DARIA'S WEB: WHERE THE WILD THING IS (Part One) A Daria/Spider-Man crossover

by Ranger Thorne

As the old AMC Gremlin puttered down the road, the driver turned to look at the woman beside him. Wind Lane could only smile as he looked at his wife. Vicki had been his first wife, and now they had remarried after several years of being apart. This time it'll work, he thought to himself.

Looking ahead, he frowned as he saw that the stillness of the early evening was being disturbed by several cars that were blocking the street, with the lights of police cars flashing insistently.

"What's going on?" Vicki asked him as they pulled to a stop.

Noticing a group of people off to the side talking, Wind said, "I'll see." After climbing out of the car, he made his way to the group. "What's up?" he asked.

"The wild woman got hit by a car," one man said. "A cop no less."

"Yeah, they finally have proof she exists," another added.

"Like those mutilated animals weren't proof?" the first asked.

"Not that the wild woman was loose. That's just proof that some crazy is cutting up animals."

"What's the 'wild woman?'" Wind asked them.

"You don't know?"

"I'm just passing through."

The first man smirked, "Well, it seems that she first showed up almost two years ago. She's a young woman, about twenty or so, with dark hair and very blue eyes. She's like a wild animal. She's got some kind of fur bikini thing going on, but doesn't wear shoes or anything else."

The only woman in the group spoke up, "She's been seen eating the animals she's killed raw. They look like they been surgically cut up. Perfect slices."

"Supposedly," the first man spoke again, "she's been hit by cars and shot by hunters. But she keeps on going."

"Think she's part bunny?" the second man joked as he made a motion like hitting a drum.

As the others laughed, Wind noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Stepping away from the others, he looked at the tree line near the road. A young woman with dark hair that reached almost to her waist was looking at him. She was wearing what looked like a fur top and briefs. Her expression was one of curiosity, as if she knew him but couldn't quite place him. Wind felt a knot form in his stomach as disbelief, then hope sent chills down his spine. Finally, the look on her face turned to one of loss before she ducked back into the trees.

"Hey, man," someone behind him said, "you okay?"

"I think I just saw a ghost," Wind whispered.

"Maybe it's the wild woman."

He faced them, and they could see that he'd gone white. Without a word, he went to his car. Backing the car, he began to turn the vehicle around.

"What's going on?" his wife asked him.

"There's a way to Lawndale back this way," he told her.

"But we're not going to Lawndale," she reminded him.

"Vicki," he looked at her, "I just saw Jane."

"Didn't you tell me she's dead?"

"Dead or not, I just saw her standing in the woods by the road." He turned to look out the windshield, "I need to talk to Trent."

The crowd around the building made it tough for the small woman to make her way to the door. She was brown-eyed, with sandy-blond hair that was cut short. She was wearing a light black jacket over what looked like a red turtleneck. A skirt that matched her jacket reached to her ankles, allowing only a little of her black boots to show. When she found a policeman standing at the door to the shop she was trying to reach, she asked, "What's going on?"

"A gang just tried to rob the liquor store," he said, pointing.

"And the police nabbed them, eh?"

"I wish." Shaking his head, the officer, who's badge identified him as 'Rodgers,' added, "It looks like the Scarlet Spider got here first."

Furrowing her brow, the sandy-haired woman asked, "Isn't that Spider-Man's sister or something?"

"Lord, I wish I knew." He smiled down at her, then noticed her slight blush at the attention, "Is there something I can help you with, miss?"

"I need to go into the shop," she pointed behind him.

"Huh?" Realizing where he was, he stepped aside and opened the door, "Sorry." He looked at the door, then back at her. "Wigs? You don't need a wig. I like your hair the way it is." He put a hand over his mouth, "Sorry. I really shouldn't say things like that."

Gently, she placed a hand on his arm. Then, with her blush deepening, she replied, "I don't mind. Thank you."

Inside the shop, the woman stopped to adjust her black jacket before she stepped to the counter. "Can I help you?" the woman behind the counter asked.

"I have a specialty order to pick up. The name is 'Lane,'" she lied.

The woman looked on a list. "Oh, yes, the auburn wig. Melody Lane, right?"

"That's right."

The woman stepped in the back, then returned with a box. "Got it right here. Will that be cash or charge?"

"Well, I was going to pay cash, but I got this just this morning," Melody handed her a credit card. "Thought I'd try it out."

"Why not, right?" the woman smiled at her as she swiped the card. "There you go. Thanks for shopping with us."

Stepping into the street, the woman turned away from the liquor store and began walking. She looked up at the sky, soaking in the sunlight. After a few blocks, however, she looked around, then stepped into an alley.

Opening the box, she pulled out an auburn wig that was long enough to reach to her shoulder blades. She looked at it as she tossed the box into a dumpster. The jacket came off next, revealing a skin tight body suit with black sleeves instead of a solid red turtleneck. A matching backpack was removed, allowing her to put her wig and jacket inside. Then, she slipped off her boots, revealing red boots that reached halfway up her shins. Removing the skirt, showed that the red of the body suit ended where the black of her legs began. The black boots and skirt also fit into the backpack. She unfolded the neck on the 'turtleneck,' allowing it to reach to just below her jaw. As she opened a pocket on the backpack, a shaft of sunlight revealed a black spider emblem on the center of her chest. She pulled gloves from the pocket on the backpack and slipped them on, pulling them up the their full length halfway up her forearms. Then, she pulled a red mask from the same pocket on the backpack. Once on, her face and hair were completely hidden. She shrugged on the red backpack, then, fully covered by the costume, leaped two stories straight up.

The costumed woman clung to the wall for almost a second before leaping onto the roof across the alley. She took one quick look around, then dove over the side facing the street. Stretching out her right hand, she curled the two middle fingers in to press on her palm. A silver strand shot from a place on her wrist to adhere to a building down the block. Arching her muscles, she angled her swing even as she reached out with her left hand and fired her next web.

A cab driver who was leaning against his cab eating a sandwich looked up at the shadow passing over his head. "Looks like the Scarlet Spider is out early today." Shaking his head, he turned back to his food. "I guess 'Lady Scarlet' has stuff to do. Hm, at this rate, spider-types will be a dime a dozen soon."

The Scarlet Spider let the sun and the wind blowing across her masked face bring her spirits up as she swung above the traffic. Twenty minutes later, she reached a nondescript building and moved to a place between two vents. Reaching in, she pulled out a small pouch. Opening it, she removed an envelope. Pulling up the front of her top, she pulled a small camera from it's hiding place on a belt. She rewound the film and put it into the pouch before putting the pouch back into the gap. After tucking the envelope away, she again leaped into space and began to web-sling through town.

An hour later, Melody came out of a small deli with a bag in her hand. She waited for traffic to clear, then headed across the street. Using her key, she entered a small brownstone and went up to the top floor. Entering her apartment, she set the bag on the table, then paused to stretch. She paused long enough to close the blinds, then pulled off her jacket as she went into the next room. A few minutes later, she returned, wearing a mustard-colored nightshirt. Retrieving the bag, she sat on her second-hand sofa and reached for the remote for the small tv sitting on the coffee table. As the news came on, she began to unload the bag.

The [i]Daily Bugle[/i] she set face-down on the table. On top of it, she placed the plastic bottle of milk. A small bag of chips was followed almost immediately after by a sandwich. Half-heartedly, she watched the news until the last story.


In lighter news, the 'Wild Woman of Lawndale County' has, at last, been spotted by police. Or, to be more specific, run into by police. Officer Brent Winfrey was traveling down Highway 62 when a young woman ran out into the road. He hit the brakes, but was unable to stop in time. Despite being hit at almost fifty miles an hour, the woman then ran back into the woods. The entire incident was captured on the car's camera.


Melody smirked as she leaned forward to watch the video. The cruiser was heading down the highway when a figure suddenly ran in front of it. Just as the car reached her, the woman turned to face the camera. As Melody's mouth dropped open, the video continued to show the woman hit by the cruiser and flip up onto the hood. When the car stopped, she slid off onto the ground. Then, as if more annoyed than injured, she stood and ran for the trees.

Reaching out, Melody turned off the set with shaking hands. The remains of her dinner were forgotten as she stood and walked to a book case sitting against the wall. Reaching behind it, she pulled a folder from its hiding place and went back to the couch. Emptying it onto the coffee table, she tossed the envelope aside.

The first thing she picked up was a picture of two girls who looked to be around eighteen. One was taller, with raven black hair and intense blue eyes. She was wearing an unbuttoned red man's shirt with the sleeves rolled up past her elbows with a black T-shirt was beneath it. She had on dark gray shorts, black tights, and dark gray boots that reached almost to her knees. Red lipstick was her only makeup, and it emphasized her smirk as she stood with her arms crossed beside the other girl. Her face was unmistakably the one from the video.

With a sigh, Melody looked a the shorter girl. She had auburn hair and brown eyes and looked bored. She had on a green jacket, with a mustard-colored T-shirt beneath. A pleated black skirt reached barely halfway to her knees, and a pair of heavy black boots began halfway down her shins. On her face, a pair of large round glasses gave her the look of someone who wanted to keep their distance.

Melody gently placed the photo aside as she picked up a page from a newspaper. Barely glancing at the headline "Two killed in explosion," she set it next to the picture. A sheet of paper with handwriting on it was the only other item in the envelope. The only words on it were 'white slavery ring.' Disgusted, she wadded it up and threw it toward the trash can. She glanced at the tv, then stood and went to the telephone hanging on the wall.

"Hello, Miss Mason? It's Melody. Look, something's come up. Family illness. I'm going to have to be out of town for a few days." She looked at the photo on the table. "Hopefully, I'll be back by the weekend. Huh? Vacation? Really, I hadn't thought about it. Yeah, I guess so. Thanks, Miss Mason, I appreciate it. You too. Bye."

She hung up the phone and sighed. "God, I never thought I'd hate the name 'Melody.' But," she walked back to the table with the cordless phone in her hand, "that's what I get for using it as an alias." Picking up the photo, she smirked at the girl in the glasses, "Life was a lot easier when I was still you. I thought it was hell, but Daria Morgendorffer really had it easier than Melody Lane." Her eyes moved to the other figure, "Maybe once I prove you're alive, I can get back to being Daria Morgendorffer again." She frowned, "Please be alive, Jane. I don't think I could take you really being dead."

Punching in anther number, she waited. After a few rings, she heard someone pick up the phone. "Peter Parker, please," she said.

[i]"Hello?"[/i] came a familiar voice a minute later.

"Hey, Pete? It's me."

[i]"Me who?"[/i]

"Very funny," Melody/Daria smirked.

[i]"Hey, with my busy social life, it's hard to keep all the girls who call straight."[/i]

"How many of them do you pay?"

[i]"Oh, [/i]Melody," his voice gave evidence that he was smiling. [/i]"How can I help you?"[/i]

"Tell our friend that he has a pickup. But, I'll be out of town for a few days, so don't bother with the usual . . ." She shook her head, then tried again. "I'm sick of word games. Tell Spider-Man that I'll be out of town, so don't drop off payment for the film. I'll call you when I get back and you two can leave my money then."

There was the sound of a chuckle. Then, [i]"I'll tell him. Does this have anything to do with that friend of yours?"[/i]

"You watch the news tonight?"


"Did you see the story on the wild woman?"

[i]"Sure did."[/i]

"It was her. I've just got to go find out why she's out there." Daria sighed, "I gotta go pack. If I remember the bus schedule correctly, there's one heading the right way in the morning."

[i]"Long trip."[/i]

"Yeah. But worth it if I can get both our lives back. Take care, Parker."

[i]"Hey," he corrected, "you're the one going Greyhound."[/i]

"You had to remind me."

[i]He was standing behind the microphone in the basement. As he played a song, he saw his sister come down the stairs. Behind her was her friend and his, Daria. Despite the volume of sound, he could hear Jane clearly when she spoke.

"Hey, Trent," she smirked, "how's it going?"


"Good. Did you know it was time for me to die?"


As he watched, Jane gasped, then fell limp to the floor with a large knife coming from her back. He looked from her to Daria, then back.

His gaze fell on Daria again as she shrugged, "Well, she was right, it was time for her to die." Then, the girl in the green jacket turned and walked up the stairs, while ignoring the blood on her hands.[/i]

"Jane!" Trent Lane sat up in bed as he called out for his sister. It took him a few seconds to realize where he was as he tried to calm down. With a small groan, he threw off the covers and stood. Absently, he adjusted the waist band of his boxer shorts as he made his way from his bedroom to the kitchen. Pouring himself a glass of water, he went into the living room. Bypassing the tv, he went to the window and looked outside.

It was only the second place he had ever lived, but this time it was his. The darkened sign that had the name of the club he now owned was to his right as he looked down on Dega Street. The small crowd that always seemed to be on the stretch of the street milled around in a flow that seemed to have more in common with some natural force than random chance. It was a force that had seen Trent through a rough time.

[i] It's strange,[/i] he thought to himself. [i]If it wasn't for those people down there I probably would have killed myself after Janey died. Then, to have this place fall into my lap.[/i] He shook his head as he turned away, [i]At least I saved some of Janey's art. The show the museum had was nice.[/i] He finished the glass of water, then returned the glass to the sink. With a shake of his head, he glanced at the window.

"Kinda like my own New York City Rhythm," he muttered.

A short time later, he stepped out the back door to the Zen and headed down Dega Street. It only took him twenty minutes to cover the distance from his current residence to the house where he had grown up with his sister.

There was something different, though. An unfamiliar car was sitting in the driveway. Trent scowled. "Probably someone in for a visit. Better let them know I moved."

He had just stepped inside when an almost hyper Wind grabbed him and pulled him over to the couch. "Where have you been? We've been looking for you for days. All your stuff is gone."

"I moved downtown. I'm the owner of a club and there's an apartment on the top floor." Trent looked at his older brother's face, "What's going on? You get remarried again?"

"Yeah, I met Vicki in Atlanta. Can you believe it?" He smiled.

"Vicki? Wasn't that the name of your first wife?"

"Yeah. We're going to make it work this time."

"You mean it's the [i]same[/i] Vicki?"

"Yeah!" Wind shook his head, "She's asleep upstairs. Look, Trent, you're not going to believe this."

"What, that you're here?"

"No." He leaned over and put his hands on Trent's shoulders. Looking into his brother's face, he said, "I saw Jane."

Trent frowned, "Jane is dead, Wind. Remember? We were the only two members of the family at the funeral."

"Trent, I'm not kidding. Hey, you've heard of the wilde woman, right?"

"Uh, yeah."

"It's Jane. I saw her myself tonight."

"Wind," Trent began.

"It's her, Trent. I know it is. I mean, they never found her body, right?"

The first flicker of doubt formed in Trent's mind. "Uh, no."

"Then she could be out there, right?"

"Uh, yeah. But why would she be out there instead of here?"

"Who knows? But, Trent, we need to find her. She could be in some kind of trouble."

Trent sighed. [i] There's no convincing him when he gets like this. Besides, they never did find her body. Could it really be her?[/i] "Okay," Trent told him. "If you want to look, we can go look."


"But not tonight. It's too late and we'll just get lost." He stood, "I'll meet you here tomorrow at about noon. We'll go then, okay?"

"Meet me here? Where are you going?"

"I moved," Trent reminded him. "I've got an apartment in town." Gesturing toward the telephone, he added, "My number is on the list on the phone."

"Wow," Wind glanced at the phone, then back to him. "I guess you moved on, then. That's wonderful, Trent. Although, when we get Jane back, I don't know what we'll do with her."

"Uh, yeah." Putting a hand up, Trent told him, "Let's hope that's a problem we have to solve. I'll see you tomorrow, Wind. We both need some sleep."

"Yeah." Wind smiled, "Tomorrow's going to be a good day."

As Trent left the house, he didn't see a small figure move from one side of the street to the other. Keeping to the shadows, they kept him in sight as he moved toward his apartment. Finally, as he entered the club, the shadow vanished into the larger shadow of one of the surrounding buildings.

Trent dumped his keys on the table next to the door as he came in. Sitting on the sofa, he pulled off his shoes and dumped them under the end table. Going to a small cabinet, he opened it and pulled out a glass. He poured a shot of liquor into the glass and turned to head back to his room. That was when he saw her.

Daria was standing there, looking just as he remembered. Even down to the skirt and glasses. One part of Trent's mind was wondering if he'd finally gone insane as another was wondering how she'd gotten into his apartment without him knowing about it.

"Hello, Trent." It sounded like Daria, only with less of a monotone.

"Hey, Daria." He could play along. If it was her, he'd call the police when he could. If not, he'd find out soon enough. He and Daria always understood each other.

"Can we talk?"

"About what?"


"You killed her," he said with a shrug. "What's there to talk about?"

Daria's scowled. "Trent, I didn't kill Jane! I would never do something like that!"

"Well," he glared, "she didn't kill herself."

"She's not dead, Trent."

"Not you, too." Slamming back the liquor, he set the glass on the end table, then gasped. He didn't drink the hard stuff often enough to do that without side effects.

"Me too?" She scowled at him, "Someone else recognized her from the news?"

"Wind says he saw her in the forest."

"It was her, Trent." Daria held up a video tape, "I was able to catch this on the late running of the news. Watch it." Suddenly, Daria glanced around. "Damn." After setting the tape on top of the glass, she moved toward his bedroom and said, "Watch that tape. I'll be in touch." Turning, she ran out of the room. Trent was about to go after her when there was a pounding on the door.

Opening the door, he saw several police officers standing there. "Mr. Lane," one of them said, "we have reason to believe that Daria Morgendorffer is in your apartment. May we see?"

"She's not here, officer," Trent said, surprising himself. "And, believe me, I'd recognize my sister's killer."

"May we look?"

"You know I can't let you do that." He grinned, "When you get a warrant, I'll let you in."

Grinning back, the lead officer said, "You musicians are all alike."

"Yeah, yeah. Go get a donut, Max."

"Later, Trent."

As the police cars pulled away, Daria watched from her perch on the dark side of the Zen. [i]Who could have tipped them off that I was there? Someone must have know I was back in town, but how? And how could they have known I would come see Trent?[/i] Rolling her eyes, she thought, [i]Like I have anyone else to see. I can't put my folks in danger, and Trent and Jane were the only two people I associated with. Get with it, Scarlet.[/i] A look of shock crossed her face. "When did I start thinking of myself as the Scarlet Spider?" she mumbled. "Damn, I've got too many names."

A sudden tingle sent her to the roof just as the window she had ducked out of opened. Trent leaned out and looked around. "Hey, Daria," he said, "keep your stupid video. I don't know how you pulled that fast fade, or for that matter, how the cops knew you were here. But I'll tell you this, if I see you again I'm turning you into the cops. There's too much water under the bridge for us. You stay away from me, and stay away from Jane. Alive or dead." After the tape came flying out of it, the window was slammed closed.

Sitting on the roof of the Zen, Daria pulled off the wig and looked at it. Biting her lip, she dropped her head. She was silent for a long time. Finally, she pulled her school outfit off and put it into her backpack. Donning her costume, she climbed down the wall to look inside the room.

Trent was in the bed, asleep. She placed a hand on the window gently, then climbed away. "She's not dead," the wall-crawler whispered as she left.

The next morning, the blond woman sat in "Do Me A Donut" and sipped her coffee as she nibbled on a bagel. She was dressed in jeans, a gray turtleneck and sneakers. The paper in front of her had a new sighting of the Wild Woman along with a story that recapped the newest legend of Lawndale. For the moment, however, her friend was not at the forefront of her mind.

[i]Who the hell am I, anymore?[/i] She thought to herself. Glancing at her reflection in the glass, she frowned, [i]I use to know who I was. It was just me, Daria Morgendorffer, cynic and target for idiots. Then, Upchuck tries to supercharge some mutated spider venom so he can be ultra-tough. Did a great job of making himself unstable. Idiot got me bitten by the spider and himself blown up because of a gas leak. And Jane,[/i] she looked at the paper, [i]Jane's running around in a fur bikini.[/i] She sighed, "Damn, life gets complicated."

There was a sudden rustle from the booth behind her. A head came around the end of the booth to look at her. "Daria?" a familiar voice asked.

"I'm sorry, who?" [i]Damn, it's Tom. What does Jane's boyfriend want? [/i]

Tom Sloan vanished for a moment, then stood as he moved to sit in her booth. "It's you, isn't it?"

"Do I know you?"

"Daria, it's me, Tom." He leaned forward so he could whisper, "What are you doing back in town? The cops are still looking for you."

"Who are you and why are you calling me 'Daria?' My name is Melody." [i]Oh, no, I tell him 'Lane' and he'll know who I am for sure.[/i]

"Last name 'Powers?'" He smirked.

"No," she braced herself, "Lane."


"Why am I talking to you?"

"Because you're worried about Jane, the same as me." He tapped the paper, "I should have realized that this news would bring you back to town."

[i]I bet someone else realized it, too.[/i] "I'm just passing through on my way back home."

"Where's that?"

"None of your business, Mister . . ."

"Very funny, Daria. Or," he smirked again, "Melody."

"Sir, if you do not leave me alone, I'm going to call the manager."

"How about one of those cops over there?" He gestured. "I'm sure they'd love to meet you."

"Good idea," she said, turning.

"Okay, okay." Tom put a hand on her arm. "Look, I heard you say something, and it sounded just like you use to sound. I know you're here to find Jane, and I want to help." He looked her in the eye and begged, "Please let me help."

They looked at each other for a long moment. Then, sighing, Daria sat back. "Fine. But you call me Daria again and I'm going to string you up."

"I'm down with that," he said.

"And stop trying to be 'with it,'" she smirked at him.

"Fine." He looked at the paper, "You find anything useful?"

"Only the official story." She pushed the paper toward him, "You have any unofficial stuff for me?"

"Not really." He turned the paper toward him, "She seems to operate within a five mile radius. I've been out there a couple of times, but I've not even seen her."

"Five miles? Hmm, that'd be easy in New York." [i]Swinging above the streets, anyway.[/i]

"New York? God, Dar, uh, Melody, I've been in New York. Two hundred yards is a big deal to cover there."

"Sorry, I was being sarcastic." Forcing a grin, she added, "I've gotten better at hiding it."

"So it would seem. So, Sherlock, what's our first move?"

"Have you looked for where she might be living?"

"I've been to the center of the radius several times, but haven't found anything." He shrugged, "I think she's sleeping wherever she gets tired."

Thinking it over, Daria nodded, "You think you could show me where she's seen most often?"

"That's what makes it hard," he explained, "there isn't just one place. The only area she avoids is an old farm out on the highway."

"Then let's find out why she avoids the farm."


The rusted Pinto Daria remembered had been replaced at one point with a new black Range Rover. Seeing it, she looked over at the owner.

"I needed something that I could search for Jane with," he explained. "When I told my folks I wanted something with four wheel drive, they went out and got me this."

"Well, they didn't skimp on anything," she said as she got a look at the interior.

"I know." He climbed into the passenger seat and buckled himself in as Daria did the same. When they were moving, he glanced at her before asking, "So, what did happen at the Ruttheimer's place?"

"You bring up the subject so smoothly," she grumbled.

"It's just that I've heard the official version, and it doesn't add up." He counted on his fingers, "According to your statement, Jane was with you when you jumped out of the window. But, her body was supposed to have been destroyed in the blast? You weren't even burned, but she was incinerated?"

"She wasn't. There were people there who were going to take her away, but I stopped them. I think they came back when I was unconscious and grabbed Jane." Looking out the window, she didn't see him glance at her.

"I like your hair, by the way."

"It's as different as I could get without shaving my head," she told him.

"You're right about that. You even dress differently."

"My mode of dress is not the topic of conversation," she turned to scowl at him.

"Well, you weren't talking about what happened, so I thought I'd change the subject."

[i]What can I tell you?[/i] She wondered. [/i] I got spider powers and fought Upchuck in his house? That we ruptured a gas line without realizing it and caused and explosion? How about that I'm fighting crime in New York as the Scarlet Spider, would you like to hear that?[/i] "It's just complicated," she told him.

"Why were you and Jane there, anyway? The police say you were having a threesome and ended up in a fight."

"You say that again and I will throw up on your nice clean upholstery." She sighed, "Truth is, he kidnaped Jane, and I went over to rescue her."

"That would explain why she missed a date and never returned my phone calls," Tom said. "Then, suddenly, she was being declared dead and you were on the run. I never believed any of it. Too many holes and too many questions."

"Gee, you must really annoy your professors with this thing about answers that make sense," she teased.

"You probably annoy yours with the fact that you know more about the subject than they do," he replied.

"I would if I went to college," Daria grumbled.

"You're not in college?" He asked in surprise.

"I'm on the run from the law, Tom. I don't have exactly have the resources to pay for it."


"You didn't try to kill me and Jane."

"True, but I am the one who made the comment about you and college."

"Can we just drop the subject?"

"Sure." They were silent as the Range Rover rolled out of town. Finally, he turned off of the road, heading toward a farm house. "This is it," he told her.

"Seems unassuming," she replied. As her spider-sense began to tingle slightly, she added a quiet, "Or not."

The man who came out to greet them was middle aged, with a white dress shirt under his overalls. He looked at them with suspicion as they climbed from the Range Rover and walked toward him.

"What can I do for you today?" he snapped at them. Daria and Tom noticed the butt of a pistol sticking out of the pocket of the overalls.

"We'd like to ask you a couple of questions about the Wild Woman of Lawndale," Tom told him.

"I don't know anything about it," was the irritate reply.

"We'd just like to know why she avoids your property," Daria told him. "Do you do anything here that's significantly different from your neighbors?"

"None of your damn business. Now," he pulled the pistol, "get out of here before I call the cops."

"And here I thought we were starting to really bond," Daria told him as she stepped back toward the Range Rover.

"Very funny, missy. Now, git."

The duo sat in silence until they were off of the property. Then, Tom glanced at her and said, "You notice anything funny about that place?"

"Other than the fact there wasn't a single piece of farm machinery to be seen?"

"How about that, despite the time of day, he didn't look to be in any hurry to start farming?" Tom added.

"I didn't see any crops, either."

"Other than these just along the roadside," he pointed.

"Looks more like something to hide behind than a farm." She looked at him, "I'd be willing to bet he's got something to hide out here."

"Oh, yeah." Tom scratched his left arm as he asked, "You still want to check out the center of her roaming area?"

"She has a cell phone? Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because roaming charges would apply," he replied. The two shared a grin as he drove farther away from town.

Behind them, the 'farmer' pulled a small radio from his pocket. Hitting the button, he spoke, "This is Hutton. I just had two kids come here asking why 'W' hadn't hit us."

"Did you tell them anything?" a voice on the radio asked.

"Just to get lost. I think one of them was the Sloan boy. Don't know who the girl was, though."

"He's just a nuisance. But keep us informed if they come back."

"Will do," the farmer replied. Then, pistol still in hand, he turned and went back into the house.

Tom slipped the Range Rover off of the dirt road they had been on and came to a stop. "It's over that way," he pointed with one hand as the other undid his seat belt.

"How far?" she asked him as she opened the door.

"About half a mile." When she came around the SUV, he glanced at her from top to bottom. "You look like you get a regular workout, so this shouldn't be too hard for you."

I usually get my workout about five stories up, she thought. "Yeah, I try to stay in shape. Better to escape muggers that way."

About forty minutes later, they came across a series of rocks that had branches laying across the top of them. "A shelter, you think?" Tom asked her.

"Could be." Holding up a hand, she circled around until she found an opening. She knelt down and climbed in. "There are more branches in here," she called out. "Not very big, though." She placed a hand on the center of the leaves, then quickly climbed out and back to her feet. "They're still warm," she told Tom.

They looked around them as concern mixed with hope. "I don't hear anything moving," Tom said.

"If she was hiding, she'd be very still," Daria replied. "If I was the one doing the hiding . . ." she thought aloud. Then, slowly, she looked up.

In the branches of one of the trees, she saw a head of black hair staring at her. The eyes were still blue, but had a feral look in them. Jane's expression was one of confusion as she crouched on a large branch. The two old friends locked eyes for a long moment.

"Jane?" Tom asked as he followed Daria's gaze. He started to step forward, only to have Daria reach out and grab his arm. "Ow!" he cried out as she squeezed a little harder than she had planned to.

At his cry, Jane broke her eye contact with Daria and leaped out of the tree. As she hit the ground, she whirled and raced into the underbrush.

"Go back to town and tell the police the truth, Tom!" Daria called out as she ran after her friend.

"And leave you out here with her? She might hurt you!"

Daria paused long enough to turn and glare at him, "I can't go because they'll just lock me up. You've got to tell them what you just saw. Please."

He sighed, "Okay, but you're never going to catch her."

"I've gotta try." Then, Daria turned and ran into the underbrush.

He's right, she thought, Daria or Melody or whoever I am this week can't catch Jane. But, she slipped her mask over her face, the Scarlet Spider has a few more options to choose from. She leaped from branch to limb as she raced above the path Jane had taken. Ahead, she would occasionally catch a glimpse of black hair that let her know she was closing.

Finally, Jane stopped to listen for pursuit. Hearing none, she turned to continue on. She stopped when confronted by the woman in red and black ahead of her.

"Jane?" Daria reached up and removed her mask. "Jane, it's me, Daria. Don't you remember me?" The woman leaned her head to the side as she took in the person speaking to her. Daria took a small step forward, then stopped as her friend took a larger one backward. "No, no. It's okay. It's me. Your friend, remember?"

The feral look faded slightly. A look of confusion appeared as Daria reached around and pulled off her backpack. Slowly, she removed the wig and glasses. As best she could, she put the wig on, then added the non-prescription glasses. She looked at Jane and smirked, "Does this help?"

Her lips moved a few times before Jane finally said, "D-Daria?"

"Yeah. It's me." She took a step forward, and was rewarded when Jane did the same.

"Where am I?" As if waking from a long sleep, Jane looked around. "How'd I get here? Everything seems so confused." Looking at Daria's outfit, she smirked, "God, where'd you get that outfit?"

"Long story, Jane. One that might actually have a happy ending."

"I thought you didn't believe in happy endings."

"I'll make an exception if you'll put on some clothes."

"Put on some clothes?" Jane looked down and gasped, "What hell happened to my clothes? I look like a Tarzan movie reject."

"Here," Daria pulled something out of her bag. "I brought something just for you."

Jane looked at the black one-piece bathing suit. "Ooh, fashionable."

"You prefer the fur?"

"Uh, no. You mind?" she made a turning motion, and Daria turned away. "Okay, I'm done," Jane said moment later.

"Feel better?"

"This fur was not professionally prepared for wear," Jane noted. "Who made this thing?"

"You did."

"What?" Jane gaped at her, "Daria, what's happened to me?"

"What do your remember?"

"Uh." Suddenly, Jane grabbed her head as if in pain. "No," she muttered. "Let me go." Falling to her knees, Jane gasped as the pain overwhelmed her.

"Jane?" Daria moved next to Jane and started to kneel next to her when her spider-sense fired off. Leaping straight up, she avoided the eight-inch metal claws that appeared from between the knuckles of Jane's hands. From her new perch in a tree, Daria looked down at her. "Jane, it's me."

Her only answer was a growl as Jane glared up at her. "No cage," came a growling voice. Then, with a swipe her claws, Jane sliced through most of the trunk of the tree Daria was in. Daria leaped to another tree as the first one fell. By the time she landed, though, Jane had vanished.