Introduced myself to the remaining associates. Their cabin looks like a derelict bachelor apartment, messy and nasty. They introduced themselves as:
Obviously I needed to get their confidence, which was not likely in this setting. So I took them for a drink. Aside from Inuit bars, which they considered dangerous, the only speakeasy they knew was at the hotel they had first stayed at when they came here. So we went there, and took the private room. On the way, Lawrence and Gary both complained about having been in a plane crash, and having to hike 400 miles back.
Once settled down with drinks in hand, and out of
the wind and cold so I could keep a cigarette alight, the atmosphere was
much better. Clearly we were all more relaxed.
Lawrence started the process, still stuck on the subject of the plane crash. He said they took a plane north and failed to find a good place to land. They tried to get near Endurance, but had a bad crash-landing in the woods. All walked away, so I don't know what was so bad about it.
I asked them why they were flying.
Gary replied that they were studying caribou migration, and that was the area he and Lawrence work in. Beauregard became involved because his brother had been on another expedition that Lawrence had been servicing.
"So what's the attraction of Endurance?" I asked.
Nothing, apparently, except that it's central to northeast Alaska.
Then what about the ruffians?
Gary says that they were investigating a hunting lodge that they found in the woods.
At this point we had a short discussion about law enforcement in this area. Their opinion was that enforcement was weak, even in the case of murder and so on. They didn't seem upset about it, which makes me wonder if the guys are on the take or something -- but they seems straight, and don't have the air of the crooked cops back in the east.
Where did they see this Mexican statue?
It was in the home of a trigger-happy guy, who shot at them. He shot Ju Ju. He claims they were breaking into his house.
I observed that they seem to get shot at a lot, and they responded that it was all in the line of duty.
Gary said that in the shoot-out where Ashleigh croaked, he killed five ruffians, while Ashleigh killed his own assailant, and two other men that were with them died as well.
At this point I told them they were full of crap. All the stuff they'd been feeding me was bullshit, plain and simple. At this they looked shocked, but to their credit they then got serious and gave me the real scoop.
They were out in the woods and came upon a clearing.
There was a fence around this clearing, and armed men at the gates.
When they went to talk to them, they said it was a private hunting lodge,
and their buddies would show them around. The group were taken to
the lodge, and the guys shot them.
Lawrence was back in camp while this was going on.
The clearing was one mile by two-thirds of a mile, and there were several outbuildings, but the main item of note was a dirigible hangar.
They were really investigating local stories of giant beasts chewing up the populace.
I asked them, half-joking, if they were Feds or something? They turned that right back at me. Me, a Fed! That's a rich one!
They then offered to take me back there.
The place was being run by an un-named organization, which also controls the whole town of Endurance. All the people at the clearing were Inuit, or other native people.
Lawrence then asked me if I'd heard of Reinhold Blair. I said I hadn't. He explained that RB owned the General Store in Endurance. While he says he's an artist and phtotographer, what he really is, is a front man for the organization.
Now the General Store guy here in Anchorage -- Walter Armstead -- has a statue he shouldn't have. The statue is, of course, the one of the Aztec religion. He just lives in this cabin in town and shouldn't be able to afford such a thing -- it's of a winged serpent, and is solid gold.
At this point Lawrence wanted to know more about
me. He wants to know if I'm on the level. So he wants references.
The only thing I could show him was my passport, but he wants confirmation
of who I really am and what I'm doing here. Eventually it was agreed
that Beauregard would go to the telegraph office this afternoon, where
he'd ask the Boston Police to contact Miss Ashley-Jones to confirm that
she knows me, and that the story of why I'm here checks out. I'm
sure Jennifer will back me up.
Meanwhile, since this hotel is a lot more my style, I'll be staying here instead of the shantytown cabins. The staff will bring over my trunks, and I'll not have to go back to that dive again.
With the likelihood that they'd find out if I am
for real, we got down to business.
I asked Lawrence where Armstead lived. He said it was not far from here, and he could take me there.
Before we go, we need a list of what they want to know from him:
The story begins in Canada. There was an expedition
of scientists. Someone died mysteriously -- his dogsled was crushed,
and he had a big hole in his chest. They decided it didn't look like
it was done by a bear. So what caused it? Eventually they realized
that there really is a Gnoph-Keh -- a creature the size of a rhinocerous,
furry, with a huge horn and six legs. It's the earthly minion of
a being with a name -- Ithaqua. They also found that a local tribe
had been massacred by another. The massacred tribe, every generation,
would do a ritual to capture and contain the GK for another generation.
Since the tribe was smashed, the group was recruited for the ritual.
Larry was frozen, Decker (who died with Ashleigh) was knocked out -- and
Ithaqua turned up. They did the ritual, fighting off the GK and the
chilling haunt of Ithaqua. With the threat gone, they left.
Barrow recruited them to find a GK here. He had a photo of a footprint of Ithaqua, but when they investigated that site they found the evidence had been covered up. Ithaqua is worshipped by an evil cult. The footprint site was in the mountains near Endurance, about the same distance from the town as the airship hangar. The money was good, and they are curious people. Ashleigh was trying to find out about what they know that they don't know.
Lawrence's dreams say there's a threat. At the next winter solstice, a year and ten days from now, a great evil will come into the world.
Beauregard and Gary had dreams indicating that dirigibles would open a doorway in the north to evil. Beauregard thinks that's the real threat -- the people with the dirigible.
I then asked them if they thought the Cult had real
Lawrence replied that yes, they did. There are stories of the tupelac -- a creature of animated snow, created with a piece of the real creature it resembles. In Canada they had seen a Gnoph-Keh snow sculpture, but it had not moved. Beauregard added that the wolves and polar bears that chased them back to Anchorage after the plane crash had turned to snow when killed.
Lawrence revealed that he has a ritual to send Ithaqua away, and that so does Gary. Ashleigh knew how to summon Ithaqua -- he was mixed up with the bad guys.
I asked them if the Cult had the power to do great
Lawrence said that collectively they did, yes. Ashleigh had indicated that a team can summon Ithaqua, but that a price must be paid -- they killed the person afterwards.
They stated that they have taken the law into their own hands and are fighting the Cult. Lawrence admitted that the flight north was to blow up the dirigible building, in which he believes they succeeded.
I asked them if the Cult relied on the shopkeepers for supplies. They pointed out that the Inuit don't need supplying, but that the equipment and the base need outside stuff.
They added that the Cult members know who they are, and that their lives are in danger.
I pointed out to them that if they need money for
this expedition north that they want to do, they could get it from the
Cult. All they need to do is procure a gold statue, and use it to
get the dough.
During the discussion that followed, Lawrence asked me if I am a lawyer. I told him, as I do when asked about my work, that I could "neither confirm nor deny" that -- he took that as a yes.
Unfortunately the cops kept blocking the idea of procuring the statue. Still, Lawrence did volunteer to melt such a thing down and convert it to gold, which he could sell at the assay office.
This gave me a chance to start directing the operation. I asked Lawrence to come up to my room later that afternoon.
After the meeting broke up, while waiting for my luggage to be delivered, I sent out a telegram and letter indicating the current state of affairs here.
Later, as had been arranged, Lawrence came to my room. We discussed their need for money. We agreed that Armstead could be threatened into retiring and donating to our cause; Lawrence would steal the statue on the way out, leaving me to convince Armstead to retire.
I had invited the group to dinner at my hotel; Beauregarde,
Juju, Lawrence, and Carter McBain (who had been the expedition field manager)
took me up on the offer.
We discussed questioning Armstead. I pointed out that we could threaten him with being the object of the ritual. We decided that Beauregarde and Carter would interrogate him, Larry would secure the donation, and I would convince him to retire.
Since Armstead was known to have a shotgun, and willingness to use it, we would have to surprise him. We could either break in and wait for him to come home, or we could sneak in tonight while he's asleep. Beauregarde was emphatic that we should do the latter.
Dinner was concluded, with the arrangement that they'd come by the hotel and throw a snowball against my window as a sign to meet them in the street.
At 9pm, Beauregarde, Larry, Carter, and JuJu arrived in the street. Larry alerted me by throwing a snowball at the window, whereupon I left my room quietly by the fire escape, wearing my trenchcoat. Both Larry and Carter were sure that they were not followed, so we proceded to Armstead's house.
Larry stayed back out of the way, planning to join
us when we'd secured the house. Beau hid closer to the house.
I did a careful check to see if there was any sign of anyone awake in the
house, and finding none I then went to the front door and unlatched it.
I then signalled and went inside.
I went to Armstead's bedroom and waited there in case he woke up -- which he did as the others arrived. I told him to stay still and not to talk -- fortunately he was cooperative.
While Carter covered Armstead with a rifle, he and Beau escorted him to the living room and sat him in a chair, while JuJu held him down by his shoulders. Beau found some twine in the kitchen, and used that to secure his hands to the side rails of the chair.
Larry then arrived. I checked the exits, then told Walter Armstead to cooperate with these guys. I moved aside while Beau conducted the initial interrogation.
What supplies go to Endurance? Armstead
pointed us to the records in another room, which Larry started checking.
Dirigibles? What are they?
Armstead was clearly not cooperating as much as was good for him. Beau threatened to have Silla possess him. Armstead didn't seem concerned, so Beau started the ritual. Armstead started out apprehensive, but unfortunately Beau apparently made an obvious mistake, because Armstead burst out laughing. Bad move. I suggested if he didn't want to be laughing through his throat, he should start talking. He did:
Beau turned back to Armstead. He was clearly
fed up and starting to get serious. He confronted Armstead about
the killings at the dirigible hangar, and mentioned that the entire hangar
and dirigible had met with an accidental fire -- which should improve Armstead's
orders for a while... Armstead was clearly shocked by this, despite
his claims that he knew nothing about such an operation.
Beau continued with another session of grilling him, staying just short of violence to get his answers:
It was now about 1 am, time to break up this gig
and have some fun. I suggested we just leave it at this, and tell
the other guys to split while I talk to Armstead about retiring.
Armstead asks us "You don't want to do the Ritual of Knowledge?"
Beau asked JJ for suggestions, and JJ said "Don't cast spells whose effect you don't know."
"Are you sure?" continued Armstead, "You'll get your questions answered, from the guy who knows."
Larry and Carter carried out the boxes, to take them back to their cabin to examine.
With the guys gone, it was time for my show.
I fetched a kitchen knife and gave it to him. I told him to cut himself
free and stand up. He didn't want to, which disappointed me of course.
I wanted to watch him dance.
I asked him if he was going to give me a good reason to leave.
He asked me what would be a good reason.
I told him to come up with it.
He said he'd answered our questions and given us money, what more did we want?
"I have some fun in mind," I said truthfully.
"What?" he asked.
"Cut yourself free, and we'll see what we can do."
I guess the guy had a vivid imagination, because he started sawing at the twine, muttering under his breath.
Damn. That muttering might be some occult stuff, anyway I hate people muttering in front of me. So he danced with his hands tied.
I returned quietly to my hotel room and took care
Not part of the journal...
Back at their cabin, Beau started studying the spell carefully.
Meanwhile, JJ smashed the gold statue into an unrecognizable lump, and they split it with JJ, Larry, Beau, Carter, and Gary.
Quickhand was not there. Gary told them that he'd left after the rest of the guys. He did leave his stuff there. Beau suggested that he could have been captured by the Cult, reporting to the Cult, or reporting to the police. Carter was sure QH was not part of the Cult, and was unlikely to go to the police; he was probably coming back, and just went to follow them either as backup or to find out what was going on, or whatever.
Larry and Carter took the records to the cabin where Carrie had been staying, which was now empty. While they were doing that, Quickhand arrived, and said he'd been out drinking. Larry asked him about the four names -- two of them are shamens in town, QH didn't know the others.
Not part of the journal...
Larry reported that there was nothing in the paper about last night.
Larry took the records and burnt them in the fireplace of Carrie's cabin.
Reinhold Blair's name had been on some of the records, but there were other names too -- not Ahzuak. A lot of money had been coming down, a lot more than Endurance could generate.
Larry then went to the library an looked up RB in aviation, archaeology, religion, and anthropology. He took all day, but found nothing. The librarian is cute though, so he will try again with her help tomorrow.
Larry asked Carter about a local assayer, to sell
the gold. They decided to wait and live on their cash for a while.
Tonight there was a headline in tonight's paper saying
"HAS THE MOB COME TO ANCHORAGE?" The story said that Walter Armstead
was shot in his home last night by an automatic weapon. He was tied
to a chair. He was apparently not robbed. The story contained
an interview with a neighbor, who said that they heard automatic fire in
the middle of the night, but saw no-one leave the house.
Not part of the journal...
Gary explained what had happened: Ju Ju was on guard. He woke up to a crash, and JJ fighting with a big black thing, they got up to help, but a bunch of guys with shotguns burst in. There was a gunfight. Gary swears he killed some -- why were the bodies not there?
JJ sais that something came through the window -- big, black, winged, and fought with claws.
There were footprints in the blood and snow. There was at least one white man with the Inuit group -- it was too dark to recognize anyone.
Larry suggested that Gary should track them the next morning. He mentioned that "the girl" wanted them to get involved in the investigation of the murder (and this attack, clearly) so they can go to Endurance.
Larry took his shotgun and went for the police. He told them that a group attacked the cabin, killed two, injured others. One white guy, some Inuit. Larry fetched a doctor and then joined the police at the cabin.
Back at the cabin, Larry tells the police that he didn't see a thing. He was having dinner with Carrie Walker at the hotel, and when he came back he saw his mates on the floor, blood all around, and so on. He was in town with an archeology expedition, and the sponsor -- who owed him money -- said he'd come back but hadn't. The rest of these folks were in the same situation.
The police then asked everyone a lot of questions...
Not part of the journal...
The proprietor came along and wanted an assurance that they would pay for all this damage. He said he'd return in the morning.
The police agreed that it would be OK to bring the effects in the morning, and left an officer on guard overnight. Larry hung a blanket across the broken window, and they slept...
In the morning I read the paper as usual. There
was a report of an attack on the group at the cabin; McBain and Quickhand
were dead. The report also mentioned the dead men had "associates."
I spend the day relaxing, reading magazines, and so on.
Not part of the journal...
He then visited the library, and told the librarian about the attack. He asked her to look up Blair, and made a date for lunch.
Larry then went to the assay office, and checked for land claims near Endurance -- but those would be filed either in Endurance, or if the town isn't incorporated, in the territorial office. He presented a piece of the gold (about 1/10th of the statue) and received a check which he then deposited at the bank, taking $200 of it in cash.
He then secures a room at the hotel, moved in and bathed.
There followed a very pleasant lunch with the librarian, who had missed him. He told her about surveying in the north, the plane crash, being attacked by wolves, and so on. He walked her back to work, promising to see her again in the next week before he might have to leave again.
He then fetched the rest of his group, who took a second room at the hotel, and briefed them on how much the gold was worth.
Gary had followed the tracks, but they went out of town into the woods, where he lost them.
Not part of the journal...
He then went to the Pinkerton office, and retained them to check the background on Blair, and to find the whereabouts of Barrow. The information would be ready on Friday.
The next stop was a lawyer (recommended by the librarian) about the proprietor of the cabins. His advice was to do nothing until sued.
To my surprise, Larry came by and announced that
he was buying dinner for us all in the private room at the hotel, where
the group had now moved in.
At dinner they told me about the attack. (Fill in what they told Carrie) They said they had been shot, and that JJ had been clawed by something that wasn't purely human. The creature was large, black, bipedal, with wings and claws.
Larry then told me that he'd hired Pinkerton to find Barrow, and to look into Blair, and that he'd checked with Blair's university (he's expecting a reply on Tuesday).
Gary assured me that he would do the affadavit for Ashleigh's death, while Beauregard would be copying Walter's journal.
I started asking them questions:
Carrie: Who did it and why?
Larry: People from the aerodrome north and east of here. Tracks lead into the woods and probably not in town, and therefore know who they are, and therefore going to Endurance would be dangerous.
Carrie: Retaliation for Armstead, perhaps. You killed him?
Larry: No, we don't have automatics.
C: The cult probably thought you did it.
L: Well, since he was the cult... There was a white man with them.
C: Anyone shoot the beast? Still around.
JJ: Knocked me out...
(nobody here saw what happened)
C: Why aren't you all dead?
L: All unconscious, and dead foes were taken.
C: Why take bodies?
L: Can identify tribe and where came from
C: Looks like I'm lucky for you.
L: Trip to Endurance delayed at least.
C: Same guys did this that shot Armstead?
L: Guys who did Armstead had more sophisticated weapons. No-one uses a tommy gun here, it freezes. Would have to be a southerner.
C: Everything is south of here.
L: Were about 6, plus the winged thing
C: I'd like to get a look at the winged thing. If I hear it attack you, I'll stick my head out of the window and look! (I was on the third floor, they were on the second.)
C: Did you offer to help the police?
L: Wait until recovered.
JJ: Why attack us?
L: Retaliation for Armstead, or blimp hangar.
JJ: Why not attack again?
L: Good question. Why leave us alive?
JJ: Not know they were alive? Ran off? Any evidence we're alive?
L: Yes, newspaper reported two deaths. We could "die" from our wounds. 2 other people know...
L Miss Molly Brown, and Mr. Dewey (of Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe).
C: Do these people need to... vanish?
L: No. Oh, police know we're alive, and previous landlord.
C: That's a lot of people.
JJ: Why staying in town?
C: Need to hit Endurance.
JJ: Why go there?
C: Talk to Blair, Ahzuak.
L: Maybe leave town for a week.
C: I'd rather stay here.
L: Except for servants here, no-one knows you're involved.
JJ: Why talk to Blair?
C: Cult person.
JJ: If Blair or someone he knows, talking won't do any good. Oh, you mean like Armstead!
L: Find somewhere out of the way.
The night passed quietly.
Not part of the journal...
He asked the shamen for somwhere out of town for four men to stay for a while, and offers him $40 to suggest a place. The shamen said they will lead the group out of town, then sneak back in, and stay here. $100, cash in advance.
Larry went back to the hotel and checked out, planning to pay the Inuit in gold.
True to the plan, they were lead out of town at dusk, then sneaked back in after dark. They took up residence in one small room in the lodge.
Larry trades stories with the shamen, and tells him about the dreams, which apparently are backed up by the omens. The shamen says that Silla is trapped in the temple of winds. This limits his power, so he can only visit certain places when it's cold. If he's freed, he can go anywhere.
(Pinkertons will report that Blair is independently wealthy, from Washington, graduated, and moved to Alaska. Barrow vanished after leaving Anchorage.)
I'll be sending out my journal so far this afternoon.
My plans in the short term are that for a while, I'll just stick with my
cover. I'll relax, play tourist, read, and drink -- pretending to
enjoy the peace and quiet here as opposed to the hubbub of Boston.