DCM Knights
Detective Comics

Mind Games
by Chip Caroon

Victor Cranston
Natalie Casswell

Ebon sat in the office of his boss. He sat in a darkened room, so he couldn't see very well. In fact, he was trying to remember a time when he had actually seen his boss fully; he couldn't.

"Ebon," the boss said, "you have failed to capture the Shadow. It is taking a considerable amount of our resources to go after him."

"I'm sorry, boss," Ebon replied. "I thought I had him with Shocker, but I hadn't expected him to call Spider-Man."

"A most unfortunate occurrence. That is why I am not holding you as accountable as I should."

Ebon lowered his head.

The boss continued. "Therefore, I am bringing in an outside agent to help you out. He has a history with the Shadow dynasty. One of his predecessors played a big role in the later part of the original Shadow's career."

Ebon's interest was piqued. "Tell me more, please . . . "

A few minutes later, Ebon had heard all about the latest pawn of Intergang in their vendetta against The Shadow. He then changed the subject.

"What's the official word on Spider-Man?" he asked. "Do we take him now, or do we wait?"

The boss leaned back in his chair. "If he interferes with our operation to get the Shadow, then yes. Until then, he stays alive."

"But he's taken out a good number of our members on his own," Ebon replied.

"Only the cannon fodder; those from the bottom of the barrel," said the boss. "He poses no real threat on his own."

"Whatever you say, boss . . . "

Victor Cranston sat in front of his computer, staring at the word processing program on his screen. He glanced over at the paper he had taped to the side of the computer tower. It was his English assignment. Looking back at the nearly blank screen, and watching the blinking cursor, he sighed.

Suddenly, he felt a pair of arms come around his shoulders and embrace him in a giant hug. Vic could smell the vague scent of his girlfriend's perfume. He looked up.

"I didn't hear you come in," he said.

"Probably because you were busy with your paper," Natalie replied.

"You have yours done?" Vic asked.

Natalie nodded. "A bunch of us were talking about it after school, and I just took some random thoughts from that discussion."

"You're lucky," Victor said. "You can do this literary analysis really well. Me, I read these stories as stories. I don't try to get into the deep meanings of why the author wrote it. Heck, most of these stories were written for either money, the desire to write it, or both."

"C'mon, Vic," Natalie said. "Aren't you being a little harsh?"

"I'm being harsh when the teacher wants a two page paper on a character that only showed up for two paragraphs? And then try to tie it into real life somehow?"

"I see your point. I guess you just have to know how to think like the teacher."

"That's the thing," Vic replied. "I can't think like the teacher. I'm not obsessed with the English language."

Natalie laughed. "You need some help?"

Victor looked at the clock. "Maybe in a little bit. Right now, I have to do one of my duties as The Shadow, and watch the news."

"Ah, yes, to make sure everything is okay."

"Well, if there's anything I have to deal with."

"I wonder if Spider-Man has to do this every night," Natalie commented.

"Are you kidding? He works at a newspaper! He gets the news before it hits the airwaves!"

Victor walked downstairs. He saw his grandfather looking through an old chest.

"What are ya doing?" he asked.

Lamont Cranston looked up. "I was just looking through my old Shadow stuff. Hard to believe it's been sixty years since I first put this stuff on. Come to think of it, it was probably sixty years ago this month that I faced one of my first real cases."

"Which one?" Natalie asked.

"One I like to call avenging an avenger. It was a murder mystery. Hmm . . . I'm sure I have that book somewhere. I'll look for that too," Lamont said, looking back in the box. He picked up a smaller box. Opening it, he found a set of rings. They looked just like the ones he had given Victor to use as The Shadow. He handed it to Victor.

"Well, no sense letting these just sit in here," he said.

"Thanks," Victor said. "Hopefully, I can get an underground of agents going soon."

"That reminds me," Natalie said, "what is the password? Something like 'The sun is shining . . . '"

" . . . but the ice is slippery," Victor and Lamont said in unison.

The next day, Lamont was in the grocery store, doing the shopping. It was one of the chores he actually liked doing. It gave him a chance to get out and occasionally talk to some of his friends. It was sort of a ritual. Plus, he knew that if he didn't do the shopping, there would be a few things that he wouldn't ever get.

Lamont had already met his friends, and was walking down the produce aisle when he saw a Chinese boy, about Victor's age, walk past him. The boy smiled, and Lamont smiled back, remembering the time he had spent in China so long ago.

Lamont walked past, and continued with his shopping. As he picked up an apple, his vision began to go blurry. He looked around. The store seemed darker. He could see black rings around everything, and his head began pounding. That feeling . . . he thought. Haven't felt it since . . .

Suddenly, Lamont collapsed to the floor.

The Chinese boy ran over. "Mister! Mister! Are you okay?" he shouted with a thick Chinese accent.

"Nnnnhh . . . "

Lamont could sense the gathering crowd as he fell farther unconscious.

"Did your grandfather ever get that book to you?" Natalie asked Victor as he sat down at the lunch table.

"Actually, he didn't. He's still looking. He said it shouldn't be too long," Victor replied.

"So are you going to write about your adventures as a superhero?"

Victor shrugged. "Depends. If the urge hits me, then I guess I will. But right now, I have to have those adventures."

"However dangerous they may be," Natalie whispered.

"They haven't been that bad," Vic replied. "I've gone up against a bad lawyer, a gang, and Shocker. Plus, Spider-Man had my back most of the time."

"Still, it is kinda nerve racking when you're out there."

Victor took Natalie's hands and placed his over them. "Don't worry, Natalie. There are plenty more heroes fighting even more dangerous people than I am."

Just then, one of Victor's teachers came up. "Victor," she said. "I hate to interrupt, but there is a very urgent phone call for you in the office. I think it's about your grandfather."

"Natalie, will you watch my stuff?" Victor asked as he stood up. He went to the office as quickly as he could. He walked up to the counter. "I'm Victor Cranston," he said. "I was told that there was a call for me?"

The secretary picked up the phone in front of her and pressed a button. "It's your mother."

Victor took the phone. "Mom?"

"Vic, come to the hospital."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"It's your grandfather. He passed out in the grocery store."

"I'll be right there."

Victor hung up the phone and ran back to the senior lunch area. He grabbed his backpack. "Gotta run, Nat," he said. "My grandfather's in the hospital."

Natalie stood up and walked around the table, next to Victor. "What's wrong?" she asked.

"All I know is that he passed out in the grocery store. I have to go to the hospital now." He gently kissed Natalie on the forehead. "Come over when you can."

"I should come now."

Victor shook his head. "No sense you missing school too. Besides, I'm going to need you to get my makeup work. Just come on over after school."


Victor arrived at the hospital in record time. He ran up to the desk. "What room is Lamont Cranston in?" he asked.

The lady standing behind the desk looked up briefly, and then typed something into the computer terminal in front of her. "He's in room 435," she said, handing him a visitor's pass. "Visiting hours are over at 7."

"That's okay," Victor said as he began walking away. "I'm family."

It took Victor about five minutes to get up to the fourth floor using the elevator. Finding the room wasn't very difficult since the elevator was only a couple of rooms down. He walked in. His mother was sitting in the chair beside the bed in which his grandfather was lying. Lamont's eyes were closed, and he was hooked up to an oxygen tank.

"What's the deal?" Victor asked.

"They brought him in a couple of hours ago. Since then, he's been asleep. He's woken up a few times, but not for very long. The doctors think something happened to his mind," his mother replied.

Victor saw Lamont's eyes open slightly. He walked to the side of the bed. He could hear Lamont whispering something.

"K . . . Kh-Khan . . . " he whispered.

"What's he saying?" Mrs. Cranston asked.

"It sounds like 'con.' I'm going to read his mind if I can."

Victor closed his eyes and let his mind enter his grandfather's. It seemed a clutter. Something was wrong, and Victor couldn't figure out what.

But all around him, he could see the word KHAN.

The boy sat in his room. The headache had grown tremendously since he left the grocery store. It seemed to have started shortly after he helped the man who had collapsed.

The boy sensed that someone was beside him, but it could not be. No one else was in the room with him.

The pain in his head caused him to bend over, and then fall off of his bed. He screamed and his appearance began to change.

Just like that, the pain was gone. He stood up. Now, he was wearing furs, like a Chinese nomad would wear.

If anyone else had been there to see him, they would also notice that his eyes had turned white.

Victor turned back to his mother. "I have to go back home. I need to do some checking up on this Khan person. He's connected to this somehow."

"What about your schoolwork?"

"Natalie's going to get it for me. Don't worry about me."

When Victor got back home, he headed straight for the study. Lamont kept tons of information in there. Recently, he had been putting it into a computer database for Victor. Naturally, that was the first place Victor went for information.

He opened the program. It prompted him to enter a keyword to search for. He typed in "KHAN."

A file came up. It was about a villain named Shiwan Khan, the archenemy of The Shadow. Lamont had first encountered him in China, before he became the Shadow, and then encountered him several times since.

Victor read on, and learned about the dangers he would be encountering. It was about two hours before he was done with the file. He was interrupted from his thoughts by the telephone. He picked it up. It was his mother.

"Any luck?" she asked.

"Not really. Basically, I know all about this Khan person, but that's about it. I can't really tell what he may have done, but I have some ideas."

"Are you going to try to find him?"

"I don't know where to start looking." He paused for a moment. "You want me to come over?"

"If you want. I guess we'll just eat dinner here."

"I'll be there soon," Victor said. "Bye."

"See you then. Bye."

As Victor was driving to the hospital, he heard a strange voice in his head.

Come to me, Shadow . . .

Victor saw an image in his head. It was a museum. Victor immediately knew where to go. He had been on a field trip there a few years ago in school.

He pulled up in front. Everything was dark, and the building seemed empty of people. Victor grabbed his Shadow gear from the back seat and put it on. He turned invisible and stepped out of the car.

Walking up to the front entrance, the Shadow could see that the front door was slightly ajar. He carefully opened the door enough to where he could slip in.

Alarms must be off, he thought. Either that, or they're all silent.

He moved closer to the center of the large foyer. He looked up, briefly admiring the ornate decoration on the ceiling. Suddenly, he felt a fist come down very hard on his back.

The wind knocked out of him, The Shadow fell down. He twisted around, and was able to regain his footing. Standing in front of him was a person that looked very similar to Shiwan Khan! Although, this person was younger.

"Shadow. I know you are here. You think you can hide from me, but I can read your mind!" the Khan lookalike said. His voice was deeper than it should have been.

"Who are you?" the Shadow asked.

The person smiled. "I am Shiwan Khan. Or rather, his heir."

The Shadow began circling his foe. "What gives? He should be really old by now."

"He passed his brainwaves to his apprentice. Passing the brainwaves a few more times, and they reached this body."

"Scary. So why did you come here? Just to kill me?"

"That was part of the reason."

"What was the other part?"

Khan smiled. "I was paid to do this." With that, he lifted his hand, and The Shadow felt himself rising in the air.

Not good! he thought. He doesn't really care about who hired him. He's getting paid to do what he was already planning on doing. But who hired him?

The answer suddenly struck him. Intergang.

As fast as the answer hit him, Khan slammed the Shadow to the ground. The Shadow stood up and took a running jump at Khan, who was able to grab his foot and block it. He slammed The Shadow to the ground once more, and went for this throat.

Elsewhere, Ebon and the big boss of Intergang were watching the fight.

"Blast it!" the boss said. "He's trying to kill The Shadow! Abort this mission!"

Khan hear a buzz in his ear. It must have been the earpiece that he was given. He paid no attention to it.

The Shadow was struggling under Khan's grip. Khan just looked at him, gloating and smiling. The Shadow gathered all the strength he could, and put it in his knee, connecting with Khan's groin.

Khan fell back. The Shadow stood up, grabbed Khan's shirt, and punched him in the face. Khan landed by the front entrance. He stood up and ran out as fast as he could.

Victor arrived at the hospital ten minutes later. As he entered his grandfather's room, he could see his eyes opening. He rushed over to the side of the bed.

"You did it, Victor," he said.

The next day at school, Victor was telling Natalie what had happened the night before as they walked in.

"So, you now have to worry about your grandfather's mortal enemy?" Natalie asked. "That sucks."

"Tell me about it," Vic replied.

Just then, a Chinese boy, about Victor's age came up to him.

"Hi," he said in broken English. "I am an exchange student from China. Today is my first day. Can you tell me where room 134 is?"

Victor pointed to the end of the hall. "It's down there, next to last on the right."

"Thank you," the exchange student said. As he walked away, Victor noticed something about how his eyes flashed. He dismissed it and walked to homeroom.

Next Issue: The exciting conclusion to the Shadow/Intergang war! It's a no holds barred full out war! Plus, more on the man in the shadows! And to top it off, the big boss of Intergang will be revealed!