Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Family Matter


“This I cannot belief. Vhen vill you get mature?”

The nice fellow in the tuxedo at The Cellar had only stayed with Emma and Cati long enough apply first aid and to staunch the bleeding. After that, because they could both walk and there were far too many other injuries for him to ignore, he sent them to the hospital. However, Cati was not daft, and she knew that for a person of her standing to simply show up at a hospital wounded would attract problematic attention. “It’s not like we’re famous or nuthin’,” Emma said, “but we’ll make the news, and your mother would murder us.” A moderately painful forty minutes later, and Cati was snoozing on a morphine drip administered by the family physician, Harmick, in a bedroom at her mother’s house.

The good doctor had alerted Cati’s mother, Anica, and when morning came the elder Predoviciu decided that there should be some light shed on her daughter’s nighttime injuries. Emma, who had spent the night in a chair at Cati’s side without the benefit of a sedative, had helped Cati by explaining that it was all just an unfortunate accident. “I blame myself,” she had ineffectively offered. “We just shouldn’t have been at that joint, it’s got such a seedy reputa-tation.”

Cati’s mother was not much of a drinker, but nor was she a teetotaler; that her daughter had been at The Cellar was no problem in and of itself for her, for, despite Emma’s plea, it was actually more or less reputa-table as far as speakeasies went. She had no choice but to accept the women’s account of how Cati had been injured, which was in some ways more true than not. But what Anica Predoviciu could not accept was the fact that her daughter, old enough to have been a married woman at one time, had been reckless enough in her carousing to have met with some serious misfortune. She knew that Cati had passed through some restless, unruly years, but she had thought that those were behind her. If the young woman went out at night with her friends, took a few lovers, enjoyed her life before she got married again – well, who could blame her, she was young. But things were clearly more serious now. Anica hummed unhappily to herself when Cati rolled over in bed and she saw how the bruise had grown on the young woman’s forehead overnight. She sent Emma away.

Now it was just Cati and her mother. Cati wanted to tell her the truth. Barring that, she wanted to protest her mother’s desire to rein her in. She had already tried reminding her mother exactly how old she was, that she was a grown woman, she could make her own decisions. How often did she wish she could let her mother know just how poor her own decisions could sometimes be – in choosing a husband for Cati. But she knew that, unless she was willing to explain every aspect of her misadventures to her mother, then she’d have to bear with the situation at hand, including her mother’s wrath and whatever measures she might take to restrict Cati’s access to the family fortunes and freedom. And to explain everything would be impossible, maybe even dangerous. Impossible because of the audacious character of the events that Cati would have to relate to her dear mother in order to actually account for anything; impossible because Cati could not bear any more embarrassment for the many, many poor decisions that she had made over the past few days.

“Hm hmm hmmm. Hm? Vhen vill you begin to be responsibile for the name you wear? ‘Predoviciu’ – dear, ve are not common workers, this name is our labor and livelihood.”

Responsible? Cati thought. The decisions were only poor in retrospect, and they were of good moral quality. Many of them had been made out of necessity. It was not Cati’s fault that the cabbie had tried to kidnap her. Nor was it her fault that a wizard – a real, wizard with magic spells and everything in this day and age! – had set his own evil intentions against her. Nor was Margaret’s death Cati’s doing. No, not just Margaret’s death – Mags had been murdered. Remembering that she had been working against a murderer, and not just indulging her curiosity and flaunting her status, helped to keep Cati’s morale up.

“You must think,” Anica said, viciously gesturing at her own cranium. “Ve remain vealfy, ve remain who ve are because we keep this name on good condition.”

Somewhere inside her, Cati knew that following up on Mags’s death had been the right thing to do. Why, if it hadn’t been for Henri, Thelonius, and herself, the police would never have captured the murderer. Yes, Cati conceded to herself, she had made some decisions that were not in the best interest of her mother, but the family as a whole was quite sturdy, and, unlike many other wealthy immigrant families from the East, had managed to avoid any major public scandals.

“People of vorth know that they can trust us.”

That was true. Henri had been willing to rush to her side. Thelonius, too, risked his life for her, taking that vial full of mercury (but not mercury, something far more dangerous, valuable, and interesting). And Cati had not, in her most desperate moment, abandoned either of them.

“They cannot gif us that trust if we are caught in the newspapers running around town, caforting with drunk. And here you are now. You look terrible, you look –”

“Like I’ve been in an auto accident,” Cati interjected with no small amount of irritation in her voice.

The elder Predoviciu pursed her lips and clutched her hands to her lap. After a moment, she said, “I am too harsh, I know. I know. I am sorry.” Anica did not know. It was better that way. “But who do I blame then? Who does a mother to hold for this? It is my fault.”

Could anybody be held accountable? Cati had two names in mind: Ramanuja and White. If Ramanuja hadn’t brought Mags into his circle of hocus pocus – apparently real hocus pocus, Cati reminded herself – then she’d still be alive. And this White character. If he hadn’t –

The curtain of morphine and pain and annoyance at her mother lifted suddenly. White – the name that the bathroom attendant had sputtered in surprise when the man in grey had ended his time-spell. White – wasn’t that was the name of Mags’s fiancé. Jacqueline had said so. Until that moment, Cati had never suspected, but now it was all quite clear, and it was too much of a coincidence.

“Ecatarina, I vant you to leaf for a vhile. There is a place in the mountains. A friend of mine, Madam Bakker, she owns it. Vhen you are vell enough, I am going to send you there vith Doctor Harmick.”

Cati wanted to protest, but her mother saw it coming and cut her off.

“You vill. You need to get avay from the bad influences of the city. You haf no choice. As long as you go, I vill not cut you off. Do this for your health,” the elder pleaded. “Cati my dear, do it for our family name and for me. You are doing too much trouble in this city. This is final.” She left, joining the shadow of Dumitru in the hallway.


Cati knew Madam Bakker. Hers was very old New York Dutch money, but a few generations of Bakker men given to financial misadventure had worn away the greater part of that family’s fortunes. For this reason, Madam Bakker found it socially permissible to mix with the nouveau riche and the immigrant wealthy. She was a pleasant woman, Cati thought, broad-minded and eccentric. A lover of cats and classical literature. But Cati had never been to her upstate home, and she was not sure that leaving the city, leaving Thelonius, Henri, Ramanuja, and White was the right thing to do.

She had only been considering this for a minute before Emma quietly turned the knob to Cati’s room and slunk around the door like a cat. “I heard everything.” She sat down at Cati’s side, in the very seat in which she had slept the night before. “This name, this name, this name!” Emma knew the lecture well, but what she said next suggested to Cati that Emma had been impressed by the elder Predoviciu’s determination. “I’ll go with you if you want. But, lady,” she said, trying to sound jovial, “you gotta come clean with me. What’s goin’ on? There’s somethin’ to those two fellas that you’re telling me. Cati?”

Cati drew breath. Was it worth explaining everything to Emma? Could Emma grasp the truth? She wished she could talk to Henri and Thelonius. This time she wouldn’t blame them for not telling her what was going on; she was beginning to piece things together for herself. Did they know who White was? Emma would be familiar with the name. But – would she even believe Cati?

Before Cati could think of an answer to her friend’s question, Emma clucked and touched Cati’s bandaged head. “Oh!” She adjusted the wrappings applied by Harmick. “You’re coming a little loose here.”

(The date is 30 April, 1924, and the time is around ten o’clock. Cati and Emma are in Anica and Dumitru Predoviciu’s house in the Upper East Side. Of course Cati is not being held prisoner, but Harmick’s advice is for a few days of bed rest before moving onto Madame Bakker’s home. Aside from the trip to Madame Bakker’s home, any attempts to leave the care of Dr. Harmick (or another physician) will make it more difficult for Cati to heal her rather serious wounds. Her current hit point total is 5 hit points.

Cati can leave Harmick’s care at any time, but her healing will be seriously compromised. Taking it easy for a while is the best plan for her physically, but bed rest limits her options. Without leaving Harmick’s care, Cati could spend some time studying any documents she may have collected. (If they’re in her own house, then Emma can go get them for her, or her maid can bring them.) She can also make phone calls, and that might be all it takes to find out what happened to Thelonius or Henri. Calling hospitals and the police are good starts. It would also make sense for Cati to be interested in finding out more about White, which she might accomplish with a few creative phone calls to Mags Whitcombe’s or her own friends. If she wants to check in on Ramanuja, she really only needs to call St. Lawrence’s Hospital. Depending on how frank Cati wants to be with her, she might even send Emma out on various errands.

See the out of game blog for posting awards and xp.)


da solomon said...

On the morning of the 30th, newspapers will be carrying variations on a United Press story about the happenings at The Cellar.

(The article is here.)

da solomon said...

(You can carry on the final scene in this post if you like.

Once you're ready to move to the next phase, make a post to your character blog.

Of course you may have your PC do anything you think is appropriate, but here's how I've planned things: If Cati takes option of heading upstate, we'll do a time-skip. After that, we'll pick up with short re-entry scenes in players' blogs, and then unite the three players from Manhattan.

Contact with the other players should come shortly thereafter.)

Teresa said...

"No, Emma," Cati said, half-heartedly pushing her friend's hands away. "Thanks for your offer, but I think I just need some time to myself right now."

Emma looked visibly hurt, but she didn't say anything.

"I don't really about to talk about... what happened either," Cati went on. "Not right now. My mother's right: I just need to go away for a little while, try to get straight."

Emma nodded. "I understand," she said and patted Cati's hand.

Once Emma had left, Cati reached for the telephone beside the table. She made two phone calls: one to the police to track down Henri and Thelonius, and one to Gertie, Mags' best friend.