So much for that special relationship between cops and reporters.

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 1

The driver, still working off a Sunday night six-pack, wasn’t sure whether he heard it or felt it. A muffled thump, a fleshy noise that rose above the tinny, grinding sound of the gears. He released the clamps that locked the high school dumpster to the back of the truck. Blade’s probably chewing through a bag of meat, he thought.

Then everything slowed down.

Shit. Truck’s acting up again. That’s the problem when companies get too big too fast. No attention to maintenance. He couldn’t complain too much, though. RDM, Regional Disposal Management, had been pretty good to him. He made good money driving those big blue trucks. Especially since they’d locked up most of the contracts on the North Shore. It beat working on the line like he used to, assuming you could even find a place that wasn’t overrun by wetbacks.

Another thud. Fucking teenagers. Too good for the food in the cafeteria. Plenty of people would be grateful for a square meal, but they didn’t live on the North Shore of Chicago. He threw the machine’s gears into neutral and was climbing out of the cab when the stench assailed him. Garbage was always rancid, especially rotten meat. But this was different. Pinching his nose closed, he moved to the bed of the truck and opened up the hopper. Hooking his arm over the edge, he stepped up and peered in. Then he retched.

***

Glenbrook Detective Matt Singer folded his tallis and carefully slid it in the velvet bag Georgia bought him for his birthday. He should have gone to morning prayers but he’d drifted back to sleep after Georgia left, so he did them at home. He placed the bag on the shelf in the closet. Before closing the door, he ran his hand over Georgia’s clothes. Strange to see skirts and dresses next to the few things he needed to hang up. But not unpleasant. When he pressed his face against the purple dress she’d worn last night and inhaled her musky scent, he hardened. Smiling, he shuffled into the bathroom.

He turned on the shower, then stepped in. The jets of water loosened his neck muscles, and as he lathered the soap into foamy white bubbles, he realized he was humming. Afterwards he toweled off and wiped the steam off the mirror. He was shaving when the call came in.

 ***

In the neighboring village of Northview, Detective Sergeant John Stone poured a cup of coffee. The lunchroom in the village police station wasn’t much of a room—a cramped windowless space with cinderblock walls and a couple of vending machines, but that’s where the guys on the force hung out. Two officers lounged at a table while a third read aloud from the morning newspaper.

“Two Chicago tactical officers were shot and killed last night as they intercepted a drug sale on the west side. Members of the Gangster Disciples are suspected…”

Stone dumped three packs of sugar into his coffee. Why did cops abuse themselves by reading the paper? The reporters always got it wrong— who did what to who and why. And that “special” relationship between cops and journalists? The few times the reporters did get it right, their arrogance was insufferable.

“Bunch of fucking cowboys.” One of the uniforms said, pointing at the paper.

The cop who’d been reading out loud looked up. “At least someone’s still out on the street.”

“Not for long, if these yo-yos keep screwing up,” the second officer said.

Stone bit back a reply. Northview was a bedroom suburb of Chicago, and the cops in the lunchroom were young, green, and cocky. Twenty years on the West Side would cure them. Still, they had a point. Chicago had been plagued with so many bad cops and scams in recent years even the Chief of Police had been forced to resign. Those who survived were either running for cover or trying to be super-heroes. Stone was glad he was out of it. Not much happened in the suburbs. That was good.

The crisp sound of leather heels clacking down the hall cut through his thoughts. Stone knew it had to be brass—the rest of the world wore Nikes. Seconds later, Hank Phillips ducked his tall frame through the door.

“Stone. I was just coming to see you.”

“What’s up, Hank?” Phillips was the kind of boss who would find you rather than make you cool your heels in his office. Unusual for a Chief of Police. Even in the suburbs.

“You know the Feldman construction site?”

Stone nodded. Stuart G. Feldman, a successful developer, had bought one of the last unimproved tracts in the village. His plans to build a retail center, which everyone knew was a euphemism for a mall, had unleashed a storm of resistance that was gathering force. Village residents didn’t need the tax revenues, didn’t care about the amenities, and didn’t want the congestion.

Phillips poured coffee into a plastic cup. “Well, a few weeks ago, some of the good citizens formed a coalition to fight the project. They’re calling themselves CEASE.”

“How’s that?”

“‘Citizens’ Effort Against Senseless Expansion.’ Supposed to have some ties to those preservationists over in the next village.”

Stone couldn’t suppress a smile. They should have saved their energy. Ultimately the project would go forward. They always did. Especially when Feldman was involved. He had clout. Not to mention his hands in the right pockets.

Phillips shrugged as if he knew what Stone was thinking. “We got a report of vandalism over at the site. Normally, I wouldn’t waste your time, but it’s Feldman. We gotta check it out.”

“What happened?”

“Someone smeared dog shit all over their sign and left a pile of it underneath.” Phillips spread his hands. “What can I tell you?”

Stone grunted. Such were the perks of working in the village. Chicago cops dealt with rape, drugs, and murder. He got to run down dog shit.

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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