The Time Master . . . and master of evil too - until he met The Shadow in a bitter clash for supremacy!
As originally published in "The Shadow Magazine," #219 - April 1, 1941!
THE TIME MASTER
by Walter Gibson
CHAPTER XI - CRIME TO COME
The loose link in the chain was Tony, the barber. Of that, The Shadow was convinced, as he kept to the trail. From things that happened later, he learned that there were other links, but they were in their proper places.
Tony had been oversold on the idea that Thull was a human clock, and had therefore talked too much about it, because talking was his weakness.
The dusk was deep enough to satisfy The Shadow, as he followed the Time Master from Tony's to the subway. Armand Thull was carrying his umbrella as a cane, because, though the sky was threatening, no rain had yet begun. Behind him, Lamont Cranston was strolling in his usual nonchalant style, handicapped only by a briefcase.
Quite a few people were in the local station on the Seventh Avenue line, hence Thull did not notice Cranston when the latter followed him through the turnstile. It wasn't Thull's way to peer at people about him, except when definitely wanting to have them remember him.
The local came along and both Thull and Cranston boarded it. At the first express stop, both changed to another train. When the express reached Times Square, Thull joined the throng that was going to the shuttle, so Cranston did the same.
The Shadow observed how some people ran for a shuttle train, but did not make it and had to wait for the next. He was getting an insight into the ease of the Time Master's schedules.
At Grand Central, Thull did not stop at the parcel room. He kept on to the soda fountain, where The Shadow saw him receive a glass of buttermilk from a smiling clerk who was glancing at the clock. The Shadow noted the time and checked it at two minutes before six.
One minute after the hour, Thull was buying a newspaper, and two minutes later, he was impressing himself upon the gateman. By that time, The Shadow had reconstructed Thull's first alibi quite to his satisfaction. Its simplicity was its strong point.
Thull had faked the time in Tony's case on the night of the jewel robbery, in order to get over to the East Side by half-past five. Fifteen minutes was the time required; hence, he must have visited Tony's at quarter-past five. Abetted
by Mort and Spike, he had convinced Tony that it was five-thirty.
Naturally, as customers in the barber shop, the lieutenants had been forced to stay around awhile, which was why, later on, the chase had come their way.
Crime had begun at half-past five at the Coastal Jewelry Exchange - crime managed by the Time Master in person. He had used up at least ten minutes before making his getaway. Minutes that would have been disastrous to his schedule, had he gone uptown on the West Side subway, as was his wont. But the Time Master had regained the lost minutes without trouble.
The Coastal office was near an express stop on the Lexington Avenue line, the East Side subway that ran directly to Grand Central, making the shuttle trip unnecessary. By catching a Lexington Avenue express, the Time Master had reached Grand Central in a few minutes, which left him a few more to spare. Unquestionably, he had bought his buttermilk, his newspaper, and shown his ticket to the gateman.
FOLLOWING Thull through the train gate, The Shadow took the Eastdale local. Entering the same smoker, he lighted a cigar of his own, while Thull was smoking Tony's nickel special.
The Shadow had accounted perfectly for Thull's actions on the evening of the Coastal robbery. He was ready to reconstruct what had happened when the Time Master raided Anga Brothers and made way with another hundred-thousand-dollar haul in small, exquisite antiques and fine tapestries, which had not been recovered with the heavier but low-valued loot that the police had found in Croak's abandoned truck.
Since Thull's schedule was an absolute habit, he must have left on this same train, at six-five, Thursday afternoon. But it was equally certain that he must have gotten back to town within an hour, in order to be the Time Master, who always was on hand to carry off the boodle.
The Shadow decided to watch all of Thull's coming moves, and the task was quite easy. It was dark outside and a slight rain had begun; hence, the blackness of the train window turned it into an excellent mirror.
When the conductor began to collect the tickets, The Shadow saw him take special notice of Thull, who was seated in his usual place at the rear of the car. Next, when the train took that hard jog from the mainline tracks, The Shadow observed the conductor stopping at Thull's side, to steady him.
Immediately afterward, the lights went off.
There were prolonged seconds while the electric train coasted. The lights returned, to show passengers moving to the door. It was easy enough, finding the aisle in the dark, but Thull's action didn't quite make sense. The lights revealed him buried in his newspaper, as if he had been reading it in the dark.
When the train pulled out from the branch-line station, The Shadow noticed an inbound local pull in from the other direction. Right then, he understood Thull's tactics.
The Time Master had long ago arranged things so that he could switch for someone during the period of darkness; yet persons like the conductor, who knew Thull's habits, would not suspect the change during the rest of the ride.
The rain had increased when the train reached Eastdale; hence The Shadow was treated to a sight of Thull's remaining ruse. The way the stooped man opened his umbrella when he went down the car steps, was proof that the other man had
done the same to escape detection.
Obviously, the "other man" had been Mort Falden, who was absent from the scene of crime on Thursday night.
All the way to his apartment house, Thull was followed by The Shadow, who was no longer in Cranston's guise. From his briefcase, he had drawn cloak and hat; with those garments donned, the flexible briefcase had gone from sight around The Shadow's body, underneath the cloak.
From outside the door, The Shadow saw Thull lower the umbrella just as he passed the clerk's desk, and divined that Mort must have carried it open a short distance farther.
The clerk began to read a magazine, and while he was thus engaged The Shadow glided past the desk. Reaching a stairway, The Shadow ascended and found Thull's apartment by the name plate on the door. He could smell a dinner cooking, for the aroma came through an open transom, along with Thull's crackly tone:
"Dinner almost ready, Timothy? Excellent! I am always hungry Saturdays. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, working full hours six days of the week, but it brings a zest when Saturday evening arrives."
The Shadow knew why the Time Master liked the six-day schedule. Tony and the others who considered him a human clock were always on the job Saturday afternoons. Thull didn't care to have them miss him on any day at all. Should he
ever need an alibi to prove that he could not possibly be the Time Master, they would swear, to a man, that he had never varied from his routine on any week day.
Of one thing, The Shadow was also certain. No crime could strike tomorrow, because it was a Sunday. If the Time Master intended to rob the directors of Associated Investments on Monday night, it would be his next endeavor.
When Armand Thull went out to mail his letters, The Shadow checked the time with that of the next train arriving from New York and knew that the Time Master must have switched places with Mort again, soon after eight o'clock.
He had clipped it close, the Time Master had, getting out to Eastdale in so short a space. Between the train conductor and the apartment clerk, he would have all the alibi he needed, if the pinch came.
Thull's departure gave The Shadow a chance to enter the apartment while Timothy was busy in the kitchenette. He used the door for entry, opening it quite easily with a combination key and pick. Unseen by Timothy, who was doing a careful job on the dishes, The Shadow made an inspection of Thull's living room.
He found a cabinet with an assortment of bottles, some books on chemistry, and several suitcases in the closet. All innocent enough upon the surface, but of special use, perhaps, in the Time Master's secret career of crime.
A desk drawer contained Thull's bank book, which showed a balance of a few thousand dollars. This money could have accumulated from the mail-order business represented by letterheads, which The Shadow also discovered.
Then, buried among other papers, came the most important item. It was a prospectus issued by Associated Investments, that contained a form letter addressed to stockholders. Printed reports and announcements mentioned the
directors' meetings, where they were held, and the transactions that they concerned.
However he had obtained the prospectus, a reading of it must have informed the Time Master that a trip to the Hotel Clairwood, on the right occasion, would be worthwhile for a big-time criminal like himself. A key clicked in the door as The Shadow was sliding the drawer shut.
Ready for the emergency, The Shadow put on a vanishing act that Thull might have appreciated, had he arrived in time to witness it.
Vaulting the desk with one hand, The Shadow landed lightly, clamping his other gloved fist upon the sill of a window that Timothy had opened to air the apartment during Thull's absence. Another vault and The Shadow was gone through the broad window, as though he had begun a vast leap to the ground.
Darkness actually gulped the cloaked form just as Thull came through the door, while Timothy arrived from the kitchen. Thull saw the open window and gave Timothy a questioning look. Explaining that he had opened the window, the servant apologetically closed it.
The Shadow heard the shutting window from a broad, slanting ledge where he was perched. He was only half a dozen feet below, comfortably situated on an ornate arch that towered above the front door of the apartment house. He had
noticed the arch's possibilities as a landing place before he had entered the building.
Working his way down a fluted pillar, The Shadow reached the ground and returned to the station. He was Cranston again when he took the next train to town. Cranston, too, when he stopped off at the Cobalt Club, to find Commissioner Weston in session with Inspector Cardona.
Both welcomed Cranston, for Weston had told Cardona that the scheme to trap the Time Master had been, in part, his friend's suggestion. Cardona had just come from the Hotel Clairwood and was already mapping out a system, which
Cranston studied, along with Weston.
Later, when The Shadow was really riding home, he indulged in a weird, reflective laugh, though he was no longer attired in black. He was thinking how easy it would be to take the Time Master between now and Monday night. How easy,
in contrast to the difficulties that would arise when it came to proving crime against Armand Thull.
To The Shadow, the fact that Thull, on two occasions, could have been elsewhere than he seemed to be, was quite conceivable; for The Shadow, himself, had often accomplished the seemingly miraculous.
But Law courts dealt in positive testimonies, not speculations. Even Commissioner Weston would have laughed at The Shadow's findings, had they been passed along to him; Tony and half a dozen others, from train conductor to the apartment clerk, would be sincere witnesses, all in Thull's behalf.
Besides, the Time Master had another card to play. His followers, mostly small-fry, would be easily traced when he no longer led them. They were the sort who would squeal if captured, and their description of the Time Master, as they
knew him, would never match Armand Thull.
Only two crooks knew all about the Time Master. One of them, Spike Klonder, was dead. The other, Mort Falden, was clever enough to avoid capture if thrown on his own. It all summed up to a single point. The only way to prove the case
against the Time Master was to trap him as the Time Master, not as Armand Thull.
Trapped in crime, as could happen Monday night, the Time Master would have no alibi. It would then be possible to trace back to the Thull identity and learn something more: namely, where the Time Master had hidden his loot, which, with the fruits of two large robberies added to the amount from preliminary crimes, now amounted to a quarter million dollars' worth of very portable and salable items.
It might be difficult, working so closely with the law especially with the Cranston handicap; nevertheless, The Shadow, armed with his own findings, was prepared to try it as the way to end the Time Master's career of crime.
Again, The Shadow laughed!
CHAPTER XII - TOO MUCH TALK
It was half-past one, Monday afternoon. Armand Thull had finished lunch at a restaurant near his office, but in the other direction from Tony's.
When he lunched, Thull did so with his usual regularity, and the people in the lunchroom also regarded him as quite a character, which pleased Thull, because they thus were persons that he might use later.
Today, as he paid his check, Thull clucked gravely and said to the cashier:
"Sorry, I won't see you for a while. I am going out of town."
The cashier looked surprised.
"To Chicago," added Thull, "where I shall start a branch office. Much of my mail-order business is in the Middle West. I may locate there, permanently."
Returning to his office, Thull made a telephone call. The voice that answered was that of Mort Falden. In his own tone, Thull queried:
"Plenty" returned Mort. "I talked to Croak. He's been casing the Clairwood. I had him fix one of the bellhops, like you told me -"
"I know." Thull's tone was testy. "That was quite awhile ago."
"Well, between them," Mort continued, breezily, "they've got the dope. Plain-clothes men will be planted around the place and in the lobby. Upstairs, too, in other rooms on the eighth floor, where the directors meet."
"Are any police to be at the meeting itself?"
"I don't think so," returned Mort. "The thing looks like a trap. But there's a way around it. In through a garage next door, along a passage to the service elevators. Croak knows the route. There's only one trouble -"
"The police commissioner?"
"No. He won't count. A friend of his named Cranston is taking a room next to the meeting, but he's a stuffed shirt like the commissioner. The trouble is Joe Cardona.
"He's the guy that's really giving orders. They won't move until he shows up; but from then on, anything may happen. Joe is just smart enough, or lucky enough, to spot that special route."
The Time Master sat in thought. At the other end of the wire, Mort pictured what was happening, but such a long time passed that he thought the connection had been cut off. Remembering something, Mort voiced it.
"About that Tony guy," he said. "You know, the barber -"
"What about him?"
Thull's interruption was quick, with touches of the Time Master's sharpness. Mort spoke rapidly.
"I stopped in there just as he was closing, Saturday night," said Mort. "It was safe enough, and I wanted to see how well Tony remembered things. He remembers them too well, and he talks too much."
"Well, he mentioned the shooting that night when The Shadow ruined Croak's cab. Tony set the time too late, on account of the clock, he might forget it, if we threw a scare into him."
"Not the proper policy," spoke the Time Master. "Tony is too useful an alibi. We must keep him as he is."
"I guess so, chief," returned Mort, ruefully, "but I'm telling you one thing. If Joe Cardona ever talks to Tony, he'll learn plenty! We've got to keep Joe away from there."
After hanging up, Thull spent a long while in thought. At last, his dreary face took on a smile. Reaching for the telephone, he began a series of calls, all in the Time Master's tone. His final call was to Mort; while he talked, the Time Master relaxed into the tone of Thull.
From then on, until five o'clock, Thull was busy with his mail-order work. At precisely five, he left the office, went a few blocks past the restaurant, and entered a pay booth in a drugstore. Dropping in a nickel, Thull called police headquarters and asked for Inspector Cardona.
When he heard Joe's tone, Thull used a forced voice that wasn't much more than a whisper. It had the tremolo that an informer would use. The tip-off that he gave was a most surprising one. Thull began by giving an address.
"It's a barber shop," he stated. "Run by a guy called Tony. Ask him about Mort Falden and Spike Klonder. Maybe he'll remember them."
"Yeah?" growled Joe. "And who are you?"
"Get over there before five-thirty," hoarsed the Time Master. "Watch across the street and you'll see me stop there. If anybody spots me I'll leave a note, instead."
Hanging up, the Time Master shambled from the drugstore, taking a slip of paper on which he had scrawled a message.
He went toward Tony's, but stopped before he crossed the street, to poke the wadded paper into the keyhole of a door that led into an empty store. Then, as if remembering something, he retraced his path to the building where he had
For a short interval, Thull had been out of character. He straightened at the doorway, but stooped again after he left it. That was in case Tony, glancing from the window, should see him. The Time Master didn't want the barber to lose
his high opinion of Armand Thull.
Shortly before five-thirty, Cardona entered Tony's Barber Shop. Despite the gathering dusk, Thull saw him from the building down the street and noted that the ace inspector was alone. Therewith, Thull prepared for his usual trip to Tony's.
In the barber shop, Cardona was showing Tony a badge, sight of which caused the barber to fold his razor and sit down before the shock overcame him. Clapping Tony on the back, Joe said:
"You're O.K., Tony. All I want you to do is look at these."
He showed Tony two photographs - one of Spike, the other of Mort. Tony nodded solemnly.
"I've seen them," he said. "Customers, but not regular. This fellow" - he pointed to Spike's picture - "he came once, but not no more."
"He couldn't," informed Joe, "He's dead."
Tony began to whiten. Joe reassured him, by wagging Mort's photograph in front of him.
"What about this bird?"
"I don't know," returned Tony. "I don't know nothing. Just customers - strangers - not regulars. Honest!"
A stoopish man had entered the shop, to stop at the cigar counter. Anxious for a recess, Tony went over and sold Thull his usual five-cent cigar.
As Thull departed, Tony partly from habit, partly to regain his wits, went to the clock and set it at half-past five. Cardona gave a grunt:
"What's the idea?"
"That man - Mr. Thull - always come in at half-past five," replied Tony. "Always at a half-past five."
Cardona consulted his watch.
"It isn't half-past five yet."
"Your watch, she's wrong," shrugged Tony. "You call the telephone company. She tell you a half-past five. You see."
To humor Tony, Cardona made the call and found out, to his surprise, that it was half-past five. Though he didn't know it, Cardona had played right into the Time Master's hands. There were certain things that Tony, from now on, would try to forget, and two of them were Spike Klonder and Mort Falden.
In mentioning Thull, the human clock, Tony wouldn't specify that two of the customers who had been impressed by Thull were crooks. He wouldn't talk about the shooting either, for he connected it with that pair.
If facts were forced from Tony, he might give them, but never with certainty. On no account would he link his cigar customer, Mr. Thull, with anything concerning Spike and Mort. It wasn't his way, to bring in people where they didn't belong; not Tony's.
Deciding that Tony really knew as little as he said, Cardona remembered his appointment across the street. He went there, and finally found the wadded note. Its scrawl gave a Broadway address, below Forty-second Street, with the statement: "Six-fifteen."
Pocketing the slip, Cardona crossed the street, looked through Tony's window and set his watch by the clock. That done, Joe started toward Broadway.
Meanwhile, Armand Thull was reaching Grand Central. He followed his usual routine, even through the train gate. He didn't halt until he was actually stepping on the train. Then, as the conductor motioned to him, Thull stepped back.
"Force of habit!" he exclaimed. "I'm not going home this evening. Why, I have to make a trip to Chicago."
The conductor gave a sympathetic smile and pointed Thull back toward the train gates. Thull found an open one, crossed the concourse on the lower level and went into the oyster bar, which was crowded.
Over the shoulders of other customers he ordered an oyster stew, and was told that he would have to wait, which Thull decided to do.
At least, so he said, but he actually slipped away in his stoopish fashion. Going through the revolving door, he straightened. He had left his umbrella in the oyster bar, which made the change the more effective. He was no longer Thull; he was the Time Master.
Going directly to a taxicab, the Time Master got into one and gave the driver an address that was only a five-minute drive away. In fact, it was just around the corner from the other address that Joe Cardona had found on a slip tucked in the keyhole of an unused door.
CHAPTER XIII - MOVES BY DARK
Standing on what was once the Gay White Way, Joe Cardona surveyed the gloom of Broadway, but scarcely noticed it. He was near a corner in the upper Thirties, on that part of Broadway which years before had been the most brilliant thoroughfare in all the world. Few people, even New Yorkers, knew that this part of the Gay White Way was gone; but it was.
The lights had moved up to Times Square, which the curve of Broadway hid from Cardona's sight. With trolleys banished from it, this section of famous Broadway had become a silent and almost deserted stretch in the heart of the metropolis. Cardona should have noticed it and realized that Broadway had its sinister phase, but he didn't.
While he watched a store front across the way, Joe thought of something else. He remembered Armand Thull, and had one of his famous hunches.
The hunch was that a man as precise as Thull could be the Time Master. It was a thing that Commissioner Weston would laugh at, particularly if he ever saw Thull. A crazy hunch, perhaps, to suppose that a man who showed himself as
openly as Thull might be the Time Master, but, somehow, the thing made sense to Joe Cardona. The ace inspector was actually proving the point that Mort had mentioned to Thull by telephone.
There was just one member of the New York force smart enough to figure it out. That man was Inspector Joe Cardona, the same person whose interference was likely to spoil the Time Master's scheme tonight.
But Joe bogged down on one point. He still thought that he had heard from a real informer. The fact that the fellow had tucked a note in the keyhole, instead of waiting on the ground, could be attributed to Thull's arrival at the barber shop. Yes, the informer knew that Thull was the Time Master, and hadn't stuck around!
There was more truth in Joe's theory than he realized. Hunches could wait awhile, however, for Joe was suddenly watching a shambly figure that sneaked around the corner on the other side of the street and stopped near the very door
mentioned in the note.
A quick glance at his watch told Cardona that Thull had arrived at exactly six-fifteen. Looking up again, Joe saw Thull straighten. No longer stooped, he became a tallish figure turning toward the door.
Here was Cardona's hunch made real. The man across the way could only be the Time Master!
Purposely, Cardona had chosen his present post, for it was a perfect place from which to watch the door in question. Sliding his hand to a pocket, Cardona gripped his short-barreled revolver, to await developments. He forgot that the Time Master dealt in surprises; he forgot, too, that such surprises generally ran on a clockwork schedule.
Right behind Cardona was a double door that was planted flat in the sidewalk. It was one of those street elevator doors so common in Manhattan. All New Yorkers had learned never to stand on them, even though bells rang when the doors were about to lift upward. Cardona had lived in New York all his life.
The doors were opening illegally. No warning bell was ringing. A very bad thing with a police inspector on hand to report it, had he noticed it. But Cardona did not notice the doors, nor the elevator that silently followed. He was still looking across the street.
Coming just halfway, the elevator halted. There was a brief wait as a taxicab sped by. Right after that, Cardona stepped slightly backward, for he saw the tall Time Master stepping away from the door on the other side of the street.
Cardona's move was perfect; but not from his standpoint.
It was perfect for half a dozen hands that shot out from the stalled elevator. Two of those hands belonged to Mort Falden. Those flanking him were the property of Marty and Bert, the gunners who had served the Time Master quite capably to date.
The hands clamped Cardona from hips to shoulders; hauling him downward, they tumbled him to the floor of the flat elevator.
Joe's struggles only helped the crooks. It gave them a chance to huddle downward, as they suppressed him and smothered his attempts at shouts. They couldn't be seen from the street while thus engaged, even if anyone had happened to come along.
In fact, even the Time Master could not see them. What he did observe was the pair of closing doors that showed that the elevator was descending.
Those doors clamped shut, flush with the level of the sidewalk. The Time Master turned and strode briskly away, to find another cab.
So, ten minutes later, Armand Thull was finally served with an oyster stew at the Grand Central oyster bar. He kept up such a grumble while he ate, that the man behind the counter remembered him.
Leaving the place, Thull put in a phone call to Eastdale and talked to Timothy. He told his servant that he was leaving on a nine-o'clock train; that he had reserved a compartment. Timothy's voice came anxiously across the wire:
"You haven't forgotten your bag, have you, sir? The Gladstone that you insisted upon packing without my aid -"
"No indeed, Timothy," interrupted Thull. "I checked it in the baggage room. I have the check right here in my wallet."
Thull did have the check in his wallet, along with several others, which came into sight later when he stopped at a ticket window and picked up his Pullman reservation. Thull bought a ticket for Chicago, and his reservation was for Compartment B, Car L-2 on the Lakeside Limited.
It was after half-past seven. Thull shambled to the little theater in Grand Central Station and asked, querulously, about the show. He learned that if he went into the theater, a large wall clock would enable him to keep track of the time while watching the movies. No chance of missing his train, the attendants assured him.
They couldn't help but remember Thull and the train he was taking, the way he discussed it. Looking at the station clock, they told him that he had plenty of time, so Thull finally went inside.
Once located, he laid his umbrella under the seat, along with his derby hat. He smoothed his hair into sleek streaks, and produced a felt hat from under his coat.
Wearing the new headgear, Thull arose. Straightening, he stalked from the terminal theater, quite a different man from Armand Thull. None of the attendants noticed him, nor were they likely to, when he returned. After an hour's absence, the Time Master planned to enter the theater again and once more become Armand Thull.
As the Time Master, the man so feared but yet unknown, the erstwhile Mr. Thull left the terminal and found a car parked on a side street. It was the coupe that had served the Time Master on former occasions, and Croak was at the
Looking back of the seat, the Time Master saw two objects; one was tall and roundish, a cylinder covered with a dark cloth. The other was a box about three feet square, with holes punched in its sides.
There was also a small satchel, but it was not as important as the other items. Leaning back, the Time Master spoke to Croak in a rasping tone:
Others were awaiting the advent of the Time Master, two men who occupied a hotel room on the eighth floor of the Hotel Clairwood. One was Commissioner Ralph Weston, the other his friend Lamont Cranston. Pacing the floor, Weston was staring glumly at the wall.
"There ought to be a connecting door," he argued. "We can't hear what's going on."
"Rigby and the directors wouldn't like it if we did," reminded The Shadow, calmly. "Their business is supposed to be private, you know."
"I suppose so. You know about such meetings, Cranston. Well, we can rely upon Cardona. By this time, he is down in the lobby checking on every cranny."
"Wasn't he supposed to call you?"
"He was, and he still may," replied Weston. "I talked to him early this afternoon and told him to use his own judgment. There is a chance that he might render himself too conspicuous."
The Shadow recognized that chance. It was the worst hazard of the lot, and it applied to Cardona's men as well as the inspector. The Shadow had seen them when he came upstairs and they certainly had the mark of headquarters men. People couldn't even mistake them for house detectives; there were too many of them.
In fact, The Shadow was not depending upon Cardona's squad nearly as much as he was counting on the Time Master.
Men who thought in ordinary terms of crime, though they might be big-shots, would certainly have passed up this evening's enterprise. The Shadow couldn't doubt that the Time Master knew the place was watched; that detectives on the ground floor would indicate others on the eighth. But he recognized the persistency of the Time Master, as well as the skill of the man called Armand Thull.
If anyone could find a way to dodge Joe Cardona, it would be the Time Master. The Shadow was sure of that fact, though he did not know that it had already been demonstrated.
The Time Master had indeed found a way to dodge Cardona. He had removed Joe entirely from the field. Without their leader, the headquarters men would rate about as effectively as bumps on a log.
As he watched Weston pace the room, The Shadow showed traces of annoyance. He stepped to a door that led to an inner room of the suite that he had taken as Cranston. Turning to Weston, he remarked:
"I am going to have a doze. If anything happens, just rap on the door and wake me up."
Weston gave a scornful smile as the door went shut. It was like Cranston, to lose interest and decide upon a nap at a time which might prove to be crime's zero hour. But Weston resigned himself to the situation, very readily. After all, he wasn't depending upon Cranston; he had simply requested him to reserve this suite of rooms.
Cardona was Weston's real ace. The thought made the commissioner nod. Yes, Cardona was an ace in the hole.
Had Weston seen his ace a short while ago, he would have realized that Joe was quite in the hole. The Broadway lullaby which crooks had rapped upon his skull was conducive to much deeper sleep than Cranston's nap.
Very much deeper, for Cranston's doze was to exist only in the imagination of his friend, Commissioner Weston.
Within the inner room, Cranston was opening a bag to bring out the black garments of The Shadow. Putting on cloak and hat, he reached for a brace of guns and stowed them into holsters. If The Shadow was tired, it was only because nothing had begun to happen.
While others waited, The Shadow was prepared to act against the Time Master.
CHAPTER XIV - A QUESTION OF THOUSANDS
The room where Alonzo Rigby was meeting with his fellow directors was a large one, furnished with extra tables instead of beds. There was a desk in a corner of the room and Rigby was seated behind it, so that he could view the whole room, except for the door.
The door was just around the corner of an alcove, and Rigby kept bobbing sideways from his desk, as though he expected someone. His actions annoyed some of the directors, but amused others, for Rigby had the look of a wise old owl perched on a tree branch.
Between his bobs; Rigby was transacting business. He had cleared his desk of everything, including the telephone, which he had placed on the floor beside him. He was calling for persons to produce the funds that they had promised as
purchase money for gilt-edged stocks and bonds.
The funds began to appear. Such batches of cash were seldom seen outside of a banking office. These men who handled the affairs of Associated Investments were not only wealthy in their own right; some of them represented millionaire clients who took their advice without question. Where cash was concerned, they presented it in large bank notes, which Rigby checked as fast as they arrived.
"One hundred and forty, one hundred and forty five -"
Rigby was talking in terms of thousands, and little slips might make a big difference. Some of the others thought so, particularly a fattish, beefy-faced man with a heavy mustache, who was standing near the desk.
"Come, come, Rigby!" exclaimed beef-face testily. "You're going too fast."
"Why too fast?" demanded Rigby. "You said yourself, Frothingham, that we should expedite this business."
"But not to the point where we would make mistakes," Frothingham argued. "There were thousand-dollar bills in that last batch of ten; not just five-hundreds. Your total should be one hundred and fifty thousand dollars."
Exasperated, Rigby found that he had lost count entirely. In his owlish fashion, he began the process over again, and was all right until he had passed fifty thousand dollars. Then he began to bob his head and take quick looks toward the door. Frothingham and the rest made new protest.
"Lock the door," suggested Frothingham. "and get your worries over. Much haste means no speed. You are defeating your own purpose, Rigby."
"I can't lock the door," retorted Rigby. "Inspector Cardona insisted upon taking the key, this afternoon. He claimed that keys sometimes cause more trouble than good. He wants the room to be open so that his men can reach us, if needed."
"Then suppose I look outside the door," said Frothingham, "and make sure that all is well. Meanwhile, you may resume your counting, Rigby."
Rigby was adding up figures when Frothingham returned, to report that all was quiet. It was Frothingham's turn to be annoyed, for, in his opinion, all was too quiet. Anxiously, he asked:
"How many detectives are posted, Rigby?"
"Four on this floor," Rigby stated. "In addition, the commissioner and a friend of his are in the next room."
"I saw no signs of any."
"You wouldn't, Frothingham. They are not supposed to show themselves unless summoned. Besides, there is a detective in each of the three elevators, and at least a half a dozen down in the lobby. A mere call to the desk" - he gestured to the telephone beside him - "will bring all the reserves that we require."
Frothingham seemed satisfied about everything except the window. He went to it, opened it and stared at the sidewalk, eight stories down. A sheer wall, that no one could scale. With a satisfied nod, Frothingham returned to watch Rigby check the total, which, in cash and negotiable securities, was now in excess of two hundred thousand dollars.
Peering from the window, Frothingham had favored his portly build. Hence, he had not leaned out very far, rather than let the window sill poke him in his ample stomach. The wall that Frothingham would have classed as sheer was not so
precipitous as he supposed.
It had ledges at every other floor, and though Frothingham had seen the ones farther down, he considered them quite negligible. Perspective had a lot to do with it, for the ledges were too distant for Frothingham to gauge their exact width. They didn't look wide enough for anything but a cat to venture along, and a thin cat, at that. But a few extra inches could make considerable distance.
The Shadow was finding it so, as he used the catwalk that ran along the eighth floor. His toes were on the very outside of the ledge, pointed inward, so that he could lean face forward against the wall itself. His lean was necessarily slight, but it was sufficient. His fingers, digging into spaces between bricks, gained just enough of a steadying grip.
Steadily, but surely, The Shadow was working his way along from his own suite to the room where Rigby, Frothingham, and the others were tallying their supply of wealth. He had to pass the room where he had left Weston, which was easy enough, because the commissioner, still pacing, was staring at the wall and not the window. The Shadow gained time on that part of the trip, for the edges of the window frame gave him an excellent grip.
It was doubtful that Weston could have seen the gliding blackness that did no more than darken the window while going by, even if the commissioner had looked.
From then on, The Shadow resumed his edging tactics, which had one disadvantage. He could not speed the journey, no matter what might happen. The window of the conference room wasn't far away, but The Shadow knew that he would
require a full two minutes to reach it. Much could happen in two minutes.
There were two sets of elevators in the Hotel Clairwood. The old ones, now used as service elevators, were around the corner from the new. Usually the doors of the service elevators made quite a clatter, but it could be avoided.
It was avoided, by the very careful hand that slid back the door on the eighth floor.
Quite noiselessly, the Time Master stepped from the elevator, took a few paces to the corner of the hallway, then motioned back to the elevator. Croak stepped out, bringing the two oddly shaped packages that had been in the coupe.
The Time Master himself was carrying the small satchel, and Croak hoped that he would turn around. The reason being that there was a very convenient light, by which Croak might have seen his chief's face.
But the Time Master, ever cautious on that point, did not show his face except obscurely. Never enough for anyone to discern that it had the lineaments that characterized Armand Thull. From what could be seen of it, the Time Master's countenance was tight and hard; somewhat youngish. Only a very close look could have convinced anyone that it resembled the drawn, almost haggard and definitely oldish features of Thull.
"So far, so good," undertoned the Time Master in side-mouthed style, as Croak drew up close. "That was a neat way in, and by moving one flight up, we dodged the lobby squad."
"There's more of them up here," Croak whispered. "Better be careful, chief."
"It's safe enough," assured the Time Master. "We bagged Cardona, their only spark plug. Remember all I told you, Croak, and don't get the jitters when I mention your name."
"Why should I?" queried Croak. "I'm lamming after this job, ain't I?"
The Time Master tiptoed to the conference room, and Croak copied his example, very deftly, despite the burden of the packages. By the time they reached the door, Croak was cursing the packages, for they prevented him from drawing a gun, which the Time Master was doing.
Somewhat helplessly, Croak gazed at other doors, fearing that they would slap open and confront him with a batch of detectives. Then, seeing that the transoms were already open, he decided that the dicks were content to listen.
They were hearing nothing, for the Time Master opened the door with practically no noise. Because of the alcoved entrance, the buzz of voices from the room beyond scarcely carried to the hall. Then the Time Master was through and Croak was following, sidewise, with the packages. He set them in the entrance to the alcove closet, while the Time Master was closing the door again.
Shouldering past, the Time Master gestured for Croak to draw a gun and follow, which the rangy crook did, very gladly. They stole into the actual room without attracting attention, for the conferring directors were busy at the desk. Rigby was having new trouble with the totals.
"Patience, gentlemen!" Rigby was saying. "We can count these funds again. It is just a question of addition in terms of dollars."
"A question of dollars!" sneered Frothingham, turning away. "You mean, a question of thousands!"
Half turned, Frothingham froze. He was looking past the other, at the Time Master, the tall man whose face did not catch the light but whose big revolver did. The gun loomed straight for Frothingham, so the man thought; but the others
had the same opinion when they, too, turned. At that distance, a gun muzzle could provide an excellent illusion; it seemed to point at everyone who viewed it.
Men were lifting their arms quite slowly, with the exception of Rigby, who looked as though he intended to drop his weakly. Actually, Rigby was thinking of the telephone on the floor beside him.
Croak, pushing up beside the Time Master, made no effort to keep his beakish face concealed. In his limber fashion, he flourished his own gun and croaked:
"Stick 'em up!"
The order applied to Rigby, who let his hands rise. Looking between the helpless men, the Time Master saw the bundles on the desk. He picked up the conversation where the directors had dropped it.
"A question of thousands?" queried the Time Master, harshly. "Why concern yourself about thousands? I am here to take all."
It was more than a question of thousands; it was a matter of human lives at stake, because of the Time Master's sway. Again, a well-timed schedule had served the brain of crime. The Time Master had reached this scene before The Shadow could arrive to greet him!
CHAPTER XV - CRIME WITHOUT CROOKS
Moving toward the riveted men, the Time Master put them into motion like puppets on strings. His face was lowered, well hidden by the felt hat that was rakishly tipped down over his forehead. His eyes were on the wealth he wanted, but his hand was sweeping slowly from side to side, spreading the men who stood in the way. They moved backward mechanically.
Croak took over as soon as the Time Master had reached the desk. Waggling his gun significantly, he repeated his croakish order:
"Stick 'em up!"
Rigby's hands were raised, but he crouched farther, as though in fear, and let his owlish eyes roll upward. He was trying to get a look at the Time Master's face, and the tall crook knew it. Thrusting his gun across the desk, he poked it hard against Rigby's ribs, making the man pop upward like a jack-in-the-box.
"That's better," sneered the Time Master. "Get busy and pack that currency for me! Pack the good stocks, too - in this!"
He flung the satchel on the desk, and it flew open as it struck. Fumblingly, Rigby began to put the bundles in the bag. Still sneering, the Time Master told him to hurry; that he could count the cash himself.
"Stick 'em up!"
Croak's tone, sharp and a near-falsetto, was repeated, and this time a newcomer heard it. The Shadow had arrived at the window; as part of the blackness at its edge, he could not be seen. He observed what was happening, and realized how precious was the minute he had lost.
One minute earlier, The Shadow could have frustrated this crime at its very start. Quick shots toward the entry would have sufficed, for The Shadow had a clear view of the door, could even see the two peculiar packages that Croak had pushed partly into the closet. But the scene was no longer a set-up for The Shadow.
The Time Master was surrounded by helpless men, all wavery. Any of them might move right into The Shadow's line of fire the moment they were startled by a gun crack. Even Croak was partly shielded, and in a good position to duck. If
The Shadow fired, his foemen would start shooting, too, and men like Rigby and Frothingham would certainly be victims.
"Stick 'em up!"
Croak's falsetto proved that his attention was fully centered on the group. The Shadow performed a neat shift across the window space, to get a better angle from the other side. But Croak, by that time, had seen a way to improve his own
position while he covered the directors.
The edging steps that the limber thug made were just enough to keep men placed between him and The Shadow.
The cash was packed, with the stocks and bonds stuffed in on top of it. The Time Master was pleased to find that a quarter million, in high denominations, could make such a light and easily managed burden.
Instead of lifting it by the handle, he hooked the bag under his arm as he stepped back with it. Therewith, like Croak, the Time Master performed a more fortunate move than he knew.
The bag became a shield, which, because of its tight-packed contents, could stop a bullet from a .45 automatic. The Time Master was holding that chance shield right where it confronted The Shadow's aim. The only thing that The Shadow could do was wait until the Time Master was almost to the door.
The Shadow did wait, watching the Time Master withdraw, while Croak, also on the retreat, was providing another:
"Stick 'em up!"
At last, The Shadow's moment.
Croak was actually in the alcove, the Time Master at the edge. His shoulder hunched above the bag, his chin tilted across it, the Time Master's face was lowered as he voiced savagely:
"I want you to all stand as you are. The slightest move will mean instant death! I have you all placed, and we are not through yet. Remember: not a move -"
He was gesturing his gun as he spoke; his feet were giving a slight shift. From the window, The Shadow was aiming for a narrow space between the chin and the bag. The Shadow's gun was moving, just slightly, as if attracted by his target's motion, while his finger, finished with the trigger slack, was tightening for a vital squeeze.
The first shot would have to drop the Time Master; after that, The Shadow could beat Croak to any aim. This was the moment -
The moment when the room went black.
For some reason, Croak, whose hand was out of sight, had pressed the light switch, interrupting the Time Master's words. With the lights out, Croak piped his usual line:
"Stick 'em up!"
The Shadow's chance was gone. The Time Master was speaking anew from a changed position, though Croak's voice, coming between times, was still from the alcove.
"You may be holding out on me," the Time Master growled. "I'm going to have a look in your pockets first, so don't budge. After that, I'll go through the desk and tables."
"Stick 'em up!" supplied Croak.
"Not much padding." The Time Master was among the group, thwacking men's pockets as he spoke. "I guess the other search is the best bet. Spread away from those tables" - he was withdrawing from the throng - "and give me room. You,
Rigby, back from that desk!"
Again, a pipe from Croak:
"Stick 'em up!"
There was a stir outside the window. The Shadow was on his way. If the Time Master intended to rifle desk and tables, he would require a full minute, or more, working in the darkness. The Shadow could use that same minute to reach the next window along the wall.
He knew where it led - through an empty room. By that route, The Shadow could reach the hall and be waiting for the Time Master when he arrived with Croak.
The hall was the right place for battle. It would eliminate the possibility of chance death to innocent bystanders. The swish of his cloak unheard, The Shadow began his new trip along the ledge with the same coolness that he had shown before.
Not for one instant did he attempt the fatal move of speeding up. It would have changed his course from the horizontal to the vertical, in the form of aneight-story plunge.
In the room where men quivered in the darkness, those helpless prisoners heard the rattle of table drawers. They were too far apart to contact the Time Master as he passed among them, but they could keep track of him. He was not only opening the drawers; he was chucking out everything that he found in them.
All the while, they could hear Croak's occasional orders from the alcove: "Stick 'em up!" It seemed to be Croak's favorite formula, the limit of his vocabulary. Even if he could no longer see the helpless men, it was all the more reason for the falsetto command.
"Stick 'em up!"
Arms were already up, but they stayed that way, reaching so high that they ached. At any moment, Croak might turn on the lights again. Nobody wanted to be found with lowered hands, not while Croak was backing his insistence with a gun.
One minute gone.
Several seconds later, The Shadow eased silently from the doorway on the far side of the conference room, he moved toward the beleaguered room itself.
The transom was closed, as Rigby had unwisely provided, but when he placed his ear against the door, The Shadow could hear vague rattles from the desk, and the high-pitched voice that said to "Stick 'em up!"
Something else was happening in that room; something which The Shadow could not picture from this distance. One man among the helpless group had found a chance he wanted.
The man was Alonzo Rigby.
Drawn back behind the desk, Rigby could hear the Time Master at work. He was making a lot of noise, yanking the drawers open and chucking things pell-mell. Obviously, his back was turned to Rigby, so he couldn't notice him; and the noise meant that he couldn't hear slighter ones that might occur.
Side-stepping, Rigby found the telephone with his foot. It tipped over, and being of the old-style variety its receiver fell from the hook, the carpet absorbing the thud.
Dropping first to his knees, Rigby finally flattened. Worming along the carpet, he found the mouthpiece of the telephone with his face. Putting his lips around the mouthpiece, as if he intended to gobble it, Rigby breathed one word:
The final letter wasn't audible, because Rigby's lips couldn't properly provide it; but the operator understood. A sharp clatter from the receiver proved it, and gave Rigby chills. Fortunately, the dumping of a drawer drowned the receiver's clatter and Rigby knew that the Time Master could not have heard.
Nor could The Shadow have heard. He was too distant: besides, he was catching another sound. It was that of an elevator, definitely starting downward from this floor, but it was around the corner, which meant that it was one of the service elevators.
The Shadow made a move toward the corner of the hall, hesitated, then swung to the regular elevators, which were just across the way. They were the only ones available.
As The Shadow sprang to press a button, he heard whistling sounds, then rapid clankings from the elevator shafts. He whisked away, flattening against the wall, just as two elevators, racing what was practically a dead heat, arrived at the eighth door. Their doors smashed open and a pair of detectives sprang from each, followed by a pair of eager elevator boys.
The clatter was heard all along the hall. Doors of other rooms yanked open, with plain-clothes men springing to view. But in the interval The Shadow, with a dive that became a spin, had reached the nearer of the elevators and gone into
it, slashing the door shut behind him.
One detective, coming from a room, saw the door go shut and aimed. Then, since it was too late to fire anyway, he decided that the car was simply going down to pick up more reserves. The dick followed those who had already come from
They were smashing into the conference room, guns in hand. A battle had started there, begun by Rigby as soon as he heard the door smash open. A battle that The Shadow was missing, since he was on his way downstairs, but one which
he could readily leave to the detectives, considering their number.
In starting the fight, Rigby had first grabbed the telephone and hurled it at the desk, hoping to down the Time Master. Frothingham and the rest, expecting gunfire, tried the same tactics.
Wildly they chucked discarded table drawers, the tables themselves, and chairs - whatever they could find. Not only did they heave them at the Time Master; they went after Croak, whose "Stick 'em up!" came like a startled squawk from near the center of the room.
No guns went off, and the brawlers were yelling triumphantly, some claiming that they had the Time Master; others, that they had captured Croak.
The detectives, shoving their way through blundering men and making short sweeps with their guns, were sure that they were the savers of the day. If the victims had turned the tables and grabbed the crooks, the detectives could certainly take credit for downing them.
What the scene needed was some light, and Commissioner Weston, last to arrive, was the first to provide it.
Failing to rouse Cranston, Weston had dashed to the room next door. Finding chaos reigning, he stopped to press the light switch. The sudden glow revealed a half-wrecked room, where men were grappling each other, except for those who
were seated, bewildered, on the floor in the midst of tumbled tables and ruined chairs.
Weston looked for Cardona, but couldn't find him. Nor could Rigby and his friends discover the Time Master and Croak. It was a scene of crime without crooks!
The Time Master and his accomplice were gone, the satchel with them. They had left the two bundles, and both were open. Croak had attended to that in the darkness.
One bundle was an animal's traveling box; the other, a large wire cage. Both were empty; looking for the occupants that should have been in them, Commissioner Weston saw them.
A chattering monkey, of the size fancied by organ-grinders, was seated on the mantelpiece peering at the confusion. In the darkness, the ape had played the part of the Time Master. Trained to pry through desk drawers and chuck out their contents, the monkey had performed that service after its release.
Perched on a high chandelier was a parrot, which had flown there, when the confusion began. Until that time, it had been substituting for Croak. Once let from its cage, and no longer muffled by a cloth, the parrot had picked up the only words which it had been taught:
"Stick 'em up!"
While the Time Master's miniature substitute still grinned from its shelf, and Croak's perched understudy continued its "Stick 'em up!" Commissioner Weston glumly heard the account of successful crime as related by Alonzo Rigby. To Weston came the grim realization that something must have happened to Joe Cardona before the crime took place.
For once, Weston was glad that The Shadow was not on the scene. He was sure that the cloaked fighter could have stopped this crime before its farcical finish. But he was equally positive that The Shadow's absence meant that crime's
superfoe had gone upon another, and a more important, mission than the saving of a quarter million dollars.
Weston was positive that The Shadow was bound upon the rescue of a man who would find short shrift from crooks - Inspector Joe Cardona!