Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CHARACTER SPOTLIGHT #1 - Patience and Prudence

PATIENCE & PRUDENCE are an enigmatic pair of young women who worked for the Zenith crime lord known as the Stiff for several years in the 1930s and 40s. They appear to be identical twins, though one is black and the other white. Nothing is known of their origins. They were rescued by the Stiff and Baron Samedi from the despicable Doctor Almanac, who had subjected them to torture and mutilation in an effort (unsuccessful) to bend them to his will. ("Funeral For a Fiend," Pro Se Presents #8) Patience and Prudence are the ultimate "fixers." They can do anything that is necessary to resolve any situation. It is unknown whether they possess any occult or psychic powers. Both girls are mute, having had their tongues cut out by Doctor Almanac.

In the upcoming Black Centipede Confidential, the girls have a go at the Loch Ness Monster!

FROM "Funeral for a Fiend"

...He pulled up close to the rear doors and parked. As we got out of the ambulance, the nuns opened the rear door and hauled Barney’s mortal clay out of the vehicle. The Stiff unlocked the back door and politely waved the pallbearing nuns through. We followed them into an embalming area, where they put the late Glasscock on a shiny aluminum table.

The nuns shucked off their wimples and habits, and stood revealed as something that defied my ability to categorize.

They could have been identical twins if not for the fact that each girl’s color scheme was the exact opposite of the other’s. Patience had very dark brown skin and pure white hair, straightened and cut in a pageboy style. Prudence was deathly pale and her hair, cut the same way as Patience’s, was jet-black.

They were of the same height and build, and if there was any difference in their facial features, it was too subtle for me to detect. (And anything too subtle for me to detect simply is not there.) Their features were ethnically neutral, equally appropriate for both skin colors, and they appeared to be exactly twenty years old, not a single day more or less. I can’t explain how they gave such a specific impression, but they did. They wore identical dark-gray long-sleeved frocks, buttoned at the neck, with skirts that fell to a few inches below the knees.

“I’d like you to meet two extremely valued associates of mine. Patience and Prudence.”

The girls stared at me. There was nothing in their faces that I was able to read. I had a sense that I was looking into some very deep waters.

"Girls," my host continued, "this is the Black Centipede. He has another name, but he might not appreciate my giving it to you. I believe we can trust him. Within reason." The girls nodded...


“I’ve never seen anything quite like them,” I said.

“And you’re not going to," said the Stiff. "They are absolutely unique.”

“You trust them.”


“You’re sure they won’t talk?”

“Absolutely. For one thing, they are completely loyal. For another, they have both had their tongues cut out.”

I was appalled. “What? You mean you…”

“No, William! Good heavens! Do you think me capable of such an atrocity? They were that way when I found them. I rescued them from Doctor Almanac, in fact. That despicable lump of offal. He had subjected them to all manner of abusive, humiliating treatment, in an effort to break them down and make them his slaves. He wanted to exploit their many talents. Samedi and I found them chained up in the basement of one of Almanac's safe houses after he disappeared. My heart went out to them.”

I saw nothing to be gained by raising the subject of the atrocities he had committed on Frenchy Donovan and his capos. The circumstances were, of course, quite different.

“What talents?” I asked. “What else do they do, besides… this?”

“Almost everything. They are abstract thinkers, yet ruthlessly pragmatic. They are artists without sentiment. They fear nothing. If they have consciences at all, they are remarkably lenient ones. They can do whatever might need to be done in absolutely any situation. Not only are they Jacks-- or Jills-- of all trades, they are masters-- or mistresses-- of all. They are devoted to me, and I to them.”

“That’s… touching, I guess.”

“One sometimes chances upon a beautiful bouquet while slogging through a rubbish tip.”

“Where did they come from originally?” I wanted to know.

“I have no idea.”

“How did they get like this?”

“Again, no idea.”

“They’re scary.”

“And beautiful.”



FROM "Blood of the Centipede"

Earlier in the year, Frank Nitti's position within the syndicate had been the very definition of precarious. There had already been one very fishy assassination attempt, and Frank and I both suspected that the responsibility might lie with mob big shots like Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo, Jake Guzik, Murray Humphreys, and a few others, who had muscled into Nitti's top spot in the wake of Frank's own legal troubles and Al Capone's conviction and incarceration for income tax evasion. Ricca had already assumed leadership in everything but name, and it seemed that Frank had become very, very expendable. Nitti was well aware of this, and had been flirting with Doctor Almanac in an attempt to save his own hide.

When Almanac fell, Frank got worried. But he had a couple of things going for him. One, he owed me for keeping my mouth shut about his dirty deals, and also for not blowing his brains out one evening when I had a very strong inclination to do so. Two, he was terrified of me, and that meant he was a man I could control. Frank Nitti was potentially very valuable to the Black Centipede, so the Black Centipede would take steps to protect and nurture him.

I had asked for a favor from the Stiff, a prominent member of Zenith's new criminal royalty. He had a pair of very remarkable associates, a set of enigmatic "twins" named Patience and Prudence. Put simply, they were the ultimate "fixers." They could do anything, resolve any situation. I found them frightening and compelling in equal measure, and I had persuaded the Stiff to lend them to Frank Nitti for a period of two weeks. As Frank had just mentioned, it had taken all of two days for the girls to accomplish a significant turnaround. I had no idea what the girls had done to Ricca, Accardo, Guzik and the rest, nor did I want to know. I imagine it must have been a thing of gruesome beauty.

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