A Cool Night in Pittsburgh
- Ladies and Gents, Preeeesenting....... Pittsburgh's very own...
I asked Immortal Wildcat to try his hand at this character because I
thought he would do him justice - I'll leave that judgment up to you,
but in my opinion, he absolutely crushed this one!
A church bell tolled midnight as a sleek open-topped ebon-colored car
purred its way up 40th street and across the Allegheny River out of
Pittsburgh. Once across the river, the car turned right on to the
Blue Belt and sped away, quickly covering the distance to the small
town of Millvale. As the name implied, the suburban town was home to
a number of steel mills. Towering smokestacks belched forth clouds of
black smoke and gouts of sparks that glittered along with the stars in
the cloudless sky. The sports car wound its way between massive
buildings where the night shifts continued to melt ore and produce the
steel that was the lifeblood of the Pittsburgh of 1960. Veering down
a road running alongside the river, his destination soon came into
view. It stood out very clearly in the darkness, the neon paddlewheel
visible from three blocks away. The Steamboat Club stood at the far
end of a packed parking lot, He pulled in and drove up to the front
door, exiting the car and leaving the engine running.
Inside the club, Monique Montague stood at the hostess desk, ready to
greet any new arrivals. She saw the car pull up through the glass
doors, and motioned one of the parking attendants to go and park the
car. As the young man started out the door, the driver of the car
held up one hand and shook his head. "Don't worry about it, son. I
don't plan to stay long."
As he stepped inside, Monique was surprised, and pleased, by his
appearance. He was a Negro, of above average height, standing perhaps
an inch over six feet, and his body was slim, yet obviously athletic.
He wore a dark gray overcoat over a burnt-orange suit, a matching tie
draped down the front of his pewter-colored shirt. A dark,
wide-brimmed hat with a similarly rust-colored band wasn't enough to
hide the most unusual part of his wardrobe, however: the dark gray
domino mask on his face.
Before she could react to his entry, Gregor and Stan stepped in front
of the man. "Dunno what kind of funny business you're trying to pull
here, mister, but you ain't going inside," said Stan.
"He's right. We don't allow no wannabe heroes in here." Gregor, a
dark-haired, brooding giant of a man stood head and shoulders above
the dark-skinned masked man. He reached to grab the shorter man's arm
to escort him out, only to have his arm knocked to the side by a
sweeping forearm block.
"Oh, so we got us a wise guy, eh?" said Stan, stepping up to flank the
masked stranger. His move was cut short by a side kick to the
stomach. He fell back into a sitting position on the floor.
Gregor took a half-step back, crouching down into a fighting stance.
"Okay, little man. Let's see what you've got."
The masked man stepped forward and to his right, then quickly stepped
back and came forward again, this time to the left. The feint caught
the big Russian off-guard, and the masked man moved in under his
guard, striking the bigger man with a karate chop to the ribs followed
by an extended-knuckle punch to Gregor's thigh. Neither blow was hard
enough to do any real harm, but the big man reached for his leg as the
muscles spasmed. Doing so, he brought his head down lower. A fist
smashed upward into his jaw, snapping his head back. This was
followed by a knee driving up into his groin, then that same knee
smashed into Gregor's face. He dropped to the floor, unconscious.
Monique stepped around her desk. "Well, now that you've gotten your
exercise, sir, allow me to welcome you to the Steamboat Club. I hope
there is no confusion, sir, but the Mardi Gras Masked Ball was last
week. But I'll be happy to take your mask if you wish to enjoy the
"The mask stays," said the man, speaking in a rich-timbered baritone
that filled the room without seeming loud.
"I see," said Monique, snapping her fingers and waving a pair of
red-jacketed bus boys to move the unconscious bouncers out of the
lobby. "I'm afraid management has a rather strict policy regarding
our customers: we prefer to see their faces."
"Does that include the ones here for the gambling?" asks the masked
man, looking her up and down. He smiled, appreciative of the expanses
of coffee-toned skin revealed by her long, tight-fitting gown.
She moved closer, laying a hand on his arm and allowing a significant
portion of her body to rub up against his. "You obviously have us
confused with some of the, mmm, less sophisticated establishments
along the river. Perhaps, if you'd like, I can show you around the
Steamboat, and let you get," she paused a second, her eyes cast
downward. "Better acquainted?"
"Tempting as your offer sounds, Miss-"
"Monique. And your name?"
"You can call me Oxide. And I'm afraid I'm here strictly for
business." He reached inside his trench coat and pulled out a five by
seven photograph. "Has he been in tonight?"
Monique looked at the picture and let out a light, tinkling laugh.
"Him? Oh forget it, baby, he's much too pale to make it in the door
"Sure he is," said Oxide, putting the photo away and slipping a hand
around her waist. "Like that would matter. Lou Misenti has his hands
into every gambling operation in the Three Rivers region. If he's not
coming in here to check things personally, I want to know who is."
Monique pulled closer, feeling the heat of his body against her own.
She looked up into his hazel eyes. "I know everyone who comes in here,
but information has its price." She slipped her arms up under his,
placing her hands on his shoulders and drawing him down to her. Her
voice was a whisper in his ear. "So, what are you offering?"
His fingers played along the edges of her dress, where it fell to her
waist in the back. "I've got plenty to offer, darlin', but not
tonight." He eased himself out of her caress and moved gracefully
toward the door. "Some other time, perhaps."
Monique ran her hands down the slides of her dress, smoothing it out.
"Come back some night without the mask and the guns, and I'll show
you the best the Steamboat has to offer."
He raised a fingertip to the brim of his hat. "Oh, I'm sure I've seen
the best already," he said as he slipped out the door. 'Too bad the
police can't do a frisking like that', he thought, somewhat bemused.
He vaulted into the car, slipping down into the seat of the modified
Jaguar XKD racer. As he drove off, he toggled a switch on the radio
under the center panel.
"You there, Dennis?" he asked.
A voice came back over the radio. "Colt? I was starting to wonder if
you were going to make it out of there in one piece."
"The two bouncers went down like bowling pins. I thought the Russian
goon was supposed to be tough?"
"That's what they told me. I don't get out much these days." his
partner responded bitterly. He didn't often let his confinement to a
wheelchair affect him. He quickly continued, before Colt had a chance
to become uncomfortable. "Any luck?"
"Don't doubt I could've gotten lucky with the hostess. She lied about
Misenti, but she might still give me a lead. That is, if Bruno's
"Bruno's gadgets always work, Colt." Several miles away, in his
estate in the hills of Dusquene Heights, Dennis David smiled. With
the prices he paid, he thought, Bruno's gadgets had better work. "You
think she knows anything?"
"If she knows half of what she claims, she knows who's making the
pick-ups for Misente, and probably how much they are. But I don't know
what that's got to do with this operation you heard about for
tonight." Oxide flipped another switch, and a smaller radio came to
life. The sound of a phone dialing came out of the speaker. Oxide
started counting the pulses.
"Lou, it's Monique. Someone just came around looking for you."
"It's working, Dennis." "It" was a button-sized microphone and
transmitter that he'd slipped into her dress.
"You'll take care of it? All right then." He heard Monique hang up
the phone, then she let out a sigh. "Too bad, he might have been
fun." Colt made a mental note to go back to the Steamboat some time
when he wasn't on business.
"Satisfied?" asked Dennis over the radio link.
"That it works? Yeah. Local phone number, 732-9932, see if you can
get anything from the phone company." Oxide glanced in one of the
rear-view mirrors and saw two pairs of headlights swinging in from
side streets to fall in behind him. "Hmm, looks like Lou is a fast
"Nothing I can't handle," said Oxide with a smile. "Call Zeke, tell
him I'll try to drop this garbage off at his place."
"Will do," said Dennis as Oxide turned his focus to his driving.
Oxide gunned the engine as he drove back toward the city. In a flat
out chase, he had no doubt the Jaguar was faster than anything
Misenti's men were likely to be driving. However, he wanted to lure
these two down to the precinct house where Zeke, aka Police Detective
Lance Pautzke, was working. That meant driving the twisting city
streets, and watching out for pedestrians and other drivers. He had no
illusions that the two drivers on his tail shared his worries about
innocent bystanders. He stayed on the Blue Belt as it merged with
Union Street, keeping well ahead of his pursuers while making sure
they didn't lose sight of him. At 16th street, he skidded into the
intersection, the car turning to face south, then he gunned the
engine. The sleek black car leapt forward like the jungle cat for
which it was named. By the time he reached the end of the bridge over
the Allegheny, he spotted the first pair of headlights turning the
corner to follow him, followed by a second.
"Zeke's got men at the Grant Street station, wants to know how long
till you get there," asked Dennis over the radio as the Jaguar turned
right on to Penn Avenue.
Oxide glanced at a signpost as he passed. "I'm passing 14th on Penn,
I'll cut over at 11th to Grant, and it's about three-quarters of a
mile from there. Two minutes, unless some fool gets in the way."
"Colt, watch those tracks by the train station, those back shocks are
a little wonky." Oxide smiled at the lilting voice coming over the
radio. He could picture Mel, in her grease-stained coverall, long
hair carefully tied back in a braid, leaning over the desk to speak
into the microphone.
"Don't worry, Mel, I know what your baby is capable of."
"That's what worries me, you bloody Moor."
Up ahead, Oxide could see the back side of the train station. The
tracks crossed Penn Avenue on this side of the station, and 11th
Street was on the other side. He saw a car start to pull out ahead of
him from the station parking lot. "Damned idiot!" he swore as he
stomped on the brake and swung the wheel to the right. The back end
of the car swung to the right, and he cranked the wheel to the left as
he hit the gas again, taking off across a parking lot. There was a
twenty-foot wide grass-covered embank leading upward from the edge of
the parking lot and the railroad tracks, and another embankment
leading down into the back lot of the train station. "Hey, Mel, got a
question for you," he said as he floored the accelerator.
"I'm afraid to ask "
"How are the front shocks?" The Jag was traveling just under 80 mph
when he reached the edge of the pavement. The smooth street tires
slipped a bit on the grass, but sheer momentum kept the car moving
through the weeds. At the top of the embankment, the car left the ground.
"Did you-? Are you-? Oh, bloody hell, please tell me you didn't just
jump the tracks!" screamed Mel.
The car came down just past the grass on the opposite side of the
tracks, the back end of the car dropping down to strike the pavement
and send up a shower of sparks. "As you wish, I won't tell you. And
to answer my own question, the front shocks are just fine."
Oxide hit the gas again, steering the car out of the parking lot and
on to Grant Avenue. The back end was riding lower than usual, and the
car was sluggish in the turn. He quickly calculated how much
chocolate it was going to take to buy his way off Mel's spit list.
Looking in the mirrors once more, he saw that one of the cars, which
he recognized as a 1958 Corvette, had duplicated his jump, while the
older Cadillac stayed on the road and was just turning on to Grant.
"Don't know what your guys have been telling you, Dennis, but
Misenti's hired himself some good drivers."
Grant Avenue was deserted, so Colt floored the gas pedal and streaked
through intersections and down to where he knew the police station
stood. The Cadillac and the Corvette were racing after him,
"Aww, come on, you're not going to catch me in a phalanx like that,"
said Oxide as he swerved to the left and toggled a switch on an
obviously hand-made panel next to the steering column. There was an
audible thump as a small explosive charge opened a compartment under
the back end of the car, and several dozen spiked balls were released
on to the road. He smiled as he saw the Cadillac slow down and fall
in behind the Corvette just as he passed the police station. He saw a
half-dozen uniformed officers coming out the front door as he hit the
brakes and swung the steering wheel around. As the car turned 180
degrees in the intersection, he reached under his coat and pulled out
one of two guns from his under-shoulder holster. Pressing a lever
with his thumb as he drew, parts of the gun glowed a dim orange. He
thumbed a dial, counting the clicks, then he aimed and fired at the
Corvette's front end. From a hundred feet away, he heard the grinding
of the car's brakes as the brake pads and rotors blossomed with rust.
The brakes locked up, bringing the car to an abrupt stop right in
front of the gathered policemen. The Cadillac, unable to stop as
quickly, plowed into the back of the Corvette. The fiberglass body of
the Vette disintegrated to dust around two dismayed hoods.
Oxide tucked the pistol back into its holster as he gunned the engine
and sped back up Grant Avenue, past the totaled cars and the officers
trying to pull the drivers from the wreckage. Spotting Detective
Pautzke, Oxide touched a finger to the brim of his hat as he sped by.
"Colt! You there? I've got an address to go with that phone number."
Dennis' voice crackled over the radio.
"Yeah, I'm here, rich kid. What've you got?"
"Address is 8843 Wharton St. Matches up with the rumors I heard about
something going down tonight."
Oxide swung the car around a corner and started heading toward the
Tenth Street Bridge. As the car sped up, he noticed that the rumbling
he'd felt from the back after his jump disappeared. Then he realized
that the road noise had disappeared completely, and he felt no
resistance as he pressed down on the gas pedal. Stunned, he looked
out and realized the car was rising above the surrounding buildings.
He looked up, and he could vaguely see a circular shape in the sky
above him. The car headed toward a darker rectangle set in the
circle, and he realized it was an opening. He reached under his coat
and pulled the oddly-shaped pistol he had used moments before,
slipping it into a compartment up under the dashboard. Flying saucers
didn't come along every day, and he figured the oxidizing pistol from
which he'd taken his nickname was the most likely reason for this
flying saucer to be interested in him.
Moments later, the car was sitting in a large bay, surrounded by
robotic creatures pointing what appeared to be weapons at him. As he
slowly got out of the car, he pulled the other pistol, a standard 1911
pistol, and laid it on the ground next to him, and waited to see what
would happen next.
- It might not be apparent on the surface, but the chapter we wrote
together in which you detailed Captain Marvel first meeting Captain
Thunder was on my mind a lot when I was writing this chapter. You
did a great job of bringing out the emotions involved, and there were
a lot of similarities between what you achieved and what I was hoping
to achive here. Thanks!
--- In ShazamEarthSliveson@yahoogroups.com, Drivtaan <drivtaan@...>
> .retpahc citsatnaf a saw sihT
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]