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The Shadow Knows, But Not Everything

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The first time Margo heard him use the Shadow's code phrase it was a slightly overcast November afternoon. She didn't comment on it, but Lamont didn't need to be able to read minds to tell that at best she thought it a bit strange. The agent's contact had been unexpected. He and Margo had been heading out for the evening when the doorbell rang and as soon as Lamont opened the door he'd been greeted with an abrupt, "the sun is shining." Running through various scenarios as to what the note the man was holding might contain Lamont had answered back, "but the ice is slippery" automatically. He'd noticed Margo's raised eyebrow at the exchange, but with a case looming he didn't have the opportunity to discuss it with her and by the time it was over he'd forgotten forgotten all about it.

Several weeks later, however, Margo was with him when he knocked on the door of a Port Authority janitor at eleven at night and while the ice might very well have been slippery at that time of day, the sun was in no way shining. Her presence had been necessary since Lamont knew this particular agent had been recently widowed and had several young children so if the Shadow was going to drag the man out of his home to get him to use his keys to gain access to the New York Port of Embarkation's file storage room — and thus the final clue to tracking a particularly vile group of smugglers and kidnappers — someone had to be there to babysit. Nothing was likely to happen to the kids; they would probably sleep straight through until the morning without ever realizing that their father had even left but Lamont was not one to leave something like that to chance so Margo had accompanied him under the guise of a responsible, if ridiculously overdressed, nanny.

It was not a role she relished, but the need was pressing enough she was willing to do her part, even if it meant the possibility of changing a diaper while wearing a brand new, three hundred dollar Chanel evening gown. Thankfully, such actions weren't called for, although Margo had been required to fetch a glass of water and sing a lullaby after one of the little tykes had a nightmare so all in all it had turned out to be a good thing she'd been there.

"Now really, Lamont," she began eying him over her coffee cup the next time his schedule allowed him enough time to enable them to sit down and linger over a meal. Her tone was that combination of teasing and chiding he'd become intimately familiar these last few months. "The sun is shining but the ice is slippery? That's the best you could come up with?"

"It gets the job done?" he offered as an explanation, taking a slightly longer sip of his own coffee than absolutely necessary. Drinking wasn't his typical way of avoiding a conversation that he didn't want to have, but considering he couldn't just cloud her mind and change the subject like he would do with Uncle Wainwright, it was what he was left with and if there was even the slightly possibility it might work…?

Given her responding smirk, there wasn’t. "It's ridiculous. How often is it both sunny and icy out?"

"That's the point though, isn't it? It's a code phrase; it can't be something that any two people might say in passing accidentally. It has to be unusual enough to identify one of my agents to another."

"And the ring isn't enough?" With one well manicured finger she gestured to the one he always wore.

"The ring helps, but it has other uses as well." He knew she was aware of how it could be used as a signal since his own had lit up a few times when she'd been with him.

"And each of your agents has their own ring." She made a vague, fluttery motion as she spoke, showing off her ringless fingers.

"Everyone useful whose life was saved by the Shadow, yes."

"So you're saying you don't think I'm useful?" There was a sharpness to her tone that instantly had him on high alert.

"No, I'm saying I think you didn't need saving," he shot back quickly before she could take offense, knowing she'd sense the truth in his words. "Help, sure, but not saving. Your father was the one who'd needed the saving." Well, her father and the entire city once that bomb had been paired with Claymore's beryllium sphere, but really that wasn't the point. Margo had always been more than capable of taking care of herself; she hadn't required saving, by him or anyone else.

Mollified somewhat her gaze lost a bit of its sharpness, but he could tell she wasn't ready to put the subject to rest completely. "That's true," she conceded, "but if I remember correctly I returned the favor and helped you quite a bit. In fact, I think it's safe to say I even saved you. Or does almost drowning in that flooded Mari-Tech lab not ring a bell?"

"I may… dimly recall such an incident."

"And I tracked down the Hotel Monolith site's information at the City Assessor's office and made the calls to—"

"Yes, yes, yes. Your help when I faced Shiwan Khan was invaluable."

"So why haven't you let me help since?" She must have read his thoughts because before he could say anything she added, "And a little impromptu babysitting doesn't count."

"You've made it easier for me to continue with my facade of an irrelevant, irresponsible playboy," he offered, but he knew such an answer wouldn't appease her. "Which is important, some might even say necessary, for my work, but of course that isn't enough for you?"

Straightening, her shoulders back and head high she said, "I am capable of much more than that."

Lamont sighed, he had been dreading this conversation because he'd thought it would go this way. "I know you are."

"Then don't treat me like spun glass. I don't enjoy being a bored socialite any more than you relish spending your time as a feckless playboy. I have skills your network can use!"

"Margo," he began but trailed off with a sigh. He could feel her determination; there would be no dissuading her. "Fine, you're right. You can come with me to the sanctum this afternoon instead of dropping me off by the alley like you usually do. I'm not sure how you’ll occupy your time there, but we can probably find something to keep you from being too bored while I'm busy working on everything that needs to get done today. Will that make you happy?"

"Ecstatic." They ate in silence for a few minutes before she commented, "You know, I've been thinking, every agent of the Shadow that I've ever seen or heard you mention has been a man. Why is that? Do you not think women could be useful?"

Lamont never felt like he'd treaded in such dangerous waters before as he carefully chose his next words. "The vast majority of my agents are male, that's true."

"Other than myself, as of five minutes ago anyway, how many female agents do you have? One? Two? A dozen? And how does that compare to the number of your agents overall?"

"Welllll…." he drew out the word before wincing when she saw the answer on his face. "To be fair, women tend to find themselves in the kind of dangerous situations that they need my help to get out of a lot less often than men do."

"That doesn't surprise me to hear that in the least, but while that means your pool of potential agents might be smaller the fact that you have failed to make use of their potential certainly implies something about how short-sighted—"

"Short-sighted?”

"How short-sighted you are! You're smart enough to see the usefulness of policemen and janitors and taxi drivers but not stenographers or maids or switchboard operators? Think of how much more information you could collect if you had eyes and ears in the mansions along Park Avenue or in offices in the business district or on the sales floor of Saks on Fifth?"

Lamont held up his hands, conceding her point and stopping her flow of words. "Obviously I haven't put as much thought into this as I should have."

"Obviously."

"I'll need to reassess my entire methodology for the recruiting of new agents," he said slowly.

Eyes twinkling, no doubt reading his intent, she commented, "Yes, you will."

"It'll take a lot of time."

"No doubt."

"More than I think I could really devote to it right now."

"It seems like you'll need someone who understands how important and useful it might be to have all that figured out to do it for you then."

"It does indeed. Any thoughts on someone who might be interested in the job?"

“You know, I just might.”