9-News: 40.056 – In Darkness By the River

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9-News: 40.056 – In Darkness By the River

Post by RonCo » Tue Nov 12, 2019 2:44 pm


Something past midnight, and up north the city was as asleep as it was ever going to be.

Here, though, in the south of the city, the pulse—like the brain waves of certain BBA team owners—is a bit slower. Traffic ran north and south over the highway above her, tires rasping like snakes, the occasionally gas guzzler roaring by with a harsh grating that annoyed her. Otherwise the area here is as dead as she had expected.

She looked upstream of the Little Calumet river. Stacks from the toxic plastics factory upstream belched smoke even in this age of “enlightenment.” An Ashland plant beside it combined to emit a coarse smell that the club who plays in the park across the way tried to pretend didn't exist. Black Sox Park, she thinks. Better to call it Black Soot Park.

The service road running between the park and the river is empty of traffic, and--unless you count river rats rummaging the mucked up shore--the area is as still as a corpse. For now, anyway.

The woman, known by day as Heidi Hickman, stood in the darkness of the highway 94 underpass and pointed an ap on her phone at the ballpark across the distance, ensuring it read 1,001. Just enough. Alter ego, or not, she understands a law is a law.

The park is dark tonight, the Sox being away—as irony would have it—getting their asses kicked by Yellow Springs. She smiled as she took in the score. 3-0, Carlos Valle had done his thing, and Sergio Martinez’s homer was cherry on the pie.

The woman admonished herself, though, as she fixed her gaze back to Paxton Avenue.

Now was no time to be thinking about the game.

If her information was good, the truck would be turning onto Paxton from Dolton about now, and rolling into sight beyond the ballpark a few minutes later. And since her information came from Triple Axe, one of the best street people in the city, she knew it was good. Heidi had grown up in the city, and TA had been a friend since early in high school when he’d saved at least her dignity, and probably her life, by chasing a ganger away when she’d foolishly went down the wrong alley at the wrong time. They’d been friends ever since, she helping him when she could, him helping her. It was a relationship that opened her eyes to how there was always more going on in the world than those in power might want you to see.

It was Triple Axe who taught her how to ditch a tail—like the one Vinnie Vitale had set to follow her to Yellow Springs. Standard fare for the ass. He had all the subtlety of Bruce Banner on full Smash. She could have dropped him earlier, but it was better this way. Let Vinnie the Ass think he knew what was going on. She smiled, thinking about Triple Axe’s proposal. Help him feed the street folks, and they’d save a few cars here and there by making sure they were parked right. She smiled again when she’d told him she’d do more if he had juicier dirt.

For all his grunginess, Triple Axe made good money. And if he said the truck was coming at 1:00AM, then the truck was coming at 1:00AM.

She gazed at the spot where the road ran along from behind the park, waiting.

If one were close enough to her, and of exceptional vision, one might be able to make out the shape of her lithe legs in black spandex as they led from under her thigh-cutting leather jacket that was, also, as black as the shadows. It you could discern that, surely one would pick out the crisp-cut shoulders edgy enough to break the night. Her equally dark shirt was thin and clung as tightly to her chest and throat as the spandex did her thighs. Her hair was cropped short, and as dark as the rest of this description would suggest it should be. Calf-high boots, soft, rolled fashionably at the cuffs, and equally black, capped the image. It was an ensemble Heidi had decided on back when she was a kid and had watched old Marvel movies. Her friends considered her bubbly and fun to be around, but she had a more somber side. When they played superheroes, Heidi always wore black.

“Hellscape,” she whispered aloud, then she smiled.


A fitting name for a superhero.

With that, headlights appeared on Paxton. Heidi…no…Hellscape…pushed the phone into her pocket, and ...

The wind, gentle tonight and from the southwest is barely enough to carry away the stench of the river to the north. She let the sound of traffic above her focus her mind. From the bag she’d carried around her shoulders, she pulled the night vision camera, and started rolling tape.

The truck, complete with the logo of South Side Towing flaking off its driver door, rolled onto the service road. Tires crunched. A cloud of petroleum exhaust billowed from an ancient tailpipe. Finally, the vehicle stopped at a place Hellscape knew had once been a boat ramp, but was now just a cracked slab of decaying concrete. When the engine stopped, a moment of silence seemed to pervade.

Then four men hopped out of the truck, and worked quickly to unload several vats from the back gate. Each vat was taken to the shoreline, its contents dumped into the river, then the vat returned to the truck bed.

The foulness of the deed made Hellscape’s stomach grow a lump. A rancid odor settled over the entire river front, gaseous and fetid, caustic and thick as clotted blood.

She thought about the people downstream, drinking that water.


When the deed was done, the men climbed back into the truck. The engine coughed to a phlegmy roar, and the vehicle clattered away.

Alone in the underpass, Hellscape shut off the recording. She ran it back, looking at the men, wondering if they understood what they were doing, asking herself if she could ever fall so low, debating how much money it would take to break her will. The image was good, she thought. Technology was amazing. She would trace her steps backward soon, walk to a rental pod, where she would change clothes and become blonde, through a night club, and out, dropping a few bucks to help the bartender remember her name was Samantha. There were more steps, too, but a superhero has to protect certain parts of herself, she thought, as she watched the tape. The last would be to deposit the information in a place where certain officials were certain to see it.

Suddenly, brow creasing, she stopped a frame.

The stance of one of the men as a vat was being dumped was familiar. Could it be?

Expanding the screen, she saw that yes, she was right.

Mark Simpson. The Chicago Black Sox bonus baby, and a guy who was supposed to come off the Injury List any moment after recovering from a ligament tear in his ankle. He was here, dumping toxic waste into the Little Calumet. Holy…

Hellscape watched as Simpson turned after dumping his last vat.

The first baseman took a step in the river muck, and then gave a quick jerk—like something twisted. Hellscape saw him limp a moment, hobbling as he slipped back toward the truck. When Simpson got into the back, you could see he was upset.

She shut down the camera then, and put it away.

Time to get back, she thought.

But first: Heidi Hickman extracted her phone from its pocket, and keyed in a text.

Expect an announcement that Mark Simpson’s injury is more severe than first thought.

She hit send, then shouldered the camera bag and headed west into the dark of night.
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Re: 9-News: 40.054 – In Darkness By the River

Post by jleddy » Tue Nov 12, 2019 2:50 pm

Oh. My. God.
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Re: 9-News: 40.054 – In Darkness By the River

Post by 7teen » Tue Nov 12, 2019 3:11 pm

Gold! Pure. Freaking. Gold!!
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Re: 9-News: 40.054 – In Darkness By the River

Post by shoeless.db » Tue Nov 12, 2019 3:14 pm

Oh, Vinnie's not going to like this.

Love it, Ron. Great stuff!
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Re: 9-News: 40.054 – In Darkness By the River

Post by HoosierVic » Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:06 pm

Oh my.

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Re: 9-News: 40.054 – In Darkness By the River

Post by bschr682 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 11:14 pm

The plot thickens...
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