The reading room looked exactly the way Jericho expected it to. Rich wood paneling on the walls, area Turkish rugs, and high backed leather wingchairs gave the room a plush and ancient feel. Considering the Warburg Institute’s mandate to preserve cultural history, the room seemed fitting. Ezekiel Garrott, however, looked nothing like how Jericho imagined an English professor of alchemy and occult literature. Ezekiel was a hair over five and half feet tall, thin as a reed, and very, very young. He wore an Iron Maiden t-shirt, artfully torn dark blue jeans, and black Chuck Taylors. His hair fell in a tangled mat over his plastic-rimmed glasses, and his cheeks sported a week's worth of the patchy fuzz of youth trying to masquerade as a five o’clock shadow.
“Hullo, Jericho, how’ve you been mate?” Ezekiel was all smiles and elbows as he offered a firm grip.
“Hi, Zeke. I hear your boys handled Milwall pretty well.”
Ezekiel grinned. “And looks like we’ll avoid relegation by a margin as well. Never count out the Hammers!”
Ezekiel gestured to the rich leather chairs, and the two sat, as Jericho fumbled with his messenger bag. There was a spindly end table sandwiched between the chairs, but it wasn’t large enough for anything larger than a cup of coffee, so Jericho squatted down and began laying his research out on the floor.
“So here’s the diary I was telling you about; I’ll get back to that. I’ve got some of the tarot cards here that I bought online. And here are some articles on the history of the Thoth. Oh, and I’ve the book of Thoth in my bag.”
Jericho handed the diary to Ezekiel and then pulled out a tablet. “I’ve got the relevant pages marked with sticky notes. The journal is a bit eclectic, but a lot of it has to do with Crowley’s interaction with Frieda Harris in the production of the Thoth tarot.”
Ezekiel turned the journal over in his hands. It was old and worn caramel leather, closed with an elastic band. One corner was folded over, and several nicks and pits marred the edges. There was the distinct ring of a coffee cup on the back cover. It seemed a remarkably unassuming thing to belong to one of the most egoistic showmen of his age. “What have you learned so far?” Ezekiel asked as he thumbed the elastic off the book and cracked it open.
Jericho tapped his tablet awake and opened a file, scrolling down a few times before finding what he was looking for. “Well, he begins somewhat early talking about delays and repaints. Apparently he was a real stickler for detail. Lady Harris was working with watercolors which he mentions are a terrible medium for any kind of corrections. Oh, there are a few loose letters in the journal. One of them is a fragment in which the lady seems to be chastising Crowley for using her as his personal bank. The first half of the letter is missing. The others are all about painting design – she seemed pretty fed up with Crowley’s meticulousness. Ok, here we go. About a third of the way into the book he says, and I quote, ‘I fear this may be getting too dangerous.’ I marked that one with the red sticky. Included in that page is a letter fragment from Lady Harris. It reads in part, ‘I have done the 10 of Swords & promptly Russia takes up arms. Where are we going! You haven't sent me the notes on the Fool.’ The next few months of writing all have an interesting fascination with correlating Lady Harris’s completed paintings with world historical events. It’s funny too, because there is about a two week lag between major events and when Crowley learns of them.”
Ezekiel had the diary open and was silently mouthing words as he read. He looked up with a bright look in his eye. “Well I can’t say for sure, but this looks authentic. Crowley had a fairly unique writing style, and this sounds very much like it. It may be a very clever forgery, however. I don’t suppose you’d be interested in donating this to the Institute?”
Jericho frowned. “It’s not mine to give. I might sell it to you though.”
Ezekiel laughed. “We don’t deal in stolen goods. What else can you tell me?”
“Well, about half way through Crowley mentions that the paintings are completed. Interestingly, the entry is dated 1940.”
Ezekiel raised an eyebrow. “The paintings weren’t completed until 1943.”
“Well,” Jericho responded. “This is where things get interesting. Shortly thereafter, Crowley talks about a reading with the paintings. I marked that one with the blue sticky. This was set up as a séance and used lots to determine which paintings would be used. I guess it would be difficult to shuffle and deal a bunch of canvasses. The reading appeared to involve eleven paintings, which I thought was funny because I thought most readings used only three cards. Anyway, Crowley describes the results as “disastrous”, but doesn’t elaborate. Shortly after that he begins talking about altering the deck. Near the end of the diary he says that he has been humbled by his experience and determines that – and I quote – ‘The key must be hidden away.’ That is about all I got out of the journal. The final entry is dated 1941.”
Ezekiel stroked his chin fuzz and then pushed his glasses up his nose with a boney middle finger. “Interesting. And you are looking for this ‘key’?”
Jericho nodded. “Well, my client is. I’m not sure if it really exists or what. I was hoping you could help me figure out if this diary is authentic, and if so, maybe what Crowley was talking about.”
Ezekiel grinned. “Well this is exciting! I don’t get to do many treasure hunts. I suggest you proceed as if the journal is authentic; it may take me some time to verify that, but it can’t hurt to get started in the meanwhile.”
Ezekiel straightened out his left leg so that he could wriggle his hand into a pocket. It took quite a bit of effort. He finally removed his hand, triumphantly clutching a stick of Peppersmith chewing gum. He unwrapped it slowly and put it in his mouth, breaking it into several pieces in the process. He leaned back in his chair chewing for a few minutes, a look of satisfaction on his face. “So let me fill you in a bit on Crowley and his writing style.”