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Dead Men Tell

Season 8
Mar 1, 1942

Major Characters:

  • The Shadow/Lamont Cranston
  • John Matley: The son of a rich broker, with a penchant for getting into trouble
  • Gustav Matley: A broker, and John's father
  • Gloria Kingsley: A nightclub singer, and Johnny's former girlfriend
  • Max Merkle: A notorious gambler
  • Arnold Fantus: Gustav Matley's Attorney
  • Geally: An acquaintance of Max Merkle

Featured Agents:

  • Margo Lane
  • Commissioner Weston
  • Shrevvy

Minor Characters:

  • Max Merkle's henchman

Synopsis: (Warning! Contains spoilers!)

"That everlasting sleep that born from which no traveler ever returns. That eternal rest called death. How often men have attempted to close the mouth of the accuser, seal their lips forever, and how often they have failed. For dead men, in spite of the legend, do tell. Yes they speak and point with a bony, fleshless finger at their murderers..."
—The Shadow

John Matley, a rich broker's son, is asked by gambler Max Merkle to sign on the dotted line of a contract. It seems John has lost money at Merkle's gambling house and owes him $10,000. Unfortunately for John, Merkle wants more: $50,000. It's "interest" that will keep him happy until John's father dies and leaves everything to John. John is reluctant to sign, but is threatened by Merkle and his henchman. He finally does, which makes Merkle happy. Merkle warns John not to tell his father, or Merkle will collect the money sooner than expected.

After John leaves, two people come out from an adjoining room. They are Gloria Kingsley and Geally, two acquaintances of Merkle. They know of John's visit. Approaching him, they find a certified cheque for $10,000 from John on his desk. Merkle tells them of the contract and the $50,000. Geally isn't happy; he wants his cut of the money now, and doesn't want to wait for John's father to die. In response, Merkle kills him to teach him and Gloria a lesson: Max Merkle does things his own way.

Back at the Matley house, Gustav Matley angrily scolds his son for all the trouble he's caused. Last year, it was the incident with nightclub singer Gloria Kingsley with whom he had an affair with, now it is the $10,000 he lost to Merkle and the contract for $50,000 after Gustav's death. Infuriated that his son would bet his own father's life, he throws John out and tells him that he will call his attorney, Arnold Fantus, to eliminate John from his will. John leaves, telling his father that he won't change the will, in fact, there are other ways to solve this problem. Gustav phones Fantus and asks him to come over. Fantus only lives next door to the Matleys and can come over in five minutes. Fantus asks if this can wait till morning, but Gustav insists that the will will be changed tonight. Suddenly, there is a buzzing sound, and Gustav feels a strong burning sensation in his head. Fantus asks what is wrong, but it is too late; Gustav is dead.

At Commissioner Weston's office, Lamont and Margo learn about the Matley death. They discuss Gustav's son, John, and his troubles. John always got his father to buy him out of his scrapes, so the death looks suspicious. Strangely enough, the autopsy of Gustav's body revealed no marks, no poisoning, and no signs of foul play. John enters the office to see Weston, and is not surprised that his father is dead, which in turn surprises everyone. John quickly corrects himself by blaming his father's hot temper for the death. The doctor had always warned him that his angry outbursts would result in a heart attack some day. Lamont tells John that the autopsy report didn't reveal much about the cause of death. Puzzled, John asks what the real cause was. Suddenly, Fantus walks into the office. Apparently he is here to defend John against a murder charge. John is shocked. Lamont finds it strange that Fantus would suggest murder, in fact, the police themselves aren't even sure!

Riding in Shrevvy's cab, Lamont and Margo discuss the Matley case. Margo is certain that John is the murderer. John fought a lot with his father and was about to be cut out of the will, and Weston already has a policeman trailing John to see where he goes. Shrevvy also jumps in with his own opinion about the case: if he were John's father, he would "have taken him gently, but firmly, by the head and kick him down the stairs"! The cab stops at the Matley house, and Lamont goes in as The Shadow to investigate.

Inside the house, John confronts Gloria and Merkle, who have come to hear the reading of the will. Merkle reminds him about the contract he signed for $50,000. Gloria is no better. It turns out that Gustav paid her $5,000 for the letters that John wrote her (which she was going to use to blackmail him). Now she has become more greedy. Angrily, John again tells them to leave and asks them what they have done for him. When Merkle replies "more than you know", Gloria cautions a guess that Merkle might have murdered Gustav. Merkle snaps at Gloria to shut up, and she realizes that she has struck a nerve. Gleefully, she decides to blackmail Merkle for more money for she now believes that he is the murderer. When John tries to needle Merkle for more information about his father's death, Merkle merely replies "who are you kidding?". John tells Merkle that he can't prove the contract he signed and tells them once again to leave. Merkle refuses, and John leaves in a huff. Merkle turns to Gloria and tells her that he thinks her words to him were an act, but Gloria firmly believes Merkle killed Gustav and greedily wants her cut of the money since she knows too much. Merkle doesn't like to take on partners. "It's unhealthy for the partner" he says, but Gloria stubbornly insists, and besides, she can always blackmail him for the murder of Geally.

The Shadow confronts the two criminals about the murder of Gustav. Merkle denies it, and Gloria tries to implicate him. The Shadow warns her about the law and blackmail. Both tell him he's got nothing on them. Suddenly, the phone rings. Gloria asks Merkle to answer it but he refuses. Then John returns to the room and asks Merkle to answer the phone; it's probably the press, and he doesn't want to talk to them. Finally, Gloria decides to answer the phone. John, perhaps afraid she might tell the reporters something he doesn't want to hear, orders her not to answer the phone. Picking up the receiver, Gloria finds no one on the line. There is a buzzing sound, and she feels a strong burning sensation in her head. The Shadow tells her to drop the receiver, and a puzzled Merkle asks what is wrong. She falls to the ground dead.

Eyeing her lifeless body, Merkle remarks with cold indifference that he warned her about his dislike of partners.

Back in Weston's office, Lamont and Margo are told that an investigation of the phone turned up nothing. Lamont asks Weston about the thoroughness of Gustav's autopsy, and Weston shows him the report. Lamont discovers that there was no examination of the brain and asks if Gustav's body can be exhumed for that purpose. Weston believes it can be done. Fantus arrives and tells the three about the District Attorney securing an indictment against John for the murder of his father. Fantus has decided, to Lamont's surprise, to defend John. Fantus admits that he has little affection and no respect for John, but he is still the son of his best friend. When asked to sign an exhumation order for Gustav, Fantus tells him that it is impossible: Gustav has been cremated. In fact, Fantus ordered the cremation, and it was Gustav's last wish.

That night, Shrevvy drops off Lamont and Margo at an undertaking parlour at 746 3rd Street. They are here to see Gloria's body. According to Lamont, she has something she can tell the police. Going in, they see a light in the back room and two men. Sensing their arrival, the men quickly turn off the light and leave. Margo finally finds the light switch to the room. Within, they find a single coffin belonging to Gloria. Upon opening it they find it empty. They suddenly hear the sound of a car speeding off, and Lamont realizes that the body is in that car. They rush back to the cab and give chase. As they gain on them, one of the passengers opens fire on the cab, breaking the windshield. Then Shrevvy notices that the car is slowing down and sees something being thrown from it. Lamont tells him to stop the cab. Both Lamont and a reluctant Shrevvy get out and examine the thrown object. It is a bundle of some kind wrapped in sheets. Tearing off the wrapping, they find Gloria's decapitated body!

The next day, Lamont visits Margo, who has been trying to reach him. She tells him that Fantus had called; he has a full confession from Merkle about the murders and wants them to come over to his house to hear it. Lamont is suspicious; something doesn't add up. He advises Margo to go without him, and that he will arrive later. Lamont now figures that Gustav's will is the key to solving the crime, since it has not been read yet.

At Fantus's house, Fantus shows Margo into a room and tells her about his knowledge of the kidnap and decapitation of Gloria's body. He wants her to see "the evidence" before hearing the confession and asks her to look into a box. When she does, she sees Gloria's head. The head can convict a murderer, he says, and goes on to reveal himself as the murderer! Margo is shocked. Fantus believed that she and Lamont were after him last night at the undertakers (but they weren't). He stole Gloria's body and was helped by Merkle, but Merkle's dislike of partners led to his own death by Fantus's hands.

Within Gloria's head, is the key to the murder: her brain had been reduced to ashes! Fantus's method was simple: he used a death ray machine trained on the desk chair of Gustav's home. The ray can penetrate steel and brick, and can kill (by literally burning the brain) within a distance of 300 feet. Whoever answered the phone would be sitting in that chair and in the ray's path. Now Margo knows too much, and Fantus will kill her with the ray. Horrified, Margo tries to escape but the door is locked. The Shadow comes to her rescue and confronts Fantus about the murders. Fantus had killed Gustav because he didn't want him to know that he had falsified Gustav's will, leaving everything to him instead of John. Also, Fantus could not defend John in court because he had been disbarred years ago.

Fantus isn't afraid of The Shadow. He slowly sprays the room with the death ray, knowing that The Shadow is trapped and will succumb to the ray's effects. When he points the ray in Margo's direction, she faints. In doing so, she saved herself from certain death, as Fantus decides to ignore her for now and focus on The Shadow. When he fails to hear The Shadow's voice, he believes that he has succeeded.

But his triumph does not last for long. The Shadow quickly smashes the death ray machine, ending Fantus's crime spree.

 

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