Turn up the heat, for pity's sake.
That was Lamont Cranston's first thought as he drifted reluctantly into wakefulness. It was the middle of January, and there was no colder time of year in New York City, even in the bright sunshine of a winter morning. Years of life in the mountains of Tibet had made Lamont extremely tolerant of cold weather normally, but for some reason he felt a deep chill this morning that would not go away, no matter how tightly he wrapped himself in the bedclothes.
He desperately wanted the chill to subside, because he was so sleepy. The Shadow had been out very late last night, through an icy winter rainstorm, tracking a mobster he'd been following for weeks. Something very big was about to go down in the Underworld community, and from what he'd been able to gather, at least two of the major crime families were involved. The details had been hidden, sketchy, with no one apparently knowing all aspects of the plan, but the man he'd been following--Angelo Briganti--seemed to know the most. The D'Amico family was apparently fronting the illegal import of a shipment of opium that would occur before the weekend, and the best estimate he'd heard was a street value of almost $2 million. The Shadow had a particular interest in obliterating the opium trade; the vile Ying Ko had been the king of opium in Tibet, and that part of Lamont's personality had committed horrible atrocities under the influence of the drug and was almost singlehandedly responsible for establishing most of the major opium trade routes in the U.S. and Europe. Every time he could stop one opium sale or morphine distribution, it made anything he had to go through to do it worthwhile.
A knock at his bedroom door penetrated the fatigue threatening to smother him. The sound made his head ache. "Come in," he called, then winced again at the sound of his own voice.
The door opened, and his butler Russell came in. "I don't wish to disturb you, sir," Russell said apologetically, "but is something wrong with the temperature in your room?"
It took Lamont a moment to realize what Russell was talking about. Hadn't realized I was projecting, he frowned mentally. But sometimes my dreams are so strong I can't help projecting as I wake up out of them. "Is it just me," he replied, "or is it cold in here?"
Russell walked over to check the radiator near the window. He held his hands near it, bent over to make certain the valve was open fully, then turned to Lamont. "The radiator seems to be on, sir. Would you like another blanket?"
"Yes, please," Lamont answered, shrugging as deep under the covers as he could.
Russell opened the cedar chest at the foot of Lamont's bed and pulled out another blanket, then laid it across the bed and covered his employer with it. Then, he stood and waited patiently for an acknowledgment.
"Thank you," Lamont said, turning over and pulling the blanket tightly around him.
"Is anything wrong, sir?"
Lamont looked up again. "Hm-m? Oh, no. Just a chill from the storm last night. I'm fine." He coughed to clear his throat, which was beginning to feel thick and scratchy.
"You look a bit pale, sir. Are you certain you're all right?"
"Yes, Russell, I'm fine. Probably caught a bit of a cold last night. I'll sleep it off."
Russell wasn't convinced, but it was not his place to argue. "Would you like some breakfast, sir?"
Only if it includes chicken soup, he mentally complained, then shook his head.
Russell nodded. "Very good, sir." Then, he left.
Lamont pulled the covers around him once more and tried to go back to sleep.
He heard the doorbell ring. Lovely, he thought, letting his mind drift slightly to detect the identity of the visitor.
Margo Lane's thought patterns touched the edge of his mind. He smiled slightly, even as he hoped she'd leave him be. He just was too tired to be awake with her for very long...
"I heard that," Margo said, standing in his doorway.
Lamont rolled over to face her. The beautiful telepath was particularly tuned to his mental wavelength. It gave them a closeness few other couples could ever have. "You would," he remarked with a smile.
She sat down on the edge of the bed. "I'm surprised half the city can't hear you. Are you aware you're projecting?"
Lamont frowned. "I am?"
She nodded. "You've been projecting for about an hour now. You woke me up moaning about how cold you were and how much your head hurt."
"I'm sorry. Sometimes I don't know my own strength."
"What did you do to yourself last night?"
"Spent the night in the pouring rain chasing a mobster."
"I always knew you didn't have enough good sense to come in out of the rain." She took his hand, then gasped. "You are burning up!"
"No, I'm not. I'm freezing."
Margo put her hand on his forehead. "You could boil water on your skin. Do you have a thermometer?"
He gestured with his head toward the nightstand. "Margo, I'm not sick. I've just got a chill."
She found a small case in the nightstand drawer and extracted the thermometer from it. "Say ah," she coaxed.
"I will not..."
Before he could finish speaking, she slid the thermometer under his tongue. "Lay back and relax," she scolded, glancing at the clock on the bedside table.
Lamont frowned. Margo, I am not sick.
"Yes, you are. This is not mind over matter. This is germs over body."
I'm all right. I just got a little chilled last night and need to get some sleep.
"Lamont, lie still. You'll throw off the reading."
"I'm not listening to you."
Lamont couldn't resist a smile. Yes, you are.
She looked away, turning her nose up in the air.
Lamont smiled, then fixed his gaze on her and focused his powers. Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do...
Margo frowned and stamped her foot. "Don't you put that song in my head. You know I hate that song."
I'm half crazy all for the love of you...
"Stop that!" She slapped his hand and pulled the thermometer out of his mouth. "You are the only man I've ever met who's more incorrigible when his mouth is shut."
"I try," he smiled back.
She looked at the reading. "My God...Lamont, your temperature's 103. I'm going to call the doctor..."
Lamont grabbed her hand as she reached for the phone. No, you're not.
Margo froze, as if she'd been hypnotized.
Lamont immediately realized what had happened. Margo.
She blinked, then looked angry as she realized what he'd done. "Don't you ever do that to me again."
Lamont fell back against the pillow. "I'm sorry," he said. "I did not mean to do that." He coughed, then sighed. "Margo, I cannot afford to be sick right now..."
"Well, you are. You need a doctor."
"I do not need a doctor. A doctor will just try to give me a lot of medicine that I can't take. The last time a doctor treated me for a cold, he prescribed codeine for the cough."
"And codeine is an opium derivative." She sighed. "All right, no doctor. But you need to rest, for pity's sake. You're feverish, you're coughing, you are in no condition to be out of bed."
He coughed, then groaned. "This could not have come at a worse time."
"The crime wave will wait. And even if it doesn't, the police can handle themselves for a few days..."
Lamont shook his head. "Not this time. Not with what's going to happen tonight or tomorrow."
"What are you talking about?"
"The mobster I've been following is fronting a major drug deal. It's due to happen before the weekend. Opium poppies with a street value of $2 million."
Margo gasped. "Have you told the police?"
"The police can't be trusted with this."
"That's very cynical."
"And very accurate. Briganti--the man I was following--has the Waterfront precinct in his back pocket."
He nodded. "And that's not the worst of it. Uncle Wainwright says he suspects corruption within several departments of the Midtown precinct, which is Dmitri Family territory. They're in on the deal, too."
"Can you take this to your uncle?"
"And have him ask how I know so much? No."
"You could plant it in his head..."
"And then he'd wonder who he heard it from, and might tell someone who's in on the deal, who'd probably want to get rid of the nosy commissioner...no, I can't take that risk."
She frowned. "Well, there must be something we can do, someone we can go to who isn't on the take..."
"I have an agent in Midtown who I know isn't on the take. He's a beat officer named Donovan Mulcahy. He might be able to help, to at least keep an eye on the situation. I've got to get to The Sanctum and get a message to him..."
Margo held him down as he tried to sit up. "You are not going anywhere, not even to The Sanctum. You are too weak."
"Margo, I have to do this..."
"Lamont, listen to me. My mother died of complications from the flu, after she ignored doctor's orders to stay in bed. I will not have you throwing your life away out of some twisted sense of duty to The Tulku..."
A knock at the door interrupted the argument. "Come in," Lamont called.
Russell opened the door, holding a bed tray, upon which rested a steaming bowl, a small teapot, and a bottle of aspirin. "Your chicken soup, sir," he said.
"Chicken soup?" Lamont looked puzzled.
"Yes, sir. I asked if you wanted any breakfast, and you said 'only if it includes chicken soup'. I hope it's to your satisfaction; it's from a can..."
Lamont looked puzzled again, then realized what must have happened.
Margo nodded before he could say a word. "Yes, you're really that loud. Half of New York probably wants chicken soup for breakfast now."
Lamont fell back against the pillow and groaned.
Margo took the tray. "Thank you, Russell. You'll have to excuse him--he's half out of his head with fever."
"Does he need a doctor, madam?"
She shook her head. "He's stubborn. But I know how to handle him."
Russell nodded, then left the room.
Margo took the tray and sat it across Lamont's lap as he sat up. "Eat something," she urged. "It will help you feel better."
Lamont nodded and took a spoonful of the soup. "Not bad for canned."
She looked worriedly at him. "Lamont, you have to rest to get well. You can't even control your own mind right now, much less anyone else's."
He looked skyward and sighed. "I hate being out of control. I feel so useless..."
She gently stroked his cheek. "You're scared," she said. "I can feel it."
He looked worried. "When The Tulku destroyed Ying Ko and unlocked my mind, he unleashed something so powerful it ran amok for days. The voices, the dreams, the emotions...they just never stopped. It was like being in Hell. It took weeks for me to learn to control it, rein it in, keep it in check without help. But all it takes is one slip, one mistake, one moment of weakness..."
"Stop that," she ordered. "You are not going back to being Ying Ko. You're stronger than that."
"I don't feel that way right now. I feel like something's clouding my mind and I can't break through." He held his head, massaging his temples, trying to gain some control over the fire burning in his brain. "I feel like I'm going mad."
"Here. Eat." She offered another bite of soup, which he accepted with no protest. "Take these," she said, handing him two aspirin, "drink some tea, and stay in bed. I'll take a message to Mulcahy, he'll keep an eye on the situation for you, and you'll be back terrorizing the bad guys before you know it."
Lamont hesitated. Sending Margo out as an agent put her in a vulnerable position. If something happened to her, he wasn't sure he'd be able to live with himself.
"Nothing's going to happen to me," she replied to his unspoken thoughts.
He reached out and took her left hand, gently stroking the fire opal ring on her left ring finger that matched his own. Like other agents who wore the ring, he'd saved her life--though in an unorthodox way, as Shiwan Khan had sent her to kill him in the hopes that Lamont would revert back to Ying Ko's value system of killing anyone who presented a threat to him. But the plan had backfired, and she'd become his most trusted confidante...and the love of his life. Now she was asking him to trust her in a way he'd not done before--to act as his eyes, his ears, his voice.
"Funny how you'd have no difficulty sending a stranger out to do what I'm volunteering to do," she scolded. "You'd think you felt something for me or something like that."
Lamont looked hurt. "You know how I feel about you."
She smiled. "I know. It was a joke."
He popped the aspirin in his mouth, took a sip of tea, and squeezed her hand. "Get a pen and some paper."
Moe Shrevnitz pulled his cab to a stop in front of Midtown Precinct Station. He turned to Margo, who was sitting in the back. "You O.K. with this?" he asked. "I can deliver the message for you, if you want."
"I'm fine," she reassured, though in truth she was more than a bit nervous. "I'll just go in, drop off the message, answer any questions he has, and leave it in his hands."
"Watch your back," he urged. "The boss thinks there's a nest of vipers in there."
"I know. I'll be careful."
"I'll be out here waiting for you."
She smiled. "He's very lucky to have a friend like you."
Moe shook his head. "I'm the lucky one. He saved my life. I owe him everything." He waved a dismissal. "Now, go on and get this over with so I can quit worrying so much."
She gathered herself and climbed out of the cab. Police stations had always made her feel safe before she'd met Lamont. Now that she knew what The Shadow had seen firsthand, about the depth of corruption and darkness within New York's Finest, she felt more than a bit apprehensive about walking into one.
Still, it had to be done.
She headed inside.
"Can I help you, Miss?" the desk sergeant said, sounding more than a bit bored.
"Um...yes," Margo replied. "I need to speak to Officer Donovan Mulcahy."
"He's busy," the sergeant replied. "If you need to file a police report, take this over there and fill it out." He pushed a piece of paper and a pen in her general direction.
She pushed it back. "No, no. You don't understand. I need to speak with Officer Mulcahy directly."
He looked up from the paperwork he was doing. "Look, lady, do you have something to report, or what?"
"Yes, but I have to tell him in person. It's important. It's an emergency."
A uniformed officer came up behind the sergeant. "Something wrong, Sarge?" he asked.
"Speak of the Devil," the sergeant said sarcastically. "This lady claims she needs to speak to you. Says it's an emergency."
The officer turned to Margo. "Is that a fact?" he said. "Have you filled out a report?"
"No," she frowned. "Is there somewhere we can talk?"
"Ma'am, whatever you've got to say, you can say right here."
She looked closely at his hands, finally spotting the opal ring on his left hand. He was definitely an agent, but really seemed hostile. Suddenly, she realized her own ring was covered by her gloves. Quickly, she pulled them off. "I don't think so," she said, making a point to lay her left hand on the counter in front of him.
He looked at the ring for a moment, then gestured with his head to the opposite side of the counter. "Oh, yeah, I remember you. You lost something the other day. I think it's down here." He walked away, and she followed quickly to the far corner of the counter.
"Thanks," she said softly.
"You got something to say?" he replied in a prompting tone.
Oh, the code phrase. She'd almost forgotten. "The sun is shining."
"But the ice is slippery." He looked around for a minute. "What do you need?"
"I have a message for you."
He nodded, then opened the door that separated the lobby from the office area. "Follow me."
Mulcahy locked the door to the interrogation room and gestured for Margo to have a seat. "There are hidden mikes in here," he said, "but I disabled them so we could talk. Sorry to be so short with you out there, but it's hard to know who you can trust around here any more."
"I understand," she said, then pulled an envelope out of her purse. "This is for you."
He took the envelope and opened it...and frowned. "Different handwriting than usual."
"It didn't come through normal channels."
Mulcahy looked over at her. "He gave this to you directly?"
He couldn't help but smile. "You're new, aren't you?"
"How'd you know?"
"Because you're never supposed to admit you've had contact with him, not even to another agent. Remember, you never know who might be listening." He gave her a sympathetic look. "We've all made that mistake at one time or another. Let me give you a couple of pieces of advice. First, make sure your ring is always visible if you're trying to get another agent's attention. When I didn't see your ring, I just assumed you were some dame making trouble. Second, never forget to give the code phrase. It's the only way to make sure you're talking to someone you can trust. He gets very upset when we have to prompt each other."
"He ever get upset at you?"
"A couple of times."
She smiled wryly. "Thought you weren't supposed to admit you've talked to him."
He smiled back. "Touche. What's your name?"
"Donovan Mulcahy." He shook her hand. "O.K., let's see what our mutual friend has to say." He read the note, then blew out a low whistle. "Is he sure about this?"
"He sounded pretty sure."
"He always sounds sure." He thought for a moment. "The D'Amicos and Dmitris have been pretty quiet lately. I was wondering what was up."
"He told me some of the details are still sketchy," Margo pointed out. "He thinks no one person knows the whole plan so that if one person is caught, the whole thing doesn't fall apart."
"Pretty clever. Still, though, if he wants me to keep an eye on this for him, I'll need to piece together as much as possible." He looked thoughtful. "If this stuff's coming in by boat, I've got a contact who might come in handy."
He shook his head. "An informant. Dock boy. Pretty reliable. Maybe we ought to go talk to him."
"Well, I'm assuming he didn't send you just because you're a pretty face. You any good at detective work?"
"I was a researcher in my father's lab for a while."
He nodded. "He does seem to collect people who have a lot of useful skills."
"You know many of the others?"
"Yeah. I was one of the first ones chosen. I've met most of the others at one time or another."
"Well, one of them is waiting outside for me."
"You know him, then."
"Of course. Doesn't everybody? From what I understand, he was another early one. I think he briefs every one of the new agents. And it might look better if we went down to the waterfront in a cab instead of a patrol car. Come on."
He was back in The Tulku's temple, a chilling breeze blowing through the cold stone palace. The atmosphere was charged with fear, dread, foreboding. The air was so thin it held no heat, much less ample oxygen. He felt himself laboring to breathe adequately.
"You have returned," a familiar voice called to him.
Lamont looked around. "Tulku?" he called out.
The curtain in front of the altar moved. Lamont reached out and parted it.
The Tulku stood before him, his hands crossed over his chest. His expression looked alarmed.
"Tulku?" Lamont repeated.
The Tulku said nothing as he pitched face-first forward.
Lamont grabbed his master. Only then did he see the deep wound in his chest, the blood all over the young monk's hands. The Tulku was dead.
A menacing, evil laugh echoed through the temple. He looked up.
Shiwan Khan had taken a seat on the altar. "The all-powerful, all-knowing Tulku," he mocked. "Never really understood how strong evil truly is."
Lamont was angry. "I destroyed you," he hissed. "You can't poison anyone's mind any more."
"Ah, but you failed to destroy every last vestige of me. My deeds live on in your memory." He smiled. "You are so arrogant. You think you can somehow wipe out evil with that powerful mind of yours. But power is a double-edged sword, my friend."
"Especially when you lose your self-control," another familiar voice taunted.
Lamont looked behind him.
Ying Ko crossed the room, smiling wickedly. "You really hate it when you lose control, don't you?" he sneered. "Every time you lose control, all that darkness inside your own heart bubbles back up to the surface. All that power inside your mind threatens to explode around you, and you're terrified you'll hurt someone with it." He took a seat next to Khan. "Well, go on, Lamont. Let it loose. Destroy us if you can."
Lamont found himself feeling light-headed from the thin air around him. The room became more and more confining. But he steeled his resolve. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?" he snapped back. "You'd love to see me lose control, give in, use my powers the way you think they should be used."
Khan smirked. "He thinks he's so strong, doesn't he?"
"He always has," Ying Ko replied sarcastically. "It's what made me so powerful. We never lacked self-confidence."
"But all this high living has made him weak."
Ying Ko nodded. "Can't stand the cold any more."
Lamont felt the chilling breeze whip up into a winter gale that seemed to cut him to the bone. He shivered.
"And all that thick sea-level air has made his breathing lazy," Khan taunted.
The air around him seemed to get even thinner. Lamont felt as if someone were strangling him.
Khan laughed. So did Ying Ko. Their laughter grew more mocking as Lamont felt himself growing weaker.
Khan picked up Phurba and flung it toward Lamont.
Lamont ducked out of the way.
Phurba began to circle him. Lamont spun around, trying to keep the knife in front of him.
Phurba circled faster and faster. Lamont felt dizzy.
The last thing he heard was Ying Ko's laugh as Phurba drove deep into his chest.
Lamont sat up suddenly, clutching his chest and coughing with every ounce of his strength. His throat felt completely closed, his chest felt heavy and tight, a stabbing pain drove into his breastbone from the strain of trying to breathe...
Russell hurried into the room at the sound of Lamont's coughing fit. He took the fresh pot of tea he had just brewed and opened it under Lamont's nose, hoping the steam would penetrate his closed throat.
It worked. Lamont began to breathe easier, finally falling back against the pillows. "Oh, God," he said weakly.
"Are you all right, sir?" Russell asked, helping his master sit up straight.
Lamont nodded, still trying to clear his throat.
"You were calling for help, sir," Russell told him. "I came as soon as I could..."
Lamont rubbed his temples. In the midst of that coughing fit, there was no way he could have called out for help. But clearly, his mind had. What I wouldn't give for a little control right now, he thought.
Russell poured Lamont a cup of tea and handed him two aspirin, which he swallowed gratefully. "Sir, let me call the doctor," the butler pleaded.
Lamont shook his head. "I'll be all right. I just have to get this fever to break."
Russell looked sternly at him. "I'm worried that this fever may break you."
"I know." He took another sip of tea. "So am I." Another cough, another sip of tea to soothe his throat, another rub of the face to try to get some grip on reality. His mind felt so out of control he couldn't tell what thoughts he truly was detecting around him and what thoughts were hallucinations brought on by the fever. "How long was I out?"
"You fell asleep not long after Miss Lane left. That was four hours ago. You've called out several times, but each time you fell right back to sleep."
Or my mind called out in my sleep. "Has Miss Lane returned yet?"
Lamont frowned. She'd had a straightforward assignment--drop off the note, offer what explanations she could, and leave again. He considered the possibility she'd gone home, but then remembered that the last thing she'd told him was that she was coming back to have lunch with him. "Has she called?"
Now he was really worried. He hoped Moe was taking good care of her.
Margo blinked, then looked toward Moe in the front seat of the cab. "What?"
"You O.K.? You look a little out of it."
She nodded. "Just a little worried about him."
"Him?" Mulcahy asked, curious.
Oops. "Lamont," she covered.
She nodded again, blushing slightly.
"Lucky guy," Mulcahy smiled.
"Thanks," she replied. "I should probably call and check on him. He's got the flu."
Mulcahy nodded his understanding. "It's been going around. Half the precinct's out with it."
Moe said nothing. He had a feeling Lamont was more worried about Margo than she was about him, but he couldn't say anything. Instead, he followed the directions Mulcahy had given him to a warehouse on a seldom-used dock.
"Park it out here," Mulcahy cautioned. "No sense in making it too obvious someone's poking around."
Moe parked his cab among trash barrels and discarded fishing and cargo nets, then looked toward the warehouses in the distance. "What are we doing here?" he asked.
"This is where Calloway said something funny was going down. He said almost no one uses this area, but he'd seen a lot of people coming and going the past couple of days." He pointed. "It's that one--number 23."
Margo looked at the warehouse. "I can see why nobody uses it," she said. "Looks like it's about to fall apart."
"A lot of these places went abandoned after the market crash. Most of the businesses that used these went under. Which makes them ideal for illegal import activities."
"Lovely. Wonder if he knows about this place?"
"There isn't much he doesn't know. You'll find that out as you go along."
Margo said nothing, amused by how much Mulcahy thought he knew about The Shadow. He'd been giving her pointers and shepherding her around, acting like a protective big brother, and most of his warnings about The Shadow bore little resemblence to the Lamont Cranston she knew well. If only he knew..."So, what do we do now?"
"Poke around. See if there's evidence of activity. See if it looks like they're prepared to get a shipment."
Moe wasn't comfortable with this at all. He knew Lamont would kill him if anything happened to Margo, and yet Mulcahy was putting her in more danger than ever. "Maybe we should call for backup," Moe suggested.
Mulcahy and Margo both shook their heads. "He says there's a lot of corruption in the Waterfront precinct," Margo told him.
"I can vouch for that," Mulcahy added. "The D'Amicos practically own that precinct."
"So, we're on our own if we find anything," Moe noted.
Mulcahy shook his head. "We'll send him a message to tell him what we found. Then, I'll round up some men I trust. Together, we ought to be able to put a stop to this."
Margo breathed a sigh of relief. At least Mulcahy wasn't laboring under the false illusion that The Shadow could handle everything. She was wondering if he could even handle himself right now.
Lamont leaned back against a stack of pillows and spent a few moments inhaling the steam coming off a freshly-poured cup of tea. He'd ordered Russell to keep the tea coming because it was the only thing that seemed to keep his throat clear. His head was still spinning, his mind was still completely out of control, and he was still shivering with fevered chills. But he didn't dare lie back down, because he might fall asleep again...and after hours of nightmares, he wasn't sure his sanity could take any more. He hadn't been this sick in years, not since going through opium withdrawal during his first days as The Tulku's prisoner. He felt completely helpless, completely out of control, completely at the mercy of his fevered psyche.
In his days with The Tulku, after his mind had awakened, he would often lose control of his telepathy, being unable to silence the voices and stop the visions that would fill his mind at the most inopportune times. The Tulku was able to clear his thoughts with just a touch of his fingers to Lamont's temples, just a simple mental command to his sensitive mind, and gaining that ability was the first thing Lamont sought to do. Now, as his mind spun wildly, Lamont tried to reach back to his training, to harness all that mental energy and use it to help himself heal. But the fever, the chills, the aches were all conspiring to cloud his mind and make gaining any sort of control nearly impossible.
He took another sip of tea. The hot liquid was very relaxing, very soothing. He looked out the window, letting his visual focus drift.
Images began to dance in and out of his vision...a run-down warehouse on a deserted dock...Moe's cab, hidden among trash barrels and fishing nets...forklifts parked next to cargo entrances...empty crates in various sizes...Margo looking around in a darkened office...
"You O.K.?" Mulcahy asked as Margo came to a stop just inside the door and shook her head.
Margo rubbed her eyes. There was a buzzing sensation in her head, as if she were listening to an out-of-tune radio station. Lamont, she realized. He must be dreaming or something--if he were really trying to contact me, I'd hear him loud and clear.
"Hey!" Mulcahy said, tapping her shoulder.
She jumped, then turned toward him.
"Easy, easy," Mulcahy said. "You O.K.?"
"Yeah," she said, smiling lightly. "I've just got a headache."
"No time to rest now," he said. "We may have just struck gold." He took the flashlight and looked around. "Doesn't this place look way too clean for a deserted warehouse?"
"I'll say." She started to open the file cabinet in front of her.
"Wait. Still got your gloves on?"
She held up her gloved hands.
"Good. Can't leave any fingerprints. There are enough corrupt cops in this area to make life very interesting."
She looked in the file cabinet. "Nothing in here."
"I didn't really think there would be. But someone's been using this room. The chair's been sat in recently. Look here." He pointed to a bit of fabric on a ragged edge of the wooden desk chair. "Somebody snagged their pants."
"Any way to find out who?"
He shook his head. "About all we could do is identify what kind of fiber it is." He pinched it off the chair and put it in a cellophane envelope.
Margo rubbed her temples. The static was getting worse...much worse.
More images danced around Lamont's vision. A large cargo ship, coming into the harbor...tugboats with barely recognizable markings heading out to it...several men talking to a dock boy, smacking him around...
Margo was barely conscious of anyone around her. The buzzing inside her head was so intense, she thought she was going to go mad. Lamont must be out of his mind with fever, she realized. And he must be scared to death. "Moe," she whispered.
Mulcahy looked at her. She looked weak, frail, as if she were about to pass out. "Let me help you," he said, taking her gently by the arm and leading her out into the warehouse. "Moe?" he called softly.
Moe looked up from the forklift he'd been examining. "You were right, Mulcahy," he pointed out. "This thing's been run recently. The grease on the parts is fresh..." Then, he noticed Margo. "Margo? What is it?"
She looked at him with worried eyes. "Something's wrong," she said. "Something's wrong with him."
Moe didn't even have to ask who she meant. "You sure?"
She nodded. "Can you go check on him?"
He looked taken aback. Going to check on him meant leaving her in a position he knew Lamont would not want her to be in. "Margo, I can't...I have my orders..."
"What are you two talking about?" Mulcahy asked.
"Lamont," she said. "He's really sick. I can feel it. Don't ask how."
"That close, are you?" Mulcahy smiled.
"And you can't go to him because we have his orders. You're right. That's a tough choice."
"Moe, you know him," Margo stated. "You can check on him. That will give us a little while longer to gather some evidence and get the police here."
"But I have orders, too," Moe insisted.
"So, go check on him and come right back here. We've got to stop this shipment--which means we've got to find evidence. That's why we're here in the first place."
Moe looked frustrated. But if he went back to check on Lamont, he might be able to convince him to come get her out of this mess. "You be careful," he ordered.
"I will." She kissed his cheek. "You're the best."
"Yeah, yeah." He started to walk away.
"Be careful out there," Mulcahy cautioned. "This district's controlled by the D'Amicos. Don't get stopped."
"I will. You take good care of her. The boss doesn't like it when new agents get put in bad situations." With that, he left.
More images danced around Lamont's mind. Moe's cab driving away...Margo and Mulcahy looking through desk drawers...a man on a payphone looking over his shoulder at an odd light coming from a warehouse...
"Nothing." Margo slammed the drawer shut in frustration. "We've been all through this room, and nothing."
Mulcahy frowned. "There's got to be something here. Why would they have been in this room if they weren't using it for some form of record keeping?"
"Maybe there's a hidden panel somewhere or something." She began searching the file cabinet drawers again.
"You've been reading too many spy stories," he chided, even as he began running his hands along the edges of the desk, looking for seams that shouldn't be there. Then he looked under the desk. "Hey...wait a minute..." He pulled out a slip of paper, wedged under a drawer runner. "Jackpot."
"What is it?" she asked.
"Shipping schedule shorthand." He pointed to the note, indicating certain abbreviations. "This is the cargo ship's identification number...this is the date it left its port...this is the date it's due in...hey, wait a minute. That's today."
"Tonight," she realized. "He said it was going down before the weekend. And it's Wednesday."
"We've got to get some help. I'll call some men I trust. Can you get a message to him?"
She hesitated. "He may not be able to help us."
Now that was an unexpected twist. Mulcahy looked alarmed. "What do you mean?"
"I...I'm not sure...but I got the feeling when he sent me to give you that message that he had something else going down tonight." She rubbed her temples. What am I going to do now?
The images were running together so fast Lamont could barely tell where one ended and another picked up. He could see the cargo ship getting closer...men with guns...Margo...Briganti slamming down a phone...Margo...
Margo could feel Lamont's fevered dream state getting worse by the second. The static in her head was almost deafening. She tried to force it out. Lamont, if you can hear me, I'm all right, her mind pleaded. Rest, darling. Please, darling, try to rest.
He could hear her. But the whirling visual images would not stop. Margo, Lamont's mind called. Margo, get out of there. They know you're there. You've been seen. You're in danger.
Margo paused. Did he just call her name? Lamont?
Margo, get out of there!
The force of the psychic message drove into her mind like a steel spike, raw projective telepathic energy slamming into her brain and overwhelming her instantly. She cried out and fell to the floor.
"Margo!" Mulcahy said, hurrying over to her. "You O.K.?"
"My head," she moaned, rubbing her temples. "Oh, my head..." Suddenly, her brain processed the words he'd sent her. "Mulcahy, we have to get out of here. We're in trouble...they know we're here..."
"What are you talking about?"
"We have to get out of here! They know we're here!"
He grabbed her and made her face him. "How do you know?" he demanded.
"Because he told me!" she cried.
Mulcahy looked at her. "The Shadow," he realized. "The Shadow's been talking to you all this time."
She hesitated. He was very nearly right, but she couldn't confirm his suspicions. Lamont would never forgive her if she betrayed his identity.
"That's who your sick friend is, isn't it?" Mulcahy continued. "It isn't Cranston. It's The Shadow. He's sick and you're covering for him."
She nodded. Thank God for mistaken perceptions.
"No wonder he chose you," Mulcahy realized, a newfound appreciation in his eyes. "You must be psychic, or something like that. He can communicate through you."
She nodded again.
"That's why you sent Shrevnitz to check on him. And that's why Shrevnitz didn't want to leave--he was probably under orders to protect you at all costs. Now I understand. Does Cranston know?"
She looked at him oddly.
"What a stupid question," he realized. "Of course Cranston knows. He's one of the best. Our friend probably put the two of you together--Cranston's money and influence and your mind would be a hard combination to beat."
She tried not to smile. Mulcahy thinks he knows so much..."We have got to get out of here," she insisted. "He says we've been found out."
Mulcahy looked worried. "He's not coming, is he?"
She shook her head. "He's very sick."
He frowned. "Then it's up to us. I'll call for help." He reached for the phone on the wall and clicked the switchhook several times. "Operator, get me Commissioner Barth's office--it's an emergency."
Nothing. He clicked the switchhook again. "Operator?"
"They've cut the lines," she realized.
"That means they're right outside," he told her. "Let's get out of here."
No, Lamont's mind called. They're all around...don't go out that way...no!
"Boss!" Moe shouted, shaking Lamont's shoulders. "Wake up!"
Lamont blinked, then coughed violently.
Moe smacked him on the back repeatedly, trying to stop the coughing fit.
Tea, Lamont mentally ordered, still choking and coughing.
Moe took the cup out of Lamont's hands, then turned to the bedside table, found the teapot, and poured him a fresh cup of tea. "Here," he said, putting it back into Lamont's hands. "Drink."
Lamont swallowed the liquid, coughed once more, then leaned back and gasped for breath. "Thanks," he said weakly, then suddenly realized who he was talking to. "Moe? What are you doing here?"
"Margo was worried about you. She said you were out of your mind with fever and needed help."
"And you left her there alone?" Lamont snapped.
"Mulcahy's with her," he retorted. "And besides, she insisted. She thought you might be in trouble."
"They're the ones in trouble. They were spotted. Briganti's men probably have them surrounded by now."
"Oh, my God," Moe realized. "We've got to call the police."
"I've got to get down there," Lamont corrected, setting down his teacup and throwing off the covers.
"Wrong," Moe said, trying to hold him down. "You are in no condition to go anywhere."
"You came back here to get me," Lamont told him, pushing him away and standing up. The room spun, and Lamont put his hands on the nightstand to keep from pitching face-forward to the floor.
Moe frowned. There were times he hated the fact that Lamont could read him like a book. "Well, yeah, but that was before I saw you. You look terrible. You can't even stand up. How are you going to cloud anyone's mind when you can't even keep your own clear?"
Lamont steadied himself. There were times when he would ask The Tulku the very same thing--times when he did not feel completely in command of his powers, times when he would fail a task he'd been given, times he felt overwhelmed by the burden The Tulku had placed on his shoulders. Each time, The Tulku gave him the same answer, an answer given so often Lamont had absorbed it into his psyche as a shield in times of trouble. "There are times," Lamont whispered, "when you must reach beyond yourself to win your battles. Times when you must be stronger than all the doubts, all the fears, all the weaknesses within yourself. Times when you must succeed...because you are the only one who can." He looked at Moe with a strength and confidence in his eyes that wasn't there a moment ago. "And this is one of those times. Hand me my robe."
Moe picked the robe up off the bedside chair. "You're going out in this?"
"I don't intend to be in these clothes for very long."
Moe shook his head. There were times he was very glad he was on The Shadow's good side. What he saw in Lamont's eyes told him that he didn't want to be on the other side right now.
"Hold it," Margo cautioned as Mulcahy started toward the door. Lamont's warning had been cut off, but she'd heard enough to realize the situation was worse than either of them knew. "We don't know where they are."
Mulcahy extinguished the flashlight. "If we stay in the dark, we've got the advantage," he whispered.
Margo frowned. "Mulcahy, have you ever been in a situation like this?"
He hesitated. "Only in training."
"Wonderful." She thought quickly, then looked in her purse for a mirror. She held it out away from her so she could see out the door from her present position.
The glint of a pistol caught her eye in the reflection. "They're right outside the door," she hissed.
"We're trapped," he realized.
"Not necessarily. Get over by the door and get your nightstick ready."
One of the thugs stopped. He could have sworn he heard voices. He listened intently, trying to pick out the sound of unwanted cargo rats.
Indistinct whispers reached his ears, and a shadow moved in the office. He moved toward it, gun drawn.
As he came into the office, Mulcahy slipped out from behind the door and smacked the thug in the back of the head with his nightstick. The man toppled to the floor.
"Move," Margo ordered, giving Mulcahy a push out the door.
The noise had attracted attention. Flashlights turned toward the now-empty office. Margo and Mulcahy did their best to dodge the beams and hide themselves among the shadows and crates.
"It's empty, boss," one thug reported after giving the office a once-over.
Angelo Briganti clicked his fingers and ordered his men to spread out through the warehouse. "You know," he called into the air, "if there's one thing I can't stand, it's a cop who doesn't know his own territory."
Mulcahy cringed. He started to reply to the taunting, but Margo hushed him with a hand over his mouth.
"Your friend Calloway was most helpful," Briganti continued. "Too bad he knew too much." He tsk-tsked. "At least there's now one less wharf rat."
Now Mulcahy was angry. Calloway was just a kid. He wanted to scream, but Margo kept shaking her head.
"What's the matter, Mulcahy? Cat got your tongue? It's no fun when you don't talk back."
Mulcahy wanted to lash out at the mobster. But he knew Margo was right. Sound carried in the warehouse--he could hear the click of hard heels on the floor. It wouldn't take much for someone to figure out where they were if he raised his voice.
Briganti shrugged. "Well, if that's the way you want it, fine. Wish I had more time to chat, but we're expecting a shipment and need to clean the garbage out of this warehouse..."
And I think I'll start with you, Angelo Briganti.
Everyone froze. "What was that?" one of the thugs asked.
A man's laugh answered...soft at first, then louder, louder, louder, until the walls reverberated with mocking laughter. Everyone in the room looked around frantically.
Everyone, that is, except Mulcahy and Margo. "Thought you said he was sick," Mulcahy whispered, smiling.
She shrugged. "Hard to keep a good man down."
Still waiting on your shipment, Briganti? The Shadow taunted. So's the Coast Guard. They should be intercepting your poppies right about now.
Mulcahy and Margo both smiled.
Briganti and his men looked around, completely unnerved. The voice was coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Flashlights shot around the room, but were too weak to penetrate the darkness fully.
What's the matter, Briganti? Cat got your tongue? It's no fun when you don't talk back. The Shadow laughed softly, wickedly, menacingly.
Briganti snapped his fingers. One of his thugs handed him a machine gun. "You don't scare me, Shadow!" he called back.
Who are you going to shoot with that, Briganti?
"Your friends." He aimed for the crates.
"Move!" Margo hissed, pushing Mulcahy under the stairway to the catwalk.
Bullets tore through the crates around them.
A quick shot from a .45 rang through the air.
Briganti dropped the machine gun suddenly, grabbing his hand in pain.
A taunting laugh. Remember, Briganti--it's not the firepower, it's the aim that counts.
Another shot rang out. Briganti's hat flew off his head.
"Find him!" Briganti ordered.
"Where?" one of the thugs protested.
"I don't know--just find him!"
Margo looked at Mulcahy. "We need to get out of here," she whispered.
"You head for that door," Mulcahy said, pointing to a fire escape door up on the catwalk, "and I'll try to get out the front door."
Mulcahy nodded and disappeared into the darkness.
Margo looked up at the stairs. Metal stairs--lovely. They'll hear every move I make. Slipping off her shoes, she slid out from underneath the stairway and stepped onto the first step.
So far, so good. Stealthily, she climbed, trying to keep as quiet as possible, making her movements as easy and smooth and unremarkable as she could...
"Hey!" one of the gunmen called.
Margo jumped. She'd been seen. And nowhere to go but up. She backed up the steps, looking all around, trying to find some way out of this mess.
The gunman started up the stairs. "Come out, Shadow," he taunted.
Margo backed up the stairs, desperately hoping The Shadow would come out of nowhere...and backed into something hard. She'd run out of room.
The gunman smiled as he readied his aim.
Two black-clad arms materialized over Margo's shoulders, with gleaming chrome .45s in black-gloved hands. Two quick shots snapped off.
One shot slammed into the gunman's hand and knocked the pistol from his grip. The other pierced his shoulder and threw him backward. The gunman toppled down the stairs, finally landing in a heap on the floor.
The Shadow reholstered one of his pistols, then grabbed Margo by the arm and dragged her down the catwalk.
Shots rang out around them. The Shadow pulled Margo into a dark corner, reholstered his other pistol, then pulled her close to his chest. Hold on to me. Don't talk, don't move.
She wrapped her arms around him, closed her eyes, and pressed herself as tight against him as she could.
He swept his cloak around her, then embraced her tightly and concentrated with every ounce of mental energy he could muster.
Margo could hear every breath he took, feel his heart beating. A fog heavier than she'd ever felt before began forcing itself inside her head. Whatever clouding suggestion he was projecting, it was incredibly strong...
Suddenly, everything around her got quiet...completely quiet. It was as if she'd been placed in an isolation booth. She didn't dare move...hardly dared think...
The fog lifted. She could hear again. The shooting had stopped. She could hear voices of confusion all around.
"What's going on?" one man called.
"They gotta still be up there," another returned.
His hand gently caressed her hair. It startled her, and she couldn't help but jump slightly.
He tightened his grip around her, as if to reassure her. Are you all right?
She looked up at him. You clouded me, she realized.
He nodded. Did I hurt you?
She shook her head, then put her hand on his chest, feeling his pounding heartbeat and labored breathing, and the heat of his fever through his clothes, all betraying the toll the effort had taken on him. But I think I hurt you.
I'm all right. He looked down the catwalk at the fire escape door. You get down there as fast as you can. I'll cover you.
Where are you going?
I have to make sure Mulcahy gets out of here.
They clasped hands for a moment, and then she hurried away.
The Shadow allowed himself one last look her way, then turned his attention back to the chaos below him. From his vantage point, he could see a half-dozen gunmen and Briganti, all trying to find one woman, one cop, and one vigilante. He smiled. Almost even odds.
Clouding his image once more, he vanished into the darkness as he headed back into battle.
Margo descended the fire escape ladder as fast as she could. The metal ladder was slippery, and she was trying to hang onto her shoes and keep her stocking feet from sliding off the rungs. Finally, she reached the ground.
Something grabbed her from behind. She started to scream.
Moe clamped a hand over her mouth. "Sh-h," he whispered.
She relaxed and pulled Moe's hand off her mouth. "What are you doing here?"
He shrugged. "He never goes anywhere without me." Then he looked up anxiously. "He O.K. up there?"
"I ought to spank him...and you, too. He shouldn't be out of bed."
"It'll be over soon. The police are on their way. Come on." He led her toward his cab, hidden in the darkness.
Mulcahy took advantage of the confusion The Shadow had created and moved toward the exit. He was almost there...just one more man to slide by...
Shots rang out in front of him. He pulled his own revolver and fired back, then dove behind the forklift.
The gunman emptied his revolver at the forklift, then reached in his pocket to reload.
At that moment, something unseen clocked him in the head from behind, and he pitched forward.
The noise attracted another gunman, who turned and fired at the spot where his partner had gone down.
The man on the floor lifted into the air and whirled toward the shots...and was peppered with bullets.
The other gunman looked horrified.
Mulcahy stood up from his hiding place, took aim, and fired.
The mobster dropped to the floor, dead.
Thanks, a disembodied voice whispered.
"Let's get out of here!" Mulcahy replied, already making for the door.
The mobsters took off after the fleeing cop.
As they stepped outside, police cars converged on the warehouse. "This is Commissioner Barth," a voice said over the loudspeaker. "You're surrounded--give yourselves up!"
"You heard the man--drop 'em!" Mulcahy demanded, his gun aimed right at Briganti.
The mobsters did so, looking disgusted.
"I've got it from here, Shadow," Mulcahy whispered over his shoulder. "Get out of here."
Nothing. Not a sound answered him.
"Shadow?" He looked over his shoulder.
Only the darkness of the warehouse behind him met his gaze.
He shrugged. They'd meet again. For now, there was work to do. He turned his attention back to helping his fellow officers sweep up the human refuse.
Margo and Moe watched the scene unfold from a distance from the safety of his cab. "Hope he got out O.K.," Moe whispered.
The rear passenger door opened and closed by itself suddenly. Drive, The Shadow's voice commanded.
Moe pulled away from the pier. "Boss--you O.K.?" he asked.
The Shadow unclouded fully, and Lamont pushed off his hat and pulled down the scarf from his face. "I've been better," he admitted, then leaned forward and rested his head on the back of the front seat, coughing hard.
Margo put her arms around him and pulled him close. "I don't know whether to kiss you or slap you," she scolded. "You could have gotten yourself killed back there."
He laughed slightly. "You're welcome."
She smacked him with the hat. "You're incorrigible." Then, she touched the skin on his neck. "You're cooler. Is your fever breaking?"
He nodded. "My head feels clearer, too." He sat up. "Are you all right?"
She nodded. "You?"
He nodded, then pulled her close.
She snuggled into his arms. "I heard you dreaming earlier."
"I thought you might have. Did I hurt you?"
"No. It just felt so strange...all this static in my head...like listening to a radio that wasn't tuned right."
He said nothing. He had sensed many times how strong her mind was, how deep her abilities went, how completely unaware she was of her own mental strength. She was where he'd been years earlier, and he knew he didn't want to put her through what he'd been through to gain control of his own powers. But there was so much he could teach her, so much she could learn, so much they could do together...
He shook his head. "Nothing. Just remembering how out-of-control I felt. I was afraid I'd hurt you."
"Well, you didn't." She looked up at him. "Now quit worrying about me. I'm not some delicate flower. I'm a lot stronger than you give me credit for."
"I've never doubted that." He bent to kiss her.
"Careful, darling," she said. "They say the flu is contageous."
He sighed. "You're right." He started to release her.
She pulled herself closer. "Of course, we could do some scientific research to prove it."
"You read my mind," he smiled as they dissolved into a deep, romantic kiss.
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