Chicago Lightning

Phillies Diner

Night hawks

The ride over to Phillie’s was filled with an awkward quietness, but was quick enough. It is late afternoon as Smitty pulls up in front of Phillies, in the middle of a neighborhood that neither Azog nor Mugsy recognize – but they don’t really expect to either. As far as they know, Smitty is the only one who can consistently find the joint anyhow.

The two make their way in, and Smitty drives off as soon as they exit the hack. Nothing left to do but order lunch and have a chat.

Comments

“Is this your first time? I usually sit at the counter, but let’s get a booth this time. At night the place is full of lost drunks, but for lunch it’ll be pretty empty.”

Phillies Diner
 

“You know, I’m not sure what to think of Smitty and his ‘Ghost Cab’. I’d like to say its convenient but then stuff like this pops up and chews on your rump.”

Phillies Diner
 

“Look you, Smitty’s a saint and I’ll not hear otherwise! Now what’s your pleasure? I recommend the chicken salad. After we put in our order you’ll tell me exactly why you’re upturning every stone in Chicago and causing me no end of trouble.”

Phillies Diner
 

“I’m having a hamburger with some hot ovaltine. Now to what manner of trouble are you referring? Last I saw you you had eating money on my account.”

Phillies Diner
 

They settle into a booth and a pleasant, middle-aged elf waitress took their order and brought drinks.

“That’s where the trouble began. I used the money to buy a ticket to Gary to find work. Boots O’Hanlon’s gal jumped me in the train car and I lost my phone and jacket.

“Now spill the beans: what’s your angle in all this? Why are you asking questions about old burn jobs?”

Phillies Diner
 

“He sent HER after you? What did you do? I told you my angle, I have a ‘client’ who has an interest in just how this went down. A widow woman who had her livelihood rudely yanked out from under her and then stolen by bureaucratic wrangling.”

Phillies Diner
 

“I got out, but not before she sicced the law on me. She’s a tough customer, that one.

“So that’s really it? You’re just trying to do a good deed? Jeepers, creepers!”

Phillies Diner
 

“That doesn’t explain why Boots is sending mysterious tramps after you.”

Phillies Diner
 

“I don’t know! I reckoned he doesn’t want me to tell you what I know about the burn job, which I already done. Smitty suggested it was over money, which I don’t owe him none, but there’s supposed to be another craps game in three weeks and I ain’t finalized the hand-over yet.

“Look. If you’re going head-to-head with a crime boss all by yourself, forget it! You’re dead meat. If you’re looking for answers to who burned the place, all I can tell you is what I told you: sure it were a mage, and the property was in Boots’ territory, so nine-to-seven he’s the man responsible. Now…

“If you’re looking to take revenge on the lookout, he’s right here in front of you. Go ahead, my day can’t get any worse.

“If you’re looking to ice the mage that done it, I don’t know who that was, but I bet Boots’ gal knows. Anyways, three-to-two she’s the cul-per-it.

“And if you’re looking to take down Boots hisself, good luck and good-bye. I’ll take my chances on another train to Gary.

“So what’s it gonna be, mister?”

Just then the sandwiches arrive. Azog takes a dainty bite of chicken salad on rye and dabs the corner in the potato salad.

Phillies Diner
 

“Look, Azog. The wheels of justice may turn slowly but they do turn. I know some people may seem untouchable but it doesn’t always stay that way. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Take The Great War for an example. The Kaiser was making great gains and seemed pretty bullet proof till our boys showed up taught him a thing or two.

Look at the Giants. They went to the World Series four years in a row. Who beat em and won it last year? Some scrub club from Pittsburgh. For a guy like Boots, all it takes is one fall and he ain’t getting back up. This isn’t baseball, once he goes down there isn’t going to be a next season to try again."

Phillies Diner
 

“Aw, confound it, now you’ve upset me! I’m gonna need a slice of pie.” Azog finishes his sandwich with a great gulp and calls over the waitress.

“So you’re going for the big fish, eh? Well you’ll need a plan, and you’ll need allies. And it sounds like you’re on the right side of things, so you maybe I can throw my lot it with you. Course, if things turn sour I’ll have to run a lot farther than Gary! Seven-to-one Boots’ gal is still after me; maybe we can turn the tables on her and use her to get to Boots.

“We’ll wait until dark and then pick up Lovecraft. Of the three of us, he’s the only one smart enough to tease out a mage, but dumb enough to throw his lot in with us.”

Phillies Diner
 

“So whats the connection between you and this Lovecraft fellow?” Mugsy mouths between bites of burger and sips of his ovaltine. “He doesn’t strike me as the most trustworthy fellow.”

Phillies Diner
 

“Oh, we trade favors. He’s a awright guy. It’s jus’ half the time I got no idea what he’s talkin’ about.

“He knows magic, you see? Gets it from books. I never seen him throw lightning from his fingers like a proper mage, but he can work some spooky stuff. Makes things disappear, reappear, that sort thing. If anybody knows how to bottle a mage it be he.”

Phillies Diner
 

“What kind of favors? I like you and you have proven honest thus far. That guy kinda makes my skin crawl. I like to know what I’m working with, savvy?”

Phillies Diner
 

“Hey, if anybody’s been cagy here it’s you. You know all you need to know: you need allies. You’re not likely to find a better right arm than me, nor a better magus (that you can afford!) than Lovecraft. And if you think you can do better, than I’ll see you in hell. From Heaven. ‘Cause I’m going straight. Now where’s my apple pie?”

Phillies Diner
 

[blegh! spelling errors: than for then and cagy for cagey.]

Phillies Diner
 

“I’m mortified! I’ve answered your questions AND given you good dough for information. I’d call us just about chums at this point. Need I remind you that I blew off, rather suddenly I might add, an appointment with a Sheba at the behest of Chicago’s headiest hack and all on account of you having a bad day. Whaddaya want, a court document, a priest mebbee to vouch?” Mugsy holds his right hand up as if swearing an oath and crosses his heart with his other.

Phillies Diner
 

“Fine, fine. Let’s not spoil a perfectly delicious meal with hysterics and such.” In point of fact, Azog has already finished his meal and is picking up pie crumbs with his fork.

“Anyhow if we’re chums I’d like to know what to call you. Wha’d Smitty call you, Mugsy?” Azog dabs with a napkin and then offers a hand. “Tell you what, I feel bad about breaking your date. Let me get lunch.” He counts out forty-five cents. “Er, were you going to get pie? You might as well… we’re at a loose end until dark, and I can’t be seen out and about. Not without a coat!”

Phillies Diner
 

“Looks like one of us needs pie. Better get another slice.”

Phillies Diner
 

Funny thing about Phillie’s, even among those who make a habit of trying to be regulars, nobody remembers anything about the wait staff there other than that the service is excellent and the staff are quite friendly. Generally, this can be attributed to the state of inebriation in which most patrons both arrive and leave, however not even Azog can remember even the faces of Phillie’s staff. So it comes as somewhat of a surprise when the serving girl comes back not only with the tab, but with a jacket that Azog instantly recognizes as one of his. She beams sunnily at him as she hands him both. The tab is markied “paid” and a note is scrawled beneath, “Thanks! -Hutchinson”

Phillies Diner
 

“Looks like you have all kinds of people giving you money today. Who’s Hutchinson?”

Phillies Diner
 
“Search me! Must be a fellow I done a good turn once. Hey gadzooks, there’s an etherphone in the pocket! With a blank SAM (Soul AttuneMent) card in it! [ -1 die]. I must have left the jacket here one time when I was tipsy, and forgot a spare phone too!

“That’s great, because bein’ without a phone makes a guy feel almost as undressed as bein’ without a coat.

“Well, that’s that. Where shall we go next?”

Phillies Diner
 

[That’s not all he finds, actually. The Etherphone was in an outside pocket. There’s a heater on the inside pocket. Just a Snubnose, but it’s something.]

Phillies Diner
 

While waiting for Mugsy to reply, Azog sends a message to Lovecraft: “Must meet 2nite! Where will UB? Sincerely, $25.”

Phillies Diner
 

Lovecraft has been walking for some 15 minutes since having left his newsstand. He is lost in thought, pondering the implications of his encounter with Trask as well as regretting the fact that he left before taking the proffered $10 bill. The thought of money turns him to the thought of buying lunch and it is not long before his stomach begins to rumble a bit.

He turns the corner of a street that he suddenly realizes that he does not recognize, and finds before him a cheerful and inviting diner. Making his way towards it, he is suddenly interrupted by the sound of his pocket singing a snippet of “Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye!

Phillies Diner
 

“Dear God, not again! Silence, you infernal machine! You literal infernal machine!” Lovecraft shakes the etherphone ferociously, but the daemon within merrily plays out the entire song. Lovecraft deciphers his morse message. Carefully, he sends back “We never know where we shall be, do we stop who really knows where he is cosmically stop however right now I am entering Phillies Diner full stop”.

Phillies Diner
 

“Hi! Lovecraft!” Azog waves most impertinently and calls out. "Over here. I just got your message and didn’t understand what you said!

“Siddown. Somebody else is covering lunch today, so eat up! I’m about to call the waitress over for a milkshake.

HEY! I’ve got an ethermage problem. I saw her face, so I can surely place a call to her, but how do I stop her from blasting me through the phone? Better yet, how do I turn tables on her? We’ve got some questions to ask her, and then some scores to settle.”

Phillies Diner
 

“So you are the famed Mr. Lovecraft! Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Mugsy says as he proffers his shaking hand. “I trust you met my associate, Mr. Dunkirk?”

Phillies Diner
 

“We know each other, if not socially,” says Lovecraft, airily. "O’Reilly, you saw her face, eh? I don’t suppose you could get me her photograph? No, of course not. Well, there’s the most direct method, but I doubt you’d like it, and it’s complex, but…have you heard of an EtherFast? I believe children call it “faxing”. Anyway, you call her up, and you have a talented mage transmit a spell to her directly as soon as she picks up. Or, you can “spoof” the line. This makes it look like she’s trying to get free ethertime from Ma Bell. If you “spoof” it hard enough, the phone can self-destruct. If you know the daemon in the phone’s true name, you can convince him to do this as well, but he usually demands an unpleasant," and Lovecraft shudders from the ineluctable force of memory, here, “unpleasant, unpleasant favor.”

Phillies Diner
 

Azog slurps a bit and thinks.

“Not sure it profits us to sic ether demons on her just yet. We’d like to get some information from her first. If I call her up, can you hold her on the line so she can’t hang up? I want to ask what she’s after me for, and then Mugsy will ask what she knows about an old burn job. At that point, she’ll know what we’re after, and we’ll have to do her in, if we can. Complicated, I know, but you’re smart enough to follow me.

“Question is: are you good enough a magus slurp slurp to pull the trick?”

Phillies Diner
 

“Not Azog. I meant the man I sent to your newsstand to inquire about the mysterious fire that befell a client of mine a few years ago.”

Phillies Diner
 

“Now wait, I’m confused. You didn’t tell me you were working with a partner. Where is he? We could use another man for this.”

Azog places on the table two items: an unattuned etherphone and a Saturday night special.

To Lovecraft he says, “Let me know when you’re ready.”

Phillies Diner
 

“I don’t always do business in person. Call him a representative.”

Phillies Diner
 

“Am I good enough? Am! I? My dear O’Reilly, mon cher hiberniere! I can hold her on the line. But why bother, when I can simply cast a simple ensorcellment to track her phone, and we can intercept her in person? I don’t suppose she has any rare old books, perchance?”

Phillies Diner
 

“Did you just say that we can jump her, wherever she may be, using an etherphone?” Azog thinks a moment. “OK Lovecraft, you’d better get your sandwiches wrapped to go. Say the word and I’ll call.”

[Paging GM…]

Phillies Diner
 

“And what, pray tell, are you going to do with her when you ‘jump’ her?”

Phillies Diner
 

“I dunno. I reckon get some information out of her and then see what else we can get out of her. Maybe information on her Boss.” He drops some change for the waitress. “Let’s step outside into the alley and I’ll ring her. Be ready for anything.”

[new scene?]

Phillies Diner
 

“Weren’t you the one bellyaching about needing a plan to take down some one as big as ‘Big Boots’? This doesn’t seem to be the most thought out of endeavors.”

Phillies Diner
 

Azog straightens up and scratches his head.

“Well, I dunno. See where I’s from, if they hit you, you get some friends and hit back twice as hard. But maybe that don’t work here.

“Maybe you should see if you can get youself hired by a rival gang to do a run on Boots. See, that way you get some information, you get to hurt him, an’ you get paid. I can put you in touch with somebody. What you think of that?”

Phillies Diner
 

“How does that even work?” splutters Lovecraft. “You tell Person X you want to hurt Person Y, and ask them to fund you to do something you’d do anyway? Why, you might as well set up a charity called…called Kickstarter to enable any person on the street to sponsor your beatings of your enemies.”

Phillies Diner
 

Suddenly, Lovecraft glances around. “I say,” he says, cheerily, “I see Gus Derleth and Donny Wandrei! I know them!”

Phillies Diner
 

“Azog, you never did tell me why you think that lady was after you. I agree that she is an important piece in our little chess game here but I think subtelty might be our friend right now. The more information we have, the better our plan can be. The only one we know O’hanlans after is you for some reason or another. Use your noodle for a minute and tell us why.”

Phillies Diner
 

“Are you kidding? In Chicago you don’t need a reason to do a body a bad turn. Or to pay to have it done. What did your old lady do to get burnt, sell hooch in Boots’ turf?

“Now who are your friends, Lovecraft? It’s a little early for Phillies to start crowding up, eh?”

Phillies Diner
 

Wandrei and Derleth seem to have hastily paid and departed. “Oh, just fellow dilettantes; I’d hoped they’d stay and we could brainstorm over a slice of pie, but it looks as though they had pressing business elsewhere.”

Phillies Diner
 

“There is always a reason why someone else is after you. Even here in Chicago, things happen for a reason.”

Phillies Diner
 

“Aw jeez, was you a cop or something? Tell you what she said, she said ‘Boots don’t like it when his investment go on the lam.’ Now he don’t got no investment with me, but in a few weeks there’s supposed to be a craps game and he gets a cut. Only it won’t be me running the show this time, cause I’m goin’ straight, see?

“Now, if you want to know any more about this broad I suggest we track her down and you ask her youself. I got nothing more to say about that.”

Phillies Diner
 

“Mr. Lovecraft, any ideas why O’Hanlan is after our boy Mugsy?”

Phillies Diner
 

“It sounds fairly simple to me. Mr. O’Reilly is being made an example of; perhaps you, too, are being punished ‘pour encourager les autres’. I propose also that O’Reilly is right. We should adjourn from this place. Our meeting has consumed much time, and were we characters in a book, the scene would be overlong.”

Phillies Diner
 

“It’ll be dark soon. Phillies is a safe place, but it doesn’t pay to stay put anywhere too long.

“If we’re not going to look for the dame, we might try to find information by visiting one of the speakeasies. Information and favors trade freely, and Boots has enemies in this town.”

Phillies Diner
 

“Concur.” Lovecraft begins to signal for his bill, then realizes he hasn’t ordered anything anyway.

Phillies Diner
 

“Lovecraft, for goodness sake, get some sandwiches to go. We’re comped today and word is Trask has put you out of business for the time being. You don’t want to go another week living on a can of beans, do ya?”

Phillies Diner
Neko_Bijin

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