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The Eerie Exploits of Ranger Company X part 2

companyxbadgeIntroductionPart 1

Chris eyed the darker skinned men walking his way. They had to be members of his squad, neither black fellers nor hippies appraoched him without good reason. Chris acknowledged them with the seemingly innocuous adjustment of his hat. After they had taken up positions nearby a third person walked up to the group and stuck out his hand.

“How’s it goin’? I’m Rod Vargas,” the man said by way of introduction.

Chris eyed him carefully and paid close attention to his north-midwestern accent. Three of the four Rangers he was supposed to meet had now arrived. They were still waiting on his friend Jack. Chris grasped the offered hand in his own.

“Chris Dehart,” he drawled, the irritation of earlier in the day being replaced with the laid back professionalism of a Texas Ranger. Acknowledging the other two men close by he continued, “We’re waiting on Jack Macher,” then indicating the far end of the lunch counter he concluded, “but we’re not the only ones.”

James nodded in reply, “Name’s James Freeman.” He extended his hand, curious if anyone would shake it in such a public place.

He looked toward the man at the far counter end, to see if his cop training could pick up anything bad.

[Hank: I’m using New Orleans-smart beat cop (4) to see if I get a read of trouble from his body language.]

As they might say in N’awlins, “he ain’t from aroun’ here….” But other than that, the only thing that really holds your attention is the piece of cardboard with the hand scrawled “J. Macher.” The name of the Ranger you’re waiting for.

James speaks to Chris in a very low voice. “He got Macher’s name, if that helps.”

Chris replied back in an equally low voice while accepting the hand and pumping it good-naturedly, “I noticed, however, that’s not Macher. Jack and I served together on a different case some time back. We’ll wait for Jack and see if he knows who it is.”

Listening to the exchange, Gabriel set down his bag and his guitar case. People were starting to stare at the small group of men gathering at the lunch counter. He nodded at the man who identified himself as James Freeman. James seemed to have an air of authority about him. Gabriel shook his offered hand. Rod Vargas seemed to be a bit nervous, but then again, he supposed he was too. This was his first official thing with the Rangers. “How long are we going to be waiting for Mr. Macher? Do we have time for a bite to eat?”

While the men chatted amongst themselves continually glancing sidewise at the longhair at the end of the counter, a Negro porter approaches. He looks at each one in turn, then says to Chris. “Is you is or is you ain’t?”

Taken aback by the sudden intrusion, Chris could only think to himself, “Why is this porter quoting Blues lyrics?” Trying to keep his attention on the longhair at the end of the counter as there was something familiar about him, Chris tried to remember if this was code phrase.

The porter stood, as meekly as possible for a moment. Then he spoke again,

“Ah’s sorry, suh. Mebbe I didn’ talk loud ‘nuf. Ah said, ‘is you is, or is you ain’t?'”

Chris was coming up empty on Company X code phrases.

At the far end of the counter, Jack scanned the to and fro of the crowd. Looking for anything that might stand out, and so far the only thing that stood out was the group of men who kept glancing up at him; Jack felt vaguely like tiger bait in India.

“Ah well, here goes nothing. ‘Not going to eat if you don’t shoot it, son,'” Jack thought to himself. Then, he flipped over the cardboard, scrawled C. DeHart on it and ordered a half vanilla, half chocolate shake from the surly waitress. Slurping the shake he set his sign so the crowds and tables could see it, and waited. He tried to look like he wasn’t looking at the group that kept exchanging conversation while clearly trying not to look at him…

…but, he didn’t try to hard.

The frustrations of the morning’s telegram, the sudden intrusion of the porter, and now the longhair at the other end of the counter had written his name on the piece of cardboard. Still unable to recall any code phrases pertaining to what the porter was saying, he looked over at James, “That hippie has written my name on his card. Can you deal with the porter?”

Before James, could answer Chris stood and walked to the end of the counter. When he got to the half-way spot the young man looked directly at him. Chris could immediately see a family resemblance, a younger brother perhaps? Chris walked up behind the young man and placed his hand firmly on the shoulder.

“Son, you’d better have a DAMN good reason for having both of those names on that card of yours.”

As Chris walks away from the porter, Gabriel looks around the area to see if there might be someone else watching them or at least watching the porter. [[I rolled a 12 against my scout]]

The other travelers present seem to take notice of this odd collection of men gathered around what appears to be a Ranger (with his pearl-gray Resistol hat). But almost as quickly as they notice, they return to their business at hand and continue moving along.

But you do notice that the porter seems to be holding a note in his hand. He continues looking at each one in turn, apparently expecting a response.

“I is”, Gabriel tells the porter.

“This is fo’ you, suh.” As he speaks, he places an envelope in Gabe’s hand, then shuffles off, to be lost in the crowd of travelers and other station employees.

Jack started  a little when he felt the firm grip on his shoulder.  He then turned and extended his hand to shake. “Well, that’s an easy question. I’m Jack Macher Junior. Dad went missing in Spain. One of his hunting trips. I got the telegram, Mom told me to take care of his mail until he got back. I… I’m not sure he’s coming back this time.”

Suddenly remembering he takes off his hat, runs a hand through his hair, looks at the hand in dismay, “Wow. Sorry. I look like hell, don’t I?” a dry chuckle, “My name to see who took the bait, yours to pick you out of the crowd, Mr. DeHart, I presume.”

Chris could see the resmblance now. Still he was not quite ready to trust the younger man, though obviously not that much younger than he. Rangers with Company X could NEVER be too careful.

Chris affected a good natured grin and pushed his pearl-gray ranger hat back just a bit and grasped the offered hand in a solid grip that could turn vice-like if the answers weren’t correct, “Jack’s boy you say? Didn’t think you were done with school yet, how’s Southern Methodist treating you? And you say your dad went missing on one of his hunts? Was he going for quail or deer this time?”

“Uhmm… Pterodactyl. And, I started at Texas A&M – Not SMU – Just this year; I’m sure you know Dad; good enough for him, good enough for me. But, treating me just fine, thank you. A little awkward as a New Englander; I had hoped to have Dad to give me some, uhm, cultural guidance. I didn’t know he had friends in the Rangers, though, I’m not particularly surprised.”

Folks often said that Young Jack had his father’s hand shake; “He must have picked it up from these guys… Jeez… He afraid I’m gonna bolt like a jackalope?” Jack thought to himself. Aloud he said, “So, you with them? Shall I join you? Dad taught me a lot, maybe I can help.”

The answers were correct. Chris relaxed his grip just a bit. His mind raced furiously, odds were good that whatever mission this particular group had been assembled for would need Jack’s shooting skills and his gun. Chris felt just a little awkward now, with Jack Sr. gone that meant he was one of the senior members of the team and he wasn’t sure he wanted that responsibility.

His hazel eyes narrowed as he pumped the hand and released it, “Yeah, I’ve served with your Dad before, not much older than you are now the first time,” a pause, “Chris DeHart. You say your Dad taught you some things, can you shoot?”

Jack grinned slyly, “Well, I’m not my Dad, but I’m a fair shot. Have his M1 with me.” Jack swallowed nervously, “Am I going to need it?”

Chris didn’t answer verbally but instead pulled the young man up and motioned towards the Rangers at the other end of the counter.

Vic was relieved that the hazing and Yankee jokes would have to wait until after the Rangers dealt with the Porter’s message and the kid with the sign. They wouldn’t expect a greenhorn like him to solve codes and problems like this — he hoped.

While Chris was speaking to the young Jack Macher, not really much younger than Gabriel really, Gabriel decided to open up the note from the porter…

Inside was a simple note, typed on plain white paper.

It read: “A veil covers the billets weight.”

As Jack stood, Chris looked at the younger man and raised his eyebrows in reply, “In our line of work, you never know.” Indicating the other three rangers Chris continued, “Let’s introduce you to rest of the team.”

Chris walked back over to the group, “Jack couldn’t make it. His son has volunteered to fill in.” Seeing the questioning looks he went on, “yeah, we’ll have to clear it with the higher ups but if they called in Jack Sr. we’re gonna need a big gun. Junior here is the closest we got.”

He then looked squarely at Gabriel, “Y’all take care of the porter?”

“He had a note. Odd that it was typed,” Gabriel said as he handed the note to Chris. “‘A veil covers the billets weight’. Make any sense of that?”

Chris studied the note a moment “well if we add one ‘N’ it anagrams out to ‘Galveston Bewitches Eviler Hilt’ but it’s probably simpler than that”. {Chris checks the area for anything that could be deemed ‘billets’}

Nothing inside the depot could be considered a billet, unless you consider the sleepers on the platform, or the benches where weary travelers rested.

“or Evil Hitler… Ominous… Come on, you lot are pulling the yankee’s leg, right? …  right…,” Jack Jr. replied.

Chris looked and the depot but didn’t see anything that could be remotely referred to as a billet. He then looked blankly at Jack Jr and raised a lone eyebrow, “They never found the body.” After a pause he continued, “Unless someone has a good reason to stick around we really need to over to Galveston PD and meet with Detective Sorenson.”

OooK… What exactly did my Dad do for you? Are you all Rangers?” Jack asked.

“Ah put my trust in mah fellow cops,” Freeman’s Cajun accent came out strong. “If we supposed to meet up wit’ this one, we should get to steppin’ right now.” He looked around with his eyes without turning. “Besides, all the gawkers here are gettin’ to me.”

“I’m ready to go, unless that message has a reason we need to stay. It doesn’t make a lot of sense literally. No apostrophe in ‘billets’ and even if there was one, that wouldn’t make it clear. Weight is kind of an abstract thing to be covered by a veil. It’s not a Ranger code or something?”

Not one that I’m aware of, Chris replied. Let’s go meet the detective. If there’s something here for us we can always come back. Besides Detective Sorenson might be able to shed some light on this note.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Other Systems, Play, Risus, RPG | , , , , | 5 Comments

The Eerie Exploits of Ranger Company X part 1

companyxbadgeIntroduction for The Eerie Exploits of Ranger Company X, a Risus setting by Hank Harwell – GM notes are in italics

Five encrypted telegrams from Ranger Captain Earl R. Buchanan of Company X were sent out. Four  telegrams went out to Jack Macher, Vic Abruzzo, Gabriel Cooper, and James Freeman.  The decoded message instructed each to meet Ranger Chris DeHartat the Santa Fe Depot in Galveston Texas. Chris received a message telling him to pick up the other four.  After meeting at the depot they are to meet with Detective Charlie Sorenson at the Galveston Police Department, who will brief them on the assignment.

CHRIS DEHART: Chris’ 57 Chevy purred as he drove it down the road.  Chris, however, was fuming.  The telegram he got this morning meant he wouldn’t be able to prevent the upcoming silencing of Astronauts, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.  While Chris agreed that the astronauts needed to be “shut up”, as the CIA hack had so eloquently put it.   He did not agree with drastic measures the CIA was obviously thinking about.  He knew the CIA was planning something big to discourage the rumblings within the astronaut corps.  That’s what Chris had hoped to prevent.

Scientists at NASA as well as the astronaut corps were chaffing at the government’s cover up of one of the greatest finds of the 20th century.  Grissom, White, and Chaffee were planning on going public after they successfully returned from their launch.  The three astronauts figured they would have the undivided attention of the nation at that point.  Many of the scientists and other astronauts agreed with them.  Chris knew the CIA was planning something drastic to keep NASA quiet but now he was headed to Galveston and figured he could stop it when he got back.

Still fuming, Chris kept the speedometer at 75.  He knew he wasn’t going to be pulled over for 5 miles over the limit. He also figured that if he did get pulled over by some rook, his Ranger Badge would take care of any problem.  ‘What could be more important than the lives of at least three astronauts’, Chris thought as he drove.

Less than 45 minutes after he’d left Houston, Chris pulled the candy apple red car into the parking lot at the Santa Fe Depot in Galveston.  A little calmer after venting his frustrations through the gas pedal, he walked inside the depot and picked up a copy of Life magazine from the newstand.  Walking over to the lunch counter he sat down on the second stool and opened the magazine, that was the cue for his fellow Rangers from Company X.  Chris knew the names of who he was picking up but aside from his friend Jack he’d never worked with any of the rest them before.  Well he’d find out who the were just as soon as they arrived and acknowledged his signal.

————-

GABRIEL COOPER: The bus ride from Brackettville to Galveston was 8 hours of unadulterated boredom.  Gabriel was seated in the back of the bus, and no one sat near him.  He was wearing civies, blue jeans and a fairly nice white button up shirt, but his hair still had that clean cut soldier look.  He had his guitar out of the case, and he plucked at strings practicing a new song, but without an amplifier, there wasn’t much in the way of sound.  He could still hear it in his mind, but practicing this way caused those sitting near him to glance at him as if there was something wrong with him.

He was used to the stares, but he still didn’t like them.  As a black seminole, he was part of many worlds, and not all of them seemed to get along as well as they should.  Gabriel had hopes of helping to change this with his music, but so far, he hasn’t played for more than a few drunks at the Broken Wheel.  Someday he’d catch a break, but not today.

He was enduring the bus ride to Galveston because of a telegram.  The Rangers thought they could use him for something.  He was off to meet with someone named Chris DeHart(a fellow Ranger according to the telegram), and from there to meet witha Detective of the Galveston Police Department.  Gabriel was sure what this was about, but he was nervous about meeting withthe detective.  His last run in with police was right before he shipped out to VietNam.  He was out withhis buddies, and when one of them got into a fight at whatever hole they were drinking at (he didn’t remember the name of the place), Gabriel finished it.  They had taught him quite a few techniques for getting out of trouble while he was learning to be an advanced scout, but the trouble in the bar didn’t amount to anything compared with the trouble caused by the police when they showed up.

Gabriel was brought out of his memories when the bus bumped up over a curb.  It had arrived. Gabriel packed up his guitar and grabbed his ruck sack (he didn’t own proper luggage and had learned to travel light in the Army). Gabriel made his way to the Santa Fe Depot.

It didn’t take long to spot Chris DeHart. He was already seated at the second stool of the lunch counter flipping through a magazine. Gabriel took a deep breath and moseyed over to him.

——————–

JAMES FREEMAN: James Freeman rode a city bus through Galveston to the Santa Fe Depot.  He was just following the telegram request to go meet Ranger Chris DeHart, but he had a hunch that this could be very important anyway.

The ride on the bus was more facetious than actual.  There were no seats free in the back, and he wasn’t raised to disrespect the older ladies seated there by kicking any of them out; they likely had challenges just to GET a seat because they weren’t white!  Supposed ‘equality’ was a joke… he stood the entire ride holding a strap handhold.  His legs were tired, but he didn’t complain.

He reached his stop.  Other passengers failed to hide relief on their faces to have one less black man among them. Galveston folks were a lot sillier than N’awlins folks; badges weren’t clues enough to them of the good nature of their fellow riders.  James just shook his head and rolled his eyes, then stepped out.

DeHart was easy enough to recognize: not only did he have the regulatory cowboy hat of the Rangers in front of him, but he had many others coming over to him.

——————-

VIC ABRUZZO: Vic spent his time on the short trip down Old Galveston Road thinking, “Rod. Rodrigo Vargas. Rod. How’s it goin’, I’m Rod Vargas. My former associates who keep trying to plug me call me Vic, but you can call me Vargas. Rod Vargas.”

He expected somebody to ask why a guy in Texas with a Spanish name didn’t know that language, so he had memorized a convoluted story about where his forefathers had moved around Europe and New England.  Since he started using this cover, a few people had started talking Spanish to him, but when he said he didn’t know Spanish, nobody grilled him about why.

Vic liked the pickup the Feds had loaned him for the witness protection thing.  A green, two year old Ford with all the bells and whistles.  It was nice, but he’d trade it in a heartbeat for not having to hide.

A healthy level of paranoia stirred in him again, and he pulled off at a gas station.  Vic eyed the few cars that continued towards Galveston.  None of them pulled off behind him or exhibited suspicious behavior.  It should have set his mind at ease.  Instead, he worried that someone might be following who was too good to be spotted.

He comforted himself by thinking of the one familiar thing the Rangers had given him: a six-shooter in his boot. The territory was new to him and he had to adjust to some new rules, but some of the tools were the same for this job as his last job.

The rest of the drive passed with fewer glimpses in his rearview mirror.

Vic strode up to the Rangers gathered at the lunch counter in the Santa Fe Depot. “How’s it goin’? I’m Rod Vargas.”

————————

JACK S. MACHER: “No one should have to ride that far in a bus,” thought Jack, as he watched folks get off in Galveston.  He had gone home for a couple days to be with his Mom and the lawyers as they tried to decide what to do.  Dad would be home soon, was all Mom wanted to hear.  But, she did agree to let Jack have the pickup truck and see to the pile of mail Dad was still receiving.

The telegram was interesting.  He and Dad had played with ciphers while camping in the Grand Canyon when… God… How old was Jack? 12?!  So many places; seemed like it had to be longer ago than that.  But, this? Official, encrypted, addressed to Dad…  Hell, he was surprised the courier had let him sign for it.  And, then to find it was one that Dad had taught him?

So Jack packed a thermos of coffee, a box of Oreos, the M1, and his trusty goalie stick (almost made the varsity team at the private school, twice before he graduated) and drove to Galveston.  By the time he got there he was very thankful for Dad’s Obsessive-Compulsive care for the truck.  Also glad to be in Texas where no one looked twice at the rifle, but instead raised an eyebrow at the hockey stick.

He knew no one would recognize him, not with two inches of hair on his head and a semester of fuzz on his chin. Dad would not have approved, but since he wasn’t home, Jack just hadn’t bothered.  After the drive though, he was considering making a stop in the rest room.  So, knowing that under the hair he looked a lot like his Dad, he hoped the disguise would be successful and scanned the crowds coming and going for Galveston PD.

After a half hour of that, it occurred to him that, A) his Red Sox cap probably stood out like a beacon, and B) a detective probably would not be wearing a uniform. So plan B.

Jack took a seat at the lunch counter, ordered steak and eggs and a bottomless cup of orange juice, and pulled out a large card board sign reading, “J. Macher.”

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Other Systems, Play, Risus, RPG | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments