For an interview with the author, please see the October issue of Uncaged Book Reviews!
Five years after Newtown went up in flames, everything has returned to an uneasy calm, until a little girl by the name of Lottie Richmond is killed in her back garden.
Braden Benson has been on the frontline of journalism for most of his adult life. He has enjoyed some success, but that one big headline payoff has always eluded him. He decides to hang up his notepad in favour of spending more time with his neglected family, that is until a spate of grisly events in the nearby town of Layton makes him suspect that there is something fundamentally wrong.
The events unfolding in Layton attract the attention of D.C.I Gerald Thompson and his partner John Wells. Their investigation takes them to a house on Corsica Road and the terrible certainty that what happened in Newtown is far from over.
Day of the Spiders is the terrifying sequel to the international best seller Dawn of the Spiders.
Wells began to relax the moment that they stepped out of the station. Thompson hated to dampen his apparent good mood by telling him the subject of their latest case. He could see Wells’ face falling as he relayed the story of Lottie Richmond to him. He knew this case could hit Wells pretty hard because he had a young family. His sons were only eight and four years old. It must have been a tough thing for him to have to do in his line of duty and he guessed that it never got any easier the more that you did it. Thompson had no idea exactly how it felt because he had never been blessed with children. They had wanted a family all along but for some reason Cindy had never been caught. She had gone to the doctors and there had been test after test, which showed no abnormalities. He had been tested too, having to endure the indignity of pulling himself a hand shandy in a little room and leaving his deposit in a little plastic cup. Cindy had teased him endlessly about it over the course of the following two weeks, accusing him of having a passionate affair with a cup and stopping him every time he put the kettle on just to make sure he was shagging one of the coffee mugs. By the time the joking had worn off he had come close to yelling at her. Everything had come back normal; his swimmers were in fine shape. They had put it down to, what they had called, unexplained infertility. They had talked about adopting, but they had never approached the subject with any real purpose. It was almost as if Cindy had resigned herself to never having kids, and as time went by they appreciated the fact that they had their lives all to themselves. A lot of their couple friends would always cancel on them because of a child being ill, or not being able to find a babysitter. They had none of these problems, and eventually they started to enjoy the fact that there was nothing really tying them down. Their talks began to steer towards things like exotic holidays whenever he could get the time off and the long-term plans for when he hung up his badge for the last time. He had all of that to look forward to, if he could stay in one piece in the meantime.
“I hate these weird ones,” said Wells, snapping him out of his thoughts.
“Yeah, me too. Let’s try and get this one out of the way as quickly as possible and then we can go back to our usual drink induced crimes,” said Thompson
The drove on in silence for a moment until Wells snapped on the radio. It was the top of the hour and the news was just starting. The top story was all about the dead child that they were on their way to investigate.
“Jesus, how did they get a hold of this already?” said Wells.
“I’m guessing that someone must have told them,” said Thompson.
“Do you think the press will be at the site?”
“Oh yes, they’ll be there alright. Don’t worry, we’ll set uniform on them, that’ll keep them off our backs whilst we try find out what happened.”
Thompson was an old veteran when it came to handling the press. They had been a thorn in his side for as long as he had been a D.C.I. He handled their questions the same way each time, with a cheeky smile and a ‘no comment.’ It drove them nuts and he took great pleasure in it. To him, the press were nothing but vultures swooping in to pick over the bones of broken lives, he had no time for them at all. As they approached the turning for Corsica Road, Thompson could already see the news vans lining the streets, right on the doorstep of the crime scene. He was going to have to flex a little muscle here. He usually didn’t like to throw his weight around, but with these jackals, he was only too happy to make an exception. Wells pulled the car over a few doors down from the house. There were two uniforms outside the door and the ginnel that ran down the side of the house had yellow tape pulled across it. The uniforms had done their job pretty well from what Thompson could see. They got out of the car and Wells immediately lit a cigarette. The change in the law that prevented him from smoking in the car had kept him in moans for at least six months. Thompson could almost recite his moans word for word he had heard them so often. Whilst Wells smoked, Thompson went over to the news vans one by one and told them to go to the top end of the street. Some of them protested, citing the freedom of the press, but Thompson gently reminded them that a child had died which shut them right up. They begrudgingly packed their cameras up and started to move up to the top of the road. Thompson went over to one of the uniformed officers that were standing outside the house and told them to set up a road block at the top of the road. He nodded and gave him a polite ‘Yes sir’ and began to talk into his radio. Thompson waved Wells over, who pitched his cigarette into the gutter.
“Let’s get on with it, shall we?” said Thompson.
Wells shrugged, “Can’t put it off forever.”
They headed to the ginnel down the side of the house. Thompson lifted the yellow tape so that they could both duck under it and they made their way towards the back of the house. For Thompson, the feeling he got of walking into a scene where someone had died never changed, no matter how many times he had done it. It felt to him almost like the place was unreal, as if it was a film set that had been set up for him and he was an actor, meant to say the right lines at the right time. Perhaps he should have been wearing a long overcoat, a Trilby and have a smoke hanging out of the corner of his mouth. Oh, and the hip flask full of booze so that he could blot out the horror of it all. Perhaps he would change his name to Jack Daniels, right Chief? He thought not. He had yet to meet a D.C.I that fitted that description, although he knew a fair few that would shake hands with Mr. Daniels after a long shift. The reality was that an investigation like this was as far removed from the almost romanticised version that you would see in a film or a television show, but if you didn’t harden to it quickly then Mr. Daniels would start to set up shop.
The garden looked like any other average garden. He scanned it, looking for something to jump out at him to indicate what the hell had gone on. But, everything looked quiet and normal. He walked forwards slowly, Wells following just behind him also looking around for anything obvious.
“What do you think boss?” said Wells.
Thompson shrugged. “Nothing out of place here.”
“Shall we take a look inside?” said Wells.
“Sure,” said Thompson and they started to walk towards the back door. They were nearly at the door when Thompson felt something pop under his foot. He stopped in his tracks and lifted his shoe from the floor. On the floor was a crunched-up spider. It looked like a pretty impressive house spider, the sort of spider that would send Cindy screaming from the room. The mashed body was lying in a small pool of yellowing goo that had burst from its body when Gerald’s foot came down on it.
“That’s gross,” said Wells, peering over his shoulder. “I hate spiders, I fuckin’ hate them.”
“They don’t speak too highly of you either,” said Gerald. He wiped his foot on the grass and then he turned back towards the back door. He started to move forwards again and something caught his eye. He stopped in his tracks and turned to look at the manhole to his left. The cover looked as though it had been displaced, only slightly, but Thompson saw it. Curiosity began to pinch at the back of his mind. What this had to do with their investigation, he had no idea, but….
Just a hunch….
“We should get forensics in here,” said Wells.
“We will,” said Gerald. He was fumbling a pack of latex gloves from his pocket. “But I want to see what’s under that manhole before we do. Get your phone camera out, I want you to document everything. Got to keep our necks covered.”
Wells brought out his mobile phone and tapped the screen. “Ready when you are,” he said.
Thompson worked his fingers around the recessed handles on the manhole cover and he pulled, expecting it to be heavier than it was. It pulled up easily, almost causing Thompson to throw the damn thing over his head. He nearly lost his balance too but he managed to steady himself and he set the lid to one side. When he saw what was down the manhole, he jumped to his feet almost knocking the phone out of Wells’ hand. “Jesus,” he said.
“Goddammit,” said Wells, fumbling the phone and accidently taking a picture of himself in the process.
Down the manhole, dotted around the deep grooves that made up the waste channels, were the bodies of dead spiders similar to the one that Thompson had stood on a moment before.
“Did you get some shots?” he said. There was silence from Wells. He gave him a dig in the shoulder.
“Shit,” said Wells. He pointed the phone in the right direction and began to push the button. He caught half a dozen shots of the drain below them.
“You got it?”
“Yeah, I got it,” said Wells. His face was wrinkled up in disgust. The smell of shit emanating from the drain wasn’t helping matters at all. Thompson hesitated a moment and then he went to his pocket again. This time he brought out a plastic evidence bag.
“I need to get one of those spiders,” he said.
“What in the hell for?” said Wells, although deep down he knew the answer. It was for a reason that people around here didn’t like to talk about. Thompson gave him a look.
“You know the reason as well as I do, and you know the rules too. Unusual activity? That’s what I would call this,” said Thompson. He squatted beside the drain. “Are you going to volunteer?”
“Not a chance,” said Wells.
Thompson positioned himself on the edge of the drain and then he lowered himself in, his feet straddling the sides of the channels. He bent down to one of the spiders and picked it up using the bag as a glove. Wells looked on, his phone still in his hand.
“Careful boss,” said Wells suddenly, causing Thompson to almost jump out of his skin. The spider dropped out of his hand and fell into the sloppy, damp mess at the bottom of the drain.
“Christ on a bike,” roared Thompson, and shot Wells a disapproving look.
“Sorry boss,” said Wells.
Thompson reached down again and pinched the limp spider by its leg. He lifted it halfway out of the drain and pulled the bag inside out so that the spider was caught inside. He sealed it up before it could get out of his grasp again and then he clambered out of the drain. He wiped a sweat off his forehead with his sleeve.
“Are we going inside?” said Wells.
“No, I don’t think we need to. We should call this one in and get our little friend in here sent off for analysis. Do you want to give him a kiss before he goes?” said Thompson waving the bag in front of Wells. John took a couple of steps backwards and his heels caught the edge of the low wall that was behind him. He sat down on it hard and his phone fell from his hand and clattered to the floor.
“Shit on it,” said Wells.
Thompson laughed, “No kiss?” he said. Wells gave him the finger and then he reached down to get his phone. He paused for a moment, because there was another spider sprawled out on the concrete next to it. He went to snatch the phone up and just as his hand went near, the spider suddenly sprang into life and ran with incredible speed towards him. It managed to climb onto the back of Wells’ hand before he had a chance to draw it away. He uttered a high-pitched and very unmanly shriek and flailed his hand around to try and get the spider off. The spider lost its grip and flew away into the grass behind him. He jumped up and down for a moment bellowing curses and then he held out his hand in front of him.
“It bit me. I swear to God, the little bastard bit me,” he exclaimed in a voice that was reedy and close to cracking.
Thompson looked at Wells’ hand. There were two small pin pricks, both of them oozing a tiny amount of blood, just below the knuckles. “I think we should get out of here, and you need to have that looked at.”
Wells rubbed at the bite with his other hand. “I’ll be fine, don’t you worry about me,” he said.
Thompson barely heard him. He was looking out over the garden towards the garish plastic climbing frame in the middle of the garden. Lottie had been playing on it when the accident (Incident)
Something began to churn in his guts and tickle the back of his mind. He had a hunch. He had an idea of what had happened here, but he needed more to go on. If he spread word of his hunch, even to Wells, then the whole thing could blow up right in his face. He was about to nudge Wells and start heading back for the front of the house again when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. The spider that Wells had launched off his hand and into the grass was emerging from the edge of the lawn. It scuttled towards them.
“Watch out,” said Thompson, pulling Wells backwards by his sleeve. Wells caught sight of the spider and let out another curse. Thompson stepped forwards and stamped on the spider as hard as he could. The spider was obliterated under the weight of his foot. He pulled his leg backwards and the rolled-up corpse of the spider came out from under the front of his shoe. It was followed by a nasty trail of bloody pus from the spiders’ innards.
“Come on, let’s get the hell out of here,” said Wells
“I think you’re right,” said Thompson
They walked quickly across the back yard and down the side of the house. By the time they made it back to the front, they were both out of breath.
Uncaged Review: A follow up to the fabulous Dawn of the Spiders. Just when you thought those damn spiders were gone, they pop up again out of the blue. This time they have had five years to regroup and get stronger, and so the body count rises and rises. Even scientist Briggs is back to help. A dark tale of humor and horror that will have you checking every corner for eensy weensy spiders. For fans of dark horror and humor.
Reviewed by Jennifer