Medusa's Web: A Novel
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From the award-winning author of Hide Me Among the Graves, Last Call, Declare, and Three Days to Never, a phantasmagoric, thrilling, mind-bending tale of speculative fiction in which one man must uncover occult secrets of 1920s Hollywood to save his family.
In the wake of their Aunt Amity’s suicide, Scott and Madeline Madden are summoned to Caveat, the eerie, decaying mansion in the Hollywood hills in which they were raised. But their decadent and reclusive cousins, the malicious wheelchair-bound Claimayne and his sister, Ariel, do not welcome Scott and Madeline’s return to the childhood home they once shared. While Scott desperately wants to go back to their shabby South-of-Sunset lives, he cannot pry his sister away from this haunted “House of Usher in the Hollywood Hills” that is a conduit for the supernatural.
Decorated by bits salvaged from old hotels and movie sets, Caveat hides a dark family secret that stretches back to the golden days of Rudolph Valentino and the silent film stars. A collection of hypnotic eight-limbed abstract images inked on paper allows the Maddens to briefly fragment and flatten time—to transport themselves into the past and future in visions that are both puzzling and terrifying. Though their cousins know little about these ancient “spiders” which provoke unpredictable temporal dislocations, Ariel and Claimayne have been using for years—an addiction that has brought Claimayne to the brink of selfish destruction.
As Madeline falls more completely under Caveat’s spell, Scott discovers that to protect her, he must use the perilous spiders himself. But will he unravel the mystery of the Madden family’s past and finally free them. . . or be pulled deeper into their deadly web?
brown rectangle, which he now saw to be a folder of coarse-textured deckle-edged paper, with a ribbon and a red wax seal holding it closed. He remembered having seen that folder before, long ago. He voluntarily reached out and touched it—and the air quivered around it, and a profound rolling vibration made a blur of his consciousness— —And then he was sprawled awkwardly facedown across the springy surface of a dusty mattress, panting against crumpled damp flannel. Scott rolled over and sat
hundred-something pounds of passenger! The street ended at a crosswise fence ahead of him, but he saw a narrow open gate in the fence and slanted through it, and then he was out of the bridge shadow onto packed, oil-stained dirt, and all that lay ahead were rows and rows of railroad tracks, stretching from left to right as far as Scott could see. He glanced back. Both trucks had stopped outside the fence, and the driver of one of them was now out of the cab and through the gate and sprinting
visibly pick up her pace. He didn’t hear any shots from behind. The rear wheel skidded around as he put his weight on the back brake pedal just short of the river fence, and he didn’t have to tell Ariel to get back on. With her arms clamped around his ribs he rode fast south along the fence, under the arch of the Sixth Street bridge and out the other side; when he glanced to the right, he saw the white SUV and one of the pickup trucks keeping up with him on the far side of the tracks and the
house is gone,” he added to Madeline. “The 101 Freeway is there now.” “You didn’t tell him about me?” Madeline asked. “He said to tell you that Natacha was grateful for your company, on that taxi ride to the hospital.” Ariel was shaking her head in bewilderment, but Scott held up his hand and went on, “Mainly I told him I wanted to exorcise the spiders and all their works, to free you from Aunt Amity.” “But,” said Madeline, “that would . . . free me from any chance of finding him! Oh,
the glasses, and her gray hair was done in a pageboy cut. “I do believe you’re more startled by this . . . impossible intrusion! . . . than I am!” She spoke with an accent, pronouncing “r”s as soft “d”s. Scott caught a whiff of lemon verbena perfume. “Yes, ma’am,” said Scott. “Very likely, I mean.” He hoped he had zipped his fly and buttoned his shirt correctly, and wished he’d shaved; at random he said, “Doody?” “My secretary,” said the woman. “She’s gone across the street to Schwab’s to fill