A SHADOWY CHRISTMAS
This is fan fiction just for fun. I have no claims.
(To those unaware, The Shadow was a superhero character from the age of radio who also had his own mystery magazine and even appeared in a few movies. His popularity dropped sharply in the age of television and he is now a rather obscure figure. He is remembered best for an eerie laugh followed by his tag line: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows." For the purpose of this story, I have added my own touches to the legendary hero, like a meeting with Superman when he was a brand new hero.)
Wednesday, December 24, 1952. Early morning.
Lois Lane watches as the luxury airliner, a DC 3 converted to private corporate use, taxis to the awaiting hangar. They are not at the main airport, but at a private airfield where many charter companies do business. The plane comes to a complete halt and moments later the passenger door lowers and out steps the woman Lois has been eagerly waiting to greet…
"Aunt Margo!" Lois joyously calls out as she rushes toward her aunt.
Margo Lane, a beautiful, sophisticated woman of forty, returns the smile and embraces her niece. "Oh Lois, it's so good to see you again! How long has it been? Let's see, the last time we were together was your senior year of college and you were dating…a football player?"
Lois chuckles. "You'll have to be more specific. There were a lot of football players."
The two women laugh as Margo shivers a little. "Lois, can we move this reunion inside to the lounge? We just came from an assignment in Miami and it will take me awhile to get use to this chill."
"Of course Aunt Margo, but what about…?"
"Oh, Lamont will be busy arranging about the plane, seeing to the unloading of our luggage and making sure our limo is on time."
Lois nods and leads her aunt toward the small lounge provided for customers of Metropolis Metro Air. As they walk along, Lois takes a moment to look over the glamorous aunt she has admired all of her life. Although Lois only saw her aunt a few times growing up, due mostly to her father's disapproval of his kid sister's lifestyle, Margo Lane epitomized all that a woman should be to the young and impressionable Lois. Aunt Margo was (still is) a stunning beauty, even if her looks have faded just slightly as the years advance. But much more than that, Margo Lane was a successful career woman who made top money and travelled the world seeing everything and experiencing marvelous adventures. Growing up, little Lois Lane wanted nothing more than to be just like her aunt.
It wasn't until Lois was in her teens that she finally figured out why her old-fashioned, career soldier father so disapproved of Margo. It was sex. As the Director of Public Relations for Allard Industries, Margo often travelled alone with the company's president, Lamont Cranston, as they went all over the world conducting business for the mysterious Kent Allard, the millionaire (some say billionaire) recluse. It finally dawned on Lois during her high school years that the way Aunt Margo spoke so fondly of her boss, and the way she would look at him when he would pick her up after a family visit, that the two of them were lovers. (It also explained why Lamont Cranston was forbidden to step foot inside the Lane home.)
The two women enter the warmth of the lounge and Margo sighs with relief. Lois, who is use to the current weather, considered the outdoors fairly comfortable and this small lounge area much too warm. She immediately sheds her coat, but Margo remains wrapped up.
"Aunt Margo, are you feeling alright? I've never known you to be bothered by any sort of weather."
"I may be a little run down. '52 has been a hectic year for Lamont and me. Lois, I hope it isn't too much of an inconvenience for us to have dropped in so suddenly on you, especially at the holidays."
"Are you kidding? Your telegram was the best present I could have gotten for Christmas. I thought I was going to spend the holidays with no family around. After Mom passed away last year, and with Dad in Korea with his regiment, I was beginning to lose a sense of family."
"What about Lucy?"
"Well, freshman Lucy Lane thought it would be a lot more fun to go skiing at Sun Valley than spend semester break with her dull ol' sister. I can't say I blame her. I remember what it was like being off on your own for the first time – that heady sense of independence. Of course I'm not telling Dad that I agreed to let Lucy go away with friends."
Margo smiles and nods her agreement. "Probably wise. So how is The Colonel? Still as rigid and disapproving as always?"
"Dad is Dad, and you are not dragging me into the middle of the feud between the two of you."
"Oh, I didn't mean… Lois, I was actually thinking it would be nice if Sam was here this Christmas, because we could actually end the coldness between us. Even though it was a gift to me, I think my big brother would love to see what Lamont got me for Christmas…"
So saying, Margo removes her left glove and proudly displays a stunning engagement ring.
"Oh Aunt Margo, how wonderful!" Lois exclaims as she and Margo share another hug. "So, when…?"
"Tomorrow morning at St. Wendel's cathedral, right after Christmas mass. The archbishop is an old friend of Lamont's. It will be a very small and quick service, and...will you be my maid of honor?"
"Nothing could make me happier." Lois says as she helps the finally warm Margo out of her winter coat. Margo Lane has a figure that women half her age would envy, but Lois notices at the waistline her aunt now has a small, telltale bulge…
Outside, Lamont Cranston signs the last of many forms the manager of this facility has presented him with. His plane will be refueled, and stored in a private hanger with a shift of armed guards provided by Allard Industries. The manager seems remarkably unfazed by these unusual arrangements, and he confides that Mr. Cranston is the second customer this week to take similar precautions with his plane. In fact, he must be rushing along as that next customer will be arriving soon and he must be present to meet such an important man. With assurances that his men will bring their luggage around to the limo waiting at the front of the building, the obsequious little man hurries away.
Lamont watches and finds his curiosity aroused. As The Shadow, he has learned the value of being overly cautious, but he can't help but wonder what sort of man has a similar obsession about safety from potential enemies. He knows he shouldn't, after all Margo is waiting, but Lamont can't help but satisfy his curiosity. Using his ability to cloud men's minds, Lamont Cranston disappears from the view of the various workers around him as he follows the manager, Mr. Beadle. Of course he isn't truly invisible – only the ability of others to see him has been clouded from them. The proof of his true status comes in the form of his shadow, which is clearly visible. Lamont sticks to shadowy areas so that this visual anomaly will not be noticed.
As he follows Beadle to another area of the airfield, Lamont begins to feel a little guilty. He has no true reason to keep his fiancee waiting other than a gut feeling, but past experiences have taught him not to ignore such feelings. But…there are other things that Lamont feels guilty about when it comes to Margo. He has been with Margo Lane for 16 glorious years, and he has passionately loved her everyday of their relationship. He has shared all of his secrets with her and she has been an invaluable ally as he has fought evil in its' various forms, whether it be crime bosses, crooked politicians, Nazi saboteurs, Communist spies or even the occasional mad scientist. Margo even knows that his true identity is Kent Allard...
A wealthy young man and a proclaimed war hero as a triple ace, Kent came away from the 'War to end all wars' a shattered man. The horrors he experienced constantly haunted him, and he could not fit back into his old life of wealthy indugence. Kent Allard began travelling the world seeking meaning, seeking peace, seeking...redemption. At an obscure monastery in Tibet, one that normally could not be found by any man, Kent was accepted by an unusual brotherhood who shared a gift so powerful and so dangerous only a handful of the specially chosen were ever allowed to know their secret. For ten years he studied the meditation techniques that allows the brotherhood to control the quasi-magical ability of clouding men's minds. To those of weak minds or weak will, they can control as easily as a puppet on a string. Even those of strong minds and will they can hide from by seeming to disappear. Margo knows all of this, but the one secret Lamont has not shared with Margo is that the meditation technique that he still practices for two hours a day gives an added benefit to a man. The mind is freed from all stress while the body is freed of age inducing toxins. As a result, master monks in the monastery, men of 100 years, have the fit bodies of a man half that age.
Margo knows that Kent Allard is 55, but Lamont Cranston appears to be around 40. She assumes he is using his ability to make people think he looks younger, but actually, Lamont is using his ability to appear to age at the same rate as Margo. Physically, in terms of appearance and fitness, Lamont is no older than 25, and has the potential to remain that way for decades more. One of the reasons Kent Allard became Lamont Cranston was to avoid having to deceive old friends and loved ones about the status of his age. But, he never anticipated remaining as 'Lamont' for so long, or that he would fall in love... He was warned of this when he was at the monastery - to fall in love is to doom a woman to growing old in your arms, something few women are willing to endure. But now Margo is pregnant, and yes, he is aware that the 'slip' in their usual birth control was not quite so accidental. He isn't angry. He understands that in their younger days it seemed they had all of the time in the world, but now Margo is 40 and she desperately wants to settle down with a family before it is too late. She assumes that since he is 'older', he wants that too. He does, but the thought of giving up being The Shadow (another assumption on Margo's part) is not something he is prepared to face.
Lamont comes to a halt as he hears a loud screech in the sky. He looks up and sees the private plane that Mr. Beadle is waiting for, but...it is a jet! What the hell, a private jet? Only the military has jet planes, and even though some airlines are looking into the possibility of jet airliners in the distant future, none are currently available. The jet plane comes to a halt in front of the hangar reserved for it, and Lamont sees a contingent of armed guards is already standing by to secure the plane. An armored limousine pulls up, stairs come to the private plane and the door opens... Lamont can not help a small gasp of surprise. There he is, the most famous recluse on the planet, far better hidden than Kent Allard, which is harder to do since this man is so much better known.
Originally he came to the public's attention as The Boy Genius. Supposedly destined to be mankind's great hope for a better future as he was compared to a combination of DaVinci, Edison and Einstein all rolled into one. This man is credited with shortening the war by a couple of years as he brought astonishing advancements in radar, sonar, bomb sights, faster planes, that new thing called computers which could break any enemy's codes and of course, the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb. Then, five years ago at the age of 27, the boy genius was in a lab explosion that exposed him to a toxic cocktail of dangerous gasses. Outwardly he merely lost his hair, but inwardly there was a fundamental change in Lex Luthor.
An arrogant genius, Luthor went from basking in the limelight of his fame to becoming a bitter recluse who would never pose for pictures. Even sadder for mankind was the ending of the steady production of clever, beneficial inventions. Whatever Luthor is now working on has remained a secret to the general public, but The Shadow, through his worldwide network of informants, has heard some disturbing rumors. Luthor has been associating with a wide variety of international criminal gangs, and he has been collecting vast amounts of materials that can only be used in the production of weapons. Now he is in Metropolis, the hometown of that brand new hero, Superman. Why?
"I can't imagine what is keeping Lamont for so long." Margo Lane states, but she suspects the nature of this delay.
"That's okay Aunt Margo, I have the morning off and I'm glad we have this time together."
The two women are standing at the window and Lois has pointed out to her aunt the new Nash Rambler convertible she purchased a few months ago. Margo senses that Lois is subconsciously looking for her approval...
"It's a lovely car, Lois. Have I told you how proud of you I am? Only two years out of college and you are a features reporter with your own column and private office. That's more than most male journalists accomplish after ten years on the job."
Lois smiles. "Thank you, Aunt Margo. I did set the record at the Planet for fastest promotion on the job. Of course, records are meant to be broken..."
"Yes, a new man, Clark Kent, went right to the top practically his first day on the job. By coincidence he arrived in Metropolis at the same time Superman began making appearances, and Clark managed to get the first interview with Superman, which gave his career a swift boost. Clark still has the inside track when it comes to Superman stories and we frequently compete with each other."
"Then you've actually met this Superman? What's he like?"
"He is...impressive." Lois replies with a blush.
Margo smiles, taking Lois' meaning. "I hope I get a chance to meet him during our visit."
"Meet who?" a familiar voice says.
Lamont Cranston joins the ladies and he exchanges cheek kisses with Lois before placing his arm around Margo.
"It's good to see you again, Lois."
"You too, Mr. Cranston."
"None of that. Get use to calling me 'Uncle Lamont'. Margo, who is it you are looking forward to meeting?"
"Superman. Lois knows him."
"Indeed? We have heard so much about this 'Man of Steel'. Is he really as powerful as the reports claim?"
Lois answers, "The reports don't do him justice. Superman can fly, has super strength and speed, he is invulnerable and has other powers too long to list."
Lamont frowns slightly. "Impressive. He has no known weaknesses?"
"None. Does that concern you, uh...Uncle Lamont?"
"I can't help but think about that old line of power corrupting, and absolute power..."
"Superman isn't like that!" Lois hotly retorts. "He's a force for good."
Lamont, thinking of Luthor, replies, "He is starting out that way, but can we be sure he will stay that way? What if, over time, his behavior became corrupted? How could anyone ever stop him?"
"Sometimes you just have to trust that a good man is a good man, 'sir'."
Lamont, seeing that he is angering Lois, quickly changes the topic to the impending wedding. Soon harmony is restored, and minutes later the group go their separate ways with Lois driving into work and the engaged couple riding to a luxury hotel in the back of a limousine...
"That got awkward." Margo comments.
"I didn't mean to upset your niece. It's just over the years I've seen how power can become an addiction that warps men's nature. How can we be sure this 'Superman', no matter how good he is starting, won't become a danger in the future?"
"You're thinking of Shiwan Khan."
"Shiwan Khan was the only man ever to betray the brotherhood. He had the same training I did, seemingly had the same dedication to stamping out evil, but he turned bad and became my greatest enemy."
"But Khan has been dead for years. What set this off? Was it due to why you were late joining us?"
"I witnessed the arrival of Lex Luthor."
"Luthor!" Margo says with alarm. She is privy to all of The Shadow's information and knows what a potential threat Luthor is. "Wait, you're not planning to tackle Luthor as The Shadow, are you? Lamont, you promised..."
"I only said I would cut back on my activities in order to be there for you and the baby. I never promised to retire."
"But this is Metropolis. Surely Superman can handle Luthor."
"Maybe, but Superman is new to the hero business and a man like Luthor can be a formidable foe. Besides, I think Superman is why Luthor is here."
"What do you mean?"
"The driving force in Luthor's personality is to prove his superiority to all others. Whatever evil plot he is planning, it is designed to best Superman. What if Luthor's genius has come up with a way to kill Superman? Or worse..."
"What could be worse than killing Superman?"
"Finding a way to take control of him and making Superman his pawn. If that ever happened, Lex Luthor could rule the world."
To Be Continued.