16

DARWIN'S SPIDER

"...we should have started with someone else..." Joe whispered, pressed up against the wall.

"Quiet!" Nikola growled under his breath. Damn humans.

The vampire tilted his head, peering through the guest room's battered doorway. John Druitt's immense form was stretched out on the floor, sprawled over the rug like some great feline after a feed – presumably asleep. Odd but to be fair, John had never displayed normal behavioural patterns.

Joe leaned against Nikola's shoulder. "I know a lot of detectives that would give their right arm to hang that man – the Ripper – most evil man in history."

"Would you stop your prattling," Nikola turned back, flicking Joe off his shoulder with an impatient glare. Humans were dreadful at stalking. "Firstly, even if you successfully marched old Whitechapel down to HQ – which better men than you have failed to do," he added pointedly, "there's not a lot you can do with someone who committed crimes over a century ago.

"Secondly, starting in 1958, Mao Ze-Dong oversaw the murder of seventy-eight million people; Hitler raked in twelve of his own countrymen and three million Russians on the side. Leopold II, Stalin... " Nikola trailed off, hands waving theatrically about.

"One hundred million died in the Taiping rebellion, one and half slit their own throats in ancient Mexico for a religion that left little in its wake save stains of blood on temple stairs. John is a novice in the art of evil. It's only doe-eyed detectives like you and your predecessors that have lorded him into the rarefied atmosphere."

Joe lofted his eyebrow slightly. The vampire seemed... miffed that Druitt was famous. More famous than him. "He fooled the man who invented my profession."

"Everyone has their weaknesses, even James." Nikola averted his gaze, not wishing to open that particular chapter in his life. The history of the Five was not for mortals to pick apart. "Come on... enough fucking about."

Nikola crept back up to the door.

"Bloody hell..." John was gone. "Christ!" Nikola jumped when John appeared in the doorway, glass of scotch in hand.

"I never had you pegged as a voyeur Tesla," he took a slow sip of scotch. "Quaint, is that a pet?"

"Detective. We've met but... you appear to have forgotten me."

John made a point of eyeing the weapons in their hands.

"Did I miss something?" he drawled, in that sickening tone used to lure innocent women to the blade of his knife. "Last time I checked, we were on speaking terms and this is Helen's house. You know the rules o'l boy. This is Switzerland for us."

"It's not personal this time, Johnny," Nikola smirked, levelling the gun back at him with a fang-laden grin. "And despite our better judgement, we're not here to kill you."

John laughed coldly, pointing his glass at them.

"You think that I'm just going to let you shoot –" John was interrupted by a scalding pain in his chest. He looked down to find his pocket smouldering. "What the devil..." he growled, before crumbling to the floor accompanied by the dull thud of a scotch glass.

Joe slowly lowered his sparking electric weapon. "That was a lot easier than I'd envisioned..."

"Come on, grab an ankle," Tesla muttered.


"Mum, this place is ancient..." Ashley complained. She helped her mother break through a hefty iron door, pushing it open with an angry screech of metal and rust. Bigfoot stood back, Will's deformed body limp in his furry arms.

"It's one of Tesla's old haunts," Helen explained, dusting off her hands and holding her torch up, scanning the room with it. Broken pipes, air ducts, feathers. "Should still work," she added, flicking a switch on the wall. A deep buzz rang out through the metal wall as rows of electric lights flickered into life.

"Old – like from the 4th Dynasty." Ashley tilted her head, inspecting the carcass of an experiment.

Helen cleared one of the work benches. Bigfoot laid Will's body onto the surface and the pair of them bound him with duct tape and chain. Crude but effective.

"He's going to wake up soon," Helen whispered, listening to the steady beat of his heart falter. "This room was built to keep in vampires – I'm sure it'll be able to handle a sand creature for a few hours." The duct-tape... probably not. She injected him with the last vial of sedative. It would keep him quiet – for a while.

"Mum... We can't just leave him tied up here. It's cruel."

"You're going to stay here and look after him, both of you," she added sternly, when Bigfoot went to protest. "The less people in my house the better. If you don't hear from me before nightfall, you call the London Sanctuary and ask for Declan."

"Seriously, Mum?"

"Ashley... don't fight me on this."

"I'm much better at hunting creatures than you," she tried following her mother but Helen pushed her firmly back into the room.

"That's why you're staying with Will."


"Well string me up with the garlic..." Nikola's deep, vampire voice purred on the air. He ran his gloved fingers through the threads of silk swaying in the air-conditioned breeze. Someone had turned it up to full over the whole mansion leaving Nikola and Joe to resort to snow jackets and gloves.

Growing from the ceiling of the corridor were long tangles of silk. Like ancient vines, they'd twisted into ropes that bonded to the floor to form flexible, sticky columns.

"God, it's like a bloody spider web," Joe whispered, sidestepping an ominous trail of silk.

"I didn't know Magoi did this," Nikola admitted. "It's like a nest."

"Yeah, well the more I learn about Magoi, the less I like'm, Doc. Give me your regular psychopath any day."

Together, they had taken out most of the Sanctuary staff and locked them in cells. There were still a few small abnormals wandering the corridors but nothing big enough for a Magoi to bother imitating. There was, however, one noticeable absence from their collection. Helen.

"You're worried about her, aren't you?" Joe asked, as they made their way through the freezing tunnel toward the fire stairs that took them deeper into the building. The further they went, the colder it became.

Nikola kept a few steps ahead of Joe, his black eyes focussed on the sticky hallway in front. "I'm worried I left my oldest friend in a South American tomb to rot, yes," he snapped.

The walls were entirely silk now, glistening like ice.

"It doesn't take a detective to work out that you and her were -"

Joe didn't get to finish. In front of them a very displeased (but admittedly distracting) Helen Magnus blocking the hallway, arms folded. She levelled a stern glare at Nikola.

"Nikola – where are my staff?"

Nikola lifted his home-made weapon, steadying it at her chest. "I'd be happy to show you."

"You're not going to shoot me," she tilted her head like a bird of prey. "We've got a very serious abnormal incursion," she nodded at the silk strangling the walls.

"And here I was thinking it was your new wallpaper," Nikola quipped, no intention of lowering his weapon. "That's close enough..." he whispered, when she started walking towards him.

"Are you feeling all right?" Helen lowered her voice into a tender lull. "Even for a vampire, you're pale. Perhaps you should lie down?"

"I don't think so," Nikola kept the gun steady. He was pale because he was cold and naturally disposed to looking like a shard of porcelain. "Detective – whatsyourname-"

"Kavanaugh..." Joe filled in helpfully.

"Whatever... What do you see?"

Joe tilted his head, "Dr Helen Magnus – or a very good copy."

"Copy?" Helen snapped, indignant. "Nikola!" she clicked her fingers to get the vampire's attention. "My house is freezing, the staff are missing and my wallpaper's been replaced by this sticky Magoi residue. Now, what the hell is going on?"

Nikola ignored her.

"Be more specific," he whispered to Joe. "Her eyes... hair – what does she look like."

As Joe started to describe her, the Sanctuary alarm pierced the air. Its angry ringing made Nikola flinch.

"We've got company," he whispered.

"Could be a trick?" Joe offered.

He was right. "Bloody Magoi." Nikola nodded at Helen. "This is why I never joined your little creature-collecting mission."

"Not as salubrious as ruling the world?" she ventured another step closer.

"I offered you the world..." Nikola reminded her, eyes bright.

She took another step, lingering dangerously close. "It wasn't yours to offer..." she purred.

"NIKOLA!"

He turned at once toward the angry voice to find another Helen standing behind them, smeared with dirt and greese. Nikola did his best to ignore his favourite fantasy made real. Two Helens... My, my, my.

"Helen... meet Helen," he said.

The two Helen's eyed each other. One of them was a Magoi, the other was not...

"Stop grinning, Nikola," the Helen covered in dirt scowled. "She's a Magoi..."

Joe lifted his weapon, levelling it at the newly arrived Helen. "Actually Doc," he said, "one of you is. Which one is still in question."

"If you shoot me with that, I'll break both your wrists," she promised darkly. "You're still grinning, Nikola."

He shrugged innocently.

"We've been re-decorating," Nikola added, his weapon still trained on the original Helen. "What do you think?"

"This isn't funny, Nikola. She will kill you."

"Don't think so," he replied lightly, giving Joe a meaningful look. "And on three..."

Before either Helen could move, both guns went off and they dropped to the floor. The dirt-laden Helen groaned, holding her chest. The other body shimmered, its lie crumbling until the body of the Magoi emerged. It was unconscious. Nikola curled his lip in disgust. He'd flirted with that.

He was going to add 'Magoi hunting' to his list of skills.


"Son of a..." Helen stirred. She was back in her bed, tucked in amongst the soft silk sheets with a fresh tray of tea steaming on the table beside her.

Slowly, she turned to see Nikola lounging on the bedspread, a book open against his chest. He was asleep, purring softly as only a vampire could. Such cheek!

"Nikola!" she nudged him gently, poking his ribs. The movement made her groan. Her chest was tight and burned from the weapon. "God, what did you shoot me with?"

Nikola turned his head, opening his eyes. They were bright blue, grinning back of her. "New toy. Don't worry, the effects are temporary. Technically, your pet detective shot you, not me."

"You shot the other me," she groaned wearily, "so it still counts."

Helen closed her eyes again, rubbing her chest softly with her free hand. It hurt.

"I take it you've restrained the Magoi?"

"Tagged, restrained and waiting in the SHU," he put the book aside, turned over and rested on his arm. Nikola was all too comfortable, lounging beside her on the bed.

"...and Ashley?" Helen added, not meaning for her voice to slip into such a soft tone.

The corner of his lip curled up into a smile.

"Good of you to hide them in one of my old haunts," he replied. "I called them in as soon as our guest was contained. Your protege is restrained and awaiting treatment. You're lucky he's still alive. There have been police crawling all over the city looking for him."

"I should -" Helen went to get up but Nikola nudged her gently back down.

"Will can wait a few more hours."

She lofted her eyebrow at him. "And what are you going to do?"

"Oh you know, the same," he shrugged. "Rule the world from your bed."

Nikola's smirk was hit by a well aimed pillow.

"...I still can't believe you shot me," she whispered, closing her eyes again.

"Eh – it's like, one-to-fifty. You shoot me all the time."

She couldn't help a small smile. "You usually deserve it."


Beep. Beep. Beep.

The sand creature eyed the machine beside him. Will's eyes were gold and bulging out from his skull like some kind of reptile. His skin was scarlet, dry and cracked into a scaly pattern that resembled a riverbed ruined by a thousand years of ravaging drought. He flecked his claws, watching the black extensions reflect the bright lights of the infirmary.

He snarled, trying to retreat but a heavy set of chains held him still.

"Sh..." Helen whispered, stepping into view. Her white coat made her form blur against the room. "You're safe – you're home."

Will opened his lips, displaying several rows of razor sharp teeth. He hissed at her.

Ashley, Bigfoot, Henry, Joe and Tesla were all seated in the gallery behind, watching the procedure. Tesla had shifted to the edge of his seat, leaning close to the glass in curiosity. It had been difficult extracting the clear, vampire venom from their new guest. Helen was holding a refined sample up to the light. She pierced the seal with a long needle.

"Do you think it'll work?" Ashley whispered.

"I hope so, Ash," Henry replied, holding her hand.

The liquid entered the drip, slowly seeping into Will's body. He thrashed irritably against his restraints, hissing again as Helen set the empty vial down and checked him over.

"Elevated pulse, temperature steady. Patient is agitated but not in pain." Helen flashed her torch light across his eyes. "Pupils are sluggish. Will, can you hear me?"

More snarling.

"Dr Zimmerman, do you know where you are?"

Will arched his body up as far as he could off the bed. There was something cold sneaking into his veins. He felt – calm... His body gently lowered itself, slowly shedding its violent red for cream.

"Patient's skin is reverting back to human form. Heart rate lowering – body temperature declining."

The fangs retreating into his jaw sent searing pain through his nerves. Will cried out, an almost human scream shattering the quiet room. Helen fumbled for another vial, this time consisting of pain killers which she fed through the drip.

He started to convulse. Helen used her weight to press his body back down against the bed.

"Stay with me, Will," she whispered, fighting for control. She pushed his torso firmly down, pulling another strap across him.

Will struggled to breathe, gasping between ragged cries.