Masks of Nyarlathotep

Theft at Carlyle Manor
And a Car Chase in Manhattan

January 31, 1925

They quickly plotted their heist. Dr. Kelly called in a favor from her publisher Jonah Kensignton, who got them two press passes to cover the Carlyle charity ball for a local gossip rag. Sean and Arthur (the hired safe cracker) used the invites pretending to be a reporter and photographer. Tex thought he could get in as a chauffer for the reporters of the low class rag, but the guards at the gate weren’t buying it and he had to wait outside the grounds. Security was tight for some reason, surprisngly so.

Sean and Arthur kept a low profile. They were able to find the library, but not get private access right away. Sean was able to peruse the books and spotted a collection of poetry by Poe amongst a rack of english and french reference works. That was odd…

When the guests retired for dinner, all the press people were asked to wait in the kitchen where there was some food for them. Sean pretended he had left his notebook int he library and had to retrieve it. A young servant girl named Saxony was assigned to take them there to find it. In the library, Sean started to panic as he didn’t know what to do with the girl. Even though some violent thoughts crossed his mind, he decided to try romance instead to distract her. Boy was he surprised then young Saxony was much much more receptive to the idea than he had anticipated! Apparently Saxony had a “thing” about doing “it” where the rich people lived. While she was attacking Sean, Arthur snagged the Poe book then was ordered into the hall by Saxony. Poor Arthur had to watch out while Sean and Saxony did their “thing” in the library, listening to Sean being forced to call Saxony “My lady” while she called him “Raoul, the gardener.” Saxony really like the way Raoul plucked her roses!

Arthur flipped through the Poe book and found a note with a safe combination written on it! His job just got easier! He kept the note and stuffed the Poe book behind a plant as Sean and Saxony came out of the library adjusting their clothing. They all returned to the kitchen.

After dinner was over they were allowed to mingle again, but only had about 30 minutes before they were expected to clear out. Sean and Arthur returned to the library, but there were two couples there talking cribbage. Sean tried to be rude to get them to leave, but was unsuccesfull. Luckily though, they wrapped up their conversation and left. They still needed to find the safe. Locking the doors, Sean looked behind where the Poe book as found and discovered a panel that revealed a button when swung aside. Pushing the button caused the bookcase to release from the wall with a click, and swinging it out they saw a safe. Arthur quickly spun the dial to the numbers on the paper, the easiest safe cracking he had ever done.

Inside Sean found 4 books of varying sizes and ages. They quickly took the tomes, closed the safe and bookcase, replaced the Poe book and vamoosed. Hiding the books under their coats, they walked down the drive, past the guards at the gate, to Tex waiting in the car and took off back to New York.

Returning to James’ townhouse, they waited for him and Dr. Kelly to return from the party they had attended as an alibi for the burglary. Sean paid Arthur the balance of his fee, and Tex dropped him at the subway. They stayed up late in the night looking over their haul.

One of the books was very old and in a strange language none of them knew. Another was also old, though not quite as old as the first, and written in middle english (readable but difficult), the other two were more recent, one was hand written, the other a collection of macabre poems.

James and Dr. Kelly spent Sunday skimming the two more recent volumes. One was a collection of disturbing poems with a personalized note to Roger Carlyle on the title page. The other was a handwritten diary of a British soldier from the Napoleonic era. Monday, Tex took copies of the unreadable book to a professor Compton at NYU. The professor said he needed to see the original but might be able to help identify the language and time period if given enough time with it. Meanwhile james began arranging for a trip to London for the group. Sean began making arrangements for his brothel while he was gone, and Dr. Kelly went to the university to request a leave of absence for her trip and ran some errands to prepare for the journey.

While Dr. Kelly was leaving her bank, she just happened to notice two rough looking black men closing in on her quickly on the street. Panicking she ran for her car and they gave chase. She managed to get in the car and lock the doors, but one broke the passenger window and reached for her as she took off with squealing tires while the other jumped on the back and pulled a wicked looking African blade from his coat. Dr. Kelly spotted a black Hudson speeding towards her as she pulled out, and a crazy car chase through Manahattan ensued complete with men clinging to her car, breaking windows with wicked knives, and trying to ram her. Eventually she slammed on her brakes just as the guy on the back was starting to climb in the window making the chase car slam into him, but wrecking them both. As two more black men piled from the Hudson Anne fumbled for the .32 revolver in the glove. She managed to shoot down the one who attacked from the drivers side, but emptied the revolver in the process. She fled as other man came scrambling through from the passenger side and almost grabbed her coat. Running down the street screaming for help with the large menacing figure chasing her she thought she was doomed when she spied a police cruiser turning the corner up ahead! What luck! She ran to the police but the chaser had fled down an alley and escaped.

Dr. Kelly was tied up with the police until late in the day. Tex was worried about her. When she returned and told her story, Sean berated her for not being more careful. He had told her that his girl Gloria, who was beaten for information, had told the black attackers at the brothel last week about Sean’s cousin Anne. Not taking the warning to heart nearly cost her a grisly fate.

Meanwhile, Tex took the book to professor Compton who identified it as a rare dialect of Norman French from the early 14th century. Professor Compton was quite intrigued, but Tex refuse to leave the book with him.

They had tickets for a steamship to London on Saturday. It was Wednesday. Talk of loose ends came up, and Sean mentioned the Ju-Ju house. Did they dare?

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A Visit From an Old Friend
The Conspiracy Deepens

Sunday evening was slow at Sean’s brothel and speak. When Sean returned to his small room and opened the door the first thing he noticed was the bad smell, then he noticed the man standing in his darkened room. As the man stepped forward Sean flipped on the light and was shocked to see the mutilated corpse of his old friend Jackson Elias reaching for him as it stumbled forwards with a groan. Sean backpedaled out of the room in shock, fumbling for his 45. He shot the zombie to little effect then it was on him biting and tearing. Sean squeezed off another round and began screaming for Tex who should be just down the hall. Tex Stumbled out into the hall pulling up his trousers and about fell over when he saw Jackson ripping gobbets of flesh out of Sean’s shoulder with his teeth. Tex ran forward and began beating the chewing corpse off of Sean and got bitten himself int he process. Sean began battering the corpse of Jackson with his pistol, finally crushing one side of the zombie’s skull with a brutal pistol whip. Jackson slammed against the wall with a spray of brains and brown ichor and slumped to the ground. A couple girls came out of their room and began screaming.

Looking in his room Sean found the cult symbol that was carved on Jackson’s forehead smeared on his mirror in ichor. The back door to his place was unlocked even though he knew he had locked it earlier, but none of the girls had seen anything. It seemed plausible that someone picked the lock on the backdoor and put the zombie in Sean’s room. Someone was sending a message, a deadly one.

Sean and Tex called James and Anne, who came quickly. At first they assumed someone had dumped Jackson’s corpse here to scare them, but after Anne examined the bite wounds they came to the same horrific realization that someone had raised the corpse of their friend and set it on them. Apparently they had made some powerful enemies. They took Jackson’s body back to the Brooklyn Cemetery in the middle of the night. They found that the casket had not been buried yet and was filled with bricks. They replaced Jackson in his casket and returned to clean up the mess at Sean’s brothel.

Over the next few days they tried to reason out what was going on. They went back over the evidence they had collected and spent most of the week asking around about various members of the Carlysle expedition and digging in public records, news archives, and libraries for information on the following personalities:

Dr. Robert Huston: They found that Dr. Huston, a well known psychoanalyst/alienist had studied under Freud and Jung and was popular in the social circles, had treated Roger Carlysle at the request of his sister. Dr. Huston’s medical records had been sealed at the order of the Medical Board, a controversial decision at the time as several members of the board had not considered the controversial techniques of modern alienism to be actual medicine. Dr. Kelly tried to retrieve the records as a fellow alienist researching Huston’s treatment of Carlysle but was stymied by a professional bureaucrat at the medical board. So late on night Sean and Tex broke into the office building and stole the Carlysle records.

Sir Aubrey Penhew: Sir Aubrey was a well known Egyptologist, English nobleman, and founder of the famous Penhew Foundation which supported archaeological studies all over the world.

Hypatia Masters: An on again/off again girlfriend of Carlyle’s, Masters was a successful photographer. Talking with a former friend, James found out she had become pregnant by a scandalous Catholic Marxist but had aborted the baby just before leaving on the expedition.

Jack Brady: Brady was a rough character, a former marine, who had somehow gotten mixed up with Carlyle around the time Roger was expelled from USC. It seemed Roger had helped Brady dodge a murder charge in California, and had been a confidant and bodyguard to Carlyle ever since. Brady acted as foreman on the expedition.

Meanwhile Sean began to realize that the zombie meant they were in grave danger. He took up residence in a seedy motel and convinced Tex to do likewise. That ended up being wise as 5 large black men accosted the place Thursday evening, beating some of the whores for information. Gloria admitted to telling them all she knew about Tex (he was a pilot and stayed at the airport sometimes) and Dr. Kelly, Sean’s cousin. The noose was tightening.

Pulling together timelines and other pieces of the puzzle they soon began to realize that a global conspiracy of some sort was in progress and Jackson had gotten too close and got himself killed over it. Now they were also closing in and their lives were in danger, but they were the only ones who could do something about it. All leads in New York pointed to Harlem and the Ju-Ju house, but they weren’t sure what to do about it. They were sure they needed to find out what was in the books in Roger Carlyle’s safe in his library and plotted to steal them. Sean hired a safe cracker he knew by reputation at a large cost paid by James. Tex gathered information about the estate through public records and with an aerial reconnaissance in a plane borrowed from a friend. He found the estate was on 5 acres of land surrounded by an iron fence, and there were guards and dogs in the yard. They found police records that the place had been broken into by someone shortly after Erika’s trip to Africa. Security had been tightened after that incident. Dr. Kelly, watching the society page, found out Erika Carlyle was sponsoring an invitation only party as a fund raiser for a local orphanage Saturday evening. They didn’t have long if they planned to use the party to gain access to the library and it’s safe. Sean began planning options for the burglary, but as he checked the map for the route to the Westchester estate on the Hudson, he realized the road there passed right by Sing-Sing Prison. This made his skin crawl as it seemed a very bad omen…

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A Nice Brunch
And hoods in Harlem

Sean and Tex returned to the Ju-Ju house to harass the old man proprietor. He called for help outside and 4 thugs came and threw them out of the courtyard. They decided to go harass the shop keepers on the street side of the building holding the Ju-Ju, a small mom and pop sundries store. The elderly shop keepers there also didn’t know much about the Ju-Ju house, since it wasn’t on their street. Meanwhile James went around the block and talked to a newstand man who didn’t know much about the Ju-Ju. When they came back all 4 tires on Sean’s truck were slashed. They drove slowly out of the neighborhood on ruined rims.

Elias’ funeral was Saturday at 10 at the small chapel at a cemetery in Brooklyn. It had been snowing and was cold. It was closed casket. The preacher Jonah Kensington arranged gave a nice eulogy, and Jonah, James, and Sean all spoke about the late author. Dr. Kelly was too choked up, and Tex was too texan.

James spotted a man who came in and sat at the back of the chapel while James was speaking. James went to speak to him and he said he was early for the next service. While he did this, Tex went up on the altar and opened the casket, much to the dismay of the others. They were horrified he would do such a rude thing.

Chatting outside about the stranger at the funeral, Sean said he remembered the sign saying the next funeral at the chapel was in 3 hours. That guy was really early. They waited for him and when he came out James called out to him about his early arrival. He ran to a waiting idling car in the parking lot with 3 black men in it. They gave chase, and James exchanged gunfire with one of the passengers, managing to hit a tire. The car sped off sliding in the snow on the flattened tire. They all ran to their cars and tried to follow, but found the car abandoned a few blocks away on a busy street. The occupants had melted into the big city. The car was obviously stolen, it had been hot wired. Returning to the chapel to discuss the incident with the police, they were surprised when the sky darkened quickly, as a total eclipse of the sun occurred.

Sunday James had brunch with Erica Carlysle. He shared some of the info they had and made suggestions the death of his author friend was tied to her brother and pushed rather hard to get access to the books in her brothers safe. Erica was somewhat cold towards him, but cordial enough. She indicated that she had seen the books in question and found them quite foul. She was certain they contributed towards his mental decline at the end and made it clear that she did not think James should follow in her brothers foot steps. She deflected any idea of providing access to the books. She did answer some questions about her brother however. Roger had been seeing a negro woman, whom was supposedly queenly, a priestess of some sort. He would disappear into Harlem for several days at a time and return wild eyed and crazed. Quite embarrassing actually. He had troubling dreams where he said something was calling to him, and Erica sent him to Dr. Robert Huston for therapy. She believes Huston talked him into going to Egypt, and Erica feels guilty about that, but it was the negro woman who caused him to lose his grasp on reality.

Monday Tex and Sean talked to Detective Poole, trying to pressure him into pushing things in Harlem. Detective Poole informed them that the assailant from the hotel who survived had hung himself in his jail cell. With the 3 assailants of Mr. Jackson’s dead, Jackson’s murder case was closed. It was even possible the 3 men that had killed Jackson were responsible for the other 8 similar murders and direction from higher up was to put a lid on it and move on. Poole made it clear his hands were tied unless further evidence of a crime committed by someone other than the 3 dead men from the hotel came up. Tex was furious, but Sean understood. They would have to solve the mystery behind the “why” themselves, the police weren’t going to do it for them. Sean had become used to operating outside the law and taking care of business on his own terms. Looked like this was another one of those times.

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The Mystery Deepens
A bewildering maze of clues

James and Sean visited Emerson Imports, an import expeditor on W 47th St. The place was a long narrow warehouse filled with crates. They talked to a Mr. Arthur Emerson who said Jackson had been there yesterday asking questions about any imports from Mombasa. Mr. Emerson indicated that he is the US agent for Mombasan exporter Ahja Singh. Singh’s only known account is a place called the Ju-Ju House in Harlem. Mr. Emerson checked his records and gave the address of 1 Ransom Court, Harlem, and the proprietors name Silas N’Kwane. He said he was certain Mr. Elias had intended to visit the Ju-Ju House. When asked about the Ju-Ju House, Mr. Emerson indicated that it was run by “Darky foreigners and bad to boot”. Mr. Emerson was informed of Elias’ murder and seemed very concerned. Sean left his card with Mr. Emerson.

A call to Harvard connected them with Miriam Atwright, librarian at the Harvard library. Ms. Atwright remembered corresponding with Jackson. He had requested a book called Africa’s Dark Sects. Ms. Atwright indicated that the book had unfortunately disappeared last summer. She remembered it distinctly because the day there had been an awful stench in the racks the day the book was discovered missing.

Dr. Anne Kelly visited here good friend and publisher, Jonah Kensington (also Jaskson’s publisher). She attempted to lie to him about her involvement, very poorly. Jonah grew quite worried for her and strongly suggested she go to the police who had visited him this morning about Jackon’s murder. Jonah was quite disappointed at the lack of trust shown by Dr. Kelly. Jonah indicated that over the past 9 months Jackson had been overseas. He had received correspondence from him from Nairobi and showed Anne the correspondences he had received from Jackson from Nairobi. A short while after receiving these notes he had received a wire for money from Hong Kong asking for an advance. He had then not been heard from until the middle of December from London when he received a telegram saying Jackson had been to Africa, China, and London and had dug up a lot of stuff. The telegram was a little crazy, talking about monstrous conspiracies and Jonah had grown worried. A few days ago a disheveled Jackson had dropped off a set of notes to Jonah’s secretary, Ms. Witherspoon. Jonah was reluctant to share these notes with Dr. Kelly, because they were potentially quite embarrassing to the legacy of Jackson Elias as they showed a poor state of mind and could discredit the famous author if made public. Convinced he shared the notes with Dr. Kelly. They were quite alarming indeed.

Convinced that avoiding the police was a bad idea. All involved but Sean visited the Manhattan police department and met with Detective Martin Poole, the homicide detective on the Elias case. They tried to lie and cover up Sean’s involvement, but Detective Poole had been contacted by Mr. Emerson and had Sean’s business card. This made for a long exhausting night of interviews as Poole was very unhappy at being played for a fool. James, always having had problems respecting authority, got mouthy with Poole and spent the night in lock up. He was extricated by the family lawyers the next day, but then had to endure the usual lectures from his father. The next day Sean came to Detective Poole with his hat in his hand and provided his statements. Detective Poole made it clear that he was a homicide detective and was focused solely on the Jackson murder, he could care less about Sean’s “side activities” of which he already knew. Sean was able to impress the Detective enough with his sincerity that Poole shared with him the fact that Jakson was the ninth victim in the last two years of similar slayings. There was no pattern to the victims, and the darkies in Harlem were being very tight lipped about the matter.

Following up on the handbill, Dr. Kelly, Sean, and Tex made a trip to Arkham to visit Professor Cowles. Cowles was a boisterous Australian professor of Anthropology from the University of Sydney and the Locksley Fellow of Polynesian Escoterica at Miskatonic University in Arkham. Professor Cowles gave a Lecture recently (two months ago) at NYU on “The Cult of Darkness in Polynesia & the Southwest Pacific” He shared the highlights of the lecture and associated slides with his visitors. When asked about connections to other pieces of evidence, Professor Cowles agreed that there seemed to be a rather interesting similarity in legends and myths of widely disparate cultures that indicated a possible unifying hidden truth that was rather frightening to consider. On the way back they stopped off at Harvard and talked more to Miriam Atwright. They spent a day with her helping them research some of the clues they had found. They one thing they were able to find in a long day of research was that the symbol carved into Jackson’s head was ancient in origin, thought to have been an offshoot fo an unnamed cult driven out of dynastic Egypt called the Bloody Tongue. They found references to a Bloody Tongue cult in Kenya.

Meanwhile, James looked into Erica Carlysle, sister of Roger Carlysle. He knew of her already, and knew that she was very rich and very well respected, not the sort of person who one could just drop in on. Asking around, he found that Ms. Carlyle’s interests were frequently handled by a Mr. Bradyley Grey, partner in the law firm of Dunstan, Whittleby, and Grey, West 57th Street. Meeting with Grey, James indicated that he had information about certain books locked up in Roger Carlysle’s safe that might bring to light what had happened to the Carlysle expedition. James also hinted that the white members of the expedition might not be dead. Mr. Grey was not terribly receptive to opening old wounds, and said he would need something substantive before approaching Ms. Carlysle. James tried to convince him to arrange a meeting and Mr. Gray said he would consider possibilities. A few days later James was contacted and indicated that he had arranged a lunch meeting with Ms. Carlysle and Mr. Waldorf for the 25th.

The four old friends reconvened in New York after an exhausting week of activity that had turned up more questions than answers about the death of their friend Jackson Elias.

Note to Jackson From Caesar
OK Jackson, I think we’ve talk to everyone in New York and the surrounding area that either you spoke with or want to before you died. Everyone except Ms Carlyse. But we have an appt set. We’ll get a hold of those books and see what’s so important…..before anyone else does!
We’re the guys that attacked you from the JuJu house? There was 1 old man working there at the time, defiantly from Africa. Doesn’t seem likely, but maybe we should visit that place again, at night.
We have dug up so much information – but where does it all lead? You we’re really into something bad! And we weren’t there to help. Sorry, buddy-o!
I’m going to make an effort to cultivate this relationship with Detective Poole. Yea, Yea, I really said that. Stop rolling over in your grave. Hey man, do you know you we’re the 9th victim that was killed in that way in the past 2 years?? There are some real sick bastards out there! Anyway, Det Poole told me that. He really wasn’t such a bad guy if you we’re straight with him. So that leaves James outa the picture in that regard.
I’m sure we’re missing something. Not putting something together in the right way. I just need to take the time to go over all the little bits of info we have. We’ve shared most of what we’ve found with Det Poole. He just wants to solve these murders. I want to find out whose behind them and why. I’m thinking we’ll be heading out of the country before too long.
Johnas gave us all the notes you left him. That should help us. And we talked with the Professor in Arkum. Strange and stranger. There are some very odd similarities to tribal sects in Australia and Africa! They’re worlds apart and yet so close in their legends. How can that be? I’m sure you would know. Well, anyway, guide us if you can. I really don’t think we can do this on our own.

Your friend,
Caesar

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A Bitter Reunion
The loss of an old friend and the beginning of a mystery

January 11, 1925

It has been 9 months since they had rescued Jackson Elias. James Waldorf received another telegram from Jackson:

HAVE INFORMATION CONCERNING CARLYLE EXPEDITION STOP NEED
RELIABLE INVESTIGATIVE TEAM STOP ARRIVE JANUARY 15 STOP
SIGNED JACKSON ELIAS

He immediately got in touch with the others, including Tex who was in Texas and hopped a train for New York. Some of them remembered the story of the ill fated Carlysle Expedition from a few years ago and researched the old newspaper articles, and a couple of newsreels.

On the 15th James received a call from Jackson at home. Jackson seemed not be his usual jovial self and asked that James and the others meet him at his room at the Chelsea, room 410, 8pm sharp. He said not to loiter and not to act suspicious and then hung up without saying goodbye.

They arrived at the Chelsea, not exactly a top of the line hotel, and proceeded to room 410 at 8pm. Tex knocked on the door but there was no answer. A second knock, and likewise nothing. Sean pressed his ear to the door, but heard nothing. Sean then proceeded to produce a set of lock picks and kneeled down to work the lock. This raised a few eyebrows, but soon Sean had it unlocked and opened the door.

The first thing they saw was a man in a cheap suit standing by the window across the room holding a bloody long knife, an african bush knife. He had greasy hair and a pockmarked face, and wore a headband with a flap of red leather hanging down to his nose in the front. He glared at them. The second thing the noticed was the bloody body in the bed. Sean charged with Tex right behind him, but they were surprised by two tough looking black men dressed similarly to the first man also wielding long knives. The blacks had been hiding to either side of the door. Gunshots rang out from Tex and James, while Sean was cut down by a vicious blow from one of the ambushers. One of the black me was shot dead, the other knocked unconscious while the white guy escaped down the fire escape. James and Tex gave chase but the fire escape, being old and in bad repair, collapsed under their combined weight. All three were injured but the knife man ran for the street and was shot down by Tex. James convinced Tex he needed to vamoose because he had just murdered a man in the alley. They hid the body and Tex fled. James went out to hail a cab for their escape and noticed a black idling hudson driven by a third black man which sped off when he saw James emerge from the alley.

Meanwhile back in the room, Anne and Victoria were horrified to see their friend Jackson Elias dead on the bed. His heart had been cut out and a strange symbol carved on his forehead. He had an expression of insane terror frozen on his dead face. Anne saw to Sean and was able to revive him. A quick search of the room and they gathered up what evidence they could as quickly as possible. Some of the evidence was found stuffed int he pockets of the attackers, apparently they had been rifling Jacksons belongings after killing him. They fled the scene of the crime just as the police were arriving.

Jackson Elias was dead. What had he stumbled upon that cost him his life?

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Jungle Shootout
Chaos reigns supreme

A roar erupted from the mountainside as Tex opened up on the men approaching the stairs with Sean’s Tommy gun. The men scattered for cover and began taking pot shots at the muzzle flashes in the dark.

Tex managed to wound one, and kill another before a bullet from a Mauser caught him. He passed out while Dr. Kelly tried to give him first aid. Dr. Kelly took cover as more bullets convinced here to keep her head down.

Inside the pyramid James and Sean forced Senior Estaban (aka Walter Kimble) to take them to his prisoners at gunpoint. In a back room they found 16 crates of mausers and crates of ammunition. Apparently Kimble had a big gun deal going down with mexican rebels. In a small cramped room they found Jackson Elias, his two loyal mexican men Tocal and Camargo, and two local indian boys. Jackson was elated to see them.

They decided to use Kimble as a hostage and try to force their way out. Kimble’s men had entered the pyramid and were quite angry about the death of Julio (shot by Tex). A tense standoff occured outside at the entrance to the pyramid with 8 mexican thugs while James held a gun on Kimble. Sean, Jackson, Tocal, and the two boys climbed down the steps, through the camp and into the jungle while James and Camargo held Kimble hostage. Then James and Camargo moved for the steps. Kimble gave them one last chance to accept his offer to stay as his guests for 4 days while he concluded his business but they declined and ran for it. Kimble ordered his men to open fire and a wild shootout commenced. Camargo was shot just before reaching the cover of the jungle and died in his brothers arms. Tocal was shot dead while grieving Camargo. James crashed down the jungle slope and was wounded but managed to make the safety of the jungle. James, Sean and Jackson fled, the two indian boys were long gone.

Up on the mountain Dr. Kelly drug the wounded Tex off and hid from the mexicans who climbed up to look for them. James and the others did liekwise and waited for dawn. In the morning they fled towards their camp. They stumbled across a party of gang members who had gone out looking for them a couple days earlier. Jackson managed to fast talk them into believing Senior Estaban (aka Kimble) had let them go because Federales were closing in. Not long after they heard the sound of pursuit behind them and ran for it. Stumbling into camp they were surprised to see a troop of Federales led by a dashing Captain Rios who had come to investigate the disappearances in the area. Quickly persuading Captain Rios they were victims and not involved, the Federales made quick work of the gang members who came charging into the clearing behind them after a brief battle. James caught site of Kimble escaping into the jungle.

The Federales heard their story, confiscated the guns, and mopped up the gun running gang. There was nothing supernatural at all going on at the ruins. The group and Jackson retired back to Campeche and relaxed and recovered for a few days, toasting the memory of brave Tocal and Camargo who died at the pyramid.

On the third day Jackson was gone. He had checked out of the hotel, paid all their bills, and left a letter for them:

Hello my friends, or should I say farewell?
I do apologize for leaving so suddenly, but an
open berth became available on a steamer
bound for Morocco, and I simply could not
pass up that chance! I promise to send you a
copy of my essay entitled “The God of
Mitnal”—and trust me, you play no small role
in the story! I should have it completed by the
time I cross the Atlantic. Once again, I cannot
thank you enough. Without you, I would still
be buried in that accursed pyramid like some
Mayan priest! Ah Puch indeed!
I’ll write when I have the chance. When I
return to New York, I know a fabulous
chophouse in Soho where we can catch up on
old times—it will be my treat!

Your friend,

J.E.

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Los Demonios
Not the sharpest knives in the drawer...

As the sound of the train receded in the distance the small group headed into the fog shrouded jungle in the dying light of day. They were on edge. Sean got a little frantic when he heard an owl in the jungle. Their mule was the coolest one of the bunch.

Tex found a trail down to the river and led them upstream as Jackson’s note indicated. They had some trouble but eventually found the remains of a camp. It had been abandoned for a while. They found broken cots, torn tents, empty bottles, an old fire pit, and an empty pack of Lucky Strike’s, Jackson’s brand. Most worrisome was the spots of old dried blood Dr Kelly found on a rock. Something bad had happened here.

They decided to set up camp when they heard the sound of chimes in the jungle. The chimes did not match the wind. Soon the chimes were joined by some chaotic sounds from a flute like instrument and the manic “music” soon picked up tempo. Suddenly, a sickly, intense red glow bursts to life in the jungle about 60 feet away. It appears to be coming from the ground, and casts long, strange shadows into the surrounding trees. The smell of sulfur wafts in on the breeze, and the flutes and chimes suddenly go silent.

Rising in the nearby jungle, partially obscured by the thick undergrowth, is what appears to be a man-like figure with a beaked, birdlike head. The figure is back lit by the red glow, and it holds a flaming skull.

It addressed them in raspy slurred spanish:

“Here is the skull of a trespasser! I
am Ah Puch, who escaped from Mitnal
and now I walk the earth. You will leave
all your food and goods here and never
return to this place or I will eat your soul
and steal your skull and… eat your
children! Quickly, I hunger!”

Tex shouted something snarky at the menacing figure in the jungle, it responded “Fools! I call los demonios from below the earth!” Rising up in the jungle were two figures. Both of them have faces, chest, arms and legs painted white in a skeleton-motif which contrasts with their dark skin. In the darkness, they appear fearsome as they lope forward, arms waving crazily.

Chaos ensued as the los demonios on the right seemed to fall and disappear from view. The other one continued forward howling maniacally and Tex shot over his head. The demonios threw a ball of magic at Tex which struck the ground nearby and began filling the jungle with horrible smelling yellow smoke. Dr Kelly threw a log at the demonios and hit him in the head. He yelped in pain and began dancing about holding his head. Another shot rang out and the owl headed figure in the jungle seemed to jump down from his perch, tear off his face and run away into the jungle. Tex menaced the howling demonios who also fled. Sean had been circling around and gave chase to the demonios but he proved too slippery and escaped.

Tex found the first demonios in the jungle groaning and holding his ankle. It was a local painted in makeup who had tripped over a log. Taking him back to their camp, Dr Kelly splinted the ankle. They found out his name was Jose, he was smelly and missing a bunch of teeth. It also became apparent he was not the smartest of creatures, and the fact that he was drunk and high on marijuana made interrogating him rather difficult. Tex went round and round with the drunken stoned idiot in an epic battle of wits. Jose didn’t know much, but they could piece together he was a villager that had fell in with a group of unsavory characters led by a man called Estaban Santos, a gringo from Texas. Santos led about 15 men, including one that scared Jose very much named Antonio Lopez. Apparently Santos was holed up in the nearby ruins and held prisoner one gringo, two mexican men, and two local boys.

Eventually they let Jose go and scouted the ruins. It took them a day and a half to reach them as they had some difficulty in the jungle. Along the way they found an ancient stele (obelisk). Barely discernible weathered Mayan hieroglyphs along one side. While the script is undecipherable (and will remain so for several decades) the imagery is clear, even by lantern light—a skeletal figure standing atop a mass of skulls looking upwards, flanked by two owls, all in a cave or chamber. Several scrolls (or perhaps smoke) reaches upwards out of the mouths of the figures depicted on the stele. Atop this scene stand a group of Mayans in elaborate animal costumes (priests perhaps), each of whom is holding some artifact—some corn, a knife, a bowl, a rod, and a disk. They flank a taller figure that holds what appears to be a pyramid. The top portion of the stele is broken off and cannot be located.

The ruins were nestled in a jungle valley near a bend in the river. The pyramid was up against the steep valley wall on the other side of the valley with long stone steps leading up to it. The ruins were badly overgrown by the jungle. Sean sneaked in and found a camp set up at the base of the steps. He saw at least 8 heavily armed locals at the camp, and one guard watching the valley. They men at the camp appeared bored and just sitting around playing cards. They formulated a plan.

They snuck around the valley to the cliffs above the pyramid. After dark Sean and James climbed down the steep jungled slopes to the back of the pyramid. They could see campfires at the base of the steps and torches near the top by the pyramid. Sean took a tumble and the noise attracted a guard. They were able to subdue the guard and take the rather nice new Mauser he had. Why did this local have such an expensive new rifle?

There were no other guards at the top of the stairs. They found the entrance to the pyramid to be lit by two torches. It was a crack in the stone and they had to crouch to crawl in. Inside they found a small room where the gring Estaban and the mexican Lopez were playing cards. They got the drop on them and Sean leveled the Mauser he had taken on Lopez. A true mexican standoff ensued as Estaban and Lopez had their hands on their guns, but Sean had the advantage on Lopez. Having some experience with the sort, Sean soon realized Lopez was bat shit crazy enough to go for his gun even though Sean had the drop on him. Sean became nervous and locked in on Lopez who smiled and winked. James Waldorf and “Senior Estaban” began negotiating. Estaban had a noticeable texas accent.

Soon it became obvious Estaban had Jackson and some others prisoner in the pyramid. Estaban indicated that he couldn’t let James and Sean leave and certainly couldn’t give up the prisoners. However, if they were willing to stay at the pyramid for a few more days, Estaban could conclude his “business” and then “what y’all do from there ain’t no nevermind to me.”

James was unsure what to do, but Sean was sure he didn’t want to become a prisoner here in a Mexican jungle! He pulled the trigger. Lopez noticed something in Sean’s eyes and moved just as Sean shot and Sean missed. Lopez pulled his revolver as he dove for cover and rained lead down on the irish gangster. Sean threw down the bolt action rifle and went for his 45, firing back as he ducked back into the cover of the entranceway. Estaban lept to his feet and kicked James in the head, who went reeling back. James and Estaban struggled, exchanging blows, but soon Estaban had James grappled on the ground. Meanwhile, Sean had been wounded by slugs from Lopez’s 38, but was able to get a lucky shot in and plugged Lopez in the head dropping him dead. Sean turned the gun on Estaban who quickly surrendered. “Now now, I’m sure we can work this all out pardners!” he said with a wry smile.

Meanwhile up on the cliff, Tex and Dr Kelly heard the sound of gunfire ring out in the pyramid. Apparently so did the men in the camp as they saw torches heading for the stairs and bunch of armed men heading for where their friends had gone.

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The saga begins
A prequel to get things started

James Waldorf received a telegram from an old friend, Jackson Elias:

CAMPECHE RR STATION MEXICO
SORRY NO TIME FOR PLEASANTRIES
STOP REQUEST YOUR HELP IN LOVELY
YUCATAN INVESTIGATING A-H P-U-C-H
CULT STOP NEED TWO FAVORS STOP
BRING GUNS LUCKY STRIKES GIN STOP
NEED ALL AVAILABLE INFO ON WALTER
F KIMBLE STOP ASK TEXAS RANGERS
STOP EVERYTHING YOU CAN FIND STOP
WILL TELL MORE WHEN YOU ARRIVE
STOP BILL TICKET TO PROSPERO PRESS
NEW YORK STOP MEET FRIENDS AT
HOTEL SAN MIGUEL CAMPECHE MEXICO
STOP ASK FOR GUILLERMO AT RR
STATION DO NOT TELL OTHERS STOP
JACKSON ELIAS
END

James gathered up other friends of Jackson’s to help: Sean O’Malley , Mike Riley, and Dr. Anne Kelly.

James visited Jackson’s publisher, Jonah Kensington, at Prospero Publishing to arrange a steamship to Campeche. The group took a train to Houston where they got information from the Texas Rangers about Walter Kimble, a notorious scallywag and gun runner wanted for a long list of criminal activities.

Dr. Kelly did some research on Ah Puch and discovered that name was a name for the Mayan god of death who ruled over Mitnal, the Mayan land of the dead.

They took a steamship to Campeche and spent a couple nights at the Hotel San Miguel.

At the train station they tracked down a National Railroad official named Guillermo who happened to be a friend of Jacksons. He told them he had helped Jackson supply a camp crew to accompany Jackson into the jungle a ways north of Campeche about a month ago. About 10 days ago Jackson came back for resupply and told Guillermo he had sent for help from the states. He had left a letter for them with Guillermo with directions to find his camp. Guillermo helped supply the group and gave them passes for riding a flat car along the freight line.

After preparing for the journey they rode in some discomfort on an open flat car along with the cargo and the locals. As they approached their destination at milepost 126 just before the trestle bridge in the deep jungle, a thick fog had settled in after a drenching rain. By this time there were few locals left on the train, but an old mexican woman clutching a rosary was watching them nervously. When approached the woman told them they should avoid this area:

“This is the place where the old gods
of the Maya sealed up the pit to the
underworld – it leads to Mitnal, the place
of demons. They built a great pyramid
atop it to seal it forever, but something
terrible has happened. The path to the
underworld has been opened, and Ah
Puch seeks to collect bodies once again.
Listen for the owl. As they say, “Cuando
el tecolote canta… un hombre muere.”
[When the owl cries, a man dies.] Many
have disappeared here in recent months
– can you not feel it? May God protect
us from the demons!” (She quickly
makes the sign of the cross.)
“Please, you must not stop here. You
are safe on the train if you do not touch
the earth! I know these things – the old
ways are not dead – please, you must
listen to me!”

The train stopped at the trestle bridge and let the group off. The engineer wasted no time in getting underway. Tex asked the old woman to pray for them, and her reply was “I always pray for the dead.”

The train rumbled off across the bridge, and as the sound of it faded in the distance they faced the fog shrouded jungle in the dying light of the day. The silence was deafening.

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