Before she was The Strand, before she had ever met the woman who would terrorize the wrestling world, Shweta Kallemullah was a young woman who wanted to be a wedding planner.
She first discovered her love of the craft when she was engaged to be married. She didn’t get to pick her husband due to her parents strict adherence to their faith and culture, but she was allowed to pick nearly everything else. As she sat in front of the bubbly woman with large horn-rimmed glasses, she was enamored and overwhelmed by how many details there were to plan, and how the woman seemed to know everything about all of them.
What really made Shweta so sure about her career choice, even as she was unsure about the man sitting next to her, was the calmness the woman possessed. It was as if all of the knowledge in the world was in her head, and so everything would be okay no matter what happened. It was a quality she would later find in her employer Desade.
Time passed and the wedding never happened – Shweta stood up for herself and against her family which led to a familial fissure that never healed. But even as she grew away from wedding planning and towards espionage, her affinity for decision making and knowledge collecting persisted.
And so the Spider continued to spin her web.
October 4, 2022
Shweta looked at the piece of paper Lindsay Troy had handed her a few days ago at Sunrise Medical Center. She scanned the top one and sighed.
She felt bad calling Jared Sykes, but she had made a promise to Melissa. And if anyone would be willing to help, it would be the man who tried to help Jon the night of Great American Nightmare.
Shweta drummed her fingers as she waited for Jared to pick up, chewing her bottom lip. She didn’t get a chance to patch things up with him before Jon got hurt – so much of 2022 positioned her against him as Jon’s rival. So she waited, wondering how awkward the conversation would be.
She never got to find out, as the voice that answered was not Jared’s.
Shweta stopped drumming her fingers suddenly. “Oh, hello Justine. This is Shweta Kallemullah. I was trying to reach Jared.”
Justine’s voice on the other end sounded distracted. “Oh, hey. Umm, he’s not here. I mean, we… Sorry, he just stepped out. Forgot his phone.”
“Okay. Well, could you tell him to call…” Shweta looked down at the list and nodded. “Actually, I can ask you this. I know how close you and Jared are, and so this would involve both of you.”
Shweta couldn’t help but notice the hesitation on Justine’s end of the phone. She started to talk, then was silent for a few moments before finally saying, “Alright.”
Shweta stood and started to pace. “As you are obviously aware, Paxton’s attack on Jon has far reaching implications. And I made a promise to Melissa that I would keep Nora safe and hidden from Paxton. We know that as soon as he realizes they are no longer in Lafayette, he will look everywhere for her.” Shweta walked to the window, half expecting to see the Bayou Butcher peeking through the blinds, but all she saw was sunshine.
“So we need to make sure both of them are somewhere they can’t be found,” Shweta continued. “I spoke to Lindsay about this a few days ago, and though she wasn’t able to help, she told me to contact some other people. The two of you were among them. I know this is a lot to ask, but please know I do not ask it lightly. Is there any way you and Jared could help us? Is there anywhere in your circle that Melissa and Nora would be safe?”
Again Shweta waited for some time before Justine’s voice answered. When it did, it was rushed. “I don’t know. Things aren’t great right now, if I’m being honest. After everything that happened Jared kind of, well, I think he’s falling apart. He disappeared that weekend, and the next thing I know he’s on High Octane. Then he flies out there with Tom, and Ria, and Erik, and… I think…” She trailed off.
Shweta started to say something encouraging, but Justine rolled along her frantic train of thought. “Fuck… I think he’s about to do something really stupid, Shweta. I think he’s about to try and throw himself in front of Paxton. I don’t even know why I’m saying this. I know he’d want to help you, but I’m scared for him right now. What happened to Jon is awful, and it’s unforgivable, and I’m so, so sorry for all of it, Shweta. But if Jared runs off, and… If Paxton found that he helped hide his daughter… I can’t. I’m so sorry. I know he’d say yes. He wouldn’t even stop to think about it. But he’d kill him. Paxton would kill him. I’m sorry. I can’t. I just… I can’t.”
Shweta leaned against the wall and felt herself slide down it as she closed her eyes. She took a moment to compose herself and nodded. “I understand. I will be honest, I wish Jared had picked up the phone. But I do understand and I won’t push it.” Shweta opened her eyes and forced herself to stand. “Though I will say this, Justine. I have faith in Jared. Not just in his kindness, but in his ability to survive. I won’t keep you. Please give Jared my best, and if he does end up doing what you think he will, let us know if we can help.”
Shweta thought that Justine’s voice sounded on the verge of tears as she replied, “I’m sorry, Shweta. I’m so sorry.”
“Please do not worry. I will protect Nora. I gave my word, and…” Shweta stopped when she realized the call was no longer connected.
Shweta remembered at least two or three of Desade’s plans needing a backup, a plan B. But she could not remember Plan C ever being needed, or at least Desade never revealed as much to her.
But here she was, the wannabe Spider, watching the strands she wove turn to dust as they left her fingers. Was she too nice? Not ruthless enough to be the planner she knew she could be? She already felt pangs of regret for telling Justine that she wished Jared had answered instead.
She felt herself go back to that table at the wedding venue, feeling the same now as she did then: on a path she did not choose and could not control, unsure of her place, the confidence she thought she had wiped away in an instant.
It killed her to see the people she cared about being destroyed by a man she had helped bring in, and it killed her even more to not be able to do anything about it. In the face of adversity, true adversity she hadn’t felt since she was a strand, she felt helpless and small.
In order to get her confidence back, in order to get her plan on track, she needed to find the person who first taught her how to work in the shadows.
She needed to find The Spider.