The Shadow:

 Final Shadows

 Part 7

 by DarkMark

The Shadow had been astounded by the audacity of it.

That Shiwan Khan would so openly advertise his plumbing of the Shadow’s secrets by contacting Burbank through a number thought only known to the dark avenger and his aides—it was almost unbelievable.  Except that where Khan was concerned, almost all things were believable.

Khan had studied under some of the same Masters as the Shadow, but had bent himself to another path.  What caused it was something even the Shadow never knew: greed, tragedy, or a nature that simply bent towards personal power rather than that of the common good.  Possibly none of those reasons.  Perhaps it was Khan’s failing that led the Masters to take Kent Allard in all those decades past.

Even though the Shadow did not age as other men, he felt the weight of his many wars as keenly as if he had aged at twice the normal rate.

Did he have the right to drag Margo, and his unborn son, through any more of this?  Or his agents, who had labored for him for decades now?

Those questions would have to be answered after the battle with Shiwan Khan.  Perhaps he would not be there to answer them.  But he had to make certain that Khan would not be there, either.  And that his germs from hell remained leashed.

For those reasons, the Shadow went more heavily armed than usual.  He toted four .45's rather than his usual two.  Around his belt, hidden under his cloak, he had hung several small grenades.  A bulletproof vest, as lightweight as the ones favored by Doc Savage, was donned underneath his black shirt.  A steel skullcap was on underneath his slouch hat.

With all of that, he knew that Shiwan Khan would still be able to kill him.

But this confrontation was inevitable, he supposed.  Since the first day he met Khan, in 1939, he had realized that if the Shadow had an antithesis, Khan was it.

Now the Shadow had received word of where he was to meet Khan for the final conflict.  He had given his agents their final instructions, and set out for the rezendevous.  His war chariot was a motorized boat, its engines muffled to the point of near-silence.  It was night, with a half-moon shining above.  The Shadow looked and saw his battlefield ahead in the distance, a light shining from high above.

Bedloe’s Island.  Home of the Statue of Liberty.

The Shadow wondered how many men Shiwan Khan had already killed of the guards on duty there.

The statue was lighted well enough for him to cut his lights as he approached.  No telling if that would deceive his enemy.  Doubtful at best.  But in this battle, it was best not to come on with banners blazing and trumpets blaring.

Docking was simple enough.  The Shadow emerged on the island, guns in fists, eyes searching for traps.  Khan would not have had much time to prepare for his arrival.  Guards were on duty at all times.  They would have to be eliminated, taking up some of the Golden Master’s valuable time.  But Khan could accomplish much in a small span.

Such as, perhaps, the end of America.

Quickly, the Shadow stepped across the grassy expanse towards the Statue of Liberty itself.  It rose, impossibly tall, lighting itself and its surroundings with its torch, probably limning his own figure.  It was impossible for him not to feel a rush of sentiment at the sight of it, which gave way to a feeling of anger at Khan’s choice of symbolism.

Against the door at the base of the Statue, a human form leaned.  Its head drooped downward.  A uniformed guard, dead.  Something was at its feet, partially propping it up.

A large tape recorder.

A trap or a taunt, but it had to be dared.

The Shadow covered the distance to the dead guard in seconds, examined the man without touching him, saw his throat had been cut.  Either the man or the tape machine might be connected to a trip wire.   Nonetheless...  The Shadow’s black-gloved hands grasped the tape recorder and tossed it carefully a few feet away.  It landed hard on its base.  No explosion.

The guard stared at him with dead eyes.  He scrutinized the man’s feet, grasped one by the ankle, and yanked quickly and hard.  The body slid down the door and struck the concrete of the walkway.  Nothing more than that.  The Shadow moved it to one side of the door.

Then he went to the recorder, gingerly flipped the play switch to On, and waited.

Within seconds he heard the voice of Shiwan Khan.

“I am gratified for your arrival.  There is no trap yet.  Please acend.  I will meet you within.”

The Shadow said nothing.  He holstered one of his .45's and kept the other in his right hand, walking to the great well of circular stairs that wound its way up the Statue.  Though he examined the area above with the eyes of a hunting falcon, there was no visual sign of Khan.

He also examined the steps, both from their underside and on top, before he proceeded.  Despite his caution, he could not prevent a muffled sound when he set his feet upon them.

It was about 1/4 of the journey up there before Shiwan Khan spoke again.

“Do you have any questions remaining about my purpose, Ying Ko?  They should be obvious.  The Communist Revolution cut me off from much of the source of my power.  I fear they know of the White Death, the culture my scientists developed.  I could not keep them from finding it much longer, I fear.  That would mean another hand than I would wield it.  Totally unacceptible.  Plus, there is the fact of my own infirmity.  I would not live many more months, even if we did not meet.  But those, of course, are not the real reasons why I am here.”

The Shadow kept onward and upward.

“The real reason, Ying Ko, is that our time is ending.  The facts of your lover’s pregnancy and my cancer are only the most visual signs of it.  The champions of your side are inactive now...Savage, the Avenger, all the rest.  The champions of my side are mostly dead, among them John Sunlight, the Wasp, the Hand...you know the names as well as I.  There is no way to prophecy whether or not others will take our place, even if this encounter had not happened.  But there is no place for the likes of us anymore.  No arena for our battles.

“If I succeed, there will be perhaps no more heroes on either side.  There may be no need for the accursed Atomic Bomb, or whatever they fashion after that.  The world will possibly be a better place because of my work.  Of course, should you win...well, the fate of the world will most likely be in the same hands.  And is that a desirable outcome?  Considering what they have done to it, in all the time we have fought like schoolboys on a playground?

“No, Shadow.  Time is a slate which periodically must be wiped clean.  Tonight is the night of our erasure.   I am at the top of this structure.  The White Death is atop a bomb which, if it is given time to detonate, will blast the particles of its form into the air.  Once that is done, it will inevitably spread to the mainland, be breathed in by the masses of New York City, and begin the work of cleansing the planet.  If any survive, they will be stronger for the experience.  Such a world will belong to the strong.  And we, Ying Ko...we will be their fathers.”

The Shadow still remained silent.

Khan spoke again.  “I told you there would be no traps, Shadow.  I did not say that there would be no weapons.  Observe.”

An object dropped from the top of the stairwell.  After a few seconds, it burst into flame.  Terrible, scorching heat, not unlike that of thermite.  The Shadow looked up at its grasping yellow-red fingers for an instant.

Then he swung himself below the stairs, holding onto a single step with his gloved fingertips, feeling the fiery substance spatter above and around him, part of it dropping on his cloak and setting it afire.  He did not dare put it out just yet.

It was over in seconds, but the steps still sizzled for a time.  The Shadow kept hold of the step with one hand.  With the other he reached down and ripped away the flaming part of his cloak, letting it fall to the floor far below.  Then he swung the lower part of his body up, taking hold of the railing with his feet, twisting himself upwards, finally straddling it with his legs.  He inched upward until he judged that he had gotten past the fire-doused part of the stairway, whereupon he stepped back onto it again and continued.

“Excellent,” said Khan.  “No less than what I would have expected of you.”

There was nothing else to do but plod on and wait for the next attack.  A few minutes later, it came.

A sphere of flimsy-looking material dropped down from the top of the Statue.  Some feet above the Shadow, it hit the railing and burst.  From its interior, a liquid splashed out that contacted the metal of the railing and part of the steps below it and sizzled.  Within seconds, that which it had hit was dissolved.

Acid.

More such spheres were falling.

The Shadow took his other .45 in hand and began shooting.

The shots burst sphere after sphere.  Acid spattered the walls, the steps, the railing, and, occasionally, his clothes.  The dark avenger pulled the front brim of his slouch hat even lower to protect his eyes.  A few stray drops hit his hat and sent up acrid smoke.  He had to twist to dodge one of the acid spheres, which ended up spurting its cargo on a step below him and eating up three-quarters of it.

Then the barrage ceased.

He looked before and above him.  There were holes in the steps and breaks in the railing, but he thought he could travel it.  If he was very careful.

“You are still there, Ying Ko.  Masterful.  Just consider these things tests of the Hero.  I would not insult you by withholding them.”

The Shadow paused to reload his guns and then continued upward.

“One more trap, Shadow,” said Shiwan Khan.  “One more trial for the hero.  Behold.”

He couldn’t stop himself from looking up.

There was a tremendous flash of light and even his upraised arm was not fast enough to shield his eyes.

Blinded, the Shadow wondered dimly what Khan’s follow-up would be.

The voice from above was heard again.  “Now, Ying Ko, see if you can avoid that which strikes from the shadows.  If you disappoint me...well, such is life.”

His eyes temporarily useless, the Shadow strained to hear the weapon Khan would unleash.  At the same time, he pondered the mastermind’s words.  “That which strikes from the shadows.”  The trap would have to be a living thing.  And the choice of words...

Very faintly, he heard a slither on metallic steps.

Khan had undoubtedly set loose a poisonous snake.  With his flair for the deadly, the reptile had to be one of the deadliest alive.  Probably large, as well.

Most likely, a king cobra.

The choices came quickly to the Shadow’s deductive mind.  The threat had to be heard, smelled, sensed, and accurately positioned in reference to himself so that it could be handled just before it struck.  Not a reassuring picture, even in his judgment.

He heard the coiled enemy coming nearer, dropping a bit of itself down another step.  And then another.

“For one of your capacities, Ying Ko, detecting my weapon should be simple,” said Khan.  “Indeed, a child’s task.   Unless, of course, you are too impaired by my opening gambit.  Yes, that could be a possiblity...but one hopes not.”

Khan’s talk was an attempt to cover up the sound of the snake.  The Shadow had to do what he could to filter his foe’s voice from what else he heard.  That, combined with estimating the speed of the serpent as it descended, assuming it followed a more or less regular pace...which, of course, was hardly a given...

He waited, still as an ebon statue.

Second after second after second...

There.  A disturbance in the air, not far before him.  A hiss, as of a mouth being opened...must be done precisely...not more than one shot would be allowed...wait...wait...

He fired.

There was a stronger hiss, one of pain, and the tubular body rushing past him in a death-lunge as he moved to the right, just enough to feel a scaly side barely strike his arm.  But thankfully not with its fangs.

The monster fell past him, off the steps, to impact some seconds later and many feet below.

“Well done,” said Khan.  “You have earned your passage, Ying Ko.  I await you.”

The Shadow opened his eyes again.  Darkness, but shapes beginning to resolve themselves.  A few seconds later, he began his upward progress again.  Impaired or not, he had to continue.

By the time he went much further, the Shadow’s eyes were almost back to normal.

Step after step.  The spiral reaching upward like Jacob’s ladder, only to something at the opposite extreme.  The Shadow climbed, his pace accelerating.  He kept his hat brim pulled a bit lower, in case Khan should try another light-flash.  But, somehow, he trusted his enemy’s word.  The only threat he would probably face after this was Shiwan Khan himself.

That would be the deadliest test of all.

Khan’s words had long since ceased.  The silence was less of a relief than he thought it would be.  Detecting the Golden Master might be more difficult than doing the same for his reptilian associate.

But if there was any man who was best suited to it in the world, it was the Shadow.

So it went, up the remaining steps.  The bulk of Lady Liberty stretched far below him.  A body that fell would be hard-pressed to grasp a railing for safety without tearing his arm out of its socket.  There was no guarantee that there would be a winner from this conflict at all.

The hell with that.  There was a fight to be fought, and he would undertake it.  That was all that had ever been, and that was all that would be this time.

Even if it was the last.

He rounded a last bend of the spiral and emerged into the platform that was the interior of the Statue’s crown, ringed on one side with windows.  Enough light spilled in from outside to limn the figure of the one who stood before him, in golden robe and hat.

“Welcome, Ying Ko,” said Shiwan Khan, with a calm expression.

The Shadow pointed two guns at his enemy and spoke.

“Where is the bomb?”

Khan pointed upward.  “There.  On the top of the Statue’s head.  A few minutes remain.  You must forgive me for not bringing a timepiece.”

The Shadow opened up with both guns.

The very air before Khan seemed to sprout shatter-lines.  But it did not itself give way.  Khan smiled.

“Do you think I would expose myself without safeguards, Ying Ko?  This sheet of transparent material is virtually indestructible.  Face me without your guns, and I will discard it.  You must pass me to reach the bomb.”

Without a word, the Shadow dropped his two weapons.  Khan said, “The ones in your cloak, as well.”  Two more guns hit the floor.

True to his word, Shiwan Khan reached forth his hands, took hold of the glassy substance, and swept it aside.  It fell down the spiral of steps with a strange noise.

As it did, the Shadow sprang and Shiwan Khan met him.

Fingers went for eyes, long fingernails slashed at facial flesh, knees sought groins.  Those were the least deadly of the techniques the enemies used on each other.

Arms, hands, elbows, feet, knees, legs, even heads were employed in the most terrible fashion prescribed by over a dozen martial arts.  Many of them were known only to the Masters who had schooled both men.  The defense against each foray had to be instantaneous to avoid death.  The strike, the defense, the counterstrike.  This was the pace as both the Shadow and Shiwan Khan battled each other around the circular walk inside the Statue of Liberty’s head.

No word was spoken.  None was needed.  The two of them spoke with their eyes, with their frustrated breaths, with their bodily actions.  They pressed each other, using the walls, the railing, even the floor, for advantage.

Blood flowed.

Then, suddenly, the Shadow took a blow that Khan was certain he could have avoided, if he wished.  It spun the dark avenger away, onto his back, along the walkway, seemingly helpless.

That is, until his fingers reached one of his .45's, and then another.

Khan’s eyes widened.  “You...would do me dishonor?”

The Shadow only met his eyes for a second, and then fired.

The window he had aimed at shattered.

A scream of torture arose from Shiwan Khan’s throat.  But he was too late to stop the Shadow from scrambling out the newmade portal.

There was nothing to do but follow him.

As quick as Shiwan Khan was, he was a step behind the Shadow.  The man in black had impossibly grasped one of the spikes on Lady Liberty’s crown and swung himself onto the top of her head.  But the fight had done him some injury.  He winced as he set his feet on the coppery hair of the statue, and bent down for only an instant.  Regrettably, that was long enough.

Another figure had clambered onto Liberty’s green-rusted head, and managed to stand upright.  From his robe he drew two guns.  Twin .45's.

“Perhaps it was unwise of you to carry four weapons this time, instead of two,” said Khan.

The Shadow said nothing, but merely looked at his enemy.  Looked deep into his eyes.

Khan stared back, and tried to pull both triggers, or either.

He found his fingers moving as slowly as the progress of a glacier.

Hypnosis.  It had to be.   Khan cursed himself for not expecting the most refined weapon in the Shadow’s arsenal.  But he was no stranger to the mesmeric arts, himself.  He resisted with his very being, and looked back into the Shadow’s eyes, forcing his own power into the dark avenger’s brain.

The Shadow was standing, now, pointing both guns at him.  But he, too, was not firing.

As the wind blew cloak and robe about them, impossibly high above the world, the Shadow and Shiwan Khan fought their last duel.

And just beyond them, a round, flat, magnetized bomb with a vial strapped to its top edged ever closer to detonation.

The two stood like statues.  But beyond and above them, in not too many seconds’ time, there came a noise of a powerful rotor.

In a helicopter, Margo Lane peered out through infra-red sights fitted to binoculars, and cradled a high-powered rifle on her lap.  Harry Vincent, in the pilot’s seat, said, “Well?  What do you see?”

Margo, not lowering the binoculars, said, “The Shadow.  And Shiwan Khan.  They’re just standing there, pointing guns at each other.   They’re not moving.”

“Well, whoopee doo,” snapped Harry.  “Shoot Khan.”

“No,” said Margo.  “If I do that, he might open up on the Shadow.  Khan might kill him.”

Vincent said, “I hate to be the one to point it out, Margo.  But there just happens to be a bomb with a bunch of stuff on it that could kill everybody in North America if it gets loose.  What are you going to do about that?”

She bit her lips and prayed.  Harry said, “Well?”

Margo turned to him with a venomous look.  “Give me another minute, Harry.  Just one more!”

“I don’t have ten more seconds!”

“Who has the gun, here?”

Vincent looked at her grimly.  “Damn it to hell.”

“Give me thirty seconds, Harry.  If neither one of them moves...I’ll try and shoot Khan.”

Vincent swore.  “All the others are in place.  The Coast Guard’s been notified.  Even the president is in on it by now.  Hung Fat’s goons are keeping watch on the perimeter.  We’re the only ones that can do anything about it.  And you won’t!”

“No,” said Margo.  “There’s somebody else who can do something.  And he must.”

“Twenty-three seconds,” said Harry Vincent.  “And counting.”

The seconds passed by, as the helicopter’s light picked out the forms of the Shadow, Shiwan Khan, and the bomb atop the Statue’s crown.

Both men seemed deadlocked.  And both knew that Shiwan Khan could win, simply by keeping both of them paralyzed for the requisite amount of seconds.

Perhaps that was why the red Girasol ring began to flare up more brightly than it had in any incident Harry and Margo had ever seen.

“Margo,” said Harry.

“Shut up,” said Margo.

“Margo, you have to shoot,” said Harry.

“I said shut up, Harry!”

“Margo, damn it, take the controls and I’ll shoot him myself!”

Harry found himself looking down the barrel of a rifle a second later.

“Don’t ask me if I’ll do it, Harry,” said Margo, softly.  “Don’t dare ask if I will.”

Harry Vincent said nothing.

Below on the Statue of Liberty, a visible change was taking place on the tableau, if only one was close enough to see it.

Sweat was starting to spurt from Shiwan Khan’s brow.

The Shadow gazed into his eyes with renewed wrath.

Before his power, Shiwan Khan began to tremble.  His hands visibly shook, yet he could not pull the triggers of his guns.  The Khan’s mental powers were enormous.  He had studied at the very feet of the Masters who had taught Kent Allard, so many decades ago, the secrets he would need to become the defender of justice in the new century.

Yes, Khan had studied well, and learned much.

But there was much he had not learned, and that was only known to one devoted to the opposition of evil.

One who could only come between the victimizers, the predators, and their intended victims...

...as a Shadow.

For a terrible second, Shiwan Khan’s eyes went blank, the pupil and iris becoming hidden from sight.

In that second, the Shadow’s mighty guns opened up.

He emptied them into the figure before him, blasting the guns from Khan’s wounded hands, tattooing his chest and legs and arms with bullets, blowing the hat from his head, knocking the Golden Master prone on the Statue’s head, his blood dripping down the side of her face.

The Khan fell, and did not rise.

Quickly, the Shadow sprang beyond him to the bomb.  The vial of deadly organisms was fastened securely to it, but not too well for the Shadow to pry free.  He did so with a powerful wrench, and, finally, held the small vial securely in one black-gloved hand.

There was a voice behind him.

“Ying Ko...”

The Shadow whirled, saw the bleeding figure of Shiwan Khan on his knees, coming at him again, still capable of deadliness, the bullet-proof vest now visible beneath the tatters of his tunic.

With a sudden movement, the master of darkness deposited the vial in a pocket of his cloak.  Then, avoiding Khan’s swipe, he put both hands on the bomb, tore it loose from its bolts, and held it one hand.

His other hand went to Khan’s neck and put terrific pressure on his foe’s throat.

As Shiwan Khan choked and tried to bring up his wounded arms to resist, the Shadow rammed the bomb beneath the belt-sash of Khan’s robe.  Then he shifted his grip and hefted his foe over his head, illuminated by the light of the helicopter nearby.

“It is the end of an age, indeed,” said the Shadow, quietly.  “Farewell, Shiwan Khan.”

The only sound that came from the Golden Master’s mouth was a scream that belied his control.  The Shadow’s mighty arms propelled him out into the darkness.  He arced away from the Statue, away from the vial of death, away from the Shadow.

And he fell.

The explosion, a few seconds later, was truly impressive.  Its waves of sound and force shook the helicopter, caused consternation among the converging Coast Guard ships, was commented on with shouts from Hung Fat’s men on the mainland, and left a scar of smoke and blood, but no permanent damage, on Lady Liberty’s tunic.

Shiwan Khan was no more.

The Shadow barely kept his perch.  He fell full-length across Liberty’s metallic hair.  But his hand still clutched the vial of White Death, forbidding it to roll away or break apart.  He forced himself to remain conscious.  This was, perhaps, his hardest battle from the night.

In the helicopter, Margo Lane turned the rifle away from Harry Vincent.  “Lower the ladder, Harry.  I’m going to pick him up.”

“You’ve got it,” said Harry, with a smile.

 -S-

Clark Savage had been on alert throughout the entire crisis, keeping contact with matters through Coast Guard radio, hoping against hope that his one-time ally would be enough for the task.  When the battle was done, he trilled for a time, then returned to his laboratory.  That was where the three interlopers found him.  He didn’t mind.  In fact, he expected them.

The Shadow was in the middle of the three, supported on either side by a woman and a man.  Savage knew both of them from times past.  They looked at him, hopefully.

The dark avenger had something in his right hand.  “I have something you must deal with, Clark Savage,” he said.

He didn’t have long to wait.  Savage was before him in an instant, receiving the vial carefully from his hands.  The bronze man took it quickly to a container designed especially for it, popped it inside, and sealed it.  Then he looked at the cloaked man, who was sagging between Margo and Harry.

“That’s not the only thing I have to take care of,” he said, as he took the unconscious Shadow from their arms.

 -S-

It took some time for Lamont Cranston’s wounds to heal.  Margo Lane informed Commissioner Weston he had gotten them in retaliation from Shiwan Khan.   Dr. Clark Savage, Jr., who was seeing to Cranston’s recovery in the top five stories of the Empire State Building, backed up Margo’s story.  Sensing there was more to it than that, but unable to do a damn thing to prove it, Weston thanked both of them for their cooperation.

How Savage ultimately disposed of the disease culture is a secret lost to the ages, but dispose of it he did.  The government did not want to just take his word for it, but ultimately, they had to.  Savage would not allow its secrets to pass into the hands of even the men in Washington, D. C.   Furthermore, he had not learned them himself.  He did not want to.  Under polygraph, he confirmed this.  The government made threats, but ultimately did nothing.  Clark Savage returned to his private practice.

After awhile, the Shadow awoke.  There were two people in the room with him.  One was Margo Lane.  The other was Clark Savage.

“Welcome back,” said Savage, with a slight smile.

The Shadow looked at his own body, supine beneath white sheets, at the room surrounding him, and at Margo and Savage.  He came to a conclusion.  “You know who I am.”

“I do,” said Savage.

“It’s all right, Lamont,” said Margo, holding his right hand in both of hers.  “He can be trusted.”

“I knew that,” said Cranston, irritably.  “What about the vial?”

“I took care of it,” Savage replied.  “Nobody will ever know of it again.  Not even me.”

Cranston sighed, then ventured a smile.  “That’s good.”

After a pause, Savage said, “Khan is definitely dead.  Nothing left of him but blood on the Statue of Liberty.  But enough to confirm his death.  The entire incident is being hushed up, as it should be.”

Margo thought she saw a look of wistfulness in Lamont’s eyes.  But she didn’t ask him about it.

“What about Hung Fat?” he asked.

“He phoned a message in to me,” Savage reported.  “He said he was leaving town, and would appreciate it greatly if you would not seek to follow him.  I told him I would pass it along, and I have.”

Lamont Cranston considered the news.  “Also good,” he decided.

After a long pause, Clark Savage said, “What are you going to do now?”

Cranston took in a deep breath.  Then he said, “I’m going to get married.”

 -S-

A week after he was released from Savage’s care, Lamont Cranston was married to Margo Lane.  Thankfully, she still wasn’t yet showing.  Of course, the birth of their first child would be less than nine months from their nuptials.  But about that, neither Lamont nor Margo really gave a damn.

Not long after that, Harry Vincent, Cliff Marsland, Roy Tam, Myra Reldon, and all the rest were summoned to a room of the Cobalt Club.  They found on the table before their seats large amounts of money, more than any of them had ever seen before.  The lights went low, and two familiar eyes pierced the darkness.

“You have all served well,” said the voice of their master.  “Now your service is done.  Accept this as a token reward.  Farewell.”

The lights went up again.  Their benefactor was nowhere to be seen.

Harry Vincent felt as though a trapdoor over a very distant floor had opened up under him.  “What do we do now?  I mean, really...what do we do?”

Cliff ruffled a stack of hundreds with his thumb.  “You think he’d want you to come looking for him?”

Harry finally said, “No.  I guess he wouldn’t.”

After many goodbyes were said, the agents of the Shadow filed out of the room, went their separate ways into the night, and wondered if any of them would see each other again.

Or if they would ever again see the Shadow.

 -S-

On a veranda at his estate, Lamont Cranston stood in a smoking jacket and looked out at the setting sun.

“The end of an age,” he said.

Margo Lane Cranston, her pregant belly showing beneath her robe, sat in a cane chair and looked at her husband.  “I think it’s more the start of a new one, Lamont.”

“Well, both,” he said, turning to her with a smile.  “Khan was a decent prophet, after all.”

When he had come close enough, Margo took Lamont’s hand and put it on her stomach.  “Can you sense what kind of a child he’s going to be?  Or she’s going to be?”

Cranston shook his head.  “Some things are beyond even the Masters, Margo.  Or if they could be learned...it might be best not to.”

“Are you still going to stick with that name you picked, if it’s a boy?”

“Yes.  Kent Lane Cranston.  And you, if it’s a girl?”

“Rebecca Liberty Cranston,” she said.  “I think it’s fitting.”

“Quite fitting,” he said.

“And, Lamont?”

“What, Margo?”

She looked at him seriously.  “I don’t want him to be another Shadow.”

He only quirked his eyebrow, and then turned away.  He began to walk down the steps of the veranda.  “Lamont,” she said.

He didn’t turn around.

Before long, he had passed through the gate in the big stone wall and was gone.  She had no fear that he wouldn’t come back.  Despite it all, she knew that Lamont was adapting admirably to the idea of becoming a father.

But he had not yet given her a response to her statement, as many times as she had asked it.  And she wondered if he ever would.

There was, she decided, only one who could answer that question, and perhaps he would never return to answer it.  But he would have the answer, if any man did.  That disquieted her.

Nothing could be done about it.

Many things are unknown to common humanity.  Many things are known to only one, now that Shiwan Khan is dead.  And perhaps he would never reveal them, no matter how much she pleaded.

But of those things Man considers unknowable...

...the Shadow knows.

 -S-

This one’s for Walter Gibson and Jim Steranko.

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