The Dream Detective: Case of the Crusader’s Axe

The Dream Detective: Case of the Crusader’s Axe

Third Episode

CASE OF THE CRUSADER’S AXE

I

I have heard people speak of Moris Klaw’s failures. So far as my information bears me, he never experienced any. “What,” I have been asked, “of the Cresping murder case? He certainly failed there.”
Respecting this question of his failure or success in the sensational case which first acquainted the entire country with the existence of Crespie Hall, and that brought the old world village of Cresping into such unwonted prominence, I shall now invite your opinion.

The investigation—the crime having baffled the local men—ultimately was placed in the hands of Detective-Inspector Grimsby; and through Grimsby I was brought into close touch with the matter. I had met Grimsby during the course of the mysterious happenings at the Menzies Museum, and at that time I also had made the acquaintance of Moris Klaw.

Thus, as I sat over my breakfast one morning reading an account of the Cresping murder case, I was no more than moderately surprised to see Inspector Grimsby walk into my rooms.

He declined my offer of a really good Egyptian cigarette. “Thanks all the same,” he said; “but there’s only one smoke I can think on.”

With that he lighted one of the cheroots of which he smoked an incredible quantity, and got up from his chair, restlessly.

“I’ve just run up from Cresping by the early train,” he began abruptly. “You’ve heard all about the murder, of course?”

I pointed to my newspaper, conspicuous upon the front page of which was—

THE MURDER AT CRESPIE HALL

“Ah, yes,” he said, absently. “Well, I’ve been sent down, and to tell you the white and unsullied truth I’m in a knot!”

I passed him a cup of coffee.

“What are the difficulties?” I asked.

“There’s only one,” he rapped back: “who did it!”

“It looks to me a very clear case against Ryder, the ex-butler.”

“So it did to me,” he agreed—“until I got down there! I’d got a warrant in my pocket all ready. Then I began to have doubts!”

“What do you propose to do?”

Grimsby hesitated.

“Well,” he replied, “it wouldn’t do any good to make a mistake in a murder case; so what I should like to do would be to get another opinion—not official, of course!”

I glanced across at him.

“Mr. Moris Klaw?”

He nodded.

“Exactly!”

“You’ve changed your opinion respecting him?”

“Mr. Searles, his investigation of the Menzies Museum outrages completely stood me on my head! I’m not joking. I’d always thought him a crank, and in some ways I think so still; but at seeing through a brick wall I’d put all I’ve got on Moris Klaw any day!”

“But surely you are wasting time by coming to me?”

“No, I’m not,” said Grimsby, confidently. “Moris Klaw, for all his retiring habits, is not a man that wants his light hidden under a bushel! He knows that you are collecting material about his methods, and he’s more likely to move for you than for me.”

I saw through Grimsby’s plan. He wanted me to invite Moris Klaw to look into the Crespie murder case, in order that he (Grimsby) might reap any official benefit accruing without loss of self-esteem! I laughed.

“All right, Grimsby!” I said. “Since he has made no move, voluntarily, it may be that the case does not interest him; but we can try.”

Accordingly, having consulted an A.B.C. we presently entrained for Wapping, and as a laggard sun began to show up the dinginess and the dirtiness of that locality, sought out a certain shop, whose locale I shall no more closely describe than in saying that it is close to Wapping Old Stairs.

One turns down a narrow court, with a blank wall on the right and a nailed-up doorway and boarded-up window on the left. Through the cracks of the latter boarding, the inquiring visitor may catch a glimpse, beyond a cavernous place which once was some kind of warehouse, of Old Thames tiding muddily.

The court is a cul de sac. The shop of Moris Klaw occupies the blind end. Some broken marble pedestals stand upon the footway, among seatless chairs, dilapidated chests and a litter of books, stuffed birds, cameos, ink-stands, swords, lamps, and other unclassifiable rubbish. A black doorway yawns amid the litter.

Imagine Inspector Grimsby and I as entering into this singular Cumean cave.

Our eyes, at first, failed to penetrate the gloom. All about moved rustling suggestions of animal activity. The indescribable odour of old furniture assailed our nostrils together with an equally indescribable smell of avian, reptilian, and rodent life.

“Moris Klaw! Moris Klaw! the devil’s come for you!”

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The Dream Detective: Case of the Potsherd of Anubis

Second Episode

CASE OF THE POTSHERD OF ANUBIS

In examining the mass of material which I have collated respecting Moris Klaw, several outstanding facts strike me, as being worthy of some special notice.

For instance, an unusual number of the cases in which he was concerned centred about curios and relics of various kinds. His personal tastes (he was, I think, primarily, an antiquarian) may have led him to examine such cases in preference to others. Then again, no two of his acquaintances agree upon the point of Moris Klaw’s actual identity and personality. He was a master of disguise; and the grand secret of his life was one which he jealously guarded from all.

But was the Moris Klaw who kept the curio-shop in Wapping the real Moris Klaw? And to what extent did he believe in those psychical phenomena upon which professedly his methods were based? As particularly bearing upon this phase of the matter, I have selected, for narration here, the story of the potsherd.

Since the Boswell, in records of this kind, has often appeared, to my mind, to overshadow the Johnson, I have decided to present this episode in the words of Mr. J.E. Wilson Clifford, electrical engineer, of Copthall House, Copthall Avenue, E.C., to whom I am indebted for a full and careful account. I do not think I could improve upon his paper, and my own views might unduly intrude upon the story; therefore, with your permission, I will vacate the rostrum in favour of Mr. Clifford, for whom I solicit your attention.

I

MR. CLIFFORD’S STORY OF THE EGYPTIAN POTSHERD

During the autumn of 19__, I was sharing a pleasant set of rooms with Mark Lesty, who was shortly taking up an appointment at a London hospital, and it was, I think, about the middle of that month, that the extraordinary affair of Halesowen and his Egyptian potsherd came under our notice.

Our rooms (they were in a south-west suburb) overlooked a fine expanse of Common. Halesowen rented a flat commanding a similar prospect; and, at the time of which I write, he had but recently returned from a protracted visit to Egypt.

Halesowen was a tall, fair man, clean-shaven, very fresh coloured and wearing his hair cropped close to his head. He was well travelled, and no mean antiquary. He lived entirely by himself; and Lesty and I frequently spent the evening at his place, which was a veritable museum of curiosities. I distinctly recall the first time that he showed us his latest acquisitions.

Both the windows were wide open and the awning fluttered in the slight breeze. Dusk was just descending, and we sat looking out over the Common and puffing silently at our briars. We had been examining the relics that Halesowen had brought back from the land of the Pharaohs, the one, I remember, which had most impressed me, tyro that I was, being the mummy of a sacred cat from Bubastis.

“It wouldn’t have been worth bringing back only for the wrapping,” Halesowen assured me. “This, now, is really unique.”

The object referred to was a broken pot or vase, upon which he pointed out a number of hieroglyphics and a figure with the head of a jackal. “A potsherd inscribed with the figure of Anubis,” he explained. “Very valuable.”

“Why?” Lesty inquired, in his lazy way.

“Well,” Halesowen replied, “the characters of the inscription are of a kind entirely unfamiliar to me. I believe them to be a sort of secret writing, possibly peculiar to some brotherhood. I am risking expert opinion, although in every sense, I stole the thing!”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Well, Professor Sheraton—you’ll see his name on a row of cases in the B.M.—excavated it. But it’s a moral certainty he didn’t intend to advise the authorities of his find. He was going to smuggle it out of Egypt into his private collection. I had marked the spot where he found it for inquiries of my own. This dishonest old fossil—”

Lesty laughed.

“Oh! my own motives weren’t above suspicion! But any way the Professor anticipated me. Accordingly, I employed one Ali, a distinguished member of a family of thieves, to visit the learned gentleman’s tent! Cutting the story—there’s the pot!”

“Here! I say!” drawled Lesty. “You’ll come to a bad end, young fellow!”

“The position is a peculiar one,” replied Halesowen, smiling. “Neither of us had any legal claim to the sherd—whilst we were upon Egyptian territory. Therefore, even if the Professor learnt that I had the thing—and he may suspect—he couldn’t prosecute me!”

“Devilish high-handed!” commented Lesty.

“Yes. But remember we were well off the map—miles away from Cook’s route. The possession of this potsherd ought to make a man’s reputation—any man who knows a bit about the subject. Curiously enough, a third party had had his eye upon the place where this much-sought sherd was found. And in some mysterious fashion he tumbled to the fact that it had fallen into my hands. He made a sort of veiled offer of a hundred pounds for it. I refused, but ran across him again, a week or so later, in Cairo, and he raised his price to two hundred.”

“That’s strange,” I said. “Who was he?”

“Called himself Zeda—Dr. Louis Zeda. He quite lost his temper when I declined to sell, and I’ve not set eyes on him since.”
He relocked the fragment in his cabinet, and we lapsed into silence, to sit gazing meditatively across the Common, picturesque in the dim autumn twilight.

“By the way, Halesowen,” I said, “I see that the flat next door, same floor as this, is to let.”

“That’s so,” he replied. “Why don’t you men take it?”

“We’ll think about it,” yawned Lesty, stretching his long limbs. “Might look over it in the morning.”

The following day we viewed the vacant flat, but found, upon inquiry of the agent, that it had already been let. However, as our own rooms suited us very well, we were not greatly concerned. Just as we finished dinner the same evening, Halesowen came in, and, without preamble, plunged into a surprising tale of uncanny happenings at his place.

“Take it slow,” said Lesty. “You say it was after we came away?”

“About an hour after,” replied Halesowen. “I had brought out the potsherd, and had it in the wooden stand on the table before me. I was copying the hieroglyphics, which are unusual, and had my reading-lamp burning only, the rest of the room being consequently in shadow. I was sitting with my back to the windows, facing the door, so no one could possibly have entered the room unseen by me. It was as I bent down to scrutinise a badly defaced character that I felt a queer sensation stealing over me, as though some one were standing close behind my chair, watching me!”

“Very common,” explained Lesty; “merely nerves.”

“Yes, I know; but not what followed. The sensation became so pronounced, that I stood up. No one was in the room. I determined to take a stroll, concluding that the fresh air would clear these uncanny cobwebs out of my brain. Accordingly, I extinguished the lamp and went out. I was just putting my cap on, when something prompted me to return and lock up the potsherd.”

He fixed his eyes upon us with an expression of doubt.

“There was some one, or something, in the room!”

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The Dream Detective: Case of the Tragedies in the Greek Room

First Episode

CASE OF THE TRAGEDIES IN THE GREEK ROOM

I

When did Moris Klaw first appear in London? It is a question which I am asked sometimes and to which I reply: To the best of my knowledge, shortly before the commencement of the strange happenings at the Menzies Museum.

What I know of him I have gathered from various sources; and in these papers, which represent an attempt to justify the methods of one frequently accused of being an insane theorist, I propose to recount all the facts which have come to my knowledge. In some few of the cases I was personally though slightly concerned; but regard me merely as the historian and on no account as the principal or even minor character in the story. My friendship with Martin Coram led, then, to my first meeting with Moris Klaw—a meeting which resulted in my becoming his biographer, inadequate though my information unfortunately remains.

It was some three months after the appointment of Coram to the curatorship of the Menzies Museum that the first of a series of singular occurrences took place there.

This occurrence befell one night in August, and the matter was brought to my ears by Coram himself on the following morning. I had, in fact, just taken my seat at the breakfast table, when he walked in unexpectedly and sank into an armchair. His dark, cleanshaven face looked more gaunt than usual and I saw, as he lighted the cigarette which I proffered, that his hand shook nervously.

“There’s trouble at the Museum!” he said abruptly. “I want you to run around.”

I looked at him for a moment without replying, and, knowing the responsibility of his position, feared that he referred to a theft from the collection.
“Something gone?” I asked.

“No; worse!” was his reply.

“What do you mean, Coram?”

He threw the cigarette, unsmoked, into the hearth. “You know Conway?” he said; “Conway, the night attendant. Well—he’s dead!”

I stood up from the table, my breakfast forgotten, and stared incredulously. “Do you mean that he died in the night?” I inquired.

“Yes. Done for, poor devil!”

“What! Murdered?”

“Without a doubt, Searles! He’s had his neck broken!”

I waited for no further explanations, but, hastily dressing, accompanied Coram to the Museum. It consists, I should mention, of four long, rectangular rooms, the windows of two overlooking South Grafton Square, those of the third giving upon the court that leads to the curator’s private entrance, and the fourth adjoining an enclosed garden attached to the building. This fourth room is on the ground floor and is entered through the hall from the Square, the other three, containing the principal and more valuable exhibits, are upon the first floor and are reached by a flight of stairs from the hall. The remainder of the building is occupied by an office and the curator’s private apartments, and is completely shut off from that portion open to the public, the only communicating door—an iron one—being kept locked.

The room described in the catalogue as the “Greek Room” proved to be the scene of the tragedy. This room is one of the two overlooking the Square and contains some of the finest items of the collection. The Museum is not open to the public until ten o’clock, and I found, upon arriving there, that the only occupants of the Greek Room were the commissionaire on duty, two constables, a plain-clothes officer and an inspector—that is, if I except the body of poor Conway.

He had not been touched, but lay as he was found by Beale, the commissionaire who took charge of the upper rooms during the day, and, indeed, it was patent that he was beyond medical aid. In fact, the position of his body was so extraordinary as almost to defy description.

There are three windows in the Greek Room, with wall-cases between, and, in the gap corresponding to the east window and just by the door opening into the next room, is a chair for the attendant. Conway lay downward on the polished floor with his limbs partly under this chair and his clenched fists thrust straight out before him. His head, turned partially to one side, was doubled underneath his breast in a most dreadful manner, indisputably pointing to a broken neck, and his commissionaire’s cap lay some distance away, under a table supporting a heavy case of vases.

So much was revealed at a glance, and I immediately turned blankly to Coram.

“What do you make of it?” he said.

I shook my head in silence. I could scarce grasp the reality of the thing; indeed, I was still staring at the huddled figure when the doctor arrived. At his request we laid the dead man flat upon the floor, to facilitate an examination, and we then saw that he was greatly cut and bruised about the head and face, and that his features were distorted in a most extraordinary manner, almost as though he had been suffocated.

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The Dream Detective: Introduction

The Dream-Detective by Sax Rohmer

Published by Jerrods, London 1920

CONTENTS

1. THE TRAGEDIES IN THE GREEK ROOM
2. THE POTSHERD OF ANUBIS
3. THE CRUSADER’S AXE
4. THE IVORY STATUE
5. THE BLUE RAJAH
6. THE WHISPERING POPLARS
7. THE HEADLESS MUMMIES
8. THE HAUNTING OF GRANGE
9. THE VEIL OF ISIS

Beginning tonight, and for the following nine weeks, Sax Rohmer’s The Dream-Detective will be republished here. To my knowledge, this is the first time these out of copyright stories have been made available on the internet. Written between 1913-1914, revised and collected in book form in 1920, these stories follow the exploits of Moris Klaw, antiquarian and occult detective, as well as his accomplished daughter Isis, and their various hangers-on and haliographers.

Briefly, my own involvement begins in the attic of my “Aunt Ginny’s” house. (Virginia McElwee, then gold cane holder for oldest resident of Union, ME, passed in 1999. The house is now occupied by my cousin, but for some reason houses in small towns are known by the name of their former occupant.) I recovered the volume herein from a box of badly water-damaged books destined for the library book sale–or, more likely, the dump. It’s in (most of) two pieces, in terrible shape. Unable to lay them flat on a scanner, a year or so ago while researching a short film, I undertook the process of photographing the pages with my phone, feeding the photos into Google Docs for OCR, and reassembling the text. A first editing pass with extensive retyping took a few months, on-and-off. For the next several weeks, watch this space as I complete a more detailed edit, story by story. Once the volume is complete, a printable PDF will also be released.

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Published Works by Robert Aickman

I’ve compiled a grid of all of Robert Aickman’s works, published both living and posthumously, and in which volumes they may be found.

View the PDF (144k) (Updated November 2017)

Rapidly falling out of memory, Robert Aickman (1914-1981) was a World Fantasy Award-winning writer representing a distinct third branch of horror–neither the Poe-descended grotesque nor Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, but a more psychological, inward version of the weird. Peter Straub wrote: “From the first I understood that he was a deeply original artist. This in no way implies that I understood Aickman immediately, because I didn’t. Sometimes I would look up at the end of a story, feeling that the whole thing had just twisted itself inside out and turned into smoke–I had blinked, and missed it all.”

Based on the above survey, I’ve ordered for myself good-condition used copies of The Unsettled Dust, Cold Hand in Mine and The Wine Dark Sea for about $50 total. These seem to represent a strong sampling of his work, with little overlap, and their print runs are recent enough to be available. Most of Aickman’s older collections have long since fallen out of print, and been culled from libraries. The Boston Public Library’s Copley Square branch offers only a single copy of Night Voices for circulation, available at the delivery desk. His stories have been anthologized in numerous collections, mostly out of print. CBC radio did a respectable half-hour dramatisation of “Ringing the Changes,” which is available on YouTube. Ideal would of course be to obtain the two volume Collected Strange Stories, but with only a 500-copy limited run in 1999, one would need to be somewhat more obsessive and far wealthier than me–to the tune of $500 plus–to secure one.

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30+ Cornstarch Fireballs

1080p (vertical) shot of 1 teaspoon of cornstarch blown into the air near a flame source about 30x. Filmed at 120fps, playback at 30fps. As much fun as you’ll have doing this yourself, these pyro elements are released into the public domain for any and all usage, commercial or otherwise.

These elements were created for Troy Minkowsky’s “The Garden 1910” a Rhino Crate production currently in post.

Download Clip in MP4

CC0
To the extent possible under law, Matthew I. Rasmussen has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to 30+ Cornstarch Fireballs. This work is published from: United States.

flame_rig

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