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«The Man From Shanghai», Maxwell Grant

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As originally published in “The Shadow Magazine,” April 15, 1936.

 

The man from Shanghai was caught in a murderous web involving millions of dollars that only The Shadow could untangle.

CHAPTER I – A MURDERER’S MOVES

THE man by the fireplace was busy at a task. Before him, turned at an angle to escape the fire’s heat, was a low table, stacked with correspondence. The letters were at the man’s left; to his right were pen and inkwell.

The man was reading the typewritten letters in methodical fashion. As he completed each perusal, he placed the letter in front of him, dipped pen into inkwell and applied his signature with a peculiar flourish.

The name that the man signed was Kenneth Malfort.

The crackling fire raised grotesque flares to reveal Malfort’s face. Somehow, flames seemed the proper light to show that countenance. Malfort’s countenance was one that at intervals betrayed a demonish glare. At those moments, an imaginative observer might have classed him as a satan who had chosen to masquerade in human cruise.

Except for those intervals, Malfort’s face was steady, almost dignified. His features were craggy, from his high forehead, past his well-formed nose, to his straight lips and large chin. His profile was an excellent one, always constant. It was only the full-face view that showed those evil flashes.

Then came a narrowing of forehead muscles that brought straight vertical lines above the bridge of Malfort ’s nose. The man’s eyes shone with evil glint. His lips compressed, to purse themselves into a smileless leer. Though smooth-shaven, Malfort could have passed for Mephistopheles whenever he allowed malice to rule his countenance.

Malfort was signing the last letter when he caught a sound that only the keenest ear could have detected. A tall, moon-faced man had stepped into the sumptuous room. With pussyfoot tread, the arrival had advanced four steps; then waited. Despite the man’s silent approach, Malfort had instantly detected the entry. Without a turn of his head, Malfort purred a question: “What is it, Wardlock?”

“Spark Ganza is here, sir,” replied the moon-faced man, in a solemn monotone. “He arrived by the rear entrance.”

“Tell him to come up.”

“Very well, Mr. Malfort.”

“Then bring the newspapers, Wardlock. After that, see to the prompt posting of these letters.”

Wardlock bowed. In his sneaky stride, he went from the room.

 

MALFORT arose, placed the table and its letters to one side; then resumed his easy-chair. Side to the fire, he was facing an empty chair several feet away.

There was a click as the door opened. Malfort’s face was expressionless as he turned his gaze toward the door. A brawny, thick-set ruffian stepped into view; this was “Spark” Ganza. Hard-faced, sharp-eyed, the fellow had the pudgy nose of a second-rate pugilist and the underslung jaw of a bulldog.

“Hello, Mr. Malfort,” gruffed Spark, showing an ugly grin as he approached. “I got your message and hot-footed it over here -”

“Sit down, Spark.” Malfort waved to the chair. Then, still eyeing his visitor, he added in louder tone: “Let me have those newspapers, Wardlock. Take the letters with you.”

Spark gaped as he looked toward the door. He had not heard Wardlock reenter; he thought that the moon-faced secretary had stayed downstairs. Yet there, sure enough, was Wardlock, with a stack of newspapers in his hands. The secretary approached and laid the journals on the table at Malfort’s side. Gathering up the letters, Wardlock pussyfooted from the room.

Malfort and Spark were alone.

“Yesterday,” announced Malfort, choosing a newspaper from the stack, “you did a good job, Spark. I was pleased with the murder of Jerome Blessingdale.”

“It was a cinch,” returned Spark. “We hopped aboard the Southeastern Limited when it pulled into Baltimore. Blessingdale was asleep in his compartment. I tapped him on the konk and took the swag. Nobody saw us drop off the rattler at Philly.”

“Quite true,” nodded Malfort. “I have read the Philadelphia newspapers, Spark. They say very little; the general opinion is that the crime investigation belongs to the New York police, since Blessingdale’s death was not uncovered until after the train arrived here.”

“Everybody knows, though, that Blessingdale was rubbed out.”


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