12: The Clive Expedition

4th February 1925

The Clive Expedition
The Clive Expedition

London, England:

07:00 PM:

 Back at the hotel we remember that Gupta’s researches in New York showed that the Penhew Foundation is funding a current expedition to Memphis (Egypt not Tennessee).

The Clive expedition has been in Memphis for 3 months. Led by Dr Henry Clive, 58 a renowned archaeologist and Egyptologist with over 35 years’ experience.

Also on the expedition are Martin Winfield, 24 a Cambridge Don, Agatha Broadmoor, 67, Johannes Sprech, 39 a linguist and Egyptologist, and interestingly, James Gardener, 40 , an author and Jungian philosopher. One of his books postulates that the Sphinx is the top of a lost and most ancient city.

All of these people have been sponsored by the Penhew Foundation.

We may have to take a closer look at these individuals. At present, it is unknown if they are just gratefully taking Penhew’s dollars or whether they are cultists.

What’s the deal with a 68-year-old woman heading off to Egypt? Is she a witch or something? Are they looking for the fountain of youth? Greg barely cares. If she’s old and frail, she’ll be easy to shoot though.

Barrington’s Predecessor:

08:00 AM:

After a leisurely breakfast, probably the one thing in this burg that is actually any good, we resolve to do some detecting. So far, all he’s found out is that the swanky limeys in their stupid clubs call a Vodka and Soda “a Russian Splash”. A what!

Trent tries to lighten him up. What kind of camel does a Deep One ride? Why a Batrachian of course! Greg just looks at him. Like a Deep One would ever go to a desert. Guess he always knew Trent was a clown. He considers getting his gun but settles for using a syringe on himself instead. Who says Doctors shouldn’t self-medicate? It’s gonna be a long, long trip.

After a couple of Bennys have counteracted the full syringe, Greg speaks to Mickey at the Scoop about Barrington’s predecessor. It turns out he was called Brian Hamilton. Mickey tries to be helpful but there wasn’t much reported as he just disappeared. Brian Hamilton was unmarried and lived in Hammersmith. Greg puts out a message to Tommy at Scotland Yard in a bid to get some more information.

Greg then goes to see about the rental accommodation and the two cars.

Tewfik al-Said:

09:00 AM:

Wesley heads off to Soho to check out the Spice shop of one Tewfik Al-Said, spice merchant, patron of the Blue Pyramid and, latterly, a guide for Penhew expeditions. Being German, he heads there at 9am sharp. Tewfik is not German however. The shop opens at 11:00 AM.

Being unintentionally, early Wesley settles down with an appalling coffee. Thank heaven he has a good supply of American smokes at least. Walks around the surrounding streets show that there may be a back entrance via a narrow yard but the gates are closed so he cannot be sure.

At 11:01 AM he enters the shop. Tewfik Al-Said appears to be in his early 40’s has perfect English and introduces himself in a friendly manner. He looks the part dressed in a suit and Fez. There is a good stock of spices on display. Just inside the shop, entrance is a twisting spiral staircase marked private. There is back-room too but with the door shut, Wesley can’t see how big it is. He briefly wonders if there is a trapdoor behind the counter like at Ju-Ju house but can’t see.

Tewfik explains that he lives above the shop, hence the private stairwell. He cheerfully shows off his selection of spices including Frankincense from Iran, Mocha from Aden, and Kashmir Chilies. The man has a lot of contacts around the Middle East and Asia. Wesley checks the markings on the crates and sacks but can find nothing of note. No consistency in the labelling of the importers used. He idly asks if Tewfik stocks anything else but is advised that the shop only sells spices. If he wants narcotic herbs, he will need to go to Limehouse. Tewfik is pretending to be a legitimate trader. He offers Wesley a cup of Chaai as they talk idly. Wesley gives his name as Johnathan Weber from a small town outside Bismarck North Dakota. He then leaves.

We’ll have to break in. Can’t tell if there is a basement but a lot of Soho buildings have them. Will need to look around the apartment above too. But not now.

Misr House And Lesser Edale:

09:30 AM:

Joseph visits the Land Registry to look up Misr house, the residence in Essex owned by Gavigan of the Penhew Foundation. Misr is present day Arabic for Egypt and not a historical name as he previously thought. Misr house is located on an island accessed from the mainland by one causeway. Very remote. It is around 1000 acres in area. It was previously owned by Dentons. It dates back to the 17th Century when Virginia was just being colonised. Therefore, the place is nearly as old as Uncle Sam. A great defensible position with restricted access. The river is on one side and marshland surrounding it. Maybe a raid by boat is the order of the day but it still means traversing boggy ground to access the house. Tricky. Ever resourceful Joseph picks up maps of the area and also one of Edale in Derbyshire.

Good maps too. Very detailed these Ordnance survey things, but then they were done by the military.

Map of Misr House and the surrounding area.

Edale was where the Vanes live. The distant relatives of the Carlyle’s. You can reach Edale via the Midland Railway. Lesser Edale is in the Vale of Derwent. It is a small village of 30 or so homes with a pub called the Laughing Horse. The Vane residence is Castle Plum. It is located on a bluff just outside the village down a narrow country lane. He’d never be a bootlegger with a road like that. Might not even be macadamised.

Lloyd’s Register of Ships And Tommy:

11:30 AM:

Trent visits Lloyds Registry of ships to follow up his earlier query. He was trying to trace the name of the boat in the photo of Shanghai Harbour, which was found among Jackson’s notes. They look, charge a very sizeable fee but find nothing. As useless as their directions. The limeys always end with “you can’t miss it” but singularly fail to actually point you where you need to go.

Trent will have to wait until whenever he is in Shanghai to try the local shipping authorities there.

The Savoy:

Back at the hotel Natalja, in true chauvinistic fashion has been deserted by the men after being given the task of fielding calls. Why did Trent give her a pistol if she is just going to be their secretary or receptionist? Tommy calls but he is as standoffish as he was when they met yesterday in the hotel lobby and will only speak to Trent. She didn’t leave Paris for this; time for a field mission. She’s better than all of these idiots combined.

The Pub:

Trent gets back from Lloyd’s in time to meet Tommy in a pub. Trent explains that we think that Brian Hamilton was killed by the cult of the black Pharaoh. We will need to find out what Hamilton found out. Tommy agrees to try and find Hamilton’s notes. Earlier Gupta had postulated infiltrating Ponchi Chabout’s warehouse in Limehouse so Trent asks for Tommy’s opinion. Tommy believes that Gupta will be found out. Gupta is the wrong class and has never been a manual worker so would have difficulty passing himself off as one. Tommy says it is too dangerous to try. Another break-in then.

A Visit To The Penhew Foundation:

13:30 PM:

Joseph and Natalja visit the Penhew Foundation in Tottenham Court Road. It is very well appointed. As they approach the entrance, they look for a basement but can only discern a coal chute. A doorman leads the couple through to a reception desk where they are given a ticket even though there is no entry fee. 2 doors flanking the entrance corridor are marked private.

Both go the wash-rooms to check possible entry points. Windows are small but not barred. They are not at ground level so would be a challenging climb up to 1st floor level.

Returning they take the stairs leading up to the exhibition hall where a further two attendants watch over them. Off the gallery there are several doors marked Examination Room or File Room. There may actually be some genuine archaeology going on here after all. Looking towards the back of the gallery there is a small lift and a staircase leading down marked private and fire exit.

There is also another gallery of artefacts in an adjoining hall but the entrance is roped off.

This intrigues the couple. Why should it be private? Is it a cartouche of the Black pharaoh or evidence of ancient blood cults? Wishing to see this gallery Joseph and Natalja speak with the attendants. Are there perhaps other exhibits they could see? The next gallery looks positively fascinating.

Meeting Gavigan:

Natalja and Joseph are not naive enough to think that all the Penhew Foundations secrets will be laid bare in the next gallery but it is a good opportunity to interact with Management. The attendants go and consult with colleagues and then the pair are led downstairs to one of the offices on the ground floor.

They are in luck, it is Gavigan’s office. Memorising the route for a later incursion the pair wait to meet him. Natalja and Joe are not shown the office itself but are directed to wait in a reception area just outside. Pretty secure set up, this. Clearly stuff to hide. An Englishman in an immaculate suit approaches them. He introduces himself as Edward Gavigan. He is a vigorous, attentive man in his 40s quite at ease in his opulent surroundings. Natalja scrutinises him. This is an act. A very good one but an act. He is not “to the manner born” like so many other English aristocrats, he has all the right responses and mannerisms but his responses are controlled not natural. This is not his element.

Gavigan for his part is charming and engaging. He proudly states that the Penhew Foundation, while never going to rival the collections in Washington or the British Museum, is the finest private collection in the world. He personally walks them around the blocked off gallery explaining the exhibits as he goes. While it is all very interesting, there is nothing controversial or of occult significance in any of them. Gavigan explains that all ancient Egyptian civilisation was along the Nile with the main sites being Memphis, Darshur and the Valley of the Kings. He adds that there is no credence to the myth of the mummies curse.

Gavigan has been to Egypt numerous times but is now based in England. When pressed about the founder of the Penhew Foundation he will only say that Aubrey Penhew was murdered in Kenya. He does not go into detail.

As they finish the mini tour and return to Gavigan’s office, they are interrupted by a commotion. A bunch of foreigners, 2 white, a Filipino, Malay and an Indian are noisily bringing a crate past the office to take it out of the back door.

Joseph notes that while they are big and burly, as you would expect labourers to be, none of them appear armed. Not even the ceremonial daggers seen on some easterners.

Gavigan apologises and says he will have to oversee this delivery. As Natalja and Joseph leave, they arrange to have dinner with him. They leave their names as James O’Reilly and his fiancé Natalja Kinski.

Natalja and Joseph return to the Savoy. They pick up a telegram form the group in the aeroplane. The group arrived at Southampton at 2pm and are unloading.

The delivery to the Docks:

16:00 PM:

Outside the Penhew Foundation Greg and Trent wait in their new hire car watching the delivery bay.

They watch an unmarked truck pull up. Dutifully Trent records the plate number. The truck stays parked though.

They wait to see where it goes. It gets colder as nightfalls. Then the smog appears. As the locals describe, it is a proper pea souper. Foul damp smelly fog with a greenish tint envelopes the city. Horrible for the citizenry, but great for the nefarious. What a perfect cover for covert operations, theft and general skulduggery. Maybe there is a second thing to like about this city after all.

The crate is loaded on to the truck very carefully. The truck then heads north into the fog-shrouded streets. This will be a new test of Trent’s driving skills. He’s never driven in fog like this before.

The lorry heads on to Euston Road and travels slowly to the docks making it easier for the investigators to follow. The truck pulls up at Ponchi Chabout’s warehouse at approximately 8pm. The fog has still not lifted. If anything, down by the river it is slightly worse. Ponchi himself comes outside and signs the delivery docket. The truck drives inside the loading bay and they lose sight of it as the gates are shut.

Trent’s notes down the names of the ships berthed in the harbour wharves nearby.

After a few minutes, Greg hears rattling on the cobblestones. Out of the mist comes a handcart.

It goes into the loading bay and comes out with a crate of about the same size as the one collected from the Penhew Foundation.

The cart is pulled by a mixture of white men and Orientals with another European overseeing the load. Probably the captain or first mate. The handcart is taken to a ship, The Ivory Wind out of Shanghai. It’s a tramp steamer, probably around 7000 tonnes displacement with a crew of around 10-20. Not too low in the water judging by the Plimsoll line so not too overloaded at the moment.

The on-board winch is used to lift the crate into the hold of the ship. No preparations look to be being made to leave immediately. You would be mad to sail up the Thames at night in this fog anyway so Trent goes off to find a phone box. This isn’t New York but there should be some around.

Trent is in luck and finds one. He calls the Savoy requesting everyone to come with the unloaded sports bags.

Trent returns to the car shivering despite his greatcoat and many layers of clothing. While they wait, they cast “Skin of Sedefkar”.

The Raid on the Ivory Wind:

21:00 PM:

Natalja, Joseph, Gupta and Wes join Greg and Trent at the docks. A plan is hatch as flasks of hot coffee are handed out.

Trent and Joe silently sneak up the gangplank while the others take covered positions along the dock. Once on board they head for the entrance to the hold. Natalja joins them as backup and remains on deck watching as the others enter the hold.

As the hold is, open to the deck it is relatively easy to climb down. Once down, Trent sees the crate in question. It is now labelled ”Ho Fong Imports Shanghai”. Another label marks it as “Machine Parts”. Just like the dockets, we found in Mukanga’s apartment in New York. Joseph gets his crowbar out and slowly praises the crate open as quietly as he can. Joseph does a great job. The wood splinters with the minimum of noise. Inside is a lot of straw packing, then another smaller box. Joseph gingerly opens the box and then nearly drops it in shock and revulsion. Not just the contents but the feeling the contents causes is the reason for this. A golden statue adorns the box. A golden statue of the evil deity, Cthulhu. We saw this monstrosity on Easter Island so know only too well how evil it is. The work is magnificent with a perfect depiction of the evil thing rendered in astounding detail.

Yet the thing itself reeks of evil. Joseph can almost feel it. He wraps it back up immediately.

Next to him, Trent crowbars a larger crate also marked machine parts. It has a US stamp on it. This does contain machine parts, valves, wires, and dials attached to a very strong yet light metal. It’s titanium. This is very hard to manufacture. It usually only exists in very small amounts in the engineering laboratories of Universities. Trent has never seen this much of it on one machine. As for the machine itself, Trent has no idea at all what it could be. A crystal set perhaps. Worried it could be part of something exceedingly dangerous to be used by an evil cult somewhere in Shanghai; Trent puts one of the smaller component parts in his pocket. If they don’t have all the parts then surely it can’t be made to work can it?

Trent and Joseph climb back up to the deck so they can leave before being discovered. However, as they and Natalja exit the boat Trent trips on a coil of rope and falls down with a thump on the gangway. Two slightly drunk oriental crew members shout out something unintelligible. They then approach the gangplank. At first, their tones are very harsh and hostile but then they notice beautiful Natalja and their tones become more lascivious. They walk down the gangplank asking her to join them on-board.

They are rebuffed and call their captain who emerges from the shadows. He too walks down the gangplank.

He demands to know what is going on. Greg has had enough of this amateur hour and moves around from behind the car pointing his Trench gun directly at them and gesturing all to be quiet.

The first sailor freezes but his companion shouts out fearfully in his native tongue. Greg leads all three back up the gangplank at gunpoint. Trent Natalja, Wes and Joseph follow.

Greg gestures again to make them go into a cabin. Trent, taking umbrage at their earlier suggestion about Natalja, hits one of the sailors. Very hard. He falls, coughs blood, then passes out. It was a body shot but Trent is a big guy and has his brass knuckles on. The sailor has cracked ribs and judging by the foam in the blood he’s coughing up, he also has a punctured lung. Painful but he’ll live. He has two lungs after all.

Joseph, like Natalja, is distinctly unimpressed by Trent’s bullying. He binds and gags the other sailor.

The Captain is kept a gunpoint but we don’t gag him, as we may need him to address the other crew members He also has some questions to answer.

Another 2 sailor emerge but Wes and Natalja neutralise them without having to nearly kill them as Trent had done. Greg chloroforms them. He keeps the injured sailor in the recovery position too. He doesn’t have the feel of a cultist.

Eventually we round up and pacify the remaining crew. There are about half a dozen on board. Others are on shore leave.

We begin to question the Captain.

It becomes apparent he is just the carrier. Quite usual not to know the contents of the crates he carries. He confirms that the gets regular work and that a lot of the crates get sent to Shanghai. This has been going on for some time. It’s good regular work. He and his crew are no more cult affiliated than we are. He is just trying to make a slightly dodgy living in tough times.

They never look in the crates and ask no questions. That way they get repeat business.

Joseph is unhappy about the statue. Although it is gold, it is also malevolent. We find the boiler room and place it in the heart of the boiler amongst the coals. There it will be melted to slag and will not be used in any evil rites.

Greg is all for destroying or sinking the ship but there is not enough dynamite for that and just like New York, London is a hugely busy port and the authorities are bound to investigate such an act of destruction in great detail.

We need to decide what else to do before we leave. Joseph notes that we haven’t worn balaclava’s or disguised our accents so will be reasonably easy to identify. But the sailors aren’t cultists so we can’t kill them.

We stay on the ship. What are we to do?

Yegor Gaidar

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