Prologue: Investigative Reporting, Scene II (Underwood)

   
Prologue: Investigative Reporting, Scene II (Underwood)

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January 16th, 2007
Late Night


It was fortunate for Underwood that the next evening fell on a Tuesday, for it meant that tonight, 'Silk Eddie' Treadwell was holding court at the Blackout. In truth, all that one needed to know about the place was contained in that name.

It was a dingy, miserable looking bar deep in the ruined slums of Tottenham. There was no sign but for some neon lettering in the window, the A and C dimmed. There were a dozen booths inside, as well as a bar, and the menu consisted of no impressive cocktails, no foreign liquors. There was beer, and there was whiskey, and there was gin, and that more or less exhausted the selection. But then again, no one went to the Blackout for the booze. They went here because it was dark, and that darkness could hide a multitude of sins.

'Silk Eddie' sat in the farthest booth from the main entrance, near a door that lead to the kitchens and the restrooms. He was a bronze-skinned man of indeterminate heritage in his late thirties or early forties, his hair extravagantly quiffed, dressed in a silk suit of some expensive cut. He rolled an unlit cigarette holder in his mouth, and every individual aspect of him screamed success and wealth. But it didn't work. 'Silk Eddie' was, and would always be, a bottom feeder. He was a drug dealer and a pimp, and no matter how he dressed it up, after every meeting with him even the lowliest of scum wanted to wash their hands. He was sleaze personified.

But before Underwood could get to 'Silk Eddie', he had to get into the Blackout to begin with. As a stranger, this was a little harder than it seemed at first glance.

"Hey buddy." A man sitting at the bar said when Underwood came in. He was a big man, with a prodigious gut and arms laden with more muscles than Underwood cared to count, clad in biker's leathers. He stood, six feet of muscle and fat, and gave the reporter an unfriendly look. "You sure you're in the right bar?"


This assignment had taken some preparation.

There had been the research phase. Then, once there was a plan of attack, there was the visit to the second-hand clothing shop and the pawnbroker’s, for verisimilitude and props. He already had the appropriate business cards, if it came to that. There was also the two-hour-long period last night in which Underwood went to another, more strategically-placed bar, pretended to get belligerently drunk, and got himself ejected from the premises. Apart from being useful, that had actually been sort of cathartic.

At any rate, the man who walked into Blackout on the night of the 16th looked a good deal more as if he should be there than he would have a week ago. Unshaven, in dusty grey jeans, work boots, and a battered canvas parka over a once-white button-down shirt, Underwood could have just stepped off one of New York’s less reputable construction sites.

…And through a sequence of five to ten liquor stores. The reporter had gargled with a handle of Old Crow shortly before this excursion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A Thug View Post
"Hey buddy. You sure you're in the right bar?"
“Right bar? Right b…they serve drinks here, is this the right bar?” Underwood’s accent was several miles further into Queens than his usual, and sounded like it had bathed in the East River. He spread his hands wide and gave the thug a half-smile: for all appearances a man four hours into a whisky buzz, and inclined to be friendly to the universe in general.

“You’re okay, buddy. You got, whaddayoucallit – you got presence, what you got. Remind me of my cousin Vito. Barman!” This last was shouted. “Get a couple pints of bitter for this guy over here, and a thing of Guinness big as your head for yours truly. Might want to start a tab; I’m feelin’ good tonight.”

He turned back to the thug. “Presence. Tell you what, buddy, I’ll level with you: here to see a guy calls himself Eddie. I know a guy, he knows a guy who says Eddie wants to know about this guy called Chesapeake. ****ing Chesapeake.” His face turned briefly sour at the name, then back. “You know where I can find this Eddie?”

Spending a Glamour on Strengthening the Mask before I walk in, and 3 Successes on a Wits+Subterfuge

"How about you stop hassling the man and go pick up his drinks, eh, Ronnie?" A smooth, sardonic voice cut through the bar's low mutter. 'Silk Eddie' sounded like he looked, his voice confident, easy, but somehow... off. He tried too hard, came off as smarmy instead of charming. "Bring a Guinness and a Bull's Blood over to my table."

The big thug grimaced, but obeyed, stepping aside to let Underwood through. The barman, a skinny, bald-headed man with a nervous tic in his cheek, leapt into action, pouring drinks and setting them up.

"Have a seat, my sloshed speaking companion." Silk Eddie said, waving Underwood over to his booth. "Drink down your two-bit beer and tell me what ails you. Cause my name's Silk Eddie, and I want to hear what you've got to say."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silk Eddie View Post
"Have a seat, my sloshed speaking companion. Drink down your two-bit beer and tell me what ails you. Cause my name's Silk Eddie, and I want to hear what you've got to say."

“Not sloshed.” Underwood slid into the booth, nodded to the bartender very briefly when his drink was put in front of him, and gave it a long, reverent swig. “Just got a head start.”

“Eddie?” The reporter, still hunched protectively around his pint glass, nodded semi-politely at the man across the table. “Good. I’m Frank, Eddie. I do plumbing over in Brooklyn, right? Only I’m over here to visit my cousin, God bless the bastard – not cousin Vito, buddy, this is another cousin –” (This last was addressed to the thug at the bar, who had absolutely no reason to be still paying attention) “– and I come to him this morning, mad as ever-loving **** about this Chesapeake, and he says he knows a guy who knows this other guy who says ‘come to Blackout, talk to Silk Eddie, he’ll help you out.’”

He took another drink. “****in’ livesaver.”

“You wanna hear what ails me, Eddie? I’ll tell you what ****in’ ails me. I’m out on the town last night, right? My cousin and his buddies, they tap out early; they gotta work in the morning, but I’m off for the week, right? Carpe the whatisit. I am carpéing the **** out of this diem. So I’m at this bar, right, and I’m getting a little loose, getting my blood up, you know how it is…”

He chuckled, leaning into his Guinness – ostensibly one sleazebag’s misguided attempt at rapport with another sleazebag, though it had legitimately been a memorable experience. Most of the patrons at The Red Lion last night would probably recall a very loud man making a very broad swath of aspersions against the British character, accusing an innocent man of “thinking I look cheap”, escalating this line of inquiry to a rather forceful degree, and being escorted out of the pub singing “God Bless America” at the top of his lungs while getting most of the words wrong.

“…I get into a disagreement. So I’m out of the bar, it’s maybe three, four in the morning, and I bump into this guy in a side street – little, dark mother****er – and this guy. This ****ing guy."

There was another long, determined drink.

Underwood slammed the glass down, by way of punctuation. “Whadda you know about this guy Chesapeake?”

1 Willpower spent and 3 successes on a Manip+Persuade

"You're a very well connected fellow, Frank my friend, and a very well-informed fellow." Silk Eddie said, giving Underwood a slithering kind of smile. It was that kind of grin that slithered right across the lips, looking rather like a drunken serpent, before falling off quite as promptly. "Chesapeake and I, well, he and my employer, the main man of action himself..."

"He and Chesapeake have, what do you say, some business?" Silk Eddie said. He took a sip of his Bull's Blood, grimacing in distaste as he did so. "Chesapeake is a man of opportunities, Frank my fellow traveler, and the big-boss-man wants to know if these opportunities, if they are on the up-and-up. Cuz on the one hand, Chesapeake is offering some things which are mighty fine. And cuz on the other hand, Chesapeake is offering some things which they may be only so-so much faerie dust."

"So tell me, Frank," Silk Eddie grinned, please with his own private little joke. "What is Chesapeake like?"

“****in’ shyster, is what he’s like,” Underwood grumbled, staring into his beer. One more drink, then: “This guy collars me, right? Two ****in’ words in, says ‘you in the market for a Rolex.’ Now, turns out I am in the market for a watch – shoulda got wise to him right there, him working some kind of angle – but this Chesapeake, he plays to my ****in’… What is it. Better nature.”

Should anyone have cared to check on it, last night’s round of “drunken” shouting had betrayed quite a desire for overt status symbols. “Frank” was not the most psychologically complex of men.

“I trust this Chesapeake, Eddie. I let this grinning, low-rent sonofa***** clear out my wallet. And here’s the thing you gotta understand.”

Another drink. Underwood leaned in, conspiratorially. “This watch? Looks ****in’ mint. Platinum band, no scratches, tells time in like ten languages…” It was unclear whether he meant “time zones” or not – moot point, really.

“So put on this watch, I shake hands with this Chesapeake – I shake his ****in’ hand – and I go back to my cousin’s place. And next morning, when I wake up…”

His face soured, and he hunched back over his Guinness. After a few seconds, he looked back at Eddie.

“Your boss already make a deal with this Chesapeake?” Whatever Eddie’s answer – and, from Underwood’s perspective, it was hopefully going to be a voluble one – “Frank” was clearly going to offer his advice on the matter. The tenor of that advice was pretty obvious.

2 Successes on a Wits+Empathy to keep tabs on whether Eddie wants to kill, assault, or eat me

"If it so happens that he has, Frank my friend, he has not as of yet seen fit to inform me of such." Silk Eddie said, looking down his nose at Underwood. The vampire chewed his unlit cigarette holder for a moment, processing the information that he had recieved. Silk Eddie himself was not the most psychologically complex of men, nor was it intellect necessarily that had earned him unlife. Nevertheless, he did possess a certain low cunning, and a keen understanding of his position in the greater scheme of things. "Now, this in and of itself may not mean much, for my employer, he is a man who holds his cards close to his chest, and he does not take me over and tell to me, Eddie, I have done this-and-such. And yet, I do not think he has finalized his deal with our son-of-a-snake Chesapeake."

"Anything else you know about our grinning friend, Frank my drinking buddy of the evening?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silk Eddie
"...And yet, I do not think he has finalized his deal with our son-of-a-snake Chesapeake."
Underwood snorted sympathetically, if that was possible. “Good. That’s good. Smart guy. Good judge a character.”

The reporter took a somewhat meditative sip from his glass, now almost empty. He looked back across the table. “Eddie, I don’t come here for money. My cousin, he says there could be money in coming here – I don’t come here for no money. Got whaddyacall. Principle. You get ripped off by a greasy sonofa***** conman, nothing: you pay your own tab.” In what looked like a heroic display of manual dexterity given “Frank’s” current state, he dug a few crumpled pound notes out of his jacket pocket – just enough to pay for the Guinness.

“…Pay your own tab. Eddie. I got brothers back home. I call them up and I say ‘go’, they’ll book tickets and we’ll go after this Chesapeake. But maybe we don’t know where to start. I come here because my cousin says ‘Eddie, he knows people. He’ll find this Chesapeake, and then this Chesapeake will get what he’s got coming a whole lot faster.’”

“You seem like the kinda guy will do this. You get him for me, Eddie. You get him fast.”

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silk Eddie
"Anything else you know about our grinning friend, Frank my drinking buddy of the evening?"
Underwood downed the rest of his beer, stumbled to his feet and sidled out of the booth. “The street was near the bar. ‘Red Lion’ – sorta near a square. Big square. You look for him there.” The Red Lion was quite near Piccadilly Circus, at that. Just enough to nudge Scratch's Machine into investigating a useless yet semi-plausible hypothesis, if they were so inclined.

The reporter paused, grimaced, then reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved a small object, tossing it on the booth table with some measure of disgust.

“And you look at this, yeah? Not a Rolex. Don’t even think it’s ****in’ American.”

Underwood turned and walked out of the bar.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank
“And you look at this, yeah? Not a Rolex. Don’t even think it’s ****in’ American.”
"You, Frank, are a man tossed by fate upon the ocean, as though you were a sailboat adrift too far from harbour." Silk Eddie said, chewing on the cigarette holder as he regarded the watch. "You have my condolences, and you may consider that, should you ever be in need, Silk Eddie does owe you a favor. Good luck, Frank my friend."

****************************************************

It was quite dark by the time Frank, better known as J. T. Underwood, emerged from the Blackout. He had spoken with Silk Eddie, he had learned what the vampire dealer and procurer knew, and he now had learned that Othello and Scratch were making a deal of some kind. Just what that deal was, was the other question.

The air was cold, and the time was some point close to midnight as Underwood set out down the street. This was not a night to be out and about, but then J. T. Underwood was not someone who had much to fear from the night.

He had been walking for perhaps five minutes when a car pulled up to the curb alongside him, driving slowly and keeping pace. It was an old car, something dark and boxy, an old tank of a car that had seen better days. The driver was someone tall and thin, hard to see in the darkness, but the light was on in the back of the car, and there was a woman there.

"Hello J.T." The woman said, leaning out the open window. She was short, perhaps five-foot-two, and dressed in a long, floor-length red dress. She had brown hair and dark eyes, and a mischievous sort of smile. "Mind if I take you for a drive?"

Wits+Composure

Underwood stopped walking. Paused for a moment or two, still looking ahead, hunched against the cold. Hitched up his coat collar.

Dames.

“Sister, I’ve been tailed before. I don’t much care for it. You give me a name, and you give me a very good reason.”




 

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