Shrugging and giving Holmes a brief smile, I neglected to share his amusement about heavy rain and winds. As the ship clanked and soared up the side of another steep wave, I grabbed the rail next to him. We must have shot fifteen feet into the air. My stomach churned, and I groaned as the ship smashed down the other side of the wave.
“Apparently, there’s not much demand for holidays in Innsmouth,” Holmes yelled, “as we are the only passengers onboard.”
It’s no wonder, I thought. Who would willingly go to Innsmouth? The Pinkertons, American detectives who would be meeting us on the dock, had forewarned Holmes that the shanty town offered nothing but filth, foul odors, and weird people.
“What do they mean by weird people?” Holmes had asked the British official who escorted us to the Elysium.
“If I tell you, Mr. Holmes, you might refuse our assignment,” the man had responded. “When you arrive in Innsmouth, you will see for yourself what the Pinkertons mean. Just go there, and get rid of this plague that has infested our good lands. Get rid of Dagon, and get rid of this Cthulhu monster… whatever they are and wherever they come from.”
The Dagonite gang in London worshiped Cthulhu, a gigantic creature that had been spotted lurking in the waters near Innsmouth. I prayed we reached shore before it rose from the depths and killed us. I didn’t want to see Cthulhu, didn’t want to confront Cthulhu, yet Holmes and I had no choice. Nobody else would handle this case but Holmes. As for me, I had no clue how we would outwit Dagon, much less Cthulhu.
The waves pounded us a few more times, then subsided into ten-foot rolls that hit us with less frequency. The wind eased.
“The only good thing about the waves and the wind,” I commented drily, “is that they carry off the stench of our cargo.”
“Fish and fish bait,” he said. “If we don’t eat or smell fish again for another year, Watson, I won’t miss it.”
Thankfully, the ship’s cargo also included Killer Eshockers built in London. We might need them, along with the electrified torpedoes that killed the monsters and sealed the dimensional rifts.
“I do wish we had Willie Jacobs with us,” I said. “His expertise would come in handy. After all, he helped us build the first Killer Eshockers.”
“Indeed. It was a sorry day when Jacobs died in the equipment room while we took down those Thames creatures. A true loss to the world. He was a good man.”
“The best,” I said.
Jacobs had been our first client in this case against creatures from an unknown place and time. With his father, Theodore, and funded by Professor Henry Fitzgerald, Willie Jacobs had built a tram machine that used Dagonite arithmetic and design to produce gold—but the machine had brought forth terrible creatures from another dimension, and so had cost Theodore his life. Willie Jacobs had first come to Holmes after the police accused him of the murder. And even after we had cleared his name, and Holmes’s chemical knowledge had reduced the machine to what he termed “a simmer,” poor Willie had seen the nightmarish creatures everywhere he went. Committed to an asylum, he had been forced to build Eshockers by the dreadful Dr. Sinclair—but his knowledge had proved invaluable in building the Killer Eshocker and freeing London of the creatures. He had given his life to end the suffering of others.
How many more would die? I wondered.
“Holmes, we must close this case. We must get justice for Willie and his father,” I said.
“And don’t forget Moriarty, Dr. Watson. We must stop him. Once he found out the tram machine produced gold beyond his wildest dreams, he became a man obsessed—we saw how that turned out. Now he lives only to control the immense powers of these monsters. If ever a man wanted to control the world, it is Professor James Moriarty.”
Riches and power, greed and egomania. What drove a man like Moriarty, with his vast intelligence, to go down the evil path? Holmes’s path had been the opposite. He’d turned his intelligence to solving mysteries and crimes; in all the years I’d known him, Holmes had displayed no interest in riches and power. Certainly, he knew he was smarter than the rest of us, but egomaniacal? No.
A ridge of craggy rocks jutted half a mile offshore, and as it came into view, the waves eased into choppiness; and relief washed over me. The ship would not split down the center as the Belle Crown had done; Mary and Samuel would not drown in the ocean. My stomach still churned, and dizzy, I leaned over the rail.
“Steady, old man,” Holmes said, then pointed at our destination. “We’ll board the ship’s smaller boat to take us past Devil Reef and into port. The ship will drop anchor here.”
Down below, the crew ground the ship to a halt, and we lurched a final time. I squinted at Devil Reef. Swirling around the rocks was an oddly hued fog—or was it foam?—that sizzled, bubbled, and disappeared, only to form spheres and boxes and complex shapes of many sides and angles. The shapes whirled and coalesced into tendrils, and what I swore looked like eyes, mouths, teeth, claws, suckers, and tubules.
“What is this?” I whispered harshly.
“John?” A soft voice.
I turned from the rail. It was Mary. She clutched her skirts with one hand, Samuel with the other. Climbing the stairs from the lower bunk behind Mary, Fortuna carried a Moses basket and a bag.
“Don’t let anything frighten you,” I told them.
Mary laughed. “Whatever do you mean?”
From below, two crewmen emerged with our luggage. We’d brought little with us to Innsmouth. Hopefully, our stay would be brief.
Suddenly, Mary cringed and shielded Samuel’s eyes with his blanket. She pointed at Devil Reef, as a large translucent orb bubbled up from the rocks, burst, and sprayed hundreds of creatures into the wind.