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.
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.
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.