The Post-Modern Masks of Nyarlathotep

Episode III: Night Comes On (Part 4)

Safely ensconced in Shepheard’s, the luxury hotel near the Ezbekia Gardens, the group gets down to chasing their leads. Freddie asks about Omar Shakhti, Faraz Najir, and Warren Besart with the concierge. The last two he promises to check in about, but the first name he knows immediately.

“Shakhti Bey? Yes, he is one of the richest men in Cairo. He has a great cotton plantation to the west of the city.”

“Fantastic! Please send him a message saying I’d like to meet with him.”

Pearkes checks in at the fort and meets General Allenby, the Lord Protector. He is disdainful of the Egyptians and regards the election as a major headache. He gives Pearkes a batsman, a young private. Pearkes tips him ten pounds.

“Cor bless you guv, you’re the best officer I’ve ever had!”

Freddie and Alphonse accompany Dr. Mwimbe to the Egyptian Museum, where they meet with Dr. Ali Kafour, the head of the antiquities department. They talk about the Carlyle expedition—Dr. Kafour knew Sir Aubrey slightly, as he was a well-regarded Egyptologist.

According to Dr. Kafour, the Carlyle party dug at several locations, notably near the Sphinx, at Dhashur, where the Red Pyramid and the Crooked Pyramid are located, and then near Luxor—but not in the Valley of the Kings.

“And now the Penhew Foundation has sent a new expedition, headed by a Dr. Henry Clive. They are digging in the same area.”

“Love to meet them, old man.”

“I will try to introduce you.”

“By the way, what can you tell us about that African woman travelling with them—what’s her name, M’Weru?”

“Ah, the Nubian [gender slur].”

Dr. Mwimbe shoots him a dagger-like look.

“She was very foolish. Always wore a burial mask, although she was not Egyptian, being an ignorant East African.”

Mwimbe spouts something in Swahili at the doctor, and he replies. After a moment’s heated conversation, Dr. Mwimbe storms out, saying she will see them at the hotel.

“Dr. Kafour, do you know a place around here called Victory?” asks Freddie, remembering Polidori’s rambling statement.

“Victory? You are in it! This is Al-Qahira—it means, ‘The Victorious’.”

The group exchanges glances—so “The Master” is in Cairo.

Freddie shows Kafour the Dagger of Thoth, saying he wants to donate it to the museum. The doctor is astonished—this is an artifact beyond price, he says.

He confirms that there was a belief that the dagger could kill the avatars of Thoth, although he says that Thoth has merely been associated with much older, darker gods. He explains that in the time of the Third Dynasty, an evil man named Nephren-Ka became king of Egypt—the legendary Black Pharaoh. Nephren-Ka was a sorcerer, and had a spirit called the Black Wind that could slay anyone anywhere in the land. These myths have passed down into East Africa as well.

While the group digests this information, Dr. Kafour gives a sudden shout of pain. He begins to convulse, clearly in the grips of a heart attack. Gilbert tries to help, but the state of the art of 1920s medicine isn’t much help—Kafour expires.

Chastened, the group returns to the hotel. The concierge has some news. Shakhti Bey would be happy to receive them at their convenience. Faraz Najir is unknown to them; as for Warren Besart, he recommends they ask at the police station.

Freddie arranges for Sheila to be visited by a French dressmaker—she had been worried that she couldn’t fit in with the dazzling crowd at Shepheard’s, but she dearly wants to go dancing that night. While Gilbert stays behind to offer up his professional assessment as a Frenchman, Freddie and Pearkes go down to the hall of records to learn more about Shakhti.

It turns out, by an interesting coincidence, that except for routine tax records, all dispatches or intelligence files on Shakhti were destroyed in a fire. Two separate fires, actually, at the same warehouse.

“Really should find a new warehouse,” says the bored clerk.

Freddie runs into Mustafa Pasha, and drops in to his office to discuss Shakhti. Mustafa insists he is a great man, a friend of the King, with roots going all the way back to Muhammed Ali. They hit it off so well that Mustafa invites Freddie to dinner that night. He spends a pleasant evening getting drunk with some of the richer locals, all of who speak well of Shakhti—but Freddie gets the distinct impression that he is as powerful as he is rich—perhaps more so.

By the time he gets back to the hotel, Sheila has been waiting at the bar for hours. Freddie apologizes profusely and they stride out to the dance floor.

Pearkes checks in with MacDonald; he is still sick. The hotel’s vet says that he is suffering from fatigue, not any physical ailment. Pearkes insists on taking MacDonald back up to his room in the two enormous suites Freddie has rented.

“Have you ever been to Cairo before, Mr. Blakely?” says Sheila as they dance.

“No, at least not that I remember.”

“You’re a very good dancer. Is this how you met Miss Elias?”

“Jax? No, actually. I met her in a, well, a salon. Bit of a rum old place, had a bad reputation…”

Dissolve to Freddie, in a Parisian bordello, sometime around 1917. Scantily-dressed women and men in uniforms fill the room.

Freddie is standing by the bar when he notices one of the women with a camera.

“I say, are you taking pictures?”

“Listen, Mac, why don’t you lay off?”

“Nobody’s ever taken me for a Scotsman before.”

“Huh? Come on, mister. I’m a reporter. I’m here working on a story.”

“Really? What about?”

“Well, it’s…that is…”

She sighs. “Okay, the dish is that I’m trying to get up to the front. My editors just want me to report on what the nurses are wearing this year and that kind of thing. I figured if I got some pictures of some of the brass here I might be able to get a little, you know, leverage.”

“Well, now. I might be able to help. Alphonse?”

Gilbert pokes his head over the bar. “Oui?”

“You know that Major who just came in? The one looking for his men?”

“Oui. Major Pearkes.”

“Right. Maybe we can talk to him about Miss…”

“Olney. Elisa Olney. But everyone calls me Jax.”

“Jax, I’m Freddie.”

“Very pleased to meet you…”

In the middle of the night, MacDonald wakes up growling. When Pearkes goes to calm him, the dog is very agitated and bites him, then spends the rest of the night whimpering. It looks like the cause of MacDonald’s fatigue is a bad case of night terrors.

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