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Lily DeLuna, Investigative Reporter (LDIR) - Prologue

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  • Dan Swanson
    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
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 5, 2004
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      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
      then too!

      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
      life!

      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
      arrived.

      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
      trunk.

      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
      Boss exploded!

      "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
      too busy!"

      "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.
    • BLACKWOLF
      ... Well done and well handled as well. This has all the earmarks of yet another incredible serial! Wolf ===== ^ ^ * * (-)
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 15, 2004
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        --- Dan Swanson <ddswanson@...> wrote:
        Well done and well handled as well.
        This has all the earmarks of yet another incredible
        serial!

        Wolf

        =====
        ^ ^
        * *
        (-)



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