"Just one more thing before you go, Jake." Archie Goodwin said, after
given the report he'd requested. "You've been nominated for membership in the
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Jake Bradley and I have an appointment."
"Oh yes, the gentlemen from the Cobalt Club told me of your arrival.
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
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.
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
and the impression was only strengthened as he said hello.
Willy Armitage had aged well and looked as like he was still ready for
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
books 49 and 103 they were calling themselves THRUSH."
"Also known as Krafthaus and the Circle of Life. That cell was originally
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."
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
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"
"They are responsible for forging a number of manuscripts including those
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
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
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
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.
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
And they all welcomed me
The text and design of this
page are © 2001 Brad
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