Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday Fiction: Interlude with a Dead Man (OIA #3)

Interlude with a Dead Man

"Mr. Fazakas says he's fine," the nurse told them. "Except no respiration, no heartbeat, no blood flow, nothing. The room is semiprivate but we've moved Mr. Gavell out. Pending."

The hospital administrator, Mr. Cavanaugh, said, "This section has just been rebuilt."

"It looks pretty," said Seth Markur, deadpan.

"You'll keep things quiet right? This is a recuperative section. They need their sleep."

"We'll see him," said Dr. Gideon LaCroix.

" careful," said the administrator, wringing his hands.

The two me walked away, and then Markur murmured, "Vampire?"

"Maybe. Restless dead, perhaps." He smiled. "Maybe it's a demon."

"I wish. They're easy if you know the name," Markur replied. "I don't smell one, though." LaCroix pushed open the door with his fetch stick and Markur followed closely behind, penknife in hand.

"Hello, Mr. Fazakas. How are you doing?"

"I'm fine. Stiffening up a bit, though." Mr. Fazakas was in his sixties, curly salt-and-pepper hair around the rim of his bald head. He was sitting in bed, the sheet gathered around his apple belly. "Tell you the truth, I haven't been pain-free since a building foundation fell on me in 82. Hurt my knees. I feel this good, I might go back to work. You're doctors?"

"He's the doctor," said Markur, standing back.

"I'm what's known as a traditional practitioner," said LaCroix. "Would you mind lying back for me and just relaxing?"

"Oh, you can't do that in the middle of a workday. You relax and you might not get up, heh-heh-heh."

"So true, Mr. Fazakas. Just lie still for a moment." LaCroix spoke in words that only spirits could hear. "What do you remember?"

"Call me Constantin," said Mr. Fazakas. "They came to wake me for my sleeping pill, but I was already awake. I haven't felt sleepy since."

"What holds you here?"

"Here? Nothing. My wife passed on, my son died in an accident, my daughter married a Catholic and then moved out West and became a lesbian. No grandchildren. I'd die if I could."

"But you stayed with your body."

"What else should I do? I'm lying in bed waiting. Now, though, I feel so good I might go back to work. They'll be surprised to see me at the shop."

"You didn't see a light? Or hear your wife?"


LaCroix turned to Markur. "No light. No agent, no psychopomp."

"That's odd. Usually spirits find their own ways to the afterlife." Markur looked around the room as if the answer were there.

"I can give him a fast trip."

Markur shrugged. "Do it then."

"Just lie back, Mr. Fazakas. I'm going to help you along." LaCroix opened his pouch and poured corn meal along the floor, spelling out mystic sigils and the names of spirits. Markur made sure the doors to the washroom and hall were shut as LaCroix took off his suit jacket. Then LaCroix started singing.

Finally, after fifteen minutes, LaCroix stopped and said, "It's done." He mopped sweat from his brow. "He's passed on."

"I'm still here," moaned Mr. Fazakas, "but I can't move."

"What—?" LaCroix bent over the dead man. Markur gave a cry and knocked him aside.


Fazakas' arms closed on empty space, missing LaCroix by inches.

"He knows me," growled the thing now wearing Fazakas' body. "Or does he?"

"I know you well enough," said Markur, and with a flick of his wrist his penknife extended to a full sword, and he gripped it with two hands.

"Just say my name and make me go away, then." The thing grinned, showing sharp fangs and shredded the bed sheets with fingers turned into claws.

"Vampire?" asked LaCroix, scrambling back on the floor as Markur kept himself between the two.

"Some vampires are demons. Demons under the Vampire King."

"Akazizel!" coughed the monster.

"What'd he say?"

"A name, but it's not the name of the Vampire King." Markur recognized the name of his sword but did not say so. He moved warily, trying to keep himself between LaCroix and the monster.

"Akazizel, you will roast in the lowest pits! Your banishment will not save you."

"You have a name I don't know about?" asked LaCroix.

"Yeah, but that's not it." Markur slashed once, and the monster flipped up the hospital bed to stop him. Floor tiles cracked. "Easy to banish demons if you know their names."

LaCroix spotted a crucifix on the table beside the other bed and grabbed it. He thrust it toward the monster, which hissed in response.

Markur leapt over the bed. The monster grabbed the IV stand and parried as they exchanged staccato blows.

LaCroix held his fetch stick high. "Your body is mine to command. The bodies of all the dead are mine." He stared at the body of Mr. Fazakas and focused his will—

The demon laughed. "You cannot banish me. This body is mine, now, and I shape it to my needs." It was barely recognizable as Fazakas now, lean and hungry, with long nails—claws—like swords, and teeth like sickles. It picked up a bedside table and threw it at LaCroix. Glass shattered and dropped musically to the floor. LaCroix was already somewhere else, his crucifix held forward as a shield.

While it was distracted, Markur cut the demon's hand off; the demon roared, and the hand began to crawl along the floor, claws scritching on the tile.

"Bind it!" shouted LaCroix.

"I can't, you wrecked the circle!" Markur slashed the hand in two; each half began to move. Markur's nostrils twitched: each separated body part had become a vessel for a demon. "Three demons! Or more! It's a gateway!" He raised the sword high for a broad sweep, but LaCroix could not see at what. "Cover me!"

The demon swung at Markur, and LaCroix brought the crucifix down on its shoulder. Sulfurous smoke erupted, combining the worst of rotten eggs, bad meat, and vomit.

The demon roared again, and then: "I'll stitch your arm to mine for that, and use it to disembowel you!"

LaCroix leapt over the other bed and tumbled to the floor there. Markur cleaved a great hole in the floor; steam and other gases spurted up, obscuring Markur in a cloud of greenish smoke.

The demon was too angry at LaCroix to notice. He tossed the big hospital bed aside, to the window. The thick metal tubing of the bed frame crumpled like straws, but the window held.

Markur slashed the floor again, and this time water began to well up. LaCroix pulled the curtain between the beds, granting him a half-second to scramble out of sight.

The demon tore through the curtain and caught LaCroix in one rawhide hand, threw him ahead and out the door, where he could be skewered.

There were screams from outside. Two men and a woman shambled into the room, naked but for toe tags and evidence of violent deaths.

"Zombies?" cried Markur. He swore.

"Had to call them—I can't touch him," called LaCroix from the hall.

"Not until I've finished destroying the gateway!"

The first corpse reached the inside of the room and shuddered as a demon possessed it. "Too late," it growled.

The other two corpses stopped moving.

Grinning, the original demon scooped up one of the corpses and threw it into the room as Markur made a last cut at the ceiling. The corpse knocked him over and knocked his sword from his hand. Acrid smoke began to billow from the roof.

"Akazizel!" cried the newest demon even as its skin sloughed off, and sprang after the sword.

LaCroix waited to see what would happen with the zombie thrown into the room. He had no chance to see: the Fazakas-demon emerged from the room and charged him. LaCroix called his remaining zombies.

Markur couldn't see his sword for the acrid smoke filling the room, but he could see the newest demon scrambling for it, and he dove on the demon.

"Akazizel! Know that Zekabelial sent you to your vengeance—"

Markur spoke quickly, an ancient incantation of banishment, naming Zekabelial specifically, and the writhing skinless thing beneath him stopped moving. In the clear space beneath the clouds, he could see his sword, under a radiator.

Without his sword's assistance, those vapors could knock him out. He crawled toward it.

In the hall, the demon realized what was happening. "Akazizelllll!" it screamed and carried the two zombies with it into the room. Just as Markur reached for his sword, the demon sank his claw into Markur's back, impaling him to the floor.

The demon chuckled like old oil draining from a car. "Almost lost. Not quite." The demon reached forward, and couldn't.

It was stuck by the same claw, deep in the floor. Dark blood spread slowly from Markur's body.

"You'll have to wait...for die," gasped Markur.

"I'll wait. I have all the time in the world," said the demon. "And beyond."

"I don't think so," said LaCroix. He poured corn meal in a circle around the demon.

"What are you doing?" the demon struggled. The zombies dropped the two wriggling half-hands into the circle.

"Your body told me a secret before you had full control. Except I didn't know what it meant."

"What? Stop."

The zombies began to bang rhythmically on metal: a bedpan, a pitcher.

"It told me your name." LaCroix sang the incantation of banishment while the demon struggled, opening wider holes in Markur's body, while he winced and groaned.

LaCroix banged his stick on the ground. "Be gone."

The demon was gone. The zombies fell to the ground, lifeless corpses.

"Here," said LaCroix. "This is yours." He batted the sword to Markur, and fell to the floor.

Markur lay there amidst the wreckage, feeling his body grow whole again.

"How did we get this job?" asked LaCroix.

From his position on the floor, Markur said, "Campbell promised them less collateral damage than if superheroes handled it."

Lying in the rubble beside him, LaCroix laughed and laughed.

Gideon LaCroix

Dr. Gideon LaCroix
Fetch Stick
  • Great (6) Nullification (Limit: Magic)
    • Extra: ESP (Vision)
  • Gris-Gris bag: Average (3) Magic
  • Occult Expert (+2)
  • Anthropology Expert (+2)
  • Mental Resistance (+1)
  • Professor and houngan
  • Part-time investigator
  • Strict code of behaviour (such as not touching menstruating women) or loses ability to work magic for days

Seth Markur

Seth Markur
  • Sword (Demon Azazizel): Great (6) Slashing
    • Extra: Transformation (objects) (Limit: only cutting objects, limit: Only Azazizel)
    • Extra: Regeneration
  • Fair (4) Detection (Demons) (smell)
  • Military Expert(+2))
  • Occult (demonology) Expert (+2)
  • Mental Resistance (+1)
  • Spent 600 years in Hell
  • 14th century mercenary
  • Secret: that sword is a demon

Demons are in ICONS A to Z.

For a little while...


In honour of the Fainting Goat sale at RPGNow (until July 3), here’s the unedited version of the adventure I ran for the BAMF podcast. I’m not going to leave it there long; just long enough for people to get FG products that they need to run it. If they want to.

Now removed for a while

It uses re-purposed characters from Stark City, Super Villain Handbook and MMM. It also offers some updates to a bunch of other characters, such as Chill, Golden Eagle, and Professor Prism.

And it’s way too long. But there it is. With zombie sharks, shipwrecks, andadvice on playing in the world of James Alan Gardner’s All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault

I know; I seem to talk of nothing else. Sorry.

EDIT: And now I've taken it down, because I'm going to re-write it. I think I can get it much shorter.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

SYSTEM: Any Supers

This is not market research. But I'm curious.

What makes a supers world or setting intriguing for you to play in? What makes it attractive? What sparks your imagination?

Is it some one-sentence summary of a cool situation? Is it familiarity? Is it the villains? Is it the place?

What makes it interesting? What makes you want to play there?

For me:

  • The villains have to pop. They have to be interesting. 
  • There has to be a possibility of juicy role-playing stuff; if the setting has only villains, I'm less attracted to it.
  • I want some of it to be in shades of gray, but some of it is clearly straight-forward. I want to be able to add nuance if I feel like it.
  • And I want to be able to play an expy.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Champions Now Kickstarter


If you're interested, there are only three days left to get in on this Kickstarter: Champions Now, by Ron Edwards (

I think Ron has interesting ideas, but I don't think I'll be supporting it. First, money is still tight. Second, it feels like it's just a tightened-up version of third edition Champions. I don't see enough of a difference to back it: I left Champions behind, and this isn't enough to bring me back. (I suspect that will be the case for a lot of people: those who loved Champions as it was still have the books and can play it as it was, and those who have moved on won't see it as different enough from Champions as it is.)

However, you might decide to back this. So with three days left, I encourage you to go look at the Kickstarter and make your own choice.

I have many, many fond memories of even though it doesn't quite tickle my fancy, I encourage you guys to look at it.

And who knows? I might be wrong, and maybe I'll be wishing that I had backed it.

A Non-Specific Vulture


I don't think I've posted this, but will delete it if I have. This Vulture is from the comics but isn't specific to any time or version; I started with the Vulture I remember from the first couple of Spider-Man issues, did a bit of research with the various wikis, and came up with this.

In a hurry, so just text format:


PRW: 4 CRD: 5 STR: 6 INT: 5 AWR: 6 WIL: 3

• Science (+1)
• Technology Expert (+2) 

• Flight 4
• Damage Resistance 3 Limit: punch-style damage only (this and the strength are apparently properties of the tech he's using)

• Inventor who has to protect inventions
• Ruthless killer
• Old

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday Fiction: Spirit of Regret (OIA #2)

Spirit of Regret

He was sure of many things. One of them was that he was dead, and this was his only chance to finish what he had left undone.

But he had to learn to affect the living world.

* * *

Glad you're doing the walking, not me.

Doctor Gideon Lacroix climbed the stairs to the Occult Investigations Agency. The brownstone was in the Riverside district of Freedom City, two blocks from Ditko Street. The ground floor was an occult bookshop ("Spellbound") and the basement held a jazz club ("The Sweet and Low Down"). He stopped to check his reflection in the gold lettering on the door.

Looking sharp, came the voice again.

Thank you, Grandfather, he thought as he smoothed his hair and made a miniscule adjustment to the knot of his tie. He pushed open the door to the well-appointed reception area. At the rosewood desk sat a beautiful young woman who hastily put down a sketchpad and pencil and looked up at him. He looked at her face for a moment—

Wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers.

Hush, Grandfather. "I'm looking for Mister A. Martin Campbell." He stepped up to the desk, curious about what she had been drawing—curious about her. A little executive toy—a Newton's cradle, with a series of suspended balls—began to clack, as though he had disturbed it. She frowned and stilled it with her hand.

"He had a problem with one of his other businesses. May I help you?"

He suppressed his first thought—his grandfather didn't—and said, "I'm Doctor LaCroix. He hired me to start today."

"Oh." She smiled. "You must be the houngan."

"Yes. And doctor of theology."

"Of course. I can show you to your desk." The little toy was still clacking. She reached out to stop it again. "Ow." She stuck a finger in her beautifully formed mouth. "It pinched me."

He reached out to take her hand, then paused. "You wouldn't be...menstruating, would you?"

"I don't think that's any of your business."

He pulled back. "Of course not." He reached down to quiet the toy, but it would not stop, the little spheres moving faster as he reached toward it. He pulled his hand away. It slowed. "Where did you get that?"

"A crazy lady put it on the desk this morning. I thought she came in for a handout, but she said it was a gift."

A magic detector, said his grandfather, inside his head.


I wonder who the crazy lady was?

When he left the room, the clacking noise stopped.

The tour was quick: The second floor was divided into two small meeting rooms, an office space with a half-dozen cubicles, washrooms, two store rooms, a kitchenette, and reception.

"And now, your co-workers." With a flourish, she showed him a pair of cubicles, one with a very small man and the other with a compact muscular man. The small man might have been in his forties; the other man maybe in his late twenties, but scarred by life. "Mister Toomey, Mister Markur—" The man raised his hand. "Seth. This is Doctor Gideon LaCroix."

LaCroix didn't offer to shake hands. Neither did they.

"We have two other employees, Jedediah Cabot and Lamb Hutton, but they're out on a case."

"Lady asked for Cabot," grumbled Toomey.

"Dial 9 to get out with the phones. Your computer is set up with the database access you asked for."

"Excellent. Thank you, miss—?"

She blushed a darker shade of mocha. "Daya. Talithe Daya. I'll go watch the phones. Let me know if you need anything."

The men watched her leave. Finally she shut the door and Markur said, "And your opinion on magic is...?"

"A powerful and capricious force."

He nodded. "All right. Sorry, one of our other co-workers doesn't believe. Cabot—that's why he left here like he had a demon on his tail; the case was adultery without a whiff of magic. I'd like to leave him in Hell for a year and let him decide then if he believes."

"You've been to Hell?"

Markur nodded. "You?"

LaCroix shook his head. "I've never gone farther than the twilit realms."

"LaCroix your true name?" asked the little man.

LaCroix smiled. "Of course not. Toomey yours?"

"You couldn't pronounce it," he replied.

"You might be surprised." He looked the man up and down. "Leprechaun?"

"Dammit! I'm not one of those leather-fondling cobblers. Clurichaun. Clurichaun, I'll have you know."

"You seem high strung."

"My mother was Italian."

LaCroix nodded. "I'll sit down, now." He murmured an apology to his grandfather and set his walking stick against the desk.

He put away the office supplies he had gathered and began setting up his computer the way he liked. Eventually he became aware of the other two watching him.

"You know how to use that thing?" asked Markur.

"Of course."

Toomey said, "Never catch me with one."

Markur's phone rang. He picked it up gingerly, adjusted the handset and carefully said, "Yes?...We'll be there." He set it down carefully. "We have a client."

* * *

"I agree," said Jedediah Cabot. "That behaviour is typical of a man having an affair."

"But that doesn't mean he is," Lamb Hutton said.

Eileen Corrigan gestured at herself. "Look at me. Look at me. I can't lose the baby weight. I can barely get clean in a day. Some days it's all I can do to have a shower."

"My wife was the same way," said Cabot. “You grow into caring for them. It's tough having a baby.

"Gabe doesn't think so."

Hutton said, "He's wrong."

"I'm a fat pig."

"You're not," said Hutton.

"Has he said anything about your weight? Your appearance?"

"Just since... Since Mike died. His brother."

"His brother?"

"Michael. He was a firefighter. He died in the line of duty. Last month."

"Okay. And...?"

"Trish is gorgeous." Eileen began to sob again. Hutton handed her another tissue. "She's a model."

"Trish is...?"

"She's obviously Michael's widow," said Hutton.

"Yes," said Eileen. "And Gabe hated her. That was the only way most people could tell them apart—if Trish was in the room, it couldn't be Gabe with her."

"Back up a moment. Gabe and Mike were identical twins?"

"Yes. Gabe's a photographer. Mike dropped by the studio the day Trish showed up to model, and they started going out."

"Gabe and Trish worked together?"

"Just the once. He found her impossible."

"He told you?" She nodded.

"Okay, Mrs. Corrigan. I'll get addresses from you and we'll try to get some proof, one way or the other."

"It will be all right," said Hutton.

* * *

"We've been having poltergeist effects since my fiancee's uncle died. I'm worried that he's haunting us, that he wants us to sell the restaurant." Derek Hughart ran his fingers through his short blond hair, then drummed them on his thigh. He realized he was doing it and laced them together in his lap. The other three were around the table in the meeting room. Toomey sat on his booster seat, and LaCroix had his walking stick across his lap.

"The restaurant...William Emz," said LaCroix. "I've eaten there."

"The restaurant was his life. Anyway, when Uncle Bill died, Alice inherited as the only surviving relative. She and Bill weren't very close, but Bill believed in family. So. Not too long after she moved to town to take over, we got a visit from Erik Roache. He's another restaraunteur."

"I'm not sure I'd say that," said LaCroix. "Roache owns the chain of Boobies."

"A chain of what?" asked Markur.

"A restaurant franchise that prominently figures a blue-footed booby—a bird—on its ads, but their hiring practices emphasize a different meaning of the name."

"I don't understand," said Markur.

"Later," said Toomey.

"Apparently Uncle Bill had an agreement to sell to Roache. Alice refuses. The poltergeist phenomena are Bill's way of letting us know he disapproves."

"How would Roache know?"

"He saw it. The second and third times he visited. I saw it too."

"And what do you want us to do?"

"I want to have a seance. I want to find out what uncle Bill wants, and put him at peace. Alice will agree if she's sure that's what Bill wants."

"We're investigators, Mister Hughart."

"I just...Alice doesn't believe. She didn't believe the medium who told her, but you guys—she'll believe you, if you find out that it's Bill."

"Of course," said LaCroix. "You're fortunate that we now have on staff someone who can talk to the restless dead."

Don't toot your own horn, grandson.

* * *

"Why would he do it?" asked Hutton. "If he hates her."

"I dunno," said Cabot. "Maybe he hates his wife more. Maybe he never hated her, but his brother moved in so fast and he was already married that it was easier to say he despised her. To hide the attraction."

Hutton thought about it for a moment, chewing on an Oreo. "It sounds complicated."

"Yeah, people aren't usually complicated. Not the ones you see in this business. He's going in. I'll get the camera. You wait here."

Cabot squatted by the window, snapping shots. Yes, she was a looker, but he didn't respond to her the way he had to April Brogan. At first, the two just talked, with the male Corrigan trying to convince her of something; the house had central air, and none of the windows were open. Then, she softened, and took off her blouse—and the doorbell rang. Around the house, he could hear Hutton's voice. "I was wondering if you've given any thought to what happens to us after we die?" He cursed as he saw Corrigan slip out the back door.

* * *

They walked the two blocks to Ditko Street and the additional four blocks to William Emz. On the street, Markur said, "Wait. We're going into a restaurant. They have food. I'm hungry."

"It won't be polite to eat there."

"I know," said Markur. "Some of the Italians were the same way. So I want to grab something to eat now. I have money." He spotted a vending machine. "Even that will do." He compared the price with the coins in his pocket, checked again, and then fed the coins into the slot, one at a time. LaCroix stepped away so he wouldn't be associated with Markur. Toomey hopped onto a bench and lounged in the sunshine.

Markur hit the button combination for the snack: D4. The spiral curled and then stopped; the treat fell forward and leaned against the glass but did not fall.

"It's supposed to fall," said Toomey.

"I know that," said Markur.

"Don't look at me; I talk to the dead, not to junk food," said LaCroix.

Markur grabbed the sides of the machine and shook it. The treat stayed wedged in place. LaCroix looked around; no one was staring—yet.

"Let's just go to a convenience store," he said. "It's just potato chips."

"The machine has my money," Markur growled. "When I pay, I expect service."

He rocked the machine once more, but the treat stayed. People were slowing to watch, now.

Markur narrowed his eyes. "I will not brook this behaviour." He pulled out his pocketknife.

Toomey said, "I don't think you need to be that drastic. That thing belongs to someone."

"What are you going to do?" LaCroix asked. Then he said to Toomey, "What can he do with that pocketknife?"

"More damage than a shotgun," said the clurichaun.

A pretty black woman stopped. "Hey, you don't need to be taking that apart."

Merkur stopped. "I don't?"

"No. Nine times out of ten, you can jar it loose like this." She slammed the side of the machine with her open hand, then twice more. The bag of potato chips fell to the bottom.

"Thank you, miss—?"

"Melody.” She smiled. “Melody Bull. And you?"

"Seth Markur. It's a pleasure. Thank you."

"Well, I figured since the brother wasn't helping you, I'd offer aid."

"Kind of you. I'm on my way to something but I'd like to thank you. Buy you dinner. Here's my card."

She smiled indulgently. "All right. I'll call you when I'm free."

Hmmm, thought LaCroix, I wonder if she's menstruating?

Grandson, you got your priorities wrong.

* * *

Cabot sneaked away from the house, back to the car. Hutton showed up five minutes later. He stared straight ahead as he gripped the steering wheel of the car. "What," he said, "the hell are you doing?"

"You know there's papers floating in the back of the car?"

"What the hell did you think you were doing?"

"You're making the papers fly. That's—"

"What the hell did you think you were doing?"

She twisted her hands in her lap. "I couldn't let him cheat on his wife."

"That's not what we're paid to do."

"Didn't you listen to her? She doesn't want her husband to do this. So I stopped him."

"For today."

Hutton looked down at her hands. "Yes. But Trish says she thinks it's, um, creepy. That's what she called it."

"Well, he does look just like her dead husband."

"Except for the tattoo." Cabot executed a perfect spit-take, and then mopped the steering wheel, dash, and windshield with tissues. "She's not very fond of Gabe either so Mike had a tattoo put somewhere only she would see. She hinted but I couldn't figure out where."

"Yeah. I bet you couldn't."

* * *

Alice Gaines might have been thirty, with blonde hair that had a dark streak running down one side. She looked tired, and her body pushed against the smock she wore. "I don't believe in ghosts," she told them.

"I don't believe in all ghosts," said LaCroix.

"Well, that's something. This is an area where Derek and I just won't agree. I love him to death, but he's the kind of guy you could tell they took 'gullible' out of the dictionary, and he'd believe you."

"I would not," said Derek. "I stopped falling for that one when I was twenty." She shushed him.

"I see," said Toomey. "By the way, do you have a wine cellar here?"

"Yup. Of course. Wine's not my specialty—I'm a dessert chef—but I can pick out a few vintages here and there."

"Where were the ghostly events?" asked LaCroix.

"They started in the basement. By the pool table."

"Did your uncle like the pool table?"

"Not particularly. He got it to annoy my aunt, before she passed away. She was always on him to exercise, so he picked the easiest sport he could find."

"But he maintained it?"

She grimaced. "My uncle alphabetized his underwear. He sent notes to creditors telling them that their bills were late. He maintained it."

"Balls flew off the rack," said Hughart.


"Later they flew."

"Okay, yeah."

"You saw this?"

She shrugged. "Derek saw it. I saw the bruises afterward. And I hear it late at night sometimes. We get deliveries on Pasko, through the back door. Often I'll be heading to get the deliveries and I'll hear the balls bouncing off the floor."

"The basement," said LaCroix. "Did he die there?"

"No, he died at the hospital. Stroke. He held on for a couple of days, but he was paralyzed. I'm not sure he was even the end."

Poor bastard, said LaCroix's grandfather. I know what it's like.

"My grandfather went through the same thing," said LaCroix. "May I see the basement?"

"In a moment," said Alice Gaines. "See, I don't believe in this stuff. So I don't want to give you unobserved access." She glanced at the clock. "He should be here soon."


"I called a debunker. Doctor Evan Severn. The ghostbreaker."

* * *

Hutton's analysis was simple: "If Gabe doesn't like Trish, and Trish doesn't like Gabe, then there's a third force involved."

Cabot shrugged. "Like your superpowers?"

"I don't have superpowers. It's magic."

"Uh-huh. Trish might have been lying to you. Being confronted about infidelity is enough to make most folks lie. Sometimes people do things they say they don't like. People lie to others—and to themselves."

"That's...that's wrong."

"Uh-huh. Which brings me back to what the hell you thought you were doing."

"I was helping with what she really wants.."

"And you're the expert? Okay, so you help here—keep watching the house. Be inconspicuous. Do you have that cell phone Campbell gave you? Okay. Call me if Corrigan comes back." Cabot quickly showed her how to turn it on and where he was on speed dial.

"Where are you going?" she asked as she got out.

"Interview people who knew them."

Hutton bent down to the open window. "How do I look inconspicuous?"

"I don't know. Walk around the block. Use your superpowers over dirt to hide."

"It's not a superpower, it's magic—" she said, but he was already gone.

* * *

"Doctor Evan Severn?" asked LaCroix.

"Yes. You know him?"

"We were on faculty together. FCU."

"And your opinion of him?"

"Brilliant, but with skepticism that blinded him to possibilities."

"And his opinion of you?"

A new voice chimed in, "A promising mind gone credulous, taken down the primrose path of gullibility. Hello, Gideon. I wish I could say it's nice to see you. I can guess which side of rationality you're on." Severn was a tall man, with a high forehead and dark hair. He carried a walking stick.

"Actually, Evan, I haven't made up my mind about this one. Spirits are more common than you suppose but less common than the devout suppose."

"Were there even one, Gideon, they would be more common than I suppose. May I help you, miss?"

"I'm Alice Gaines. I own this restaurant." She briefly described the situation.

"Gideon, do you want to do mumbo-jumbo first and then I'll shine the clear bright light of reason?"

"Please, you go first. And I will make my comments without hearing yours, if you don't mind. I don't want either of us to be prejudiced, Evan."

"How kind of you. Ms. Gaines, may I?" She nodded and Severn followed her out of the room.

"Well. What do we do now?" asked Toomey.

Markur said, "Mr. Toomey, how silent is a clurichaun when he wants to be?"

"Very silent."

"And what do you think are the odds that this building has a wine cellar in the cellar?"

Toomey smiled. "Excellent it seems to me. Now, if you'll look away?"

Markur looked at the ceiling while LaCroix examined his nails. Afer a few moments, Markur said, "He's gone. I know why I would have let Seven go down. Why did you?"

"If mere disbelief were enough to scare this spirit away, then Alice Gaines would have already done that. So his mere presence won't do anything. And, though I hate to admit it, Boyfriend is credulous. It might all be a trick caused by Roache."

Markur nodded. "My reasons too." He touched the desk calendar. "I feel useless here. During the war, I was counted as a leader of vision and broad knowledge. Here...."

"Don't worry," said LaCroix. "I'm sure demons will show up eventually."

"I only hope they're old-fashioned demons and not modern ones."

* * *

Cabot smiled at the fire fighter. "So what about Mike's home life?"

Trevor Roper said, "He was fine. Loved his wife, she loved him, they'd saved some money. They were about to start trying for a baby. I had to rearrange some shifts so he could be free when she was fertile."

"'When she was fertile?'"

"Yeah. It was a planned pregnancy. Not like my three boys. Bang bang bang, and there they were."

"But no hint of marital problems?"

"Mike adored Trish. I mean, the man would walk through Hell for that woman."

"How did he die?"

"Asphyxiation. A section of wall crumbled near him and cut his air hose. He was getting more smoke than air, but he finished rescuing two kids before he collapsed. By the time we got to him, it was too late."

"Sounds like a determined man."

"He was."

"Did he ever talk about his brother?"

"Loved him, too."

"He sounds like a saint."

Roper laughed. "No, he wasn't a saint. The man was stubborn to a fault. That's why he never made lieutenant."

* * *

Toomey stole into the kitchen and headed for the large refrigerator that held the house white wines. It was not much of a winecellar, but it would get him to the basement. He slipped the door open and only a moment later he was opening the downstairs cellar door.

He was tempted to have a glass right then, but managed to resist.

He crept through the basement. He could hear Dr. Severn's bass voice: "These are so loose in here that they can fall out if you have a heavy tread on the stairs. Do you see these small purple marks here, on the cue ball? They look like iodine."

Toomey crept closer, using his clurichaun stealth—

—and hot pain sliced down his back. He bit his tongue to stay silent as he spun around—

—to see nothing. He could feel warm blood trickling down his back, soaking into his shirt.

He swung blindly twice and neither connected with anything. He tried a bear hug and grasped a tatter of rough-spun cloth—but his attacker slipped away. He glanced at the rag in his hand and knew what he was fighting—but in the darkness he couldn't spot his attacker.

Another slash cut open his chest, and he punched blindly. He connected and heard a soft whimper, and then the attacker launched a flurry of attacks, each of which tore Toomey's clothes and flesh. Cursing to himself, he staggered backwards to the wine racks and decanted back upstairs.

* * *

Toomey appeared, though Markur was never really sure from where; he had looked away and when he looked back, Toomey was lying there, his clothes in bloody tatters.

"Grandfather," said LaCroix, "check for spirits." As he knelt by Toomey, Markur saw mist flow from LaCroix's walking stick and into the floor.

"Toomey's breathing," said Markur. "But not for long. The wounds look better than they are."

LaCroix thought he heard Toomey whisper, "Says you." But Toomey was unconscious.

"He needs care, though. And we don't want to explain this."

"Carry him outside. I'll call a cab. Take him— Where does he live?"

"I don't know."

"Take him back to the office, then. Take him out back; Ditko Street doesn't allow cars."

"Sure. He's light." Markur looked at Toomey carefully, then lifted him. "Ooof. He's not. Damn me, he's heavy."

LaCroix shrugged. "Faerie."

"You carry him then." But LaCroix was already on his cell phone. Markur staggered outside. Damn if Toomey wasn't getting heavier.

* * *

Hutton was nowhere on the street. Cabot circled the block again. He was starting to feel guilty for leaving her there; she clearly didn't have the street-smarts to be inconspicuous on the street. On his third pass down the block, Hutton was standing on Trish Corrigan's porch. She waved him in. Suddenly angry again, he parked and stalked to the house.

"You're just in time," Hutton said. "Gabe and Eileen should be here any time. You know, cars aren't as fast as I thought they would be."

He drew her to one side. "What are you doing?"

"I couldn't stand out there," she said. "So Trish and I have been talking."

Cabot smacked himself on the forehead. "Of course. Why didn't I think of that?" He glared at her.

"Well, it wasn't easy. She thought I was a religious nut."

"You're not?"

"No," she said. "I had to tell her that Eileen had hired us. Once we started talking about this, we realized we needed Gabe and Eileen to talk, too."

Cabot sagged. "Sure. Of course you do. I thought I could just, you know, do my job, but that's not going to happen, is it? We'll give Eileen her money back."

Hutton patted him on the back. "Not if we solve the problem, right?"

The air was drumhead-tight as he walked into the room; Gabe Corrigan had positioned himself near the door with Eileen between him and Trish. Trish stood. "Mr. Cabot? Would you like coffee or tea? I have both on."

"Coffee would be nice, thanks." Cabot introduced himself to Gabe—there didn't seem to be any point in staying anonymous—and stayed between Corrigan and the doorway.

No one spoke.

Finally Hutton said, "Mr. Cabot? Do you want to talk?"

In as even a tone as he could manage, Cabot said, "It's your show. You run it."

She looked wounded. "So be it," she finally said. "Did you learn anything important?"

"They were trying to have a baby, Michael and Trish. No luck yet."

Hutton tilted her head to one side. "Now that makes everything plain."

* * *

Markur set the wounded Toomey down on the ground. There was no sign of a taxi. Cats stalked fluttering birds in this space between blocks.

A taxi pulled into the end of the alley—then stopped, and backed away. Markur ran after him, but the car was gone by the time he got there.

When he came back, Toomey's breathing was stertorous and loud. Markur knew Toomey was near the final death. Markur pulled out his pocketknife and opened the blade. Then he pressed the edge against one of Toomey's wounds.

"Please," he murmured.

A boon, came the whisper. You request a boon.

"Help him."

A boon for a boon, came the whisper again. That is the law.

"I offer you blood." Markur cut open his arm, but the cut healed as it was made, leaving pale unmarked skin.

Your blood is already ours, and this one has no soul.

“A sacrifice, then.” With a thought, Markur made the penknife as long as a saber and beheaded a curious pigeon.

The wounds are small. It will do.

Markur laid the blade against Toomey's flesh, and the clurichaun was whole again.

By the time Toomey rose from the pavement, the sword was a penknife again, in Markur's pocket.

* * *

Nothing. No spirits, reported his grandfather. LaCroix nodded, just as Severn and Gaines came into the office, closely followed by Toomey and Markur.

"You have no ghosts," said LaCroix.

"Your 'psychic powers'?" asked Severn.

"No, all I had to do was see the smirk on your face, Evan. Psychology counts for as much."

"What happened to you?" asked Alice Gaines as she looked at Toomey's bloody, shredded clothes.

"Accident," said Toomey.

Markur said, "Did the staff leave out a bowl of milk every day for the cat?"

"We don't have a cat."

"I know. Did they leave out a bowl of milk anyway?"

"When I came here. I made them stop."

Markur turned to Toomey. "You were right."

"Do you want to know what I found, or will you investigate on your own?"

LaCroix said, "I'd be fascinated to learn what you found, but let us go downstairs and look around." He smiled at Alice Gaines. "You don't need to accompany us."

* * *

"What we know is that your husband loved you very much, Trish," Hutton said. Trish Corrigan's eyes glistened with tears, and she nodded. Hutton felt pleased. She hadn't started crying yet. That would take time.

"We also know that you and Gabe don't get along. My partner suggested that there were hidden feelings there, but I think maybe you just don't get along."

"Well, I—"

"We get along. We just don't like each other," said Gabe softly.

Trish nodded.

"So why should you want to have an affair?"

"I don't," said Gabe.

"Right," said Cabot. "Everybody seems agreed on that." He yawned and wondered where Lamb was going with this—what mystical nonsense she was going to pull?

He felt a tug inside. Something mystical, indeed. He wasn't sure what, though.

"So that points to an external force," said Hutton. "The ghost of your husband, Michael Corrigan." She saw the looks on their faces and plunged on. "You were trying to have a baby, weren't you, Trish? You and Michael."


Cabot concentrated. Sometimes he could see something like auras, move his self elsewhere, like the visions but his whole sense of himself, and— He was beside his body.

"And you hadn't had any success?"

"No. Not yet."

Cabot saw a Gabe slip into Cabot's body. But Gabe was right there.

Hutton nodded. "Now, I don't know what exactly Michael thought he was doing—"

"Genetics," said Cabot in a strained voice. "I'm sorry, Gabe, your body mine. Like mine was. It was as close as I could get to a baby that was Trish's and mine."

Everyone stared at Cabot.

Unheard by any of them, Cabot said, "I want my body back." He thrust his fist against his own shoulder, and it penetrated without effect.

Hutton coughed. "My partner has gifts. He's a psychic."

Eileen said, "He didn't strike me that way at all."

Hutton said, "There's a reason we're the Occult Investigation Agency."

Trish said, "Michael? Is that you?"

"Yes. I can't stay long—he wants his body back."

On the astral plane, Jedediah Cabot said, "Damn right I do."

* * *

Once they were alone, Toomey told them what Severn had found, and what he had found. "A stinking brownie. That's part of the reason the food was so good—they had a brownie."

"And when they stopped feeding it, it got angry," said Markur.

"So it threw the balls at whats-his-name?" asked Gideon.

"And attacked me."

"But what about the iodine marks that Severn mentioned?" Gideon thought. "Roache comes in, Derek goes down the stairs with him, hears about this poltergeist activity, decides to provide some. Roache visited three times, right?"

"That's what he told us."

"So he whips up nitrogen tri-iodide—it's a contact explosive, I—one of my students—used to make it and put it under things. When it's wet, it's not a problem but when it dries, any tremor can make it explode. So he smears some on one or two or three balls in the triangle, and sooner or later it makes the balls go flying through the air."

"It fits," said Markur. "But what do we do about it?"

"What can we do? Toomey, what do we do with a brownie?"

Toomey looked at them as though they were daft. "You give it clothes, and it goes away. Brownies are vicious nasty little buggers but they love their clothes."

"Wait," said Markur, "you were taken to death's door by a naked thing?" He laughed. "With its bare hands."

"They have claws, you know."

"So how do we get it clothes?" asked LaCroix. "I don't see Alice Gaines letting us in again."

"You leave that to me," said Toomey.

* * *

Back at the office, they were gathered back in the reception area.

Daya said, "Mr. Cabot did what with a client? Is that even legal?"

"He wasn't really himself," explained Hutton.

Everyone applauded as Cabot came back into the reception area, carrying his coffee mug. Cabot blushed and said, "I wasn't even there. That was just my body. I was—"

"Uh-huh. All the guys say that," said Toomey.

"I don't want to hear any more about it."

"It was just superpowers, after all," said Hutton.

"But how will they solve their problem?" asked Daya.

"Artificial insemination. Eileen suggested it. Now you tell us your case."

"By the way," asked Cabot, "this is great coffee, Talithe. Did you make it?"

"I did," said Gideon.

"Great coffee."

Toomey looked worried.

Lamb Hutton

Lamb Hutton
  • Great (6) Earth Control (default: telekinesis, earth only; has stunted Constructs, Blast, and Servant)
    • Extra: Burrowing (Limit: Tiring)
  • Fair (4) Magic
  • Occult Expert (+2)
  • Farming (+1)
  • Her own person, despite the costs
  • Raised in a cult away from here
  • Witch.

Other things that could have been qualities include "Older than she looks" (Lamb is only 16 but does not look it) or "Wants to be liked and even loved." Early on, it's clear (to me) that she has a crush on Cabot.

The brownie has Fair (4) Shrinking (Limit: Constant), Average (3) Slashing, Average (3) Magic, which is normally used for Invisibility or some kind of conjuration magic, and the Quality "Fae."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Plug

SYSTEM: Masks The actual-play of Masks on the Whelmed podcast is long (four roughly one-hour episodes) but extremely worth it, if you're interested in teen heroes. I say this because I haven't actually listened to it before.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sidekicks and teen teams


So I've been talking with Christopher Brady about sidekicks and teen heroes, and with his input and the Facebook group, I think I have something reasonably coherent to say. Bear in mind that I am not solely responsible for these thoughts: lots of people offered opinions. What I am solely responsible for is that, if you disagree with me, it's my responsibility that the words are here.

There are two ways to approach sidekicks in ICONS, and ICONS books actually tackle both of them. ICONS A to Z suggests that they be handled as Qualities (like pets). But ICONS Team-Up (which isn't canon anymore) suggests that there be a Quality and a character writeup, built on two-thirds the points of the main hero.

So there are two different situations where you might want a sidekick (mechanically, anyway):

  • Working with the main hero (Batman and Robin)
  • Working as part of a teen group (Robin and the Teen Titans or Robin and Young Justice)

If you just want a helper to the main hero, a simple Quality is probably the way to go: The hero stunts Fast Attack or Increased Effort or Extra: Burst or Pushes the power to reflect both of them hitting the bad guys or taking out the horde of minions. Even if the sidekick has vastly different powers, the sidekick Quality can be used to stunt any power that the sidekick has. (You might want to have a list of powers that the sidekick has or a description of the sidekick so you can figure out what stunts are appropriate.)

But if you're doing troupe play or if you're running a team of teenagers, then the sidekick is going to be a player character and you need an actual character write-up. So some thoughts.

A couple of caveats. I'm not talking about teen heroes in general; Spider-Man started as a teen hero, and some of these things don't apply (and nowadays, he's not a teen hero). I'm restricting the discussion to members of teen groups. There are teen heroes that don't fit this discussion (and there are probably members of teen groups who don't). I had Young Justice, Teen Titans, and Young Avengers in mind in thinking about this.

There are "pair" relationships that could be considered sidekicks (Johnny Thunder and the Thunderbolt, for instance, or even the wizard Shazam and the various members of the Marvel family), or Booster Gold and Skeets. They aren't what I think of when I think of sidekicks, really. Skeets is a fine example of a Quality given a body; I don't think of Shazam as a character, but I stopped reading Billy Batson stuff back in the 1980s, so maybe Shazam is a major character now; Thunderbolt isn't really a separate character from Johnny Thunder (though arguably Jonni Thunder).

And even though the Legion of Super-Heroes is about super-powered teens, I'm possibly cherry-picking a bit to claim it's not a teen team book. But I don't think it's about the same kind of things as most teen books; it does have some of the interpersonal stuff, but none of the mentor stuff.

Back to the thoughts. Teen heroes in a teen group tend to come in two different types:

  • Sidekicks, whose main story is usually about growing up and choosing to be like or unlike their mentors
  • Non-sidekicks, who might have a variety of stories but who usually use the group as a substitute family.

Sidekicks are usually a lower-powered version of the mentor. That doesn't have to be the case; a sidekick might be very different from the main hero. But usually the sidekick is a Captain America-Bucky thing, or Human Torch-Toro, or Batman-Robin, or Flash-Kid Flash, or Green Arrow-Speedy. (Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl are kind of a weird exception, but Dianna can beat Donna during the Wonder Girl time.)

Sidekicks should have a quality that reflects the sidekick status; call it Sidekick for how. It gets invoked as Trouble whenever the hero is fighting his or her mentor; it gets invoked as Connections because as a sidekick the character has met other movers and shakers in the universe, can talk to law enforcement agencies, knows things that aren't general knowledge. It might be a kind of Resources. But it's also not being taken seriously by the same law enforcement agencies. ("Yeah, kid, did Owlmaster put you up to this?") When the Quality is resolved or changed, then the sidekick doesn't get that Trouble applied when a fight with the mentor happens.

Non-sidekicks are usually disenfranchised in some way, and are looking for family: they're green, part-machine, or the offspring of a demon (Teen Titans); they are possessors of abilities that make them feared (every X-Men ever); they are gods de-aged, fated to become world conquerors, or secretly the heir to a warring galacting empire (Young Avengers or Teen Titans or Young Justice, which had a de-aged Lobo for a while). And often they are very powerful.

Both types of teen heroes end up sticking with the group because it becomes a kind of family, but I suspect that's more narrative: it was a convenient way to keep the players here.

So a non-sidekick probably has a Quality that includes that family connection: Needs a family, Looking for help against empire or so on.

Because of them, I might argue against lowering power levels. For a sidekick, unless you're actually modelling particular characters, just assume that the mentor is better at whatever the player character.

Lowered power levels

One of the things I considered is an origin tables chart that only goes up to level 7, so that even with an origin that grants +2, you can't possibly get to 10: only 9. The numbers are fudged slightly so that you are more likely to get 3 to 5.

2d6 rollLevel

If you're doing point-buy, I'd consider using 40 points instead of 45, or 40 points but a player can plead the case for the extra 5 points, or the extra 5 points in return for one all-bad Quality.

Though in some cases (like sidekicks) power level is important, there are enough exceptions that I suspect that attitude adn play-style are more important in running a teen team game.

Digression: Street-level

You could also use this for a lower-powered street-level campaign, although in that case, I'd up the number of powers by 1, because while street-level vigilantes tend not to be as powerful, they do tend to have more tricks up their sleeves. I'd also use the alternate rule involving additional powers that Steve Kenson introduced in ICONS Origins. (You can buy additional powers in the same power category for 1 point, so long as they can't be used simultaneously.)

Street-level vigilantes are often held up as an example of lower powered characters. Generally true, but I can think of lots of exceptions...still, I haven't researched it thoroughly enough, and maybe the characters are more highly powered in non-street-level contexts. Spider-Man is often spoken of as a street level hero, but it is tough trying to get Spider-Man down to 45 points. I have some trouble claiming that 40 points is enough for a street-level campaign. Again, I think attitude is a big part of it.

>Other Mechanical Changes

I'm tempted to take a page from Masks and DC Heroes and introduce multiple damage tracks: Stamina and Acceptance. While Stamina is Willpower+Strength (toughness of spirit and toughness of body), Acceptance is (6-Intellect)+Willpower. That is, the smarter you are (up to 6), the more you know you're not like other people; being smarter than a 6 actually reduces your acceptance level. A Quality that's specifically about self-acceptance can add or subtract 2 to the level; GM's call on what actions affect your Acceptance level, but it's all about roleplaying the character..

I have no idea how that would work in practice, but it's an idea.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday Fiction: Domestic Dispute (OIA #1)

I have eight or ten completed stories kicking around, and I think I'll post them on Fridays for the next couple of months. There are six or seven stories of the Occult Investigations Agency, and four or five involving the Freedom League. All were written while Mutants & Masterminds second edition was the thing, and all use properties from Green Ronin. Forgive that transgression, and perhaps you'll like these. And if not, well, they were written quite a while ago, back when I wrote regularly and thought maybe I'd do something about it. Before the brain tumour, and the cancer, and everything in between.

Domestic Dispute

"Lamb, Toomey, this is our new employee, Jedediah Cabot," said A. Martin Campbell in the offices of the Occult Investigations Agency. "That will be your desk, Jed."

Cabot winced. "Cabot is fine. I'm not fond of my first name."

"Ah," said Campbell. "Names are important things, eh?" The small man and the woman nodded. "Cabot has excellent references and already has his PI license." Cabot noted that the agency was emphasizing "occult" rather than "investigations."

Cabot offered his hand.

Lamb Hutton, a big raw-boned woman in a plain dress, stood from her chair and curtsied. Toomey grunted; he was some kind of little person in a brown suit. Neither shook Cabot's hand.

Cabot stuck his hand in his pocket. "Nice to meet you."

"You'll be pleased to hear that gentleman who was just leaving is our first client, Mr. Campbell," said Toomey in a thick Irish brogue. "A Mr. Brogan." No, thought Cabot, Toomey wasn't a standard midget or dwarf—he was too well-proportioned. He was a little man.

Hutton said, "He wants us to find his wife. He says there's no history of abuse. I wrote it on the form." Her voice was a scratchy contralto.

"May I?" asked Cabot as he picked up the form, covered in fine cramped copperplate. "Did you ask him what he did time for?"

"What does that mean?" asked Hutton.

"He was probably in prison. The build, the look, the suit—it's a typical going away gift from the state. Did he say why she left him?"

"They argued."


"He didn't say."

"Did he leave a picture?"

"Two. Show him, Toomey." The short Irishman handed over two charcoal sketches of a woman. One was a headshot and the other was a nearly complete portrait, from the shins up. "He's an artist." She said it as though it excused sins.

"But he has trouble drawing feet," said Toomey. "Still, that's a pretty lass, and I'd be wanting to win her back myself."

"But no photo?"

"She was against photos, he said."

Cabot made a tsk sound. "I don't know how you guys do this in Freedom City, but back in Vegas we would see this as odd."

"Why?" she asked.

Before Cabot could respond, Campbell said, "Miss Hutton grew up in a remote religious community. She really is new to all of this."

"Yesterday I saw a tractor," she said happily. "You know, if we had had one of those, I wouldn't have had to do all of the ploughing myself."

Cabot hoped she was joking.

"She is, however, an expert in certain kinds of magic and witchcraft."

"And you?" Cabot asked the little man.

"I guard wine cellars."

"Mr. Toomey's specialty is faerie and myth."

"I'm sure it is," said Cabot. "So I'm the actual investigator?"

"Among your other gifts."

"You have gifts?" asked Hutton.

"Hunches. That's all. I have hunches sometimes."

"Mr. Cabot knows a great deal about psychic phenomena. We also have Mr. Markur, an expert in demonology, and I'm trying to hire a voodoo expert."

"Great," said Cabot. "Gotta cover all the bases."

"Where is that sulphurous bastard Markur?" asked Toomey.

"That's not very nice, Toomey," chided Hutton.

"No, literally. His parents never married."

Campbell said, "He's gone to get his beginner's licence. I'm sure he'll be in soon. Congratulations on the first case—Mr. Cabot, it seems you came on board just in time. I'll see you at the end of the week with paycheques." And with back slaps all around, Campbell left.

"So you're the real investigator," said Toomey.

"I didn't mean it that way."

"Would you like a little arm wrestle then, just to settle a question of manhood?"

"I don't see how that's going to prove anything about being an investigator."

"For fun." The Irishman's eyes glinted in the fluorescent lights.

"Why don't we work on Mr. Brogan's case instead? We'll do what work we can over the phone first."

"For honour."

Cabot sighed. "All right." They went into the boardroom, where the Irishman laid on the table. Cabot put his arm up. Hutton counted—"one two three go!"—and the Irishman slammed Cabot's knuckles to the table.

"Ye didn't try!"

"Of course not. If a three-foot Irishman challenges you to an arm wrestle, he's either very strong or very stupid. I am going on faith that as my co-worker you can't be stupid. Don't make me change my mind."

Cabot stood to leave the room. Damned if he was going to rub his knuckles when the little man could see him. They hurt.

"Where are ye going?"

"My desk, if you must know. I want to get started on the Brogan case."

Hutton shyly said, "Can we watch?"

"I— Oh, all right."

A dozen phone calls later, Cabot said, "Okay. They'll fax me Brogan's record when they find it. HR at Wolfram Quarry said he's always handed his material in on time but wouldn't give me details on his history, which is good of them but a nuisance for us. The Brogans didn't belong to any clubs, and I'm no closer to finding her social security number. According to Brogan, it was a common-law marriage, but he claims she took his last name. If so, it was informal, because there's no record of it."

"Is that legal?" asked Hutton.

"Sure. You can call yourself whatever you want if there's no intent to defraud. This is Freedom City—there are lots of folks calling themselves the crimson this and the golden that, and it's perfectly legal. What I can't figure out is how she's getting by without a birth certificate or social security number. She's only been gone a week, but based on what Brogan gets paid, she couldn't have had much money."

"What does that mean?"

"You need money. Either she's staying with friends, or she's doing something where she gets paid cash."

"Or barter. We used barter."

"Yeah, I look at her pictures I think of a kind of barter," said Cabot. "First we check the neighbours."

Markur still wasn't back. Cabot decided that the odds of another customer coming in were low, and said, "Ms. Daya can handle anyone who comes in. Come on, you two. The state requires you to have a thousand hours of on the job training with a licensed PI, so it's time to start hour two. We can take my car." He stopped. "Mr. Toomey, I don't suppose you have a booster seat?"

"Remember that I beat you at arm wrestling," grumbled Toomey.

"Remember that I didn't try," said Cabot.

* * *

The Brogans lived in a small duplex in a low-rent suburb. Cabot looked at the house from the curb. "They must have been the only family in the neighbourhood without kids."

"Kids are nice," said Hutton. "I prefer children."

Cabot started to say something and then shut his mouth. Instead he said, "They had goats in your community?"

"And sheep and cows. But I liked playing with the children."

"I'm sure you did."

"Do you have children?"

"No. I think I'm barren. Cursed, you know."

"Sorry. If you want children, I mean."

"I'd love children."

"Then I'm sorry. Let's start with the neighbours. You get to watch, okay? Don't talk."


"It's a learning experience."

At least Toomey didn't have any problems keeping up with his short little legs. He rang the bell. A young woman answered it, neat and tidy but tired-looking. A young mother, probably. Cabot was aware of how odd they looked.

"Hi, we're looking for April Brogan."

"Are you bill collectors?"

"No. Actually, we're private investigators. Well, I am. These two are watching me today."

"You're actors?" she said. "I love the Mongo books."

Toomey blinked at her.

"Yes, he is." Cabot gestured diffidently. "I asked them not to talk."

"It's okay," she said.

"I'm not an actor," said Toomey.

"Yes sir, Mr. Toomey, you're a star. I know, sir," said Cabot to Toomey. He wished the little man's shins weren't such a small target for kicking. "He's not a character actor. Can we come in?"

"Sure. Mind the children's toys. It's naptime."

"Oh, I love children," said Hutton.

"You're an actor, too?"

"No, I'm a heretic. I got thrown out."

"Method actors," said Cabot heartily. "Did you know April?"

"Sure," said the woman. "I'm Tracy McLeod." She held out her hand. Cabot shook it. The other two didn't seem to notice.

"You're Scottish?" asked Toomey, perhaps a touch belligerently.

"No, my husband's family. You're going to have to tone down that accent as Mongo."

"He doesn't have the part yet," said Cabot, "and he's here to watch, not talk." If Toomey noticed, he gave no sign.

"Can I offer you guys coffee?"

"No, that's fine," said Cabot.

"Do you have wine?" asked Toomey.

"Oh, I don't drink alcohol," said Hutton.

"Just a bottle of pink zinfandel," said Tracy.

"I'll take a look at it," said Toomey.

"Can we get back on task, Mr. Toomey?" Cabot said, "We won't take up much of your time, Mrs. McLeod. Can you tell us about April?"

"Well, pretty thing. Kind of...ignorant. No, that makes you think she was rude, and she wasn't. Innocent, that's what she was. You'd swear she was born yesterday the way she acted sometimes."

"Did she have a thing about being photographed?"

Mrs. McLeod nodded. "Among other things. Shoes, too. She never showed her feet. Even sunbathing in the yard, she always wore slippers or shoes. And she never gained weight. She could eat what she wanted, do whatever she wanted, and she always looked the same."

Cabot nodded. "Did the Brogans argue?"

"Oh, sure, they got into some regular donnybrooks"—she smiled at Toomey. "But they pretty much always made it up again, though I got the impression that it was always his choice of a way to make up."


"Well, she called him His Nibs sometimes when she was ticked at him, and even though she knew she had a body that was just built for men to ride—and sometimes she acted it, too—it never seemed to be the thing on her mind."

"So she wasn'"

"Well, they were, but I never got the sense she, you know, started anything."

"You were close?"

"We were neighbours. Sharing a wall, you share other things."

"Did she have any friends or family that you knew of?"

Tracy shook her head. "None she ever talked about."


"She liked cartoons. The older ones, not the new computer ones. Preferred them in a movie theater, but they have a lot on DVD."

"Did she go out to see them often?"

"Well, he was home three days a week, working. He's an artist. And the government man comes every month."


"Just once I heard him with the government man, I heard him yelling, 'You want me to strip naked? Okay. I'll strip naked. No tattoos.' I don't see what's so wrong with tattoos. I mean, I have a tattoo."

Hutton perked up and in an attempt to keep them on track, Cabot said, "That's all? Did you see her leave?"

"Well, she took a cab."

"You remember the date? The cab company?"

"Sure. It was the twelfth, because I had to take a cab to get Joey—my youngest—to the doctor. I thought her cab was our cab. We missed the bus and you know how long it takes to get a doctor's appointment."

"How is he now?" asked Hutton.

"Oh, he's fine, thanks. It was an FC Taxi, about three o'clock that afternoon because the appointment was three thirty."

"Thank you. You've been very kind. If you think of anything else, here's my card."

"Oh, you're welcome. It's not every day that actors and private investigators come to call." She disappeared into the kitchen for a moment and met them at the front door. "Here's the wine, Mr. Toomey."

Toomey held the bottle for a moment and then gave it back. "Because you've been so kind, this is a good bottle."

"Why—thank you."

Outside, Toomey said, "Are we not going back to the embarrassment of your car and the booster seat?"

"No, we have more neighbours to question."

"That was very subtle, Mr. Toomey," said Hutton.

"Thank ye."

"What?" asked Cabot.

"Did ye not feel it?" asked Toomey.

"No, what?"

"I improved her wine. Not for nothing am I a guardian of wine cellars."

"Riiight. I thought you were going to drink it."

Toomey shuddered. "Even with my help, it's a mediocre vintage. But she meant well."

"She did," said Cabot.

"So back to the office?" asked Hutton.

"No. We ask the same sorts of questions of everyone on the block."

"This is as bad as farming."

* * *

"My feet hurt," said Toomey, back in the office.

"You need better shoes if you're going to be an investigator," said Cabot.

"We didn't get anything from those other people."

"We got confirmation that Mrs. McLeod didn't lie to us."

"She wouldn't lie," said Hutton. "Why would she lie?"

Cabot glanced over at the woman. "She might lie if she were having an affair with Brogan. Or with April, for that matter."

"She didn't!"

"No, she didn't, but we didn't know that before we talked to her. And now we know that she took the cab to the Radiodeum to see the Keystone Cops festival."

"And disappeared from there."

"More or less." Cabot's phone rang. "Cabot." He scribbled on a piece of paper, then said, "Interesting. Who do I talk to? Thanks. I owe you dinner." He hung up and turned to the others. "Our Mr. Brogan used to be a supervillain."

"What? And who are you?" A compact, sturdy man filled the doorway. He looked to be younger than Cabot, but hard-used by life. Cabot couldn't identify his accent.

"Oh," said Hutton. "Seth, this is Jedediah Cabot. Jed, this is Seth. Seth knows a lot about demons. He spent about six hundred years in Hell."

"Lamb, we have been over this. We do not discuss these matters with outsiders.

"He works with us now."


"Six hundred years?" asked Cabot.

"Aye," said Markur. "I was fighting for the English under contract when a filthy papist sorceror opened a gateway to Hell and my entire company ended there. We were tormented though we were living men."

Cabot nodded slowly. "And now you're here."

"I am. I am grateful to Mr. Campbell's agent, who freed me."

"Of course you are." Cabot swallowed. He thought, I need to have a talk with Mister A. Martin Campbell. "In the meantime, we have two leads to follow up. Someone needs to talk to Mr. Brogan and a group of someones need to canvas the area around the Radiodeum to see if anyone spotted April Brogan."

"And who is April Brogan?"

"They'll fill you in on the cab ride there, Mr. Markur. I'll go talk to Mr. Brogan. Call me if you discover anything." Once outside, he said to himself, "If any of you know how to use a phone."

* * *

Brogan was just getting home from the office, his portfolio under his arm. Cabot intercepted him just before the door. "Can we talk?"

"Have you found her?"

"Not yet. But we need to talk." He shrugged. "I know about the joint and what you did to get there."

Brogan slumped into himself. "You want coffee?"


The kitchen was small and untidy: dirty dishes piled everywhere. Brogan had to kick clothes out of the way for Cabot to sit down. He fussed with the coffee maker. "She never learned to make coffee, you know?"

Cabot nodded. "You know they had a supervillain name all ready for you when the Arrow caught you."

"Really? What was the name?"

"Larceny Ink."

Brogan wrinkled his nose. "Too long. Wouldn't play."

"Hey, you had an axe. So tell me about it."

"I grew up in a bad neighbourhood, in the Fens. I wasn't going to school, so I divided my time between being tough and drawing. That was all I liked to do besides drinking and proving what a bad ass I was. Anyway, I broke into this haunted house, on a dare, and had to provide proof. I saw this set of ink bottles, different colours of ink, and I grabbed them."

"You remember the address?"

"Sure. 105 Chestnut. Anyway, afterward, you can imagine my surprise when the gun I had been drawing fell off the page, full-size, even though I had been drawing it at one-half size. And when I put it back on the paper, it turned back into a drawing. So I was young and stupid. I drew a bunch of guns and futuristic-looking armor and used them to rob a bank. I got away with it, and I was pretty pleased with myself. I had money. I drank a lot. I was a big shot, man. Except I told my friends, and they swiped the pages. I don't know where those guns are now. Sugar? The milk's turned."

"Black is fine." The coffee was awful, but Cabot drank it anyway. Anything to keep Brogan talking.

"So I got this bright idea: tattoos. Nobody could steal it from me if I had tattoos. I gave a guy the magic ink, right, and had him do a set of drawings on me. Axes, guns, shield, all sorts of stuff. Did maybe three jobs when the Arrow caught me."

"And you did time."

"Oh, yeah. They were going through a law and order phase, and I turned eighteen waiting for trial. Fortunately nobody ever got hurt in my crimes, but I was an example. And in prison, they lasered off the tattoos. I was a model prisoner, because frankly it sucked. I just wanted to be quit of it, right? Worked on my art instead. You can do some art assignments from a jail cell. Castle Comics bought some of my stuff."

"So it worked out."

"I got parole, but terms are I can't see any of my old friends or any other undesirables. I have to have a parole meeting once a month, and I can never get a tattoo."

"You didn't tell them about the ink?"

"No. It was pretty much used up by then. Tattoos take a lot of ink, or mine did."

"So you were out."

"Yeah. I got a grant of some money when I got out—Wainwright had something going at the time—and I buckled down. Except I didn't drink any more—I get violent when I drink—and I didn't see my old friends, and, well, I was lonely."

"You drew April."

"Uh-huh. Did pretty well on her, except for her feet. We were pretty happy, I figured."

"Did you put her back on the page?"

"Early on, but I gave it up. The one day I burned the page with her, it was a celebration. She was real."

"Except she was still dependent on you for everything." Brogan didn't say anything. "Your prisoner, you might say. And she might have felt that she was your little sex toy, because you brought her into existence."

"She was happy. We were happy."


"You'll find her, right? I— I miss her."

"We'll find her. We'll give her the choice of coming back to you, though. You gave her life, Brogan. You have to let her live it."

Cabot walked out. His phone rang before he got to the car.

* * *

Hutton, Toomey, and Markur got out of the cab at the Radiodeum. "We'll question people," said Toomey. "I know how to do this now."

"It's just like talking," agreed Hutton.

"Hey—hey! Down here!" A young woman stuck her head over the ticket booth counter so Toomey could see her. "I'm looking for this woman. Have you seen her?"

"Oh, her. The Pavlovian Belle. She comes in whenever we're doing an animation festival."

"Last week."

"Pavlovian Belle?" asked Hutton.

"Sure—the men salivate when she comes by. She wasn't with her husband last week, so we were mopping drool."

"That's disgusting," said Hutton.

"Tell me about it."

"But you saw her?" asked Toomey.

"She went in and then I never saw her come out."

"Do you mind if we talk to the projectionist?"

"I should care, so long as you don't watch the movie? Go on in."

They climbed the stairway to the projectionist booth and knocked. A young fat man opened the door, stroking crumbs from his beard. "Yeah?" When he saw Hutton, he began tucking in his shirt-tails.

Markur looked him over with evident distaste and finally said, "Have you seen this woman?"

The projectionist looked at the photocopy of the drawing. "Oh, yeah. I watch her through the window. Once I have the focus correct, nothing to do until the next reel change, and she's worth watching, even from up here and behind."

"Do you remember her from last Thursday?"

He nodded. "She was there without her man, and there were guys all over her, walking over to her to ask if she wanted popcorn or a drink or some chocolate or a hot dog" — he sniggered. "I don't think she got to see any of 'Speakeasy Sassy' or 'Keystone Custard'. Anyway, then this woman pushes everyone away—she's tiny, even shorter than you, and boom, folks leave her alone."

"Did you know the midget?"

"Of course I did. It was Roxie. The Toon. From the Toon Gang."

Finally Toomey said, "A gangster?"

"Yeah! The cartoon gangster. All of them come; they like to see themselves in the cartoons."

"Where did they go?"

"They left through the left fire exit."

"You let them?" asked Markur.

"Are you kidding? The Toons kill people. Besides, she wasn't fighting it."

"Tell me of these Toons."

"They're gangsters, from the Keystone Cops cartoons—in fact, they're in Keystone Custard—Boss Moxie, Joey, Knuckles, Lefty. The Toy Boy brought them to life, and they stay around. But they're cartoons, so they can't die. They just don't understand that other people can die."

"They cannot die?"

"I'll wager they have no souls," said Toomey.

"Yeah, you squash'em, they pop back. They're cartoons. Haven't you ever seen cartoons?"

All three investigators shook their heads.

"And they say I need to get a life."

* * *

The fire exit led to an alley; the alley opened onto Dillin Street. Markur looked at the shops lining the street and said, "Someone will know where they went."

Twenty minutes later, they had an address: A woman in a clothing store had heard Roxie, the Toon woman, complain about the Ocean Heights amusement park.

"Presumably she is held for some sort of ransom," said Markur. They hailed a cab. "Toomey," said Markur, "you can telephone Cabot."

"I'll only be touching the phone if I can gloat."

"I think gloating would be good." Markur pulled his coat aside and touched the hilt of the hunting knife fastened to his belt. "And a foe that cannot be killed is worthwhile."

* * *

The taxi driver let them off at the front gates to Ocean Heights Amusement Park. Memorial Day was still weeks away, so the gates were closed.

Markur tested the iron gates; they were locked. "No latch on the other side, so there's no point throwing Toomey over the top."

"Hey, you great galoot. Don't be talking about throwing me."

Hutton looked down at the flowerbeds that lined the base of the wall that surrounded this part of the park. "Give me a moment," she said.

She slipped off her plain Mary Jane shoes and her socks and stood in the dirt for a moment. Then she chanted an incantation. The earth grumbled and the scent of fresh-turned soil filled the air. A tunnel opened up before her, leading under the wall.

She took out a kerchief and wiped sweat from her brow. "We can go in now."


They scrambled down the tunnel, with Hutton last, carrying her shoes. "Close it," said Markur.

"Wouldn't it be good to have an escape?" asked Toomey.

"She could escape using it. They could escape using it. And it will attract attention." Hutton nodded and spread her toes in the grass as she chanted a different spell. "Besides," said Markur, "cartoons are a children's entertainment. What could they do?"

"Do you have any idea where they are?" asked Hutton.

"No, but if they're cartoons given life, that sounds like magic to me," said Markur.

"Ohhhh," said Hutton, and then, "It's a big park. I don't sense any magic in particular."

Toomey pointed to a fountain. "There's a pool of water right there."

"That would help." Hutton plucked a blade of grass. She carefully floated it on the surface of the water and murmured to it; it spun madly and then settled down. "That way," she said.

* * *

Cabot found the maintenance entrance to the park and drove in. Some quick talking got him past the guard and a copy of a park map. The park was huge and he had no clue where the Toon Gang or April Brogan would be.

The Toons didn't need to eat, although they could. He didn't know if April Brogan needed to eat. The Toons would need a place to stash their car, a miniature Model T Ford, but didn't need much else in the way of creature comforts. He didn't know what April Brogan needed.

Damn it. There was too much he didn't know. Okay. He was going to have to go hunch-searching.

He looked around to make sure that no one was watching him. He closed his eyes and tried to empty his mind out, then examined the first thing that popped up when he thought "Toon Gang." It was a circle of Model T Fords. He stored that away and emptied his mind again. This time, he thought of April Brogan, and the first thing that popped up in his mind was her looking in a mirror.

Wary with the knowledge that his hunches had been wrong before, Cabot looked at the park map. In the children's rides there was a Model T ride, which might have been what he saw; the Toon car would fit with the children's rides, but how would they drive it in and out? And how would it fit into the ride itself? He set that thought aside.

But here was something: the Fun House of Mirrors was near the back of the Midway, and not far from the maintenance shed, which was also close to a second freight entrance. It was also across the park from him.

Cabot jogged for the Fun House of Mirrors.

* * *

"Inside the building, but I can only sense one magical entity," said Hutton.

"Perhaps the others are out," said Toomey. "It seems to be a busy life."

"They would have left at least one with Mrs. Brogan," said Markur. "That must be the one you feel. Mr. Toomey, do you want to sneak up to the building? Your fae ways are suited to this."

"I'm a clurichaun. Wine cellars, Markur. Wine cellars."

"Please?" asked Hutton.

Toomey sighed and vanished from sight. The other two watched and then the question of stealth became irrelevant because two of the Toon men—each a handspan taller than Toomey—appeared in the doorway. They leaned there, one with long ape-like arms and a matchstick protruding from his mouth, the other smoking a cigarette and flipping a coin.

Markur strode forward, his hunting knife in his hand. "What are you doing?" he asked.

The two looked at him. "I'm havin' a smoke. It says no smokin' in dere. What's it look like I'm doing?"

"I want April Brogan."

"Don't we all, chump." The man spat. "Beat it."

"I will take her back."

The gorilla-like one stepped forward. "Uh...I don't t'ink so." He cracked his knuckles.

"You deal wit' da maroon," said the other Toon. "I'll tell da boss."

"Put da toothpick away and take yer beatin' like a man. In da hospital, tell'em Knuckles sent ya."

Markur grinned and said, "Toothpick? I think you'll find it is a longer fang than that." His knife grew in his hand until it was a sword.

"Sheesh," said the one in the pinstripe suit, just before Toomey appeared from nowhere and smashed down on his head. The hat crumpled and the Toon did too, until he looked like a squeezebox. His coin went tink on the ground and rolled to a stop, where it blinked at them.

"You been rubbin' fertilizer on dat or dat just the stuff you talk?" Knuckles swung and missed Markur, who slashed once. Knuckles' head slid off his body and fell to the ground, followed by thick steak-like slabs of the rest of him. "Geez," said Knuckles' head.

"That was easy enough," said Toomey.

"Go look for the woman," said Markur.

The collapsed Toon popped to his full three and three-quarter feet size with a sound like a champagne cork. "You realize, of course," he said, "dat dis means war."

Toomey stopped without going into the Fun House of Mirrors. "So it is to be a donnybrook."

Knuckles' arm reached out from the pile and began stacking slabs. They melded together to reform the gangster.

"This is more like Hell than I expected," said Markur. He cut Knuckles' legs off.

"You is startin' to annoy me," said Knuckles. He reached over and grabbed Markur's legs with his long arms. Markur cut off one hand at the wrist, but by then his legs had somehow rejoined his body.

* * *

Cabot crested the small hill that separated the kiddie midway from the main midway, and saw them there: Hutton watching at a distance as Markur sliced and resliced Knuckles (and where did Markur get that sword, Cabot wondered) while Toomey faced Lucky. Toomey picked Lucky up and tossed him many yards aside. Even though the Toon must not have weighed much, it was an incredible throw; Lucky dove into the pavement and bounced like a rubber ball, then rebounded off a lamppost and headed back for Toomey.

Cabot came up behind Hutton and said, "We have to stop them. Our only chance is to talk to April Brogan, and we can't do that if they're out here brawling."

"You go in and talk to her; I'll stop them."

Cabot knew he shouldn't let her, but he was the only one who knew enough to talk to April Brogan. He angled around the fighters as she started to chant and looked back at the doorway—

—and saw a maw of earth open and swallow Lucky just as he landed.

She had not been joking about the ploughing. He ducked into the front door of the attraction—

—and came face to face with himself, in a mirror.

Cabot held his hand out to the left wall. If this were a fair labyrinth, he would be able to trace his way through.

"Stop right there." A woman's voice, made out of dreams and desires. Cabot felt a shiver run down his spine. He hadn't thought about a woman since his wife died, and he resented this woman's voice for putting thoughts like that back into his head. All he could see was himself.

"My name is Cabot," he said.

"I don't care. You're a man."

"You're April Brogan?" He had read that Roxie sounded like Lina Lamont from Singing In The Rain. "I've been hired to talk to you on Mr. Brogan's behalf."

"Oh, all right. Straight ahead and push on that mirror."

He pushed; the latch released; and he pushed again to swing the mirror open. He stepped into a small corridor, and then into a small white room with a red couch and a black card table with folding chairs.

And Boss Moxie sat on the couch, with a miniature moll perched on the arm. April stood near the card table, touching the cards nervously. Cabot was only half-surprised; he didn't think the gang split up much. Wasn't there a fourth one?

He heard a gunshot outside. That was probably the fourth one.

Cabot said, "Boss Moxie. April." He smiled at the moll. "I'm afraid I don't know your name."

"Roxie," she said, and snapped her gum. "Charmed, I'm sure."

"We heard the noise your boys are making out there."

"They got a little eager to see April here. They might have been rash." He had to think, dammit. There was so much weirdness in Freedom City, you could only learn so much of it before you moved. The Toons at least he had read about. "Of course, your boys have a tendency to shoot first and talk later."

"That's why they're my boys. Talking's for gunsels."

"Well, I'm here to take April away. Just for a little while."

"She ain't going."

"I'd like to hear that from her." He looked over at April.

"Go ahead. Tell him you ain't going."

"I'm going to stay here. They're my people."

"Because they were born from ink instead of flesh? You can have whatever life you want. They're bad because they're drawn that way." He hoped he would never have to repeat this conversation to anyone else.

"I don't have any life with him."

"You don't have to go back to him."

"All right."

Cabot took a step closer to her. "Good. We'll take you to our office, you can talk with Max there. He doesn't have to know where you live."

She nodded and stepped toward him.

"Boss!" cried Roxie.

"You shut yer yap, punk," said Boss Moxie. He stood and produced a tommygun, aimed at Cabot.

"Sorry, April," said Cabot as he raised his hands. "You just exchanged one kind of imprisonment for another." Toomey appeared from behind the couch and hit Boss Moxie on the head. The gangster fell over like a sack of lead.

"You should be glad to be seeing me now," said Toomey.

"No!" cried Cabot. "That wasn't my plan."

"Aw, rats," said Roxie. "There go my plans of havin' someone normal height to buy stuff for us."

Toomey said, "Be proud of your height."

"No, you little dipstick. Everybody knows we're the Toon Gang, but they didn't know her."

"But..." said April. "That's all? You didn' me?"

"I like you lots, Toots. But a girl's got needs, y'know."

Moxie stirred. Toomey said, "Must be going. Mrs. Brogan?"

Cabot grabbed April's arm and pulled her to the exit.

"Don't call me Mrs. Brogan. Please."

Toomey said, "Would it be too much to ask you what's going on?"

As they exited into the bright May sunshine, they heard from inside the building, "You ain't heard the last o' Boss Moxie!"

Hutton and Markur hurried over to them. "This way!" cried Cabot. "And run!"

In the car, Cabot said, "I think you just got us involved in a gang war."


So I have maintained elsewhere that these are from a campaign, and they are but only in the loosest way.

When we tried out DC Heroes I ran what was essentially this group. I remember that Seth, Cabot, Lamb, and Gideon were characters, and I don't remember whether there were one or two other players. A few years later, I was looking to practice writing, and I happened on that set-up. Loosely inspired by the campaign, I wrote this story and others, but I can't tell you where I end and the others begin.

Nonetheless, in the spirit of fairness, I can tell you:

  • Jedediah Cabot is based off a character created by Ian Lim.
  • Seth Markur pretty much is the character created by Brian Dorion.
  • Lamb Hutton is based off a character created by Tina Klein-Lebbink.
  • Dr. Gideon Cross is based off a character created by Viktor Haag.

Two other people played in the DC Heroes campaign, but I haven't the foggiest memory of who their characters were. If I've included them and not credited them, it's because I don't remember. Jog my memory and I'll give you credit. The campaign took place in the DC Universe but in a fictional Canadian city, the city of Wellington.

When I wrote the stories, I created the characters from memory as Mutants & Masterminds characters (PL 7) and set them in a version of Freedom City. I no longer have those writeups. Still, I can probably recreate them as ICONS characters. Here's one.

Jedediah Cabot
  • Fair (4) Precognition (Limit: Unpredictable)
    • Extra: ESP (Limit: Preparation)
    • Extra: Telekinesis (Limit: Tiring)
  • Investigation Expert (+2)
  • Law (+1)
  • Psychiatry (+1)
  • Skeptical Private Investigator
  • Moved to get away from tragedy
  • Unreliable, uncontrollable psychic powers

The Toon Gang is from Freedom City. Brogan is a take on DC's original Tattooed Man. A. Martin Campbell is inspired by various bosses I have had.