I’m playing in a game of Trail of Cthulhu (it’s like Call of Cthulhu but uses the Gumshoe rules from Pelgrane) We are in Arkham Massachusetts in 1938. The rest of the group is a Doctor, a Scientist, an Artist, and an Antiquarian. I went with Criminal. For each player character you need to note their drives and the NPCs who are their sources of stability. I was inspired because I’d just rewatched Brawl In Cell Block 99 (fantastic movie, where Vince Vaughn is the world’s most efficient redneck killing machine), so I decided to write this little character sketch. I found the pic from google searching “1930s mugshots”.
Massachusetts Bureau of Prisons. Parole Hearing Record.
Location: Black Gate Penitentiary, Arkham Massachusetts
For inmate: Vaerst, Vincent Thomas Prisoner No: 9371/45
DOB: Jan 2, 1905. POB: Florence, Alabama Trade: Laborer
Eyes black Ht 6’3” Wt 230 Hair dk.br.
Marks Scars, rt face, extensive arms & knuckles, both. Tat, large cross on back
M.O. etc. battery and various classes of larceny. A general thief and bad character.
Known Associates: 828/45, 765/38, 1256/32, 223/45
Partial Transcript of Parole Interview
Thank you for taking the time to hear my story, honorable members of the parole board. I, Vincent Vaerst, am terribly sorry for the crime of which I was convicted. Incarceration has given me the opportunity to reflect upon my many poor choices.
Yes, sir. I believe that I am fully rehabilitated. Chain gangs build a strong constitution, and I spent my evenings in rigorous study of the Bible. If set free, I shall endeavor to never again fall to wickedness.
No, ma’am. I would never again strike a police officer in the mouth with my fist and knock out several of his teeth. That was uncalled for and I am greatly ashamed of my actions.
No, sir, I will never again associate with the likes of Big Tony Delgado or his gang ever again. Like many men in our great nation at the time, I was out of work and desperate to take care of my young family. Mr. Delgado offered me money, and in a bout of weakness I took it. I swear that was the only time I’ve ever performed such deeds, and I will never do so again.
Sorry. As I told the judge and the police detectives, I’m afraid that I never got the names of the other criminals who were involved. Nor do I remember their faces. It was very dark. Mr. Delgado did not order us to crack that safe. We came up with that scheme entirely on our own. The police pressured me to testify against Mr. Delgado, but since he had nothing to do with it, that would’ve been dishonest, and I would not add perjury to my crimes.
Oh, these? (–prisoner holds up hands to display disfigured knuckles to the board–) I was accused of knee breaking for Mr. Delgado’s loan sharks, but never convicted—because I’m innocent of such violence! These here were ‘cause I was a bare knuckle boxer for a time. These scars were earned honestly. Or sorta honest. I swear.
My people? That’s a curious question. What do you mean, sir?
Oh, you’re a professor. So that’s why this is being recorded. I understand. You’re probably trying to comprehend the… what is it… socio economical whatever of my upbringing…I’ll have you know, sir, that I’m no malformed half-wit of poor breeding… Yes, eugenics you call it now. Well, professor, my crimes are not a result of my blood. I come from a proud line.
My family has been here a long time. I’m not some kraut off a boat. I know Massachusetts is rich in history and y’all probably trace your lineage back to the Mayflower, but my forefathers were Hessians, arrived not too long thereafter. Brought here to fight against George Washington, but they stayed, as rebellion… I mean a love of freedom… was in their nature.
They ended up in the south. My grandfathers were confederates. Not because of commitment but rather geography. I come from coal miners, steel workers, and timber cutters, there’s even some Cherokees in there somewhere, but all were honest hard working types, despite the many accusations of thievery, moonshining, and bootlegging alleged against us.
Yes… that file you got there is correct. Of my five younger brothers one was convicted of bootlegging. He was an anomaly. My older brother died in the Great War, in France, a noble sacrifice and example to us all. I would’ve emulated him, but I was too young and missed the war. Upon release from this place I will proudly hang an American flag over my front door.
The mark upon my back? The Vaersts are Roman Catholic, sir. My parents are exceedingly devout, good people and stern. We were raised to keep an eye out for evil doings. There’s a spiritual darkness in some of the far back woods of the south, strange folk, and rumors of worse in the swamps where the moss hides unspeakable things… not too different from some of the places around Massachusetts if the more superstitious prisoners here are to be believed.
Sorry, sir, I was rambling. To answer your question, the tattoo was for protection against temptation and a reminder for me to do my best.
Well, yes, ma’am, obviously it didn’t work last time. But as a reformed man and penitent sinner, I will continue to seek counsel from Father Matthias, who is respected local clergy. Oh, you know him too, ma’am? I have built a friendship with Father Matthias over the last year because he serves one day a week as the Black Gate Prison chaplain.
What would I do if paroled? I have been a boxer, a lock smith, I’ve cut trees, and worked in a Bessemer steel mill. During the worst of the depression I rode the rails to whichever town there was rumor of work to be had. Should you show mercy to me this day, I shall go directly to the docks and apply for membership at the Stevedores Union, for a recent letter from my wife told me that they are looking for men with strong backs.
Yes, sir. I figured my wife had something to do with this. Normally I would not be up for parole for at least another year, but since you called me in today I assumed my wife must’ve begged her daddy to put in a good word with the warden. That must’ve been difficult for her. She’s a very proud woman.
No, ma’am, I shall not lie. For I have lived a life of poverty and challenge, Lauren is my bright and shining star. I love her very much, and she has waited faithfully for me.
She comes from a line of French aristocrats, and her father, an educated man like yourself, Professor, did not approve of her marrying someone he termed a backwoods cracker German. But that’s just how things go sometimes. They threatened to disown her, I’ve caused a great many arguments in her father’s mansion, and she’s still on the outs with her family.
She was pregnant with our first when I was incarcerated. – Why, yes, ma’am, since I was out of work and unable to provide for my family, her pregnancy did contribute to my desperation when I took that ill-fated safe cracking job. No. I have not yet met my son. All I have is this photo of them which she mailed me…. Here you go. Yes, ma’am, they are beautiful. This tragedy weighs heavily upon me, and has caused me great and considerable guilt. Please don’t cry, ma’am.
Should I be released, I shall do my best to provide for and protect my family. Upon my family name and with god as my witness, you have my solemn oath.
Parole Status: Granted Date: March 20th, 1935