First Impressions

The beginning of a Radio Gal adventure.


Allison immediately regretted stepping into the alley. It was a black, cramped space, lined with battered trash cans and a dumpster that hadn’t been emptied in weeks. Pools of stagnant water refused to reflect the weak light from nearby neon signs. Allison’s sneakers were blessedly silent as she made her way across the cracked, uneven brick. Though her helmet was soundproofed, she dialed her music down until Prince was just a whisper.

At the back of the alley fell a single puddle of light, cast from somewhere high above. It illuminated a pale hand caked with blood. Allison couldn’t see the body that was presumably attached to the hand.

Normally she would just phone in corpses. Radio Gal was not a detective. She didn’t know a thing about crime scenes or evidence or procedures. Screams she could handle. Calls for help, or the pad of desperate footfalls. But once was someone was already dead, the case was in someone else’s hands. Someone who hadn’t failed the victim already.

Allison pulled a small flashlight from her jacket pocket and followed the path of the wrist. Expensive watch, dark jacket sleeve, tailored shirt and nice tie…and a bloody smear in place of a head.

As an action-oriented woman, Allison wasn’t accustomed to real gore. Blood, sure, but spattered brain matter and bits of…she tore her gaze away and stumbled over to the dumpster to support her suddenly rebellious knees. She thought she could hold herself together, but then she caught a whiff from the trash. She barely managed to tear her helmet free in time to lose her dinner against the alley wall. She coughed and spit and tried to catch her breath.

In a moment of quiet she heard the flick of a lighter. Allison gasped and scrambled to grab her helmet. She crammed it on, then whirled to face the quiet smoker. A figure in a long coat stood in silhouette at the opening to the alley, the face lit dimly by a cigar. She could make out squarish features slightly curved by a smile.

“First one’s a bitch,” he said, and he strode across the alley.

“Who are you?” Allison croaked, and she winced at her own voice. Her throat was raw from her adverse reaction to the corpse.

The stranger knelt over the victim. He scooped up Allison’s fallen flashlight and tracked the beam over the body. She watched him, following his every move. She turned her helmet receiver up a bit and began gently pulling at the nearest radio waves and gathering them about herself. The man appeared to be a cop, but there was no visible badge. For all she knew, he was the killer.

“Are you a cop?” she asked.

“No claw marks,” he muttered, ignoring her. “Large bruise on the right shoulder.”

He paused, then looked up at the alley walls, then at her. She flinched as the light flashed across her face. “Kinda cliché, isn’t it?” he said. “Dark alley, headless body, pretty girl who’s a rookie super. How many times has this been done?”

“Oh, it’s old hat for me,” she said, scowling.

He turned back to the body, and Allison blinked rapidly, trying to rid her vision of painful afterimages. The man examined the blood spattered on the nearest wall, then stood and pocketed her flashlight.

“You can call me the Detective,” he said, and as he turned into some of the light filtering in from the street, she could see the mask covering the top half of his face. Allison grew more irritated. He was a super, but had been nothing but rude and condescending. On top of that, he’d seen her in a moment of terrible vulnerability, and she felt humiliated.

“Wow, great name,” she snapped. “Is your secret identity an asshole, too?”

The Detective grinned around his cigar. “He is, actually, Radio Gal.” He twisted her name sarcastically, making it clear that he didn’t think much of her moniker, either. She clenched her jaws and glared as he walked to the street.

“Coming?”

Allison crossed her arms. “I guess, you being the great detective and all, that you have already cracked the case?”

“I have. Perp is heading uptown. We can probably catch up if we hurry.”

Allison’s jaw went slack. “But, how…? What about that guy’s head?”

“It’s in the trash can, over there,” the Detective said. “But I don’t think he has much use for it now.”

She took another look at the hand, still exposed in the light, and shuddered. She may not be much use around a dead body, but she could sure as hell lend a hand when it came to pummeling the bad guys senseless. She hurried out of the alley to catch up with the Detective.

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