Monday, 16 March 2015

Deadlands Noir: Looking for Lucy (part the first)

This is a quick summary of last week's Deadlands Noir session (aka Looking for Lucy), primarily for the benefit of my players, so that they can refresh their memories before next week  - if we manage to reconvene. This is an entirely home brew adventure, primarily because I found the campaign included in the Deadlands Noir book poor enough to be virtually unplayable, so readers planning to play in the Deadlands Noir setting need not worry about spoilers.

The premise of the story is that the PCs are all detectives in New Orleans, who have recently established their own agency. However, because they are relatively new at this lark, and only one of them has had any previous experience, another is - gulp - from the North, they have not been able to generate much in the way of business. However, they have been advertising in the newspapers and canvassing some of the wealthier neighbourhoods, and their luck may be about to change.

A quick summary of the Player Characters:
  • Nikara Vestal - a young female Yankee sleuth, down from New York, relatively new in town
  • Ramsey Gordon - a delusional patent scientist who talks to cats
  • Lee De Ville - a Harrowed private eye, recently back from the dead
  • Doctor "The Doctor" LeBoeuf - a medical doctor and a Veteran of the Concrete Jungle, nursing a comatose wife

30 July 1935 - New Orleans

The partners of a struggling - and yet to be named - detective agency have taken their first call for business. They travel down to the Garden District of the city to meet Kathleen "Kitty" Hayes, the attractive 30-year-old widow of Colonel Dashiel Hayes, late of the Confederate Army, who disappeared while on a boating trip in the Bayou a year ago. Colonel Hayes has recently been pronounced dead by a Louisiana court. The widow Hayes lives in a large mansion with grounds not far from the river.

Kitty Hayes' poodle, Lucy, a valuable pedigree animal given to her by her late husband three years ago (1932) has gone missing from her kennel in the yard three nights past. The detectives are offered a retainer of $20 per day to find her, with $20 paid in advance to cover expenses. They take some photos of the house and gardens. Mrs Whelan's handsome young butler Oliver Tournier shows them the kennels. A number of clues come to light during the visit:

  • Tournier has only been working for the Hayes household for six months, replacing the elderly butler Herman Whelan who had served the late Colonel. Kitty Hayes decided it was time for Whelan to retire, and replaced him with Tournier, who used to work in the kitchens for a wealthy friend of hers.
  • There were no signs of a break in. Hayes has two dogs, and her other animal, an Alsatian, was left in the kennel. The gate to the kennel enclosure was found to be unlocked, with no sign that it was forced.
  • De Ville found a cigarette stub from an Italian brand that is imported and favoured by members of the Black Hand, the city's foremost organised crime syndicate.
  • Vestal found a stub of Italian salami that smelled strongly of chemicals.
  • Tournier also reveals that he had disturbed an intruder in the late Colonel's study a week ago, a man in a blue suit with a fedora who might have had a beard. He escaped. Nothing seemed to have been taken.
  • De Ville remembers that the Black Hand owns and runs a restaurant called Sanzone's on Chartres Street.
  • The detectives notice a photo of Colonel Whelan and another man wearing Confederate Army captain's uniforms from the Great War era, with a background of arid desert, possibly New Mexico or Arizona.

The detectives travel to see Whelan at his home, little more than a shack in the Lower Ninth ward. He proves uncooperative and surly. The detectives decide to watch the house and follow Whelan when he leaves. Vestal and De Ville stay behind, breaking into the house where they find dog droppings and white dog hair in the back yard. In addition, they discover $500 in Confederate dollars under a loose floor board and bags of $1000 in US Federal mint gold coins.

Doc Leboeuf and Gordon follow Whelan to Chartres Street, where they see him go inside Salzone's. Gordon returns to the detectives' offices with the Doc to analyse the Italian sausage, which they find is heavily laced with a medication commonly prescribed for insomnia. Gordon develops Vestal's film and is shocked to see a bloated and decayed face peering into the drawing room window in the corner of one of the pictures. Leboeuf speculates that it looks like Colonel Hayes.

The detectives decide to bank most of the money they have found in a reputable bank with less likelihood of mob connections, using the rest to buy a second hand old model sedan to replace Gordon's clapped out truck.

During the night De Ville's manitou makes a bid to take control, but fails. De Ville picks up +1 Dominion over his manitou.



31 July 1935

The detectives return to the Hayes house to report on their progress and scout around some more. They find some large naked footprints in the garden from the day before. They also search Hayes' study and find some written correspondence between Colonel Hayes and a man called 'Zane' from June / July 1934 in which they are discussing the sale of an item for around $20,000! An address for Zane is discovered: the Lansing Apartments on Cleveland Street. It is obvious Hayes and Zane were planning to meet shortly before the Colonel disappeared.

Mrs Hayes identifies the other man in army uniform in the photo as Captain - later General - Jean Hebert, who served with her husband in New Mexico during the Great War. He is now living in the Camp Nicholls Veterans Home on Moss Street, in Bayou St John. He and Hayes were close throughout their military careers.

The detectives are allowed to look into Hayes' safe and find a dog collar tucked into the back. It has a secret compartment small enough to hide an object the size of a bullet. Further examination of some of Lucy's other collars finds similar compartments.

Mrs Hayes tells the detectives her husband used to fish regularly in the Bayou. The man who looked after his boat, a Cajun called Milus Barbeau, left New Orleans not long after the Colonel disappeared, to live in the small bayou township of Trois Rivieres.

Gordon suspects that the widow and the butler may have more than just a professional relationship.

A visit to the Lansing Apartments, and a discussion with the landlord, finds that the mysterious Zane was a Yankee with a goatee who rented the apartment with cash, but was hardly ever there. He stopped renting the place almost a year ago. He was sometimes accompanied by a younger man with chiselled good looks and an ex-military bearing. The landlord has not seen them since last summer.

The detectives visited the Camp Nicholls Veterans Home where Doc Leboeuf bluffed his way in to see General Hebert, who is elderly and wheelchair bound (at least 70 years old). The General tells the detectives he and Colonel Hayes were part of the security detail for a top secret weapons research establishment in the New Mexico desert which the Confederate government was using during the Great War. While they were there, a vial of a chemical compound the scientists were working on went missing. It was the only sample they had and it was never successfully reproduced. Hebert says he did not suspect Hayes at the time, but considers it possible he may have stolen the weapon because of ethical worries. He refuses to provide further detail on what the chemical does, but stresses that it should not fall into the wrong hands.

Leaving the veterans' home, the detectives are confronted by two smartly dressed men - possibly Black Hand gangsters - who warn them they have 24 hours to return the money they have taken from Whelan, bringing it to them at Sanzone's restaurant, or face the consequences.

The detectives decide to pay another visit to Whelan, and break into his house when their knocks are not answered. Whelan attacks them with a machete, but is fried to death by Gordon's laser pistol before he can strike. The detectives hastily depart, leaving his smoking corpse in the hallway.

De Ville spends the rest of the day canvassing his street level informants. He learns that 'Zane' is thought to be the alias of a US spy currently operating in New Orleans, although no one knows his true identity. He is believed to work for the Agency, Washington's elite covert operations bureau. De Ville also knows that the US government maintains a consulate in the city on Dauphine Street.

Night falls over the Big Easy...

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