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Horror of the Crimson Scarab


Horror of the Crimson Scarab

“The Horror of the Crimson Scarab” is part of the forthcoming CASEBOOK OF PATRICK MIDNIGHT published by the Bizarchives. This collection of horror-noir and pulp adventure stories includes the two-fisted exploits of Patrick Midnight, a secret agent working for a shadowy organization with links to the governments of the United States and Europe. Midnight seems like the typical tough guy private eye, but there’s a twist: he’s possessed by the spirit of his Puritan ancestor. Together, Midnight and Reverend Blackstone fight evil, both supernatural and all-too-human. 

Patrick Midnight was cold and tired yet remained focused on the task at hand. The special agent for the Society of Gentlemen Geographers was ready for the case to end. He had been tracking the theft of the crimson scarab ever since it had been purloined at a party put on by the Society in Cairo. The bold thief had pilfered the precious object right from under the noses of a hundred partygoers before catching a Greek freighter. After months of tracking his prey, Midnight found a name.

Wainwright. Simon Wainwright. Thirty-five. Unmarried. Deemed unfit for military service due to an undisclosed mental ailment. Suspected occultist. Recently sojourned in Egypt for unknown reasons. Resident of London.

It was the occultist bit that worried Midnight the most. The crimson scarab had belonged to the court magician Djoser during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. For a time, Djoser had been the pharaoh’s favorite—a master architect who designed majestic pyramids, while also being a noted reader of fortunes and maker of potions. However, near the end of Amenhotep III’s reign, Djoser was banished from the court, tried, and executed for undisclosed crimes. The Egyptologist at the British Museum had rambled on about Djoser’s suspected collaborations with Amenhotep IV, later rechristened as Akhenaten. The Egyptologist argued that it was Djoser, not the later pharaoh, who composed the first paeans to the singularity of the sun god Aten. These suppositions mattered less to Midnight than the myths about Djoser’s crimson scarab.

The legends said that Djoser imbued the jewel with all his forbidden knowledge prior to his execution. Chief among these powers was the ability to raise the dead. Thus, whoever wields the crimson scarab has the power to make the dead walk. Midnight made the logical deduction that Wainwright was interested in using the stolen jewel for necromancy. That is why, on a cold and rainy night in February 1928, Midnight shivered and shook but stood watch outside of Wainwright’s apartment. After hours of seeing and hearing nothing, Midnight decided on a small diversion. He called over one of the roving paper boys and purchased a copy of the Daily Mail.

With his shoulder relaxing on a brick wall wet with rain, Midnight read article after article about a murderer dubbed, “The Python.” The florid writers for the Daily Mail used every adjective to describe the killer. He was a rogue, a demon straight from Hell’s gutters, and a cutthroat pirate of the streets. Except he did not cut throats. Rather, the Python killed his victims by strangling them. So far, all the victims had been “working women” or “ladies of the night,” an unsubtle euphemism for prostitutes. Was a new Saucy Jack on the loose in London? The Daily Mail seemed to think so. As for himself, Midnight was simply happy to think about something other than a possibly evil jewel from the ancient past.

Midnight lowered the paper after reading a fourth article about the Python. He checked his wristwatch. He audibly groaned because it was well past two o’clock in the morning. He was tired, and he resented Simon Wainwright for making him so tired. He wanted the jewel thief to do something interesting, if only to keep him awake.

Then, as if on cue, Midnight saw the little man exit his flat and walk out into the early morning world. Wainwright wore his coat collars up and his hat low. It was an amateur’s idea of a disguise. Midnight saw through it. He followed the small man from a distance.

The pair traveled down the social ladder by covering a sum total of ten or twelve city blocks. Wainwright lived on the periphery between decent, middle-class London and the abject misery of proletarian London. No, that was not quite right, Midnight realized. The people that Midnight and Wainwright met the moment they stepped foot in Villiers Street were not honest workers. They were not the sullen, cynical, but honest workingmen with red-and-brown hands. Rather, the denizens of Villiers Street were underworld types—hawkers, skimmers, flim-flam artists selling sin of every variety. Music halls and pubs decorated both sides of the street. Midnight found flesh for sale beneath streetlights and in shop windows. It was an ugly scene. And judging by his movements, Wainwright was familiar with the street’s delights.

The occultist entered a nondescript shop tucked half-way between an alley and the main street proper. Midnight waited a minute before following his man in. The shop’s interior had a heavy smell of incense and lavender. Paper lanterns decorated with Chinese characters provided the only illumination. No bell or alarm rang to announce an entrance, and yet the proprietor, a greasy man with a Mediterranean-type face who spoke perfect Cockney, said something about a “Limehouse special.” Midnight flashed his identification papers. Thanks to the Society of Gentlemen Geographers, Midnight enjoyed protection in the form of a forged ID proclaiming his membership as an agent of Military Intelligence. The special agent’s cover story was that he was a Canadian looking for a deserter from His Majesty’s Permanent Active Militia. Most never cared to ask about Midnight’s business; the simple shield of authority frightened them into silence. The brothel owner was no different.

The shop proved squat, but deceptively long, as a series of rooms continued far down the alley side. None had windows, which catered to the clientele’s preference for privacy. Midnight checked as many rooms as he could. He saw things that he did not want to see. Most importantly, he did not see Wainwright. He heard him. Wainwright’s voice commingled with a crash, a series of thuds, and a shouting female. Midnight galloped to the room and found an unusual scene.

In a darkened corner stood Wainwright. His trousers were halfway down his thighs. One of his hands clutched the hem of his underwear. The other was hidden in shadow. In an opposite corner stood a prostitute armed with a cudgel. The prostitute threatened Wainwright with a hiding while also barking sentences of a distinctly legal character. It took Midnight a few seconds to fully realize what the armed prostitute was saying. She was not a prostitute at all, but rather an undercover officer.

“Stop what you are doing. You are under arrest. You will now come along with me like a good man.”

Wainwright did not move. His eyes had the look of a cornered tiger. Midnight had seen such looks before. He slipped his hand on the butt of his .25 automatic.

“Who the devil are you?” The undercover officer saw Midnight for the first time. In the seconds that she took her eyes off of Wainwright, the occultist reached into his trousers and removed a small vial containing a clear liquid. He threw the vial on the floor, shattering the glass into razor-sharp fragments. The liquid turned into a gas—a nauseous vapor that immediately caused the undercover officer and Midnight to gag. Heavy dollops of snot mixed with tears on both of their faces. Wainwright had used a type of low-intensity tear gas to temporarily blind his pursuers. Midnight made chase as soon as he saw Wainwright flee the room.

Midnight kept up with Wainwright despite the burning in his lungs. The jewel thief crisscrossed Villiers Street and headed for Charing Cross. His objective was the railway station. Midnight gained on the suspect until he felt a sharp blow to his shoulder. He stopped and twisted at the waist. He found the undercover policewoman starring angrily at him.

“How dare you interfere with a police matter. You are under arrest!” She raised her cudgel again. Midnight flashed his .25 to keep her hand at bay. He then showed her his credentials.

“You and I are both after Wainwright. I almost had him until this unfortunate pause,” he said.

“Sorry, but this is a Metropolitan Police matter,” she said.

“As well as the Crown’s concern,” Midnight shot back. He ordered the policewoman to follow him to Charing Cross. She obliged but with a sharp note of bitterness. The pair reached the crowded station at 3:03 a.m. Despite the hour, multiple trains arrived and departed. Wainwright had already slipped into one of them, Midnight knew.

“Which train is the next to leave?” Midnight asked one of the uniformed workers. The man replied that it was the train to Gravesend in Kent. Midnight asked for two tickets, but the worker gave him a sad look. The train, he said, was already leaving the station. Midnight turned and saw that this was true.

“Blast it!” The American special agent barked. “What is the quickest way to Gravesend?”

“A motorcar,” the policewoman said. “The problem is that I do not have one. Do you?”

“The Met has to have a few hanging around, right? Request one.”

“Look here,” she said with determination. “Where do you come off thinking that you can give me orders. Your accent tells me that you are not even on your home soil.”

Midnight told her a truncated version of his cover story. He said that Wainwright was wanted back in Canada for desertion.

“He is a right proper villain, then. We want him for murder.”


“Your deserter is our killer. Wainwright is the Python.”

Midnight’s mouth hung ajar. If true, then Wainwright really was a proper villain. The two found the nearest police call box outside of the station. Midnight listened as the policewoman identified herself as Special Constable Barclay. The request for a motorcar was granted. They entered the black Model T driven by a traffic officer in full dress. The driver introduced himself in a thick Aberdeen brogue as Constable MacTavish. Midnight did a precursory hello before saying “Gravesend.” The American-made car lurched with a slight hitch before racing off into the night.

“Is Wainwright really wanted in Canada?” Barclay gave Midnight a pair of suspicious eyes.

“No,” he said.

“I figured as much. Been on the Python case since the second murder. Figured Wainwright as the culprit days ago, but given a lack of evidence, I could not apprehend him. Tonight’s ruse was meant to nab him on an unrelated charge. That, and everyone knows the Python prefers prostitutes.”

Midnight nodded along.

“I have read everything about our man, from his background to his current occupation. I even know what kinds of books he likes to read from the library. I have yet to see any mention of Canada.”

“You are right. But he is wanted by the Crown all the same.”

“Wanted for what?”

It was Midnight’s turn to give Barclay suspicious eyes. “Does it matter? The only important thing is that you and I are now working together to catch him.”

“It matters to me,” Barclay snapped. “I have worked hard on this case, and I deserve the credit for its successful conclusion.” Midnight was taken aback by Barclay’s aggression.

“I know you lot,” she continued. “You will get all the glory if you can help it. Well, not this time. So, Mr. Military Intelligence, what do you want Wainwright for?”

Midnight exhaled and murmured “jewel theft.” Barclay laughed.

“Multiple murders are a tad more serious than jewel theft.”

“You do not know this jewel,” Midnight retorted. Barclay made to dress down Midnight but stopped when the driver hit a patch of bad road. The Model T bounced from side to side and almost turned on its side. Fortunately, the Scotsman kept the car afloat.

“Please improve your driving immediately,” Barclay ordered.

“Sorry, ma’am. ‘Tis not me. ‘Tis the Kentish roads.”

“Either way, I’d like to resolve this case in one piece.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The car reached Gravesend at 4:15 a.m. Daylight was still over an hour away. For a reason that he could not articulate, Midnight knew that Wainwright was deadliest at night.

“Lad, you know in your pagan heart where that demon is off to.” The voice spoke to Midnight and Midnight only. It was the voice of Reverend Blackstone, his ancestral ghost and guardian angel.

“That heathenish ring claims the power of resurrection. To make the dead walk, one must first find the dead. And where dost one find the dead, lad?”

“Churchyard,” Midnight said aloud.

“What?” Barclay shot back.

“Where is the nearest churchyard from the station? That is where Wainwright is headed.”

“There’s St. John the Evangelist, but nae think it has a churchyard,” Constable MacTavish said. “However, there be St. Mary’s. That fits the bill.”

“Take us there.”


The Model T navigated the narrow roads of Gravesend with ease. There was no traffic to speak of, so the three agents of law and order easily found the semi-desolate church and churchyard. All the nearby homes were as black as pitch. Even the delivery drivers were still asleep.

“Go to the station on Windmill Street. Tell them to be ready with a cordon. We do not want the Python escaping again,” Barclay ordered.

“Yes, ma’am.” At that, Constable MacTavish left the pair alone in the empty street. Midnight took the lead. He bypassed the church’s entrance and took a flank to circle around to the rear. There, tucked behind a large tree with overhanging branches, Midnight found the small churchyard. A tight series of compacted rows displayed ancient headstones, some of which titled to one side or the other. The markers glowed underneath the semi-full moon.

Something else glowed, too. Midnight espied a thin, but brilliant red light gleaming near a small headstone. He removed his .25 automatic from its holster and shouted for Wainwright. Upon seeing the firearm, Barclay whispered something about the gun not being “standard.” She also informed Midnight that civilized countries do not execute jewel thieves.

“What about murderers?” he shot back.

Wainwright appeared oblivious to his pursuers. Instead, he focused all his energies on the incantation that he had learned in the grimoire. His voice grew in volume and intensity until, at the pronouncement of the final sentence, he practically shouted. Barclay looked on in confusion, while Midnight steeled himself.

“We must get inside the church now!” he said.

“But our man is right there,” Barclay shot back.

“Not for long.” A low rumbling spread throughout the churchyard. The damp grass underneath their feet began to churn. Midnight grabbed Barclay by the elbow and forced her into the Anglican church. Without another word, Midnight began stacking the pews behind the door.

“That should keep them from coming in the front, but these windows cannot be secured,” he said to himself.

“What are you on about?” Barclay thundered.

“That blasted jewel! Wainwright is using it to raise the dead.”

Before Barclay could call Midnight insane, one of the church’s stained-glass windows exploded. Multiple sets of hands began groping their way across the shards. Despite moving freely across the sharp glass, no blood poured from the hands or arms. The dead do not bleed.

Standing like a colonial officer at a besieged fort, Midnight used one of the remaining pews as a perch. He began firing down into the reanimated corpses. He saw skeletal remains with minimal flesh clinging to their bones reaching out for him. He saw the recently dead with charred eyes lusting after his blood. Midnight shot each in turn, making sure to aim for their hearts and brains. Anything to send them back to the grave. Midnight fired and fired. The small pistol burned in his hand. He saw clouds of dust explode from beige skulls. He watched as worms and maggots fled from collapsing shapes after .25 rounds pierced through their burial suits. Midnight felt possessed as he took stock of each kill, or rather re-kill.

When he inserted his second and final magazine, he noticed that some of the dead had given up their attack on the church. These walking corpses made for the surrounding houses. Midnight’s heart sank. He knew what had to be done, but he did not like it.

“I have to go back out there,” he said. Barclay said nothing in return. The police officer was in a state of complete shock. She sat and stared from the church floor. Midnight moved to rouse her, but stopped himself when he recognized the futility of such an action.

“Can you do me a favor, Reverend?” Midnight asked his ancestral specter.

“Aye. I shall stay with the lass and keep her safe from those foul creatures,” Blackstone said. This was all the reassurance that Midnight needed. He used the broken window to exit the church and leap into uncertainty.

He found the churchyard uncomfortably quiet. Yet everywhere he looked were signs of Wainwright’s evil. Disturbed earth and overturned headstones indicated the extent to which the crimson scarab had accomplished its goal. Time was against him, yet Midnight raced headlong into the surrounding neighborhoods in search of both Wainwright and his dead soldiers. His only means of defense was the small .25 and its six bullets.

On Wrotham Road, Midnight found a pair of shambling corpses—one male and female. Both were pungent with decomposition. Midnight took aim at their brains. He dispatched both with two shots.

Four bullets left.

Continuing down Wrotham Road, Midnight began seeing signs that Gravesend’s residents were waking up. Gunfire was uncommon in sleepy Kent, so every resident Midnight saw on the streets gave him a look of excitement.

“What’s the meaning of this?”

“Are you mad?”

“The police are on their way.”

Midnight did not have time to answer all their questions. He kept moving forward until three working men blocked his path.

“Alright now. We are taking you to the bobbies,” one of the men said. Midnight leveled his gun at him. When this did not produce the desired effect, Midnight raised the pistol and fired a warning shot.

Three bullets left.

“Interfering with me means interfering with a special operation ordered by His Majesty. Stand aside.” The men made a path for Midnight. Now free, the American special agent began searching through every yard and house along Wrotham Road. All was quiet. Then, upon reaching the point where Wrotham Road met New House Lane, Midnight saw his query.

Behind a low brick wall topped with dark shrubbery, Midnight saw a single-story house. The home was white and red with a mixed plaster and brick exterior. One top was a tiled roof that had seen better days. In any other situation, the house would have been forgettable. However, on that night, Midnight saw and heard the anguished cries of the home’s residents. Their tormentors were a pair of semi-mummified corpses dressed in black evening wear. One corpse had the woman of the house by the throat, while the other corpse tried to tear off the flesh from the cheek of her husband. Midnight shot the strangler corpse through the eye. For the second corpse, he got up close and fired while pressing the pistol’s barrel to its temple.

One bullet left.

The woman collapsed to the floor and began sobbing uncontrollably. She asked Midnight several incoherent questions. Only one proved important.

“Why is that man in our house?” she wailed. “Why did he bring those…those things…here?”

“Wainwright,” Midnight said aloud. “Where is he?”

“He went into the back. My God; my baby!”

Midnight raced ahead of the woman. He did not want her, nor her trailing husband, to find Wainwright first. In a backroom towards the right-rear of the home, Midnight saw Wainwright’s backside as he jumped through a small window. Midnight aimed but did not take the shot. He looked around the room and saw, to his horror, the corpse of a little girl sprawled out on an unmade bed. The red hue on her throat, and the small traces of blood seeping from her eyes and mouth, indicated that the Python had strangled another victim. Midnight left the room the moment when the mother saw what was left of her child and began to scream.

The sun crept above the horizon as Midnight left New House Lane for Woodlands Park. He knew that Wainwright hid somewhere in the treeless sea of green, but the shadows kept the occultist secret long enough for him to strike Midnight from the rear. The special agent felt one of Wainwright’s fists connect with the back of his head. The rabbit punch temporarily stunned Midnight but did not bring him down. Midnight reached out and shot Wainwright somewhere between the stomach and thigh.

No bullets left.

The man known in London as the Python grabbed his bleeding wound. Rather than scream or cry out, he began reciting Djoser’s resurrection spell—the same one that had worked in the churchyard. Midnight did not give the killer a chance to complete his incantation. His boots crashed down on Wainwright’s face. Midnight stomped and kicked until he felt Wainwright’s previously tense body go limp and his teeth separate in his mouth. The special agent bent down, and with one angry pull, removed both the crimson scarab and pieces of fabric from Wainwright’s coat.

A chaotic scene greeted Midnight when he returned to St. Mary’s. Police officers in dark blue jackets had the churchyard surrounded. A small crowd of locals hung back and looked on in complete shock. A few yelled out whenever one of the officers struck a walking corpse.

“That is me Uncle Stewart. Keep off of ‘em.”

“That won’t do,” Midnight said to one officer swinging a truncheon. “Any man have a Webley?” The special agent’s request was met promptly. Midnight took the revolver and shot the corpse of Uncle Stewart through its one remaining eye. He repeated this action until the churchyard was free of the dead. The howls of protesting locals did not bother him. Midnight instead focused on finding Barclay. He found her seated in the same position with the same catatonic stare as before. The only difference was that now she was being spoken to by fellow officers.

“She will not answer you. She has lost it,” Midnight said. He looked up towards the front of the church. Reverend Blackstone was seated in a pew with the Common Prayer Book in hand. He read from the red volume. Midnight knew his ancestor well enough to understand the signal—the mission was over, and it had casualties.

“Take her somewhere safe,” Midnight said to the officers. They did as instructed. They took the vacant-eyed Barclay by the arms and escorted her into the dawn. Birds sung to the sun, but Midnight preferred to linger longer in the damaged church.

“I think I am sick of this job,” he said. Reverend Blackstone stopped his prayers and looked at his charge.

“Ye may be, but the job is not done with you, lad.”

“I am a free man. I can walk away at any time.”

“Ye have no free will. Providence guides your hand at every moment. Ye may think you can walk away, but ye cannot. Our Lord hath given you your cross to bear.”

Midnight stared hard at Blackstone. It angered him, but he knew that the Puritan ghost was right.

“Seek in the Lord. He shall never lead ye astray.” With that, Blackstone returned to his reading. Eventually his semi-transparent shape became invisible. He returned to his home deep inside of Midnight.




That afternoon, Midnight handed the crimson scarab to the London headquarters of the Society of Gentlemen Geographers. He also handed over several slips of hotel stationery. These constituted his report.

“Hardly the official way of doing things,” Major Steptoe, a former Indian Army officer and the head of the Society’s Near East Division, said to Midnight. “Still, we owe you a debt of gratitude for recovering the crimson scarab. Shame that the operation was so…loud.”

“Could not be helped,” Midnight mumbled.

“I suppose so. Media blackout will continue for a while longer. After that, we can begin the process of isolating the loudest voices in Gravesend. Call them kooks until they shut up.”

Midnight cut Major Steptoe off.

“I would like a new assignment now, please,” he said.

“You know as well as I that our policy is to provide you with a fortnight of relaxation after every assignment. I cannot break tradition.”

“That rule is not written down,” Midnight intoned without feeling. “I would like a new assignment. It does not matter where.”

Major Steptoe leaned back in his chair and stroked his beard. He looked Midnight up and down before giving in.

“Well, there may be something in Sweden for you. It is not my division, but I can send you down the hall to see our old friend Graf von Eberling. Pray, ever heard of Count Magnus?”

And thus began a new adventure for Patrick Midnight.

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