Authors: S. M. Stelmack
By S. M. Stelmack
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The Undercity Chronicles
Copyright © 2013 by S. M. Stelmack
Editing by Alyssa Palmer
Cover Art by
All rights reserved. This e-book is licensed for enjoyment only. Where such permission is applicable, S. M. Stelmack grants the right to detach any DRM which may be applied to this work. This work is free to share. This work is entirely fictional. All references to actual people, places, events and entities is solely intended to create a fictional world, with no ulterior purpose beyond that. Any mistakes belong to the authors, and were unintentional and non-malicious.
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Table of Contents
For those who walk in the shadows
(Authors Moira and Serge Stelmack)
A Note from Serge
My father came from a criminal background, and several of my friends were once members of the police and intelligence community. Though my personal background has been pretty vanilla, I've had the opportunity to rub shoulders with real thieves, conmen, hackers, enforcers, detectives and spies. As such, I've always been aware of the secrets and subcultures that permeate our world, and just how bizarre and far-reaching they can be.
In the early 2000s, my knowledge of the underworld was further broadened when I volunteered to work with street people in my home city of Vancouver. They too had their own sub-cultures. Communities of addicts and sex workers and radical political activists, alliances of people with mental health issues, bands of wild-eyed conspiracy theorists and even street shamans. They fascinated me, though the mental instability of many I met didn't give me cause to want to join their world.
It was with this background that I read
's 1993 book
The Mole People: Life In The Tunnels Beneath New York City
Though I have no way of confirming the veracity of Ms. Toth's investigations into New York's underworld, much rung true. There were echoes in her book of the legends and rumors I'd heard since I was a child, stories known to those who walk the wrong side of the law or otherwise reject the rules and order imposed by mainstream culture. The more I read the more connections I made, and almost of its own accord a story revealed itself to me.
Many of the people in
are strongly based on actual people I've known, including Detective Monroe, Reggie, Mr. and Mrs. Moore, Shamba, Tocat and even the vile Mr. King, and I have done my best to weave their stories and personalities into the canvas provided by Ms. Toth.
is, of course, a work of fiction. It carries no agenda or political message. But I have done my best to make it reflect the very real shadow world that touches all of our lives, a little glimpse into the dreams and horrors lurking right beneath our feet.
Lindsay desperately wanted to hold Jack’s hand. Her breath came fast and shallow, and her every muscle had stiffened into near rigor mortis. And still the elevator dropped beneath the city streets, down into the dark guts of New York, its metal lattice floor the only barrier between her and the shadowy depths below.
She wasn’t about to admit her fear of heights to Jack. Sure she had a crush on him, as bad as any fifteen-year-old could have, and would’ve considered herself the luckiest girl in the world to hold hands with him. Yet, she also knew he hung out with her because she could keep up with him. To confess her vulnerabilities now would make her no better than all the other girls, and she was determined that he would remember her as someone exceptional.
Sam Cole, Jack’s father, gave her a lopsided smile. “This crate’s on the slow side, but we’ll be there in a minute. That hardhat fit okay, Lindsay?”
She managed a nod, and the oversized yellow helmet slipped over her eyes.
The other side of his smile shot up. “Good. I’m glad Jack invited you. Another couple of weeks and we’d be finished down here. Not many people ever get to see the real underground.”
As if on cue, the elevator reached the bottom, making Lindsay’s already queasy stomach lurch.
“You okay?” Jack asked.
Great, she probably looked like the vomit she was trying to keep down. “Yeah. I’m—I’m a little nervous of heights.”
His golden eyes shone. “So I noticed.” He looked down. Her hand had his in a death grip.
Lindsay gasped and let go, her face burning. “Oh, jeez. Sorry. I didn’t even realize that I...sorry.”
She hurried off the elevator—and stepped into a fresh hell. The subway tunnel was dark and filthy and reeked of grime and oil, and she could feel claustrophobia begin to crush her. The halogen lighting created a pool of civilization in which the workers called to each other, and there were the strong noises of steel striking steel and generators throbbing out energy. Beyond that, in the world Jack was going to take her, there was only darkness and silence. Yet he and his father looked content, as if this dank scene was a veritable wonderland.
Jack had used that very word when he was talking her into coming. A wonderland. She described it the same way to her parents, and to her brother, fifteen years her senior, and his wife around the dining room table. Her niece, two going on irrational, wanted to go right away, and when Lindsay explained that wonderland didn’t mean Disneyland, she said it was okay, that Jack could lift her on his shoulders and take her to the playground there. Due to her gender, Seline adored Jack. Lindsay’s mother melted when Jack came over and ate through the fridge and pantry, and Lindsay had the distinct feeling that it was Jack’s charms had played a large part in her mother had giving her permission to go underground. Her father, being male, had only given the go-ahead once he knew Jack’s father was going to be nearby. Then her brother, male and bossy beyond belief, had called up Jack’s father to confirm the dos and don’ts. Gracie, her sis-in-law, had winced in sympathy. “You should see him with the babysitter. The poor girl is stiff with worry before we’ve even left, and then she’s got an evening of Seline. I always give her an extra ten as stress pay.”
Sometimes Lindsay envied the casual bachelor relationship between Jack and his father. Sam Cole was pretty laidback as far as parents went, and actively encouraged his son to explore the tunnels. He’d done the same thing in London when he was a boy, and was overjoyed that his only child shared his lifelong passion for places deep and dark.
“Be back within the hour, and no taking Lindsay off the track,” he said. “I don’t want to go searching for you again.”
Jack laughed, sharing an in-joke with his father. “We’ll be careful. Let’s go, Linds.”
He flicked on his helmet light and waited long enough for her to do the same before leading her down the tunnel, away from the swarm of tradesmen and engineers. Jack was always ready to chart unknown territory, and he wasn’t one to check if anyone was following. He was always the first to take a dare, not to show off but because he couldn’t resist a challenge. That she was his regular buddy filled her with pride. That he was leaving for Hong Kong in a month, and likely never coming back, filled her with a profound sadness.
Right now with him so real and solid beside her, Lindsay wasn't going to worry about the future. The immediate present was freaky enough. She could feel the darkness here. It had a kind of smothering thickness to it, so alien to anything on the surface.
“What’s this about sending out a search party for you?” she asked off-handedly, as if this was no different than walking the streets above.
“They did, but I made it back on my own and they got lost. In the end, I was part of the group that found them.”
That was Jack. Total master of his surroundings. Lindsay looked about, her light cutting a pale swath over wet concrete walls, iron rails, graffiti. “Sounds like you know these tunnels pretty well.”
“No, I’ve barely scratched the surface. One day I want to come back here and map the whole underground.”