Margo Lane nearly fell onto her kitchen floor as she listened to the radio broadcast over breakfast. No, she thought, no, it can't be. He can't be hurt. I would know...wouldn't I?
Trying to compose herself, Margo sat down at the kitchen table and closed her eyes, trying to listen for the sound of his voice. Margo had always had the ability to pick thoughts out of the air, but it seemed especially strong around Lamont Cranston. When he needed her, he could call her from anywhere and she would hear him as if she were standing right beside him. And now, if the radio report were true, if Lamont's alter ego--The Shadow--were really gravely injured, he would surely need her help.
Margo fought to clear her mind. She tried to listen.
Now she was near panic. If he was too weak to call for help, there was no telling what kind of danger he was in. She had to find him, and find him fast.
A knock at the door startled her. She ran for the door.
"Lamont?" she called out as she opened the door.
The worried face of Moe Shrevnitz looked back at her.
"Moe?" she gasped. "What are you doing here?"
He shrugged. "Thought you might need a cab."
Moe shook his head. "No. And we shouldn't talk about this here. Get your coat. The meter's running."
Margo nodded. Moe's cab would be a lot safer place to talk. All agents of The Shadow knew the rules: Never mention The Shadow in the open. Hopefully, the two of them, or one of the other agents, would find him before the police did.
Finished with his morning rounds at Mercy General Hospital, Dr. Mark LeGrand closed the door to his office and collapsed into a chair. He hoped he was doing the right thing issuing that news bulletin. He'd heard stories of The Shadow, whispered rumors about a dark and dangerous man who hid in the shadows, who seemed to come from nowhere and could disappear back there again just as quickly. Rumors of a man who saw all, knew all, who terrorized criminals and heartened citizens. He wondered just what he had gotten himself into.
For some reason, it seemed awfully dark in the room. LeGrand reached for his desk lamp.
Bulb must be burned out, he thought. He got up to turn on the wall switch.
Something seemed to push him back into his chair, almost as if someone were standing in his way.
Then he heard it. Softly at first, but then louder...mocking, almost sinister laughter that seemed to come from all corners of the room. "Who's there?" LeGrand demanded.
You don't know? a man's voice returned, almost as if it were taunting LeGrand. You claimed to have operated on me last night.
LeGrand looked around, trying to find the source of the voice. It almost seemed to be coming from inside his own ears. "The Shadow," he whispered, suddenly frightened.
The real Shadow, Dr. LeGrand. The man you operated on last night is a fake.
"I...I know that." LeGrand swallowed. The rumors are true. He really does exist. What will he do when..."The news item was a fake, too."
More laughter, this time almost menacing-sounding. Dr. LeGrand, you have exactly thirty seconds to tell me why I should believe you not are attempting to trap me...or face the consequences.
LeGrand didn't want to know what the consequences would be. There was too much at stake to trifle with this man. "I...I needed to see you. I planted the story so you would come."
"Because I'm afraid for my life! Someone in this hospital is committing murder."
A long, uncomfortable pause. Not a sound in the room. And still no sign that anyone was there.
"Shadow?" LeGrand whispered. "Are you still here?"
Yes, Doctor. This time the tone sounded indulgent. You have my attention. Go on.
"There've been a number of unexplained deaths here over the past month." LeGrand rubbed his face, trying to calm his nerves. "Patients who seemed perfectly fine suddenly went into cardiac arrest in the wee hours of the morning and died, without warning. In all cases, there has been a tremendous loss of blood."
Any trace of blood in the room?
"No, that's the really odd part. It's almost as if they've had most of their blood volume drained. It's almost like a vampire's been here."
There are no such things as vampires, Doctor.
"There also is no such thing as an invisible man," LeGrand returned, growing tired of the taunting.
I'm not invisible, Doctor. You can't see me because I don't want you to; I've clouded your mind so you won't see me. Now, go on, tell me more. Why haven't the police been notified?
"You haven't seen our clientele lately, have you?" LeGrand laughed nervously. "We don't exactly cater to high society here. Most of our patients are the poor, the indigent, the drunks, the bums. Not too much call for justice when one of them goes missing."
So you believe someone is taking advantage of his victims' lower station in life and stealing their blood?
"I don't know what to think. I just know that too many of my patients have died, and I'm afraid for anyone here. And that includes the staff. If there's a killer among us..."
...any of you could be the next victim. Yes, I see.
"That's why I planted the news story. The police aren't interested in a bunch of bums, but I don't want them to get interested because a doctor was next--I want to stop it before it gets that far. Will you help me?"
Another long, uncomfortable pause. Yes, Doctor. I'll help you. I believe in what you're doing here at Mercy. And no one should be killed because someone believes they'd be worth more dead than alive.
LeGrand breathed a sigh of relief. "When will I see you again?"
I'll be in touch. A black flourish, almost like a curtain or a cloak, whirled in front of LeGrand's face.
When he could see again, he looked around desperately. "Shadow?" he whispered.
LeGrand quickly turned on the wall light. Rumor had it that even though The Shadow was invisible, you could catch his shadow on a wall...thus, the sobriquet. He looked around the room.
Nothing. LeGrand was alone with his thoughts...and his fears.
Through the hospital halls, something or someone seemed to breeze by nurses, patients, doctors...all of whom would swear they knew someone was there. But they would see nothing but light...and shadows.
A side door opened onto a dark loading dock, then closed just as quickly. No one seemed to notice...because The Shadow did not wish them to.
There was much to do before tonight if The Shadow was to catch this vampire at work. He needed to get home to plan. He needed transportation.
Moe's fire opal ring flashed suddenly.
"It's him," Margo realized. They'd been driving around for over an hour, waiting for some kind of sign that The Shadow was still alive, and now they had it.
"Yep," Moe replied, pulling a quick lane change and turning down a street.
"How do you know where to go?" Margo asked.
"I don't." Moe shrugged. "I've never needed to. I just drive. Somehow, I always end up where he needs me."
Margo nodded. The Shadow could make almost anybody think almost anything and them not even know it. She sat back and let him bring them to his location.
The Shadow's displeasure at seeing Moe had a passenger faded quickly when he noticed who the passenger was. He waited until the cab pulled to the edge of the access road that led to the loading dock, then quickly moved toward it. The sunshine was bright, and light could not be fooled by his hypnotic suggestions.
Margo slid to the opposite seat when the passenger-side rear door opened and closed quickly. Drive, a disembodied voice said.
Moe pulled out onto the street quickly. "You O.K., boss?" he asked, almost demanding an answer.
The Shadow unclouded to reveal a black-clad figure in a slouch hat and elaborate cloak, with a red scarf covering the lower half of his face. The features of his face shimmered slightly, softening noticeably, and he pulled down the scarf to reveal the face of Lamont Cranston. "I'm fine," he reassured. "The news story was a hoax."
"You had me worried sick," Margo scolded.
Lamont offered a light smile. "If I were really hurt, you'd know it. I'm sorry I worried you. But I had to investigate. If someone is forcing himself into a doctor's house claiming to be The Shadow, I'd better know about it."
"So what's with the fake news story?" Moe asked.
"It was planted by Mark LeGrand...an old friend of mine. He claims there have been a series of murders at Mercy General where the victims have all been practically drained of blood and gone into cardiac arrest shortly thereafter."
"I've heard nothing about this," Margo noted. "You'd think the police would be interested."
Lamont shook his head. "Most of the dead are on the bottom rung of society...I suspect since no one of importance has died yet, the police aren't interested."
"You said 'yet'."
Lamont nodded. "Mark's afraid for his life, and the lives of his staff. That's why he planted the story. He was hoping to get The Shadow's attention."
"Sounds like he got it," Moe agreed.
"So, what are you going to do?" Margo asked.
The cab pulled up in front of Lamont's mansion. "First," he said, "I'm going inside to clean up and change. Then, I think lunch with my uncle Wainwright would be appropriate." He looked to Margo. "Care to join me?"
"You'd better believe it. I'm not letting you out of my sight."
Lamont smiled, then pulled the red scarf over his face again. The features of his face shifted once more, giving a more menacing profile.
With a flourish of his cloak and the slamming of the cab door, The Shadow had once again vanished.
Margo shook her head. It'll take more than that for you to get away from me, Lamont Cranston, she thought, climbing out and following hot on his heels.
"Now let me get this straight," Police Commissioner Wainwright Barth said as he dug into a plate of pasta at an uptown Italian restaurant. "You're telling me that an old friend of yours suspects there have been murders at Mercy General and the police aren't interested?"
"That's what he said," Lamont replied, punctuating his remark with a sip of chianti.
Wainwright chuckled. "Lamont, if there had been murders at Mercy, we'd have been all over the place. When was the last time you went to Mercy?"
"Last Board of Trustees meeting."
Wainwright shook his head. "Then you know it's not a nice place any more. Not like it used to be. Now, it's wino central. Real shame, too."
"What does the class of patients have to do with whether or not there were murders committed there?" Margo challenged.
"Now, now, Miss Lane. We treat all people equally. It's just that, well, death at a hospital like Mercy isn't all that unusual. Cardiac arrests, drug overdoses, deaths from stabbings or shootings, none of that is unusual for Mercy."
"Hospitals can be murder," Lamont remarked dryly.
"Don't take that tone with me," Wainwright chastised his nephew. "You know we've been busy all over the city. I only have so many men. I can't spend my time chasing heart attacks at Mercy just because someone there thinks they were deliberately caused." He took another bite of pasta. "Besides, if the reports on the news are to be believed, my men are soon going to find The Shadow dying in a dark alley somewhere."
Lamont absently fingered his fire opal ring and cut his eyes toward his uncle. This routine was growing tiresome. You've sent your men on a wild goose chase, he said in The Shadow's voice.
Wainwright shrugged. "Of course, they're probably on a wild goose chase."
The Shadow has not been injured.
"Who could injure The Shadow? You can't even see him."
The news story was a fake...a publicity stunt to attract listeners.
"I'll bet it was a fake. Radio stations are always pulling some kind of publicity stunt to attract listeners."
The murders at Mercy, however, deserve a second look.
"Come to think of it, though, some of those deaths at Mercy should probably get a second look."
You'll call your men back and get someone on it after lunch.
"Tell you what...after lunch, I'll have someone look at the reports again. I won't need those men chasing The Shadow any more."
Satisfied, Lamont took another bite of his linguini.
Margo shivered. The ease with which Lamont could manipulate people was chilling. If she hadn't been told the story of the redemption of Ying Ko, she might not have believed someone with that kind of power would not be using it for evil.
Wainwright suddenly flinched and rubbed his eyes as if he had a terrible headache. "I hate it when that happens," he muttered. "Red wine does it to me every time." He looked over at Lamont. "Where was I?"
"You were about to tell me what you plan to do about the Mercy murders," Lamont offered.
"Oh, yes. Well, it certainly couldn't hurt to have someone take a closer look at the reports. But not because you've influenced me with this fine lunch."
"Uncle Wainwright," Lamont said in his best stung-by-accusation tone. "I would never even think of trying to influence you."
"You are dangerous," Margo scolded as they left the restaurant.
"I thought that was why you liked me," Lamont teased.
"Maybe it is." She smiled. "All right, you've convinced your uncle to open the Mercy cases again--what's next?"
"I think Lamont Cranston is going to pay his old friend a visit. After all, I think one of Mercy General's chief benefactors has a right to know if his money's being spent to commit murder, don't you?"
"It could be dangerous."
"Oh, absolutely. I have no doubt it will be."
"Then I'm coming with you."
"Don't take that tone with me. I'm not your uncle. Your little suggestions don't work on me."
"Be reasonable, Margo. If a murderer is running around Mercy, I certainly don't want you in the middle of it."
"What if I want to be in the middle of it? Lamont, I spent the entire morning wondering if you were dead or alive, and I meant it when I said I wasn't letting you out of my sight. If you're going to Mercy, I'm going with you."
Lamont sighed. There was no sense in arguing with Margo. He'd sooner tangle with Shiwan Khan. Concentrating slightly, he sent for Moe.
Mark LeGrand rubbed his eyes as he dropped into his office chair, trying to make his tension headache go away. Ever since his meeting with The Shadow earlier this morning, he'd found himself glancing over his shoulder constantly. It hadn't helped that the patient load was huge and there seemed to be more paperwork than usual this evening. The blood bank was reporting a shortage again, the police had raided the local morphine den and so there were literally dozens of patients in the general ward, his requests for more staffing had been turned down...all LeGrand wanted to do was make it all go away.
A knock at the door nearly gave him a heart attack. For a moment, he thought The Shadow had returned, then dismissed it. The Shadow, after all, wouldn't need to knock. "Come."
The door opened and Lamont Cranston peeked in. "Got time to visit with the benefactors today, Doctor?"
"Lamont Cranston, as I live and breathe," LeGrand laughed. "Come in, come in." He rose as Lamont and Margo came into the room. "To what do I owe the pleasure? Don't tell me it's time for the next Board of Trustees meeting?"
"No it's not, I'm happy to say." Lamont turned to Margo. "Margo Lane, Dr. Mark LeGrand."
"How do you do?" Margo said with a smile, extending her hand.
"Margo Lane--daughter of Reinhardt Lane?" LeGrand smiled.
"Well, it is my pleasure, Miss Lane. Please, sit down." He gestured to two chairs and sat behind his desk as they took their seats. "What can I do for you?"
"Actually, I was hoping we might be able to do something for you," Lamont offered. "I had lunch with my uncle Wainwright--you know, the Police Commissioner--and he mentioned that the police were looking into some suspicious deaths here at Mercy."
LeGrand mentally breathed a sigh of relief. So The Shadow did do something. "I don't know that I should be talking about this, especially to one of our most illustrious benefactors."
Lamont laughed slightly. "Come on, Mark, you know I'm going to continue to write your checks every quarter. But I'd certainly like to know that money's not being spent on murder."
LeGrand leaned forward. "Are you insinuating someone on my staff is committing murder?"
"I'm merely suggesting that the most obvious person to commit murder in a hospital is not likely a patient."
"And if someone on the staff found out who that person was, they could be in danger," Margo added.
"Which is why I'd like to know what we can do to help," Lamont finished, trying to relax LeGrand. "Do you need added security? Additional funds? What?"
LeGrand leaned back and threw his arms in the air. "If I knew exactly what was going on, I'd take you up on your offer. But I have no idea why these people are being killed. Has anyone told you yet what happened?"
"Not yet. All I know is there have been an inordinate number of cardiac arrests here the past couple of weeks."
"Try the past month. And what's really odd about the whole thing is what brings on the cardiac arrest."
"What?" Margo asked.
"Blood loss. Heavy blood loss."
"So they bleed to death in their beds?"
"No, Miss Lane. Someone or something drains them practically dry cleanly. We haven't found blood anywhere."
Lamont raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like you've been reading too many vampire stories."
"Yeah, I wish we were talking about a vampire. I mean, I know the blood bank is short on blood, but this is ridiculous..."
Something clicked. "What about the blood bank?"
"Oh, there's a chronic blood shortage in this city, and especially here. After all, respectable people don't want to come down and donate to help the local wino community." He tossed the blood bank report to Lamont. "Here, see for yourself. We manage to hang in there for a while, then fall back again..."
Lamont quickly glanced through it. The levels at the bank rose and fell frequently, especially over the last four weeks. "Mark, do any of these dates correspond with the murders?"
LeGrand took back the report. "Let me see...hey, wait a minute...some of these increases do come right after the murders. You don't think..."
"...people are being murdered for their blood? It's entirely possible. Is blood type listed on the death certificate?"
"No, but it's listed in patient files. I could show you where they are."
"Yes, please. I think we may be on to something."
After only a few minutes of examining records, Margo had managed to correlate every death case with increases of the appropriate type blood at the blood bank. "Looks like someone's got quite a racket going," she noted.
"I can't believe it," Mark whispered. "A blood selling ring here?"
"Looks that way," Lamont acknowledged. "Who would have access to patient blood so readily to get it into the blood bank without suspicion?"
"The lab, I suppose, or the nursing staff, or possibly someone from the blood bank itself--they all work closely. But blood draining takes a long time, and requires a large needle. How could we have missed puncture wounds like that?"
"Are any of the bodies still here?"
"Yes. There was one three nights ago. No one's claimed him. He's in the morgue. Tag number's on that death certificate." He pointed to one of the papers.
Lamont scribbled down the number. "I think I need to pay a visit to the morgue. Which way?"
LeGrand pointed down the hall. "Down this hall, then turn left and go down the stairs, then follow that hallway to its end. I'm going to the lab and check records of transactions with the blood bank."
"Good idea. Be careful." With that, Lamont and Margo headed for the morgue.
"What are we looking for?" she asked as they found the drawer with the body in it.
"Any unusual bruising, wounds, stitches, blood spots," Lamont replied. "Like this one." He pointed to a spot on the man's neck just under his ear, closed with a small stitch.
"Eew," Margo said as she came over to look at it. "Looks like somebody sewed up a vampire bite."
"Essentially, that's what they did. This is about the diameter of the needles they use to draw blood for donation."
"So that's how they did it. But you'd think that would be painful."
"My guess is some kind of anesthetic was administered so the victim wouldn't or couldn't cry out..." Lamont suddenly paused, his gaze far away. "Wait a minute...anesthetic...the lab...oh, no..."
"What is it?"
"We have to get to the lab. If I'm right, Mark's just walked into a hornet's nest of trouble. Come on!" He took off running for the stairwell, Margo doing her best to keep up.
By the time they found out where the lab was, it was almost too late. Lamont and Margo barged into the lab to find Mark LeGrand lying in a pool of blood on the floor. A bloodletting needle was jabbed into his neck and blood was pouring out of an IV hose attached to it.
Lamont grabbed the hose and pinched it shut. "Get one of those clamps off the lab bench!" he ordered.
Margo grabbed one and handed it to him. Lamont clamped the hose. "Hold it up," he ordered, handing her the clamped end.
Margo did so. "Is he alive?" she asked.
Lamont felt for LeGrand's pulse. "Barely," he said. "Get a nurse. He'll need surgery and an emergency transfusion--he's lost a lot of blood."
Margo handed him back the hose and ran out the door.
Lamont looked around for clues, trying to figure out what happened here. He saw a file cabinet opened and papers strewn from it. He saw a knocked-over chemistry set, and a hastily opened drawer. LeGrand must have run into someone in here who didn't want him to find what he must have found. One of the papers lying on the floor was a blood bank transaction sheet from earlier in the year; Lamont guessed more of those reports were in this room somewhere.
Margo returned with a nurse and several orderlies. With Lamont's help, they lifted LeGrand onto a gurney, and the nurse and orderlies hurried out the door so fast there was barely time to ask anyone any questions.
"What now?" Margo asked. "Why would someone do this?"
"My guess is Mark found something he wasn't supposed to." Lamont picked up a sheet of paper off the floor. "Like this."
"'Blood Bank Transaction Receipt'," she read.
"And I'll bet there are more in this room, or at least some paperwork to keep the health inspectors at bay." He gestured to the file cabinet. "See what you can find."
"Where are you going?"
"I think it's time to blend into the shadows."
Margo nodded, then turned to the open file cabinet drawer.
The overhead lights snapped off, and a strange chill filled the room. She turned around.
Nothing. Lamont was gone. The Shadow had taken his place, and he was projecting his non-presence hypnotic suggestion very strongly. The fact that she couldn't see him frustrated Margo immensely. She could feel his presence, sense his thoughts, but could not push past the mental block he had forced into her head--and that was saying something, considering most of his hypnotic suggestions had little or no effect on her. "Where are you?" she whispered.
I'm still here, Margo. He brushed the hair on the back of her neck. Margo couldn't help but flinch. I'm keeping an eye on the doorway. I have an odd feeling our killer may return...especially if he learns his victim was rescued.
Margo shivered slightly. "Now I know what you meant by dangerous."
Don't talk to me, Margo. Remember, I'm not here.
She nodded, then resumed reading the files, squinting at the small print in the dim light coming from the hallway.
Suddenly, she saw it...a receipt dated just a few hours after one of the first victims was pronounced dead, signed by lab technician Leo Walters and blood bank representative Mason Freeman. "Nice price," she noted, looking at the cost per unit notation on one side of it.
Indeed. The police will need that.
Quickly, she pulled it out and slipped it into her purse.
Close the drawer--someone's coming.
Margo tried to stuff the papers back in as best she could and slammed the drawer shut just as a man walked in the room and snapped on the overhead lights.
The man looked at her incredulously. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.
"I...I was looking for Dr. LeGrand," she replied nervously.
"Well, he's not here. But I think you know that." The man stepped closer. The tag on his smock read "Walters". "I think you were looking for the same thing he was."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Margo said, backing away and looking around frantically.
"I think you do. I'll probably find one of my blood receipts missing if I look in my drawer. LeGrand's problem was he was way too concerned about the right way to do things. Most of these people are only good for filling coffins and blood banks."
Margo kept looking around. Lamont...where are you?
"Who are you looking for? There's no one here but you and me. I wonder what type of blood you have..."
The lights suddenly went out again. Mocking laughter filled the room, coming from every corner.
Margo breathed a sigh of relief.
"Who's there?" Walters demanded. "Who?"
More laughter. You killed poor and indigent patients and sold their blood for profit, Leo Walters.
Walters now looked unnerved. "Come out and fight!"
You stabbed Mark LeGrand in the neck because he was on to you. Did you think you'd get away with it?
"Who are you?"
Did you really think I wouldn't find out?
Walters looked around frantically. The voice seemed to be coming from everywhere. It couldn't be..."No! I don't believe it! The Shadow doesn't exist!"
I'm right here.
Walters was flung backward, as if struck by a fist.
The moment he got to his feet again, another punch crashed him into a supply cabinet. He reached into it and grabbed another bloodletting needle and hose. Swinging wildly, he stabbed at the direction the last punch had come from.
A foot kicked him hard from behind and crashed him to the floor.
Margo took the break in the action as an excuse to dash for the door. As she did, she slipped on the blood and fell hard on her backside, crying out in pain.
Walters took advantage of her injury and dove toward her. He put the needle to her neck and shouted into the air, "I swear I'll drain her dry right here!"
If you so much as put a pinprick on her, I will tear you limb from limb.
"Nice try, Shadow, but you can't fool me. Obviously, the dame means something to you. Well, come and get her!" With that, he kicked over a shelf of chemicals.
The shelf bounced off something and Walters heard a thud. Satisfied, he dragged Margo from the room.
"Mr. Cranston? Are you all right?"
Lamont felt hands on his body, taking his pulse and examining wounds, and opened his eyes slowly. It took a moment for his brain to process that he'd lost consciousness, that he'd stopped clouding his image. It was a good thing people had seen him in the hospital earlier, or he'd have a lot of explaining to do. It was also a good thing that he'd not had time to change into The Shadow's clothes, or he'd have even more explaining to do...and explanations were not something he had time for.
Lamont took a quick look around and assessed the situation. He was still on the floor of the lab, surrounded by broken glass and spilled chemicals and a nurse and an orderly. Margo and Walters were gone. He could hear Margo's screams in his head.
He brushed off the caretakers around him and looked himself over quickly. Other than a pounding headache, it looked as if his Brooks Brothers suit had taken the worst of the mess, with stains, burns, and tears from glass shards. Only minor cuts and scrapes covered his hands, and he could feel blood trickling down his right cheek. But his own injuries were the least of his concerns. "Where's Miss Lane?" he demanded.
"I don't know," the nurse told him. "We heard a struggle and came in. You were the only one we found."
"She's been kidnapped," he pronounced. "Call the police. Tell them the Mercy Murderer is Leo Walters and Margo Lane has the proof."
"What?" The nurse looked incredulous. "That can't be--Leo's always been a model hospital employee, working odd hours and off shifts that no one else wanted..."
Call the police. Tell them the Mercy Murderer is Leo Walters and Margo Lane has the proof and you saw him drag her away. Get them here immediately.
The nurse's thoughts seemed to shift suddenly. "I'd better call the police," she said, hurrying away.
Lamont hated using his powers in the open, but there was no time for care. He would deal with planting hypnotic suggestions to forget about his part in this later. He turned to the orderly. Which way to the blood bank?
The orderly pointed out the door of the lab. "Out the door, turn right, go to the end of the hall and out the side doors. The blood bank is in the clinic next door."
You'd better go outside and wait for the police. Make sure you send them to the blood bank because that's where Leo Walters has taken Margo Lane.
The orderly stood up suddenly. "I'd better wait outside for the police." He hurried out the door as well.
Lamont got up stiffly. Every fiber in his body ached, and his head spun. But Margo's life was at stake, and only The Shadow could find her. Concentrating, he cast his mind-clouding suggestion as wide as he could and hurried out of the lab.
Down the hall, deep in the shadows, a door seemed to open and close by itself. The Shadow was about to strike.
"Get over there," Walters ordered as he practically threw Margo onto a donor bed deep inside the blood bank, then closed the door behind him.
"You won't get away with this," Margo retorted, trying to sound braver than she felt at that moment. "The Shadow will come after you."
"Good. I'd love to draw blood from an invisible man. Wonder if you could even see it as it came out?" He reached into his pockets and produced a syringe and a bottle of medication.
"What's that?" Margo asked, afraid of the answer.
"A fast-working anesthetic. It keeps the blood draining from being so painful. Of course, I can't give you too much; then, the blood's no good. But it doesn't take much to render you nearly paralyzed." He filled the syringe with a small but menacing-looking dose. "Don't worry, my dear, you won't feel a thing."
Margo tried to back away and off the bed, realizing how confining the room was. She tried to circle around this crazed man and work her way toward the door. Lamont...where are you...help!
Desperate, she dove for the door--and felt a sharp jab into her shoulder. Then her whole body began to go numb and she slumped to the floor. "What have you done?" she said, trying to make her mouth form the words.
"Don't struggle," Walters ordered. "It only makes it worse." He lifted her limp body and laid it on the bed. "Now, that will take a few minutes to take effect. That should give me enough time to get enough bottles to drain your blood." He winked at her. "Don't go anywhere."
As he left the room, he could not hear the words Margo was whispering so desperately:
"Lamont...help me, Lamont..."
The screams in his head suddenly stopped. The Shadow froze in place. Something had happened to Margo, something terrible, and he had no idea where in this blasted clinic Walters had taken her. No doors were labeled with what they were, and no directory existed in the building. He'd been reduced to opening and closing doors frantically, and he was running out of time. Only one person could help him find Margo now, and that was Margo herself.
He concentrated every ounce of his telepathic powers on one name: Margo.
Margo couldn't even move her hands to see if she could still see in front of her face. Her body felt like it weighed a ton, and she couldn't sit up if she tried. The room began to swim, everything began to blur together...
The sound of his voice in her head rejuvenated her. "Lamont...," she whispered.
Don't talk. Think. Focus on my voice and help me find you.
Think. Now that was a funny one. She could barely stay awake, much less focus coherent thought...
Yes, you can. I can hear you, but just barely. Where are you?
She tried to remember. A room...one of the donor rooms...
Front or back of the building?
The back, I think...we came a long way inside...
Picture your route. Draw me a mental picture. I need to see what you saw to find you. Help me, Margo.
Margo tried to get an organized picture of the route in her mind, but the drug was beginning to affect her ability to concentrate. There was a room number on the door, and she tried to remember it...
Apparently, she'd remembered enough. That's it, Margo. I'm on my way.
She barely managed to sigh with relief. Lamont...I can't move...he gave me some kind of drug...
Try to stay awake. I'll keep talking to you. You've got to fight it.
I'm almost there.
The doorknob turned. Margo tried to force her eyes to focus on the door.
The door opened. No one was there. Tears rolled down Margo's cheeks.
Suddenly, strong arms were cradling her head and torso. Her eyes unclouded to see Lamont holding her, his expression filled with both relief and worry. "Lamont..." she whispered.
Don't talk. Think. Save your strength. He took her pulse. I've got to get you out of here...you need medical treatment...
"What the...?" came a voice from the doorway.
Lamont looked toward the sound quickly. He cursed himself for not keeping his guard up--now, Leo Walters was staring right at him, damaged clothes and all. And, unless he missed his guess, Walters was putting together the pieces of the puzzle quickly.
He hadn't missed it. "Wait a minute...I dumped those chemicals on The Shadow," Walters realized. "That means you're The Shadow!"
"Don't think you'll get to tell anyone that," Lamont snapped. "The police will be here any minute...and I can make you forget your own name in even less time."
"Guess that means I'd better make sure you don't get the chance." He drew the syringe and bottle out of his pocket and measured off a large dose of medication.
Margo's eyes widened. Lamont...that's what he gave me...it's fatal in large doses...
Lamont looked at Walters, fury in his eyes. "That's how you intend to finish us off? With that?"
"Yep. Rest assured you won't feel a thing as your heart stops beating." He started toward the couple.
The rage in Lamont's eyes burned brightly. There was no way this worthless slug was going to get away with this. Stop right there, The Shadow's voice boomed.
Against his will, Walters stopped.
You're a disgrace to medicine. You couldn't even deal with the pain and suffering you caused your victims. You used a drug on them while you stole their life fluids just so you could make a profit on their suffering. You're a coward.
Walters began to shiver. The Shadow's voice echoed inside his head. It was almost deafening.
You're a coward.
"I am not!" he shouted, trying to make himself believe it.
You're a coward. You're afraid to be caught. You won't be caught. They won't take you alive.
He held his ears. "Get out of my head!"
You're a coward. You're afraid of me. You could paralyze me and I could still tear your mind apart.
And when I get through with you, you'll wish you had a drug to take away your pain!
"You won't get the chance!" He jabbed the needle into his own thigh and pressed the plunger.
Wicked laughter filled his ears. Coward.
Walters started to say something, then his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed to the floor.
Lamont sighed in frustration. Ying Ko would have been proud of the way he'd manipulated Walters into taking his own life. But driving a man to his death brought no pleasure to The Shadow...even a man as worthless as Leo Walters.
The sound of sirens outside and footsteps in the hall brought him back to the present. I've got to go, he told Margo.
Don't leave me...
I'll be near. Kissing her forehead, he laid her back on the bed, then laid her open purse out in the open, where the police would be certain to find it, and pulled the tracking receipt out slightly so it would be noticed.
By the time the police found Margo lying motionless on the bed, The Shadow was nowhere to be found.
Hours later, Margo felt sleep releasing its hold on her. Her body ached from laying so still for so long, her skin felt cold and clammy, and her muscles felt like jelly. She tried to move.
Easy. Lie still.
She opened her eyes to see Lamont sitting by her bedside, holding her hand. "Lamont..."
Sh-h. Don't talk. Think. Save your strength.
She tried to swallow, but her mouth was so dry she couldn't. Lamont dabbed a damp cloth on her lips.
Thanks, she thought. Are we safe?
Yes. Walters is dead. The police have Freeman in custody as an accessory. The doctors think you'll be fine.
He's in bad shape. He'd lost a lot of blood, plus he'd been given a dose of the paralyzer. If he lives through the night, they say he stands a good chance of making it.
She tried to reach for the cut on his cheek, but her hands refused to cooperate. Your face...
Just a scratch. I'm fine. He squeezed her hand. I thought I'd lost you.
But you didn't.
He shook his head. I feel terrible that you're in this bed. I made you take a foolish risk. I should have sent you away and looked through those files myself...
And if you'd tried, I would have ignored you as usual. I'm not some delicate flower, Lamont. I can take care of myself. I just should have been more careful of that puddle of blood.
Margo, what I do is dangerous...
...which is all the more reason you need me. Somebody's got to keep an eye on you. You're too dangerous to be left alone.
He found himself smiling. Am I ever going to win this argument with you?
Nope. We're in this together. We have been ever since that Peking Duck dinner in Chinatown when you complimented me on my dress. And when I get out of this bed, I'm going to be stuck to you like glue.
Somehow, I think I might like that. He kissed her hand and stroked her hair as she drifted off to sleep.
Mark LeGrand had made remarkable strides in just two days. From a man lying in a medical lab on the verge of bleeding to death, he'd rallied to enough stability to be moved from Intensive Care to a private room. And he had to admire the way the staff was carrying on in the midst of this mess. The nurses especially had been quite good; the night nurse attending him tonight had done a bang-up job putting a fresh dressing on his neck, then quietly fluffed his pillow and turned out the light in his room for the night. Now LeGrand could finally get some sleep and some respite from the endless questioning by police, reporters, and concerned friends...
Wake up, Doctor.
That voice...no, he was dreaming. He wasn't really hearing anything...
No use pretending you don't hear me. I know better.
Yes, he was hearing something. He opened his eyes. Of course, no one was there. "Shadow?" he whispered.
You look much better than you did the last time I saw you. Much less blood, and no needle in your neck.
LeGrand was confused. "You found me? But I thought they said Lamont Cranston found me..."
Who do you think sent Cranston up there? He was down in the morgue when you were stabbed.
"How do you know all this?"
A laugh. The Shadow knows.
"I'd heard that." LeGrand took a deep breath. "I guess I owe you my life."
That's right, Dr. LeGrand. I've saved your life. It now belongs to me.
LeGrand wasn't so sure he liked the sound of that. "What does that mean?"
Just what I said. There are others whose lives I've saved. You've already met some of them. You will meet more. All of my agents have the same mission: Helping me and each other whenever any of us are need.
LeGrand nodded, though in truth this was one of the most confusing things he'd ever heard. "How will I know what to do?"
If I should require your help, you'll know it. No need to ask how--just know that you will. If one of my agents requires your help, they will approach you and say to you, "The sun is shining." You must answer, "But the ice is slippery." If you answer in this way, you will be known to each other. You will then do anything they ask, because you share the same mission. Do you understand?
LeGrand nodded again, still confused. "The sun is shining..."
...but the ice is slippery. Very good. One of my agents will be by later to explain the rest to you.
Later, Doctor. Sleep now. Someday, I may actually need you to remove a bullet from my arm.
The door to the room opened, and the night nurse came back in. "Thought I heard voices," she said, turning on the light over his bed and smoothing his covers. "Everything all right?"
LeGrand looked around the room quickly. There wasn't enough light to discern everything in the room, but he couldn't see his mysterious visitor anywhere. He was quite certain The Shadow had slipped past the nurse when she opened the door. No need for him to stick around any more, he supposed. "I must have been dreaming," he replied as she took his pulse.
"Really?" The nurse made a couple of remarks on his chart. "The sun is shining."
LeGrand's eyes widened. "B-but the ice is slippery."
"Good, you did remember. I tried to tell him you were still a little out of it, but he thought that might make it sink in a little better."
"Then you're one of his agents?"
She pulled a fire opal ring out of her pocket and slipped it onto his right ring finger. "I'm just a person who owes him their life...like you." She tapped the ring with her pen. "Don't ever take that off. And always make sure you identify yourself to someone else with one." She pointed to her own ring on her own right hand. "There's more, but you're tired. We'll talk in the morning."
This was all too much to believe. LeGrand looked stunned. "How many of us are there?"
She shrugged. "Only he knows." Then she put the chart back on the bed, turned out the over-bed light, and left LeGrand alone once more.
The room was filled with shadows. Somehow, LeGrand found that comforting.