In a year of fighting in The Great War, a year as a drug smuggler, four years as a Tibetan warlord, a year with Marpa Tulku, and six years as The Shadow, Lamont Cranston had been injured in just about every way a person could be injured. He'd been shot, stabbed, gassed, strangled, clubbed, poisoned, and beaten eight ways to Sunday. But this was the first time he'd ever had an arrow run through him. The sharp tip of the arrowhead had cut a nice groove into his right upper arm, barely missing slicing his bicep, adding to the misery of the usual assortment of bruises, bumps, and scrapes after a night of tangling with shadowy evil. But among the things Marpa Tulku had taught him was how to redirect his vast reservoir of projective energy through a technique known as tumo summoning to stimulate blood flow to injured areas, which mustered the body's defenses and accelerated natural healing mechanisms. When Lamont allowed himself to perform a full-blown tumo, he could heal even the worst injuries in hours. But full-blown tumos required a lot of mental energy and deep concentration, two things that were in very short supply right now, so Lamont contented himself with an abbreviated tumo to seal the gash and kill the pain as he bandaged his shoulder and cleaned his minor wounds upstairs in his bedroom. God, Cranston, you're a mess, he chided himself as he caught a glimpse of his battle-scarred torso in the full-length mirror across from his armchair. He really needed a good stiff drink right about now, but that would interfere too much in his thought processes, so the only alcohol on the nightstand next to him was the rubbing alcohol he'd poured into the washbasin to sanitize the injuries and ward off infection.
The sting of the alcohol-soaked gauze on his shoulder was nothing, though, compared to the sting of defeat he'd experienced tonight. Khan now had Reinhardt Lane under his complete control, and had access to his generator. Lamont was now sure Khan had enough bronzium for a bomb; why else would he need Reinhardt's device? Worse, though, was what to do about Margo Lane. She'd overheard "Ying Ko" from his thoughts, and was far stronger telepathically than he'd realized as she'd managed to resist even his moderately-strong hypnotic suggestions. He'd have to find a way to wipe himself out of her memories without hurting her, and soon, before they encountered each other again and she overheard far worse...
A lingering, deliberate "creak" on the master stairs reached his ears. He stopped cleaning his wounds and listened carefully.
The footsteps continued up the main staircase and stepped onto the upstairs carpet, heading for his room.
Lamont frowned. The staff did not use the main stairs after dark, so the person in the hallway was clearly someone who had managed to penetrate the mansion's physical defenses. Lamont reminded himself to give a stern lecture in the morning to his majordomo Russell on reinforcing house security rules with the staff, then reached out with his mind, letting telepathic waves ripple outward to determine who exactly was approaching...and nearly falling out of his chair at the response.
Margo Lane strode slowly down the long carpet runner to the door at the end of the hall. The Chinese pistol was still in her right hand, but her arm hung loosely at her side. No need to aim it yet. She wasn't in range.
Light from underneath a closed door signaled the end of stalking. Her prey lay just ahead. She put a hand on the elegant pewter door handle and pushed downward.
The door opened. She could see him now, seated in a chair, facing her. A perfect target. She raised her right arm, aimed the pistol at his heart, and squeezed the trigger.
The bullet hit him dead center in the chest...and his image spiderwebbed.
Lamont watched the mirror across from him shatter, and for a moment counted his blessings. Then, he was puzzled as he watched her walk into the room, gun still pointed right at what she had to know now was not really him.
Margo stopped just inside the room, transfixed by the splintered image.
Lamont crossed the room to her. She didn't even acknowledge the motion.
He took the gun away from her and tossed it aside. She still held her right arm straight out, her hand gripping nothing and her index finger curled around a trigger of air.
He pushed her arm down. She now stood like a statue, completely frozen.
He waved a hand in front of her face. She didn't even blink.
Lamont closed the door to the bedroom and sent out a broadcast psychic suggestion to his staff that no one in the house had heard anything unusual, then bounced a wave off Margo's psyche.
Absolutely nothing came back. It was as if her mind had gone blank now that the one thing she had come here to do was done.
Lamont frowned. Only one man in New York City other than himself had the power to put someone in a trance that deep. But why? Surely she wasn't meant to kill him; Khan would have given her better weapons and a backup plan if that were the case. Just how had Khan done this so easily when Lamont couldn't do it earlier tonight? Surely she wasn't in on this whole plan, but was she cooperating with Khan to save her father? And did she have any idea exactly whose house she was in?
Whatever the case, the only person who might have any answers was still under an intense hypnotic spell. Lamont looked her in the eyes and focused his powers on penetrating that thick fog that was engulfing her mind. Margo Lane.
She jumped as if startled, then looked completely disoriented. "What...where am I?"
Just as he suspected--she didn't remember anything. But those subconscious orders were in her mind somewhere, and he was going to get to the bottom of this come Hell or high water. "You're in my home."
Margo suddenly realized who she was talking to. Why in the world had she come here? This was the last place she wanted to be, with as angry and hurt as she was at him. "Your home? How did I get here?"
Lamont wasn't in the mood to answer her questions. He wanted answers to his first. "Who sent you?" he demanded sharply.
"I..." Her thoughts were scattered. What was going on? How had she gotten here? And why had she come? She turned to the door and struggled to open it, trying to leave the room quickly, wanting to escape this place, hoping against hope that this was just a nightmare and she'd wake up any second now...
Lamont slammed the door shut before she could get out. "Who sent you?" he roared, right on top of her, refusing to let her move.
"I don't know!" she roared back, anger and distress in her voice, and pushed him away. "I don't know! All I remember is this voice in my head, over and over, telling me that I had to kill The Shadow..."
...and at that moment, suddenly, it all made sense to her.
Margo stared at Lamont, wonder in her eyes. My God, that explains everything, she realized. Of course he'd known so much about her when they'd first met--The Shadow knows. Of course he hadn't wanted to get deeply involved with her--The Shadow wouldn't have time for a real relationship. Of course he'd left hurriedly when he'd heard about her father's strange behavior--The Shadow was needed. And of course he'd been angry when she'd shouted out "Ying Ko" at the curb--she got the distinct impression that "Ying Ko" meant "shadow" in Chinese...
Lamont's eyes widened. Now he knew why Khan had sent her--to show him how vulnerable he truly was. Because his identity was concealed, because his powers were used in secret, anyone who could penetrate that veil of secrecy was a threat to him. Khan had already done it in The Sanctum...and Margo Lane had penetrated it earlier that evening. He suddenly felt naked, and not just because he was barely wearing anything but a sleeveless undershirt and a pair of trousers. "I want you to leave right now," he ordered, backing off from her.
My God, this is incredible. It can't be true...can it? She found herself smiling an awestruck smile. "I had to kill The Shadow...and I came here," she said, voicing her thought process aloud to force herself to believe it.
Lamont turned away from her and grabbed his shirt off the clothes valet. "I said I want you to leave right now!"
Margo took a step closer to him. "And there was only you."
Lamont pulled on his shirt and buttoned it, turning further away from her. She was too close now...something was liable to happen if she kept this up...no one posed this kind of threat to him and lived. "Get out," he growled.
Margo stepped closer. She was almost certain that the man who'd rejected her on the curb outside the Cobalt Club was The Shadow, not Lamont Cranston...but she needed him to look at her to confirm it. She put a tentative hand on his shoulder. "Let me see into your eyes."
` He whipped around to face her.
She gasped. Those eyes...my God, those eyes...
Lamont drilled an angry power-filled gaze through her. You want to see into my eyes?
She backed off. Roaring static was inside her head now, twisting around, as he stared at her. "I think I know something..."
He was smiling now, an almost insane smile of cruelty, as he came closer. Well, go on. Look at them.
She kept backing away as the noise got louder. "...something I knew before..."
He grabbed her arm. Look at them!
She could not stop voicing the incredible reality aloud, even as her mental voice was being drowned out by his psychic signals. "...something strange about you..."
He was backing her toward the door. But I've got to warn you...
Now it was all making sense, even through the increasingly painful noise in her head. "...all that static in my head whenever you were near..."
He was right on top of her now. ...you won't like what you see!
Her back hit the door, and she stopped. She looked him in the eye, determined to say it before her nerve completely left her. "You're The Shadow!"
He looked absolutely enraged, about to explode, and the pain in her head became intense. Margo braced herself for some kind of physical or psychic blow...
...and suddenly, the noise and pain stopped. Margo looked up.
Lamont had backed off a step, and the darkness faded from his eyes. Now there was nothing in that gaze but...fear? Vulnerability? Shame?
Whatever it was, Margo was determined to strike while the opportunity was there. "My father's disappeared," she said, tears in her voice. "You're the only one who can find him."
Lamont was horrified at his behavior. He'd nearly killed her. He'd been about to literally rip her psyche apart when something clicked and forced him to stop. It was just like when he'd nearly killed his cousin at 13 for silently taunting him about cheating on a test...taunts the budding telepath had inadvertantly heard. But he thought after a year with Marpa Tulku and six years in forced servitude to doing good that he had a better handle on that fiery temper of his than this...would he never be in full control of this darkness within him? He had to get out of here now, find some kind of outlet for this rage, before he did something he'd regret. And hunting Khan might not be a bad way to do that. "Just be gone when I get back," he hissed, then grabbed his suit jacket, vest, and tie, and started out the door.
She put a hand on the door just as he was getting ready to open it. "How do you know I won't tell anyone who you really are?" she challenged.
He glared at her, scouring her psyche for the likelihood that she'd unmask him if he didn't find her father...
...and found something unexpected. Concern? Compassion? For him? After what he'd just done?
Their eyes met. All of that and more was in Margo's gaze now.
Lamont couldn't believe it. Where he'd expected to issue a threat, he was now issuing a statement of trust. I know. Then, he left the room.
Margo knew enough not to follow.
Lamont paced his foyer as he finished dressing and waited for Moe to arrive. Clearly Khan was now waging not just a physical battle, but a psychic one as well. It had been a very long time since Lamont had been pushed this hard by another adept, and he wasn't entirely sure he was up to the challenge. For some reason, the strong confidence he normally had in his abilities was weak, eroded. Probably the ease with which the untrained receptive Margo Lane had gotten past his defenses had something to do with that. But for now, Khan was staying one step ahead of Lamont, and he needed to do something about it.
The clanking of the iron gates indicated Moe had arrived. Lamont pulled on his coat and headed outside. "To The Sanctum," he ordered, climbing in the cab.
Moe nodded and pulled out of the gates.
Across the street, away from the streetlamps and deep in the shadows, a Mongol warrior leaned forward in the back seat of a cab and gestured for the driver to follow the fast-moving Cord.
Traffic in Times Square was extremely heavy for this time of night, so Moe dropped Lamont off a bit further up the block than normal. Lamont got out of the cab and strolled down the street, stopping briefly to adjust the fit of his Homburg...and to look in the side mirror of the car next to him.
A Mongol warrior in full battle dress was walking toward him, keeping a careful distance.
Lamont frowned inwardly. Yet another message from Khan, another indication of his vulnerability, daring him to show his skills when he wasn't cloaked in shadow. The man was clearly meant to engage Lamont in combat, but was probably also meant to be sacrificed should Lamont react to him. Moe had suspected that they'd picked up a tail, moreso when the other cab followed them through a long, roundabout route to Times Square, and now it was Lamont's job to shake him if he continued to follow. He bypassed the alley to The Sanctum and picked up the pace, turning onto a side street.
The Mongol followed.
Lamont's longer legs had the decided advantage in a walking sprint, and he was around the corner again and into a darkened alley before the Mongol could catch up.
The Mongol ran down to the last place he'd seen Lamont...and saw nothing. He frowned. His master would be very upset by this. Hoping he'd just guessed the wrong alley, he hurried further up the block.
A swirling blackness settled back into the form of Lamont Cranston as he stepped out of the alley and watched the man walk on. Deciding to see what else Khan had in store, he followed the warrior at a discreet distance.
The Cord followed slowly, about a half-block behind.
Both men kept walking, eventually arriving in Chinatown. There was a street festival going on, with sparklers, fireworks, dancing dragons, and revelers wandering about. Lamont was barely able to keep the Mongol in sight as he made his way through the crowd.
The Mongol ducked into a doorway marked "Sun Yet Kitchen".
Lamont followed, ascending a set of stairs to a beaded curtain-covered doorway at the top. He parted the curtains carefully and looked inside.
The restaurant was empty, except for a single well-dressed patron having dinner...one who looked extremely familiar. Lamont cautiously entered the room.
Mopping up the remnants of his meal with a piece of bread was a bearded man with short blue-black pomaded hair, dressed in a finely-tailored blue-black suit, looking strangely like a barbarian stuffed into Sunday clothes.
It took Lamont a second to realize that the man before him was Shiwan Khan...and that they were wearing identical Brooks Brothers suits. The only difference was that Khan had on the gold-and-grey striped tie Lamont had worn the day before, while Lamont's was a maroon and navy patterned one. "Nice tie," he commented dryly.
Khan smirked and wiped his hands and mouth on a napkin. Right on time. Marpa Tulku always said that you could never resist a challenge. "Thank you," he said mock-politely, gesturing at the chair across from him. "Sit down."
Lamont doffed his hat and coat, then tossed the coat to the table behind him and sat down. "By the say," he said casually, pulling his gloves off and dropping them into his hat, "you sent Margo Lane to kill me."
Khan chuckled. "Kill you? Ying Ko, if I wanted you dead, I would have your liver on a pole by now. No, I sent the girl to be killed. Tell me, how did you do it?"
Lamont tossed the hat to the table behind him. Just as he'd suspected, it had all been a test. And he wasn't sure whether he'd passed or failed. She got the reaction Khan had wanted, but not the outcome. "She's alive."
Khan raised an eyebrow. Ying Ko had actually developed a compassionate streak. How unfortunate. "Then she is a danger to you. She now knows exactly who you are. How much longer can you let her live? How long before your pure instincts take over?"
Lamont smirked. Now he'd gotten under Khan's skin. Time to take advantage of it. "I'm on to your plan, Khan. But you don't have the beryllium sphere, and without it, you can't complete the bomb." He looked smug. "Besides...you know I'm going to stop you."
Khan chuckled. Ah, good, Ying Ko's legendary arrogance was showing...a set of thought patterns Khan was very good at manipulating. "You Americans are so arrogant. You think your decadent country is the new cradle of civilization."
Lamont's temper flared. Six years back in this country defending the streets of New York had given Lamont a new appreciation for his homeland. "Hey--that's the good old U-S-of-A you're talking about, pal," he cracked in his best tough New Yorker accent.
Khan laughed heartily. "I am talking about ruling the world!"
Lamont shook his head. Khan was clearly delusional. Dangerous, but delusional. "Let me give you a name," he finally said, reaching into his suitcoat for a small notebook and pen. "Leonard Levinsky. Brilliant psychiatrist." He started to jot his number down. "You'll talk, he'll listen..."
"You are boring me!" Khan jabbed a dagger downward toward Lamont's right hand on the table.
At the last second, Lamont spread his fingers wide, and the dagger landed harmlessly between them. Then, he saw something that chilled him.
The dagger had a tri-bladed shaft...and an all-too-familiar sleeping dragon face on its hilt. The face opened its eyes and snarled angrily at him.
Lamont tried to conceal his reaction. "Oh, that knife," he said, trying to act casual.
Too late. Khan had already seen right through the facade. "Recognize it?" he asked rhetorically. "I took it from The Tulku."
Lamont couldn't help it...he looked up at Khan, his eyes reflecting a horrible thought. Marpa Tulku would never have willingly given up Phurba; it was sent by the gods as his sworn protector and would do anything to protect the one who mastered it...
Khan smirked again. Ying Ko was slowly realizing the truth...that Khan was more powerful than even the man he'd called "master". "No, no, I misspoke. I took it out of The Tulku...after I ran it through his heart."
Lamont felt as if Khan had plunged Phurba into his own heart. The Marpa Tulku...the kindest man he'd ever known...the man who'd saved him from himself...the only person who'd ever given a damn if he lived or died...no, he couldn't be dead. White-hot rage burned inside him as he looked at Khan.
Ah, good, Ying Ko's legendary temper was returning. Now to push him over the edge. "When are you going to learn?" he taunted. "When are you going to listen to your true instincts?"
"Instincts?" Lamont hissed between clenched teeth. "I'll show you my instincts!" He grabbed Phurba by the hilt and raised it high above his head, intending to drive it into Khan's heart, if the bastard had one...
Phurba roared and began twisting and contorting in Lamont's grip, infuriated that someone other than its master was attempting to use it. And it already had a healthy dislike for this former student anyway, this bad man who had malice in his heart toward even this new master and needed to be taught a lesson. Its teeth snapped and gnashed as it struggled in Lamont's grasp.
Lamont tried to drive the knife downward, but it felt as if his wrist were about to be torn off. Finally, he slammed it blade-first into the table and let go, then fell into his chair weakly, grasping his hand and grimacing in pain.
Khan smiled triumphantly. He'd manipulated Ying Ko's overconfidence and made him injure himself. Marpa Tulku had always spoken of Ying Ko as such a superior student. How nice that the dead monk had been proven so wrong. "Never did master the Phurba," he chided. "You still expect it to respond to brute force." He held out his right hand.
Phurba slid across the table into it, hilt-first.
Any further thoughts Lamont had of attacking Khan were stilled by the cold steel of a single-shot Chinese pistol against his temple. The Mongol he'd been following was now next to him, gun cocked and ready to fire.
Khan gave the warrior a glare, and the guard backed off and came over to protect his master. "My Mongol warriors are not very bright...but they are very loyal." He sighed. "Face the truth, Ying Ko. There is no light without shadow...and you and I are that shadow. I would sooner destroy a Rembrandt than kill you. But you are not leaving me any choice in the matter."
Lamont wasn't listening. He was instead looking over Khan's shoulder at the not-very-bright warrior, sending a beam of projective energy between the man's eyes.
The warrior winced. He suddenly had a piercing headache--almost like a dagger driving through the middle of his forehead.
"One more time," Khan pronounced, annoyed that Lamont would not look at him. "Will you join me?"
Lamont barely raised his concentration...and the pressure doubled.
The warrior pinched the bridge of his nose, clearly in agony.
"You cannot stop me," Khan warned. "You cannot defeat me. Your mind is an open book to me."
Lamont laughed derisively. "Then learn how to read." He held up his right hand.
The pained warrior tossed his pistol into it and stumbled away.
Khan pushed the table over, knocking Lamont's chair backwards and spilling him to the floor. "Weakling!" he shouted to his guard, stabbing Phurba into his belly, then yanked the dagger out and grabbed the man's other pistol.
Lamont recovered his balance, got to his knees, and aimed his gun right for Khan's heart.
Khan aimed right for the center of Lamont's forehead.
Two trigger fingers fired two pistols simultaneously.
Two bullets flew across the restaurant and smashed headlong into one another, fusing into a single lump of lead.
Khan's eyes widened. He couldn't do that again if he tried.
Lamont's eyes widened. He couldn't do that again if he tried.
Khan shouted a Mongolian battle cry and sent a telekinetic blast through the room.
Lamont was knocked backward. The windows in the restaurant blew outward.
Khan leapt out the now-shattered window overlooking the street.
Lamont got to his feet and sent for Moe, grabbing his coat and hat and racing down the stairs.
For a brief instant, Moe thought Lamont had found himself another driver. A man in a familiar dark Brooks Brothers suit had leapt out the window, executed a perfect mid-air somersault before landing on his feet, and jumped into the sidecar of a waiting motorcycle that sped away just as Moe pulled up to the curb outside of the Sun Yet Kitchen. But a second later, the real Lamont emerged from the restaurant, and Moe hit a switch on the dashboard to pop open the rear door for his passenger.
Lamont jumped into the cab and slammed the door. "Tail 'em, Moe," he ordered.
Moe smiled. This was the part of the mission he liked best--the part where his unique skills were put to good use. He hit the gas, and the cab squealed away from the curb.
The Cord was like a speedboat on wheels--a huge V-8 engine, sleek aerodynamic lines, racing suspension and steering. It could outrun anything on the road. But the motorcycle had a tighter turning radius, and was able to get around corners faster. Moe fought to keep it in sight as they tore down city streets, dodging traffic, running signals.
The motorcycle turned onto Second Avenue. Moe turned onto the street a moment later, then suddenly realized the motorcycle was nowhere to be seen. "Boss, he's disappeared!"
"What?" Lamont looked all around, then something strange caught his eye. "Stop the car!"
Moe screeched to a halt at the corner of Second and Houston Street.
Lamont got out of the cab. Whatever he'd seen, it was gone now. But he was certain he'd seen something here-- the splash of a street puddle where none should have been, the swirling of trash in a wind pattern not indicative of the shape of the buildings around here...
A whispering hiss got his attention. He looked all around...and spotted an empty lot, right where he thought he'd seen that odd splash and crazy wind pattern. He crossed the street and walked over to the chain link fence.
Trash blew across the lot. Weeds grew all around. It was just another demolished building site, like so many others in New York City nowadays thanks to the economic collapse of The Great Depression. There was nothing there.
Or was there? Lamont couldn't shake the feeling that Khan was nearby, watching, laughing. This lot was concealing something. There were times he hated the fact that he was so unbalanced psychically; his receptive strength was barely a quarter of his massive projective power, and he had to really work hard to open it up and use it properly...harder than his exhausted mind could work right now.
Moe came up behind him, looking confused. Lamont said and did some crazy things sometimes, but even he wouldn't mistake an abandoned construction site in a rundown part of town for anything of value...would he? "It's just an empty lot, boss," he told his employer quietly.
Lamont wasn't so sure, but he couldn't decipher the mystery. His head hurt, his shoulder ached, he was just heartsick over the news of Marpa Tulku's murder, and he'd lost Khan's trail. What a rotten night.
He turned away from the fence and wandered back to the cab.
Lamont could smell the aroma of logs on a fire mingling with the heady scent of Margo's perfume as he arrived inside the mansion. He sighed inwardly, reminding himself that he couldn't really have expected her to leave after their encounter in his bedroom earlier. He headed into the parlor, doffed his coat and hat, and tossed them aside onto a settee.
Margo was asleep on the sofa in front of the fireplace. In the dancing light from the flames, she looked so delicate, so vulnerable...so beautiful. Lamont massaged his aching shoulder and mentally debated whether to wake her or leave her there and deal with her in the morning.
Margo stirred, then opened her eyes.
For a moment, they both looked at each other, uncertain of what to say.
From the look in his eyes, Margo could tell he hadn't found her father and was clearly angry with himself for failing. But Margo trusted him to keep looking. Now she needed to get him to understand that. "I can't help that I know what I know about you," she finally said. "And I can't forget it, either."
Lamont looked away. He could make her forget. And yet, he couldn't. How could he destroy something so beautiful? How could he send away the one person in the six years he'd been away from The Temple who could even come close to understanding him? But this was insane; he had no time for friends or lovers like this, and even if he did, there was no way it could work...no way she would ever stay with him if she knew the truth...no way he could stop his darkness from hurting her...
Margo got up off the sofa and walked the two steps it took her to stand right in front of him, so close that if they leaned their heads forward, their lips would meet. This was a man of incredible power, incredible strength, incredible reputation both as ultra-rich Lamont Cranston and ultra-vigilante The Shadow. Why was he scared? Hadn't she shown him by staying behind that she wasn't going to hurt him, wasn't going to expose him? Was there something more--that darkness that she'd seen in his eyes? Was that what he was afraid of--losing his temper with her again? If she hadn't been scared away before, why did he think she'd be scared away now?
Lamont resigned himself to the fact that she wasn't leaving. But he needed to put some distance between them right now, before either of them gave in to some inappropriate impulse. The irony of such a notorious playboy wanting to distance himself from a beautiful woman who was practically surrendering herself didn't escape him. "It's late," he said quietly, looking at her once more, then gestured up the stairs with his head. "Sleep anywhere you like--there are guest rooms. But in the morning, you should go."
Margo looked at him compassionately. "I'm not afraid of you."
He caressed her cheek with his left hand.
Margo thought she was going to melt. His strong hands were incredibly gentle, and she could feel the need in his touch. She nuzzled her cheek against his palm, showing her trust.
Lamont wanted nothing more right now than to sweep her off her feet and carry her upstairs, spending the rest of the night caressing that beautiful body, kissing those rich red lips, making mad, passionate love to her, finally letting himself go physically and emotionally. But he couldn't. He couldn't allow himself to feel those emotions, and he couldn't let the strength of those emotions hurt her. He looked at her, sorrow in his expression. "But I am."
And with that, he walked away, leaving Margo alone with her aching desires.
Despite his fatigue, Lamont couldn't sleep. He was lying in bed, still in his shirt and trousers, with thoughts of Margo Lane repeating over and over again in his head like a phonograph needle stuck in a deep groove. The intellectual part of his mind was aware that he had a strong, if raw and untrained, receptor in the house now, drawing upon his deep projective reservoir, keeping them in touch mentally even though they were at opposite ends of the mansion. The more primitive part of his mind didn't care what the explanation was; all he wanted was for everything to quiet down and let him sleep, because he was beyond exhausted...
He looked around in the night. Was that her calling to him?
It was her. He sat up slowly.
She needed him. He got out of bed and left the bedroom, following her siren call.
He found her in the bedroom Aunt Rose and Uncle Wainwright had once used, an elegant corner room with massive cherry-finished wood pieces, dusty rose bed linens, burgundy-colored carpeting, and burgundy-and-lace panel curtains. She was sound asleep, blonde hair falling softly across her face, covers tossed aside, clad in only a clingy cream-colored full-length slip. The slip's slit was exposing her right leg, which was curled up seductively, and her breasts were about to slip out of their lacy coverings. She looked tantalizingly beautiful, almost daring him to come lie beside her...
Lamont ran a hand through his hair. My God, what was he thinking? He couldn't do this. Why had he even come down here? He had to get out of here. What kind of monster was he that he would even consider doing this? He thought for sure he had long since left that kind of debauchery behind, but now it felt as if he were just pretending, wearing some sort of mask of respectability...
A spot on his right cheek itched. Lamont rubbed at the spot.
A patch of skin came off in his hand. Lamont turned to the dresser and looked in the mirror.
There was now a dime-sized hole in his right cheek. But it wasn't bloody. Instead, there was something darker underneath. Lamont picked at the hole.
More skin came off in his hands. Now Lamont could slip a couple of fingers into the hole. He could feel more flesh underneath, but it was rougher textured, with a heavier beard. He pulled harder at the skin around his fingers.
The skin stretched like rubber, pulling away from his face. It felt just like a mask. He tore at it harder.
The rest of his face ripped away. Lamont looked in the mirror.
Shiwan Khan's face looked back at him.
He turned to the bed and leered at Margo.
Margo sat up and screamed.
Mercifully, the nightmare had the decency to let Lamont go before he actually did anything. He jolted awake and sat up in bed, gasping for breath, drenched in a cold sweat, shaking with fear. It took a second for him to realize that he was still in his own room, that he hadn't done something horrible to Margo, that the face attached to his body was Lamont Cranston's, not Shiwan Khan's. But the emotions the nightmare had generated were strong, and Lamont's skin crawled with revulsion over his behavior.
"Oh, God," he whispered before finally collapsing back onto the pillows and letting exhaustion carry him away.
Margo Lane awakened from a rather restless sleep and for a moment was disoriented by her surroundings. Then, she remembered where she was--Cranston Manor, one of the upstairs bedrooms, at the opposite end of the house from Lamont. She'd wanted to put some distance between them, allow him a cooling-off period, but couldn't shake the feeling that he was everywhere in this house, as close by as a shadow on a wall...
Movement caught her eye. She turned over in bed.
Lamont, in a sharply-tailored blue pin-striped Brooks Brothers suit, was leaning against one of the bedposts. "Good morning," he greeted with a smile.
Margo marveled at his stealth. How long had he been there? "Good morning," she returned, then stretched. "Oh, God, I dreamed."
Lamont watched her arch her back and extend her limbs like a cat, completely comfortable in her body--and with her sexuality. It was a rare thing in a respectible woman nowadays, and he was intrigued. "Really?" He sat down on the corner of the bed. "So did I. What did you dream?"
Margo smiled. He wasn't turning her away. This was a good thing. "I dreamed I was lying naked on a beach in the South Seas." She closed her eyes, remembering the sensations of the dream. "The waves were washing up on my toes...the sun was beating down, hot and cold at the same time...oh, it was wonderful." She opened her eyes to see the interested expression on his face. Maybe there was a man underneath that shadow. "So, what did you dream?"
His expression turned wry. "I dreamed I tore all the skin off my face and was somebody else underneath."
So much for seduction. Margo gave him ten points for honesty, but deducted a hundred more for destroying the mood. "You have problems."
He shrugged. "I'm aware of that." He suddenly got up and turned away, as if embarrassed for being so close to a barely-dressed woman. "I'll wait outside while you get dressed."
"Oh, that's all right," Margo said, desperate to keep him here and seize those hints of humanity that kept surfacing. "You can stay." She climbed out of bed.
He averted his eyes.
She found it fascinating. Lamont Cranston, notorious playboy, had a modest streak? How much of the womanizing behavior had merely been an act, a role he'd played to distract from any attention that might be paid to behavior more suited to his alter ego? Was the real Lamont Cranston somewhere in between the extreme ne'er-do-well of his public persona and the dark and angry Shadow? She needed to find out. She picked up her clothes from the night before and frowned at them. "Oh," she said in an exaggerated tone, "these are all rumpled."
"Oh," Lamont said, almost shyly, "there might be some things you can wear in here." He crossed the room, still averting his eyes, and opened an elegant cherry-finished wardrobe with burgundy-and-lace front panels. "Ah, yes." He pulled out a contemporary black satin and chiffon day dress. "These belonged to...um...my aunt Rose."
Margo looked at the dress. It had a modern haute couture label. The wardrobe was full of other dresses, similarly styled, from similar contemporary designers. No doubt they were meant to be given away as tokens of Lamont Cranston the womanizer's appreciation for a night of pleasure. Somehow, that didn't bother her as much as she'd thought it might.
"Fashionable gal, that Rose," Lamont said, aware that he'd been nailed.
Margo smiled wryly. "Kept her figure, too," she said, noticing the slender waist and curve-hugging cut of the dress. Nonetheless, she accepted the offering and ducked behind an Oriental dressing screen to change clothes.
Lamont now knew that he really shouldn't be in there. "Well," he said, heading for the door, "I hate to run, but I've got a..."
"...taxi waiting downstairs?"
He stopped in his tracks and turned toward her. "Excuse me?"
She peered out from behind the screen. "That was what you were about to say, wasn't it?"
"Yes," he said, annoyed with himself for once again thinking way too loudly for the amount of psychic power that now surrounded him. Marpa Tulku had told him many times that he thought very loudly, even for a telepath, but once he left The Temple, Lamont had never had to worry about anyone hearing his thoughts unless he wanted them to...until now.
"Huh!" She laughed. It would have been a logical guess, but she had literally heard the words in her head before he spoke them aloud. Either he was a really loud thinker, or she was a lot more sensitive to thoughts than she'd ever been before. "This is getting easier the more I'm around you. You're like reading a book."
She was the second person who'd said that to him in twelve hours. Lamont wasn't interested in his thought patterns being as easy to read as a dime novel. He groaned inwardly, wondering how he was going to get through this without going mad.
"Well, thank you very much, Lamont, but I'm not going to need that taxi," she continued, ducking back behind the screen.
"Well, yes, but I've got an appointment..."
She doffed her slip and tossed it over the screen. "Oh, good. I'll go with you."
Now this was getting ridiculous. "No...see, last night we agreed..."
"No, we didn't."
He frowned. "Do you mind if I get one tiny little sentence out here? Thank you very much." He took a deep breath and focused his resolve. "Last night, we agreed that you would leave in the morning."
"No, you agreed I would leave. I agreed to no such thing." She peered out from behind the screen again. "We need each other..."
"No, we don't," he interrupted.
"We have a connection..."
"No, we don't."
"Then how do you explain that I can hear your thoughts?"
"My thoughts are hard to miss."
"And why is that?"
"Psychically, I'm very well-endowed."
He'd said that without a trace of modesty. Margo was impressed. She gave him her best seductive smile. "I'll bet you are." Then, she ducked back behind the screen. "O.K., Lamont," she said, pulling on the dress, "you don't need me, but I need you to help me find my father." She zipped the dress, then came out from hiding and struck a vampish pose. "And I am coming with you."
Lamont's eyes drank her in. Damn, she looked good in that dress. How could he refuse a woman who looked like that? If nothing else, she'd provide better scenery in the cab than Moe. "O.K."
The Empire State Building, worldwide symbol of the skyline of New York City, had been envisioned as a massive office building allowing the richest to overlook the city like gods of the sky. But the economic downturn of The Great Depression had caused it to stand empty for months after completion. Desperate to make back their costs, the developers hit upon a new idea: Use it as a pure tourist attraction, charging admission to ride the elevator to the balcony at the top, making money on souvenirs and pay-per-view telescopes that looked out over the city. The result was wildly successful; the Empire State Building was now New York's most popular tourist gathering point. Just today, sailors from ships in port were mingling with out-of-town Christmas shoppers and curious college students atop the crow's nest. But they weren't the only ones admiring the city's skyline from above.
"From there..." Reinhardt Lane robotically pointed to one side of Manhattan Island. "...to there." He indicated the other side. "That is just the blast radius. The destruction will be..." He tried to grasp the numbers, and even in his hypnotized super-calculating state, he couldn't wrap his mind around the figure he was seeing. "...incalcuable."
Shiwan Khan, dressed in one of Genghis Khan's finest robes and fur hats, smiled. Just what he'd hoped to hear. Khan was born and bred in the mountains, and even New York's tallest point wasn't high enough for him. But he loved the view of the area he would soon destroy. "Good." He patted his servant on the shoulder, then walked around the balcony, breathing in the thin air and enjoying the winter chill. "What a wonderful day."
Snickers and giggles reached Khan's ears. He looked around.
A group of sailors on leave were pointing at him, amused by his feminine-looking attire. "Nice dress, toots," one of them said, then blew Khan a kiss as he and his buddies wandered past.
Khan seethed. No one spoke to the Emperor of Mankind that way. He fixed a dark gaze on the taunting sailor.
The sailor stopped in his tracks and turned to face Khan.
Khan pointed to the railing of the balcony.
The sailor walked toward it, not understanding why he felt compelled to do so.
Khan mimed climbing the railing.
The sailor did so, confused.
Khan wiggled his fingers downward like a pair of legs, stepping them over an imaginary railing.
The sailor, horrified by his behavior, stepped right over the railing and onto the very narrow ledge on the other side of it.
"Hey, Tommy!" one of his buddies called out. "What the Hell are you doing?"
"I don't know!" Tommy called back, clinging to the railing. "Somebody get me down from here!"
Khan smiled cruelly. He really liked New York. Too bad it wouldn't be around for much longer. "Come on along and listen to...," he sang softly.
"Get me down!" Tommy cried, as his friends were climbing up onto the railing to grab hold of him.
"...the lullaby of..." Khan waved dismissively.
Tommy threw himself off the ledge, screaming in horror.
Khan listened to him scream all the way down, loving the sound as it echoed through the canyons of skyscrapers. "...Broadway."
"It's all falling into place for me now, Margo," Lamont said as he and Margo walked the short blocks from her house, where they'd dropped her car off, toward Times Square, completely oblivious to the screams of yet another suicide from the balcony of the Empire State Building. They'd decided to skip Moe's taxi and take advantage of her available transportation to get them downtown. Lamont wasn't ready to take her into The Sanctum, but he had a lot of things she could do while he worked in his office. "Shiwan Khan has your father's generator and enough bronzium to make it work, but he needs a beryllium sphere to complete the bomb. I wonder where he intends to get one?"
Margo looked thoughtful. "Beryllium sphere?" she said aloud. She was sure she'd heard that term before. Suddenly, she remembered where. "Beryllium sphere! Farley Claymore!"
Lamont stopped in the middle of the cross-street. "What?"
"Farley Claymore. My father's assistant. He was working on a beryllium sphere--I'm sure of it."
"At your father's lab?"
"No, no, he had his own facility." She scoured her memory, trying to force herself to see that creep's face inside her head. "Maritech Labs, down on the waterfront."
A car screeched to a halt, barely missing them. "Get out of the road, you idiot!" the driver shouted. "What'd'ya think this is, Central Park?"
Lamont took Margo's arm and stepped across the street. "Good," he smiled, already formulating a plan. "Very good. Say--I want you to do something else for me."
Margo looked eager. He was accepting her as part of his world...trusting her. This was probably a first for him. She didn't want to press her luck, but couldn't wait for her next assignment. "What is it?"
"I was trailing Khan last night when I lost him at the corner of Second and Houston. There's something really strange about that corner. There's an empty lot there now, but I want you to find out what used to be there."
"Second and Houston. Got it." She looked at him. "But what about Farley Claymore?"
Lamont smiled coldly. "Farley Claymore's about to receive a visit..." His voice turned deep, and his eyes turned dark. ...from The Shadow.
Farley Claymore was, quite simply, an idiot.
Farley was a munitions "expert", if one could call him that, who'd bungled his way along through the years, working for various scientists with Department of War contracts, generally making a nuisance of himself. But Farley did make outstanding enhancement shells. And he was on the verge of something big with Reinhardt Lane's implosive generator. But first, he had to tie up a loose end down at Maritech Labs, so he entered the large spherical pressure-testing chamber and sealed the door, anxious to get everything taken care of...
Farley leaped almost ten feet in the air as he heard the voice ringing through the chamber. "Who's there?" he shouted back nervously.
A sinister chuckle answered him. Where is the beryllium sphere, Claymore?
Farley looked very nervous as he backed toward a set of levers near the far wall of the chamber. "Sphere?"
The Shadow groaned. Khan had clearly gotten to Farley, too. Claymore, you idiot! You're being manipulated. Your mind is being controlled by hypnosis.
Farley looked confused as he backed into the levers, unable to move any further. "My mind? Controlled?"
The Shadow had no time for simpering idiots. The fate of New York--and possibly the world--was at stake. Where is the beryllium sphere, Claymore?
"It's too late...I already put it on a truck!" He stuck something resembling a pipe handle into one of the levers behind him and pushed down on it with all his weight.
Water began pouring from pipes in the ceiling.
Farley's reaction caught The Shadow off-guard. Was this Khan's manipulation? Take me to it--now!
Farley shoved the pipe into another slot and pushed the other lever downward.
More water poured into the chamber.
Farley yanked the pipe out of the levers and drew his gun.
The Shadow laughed mockingly. Who are you going to shoot with that, Claymore?
Farley scanned the room, noting the rising water...and a pair of deep hollows resembling holes left by legs. He smiled wickedly and leveled his gun to about chest height of a man standing in those hollows.
Dammit! The Shadow swore mentally. It was Hell fighting someone who knew your every trick almost better than you did. He took off running for higher ground.
Farley saw the hollows moving and emptied his gun toward them.
Six shots rang out. Five bullets pierced the wall of the chamber, leaving a gap between shots two and four.
Blood dripped onto the surface of the water.
Farley laughed gleefully. Khan had told him The Shadow was way too overconfident about his mind clouding abilities, and that simple physics would always defeat him. "Nobody controls my mind, Shadow!" he shouted to the room. "There's a new world order coming--and I'm going to be a king!" He made his way to the pressure door. "Do you hear me? A king!" He opened the pressure door and hurried outside, sealing the door shut behind him.
Inside, The Shadow heard the door crank turn and the locking bolts slide into place, then the clank of an extra lock being applied. As soon as he knew Farley was gone, he dropped the clouding suggestion...and Lamont Cranston slumped to the floor of an ever-filling watery trap, bleeding, cold, and sick to his stomach from the pain.
The water reached his wounded left shoulder. Its brine caused the pain to shoot through his body.
Lamont staggered to his feet and was stunned to find the water level was already to his knees and rising fast. His clothes were saturated, heavy, dragging him down, causing even more pain in his injured shoulder. Having already lost his fedora in the water, he now had to shed the other stuff before it drowned him. He managed to get his gloves off, nearly dropped his ring before slipping it back on his left hand, then unfastened the cloak and let it fall away. The wet scarf was next, then the shoulder holster, then the riding coat. He tried to kick his boots off, but they were too tight, so he resigned himself to making do.
Once he was able to move again, he made his way through thigh-high water to the door. His left arm was nearly useless, and his right shoulder still ached from the arrow wound last night, but he had to push past the pain and try to get the door open. He turned the crank with all his might.
He heard a faint clank, and realized that the wheel was striking the extra lock Farley had put on the outside. He groaned, then tried to turn it again.
Another clank. Nothing. It wasn't budging. Lamont scanned the room, then spotted the water control levers. Taking a deep breath, he dove into the water and swam across to them, then grabbed them and pulled upward with all his might.
Nothing. They weren't budging, either. Lamont realized that the piece of pipe Farley had used was probably the only way to get enough torque to rotate them because of the pressure behind them. He leaned against the wall, exhausted, and struggled to think.
The water was now up to his chin. He had to get out of here. At this rate, he'd drown in minutes...if he didn't bleed to death first. And there was no one who knew where he was, no one who would hear a cry for help and understand what it meant...
Wait a minute. There was someone. But could she possibly hear him? Did he have enough strength left to call her? Only one way to find out.
Lamont concentrated, focusing as much urgency as he could into the words. Margo...Margo, I need you...
Margo Lane couldn't understand how the Hall of Records could possibly be so disorganized. She'd gone to the corner of Second and Houston, seen the empty lot for herself, and had come here to research the building that used to be there. But there were no recent records for that property. None at all. And no one could remember what they'd done with them.
So now she was down in the archives, digging through old boxes, looking at blueprints of a building that had been proposed for that corner, reading the building permits, tracing the records as best she could from the pieces, leaning forward for yet another book that might have some of the missing information...
Suddenly, something slammed into her brain like a freight train and knocked her backwards. She collapsed into her chair and screamed.
The clerk helping her came over to her. "Miss? Miss? Are you all right?"
Margo wasn't sure. She put a hand to her temple and looked amazed. It was like nothing she'd ever felt before--it felt almost like a rush of strong wind, except it wasn't nearly as gentle and was a lot louder, and strangely sounded just like Lamont's voice...
Suddenly, her brain processed his words. Margo, I need you...
"Oh, my God," she whispered, then leapt to her feet, grabbed her purse, and raced out of the room.
Lamont was rapidly running out of room in the chamber as he floated far above the floor on the continually rising water. The air pocket was less than three feet tall now, and becoming deoxygenated fast. He kept trying to take deep breaths, but the air was tasting stale, and his lungs were screaming for oxygen.
Two feet. Lamont pounded on the hatch above his head, but it wasn't giving way, either.
One foot. Barely enough room to keep his nose above water.
And then, mere inches.
Margo's maroon LaSalle tore through town. She could barely hear him still calling to her, but the suggestion he'd pounded into her brain was enough to guide her toward him. What kind of trouble could The Shadow have gotten into where he couldn't get himself out of it? The very thought chilled Margo to the bone. But his tone suggested he was desperate, and he was growing weaker by the minute.
Margo honked her horn at midday traffic, weaving through stalled cars, frantically hoping she wasn't too late.
The air gap at the top of the room was barely two inches in height. But for some reason, it wouldn't completely close over.
Lamont was no longer even aware of the pain in his shoulder, no longer even aware of the weight of his clothes. All he wanted was oxygen, and he wanted it now. His eyes scanned the walls quickly.
Five streams of bubbles were coming up from the wall across the chamber from him.
Bubbles, Lamont realized. Bubbles mean air. He swam toward them.
The bubble streams were coming through holes in the wall caused by Farley's gun. Air coming in meant water was going out, which was why the room wasn't completely filling. It wasn't enough to drain the room, but it might be enough to allow Lamont to hang in there for a few more minutes. He stuck a finger through one of the holes.
Cold December air tickled his finger on the other side.
Lamont drew his finger out again, quickly put his lips against the hole, blew outward hard to expel the stale air from his lungs, then sucked in a fresh breath.
It was only a small amount of air, but nothing had ever tasted so good. He drew several grateful breaths, letting the oxygen clear his mind and refocus his thoughts. He knew he could not keep this up forever--he'd eventually tire and collapse--so he had to think of something else, some way of getting that door open. If he could just see that extra lock, he might be able to manipulate it with his mind, but it was just out of visual range through the window.
He drew one more breath, then swam back to the door. Maybe there was enough pressure in the room now to allow him to dislodge the lock. He turned the crank handle again.
Nothing. The door didn't move.
Lamont groaned inwardly again. He was dead unless help arrived soon. He could only hope Margo had heard...and understood.
Margo screeched to a stop outside Maritech Labs and, for a brief moment, wondered if she'd gotten her psychic signals crossed. There was no one there--no cars, no delivery trucks, nothing. But she could see water through the window in the pressure chamber door, and wondered if an experiment was in progress.
Then she saw the streams of water coming out of the side of the pressure chamber, and realized that there was something more going on than met the eye. She got out of her car and approached the pressure chamber cautiously.
There was a pipe wedged into the wheel-shaped door latch, as if someone had locked someone else inside. She looked through the window.
Lamont suddenly floated into her view.
She gasped. He looked pained, distorted, as if he were on the verge of drowning.
Open the door, she heard his mind whisper as he pantomimed the action. It's locked from the outside...
Margo tugged at the pipe, finally dislodging it. She tossed it aside and tried to turn the wheel.
From the inside, Lamont saw the wheel rotate a half turn and stick. He grabbed it, braced his feet against the stairs, and threw every last bit of strength he had into turning it the rest of the way.
A thousand gallons of water did the rest, and the door flew open.
Margo tried desperately to hang onto the pipe railing on the metal stairs, but the force of the water coming at her was just too much. She was flung across the parking lot on a tidal wave.
Lamont was right behind her, washed out by the contents of the watery would-be grave.
Margo recovered her senses and looked around frantically for Lamont, finally spotting him lying face down on the concrete in a half-inch-deep puddle of water. She hurried over to him, rolling him onto his back and patting his cheeks to startle him into taking a breath.
He gave a cough, then gasped for air.
Margo let out a sigh of relief. She elevated his head so that he could breathe better.
His eyes seemed to clear, and he looked at her for a moment, not entirely sure he could believe what he was seeing.
She brushed the wet hair out of his face. "You called?" she deadpanned.
He smiled. "You heard," he managed to croak out between gasps.
Margo felt his trust of her rise tenfold.
"We are victorious!" Khan shouted triumphantly, practically beaming as Farley Claymore's beryllium sphere was wheeled across the floor of his throne room. Guards pushed the cart toward their master, and Farley kept rubbing it with a cloth to polish it like a big silver apple. "The destruction of Ying Ko is complete, and the whole world will soon hear our thunder...thanks to the only American with genius enough to join me of his own free will!"
Farley smiled broadly. He'd go down in history as the man who conquered The Shadow...and one of the world's great rulers.
Khan came over to Farley and hugged him. His smile was cold. "Someone who saw himself a 'king' in my kingdom."
Farley chuckled nervously. "'King'? Did I say 'king'?"
Khan grabbed the back of his neck. "Yes, you did."
Farley tried to think of a way out of this. "Probably not the best choice of words," he mumbled nervously.
Khan grabbed his face in a jawbreaker grip and turned it to face him. "No, it wasn't."
"Because I was thinking prince, tops..."
Khan squeezed Farley's neck harder.
"Not even...duke? Earl?"
Khan glared at Farley.
"Your choice, of course. Your choice."
Khan wanted so badly to kill the simpering idiot. But until the bomb was assembled, he needed both scientists. Once they were able to successfully assemble the pieces, then he'd get rid of them. But for right now, patience was needed. He flung Farley aside like a rag doll. "Get Dr. Lane and assemble the bomb!" he ordered.
Farley got to his feet and ran to go find Reinhardt. The faster he got away from this lunatic when he was in this kind of mood, the better. He welcomed the chance to work on something else...and order Reinhardt around for a change.
Khan looked eager. Soon, the most fearsome weapon ever conceived would be reality. And with it, no one would be able to stop him. "In the name of the new Kha Khan--the power of God on Earth!" he shouted.
The guards raised their swords and shouted in triumph.
Margo heard Lamont's moans halfway down the hall and quickened her pace toward his bedroom. Fortunately, Farley was a bad shot, and Lamont's heavy clothes had done their job of slowing the bullet down to lessen the damage; the bullet had passed almost completely through his left shoulder without breaking a single bone or severing a single major vessel or nerve. But it was just under the skin on the other side, and Lamont had ordered her to remove it so that it would not move and cause worse damage elsewhere. Margo had received nurse's aide training in college, but was definitely not qualified as a surgeon, and had balked, suggesting they call a doctor. But Lamont had refused, reminding her that doctors had to report all gunshot wounds to the police by law, and that there was no way even The Shadow would have been able to extricate him from that mess. So Margo had given him a shot of whiskey to dull the pain, cut out the bullet with equipment from what amounted to a hospital ward's cabinet in one of his closets, cleaned the area thoroughly, dressed the wound tightly, and given him a dose of sulfa drugs to fight off the infection that was beginning to take hold from the dirty water that had gotten into the wound before her arrival. Modesty had gone right out the window; she'd stripped him of his wet clothing and put him right into bed, covering him with as many warm blankets as she could find and changing the saturated dressing on his right shoulder--an arrow wound from his rescue attempt at the Federal Building the night before, he'd said. But his fever was still going up, and she'd gone off to get out of her own wet clothes and fetch a bowl of water to cool his brow. Now she was dressed in his silk robe and on her way back with a large glass basin of cold water and a washcloth when she heard his delirious whimpers. "Lamont?" she called out, coming into the room.
Lamont was shivering under the blankets, mumbling incoherently. He looked as if he were having a nightmare, but his eyes were wide open.
Margo came closer. Those eyes...my God, those eyes...
Suddenly, raw power radiated out of them and shot through the room. Margo felt something driving into her brain, wrapping around her, sweeping her away...
She was standing in a dark chamber with an angry maw of a fireplace belching black smoke and flames into the room. The chamber looked Oriental in its decor, but even with the fire, there was no warmth in this room. Everything was harsh, stark, black, evil. She saw something moving off in the shadows and looked toward it.
Lamont's face looked back at her. But this wasn't the Lamont Cranston she knew. This was a wild man, with stringy black hair, debauched features, long purple nails, an Oriental ruler's robe...and demonic eyes.
He rose up off his throne. "You're not supposed to be here," he said, then pointed to the fireplace.
A tongue of flame shot out of the fireplace and drew a circle on the floor around her.
Margo felt the flames rising up, engulfing her...and strangely protecting her. She looked through the fire.
Wars raged all around her. Wars in a distant land...China, maybe? Villages being pillaged and burned. People being slaughtered. Blood everywhere.
And leading the rampage, roaring with triumph, was Lamont, dressed in full battle armor.
Margo watched in horror as he sliced one man's head off, stabbed another, wiped the blood from his face greedily...
Margo felt herself suddenly shoved backwards, and fell into a chair. She recovered her senses and looked around again.
She was back in Lamont's bedroom, sitting in the chair by his bedside. He was blinking, gasping for breath, as if he too had just emerged from that horrible nightmare.
Margo had somehow managed to hang onto the bowl of water and not spill it all over herself. She moved to sit on the edge of the bed, then dipped the washcloth into the water and wiped his brow. "Sh-h," she urged, trying to calm herself and him.
He looked her way, still disoriented.
"You were dreaming," she said in answer to his unspoken question.
It took Lamont a second to remember what he'd been dreaming...and then another second to realize how she'd known that. He put a hand on her arm to stop her from turning away from him. "You saw," he whispered weakly.
She nodded, ashamed that she'd eavesdropped on this. No wonder he'd been so scared. He hadn't wanted her to see that part of his life. But she had. And now they both had to deal with that knowledge.
Lamont was completely sickened by what he knew she'd seen. "Do you have any idea what it's like to have done things you can never forgive yourself for?" he asked rhetorically.
Margo saw the complete vulnerability in his eyes. She had seen into his very soul, and seen the darkness he hid there. But she could also see that the beast she'd seen leading those slaughters wasn't who he was now. Even in that dark nightmare, he'd moved to protect her, casting that circle of fire around her. She took his hand. "Lamont...whoever you were, whatever you did...it's all in the past."
He looked sad. "Not for me, Margo. Never for me."
Margo kept holding his hand. She refused to believe him. He was not going to drive her away. Everyone had things in their past they weren't proud of. God knows she had used and abused enough men in her lifetime to deserve to spend the rest of her life alone. But no amount of any man's dark past was going to separate her from the one good thing that had happened to her in a very long time. She gently caressed his right shoulder.
His index finger stroked her wrist lovingly.
She smiled. He was finally understanding that he was stuck with her. And somehow, she was pretty certain he didn't mind this situation.
The newspaper boys the next morning cried the blaring headline out to passing patrons on the streets: "Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Madman threatens to blow the city sky-high!"
Other disbelieving citizens listened to the voice of the newsman on the radio: "Authorities are still wondering what to make of the ransom demand received last night by a mysterious man who claims to have a bomb powerful enough to destroy the entire city of New York. Is he serious? Is he bluffing? Either way, surely the work of a madman."
Margo Lane had found the paper on Lamont Cranston's bed early that morning. She'd awakened to find herself alone in the bedroom. As near as she could tell, she'd fallen asleep in the chair, and Lamont had thoughtfully covered her with one of his blankets sometime during the night. Still dressed in his robe, she picked up the paper and read it as she left the room, heading downstairs. "Good morning, Russell," she greeted the majordomo as he headed up the stairs with a tray.
Russell watched her pass him, realized that the person Mr. Cranston had sent him upstairs to tend to was already up and about, then turned around and headed back downstairs to serve coffee to the two of them.
Margo found Lamont in the parlor, apparently showered and dressed, looking out the window, deep in thought. "Have you read this?" she called.
He nodded. "That's why I left it for you."
She looked at the article again. "It says that he's demanded millions of dollars in ransom--cash, gold, jewels, even works of art--or he'll blow up the city at midnight tonight. Is he serious? Can he really do this?"
"Of course. He's got your father's generator, Claymore's sphere, and enough bronzium to make it all work. Find Khan and we'll find that bomb." He massaged his sore shoulder and turned toward her. "What did you find out about that lot?"
"Not much, I'm afraid. Up until a few years ago, it was the site of the old Hotel Monolith."
"The Monolith?" Lamont crossed toward Russell and accepted the cup of coffee the butler was pouring for him. "I vaguely remember that."
"Seems that's about the only way anybody remembers it. The records at City Hall are a real mess when it comes to that place." Margo picked up the coffee cup off Lamont's saucer and began pacing, sipping it as she talked. "It was built ten years ago but never finished. The developer went bankrupt putting the finishing touches on the place and committed suicide. It sat empty for a long time because no one knew what to do with it. The last official record is of its sale six years ago to a Far Eastern buyer."
Lamont didn't even raise an eyebrow at Margo's appropriation of his coffee cup. After what they went through last night, sharing the same cup was nothing. "When was it torn down?"
"The records don't say."
Now that made Lamont raise an eyebrow. "What?"
"That's what I meant when I said the records were a mess. I made some calls while I was there, but got nowhere." She came back over to him. "Everyone seems to know that it was torn down...but no one can remember when, or by whom."
Lamont took back the coffee cup. His eyes widened as a thought suddenly occurred to him. "Or if."
Minutes later, Moe dropped both of them off at the corner of Second and Houston. Lamont got out of the cab, offered a hand to Margo, then stood in the middle of the street and just stared across at the vacant lot. "I can't believe he did it," he said, his voice filled with marvel.
"Did what?" Margo asked.
Lamont wasn't listening...at least, not to her. He was instead opening his mind, trying to find mental impressions that didn't seem to belong. Marpa Tulku had taught him that mind clouding was a projective skill, but breaking through it required both receptive skill to hear the suggestion and projective power to override it. There was something here; now, he had to force his receptive side to find it.
A strange whispering hiss filled his head. He focused on it, filtered out the remaining impressions, and amplified that thought wave in his head.
The hiss got louder.
"Lamont?" Margo insisted, putting a gentle hand on his arm.
Focus, he told himself, trying to reduce the content in his mind to that one particular psychic wavelength that was now hissing and swirling through his head. Filter. Amplify.
The hissing became a whispering voice, still indistinct.
Focus. Filter. Amplify.
The whispering became more distinct. The phrase this is nothing but an overgrown, empty lot with trash blowing over it became clear.
Lamont wrapped projective telepathic energy around that whispering voice and shoved it out of his head.
The air around him began to shimmer and swirl, and suddenly, everything came into focus. "My God!" he practically shouted.
Where there had been nothing but an overgrown, empty lot with trash blowing over it, there now stood a magnificent twelve-story hotel. Art deco metal lettering on the front blared its name, "Hotel Monolith". Long, sleek lines of marble and granite towered skyward, brass and steel gleamed in the sunlight, and a round crows-nest-style penthouse topped it like a crown. The whole thing was a magnificent example of 1920s architectural styling looming over the street below...completely unseen.
Unseen, that is, except by one powerful, clever adept. "It's beautiful," Lamont whispered.
Margo looked confused. He had to be seeing something she couldn't--probably with his mind--but what in the world was he talking about? "What is? Lamont?"
Lamont grabbed a passer-by and pointed him right at the corner. "Hey, buddy," he said, "that building right there--what's the name of that building?"
The man looked totally confused. There wasn't a building there. He shook off Lamont's hands from his shoulders. "Lunatic!" he said as he hurried away.
Lamont laughed heartily. "Shiwan Khan has hypnotized the whole city!" He looked around at oblivious pedestrians, drivers, and bicyclists. "They don't see it! Nobody sees it!" Then, he looked back at the lot, his eyes darkening with anger. But I see it.
Margo was concerned. Lamont had that look in his eyes again...that dark, raging anger that she'd seen days earlier. But there was something else there now...absolute power, and absolute confidence in that power. She put a gentle hand on his shoulder.
He turned toward her. "You and Shrevnitz will receive your instructions. I want you to follow them exactly." Then, he hurried away.
"Wait--Lamont!" She started after him, then got the distinct impression that she shouldn't follow. There were places only a shadow could go...and this was one of them.
Burbank cupped his hands to his headset and listened intently to the Morse code coming over the wires from The Sanctum. Only The Shadow's most important messages were sent this way, messages that absolutely could not be overheard by anyone. For that reason, Burbank didn't even take notes on the message, memorizing it instead, so that there would be no record of the conversation even occurring. There was a chance that Burbank was under surveillance, The Shadow had said, so there was a lot of coordination that needed to take place to escape detection, and two agents--one of them brand new, apparently--needed to be dispatched to a rendezvous point to await further instructions.
With the conversation finished, Burbank put down the headset and wrote two notes on cream-colored slips of paper. The ink was a special kind of "invisible" ink, used in espionage, which would become visible for a few seconds when exposed to air and body heat, then disappear again. He stamped The Shadow's mark on the bottom of each message, then slipped them into a pair of cream-colored envelopes. He tapped two buttons on his radio console, then picked up the two envelopes, grabbed his hat, coat, and umbrella, and set off on one of his rare excursions above ground.
A sudden winter thunderstorm had caught most of the city off-guard; pedestrians were scrambling for cover, creating makeshift umbrellas out of newspapers and briefcases, hurriedly hailing taxis and buses. Into this mess walked the calm, cool, collected Luther Burbank, holding an umbrella over his head and a newspaper tucked under one arm. He stepped out into the center of the street, then reached into the newspaper and removed a cream-colored envelope. He extended it in front of him.
A passing bicycle messenger took it from him and sped away.
He removed the other envelope from the protective newspaper and held it behind him.
Another bicycle messenger snatched it out of his hands like a relay racer.
Burbank smiled. The envelopes also had invisible ink on them, and the messengers would be able to see the destination for a brief moment before it disappeared. He never worried, though; that delivery service had never failed to make a delivery yet. It didn't hurt that they were all agents, saved years ago from a bomb that had threatened to destroy their headquarters, and now were completely indebted to the black-cloaked man they all served without question.
As the rain continued to fall, Burbank headed back for his underground office.
Moe Shrevnitz perused The Racing Form on one of his rare nights off as a blazing fire in the fireplace warded off the damp winter chill. He'd spent a good part of the afternoon with Margo, getting to know the newest agent and the woman who'd so enchanted the boss that he was willing to share his deepest secrets with her. But he'd been warned that he'd receive instructions later, and the last thing he needed was for those instructions to arrive at the house when he wasn't there to intercept them, so he'd come home early and told his curious wife Shirley that he'd had a really good tipper for a fare today and was taking a well-deserved night off. The hardest part about being an agent through the years had been keeping all this from Shirley, a determined snoop who never seemed to be completely satisfied with the answers Moe gave her for his odd working hours. More than once, he'd had to ask Lamont to use his persuasive powers to refocus her attention away from some particularly troublesome assignment when she hadn't believed he wasn't sneaking around with another woman or worse.
The doorbell rang, and a message practically flew through the mailslot.
Moe put down the paper. This had to be it. He got up and headed for the front door, then picked the envelope up off the floor and opened it hurriedly.
Shirley, reading a book in the living room, looked up. "What is it, Moe? One of those things from the bowling league again?"
The page shimmered, and then writing became visible:
Shrevnitz--rendezvous with agent Lane at corner of Second Avenue and Houston Street. Enter when possible.
The note was "signed" with a miniature insignia of a man in a slouch hat and cloak. Seconds later, the page became blank again. "Yep," he replied.
Barely a minute after the delivery of her message, Margo pulled on her coat, grabbed her umbrella, and ran out the back door. Her note said almost exactly the same thing Moe's did, except the names were reversed. Her note, too, faded into oblivion just seconds after reading it, and now she too had to spring into immediate action. She said a silent prayer as she started her car that when they found Khan, they would not just find the bomb...they would also find her father.
Her father was indeed with Shiwan Khan...and quite occupied with the final steps to turn his peaceful invention into a horribly destructive bomb. Reinhardt robotically threaded thin wires through the tips of the platinum plugs on his implosive generator, connecting them with a power source inside Farley's beryllium sphere. The power source was connected to a timing mechanism which Farley had fashioned from a design he once stole from a scientist who'd been stupid enough to hire him. Together with the bronzium coins which now stuffed the inside of the implosive ball, they made the ideal mass-destruction weapon...which Farley was all-too-glad to gloat about. "Betcha wish you'd been nicer to me, huh?" he said, like a victorious bully lording his status over a smaller child. "Betcha didn't know I was friends with a conqueror, huh? Betcha never thought I'd be the one telling you what to do..."
"Be quiet," Khan ordered, exasperated. He just wanted to throttle Farley, but the more he watched the two scientists work, the more he realized he'd never have the patience to do all of this more than once. So, he needed to keep one of them. And, whether he liked it or not, at least he didn't have to hypnotize Farley to keep his loyalty. He turned to Reinhardt. "Set the timer for two hours."
Reinhardt connected five wires under the hood of the bomb--one for each of the hour, minute, and second digits needed--then flipped a switch inside the sphere, lowered the hood, and screwed the front panel into place.
Five vacuum tubes lit up and briefly displayed five digits that read "2:00:00" across their lighted filaments. Then, the digits began to tick away...1:59:59...1:59:58...1:59:57...
Khan's men hoisted the bomb into the air on a pulley system. Reinhardt had estimated that an open-air detonation would produce the maximum destruction force, so it was important to get it off the ground. They anchored the pulley ropes to the walls of the chamber, then bowed to their master.
Khan turned to Farley. "You are certain you can duplicate this bomb's design anytime I wish?"
Farley scoffed. "Piece of cake."
Khan wasn't sure he believed the idiot, but Farley had shown he was a very good mimic. And he did have all of Reinhardt's blueprints. "Then that makes Dr. Lane obsolete." He turned to his men. "Take him to a room...where he will die at the hands of his own invention."
Two guards grabbed Reinhardt on either side by the arms and dragged him from the room. Farley could have sworn the doddering old fool had actually said "Yes, my Khan" as he was being led away like a lamb to slaughter.
Khan smiled. Soon, all the world would hear his thunder. The return of the lost kingdom of Sianking was less than two hours away.
Farley looked nervous. "Listen," he said, trying not to anger the tempermental monarch again, "I know you probably have this all figured out, but...shouldn't we be getting out of here?"
Khan looked annoyed with the question. "There is an airplane arriving shortly to take us all to safety. We leave in one hour." And with that, he headed away to make last minute preparations, confident no one was left to stop him.
As afternoon turned to evening and the rain continued to pour down, The Shadow stealthily moved through the alleys and sidestreets toward Khan's tower. He'd spent the entire afternoon in The Sanctum, engaged in deep meditation, healing as much of his body as he could and focusing his psyche. He'd finally realized that Khan was naturally sensitive to the thought patterns surrounding arrogance, and had used that sensitivity to disrupt Lamont's normally deep confidence in his telepathic abilities, so much of the meditation session had been focused on simply reminding himself to stay calm, to know and understand his limitations, to be realistically confident in both what he could do and who he was inside. He would need every ounce of telepathic energy in his mental reservoir and every psychic trick in his arsenal, because Khan was waging full-scale war...and this was the final battle.
He reached an alley on Second Avenue just off Houston Street. He cast a blanket mind clouding suggestion to blend himself with the night, then stepped out of the alley and looked toward the supposedly empty corner.
To passers-by, the corner still looked empty. But to The Shadow, it was a fenced-in fortress, guarded by two Mongol warriors inside the fence line protecting the front doors. He surreptitously slipped across the street and scaled the fence.
By the time the guards saw splashing from feet running across the waterlogged pavement on their side of the fence, it was too late. Two punches decked them both, and now The Shadow was past the first line of defense.
As lightning flashed through the night and illuminated the lobby of the Hotel Monolith in an eerie aura, glimpses of a shadow on the walls appeared and disappeared as The Shadow combed the lobby, using his projective sight ability to probe the darkness, searching everywhere for Khan's Mongol guards. Surprisingly--or maybe not so--there weren't any. Khan had put guards at the door to protect the perimeter, but left the lower floors completely empty. He'd been so confident in his own mind clouding powers that he never dreamed someone would penetrate his own defenses.
At the top of the stairs to the second floor, The Shadow swirled into visibility and looked over the lobby once more. He couldn't believe it. Not a soul in sight. And Khan was completely unaware his perimeter had been penetrated, because not a single hostile thought pattern was coming his way. He might just be able to get off the opening salvo in this last battle.
The Shadow laughed heartily, then swirled into the darkness again.
Meditating on his throne, Khan heard the mocking laughter and went rigid. "Ying Ko?" he said in disbelief.
Farley, checking the sphere for any possible defects, jumped like a frog and looked around like his head was on a swivel. "The Shadow?" he said, horrified that he'd failed in his mission to kill Khan's great rival...a mistake for which Khan would surely make him pay. "Where?"
Khan looked disgusted. "Not here, you idiot. In the building."
Farley looked sheepish. "Can you tell if he's...uh...mad at me? We had a...bit of a misunderstanding yesterday morning..."
Khan was livid. This weakling had failed him for the last time. He was going to get rid of Ying Ko if it was the last thing he did. And if that meant he sacrificed a pain in his rear in the process, so much the better. He picked up a Tommy gun and tossed it to Farley. "Find him and kill him!"
Horrified, Farley realized that Khan was literally sending him on a suicide mission. "Kill him? Me?"
Khan waved angrily at Huong Shu and the remaining soldiers. "All of you!"
Huong Shu nodded, gathered his men and a flashlight, and left the room.
Farley looked hopeful. Maybe Khan would come to his senses if he groveled appropriately. "Couldn't I just stay here with you?" he laughed nervously.
Khan pointed to the exit. "Go!"
Reluctantly, Farley followed Huong Shu out of the throne room.
Minutes later, Farley, Huong Shu, and two Mongol warriors were striding down the hallway of the third floor. A magnificent ballroom was on this floor, and a huge floor-to-ceiling frosted glass mural adorned the balcony overlooking the lobby. The flashing lightning coming in through the hotel's front windows cast eerie shadows everywhere, even as Huong Shu's flashlight scanned the area looking for shadows that didn't belong...
A taunting laugh ran in perfect harmony with the rolling thunder, and everyone stood rigid, looking around.
Farley grabbed the flashlight from Huong Shu. "You go that way," he ordered, pointing off toward a corridor.
Huong Shu didn't like the fact that Farley now had their only light source, but the man had a gun, and Huong Shu wasn't about to argue. He clicked his tongue, and the warriors followed him into the darkness.
They saw a swirling blackness just ahead of them, ducking into a storage room. Huong Shu ordered his men to draw their weapons and follow carefully.
No sooner had they stepped inside the storage room then they were ambushed. And it was no contest. Without light to see him, The Shadow made quick work of all three men, snapping their necks with a quick twist from behind and tossing them aside like rag dolls.
The Shadow looked at the mess on the floor for a moment. He really hated this sort of thing, but it was kill or be killed at this point, and he had no desire to go through a repeat of the arrow incident at Reinhardt's lab. Now to deal with Farley.
Farley jimmied the lock on the ballroom door and slipped inside, cautiously looking around for any sign of anyone watching. Surely The Shadow wouldn't think to look for him in here...and, maybe, neither would Khan. Maybe if he stayed here long enough, Khan would think he was dead, and he could escape before the bomb went off...
The doors slammed shut behind him. Farley whipped around, shining the light on the doors.
Nothing but a spotlight greeted his gaze.
Did you think you wouldn't see me again, Claymore? The Shadow's voice taunted from every corner.
Farley played the beam through the room, frantically looking for the source of that mocking laugh.
A fedora-wearing shadow suddenly stood in his beam. I'm right here! The Shadow told him, holding his arms up in a surrending motion.
Farley fired the Tommy gun.
The Shadow's shadow whisked away. Farley tried to follow it, only to see it waving from another corner as his light landed on it. All around you...
Farley fired again, and once more the shadow on the wall flittered away like a butterfly.
Farley found it again, showing its guns. Everywhere around you...
Farley fired. No, The Shadow couldn't be everywhere...he'd have to shoot everywhere...yes, shoot everywhere...
The Tommy gun emptied as Farley spun like a top, spiraling the light all around, shooting indiscriminately, laughing insanely. Even as he dropped the flashlight and the gun clicked out of bullets, he kept squeezing the trigger, trying to silence his tormentor.
Finally, the room got completely quiet. Farley looked around.
Nothing. Not a soul moved in the darkened room. Not a sound echoed through the still air.
Farley scoffed. "Coward!" he taunted. "Yellow! Chicken! Sissy!" He dropped the gun. "Come out and fight like a man!"
And at that moment, the darkness engulfed him.
Farley felt a suffocating vortex of black shadows swirling all around him, choking the life out of him, draining away every ounce of bravery left in his body. He fell to his knees...
...and a black-gloved hand grabbed him by his lapels and yanked him up off the floor.
The Shadow held Farley high overhead. Blue-green eyes practically glowing with dark power cut right through him, leaving him unable to do anything but babble incoherently.
A sneer appeared in the part of The Shadow's face Farley could see. Claymore, he pronounced disdainfully, you disgust me.
All Farley could do was shrug and drool helplessly.
The Shadow flung him aside. Now get out of my sight!
Farley got to his feet and took off running out of the ballroom, searching for an escape route, any escape route...
How odd. Farley would have sworn that the plate glass just outside the ballroom was a frosted art deco mural. But now, a neon sign with bright red letters spelling "EXIT" was gleaming right above it. There's your exit, Claymore.
Farley was so happy to see the word, he ran full speed toward it, laughing gleefully.
As he smashed through the mural and fell three stories to crash through a glass coffee table in the lobby, The Shadow laughed in maniacal triumph. All the henchmen were gone. Now, all that was left was Shiwan Khan.
He swirled into the darkness and headed off to battle once more.
Oblivious to the war going on right in front of them, Moe Shrevnitz and Margo Lane huddled under umbrellas, standing by Moe's cab as the rain continued to pour down, staring at the corner of Second and Houston and watching the puddles rise. The sheer absurdity of standing in front of an empty lot in a raging thunderstorm hadn't escaped either one of them. But if The Shadow told them to do it, they'd have to do it until they caught their deaths of pneumonia. There had to be a reason for standing here, one that would become clear eventually. The Shadow was never wrong.
Moe looked over at Margo. "Know what I love about this job?" he deadpanned. "The excitement."
Margo nodded her agreement.
The Shadow climbed steadily up the stairs toward the crow's nest penthouse. He'd stopped only momentarily on each of the other levels to make sure there were no more surprises, but the only other mind he'd detected in the building was Reinhardt Lane's hypnotically numbed one. He'd come back for Reinhardt later. Right now, he'd only be in the way. For just ahead, beyond the massive oak inlay doors that led to what was probably intended to be a rooftop restaurant or ballroom, was Shiwan Khan.
The Shadow swirled into visibility, then flung the doors open.
Khan was seated on his throne on a raised dais. He looked as if he'd been waiting for him. The bomb hung about seven feet in the air in the middle of the room. A blue-and-gold tiled sunken floor formed a circle between the rivals.
The Shadow stepped cautiously toward his archenemy. There was something strangely disorienting about this room...the brightly-colored floor tiles were bothering his eyes, as if they weren't quite laid out flat and were thus reflecting the light oddly. He forced himself to look dead ahead at Khan.
Khan smiled and raised his hands in a concessionary manner. "Ah, Ying Ko," he said, his tone mock-friendly. "I surrender."
The Shadow drew his guns. You're finished, Khan, he snapped angrily.
Khan just smiled as he pressed a button on the arm of his throne.
Too late, The Shadow realized why the tiles didn't look like they'd been laid flat...the room was on an angle. More specifically, the round dance floor was apparently on a cantilever mechanism that was now angling even sharper and starting to rotate. He was thrown off his feet, and his guns went flying.
Khan laughed uproariously as the gigantic lazy susan spun and angled in ever-changing patterns, keeping The Shadow from getting his bearings and rolling him across the floor like a loose BB.
The Shadow grabbed an edge of one of the riser stairs that led off the dance floor and held on for dear life. He had to get his feet under him somehow, get off this crazy funhouse ride, get to Khan...
But Khan had other ideas. He looked to the gold and jeweled box off to the side of his throne.
The sleeping dragon face on Phurba's hilt opened its eyes as the knife raised up off its supports.
Khan pointed at The Shadow.
The Shadow tried to duck aside, but Phurba impaled him through the left shoulder, right through the gunshot wound from the night before. The pain was excruciating. He grabbed the hilt with both hands and fought with the angry dagger desperately...
Phurba! Khan ordered, gesturing wildly toward the other side of the room.
Phurba yanked itself out of The Shadow's shoulder and flung itself toward the wall before The Shadow realized what was happening. He barely got his right shoulder turned in time to avoid slamming into the wall face-first. As it was, he nearly dislocated his shoulder in the impact.
Khan laughed heartily and pointed toward the other wall. Phurba!
The Shadow barely realized his right hand still had a grip on Phurba when it dragged him through the air to the other wall, slamming him back-first this time into a pillar. Then, the dagger drove itself toward his face.
The Shadow recovered his senses enough to grab his right wrist and force his arm backward. Pushing Phurba was no good, but maybe directing the hostile force elsewhere would keep the knife at bay long enough for him to figure out a way out of this mess. He dared not move or turn away--Phurba was just a half-inch now from his left eye and coming closer even as he pushed frantically...
Khan waved dismissively.
Phurba again changed directions and started to drag The Shadow across the room. But this time, The Shadow let go, and both enchanted blade and exhausted psychic crashed to the dance floor, lying still.
Khan looked disgusted. This was the all-powerful Ying Ko, the Butcher of Lhasa? He'd become corrupted by too many years of soft life in the West--he now lay like a child on the floor, gasping for breath, unable to move on his own. "Your powers are fading," he taunted. "Your mind is too weak. You are losing your concentration."
The Shadow's powers were indeed fading. What was left of the projective hypnotic vortex he'd created to protect himself collapsed as exhaustion took over his thought patterns. Now, Lamont Cranston lay face down on the floor, barely able to keep from passing out as pain seared through his body and fatigue engulfed his mind. He forced himself to raise himself up on his forearms and look around, trying desperately to assess the situation.
Across the floor from him, Phurba's dragon-claw arms uncrossed from their resting place on its hilt and used its forearms as leverage to raise its head up.
Lamont was intrigued. He'd never seen Phurba behave this way. The knife wasn't capable of exhaustion or even fatigue. Was Phurba mimicking him? Cautiously, he wiped blood from the corner of his mouth with the back of his right hand.
Phurba imitated the motion perfectly.
Of course, Lamont realized. My powers aren't the only ones that are fading. Khan's are stretched too thin, trying to keep the hotel concealed from the pair of eyes that I've had outside watching it all night. He hasn't been able to relax that suggestion in hours, and he still has to keep Dr. Lane under control, hold my mind at bay, and control Phurba. It's too much, even for him, and Phurba's responding to the strongest projector in the room...
Khan realized his attention was slipping and glared at Phurba.
The dagger sprang from the floor and attacked Lamont once more, diving for his throat.
Lamont rolled onto his back and grabbed Phurba before it could reach him, holding it above his neck, desperately trying to keep it from slitting his jugular.
Khan got up off his throne and stood on the edge of the dance floor, gloating over his fiercest rival. "Look at you," he said, his tone full of distaste. "You cannot even control yourself. How can you even hope to control Phurba?"
How indeed? Lamont could feel the sharp tip of the blade slicing a razor-thin line across his neck, even as he tried to hold it back. But he'd never been able to control Phurba, not even after months of training from Marpa Tulku. Phurba was just too complicated a task to master--it required a completely balanced adept, one with enough receptive force to blend with the creature's primitive mind and enough projective power to assert one's will over it. Lamont was way too projectively lopsided...
...but not at this moment. At this moment, his projective reservoir was nearly drained. But his nearly drained projective reservoir was still stronger than almost every other adept's filled one. For the first time in his life, he might be balanced enough to at least try. He closed his eyes and began forcing his receptive mind to open as wide as it could.
Phurba looked at him oddly, as if puzzled by the strange pull he felt coming from a man he viewed as his enemy, whose mind normally attacked instead of beckoned.
Lamont could feel something primitive tickling at the edges of his psychic defenses. He forced his mental barriers to open wider. The act left him almost completely vulnerable, but he didn't have a choice.
Khan could feel the change in the direction of Lamont's psychic energies. "What are you doing?"
Suddenly, something latched onto Lamont's mind. Something childlike yet ancient, loyal yet feral. Lamont slowly and carefully released his grasp on the dagger.
Phurba felt the welcoming pull of an open receptive mind and the firm grasp of a projective master engulf it as the once-hostile hands released it. It hovered in the air just above his neck. What is your wish, master?
Khan's eyes widened. "Stop!" he ordered, desperately trying to take control of the blade again.
Fear. Khan was afraid. Lamont seized that fear and felt his confidence rise tenfold. He opened his eyes and looked at the knife. Shiwan Khan has defiled you and murdered your true master, The Marpa Tulku. He turned a piercing gaze to Khan. Kill him.
Phurba impaled itself into Khan's stomach.
Khan shrieked and grabbed frantically at Phurba as pain disrupted his thoughts...and his every illusion fell away.
The rain had finally stopped. Margo Lane and Moe Shrevnitz lowered their umbrellas, shook them out, and were about to toss them into his cab for safekeeping when Margo saw something out of the corner of her eye. She looked toward the lot they'd been watching...and gasped in shock at what was now there.
Moe heard the sound and followed her gaze...and couldn't believe his eyes. "My God!" he shouted.
"That's what he saw!" Margo realized. "Oh, my God...Moe, we've got to get in there now!"
Moe popped open the trunk, retrieved a crowbar from a hidden drawer, and ran toward the fence, Margo hot on his heels.
The harder Khan pulled on Phurba, the harder Lamont ordered the dagger to drive into his belly. He smiled coldly at the dying Mongol. Revenge had never tasted so sweet.
Two floors down, Reinhardt Lane felt as if he'd just come out of the longest nap he'd ever taken. But this wasn't his lab...and it wasn't his bedroom. He put on his glasses and looked around, desperate for some point of reference in this unfamiliar place. "Where am I?" he cried, completely confused.
Lamont had finally pushed Phurba too hard. The delicate balance between receptive and projective in his mind had shifted too far to the projective side again, and Phurba fell out of his control.
Khan shouted an angry Mongolian battle cry, letting out one last telekinetic blast as he leveraged what little mental strength he had left to yank the blade out of his belly.
The windows in the room shattered. Lamont was momentarily pushed backward.
Khan staggered out of the room.
Lamont got to his feet, retrieved his guns, and ran after him. Margo, he mentally called. You must find your father and get to the twelfth floor penthouse as fast as you can. Khan's bomb is hanging from the ceiling up here, and there is only an hour left before it explodes. I'm going after Khan.
Khan dove behind the curtains leading to his meditation chamber.
The Shadow's cloak and scarf, both knocked askew during the fight with Phurba, kept tangling around Lamont's legs as he ran, so he unlatched the cloak and unwrapped the scarf from his neck and tossed both aside as he chased after his archenemy. He whipped open the curtains.
Only Genghis Khan's holy silver crypt, standing upright like a displayed mummy case, greeted his gaze.
Lamont pried the edges of the crypt open.
Nothing but red jacquard-patterned silk looked back at him.
Lamont pounded his fist on the back wall in frustration. There had to be a hidden passage here--Khan didn't have enough mental energy left for a mind clouding trick. He stood in the center of the bottom panel and looked around.
A golden satin pullcord dangled from overhead to his right. He gave it a tug.
The floor opened underneath him.
Lamont fell onto a steel laundry chute and tumbled down God-only-knew how many stories before he finally landed unceremoniously on the huge pile of fabric remnants and leftover carpet scraps that the developers had thrown down the chute during the construction. But ten months with Marpa Tulku had given him sharp reflexes and quick reactions, and he sprang his feet, guns drawn, looking for Khan.
He spotted him running into the storage area, past stacked chairs and unhung chandeliers. "Khan!" he shouted, then fired.
The shot just missed, shattering several chandelier prisms into flying crystal dust.
Furiously, Lamont took off after his prey. The hunt was on. And once more, it was kill or be killed.
Margo and Moe hurried up the side stairs as fast as they could. Both of them were exhausted, and Margo's feet were killing her, but there were no working elevators in the place, and Lamont's message about the bomb on the twelfth floor told them that there was no time to waste. Margo was calling to her father on every floor, but so far there was no response. But he thankfully wasn't among the dead bodies they kept encountering, much to their relief.
As they started to step onto the stairs to take them to the tenth floor, they encountered a familiar-looking man wandering down the stairs, looking totally lost. "Dad!" Margo shouted.
Reinhardt looked up. "Margo!" he called, relieved to finally see something he recognized in this deserted tower.
Margo threw her arms around him. "Oh, Dad," she practically sobbed.
Reinhardt looked disturbed and disoriented as he held onto his daughter. "Where am I? What happened?"
"Well, there's this guy, and..." Margo decided that now was not a good time for an explanation. "I'll tell you later." She turned to Moe. "Moe, go call the police."
"Gotcha," Moe replied, hurrying back down the stairs.
"Dad, come with me." Margo took her father's hand and led him up the stairs.
Lamont moved deeper into the storage area...past the dining room tables and chairs...past the unhung chandeliers...past mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and dressers...past paintings and statues...
Khan suddenly appeared in his view. Lamont fired right at the Mongolian and hit him square in the chest.
Unfortunately, like Margo's pistol had two nights ago, Lamont's gunshot simply shattered a bedroom mirror that was sitting in storage. Khan disintegrated into so many shards of glass.
Dammit, he mentally swore. Khan didn't have enough strength to mind cloud, so he'd chosen an alternate method of creating illusion. Now Lamont would have to head deeper into the mirrors to find which images were real and which ones weren't...before Khan did the same.
"Oh, my God," Margo said as she and Reinhardt came into the twelfth-floor ballroom.
The place was a mess. The floor sat at a crazy angle. Blood was everywhere. Scattered around the room were a black fedora, black opera cloak, and red wool scarf, which Margo made a mental note to retrieve later. And hanging above the floor was a massive beryllium sphere with a timer indicating 58 minutes left in its countdown. They carefully stepped forward onto the round floor, which felt shaky under their feet.
"Oh, this is magnificent!" Reinhardt marvelled, admiring the sphere hanging overhead. "What quality workmanship! Who did this?"
Margo looked at him oddly. "You did."
Reinhardt raised an eyebrow. "I did?"
Margo sighed. Yet another thing she'd have to explain later. "Well, don't just stand there--deactivate it!"
Reinhardt looked back at the bomb. He didn't even remember building the thing--how could he possibly know how to deactivate it? He patted his pockets, looking for a screwdriver.
He found an entire set of electrical assembly tools--screwdriver, wire cutter, forceps, even a spool of wire and rubber connectors. "How in the world...?"
"Dad!" Margo snapped, trying to focus him.
Reinhardt turned his attention to the sphere once more. He found four screws and loosened the panel right below the vacuum tube display.
A small sheet of metal fell away, revealing a wiring breadboard.
Reinhardt looked completely confused. He'd never seen anything like it before, and it certainly wasn't anything he would have built. Probably something Farley stole, he decided. "Let's try cutting this and see what happens." He snipped a wire.
The digits on the display spun wildly.
"Oh, dear," Reinhardt said, realizing that wire probably wasn't a good choice.
"Oh, my God!" Margo shouted. "Dad, the timer...hurry..."
Reinhardt stripped the covering off the two cut ends of the wire and twisted them back together.
The digits stopped at "0:02:00".
"Two minutes left!" Margo gasped.
Reinhardt frowned. Old age was Hell--memory was never reliable, and some other things he couldn't think of immediately were also pretty bad. He looked at the board again. "Maybe it's this one..." He snipped another wire.
The breadboard sparked wildly. Reinhardt jumped backward.
The motion shook the bomb loose from its cabling, and it fell to the floor and rolled across the turntable and out the door, knocking the rotating motion all askew and Margo and Reinhardt off their feet.
Margo and Reinhardt scrambled off the platform and struggled to get to their feet. "After it!" Margo shouted, already heading for the door.
Reinhardt was right behind her.
They watched the bomb vanish from sight down a flight of stairs. They took off after it.
As they reached the next landing, they saw it rolling toward the center staircase. They anticipated its motion and headed down the stairs to the next level.
When they got there, though, there was nothing to be seen. They walked around carefully, looking for the bomb, curious as to where it could possibly have gone...
The sound of something thudding against the walls above them told them they'd guessed wrong about the center staircase. "Oh, dear God, it's upstairs," Reinhardt realized as he and Margo tore for the side stairs...
...just as the sphere came rolling down toward them.
Reinhardt dove aside, and Margo fell backward as the bomb rolled past them, ricocheted off the wall, and headed for the elevator cage doors.
"Oh, no!" Margo cried, certain they would lose it.
Fortunately, they didn't. The cage doors collapsed against the backside of the shaft, providing a shelf for the bomb. Margo and Reinhardt raced over to it...and stopped dead in their tracks as they realized they were looking ten stories straight down.
Reinhardt swallowed hard. There was only one way to get to the bomb--go out onto the shelf with it. He crawled across the cage door.
Margo crawled next to him, trying to help him stay balanced. "Careful, Dad," she cautioned.
The cage doors flexed as they were meant to do when inordinate pressure was applied to them. Margo screamed and grabbed hold of Reinhardt. Reinhardt grabbed hold of the bomb.
Fortunately, no one fell. But now the shelf was a trough, and the only thing holding them in place was the latch on the cage.
Reinhardt and Margo both pulled themselves over the top of the bomb. "Fifteen seconds!" Margo whispered.
Reinhardt looked over the breadboard. What little bearings he had over the thing were gone now that they were looking over it upside down.
Ten seconds. "Which wire?" Margo said, trying to focus his attention.
Nine seconds. "I...I don't know!" Reinhardt moaned, frustrated. "I just don't remember!"
Seven seconds. "Pick one!" she demanded.
Six seconds. "Oh, what the Hell," he shrugged. "It's usually green." He moved to cut a thick red wire.
Four seconds. "No!" Margo shouted in horror. "Green!" She grabbed the nearest green wire and yanked as hard as she could.
Margo got her wire out a split second before Reinhardt cut his--and the timer froze at "0:00:02".
Neither father nor daughter moved for a moment. Then, when they were both sure it wasn't going to explode, Margo held up her wire in her father's face. "This is green," she said, her voice shaky, then pointed to the wire he'd cut. "That's red."
Reinhardt also looked very shaky. "I'll try to remember that," he promised.
Unaware of the drama going on above him, Lamont was in the midst of a hunt for Khan. He'd dared not waste any more shots on mirrors because he hadn't brought spare ammo clips, so he and Khan would dart out for a moment, spot one another, and dart back, each trying to both move ever closer to and keep away from the other. It was like an intricate ballet, with visual patterns emerging like a kaleidoscope...and both men were getting frustrated. Khan had recovered just enough projective energy to taunt Lamont periodically about his hunting skills, and Lamont was growing tired of the taunts...tired of the illusions...tired of the hunt...tired of the mirrors...
Khan noticed the intense glare Lamont was focusing on one of the mirrors. What are you doing?
Lamont didn't answer. He kept staring at the mirror.
It trembled...then vibrated...then bullseyed, like a projectile had been thrown into it.
Khan's eyes widened. No, surely he couldn't really be trying to destroy the whole room. Not even Khan had that kind of power except in short bursts. Not even Marpa Tulku could do that...
Another mirror shattered. Then another. Then another.
The room shook as Lamont drew upon every ounce of projective power he could summon from inside him, building the energy to incredible levels. This was not The Shadow subduing a criminal, or Ying Ko silencing a rival opium lord. This was Lamont Cranston, the strongest projective telepath to ever train at The Temple Of The Cobras, flexing his mental muscles. And nothing was going to stand in his way...especially not a hundred sheets of silvered glass.
More mirrors cracked under the strain. Khan tried to dodge the knife-like ribbons of glass in the air.
Lamont sent the pressure inside his psyche flying outward in an explosive burst.
Huge mirrors shattered into shards of glass as the wave shot across the room. A maelstrom of flying debris cut Khan practically to shreds as it was forced away from Lamont by telekinetic energy unlike anything Khan had ever felt in his life.
The wave stopped. Khan was bleeding badly, but recovered his senses enough to see Lamont standing directly across from him. Surely he doesn't have anything left, Khan thought, raising Phurba to throw it at his rival.
But he was wrong. Marpa Tulku had taught Lamont quite well how to use controlled releases, even when bursts were called for, to hold energy back in reserve. And he had just enough left to deal with Khan. His eyes scanned the floor, then found a phurba-like blade of glass at his feet.
The blade rose up off the floor at his mental command.
Lamont's gaze shot toward Khan.
The blade flew through the air and embedded itself into the Mongol's forehead, just above his left eye.
Khan screamed, then collapsed to the ground.
Lamont fell to his knees, utterly exhausted. It had been literally years since he'd been pushed that hard, years since he'd had to drain himself so completely, years since he'd felt this degree of relief from a victory. Marpa Tulku might not have been proud of his tactics. But Lamont had a feeling that his master would have been pleased with the results. It had taken everything he had inside him, but Lamont had not let his darkness overcome him. Instead, he'd used it as a weapon against his own dark shadow...Shiwan Khan. He looked toward the man he'd vanquished.
Khan was jerking spasmodically, and his psyche was going haywire. His thoughts were completely incoherent.
Ah, good, Lamont thought with a smile. It worked. He crawled over to Khan and looked down at him, smiling broadly...then chuckling...then laughing heartily as his mental voice rang through the night.
Police sirens drowned out the sound of The Shadow's laugh as black-and-whites screamed to what had once been a deserted corner, shining car lights and portable spotlights on the structure to illuminate it. Alarmed citizens had gathered around, completely confused as to how a hotel had sprung up out of literally nowhere. Photographers snapped pictures. Reporters swarmed through the site, trying to interview anyone and anything standing anywhere close to the building...including Margo Lane, who was brushing them off and leading her father through the mob to her car.
A police staff car pulled up to the scene, and out of the back stepped Wainwright Barth. The police commissioner looked upward at the huge building that now loomed large in the night. "Where the Hell did that come from?" he asked.
No one had an answer as chaos built to incredible levels around him.
Wainwright shook his head and took a swig from the silver flask he had in his pocket. "Get somebody up there and find out what's going on," he ordered a nearby officer.
"Yes, sir," the officer replied, grabbing a team of men and hurrying away.
Margo watched the officers rush inside the building and realized in horror that she'd forgotten to go back for The Shadow's things. She couldn't let the police find them...she'd have to somehow get back inside...
Already got them, a voice sounded in her ear.
She jumped, then looked around.
Don't turn around. Remember, I'm not really here.
She forced herself to stand firm. But she just wanted to find him and hold him as tight as she could, never let him go...
Later. I've got work to do first. Take your father home. He's had a rough few days.
She nodded discreetly, wondering where he was.
The honk of a horn got her attention. She looked toward it.
Moe Shrevnitz's cab was pulling away from the curb, and the cabbie gave her a wave.
Margo smiled and waved back...both at the driver and the unseen passenger in his back seat.
Reinhardt looked confused. "Who was that, dear?"
She smiled mysteriously. "Nobody, Dad. Nobody at all."
The first thought that entered Shiwan Khan's mind upon his return to consciousness was how much his head hurt. The second was how tight the bedcovers were...it felt like he couldn't move his arms at all. He opened his eyes and looked around.
He was in a tiny room, with no windows save the porthole-sized one on the door. It looked almost like a dungeon or prison cell, except that the walls were white and covered with a strange type of quilt. The bed was the same shade of white as the walls...and so was the strange blanket that covered him...
Wait a minute. This wasn't a blanket. It was some sort of restraining device. Khan's arms were crossed in front of him and fastened behind him, and he could feel leather straps rubbing against his skin. "What the...?" he began.
The door to the room opened, and a white-coated doctor came inside with a medicine tray and fresh bandages.
"You!" Khan demanded. "You!"
The doctor looked at his patient oddly.
"Yes," Khan said, focusing his gaze. "Sit down."
The doctor sat on the edge of the bed.
Khan looked at him intently. "Look into my eyes."
The doctor met his patient's dark gaze.
"Release me at once."
The doctor burst out laughing. "Oh, no, Mr. Khan, we won't have any of that sort of behavior today." He put a hand on Khan's head and turned it to the side. "Let's have a look at those stitches, shall we?"
"Stitches?" In the reflection off the doctor's glasses, Khan got his first look at himself since passing out at the Monolith--and saw a huge portion of his hair had been shaved away, and a large circle of stitches covered an incision over his left eye. "What have you done?"
"Saved your life, that's what." The doctor looked at the incision, which was healing nicely with no infection. "Of course, we had to cut away a small part of your frontal lobe to do it. But don't worry, it's a part no one ever uses."
Khan looked confused. Frontal lobe? Why did that sound so familiar? Then, for the first time, he realized his mental reservoir was empty. He had absolutely no telepathic energy left. He looked up at the doctor, horrified.
The doctor got up from the bed and headed for the door, then turned back to his patient. "Unless, of course, you believe in telepathy." He gave Khan a broad smile, then left the room.
Khan's eyes widened. Marpa Tulku had said the front of the brain was the focal point for psychic power...without it, he had nothing. "Wait!" he shouted insanely. "I am Shiwan Khan! The last descendent of Genghis Khan!"
The door slammed in his face.
Dr. Leonard Levinsky adjusted the silver fire opal ring on his left hand as he signed Khan's chart, then left the ward as Khan's cries blended with other inmates claiming to be Theodore Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, and Henry VIII.
Ever since the first man and the first woman discovered that pressing their lips together was pleasurable, the kiss had become the means by which two people expressed how they felt about one another. Some kisses were short, meant to exchange a quick "hello" or "goodbye". Some kisses were long, saying "stay" or "I'll miss you". Some were light, indicating the need for only fleeting contact. Others were lingering, demonstrating a need that only the other person could fill.
And then there was the kiss Lamont Cranston planted on Margo Lane in the middle of Times Square on a cold December night in 1933, a kiss filled with deep emotions neither could fully articulate. It had been almost a week since the battle with Khan, a week of getting to know one another, learning to trust each other, allowing each to see the other's strengths and vulnerabilities as no one else ever had before. Margo had indeed finally found that indescribable connection that had been out there for her all those years. And Lamont was slowly finding that he could indeed learn to live with that darkness inside him...as long as he had the light of his life by his side.
But for tonight, they would have to part. A message was waiting in The Sanctum. The Shadow was needed. He gave her hand a squeeze. "I'll see you around," he said, then turned to go.
She gave a sly glance to the silver fire opal ring that now adorned her left hand. She was one of his agents now, bound to him forever by a life debt. But she knew he was, in a strange way, bound to her as well. "Hey," she called. "How will you know where to find me?"
He stopped in his tracks and chuckled. She knew the answer to that. They both did. But he had to say it anyway, because she was just so damn cute. He turned to her and smiled broadly. "I'll know."
She stood and watched as he walked away, finally disappearing into the darkness.
The night was filled with shadows. Somehow, she found that comforting.