The Curse Of Nineveh

The Plot Thickens (13th July 1925)

The Honourable Viscount Hilary Fitzallen Howard had pretty much reached the end of his patience with Reginald Campbell Thompson. Standing up he was just about to launch into a final tirade against the archeologist when a voice at the door caused him to turn to find a well known lodge brother Sir Ernest Budge in the doorway asking what was going on. Sir Budge’s presence calmed the situation somewhat and he took Hilary to his office for a scotch and a talk while Ripley stayed behind.

In the lull immediately following Hilary’s departure conversation was easier and Ripley struck up a less adversarial dialogue than had previously been possible. Assuring him that he would be more than happy to have shot of the strange statuette Ripley got Thompson talking more freely about the 1919 expedition to Nineveh and the uncovering of Nabu’s temple. The name Dagon didn’t seem familiar but he did mention the local’s who had raised some trouble about the expedition excavating, eventually having to call in the army in order to finish their dig. Swearing him to secrecy Thompson even shared the plan to build a new Assyrian exhibit in the Museum including a replica of the temple they had uncovered.

Hilary found Sir Ernest’s office, and scotch, far more to his liking and likewise discussed the 1919 expedition and the new exhibit to be uncovered next year. Sir Ernest agreed to put in a good word for Hilary’s friend DS Anvil with the commissioner and said that he might be able to get something to help them with their investigation. Leaving the museum both Hilary and Ripley were in fine mood as they headed back to the club to meet with the rest of the group.

Having not been able to speak to his father on a Sunday Iain Swan rang him. As ever Patrick Swan was far from forthcoming unhelpfully stating when asked about the South Sea deity Dagon and possible connections to his mother that he could hardly remember the name of every god worshipped across the whole region. In a furious mood Iain hung up on his father and met Hilary in the bar, accepting for possibly the first time in his life a large rum to settle his nerves.

Howard had spent most of the day at the club in the library trying to turn up more information on Dagon, Nineveh, Nabu or any of the other topics the group had so far run into but to no effect. Reporting a lack of progress as he met with the group they decided that their best next step was to track down Neve and Archie’s friends Bingo and Honoria Pinker. While Pinker’s address was on file with the club as a member unfortunately no phone number was listed and so they planned to visit them that evening.

Before leaving though Ripley phoned his wife Poppy to advise her that he’d be home late. Immediately that she answered the phone he realised that something was wrong as she questioned him about what he was involved with and whether it was dangerous. Poppy had recieved two unwelcome sets of visitors at the shop during the course of the afternoon. The first, a greasy man with bandaged hands, was obviously Ebenezer Albright who had come looking for Ripley in order with an inquiry about an artefact. The second though was a smartly dressed middle eastern man, accompanied by several other also foriegn gentlemen, who was looking for Ripley and upon finding out that he was not there expressed concern to Poppy that he was potentially in danger. Without giving any details he explained that Mr Ripley had become unwittingly involved with some very dangerous people and that he feared for his safety, he hoped that Poppy would pass on his concerns. Ripley and Walter immediately left the club to pick up Poppy and take her to stay with Ripley’s parents in Stepney. Returning to the shop in order to pick up his old service rifle (much to Walter’s increasing alarm) they then drove to Kings Cross in order to have a word with Albright and try to get to the bottom of what he knew.

Hamilton pulled up outside the Pinker’s residence in Hampstead, a well appointed terraced house in a tree lined road and Hilary, Iain and Howard went up to the front door. They quickly overcame Bingo’s initial suspiscion when he recognised Hilary from the club and were led into the living room where they met Honoria. After some quick introductions advising the couple that they were looking into the death of Archie, Honoria asked them if they’d seen the men watching the house. Both were convinced that the house had been being watched for at least a week and indeed looking carefully out of the front window a figure could be seen underneath a tree in the shadows between two streetlights further along the road. Iain, still smarting from the conversation with his father and also bolstered by the rum from the club, grabbed his new pistol (a gift from Hilary) and rushed from the house trailed by Howard. The two rushed down the street and just caught sight of a shadowy figure ducking into an alley.

Ripley and Walter meantime arrived outside Sweet Relics and noting that while the shop was in darkness there was a light in the upstairs front window. Knocking loudly on the front door soon roused Albright. Inviting them in Albright asked after the statuette that they had brought to him saying that he’d found a likely buyer for it. A figure of £100 had been mentioned, a considerable sum of money. Ripley explained that he was currently having the item valued by someone in the British Museum and Albright guessed that it was Campbell Thompson. While disappointed that the item was therefore off the market Albright suggested that they should count themselves very lucky that they had got rid of the item. He surprised them by knowing that it had been uncovered on the 1919 dig. While not keen to delve into the more esoteric knowledge that he had gained through years of investigation or discuss at all “that Bitch” Neve Selcibuc they parted on better terms than Ripley, or especially Walter, had thought they would earlier in the evening.

In Hampstead Iain and Howard pursued the watcher of the Pinker’s house down a dark alleyway. Firing into the air and yelling for him to stop had the desired effect and by the time that Hilary had arrived they had apprehended their quary. Beyond saying that his name was Bert, he was from Golders Green and had just been out on a walk when they’d chased him he gave little information. Eventually loosing patience and threatening to kneecap him he gave way and babbled about how his mate Bill had been given the job to look from artefacts from Nineveh. Just as they thought they might get somewhere he started to heomarage and suddenly vomitted blood before collapsing, stone dead. The shock of this brutal and completely unexpected death sobered Iain up instantly and turned Hilary’s stomach but left the normally sensitive Howard curiously unmoved. Warning the others that he could hear voices approaching he paused only to quickly search the still twitching body, removing a cosh and brass knuckles, before hustling the others back to Bingo and Honoria’s.

Whilst not advising them of the death of their watcher they advised the couple that they wouldn’t be bothered by him again. Hilary offered to put them up for a couple of days at his place in Belgravia, an offer they gratefully accepted. Having quickly packed some bags they left before any ruckus surrounding the discovery of the body could start.

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Madmen and Meetings (11th - 13th July 1925)

As Walter stepped forwards the hunted eyes of Peter Simkins snapped up from beneath his matted hair and with a cry he leapt up and forwards fists flying. The rage of the maniac took Walter completely by surprise and in a matter of seconds, a the horrendous pain of a broken rib gave way to blackness under the manic strength of the madman. Ripley pulled his friend clear as Hilary leapt into the hall, immediately falling into a well trained boxers stance. Hilary’s confidence in being able to deal with most opponents, certainly one this malnourished and weakend , was quickly overcome by the strength of the frenzied attacks and he quickly drew his revolver in genuiine fear for his life. Even with his gun in his hand Simpkin’s attacks were terrifying and having taken a hefty blow from the end of Hilary’s pistol, when any normal man woud be reeling, he struck back with such incredible force that Hilary felt his shoulder dislocate. With Walter out of immediate danger Ripley leapt back into the fray but despite both his and Hilary’s best efforts Simpkins fought like possessed animal. Ripley took a blow to the jaw that knocked him to the floor, out cold and only the arrival of Hamilton allowed them to subdue the lunatic and stop the assault.

Hamilton used Walter’s handcuffs to restrain the unconcious Simpkins while the survivors nursed their wounds and tried to calm neighbours who had been alarmed by the sounds of fighting and more so by the repeated discharging of Hilary’s revolver. That far from trying to leave the scene the investigators were nursing wounds and asking for someone to fetch the police calmed things considerably. Walter briefed the officer when he did arrive, while Ripley quickly investigated the house finding little of interest, and in short order Simpkins was taken away. Hamilton, who was bruised but had remained relatively unharmed drove the group to St Thomas’ Hospital where they had their wounds tended to.

Ripley and Iain returned home while Walter stayed the night with Hilary, Hamilton keeping armed watch with a shotgun. While no assailant or burgler disturbed their rest only Ripley and Hilary escaped dread nighmares that were only half remembered the following morning.

Sundary passed slowly, Ripley accompanying his wife to Church in the morning while (having explained his cuts and bruises as business deal he was looking into had taken a turn for the worse when the contact got violent). Hamilton dropped Walter home after lunch and most of the group did little more than tend to their wounds from the day before. Certainly nobody felt like making the planned trip to Lewis to see Iain’s family.

Ripley awoke on the Monday morning once again unrested after a night of barely remembered dreams in which he was suffocating under the blows of some unseen foe.

Walter started the day getting back up to speed with his normal workload at Scotland Yard. However at 10am he had a meeting with DI Brinslow (who was responsible for the Lord Brightman murder) and DI Partridge (who was responsbile for the Glossop murder). After initially apologising for stepping on their toes with regards to MacAvoy and Simpkins he began to explain what had led him to MacAvoy’s house holding back little information. While holding back details of the golden statuette and the death of the “drowned man” from the journal he detailed the meeting of Neve Selcibuc and all of the other events from there. As was to be expected both detectives were highly interested in the story and asked a number of pertinant questions. At the end of the interview Walter asked if he could be assigned to the case but DI Partridge in particular didn’t seem very keen on the idea.

Having caught up with Howard and got details of the research he did into the team who undertook the 1919 expedition Hilary and Ripley headed off to the British Museum for the meeting that Ripley had arranged with Thompson. They were met at reception by Patrick Longton,a genial and friendly curator who took them to Thompson’s office and introduced them.

The meeting with Thompson could have gone better. Unsure of what the meeting was about and not having expected a peer to be accompanying Ripley, Thompson was obviously shocked when they uncovered the golden statuette and asked him for his opinon on it. Outside of mentioning the Wentworth Club they refused to say where it had come from and pushed hard to get answers to questions that Thompson either wouldn’t or couldn’t answer. Upon breaking news of MacAvoy’s death and Simpkins insanity to him things didn’t improve. When Hilary made to leave taking the statuette with him, a statuette which all had agreed started out as property of the museum, things really came to a head. Thompson called for security and Hilary, threatening to have him sacked and ringing the Home Secretary, demanded that they called the police threatening all kinds of dire outcomes if they arrested him or tried to stop him leaving with whatever he decided to take.

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A Grizzley Saturday (11th July 1925)
Tracing Expedition Survivors

Both Iain and Ripley woke on the Saturday morning to half remembered dreams of dread, disturbed and far from rested but the others woke feeling rested. By the eleven when they met at the club Iain and Ripley had forgotten the dreams although both were still tired from the disturbed night.

After brunch Walter went to the Yard to dig into the several cases that their unofficial investigation touched upon. The files on Alice Ashwood’s death and on the fire at Alfred Turner Antiquities were on his desk. The details of both instances tied up with the details in Neve Selcibuc’s journal. Next he checked into the Mercedes that had been seen outside Lord Brightman’s house however with the limited information available he was unable to find any leads. Lastly Walter looked into the case file of Lord Brightman’s death and found that the case was being dealt with by DI Marcus Brinslow (a detective who Walter already knows).

Lord Brightman was murdered in his bedroom at home (Regent’s Park Road, NW1). His manservant, Samuel Collins, discovered the body at 6 am on 4th July 1925. According to the police surgeon, Lord Brightman had been stabbed 37 times in the torso, had his throat slit and had his hands and feet severed. The aforementioned hands and feet had been positioned upon the corpse’s chest. The murder weapon is assumed to be a very sharp knife, approximately 8 to 10 inches in length. The assailant had proceeded to use the deceased’s blood to write a message on a piece of parchment paper (found inserted in the deceased’s mouth). The message read: The curse shall find all who have stolen.

The deceased’s bedroom window was open and no other signs of entry could be perceived. It is assumed the culprit entered by climbing the drainage pipe adjacent to the bedroom window. No further evidence was found at the scene, although the deceased’s study was entered and items moved. It is believed that one item was taken: a stone statuette of the Assyrian god Nabu (verified by Collins). Collins’ statement says that he heard nothing during the night and had last seen the deceased when he retired for bed at 10 pm.

While Walter was at the Yard Iain and Hilary went to visit Albright. Having the list of stolen items they found in Glossop’s office they decided that Iain would introduce himself to Albright as having a rich buyer (Hilary)looking for Assyrian antiquities in the hopes that by looking specifically for items on that list they could find a link. Albright was suitably impressed by Hilary (and his Silver Ghost parked just up the road with its chauffeur) and seemed eager to please. Albright admitted to not having anything authentically Assyrian in stock although he thought he could acquire some cuneiform tablets within a week (similar to reproductions that he had in stock). Mention of Dagon and Nabu, especailly a large bust of Nabu which they had heard of as being on the market, seemed to nudge Albright’s memory and he mentioned a golden statuette of Nabu which he had recently seen. While the owner was not initially interested in selling he thought that he may be able to change the sellers mind if the price was right (although he was aware of another buyer who might be interested). Hilary pushed him hard about the other buyer and eventually, even after an outrageously large bribe of £25, Albright stated that he had been trying to track down the buyer who he only knew by the name of Guido. Eventually having left him with an order for the cuneiform tablets, instructions to track down the golden statuette of Nabu and contact details via Iain’s publisher they left the shop, Hilary in particular feeling that they had been given the run around.

Howard was spending the day back in the library again researching what he could about Reginald Campbell Thompson, Willard Puncheon, Terrance MacAvoy, Lord Brightman and Thomas Banksmith.

Later that afternoon, after Ripley had spoken to a Patrick Longton by telephone and arranged an appointment to meet with Campbell Thompson on the afternoon of Monday 13th July, the group reunited and drove to MacAvoy’s house at Hebron road. Noting that all the curtains were firmly closed even this late on a Saturday afternoon and being unable to get an answer at the front door Walter used the side alley to check the back of the house. Again all the curtains were closed and fearing the worst he forced an entry by the back door. The house was in darkness and drawing his revolver he stepped into a kitchen filled with a sour and rancid stink. Moving through the ground floor it was obvious that the house had been searched and he opened the front door to allow his colleagues to enter before turning his attention to the front room from which could be heard an ominous buzzing.

The front room was a scene of obscene horror, the long dead corpse of Mr MacAvoy lying in a sticky pool of its own juices, buzzing with flies and crawling with maggots. Mr MacAvoy was far beyond help and reeling with unwanted memories of the trenches during the war Walter hurriedly left the room. Once recovered Walter led the search of the house, noting relics and photographs of many digs, before calling for the police. In the poor man’s bedroom they discovered a letter from Peter Simpkin (also of the now more than rumoured 1919 dig in Nineveh), who stated that he was being watched and was in fear of his life.

DI Brock soon arrived with two uniformed officers and chatted to Walter about why he was there. Walter explained that he had been looking into the Brightman and Glossop murders which were being investigated by DI Brinslow and DI Partridge.

Leaving Hebron Road Walter called Scotland Yard and made contact with DI Brinslow explaining the situation briefly with MacAvoy (before he heard through any other channels). DI Brinslow suggested a meeting at the Yard on Monday morning (13th July) with DI Partridge to fully understand the situation.

The last obvious step seemed to be to go and visit Peter Simpkin at his house in Hackney. Upon reaching the house they found this too was ominously quiet with all the curtains drawn, although in the early evening there were still several hours until sunset. The sight of one of the downstairs curtains twitching did little to settle the group’s nerves. Unable to get a response to knocking at the door but hearing quiet whimpering and whispering from inside Walter picked the lock and quietly opened the front door. Inside, part way down the hall, was crouched a painfully thin figure with a matted beard and hair, rocking gently too and fro. Taking out his warrant card and speaking as calmly and reassuringly as he could Walter stepped inside the house at which this pitiful creature screamed and flew at the detective with spittle on his lips, a wild look in his eyes and his fists flying…

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An Afternoon of Investigation (10th July 1925)
First steps

At Iain’s return to the club a quick discussion changes the immediate plans. Howard decided to research the supposed 1919 dig at Nineveh while the others split up. Hilary and Iain decided to see what they could turn up at the late Lord Brightman’s home while Ripley and Walter visited the British Museum and Sweet Relics to question Albright.

At the British Museum a uniformed constable (Constable Smith advised them that the murder scene was largely cleared up and that Detective Brinslow was in charge of the case but had returned to the Yard. Walter advised reception that he had been sent by Detective Brinslow and asked to be shown to Archie Glossop’s office. An efficient museum security guard, Ralf Yates showed them up to Archie’s small third floor office. Having carried out a thorough search there was no sign of the merman statue that Neve mentioned in her journal however they did turn up a short list that appeared to be of artefacts that had been stolen from the museum.

Meanwhile Hilary and Iain arrived at Lord Brightman’s home (68 Regent’s Park Road). When the butler Collins opened the door Hilary immediately took the initiative and bluffed his way in, advising Collins that the club had sent them to ensure that nothing amiss, something that might cause a scandal, was leaked to the press. Presenting his card and not taking no for an answer they were shown into Lord Brightman’s private study. While Collins was fetching coffee for Iain (who was checking the office) Hilary attempted to find Lord Brightman’s bedroom. Finding it locked he was trying to find a way to pick the lock when Collins returned. Neither bribery nor threats convinced Collins to open the room and he encouraged them to leave, advising them that they should really contact Krank & Willis (Lord Brightman’s lawyers) if they needed anything further. While this was taking place Iain had found a small photograph album, which he pocketed, containing what appear to be photos of an archaeological dig in 1919. Later when these photographs were shown to Sykes at the club he identified Lord Brightman, Reginald Campbell Thompson, Dr Terrence MacAvoy, Professor Willard Puncheon and Thomas Banksmith. On leaving the house Iain became suddenly aware that a black Mercedes car, which had been parked nearly opposite the house, drove away and that one of the occupants (a dark skinned foreigner with a black moustache) had been intently staring that them. Unfortunately the car was gone before Hamilton could give chase so they returned to the club.

Walter and Ripley in the meantime headed up to Copenhagen Street to visit Ebenezer Albright at his shop Sweet Relics. Taking the statuette with them they introduced themselves to Mr Albright (who had a bandaged head and fingers which seemed to fit with Miss Selcibuc’s story). Ripley took the lead, introducing himself as someone in the trade and asking Albright for his thoughts about a statue that they had with them. Albright’s reaction to the statuette as he opened the box it was in was obvious, both in his recognition and also revulsion, however he covered it well. Stating that it wasn’t really in his field he offered to buy it for £20, upping the offer to £30 when told it wasn’t for sale. Having met Mr Albright and getting a feel of him (not an altogether pleasant experience) they also returned to the club.

At the club Iain had immediately gone to help Howard with his research in the library while Hilary spent time socialising. Hilary spent some time chatting to the barman (Hogkins) as well as Jack Blackwell. Jack had heard rumours of the 1919 Nineveh dig and said that he’d spoken with Terrance MacAvoy, another club member, who claimed to be on it. He even gave most of an address for MacAvoy, Hebron Road in Hammersmith.

By the time Iain reached the club library Howard had already turned up a handwritten note in the margin of a book about Mesopotamian sites of interest which mentioned Terrance MacAvoy as well as some general information on Nabu. He had also found a possibly spurious mention in a section of a book about a god called Dagon which may link into the merman statue of Neve’s.

Before heading home for the night Ripley gave the statuette of Nabu to Hilary for safe keeping and both he and Walter filled Hilary in on the contents of Neve’s journal. Walter also checked with Scotland Yard about the recent fire Neve’s journal mentioned at Alfred Turner Antiquities in High Holborn. Detective Thompson was looking into the suspicious circumstances and the death of the shop clerk and Walter requested to get a look at the file.

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Breakfast At The Club (morning of 10th July 1925)
Planning the first steps

The vague and disturbing dreams of the investigators left some of the group waking feeling poorly rested and trying to both forget and recall the barely remembered phantasms of the night. The shared sentry duty of Walter and Ripley was undisturbed and the next morning they met up with Hilary and Howard for breakfast. Iain had a meeting with his publisher that morning and would try to join them later.

While discussing the events of the night before they were approached by another club member, Islwyn Munden who was excited about research he was doing in the club library on the remains of a statuette that a friend of his was interested in buying. After breakfast he showed the group some sketches of it, describing it as being made of lead covered in gold leaf, its main feature was a magic circle or pentagram of some kind carved into its base. Originally figures stood around the back of it however these had been broken off leaving only the legs of the group and the unusual pentagram around which they would have clustered.

Hilary recognised the magic circle as being of a type associated with European witch-cults (in particular one associated with Essen in the mid-eighteenth century) however the details of the circle, the materials it is made from (such things should normally be silver) and the location in which it was found made him almost certain it was a fake and he gently warned Islwyn to be wary in his research.

Once Islwyn returned to his researches the group concluded their planning. Hilary and Howard would head to the house of the late Lord Brightman (68 Regent’s Park Road). Ripley and Walter meanwhile would visit Sweet Relics (Copenhagen Street) to track down Mr Albright and visit the British Museum. As they were leaving the club Iain returned, his meeting being shorted than he foresaw, catching them just in time.

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Lord Brightman's Memorial Dinner (9th July 1925)
A night that will long be remembered

The Wentworth Club in Mayfair is used to tales of the archaeological expeditions or of folklore, history, mythology and occult practices of cultures from around the world but on 9th July 1925 the members came together to remember Lord Howard Brightman on the evening of his funeral.

Hilary Fitzallen Howard was holding court in the lounge of the club, chatting with Iain Swan. Howard Wright as usual was trying to stay unobtrusive and out of the way and indeed probably only Walter Anvil, chatting with his lifelong friend Cyril Ripley, had really noted on his presence at all. After a short speech from the club president Gregory Bluffstone in which he spoke of his sadness at the loss of Lord Brightman those assembled filed into the dinning room.

Hilary, Iain, Howard, Ripley and Walter had been sat together and while making introductions to one another a smartly dressed man in a morning suit requested to join the table. Introducing himself as Theodore Rayburn-Price, a club member for over twenty years, the group sat down to dinner. Among the various dinner conversations that took place that evening Rayburn-Price filled his companions in on details of Lord Brightman’s murder (Brightman had had his throat slit from ear to ear, his butler Collins had discovered the body). He also elaborated on a comment that Bluffstone had made in his pre-dinner speech about a terrifying tale that Brightman had told them in late 1919 shortly before he went into seclusion.

Evidently Brightman had been on a dig in northern Iraq and had found a native attempting to steal a strange golden statuette. When he challenged the man the native had pulled a knife and Brightman had had to shoot the man. As he had lain dying the thief grabbed Brightman’s hand and thrust the statuette into it, saying, “Take it! Take it and may the Curse of Nabu make you sleep no more.” Since that fateful night the man had been unable to find a restful sleep.

As dinner wound down, nearly at the end of the cheese, Rayburn-Price made his apologies and left for an urgent meeting however after the end of the meal as the group were enjoying port and cigars he returned asking them if they could lend him some assistance. He lead them to the top floor where he introduced them to Neve Selcibuc, a young American lady with a somewhat unusual tale to tell.

Neve told of the murder of her friend Archie Glossop and his involvement in trying to protect artefacts that apparently came from a secret dig that Reginald Campbell Thompson led alongside the late Lord Brightman. Rayburn-Price was convinced that Neve was in mortal danger from whoever had been following her and needed to spirit her out of London to safety. Neve gave not only her journal to the group but a strange Golden Statuette which Archie had smuggled out of the museum, fearing that it would be stolen if it remained.

After briefly discussing the legal and police implications of Neve leaving the captial Hilary and Ripley followed one of the club’s servants, Jack Henryson, as he led Rayburn-Price and Miss Selibuc out to the kitchen entrance and signalled for the car they had waiting there. As they sped away, hopefully to safety, the group sat and discussed the best thing to do next.

It was decided that Iain would stay with Hilary overnight at his Belgravia residence after dropping Howard home. Meanwhile Ripley and Walter would take it in shifts to stay up and guard the statue whilst reading the journal that the young American left for them.

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