CD10: Crazy white mama/Just one more bite

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth! 

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic.

Vic Creed, the scarred veteran: about 6’6 and bulky with it. He is the muscle. This session Vic buys Dex up a second time, now topping at 4.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown, the trickster: about 5’7 and lithe. Arby has his cowardly nature beaten, except when asked to recall something.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter, the ex-boxer: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. This session Steve increases Influence, as that is becoming his forte.

 

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station, Night-time

Theme: Here I Am (Come and Take Me)

Steve and Vic are standing watch. Nicholette de la Fleur, the crazy-ass bitch from Farmatec that put Jon in the ICU, is still possessed and still prisoner here. It’s been like punishment camp for the last ten days. She needs constant checking, and she still has to take her lady-breaks even if a demon got inside her. Sometimes the demon is threatening and bargaining, other times Nicholette is talking down to them. The warding stone is kept always nearby her, so the demon can’t concentrate properly.

Gunnarsson ducks his head in. He’s seeing some strange lights in town. Passes Steve his binoculars. On top of a big old building down somewhere south-east, a light-show has been rigged in neon. On one side there’s a freaky looking big-eared thing in some kind of pink dress, on the other there’s a big shape in what looks like a cloak or long coat, and two bars flash between them like an equals sign.

While Vic is having a look, Steve calls Arby’s new rented pad.

 

Scene: Arby’s pad, right beside the tracks

Theme: Sweetback’s Theme

Arby got this rental cheap – the train track rises above the level of the roads here and the noise is appalling. The whole pad shakes each time a big unit rolls by. But everything’s convenient. When the phone rings he rolls up out of his bed and grabs it.

It’s Steve, and he wants Arby to take a look outside his window, off east, and see what the lights are about.

“Who is it Arby sweet man?” murmurs Cherry from beside Arby. As Arby struggles into pants and squints out his window trying to get a line of sight, she dresses quickly and leaves with a “Call me anytime” on her lips and half Arby’s roll in her stash.

Arby identifies the abandoned factory the Gremlins were given. That would make the strange figure with the ears and the dress the Gremlin Princess. Time to call Jon.

 

Scene: Maman’s house, Fairfax

Theme: Soul Man

As junior man in the house Jon has the job of answering the phone anyway, so when it rings he’s the only one wearily dragging himself out to the hallway where the old-fashioned set stands on its own table. It’s Steve.

Steve explains, and finishes, “Vic an’ me’s mindin’ crazy white mama, so you gots to pick up Arby an’ scout it.”

Jon winces as he dresses. Bullet holes don’t heal quickly. It’s a hot night so he doesn’t need too many clothes. Then it’s out to the Plymouth and down to Arby’s crappy apartment.

Seems like Arby only has the one set of threads: it’s the same awesome shot-silk blue suit he was wearing when he came visiting. The two white hats bump fists, check on their strategy, get into the Plymouth, and the scene switches to a driving montage.

 

Split screen: driving montage, bull session

Theme: Boot-leg

While that’s happening Steve and Vic are puzzling out some priorities. Vic still has it on his mind to help Jim. Jim’s made it clear that from here out, he expects some active help with recovering this mystic hammer he’s on the trail of.

“I ast my man what he gon’ do with that hammer, he say he just actin’ on comishun. What I say is, turn’s out that hammer belong’a my big brother Troll, an’ Troll not, uh, gon’ evil up if he catches his hammer, hammer be goin’ back’a that Troll. Though I ain’t tole Jim that,” Vic adds as a codicil.

Steve lists off the Phyllis Wheatley – of course – and reminds Vic that Cleo can get them in to see Esther and Esther will probably just want help here and there.

And Lance Barnes. Now they know more about the situation, two automatic rifles are daunting and they’ll need a good plan to get in.

They also add “get Draco” since Steve is still smarting from that beat-down. They don’t really care about Jon’s hot mama Asha’s call for vengeance.

And since these are all-action white hats, they stop there.

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station: common room

Theme: Ball of Confusion

A briefing session among the white hats. Jon explains that the Gremlins are asking for help. According to the Princess, something they roughly describe as Goblins are pressing Kobolds and Gremlins to help them snatch babies.

“Oh, an’ we stop a muggin’” Jon adds, casually, as though it’s just another good deed. In fact Arby had been sprinting away when he realized Jon couldn’t keep up, so turned back, and Jon fired off his coco macaque’s flash in self-preservation. Whatever, the victim was so keen not to involve police they scored a C-note, and Jon has it safely tucked away.

Planning now surges forward, since the Goblin territory the Gremlins describe is roughly the same as the Rolling 40s turf, deep in Hough. They’ll tackle it as Wildlife Officers, and using catchpoles and flashlights. But with axes or knives hidden. Arby talks some smack about his piece, the Saturday-night special, and when Steve tells him he don’t want no jumpy brutha behind him with a loaded gun, Arby sulks and privately decides to conceal his piece anyway.

So what kinds of demons could these “goblins” be? There’s gonna be some research needed!

 

But more importantly, going out against possible demons has all four white hats (and any rangers in earshot) agreeing that getting the congregation together is a must. Jon sets off the phone tree by calling Maman, and by sweet-talking her most endearingly he gets things moving.

They have three drivers, and three vans. Steve gets to work re-fitting the Baby Smuggler, and soon has the rear all ready to take adults. Meanwhile inside the station, Charlie Stone guests on Toogood’s Feelgood hour and warns against gun violence and the black neighbourhood gangs responsible for it.

It’s still pre-dawn when Jon writes out instructions about how to get to different Haitian houses, and the three drivers set out.

 

St John’s cemetery, south of Woodland

Theme: Take me to the river

Vic, in charge of security at the alternative cemetery (St John’s) just walks over, to get a good look at the layout. It’s the coolest part of the August day, so he enjoys the walk. Things that ain’t crazy get out of his road, mostly crossing the whole damn road.

St John’s is an old cemetery like the last one, with an old road through it. Woodland will be busy in a few hours’ time, and the railroad to the south is already singing with the Ohio RT’s first run. The ceremony’s supposed to be up on high ground, and there’s only one such mound, under trees and with slumped old stones. Vic disturbs a number of courting couples who flee into the greying dawn.

Jon arrives first, knowing the congregation the best and with the shortest routes. Then Steve.

“Somethin’s missing,” comments Jon.

“Guest of honor?” Vic hazards. Jon nods. Steve and Vic drive back up the ranger station to fetch de la Fleur, while Jon and Arby unload Haitians and set things up. It’s a weak moment in security, but they get away with it.

Barring Jon the white hats aren’t needed for what’s going to be a long hard exorcism. Arby especially keeps both eyes skinned for trouble. But the only cruiser spotted rolls by too late to stop anything. The congregation is already breaking up.

Partly in annoyance! It turns out that Nicholette isn’t grateful. And she’s quite unbalanced. Her New-England tone rises stridently, demanding to be treated “properly” and threatening all manner of lawsuit. It takes all of Steve’s considerable charm to sooth her into a van and away. The Haitians all decide to walk home.

 

Break-away scene: Steve and Nicholette

Theme: So you’re leaving

As Steve drives her, Nicholette gripes about Spenser, Wilson and his clinic. He keeps sweet-talking her and learns a good deal of detail about Jill Spenser the psychiatrist, Dr. Wilson the man who dreams of perfect chemical treatment of disorders, and a Green Machine in the Wilson Clinic’s basement.

Steve shows Nicholette his pad, where to come back to once it’s safe to return. Then he drives her out to her own swanky apartment out in Lakes County. She showers and changes and fetches some things, including a purse and overnight bag. Then he takes her all the way to a Penn Station and she catches a train east. She’s got folks over in Connecticut or wherever, but is warned to keep a low, low profile because the powers that affected her won’t stop at anything to silence her.

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Pick up the pieces

Research time!

Vic preps gear but Arby and Steve help work the books. Jon narrows “goblins” down to three likely types. They drag him away from a dissertation on Spring-heel Jack.

They dress in Wildlife Officer gear (though Vic keeps his black leather duster of course) and pile into the Mystery Machine, and drive to Hough.

 

Scene: An alley in Hough

Theme: Cold Sweat

It’s getting late and Steve and Vic have been up a long time but time’s pressing on this. The Wildlife Officers have parked well away from deserted streets where the Mystery Machine could have its wheels removed, and walked into the Dead Triangle behind the Barnes place, where no roads can be found.

Trees bulk the skyline into weird shapes and garbage lies along the lane they are following. Arby’s got the creeps but is ready at the front, Steve a little ways off to his left. Arby bends down and checks around a bin where there seem to be too many food scraps.

“No birds or dogs been pickin’ this over,” he observes. “And lookit – small feet.”

Three alleys lead away. Steve picks the left hand. A broad fence on one side, with graffiti on it and unkempt trees leering over it. The sides of run-down two-up houses stack up on the other, blocking them in. Dirt and garbage along the edges. The smell of rotting meat.

Looking over the fence, Vic recognizes the Barnes place, though the trees he’s looking through make it seem unfamiliar. Something moves in the shadows of those trees!

Steve vaults over the fence, Vic scrambles over after him. Something child-size is glimpsed, but it rushes away and dives into the fallen leaves of last year and disappears, towards the fence. On the alley side, Arby’s about to boost Jon but abandons this and rushes after the sound of a fence plank quietly shifting. But the thing is gone around the corner and into the narrow alley between tall houses.

But now the Barnes place is right in view Steve and Vic decide to switch targets. Jon is lifted over and feeds his stick with a little blood. Putting away his pocketknife, he scans the undergrowth. He can see the small footprints, leading away. Nothing else. The foul feeling of evil hangs about the place.

The four advance on the rear of the Barnes place. Now Jon can see a charm field roiling darkly around it. Muttering prayers, he gestures Vic forwards.

 

Scene: Barnes drug-house, Hough

Theme: Boom boom

A snap-kick has dealt with the back door, and Steve barrels in axe ready, then Vic, Arby not far behind with his catchpole. The stench of rotten meat is thick, making all of them gag a little. Vic and Steve duck left and right. A kitchen, and a half-eaten human body rotting on the floor. Jon gets the gist of the ranch plan layout, and figures a guard with a rifle would be far end and left, in the parlor. He signals Steve, but even as the Cutter heads forward, a very big man-size shape is seen coming from the front left!

Jon snaps off his flash, blinding the man. High-velocity automatic fire shreds up the wall into the ceiling!

Steve charges, cutting the massive man’s shoulder and dashing past, to allow Vic an attack. Which he does! The arm holding the automatic rifle is severed! Close up, Vic can see this is Lance Barnes.

But then, a miasmic rotting shape only vaguely human shambles out of the parlor as well! It’s virtually on top of Steve! The awful stench of a weeks-old corpse chokes them: Arby loses his lunch, dropping the catchpole. Black corpse-fly-like particles swarm off the thing onto the disarmed Barnes, and Vic goggles disbelievingly as the huge man literally pulls himself together!

Arby is the hero, tangling Lance’s M16 while Vic tries to land a telling blow. Rage suffuses Vic’s form, but that doesn’t seem to help.

Steve takes a cut at what ought to be a neck, but the rotting ghoulish thing evades the cut. A vertical seam opens in its torso, huge spike teeth lining it. As Steve gapes at it, it widens still further… there’s something like a rune or eye-like mark at the back of the cavity.

Jon comes to the rescue again, extending his coco macaque and exhorting Papa Legba to drive the evil spirit away. It buys Steve a vital few seconds. He lunges, holding the axe like a spear, impaling the mark. In a disgusting soft rotten-fruit-like spray, the ghoul-demon explodes!

Choking down his vomit Steve swings back, seeing Arby and Jon valiantly tangling the M16 still. Swinging his axe nearly horizontally, Steve decapitates Barnes.

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing

The white hats report, and Laura and Kelly do the typing. The Barnes house was already well afire when the white hats got back into their van. Arby siphoned some gas from the tank and they splashed it round – finding a number of remains – and took a second M16 and ammo out with them.

But they’re all feeling pretty down. Sure, they tidied Barnes away. But that was a lot of dead bodies!

Arby more or less throws this to Kelly. She stops typing and turns to him kindly. Offers some thoughts for the next step. If Barnes and a ghoul-demon are gone, there’s no need for the world to get complicated. Next step, make sure the goblins know the babies don’t need to be stolen. Maybe Arby can go back to the Gremlins? Would that work?

Arby feels better, and the white hats learn that saying a few more constructive things than “don’t mean nothing” can help in these dark times.

Steve reports on Jill Spenser. He asked Cindy Channel for the favor and she did a good job. Though she does tell him that he ought to have given her warning of the Barnes place deal, so Ted could have gotten some pictures. Anyhow, Jill Spenser is a genuine psychiatrist who had some employment issues and is now with the Wilson Clinic. She’s an enthusiastic supporter of Wilson’s chemical solution. He explains what Nicholette told him about the clinic. Much ribbing about his crazy white mama who’s probably on her way back to him right now!

In the next few days white hats visit Gremlins and kick their way into Kobold lairs. Kobolds are told in no uncertain terms that humans are off limits, and as for animals, if it ain’t got no collar, it’s fair game. The Kobolds rat out the Goblin lairs and they are dealt with even more sternly.

 

Credit roll scene:

Reverend Charlie Stone is checking into WKCY to do his guest spot on the Feelgood Hour. The camera pulls back. We see Steve sitting in his beat-up Ford van, watching him.

 

GM’s corner

The white hats are easing down to their normal wealth of zero. They pick up their monthly stipend from DeNaRes, not for dealing with a demon but for settling the Kobold problem. Yes, apparently they are on piecework.

I had to vague up the Big Ass Pistol last episode but did some research and came back to Vic’s player DB this session to tell him that it would be either the .357 Magnum Colt Python, or the Dirty Harry style .44 Magnum. The Saturday-Night Specials are knockoffs of Police .38s, unreliable and inaccurate.

Arby rented the apartment last session, but it didn’t warrant reporting. We don’t have a particular location for it yet, it just has that ‘tiny apartment right next to the tracks’ setting.

This was the first session I split xp up a little. Only two of the four players really tried to stay in character, so gained the 1xp that warrants. Otherwise everyone got a healthy 5xp. Dealing fairly and prudently with Nicholette really paid off, as they got an xp for the exorcism and another xp for gaining solid information on the Wilson Clinic.

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CD9: Gold, goons and guns

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic.

Vic Creed, the scarred veteran: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown, the trickster: about 5’7 and lithe. Arby has his cowardly nature beaten, except when asked to recall something.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter, the ex-boxer: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman.

Jim Fairbanks, the tough treasure-hunter: about 6′, a tough ex-serviceman from Vic’s 101st Airborne. This session Jim makes a guest appearance when Jon is laid up.

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station, the common room

Theme: Money (Gladys Knight version)

The white hats are seated at the long common room table, looking at a pile of banknotes. Arby is out of bandages. His left eye has a nasty scar down the eyelid. He has a greedy glint in his eyes.

Vic don’t feel right about taking Terique McCants’ money for doing what’s right. On the other hand, this is a ready way to pay Madeline back that 5 C’s the hobo stole. Jon’s uncomfortable too, but this is a chance to pay Maman back a little on the tuition fees she feels have been wasted. Steve shrugs and mentions how Cleo’s been hurting.

“So, I guess we all take a share,” Arby says, disappointed they didn’t leap at his plan to take that whole pile as a stake and make some real bread. He riffles it into four even decks. Each is enough to buy a fairly good used automobile. He riffles through his share, divides it evenly into three, and slides one across to Steve. “’A’s for Cleo too – where takin’ care my kid’s at I aim to please,” he brags. Steve scowls reflexively then folds that share into his.

“Yeah, I gotta get down to Little Saigon, get this green to Madeline,” Vic announces. It kicks off a circuit of visits.

 

Scene: Samedy residence, Fairfax

Theme: Soul Man

It’s baking hot, and staying in the Plymouth while Jon visits isn’t an option. Jon vaguely waves them on, they follow him around the sprawling old house to the back. Voices are raised.

Jon sees Maman, standing erect on the back porch, his niece and nephew beside her, facing off against Deacon Setro Casimir-Perier who is below, declaiming loudly. Over a dozen of the congregation are grouped in a sort of arc around them, some nearer Maman and some clearly supporting Setro.

Setro blames Jon for the cops’ raid and the broken heads and bones that went with it. If he hadn’t fallen into bad company and become the cops’ enemy that wouldn’t have happened!

As Jon mounts the steps up to Maman’s side he notices Asha is sitting in the back parlor. She looks pretty mad at Setro.

The debate breaks up pretty quickly once Maman sees the other three white hats trailing after Jon. She defends Jon briefly, accepts his money, calls for refreshments for the guests, and privately tells Jon he can move back into the house.

Steve finds himself talking to Clarice, Jon’s niece, who is something in the law trade, attractive, and older than Jon. She doesn’t give him a business card, but mentions her law firm’s name so he can contact her, daytime hours. Arby finds himself talking to Jon’s nephew Stefan, a minister of religion apparently. Arby’s used to the kinds of questions he levels.

Privately, Asha urges payback on the dirty cops. Thanks to Setro’s unwitting evidence she has concluded it was them laid a beat-down on her. Jon agrees in principle but can see some practical issues there.

 

Scene: Outside Cleo’s apartment building, Central

Theme: Trouble Man

Vic offers to head up with Steve, but the Cutter turns him down smartly. As they watch him head up the stairwell, they notice his shoulders seem to slump defeatedly.

The windows are down in the Plymouth but the heat has Vic out finding shade anyway. Arby has slumped way down, in case Cleo looks out. Jon is resting behind the steering wheel, which is getting too hot to touch.

Steve shuffles quickly down the steps, money delivered. Suddenly Vic hears three muffled shots and three ricochets.

“Incoming!!”

Vic throws himself down behind the Plymouth, opposite the building from where the shots must have come. Steve double-takes and joins him. Jon gets the Plymouth started and guns the engine.

“Get in mon, we outta here!”

As they race away towards Downtown Vic recounts what he heard. Suppressed, probably a light automatic rifle firing sub-sonic rounds.

None of them feels like exploring the rooftop opposite Cleo’s, and the lack of firearms is brought home again.

“My Ace Boon Coon Jim be huntin’ pieces, man. If we lucky, he gimme a call soonest,” Vic reminds them.

 

Scene: The Burnes residence, Little Saigon near Kirtland

Theme: I can’t get next to you

Steve tags along with Vic on this visit, and is amused to watch a battle of wills between huge ugly Vic and petite Madeline. Eventually, Vic’s insistence that he needs to pay her back since she got no steady income now and the kids need something, wins over Madeline’s insistence that she never expected the expense money back.

Outside, Steve asks Vic if there’s more there than just sympathy, but the big guy insists he is just helping a friend. Steve raises his brows in puzzlement and says no more.

 

Scene: Outside Phyllis Wheatley building, Central

Theme: Living for the City

Rolling around the east side of Downtown Jon has the Plymouth pointed towards the tracks, since Arby has decided mid-afternoon’s a good time to spring the next share of his roll on Wudha, his other baby-mama.

First thing Jon notices is a big black Lincoln, limo-style, parked maybe a block shy of the Phyllis. One rear window’s cracked down, and a little smoke’s escaping.

Next thing they all notice is a demonstration outside the Phyllis. Lots of noise and placards. Steve groans.

“Cleo’s gotta be in on that thing! She tellin’ me she can get us in anytime.”

Jon checks the rear-view mirror, sees two cruisers rolling in with lights flashing. This is shaping up to go bad fast! He raps out the limo’s number plate to Arby, asks him to remember it. Arby wigs out, messes himself. Steve chokes:

“Lemme out right now!”

Steve’s out of the sedan, shuffles quick through the baking sidewalk heat, shouldering through the placards reading “Down With the Man!” or the like. A lot of these people seem kind of rent-a-mob. He can see Cleo’s ‘fro, and he can see a suit-wearing type coming out of the Phyllis, and he can also see the cruisers rolling in to bracket the crowd.

“Come on girl, ‘s a set up! Let’s get gone!”

Steve grabs Cleo’s hand and they race away towards the building, not away, then out back along the alleys and right-of-ways the white hats escaped along the other night.

Behind them, police set about arresting as many genuine protestors as they can. The limo pulls away.

 

Scene: Lake Trout Diner, near the entertainment district, Central

Theme: Sweetback’s Theme

Steve’s attention is taken off Cleo. She’s been explaining that ‘word come round’ and ‘some sista tole her’ and has no more deep reasoning in the protest than that. And Moroni the mob bastard shows up, and marks out Steve and makes for him.

“Be that Roosevelt Brown,” Moroni explains once they have a private minute. “He winnin’! You care if he stay in one piece, you gots ta tell him so he stays told!”

With a muffled groan Steve remembers Arby’s big plan to make some real green. He follows Moroni’s direction and within half an hour is inside an off-the-books gambling pit, back of the Boneyard. Arby’s playing cards, and he’s got Titus Johnson in on the game which doubles his chances of rigging it. The other three players aren’t happy.

Steve practically manhandles Arby away, to protests from all. A puzzled and still-greedy Titus follows them, but out on the street Steve spots Jon’s Plymouth. Leaving Titus in the dust he and Arby race across at least three lanes of traffic and jump into the now-cleaned back seat.

 

Scene: Outside Farmatec House, near University Circle

Theme: Theme from Shaft

Arby has barely finished tucking his money away – double what he started with – when Jon grunts in surprise and points to the Farmatec building. A good number of people are clumped loosely around the entrance, some sitting with head down on their knees. A tall slim woman with silver-gold hair seems to be in charge and there are two security guards among the crowd.

Jon uses the Circle to navigate back around, and parks down by the student pub. There’s plenty of parking at this early evening hour. Normal office hours are about over and the evening swill has barely got under way.

The white hats wander over the road to the Farmatec lot. Two ambulances, both from Case Western, have already arrived. The four mingle: Arby distracts a security guard while Jon gets one of the less-ill people to disclose what’s going on.

It sounds to him that something environmental has reached tipping-point. The office has been affected for quite some time now, but this time the stomach upsets, headaches, dizziness and so on affected so many people they evacuated. He can catalogue quite a number of toxins that could do that, but needs to work out common factors, since not everyone is affected.

Before Nicholette de la Fleur – the imposing blonde – can prevent the white hats interfering, a beat-up old police car arrives. It’s Department 7’s Agent Boddington. Apparently Farmatec is well-connected (you don’t say?) and there’s enough of an “unexplained” list of complaints on file that he’s been asked to investigate. Of course, he’s delighted to hand over to Jon, who has the medical background. He makes their authority clear enough to give them access to the offices, and goes back to his other caseloads.

 

Scene: Farmatec Sales & Marketing Department

Theme: Jungle Boogie

The bulk of the interior is cubicled off, with a few private offices. Each desk has a standard push-button phone. Jon asks staff not to use the phones – though he’s pretty sure he’s ignored – and draws up an eight-box chart for his fellow white hats.

It’s interview time!

Steve spends a pleasant 40 minutes interviewing Tawna, hearing about what copywriting is (it’s not what he thought: not that he ever gave it much) and learning her nightclub preferences. Meanwhile Vic chews through several intimidated sales staff, filling in boxes poorly; and Arby smoothly works his way through the remainder, bringing Jon back some valuable cross-checking. Only Nicholette to go, and Jon is already reasonably sure someone is slipping rat-poison (or something equivalent) into the coffee percolator.

Jon, armed with a check-list and accompanied by Arby and Vic (she is quite intimidating), enters Nicholette’s private office. She’s fidgeting nervously behind her desk.

Hardly has Jon broached the subject of rat-poison and possible culprits when she levels a small pistol and fires every round in it!

Jon drops, groaning in pain, trying to stop the blood. Vic barrels over the desk and cleans out Nicholette, her office chair, and any stray furniture behind that. Arby, soon joined by Steve, attempts to help Jon.

While Jon grits his teeth and remains conscious long enough to direct the emergency first-aid, an ambulance is called and Vic binds Nicholette’s hands and feet firmly together with phone cord. He’s pretty sure she’s possessed, or plain crazy.

 

Scene: ICU, the Clinic

Theme: Cornbread

The white hats are visiting Jon and helping him eat the nice fruit they bought, when two whiteys are shown in. One’s Mitchell Delaney, Blackhand Security. The other he introduces as CEO of Farmatec, Curtis Silverman, a white-haired, Jewish-looking old guy. They remember Delaney coat-holding for the same old guy making a speech that memorable morning outside the ward office when a fake bomb was thrown. He thanks Jon for his sacrifice and the white hats for good work generally. Mitchell doesn’t seem too pleased with Arby: kind of a ‘how come you didn’t phone this in?’ look shoots across. There doesn’t seem to be any other agenda, spoken or unspoken. Or maybe they are just too busy eating grapes to notice.

Steve, Vic and Arby update Jon on the shooting and Nicholette once alone again. No police comeback at all. They took her away from police custody, thanks to Boddington’s help. Up at the ranger station, they brought Maman Samedy up and did that same freaky circle with the candles and feathers and blood. Seems de la Fleur is really nuts, but really possessed too. The demon is a dangerous ego-affecting one named Chamegalophage. But Maman figures Jon better be fit and up for the full service before she tries exorcising it.

 

Scene: Approaching a small warehouse, Lakefront area

Theme: In the heat of the night

Ready money available means Jim Fairbanks has come through, though he can’t guarantee the transaction in any way. Originally, he expected to make a score off the ex-Black Panthers, but most of them are out of the life or keeping their heads low. But a contact through them led to this meet. The buyer insists on meeting the white hats.

Jim’s front and just right of Vic; Steve’s front and left of Vic; like the 2 and 10 on a clock if Vic is the 12. Arby’s taken up rear-guard keeping an eye peeled for ambush. It’s unusually quiet and relatively dark: there are witnesses, but few and too far away to make them in any useful way.

A sedan is parked beside a small warehouse, its roll-door closed. The white hats agree they aren’t entering the warehouse, but that’s not the deal anyway.

As they approach the sedan close enough for them to be recognized, its occupant climbs out. Steve can’t see any other heads in there. The interior light must have been disabled, as it stays dark. Standing beside the open door, a tallish, fairly slim figure addresses them.

“Deal is: yo’ man Vic there joins the Rollin’ 40s. Plus the cash. Then you get guns.”

The voice belongs to ‘Dakka’ Tyler.

Steve and he exchange a few words, Dakka hostile. Then Vic makes his mind up.

“Ain’t no way for that to happen, fool.”

Dakka slams the sedan door shut, and the warehouse roll-door rolls up, allowing his gunmen to move on the white hats!

 

Fight scene!

Theme: Boom Boom

Naturally, Vic Jim and Steve are more than ready for treachery. Arby, sensing gunplay, hits the deck and flattens into invisibility. Vic decides to deal with Dakka, charges him and slam-tackles the gang leader, riding his head into the sedan, hard. Dakka is out! Vic gropes inside the man’s coat and draws a heavy pistol out left-handed: his right hand snakes his battleaxe out from under his own duster. Steve races left to close the gap on the lead banger, whipping his axe around but missing as the man dodges back: but the dodge takes him back into his own Rolling 40s man. Steve has a few seconds to recalibrate! Jim flashes past him, and uses a swift disarm to take the pistol out of the tangled gangster’s fist, and level it at one of the two bangers in the rear!

Arby springs up off the ground, and sweeps around to slide into a takedown on the rear gangster. That gent sees him coming and rips an entire mag off, all over Arby’s head. Then there’s a pistol shot behind Arby and a huge muzzle flash and blast from his right. And a terrible scream. He finishes kicking the empty piece out of the fallen man’s hand, and looks back.

Steve has used his axe again with better effect, and the unfortunate Rolling 40s gunman is minus an arm. Jim attempted to use his opponent for cover as he shot at Arby’s target, and only succeeded in blasting the near man’s ear off. And Vic, moving back round the sedan and into line with the remaining banger, leveled the heavy pistol and blew the fool away.

Fight over!

The white hats bundle the armless man and the bleeding earless gangster into Dakka’s pimped-down sedan, with a rough field-dressing supplied by Jim. Then Dakka. Then the other live member. Who is grilled about Lance Barnes and the area around the drug house, all the way back to the A&E where the sedan and occupants are left to the paramedics to deal with.

Adding the spare ammunition and spoils of war guns together, the white hats now have a small armory of three Saturday-night-specials, and one heavy pistol, with enough ammo for a short gun battle.

 

GM’s corner

“Every time we plan to explore below the Phyllis, something happens that sends us in another direction” – Steve’s player SM

“Yeah, it’s like the GM is saving it for a season finale or something” – me, as GM.

The presence of real money made for a good bit of roleplaying I’m sorry I can’t reproduce adequately. Most white hats except Arby (who has the covetous ($) drawback) had good reasons not to keep the money. It made giving it to this or that person easier.

It also – finally – gave me a good way of working the confrontation with the Rolling 40s into the action. Now the white hats have guns, using the traditional adventurer method of “kill them and take their stuff!”

xp earned reflected both the Farmatec Office and Rolling 40s menaces, 5 apiece. As for drama points, I beat down Steve Jon and Arby with Shit That Happens, and Jon earned at least three, which were all rapidly spent on not dying. At present I’m minded not to penalize Vic for shooting the banger, since it was in defense of his fellow white-hats.

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CD8: the baby trade

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth! 

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s 

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic.

Vic Creed, the scarred ex-paratrooper: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: about 5’7 and thin. He is the trickster. This session Arby rejoins and takes a new skill, Occultism.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. This session Steve also takes Occultism as a new skill.

 

Scene: Brother Gloves Gym

Theme: Shakey Ground

Jon, Vic and the Cutter are rapping about their next move. It’s a slow morning. Up in the ring, Melvin is showing some cat how to throw a punch.

Going up against the Rolling 40s would take some doing. Vic rules out allying with another gang and going to war. Steve scratches his short ‘fro, worrying about the Clinic – they got to roll in there too. But they lack a fast talker.

Roosevelt Brown appears. He fronts them: he’s screwed his nerve up, jitter-buggin from one foot to the other.

“The deal is this: you get me some real green, or I’m-a gonna drop the dime on all a ya, big time!”

They go round a while once Steve gets Vic sitting down and Melvin quietly takes Steve’s broom away. Arby allows Steve picked on him without hearing his side. Thing is, he had no choice about snitching.

“I ‘greed to snitch fo’ CBI – after they beat me bloody! What would you have done? Huh?”

Steve would still not have agreed, Vic would die happy if he denied them. Still they’s they, Arby’s Arby. They can see his point of view. Jon sits quiet, nodding.

“I been lettin’ CBI know – ‘bout stuff on other side of town, keepin’ them off our backs! Sure, Blackhand’s a problem too, asking about Farmatec places, but I ain’t told them Jack!”

Arby has a short-list of the places Delaney of Blackhand is really interested in. Farmatec head office, of course; the Med Lab up at Case Western; the brewery; League Park; the Phyllis Wheatley; and the Life Skills Center.

Arby can come back in, on a short leash. They get him to drop the dime again, telling Blackhand about their hospital dealings and the roll through Hough. Those aren’t part of the Farmatec thing by all accounts so it’s true but useless to Farmatec.

 

Scene: A diner, opposite the Clinic’s Maternity wing

Theme: Sweetback’s Theme

Arby struts in, Jim Fairbanks following. Jim tosses the van’s keys back to Steve: Steve offers him a hero sandwich.

“Naw, I gotta date. Check in with me later – you know where to phone, man. And I’ll check into that ‘other stuff’” Jim mimes a pistol, down low by Vic’s bulk. They bump fists, and with Vic’s superfluous advice to get his groove on, Jim rolls out.

“It a drug house,” Arby says, once he gets on the outside of a sandwich. “Cats be lookin’ for Mr Candyman, on’y he not home right now. Got a lookout car next door, that what you saw, it empty ‘ight now.”

“No wonder the 40s be mindin’ that place. And not home yet huh. Lance work a night shift. Well, I guess we missed him.”

“Let’s make tracks into the hospital. Arby’s here, he can talk to the desk.”

 

Scene: Inside the Maternity wing

Theme: People Get Up and Drive your Funky Soul

The issue of lost babies (yes, multiple) is in the hands of the Communications Manager, Mr Mintz. He does a fairly poor job of speaking to Steve and Jon, then calls security. Jon gets by far the worst of their attention, poor fellow, as he is not agile enough to dodge and not sturdy enough to shrug them off. And Afrodite, plaintive Donnie Maurice’s girl, leads a protest mob invasion at that very hour, and tempers get frayed. CPD Police add their batons to those of the security team and everyone is ejected.

“Vic, I seen a li’l Asian nurse or candy-striper or suthin’ layin’ a stash in yo’ pocket,” Arby warns. Vic takes out the bottle and squints at it. Jon decides not to take the Oxy, even though he’s really hurting. Vic disposes it down a convenient sewer grate.

While waiting for Jon and Steve, Arby has lent a sympathetic ear to a young nurse-orderly, Maggie, who tells him that another baby went missing about a year ago, at about the same time Dr. Han unexpectedly dropped into the nursery. At the time she was so traumatized she forgot to mention it to the cops. And anyway she wouldn’t want to get him into trouble, he’s a nice guy even if he’s Asian.

“Wait, play that back Arby,” Steve barks. “She say ‘nice guy even if he’s Asian’?”

“Yeah man, like that.”

“Waitaminnit! That’s ‘most ezackly what Nicole tole me up at Garfield!”

 

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Pick up the Pieces

It’s research time!

“I’ll be outside… checkin’ out th’ new track,” Vic announces dryly. And Arby’s attention span wanes too, and he joins Vic after a while. But in the meantime, he and Steve have helped Jon work through the station’s books about weird critters and have a few leads.

Kobolds: Yes, Kobolds will eat anything opportune.

Hobgoblins: The name is a rough translation of the original Japanese. One strain of these critters does have a taste for babies.

Demons: There is one smaller type of humanoid demon that delights in disguise, small enough to appear to be a small man, though they don’t mind being mistaken for other things. They have a particular liking for babies. They worship a greater demon, one of whose names is Face-stealer. Such a demon would take possession of a human.

Professor Roosevelt advises them to keep the amulet rock by, because it will make a demon struggle to concentrate on a spell, especially possession, and answer fluently at the same time.

Thinking about possession and needing to exorcise a demon quickly, Jon phones maman. He takes the emotional abuse long enough to get his request over, and maman agrees to get the congregation ready again.

 

Scene: a pleasant coffee-shop, Maple Heights

Theme: Cornbread

There’s not many Hans in the Cuyahoga phone books, and only one Doctor. He’s out in Maple Heights. Not wanting to give Vic Collova an excuse for less civil behavior, the white hats navigate right around Garfield, seeing a lot of expensive real estate as they do. They stop in Maple Heights, near enough to the rail station not to be automatically picked up for Black while Anything. Here in this coffee-shop, the clientele are mostly older white women. The white hats eat ‘scones’ which turn out to be biscuits, and sip weak coffee. Near Vic, a nervous woman struggles with her purse and change. As he turns to help, she panics and spills everything. Things are retrieved. Unseen, a vaguely familiar envelope remains behind on the floor. Vic covers it with one massive hand, and slips it away.

Outside, Vic checks out the envelope. The crest is the familiar Indian Chief of the Cleveland Indians. Inside is two tickets to the upcoming home game against the Sox. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be much of a find, seeing how the Tribe is glued to the bottom rankings. But player-manager Frank Robinson seems to be raising the team up a little. Vic decides he and the Cutter could take in the ball game.

 

Scene: a pleasant wooded urban lane, Maple Heights

Theme: Walk on by

With directions from a gas station, they find Han’s street. Established homes, well-wooded, well-groomed. Han’s house is no exception. But it seems quiet and peaceful. There’s nothing sinister at all.

Steve apologizes: his idea was wrong. They have to go chase down some other leads. Back to Garfield Heights after all. He really has to get in to see Serena, the midwife. With a better ruse than animal control.

“I c’d maybe use Cleo, p’tend she pregnant…”

His heart sinks.

 

Scene: Cleopatra’s apartment

Theme: Trouble Man

It’s Afrodite answers the door. Oh, now Steve places her! She used to babysit for Cleo, and since Cleo got a job today, and Afrodite got no child no more, she’s agreed to stand babysitter again.

Afrodite is very motivated to help. It would be better if it were at the Clinic, but if one thing leads to another, she might still get her baby back. Her stomach is still loose: she looks convincing as a slightly pregnant girl.

Vic volunteers to babysit. The kids don’t mind.

 

Scene: Serena McIntyre’s clinic, Garfield Heights

Theme: It’s crazy babe

This time, there’s no difficulty getting to see Serena. Right time of day, right look. She’s a capable-looking thirty-something, with a scattering of freckles across her nose, and reddish hair. And she proves to be a sharp observer.

Steve gets an accurate account of who was where the night baby McCants disappeared. The only two staff actually in the nursery were nurse-orderly Nicole, and orderly Neal.

Neal?

Short, undistinguished features, middling looks, middling hair. Has worked at Garfield for at least as long as Nicole or Lance. Drives a plain van.

No, she doesn’t think Han had anything to do with the disappearance. He is highly professional, and certainly a very nice guy even if Asian.

 

Scene: Soul Food Diner, near the Gym

Theme: The Payback

It’s early the next morning. The four white hats are planning how to latch hold of Neal. Steve’s reporter friend Cindy Channel really sank her teeth into the lead and got enough out of the Clinic’s maternity wing to report that Neal moonlights there too, three days a week on, four off.

A sista-girl bursts in, ‘fro bent on one side, blood oozing down her temple. She needs help! Afrodite in trouble! Down the mission now!

Quickly detailing off Jon and Arby to drive up to Garfield Heights Steve and Vic run after Selma-Beth to the Newborn mission. She throws open the door – gesticulates urgently – there!

A white dude is seated peacefully at a table, he looks up as though expecting them.

“I brought them,” Selma-Beth announces calmly, wiping off the fake blood. “Don’ f’get my money.”

The white dude adjusts his spectacles and near-sightedly shuffles two ten-spots out his billfold, and Selma-Beth departs.

“Have a seat,” Agent Boddington announces pleasantly.

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Get Ready

It’s early dawn of the following morning, and the station’s cheap coffee is washing down a hasty breakfast. The white hats don’t mean to miss Neal this time. Yesterday Jon and Arby arrived way too late, since they had to walk all the way to Jon’s sedan in order to drive up to Garfield.

Steve and Vic have a half-agreed alliance with Department 7 of the CPD. It seems to be a small, underfunded section in charge of weird cases. It certainly doesn’t have the manpower to cover much of the inner east city. Boddington is only too happy for DeNaRes to fund the white hats. In return he’ll try to let them know if other cops have been told off to pick them up, and he won’t ask about what they might have under their coats.

So they’re tooling up for a possible demon. Vic will keep the rock in his pocket, axe at his back under the coat, and Steve and Arby each have a catchpole. Jon has a knife as well as his trusty stick.

 

Scene: outside a warehouse on the Lake Shore

Theme: Jungle Boogie

Steve has no trouble following Neal’s van after Arby spots Neal. Arby thinks he saw a tail under the short guy’s smock. The others can barely see him: their attention keeps sliding off him. But the van, that’s normal, just anonymous.

Neal acts as though he doesn’t know he’s in trouble when they roll on him as soon as he gets down out of his van. Arby swoops on him and gets the catchpole firmly round Neal’s neck. Steve adds his, around the arms. Now the guy – or thing – can’t get away and can’t pull a weapon. The glamor slips once, revealing a greenish skin and reptilian eyes.

Neal pretty much follows Steve’s lead of questioning, eagerly laying any blame at Han’s doorstep, as well as Nicole. But he’s not entirely convincing. He seems to have trouble concentrating: also he’s very scared of Vic. When he includes “probably involving soul music” in his description of the terrible rite at which Han eats babies, Steve is skeptical.

Vic grabs the little demon’s tail: it comes off in his hand. Nasty! Undeterred, Vic uses it to beat the captive.

Apparently Neal is a middleman demon, supplying a demon market where babies are very valuable currency. He may or may not worship Han, and/or the face-stealer. But he certainly doesn’t want the white hats to go after Han, after all he admires his professionalism and he is a really nice guy too. Even if Asian.

The white hats eventually ask Neal where the babies are, and he can’t help his eyes sliding sideways to the warehouse.

They recover both baby McCants and Afrodite’s little one. Neal’s van is well-equipped to keep babies secure from rolling about, so they lash him up, toss him in, and transport the babies in it as well. Arby drives, pretty sure he’s inherited new wheels.

 

Credit-roll scene:

It’s the aftermath of reports and handovers. The white hats are relaxing, though they are still unsure of what to do about Han. As for Neal, well, Cleveland is on a major waterway. He’ll be shipped out, not comfortably.

The breakfast news plays. A number of black worshippers thought to belong to the Haitian congregation have been hospitalized after their service was raided. It is unclear who raided it.

The Feelgood hour resumes. Charlie Stone mikes in for a guest spot. He speaks gravely about the perils of vigilantism.

 

GM’s Corner

General notes: Steve recovered from last session’s financial hit by leaving Jon and Arby with the bill at the Soul Food diner: not intentionally. It’s a good thing gas is still pretty cheap, because there was a lot of driving. But Terique McCants rewards them with real green so they are flush for now.

It’s a good rule for side-stories that they may inform the main storyline, but ought not to take more than two sessions. So this session the ‘Kobolds ate my baby’ side-story took precedence. Acknowledgments to LPJ Design for Full Circle, adapted slightly to urban fantasy.

Good roleplaying by all, but Arby’s player did exceptionally well, taking a very short briefing from me on what angle he was to take coming back to the other white hats and getting some good fast-talk going using the right lingo.

I think players are getting more used to having contacts, and running through who might be used for what. It’s part of feeling embedded into the local area, so is quite vital.

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CD7: Sweating the clues/Kobolds ate my baby

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth! 

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s 

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic. This session Jon has boosted Getting Medieval and Crime. And finds Influence might have been more useful.

Vic Creed, the scarred ex-paratrooper: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle. This session Vic has boosted his Dexterity; and again meets a large gent.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: about 5’7 and thin. He is the trickster. This session Arby is lying low.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. This session Steve has boosted Getting Medieval. He finds his good looks a major asset.

Guest star: Jim Fairbanks: about 6′, a tough ex-serviceman from Vic’s 101st Airborne. Unlike Vic he has not been crazy for four years or so: he has built up a diverse range of skills associated with treasure-hunting.

 

Scene: Brother Gloves, early

Theme: Get up offa that thing

Vic is sparring with Melvin the punchy manager, while swamper Stevie is readying the gym and discussing the next move with Jon. Vic is not challenged by the human punching-bag Melvin, and interjects from time to time.

All three agree that the Phyllis Wheatley investigation has risen to top of list. But given what seemed like a heavy police presence the other night, they need to find ways of getting inside that don’t involve looking like felons.

Eventually they decide to go with a simple ‘animal control call’ as soon as possible, but to use Jon’s Plymouth, so that Vic can sit outside looking innocent while Stevie and Jon are inside investigating. They’ll need at least one catchpole.

 

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station

Theme: Across 11oth Street

Ranger Kelly is around. She passes Stevie a note with a name and phone number.

“The kobold issue might just have risen up to urgent,” Kelly explains. “I got a call from this Terique gen’lman, heard about us through a friend of a friend, his baby gone missing. Po-lice not helpful. Give him a call.”

The number isn’t a downtown one, so it’s not something Steve can take on right at this time, but he tucks it away for later, collects a catchpole and two flashlights, and heads out.

 

Scene: the Plymouth sedan, drive-by

Theme: Shotgun

The streets are already hot by the time Jon gets his Plymouth rolling. Kids are out loitering. Oh yeah, summer break. Cedar shimmers and the sun’s in Jon’s eyes. Steve’s called shotgun, and catches sight of a police cruiser as they near the Phyllis Wheatley. Whoa! Just keep rolling Jon!

Jon hauls a right onto East 30th, works up a couple – just past Mrs Creed’s slum-elegant mansion as it happens – right again onto once-gracious Euclid and along over the tracks into Hough. It’s pretty crummy along this part of Euclid. Plenty of boys on vacant lots, playing ball or shooting hoops: but plenty of strung-out early-jonesing cats too, looking to meet Mr. Candyman. Jon parks up for a time and they wait and watch. A few lost-cat notices. A couple of kids run over to inspect the tires. Vic rolls his window down and leans out, friendly-like, and the kids disappear.

Jon tries again, with due caution, and the cruiser is gone. Time to break out the catchpole and try their luck!

 

Scene: Basement, Phyllis Wheatley’s main building

Theme: The Letter

Esther Jefferson is a frail old sistah but something in her ramrod posture and her style of speech suggests she has military or paramilitary training. She’s night manager, but an issue with a couple of complaints has kept her on duty down there. Her desk is one corner of a large basement, lit by daylight through fanlight windows at ground level. The basement is crowded with filing cabinets and box upon box of paperwork.

Esther explains that sure, there could be an animal issue. Some of the young ladies in the annexes have complained about clothing going missing. Mainly underwear. Could be raccoons. But more pressingly, she’s got to shift all of the flammables out of the basement, or she’s in violation of the latest order to comply. Shift the boxes, and she’ll give Jon a look at all the complaints and orders.

Vic is roped in from the Plymouth and through the day, he and the Cutter shift about three tons of paper. They uncover rat and mouse droppings, some cockroaches and a lot of silverfish. And way back at the far end, a door.

Meanwhile Jon has worked his way steadily through dozens of legal letters. There’s one oddity: a kind of early quotation draft form from Blackhand Security, assessing the Phyllis Wheatley, as though they had been asked to tender for it.

Setting that aside, there are three kinds of legal letters. Wolfgang & Hearst letterhead demands to comply, utility company notices of breach, and city notices of ordinance violation. The latest of those is from Cleo’s brother, the one in the Buildings & Works department. Esther confirms that all these are making it hard for the association, but she seems to have plenty of fighting spirit left.

As for the cops, she describes near-nightly visits, mostly by junior patrolmen, following supposed complaints about noise or the like. The pattern seems to be a vigorous walk-through to intimidate the young women in the annexes. It happens six nights out of seven, and can include multiple visits or all-night stations.

Finally, only slightly fortified by a coffee brewed for them by a shy intern, the three are ready to try to search for a way below the building.

 

Scene: behind the furnace room, Phyllis Wheatley

Theme: Green Onions

They don’t have much room to search, and have no particular skills for it, but following the big old pipes along, the white hats find a shoulder-high pipe where something has either hung on and slid down, or jumped up then fallen back. Three sharp claws, maybe the span of a reasonable size dog’s paw. A mighty big he-coon might just be big enough. It’s not obvious where such a critter would enter or exit, but there are vent-holes aplenty.

 

Scene: the basement

Theme: Cold Sweat

Esther has a bunch of keys, and supervises as Steve tries a few in the door, which appears to have not been opened in a long time. Jiggling a likely key around, he unlocks it, and opens the door easy enough. Beyond is a dusty, damp-smelling space of reasonable size.

Esther has been night manager a long time, but doesn’t recall the door ever being opened. Yes, the Phyllis Wheatley probably does have something lower. Rumor is, it was part of the Underground Railroad back in Civil War days.

Jon decides to carry a flashlight and walk ‘in the middle’ with Steve leading, Vic bringing up the rear.

The search carries them round and down a flight of steps into a sub-basement. Now they’re getting somewhere! Trouble is there’s no obvious exit. Searching around leads them to a manhole. It is proudly marked ‘Cleveland City Smelting Mfg 1904’. Well-made of drop-forged steel, its key-hole is slightly bright on the edges with marks of a manhole key.

Searching further, the three white hats duly find a manhole key, adequately concealed. Nothing is to be heard from the hole; nor smelled; so Stevie uses the key; lifts the cover. Empty space below, damp smelling. Rungs of a well-forged steel ladder, worn but not rust-damaged.

Vic and the Cutter suspect the ladder is used now and then. No obvious place someone would head out of the sub-basement. Those boxes really did block the old door. But it did open easily once unlocked. Hmmm. Jury’s out. Anyway, time to check the sewer, or whatever this is.

It is a large-bore pipe, damp but not running with water. Big enough for three abreast. The odd pool of water here and there, not foul-smelling. Flashlights don’t pick up anything.

 

The three white-hats return to the ladder. They’ve searched left and right a considerable way, and the flashlights are running low. The manhole cover is replaced and the Cutter hides the manhole key in the same place they found it. Then back up out, and to Esther. She may have taken a nap sometime in the day, or not, she seems much the same. She’s now at her small night desk in the corner of a very empty basement. Expecting a rousting from cops. Time to go.

 

Scene: the McCants’ sitting-room, Garfield Heights

Theme: What becomes of the brokenhearted

It’s night. The DeNaRes white hats, all dressed in shabby gray uniform dungarees and jacket after a quick shower and change at the station, are sitting sipping coffee and listening to Terique, who is sitting with his distraught wife opposite. The house is a simple ranch, well maintained, and Terique’s manner of speaking goes with it: an educated brother with enough income to move up to the Heights here.

Terique discovered his baby missing from the maternity ward’s nursery: he’d visited his wife after her delivery, decided to see the baby in the nursery, the nurse couldn’t find it. Big alarm, but after the initial alarm and search the hospital moved his wife out real quick, denied there was an issue. The police haven’t helped: not interested. Between the two of them they recall a couple of nurse’s names, the name of the midwife and the Gyn. Obs. – who only supervised at arm’s length since the delivery was routine. And there was an orderly, big brother.

 

Scene: Marymount’s maternity wing

Theme: Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud

They’ve decided to stick to the animal-control thing, and ask for Serena the midwife. This turns out to not work so great, because the midwife isn’t there at this time. But by luck, the old flat-footed security guard names Lance, the huge orderly, who’s decided to knock off as it’s quiet tonight. The white hats follow him out to his beat-up old Dodge. He’s monosyllabic and hostile. And since he’s nearly as tall as Vic, and maybe 40lb heavier, they decide not to crowd the man. Vic notes the number-plate, not that any of them have access to the DMV.

The white hats catch a few Zs and come back for the end of night shift. Jon speaks to old Betty Larosse, who’s worked there forever. She gives a couple of other names and says Lance was last seen wheeling baby Jacob out to the nursery.

Steve is lucky enough to catch Nicole, the nurse-orderly who feeds babies formula and has been working the nursery for 16 of her 32 years. He treats her to breakfast in the town square’s diner and she has a good cry on his manly chest. She gives him Lance’s surname.

So what do they have? Not a lot. Not nothing. It seems as though Lance has something to hide. They have his name.

 

Scene: Serena McIntyre’s consulting clinic, Garfield Heights

Theme: Shakey ground

Steve and Jon get some old-fashioned looks from the slightly pregnant clients and the receptionist. When Vic pushes through the door the girl’s finger is on the modern quick-dial phone faster than Jon can draw breath. Very soon, a police presence escorts the three gentlemen from the office.

 

Scene: Chief of Police’s office, Garfield Heights City PD

Theme: Living for the City

“Now this fine city ain’t Cleveland. Nossir. Our Mayor Hizzoner Thomas Llongo has embraced a spirit of openness to all cultures and cooperation with duly ‘pointed deputies. Yes he has. But I ain’t Hizzonner. I’m Vic Collova, and in my town, your office don’t cut up to much. Take your IDs” – Vic slides them across the desk – “and get.”

Congratulating each other on not getting a beat-down – “Shee-it, they practically thanked us for stopping by” – the three white hats depart.

 

Scene: Outside a phone-booth, near University Circle

Theme: Papa was a rolling stone

Steve and Vic are discussing Jim Fairbanks. Vic’s ex-101st buddy has been working the public record queues and sweating directorships for the past few days. He’s just given them the confusing information that Jude Humphreys says DeNaRes is behind Wolfgang & Hearst.

The two white hats are interrupted by a youngish brother waving urgently at them from across the road, over by the student bar.

Meet Donnie Maurice, new father and long-term client of the shelter network. He has two problems that give his voice a permanently mournful tone. The most urgent one is that his baby-mama missed her baby out of the Clinic. He’s heard they are looking into the same problem, so he’s hoping they’ll look into his. He’s heard other babies like his have gone missing over the years: babies of poor black girls who don’t have the juice to get disappearances looked into.

His baby-mama is known as Afrodite, not her real name, and she’s housed with the Phyllis Wheatley at the moment, since the Clinic moved her on as soon as they could. He sleeps in any of a number of shelters, all familiar to Vic.

They agree to help. Donnie’s second problem is the reason he is a shelter client. He’s a genius with numbers. He can break anything that isn’t mechanically rigged and isn’t pure chance. Old-money crime has his card marked, so any time he shows up at any game they give him a working over and tell him not to come back. So if the white hats find his baby, he can help them with any code.

 

Scene: once again in the Plymouth, rolling

Theme: I can’t get next to you

Jude makes with the jokes for a time after they pick him up in Ward Square but as the Plymouth rolls from the dismal run-down Central neighborhood through increasingly deserted areas towards the reservoir he is sweating bullets and when Jon turns from the wheel and asks if they’ll be feeding the ducks he wets himself.

He admits he did “kind of” mislead Jim. Partly by accident! He was trying to explain that he works for DeNaRes himself. Except in reality he works for the County Prosecutor’s office. And Wolfgang & Hearst are being instructed out of the CP’s office.

 

Scene: Steve’s place

Theme: Get ready

The three white hats are loading up Steve’s old Ford van. They have kind of a crossbreed look. They’re wearing animal control uniforms, but Vic’s got on his black leather duster so he can hide his axe under it, and Steve packs his sturdy jacket with the same intent. Jon has some ideas about how to approach Lance. The idea is just to get information. Vic isn’t optimistic.

Jim arrives. He has five baseball bats. Vic and Steve asked him to bring them, and he hasn’t heard that Arby is a back number for now. They bump fists and load up.

 

Scene: a rough street in Hough

Theme: Walk on by

They’re driving somewhere in the East 80s, somewhere north of Lamont. The houses are a mix of single ranch and two-up shared. Not much red brick, with the result that everything looks grayer and more run-down than an average street. Siding cracking away in places, driveways of cracked and broken cheap-poured cement, TV aerials that were maybe new last World War. Front lots with broken-down autos. Many of the houses look like they were slapped up on the cheap by city-contract fat-cats who pocketed the difference: some roof lines are definitely sagging.

Jim navigates Steve to the address he found for them. Plenty of notices about lost cats and lost dogs here. Lance Barnes lives in a single ranch, similarly run-down to the others. His Dodge is in the drive. The nearest house is a two-up: a rusted, wheel-less auto sits on blocks in the front lot. Two kids are sitting in the front seat, pretending to drive.

Steve pulls up and the white hats roll out, carrying baseball bats. The kids yell machine-gun imitations at them and tell them they’re dead.

They figure Lance will head out the back door so Vic and Jim head round the house, while Jon and Steve knock on the front screen door. It’s hot but the sun is behind the house, the front doorway is in darkness. No reply. The house feels occupied though. Jon gets a bad vibe off it.

Steve decides to switch his bat for his axe, and heads back towards the van. Then he halts. The sedan that just passed was passing when he first parked there. He makes four young bloods in it. It slows right down and crawls the curb.

Another, fancier-trim auto rolls in the same way. A smooth cat, fairly tall and using sunglasses, slides out of it and confronts Steve. He pushes the glasses up onto his short-trimmed afro.

“Name’s Dakka, blood. This be our turf.” Aaron ‘Dakka’ Tyler turns his chin and pulls down his collar a little, showing Steve a forward-sloping 40, the zero tattooed like a drag car’s slick. Rolling 40s. One of the tough Hough gangs. “An’ this be under our p’tection,” Dakka continues, gesturing around at Barnes’ house.

“I dig,” Steve replies.

“’Less you be Rollin 40s, you don’ be seeing no-one. You lookin’ to join up?”

 

Credit-roll scene:

The white hats get gone with their tails between their legs. Lance Barnes is well protected at home. They will need a fresh approach. Maybe carrying the ward-stone. Natural optimism reasserts itself and making jokes about soap on a rope they roll back up to DeNaRes to see if the Professor has found out about baby-stealing demons yet.

 

GM’s corner

General notes: Steve is Resources -1 at the moment, having treated nurse-orderly Nicole to a big diner breakfast in upmarket Garfield Heights. All characters have Contacts of 1-2 and it was good to see them using one. More of the same will pay off.

Arby’s plight: I have no information on whether Arby will return. His player skipped the game session. “It’s because you are permanently picking on his character,” Steve’s player advises me helpfully. “I try to pick on all your characters, but Arby gives me the most to work with,” I reply defensively.

Acknowledgements and apologies: This session features a side-plot based on Full Circle, a d20 Modern game by LPJ Design. Marymount Hospital in Garfield Heights is where I chose to set part of it. I am certain that even in the 70s the hospital did not mislay babies then deny everything. Equally I am certain that Vic Collova, who was Fire chief (not Police chief) at the time is as honorable as my depiction, but more civic-minded. Thomas Longo is a real person and long-serving Mayor of Garfield Heights; the Thomas Llongo I have as Mayor of Garfield Heights is an equally worthy but imaginary person.

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CD6: Cleaning up from the other side

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth! 

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s 

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic. This session Jon uses his Occult and Doctor skills very effectively.

Vic Creed, the scarred ex-paratrooper: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle. This session Vic finds there’s always someone bigger. He also ends the session by buying Dex up one.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: about 5’7 and thin. He is the trickster. This session Arby focuses on Full Defense. He also lands in the first white hat crisis.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. This session Steve continues to balance Getting Medieval and Kung-Fu. And his fear of commitment.

Scene: DeNaRes ranger station common room

Theme: Ball of Confusion

Steve and Vic have caught up on sleep, some of the bruises have eased, enough to feel breakfast is more important than sleeping some more anyway. Kelly’s at the long common-room table when they enter: she’s being teased by Benny Li – who’s freshening the coffee – about being gung-ho for Carter. Supporting a cracker from Georgia? She laughs it off. The Democrat Convention will be held in a week’s time, in NY, but it’s looking like a done deal for Carter. The real interest is, will he heed Jesse Helms and bring in a black running mate? Probably not.

Steve checks that Burnes is really, really securely tied up, then moves back into the canteen in quest of real food. The Minnesotian, Gunnarson, and Danny Castro are already there, finishing up dishes. Gunnarson doesn’t care about who’s getting the Democrat nod, apparently some guy name of Church from Idaho is a gone goose already. Besides he votes red.

Danny Castro heads back out to the common-room as Steve locates a good slab of ham and Vic demands grits with that. Much laughter around the table as Castro reveals Gunnarson wants the ex-actor, Ronald Reagan, for the Republican vote. Their convention isn’t until August so plenty of time for things to weird up. Maybe not that weird.

Castro doesn’t get (or pretends not to) why Kelly hates Ford.

“It was that whole pardon Nixon first order of business,” she explains. “I got no time for the Man making one rule for I and another for thou.”

So, not Ford the automobile then. Yes, politics is going the rounds today. None of the white hats would consider voting – not that Arby or Vic are even registered – Vic because he’s been crazy, Arby because he’s born lazy.

By the time Steve has a new round of breakfast ready Jon and Arby show up, still sleepy, still aching, but smelling the coffee. Arby’s sporting a heavy bandage right across his left eye. The Professor has trickled out too, taken over one end of the table, and is poking his pipe with something sharp. Aromas of coffee, cigarette and pipe tobacco thicken the air as the white hats put away breakfast. Laurie emerges last of all, skips breakfast, ignores Steve.

There’s report writing to do. The two women will do it. Battered portable Remingtons are produced, and several carbons. The white hats go through everything again, in a lot more detail than last night.

As the reports are being proofed, Professor Jeremiah speaks up.

“By the way… I’ve researched that stone.”

He’s got Jon’s attention. Apparently, it emits a faint ‘good’ radiance that will disrupt curses. An amulet, if you will. Though being the size of a small fist, it’s not something you can just hang round your neck like a medallion.

“I believe some of these curved carvings may have originally allowed a rope binding to be woven around it,” the Professor posits, then waffles off into speculation about which culture may have created it.

Officers are sent out to investigate things, mostly in pairs. Steve belatedly phones in to Brother Gloves to call in a sick day. The white hats rest as much as they can, though Jon is onto the next piece of research! For the Professor has re-emerged from some back room with a large and dusty book. Occult library! It’s time to figure out how best to deal with Burnes.

 

Scene: same place, the following morning

Theme: Get Ready

Vic Steve and Arby gear up for a vampire hunt. The officers of DeNaRes have reported back on the aftermath of the ‘Canned Food’ episode on the Rapid. It seems very likely that the operation has been shut down, and the ringleader has quietly moved on. But a lesser or minion vamp – or maybe not just one – seems to have skipped into the run of parkland that is generally known as Rockefeller. Problem is, it leads out north to a golf course where some influential people play, and there’s a way of getting from that to the port. The vamp is probably trying to stow away, but the danger can’t just be ignored.

Meanwhile Jon is getting himself as tidy as he can, and heading out in his sedan for Maman’s. Research has pointed to Burnes being possessed, but it will take a real professional – meaning his mother – to work out what can be attempted to drive out the demon. Cue Steve’s Exorcist jokes.

 

Scene: Doan Brook parkland

Theme: Mo’ Onions

The station is very near the parkland, so the trio head down the steep wooded slope towards a stream, which they assume is named Rockefeller. Each carries a catchpole, and Arby is designated as flashlight man. He’s up front on the right, Vic’s more or less off to his left, Steve’s the third point of the triangle in rear. They sweat freely, even in the woods: the muscle both have a heavy coat or jacket, concealing an axe and holding a stake and flashlight. And it’s July. They find a lot of trash, and nothing much else. Reaching the stream, they turn downstream towards the Fairhill and Rapid culverts. The gully broadens, reservoirs shoulder up above them on the left.

The first culvert is short, no problem. Then the stream heads under the Rapid and off into darkness. Flashlight on! Arby holds it in his left, so he can use the pole to touch the culvert side. It’s large enough to be comfortable for Steve, but a stoop for Vic, assuming he doesn’t want to splash along the stream itself.

 

Scene: Maman Samedy’s place

Theme: Soul Man

Jon pulls up in the outer sweep of the drive. Two vehicles are in. Steps over, checks them with some care, works out that the genuine clerical nephew, and the niece in commercial law, are visiting today.

Jon heads around to check on his old shack, which technically stands on another property but common consent of the neighbourhood is that all the waste ground is Maman’s. Nothing’s changed. He heads back towards the house (or assembly of different-period house sections) finding that two of the congregation are shading themselves on the back porch.

One’s Deacon Setro, who rejoices in the surname Casimir-Perier. A man more interested in his own importance than the greater good of the Haitian congregation, Jon feels. That would make the other member with him his tool, then. They greet each other politely though without warmth.

 

Scene: first tunnel stretch

Theme: Cold Sweat

Before they’ve completely lost sight of the tunnel mouth, they stumble across a dim form lying amidst rags bottles and cans. Heavy raw-alcohol and white-spirits smell. It’s a hobo. Arby helpfully pokes it with his catchpole. It rears up snuffling and grumbling, staggering. But alive for sure.

A grope-fest! Vic and Steve painstakingly check the reluctant and extremely smelly creature for non-parasitic bite marks, while he staggers around, falling down on people and mumbling about sparing a dime. They clear the scene and depart, feeling like they need laundry service. And de-lousing.

 

Scene: rear parlor, Maman’s place

Theme: Hurt is all you gave me

Asha is seated on the settee, bandaged and bruised. She came looking for Jon over a day ago! And it seems she has explained her mission. Jon is beat on (verbally) by Maman, nephew and niece. His ego is torn a new one. What does he mean by letting the danger to the Phyllis Wheatley slide as though he got a job to get to! Or a career of any kind?

Asha thinks the Feds probably arranged the beating-up.

 

Scene: deep in the tunnel

Theme: Don’t look back

Getting clear of the Rapid underpass as soon as they can – when a train passes it’s sensory overload and they are completely vulnerable – the three white hats press on to a fork. Up on the right, a high squarish duct leads off. It was grilled off but at some stage the grill has been pushed in. It would allow a slim person to creep along it. No question of someone Steve’s size trying it. Some rubbish lies on the other side of the grill, as though accidentally drifted in there.

“That be a noise-alarm,” Steve explains quietly, “happen you can cross the rice paper ‘thout a soun’ Grasshopper, you be the dude.”

Arby gulps and allows himself to be boosted up, and gently eases the catchpole in, himself after it. Evades the trash. Almost immediately his light and pole pick up a resting form. The vamp is surprised!

But Arby misses his catch, and squeals as he squirms back as fast as he can! The grill is acting like an eel-trap, making it impossible to get out! Steve grabs it, trying to wrench it free. Vic falls into the stream as he hastens to help.

Arby parries off the vamp long enough for the grill to be torn away, then his ankles are snagged and he’s yanked out fast like a thin black turnip and set down: but the vamp shoots out with him! Eyes glow yellow in the flickering light and it screeches angrily!

It’s all clinch range, which favors the muscle. Steve and Vic get an armlock each on the vamp and Arby hammers in a stake. It takes a couple of tries before the vamp crumbles to dust!

 

Scene: back at DeNaRes station

Theme: Pick up the pieces

Asha is welcome to remain behind as a guest, so Jon chauffeurs Maman up to the station. With due caution he checks the storeroom where Burnes is securely tied up still, then shows his mother.

She’ll need some candles, and some feathers.

Well, candles won’t be problem. There are a lot of power supply problems (less since the gremlins moved on). Feathers? No, Laurie is not willing to sacrifice a down-stuffed pillow and down sleeping-bags are expensive. There’ll be some feathers lying around in the park. Good luck with that Jon.

 

Scene: Wade Park culvert

Theme: Walk on by

As the white hats get close, a huge man – or something – raises up out of the culvert and looms over them.

“Hmmm! Humans! You… seen my… hammer?”

The basso rumble is hard to follow, but they’re pretty sure they haven’t seen a hammer. Arby notices a rectangular pack dangling from one vast hand. It’s a crate of C Schmidt quart bottles. The BIG guy -thing – bends close to examine the white hats, squinting against the light, and seems to find bandaged Arby amusing.

“Hohoho! Tiny human! Drink beer!”

Arby manages most of the quart before his gut give up and beer foams out of mouth and nose, and he vomits. Much amusement again. The troll (if that’s what it is) allows them to go through.

The VA hospital is up above them on the right. Vic can point to ‘his’ window. Maybe some of the things he saw were really there?

 

Scene: Wade Park

Theme: Across 110th Street / Boom Boom

Up ahead lies a toy lake, bright in the hot sun, ducks quacking up in alarm as students hurl pebbles at them. The students see three animal control officers carrying catchpoles, and ignore them. The white hats decide to head on the hospital side of the lake – less traffic. The boatshed there is checked, no break-in, but not far along from it they find a coat. A woman’s coat. And blood on the collar.

Steve looks around, trying to figure where a vamp would lie up. On the corner of the VA hospital grounds there’s a strong, stone-built structure that might have been something important once. Vic says it’s a mower shed these days. Sounds about right! They work up the slope and over a quiet road, check the outer door – disused and firmly locked – then hop over the hospital fence to check the other side.

Five street punks, one clearly the leader, jump to their feet, dropping cigarette butts. They seem to be guarding a door that’s been broken open.

Steve and Vic intimidate the punks, showing axes. The punks have brought switchblades to an axe fight, and step off.

As Steve kicks the door in and Vic’s attention turns that way, they jump Arby! Vic is distracted – and Steve has to deal on his own, when the vamp hurls the woman full at him!

Arby makes good use of his scrawny size and dodges away fast, right through the doorway, past the vamp, ending up cowering behind a mowing tractor. Vic menaces the punks again, standing them off. Steve goes axe-to-fang with the vamp, and beheads the creature with two mighty strokes!

The punks depart at speed, not forgetting to yell back “you’ll be sorry you crossed us!”

The woman is alive but completely traumatized. The white hats have their pick of hospitals, and carry her blocks west to the A&E wing of the vast clinic hospital. As orderlies and doctors start yelling something about ‘stat’ they fade away and make it back to DeNaRes afoot and in the late afternoon sun.

“I seen a whole other side of Cleveland” Steve announces solemnly and they have to agree.

 

Scene: Cleo’s place

Theme: Trouble Man

Steve arrives with a roll from his first DeNaRes paypacket. He’s flush for the first time since he lost the gig as manager of Brother Gloves. Cleo’s brother Clive is there. This brother owns the apartment and allows Cleo and the kids to stay there. Maybe not free, but cheap. He’s something in the city – as Steve understands it, if you want something built it has to go through Clive’s office.

Cleo accepts the money, the more welcome since she lost her last semi-reliable work while protesting for Steve’s release, and they exchange a little news. Steve feels his guilt. Clive hangs around.

 

Scene: outside St Joseph’s cemetery, night

Theme: Going to a Go-Go

Steve and Vic are waiting outside the grounds. They don’t really want to participate in this voodoo stuff, but they feel like they need to ride it through.

 

Flashback swipe: DeNaRes ranger station porch

“This man been possessed, demon he name Defiler. Powerful lust demon. We got to assemble the congregation, Jon. You been needed there, houngaan. You got to show the congregation you power.”

“Oui maman, you know I shall.”

 

Flash forward: outside St Joseph’s

Jon’s already inside getting things organized. People in white have been drifting in, unobtrusively.

Arby rolls up. Steve has been waiting for him.

 

Flashback swipe: outside Cleo’s place

Clive catches Steve as he leaves. Lighting up a smoke in the hall, Clive asks if what he hears about ‘that Roosevelt’ is true: the way Clive hears it, Arby is snitching for some big security firm.

 

Flash forward: outside St Joseph’s

“ROOSEVELT BROWN!! I BEEN HEARING YOU SNITCHIN!?! YOU FACE ME NIGGAH! I BEEN RAISIN UP ALL OVER HELPIN YOU OUT!! NOW I HEAR SNITCH?!? FOR THE MAN?!? DON’T YOU RUN NOW!!!”

Arby turns tail and makes a hole in the horizon! Steve pounds after him but decides not to turn it into an endurance race.

 

Scene: inside St Joseph’s cemetery

Theme: People get up and drive your funky soul

It’s quite an experience for the two white hats unfamiliar with a genuine ceremony. Deacons in white oversee a good deal of a long and informal ceremony, there is much singing, and women throw themselves to the ground, writhing around happily. Steve enjoys this part. Jon and his Maman seem to be the priests. Burnes becomes a focus part way through, and they exorcise the demon.

 

Scene: the Burnes residence, Goodrich-Kirtland

Theme: I know I’m losing you

Vic puts his heart into a plea for understanding between Madeline and Bill Burnes. Jon has explained everything in terms of modern psychiatry. It’s hard for Madeline to take, and just as hard for Burnes to forgive himself. They agree to a trial separation.

The three remaining white hats take their leave, a little sorrowful there’s no happy ever after. Vic feels especially sore, because he’d hoped to grandly present Madeline with most of the expense money back: and the hobo had stolen it.

 

Credit-roll scene:

The radio set is playing “The Feelgood Hour!”

It dawns on the white hats they are listening to a diatribe by Charlie Stone, a radio evangelist, against a ‘Haitian Voodoo Menace’. He winds up by thanking his host on WKCY Gerry Toogood. Gerry and the preacher-man, seemingly good pals, toss the feed back and forth to one another. The zinger plays for Toogood’s Feelgood hour closing as Vic and Steve look at Jon.

 

GM’s corner

General notes: With a stipend from DeNaRes for the work they put in, the white hats are back up to the dizzy height of Resources 0, which is richer than Arby has ever been but makes no difference to Vic. I am agnostic as to which location the white hats are at when they hear Charlie Stone but I am clear that Jon Vic and Steve are all together.

Arby’s plight: He offered the others a thin but plausible excuse last session, when Delaney (Blackhand) was so pally. This session he failed to fast-talk Steve – Steve’s player did a great job a playing a raging-mad character – and by running away has literally run himself out of the game. He has lost his Nerves of Steel quality and gained Coward as a drawback. Arby may return – we all hope he does – but his player may try a new character, at least for a while.

Players hate losing gold off their character sheet. Vic’s player was duly enraged when he was told the hobo had pilfered his roll and vowed to return and kill him. (So not a murder-hobo, a hobo-murderer.) Of course with about $500 the hobo is living it up and drinking himself to death as fast as he can. Definitely not living in a culvert.

I don’t think I’ve ever trashed a threat the way I trashed those street punks guarding the vamp’s lair. They just seemed wrong for the situation. At one point I even described the lesser punks as lining up behind their leader, snapping their fingers in chorus-line. Oh well, there are nastier threats.

In case you know BtVS and are wondering about Drama Point levels: players are mostly hovering at the half-full mark. About the point where using xp to buy some back looks not a bad deal.

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CD5: Our town/Flower show/Devil in 106

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth! 

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s 

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

 

Jon ‘Doc’ Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic. Jon begins the session with a hand of sharp-edged bone after a spot of urgent magic went south.

Vic Creed, the scarred ex-paratrooper: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle. This session his weakness in Intelligence and Dexterity start him thinking about higher attributes.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: about 5’7 and thin. He is the trickster. This session Arby explores what use someone with low Strength can be in a fight.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. This session Getting Medieval turns out to be just as important as Kung-Fu and he’s OK at both.

 

Scene: above Fairhill

Theme: Don’t Look Back

Accustomed to thinking of the city as fairly flat, the sinking sun affords the white hats a stark shade map, picking out higher ground in detail. Lights are beginning to come on, streetlights are lit, automobiles buzz around University circle off to the right, and the vast mass of the Clinic, directly ahead of them, is a wonderland of lights and towers.

Still shaky from the terrifying escape, Jon looks to a nearer landmark, picking his way down to the road and along towards The Dunstan, a bar popular with medical students. Early though it is, a student reels out of the doors and vomits in a carefree fashion across the sidewalk.

“Wha… that?” Steve exclaims as the sharp opening cadence of Mamma Mia bounces around them. “Sounds like whitey music. By whitey whitebreads in white suits.”

“Guess we no goin’ in then,” Jon checks.

“Naw, we gots ta get gone, catch a bus down Cedar to the Phyllis.”

“Or we could take the flyer bus out and around Euclid.”

“That more Hough… some bad gangs like to kill a Central fool.”

Street gangs are unpredictable, and to minimise the risk they decide to head to the Clinic stop and wait for a direct bus. It’s pretty close to Jon’s family home too.

Arby catches a slow-moving black sedan rolling up behind them. Black-hand security! Mitchell Delaney gestures him over enthusiastically.

Jon limps over with Arby, but it’s Arby the man wants. Drapes a too-familiar arm over the skinny guy’s shoulders and brings him around the back of the sedan away from Jon’s direct gaze, mutters something and slaps Arby on the back a couple times and lets him go.

What Jon couldn’t see: a $20 tucked into Arby’s jacket pocket. What Jon couldn’t hear: Arby agreeing to snitch for Blackhand as well.

 

 

Scene: outside Farmatec House

Theme: Pick up the pieces

Ahead on the Cedar corner, University side, an old refurbished building stands amidst a fine renovated parkland. A Blackhand security guard is locking up as a few employees take their leave. He says goodnight to a tall, very fair-haired woman: her hair white-gold in the lobby light. She walks confidently around to the rear of the building where staff autos are parked. A male staff member, looking harassed and angry, accosts her with some folder in hand. She easily deals with him, crushing him with a few sentences, and sweeps on.

A few minutes later her sedan exits and heads towards Euclid. Not specially noted by either the driver nor the security guard, the Cutter watches it leave, repeats the number plate back to himself, and hurries on to catch his fellow white hats.

 

Scene: East 71st, north of Brother Gloves

Theme: Hurt is all you gave me

A single police cruiser parked up does not deter the white hats as they pimp-roll south to see if Jude’s courier has dropped off whatever supplies it is Jude thinks they ought to have. Steve’s curious, he admits it.

Two more cruisers slam up over the kerb and hem them in, officers leap out and guns are levelled.

“Freeze hands behind head!”

They are kicked over against the cruisers, slammed into the position and cuffed. Rude words are spoken. Steve checks who it is that’s calling him nigger, and has his face slammed into the hardtop again. But he does glimpse Drago’s ugly face.

Drago is fairly new on the beat but already has a bad rep. He pimps a string of girls on the side and is a hard mack.

The boss of these cops is there too: Sergeant Washington. The skin color of these cops don’t matter, their color is blue but their veins pump dirty green.

Having made sure they are securely cuffed, the white hats are moved off the public sidewalk and into a convenient alley where they take a beating, mostly around the backs of their knees. Then the handcuffs are taken off. Their DeNaRes IDs are returned and the cops leave, disappointed at finding no hidden weapons.

“That shit got my uncle’s greasy prints all over,” Vic explains.

“Amen, happen we could have searched up public records more on the down-low,” Jon agrees.

 

Scene: Brother Gloves

Theme: People Get Ready

Steve helps Melvin figure out what to do with the cash box and the keys, then the white hats have the gym to themselves. There are two boxes waiting to be opened.

They start with the smaller one. It contains hand-mallets and stakes.

“Can’t see much call f’ carry them aroun’” grumbles Arby. But Steve takes a different line.

“Better than a broke umbrella! What I’m sayin’ is, man, coulda done with these stakes onna train before, am I right?”

The larger of the boxes contains hand weapons. Vic and Steve have an old-looking, broad-bladed axe each, Jon chooses a big hunting knife, and Arby has a switchblade.

 

Scene: outside the Phyllis Wheatley building

Theme: In the heat of the night

Things go wrong when the white hats decide that the answer to spotting a patrol car outside the building is to sneak in back and look for an alternative entrance.

Vic stays behind briefly, then reasoning that if trouble goes down he’s best off with the others he heads around the side alley and immediately runs into some trash. Seconds later a very nervous young patrol cop is spotting him with the flashlight, dragging a gun out and yelling for backup.

Vic looms up into the light. 6’6 tall, black as the night itself, and hideously scarred. Arby hears the cop squealing for backup and tries to sneak back to help, but he too runs into something! The cop opens up, wildly.

Vic dodges, feeling a couple of slugs whap close by, then fells the cop with a crescent kick to the chin. With the cop’s partner on the way the four leg it down back alleys and don’t stop until they are far away to the south.

 

Scene: red-light district near the Food Hub

Theme: Shorty the Pimp

Since they ran blocks south, it makes sense to call by and pick up Jon’s sedan. It’s still there. They drive in comfort past the food hub and make a stop at a late-night diner.

Silky the Pimp introduces himself. He’s Cherry’s pimp, likes pimped down threads and gold highlights, and keeps his girls happy with acid tabs. He passes on some useful information about the Monster. In particular the general direction the blue Ford usually heads away towards: Buckeye.

It makes sense psychologically to Jon: Bill Burnes lives around Goodrich-Kirtland, so crossing the tracks and basing in Buckeye-Woodhill will feel like hiding.

Another snippet: ho’s have been beaten – not eaten. This is a rough John who is probably dangerously nuts, but he’s not responsible for anyone being killed. So far.

 

Scene: sleazy motel, Buckeye-Woodhill

Theme: in pursuit of the Pimpmobile

Steve does most of the talking, Jon hangs back to assess. Vic’s peeled off to do the honourable thing by his mom, who needs his muscle setting up a flower display over at the new rec centre. He’s handed off two Benjamins, broken down by an obliging barkeep to ten-spots. Arby’s gone looking for a day’s hard earnings with an off-track betting contact he knows. Now Steve is following an easy protocol: slide a note across the desk to the day-clerk, show Burnes’ picture, and ask if he’s been there.

After a few hits, each of which is earnest in thanks that Burnes ain’t there no more, the two white hats jump down the line a ways. Fresher trail: Burnes moved further away each time he got trespassed out. At the Castle Inn they strike pay dirt, and the clerk says Burnes usually gets in around 1 in the am. It’s going to be worth the ten-spot back for him to be rid of the guest. They pile back into Steve’s van and head back to pick up Vic ready for the night raid.

 

Scene: the new rec centre, Central

Theme: Jungle Boogie

“Thanks for this honey, it’s sweet of you to do this for me,” Mrs Creed, pushing fifty, still attractive, thanks her son Vic again as she unlocks the rec centre. She’d asked if his… friends would also be coming to help out, but Vic is on his own on this one.

Stepping into a basketball court-turned-flower-show Vic half-listens to his mom talking about rare blooms and something about ‘knocking them for six’ whatever that means as he sheds his coat and conceals the axe under it. There’s a heavy scent, flowers over rotten meat. Vic has a sudden flashback to the sodden jungles in the Nam, shudders, and shakes it off. Then as he nears the stacked-up flowers and crates a huge, vaguely humanoid form erupts and looms over him!

He gags on the horrific scent but keeps his gorge down and ducks away, snatching up a trestle table and throwing it at the thing. The form hits it hard enough to give Vic time to leap back to his bundle and snatch up the axe!

Outside, Arby is pimp-rolling over, feeling flush with his small winnings courtesy of Moroni the mob bastard – can’t show his face in Little Italy since he’s black – less the outlay on a meal and drink. The rec centre isn’t far from the entertainment strip and he feels like big-noting a little. Arby hears a woman screaming and Steve’s van rolls up to the centre at about the same time.

It’s time to put the minutes they spent in Brother Gloves working out tactics to good use. As Steve charges in, axe ready, Arby works out that the monster is focused more on Steve than Vic, so he runs interference for Steve instead of Vic. It does little good since he has no weapon worth the name, and the two muscle white hats are left to duke it out with the disgusting, pus-dripping creature.

Outside, Jon grits his teeth and tries the spell he failed last time. This time he makes it! His stick becomes a weapon of power. Then well pleased with this success he stays outside and sits Mrs Creed down on the passenger seat of the van.

Much crashing and cussing later the noise abates and Jon investigates with due caution. Vic has been hurled right across the court to shatter one of the backboards but seems little more than bruised; Steve and Arby are fine. The monster’s segments are beginning to decay more like dead vine than dead flesh.

Mrs Creed decides a freak indoor twister has ruined her display and the white hats help out sweeping and picking up. When she invites them back to her house for iced tea and a rest, they check the time and realise it’s already past 1 in the morning, time to roll out to the Castle Inn.

 

Scene: Room 106, Castle Inn

Theme: Boom Boom

Arby screams as his inept door-opening triggers a knife-trap and he reels back, clapping a hand to his left eye where a thin knife sticks out.

Steve charges in, giving the Monster no chance to adjust tactics, and gets to a clinch with the smaller, foul-smelling man who fights with the strength of a wild man. The room’s lit only by a red lava lamp: vague glimpses of two hookers bound to the bed. Vic charges in after Steve, and Jon remains outside to afford emergency aid to Arby.

Strong, devilishly strong Burnes may be but he’s no match for Steve and Vic combined. Steve keeps he man clinched until Vic gets a headlock then it’s a matter of choking him out. It takes over a minute but works fine. He’s choking out some jibbah-jabbah Vic recognizes as Vietnamese but too fast to work out exactly what now. He goes under.

The two hookers are Cherry – “who is dumb enough to get caught twice??” – and Trixie. They and the securely-bound Burnes are put in the back of the van. Jon drives himself, and Arby, off to the Eye Clinic for a spot of burglary and emergency eye surgery. Steve and Vic stay in the van, head into town, and take a side-trip up to the ranger station above the reservoir. Burnes is dropped off with a very brief explanation then Trixie and Cherry are returned to Silky’s territory, then the two white hats return to ranger Kelly for a much fuller account.

 

GM’s corner

General notes: Arby has been consistent in keeping his ‘snitch’ status away from the others but the buddy-buddy way Delaney treated him leaves little room for doubt. Arby came up with a thin but plausible explanation that once. Vic still has over $500 of Madeline’s expense roll. I played fast and loose with vehicle movements but both vehicles are with their owner.

Some differences of expectation (of gear carried, mostly) cropped up here and there during the game but everyone is down with the idea that we go with what makes it fun but makes sense so no real issues. 

Jon wisely chose to power up his staff before getting into action – but then didn’t get into action – so maybe there was a better use of his time? The combat rehearsal scene at Brother Gloves was just a talk-through of what characters’ strengths were so I have skipped over it here, but it did come in fairly useful. Vic had trouble – twice – deciding what tactics ought to be used and next time there won’t be any time-out for it. 

Acknowledgements: Some general background nods to both Silver Gryphon’s Wellstone City and Les Roberts The Lake Effect. I can’t give away plot elements by acknowledging my main storyline at present.

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CD4: Canned Food

Fight the power! Close the Hellmouth!

In which five ageing whitey whitebreads of the 10s pretend to be young hip black dudes of the 70s

Warning: taken out of context this post contains offensive material.

 

The White Hats

Jon Samedy, the Haitian migrant: about 5’9 though stooped and limping. His strangely carved stick is a coco macaque and he wields power over loa and less friendly spirits. He is the brains and medic. Subsequent to last session Jon’s spell list firmed up and a way of coping with ‘quick spell’ was laid down.

Vic Creed, the scarred ex-paratrooper: about 6’6 and too bulky for speed. He is the muscle. Also currently the richest white hat, since he still gets an allowance to keep him in food and clothing. His massive ‘Mission before everything’ drawback makes him subject to depression if people get killed.

Roosevelt ‘Arby’ Brown: about 5’7 and thin. He is the trickster. Currently thinking whether he should specialise in Kung Fu [the fight-with-bare-hands skill] or spread across Getting Medieval [the fight-with-implements skill] up. Arby has Photographic Memory but is being beaten like a red-haired orphan by the GM’s heavy-handed fear tests every time he uses it.

Steve ‘the cutter’ Cutter: about 6’, a fast-handed boxer. He is muscle and handyman. Fancies the ladies but luckily has reasonably good looks, so gets to do quite a lot of the talking this session. Also wondering about how important Getting Medieval will be.

 

Scene: back where we were, in the Ward Square

Theme: I am the Walrus

Screaming, spinning around them, eyeballs rolling, the crazed hobo keeps shrieking about the end of the world, and he knows who they are. Chills roll up and across their scalps. Behind the guy Arby can see Blackhand security coming down off the steps through the crowd. Vic spots a black sedan rolling slowly off where it has been parked, maybe on an intercept course.

That be some righteous diversion mon thinks Jon, now easily able to get to the Farmatec sales staff assembled below the steps. He beams and takes a prospectus. Barnabas surges forward like a great black wall.

 

Cutaway to Flashback scene: smelly break-room, Brother Gloves Gym

“If we don’t know exactly which buildings Farmatec is looking at, and there must be hundreds, we could start by looking at what they do tell their investors,” Jon explains. “That way we might be able to find out if it’s just the Phyllis Wheatley, or more buildings around it, or somewhere else.”

 

Cut back to Ward Square

Vic moves to intercept Barnabas but tangles up with two of the Blackhand private cops. He fends one but the other wraps him up. Barnabas meets his eye. Tense moment.

A cylinder arcs up over the sedan from somewhere back on the square fringe.

“Bomb!” someone shouts.

Bedlam! People rush screaming everywhere. Steve loses his grip on the crazy, but Arby catches the guy and they join forces again to hustle him away from the sedan.

The sedan no longer moves to intercept: too many people in the way.

Vic and Barnabas lock glares for some seconds then Barnabas eases back, the security guys are trying to get back to their boss, and Vic is free to leave.

“Meet at the Boneyard!” he yells after the first two. Jon catches the same thing.

The Cutter and Arby keep flowing with the stream of frightened onlookers heading back past the new transport hub and towards the food hub and entertainment joints. Steve stops at a roadside dog stand and plies the madman with a sample but he barely takes a bite, keeps raving about how the blood will run.

 

Scene: The Boneyard

Theme: Monster Mash

“Smooth Clyde don’ ‘preciate trash in his joint! You get gone!”

Smooth Clyde is the cadaverous manager of the Boneyard, a club on what used to be one of the old meat-processing facilities. His habit of running a hand up from back of his neck and over his shiny black scalp is less irritating than his habit of speaking in third person.

Steve sees crazy guy out the door, hearing a last imprecation from him:

“It’s coming from below!”

“Ey, now s’all good. Smooth Clyde ‘preciates you keeping standards high! Yo’ gots to have the ched-dah to make grade here!”

Luckily Vic and Jon have caught up so Steve unfolds the dreaded ‘Arby-graph’ and they realise that even if they could stand Smooth Clyde they can’t read the paper in the dim light. But Arby freezes up anyway: he can see the whole thing. In his head.

 

Scene: Lake Trout Diner

Theme: I don’t know what it is, but it sure is funky

They walk Arby up and down once Jon diagnoses a fugue state. Keep his blood flowing. Tell him “don’ mean a thing.” Then sit him down while they discuss the various names written on the sheet. Some things are beginning to make sense.

“What a’ these shapes mean man?” Steve asks Jon, who is his Higher Education Epitome.

“Su’thin’ like computer flow chart mon.”

“But what ezackly?”

“I got nothing.”

“Huh? Where-all that fancy eddication getcha?”

“Got my doctor on mon, computer not be a thing in surgery.”

Jon urges Steve to put the paper away, and Arby recovers, sort of. It’s getting late, so they split: Arby to find a shelter if he can’t get some work on with Titus, his patsy; Steve back to his lonely pad; Jon and Vic to their homes.

 

Scene: Brother Gloves

Theme: Get Ready

The white hats have put some thought into what they want to concentrate on, but Arby puts a word down that changes that.

“My man Titus and me was down to the Rapid, saw me a sight. That Rapid we saw the whitey pitched out of? Got another whitey clinging to it on the outside. Or a brother be holding him there.”

They hear Jon’s results out. The prospectus suggests three public institutions – schools and skills training – on the west border of Central are being targeted by Farmatec, plus the League Park site up in Hough, plus Coors brewery. So more legwork, lining up for public records, is needed for those. Then there’s what might be beneath Phyllis Wheatley. Since they can’t just roll in there, Steve decides to track over to Cleo’s and talk to his woman about the place and any nearby. Come to think of it, since there are a couple churches near the Phyllis, Arby’s mom might know a lot too.

Jim Fairbanks rolls up on the stoop where Steve and the others are posting-up. Jim tells Vic he owes him a solid, since the heat is off now. Being an out of town face, they decide they can use him to do a lot of the legwork around City Hall or the Ward Office. Vic gives Jim a California Bankroll – a fifty around a bunch of singles – and he rolls off happily. Vic is thirty cents shy of a quarter now.

The other matter that’s pressing is the Monster. Sure, they sent him a-running (or driving) off but he’s still out there. Vic hauls out the card and finds it belongs to a Bill V Burnes, salesforce trainer. There’s a phone number on it.

The day is divided up and the team is divided up. Vic and Jon will work on the card. Steve and Arby will work on their womenfolk.

 

Scene: Residence in Little Saigon, the Kirtland area

Theme: I need help (I can’t do it alone)

The last time Vic saw May Li she was a little Hmong refugee awaiting evac. Now here she is, all growed up, two kids, her name is Madeline Burnes and she can speak English pretty good. Not that he’s lost his Vietnamese: but for Jon’s benefit they stick to English.

Madeline remembers Vic and isn’t freaked out by his face. She seen worse. She asks the big guy for help finding her husband and gives him a fat roll to help with expenses.

They found Madeline by trailing back through Burnes’ last employer, Hargrove Industries. They managed to get a home address there. According to them, Burnes was a great trainer but has been let go lately after burning off all his sick leave.

Madeline, being from a normal Hmong family, is quite shy about explaining all of the difficulties between herself and Bill. He is Hmong himself, but went full-American, including a name change. Things were great until the second child, then there was a rocky patch. The marriage recovered but intimacy was gone: then Bill left suddenly with next to no explanation. The police didn’t help.

With Madeline’s permission, Jon and Vic search the place pretty thoroughly. Bill sure left a lot behind. He kept a reasonably full filing cabinet and work table, and it takes a large chunk of the day to eventually turn up a business card of his therapist, Jill Spenser, who is with the Wilson Clinic. Madeline dates the therapy back to the rough patch about three months ago.

 

Scene: Cleo’s brother’s apartment

Theme: Inner City Blues

Steve wonders why he always feels like the butt end of a slug after talking to Cleo, but persists and gets a vague confirmation that yes, the Man is indeed targeting those schools and the skills workshop. Cleo introduces a new player. Apparently this righteous brother named Benjamin Jones works for charitable foundation KinzeyCorp and is helping the network counter the laywers.

Scene: St Adelberts/Fairfax Rec centre

Theme: Respect (Aretha version)

“Get yo’ eye of’n that sista! She be a married woman! Listen up! Ain’t no draggle-tail on the road to righteousness, nossir! Mine eyes hath seen they glory! …and yayss, happen I did hear St. Andrews Episcopal was strugglin’ under a burden of authority.”

Reverend Brown is a formidable, gimlet-eyed woman, even if handsome, and Arby and Steve step off with alacrity, leaving the women of the joint congregations to plan the Bicentennial display. Which reminds them, Vic has rumbled something about helping his mom with a flower show too. Joking about the idea of the giant helping shift a vase or two, they pimp-roll away.

 

Scene: Little Haiti

Theme: I put a spell on you (CCR or original versions)

Steve and Arby are nursing a cheap beer apiece when she walks in, and all Steve can do is goggle at her. Arby notices she has a cameraman in tow, a very pale guy with a big serious camera.

It’s hard to tell in the artificial light of Little Haiti, but Steve guesses her skin would be mahogany. She’s wearing a brief top that looks sprayed on, dark flares that cradle her butt real tight, and a close-fitted turban that hides whatever ‘fro she might have. He gets up and moves to the bar and she sees him, smiles, and heads the same way.

She’s tall, though maybe wearing high platforms. Maybe an inch below his 6 feet. Waist is tiny – the kind that makes a man want to get both hands around it. Her face reminds Steve of sayings about Nubian Princesses – though somehow in an old fashioned way. Makeup is great, jewellery gold but restrained. He asks what’s she drinking.

“Do they have daiquiris here?”

Moe the barkeep scowls darkly. Then mutters something about tourists and begins fixing one.

Behind the group Arby watches the cameraman, who seems happy to be a cipher. Very pale, Roman nose in a thin face, black eyebrows over deep-set eyes, ears that have no lobes and angle back to quite sharp tips.

“I’m Cindy Channel, night crew with the Plain Dealer. This is Ted.”

Cindy wants to know if Steve has a line on what Jude Humphrey knows. She is easy to talk to. Ted doesn’t speak at all. Steve doesn’t even register him. He takes Cindy’s card, one she slips from under her top. It’s cool in his hand. He tucks it away with a smile and a remark about her being one cool mama. Cindy takes her leave.

 

Not long after, Jon and Vic arrive in Jon’s Plymouth and the four share information. Steve checks Moe is still OK with the tab he’s running. Then drops a dime and calls Jude. Jude’s happy to hear from him after all this time, though he seems to know he’s got DeNaRes ID. Yes, he does know of Cindy Channel. Agrees she is wasted writing for a paper when she’d look great as a newscaster. Yes, he does know the agency that runs the rapid – the GCRTA, usually known as RTA. Why? Oh, a problem? Jude asks if Kelly and the gang gave them equipment. No? Just IDs? He’ll drop some stuff round to Brother Gloves as soon as he can.

 

“We got two pieces to pick off, first the Rapid then the Phyllis. Sort out what’s what on the train Arby keeps gloomin’ on. It all seems to happen evenings so that’s now. Can’t wait to see if Jude drops off something. Then head back over to the Phyllis, see what’s goin’ down, down below.”

 

Scene: a Rapid car

Theme: Jungle Boogie

They find seats together, same side of the aisle, two then two. Jon and Arby, then behind them Vic and the Cutter. The Rapid is well-staffed, a guard has checked everyone is comfortable and passed on along. It’s a very modern, sealed unit and warm. People are dozing off. Jon realises there’s a soporific being pumped in, everyone hangs in there, digging nails into palms to stay alert.

Up ahead the door opens, two guards enter: they can immediately see that four of their passengers are awake and watching them. The guards eyes glow yellow and they leap over the twenty or so feet intervening!

Arby rolls down and squiggles under the bench in front of his seat. Steve rises, catches the one aiming at him and slams him pro-wrestler style down onto the aisle: a smashing impact. The guard that missed Arby perches on the seat-back and looks around, seeing Steve’s back.

Vic’s searching for a fire extinguisher or at least an emergency exit but gives up as he realises Steve will be caught by the upright guard. He launches himself out of his seating. Ahead of him, Jon is struggling to come up with a spell. He’s spent most of his coco macaque’s power and has not restored it: next best thing is to cut himself and feed it. He fumbles a pen-knife out. Cuts his palm. Steps out to the aisle. Blood smears onto the stick.

Steve isn’t caught off-guard. He stamps on his victim’s neck and sways easily out of the next leap from the guard behind him: it lands against a seat a dozen feet further back. It screeches with rage, a terrible, tearing, vicious sound that makes them wince but does not stop the white hats from fighting! The one Steve downed throws him back and scramble up. The incisors of both guards are long and sharp and their eyes glow with yellow hate. Jon coolly classifies them as Vampires. Yells some helpful advice.

Steve gets a headlock on his opponent. Arby rummages around and comes up with an umbrella. He lunges forward and slightly irritates the pinioned Vampire. Steve manages to snap its neck. It doesn’t go down, but is seriously inconvenienced. Steve begins working its tight uniform coat over its head then gives up and simply locks it up until Arby strips the umbrella down to a splintered wooden shaft, and stakes the Vampire.

As the second guard leaps forward, Vic launches himself over Steve like a dive over a ruck at the line and the two crash together against the seat-benches: 400lb of impact, hard! Metal buckles. Vic wrenches the creature’s neck across an exposed metal edge and begins smashing it down. Its head comes off and it turns to dust. Vic glares around, and finds Steve and Arby have dealt with theirs too.

“Another one! Stake him mon!”

From the end-door to the car, a third guard has already arrived and is racing in great bounds towards them. Jon tries to call a fighting loa into his stick – a second time – and screams as his hand turns to sharp bone. Arby tosses the thin stake to Vic, who catches it and slams it through the leaping guard’s heart. Dust explodes over him. He spits it out and coughs.

 

Credit-roll scene:

The white hats scramble up out of the tunnel cutting and make their way up Fairhill towards the nearest bus route. Steve is saying something about whittlin’ some more stakes. Behind them, passengers begin peering out and complaining, but the sun sinking in the west, blazing directly into the tunnel, masks our heroes’ departure.

Back in the fight-scene car, the driver has walked on back to speak to the surviving guard. Neither can see who might have pulled the emergency stop and got away. But the driver smells some blood on a seat-arm. He wipes a finger off it and taste-tests it.

“Anyone you know, Mr. Trick?” asks the guard.

 

GM’s corner

General notes: Vic’s roll of hundreds (it began as $800) does not change his normal resources level. There are only two vehicles in the group, we now know, because Vic is a non-driver and Arby’s car, if he has one, is a junker beyond repair. Jon’s Plymouth is way back down the red line at the new terminus; and Steve’s crappy Ford van is back at his pad. But from University Circle, public transport down Euclid is an easy access to the Phyllis Wheatley.

I eased off on the ‘new plot point’ feeds and let the guys sort out what they wanted to concentrate on. It worked well – probably thanks to the SHC sessions – so everyone got an xp for that. With one for turning up, two for the First Real Fight, and one for keeping more or less in character, a 5xp session.

I had a free plot twist point available for the session, specifically for a flash-back, because as I warned the guys, a real smack-down is getting more and more likely, and they should have had a work-out session in a gym to work on team tactics. As it turned out we got to the Rapid scene quite late so they decided to go straight to the fighting. Luckily these were very much minion vamps. Jon spent a good deal of time trying to work out what spell might work, and Vic was determined to find a fire extinguisher. Arby went for a makeshift weapon from passenger gear, and an umbrella was as good a choice as any – though whether one might be packed in late June I leave you to determine. Anyway all good fun, several drama points spent apiece, and our first “magic mishap FX” of the season.

I have said I would acknowledge resources used, so first a belated nod to Cake Walk, from Fabled Environments. That gave us a fun time with Gremlins and some DeNaRes contacts. This evening’s main dish, Canned Food, was also served up by Fabled Environments, and is a one-off set aboard a jet airliner: re-skinned for Cleveland’s RTA. And a quick Funkadelic nod to Joshua LH Burnett and Hex Games, for the most instantly-annoying and the most spectacular NPCs so far.

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