The Post-Modern Masks of Nyarlathotep

Episode III: Night Comes On (Part 2)

Pearkes checks in at the local garrison. Not much of note is happening, although with the parliamentary elections approaching, the British are preparing for an unstable political situation. Pearkes takes the time to find out the locations of oases and supply depots from Alexandria to Port Said.

He does learn that locals are avoiding the catacombs of Kom El Shaqafa, speaking nonsense about some kind of “white ghost.”

Meanwhile Freddie hires a dragoman and takes a tour of the city with Alphonse. They stop at Kom El Shaqafa, but Freddie notices his guide’s nervousness. “Hasan, my man, what is it you’re worried about?”

“Sahib, this place has become haunted by a ghul. It comes out at night and attacks goats and sheep. My cousin Hasan told me his neighbor’s sister’s child was killed by this terror, may Allah strike it down.”

“I say! Well then, we should probably leave, don’t you think? You know, I’ve always wanted to try some of this Egyptian coffee I’ve heard about.”

“You are in luck, sir! My other cousin Hasan runs the best teahouse in all Alexandria! I will take you there!”

Freddie and Alphonse spend a pleasant day enjoying the world’s strongest tea and the completely legal hashish available in cousin Hasan’s teahouse.

Late that night Pearkes rouses Freddie and Alphonse, and they trek out to the catacombs. Pearkes discovers a clear set of tracks that lead from the catacombs and out into the Old Quarter. Examining the gate to the tombs, Gilbert chillingly discovers that it has been unlocked—from the inside.

The group descend into the catacombs. Pearkes follows a trail down into the third level, which is partially flooded. He finds a tunnel that has signs of having been used often in the recent past, and they make their way down it, squeezing past a part that is completely underwater.

At the end of the tunnel they find a small chamber. The remains of a tiny fire is in one corner, and the walls are blackened with soot. A horse blanket is tossed in one corner and shows signs of having been used to sleep on. One one wall, Freddie discovers a portrait of Isis that hasn’t been damaged by the smoke. Something about it bothers him. With a start, he realizes that he recognizes the face: Hypatia Masters.

Alphonse goes through the blanket, and finds a couple of old books, all dating from the early 19th century. Most are trashy novels, with Frankenstein being the sole exception.

Suddenly they hear a noise from the tunnel. Someone is coming.

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Episode III: Night Comes On (Part 1)

The trip over is uneventful, except for the transfer at Marseilles, which is a bit nerve-wracking for Alphonse—he may still be wanted in France for treason.

As the sun sinks into the Mediterranean, they approach the ancient harbor of Alexandria. Boats surround the steamer, hawking wares and advertising hotels and tour services. Sheila had long ago made arrangements, and the group ensconce themselves at Claridge’s, the best hotel in town.

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Episode III: Night Comes On

Right before he is set to embark for Cairo, Pearkes gets a call from a strange man with a thick eastern European accent. “Mary Rider,” he says. “You want to find out about Jackson? Mary Rider.”

Pearkes has the embassy staff chase down the name. A Mrs. Mary Rider recently vanished on her way home from the docks on North River; she had been away on holiday.

Pearkes treks out to the Rider household, a first-floor apartment in a Chelsea brownstone. Mr. Rider isn’t much help; all he knows is that his wife never came home from her trip. According to the police, a cab dropped her off in front of the building, but she never arrived.

Pearkes does notice a family portrait of the Rider family; Mrs. Rider is a pretty brunette who bears a resemblance to Jackson Elias.

Chasing down the name of the cabbie from the police records, Pearkes brings Freddie out to Bensonhurst to meet the man. On the way over, Freddie tells Pearkes about how a woman who looked like Jackson met him on the docks the day he went to meet Elias; she gave him the message that Jax would see him at the charity ball that night.

Seamus, the cabbie, is none too happy to see two British gentlemen, one in Army uniform, show up at his door. Freddie lays on the charm, getting a grudging amount of respect from the hack. He doesn’t know much—like he told the police, he dropped the lady off—but he does say that he saw a beat-up Ford following him, driven by two black men. Pearkes and Blakely exchange looks—was the cult involved?

That evening four policemen pay a call on the offices of the Golden Sentinel. As it turns out, they are security for Erica Carlyle. Her bodyguard, Joe Corey, has been killed, and people have broken into her house. She’s going into hiding. She is surprised to hear that Freddie is heading for Cairo, and she tells him that if he’s determined to follow up on Roger, he should look for his former agent, Warren Besart. She also mentions that her beau, Bradley Grey, is running for District Attorney next year, and he’d appreciate any help Freddie can give him. Freddie gladly agrees, and donates a check to Grey.

The next day they set sail from New York. Freddie of course rates the Imperial Suite, with Alphonse in adjacent servants’ quarters; Pearkes settles into a first-class cabin, and Charleston vanishes somewhere below decks.

The first day at sea, Alphonse runs into his brother Anton, much to his surprise. Having lifted somebody’s tickets, Anton is on his way to Cairo to help out his brother—he speaks Arabic, a legacy of his posting in North Africa during the war—and to maybe clean up a bit at the ritzy hotels Freddie will be staying at.

On the way over, MacDonald becomes listless and sick. The ship’s veterinarian thinks it is just seasickness. Pearkes studies Egyptology to give him a basic familiarity.

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Episode II: The Damned of the Earth (Part 3)

Up in Harlem, Blont, Gilbert and Chiu have resumed their lonesome vigil. The kids they hired tell them that other than a brief trip out and back by N’Kwame, nobody has come in or out of the store.

They sit back to wait. Around 1 AM, people begin to walk in to the store, wearing their Sunday best. It’s a mixed crowd, primarily African-American but also some white people. After a while, the sound of singing can be heard from underground. Chiu shakes his head—the songs remind him of some of the things he’s read in his books.

In a cell on the Upper West Side, Freddie’s mind wanders back to the day he went to tell his aunts he was engaged to Jackson Elias. He recalls the day well; on the way in, he ran into his cousin Bertie.

“Hullo, Wooster.”

“Hullo, Blakely. What are you here for?”

“Seeing the aunts.”

“Ah, you too. They’re really on the warpath today. Oh, old man, thanks for that butler recommendation. This Jeeves fellow is a bit of a stiff, but should make a smashing butler. Definitely won’t steal a man’s socks.”

“Glad to hear he worked out for you. I always found him dull and rather unintelligent.”

Inside the parlor, the aunts viewed Freddie with a terrible countenance.

“Freddie, what’s this about you getting married,” asked Dahlia, who always had a soft spot for her wastrel nephew.

“And an American! Explain yourself, Roland,” thundered Agatha, who had a soft spot for nobody.

“Well, you see, she’s a reporter…”

“In trade! Roland, what were you thinking.”

“Oh, Freddie…”

“Well, dash it, I suppose I’m in love.”

“Nothing of the kind! Roland, you will break this engagement. You are to marry a woman worthy of your station. And if you refuse…you will be cut off….”

Pearkes drops Constance off and swings by the Embassy. Nobody has seen Captain Steele for several hours. He calls the police, but they tell him to call back the next day.

He visits Steele’s apartment, which is neat the way only the bachelor apartment of an ambitious staff officer can be. It does not look like anyone has been inside this evening. Steele’s orange tabby cat rubs up against the Colonel’s legs.

At the Ju-Ju house, the group have decided to try and sneak into the store. Hugging the shadows, they congregate in the courtyard. Just then, a car with British Embassy plates pulls up, and Colonel Pearkes steps out. He marches with military stiffness towards the store.

“Stop!” hisses Chiu. “You’re going to let everyone know we’re here.”

“They have Steele. Duty first, old bean.”

At that point, several of the passed-out derelicts who litter the courtyard stand up and charge the group. They are quickly dispatched by Pearkes’ sword-cane and Gilbert’s shotgun, but Chiu realizes the alert is sure to be raised. He runs out to fetch their (stolen) getaway vehicle, while the rest enter the store.

The trapdoor inside yields to Blont’s deft hand with a lockpick. A flight of narrow stairs leads down into an inky darkness. Pearkes fishes out his electric torch and sprints down the stairs.

At the end of the hall is a door. Pearkes yanks it open and flashes his torch inside.

Bodies. Eighteen of them, their throats slit, lined up in neat geometric rows. They are wearing robes of some kind that he does not recognize.

Thrusting away the memories of ground actions in Belgium, Pearkes sidles into the room. To his right is a large winch, attached to a heavy circular stone lid about eight feet wide.

Gilbert looks inside and is horrified. He collapses shaking in the corridor. Afraid of suffering from another flashback, Blont keeps asking him what was inside that was so bad.

Pearkes continues to slide along the walls. Opposite the door to the room, he finds a curtained-off alcove. He glances inside, and sees four bodies propped up against the wall. He pushes aside the curtain and steps into the alcove just as Will and Gilbert step into the room.

And that’s when the four bodies in the alcove spring into motion and attack him. From the back of the alcove he sees a lion-like face—some kind of mask—float towards him. He is pummeled by the undead and slashed by whatever is wearing the mask.

Pearkes backpedals out of the alcove, followed by the four corpses. Blont and Gilbert open up on the—let’s call them zombies—and the deafening sound of gunfire fills the room. One zombie drops, but the rest still advance. The masked figure slashes at Pearkes, knocking the flashlight from his hands.

A desperate struggle begins, lit only by the dim glow of the dropped torch and the muzzle flashes of their guns. Blont and Gilbert make a dash for the door, firing as they retreat. They hear the sound of the winch being activated, and even through the ringing in their ears they can hear a terrible moaning and screaming coming up from the pit.

Then the door slams shut behind them. Something heavy falls outside, barring it shut.

Chiu pulls up into the courtyard. He sees N’Kwame dashing out of the front of the store, cackling madly. Chiu opens up with his Thompson and cuts the old man down. He races inside the store and manages to rip open the trap door.

Downstairs, Gilbert looks down into the pit and his mind reels with horror. At the bottom of it is a horrible purple worm, covered in human faces, each gibbering and screaming.

Blont and Gilbert attack the door. Gilbert manages to wedge it open and Blont slips through. The lion-masked figure slashes at him as he leaves, not noticing Gilbert collapsed by the door. The Frenchman jams his sawed off against the mask and pulls the trigger, just as Pearkes finishes dispatching the last zombie.

Fingers shaking, Gilbert pulls the mask off of the body. He recognizes the face: Mukunga M’Dari.

Blont comes running up the stairs and sees Chiu. “Don’t shoot!”

“Get in the car! The cops will be here soon!” Chiu rushes past him and finds Pearkes examining the pit. His eyes fill with tears of horror and regret when he recognizes Sam Steele’s face
on the horrible creature. “Time to use your dynamite, Charleston.”

Grumbling, Chiu fishes out a stick of dynamite that he keeps in his trenchcoat. He throws it into the pit and they let the lid slam shut.

The ground rumbles beneath their feet as they pull off in separate cars, Gilbert driving the embassy car, and Chiu taking Blont in their stolen car. Thanks to some fancy driving they manage to elude the converging police cars.

The next morning Freddie steps out of the precinct, charges once again wiped clean. The Dakota has already rung him up, regretting to inform him that the damages to his apartment are so extensive that he can’t stay there, which is just as well because they want him to leave.

There are no protesters outside the Sentinel when he arrives. He asks Sheila to look up the Goodhue woman’s family and see if he can meet with them.

Freddie pays a visit to Dr. Mwimbe. She has analyzed the dagger and she thinks the metal is definitely not bronze, but she doesn’t know what it is. Freddie, somewhat tactlessly, points out that she’ll never get a real teaching position at Columbia; he offers her a grant, to do some research in Cairo. Maybe she can even return the dagger to its rightful place at the Museum of Antiquities. What do you say? In a few weeks?

Startled and flattered, the Professor agrees.

Having accomplished that, Freddie drops in on the Bureau of Investigation’s field office. He meets Gil Anderson and tries to point him in the direction of several unsavory figures in various cults up in Harlem, and they have Red ties, don’t you know? Gilbert looks uncomfortable at this point.

That night, he meets Marion Goodue’s parents at a Broadway play. Yes, they are aware of their daughter’s activities, and they do not approve. No, they don’t approve of playboy Freddie either. Marion’s already done everyone a favor and run off to Estonia or someplace like that. Now can we enjoy our play? The second act’s about to begin.

Late that night, MacKenzie, the “Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs” and MI-6 agent knocks on Pearkes’ door. “Wakey wakey, gov. We’ve got a VIP for you to meet.”

He and two MPs drive out of the city via a specially chartered ferry, and then far out into the countryside of New Jersey, headed towards Lakehurst. Eventually they stop in a deserted field.

They wait in the frosty night. MacKenzie seems nervous.

Suddenly a spotlight lances through the blackness, from directly above. It swerves around, highlighting each of the men standing there. A faint sound of engines can be heard, and looking up Pearkes can just make out the lines of a dirigible. MacKenzie and the MPs moor the airship, and a gangplank descends.

A prim, middle-aged woman in a dress last stylish before the Great War slowly disembarks. MacKenzie gives his most military salute. “Mum,” he croaks out.

“As you were. This is the Colonel. Very good, Colonel, you will convey us to New York.”

“Very good, Mum,” says MacKenzie as Pearkes helps her into the car. “We’ll just find our own way back.”

The long drive back is silent. At last they pull up to the Embassy. The woman, who seems to know the place very well, leads Pearkes deep into the basement. She opens a panel on one wall and it rolls back, revealing a room Pearkes never suspected existed.

Inside it is filled with obscure and occult gewgaws—strange fetuses in jars, old books, skulls, alembics, and many other things. “At least they put in the electric,” sniffs the woman. She adjusts the long red scarf she keeps tightly wrapped around her neck. “The last time I was here we were still using gas. Sit down, Colonel.”

She regards him from across a table. “You may call me M. I am used to working with people of rather…more unique talents than yours. Still, we must make use of the tools at our disposal. You are aware now that threats of a most unusual nature exist in this world?”

“Yes, ma’am. We disposed of one this evening with dynamite.”

“Are you sure? Did you check?”

“Uh, no ma’am.”

“Were I you, Colonel, I would make that my first order of business.” She paused, and took out a dossier and put on a pince-nez. “You have been assigned to a special branch of the intelligence services. It will not show on any records. I will be your direct supervisor. Do you understand?”

“Yes, ma’am. What are my orders?”

“Track down the people behind the murder of Miss Elias. Neutralize their threats to the Empire. Now come with me, Colonel. I will be taking different transportation from here.”

She opens a door in the back of the room and steps out into a network of tunnels. After a long time, they climb out near the East River piers. They stroll to the end of a dock.

Out in the river, a British submarine surfaces and slowly moves under the dock.

“Thank you Colonel, and good luck.”

“Thank you ma’am. And may I say, you have a remarkable sense of style.”

M pauses on the ladder to the sub. “I have been accused of many things, Colonel, but that is one of the few that is true.”

As she clambers down into the submarine’s hatch she pauses again. “This Mr. Blakely. Do you trust him?”

After an instant, Pearkes replies, “In some things.”

“Read him in. Good-bye, Colonel. Don’t try to reach me—I’ll reach you.”

Shaking his head, Pearkes makes his way up to the Sentinel, where Freddie has just arrived.

“Sheila? Can you come in here?”

“…Mr. Blakely?” She enters the room with trepidation—he’s used her name twice in a week! Something big must be up.

“What do you say you come with me off to Cairo?”

“What? Yes, Mr. Blakely!”

“That’s a girl. Ah, Colonel!”

“I have some matters to discuss with you,” says the Colonel. “Matters of an Imperial nature…”

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Episode II: The Damned of the Earth (Part 2)

Elias’ funeral is held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, still unfinished but an active church. All of the city’s elite turn out, led by Mayor Walker.

At the back of the church, by the entrance, a crowd of African-Americans try to gain entrance. The NYPD try to hold them back, until Pearkes intervenes, intimidating them with a voice honed on the killing ground of Passchendaele. The leader of the crowd turns out to be Blont’s acquaintance Mr. M’Dari.

“We are here to demand justice,” he tells Blont.

“We want that too…”

“Justice for Jackson, and the three boys who were killed! They were good boys, members of my church.”

“You understand that I was just doing what I had to do, don’t you?”

“I do, Mr. Doctor. And I will do what I have to do.”

In the middle of this altercation, Freddie Blakely shows up, still slightly inebriated after a bender that lasted several days. He sleepwalks through the service with great precision.

As the body is being carried out of the church, the Harlemites in the crowd protest and begin to shout “Justice for Jackson!”

Blakely, Pearkes, Blont and Gilbert motor down to the offices of the Sentinel with Dr. Armitage. As they arrive at the building, they find a crowd of African-Americans picketing the building, led by Mr. M’Dari. Pearkes gets confrontational with the crowd, watched indifferently by several cops; clearly they have been ordered not to disperse the crowd, and as good sons of Ireland they enjoy watching a British officer get in over his head. Blakely invites M’Dari to come upstairs later.

Dr. Armitage, still grief-stricken, tries to answer the group’s questions. He doesn’t have any idea who was after Jackson, just that she was very afraid; she went on a bit of a bender while he was with her in Boston. Kane’s men helped her hide after that. The dagger she was so interested in is very old, and it is believed that it could dispel Thoth when he took on flesh in one of his thousand forms. He knows a little about African and Egyptian cults but not much about Chinese ones—he refers them to his colleague Dr. Cowles at Miskatonic.

As the interview is ending, Sheila bursts in. “Boss, I think we’ve got more trouble!” Outside, the first stirring strands of a familiar march are beginning:

Arise ye workers from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners of want…

Gilbert shudders slightly at the first notes of “The Internationale” and tries to hide in a corner.

Blakely goes down to meet the representatives of the Communist Party, USA—a woman named Marion Goodhue, the Director of Public Events, and Sol Rosenberg, Director of Public Safety. He invites them and M’Dari up to discuss the protest.

Things soon degenerate into a shouting match. Goodhue, a dedicated socialist from a wealthy family, demands that Blakely admit that he was behind the assassination of the three men in the hotel room and also behind the white slavery ring: “You’re the spider in the middle of this web of intrigue!” she sputters. Blakely laughs openly at this and Goodhue sheepishly admits that might be going a bit far.

Rosenberg turns out to be less a socialist and more of a Zionist; one of the best things about the party, he avers, is that he gets to finally fight back against WASPs. (Indeed, he had left a party of his all Jewish security force at the entrance, lead by Moishe “The Bear”, who of course totes a baseball bat.) Pearkes snidely points out that Palestine is a British mandate and will stay so for years. Soon he and Rosenberg are shouting at each other, joined by M’Dari. When Pearkes points out that M’Dari is a subject of the British Empire, M’Dari snorts that he has always declined that honor, and that he is from Kenya, not the Protectorate of East Africa. Goodhue angrily joins in, assuring Pearkes that socialism is the way of the future and that the Soviet Union will be the master of the world in fifty years; Pearkes retorts that it will be the British Empire that is still dominating the planet in 1975.

Blakely invites M’Dari back to his office to discuss things with less noise. He is disappointed to find out that M’Dari is merely presenting a list of demands; he knows, he tells Freddie, that there was a third shooter in the hotel room and he plans to expose the entire affair. Blakely sends all the protesters back out, and then asks his secretary Sheila to make sure the demonstrators have something warm to drink.

Meanwhile Charleston Chiu, after a five-day reading binge on the books he received from Erica Carlyle, is stepping outside Brenda’s Diner in Harlem, nose pressed into an ancient tome. A middle-aged man in a wool coat, with a slight Irish burr in his voice, identifies himself as Lt. Frank Poole, Midtown Precinct, and asks Chiu to come with him to answer some questions. Chiu pays no notice until two of Poole’s officers arrest him.

They drive downtown, and Chiu notices that they drive through Midtown, eventually stopping in an abandoned store on the boundary between Chinatown and Little Italy. Chiu is led inside and handcuffed to a chair. Standing in the room in his shirtsleeves is Lt. Brian Halloran, NYPD, Chinatown precinct.

“Well, well, if it isn’t our old friend Taffy. How you doing, Chewy?”

Chiu looks around. “All right, I’ll tell you everything.”

“Good,” says Poole, pulling up a chair. “We know you were the third shooter, Mr. Chiu. The clerk at the hotel identified you. Now, tell me your relationship with Jackson Elias, and this white slavery racket.”

“There was no slavery ring! I knew Elias from a year ago. I helped her find a man who had a trumpet that made the dead come back to life…”

“If you’re not going to be straight with me…”

“No, it’s for real! The trumpet was magic! She was on the run from some kind of cult…”

Poole sighs, and swivels his chair around. “All right, Brian, I’m turning my back.”

Halloran smacks Chiu in the stomach, hard. Using his skill at the martial arts, Chiu kicks Halloran hard. This enrages the burly cop, and he proceeds to lay a pounding on the hapless sometime reporter.

“Tell us what you know! We know you used to work for Mr. Lee! Tell us the truth!”

“I don’t know anything!”

Halloran kicks Chiu hard, and he blacks out.

Freddie Blakely gets a call from his old friend “Frothy” down at the bank. “Freddie, old bean, just thought you should know—Pater’s been talking to some Sotheby’s people about your claim that they sold you the wrong dagger, and, well, sorry to break it to you, old man, but you’re skint. Your accounts have been frozen until this all gets sorted out, and I think they’ve sent an investigator up to your apartment.”

Blakely and Gilbert race to the Dakota on the Upper West Side, Freddie’s residence. They meet with a Sotheby’s inspector, who has been poking around the place. Freddie quickly disarms him by saying it was all a mistake, he has the right dagger, and dash it all he just forgot to tell his man of business about it.

Gilbert goes down to get the car. As he leaves the building, a mysterious man in a trenchcoat, hat pulled low on his head, beckons him into an alley. This proves to be a Communist agent he knew slightly back in France; in those days, he called himself Herbst or Primtemps; now he is known as October.

“You may not remember me, Mr. Gilbert, but we remember you. Some of us in the Party remember well your work in the Paris Soviet. We also remember that it was crushed in two days, and financed by a capitalist, Freddie Blakely. And now you work for that man. Those of us in the NKVD are not sure where your loyalties lie, Mr. Gilbert.

“History is dead; it now exists only in the memory of the Party. You will watch this man Blakely, Mr. Gilbert, and report back to us. I’ll be seeing you again soon.”

Pearkes, Blakely, Blont and Gilbert head over to the West Side to meet with Arthur Emerson, of Emerson Imports. “Jackson Elias? That girl in the papers—say, aren’t you the guys who saved her?”

“Yes,” says Blont sheepishly.

“I’m very sorry for your loss. She came by asking about some imports I did for Carlyle, and some things I brought in from Africa. I send most of those up to Silas N’Kwame in Harlem, at a place called the Ju-Ju House, 137th near Lenox.”

He pauses. “But whenever I need a provenance or an appraisal, I contact a professor up at Columbia, a [mild racial slur for a female person of sub-Saharan African ancestry]. Let me just ring her up….Hello? Muriel? I have some gentlemen who want to see you? Yes, this afternoon will be fine.”

The four men leave Emerson Imports and head to the Ju-Ju House, a dusty storefront in a derelict-filled courtyard. Mr. N’Kwame, the proprietor, is an elderly East African. He doesn’t know Elias; he does sell African items from Emerson Imports.

Blakely notices that N’Kwame has a key around his neck and filches it when his attention is caught by Pearkes, who is impatient with the interrogation. Literally lifting N’Kwame off the floor, he demands to know about the three men who were killed. They were from the neighborhood; who did they know?

N’Kwame sputters out that they all went to the same church, but grows evasive about its location and refuses to say anything more until he is put back down. Freddie comes around the counter, nearly tripping on a seam as he does so: a trap door. He calms down Pearkes and gets the quartet to leave the store; then he comes back in, gives N’Kwame his key back, and manages to get the elderly man to reveal that the church is in a basement. Too late he realizes his mistake, and clams up; Blakely buys some trinkets at inflated prices to mollify him.

Blont and Gilbert decide to find a vacant apartment where they can watch the store; Pearkes and Blakely go to Columbia to visit the professor Arthur Emerson mentioned. This turns out to be Muriel Khadijja Mwimbe, a Zanzibari associate professor of anthropology. Dr. Mwimbe confirms that the dagger is ancient, and that East African death cults, descended from the legends of the Black Pharaoh of Egypt (“After all, the Egyptians were Africans,” she notes) believed that it could kill the Black Wind, the mysterious and evil manifestation of the god. At least his current form; the god could return later. Pearkes strikes some sparks with her and she is pointed about referring to the rape of Africa by the Europeans. Still, the interview ends on a good note; Blakely asks her to analyze the Dagger of Thoth, which is being kept at Sotheby’s. He wants to know if the metal is unusual.

Downtown, Chiu wakes up next to Halloran. His forehead displays a neat bullet hole, and his empty eyes stare back at Chiu. Poole presses a gun into Chiu’s hands. “Sorry, Taffy, but this solves too many problems for me. I’ll see you in the funny papers.”

Left alone, Chiu manages to crawl out of the Little Italy side of the store. Some boys are playing ball, and they watch him in shock.

E morto?

Non, il non e morto. Va a il Fortunado.

Chiu blacks out again. When he comes too, he is on a table in the back of a restaurant. A young, well-dressed man is standing over him, slapping him gently on the face. “Charlie, I think he’s awake.”

“Great, Meyer. What’re gonna do with a live [racial slur] and a dead cop.”

“We’ll have to call the Cleaner.”

“I’ve been trying to reach him, he’s uptown somewhere. Bumpy will send a runner.”

“To think, a police did this! Animal! We should have left Russia for this?”

Uptown, a young kid climbs into the vacant apartment where Blont and Gilbert are on watch. “You Mister Gilbert? The Fortunate One needs you. And bring a doctor. One who don’t talk.”

They tip the kid well and ask him to have his friends watch the place until they get back.

Once they get downtown, Charlie Luciano and Meyer Lansky meet them. Luciano sends Gilbert off to make the cop’s body disappear, and Blont gets to work on Chiu. Luckily, his beating was administered by a professional; with a little patching up, he is out of serious danger and soon feels better once hopped up on pain meds. Blont, watching Gilbert periodically return with buckets of bleach and a bloodstained axe, wonders aloud what he has gotten himself into.

At the Dakota, Pearkes, his fiancee Constance, and Blakely enjoy a nice dinner. Before desert can be served, the front desk rings up. “Sorry Mr. Blakely, I’ve had to send up two gentlemen from the Bureau of Investigation who want to talk to you.” Shortly after that, there is a knock on the door and the two agents, Gil Anderson and David Dukes, step into the apartment.

“Good evening, Mr. Blakely. We’re investigating the Red involvement in this Elias affair. According to our records, you were detained as a Communist supporter by the British authorities.”

“Goodness, that old thing? That was all the doings of my aunts, they were upset about me wanting to run off and marry that Elias girl. Everything was cleared up.”

“Is that so? Then how do you explain that you employ a known Communist agent, Mr. Alphonse Gilbert?”

“Fonzie? Why, he’s given that all up and gone straight. Good monarchist like I am. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to my guests. Good evening.”

“Good evening, Mr. Blakely, and we’ll be in touch.”

Dinner finished, Blakely, Pearkes and Constance plan to step out to a club in Harlem where they will be close to Blont and Gilbert, who have returned to their surveillance post. Freddie hears a dull thud from the balcony in the music room. He steps inside to investgate.

A huge serpentine head crashes through the window, mouth full of razor sharp teeth. As it bites deeply into his shoulder, the rest of its body squeezes through the window—a loathsome, livid flying serpent, two horrible batlike wings not seeming to support its uncanny height off the ground.

Keeping his composure, Freddie hightails it out of the room and slams the door behind him. “I think we better all leave,” he shouts.

From the music room comes a cacophonous noise that sounds as if a grand piano had been tossed against a wall.

Constance screams. The tip of a scaly tail punches through the wall and wriggles sickeningly in the air.

The three of them run downstairs. Police soon arrive; when they go up to the apartment, it looks as if several grenades have gone off. Several of the interior walls have been completely destroyed, and a grand piano is smashed as if it had been thrown at the wall with great force.

The smell of excellent quality liquor permeates the air—the last vestiges of Freddie’s extensive wet bar.

The cops take everyone into custody. Blakely tries to tell his story: “Well you see, somebody threw an exploding serpent into my apartment…” but that just gets him thrown into a holding cell. A sympathetic detective tries to get Pearkes to talk, saying he’ll let Constance go if he does, but Pearkes rather starchily blows him off. Muttering something about this being just like the Rising, the detective orders Constance taken away by the matrons.

Freddie gets his call in to Bradley Grey. “This is serious, Freddie! The cops think the mob took a hit out on you! And the Bureau of Investigation is investigating you for subversive ties!”

Pearkes calls the Embassy. “We’re glad you finally rang in. Is Captain Steele with you? He hasn’t checked in tonight.” Some strings are pulled and Pearkes and Constance are released.

Grey gets Freddie off as well, but Blakely refuses to leave—he asks to be put in their most secure cell. The cops shrug and lock him in with Wolf, a serial rapist they have apprehended.

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Episode II: The Damned of the Earth (Part 1)

Early Sunday morning, Will Blont checks in with Monsignor Pedro “Pete” Garcia at a church near where he lives. Pete, a fellow veteran of the war, has been helpful in keeping Will on the straight and narrow the last several years. After gently chiding Will for not going to church lately, Pete takes him into his office.

Will discusses the events of the last few days, and how helpless he felt to not be able to rescue yet another friend. Pete counsels him to go to Jackson’s wake. “It wasn’t your fault all those men died in France, and it’s not your fault that the woman died. If you hadn’t shown up, she would have died sooner. You have to forgive yourself, Will.”

The night before, Alphonse Gaston visited his mother in her apartment in Yorkville. His older brother Anton is there, and chides Alphonse for not coming to Temple, not visiting him more often, and also for not robbing Freddie Blakely blind, like they thought he was going to do. Alphonse insists that he has left the criminal life behind him, although Anton entreats him to rejoin him on the opposite side of the law.

George Pearkes spent the weekend recuperating from his injuries with his trusty elkhound MacDonald, frequently visited by his fiancee, Constance.

Nobody has seen Charleston or Freddie for several days.

The three meet at a coffee shop before the wake to go over a report prepared by Sam Steele, Pearkes’ adjutant, about Jackson Elias’ mysterious journal. Steele details the peregrinations of Elias from October 1924 through February 1925. Elias began the journal while in Shanghai, but trailed Jack Brady to Singapore. There she encountered a woman named Vanessa; this was apparently very shocking and she did not write for several days. When the journal picks up, she is in Cairo. Her stay there is brief; to throw off pursuit, she goes to Yemen.

While in Yemen, she meets an old Bedouin woman who tells a strange story about three white men and a white woman walking out of the desert. Elias believes this to be Penhew, Huston, Brady, and Vanessa, and furthermore believes that they appeared in the desert by supernatural means.

From Yemen, she went to Paris, spending most of December in the city. She writes of being pursued by mysterious Arabs, and having a mental breakdown after seeing an ancient Egyptian bas-relief with the members of the Carlyle expedition engraved on it. She is given shelter by an old Army acquaintance, Frank, and his lover Georges, for several days while she tries to find a way out of the city. Frank has a contact, Mickey “Scoop” Mahoney, who publishes an Irish-language paper and has extensive connections with the sort of people who could smuggle her out of France. (Elias believes him to be ex-IRA.) After Frank and Georges are murdered, she is flown out of Paris by Mahoney, spending a few days in London before going to Ireland to catch a steamer for Halifax.

In Canada, she tracks down a mysterious former sailor in Quebec, who fills her with dread about someone called “The Old Man.” She sneaks across the border in Vermont, and then spends several days with her guardian, Dr. Henry Armitage, in Boston. Someone she only calls “Charlie” helps her find safe houses, and after swinging through the Bahamas she goes to ground in Philadelphia. She returns to New York after securing an interview with the Old Man, where she visited our heroes.

Steele concludes that Elias was mentally unstable, citing her “selective aphasia” (she claimed to have a recurring dream where a voice would shout in a language she could only recognize on waking; shortly thereafter, she would lose the ability to speak that language), claims to have spent the night in the Louvre on several occasions, being attacked by a painted backdrop of a Sphinx in the Paris Opera, and seeing an enormous flying serpent examining her ship; that last discovery is followed by a bizarre sequence where she claimed to have taken to a lifeboat, been picked up by a tramp steamer, and delivered to Halifax—only to find, when she reached here connecting ship, that the purser insisted that she had brought her luggage aboard herself in the morning after arriving in Halifax on a liner.)

Steele also believes, however, that he has evidence that there was some kind of conspiracy that intended harm to Elias, and recommends that the investigation proceed out of channels.

The group has an immediate lead, thanks to the contents of the journal: a business card for Emerson Imports on the West Side, with the name “Silas N’Kwame” scrawled on the back. (Other leads include a business card for Edouard Gavigan, of the Fondation Aubrey Penhew in Paris, a letter from Faraz Najir of Cairo to Roger Carlyle, and a flyer for a lecture by Dr. Anthony Cowles.) The group decides that they will at least try to follow up on the Emerson Imports lead; Will wants to find out what and who it was that killed Elias, for revenge and possibly redemption; Pearkes also has a debt of honor, and is concerned about threats to the Empire.

The wake is a surprisingly lavish affair; Mayor Walker is there, along with many of the city’s elite. Will Blont notices that the predominantly African-American waitstaff is avoiding him and Gilbert, and eventually manages to speak to a waiter. The waiter disdainfully tells him that he isn’t interested in being nice to the murderers of three black men, and that Jackson was popular in Harlem and his people want justice for her an the dead men. Blont tries to reason with him but the waiter eventually storms off.

Pearkes strikes up a conversation with the one man who is so rich that people are ignoring him—this turns out to be the famous media overlord Charles Foster Kane. He knew Jackson when she was a young girl; every year, he brought some orphans out to his ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Elias got on famously with everyone and had the summer of her life; on her return to the orphanage in Connecticut, she talked so much about her time out West that the other girls disdainfully referred to her as “Jackson”. Kane offers his considerable resources to the group to help find out who killed Elias, and why.

Pearkes gives a brief speech, recalling Elias on the Western Front, disguised as a litter bearer and picking up a machine gun to help pick off attacking Germans. While he talks, he remembers what actually happened that day: a shocked and frightened Elias, terrified of the hideous gunfire in No Man’s Land, being ordered back behind lines by Pearkes. No sooner had he given the order, however, than Elias tackled him to the ground; just in time to avoid a walking barrage fired by the British artillery that fell woefully short.

Henry Armitage also tries to give a speech, but is too overcome by emotion. The group convinces him to pay a visit to the Golden Sentinel after the funeral the next day to discuss Elias, and especially the dagger she was so eager to acquire.

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Intersession I (Part 2)

State Police fished a body out of Long Island Sound this morning, near Shoreham, Long Island. It has been identified as that of Elisa Louise Olney, AKA Jackson Elias, who has been missing since Wednesday night.

View
Intersession I (Part 1)

Jackson Elias was kidnapped from her hotel room around 9 pm tonight.

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Episode I: The Passion of Jackson Elias (part 3)
The day begins in confusion and ends in tragedy.

Freddie calls down to the office. “What ho, Allison old girl?”

“You better get down here boss! The place is a madhouse, all these reporters want to talk to you!”

“Tell you what, old girl, you just let them know that I will be giving a press conference in an hour. See you there.”

They motor over to the offices of the Sentinel. Once there, Freddie gives a raucous press conference.

“Freddie! Mr. Blakely! Is it true you know Will Blont?”

“Sir! Does Mr. Gilbert really work for you?”

“How long were you trailing the gang, Freddie?”

“Now, settle down. Yes, it’s all true. And I’d like to say that it’s also true that I am engaged to marry Jackson Elias.”

The crowd erupts.

“Mr. Blont! Is it true you received a citation for bravery from President Wilson?”

“Um…yes, it is.”

“Is it also true that you’ve been arrested eight times in the last seven months?”

“I think it was seven ti…”

“Now listen here,” interrupts Freddie. “I’ve been arrested fourteen times in the last three months, so really Goldy over here is running a bit behind. No more questions? Good.”

“Actually, sir, we had a few—”

“Angela, be a good girl and escort these gentlemen out.”

Over at the French Hospital on 30th Street, Colonel Pearkes is being checked out by his doctors. They clear him for light duty but warn him that he really needs rest. Shrugging off their advice, Pearkes is out of bed by the time Steele arrives.

“Ah, good morning Sam.”

“Good morning, Colonel. I hope you’re resting well.”

“No need to rest, Sam, I’m leaving today.”

“Is that really necessary? I can handle everything down at the Embassy…why don’t you take a rest, sir.”

“No, not required.”

“Really, sir, it isn’t any trouble at all. I’m happy to take over your duties during your convalescence.”

“No need, Sam. Just pop over and get me my uniform, would you?”

“Yes sir, Colonel. That’s just the sort of thing that makes chasing the Hun for twenty months through the bush worthwhile, sir.”

“Very good. Oh, and talk to that fellow, MacKenzie. You know, the one in Int—”

“The Undersecretary for Domestic Affairs, I think you’ll find, sir. I’ll schedule an interview with him for this afternoon.”

“Very good. And let that fellow Blont know that he’s to be there. If you can find him.”

“Shan’t be a problem, sir. He’s been in the hospital all morning, I think with a friend of yours, a Miss Elias.”

Pearkes hobbles over to Elias’s room. Blont has been keeping vigil there ever since he managed to escape from Freddie’s office. Looking at the lines of care and obvious deep emotion on the man’s face, Pearkes finds himself finally letting go of his resentment towards the former medic. Somewhat awkwardly—both because of his injuries, and the unexpected emotion—he sits down next to Blont.

“Have a fag?”

“Oh, thanks.”

“Listen, I want to bring you back into service. I can get you a commission with our intelligence people. Give you protection and a steady job.”

“I…thanks, Colonel.”

“Just promise me you won’t drink this time.”

Blont grimaces. “I think I can handle it.”

Around lunchtime, Charleston drives the Bugatti out to the Carlyle mansion. He meets Joe Cory out front.

“Hey, Miss Erica is expecting you. Sorry about yesterday. You gonna keep your clothes on this time?”

“Are you going to search me?”

“Nah. No need. Sorry again for the security, but about a month ago somebody tried to break in. I think they were after those books of Mister Roger’s. So it’s good you’re taking them away.”

“They were after the books, you think? Not Miss Carlyle?”

“Yeah, it was definitely a break-in.”

“You remember much about Roger Carlyle?”

“Not much. Mister Roger was before my time. I knew his friend Brady. Real hard-ass. Tough guy. Though, you know, they said maybe he wasn’t such a tough guy, if you know what I mean.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, you know. That he wasn’t much interested in the ladies, if you catch my drift. Not that I care. I mean, whatever two [sexual slurs] want to do, I don’t care. Just not for me. I’m not interested in that kind of thing. I mean, two men, getting all sweaty on each other, kissing with those rough lips? Not my thing. I don’t like to even think about it. Not at all.”

“Yes, it clearly holds no attraction for you.”

Erica meets him in the parlor. She hands him a stack of four very old books. Charleston examines their somewhat ominous titles:

Life as a God

Selections Du Livre d’Ivon: a newe Englishe translation

People of the Monolith: Being an investigation into the causes, powers and prophesys of the Pharoahs

Fragments of the Pnakotic Manuscripts

He gives a little shudder. The leather on two of the books seems odd and disturbing.

“If I may ask, why are you giving these books away?”

“To be honest, they scare me. I looked into one of them once and it was horrible. I don’t know what Roger saw in them.”

“Then I’m happy to take them away from here.”

“Thank you. I heard about what happened with your friends last night. I had no idea that Mr. Blont was such a hero! They were both so very brave.”

Charleston, practically swallowing his tongue to avoid mentioning his involvement, merely nods. “Too bad about Jackson, though.”

Erica frowns. “I’m sorry about yesterday. But I don’t like her. She’s been harassing me for months now, with her things about the book and Roger. I want to put all that behind me.”

“Of course, of course. However, is there anything you want me to say to her?”

“Nothing that would make her feel better.”

Back in Jackson’s hospital room, Pearkes makes arrangements for her protection.

“Steele, call over to the embassy, have them send over some of those detectives we use for events.”

“Very good sir.”

Shortly thereafter, Joe and Pete, two off-duty New York City policemen, show up. “Whaddaya need us to do?”

“See this young lady? I need to make sure that nothing happens to her and nobody gets in this room but me and her doctors. Understood? Now, here’s fifty pounds for your trouble. Will that suffice for the week?”

“Will it! You’ve got it, mac. Round the clock watches, we’ll pull in some of our guys for this.”

Will looks over Jackson’s chart. The news is very bad. She is in critical condition, and was given four units of blood the night before. Scrutinizing the details, he discovers that while the knife wound caused a lot of damage, she had suffered a heart attack sometime shortly before being stabbed.

He heads down to medical records. “Say, can I ask a favor?”

“Hey, aren’t you Will Blont? The guy from the papers?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow. What can I do?”

“I’d like to see the records of Miss Elias—Miss Olney.”

“Oh, well, you know, I’m not really allowed to show you this file,” says the clerk, dropping it on the table. “I’m sure you understand. Now, I’ve got to take my fifteen minute break. You can keep an eye on the place, can’t you doc?”

Will browses the file while the clerk steps out. It seems Elias had been shot in the chest back in January, 1924; the wound healed well enough, but she developed a rheumatic infection that left her with a weak heart.

Pearkes meantime goes through Jackson’s effects. He finds a journal wrapped in a leather sleeve. Several clippings and photographs are crammed into the back cover. He begins to flip through it:

I’ve destroyed all my records. From now on, I will keep only the simplest of notes. I’d tell Jonah to destroy the ones I sent him, but I’m afraid he would read them…

A quick scan of the book shows that Elias had been in Shanghai, Singapore, and Cairo during the last quarter of 1924. She visited Paris for most of the month of December, before managing to sneak back to the United States. She writes about being constantly followed by mysterious figures who do not hesitate to kill people to get to her.

There are two photographs in the back—one of a steam yacht in a harbor with Chinese junks around it, and one of a woman. The back of that photo is labeled “Vanessa—Singapore.”

Freddie and Gilbert swing down to Prospero House, Elias’s publisher. They meet with her editor, Jonah Kensington.

“I didn’t even know Jax was back in New York,” he says. “This is so awful.”

They talk a bit about her book, and where she had been. The Carlyle expedition had journeyed to Egypt in 1919. They may have made some discoveries—some rumors circulated about finding a temple—but nothing was ever published. They vanished for a while before suddenly reappearing in Zanzibar. They set out into the bush in Tanganyika, where they were all mysteriously killed.

Kensington says that Elias had traveled to Zanzibar and then the mainland to see what she could find out. Then he lost contact with her, except for a few times when she asked for money.

Gilbert asks why he kept sending her money without knowing what was happening, and especially since her book was late.

“To be honest, she wrote me a letter saying that what she’d found would make us all rich.”

Charleston gets back from the city. He parks his car by Central Park and begins to read People of the Monolith. By sundown, he has a new understanding of the occult character of Egyptian architecture, a splitting headache, and a vague sense of foreboding.

Late in the afternoon, Pearkes and Blont visit MacKenzie, the Undersecretary for Domestic Affairs, in the basement of the Embassy.

Pearkes asks if they can get Blont a job with the division.

“Yes, sure, we can use a bloke with a head like his.”

“Congratulations, you’re back in.”

“Wait a bleeding moment, Colonel. We ain’t like you toffs upstairs. We do actual work down ‘ere. He ain’t going to have no bloody commission. He’ll be a consultant, like. And he ain’t taking orders from you.”

He turns to Blont. “Welcome to Military Intelligence, Department Six. You take your orders from me. And right now, my orders are to follow his orders, until you here otherwise.”

“Thanks…I won’t let you down.”

Night descends on the city.

The next morning, Steele meets Pearkes in his office.

“Morning Steele. How did our detectives make out last night?”

“Well, that’s just it sir. There was a blackout at the hospital last night. When the lights came back on, they were both found with their throats slit. And the girl, sir. It’s the damnedest thing. She’s missing.”

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Episode I: The Passion of Jackson Elias (part 2)
The investigation opens, and the day ends in a gruesome bloodbath

Tuesday morning, Chiu decides to find out more about the mysterious dagger Elias has asked them to acquire for her. He heads down to Sotheby’s and meets Dr. Simon Martin, one of the curators.

“Good morning, I’m with the Golden Sentinel. I’d like to cover today’s auction.”

“Yes, I know your paper,” says Martin a bit dubiously. However, he remembers that the paper’s primary readership is rich society matrons with a taste for ancient artifacts.

“Free publicity,” says Chiu, holding up his camera.

Shrugging, Martin takes him back to the lot storage. The auction will cover a wide variety of antiquities, from Greco-Roman artifacts through Chinese artwork. Distributing his questions cleverly, Chiu still manages to discover that the dagger in question is incredibly old—reliably dated as being from pre-dynastic Egypt, some 4,000 years ago. The ibis, he explains, was a symbol of the god Thoth, one of the Egyptian deities of the dead.

Freddie does a bit of digging about the Carlyle expedition, dropping by his club to talk things over with one of his drinking companions. “Stinky” certainly remembers Carlyle, and his man Jack Brady. He mentions that Carlyle buggered off for Egypt with his psychologist in tow, along with his supposed girlfriend Hypatia Masters, flapper daughter of an armaments manufacturing family. “Stinky” intimates that Roger might not have been so interested in Miss Masters.

He also reminds Freddie about a certain African woman that Roger seemed to be fascinated by: some poetess calling herself M’Weru or something like that; always wore these Egyptian-style masks.

“Say, Freddie, do you know who else went with them?”

“Can’t say I do, old sport. Who?”

“Pevensey!”

“Who’s that, old bean?”

“Viscount Pevensey. Sir, ah what was it, Aubrey Penhew. Landed gentry from the Midlands, excellent old family. Knew the Carlyles somehow, they were friends.”

While Freddie whiles away the time upstairs, Gilbert drops by the servants’ lounge and strikes up a conversation with the club’s longtime butler. No friend of the toffs upstairs, he rails about how Carlyle brought his thug friend Brady to the club. He shows Gilbert the club’s scrapbooks, which contain several pictures of Carlyle and Brady. Gilbert notices a tatoo on Brady’s hand that marks him as not just a former U. S. Marine, but one that had been on duty in Shanghai.

Will Blont decides that now is the time to get some weapons. He drops in on Luigi’s tailor shop. Several months before, he had stitched up the tailor’s son, who was wounded in a mob turf war.

“Ah, Mister Doctor! What can I do for you?”

“Is your son around?”

“Oh no, sir,” says Luigi, motioning with his head towards the back room. “We don’t do anything illegal here! Now, why don’t you go in the back and I’ll get your suit for you?”

In the back room, several mobsters are working various wire fraud and numbers games. Luigi’s son is happy to oblige Will. Opening a drawer, he gives Blont a .25 Colt automatic—“a sweet little gun, good for a lady—” and .38 Automatic.

Gilbert also decides to get heeled, picking up a sawed off shotgun that fits neatly in his valise and a M1911 .45 automatic from one of his underground contacts.

Pearkes drops in on the ambassador and asks for him to expedite a pistol permit for himself. Also, he wants to bring Elias in; the Ambassador refuses this request, but agrees to put pressure on the City for the permit. Pearkes and Steele motor down to Centre Street and cow a county clerk into giving them the paperwork.

In the afternoon Chiu, Blont and Elias motor out to the fabulous Carlyle manor, which overlooks Huntington, Long Island. As they approach the manor, Elias asks the two men to do her a favor—make sure that they ask Erica Carlyle about “Vanessa,” and ask her about Roger’s books. When quizzed about this, she says that Erica does not like her, and she wants one of them to ask since they’ll have more of a chance of success.

“Nice ride,” says the valet as they pull up in Freddie’s Bugatti.

“Thanks,” says Chiu. “I took it from my boss with his explicit knowledge. It’s only stolen if I don’t come back with it.”

They are led into the mansion, but before they can enter the parlor, they are stopped by a large man clearly carrying a gun. “Hold on,” says Joe Cory, the Carlyle bodyguard. “I gotta search you. We’ve had people trying to break in here.”

“All right,” says Charleston, and begins to strip off his clothes.

“Hey, wait! Stop that! Get your clothes back on, you [racial slur]!”

“Don’t you need to search me?”

“You’re fine! Sheesh!”

Blont nervously smiles. He was carrying his two new guns. He and Charleston discuss the bodyguard and decide that instead of a break-in, Erica might have been the target of a kidnapping attempt.

Erica enters the parlor after they are seated. Her demeanor instantly changes when she sees Elias. “If I had known it was you, I wouldn’t have said yes to Freddie.” Charleston defuses the situation with some banter, and the interview commences.

Elias asks several questions about Erica’s trip to Africa to recover Roger’s remains, and many other questions about the expedition personnel. She seems to be circling around the idea that maybe Roger is still alive, which is distasteful to Erica.

“You know, I was the older sister, but Roger inherited everything when our parents died, even though he had no head for it. Washed out of every school he ever attended! It’s taken me almost five years to put the companies back together.”

Chiu inquires about the books. “Oh, those. I destroyed them,” says Erica, but both Blont and Chiu pick up a subtle movement of her eyes towards the bookcase.

“Would you perhaps have some records of what they were?”

“I might have the indexes of purchase, that sort of thing.”

“Anything you could give me would be helpful. You wouldn’t want any negative publicity to get out about them, would you?”

“I suppose you could pick them up tomorrow.”

“Splendid. Oh, one more small thing. We’re trying to learn whatever we can about a woman named Vanessa—”

Erica stands up. “You know about Vanessa? What do you know?”

“Well, we’re trying to learn more—”

“I’m sorry, I have a board meeting to attend. Cory will see you out.”

At Sotheby’s, Freddie, Gilbert and Pearkes, with MacDonald in tow, arrive just in time for the auction. The crowd is mostly rich playboys and society matrons; however, there is a contingent of what Freddie assumes are rather diminutive Chinese men, all identically dressed in black suits with bowler hats. Surprisingly, they do not bid on any of the Chinese artifacts—they only start bidding when the Dagger of Thoth comes up for bidding.

“Pre-dynastic Egyptian dagger, in wonderful condition. Do I hear $10,000?”

“$10,000,” says Pearkes, although that is a year’s salary for him. He looks at the others. “Don’t worry, it’s never the last bid.”

“$10,000, going once. Going twice. Going—”

“$15,000,” says one of the bowler-hatted men.

“$20,000,” says Freddie, languidly.

“$25,000!” exclaims Bowler Hat.

“$50,000.”

“….$55,000.”

“$60,000.”

“Uh…$61,000.”

“$65,000, old man.”

The auction ends with Freddie victorious, and the bowler hat contingent departs in a huff. Following the reception, Freddie, Gilbert and Pearkes go around back to the loading dock, where they receive an enameled box containing the dagger.

They get in a cab to head back to Freddie’s apartment. They have not gotten far when a black car swerves in front of them; their car T-bones it, screeching to a halt. Another car pulls up alongside of them, boxing them in.

Two bowler hatted men jump out, carrying shotguns. “You will please give us the dagger. Move and you will die,” they say, pointing their guns at Pearkes, who had a thought about using his pistol.

Thinking fast, Freddie dexterously slips the dagger out of the box and replaces it with his letter-opener, which is approximately the same size. (It was also once General Marlborough’s letter-opener and a priceless family heirloom, but Freddie conveniently forgets this.) “No trouble, old man, here’s the box.”

The men take the box, and then gesture with their shotguns. “You will come with us.”

“Righto.”

Gilbert jumps up too, as Freddie had expected. They are crammed into the rear seat, facing two angry looking little men with very large pistols.

As they begin to drive away, Pearkes sprints to the back of their car, MacDonald barking loudly in his tow. He manages to leap onto the trunk of the car. Thinking fast, he tries to slit the rear tire with his sword cane, but the wheels are out of reach.

Determined not to let the men get away, Pearkes draws his pistol and makes a brilliant shot, blasting the driver in the shoulder. Shrieking in agony, the little man barely clings to consciousness. The two gunmen inside the car both shoot at Pearkes, but the veteran of Passchendaele easily dodges.

Freddie kicks one of the gunmen in the face from his crouch by the door, spoiling his aim. Meanwhile, the second car pulls up behind them. Pearkes decides to leap onto its hood, but unfortunately the driver slams on the brakes, causing Pearkes to land hard face-down on the pavement. The second car speeds over him, leaving him bleeding in the street.

Consolidating their men into one car, the vehicle speeds into Chinatown, where Freddie and Gilbert are led into a closed up storefront. Thinking quickly, Freddie manages to drop the real dagger into a display of tourist junk.

In the backroom, they meet another bowler-hatted man. He is polite but harsh: “I will check to see if this is the correct item, and then I will let you go.”

Of course, inside the box is Marlborough’s letter-opener. The man is enraged. “Explain this,” he snarls at them, “and I will decide whether or not I should kill you on the spot.”

“Don’t look at me, old man. I just got rooked out of $65,000!”

“Could it be that I was cheated by the auction house? Damn them!” He rages violently, but Freddie manages to calm him down enough to decide not to kill one of New York’s more famous citizens. Leaving them tied up (and taking the letter-opener), he departs with his minions.

After a long hour, Gilbert manages to free them using muscles tuned from his study of savate. They stumble out into the Chinatown night. Lacking a car, they take the Subway, an experience Freddie is instantly enamored with.

The group converges on Freddie’s apartment. Elias, chain-smoking nervously, bursts into tears when Freddie hands her the dagger. Meanwhile, he has Shelia call up Bradley Grey for him.

“Grey here.”

“Dorian old chum!”

“….what can I do for you, Freddie?”

“Listen, old man, call up Sotheby’s and tell them I’m suing them for fraud! They sold me the wrong bloody dagger!”

Elias tells the group that she has one more lead to follow up on, and departs. Blont, Chiu, and Gilbert tail her cab.

“Follow that cab!” says Charleston as they pile into a car.

“What a novel expression! That’s the first time I ever heard that!”

They are temporarily foiled when Jax switches cabs at a light; the cabbie of the car they were following says that she jumped out at the intersection. Stumped momentarily, Blont recognizes one of the wise guys he knows from the streets.

“Yeah, Doc, the broad in the white hat? I seen her, she got in a cab and told it to go to the New Yorker Hotel.”

Having lost about fifteen minutes, the three investigators race to midtown and burst into the lobby.

“I’m sorry, sir, I have to protect the privacy of our guests,” says the clerk. He shows signs of being implacable on this matter.

The lights flicker momentarily. “The wiring in this place is terrible,” the clerk mutters.

Charleston tries to work him. “Listen, pal, I’m following my wife. I’m trying to make things up with her, and I just need to talk to her.”

A group of black men walk into the lobby, carrying tools. “Hey, you [racial slurs], get out of here. Go around to the service entrance!” shouts the clerk.

“But we are here to fix—”

“I don’t care! Get in back!” Turning back to Charleston, he says “Sorry, mac, nothing I can do. Listen, I’m gonna step out front for a cigarette,” and gives Chiu the high sign.

Blont, frustrated by the clerk’s seeming intransigence, simply walks outside, down the alley, and into the service entrance. He finds the elevator operator taking a cigarette break. “You new here?” he asks.

“Yeah. I’m the foreman of that repair crew. You just take them up?”

“Yeah, took ‘em up to 17. Give me a minute to finish this, and I’ll take you up. Wanna butt?”

“Thanks,” says Blont.

Gilbert decides to just push past. The hotel dick collars him. “Listen, we only allow guests back here, and we for sure don’t let punks with guns back here.”

Fortunately, a year of doing Freddie’s grunt work has left Gilbert prepared. “Listen, I’m a private dick myself—here’s my license. I’ve been watching that crew for weeks now, and I need to get up there to bust them!”

It takes some convincing, but the hotel dick is convinced. “All right, I’ll take you around back and send you up the service elevator.”

He meets Blont at the elevator and they ride up together to the seventeenth floor.

Outside, Chiu and the clerk share a cigarette. “Listen, buddy, I sympathize—got an ex-wife myself. Yeah, I gave that lady a room, 1705. When we get back in I’ll distract the dick and you can go on up.”

As he gets off the elevator on the 17th floor, two burly men wearing merchant marine uniforms of some kind manhandle an old man into the elevator. One sneers at Chiu. “Is not business,” he says, and slams the elevator gate shut. Shrugging, Charleston quietly breaks into room 1703, which, as luck would have it, has an adjoining door with 1705. Peering through the keyhole, he sees at least two men moving around, and no sign of Jackson.

Gilbert and Blont arrive. After listening intently for a moment, Gilbert sprints to 1705. He crouches by the door, and slowly opens it up a crack.

He can see a man standing in the corner, holding a club, and two other men near the bed. All the men are wearing African tribal masks. And stretched out on the bed is the unconscious body of Jackson Elias.

At that moment, Charleston bursts open his door. The man closest to the bed raises a dagger, ready to plunge it into Jackson’s chest. Chiu shoots him, spinning him around.

Gilbert bursts into the room and shoots the man standing in the corner. The man with a knife plunges it into Jackson’s stomach. Enraged, Blont shoots him in the chest.

Gilbert gets clubbed by the man. Charleston shoots the man with the knife again, dropping him. Blont fires from the doorway again, wounding the other man, who runs at the doorway that Charleston is crouching in. Gilbert blows off the top of the man with the club’s head.

Charleston fires again, plugging the last man right between the eyes. In just a few seconds, it is all over. Outside, the other patrons are panicking and screaming for the police.

Charleston quickly gathers up the guns and races to the basement, where he finds a service tunnel that eventually leads him to the subway station. He ditches the guns in an incinerator. Gilbert stays behind and uses his forensic knowledge to clean up Will Blont.

The cops arrive, and both of them are arrested and thrown behind bars—Blont to the drunk tank (sadly, a familiar locale) and Gilbert into a holding cell. He calls Freddie, who then phones Bradley Grey.

By early morning, the two have been arraigned and had all their charges dismissed, thanks to Grey’s legal wizardry. As they leave the precinct, a paperboy runs up and sells them a newspaper.

WHITE SLAVERY RING BROKEN UP IN HOTEL, screams the headline. ASSASSINS FOILED IN MIDTOWN.

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