Blog: Writing about all things pulplish

TMM #9: Death’s Dart

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, August 11, 2017 in Pulp, The Shadow
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

TMM #9: Death’s Dart
A series of puzzlers starring a classic pulp figure

A series of puzzlers starring a classic pulp figure

Yes, it’s time for another Shadow Two-Minute Mystery. It will take about two minutes to read. The Shadow will solve the case, but you won’t be told exactly how. You are challenged to solve the mystery yourself; all the clews are there. (Yes, I spelled it “clews”)

This mini-mystery originally appeared on my “Shadow in Review” website between 2003 and 2008.

This mystery is based upon the original 1930s pulp character, The Shadow. He had no supernatural abilities; he was simply a man; a top physical and intellectual specimen. He haunted the dark streets of Manhattan in a black cloak and black slouch hat which rendered him “virtually” invisible, allowing him to blend into the shadows. He was a crime fighter of the highest rank. And it is upon this pulp character that this solve-it-yourself mystery is based.

Feel free to leave your solution in the comments section below, and demonstrate to old and young alike that you are worthy agent of The Shadow.

At the end of this mystery you will find some background notes on the story. Be sure to read them to learn how the characters and situations presented in the mystery are part of the original Shadow pulp universe.

You are about to enter the pulp world of the 1930s. Join The Shadow as he dons his black cloak, slouch hat and gloves and prepares to battle crime. It’s time for action and mystery. The Shadow knows!

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Death’s Dart

Kent Allard's two Xincan servants.

Kent Allard’s two Xincan servants.

“Allard! Allard! Are you there?” The frantic voice crackled from the telephone earpiece.

“Hello, this is Kent Allard,” came the calm answer from the tall, tanned gentlemen standing in the study of his apartment.

“This is Rufus Wellingsforth. You’ve got to help me. I think they followed me back…” There was a gasp… and then silence. Allard heard a heavy thump over the phone, then the sound of a gunshot.

Heading for the door, his two Xinca servitors handed him black cape and slouch hat. This was a task for The Shadow.

* * *

Minutes later, outside the front of the old Wellingsforth estate, a patrolman ran up. He had heard the gunshot and was searching for the source. He stopped a short, thin man in the dark. “Hey! Stop where you are. This is the law!”

The older man looked at the beat cop with relief. “Thank goodness! Someone just shot Colonel Wellingsforth. Come with me.”

Colonel Wellingsforth had a collection of native weapons.

Colonel Wellingsforth had a collection of native weapons.

As the two hurried up the front steps of the large house, the man explained, “I’m Benston, the butler. As I was coming down the front stairs, I saw a brown-skinned fellow standing in the hall outside the library. He held a blowgun and shot a dart at the Colonel. I grabbed a pistol from the wall and shot at him, but he escaped out the back door.”

Benston unlocked the front door and the two entered. Behind them a blackened form glided unnoticed through the doorway and faded into the shadows. The Shadow had arrived.

The butler led the way to the library where the body of Colonel Rufus Wellingsforth lay on the carpeted floor.

“There he is,” he gestured. “I’m sure he’s dead, although I didn’t have time to check. No one else was in the house; it was up to me. I gave chase after the assailant and was searching the grounds when you stopped me.”

The bluecoat bent over the prone form. “He’s dead all right. And look at this!” He pointed to a tiny feathered dart embedded deep in the neck of the dead man.

Kent Allard, world famous aviator, and secretly... The Shadow!

Kent Allard, world famous aviator, and secretly… The Shadow!

“It looks like one of the poisoned darts that was part of the Colonel’s collection.” Stepping into the hallway, Benston picked up a long thin tube of bamboo from the floor. “The stranger dropped this blowgun. It’s from the Colonel’s collection, too.”

The policeman stepped to the desk. He picked up the telephone receiver from the hook and jiggled the cradle several times. “Hello? Hello? Get me police headquarters. Homicide!”

After a moment’s wait: “Send out a squad car. Colonel Rufus Wellingsforth has been murdered.”

The figure in black appeared at the bluecoat’s side. A chilling whisper came from hidden lips: “Tell them you are also holding the butler as a suspect.”

WHY DID THE SHADOW SUSPECT BENSTON?

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Click here for the solution.

Check here after Aug. 18, 2017, for the solution.

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Background Notes:

As Shadow creator Walter Gibson revealed in 1937’s “The Shadow Unmasks,” the true identity of The Shadow was that of Kent Allard. Allard was an ace pilot and espionage agent during the Great War (known as World War I by today’s terminology). After the war was over, he intentionally crashed his airplane in Guatemala, and faked a six-year absence, allegedly being “lost” while, in reality, he actually returned to New York to fight crime as The Shadow.

Xincan Indians worshipped Kent Allard as a great white god.

Xincan Indians worshipped Kent Allard as a great white god.

It was in the Guatemalan jungles where he encountered the Xincan Indians mentioned in this story. They worshipped him as a white god, and presented him with his famous girasol ring. When Kent Allard publicly returned to New York in 1937, he brought with him two Xincan servants. They were seen in only a handful of the pulp stories after that.

These two Xincans were not slaves; they served him willingly. They had been granted the privilege of serving Allard by their tribe, and followed him voluntarily back to civilization. They didn’t appear often in the pulp magazine stories, only showing up a dozen times over the 19 years.

These two men, whose names readers never learned, were possessors of a great secret. They knew that Allard was actually The Shadow. Being aware of Allard’s secret, the two Xinca servants could assist him when the occasion required it. Their mastery of jungle stealth made them excellent trackers even in the concrete jungle of Manhattan.

One Comment

  1. He was shot with the blowgun and fell with a thump while he was on the telephone, and then there was the gunshot. How did the Colonel put the phone receiver back on the hook? If Benston really did chase an assailant, the phone would be on the floor. His story has inconsistencies with the evidence.

What do you think?