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Tales of the Silencer: The Complete Series

Tales of the Silencer: The Complete Series

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Tales of the Silencer: The Complete Series

Length:
444 pages
6 hours
Released:
May 24, 2021
ISBN:
9798201506995
Format:
Book

Description

Hardworking pulp writer by day and steel-masked crimefighter by night, the Silencer fights criminal low-lives and larger-than-life master villains in the streets of Depression era New York City. Together with his beautiful fiancée Constance Allen and pickpocket turned butler Neal Cassidy, Richard Blakemore a.k.a. the Silencer keeps the city safe from those criminals the law cannot catch.

 
This series of high octane adventure stories by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert is an homage to the heroic pulp crimefighters of the 1930s such as the Shadow, the Spider and Doc Savage as well as the writers who brought them to life.

 

This complete omnibus edition of 112000 words or approximately 375 print pages collects the entire Silencer series.

Released:
May 24, 2021
ISBN:
9798201506995
Format:
Book

About the author

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. Cora has been writing, since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. When she is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.


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Introduction

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Around the turn of the millennium, I became interested in the fiction of the pulp era and its writers.

This interest wasn’t exactly new — I had been fascinated by the pulps for several years at this point. But what changed around the turn of the millennium was that I finally got internet access at home and no longer had rely on the slow connection and limited number of terminals at the university library. So learning about the pulps, even from a continent away, suddenly became a lot easier.

I quickly came across ThePulp.net, the alt.pulp newsgroup and some other pulp fan sites which existed back then. I encountered characters and authors I hadn’t been aware of before and also found PDF copies — most likely of dubious legality — of many actual pulp stories. Last but not least, I found Lester Dent’s pulp fiction master plot.

One of the things that impressed me most about the pulps was the work ethic of their writers and the sheer amount of words they produced. I was in university at the time and expressed my admiration for Walter B. Gibson, co-creator of The Shadow who wrote two (short) Shadow novels every month for several years and churned out almost 1.7 million words in a single year. This very much baffled the rest of my creative writing class, cause surely churning out so many words in so short a time could not result in quality fiction.

Well, this Gibson fellow is hardly Thomas Mann, one student said with sniffy disdain.

Good thing that I don’t want to be Thomas Mann then, I replied much to her horror.

This experience persuaded me to emulate the pulp writers of old and try to write a pulp style story of my own, using Lester Dent’s pulp fiction master plot as a base. Now all I needed was a story and a hero. And this is how Richard Blakemore, pulp fiction writer by day and the steel-masked crimefighter known only as the Silencer by night, was born.

Since I admired the pulp authors of old and wanted to pay homage to them, I decided to make the alter-ego of my crimefighter a pulp writer. I also decided to set the story in New York City in the 1930s, during the heyday of the pulps in the city where many of the publishers and authors resided. As for why I picked the name Silencer, it sounded suitably pulpy and was at the time unused by other characters, though a few have popped up since.

Originally, the Silencer was strongly inspired by the Shadow and particularly the Spider, who was my favourite at the time, though he eventually moved away from those inspirations and became his own character.

That first Silencer story, entitled The Scarlet Executioner was never finished, because it turns out that writing pulp fiction isn’t as easy as Walter B. Gibson, Lester Dent and Norvell Page make it look. I should probably revisit that very first Silencer story one day to see if any of it is salvageable.

The Scarlet Executioner not only introduced Richard Blakemore, but also his chauffeur/assistant/friend Neal Cassidy, pulp publisher Jake Levonsky and Richard’s frenemy Captain Justin O’Grady of the NYPD, all of whom would go on to become series regulars. Last but not least, The Scarlet Executioner is also the story in which Richard first meets Constance Allen — while investigating the murder of her scientist father at the hands of the titular villain.

But even though I never finished The Scarlet Executioner, I liked the basic premise and the characters so much that I decided to give it another try. Once again, it was Norvell Page’s The Spider who provided the inspiration. For in the Spider stories I’d read, Richard Wentworth was permanently worried that his identity would be discovered and that he would be sent to the electric chair. To be fair, he does kill a ton of people, though most of them are mass murderers and supervillains.

So I thought, What if a pulp hero actually did get caught and was sentenced to death? How can our hero and his faithful friends prove his innocence? Especially if he’s not quite so innocent.

The story I wrote in response to this idea eventually became Countdown to Death and was one of the first pieces of fiction I ever sold (for contributor’s copies) to someplace other than the university literature magazine. The story appeared in issue 48 of Double Danger Tales in November 2001 as Silencer and was reprinted in Thriller UK No. 30 under its original title. Even twenty years later, I still think it’s cracking good story and a fine introduction to the character and his world.

Encouraged by that success, I started two or three other Silencer stories, but none of them went anywhere until I saw the call for submissions for an anthology called All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories sometime in 2003/2004. I can write a pulp style adventure story featuring Zeppelins, I thought, And in fact, I have just the hero this story needs.

So I did a lot of research on Zeppelins and wrote a fun pulp-style adventure called Flying Bombs that’s also the most Dieselpunk of all Silencer stories. Alas, it was rejected, because a) in spite of the pulpy title, the anthology wasn’t actually looking for pulp style stories, and b) I was pretty much a nobody at the time, while many of the other contributors were up and coming writers. And since both Double Danger Tales and Thriller UK, who might have taken the story, had ceased publication by then, Flying Bombs languished on my harddrive for another couple of years.

The third Silencer story — and the second to be published — was written in 2006/2007 for a mildly erotic magazine called Man’s Story 2, to which I had sold (for actual money this time around) a few historical adventure stories. The Spiked Death was inspired by an image of a scantily clad young lady almost getting impaled on a bed of spikes and was my attempt to write a Spicy pulp story. It’s still the most lurid and violent of the Silencer stories and sold at first try.

I started writing a second Spicy type Silencer story for Man’s Story 2, but then life and my MA degree got in the way. And by the time, I finally emerged from my MA induced fiction writing hiatus, Man’s Story 2 had decided to focus on erotic vampire stories, so the Silencer was once more without a home.

I spent the next few years trying to write a novel and then another, while occasionally submitting short stories and poems to magazines, which didn’t want them. I didn’t even try to write any more Silencer stories, because there simply was no market for pulp style adventure fiction at the time.

Around 2010, e-books and self-publishing began to take off. E-readers were booming, self-publishing platforms were opening up and the first e-book million sellers were making headlines. Like many, I was initially sceptical. But once writers I trusted started making the jump to self-publishing, I decided to give it a try as well.

By this time, I had several previously published stories lying around, which had little chance of ever being reprinted. However, an editor had taken a chance on them once, so they couldn’t be all that bad. So I decided to dip my toes into the self-publishing waters with those stories and found that I enjoyed the process so much that I wanted to self-publish more.

Even back in 2011, series sold better than standalones and so I quickly dug up the three complete Silencer stories I had and republished them. Once again, the Silencer didn’t set the world on fire — the market for pulp style adventures set in the 1930s wasn’t exactly huge. But once I had revisited the character, I wanted to write more stories about him.

Elevator of Doom, which came out in 2013, was the first new Silencer story I wrote. It was inspired by a news article from 1909 about a series of thefts in an apartment building, leading to a fight to the death in a falling elevator, a story almost tailormade for a Silencer adventure.

Elevator of Doom was also the first Silencer story, which stopped trying to be a pastiche of something else and instead became its own thing. The stakes are smaller, the villain isn’t a terrorist or serial killer, but just a garden variety burglar. At this point, Richard Blakemore had also stopped trying to be the Spider or the Shadow and became his own man, a man who pauses to rescue a kitten after apprehending a burglar and clearing two innocents of suspicion.

The Silencer stories still weren’t selling particularly well, but at least the rise of self-publishing had given them a market. So I wrote more.

The Great Fraud came out in 2014 and was inspired by the ads for questionable novelty products found in the backpages of comic books and pulp magazines. If I found those ads cringeworthy and borderline fraudulent, how would Richard Blakemore, a man who was after all crazy enough to dress up as his own character to fight crime, react to others using his good name to peddle questionable products and outright junk? So I decided to sic Richard on one of those junk peddlers, Charles W. Finchley, the titular great fraud. The Great Fraud is also the only Silencer story narrated solely from the POV of characters other than Richard and gives us a look at how others view the Silencer.

The next story, Mean Streets and Dead Alleys was published three months later. The inspiration was that crimefighters can’t deal with world-threatening menaces all the time, but would probably spent most of their time dealing with random street crime. And so I sent out Richard to save a Broadway chorus girl from a mugging and getting hurt in the process, because he’s not invulnerable and doesn’t have superpowers. He’s just a guy with some cool gadgets and a steel mask.

At the end of Mean Streets and Dead Alleys, Richard winds up at an all-night drugstore to buy supplies to patch himself up. While he’s there, he also chances to pick up the January 1936 issue of Weird Tales, pleased to find a Conan story by Robert E. Howard (part 2 of Hour of the Dragon, so one of the best), a Jirel of Joiry story by C.L. Moore (The Dark Land, one of the weaker Jirel stories), a Jules de Grandin story by Seabury Quinn and a Lovecraft reprint within. I also casually had Richard express his love for sword and sorcery and the hope that he would be given the chance to try his hand at sword and sorcery someday. This would eventually lead to two whole new series.

After Mean Streets and Dead Alleys, the Silencer put in another pause, as I rediscovered my love of space opera and focussed on that for a while. The next story Fact or Fiction is the shortest of the Silencer stories and was written as a taster story for an anthology which took so long to come out that I eventually pulled the story and published it myself. Fact or Fiction focusses more on Richard’s writing than his crimefighting exploits and also shows how he embellishes and exaggerates his adventures for the pulps.

Shortly after Fact or Fiction came out, I started another Silencer story. At this point, I had found some success with publishing annual Christmas stories and decided to write a Silencer holiday story. And so I had the wounded Silencer escape from a firefight through the chimney of an orphanage, only to first get mistaken for Santa Claus and then have his wounds patched up by three no-nonsense nuns. However, the nuns have a problem of their own, for someone is trying to evict them and the orphans from their home. Of course, the Silencer gets on the case.

St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen was supposed to be a simple, heart-warming holiday story, in which the Silencer helps three nuns and a gaggle of orphans. However, in November 2016, Donald Trump was elected US President and also wormed his way into my fiction. As a result, the plot of St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen became a lot more complicated than initially planned and also involves a real estate magnate called Reginald Rumpus and his ex-showgirl wife Melody, whom I’ve described as Donald and Melania Trump as played by Wallace Beery and Jean Harlow.

The very last chapter of St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen also introduces another new character to the series, Kenny, an orphaned toddler who is fascinated by the Silencer and not at all afraid of him. Richard and Constance eventually wind up adopting Kenny, turning them from (still unmarried) couple into a family.

St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen would have been a good end point for the Silencer series. However, I still had more ideas for the character and so the next Silencer story The Milk Truck Gang came out in September 2017, inspired by a radio report about a new electronic anti-theft system for truck cargos.

While I was chronicling Richard Blakemore’s nocturnal crimefighting career in the Silencer series, Richard himself was still a pulp fiction writer by day as well and one who was longing to stretch his wings. In Mean Streets and Dead Alleys, Richard expressed his love for Weird Tales and the desire to try his hand at writing sword and sorcery someday. Finally, Richard got his chance to write a series of sword and sorcery adventures for Jake Levonsky’s Weird Tales competitor Tales of the Bizarre. And since Richard is a fictional character and can’t physically write anything, he used the only way of writing stories he had, namely me.

In July 2018, during the hottest week of the year, I wrote a series of five short sword and sorcery stories in rapid succession, starring a wandering sellsword named Thurvok and his good friend, the thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin Meldom. These two owed more than a little to Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser of whom I’m a big fan. Thurvok and Meldom didn’t stay alone for long either, but quickly gained two female companions in the form of the sorceress Sharenna and Meldom’s childhood sweetheart Lysha whom the other three rescue from the gallows.

As I was writing the Thurvok stories, I thought, What if this is Richard Blakemore’s lost sword and sorcery series?

Did I channel Richard Blakemore, while I was writing the Thurvok stories? I don’t know. All I know is that the first few stories were written under extreme conditions in the space of a week and that they are different from my usual work. And so the idea to have a bit of metafictional fun and pass off the Thurvok stories as the work of Richard Blakemore, 1930s pulp writer and crimefighter, was born.

Richard wouldn’t even have been the only writer of hero pulps to try his hand at sword and sorcery. For in 1939, Norvell Page, author of The Spider, wrote two short sword and sorcery novels starring the legendary Prester John for Unknown. Alas, sword and sorcery wasn’t Norvell Page’s forte and so he quickly returned to the contemporary thrills of the Spider series.

The Thurvok series eventually grew to eleven stories with three more on the way. In 2020, I also created another sword and sorcery hero, Kurval. Whereas the Thurvok stories are characterised by banter, adventures, swordplay and battles with monsters, the Kurval stories are more serious and mostly deal with Kurval’s struggles to be a good and just king, even as he finds himself faced with subjects who don’t respect him as well as with would-be plotters and assassins.

The inspirations were different as well. The Thurvok stories were strongly influenced by Fritz Leiber, whereas the Kurval stories were inspired by Robert E. Howard, particularly the Kull and King Conan stories, as well as by C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry. The Kurval series has by now grown to four novelettes with a fifth novella-length adventure forthcoming.

While Richard was penning sword and sorcery adventures, I also wrote two more Silencer adventures. The first, A Valentine for the Silencer, is another holiday story, which came out in February 2019. In this story, Richard rescues a young man and the engagement ring in his pocket from a mugging and still manages to make it to his own Valentine’s Day date with Constance.

A few months later, while reading Alec Nevala-Lee’s non-fiction book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (which I recommend to everybody who is even a little bit interested in the history of the pulps in general and the science fiction genre in particular), I found myself wondering how Richard Blakemore would have reacted to John W. Campbell.

I really couldn’t imagine Richard reacting well to Campbell micromanaging his writers. Most likely, the whole thing would end with John W. Campbell receiving a late night visit by the Silencer, I thought. And then I thought, Wow, that’s actually a great idea for a story.

The story in question is called The Heavy Hand of the Editor and came out in early 2020. In this story, Richard finds himself frustrated by the constant rewrite requests of Donald Angus Stuart (named after Don A. Stuart, the pseudonym under which Campbell published Who Goes There?, his best known work of fiction), editor of a new magazine called Stunning Science Stories. However, Stuart also won’t allow Richard to pull his manuscript, so the Silencer pays him a visit.

That story was a lot of fun to write and several other pulp writers also put in an appearance, either under their own names or in disguise.

Will there be more Silencer stories? I’m certain there will be, whenever I have a good idea for one. Because in the past twenty years — Has it really been that long? — I have become quite fond of Richard, Constance, Justin O’Grady and the rest of the gang.

I also have an idea for a series called The New Adventures of the Silencer, in which a grown-up Kenny will don the Silencer’s steel mask to fight crime in the New York City of the 1960s. But that’s a story for another day.

For now, I hope you’ll enjoy the adventures of Richard Blakemore, hardworking pulp fiction writer by day and the steel-masked vigilante known only as the Silencer by night, as he fights crime, protects the innocent and smites evildoers in Depression era New York City.

Countdown to Death

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SILENCER TO FACE HANGMAN the headline screamed. Blood red letters, two inch high, running through a rotary press at a rate of five hundred pages per minute.

Jake Levonsky grabbed a paper from the press and scanned the opening paragraph:

Appeal denied — Vigilante to be executed on Tuesday

Today, the governor revoked the final appeal of Richard Blakemore, which means that Blakemore will die in the electric chair on Tuesday.

The local writer and playboy brought many a criminal to justice in the guise of the masked vigilante known as the Silencer, a pulp character of his own creation. Earlier this year, Blakemore was found guilty of murdering the mobster Antonio Tortelli…

Bullshit, Levonsky exclaimed and flung the paper into a corner. The fresh ink came off on his fingers and he rubbed them carelessly in his pants.

Jake, I realize that you’re biased. Randall Whitman bent down to rescue the paper Levonsky had so casually tossed. Even at a print run of five hundred thousand, he still hated to see even a single paper go to waste. After all, the man used to work for you.

Richard Blakemore didn’t just work for me. Levonsky puffed his omnipresent cigar. He is my star author, damn it! The mainstay of my magazine line.

And a convicted murderer.

Bullshit, Levonsky roared, loud enough to momentarily drown out the printing press, I know Richard Blakemore and I know that he didn’t murder anybody.

But he was found guilty…

A gross miscarriage of justice.

There were witnesses…

Criminals. Mobsters. Liars, one and all.

There was also evidence. Even you can’t deny that, Jake.

False. Fabricated. Puffs of cigar smoke punctuated every single word.

Randall Whitman drew on his pipe They found Blakemore’s fingerprints all over Tortelli’s mansion, he said, They found Blakemore himself, unconscious, in Tortelli’s garden.

He was framed. A perfectly formed smoke ring escaped from Levonsky’s mouth. Richard Blakemore would never have been so stupid.

And what about the full Silencer costume found in Blakemore’s house. Coat, hat, mask, bulletproof steel vest, twin .45 automatics. Just as described in the magazines, to the last detail. What was Blakemore doing with that stuff?

Levonsky shrugged. He had all that stuff to try out how it would feel to be in the Silencer’s shoes, to wear that costume and all that equipment. Richard always researched his stories very thoroughly.

Come on, Jake. He had the costume and all that, because he was the Silencer. Maybe he really wanted to try out how it felt at first, but then something snapped and he started to believe that he was his own character. Whitman took another draw of his pipe. I mean, most of those pulp authors are more or less crazy. That’s probably what happens when you crank out a full-length novel per month. Blakemore just went too far and now he’s paying the price…

Levonsky jabbed his cigar at Whitman, sprinkling ashes all over the floor. "And there we have it, Randall! Now you’re going to tell me how inferior my magazine line is to your newspaper. And next you’re going to blame me for all this, because I published the damn Silencer magazine in this first place."

Whitman put a calming hand on the shoulder of his enraged colleague. Jake, nobody’s blaming you. Hell, I’m not even blaming Blakemore. He did the right thing, if you ask me. Put away a lot of criminals that needed putting away. Plus, the Silencer sightings were always good for a story. But the law is the law, and the law says Blakemore is a murderer. There’s nothing you or I can do about it.

Levonsky sighed. I know. It’s just that I know the man. He’s been working for me for three years now. He’s been to my house, met my family. And I just cannot believe that he’s a murderer.

Whitman gave him a sympathetic nod. You look like you could use a drink, Jake, he said, Let’s go up to my office. I have a good bottle of Bourbon stashed away in my desk.

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It was late at night and so the usually busy offices of the New York Star were largely deserted. Whitman and Levonsky made their way through empty desks and abandoned typewriters towards Whitman’s corner office.

Randall Whitman pushed the door open and flipped the light switch on. But the office remained dark. There was a movement in a corner. Then suddenly, a figure stepped from the shadows into the dim light falling in from the bullpen. A sinister figure, dressed in a long black coat with gleaming silver buttons and a black wide-brimmed hat. The face was entirely covered by a mask of polished steel.

Levonsky gulped. He knew who the mysterious figure was. He knew only too well. After all, that very same figure appeared every month on the cover of Levonsky’s best-selling pulp magazine.

Whitman knew who the visitor was as well. The Silencer, he whispered, the real one.

Good evening, gentlemen, the masked man said. His voice sounded hoarse and tinny. Sit down. He pointed at the two empty chairs in front of Whitman’s desk with one of his silver-plated .45 automatics.

Both Levonsky and Whitman did as he said, never taking their eyes of the masked stranger. The Silencer himself sat down in Whitman’s swivel chair, leisurely, seemingly at ease. But the automatic always remained within reach.

He looked different than Levonsky had expected. Or rather, he looked different from the artist’s representations on the covers of Levonsky’s pulp magazines. Shorter, slighter, less muscular. But no less menacing. Though the righteous had nothing to fear from the Silencer, Levonsky reminded himself.

You know who I am, the masked man said, You know what I do. You have both detailed my exploits in your publications. You know what I stand for. Justice.

Now the Silencer looked directly at Whitman and Levonsky, an eerie red glow where his eyes should be. There is an innocent man on death row in Sing Sing and I cannot allow that. I want you to write about it, to tell your readers about it. Good night, gentlemen.

Without another word, the Silencer got up, spun around with a swish of his long coat and walked over to the window. He pushed the window up, climbed outside and vanished. For a few seconds, Whitman and Levonsky remained where they were, just starring after the vigilante. Them as if on cue, both men scrambled to their feet and rushed over to the open window. Sticking their heads out into the stifling city air, they looked left, right, down, even up. But the mysterious cloaked figure was nowhere to be seen.

Vanished, just like that, Whitman said, closing the window, How does he do that?

Thin and extremely strong grappling cord, Levonsky replied, according to the novels at least.

His mind still couldn’t quite accept what had just happened, what he had seen. For despite all the reports in the news, all the letters his magazine received, Jake Levonsky had never actually believed that there was a real Silencer. He had always dismissed the people who claimed to have seen him as crazy. Until today…

Whitman, on the other hand, seemed to have far fewer problems accepting their encounter with the masked vigilante. Amazing, he exclaimed, We just met the Silencer. The real Silencer. I can already see the headline: ‘Eye to eye with death — My encounter with the Silencer’ By Randall J. Whitman.

He rushed from the office into the bullpen. Stop the presses, he yelled, though it was doubtful that anybody heard him. Maybe we can still get that story in the morning edition.

What’s your problem, Jake? Whitman asked, noticing Levonsky’s sceptical look, He explicitly asked us to write about it.

"I know. It’s just… I have no one to write about this. Richard Blakemore wrote all the Silencer novels, and he…"

"Well, it’s still five days till Tuesday. Maybe you can get Blakemore to crank out one last Silencer story till then. Hell, it’s not as if he’s got anything better to do…"

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It was 3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and police captain Justin O’Grady had just returned to his home. He had spent most of the night listening to the statements of two hysterical newspapermen who claimed to have received a visit from the Silencer.

It was bullshit of course. A big load of bullshit. There were no witnesses except the two gentlemen of the press, no fingerprints, no evidence, no nothing. O’Grady was convinced that the two men had made the whole story up. Whitman owned the largest newspaper in town and Levonsky was a pulp publisher. They both made their living making up stories. And now they had made one up trying to help a mutual friend. It was only natural.

Only five days left. Or rather, four days and three hours. Weird things tended to happen so close to the execution date. Surprise witnesses coming out of the woodwork, people making false confessions. It happened every damned time.

If only it was Tuesday already… — No, that was wrong! O’Grady wished no man death, even if he deserved it. He would certainly not wish it upon a man he had once called friend.

But Richard Blakemore was guilty, there was no doubt about it. If there had been doubt, no matter how slight, O’Grady would have done everything in his power to save him. But Blakemore was guilty, damn it! All the evidence pointed to him. His fingerprints found in Tortelli’s house. Blakemore himself, found unconscious in Tortelli’s garden with Tortelli’s blood all over his clothes. Witnesses who claimed to have seen Blakemore with Tortelli. The fact that the Silencer had publicly sworn to bring down the mob, by all means necessary.

And Richard Blakemore wrote the Silencer tales for Levonsky’s magazine line. Allegedly inspired by the real life vigilante’s exploits. But the pulp stories were often way too close to the truth, as O’Grady had found out once he had actually forced himself to read one of the wretched things. To top it off, the Silencer’s costume and equipment were found in Blakemore’s house, neatly hidden behind a false wall. He was guilty, there was no other explanation. O’Grady had been right to arrest him, the judge and jury had been right to convict him.

It still didn’t make O’Grady feel any better, though. He had always held a grudging respect for the mysterious vigilante, even though they had been professional enemies. But the Silencer’s own brand of two gun justice had helped to put many a criminal behind lock and bar, to make the city a safer place. And Richard Blakemore, Richard Blakemore had been his friend, damn it. A man O’Grady had trusted, even though Blakemore had constantly betrayed that trust. How many times had he come to O’Grady. Just a friendly chat, he’d said, but in truth he’d been fishing for information. Research for his pulp stories, he had called it. Some research.

He needed a drink, O’Grady realized. There was a bottle of Malt in the cupboard. So he stumbled into the living room, weary to his bones. There was no light, but O’Grady didn’t need any. He knew his way around even in complete darkness. His fingers found the cupboard, opened it, took out the bottle and a glass. He twisted off the cap and began to pour.

Got one for me, too, O’Grady? a strange voice asked.

O’Grady spun around, spilling whiskey in the process. Every muscle, every sinew, every nerve in his body tensed. Who are you? he called out into the darkness.

You know who I am, O’Grady, the voice said. It was a peculiar voice, strangely hollow, with an almost metallic tinge.

In the middle of the darkened room, the outline of a figure appeared. A man, somewhat shorter than O’Grady, dressed in a long coat and a wide-brimmed hat. Stray beams of moonlight fell through the window, revealing gleaming metal where the stranger’s face should have been.

The Silencer, O’Grady whispered. Behind his back, he was frantically fumbling for his back-up gun in the open cupboard.

Put your hands where I can see them, the Silencer commanded. The moonlight struck a metallic object in his right hand. A gun, O’Grady realized.

And don’t even think of grabbing the spare revolver you always keep in that cupboard, the Silencer said. Damn, how could he know? You would regret it.

I thought you didn’t shoot police officers, O’Grady said.

I don’t shoot anybody unless I’m threatened. And I wouldn’t even need to fire to put you out of commission. So play it cool and nobody gets hurt.

What do you want? O’Grady demanded.

You know what I want. The release of Richard Blakemore. He is innocent.

You know I can’t do that. Blakemore was legally tried and convicted. In the eyes of the law he’s guilty.

But you don’t believe he did it?

It doesn’t matter what I believe. Blakemore was found guilty. And there’s nothing you and I can do about it. O’Grady took a deep breath. What are you trying to accomplish anyway? Prove that Richard Blakemore is not the Silencer? It’s too late for that, damn it. If you really wanted to do something, you should’ve shown up at the trial. Hell, why didn’t you?

I believe in justice, the Silencer said, It’s only when justice fails that I take action. And justice has failed in the case of Richard Blakemore. You will help me to remedy that, Justin O’Grady. Good night.

With that, the Silencer spun around, making a good show of swirling his long black coat, and walked towards the window.

Wait, O’Grady called after him, Did you murder Antonio Tortelli?

The Silencer stopped in front of the open window. I did not, he said, Neither did Richard Blakemore.

Then who murdered Tortelli?

Isn’t it your job to find that out, Captain, the Silencer said and jumped out of the window.

As soon as he was gone, O’Grady grabbed his gun and rushed after him. But when he reached the window, he could see nothing out there except his own backyard, peaceful in the moonlight.

Cursing, O’Grady put his gun away and switched on the light in the living room. So the two gentlemen of the press had told the truth after all. There really was somebody out there, masquerading as the Silencer. And he was very concerned about the fate of Richard Blakemore.

Could it be that they had been wrong after all, that Richard Blakemore was not the Silencer? That Blakemore was not the murderer of Antonio Tortelli? No, the evidence had been absolutely watertight. Blakemore was guilty, there was no doubt about that.

But then who… what was this Silencer? A

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