Monsters. Madness. Visions.
1885. Doctor Archibald Shaw and his young friend Singh arrive in England, one month behind the dangerous cult leader, Ananya. They must find her, and soon. Ananya holds a book of untold evil, brought with her from India. A book which could spell doom for all of humanity.
Shaw and Singh are not alone in their search for Ananya and the book. Others want the volume for their own and will stop at nothing to get it. Meanwhile in London's east end, monsters roam the shadows and people are disappearing. Is this also Ananya's doing? Or do these monsters search for her as well?
The world becomes even more nightmarish for Shaw and Singh. The elder god Cthulhu still sleeps, but for how much longer? Shaw fears what he sees in his dreams, and fears what actions he will need to take.
How deep into a world of evil can one man slip?
To save the world, can he do any less?
"...satisfies as a well-wrought supernatural thriller."– Publishers Weekly
"Fans of paranormal period pieces will be pleased."– Publishers Weekly
Chapter 1: December 15, 1885
Shaw paced their sitting room, as best he could. Every second step gave a hollow double thump as his cane impacted against the thin Turkish carpet.
"Three weeks, Singh." He fumed. "Three weeks and still no clue to Ananya's whereabouts."
"Almost four," Singh corrected, not looking up from the day's newspaper spread before him.
Gas lamps shed enough light for reading when there wasn't sufficient from the broad windows. The lad's hands disappeared into the opposite sleeve of his white linen robe. His turban, an addition to his wardrobe since departing India, moved with his scanning of each article.
Shaw gave a huff of frustration and sat on one of the matching florally decorated chairs, gesturing toward Singh's reading material. They'd been keeping a close eye since returning to England, but there'd been no mention of any Indian princess in London. Likewise no mention of any activity which could be considered Thugee related. No mysterious deaths or disappearances. It was as if Ananya had stepped off her ship from India and simply disappeared.
All they knew for certain was that Ananya had come to London. They'd known as much before leaving India in pursuit of her. Both her ship and theirs—arriving a full month apart—had moored in Southampton to disembark passengers. From there they'd followed her trail to the train station where the ticket agent and a porter both remembered her vividly. She'd purchased two tickets for London. After that, nothing. She'd travelled across as an Indian princess, riding in a style which befit her station, but on reaching this shore she and her Thuggee servant had somehow vanished. Shaw assumed she hadn't left the train before Waterloo Station, where everyone disembarks, but had no proof of that.
It was maddening.
Or, at least for Shaw it was. As usual Singh viewed the entire situation with his exasperatingly calm and logical perspective. The lad—perched on the edge of manhood just as he perched on the edge of his seat—leaned back to sip his post-lunch tea. He was six feet in height now, maybe a touch more, and had shoulders which dwarfed Shaw's. The traditional Indian robes Singh wore did little to hide the muscle underneath, though they did give an air of the exotic, the mysterious. All in all Singh cut quite the imposing figure… unlike himself. Shaw was slighter of build, thin without being scrawny. At five foot eight he had to look up at Singh most times.
Almost four weeks since they'd returned to England, and another four on top of that since Ananya had arrived. Somewhere in London she was holed up with that book.
Who knew what her plans were?
Outside the steady clip-clop of a passing horse and carriage filled the silence. Inside the room a wood knot popped inside the fireplace.
"No information from your contacts?" Shaw asked.
Since arriving Singh had made contact with several of his fellow Indian transplants, people working for the well to do in the city's heart. Another wealth of knowledge, Singh maintained, were the newsboys, children ignored as much by society as Indian servants were. Both had the opportunity to see and hear what others might not, often before that news became an article in the paper.
Of course he hadn't. If Singh had any information he would have already shared it and they would have their first real clue. Shaw had exhausted all of his own contacts, going to fellow graduates who had established medical practices while he'd chosen to go into the service of her majesty's army. Each of his old classmates had met varying degrees of success, though all were able to walk without assistance from a cane.
None had any useful information.
They had however helped Shaw set up in his own practice, one knowing of a lodging with sufficient space on the ground floor for a medical office. This place, in South Kensington, had come furnished as well, though they'd needed to find proper medical equipment. His fellow doctors had then referred patients in an effort to get him started. Though Shaw had yet to meet all of those referrals it was already clear the quality of these patients. Hypochondriacs. Chronic nuisances. The borderline demented—just a hair too much on the sane side for committal, but close enough to be unsettling.
Those suffering from nightmares interested him most, but so far these were in the realm of paranoid ravings rather than from outside influence… at least as far as he could tell.
In any case the medical practice kept enough money coming in and allowed them the time to search. More than that, it provided some level of normality to their lives. It wasn't all murderous cults and evil books.
God! His own thoughts sounded like those of his patients, though he wished it were a clinical madness. A madness rooted in reality wasn't paranoia but potential annihilation.
Normality. He was afraid that word would mean less for them each passing day. Already he struggled to remember a time when the shadow of this evil didn't influence their days. What choice though? Shaw knew if it came to choosing between the life he wanted and sacrificing it all to save the lives of many he would do what needed to be done.
What kind of life was that for Singh? Considering it made Shaw want to weep. The lad deserved so much better, and Shaw's paternal instinct toward him were frustrated by his inability to provide that better life. Singh, of course, had his own ghosts to deal with.
When this was over, he promised. When this was all done he would provide a real life for this boy.
Shaw glanced at the paper then got back to his feet, trying to pace again. It was important to work his leg and not let it atrophy, but there were times when each step caused a bright spike of pain. Pain which was already becoming an old friend, less noticeable with time. Was that desirable, to become desensitized to one's own pain…
"There's an article on a second museum break in," Singh said.
Shaw stopped. "A second break in? Same museum?"
Singh shook his head.
"Where was this one?"
"Someplace called The South Kensington Museum."
He would need to take Singh around to these museums, take in the exhibits. It could be a continuation of their education. More normality.
Yes. Plenty of museums in London to visit.
A sweat broke out over his body and the hand not clutching his cane shook at the thought of visiting the British Museum. He cleared his throat.
"Where was that first one?"
"The Natural History Museum."
Yes. They should go to each of these, see what clues this thief had left behind. Surely it wasn't connected to the idol in any case… No. That was a supposition Shaw found he couldn't convince himself of, not in the least. Not with a second break in. No, there was a thief and he… or she… was searching for some specific item. Unless… "Was anything stolen?"
"Not at either museum." Singh continued to leaf through the paper. He'd come to almost the final page. "Hmm."
Shaw stopped in his movements and turned to the lad with one eyebrow raised. Singh seemed to sense it and continued.
"Sailors saw some sort of creature along the Thames."
Singh shrugged his thick shoulders, eyes locking on Shaw's. Both knew what this meant. Ananya had raised another monster.
"Where was this?"
Shaw leaned onto his cane with practiced ease, ignoring that ever present pain. "We should investigate."
"What?" Shaw stared at his youthful friend. "Why?"
Singh's eyes bore holes into him and Shaw felt the weight of that gaze.
"It is time we visited the museum, Doctor Shaw."
Shaw took a step back, gave his head a shake.
"Two break ins," Singh said, tapping the paper with splayed fingers. "Did you tell Ananya where you sent the idol?"
"I don't think so." Shaw cast his mind back to his last encounter with the woman and shook his head. "No. Just a museum."
"She is searching."
Shaw wanted to argue, to say this creature lurking around Limehouse was of greater importance, would have more chance at leading them to Ananya. He couldn't. It would come out as weak and pleading, and it would also not be true.
"We have put off checking on the idol too long, doctor."
Too long? Why, they'd been back in London less than a month. Establishing their office and home, hunting for Ananya, questioning his society friends, making contacts. This had all taken a certain amount of necessary time, and the idol was safer there that it would be in his desk drawer.
That last was true… or at least it had been. Now… now it needed to be hidden somewhere better.
Only, he didn't want to see that repulsive thing again, was afraid to. It had affected his mind last time, making him sleepwalk. Oh! Those nights of waking, standing over the crate which held the idol. He'd been no better than an opium addict without any control. That had been after less than a day of exposure to it. It had taken his friend Lassiter over, wormed its way into his consciousness. No, he didn't want to see it… and at the same moment undeniably wanted to see it again. His palms itched to hold it.
He wasn't sure if he'd said it aloud or to himself. It didn't matter. He was the master of his own life, not some fetish. He refused to lose control of his own person in such a manner ever again. He refused!
Singh stared at him, fingers continuing to tap the newspaper. No judgement lurked inside those eyes, no concern, just patience. The message was clear: Singh believed in him, and his ability to resist.
Shaw hoped that faith was not misplaced.
"Two break ins," Shaw repeated. "These people are searching for something in any case."
No, not these people. Ananya. To believe this was anyone else was just a resistance to accept the facts. Even if it isn't her, the possibility is enough. The idol would be better off in their possession.
"Should she recover the idol," Singh said, "she will use it to suck the will out of people, as she did in India. She has more British to choose from here."
"Yes, yes! I've already agreed to go. No need to belabour the point."
Singh tried to raise one eyebrow in question but only able to raise both. It had the effect of making him appear surprised. The boy inside the man was evident when he made such gestures and it reminded Shaw of years earlier when Singh had been just a child. It also dissolved Shaw's annoyance.
"I apologize, Singh. The idea of seeing the idol again makes me snappish."
"I do not want to see it again either."
That brought Shaw's attention back around to his young friend. No, of course Singh didn't want to see it. His exposure to the effects of the idol were much greater than Shaw's own, though Singh had never been allowed to touch it, thankfully.
Shaw sighed, looking toward the floor. He should tell Singh to stay here, that he would take care of this. Only he couldn't. He needed his friend's assistance in getting around too much… No. Another flimsy excuse. The fact was he couldn't do this alone, couldn't trust himself to do this alone.
"The idol frightens me," Singh continued, "as it did when I was a boy. At least now we know what to expect."
Another thing Shaw hoped to be true.