"Honestly, Lamont," Margo Lane said as she came inside Lamont Cranston's elegant New York City mansion, "I do not know how you put up with social gatherings like that."
"You mean you don't enjoy hearing about how hard it is to find a good caterer for a debutante ball?" Lamont teased in response, following her inside and handing his coat and hat to his butler, Russell.
Margo rolled her eyes and shrugged her way out of her fur wrap, also handing it to Russell. "I thought that woman would never shut up. If I'd heard one more complaint about waiters who don't know which stemware goes with which wine, I was going to smack her."
"I thought you were a society girl."
"No, my mother was a society girl. I was 'that crazy Reinhardt Lane's daughter'. I have always hated this sort of thing."
"Well, it was for a good cause. The Police Widows and Orphans Society made a lot of money tonight." He nodded a dismissal to Russell, then gently took Margo by the arm and guided her toward the living room. "Now you understand why it's good to be able to disappear at will."
"Yes, well, I wish you'd clouded both of us out of the room. I was absolutely bored silly."
"Sounds like it's time for another lesson." Lamont dimmed the lights in the room and reached up to the mantle for a chamberstick and taper candle. He lit the candle and placed the chamberstick on the floor. "Have a seat," he said, gesturing to the rug.
Margo sat down, and Lamont sat across from her. "The candle trick again?" she asked.
He nodded. "It's a good focusing exercise. Now, just look at the candle. Really study it. Burn its image into your mind."
She rolled her eyes. "That's a bad pun."
"I know. But it's what I want you to do. Now, go on."
She looked at the candle, then looked up at him.
"Don't look to me for approval," he warned. "Keep your eyes on the candle."
"I'm not very good at this," she sighed.
"It just takes practice. Now, stay focused."
She returned to studying the candle. Her eyes glazed over after a few moments.
"Got it in your mind?" he asked.
"Good. Now, close your eyes."
"Can you still see the candle?"
She hesitated. "Yes," she said, awed. "I can see it."
"Good. You're doing better. Don't open your eyes."
She sat still. "I can really see it," she realized.
He smiled. "Keep still. I'm going upstairs for a minute. Try to hold it there until I get back."
She heard him stand and cross the room, the click of his heels on the marble floor. Then, the room got quiet.
For a minute, she sat perfectly still. Then, she frowned. "You didn't leave," she called to the air. "You've clouded my mind to make me think you left."
Very good, he told her. What made you realize that?
"I can't explain it," she said. "It's just...it's like there's a fog inside my mind."
I understand. Can you still see the candle?
She frowned. "No, I lost it."
Open your eyes.
She did. The room was nearly dark; only the candle provided any illumination. Lamont was nowhere to be seen. "You can uncloud now," she frowned.
Find me first.
"That's easy." She picked up the chamberstick and slowly turned around with it, trying to catch his shadow.
Nothing. She couldn't see even a hint of his shadow. "Are you even in here?"
She stopped moving and concentrated, trying to focus on his thought patterns. "Yes. But you're hiding."
I'm not hiding. Try again.
She frowned, then held the candle aloft again. She looked in the mirror over the fireplace.
The reflection showed her shadow trailing behind her.
Suddenly, it hit her. She took a quick sidestep.
This time, the candle illuminated a second shadow, cast on the wall where hers had been. She reached out and grabbed at the empty space beside her.
His hand connected with hers in mid-air, and he unclouded. "Very good," he smiled. "How did you guess?"
"Well," she said, "when you said you weren't hiding, I figured out that you had to be standing somewhere so that your shadow wouldn't stand out. And that meant I had to find where my shadow was. You were circling around me so I couldn't catch your shadow, so I had to step in a way you weren't expecting."
"Excellent." He took the candle from her, blew it out, and sat it back on the mantle.
"Did The Tulku really make you do this?"
"All the time, in about a thousand different ways." He turned on the lamp on the end table. "He used candles to teach many things. This was one of the first exercises I learned."
"So what he was trying to teach you was how to use your mind in place of your eyes."
"Not so much in place of your eyes, but in addition to them. A major aspect of mind clouding is using signals from the mind to fool the eyes. If you can learn to use your mind and eyes in synchronization with each other, so that neither can override the other's signals, it's much easier to alter that synchronization in others."
She shook her head. "I'll never learn."
"Don't think that way. I wouldn't even be trying to teach you if I didn't think you were capable of doing it."
She smiled. "You're a brave man. My father tried to teach chemistry to me. I nearly blew up his lab."
He laughed. "This is a little bit less dangerous. But not by much." He slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her close.
As he did, she noticed a flash of light. "Lamont--your ring."
He looked down at his left hand. The large fire opal was glowing brightly. "Must be a message waiting," he frowned.
She looked up at the mantle clock. "It's after ten. What does Burbank want at this hour?"
"I'd better find out."
"Need a ride? My car's outside..."
He shook his head. "You'd better get home. I'll call you in the morning."
"Always." They shared a quick kiss, and then she left.
Moe pulled his cab up to a dark alley just off of Times Square, as he had literally hundreds of times in the years he'd known Lamont Cranston. "Want me to wait?" he asked.
Lamont shook his head. "I'll send for you when I'm done."
Moe sighed. They went through this drill every time. Despite the fact that he knew Lamont could take care of himself--probably better than anyone else could--he still worried about letting him out in a part of town that wasn't exactly the safest place to be at night. "Be careful, boss."
Lamont nodded, then climbed out of the cab and headed into the dark alley.
It was a crisp spring evening, with cool air and clear skies. Lamont kept his eyes moving and his senses alert as he walked down the alley. Ever since Shiwan Khan had managed to follow him undetected to The Sanctum, he was extra careful to make certain he was unnoticed by anyone as he headed for The Shadow's lair.
A rattling to his left attracted his attention. Lamont whirled toward the sound.
A cat rummaging through the garbage looked up at him and hissed.
Lamont shook his head, then stepped up his pace through the alley. He turned down a secondary alley, then toward another building, then flipped a hidden lever attached to one of the fire escape's stairplates.
A metal footing grate pulled back and folded into a short set of steps, and a section of the wall in front of him retracted to provide a small entranceway at the bottom of those steps. He looked around quickly to make certain he was not being watched, then headed down the steps, stepped into the entryway, and flipped another switch.
The wall slid back into place and the stairs extended back out once more.
Lamont descended a winding metal staircase as iron walls retracted around him, revealing a pair of elegant, well-furnished rooms that could have easily been a part of any number of older homes in high society New York...except for the console of ultra-modern communications equipment that dominated one corner of the chamber. It was over to that console he headed, flipping switches and taking a seat in front of a small screen.
A flickering image of Burbank, the message coordinator for The Shadow's network of agents, appeared on the screen. The image transmission was strictly one-way; he could see Burbank, but Burbank could not see him, which was the way Lamont liked it. The man who had provided the technology was another of The Shadow's agents, an electronics engineer who swore that this "television" would revolutionize communications one day. Praise be for dreamers, he mused, then turned serious. "Report," he ordered.
"A messenger from The Marpa Tulku of The Temple Of The Cobras needs to speak to you immediately," Burbank stated. "He can be contacted at the Xia Xing Temple in Chinatown."
Lamont raised an eyebrow. The Temple Of The Cobras was where he had studied in Tibet, where he had learned and refined the psychic skills he used as The Shadow, and Marpa Tulku was the master of that temple. Once The Shadow's network had been established, he had sent a message to The Tulku that should he ever need anything, he should not contact Lamont Cranston directly, but instead send a message to The Shadow through Burbank, who would make certain he received it. In this way, both would be protected from outside forces who might want to harm either one. In the years since he'd sent that message, he'd not heard one word from The Tulku...until now.
"Shall I send a response?" Burbank prompted.
"No," Lamont replied. "I'll answer it directly. Thank you."
"Understood." Burbank's image disappeared from the screen.
Lamont flipped off the power switch to the communications console, then leaned back in his chair, stroking his chin thoughtfully. The Tulku--or, at least, the man he had always called by that name--was dead, killed with his own Phurba by Shiwan Khan, and his death had left a void in Lamont's life that still sat unfilled. The Tulku had once told him that unlike most tulkus, The Marpa Tulku was descended from a pair of twins, one of whom died at birth, and the rite of passage alternated generations as each twin was reincarnated and came to study under the current one. Thus, each monk who used that name had been directly trained by the one before him, so that the knowledge would pass from one generation to the next, and every master knew when he had met his successor. Lamont knew that Marpa Tulku had met his successor--a young Tibetan named Kasha, a gifted receptive telepath who was a student there while Lamont was undergoing his training--but he found himself wondering if his old master had been able to adequately train Kasha before his death, so that all he represented would not die out. Even the knowledge of twenty previous generations within Kasha gained through the passing of the Dharma might not be enough if he were not properly prepared to handle his mission, and Lamont found himself frequently worrying about the adepts of the Tibetan plateau since learning Khan murdered their teacher.
One of the last things he had asked The Tulku before his departure from the temple was if they would ever see each other again. He could still remember the sadness in his heart when The Tulku had told him no. There was so much Lamont had wanted to share with his master--how skilled he'd become with the things he'd been taught, how he had turned his life around, how grateful he was for the faith The Tulku had shown in him to redeem him from the depths of evil. Especially now that he was trying to help Margo learn to handle her own blossoming psychic powers, he missed the guidance and strength he had found in his master.
But now the new Marpa Tulku had sent a messenger to talk to him. And he had no idea why. But he knew the message must be important for someone to come all this way.
Pushing the memories into the background, he sent for Moe.
Moe let Lamont out in front of a Buddhist temple in Chinatown, then drove away. Lamont looked at the small temple, remembering his first glimpse of The Temple Of The Cobras. The Tulku had clouded Ying Ko's mind, bringing him to face punishment and redemption, and he still remembered clearly the moment the fog had lifted from his mind to reveal the massive gold and brick temple. This place was nothing like that one...but the peace he felt coming from within the building was the same as he remembered from The Tulku. He stepped to the front doors and knocked.
A young initiate opened the door. "Yes?" he said in halting English.
"I received a message from someone from The Temple Of The Cobras," Lamont said.
The initiate nodded and opened the door. "You are expected. Come in."
Lamont walked into the temple. It was small, but there was a sacredness in the air that filled him with awe.
"Wait here," the initiate told him. "I will send him out here."
Lamont nodded his thanks. He remembered his days as an initiate, after the arrogance of Ying Ko had been broken, and the way he had done anything and everything he'd been asked to because there were lessons in all of it. He wondered if the young initiates here learned as much in as many ways as he had.
The padding of bare feet attracted his attention. He turned toward the sound.
A young Tibetan, who could not have been much older than 15 or 16, approached him. "I am Shao Hung, a senior initiate from The Temple Of The Cobras," he said, his tone slightly nervous. "You are Lamont Cranston?"
"I am," Lamont replied.
The young man's expression turned from nervous to awestruck. "I am not worthy," he said in a trembling voice, bowing and kneeling before him.
Now this was something Lamont had not expected. When he had been in the temple, he was used to nods of respect by junior initiates, but the youth before him was giving him the respect usually reserved for The Tulku himself. Rise, Lamont ordered.
Hung rose, his face now filled with fear. "I am sorry...I did not mean to anger you..."
You didn't. He paused. You are a senior initiate. If I remember correctly, that means you have mastered some form of projective telepathy.
Hung looked hesitant. "I have only just learned..."
Then you need practice. Project your thoughts. This is a conversation best kept between us.
The young man nodded, still looking nervous and awed, then concentrated for a moment, finally finding his mental voice. I bring greetings from The Marpa Tulku of The Temple Of The Cobras, who hopes that this message finds you well and that you will someday honor us with your presence again. The Tulku regrets that he cannot deliver this message in person, but he is needed where he is.
Please give him my greetings upon your return, and convey that I when I return, the honor and pleasure will be all mine. What is the message?
A former student of his brings great danger to you. He is an escaped criminal, a madman drunk on the wine of newfound power, a man named Miklos Marocal. He had come to us, seeking wisdom, and The Tulku attempted to guide him to the light. But he failed, and Marocal has used what he learned from us to harm others. Now he has come to this country, seeking you. The Tulku regrets greatly that you were not warned about the danger from another former student, Shiwan Khan, and wanted to provide sufficient warning this time...
...and to ask for my help in stopping him.
Lamont nodded. I'll keep my eyes open.
Thank you. The young man knelt and bowed again.
Lamont sighed. Rise, please...I am not worthy of that kind of respect.
Hung shook his head. You do not understand the esteem in which you are held. Marpa Tulku speaks of you constantly, always in the most reverent of tones. All initiates learn about how you were redeemed from darkness, about how powerful you became by following The Tulku's wishes exactly. It is a level of discipline we all strive for. I admit that I often fall far short. I begged to be the one allowed to deliver the message because I wanted to meet you, to touch your mind... He was nearly weeping now. Now I know I am not worthy.
Lamont put his hand under the initate's chin and lifted his face. Look at me.
Hung reluctantly raised his eyes to meet Lamont's.
Lamont reached out mentally and probed his thoughts, getting the young man's life story in mere seconds. You underestimate yourself, Shao Hung. Your desire to learn, to overcome your own flaws, is strong. Without that desire, learning is impossible. Stay strong, stay focused, and you will overcome your own weaknesses. I did.
Hung looked grateful for the words. Thank you.
Lamont nodded. You are welcome. Have a safe journey back to the temple.
Hung nodded, then rose to his feet. Take great care, Lamont Cranston.
The two men clasped hands, and then Lamont left.
Knocking at Lamont's bedroom door roused him from a deep sleep, interrupting vivid dreams of The Temple Of The Cobras, of his training, of Marpa Tulku and his gentle firmness as he provided guidance, praise, and discipline to developing telepaths of all ages. Yes? he mentally called.
"Miss Lane is on the phone, sir," Russell replied.
Lamont groaned, then reached for the phone on the bedside table. "It's a good thing you're so charming, or I might be annoyed with you," he told her.
"Well, if you'd keep decent hours," she retorted, "I wouldn't have to wake you this way. You did promise to call me this morning, you know."
"It's Saturday. Most decent people sleep in." He rolled over and looked out the window, squinting at the bright sun. "What time is it?"
"Almost nine. How'd it go last night?"
"Not over the phone. Have you had breakfast?"
"Unfortunately, yes. Daddy got a cooking bug this morning and invited me over."
"All right. Lunch?"
"We won't have time. You promised you'd take me to see The Great Valacar this afternoon."
"Ugh...that's right, I did. And I don't suppose I can get out of it."
"No, you can't. If I can play socialite beauty at a fundraiser, you can play indulgent escort at an afternoon matinee."
"Deliver me from logical women." He sighed. "You know how I feel about mentalists."
"Oh, come on. It might be fun. If nothing else, you can heckle him and he'll never know."
"That's enough of that." His tone was sharp, annoyed.
She hesitated. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I'm sorry I snapped at you. It was a rough night last night."
"I'll be right over."
"No, no. That's all right. We'll talk later. I've got some things to take care of this morning."
She paused. "You're trying to keep something from me. What's happened?"
"Not over the phone. You know better than that. I promise we'll talk later."
She sighed. "You trust me with your deepest, darkest secrets. But now something's happened that you don't dare tell me about. I don't know what to think."
"I'm not keeping things from you. I just want to be a little more certain before I jump to any conclusions. When I am sure, you'll know."
"I'll hold you to it."
"I'm looking forward to it. Pick you up at one?"
"I'll be ready."
"I love you, Margo."
She almost dropped the phone. He so seldom said the actual words 'I love you' that it startled her. This must really be serious, she realized. "I love you, too," she whispered. "For God's sake, Lamont, be careful."
"Always." He hung up.
She held the receiver for a moment, her heart sinking. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. But there was nothing she could do but worry.
Moe's cab pulled up in front of Margo's house, and Lamont climbed out and headed for the door. He rang the bell and waited.
She came out, dressed in a crisp casual black dress and stylish black hat that accented her golden hair and sparkling eyes. He smiled broadly. "You look beautiful."
"And you look worried." She took his arm as they descended the stairs to the street level.
He gave her hand a squeeze, then opened the cab door for her. The two of them climbed in the cab, and Moe pulled away.
"O.K.," she said when they had pulled into traffic, "now do you want to tell me what happened last night?"
He looked out the window for a moment. "I received a message from The Marpa Tulku last night."
She looked at him oddly. "In a dream?"
"No, no. An actual message, delivered to Burbank."
She gave him a look that stopped just short of questioning his sanity. "Lamont...The Tulku is dead, isn't he? Shiwan Khan killed him."
He smiled. "'Tulku' is a title of respect. In English, it roughly translates to 'living Buddha'. Every master who takes the name was trained by the one before him, so that information is passed from one generation to the next. In fact, they believe in the concept of passing the dharma--that is, the knowledge of the previous master passes directly to his successor, the dharma heir, so that the knowledge of the generations is cumulative. The Tulku who trained me was the twentieth Marpa Tulku of The Temple Of The Cobras. His successor was the one who contacted me."
"That was who you went to see at that temple last night?" Moe asked.
"No, he sent a messenger...an initiate. That was who I visited." He looked amazed. "He was so young...so awestruck...I felt so old."
"What did he say?" Margo asked.
Lamont paused. "He told me that a student of The Tulku's has come to this country seeking me. I got the distinct impression it was not to trade training stories."
"Your life is in danger," she realized.
"He didn't say that, specifically. What he did say was the man is dangerous and has used the knowledge he learned at the feet of The Tulku to harm others."
"Another Khan?" Moe asked.
"I'm not sure. I've got some agents poking around, looking for any kind of trail of disaster someone like that might leave in his wake. I do know he knows my name, and probably a great deal about me...my strengths, my weaknesses, my skills."
Margo looked horrified. "He knows you're The Shadow."
"I don't know that he knows me by that name. But yes, as an initiate of The Tulku, he'd be very much aware that I possess the mind clouding power. According to the initiate who visited me, my life story is required learning at The Temple Of The Cobras these days."
"Do you know his name?"
"Yes. His name is Miklos Marocal. I've done some research on him. He was a famous anarchist in Hungary in the 1920's, rumored to have been kicked out of every country in Europe. The last information I was able to find on him was that he was rumored to have died in India in 1929."
"Obviously, he didn't," Moe observed.
"No. And now he's somewhere in this country, hunting me down."
She took his hand. "You should have told me this sooner."
He caressed her hand gently. "And what would you have done? No, there was no sense worrying you until I knew exactly what I was dealing with."
"I worried anyway." She leaned against him. "I'm sorry I was so cross with you earlier..."
He shook his head. "Don't be. I'd have reacted the same way." He looked up into the rear view mirror to meet Moe's eyes. "The two of you are going to have to be extra careful. Anyone associated with me is at risk right now. Keep your eyes open for anything suspicious."
"You got it, boss," Moe promised.
"Meanwhile," Margo added, "somebody has to look after you. And I don't intend to take my eyes off you."
"That could be fun." He hugged her close and kissed the top of her head.
The cab pulled to a stop in front of a theater whose marquee read "The Great Valacar--Limited Engagement". "We're here," Moe announced.
Margo looked at Lamont. "We can leave if you want."
He shook his head. "I refuse to go into hiding. That's not why The Tulku saved me. You wanted to go to this, so we're going." He smiled. "Besides, I can't exactly telepathically heckle him from here."
She smacked him with her purse as they exited the cab.
Valacar was exactly what Lamont expected he would be--a fake, a showman with a thick and exotic European accent who spent the first part of his act bragging about his ability to exorcise demons and drive ghosts from haunted houses, then moving on to answering questions off papers supposedly taken from the audience, giving vague and generalized answers to those questions. As a telepath, Lamont was particularly annoyed with charlatan mind readers; misconceptions about what mind readers did and did not do had caused him to doubt his own mental state much earlier in life, and that doubt had led to his experimentation with drugs to silence the chaos in his head...an experimentation that most likely led to the emergence of Ying Ko. But he had promised Margo he'd be her escort, and so he leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, looking bored.
"He's pretty good," Margo said after Valacar announced a wedding anniversary for an audience member.
"He was fed that answer beforehand," Lamont responded. "The rest of his answers have been so vague that there's no way he gets that level of precision without help."
"Listen to you. You'd think you didn't believe at all in this sort of thing."
He smirked. "Those who think they're so powerful are very annoying to those of us who really are."
"Ladies and gentlemen," Valacar continued after the applause had died down, "there are those in the audience who believe I have not been specific enough with my answers to be real. I should say I always start out with the easier questions, moving to the harder and more specific answers as I go along to erase any remaining doubts."
Margo glanced at Lamont. "See?"
He shook his head. "I'll believe it when I hear it."
"I will now take one of those harder questions," Valacar continued. He unfolded a slip of paper. "Someone with the initials K-A-M wants to know the place where she was born." He closed his eyes and concentrated. "Shands Hospital emergency room, New Albany, Mississippi, at 3:15 in the afternoon."
"Hey--that's right!" a woman in the audience called out.
Oohs and aahs rippled through the crowd.
"Someone in the audience with the initals P-M wants to know the address of his first girlfriend," Valacar pronounced, reading another slip of paper. "15 Rockford Lane, Hampshire, England."
"I don't believe it!" another man shouted.
Applause rang out from the audience.
"How did he do that?" Margo asked.
"Elementary, my dear Miss Lane," Lamont teased, adopting an erudite British accent. "They're plants--ringers to make everything seem more real. It's a classic magician's trick."
Valacar scowled. "There is someone in this audience who does not believe I can do what you all have seen me do," he announced. "A man whose skepticism is so powerfully loud it reverberates through this room."
Margo couldn't help it. She looked right at Lamont.
Now Lamont was interested. He leaned forward and looked directly at Valacar.
"I challenge that man right here and now," Valacar said confidently. "I challenge him to think of a question that no one else could possibly know the answer to. I will answer it right from this very stage."
"Go on, Lamont," Margo whispered.
"Absolutely not," Lamont replied. "First of all, you don't know he meant me. Secondly, even if he did, I'm not going to give him the satisfaction. You think of a question."
"Oh, don't be silly."
Valacar smiled. "Someone near to this man has asked a question for him...who is The Shadow?"
Lamont looked right at her, shock in his eyes.
"No," Margo whispered. "I didn't mean to think that, I swear! It just suddenly popped into my head, as if someone put it there! You didn't..."
"No. It wasn't me." Lamont frowned and tensed noticeably.
Valacar smiled again. "I know who The Shadow is," he said confidently. "But I also know that he is in this very room, watching and marveling at my performance. So, as a professional courtesy, I will not lift his veil of secrecy in front of this audience. I have too much admiration for him to endanger him so recklessly." He paused for dramatic effect. "But I have a challenge for The Shadow. This afternoon, after my performance, he will receive a telegram from a man he has never met with a message that only I will understand. I challenge him to find out if I am telling the truth."
The audience murmured their dissatisfaction.
"Now, now, ladies and gentlemen, let us continue." He returned to the slips of paper. "Someone with the initials J-C-S wants to know the names and ages of his sisters..."
Margo trembled. "Lamont, let's get out of here."
"You go on," Lamont replied, keeping his voice even and his eyes on the stage. "I think The Shadow would enjoy meeting The Great Valacar and finding out just how much he really knows."
Valacar tossed off his turban and stage cape toward the corner of the room, then dropped into his chair at his makeup table backstage after the performance, completely mentally drained and physically exhausted. "Amil, close the door," he ordered.
"Yes, Master," the young Indian man in the room replied, closing the dressing room door. "You were very good out there this afternoon--very convincing, very powerful..."
"Yes, yes," Valacar replied impatiently. "Remove my boots and polish them."
Amil removed the boots quickly, then headed for a bench in the corner. He dropped one of the boots on the floor roughly.
"Clumsy fool!" Valacar snapped.
"I am sorry, Master..." Amil suddenly stopped talking and stared wide-eyed at the door.
"What is it?"
"Master...the door...it just opened and closed by itself..."
"Ah," Valacar smiled. "My guest has arrived."
Amil looked confused. "But there is no one there."
"Of course there is, Amil. You just cannot see him. Welcome, friend."
Not a sound answered. Amil looked very confused. "Master, you are talking to no one."
Valacar laughed derisively. "You are truly blind, Amil. Leave us."
"Yes, Master." The young man left the boots where they lay and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
"Good afternoon, Shadow," Valacar said. "Or, should I say...good afternoon, Mr. Lamont Cranston?"
You should know I'm not going to answer that one way or the other, The Shadow replied.
"You need not answer it at all. Your friend Miss Lane provided all the answers I needed." He smiled. "Do not be angry with her. She could not help it. I plant that suggestion in every audience along the way. This was the first time I have actually gotten an answer."
Why? What purpose does it serve to expend so much effort trying to discover my identity?
"Because I am a great admirer of yours. Your skills are legendary--the way you can appear and disappear at will, the way you can completely confuse your enemies by clouding their minds. I have wanted to meet you for a very long time." He chuckled. "I am also fascinated by stories I have heard of a Westerner who studied in Tibet, a man with incredible mental powers and even more incredible self-discipline...a man by the name of Lamont Cranston. I had no idea you were one and the same. But then, with what I have heard of The Shadow's powers, I should have guessed sooner."
A long pause. Can you see me?
Valacar hesitated. "I must admit that I cannot. Your hypnotic telepathy is indeed quite strong. I can feel the fog you have blown into my mind. It would take more energy than I have right now after a performance to blow it back out again." He smiled. "It is a remarkable skill you have, Mr. Cranston, to be able to render yourself invisible simply by force of concentration. I would very much like to learn how to do that. It would make a fine addition to my act."
I am not a man who responds well to flattery, Valacar. You want something from me. State your case and be done with it.
Valacar raised an eyebrow, as if he were not accustomed to being treated with such disdain. "May I remind you which of us is in control of this conversation?"
May I remind you that you can't prove a thing. I could walk out of here and you'd never realize it.
"I would see you open the door."
Not if I did not wish you to. I can make you see--or not see--anything I wish.
"Except for your shadow. The reading lamp near the door would give you away. I notice you have been staying well away from it so that I cannot deduce your position from the size of your shadow--and how you made certain your shadow and Amil's crossed as you entered so I could not tell where you were."
I have ways of concealing your vision of that as well. Good day, Mr. Valacar.
"You walk out of here and I will call my friend at the Times. I am certain the papers would be quite interested in publishing a report on the identity of the mysterious Shadow...not to mention the police's interest in finding out the name of the city's most wanted vigilante...and the underworld wanting to rid itself of its most threatening scourge..."
A long pause. You're bluffing.
"Then call my bluff."
A knock at the door attracted both men's attention. "Yes, Amil?" Valacar called.
"You received a telegram," Amil said. "It is addressed to The Shadow in care of you."
"Bring it in, Amil."
The young man did. Valacar took the telegram and dismissed his servant with a wave.
Amil could not resist one last look around the room, trying to find the mysterious man his master was speaking with, before departing.
"Blind fool," Valacar sneered. "Easily frightened, easily swayed. Fear is such a powerful tool for manipulating the mind--would you not agree, Mr. Cranston?"
I would appreciate it if you would not use that name.
"Ah, so you do care if your identity is revealed...but not so much for your own sake. I detect more than a bit of nervousness about the safety of the beautiful Miss Lane..."
The sound of heavy fabric rustling told Valacar he had touched a raw nerve. If you harm one hair on Miss Lane's head, I will hunt you to the ends of the earth...
"I have no intention of harming either of you. But, of course, I cannot speak for your enemies." He held up the telegram. "Do you remember my challenge to you earlier?"
A telegram addressed to me from someone I've never met, with a message only you would understand.
"And here it is." He extended it toward the empty space in the room.
I'm not going to reach out and take it from you. You would then be able to deduce where I was.
"Do you not realize that I have no intention of harming you?" He sighed. "Oh, very well." He opened the telegram. "I will toss the paper into the air. You can reach out and grab it. By the time I could get to you from this chair, you will probably have moved far away." He crumpled the paper into a ball and lobbed it into the air.
A wisp of fog vaguely resembling a gloved hand snatched the ball out of the air. The fog disappeared, and the ball of paper vanished with it.
"Amazing," Valacar marveled. "You can cloud objects you pick up as well."
If I desire to do so. A pause. It's from Vladimir Porliski, a man from Poland.
"Someone you have never met, I take it?"
No, indeed not. Another pause. It says, 'The downtrodden shall rise up and reclaim their rightful inheritance.'
"And I would imagine you have no idea what that refers to."
It's some kind of political slogan. The rallying cry of Miklos Marocal, perhaps?
Valacar raised an eyebrow. "You are good. I thought I had that part of my mind adequately shielded."
The Shadow laughed. Like you, Marocal, I have done my research. Your reputation precedes you. Answer me this question: Why would an infamous anarchist want to study at The Temple Of The Cobras?
"You have done your research. I will not ask how you know that; I suspect I would get some trite answer like 'The Shadow knows' and an arrogant laugh."
Spare me your superiority complex, Marocal, and answer the question.
"I will spare you mine when you spare me yours. You and I are not so different, Mr. Cranston. We are men accustomed to commanding great respect, men with powerful and dangerous minds who can control thousands with a mere thought. You and I have the same mission, but different ways of accomplishing it."
Is that so?
"Yes. Where you use fear and hypnosis to cloud the minds of criminals and confuse them into making mistakes, I use emotional control and strength of will to control an entire army of followers worldwide. You have seen my servant, Amil?"
"He is just one of thousands around the world completely subjugated to my will."
That's hypnosis. Any telepath worth his salt can be taught to do that.
"No, no. What you do is hypnosis. What I do is much more complex. I have spent years studying the mind, studying what various cultures and religions teach about mind-body connections and how to influence them. What I learned from The Tulku was how to augment the strength of will I already had...how to focus my mind and project my will into the minds of others. To all outward appearances, all my followers look perfectly normal--but they are under my mental control, and at any time I can take complete control of their lives with a mere thought. The man who sent you the telegram is one of my followers. During the performance, I commanded him to send you that telegram, and he did so, half a world away. I can command any of my followers to do anything I choose...even revolt against their oppressive, outdated governments."
Anarchy on a global scale.
"Indeed. Which is why I wanted to meet you. I have a proposition for you."
I thought you might. You want me to join you.
"Yes. I can launch the revolution...but I might have trouble controlling it. Fear can be a powerful controlling element--but it can also make masses more difficult to influence. With another powerful telepath at my side, one who is expert at manipulating fear, the revolution will be much easier to control and direct."
With you as its ultimate leader, of course. The Shadow laughed mockingly. Do yourself a favor and look up Shiwan Khan sometime. Ask him what I do to power-drunk madmen who try to manipulate me into doing their will. Good day, Marocal.
Marocal rose and blocked the door. "You walk out this door and I will go straight to the press."
Don't threaten me. You can't prove a thing.
"No, but I can make them believe I can. And you know it."
A hesitation. You wouldn't.
"But you cannot be certain, now, can you? Are you willing to risk your beloved's life on something you yourself doubt?"
Don't threaten her, either.
"I am not the one who would harm her to reach you. But I cannot say the same for your enemies. Organized crime in this country has been known to use such ruthless tactics."
Another hesitation. I need time to think this over.
"I will give you until midnight Sunday. No later."
I should kill you where you stand.
"You do it and I shall command my followers in my dying moments to reveal your secret. Neither you nor Miss Lane will ever be safe again."
An unseen hand grabbed him by his shirt and lifted him in the air. I don't like threats.
"Then kill me," Marocal taunted, his voice choked.
In answer, the unseen figure tossed Marocal to the floor like a rag doll. You're not worth the effort. With that, the door opened.
"Midnight Sunday," Marocal warned. "And I mean it."
The door to the dressing room slammed shut.
Marocal smiled. Powerful man, he mused. He will make a fine ally.
Margo Lane paced the floor of her Manhattan townhouse. It had been hours since Lamont had bid her farewell at the theater, hours since The Great Valacar's announcement that he did indeed know The Shadow's identity. She'd not heard a word from Lamont, and now she was getting worried. It wasn't just that this mentalist knew something he wasn't supposed to know, it was that this now made two threats to his safety in less than 24 hours. She desperately hoped he was all right...but she got the distinct impression that it had all gone wrong.
The phone rang. She nearly jumped out of her skin, then dove for the receiver. "Hello?" she said anxiously.
"Margo," Lamont's voice replied.
"Oh, thank God! Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Are you busy?"
"No, not at all. I'll be right over..."
"No, don't bother. I'll pick you up in a bit. Mark and Marcy LeGrand have invited us to dinner at The Porterhouse. Get yourself cleaned up, and we'll go out."
"Are you sure that's such a good idea? I mean, with everything that's happened..."
"I won't hide from anyone, Margo. You know that. It's important to act as if everything is perfectly normal. If I give in to fear, my enemies have already won."
She sighed. "One of these days, you're going to get yourself killed."
"But hopefully not tonight. See you in a bit."
"What a wonderful restaurant," Marcy LeGrand laughed as four of the most famous social fixtures in New York left The Porterhouse.
"There's nothing like a good steak," Dr. Mark LeGrand added. "Wouldn't you agree, Lamont?"
"Absolutely," Lamont smiled. "We'd not had a chance to try this place yet--I'm glad you invited us along."
"Besides," Margo said, hooking her arm around Lamont's, "it gives me a chance to spend some time with you. You've been so busy lately that I don't want to let you out of my sight."
"My little watchdog," he teased, patting her hand. "Well, the night is still young--what shall we do?"
"Dancing at the Cobalt Club?" Mark suggested.
"That sounds wonderful," Marcy gushed.
"Then it's settled." Lamont waved for an approaching taxi--driven, of course, by Moe Shrevnitz.
"It always amazes me how you can get a cab anytime, anywhere," Mark said, shaking his head.
"I'm a great tipper," Lamont laughed in reply.
As the couples approached the curb, a dark, disheveled man crossed toward them and intercepted the taxi.
"Excuse me," Mark said, "but I believe that taxi's ours."
"Yeah?" the man said. "Well, it looks like I got here first. Buzz off."
Lamont fixed his gaze on the man. "I believe this is our cab," he said firmly.
"I don't think so." He leveled a gun right at Lamont.
Marcy gasped. Margo tightened her grip on Lamont's arm.
Gently, Lamont pushed Margo back out of the way. "Drop the gun," he said in an even tone.
"Never," the man hissed. "This is from Miklos Marocal." He fired off six quick shots.
The bullets slammed point-blank into Lamont's chest. He stumbled backwards, then collapsed to the ground.
"No!" Margo screamed.
The young man took off running.
Passers-by gasped and screamed, crowding around the scene. Reporters recording the social life in New York on a Saturday night raced over, snapping pictures and aiming cameras.
Lamont Cranston lay sprawled on the sidewalk, his black topcoat and white tuxedo shirt bullet-riddled and bloody. "Get back!" Mark LeGrand called, kneeling next to him.
Moe scrambled out of his cab. "My God," he said in a voice of shock. "I'll call an ambulance."
Mark took Lamont's pulse, then bowed his head. "Don't bother," he said softly. "He's dead."
"No...no...no!" Margo knelt down and threw herself across Lamont's body. "Lamont...please, Lamont..." She put her hand on his neck, then grabbed his wrist, desperately hoping to find some sign of life.
Nothing. His skin was turning cold. His pulse was gone. Even the opal in his ring, which normally pulsated with an inner fire, was dark.
Moe reached down and pulled her to her feet. She pressed her face against his chest and screamed.
In a rundown victorian house on the outskirts of New York, Miklos Marocal was roused from a restless sleep by his servant, Amil. "Master! Master!" the young man said. "You must hear this!"
"What is it?" Marocal demanded.
In answer, Amil turned on the radio.
"Repeating our top story at this hour," the announcer said, "millionaire philanthropist Lamont Cranston was murdered earlier this evening in front of The Porterhouse restaurant in Manhattan. According to witnesses, Mr. Cranston, his girlfriend Margo Lane, and another couple were leaving the restaurant when apparently they got into a dispute with another man about a taxi cab. The man was heard to say something about famous anarchist Miklos Marocal, then emptied his revolver into Mr. Cranston, who was pronounced dead on the scene. Police are still seeking the mysterious gunman. Police Commissioner Wainwright Barth, who is also Mr. Cranston's uncle, announced that funeral arrangements are still pending, but visitation will be held at the Cranston mansion in Turtle Bay on Sunday afternoon from two to six p.m. Again, millionaire philanthropist Lamont Cranston has been killed..."
"Turn it off, Amil," Marocal ordered.
"Yes, Master." Amil switched off the radio. "Master, did you order this?"
"No, of course not, Amil," he snapped. "You know I have been seeking Mr. Cranston for months now."
"But the radio said..."
"I know what it said." Marocal tried to think who would have done this. A rogue follower? A non-aligned admirer? Perhaps Cranston himself engineered his own murder to save Margo Lane's life and spare himself the embarrassment of being revealed as The Shadow. Or maybe it was all a trick. Cranston, after all, was an expert at manipulating reality.
He'd find out at the visitation tomorrow.
The air that hung over the Cranston mansion was heavy, somber, sad. Wainwright Barth looked as if he'd lost everything. Russell tended to the constant stream of guests as if he were in a daze. Moe Shrevnitz was in complete shock, as if nothing could have prepared him for this.
But the worst sorrow and sadness seemed draped around Margo Lane's shoulders. Dressed all in black, she looked frail and delicate, as if she would break at any moment. Yet, she bravely sat in the living room, greeting Lamont's friends and colleagues as they expressed their grief and shock at the loss of such a promising life. Though she was not his widow, she was extended the courtesy and condolences most mourners normally reserved for a spouse, for all who came through knew how close they were.
Many of the well-wishers had opal rings on. None of them knew Lamont was The Shadow, but all knew of him as a fellow agent, and the loss of one of their own hit very close to home. Each introduced themselves to Margo as someone who had been touched by his philanthropic work, by his care for others, and expressed their sorrow at the loss of such a good man. She'd gotten to meet Burbank...Dr. Roy Tam...scores of policemen...doctors, lawyers, too many others to remember. Margo was grateful for their concern, but had no idea how'd she'd break the news to them that they had all lost more than just a fellow agent.
She tried to stay strong, but inside she wanted to run screaming. When she'd finally gotten home last night, she'd found a note addressed to her slid under the door. In it, Lamont had told her that if she were reading the note, it meant he was dead, for Burbank had instructions to deliver it only upon hearing of Lamont Cranston's death. He'd told her that he'd known he would soon be killed, that it was just a matter of time. He'd told her where she could find his will and instructions for funeral arrangements. He'd ended it with simple words: "Always know that I loved you from the first moment I saw you. I never told you enough. But never doubt that I always felt it."
And now, he would never get the chance to say the words again. Margo wanted to jump off a building, crawl in a hole, do something to stop the pain.
The crowd was thinning out now as 6:00 approached. Margo's father, Reinhardt Lane, put his arms around his daughter and held her close. "Come, darling," he told her. "Let me get you something to eat."
"I'm not hungry," she said quietly.
"Margo, you've got to take care of yourself," Moe urged. "Let me take you home."
She looked around, still trying to find some sign of him in this place. "I don't want to leave," she whispered.
"Margo, go home," Wainwright urged. "We'll clean up here. You need some rest. You don't look like you've slept at all."
"I haven't." She looked as if she might cry at any moment.
The doorbell rang. Russell went to answer it.
"Not another friend," Wainwright groaned. "I don't think I can take one more person coming through here."
"And I know you can't," Reinhardt said to his daughter.
"We have to," Moe urged. "We have to do it for him. He wouldn't want us to turn anyone away."
"You're right," Margo said. She pulled herself together, then stood as the man came in the room.
"Hello, Miss Lane," he said in a thick European accent. "Please accept my condolences on the death of your friend, Mr. Cranston."
She looked at him oddly. He looked familiar, but for the life of her, she couldn't place him. A quick glance at his hands indicated he wasn't an agent--no ring. "Do I know you?"
He smiled nervously. "Not really. I am The Great Valacar. You were at my show yesterday."
Now she remembered. And the memory was not a pleasant one. "I wasn't aware you were a friend of Mr. Cranston's."
"Not so much a friend as an admirer. He was a man of great strength, power, magnetism. It was hard not to admire him."
"I see." Her eyes turned ice cold.
Marocal tried to ignore her gaze as he probed her mind, seeking some shred of doubt about Lamont's death.
There was none. All he felt was her deep sorrow, her guilt over giving away his identity, her fury at seeing him there, her overwhelming sense of loss. Suddenly, he felt very deeply moved. "I am very sorry, Miss Lane. Your friend Mr. Cranston will be missed. It was quite obvious how much he loved you."
"Thank you," she said calmly.
Marocal nodded, then walked away.
Margo felt herself trembling. The man to whom she had betrayed Lamont's secret had come to his visitation, passing himself off as an admirer, and she had felt him probe her mind to make certain Lamont was really dead so he would know whether he could spill that secret to the world. She could feel the menace in his thoughts. She felt angry. She felt hurt. She felt violated.
"Margo?" Reinhardt Lane asked, concerned.
"Moe," she said, her voice cracking, "take me home right now. I can't take any more."
Moe's cab stopped in front of her townhouse. He climbed out, then opened the back door and held out his hand for Margo.
She took it, then rose to her feet unsteadily.
"You all right?" Moe asked. "I can help you inside..."
She shook her head. "I'll be fine. I'm just so tired. It's been such a hard day..." She looked as if she were about to cry.
He embraced her tightly. "Let it out, honey. Let it out."
She shook her head. "I can't. I just can't. There's so much to do--the funeral, the will, breaking the news to the agents..."
He held onto her, trying to hold back his own emotions. "He loved you so much," he whispered.
"I know that. I'm trying to hold onto that." She pulled back. "You're a doll." She kissed his cheek. "He thought the world of you, too."
He clutched her hands. "Don't hesitate to call if you need anything--anything at all."
She nodded, then slowly ascended the steps to the front of her townhouse. Giving one last glance back at Moe, she opened the door and walked inside.
The house was dark. She didn't even bother turning on the lights as she walked through the house, finally collapsing onto her couch. Running her hands through her hair, she leaned back against the corner of the sofa and let the exhaustion and emotions wash over her.
Finally, we're alone.
She nearly jumped through the ceiling. The gasp she gave was probably audible in the next borough.
The lamp on the end table switched on by itself, and a dark, rippling fog settled on the other end of the sofa and solidified into the shape of Lamont Cranston.
Margo just stared at him, fear tensing every part of her.
Lamont reached out and grasped her shoulders gently. Then, he smiled.
She looked deep into his eyes, as if still not believing he was real. Then, she fell into his arms, sobbing uncontrollably, clutching him with every ounce of her strength, never wanting to let him go.
For a long moment, he held on to her with equal determination, gently rocking her, gently stroking her hair and her back, grateful to hold her again.
"You're alive," she finally whispered when the tears stopped flowing. "You're alive!"
"Yes," he replied.
"But you were shot..."
He laughed slightly. "Haven't I taught you yet not to believe everything your eyes tell you?"
She pulled back from him. Her expression was now one of confusion. "I held you in my arms. I took your pulse. I felt your skin. Lamont, you were dead!"
He looked slightly mischievous. "Did I ever mention that The Tulku taught me that little trick?" He turned serious. "It's a defensive technique Tibetan monks have used for years. I think other cultures have also developed similar techniques. If you can make yourself appear dead, your enemies won't bother you. After all, you're of no use to them. The Tulku taught me how to throw myself into a deep coma, to slow my pulse and respiration to almost nothing for short stretches. I can make myself look, to all outward appearances, dead. I learned it as an exercise in self-hypnosis, but I never dreamed I'd actually have to use it. Of course, I had a lot of help making it look real."
"Who all was in on this?"
"Only three people. Mark LeGrand, who you already know is one of my agents, was obviously involved, although it did scare him half to death to not find a pulse when he bent over me. The other two people you don't know, but they're both agents. The man who shot me is an actor named Billy Wagner, who fitted me earlier in the day with a special vest filled with stage blood, then shot me with a round of blanks to pop the blood sacks." He rubbed his chest. "Good thing I had a little padding under there. Blanks hurt." He smiled. "He turned up at my visitation this afternoon--I'm surprised you didn't recognize him."
"You were there?" Now she looked annoyed.
"Watching from the second floor balcony." He stretched, wincing slightly as he did. "I have the worst crick in my neck from leaning awkwardly all day. Anyway, the third man in on this is the one who's going to explain all this away tomorrow, when I turn up alive again. He's a movie director named Max Martin, who's going to tell the world that he was shooting a movie that I bankrolled, and I was an extra in one of his scenes."
"Wait a minute...if you were in the mansion, how did you get here before I did?"
"I didn't. I was in the front seat of the cab. I got out when Moe turned to get back in the cab and you were on your way up the steps...and slipped by you when you opened the door." He smiled gently and took her hand. "I have been waiting all day to get you alone so that I could finally tell you I was all right."
"Why? Lamont, why would you do this? Why would you put me
through all this?"
"I had no choice. I was being blackmailed."
"Marocal. They're one and the same. He wanted The Shadow to help him launch a global revolution."
"What? That's ridiculous. No one could do that..."
"They could if they had the ability to influence people to revolt against their governments with just a single thought."
She looked horrified. "He could do that?"
Lamont nodded. "His mind is very strong...and very dangerous. And he wanted my hypnotic telepathy to help him maintain control."
"And if you didn't help him, he was going to kill you."
"No. If that had been it, I would not even have flinched. But what he threatened was far worse. He was going to reveal my identity--and put the woman I loved in terrible danger. He implied there were people who would harm you to get to me...and that was something I could not let happen."
Suddenly, she understood. "Lamont, you could have told me. I would have kept it a secret..."
He shook his head. "I could not take that chance. I knew Marocal would try to verify any way he could that I was really dead--including probing your thoughts. If there were even a glimmer of doubt in your mind, he would seize it and then we'd be right back where we were yesterday afternoon. So, no, my dear, you were absolutely the one person who could not know."
She looked away. "I betrayed you to him."
He took her chin and pulled her gaze back to his. "No, you didn't. It wasn't your fault. He'd been planting that suggestion in people's minds all over the country. You were just the only person who'd ever reacted to it. Once he got to New York, it was just a matter of time before he found me anyway. I'm not exactly the hardest person to find around town."
She fought back tears. "But he still used me to get to you. I'm so sorry..."
He stroked her cheek. "Don't do this to yourself. You couldn't help what happened. Even the best telepaths slip up and leave their thoughts unguarded. With minds as powerful as ours, it's easy to forget how loud your thoughts can be to others with the same skills...and suddenly, someone thanks you for complimenting them on their dress when you didn't say a word."
She laughed slightly, then looked puzzled. "Wait a minute...why didn't I feel you in the house? Were you shielding your thoughts at the visitation?"
"I thought so." She shook her head. "I could feel this weird kind of echo of you in the house, as if you'd just walked through and I'd just missed you...does that make any sense?"
He nodded. "It's a hard thing to do to project a mind clouding suggestion and wall off my thoughts at the same time. I've got a headache from the effort."
She couldn't help but smile slightly. "That'll teach you to keep things from me."
He took her face in his hands. "Margo, listen to me. You do not know how much I wanted to wrap my arms around you, hold you close, tell you I was all right. The pain I saw you go through was almost unbearable. But I had to protect you. And that meant I had to stay hidden until I was certain Marocal had no doubt I was dead. And now you can be angry with me, or fuss at me, or do anything you want, and I won't care because I am absolutely madly in love with you."
She laughed slightly, then pulled his left hand off her cheek and kissed his palm. "You're alive," she whispered. "You're alive...it's over..."
He shook his head. "It's not over. I still have to deal with Marocal. If I don't, he'll launch his plan to spread global anarchy. I've got to stop him."
"What are you going to do?"
"I put agents on his trail yesterday. I now know where he's been staying--the old Barnhardt mansion, outside of town."
"The Barnhardt mansion?" She shook her head. "That fits. He bragged about driving ghosts from haunted houses, and the Barnhardt mansion's certainly got that reputation."
"He won't be able to drive out the ghost he'll encounter tonight."
He shook his head, smiling wickedly. "Lamont Cranston."
Marocal looked out the huge picture window in the living room of the old mansion, a trace of sadness and regret in his expression. Lamont Cranston was really dead--the grief Margo Lane felt was so profound it stuck in his mind and heart. The only man who could help him carry out his plan to fruition was gone. But he had to go on. Too much time and planning had gone into the effort to stop now.
Amil came into the room. "Master?" he said.
"What is it?" Marocal sighed impatiently.
"You look very worried, Master. I have never seen you like this before. Are you afraid of something?"
"Of course not," he snapped back, a bit too quickly.
"I do not blame you for being nervous, Master...they say this place is haunted."
"Haunted." Marocal scoffed. "There are no such things as ghosts. I have a trained mind. Trained minds cannot believe in ghosts."
"Leave me, Amil."
"Yes, Master." Amil left the room.
Marocal scoffed once more. "Ghosts. What a ridiculous notion. That stupid Amil trying to frighten me with his superstitions--how primitive."
A low chuckle reached his ears.
Marocal looked around quickly, then shook his head. "I am hearing things," he scoffed.
Marocal looked around again, genuinely unnerved. "Amil, is that you?"
A throaty laugh. Try again, Marocal.
He nearly jumped through the ceiling. "No...it cannot be," he whispered. "Cranston?"
Or his ghost.
He tried to get a grip on himself. "No...you are playing tricks on my mind."
"You have to be. You faked your death and are using your mental powers to trick me."
Could I have faked this? He swirled into visibility.
Marocal took a step back. Lamont was covered in blood, and the clothes he'd been wearing the night of his shooting were bullet-riddled. And he was smiling wickedly.
Surprised to see me? The Shadow's cackling laugh rang through the room.
"This is a trick! You are not dead!" He lunged for Lamont.
Lamont vanished, then reappeared a few feet away. Missed me, he taunted.
Marocal lunged again.
Lamont vanished again, then reappeared on the other side of the room, laughing loudly. What's the matter, Marocal? Can't catch a shadow?
"I will catch you!" Marocal roared. He grabbed a reading lamp off the end table and turned it on. "Your shadow will tell me where you really are! You are no ghost!"
Lamont smiled. Boo.
The lightbulb in the lamp exploded. So did every other lightbulb in the room.
Marocal looked stunned, then recovered. He yanked the lamp's power cord out of the wall and hurled the now-useless lamp at Lamont.
Lamont held up his right hand.
The lamp changed course in mid-air and jumped into his hand. He looked at it and smiled, then hurled it back at Marocal.
The lamp flew over his head.
Marocal stood up again.
The lamp crashed into his head from behind and knocked him flat to the floor.
Lamont laughed heartily. Tell me, Marocal--why should I team up with you to run the world? I have more power on a bad day than you'll ever have on your best days...because I have the power to frighten you.
"I'm not afraid of you." Marocal tried to get to his feet.
Marocal felt something slam into his chest and throw him against the rolltop desk.
When the room stopped spinning, he looked over where he had last seen Lamont...and could not believe his eyes. Lamont had not moved.
Lamont laughed so loudly the windows shook. I can feel your fear. Fear is a very powerful tool for manipulating the mind--would you not agree, Marocal? Your powers are no match for mine, because you don't have the self-discipline to overcome your fears. You skipped that lesson from The Tulku, didn't you?
"I am not listening to you!" Marocal held his ears.
I'm not in your ears, Marocal. I'm inside your mind. You can't run from me. You can't hide from me. I am around every corner, in every empty room, as inevitable as your guilty conscience.
"I am stronger than you, Cranston!"
Another room-shaking laugh. If you believe that, Marocal, you're deceiving yourself. Your fear is clouding your mind. Your discipline is failing you...and you're losing your concentration. You're losing your powers...losing your grip on your followers...thousands of people around the world are finally free from the grip of your evil. You've lost, Marocal.
"No...," Marocal whispered. "No...it's not possible..."
"Yes, Master, it is," a sarcastic Indian-accented voice responded from the hallway.
Lamont quickly clouded himself as Amil came in the room. The Indian held a kitchen knife, poised to attack.
"Amil--what are you doing?" Marocal said.
"What every one of your 'followers' has wanted to do," Amil said, a maniacal grin on his face. "I am going to destroy you."
Marocal reached up and fumbled through the desk drawer, finally finding his revolver. "Don't come any closer," he ordered.
"You cannot tell me what to do any more!" Amil raced across the room.
Marocal fired point-blank at the young man.
The shot pierced Amil's heart. He fell to his knees in front of Marocal, then looked him in the eye. "I...will not...die! Not without...taking you...with me!" With that, he lunged with every ounce of strength he had left and drove the knife right through Marocal's chest.
Marocal's eyes rolled back in his head, and he flopped loosely against the wall.
Amil smiled, even as he gasped his last breaths. "I am free...at last, I am free..."
Lamont felt the last of the mental energy drain from the room and stopped projecting the clouding suggestion. For a moment, he looked over the scene before him, frustrated that it had once more come to this. Then, he fell to his knees, completely exhausted. He'd not exercised his powers to that degree since his battle with Shiwan Khan, and the effort had taken nearly every ounce of strength he had. But he'd won. He'd succeeded in driving out the evil, in stopping the abuse of The Tulku's teachings, in saving the world from a madman.
There was now one less dangerous mind in the world.
"Lamont," Wainwright Barth said the next night over dinner at the Cobalt Club, "I had no idea you wanted to be a movie star."
Lamont chuckled slightly. The story of his rise from the dead was all over the front pages, complete with photos of him posing with Billy Wagner and Max Martin. "You know those movie directors," he said with a smile. "Always trying to drum up publicity for their films. And what better way than a front-page news story?"
"What I can't understand is why you didn't tell anyone sooner. I mean, you put us through all that grief for nothing."
"I'm sorry, Uncle Wainwright. I was just laying low for a little while so Mr. Martin could get his film developed to see if he needed to shoot it again. Film's expensive; there's no sense in paying to have a scene shot twice. And I certainly didn't want to give away all the film's surprises. Besides, it was kind of fun to see what people will say about you after you're long gone. Think I'll have that newspaper headline framed--'New York Icon Dead At 36'."
"Well, thankfully, it's all over," Margo said, smiling at Lamont. "Maybe things will quiet down for a few days."
"Maybe for the idle rich," Wainwright scoffed. "But the police are busy. Did you realize that we found the infamous anarchist Miklos Marocal last night, killed by a young Indian boy?"
Lamont tried his best to look surprised. He'd called in that anonymous tip last night himself. "Miklos Marocal? Hasn't he been dead for years?"
"Another one who faked his death, I guess. You should have seen the mess. Place looked like a war zone. Shattered lightbulbs, broken lamps, broken furniture, knives, guns...must have been quite a struggle."
"Now that's a rather odd coincidence," Lamont noted. "Mr. Martin decides to make a movie about a madman's plan to launch global anarchy, and you find Miklos Marocal after all these years. Amazing."
"Thank goodness. There's enough anarchy to go around these days, if you believe all the news coming from Europe."
"Well, at least there's one less dangerous mind in the world these days," Margo stated.
"Hear, hear." Lamont raised his glass in a toast. "To freedom from anarchy."
"To true love," Margo added, raising her glass to join his.
"To dead people staying dead, and live ones staying alive," Wainwright finished.
They all laughed as their glasses clinked merrily.
Table Of Contents