I apologize for that unseemly outburst, diary. I fear I am morose when inebriated, amongst my other failings. That doesn't appear to have changed in the intervening years of sobriety. Over the last day and a half I have suffered a series of terrible shocks to my poor nerves. I had hoped that drinking myself senseless once more would soften the blow somewhat, but instead I had a horrible nightmare induced by that painting I saw earlier today... I woke up sobbing, my head pounding, nauseated, and overall a creature in a sorry state of misery.
I want to go home...
However, I feel calm, at least for the moment. After a long crying fit and the futile craving for a drink, I recalled the laudanum I purchased yesterday afternoon. Opium, when administered correctly, can ease anxiety without inducing drowsiness. Likely this decision was foolhardy as opium tinctures can cause nausea, but I really don't give a damn.
Well. On to recounting the events of yesterday, I suppose.
I managed not to vomit on my shoes when going downstairs. After keeping down plain toast and some strong tea, I began to listen in on the conversation concerning what happened the night before - apparently I didn't dream it, as I had originally
So it appears that not only is Sir Aubrey also alive, he was the one who issued the order for Mr. Elias to be killed. And as I reflected a little bit ago, Elias' statement....
All of them survived, he said.
As they say, the plot thickens...
On the one hand, we know now who murdered Elias (or rather, who had him murdered). We still don't know why, or not entirely. My guess at this point is that Mr. Elias found far more than he was originally looking for and got in over his head.
God help us, I fear we are in the same position now.
This means that we might have an ally in Jack Brady. God knows why one of the members of his own expedition would want him dead, and I'm not certain I really want to know the reasons why.
Before I could say much of anything else, in came Nikolas Geist with a swagger in his step, lipstick on his collar, shirt haphazardly buttoned and entire frame stinking of cheap perfume (which only added to my roiling stomach). There was the usual commentary, ranging from wry to borderline lewd. Now I will admit that when hung over I am short-tempered to the point of being a shrew, and I also felt a flare of petty jealousy. Obviously Geist had been enjoying himself, as had the rest of them, while I had gone to visit my brother and ended up a drunken, weeping mess who could barely remember anything of the day before.
"I see someone finally lost his virginity," I said acidly as he passed me.
He paused and glared at me for that. Perversely gleeful that I had managed with that one comment to sour his mood a bit, I returned it with a long, level stare of my own until he looked away and made his way up the stairs, though I thought I heard him mutter something to the effect of "What's with her?" as he went. Ah well. Geist is quick to forgive, and in the light of what happened later that day I doubt he remembers it anyway.
After he had retired to take a shower, a horrible thought occurred to me: if Terri had kept the books, they would be noticed missing by now, and the theft would easily be traced back to us. I felt a surge of panic, and turned to them, speaking more abruptly than normal.
"The books," I said, unable to keep the urgency out of my voice. "Terri, where are the books and the other things you brought with you?"
"I took them back," she replied, sounding somewhat sulky. "No worries."
After breathing a sigh of relief, we went over everything else we knew. Tony had spoken with an exotic dancer the night before who had not only refuted all the claims we had heard that the Brotherhood of the Black Pharoah doesn't exist - she even named names, Tewfik al-Sayid being one of them. Remembering that tidbit we'd heard about his apartment and interesting sleeping habits, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to figure out just where in Soho he happened to live in case we should need to know later.
Besides, I needed to restock my supplies anyway.
It took a good deal of the morning to find a chemist who was even willing to believe I was a physician - after I had supplied them with my license and everything!
I must make an observation here: when my degree was conferred upon me, the good professors at Miskatonic failed to inform me that the basic prerequisites for practicing medicine were that one must possess male genitalia and lack a brogue. I assume there must be physicians in Ireland as well, otherwise their constitution as a people would not be so robust - so I can only think that it is the combination of my sex and my accent that gives people pause.
By the eighth shop I stopped at, I was noticeably cranky, if the reaction of the proprietor was any indication. I am glad, incidentally, that we were not stopped, for among my purchases were a few sticks of raw opium. I had a difficult enough time explaining that I was buying for a legitimate reason to the medical community - much less the arm of the law!
Tewfik al-Sayid was in his shop. There was no way we were going to be able to look around without seeming suspicious, so we headed on back to the manor. That was where we decided to check out more leads, starting with the art gallery in Soho. It seemed innocuous enough, and I'd never been to an art gallery before, so it seemed a good distraction as well.
An elderly woman met us at the door, claiming that she was the artist's mother. She said that he was busy painting, but we were welcome to come in and look at the paintings if we wanted and if we saw anything we liked, why, we were certainly welcome to purchase it. None of us really heard anything wrong with that, so with a collective shrug we headed upstairs.
My first hint that all might not be as it seemed was the fact that the windows and skylight of the garret/gallery were painted black, and the walls were hung with kerosene lanterns. The light seemed awfully dim for viewing paintings, but I figured maybe I just didn't know any better so I kept my mouth shut.
And the paintings themselves... well, they weren't so much surreal as they were odd to the point of disgusting, in a lot of cases. Tony and Nick were put off by the most normal painting in the lot, ironically: a lifelike study of their New York office. They claim stalker, I think privately that the man probably just saw their office from the view of the fire escape and thought it would make a good study. Strange? A bit, but the subject matter denoted that he would have been an odd duck anyway. They mentioned that he had a gallery showing in New York a few months ago, so it would make sense.
So I was fairly unsettled by these paintings and was trying to figure out a way to get everyone else's attention so we could make our excuses and leave. There was obviously nothing there of importance to us. I wandered over to say something to Terri and then my eye caught what she was looking at. A scene from the war. It appeared normal enough and I was a bit curious, so I leaned forward to take a better look.
Dougal's dismembered corpse lay directly in the foreground. His blue eyes were twin lifeless marbles, staring blankly into mine.
I said nothing, made no noise to indicate outwardly that I had seen anything amiss other than a particularly lurid depiction of the Battle of the Somme, but I felt the blood drain from my face and my knuckles whitened in their grip on the canvas. I turned to Terri, my voice shaking and eyes burning and I knew I was dangerously close to crying again.
"Let's go," I muttered urgently. "Get the others and make your excuses to Granny and let's go home. Now. Please."
"Amelia?" she asked curiously.
"Please," I whispered, blinking furiously. "Let's just get out of here."
Nick, Tony and Dithrine had their attention drawn to the old woman, however, who was talking to Nick and unlocking a closet. Inside was an easel covered by a cloth. She drew it back. I was in the back so I couldn't see well, but it appeared as though she were showing him a very lifelike landscape of some sort. Nick leaned in to touch it. He paused and looked at her. She smiled.
He looked at it again.
The next thing we knew, he had vanished into thin air and now stood in the painting.
I panicked and ran for the door, Dithrine on my heels. Tony stared blankly, Terri yanked on his collar and dragged him quickly out the door. I thought I heard a malevolent hiss from behind us, but I didn't dare stop to look back and see where the noise was coming from. It sounded like a snake, but I knew it couldn't be.
You see, diary, I was afraid that hissing was coming from the old woman.
The drive back to the manor was Terri swearing a mile a minute, Dithrine babbling, Tony white-faced and mute, and myself wringing my hands desperately. Geist is gone, I thought, stunned beyond any other reaction except to numbly repeat the obvious. Gone. In a painting. Dead? No, but he might as well be--
Terri pulled the car into the drive and we stumbled up the steps and flung the front door open.
Geist was lying on the sofa unconscious and pale. His clothing was soaked in mud and water, and one leg featured a set of puncture wounds. Dark blood and pus trickled from them.
Snakebitten, my mind babbled. Poisonous from the looks of things.
It didn't even occur to me to wonder just how the hell he had managed to get back. Quite frankly, at that point, it wasn't all that important.
"Get my bag," I yelled at Dithrine and Terri. "Second floor, east wing. Hurry! If I don't do something to leech the poison out of that leg it'll kill him."
They left in a hurry and returned with the bag. I knelt down on the floor and pulled out what I needed. "Wake him up," I said curtly, "and make sure his chest is elevated. I'd rather not have the venom making its way to his heart any quicker."
Having said that, I made a quick incision across the bite and siphoned out the poison, then delivered him to bed. He was awake and relatively lucid, but so panicked and drained by his experience that he would not speak of it. Tony had also disappeared.
It then occurred to me that none of us had seen Lord Greystroke at any point so far, so I took it upon myself to go find him. After failing to find him in the library (only Dr. Douglas was in there, reading), I made my way to his private study in the west wing and knocked. Receiving no answer, I opened the door to a sight I will likely spend a few weeks trying to forget. The first thing to hit me was the nauseating stench of vomit, urine, and feces commingled. I winced; apparently today was the day for olfactory torture.
The young Englishman lay curled on the floor in the fetal position in a pool of his own bodily waste, completely senseless to the fact that he had soiled himself. His eyes were open, but as blank as an infant's, drool running down his chin from one corner of his lips, and - perhaps the most unnerving - there was a thin trickle of blood from his tearducts in each eye.
What could have happened, I had no idea, but I knew what I had to do. I summoned Terri to help me get him to his quarters, clean him up and get him into bed, then had Jeeves call his family physician. I paced and worried and wrung my hands for the next fifteen minutes until the man, a friendly older gentleman named Dr.Anderson, arrived. He examined him, told me I had done the best thing possible in that situation, and I told him I would watch him periodically for the evening to see if there was any change.
(So far there has been no change whatsoever. I suppose in the morning we will consult and see what is to be done.)
After that was taken care of I went to the study where the servants were cleaning the soiled rug. The mask was the one he had found in the basement of that cult in New York. I picked it up to go put it in the drawer and in that instant I heard agonized screams, a multitude of cries in my head, and heard the wet tearing that, while I had never heard it before, I instinctively realized it was the sound of flesh being rent apart.
Coupled with that was the almost unbearable compulsion to lift the mask to my own face...
I shook it off, hastily replaced the mask in the drawer, and stumbled out the door. My nerves were entirely shot.
I needed a drink.
"I... I need to go," I said thickly to Terri, grabbing my coat. "I'll be back later, if you would please watch Lord Greystroke."
She agreed. Her eyes were sympathetic. I suppose she knew where I was headed.
I somehow managed to remember that I had a duty to a patient, managed to not lose consciousness this time (though I was still barely ambulatory), and stumbled up to bed where I fell asleep. I had only meant to sleep for a little while, enough to regain some bit of sobriety.. but then that dream...
No, I will not cry. I've promised myself...
I suppose I shall go check on my charge, and then try to sleep.
As much as I fear I might hear that voice laughing at me in my head again--
Mary and the saints protect me, as my father would say, and at the moment I would accept any sort of divine protection.
I cannot believe what has happened in the space of a mere thirty-six hours. My hands... they shake so badly that writing is an effort, and while I have been drinking, I surely haven't been drinking enough to warrant loss of my coordination entirely. My vision wavers sporadically, but with tears rather than alcohol (I have been drinking since I awakened, it is true, but only brandy brought to me by Jeeves). I know this because they keep dripping onto the page even though I have been turning my face away so as not to smudge the ink and make my words even more incomprehensible.
I thought things felt wrong from the beginning (I should have listened to my gut feeling back in New York City and told them no, my feelings in so many years of feeling the passing thoughts and emotions and deaths of others have never been wrong), but they have become rather worse since I agreed to aid Mr. Redgrave and Mr. Geist in their investigations.
At the beginning of this day I had composure, albeit shaky and impeded by a hangover. This evening I have returned to the bottle with gusto, one of our number lies ill and poisoned by a snakebite gained in the most impossible of ways (had I not seen it for myself), another in bed in a state of nerves.
Lord Greystroke himself lies catatonic for some unknown reason - having suffered some cataclysmic shock that while I fear I have glimpsed myself, I can only guess at what he saw. That damned mask - he must have used it somehow while we were away and seen something unspeakably terrible; I see no other way for him to have reacted this way. If he does not come out of his stupor by tomorrow morning, I will be contacting his family physician again and we will be forced to remand him to the care of the private wing of Bethlem hospital.
On top of that, if what was revealed to me this morning carries any weight - as I fear it does, and all too much so - then all of us are in a great deal of trouble right now, more than we can possibly extricate ourselves from without aid from some kind of higher power (if such a thing exists).
Mr. Elias' death was no isolated incident as it might have been safe to think beforehand. All the evidence we have managed to gather so far is slowly starting to cohere, and diary... everything we have, despite all my rationale's screams to the contrary... everything right now points to a bizarre and exquisitely dangerous conspiracy.
It can't be true, none of this makes any surface sense. This is utterly insane! Why did they want him dead? What is the point of any of this? Nothing, nothing we have seen, none of the leads we have pursued... absolutely none of them have been what they seemed! Mr. Elias' statement in his last handwritten note is beginning to make a horrible sense. He might have indeed been unbalanced by the time he wrote it, but I believe now that he spoke the stark truth.
All of them survived, he says. I think I believe that now. All of them survived.
Things like this can't happen in today's world. I don't believe in magic or sorcery, or I didn't (people who die are SUPPOSED TO STAY DEAD) and yet--
...oh God my brother, that was him, I know it was, why did that man paint such a disgusting thing, how could he believe that anyone would want or need to see that and it was the sensation of everything at once that got to me, the blood and the mustard gas and the smoke and the pounding of artillery shells and above all the smell of decaying human flesh.
I thought I had made my peace... I thought that...
It's bad enough that they have to die that way but then to stink like--
Sweet Christ, the pounding of my poor head is not to be believed...
I have "fallen off the wagon," as they say, diary, and fallen hard. I have paid for my mindless binge with the worst hangover I have suffered in literally years.
This morning I curl over the desk as I write, temples throbbing and stomach in a state of utter anarchy. The very light, filtered as it is through the draperies, is a source of bitter torment to my beleaguered constitution. I dare not make my way downstairs lest I embarrass myself by vomiting at the stench of cooked food. Just the thought of eating is enough to turn my stomach; I have found myself bent over the toilet rim retching violently at least three times already in the past hour and there is nothing left in me but bile. I am currently debating whether to brace my fortitude or to simply ring a servant to bring me some strong tea and plain toast.
One would think this would be enough to turn me away from alcohol entirely. Quite the opposite; at this point alcohol would, ironically enough, ease this hellish headache.
Well, while I have time and solitude, and momentarily am free of nausea, I shall recount the events of the previous day, as I had neither the time nor inclination to make an entry last night. (Suffice to say, I was quite inebriated and thus incapable of linear thought.)
Yesterday started out well enough, with our morning visit to the Penhew Foundation. I'm not entirely certain what to think of that place. It looked posh enough, and was in a nice part of town. The doorman directed us through very cordially and we were greeted at the front desk by... a bulky, sullen man who demanded to know what our business was with Mr. Gavigan. That struck me as odd; personally I would have had a secretary at the front. I supposed at the time it was simply a security issue, what with all those artifacts and everything. So swallowing any misgivings I had, I left the introductions to Lord Greystroke; it was my opinion that obtaining audience with the acting head of the Penhew Foundation would be a simpler task for one of the British peerage.
Well, Mr. Gavigan was cordial enough and even expressed concern and sympathy... but I did notice that he twitched at the mention of Elias, just a little bit. I wonder. As for myself, I danced around the issue for my own reasons. I felt distinctly exhausted afterwards, as though I had been through a major clash of opposing willpowers...
Also, he seemed quite unhealthily interested in Africa's Dark Sects for the steward of a foundation whose emphasis is on dynastic Egypt. (Dithrine, of course, was in archaeology heaven and barely noticed.) I don't really recall much of the visit after that, because he asked if we'd like a tour.
I don't think when Lord Greystroke agreed - reluctantly - to a compehensive tour of the Penhew Foundation that we would spend six hours staring at pot fragments. Honestly now. Actually... in that vein there was a large coffin - I don't recall what the technical name is for it, Dithrine or Arthur would know? - standing in the middle of the room but he ignored it. Any questions regarding it were brushed off.
I do believe, dear diary, that Mr. Gavigan is hiding something. And I am certainly suspicious that he asked Lord Jerald about the book once again before we left. He's itching to have it. I suppose its rarity - he claimed that only thirteen copies even exist now - could be a factor. He seems the sort to collect bric-a-brac... but I caught a good look at the inside and the Harvard Library stamp is on it. It seems unethical to simply make a profit by selling him the book. In fact, I think when His Excellency finishes reading it, I shall strongly recommend that he let me mail the book and all London-based information we have gathered back to Jonah Kensington who can in turn give the book back to the library where it belongs.
On a completely unrelated note, there was a statue of a woman with a cat head sitting on the front desk! I should very much like to have something like that for my collection of figurines back home. Perhaps I could read around and see what that was exactly...
Onward, I suppose. I am starting to feel quite ill again.
We regrouped ourselves back at the manor and decided that a group should go take a look at that Blue Pyramid place the pubgoers over on Fleet Street told us about. I declined, having business elsewhere and not really feeling inclined to go to a club full of exotic dancers. Terri and Dithrine seemed to feel the same way. Again, this is likely just as well. I suspect that women in that place would draw unseemly attention anyway.
Instead I took Mr. Gavigan's directions and made my way to the cemetery where Dougal had been interred after they brought his body back from the trenches.
That reminds me, diary - I finally worked up the wherewithal to begin reading my brother's letters. The British Army's official message (brought by a man from the embassy in New York who delicately informed my father that the coffin had been nailed shut for the purposes of burial) and his farewell letter to the family, I have read before, over and over, since his death at the Somme in 1916... I had never thrown away Dougal's letters from France, but I had never read them, either. The shock of his death paralyzed me for the better part of a year. On top of the difficulties I was having with my peers and professors, all the work, the transient homesickness... the dean of the sciences college offered me a semester's leave, but I threw myself into schoolwork instead. I couldn't afford to lose a semester's worth of coursework.
I think more importantly, it kept me from really thinking about him. I didn't have the chance to face it until Christmastime, that night when I attempted to read the first letter he sent and could get no farther than the first paragraph.
During the trip overseas, I managed to make myself read that letter. It was of no great consequence, really - it only recounted his journey across the Atlantic Ocean, much like mine except in second-class, his initial arrival in London, and his military training. He made brief mention of expecting to go to the western front in a month or so. My eyes teared up a bit, but I managed to read the entire thing without crying. A start, to be certain. I found it encouraging, and I wanted to go somewhere in private where I could read the next letter.
Dougal's stone was a simple affair, appropriate for a rank-and-file soldier, I suppose. I had stopped by a florist's for a small bouquet of flowers and they were tucked in my coat. The wind was chill and damp and I felt myself shivering desperately even in the warmth of my peacoat, but I wanted to read the letter here, where he seemed nearby.
Well, I'm on the field now; they've sent us to France. I don't suppose you've forgiven your fool of a brother yet? Ha ha, maybe when I come back you'll have the chance to knock me one.
I'll admit, I was a little skittish about joining up at first, but the enlistment guys were pretty nice about it. I've gotten a wee bit of ribbing about being Irish, but all of it's been friendly. There are actually quite a few Irishmen in the ranks; a couple of them kept asking me about the "Home Rule question," as they called it and ribbed me for being American. I guess I really can't win, but I received commendation for being at the top of the class, so to speak. We didn't get much of a training period really. I'd call it more of a crash course if you want to be totally honest, but they need men out there. I'm glad to be of service!
Anyway, the officers are every bit as colorful as the fellows they're in charge of. One of them commands a separate company. His boys call him "Mad Jack," and until I asked why I couldn't figure it out. He's a friendly sort, if quiet, and protective of his men... well, according to Patrick Riley, one of his people, he's taken Kraut trenches out all by himself. Someone else told me that one time he took a trench and then sat down in the middle of no-man's-land and started reading a book of poetry! Poetry, can you imagine that? What a funny kind of fellow. They tell me he writes his own and that he's gifted with the pen, even before he enlisted.
I've enclosed a portrait of myself with this letter, of course, and hopefully if you can bring yourself to do it, it will find pride of place on your mantelpiece. How is school? Are those old rogues at Miskatonic treating you right? I know you were having a time of it when we spoke last... I sure hope I can see you graduate with your degree. I know Dad and the others kept pushing at you to become a nurse, but I know that was never what you wanted. Maybe I can request leave. But you're still in your first year of school, so maybe this war will have ended by then. Here's hoping, eh?
Hey, Amelia... you know, I was thinking you should really find yourself a beau. Yeah, I know how you feel about men in general, but... hey, I'm at war, you know, and being a soldier and all... well. It is what it is. I guess I worry about you. You're an amazing girl and you have a great head on your shoulders, but there's that sadness in your eyes that I never could erase. I'm your big brother and I love you. We've been friends through thick and thin for so long that it seems weird not having you nearby. I'm feeling a little homesick, I guess, is a lot of it. I miss Joe and Dad, I miss the factory work, I miss talking to you on the telephone once a week. At this point I don't even care if you're still mad. I'd welcome you with open arms.
Don't get me wrong, sis. I'm not trying to lay a guilt trip on you or anything. I just want you to be happy and taken care of if I don't make it back to America...
The words seemed to blur and I couldn't see any more past that. I squinted my eyes to try and read; they felt hot and burning. I thought maybe the cold was affecting my vision somehow so I lifted the letter a little closer. My hand was shaking. Two small drops fell on the paper and blurred the ink.
But it doesn't appear to be raining, I thought, and then the drops trickled down my cheek and my eyesight cleared and I realized they were my own tears.
I wiped my eyes and tucked the letter back in my coat, laid the roses at the foot of the grave, and turned to go - and nearly ran into the slightly-built Englishman standing there. He was dressed in a full-length trench coat and a nice enough suit. His dark eyes were grave and careworn-looking, just short of being haggard, and I could see the faintest of scars at his temple. His nose and ears were unusually large, but he had a kind face.
"Oh, I'm sorry," I managed and took a step back long enough to pull my coat around me a bit and step back. "I didn't realize you were behind me. I suppose I should have looked."
"That's quite all right," he replied, then after a pause: "I don't believe I've seen you here before."
"I've never been here before," I answered and offered him my hand, trying to smile. It felt weak and wobbly on my own lips, a parody of cheer. He took my hand without a hint of a smile. "I'm from New York City. I'm in London to visit friends."
"America? I would have assumed Ireland, by the sound of you."
"You have no idea how much I've heard that already," I said wearily, and rubbed my eyes again. "At any rate, I'm here paying my respects to my brother. He died in the war and since his body was interred here no one in my family has ever seen his grave. Until now, of course."
"Of course," he echoed politely. His eyes glanced over the tombstone by which I stood, and then back to my face, except this time he was frowning slightly. "Out of curiosity, miss, you wouldn't happen to be Dougal O'Neill's younger sister, would you? Amelia?"
I started and stared at him. "Yes - yes, I'm his sister, but... do you know - I mean, did you know my brother?"
"On a casual basis, yes. We were not in the same company, but our divisions inhabited the same godforsaken snake pit around Ypres for a time. I... we were both at the Somme, but my company was among the reserve force, so I had no idea what had happened to him until we were later debriefed."
I swallowed violently. "I... see."
"I remember him, however, from what little conversation we had. A good fellow. He spoke of you often. At any rate, it would be terribly rude of me to give your name and not offer mine." He inclined his head slightly. "Siegfried Sassoon. I was a leftenant, but... well, that hardly matters now, I suppose."
"It's good to meet you," I asked softly, and bit my lip. "If he spoke of any of the men he knew, I'd not know. You see, he... I... we had a nasty argument the day before he set sail for Southampton, and... I never read his letters. I was... I received word at the university I was attending that he had been... killed in action, and... and went home because my father was too distraught to make arrangements, and I received the official notice and his letter, but I never read anything else."
"It's all right. Really, you shouldn't trouble yourself further on my account."
"No... I apologize," I said abruptly, turning away from the glimmer of a distant pain in his eyes. "I imagine the war is not something you would care to recall."
"No," he replied. "But it bears recollection. Someone has to remember or it will happen again. The first casualty of war is the truth. It always has been."
"I told him that I hated him, for leaving me alone..." I sniffled. "I'm sorry, I'm so terribly sorry, I don't mean to trivialize the suffering of anyone who had to fight in that awful war, but--"
My breath caught in my chest and I could continue no longer. It came out as a heavy, choking sob.
"I told him that I hoped he would die, just to prove to him that his ideals meant nothing to the people he was fighting for," I cried. "And then..."
He said nothing. Perhaps he felt that nothing he said would console me, and he would have been correct, for in that moment at least I was inconsolable. I buried my face in my hands and, in short, diary, I made a complete spectacle of myself in front of Mr. Sassoon. After a moment I felt his hand on my shoulder and saw through blurred vision a linen handkerchief dangling in front of me. I took it and wiped my eyes.
"I suspect there is much more to this than a simple case of guilt," he said as I looked up, "and you seem distressed, so I will not pry further, but..."
He sighed heavily. "I am a poet, Amelia, and the subjects which have filled my pages for many years were not pleasant ones. I am an angry man, yes, even a bitter one. But I would hope that I am also compassionate, and that extends to the families of the men I fought alongside. If you need anything while you are here in London, or anywhere else - or should you like to communicate with army friends of his, should they have survived the war - I will be more than willing to help."
"That's very kind, Mr. Sassoon," I said in a tiny voice. "Thank you."
He nodded, with that solemnity which had not left him since we had first spoken. "It's getting a bit late, I'm afraid. Do you have a way of getting back to your hotel?"
"I'm... staying with my friend, but thank you very much. I... if I come across any names in my brother's letters, would you mind terribly if I rang you and asked for help finding them?"
"Of course - have the operator put you through. I shall likely be in. Are you certain you'll be all right?"
"I'm fine. I think I just need to be alone for a little while. To regain my composure." I smiled at him as best as I could manage. "Good evening, Mr. Sassoon."
"Good evening, Amelia."
He turned and walked down the path, towards the front of the cemetery, and was gone. I was alone. I reached out to touch the tombstone, there was a flash in my head, and I thought for a fleeting moment that I could hear the dull thudding of heavy artillery and the sharp report of gunshots, smell the stink of mud and human waste and chemicals, hear the screams of the dead and dying and the wounded and the shouts of men issuing orders--
I backed away from the tombstone as if I had been bitten by a particularly vicious wild animal and fled without a second glance.
I have no idea how long I walked after that. I do know that I ended up at a pub, somewhere, in a not-so-nice part of town. I think I recall telling the barkeep to hand me a bottle of the hardest liquor he had, handing him some kind of currency, and then starting to drink. I did it wthout even thinking, and I know why: if I was drunk enough to be senseless, I wouldn't have to think about my brother anymore. I wouldn't have to think about anything.
Some time must have passed after that. I think I came just short of finishing an entire bottle of Bushmills - at any rate, I remember a hand shaking my shoulder and someone asking where I lived. I mumbled the address at him, I believe.
The next thing I remember is someone shaking me awake to translate a Greek tome. I remember trying to figure out why it was shaped like a skull, squinting at the title, reading "Emigre," and then passing it back to... was it Dithrine? I don't recall... there was a lovely ornate box involved and a pair of silver daggers. I remember I touched one and when I did this queer flash of blinding white light filled my head. That's all I remember until I woke up and immediately grabbed the washbasin by the bed so I could vomit.
And... something else...
That voice again, in my head...
I quite clearly heard it say: "Your friends are foolish, Amelia."
I suppose I shall have to ask the others if that was a dream or not - I fear it wasn't, but I will go ask regardless.
I shall update tonight if anything else happens, but I think I have had enough of writing today. Steeling myself and going downstairs would be the best thing - if I behave as though nothing happened everything will be fine. Maybe they'll believe I just went out and celebrated the lack of prohibition laws instead of walking out alone in a questionable area of a strange town in a strange land by myself, crying over my long-dead brother---
(Oh, dear, my eyes are blurring again, I wonder if I can find where I put that handkerchief Mr. Sassoon left with me...)
And that light... was it all really a dream or did something happen of which I was not aware...?
No. I shall compose myself and go to breakfast, and think no more on this matter. A day or two of concerning myself with other matters should prove a suitable distraction, for now. Perhaps a look into that art gallery?
After a week of relaxation across the waters of the Atlantic, we have arrived in London at last!
My time was primarily spent caring for Tony Redgrave, as he had been badly injured during an altercation right before we left. Mr. Redgrave has been healing fairly quickly beneath a combination of careful administration of opiate painkillers and bed rest. I have been overseeing his treatment since his grievous injury ten days prior, and therefore had taken to staying in his room to change poultices and bandages and whatnot. I also received a good chance to catch up on some well-deserved sleep, I do believe.
Speaking of such: there were no more odd dreams to be had, for which I am immensely grateful - and relieved. I am thinking that perhaps the strange voice and all of it are simply due to having read Elias's field notes and Huston's sessions with Roger Carlyle right before dropping off. In retrospect I feel a bit silly for succumbing to such fanciful fears. Even as a child I have had vivid dreams, and the voice I heard on the telephone... well, I had just awakened, after all. I believe it's the alienists and their sort who claim that there is a queer plateau, if you will, between the end of sleep and full wakeful lucidity. In that light I suppose it is possible that my dream could have "carried over"...
Well, this is not precisely hypocrisy on my part! I am willing to concede that there are things of which I possess little knowledge, and that even an alienist might have some inkling of logic in his wild postulations. As the sisters used to tell myself and my peers with sardonic glee - even the Devil himself can use truths to his advantage.
No more of that business.
Apparently, however, the violence with which we were faced in New York and the notes Elias left have affected others in our midst as well. Nikolas Geist - the high-strung photographer with an appetite for women, diary, you recall him, I am certain - came bursting into his friend's bedchamber a couple of nights ago wearing naught but his cotton undershorts! While not exactly scandalized (having seen my share of unclothed patients, you understand), I was at the very least mildly irritated. His noise awakened the sleeping Mr. Redgrave, who appeared as surprised and aggravated as I.
"I'm not going to ask why you've come running in here screaming, in your underwear," I said with fatigued annoyance, "but get the hell out."
Then he started babbling something about the butler (presumably Lord Greystroke's manservant, the one everyone simply refers to as Jeeves - he seems a stoic sort but surely not a bad fellow for all that) being an evil god, "not my lord and master," or something of that nature. Neither of us could get any more out of him than that, and I likely would have sedated him again if not for the fact that my supplies at this time are fairly limited. Especially since most of them have gone to tending Tony Redgrave. Barring any future altercations here in Great Britain, I should be able to restock my supplies and keep them well on hand for such a length of time as is required to complete our investigations.
I did, of course, think to bring along the card which outlines my status as a physician and license to practice medicine thereof. It is most difficult even at home to convince anyone that I am a doctor (outside of the chemist who supplies our practice and therefore is familiar with me) - being of Irish extraction and female besides. I expect it to be doubly an annoyance in London, seeing that the civil war in Ireland has recently drawn to a close and from the gossip of the Englishers on ship there was still "criminal activity" being perpetrated by the Sinn Fein ruffians and their military arm.
In that vein, Terri apparently hid the handcannons well. Hopefully we shall not have need of them forthwith.
Southampton was as I presumed it would be - dank, dreary and foggy. One would hardly expect more in wintertime; after all, New York is little better this time of year. We took the train and arrived in the great city of London, the heart of the British Empire. It was truly magnificent! I have not seen such sights, these ancient buildings, older in many parts of the city than anything one would find in America and the locals think little of it if they think of it at all.
The streets teem with people, who are interestingly much more conservatively dressed than most of the people back home. Whereas flappers abound in their high-cut sheath dresses and exposed garters, satin turbans and furs and long strings of beads adorning their necks - the women here dress much as I. Their dresses are still the same basic style, but the hem is lower, their garters hidden if they wear them at all and the seams of their stockings in perfect alignment. They wear long coats and cloche hats and kidskin gloves, little if any facial paints or powders. The only similarity to American women is the short-bob with its generous fingerwaves. And of course - as is true in New York, I find that many of the matrons in England cling stubbornly to fashions from twenty or more years past.
Though the evolution of corset to girdle is a small one, I find that I personally prefer this happy medium I wear - somewhere between youthful indiscretion and flamboyance, and old-fashioned Edwardian respectability. I feel this is only appropriate, as I am in essence a spinster. I have far more interest in the latest medical advances than I do in capturing a husband. An important point that neither my father nor my half-brothers seem to understand, as they constantly tried to convince me to become a nurse during my schooling in Arkham. Nursing: that most inauspicious of careers in which a woman's competence is overridden by her constant position of second fiddle to a man who, as often as not, knows little more of medicine and the mysteries of the human body than she! Given the choice to become a nurse and dutifully fawn over a doctor, or to marry and become a slave to kitchen and bedchamber, I would choose my current path. I will suffer neither mediocrity nor marriage - they are but two paths to the same end: feminine servitude, and I am a woman who values her independence!
I digress. At any rate, I suspect that this is a combination of cultural difference and financial necessity. Americans commonly view the aftermath of the Great War as being immensely profitable, but apparently we were the only ones who felt as such. (And admittedly, the only people in America who seem to be getting rich are the ones benefiting from the prohibition laws.)
Greystroke Manor is utterly sumptuous. It makes the most palatial homes of the American nouveau riche appear as mere shanties in comparison - there is nothing quite like the stately structure of a centuries-old European domicile which is still habitable to make one feel the proper amount of awe. The family who serves Lord Jerald's father (incidentally a duke, one of a handful of cousins to the British Royal Family) is that of his manservant, and all of them are polite and suitably hospitable. The manor is also in possession of various and sundry artifacts from all over, and old rare books. I imagine that will keep our two archaeological researchers quite satisfied, to say nothing of the museum attached to the Penhew Foundation.
One of them, Dr. Douglas, seems pale and withdrawn, however; I get the distinct impression that his sleep on board the steamer - unlike my own - was much disturbed. Of course, hewas perusing that barbarous African tome the entire time we were at sea... perhaps our waking activities have more impact on the stuff of dreams than we realize even in these forward-moving modern times. He has said nothing, so I have chosen not to persue the subject.
We lingered at the manse long enough to gawk like the green tourists most of us admittedly are, situated ourselves in the guest chambers of the manor's eastern wing, then after a brief get-together decided to go run down through our links and resources here in London.
As we were entering Soho there was a newsboy on the corner shouting something about "the latest murder" in the neighborhood. Predictably, Mr. Redgrave's interest was thoroughly peaked and so he grabbed a copy. According to the paper there have been a series of ritualistic murders taking place over the last few years, and this was the twenty-fourth (I believe?) thus far. Since an Inspector Barrington was one of the references given to me by Mr. Kensington anyway, we made Scotland Yard our first stop and asked to consult with him.
The Inspector is a nice enough man, though a bit busy and harried, but he was amenable to company and was quite interested in what we had to say. We told him only that we were in London investigating Jackson Elias' murder and the circumstances surrounding it, or that was the story until Mr. Geist inadvertently let it slip that Terri had dispatched a ruffian with a bullet to the head. The expression on her face was positively murderous, and we ended up receiving a stern warning from the inspector that handguns were strictly outlawed in the kingdom without a government-issued license and that we had best see to it we remained on the proper side of the law, etc etc. I couldn't help but notice that he primarily eyed me while making that statement. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
Somehow I have a feeling that my heritage is going to be even more of an issue here than it was back home. Annoying in the extreme, but unfortunately not surprising.
Our next stop was at a seedy little three-story in a nearby area. This would be the offices of The Scoop, a gossip rag from the looks of things. Again, a reference from Mr. Kensington so potentially a source of information. We went upstairs to meet with Mr. Mickey Mahoney (an Irish name if I ever heard one). A grubby chain-smoker whose hygiene seemed entirely unhealthy, not to mention that he vaguely stank of stale whiskey. Among his other failings, he had the badge of a proud Orangeman hanging above his desk. I have nothing personally against Protestants, but the stories I've heard of the Orange Order are nothing to recommend them, so it goes without saying that I instinctively bristled.
Fortunately, I don't believe he noticed. He was far more interested in getting a potential story - and ogling me - than much else, though the few questions he did ask me directly were "bingo" questions to figure out whether I was orange or green, figuratively speaking. I believe I managed to deflect him quite well. Likely it was just as well considering that the only two answers I would have for him are either "lapsed Catholic" or "agnostic," seeing as any religious faith I possessed as a child has long since fallen by the wayside. He gave us a couple of articles that Elias was apparently looking at when he came to visit. One is a report of some kind of monster up in Derbyshire, some village called Lesser-Edale I think. The other is another Soho piece, a surrealist art gallery - hmm. That actually sounds quite intriguing. I've never been to an art gallery...
Well, anyway, Mahoney tried one last time to ascertain if I was Catholic or Protestant as we were leaving, by asking what I thought of the separation of Ireland and the war there and whatnot. My reply to him was simply that I consider myself to be an American and therefore the question has no relevance to me. It was an honest answer. I know precious little of the war in Ireland save that an American named De Valera was leading Sinn Fein, and only because my father was relating news from home to me.
I found myself asking him somewhat abruptly where the nearest pub was. He directed us to the Black Goat where we all sat down for a pint and asked around (well, Tony and I did) of the local barflies if they knew anything about the murders or about the people mentioned in the article. It proved more useful than I thought - and once I managed to step on a few toes after having my backside pinched a time or two, I managed to find out that Tewfik al-Sayid was a spice merchant who frequented a club called the Blue Pyramid. Some sort of Arabian belly-dancers place or something, from what they said. Needless to say, it isn't my sort of place.
(I did, however, manage a pint of stout and two fingers of Bushmills, neither of which I've had since the prohibition laws passed, so a small victory at least!)
That done, we realized it was late so we made our way back to Lord Greystroke's estate. A night of brief discussion and it was determined we should go to visit the Penhew Foundation on the morrow. Thus we shall - and with a stomach filled and a soft warm bed calling my name, I bid you adieu, diary, until tomorrow evening.
Now that I am sufficiently composed and armed with brandied tea, I may continue.
(I wish I had something stronger.)
When Nick called me, he seemed frantic and told me in a rushed way that something had "come up" and Tony was to meet me at the clinic's side door. I quickly retrieved my supplies and isntruments, and a change of clothing from my apartment upstairs (being available after hours has downsides, but it certainly is convenient to live and work in the same place) as he had intimated that I might or might not be coming back. I was most curious, if a bit shaken by my nightmare, and so I made my way downstairs.
Tony and Terry were waiting for me, and I had barely seated myself in the vehicle before the car took off at a high speed.
"Where are we headed?" I asked.
And it was once we arrived that all of us respectively began to tell our stories. They had gone to some shop in Harlem (Harlem? What on earth would they be doing in a place like that, I have no idea. And moreover, I'm certain they stuck out like a collection of very sore thumbs.), I believe it was called the Juju House? Something like that - and spoke with Silas M'Kwane. He seemed nice enough on the surface, but something was off, and I gather that the shop was extremely... strange. In that exotic African sort of way, I suppose. Tony had apparently handed the man his business card, and then the man became evasive and raised their suspicions. They left the shop, and all the vagrants who had been lounging about the place were completely vanished.
I told mine, which was admittedly tame, but had to stop when I got to the dream. In fact, I had to ask for a drink. I have decided to speak of it to no one.
At this point Tony and Nick felt it would be best to go back to their offices (however reluctantly) in order to retrieve their valuables. Which they did, and left me to my devices - at this time I recorded the field notes Mr. Elias had left behind.
It was the consensus that someone should call and notify Dr. Trevors and Lord Greystroke, who had both been otherwise occupied. For some unfathomable reason Mr. Geist thought he could call the archaeologist and not have her balk at the notion of associating with him. She reluctantly agreed to meet with us, and then it was left to call Lord Greystroke.
Oddly, he seemed uninterested in speaking with Mr. Geist, or rather the butler (whom Mr. Geist fears for some odd reason. He really is a high-strung one!), so I took the phone and requested to be handed to his employer. I don't know why he refused Mr. Geist and not me, but he spoke and agreed that we should congregate at his estate.
A rarity; an entry not made in the wee hours of the morning! I confess, I was senseless until nearly eleven this morning. A disgrace for a woman of the medical profession. Exhaustion is hardly an excuse in my case. After all - I wasn't the one involved in the events that came to pass in the last two days.
I think I will start with the dream I had. I dozed off while reading Huston's files and had a dream - no, nightmare, I think, is the more accurate description. It was quite similar to the one had by Roger Carlyle, but there were some considerable differences. The figure in it... tall, gaunt, dark... he had a horrible smile. It had this lunatic glee that was somehow... childlike. Black mirth? I suppose that is the only way I can describe it... I barely remember the large majority of it, but in my heart of hearts I suspect that I simply don't want to remember.
I fear it was, in reality, not a dream.
But I've never had one come to me unless my fingers brush the surface of an object. It doesn't make any sense, but... it felt exactly like those visions. I'm not a religious woman, but if an appeal to the Virgin of my childhood would take away this curse, I would gladly attend Mass once more. Please, not this, not again, not now. I thought they were gone... I thought... after five years... and I can't shake the image, even in blazing daylight. It haunts the edges of my thoughts now, at the cusp of sunset and darkness.
That voice... the lips moved, the figure seemed unreal to my eyes, but the sound of his voice was there in my ear. As if he were whispering to me, like a phantom paramour on the empty pillow beside mine....
I remember that I came awake screaming, every nerve afire, heart pounding, soaked in perspiration though my skin was as cool and moist as a fresh corpse's. The telephone was ringing and it took me a moment to gather myself before I could pick it up. I must have remained on the very edge of sleep because I swear with utmost sincerity that when I lifted the receiver to my ear, I heard the voice of my dreams whisper with that same horrible intimacy and clarity: "I can see you."
The moment passed and it was just Mr. Geist, but... I could have sworn...
I could hear that smile in his voice.
...no, Amelia, stop it. Stop. You are being utterly ridiculous. The fancies of an especially vivid nightmare, surely.
Why? Why do I feel so drawn?
Just writing about this makes me--
I fear that we may have stumbled upon something more dangerous than we can handle.
A series of disasters is forcing us to embark on a journey to the British Isles. I suppose we would have done so eventually, but certain events and foolhardy actions (on the part of those who shall remain unnamed) have given us little recourse otherwise.
I meant to record the rest of my research, but things went so utterly awry last night and today that I honestly had neither the time nor the inclination. Tony sleeps now, his pain eased by a small dose of morphine - I shall allow him four more days on the stuff before I reduce the amount of opiate into a laudanum-like preparation. Mr. Geist is also soundly asleep; I fear his nerves are quite frayed by this sequence of events. He strikes me as an excitable sort, prone to hysteria. After a particularly bad episode last night I took it upon myself to minimally sedate him with a small draught of chloral hydrate. Fortunately he was much improved after a night of sound rest, but I daresay I shan't be offering free pharmaceuticals through the course of this journey. I am neither a fool nor a complimentary dispensary, and the funds I have been allotted for purchase of various implements and medicines is limited by necessity.
I shall also be bringing along my license to practice, as I have heard that the Isles are still quite conservative and procurement of necessary solutions and concoctions will be nigh-impossible if lacking evidence of my eligibility to possess them.
But I digress. Tonight, in the interest of expedience, I shall handle separately my personal affairs in another entry and devote this one solely to research, as I did in the previous passage. Having said that, the other packet I received were the files of one Dr. Robert Huston, the alienist who attended Mr. Carlyle both before and during the expedition:
The notes were detailed during the initial interview but oddly became increasingly brief during the course of treatment (I should think the opposite would be true, but not in this case). He was having recurring dreams of a voice calling his name - by his second name, incidentally, "Vane" - and of wading through a thick mist towards it. The owner of this voice was a man - tall, gaunt, dark-skinned, with an inverted ankh in the middle of his forehead. Despite the clearly Egyptian theme Mr. Carlyle previously had no interest in that particular fad, any more than I do on a normal occasion. Anyway, this man held out both hands, palms up. On the left hand Mr. Carlyle saw his own face; in the other a curiously asymmetrical pyramid. (I have already made a note to discuss some of the imagery with Dr. Trevors, and possibly with an alienist should I be fortunate enough to run into one while we are in England.) It gets just bizarre after that in a typical dream fashion... but always before waking the same voice would say to Mr. Carlyle: "And become with me a god."
Despite the general... weirdness of this dream, Mr. Carlyle didn't consider it a nightmare; rather, he revelled in it and saw it as some sort of divine calling. Huston's observation (initially) is that Mr. Carlyle is actually quite undecided, like he is about everything else in his life. Despite my reservations towards alienists and their ilk, I must at least grudgingly give ground to what seems to me a candid, even shrewd observation. From what Erica C. and others have told me, and from what I have read in the papers about him, I drew a similar conclusion.
The dream, as it is recurring, is the primary focus of Dr. Huston's research and therefore nothing of real note takes place in subsequent sessions. The one brief notation that caught my eye is the following, and it would not have done even that had I not previously spoken with Miss Carlyle:
"He calls her M'Weru, Anastasia, and My Priestess. He is obsessive about her, as well he might be--exterior devotion is certainly one way to ease the tensions of megalomaniacal contradictions. She is certainly a rival to my authority."
She [Roger Carlyle's sister] had mentioned, in passing, a black woman with whom her brother had a curious, outwardly unfounded, and obsessive infatuation. She was never mentioned in the society papers that I could see, which I suppose is understandable as one wouldn't expect a Negro to be commented upon in high society. I must admit I wonder what her role is. In light of that information, I suspect that she is the one to whom this entry must refer although the notes never state as such outright. I could be wrong, but in my heart of hearts I seriously doubt it.
So. M'Weru is her name. I suspect that her name changed to something else when she arrived Stateside, as I can't imagine who would hire someone with a fantastically silly name like that - I can't pronounce it, at any rate. Perhaps "Anastasia" is an alias of some kind? I suppose it hardly matters now, but it is certainly curious that no mention was made of her anywhere. I won't mention her in England as it would offend sensibilities, but once we arrive in Cairo, perhaps. That sort of thing would be remarked upon.
I confess I don't know exactly what Huston meant by "megalomaniacal contradictions," unless it was an esoteric roundabout way of saying that Carlyle was arrogant while being easily led. The line about rivaling his authority, however, underlines my suspicions quite neatly.
The last note for this year also strikes me as curious: Dr. Huston mentions that "C. threatens exposure" should he not go... somewhere, but that if he does go wherever it is he's talking about that "all pretenses of analysis will surely be lost." I am unsure what to make of this passage and can only speculate. I suppose he's referring to the expedition which was likely in the works at that point, but what's this about implied extortion? Did he know something Carlyle didn't, or did he have some secret that Carlyle uncovered? And "pretenses of analysis." Hmm. Telling indeed. Perhaps Dr. Huston is also not what he seems to be (a quack charging wealthy fools too much money to analyse their dreams, which in my opinion is reprehensible enough).
The more I uncover, diary, the more I suspect that few if any of the players in this little production had above-board reasons for attending Mr. Carlyle on his gallivantery into parts unknown. Miss Masters and her Communist lover, whom I highly suspect she abandoned to join this quest - either to escape scandal or escape him. Mr. Carlyle and his illicit Negro woman. Huston and his mysterious motive.
I suppose some (not all) will be revealed once we arrive in London. I certainly hope so.
I have my own reasons for wanting to go on this journey... my brother's body is interred somewhere in the city. He was brought back from the trenches wounded and died in hospital; where he is buried I have no idea. I understand he had something to do with a regiment butchered at the Somme River...
I'll ask about. Surely someone will be able to direct me.
But I shall expound in another entry. Here ends my research, at least for the moment.
Still haven't spoken to the others as of yet, despite Dr. Lewis granting me the day off - something I haven't had in quite a long while. I can't remember the last day I was able to sleep past six o'clock in the morning (well, not a day where I had a good reason to sleep that late anyway).
I suppose I'll have to call once I'm done documenting everything I learned today...
My first stop was Prospero Press, the office that publishes Jackson Elias' books. Mr. Jonah Kensington was a veritable plethora of information, diary, and provided me not only with a copy of correspondence between himself and Mr. Elias, but also his complete notes - which details his own steps in Africa as he gathered information to write his next book. I shall summarize here so as not to waste pages and ink, as the copies of the book material are in both my hands and Kensington's at any rate. There are eight sets of pages, all written in a very neat and fine hand, and as detailed as anyone could ask. An excellent source!
The first piece of correspondence, dated shortly before the beginning of the notes, is a letter to Mr. Kensington sent from Nairobi. Dated August 8, 1924, the letter is written as follows:
Big news! There is a possibility that not all of the members of the Carlyle Expedition died. I have a lead. Though the authorities here deny the cult angle, the natives sing a different tune. You wouldn't believe the stories! Some juicy notes coming your way. This one may make us all rich!
Blood and kisses,
P.S. -- I'll need reference money to follow this one up. More later.
After that came the notes. A brief summary of each, as I am not inclined to copy word-for-word (not being a secretary, you understand, I know no shorthand).
1) This could prove to be important should we decide to pursue the Africa angle (that seems to be cropping up everywhere, at least at the moment!), as this set of notes gives offices, officials, and tribes Mr. Elias visited. I assume he was searching for a starting point by gathering general information on cults and cult rituals. There doesn't seem to be anything conclusive here, but at this point I suspect he was just scratching the surface. The importance of these notes is that Mr. Elias completely discredits the "official" version of the so-called Carlyle Massacre.
2) Mr. Elias made a trip to the massacre site, and noted that the earth in this place was unusually barren. According to him all the tribes avoid the place. Curious, given the background of the tribal wars that occasionally come out of that place from the British media. The Nandi (I recall that from the newspaper clippings that Nick Geist showed us) and the Kiki - Kikuyu? - tribes have been disputing territory in Kenya for many years, yet neither tribe will touch that area with a ten-foot pole? Odd, that. Both sides claim that the area is cursed by a deity they call "the God of the Black Winds." This god supposedly lives on the top of a nearby mountain.
3) Here is detailed an interview with one Johnstone Kenyatta. Mr. Kenyatta claims that the Carlyle murders may possibly have been performed by the Cult of the Bloody Tongue. (!!! - emphasis mine! The same as in NYC? Can't be a coincidence!!) He goes on to explain that the cult is supposed to be based somewhere in the mountains - likely that selfsame mountain which the natives avoid like the plague - and that its high priestess is actually a part of the Mountain of the Black Winds, as he calls it. Mr. Elias was nice about it, but I could tell from his notes that he didn't quite want to believe what he was told. Mr. Kenyatta was insistent, however. "Regional tribes fear & hate the Bloody Tongue," Mr. Elias writes. "Furthermore, tribal magic is of little if any protection against the cult. They claim this god is not of Africa, but something much older; I suspect more primeval, than even the darkest of their own deities."
4) Just a follow-up, I guess, in which Elias talks to other natives and confirms his interviewee in the last set of notes. Several reliable sources, he says, confirm the existence of this cult although he
5) One sheet only; it appears as if Mr. Elias wrote it as a reminder to himself - he notes that the Cairo portion of the Carlyle itinerary needs to be carefully examined, as he suspects the Kenyan sidetrip was prompted by something found there. What?
6) This is the longest section of the notes by far. There is an
7) Another single sheet. A run-in with a Nails Nelson in Nairobi. Mr. Nelson was a mercenary working for the Italians in Somalia, but double-crossed his employers & had to seek asylum in Kenya. Claims that Jack Brady, one of the Carlyle Exp., is alive & in Hong Kong!! Less than 2yrs before Elias was in Kenya & 4yrs after Carlyle Expedition was declared dead. According to him Brady was friendly if closemouthed and nervous; he didn't press the conversation. Elias suspected that if Brady survived, so did everyone else. I agree - seem to recall saying that corpses can't reanimate and magically disappear.
8) Structure outline for Mr. Elias' book but mostly just has entries like "tell what happened/explain why."
Again, loads of info. This should be massively helpful...
Oh, I almost forgot! Mr. Kensington had some information on Miss Masters & Sir Penhew that were not in the papers or known by Miss Carlyle. Apparently Hypatia Masters was having a rawther torrid affair with a Marxist! Scandal potential if I ever heard it, and a foreigner with a very Spanish-sounding name - Raoul something-or-other. I suspect she may have had other reasons for joining the Carlyle Expedition other than in the capacity of photographer - she was just an amateur; Roger Carlyle certainly had enough money to hire a professional cameraman or someone experienced with travel in Africa, yet he took Miss Masters along instead. They were also good friends, by all accounts (but Erica C. says Masters was a little froofy-headed at the best of times, your typical spoiled debutante). Maybe she followed him to escape a potential scandal? It's an angle worth exploring; I might have to go to City College and find this Raoul. Or someone who would have known intimate details. In this context it makes slightly more sense that she would have left America with the others.
Our cipher Aubrey Penhew is looking a bit more colorful than before! He's listed in Burke's Peerage, according to Mr. Kensington, as a titled aristocrat since the Norman invasion nearly nine hundred years ago. Interesting tidbit: one of his ancestors nearly cost the family their holdings when he was burned at the stake for practicing black magic/heresy/the usual witch-hunt suspects. He was a war profiteer, got rich in the States off munitions plants along the eastern seaboard. He has holdings here as well as in the west of England, and of course, is the owner-sponsor of the Penhew Foundation. Other than that he's largely unremarkable. The contact in charge of affairs is Edward Gavigan, based in London.
Also, two contacts in London were recommended to me. One was Inspector James Harrington, a Scotland Yard detective. The other is a Mickey Mahoney (solid Irish name, that), a journalist. Both, I am told, are reliable men and helpful.
Hmm... one more thing. Before he died, Mr. Elias hand-delivered a brief note to Mr. Kensington's office. It is quite telling of the man's state of mind the day he was murdered, as the writing is highly erratic and barely legible in comparison to the neatly scribed field notes I summarized earlier in this entry. I shall transcribe as far as I am able:
Many names, many forms, but all the same and toward one end---
Too big, too ghastly these dreams,
---Dreams like Carlyle's(??)---
Get that psychoanalyst's files--
All of them survived!!!
They'll open the gate. Why?--- so the power and the danger is real. They---
many threads beginning---
The books are in Carlyle's safe---
Coming for me. Will the ocean protect---?
Ho Ho no quitting now. Must tell, and make reader Believe. Should I scream for them?
Let's scream together.....
Cryptic to say the very least. Mr. Kensington believes it is the last words of a raving madman. On surface I would agree, if not for the fact that he corroborates the existence of the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, and seemed completely in his right mind throughout... Geist has stated several times that this sort of nervous paranoia is utterly uncharacteristic of his friend's usual behavior. I suspect that someone caught on to what he was up to, or an old enemy from his past. But if it were an enemy from his past, why then the sigil on his head and the tales of the cult that match the description of the murder...?
Too many threads and not enough links. I am so tired.
I intend to read Huston's files on Carlyle's psychoanalytical sessions, but I think I should put the pen down and rest my eyes for a bit. I feel suddenly drowsy...
I shall have to make a trip to the local speakeasy before long. The bottle of brandy I keep concealed in my apartment is three-fourths emptied. This is a matter of some concern, at least for the time being, as I certainly don't want to allow myself any degree of dependency on the stuff - even solely as a sleep aid.
I shouldn't keep liquor at all - not because I care anything for the legal ramifications, but because the underlying temptation is always there.
Oh, but I need a drink...
No, I don't need a drink. That would be the old me speaking. I know I never killed her; she merely tucked herself away into the dark corners of my psyche where she could taunt me at will. Well, my method of defeating her is simple: ignore her, at all costs. I won't think about that craving. I shall consider other things, and hopefully lull myself to slumber by more innocuous means instead.
I thought about Dougal all day today. My last journal entry prompted it, I suppose. One of these days I might actually read all the mail he sent me while he was overseas...
I stated that I had "never seen the body, nor did I shed a tear at his death," but I confess I was not entirely forthcoming with that statement. It is the truth that I shed no tears - initially. I was in a state of shock. My father cried, my brothers all cried, but I, who had been his closest confidante, could feel nothing. I was the one who ultimately made the decision not to have his body brought back to the United States; it was my feeling that he ought to lie on the ground he had fought to defend.
The uselessness of it all pervaded me with a directionless rage that left me determined not to shed tears on his behalf. I nigh shook with a constant fury, an anger that fueled my already restless inner self. I became waspish and short-tempered, snarling at anyone who so much as glanced my direction in a manner I might have perceived as awry. People began to avoid me, and I am ashamed to admit, with sound reason.
A few weeks after he died - I believe it was Christmas; I recall that there were decorations and snow, at any rate - I found myself back in Arkham at university, sitting in the campus courtyard with my coat and scarf wrapped snug about myself. In one hand I carried a handful of envelopes; they were all the letters he had written to me in his absence, the ones I had never read. After perhaps an hour of blankly watching the snow fall, I assembled the letters by chronological order, opened the first one, and began to read.
I could go no farther than the first two paragraphs of the first letter before I uttered a cry of despair and unutterable loss, collapsed from the bench onto my knees, and screamed my anguish and grief into the freezing depths of a New England blizzard. For what must have been at least a half-hour, likely more, I crouched on hands and knees, impervious to the cold, rocking back and forth with deep, painful sobs wracking my frame. Try as I might, I could not force the awful truth from my consciousness: My brother, my best and only true friend, had died in some godforsaken filthy trench alone and in agony, and out of childish, selfish fury I had turned my back on him. He had not betrayed our trust in each other; I had. The guilt and self-loathing I felt... I cannot even begin to describe it.
To this day I have neither opened nor reread any of the letters, including the only one I ever attempted to read.
Perhaps one day, I'll be able to read the letters he sent. But not now. Even eight years later, the wounds are still raw, and I am still beset by demons that have plagued me since my childhood. Dougal was the only person who ever came anywhere close to understanding me. Understand in turn, diary, that I seek no sympathy for my situation. To claim otherworldly power is to risk categorization as a lunatic in this modern age and I have no wish to be labelled as such for various reasons - not the least of them being that were I considered to be insane, I could conceivably lose my license to practice medicine. My brother never once questioned my sanity when I told him of the things I had seen and heard. If he felt my sanity was less than solid, he never opined as such to my face.
I miss him terribly. I wish sometimes that I could see him, just once. If not him, then at least visit his grave and tell him I never meant the beastly things I said to him the day before he left for Southampton, that I spoke out of anger rather than sincerity. My logic tells me he knew this, otherwise he would not have faithfully sent me correspondence; however, my guilty conscience, like all guilt-ridden souls, feels the innate need to be assuaged of its sins - imagined or real.
I had little time to grieve his passing. A far more pressing matter usurped my attention, and that was the arrival of the Spanish influenza. It had been spreading like wildfire in Boston; before long, it found its way to Arkham and the neighboring communities, and ate its way through the town like a malignant cancer. Miskatonic was forced to close its doors until further notice as students and faculty alike succumbed to the dread disease. Townspeople who had managed to remain well packed their bags and fled - at least, those who had no ill relatives to anchor them, and some attempted to take sickening children and elderly parents with them to Boston in search of a cure that didn't exist.
In all the furor and panic, no one had thought to go to Arkham Sanitarium, the state-run home for the insane, and inquire as to whether or not assistance was required there. I was but a recent graduate and seeing my fellow students jump in feet-first at the local clinic, it occurred to me that no news had come from the mental hospital since the flu outbreak began. I took it upon myself to pack a bag of supplies and make my way to the eastern edge of Derby Street.
As I had expected, three-fourths of the patients were dying. Twenty had died already, and ten more took ill the day before I came. Dr. Hardstrom, the asylum director, was at the point of tearing out his hair. The house physician had died three days before my arrival. When I stated my name and explained that I was a doctor, I fancied I could see tears of relief in the poor man's exhausted eyes.
It was working at Arkham Sanitarium and using my healing skills amongst the insane, that I first truly encountered them. My hackles initially rose at the prospect of dealing with those that had lost their reason - until I spoke with them myself. Some were beyond my reach, the schizophrenics especially, wandering through their fabricated realities and oblivious to the death surrounding them - or acutely aware and attributing it to a more sinister cause as did one gentleman of thirty or so who screamed something about old gods devouring the planet.
Some seemed as sane as I, at least on the surface. I had only to look into their faces and see the haunted, broken expression in their eyes. Sad and defeated, tormented but with a pitiful sort of dignity, the scraps of self-preservation drawn about a shattered soul. It was this very thing which determined that, after requested by Dr. Hardstrom, I should move onwards regardless of the pay offered me as an assistant director and house physician of the asylum. I knew that look in the eyes of the insane. I knew it all too well. I had seen it in the face of my mother.
Moreover, I had seen it in myself. (I would see it far more often in future, after I had succumbed to alcohol and its excesses.) It was very akin to peering into a distorted mirror, and I found myself extremely distressed by it.
I wonder sometimes what might have happened had I remained in Arkham and accepted duty as a doctor at a mental hospital. I really do. I don't think I could have remained there and retained my own sanity. It was an issue I don't believe that I explained well to Dr. Hardstrom, simply because I had no solid reasoning to give him other than a feeling. As I stated in my previous entry - should I spend my days among those of aberrant behavior, my own aberrations would seem not only acceptable by their standards, but perfectly normal, when they were very clearly no such thing. I could not, in all consciousness, risk such a thing.
As it stands, my brother's words had planted a seed of disquiet in me: I feared secretly that I could go mad quite easily without any aid from outside sources whatsoever. I sometimes fear I have and simply haven't realized it yet...
I need to stop. Dark thoughts such as these only intensify my cravings for alcohol-induced oblivion.
On that cheerful note, I am due to meet with the others tomorrow so as to share our findings. Perhaps I can set up all those appointments. Work always takes my mind off personal matters...
I shall away to seek my bed, before the lesser half of my nature triumphs. Adieu.
Another late evening, courtesy of my chronic insomnia and my encroaching worry about the events of the past week and a half. I suppose I shall take this time to write a short autobiography of myself. Assuming, of course, that anyone will stumble upon this and read it; I'd like any readers to know a bit more about the author of this tome, if you will.
My name is Amelia Brigid O'Neill. I was born on the 28th of April, 1897, in South Boston in an area known as Dorchester. My father was - is - a foreman at one of the local textile mills, and my mother was a seamstress. There were six children, five boys and myself. Admittedly, my three eldest brothers are half-brothers: Junior, Kevin, and Michael. Dad had two wives; my mother Anna was the second. Dougal, Joseph, and I were her children.
Dad was very happy to have a daughter. I had always imagined that men would fancy a carful of strapping, athletic boys to carry on their family name... but Dad doted on me. He and my mother, according to Kev, had a bit of an argument regarding what my name would be. Mother wanted it to be very Irish; Dad said "I'll have none of that; she's an American and she'll have a proper name," or something to that effect. Obviously, I wasn't there to listen in on that debate! Eventually they came to a compromise; hence Amelia and Brigid, respectively.
I think what Dad meant, knowing him, is that he wanted myself and my brothers to have the same opportunities as anyone else born in America. Living in Boston, the moment people find out you're Irish, you're relegated to domestic help, firefighter, or policeman. They've been that way for the last eighty years and it hasn't changed appreciably. I heard from Junior last I spoke to him that a lot of the old prejudices against those of Irish extraction are beginning to lift; they're too busy discriminating against darkies and krauts now. And let's not forget those dirty, dirty Communists.
Yes, reader, that was intended as sarcasm. I'm fully aware that I have my own prejudices, but none of those are words I would use in public. Social progress notwithstanding, I have no intention of returning to Boston. I have too many painful memories there. I love my family, but when I was seven everything fell apart. I came home from school to find a paddywagon on our apartment doorstep and my next-door neighbor, old Mrs. Murphy, sobbing like her heart was fit to break. Two men were lifting a cot with something on it, a body covered with a white sheet, and another was talking to her. My brother sat on the doorstep with a white face, tight-lipped.
That was how I found out my mother was dead.
And scarcely two years after...
All neighborhood children have a rite of passage, if you will, a way to initiate yourself into their social circle and prove yourself worthy - customarily by way of some idiotically reckless stunt that would shock one's parents. Which I suppose is the entire point, to do something radically out of character in order to prove your moxie... at any rate, near our little street of row-house apartments, there were the gutted remains of an old tenement building that had been destroyed in a blaze which occurred probably twenty years before I was born. It was reputed by the locals (mostly the adolescents who took no small pleasure in frightening the younger members of our social circle) to be haunted. The "test", if you will, was to enter the building and remain for a period of twenty minutes. Naturally, not being a child of cowardly disposition, I agreed to this along with the other children my age.
When it was my turn to enter the building, I did so without hesitation. The door clicked shut behind me and I walked through the hallways. I was disturbed by the stench of old smoke and rotten timbers, and secretly worried as to whether the very floorboards would collapse beneath me; nevertheless, I maintained my composure.
After perhaps five minutes had passed, I took it into my head to explore the building. I wanted to see why people assumed it was haunted, and perhaps dispel some myths if they could be brought to light. Most of the rooms were either emptied, so devastated that there was little left to study, or otherwise unremarkable. Ten minutes had passed by the time I worked my way around to the third floor. There was one room to which the door stood ajar. I slipped through to look around. As with the others, there was nothing. As I turned to leave, a flash of color caught my eye. Upon the blackened floorboards lay the remains of a child's rag doll, but amazingly intact for all the damage it had suffered.
I went to pick it up, and as soon as my hand touched the fabric... all my senses were completely swept away. What I beheld instead was a horrible sight for a mere child to witness. There was no clear scene; rather, it was a series of powerful and vivid images slipping across my field of vision. I could see and smell flames, smoke, burning timber. I perceived the wail of sirens and clanging bells. I saw the face of a child scarce younger than I, cuddling the very doll in my hands. She screamed for her mother; I felt every emotion she did: the terror of the encroaching flames and the sight of her home burning and the loss of her parent. There was a sense of flight down a set of stairs, then a fall and the white-hot pain of a fractured bone... then screams of agony as her flesh was seared from her bones by the greed of the fire.
I suppose some considerable time must have passed; my brother told me later that it was forty-five minutes before he decided to search for me, as he feared I had perhaps fallen through one of the floors and injured myself. The next thing I knew I felt arms lifting me and a sense that I was carried; still, I remained utterly senseless until awakening in my bed at home and Dougal standing over me with a cup of tea. I refused to tell him what had happened. I had heard the stories of Danvers, where you got sent if people thought you were a lunatic. In my childlike fears I thought that surely such a wild tale would either see me punished for lying or sent to the lunatic's asylum in shackles and straps, to be confined to a padded cell for the rest of my life. I had heard the older children snicker about it and threaten it far too many times to believe otherwise.
After days of agonizing over my decision, I finally told Dougal, and swore him to absolute secrecy. Dougal and I were always close. He was the only one who knew everything about me, truly, and long past the point when most people would have disclosed my darkest secrets to their companions and sworn them to secrecy, he kept them to himself. As far as I know, that particular secret would be one of them.
(Even my current companions have no idea. God willing, they never will. Perhaps I can remain quiet, and soothe the fear that sometimes threatens to overwhelm me with the occasional shot of brandy in my tea. In the same way I dispel melancholia and periods of overexcitable activity. Whether my mother's curse, the curse of my second sight, or one merely brought upon myself by alcoholic overindulgence, I cannot say. I am a physician, after all, not given to flights of childish fancy; nor do I swear by the words of that quack who fancies himself a healer of the mind by probing into the sexual escapades of his patients and charging them a fortune to tell them that they secretly wish to lie with their own mothers.)
Life continued without particular discord. I was an unusually precocious child, and my father - having harbored great ambitions for me even before this happy discovery - insisted that I should have an education. I began school at the local parish-run authority, taught by austere Ursuline sisters about the rigors of humility and whatnot, but more than that I was able to learn the classics, arithmetic, reading, penmanship... I learned quickly, and soon came to the top of my classes. It was suggested that I continue my education beyond into university, but my father could not afford such a luxury. It was only by the grace of a parish scholarship and a donation from a benefactress who had employed my mother for many years, that I was able to enroll at Miskatonic.
Miskatonic University is an Ivy League school. Though perhaps not as renowned as Harvard or Yale, Miskatonic possesses a very solid academic program in nearly all areas, as befits a university of her standing. To everyone's surprise, I chose to enter their medical program, which of course has quite the reputation for being rigorous, demanding, and at times outright insurmountable. My family attempted to dissuade me, suggesting that I take up nursing, or get a degree in literature or the like - something a woman could do fairly easily. I rejected them all in turn. I wanted to be a doctor. I've always wanted to be a doctor. My femininity posed a hurdle, not a blockade.
I had a difficult time of it - not from the subject matter itself, but from classmates and professors. Those who didn't attempt to seduce me or belittle me, harasssed me, and I admit that there were several nights I trudged home in tears and determined to quit that hell. Every morning, however, I would awaken refreshed and equally determined to prove that their cruelty would be of no consequence to me.
Not long after I began college, Dougal announced to me his intention to join the army and go to Europe, to fight in the great war. I was furious, furious beyond reason. I said so many things that I should never have said... in return, he told me what had happened to our mother.
She was a woman of mercurial temperament, always mentally high-strung and fragile. Her moods became worse and worse as Dougal and I aged; she would spend day after day huddled in her bed unmoving and unresponsive, or sometimes fly into violent rages wherein she would throw things at my brothers and my father, or excessively cheerful. Once, I do recall, she came home with buckets of paint she had bought with the week's grocery money and announced to all of us that the Virgin had told her to paint a religious mural on the wall. Not long after that, I remember she was gone for some time. I had asked Dad, who had told me that she was on a trip and would be back after a while. A month passed and she came back, seemingly back to her old self, but after awhile it would always start up again.
After she bore Joe, it seemed to be the last straw for her. She refused to see him, which was a problem because he was a very young child and was not yet weaned; Dad had to find a wet nurse for him. Not long after he made that decision, Mother died. Dougal was the one who first found her, and it was he who told me that she had taken the rest of the chloral hydrate she kept in the kitchen cabinet. Her doctors had prescribed it to her for her "nervous condition," as they called it. Mother had been gone from the apartment for an extended period of time twice before she died; once before I was born, the other when I was six. Both times, those so-called "trips" were actually involuntary commitments to Danvers State Hospital. My mother was one of the very people which the older children on my street had cracked so many jokes about.
I was, as you might well imagine, badly shaken by my brother's words. I had known my mother was nervous and high-strung, but I had not expected that she was actually insane in the truest sense of the word. In addition, I was still furious with him. The day after that, he left on the steamer for Southampton. Less than a year later, we received word that he had died in France, on the western front, and was to be buried in the military cemetery outside London. To this day I have not seen the body, nor have I shed a tear for his death.
Time passed, and I graduated magna cum laude in due time. One of the few places that was willing to accept me after graduation was Arkham Sanitarium; I had summarily rejected the invitation. Despite the pay it offered, I had no desire - and still have no desire - to spend my days amongst the mad. Not out of any particular prejudice against them... I will take a moment to admit that I feel a kinship with them that frankly disturbs me. I too have seen and heard things beyond the scope of human reason, and I don't dare immerse myself in that world for fear that my visions will become not only acceptable, but normal. I would be as mad as my charges, and as a physician that would be a dire conflict of interest.
Thus, with degree in hand I made my way proudly back to Boston, sure of the respectability and reliability that medical degree would confer upon me.
Imagine my chagrin when I found social attitudes in Boston to be utterly unchanged outside my own enclave of Dorchester! Outside the immigrant areas, there was no work to be had. All I had to do in practice interviews was state my name - or in most cases, open my mouth. I had been cursed with my father's accent, despite all my attempts to rid myself of it as a child, and it was painfully obvious that I was Irish. In Bostonian eyes, should my status as a mere woman not be enough to discredit me, my Irishness certainly was.
I found myself with little recourse but to look to other horizons. It was at the height of my quickly growing despair that my brother Michael sent me a telegram. Dad had told him of my difficulties in finding employment. He was in New York City, he said, where attitudes were far different and the Irish were more accepted; surely I could find work there. In the meantime, I could stay with him. I agreed and packed my meager possessions, and caught a train to the metropolis.
At first I had similar difficulties as in Boston. The combination of female and Irish apparently was at odds with the popular idea of one who practices medicine professionally. Midwife was acceptable to them, or nurse, but a doctor? Surely not!
It was Dr. Lewis who finally decided to take a chance on me, and invited me to join his practice. Said he "needed new blood" to spice things up around the office, and that I seemed quite competent. Thus began my employment as a full-fledged physician. I harbored no hopes of running my own practice after the prejudices I had witnessed - or at least, not for a considerably long period of time. I still doubt that attitudes will change in the near future, but a girl can always hope, can't she?
My visions continued unabated in the meanwhile, and eventually, out of desperation, I took to the bottle. This continued until it came to Dr. Lewis's attention; at which point he took me aside and told me plainly that he felt it wasn't his business what I did in my spare time as long as it didn't affect my ability to work. The minute I came in to the office drunk, however, I would be dismissed. I understood his meaning right away, and resolved to quit drinking.
That was five years ago. I've struggled to stay on the wagon since then; alcohol is a mistress you don't easily forget... and I fear I might be slipping again. Hopefully not. A slip of sherry or brandy in one's heated beverage is certainly harmless. Medicinal, even.
Well, I've written enough tonight, I feel. I suppose I should go attempt to sleep, once more.