Evening, Tuesday, 17th of February, 1925.
A short drive down 8th and up 30th brings the ambulance to French Hospital. Jax’s cart is crashed through the doors into emergency, and is immediately taken into intensive care. Neville sits and paces fitfully for what seems like an eternity before a doctor emerges and approaches him.
“Your friend is stable,” says the doctor. “You can visit her in her room now, but try not to disturb her. She needs rest.”
Looking over her charts as he would do in the medical tents in the Great War, Neville can see that her condition is very bad. She’s still critical, and was given two units of blood over the past few hours. Furthermore, he discovers that while the knife caused significant damage, she had suffered a heart attack shortly before being stabbed.
Back at the New Yorker, Scott and Camille secret away Jax’s journal, one of the tribal masks, and any other evidence pertinent to their investigation. They take note of the very peculiar tattoos on each of the men’s inner forearms. The Detective Coughlin and the police arrive shortly.
“What’s this mess then Scott?” barks Coughlin.
Scott grasps for a reason to keep the police at arm’s length. “This is officially the Bureau’s business now Coughlin. This was no run of the mill attempted murder. This is part of my ongoing investigation now.”
“What, you think this is some kind of white slavery ring? There’s no booze here, so you need some reason for this to be your work, not ours Scott,” says Coughlin knowingly.
“Well we’ve got a woman critically wounded and three men who have attempted to murder her in a ritualistic fashion. Make what you will of it Coughlin, I’m calling this one in.”
Scott makes the call through to Cooper and the Bureau sends its agents down.
Back at the hospital Neville hasn’t left Jax’s side. Barty has arrived with his valaise filled changes of clothes for both the men and his trusty sawn-off. Cami and Scott arrive in short order.
“You need to have a look at this,” says Cami, handing Neville Jax’s journal.
Neville begins to flip through.
I’ve destroyed all my notes except what I sent on to Jonah — I’d tell him to destroy those papers as well but he might be tempted to read them.
Can’t put anyone else in danger…
“Perhaps we can sit outside in the hall and go through this…” says Neville.
The four take seats in the hall and begin to go through Jackson’s journal. The pages are dated from 10th of October 1924 through the 16th of February 1925. While researching the Carlyle expedition, she had spent the last quarter of 1924 in Shanghai, Singapore, and Cairo. She visited Paris for the month of December, before sneaking back into the United States via London and the Irish Free State. She writes constantly about being followed by mysterious figures who do not hesitate to kill people to get to her. Her writing becomes increasingly paranoid and desperate as the journal reaches the present.
Also found in the waterproof sleeve are a series of newspaper articles from the New York Pillar/Riposte reporting the Carlyle expedition, subsequent massacre, and Erica Carlyle’s follow up. Furthermore, there is a set of photographs, one depicting a steam ship with junks in the background, and five portraits of the Carlyle expedition principals with names marked on the back; Roger, Penhew, Houston, Hypatia, and Brady. There is a sixth photograph if a young woman with “Vanessa” written on the back. Digging deeper, the group find a letter from a Faraz Najar of Cairo to Roger Carlyle, and two business cards. One is for an Edouard Gavigan, director of the Fondation Aubrey Penhew in Paris. The second is for Emerson Imports, a business in New York. Written on the back in Jax’s handwriting is the name “Silas N’Kwame”.
“This is a lot to go on,” comments Neville.
“What’s all this about being pursued by a cult?” asks Scott, “Do you think it’s the same people form the hotel room? Or do you think she was just suffering from paranoid delusions?”
“Did you read that bit about the sphinx at the Paris Opera? She’s clearly not with it entirely,” replies Cami. Neville stays silent as Scott and Cami discuss Jax’s state of mental health and the possibility of the conspiracy.
Holding the journal, Scott says “I’d like to turn this over to the Bureau, see what they can figure out.”
Cami fixes Scott with a glare “Are you sure that’s a good idea? Jax went to a lot of trouble to keep us in the dark as much as possible. I don’t think we should be spreading this stuff around, in respect for her as much as anything else.”
“I’ll just hand it over to Coop, get him to keep it off the books,” replies Scott.
“Do it,” says Neville. “But make sure we get it back.”
“So should we look into these leads? Emerson Imports is the only one in the U.S.” says Cami.
“I’m going to arrange for some protection for Jax and drop off the journal,” states Scott. “I’ll get some of Coughlin’s best men to keep an eye on her. We should get some rest and meet at Emerson’s in the morning.”
“I’ll stay with her too, sir,” says Barty. Neville nods to him.
Wednesday, 18th of February, 1925.
Cami and Neville wait outside Emerson Imports in the repaired Studebaker. Neville smokes nervously and keeps watch on the door. The business looks like a legitimate enterprise down on the piers of the Hudson. A well maintained Model T parks behind Neville’s car. Scott walks out, taps on the window of Neville’s car and the three make their way into Emerson Imports, Neville grinding out his cigarette under his shoe before entering.
A middle aged gentleman sits at a desk littered with ledger books and looks up at the three.
“What can I do for you?” he asks.
“Emerson I presume?” begins Scott. The man nods. “I’m Agent Robert Scott, these are my associates Camille and Neville.” Emerson raises an eyebrow and puts down his pen. “We think a friend of ours might have dropped by here recently; a woman in her late twenties, short blonde hair, about yea high,” he gestures with his hand.
“Hmm, yeah actually I remember her,” says Emerson, smiling. “A girl like that doesn’t come through here without turning some heads.”
“What did she ask about?” asks Cami.
“She was looking into some African artefacts. I’ll tell you what I told her. Most of the stuff I sell onto this place called the Juju House down in the Bronx. Run by a [racial slur] named Silas N’Kwame.”
Scott fingers the business card in his pocket. “What kind of stuff do you sell him?”
“Mostly tribal stuff, you know, stuffed animals, statuettes, spears, shields, masks, that kinda stuff. Nothing of any real value,” replies Emerson.
“And what does he do with the artefacts?” asks Scott.
“Sells them on I guess,” says Emerson. “I don’t really ask too many questions, I’m just a middle man at the end of the day. The stuff I sell him is just tribal junk for white liberal types to go and buy while they’re slumming it in the Bronx to make their lofts look cultured. But the real cultural artefacts, I know who to pass them onto. I get this [racial and gender slur] over at Cornell to look over the decent stuff and I pass that onto auction.”
“And you said this to Jackson too?” asks Neville. Emerson nods. “What’s this Cornell woman’s name?”
“Dr Muriel Mwimbe. She’s an anthropologist and professor of Africa studies or something. Now will that be all? I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“We’ll be in touch,” finishes Scott as the trio leave.
After motoring up to Harlem, the trio sit inside their cars staking out the Juju House. Scott picks up a newspaper from a nearby vendor.
WHITE SLAVERY RING BROKEN UP IN HOTEL, screams the headline. ASSASSINS FOILED IN MIDTOWN.
Emerson was right about the clientele. A few African-Americans stop by but don’t leave with any packages. Young white professionals and university students leave with smiles on their faces and brown paper packages under their arms.
“Can’t hurt to have a look around inside I guess,” says Cami.
The shop’s busy displays are stacked will all manner of African art objects, like Emerson mentioned; spears, shields, necklaces, statues, masks. A certain mask takes the group’s eyes. It looks very similar to the masks Jax’s assailants were wearing the night before.
“What can I help you with today?” speaks an elderly African-American man, balding on the top of his head with tufts of white at the sides. He wears a nice suit, clearly doing well with the business he is generating. The three notice a key hung round the man’s neck on a necklace.
“Silas, is it? We’re very interested in these masks,” says Cami.
“Oh yes, they’re… Hey, wait, you’re those three from the papers. You murdered those boys.” says Silas accusingly.
Neville fumes. “We did not murder them. They were attempting to murder a friend of ours. We had to stop them.”
“They were good boys,” says Silas. “Members of my church. I do not believe you had to kill them.”
“Where is this church of yours?” asks Scott.
“It’s not in one place, not like a white church. Our church moves around,” Silas’s says as his eyes dart to a corner of the rug on the floor. Cami follows Silas’s eyes and notices a corner of the rug seems less dusty than the rest, like it is pulled back often.
“The church wouldn’t be down there right now, would it Silas?” asks Cami, pointing to the corner of the rug.
“No, that’s just my basement. I keep more stock down there,” replies Silas. “I don’t think you’re interested in buying anything today, just picking on another black man. I think you should leave.”
“On the contrary,” says Neville slyly. “We’d be very interested in having a look at the stock in your basement.”
“Nothing down there is for sale. Now I really must insist you leave,” Silas states sternly.
“And I insist,” says Scott as he flips the ‘Open’ sign in the door to ‘Closed’, “that you show us what is in that basement,” he continues as he removes his badge and gun.
“Well if that’s how you want to play it, let’s go take a look.”
Silas pulls back the corner of the mat, revealing a basement door built into the floor. He grabs a nearby kerosene lantern and opens up the door. It is pitch black inside. Leading with the lantern he begins to step down, followed by Scott, Neville and Cami. There seems to be strange markings on the old stone steps, possibly symbols, or just natural wear in the stones, it’s hard to tell. At the end of the long run of stairs, they come to a heavy timber and iron door.
Silas looks back at the group, “Are you sure you want to see what’s in here?” he asks.
“Just open the door old man,” says Neville.
Silas pushes the door open into a large space filled with inky darkness. There is the faint smell of rot and decay coming from somewhere in this obviously ancient chamber. At the edges of the light the lantern casts the group can just barely make out that one side of the room is completely covered by a heavy iron plate. It is attached to a pulley system against the wall, almost like a lid. Immediately as their attention is focussed on the plate, Silas pitches the lantern into the middle of the floor, between him and the group. As the glass smashes and the kerosene splatters on the stonework, lighting up the room, Silas dashes for a set of curtains on the opposite wall and disappears into them.
“Silas!” shouts Scott with his weapon trained on the curtains. “Come out!”
They hear a laugh from Silas, and then a groan, more like air escaping from a body than a vocal movement, as some thing steps out from the curtains. A rotting, decayed man shambles into view, his horrid chalky face lit up by the fire. In fear Scott begins to fire his gun, immediately deafening the party, round after round blowing off desiccated chunks of the man, yet still he continues as their ears whine. As Cami draws her weapon, a second withered corpse of a man steps past the curtains. Cami empties the chambers of her revolver into the thing to much the same effect, bits of bone and flesh flying off like plaster. Neville pulls out his hipflask of 90 proof gin and pours it on the ground between him and the creatures, adding to the fire. In a few steps one of the men ignites, the room filling with the gruesome stench of burning flesh.
The curtain flutters again and Neville feels a horrible pain across his ribs. He looks down and a huge slash has been rent across his chest. He can feel the hot breath of a nearby presence, but can’t see anyone. He slashes wildly at the air next to him, but doesn’t make contact. Cami and Scott continue to fire on the dead men, with a third now walking towards them. The one on fire crumples to the ground to burn, a thick black smoke now filling the chamber.
Behind them they hear the dull sound of the door slam shut and turn to see the crank for the machinery turning of its own volition. The metal plate slowly starts to rise up and even over the ringing in their ears a terrifying screeching fills the chamber, emanating from the pit being opened. It sounds as though hundreds of tortured people are crying out in pain and longing and hunger. The screams seem to bypass their ringing ears and can be heard deep inside their minds. While Scott continues to blast the approaching dead, Cami turns and fires on the source of whatever is turning the crank. Bullets ricochet harmlessly off walls and machinery, but a tiny spurt of blood flies out near the crank.
Neville charges for the crank, removing his jacket and diving on where he saw the blood. He makes contact with a body and tackles it to the ground, wrapping it up in his jacket. The screaming from the pit seems to be rising and rising and now the crank is moving of its own volition, even with their invisible assailant pinned to the ground. Wasting no time, Neville draws back his swordcane and drives it deep into the writhing coat underneath him.
Scott concentrates fire on the closest walking dead and puts round after round into its head, blowing off dry flakes of skull and brain until its head wears away and it slumps to the ground. The third creature lunges at him and pulls him to the ground, latching its teeth onto his arm as the two fall down. Scott kicks at the thing desperately trying to remove it and tries to scream out for help over the ringing and screaming. Having reloaded her gun, Cami approaches and with determination begins blowing away its head with her firearm at point blank range, stopping the thing.
Neville jumps on the crank to stop its motion and screams over the din for the others to help. They rush to his aid and with their combined effort close the lid of the pit. Neville rushes to the struggling jacket on the floor and kicks at the thing, dislodging a hideous mask from Silas’s face, returning him to visibility.
“What is this place old man?” shouts Neville as he touches his blade to Silas’s chest and rips the key from his neck, passing it to Cami.
Silas sputters from a sucking chest wound. Blood dribbles from his mouth, “This is our church.”
“A church to whom?” Neville sneers.
Silas chuckles, blood still dripping from his lips. Silas grins, “The Bloody Tongue will have you.”
Enraged Neville drives his sword through Silas’s heart. The man’s eyes go wide in shock and he slumps to the ground. Neville plants his shoe on the man’s chest and coolly removes the blade from his chest and wipes the blood off onto the deceased man’s clothes.
“Jesus Neville, you didn’t have to kill him,” says Camille.
“He was a lunatic and I’m not taking chances with anyone related to Jax’s assailants,” Neville says, composed.
“We have to clean this up,” says Scott, looking at Silas’s corpse, and then at the broken, desiccated now charred and smouldering bodies. “Give the place a once over. I’ll be right back. Then we need to get to a hospital,” he finishes, looking at Neville’s wound.
Scott heads outside to his car and begins siphoning off fuel into a jerry can. Neville checks the ledger books upstairs. It seems very much like a legitimate business. He picks up the ledger and stows it under one arm, wincing in pain. Downstairs, Camille takes Silas’s mask and places it in her bag. Stepping over the corpses and through the curtains, she finds a book siting on a stone plinth. She reads its title, Africa’s Dark Sects, as she places it in her bag.
Scott returns downstairs with jerry can full of petrol which he starts pouring it over Silas and the dead men. “Time to get out of here,” he says to Cami as he douses the curtains and starts leaving a trail up the stairs as they exit the basement. After a few light splashes around the shop, Scott throws the jerry can down the stairs. Taking out a cigarette and placing it in his mouth, he strikes a match and draws deeply on the smoke. He exhales smoke as he flicks the match down the basement stairs and saunters out of the shop into the cold New York air.
Starting up their cars, black smoke begins to pour out of the Juju House. As they motor away there’s a loud pop as something explodes in the building, shattering the front windows. People run out onto the street, hands on their heads, watching the blaze. A few tough customers take certain note of a couple of cars being driven by whites leaving the scene.
Back at French Hospital, Neville has his wounds bandaged. They’re deep, but not serious and he’s given leave of the hospital immediately. Before he has the chance to go, the doctor who attended Jax approaches him.
“We’ve been trying to contact you. I’m afraid I have some terrible news…” he says
“What’s happened to her? Good God man! Spit it out.” says Neville, worry creasing his face.
“That’s just it. She’s gone. Those two officers are dead and your friend Bartholomew has been hospitalised.
“Where is he?” shouts Neville.
Scott and Camille spend some time getting the story from the doctors while Neville sits at the unconscious Bartholomew’s side. There was a power outage that dropped out the lights at the hospital. When the power came back on the two officers on Jax’s guard duty were found dead in the hall with their throats slit and no signs of a struggle. Bartholomew was found beaten into a bloody unconscious pulp in Jax’s room, with Jax nowhere to be seen.
Neville can’t be removed from Barty’s side. He sits there with welled up eyes, sipping from his hipflask, his swordcane propped up against his chair. Scott tries to get information on the murders and abductees with the help of the police, but the only lead is that the staff can remember seeing a group of men enter the hospital before the power outage, and then weren’t seen leaving.
Camille decides to get some rest, and heads to her aunts place for handmade butter croissants and pinot nior. Scott checks in with the Bureau and chases up on the journal with Coop. He’s handed it over to his best and trusted men: psychoanalysts, linguists, anthropologists and occult experts, all on the Bureau dime. It will still be some time until the report is completed. Scott heads down to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the early afternoon for confession with Father Ted O’Malley. He makes his way home after and drinks himself to sleep.
Thursday, 18th of February, 1925.
In the morning, Camille and Scott meet up with Neville and Barty in the hospital. Barty’s condition hasn’t changed. He has multiple broken ribs, but the internal bleeding has stopped, and the doctors think he will make a full recovery in time. Neville however is worse for wear. He hasn’t slept and he’s drunk himself into a stupor.
Detective Coughlin knocks on the door to Barty’s room. Scott opens the door for him.
“Scott,” he says. “Camille. Neville,” he nods at each in turn. “Scott, I’ve got some bad news. We found Jax. Her body washed up on Long Island Sound early this morning…”
Coughlin pauses for a moment as the shock sets in to their faces. Tears begin to stream from Neville’s eyes as he whispers “No.” The rest are silent for some time.
“I’ll need you to come downstairs and identify the body,” Coughlin sighs.
Neville turns away to face Barty and swigs from his flask. Scott and Camille follow Coughlin to the morgue.
On the slab lays Jackson Elias, her chart reads Eliza Louise Olney. Her eyes are closed. Her hair is slick and her skin is white and blue and slightly wrinkled from the water. Camille hurriedly exits the viewing area, crying and biting back a wail. Scott confirms with Coughlin that it is indeed the body of Jackson Elias. He refuses to use her other name.