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Death Keeps a Deadline

Season 9
Nov 1, 1942

Major Characters:

  • The Shadow/Lamont Cranston
  • "Rabbit" Eddie Burke: Criminal and hanger-on to Tony Morello.
  • Tony Morello: A Gangster

Featured Agents:

  • Margo Lane
  • Commissioner Weston

Minor Characters:

  • Commissioner Murphy

Synopsis: (Warning! Contains spoilers!)

Fear. Awful, haunting, fear is a spur that drives many a criminal to horrible deeds. And it is such fear that drives The Shadow's enemy to murder when death meets a deadline. It is a balmy night in late autumn, Cranston and Margo Lane stroll towards Margo's home…

It is three in the morning when they reach their destination. Margo thanks Lamont for a wonderful birthday treat: an evening of dinner, theater, dancing, and a walk in the park. Just then, a man approaches them for a match, but when Lamont offers, he pulls out a gun and demands their money. First he asks for Margo's purse. Lamont tells her to comply and she does. Then the mugger then asks for Lamont's wallet. Lamont is about to do so when a passing car briefly illuminates the mugger's face with its headlights. Lamont suddenly recognizes the mugger as a man named "Rabbit". Rabbit is surprised that Lamont knows him. Bravely, Lamont steps towards Rabbit, who is becoming frightened and backs away in response. Lamont asks Rabbit for his gun and taunts him. Though Rabbit has the upper hand, he is afraid to pull the trigger. Taking advantage of this, Lamont gives Rabbit an upper cut, knocking him out.

Margo is not happy at Lamont's actions; he could have been easily killed. Lamont explains that he knew Rabbit would not shoot him. Rabbit is the nickname of Eddie Burke, a hanger-on of gangster Tony Morello. Rabbit, according to Lamont, is a psychological case - he always wanted to be a professional gunman, but was never been able to "reach that pitch of frenzy to take that last fatal step to kill". The whole underworld holds him in contempt as a cheap crook who carries a gun for show.

Lamont's explanation fails to satisfy Margo; she still thinks Lamont took a big risk challenging Rabbit. Lamont assures her that Rabbit will never go through with pulling the trigger. He then instructs her to go inside to phone the police while he keeps an eye on Rabbit's unconscious body.

One year later, we find Rabbit grumbling to Tony that, thanks to Lamont, he had to spend a year in jail. Rabbit vows revenge. Tony suddenly notices that Rabbit looks unwell - his face is pale and his breathing is heavy - and suggests that jail might have affected his health. Tony offers to take him to his personal doctor for a checkup. Rabbit is grateful and thanks Tony, who assures him that he always "takes care of his boys".

At the doctor's office, Rabbit waits nervously for his health report while Tony tries to calm him. The doctor finally arrives with the news, and it isn't good. The x-rays of Rabbit's heart has shown signs of a severe aneurysm. His heart wall is weak, and he has only six months to live.

Despairing, Rabbit laments to Tony. Tony tries to help him by offering a drink and a suggestion. If Tony himself had six months to live, he would do all the things he's ever wanted to do, but did not have the nerve to do so before. Tony reminds Rabbit that he has nothing lose, and appoints him as his triggerman, even giving him a thousand dollars a week to spend. Rabbit is amazed. Looking out the window, Tony spots a policeman named Donovan, the one who arrested Rabbit. Tony gives Rabbit a gun and opens the window. This is Rabbit's chance to prove himself, and, with Tony's urging, he successfully murders Donovan.

Some time later, Tony finds himself at the police station being interrogated by Commissioner Weston himself. Four men, all mortal enemies of Tony, were found shot to death and the evidence points to Tony's handiwork. Tony isn't afraid of Weston. He arrogantly states that the police have no proof that he actually killed these men, in fact he has the perfect alibi. Observing the interrogation, Lamont notes that Tony's alibis are far too perfect. In response, Tony tells him to stay out of people's business. Just then, Weston receives a call. It turns out that Tom Flanagan, a plainclothes policeman that Weston put on Tony's trail, has been killed in a drive-by shooting. Tony laughs and taunts the commissioner, adding that he might have shot Flanagan from Weston's office window!

In Shreevy's cab, Shreevy recounts to Lamont and Margo a story that his friend, Big Charlie, had overheard about Rabbit having six months to live. If he had six months, Shreevy tells them, he would do all the things he had been afraid to do. Intrigued, Lamont asks for more information, and learns that it was Dr. Bryan on the South Side that had treated Rabbit. Shreevy is soon asked to drop Margo off at her apartment; there is someone that Lamont has to see.

Meanwhile, Rabbit confides to Tony that his six months are almost up and that he's afraid. Tony tells him to forget about Lamont, the man who put him in jail, and concentrate on other people that he (Tony) wants dead. Despite Tony's orders, Rabbit is intent on revenge. Tony tries to make him listen, but is silenced by Rabbit's bullet.

"You're a little too late Tony. A little too late," Rabbit tells Tony's lifeless body.

On the South Side, Dr. Bryan is now alone in his office, having dismissed his nurse for the day. The Shadow confronts him, demanding to know about Rabbit's heart condition. Dr. Bryan admits that he examined Rabbit's heart a day after he was released from prison. The Shadow tells him that the prison doctor had also examined Rabbit's heart and found him to be in good health. Despite this evidence, Dr. Bryan isn't afraid of The Shadow. But The Shadow counters by telling him that he is an accessory to murder. He also adds that, after some investigation, Dr. Bryan himself has no legal right to practice medicine. Faced with these damaging facts, Dr. Bryan finally confesses that Tony was behind it all. Tony wanted Rabbit to be his personal gunman, and all he needed was the perfect persuasion. So under threat of death from Tony, Dr. Bryan was forced to give the false diagnosis. Satisfied with the confession, The Shadow tells Dr. Bryan that the law will deal with him, and warns him not to leave town. The Shadow will be watching.

A while later, Lamont receives some frightening news from Shreevy; Margo is not at home. Lamont soon gets a call from Rabbit himself. Rabbit will kill Margo, and there is nothing Lamont can do about it. Rabbit continues to taunt Lamont then hangs up.

During the conversation, Lamont picks up a clue. In the background of the call, he had heard the sound of a water pump. Immediately after Rabbit hangs up, he calls Commissioner Murphy of the Water Department. He learns from Murphy that a water main had burst at Central and Sixth, and Murphy's crew is busily pumping out the water. Knowing that Morello had a hideout apartment across the street, Lamont then calls Commissioner Weston. (Note: this segment was actually at the end of the episode when Margo asks Lamont how he found her. I have moved it here to give this synopsis a more dramatic ending - The Webmistress)

At the hideout, a tied-up Margo is being taunted by Rabbit. He tells her to sit tight and close her eyes. "It's gonna be quick. You'll just hear a noise…" he says.

Suddenly, The Shadow's laughter is heard, but Rabbit is not afraid of the law; he tells The Shadow that his heart condition will help him "cheat the chair". The Shadow counters by revealing the truth: Tony had framed him. Tony himself would play safe while Rabbit did all the dirty work. Dr. Bryan had confessed and was arrested. Now the police are coming for him.

Rabbit refuses to be arrested, and fires at The Shadow (and misses) before turning the gun on himself.

As Rabbit lies dying, he notes that he was falsely given six months to live, and today is exactly six months since he received that false diagnosis. A bitter irony.


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