In the past year, Shweta Kallemullah worked harder than ever to prove that she was no longer the vicious, conniving woman that found herself in the employ of Desade roughly fifteen years ago. Part of the reason for that was who she was working with.
Before Jonathan Rhine was her boyfriend, he was her coworker, and before that, years before, he was her target. So Shweta constantly focused on convincing Jon – and herself – that she was no longer a strand of the Spider in the Web.
Despite all of her progress, despite the fact that she won over Jon’s trust, there was always that little voice in her head reminding her that she still had the capacity for evil, that she could still be a villain if she needed to.
All it took was the prospect of talking to Wyatt Connors to convince her that she could never again do dirty work.
October 22, 2022
Shweta stood at the door of a small motel in Sheridan, Wyoming. Shweta, for all of her experience traveling the country and visiting small towns, had never heard of Sheridan, much less the practically nameless building she found herself at, fist suspended inches from the door.
Sighing, she slowly rapped her fist twice against the door. She waited for an appropriate amount of time that slowly melted into an excessive amount of time. She knocked again, then waited. Finally, she heard a deadbolt slide and the door opened a few inches, stopped by the chain lock. Two eyes peered out.
“Are you here to kill me?” a voice asked.
The door slammed in her face, and the deadbolt slid back into place. Shweta stood there for a few moments, then knocked again. “Please, Mr. Co…, Mr. Frank. My name is Shweta Kallemullah. I…used to work for Desade.”
“Then you should know what a poor selling point that is, Miss Kallemullah.”
Shweta sighed. She leaned forward for a moment, resting her head against the door. Then, she looked up and tried one more angle. “Jake Colton sent me.”
A heavy sigh came from the other side, followed by the sound of the locks sliding back. The door swung open again, this time wide enough to allow entry. Frank Mazurskiewicz, now framed by the doorway, hobbled back a few steps.
“He’s getting a crutch to the shin for this.”
Shweta’s hands shook slightly around the cup of tea he had offered her. She didn’t actually think the tea was poisoned, of course – that would be crazy. But after years of hearing about who this man used to be, she couldn’t quite shake the feeling that she had walked into a lion’s den, despite the genuine smile he offered her.
“I don’t know if you know much about the situation we’re in, after Jonathan…”
“I’ve kept up on it,” Frank said, as if it were some random story in the newspaper.
“Uh, yes, so…” Shweta looked around the room briefly, then back to her tea. “So you understand what kind of monster we’re dealing with. We can’t let him find his daughter again. If he did that to a man who was his friend and partner…I don’t think anyone is safe from him, including family.”
“That explains why Jake sent you to me.” His mouth twisted a little as he thought, and for a brief moment Shweta saw flickers of the man Frank Mazurskiewicz used to be. The schemer. The plotter. The Devil in the Details. And yet…
“The obvious answer would be that she stays here, but…” Frank gestured broadly. “Hardly different than locking Nora in a cage.”
Shweta nodded, but pressed on. “But you know people. Some of the same people I used to know, and some people who are much…further along the path than I was. Can’t you find someone? I know that in your former life you basically could get anything done if it truly needed to be done. And this needs to be done.”
“My contact list isn’t what it used to be, but I’m sure I could find someone. Hell, I could get you Alex Pierce if you wanted.”
“You know where she is?” Shweta asked, her grip on her teacup loosening. She realized in time before it spilled, then put it down and leaned forward.
“I send her Christmas letters. Mostly about all the times I soiled myself because I fell down and couldn’t make it to the bathroom. I like to think it brings her joy.”
In spite of herself, Shweta smirked. Then, the smirk disappeared. “You said you could. But…will you?”
“Probably not. She is…not the woman you remember, I will say. But she left her old life behind, and she has her peace now. Whether she deserves it…” Frank shrugs. “Well, I can’t say.
“Unfortunately, she would be the best of my possible options. The rest? Grifters and thugs. If I called any of them, probably the first thing they’d do is see how much money they could get for the information.”
Shweta closed her eyes. Try as she might, she was not able to fight back the two tears from falling down her cheeks. “I know it is my fault for walking into a snake’s den and expecting anything more than venom. I just need…this girl needs peace.” Shweta stood, looking down at the man who used to be so condescending, yet now appeared genuinely powerless to help. “Thank you, Mr. Mazurskiewicz. I apologize for intruding.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help,” he said. “I hope you find the person you’re looking for.”
“Me too.” Shweta had composed herself enough to prevent more tears, but as she made her way out of the motel room, the composure melted. She slid down the wall of the motel, her head in her hands, and let the hopelessness wash over her like cold rain.
She had failed.
Shweta looked everywhere that she could think of for help. And she found nothing.
No help from The Boss, who wanted to help, but whose hands were tied.
No help from The Lovers, one of whom would have certainly helped, but one who was too scared for both of them to get involved.
No help from The Other Boss, who refused to be found.
No help from The Family, who would have dropped everything, but were too open and honest to help in secrecy.
No help from The Fallen, who could find helpers but correctly chose not to connect Shweta to them.
As Shweta cried, she thought of the different people she had talked to. Good people. Questionable people. People with obligations to themselves. People with obligations to others. People who could make anything happen. People who wanted to make anything happen. A slow, crystalizing feeling began to take hold in her brain as the tears slowly stopped coming.
She didn’t need help from a former villain who could make anything happen.
She didn’t need help from someone who wanted to help, but couldn’t.
She needed help from someone who could make things happen and wanted to – no, needed to. Someone who would take the cause on as their very own. Someone who would not care about how it looked, or how many enemies they made in the process. Someone who wanted to do the right thing, and would do it no matter what.
Shweta stood up, wiped her eyes, and breathed in deeply.
She needed help from a hero. And suddenly, she knew exactly where to find them.