Chapter 32.

The meeting of the last chance.



The meeting that would determine Horn’s fate and his shadow was to be held at Temple university in the office of professor Grugen. As a physicist his job was to offer a solution to the problem caused by the shadow. The professor and both detectives were sitting in his office, an office that was very ordinary except for the large blackboard that was located at the back.

“Well lets start this meeting. May I remind you professor Grugen that our talks here are strictly confidential and nothing of what we discuss must come out, alright?” said Strong.

“Yes of course, I quite understand,” said the professor, taking a long smoke from his pipe.

“Let me explain the problem again. We have a man who’s shadow has separated from him and seems to be malevolent. The shadow that is, not the man. It has killed four people for no obvious reason but it seems to be emotionally connected to Horn. We must find a way to either kill this shadow or disable it so that it will not kill again.”

Both detectives looked at each other and then looked at professor Grugen who was intensely enjoying his pipe; his eyes were semi-closed and he seemed to be in a reflective mode.

“Professor Grugen? Do you have any possible solutions to this?” asked Strong, mildly indisposed by the smoke coming out of the pipe as by now it had permeated the little office and a cloud seemed to be suspended above the heads of the detectives.

“Gentlemen please, I am thinking and this is a hard problem. This shadow can transform into a solid at will it seems, and then escape as a vapor. The best thing would be to use Mr. Horn as a bait and trap this shadow.”

“Well professor this is easier said than done, don’t you think? And once the shadow takes the bait, how are we to dispose of it or render it as innocuous as possible?” asked Strong. Fisher had said nothing so far as he had no clue on how to neutralize the entity and was content in letting the professor explain his thoughts.

“Yes, hum…I understand that the second step is probably even harder than the first.” the professor said, taking a long sip from his pipe. “Let me go to the blackboard and write down the problem and possible solutions. Perhaps seeing this on the board will help us.” The professor got up, took a chalk and began writing. He first wrote the problem, with its salient points and then separated the board into two, drawing a line from top to bottom.

“Well gentlemen, here is the problem in all its complexity. It seems to me that the fact that Horn and the shadow are linked implies that Horn must be used in the solution. Secondly, as the shadow can transform at will between a solid and a vapor we can use that to our advantage.” the professor said, looking at the two detectives who looked at each other with Fisher rolling his eyes to the ceiling.

“We already know that,” said Fisher close to exasperation. “I see no solution to the problem except by incapacitating Horn. If Horn is unconscious then his shadow is harmless. The other solution would be to kill Horn and since it would be murder then it can’t be entertain as a possible solution.” Fisher said, tongue firmly in cheek.

“What about using the trap that we talked about, the one about nitrogen. We could build a bigger container at the university and use Horn as a bait even if that meant he would be risking his life.” said Strong.

“Well yes, we could, but as I said it would be costly and it would take some time to build and there still would be no guarantees that it would work. The shadow might still escape or worse, it could turn on Horn and kill him before we could do anything. And this could be much worse as the shadow would be without a connection to its host and it might go on a killing spree. We must assume that if there is some restrain on the part of the shadow it is because Horn is in some way preventing more mischief on its part. If Horn goes, there would be no restraints on the shadow.” the professor said, taking a smoke from his pipe again.

“Is it possible that the shadow can exist without Horn? I mean, could it be possible that one day the shadow kills Horn if he gets in the way?” exclaimed Fisher.

“I must say that it is possible, although so far Horn and the shadow go together, with the shadow appearing when Horn is angry at someone and subliminally wants revenge. We are all at times treated badly by people, but we don’t have a shadow that does the dirty job for us, and that’s a good thing.” said the professor smiling, talking more like a philosopher than a man of science.

“In other words, we must be careful. Horn must be protected as well as the security of the people in this city. Professor, we must have a plan today so I can show it to Horn rapidly. In your opinion, what is the best way?” said detective Strong.

The professor got up and looked at the blackboard carefully, thinking long and hard about a possible solution. He looked over the security constraints, knowing full well that Horn must not get hurt in the solution. Finally he turned around and faced the detectives.

“Gentleman, I believe that the best solution is to continue with our nitrogen trap. The test that we did showed that on a small scale it works. Lets build a larger container, with twice as more liquid nitrogen and then attract the shadow inside. Mr. Horn can be used as bait but perhaps a trick can persuade the shadow to enter the trap and kill it.” the professor said.

“What do you mean a trick?” asked Strong.

“Well I was merely suggesting that Mr.Horn would appear to the shadow to be with it in the container, but he would not be. Perhaps we could use some mirrors to achieve the illusion, thereby attracting the shadow.” the professor said.

“I understand what you mean.” said Strong. “But what if it does not work, what if the shadow discovers the trick and does not enter the trap, then what?” Strong said, persisting in his questions.

“I suppose that we need some sort of contingency plan. Maybe we could have people on the sidelines equipped with portable units of nitrogen. These people would intervene if the shadow did not enter the trap. These portable units of nitrogen could perhaps do the trick for us if need be.” the professor said.

“And so these portable units, several of them I assume, would be fired upon the shadow and the combined effect would be the same as if the shadow had entered the trap, right?” asked Fisher.

“Yes indeed. The result would be the death of the shadow. It would crystallize and then would shatter, thereby ending the nightmare of Mr. Horn.” the professor said, taking another long sip from his pipe. “But of course, it still would be best if the shadow entered the trap. It would then be engulfed by the nitrogen. With people firing on it around it there is a chance that it could escape. I might also add that there is a risk for those operating the portable canisters as if any of the nitrogen landed on them that part would solidify and fall off. Death might ensue possibly.” said professor Grugen, eliciting gasps from Fisher and Strong.

“I guess then that the portable canisters will be used only by me or Fisher, and hopefully we won’t have to use them.” said Strong. “Alright professor, lets build this trap as well as the contingency plan. At least we have a plan to offer to Mr. Horn.”


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