Monday, 16 February 1925
In the early morning hours, a car careens up the Queens-side ramp to the Queensboro Bridge. At the wheel is Robert F. Scott, Bureau of Investigation Agent, and beside him in the passenger sits Cammy Bourgine, intrepid occult investigator.
They are pursuing three creatures they saw leaving Maspeth cemetery, which Cammy had wanted to stake out after hearing reports of grave robbers. The creatures prove both tough and acrobatic; Scott hypothesises that they are hairless gorillas escaped from the zoo. Swinging from a suspension cable, one of them springs onto the car. Its flaccid rubbery face shows it to be no ape. As the beast punches a taloned fist through the windscreen, Scott slams the brakes, deftly placing the car in a lane with no traffic behind. The creature is thrown from the bonnet and tumbles to a halt.
"Floor it!" screams Cammy, as Scott steps on the gas. Tyres shriek as the creature's horrible waxy visage is lit up by the car's headlights. It only has time to raise an arm in defence as it is hit centre mass by the front of the vehicle, flattening its rubbery body with a sickening wet thud. Cammy winds down her side window and takes aim at the next creature in line climbing the cables. She squeezes off a few rounds, none of which hit home from the fast-moving vehicle.
"Grab the wheel," commands Scott as he reaches into the passenger floor pit to retrieve his Thompson. Sticking it through the hole left in the windshield by the previous creature, he fires a burst of rounds at the climbing brute. Hoover's new weapons training regime has paid off and multiple slugs hit home, sending the creature lurching off the bridge's suspension cables and into the East River.
Almost as soon as Scott hands the firearm to Cammy does the third creature slam onto the roof of the car. A horrid screeching issues from the steel as the creature's claws rend huge gashes in the top. While Cammy reloads their weapons, Agent Scott swerves the vehicle from side to side in an effort to remove the creature from the roof to no avail. Just as Cammy finishes reloading the Tommy gun, hideous claws reach down and peel back the roof. Momentarily shocked, Scott miscalculates the angle of the off-ramp to the bridge. The turn was too sharp at too fast a speed and the car clips the concrete abutment and goes into a slow motion side-over side spin. The creature jumps off in time not to be part of the wreck, which comes down hard, upside down, into another lane of traffic. Wheels spin like a cinema classic. Oil leaks. The driver and passenger are dazed. They're brought to their senses by the guttural growl of the approaching creature. Reaching for the Thompson, Cammy brings it to bear as the creature pulls off the side door like it was a ring-pull tuna can. It stares down the barrel of the gun as Cammy empties the clip into its thick, pink-grey hide. The loud report of automatic gunfire is replaced with the wail of sirens in the distance.
Cammy keeps her revolver trained on the mass of pinkish flesh as the sirens sound closer and closer.
"You're going to need to put that gun away Cammy," says Scott calmly walking towards Cammy.
"Is it dead?" asks Cammy. Scott kicks the creature. It doesn't move, but it is issuing a horrid smell and seems to be leaking more than just blood and gore.
Police cars begin screeching to a halt all around the pair as Scott takes Cammy's firearm and places it on the ground. Cammy puts her hands up, and Scott removes his agency laminate from his breast pocket as coppers issue out in streams from their cars, weapons drawn. Shouts of "freeze" and "put your hands in the air" can be hear over the dying din of the sirens.
"Well if it isn't fuckin' Agent Robert, I should have fuckin' known," comes a shout familiar to Scott. "What the fuck are you doing out here? You've just shut down this bridge for hours!" Scott sighs as John Coughlin, chief of the NYPD's detectives division, makes his way through the crowd of officers.
Scott begins to argue "we were in pursuit of these creatures, John…"
"I don't fucking care Scott. I'm tired of cleaning up your fucking messes every second week."
"Have you even had a look at these things? This is official Bureau business Coughlin." bluffs Scott.
"Which part of "I don't fucking care" do you not fucking understand Scott? Now you and your girlfriend get the fuck outta here. We'll take care of the wreck as usual, but we're sending the Bureau the bill!"
Scott mutters "she's not my girlfriend…" before asking the chief detective "Can we get a ride?" Coughlin walks off.
A beat cop that Cammy is familiar with from her work, Mickey McLoughlin, offers the pair a ride back to their respective lodgings. After getting dropped off, Cammy heads straight to bed for a bit of shut eye in the studio above her office. Before switching off the bed lamp, she glances at the telegraph next to her bed from Jackson Elias bringing back a wave of old, possibly bitter memories. Likewise, Agent Scott picks up a telegram from his side table after dropping down the keys to his wrecked Model T. He reads the wire again, vaguely remembering its contents from reading it after coming home from a bender Downtown. This is the first time Jax has contacted him since the war. The contents are short, terse even, wholly unlike the Jackson he knew:
I NEED YOUR HELP STOP MEET AT MET 10AM TUESDAY 16TH STOP JAX
Placing the wire back on the table, he pours himself a large slug of Canadian whiskey and settles into the sofa for the evening.
Meanwhile, somewhere in New Jersey, a train shudders through the night. With a dehydrated gasp Sir Neville Wordsworth is shocked into consciousness. The rattling of the carriage seems to be the roar of an artillery attack.
"Bartholomew! Barty!" Wordsworth chokes out above the din that now seems to be nowhere as loud as it seemed before he used his voice. Trying to disguise its grogginess, a voice responds.
"Barty, where are we?" continues Neville, swallowing down his earlier panic, a hangover migrane rising in the front of his skull.
"Sir? I do believe we're somewhere outside of Philadelphia. New Jersey, sir."
"Where are we headed Bart?"
"You don't remember sir? New York." Bartholomew's stiff upper lip biting back any hint of sarcasm in his voice.
"And why are we headed for New York?" continues Wordsworth; last thing he remembers was treating some Chicagoan slaughterhouse magnates to his finest Canadian whiskey in his hotel room.
"Well, sir," now incapable of holding the acerbic sting of sarcasm in his words back, "you received a telegraph for Ms Jackson Elias yesterday. You're to meet her at Grand Central at 9am today."
"Jax… And what's the time now?" continues Wordsworth, slowly pulling himself out of delirium and into reality.
Switching on the light to read his watch on the bedside, Bartholomew stings Neville's eyes, "Sir, its 6am."
"And when are we due in Grand Central?" it's now becoming business as usual for the young knight.
"Quarter to 9, sir. We'll have plenty of time."
Wordsworth swings his legs out of the bed and rubs his eyes. "Barty, you better fix us a drink. This is an ungodly hour to be awake."
"Yes sir, of course, sir," replies Bartholomew.
Neville has time to freshen up and put on a suit before Barty returns with two glasses filled with a dark red liquid.
"What's this then Barty?" asks Neville.
"The drinks car was more than able to provide us with tomato juice and Worcestershire, sir. Bloody Marys, sir. I've topped them up with our personal stash." Neville and Bartholomew clink glasses in a cheers and prepare for the day ahead.
"And you do remember the ball tonight, don't you, sir?"
"The ball?" Neville sighs.
"Yes, the charity ball. You received a letter about it three weeks ago, a telephone call about it two weeks ago, and Addison Bright dropped by to remind you about last week.”
"Ah, yes, of course…"
"You're expected to make a donation as well, sir."
"I am? Capital! How much?"
The train lazily pulls into Grand Central on time. Prim and proper and a few Bloody Marys down, Sir Wordsworth looks resplendent in suit and tie. Bartholomew struggles with Neville's wardrobe of personal effects.
"Need a hand there Barty?" asks Neville.
"No, sir… I've, uh, quite got it."
"Very well then, perhaps we head to the concourse," Sir Wordsworth strides ahead, his loyal batsman struggling behind.
Taking a seat in the concourse, Neville checks his watch. 8:55. It's been quite some time since he had last seen Jax. Despite their full and loving relationship, Jackson had quickly grown itchy in the Wordsworth Oxfordshire estate. Other worlds had beckoned her, and had taken her from him. There was some level of resentment from Neville with how much her work had taken her for him, but Neville was supportive of her endeavors and knew she needed to make a name for herself apart from him. It still stung him that the old adage "if you love something, set it free" had lead to the disillusion of their engagement. Still, Neville held no ill feelings towards Jackson. Indeed he had hoped that this meeting may have been something to do with their union, but upon rereading the telegraph Jax had sent him, he realised this was business, and that possibly Jax was in some kind of danger. The note was short and matter of fact, not a communication between lovers. Still, Neville held out hope that any show of devotion was enough to bring her back.
Peeling away from his thoughts, Neville spots a station hand slowly walking towards him. Something in the eyes makes him commit his gaze. As she draws closer, and it is most definitely a she, despite the occupation, Neville realises it it Jax in disguise.
"Jackson. It's good to see you."
"You too Freddie."
"Jax, what on Earth is the matter?"
"I need your help Freddie. I need you to get me a passport." Jax makes full eye contact the entire conversation. Her eyes are pleading, but wasted, exhausted.
"A passport? Where's yours?" asks Neville, his brow contorted in worry.
"I need one that isn't in my name. Not in any of my names." she asks.
"Very well, I'm sure I can get one. But what's the matter? Where do you need to go?"
"Nowhere just yet, but I need to be able to leave as soon as I need to," a twinge of fear is apparent in Jackson's voice.
"Jackson, is there anything else I can do? Anything at all to help?" asks Neville at his most plaintive.
"I need you to get me a meeting with Erica Carlyle, she'll be at the charity ball you're attending this evening," asks Jax, a renewed vigour in her eyes.
"Very well," replies Neville, distraught from the fact that he knows full well Jackson is in trouble and only wants his help on her terms.
"You should meet up with Camille and Robert before the ball, I've asked for their help too."
"Camille and Robert!" exclaims Neville, immediately sucking back his misgivings. He knows now full well that Jackson has burned through all her other contacts and this is a last ditch effort.
Jackson reaches out and places her hand on Freddie's arm, "Thank you, Freddie."
"You're most welcome, Jax," says Neville as Jackson departs and disappears back into the crowd.
Neville and Barty make plans to secure Jackson a passport. Deals are made at the British embassy and the passport is fast tracked. Meanwhile, Scott and Cammy wait at The Met, blending in with the crowds. While vacantly staring at an oil painting of a cow, Scott is approached by a extravagantly dressed, fur-coated and hatted woman with dark red lipstick and thick round sunglasses. She stands next to him and Scott does his best to not appear as though something is awry.
"Robert," says Jax from under the thick shades.
"Jackson," replies Scott.
Noticing the two talking Cami joins the couple. Scott, Cami and Jackson speak, Jackson informing them of as little as she did Neville.
"I need you to get me a meeting with Erica Carlyle," states Jax.
"And how do you suppose we do that? She barely even leaves her estate," asks Cami, incredulously.
"You'll meet her tonight at the charity ball," Jax instructs, coming off as terse as her telegraph.
"And have you got us entry? We're not the most respected citizens in New York, you know," this time it's Robert's turn to be incredulous.
"Both your names will be on the door. Freddie will be there too, I need you to work with him," the two nod and Jax continues. "One more thing, I need you to get me an ibis-headed dagger. I'll be on auction at Sotheby's tomorrow."
"Why the dagger?" asks Cami.
"I really can't stick around to explain," Jax eyes the room nervously.
"Well how do we find you?" asks Scott.
"I'll find you," replies Jax as she saunters out of the room.
Cammy does some legwork before the ball. Checking in with a series of contacts from Chinatown to Harlem she inquires into the dagger being sold at Sotheby's. Her contacts in Chinatown immediately clam up upon the mention of the dagger, Cammy very quickly getting the impression that she's asking dangerous questions. Later, after checking in on Abdel Nasser, a janitor at the Natural History Museum, she's informed that a dagger with an ibis-head is known in legend to be able to kill a god.
Night falls. Cammy and Robert arrive by cab at the Waldorf for Addison Bright's ball, appropriately dressed and suited. As they begin to make their way to the entrance, a 1925 model Stutz Bearcat screeches to a halt in a perfect parallel park. Batholomew Perkins steps out from the driver's, followed by Sir Wordsworth in the passenger's, his swordcane taping the pavement. Both are immaculately dressed in white-tie tuxedos.
"Camille! Robert!" shouts Neville.
"Wordsworth?" replies Scott.
"Good to see you old chap," Neville uses both hands to clasp Robert's in a warm handshake. "And you too Camille," he says as he embraces her in a hug.
Cami smiles, stepping back from the hug. "It's been a while. It's good to be back together again. I take it you've already spoken to the last member of our little party?"
Wordsworth narrows his brow in concern. "Yes, I've seen her. We should keep her mention to a minimum. From my meeting with her, I think she believes she's being followed."
Scott nods. "Yes, we got the same impression."
"Well, shall we?" beckons Wordsworth as he gestures towards the entrance of the Waldorf.
Inside, the ball is filled with the creme of New York's social scene. Scott and Cami try to blend in as Wordsworth mingles. In the back room, the group spots Jax reclining on a sofa in a beautiful evening gown.
"We're here Jax, now care to tell us just what is wrong?" asks Wordsworth.
Elias lights up a cigarette. "If I told you, believe me, you couldn't deal with it."
"I asked you here because I need your help," says Elias. "Freddie, I need you to get me an interview with Erica Carlyle."
"Erica Carlyle? The heir of the Carlyle munitions manufacturing fortune?" asks Scott.
Elias takes a drag. "Yes. I need you to ask her about what happened to Roger."
"Wasn't her brother and his whole expedition torn apart in Tanganyika?" asks Wordsworth.
With another long drag, Elias continues. "Not all the members of the Carlyle exedition died. I've talked to Jack Brady, his close friend, this year in Singapore and Shanghai."
Any efforts to get Elias to say any more result in her clamming up. "Listen, this is all strictly need to know. Just get me the meeting with Erica, and get me the dagger, and we'll move along from there. I'll find you once the meeting has been made." Elias butts her cigarette and strides out of the room.
Wordsworth finds Erica Carlyle in one corner of the ballroom, drinking the seltzer water which was the strongest thing being served at the ball. With her is her lawyer, Bradley Grey, and her burly bodyguard Joe Corey. "Good evening Erica," starts Wordsworth.
Coyly, Erica looks up from her drink. "Neville, very pleased you could join us."
"Listen Erica, I know you're a very busy person, so I'll get down to business," begins Neville, full of double entendre, "I have some asset portfolios I'd like to present to you, with the hope that we can co-finance certain ventures. I would like to stop by your estate tomorrow with my proposal."
"Neville, I must say this isn't what I was expecting from you. Come by the estate at four."
Neville smiles and nods. "See you then."