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The Spider Strain by Johnston McCulley

The Spider Strain


subjects: Thrillers

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The supervillain’s right-hand man, John Warwick, must steal a priceless necklace. This is his last assignment, for if he can finally satisfy the Spider, he will free himself from the criminal forever. With a rival gang after the necklace and the Spider’s fate hanging in the balance, this may be Warwick’s most dangerous assignment yet. A beautiful woman, a decades-old secret, and thieves running rampant at a high society party make for a brisk caper-story … and the culmination of the long-running Spider series!

86 pages with a reading time of ~1.50 hours (21554 words), and first published in 1919. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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It was not the first time that John Warwick had felt very thankful that his training as a member of society, and in the world at large, had been such that it enabled him successfully to talk about one thing and think of something else entirely different at the same time.

He managed to maintain the conversation with the charming young woman at his side, and while he did so, he considered that there was something taking place in which he was greatly interested, and sensed that there would be something in the nature of a climax soon.

John Warwick guided his powerful roadster along the pretty highways on the bank of the river, beneath overhanging boughs of trees dressed in their autumn foliage.

Now he allowed the great engine to drive the car at a rate of speed that almost took one’s breath away–and now he throttled it down until the car crept, purring, along the highway, seeming to rest before another burst of speed.

He was driving in that fashion for a purpose. Silvia Rodney, the young woman who sat at his side, believed that it was because Warwick was nervous, and she smiled happily, for Warwick’s manner led her to believe that he was about to address her on a subject a young woman always likes to hear discussed by a man she more than admires.

Warwick’s real purpose, however, was to discover just why he was being followed, and by whom. He had known for the past two hours that he was being followed by somebody. He was aware that he was being watched closely as he ate luncheon with Silvia Rodney at a little inn far up the river, but he had been unable to locate the person who had him under surveillance. And John Warwick had a perfect right to feel a bit nervous about it.

Known to the world at large as the one remaining member of an old and respected family of culture and wealth, the truth of the matter was that John Warwick was a criminal of a sort, a clever member of the band controlled and commanded by The Spider, a supercrimimal who had been the despair of the police of Europe in days gone by, and who still was active, though not to such a great extent.

Ruined by men who had called themselves his friends, John Warwick had joined The Spider’s band at the supercriminal’s suggestion, and had become a valuable man to the master crook. He maintained his position in society, for there he was of the greatest value to The Spider. He would be of value only as long as he remained free from suspicion. His successful work had antagonized criminals who were fighting The Spider, and Warwick knew that they would expose him if they ever got the opportunity.

Knowing that he was being followed and watched, John Warwick speculated as to the identity of the person or persons doing it. Were they officers of the law who had grown suspicious of him? Had he made some fatal slip that had put them on the right track? Or were they criminals antagonistic to The Spider and his band?

Warwick did not betray his nervousness and anxiety to the girl at his side, and nobody could have told from his manner that he was thinking of annoyance or trouble. He indulged in his usual brand of small talk, spoke of things to be seen along the road, chatted of the beauties of the scenery, gave the impression that he was a bit bored by it all–and, in reality, was very much alert.

“Great old season, autumn–what?” Warwick said now, glancing at Silvia.

“It is, indeed, John,” the girl replied.

“True to all the forms of life–and all that sort of thing,” he went on. “I always did admire a man or woman in the autumn of their existence–mellow with age, rich in experience, wise to the ways of the wicked world, and all that sort of silly rot! Live and learn–what? Quite so! A man gets really fit to live about the time he has to die. My word!”

“John Warwick, you are speaking like an old man, and you certainly are not one!”

“Thirty-four, dear lady!”

“I am twenty-six myself.”

“Refuse to believe it!” Warwick declared. “Must be spoofing me, what? Don’t look a day more than eighteen!”

“John Warwick, you are trying to flatter me!”

“My word! Couldn’t be done, dear young lady! Not the proper sort of words in the old dictionary–none nearly strong enough. Webster chap should have met a girl like you–would have invented a lot more good adjectives!”

“John Warwick! I’ll be angry in a moment!”

“Angry? My word!” Warwick gasped. “I always had a suspicion that girls liked to hear men say that sort of thing.”

“But I am not a silly girl!” Silvia Rodney declared, pouting a bit–and she turned half away from him and looked at the river sparkling in the bright sunshine.

John Warwick managed to glance at her from the corners of his eyes–and sighed.