Two down. Two to go.

They made it to the car. Adnan jumped in the front passenger side and Angell took the back seat. The car peeled out into traffic just as a squad car, all lights and sirens, raced past them.

“Where to, boss?” came the oddly accented question, in English. “What’s our chance of getting back to Abadeh tonight?”

The driver shook his head. “Not good. Not now. Maybe if that hadn’t happened …” he said, gesturing in the general direction of the firefight.

“We can’t stay in Yazd. They’ll be tearing the city apart soon.”

They were all silent for a moment. Angell looked out the window at the passing street scene, his mind on the two shooters and the old priest. How

much death was he leaving in his wake? He had never wanted to see death again, not like this, and now he was causing it.

“What if we go south?”

The driver looked over at the crazy Kurdish American. “What do you mean, south?”

“Well, we can’t go north. Yazd is hot. And we can’t go west, back to Abadeh. What if we head for Mehriz?”

“Won’t help you, boss. You’d be pretty far away from where you have to be. You gotta get back to the mountains, right?”

“I don’t know. Maybe not.”

“What do you mean?” This time it was Angell’s turn to be surprised. “It’s going to be hard getting an extraction done now. We weren’t

supposed to start a firefight, get noticed. Now the Iranians will start sealing

off the borders to keep us inside. There were those rumors about a plane or helo coming in over the mountains from Iraq. They start putting two and two together and … you see what I mean?”

“What choice do we have? How do I get out of here? You guys can blend back into the population. They’ll never trace any of this back to you. You’re the professionals. But they’ll be looking for me. Especially if any of those killers back at the Towers are captured and start talking.”

They continued this way for another twenty minutes, arguing about the best options. Their driver took them to a friend’s house on the outskirts of town where they would not be noticed so they could rest and clean up. As they did so, Adnan’s phone rang.

One of the cultists had been hiding outside the building. He came in fast, like he was in a gangster film, guns blazing from both hands, firing wildly into the space before him. Bahadur shot him in the stomach. He dropped to his knees and tried to return fire, but Bahadur shot him again, this time in the face.

He was out of ammunition. One down, one to go.

There was a rustling sound from the back of the building. Had Adnan and Angell been there, they would have recognized the place. And the sound.

The small boy from before walked over the blood and the dead bodies, through the haze of smoke and fumes from the firefight, careful not to trip on the broken bricks and the gore, a smile of wonder on his face. Firooz almost shot him, but stopped just in time.

“What are you doing here, boy? Go away!” he hissed.

The boy reached up with his finger and touched his lips. Silence.

Firooz just stared at him, at this strange apparition who seemed so calm and self-contained. He started to smile.

And the last crazed cultist blew him away.

Bahadur leaped over to Firooz’s now lifeless body and snatched up his weapon. He spun around in the darkness and the filth, looking for his target. Outside, he could hear the sirens get closer. He knew they were already in the parking lot.

Now or never.

He stood up, as if to draw the last shooter’s fire, and saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He opened up, firing steadily in that direction, and as he did so he heard that howl once again. That depraved oration or incantation or invocation or whatever the hell it was. And he fired once more in its direction, and it stopped. The howl stopped. In mid-shriek.

He had one bullet left in the magazine. He saw a glow on the floor. It was a cell phone. It belonged to Firooz, his brother in arms, his warrior friend. He picked up the phone as he heard voices coming from outside the building. The authorities.

He looked at the phone and hit a speed dial number. A mile or so away, Adnan’s phone was ringing.

He picked it up when he saw who it was. “Firooz?”

“Bahadur. Firooz has left this Earth behind.” “Oh, my …”

“Do what you can. These must be stopped. They must be stopped.”

And then there was the sound of a shot, loud and angry over the tinny speaker of the cell phone.

Bahadur had shot the phone to splinters and dust. He didn’t want it to fall into the hands of the Guard. They were using burner phones, but he didn’t

know if the Guard had ways of retrieving information from them anyway.

He sat with his back against the wall of the broken building, one hand resting on the head of his fallen comrade, the other holding his Chinese- knock-off piece-of-shit Kalashnikov. As the men made to enter the building, guns drawn, shouting, flashlights, sirens, lights … he raised the empty weapon as if he had a full clip and one in the pipe.

They riddled his body with ammunition bought from a Russian arms dealer who got it from a French arms dealer who got it from an American supplier.

His body danced, and jumped, and then was still. Silence.

Adnan looked up to meet the gaze of the two other men in the room, and shook his head.

The driver muttered a curse and left the room, leaving Angell to ask the question.

“Both?” He nodded.

“What about the others? The cultists?”

“If my experience is any guide, they’re all dead, too.”

Angell started tallying the list of those who had been killed since he was enlisted in this mission, and then gave up. It was too overwhelming, and he felt considerable guilt for his role in their deaths. He was not military; he had not been trained to deal with death in any kind of professional way. Yet there was a sense that this roll call of the dead was the core of a community of souls in which he, involuntarily, had been included. The dead would stay with him, just as those slain Yezidis in Mosul were still with him. Just as his relatives were still with him, those who died in those other towers on September 11, 2001. There was a chain of connection between all of these events and he was the central link. Without him, many of those might still be alive.

He wondered how soldiers lived with it, with all the death they witnessed and even caused. At least they were fighting in a battle with a determined enemy who desired their destruction. Angell didn’t know what his excuse was. Sure, he had been enlisted by the government. He had

been told that he had a unique and irreplaceable skillset to offer. He had also been told that the fate of many innocent lives was at stake.

But so far he had not seen any of those innocent lives spared. Instead, the pile of corpses was growing higher all around him.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

THE CODEX—III

Autumn, 1927. HPL writes “The History of the Necronomicon.” William Seabrook publishes Adventures in Arabia, with account of the Seven Towers of Satan, i.e. Yezidi.

February, 1928. “The Call of Cthulhu” published. Also this year: first Byrd expedition to Antarctica begins (1928-1930).

April, 1929. “The Dunwich Horror” published.

May 1, 1930. Newly discovered planet is named Pluto, after the Lord of the Underworld.

Spring, 1931. HPL writes At the Mountains of Madness.

Summer, 1931. HPL to Florida. Meets Henry St. Clair Whitehead, minister, expert on voudon in Dunedin, FL. Meets Karl Tanzler von Cosel, who discusses with him the reanimation of a corpse, in Key West, FL. Tanzler, an agent for the German government, is a contact for German spies entering the US from Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Tanzler tasked with finding the Cthulhu File. Believes HPL has it. Tanzler enamored of Cuban woman dying of TB (or sees her as disposable test subject for experiments on reviving corpse).

May, 1932. Respected journalist Pierre van Paassen reports the existence of a cult of devil worshippers conducting a Black Mass in Paris and connects them to a satanic cult outside Baghdad. It is believed this is a reference to the Yezidi. Yezidi however do not celebrate Mass of any kind.

August, 1932. International Eugenics Conference held in New York City. Ernst Rüdin, president. Later interned for Nazi war crimes related to genocide.

October, 1932. Cuban woman, Elena Hoyos, dies of TB. Tanzler begins attempts to resuscitate her corpse.

1931

Key West, Florida

It’s been five years since Tanzler had stabbed the needle into Professor George Angell’s neck on the Providence docks, killing him, and stealing his briefcase. In the intervening period a man called Lovecraft published a story that contained so many elements of the tale that Himmler already had told him in Germany—a story that included direct references to old Professor Angell himself—that Tanzler grew increasingly nervous that the American writer had beaten him to the Cthulhu File. The story was entitled “The Call of Cthulhu” and was published in a fringe magazine with lurid covers that specialized in fantasy and science fiction tales by unknown authors. That was in 1928.

He begins to take an interest in Lovecraft, believing that the American was using fiction and the pulp press to communicate military and other secrets to unknown contacts, possibly to a network of occultists and astrologers in Europe. After all, George Sylvester Viereck was doing just that for Germany in his own newspapers, such as The Fatherland and The International, while based in the United States. He had even written a book on rejuvenation! If he could figure out what Lovecraft was doing, Himmler would be pleased. He would be pleased even more if he could locate the Cthulhu File.

So he began scouring bookstores and magazine stands, libraries and archives, for more of Lovecraft’s work and came upon a series of stories about the re-animation of dead matter. “Herbert West—Reanimator” was one such series, published ten years earlier, but there were others that treated of the same theme. Reviving corpses. It seemed to be an obsession of Lovecraft’s.

And now it was his.

He began writing to Lovecraft, telling him how much he admired his work. Lovecraft eventually replied, polite and generous, and Tanzler had invited him to come down to Florida some time, perhaps for a few days of vacation. When Lovecraft actually replied that he would be coming down

—to visit another correspondent of his, one Whitehead—Tanzler was delighted and signaled Munich at once.

The previous year he had met the love of his life, a beautiful Cuban- American woman named Elena Hoyos. He found work in a US Marine hospital in Key West, as instructed by Himmler. This was necessary in order to maintain a network of German operatives entering the United States from Cuba. Tanzler’s modest home would become an ersatz safe house. Not that anyone would have noticed the arrival of yet more immigrants from Cuba in those days.

Elena had come in due to some troubling symptoms. Tanzler, as the x- ray technician, knew that he was dealing with tuberculosis but was optimistic that—with his help, experience honed by years of dealing with the esoteric literature on health and healing—he would enable her to beat her illness and they would marry and fly off to some tropical paradise together. His feelings for Elena were not shared with the Nazis back in Germany, but remained fiercely his own.

He noted the day he met Elena, and claimed it was the day when his life changed forever. It was April 22, 1930. A few days earlier, Charles Lindbergh set a new continental US record of flying from Los Angeles to New York in under fifteen hours. Lindbergh, he knew, was one of theirs: a patriotic American who would never let the United States enter into another war against Germany.

But these things were far from his mind, even as Munich signaled demanding more and more information. How was he supposed to run an intelligence network on such a small expense account? He was getting money wired every month from Himmler via the Reich Credit Bank in Germany under the cover of a pension for his military service during the last war, but it was not enough. Neither was his paycheck from the US Government for his work at their military hospital. It was ironic, really. He was getting paid by the armies and governments of both sides and it was peacetime! He was aware that a new war was coming soon; it was inevitable. The Jews had shown their true colors, first in Moscow and then in Berlin, and now in the United States where Jewish immigrants were flooding the cities and towns and displacing loyal American citizens from their homes and jobs.

At least, that was what Henry Ford was saying. And how can you argue with such a successful businessman?

If he had Ford’s money, or Lindbergh’s, he would be able to perfect his medical system: a system so advanced it would revolutionize science. He understood about electricity and x-rays, and about the subtle psychic forces that wove the web of reality, of life and death, all around us in glittering strands of possibility. In the meantime he was doing his best to care for young Elena with the paltry tools at his disposal. The raven-haired Latin beauty was the incarnation of a spirit he had seen years earlier, first in Europe and then in Asia. At those times she was only a vision, an apparition, like a photograph in a magazine. Seeing her in the flesh, as an actual physical woman, was as if that magazine picture had suddenly come to life. The effect on him was astonishing. It was more than love or lust; it was what one would feel if God himself had appeared without warning and, like a genie, offered you three wishes. No; more. It was as if the Virgin Mother had descended from her throne and pulled aside her veil and loosened her blue and white robe, and asked him to take her there, right there, on the altar of the church.

He was overwhelmed with emotion.

Her full name was Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos. The message was there, right there in her name. Tanzler the occultist, Tanzler the Kabbalist, broke it down with dictionaries, pen and paper, scribbling furiously in his secret notebook.