Saturday, 28 March 2015

Deadlands Noir: A Case of Courvoisier (part 1)



A short summary of last night's Deadlands Noir action for the benefit of my players before my addled brain forgets it all...

New Orleans, 12th August 1935

The detectives are invited to dinner at Sanzone's, the Italian restaurant in the French Quarter rumoured to be owned by the Black Hand crime syndicate. Here they meet with Mike "The Stick" Whelan, a senior member of the Black Hand, who has a job for them. Player characters present at the meeting include:

  • Ramsey 'My cat doesn't like you' Gordon, delusional patent scientist with his cat McCavity
  • Nukara 'Trench Knife' Vestal, female detective and a damned Yankee
  • Le Ralf, aka Trust Fund, French dilettante and student of voodoo
  • Doctor Francis 'Not the face' LeBoeuf, a Veteran of the Concrete Jungle

Only Gordon managed to smuggle a weapon into Sanzone's, namely a switchblade. All other firearms had to be left at the cloak room.

Whelan says the Black Hand has lost a truck with 10 cases of fine French brandy which came off a boat in the port of New Orleans a week ago. The truck was loaded up and drove off into the night, but has since vanished. Despite efforts to find it by the mob, no sign of the truck or its four guardians has been uncovered. Whelan wants the detectives to locate the brandy, the missing four men, and says he will pay $30 per day plus throw in a case of the brandy (worth $200) if they can return it.

The detectives start off by breaking into the flat of the truck's driver, Jean-Michel Bascon, a Creole (the other three men are Sicilians and trusted by the Black Hand as a result). This is in a very poor area of Gentilly. They find a voodoo lucky charm but no evidence that Bascon has been there recently. Gordon believes Bascon has packed his belongings and left. LeRalf thinks the voodoo charm has been made by a skilled bokkor (it provides him with a temporary bennie).

13th August

New Orleans from the air, 1935


The detectives visit the mother of Guido / Marcello Pantorini, the twin twentysomethings who were also in the truck. She says she has not seen them. She has a high opinion of Mike Whelan. Her sons were religious, she says, regular church goers and studying Latin with Father Joseph McNelis at Loyola University, which is run by the Jesuits. She gives the detectives a photo of her sons.

They also visit the wife of Tomasso Friuli, the other missing man, who was in charge of the operation. She confesses to having seen him in the street in Lakeview recently, but he ignored her. This was two days ago. He completely blanked her and she is now very upset and worried. She offers the detectives money not to shop him to the Black Hand and to give them time to escape New Orleans.

Scouting around the Lakeview street market where Mrs Friuli saw her husband, the detectives interview an old Italian man who is shining shoes. He saw the incident she described, and says Tomasso was moving in a wooden or puppet-like manner. He is paid to keep an eye out for Tomasso and ring the detectives if he sees him.

The detectives then travel to Loyola University where they speak with Father McNelis. He denies having seen the Pantorini twins recently, and says they missed a Latin lesson with him. He thinks their mother would like them to train as priests. LeBoeuf notices one of McNelis' bookcases seems slightly out of alignment. McCavity, Gordon's cat, sees a black cat sunning itself on the window sill outside, and tells the scientist that it is not, in fact, a cat. Gordon goes outside to see if he can find it, but the animal has vanished. Nobody else sees the cat. LeRalf asks the priest whether he knows anything about voodoo or the occult and McNelis says he is relatively ignorant on these topics, but the detectives can tell he is lying to them.

The detectives drive to the docks in Algiers to speak to some of the labourers who unloaded the brandy. They say they saw nothing out of the ordinary, although the detectives do spot and speak to a tramp, Davison Dauphin, who they see lurking near a warehouse. He has a pet rat called Billy and regards the cat loving Gordon with suspicion. He says he saw the truck drive south from the docks, on a road out of town, with one of the passengers looking like he was asleep. He also saw the driver (Bascon) earlier speaking with two black men who were watching the ship. He has not seen the men since. The detectives return to the docks where LeRalf seeks to intimidate the teamsters with a voodoo spell in an effort to learn more information, but doesn't get anywhere.

The detectives decide to go to the New Orleans police HQ on Lafayette Square, where they bribe a desk sergeant to search the records for any reports relating to the missing truck.

As the sun goes down the detectives visit a number of bars and restaurants in the French Quarter. They pop into the Absinthe House on Bourbon Street. He they have dinner and speak with Fat Dan Waller, the owner (who helped organise the meeting with Texas Ranger Andrew Dauterive in a previous episode). He has a bottle of the missing brandy, and confesses to having bought a case from Bascon a couple of days ago. He claims he didn't know it belonged to the Black Hand. Bascon has said he will return tomorrow with another case, which Fat Dan interested in purchasing.

The detectives spend some time in the evening doing their own things (LeRalf buys a violin case and visits his shrine), before regrouping to try to break into Loyola University. They get into Father McNelis' room through an open window, and find the priest dead, with his throat cut. The book shelf is moved aside and they discover shelves of books on demonology. LeRalf takes some. On the desk they find a two-day old newspaper with an article about the murder of police detective Mick Brandon, who was found floating in the canal, also with his throat cut. In Father McNelis' pocket Gordon finds a pair of tickets to a performance by a singer called Ann-Marie Duchamps at the Angel's Rest bar on Baronne Street, scheduled for the following evening (14th August). The detectives flee the crime scene, and are spotted by a night watchman, but he takes cover when LeBoeuf successfully bluffs him. He may have got a look at LeBoeuf before the detectives fled into the night.

LeRalf retreats to his luxury hotel to study the demonology books and finds a receipt in one from the Yellow Sign book shop on Decatur Street in the French Quarter.

14th August

I'll have a croissant with that please...
The detectives lurk at the Absinthe House, having coffee and croissants, for a couple of hours in the morning. Eventually Bascon arrives on a bicycle. He comes into the bar with some brandy bottles where he is surprised by LeBoeuf. He manages to draw his revolver first, and wings LeBoeuf before he is hit by Gordon's death ray and then shot in the guts by LeRalf. The detectives spirit him out the back with help from Fat Dan and into their truck.

On the way to Sanzone's the wounded Bascon tries to persuade LeBoeuf not to hand him over to the Black Hand. He confesses he was paid by rival crime syndicate the Red Sect to help them steal the brandy. The Red Sect plans to eventually sell it themselves. Bascon says the brandy is hidden on an abandoned plantation at St Marchant in Jefferson County, south of the city, which is where the Pantarino boys are. Bascon has been hiding out in the old New Orleans police building, where he has been trying to sell some of the brandy himself before skipping town. The theft was concocted by a Red Sect bokkor called Bon Bon Lescartier, who lives on a houseboat on the canal near the Charity Hospital cemetery in Lakeview. This, Bascon says, is where Friuli is too. He warns the detectives about crossing the Red Sect.

The detectives arrive at Sanzone's where they hand the bleeding Bascon over to Whelan's thugs. The Stick himself is there but scoffs at their talk of voodoo, whereupon LeRalf casts a fear spell on him, shocking the gangster temporarily. He recovers quickly and flies into a rage, ordering his men to throw the Frenchman out of the restaurant and then tells Gordon and LeBoeuf they have 24 hours to get his brandy back "or else."

The detectives search the abandoned old police HQ on Tulane Street, where they find Bascon's hideout plus $160 of his money hidden in a mattress. They also travel back to the current police HQ to speak to their contact there. He says the the sheriff in Jefferson County has recovered the missing truck from the bayou, where it was found by two boys out fishing. Gordon asks about the murdered detective Brandon, and the sergeant recalls that another man was slain in a similar manner recently, Matthew Sanderson, owner of the Yellow Sign book store...

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