”The Pnakotic Puzzle” has St. Cyprian and Gallowglass matching wits with a bevy of devilish intruders, including a time traveller and an amorphous entity in 1923. It will be published in 2013 in an issue of the Lovecraft eZine

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“Well, this a bit of a rum do, and no mistake,” Charles St. Cyprian said. The cigarette he had just gotten lit burned forgotten between his fingers, and his hands were raised, his elbows planted on the armrests of his chair.  In the chair opposite, a man with a gun sat, his waxy face betraying no expression.

“Rum do, yes,” the gunman said in his peculiar voice. To St. Cyprian, it sounded like a nest of wasps trapped in a wet gunny-sack. The pistol his guest held was an American automatic, a Colt. “An appropriate colloquialism, yes,” the man continued. “Where is it, Mr. St. Cyprian?”

“Where is what?” St. Cyprian said as he eyed the cherry tip of his cigarette. The line of char crawled towards his fingers. He was a slim man of Mediterranean complexion and he was dressed in one of the finest sartorial creations to ever leave a Savile Row tailors’ shop and deign to live in man’s closet. He had been preparing for an evening out, when his gun-toting guest had arrived and insisted on speaking, despite the lack of appointment or even basic civility. It wasn’t an unexpected visit, but that made it no less unpleasant.

“Where is the cipher, Mr. St. Cyprian?” The gunman’s pallid cheek twitched, and for a moment, St. Cyprian was inexplicably reminded of the evening he’d seen rats crawling in the belly of dead horse in No Man’s Land not four years before.

“Oh that,” St. Cyprian said. “I have no idea, old boy. Not a clue what you’re prattling on about, I must confess.” He bent towards his cigarette and took an awkward drag. Expelling thin streams of smoke from his nostrils, he continued, “Are you quite certain you’ve broken into the right house? All these Cheyne Walk flats do like alike, I’m told.”

“We are in the sitting room of No. 427 Cheyne Walk, Victoria Embankment—residence of the Royal Occultist since 1874,” the gunman said. “You are Charles St. Cyprian, formerly assistant to Thomas Carnacki, himself formerly the assistant of Sir Edwin Drood, who was in turn the assistant to Aylmer Beamish; you are the current holder of the offices of Royal Occultist. Where is it, Mr. St. Cyprian?”

“Somebody has been peeking at my journal,” St. Cyprian said, sneaking another surreptitious puff from his cigarette. He expelled smoke from the corner of his mouth. Formed during the reign of Elizabeth the First, the office of Royal Occultist (or the Queen’s Conjurer, as it had been known) had started with the diligent amateur Dr. John Dee, and passed through a succession of hands since. The list was a long one, weaving in and out of the margins of British history, and culminating, for the moment, in Charles St. Cyprian, who was wishing that he were anyone else and someplace other than where he was at the moment.

“Where is the cipher?” the gunman said. St. Cyprian examined him through the haze of cigarette smoke. He was a thin man, almost brittle looking, like a scarecrow wearing out-of-fashion Savile Row. He wore leather gloves and a high collar of archaic cut. His face gleamed in the firelight, once again putting St. Cyprian in mind of wax. Spectacles with smoked lenses rested over his eyes, and his hair did not look natural and all at once, St. Cyprian felt a thrill of primitive fear as he realized for the first time what sat across from him, pointing a .45 automatic at his belly.

He licked his lips, and, feigning the blasé indifference he no longer felt, said, “There is no cipher. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You are lying,” the gunman—the thing—said. It tilted its head, and the wax face squirmed

Cheyne_Walk

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