MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1934: In Massaua, Eritrea, the Investigators returned to the Hotel Internazionale. They left a message for ABAI, the guide they’d obtained, telling him they’d be visiting the Italian customs office. There, they met with CARLO SALVATORE, a somewhat corrupt government official and acquaintance of ELMER WICKER. (Luke’s friend/ dealer back in New York.) Dorothy and Chantelle catered to his ego and wallet. After a generous donation, he provided the Investigators with transit papers to carry them throughout Eritrea. He also answered some questions about the archaeologist BARTOLO ACUÑA, who he said was in transit to Axum (or Aksum) with a group of Italian soldiers. He confirmed that Acuña led a dig with GEORGE AYERS at the desert site of Dallol in Abyssinia, from 1924-26, and that the dig ended due to a volcanic eruption.
The Investigators reconnected with Abai, who got them passage aboard a truck headed to Axum, a quiet, ancient town, which houses the seat of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Axum is also home to an expansive field of standing stones—or stelae—along its northern edge. Most of these were erected between the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., and they range in height from 3’ to over 100’. (The longer stones have mostly fallen.) Some of the obelisks depict buildings that are 10-13 stories in height.
Abai told the Investigators they would have to bunk with people in town, but said this practice was not highly unusual. There are no hotels in Axum. As the truck arrived in Axum, the Investigators noticed a group of Italian soldiers leaving town. A few stayed behind with a disheveled civilian who turned out to be Bartolo Acuña. He agreed to be interviewed in the home of his host.
Most of the Investigators went to question him, with Tick Tock staying behind to keep an eye on some other strangers in town. Having sized them up, they appeared to be professional muscle. He approached one, who appeared to be the group’s leader. This man was large and unfriendly. He threatened Tick Tock and moved to punch him. He told him to leave town with his friends.
Meanwhile, the other Investigators found Acuña to be a drunk and a boor, but knowledgable concerning many of their questions. He is affiliated with the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, but currently woking for the Italian Cultural Ministry, removing artifacts from Ethiopia. He confirmed that the Dallol dig was cut short by a volcano in 1926. Both he and Ayers avoided the blast, as they were away negotiating with the Compagnia Mineraria Coloniale, (CMC,) an industrial concern that was hauling gear and people for them by train. After the explosion, Acuña returned to Spain, while Ayers lingered in Abyssinia before going missing. Acuña stayed in Spain, until the Civil War drove him out.
Acuña told the Investigators that the Dallol dig had been partially successful. Before the eruption, the archaeologists breached an ancient chamber belonging to an Abyssinian mystery cult, wherein a large, monstrous moth had been impressed in stone. The cult venerated a deity associated with orgiastic rituals. Acuña said he knew were to look, due to a careful reading he made of The Revelations of Glaaki. Acuña said that Ayers had met him through correspondence, after hearing of his ideas concerning the book. The Dallol dig was largely funded by Ayers’ associate RAMON ECHAVARRIA, before his death.
We left off with the Investigators still questioning Acuña.