The Interview
by Brad Mengel

                 "Just one more thing before you go, Jake."  Archie Goodwin said, after I`d
                 given the report he'd requested.  "You've been nominated for membership in the
                 Cobalt Club."

                 "Really?" I stammered out, refusing to believe that he could be serious.

                 "Yeah, Wolfe nominated you at the annual banquet at Rustermans last week."

                 "Mr Wolfe's a member?" I asked, the phone pressed against my ear.

                 "Both of us have been members for years."

                 "Really?" I said for the second time in this conversation, which made me feel
                 real good.

                 "Yes, don't worry you'll be fine and you will be able to get through the

                 "Interview?" I interrupted.

                 "Just a few questions to see if you have the right qualifications, which you
                 do.  Now the car will come a pick you up at 10 am tomorrow and take you to the
                 Brisbane affiliate, The Gateway Club.  Good luck. Talk to you later."

                 "Thanks Archie. Catch you later.'

                 I met Archie five years ago, when I was first starting out as a private
                 detective, at a Private Detective's conference.  Since then I'd investigated
                 the Australian aspects of about 20 cases for Archie's boss, Nero Wolfe.
                 Obviously, I'd done well to be considered for membership in an exclusive club
                 like the Cobalt, not that you could tell from Mr Wolfe's grunted satisfactory
                 at the end of most assignments.

                 Although I'd stayed up late to make the call I was too excited to go to sleep
                 and at 1 a.m. way too early to tell anyone my good news. So I decided to see
                 what I could get from my files on the Cobalt and Gateway Clubs

                 The Cobalt Club file provided some interesting reading.   The Cobalt Club was
                 founded in 1900 and boasted some of the finest of New York society in its
                 membership.  The club was built on two levels, the lower was a nightclub were
                 New York's elite wined, dined and danced the night away.  Reportedly during
                 prohibition it was one of the wildest speakeasies and reported to have been
                 very rarely raided.

                 The upper level was an exclusive gentlemen's club.  This gentlemen's club was
                 noted for it's philanthropic works. Although men like Jimmie Dale had been
                 members prior, the club reached it's peak in the 1930's when it boasted
                 membership of men like Britt Reid, Richard Wentworth, Lamont Cranston and Clark
                 Savage Jnr.  It went into a slump after World War Two but with the old guard
                 remaining and an infusion of new blood in the last forty years the club thrives
                 today.   These new members include men like Derek Flint, Prince Zarkon, Jake
                 Speed, Buckaroo Banzai and Egon Spengler.

                 Their philanthropic work includes education programs, community medical clinics
                 as well as giving some funding to groups like the Foundation for Law and
                 Government, the Phoenix Foundation, Banzai Institute, the Small Talk Institute
                 For Apocalyptic Investigations and the Maximum Observation and/or Nullification
                 of Supernatural Terrors, Autonomous Agents Headquarters (MONSTAAH).  There is
                 even an odd theory put forward that the Cobalt Club was responsible for a
                 Section 0 of the United Nations Charter which allows for a special team to be
                 established to investigate phenomenon around the world, at least that's what
                 "Conspiracy Theory" and "The Lone Gunmen" newspapers claim.

                 I rubbed my eyes and went out to the kitchen and poured myself a drink of Pepsi
                 in a coffee mug and returned to the office.  After reading the thinner file for
                 the Gateway Club I would crash for a few hours sleep before being picked up for
                 the interview.

                 The Gateway Club was founded in 1880 and is one of the few remaining
                 Gentlemen's clubs in Australia, reportedly it is a brother club to the Diogenes
                 Club in Britain.  Supposedly, Sherlock Holmes visited there when he visited
                 Australia in 1888.  Henry Arthur Milton, The Ringer, hid there for two weeks
                 whilst on the run from the law. There was considerable scandal when, in 1930,
                 they allowed Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte to join.  It didn't matter
                 that he was a decorated officer of the law and university educated, the only
                 thing people noticed was that he was Aboriginal. The board stood firm and
                 Bonaparte remained a member.  About ten years ago another scandal was caused
                 when young female intelligence operative, Sydney Savage, was allowed to join.
                 It appears that the club thought she was a male and let her join.  Miss Savage
                 reportedly thought it was a great joke and enjoys the distinction of being the
                 only female member.

                 With a chuckle I went to my bedroom and set the alarm for 8.30 a.m.

                 I awoke two hours before that however when my housemate, Paul Sanzer, turned
                 the cartoons up full bore whilst getting ready for Uni.  Realising I would not
                 be able to return to sleep with his noise I got up and decided to do my morning

                 At the same conference that I meet Archie Goodwin, I also met Kinsey Milhone
                 and Spenser and they put me onto jogging.  As I pounded the pavement I wondered
                 what I would be asked for this interview and decided on what clothes to wear. I
                 decided on the tan pants, light blue shirt and dark blue blazer with a tie.

                 I returned home to a silent house and showered, shaved and got ready.  I tried
                 to relax and read a book or watch a video but I couldn't relax or concentrate
                 enough to enjoy anything.

                 Finally, just as the hands of the clock rolled around to 10, a car turned into
                 my driveway to collect me.  I'm not sure what I expected but certainly not what
                 did arrive in my driveway.  It was a bright red Hummer; the vanity plates read
                 HARV2.  The driver popped his head out the window his wavy, dusty blonde hair
                 blowing in the breeze.

                 "Jake Bradley?" He asked. I nodded.  "Jake Speed" he introduced himself.

                 I climbed into the passenger seat. "Pleased to meet you" I said.
                 "Good to meet you too." He said as he roared out of my driveway nearly wiping
                 out the wheelie bin.

                 We talked about many and varied things on the way to the Gateway Club when I
                 asked Speed when he joined the Cobalt Club he merely replied that it was
                 between volumes 4 and 5. Odd fellow.

                 Speed dropped me at the front of the club.  It was a good sized building built
                 in what is now known as the federation style.  I surveyed the club, seven
                 stairs lead up to the front door.  The reason the door was raised like that was
                 to accommodate the wine cellar which I believe holds one of the finest
                 selection of Australian wines or at least that's what the wine editor of the
                 Brisbane Mail wrote.

                 The Rosewood front door contained a lead-light panel of a world map.  A brass
                 plate beside the door read "The Gateway Club" and "please ring".  So I pressed
                 the button next to the sign and stood back and waited. I'd barely started to
                 look at the doormat when the door opened.  A tall man dressed in a tuxedo
                 pulled open the door.  His keen brown eyes looked me over through his trifocals
                 I was certainly glad I decided to wear a tie.

                 "May I help you?" He enquired.

                 I hadn't expected a butler but on reflection it made sense "yes, my name is
                 Jake Bradley and I have an appointment."

                 "Oh yes, the gentlemen from the Cobalt Club told me of your arrival.  Please
                 follow me to the Library."  He then led me to a room the likes of which I'd
                 only dreamed of. I'd been in  public libraries that had been smaller. For two
                 levels there were wall to ceiling mahogany bookcases that were full of books.
                 In the middle of the 10 by 5 metre room was a large board table with nine
                 people seated around it.

                 My eyes were immediately drawn to the bronze giant who rose as the butler led
                 me into the room.  I`d read about him of course but the descriptions didn`t do
                 him justice.  At 5ft 10 I`m not the tallest person but he towered over me
                 perhaps more than just in terms of height and I sensed the raw power of the

                 "Good Morning, Mr Bradley. My name is Clark Savage." And he shook my hand. He
                 introduced me to the others at the table.

                 At the left end of the table sat David Vincent Jnr, who bore a remarkable
                 resemblance to the pictures of his father I'd seen. He perched on the edge of
                 his chair as if he was ready to run at a second's notice.

                 Next was a Texan who was only identified as M. N., he seemed  a two-fisted
                 manly man, a brawler, who bestrides the mighty world like a colossus. His grip
                 nearly crushed my hand.

                 Beside him sat Ellery Queen, his silver eyes peered at me through his pince
                 nez. I noticed the walking stick leaning against the chair.
                 Jake Speed sat there smiling at me as I shook his hand.  I had a feeling he'd
                 told them about our ride here and I wasn't sure how to take that.

                 The middle chair was vacant but Doc Savage would take his place there

                 I had barely noted the short grey haired man as I walked into the room.
                 "Pleased to meet ya'll" he drawl as I shook the hand of the youngest man to
                 make Captain in the Texas Rangers, Alvin Fog.

                 Beside him sat Philip Marlowe, I was immediately put in mind of Robert Mitchum
                 and the impression was only strengthened as he said hello.

                 Willy Armitage had aged well and looked as like he was still ready for active
                 duty despite the rumours of his retirement I'd heard.

                 Bruce Wayne Jnr, his reddish coloured hair immaculate along with his suit,
                 rounded off the panel of nine.

                 After the introductions I was seated on a comfortable leather chair.

                 Doc started the interview whilst Queen took notes. "It has come to our
                 attention that you have supplied information to a Brad Mengel on several

                 "That would be correct." I replied, hoping the nervousness I felt in such
                 company wouldn't show in my voice.

                 "Could you outline some of this information for us please"?

                 "I did some genealogical research into the Holmes, Raffles, Land, Drummond and
                 Blake families; I also verified several meetings between various individuals
                 including Mr Fog there.  Brad also asked me to examine the source of two
                 mysterious piles of files that appeared on his doorstep.  I have tracked one to
                 Blue Cove, Delaware and am currently working on the source of the other one."

                  David Vincent cleared his throat.  He opened a file that I now noticed lay in
                 front of all nine members.  "Did you honestly believe that Doc Savage was
                 indeed Doc Caliban?"

                 "Well Mr Vincent, I believe there was evidence to support that claim which Brad
                 used in his article to good effect.  I understand that you supplied Dennis
                 Power with an alternate version of those events. Perhaps Mr Savage would care
                 to clear up the matter?"

                 Savage remained quiet and Ellery Queen broke the silence with a quick comment
                 "As I said to Hammett once I believe that this neither the venue nor the forum
                 for such matters and we should go onto the next enquiry. "

                 The nine of them grilled me on various aspects of the work I'd done for my
                 friend for an hour. They asked about the nature of my cases and seemed pleased
                 when I told them that I investigated cases that involved extortion, kidnapping,
                 and missing people.  To be completely honest I was so nervous I could barely
                 remember most of the questions they asked me.

                 Finally we broke for lunch which we ate in the dining room with other club
                 members.  The other nine did not mix and neither did I.  I was asked to wait in
                 the bar whilst the nine of them conferred.  I sat at the bar so nervous I
                 didn't even touch my orange juice.  It had warmed to room temperature when
                 Bruce Wayne Jnr tapped me on the shoulder.  I was so startled that I spilt my
                 drink on the bar, I hadn't heard him coming.

                 "Sorry about that," he said, "We're ready for you."

                 We returned to the library and after taking our seats, Doc Savage addressed me.
                 "As you are no doubt aware the Cobalt Club is a philanthropic organization, we
                 donate to various charities. If you as good as we think you are, you are also
                 aware that we also have strong connections with other groups such as the
                 Diongenes Club, the Westerfield Club and the Baltimore Gun Club.  Together we
                 form one of the broadest intelligence gathering agencies in the world."

                 "I still object to him knowing this without clearance." Armitage put in.

                 "Your objection has been noted in the Minutes and discussed. " said Queen.

                 Savage continued, "But we also have another function."

                 I have to confess I was intrigued by this last exchange. Was Armitage objecting
                 to the revelation of the intelligence connections, or was he objecting to this
                 new revelation?

                 "We are the brokers of information and misinformation about the Wold Newton
                 extended Family. " Savage paused for effect.

                 "All of it?" I enquired.

                 "Not quite all of it."  said Marlowe.  "There are of course independents like
                 yourself, who put out fairly accurate information, but there is a rival group
                 known by many names that also puts out its own information."

                 "Mean as cut snakes are those boys," drawled M. N. "My last run in with them
                 nearly killed me. Thanks heavens the kid put out that I had died or as sure as
                 sin's for sale in cow town they'd still be after me."

                 "Who?" I asked.

                 "Well," started Jake Speed, "we call them the Order when I encountered them in
                 books 49 and 103 they were calling themselves THRUSH."

                 "Also known as Krafthaus and the Circle of Life.  That cell was originally a
                 secret organization within the British Secret Service.  Another cell had
                 infiltrated the IMF, one member posed as Jim Phelps whilst another, Sean
                 Ambrose, only revealed himself by stealing the virus known as Chimera."
                 Armitage added.

                 David Vincent Jnr continued, "My father discovered that several cells are
                 working with various groups of aliens and otherworldly beings to dominate the
                 world.  There is a secret history to your world."

                 Queen added "Our operatives have uncovered European cells of the Order called
                 the Beati Paoli, Bel Demonio, and the Habits Noirs who are also known as the
                 Companions of Silence, the Brotherhood of Mercy and many other names."

                 "Lady Lara Croft recently encountered them under the name of the Illuminati"
                 Wayne supplemented.

                 "They are responsible for forging a number of manuscripts including those that
                 received publication under the titles "THE SEVEN- PERCENT SOLUTION" and "THE
                 LAST SHERLOCK HOLMES STORY" as well as a number of parodies of our members."
                 Jake Speed added.

                 Armitage took up the tale again "We also believe that they are responsible for
                 stripping the identities of a number of people who have information about them.
                  It appears to be a multinational effort "

                 "We discovered that whilst my aide Long Tom Roberts was under the control of
                 the Mind Molder, he revealed certain of my rehabilitation techniques to the
                 Order.  They used them and other techniques for that purpose.  Through a
                 traitor in the British Secret Service, codenamed Father, they were able to
                 steal designs for where we hold agents of the Order."  Savage said.

                 I knew a lot of this from my research but to have it laid out in one monstrous
                 conspiracy was almost too much to cope with.  Aliens, secret societies, enemy
                 agents, individually they stretched credibility but to have them all together
                 in one large and plausible narrative, well, it was almost impossible to

                 "We realise that this a large quantity of information to absorb but we would
                 like you to join us.  All you would have to do is continue feeding Mr Mengel
                 information much as David Vincent does to Mr Power or M. N. did to Mr Nevins
                 and on occasion we may ask you to participate in operations against the Order.
                 You will have full member status here at the Gateway club and will have access
                 to any other affiliate clubs around the world." Savage continued.

                 I sat there contemplating.  These men were men I admired and respected.  The
                 Order seemed bent on imposing their will onto the world.  What was that saying?
                  "Evil flourishes when good men do nothing."  I am a good man and I could not
                 do nothing.

                 "I'm in"

                 And they all welcomed me


The text and design of this page are  © 2001  Brad Mengel

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