Stung Through The Heart
"Another challenge for the Green Hornet, his aide Kato, and their rolling arsenal, the Black Beauty. On Police records a wanted criminal, Green Hornet is really Britt Reid, owner-publisher of the Daily Sentinel, his dual identity known only to his secretary and to the district attorney. And now, to protect the rights and lives of decent citizens, rides THE GREEN HORNET."
The rain fell in driving sheets. Lightning blazed across the night sky, searing it apart. Thunder rolled heavily over the city. No one in their right mind would want to be out tonight. Not if they wanted to swim home. The streets were all but deserted. The sidewalks were empty and the streets lights obscured by the storm.
The city had suffered one of the wettest summers on record. This storm just another piece to the statistics. At least there was one consolation for the soggy, bedraggled and drowned state of the living: the criminal element was just as waterlogged as everybody else.
Even the infamous Green Hornet and companion, sporting that dangerous car of theirs, hadn't been seen or heard of in weeks. Some wondered if he had been killed, or gone into hiding. He too was just riding out the weather and hoping for sunnier days to come.
Another bolt of lightening arched, illuminating the streets and buildings in an eerie blue-white aura. From one particular building, apartments in fact, a woman screams. Glass shatters and furniture is thrown. A man's angry voice punctuated by the sharp sounds of slaps. Another voice enters the fray, demanding him to stop, to leave her alone; a much younger voice. A child. A boy.
The man shoves him aside, knocking something else over in the process. The woman retaliates. A mother's love against brute strength is admirable, but completely lost on him. She is beaten down again. Again the boy rushes to her defense and again he is struck down. From out of this, another sound-gusty wails from a second child. A little girl. Her loud sobs only enrage him more. He thunders through the small apartment to silence her but both mother and son grab hold to stop him.
All three crash to the ground. Of course, the man is first up, kicking at the woman and boy. He's clearly had enough. His two victims are laid out on the floor, too winded and battered to stand. The girl child is still wailing. He reaches for a tipped over desk. Wrenching the broken drawer open, he pulls out his last option. The last resort. The one thing he always threatened with but never used. Until now.
His pistol is loaded and ready. The woman is crawling to her feet, her head coming up slowly, carefully. Blood, sweat and tears run down her face. What little color she has, drains as her eyes meet the shaking barrel.
She dares to look him in the eye, a plea on her lips. He only sneers. The dumb slut.
The boy watches in terror, unable to scream, unable to defend, completely paralyzed. The gun's muzzle flash, the crack of the bullet exploding forth. His mother falling. Bleeding. Dead.
Suddenly, the gun's turning on him. He's next. His mind screams "MOVE!" and he obeys. He lunges past the man, surprising him and runs into his sister's bedroom. Locks the door. Little good that will do. He has just seconds. The girl stops crying, wide-eyed. Thundering footsteps outside the door. The gun blasting the lock. The door swings open.
To an empty room, its single window wide open. The curtains flapping in the wind, rain on the sill and lightening in the sky.
A week later…
"A party? Aw, c'mon, Britt!"
Mike Axford threw down his morning edition.
"No. I refuse! I hate parties. Anything but that-I'll even do our Lonely Lover's column! But NOT that. Never!"
His arms folded across his chest and his face set itself in an expression of pure, ornery determination. Britt Reid leaned back in his chair. One hand on his desk, the other under his chin. His mouth was set in a firm line while his aqua eyes stared at his senior reporter. The urge to run a hand through his short, brown-blonde hair was squashed.
"So. It's a definite no, then Mike. You won't do me this one favor?"
Axford's arms flew apart. "No! And don't try to guilt me into it!"
"Then don't do it for me!" His voice changed to a more innocent tone. "Do it for the kids, Mike. Those poor, helpless kids…."
Axford's face turned as red as his sparse hair. His arms went up in the air. "Bahhhhh! Shame, then? Shaming me into it. Dirty, lousy trick…! OKAY! I'll…I'll do it. I won't like it, mind you." He added, pointing at Britt. "But, I'll do it."
Britt's handsome face blossomed into a megawatt smile. He stood and clapped the older man on the shoulder. "Thanks, Mike! I knew I could count on you!"
"Yeah, yeah…but on one condition!"
Britt's smile faltered just a bit. "…What condition?"
Axford smile was just a sickly sweet as his voice. "You've got to buy me a tux!"
Each year, the city's orphanage-the State Home for the Lost and Orphaned-held a charity gala to raise money. The wealthy came out in droves to shower support and generous donations for the benefit of the residents and staff. Not only that, the guests had the option of sponsoring a child and then hosting them for a week.
Another way to further the future of the home and its children while helping those same children see how it could be. A life outside the walls with a family who loved and cared for them. The taste could be cruel, because when it was over, it was over. But the memories served as fuel to keep going, keep fighting, keep hoping.
Tonight was the glided event, held at the city's Warner Hall and catered by the renowned City Club. The red carpet was rolled out, the awning spread above it and the newsmen fighting for position. Each limo that pulled up was greeted by rapid camera flashes, applause and not-so-subtle oohs and ahhs. Indeed, the women saw this gala as just another chance to show off their finery. And what finery it was!
Britt Reid's black limo was towards the middle of the pack. He'd rented it for the night, with his own 'after-party' in mind. In the driver's seat, as kind of an 'inside joke' between the two, was Kato.
He was Britt's valet, friend and partner in their Green Hornet exploits. He drove the Black Beauty as the Hornet's masked companion. It was almost like a limousine itself. Hence his driving of the real limo; a sort of "If we can't do one tonight, we can do another."
They'd gotten a chuckle out of it, at any rate. Instead of his black chauffeur uniform he wore on other, unmentionable nights, he wore a white version. He kept his eyes frontward instead of his usual rear-view mirror checks on his boss and the outside world while he drove the Beauty. In this case, he figured some privacy was called for. His boss had quite a lovely lady on his arm. He couldn't recall her name…Kato knew she was some old college girlfriend back in town.
From the back, he heard the tinkle of her laugh.
Of course. Crystal Monahan. That was her name. Kato allowed himself a peek-his boss was whispering in her ear. Her eyes danced, a hand on his knee, cheeks on fire. He put his eyes back on the road. A beauty, but then again, this was Britt Reid.
Cameras were beginning to flash on the windshield. He pressed a button on his dash and spoke into the speaker.
"We are nearly at the carpet entrance."
Britt took his time answering. Eventually… "Thanks, Kato."
The valet closed the line with a smirk.
Mike Axford, Daily Sentinel reporter and police hound, was the very definition of "fish out of water" this night. He tugged at his collar and fiddled with his black tie. He tried to remember the last time he felt so uncomfortable. He currently stood out on the red carpet of the venerable Warren Hall at the Charity Gala for the orphanage. Waiting, of course, for his dear old boss, Britt Reid.
This was his fault, after all. If he hadn't insisted, and cajoled and shamed him, Axford could be home, sleeping. Or, better yet, down at police headquarters. At least he'd be doing something useful! Instead of this! A charade!
The camera flashes and jumbled voices were beginning to give him a headache. He was sick of pretending to care about the dresses and the jewelry; of jotting down stuff he knew didn't matter. The indignation of the whole thing really burned him-the waste!
Axford's pencil broke in his grip and he realized his broiling temper was getting the best of him. After all, it was for a good cause. He looked up at the next big cheer. Britt Reid stepped out of the back of a gleaming limo. On his arm, came one of the most gorgeous woman Axford had ever seen.
Had he seen her before, though? Seems to him he had, some time ago. But couldn't remember when or where. Blonde hair, almost silver, swept up on her head. Tanned, flawless skin. A sapphire blue dress with matching gems in an earring, necklace and bracelet set. A quick glimpse of her ankles before she fixed her dress revealed blue and silver-accented pumps.
And her own vivid blue eyes never left Britt's face.
They walked down the carpet, waving, greeting onlookers and reporters alike. Quite the handsome couple…enough that it set pens and pencils afire on the pads of reporters present. Axford closed his mouth in time for Britt to see him. Dressed to the nines in a tailored black tuxedo, he was dashing.
"Hello, Mike. Glad you made it. Erm…nice tux."
Axford scowled. He turned to the lady, however, with a smile and a slight tip of the head.
"Hello, ma'am. I think we've met. But then again…."
Britt chuckled and pulled her closer. She gazed longingly into his face, a warm smile all for him.
"You mean you don't remember?"
"No. Sorry I don't."
Britt looked to her. "What do you think? Insult or not?"
She laughed, a very pleasing sound. "Oh, no. Britt, it was a long time ago." She looked back to Axford and extended her hand.
"I'm Crystal Monahan. I went to college with Britt. We're old friends."
Axford shook it, realization dawning. "Of course! I remember! You used to come over to the Sentinel all the time! Back when Britt's father was still running it."
"Yes! You do remember!"
Britt looked behind him. A bunch-up was beginning to occur on the carpet. "Looks like we better go inside. We're holding up traffic."
Little hands clutched other little hands. Small voices murmured. Heads hung low, nerves frayed, fear rising. They had been chosen, but would they do right? Would they get the prize of sponsorship? Or would they stay behind? Waiting for that day, if it ever came, that they were taken away from all this. It was more than enough to force tears and tantrums.
Several nurses from the Orphanage were on-hand to calm and sooth while Mrs. Carter, the director of the Orphanage, kept a cool head. She spoke to the Mayor, the Governor, to anyone who came to her.
The children were just anxious. They all were. It was only natural-they ranged from fifteen to four in age. The fifteen year olds were sick of waiting and hoping only to have it all dashed on the rocks over and over. The knowledge that in three years, they'd be set out on their own was quite a bitter thought as well. The four year olds were just bewildered and scared.
This didn't help the poor nurses as they too were on pins and needles. They wanted the best for the children. If this could help not only the chosen group but the rest of the Home? They would do all they could for that. But by the end of the night, tears would fall again, and dreams would fall apart. Sadly, not all of them would be sponsored-just a select few. They could only deal with that when the time came.
The older woman was watching the gala from their designated waiting area, usually a ladies powder room. The younger voice that called her name from behind was one of her nurses. She closed the door and turned.
"Yes, Nurse Cameron?"
Nurse Jennie Cameron bowed her head, her hands folded demurely in front of her. Like the others, she wore her brown hair in a severe bun under her white cap and a cleanly pressed white uniform with the Home's crest on the breast pocket. It only made her appear more innocent, more naive. She was one of the new hires…not well-verse in the nuances of state work. Some or most of it would hurt, depress and frustrate. In the end, if she was made of the right stuff, she would feel it was all worth it.
Tonight, however, would be among one of her many frustrations, and depressions. She would see children she had come to love crushed by the whims of those more fortunate. It would be a test in her ideals, her beliefs and her choice of employment.
"Excuse me, Ma'am, but…it's John and little Mary. They say they won't go out. John called it a circus and won't have his little sister 'paraded about'." A wry smile. "You know how…opinionated he can be."
Mrs. Carter smiled knowingly. Yes. John and his little sister, Mary. He wouldn't give their last names the night they came in. The night they came in…. Last week, during the worst summer storm, they had arrived. He was bloody and bruised, appearing as though he had been beaten quite thoroughly . His little sister, Mary, was dragged in behind him in complete shock. Wide, unseeing eyes…thumb in her mouth.
John wouldn't say and Mary couldn't say what had happened. He wouldn't even give their ages. Considering how they came in, the Home gave them the name of Waters until their situation could be straightened out, if ever. John was estimated to be around ten or eleven while Mary a mere five year old. As to what happened-something had. The cuts and bruises on John were just healing and Mary was still in a shell. Not speaking, her thumb stuck resolutely in her mouth.
One thing was for sure: John was older and wiser beyond his years. His cynical view was something Mrs. Carter and her nurses had yet to see before. He could be biting, always speaking his mind. He saw his opinion as the only one that mattered, especially when it came to his sister. His protective nature towards her was unbelievable but incredibly touching.
So why had they been part of the chosen group? Not only could a sponsorship and its increased public exposure help solve their case, but…this boy and this girl needed it. It was obvious the boy hadn't had a male role model in his life, that he had to fend for himself and his sister alone. Mary could break her shell, she could. The nurses stayed with her everyday at the Home. They talked to her, played with her…but they were an old sight by now. Something new and interesting might help.
"Does he, now? He was all for it just a few hours ago."
"Yes, Ma'am, but…he says that if we try to force him…he'll leave. And take his sister with him."
Mrs. Carter took a breath and clasped her hands together. "Well. We'll have to see about that."
The two walked to the back of the room. Away from the comfy cushions the children had taken a liking to. Away from the bright lights and large, dual mirrors, to a back entrance to the room. Seated against the door was John and Mary. He held her hand and stared straight ahead, eyes hard and cold. Mary's thumb was even more firmly set in her mouth.
Mrs. Carter motioned for Nurse Cameron to stay back while she went to them. John shifted his accusing gaze to her approaching figure.
"You can't make us do this. We were chosen…we were volunteered for this. We can just as easily unvolunteer ourselves and leave."
She regarded him coolly. "Yes. Yes, you could. But where would you go? What would you do? Despite your convictions of adulthood, you are a child. Even if you did get a job, however legal and honest it might be…what would happen to little Mary? Who would watch her, take care of her?
"Until we know or you tell us about your situation, you are to stay here. Here is your best chance, not out there. While you are here…you obey our rules, our decisions. You know this already, John. So. Our decision to make you and your sister a part of this group, to be given a chance not all have, is final. Do you understand?"
The boy's unforgiving glare softened just to look to his sister. It returned when he looked back to Mrs. Carter.
"For Mary. I'll stay for her. But don't expect anything more from me."