CHAPTER FIVE

A SHADOWY CHRISTMAS

X-X-X-X-X

Superman flies over Kansas, slowing as he approaches Smallville. He fondly recognizes numerous landmarks from his childhood as he approaches the Kent farm. There's the old high school, decorated for the holiday, the malt shop where he and friends would hang out after school, and there's the Lang's old house where his high school girlfriend Lana use to live. He smiles as he remembers how pretty Lana was and the fun they use to have together, especially that last year when they use to sneak off to the barn… Speaking of that, Superman makes a quick landing behind the old barn, making certain no one sees him. The nearest neighbor is half a mile away, but you can never be too careful. It would be awkward to explain how Clark made it home all the way to Smallville from Metropolis for a few hours stay, but it would be impossible to explain why Superman is visiting the Kent farm.

After a quick change back to Clark, he approaches the house while casually carrying the heavy TV set under one arm. It is good to be home, but every visit back is a little bittersweet. Only two years ago Pa died when his heart finally gave out, and since then Ma has been looking more frail every time he stops by. Clark has tried to get his mother to come back to the city to live with him, but she stubbornly clings to the farm and this community. While old age has slowed Martha Kent, she is still sharp and determined to have her own way.

Martha was born here, was baptized in the small country church down the road, was married there, christened her son there and held her husband's funeral there. She intends her funeral, whenever it comes, will be in the same church. In the meantime, neighboring farmers lease the Kent land and share the profits with the Widow Kent, providing her with a good income. Other neighbors visit regularly, checking up on the old gal and helping with any big chores that need to be done and keeping Clark informed of all news. In truth nothing more could be done for Mrs. Kent in the big city as it is only her many years catching up with her.

The door swings open as Clark gets to the porch, and a happy Martha Kent embraces her son. From the open door Clark can smell the aroma of delicious food, and he knows Ma has been cooking all day, preparing a huge feast.

"Oh Clark, it's so good to see you even though it has been only a month since you were here for Thanksgiving. Son, I was beginning to get worried when you were late."

"I'm sorry about that Ma, but I wasn't able to get away as soon as I planned. I hope you haven't gone to too much fuss?"

"Oh, no bother at all. Now I wonder what could be in that big box that you've wrapped so prettily?"

"You'll just have to wait until after dinner when we unwrap our presents."

"Oh pooh, you're no fun. So why were you late?"

As they enter the house, Clark begins to explain about how his co-worker, Lois, let him down when she was suppose to cover for him. Even as he tells the story, Clark worries about where Lois is and has she gotten herself into trouble again?

X-X-X-X-X

In the rotunda of the Metropolis Mint, Lois Lane is tied up and has been discarded into a corner, almost forgotten about. She has watched in dismay as Luthor and his troops, plus the treasury guards, have gone about efficiently looting the vast sums of cash stored in this facility. She has also witnessed printing plates, supplies of ink & paper as well as a lot of documents going into the waiting moving vans. The robbery is going like clockwork with no alarms sounded and no mistakes made. Luthor and his diabolical machine are parked in the center of the rotunda, surrounded by the many marble columns that hold up the central roof and skylight above. The lighting remains subdued, as it always is at night, but the semidarkness seems to support 'King' Luthor's mood. For a man who is pulling off the greatest robbery in history, he doesn't look happy.

"What's wrong, Luthor? Those hundreds of millions of dollars aren't enough for you?"

Lex looks over to the corner where Lois was dumped and for a moment he seems confused by her presence. "Oh, Miss Lane, I apologize for being such a bad host. I should have made you more comfortable. I'm sure we could arrange a chair and maybe coffee?"

"No thanks. I don't want to be treated better by you. I want to remember how mad I am when I write the story of what you have done. Really Mr. Luthor, why do you need so much? Wouldn't a simple bank robbery have satisfied your greed?"

"Greed has nothing to do with this, Miss Lane. You see all of that money that people value so much? Just green paper, which I will prove in the months ahead when I make it worthless scrap. When I am done, toilet paper will be more valuable – at least it has a practical use."

"You're mad."

Lex winces at the charge as he has been experiencing a lot of doubt ever since he used his brilliant machine to force the treasury guards to join them. For the first time he has been contemplating the awesome responsibility in taking over another person and bending him to your will. Once again that little voice in the back of his mind is telling him this scheme is unworthy of his genius and that he has indeed gone mad. It is annoying to hear his own doubts echoed back to him.

"Be careful what you say, Miss Lane. If I use my mind control machine on you, I can get you to eagerly obey my every whim…no matter what it may be." Lex says with a leer.

Lois blushes at the implication but retorts, "Superman will stop you! You and your whole army are going to be behind bars!"

"Superman? I'm counting on him to make an appearance – it is central to my plan."

"You can't really believe that silly device of yours can conquer the Man of Steel. Superman is invulnerable!"

"Only his body. His mind is just a mind. With my superior intellect and will, amplified by my device, Superman will be no harder to take control of than the guards at this facility."

At that moment Luthor's right hand man approaches. "Boss, we're done. Everything is loaded and ready to go."

"Alright Tanner, position the snipers on the roof and sound the burglar alarm. Keep the police at a distance, but don't kill anyone unless they try to charge the building. If I am correct, Superman will be here within minutes…"

X-X-X-X-X

With dinner over, Clark has been busy setting up the new television and the large antenna that he has placed at the top of the farm's windmill. Martha Kent looks dubious as she examines the new device.

"This is very nice of you Clark, but I don't need a television machine."

"It isn't about need, Ma. You will enjoy this, and trust me, you will grow to enjoy having it around."

Martha chuckles. "That's funny. I remember saying the same thing to my mother when Jonathan and I bought her first radio. She looked at it with as much doubt as I'm doing now with this. In time she learned to love it."

"Then you'll give it a try?"

"Yes, of course. If there's one thing I've learned in all of my years, you can't stop progress. But Clark, will this be able to pick up any channels? Smallville doesn't have a TV station."

"With the antenna I've installed, I'm sure you will be able to pick up at least two channels out of Witchita. Now we turn it on...you have to wait for the tubes to warm up just like with the radio."

After a few moments a snowy picture begins to appear on the screen. Clark begins making adjustments, explaining to his mother about fine tuning the channel and how to use the vertical and horizontal controls. Martha is still dubious, but watches carefully while trying to absorb all that her son is saying. Suddenly the picture clears and they have a surprisingly good view of Martha's first time with TV - a commercial.

"Oh look Clark, it's a Burma Shave ad. Remember the one that was always on the road to Smallville? 'Hay is costly, Straw is cheaper, Grass is free. Buy a farm you get all three'."

In unison they finish with, "Burma Shave!"

They laugh and Martha goes back to watching the screen. Clark glances at the clock...

"Hey, we're just in time to watch 'Burns & Allen'."

"Oh, I use to listen to them all of the time on the radio. Gracie Allen is hilarious."

Clark smiles as he sees the excitement on his mother's face. He is so glad she likes her present, and he hides the sadness he also feels. He can't shake the feeling that this will be their last Christmas together...

"Clark, what's happening?"

Clark looks back to the screen aware that the program has only been going for a few seconds when... "Oh, it's a news bulletin, Ma. There must be a major story breaking."

From the TV, "We interrupt your regular program for a special news report. In Metropolis, a small army of armed men have taken over that city's mint in a daring Christmas day robbery. Police have arrived on the scene, but sustained heavy gunfire is keeping them at bay. The city's mayor has put in an appeal to the governor for the National Guard, and calls are going out for Superman's aid. Right now everyone is asking: Where is Superman?"

"Clark, you have to go."

"But Ma..."

"Son, we raised you to put your duty first. Don't worry about me and our celebration. We will have lots of Christmases together. Now go, I look forward to watching the report about your next success."

"Okay Ma, and Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas Clark, and be careful!"

Clark Kent rushes out the front door, already making the change. He briefly wonders if this daring robbery has anything to do with the mystery man who was staying at the Parkside Hotel, which he never got around to investigating. No matter, whoever is responsible for taking him away from his mother on Christmas is going to pay a hefty price when Superman gets his hands on him...

X-X-X-X-X

"WHERE IS SUPERMAN?" a frustrated Lex Luthor roars. He resumes pacing the short distance he is allowed by the cable that attaches him to his mind control machine. "He should have been here over an hour ago!"

Archie Tanner suggests, "Boss, maybe it's time we give up on Superman and get out of here? More and more cops keep showing up, and we were never suppose to be here this long. We're keeping the cops at a distance for now, but it won't be long before the National Guard shows up with tanks!"

Luthor sits back down on the chair attached to the electric sled that allows his machine to be mobile. The entire device is nearly as large as one of those new import cars, a Volkswagen.

"We stay. If the cops charge, mow them down. If the National Guard shows up, I'll take control of whatever officer is in charge, the same as I plan to do with the police commissoner when we make good our escape."

Standing nearby, unseen for all of this time, The Shadow listens to the growing militancy of Luthor and decides it is time to act. As long as the bad guys were not planning on killing anyone, he was content to wait on Superman to see if this new hero is as tough as everyone says, but with the Man of Steel a no-show, it is up to him. The problem is, Luthor has at least a hundred men with him, all trained soldiers, and the treasury guards are avidly obeying his every command. These are long odds even for someone with his powers. And, there is the unknown risk factor of Luthor's machine. What are it's limits? So far it has been impressive. Best to start with eliminating that...

Moving to the shadows of the many columns that circle this room, The Shadow readies himself. He removes his .45's, knowing there is a drawback to sustained gunfire. The muzzle flashes and loud gunshots momentarily disturb his concentration, and he will be briefly visible as he runs from column to column firing at the machine. He just hopes Luthor's men aren't as good at shooting as they seem to be. Taking a deep breath, The Shadow aims for the machine and pulls both triggers, instantly running for the cover of the next column and firing again and again. As he continues circling the room, constantly firing into Luthor's machine, Luthor's mercenaries and the treasury guards get brief glimpses of a fast moving man, barely visible for split seconds as he runs between the shadows.

Behind him Luthor hears his machine being smashed to pieces, and he instinctively takes cover. His soldiers begin firing wildly, unable to get a bead on the fast moving man in black. Where is he? Over there! No, over here! Bullets begin spraying everywhere and richocets ping off the marble walls.

"Stop firing you lunatics!" Luthor orders as Tanner joins him.

"Boss, who is it? We keep trying to shoot the guy, but...it looks like he's disappearing. Is that possible?"

"It's happening, so it's possible. My machine..." Luthor says as he risks moving closer to examine his device. "This isn't too bad. I have spare parts and I can fix this in less than a half hour, but we have to keep that gunman away. Men, form a defensive perimeter around me, treasury guards to the outer ring."

Luthor's troops and the guards obey and Lex begins working frantically on his invention. If Superman should show up now...

Tanner asks, "Hey Boss, with the machine smashed, how come the treasury guards are still obeying you?"

Luthor hesitates, seemingly confused. "Uh, well...it's a function of the machine, sort of like a post hypnotic suggestion. Yes, that's it. It is a design feature because obviously I can't remain hooked up to this device all of the time. It takes awhile for the effects to wear off."

Tanner nods. That makes sense, but why did Luthor seem so unsure about a machine he designed?

On the other side of the room The Shadow pauses to reload his guns and to plan his next move. The treasury guards are between him and the machine, and even though they are working for Luthor, he knows they are innocent puppets in all of this. If Luthor gets the machine working again, he may have no other choice but to start killing - starting with Lex Luthor. Where is Superman?

X-X-X-X-X

Outside, further from the mint than he would like, Inspector Bill Henderson is in command of the growing number of cops assembling to deal with this problem. Most of the force was off duty due to the holiday, but as the news of the robbery became public, every officer in the city responded to the call to arms. The city's police commissoner has finally been located - celebrating Christmas at his in-laws' house in the suburbs, and he is expected here within the hour. The call to the governor is slowly being responded to - the same problem, everyone is away for Christmas. Henderson contemplates how many men it will cost him if he has to stage an invasion of the mint. If only...

"Look, up in the sky!"

Henderson breathes a sigh of relief. Although Superman has only been active in Metroplois for a few months, the cops in this town have grown to appreciate his many timely appearances. With a woosh and a thump, Superman lands a few feet away.

"Good evening Inspector, and Merry Christmas."

"Sadly, not a very merry one, Superman."

"What's the situation?"

"There are dozens of armed men inside the mint, apparently all experienced mercenaries. My men haven't been able to get any closer as there are a couple of squads of top notch snipers on the roof. We've had no casualties so far - just some popped tires, smashed radiators and one cop even had his hat shot off. The snipers are just showing off, proving to us that if we rush them, it will be a blood bath. Also, we believe there are hostages. A dozen treasury department guards were on duty when the robbery began, and there were no reports of gunfire prior to the alarm being sounded. But, we did hear a lot of gunshots a few minutes ago."

"I see. Very well Inspector, if you will be patient, I'll handle the retaking of the mint, and I'll signal your men when it is safe to enter."

"Gladly." Henderson says with a sigh of relief.

Superman takes three quick steps and launches himself into the air. Henderson watches in awe, even though he has seen this sight several times now. On the roof one of the snipers spots the approaching Man of Steel and hastily calls out, "Superman..."! It is all he has time to say as he and the other snipers are quickly and painfully subdued by the superfast hero. Once all of the snipers are knocked out and their rifles twisted into the shape of pretzels, Superman noisily drops through the skylight to the rotunda below...

The Shadow watches the appearance of Superman and gives him credit for a spectacular entrance. Superman pauses to take in the situation and is surprised by what he sees...

"Lex Luthor? You're behind this madness? What happened to you man? You were the most respected scientist in the world and you resort to mere theft?"

Luthor curses under his breath. If only he can get a few more minutes, he will have his machine fixed. "Keep him busy!"

Luthor's mercenaries and the treasury guards open up with everything they've got. Hundreds of bullets begin bouncing off Superman's body, far more than he has ever endured before. He finds the experience disconcerting, but it does him no harm. Superman responds with an enormous blast of his superbreath, and the crowd of armed men are knocked down like bowling pins. Luthor 'grrs' in frustration and abandons his work. Obviously he has failed.

Lois calls out, "Superman, I'm so glad to see you!"

Superman smiles and goes over to Lois, snapping the ropes that bind her. "Miss Lane, how did you get caught up in this fiasco?"

"Quite by accident. I was following up a lead and stumbled upon Luthor at the Parkside Hotel. He took me prisoner. Superman, that machine is some sort of mind control device. Luthor took control of the treasury guards and forced them to do his bidding."

"How did the machine get damaged?"

"That was done by...The Shadow."

"The Shadow? I've heard legends about the man for years, but I was never sure if he was real." Superman calls out loudly, "Shadow, sir, will you come out? I'd be honored to meet you."

"And I you."

Superman is startled, but tries not to show it. The Shadow is standing right next to him, having suddenly appeared out of nowhere. How...?

"Oh, uh, there you are. Thank you for your help."

"Superman, the danger isn't over."

"Luthor? Trust me, I can handle him."

"No, Luthor was never the threat. The real danger is from..."

Suddenly an eerie laugh echoes through the marble halls, and everyone shivers with a sense of foreboding. For the first time The Shadow experiences what he has been dishing out for years.

"He's here."

Superman is about to ask who when from the shadows there steps a man of Mongol heritage, dressed in silk robes and armed only with a sword. Around the man's head is a metal band that, appropriate to the season, glows with red and green lights.

"Shiwan Khan." The Shadow bitterly mutters.

Khan smiles, "Shadow, my old enemy, why are you not amazed by my seeming resurrection from the dead? You should be gasping in astonishment and fear."

"I knew you were still alive after that nightmare you gave me. Your cruel nature betrayed you."

Superman asks, "Who is this man?"

"My greatest enemy, a depraved lunatic who has plagued the world with his mad schemes for decades."

"Shiwan Khan? Never heard of him."

"Few have. Like me, he keeps his name spoken of only in whispers. I thought he died five years ago in our last battle, but he has made more than one 'return from the dead'."

Lex Luthor, who was protected from Superman's wind blast by being behind his machine, approaches and says, "This man can cause nightmares? For years I've been plagued with horrible dreams and a sense of...madness."

The Shadow answers, "It is never enough for Khan just to take over a man's mind. He must also torture his victims, ususally through their dreams."

Lois looks at Luthor and sees a fundamental change in the man. The anger and violence are gone from his face and in their place are only curiosity and confusion.

"Shouldn't you be trying to fix your machine?"

"That thing? It does nothing - a Rube Goldberg contraption designed to make me look foolish. The helmet was made from a woman's hairdryer!"

Khan chuckles. "I admit, I enjoyed making you look the clown. Lex Luthor, supposedly the greatest mind on the planet, but just another puppet for me to control."

Luthor shakes his head. "I can't believe you were able to control me for all of these years, a man of my intellect."

"It was childishly easy. I only needed to stroke that masive ego of yours while supressing your miniscule sense of morality. After that I arranged for you to 'accidentily' find my journal and your own scientific curiosity followed the path I chose. Now that I am done with your services, I have released my control so that your humiliation can be complete."

"That headband you are wearing, I remember now. That's what I've really been working on for the last few years."

"Yes, this power amplification device is the edge I have been seeking for a long time. You see Shadow, after our last encounter when I nearly died thanks to your servant Bluke..."

"My friend, Jericho."

"Semantics. While you distracted me, he was able to seize me and throw me off of that cliff..."

"A two hundred foot drop. How did you survive?"

"Just before he threw me over, I tried to take hold of his mind, but he was too filled with rage for me to gain control in such a short time."

"Well, you did murder his wife."

"Looking back, although it was enjoyable, that may have been a tactical error. However, I did manage to influence Bluke's mind enough to have him toss me to a ledge that was only twenty feet down. I was injured, but I managed to survive. As I hid from you, I swore to myself that I would never again face you unless I had a clear advantage. We have always been too evenly matched, Shadow, and luck always seems to favor you. But now, I have the edge I always wanted. This device amplifies my power, as you can see by my having gained control of the guards at this facility."

Lois asks, "So Luthor never had a willing part in this crime?"

Khan replies, "Only in the sense that he was the inspiration for my plan. During my recovery, I read of the lab explosion that caused Luthor to go into seclusion. I realized this was an ideal situation for me to gain control of a valuable asset. I manipulated him into the quest to develop the power headband I am wearing, originally planning to use it to take over the minds of all of the world's leaders. Through them I would rule from behind the scenes. But then, three months ago, this godlike being known as Superman arrived. I saw a chance to step out from the shadows and rule openly as is my right as the last descendant of the great Genghis Khan."

Superman says, "I've heard enough of this."

The Shadow warns, "Careful Superman, you don't understand the risk..."

"No offense Shadow, this creepy little guy may be your archenemy, but he's no match for me."

Smiling confidently, Superman takes a step forward, then a second step but without the smile. He manages one more difficult step before stopping.

Khan orders, "Kneel before me, slave."

To the shock and dismay of all, Superman drops down on one knee and responds in a dull montone, "Yes Master."

Khan begins a long, high pitched laugh that reminds everyone of a schoolgirl's giggle. "I did it! I did it! Superman is mine and soon the whole world will follow suit. All will bow before Shiwan Khan."

Lois cries out with tears in her eyes, "Oh Superman, no, please no..."

The Shadow comments, "It's too late Miss Lane, Khan has him."

"Yes my old enemy, victory is at long last mine. Oh, I am so going to enjoy myself in the decades to come. Now, what should I do with you...Lamont."

Lois asks, "Lamont?"

Khan answers, "Oh, didn't you share the truth with your new family member? Yes, the mysterious Shadow is Lamont Cranston, or should I say: Kent Allard."

The Shadow sighs and wonders what is the point now? He removes the hat and scarf, revealing the face of a 40 year old Lamont Cranston, followed by a 25 year old Kent Allard.

Lois gasps. "How is this possible? I've seen the wartime photos of Kent Allard, and you hardly look any older, but...you're Perry White's age!"

Khan says, "Shall I explain it, Shadow? You see Miss Lane, the powers I and 'Lamont' share also slow the aging process. I myself am nearly seventy, but I look no older than thirty."

Lex comments, "I would have guessed thirty-five."

A brief frown of annoyance crosses Khan's face and The Shadow uses that moment to draw one of his .45's with amazing speed, but even with the gun aimed right at Khan, he cannot pull the trigger as his body is now frozen.

Khan laughs. "I wondered how long it would take you to try that. So predictable. Sadly my old enemy, the time has come for you to die. Now, how should I do it?" (Khan removes his sword and contemplates it with an evil grin on his face.) "Shall I hack you into small pieces while you watch in horror as your body is cut away? No...I'm wearing my best robes and that would be messy. Perhaps my new servant should be given a chance to show his loyalty? Well, Superpuppet, would you be willing to burn this man to a crisp with your heat vision for me?"

Superman glares at The Shadow as if the man were his worse enemy. "Gladly, Master."

Khan laughs again. "This is so much fun! But no, since you already have an instrument of death in your hand, I think it appropriate that you do it yourself, Shadow. Place your gun beside your head and pull the trigger."

The Shadow uses all of his power to resist the inluence of Khan's enhanced abilities, but the best he can do is slow the process. Slowly, his body repsonds to Khan's command and the gun muzzle comes closer and closer to his head...

"Why don't you beg, Shadow? Perhaps if you snivel and beseech for mercy, I will allow you to live as a mindless drone."

Allowed to speak, The Shadow responds with: "Jericho, now!"

Suddenly there is a brillant flash of light from the front of The Shadow's trench coat. For a split second Khan's concentration is disturbed. It is enough time. The Shadow's gun returns to target and the bullet catches Khan right between the eyes. The man is dead before he hits the floor, and The Shadow breathes a sigh of relief. When he realized Khan was still alive, he prepared a surprise by adding to his trench coat a series of flashbulbs that were hidden by the belt and buttons - all rigged to go off by a remote control device he entrusted to his old friend, Jericho. By radio Jericho has been listening to all of this, waiting for The Shadow's command, and very glad he has had another chance to help.

Superman, as well as the treasury guards, begin to blink and shake their heads as they come out from the mind control they were under. The mercenaries, now recovering from Superman's earlier attack, begin raising their guns in the face of the threat from the guards, but Superman quickly calls out...

"Do any of you think you can take on these guards, and me, and win?"

After only a brief hesitation, the mercenaries drop their weapons and surrender. The treasury guards quickly have the bad guys lined up against the wall.

"Join them, Luthor." Superman orders.

"Me? But you heard, my mind was being controlled against my will."

"That will be something for the courts to decide."

Lois rushes over to Superman, resisting the urge to throw her arms around him. "Oh Superman, I am so glad to see you back to normal."

"I'm glad to be back Miss Lane, even though I'm still a little confused about what happened. Did I really become Shiwan Khan's slave?"

Before Lois can answer, a loud voice calls out: "Everyone, may I have your attention?"

Every person in the room turns and sees that The Shadow is now wearing the power amplifier headband...

X-X-X-X-X

"Oh Lamont, it's beautiful."

"Very beautiful." Lamont Cranston says as he watches his wife modeling her Christmas present, a mink coat. He is delighted that Margo likes her gift - he is doubly delighted that the coat is all she is wearing. Lamont catches a glimpse of himself in the same full length mirror Margo is using and realizes that in his haste to get back to her before Christmas was formally over, he has forgotten to remove his Shadow outfit. He takes a critical look at the man in the trenchcoat, slouch hat and red scarf. When he first began fighting crime back during Prohibition, he thought he was the coolest thing around. Now, he just looks old-fashioned.

"So tell me what happened next?"

Undressing, Lamont replies, "Do we have to talk about this now? It is our wedding night."

"I want to know! Shiwan Khan was finally, truly dead (no tears there), and you put on the power headband...?"

"The device amplified my abilities amazingly. I was able to take full control of every person at the mint. First, I removed any memory of The Shadow ever being there."

"Poor Lois, the story of the year and she won't remember you are The Shadow."

"The attempted robbery will be plenty for her to write about. I then altered everyone's memory, deleting Luthor as the villain of the piece and replacing him with Khan. Luthor will be viewed as Khan's prisoner for all of these years."

"You're letting Luthor off of the hook? Is that wise?"

"I'm not sure, but it is what's fair. What Khan said about Luthor's personality is true. It wouldn't take much to send him down the path of evil. But, he had no willing participation in this crime and he deserves a chance to make his own choices, even if they will most likely be bad ones."

Margo responds, "'Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows'. But...couldn't you just use the headband gizmo to guarantee Luthor will stay on the straight and narrow?"

"Only if I were willing to spend the rest of my life reinforcing that alteration of his basic personality. Without the headband's constant influence, he would quickly return to his true nature."

"What about the large machine Luthor built?"

"I had Superman smash it into tiny pieces, and Luthor will remember it as a stunray device he was forced by Khan to create under threat of death. The treasury guards will confirm this is what the device was for. No one will remember anything about mind control or the headband."

"Which you are keeping?"

"It, plus my power, is the only thing that can stop Superman."

"You still don't trust him?"

"On the contrary, I now agree with Lois, he is a good man and I trust he will remain that way. However, Khan found a way to control Superman, and who's to say some other villain won't do the same? This also makes me think of a new direction for The Shadow's career."

Margo frowns. "What direction?"

"As you pointed out, there is a new generation of heroes popping up everywhere. These men and women in their garish costumes, operating out in the open, might need the counsel of a more experienced hero. Plus, someone to watch and make sure they stay on 'the straight and narrow'."

"So, instead of going out to fight crime on your own, you'll serve as a sort of senior advisor slash behavior monitor?"

"It's all I'll have time for since I will be busy with my new family."

Margo smiles, happy with this compromise. She didn't want to make Lamont miserable by forcing his retirement, and this sounds a lot safer than the life they have been leading. "I think this is the best Christmas present you could have given me."

Margo opens up the mink and gives a welcoming smile. Lamont dims the lights and approaches the bed, arriving first is his shadow...

THE END

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