The Coldfall Sanction
Reporter for Kane Syndicate News
Elisa Louise Bishop was born September 12, 1893 into the very respectable New England family of the Bishops, one of the initial Puritan families founding the planation of Pequonnocke, which was to eventually become Stratford, Connecticut. By the time of her birth, the Bishop family had already suffered severe setbacks, beginning with the tragic deaths of the three Bishop Brothers at Shiloh – a tragedy from which it was said Whipple Bishop never recovered. It was due to his general lassitude that many contribute the severe losses the Bishop Family incurred during the Long Depression of 1873-90. Although significantly depleted the family fortune was still capable of sending Elisa’s father, Matthias Bishop to Yale, where he graduated to became a leading archaeologist with a special interest in the controversial theories regarding ancient matriarchal societies of the Mediterranean Sea Basin. Her mother, Eloise Bishop nee Whitby-Snow, was a prestigious Professor of anthropology. And so by all accounts, saving perhaps those which were handled by financial Institutions in New York, the Bishop Family was a happy family.
But Tolstoy was correct in stating that each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, for Elisa it was a childhood of having one parent in her Connecticut home, while the other was far distant in some remote part of the world. Her only contact being letters that arrived with strange and beautiful stamps – to which she would retire to her room to review, to linger over every cursive loop and curve before composing lengthy replies. She longed for the happy family life of having both her parents in the large coastal home like those of all of her friends. But, this dream was never to be as the tragic fate of the Bishop Family once again intervened.
Elisa was eight when her parent’s dream expedition – one in which they would finally be able to work together – was offered by the Miskatonic University. The dream became a nightmare with the forlorn appearance of a Dr. Francis Morgan, who arrived, on a grey December afternoon, his umbrella dripping upon her veranda, to bring Elisa catastrophic news, as well as his condolences, that Matthias and Eloise had died in a dreadful motorcar accident (which she would always refer to as mysterious), while on the expedition’s dig in the desert of Rab al Khaili in Southern Arabia.
After the cold and windy funeral, Elisa and her suitcases were taken to Ipswich and the austere house of her Aunt Ellen Makepeace Whitby-Snow. A cold, pious spinster, Aunt Ellen soon found that a strong-willed, gregarious child was far too fanciful a little girl to settle into the respectable and genteel schedule of ladies socials, afternoon teas, and temperance society devotionals given by the illustrious Reverend Mister Stamps. Elisa found herself far too stifled by the prim and proper rubrics of her aunt’s New England society. And so, on more than one occasion Elisa packed up a suitcase, being certain it contained her bundle of envelopes with their beguiling stamps, along with her notebooks, and ran away for several hours before, she was returned by the Sheriff. “Miss Ellen, you’ve got yourself a spirited one there.” He would say, escorting her back into the immaculate parlor.
In 1906, Aunt Ellen suddenly decided it best that Elisa should live with Melissa Bigelow, Aunt Mel, her mother and Aunt Ellen’s younger sister. Although she had long been considered a black sheep within the family, having left her beau at the altar in order to run away with a bible salesman. Having left propriety and New England, Melissa and her lover, Mitchell Bigelow, soon to be her husband, had long ago departed for Chicago. But misfortune and some suspected malfeasance eventually sent them to the Sierra foothills and the growing mining town of Jackson, California.
When she eventually returned to Stratford, Connecticut, owing to the sudden death of her Aunt Ellen, she discovered that the woman she had only thought of as cruel and harsh had made her the sole beneficiary of the wealth of the combined Whitby-Snow and Bishop family estates. It was revealed that in 1906, when Aunt Ellen had sent her away, she had done so owing to the extraordinary obligation of having herself been named sole inheritor of her father, Elisa’s grandfather, Judge Edmond Lowell Whitby-Snow’s, vast financial holdings, the Whitby-Snow Investments LLD. Over the years she had uncannily not only developed it into Whitby-Snow International Explorations & Investments, but had systematically worked to restore the Bishop family’s wealth, which was being held in Trust until Elisa’s twenty-fifth birthday. Trying to adapt to her new surroundings and the management of her Aunt’s complex financial affairs, she was well aware she dismayed her Aunt’s social and business connections by being less than the proper Connecticut young lady they expected than a young girl far more accustomed to shirts with rolled sleeves and trousers and smoking in public. Amongst themselves they soon began to call her “Jackson,” and with a whispered nod and a wink they predicted that she too was destined to be a spinster. Especially when she allowed a recent acquaintance, Rochelle Wade, to stay with her in her aunt’s big house.
Although she had attended school in Jackson at the insistence of her Aunt Mel, Elisa had not really thought of an academic career until Rochelle discovered the bundle of envelopes and letters from her mother. Aware of the brilliance of Elisa’s mother, Rochelle began a campaign of encouragement to persuade her to seek a higher education. Aware that a Department of Journalism had recently been added to the English curriculum of the University of Pittsburgh, as part of the School of Economics, Rochelle more than familiar with Elisa’s need for her journals and notebooks, succeeded in getting her to apply – as well as to send a more than modest financial contribution in support of the creation of a Journalism Department.
With Rochelle agreeing to stay and maintain her Aunt’s home, Elisa moved to Pittsburgh and began attending the University. As many of the classes were taught by the city’s working journalists, she quickly made connections (particularly when she showed a bit of leg) and was able to obtain a position at one of the local newspapers. Driven by her mother’s inquisitiveness and her father’s ambition, she soon decided to give up her classes at the University in order to pursue the opportunity of a full-time job as a reporter on the Pittsburgh Daily Post . Only, she quickly discovered her bit of leg was an inducement for a full-time job that was strictly an assignment to the society pages. A letter from Rochelle was quick to point out the obvious—Elisa could either just purchase the newspaper or she could start one in competition – but Elisa was adamant that if she were to have a journalist career it would be based upon the resources of her talent and her wiles. Restricted as she was to ’ fashion and lifestyle ’ features, she soon began freelancing for other syndicates. Her decidedly inflammatory style, considered ’ yellow ’ by some of the more traditional reporters soon drew the attention of editors from the Kane News Syndicate, who were always on the lookout for writers with a certain flair or a proclivity for notoriety.
And so she was off to New York and a Job with the New York Daily Inquirer.
Her ambition and tenaciousness soon helped her cultivate a menagerie of informants and infiltrators within the notorious gangs of New York. Her colorful reportage of the “ Murder Stables, ” as well as a series of articles about counterfeiting – in which she used information supplied specifically by the Secret Service in order to help advance their case – she quickly became a cause célèbre, not only among the reading public, but among her editors. But as yet she had not been given her own by-line. Owing to the nature of her investigations regarding denizens of the criminal underground, the City Editor of the Inquirer felt that not only as a method of providing her some measure of protection from possible retaliation, but, and perhaps more importantly, to assure continued access and agency with the New York Police Department, as well as maintaining credibility with the Daily Inquirer readers, if she wanted the by-line she demanded, then it would be as an alias. “Something, you know,” Ephraim Bernstein said, leaning back in his chair, fingers interlocked behind his head, “With a bit of a punch. I mean, seeing as how your writing has that new ‘Pulp Magazine’ feel to it . . . they expect it to be written by someone – you know.”
Her hip perched upon his desk, she well knew, “You mean, someone more masculine.”
To which Bernstein’s hand suddenly came free from behind his head as he snapped his fingers, “I’ve got it! Jackson Elias.”
Soon Jackson Elias was above the fold and circulation increased.
In the fall of 1915, she was able to finally convince The Kane News Syndicate to allow her to travel to France so she could report on those brave American boys, who had gone to Europe in order to volunteer to help the French and British in their long fight against the Central Powers. Hands on her hips, the pencil behind her ear peering forth through her hair, having grown tired of the editors self-serving refusal to advance her request upstairs since they did not want to lose her headlines in New York, she finally decided to take her proposal straight to the publisher himself, “We’re going to end up in this war—and when we do, you’re going to want Jackson Elias reporting from the front lines.”
He did not disagree.
Supposedly restricted by the War Departments in London and Paris, she was limited to the security of conducting hospital interviews of patients, nurses, and doctors. All of which she adhered to for at least a week before she was devising plans to visit with the boys who drove for the Volunteer Ambulance Service, well aware that an exposed leg could not be ignored, or that she should refuse an offered cigarette. Soon she was slipping off on emergency runs to the front lines, where she’s seen first-hand the horrors of war.
Hearing of the disastrous plight of those fleeing Montenegro from Austria’s advances, she quickly packed a bag, grabbed her Navy Colt and her typewriter, and booked passage to Corfu.
[Note: Acknowledgement and indebtedness to “Aviatrix” for first devising the flip of Jackson Elias (Masks Of Nyarlathotep) from male to female. Ingenious.]