What felt like a lifetime ago, Shweta Kallemullah had a codename.
It was silly, and honestly Shweta found it reductive, but it was accurate: Shweta worked for a woman named Desade, who nicknamed herself The Spider in the Web. As ludicrous as the nickname was, it was not something to be questioned, nor was the woman herself. Shweta worked in tandem with other spies and informants, and their job description was simple: do whatever the crazy woman in the white pantsuit said.
It could be anything from theft to information gathering to outright poisoning – the last of which Shweta did gleefully to Jonathan Rhine in 2009. For a reason even Shweta did not understand, The Strand was tasked with dating Foster Nackedy to get close to Rhine, then poisoning Rhine to weaken him for the Spider to strike. The plan, like many of Desade’s plans, worked to perfection.
Shweta learned much from Desade, even as she slowly grew to resent and despise the woman giving her orders. When Shweta’s rebellion grew a little too loud, Desade had The Strand removed, her title revoked, the only person she ever loved thrown away. But even in the pain and emptiness that followed, Shweta learned how to weave a web.
Thirteen years later, as she once again saw a force try to take away a man she loved, she called upon what she learned back then. Not to destroy a life, but to save one: the life of a young girl who needed help.
She was once The Strand. But to fight for Nora, Shweta had to become the Spider.
September 24, 2022
“Ms. Kallemullah–” Melissa Ray started, but Shweta didn’t hear her, as she held a phone to her ear.
“Yes, and I’ll need the ticket waiting for me. No, in Houston. Yes, I know that New Orleans is closer to Lafayette than Houston is, but Houston has a flight at noon that gets to Las Vegas at 1:20, and New Orleans doesn’t have a flight to Las Vegas until six o’clock tonight, which…no, Judith, I don’t have a special plane that makes it to Las Vegas in only an hour. There is a time change.”
“Ms. Kallemullah–” Melissa tried again.
“From there I’ll need a car to go directly to Sunrise. And then…what? No, any color is fine. I don’t care. And…fine. White. And after that…Judith, the car can be shit fucking brown and I will happily drive it to visit my possibly paralyzed boyfriend. Okay? Thank you.”
“Shweta–” Melissa said as Shweta shut her phone.
“What.” The tone caused Melissa to back up a step, and Shweta immediately realized her mistake. “I’m sorry Melissa. I just…”
“I know. I can’t imagine what you feel right now. You just watched…” she didn’t finish her sentence, but she didn’t need to. Shweta nodded. “I know you have to leave. But I need something from you.”
Shweta looked at her watch, then at the door. Finally, she sighed. “What do you need?”
“It doesn’t have to be now, because clearly you need to check on Jon. Please make sure he’s okay. Please make sure he’s stable. But once he is…” Melissa looked down at her hands, then up at the stairs. “Paxton asked you to come here to watch the match. To protect Nora.”
“Yes,” Shweta spat, “and it was a ruse to get Jonathan alone.”
“It was. I’m so sorry. But…I need you to continue Paxton’s request. Nora needs to be protected. Paxton is going to come for us. He will want to see his daughter. And after this…” Melissa looked back up at Shweta, her eyes wet. “…I never want to see him again. I never want him to see her again.”
Shweta stared at Melissa for a few moments before walking over and grabbing Melissa’s hands. “Of course, Melissa. I will do everything I can to help.”
October 1, 2022
Shweta stood in her favorite spot in the hospital room at Sunrise if there is such a thing: right by the window. She stared out of it, her hands behind her back, slowly focusing on her measured breathing. While Jon slept, she meditated. She waited. She plotted.
She heard a sigh and rustling of sheets behind her. Turning, she looks down and forces a smile at Jonathan Rhine, who looked up with a sad smile.
“Why are you still here?” he asked.
Shweta raised her eyebrow. “That’s…not the reaction I expected.”
“You should be helping Nora. I’m fine. I’m not going anywhere.” There was a brief pause where Shweta waited to see if Jon would make the obvious tension-releasing joke. It had been a crapshoot the past few days; sometimes he would self-deprecate, sometimes he would brood in silence. Today was the former. “I couldn’t get too far anyway.” He flicked a finger towards the door, then smiled. “Did I move?”
Shweta couldn’t bring herself to laugh.
“Seriously,” Jon continued. “Just go. Do what you have to do. Weave your web. Become the Desade of Good. Goodesade.”
Shweta wrinkled her nose. “That sounds awful.”
“Well then it fits, because Spider In the Web was an awful nickname.” Jon laughs. “I can’t believe you poisoned me for a woman with such a bad nickname.”
Again Shweta does not travel on Jon’s comedy train. “I can’t believe I did either.” She bends over and kisses him on the forehead. “I love you, Jon.”
“I love you too. Now go weave some fucking webs before I call Desade and get her to do it for you.”
Finally Shweta laughs. “You don’t have her number.”
“Yes I do. It’s 1-888-FAJITAS.”
“Did your injury give you brain damage?” she said, pulling out her phone. “Fine, I’ll start now.”
“Fucking magical!” Jon called after her as she pulled out her phone and dialing a number. “That man is something else.” As she walked through the doorway, she nearly bumped into someone, then heard a phone ring.
“Oh, Shweta, hey.” Lindsay Troy put on the brakes before the two women collided. Her phone continued ringing and buzzing in her pocket. “Hold on, let me turn this off real quick.”
“That’s me, actually,” Shweta replied, ending the call.
“I’ve got pretty good timing then, huh?” Lindsay laughed. “I’m heading to Atlanta in a few hours for SHOOT’s shows and wanted to check in on you and Jon again before I left. How’s he doing today?”
“He’s in good spirits. Very good spirits, actually. He’s making some awful jokes.” Shweta sent a glance back to the hospital room and frowned. “Lindsay…we have a favor to ask, if you can.” For the next few minutes, Shweta relayed the plan, how Melissa and Nora needed to get out, how they needed someone to help facilitate and hide them, how Shweta could think of no one better than the PRIME CEO to help. “I know it’s a lot to ask, Lindsay. And I understand if you can’t.”
The expression on Lindsay’s face softened sympathetically. “I want to help. Really, I do, and if I was just another person on the roster I’d be all-in. But owning the company and being Paxton’s boss, I just…”
She trailed off, and sighed. The conflict of interest made her uncomfortable, because while the right thing may be for her to stay out of it, it didn’t feel like the right thing.
It felt like she was letting Nora and Shweta down, especially since she’s always put family above all else.
This time was different, because it had to be.
“The best I can do is give you some contacts who’ll also keep me out of it,” Lindsay said after a time. “And there may be another way I can help that entails keeping Paxton on a shorter leash.”
Shweta nodded, sparing another glance back at the hospital room. “Anything helps. Thank you. Jon is in there if you wanted to touch base.”
Suddenly there was a call from the room. “If that’s Lindsay, I’m in a deep, deep slumber that no one can wake me from!”
Shweta smirked at Lindsay. “He’s on a lot of medication right now.”
“I can tell.”
Lindsay walked into the room and Shweta could hear her say, “Too bad you’re sleeping, I brought brownies.”
“Too bad, I wanted fajitas!”
Shweta chuckled, then walked away, her smile curving downward. She sighed heavily, then grabbed her phone again. “Some spider you are,” she muttered to herself as she dialed a number. After a moment, she closed her eyes. “Hi Melissa. It’s Shweta. I’m sorry to say that…”
Shweta looked up and saw a double door in front of her close, and she caught a glimpse of herself in the glass. She stared at herself for a moment, then shook her head quickly. “Sorry. I just wanted you to know that my first lead didn’t pan out. But don’t worry. I promise you that we’ll find somewhere safe for Nora. Okay, bye.”
She ended the call, looked back at her reflection, straightened her hair, and walked towards the hospital exit.
Shweta almost gave up because her time away from the Dead Man’s Hand had changed her perspective. She forgot something about all of the plans and webs that she had been a part of all those years ago.
Not every part of every plan worked to perfection. Different options needed to be tried, different avenues needed to be explored. Lindsay Troy could not help, at least not in a direct way. And so Shweta would move on to the next strand.
A web would be woven somehow. The Spider had a promise to keep.