Wednesday, 1 July 1925
Freddie finds Dr. Mwimbe standing by the rail, watching the sun rise behind the islands of the Zanzibari archipelago. “Can you smell it, Mr. Blakely? That clove smell? Those are the islands of my home. You are welcome to stay at my home.”
“You still have a family house here?”
“I am deeply honored.”
“You should be.”
Zanzibar! The exotic Spice Islands! Once the capital of the Sultanate of Oman! Now a British protectorate, stripped of its mainland possessions, but still maintaining a sultanate.
The European population is small, under a thousand people. The caste and color system prevails among the locals—Omani Arabs on top, then the Zanzibaris who claim Persian descent, and then mainland Africans. It is the origin of the Swahili language.
[I actually found a book from 1920 on Zanzibar—thanks, Google Books!]
The oldest part of Zanzibar, the Stone Town, is known for its old houses, with elaborately carved doors in the Indian tradition. This is where Dr. Mwimbe takes her companions.
“Doctor, what is the socially appropriate form of our relationship?” asks Freddie.
“You are my guests. The common people I do not care about, and the nobles have too much respect for me.”
“I was more worried about what your family would think.”
“My family are mostly dead. It will happen to all people in time.”
Dr. Mwimbe’s house is deep in Stone Town. The door is even more elaborately carved than the other doors in the neighborhood, showing signs of Indian and Persian influence; Charleston notes many signs in the twisting patterns that he has seen in the Al-Azif: protective spells, spells calling on the name of Nyarlathotep, as most incantations do.
They are met at the door by an elderly African man in a butler’s uniform.
“Imani! Wie geht es dir, mein lieber Freund?” says Mwimbe with obvious pleasure.
“Ganz schön, meine gnädige Frau,” says the old man. “Sind sie unseren Gäster?”
Fritz and Freddie, who both speak German, look at each other and shrug.
“Maybe that’s the only language they have in common?” says Freddie.
Mwimbe’s other servant is a young Frenchwoman, her cook. “Enchantée, messieurs,” she says, curtseying. “Madame, je dois préparer le déjeuner pour vous?”
“Non, pas maintenant.”
The house is two stories high, built surrounding a large courtyard with a fountain. It has relatively few doors—most passages are left unblocked for ventilation—except for a large room with locked double doors on the second floor, next to Mwimbe’s excellent library.
Fritz and Francis head for the Port Warden’s office to see if they can follow up on when the Ivory Wind was supposed to arrive in Zanzibar. Fritz, well-schooled in the ways of bureaucracy by stint of working in an insurance agency and having grown up in Austria-Hungary, secures a promise to get the records in a few days.
[Bureaucracy spend by KP.]
Freddie heads for the harbor and catches a ferry to Dar-es-Salaam, to chase down the leads from Jax’s notes. He wanders around, asking after Jax, and using his connections to try and get appointments with the local officials.
Jimmy checks into local business records, using Jax’s notes as a guide. She discovers that a single shipping company supplied the Carlyle expedition with most of their equipment. It’s run by an Indian family; while everything is in her uncle’s name back in Bengal, locally it is run by a woman named Dil Chandra Thakur.
It turns out that the Ivory Wind has shipped items from Thakur’s warehouses back to Emerson Imports in New York.
Jimmy asks around about spiritualists and magicians. He hears that there is a tradition of sorcery and witchcraft on the island of Penga, the northern island of the Zanzibar archipelago. He also finds out that a local white woman, Mrs. N. Smythe Forbes, is very interested in spiritualism. With his characteristic understated charm, Jimmy gets invited to a séance being held that very afternoon.
“Is there anyone you wish to contact?” asks Mrs. Forbes, a pleasant, grandmotherly woman.
“Yes, you!” says Jimmy.
“But I am not on the other side! Oh, wait, I see. Is this to be a formal interview? We could go to my offices.” She indicates the sitting room she uses to publish her English-language paper, The Star.
“Off-the-record,” says Jimmy, who feels he is getting good at this journalism stuff. “Oh, whatever I ask, try not to freak out.”
“I’ve peered through the veil, young man, I doubt there is anything you can frighten me with.”
“Excellent! Have you ever heard of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, or M’Weru?”
“I’ve never heard that name. The Cult is legend; they say it is a witch society on Penga. I don’t believe it; you know those [racial slurs], very superstitious.”
“Do you remember the Carlyle Expedition?”
“Oh yes, it was very exciting. Strange people though. We never saw Mr. Roger, he was always ill. Come to think of it, we never saw Miss Masters. I suppose you can guess what was going on. Sir Aubrey was very nice to me. He was interested in looking for a lost city somewhere in Africa; I put him in touch with our Mr. Jarmyn. Now, young man, you can’t fool me. You’re a reporter, aren’t you? Are you from the Kane syndicate? We’d dearly love to have our little Star as part of the Kane syndicate.”
“Actually, I work for a man named Freddie Blakely.”
“Mr. Roland Blakely? The publisher of the Golden Sentinel? We don’t get it very often, but I read every word! Such brilliance! Next you’ll be telling me you know Wo Fong, the author of so much Oriental wisdom!”
In a flash, Jimmy realizes this must be Charleston. He remembers Sheila telling him once that she wrote down random things he used to say and published them in a column. “It’s a small world.”
“Wait, Mr. Blakely is here? Could you come down and grant me an interview? I’d be happy to give you free access to all of our files.”
Jimmy makes his way back to Mwimbe’s house and searches through her books. He finds a mathematics textbook and finally locates an entry on Babbage and Lovelace. Charles Babbage designed a mechanical calculator, called the Difference Engine, and Ada Lovelace was the first to realize that it would be possible to create instructions that would allow you to make the Difference Engine calculate many different kinds of problems. Checking his cryptography notes, Jimmy realizes that the search for such a mechanical device could be revolutionary in the field of coding.
“Hey Francis, this technology could replace computers!”
“Those guys who add up columns of numbers?”
But what does it mean? Why would the conspiracy be interested in such an obscure subject?
[1 point History and Cryptography spends by JP.]