The Shadow in Review site, dedicated to the popular pulp fiction character the Shadow, used to publish a series called “Two-Minute Mysteries”. You could submit a roughly 500 word story featuring the Shadow and it had to be a mystery that could be read and solved in about- you guessed it- two minutes. It also had to mimic the style of the 1930’s / 40’s pulp stories and maintain their original setting.
I was going through some documents and came across one of the the stories I submitted and was published on the website, called “Numbers of Death”. It was originally published on the site during the week of August 8th, 2005, but stories were only kept up for one week.
It qualifies, obviously, as fan fiction, but it was my first time tackling a mystery, and even though I loved the Shadow (I was hooked since my 5th grade music teacher played a cassette tape of an old Shadow radio play) I had never thought about writing a story with the character until I found the site.
I’m giving it a home here. I hope that you enjoy it.
A black-cloaked figure ran his gloved fingers over the dull paint on each door, tracing the faded numbers.
“Careful, careful,” came a voice, rolling out from a vent overhead, betraying a Spanish accent. “You cannot be wrong if you want for her to live.” A chuckle followed.
“Enjoy your games now, Fantasmo. They won’t save you later on when I have you within my grasp,” the Shadow said.
He then stepped back and observed the four doors before him. They each had a number painted on them: 7, 28, 53 and 71. Behind the doors, the Shadow heard the labored breathing of Alexia D’mornai, daughter of a visiting French diplomat. Alexia had been reported missing three days ago, and as the Shadow’s investigation progressed, the clues lead him to Fantasmo, a thief and extortionist whom the Shadow had encountered before. The trail had lead him to an old, abandoned mansion in the hills of New York, and the makeshift trap in which Fantasmo had bound Alexia.
Fantasmo’s voice snapped the Shadow’s attention back to the present. “I had hoped to use the beautiful Miss D’Mornai to obtain a small amount of wealth from her father… but alas, you have forced my hand, Shadow.”
“If she dies because of your trap…”
“It would be your fault, Shadow. Imagine the scandal if the daughter of a diplomat lost her life here, and it was due to your negligence.”
Discrediting me in the process, the Shadow thought. His eyes darted back and forth between the doors.
“Three of the doors have been rigged to cut the rope that holds the guillotine blade above Alexia’s throat,” came Fantasmo’s voice. “Each door displays a number. You must pick one. It must be perfect, or she dies.”
“How do I know that you’re being truthful?” the Shadow replied.
“Even among thieves, there is honor, Shadow,” Fantasmo said. “I swear to you, one of the doors will not betray you.”
The Shadow nodded, and began to concentrate. The numbers on the doors screamed out to him.
7. 28. 53. 71.
A low chuckle echoed throughout the room as The Shadow opened the door marked 28. Once through, he found Alexia was still unharmed.
HOW DID THE SHADOW KNOW WHICH DOOR TO CHOOSE?
The Shadow realized that when Fantasmo said, “You must pick one. It must be perfect” he referred, not to the door, but to the number itself. Of the numbers on the doors, 28 was what mathematicians call a “perfect number.” A perfect number is the sum of it’s divisors (not including itself) — in this case 1, 2, 4, 7 and 14. The Shadow knows!