Thursday, 27 June 2013


In Partners of Peril, by Theodore Tinsley (writing as Maxwell Grant), Lamont Cranston investigates chemical syndicate murders in the crime thriller that serves as the model for Batman’s debut adventure in Detective Comics #27.

by Maxwell Grant

     As originally published in "The Shadow Magazine," November 1, 1936.

     Partners of Peril play a dangerous game. But it is The Shadow who makes
the final move that blasts to bits the plans of the unknown power of evil!



     THE tall gray-haired man who entered the Cobalt Club was badly frightened.
He walked through the ornate foyer with almost cringing haste. But when he
reached the doorway of the lounge room he stopped and forced himself to act
more calmly. He glanced hopefully around, as though searching for some
reassuring face that would ease the fear that was flooding his rather spare,
well-dressed body.
     He was looking for Police Commissioner Weston. At headquarters, they said
that Weston had left a few minutes earlier and had probably gone to the Cobalt
     The gray-haired man had to see Weston. He was afraid to open his mouth to
any one else. To-night he knew he was marked for murder! Death before midnight!
     The man walked quickly toward the Cobalt Club's desk and spoke in a low,
guarded voice to the attendant. He hid his fear. He even managed a cool smile
as he asked for Ralph Weston.
     The attendant told him that the police commissioner was not there.
     "Perhaps if you tried his home, Mr. Harrington -"
     He turned toward a row of discreetly closed phone booths. There was a
strained smile on his pale face as he nodded to members of the club who sat
idly about in comfortable chairs. He congratulated himself on his control of
his nerves. Nobody suspected anything was amiss with the tall Mr. Harrington.
     He was wrong. Somebody did suspect. The man who suspected was uttering a
barely audible chuckle behind the spread pages of a newspaper. Apparently, he
was not even looking at Harrington. But his eyes had noted Harrington's panic
the moment the fellow had come in from the foyer.

     THE clubman with the newspaper was Lamont Cranston. Tall, well-bred,
quiet, his outer appearance gave no hint of his keenness and strength. To
Harrington, he had always seemed a wealthy and not very sociable clubman. His
hawk nose and burning eyes were screened at the moment by the spread newspaper.
     Harrington, in his extremity of fear, would have thought it a waste of
time to have asked Lamont Cranston's help against a mysterious murder threat.
Yet Lamont Cranston, whom he was passing with a faint nod, was the only man on
earth who could have helped him.
     Lamont Cranston was The Shadow!
     For a week, he had been aware that Reed Harrington's life was in peril
from some unknown source. He knew from the reports of his agents that
Harrington had changed his residence three times in the course of the last
     The Shadow had not yet acted on the information he had gathered, because
there was no definite clue upon which to base a move. The Shadow never acted
without logical reason.
     Harrington was already closed in a telephone booth. He was talking in a
low voice. He called the home of Commissioner Weston and swore fretfully when
he was told that Weston was still away. He was unaware that Lamont Cranston had
left his chair and was quietly listening in the adjoining booth.
     "Tell him that Mr. Reed Harrington telephoned about a matter of the utmost
importance," he whispered, shakily. "I - I prefer not to mention my present
address. I'll call the commissioner back, later. Please ask him to wait at home
until he hears from me."
     Cranston's sharp ears heard the whispered words with crystal clarity. His
face was turned toward the inner side of the booth, so that his ear rested
lightly against the frail connecting panel. Had Harrington noticed him at all,
he would have seen merely the dark, inconspicuous back of a fellow club member.
He would have seen the receiver pressed lightly to Cranston's right car, as
though he were waiting patiently for a lazy operator.
     But Harrington was not even aware that a man was closeted in the booth
alongside his. Fear for his own physical safety drove all other considerations
from his tortured mind.
     Death! Midnight was the deadline! In Heaven's name, he thought shakily,
who was behind this nightmare threat - and why? What could he possibly have
done, whom could he have possibly harmed?
     He left the Cobalt Club with a quick, anxious stride. The usual row of
taxis was in front under the ornate canopy. Harrington hurried to the head of
the line and jumped in the cab with fumbling haste.

     THE cab had barely left the curb when Lamont Cranston appeared. He
quickened his leisurely step as he saw the first cab draw away. Something like
a rueful smile passed across his lips, as he hurried to the second cab.
     "Was that Mr. Harrington who just left?"
     "Dash it! I wanted to talk to him. That fool attendant told me he was down
in the grillroom."
     He stepped into the taxi and closed the door with a mildly exasperated
gesture. "Follow him, please. I'll have to talk to him at his home, I suppose."
     "O.K., Mr. Cranston."
     The cab got under way. Harrington's taxi was a dark blur down the avenue
and Cranston leaned forward.
     "Oh, by the way, you'd better keep that cab of his in sight. I've
forgotten where Harrington lives, he's moved to some new address. Just make
sure you don't lose track of him, eh?"
     He chuckled good-humoredly. "A rather amusing situation. Makes me feel
almost like a detective."
     The driver laughed at the thought of the tall, immaculately dressed and
rather peaceful Mr. Cranston as a detective.
     "I don't think crook-chasing would appeal to a gentlemen like you, sir."
     "No," Cranston smiled. "I suppose not."
     He leaned back, apparently bored at the whole business. But his profile
was bent forward so that he could survey the dark avenue ahead and observe the
course of the cab he was following. Traffic weaved in and out between pursuer
and pursued. But the thought of a generous tip from his swanky fare kept
Cranston's chauffeur on the alert.
     Suddenly Cranston saw something that stiffened him on his seat and brought
a quick tension into his narrowed eyes. Some one else was interested in the
movements of the furtive Mr. Harrington to-night! A small blue sedan seemed to
be keeping rather close to the rear of the speeding cab ahead.
     As the cab and the blue sedan passed under a street lamp, Cranston saw
that there were two men in the sedan, but it was impossible to distinguish them
     From the fact that Harrington's cab made no effort to increase its pace,
Cranston was certain that the fleeing man was unaware of any surveillance. Taxi
and sedan passed a green traffic light - which immediately, to the annoyance of
Cranston's chauffeur, changed to red.
     "Nerts!" the hacker growled. "We're gonna lose Mr. Harrington, sir."
     But his fare smiled softly. "It's all right. You've earned your tip. I
notice that the cab has stopped at that tall apartment midway through the next
block. You've done excellently."
     As Cranston spoke, he was leaning forward, his eyes on the blue sedan. It
had slowed up as Harrington's taxi slid to a halt at the curb. Now it increased
its pace and continued down the dark avenue. It turned a corner and vanished.
     "I'll get out here," Cranston said, suddenly.
     He paid off his driver and added a pleasant tip, a sum expected from him
as the wealthy and generous Lamont Cranston. A moment later, he had crossed the
street on foot and was approaching the entrance of the tall apartment house into
which Reed Harrington had hurried with a quick step.

     CRANSTON'S eyes remained on the corner beyond, rather than the entrance of
the building itself. He rather expected some one to appear around that corner on
foot, nor was he disappointed. It was the man who had ridden beside the driver
of the mysterious blue sedan. Cranston had only a vague picture of the blur of
the fellow's face, but he had memorized the bulk of the sloped, heavy shoulders
encased in a gray-checked suit, and he was quietly certain that this was the
same man.
     The sedan had evidently pulled up around the corner and let this man out
to resume his mysterious surveillance in front of the house in which Harrington
     They passed almost in front of the canopied entrance. Cranston observed
the fleshy face, the thick, brutish hands. "Thug!" his mind whispered
instantly. "Gun-bulge on his hip, too!"
     The fellow's face was utterly unknown to him. Perhaps a small fry in the
world of crime, or else a gunman imported into New York from the outside. Had
he been otherwise, the sharp eyes of The Shadow, possessed of vast and accurate
information concerning the vicious personalities that dominated Manhattan's
underworld, would have immediately identified this shrewd trailer of a
frightened man.
     Cranston lounged quietly into the lobby of the apartment house. The
switchboard was empty; evidently the man on duty had taken Reed Harrington
upstairs in the elevator. In an instant, the sharp eyes of The Shadow were
scanning swiftly the open pigeon-holes that contained mail for the tenants. He
noted Harrington's name neatly typed on a slip of paper below one of the
compartments on the bottom row. The suite number, not the name, was what
impressed him.
     He could hear the faint whine of the descending elevator and he hurried
noiselessly across the deserted foyer and dashed up the shady stairs. He was
perfectly satisfied with the way things were going. He knew exactly where
Harrington was - and his own presence in the building was unguessed. He
ascended the shadowy stairs to the eleventh floor.
     Harrington's door was two removed from the end of the hall. The end itself
was closed off by the fire door through which Cranston had just appeared. He
returned noiselessly to the staircase and opened a window.
     Outside in the darkness was a high-walled stone terrace formed by the
setback arrangement of the building. The Shadow laughed quietly. Bent low like
a flitting wraith, he crossed under one window without sound, and approached
the second.

     WITH his eye carefully lifted to the lower corner of the window, The
Shadow was able to see inside a large, high-ceilinged room. Reed Harrington was
in that room, seated at a low desk. He didn't notice the calm gaze that took in
at a single glance every detail of himself and the room in which he sat.
Harrington was slumped in abject fear. He groaned and held his head in his
     Finally he rose to his feet and walked with jerky haste to a telephone in
the far corner of the room. As he turned his back, the alert hand of The Shadow
raised the sash of the unlocked window so that it moved a half inch or so
upward. The Shadow's sharp ear listened to the trembling voice of Reed
Harrington. The man was again calling the home of Ralph Weston, commissioner of
     The Shadow knew that number as well as his own. As Lamont Cranston, he had
often been an honored guest at Weston's home. The two were excellent friends,
although never for a moment had Weston ever suspected that this tall,
well-groomed clubman with the pleasant smile and rather piercing eyes was, in
fact, the grim avenger of crime that police and crooks alike knew only by the
grim pseudonym of The Shadow.
     Cranston's lean body tensed, as he heard the frightened hiss of
Harrington's words on the telephone.
     "Commissioner Weston?... Thank God! I've got to see you right away...
Murder! Some one has threatened to kill me before midnight to-night. It's
ten-thirty now and I have a queer feeling that people are following me... No, I
don't know why. I've got to have police protection... Visit you right away?
     As Harrington turned from the phone he stood stock-still for an instant,
his face suddenly pale. His eyes had noted the open crack at the bottom of the
     The window had been closed when he entered the room. Harrington was
certain of it. His hand jerked from his pocket with a small automatic pistol.
He tiptoed to the window, lifted it, stared at the shadowy expanse of the
narrow terrace outside. There was no one there.
     Harrington sighed, and replaced the gun in his pocket with a shaking hand.
He was letting his nerves get the better of him, he thought. He had no idea at
all that The Shadow had listened, had heard all he wanted to know - and was now
gone, hurrying like a dark spectre through the blackness of Manhattan toward the
home of Ralph Weston, commissioner of police.

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