Chicago Lightning

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen

 photo soup_zps05c9b5f8.png

[Characters in scene: Azog, Mugsy, Jamison, Maeve]

Azog leads the quartet into the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen. It’s one o’clock and the bums are already lining up for lunch. At one end of the room stands a lectern with a Bible and an American flag pinned to the wall. There is a cork board with calendar, announcements and uplifting slogans in one corner, and a few banners hung with uplifting slogans, but otherwise the walls are mostly bare. The tables are without cloths, the chairs mismatched—obviously salvaged. A simple stove provides warmth.

A rather pretty lady recognizes Azog and approaches. “Hello, Azog. You haven’t been around much! Mary’s in the kitchen. Go say hi before the sermon begins.”

Azog is grinning like an idiot as he pushes past the queue of bums and through the doorway into the kitchen.

Comments

Mugsy addresses the pretty woman. “My, my but one can find angels in any corner. And who might you be?”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Jamison, in his older greatcoat and hat, makes his way to one of the tables, and sits. He looks at one of the men across the table, and say, “Okay, boss. Tell me a story.”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

GM:

Maeve steps up next to Mugsy and gives him a look that could peel skin off bones, then steps over to join Jamison.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

The man at the table chuckles and says to Jamison: "You‘ll be sorry. You expect to eat for free or something? You gotta listen. To goodie two shoes. Not that she’s a bad looking broad, but if she really wanted to help out a fella in need…”

The woman affects a schoolmarmish voice and tells Mugsy: “Now let’s start by getting one thing straight: I’m not a do-gooder. If you’re a bum, if you can’t break off of the booze or whatever makes you a bad risk, then get out.”

Azog pokes his head into the kitcken. “Mary? Are you there?”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Jamison eyes the man across the table, and smirks.

“Always despise the free lunch, brother. There’s no such thing as free. Even finding a dollar on the street means you have to take the time to bend over and pick it up, you know? Wherever you see the word ‘free’, take a second to think, where is the fish hook? Where’s the catch? Why are these guys doing favors for people? Now, there are times when people genuinely want to see good happen for people. Most of the time, though, those kind hearts will understand a bit of suspicion, so, you know, nothing is lost.

Seriously, though. Find the cost. It’s there, once you know how to look. Then, find the pay-out. That’s there too, most of the time. We make our choices, and we pay the price, right?"

With that, he looks at Maeve, his smirk not changing one whit.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

“The only bad habit I have searching out those in need and lending a helping hand. Such it is with this poor woman.” He indicates Maeve.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

GM:

Mary is currently bending over, peering into an oven and at the sound of Azog’s voice snaps upright and wheels around, hands quickly flying to smooth down her skirt.

“Azog, you no good thug, how dare you sneek into my kitchen! How long have you been standing there staring at me?” She glowers at him, gesturing angrily in his direction with a meat fork.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

GM:

Edith arches an eyebrow and studies Mugsy carefully, “Is that so, young man? A devout follower of the narrow way, are you? Committed to the path of righteousness, temperance, and chastity, I am sure.”

As Jamison meets eyes with Maeve, she rolls her eyes in irritation, tossing her head in the general direction of Mugsy. “There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there’s always someone happy to take yours.”

The old man chuckles into his soup, “Anyone who brung you here, lady, think twice about what they’re a doin.”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

“Naw, Sugar, you got it all wrong. This ain’t a social call. We’s on a mission o’ mercy. Say, put away that meat hook, will ya?” Azog backs half a step into the doorway.

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“That’s not free, either, doll-face. We all pay in the end, one way, or the other.” He grins softly at Maeve, then looks up at the podium.

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GM:

Mary’s eyes narrow, “What” she growls, “did you just call me?” jabbing the meat fork at him, she drives him back into the other room, “Out! Out you scoundrel! I’ll not have another word from you until you have listened to the sermon! Get! Shoo!” And so saying she drives Azog from the kitchen.

Meanwhile a man in a rumpled brown suit steps up to the podium. His hair is neatly combed and he wears round glasses, dress white shirt, and matching tie. Instantly the buzz in the room settles, and even Maeve realizes that she should sit down, taking a seat next to Jamison.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Azog glumly takes his seat across from Jamison and Maeve.

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“And now for the days entertainment.” Mugsy whispers under his breath.

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GM:

The man preaches for perhaps 30 minutes, and is fairly good to boot. He speaks about the ails of sin, specifically violence, intemperance, and sexual immorality – but he doesn’t stop there. He continues with an impassioned description of the grace and restoration that is made available through Jesus and begs each one present to consider the offer, freely given, that is made to them. In conclusion, he asks for anyone who would to step forward and give his life to Jesus.

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It is obvious that the sermon is having an affect on Azog. He’s getting a dewy look smiling beatifically. His hand is slowly snaking into a pocket as well.

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Jamison is taking the opportunity to study everyone in the room. Is there someone that doesn’t fit? Is there someone that fits too well? Is Azog reaching for a flask of whiskey? Is anyone noting that his eyes are chewing up the scenery?

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(Streetwise, 2d6+2.)

Roll(2d6)+2:
3,6,+2
Total:11

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GM:

The people who fit the very least, even in current dress, are Jamison, Maeve, and Mugsy. Azog fits in really well, actually. Mugsy blends in like a pro, but Jamison’s trained eye can pick him out easily. Scanning the room, pretty much everyone is either riveted on the preacher, or studying their laps really intently. There’s a sense of some sort of power in the air, but it’s not magical, not even sinister.

On the other hand, Jamison will catch Sister Mary giving him a fiery glare, and while Maeve’s focus is clearly on the preacher, and her eyes are dewy too, she periodically makes eye contact with Jamison.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Azog stands and confesses loudly and earnestly: “Oh Lord, I have sinned! I have taken the devil’s coin.” Out of his pocket comes a tight roll of $20 bills. “Take back your thirty pieces of silver, Accuser!” He probably means to hurl the roll of bills across the room, but he throws with such force that the wad simply flies apart. A confetti of crisp bills flutters all about. The bums, most of whom are still on the bottle and only come by for free soup and coffee, grow pie-eyed.

Azog isn’t finished. “And I been a gambler. I roll the Devil’s bones!” He hurls a fistful of trick dice into the air. “And for some reason I can’t figure, I’ve been carrying this book of dark arts that came to me of my dear departed friend, God rest him. Away with you, wicked thing!” He tosses the antique duodecimo lightly at the base of the lectern, where it lands inertly.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Watching the fiasco, Jamison has to physically stop himself from leaping up from his seat. His eyes wide open and flashing red, his head cocked slightly, and his jaw entirely agape, he simply can’t believe what he is seeing!

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

GM:

The trick dice land at roughly the same time as the book, exploding with a sharp crack that causes several to dive for cover. Others stare wide-eyed at him, frozen. Sister Mary’s face seems almost enraptured. Maeve appears positively stricken.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

GM:

For his part, the preacher’s gaze follows the book, and his eyes turn up towards Azog with a mixture of pity and relief written across his face. Deftly he tosses his Bible on top of it, and the book below begins to smolder.

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With a jump, Jamison is snapped out of his anger. He looks Maeve over to see if she’s okay, and spares a look at Mugsy, too.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

With the barest hint of a grimace, Jamison stands, and starts collecting the money off of the table near him, and scooping it from the floor, folds it neatly in half, hands it to the speaker, and returns to his seat. He looks at Maeve.

“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. That’s Deuteronomy, 15:11. See, doll, God gave to Nicely-Nicely, there, so that Nicely-Nicely could give to the poor.” With that, he looks back at the lady shooting him the evil eye (Sister Mary). “Isn’t that so, lady?” he asks, stonefaced.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Mugsy is smiling with his eyes closed and softly shaking his head. “Oh Lordy.” He mumbles under his breath.

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[rewind! Bums back, gun back, words back.]

Azog falls back into his chair, overcome with emotion. He turns to speak to Mary but no coherent words come. Dumbly he holds his head in his hands and trembles.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

GM:

Sister Mary spares a glance at Jamison but nothing more as she approaches Azog, laying a hand on his shoulder.

The preacher, for his part, seems utterly and entirely focused on the book upon which his Bible rests. An oily smoke and a foul reek has begun to emanate from the former. The preacher’s brow is furrowed, and his lips move in prayer.

The general collection of other “patrons” seems caught up in everything that is taking place. Some stare in wide eyed horror at the Duodecimo, and many stare in wonder, watching Azog. Many others sit with eyes closed in prayer, and several begin singing “Just as I am without one plea…”

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Jamison sits, not mute with wonder or astonishment, but simply not speaking. He casually watches as the Bible burns the book beneath it, unmoved by the religious fervor around him.

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GM:

Sister Mary speaks softly to Azog, “Azog, you’ve got to cry out to Him, and surrender. It’s gift freely given, but you must receive it, and that’s going to mean letting go of everything else.”

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GM Edit/RePost!

Jamison’s face doesn’t even seem to move. His eyes bore into Nicely-Nicely, as implacable as the North Star. “That’s right, Nicely-Nicely. Let go of what Boots did to you. Let go of the fact that he has this lady’s children with knives at their throat. Let go of the fact that you were the one stopping me from starting a goddamned shooting war in the streets, for no reason that to cover my rescue of those kids. Let go of the fact that Boots’ men would happily come in here and lay out every single person in here on a cold metal slab, if he thought it would get under your skin. Let go of the fact that the second most terrifying man in the Treasury is looking to question your mind into little, tiny pieces, the same way he’d have done this lady, had you not intervened. Let go of the fact that half of Chicago would turn you in to one agency or another, and let go of the fact that no one around you is safe until your accounts with these murderers are settled.” Jamison licked his lips. Time to go in for the kill, he thought.

“Let go of the fact, Nicely-Nicely, this he’s not going to stop at this lady. Or, her children. Chicago streets have a memory all their own. Let go of the fact that this man’s troops are going to include the dead in their number, and when you’re found, sir, and you will be found, you can count on it, Boots may just decide to send the ghouls. And that time, it’ll be your woman. It’ll be your children. So, let go of all of this, if you can.

Of course, if you feel yourself deciding to act like a grown man, I’ll be waiting outside, trying to find somewhere safe to keep this lady while we save her fucking children."

Jamison’s eyes slide up to meet Mary’s. “Go on and hate me, if that’s what you need to do. But it’ll be you and yours that pay the price. Happily ever after doesn’t mean anything if you’re on the run. I know. I’ve seen it.”

Azog turns in his chair and embraces Mary around the waist, burying his face in her large abdomen. For the moment, everything else is forgotten.

But then Jamison’s philippic penetrates his consciousness and he pulls away.

The stars in his eyes wink out, and his face turns grim.

At last he is able to say to Sister Mary, “I’ll return when it’s finished. Wait for me.”

To Jamison’s back he says, “Wait, we’re not taking Miss Maeve with us.”

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GM:

Sister Mary pulls back as well, concern etched across her face as she studies Azog’s. “Boots… I always knew you were mixed up with bad people, Azog.” she gestures towards Maeve, “He’s got her kids, and she’s in danger? We can keep her safe, and I won’t stop you from going to rescue her children, this is the Lord’s Army, after all.” There’s a flint in her eyes that is different from the fury and ire Azog is used to, and she steps away from Azog and walks over to Maeve, “You stay with us, dear. We can keep you as safe as anyone until it’s blown by, and we can pray for your children.”

Maeve nods, tears streaming down her face, and she leans into Mary’s embrace, nodding. Deftly Mary takes her away, guiding her through the near pandemonium towards the back, and Edith joins her side.

About this time, the Duodecimo bursts into a bright white flame which lasts for some thirty seconds. As Sisters Mary and Edith disappear behind the doorframe, the fire burns out leaving nothing on the floor save the preacher’s unharmed Bible. He stoops to pick it up and meets eyes with Azog, then Jamison, then Mugsy, “You boys had better come have a word with me.”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Mugsy jumps out of his seat, takes his hat off of his head and shouts, “Halelujiah! I hated that book.”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Azog looks longingly after Sister Mary as the ladies exit, whistles low and says aloud, “Now that’s class!”

He turns to address the preacher and offers a paw to shake. He is smiling and seems himself once more.

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“Sure thing, Padre.” Jamison follows the preacher, Azog, and Mugsy.

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GM:

The service continues on, building momentum even as the Preacher escorts you each away from the large room, through a side door and deeper into the building. He leads you back to what must be a temporary study, for it is sparsely appointed with merely a desk, desk lamp, and a worn leather travel case sitting in the corner. He sits wearily and looks up the three of you with a smile, “Well, that was something, wasn’t it?”

He pauses just a second before continuing, “I won’t belabor you three with any lectures or sermons about the bad things in which you are mixed up,” he nods to Jamison, “Focused though I was, I clearly heard everything you said to Azog, Mr. ‘Black Bag’, and I trust Sister Mary’s judgement. That said,” and here he turns to Azog, “it seems apparent that you have had somewhat of an enlightenment, and find yourself in, ironically, a moral quandary.”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Azog looked to his left and right at his companions. Belatedly he realizes that he is expected to answer.

“Preacher, I ain’t much of a thinker. For me it’s simple. O’Hanlon’s holding two poor unbaptized babies that need rescue. Me and mine aim to do the job.

“I ain’t afraid to die no more, Preacher, ‘cause I’s bathed in the Blood. E’en so, I mean to come back alive and claim Sister Mary for mine. Otherwise she’ll be my sister in Heaven, where they do no marrying.” At this he frowns.

He adds: “Preacher, I done my best with the Good Book. I don’t understand all of it. But if Sister Mary and Mr. Black Bag both thinks it best I go on against Boots, then that’s what I’s gonna do.” His voice quavers and his hand still trembles a bit as he straightens his hat.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

“I think this man’s very brave. I’ve seen him soldier on with bullets in him. I’ve seen him get his arm opened up by doctor’s scalpels, with no KO medicine. I’ve seen him go into a burning building to get his friend out. And he stopped me from starting a gang war to ensure our success. But that’s not why I think we need him, preacher. He’s strong, but the streets are full of strong people. We he’s got is heart. We need that, because I’ll be damned twice for a liar if I said I had any.

Strong men are a dime a dozen. Good men, though? I think you’ll agree that they’re harder to find."

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

“There’s no moral quandary here. Azog said he’s going straight and he is. He’s not gonna be gambling, carousing or killing anyone. He has a lot of atoning to do for his past deeds (by his own words not mine) and has chosen this opportunity to help someone in need.

“I’ve seen my brother here do heroic deeds only equaled by those who went to fight the Kaiser. There was little thought of self and even thoughts for those who were the bad guys. Since I’ve known and worked with him, Azog has saved dozens of people with his selfless actions and thoughts. He’s simply progressing in his beliefs and relationship to God thanks in part to your nice sermon just now. Like the man said, he’s got heart and that makes him valuable and special.”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

GM:

The Preacher nods, clearly in agreement with Jamison and Mugsy (this may be a surprise to some?), “Azog, your friends have the right of it. Let me explain something to you that perhaps you may not have considered.”

He pauses in consideration, then continues, "The Bible does indeed tell us to respect the laws of the land, to obey our kings and rulers and live peaceably. However, it also instructs that we ‘Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow’. We have come to a lamentable time within the governance of this country where these admonishments of Scripture are no longer heeded, or even respected for that matter. It leaves all of us with somewhat of a moral quandary. Do we abide within the strictures and laws of this land, thereby standing idly by while men with power abuse those without? Or do we make what stand we can within the boundaries of a clear conscience to do what Scripture instructs: seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Perhaps, Azog, God has brought you to these crossroads for just a time as this – wherein you have the talents, skills, and grim determination to do just what may be needed to protect the lives of innocents and at the same time free them from tyranny. I am reminded of the story in the book of Judges of Ehud, who in obedience to God entered into the chambers of evil king Eglon and slew him with a dagger.

Boots O’Hanlon and many others like him have caused many a harm to the innocent and helpless people of this city, Azog, and our Law Enforcement agencies have proven less than willing to serve the cause of the needy. Perhaps, in the name of our God who is both Savior and Redeemer, but who also is Lord of Hosts and captain of the Armies on High, you have been chosen to end this tyranny by the strength of your own hand."

He catches himself and blushes visibly, “Forgive me, I have begun to sermonize once more, force of habit, you see.”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

“Perhaps the Good Lord could aid us with a little help in defending against hellish attacks from the same source as that foul book He so graciously undid for us.” Mugsy shrugs.

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Azog frowns. In his mind’s eye knives are swallowed by belly fat, eyes are put out with brands, foreskins are stacked and counted…

“Hmm. Tough road ahead, Preacher. Anything you can do for us to even the odds?”

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GM:

The Preacher nods, “I can assure you that as you are doing the Lord’s work, He will be watching over you, and I am fairly sure that a certain young lady will be diligent in organizing much prayer in your support.” he smiles plainly. “But I am afraid that the Salvation Army is not an organization of such means as you might request. I must be honest that I do not even fully know what that book was. I only did as I was instructed upon seeing it, my intent in bringing the three of you back here is simply to help our young troll friend to understand the path that is before him. You are not alone, Azog, and are not divided. Follow the path that is before you, and look to Him to guide you as you go, and be free from the shackles of guilt.”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Azog raises an eyebrow at “instructed,” but he smiles and shakes the Preacher’s hand once more. “Prayers are much appreciated, Preacher,” he said. “God willing you’ll see us again soon.”

To his compatriots he says, “Let’s go. We’ll need some kind of charms or amulet—uh, that is…” he glances back furtively. “Eh, plenty of time for confession later. Thanks again.”

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GM:

The Preacher smiles mirthfully, “The advent of magic has gone a long way to inform our theology, Azog. Understand that much of it can be treated as science, not perverted religion. Godspeed.”

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Jamison eyes the preacher furtively, blinks, and then, slowly, grabs the preacher’s hand and gives it a firm shake. His face doesn’t shift from the slight frown it held when he walked in. “I had you pegged wrong, preacher. I’m sorry for that. But that was a lot of money you got from us this morning. Do right by the poor around here, sir. That’s your real calling. If, when we come back, there’s a new Chrysler out front, that’s not enough money to stop me.”

Jamison looks deep into the man of God’s eyes. “Just so we understand each other. And thanks for the shelter for the lady. I’m sure we can agree that she’s seen about enough of this.”

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GM:

The Preacher’s smile only seems to widen as he gestures towards his surroundings, “These are the hardly the trappings of one concerned with material wealth, Mr. Black Bag. You can rest assured that my primary concerns are the care of the needy and the proclamation of the Gospel.”

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“Thank you, Preacher. We’ll be on our way.” Mugsy lifts his hat nods in the clergy’s direction.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

Azog steps onto the sidewalk to hire a cab, probably an unlicensed one willing to enter the Sprawl.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
 

[Streetwise: 2d6+2=3+5+2=10.]

A brown sedan screeches to a halt as Azog steps in front with his hand out. The driver, a surly Ork, shakes his fist and jibbers angrily. Azog exchanges words and currency with him and the attitude changes dramatically. The driver beams a fangy smile at the PCs and beckons them aboard with a broad wave of the arm.

“The Sprawl, eh Mac? You’re in luck. I know the place inside and out. Hold on tight!” The dusty sedan speeds away from the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen and into the next scene.

Salvation Army Soup Kitchen
Neko_Bijin

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