Chicago Lightning

LOVECRAFT NEWSAGENTS, Mister H. P. Lovecraft, Proprietor

A small shack near the Chicago Motorworks at the intersection of Chicago and Michigan

Howard sits in his shack, surrounded by newspapers and tabloids and magazines of all descriptions. “Get your paper here,” he calls, “only a nickel! Get the news now, while the stories of the day remain vital and fresh, coursing like young colts!” Nothing. “The foreign element,” he mumbles under his breath, “is ruining this county. These bactrachian Italians [and here he draws the word out, with all the East Coast disdain he can imbue it with: eye-tal-ee-yans] are despoiling an Anglo-Saxon preserve.”

“Get your paper here (you savages)! Delicious new recipes in the Saturday Evening Post! You never thought there were so many ways to mix tomato and noodle in bubbling, frothy foaming water or searing brine! (You devils.)”

Below the countertop, Howard impatiently thumbs the dog-eared copy of Ludwig Prinn’s banned De Vermis Mysteriis, stolen from the Harvard Library Reading Room two weeks ago. “Just four more sales, my proud beauty. Then, we knock off and try ‘Contacting Ye Outer Voide’ yet again.”


He flipped up the collar of his couderoy jacket. Its once red color was faded and patched with various styles of fabrics. He pulled the bill of his brown, felt beret lower over his eyes. He sauntered over to the news shack with a fidget in his step, hoping for no trouble but expecting some.


“Ah! A customer! Felicitations, my good sir!” Lovecraft beams what he imagines to be a cheery, welcoming grin at the interloper. In fact, his lips have peeled away from his teeth and assumed the rictus of a man slowly being broken on the rack. “How may I ease your passage through the miserable Stygian of our daily life, good sir? On a raft, a coracle, a cog, a vessel of some sort? A vessel fashioned not hewn from shafts of oak, but rather distilled into paper? Yes, good sir, I speak of books, the gateway to spectral phantasy or wondrous vistas rare! Or perhaps,” he finishes, woodenly, “I can interest you in the Chicago Tribune’s sports section.”


Mort pulled a nickle from his pocket with a holey glove and tossed it onto the stock of periodicals that lined the shack. He grabbed a copy of the Tribune and flipped through the pages. “How do you suppose you track a Mage that started a fire years ago?”


“I don’t suppose, my dear sir,” says Lovecraft, something more than a trace of arrogance in his voice, “I know. You call forth one of the outer intelligences of the astral plane and ask for information, or you scry backwards to view the event itself. Both are risky. Both are costly…so I’ve heard,” he finishes lamely. “It’s of course illegal for an unbadged mage to do either.”


Mugsy lowered the corner of the page he was reading and splayed a look of queer idiocy across his face. He paused there for effect, staring at Mr. Lovecraft. “Now why would one of them intelligences tell a mage anything?”


“Because they recognize the thrill of communing with a mind superior to the ordinary, above the common run of man, whose puerile, dull thoughts would disgust them. They alone can appreciate my—-they alone can appreciate the discipline of a practitioner of magic. Is my understanding.”


“So, cause youse gots a big brain and talk using fancy words them intelligences will spill the beans? No wonder I ain’t gots no magic.”


“Indeed, good sir. No wonder.”


“Say, pal. You seem to know an awful lot about this here process.” Mugsy folded the paper and tucked it under his arm. He leaned closer to Lovecraft and put his hand on the opposite side of his mouth so as to shield his mouth from passersby. “I gots me an issue where sumbuddy burnt down my old lady’s store a while back and she don’t think it was on the up and up. I wuz talking with Mr. Azog and he said you wuz the best.”


“A…Azog? Is this about the twenty-five dollars?” Lovecraft straightens up and looks around at the disinterested passersby. “YES SIR, THAT IS THE RACING SHEET AND I THINK YOU WILL FIND ALL THE HORSES ARE VERY…very…very…EQUINE.” He leans back in close. “Well, I’m sure the ‘best’ is a meaningless appellation, but I dabble a bit in the arcane science of magicks, I have congressed with the outer void…yes…yes, I’m sure I could help you!”


“Great!” The disheveled looking man jumped into the air a bit in excitement. After a bit of embarrassed pulling himself together, he whispered “When do we start?”

“Well, not in the baleful eye of the public, obviously…we should reconvene at the still-smoldering ruins of the establishment of the building in question at some mystically appropriate time, to begin our investigations. And,” Lovecraft adds tentatively, “be certain to bring some cold sandwiches.”


A cold, sober look interrupts the interlocutor’s prior exuberance. “Uh, there ain’t no more smolderin. They built an office building overtop of the site. They done the deed years ago, mister.”


“Ah. Ah, I see. My mistake. Well, it makes no difference, no difference at all. My powers are I daresay quite developed.”


A relieved expression melts over him. “Wonderful, wonderful.” A slight pause. “Uh, how do we know when the mystical appointment is for?”


A chokingly thick cloud of cigarette smoke wafts over Lovecraft’s newsstand, and both Howard and Mugsy turn to see the familiar profile of Detective Trask waddling towards them. A look of pained annoyance passes over Lovecraft’s face and he gestures dismissively towards Mugsy, “You’d better move on.”


“Don’t worry about finding me, good sir. I’m sure I’ll find you. And now — AH, DETECTIVE TRASK! HOW DELIGHTFUL TO SEE YOU AGAIN SO SOON!”


Detective Trask saunters painfully up the curb, panting audibly and sweating visibly. Something upwards of a half-dozen lit cigarettes protrude from his mouth, and he wheezes heavily through his nose. “Love…crft,” he wheeze-mumbles, “I…been lookinfryou. Gottasec? I been….thnknbout the lbrythfts lately and wanted taskyou sumkwstns…”


“The labyrinths, detective? OH! The LI-BRAR-RY thefts! Yes, yes, of course. Shocking, isn’t it? What kind of animal would violate the public trust like that?” Under the counter, Lovecraft’s unseen hands drop De Vermis Mysteriis into a hollowed out copy of Chastity, Temperance, and You: The Young Man’s Guide. Can I get you a paper? Perhaps a copy of LIFE magazine?


Trask begins to speak, but is interrupted by a series of wracking coughs. Leaning heavily forward to steady himself, he manages to topple the magazine racks, and subsequently falls, colliding heavily with the counter and knocking it over as well (and Howard with it!). Books and magazines and racing sheets scatter across the sidewalk in literary chaos. Trask winds up sitting on his duff in the midst of it all – his smokes miraculously undisturbed.

“So….srryfrtht!” He wheezes, and begins the arduous task of standing up once more. In doing so, he leans heavily on the now tipped counter, which happens to be laying on Lovecraft’s leg. The effect is not so much painful as it is immobilizing.


“Oh,” says Lovecraft, through gritted teeth, “no trouble, no trouble at all.” He casts a wordless cantrip designed to ensure that even the “mild as May” women’s Marlboro-brand cigarettes will cause a truly unpleasant experience for the detective’s T-zone. It looks a little like he’s crying.


Trask seems oblivious to Lovecraft’s emotions, but does begin to “help” by righting the counter (and so fully dumping everything within onto the pavement) and roughly gathering piles of literature and stacking them atop it.


[pst! A “cantrip” is like a “geas.” Lovecraft’s cursing Trask with an itching spell.]


“It’s fine, detective,” says Lovecraft, accepting the inevitable. Deftly picking up his hollowed book (and expertly judging the weight, to be safe), he abandons the wreckage of the stand. “It hardly even matters.”


[Edward, give me a Dark Arts roll vs. 9 to succeed with the curse]

Trask shakes his head, obviously frustrated by the outcome of his actions. He takes a moment to collect the rest of the papers and stack them messily on the counter, then digs out a moist wallet from his pocket, “‘snotfn, I cmhr to askyou…..smkwstns…not trashyr….stnd. I’m trly….srry.” He wheezes, and then plasters a sweaty $10 bill on top of the stack. “Fr yer…trubble.”

He pauses, panting, then seems to make up his mind about something, “D’you have a copy of Chstty, Tmprnce…….You? I’d lk…to buy….tht also. Rccmndd by afrind.”


[Needs a nine, rolls a seven, plus I believe three for Dark Arts, so…ten. Suck it, porkfry!]

Lovecraft smiles blankly. “But of course! I keep a ready supply of them there in the stand. Just rifle around a bit, you should find a stack of them.”


“Hwmch?” He once again opens his wallet and begins to scan the piles, “I’m…..knna scrd to…..tch it… I buy th oneyr….holdin?”


Lovecraft sighs sadly. “I wish I could sell it to you. But unfortunately it was a present to me from my late beloved, the last gift she ever bestowed upon me — the first was her immortal love — before she was killed in a tragic, and as yet, poorly-understood incidence. As contained within are also several notes of a personal nature, I could never part with it. Adieu, mon cher detective.”


[Super great comment to Trask: (Lovecraft smiles blankly. “But of course! I keep a ready supply of them there in the stand. Just rifle around a bit, you should find a stack of them.”) have 1 style die]


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