A Shadow Short Story By Kimberly Murphy-Smith

[Author's Note: The characterizations in this story are based on the 1994 movie The Shadow...KAM]

The smell of percolating coffee awoke Margo Lane on a June morning that was already hot and muggy. She sat up in bed and frowned. It was the morning after one of the rare nights that Margo spent in her own bed any more; The Shadow had been out very late last night, and Lamont had called her across town to encourage her not to wait up for him. Coffee normally didn't brew itself, so Margo reached out her mind to find out who was in her house cooking breakfast.

Lamont Cranston's quick-working mind, complete with non-stop internal dialogue thought patterns, touched her mind in response. As usual, about a million things were swirling through Lamont's mind, but there was also a reflective pressure there that indicated some of his thoughts were being shielded by his internal defenses. And that made Margo curious. In the six months since her psychic awakening, Margo had gained an incredible amount of control over her receptive side, to the point where she could pinpoint specific thoughts from specific individuals with no more effort than it took to remember a shopping list. But the projective aspects of telepathy still eluded her. Strengthening exercises served only to give her a headache instead of allow her to communicate with her mind, and that frustrated her...especially when Lamont turned on his psychic defenses and deflected her prying thoughts away with no more effort that it would take to shoo away a fly.

Margo climbed out of bed and sashed her robe, then headed down the stairs, her curiosity still running high.

She found Lamont in the kitchen, cutting up some fresh fruit and flipping pancakes. "A man slaving over a hot stove, cooking for a woman," she commented. "I could get used to this."

Lamont turned and gave her a smile. "Well, I didn't see any reason for my late hours last night to prevent us from greeting the morning together." He gestured to the dining room.

Margo strolled past him, exchanged a quick kiss, then headed for the dining room.

The table was already set, and a half-dozen red roses sat in a vase on the table. "You are either a hopeless romantic, or you have something to confess," she said.

Lamont came into the dining room, set out a bowl of fresh fruit, and poured coffee. "And what makes you say that?" he replied.

"Because you're shielding your thoughts from me. And that means you're either plotting something or you're trying to keep something from me. And I'm inclined to think the latter, because everytime I pull a little harder against your mind, you turn up the pressure."

He sighed. "You know me too well."

"You're right. I know you're stalling now, trying to find a way around this little discovery of mine."

His mood darkened considerably. "I might as well have a cover and gold leaf...because you can read me like a book." He gestured to her chair. "Sit down."

She sat as he went back into the kitchen. "This must be serious."

"It is." He returned with a platter of pancakes and a pair of pitchers with melted butter and heated syrup in them. He served her a stack of pancakes, served himself one, then sat across from her and sighed.

Margo pushed the vase of flowers aside so they could look each other in the eye. The darkness in his thoughts right now was frightening. "Lamont, what is it?"

He frowned and looked frustrated. "Nick DiSanto and Bonnie DeMarco broke jail last night."

Margo gasped. Bonnie DeMarco was an old friend who'd engineered an insurance scam that The Shadow broke up last year. Nick DiSanto was her fiance...and a mob hired hand who'd murdered the insurance adjuster who wanted too big a cut from the action. "Oh, no..."

Lamont nodded. "And it looks like they had help. Whoever sprung them took care of the guards, the transportation, everything. Two separate escapes at two separate prisons almost simultaneously...carefully engineered by some outsider who wanted to make sure they both escaped together."

"Nick's mob connections?"

"Possibly. I've got agents on the case now. I'm more concerned about your safety than their escape. If their escape was this carefully engineered, someone has found a way to protect them from outsiders. Which tells me that they're after something."


He nodded. "Or me, but using you as bait. After all, what better way to get to Lamont Cranston and his millions than through his beloved fiancee?"

"You're right." She looked alarmed. "What are we going to do?"

"Well, for starters, I am not letting you out of my sight today." He forced a smile and served himself some of the fruit, then passed her the bowl. "So enjoy your breakfast, my dear, because you and I are about to get a taste of married life a bit early."

Margo dished out some fruit. "I hope you brought your walking shoes. I have a million things to do today."

"They can wait."

She raised an eyebrow. "No, they can't. We're getting married in two weeks. I have a meeting with the caterer, then with the florist, then I have a dress fitting..."

"They can wait." His tone was firmer this time.

Margo frowned. "No, Lamont, they can't. Weddings take time and a lot of coordination. With just two weeks to go, I've got a million things to do and they won't get done just sitting around here."

Lamont blew out a long, slow breath. The last thing he wanted was to start an argument over this. But he hadn't expected such resistance. "Margo, be reasonable. Running around town exposes you to a risk that I will not allow you to take..."

"Will not allow me?" Margo looked indignant. "Lamont, I am not just another agent you can order around, and I am not some porcelain doll you can keep on a shelf! Is this the way you intend to treat me when we are married?"

"Don't take that tone with me..."

"No, don't you take that tone with me!"

Lamont bit back a harsh retort. He was going to hold his temper if it was the last thing he did. "You're being childish."

"No, you're being domineering. I am more than willing to let you be the grand protector, but I have things to do today. And that's that."

"Oh, I see. I'm supposed to trail along behind you in the shadows and wait for someone to snatch you off the street or take a shot at you just so you won't be inconvenienced."

Margo looked annoyed. "Now you're being childish. That is not what I said..."

"No, but it's what you meant."

"And just how do you know? Did you read my mind?"

The taunting tone in her voice was almost more than Lamont could take. He forced his anger down. "I can, you know."

She laughed derisively. "Oh, yes, I know. Any second now, I expect to feel my thoughts being manipulated so that I'll fall at your feet and apologize like a good little girl."

It took everything Lamont had not to lose his temper. "You know I would never do that to you."

Another laugh. "Of course not. You're far more subtle than that with me. Why tinker with my mind when you can feed me breakfast or shower me with roses to charm me?"

That was it. Lamont could take no more. He hurled his napkin aside and stormed out of the room, then out the front door.

Margo heard the slamming of the door, then tossed her napkin aside and rubbed her temples. Stupid, she derided herself. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why did I do that?

She felt a rush of psychic energy and heard the sound of shattering glass outside. Alarmed, she raced for her front window.

Lamont was standing outside the door, rubbing his temples. The remnants of a glass liquor bottle were scattered on the sidewalk near him. And the vibrations from a hard burst of telekinetic energy could still be felt in the air.

She opened the front door and looked outside. "Need a broom?" she called.

He turned around and sighed. "Probably."

She fetched the broom and dustpan from the closet and carried it down to him, looking around at the shards of glass on the sidewalk. "At least you didn't blow out my car windows."

He chuckled as he took the broom and swept the broken glass into a pile. "No, I made sure I aimed away from your car. No sense in giving you any more reasons to be angry with me."

She bent over and positioned the dustpan next to the pile. "As if I had a reason to be in the first place."

He swept the pile into the dustpan. "Why don't we start this discussion over again?"

"As long as we don't end up in the same spot as we are now." She stood up and sighed. "I'm sorry, Lamont..."

He put a finger to her lips. "No, I'm sorry. You're right. I am domineering. But all I want to do is protect you. Your life is in danger. Until I know what's going on, you need to stay somewhere safe. And all those tasks on your 'to-do' list can wait. We can get married anytime...but only if you're still alive."

She nodded, then embraced him. "I'm so scared..."

"I know." He kissed the top of her head. "Let's go back inside, and I'll make breakfast again. Those pancakes are probably cold."

"I don't care." She squeezed him tighter.

"Careful, darling," he teased. "Don't spill that glass."

She saw the dustpan teetering on the brink of spilling its contents and straightened it out, then laughed.

They headed back into the house hand-in-hand.

Bonnie DeMarco stepped out of the shower and sighed luxuriously. It felt so good to be clean and pampered again. Prison was no place for a woman, she decided. She wasn't sure why Nick's old boss had sprung the two of them, but if it allowed her a chance to get even with Margo Lane, so much the better. Bonnie had survived worse conditions. She could survive this--and maybe even come out on top.

A knock at the door to the hotel room where she'd been put up for the night got her attention. She wrapped a towel around herself and eased over to the door, peering out the peephole.

Nick DiSanto looked back.

She opened the door quickly. "Get in here before somebody sees you," she chided.

He came into her room. "Relax," he urged. "This is Mob Haven. Nobody's gonna even notice us."

She closed the door. "Yeah, well, I don't know these people like you do. So sue me if I'm more than a little nervous. What did the boss say?"

"He said that they're making arrangements now. We should be able to get out of here and into a protected flat anytime now."

"I don't like waiting. I'd rather make my move on Margo Lane now."

"Doll, I don't get it. What are you going to do to the dame that you couldn't get one of the boss' goons to do?"

"Make her suffer." She smiled deviously. "Make her suffer, make her sugar daddy Lamont Cranston pay big bucks to get her back, then do them both. And then blow this joint with the rest of my money and his."

Nick looked skeptical. "You realize the boss sprung us for a reason. He didn't spring us to let you fulfil some revenge fantasy."

"That's his problem. In case you haven't figured it out, I play by no one's rules but my own. Do you really want to go back to two-bit hit contracts?"

"You already know the answer to that."

"Then let's make some alternate arrangements. Get the phone book."

Nick picked up the phone book. "Want me to look up her address?"

She smiled even more deviously. "Not exactly. I think we should send the happy couple a congratulatory gift, don't you think?"

Nick nodded, then followed Bonnie's train of thought. He flipped through the directory, then handed it to her and pointed to a listing.

She dropped onto the bed and nodded her approval at his choice, then picked up the phone.

Push, Margo.

Margo concentrated on pushing her thoughts outward, trying to loosen Lamont's grip on her psyche. They stood at arm's length in the living room, engaged in what looked to be a staredown contest...but was instead a psychic defense and strengthening exercise. And, as usual, Margo was losing ground. She knew Lamont wasn't even breaking a mental sweat, and it was taking everything she had to keep the smothering projective energy surrounding her psyche from overwhelming her. The pressure was so intense, she felt like she was going to pass out.

Don't drop back. You're not that tired. Push.

She frowned. "I'm trying," she snapped.

No talking. Push.

She gritted her teeth and concentrated on pushing outward again.

The pressure surrounding her psyche tightened. Come on, Margo. Put that anger to work. Push me out.

She shook from concentrating so hard...then her legs buckled and she started to drop to the floor.

Lamont was quick to catch her. "Easy, love." He carried her to the sofa and laid her down.

She gasped for breath and rubbed her temples. "Oh, God, that's hard. The Tulku really made you do this for three weeks?"

Lamont smiled. "The Tulku wouldn't even consider that an opening shot. But yes, I did this for three weeks non-stop before I broke through." He sat down next to her.

She leaned against him, exhausted. "You must have had some incredible headaches."

"It took hours to undo the damage every night." He massaged her temples. "Need some help?"


He swept into her mind easily, sending a swirling wave of projective energy through her psyche, pushing outward against the implosive pressure of incoming thoughts caused by her extreme receptive nature.

Margo felt the swirling, then a brief swelling before the pressure popped, like a bubble. The pain began to drain away. "Thanks." Then, she looked at him. "Did I last longer than I have before?"

He nodded. "A lot longer than before. You've gotten pretty good at equalizing the pressure. But you still have to learn how to force it outward." A smile. "But that will come. I'll let you rest while I fix lunch." He kissed her forehead, then got up from the couch and headed for the kitchen.

"What's on the menu, garcon?" she teased.

Lamont looked in Margo's cupboard. "Ah, Madamoiselle," he responded in an exaggerated French accent, "today's special is tuna salad on white bread, with a side of fruit salad."

Margo grimaced. "I know. The cupboard's pretty bare. But I'm almost never home for meals any more, so I don't keep a lot of food on hand."

"Well, in two weeks, you'll have an entire kitchen staff to shop and cook for you." He opened the can and fished through the refrigerator for items to add to the salad.

She shook her head. "I have never had servants before. I'll probably drive them crazy trying to help out."

"Don't worry. They're used to it." He chuckled. "When I get too tense, I either scrub floors or cook. My staff couldn't survive working for me if they weren't used to the master of the house doing their jobs at times." He pulled out some celery and pickles and fished through the cabinets for a cutting board.

"Cabinet by the stove, on the left."

Lamont smiled. "Thank you. Am I thinking that loudly?"

"No. My mind's just really keyed up for some reason. Probably because I was pushing so hard."

"Probably. Even I was receptive after a long day of being pushed around by The Tulku." He got out the board and began chopping celery quickly, dicing through an entire stalk in seconds.

Margo came into the kitchen and raised an eyebrow. "Remind me not to get you angry when you have a knife in your hand."

Lamont laughed. "I learned that skill from one of my chefs. He could chop through a pound of carrots in about a minute. Comes in handy when I get in very late and want something to eat." He scraped the celery into a bowl, then fished out a couple of pickle spears from a nearly-empty jar and chopped them.

The doorbell rang. "Wonder who that could be?" Margo asked, starting toward the door.

Lamont quickly grabbed her arm. "Don't open it. Reach out and find out who's there."

She concentrated. "A delivery man. With flowers for me." She smiled. "Oh, Lamont, you shouldn't have..."

"I didn't." Lamont frowned. "Stay here. I'll answer it." He headed for the door, then opened it. "Yes?" he asked the man standing there.

"Is there a Margo Lane here?" the delivery man asked in response.

"Yes. I'm her husband."

The delivery man looked at the delivery slip. "It says 'Miss Lane' on here."

"We just got married. Must be from someone who didn't know my name."

The delivery man shrugged. "Hope you're not the jealous type." He handed Lamont a long floral box.

Lamont opened the box.

A dozen long-stemmed roses--minus their blossoms--greeted his gaze.

"Something wrong, Mister?" the delivery man asked, noticing Lamont's frown.

Lamont looked at the delivery man, dark rage in his eyes. Who sent these? The Shadow's voice demanded.

The delivery man stood frozen, trapped by The Shadow's hypnotic spell. "I don't know," he whispered. "I just deliver 'em...I don't pack 'em."

Don't lie to me!

A tug against Lamont's psyche got his attention. He's telling the truth, Margo's mind told him. He really doesn't know. Besides, you know he can't lie to you.

Lamont took a deep breath, then released his hold on the delivery man.

The delivery man looked faint for a moment, then shook his head to clear it. "Man, it's hot out here," he muttered. "Anyway, Mister, hope your wife likes the flowers."

Lamont offered a tight smile. "Thank you," he said, snatching the delivery slip out of the man's hands and closing the door before the other man could react.

Margo looked at the rose stems. "From Bonnie?" she guessed.

"Probably a good guess." Lamont examined the delivery slip. "Mandrake Florists, Queens. The question is, did she call them in or order them in person?"

"Is there a card?"

Lamont found one in the box and handed it to Margo.

Margo opened it. "Getting married can be dangerous," she read. "Don't lose your head."

"Is that Bonnie's handwriting?"

Margo shook her head. "So she probably called them in. But did she call them in to the closest florist, or is there some kind of message here we're missing?"

Lamont's expression tightened. "The message is that she knows where you live and is showing you she can get to you without any real effort. Which means we need to get out of here."

"And go where?"

"My place." Lamont sent a quick dispatch to Moe. "We'll leave your car here, in case anyone's done something interesting to it."

"But will your place be any safer?"

"As long as Russell doesn't open the security gates for strangers. Pack a bag. You may have to stay a while."

"Lovely." She sighed. "Is this what married life with The Shadow is going to be like?"

"Hopefully not for much longer. I'll drop you off, then head downtown. The Shadow has work to do."

She looked shaky. "Hold me."

He took her in his arms and held her close. "I swear I will protect you...with my life, if I have to."

She tightened her grip around him. "Don't do that. We can't get married if you're dead, either."

They rocked in each other's arms for a long time, trying to find safety in the threatening world around them.

Bonnie had just finished twisting her hair into a rolled bun and was starting on her makeup when a knock at the door sounded. She peered through the peephole.

Nick was back. But this time, mob boss Salvatore Viscuso and a couple of his hired thugs were with him.

Bonnie sighed. Time to make nice to the benefactor. She opened the door. "Gentlemen," she greeted with a heavy dose of mock-politeness.

The quartet of men entered the room and closed the door. "I take it you find your accommodations acceptible, Miss DeMarco?" Viscuso asked.

"Oh, of course," Bonnie replied. "It's a definite upgrade from those slabs they call beds in the pink house."

"Good." He turned a firm gaze toward her. "But I'm afraid I will have to ask you to stay off the phone from now on. The police often tap into the phones here, and I would hate for them to find you so soon after I arranged for your safe passage."

She gave a tight smile. "Looks like the police aren't the only ones who listen to phone calls around here."

"Doll, please," Nick warned.

"No, no, Nicky," Viscuso said with an oily smile. "A feisty woman can be a valuable long as she understands her role."

"And just what is my role?" Bonnie asked, annoyed.

"Bonnie...," Nick said, this time a little firmer.

"Nicky, shut up. I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to Mr. Big here." She turned to Viscuso. "Let's drop the polite act. You sprung us for a reason. What is it?"

Viscuso gestured toward the bed. "Sit down, Miss DeMarco."

"I think I'll stand."

Viscuso snapped his fingers.

One of his goons gave her a shove onto the bed. "Hey!" she protested.

"Keep your mouth shut," Viscuso warned. "Need I remind you that you are only free on my good graces?"

Bonnie frowned, but held her tongue and glared at Viscuso.

"As I understand things, The Shadow put you in prison," Viscuso began.

"With a little help from a so-called friend," Bonnie replied.

"Ah, yes. The lovely Margo Lane, fiancee of New York's richest bachelor, Lamont Cranston. But she was not the one who called the police. And she was not the one who so abused Nicky that he broke his arm. That was the scourge of the underworld known as The Shadow. And that is who you need to focus your venom on."

"Do you deny their obvious connection? She was working for him. And I'd bet money Cranston is, too."

"Then you would, perhaps, like to get even with all three of them?"

That got Bonnie's attention. She forced herself to stay calm and looked right at Viscuso. "And just what did you have in mind?"

Viscuso smiled tightly. Nothing like appealing to greed. "First, we move you into a protected residence, away from here. No sense in drawing too much attention to this fine establishment. Then, we give you transportation. Then, you abduct Margo Lane."

Bonnie smiled. So far, she and Viscuso were exactly on the same lines. "And then?"

"Then, you extort a huge ransom from Cranston, with a warning not to call the cops. Cranston, being the concerned fiance he is, will contact his friend The Shadow for assistance in finding his beloved Margo. The Shadow will probably try to set a trap with Cranston's money. But when he tries to spring it, our boys will be there to plug him and get the money. Then you do Margo Lane. We take care of ditching the bodies, then we split the money. You take your share of the bounty to start life over again somewhere far away, and everybody's happy."

Nick looked skeptical. "Suppose Cranston doesn't want to come up with the money."

Bonnie scoffed. "To save his beloved Margo? Cranston would give his right arm. Did you see the picture in the paper a couple of months back of that rock he gave her? That rock says he'd drop a cool mil to save her without batting an eye." She turned to Viscuso. "But that leaves a loose end. What do we do about Cranston?"

Viscuso shrugged. "Nothing. He'll be so overcome with grief that he won't be able to function. And by the time he gets himself together and contacts the police, you will be long gone."

Now it was Bonnie's turn to look skeptical. "And what if he's more together than you think?"

"Leave that to us. We have our share of contacts in the police department." An oily smile. "So, Miss DeMarco, you'd better get ready. Our boys should have your protected residence ready soon. You'll be taken there, and the plan can get underway. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have business to take care of." He turned to Nick. "See to it that she hurries along. You know how women are."

It was all Bonnie could do not to slap Viscuso's face as the smug crime boss left the room.

Nick looked down at Bonnie. "You know, babe," he said, "the boss doesn't like smart-mouthed women. You're lucky he let you get by with so much."

"Lucky nothing," she said. "He needs us. He's setting us up to take a fall. Which means we need to get our own escape plans in order."

"Whatcha got in mind?"

"When we get set up in our 'protected place', you need to get to the bank and get Bob Marcus' money. With any luck, the police didn't impound our pseudonym's account and we'll be able to get at our little nest egg."

"O.K., then what?"

"Then we follow Viscuso's plan...up to the point where we split the money. That's when we take care of the goons and make our own split."

"What if Cranston doesn't come up with the money?"

"So much the better. It'll make Viscuso's goons mad, they'll get into it with The Shadow, and we may not have to do anything at all."

Nick looked impressed. "You are one devious broad."

"That's right, Nicky. I'm the're the brawn. Let's keep it that way, and we'll be able to get out of this with our lives and a lot more."

Nick looked at her sharply. "This better work."

"Don't worry, Nicky. Remember, Viscuso would rather talk than actually do anything. We've got him right where we want him." She stood up. "Now, let's get packed. After all, you know how women are."

Nick stood next to her. "Do I ever." He drew her into a deep, fiery kiss.

Lamont exited Moe's cab and walked in the front door of Mandrake Florists. A visit to The Sanctum to find out the latest on Bonnie and Nick from Burbank had been relatively fruitless; whoever was protecting them was doing a good job, because none of the agents had any new information to offer. But the couple may have made their first mistake in sending a warning bouquet to Margo...and Lamont was determined to capitalize upon it.

"Can I help you, sir?" the clerk at the counter asked.

"I hope so," Lamont replied. "Are you the owner?"

"Yep. Family business for fifteen years."

"What's your name?"

"Ed Mandrake."

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Mandrake. Anyone else work here?"

"Not up front. Delivery men in the back. But I pack all the orders myself."

"Then you're the person I need to see." Lamont pulled the delivery slip from Margo's bouquet out of his suit pocket. "Recognize this?"

Mandrake looked at it. "It's one of our slips, but I don't remember any specifics."

"Did you prepare an order for a bouquet of rose stems to be delivered to a Miss Margo Lane on East 42nd in Manhattan?"

Mandrake looked thoughtful. "You know, that order sounds familiar. Let me check." He flipped through a book on the desk. "Oh, yeah. It was called in this morning about ten. I thought it was a little strange, but the gal said it was for a practical joke on an old friend."


"Yeah. Didn't give her name, though."

"Any idea where she called from? Any sounds, anything unusual?"

Mandrake looked suspicious. "You a cop?"

Lamont raised an eyebrow. "Does it matter?"

"It might. You're asking an awful lot of questions for anybody other than a jealous boyfriend, and I'm not answering any more of them until you show me some kind of badge..." His voice trailed off as blue-green eyes filled with power stared right through him.

You'll answer anything I ask anytime I ask it, The Shadow's voice stated firmly. Who called in the order?

Mandrake looked lost. "I don't know," he said flatly. "She didn't give her name."

Who paid for the flowers?

"They were charged to Mr. Viscuso's account."

Salvatore Viscuso? The mob boss?


And just what kind of business do you do for Mr. Viscuso?

"Whatever he asks. Usually a bouquet of some significance before a major hit to the victim. Mr. Viscuso thinks it's some kind of gesture of kindness."

As kind as a cat is to a mouse. Is there a hit planned on Margo Lane?

"Not that I know about. Usually Mr. Viscuso orders those bouquets personally."

Do you know anything about the plan to break Bonnie DeMarco and Nick DiSanto from jail?

"Not a thing."

Lamont sighed hard. He had more information than he'd had before he walked through the door, but that wasn't saying much. Maybe he should comb the neighborhood a bit more, meet with some agents in the area to get some insight into Viscuso's activities. He turned to Mandrake and smiled coldly. You're feeling a bit guilty about your role in Salvatore Viscuso's organization. So guilty, in fact, that you're going to turn yourself in to police and tell all you know about Viscuso's hits. And you'll forget anyone ever asked you about Margo Lane's bouquet.

Mandrake stood motionless, completely under Lamont's spell.

Lamont took the delivery slip from Margo's bouquet back, then headed out the door.

By the time the over-the-door chimes rang, Mandrake had completely forgotten he'd even had a visitor. But he remembered that he needed to gather up some books for the police. "Tired of sending bouquets for that two-bit gangster anyway," he muttered. "Someday, somebody's going to trace all those murders to me, and I'd better set the cops straight before they do."

"I trust it is to your liking?" Viscuso said as he stood in the kitchen of a small apartment in Queens.

Bonnie walked around and tried to hide her disgust. The mob's idea of a "protected residence" apparently consisted of protection from everything except cockroaches. The dingy apartment wouldn't even be considered an upgrade from their prison cell, except that it at least had a working phone, as evidenced by Viscuso's goon Anton exchanging terse phrases with someone on the other end. "It'll do," she said coolly.

"It will only have to do for a short time," Viscuso reminded her. "You will need to work on locating Margo Lane. After your little stunt this morning with the flowers, she has most likely been moved to a safer location. You will have to find out where." He gestured out the window. "Nicky, we are leaving our car behind for you. You will need transportation to pick up Miss Lane and bring her here. Remember--it is important Miss Lane remain alive until after we have dispatched The Shadow. We need her as bait to lure him here, to get Cranston to cooperate."

"I know how to handle an extortion," Nick replied. "Just make sure the rest of the guys know their jobs."

Anton hung up the phone and bristled at Nick's tone. "You watch your mouth," he threatened.

A wave of Viscuso's hand silenced him. "Relax, Anton. Nicky is merely protecting his territory." He turned to Nick and gave a false smile. "Do not fail, Nicky. I would hate to see such a good gunman back in jail again."

"Don't worry," Nick said coldly. "I have no intention of going back to the big house again."

"Good." Viscuso turned to go.

Anton gave the couple one last venomous look, then departed.

Nick waited until he heard the elevator open and close outside the door, then slammed his fist on the counter. "I'm gonna do him first," he declared.

"Easy, Nicky," Bonnie reminded him. "We've got other things to do first." She looked out the window and watched Viscuso and Anton hailing a cab. "As quick as they get out of here, get downstairs and to the Third National Bank in Manhattan. We've got to get our money if we even hope to make this work."

"Will do. You staying here?"

"Of course." Bonnie readied one of the pistols Viscuso had left them. "Got to get the place ready for our company."

Nick smiled, took the other pistol, gave Bonnie a steamy kiss, then headed out the door.

Anton turned to Viscuso in the back seat of their cab. "You're sure this is going to work?" he asked.

"Absolutely," Viscuso replied. "Miss DeMarco cannot resist a chance to get even with the woman she blames for her downfall. Nicky, for all his brawn, cannot think his way out of a paper bag, and will crack under pressure if he is caught again. When they lure The Shadow into their trap, we will eliminate our greatest enemy--and then clean up the loose ends."

"What about Margo Lane?"

"What about her? She is expendible. If they finish her off before we get to them, so much the better."

"You did remember Cranston's uncle is the Police Commissioner, right? If anything happens to Lane, Cranston is going to be really steamed..."

"And what if he is? The police cannot touch us. We will be out of the way by the time the police figure out what happened, and Nicky and his smart-mouthed lady will take all the blame."

The cab darted to the left suddenly as it dodged street traffic. "Watch it!" Anton demanded.

"Sorry," Moe Shrevnitz apologized to the rear view mirror. "You never know what you're gonna run into on these streets."

Margo sat in front of a lit candle on the floor of Lamont's living room, trying to extinguish the flame with her mind. It was a trick Lamont had once amazed her by doing--with just a glance, the candle's flame had been swept away as if a strong breeze had gusted through the room. He encouraged her to attempt it regularly as a way of strengthening her projective side. So, she sat in front of a burning candle at least once a day, concentrating extremely hard to force her thoughts outward like a hard breath to blow out its flame. And, as usual, the candle continued to burn steadily, defying her efforts. It frustrated her to no end that the things Lamont could do with barely any effort seemed so far beyond her grasp...and she sensed that he was running out of things he could do to help her get any stronger.

The click of heels on the marble floor got her attention. She looked up.

Russell stood in the entranceway, bearing a silver tray with a pot of tea and a small plate of cookies. "I thought it might be time for a respite from your studies," the butler said politely.

Margo sighed gratefully. "You read my mind," she said, then blew out the candle and got up off the floor, taking a seat on the sofa.

Russell poured tea into the cup and offered the tray to her. "Alas, no, Miss Lane. Merely part of my training as a majordomo."

She accepted the cup and removed the plate of cookies from the tray. "Thank you." A smile. "Bet you don't have to be quite so anticipatory with Lamont."

Russell offered a wry smile. "Mr. Cranston thinks quite loudly."

"Tell me about it. I wish I could do half of what he can do." She shook her head. "I wish I could do one thing he can do."

Now Russell's smile was sympathetic. "I wouldn't worry about it, Miss Lane. I would venture to say Mr. Cranston is already quite proud of your accomplishments."

"So he says." She sipped her tea.

Russell looked sad. "You sound as if you don't believe him."

"I know he gets frustrated sometimes. It all comes so easy to him, and he has no idea how to make it come that easily for me. He keeps kicking himself and lamenting when he thinks I'm not listening that he'll never be a good enough teacher to train me 'properly'. And I'm trying--I really am--but it's just not working. I just can't make my mind push outward that hard, no matter how hard I try. I'm frustrated, he's frustrated. I feel like I've disappointed him." She turned away, trying to fight back tears.

Russell looked torn for a moment. The best majordomos were seen, not heard, and definitely not included in household life. But he was just old-fashioned enough to not be able to resist a woman crying. He set down the tray and knelt next to the sofa, then offered Margo his handkerchief. "Miss Lane, please don't think that way. If you only knew..." He hesitated again, then decided to say it. "Mr. Cranston thinks the world of you. I have watched him struggle for years to find someone he could truly share things with. You do not know how relieved I am to see him finally happy, finally able to open up to someone. I have known Mr. Cranston since he was a little boy, and to see him finally smiling on a regular basis...I cannot describe to you how much pleasure it brings me. You give him something he has never had from anyone could you possibly think you disappoint him?"

Margo dabbed her eyes, then offered a smile. "Thank you, Russell. I need to hear that sometimes."

Russell nodded, then stood up, took up the tray again, and composed himself. "Will there be anything else, Miss Lane?"
She handed him the handkerchief.

He nodded his thanks.

The phone rang. Russell crossed the room and answered it. "Mr. Cranston's residence," he greeted. "Yes, sir. No, sir, everything is fine. Yes, sir, she's right here." He turned to Margo. "Miss Lane, Mr. Cranston, for you."

Margo crossed the room to the phone, taking the receiver from Russell. "What is it, Lamont?"

The line was dead. She clicked the switchhook. "Lamont? Lamont?"

Nothing. She put down the phone. "He hung up."

"He must have been cut off. The connection was rather poor. I could barely hear him."

Margo frowned as something suddenly struck her. "Russell, Lamont can call me halfway across town with his mind. Why would he use the phone?"

"Perhaps he was more than halfway across town. Or perhaps he was a bit fatigued and wanted to save such energy for other pursuits."

"Or maybe something else is going on here." She closed her eyes and began to concentrate on saying his name repeatedly, trying to get louder with every thought.

Nothing came back to her. Not even a ripple of telepathic energy. "Something's wrong," she realized. "He's not answering." She started to leave the room.

Russell stepped into her path. "Miss Lane, I am under strict instructions not to let you leave. It isn't safe."

"Russell, he's been hurt. Why else would he not answer me?"

"Perhaps he's otherwise occupied."

"Then why did he call? Russell, there is something very strange going on here..."

The clang of the iron security gates opening got Russell's attention. "Rosa must be back with the groceries," he realized. "I'd best give her a hand. Miss Lane, please sit down and relax. I'm certain Mr. Cranston will be in touch shortly. And I'm certain he wouldn't want you to leave while it still wasn't safe."

She sighed. "You're right." She headed over to the sofa and dropped down onto it, rubbing her temples in fatigue. Oh, Lamont, she mentally sighed. I wish I could find you now. I need you.

Lamont stood outside the dry cleaners where he'd just finished exchanging information with an agent about Salvatore Viscuso's activities in the neighborhood and looked at his watch for the third time in five minutes. It had been almost ten minutes since he'd sent for Moe, and the cabbie's tardiness annoyed him...especially since his ring had blinked most impatiently, indicating something was up.

Finally, the traffic around him seemed to clear, and Moe pulled to the curb. Lamont opened the back door and jumped into the rear seat. "To The Sanctum," he snapped.

"No need," Moe replied, pulling back into the heavy city traffic. "Burbank's calling you 'cause I dropped him a note."

Now Lamont looked curious. "Why?"

"Because I think you'll want to know about my afternoon fare."

Lamont leaned back. "I'm listening."

"Sal Viscuso and his right-hand thug were in my back seat earlier. And they were talking about Bonnie DeMarco and Nicky DiSanto...and about you and Margo."

Lamont looked alarmed. "Are you serious? What did they say?"

"They've stashed Nicky and Bonnie somewhere. They've got some plan to have Nicky and Bonnie do something to Margo and lure The Shadow into a trap. But they're planning to do Nicky and Bonnie and then do you. And Margo is 'expendible'."

"My God." Lamont looked thoughtful. "Clever plan. Any idea where the happy couple is hiding?"

"They didn't say. But I thought you needed to know this now."

"You're right about that." Lamont pulled a cream-colored slip of paper out of his suit pocket and began writing a note. "Pull over at the nearest drop box so I can cancel Burbank's alarm, then take me home. I'll let Margo know what's going on..."

A faint shriek sounded in Lamont's mind. He tensed and tried to listen for Margo's mental voice. Margo?

Nothing. But Lamont was certain he'd heard it. He concentrated on forcing his mind open, ignoring the increasing volume of loud New York thoughts around him. Margo! What's wrong?

Still nothing. And as receptive as Margo was, that meant something was seriously wrong. Lamont made one more attempt to open his mind wider than ever, calling for her at the top of his mental voice. Margo!

The loud thoughts around him engulfed his psyche suddenly, and Lamont grabbed his head and doubled over in pain.

Moe saw Lamont disappear out of the rear view mirror and heard a barely-suppressed scream. "Boss? You O.K.?"

Lamont gasped for breath and forced his mind to focus. "Something's wrong," he said. "Get me home now!"

Moe stepped on the gas and shot through late afternoon traffic as fast as he could. He could only hope it would be fast enough.

The first indication Lamont had that something horrible had happened was the front door to the mansion standing wide open. Lamont was out of the cab almost before Moe came to a stop, and the cabbie was quick on his heels. Margo! Lamont called out as he came through the front door, then stopped in his tracks.

The foyer and living room were a mess, clearly indicating a struggle. And the household staff surrounded Russell and Rosa as they lay on the floor of the foyer, badly bleeding from bullet wounds.

"My God...," Moe began.

"Don't touch anything," Lamont ordered.

"Oh, Mr. Cranston--thank God you're back!" Mitzi, the launderess, said. "I heard the the time I got up here, they were all gone and..." She fought back tears.

"Easy, Mitzi. Did anyone call an ambulance?"

"I did," Pierre, the chef, reported. "They should be here by now."

Lamont nodded, then knelt next to Rosa and took her pulse.

Her pulse was very faint, and she was bleeding heavily from an abdominal wound. Lamont blew out a hard breath and turned his attention to Russell, who had a bullet wound in the upper chest near the shoulder.

The butler stirred, opening his eyes. "Mr. Cranston...," he whispered. "I'm so sorry..."

"Easy," Lamont urged. "Save your strength. Do you remember what happened?"

"Yes, sir...they broke in..."

"Sh-h." Lamont projected into Russell's mind and quickly got the whole story--the odd-sounding phone call from someone imitating his voice asking to speak to Margo, Margo's worry that something had happened, Russell urging her to relax while he helped Rosa with the groceries, Nick DiSanto bursting in through the front door holding Rosa at gunpoint, Bonnie DeMarco threatening Russell and Margo with another gun, Russell throwing the tea tray at Bonnie and urging Margo to run, then a gunshot that stunned Russell and knocked him to the floor. And that was the last thing Russell remembered clearly. "Lie still, Russell. Help is on its way."

"I'll be fine,'s really nothing. But Miss Lane..."

"It's all right, Russell. I'll find her." He turned to his staff. "Did any of you see anything?"

"I saw a black sedan leaving earlier, Mr. Cranston," Robert, the gardener, reported. "But I lost sight of it when it turned off East 53rd."

The phone rang. "I'll get it," Mimi, the upstairs maid, offered.

"Don't touch it," Lamont said. He crossed to the living room, then used his handkerchief to wrap around the phone receiver as he picked it up. "Hello?" he asked anxiously.

"Hello, Mr. Cranston," the female voice cooed over the receiver. "Long time, no hear."

Lamont recognized the voice immediately. "You witch...what have you done with Margo?"

"Temper, temper, Mr. Cranston," Bonnie taunted. "That's not a nice thing to say to your fiancee's best friend."

Lamont seethed. "I swear, if you harm one hair on Margo's head..."

"You'll do what?" Bonnie laughed. "Keep your blood pressure down, Cranston. She's taking a nice little nap on the floor."

Lamont frowned. That explained why she wasn't answering his mental calls--she couldn't hear them. And that odd phone call must have been from Nicky at the phone booth up the street, verifying that Margo was indeed in the house before using Rosa to get through the security gates. "What do you want?"

"Oh, a little song...a little dance...a million dollars and an escape chance."

"I'm not giving you a penny."

"Oh, I think you will. Because if you don't, I'll be forced to paint the walls of this little place a nice shade of blue--using Margo's blue blood. Now, be a good boy and cooperate."

"How do I know you're not bluffing?"

"Wake her," Bonnie said off-receiver. "Take off her gag and let her talk to her boyfriend."

He heard a rustling, then a familiar-sounding moan. "Lamont...," Margo's weak voice whispered into the receiver.

"Margo!" Lamont replied. "Are you all right?"

More rustling. "She is for now," Bonnie told him. "But that could change in a heartbeat. Now...let's get down to brass tacks. I want a suitcase with one million dollars in small bills left at the foot of the lion overlooking the entrance to the Madison Arms hotel in Queens. And I want it there in one hour. Oh, and don't get any smart ideas about calling the police, Cranston. The first siren I hear, Margo dies."

Lamont thought quickly, then tried to open his mind enough to listen for Margo's mental voice. you know where you are?

The response was so faint, he could barely make out the thought. No...I woke up here on the floor...Nicky's standing over me with a me, Lamont...

"Tick-tock, Cranston," Bonnie reminded him.

Lamont stalled. "I need time to come up with that much in small bills...the banks are closed..."

"Then I guess you'd better be planning a funeral instead of a wedding. One hour, Cranston. And that's all." With that, the line went dead.

Lamont clicked the switchhook. "Hello?" he shouted. "Hello!"

Moe showed the ambulance crew into the house, then came over to his boss. "Was that them?" he asked.

Lamont nodded. "Do you remember where you picked up Viscuso and his crony this afternoon?"

"Of course. I never forget a fare."

"Was it the Madison Arms?"

Moe shook his head. "But that's a notorious hood hotel. They say Viscuso practically runs the show but his brother-in-law 'owns' it so the cops don't get wise."

Lamont's eyes widened. "Of course. They know I have no intention of delivering the money. They want me to 'send The Shadow' to get Viscuso and company, then let the cops deal with the mess. Then they're going to kill Margo and leave town." His eyes turned dark. "Take me to where you picked up Viscuso. I've got a hunch they're not far from there."

"Wake up, sleepyhead."

Margo stirred from her position on the floor, once more reminded by the dry sensation in her mouth and the pain in her back that she was gagged and her arms were tied behind her. She groaned internally as she realized she'd passed out again, wasting precious time in providing Lamont a mental homing beacon. She looked up.

Bonnie was leaning against the doorframe of the kitchenette and smirking. "Wasting your last precious seconds of life," the actress-turned-hood taunted, shaking her head in mock-dismay. "Don't you realize these are austere times?"

Margo tried to ignore the taunting, instead repeating Lamont's name over and over in her mind, trying to get his attention and lead him to her.

Bonnie checked her watch. "By this time, your distraught fiance should have been in touch with his friend The Shadow," she noted. "And he ought to be arriving at the Madison Arms any time now." A chuckle. "Boy, is Viscuso going to be in for a surprise. Wonder who'll be left standing? Or maybe, if I'm lucky, they'll take each other out."

That got Margo's attention. She shouted muffled anger Bonnie's way.

Bonnie raised an eyebrow. "What's the matter, Margo? I say something about your real boyfriend?"

Margo stared venom at Bonnie, unable to respond verbally.

Bonnie took the venom as a positive response. "I knew it. I knew it the moment you attacked me so viciously when that sandbag overhead almost took him out last year. You reacted like a wounded lover." Another smirk. "Does he know you feel this way about him? Does he feel the same way? Maybe he's using you like some plaything. Wouldn't that be ironic? I still remember all those boys you used to lead on, milk dry, then toss aside. It was lots of fun, wasn't it?" She knelt beside Margo, still smirking, pushing a stray strand of Margo's hair aside with the barrel of the pistol. "Are you enjoying leading Lamont Cranston on like that? It's going to take you a long time to milk him dry. Sure you can stand it for that long? Or have you met your match in vampirish personalities? After all, Cranston drains and tosses aside women faster than some men drain cocktails." A derisive laugh. "Or maybe your black-cloaked lover makes it all easier."

Margo tried to lash out at Bonnie, only to end up writhing on the floor like a helpless baby.

Bonnie laughed. "You act like you actually feel something for him. Too bad your knight in sable armor's not going to be able to save you this time."

Nick came in through the window. "Fire escape's been lowered," he told her. "And the coast is clear."

"Good," Bonnie said. "I hate surprises. Ready to go?"

"Soon as you are."

Bonnie turned to Margo. "Well, Margo, darling, as much as I've enjoyed our conversation, I'm afraid it's time for me to go. Which means it's time for you to die." She stood up, then cocked the gun and pointed it right at Margo. "Say your prayers, little girl."

A good idea, Miss DeMarco.

Bonnie jumped as a wicked, cackling laugh filled the room. "No," she said. "No, it can't be! You were supposed to..." ambushed at the Madison Arms? A cold laugh. You really didn't think Cranston would fall for that trick, did you?

Margo let out an excited squeal as tears of joy streamed down her cheeks.

Nick and Bonnie looked around frantically, guns drawn. The late afternoon shadows from the surrounding buildings coming through the apartment window made it hard to see anything clearly. "He followed us here," Bonnie realized.

"How?" Nick demanded. "There wasn't anybody behind us--nobody saw us! I made sure of that!"

I didn't have to follow you. A soft, low laugh. Have you forgotten Cranston's uncle is the Police Commissioner? With one push of a button, Cranston can signal the police to tap his phone lines. And all that time you spent taunting him gave the police plenty of time to trace your call and find out where you were hiding. They'll be here any second. A low chuckle. Unfortunately for you, I got here first. But don't worry about your benefactor Viscuso--the police should be raiding his hotel as we speak. Wonder if he'll appreciate knowing you set him up? Loud, taunting laughter punctuated the statement.

Bonnie knelt beside Margo and put her gun to Margo's temple. "I even get a glimpse of your shadow and I'm doing her. Stay back."

How do you know I'm not already behind you or beside you?

Nick shot at the wall over Bonnie's head.

The Shadow laughed. Missed me.

"Then that means you're not behind me," Bonnie reminded him, then looked to Nick. "Get a flashlight."

"What does this look like, a hardware store?" Nick retorted.

"Then get the table lamp from the bedroom! Something to add bright light to the room!"

Nick headed for the bedroom, only to be decked by a black blur.

"Nicky!" Bonnie called, then grabbed Margo as a shield.

Margo let out a muffled scream.

Bonnie pointed her gun at where she'd last seen The Shadow and fired.

A single shot from a .45 whizzed just over the top of Bonnie's head.

"Afraid to hit me, Shadow?" Bonnie taunted. "Afraid you might shoot your lover?"

Not at all. That was a warning shot. Let her go or my next one gives you a third eye.

Bonnie caught a glimpse of Nick recovering his senses and put the gun back to Margo's temple, ducking her head slightly behind Margo's. "Don't come any closer," she warned. "I'd hate for you to miss."

Margo suddenly saw what Bonnie did--Nick now on one knee, his eyes following the edge of a cloak-like shadow barely visible on the wall to a spot in the center of the room, then leveling his gun at that spot. Shadow...behind you, Margo thought, desperate to make him hear her. Behind you...behind you!

The shadow on the wall whirled, and suddenly Nick was collapsing to the floor with a .45 slug in his shoulder as a shot rang out.

"No!" Bonnie shouted.

Margo threw her head back directly into Bonnie's face, knocking against it hard.

Bonnie cried out and grabbed her nose in pain, falling away from Margo.

Margo wasn't sure which one of them she'd hurt worse, but forced her mind to clear and struggled free of the other woman's grasp.

She felt The Shadow's hands around her waist, lifting her to her feet.

Bonnie slowly sat up and recovered her senses, then aimed her gun right at the now-standing Margo.

Nick did the same.

Margo felt The Shadow tighten his embrace around her suddenly and throw them both to the ground, and then everything around her faded away.

Bonnie watched Margo turn into a swirl of black fog and fired at the blur before it vanished from her sight.

Nick did the same.

Margo felt the clouding fog inside her mind lift, then The Shadow rolled off her. Are you all right? he asked.

She nodded, then looked around the room.

Nick and Bonnie lay dead, each felled by a bullet from the other's gun.

Margo cringed. The death and destruction often left in the trail of crime The Shadow pursued still gave her chills. But, she reminded herself, that could very easily have been her lying dead on the floor.

She was brought back to her senses by The Shadow removing her gag and untying her hands. Not caring who saw them, she threw her arms around his neck and wept on his shoulder.

The strong, protective arms of The Shadow gave way to the loving embrace of Lamont Cranston, grateful for the chance to hold his lady love once more. Thank God, he mentally whispered. Oh, thank God...when you didn't answer my calls, I thought you were dead...

And I couldn't tell you where I was because I kept passing out, she thought back. And then when she said she'd set you up to walk into that mob trap, I just knew you and I were both dead...

If Shrevnitz hadn't seen Viscuso and his goons here earlier, I might have walked right into that trap. Thank Moe when we get out of here, because he was the one who brought me close enough to hear you calling out for me.

She squeezed him tighter. I hate not being able to project. I could only hope you'd heard me when I was trying to tell you Nicky was behind you...

He pulled back and looked her. But I did. And I wasn't actively listening.

Her eyes widened. Oh, my God...

He looked eager. Do it again.

She concentrated, trying to push her thoughts outward. The effort only caused her yet another headache. Oh, I hate this...nothing's happening...

Concentrate on something easier. Think your name. Think it as loud as you can.

She focused. Margo Lane.


She focused harder. Margo Lane.

Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted the barrel of Nick's gun lifting off the floor and aiming right at the two of them. Lamont! she called, panicked.

The gun vanished. And the part of Lamont's face she could see above the red scarf showed a smile. Knew you could do it with the right motivation.

You rat! That's a horrible trick... Then, her mental voice trailed off as she realized what she was doing. She touched her temple and looked stunned. Oh, my God... She looked at him, an expression of incredulity on her face. Lamont, I can do it! I can do it!

He let out a ringing laugh of joy and swept her into his arms.

She pulled the scarf off his face, and their lips met in a deep, passionate kiss.

Only the sound of approaching sirens interrupted their celebration. In a split second, they recovered their senses and transformed back into The Shadow and the damsel in distress he'd rescued as the red scarf once more tightened around a harsh, angry face. The Shadow helped Margo to her feet, then led her to the window, stepped out onto the fire escape, then offered her a hand.

By the time police burst into the apartment, both of them were long gone.

An eventful day for Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane finally came to a close, much to their delight and relief. Reports from The Shadow's agents indicated Salvatore Viscuso and several of his henchmen were in jail, each trying to strike a better deal with the District Attorney than the other one. Lamont had been in touch with the hospital and learned that Rosa had survived abdominal surgery and was expected to make a full recovery, and Russell's shoulder injury was less severe than it had first appeared and he would be released from the hospital before the week was out. Now, with the danger behind them, the lovers relaxed on the veranda, reclining in each other's arms in a chaise lounge, an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne at their side.

But neither was interested in champagne at the moment. Instead, they were enjoying the sensations of their thoughts actively mingling for the first time, with both sides able to project instead of Lamont projecting into Margo's mind to merge their thoughts. Mm-m-m, Margo mentally sighed. Oh, there aren't words for how this feels...

None needed. Lamont kissed her head. Just talking feels wondrous. I hadn't realized how much I missed actual projective conversation.

She giggled. Instead of having to work so hard to listen to me?

He squeezed her tightly. I wasn't going to say that. But yes, it does feel good to be able to relax during conversations. And I can't think of anyone I'd rather converse with.

She gave him a knowing smile. Bet your conversations with The Tulku were never like this.

He laughed heartily. Not even close.

She shook her head, amazed that she was finally able to project into his mind instead of always being on the receiving end of his strong energies. This is just so strange. It feels so odd to think this way, to talk this way.

You'll be surprised how quickly you get used to it. I actually prefer it to physical speech, because it's easier for me.

Not for me. She sighed aloud. It's a lot of work to think like this. It almost feels like shouting.

He gently massaged her temples. That's because you're new at it, and you're not a natural projector. With a little practice, it'll be no harder than anything other focusing technique you've learned. Trust me, tomorrow night when you'd normally be struggling with one of those receptive headaches you get every few days, you'll be thankful you can do this.

She looked up at him oddly. I hadn't thought of it that way. I have to project outward to relieve the pain--you mean this can take the place of that?

Absolutely. This is one area where you have a definite advantage over me. I have to really work to keep my projective energies balanced--all you have to do now is think loudly to break up that receptive pull. He gave her a tight hug. I am so proud of you for learning to do this. I know what a big step this is. But now that you can do it, there is so much I can teach you, so many things for you to learn...

Whoa, she interrupted. I'm not ready to be out on the street prowling the shadows.

Good, because that's not what I had in mind. Hypnotic mind clouding is about as far away from telepathic conversation as you can get. And there are lots of things in between for you to learn, to try, to experience. And I cannot wait for us to get started doing them together.

Why don't we start with this? She kissed him passionately.

He smiled broadly, then stood up with her in his arms. You read my mind.

They headed into the house together, far away from the pressures of the world around them.