Author's Note: For those unfamiliar with The Shadow, he is a mysterious hero who has the ability to make himself unseen to others. His secret identity is Lamont Cranston, newspaper owner, and the only one who knows his secret life is his friend Margo Lane. He used to appear in weekly radio episodes in radio's golden age, so that's the reason for the episode title that immediately follows.
This week's episode:
The Claw of Death
By Indy and Chris Silva
In the office of Police Commissioner Westmouse, the news had been quiet for several days. All of a sudden, that quietude was broken as the sound of echoing maniacal laughter came from outside New York police headquarters. In moments, the building was a panicked torrent of feet and badges as the law enforcement branch came out to inspect the goings-on.
An assemblage of New York’s reporters, wearing hats and suits, met the officers outside the building within a few minutes. Among them was a fly named Lamont Cranston who owned The Local Buzz, the city’s biggest paper. Next to him was ace reporter and society columnist Margo Lane, a queen bee.
Westmouse wiped his brow with a handkerchief from the dead run he’d made, then started to look around. He was a twenty-year veteran mouse on the force, and the old police commissioner had quite a cheddar wheel poking from under his salt-and-pepper suit. All of a sudden, he pointed up toward the police department headquarters. “Crikey!”
Everyone turned around and looked up to see a monstrous black-and-white photograph attached to the side of the building. The photo was of a rather rotund cat sitting at small round table, with the caricature of a female bat tied up in another chair across from him. There was also a caricature of a jeweled fish on the table. The cat had a bottle of bubbly on the white tablecloth and was leaning back with a champagne flute raised in a toasting gesture. A dedication read, “To the Shadow: next time neither will be a fake. Stop me if you dare. The Claw of Death.”
The commissioner scratched his head. “Too-ra-loo! Looks like this bloke’s looney in the noggin’ fer sure. We gotta stop him!” Margo turned to her partner. “Gosh, Lamont, who can this guy be, challenging the Shadow like this? He’s just asking for trouble.” Cranston shook his head, speaking with a Orson Wells-like deep and velvety voice. “I don’t know, Margo, but it’s that caricature that has me concerned. That has to be Miss Elvira Foxworthy, the city’s chief philanthropist and heiress to one of the greatest fortunes in America! The fish of course is the famous Star Fish, made up of over fifty separate brilliant-cut diamonds.”
The Commissioner was sure he’d heard a voice nearby and started looking around. “Cranston? You around here, mate?” Cranston cleared his throat and waved his arms. “I’m right in front of you, commissioner!” The commish squinted and Cranston had to wave his hat before he found him. “Oh, there you are! Well, you see what a problem we got, old pally. I hear you can get in contact with this Shadow character, and the mayor’ll skin me hide if we let anything happen to Miss Foxworthy. Think you kin help me out, lad?”
“Uh, I’m over here,” Cranston said, noticing the commissioner was now talking to thin air. “But anyway, yes, I can help you. I’ll get in touch with the Shadow as soon as possible. If he can’t stop this madman, no one can!” Margo flew closer. “Commissioner, do you have a statement at this time?”
“Well…” the commissioner hedged, “I really like cheese.”
“I mean one related to the case,” Margo said, her eyelids narrowing.
Cranston flew up in front of her. “Tell them the Shadow will be on the case, and will ensure the safety of Miss Foxworthy and the fish!” The commissioner breathed easier and spoke in the direction where he thought he’d heard his friend speaking. “Okay, Cranston...wherever you are. That goes fer me too, missy!”
Margo wrote down the statement and the two of them flew off together, Margo holding onto her wide-brimmed hat to keep her hair from being mussed. “Cranston, be careful. It sounds as if someone’s out to get you this time.” Cranston flew speedily over the busy streets, a look of calm resolve on his face. “Let them come after me, Margo, for no one knows the power of the Shadow. All their efforts will be for naught and I will see that justice is done! I must go to my secret lair and ready my underlings!”
Cranston saw Margo into the newspaper building of The Local Buzz then flew off to his secret lair. Inside were all the mechanical marvels and technological breakthroughs that the 1930s could allow. Under the hood of the Shadow’s rodent-sized midnight black car were a mouse and chipmunk. Dale let out an “ouch!” as he tried to sit up. “Gosh, this stuff sure is neat! I hope one day I get to be a rich yet totally-unknown hero with unknown abilities!”
“Well, until then would you hand me the torsion wrench?” Gadget asked. “The Shadow will be back anytime now.”
“I’m right here, Gadget,” Cranston said, hovering in front of them. Gadget popped up from under the hood and could hear the buzzing, but try as she might she couldn’t see him. “Oh, I must have missed you in your Shadow garb.”
“I didn’t put it on yet!”
Dale pretended to see Cranston, facing in the opposite direction. “So, what’re we doin’ tonight, boss?” Cranston sighed. He was used to it. “Prepare the car, and be ready to go into action. The Shadow will roam tonight! What advancements have you installed into the car this time, Gadget?”
Gadget perked up at the mention of her favorite pastime. “Golly, just look at this! I replaced the gear shift with what I call an ‘automatic transmission’ that allows you go as fast as you want without manually having to change gears, and I installed something I like to call ‘power steering’ and ‘power brakes’ that will make this car the most advanced vehicle on the entire planet!”
Dale cut in. “I added a giant spring-loaded boxing glove that shoots out of the trunk!” Gadget cut back in. “I also modified the wireless radio in the trunk, so it will give you over a two hundred mile range!” Cranston was a bit leery of these two, particularly the girl, but she was the best mechanic in town. “Very good. What’s this thing in the dashboard? It appears to be a small movie screen.”
Gadget assumed a pleased look. “That’s the ultimate in new technology! I call it ‘television’! It allows you to actually see another person in real time!” Cranston was intrigued. “Oh? How does it work?” Dale cringed, but before Gadget could start into explaining it, Cranston found the small camera attached to the hood of the car. “And what’s this?”
Dale watched as Cranston’s face filled the television screen. “YAAAAAH! A hideous space alien thingy!” Cranston pulled back. “Where?” Dale breathed easier, now that the screen was clear. “Oh man, you should’ve seen it! I’ve never seen anything like it—uh, you are still here, right?”
For the next several hours, the Shadow prepared to meet the evil kingpin kitty of crime. He knew that The Claw of Death wouldn’t try to steal the jeweled fish until he could gain the Foxworthy mansion in the dark. His first stop therefore was the local jeweler’s, to gain the assistance of someone knowledgeable about jewels.
Dressed as Lamont Cranston, the fly flew in and found a female squirrel behind a glass counter, her hair worn up, and dressed in a luxurious black dress that showed off the faux emerald necklace she wearing quite well. “Yes, may I help you...” she said, then paused. “There is someone there, right?”
Cranston flew closer. “Yes, I am Lamont Cranston, owner of The Local Buzz. I am in need of your assistance—or rather, The Shadow is.” The squirrel seemed to get starry-eyed at the mention of The Shadow. “I’d love to help The Shadow! What can I help you with, sir?”
“Tonight, the home of Miss Elvira Foxworthy will be broken into, and the famed Star Fish will be stolen if we do not act quickly. Now, I must place a quick phone call. Here’s what I need you to do...”
A couple of hours later, Cranston and the squirrel salesperson from the jeweler’s left in the car. They picked up Margo and headed for the stately Foxworthy residence. Darkness was approaching and Cranston was first to the door. His light knock was still enough to get the attention of the richly-attired female bat who opened the door.
Cranston took off his hat in respect. “Greetings, Miss Foxworthy. We’re here to bait the trap, per our telephone conversation earlier. This is my associate, Margo Lane. Oh, and this is Tammy.” Miss Foxworthy leered at Tammy and Margo, then smiled as she took in an echolocation profile of Cranston. “Oh, you cut such a fine figure, Mr. Cranston! I could just eat you up, cutie!”
Cranston panicked and flew behind Margo—he was a fly after all. A few moments later he regained his composure and flew back to face Miss Foxworthy. “Uh, thank you, ma’am, and pardon the reflex action. You are quite attractive yourself. Uh...” His comments were cut off for a moment by the deadly looks he was getting from Tammy and Margo. “...oh yes, we’re here to help!”
Miss Foxworthy wrung her wings together in worry, showing Cranston a letter written with letters cut out of a newspaper. “Oh, you don’t know how appreciative I am, Mr. Cranston! Ever since I received this threatening letter from someone calling himself The Claw of Death, I’ve simply been on pins and needles. Now that I know you and your friend the mysterious Shadow are on the case, I feel so much better!”
Cranston took a look at the letter. “Hmm…‘surrender the Star Fish or face the consequences. The Claw of Death’. He used banner print mostly, Roman and…this didn’t come from The Local Buzz! Imagine using a rag like The Daily Blather to create a threat letter with. This criminal has no taste whatsoever.” The heiress started to hug Cranston, but he wasn’t quite ready to let a predator (in more ways than one) get that close to him. “Yes…well if you’ll show us where the Star Fish is, I believe we can get the Shadow’s plan underway. You will have to be brave, Miss Foxworthy, for despite my precautions I am quite sure that our adversary will gain entry to the house.”
Tammy rushed up to the fore. “I’m sure I could come up with precautions that would stop him, Mr. Cranston!” Cranston knew a lady’s desperation when he saw it. It wasn’t the first time, and wouldn’t be the last. “Now, now. Remember what I told you in our conference, Tammy. We must allow the Shadow to handle things. He should be here soon. I will go and check. Meanwhile, Miss Foxworthy, you should remain in here with the Fish and act like all is normal. Margo, Tammy, take up some hiding places.”
Tammy walked off in a huff. “I can be just as just as smart as one of the Shadow’s people! I’ll show him!” Margo looked back at the fly with concern. “Be careful, Cranston. You can’t let this evil cat get the drop on you.” Cranston flew over to her, taking her hand in his. “Never fear, Margo. I shan’t be the one caught this night!”
Margo sighed at his suave accent as the fly headed out on the porch, then seemed to vanish entirely. Meanwhile, a group of criminals dressed in dark hats and suits was approaching the house. The rotund one was leading the way. “There it is, men, Foxworthy manor!”
Mole tripped and fell (he wasn’t used to wearing a suit), spilling the burlap bag of burglar’s tools he’d been hefting. “But boss, should you have warned her we were coming and all like that?” Mepps started to help pick the tools up. “Yeah! I thought you’d wanna sneak in and get it.”
“Fools!” the nefarious ne’er-do-well said. “Do you know what happens to thieves that sneak?”
“They wear sneakers?” Mole asked.
“They get caught by The Shadow, you dolt!” the cat shouted. “Now, everyone stay close. Ah, I see by that window that Miss Foxworthy is home. I think it’s time we did some fishing...”
Wart pushed up his hat and scratched his head. “I thought we were stealing jewels...”
“SHUT UP! We are. Now rest your pea-brains and let’s get going!”
The Claw of Death and the well-dressed goon squad headed toward the house under the cover of darkness. In one bold stroke, they entered and were soon in the same room with Miss Foxworthy. “Oh dear!” she cried. “Common thieves! Help, police! Who can ever save me from this fate?” Putting on his best false manners, the crime kitty went about his business. “No need to cry out, my dear. No one’s going to hurt you. We are simply here for a delectable little Fish. Of course, we’d also like you to join us as our special guest—our special ransom guest.”
The leader snapped his fingers and Mepps went and grabbed the Star Fish. Miss Foxworthy grabbed it as well, trying to keep him from taking it. “How dare you!” The rotund rascal smiled toothily. “How? Like this!”
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha....
The bad guys looked all around. The laughter seemed to be coming from everywhere. Mole squinted, trying to find the source. “I didn’t know we used a laugh track on this show…”
“Shut up, you simpering simpleton!” the husky hairball shouted. “It can only be…The Shadow!” Mepps started shaking. “Oh, we’re gonna all get beaten up again, I just know it.”
This is the voice of the Shadow. I knew you would come, Claw. I have anticipated your every move.
Fat Cat suddenly did a series of tap dancing steps. “Did you anticipate those moves, mister big shot Shadow?”
Uh, well, no. I’m talking about criminal moves.
Suddenly the lights went off and people were heard to be scurrying in every direction. When Margo turned them back on, Fat Cat and his cronies were long-gone. Foxy pointed to the table and exclaimed, “Oh dear! They’ve stolen my priceless jewel-encrusted fish!”
Tammy grinned knowingly. “Well....”
The flabby feline and his bunch got back to their secret headquarters and he cackled with glee. “At last! It’s mine, it’s all mine! And for once I’ve beaten that wretched Shadow!”
Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Think again. I simply allowed you to take that so I could find your secret lair. Now I know all your secrets...
“My love of free form jazz!” Mepps said.
“My Nobel prize for quantum mechanics!” Mole said.
“My years as a rodeo clown!” Snout said.
“And my secret fondness for Peter Lorre!” Wart added.
The criminal leader looked around, realizing something secret of his own was missing. “My special blankie! He must’ve taken it! Ah, but at least I have the Fish, and you’ll have to take it from me!”
Think again, Claw. That Fish is a fake.
“WHAT!” Fat Cat grabbed a jeweler’s loop and inspected it. “Paste and glass! A fake! It is a fake! I’ve been duped! No, not again! I want to win once! Just once!” The foiled feline fumed with rage. “I wish I had you right in front of me, Shadow! I’d pay you back for all the trouble you’ve caused me!”
I am right in front of you, Claw. But you’ll never find me...
The crooks searched their lair from top to bottom with no success, which kind of annoyed the Shadow, who had grown bored with waiting and had changed back to Lamont Cranston, hovering in the middle of the room in plain sight. “Here! I’m over here!”
“Keep looking, he’s still hiding in here somewhere!” the lawless leader insisted.
The crooks were frustrated in their efforts, though. Commissioner Westmouse and his officers showed up finally and arrested The Claw of Death and his goons. As the crime kitty and his not-so-smart companions were being hauled off, Westmouse stayed behind. “Well, we owe ya big-time, Shadow. It’s a grand thing ya done, protecting those jewels and all. Uh, you are here, right?”
“I’m an inch from your face, Commissioner!” Cranston shouted, then struck a noble pose. “Yes, the weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay and all that other metaphorical stuff.”
“There he is—I think!” Tammy, Margo and Miss Foxworthy came in. Margo flew into the room. “Oh, Shadow, you were wonderful! Is that you over by the light?”
“I know where he is!” Foxy said, using her echolocation. “He’s mine!”
Tammy pulled out a butterfly net. “No, he’s mine!”
Cranston gulped hard. “I gotta run! Ieeeee!!!”
The fly buzzed out the door, and took a quick left, leaving the girls behind. “Aw!” Tammy said. “Now we’ll never get to smooch him!”
“And no one knows where he’s gone!” Margo said.
Once they’d left, Cranston smiled and laughed. “They may not know, but The Shadow knows! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!”
The Shadow is copyright The Shadow Magazine and is referred to without permission. Zipper, Honey, Tammy, Foxglove, Dale, Gadget, Monterey Jack, Fat Cat, Mepps, Mole, Snout and Wart are copyright Disney and used without permission, but with the utmost respect.