Was she being aggressive or assertive?

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A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 44

The gym was set with two hundred chairs. Two long tables and a podium, sat under the basketball hoop at one end. The gamey smell of dried sweat and old sneakers hung in the air.

“I forgot you knew her,” Stone said to Deanna, after seating Ricki near the front of the room. “Is she always like this?”

“Like what?” Deanna flashed him an innocent look.

“This—this aggressive.”

“It’s ‘assertive’ when you’re talking about a woman, Stone.”

“Oh.” He paused. “Well?”

“I think she’s still trying to prove she can run a multi-million dollar company.”

“Is that why you don’t want to work for her again?”

“No. I can handle that. She’s harder on herself than on anyone else.” She tipped her head sideways as if she was trying to frame her thoughts. “I think it’s her intensity. When she’s decided she wants something, she doesn’t stop until she gets it. Everything becomes a pitched battle. Even if it’s wrong. I can’t deal with someone like that.”

Stone brushed a hand down her cheek. “How did I get so lucky?”

Deanna smiled.

The commissioners filed into the room.

“Looks like the show’s about to start,” she said. “Where will you be?”

“In back.” He squeezed her hand and started to walk away.

“Hey, Stone?”

He stopped.

“You remember that reference she made to the company you keep?”


“How does she know Matt?”

“Matt needed help thinking through one of his cases a couple of weeks ago. He picked me up over at the SGF site. She was there.”

“It’s interesting she mentioned it.”



The commission heard from a new traffic consultant, who claimed the new mall wouldn’t snarl traffic any more than it already was. That was a not so subtle dig at the fact that Willow Road, the only major thoroughfare through Northview, narrowed to two lanes as it cut through the village, producing horrendous back-ups at rush hour.

Next a landscape architect described the playground, lake, and natural gardens that were planned for the site. That was worth a few points, Stone noted. Even owlish Christine Renfrow nodded her approval.

Finally, Paul Landon rose and went to the podium. He withdrew a pair of reading glasses from a black leather case and put them on. “Ladies and gentlemen of the commission.” He cleared his throat. “I’ve worked for Stuart G. Feldman for twenty-five years, and I can say that without question this has been the most carefully designed project I’ve ever had the privilege to be associated with.

“All of us have taken pains to make it an environmentally friendly site. We’ve adopted many of the suggestions the fine people of Northview made, including the playground, lake, and gardens. We have responded to the issues raised by the village engineer and others. Let me say again, emphatically that we do not wish to strip this wonderful community of its personality. Indeed, we hope to be one of its best and proudest neighbors. We hope we have demonstrated that commitment over the past few months. Thank you for this opportunity.”

Smooth, Stone thought.

After the break, it became apparent the commission was divided. Discussion, some of it loud and vitriolic, continued until midnight. Finally, Chairman Pilsen called for a vote. Each commissioner was polled in turn. The first three, all men, voted “aye”. The next three, two women and Pilsen himself, voted “nay.” It was up to Renfrow. When Pilsen called her name, she paused, and then spoke clearly into her microphone. “Aye.”

A mix of groans and cheers went up from the audience.

Pilsen pounded the gavel until the crowd quieted. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said, “we have weighed the pros and cons of this project more thoroughly than any other project ever contemplated for our village. Your commissioners have read report after report, analyzed the results, and asked tough questions. They have acted responsibly. You owe them all a debt of thanks. Once the final questions are resolved, we will recommend that the village board approve this development. Thank you all for your time and input.”

Stone found Krieger and Heller sitting together near the front. They didn’t look happy.

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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