The city never slept and even at four in the morning, people moved about. A young mother rushed to an all-night drugstore to purchase medication for a sick child. Music blasted from windows where parties pounded through the night. Teenagers slipped from their slumbering homes to keep forbidden rendezvous. Sirens wailed as emergency vehicles sped along neon boulevards. Women cowered in darkened bedrooms while men bellowed in drunken fury. Shady deals were conducted on dangerous corners and in murky alleys.
A dirt track ran parallel to the broad river that divided the city. Short turnoffs led down to the water every hundred yards or so. The road was largely deserted at this hour, empty lots leading to industrial buildings to one side and dense brush and trees on the riverside. A sedan bounced along the rough road. Two men in the front seat rode in silence. The first turnoff proved occupied by a group of homeless dregs gathered around a small fire. Just as the driver began to turn onto the second dirt ramp, he noticed a pickup truck backed down to the water. He could just make out two forms lounging on the tailgate, holding fishing rods. He swore softly and proceeded onward.
“Tough luck.” The man in the passenger seat shot his partner a horsy smile.
“Maybe the next one,” the driver said, checking the rearview mirror for other vehicles. The roadway remained dark.
At the next turnoff, he scanned the riverside for people. Finding it empty, he backed in and braked smoothly at the water’s edge. After putting the car in park, he and his companion got out, closing their doors quietly.
“Nice night,” the driver remarked, gazing up at the stars.
“Bit chilly, if you ask me,” the other man replied with a grin. His blocky teeth shone in the moonlight.
Together they managed to remove a large tightly-wrapped parcel from the trunk, hauled it to the river, and threw it in. The sound of the splash carried through the crisp air.
Down the riverbank, they heard an excited exchange between a couple of fisherman.
“Holy shit! Did you hear that? Was that a fish?” A man’s voice rang loudly across the water.
“If it was, it was a big one!”
The two men near the sedan looked at each other in the dim glow of the parking lights. “It was a big one alright,” the toothy one snickered.
His partner rolled his eyes, pushed the trunk gently closed with a gloved hand, and got into the car. His associate joined him and they drove back onto the road and into the night.