Capes! Issue #23

Debriefing: and back on the case

Friday October 29 2010: Armory

“So what you recall is…?”

“I was restrained by the metal band you took off me,” Skylark repeats patiently. “I could feel that my behavior was changed. It didn’t seem scary at the time. Once I snapped out of it I could remember that Jerry was stooge for Simian and I wanted to smack his ape shack down.”

It’s a day later: the Freedom City Massive have had time to make their excuses for absence or inattention in their private lives. In Armory’s common room where the team is running through an informal debriefing, there’s an air of resignation, but a new determination as well. Candyman is in the wind or deep in hiding, true; but Bomb is back in Providence and Jeremy Falweather is already out on the Rock. The Massive can turn its attention back to Underworld.

“Who, might I just add,” Nightfall comments, pointing at the latest morning paper, “has a new Police Commissioner all of his own making.”

Major Promotion: Paul Gilbert appointed new Police Commissioner

“Ya got that pegged about right, kid,” Tripley comments. “Though I guess we can take credit as well.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, if’n we hadn’t helped clean up th’ Tonifannis so fast, Gilbert would maybe have hadda wait a few more years yet. None of our contacts – the ones we passed on the intel to – got promotions or even a lousy commendation. That still rides my shorts up.”

“He also took credit for the Capes collars we made,” Skylark reminds them all. “And the big Boost bust.”

Performer strikes a dramatic pose:

“His end will come! And far shall he fall!

“Or to put it another way, what goes around comes around,” he adds cheerfully.

’Good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature: these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, and guided.’ John Locke,” Holmes adds helpfully.

’Men are rewarded or punished not for what they do but for how their acts are defined. That is why men are more interested in better justifying themselves than in better behaving themselves.’ Thomas Szasz,” Wraith tops.

“If’n youse super-brains’re finished with ya pissin’ contest, let’s start talking cases,” Tripley growls, pulling out his battered old flip-top pad.

Casework

Saturday 30 October 2010

North Bay 0727 hours: The Sunrise Grill stands closed and desolate above a strangely Chandleresque dawn shoreline. Investigating the joint, the location of the Underworld-Candyman deal gleaned from Holmes’ mind-probing Candyman at Providence, was voted the first priority.

Whilst Skylark keeps watch outside, Nightfall and Wraith open the place up and Holmes joins them: the investigatory team commences its search. It takes Wraith only moments to spot two heavy bloodstains, still dark on the scrubbed floor. Holmes kneels down to touch the stains: post-cogs.

A couple of Golden Calf security goons stand guard at the Sunrise Grill door while four more hustle two prisoners inside. Underworld, seated, turns a fluorescent lamp on and speaks in a dark, savage voice:

“You’ve been running a scam in the Golden Calf. I have an interest in that place. You know what happens to you now?”

Despite their pleas, Underworld hauls out a blaster and blows a gaping hole in each. He dismisses the goons and waits quietly over the cooling bodies. Then Candyman walks in. The deal goes down: Candyman agrees the terms the Massive already know of and leaves. Underworld picks up a comms device and speaks directly to Ginger.

Riverside 0910 hours: Freedom’s Eyes opens at about 9, depending on staffing. Nike finds Dennis transferring some notes from his PDA to a desktop.

Nike! You’re back – I mean, you’re safe? We heard you’d been kidnapped!”

Nike reassures Dennis offhandedly then excuses her attitude as best she can. She is focused on the next priorities: CCC, Pinni-chem and Don Campbell. Dennis warns Nike that CCC are bad news: they use FCPD contacts to keep tabs on Freedom’s Eyes. He scribbles a secret meet-place and time and slips it over. Nike’s eyes wander round the office. She’d asked Performer to have a quick ghost through in case of bugs but that did not mean there weren’t any. Slipping the note away, she moves the conversation on to Pinni-chem and Campbell. Freedom’s Eyes had very little more on Pinni-chem than Dennis had already passed on. Campbell they considered a chair-filler, an empty-headed figurehead. His family name – the North Bay Campbells – gave his directorships gravitas.

Nike heads off to her day job while Performer, satisfied she’s not in danger, ghosts back to his body, rubs out the pins and needles, and makes a call to update the rest of the Massive.

Riverside 1930 hours: The evening traffic has dwindled and in the private nook Dennis named it can hardly be heard at all. Both he and Nike seem a little nervous: conspiracies in a good cause are always risky. Performer and Nightfall are on watch somewhere above them.

The file is relatively bulky. Nike hands it off to Nightfall, who doesn’t need both hands to travel rooftops.

A summary of the CCC file:

CCC go all the way back to 1766. In 1876 they moved the NYC, where they enjoyed success. In 1966 they relocated back to Freedom City. They have a ruthless reputation. Their senior partner is named Lucius Cabot. Grant Conglomerates is their largest “straight” client. CCC supported Freddie Moore’s election campaigns. Campbell gets placed into Directorships through CCC’s offices. The firm frequently employs Danny O’Hare as a private investigator.

Freedom’s Eyes have included a fair amount of speculation, surmise and unsupported evidence in the file. They have a sketchy series of links between CCC and the Broker, whom they use to outsource super-villains; and connections to Big Al and Mr. Eddie. The name of Mr. Eddie’s on-call attorney is there.

Armory: Wraith has his inventions ready for bugging mobile devices. The ad to initiate contact with Calculus II is running in the personals. He flicks over some blueprints of Southside Palace that he’s downloaded from City Engineering and calls Performer:

“Hey Terry, call me when you get back into your skin. I’ve got some layouts ready for your next scout mission.”

He heads out to the weights room. Sure enough, Nightfall is working out there.

“We’re on, O Grunt Boy.”

“A buggin’ we will go?”

“Yes, I’ve got all the gadgets ready.”

“How are we getting around?”

“Let’s stick with the simplest solution. The order of play is City Hall, CCC then south across the river to Southside Palace. Performer will be scouting the Palace so he can lift us across the river; but let’s just meet up on City Hall first.”

“Sounds good! I’ll shower and suit up and meet you there.”

Thus it is that during the night, Wraith, with Nightfall running security, bugs Mayor Gilbert’s office and mobile; two palatial offices at CCC; and Big Al’s phone at Southside Palace. In Lucius’ office, Wraith’s quick “head through wall” search discovers a secret niche with a few charm doodads. Otherwise, all proceeds without a hitch. Constant streams of audio and video will feed back to Wraith for monitoring.

Sunday 31 October 2010

The Boardwalk near the Golden Calf: Ginger’s van guns out of the staff area and Joe slips his own van out three vehicles back. As Ginger heads further south he uses his M-phone to rope in Holmes and Performer: sets up a three-vehicle tail. The other two are new to the idea but quickly get it. Holmes drives an anonymous sedan, and no-one could possibly suspect the clown-mobile as a tail! As Ginger heads out into desolate, rust-stained waste-fields south of Lincoln, Joe calls the others in and Performer takes astral form.

While they wait, standing around the clown-mobile, Joe passes on Hippo’s opinion on PI Danny O’Hare:

O’Hare worked out of Central. He made detective and moved from Vice to Homicide. He had a good cancellation rate, Hippo recalls. There’s a half-hint that some of the evidence might have “had a little help.”

When O’Hare was invited in by then-Major Gilbert to gather case notes on the FCM, Hippo noticed he already had a lot of notes to work off. He worked thoroughly and hard, treading on toes from the bomb squad to the coroner’s office.

“So, he might have some material of interest to us amongst his case file.”

“Yeah, maybe even somethin’ on th’ Panoply hit we didn’t get.”

“Still keen on roughing him up?”

“Hey, jus’ seems ta me like th’ Massive needsta be out kickin’ a li’l ass.”

Performer raises himself off the seat as he re-inhabits his body:

Ginger met another van about three miles up. They off-loaded containers from her van to theirs. There was some kind of powder in them.”

“Interesting! I don’t suppose there’s a secret lab under the Golden Calf?”

“Mebbe ya missed th’ early movie, Holmes,” Tripley snorts. “Ya fergettin’ Ginger led th’ raid whut collared all a’ Candyman’s stash. Maybe two stashes. ‘Member how f#$%in’ fast Eddie an’ Ginger got inta action after Nacht Islands? Seemed like they had evr’thin’ lined up even before they got off’n th’ f#$%in’ plane!”

“Oh, sure. Yeah. OK, I’ll get after the second van, see where it ends up.”

“OK seeya Holmes, keep in touch dude. An’ Terry: ‘s time fer th’ clown-mobile ta get lost. Can’t have Ginger spottin’ ya now.”

Joe figures Ginger’s headed back to the Golden Calf and drives in front of her. He’s right. About half an hour after his van is safely parked on stakeout again, Holmes calls:

“I followed the second van to Riverside. There were three passengers: they loaded the containers into a barge. I’ve got the exact details in my head: I’ll brief everyone later.”

Monday 1 November 2010:

Riverside 0630 hours: Performer, Skylark and Joe Tripley motor over to Riverside, following Ginger. She and five casino goons enter a building overlooking the moorings along the quay. Performer ghosts in after her while Skylark takes to the rooftops and Joe slips into the back of the van: becomes Bad Tripp.

Ginger issues strict instructions to her entourage: she sets up a watch on the drugs barge. If any event occurs they are to contact her. They are on no account to let the bargees see them.

Somewhat reluctantly, the three Capes decide not to interfere at this stage: maintaining a covert watch on Ginger seems a higher priority:

“We c’n get Wraith ta sample th’ sh*t when he’s up fer it.”

 “Best to make sure what we’re dealing with,” Skylark affirms. “It could be a double-bluff: you know: make it look like the barge is full of Boost but the real stash is still back at the Golden Calf?”

“It would be really funny, messing with their heads though,” Performer comments wistfully. Visions of floating by the window, or waving at them from the barge, slip reluctantly away.

1005 hours: Wraith calls in an update: most of the team are in touch save for Holmes.

“Couple of things,” he announces, setting his latte back down carefully on his workstation, “Lucius Cabot received this call from the Broker: here it is:

‘I’ve got people picking up those contracts. Expect the first one in Tuesday.’

“And Calculus II has responded in the same personals column: he’s calling a meeting with us. There’s a corner in the Fens, and the meeting’s timed for this evening.”

“Say, that’s the coolest,” Skylark enthuses, “I can run cover if it’s the evening.”

“I gotsta keep on th’ stakeout I guess,” Joe responds, “but th’ timeline’s lookin’ short now, seein’s how we gotta barge ta snoop, a PI ta rough up, an’ Calculus ta meet. Speakin’ of stakeouts, our pal Lester Hillermann dropped inta th’ Golden Calf fer about 20 minutes. Guess he don’t trust th’ phone no more.”

“I can run cover as well,” Nightfall offers.

“And you should be there too, Wraith: we’ll need your geek skills,” Skylark coaxes.

“I can be there: it’s just round the corner so to speak.”

“Yo Performer? You there? Ya got th’ face-ta-face skills ta talk ta th’ little creep.”

“I guess that means I get to stand round in public on a corner of the most high-crime areas in town,” Performer agrees. “You think I should be in full costume?”

“Just wear something fairly formal,” Skylark suggests.

“Hey, it’s Halloween: there’s a’ready kids wanderin’ aroun’ in fancy dress,” Joe comments wryly, “If’n ya wear a tux or suit a’ some kind, ya should be jake.”

Central City 1705 hours: The plate window of Danny O’Hare’s high-rise office smashes inward as Bad Tripp arrives, brushing the vertical blinds off his shoulders and grabbing the gob-smacked PI as he sits smoking behind his desk.

“NICE OFFICE!”

Danny is used as a cleaning-cloth as Bad Tripp clears the desk with him.

While Tripp is enjoying himself threatening, smashing and generally throwing his weight around, Wraith downloads O’Hare’s hard drive. Tripp collars the physical case-file and hands it off into the early evening to an unseen Nightfall.

As a last contemptuous gesture Tripp flicks the PI’s PC out the window and Wraith slags it: only Nightfall’s quick reflexes prevent it dropping on an innocent passer-by!

The Fens 2000 hours:

Wraith hovers. Nightfall is the lookout. Skylark is backup, stationed up a nearby wall as Performer waits on the designated corner, dressed in a smart suit. A payphone rings behind him.

“So… four of you huh? If this is a trick, I warn you: I have an exit plan and you will regret it.”

“No trick: we just want to talk.”

The door of a van parked some yards away opens and Calculus II, more or less in full costume, walks over to Performer.

“I’m primed and ready for trouble,” the super-villain warns. He’s clutching something under his coat: perhaps a plunger or deadman switch.

Relax. I told you: we just want to talk.”

Skylark drops down to street level and Wraith hovers lower, still invisible.

“So, let me guess: you want to know why I am pursuing a very profitable life robbing banks when I could be earning, ooh, nothing, as a white hat?”

“Well, put it this way: what would it take for you to join us?”

“Be specific?”

“We are currently targeting Underworld. We want to know what it would take for you to help us.”

Calculus II thinks for several moments, then grins and replies:

“You know… I’m down with the idea. Demolition got no respect from the guy, and he messed my brilliant plan up too. But I need guarantees:

  • One: full disclosure
  • Two: no tap-backs on the alliance.

“You know: your main advantage is that you are not currently Underworld’s main concern.

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