Masks of Nyarlathotep

Episode 2: Hear my words that I might teach you, Part 1

Friday, 18th of February, 1925.

The funeral is held in the early afternoon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Scott and Camille are in attendance, but Neville is nowhere to be seen. The mood is particularly sombre for a funeral. Jax was so young and being killed in such a manner has deeply affected those that knew her. The entire Rainbow Division is in attendance in military regalia. Once the father has said his part, a man in a very expensive suit makes a speech. He has a power of oratory, and people hang on his words with respect and admiration. He tells the gathered people what a beautiful person Jackson Elias was. He speaks of her skills as a journalist and her passion as a researcher and author. Though clearly saddened by the loss, the speech is delivered with such respect and composure that Cami and Scott are reminded what a joy it was to have known Jax. The feeling comes with the bitter aftertaste of knowing they will never hear her laugh or have her wise counsel ever again.


Back at French Hospital, Barty stirs. Neville’s bloodshot eyes widen in alertness as Barty begins to speak.

“Sir?”

“Barty.”

“Sir, what’s happened? I tried to stop them…”

Neville holds Bartholomew’s hand. “I know, Barty. Don’t worry. Jax is gone. Her funeral is today.”

Barty tries to sit upright and his face contorts in pain and drains of what little colour it has.

“Sir, you should be there,” he chokes out.

“I’m not losing anyone else,” says Neville. “I’m staying here with you.”

“Sir, you must attend the funeral. For Jax’s sake as well as your engagement in the community. You cannot be seen to be shirking your responsibilities as a gentleman.”

“You’re right Barty, of course. You’re always right.”

“I know sir. Also, what day is it? Friday? Speaking of gentlemanly responsibilities, the opera is tonight. It’s a maiden performance and it would be incredibly poor form for you not to attend. An empty box on opening night is completely unacceptable.”

“Yes, of course Barty. I’m going to arrange to have you moved though. I’ll put you in another hospital under a false name.”

Neville smooths out his hair and shaves, and then heads down to the desk clerk to reprimand him on the security at the hospital. He demands that Bartholomew be moved to another hospital under a false name and begins to write a check for the hospital for $5,000 to update their security.


A soldier of the Rainbow Regiment is on the podium telling of Jackson’s good humour in the trenches and bravery in battle, when the doors to the church swing open. Neville enters wearing a handsome suit and tie, but still looking bleary eyed. The whole church turns to look at him and the crowd which has gathered outside. Behind a police line a large group of predominately black men have assembled and are chanting something about justice. The church doors swing closed, muting their cries. All eyes are on Neville as he takes a seat next to Scott and Camille.

“Nice of you to join us,” sneers Cami.

“Leave it alone,” says Scott.

Neville pays her no heed and watches on as an elderly man dressed more like an academic than a funeral goer, mounts the podium to make a speech. His face stricken with grief and he can barely make a few sentences about Jackson before he has to excuse himself, his voice faltering.

The casket makes its procession down the aisle, born by the men of the Rainbow Division, and out into the cold, cloudy daylight. The crowd outside is respectful enough to part to allow the casket to pass, but the chant “Justice for Jackson. Justice for our boys,” is almost deafening.

As Neville, Scott and Cami exit the church, they are stopped by a familiar face. Abdel Nasser shouts at the three, “You killed those boys in cold blood. We demand justice!” He’s flanked by a white man and woman.

“Good God man, this is a funeral. Have some respect!” shouts Neville in response.

“Then have some respect for our boys! Two young black boys are gunned down by three whites in a hotel room and no arrests are made! We want justice!”

“We want justice too,” says Camille. “Those boys were trying to kill Jackson and now someone’s finished the job. You forget as well there was a white attacker in that hotel room as well. This isn’t racially motivated.”

The New York police watch on but do nothing to help the group, the good sons of Ireland enjoying watching a British sir and a Bureau agent get in over their heads.

The woman flanking Abdel speaks, “But this is about race. And class. If it wasn’t a white junky no one cares about and two black men killed by a British capitalist and a G-man, we’d have arrests! What do you think would happen if the tables were turned? If it was three blacks that gunned down you?”

Scott’s skin starts to crawl as red flags are unfurled and the first notes of “The International” are heard over the chants for justice.

          Arise ye workers from your slumbers

          Arise ye prisoners of want

“We don’t have time for this!” shouts Scott. “Get out of our way or I’ll have you arrested!”

The woman spits at the ground next to Scott. He starts shoving through the crowd and the crowd begins to press in. The police press on in response and after much shoving and shouting the three extricate themselves and jump in their car for the funeral procession down to Maspeth Cemetery.


The sky darkens as the procession of cars arrive. Fat drops of frigid rain begin to fall down hard as Jax’s casket is borne to her plot. A ragged bum walks past the gates of the cemetery holding a sign reading “The End is Nigh”. Busses begin to arrive carrying the protesters. A few of the Rainbows remain at the entrance to keep the protesters out. The casket is laid down next to Jax’s empty plot, and the procession gathers round, black umbrellas shielding them from the icy downpour. The Rainbow Division give her a three-volley salute as the casket is lowered into the earth. The rain beats down as soil is tossed into the grave. Neville, Cami and Scott pay their last respects in silence. A proud black marble gravestone sits at the head of the plot.

 

          Jackson “Jax” Elias

          1896 – 1925

 

“Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot,” says the man that was accompanying Abdel to Neville, Scott and Cami as they leave the cemetery.

“You’re picketing a funeral!” seethes Neville. “Of course you got off on the wrong foot. This is no time for politicking.”

“Everything is political,” begins the woman, only to be stopped by the waving hand of the man.

“Listen, we just want to talk. This is Marion Goodhue,” pointing to the woman. “And I’m Sol Rosenberg.” Nasser stands by silently as his associates speak.

“I can think of better places to have a chat,” says Neville sticking his hand out from under his umbrella. “Perhaps we meet at the Waldorf-Astoria after the wake?”

“Right,” agrees Sol. “We’ll be seeing you then.”


The wake is a surprisingly lavish affair. Mayor Walker is there, along with many of the city’s elite. The group spot a man who is so obviously wealthy people are avoiding him.

Neville walks straight up to him and stretches out his hand. “Charles,” he says.

“Sir Neville Wordsworth!” replies media magnate Charles Foster Kane, grasping Neville’s hand with both of his. “Good to see you son. How are you holding up?”

“I’ve seen better days.”

“Yes, it’s terrible business. Listen, I have to thank you for your efforts in all this. I heard you and your friends here foiled that attempt at the New Yorker. And I heard that your butler was left in a terrible condition by the men who no doubt murdered Jax. My condolences are with you.”

“News travels fast with you Kane.”

Kane chuckles, “I’ve made an empire out of knowing things first Neville.”

“Yes, quite. Listen Charles, did she contact you in the lead up to all this?”

“Yes. She asked for money. I asked her to come down to Florida and stay with me, but she refused.” Charles pauses and Neville spots a pang of loss, not just of a friend but of a lover, in Charles’s eyes. Neville chokes down his wounded pride.

Charles continues, “I ended up giving her quite a bit of money.”

Neville chuckles too, “Yes, I ended up spending quite a bit on her too. And the first time I met with her recently, she was dressed as a station boy.”

Charles laughs, “That sounds like our Jackson.”

He raises his glass in a cheers, “To Jackson.”

“To Jackson,” cheers Neville.

“Not that you need the help, but I’m happy to bankroll you to help track down the people who did this. I hear you have friends that are good at this sort of thing,” he eyes Camille and Scott knowingly.

“I appreciate it Charles. Good to see you again.”

 

The group make their way over to the grief stricken old man from the funeral.

“My condolences sir,” says Camille. “We we’re good friends of Jackson’s and we were there with her to the end.”

“Yes, I heard,” says the man in a faltering voice. “I’m very thankful for your efforts. My name is Henry Armitage. Jackson was like a daughter to me.”

He reaches out a shaky hand and greets each of them in turn.

“Did you speak with Jackson recently?” asks Scott.

“Yes, she met up with me. She seemed very afraid and distracted. She went on a bit of a bender when she was in Boston with me. It was sad to see, but I think she felt safe and needed the outlet.”

“Did she mention the people pursuing her?” continues Scott’s line of inquiry.

“No, she didn’t at all. I could tell she was very concerned, but she kept it all very secret, and I let her have that. What do you know about these people?”

“Very little so far,” says Scott, trying to keep as much as he can from Armitage, as Jax’s journal wished. “But we’ve made this an official Bureau investigation.”

“That’s very good. Please do let me know what you find out.”

“We will do. And anything else you can think of, please don’t hesitate to contact me,” Scott hands Armitage his card.

 

The group spots Erica Carlyle and Bradley Grey holding court at a table with a few other guest. When the group approaches, Erica eyes the hangers-on and they depart.

“Erica,” says Neville. “I didn’t expect you to be here.”

“To be honest, I didn’t think I would either. But I have no ill wishes for the dead, despite what a bitch Jackson was in life,” she says with such calm that the impact is even greater.

“What did she do to piss you off so much?” asks Neville, obviously maligned by Erica’s statement.

“She wouldn’t let go about Roger. She kept badgering me and badgering me. She was insatiable. I let my brother go a long time ago. I don’t need it dug up for the sake of another one of her tabloid pieces.”

“She wrote some pretty important books as well,” sneers Camille.

“Yes, I guess so. Well, on the subject of books, stop by my estate tomorrow. I’ll hand those books of Roger’s over to you.”

“Oh. Great,” says Camille, not wanting to push the point too far. “Well we’ll see you tomorrow then.”

 

Across the room sits Jonah Kensington, the owner of Prospero House Publishing, and Jax’s former editor and publisher. He wears a suit slightly more fit for a party than a wake.

“Our condolences,” says Cami. “My name is Camille. This is Neville and Robert.”

“Thank you Camille. Oh yes, Jackson had mentioned you all at one point or another. I’m sorry for you loss also.”

“Thank you,” says Scott. “We’re looking into the people behind Jackson’s murder. Was she in contact with you recently?”

“No, not recently. I got some mail from her from Tanganyika Territory where she said she was onto something big. Something that would make us rich she said,” says Jonah.

“Do you still have the correspondence?” asks Scott.

“Yes I do. You’re more than welcome to come by Prospero House and have a look. I also got a letter relatively recently from Dr Muriel Mwimbe addressed to Jackson care of Prospero House. I believe she’s here tonight actually.”

 

Dr Mwimbe sits by herself at a table observing the gathering. She wears a black dress and spectacles but still manages to look scholarly. The group approach her and introduce themselves.

“Yes, I’ve had some correspondence with Jackson. I’ve been following her work with some interest also.”

“What did you and Jackson speak about? And what exactly is your interest in Jax’s work?” asks Scott.

Muriel explains that Jackson had recently contacted her about some volumes in the Africana collection at the Cornell University Library. The volumes however had recently gone missing from the collection, and Muriel had written to Jackson care of Prospero to let her know. Jackson’s work had been of interest to Muriel as an anthropologist.

“You see,” says Dr Mwimbe, “Jackson’s interest lay in debunking certain myths and cults, some of which are of African origin, my area of expertise. What Jackson was attempting was to apply an enlightenment and dare I say,” she says looking at Neville, “colonial lens to local epistemologies.”

“What’s an epistemology?” asks Scott.

“A system of knowledge,” explains Muriel. “The white western colonial worldview would have you think that there is only one truth; the enlightened rational truth of western science and capitalism. But this is merely one way of understanding the world. There are many worldviews that each explain their own truths in different ways. Jackson was engaged in attacking these Other worldviews to some extent, despite her soft touch compared to many of her contemporaries.”

“Do you think this could have made her some enemies?” asks Neville.

“Enemies willing to hunt her down in the United States? No I don’t think so. Assassinations of international scope of people with differing political views is something usually undertaken by colonial governments, not subaltern people, wouldn’t you say?”

“We got your name from Emerson at Emerson Imports,” says Cami. “He said you are an expert in African art objects. We recently came into possession of an item that perhaps you could take a look at?”

“What item would that be?” asks Muriel.

“It’s an ibis-headed dagger,” explains Cami.

Muriel’s eyes light up. “The one sold at Sotheby’s just recently? You’re the people who purchased it.”

The group look at each other somewhat uneasily.

“Yes, I have it,” says Neville.

“I would very much like to have a look over it.”

“What is the dagger? A contact of mine told me it can kill a god?” asks Cami

“Yes, that is indeed what some people think. The people of the Nile valley believe that the Dagger of Thoth, Thoth being the ibis-headed Egyptian god of knowledge, can kill the Black Wind, or at least banish it for some time.”

“What is the Black Wind?”

“A trickster deity, albeit somewhat more malignant than tricksters of other mythologies. It is known in Egypt and other parts of Africa. I’d be happy to have a look at the dagger for you and discuss this more in my office at Colombia tomorrow, if that suits?”

“You work on Saturdays?” asks Camille.

“There’s not a lot of rest for a black female academic Camille. A lot of proving one’s worth,” smiles Dr Mwimbe.


Scott suggests that it would be a bad idea for a Bureau agent to be meeting with communists, and leaves for the Bureau office before the meeting with Nasser, Goodhue and Rosenberg. Cooper is putting the finishing touches on the report of Jackson’s journal and hands it to Scott. The report is thorough, and pays particular attention to Jackson’s possible linguistic aphasia. Moreover he verifies certain events documented in the journal that occurred overseas, but does not commit to the idea of a conspiracy.

“Scott, I went and checked out this Dr Robert Huston’s practice. The office was burned out.”

“Arson?” asks Scott?

“Yeah, we’re treating it as such. These are the files I managed to get. The Crime Lab is trying to piece together the rest.”

Scott flicks though the burned documents of Houston’s sessions with Roger Carlyle. Roger talks about his dreams, and also the black woman mentioned in Jackson’s journal.

“Oh and Scott?” Coop gets Scott’s attention. “I couldn’t keep this out of the higher-ups hands.”

“What do you mean?”

“The journal went over too many desks. I couldn’t keep it quiet. Hoover wants to speak to us.”

“I can’t leave New York right now Coop.”

“He’s here. Upstairs. He told me to bring you in once you arrived.”

Scott and Cooper make their way upstairs and head into an office with a newly mounted door plaque reading ‘J. Edgar Hoover, Director’. Behind a desk in the smoky room sits a man in his early thirties, thin, fit and with a flat nose like a boxer’s. In front of him is Jackson’s journal, which he closes.

“Scott, Cooper, take a seat,” Hoover gestures for some chairs. “Now Scott I think you know why you’re here.”

“Yes Sir.”

“Now I appreciate the fact that you may have believed this case and this journal may have been insubstantial,” Scott nods. “But this is not the type of thing to keep from the official channels of the Bureau.”

“You believe the investigation has some merit?” asks Scott.

“Very much so. This is a matter of national security. Now as a gesture of my goodwill, I’m putting you and Cooper on the case. This is now part of Project Commandment. Follow this wherever it takes you. We’ll give you as much support when you’re abroad as possible. I’ll be expecting regular reports directly to me.”

“Yes sir,” says Scott. “Is that all sir?”

“Yes,” says Hoover as he passes Scott the journal.


Back at the Waldorf-Astoria Neville invites the newly arrived Sol, Marion and Abdel to his signature suite. Marion snorts at the opulence of the lodgings.

“Well, where to begin?” asks Neville.

“You can start by admitting you murdered those men and that you’re in charge of this white slavery ring,” says Marion.

“I can do neither of those two things because they aren’t the truth. Those men were attacking Jackson Elias and we defended her and ourselves. Let’s not turn this into another shouting match.”

Sol adopts a lighter tone, trying to calm Marion. “It seems a little convenient that you happened to be in the same place at the same time as an attempted murder, don’t you think?”

Camille pipes in, “We had good reason to think that Jackson was being followed, so we followed her to the hotel. When we got there, we saw those men in the lobby and headed up to her room to find her. The rest you know from the papers.”

Marion points a finger at Neville, “Admit it! You’re the spider in the middle of this web of intrigue!”

Neville scoffs at Marion while Sol and Abdel turn to look at her. Her face flushes. “I admit that maybe that might be going a little too far.”

“What do you want from us?” asks Neville. “As we told you, we were defending Jackson and ourselves. This wasn’t motivated by race or class.”

“We need action from the authorities,” says Sol.

“Like what?” asks Camille. “We’ve already spoken with the police and they didn’t need to detain us.”

“But you know how bad this looks,” says Abdel. “We’ve got a lot of angry people out there. This isn’t just this incident. This is about every time this kind of thing happens; the whites just walk away.”

“Yes,” agrees Sol. “And it’s not just coloured people. My people have been persecuted throughout history, and what do you think happens when a Jewish place of business or synagogue is vandalised? Nothing.”

“Well perhaps we need to take this up with the police,” states Neville. “As we said, we want justice too, and we’re willing to cooperate.”

“Perhaps we had the wrong impression of you Neville. After all, you didn’t bring that Government man along,” says Marion. “Would you be willing to make a donation to the Communist Party of the United States of America as a gesture of goodwill?”

Neville sighs.


Scott meets the pair back at the Waldorf-Astoria.

“How’d the meeting with the Reds go?” he asks snidely.

Neville shakes his head in response. “Enough about that. It’s been a big day. Now I say we get a little bit of rest. I’ve got a treat for us tonight. It’s the opening night of a new opera at the Metropolitan. I’d like you both to come along.”

“You’re not serious are you?” asks Camille.

“Yes. I am. Barty tells me it’s a newly discovered opera, one that has been banned by the Vatican for centuries. This will be the first time it had been shown, and the very cream of New York society will be there. I think we deserve one good night considering everything that has gone on, and I feel like this may be our last chance to enjoy New York for quite some time. I expect you both to dress for the occasion,” finishes Neville as he raises an eyebrow at the two.

“Banned by the Vatican?” asks Camille. “I’m curious, but I don’t think this is going to be a restful night. And I’m not wearing a dress.”

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