Author: Scarlet PM
Margo Lane is contacted out of the blue by the wife of a former benefactor of her father's, claiming someone is trying to kill her...and The Shadow is the only one who can sort out the mystery of an old woman's paranoid delusions.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 11,226 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 1 - Published: 09-17-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7390709
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A Shadow Short Story By Scarlet
[ Author's Note: The characterizations in this story are based on the 1994 movie The Shadow ...KAM]
Relax. Deep, easy breathing. Press outward. Ignore the pain. Concentrate on the pressure.
Margo Lane repeated this mantra over and over as she sat in front of a candle, using the dancing flame as a way to ease her tense mind and work through her psychic growing pains. Three months after her psychic awakening, she had finally learned to do this on her own most of the time, to push outward to ease the implosive pressure of her strong receptive telepathy. Tonight, though, it seemed especially tough, and the usual mantra wasn't working quite as effectively.
Relax. Easy. Press outward. Redirect the pressure.
The implosive pull fought back against the suggestion. It felt like pushing a boulder uphill.
Relax. Easy. Press outward.
For a brief instant, there was a sudden increase in pressure, then something popped, like a balloon. The pain vanished and her mind relaxed.
Margo breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment, she'd wondered if she would be able to hold it at bay until fiance Lamont Cranston had finished his nightly activities. The Shadow had been on the trail of an arms dealer for a week now, and had finally put all the pieces together so that the police could be called in. They'd parted company four hours ago, and not long after he'd left, her headache started. She'd been trying ever since to calm it, and all the implosive energy finally gave way almost three hours after she'd begun. This was part of what made her mental development so frustrating; just when she thought she'd learned enough to handle her mind on her own, another psychic growth spurt would upset her control, and she'd end up fighting to ease an incredible burst of pain that seemed to come out of nowhere and come on with no warning. Lamont had been very reassuring during this stretch, telling her that he had been through the same things, that she was doing fine, that her mind was developing quite well and that she'd soon learn to control it enough so that actual training in receptive techniques could begin.
The one thing all the pain had done for them was draw them even closer together. For the first week after her awakening, he had not left her side, helping to ease her psychic stress 24 hours a day. It had to have been incredibly painful for him—she could sometimes feel how hard her receptive reservoir was pulling against his projective one—but he'd not complained at all, not fussed at her even once. More than once, they'd both joked that if they hadn't killed each other by the time she learned to control her telepathy, they were definitely meant to be together forever. Gradually, as the week wore on, they would venture out of the inn where they'd been staying for short stretches of time, moving among the townspeople in the very small village of Frost Valley so that she could get used to being around people and their very loud thoughts again. By the time they returned to New York City, she'd begun to redirect her own energies slightly, so that she needed less assistance to ease the pain than before. They still spent their nights together, but The Shadow had to return to helping a city which needed him badly, and so Lamont had taught her many exercises to use in strengthening her telepathic control—meditations in front of candles to generate relaxing hypnotic waves in her mind, logic puzzles to force her to focus her thoughts, relaxation mantras to remind her of the steps she needed to follow to take control of her psychic energies. Gradually, he'd left her on her own more and more frequently so that she would be forced to use her own energies to calm her own mind, and it was working; three months almost to the day after her awakening, she had worked through on her own one of the worst receptive headaches she'd ever had. That made her feel strong. It also made her feel exhausted , and she longed for him to finish up for the night so that they could relax in each other's arms.
Of course, she also longed for him to finish up for the night so that she would know he was safe. This particular arms dealer had been very troublesome—more than once, he'd come home with bruises and scrapes from tangling with a henchman or two during his investigations. It occurred to her that by saying "yes" to his marriage proposal, she'd said "yes" to living the rest of her life with these kinds of worries, but there was no way they could break up—not now, not after all they'd been through the past three months. Their love had grown and strengthened as they worked through her awakening together, and their minds had begun interacting and intertwining in a way that was so stimulating it should be classified as illegal...
A ripple of psychic energy entered her thoughts. She took a deep breath and focused on the incoming waves.
Feeling better, darling? Lamont's voice asked.
She smiled. Much, she mentally replied, then frowned. How did you know?
I tried to call earlier, but your mind was occupied with relieving your tension.
Now she looked upset. Did you need me? I didn't even hear you...
Relax. I was just calling to tell you I was all right.
She breathed a sigh of relief. It's over?
The police were cleaning up the mess when I left. Carl Fellers won't be able to arm any more criminals for a very long time.
That's wonderful. She concentrated for a moment, trying to use her energies to find the source of his projection. You're just down the street, right?
Very good. I'll be at your front door in about thirty seconds.
That made her smile broadly. I'll be waiting.
The sound of a cab pulling up to the curb alerted her to his arrival. She snuffed the candle and put it back on the mantle, then headed for the front door just as her bell rang. She opened the door and gasped. "Good grief, what happened to you?" she asked.
Lamont came inside and closed the door. "Got into a bit of a scrape with Fellers' men," he replied, dabbing at a cut on his cheek with his handkerchief. "One of them tried to cut me open like a cardboard packing crate."
"Looks like that's not all they did to you." She lightly brushed her fingers against a bruise on his temple. "Where did that come from?"
"A steel support pillar." He winced as she touched the side of his face. "It wasn't the easiest of collars."
"Do you need a doctor?"
He shook his head. "I'll be all right. It's actually a lot better than it was. A tumo and a good night's sleep should take care of it."
Now she looked frustrated. "You did try to call for help, didn't you? And I was too busy trying to ease my own pain to hear you."
He shrugged it off. "Nothing to worry about. If it had been critical, I could have forced my way in. The police were a little slow in responding, and I was going to have you put a bug in Cardona's ear to get them down there sooner. But they did eventually get there, and Fellers and his gang are going to live unhappily ever after."
She gave him a gentle hug, mindful of the pain she could hear in his thoughts that he was trying so hard to hide from her. "I hate being so unfocused. I am just worthless to you right now."
"No, you're not." He held her close. "You'll get through this. I remember this stage all too well—the knowledge that you're capable of so much more than you can actually do right now is really frustrating. But you are hardly worthless." He stroked her cheek. "Headache gone?"
She nodded. "It was a tough one, though. I couldn't believe it wouldn't give in when I started pressing against it. It seemed like it pressed back even harder every time I pushed it."
"That's actually a good sign. Means your psyche is almost fully healed. You're getting more resistant to any counter-influences, including self-generated ones. It'll be time to really start exercising your mind soon."
"If it keeps me from being so unfocused that I can't hear you calling for help, it can't start too soon."
He smiled. "I just hope I can keep up with you. You'll be running circles around me before you know it."
She gave him a playful swat. "Flatterer. Is Moe still outside?"
"I sent him home. Shirl's got the flu."
"I thought I remembered him saying that. Guess I'd better take you home."
"Only if you feel up to it."
She headed for the coat closet and fetched her coat. "It doesn't matter to me. But you'll rest more comfortably in your own bed."
He helped her on with her coat, then took her face in his hands and smiled. "Only if you're in it."
She smiled seductively. "Flatterer."
They moved to kiss.
The ringing of the phone interrupted them. Margo frowned. "Who could that be at this time of night?"
"Better find out," Lamont sighed.
Margo walked over to the hall table and picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Is this Miss Margo Lane?" the elderly woman's voice replied.
"Yes," Margo replied.
"You probably don't remember me...this is Letty Carmichael."
Margo looked blank for a second, then brightened. "Oh, Letty, of course I remember you! It's been years! How are you?"
"Not so good, dearie." She paused. "Not good at all. Someone's trying to kill me."
"My family's trying to do me in! They're all after my money...driving me crazy...trapping me here in this house..."
"Letty, calm down. I'm sure no one's trying to kill you..."
"Yes, they are! You don't understand." She started crying. "I was hoping you would. The police don't understand, either, and they don't believe me...no one believes me..."
"Easy, Letty, easy. Why did you call me? What do you want me to do?"
A pause. "I was hoping you could help me...I know you're engaged to the police commissioner's nephew, and maybe you could get him to talk to the police. You know I wouldn't lie to you, Margo...someone's trying to kill me! Please..."
She looked at Lamont, who was now standing right behind her, listening to the call.
Lamont looked thoughtful. Where does she live?
"Letty, are you still in the old family house?" Margo asked.
"Yes," Letty replied.
She looked over her shoulder. Old mansion on a little island in Great Kill Harbor.
Tell her we'll be there in the morning.
Margo nodded. "Letty, we'll come out and see you in the morning. Is that all right?"
"Oh, yes." Letty sounded relieved. "Thank you, dearie. Thank you."
"Just relax, Letty. Get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning." She hung up.
Lamont looked interested. "Who was that?"
"Letty Carmichael. Her husband ran the Carmichael Institute, where Dad did his research for years. About ten years ago, he died suddenly, and she closed out the institute because she didn't feel up to running it. Last I'd heard of her was five years ago, when she nearly died from a stroke."
"And she called you because she thought I could talk my uncle into believing that someone's trying to kill her?"
"Yes. She's probably just imagining things—strokes can do that, you know."
"Do you think she's making it up?"
Margo sighed. "Hard to say. But she sounded desperate."
"Then maybe we need to see for ourselves."
She hugged him. "You're the best."
He winced. "But I won't be if I don't get some sleep myself."
"Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you." She gathered her purse. "Let's go. I'll take you home and let you rest."
He smiled mischievously. "I'll rest better if someone's with me."
"O.K., I'll send Russell upstairs to watch you."
She barely got out of the house ahead of Lamont's playful swat on her backside.
It was hard to believe that redirection of psychic energies could make such a change, Margo decided as she lay quietly with Lamont, keeping him company through his deep meditations. Now that her mind was awakened, she could feel the intensity of the tumo being applied—the psychic energies being carefully channeled down nerves to injured spots, where blood flow would increase naturally and warmth would come to speed healing. The bruise on his temple was already gone, and the last time she'd dabbed at the cut on his cheek, the cloth had come away clean. The first time she'd been with him while he'd healed, she'd not been watching closely, and he'd fallen asleep and into fevered nightmares—the nightmares of Ying Ko that dragged her into his guilty conscience and darkest deeds. Most of the time, he didn't need anyone with him and he could keep himself awake—but she felt as if she were actually doing something to help the mission by staying with him through deep tumo summonings like this one and providing gentle stimulus to make sure he didn't get too comfortable and fall asleep before the process was done.
He slowly became more alert, then shifted position slightly. Ah, that's better. He smiled over at her. Thanks.
She snuggled gently against him. All done?
What isn't done will heal overnight. Right now, I need some sleep—I'm just exhausted.
She looked at him. Want me to leave?
In answer, he began kissing her...gently at first, then more passionately.
She smiled as he kissed down her neck. Thought you were exhausted.
Never too tired for this.
Their lips met in a hungry kiss.
After breakfast the next morning, Lamont and Margo crossed town and headed for Staten Island, then to Great Kill Harbor. A retreat within the city for the monied set, Great Kill Harbor was also home to a number of small islands and islets occupied by single homes, often disconnected entirely from shore or connected only by one-lane bridges or roads. It was down one of these one-way roads that they drove to the Carmichael estate. "Good grief, this is narrow!" Lamont commented.
"It probably was never intended for cars," Margo replied, keeping her eyes on the narrow path in front of her, trying not to steer off of it. "When my dad worked for Dr. Carmichael, we'd come out here occasionally for dinner and parties. Trying to get back to the mainland in pitch-black darkness was scary."
"I would imagine so." He looked ahead at the house. "Bet it didn't look like that back then."
She shook her head. "No, it was a lot more grand. Guess with her illness, it's fallen into disrepair."
"Not an uncommon condition these days."
They pulled up to the ramshackle garage off the side of the house, then climbed out of the car. Lamont offered Margo his arm, and the two of them headed up to the front door together. Margo rang the bell.
After a moment, an elderly woman answered the door. "Yes?" she asked.
"Is Letty Carmichael here?" Margo responded.
"Who wants to know?"
"My name is Margo Lane...my father worked for her husband years ago..."
"Oh, yes. She said you were coming. Come in." The woman stepped back from the door.
Margo and Lamont stepped inside. The woman closed the door behind them. "Sorry to be short with you," she told them. "Letty was a real handful last night. I'm her sister, Carol Davenport."
"Nice to meet you." Margo shook her hand. "This is my fiance, Lamont Cranston."
"How do you do, Miss Davenport?" Lamont replied.
"Mrs.," Carol corrected. "But left alone long ago. Letty and Prescott took care of me after my husband died. Then I took care of her after Prescott died."
"And she needs it," a man in his mid-thirties added as he came into the hallway.
"Paul," Carol said in a warning tone.
"Relax, Mom. It's not as if it's a big secret that Aunt Letty's touched in the head." He turned to Lamont and Margo. "Looks like she tricked somebody else into coming out to hear her story about us trying to kill her."
Lamont raised an eyebrow. "So this is a frequent assertion?"
"Unfortunately." He extended his right hand. "Paul Davenport."
"Lamont Cranston." The two men exchanged a handshake. "My fiancee, Margo Lane."
They shook hands. "Pleased to meet you." Paul looked up the stairs. "Yeah, the old bat just doesn't have it all together any more. She's been telling anyone who'll listen for about a week now that we're all trying to kill her. It doesn't help that she had another stroke about this time last week and nearly fell down the stairs."
"Nearly?" Margo asked.
"Our handyman caught her before she could reach the bottom," Carol commented. "Ever since, she's been screaming that she was pushed and that we're all out to get her." She shook her head. "It's sad."
"The human mind is very fragile," Lamont observed. "It doesn't take much to upset its balance and completely change its perception of reality."
"Carol?" a weak voice called from upstairs.
"Yes, Letty?" Carol called back.
"Is Miss Lane down there?"
"Hello, Letty!" Margo called back.
"Margo, honey, is that you?"
"Yes, it is!"
"Well, come up, sweetie, come up!"
"Top of the stairs, then in the back on the left," Carol said.
"Thanks." Margo and Lamont ascended the stairs.
Margo exchanged warm greetings with a frail-looking elderly woman in a grand four-poster bed. Letty just smiled with relief, looking for all the world as if she'd just been rescued. "Child, you look so grown up!" Letty laughed. "You look just like your mother."
"Thanks." Margo gestured to Lamont. "Letty, this is my fiance, Lamont Cranston."
Lamont gently shook hands with Letty. "How are you, Mrs. Carmichael?"
"Letty, please." She looked at Lamont for a long moment. "You look very familiar. Have we met?"
"I doubt it. But you might have known my father, Theodore Cranston."
" That's who you remind me of." She smiled. "We had box seats next to the Cranstons at the opera. How are they?"
Lamont gave a wistful smile. "They died not quite ten years ago."
"Oh, that's so sad." She sighed. "I lost my husband ten years ago. It must have been very hard."
"It was." He turned serious. "You were hoping I could convince my uncle to send the police here—why?"
Letty looked upset. "Because my family's trying to kill me! They keep me trapped up here, and when I try to get up, they attack me!"
"What do you mean?" Margo asked.
"Just look at these bruises!" Letty pushed up her nightgown sleeves and showed them her arms.
Margo gasped. The bruising was severe, as if she'd been struck with something. "How did you get those?"
"Last week. I could hear them plotting against me—they thought they were being so clever, but I could hear them. I got out of bed to see what was going on, and something hit me from behind! The next thing I know, Adam was holding me down in bed, and Dr. Cunningham was sedating me against my will! They think I'm crazy, but I'm the only sane one around here! Mr. Cranston, you've got to help me, please..."
"Letty, calm down," Lamont urged. "We're here to help. Who's Adam?"
"The handyman. He's Carol's husband's nephew. She hired him on when Prescott died. But he's not much of a handyman, as you can probably tell. About the only thing he's handy for lately is keeping me cooped up in here."
"And you think someone pushed you down the stairs?"
"I know they did! Please, help me..."
"Letty, sh-h," Margo urged, adjusting the covers over the older woman. "We'll take a look around and see what's going on. Then we'll know what to tell the police."
"Thank you, sweetheart." Letty clasped Margo's hand. "I knew you could help me."
"Rest easy, Letty. We'll be back up to look in on you later." Margo gestured for the door, and she and Lamont left together.
Margo tapped her temple when they were in the hall, indicating she wanted a wordless conversation. Since she couldn't project, the gesture was a signal to Lamont to open his receptive side. Well, what do you think?
I think I need to talk to this Dr. Cunningham, Lamont answered. I don't doubt that something is going on here—but how much of it is in her mind I'm not sure.
"Thanks for coming out, Dr. Cunningham," Carol said as a bearded man dressed in a fisherman's sweater and nautical clothing came into the house. "She's been just completely disoriented since last night."
"Has she been getting violent?" Cunningham asked.
"Yes. She tried to hit me with her cane when I caught her on the phone. I was too late to prevent her from calling some people to come out and see who's trying to kill her."
"And that would be us," Lamont said as he and Margo came down the staircase. "Dr. Cunningham, I presume?"
"Yes," Cunningham answered. "And you are?"
"Lamont Cranston." He shook Cunningham's hand. "My fiancee, Margo Lane."
Cunningham greeted them. "Roger Cunningham. Nice to meet you. How do you know Letty?"
"My father worked at the Carmichael Institute when I was younger," Margo replied. "I admit Letty would have been the last person I'd expect to get a call from very late at night."
Cunningham sighed. "Her memory's slipping again. Ask Letty what happened when she was a child, and she can quote you chapter and verse. Ask what she had for breakfast, and she'll struggle to tell you. Your name was probably the only one she could remember clearly last night." He shook his head. "Better see how she's doing this morning."
"Do you think she's had another stroke?" Lamont asked.
"That would be my guess. I'll know more after I look at her. Excuse me." He headed up the stairs.
Carol sighed as she watched Cunningham head up the stairs, then turned to Lamont and Margo. "Come on in the kitchen. I'll get you a cup of coffee."
"That would be nice," Lamont replied as he and Margo headed for the kitchen.
A man about Lamont's age, dressed in work coveralls and a knit cap, stood drinking some coffee. Carol looked at him sternly. "Adam, have you finished fixing up the pier yet?" she asked.
"No, Aunt Carol," Adam replied almost meekly.
"Well, it's not going to fix itself. And if we have another storm, the damage will only be worse. Go patch it up."
"Can't find boards."
"They're probably in the shed."
Adam suddenly turned pale. "Not goin' in the shed. Don't like the shed."
Carol groaned exasperatedly. "Oh, Adam. There's nothing in there to hurt you. Leave the door open so you can see the light. Now get to work."
"No...can't I do something else?"
"Adam, don't be silly. Get out there and get to work. Now ."
Adam looked sweaty and pale, but staggered outside to get to work.
Lamont looked intrigued. "Claustrophobic?" he guessed.
"You could say that," Carol replied, then turned toward the main body of the house. "Paul!" she shouted. "Go outside and make Adam get to work!"
"Sure thing," Paul called back.
Carol touched the side of the percolator, then shook her head. "It'll be a minute," she said, striking a match and lighting the stove.
"We'll wait," Lamont said calmly.
The doorbell rang. Carol looked toward it. "I hope that's the grocery delivery," she said. "The pantry's looking a bit sparse." She headed for the front door.
Lamont and Margo took a seat at the buffet table. "So odd," Margo noted. "Everybody just seems so odd here...almost crazy."
"Insanity is all in the mind of the beholder," Lamont reminded her.
"Then this must be Insanity Island."
Muffled voices filled the room. Lamont and Margo looked around. "Where is that coming from?" she asked.
Lamont cocked his ears, then headed over to the vent. "Letty's room," he realized, listening to the sounds coming from the metal box above him. "This is what she meant when she said she could hear them even when she wasn't supposed to. Apparently voices carry through the ductwork."
"So maybe she did hear them plotting against her," Margo realized.
"Or she thinks she did."
Suddenly a scream echoed through the kitchen. "Get off me!" Letty's faint voice said.
Margo gasped. "Lamont..."
"Cover for me." With that, he vanished.
Margo watched a detached shadow whisk across the floor and out of the kitchen. Be careful, she thought.
Always, he returned. Keep your ears open—this could get dangerous.
"Get off me!" Letty screamed, thrashing against Cunningham as he tried to hold her down.
"Letty, you're going to hurt yourself," Cunningham said firmly. "Stay still."
"You're just like all the others! You're trying to kill me! You're in this with them!"
"Letty, love, relax. I'm just trying to see if you've had another stroke. Carol said you got violent last night."
"And I'll get violent on you if you don't let me go!" She reached for her cane, lying on the bed next to her.
It vanished before she could get her hands on it.
"What...," she said, incredulous.
Cunningham quickly took advantage of her confusion. He grabbed the syringe he had almost finished filling, filled it the rest of the way, then jabbed the needle into her arm and depressed the plunger.
Letty slowly calmed down, then passed out.
Cunningham sighed with relief, then put his stethoscope in his ears and listened to her heartbeat, then checked her pupils.
So intent on checking Letty was Cunningham that he did not notice the medicine bottle vanish off the nightstand for a moment. Then, it reappeared.
Cunningham stopped examining Letty and looked around. There was something odd in the room. Letty's cane was back where it should have been, but the medicine bottle looked as if it had moved a couple of inches. He could have sworn he saw a shadow in the doorway. But there was nothing in the doorway, nothing in the corners, nothing period. He returned his attention to his patient.
Margo listened intently to the ducts as she paced through the kitchen, hoping Carol wouldn't come back into the kitchen before Lamont did. She'd already made an excuse that Lamont had stepped outside to get some fresh air when Carol had come in to check on the percolator. She wasn't sure what she'd say if Carol came back in again.
A kiss on the back of her neck nearly made her jump out of her skin. That had better be you, she thought, an annoyed tone in her voice.
Who else? He swirled into visibility and took a seat at the buffet table.
She joined him. What was all that up there?
Letty was resisting Dr. Cunningham. Why, I'm not sure, but she was threatening to beat him. I got her cane away before she could strike him, and he sedated her.
Probably so he could examine her. I looked at the bottle of medicine—it's just a mild sedative. If he'd been trying to kill her, he'd have pulled out something stronger.
What is going on, Lamont?
I wish I knew. The chemistry of the brain is so sensitive—it only takes a minute adjustment to completely upset its balance. Letty could be suffering from the aftereffects of too many strokes. Or someone could be trying to kill her. I think we need to talk to Cunningham when he's finished with her.
Carol came into the kitchen once more, leading the delivery man toward the pantry. " There you are," she said to Lamont. "Are you all right, Mr. Cranston? Miss Lane said you needed some air."
Lamont smiled slightly. "Yes, I did. There's something in the air here that is quite unique."
"Oh." Carol shrugged, then headed off to the pantry with the delivery man.
"I wish I knew what to tell you, Mr. Cranston," Dr. Cunningham said with a sigh. "But I can tell you that Letty is really unbalanced, mentally and physically."
"What do you mean by that?" Lamont asked.
"Well, mentally, her brain is just not functioning properly. I'm frankly surprised she's lived this long. She's had at least three strokes that I can find evidence of, though as far as I can tell she didn't have one last night. And it's impacted her physical ability as well. She can't walk and has no balance. She had a stroke and fell down the stairs last week—that's where all those bruises are from."
"Those bruises looked awfully recent to me," Margo noted.
"That's because she's bedridden and her circulation is terrible. Of course the bruising would linger. Really, Miss Lane, I think you were simply taken in by a hysterical woman's imagination."
"Told you," Paul added.
"Well, I'd best be going," Cunningham said. He took Carol's hand gently. "You'll call me if she gets worse?"
"Of course, Doctor," Carol replied. "Thank you for coming."
Just then, Adam burst in. "Storm," he said, his voice sounding panicked. "Noreaster...bad rain, strong wind..."
"Really, Adam," Carol sighed. "Just because the clouds are a little heavy today..."
Lamont glanced outside. "He's not exaggerating," he cautioned. "The waves are flattening out. That's a sign of high wind. And it is really dark to the Northeast."
"Noreaster coming," Adam insisted. "Bad, bad Noreaster."
Cunningham looked out the window, then frowned. "Looks like I'm not going anywhere for a while."
"Why not?" Margo asked.
"I took a boat out here," Cunningham replied. "I live two islets over. Easier to get around by boat about half the time." A sigh. "But I'm not going out in this ."
The grasses and trees on the islet began to sway as the winds picked up. Carol looked worried. "Better batten down the hatches," she observed. "This could get nasty."
"No," Adam wimpered. "Not the shutters..."
"Adam, come on!" Carol ordered. "We've got to protect the house!"
"No!" Adam ran toward the kitchen.
"Adam!" Carol snapped.
Footsteps on wooden stairs indicated someone descending to the cellar.
Carol stomped her foot. "Worthless. Absolutely worthless." She looked around. "Well, come on, everybody. We've got to get the shutters closed, the doors bolted. Sitting in the middle of the kill leaves us really exposed to these storms. Get to work!"
Paul gestured with his head. "Come on, Mr. Cranston. I'll show you what to do."
The room vacated quickly as everyone scurried to secure the house.
Adam hadn't exaggerated about the severity of the storm. And Carol hadn't exaggerated about how exposed they were. As morning moved into afternoon, the weather continued to get worse. Winds crashed waves against the beach and over the roads. Rain beat down on the ceiling so hard it sounded like an explosion. And by nightfall, sheets of rain and gusts of wind threatened to tear the house down.
Carol served dinner to a roomful of nervous guests. "This is one of the worst storms I've ever been through," she said. "But at least the power is still on." She set out a platter of chicken and a bowl of vegetables.
Margo served herself some vegetables, then passed the bowl. "What about Letty?" she asked. "Isn't she coming down for dinner?"
Carol shook her head. "She doesn't each much any more. We'll take her some food up after everybody else has eaten." She passed a plate of dinner rolls around.
Paul took one. "Want me to go dig Adam up?" he asked.
"He'll come up when he's ready." Carol poured tea from a pitcher into her own glass and passed it to Margo.
Lamont listened to the muffled moaning from below them. "What is wrong with Adam?" he asked.
"It's really very sad," Cunningham replied. "He fought in The Great War—he was a demolitions expert in the army. But one of their demolitions went wrong, and the building collapsed on top of them. Everyone on his team except him was killed. He was trapped there for three days before anyone heard his cries for help. That and the head injury he suffered when the building collapsed really left him unbalanced. Ever since, he's been terrified of being closed in anywhere. He ran to the cellar to get away, but you notice he left the door open. He can't stand the idea of being trapped."
"How horrible!" Margo said.
"So, how did he end up here?" Lamont asked.
"He was my husband's brother's son," Carol answered. "When his parents died, there was no one to take care of him. So we took him in and gave him a job as a handyman. But, as you can see, sometimes he's not very handy."
"And he hates storms," Paul added.
"Probably remind him of the explosions," Lamont noted.
"Yeah, well, I didn't serve in the war, so I wouldn't know. But he just goes crazy during rainstorms. We try to stay out of his way in case he gets violent."
"War brings out the violent side of men," Lamont said coldly. "And that violence can take control if you let it. I saw men do things during the war that they'd get the death penalty for on the streets of New York. But on a farm in the middle of France when the Germans are on the other side of the line, it's considered 'serving your country'."
"That's a very unpatriotic thing to say," Cunningham chastised.
"I've seen my share of war," Lamont countered. "And I don't believe it's unpatriotic to say that I hope I never have to see it again."
"Here's to that," Margo observed.
The rest of the meal went by in silence.
After dinner, Margo helped Carol clean up in the kitchen while Paul poured drinks for Lamont and Cunningham. "Spring storms are the worst," Paul commented. "I'll never get used to them."
"It's certainly strong here," Lamont noted.
"And I didn't fasten my shutters before I left," Cunningham added. "I'm hoping my house is still standing when I get back."
A flash of lightning, a crack of thunder, and suddenly the house was plunged into darkness.
Carol screamed, and a dish dropped.
Margo? Lamont called to the other room.
Relax, Margo replied, her mental voice exasperated. I'm fine. Just uncoordinated.
Do you need me?
I wish I had your night vision. I'll probably step on what's left of this dish in the dark.
Even I'm having trouble—there's no light to use to focus with. Stay where you are. I'll be right there.
"Oh, great," Paul said. "Probably take them a week to get the power back up."
"That burst of lightning probably hit a transformer back on land,", Lamont agreed. He closed his eyes for a momentand cast out a light wave of projective telepathic energy to give him the general layout of the room.
Shapes and outlines came back to his psyche, drawing a rough sketch of the area. He opened his eyes and let the available light in the room add details.
One of the items in the very dim light was a piece on the mantle that bore a striking resemblence to a hurricane lamp. He stood up, kept the light echoes going to guide his steps as he made his way to the fireplace. He felt across the mantle for the lamp, then found a box of matches in his pocket and lit one.
Just that little bit of light was enough to allow his eyes to easily focus on the hurricane lamp. He removed the glass globe and lit the wick, and now there was at least a hint of light in the room...which was more than enough for a telepath skilled in projective sight. "That should help," Lamont stated aloud. "Are there any more lamps or candles?"
"Scattered around," Paul replied.
"I have no idea how you found that in the dark," Cunningham commented. "I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face."
Lamont smiled mysteriously. "I have really good night vision." He crossed the room and lit another candle and another hurricane lamp, then tossed the pack of matches to Cunningham. "See if you can shed some more light on the subject. I'll go help the ladies."
"What's going on?" came Letty's voice from upstairs.
"Paul, go look in on Letty," Carol ordered.
"Yeah, yeah." Paul took the hurricane lamp off the mantle and headed up the stairs.
Lamont made his way to the stove and found the iron match caddy, then struck a match. "Any candles in here?" he asked.
Carol pointed to the china cabinet. "There are candles and candlesticks in there."
"I'll find them." He extinguished the match, then used the dim light from the other room to guide him to the china cabinet, where he retrieved a crystal candlestick and a dinner candle. He carried it back to the stove, got another match out of the caddy, then lit the candle. "This should help you make your way around the kitchen."
"Dishwashing by candlelight," Margo said sarcastically. "How romantic."
Lamont couldn't help but laugh.
A clomping sound echoed through the kitchen. "What was that?" Margo asked.
More clomping, then Adam came up the stairs. "Dark up here, too," he said fearfully.
"We lost power," Lamont told him. "Take it easy. At least we've got candles up here."
Another gust of wind whipped by the house, and now there was a very loud rattling. Adam howled with fear.
"Easy, Adam," Carol urged. "Probably a shutter got blown open."
"I hope Letty's all right," Margo said. "I thought I heard her scream."
"I didn't hear anything," Carol commented. "But the wind sometimes sounds like it's screaming around the house." She headed out into the living room, then shouted up the stairs. "Paul?"
"Paul!" Carol shouted again.
More rattling, then a thoroughly soaked Paul came down the stairs. "Sorry, Mom," he said. "Didn't hear you the first time. A shutter came open. I fought with it, but it's closed now. Good night, that rain is nasty out there."
"Is Letty all right?" Margo asked.
"Resting quietly. I slipped a little brandy in her glass of water, and she went right out."
"At least we'll all get some sleep tonight," Carol sighed. "Even with that storm shaking the rafters like this."
"Doesn't look like any of us will be going anywhere for a while," Margo noted. "I know I'm not going to drive back down that narrow road to the mainland."
"And I don't know if my little boat is even still out there," Cunningham agreed.
"Then I'd better find the three of you a place to sleep tonight," Carol said. "There might be enough rooms to set up at least one bed for each of you. There is one extra bedroom, and I can make beds in the parlor and den."
"Margo, take the bedroom," Lamont offered. "Dr. Cunningham and I will stay downstairs."
"Are you sure?" Margo asked.
"Positive." He gently stroked her cheek. "You've not been feeling well. You need your rest."
"Then it's settled," Carol stated. "I'll go find some linens."
"Here, Mom," Paul said, handing her the hurricane lamp. "You'll need this."
"Thank you." A hard sigh. "It's been a horrible day."
"Then hopefully we'll all have a good night," Cunningham offered.
"And a much better day tomorrow," Lamont finished.
The rain continued to drive down on the house in the night. Margo lay quietly in the old musty bedroom, listening to the rain fall. She couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong, very wrong. But she couldn't place it. All this "incredible power" I have, and I can't tell what's going on here, she mentally lamented.
Frustrating, isn't it?
She smiled as his voice filled her mind. How do you stand it?
Telepathy does not necessarily make one omnicient. It just adds a lot of noise sometimes.
She snuggled under the covers. Wish you were up here with me.
What makes you think I'm not?
Margo turned over in bed—and found herself looking right into Lamont's blue-green eyes. "Lamont!"
He placed a finger to her lips. Sh-h. Then, he kissed her.
They broke the kiss, and she glared at him. You are mad. If someone decides to look in...
How do you know?
A sinister chuckle. The Shadow knows.
Now she looked amused. You didn't...
Oh, yes, I did. I slipped up the stairs completely unseen and suggested that no one needed to even think about Lamont Cranston sleeping downstairs in the parlor. He gently caressed her hair. Besides, you sounded so lonely. I went to say goodnight to you mentally and heard you thinking that you couldn't remember the last time we'd spent a night apart.
She pushed a stray strand of hair off his forehead. It has been a while, hasn't it?
He nodded, then pulled her close as they lay down next to one another. Just think. In just a few months, we won't ever have to worry about someone assigning us to separate rooms again.
Margo snuggled against his chest. I can't wait.
Neither can I.
They held each other and let the rhythm of the rain lull them to sleep.
Light filtering through the shutters drifted across Lamont and Margo as they slept. Slowly, they both drifted into wakefulness. The calm after the storm, Lamont noted.
Sure looks like it, Margo agreed.
Lamont climbed out of bed and slipped back into his clothes. Let's have a look at the aftermath. He opened the window and the shutters and took a look around.
Margo slipped her dress back on and came over to join him. The air smells so clear, and the wind is so calm. You'd almost never know how horrible it was last night.
Until you took a good look around. He pointed to the shoreline. Looks like Cunningham's boat got tossed ashore, along with a lot of other things. What a mess.
Wonder how the road is?
Judging by the winds and rain last night, I'd guess it's underwater, or badly damaged. We'll take a look after breakfast. He looked at his watch. I'd probably better get back downstairs and make the couch look slept on.
She put her arm around his waist and leaned against him. Thank you for last night.
He smiled. It does feel good to be together like that, doesn't it?
The sounds of footsteps in the hall indicated someone else was awake. Someone else is up and about, and probably headed downstairs. I'd better disappear. He gave her a quick kiss, then vanished.
The door opened and closed quickly. Margo sighed. Proper society couples didn't sleep together before marriage. But most proper society couples didn't already know they'd be spending the rest of their lives together. The wedding was just four months off...and she could hardly wait. Then, no one or nothing would ever separate them again.
As if anything could now, Lamont reminded her.
She smiled at that. Then, she headed for the lavatory to clean up for the day.
Lamont arrived downstairs to the smell of bacon frying in a cast iron skillet. He rumpled the covers on the makeshift pallet to make it look used, then swirled into visibility as he entered the kitchen. "Good morning, Mrs. Davenport," he said.
Carol jumped, then turned to see him. "Mr. Cranston...you startled me," she said.
Lamont smiled disarmingly. "Sorry. I certainly didn't mean to."
"Did you sleep well?"
"As well as can be expected. That storm was very loud."
"And that old sofa's a bit lumpy. I tried to come down quietly so I wouldn't wake you."
"It's all right. I'm a light sleeper sometimes. Has anyone looked in on Letty yet this morning?"
"Not yet. She's probably still asleep. I'm surprised she wasn't completely disruptive last night. Letty gets her days and nights mixed up very easily."
"No doubt because she's always in bed."
Cunningham was next to arrive in the kitchen. "Thought I heard conversation," he said tiredly.
"Sorry to wake you," Carol replied.
Cunningham waved it off. "I try not to sleep too long anyway. Throws off my timing for the rest of the day. How's Letty?"
"We were just talking about that. She's been awfully quiet since late last night."
"I'll go look in on her."
"Thank you, doctor."
Adam came in from the servant's quarters. "No more rain," he observed.
"No, it's actually quite nice today," Carol replied. "Go open the shutters."
Adam eagerly bounded out of the kitchen, clearly happy to be opening things up again.
"Carol?" Cunningham called from upstairs.
Carol came out into the hallway. "Yes?"
"Is Letty downstairs with you?"
Carol frowned. "Of course not. Why?"
"Because she's not in her bed, either!"
"What? That's impossible!"
Lamont came out into the hallway. "What's going on?"
Carol looked alarmed. "Dr. Cunningham says Letty's not in her bed. You didn't see her come down, did you?"
Lamont shook his head. "Can she even get around by herself?"
"Sometimes. She can make it to the lavatory by herself, but usually she calls for help."
Lamont nodded. Margo, where are you? he mentally called.
In the bathroom, redoing my makeup, Margo answered. Why?
I don't suppose Letty is in there with you?
Of course not. Is something wrong?
Letty's not in her room. Do me a favor and come out of the bathroom very noisily so that Carol will ask you if you've seen Letty.
Will do. A pause, then Margo opened and closed the bathroom door hard.
"Letty, honey, is that you?" Carol called.
"No, just me—Margo Lane," Margo called back. "Sorry—guess I closed the bathroom door a little too hard."
"Miss Lane, have you seen Letty?"
"No, ma'am. Should I have?"
Paul came out of his bedroom. "What's going on?" he called down sleepily.
Carol looked panicked now. "Oh, God...Letty's gone!"
"Gone? As in 'died in her sleep' gone?"
"No, as in 'not in her bedroom' gone!"
Everyone made their way downstairs. "Where could she have gone?" Cunningham asked.
"Maybe she got confused and went outside," Paul offered.
Lamont crossed the room and examined the front door. "Not unless she took a set of keys," he said. "This door's still locked."
"There are other doors," Cunningham suggested. "The kitchen door, for instance..."
Carol shook her head. "I unlocked that door myself this morning to let some fresh air and sunlight in."
"I think it's safe to say that if she went out down here, she'd have to have taken a set of keys and relocked the door," Lamont noted. "The question is, would Letty be able to think clearly enough to do that?"
"Did she go out a window?" Margo asked.
Lamont watched as Adam opened the parlor shutters. "No, all those were closed, too, and secured from the inside," he realized. "She didn't go out any of these windows down here. And it's unlikely she'd have gone out through an upstairs window."
"Well, she has to be around here somewhere ," Cunningham declared. "People do not just disappear."
Lamont bit his tongue and reminded himself to stay focused on the situation at hand. "Maybe now it's time to call in the police. Mrs. Davenport, where is the phone?"
"On the kitchen wall," Carol said, pointing behind her.
"Thanks." Lamont headed for the kitchen.
Margo glanced out the front windows. "Looks like she didn't leave the island, either."
"Islet," Paul corrected.
"Island," Margo insisted. "As in, there's no road back to the mainland. It's underwater."
Everyone gathered at the window. "Oh, my," Carol said. "We'll have to get out there and build the road back up again. I think we still have some rocks and boards and broken bricks left over from the last time this happened..."
The slamming of the phone receiver got their attention. "Phone's dead," Lamont said, his tone annoyed.
"Well, even if you did get hold of them, they'd have to come out here by boat," Margo replied. "The road's been washed away."
"Well, she has to be around here somewhere," Cunningham said. "And this islet's not that big. Let's split up and start searching."
"Poor thing," Carol said. "I hope she didn't wander off into the ocean."
"She's probably cowered under a tree somewhere," Paul said. "And boy, will she give us what for when we bring her back inside."
"She can't give anybody anything unless we can find her," Lamont reminded them. "Come on."
While Carmichael Islet was not terribly large, it was rocky, with lots of little outcroppings and coves. There was also a good bit of island brush, including some small trees. All of which made for some interesting places for someone to hide in if they didn't want to be found.
Lamont Cranston, however, was interested in none of that. He instead was studying the area around the house, looking for footprints and other signs of exit. Margo Lane was searching the other side of the house for similar artifacts, and each would report back to the other on their progress.
Margo nearly tripped over something, then looked down at her feet. Found something, she mentally called.
I'll be right there, he called back.
A moment later, he was by her side, then saw what she'd found. Nice ladder, he commented.
And lying on the ground right under Letty's window, she returned. But she was too weak to climb down this.
Which means that someone probably carried her down.
Margo looked alarmed. Lamont...remember when I said I thought I'd heard Letty scream?
He nodded. You did. But psychically, not audibly.
She stamped her foot. I feel so useless. If only I'd done something about it...
Don't blame yourself. He looked around. I need to take another look around inside. Cover for me.
Will do. Be careful.
Always. He vanished before he'd gotten two steps away.
Margo sighed. Now she knew Letty was right. Someone had been trying to kill her. And that was the worst feeling of all.
About an hour later, the islet had been thoroughly combed, and still no sign of Letty. A despondent group made their way back into the house, where Lamont was searching the interior. "I thought we decided Aunt Letty wasn't in here," Paul commented.
"Oh, I agree," Lamont replied. "But I found something interesting. Come upstairs."
A parade followed Lamont up the stairs to Letty's room. Lamont walked over to the window. "Look at these shutters," Lamont told them, gesturing to the closed shutters. "Notice anything unusual?"
Margo looked closely. "Not really," she said.
"Neither do I. And that's what's unusual." He closed the window firmly, as if punctuating a point. "Remember the banging and rattling we heard last night?"
"Yeah," Paul said. "A shutter came open up here."
"How?" Lamont challenged. "The latch is in perfect shape, the hinges are tight, the fit is exact. How did this shutter come open and bang against the side of the house without breaking the latch?"
"How should I know? Maybe somebody didn't do a very good job of securing it."
"Or maybe somebody opened it from the inside."
"What are you saying?" Carol asked.
"I'm saying that someone in this house subdued Letty, opened these shutters, took her out down a ladder we found near the house, and did something with her. That same person came back up that ladder, back into this room, and secured the shutters once more. And with the all the banging and rattling from the storm, that sound could easily have been overlooked."
Carol looked astonished, then turned to Paul. "Paul...was Letty in her bed when the shutters came open?"
"Of course," Paul retorted. "Old bat even complained about the noise and the cold the whole time I was struggling to close the thing."
Margo cut her eyes toward Lamont. He's lying, her mental voice whispered.
I know he is, Lamont returned. If Letty had complained, we'd have heard her in the kitchen. But I need proof that he actually did it. He thought for a moment. "Dr. Cunningham, could Letty have gotten out of bed without help and climbed down a ladder by herself?"
"Absolutely not," Cunningham replied. "She barely had enough balance to stand up with a cane. She could not have gone down a ladder by herself."
"Then that rules out her just wandering out of here." Lamont thought again. "Mrs. Davenport, do you normally keep this door open or closed?"
"Closed," Carol replied. "Letty doesn't like a lot of noise."
"Close the door."
Carol reached behind her and closed the door.
Adam immediately looked nervous.
Lamont gestured to the bed. "Margo, stand over there by the bed, on Letty's side."
Margo walked over to the bed.
"O.K.," Lamont said, "here's what we know. Letty was lying in that bed right there, late last night, with the door closed." He walked over to the bed. "Someone snuck into the room..." He walked over to the window and opened it, then threw open the shutters. "...opened the window and the shutters..." He walked back over to the bed. "...subdued Letty, then picked her up and carried her to the window." Lamont picked up Margo and threw her over his shoulder in a modified fireman's carry. "Now, it would have to be someone strong enough to lift almost dead weight—Letty was probably unconscious, and she could barely help herself even if she were conscious. Even as strong as you appear to be, Mrs. Davenport, that clearly rules you out." He turned to the window. "If you look straight down, you should see the ladder that whoever did this used."
Everyone came over to the window. Carol gasped at the sight of the ladder on the ground below them.
"I give our kidnapper credit," Lamont wisecracked. "It was incredibly dangerous out there last night. They could have been killed, too. But, in any event, our culprit went down the ladder, took Letty some place and left her there..." Lamont carried Margo to another corner of the room and set her down, then crossed back to the window. "...then climbed back up here, closed the shutters and the window..." He did so with a dramatic slam of each component. "...and secured the room once more."
Adam again looked nervous as the room was once more closed in.
Paul didn't miss it. "Adam—you were working on the siding yesterday with that ladder."
"No!" Adam declared. "No...I didn't do this! Not like storms—not like shutters—no!"
"Adam, calm down," Carol tried to soothe as she came over to him.
"No, I would not do this! No!" Adam pushed Carol into the dresser and threw the door open, then ran down the stairs.
Cunningham immediately came over to Carol. "Carol, love, are you all right?"
"I don't know...," she said, looking weak.
"Come on." Cunningham took her hand. "Let's go to your room so you can lie down."
Paul watched as the doctor led his mother from the room. He shook his head. "Boy, that Adam sure reacted like a guilty man," he said with a chuckle. "I didn't think he'd hurt Mom, though."
"I'm not so sure it was guilt," Lamont responded. "He does hate the thought of being trapped...buried alive."
"So maybe he buried Aunt Letty alive."
"Maybe. Guilt can do strange things to the mind, especially when combined with other fears." He looked thoughtful. "Or maybe she was so still that he thought she was dead and decided to get her out of the house so he wouldn't be trapped in the house with a dead person again. I've read stories about the Tibetan monks and some of their mental feats. Some of the most highly trained yogis can make themselves appear dead."
Paul scoffed. "Ridiculous."
"I don't know. Some the stories of some Far Eastern mystics are pretty convincing. The monks used to use it as a defensive technique...but a side effect was sometimes their enemies would bury them alive. It was said that the gods punished a barbarian who buried a monk alive by filling their minds with the sound of that monk's heartbeat for the rest of their lives."
A light thumping sound began to echo through Paul's thoughts. He looked nervous.
Lamont pretended not to notice. "I mean, can you imagine it? Spending the rest of your life with the sound of your victim's heartbeat echoing in your ears? It would drive you insane after a while."
The thumping grew louder. Paul's eyes darted about nervously, anxiously.
"I'll bet some of those barbarians probably dug up the Tibetan mountainside trying to find those monks they buried, hoping some of them were still alive so the noise would stop..."
The thumping in Paul's ears was almost deafening. "I...I'd better go see if Mom's all right," Paul said, fleeing the room as fast as he could.
Margo walked over to Lamont. Impressive, she noted.
It's only impressive if it works, he countered. Do you think you can row Cunningham's boat back to shore?
I need you to get to shore and call the police. If I'm right, Paul's about to lead me to Letty's body.
Then you think she's dead?
I'm positive she is. The only question is where he's stashed her. And only The Shadow can find that out.
Then I'm on my way.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cream-colored slip of paper, then quickly wrote a note and handed it to her. Take this with you and drop it in a drop box. But call the police yourself. Tell them whatever you want, but make sure they get here.
Will do. Be careful.
Always. They shared a quick kiss. You, too.
Always. They clasped hands for one more moment, then parted company.
Paul couldn't escape the sound of that thumping heartbeat in his ears, even as he ran for the shed to find the pickaxe. "Shut up, you old bat!" he shouted as he came out to the rocky beach. "You can't still be alive—nobody could have survived being buried under those rocks in the middle of that storm!"
The heartbeat grew louder.
"I said, shut up !" He used the pickaxe to leverage one of the rocks up.
The heartbeat kept going, louder than ever.
"You worthless witch!" He pried up the other large rock, and now Letty's body was exposed. "So you're still alive, huh? Well, I'll finish you off!" He raised the pickaxe and prepared to stab it through her heart.
The heartbeat stopped suddenly. But in its place was a mocking, cackling laugh that seemed to be coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. "Who's there?" Paul shouted.
The laughter grew louder. You killed Letty Carmichael, Paul Davenport. Your guilt has trapped you. Another laugh, wicked and mocking.
"Who are you?"
More laughter. Did you really think you'd get away with it? Did you think I wouldn't know?
Paul swung the pickaxe at thin air.
The Shadow laughed derisively. You can't touch me, Paul Davenport. You can't stop me. You can't escape me...any more than you could escape your guilty conscience. You killed Letty Carmichael.
Paul swung the axe again and missed. "No..."
You'd been beating and abusing her for months.
Another swing, another miss. "No..."
You were hoping she'd die when you pushed her down the stairs last week.
The axe struck a rock and chipped a chunk of it off. "Shut up!"
But she didn't, did she? She lived. And she called for help. And you had to get rid of her before she managed to convince somebody that she was being abused.
Another swing. "The witch deserved to die! She thought she was so much better than me and Mom, but she was helpless without us! But she wouldn't give us a dime—I had to steal her dividend checks to even afford to go out! She started asking questions, and started accusing us of stealing from her—she had to die! She should have died from all those strokes, but she just kept hanging on! She wouldn't die!"
So you murdered her to cover your theft.
"All right, I murdered her. So what? You're not real—you're just my imagination! No one knows but me!"
"Wrong," Carol's voice said.
Paul looked around...and saw Carol and Cunningham standing nearby. "Mom...," he said, his voice trailing off.
"Oh, Paul," Carol said. "How could you? She loved you so much..."
"Don't lie, Mom," Paul spat. "She hated us. She used you like a maid. And she treated me worse than dirt. I did us both a favor." He held the axe menacingly. "But you'll tell. You both will. And I can't let you do that." He started toward them.
Carol and Cunningham took off running.
Paul took off after them.
Something hooked around his foot, and he pitched forward and landed hard on the ground.
Carol and Cunningham heard the thud and a scream. They turned around.
Paul was lying face down on the ground, the pickaxe embedded in his chest.
Carol screamed, then fainted beside her dead son.
The police were soon swarming over Carmichael Islet, taking photographs and statements at the crime scene. Carol was in shock, Cunningham was trying to attend to her and answer questions, and Adam just looked totally lost. Lamont hypnotically persuaded the police that he and Margo had nothing of value to offer, and they stood off to the side and watched the action unfold. It's so sad, Margo thought. All this over greed and social position?
I have learned to never underestimate what some people will do for money and prestige, Lamont thought back. Paul merely acted on his darker impulses.
Poor Letty. I feel like we came out here for nothing.
No, not for nothing. We brought her murderer to justice, and probably saved Carol's life in the process. After all, if Paul would murder Letty over a few dividend checks, what would he do to Carol when she inherited the entire estate?
You're right, of course. She sighed. I just wish I'd been able to put the pieces together sooner.
You'll learn. Your control will get better, and you'll learn how to focus all that receptive energy. You and I make a pretty good team.
She looked up at him. You think so?
He took her face in his hands gently. I know so.
They moved to kiss.
"Excuse me," a voice called from behind.
They turned to see a young man in construction clothing coming toward them. He held up a hand and flashed a silver fire opal ring. "The sun is shining."
Lamont and Margo looked at each other for a moment, then showed their own rings. "But the ice is slippery," Lamont replied. "What can I do for you?"
"Actually, it's what I can do for you." The young man extended his right hand. "Jack Walton, from Walton Construction."
Lamont placed him quickly—The Shadow had saved him from an arson in a brownstone four years ago. "Lamont Cranston," he said aloud, shaking the man's hand. "My fiancee, Margo Lane."
Walton tipped his cap. "Pleasure, ma'am." He turned to Lamont. "I got a message that a couple of agents were stranded on an islet in Great Kill Harbor with a washed-out road. My crew's been working on the road for about an hour now, and we're just about done. So, anytime you want to leave, just let us know, and we'll put some temporary planking down so you can drive across it to the mainland."
Margo gave him a knowing look. So that was what was in that note you gave me.
Lamont nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Walton. I'm sure you'll be adequately compensated..."
Walton shook his head. "No need. I was compensated four years ago when I should have burned to death in my sleep." Another tip of the cap. "Take care."
"You, too." They shook hands once more, then Walton left.
Margo looked up at Lamont. You really do think of everything.
I try. I just thought you'd want to get out of here as soon as possible.
That's for sure.
Then let's go.
They walked off toward the car together, leaving behind the death and destruction of Insanity Island.