Then there was the Brooklyn Museum, with its store of Babylonian artifacts. The Metropolitan Museum, with its extensive Egyptian section as well as rooms devoted entirely to the Greek and Roman gods. And there were other libraries, bookstores, and even curio shops specializing in the arcana of countries where the indigenous peoples prayed to goats, boars, crocodiles … there was endless depravity to be found, certainly … and no less in his own neighborhood of Red Hook, where the Arab hordes floated obscenely down Atlantic Avenue on nauseating fumes of sandalwood and roast lamb, fueled by hashish and hopelessness.
It took him nearly a year, but he finally put it all together. No one would believe him, of course, and he was not going to commit the whole truth to paper lest he be considered completely insane. He had to report the danger, reveal the darkness that was closing in on the Earth, without showing his hand. He was no one. He had no credentials, no degrees after his name. He was not part of the academic elite or the scientific establishment. He wrote stories, that’s all. If no one listened to him, if Professor Angell somehow rebuffed his petition, he would do this the way he always did: with fiction, with story-telling. He would bury the truth in the fertile ground of language and suggestion. He would let readers come to the truth slowly, as he had, but with all of the essential facts in one place. All it would take would be someone clever enough to read the signs, to notice the dates, and put the pieces of the puzzle back together. This was not a thing you shouted from the rooftops, no matter how imminent the threat. This was a thing that had to be whispered, from one to another, until that whisper became a murmur and from there an alarum.
In another fifty years or so, his discovery would go mainstream. Erich von D niken, Pauwels and Bergier, Robert Temple, Graham Hancock … reinterpretations of ancient history and religion (especially those of the
“ancient alien” genre) would make the best-seller lists and enrich a generation of writers and historians. Lovecraft, though, would remain virtually penniless for his entire life.
For now, however, it was of utmost importance that he return to Providence to confront Professor Angell with what he had found and to enlist his aid to avert a disaster that was rapidly forming on the outer edges of the galaxy.
He had to convince the old “emeritus” that he had discovered the key to the Cthulhu Cult.
THE CODEX II
There is more in the Codex than the biographies of either Lovecraft or the crazy old Count Karl Tanzler would reveal. Context is everything, and the quiet travels of Lovecraft back and forth to Providence, New York City, and Florida bear much more investigation than has been revealed. The same with Tanzler, who made his way from Germany to Cuba and then to Florida, at a time when the Nazi Party was growing in strength and influence. Tanzler’s connections with German occultists and psychics would have been of intense interest to many in the Party, and his strange voyage to Cuba and then to Key West suggests the itinerary of a man who wanted to slip into the United States unnoticed.
Tanzler’s brief was quite specific. Based on his research concerning the Cutha artifact and what was known about the academic career of Professor George Gammel Angell, it was obvious that the old professor knew much more about the mythology of Cutha and its mysterious ancient inhabitants than did even the German archaeologists who were embedded deep within the digs of Babylon and Nineveh. Himmler’s instructions were clear: obtain a copy of the professor’s research on Cutha and anything having to do with the civilization of Sumer.
But then, even as Tanzler had just arrived in Florida, a bombshell: an unknown writer of fantastic fiction had written a short story in which the entire scenario was played out, for all the world to see.
The story was “The Call of Cthulhu,” and the writer was Howard Phillips Lovecraft.
From the Codex:
The Cthulhu File was stolen from HPL’s apartment on Clinton Street in May 1925. His rooms were entered by someone who possessed a key. Suspects were many, and HPL suspected the
perpetrator was one of his Arab neighbors. HPL returned to Providence in April 1926. He made overtures to Professor Angell immediately. He did not reveal that he had stolen the Cthulhu file from his office. The elderly Angell, by then ninety-two years old, did not put together the appearance of HPL and the disappearance of his file. He answered questions about Henry Wilcox as best as he was able without violating confidence. He was somewhat more reticent about discussing the cult. He did, however, mention the existence of a mysterious “black book” that was said to contain secrets of the cult. He mentioned a tribe of Kurds in northern Iraq called the Yezidi who, it was claimed, were devil-worshippers and who had access to the volume.
Lovecraft remembered the Arabs who lived in Red Hook, and who had persecuted him with their music and their chants. Now they had a name. Yezidi. They were the ones who had stolen the Cthulhu file, he believed. And now they knew what he was up to. Devil worshippers! His life was very probably in danger.
During the summer of 1926 he quickly wrote down all that he knew in a story that would become the touchstone for all his later work, “The Call of Cthulhu.” It was encoded, so that only those “in the know” would recognize the essential elements and see how it was all put together. He sent a copy of the story to friends of his from the Kalem Klub back in New York City, before it was finally published in Weird Tales in February, 1928. By then, of course, it was too late and the cat was out of the bag.
One of those friends—even now, no one knows who—leaked the existence of the manuscript to a German literary figure living in the City: George Sylvester Vierick. Vierick worked for the German government during World War One as a spy in New York, and later worked closely with the Nazi Party in the same capacity. He had also been an intimate of famed British occultist and magician, Aleister Crowley, who worked for Vierick during World War One as a contributing editor and who also had excellent connections back in the Fatherland through a number of German secret societies. In fact, Vierick had published his own vampire novel as early as 1907, as well as a collection of poems entitled Nineveh that same year, had been friendly with Sigmund Freud, as well as Albert Einstein, and in 1923 had interviewed Adolf Hitler himself. With that background,
Vierick immediately saw the value of the Lovecraft manuscript to people like Himmler and Rudolf Hess, and sent word back to Berlin where it eventually made its way to Himmler. The short story had contained the words “CTHULHU CULT” in connection with a secret file on the subject. Many of the details in the story were already known to Himmler, which meant that the original file existed in reality and had to be of extreme importance. Himmler then sent a coded cable to Tanzler with the simple command: “Angell. Cutha File. At once.”
But the file was gone.
Tanzler had no way of knowing this, however. He made his way to Providence in December of 1926 and surveilled the home of Professor Angell. Unfortunately, Angell was not in residence at the time but was visiting friends in Newport. Tanzler waited until the house was asleep and then broke into Angell’s study. He went through the professor’s desk and bookshelves, but found nothing on the Cthulhu cult. However, he did see a notation in the old man’s diary that revealed his trip to Newport and the fact that he would be returning that night on the ferry.
Providence December 21, 1926
The strange-looking gentleman with the goatee, dressed shabbily but somehow elegantly in a threadbare coat and scarf against the bitter cold blowing in from the harbor, was carrying a small leather satchel by his side. He was tanned a dark brown, result of some months spent in the unrelenting sun of South Florida. He appeared to be waiting for the ferry to come in from Newport. There were two others on the pier that night, one a man already celebrating the upcoming Christmas holiday, the fumes of alcoholic bliss billowing about his face like a drunken halo, and the other a slight woman with a worried expression who might have been his wife. Tanzler took note of their appearance and condition and felt he had nothing to fear from the couple. Just in case, though, he moved away from them and further down the pier.
A cold night, a quarter moon hanging in the air above the harbor, the spray of stars overhead like a jury of its peers. Tanzler shivered slightly in the salty breeze coming off the bay and heard the sound of the ferry making its way to the dock. A rustle of movement all up and down the pier
and Tanzler held his position, far enough away from the off-ramp that he would not be seen in the light from its lamps.
He had killed a man once before, in India. It had been necessary. A thief who had come at him from behind with the knotted scarf of the thuggee. The man was not a real thug, of course, for they traveled in groups and attacked according to ritual requirements. This was on a side street in Calcutta. The thief had misjudged Tanzler’s height, and the scarf did not make it around his neck as intended. Rather, Tanzler turned and grabbed the now-frightened man by the shoulders and slammed him up against a wall of masonry. There had been an iron nail in the wall, protruding just enough that it penetrated the man’s neck, severing his spinal column. The thief slumped and hung there, an astonished expression on his face.
Tanzler turned and ran. He had been seen, however, by one of the thief’s brothers who had been keeping a lookout on the street while his brother went to kill and rob the foreigner. A day later, and Tanzler was having tea in a shop a mile from the alley where he had defended himself when he felt sick and collapsed.
His body was picked up and taken to the morgue, for it was thought that he had died. He had no vital signs, and did not respond at all to any kind of stimuli. It was only while awaiting cremation that he came to, awoke from the drug that had been administered to him in the cafe, and frightened the staff to the point of hysteria. The thief’s brothers had underestimated the dose they would have to give Tanzler to kill him, and the effects wore off after a day.
Now Tanzler stood at the dock of the Newport ferry with a syringe full of the same exotic drug. It would mimic a heart-attack. But this time, the dose was enough to kill an elephant.
The ferry docked, with much bumping and knocking, and the ramp lowered for the passengers to disembark. The couple with the drunken husband and the forlorn wife staggered to the ramp and embraced who appeared to be their child: an uncomfortable-looking teenage girl in a hooded coat and muff.
The passengers were few in number. Tanzler watched out of the side of his eyes, as if more or less disinterested in the ferry and its occupants. Finally, an elderly man walked carefully down the ramp, holding a cane in
one hand and a small case in the other. His steps were agonizing slow, especially considering the wintry cold air blowing all around him.
This had to be Professor Emeritus George Gammel Angell, of Brown University. Whatever was in that case had to be the document Tanzler was sent to find. For a moment he thought that he could simply snatch it from the old man and make his way in a hurry before anyone was the wiser, but he couldn’t take the chance that the old man would cry out and alert any passersby. Himmler would not tolerate any mistakes.
The old professor began a slow shamble away from the pier. His snail’s pace made it easier for Tanzler because that meant that the other passengers had long since passed him by. The professor had a long, uphill walk ahead of him along darkened streets, but Tanzler did not want to wait until he hit any of the main thoroughfares for that meant a likelihood of other witnesses.
He had to do it now.
Professor Angell was lost in his own reverie. He had just come from a meeting at the brand-new Hotel Viking in Newport where he discussed the latest findings on his investigation. It had begun the previous year with the case of poor Henry Wilcox and the painting of the strange demon which so closely matched the statue that was at the center of the Cthulhu Cult in Louisiana seventeen years earlier. The investigation had expanded considerably since then, and the involvement of Howard Phillips Lovecraft the past few months had only complicated matters. What did Lovecraft know about the cult? He said he was a friend of young Wilcox. Was it possible that it was Lovecraft that had influenced the fevered dreams of the artist with his own macabre imaginings?
He didn’t know much about Lovecraft. He came from a good family, one with a long pedigree in Providence, but there was scandal there, as well. His father was a traveling salesman—not a particularly acceptable occupation—and possibly had contracted syphilis which led to his insanity. His mother, from the esteemed Phillips dynasty, had similar mental problems. Everyone in town knew the story. And Howard himself? A recluse. Unstable, certainly. Chronically unemployed. Bright, but uneducated. A scribbler of some kind. Stories, poems. Lovecraft’s presence in his library made the professor distinctly uncomfortable. The young man had looked around at all the books on their massive shelves with something like hunger, or lust. Or even, strangely enough, fear.
But the Newport meeting had been profitable. He had with him now a copy of a document that the others suggested he might be able to translate, for they believed it held the key to the operations and ideology of the Cthulhu Cult. The man who discovered it, a Sunni theologian from Sana’a, mentioned a forgotten library in the Hadrahmut. He was rather vague about it, and his poor command of English made it impossible to get any more information concerning its provenance. Angell was not sure he agreed with his colleagues as to the relevance of the text but decided he would take a close look and give them his conclusions. Legrasse had introduced him to the other investigators, some of whom came from great distances: India, in one case. Singapore. The Hindu Kush. Mexico City. The others from the United States and Canada. A total of twenty-three very serious men, some of them police investigators, the others academics like himself. It was an unusual, perhaps a unique, gathering.