“Mr. Coffer, I will not work with these common thieves.” Emily insisted.

“Eh, they may be common thieves but you father kept em’ in his company. Griffin’s just a little impetuous, you’ll get used to him. Jake, mix up a batch and we’ll see how good you really are.”

“Coffer, when it comes to this kind of thing, not only am I the best at it, I’m the only show in town.” Jake said as he straightened up. He took out a set of vials filled with various oils. Emily had never seen the like of them.

“What are those?” She asked warily.

“These my dear, are from various parts of the spider’s anatomy. Their venom is an opium that convinces men that they don’t exist. This,” he said holding up a green liquid “is the bile of a sac in their abdomen that works with the venom. You see, when a little girl goes to bed at night, she can tell there’s something under her bed. The spider waits until she’s asleep and then bites her.” He said, lunging at Emily, who jumped back several paces. “The poison gets into the brain. Each night for years the spider sits under her bed, waiting for her to fall asleap and then he bites her. Each time she smells this bile it makes her think there’s nothing there under the bed. Once the little girl is old enough, the spider will start to feed on her as she gets sicker and sicker.”

He paused for a moment seeing that Emily was aghast at his story. He chuckled and then continued, “Your father kept the spiders away, kept them out from under the shadows of your bed. He kept you from getting stung hundreds of times without knowing it. That’s probably why you can see them in the light. Now I’ve played with these fluids and I can counteract the poison that’s still in you from when you were real small.”

“I have to drink that?” Emily grimaced.

 

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Left Behind

One. . . Two. . . Three. . .

“What are we doing here boy? There’s nothing here!” Harold nearly shouted.

“Sir, you try my patience. I have hired you for the skills you do possess, not the ones you do not. One of which being the ability to correctly assess this situation.” Griffin replied cooly. “Now please, I’m counting the guards, who are at the moment being very quiet so I need you to also be quiet.”

Griffin went back to counting. Jake fiddled with his vials of chemicals. Harold huffed and paced up and down impatiently and grumbled under his breath.

“Okay, I’ve got them.” Griffin said finally and fired his acoustic gun five times and then recharged it via a small pneumatic canister. “I’ve only five more shots after this. Jake, apply your chemicals to us so we can go in.”

Jake poured a vial in his hair and rubbed the contents on his neck and over his hands. “This will give us about fifteen minutes.” he said nervously. Then he applied the concoction to Griffin’s head and moved toward Harold.

Harold stepped back “Woah! I don’t need none of that. You can just keep it.”

“Harold put it on, if you don’t, it will doom our mission and I won’t pay you.” Griffin demanded.

“Well, let me put it on myself then.” Harold sputtered.

Jake glanced over at Griffin and shrugged. Griffin rolled his eyes and waved to let him apply the liquid himself. Jake handed Harold the vial. Griffin was already busy checking the entrance of the mine where Mother was. If they were going to save Mr. Drake, they would have to get in quick. Now, with the steam cutter they would be able to get through the webs.

Jake watched Harold apply the liquid. Unfortunately, one of the skills Harold did possess was the skill at slight of hand. Applying only a small portion of the pungent liquid and then dumping out the remaining contents.

The three entered the mine, Griffin always with his gun at the ready, listening for the Jackal Spiders. Five minutes of climbing down through the bowels of the mine passed when Griffin finally exclaimed “Aha! Here are Drake’s chalk marks” pointing to an arrow on the wall and several lines of chalk radiating out from a singular stone embedded in the wall. “Hand me the steam cutter please.” Griffin requested. The cutter screamed to life and Griffin applied it’s blade to the rock face.

Harold expected the rock to crack or split, but instead it collapsed like a curtain being cut away from it’s moorings, the face of the rock folding like fabric. “I’ll be, that was a queer stone.” Harold proclaimed.

Griffin shut down the steam cutter. “It wasn’t a stone, that’s just what you expected to see there. What was in truth blocking our progress was a spider web so strong that even a steel saw would dull trying to cut through it. That’s why we need the cutter.”

Harold looked at Griffin as if he had sprouted a tulip where his nose should be. Griffin ignored this and raised his gun, listening for Jackal Spiders. “Ho! They’re coming! There’s too many for me to shoot. Run!”

Harold, still bewildered stood stupefied. “What are you talkin’ about boy! You come down with yella’ fever or sumpin?”

Griffin grabbed Harold’s collar and dragged him. “Run you buffoon! Jake throw your seeing gas.”

Jake reached into his satchel and threw a vial at the floor. “How do they know we’re even here? Was it cutting though the web that alerted them? How can they know where we are?” Jake complained.

The gas filled the tunnel and as the vapors swirled, ghastly shapes took form inside the cloud. Dozens and dozens of shapes rushed from the opened passage. “No! How could there be so many!” Griffin exclaimed.

Harold froze in terror. Finally Griffin could no longer drag him and abandoned the effort. “On your feet and run man!”

Harold drew his pistol and emptied it’s cartridges into the shapes and then turned to run. All too late, the monsters overtook him and leapt upon him.

Exiting the mine, Jake and Griffin knew there was nothing they could do to rescue him. Both panted for breath bent double from the great strain of running. Now that they were out in the daylight, the spiders would not follow. They had been outmatched. Griffin stood up, “We need to get to Adler and have the cutter recharged if we are to try again.” Griffin stated finally.

“What? Did you not see how many there were down there? We can’t possibly fight that many, only Drake and Coffer together stood a chance with that many.” Jake whined.

“You might be right. Even still, I’m not ready to give up on Drake. Come Jake, we have work to do.” Griffin replied.

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The Monster

The huge barreled pistol boomed. Pointed straight at Emily, the impact of the bullet knocked her right over. There was no way to survive a gunshot like that.

Siegfried was on top of Coffer a quarter of a second later, pummeling him with his huge fists. The old man kept up his arms doing his best to prevent the blows from knocking him out. “Get offa me ya’ lummox! I gotta grab it!” Coffer protested.

The energy went out of Siegfried Adler’s blows. Tears rolled down his face and his hands reached up and grabbed at the air in front of him. His mouth moved as if to say something, at first no sound came out but then a roar “I vill keel you!”

This pause was enough for Coffer to wriggle free. He ran five feet and then leapt face first into a shadow on the floor. He started pounding the ground with the but of his pistol and spinning in circles. Despite being driven mad with rage this bizarre performance even gave Siegfried Adler pause.

He blinked and tried to register what he was really seeing but he couldn’t stand it any longer and turned away in disgust. He stooped over the body of Emily Drake and picked her head up. Through his tears he could not see where the bullet had struck her. He tried to wipe them away from his eyes but his vision blurred all the more. He could not see any blood on her dress or any wound. Then the body of Emily Drake coughed and opened it’s eyes. Siegfried was stunned so badly that he fainted dead away.

Emily’s head was ringing and the room was spinning and when Mr. Adler dropped her head on the ground because he had fainted it didn’t help matters much. She had almost gotten her bearings when she saw Mr. Coffer spinning over and over in the shadows of the room. She looked back over at Mr. Adler and crawled over to him to check if he was alright. Aside from being pale and a look of horror frozen to his face, he seemed fine.

Emily got to her feet, stumbled a bit and began dusting herself off.

“Aha! I’ve got ‘im!” She heard Coffer declare as he emerged triumphantly from behind one of the soda engines. He marched proudly into the light of the acetylene lamp carrying a rolled up tarpaulin. “Well Miss Drake, here ‘e be.” he chortled.

“Mr. Coffer, that’s a tarpaulin.” She stated.

“No, no lass. It’s what’s in the tarpaulin.” He said as he unrolled it in the center of the lamp’s light.

Emily screamed.

It was the size of a hound dog but not in the right shape.

“Aha! I was right!” Coffer danced around doing a little jig. “That monster was about to snack on you. Saved you is what I did.”

The creature turned toward Coffer and leapt at him. His pistol fired again, this time the beast was blown apart by the blast. “Gotta hit them just right to get rid of them. It’s actually harder to catch em’ like that.”

Emily shrieked again.

“Oh calm yerself lass.”

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The Boilerworker

Emily rushed through the yard to the structure labeled in large white letters, “Engine Building No. 1” where she knew Mr. Adler would be. The workers were leaving for their homes nearby as the sun was setting but she knew that Mr. Adler would still be working well into the night.

What was worse, Emily had a feeling like she was being followed. In low slung shadows she could feel that something was waiting. It was laying in wait for the sun to slip further down in the sky so that the shadows would merge with other shadows and it could move around more freely.

She threw herself inside the building, slamming the iron door behind her.

Siegfried looked up from his work, “Fraulien Drake! Vot are you doing here? This ese no place for a gurl.” He quickly dropped his tools on the workbench and picked up a fresh rag with which he wiped his brow and then his hands.

All this excitement was too much for Emily, she fell to her knees crying.

Siegfried picked her up with ease, “Fraulien Drake, you poor leetle gurl, come I vill make you some tea.”

Mr. Coffer swung the door open and tossed aside a freshly empty whiskey bottle. “Them beasties won’t be sneakin’ up on us!” he declared triumphantly only to be felled by the huge right hand of Siegfried Adler.

“You! I should have known! Vat haf you done to her monster!” he turned his attention back to Emily, “Deed he hurt you fraulien?”

Emily was all the more shaken by this sudden turn of events and found herself unable to speak. Mr. Coffer who had gotten back to his feet lunged at Siegfried faster than his inebriated state would suggest possible and caught his jaw with an upper cut. Adler stumbled for a moment but regained his composure. He rolled up his sleeves and roared “I vill take you apart!”

“No! Stop!” Emily sobbed “Stop fighting!”

Siegfried regained some of his composure. “Very vell fraulien, I vill spare this monster if you vish.” He turned his attention to Coffer again. “Vat are you doink here? I tell you never to come here! Herr Drake may tolerate you but I do not vant you here.”

“Listen kraut, we came here for just one reason, so you could build another device for Ms. Emily and she could rescue her father. Now are you going to help us or not?” Coffer stated cooly.

“You are sick man. Fillink dis gurl’s head vith your madness. You got Herr Drake to believe you but you will not the get de fraulien into dis.” Siegfried insisted. His face turning two shades of red darker and getting ready to throw another punch at Coffer. In turn the drunk put up his hands and motioned that he was ready to his opponent.

“Wait. Wait!” Emily finnally shouted. “Mr. Adler, where is my father?” she asked, starting to collect herself. Siegfried thought about this a moment and sighed “I, don’t know fraulien, I hef not seen him for two veeks.”

“I have had a man named Griffin and two associates of his break into my home and steal a device of my fathers design and I believe your making. I want to know who this man is and how he knows what my father works on in his private workshop.”

Siegfried glared at Coffer. “Dis man iz Griffin Kerry and he vas a student of Herr Drake and myself. He vas brilliant! Dat vas until dis man got his hands on him!” He shouted, waving his finger at Coffer. “He got Griffin to chase after de leetle bugs like he got Herr Drake to. He iz infecting dem vith his madness!”

Coffer got defensive, “You got it all wrong, Drake came to me I didn’t come to him. Griffin just tagged along, he didn’t believe us either until he heard them for himself. It’s not our fault that your hearing is so bad you can’t hear them.”

“Hear what? What are you talking about? What is my father doing?” Emily asked.

Siegfried roll his eyes, “Dey think dere are bugs dat are invisible all over.”

“They aint invisible to me, well leastways not when I’ve had enough to drink.” Coffer offered almost wistfully. “Drake could see them and Griffin could hear them with his gun. An they aint just any bugs, they’re big bugs, Drake named em’ Jackal Spiders.” Coffer paused for a moment, pulled out his gun and cocked it. “I’m thinkin’ Ms. Emily might be able to see em’ too.” he said as he pointed his gun at Emily.

Siegfried lept at him to stop him but the old man was too quick, his action too unexpected. He fired his gun.

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The Dog Cart

Emily wasn’t sure about getting on Mr. Coffer’s dog cart but her father’s boiler works was five miles outside of town. The old man was also the only one who seemed to know something about where her father might be. “Do you know where my father is?” She asked him.

“Mr. Drake has gone off to find Mother. I’m afraid this is all my fault.” He answered.

Emily frowned, “That isn’t very nice Mr. Coffer, you know mother died four years ago.”

Coffer blinked several times and shook his head slowly “No, that can’t be, how did she die?”

Emily stamped her foot in frustration at this awful man. Her eyes welled up with tears at the thought of her mother passing. She had gotten so weak before her death and the sanatorium wasn’t able to do anything for her. “Mr. Coffer! Really! You know full well my mother died of consumption.”

Again he blinked at her confused for a few moments as he considered this. “Ah, you mean your mother. Oh I’m sorry child, for your loss. ‘Cept I wasn’t meanin’ your mother, I mean Mother. Get on and I’ll take you to your father’s boilerworks. Siegfried will ‘splain it all when we get there. ”

Siegfried Adler was her father’s boiler works foreman. He was a stout man ruddy in complexion and as sweet as the chocolates that he would bring for Emily. He had come to the house many times to have dinner with them and afterward her father and Mr. Adler would retreat to the workshop and lock the door behind them. If there was anyone who knew about the cutter and could explain the notebook it would be Mr. Adler. Emily decided that if there was anyone that could bestow some clarity on this situation it would be him. She reluctantly stepped up on the cart.

Mr. Coffer flicked the reigns and Harold, his old horse clip clopped down the cobblestone out of town. Once they had gotten out of town Mr. Coffer kept looking toward the sun. Something was making him uneasy. “It’s no use Harold, the sun’s almost setting and we both know you’ve got no stomach for this. They’ll smell me and come runnin’, I best let you pasture out here and draw them off you.” He stopped the cart, got off and started to untie Harold’s bridal.

“Do you intend to pull the cart yourself?” Said Emily, a bit bewildered at this turn of events.

Coffer’s face scrunched into a strange knot. “Ms. Drake, do you remember the feeling of laying in bed and being afraid that there was something under it?”

Emily felt that he had gone mad from drink, “You are a strange man Mr. Coffer, what kind of question is that? I’m sixteen years old, I haven’t worried about that kind of thing since I was four years old.”

He regarded this for a moment. “Aye, that’d be about right. That’s about the time yer father discovered the jackal spiders. Shortly afterward he met me, I’ve been fighting off them beasties for near on thirty years now. Yer father is special though, I need a good measure of drink in me to see them, he doesn’t somehow. I wonder if you can see them like he can?”

Emily was quite sure he was completely mad. Now he had let the horse go and they wouldn’t make it any farther tonight. She would have to walk home and get another cart tomorrow. Then Mr. Coffer walked up to the front of the cart, opened a door in the front of it and began turning a crank. A curious little wheel emerged from the front of the cart and supported the front of the cart. The old man climbed back on, opened a panel on the side of the driver’s bench and pulled back on a lever. To Emily’s amazement the cart lurched forward in fits and starts.

“One of yer father’s designs, came before the soda engines he’s been workin’ on. A great spring drives the wheels, like a giant clock. We used this thing for years chasin’ down them jackal spiders.” He shouted every word with glee over the sound of the gear work in the cart.

The cart now built up to a tremendous speed. Emily feared that she’d be thrown from the back of it. As they bounced along the road, Emily caught out of the corner of her eye something that Mr. Coffer was waiving around. She turned to see what it was. He had an enormous pistol and he was pointing it at various places along their path. “What are you doing?” she shouted.

“The’ll be comin’ fer me. They know my smell an’ I haven’t had enough drink to see em’ coming. As soon as the sun is down they’ll be comin’ out. Fact, they’re probably in them shadows now.” He fired off a deafening shot. “That should scare em’ away for a bit.”

How could her father put his trust in this lunatic? He was absolutely mad. Emily thought about leaping from the cart but then she felt something that she had not felt since she was four. She looked into the shadow underneath a hedgerow and felt that something was there. She retreated back to the cart’s bench and hung on as tightly as she could.

“We should make it before the sun’s all the way down.” He said and then fired off another thunderous round.

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