’Better Angels’ Story Seed: The Bad Penny Turns Up

Better-Angels-cover-v4-front-612pxWritten by Greg Stolze, © 2013

A sinister story seed lays the groundwork—genesis, exodus, and a shocking revelation—for an evening of fun and corruption in Better Angels. The GM should draw up stats for one or two crucial NPCs as needed based on the abilities and attitudes of the player characters. Put the Hellbinders and their Screwtapes into the mix and watch what happens.

The Bad Penny Turns Up

“You got to keep the Devil, you gotta keep him down in the hole.” — Tom Waits, “Way Down In the Hole”

Genesis

Lieutenant Jean Broadus is an absolute nightmare. She’s been on the force for decades, stolidly grunt-working her way through both street-beats and sexism within the department. She’s a watch commander now, sensible without cynicism, pleased with her successes and philosophical about her failures. She’s got two kids in college and a husband who thinks she hung the moon. With that kind of backstop, she can affect some real, positive change on the streets.

She has decided that the PCs are her top priority. If they prefer to work by night, she handles the night shift for the station closest to their favored neighborhoods for mischief. If they’re more into daring daylight robberies, then that’s when she works.

At first, the PCs may not know her name, but they should gradually become aware of growing police pressure. When they’re starting out, the response consists of a squad car (unless they’re obviously Aspecting-out) that gets there fairly quickly and then has to call for backup. As Jean begins targeting them, however, they find that it’s always at least three prowl cars and that the police are going to heavier weaponry sooner. Perhaps a copycat, or just a criminal whose clothes happen to resemble a supervillain costume, gets taken down hard, cluing them in that they’ve been very specifically targeted. Maybe they have contacts on the force who tip them wise about Broadus’ targeted briefings. Or maybe they see posters hung up with sketches or photographs, offering rewards for information, while Broadus goes on the news and encourages citizens to come forward and not be intimidated.

Exodus

Police Lieutenant Penny Greco is angling for a captaincy when George LaGrange retires later this year. She knows the mayor thinks putting a woman in charge of a precinct will gin up some votes during the next electoral cycle, and the only women qualified are herself and Broadus.

Penny Greco is, in many ways, Broadus’ photographic negative. Where Jean just ignored the sexism and plowed through, Greco played the gender card when she could, even getting an unpopular watch commander demoted with a harassment complaint. (How legit was it? Legit enough in an election year that the commander volunteered for early retirement under serious pressure from the powerful police union.) Greco works as a vice division coordinator and prides herself on playing the long game. She never sweeps up a whore if she can get a pimp, and never takes a pimp if watching him might net her the mob guy who comes to collect the skim. She’s like an alligator: Ninety percent of the time, she’s motionless and drifting along. Then, suddenly, the teeth and frenzied movement drag down some criminal antelope.

Penny is extremely cynical, to the point of being loyal to the cops because they’re the winning side—none of this ‘serve and protect’ or ‘justice for all’ crap. It’s better for the strong if they can exercise their strength, and it’s better for the weak if they know their place and keep their noses clean. Good policing, therefore, is better for everyone.

Especially her, since she’s crooked. Her gray morality makes it very easy for her to offer concessions to arrestees in exchange for information… or sacks of cash. Corruption started out as a necessary (and, frankly, kind of pleasant) price for keeping her ear to the street. Now it’s just her thing she does.

Lieutenant Greco wants to talk to the PCs after Broadus starts her crusade against them. She thinks costumed ding-dongs are far less corrosive to public order than the entrenched and subtle threats of organized crime, and she’s willing to help them if they help her. Are they curious about the location of a stash house full of drug dough? Hey, she can share that with them. The guys in the DEA are dicks to her, why should she hand them a bust?

Revelation

The final act of this sordid drama comes when Broadus intuits that someone among her 5-0 fellows is striking against her in a thousand subtle ways. The captaincy is coming up soon and, while she doesn’t want to believe a ‘sister’ would stab her in the back, she’s far too much of a realist to discount the possibility. Moreover, while she’d like the promotion, she doesn’t covet it—she just thinks it would be a better platform from which to launch her anti-crime strategies.

The possibilities here are myriad, but some of the more exciting or dramatic options include…

The PCs bring Broadus around. If they can show her they’re, at worst, very conflicted and, at best, human toxic waste dumps for evil spirits, she might give them a break. Even better, she might maintain the masquerade of an eager police pursuit, while (in reality) giving them some breathing room with which to battle their Screwtapes. But would the price of her understanding be that Greco, the bent cop, gets promoted?

The PCs and Greco team up on Broadus. Hey, maybe they just want revenge. They can get it, Greco can hand Broadus over on a silver platter… and then betray them once she’s Captain Greco, using everything she’s learned about them to her advantage while publicly stating that she’s doing it to get revenge for her ‘sister cop’ Broadus.

The Screwtapes bring Broadus around. If the Hellbinders prefer Corruption to Nurture, they might just demonstrate to Jean what a tight spot she’s in. She can’t overcome the PCs when they’ve got both hell and another lieutenant on their side, and isn’t Greco the bigger threat? After all, the PCs have to deal with demons, but Greco chose to. If they can flip their influence and put Broadus in the Captains’ position, is that a victory… or have they tarnished and corroded a genuinely good cop?

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