Chicago Lightning

Somewhere Near the Waterworks Part II

The pre-dawn is beginning to lighten a bit, just as Jamison locks the doors, and he understands that the four of them still have roughly an hour to get things squared away before there will be enough people around to cause a problem.

The walk from Ruby’s back to the Waterfront is uneventful, the barge remains where Mugsy and Azog left it, though the incoming tide has surrounded it with several dead fish. Jamison casts about looking for the tunnel from whence the barge made its exit but cannot identify it. In fact, in the growing light, even Mugsy and Azog have trouble making it out, for the drainage tunnel is overgrown and will covered up.

The barge floor is indeed puddled with blood, and several of the crates are smashed or clawed deeply. There are several kegs intact, as well as several crates. In all, twenty-two containers in various sizes and conditions.

Allistaire outpaces the others to the shoreline, but upon seeing the barge, he stops and visibly suppresses a shiver.

Comments

Jamison’s face is as gray as his jacket and Fedora. He pats Allistaire on the back as he passes, puts his foot on the barge, as if to test it, and steps up. “So, charitable works, gentlemen.” He makes his way onto the barge’s back, trying to get an idea of what happened, and makes his way back to where everyone’s embarking with a flask of whiskey. He takes a pull to keep the cold off of him.

 

“Plenty more o’ that on the boat, brother,” laughs Azog as he sets down Jimmy and removes his coat and shoes. He thoughtfully wraps Jimmy’s limp form in his jacket as tightly as a burrito and lifts himself onto the deck of the barge.

“Here, Moneybags. Help point out the good stuff and then go play lookout. Elves got good eyes, right? And you look a bit gaunt for muscle work yet. (Lord knows what Jimmy and co. were thinking, starving their stevedores like that!)”

He begins to roll barrels to the end of the barge as easily as a child might guide a hoop with a stick.

 

“Anybody got a light? I’m just covering the bases.”

 

Jamison glances at Mugsy. “Sorry, boss. I dropped cigars a while back.”

 

“Jimmy smells like a smoker. I’ll get his. Now let’s get to work here.” Azog steps into the water and begins carrying the barrels to shore.

 

Skipping ahead a bit…

Azog finishes stacking the barrels of hooch and sits down on a crate of guns. He is sweating and the lake wind bites. He unwraps Jimmy and throws the coat over his own shoulders. Jimmy’s pockets hold a lighter, a cigar cutter, and a tin with one cigar left. Azog lights it and begins to puff.

“Gentlemen, who’s doing the honors?” He offers up the lighter.

 

GM: As Azog begins to puff away, you all hear the sound of motors drawing near. Turning, you quickly make out a box truck preceded by a black phaeton. Allistaire turns on his heel and approaches the phaeton as it pulls up, and a man smartly steps out and enrobes him in a black full length fur coat and hat. Idly, he gestures towards the pile of crates, “Assist these men.”

The driver of the truck is a troll, not as large as Azog, and not nearly as dapper, but he’s a gentlemanly fellow and saunters over to the trio by the boxen, “Quite a haul youse guys gots.” He grins toothily, “Name’s Amos.”

 

“Azog,” says Azog before he can catch himself. “Say, can you start with the barrels? We’re going to open some crates for souvenirs.” And he does so.

 

Jamison makes his way over to where Troll’s ripping the crates open. “So, you say that there are other barges, loaded to the gills the way this one is? And we can’t get at them, is that right? Clear signs of struggle, dead ghouls, and signs of magic in subterranean caverns?”

 

“One other thing, Troll. You wouldn’t still have that last cigar, would you?”

 

Azog hands over Jimmy’s smoking kit and the empty tin.

“That’s right,” he says, “lots more, but no more smokes. Finish that one if you want.” There’s plenty of tobacco left, but the damp end looks unappealing.

 

“Enough gabbing and grabbin, load up the truck and lets get out of here.” Mugsy starts pilling crates into the box truck.

 

“How’d you get a moniker like ‘Black Bag’?”

 

Jamison chuckles. “Wellsir, you remember how I said Ruby kinda took me in, rather than let me freeze?” He grabbed a crate, and started to follow Mugsy back up to the road. “I walk in, frozen to the core. I mean, I was about to start losing bits and pieces. Well, at the bar, there are these two Negroes. Both the heads of the Dinge Squads that operated out of there back then. It was during the riots a few years back, so, everyone in that place had a gun. Even me, you know, but I wasn’t going to start waving a piece around the place where someone had just taken me in.”

With a grunt, Jamison dropped off the crate, and headed back to grab another. “Anyhow, those two at the bar, they get to pushin’ each other. Goading everyone into a fight. And everyone in here’s got iron, you know? A fight in there doesn’t help anyone, least of all, the lady who runs the place. She took me in, and it’s her place, and it’s cold outside, and she can’t afford to be patching bullet holes in the roof. So, I walk over, and settle them down.”

With that, he grabs another crate, and heads back to the truck. “Specifically, I told those boys that I’d beat the dirt off their shirts if they didn’t calm down and behave like gentlemen. Of course, one of them is going to try me, so we step back outside, me and him, and I proceed to give him a thrashing in front of his friends. He was strong. Really, really strong. But he wasn’t a boxer, so I won.”

He sets the crate down next to the truck, and heads back again. “Well after Ruby asked for me to hang on a while and keep the folks in check, word about what happened gets around, and people start talking about how I can’t be an ordinary white man. After all, I come into a Dinge joint like I own the place, and whip the enforcer of a Squad right there in the street, because he’s not behaving. I can’t be all-white, they figure. I have to have some Black in me. Somewhere it can’t be seen, because, you know, I’m white as a lilly, as far as they can tell.”

With that, he wipes his forehead. “That’s how I got to be called Black Bag. Really, though, I was just like anyone else that had been backed into a corner. I just happen to be able to throw my fists, if you follow. Boxing Club at NYU.”

 

Azog picks out a few pieces of hardware plus ammo and hammers shut the crates with a closed fist.

After everything is on the truck, he approaches Allistaire.

“Now Moneybags, let’s talk business a minute. I reckon there’s five, ten grand worth of merchandise here easy. Once you pay your fence all the rest goes to the Salvation Army, see? You’re not taking a cut of this, and neither am I, we understand each other? I don’t need to remind you where you’d be right now if not for Mugsy and me, and we’re both in a line of work where reputation counts, am I right? So I don’t need to mention that if you cross me on this I’ll call in favors from every Trolltown from here to Greenwich Village, and I meet some real unsavories in my trade, you see? Good, good.

“Now that that’s settled, we’re about to go to war with Boots O’Hanlon, and the odds are pretty long. If there’s any other help you can offer before we part ways, now’s the time to be offering. After all, he can’t hate you any worse than he already does, am I right?”

 

GM: Allistaire smiles placidly, “And you expect to prosecute said war against Boots without any resources?” He gestures towards the crates, “It would seem that he has provided you with the ability to fund this adventure wholesale, and I mean that quite literally. I suggest that instead I liquidate this for you and allow you to keep the proceeds entirely as a form of thanks.”

[Azog – Foible: Easily Tempted – Worth 2 Style Dice if you bite]

On the barge remains a few crates spattered with blood, and two large barrels of liquor, also splattered, which should suffice to cook the whole thing off.

 

Azog’s demeanor changes drastically. He shuffles his feet and his hat is in his hands.

“Well you see, it’s like this, Mr. Moneybags,” he begins, forgetting that that was his own term of derision. “I’s turning over a new leaf, so to speak, and I can’t take no ill-gotten gain. Plus I gots to get in good with my Lady, which you met earlier this morning. I just don’t…” Here he trails off, clearly at a loss.

“I mean, it wouldn’t be… Oh damnation! Last night really put a bump in my Motivation, you know?”

He looks side-to-side, as if listening for some Voice of Guidance.

 

Jamison walks over. “Now, what’s the deal, here? This Elf isn’t trying to sucker you out of the cash, is he? That’s supposed to go to charity, one way or the other. Now, then, you might wanna go this route; if he’s trying to pay cash, take it, and donate it yourself. You know, minus the fare back uptown.”

“But, hey, we have a plan, too, and if we start changing things willy-nilly, someone will screw us, but good. I just got here, but it might be better to stick to what we said.”

 

“Ah, no. Nobody’s screwin’ nobody. Cash on the barrelhead, just like we said. Make a donation to charity later.” Azog swallows hard.

“Your man brought cash, right?”’ He holds out a paw.

 

GM: Allistaire is clearly in his element here, he nods towards his driver, a well dressed dwarf, who reaches into the phaeton and produces a briefcase, “As you might suspect, I have had plenty of time to study the contents of this barge. This suitcase contains $5,000 as an advance. If I am able to liquidate it for more, I will contact you directly and make arrangements to meet with you.”

He looks over to Mugsy, “Is this agreeable to you?”

 

Jamison walks back to the barge to grab what he can reasonably carry.

 

[There ought to be at least one ghoul corpse in good condition on the deck also.]

 

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, we all have a mutual hand in the outcome of this so lets make sure we all come out together.” Mugsy begins. “Mr. Alistaire, you no doubt have an interest in revenge on Mr. Ohanlon. It seems he has it out for my troll friend here as well as the offending of various other groups and individuals too numerous for our time here. I say we all, excepting the bag here (motioning to Jamison) have reason to want to get back at Big Boots. We can certainly use monies to accomplish all kinds of various ends and means. I’m curious as to what your plans are now that you’re back here top-side?”

 

GM: Once more Allistaire smiles plainly, “I believe you have just enumerated my plans, Mugsy. In liquidating these assets for you and in providing said liquid assets to you, I am enabling you to begin this campaign against Big Boots. Hopefully I am also taking a step in building some trust between myself and you, something that will be necessary to our future endeavors together. I am sure you are aware that if Rome was not built in a day, it will take more than a night to unmake it. It is clear that you lot are much more adept at skullduggery than I, and are far more personally motivated than any one of my contacts would be. Additionally, if I suddenly appear in public and make my return publicly known, it will tip off Big Boots that something is more amiss than simply a cargo shipment gone missing. It will give us an advantage in what is sure to become as much of a high stakes chess game as a direct confrontation.”

 

“Hey, what if we tipped the papers to this place?” Jamison takes the time to light the stogie in the smoke kit. “Might throw a wrench in Boots’ plans to import the ghouls, you know? And anything else, if we can tie it to him at all. It’ll keep the sewers safer for now, and I figure anything we can do to muck up the business would work in our favor.”

“Back when I was in the business, whenever we came across anyone we couldn’t confront directly, we’d do whatever we could to tie their hands. Limit their ability to move. Seems to me that’s what we’re looking at, here.” He exhales a small column of smoke.

 

“What I wouldn’t give for a ’throwdown phone,” szys Azog. "We could light the barge, call the rag sheets, and get clean away in Smitty’s cab all in a go.

“I agree with Black Bag. All else being equal, secrecy favors the house, publicity favors the little guy. Mabye drag one of them ghouls on to the beach for a fottergraff.”

 

“That’s the way I saw it, too.” Jamison eyed the scene. “I could set the scene… Say, drop one of the barrels of hootch off the side, there, shoot it full of holes. It’ll make the whole place reek of the stuff. That should, eventually, get back to the Treasury agents. Slump the ghoul over the other side, like it died there. The fire should burn the blood, making movement of the thing easy to cover. The smoke should do the rest, really; we could always call the fire department from a payphone out here. The papers always listen for fire alarms.”

He pulled on the last of the cigar. “That should be enough background noise. Of course, touching off the dynamite should do the job without our little call, and should kick up enough dust to cover our tracks.”

Jamison took a breath. “I’ll just go and grab the ordinance off the deck. No one will miss a pair of Thompsons that no one knew were there.”

 

“Well, Mr. Allistaire, I appreciate you handling this business for us. I am truly sorry about your earlier predicament and wish you the heartiest recovery in all ways. How should we contact you if we find out anything that would be to your benefit? You have a card or something?”

 

Azog scratches his head. “This is already getting complicated. What we need is to plan a getaway. I know it’s just six blocks to Ruby’s, but it’s daylight now, and we’ll be picked up if we’re seen carrying weird heaters and Tommys, particularly nearby a suspicious fire.”

[And just like that, Smitty’s cab pulls up. -1 style die. BTW, do I get my two for above temptation?]

 

(We settled on your getting the money being the best way forward, right? You got the briefcase, you should get the points.)

Jamison made his way back to the boat. After placing the ghoul’s body on the beach, and using his old work skills to feed the scene so that it looked like Jimmy got K.O.ed by the ghoul before poking it full of holes with a nearby revolver, he tore the stopper out of the top of a drum of whiskey, rolled it about on the beach, then rolled it back to rest in the water near the barge. He took a moment to think about how the scene would be seen by professionals.

There would be some small details off, of course, but there just wasn’t enough time to address them all. By the time the police or the Treasury would get here, the firemen would have trampled the entire place… With any luck at all, there’d be no way to answer the small questions. Time to set the dynamite.

 

Tentatively, gingerly, Azog offers a paw to shake Allistaire’s hand.

“Pleasure doing bidness, sir,” he says softly, uneasy with the feeling that he as managed only to exchange one Boss for another.

He takes the suitcase full of cash in hand and shuffles away from the beach and toward the street.

 

GM:

LiaoFan: Give me a Law Enforcement roll so I can gauge your thoroughness
Neko: I have adjusted the Style Dice to reflect your succumbing to temptation.

Allistaire hands over the money and shakes Azog’s hand. There is some glimmer in his eye that Azog cannot place. With a nod, but no words, he steps to the phaeton and gets in. In but a moment the car and truck are both pulling away.

Smitty opens the door to his cab and steps up on the running board to look over his roof. Shaking his head, you can hear him let out a long, low whistle of disbelief.

 

(2D6 = 8, (+2 for Law Enforcement) lines up for a total of ten, which says I could manage a complex or challenging task. Since we’re short on time, I figure that’s what we’re looking at.)

 

“Smitty, you showed up in the nick of time. We need a getaway—

“Say, don’t look at me like that! This ain’t what it looks like. You see, we’s…

“Okay, it is what it looks like, but I swear I ain’t doing burn jobs again. This here’s a frame-up.

“I mean…” he stammers, "there’s a whatzit, a… a higher cause here. They explained it better, them that gave me the five grand.

“No no, it’s Boots’ men, Smitty. It’s Lovecraft. They got Lovecraft. Iced him with an ethertext! Oh Smitty, just get us hell out of here.” Azog begins sobbing into his handkerchief.

 

“Alright, boys.” Mugsy announces. “Who knows someone who can look at this dough for any tampering, magical or otherwise?”

 

“Not me,” Jamison said. “But if we could hit up Ruby’s for a New York minute, I’ve got something to drop off. Then, I’ll be happy to head out with you guys.”

 

“Ruby’s then, Smitty. Back entrance.”

 

“Alright, lets get this show on the road!”

 

As the cab pulled up, Jamison slid off the seat, trying to conceal the twin Tommies he had stashed under his greatcoat. He made his way inside, jotted another of his quick notes, and stashed the guns in his room. Then, quick as a whip, he was back outside, and in the cab again.

“Good to go, gentlemen.” He adjusted his tie.

 

GM: Normally Smitty is a pretty chatty fellow, but he remains quiet for the entire drive, his face drained of color. As Jamison re-enters, he turns to face the three of you, “Alright guys, what’s goin’ on? I seen too much for you to keep me all in the dark and then ride around wit me like this.” He pauses awkwardly, “I ain’t no getaway ride and you know it. And…..what WAS that thing?”

 

“It was a barge.” Jamison coughed. “I’ll go first, you guys give details as you see fit.” Jamison turned to look at the cab driver. “I dunno you, but I help keep the riff-raff out of Ruby’s, the diner we just left. These guys come strolling in about, what was it, four in the morning? I’d just got the papers. Anyway, they have a regiment of folks who’d been zonked in the gourd by some sort of magic, you know? They acted like someone’d gone upside their head with a Louisville Slugger. So, I fetched them all some hot coffee, some chili, and went with them when they said there was loot left on a boat.”

He adjusted his tie.

“Bad folks wouldn’t have made the phone call to get the derelicts cared for by the Salvation Army. Bad folks wouldn’t have cried that one of their own got hexed to death. And I saw the look on this man’s face when he got talked into taking the money. Was a time that I needed to use my ability to eyeball people to keep myself alive. If these folks are bad guys, I’m a three-dollar bill. When I told them Ruby’s wasn’t open, they said they’d rather leave than cause trouble. I don’t hear that very much in my line of work. So, I’m with ‘em, cabbie, because these are good people. But if there’s a problem, we can walk.”

Jamison looked out the window.

 

“Hey now, let’s not get huffy in here,” says Azog. “Smitty knows us. Heck, I thought Smitty knew everybody…” he gives Chambers a queer eye. “And he can’t be party to a turf war. A hack that couldn’t cross gang lines wouldn’t be much of a hack, would he?”

Azog addresses Smitty: "Thing on the beach was a flesh-eater. One of them ghouls you heard about down New Or-leans. Boots O’Hanlon is using them to move hooch and guns with slave stevedores. Me and Mugsy killed nearly a dozen of ‘em (if you can kill the undead, that is) and took the barge out of the waterworks. Now we’re going to burn it off and leave Boots’ man to take the heat.

“Anyhow, the slaves is all under the care of My Lady at the Salvation Army now, and we’s going to do whatever we can to disrupt this operation. But we need to get away before the law comes down on this place asking questions. So we can’t walk, not even as far as Ruby’s. Smitty, you’ve gotta step on it.

“We ain’t gone crooked, Smitty. We’re on the right side, I swear it. Though I admit things do look a little bad right now.” He fidgets with the case in his lap.

 

[Ok, I missed that we already made it to Rudy’s. Just ignore that.]

 

GM: [Nobody specifically said they were lighting the barge, but I’m assuming that either you already have, or you are returning to the shore to do so. If you have already lit the barge, there will have been a big boom about halfway back to Ruby’s, and you will likely be in a bit of a hurry. Clarification please?]

 

[I would have set the barge to go up before we left. Some trash leading to a fuse and cap would have done the job nicely.]

 

Jamison catches Troll’s furry eyeball, and gives him one right back. “I’ve been off the map for a while now. And I wear my miles on my face. Hell, my own father wouldn’t recognize me.”

 

[Props for furry eyeball!]

“No, you look just right for what’s next. Did you take care of your business inside? Smitty, next stop is a good witch. Preferably one in another part of town; I think I hear sirens.”

 

“Don’t even start with me, Smitty. I wouldn’t even be in this mess if you and my Troll-kin here hadn’t shanghai-ed me from a date.”

 

“Yeah, I’m good for now,” Jamison replied with a sigh. “Let’s just get where we’re going, huh?”

 

GM: Smitty furrows his brow, looking between the three. As Mugsy speaks his shoulders seem to sag a bit and he nods, “I don’t like it, Mugs, but alright you got me. Which witch?”

He starts up the car and speeds off before you begin speaking. [Scene Exeunt]

MadDogMaddux

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