Himmler’s fascination with the occult was well-known. To Himmler, such subjects as ancient Indian scriptures, pagan rituals, and sacred

artifacts were not the stuff of “occultism”—that repository of neglected, forbidden, or rejected knowledge—but the secret core of religion itself. He could foresee a time when occultism would replace the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and would empower the German people like never before.

It would be almost ten years before he would realize this dream in the formation of his notorious SS-Ahnenerbe, or the “Ancestral Heritage” Research Bureau of the SS, in 1935. But his circle of friends and colleagues already included some of the most influential German academics of the age. From them he had learned of the existence of a cult of powerful shamans in the East: men who were ageless, and who could call on terrible powers that other men had forgotten, powers from before the time of the Great Flood, before the construction of Solomon’s Temple, before the exodus of the Jews from Egypt.

Himmler needed access to this power, both for Germany and—in a most special sense—for himself. While he admired Hitler, he did not respect him as his intellectual equal. To Himmler, Hitler was the front man for the Nazi Party and he, Himmler, was its brain. But Hitler had that indefinable power, that charisma, that Himmler lacked. It was raw spiritual energy, a kind of demonic possession, that came over Hitler during his speeches and his public appearances that was irresistible, even to foreigners who didn’t speak a word of German. Himmler, with his owlish eye-glasses and his overall prissy appearance, looked like a bookkeeper or a minor bureaucrat. What he needed was access to the same kind of power—the same source of spiritual energy and divine fire—that Hitler had in abundance.

And he knew where to get it.

Dresden 1925

They sat across from each other in the Tanzler ancestral home. Tanzler’s mother was hovering in the background, preparing a meager tea of some stale küchen and coffee bought at considerable expense from a neighbor.

Himmler was the first to speak.

“Count Tanzler, I remember you well from Munich in 1923. You marched with me and with young Walter Hewel, and stood up to the hooligans who attacked us. You are a dedicated National Socialist.”

“Thank you, Herr Himmler.”

“You have been baptized with the Blood Flag. You saw our brothers fall. And now, National Socialism is once again on the march and we need men like you to help us bring sanity and common sense to the German people.”

“I am at your service, Herr Himmler.” Tanzler was trembling, and was careful to speak slowly and deliberately so as not to reveal his nervousness before one of the most powerful men in the Party. He did not know the purpose of Himmler’s visit, but he suspected that it had less to do with begging a donation than with something more sinister. Outside, in front of the manor house, Himmler’s large black car was parked and two hard men in leather coats were pacing up and down, waiting for their leader to emerge.

“You have spent some time in the East, I understand.” It was not a question, but a statement.

“Yes, Herr Himmler.” “In India, I believe?”

“Yes, sir. And in the Near East and Central Asia as well.”

Himmler was silent a moment, as if lost in a reverie of Oriental fantasy. “The East may hold the secrets of our origins, my dear Count. The

origins of the Aryan race. India, Tibet, even the fabled cities of Samarkand

and Tashkent. Have you read Blavatsky?”

For a moment, Tanzler did not know how to respond. Was Blavatsky Jewish? Was her Theosophical Society one of those dangerous secret cabals he had heard so much about, like the Freemasons or the Golden Dawn? In the end, he decided on truthfulness, for he suspected that Himmler already knew the answer.

“Yes, Herr Himmler. Of course.”

“If you can follow all that folderol about root races and sub-root races, you can see that there is a germ of truth in what she writes. Race is a spiritual thing, Count Tanzler. And the blood carries the spirit.” He took a breath and his gaze settled calmly on Tanzler’s face. The count found the gesture unsettling.

“There is a spiritual war taking place all around us, a war for the very soul of Germany, that involves races with very different characteristics, very different origins. We will have to employ methods that may seem strange or even obscene to the world in order to win this cosmic struggle.

Blavatsky’s major work is well-entitled, The Secret Doctrine. It is a secret: to the many, but not to the few. Not to us.”

Tanzler did not know how to respond, except to listen intently and have the appropriate look of awe on his face.

Then his guest suddenly shifted gears.

“Did you know that Walter Hewel is now in the East Indies?” “No, sir. I did not know.”

“Yes. He is doing very good work for us there. He is building National Socialism among the expatriate Germans. He is very energetic, and very young.”

“Yes, Herr Himmler.”

“But the East Indies is far away. It will become crucial in the years to come, but at the moment we have more pressing concerns.”

“As you say, mein Herr.”

“We have enemies everywhere. Here, in Saxony. In Bavaria. Throughout Germany. And in other countries as well. International Jewry is a force to be reckoned with. There are conspiracies of Masonic lodges who work against National Socialism because they know we threaten their hegemony over the human race. And there are other secret societies, groups of evil men, who open their temples and their magic circles to those who would destroy our work.”

“Then we must fight them, Herr Himmler. With everything we have.”

“I am glad to hear you say that, Count Tanzler. I am happy to know that we can count on your support and your assistance.” The future Reichsführer-SS got up abruptly from his chair and made for the door. “My associate will be in contact with you with further instructions. Please give my best regards to your mother.” He turned once only to raise his arm and say, “Heil Hitler!”

“Heil Hitler!” responded Tanzler, mystified now more than ever. His mother stood in the doorway with a tray of tea things and was about to say something when she saw the bewildered look on her son’s face and stopped. Himmler was gone, his boot steps clattering down the marble stairs to the front door and his waiting car.

On the table next to Himmler’s chair, where she would have placed the tea tray, was an object that Tanzler had not seen before. It was a small idol, of uncertain age and identity, about four inches high. It seemed to have

been made of clay, but Tanzler could not be sure since the surface was rough and pitted, as if it was some kind of stone. Volcanic in origin, maybe. Across the pedestal of the idol was a series of characters that might have been hieroglyphics. On the bottom of the pedestal was a small label that had been affixed not long before, judging by its clarity and the sharp, clean lines of the ink that was used to write the brief description, “Cutha, 1914.”

What was disturbing, however, even more than the artifact’s mysterious appearance on the coffee table, was the design of the thing itself. It seemed to show a half-man, half-fish sort of creature; and what Tanzler first thought was thick strands of hair turned, on closer inspection, to be … tendrils, or perhaps tentacles. Was it an octopus? A hybrid creature like those of the Egyptians, half human and half animal?

If so, what desert civilization would have worshipped a creature so obviously of the deep ocean? What was “Cutha” and what did it mean?

And what, Tanzler thought to himself, does any of this have to do with the Party?

What does it have to do … with me?

As Aubrey picked up the story, Angell sat and toyed with the paprikash on his plate. While the food was delicious, the conversation was ruining his appetite. He knew about a similar idol to the one Aubrey described, the one left in Tanzler’s home. But how to connect the statue in a crazy count’s castle in Saxony to the one that allegedly was given to his ancestor in Rhode Island?

He did a quick mental calculation. He wasn’t sure of the exact dates, but according to the legend George Angell would have been given the item some years before Tanzler was given an identical one, thousands of miles apart. He suspected that Aubrey was either insane, or that he was not telling him the whole truth. In fact, he wasn’t sure that anything he was being told was the truth and not some fantasy of a crazy element within the intelligence “community.”

“Tanzler was later contacted by a man identifying himself as a colleague of Himmler’s. He was given some cash, and was told he would be leaving on a ship bound for Cuba in four months’ time. From there, Tanzler was expected to go to the United States and lay low until he was given further instructions. He would be contacted by a member of the Party in America

and told what was expected of him. In the meantime, he was to determine as much as possible about the origins of the strange object that had been left for him by Himmler.”

The proprietor came over and cleared away their plates, with barely a glance at the untouched meal on Angell’s. He exchanged a look with Aubrey that took in the scene on the sidewalk where denim jacket man was still stretching. Aubrey nodded, almost imperceptibly, a gesture that escaped Angell who was deep in another world. The two diners remained silent until the cook was safely back in the kitchen, out of earshot.

“All anyone knew was that the idol had been uncovered in a dig in what is now Iraq, in the ancient city of Cutha, or Tell Ibrahim northeast of Babylon. It was a city variously known as Kuta, Kutu, or Gudua in Biblical times and sacred to the Babylonian deity of the Underworld, Nergal. It was also the site of a famous shrine to Abraham, the father of the three great monotheistic religions that came out of the region. The Germans had been busy throughout the Middle East, conducting archaeological excavations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Levant. Often, these digs were covers for intelligence operations in the lead-up to World War One. The British were doing the same. T.E. Lawrence used his archaeological fieldwork as a cover, for instance. Nevertheless the Germans did uncover some interesting sites in the process.

“However, the Cutha artifact was unique. There was nothing like it anywhere in the Middle East, or in the world for that matter. Except in one place, of course.

“In your ancestor’s study in Providence, Rhode Island. But you knew that.”

CHAPTER NINE

THE HORROR IN CLAY

There had been aeons when other Things ruled the earth, and They had had great cities.

—H.P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”

According to the timeline presented by Lovecraft in his famous short story “The Call of Cthulhu,” George Gammell Angell, Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, had been shown a stone statuette identical in style and subject matter to the German idol during the annual meeting of the American Archaeological Society in St Louis, Missouri in 1908. It had been found a few months earlier at the site of a gathering of cultists in the bayous outside of New Orleans, Louisiana by a local police inspector identified as John Raymond Legrasse.

Seventeen years later, in Providence, Professor George Angell was presented with a bas-relief depicting an identical mythical creature by a young art student enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design, or “Ris- Dee” as it is known to the locals. The student—Henry Wilcox—was not a member of any cult or secret society; rather, he had seen the creature in his dreams and fashioned it accordingly. He brought the art piece to the elderly professor because he needed an expert to interpret the design and place the object in a proper historical context … since he was certain it represented some ancient civilization and the gods it worshipped, gods who were somehow visiting him in his tortured sleep, speaking to him in a language he did not understand and could not identify.

Unfortunately, Professor Angell died before he could record his conclusions concerning the strange juxtaposition of two such bizarre—yet

identical—objects coming into his possession. That he took the event seriously is evidenced by the fact that he had amassed a large file of newspaper clippings and correspondence concerning the idol and the associated bas-relief, as well as a series of strange occurrences that took place around the same time that young Wilcox was having his bizarre nightmares. After his death, these fell into the possession of Francis Thurston, a grand-nephew of the professor, who was moved to continue his uncle’s researches in a quest that would eventually take him around the world. At least, that’s the story.

Dwight Monroe was certain that it was Professor Angell’s wide-ranging correspondence with characters as disparate as distinguished academics in Europe to theosophists in Latin America, surrealist artists in France, and cultists in California that got him killed.

He was equally certain that Angell—as a professor of Semitic languages

—would have recognized the mysterious word that Wilcox kept hearing and which was inscribed on the bas-relief as well as on the statue. The old academic knew exactly what the idol depicted, and he was searching—not for clues as to its meaning or identity—but for traces of the very cult whose worship it represented. He was conducting what was to all practical intents and purposes an intelligence operation.

Dwight Monroe could relate to that.

The years that followed saw the rise of the Nazi Party and the corresponding rise of Heinrich Himmler’s sinister SS empire of racist occultism, crank scientific theories, = the unending quest for sacred artifacts, and the ransacking of archaeological sites around the world. Monroe considered George Gammell Angell to be one of the first casualties of the Second World War: a martyr to the rapacious greed of Himmler and his maniacal insistence that his occult Reich be protected at all costs. Angell’s correspondence unintentionally revealed that he was in possession of a great secret: that an ancient cult of a pre-Christian, pre- Abrahamic era was being reconstituted in the twentieth century, with potentially dire consequences.

And Howard Phillips Lovecraft had inadvertently stumbled on the plot to kill Professor George Angell.

Lovecraft was friendly with the artist he called “Henry Wilcox” in his story, and knew of the strange dreams Wilcox was having and the fugue