The Blackmailing of Margo Lane
By Vesper (Regina)
Disclaimer: The characters of Margo Lane, Lamont Cranston (The Shadow), and Police Commissioner Weston originally created by Walter B. Gibson. "The Shadow" is a registered trademark of Advance Magazine Publications, Inc. Other characters remain the property of this author. I make no profit from this.
Notes: From the radio show (1945), "The Shadow, who aids the forces of law and order, is in reality Lamont Cranston, wealthy young man about town. Years ago in the Orient, Cranston learned the strange and mysterious secret--the hypnotic power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him. Cranston's friend, and companion, the lovely Margo Lane, is the only person who knows to whom the voice of the invisible Shadow belongs."
New York's sunlight gave everything in the café a bright edge. The light reflected off the white metal tables and chairs, but the young man wearing shaded glasses seemed disdainful of it.
He drummed his fingers on the latticework of the table. He stood, and the chair screeched as it was pushed sharply back. A tall, sharply dressed man with hawk-like features had entered the café. This was obviously the person he'd been waiting for.
The tall man strode forward and extended his hand, saying, "How are you, Jonill?"
They shook hands.
"I'm doing well, Cranston. Shall we get down to business?"
He sat down, followed by Cranston.
"You called me, saying you had some information, but you didn't elaborate. You've kept me waiting here for half an hour. This isn't the way to keep me happy."
"I hope that changes when you hear what I have to say."
"Margo Lane is a kleptomaniac. The only reason we are together is I am able to repay all the people she's stolen from. She's been to several doctors, but none have been able to help her."
Jonill had sat back in his chair, a horribly spiteful smile on his face, as he listened to Cranston.
"Well, well, well. And you're telling me this because..."
"Money. And I've gotten tired of her company. I thought maybe you would be kind enough to take her off my hands."
"Ah. I would be happy to oblige."
"We're in complete agreement then. You'll woo her, blackmail her, and drop her and I'll get my cut, right?"
"Do you think I'm actually cold-blooded enough to do what you've just described?"
"Without a doubt."
The smile reappeared.
"That's all then." Cranston stood and extended his hand once again. "Pleasure doing business with you."
Jonill shook Cranston's hand. "Likewise."
"Well, Margo? Having fun?"
Margo Lane placed her right hand within the crook of Lamont Cranston's arm.
"Yes, I am, Lamont. Although, the young man standing next to the piano seems to be infatuated with me."
Cranston searched the room until he located the object of Margo's comment. "Oh, you mean Harry Jonill?"
"Oh, so that's his name! He never introduced himself. All he did was shower me with compliments and declare that he ought to take me from this, and I quote, 'stuporific soiree' and carry me off to a lovely castle in Germany." She took a sip from the drink she held in her left hand.
Lamont smiled slyly and whispered in her ear, "No doubt the castle built by the Mad Prince."
She smiled. "Lamont, be kind. Who is he and why is he bothering me?"
"Don't tell me you don't know? You who pick up the newspaper only to read the gossip column and the funnies? No ... I don't believe it." He shook his head.
"Lamont. Tell me!"
"Yes, dear." He managed to look hen-pecked. "He's the son of Ambrose Jonill, the assistant D. A."
"Oh, the aspiring actor. Uh-oh. Here he comes again. You'd think he'd have the sense to stay away from me, while you're here. We are, after all, an item."
"We are, Margo? Why am I always the last one to know these things?"
"Shh. Here he comes."
"Delightful affair, Cranston."
Margo rolled her eyes and Lamont smiled impishly.
Jonill frowned, then continued.
"Honestly, old man, if I were you I'd keep this entrancing creature locked away, for fear I might lose her."
Lamont had raised his eyebrows at the familiarity of this remark and Margo seemed to shrink against him.
Lamont said lightly, "I have no fear of someone's snatching her from me. She's far too loyal a friend."
Jonill blinked, startled by the veiled warning and retreated into the crowd.
Margo turned to Lamont, her eyes wide with disbelief. "Honestly, Lamont, one would think you had a grudge against him! Why did you do that?"
Lamont placed a finger against her mouth.
"I've had him under surveillance for sometime. I'll explain later."
"You have something for me to do?"
"Yes, I want you to move around this room and pocket every little knick-knack you can."
"I want you to--"
She cut him off sharply, "I heard what you said. You want me to steal from you?"
"I don't have any pockets."
"Then get your handbag and steal something small. Make sure Jonill sees you."
"What is going on?"
"Trust me, Margo. Try that sculpture right on the piano."
"But that cost you two thousand dollars."
"And you'll return it to me later."
"Lamont, you'd better explain later."
He nodded and said, "Good luck."
She gave him an exasperated look.
It was three in the morning. Lamont had just bid the last of his guests farewell.
Margo reached into her purse and pulled out the statue. "Lamont, what is this about?"
He took it from her and placed it on the piano.
"Jonill uses his social standing to get close to acquaintances and collect information that enables him to blackmail them."
Margo looked puzzled. "Not to question you but how do you know all this?"
"Jonill told me so. I caught him spying a few days ago. He gives me money for my silence."
At her shocked look he said, "It's just a step in ending his blackmailing racket."
"Why did you have me steal that statue?"
"I've told Jonill you're a kleptomaniac."
"Lamont, what are you doing?"
"Margo, I need you to play up to Jonill. I know you won't relish the role, but he does seem to fancy you. I expect he will try to blackmail you."
"You sure do pick the assignments, don't you, darling? Fine, you know I can't say no."
"Thank you, Margo."
For the next few weeks it was noticed and commented upon in various society and gossip columns that the young socialite Margo Lane and the aspiring actor Harry Jonill (son of the ADA Ambrose Jonill) had been seen together quite frequently, leaving some to speculate on what had left millionaire playboy Lamont Cranston out in the cold.
To Margo, the weeks caused her to realize that she had undervalued Lamont's quiet companionship. Harry's malicious social climbing made her cringe. She was happy to be able to spend the few minutes each day with Lamont when she made her report. She knocked on the door of his apartment. A second later the door opened.
He pulled her in.
"You were right, Lamont. I am not relishing this assignment. He is constantly flattering me, sending flowers, candy, and occasionally jewelry." She lifted up her right arm. A bracelet glittered as it slid down. "This came today."
"I thought women liked that kind of attention."
"Oh, Lamont. Some do, but I'm getting tired of it."
"Have you found out anything?"
"Yes, I have. Last night, Harry told me he saw me take the sculpture. He said he wanted five hundred dollars. He's meeting me tonight at my apartment. I told him I would have the money then."
She looked worried and he asked her, "What's wrong?"
"You will be there, won't you?"
"Of course. As the Shadow."
She smiled wanly, "Thank you."
The knock at the door startled Margo out of her anxious reverie. Praying that it would be Lamont, she called, "Who is it?"
She sighed and opened the door. The sight of him stirred something in her and she started to cry. The tears lessened when he enveloped her in his arms. Finally she sniffed, "I'm sorry, I don't know what that was."
He offered her his handkerchief. "It's probably just nerves, my dear."
She pounded his chest weakly with her fist. "How do you do it, Lamont? How do you confront criminals the way you do?"
"It helps when they can't see you."
She laughed, a small sound, and started to wipe her tears with the handkerchief.
"You know what you have to do tonight, Margo?"
"Good. Now we just wait."
The passage of time seemed unbearable to Margo. Her ears strained to hear the slightest sound. Once a door slammed, and but for the steadying hand of Lamont on her shoulder she would have started to her feet. Finally a knock shook the wood of her door.
Margo looked up at Lamont, who immediately faded away. Margo blinked, amazed once again at how easily he did that.
She walked to the door and drew back the bolt, opening the door. Jonill strolled in and immediately got to the point.
"Do you have the money?"
For a moment Margo started to panic, then she remembered Lamont.
"I don't have the money."
His face twisted in anger. "Why, you little--"
"Wait! I don't have the money because Lamont promised to bring it here in half an hour. Sit down, won't you?"
As he advanced on her, she glanced over his shoulder and cried out, "Lamont!"
Jonill turned sharply around and encountered the black hole of the business end of a gun, held by none other than Police Commissioner Weston.
"What is this, Margo?" Jonill snapped.
"You'd never leave me alone if I didn't do this, Harry. I don't want to be blackmailed for the rest of my life, even as a favor to Lamont."
"A favor--. What do you mean?"
She smiled triumphantly. "When you saw me take that statuette, it was at the insistence of Lamont. He told me about your blackmail schemes. We set you up."
Suddenly, Jonill drew a gun and jerked Margo against him. A tense moment of fear and wondering shot through them all, keeping them frozen until the gun was snatched from Jonill's hand. A sly laugh echoed in the room.
Margo gasped. "Shadow!"
"That's right. Jonill, release Miss Lane."
Margo decided to end this standoff. She brought her sharp-heeled shoe down hard on Jonill's foot and followed it up by a sharp jab to his ribs with both her elbows.
He yelped. A moment later, he was on the floor being handcuffed by Commissioner Weston.
No one noticed Margo's door open and close on its own, except Margo, who waited expectantly. Shortly, the door opened again and Lamont walked in. Margo threw herself in his arms.
"There, there, Margo. I'm sure you did well." He said, for the benefit of the others in the room. He stroked her hair and then whispered softly, "I'm proud of you."
She looked up at him, surprised at the compliment.
Their eyes locked, but the lock was broken by the strident voice of Jonill as Weston pushed him past them.
"Cranston, you traitor! You'll pay for this."
"I think I've paid enough, Jonill."
The police had left hours ago. Lamont and Margo were seated on the sofa, nursing cups of coffee.
Margo rocked slightly back and forth, staring into space. Lamont broke the silence.
"Are you sure you're all right?"
"Lamont, I was used as a body shield by someone holding a gun to my head. I'll be fine, after a few days. Working with you definitely makes a girl wiser."
"Margo, you know I need you with me. I can't take back anything that we've gone through together. I wish I could."
He kissed her slowly, savoring the chance, as always. He stood and let her hand slide from his grasp.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Margo."
"As always. Goodnight, Lamont."