HEART OF DARKNESS Dana Bell

"There is a fire which can never quenched.a darkness which can not be buried.a blood thirst.never satisfied."

"Yeah, right," Peter muttered under his breath. His remark earned him a glare from Jody.

"The beast who must be controlled.an evil that lives in us all."

Peter started at those words and memories of Shambala resurfaced. He saw again the dark warrior he had fought and who his father had successfully defeated - an embodiment of evil that lived in all of them.

"He comes again.searching.No!" The psychic dropped the ring. It clattered on the tabletop. She leaned forward, holding her head in her hands. "He is an old evil." Her tone held a question in it. "More legend.?"

Peter picked up the ring. This wasn't what they'd hoped to hear. Somewhere in the city there was a serial killer stalking young women and brutally murdering them. This ring was the only clue they had. He turned it over in is hand. Pure silver with a red stone. There was evidence of a design along the sides, but it had long since worn down. They had found the ring at the last murder site.

"Our killer?" he asked the woman.

The redhead looked at him and Jody. "No. The one who owned this ring originally." She shivered. "The psychic tie is very strong."

Inwardly, the detective cursed. They'd hired this psychic hoping she'd help them nail this creep. Tara Lincoln had a good track record. Even the FBI used her talents in their extremely puzzling cases.

"I'm sorry," she apologized. "I know this is not what you had hoped to learn."

"It was a long shot," Jody put in. The blonde rose to her feet as did Tara. "Thank you for your help."

Tara smiled. "You're welcome." She started to leave the room and paused. "If I can be of any further assistance, I'll be at the Psychic Fair until in ends Sunday."

Both detectives nodded. Tara frowned. Something tickled at the edge of her mind. "Detective Caine?" He glanced at her. "Put that ring somewhere safe. Carrying it around is a beacon." A trickle of fear filled her. "And I don't think you want to meet its true owner." She felt a sense of skepticism from him. Well, she tried. "Good day," she said quietly and swiftly left.

"And good riddance," Peter snorted as the door closed behind the woman.

"Peter," Jody chastised. "Captain Simms.."

"Yeah, I know." He put the ring in his shirt pocket. Maybe he'd see what his father thought. "Everybody's screaming about this prep. The mayor's on the commissioner, and he's riding the captain and she's on us." Tiredly he rubbed his brown eyes. Both of them had been up for almost thirty-six hours. His brain felt like very thick syrup. He needed some sleep. "I'm gonna knock off for the day. I can't think anymore."

"I know the feeling," Powell agreed. "but we'd better check in with the captain before we leave."

There was a ring of fire consuming a beautiful blonde woman. Peter could feel the heat and heard himself say, "You should not be here!" He tossed in his bed, unable to escape the nightmare. He could hear the screams of the people as they died under Mongolian swords. There was blood on his lips and he reveled in the taste.

"Peter!"

He bolted upright. His heart pounded. For a moment, he couldn't remember where he was. He took in a deep breath, trying to center.

"Peter!" Command in the voice. His dark eyes finally focused on his father's concerned face. "What did you dream?"

"Pop?" he questioned. "What?" Then he remembered. He'd stopped by his father's for a brief visit and had fallen asleep on the older Caine's bed.

"What did you dream?"

Peter shuddered. Dark images of death and destruction still danced in his mind. He touched his lips. The memory of blood and its sweet taste lingered. It scared him. "I don't remember," he lied.

His father's brown eyes searched his face. He knew Peter was lying. Gently, he touched his son's arm. "When you are ready, I will listen." He rose to leave.

"Pop?" Peter felt an edge of terror slice through him. "The evil in us all. The dream was about that." The Shaolin sat back down. "Can it be controlled if it comes to the surface?"

The priest shrugged. "If so wished."

Peter shuddered. He dug in his pocket of his now rumpled shirt. He retrieved the ring and handed it to his father. "The psychic we hired, Tara Lincoln," his father nodded, "she told me to put this in a safe place. It was at the murder site. We thought it was the murderer's but she said no."

Kwai Chang turned the ring over in his hand. Darkness tainted the glowing orb. "No, it is not your killer's. You should have given this to me when you arrived."

"Why?" Peter tiredly rubbed his eyes. He wanted to go back to sleep, but was afraid to.

"Lie down, Peter." Gentle hands forced him back. His father tucked the blanket around him and touched his brown hair. Peter closed his eyes, comforted by his father's presence.

"Pop," he sleepily protested. He wanted an answer.

"Sleep," the priest commanded.

Peter's breathing deepened, and Caine regarded his sleeping son with concern. Tightly, he gripped the ring. Blood and death tainted it. The Shaolin whirled, carrying the thing of darkness away from his son. He reached onto a top shelf of is herbal cabinet, retrieving a very old box. Carefully, he placed it on counter. The designs carved into rich, brown wood seemed to dance. He opened the lid and placed the ring inside. It glowed eerily from its bed on pungent herbs. He closed it. This should safeguard the ring.

Peter moaned. Caine cast a fearful glance in his son's direction. He hoped his child had not had the ring in his possession long enough to become touched by its darkness. If he had.the priest felt a deep, penetrating cold in his heart, knowing he might have to fight.the.other.for his only son.

Peter tossed, dislodging the blanket. The Shaolin went to his child. He covered the young man again, seeing still the boy Peter once had been. He placed a hand gently on the cop's shoulder. "I am here, my son," he soothed. Then he sat down, in full lotus, and watched.

Dawn awoke reluctantly over the city, denying it the bright sun, bringing instead heavy black clouds and drenching rain. Wind hurled through the streets, knocking out power, stalling early morning traffic, and at one intersection, snapping the cable on a light and nearly crushing a passing motorist.

Trees snapped, litter danced, booming thunder shook the building's very foundations.

Peter gasped. His body shook uncontrollably, and he could feel tears on his cheeks. Tender hands helped him to sit. A cup was pressed against his lips.

"Drink, my son."

He swallowed the foul tasting brew. Slowly, his body relaxed. He pulled the blanket tightly around him. He was so cold. "Pop?" His eyes searched his father's worried face.

Lightening pierced the room. Thunder cracked directly overhead. A low mocking laughter filled the place. Caine rose to his feet. His eyes searched the corners for what should not be there.

The Shadow slipped quietly through the door. He watched the Shaolin giving a soothing drink to his son. Not that it would do any good, ultimately. The boy had a darkness in him. Something he, the Shadow, could touch.

Phurba wiggled in his long, dark coat. She wanted to be free. Good. She would be an excellent distraction.

The priest had his ring.

The Shadow wanted it back.

Lightening flashed, followed by a crash of thunder. The perfect introduction.

He began to laugh.

"Show.yourself," he commanded, yet he was uncertain.

The laughter grew wild. Taunting. A shadow flickered.

The Shaolin was across the room in flash. He placed a firm hand on the small wooden box. "This.is what you seek."

The wild laugh seemed to bounce off the very walls and ceiling.

Caine braced himself sensing imminent attack.

A high pitched scream issued from somewhere. The priest barely caught the knife hurling at him. The weapon moved in hand, like at thing alive. It opened eyes and a fang-filled mouth. He released it. Briefly it bounced on the floor and came at him again.

"Pop!" Peter cried.

The dagger stopped. Considering. Abruptly it changed direction, heading directly for Peter's heart.

"No!" a figure ordered from the doorway. "Phurba." The Ancient stepped into the room.

She paused, turning golden headfirst to the old priest and then again to Peter. She started forward.

"Come," Lo Si ordered. She came obediently to his hand.

"So," a disembodied voice hissed. "You have mastered the Phurba."

Darkness seemed to grow in the room. "We'll meet again," it promised. A bright flash penetrated the dark. Caine saw a figure slither along the wall and vanish out the door. He started to follow.

"No." Lo Si stopped him. "Let him go for now." He took the strange knife over to the worktable and found a box for it, then put it beside the one that held the ring.

"Who is this man, master?" Caine asked.

The Ancient went to sit beside Peter, his wise old eyes studying the younger Caine with discernment. Peter squirmed under his scrutiny. "Make us some tea," Lo Si suggested to Kwai Chang. "If he is, who I suspect, this will be along tale."

"I'm hungry," Peter grumbled, rising and grabbing his pants. He intended to get dressed.

A faint smile touched Caine's lips. "You always are." The pounding rain pelted the roof of the convention center. Lamont Cranston paused just inside the main door, scanning the neatly ordered booths. The Psychic Fair had opened up only a half- hour before. He could smell coffee and Danish. Most of the participants were gathered around the concession stand at the far end of the building. It wasn't crowded yet. Not too many people had braved the horrid storm to arrive early.

Good. He disliked crowds. Leisurely, he strolled down the aisles, pausing now and again to study items. He smiled secretly to himself. These were foolish children and they had no idea what was possible.

"Good morning, sir."

Lamont looked up from the amethyst crystal, which had caught his eye. He took his time appraising the woman who had addressed him. She really wasn't pretty. Her dark red hair halloed a heart shaped face. Her eyes were a deep green, almost too large for her sharp-planed features. Her lips were thin, and painted a rusty shade. She'd at least been conservative with the makeup.

He sensed she was woman that knew her limitations and accented her assets. He liked the conservative brown dress she wore. Her only hint at eccentricity were the gold dragons she wore as earrings and matching pendant.

"If the crystal beckons you, it should be yours."

Lightly, he stroked the stone. He could feel the healing energy of it. "I really don't believe in all this."

Her eyes searched him. "That is not true," she told him.

He tensed. In his long life, there had only been one other who could read him so clearly. He'd buried her two years ago.

"How much?" he asked.

"Ten dollars." She took the stone, wrapped it in tissue, then placed it in a bag. He handed her a bill. She wrote up a receipt and released the item to him.

"Thanks." He gave her his most charming smile and started to leave.

"Mr. Cranston."

He paused, wondering how she knew his name. The woman frowned. "You desire.freedom.from the beast. Even now.it haunts you." He took a step back. This was the last thing he had expected. Inside, he felt his dark nature stir.

"You have already begun to search for that freedom. You have lost something.My card," she offered, pushing it across the table with one manicured finger. He took it. "Call me. I sense," she paused, as if puzzled, "you wish help, but do not know where to go. Who to trust."

She was too close, yet he couldn't fight the thrill of potential danger. "What I have lost?" he inquired.

"You've had it a very long time."

He was certain she didn't know the exact item. Absently, he studied his naked finger. He'd lost the ring during a futile attempt to stop the serial killer stalking this city. His agents here were observant, but not timely in passing on information. He'd arrived a full thirty minutes after the murder had taken place. He had just begun to investigate the scene when the police suddenly arrived. In his haste, he'd lost his ring.

"Yes," he answered softly. "Good day, Miss Lincoln."

At her startled look, he smiled. Part of his abilities lay in telepathy. It had been simple to lift her name from her mind. "Your card," he said in explanation. She smiled more reassured. He left and sauntered among the other booths briefly and exited the building. Once outside, he stopped and actually read the card. In had her name, Tara Lincoln, her business address and phone number. He almost tossed it into the rain-drenched street.yet.something held him back. With a shrug, he tucked it into the breast pocket of his black jacket and went in search of breakfast.

The thing that constantly bugged Peter was neither his father nor the Ancient hurried anything. Breakfast had been prepared and eaten, tea, served, yet still, Lo Si had not even begun the tale of their mysterious early morning visitor. Peter paced restlessly while his father showed the Ancient the ring the detective had given him for safekeeping.

"Yes," Lo Si stated, as if confirming something. "It is who I thought. Do you remember Kwai Chang, the stories of Marpa Tulka and the ability to cloud minds?"

"Yes," the younger priest answered.

"The ability to do what?" Peter interjected.

"Marpa Tulka," the Ancient continued, as if Peter had not spoken, "took it upon himself to teach those who struggled against their own black hearts. It would take a year to redeem them. He.was not always successful."

"And the one who was here, Master?" Caine asked. "Did Marpa Tulka fail with him?"

"No." Lo Si shook his head. "I do not understand what has happened. He has always been a powerful force for good." He took a sip of tea. "He prevented a descendant of Genghis Kahn from destroying New York City, fought against the Nazis, forced criminals to surrender to the police."

Peter sighed, exasperated. He felt like he watching an episode of the 'Twilight Zone". "So, who is this guy?"

"In Tibet, after the first World War, he was known as Ying Ko. He was a very powerful opium dealer. He held the trade in most of the country. He was taken by the Tulka and redeemed." The older priest paused. "He returned to the United States under his true name, and established a network of agents make of people he helped. In this way, he always had someone who would inform him of a situation which might require his special 'attention'." Lo Si paused again. "He was known as the Shadow."

"Whoa! Wait a minute, you mean like: 'Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.'" Peter laughed. "Isn't that just an old radio show?"

"No, he is real," Lo Si informed him.

Peter only shook his head and sat down on the wood floor. Now they were chasing make believe radio heroes.

Placing his empty tea cup aside, the old man continued his tale, "The Beast.his evil nature.the Shadow always struggled against." Lo Si contemplated a spot on the wall. "His use of the Phurba."

"Just where did that thing come from?" Peter wanted to know.

"The Tulka. She was his." The Ancient frowned. "I don't know how she came to be the Shadow's, but she can only be controlled by thought. Peter," he turned to the younger man," you have been touched by the Shadow's darkness. I sense the beast trying to rise up in you."

'Yeah, right.' Peter thought. None of what he'd just heard could be real. He glanced at his watch. He barely had enough time to run by his apartment, change, and still get to the station on time. He had a serial killer to catch. He didn't have time to go chasing shadows. "We still on for dinner tonight, Pop?" he asked as he grabbed his raincoat. His father nodded. "I'm out of here." Peter headed for the stairs. In spite of his coat he'd probably be drenched by the time he reached his car.

"Peter." Lo Si's tone stopped him. "Take care. Your soul is in great danger."

A chill ran down Peter's spine. He spared the two priests a glance. He saw fear in his father's eyes. He swallowed. 'Come on, Peter, get a grip,' he told himself. "See you later, Pop," he called jauntily as he left.

"Your son," the Ancient informed his friend," does not understand the danger he is in."

Caine took a deep breath. "I know."

Cranston sensed the young man before he even entered the upscale hotel. There was a hint of un-tapped power. Nonchalantly, he leaned against the ornate gold railing and watched the dark-haired man enter with an attractive blonde. They conversed briefly, then separated, the woman entering the downstairs bar. The young man rambled up to the desk and engaged the desk clerk in conversation.

In his mind's eye, the watcher saw another young man, displayed proudly in uniform, waving from the deck of a ship. A voyage from which he never returned. An old wound Lamont had never recovered from stung his soul. He closed his eyes, trying to center as the anger welled up, brought to the surface by the remembered death of his son - his hope for freedom, his hope for the future. Inside, his beast howled. "Come," he heard himself whisper. He opened dark eyes to again observe the man below. He had left the clerk and was slowy ascending the plush carpeted stairs.

Lamont stepped backward. "Follow." When the young man obeyed, he led him down the hallway. He unlocked his room and stepped inside. "Enter," he ordered, silently closing the door as he was obeyed. "Your name?" Cranston inquired.

"Peter.Caine."

"Sit. There." He indicated a stuffed chair.

Peter obediently sat.

Cranston regarded his captive. Peter Caine obviously kept himself fit. He was slightly on edge, even under Lamont's control. It reminded him of his uncle, who had been a cop. "Are you a cop?"

There was a brief struggle. "Yes."

Even better. He gently tipped the young man's face up. "Forgive me for I'm about to do." His eyes grew dark. He felt his prisoner shudder as he invaded his soul, leaving his burden within. Then after a long moment, he whispered, "Remember nothing. Go."

Peter rose and left the room. Cranston collapsed into the still warm chair. Relief filled him.

He had finally found an heir.

"Where have you been?" Jody hissed. "You were supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago."

"Busy," Peter snapped back.

"Our suspect is there." She indicated a respectable dressed man in a dark blue suit.

Peter nodded. Cold fury filled him. This scumbag had been killing helpless young women. All he wanted to do was choke the worthless life out of him.

"Peter?" He looked at his partner. He saw fear on her face. "Are you okay?"

"Fine." He took a sip of his coke. He'd rather have a beer.

Jody settled back in her seat. "So, you gonna talk to me or not partner?" Tailing someone could get boring. They might as well converse.

Peter shrugged. Indifferent. "I want this slimeball."

"We'll get him." Jody frowned. Peter wasn't being his usual talkative self. "You sure you're okay?"

"Yes," he responded coldly, his dark gaze sweeping over her.

Jody suddenly felt cold. There was something different in his eyes. An almost.evil.presence.

"He's leaving." Peter was rising.

"Right." Jody took his hand as they left. His fingers seemed wooden. But, they were suppose to be posing as lovers.

Just outside, Peter grabbed her roughly, kissing her.

"Peter!" She slapped him.

A startled scared expression appeared on his face. "Jody, I'm sorry."

"Forget it." She took his arm. "Let's get to the car before he gets away." She would have to talk to him later, but for now, they had a job to do.

His son was late. Caine tried to calm his troubled heart by playing his flute. The tune came out sorrowful. The Shaolin was not certain what he was mourning.

"Pop?" Peter appeared at the balcony door.

Caine rose to greet his son. He paused, eyes narrowing. This was, and was not, his child.

"Pop?" There was a frightened quality in his voice.

The priest could see the darkness in Peter's eyes. It had not been there that morning. "What has happened, my son?"

"Pop," Peter pleaded. "come on, don't you do this to me, too. Jody's been complaining all day that I'm like a complete stranger. And I feel different, as if there's this dark anger in me." He couldn't explain it, but it scared him.

The priest picked up his flute and set it behind him. "Come, Peter." He sat down and patted the stone next to him. His son sat. Gently, the Shaolin placed the palm of his hand against Peter's forehead. "Take a deep breath," he instructed. The detective did as he was told, his eyes sliding shut.

"'Remember nothing,'" echoed in Kwai Chang's mind. He could see the face of a man in his late thirties. His raven hair was fashionably cut and his clothes conservative, yet current. It was his black eyes, however that drew.compelled. Caine felt the shudder, which had filled Peter's body - the drawing out of the beast from the one and the entrance of the beast into Peter. He could feel his son's lack of control over it. Caine sighed, breaking the contact.

Peter shook his head, trying to clear it. Somewhere deep inside, a part of him howled. He could feel it boiling to the surface. Anger.raging.

"Peter!" his father's voice commanded. "You must control the beast. You know how."

He struggled with it. All Peter wanted to do was grab the beast by the throat and strangle it.

"Embrace it.accept it." His father's instruction echoed in his mind.

Peter forced himself to relax. 'Don't fight,' he told himself. 'This is a part of you now.' The beast roared. It wanted to be free. He couldn't allow that. "Father! Pop.help me."

Arms encircled him, drawing him to a place of safety, anchoring him. Peter took a deep, unsteady breath. He felt like he was choking. Tremors shook his body. He buried his face on is father's shoulder, tightening his arms around Caine, and held on for dear life.

After Peter calmed down, Caine prepared tea for them. He poured the light liquid form the china pot and handed the now filled cup to his son. Peter took a sip before lounging against the brick wall of the balcony.

"What happened to me, Pop?" Peter finally asked.

"Don't call me pop," Caine needlessly reminded his son. He'd never had been able to break Peter of the habit. He took a sip of his own tea before answering. "The.evil nature.the beast.was transferred to you from.." Caine hesitate. The man he had seen did not resemble the flickering shadow he'd seen. "The Shadow," he finally said.

"Why?"

"I do not know."

Peter's hand shook, splattering some tea on his hand.

"You must not allow it to overwhelm you. You're very countenance will change. You will do evil.and delight in doing so. You have a good soul, my son."

Peter frowned. "Sort of like, the devil on one shoulder winning over the angel on the other."

Caine nodded. He understood the analogy. Laura, his wife, had explained it to him, during their early days of courtship. He still missed her.

Peter yawned. "I'm tired. Mind if I crash here, Pop?"

"I do not mind." Secretly, Caine was glad. He could watch over his son's soul with Peter in this place of sanctuary.

"Peter," his father's voice summoned him from healing sleep.

"What?" He rolled over to hazy awareness.

"Hi, kid," Kermit greeted. Peter squinted at the older detective. He still wondered how Kermit could wear sunglasses all the time. "Get dressed. Sweetcakes and Skalany have serial killer cornered."

"Great," Peter mumbled. At least Jody had managed to find the guy again after they'd lost him in rush hour traffic. As he struggled into his clothes, he felt his shaky control of his dark beast slip. Having to hold himself in such tight control wasn't going to make this potential capture easy. "Are we the only back up?"

Griffin smiled. "Are you kidding? Captain Simms has half the department mobilized."

Peter always found it amusing how Kermit tended to use military terms. But then, the guy was an ex-mercenary. "Then let's help nail this perp."

"Oh, yeah."

Why did killers always seem to find the dingiest corner of town to perpetrate their crimes? Peter was perplexed by their behavior. He slowed his Stealth as he approached.

"There's Simms," Kermit commented. He'd left his green convertible at Caine's when Peter insisted they take his car.

Peter pulled his car along side the captain's. She spared the two detectives a glance as she issued instructions. "He's on the street," she informed them. "The shrink is certain he's looking for a new victim." Her gaze swept over them. "Let's make certain he doesn't find one. Caine, Griffin," she continued, "circle around the warehouse. You should have him trapped between you two and Powell and Skalany. Mitchell's on the roof."

Peter nodded. Best place for a sharpshooter.

"Chief," she went on as he joined her.

Kermit caught Peter's eye. He canted his head in the general direction they were supposed to go. Peter tilted his head in agreement. Together they slipped around the corner. Carefully, they edged along the old wooden structure. At the next corner, Kermit slid by him. He peeked around it.

"He's not more than six feet away from us," the ex-mercenary whispered.

"How do you want to pay it?"

"Nice and simple." Kermit released the safety on his gun. "On three.one."

Low mocking laughter filled the air.

"Shit," Peter exclaimed.

"What the hell?" Kermit wanted to know.

"I know you, Donovan Strait," the raspy voice stated. "You use to torture small animals."

Their quarry was backing toward the building. "Who are you?" he yelled.

The voice continued, " I know you. Your evil heart. Too many young girls have died by your hand."

"So much for surprise," Kermit decided. "Ready?"

"Wait." Peter could mentally hear the plan of their unexpected helper. It unsettled him. He'd experienced this type of communication on very few occasions. It was strongest with his father.

"Peter?"

"Wait," the young cop repeated.

"You'll surrender to the police."

"Like hell!" Strait shouted. He began to run. Instinct clicked in and Peter and Kermit ran after him. The guy seemed to run into something, although there was nothing there, and fell to the ground.

"And just where did you think you were going?" the disembodied voice inquired.

Peter knelt and slapped handcuffs on their suspect. "Good catch, detective," the voice mocked. "You had better confess, Strait. There's no place to hide. From me."

Peter sensed the presence near him. "You'll never learn to control the beast." Soft laughter. "You're mine." In a flash, it was gone. He shivered.

"Hey, partner," Jody touched his shoulder. "You okay?"

"Yeah." He hauled the murderer to his feet.

"Who was the invisible man?" Jody looked around.

"You wouldn't believe me."

Kermit gave him an odd look. Peter ignored it and read Donovan Strait his rights.

Thunder shook the loft. Caine glanced at his son who was sleeping restlessly. Peter had returned from a fruitless night of questioning the suspected serial killer. He'd told his father about the Shadow helping capture Strait and his frightening words to Peter.

Rain began to fall in a steady rhythm. Without a sound, the Shaolin rose and padded to the window. Lightening flashed across the sky, reminding him briefly of a very sharp knife.

Caine breathed deeply. He must be centered. The coming battle would require him to be completely in control. Still, he could feel his fear rolling to the top, threatening to overpower him. He did want to loose his son. "You will not take my son." He spoke to the night.

"I am need of a pupil." A voice sounded beside him

Startled, Caine half turned. A figure materialized. The priest recognized the young man he had seen when he touched Peter's mind. "Why.Peter?"

The man smiled. It lightened his face. "He has.abilities."

Thunder sounded. The two men regarded each other, measuring their skills.

"We'll be evenly matched," Cranston commented.

"I can not allow you to claim my son."

"You hold your dark side in strict control," Lamont noted. "You may need it.in battling me."

"Truth overcomes darkness," the Shaolin replied.

Lamont chuckled. He'd heard such sentiment before. "Your son is already partially mine."

"He is learning.control."

Cranston sighed. He was tired. He felt old. For too long the beast had kept him young. He should have died long ago. He should be resting beside his wife.

"It is not a curse," Kwai Chang said softly.

"Isn't it?" Lamont retorted. "You would keep your son from it."

Caine shrugged. "He is my son."

"At least you have a son." He allowed his mind to drift back.He'd married Margo during the late 1930's. They'd had three children, two girls and a boy. The girls had been happily married. He had grandchildren. But his son, Jerry had joined the military and had been killed in Korea. He'd planned on teaching his son what the Tulka had taught him.

"It is a painful memory," Caine's words broke into his thoughts.

"An old wound," he replied.

"The pain remains." Kwai Chang reached out to the man. Lightly he rested a hand on Lamont's forearm.

Cranston looked at the hand. He sensed an understanding, an easy sympathy, which seemed to come naturally to the priest. He swallowed hard, fighting tears. He turned his gaze to the rain-filled night.

"I'll help your son learn to control the beast." His dark eyes met Caine's. "I won't take him from you." His voice grew hoarse. "I know what it is to lose a son."

Six months ago, Peter would have sworn he could never have learned to control his beast. But with the combined training of Lamont Cranston, AKA The Shadow, The Ancient and his father, he had learned to master it. 'Well, almost,' he modified. It still had a tendency to slip out occasionally.

He pulled his car up in front of his father's place. He noted Cranston's red Ferrari and smiled. Lamont had become a constant guest of his father's. He entered quietly, not wishing to interrupt them. He received a friendly wave from Tara. She'd started dating Cranston after he'd called her, at Peter's insistence, about four and half months ago. They seemed to have a connection. He wouldn't be surprised if they ended up married.

"Hello, Peter," his father greeted him

"Hi Dad, Lamont."

Cranston gave him a nod. The Phurba floated a few feet away from him.

Peter extended his hand. "'Come." She whirled and fell tamely into his palm

Cranston and Caine exchanged glances.

"Well done," Lamont complimented.

The detective shrugged. He'd learned a lot. "Thanks." He gave Phurba back to his teacher. "We finally got a confession from our serial killer."

"You're not happy about it," Cranston observed.

Caine had noticed that too.

Peter wandered around the room. He still had a lot of restless energy. "We didn't have enough evidence to convict him; he would have been out in two years, so I had to use the beast." He shuddered. "It still scares me."

"But you've embraced it," Cranston stated. 'Something I was never able to do."

"You must.forgive yourself," Caine interjected.

"I've done things.," he began.

"We all have.pasts. I, too, have done things." Caine paused, not wishing to go into details. "I have learned to forgive myself."

"You're a stronger man than I." Cranston's face shadowed. Beneath the surface both Caines could see the darkness.

"It's time for me to leave." Cranston gathered up his coat. He started to take the dagger, but thought better of it. He handed it to Peter. It was no longer his. "Tara," he called. The psychic came to his side. He smiled down at the redhead. She blushed. "We'll send you an invitation," he told the two men.

"For your wedding," Peter said.

Tara giggled. "You're getting very good at that, Peter." She kissed his cheek quickly. "I'm going to miss both of you. You've made my rather dull life interesting."

Caine gave her a smile. "I do not think your life has ever been dull."

She kissed the priest. "A lot you know."

Lamont took her arm. "We have to go or we'll miss our flight."

"Your ring," Caine moved to fetch it.

Cranston surveyed the two. He had a flash of their future. They were bound together. As fathers and sons should be. He hugged Tara to him, knowing he had been granted a second chance. Perhaps, there would be another son.

"Keep it," he told them. "Peter may one day have a use for it." With that, he took his leave of them.

The two Caines watched couple leave. Peter went to the cupboard and pulled down the runed box. He opened the lid and removed the ring.

"Are you sure, Peter?" Kwai Chang asked him.

His son nodded. He slipped the ring on his finger. He knew he had accepted his mixed destiny. Maybe it wasn't the path he always thought he'd follow. But at least it would give him an edge against the slime balls he battled on the street everyday.

He faced his father, his image changing. A black hat appeared on his head, and a billowing cloak filled the light.

Kwai Chang bowed slightly.

Peter was the new Shadow.

Originally published in OF DREAMS AND SCHEMES #11. Posted here by the author with editorial corrections.