Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Author:Ben H. Winters [H. Winters, Ben]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
Published: 2016-07-14T00:00:00+00:00


BY THE TIME I got back to Slim’s roadside fiefdom the storm had spent itself and the clouds had cleared away, but somewhere in there it had become nighttime. Darkness giving way to another kind of darkness. The pale face of the moon, a scattering of stars.

The grocery store was closed up and shuttered, and the body shop, too. All right by me. I parked across the street and hustled across the parking lot in the gloom, walked swiftly under the copper arch and down the shadowy little lane, head down, heart beating, man on a mission, going to the creek.

I had barely noticed it before. And if I did, I guess I figured it was drainage: a hole in the foot of a small hill, just barely visible between and behind the cluster of motor homes, dribbling overrun out into the shallow brown creek that wound behind the trailer park.

I moved swiftly past the tin-can palaces with their tribal flags, ignoring the sure, strong sense I had of dozens of eyes watching me, small beady eyes in pink piggy faces, peering from behind slat blinds, staring at my dark body moving unfamiliar and unwelcome through their cloister. Any one of those pigs could come out with a shotgun, and I wondered what I would do, but no one did.

I cleared the trailer park and passed a jumble of picnic benches and playground equipment and stepped carefully down the slope of the ravine and swung the heavy beam of my flashlight along the creek. Now it was clear, with the water swollen by the rains, the direction the brown water was flowing. The black mouth in the base of the shallow hill was an entrance, not an exit. This low little trickle of mud water was a kind of rivulet, a poor cousin of a creek, and this spot behind the motor court is where some long-ago engineer had diverted it.

This creek was called Pogue’s Run. I’d found it on the map. I’d looked up the story. This small waterway was discovered at the turn of the century—the eighteenth turning into the nineteenth—discovered and named and recorded, penciled in on early maps, when the city was not yet a city—when it was a gathering of huts, a stopping place on the way to other places. The small river was inconvenient for the city fathers and the grid they’d drawn. So they did just as Mama Walker said: they ran it underground.

I walked up to the creek, my shoe heels making slippy track marks in the muck.

Mr. Maris had never, after all, discovered he was being traced. He’d never found Jim Dirkson’s clunky butterfly knife in his pocket and tossed it overboard. He’d gone down to the creek, that’s all. Disappeared into a tunnel. He’d gone underground.

The water in the creek was shallow, but it was rushing, pulsing a little as it rose with the rain. I walked slowly, picking out individual rocks to stand on, till I got to the mouth of the tunnel.


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