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.