“You must be joking! It was common knowledge …”
“Common knowledge and truth are not always the same thing, are they?”
“Spoken like a man who practices deceit on a regular basis.”
“And why did you suggest that it was a ‘nautical-looking Negro’ who committed this alleged murder? What proof was there of that?”
Lovecraft was fuming. What did this irritating immigrant from a vanquished country know about his personal life, his motivations? How does he challenge the story Lovecraft wrote and published in all sincerity?
Tanzler grabbed his arm.
“Do you know why there was no reported murder of Professor Angell? Because there was no evidence of murder. He had a heart attack, as you wrote, which is a natural cause. Or, perhaps, unnatural, as the case may be.”
“What are you saying?”
“A heart attack is an easy thing to arrange, once you know the science. I predict that heart attacks will become the assassination method of the future. Not so obvious and messy as poisoning. Certainly not as immediately suspicious as a gunshot or a stabbing.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Consider, Herr Lovecraft. You know your own country. Would Professor Angell have allowed a Negro to come close enough to him to kill him? And what motive would he have?”
“I don’t like where this is going.”
“Scheisse, man! Open your eyes! He was killed for the briefcase he was carrying.”
“And for the document in the briefcase. The one that was never discovered. The one entrusted to him by a group of colleagues at a secret meeting in Newport that day.”
“What secret meeting? And how do you know so much about this?”
“I have been following your work for a number of years now. You have to know that you are not alone in this. That there are others, many others, influential people, who are aware of the activities of this Cult of Cthulhu. Professor Angell only became aware of it through a series of accidents. When it became known that he had stumbled upon the truth, he was taken into confidence by others. He perhaps knew more about it than was good for him. That is why I need to locate that file.”
“I told you. It was stolen from me.” “By whom?”
“How should I know? A thief in the night. Arabs, maybe.” “Arabs?”
“Whoever it was had a key to my rooms. The tenants were all Arabs. I don’t know. The police never …”
“You brought the authorities into this?” Tanzler was shocked.
“No, no. To the theft of my clothes, only. I never mentioned the file.” “And how did you become the owner of the file? I thought it was part of
“That part was made up. Invented. I couldn’t say that I had the physical file, and be dragged into a possible lawsuit by the Angell family. They are very powerful in Providence. No. I wanted to throw the authorities off, but still get my message to the right people.”
Tanzler patted the distraught man on the arm. “And so you have, Herr Lovecraft. So you have.”
By this time they had reached the shack where Tanzler lived. He noticed the chalked note on the side of the door, and knew that his agent had gone through Lovecraft’s suitcase. There was no electricity in the wooden structure so Tanzler lit a few candles and an old hurricane lantern. Lovecraft simply stood there while the Count moved some papers off of a chair and bade him sit.
Lovecraft was by no means willing to spend more than a few moments in that hideous edifice, but he needed to know what Tanzler knew.
“You still have not told me how you came into possession of the Cthulhu file.”
“I don’t feel the need to go into details on this with you, regardless of what you already know. Let us simply agree that my possession of it was not entirely legal. And that it was taken from me in a manner that was also not legal.”
“How long ago was that?” “In 1925. In May.”
Tanzler did some quick calculations. He had not murdered Angell until fully eighteen months later. And Angell had only been involved in the case beginning the spring of 1925. Wilcox was still seeing him in March and April of that year, yet Lovecraft was saying he had the file in his possession in May.
“And ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ …?”
“Written sometime in the summer of 1926. August, maybe.”
“When Professor Angell was still alive.”
“Yes, precisely. I went to visit him earlier that year, to see if I could discover more about the cult.”
“My dear Count, you are asking all the questions and allowing me none.”
“In time, mein Lieber Freund. Tea?”
One look at the crapped cups and filthy teapot decided that question for him.
“No, thank you, Count. Now, what was your question?” “I was asking about your visit to Professor Angell.”
“Ah, yes. The Professor was most kind and generous with his time, but he really had little to add to what I already knew. He did mention a group of what he called ‘devil worshippers’ who held rituals of a completely blasphemous nature in the land south of Baghdad, near the ancient city of Gudua. He mentioned also a tribe known as the Yezidis. I think he intended me to know that they were one and the same.”
“Ach, the Yezidis. Nasty business, I understand.” Tanzler was paying extreme attention to everything his guest was saying. There were some missing pieces in his understanding of the cult and now Lovecraft was supplying them. What he said next, however, indicated that the lantern- jawed New Englander was on the same page as Tanzler himself, and his superiors.
“There were enough of them in New York City when I lived there. Arabs, anyway. But Yezidis, I think, are Kurds? Well, it matters not to me. New York is a cesspool of non-Aryan types, including a population of Jews that will certainly bring this country to destruction. There is no possibility of assimilating people into our civilization who have a culture and a belief system so wholly antagonistic to our own. If you want to see devil worshippers, I suggest you consult your nearest synagogue.”
The vehemence with which Lovecraft uttered these infamous lines surprised even Tanzler, no stranger to anti-Semitism and theories of eugenics and race science. Lovecraft was obviously tired and a little uncomfortable in Tanzler’s humble lodgings, but that did not explain the articulation of a worldview so parallel to his own.
“Are there many Americans who feel the way you do?”
“Some of our greatest leaders feel this way. Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh … but we were talking about Professor Angell.”
“Are you sure you don’t want any tea?”
“Quite sure, thank you, Count,” he said, without a tinge of sarcasm. “Then, you were saying …”
“The Professor intimated to me that the cult was in possession of a document, a text of some kind. A book. And that this book contained all their rituals and their methods for contacting alien forces.”
“The Yezidis have a mysterious book that no one has seen. It is called the Black Book.”
“I am not certain it is the same document, or the professor would have mentioned it. He was something of an expert on Middle Eastern religions, and this … cult was something new to him.”
“I see. What was the book called?”
“According to him, he heard of it while consulting on a case of satanic ritual murder in Louisiana. The informer told him it was called Necronomicon.”
“My knowledge of Greek is rusty, but I believe that word means ‘names of the dead’ or something like that.”
“It refers to their High Priest, Cthulhu, who is dead but dreaming. He communicates in dreams to his … devotees.”
“Dead, but dreaming …” Tanzler’s voice trailed off as he thought of his beloved Elena, so close to death herself.
“So I am afraid I can’t help you. I don’t have the Cthulhu file, and I don’t know more about it than what I published in my story.”
“And the book?”
“The Necronomicon? I have no idea.”
A few months earlier Tanzler’s boss, Heinrich Himmler, had risen to prominence in the Nazi Party by crushing a revolt against Adolf Hitler by the SA, the Sturmabteilung or “Storm Troopers.” His SS had become the de facto elite military arm of the Party. At the time Tanzler and Lovecraft were talking in Key West, Himmler was creating the Sicherheitsdienst or Security Service, the SD. Hitler would not become Chancellor of Germany until January of 1933, but the machinery of what would become the Third Reich was already in motion.
And on the last day of 1931—six months after Tanzler and Lovecraft’s meeting—Himmler would create the Race and Settlement Office of the SS, which was concerned with racial purity and the requirement of potential SS recruits to prove their pure Aryan blood as well as that of any potential mate.
All during 1931, however, Himmler’s orders were sent on a regular basis to Tanzler. Most of the memoranda concerned local intelligence operations, the running of Tanzler’s network based in Key West and extending towards Havana in the south and up to the Carolinas in the north. Tanzler was performing basic housekeeping duties for the network and was not distinguishing himself in the process, but there was one function in particular that Himmler was paying for and for which failure was not an option: obtaining the Cthulhu File.
There was a very specific reason for this, and Tanzler was unaware of its significance. Quite simply, Himmler needed the File in order to make sense of a very important—albeit almost incomprehensible—manuscript in his possession, the one delivered to him by Viereck in New York.
The document stayed on Himmler’s desk until the creation of the SS- Ahnenerbe, the “ancestral heritage” research foundation that numbered many crank anthropologists and fringe academics in its ranks. Himmler also recruited the fascist philosopher and mystic Julius Evola, and put him to work researching material in the SS archives on secret societies, occult manuscripts, and the like, with a special view to finding out anything he could about the mysterious Necronomicon and its incantations that were not in any known language. Subhas Chandra Bose, the pro-Nazi, anti- British leader from India, was summoned to assist as well, in Himmler’s belief that the book had an Indian or perhaps Tibetan component. It was Bose who had once seen the manuscript first-hand, during a visit to the Hadrahmut in 1919 when it was in the possession of a merchant of ancient manuscripts, who told him it was obtained from Jeremiah Shamir, a well- known purveyor of antique texts from Mosul. Shamir was the one who actually composed what became known as the Yezidi scriptures: clever forgeries that were sold as authentic to those Orientalist Europeans of the fin de siècle who sought genuine Yezidi texts. This conflation of the Yezidi “Black Book” with the Necronomicon would bedevil researchers for decades and confound efforts to locate either one. It was Bose who alerted
the future Reichsführer-SS of the existence of the manuscript; and it was Himmler whose contact with German archaeologists had resulted in the discovery of the obscene statuette from Gudua (Kutha). He understood that the Book, the Cult, and the Idol were all part of the same underground movement, one that threatened the hegemony of the colonial powers over Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Himmler knew he could exploit this cult to his advantage in the coming war.
The Necronomicon then made its way to Newport, Rhode Island from Kurdistan when the latter was overrun by British troops in 1924. How the book managed to get from Yemen to Kurdistan remained a mystery. It was removed for safekeeping by a scholar of ancient astronomy who was working in Mosul at the time. He was taken by a translated portion of the text that referred to the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear) and its asterism, the Big Dipper. He noted the connection between this constellation and a cult’s activities that seemed to be timed to the position of the Great Bear in the sky at certain days and times of their infernal calendar. He brought the manuscript with him to the meeting in Newport that was attended by Professor Angell—a meeting hastily arranged when reports began coming in of the activities of this bloodthirsty cabal all around the world—and it was openly discussed and even marveled at by all those present. Part Greek, part Arabic and some other tongue that could not be identified, it was decided that only Professor George Angell of their group could decipher it.
And then it was stolen by Tanzler on the Providence docks, handed over to George Viereck, and from there made its way to Berlin.
Thus, the cursed tome that was being discussed by Tanzler and Lovecraft had been in Germany all along. Himmler, however, had reached an impasse. Instinctively he knew that the book contained secrets that were just as valuable, or even more valuable, than the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Spear of Destiny: all of which were the subjects of secret missions he would authorize in the years to come. Now, however, his resources were not as great as they would be when the Reich was consolidated. He was working on a shoe-string. The Necronomicon was useless to him without the File.
When he first sent Tanzler to America it was because of the evidence of the Cthulhu Cult and the rumors of its unimaginable power. Now he had some of the pieces in his hand, but not everything.
He would have to lean on Tanzler even more.
As they talked, the sky outside the shack began to lighten. Dawn was coming, and the singing of birds could be heard outside. Lovecraft had not realized how long they had been speaking, and now he felt fatigue begin to wear him out.
They had discussed ancient cults, Eastern spirituality, Tanzler’s trip to India and Southeast Asia, his time spent as a prisoner of war in Australia … and eventually the subject of reanimating dead matter. It was this interest of Lovecraft’s that had added a special interest to the mission for Tanzler, and he would get as much information from him as possible. He could already report back to Himmler on Lovecraft’s loss of the Cthulhu file; Viereck in New York could follow up the story and maybe locate the police report on the theft. In the meantime, he would wheedle out of his guest the secrets of resurrecting a corpse. He suspected that Lovecraft knew more than he thought he did on the subject, and time was running out.
Perhaps a little shock therapy?
“Have you ever seen a Tesla coil?” he asked.