The Elliot Memorial Sanitarium hadn’t been used legally for some time. It had been shut down for shoddy operating conditions a decade earlier (the phrase “snake pit” had been used by one of the deponents) and not reopened or demolished. Derelicts sometimes used it for a home. In recent days, no derelict would have dared to.
From the description given him by the man he questioned, the Shadow knew it as the new lair of Shiwan Khan.
Of course, with the knowledge being so easily gained, he knew it was most likely a trap. But it was also the probable place of Margo Lane’s imprisonment.
Shrevvy had already taken the Shadow to the asylum before going back for Harry Vincent and Cliff Marsland. Hung Fat Lee had been alerted, and told to come at a time in which Harry and Cliff should be arriving. They would initiate the war against the troops Shiwan Khan had in this building.
But Margo was probably inside, and to ensure her safety, the Shadow would begin operations before their arrival.
The asylum itself was surrounded by a stone wall and a barred gate. The top of the wall was surmounted by a newly-installed three-strand of barbed wire. Simple enough to get through. But the man in black threw his gun against a strand, watched it spark electricity, and caught the weapon as it came down. Shiwan Khan was making it challenging.
From an inside pocket of his cloak, the Shadow brought a pair of rubber gloves. From another, he produced a pair of wire cutters. Finally, from a valise he carried with him for this venture, he took three suction cups. Within minutes, he had climbed the wall, severed the three strands of wire between two metal supports, and climbed over.
Khan had guards within. This, the Shadow suspected already, and it was confirmed as two armed men began rushing towards the wall, in his general direction. He knew it was too dark for them to see him unaided, so that meant either they had noticed the cutting of the wires, heard his muffled fall, or...
His eyes narrowed. The men seemed to be wearing strange goggles over their eyes. Most likely, infra-red night-vision sights. Well, then.
The guards leveled their weapons at him and began to fire. But he was simply not where they fired at.
None of them could predict his speed, which was almost superhuman. For this job, he had silencers on his .45's. A cough of sorts was heard, and one of the guards fell. The other, after gaping a second at his unliving fellow, was about to raise his voice in alarm to whatever guards were left.
Before he could do so, the Shadow was before him, his hawk-nosed face inches away from the guard’s. The Girasol ring glowed redly, illuminating the Shadow’s eyes.
“Your will is mine,” the Shadow announced, briefly and with authority. “You will raise no alarm.”
The guard stood still, without protest.
“You will run to the east, waiting for five seconds to fire, shouting that the Shadow is fleeing from you and others must come to your aid.”
Without hesitation, the man sprinted to the east. The Shadow ran in another direction, towards the asylum. Approximately five seconds later, he heard gunfire and the guard shouting in Chinese. Other voices joined his.
The asylum, as old as it was, was a fortresslike affair and the Shadow did not doubt that the windows and doors would be guarded, though it was unknown just how many men Khan could bring along for this operation. Perhaps he had recruited local talent from the Society. It mattered not. What had to be done, would be done.
From the valise which he carried with him, the Shadow took a collapsible device, unfolded it into a grappling hook with an attached rope, and threw it with one toss over the roof. He pulled hard, an instant later. It skidded, caught the edge of something, and held. After a couple of practice tugs, the Dark Avenger put his feet against the side of the wall and scampered up. He reached the roof and pulled up the line only seconds before a couple of guards passed by.
The valise, opened again, produced a tightly-stoppered vial. The Shadow grasped it carefully, unscrewed its lid, and gingerly poured its contents in a circle on a portion of the roof. An acrid smell and a hissing were the results. The acid ate through enough of the roof for the Shadow to kick down hard and dislodge a section. The noise had to carry somewhat, despite his efforts. But he was through the hole and into the attic storehouse of the asylum a second later.
Mostly just dust, crates, and boxes up there, but where Khan was concerned, nothing could be taken for granted. Still, the Shadow made his way through the attic quickly, finding a trapdoor, pulling it up, and peering down to see a ladder leading to the next floor. No sound of voices or movements came from it. He hesitated only a second before putting his hands and feet to it and practically sliding down the ladder. The valise he had clasped to his belt beneath the cloak. Undoubtedly he would need it, and there was no sense leaving it up there to be discovered.
There were only three aboveground levels to the asylum, plus most likely a below-ground story in which the most difficult cases would be housed. That would probably be the area in which Margo was imprisoned, if she were here. But where was Khan?
The room into which he had descended was part of a stairwell, with opened doors accessing it. One of Khan’s guards was passing through a doorway, not goggled, but cautious, nonetheless. His gun was out. It didn’t serve him well.
The flat of the Shadow’s hand lashed out and caught him in the Adam’s apple. The big Asiatic fell without a sound.
Another guard, not far off, called to him. “Wang, where are you? Report!”
The Shadow allowed him to come into the room. The man was cautious, had his gun out, and covered the room before he entered. But he didn’t expect the Shadow to drop from the ceiling, suction cups and all, and fall upon him like a large black spider.
The fight was brief and perhaps not as noisy as it could have been. The power of hypnotism figured into it as much as the Shadow’s strength. Within a minute, the guard was staring fixedly at nothing in particular, while the Shadow questioned him.
“Is there a captive woman in this building?” he asked.
The Asiatic guard said, “Yes.”
“Where is she?”
“In the lowest level,” said the man. “I have seen her once.”
“How heavily is she guarded?”
“At least five men on duty,” he said. “Kha Khan will know if anyone nears her.”
“He will know.”
The Shadow said, “How many men does Khan have in this installation?”
“Perhaps 30,” said the guard. “Sometimes he takes some away, brings others in.”
“Do you know his overall plan?”
“You have done well,” said the Shadow, and pressed a nerve that granted the man unconsciousness.
The Shadow rose. There would be more men. There would be safeguards and traps. Then there would be the deadliest foe he had ever faced, and Margo Lane.
He wouldn’t expect any lesser treatment from his host.
The Shadow began to move.
Harry Vincent and Cliff Marsland didn’t dare light up a smoke where they were. Not even with cupped hands to conceal the flame. They were somewhat unsettled by keeping company with the Society hoods who had arrived more or less at the same time, but Hung Fat was diplomatic enough to reassure them a bit.
“How much longer?” asked Harry.
“Damned if I know,” Cliff said. “China Clipper here made me take off my watch, remember? Didn’t even want anybody to see the radium dial.”
“Smart move,” Harry confirmed. They had heard some noises from the asylum, about a quarter-mile distant, mostly men yelling in Chinese. But the Boss had told them to stay out of it for a length of time, presumably until he could see to Margo. Still, it exposed him to all the danger of Shiwan’s men.
Normally, Harry would have felt sorry for the men. But Khan didn’t hire or train pantywaists.
Hung Fat Lee was sitting in a Studebaker, hands folded, looking out the windshield. One of his men was beside him, hands clutching the wheel. Almost imperceptibly, Hung Fat gave a nod.
The lieutenant opened the door and got out. “Time,” he said, loudly enough for all around to hear.
Cliff Marsland checked his gun out of habit. “That’s it. Let’s go.”
“Solid, Jackson,” muttered Harry, and began rushing forward, pacing Hung Fat’s crew.
The second level was more well-guarded, and well-lit. The Shadow had a feeling Shiwan Khan anticipated his way of entry. Well and good.
Five gunsels came out when he made a tentative entry and started blazing. This, despite the fact that he kept to as many shadows as were available. Two of them had infra-red goggles on, explaining things. Two of the slugs went through his cloak. He dropped the two shooters an instant later. The others faded behind doorways adjoining the stairwell and waited for him to come within view. He had seen one of them speaking on a walkie-talkie. The rest of the guards had to know he was in here, now.
With a bit of effort, the Shadow lifted the body of one of the dead guards and threw him across the view of the doorway on the left. Shots penetrated the body, revealing the shooter’s position. The Shadow leapt across and put a slug through the mouth of the Asiatic who had fired. Then he whirled, for a shootout with the man on the other side.
The gunman might have unleashed a shot at the Shadow in time enough to tag him. But he made the mistake of looking into the Shadow’s eyes before he did so. Nobody could look into the eyes of the Shadow, and not hesitate.
A gun’s report one instant later ensured that those eyes were the last things he ever saw on Earth.
That left one, and he had no idea where the man was. Not that it mattered that much, really. He had to get to the basement level, and if he left a few hoods alive, he could afford it.
The sound of a breath being taken behind him prompted the Shadow to drop, whirl, and fire, almost simultaneously. The guard behind him took a bullet in the heart before he could fully squeeze his trigger.
There were voices below, running steps. The men of Shiwan Khan were coming up from the floor below him. Let them come.
His gloved hand found the light switch for the room on the left, then the one on the right. He shot out the bulb in the stairwell.
The guardsmen of Shiwan Khan saw it and didn’t want to go up. But they feared the wrath of Shiwan Khan if they didn’t.
Either way, it didn’t make much difference. They were sitting ducks.
Except that, a few minutes later, they were lying down.
Two of Hung Fat’s men rammed the gates of the asylum with a car armored enough to crash through warehouse doors. They touched off a bomb Shiwan Khan had rigged to the gates, and were both blown sky-high, along with the vehicle. But the gates, and a good portion of the wall, were torn asunder.
“Damn!” said Harry, looking on.
Hung Fat looked a bit grim, but businesslike. “Fortunes of war,” he said. “In!”
The time for silence was past. Hung Fat’s men went in yelling. The troops of Shiwan Khan greeted them the same way.
Guns flashed on both sides, hand weapons and submachine weapons as well. The Chinese gangsters hugged the ground and fired upward, picking off as many of the Khan’s soldiers as they could before the others hit the dirt as well. Whatever else might be said about Hung Fat, Harry Vincent had to admit he’d trained his men well.
Cliff Marsland was packing two pistols, one of which he’d gotten from Hung Fat. He picked his shots with great accuracy, firing at the gun blazes he saw before him. Vincent admired his night vision. Cliff would be a very dangerous foe to go against. Harry was glad, suddenly, that they were both on the same side.
He thought about the others he claimed as allies on this caper, and wondered, if they got out intact, what compromises the Boss might be letting himself in for.
It was difficult to see Khan’s men, who were generally dressed in gray to blend in more fully with the night. But the moon was conveniently bright and the enemy was no better concealed than Hung Fat’s forces. The asylum was fully visible. And men died on both sides.
Margo was still inside. Or she was supposed to be, anyway.
Harry rose to a crouch. “I’m going in. Cover me.”
“What?” snapped Cliff.
“I’m going in.”
Harry Vincent didn’t waste time arguing. At a crouch, he rushed forward in a zig-zag motion.
Shots spanged around him and he had to return fire, nailing at least one man on the way. He thought, insanely, about a Stephen Crane story he’d once read concerning a Civil War soldier who risked his life under fire to bring back water from a well.
He kept the image of Margo Lane uppermost in his mind, and kept going.
A shot came from behind him, and a cry in front told him it had tagged one of Khan’s men. He turned his head, his gun at the ready.
Cliff was following at a run. “What the hell you stopping for? Go on!”
“You’re nuts, too, Cliff,” grinned Harry.
“Shut up and run!”
The tactic had one immediate result: more of Hung Fat’s men rose up to charge after them. The soldiers of Shiwan Khan began to rise to meet them. The gun battle was on foot, once again.
The two Shadow agents covered the ground between them and the asylum like a running back and his guard, broken-fielding their way across a gridiron. Their own shots and the coverage of Hung Fat’s men from behind helped. Harry’s hat was knocked off by one shot, and another went between his feet. But luck was with both of them that night, and Cliff Marsland put a bullet through the face of the last defender in front of them.
Marsland picked the gun from the man’s dead hand and threw it to Harry, who caught it. “You’ve got to be low on ammo by now,” he said.
“Kind of,” said Harry. “Thanks. What about you?”
“I’ll make out okay. Don’t you hear what’s going on in there?”
From this distance, sounds within the asylum were indeed audible. Mostly, shots and screams.
“Sounds like the Boss is busy,” opined Harry, and wondered whether to chance the front door or try to chance one of the barred windows.
Hung Fat, flanked by two of his men, approached at a run. “Back, both of you!” he shouted. The advice sounded good to Harry and Cliff, who faded back to each side of the door, and then crouched behind the shrubbery nearby.
The ganglord pitched a small round object at the door, after which an explosion left the door and the walls about it a smoking, splintered ruin.
“My own skeleton key,” said Hung Fat. “I have yet to see a door it will not open. Inside, gentlemen.”
Margo Lane heard the explosion—heard it? Hell, she felt it!—and, combined with what filtered down to her of the noises above, guessed that salvation was close at hand. Or at least closer.
She thought about trying to make some noise to attract the Shadow. Then again, that might attract the attention of Khan or his men, and God only knew what they might do to her if they thought they were losing and a stroke of revenge might be all they had left. Margo decided to wait.
Despite herself, she settled back on the bench of her cell to wait. They’d played out this scene many times before. Lamont came to rescue her from the jaws of peril, after a decent time in it. Of course, she’d gotten herself out of jams as well. But there was something reassuring about a sign that he was there, on the job.
The question was, how much did he know about Shiwan Khan’s plan? Did he even know that Khan had a disease culture which, according to him, could wipe out the entire continent?
Well, if he didn’t, when he freed her, she’d be sure to tell him. Until then, she might as well take it easy.
The third level had been a bit more difficult. Khan had rigged some electric eye beams which set off alarms when the Shadow’s body broke them. The guards who emerged had gas masks on. He guessed that what gas they used would be of the knockout variety, since Khan was not known to endanger his other men without cause.
Giving thanks that he had reloaded before coming to this level, the Shadow dodged bullets and mowed down those who came before him. The problem was that some were massed, blocking the stairs to the basement. A lot of them, actually. As the Dark Avenger killed a man holding a gas bomb, he had to admit admiration for the soldiers’ dedication.
Then the noise and impact of a terrific blast rocked everyone on the first floor and below. Even the Shadow was knocked sprawling, though he kept his .45's in a deathlike grip.
There were more shouts and orders, most in Chinese, but some in English. His sharp ears recognized two of the voices: those of Harry Vincent and Cliff Marsland. And, of course, Hung Fat Lee was among the invaders as well.
He had time enough to see one of the gas-masked men lobbing a sphere at him. The Shadow grabbed his cloak, loosened it from his shoulders, and snapped it like a whip, knocking the bomb back further into the wing behind them. It exploded, spewing vapors, but he trusted they wouldn’t carry far enough to bother them.
Just to make certain, though, he shot the man who threw the bomb, stripped the gas mask from his face, and put it on. Then, dodging slugs, he replaced his cloak about his shoulders and began firing anew.
The laugh of the Shadow rang out in the asylum, and it was no less terrifying for the fact that his foes could see him.
“Boss!” came Harry Vincent’s voice. “Boss!”
“Get back, all of you!” warned the Shadow. “One of them has unleashed a knockout gas bomb. It will take a few moments for it to disperse.”
“I have a better idea,” said Hung Fat. “Stand back, Shadow.”
It didn’t seem to Harry or Vince that Hung Fat waited very long for their boss to obey or not. They just saw him take a pin out of a grenade from his shoulder bag and lob it at the stairwell where a mass of Khan’s soldiers were gathered. The guardsmen barely had time to panic. They didn’t have time to get away. The Shadow’s men hit the floor, along with those of Hung Fat.
Another explosion rent the air, and human bodies as well.
Harry didn’t want to open his eyes. He knew he stood a good chance of losing his breakfast. He had been in violent confrontations time after time, but never in a war. After the debris cleared, he was going to have to look upon the sight that even writers like Hemingway would not be able to do justice.
He heard a gurgling noise not far from him and looked to the side. Cliff Marsland was already vomiting. Those men of Hung Fat’s whom he could see, getting up from the floor, looked grim as Death.
There was another voice, one which he could not mistake. “Get up, Harry Vincent. Margo Lane is not yet found.”
“Oh, God,” muttered Harry, and forced himself to look in that direction. It was worse than he thought.
The Boss was already clearing a way. The men of Hung Fat were helping him.
Harry turned his head away. He couldn’t do this. He could kill, but he couldn’t do this.
Within a few minutes, enough of the passageway was cleared. He looked at the Shadow. The Boss’s black clothing was streaked with blood. Somehow, that was almost as sickening as the torn bodies which littered the floor about the stairwell.
The Shadow stared back at him.
Cliff Marsland materialized at his shoulder. “Come on, Harry. I’ll help.”
“I’m afraid you’re gonna have to,” said Harry. With Cliff holding his arm, Harry Vincent stepped towards the stairwell. The Shadow was already descending, Hung Fat and his men behind him. The two of them melded into the line of Asiatics going towards the basement.
He didn’t know how long he could keep doing this. Even for the Boss, he just didn’t know.
Margo Lane had heard the latest explosion, almost losing her hearing at the report. She had fallen off the bench, flat on her face, from the impact. When it was over, she gasped in breath and wondered whose bomb it had been. She prayed God that it hadn’t taken the Shadow’s life.
Then there was the sound of a key ratcheting in the lock of her cell. Could it be Lamont? Or one of his operatives? Would it be too soon for one of them to have reached her?
No. The face at the door bars was that of one of Khan’s men. She got up and went under the bench, holding her water jug to throw at him.
The man threw the door open, stood there breathing, held a gun in his right hand. She could see that his face was bleeding from a gash on his left cheek. He was staring at her.
“You,” he rasped, in English. “All because of you.”
He had time to raise the gun before a black-sleeved arm went around his neck and a black-gloved hand grasped his gun wrist.
In barely enough time to perceive it, Margo heard the crack of a neck being broken, and turned her head away. The thud of a body hitting the floor told her the struggle was over. She heard the sound of it being dragged to one side of the door, without.
Margo dared to look up at the figure she knew would be standing in the doorway of her cell. He was there, in his black slouch hat, suit, and cloak, the red muffler around his lower face, his eyes looking grim and tired. Gingerly, she got up from her spot below the bench.
“Margo,” said the Shadow. She got up, about to embrace him.
Then she saw him stiffen and look to the side, pointing his .45. She heard another familiar voice, but could not see the speaker from her vantage point.
“Shoot me, Shadow,” said Shiwan Khan, “and I drop this vial.”
The Shadow did not shoot.