April 26, 1924: Journal Entries & Misc.

26 April, 1924

I have been much too tired, confused and altogether discombobulated to write anything coherent over the past few days. Even now, when faced with the task of recording but three days of my life, I fear that I will not have enough ink with which to do so, not to mention enough strength in my hand and hours in the day.  Therefore, I will write what I can and attempt a recap and in-depth discussion at a later time.

In brief—

Apr 24 - This day I visited Peter in the hospital (bearing books (Barnard's Dictionary of Early to Middle Sanskrit (1921), Talismans of the Gangetic Plains by Victor H.S. Nuttenwold (1917), Symbolism in Pre-Vedic Art by D. D. Turley-Smith (1919) and Indian Mythology by A.B. Keith (1917)) and cigarettes), and I was pleased to see that he was looking quite well. Like myself, he was interested in digging deeply into the recent burglary attempts and was open to interpreting the event in rather unconventional ways. We had an intense study session, the notes from which will be enclosed at a later time (copies must be made...I am eager to have at least four copies of everything I have acquired or written about in India), but here I include a copy of Peter’s drawing of the yantra on “Mumbles,” the thief, and my transliteration. We were unable to interrogate Mumbles, which ended up being as unfortunate as I had feared it might.

I spent the night, which turned into a fiasco of fantastic and horrible proportions. Peter and Ashan ended up in catatonic states, Mumbles was mauled by a jackal and I was left with many more questions than answers. I do not know how I escaped so lightly. I was very, very fortunate.

Apr 25 - On this morning, Peter informed me (he quite surprised me with how quickly he recovered!) that he was leaving, going back to Europe. I was not as cheerful and understanding as I ought to have been, I know. That was wrong of me. But the thought of losing him, well…it was frightening. As was putting our investigations on hold and admitting defeat, even if it was only temporary. But then John Daniel was hospitalized in a condition startlingly similar to Peter and Ashan’s, and McCormick decided to close the dig until further notice. And so I am to leave too.  Perhaps, as Peter attempted to convince me, that is really what is best.  Perhaps I am indeed foolish to think I could do the least bit of good here, that I would stand a chance against such a powerful cult of determined and dangerous individuals.

I also received this note from my father. Hearing his voice—for I can hear it in my head even as I read the brief words—makes me long to be home once more. I am normally content to travel and to experience life outside of England, but at this moment I want noting more than to be at my first home, the home that will always be home, even if I eventually choose to purchase a house and reside elsewhere. Would that I could be a girl again, could run into my father’s arms and ask him to hold me tightly until everything felt alright again! Perhaps I will do so anyway. He would never judge.

Apr 26 -

We are in Karachi now, John Daniel is dead, seemingly by his or someone else’s hand (apparently not that of something as impartial as illness), and I do not know what to feel. I feel tired and worried and scared, but also relieved, but it all is mashed together and leaves me a bit numb. I know this: I am leaving India. Surely the jackals and evil men will not follow me. But I feel that this cult is like a ghost that will always haunt me and will overshadow all that I do, think and dream. I will not, cannot rest until this murderous mystery is unraveled. But, also, I cannot think on this all hours of each day. I am determined to put my mind elsewhere during the journey. When I am home and when I feel safe and happy again, then I will be ready to delve into the horrors of the past and—dare I prophesy?—the future as well.

Tomorrow to Tehran, then to Constantinople/Istanbul, followed by Munich on the 7th, where Peter and I will part ways after one last night. Then I am off to London and, hopefully, I will arrive by the 9th. You never know with trains these days…

I am determined not to ask Peter more about John Daniel and other such matters for at least a few days after we part.  I do not think that either of us has the strength to deal with such controversial and complex issues right now.


HomoDM said...

May 6.

As the Orient Express chugged tirelessly through the night toward Munich, there came a furtive knocking on the door of Irene's booth. Not yet asleep, she rose from her berth and donned a gown. Sliding the paneled door open a crack to see who it might be, she witnessed Peter retreating quietly toward his own booth as if he had thought better of disturbing her at such an hour.


Hearing his name, he turned to face her. His expression was troubled, and Irene's nose told her that he had been drinking. "I'm sorry," he said, "I know it's late, but there's something I've been meaning to tell you, and it can't wait any longer. May I come in? I shan't be long."

Though weary, Irene opened the door wider to accommodate him. Seeing that the booth was free of any other occupants, Peter slouched down upon an empty berth and, with his head bowed, began to speak.

"I'm sorry," he repeated. "I meant to come to you with this much sooner. I told myself that it would be a kindness to let you enjoy the trip for as long as you could, but in truth it was fear that kept me from speaking; for after all we have been through, Irene, nothing would wound me more than to fall in your estimation."

Peter then reached into the pocket of his pyjamas and withdrew a strange, metallic object. It looked somewhat like an icicle, or diminutive stalagmite. "This is what had been encased within the broken brick," he explained, "and it was indeed in John Daniel's possession. Before he died, he told me that it was fashioned by the gods in pre-ancient times. He called it the 'mirror' and likened it to a telescope of sorts. He did not give it to me gladly, and promised that it would be my doom to carry this thing."

Peter continued, "It was not Navid who killed John Daniel, nor the cult, nor did he take his own life. It was I. I murdered him, Irene, and I feel no remorse at having done so; for certainly his associates would have done far worse to us had he the chance to alert them. I could never allow such a thing to happen, not to you."

Standing, Peter replaced the mirror into his pocket and sighed heavily. "I can only imagine that you must be horrified, and rightfully so, for a lady such as yourself should never be comfortable with bloodshed, even when it is done for your sake. Be glad that such things are best left to men. I can only hope that you will not judge me too unkindly."


Peter sensed that it was time for him to leave. Reaching for the doorknob, he paused and turned his head halfway toward Irene as if to look at her for the last time or to say something more, but his eyes remained downcast and his throat made no sound.

He stepped out, closing the door behind him.

Irene Howell said...

When Peter told her that he had killed John Daniel, Irene was certain, just for a brief moment, that she was dreaming. Surely Peter had not just said those words; surely he would never have done such a thing; surely it was all a figment of her sleeping brain.

And so she was silent, not because she was too horrified to speak, but because she was fighting with herself, trying to suppress the truth of his words. But when he looked at her again—and what a painfully uncertain and unfinished glance that was!—she knew without a doubt that this was reality. And then, in a split-second, everything fell onto her shoulders and weighed her down. She could feel it there; her knees even sagged a little bit, as if to accommodate her invisible burden.

After perhaps ten seconds, she stood up and went to the door, moving stiffly, as if her body knew what it had to do but her brain was thinking other thoughts. It was busy deciding how she was going to approach this matter. But she knew she had to. How could she leave it like that?

Quickly, she opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.

“Peter,” she said, loudly enough to stop him, but not to wake anyone else. She gestured for him to come back towards her, as her cabin was probably a better place for talking than the hallway.

Before she broached the subject of her feelings, she had to ask some very practical questions. “How did you do it?” she inquired as calmly as possible. “And what exactly transpired?

“And I should like to see the mirror again, and sketch it, if you are determined to keep it on your person. I suppose it is your prize, in a way,” she said, though she immediately regretted the last part. But she was too tired and too stressed to censor her thoughts. However, her eyes did flicker to his face, offering an apology, though they did not linger for very long.

HomoDM said...

Peter shambled back into Irene's quarters. He produced the "mirror" from his pocket, and held it in his open palm for her to get a better look; but he did not offer it to her to take, nor did he remove his eyes from it. Knowing Peter as she did, Irene sensed that his reticence to hand it over had less to do with possessiveness than protectiveness, for he seemed to regard it with some disgust.

The strange object was tapered, not quite cylindrical, and Irene estimated that it was perhaps six inches or a little more in length. Uneven, concentric ridges ran down its sides, and it possessed a dark, semi-metallic sheen to it that reminded her of graphite or polished hematite.

Peter sat mutely for a long while, as though struggling with Irene's request for additional details into Daniel's demise. "Forgive me," he finally said, "but the less I tell you, the better, for both of us."

"It is not that I don't trust you," he explained, "but it is bad enough that you know I am a killer. I would you not remember me with the images a more thorough confession would evoke. Although I did terrorize Daniel into revealing the mirror's location and its function, please believe me when I say that his end was as swift and painless as I could manage. For what he did to Ashan, it was better than he deserved."

Peter reached into his other pocket and pulled out a paper that had clearly been folded and unfolded many times. Seeing it now, Irene recalled spying Peter reading over it many times on their trip, but he always seemed to do so in a surreptitious manner; thinking that it was perhaps a missive from a sweetheart, or some other letter of a personal nature, she thought it prudent not to pry.

Peter held the paper out to her. "These were his last words," he said.

Irene Howell said...

It was difficult to picture John Daniel writing those words. He had been a man that Irene had respected and who had seemed altogether normal. But clearly, he had been quite mad. That didn’t make his death right, because Irene didn’t believe that anyone deserved to be cut off from life so suddenly, but when she read those words…well, she was extraordinarily relieved that he wasn’t going to be lurking around a corner sometime down the road.

“Peter,” she said, and then paused briefly, for she wasn’t sure what to say. “I am not going to look at you and see a murderer. You clearly saw something that no one else did, and you acted as you saw fit. Without a doubt, this object is vital to the investigation, just as this half-crazed letter is.”

She took a deep breath, then went on, “But I want to return briefly to what you said earlier. You said that you’d done this for me, at least in part. I know that you meant well and I know that I am not directly implicated in the act. But, in a way, I am. If you did this because you were afraid for me, then he is dead because of me. I just wish you would have told me. Maybe it would have been worse to know before, but that was my right, I think. Are we not partners?

"But perhaps you thought I would try to stop you...? Oh, I will not deny that I feel regret and remorse, but if his death has saved lives, has weakened the Cult in anyway, then it was necessary. You were right to kill him.” And here she met his eyes to convince him that she wasn't just saying it to make him feel better.

But those last words tasted sour. She could not believe that she had said them and, moreover, that she actually meant them. But that was the truth. Perhaps now Peter would believe that being a woman wasn’t synonymous with an aversion to bloodshed under all circumstances. What did she have to do in order for him to really let her in? Perhaps hoping for that was foolish. As close as they were, she didn’t think he was about to bare his soul.

Her eyes returned to the letter that was still in her hand. That worried her the most. Peter had obviously been obsessing over it, and that was not good for his sanity or his opinion of himself. God only knew what he’d been pondering these past days!

“Peter,” she said rather sternly, handing him back the note, meeting his eyes as she did so, “you don’t believe what he said about you, do you?”

HomoDM said...

Peter sighed in relief upon hearing Irene's reassurances, and even managed a slight smile, though the tension in his face did not visibly lessen.

"We are partners," he acknowledged, "in some things. Neither of us would have proceeded very far in our investigation without the other, after all. I might even be dead were it not for you."

"But," he continued, "I feel that in other ways, we have become something more than partners. We are friends. Whereas partners assume equal risk in their ventures, friends act affirmatively for the benefit of one another."

"If I am damned, it is not because of any curse laid upon me by John Daniel. King Tut cursed me first, you know, so I'm afraid the professor's will just have to wait! No, Irene, if I am damned, it is because of my own actions."

"I told you I felt no remorse for killing him. Yet I wish I did! The fact that I could murder another human being and feel nothing... I wouldn't have thought my blood ran so cold. It's as if I sacrificed part of my humanity... or perhaps I never had it to begin with?"

"Had I told you what I was planning, and had you allowed me to proceed, then you would have been an accomplice to murder. As a gentleman, and as your friend, I could not permit that. It is a much bigger thing than stealing an amulet!"

"If the law catches up to me, then I shall suffer the consequences alone. And if I am made to answer for my crime in the hereafter, it will be my burden alone to bear."

It seemed Irene was not the only one with a stubborn streak...

da solomon said...

Irene recalled her meeting with John in the antiquities tent, and how he had looked into the crate and replaced its lid, before leading her away to speak with Humphries. She had not looked into the crate and it was possible, in the confusion, that no one else had either. Was it also possible then that this "mirror" had been sitting there, stowed by the burglars just before their moment of capture, awaiting its rescue by the cult?

If this was true, it would provide a likely theory for how John came to acquire the item in the brick. John must have located it then - right under Irene's nose - and retrieved it while she sat with Humphries and copied his notes.

(That was a passed idea roll for Irene.)

Irene Howell said...

“Peter, you will not be prosecuted,” Irene said quickly, not even having to think twice about it. “For one, your crime was done with the best of intentions—which may be laughable to those who do not understand what we are involved with, but not to us. And second, you are much too valuable to this investigation to be put behind bars. But, most importantly, you are my friend and I’ll happily lie to keep you out of jail. If anyone does question you, then you must say that you were with me that night. Reputation be damned! And don’t try to argue, for it will do no good. That will be my story, and you must go along with it unless you want me to be jailed for perjury.”

She folded her arms and put on her most obstinate expression, though she couldn’t help but smile, just a little bit. The situation wasn’t amusing, it really wasn’t, but their matching of pigheadedness was.

But then seriousness took over her expression once more. “And as for your lack of guilt, you must not be so hard on yourself. I cannot believe that a man as good as you could be damned for such a thing,” she said firmly. “You did not raise your hand against an innocent man. He was guilty and quite possibly mad as well. You do not feel guilt because you know that if you had not ended his life, he would have recovered and sought us out. And who knows how many would have died before he got to us? No, Peter, your ability to think ahead and to consider the ‘greater good’ is admirable.”

She sighed a little, her eyes flickering off to the side for a moment. Then she looked back at him, and as she did so, she reached out to take his hand. “I could not love a God who would condemn you for this deed,” she said solemnly.

HomoDM said...

"If there is a God," Peter mused darkly, "for how could He allow such blasphemies to be perpetrated?"

"We are almost to Munich," he said, abruptly changing the subject. "Yet I still do not know if you intend to join me in Berlin, or if you will continue on to some other destination. Have you decided?"

Irene Howell said...

That was a very good question and Irene had no answer for it. Perhaps God as he was in Deism would help to make sense of it, but even then the matter was a complicated one. She wasn’t religious, no one in her family was, but she had always believed that there was something more. Whether that was God, or forces that balanced nature or sometimes else entirely, she wasn’t sure. But she sure hoped there was a God or was something to counteract the horrible sorcery that they had witnessed. And perhaps there was. Peter wasn’t so sure of its divine (or mystical, or whatever you wanted to call it) origins, but Irene could not shake the feeling that her sudden talent for reading the signs signified that they were being aided.

“I must go back home for a short while,” she said. In part, she regretted that decision, but she also longed to see England again. “My family will desire to see me and I have some enquiries to make. Perhaps I can obtain some useful texts as well. And, if you do not object, I would like to take the amulet with me. I have contacts in London, and I feel I will learn more there than we would in Berlin.”

HomoDM said...

"I understand," Peter said, though he could not entirely hide the crestfallen look on his face at Irene's decision to part ways. "By all means, take the amulet and learn about it what you can. Meanwhile, I shall endeavour to become more familiar with this 'mirror' and how it works. Perhaps it can be used for purposes other than evil."

Ripping off a corner of Daniel's note, Peter scribbled a Berlin address on it and said, "This is where I shall be staying, for a short while at least. I will keep you apprised should anything change and will tell you all I discover in your absence. Please do the same for me. I hope it will not be too long before we see one another again."

Irene Howell said...

Irene retrieved her notebook and a pen and quickly wrote down her home address as well as the telephone number, just in case.

“Those are my details. I hope we will not be apart for too long,” she said sincerely.

She was about to let him go, but she couldn’t do it without one last worried entreaty. The mirror, or whatever it was, unsettled her. It had driven John mad, so mad that he had somehow gotten a hold of… And then Irene realized that she knew just when and how John had taken the damned thing. What an idiot she’d been! If she hadn’t been so busy trying to be friendly and flirtatious, she might have noticed that John’s distraction was due to his looking for something.

Irene closed her eyes and put a hand to her forehead with a light slap. “Good God, Peter, I just now have put the pieces together and have realized that it was my stupidity and distraction that prevented me from suspecting that John was up to something. I know exactly when and how he took the mirror.” She grimaced, quite upset with herself despite how unlikely it was that she could have figured this out at the time.

“Peter, be careful with it,” she said very seriously. “It is clearly a dangerous object. Not to say that you cannot handle it, but please promise me you won’t try anything with it until we’re together again.” She was not entirely sure what she meant by that. “Keep it safe and study it, but just...be cautious, that’s all. I know you would anyway, but I have to say it.”

HomoDM said...

Peter took the paper with Irene's contact information and folded it carefully inside John Daniel's letter, which he then placed back into his pocket along with the mirror.

"I'll be careful," Peter assured her. "You do the same. I hope you won't judge yourself too harshly for letting Daniel get past you. He fooled all of us."

Peter covered a yawn and said, "Now I must get to bed, and let you do so as well. As sorry as I am to be parting ways, you have given me something I can look forward to: and that is seeing you again."

In that moment of impending separation, part of Peter yearned to hug Irene, another dared to kiss her good-bye.

But instead he forced a smile and joked, "Give my regards to the King!" before vanishing through the door.