The Post-Modern Masks of Nyarlathotep

Episode I: The Passion of Jackson Elias (part 1)
Jax's return pulls our heroes back together suddenly...

In the early morning hours, a car careens up the Queens-side ramp to the Queensboro Bridge. At the wheel is Charleston Chiu, intrepid occult reporter, and Alphonse Gilbert, valet to Chiu’s boss, Freddie Blakely.

They are pursuing three creatures they saw leaving the Maspeth cemetery, which Chiu had wanted to stake out after hearing reports of grave robbers. The creatures prove both tough and acrobatic; Gilbert hypothesizes they are orang-utans. One of them scrambles up a support cable and springs onto their car. Chiu slams on the brakes, and Gilbert fires a burst from a Tommy gun into the creature. It is slowed down but not stopped; Chiu guns the engine and runs it over.

Another of the creatures stumbles into oncoming traffic and a pickup truck spins out of control, slamming into Chiu and Gilbert’s vehicle. Gilbert staggers out and shoots one of the creatures, blasting it off the bridge and into the river. Unfortunately, the third creature, having dodged the oncoming truck, pounces on him, mauling him with claws. Even a burst at short range does not stop this creature.

Chiu jumps into the cab of the truck, does a quick J-turn, and races at the creature. It rolls out the way, still holding on to Gilbert, but it is enough of a distraction for the Frenchman to throw it off of him. Chiu fishtails around again and smashes the creature.

By now the sounds of police cars racing towards the bridge from Queens can be heard, so Gilbert and Chiu take the truck into Manhattan, eventually ditching it and going to Brenda’s Diner in Harlem. There they encounter their boss, Roland “Freddie” Blakely, notorious playboy and nominal publisher of the Golden Sentinel, stumbling out of the Cotton Club.

Meanwhile William “Doc” Blont wakes up in his SRO in Kip’s Bay. As he is heading out to his longshoreman’s job, the desk clerk hands him a telegram from Jackson Elias, asking him to meet her at Grand Central Station that morning. He calls in fired to his job.

At the Sentinel, Freddie meets Addison Bright, former playboy gone straight.

“Ah, Sunshine old man! What can I do for you.”

“Just checking that you’re coming to the charity ball tonight, old sport.”

“The ball?”

“Yes, the one I wrote you about three weeks ago, called you about two weeks ago, and dropped by to remind you about last week.”

Freddie calls for his secretary, Sheila. “Abigail old girl, am I going to a ball thingy tonight?”

“Yes, Mr. Blakely.”

“Oh, and about the check, it doesn’t need to be certified, old man.” says Bright.

“Anastasia, am I bringing Sunshine a check?”

“Yes, Mr. Blakely.”

“I am? Capital! How much?”

“$25,000, Mr. Blakely.”

Meanwhile Blont arrives at Grand Central and waits for Elias; nobody matching her description gets off the train. However, a young newsboy approaches him; this turns out to be Elias in disguise. She asks to stay with him for the day, and casually invites him to come to Bright’s charity ball.

At the Sentinel, Shelia sees Bright out. “I’m surprised to see you here today boss. Not only because it’s a Monday, but because you told me you were meeting your friend Elias today.”

“Did I?”

“Yes, Mr. Blakely, you got a telegram two weeks ago.”

Buried under the coat checks and tailor’s bills on his desk, Freddie finds the telegram from Jackson Elias, asking him to meet her at the docks at 9 AM and pleading for him to not be late.

“Shelia, what time is it?”

“9:05 AM, Mr. Blakely.”

Freddie hustles to the docks with Chiu and Gilbert. The purser tells him that no one using any of Elias’s aliases had been on the ship. A passenger who resembles Elias gives Blakely a message explaining that she would see him at Bright’s ball that evening.

At the British Embassy, Pearkes meets his indefatigable chief of staff, Captain Sam Steele. “Remember you’re to go to Mr. Bright’s ball with the ambassador tonight, Colonel.”

“Very good Steele. Now, be a good fellow and walk MacDonald.”

“Excellent sir,” says Steele as he picks up the elkhound’s leash. “After all, that’s what I went to Sandhurst for.”

Elias asks Blont to go to the British Embassy to secure a passport under a different identity for her; although as the daughter of a Canadian she is entitled to a British passport, she insists that it not be under her name. She also asks Blont to go by her old office on 135th street and see if anyone is watching it. Blont heads out to accomplish these missions, stopping in the meantime at the docks to see if he can arrange for an emergency transport out of the city for Elias; while he doesn’t understand what she is afraid of, he wants to make sure there’s a backup plan to get her to safety. He finds Mr. M’Dari, a respected East African foreman.

“Ah, the doctor! What can I do for you, my friend.”

After Blont explained his problem, M’Dari nodded gravely. “Yes, it can be done. It will not be cheap! But it can be done. Do not worry. M’Dari knows everything! It is all up here,” he says, tapping his head. “I keep it all up here. That is why they trust M’Dari!”

Blont meets Pearkes coming in the front door of the Embassy. While Blont has mostly tried to put the war behind him, Pearkes still nurses resentments over Blont’s drinking on duty while under his command. He examines the paperwork for the passport, and recognizes Elias’s picture; he also notices that the papers are earmarked for Smythe, a rather shady clerk in the passport office. He decides to hold the papers until Elias can meet him to discuss the situation, and tells Steele to show Blont out of the Embassy.

Steele looks at Blont. “I say, you must have been on the Western Front.”

“Yes. Yes, I was.”

“I’ve got nothing but respect for you chaps. Only made it to East Africa myself. But you had much worse.” He pauses. “Tell you what I can do. I’ll see if I can get the papers from the Colonel and have them put through myself. Would that be all right?”

“Thanks very much, I’m grateful.”

Blont then swings by Elias’s old office and confirms that it is being watched by several black men.

At Bright’s ball, Chiu fast-talks his way past the master of ceremonies and the off-duty cops providing security; his press pass may not be the best, but it’s enough to get him in. Blont arrives at the back of the Waldorf, where the ball is being held, and a friend of Elias’s gives him a waiter’s jacket and tells him to go out and serve drinks.

The British ambassador arrives, accompanied by Pearkes and his fiancee. They meet Blakely, Chiu, and Gilbert; Constance, Pearkes’s fiancee, is very taken with the playboy Blakely, chastising Pearkes for not introducing her to his famous friends. Blont arrives with drinks, and Bright ushers all of them in the back to view some Gainsboroughs he had recently acquired.

In the back room they meet Elias, wearing an evening gown.

“What ho, Jackson, what’s all this bother about?” says Freddie.

“And why do you want a passport with a false name?” demands Pearkes.

“Because I might need to run, and don’t want to use any of the names people know me by,” says Jackson.

“Just what is wrong?” asks Blont, with concern.

Elias lights up a cigarette. “If I told you, believe me, you couldn’t deal with it.”

“I say!”

Chiu mutters something about hoping the dead don’t come back again, referencing his previous adventure with Elias.

“I asked you all here because I need some help,” says Elias. “Freddie, I need your help to get me an interview with Erica Carlyle.”

“Carlyle? Not Rotten Roger’s sister? I knew him slightly, back in the day. Something terrible happened, didn’t it?”

“He was torn to pieces in the African bush. Him and everyone with him.”

“What’s the other thing,” asks Pearkes.

“There’s an auction tomorrow, and I need you to buy something for me. A dagger, with an ibis head.”

Blont shakes his head slightly. He is concerned for Elias; in his medical opinion, she’s obviously suffered a recent breakdown and is exhibiting the symptoms of paranoia. “What’s really going on, Jackson?”

Elias takes a long drag on her cigarette. “Not all the members of the Carlyle expedition died. I’ve talked to Jack Brady, his close friend, this year in Singapore and Shanghai.”

The others try and get more information out of Elias, but she clams up. Pearkes offers to bring her to the Embassy for her protection, but she refuses. “I’m not going any place where there’s guns and walls to keep me leaving.”

“Well, me and the Admiral”—meaning Colonel Pearkes—“can handle the auction, and I’ll just pop out and see if Erica’s here,” says Freddie.

Blakely finds Erica Carlyle in one corner of the ballroom, drinking the seltzer water that was the strongest thing Bright was serving. With her is her beau, Bradley Grey, a lawyer who’s occasionally bailed out Freddie, and Constance Blythe, the Colonel’s fiancee. “I say, Erica, would you mind if one of my reporters popped by tomorrow?”

“Certainly, Freddie. Just have your man call my man and we’ll arrange something for the afternoon.”

The group soon splits up again, having decided that Blont and Chiu will accompany Elias to the Carlyle mansion on Long Island, while Freddie, the Colonel, and Gilbert will attend the auction.

Prelude: France--March, 1918
In which our characters first cross paths...

It is the spring of 1918. After four years of pointlessly bloody stalemate, the German Army is once again marching on Paris. Inside the City of Lights, soldiers and civilians struggle to find some semblance of a normal life.

Just out of the hospital, where he had been drying out from an extended absinthe bender, is Roland “Freddie” Blakely, wastrel Englishman rich enough to buy his way out of the Army. While enjoying the hospitality, he made the acquaintance of Lt. William Blont, a corpsman recuperating from a gas attack. Haunted by the death of many of his comrades, Blont was trying to do with a bottle what the Germans had failed to do with phosgene.

Blont’s commander, Maj. George Pearkes, VC, wanted to bring him up on charges—provided he could find him. He asked freelance journalist Elisa “Jax” Olney to help him. Olney and Pearkes had previously crossed paths when an ordinance shortfall had nearly killed him; her assistance saved his life, although he usually gave the story out the other way. Olney agreed to help him provided he find a way to get her to the front; she’d so far been unable to secure permission to report from there.

Meanwhile at the Moulin Rouge, bartender Alphonse Gilbert, formerly of the French army, briefly a guest of the German Army (along with Major Pearkes, who had effected his escape almost immediately), and current high-ranking member of the Communist Party in Paris, entertains Blont and Blakely. It is at the Moulin that Blakely is reunited briefly with Olney, an old fling of his from before the war, when they were both Socialist sympathizers. Their reunion is mostly entertaining for the other patrons, and ends, as so many of these encounters do, with Blakely’s drink splashed in his face.

Blont is preparing to be invalided back to the States (an American, he volunteered with the Canadians in 1914.) Pearkes, having caught up with him, cancels those orders and instead orders him back to the front. Olney, however, intervenes and Pearkes reluctantly allows him to be transferred instead to Archangel where the Allies are aiding the White Russians.

Blakely, however, hatches a plot to try and make everyone happy. Giving Gilbert an absurd amount of money, he has the bartender use his contacts to change the orders. Blont is discharged and returns to America using Olney’s ticket; she, in turn, will get to go to Archangel and report from there. Happy that everything has been apparently wrapped up, Freddie returns to England.

Time passes. The war ends in a bitter armistice. In France, Alphonse Gilbert uses Freddie’s money to bankroll the abortive Paris Soviet, which is quickly crushed. Finding France suddenly inhospitable, he moves to New York City. Olney, now writing under the pseudonym of “Jackson Elias”, files a number of dispatches from Archangel and then the last days of the Western Front; after the Armistice, she researches death cults around the world and writes a couple of books thoroughly debunking their myths.

Freddie discovers that the Foreign Office takes a rather dim view of financing Communist revolution; he is their guest for several months until his fearsome aunts effect his release on the condition that he find residence in some other country. Having stayed in New York before the war, he returns there and takes up the management of his aunt’s weekly newspaper, the Golden Sentinel, a theosophical and spiritualist rag. On the recommendation of Dr. Henry Armitage of Miskatonic University, he hires a young Chinese-American man named Charleston Chiu as one of his reporters; Chiu had previously worked on a story with Jackson Elias, shortly before she left New York to work on a new book on the occult.

Gilbert, having become a respected member of the Jewish Mob who specializes in “cleaning” crime scenes, has a chance encounter with Jackson Elias, who hires him to investigate a “haunted house” in Harlem. After a hair-raising experience, Gilbert goes straight and eventually is hired as a valet by Blakely.

Major Pearkes is promoted to Colonel but finds his career stalling out, although he has also found happiness with his fiancee, Constance B. Copeman. Much to his chagrin he is removed from line command and sent to New York as aide-de-camp for the British Embassy.

William Blont returns home to discover that Freddie’s work has unexpectedly made him a war hero; he receives a citation from President Wilson. Desperate to avoid the spotlight, he has a checkered career and loses his family due to his alcohol use and difficulty overcoming his wartime experiences. By 1925, however, he has moved to New York City, working odd jobs while earning a good reputation as a sidewalk doctor who is always willing to help out the unfortunate.

Then suddenly Jackson Elias returns to New York…


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