April 2012


Rick Rhodes’ continues his adventure by landing in Egypt, an ancient land that has become a central staging ground for the cult.

Cairo is a hellhole. Wherever the cult has taken over civil society, squalor, poverty and filth are the norm. And it’s only going to get worse in this city. The cult has come out from the shadows and tries to act like a legitimate political party. They’ve won over large segments of the public with a mandate focused on jobs and the economy; in reality, they’re just setting up this country for more horrific persecution, lawlessness and an eventual slide into the maw of the Hight Priest of the Old Ones.

As usual, I hadn’t come to this place looking for good times. From the information I’d picked up in Nigeria at the cult safehouse in Maiguduri, I knew there was a good chance I could get my hands on an ancient copy of the Necronomicon, that tome of terror compiled by Abdul Alhazred — originally bound in a cover of human skin. If I could get the book back to the Professor and his assistant, maybe they’d be able to translate something to help us beat this menace.

Word was that the book had resided at the Egyptian Scientific Institute in Cairo. When the mad cultists set fire to the building in a fit of fake revolutionary fervor, the head librarian had tried to ensure the escape of the Neconomicon in his own briefcase. Before he could pass off the book to his allies in the mob, he was rounded up for questioning by the authorities. By some miracle, the local police chief actually knew what he had in his hands when his men searched the man. Two miracles, actually — incredibly, the cult’s almost-complete infiltration of the authorities did not include Police Chief Fadil Hamza. I had to go find him.

I couldn’t be sure why the cell in Maiguduri would have this information. Who knew how they were involved. But then, the cultists are still human. There must be some thugs in the organization who just can’t keep their big mouths shut. Anyway, it worked out for me.

Or so I thought. Almost as soon as I got to Cairo, my luck ran out. I don’t know how the cultists identified me, but I got picked out of the crowd just as I was leaving the airport.

I felt a syringe stab into my neck.

I thought it was over. But I actually woke up. Almost wish I hadn’t.

The next week or so is a blur. In between collapsing in my own dark cell in a dark, moldy basement dungeon, they gave me the full treatment. Electrical shocks. Waterboarding. Flogging with a rubber hose. Beating the bottoms of my feet with sticks.

They didn’t even bother asking me questions. Maybe they were trying to soften me up first. Maybe they just got off on torture. Either way, I found out the hard way just how evil the cult could get.

I wasn’t going to last much longer. I blacked out for the hundredth time after they started shooting my arm with a nail gun.

Next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital in a Cairo suburb. I was bandaged up with an IV coming out my arm, looking like hell. The man at the side of my bed was none other than Fadil Hamza.

Turned out I’d made it to his police station after all. The torture chamber was in the lower level, run by a couple of corrupt cops. When he found out what was happening, he dispatched the traitors and rescued me from the dungeon.

At least, that’s what he told me. “Why should I trust you?” I asked, astounded at the frail sound of my own voice. My throat had burnt out from all the yelling during my internment.

“I know why you are in Cairo,” he said. “I got it out of them. That basement came in very handy.”

“What did they tell you?” I asked.

“They said you were looking for the book.”

I didn’t say anything. I still wasn’t sure if I could trust him.

“The Professor is an old friend,” Hamza whispered. Apparently, even the Chief of Police had something to fear. “I know you seek the Necronomicon. I can place it in your hands when you are recovered. It will be a gift to me to be rid of it.”

I nodded and soon lapsed into unconsciousness. Five days later, Hamza once more appeared at my side, looking worse for wear. It seemed he hadn’t slept. His clothes looked rumpled, like he’d been wearing them for at least a few days. He had a bandage on his arm and a sling on his left arm. He poked my shoulder to rouse me from the hospital bed.

“The cult will stop at nothing to get their hands on the Necronomicon,” Hamza said. “You must leave now.” I stood and dressed with some difficulty, still feeling the effects of my brutal incarceration. The Police Chief was impatient, urging me on. Finally, we slipped out of the hospital and into the parking lot without checking out. “Take my car keys,” he said, also handing over all of the cash in his wallet.

Along with that, he gave me a book. The book. My heart jumped as I took it into my possession.

“I will leave separately,” he whispered. “Go now!”

I drove aimlessly away from the central part of Cairo, hoping I’d manage to stumble onto a perimeter highway. My luck had returned — I can’t read Arabic, but I saw a sign that would lead me to the coast, where I could get a ferry out of this godforsaken place. A bribe with all of the cash Hamza had given me was sufficient to get me out onto the Mediterranean — the Necronomicon tucked into my own folded jacket. I just have to hang on a little while longer until I get to the safehouse in Greece.

In the meantime, everything hurts.

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Detective Rick Rhodes seems like the Thin Man, Dirty Harry and John McClane all rolled into one. I’m sure glad he’s on our side as he continues to hunt the cult that threatens to bring unholy terror to our planet. Here’s a recent dispatch from him on the case in Nigeria (republished from The Propagandist).

I was stoked to make it out of Baghad alive, but I could practically feel the cult’s oppressive influence as soon as I landed in Nigeria in the middle of the night. You could see it in people’s dead eyes that avoided looking you straight in the eye, in the frightened whispers, and in the desolate abandoned streets where even the locals feared to tread.

The Professor had an old colleague at the University of Maiduguri who had information we could use. As usual, the contact couldn’t speak freely over the phone for fear that the bad guys were listening in; but if the Professor thought it was worth a look, I wasn’t going to argue with him. Besides, Iraq had been a wash and we had to get back on the trail before it went cold. (more…)

Investigator Rick Rhodes’ report from Baghdad in The Propagandist is a harrowing tale. We’ve obtained permission to republish it here for the education of the public — and can only hope that the cult doesn’t find some clue herein with which to track down our intrepid detective.

Destruction. Terror. Blood running in the streets. I came to Baghdad to track down the cult. All I’ve managed to do is be another witness to their murderous rampage and nearly get myself killed to boot.

The papers say there are 55 dead across a wide swathe of Iraq. More than 255 wounded. I was in an alley meeting with my inside man, a former cultist (or was he still in the crew and hoping to stab me in the back? I’ll never know now), when the bomb went off in the restaurant across the street.

The blast was so powerful it knocked me flat on my ass. When I got back up, Mahmoud was bleeding out from some big chunks of shrapnel in the back of his head. Nothing I could do for him. I got out of there right quick; even if the cultists had already fled the scene, the locals get suspicious of blue-eyed travelers like myself.

I guess I was lucky today. I never saw the bomber, but I actually heard him shout his calling-card unholy prayer before he blew himself and a whole bunch of folks to smithereens: “Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!”

Theocratic fascist scum.

Why do I keep doing this? Is my investigation ever going to lead to anywhere but me plugged full of bullets, my body dumped in the river? I’m getting tired. And sloppy. I could have died back there. Hell, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve found myself staring death in the face, eyeball to eye-socket.

But I’ve got to keep going. For the professor. For the girl. For every poor innocent bastard this cult has put in the ground. If the cult gets what it wants, we’re all finished. Every last one of us.

It’s too hot in Baghdad. I can feel the tentacles of the cult closing in. I’ve got to keep moving.

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Why wouldn’t a true Cthulhu-fiction fan write his own addition to the mythos? I suppose avoiding an untimely death at the hands of a “nautical-looking” stranger could be one reason. But I also had a literary ambition to do it better than old H.P.L.

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Look, I’ll give the old man his due. He was a great “ideas” man. Every blockbuster Hollywood horror film involving tentacles, slimy squid-faced aliens and extra-dimensional demons owes him big time. He’s up there with Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Dunsany and… and, um… here we have the problem. His stuff hasn’t aged well. Modern horror writers like Guillermo del Toro, Stephen King and Clive Barker are to H.P. Lovecraft what homo sapiens are to primates: not merely modern writers, but evolved ones.

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