Prologue: Investigative Reporting, Scene II (Underwood)

"Heather Harte." The girl in the red dress said. She looked at Underwood, in his big coat, and tilted her head to him. She gave him an endearingly pixieish grin. "And I'm asking nicely?"

Quietly, Underwood spotted a dark figure moving through the shadows behind him. Not a professional tail, for Underwood would've never caught one of those guys. They tended to be normal-looking people, average and unexceptional, nebbish types with hunters' patience. This shadow was different. Big, and broad, and moved like a stalking big cat. A different sort of predator, not an ambush hunter but one who would glory in the chase.

"Really nicely.' Heather Harte said, still smiling. She unlocked the door and opened it, scooting aside to let Underwood sit down.

The reporter looked behind him for one more beat, then met the woman’s eyes. Scowling.

“Lady, you’re lucky I’m insured.”

He got in the car. Closed the door; motioned to the thing outside. “Who’s Boris Karloff? He your boy?”

"Something like that." Heather Harte said, scotting over yet further to the far end of the car. She grinned at him. "Isn't he delicious?"

Up ahead, the driver snorted quietly, checking the rearview mirror. There was something off about him, and it took a moment for Underwood to realize just what it was. His features were shadowed, obscured, slender but almost aggressively indeterminate. And yet, poking from beneath his driver's cap were a pair of small, black rabbit ears.

The door opened once again, and Underwood's one-time 'tail' sat down on the opposite side of the reporter. He was a human tiger, or perhaps a demon, not hugely tall, but sinuous and powerful, coiled strength in every line of his body. He was not human. He had rounded features and a broad face, but something lethal gleamed in his eyes, dark and mocking and sinister. His skin was black, with smouldering orange stripes coming through, like a reversed tiger, and there were golden markings on his face.

"Evening Underwood." The man said, and he smiled at the reporter. There were fangs in that smile. "Saw you had business with Eddie Treadwell."

The demon closed the door, and the driver put his pedal down to the floor, the car zooming off into the black night.

Originally Posted by Ms. Harte
"Something like that. Isn't he delicious?"
Underwood grunted sarcastically. “You and me, lady, we have different tastes.”

He slid into the center seat to accommodate his tail, nodding at the tiger-demon as nonchalantly as possible. “Hey.”

Originally Posted by Karloff
"Evening Underwood. Saw you had business with Eddie Treadwell."
“Oh, so everyone knows my name. That’s swell.” Underwood stewed for a moment. At a guess, his interlocutors probably weren’t vampires – still, best not to tip the game in either direction just yet.

“Business. Hah. Makes it sound like we’re canasta buddies. Eddie was temporarily useful. That’s all.”

The reporter looked from Heather to her companion, still obviously irritated. “Hey, talk about useful. Howsabout you tell me your angle on me, and then you tell me your angle on Eddie? You want a nice discussion, that sounds useful.”

"Useful, sure. But is it fun?" Ms. Harte said, still grinning that manic little smile at Underwood. It was difficult to say just who was more threatening at the moment. Karloff was big, brutal, and had a decidedly sadistic edge to his small smile. He also had fangs and was a changeling, quite obviously. Ms. Harte, on the other hand, was one of the Ensorcelled, and she kept smiling.

"For someone who was just temporarily useful to you, you and Eddie sure talked a lot." The tigerish man observed, removing a tape recorder from his coat, the kind of recorder that had a directional microphone and all the trimmings. "Talked about business-like things. So how about we do our discussion first. What do you have against Chesapeake, and why did you just try and sabotage his deal?"

"I'm sure we can work something out to our mutual satisfaction."
Intimidation Assist = Manipulation(4)+Intimidation(2):
Dice Roll:
d10 Results: 3, 7, 5, 3, 5, 10, 2 (Total Successes = 1)
Karloff smiled at Underwood, an ironic sort of smile that suggested all sorts of unpleasantness if this proved impossible. "What do you think, Heather?"

"I like that idea." Ms. Harte agreed, giving Underwood a very manic kind of grin.
Dice Roll:
d10 Results: 1, 7, 5, 2, 9, 10, 5, 7, 5, 3, 8, 5 (Total Successes = 3)
It was getting to be disturbing. (3)

Originally Posted by Ms. Harte
"I like that idea."
“Easy there, tiger.” This was directed at Heather, actually. Underwood exhaled heavily, with something that wasn’t quite relief yet.

“I don’t know where else your gang’s been sniffing around, but we’re playing for the same team, you and me. Chesapeake’s employer—” (Don’t say “Othello” or “Todd White” until they do) “—heard that Scratch’s Machine was asking after his boy, and set me to find out why – so I go to Eddie with a fake tipoff, and I pump him for information. I don’t even know there’s a deal going on until Eddie tells me so, and by then I’m too far into my ‘Chesapeake, that rat’ bit to back out.”

He looked at Heather, considering. “Look, lady, I’m sorry if I queered your business, but all I want is Chesapeake out of the soup. I figure Eddie goes off on a goose chase, I call my boss and tell him to warn Chesapeake off: I’m happy; my boss is happy; Chesapeake’s happy. If there’s some reason why things need to happen different, you let me know, and I’m listening. I may even help out.”

3 Successes on a Presence+Persuade

"Hah." The tigerish man said, laughing briefly. Ms. Harte looked back at him, and then rolled her eyes as the tiger-demon shook his head and grinned. "The left hand and the right hand, they have no idea what each other is doing, is it not so?"

"So." Heather said, turning her attention outwards. "If J. T. is on our side -- sorta -- is the deal still on?"

"It should be." Karloff said, his momentary mirth quieting down. "I'll call him later and check with Chesapeake."

"You see, Mr. Underwood," The big, tigerish man said, relaxing back into his seat. He was still a great, big, dangerous lump of menace, but at least at the moment the tiger had sheathed its claws. "Chesapeake and Scratch are doing the dance of deals just now. Chesapeake has something in his possession which he wants to sell to a certain very terrifying person in Canterbury who shall remain nameless. Scratch's Machine make for good intermediaries, if we can get through this deal without someone betraying someone else."

"But the deal has to go through." The tigerish man said, putting his hand on Underwood's shoulder.
Dice Roll:
d10 Results: 9, 2, 2, 10, 7, 3, 6 (Total Successes = 2)
It was not a comforting gesture. "And so, I think Mr. White can wait a few days for his report before you go shutting things down. And you can help us with the deal itself. Doesn't that sound nice, Heather?"

Dice Roll:
d10 Results: 1, 4, 5, 4, 4, 4, 8, 6, 4 (Total Successes = 1)
Ms. Harte just grinned. (1)

“Hey, now. Who says Mr. White has to shut things down? Way I see it, he’s willing to keep Chesapeake on a long leash, so long as his own interests are safe – and Chesapeake’s a swindler, but he’s not the kind to shoot his boss in the foot. And if a deal happens and Scratch gets left holding the bag, well. I think everyone’s still happy.”

Underwood leaned forward on his elbows, his body language somewhat limited by circumstances. “Unless this deal is not in Mr. White’s interests. In which case…”

He shrugged. “…You still have me over a barrel. But I’d like to know in advance. What’s Chesapeake selling, Miss Harte.”

"This deal is on the up-and-up, hard though it may be to believe." The tigerish man said, offering Underwood a shrug. It was hard to believe, but not impossible. "And doesn't concern White one way or another."

"Chesapeake's just gotten his hands on something that might interest the Canterbury party very much. It's a rather specific kind of interest, apparently, some photocopies of a set of photographs of an early Christian catacomb in Rome." The tigerish man continued. "But the party in Canterbury may be willing to offer quite a bit of favors and influence for it, and Chesapeake's got an apprentice, so..."

"The problem is that the party in Canterbury is the sort of party that can end a party very fast, were it so inclined." The tigerish man said. "Which is why we need Scratch. And since you've been so helpful in making that happen, you can be helpful some more."

"What do you say?" The daemon said, holding his hand out to Underwood. "This doesn't have anything to do with White, but he's not likely to be happy about deals with vampires. But what he doesn't know won't hurt him."

Underwood mused.

"They don't see my face, or I get a better disguise then this here." He gestured at his clothes. "Scratch's boys know me as Frank -- last thing I need is a gang of bloodsuckers going after the real me for passing a bum tip."

He extended his hand in return. "You give me that, and you've got yourself a business partner."


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