Lily DeLuna, Investigative Reporter (LDIR) - Prologue
- It was the wee hours of the morning in the Opal City business district
- and the rest of the city, for that matter! There was a local saying
that anyone out and about at that hour was either a doctor or a crook.
Well, turns out that isn't quite true. There may be reporters out
Anyone watching the pocket park near the Capital Building would have
been surprised to see two well-dressed gentlemen seated on one of the
benches, deep in conversation, just as if it were the middle of the
day. Although the watcher would have to peer very hard, as
well-trimmed trees and hedges blocked out the light from the nearby
street lamps, leaving the bench in a pool of deep darkness.
It wouldn't be very healthy to be that watcher, though. A half dozen
other men, in the employ of one or the other of the figures on the
bench, were scattered around the area to make sure there weren't any
watchers. What would happen to anyone they found wouldn't be
pleasant. Probably not fatal, either, but sometimes mistakes
happened... These men remained very well hidden and they were quite
good at their jobs - and very patient. A homeless drunk had wandered
nearby, unknowingly putting himself at risk, but he had never noticed
anything, and so had been allowed to stumble away, ignorant of his
close brush with terror and pain.
And yet, even with all the precautions used by the sentries, the early
morning meeting was under observation. The observer was tall and
slender, dressed entirely in midnight blue and black, wearing a black
trench coat and a tight fitting black mask, which left no skin
exposed. Close examination would have shown that the mask didn't
confine her black hair, which fell below her shoulders, and a US Army
night vision snooperscope over her eyes, the powerpack carried in a
backpack concealed under the trench coat. She was carefully carrying
a 5' quarterstaff, which was colored flat black. In the other hand
she had an unlit flashlight and there was a camera slung around her
neck. The camera and flashlight had also been colored flat black.
She moved carefully and very quietly, clearly aware of the positions
of the 6 sentries, and their two principals seated on the bench. So
far she had managed to remain hidden from the sentries as she
approached, but that was about to change.
If you haven't yet recognized Lily DeLuna in search of a story, that's
not surprising. She didn't normally wear a costume when she was
working. But wasn't normally trying to overhear a conversation
between a gangster boss and a top city official at 3 am, either! When
she had learned of this meeting, she had put together the outfit,
hoping she would be able to approach without being seen. She had
hoped the two principals would come alone, but they were too paranoid
for that! It was kind of exciting to be dressed up as a 'mystery
woman' and she had even made up her own code name, 'Moonflower'. She
had to keep reminding herself that this wasn't a game. It could mean
her life if those thugs caught her.
Lily had hoped that she would be able to get close enough to overhear
the conversation between the seated men, but she realized that no
matter how carefully she moved, this was as close as she was going to
get without being caught. She could hear their voices, but was unable
to make out what they were saying. She was disappointed but not
surprised. She had a backup plan for just this situation. A record
of their conversation would be best, but photographs of the two men
meeting would be sufficient for the story she was planning to write.
She really didn't want to have to fight 6 armed men at once! If they
hadn't had guns, she thought her staff might give her a chance. Very
few people who weren't trained in martial arts realized just how
dangerous a weapon a quarterstaff really was. Again, she had to
remind herself to be careful - she had never actually fought 6
opponents before except in training classes, and those opponents had
never been thugs! These guys wouldn't stop fighting if they hurt her.
Working very carefully and quietly, she pulled a flare from a pocket
inside the trench coat. She set up a tripod and mounted the camera,
then aimed it at the bench deep in the shadows. She estimated the
distance and set the focus. She had practiced taking pictures using
the light from flares several times recently, to find the best
combination of shutter speed and film speed to get the best possible
pictures. She knew that best she could hope for would be high
contrast black and white pictures, but the men in the pictures should
be readily recognizable, giving her proof that this secret meeting
really took place. She set the automatic camera to take 5 pictures as
fast as it could, which would take about 7 seconds. She then took a
deep breath, and started the timer.
She had 10 seconds to prepare - or back out! She got ready to ignite
and throw the flare, and then waited out the longest 10 seconds of her
Finally she pulled the cord on the flare and threw it towards the
bench. The shutter clicked just before the flare ignited, and all 8
men turned towards the camera. They were looking right at the flare
when it ignited, and they were all temporarily blinded.
The first picture was taken in darkness, but the flare provided
illumination for the other 4 pictures. She hoped at least 2 of the
pictures would show their faces, before they got their arms up to
block out the light. She had removed the night vision goggles, turned
her back and closed her eyes, and as soon as she saw the flare light
through her eyelids she opened them again. As soon as the camera
stopped clicking, she picked it up and took off running, directly away
from the park. She had scouted this router carefully earlier today,
and the flare provided enough light that she could run at top speed.
There was total confusion behind her - all 8 men had been blinded by
the flare and were unable to see. And the flare had rolled close
enough to one of the seated men to set his pants leg on fire! Several
shots were fired, blindly, before the men on the bench screamed at
their sentries to stop shooting before they hurt their bosses! One
man and his 3 bodyguards groped towards the edge of the park,
stumbling towards their car, while the other man rolled on the ground,
screaming in pain as he tried to put out the fire eating at his pant
leg. One of his bodyguards had apparently partly recovered his sight,
because he wrapped his jacket around his boss's leg and then lay on
top of it to smother the flames. The boss screamed at him, and he
quickly jumped up.
As she ran on, Lily paused briefly to activate a fire alarm call box,
and then continued running. She risked a look back and was
well-satisfied to see that in some of the buildings around the park
lights were starting to come on. A few of the companies in the area
maintained night watchmen, and the screaming and shooting had been
enough to alert these watchmen, even those who had been asleep. In
only a few minutes, the police and fire fighters ought to arrive. She
thought the conspirators would probably escape, but that was OK. She
hoped she had the photo she needed!
As she had planned, she was well away from the area before the men had
recovered their sight well enough to start looking for her, and by
that time, all they had in mind was getting away before the police
About a quarter mile away, she stopped, very winded. As if running in
a trench coat wasn't tiring enough, the power pack for the night
vision goggles weighed about 30 pounds. Lily had planned her escape
carefully, though. From behind a hedge around a restaurant that
offered outdoor seating, she pulled a bicycle and quickly rode away.
Within 15 minutes of the time she threw the flare, Lily had covered
more than 2 miles.
She had changed directions several times, and she was sure nobody was
following her. She was thankful that almost nobody in Opal City was
out and about at this hour. She knew that in New York or Metropolis,
the streets would be far from deserted. She had had to take a chance
that somebody might see her riding her bike and wonder what she was
doing out at that time in the morning, especially dressed as she was
and with a snooperscope. But she had planned the route carefully and
encountered no one.
Lily had bought the bike, used, the day before for $2, so it didn't
bother her much to leave it behind. She was near an elementary
school, which had a bike rack out back. This must be a safe
neighborhood - there were a half dozen bikes left overnight in the
rack, and only two of them were locked. She slipped her bike into the
rack, hoping that it would eventually end up in the hands of a good
kid. She had parked her car a block away. Before she got in, she
took off the black trench coat and the blue and black shirt she was
wearing and put on a blouse that she often wore to work. It went well
with the dark midnight blue of her pants. She packed the coat and
shirt into the pack with the snooperscope, and stashed the pack in the
Lily was worried that somebody might remember her car. She drove a
supercharged gold 1937 Cord Sportster Cabriolet, not exactly a common
sight. But she even had that covered - she had often driven her car
to work when she was on the night shift at the Register, and she
always drove down this road. She wasn't working night shift any
longer, but she occasionally stopped in to see her friend Betsy, and
that was her alibi tonight.
The man who hadn't escaped being burned was John Ross, chairman of the
Opal City City Council. The other man was 'Boss' Neuertski, one of
the leaders of organized crime in Opal. Neither man looked forward to
the reaction that would occur if their meeting was exposed to the
public! All Ross could do was pray, but Neuertski had other options.
After he and his bodyguards had finally hopped into their car, the
"Stones, what the hell was that? You guys are supposed to protect me!
Did you see who that was?" Jackie "Stones" Stonalli was the most
senior of the bodyguard crew. Well, he had been the most senior - he
had a good idea that he might be starting another career tonight -
like singing to the fishes, up close and personal.
"I'm really sorry, boss! Dat flare blinded me, just like the rest of
yas!" Stones wasn't gonna just give up. He was deliberately reminding
the Boss that he wasn't the only one caught off guard. He didn't
think it would matter - it was _his_ job, nobody else's, to keep crap
like this from happening. "I heard a camera, boss, and then that
damned flare went off, and then someone runnin away, but I couldn't
seen nuthin. By da time I could see anyting again, the fire siren was
blarin and Ross and his boys was gone."
"Mr. Stonalli, you and your boys screwed up big time tonight. If you
really heard a camera, and those pictures ever get printed, you'll end
up eating those 'stones' you are so proud of, just before ya get two
in the hat! Lucky you, you got one chance to redeem yourself. You
find me that creep that took those pictures, and bring me da film, and
you might live. I'm leavin' it up to you, Stonalli - get outta here
and get goin!" They had reached Stonalli's neighborhood. The driver
slowed down, but didn't stop, while the Boss opened the door and
shoved Stonalli out. He fell and rolled a couple of times before
smashing to a stop against a mailbox. "You probably got till
daylight, Stonalli. Better get to work!" The Boss slammed the door
and the car drove off.
The Boss turned his attention to one of the other bodyguards, Al
(Banana) Lopenda. "Banana, I tink I've got you to thank for putting
out the fire on my pants?"
"Yeah, boss, that was me!" Banana said proudly. Guys that did thing
for the boss usually got a promotion. Banana thought it was about
time! He was better than that foul-up Stonalli any day!
"Tanks, Banana, but couldn't you have been a little... you know...
gentler? That was my leg, you moron!" He was ranting again. Banana
just had time to realize he was in trouble, when the Boss shot him.
"Tommy, get rid of this trash when we get back to the office! No,
first roust Sawbones outta bed and tell him to come round to my
office, yesterday or sooner! Then take out the trash!"
Tommy realized he was probably going to live, so all he did was shake
his head and say "Yes, boss!"
Stones was actually a pretty smart guy - otherwise the Boss would have
killed him long ago. He realized he would probably live through this
incident regardless of what happened, because the Boss needed him.
Everyone else in the organization was a screw-up. Without Stones to
tell them what to do, the whole thing would fall apart. But he wasn't
going to take any chances. He would find that creep and once he got
the film back, that creep would pay. He quickly interrupted his own
pleasant fantasies of torture to organize a search.
He realized that whoever took the pictures must want to use them
either for evidence, or blackmail, or just to expose the Boss's
connections with Ross. Wait a minute, Ross might have had them taken
for protection! So his suspects were the other organized crime groups
in the city, cops and private investigators, the press, and Ross
himself. No, wait, it couldn't be the cops, or they would have
captured everyone as soon as they had the pictures. And if it was some
of the other crooks, he would hear about it soon enough, when the Boss
sent him on a raid. Now that was somethin to look forward to! He
sort of hoped it was Boss Alidar. He had a grudge with that one!
He sent some goons to Ross's home. They was to drag Ross back to the
Boss's headquarters and scare him a little, 'till Stones could get
there and ask him some questions. The Boss's organization kept tabs
on a couple of crooked private dicks, and he called them to check out
the honest ones. He wanted to know where every PI in Opal City was
that night, and he wanted to know yesterday! He had a couple of
snitches working for the town papers, and when he talked to the one at
the Register, he figgered he'd hit the jackpot!
"Last week, that bimbo Lily DeLuna, the one who just moved from the
night shift came around and wanted to do an expose on corruption in
the City Council. I told her Ordun was already working the story, and
assigned her something else. But I noticed she started hanging around
with Ordun the next couple of days. She's sharp enough to figure out
he's not working any stories right now."
"Why din cha call me 'bout dis last week?" The snitch heard anger in
Stonalli's voice. He suddenly remembered that working for the mob can
be a dangerous business.
"Ah, ah..." he thought fast. "I never figured she'd follow it up on
her own! I gave her several other assignments to make sure she was
"Well, Mac, it looks like you mighta been wrong. Tell ya, if this
broad got pictures of the Boss and Ross together, and she comes to you
wit dem, you be happy to see 'em and tell her they'll go on the front
page next day, and to get busy writing the story. And convince her to
keep it quiet! Then call me. I'll take it from there."
"Whatta ya gonna do, Stones?" Stonalli could tell he was worried; his
perfect diction was starting to slip. "I don't want any shootings in
my news room!"
"You shoulda thot about that last week, sucker! But don't worry, we
don't want no publicity here. You just make sure you call me, and
like I says, I'll handle the rest. It's been real good talkin wit ya,
Mac! The Boss will be real happy to hear your news!"
Stones didn't call off his other boys. There was a good chance that
this DeLuna broad wasn't the sneaky shutterbug. That job tonight had
taken brains and guts, and there wasn't a skirt he knew with that much
on the ball. But if he didn't cover all the angles, he' be fish food
by this time tomorrow.
Maybe he ought to make a personal call on DeLuna? If she was the one
he was looking for, he didn't want to give Mac a chance to screw
things up. Hope there ain't too many DeLuna's in the phone book - he
didn't want to have to call Mac back and ask for her address, 'cause
he knew Mac would give him away somehow.
Stones didn't spell too good, so he called one of the boys in to look
up her name. One of the boys, a new guy at the time, had thought it
was funny how he couldn't read, Well, Stones had thought it was
funny, that the new guy couldn't swim with his feet in a bucket of
cement. Nobody ever laughed at him again. The Boss had yelled at him
a little for wastin new talent, but it had been worth it.
Stones rounded up his three most trusted boys and they piled into the
car, headed for Lily's house.