And A Little Child Shall Lead Them
A Shadow Short Story By Scarlet
Author's Note: The characterizations in this story are based on the 1994 movie The Shadow...S.
"How does that feel, Mr. Bahr?" the tailor asked as he tightened the fit of a custom-made jacket for a customer.
"Little tight," Bahr replied. "Maybe just a little looser."
The tailor removed the clothespins that helped tighten the fit and pinched the fabric again, this time a bit looser. "Better?"
Bahr flexed his arms. "Much."
The tailor nodded and began marking the fabric with a bit of chalk.
"Trying to look good for the jury, Peter?" a voice called from across the room.
Peter Bahr looked around for a moment, then spotted the source of the voice. "It's important to make a good first impression," he replied with a smile.
The tailor turned his attention to the man who'd just come into the room. "Mr. Cranston," he greeted warmly. "What can I do for you?"
Lamont Cranston returned the smile, then doffed his suitcoat. "I got my jacket caught in a cab door," he said, indicating a tear on the back panel. "Could you possibly patch that up? I just got this suit a month ago, and I do hate to see good clothing go to waste."
"Of course. Just let me finish marking Mr. Bahr's suit, and I'll get someone right on it." He returned his attention to Bahr's jacket, finishing marking the darts that would need to be taken in to fit the coat properly.
Bahr couldn't help but chuckle slightly at Lamont's predicament. "You could probably afford to buy Brooks Brothers, not just have all your clothes made here," he said lightly. "Or your own limousine so you wouldn't have to worry about cab doors eating your clothes."
Lamont smiled. He'd heard that last sentiment so often the comeback just automatically popped into his head. "Why should I pay for all the upkeep of a car in Manhattan when I can pay someoneelse to do it?"
The tailor helped Bahr out of his jacket and handed it off to an assistant, then took Lamont's jacket from him. "Don't be discouraging our best customer," he mock-scolded Bahr. "If the man wants to pay our bills for the year with just a few purchases, let him."
Bahr smiled. "Don't worry, Tony," he laughed. "Lamont and I have known each other too many years to take each other's egotism seriously."
"That's the truth," Lamont agreed.
Tony took a look at the tear in Lamont's jacket. "Just looks like it pulled away from the seam a bit," he said. "I'll have this ready for you in no time." He headed toward the rear.
Lamont nodded his thanks, then turned to Bahr. "So, everything's ready for the Gambrill trial?"
"About as ready as we can be." Bahr sighed. "The D.A.'s office has really been hopping on this one. The mayor himself has stopped by so many times I'm beginning to wonder if he's got designs on my office."
"Well, you did get the best interior designer in New York to decorate it."
"That I did. And she did such a good job, I married her."
"You always did have good taste." He made a pretence of looking at ties. "So, what do you think your chances of a conviction are? From what I hear, the case against Charlie Gambrill isn't all that strong."
"Talking to your uncle again, Lamont?" Bahr put his own suitcoat back on and adjusted his appearance in the many mirrors. "There's plenty of evidence that Gambrill was involved in kidnapping Frank Oliver's daughter. He had access, and he had motive. Those gambling debts we found were proof enough that he did it for the money."
Lamont tried to keep his expression even. The Shadow had helped find Mary Oliver, and led the police to where she was being held, but even he had his doubts about Gambrill being the sole mind behind the kidnapping. It had all the signs of being masterminded by a larger syndicate, and he felt that public outcry had made the police stop looking as soon as they found a fall guy. "I don't remember even hearing about a ransom demand--how do you know he did it for money?"
"Lamont, no one just snatches kids for the sake of snatching them. Gambrill probably hadn't had time to prepare one yet. After all, the police caught him within twenty-four hours."
"So you really think money was the sole issue? No one had anything against her father? Wealthy, successful businessmen always make good targets for people with grudges."
"You've been reading too many pulp novels." Bahr turned away from the mirrors and smiled indulgently down at Lamont from the fitting dais. "We caught Gambrill heading back to the hideout where he'd stashed the girl. She identified him. His fingerprints were all over the windowsill of her room. What more do we need?"
Lamont forced back a sharp retort. Peter Bahr was an old friend, but the kind of self-centered egotist he'd once been himself, the kind he absolutely despised now. And it didn't help that Bahr had on more than one occasion called The Shadow "the scourge of law enforcement" and "nothing more than a two-bit criminal who should be behind bars instead of celebrated as a hero". But one did not just ignore potentially valuable resources, particularly an assistant District Attorney. He gave a tight smile. "Well, that's for the jury to decide."
Further conversation was saved by the arrival of a beautiful woman and a cute-as-a-button young girl. "Looks like Daddy's finally done," the woman replied.
Bahr smiled down at the woman. "Hello, darling," he said, coming over to her. "Lisa, you remember Lamont Cranston?"
"Of course." Lisa Bahr turned to Lamont and offered a handshake. "How are you, Mr. Cranston?"
"Mrs. Bahr," Lamont replied, smiling his best charming smile, then looked down at the daughter. "And this can't be Annabelle...good grief, the last time I saw you, you were about knee-high to a grasshopper. How old are you now--three?"
"Four," she returned proudly.
"That just doesn't seem possible." He turned to Bahr. "I remember when she was this little toddler who used to follow you everywhere."
"She still does." Bahr came over and gave his daughter a hug and his wife a kiss. "Hungry?"
"Starving," Lisa replied. "How about that little diner just up the street?"
"Sounds great." Bahr turned to Lamont. "Join us for lunch?"
Lamont had intended to head to The Sanctum for an afternoon of study and meditation--one of his agents had dropped a tip yesterday about a black market adoption ring running up and down the east coast, and he had an odd hunch it was tied in to the Gambrill case. But a chance to pick the assistant D.A.'s brain over a decent lunch was something he could not resist. "Sounds wonderful."
Tony returned with Lamont's repaired jacket. "There you go, Mr. Cranston," he said. "No charge."
"Tony, you are truly a man among men," Lamont replied, then offered the tailor a tip.
Tony smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Cranston."
Lamont put his jacket back on. "Ready to go?"
"Whenever you are," Bahr replied.
Lamont gestured out the door, and the four of them left together.
Lunch was delicious but uneventful. Not wanting to do too much hypnotic manipulation in front of Bahr's wife and child, Lamont had kept his questions polite but pointed, and Bahr had repeated the D.A.'s office's standard line--the case was solved, the evidence was solid, there was no indication of any external involvement by any other party. With the case due to go to trial on Monday, The Shadow was running out of time to trace Gambrill's trail and find his partners in crime.
The four of them left the diner together. "Good seeing you again, Lamont," Bahr said, offering a handshake. "We'll have to do this again sometime."
"Absolutely," Lamont agreed, accepting the handshake as Moe Shrevnitz's taxi pulled up to the curb. "Good luck Monday."
Bahr laughed. "I won't need luck. Just a good jury."
As the two men parted ways, a crowd pushed their way up the street, bumping into both men. Lamont instinctively closed his jacket tightly to protect his wallet--he'd experienced too many would-be pickpockets not to recognize the signs.
Lisa Bahr barely managed to stay on her feet as the crowd pushed its way by her. She tried to tighten her grip on her daughter's hand...
All three adults looked up to see Annabelle being swept away by the crowd. "Annabelle!" Bahr shouted.
Three men broke off from the crowd and jumped into a waiting black town car two blocks ahead, dragging Annabelle with them.
"Call the police," Lamont instructed curtly, then jumped into Moe's cab.
"Boss, did you see...," Moe began.
"I certainly did," Lamont finished. "Tail 'em."
Moe's cab jumped out into traffic, but the town car was already three blocks in front of them. The cabbie put on his best moves and began to cut the distance.
The town car turned off the main thoroughfare. Moe followed and tightened the distance further.
One of the back windows rolled down, and a thug pointed a tommy gun at the cab.
"Look out!" Lamont ordered, already ducking.
Moe ducked his head level with the steering wheel just as a spray of bullets knocked out both windshields.
The town car sped away.
Moe stopped the car. "Boss, you O.K.?" he called.
Lamont looked up. He was covered in glass but otherwise undamaged. "And I just got this suit fixed," he frowned, then took a quick look around.
Fortunately, no passers-by had been hurt in the spray of bullets. But a teenage paperboy he recognized as an agent was already taking notes on a cream-colored sheet of paper. "Pull up to the corner," Lamont ordered.
Moe did so.
Lamont opened the cab door and walked over to the paperboy. "The sun is shining," he said softly.
The young man looked up from his writing and spotted Lamont holding his left hand up so the ring was visible. "But the ice is slippery," he responded, flashing his own ring on his right hand. "Whatcha need?"
"Did you see everything?"
"You mean the guy with the tommy gun and the bad attitude?"
"What was he shooting at you for?"
"Take this down and add it to your note. Agent in cab was pursuing kidnappers of Annabelle Bahr, daughter of Assistant D.A. Peter Bahr, when shooting began. Black town car, New York tags 492-403."
The boy took notes. "Got it." He slipped the sheet of paper in an envelope, picked up a newspaper and folded it around the envelope, then handed the whole thing to Lamont. "Can you take this to a drop box for me? If I leave my corner, my boss'll kill me."
Lamont smiled. Sometimes, timing was everything. "Of course." He handed the young man a nickel for the paper. "Be careful."
"You too, mister."
Lamont nodded his thanks, then came back to the cab.
Moe was standing outside, looking over the damage to his beautiful Cord. "Old gal needs new front and back glass," he sighed. "At least they didn't hit anything major--like us."
"Driveable?" Lamont asked.
"Not unless you want to pay the fine I'll get for driving a glassless vehicle. Cops frown on that sort of thing. Plus, they'd probably impound the cab, and I know you don't want that."
Lamont groaned. He really needed to get to The Sanctum and get agents started on tracking Annabelle Bahr's trail. He opened his wallet and fished out a $20. "Get the glass fixed now. If it's more than this, let me know." He slipped the envelope out of the newspaper and into his suit pocket, then handed Moe the paper. "Here--reading material while you wait on the repairs."
"Thanks. Where are you going?"
"To a drop box, then The Sanctum. The Shadow has work to do."
"Long walk from here."
Lamont shrugged. "I've been on longer ones. Get the cab fixed, and hurry. I'm going to need you later."
Lamont nodded, then walked away, already blending into the crowd.
Lamont was halfway to Times Square when the fire opal in his ring began to flash steadily. The efficiency of The Shadow's network was astonishing at times. The miles of pneumatic tubing that whisked messages from drop points to Burbank's hands, the state-of-the-art radio equipment and one-way video projection system, the underground offices of both Burbank and The Shadow--all of it had been designed by an engineer and agent in consultation with a statistician and agent named Burbank, financed by the vast Cranston fortune, and built by a construction crew whose lives The Shadow had saved from a crooked financier's insurance scam that would have destroyed the skyscraper they were building and taken them with it. It had taken almost three years to complete the system, but it was worlds better than the hand-to-hand relay exchanges of messages that used to constitute The Shadow's network. Just minutes after Lamont had dropped the message in the mailslot of an empty office, Burbank had already received it, read it, catalogued it, and sent for his master.
Ordinarily, Lamont would not have bothered dropping the note in a drop box; he would have taken it himself and then relayed pertinent information to Burbank to set the agents' activities in motion. But there was so much information that needed to be relayed that it was easier to drop the note to Burbank so that all the information was in front of him and wait for Burbank's acknowledgement of receipt...which he now had with the red-orange flashes coming from his ring.
Closing his eyes for a brief moment, he sent back a projective signal to extinguish the light on Burbank's console, then stepped up his pace to The Sanctum.
Burbank was busily drawing points on a copy of a city map representing the activities in the note he'd received when the crackle of static over the speakers indicated The Shadow had finally arrived in his office. "Report," the deep, raspy voice ordered.
Burbank stepped over to the microphone. "Agent in midtown reports shootout at corner of 52nd and Madison," he said, reading from his note. "Black town car, New York tags 492-403, containing unknown number of men was being pursued by a cab carrying another agent when one of the men in the town car opened fire with a machine gun at the cab. Both agents and the cabbie apparently unharmed. Agent in cab was in pursuit of abductors of Annabelle Bahr."
"Daughter of the Assistant D.A.?"
"Last known location of town car?"
"Heading east on 52nd. Shall I send a response?"
"Yes, but not to the agent. Put out a general alert to agents in that area to be on the lookout for that car. This could be tied in to that tip about the black market adoption ring. Keep me informed."
"Understood." Burbank switched off the microphone and began preparing the notices.
"Jeez, Moe, what were you chasing? A mafia convention?"
Moe sighed as Chance LaBrue finished cutting out the old glass from the windshield frames and swept the shards out of the cab. Chance was the best mechanic in town, and an agent from way back who'd made the original modifications to the Cord--the automatic door openers, an extra foot of length in the back seat so Lamont had room to change clothes, plus an additional foot divided between the rear seat and the trunk for the underseat drawers he'd added--and Moe knew he could count on him to do the work quickly. "You never know what you're gonna run into when the boss is in the car," he replied.
"Maybe you should be driving a Brinks truck." Chance began applying sealant to the frame in preparation for inserting a new windshield into the front.
"Don't give the boss any ideas." Moe watched Chance set the glass in the frame. "How much longer you think it's gonna be?"
"Hard to say. This has got to sit a while so you get a good seal, and I've still gotta do the back. I'd say two, three hours, at least, and it should really sit overnight."
The flash of his ring told Moe he didn't have even two or three hours. "I need a phone right now."
Chance gestured with his head toward his office.
Moe nodded his thanks, then went into the office and dialed.
Margo Lane was just putting the finishing touches on a flower arrangement when the phone rang. "Wonder who that could be?" she asked aloud, then headed into the hallway and picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"The sun is shining," Moe's voice replied.
Margo immediately tensed. "But the ice is slippery. What's happened?"
"First of all, relax. He's fine."
Now Margo was even more nervous. "And you feel the need to reassure me of that because...?"
"We had a little accident this afternoon."
"Calm down. He's fine. Trust me, you'd know if he weren't. But we were chasing a car full of bad guys and got shot at."
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah. I drive a cab in Manhattan. Nothing rattles me. Anyway, he's fine, I'm fine, but the Cord's in the shop getting new glass. And he needs a pickup."
Now Margo understood. "Where is he?"
"His office. But he's not going to want you waiting around out there for him. You'll have to call him and find out where he wants you to meet him."
"Gotcha. Where are you?"
"Chance LaBrue's. Tell him it'll be a while."
"I will. Thanks, Moe."
"Sure thing." He hung up.
Margo took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Even after months of psychic strengthening lessons from Lamont, she still couldn't project her thoughts hard enough to carry on a conversation, much less call out to him halfway across town. But sometimes she could send a strong enough signal to ripple the psychic energy in his mind and get him to return the call.
She began saying his name over and over in her mind, trying to get louder with every thought.
Lamont was halfway up The Sanctum's winding staircase when the vague tickling sensation first struck. He stopped where he was and began focusing his mind, filtering out the extraneous thoughts and sensations and amplifying the one he wanted.
The tickling became a whisper. He focused again.
The whisper got louder, with the higher pitched tones of a woman's voice. He focused again.
The whisper was now repeating his name in Margo's mental voice. He immediately sent out a projective wave back along its path. Margo? What is it?
Good, you heard me. Moe just called. He won't be able to pick you up for a while.
He sighed mentally. I was afraid of that.
I can't even trust you to go to Brooks Brothers without chasing crooks along the way.
Sometimes evil dresses in respectible clothing. Where are you now?
Meet me at the Milford Plaza. I'll be in the lobby.
On my way. Be careful.
Always. He closed out the conversation and continued his ascent up the stairs.
Margo checked her watch and looked around the lobby of the Milford Plaza. He should have been here by now. It was a healthy walk from here to The Sanctum, she knew, but her drive hadn't exactly been short and easy, and he should have had plenty of time to get here. She hoped he was just delayed and not something worse...
A kiss on the back of her neck startled her. She whipped around.
"Sorry I'm late," he said, smiling a mischievous smile.
"I'll bet," she replied.
He looked innocent. "Would I..."
"...dare sneak up on me? Absolutely."
He put an arm around her waist. "You know me entirely too well."
Giving a hard sigh, she relented. She was too much in love with him to stay mad at him for very long. She reached up and picked a glass sliver off his shoulder. "You really need to stay out of rough neighborhoods."
Lamont gave a glance to his suitcoat. "Thought I got all of those." He picked another one off and dropped it into an ashtray.
"Did you find out who shot at you?"
He shook his head. "And let's hold further discussion until we get in the car. It's been a busy afternoon, and it's going to be an even busier night."
She nodded. "Lane's Limousine at your service. Where to?"
He smiled. "Home. I have to change clothes."
"I'd say so." She pulled another sliver of glass off the collar of his jacket. "You're a mess."
He gave her a quick kiss, and the two of them walked out of the hotel together.
The long shadows of early evening came through the living room window of Peter Bahr's midtown apartment. He was sitting on the couch in the dark, looking completely spent. The police had come and gone, asking all sorts of questions about Annabelle's abduction, but had no answers for him. And Lisa was completely hysterical. Nothing would calm her. Annabelle was her whole life; they'd tried for years to have another child without success, and so Lisa had showered her daughter with affection and attention.
Their family doctor came out of the bedroom. Bahr got up to speak with him. "How is she?" he asked.
The doctor sighed. "I gave her a sedative. She should sleep for the rest of the night."
"Thank you, Dr. Barnes."
Barnes nodded. "I'm so sorry about what's happened, Peter. They'll find her soon."
Bahr bit back his emotions. "I hope so."
"Call if you need anything."
Bahr nodded his thanks as he saw the doctor to the door, then closed the door and headed back to the living room, dropping onto the couch again in sheer exhaustion.
Bahr nearly jumped out of his skin. "Who said that?" he demanded.
An amused chuckle. Calm down, Mr. Bahr. I'm here to help you.
Bahr looked around. He would swear he was completely alone. But there was a strange chill, an odd sensation filling the room, almost like the tingle one felt in the air after a close-striking burst of lightning. "Who are you?" he asked.
The scourge of law enforcement. A deep, throaty laugh punctuated the statement.
Bahr felt his blood run cold. "No," he whispered. "It can't be..."
...because I'm a two-bit criminal who should be behind bars? Another laugh.
Bahr slowly and carefully moved toward the end table, then pulled open a drawer and whipped out a pistol. He pointed it at the empty space in the room in front of him.
The Shadow clucked his tongue. Shame on you, Mr. Bahr. Keeping a gun where a child can get to it. Someone could get hurt with that.
A dark fog swirled through the room. Bahr felt something yank the gun from his hands, and it vanished into the fog...which itself vanished a second later. He put his hands up, now shaking visibly. "Don't shoot...please..."
You're wasting time, Mr. Bahr. Every moment you spend threatening or cowering is a moment lost in the search for your daughter.
Bahr put his hands down. "What do you know about that?" he asked suspiciously.
There isn't much I don't know or can't find out, Mr. Bahr. I have eyes and ears all over this city. I can find out almost anything I want from almost anyone I want. And I know that your daughter was kidnapped in broad daylight today in front of Tom's Diner, and that a friend of yours was nearly killed chasing after them in a cab.
Now Bahr was stunned. "That's right," he whispered.
Did you recognize the men who snatched your daughter?
Bahr shook his head.
Do you think they recognized you?
Bahr looked confused. "What?"
Call it a hunch. Do you think those men knew whose child they had snatched?
Bahr shrugged. "Maybe. I don't know."
Have you received a ransom demand, or any indication they want to negotiate for the return of your child?
Bahr shook his head. "But it's early yet..."
Actually, by kidnapping standards, it's quite late. You've already contacted the police, and it's already all over the news. If they'd intended to snatch your child, they'd have made that known by now. No, Mr. Bahr, I believe it was a coincidence that your child was taken. But I also believe it's tied into the Gambrill case.
"What do you mean?"
Charlie Gambrill's bail was set at a high level, but the amount needed for a bail bond was certainly reasonable--and yet, no one came forward to bail him out. That tells me that someone wanted him to take the fall for a much larger concern--most likely, organized crime.
"Then why snatch my daughter?"
I don't believe they intended to snatch such a high profile child. But now that they have, they may be using it to force the D.A. into dismissing charges against Gambrill. After all, another high profile child snatched from another prominent parent--similar to the Mary Oliver kidnapping, don't you think?
Bahr nodded, now seeing the logic. "Which therefore means the police captured the wrong man, and Gambrill should go free. And they'll still wind up keeping my daughter."
"What exactly is going on here? Why snatch my child in the first place?"
I have a number of theories, but no proof. And without proof, the police cannot act. Which is where you come in.
"What do you want me to do?"
Is Gambrill's bail order still valid?
"Yes, but it's high enough that no one would pay it. $1000 is a lot of money these days."
But the order is still valid.
Good. What needs to happen now is that Gambrill needs to be released on bail.
"What? Are you crazy?"
Once Gambrill is out of jail, one of two things will happen: Either he will go back to the people he's connected with, or they will come to him. Either way, we will then have a better idea of who really has your daughter.
"Have you forgotten Gambrill is going to stand trial on Monday on kidnapping charges..."
A derisive laugh cut him off. And his lawyer will have him walking out the door of the courthouse inside of the first hour. Your case against Gambrill was weak to start with, and is nothing more than a house of cards now. And even if you could gain a conviction on those charges--which I seriously doubt--you will have lost the trail to your daughter. No, Mr. Bahr, your only hope is to let Gambrill lead you to the real brains behind this operation. And the only way he can do that is if he's out of jail.
"But who's going to pay for it? I don't have that kind of money...even getting a bail bond with ten percent is still $100, and the banks are all closed now..."
Leave that to me. Your job will be to tell the press what an outrage it is that a criminal such as Gambrill can get released on bail just days before his trial. Make as big a scene as you can, but leave me out of it.
"O.K., he gets out, I fill the papers with outrage--then what?"
Leave the rest to me. It shouldn't take long to find who's really in control--Gambrill isn't the brightest of bulbs in the marquee; he's a good company man who has to be told what to do and when to do it. He'll get in touch with the real brains, whether he goes to them or they come to him. And when he makes contact, I'll be there.
"I don't want anything happening to my daughter."
Which is why you need to trust me.
Bahr frowned. "As if I have a choice?"
You always have a choice. But if you want to get your daughter back, you need to pick up her trail fresh. And the fastest way to do that is to spring Gambrill.
Bahr sighed. "Who are you?"
An amused chuckle. I am The Shadow.
"That's not what I mean, and you know it. Who are youreally?"
Another chuckle. I am everyone you meet, and no one in particular. I am a voice in the air, a thought on the wind, a shadow on the wall. I am everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I am in front of you, behind you, coming from angles you will never expect in ways you will never anticipate. I am around every corner, in every empty room, as inevitable as a guilty conscience. A swirl of black fog swept through the room, and Bahr heard his apartment door open. You know what your role is. Be ready to play it. Wait for your cue.
Bahr ran for the door, but it was already closed. He looked out in the hallway.
Lying on his welcome mat was the pistol he'd pulled on The Shadow.
Sighing hard, he picked up the gun and closed the door. The Shadow was a dangerous man, a vigilante who needed to be stopped. Bahr had said those words over and over again in press statements and speeches. But the man had sought him out and personally offered his help. It was a crazy scheme, but right now, Bahr didn't have a better one.
He went into the den, sat down at his desk, and began writing the speech he'd need to give shortly.
Margo sat in a corner booth of a coffee shop just up the street from Peter Bahr's apartment, sipping a cup of coffee and occasionally checking her watch. The Shadow's instructions had been terse but firm: Don't wait around outside the drop-off point, don't just sit in a parked car on the street, wait somewhere that it wouldn't be obvious she was waiting on someone, and keep her eyes open. She found herself quite glad Moe normally had this duty and not her, but still enjoyed the chance to participate in the cloak-and-dagger part of the mission.
A black fog swept over her coffee cup, and it vanished.
She gave an annoyed glare to the seat across from her. How long have you been there? she thought.
Just long enough to see you weren't paying attention to your surroundings. The coffee cup reappeared, now empty. Someone could have snuck up on you and you'd have never known it.
She nodded. Sorry.
An invisible hand caressed her cheek. This is why I don't want you on missions like this. You're not strong enough yet. What I do is dangerous, and you have to be ready for anything at any time.
She smiled wryly. You're a hard taskmaster.
You've never met Marpa Tulku. He makes me look soft. A dollar appeared on the table. That should more than cover your tab. Let's go.
She nodded, then picked up her purse and headed out the door. No one noticed the trailing shadow was of a man in a slouch hat and cloak, not a woman in a jaunty fedora and swing-skirted dress.
Rico Martinez was shadow-boxing to the rhythm of the prize fight on the radio when the jingle of the over-the-door bells indicated his bail bond store had a customer. "Just a minute," he called out, then turned down the radio and walked out to the counter. "Whatcha need?"
Margo laid her left hand on the counter. "The sun is shining."
Rico looked taken aback for a moment, then laid his right hand on the counter, the fire opal ring looking a bit beat up but otherwise intact. "But the ice is slippery. What's up?"
Margo placed a large cream-colored envelope on the counter. "I was told you'd know what to do with this."
Rico opened the envelope. Inside were five $20 bills and a slip of paper upon which gradually appeared writing:Martinez--prepare bail bond for Charlie Gambrill and deliver to city lockup ASAP. Usual identity of bond owner.
The writing on the note disappeared a moment later. Martinez pulled out a form and rolled it into the beat-up typewriter at the other end of the counter, then typed quickly. "It'll be delivered within the hour," he told Margo.
"Thanks," she said, then turned to go.
"One more thing, lady."
Margo turned back.
"If you see him..."
"Who?" she returned.
"Don't pull that stuff. There's no one here but us. If you see him, tell him he owes me five bonds worth of fees. A guy's gotta make a living--it costs money to get all this stuff together, go down there regularly..."
I should think you'd gladly do it, Rico. Unless, of course, you'd rather I'd have let that bail jumper rearrange your skull with that tire iron. A wicked, angry laugh echoed through the store.
Rico nearly jumped out of his skin. "S-sorry, boss," he said fearfully. "I didn't mean no disrespect..."
Of course you didn't. A sinister chuckle. You were merely trying to intimidate one of my agents.
Rico shook. "I...I don't know what I was thinking..."
That's your problem, Rico. Too often, you don't think.
The fabric of Rico's shirt suddenly bunched up around his neck, and he felt himself being lifted off the ground and pulled across the counter.
You know the rules, Rico. And you know the consequences for disobedience.
Rico looked down at the nothingness that was holding him elevated. "It...it won't happen again," he replied in a choked voice. "I swear."
That response earned Rico a toss into a corner. But it was a gentler toss than it could have been. You will have that delivered by 9:30 this evening...or I'll be back to toss you through that wall.
Rico shook his head to clear it, then looked toward the customer area.
It was completely empty. Not even the blonde who'd delivered the money was there.
Not wanting to take any chances, Rico came back to the typewriter and started typing faster than ever.
Down the block a bit, next to a maroon LaSalle that was parked under a broken streetlamp, a swirling fog suddenly cleared to reveal Margo Lane and The Shadow. Both looked disoriented for a moment--Margo from the strength of the clouding suggestion that had rendered her invisible to Rico, The Shadow from the effort it took to maintain such a strong suggestion.
Margo was the first to recover her senses. Are you all right? she asked mentally.
He nodded, taking a deep breath to clear his head. I'm sorry you had to witness that.
She opened the back door to her car. Get in. We need to talk.
He climbed into the car.
She came around to the front driver's side door and climbed in as well. Then, she turned to face the back seat. "Let's get one thing straight," she said firmly. "I am not some delicate flower who needs to be protected from anything...including your temper. I have seen you at your worst, and it doesn't scare me..."
You've never seen me at my worst, he cut her off. You've never even been close
"Oh, really? I've seen the darkest depths your guilty conscience can generate. I've seen your nightmares, where you relive all that horror you created as Ying Ko. I've seen the darkness in your eyes when you thought your secret was in danger from me. I've seen the rage in your eyes when someone tries to hurt me. I've seen you taking your anger out on yourself harder than you'd ever take it out on even someone as disrespectful as Rico. And none of it scares me. None of it. So, get this through that thick skull of yours: If you ever apologize again for doing what you have to do to accomplish your mission, I'll...I'll..."
She thought about it for a moment. "I'll step on you with my spiked heels."
The part of his face she could see showed amusement. And it made her laugh.
He gently stroked her cheek. I could kiss you.
She nuzzled against his hand for a moment. "I wish you could." Then, she patted his hand and turned around to start the car. "But we've got work to do. Where to now?"
The city lockup. Drop me off, then wait up the block. Gambrill should be just about ready to walk out the door when we get there.
She pulled away from the curb. "I hope you know what you're doing."
It's the only way. Gambrill can't lead us to his partners if he's in jail.
She gave a glance to the rear view mirror. "By the way...whose name is on the bail bond?"
Henry Arnaud. Ne'er-do-well from my youth. Pseudonym I use occasionally when it wouldn't do to have Lamont Cranston's name connected with The Shadow's activities.
"Does he know you use his name?"
I doubt he cares. He's been dead for years.
"And no one's ever noticed?"
He was killed in The War. A pause. Just one of the many nameless, faceless casualties buried in unmarked graves over there. We served in the same unit. He was on one side of the first line. I was on the other. We had to beat a hasty retreat from an artillery barrage one day...and that was the last time I saw him. And no one ever found the body. He sighed. It makes a convenient second identity. I like to think Henry would be amused at actually doing good for a change.
The rest of the ride went by in silence.
The phone rang in Peter Bahr's apartment. He practically dove across the room for it. "Hello?"
"Mr. Bahr?" the voice on the other end said.
"Who is this?"
"Chauncy down at the lockup. Thought you'd wanna know somebody dropped a bail bond off for Charlie Gambrill just a few minutes ago."
Bahr's blood ran cold. This must be his cue. "What?" he demanded, trying to sound appropriately indignant.
"Yeah, I know, but what could we do? It's a valid bail bond. Unbelievable that a guy like Gambrill can just walk out the door if someone coughs up a C-note."
"I can't believe it." He really was angry now. "This is an outrage. I'm going straight to the press about this. Gambrill won't be able to order a cup of coffee without someone knowing he's a criminal out on bail."
"Yeah, that'll make a great front page story. Look, I gotta go. My boss is giving me the evil eye."
"Thanks, Chauncy." Bahr hung up the phone. He took a deep breath, reminded himself that this was all part of a larger plan, then picked up the phone and dialed another number. "This is Assistant D.A. Bahr," he said when someone answered the phone. "Get me your station's news desk. Have I got a story for them."
Bob Chauncy, the clerk at the lockup, handed Charlie Gambrill a small box with his personal effects in it. "I can't believe somebody actually bailed you out," Chauncy grumbled. "Who'd want to waste $100 on you?"
Gambrill looked through the box to make sure everything was in it. "Your kindness and faith in your fellow man is heartening," he retorted. "Maybe I'm not the waste of oxygen you guys acted like I was."
One of the lockup officers came up behind him. "Anybody who'd do something to a child is the lowest form of life on the food chain."
Gambrill gave him a glare. "You can't prove that."
"Not until Monday, at least. Be a good boy and stay in town for the weekend."
Gambrill filled his pockets with his personal effects, then gave a sweeping bow to the officer. "Of course, officer. Wouldn't want to miss my day in court, now, would I?"
The officer gave him a nudge with his nightstick. "Get out of here before I find out who forged a signature on a bail bond for you."
Gambrill gave a smile to Chauncy and the officer, then headed for the door, strutting so confidently that he never noticed the unattached shadow on the floor trailing behind him.
"Unbelievable," the officer sighed, turning to head back into the cell block. "Money talks and Gambrill walks. Bet he'll be jumping bail inside of an hour."
Chauncy shrugged. "Oh, I don't know about that," he replied, organizing a stack of paperwork.
The glint of the desk light off something shiny got the officer's attention. "Nice ring," he commented. "New?"
Chauncy gave a glance to the silver fire opal ring on his right hand. "Yep."
"Where'd you get it?"
"Gift from a friend." He stamped the bail bond "RELEASED" and filed it away.
Margo sat in the front seat of her car a block away from the jail, using a pair of opera glasses to spy on the exit. The Shadow had etched into her mind a pretty good picture of Gambrill so she'd recognize him, and her efforts to make sure she didn't miss him were rewarded when Gambrill walked out the door and looked around for a cab.
Suddenly, a black town car pulled up to the curb. Two men got out of it, grabbed Gambrill, and dragged him toward the car.
The trunk of the car popped open. One of the men looked annoyed and slammed it closed.
Gambrill tried to make a break for it, but was grabbed again and shoved into the car, which then sped away.
Margo...follow the town car, but keep your distance.
She started her car and pulled away from the curb, slightly confused because she'd not seen him get back in the car with her. "Where are you?" she asked aloud.
I'm not in your car.
Margo's eyes widened. Don't tell me..., she thought.
Yes, I'm in the town car. More specifically, the trunk.
She slapped the steering wheel in frustration. You'll suffocate, or get yourself killed...
I've taken plenty of rides in trunks. Not the most comfortable mode of travel, but better than hanging onto the roof. A pause. I'm going to drop this connection, but I'll keep a mental ear open. Try to stay close. If they shake you, let me know and I'll try to find out where we're going.
She felt the connection drop. Giving a deep sigh, she kept a safe distance from the black town car, allowing a car to come between them to keep her hidden from their view.
Gambrill looked nervous as he sat between two armed tough guys. "What gives?" he demanded. "I just walked out the door, and you guys are actin' like I'm one of those kids we snatched..."
One of the tough guys punched him in the stomach, and Gambrill groaned.
"Shut up," the thug in the front seat snapped. "You know the rules. Nobody gets out if they get caught."
"I know," Gambrill gasped, his stomach aching. "That's why I'm so mixed up. Who sprung me?"
"That's what we wanna know. Somebody put up a C-note to get you out. And the D.A.'s all hot about it. He's been on every station in town." He turned on the car's radio.
"...so, Mr. Bahr, what you're saying is that you think the kidnapping of your daughter was designed to weaken your case against Charlie Gambrill?" the announcer was saying.
"That's right, Roy," Bahr replied. "It was a setup to make the police think they'd caught the wrong man so that Gambrill could walk out of jail free. And tonight, a kidnapper with a history of mob activity's out on bail. It's an absolute outrage."
The front seat thug snapped off the radio. "You had to get yourself sprung, didn't you?" he said. "You were supposed to take the fall like a good company man. The most you'd get is a few years in the pen. But now, the cops'll be all over the place trackin' you. You're an idiot, Charlie."
"You're the idiot, Malone," Gambrill spat back. "What's the big idea, snatchin' the D.A.'s kid like that? Are you nuts or just plain dumb?"
"This from the guy who snatched Frank Oliver's kid," the driver complained.
"Shut up, Harry," Gambrill snapped. "How was I supposed to know her old man owns half the radio stations on the East Coast? It's not like he's on the front page of the paper every day--like Peter Bahr is."
Malone smacked Gambrill to shut him up. "If we'd have known she was the D.A.'s kid, we wouldn't have snatched her in the first place. She matched the latest order some rich movie star put in for a kid. But because of you gettin' someone to bail you out, now we gotta move this kid, and fast. And we gotta get you outta the way."
Gambrill didn't like the sound of that. "What d'ya mean?"
"This." Malone pulled a pistol out of his coat and fired two shots.
Margo had to slam on the brakes suddenly as the town car swerved, then stopped. A body was tossed out of the back seat, then the car sped away.
She pulled off to the side of the road, then hurried over to the body. "Oh, no," she whispered, then began repeating Lamont's name over and over in her mind, nearly frantic.
Margo? Are you all right?
She breathed a sigh of relief. I'm fine--but they threw Gambrill out of the back of the car. He's been shot.
So that's what I heard. Call the police and have them send an ambulance. Stay near the body. Gambrill's got to survive--right now, he's the only one who knows everything.
But what about you?
I'll be all right. I'm almost positive they're going to their hideout and are going to get rid of Annabelle Bahr somehow. I'll handle them. You call the police. And be careful.
I will. I love you.
I love you, too. Now go!
The connection dropped. Margo looked around frantically, finally spotting a pay phone in the parking lot of a grocery store. She ran across the street, then fumbled with her purse before finally finding a nickel to place the call. "Operator? This is an emergency. I need the police and an ambulance..."
The town car finally came to a stop in a seedy area near the waterfront. The two goons in the back seat, Malone, and Harry climbed out and headed for a ramshackle building. "Let's get moving," Malone ordered as they walked away. "We gotta get this kid outta town before the heat comes down on us..."
After a moment, the town car's trunk popped open. The Shadow climbed out, then stood by the car, taking several deep breaths and feeling very shaky. Not for the first time, he found himself lamenting that so many of his powers were dependent upon his ability to think clearly...an ability that was impaired right now thanks to several miles worth of head-knocking bumps and exhaust-filled air. But he had no time for a long recovery--he needed to get his head together and refocus his energies, and fast. So, he took one more deep, cleansing breath, then looked around.
This was not the hideout where Mary Oliver had been held. This was a different place, most likely another temporary holding spot until the adoption arrangements could be made and the child could be spirited out of town. And from the ambient smells and sounds around him, they were probably off of the South Street viaduct, near the J.M.B. port authority. He quickly transmitted that information to Margo, then cast a clouding suggestion over the area and headed for the building.
A guard looked up as Malone and the three goons came back into the building. "Didja take care of Charlie?" he asked.
"He's roadkill by now," Malone responded. "Where's the kid?"
"In the back, still cryin' for her mommy."
"We gotta get this kid outta here. Every cop in town's lookin' for Charlie, and that shootout downtown today didn't exactly make us inconspicuous. Go out to the dock and get the boat ready."
"You got it." The guard headed out the door.
Malone turned to the three goons. "Get everything cleaned out. We don't want the cops to find even a Chinese takeout box here. I'll call the boss and let him know the schedule's been moved up."
Three thugs began sweeping and cleaning the dilapidated room while Malone moved over to a short wave set.
Annabelle Bahr lay in the dark, crying and clutching the dirty blanket they'd laid her on. "I want my mommy," she sobbed, her voice hoarse from crying so long.
She stopped crying for a minute. "Who's there?" she said, her voice choked.
A friend. Your mommy and daddy sent me to pick you up.
"Mommy? Mommy's here?"
Sh-h-h. Annabelle felt a gloved hand gently stroking her hair. She's waiting for you at home. So, we need to hurry up and leave.
"'kay." She looked around. "Where are you?"
It's kind of hard to see me. It's dark in here, plus you've been crying so much your eyes probably hurt.
Don't be afraid. I'm here to help.
The implicit trust of children was simply amazing at times. Adults trembled in fear of The Shadow's wrath, but children somehow seemed to understand that he was there to help them, even if they couldn't see him. Sit up, Annabelle. I'm going to pick you up. Be very quiet.
She sat up...and felt strong hands lift her under her arms, then sit her securely against a sturdy left hip. One hand took each of her arms and guided them around a neck she could not see. "Why are you wearin' a blanket?" she asked as the fabric of his cloak brushed against her shoulders.
Sometimes I get cold at night.
"Even in the summer?"
Even in the summer. He gently stroked her cheek and wiped away her tears. Now, you need to bevery quiet so those bad men in the next room don't hear us. I'll bet you're tired.
He rocked her on his hip, projecting a very gentle hypnotic relaxation wave into her as he did. You probably didn't get your nap, either. Poor thing. Lean on my shoulder and go to sleep. And when you wake up, you'll be back with Mommy and Daddy.
She yawned, then snuggled against his shoulder and went to sleep.
The Shadow sighed with relief. Now to get past the men out front. He gently pulled the pistol out of its holster under his left arm and slipped it into the belted waist of his overcoat within easy reach, then secured his grip on Annabelle and draped his cloak over her.
She clutched the edge of his cloak in her hand like a security blanket and snuggled against his shoulder again.
He couldn't help but smile. Maybe someday there would be a way to fit children into his life. But right now, there were more pressing concerns...like the footsteps approaching the door.
The door opened. The Shadow slipped behind it.
The goon who'd opened the door flipped the light in the room on. "What the...," he began.
The sentence never reached completion as a right hook sent him sprawling into the wall.
"Johnny, what's going on?" another goon said, starting down the hall--only to get decked by a black blur as well.
Malone and Harry looked up from their activities at the sound of the scuffle behind them. "Quit goofin' off back there, Joey," Malone threatened.
"The kid's gone!" Johnny called back.
"And there's somebody else in here!" Joey added.
"What d'ya mean?" Harry returned.
A single shot rang out, startling everyone.
The bare bulb overhead shattered, plunging the room into darkness.
The guard who'd gone out to get the boat ready came back in. "Why's it so dark in here?" he said, trying to turn on the room light.
"Somebody shot out the lights!" Malone replied. "Get a flashlight!"
The guard pulled out his flashlight and came a bit farther into the room, shining the beam on the walls, searching for his companions.
That's when they all saw it--an unattached shadow, whisking toward the doorway.
"Jeez--it's The Shadow!" Harry realized.
"Jerry, block the door!" Malone ordered.
The guard stepped in front of the door--only to get knocked aside by a right cross.
"Let 'em have it!" Malone said, pulling out his gun.
Three thugs brandished their weapons and readied their aim at the doorway.
Suddenly, Jerry was yanked off the wall and thrown toward them--just as four guns opened fire.
Jerry's body fell to the floor, bullet-riddled and bloody.
"He's getting away!" Malone shouted. "After him!"
The remaining gang members stepped over Jerry's body and headed out the door.
That's when a swarm of police cars and bright lights seemed to come out of nowhere. "This is Commissioner Barth," Wainwright's voice ordered. "You are completely surrounded. Drop your weapons!"
A police boat roared up behind them, and its bright lights illuminated them as well.
Realizing their cause was hopeless, Malone and the others dropped their weapons.
Peter Bahr arrived just moments after the police did, while the thugs were being cuffed and shoved into paddy wagons and officers were combing the area looking for Annabelle. "Commissioner Barth!" he called, crossing over to where Wainwright was standing. "Has anyone found my daughter?"
"Not yet," Wainwright told him. "But we will. Gambrill spilled it all about the hideouts, the black market adoption ring, the Philadelphia syndicate boss that's running the whole thing. The F.B.I.'s been called in. We'll have your daughter back soon."
Bahr looked completely shaken. The Shadow had been right--his case against Gambrill was a house of cards, easily toppled and torn apart. He'd been so sure he had his man that he'd stopped looking too soon--and now his daughter was gone. And he didn't share the Commissioner's optimism that they'd find her, especially since he could hear police calling out that the place was empty...
The sound of that voice in his ear startled him. He whipped around.
Easy, Mr. Bahr. Relax. No sense in making people think you're hearing things.
He stepped away from the group slowly. "Where are you?"
In the shadows. A chuckle. You might check the back seat of your car. Looks like someone left a valuable parcel there.
Bahr raced for his car.
Lying on the back seat, sound asleep, was little Annabelle.
Bahr opened the door. "Baby-belle?" he said, picking her up and putting her in his lap. "Baby-belle, wake up!"
She yawned, then opened her eyes. "Daddy!" she squealed, hugging him tightly.
"Oh, Baby-belle!" He held her close and rocked back and forth, tears welling up in his eyes. "Are you all right?"
He hugged her tighter still. "She's at home, waiting for us."
"The man said when I woke up, I'd be with Mommy and Daddy."
He stopped hugging her and looked at her oddly. "What man?"
"The man who came and got me. He said you told him to come get me."
"Did he say who he was?"
"Uh-uh. But he was wearin' a blanket on his shoulders."
"What did he look like?"
She shrugged. "I dunno. It was dark. But he was real nice. He covered me up with his blanket and said when I woke up I'd be home."
Bahr shook for a moment. The Shadow, that scourge of law enforcement, that two-bit criminal who should be behind bars instead of celebrated as a hero, had saved his daughter, calmed her fears, and brought her back to him. Never in his life did he think he'd ever be grateful that someone took the law into their own hands. But the little girl looking at him now was worth more than his pride about being on the "right side" of law enforcement.
"I wanna go home," she said in a sad voice. "Can we go home now?"
He gave her a big hug. "In a minute, Baby-belle," he told her. "Right now, Daddy's got to go eat some crow."
"So, Mr. Bahr, you're saying The Shadow came and helped you after all you've said about him?" a member of the press corps now crowded around the crime scene asked.
Bahr cradled his sleepy young daughter in his arms as she cuddled against his shoulder. "Let me start out by saying I still don't think anyone should go around taking the law into their own hands. But I have to say that I would not be holding my beautiful Annabelle were it not for The Shadow spiriting her out of this adoption gang's hideout and carrying her to safety. I'd like to say to The Shadow, if he hears or reads this, that I don't agree with your methods...but I can't argue with your results. And I want to personally thank you for rescuing my daughter. If there's any way I can ever return the favor...don't hesitate to call. And now, if you'll excuse me, gentlemen, I'm going to take this little angel home and put her to bed."
As the press corps shouted more questions and took more pictures, Margo Lane sat off in the shadows watching from the back seat of her car, remembering a Bible verse from her childhood days. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together...
...and a little child shall lead them.
She sure did. Sounds like the D.A.'s office is going to be singing a different tune from now on.
No, same tune...but a different key. There's room for harmony now.
Thanks to you.
And to a very brave little girl.
She snuggled into his invisible embrace. Do you ever wonder what kind of parent you'd be?
Me, too. She sighed. She's such a pretty little girl. I'd love to have children someday.
Of course, it would be better to wait until after we get married.
She glanced over her shoulder at the nothingness that held her close. Did you just propose?
He swirled into visibility. His eyes showed mischief. I believe I did.
Hm-m. She smiled. Wonder how we'll explain The Shadow to our kids?
The angles of his facial features softened, and Lamont pulled down the scarf off the lower half of his face to reveal a curious expression. Did you just accept?
She smiled broader. I believe I did.
He squeezed her tightly and beamed. I could kiss you.
She put her hand behind his head and bent it toward her. Why wait?
The world around them was swept away as their lips met in a deep, loving kiss.