Example Character: The Hell Where Youth And Laughter Go
(Note: This event was set in 1915, on a Red Cross barge near the Western Front of WWI.)
Name: Sgt. William Hart
Social Class: Middle
How you first felt about the war: A necessary evil. At least it least offered you an opportunity to get away from encroaching heat.
How you feel about the war now: Still a necessary evil – how else to stop Germany?
Three Adjectives Which Describe You: Greedy, imaginative, likable
Greatest Fear / Redeeming Quality: Discovery (of your secret) / Imagination
Faith: Agnostic Christian
Big Secret: Fraud (Financial)
You are Sergeant William Hart, of the British infantry. You volunteered for the army as soon as war was declared, as you are quite patriotic. Never mind all that fuss down in Austria-Hungary, you believe that this war is really about stopping German expansionism.
However, there’s another reason you were so quick to join up: to stay one step ahead of the law. You’ve roamed the length and breadth of England under a handful of assumed names, running a dozen little frauds and fiddles, ranging from shell games on a street corner to a mail order business for animal medicines. That latter did you quite well until someone went to the newly formed Trade Regulation Board, damn it all.
Immediately thereafter, you landed a plum of a position as a clerk at a bingo hall in Manchester, a job in which you were trusted to handle a lot of cash on a daily basis. That was a nice little earner but – as it turned out – had you a little too close to the public eye for (your) security’s sake. Judging by the small – but significant enough! – article in the Manchester Herald three days after you decamped your lodgings with several hundred Pounds in your pocket, you left at just the right time. You decided it was time to get out of England for a bit, and political circumstances gave you an opportunity to do it on the taxpayers’ shilling.
You were too smart to try for a place in the Paymasters’ office – those boys are watched very closely. Almost as good, though, would be a supply position. You wouldn’t even have to make inventory disappear – just let it be known that you’d be open to certain encouragement to prioritize certain shipments, shall we say?
Unfortunately, you didn’t realize – how could you have realized? – that even supply sergeants can get a little close to the front lines and, in fact, be practically on them. The way this war has turned has, of course, been a shock to everyone – especially you! Your plans of building yourself a well-lined nest for after the war were quickly blown to bits by shelling, and those bits drowned in the mud. Survival became the name of the game. Fortunately, a chap who knows how to find things wanted by other chaps has a lot of fellows looking out for him. Unfortunately, none of those chaps are proof against a stray shell.
Your injuries are not severe – a broken arm, some bad bruises – but they’re enough to have you removed from the front for the next few weeks, and for that, you’re grateful. You’re starting to wonder if you can use your connections to wheedle a posting away from the front – some things are more important than money, such as your life.
You’re not a bad person, per se. You’re simply greedy. You want money and don’t want to have to work too hard for it. You’ve got an agile mind, largely misdirected into schemes for getting something for nothing – or almost nothing. You prefer to run bookkeeping fiddles and mail-fraud schemes, to anything that puts you in close contact with the public. Whilst you’ve got a perfectly charming public persona, close contact means that your face might be remembered – or someone might get close enough to do you physical harm. You’re much safer off selling a bit of patent medicine to someone trying to deworm their pigs – if it doesn’t work, the customer doesn’t even know where to find you, nor are they likely to go to the effort.
If you applied this creativity and mental agility to a legitimate career, you would probably be quite successful – although you doubt you’d be quite as well off, or as interested. The creative challenge of fleecing the masses keeps you going as much as the financial returns. Maybe you’ll go straight after the war – maybe.
You’ve got a hundred Pounds still in a money-belt around your waist – your emergency funds.
Goals (Such As They Are)
Find the easiest, most efficient way to get away from the front – ideally without severely impinging your cash-flow. Maintaining your emergency funds and your little “nest egg” are your primary concerns.
Who You Know
Corporal Matthew Cooper – Poor sap. He’s suffering shell-shock and a bit of a wreck. As he’s been mostly unconscious for the past two days, you’ve not had a chance to strike up much of an acquaintance.
Dr. John Smith – Ostensibly in charge of this floating ward. He seems like a decent enough sort – perhaps a little naïve. His acquaintance might prove worth cultivating, for future use, if nothing else.
Rhys / Rhiannon Jones – a volunteer for the Red Cross. You’d have dismissed them as some hopelessly optimistic fool had you not noticed that s/he’s quite resourceful, in their way – able to find a pair of socks for someone in need, or a pint of gin. Such resourcefulness is very useful. You want to get to know them better – maybe that shiny attitude is for appearance’s sake, only. Should they prove to have any sort of larceny in their heart, perhaps you could work together towards mutually beneficial ends.
Rowan Fletcher – the barge pilot. You don’t speak French, although he knows a little English. He seems quite unremarkable.
Rory Flanagan – he seems vaguely familiar, but you’re not sure why.