MOONSTONE MONDAY!-Tale from THE GREEN HORNET CHRONICLES BY WIN SCOTT ECKERT
In recognition of the interest, good, bad, and ugly, generated by THE GREEN HORNET film debut this past weekend, ALL PULP brings you a special CLIFFHANGER FICTION featuring a FULL LENGTH story by Win Scott Eckert!! Stay tuned at the end to find out how you can order the collection this story and others appear in directly from MOONSTONE!
Like a small insect, the dark figure deftly skittered up toward the twenty-second floor of the Lafayette Pavilion Apartments. Quite a feat, considering the building’s walls were aluminum and glass, with few or no handholds.
At the summit, the shadowy figure slipped over the ledge and padded silently across the rooftop terrace to a large set of modern glass panes. A cutter efficiently removed a circle of glass. A brown hand reached inside to unlock the sliding patio door. Inside, shoeless feet crept unerringly for the bedroom, from which deep snores rumbled.
Had the slumbering man been awake, white moonlight would have revealed the dark form standing over him, dripping a viscous liquid down a silken cord and onto his upper lip. The victim stirred, but did not awaken.
The brown-skinned man took a small jar from a pocket in his robes and quietly unscrewed the cap, releasing the buzzing fury within. The hornets swarmed and attacked the helpless man in his bed.
The intruder bolted, exited back onto the rooftop terrace, and sealed the circle in the glass with a spray foam substance from a small can, so that the hornets could not escape.
He descended the building as easily as he had come up, ignoring the penthouse resident’s screaming death-throes.
City Councilman Earl Hayden was murdered in his bed last night, another victim of The Green Hornet. As with previous killings, Hayden was surrounded by the corpses of countless hornets—green hornets—which swarmed and stung him to death before he could react. The Coroner’s report showed traces of a strong pheromone on Hayden’s upper lip. The pheromones are known stir up hornets, causing them to swarm and attack the victim.
Scientific tests indicate the hornets are a mutated version of the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), known to have potentially toxic stings. Unlike ordinary hornets, these green hornets die after they sting, leaving a trail of evidence at the scene of the crime.
The murder of Hayden comes on the heels of the recent slayings of several other councilmen, high ranking automobile executives, and union leaders.
Asked about the connection between the gruesome hornet killings and the notorious underworld figure, “The Green Hornet,” District Attorney Frank Scanlon had no immediate comment.
Scanlon also refused to discuss recent rumors that The Green Hornet is now operating in partnership with the mysterious Doctor Fang, under whom the gangs of Chinatown are being organized, and who last terrorized Detroit back in 1935.
In fact, this reporter was present and witnessed when Warner Lester, the famed “Manhunter,” took on Doctor Fang. It was thought that both perished in the resultant conflagration, but unfortunately it seems the scourge of Chinatown has returned to plague our honest citizens…
“Come now, Mike,” Britt Reid said, tossing the copy on his modernistic desk. “You know I can’t print such an unbalanced piece.”
“Now see here, Britt, of course the presence of green harnets as murder weapons has the city stirred up, so to speak, and all blame rests upon The Green Harnet himself.” Axford’s Irish brogue usually wasn’t too noticeable, but when he was excited the word “Hornet” invariably came out as “Harnet.”
“The papers are all editorializing,” Mike continued, “demanding police protection for other political figures, and massive law enforcement mobilization to bring the Harnet to justice. If not, he’ll end up controlling the city, through the remaining councilmen who will buckle under to his demands in exchange for their lives.”
“It’s not just the green hornets as murder weapons,” the Sentinel owner replied. “Your article goes off on a speculative tangent about a connection between The Green Hornet and some historical master criminal. Where’s your evidence? The Sentinel prints facts, not conjecture.”
“But Britt, the Express is running with it. I heard it straight from Dan Scully. Rumors are spreading like wildfire in the underworld that Doctor Fang has returned, and that the Harnet and Fang are in league, planning the run the city together. After all, isn’t the Harnet’s bodyguard supposed to be Oriental? The Harnet probably got him from Fang’s ranks.”
“No buts. The piece is about the murder of Earl Hayden, period. Rewrite it to stick to the known facts, or I’ll have to kill it.”
Reid’s secretary, Lenore Case, entered the office with the latest batch of paperwork. She wore a stylish shift dress that came just below the knees and showed off her legs to great effect.
“Talk some sense into him, Casey,” the grizzled reporter growled on his way out. “If only his father were here to see things run right.”
Britt’s father, Henry Reid, had died in prison two years earlier after being framed by the syndicate for a crime he didn’t commit. The truth was finally known, but too late to save the elder Reid. In the intervening years, Britt had taken over the reins at the Sentinel and had come into his own, making a name for himself as an upright and crusading publisher.
Britt shook his head as Axford slammed the door behind him. “He just doesn’t get it,” he said to Casey.
“Mr. Reid, if you don’t mind me saying so, in one sense I think Mike is right.”
Britt was very interested in his secretary’s response. In fact, Lenore Case intrigued him. He found her intelligent and resourceful, with an impish sense of humor. He wanted to hear what she had to say. “Is that so? Please, do tell.”
“Well, Mr. Reid, it’s like this. I know you’ve never quite believed that The Green Hornet is as bad as others make him out to be, but if the Sentinel doesn’t join in the calls to at least investigate The Hornet’s role in the killings, people are going to start asking why.”
Britt Reid, of course, knew that he was not behind the nefarious murders, but Casey had a point. He couldn’t singlehandedly fight the tide of public opinion, and if he didn’t speak up, it might look suspicious.
“I see your point, Miss Case, but such opinions belong on the editorial page, not in a hard news story about a councilman’s murder.”
“Precisely, Mr. Reid.” Lenore Case smiled. “And from a purely business perspective, you know that the competition isn’t shying away from such editorializing. Sabrina Bradley over at the Daily Express is really playing up the Fang-Hornet rumors. You know she covets the number one spot, and her editorials are playing on fear, creating an even greater atmosphere of terror than already exists. If you wrote your own editorial, you could mention the possible Hornet connection that Mike can’t touch in his story, but provide a more balanced perspective than the Express.”
Britt sighed. He’d been out-maneuvered and he knew it.
“Shall I get my notepad?” Miss Case asked.
Britt grinned. “That, and two steaming mugs of coffee. Pronto.”
Casey nodded and went out.
Chinatown, a mile or so in from the Detroit River.
Mike Axford looked up and down Cass Avenue. It was a hot, muggy day, and he fanned himself with his hat.
Near the corner of Cass and Charlotte Street was the Golden Lotus Café. Next to that was the Golden City Club. An eight-sided marker, about ten feet tall with various red-painted Chinese characters, and topped by what looked like a large red Chinese hat, stood down the block from the Café at the corner of Peterboro and Cass. The marker’s few signs in English welcomed Mike to Chinatown and advertised antiques. Mike knew that a similar marker was erected a couple blocks away, at the corner of 2nd and Peterboro, denoting the other border of Chinatown.
He took a deep breath, then ambled past the Gold Dollar Show Bar. He stopped for a few moments window-browsing at Sai Woo’s Curios, and checked his watch again.
It was time. Mike marched further down the street and entered Chin Tiki’s Chinese Restaurant. He took a seat in the corner of the tiny dining room and doffed his fedora. It was the middle of the afternoon and he was the sole customer. Mike tapped his fingers impatiently as he took a gander at the usual trappings: gilt dragons on the walls, hanging lanterns, and Chinese watercolors. Strong sandalwood incense smoke wafted gently from several Buddha-shaped urns placed on the dining tables, and Mike began to relax.
Moments later, a striking Chinese girl slipped through a curtained alcove, bowed, and took Mike’s order for tea. She bowed again and left.
A few minutes later, the diminutive waitress returned with Mike’s tea. She poured the steaming, reddish liquid into a small cup from a laughing Buddha teapot and began to withdraw.
“Hold on a moment, please, Miss,” Mike asked.
The girl stopped and watched Mike silently. She had green eyes, and Mike figured she must have some Western blood far back in her heritage.
“What’s your name, please?”
“Isabella, sir,” the girl replied.
“Isabella? That’s not much of a Chinese name now, is it?”
She shook her head nervously and said nothing.
“Can you help me? I was supposed to meet someone, but there’s no one else here. Has anyone been here, or perhaps left a message?”
Isabella looked terrorized. “I am not the one you seek, sir,” she said quickly. “Perhaps he will come later.” Then she scurried behind the emerald silk curtains before Mike could utter another word.
Can’t say I blame her, Mike thought, everyone in Chinatown’s running scared right now.
He lifted the teacup to his lips and took a sip.
The Buddha incense burners writhed and danced on the tables, and the room spun, and everything went dark.
Drake Matson, copy boy at the Sentinel, knocked at the door leading to the suite of Britt Reid’s offices. At the call to enter, he crossed the threshold tentatively.
“Well, hello Drake, what can I do for you?” Miss Case asked.
“I have a telegram for Mr. Reid, Miss Case,” he said, teenage nervousness evidence in his voice. Like all the copy boys, Drake had a crush on Britt Reid’s lovely secretary. It wasn’t hard to understand why. Lenore Case’s auburn hair, exotic brown eyes, and girl-next-door friendliness were an unbeatable combination.
“Thank you, Drake, I’ll give it to him.” Miss Case held out her hand.
“Well, Miss Case,” Drake said, with increasing awkwardness, “it’s like this. The telegram came to the City Room and Mr. Gunnigan sent me up with it. I’m to deliver it to Mr. Reid, and no one else.”
“Drake, that’s fine, I understand. But Mr. Reid is extremely busy, and I am his confidential secretary, after all.” Miss Case smiled at Drake and held out her hand. “I promise to take it straight to Mr. Reid. No one else will read it before he does.”
Drake thought about it a moment, then handed over the slip of paper.
TO: Britt Reid, Publisher, Daily Sentinel;
Sabrina Bradley, Managing Editor, Daily Express
Very unhappy with your recent stories and editorials. Stop. Mike Axford captive. Stop. No more stories or editorials on partnership between Doctor Fang and Green Hornet, or Axford pays price. Stop. Signed, Fang and Hornet.
Britt Reid hadn’t looked this grim since his father had been wrongfully convicted. He handed the telegram to Casey. She scanned it quickly and handed it back to him when his office line rang.
She picked up the phone, spoke briefly, then said to Britt, “Sabrina Bradley on the line, sir.”
“Tell her I’m unavailable. Tell her I don’t expect her to cave in to Fang’s threats, and the Sentinel won’t either. That’s all.”
“That’s all? But Mr. Reid, what about Mike—”
“Mike will understand, Casey. I’ve got a paper to run. Please have my car brought around. I’ll be working from home the rest of the day.”
Miss Case nodded, passed on the message to Sabrina Bradley, hung up, and left Britt’s inner office.
As the door closed behind her, Britt pulled out his gold pocket watch, a Reid family heirloom, and turned the hands to 1:50 on the dial. He pressed the stud at the top of the watch and a miniature antenna sprang out of a hidden aperture. Satisfied that the necessary signal had been delivered, Britt put the watch away, grabbed his coat, and left.
As he passed through the outer office, Miss Case called out, “Good afternoon, Mr. Reid,” to his swiftly retreating back.
District Attorney Frank Scanlon leaned back in his office chair, dictating a legal brief. His impeccable gray suit was perfectly pressed. Black horn-rimmed glasses, in conjunction with a slightly receding hairline, gave Scanlon a somewhat academic look which belied his reputation as a fierce advocate for justice.
He paused, took a sip of coffee, and was about to resume when the miniature transistor-receiver embedded in his glasses activated with a signal so low only he could hear it.
Scanlon turned off his Dictaphone, bookmarked his legal research, and grabbed his hat and coat. He picked up the phone and told his secretary, Miss Hewitt, to hold his calls. Then he left his office via the private entrance.
Hayashi Kato began to bow to his opponent, in preparation for their next bout, when he saw the red light blinking unobtrusively in the upper corner of the basement gymnasium in Britt Reid’s townhome.
“I regret, Miss Patricia,” he said gravely, coming out of his stance, “that I am obliged to cut today’s lesson short.”
Kato’s student smiled slightly. Although only fourteen, she was well-proportioned and a few inches taller than her teacher. Her eyes swirled with pools of gold flecks as she released a shock of bronze-colored hair from the ponytail. “Finally saw the blinking red light, huh?”
“Only thirty seconds. Don’t worry, although my father has officially retired, he’s still interested in crimefighting and approves of your and Mr. Reid’s work. Otherwise, rather than sending me here for training, you’d both be undergoing rehabilitation at his Crime College.”
Kato nodded. “I think such conversations are better left between your father and Mr. Reid. I’ve signaled for your car, it should be here to pick you up in five minutes.”
The girl bowed. “Thank you, Mr. Kato. I will look forward to next week’s lesson.”
“As will I, Miss Patricia. Good day.”
Lenore Case pulled over to the curb a few cars down from Britt Reid’s townhome. She watched as he expertly slid the white convertible into the garage at number 312 and the door automatically swung down behind him.
She killed the engine and sat. Reid’s townhome, tall and narrow, was near downtown, in Alden Park, and sandwiched between other townhouses and shops. It was fronted by pale bricks in a modern style. There were no signs of life, no open windows or stirring curtains.
Five minutes ticked by and still she sat. Should she go knock? If she did, would Britt let her in? Though no one else would have observed the signs of strain in Britt Reid’s stoic exterior, she could see through the façade and knew Mike’s kidnapping had hit him hard. The last time she’d seen him like this, his father had been on trial. She’d wanted to reach out to him then, and hadn’t, leaving the barrier of their professional relationship in place.
She chewed on the tip of her forefinger, ruining a perfect French manicure, and continued to sit, undecided.
That’s when Casey spied Frank Scanlon pulling into a parking place on the street near Britt’s house. She watched as he slammed the car door shut, looked up and down the street, and strode up to the townhome next to Britt’s. She recalled it had been listed as “For Sale” for what seemed like forever. Scanlon unlocked the door and went inside.
What the hell?
Britt Reid pulled the three books slightly out of their slots in the bookcase, and the fireplace slid upward into the ceiling. Simultaneously, a metal platform behind the fireplace descended and steps unfolded. Frank Scanlon stepped off the platform.
Scanlon extended a hand and greeted Britt’s valet, Kato, who was decked out in a white jacket and black bow-tie, then firmly shook Britt’s hand. The fireplace slid back down in place behind Scanlon.
The three men took seats around the coffee table, and Britt handed the telegram to Scanlon.
“Of course, this has the effect of making The Hornet look guiltier than ever,” Scanlon said, handing the slip of paper back to Britt.
“I know that, Frank.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Buy The Hornet some time to get to the bottom of this.”
Scanlon took off his glasses. “That won’t be easy, Britt. Fang, whoever he is, has got this set up against you pretty well. He’s already framed you for the murders of three councilmen: Martin Powell, Alan Burke, and now Earl Hayden. If Fang keeps up this pace, planting evidence and rumors against you, the calls for a citywide manhunt will be beyond my control. Capture and exposure will become inevitable.”
“I understand, Frank, but just try to stave off that manhunt as long as you can.”
“Will do. What’s Fang’s goal in all this?”
Britt shrugged. “Draw out The Hornet, then coerce him into a partnership? With the evidence he’s manufactured thus far, The Hornet would have little choice in the matter. Disagree, and Fang will continue to frame him, planting evidence and fanning rumors. Agree, and they can control and manipulate the city’s political leaders together. That’s just a guess, of course.”
“What’s The Green Hornet’s next move?”
Britt took a moment to answer. He stared at the painting hanging next to the fireplace. It depicted his ancestor atop a magnificent white stallion, six-guns drawn, the brim of the white cowboy hat pulled low and masking the eyes.
Then he said, with resolve, “The last entry in Axford’s appointment book showed he was meeting a contact at the Chin Tiki in Chinatown. We’ll pay a little visit.”
“Keep me updated.” Scanlon stood and shook Britt’s hand again. “And be careful, Britt, you’re playing with fire this time.”
“I will, thanks for your help, Frank.”
The older man nodded curtly, then departed through the fireplace, which had opened again on Kato’s manipulation of the books. Scanlon had a choice of exit routes. One would take him back through the tunnel from which he had come. It had a hidden egress in the empty townhouse next door, which was also secretly owned by Britt. However, this time Scanlon choose the other exit, which would deposit him in the alley behind Britt’s townhouse. He’d circle the block to retrieve his car.
As the D.A. departed, Britt looked at Kato. “Please get the Beauty ready. Let’s pay a little visit to Chinatown.”
Casey was getting restless, sitting in her car for over an hour.
Then she saw Scanlon walk around the corner, get in his Chrysler, and drive away. It was odd, very odd, that he hadn’t come out of the empty house which he’d entered an hour earlier. He must have exited from a back door and walked around the block. His behavior was furtive. Was he visiting a woman?
Dusk was settling over the city. She couldn’t sit here into the night.
Casey gathered her nerve and got out of the car. She strode up to Britt’s front door and rang the bell.
And rang, and rang.
She was alternately puzzled and miffed that neither Britt nor Kato answered the door. They must be at home. She’d been watching the house and no one had left.
Growing even angrier, Casey marched back to her car and got in. She slammed the door, gunned the motor, and took off.
“Let’s roll, Kato.”
The false back wall of Britt Reid’s garage elevated and the Beauty thrust forward into the enclosed backyard patio area of his townhome. The car accelerated straight at the back brick wall. Tiny cameras embedded in the other side of the wall transmitted to small television screens set in the front dashboard and the control panel in the back seat.
All was clear.
The brick wall split in two, each side moving horizontally away from the other. The Beauty sped into the alleyway behind Britt’s townhome, and the two sides of the wall came back together, reuniting the two lovers on the large advertisement covering the side of the wall facing the alley: “Kissin’ Candy Mints. How Sweet They Are.”
The Black Beauty raced toward Chinatown.
The Green Hornet and Kato had decided to forgo guile and burst through the front entrance at Chin Tiki’s, startling the restaurant’s few customers.
“Everyone stay quiet and seated, and no one will get hurt. Our business is with the manager.” The Hornet brandished his gas gun for emphasis.
At the commotion, the back curtains parted and a stunning Chinese girl came out, decked out in traditional Chinese silks and slippers. She bowed calmly and respectfully to The Hornet and Kato, and then beckoned them into the back.
The two followed her, warily, through the tiny kitchen. The three made an odd procession, but the two Chinese cooks, hot and sweaty in the enclosed space, studiously ignored them. She led The Hornet and his bodyguard into a storeroom at the back of the restaurant and closed the door.
Kato scanned the room for traps or other occupants, while The Hornet spoke.
“That’s far enough. You seem to be expecting us.”
“We are honored by your presence, Green Hornet.”
“‘We’? We’re not going any further until you explain.”
“Then you will go no further, and you will learn nothing more.” The girl bowed politely again. “Please excuse me. And please leave by the back alley. You’ve already disturbed our customers enough.”
She made to leave, daintily gathering up the red silks of her gown in her hands so as not to dirty them on the dust-covered floor. The Hornet and Kato made eye contact. They functioned so well as a team that no words were required, and together they decided.
“All right,” The Hornet said, “we’ll play it your way. Do you at least have a name?”
The girl looked at him with an odd smile. “Of course I have a name. You may call me Madame Isabella.”
She went to a small hanging Chinese lantern and tugged the cord. In response, a stack of boxes in the corner of the dingy storeroom moved aside, revealing a dark stone stairwell cut into the ground.
She led the way and the two crimefighters cautiously followed. The boxes slid back into place above them.
They continued to descend, the stairway doubling back and forth. The air became progressively cooler and more damp. When the tunnels finally leveled out, Britt estimated they were four to five stories underground.
They followed Madame Isabella into a narrow tunnel cut into the stone. Dim light came from dragon-mouthed braziers mounted in the walls at infrequent intervals. Finally they entered a larger domed chamber that was better lit. Orange and yellow shadows flickered and the scent of jasmine permeated the air.
The girl walked to one end of the hollow and tugged on a brazier. The spot of ground she stood upon began to rise until she was about six feet above The Hornet and Kato.
“This,” Isabella said, “is where we part ways for now. When you awake, I assure you you’ll be entirely unharmed, but Doctor Fang, of course, cannot allow you to know the precise path to his location.”
The room turned a deeper shade of orange as the flames in the wall braziers extinguished and a soft, unearthly light emanated from them.
The Green Hornet and Kato were immediately hit with a profound drowsiness. “Visors,” The Hornet clipped out, before they lost consciousness altogether. A quick touch to each of their masks caused green-tinged translucent shades to slide over the eye-slits, and both men rapidly recovered. The strange orange light must have been intended to somehow stimulate the brain’s sleep center.
“Unacceptable,” The Green Hornet called to the girl above them. “We cannot, of course, allow Doctor Fang to unmask us while we’re unconscious.”
Madame Isabella shook her head ruefully. “Too bad, Green Hornet. This calls for more conventional methods.” Her platform began to rise again, delivering her through an aperture in the cavern’s ceiling, and taking her from their sight.
Around them, six panels in the grotto walls slid upward, each revealing a brown-skinned man of Eastern descent. All wore loincloths and tightly wound turbans. They were poised and ready for combat.
Kato leaped in a flash, flying through the air with a kick that connected soundly with one man’s jaw, rendering him unconscious. He landed, pivoted on one foot, and was in the air again like a ballet dancer, removing a second opponent with a hard kick to the gut. As the man doubled over in pain, Kato dispatched him with a fast chop to the back of the neck.
The Hornet, in the meantime, had telescoped out his Sting and held it in two hands, blocking a swinging scimitar. He kicked the sword out of the dacoit’s grip and drove a hammer-fist to the side of the head, laying his opponent out cold.
Another challenger came at him from behind, and The Hornet ducked as the sword cut a wide swath where he’d been standing. Before the man regrouped, The Hornet sprang up and smashed the man in the face with a double-fisted punch, the Sting still held in one fist.
In the interim Kato had rendered a fifth man almost senseless with a blur of flying fists, and now held their final opponent pinned to the ground, clutching him by the neck.
The Green Hornet came over, crouched down next to Kato, and prepared to question their captive. At the sound of padding feet, The Hornet and Kato turned to see the other five men disappearing back into the tunnels from which they’d come, false cavern walls sliding back into place.
Turning their attention back to their prisoner, they heard a crunching sound. The man’s eyes went white as they rolled back up into his head, and a bubbly froth spilled out of his mouth, covering his suddenly blue lips.
He jerked a little in Kato’s hands and died.
Kato released his grip.
“Quite a nice group of bodyguards Madame Isabella has down here,” The Hornet said. “And loyal enough to commit suicide.”
Kato nodded. “Burmese dacoits. A warrior sect, and absolutely devoted to any cause they join.” He paused, then asked, “What now?”
“Time to call it a night, I think. Let’s find a way out of here.”
“Right.” Kato pulled a small device of his own design from an inner pocket. He clicked a button and an antenna extended while a small view screen activated. The sonar monitor displayed a myriad of underground tunnels and warrens, and Britt wondered just how extensive was this underground complex? Further exploration was called for, but not tonight.
Using the sonar scanner, Kato led them upward through the channels and caverns, finally arriving at a small room with a wooden trapdoor in the ceiling. Kato jumped up, caught the latch, and the door swung down, along with a ladder.
The men climbed up and closed the trap behind them. It fit seamlessly into a wooden floor and was invisible unless one knew it was there.
They were in a low, narrow corridor. A cone of light cast from a lone bulb in the ceiling split the darkness. Along the passageway were several doors marked with cheaply gilt stars. Dance hall music came faintly from somewhere above them.
The Hornet and Kato whirled, confronting a woman in a burlesque costume.
“I said,” came the distinctly male voice, “nice masks.” They were obviously in the bowels of the Gold Dollar Show Bar.
“Thanks,” The Hornet said. “What’s the fastest way out?”
The performer pointed behind them. “Alley door’s that way.”
The Green Hornet and Kato exited into the alley, turned onto Cass Avenue, and walked past the Show Bar’s front entrance. They passed Sai Woo’s Curios, then darted across the darkness of Cass Park, known to the locals as Mandarin Park. From there they cut through Half Moon Alley, racing past the back entrance of Mao Tze’s store.
When they arrived at the Black Beauty, the motor was already purring, as if the car was a living machine that had been waiting for them.
The Green Hornet sighed.
Britt Reid slapped the paper down on his desk.
“Well, that’s that.” His second editorial decrying Doctor Fang’s activities had just gone to print. Despite Fang’s warning, the editorial exposed Fang’s kidnapping of Mike Axford.
Lenore Case rested a hand on her boss’ shoulder. “Mike will understand, Mr. Reid. You can’t knuckle under to these threats, and compromise the journalistic integrity of the Sentinel.”
“I know, Miss Case. Thank you.” He patted her hand lightly, then stood up.
“Mr. Reid,” Casey began tentatively, “I’m worried about you.”
At Britt’s raised eyebrows and a slight gesture, she continued. “I followed you home last night to speak with you—”
The floor-to-ceiling plate glass window of Reid’s office exploded inward in a shower of glass, which was remarkable since his office was on the 28th floor of the city’s latest modernistic skyscraper. Scaling the building would have been well-nigh impossible, although of course the same was said of the late Earl Hayden’s residence.
In this case, though, it was very clear how the intruder arrived, crouched amidst the shards of glass littering the plush carpet in Britt Reid’s office.
The dacoit wore a harness attached to a rope which trailed out the window and curved upward. The sound of rotor blades and the whipping wind indicated a helicopter hovering just out of Britt’s line of sight.
In an instant, the intruder whipped a scimitar from a scabbard on his back and pressed it against Casey’s throat, the other arm tight around her neck.
She screamed and tore at the man’s arm, but he only tightened his grip.
“Don’t struggle, Casey!” Britt yelled.
“Sound advice, Mr. Reid,” a voice boomed from a loudspeaker on the copter floating outside. Britt wondered how the speaker had heard him. Then he realized the henchman with the long curving blade at Casey’s throat must be miked.
The dacoit swiftly sheathed his sword and pulled a small transparent container from the folds of his robes, thrusting it out aggressively toward Britt.
The jar contained a swarm of Asian giant hornets.
“Do not interfere, Mr. Reid,” the voice thundered from outside, “or face a very painful death. Now. Listen carefully. I know that Miss Case is your personal secretary. She was followed to your home last night. I make no moral judgment about your relationship with her. I care not one way or the other. But you must care for her. So understand this. Miss Case will not be harmed—unless you feel the need to further editorialize. Now, back up to the door of your office and stand there.”
Britt did as instructed.
The interloper gripped Casey tight about the waist. The rope connected to his harness went taut, and suddenly the dacoit and Casey flew backward through the window, Casey’s screams diminishing as she receded.
Britt lunged forward, catching a glimpse of the copter hovering outside, but as the dacoit crossed the threshold of the destroyed window, he lobbed the jar of hornets against the wall, smashing it.
Britt turned and dived for his office door, slamming it behind him and shutting the buzzing death-swarm on the other side. He ripped off his suit jacket and stuffed it against the narrow opening under the door, just in case.
Breathing hard, he turned and saw Drake Matson and a junior reporter, Pat Allen, staring at him wide-eyed.
“Holy cow, Mr. Reid,” the boy shouted.
Britt knelt and caught the boy tightly in his arms. “Don’t go in there, Drake. Don’t go in there.”
He shook his head to himself, grim fury etching his features.
The copter had been glossy black all over, with midnight green running lights, search lamps, and rotors.
A flying arsenal to complement The Green Hornet’s Black Beauty.
Forty minutes later, Doctor Fang’s statement hit the wires and news services, bragging that he and The Green Hornet had kidnapped Lenore Case in response to Britt Reid’s editorial. Perhaps now the publishers and owners of the city’s papers and television news stations would learn their place and refrain from any further persecution of Fang and The Hornet.
If not…then Mike Axford and Lenore Case would die horribly, stung to death by The Green Hornet’s Asian giant hornets.
The Black Beauty rolled through deepest night. Pedestrians out late noticed only an ominous buzzing before the infamous car was upon them and past, headlamps showing the faintest green glow.
Passing streetlamps caused a bizarre flickering effect across the immobile mask worn by the man in the back seat of the racing vehicle.
The portable telephone buzzed, and The Green Hornet reached over his shoulder to pick up the handset.
“I can’t do much more.” Neither party identified himself, but The Hornet knew that the person who spoke was Frank Scanlon, voice altered by a scrambler Kato had invented. On the other end of the line, Scanlon heard a similarly altered voice.
“Fang has succeeded at laying more blame at your feet.”
“What’s your plan?”
“Find Axford and Casey,” The Hornet said. “Eliminate Fang’s threat.”
“That will end the threat against the city’s political machine. But you also need evidence that Fang has been solely responsible for all this. Otherwise the police will mobilize in such numbers that you’ll never avoid capture; you’ll have to give all this up.”
“Then beware. They’re already out in force tonight.”
“I understand,” The Hornet said, and hung up. “Go to silent running,” he instructed Kato.
As if in response to Scanlon’s warning, a cop car fell in behind them, sirens blaring, spotlight blazing on the Beauty’s cryptic license plate, V 194.
In the front seat, Kato tapped the accelerator and the over-powered engine responded. It wouldn’t be long before more patrol cars joined the chase and the Beauty was trapped.
Their plan had been to return to the Gold Dollar Show Bar and re-enter the underground warrens via the secret trapdoor. In the battle last night, the dacoits had seemingly come from nowhere. There must be more secret entrances and tunnels, and the idea was to find the way to Fang’s secret headquarters using the sonar scanner.
The police chase changed all that.
As they headed for Chinatown, Britt tuned into the police scanner frequency and learned that another cruiser was on its way, aiming to cut them off at Cass and Temple Street.
“Turn left on Ledyard,” The Green Hornet ordered.
“Boss, that’s the wrong way on a one-way street.”
Kato swung the Beauty hard and the back end slung around. The car screamed as the special tires gave way and then re-gripped the asphalt, caught, and the vehicle thrust forward. The revolutionary suspension Kato had designed gave the Beauty performance and handling unexpected in an automobile so large and heavy. The patrol car trailing them was unable to make the turn and blazed past Ledyard, braking hard to make a U-turn and resume the pursuit.
“Hard right on 2nd Avenue—”
Kato nodded in satisfaction. Another wrong way. “Then onto 2nd, circle the Park, and right onto Temple?”
“You read my mind.”
Kato spun the wheel again and the Beauty responded, racing down Temple Street with Mandarin Park on their right. At this point the first police cruiser was only now turning from Ledyard onto 2nd, attempting to catch up.
The second police cruiser had been lured away from its waiting spot at Cass and Temple and had fallen in far behind the first two cars. If it had stayed put, The Hornet and Kato would be approaching it now, from Temple Street.
The Black Beauty sped by the huge gothic structure of the Detroit Masonic Temple on the left. Knowing from the police scanner that the second patrol car had given up its position, Britt ordered Kato to make a hard left into a narrow alleyway dividing the Masonic Temple complex.
Kato braked to a swift halt. The car was still on silent running so that no others could hear the engine.
“Smoke,” The Green Hornet instructed.
Kato flipped a switch on the control panel, and an inky black smoke poured forth from the tailpipe, blending the alley entrance with the rest of the deep night and camouflaging the Beauty.
Kato threw the car in reverse, in preparation for a quick escape after the cop cars passed. As he did so, however, a garage door sized panel in the Temple wall slid in and upward.
“Take it Kato, fast,” The Green Hornet said.
“Boss, it’s a trap.”
“Yes. But the cops know we’re in Chinatown tonight and they’ll be sure to cordon off the area. Our original plan to get to the Gold Dollar is scratched. Casey and Axford are running out of time. We need to ditch the cops and get to Fang. This is the most direct path.”
Kato shrugged and yanked the wheel, and the Beauty tore into the secret opening. The panel slid shut and the patrol cars raced past, none the wiser.
Kato navigated down a spiral driveway that seemed to take them even deeper underground than they had been last night. The vehicle’s infra-green headlamps were activated. Surely their enemy had cameras in the corkscrew tunnel, but there was no point in providing the watchers with extra light to track their progress.
Finally the curving drive ended in a circular stone chamber. The cavern appeared to be a dead end. The Hornet and Kato exited the car in search of hidden tunnel entrances, when the half of the circular floor upon which they stood began to sink.
They watched the Beauty rise above their eye level and disappear from sight. Kato pressed a button on his watch which ensured their rolling arsenal was remotely armed and protected against any intruders.
The elevator platform finally slowed and came to a halt in another stone chamber, where The Hornet and Kato were greeted by three men of East Indian extraction. The men were robed and wore elaborate moustaches. One of them suffered from gigantism, standing almost eight feet tall. The Hornet recognized them as Thuggee, or Phansigars, Indian assassins supposedly wiped out by the British in the last century.
This time, however, the men did not attack, but beckoned the two masked men to follow.
The Hornet and Kato exchanged glances, then fell in behind the men. In for a penny…
After several more tunnels, they arrived at a set of massive wooden doors, framed with emerald silks and bookended with two massive Siamese cat shaped braziers, each of the cat’s eyes alight with flames. Two dacoits stood guard.
The doors swung open automatically, and the dacoits stood aside, gesturing the two newcomers to enter. The Hornet and Kato did so, and the doors closed behind them with a whisper.
The underground den was lavishly furnished with velvet settees, oversized silk-embroidered pillows, and Persian rugs. Candles hung from brass lanterns. Cloying incense filled the room. Gilt-edges screens set off different areas of the chamber.
Inset in one wall was a massive computer console with television monitor screens, and microphones. Three Chinese men, heads shaven, sat abreast wearing headsets with earphones. Each was assigned a station consisting of one screen, console, and mike.
On one screen was the Black Beauty in the chamber where they had left it. That image rotated with the dining room of the Chin Tiki restaurant. The next screen displayed the outside of the Daily Sentinel building at One Woodward Avenue, circling to show the Art Deco Guardian Building and the aerial bridge connecting the two structures. The view then shifted to the exterior of police headquarters. The third screen showed Mike Axford lying on a cot in a dark cubicle, looking dejected. It alternated with a display of Casey in her own cell, sitting on a thin mattress and staring at the ceiling.
The Green Hornet and Kato displayed no emotion. They were too professional, and too ensconced in their criminal personas, for that. But The Hornet was secretly elated that his friends were unharmed, and he was sure Kato was as well.
This was marred, however, by sobering thoughts which had been growing since events involving Fang had begun to unfold: just how extensive was the mastermind’s organization, anyway? Dacoits and Thugs were in its employ. It was headquartered in a secret underground complex of immense proportions. It had vast technological resources at its disposal, as evidenced by the helicopter and advanced surveillance equipment. Britt wondered if it could be on the order of SPECTRE, which a few years back had used two hijacked nuclear bombs to hold the world hostage to the tune of a hundred million pounds.
Perhaps it was a revived SPECTRE, although Britt couldn’t imagine what would bring such an outfit to Detroit—other than the automobile industry, the center of American manufacturing and production.
“Well, what do you think?”
The men whirled.
Through a semi-transparent dressing screen, they saw the silhouette of a nude woman draping a robe around her well-proportioned figure and stepping into high-heeled slippers.
The Chinese girl from last night slunk out from behind the screen and stood before them.
Tonight she was dressed much less demurely. An emerald gown of the best Chinese silks clung to every curve. The negligee was cut low and the silky material met in a V at her navel, exposing a liberal amount of cleavage and leaving nothing to the imagination. The gown had equally generous slits up to the waist, displaying perfect legs as the girl—the woman—padded toward them.
Her hair was cut in a straight bang across her forehead. The rest of the silky black hair, held in place by an ornate headband topped by a jade orchid, spilled across her shoulders and down her back.
The woman halted in front of them and smiled. There was a wicked gleam in her green eyes.
“Madame Isabella,” The Hornet said.
“Isabella?” the Chinese woman laughed.
“We’re here,” The Hornet replied. “No more games. When do we meet Doctor Fang?”
“When do you meet Doctor Fang? When?” She laughed again. “My poor, poor dear. You just met her.”
Doctor Fang and The Green Hornet reclined in oversized pillows on a purple velvet settee, bathing in the orange glow of burnt embers from the small firepot at their feet.
She broke pulled away from a deep kiss and held his face between her delicate hands. Her eyes glittered with a magnetic energy. “Is there anything for which you take off the mask?”
“Just one thing,” The Hornet said.
Doctor Fang traced one long scarlet nail down his cheek along the border of his mask. “Will I find out some time?”
“Not now?” she pouted.
She pulled back a little further and cinched up her robe, covering her breasts. Matching The Hornet’s more businesslike tone, she said, “I am so glad you’ve seen things my way.”
“Don’t get me wrong. Your frame-up job has angered me.”
“I make a habit of cutting myself in on others’ rackets. Those tactics have been turned against me. Whoever’s smart enough to do that intrigues me.”
“Is intrigue enough to solidify our partnership?”
“Business is business and I’m a pragmatist. You’ve been very…persuasive.”
“I was taught well,” she responded.
“Those who raised me.”
“That’s not much of an answer,” The Hornet said.
“They were members of a larger organization to which my late father belonged.”
Earlier in the evening, Doctor Fang had insisted on speaking to The Hornet privately, and he had agreed. Upon her assurances Kato would not be harmed, The Hornet had instructed him to accompany her men.
Now he was probing, searching for a crack in her defenses.
“A tong?” he asked.
She shook her head in disdain. “Tongs are mere street gangs in comparison. Do I—we—wish to rule a street, a neighborhood? Of course not. You and I are better than that. We shall rule the city, control its industry, and extend our influence from there.”
“This is my city,” The Hornet replied. “Many have crossed me; some have even lived to regret it. Others…did not. You’d do well to remember that.”
Doctor Fang nodded with a slight smile, and he sensed a deep ruthlessness within her. “Yes, I’ll remember,” she said, her voice like honey. “Partners?”
“Partners,” The Hornet responded after a pause, as if still thinking it over.
“There must be no secrets among partners. You must unmask,” Doctor Fang said.
“Of course. But later…when we have complete privacy.” He nodded toward the men at the far end of the chamber sitting at the monitor screens. “First, I want to see that my aide is unharmed, and bring him up to speed on our alliance.”
Doctor Fang snapped her fingers, and a hulking East Indian appeared from the shadows. Britt recognized him as one of the three Phansigars who escorted him and Kato earlier.
“This is Behram,” she said.
The man glared at The Hornet and said nothing.
“Behram,” she ordered, “escort Mr. Hornet to his assistant and allow them to confer privately for ten minutes. Then bring them back here.”
Doctor Fang glided over to the computer bank at the opposite end of her den. She stood behind the workers manning the television monitors. The men at the screens did not turn or acknowledge her presence. To do so unless spoken to first, or to raise an alarm, meant instant death.
She observed the monitor screens as Behram and The Hornet navigated the warrens. The two passed out of site of one camera and the screen switched to another, and then another, keeping The Hornet under constant surveillance.
She watched Behram and The Hornet pass through the dungeon. The gigantic oak doors had small cutout windows with iron bars. Mike Axford was in a cell around the corner and couldn’t see The Hornet’s passage.
But the path Behram took led them right past Lenore Case’s cell. Doctor Fang saw Britt Reid’s secretary press her face against the bars, gripping them in supplication.
Doctor Fang nodded with satisfaction as The Green Hornet strode by her cell door, ignoring her pleas for release.
The Hornet must know he was under observation. Still, he had passed the test, at least provisionally.
She continued to watch as Behram and The Hornet arrived at Kato’s holding room. The Thug dismissed Kato’s guards and left the two masked men alone, as his mistress had instructed.
Doctor Fang listened as The Green Hornet explained the situation.
Of course the two men understood they were being watched on Fang’s camera system. Nonetheless, she could detect nothing untoward in their demeanor as The Hornet explained their new partnership to his bodyguard. The man did not question his chief, and she grew more satisfied. The Hornet’s aide knew his place was to obey orders.
The Council would be pleased.
The Green Hornet’s fingers tapped out a nervous tattoo as he described the alliance with Doctor Fang.
The Hornet’s fingers, hidden from the camera which must be concealed in the room’s sole ornament, a laughing Buddha statue, told Kato a different story.
Casey was being held in a cell about two minutes away. Take the tunnel to the left and three right turns. Presumably Axford was close by.
A power substation—albeit a very strange one and clearly not built by the city utility company—was four tunnels further back, near Fang’s den. The Hornet had glimpsed it through a crevice in the rock wall. The underground complex was apparently drawing on a power source, perhaps the Masonic Temple’s independent power plant.
Kato responded, also tapping, with a suggestion that a powerful enough jolt from The Hornet’s Sting, delivered through the camera watching them, might cause a feedback loop which would short out the whole system.
The plan, then, was straightforward. Disable Fang’s surveillance system. Immobilize the guards outside Kato’s holding room. Rescue Casey and Axford. Destroy the power sub-station and hopefully bring Fang’s operation to a halt. Capture Fang.
The Green Hornet whipped the Hornet Sting from the sheath on the inside of his left forearm. The Sting itself had a very narrow circumference. This fact, in conjunction with the soft padding of the sheath, was enough to cause Fang’s men to miss it in their search, although they had located and confiscated his gas gun.
He extended the Sting with a flick of the wrist, and set it to the highest power level. He aimed it at the hollowed eyes of the laughing Buddha statue and activated the switch. A high-pitched whine filled the space, accompanied by a brief but blinding light.
The Buddha’s head exploded.
In Doctor Fang’s den, the television monitors flickered and went dark.
Enraged, Fang circled the room like a trapped feline and screamed, spittle flying from her mouth.
She took a deep breath and stalked back towards the dark monitors.
“Mr. Hsu, come here.”
A small man in a technician’s coverall came and stood before her, shaking.
In a flash, she whipped a small keris, an asymmetrical dagger, from its scabbard on her inner thigh and ripped it across Hsu’s throat. Blood splattered her face, hair, and torso. She licked her lips, reveling in the taste, as Hsu collapsed and bled out over the Persian rugs. She massaged dead man’s blood into her abdomen and breasts, and felt a pop and a wave of warmth within her.
Calmed by the violence, and the pleasurable release, she ordered the rest of the men sitting at the now useless television monitors to get after The Hornet and his bodyguard.
She went to another corner of the cavern and activated a device which resembled a sophisticated radio apparatus. She spoke into a microphone. Her voice was a sibilant hiss.
“Huan Tsung Chao, come in. Come in. Connect me with Shan Ming Fu.”
Kato slammed the door outward, right into the giant Phansigar’s face.
Blood blossomed from Behram’s nose in a geyser, which didn’t stop him from twisting his rumāl head scarf—used by Thuggee as a noose—and attempting to swing it around Kato’s neck to strangle him.
Kato ducked the garrote and jack-hammered a hardened fist into the man’s gut. Behram doubled over and Kato kicked out, his black boot connecting sharply with the Thuggee’s chin.
The Hornet, meantime, had removed his miniature backup gas gun from his heel and dispatched Kato’s former guards.
He turned to find that Behram had turned the tables on Kato, who was on his knees, tearing at the rumāl wrapped around his neck. The Thuggee stood over and behind Kato, tightening his grasp.
The Hornet couldn’t use his gas gun without also knocking out Kato. He adjusted the Sting to the lowest setting to deliver a stunning blast. Using the Sting on humans was risky, but necessary in this case. He aimed at Kato’s adversary and pulled the trigger.
And was shocked when it barely fazed the giant Indian.
The blast did cause, however, a momentary lapse in Behram’s grip, providing the brief respite Kato needed.
The Hornet’s bodyguard used his enemy’s weight and size against him, tossing him over his shoulder. Kato pounced forward, and landed a quick one-two punch, finally rendering his foe unconscious. He pulled the deadly yellow scarf from around his neck and tossed it aside. The two crimefighters took off at a dead run for the dungeon.
Outside Mike Axford’s cell, The Green Hornet aimed his gas gun through the window and pulled the trigger.
He let a moment pass for the gas to dissipate, then risked a glance in through the iron bars to confirm Axford was out. He was.
The Hornet activated the Sting and disintegrated the lock. Kato rushed in and hefted the Irishman over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.
The two masked men rounded the corner. Casey’s face was pressed against the metal bars, roused by the commotion, when The Green Hornet stepped into her field of view.
He brandished the Sting. “Please step away from the door and shield your face,” he said politely.
She did as instructed and he blasted the cell door open.
Casey rushed out and confronted him.
“The Green Hornet,” she breathed.
“Who are you?” The Hornet asked. He did his best to disguise his voice, as he always did when meeting those he knew well as Britt Reid.
“Lenore Case. Britt Reid’s secretary.”
“I see. Miss Case, please accompany my man here.” He gestured at Kato. “He’ll escort you out and to safety.”
“What about you?” she asked.
“I won’t be far behind. I have a few things to clean up around here first.”
“Not a chance,” Casey protested. “I’m sticking with you.”
“He’s got his hands full carrying Mike Axford, whom you conveniently gassed. I assume you didn’t gas me because he can’t carry two.” Casey crossed her arms. “Now you’re stuck with me.”
“Miss Case, please—”
Casey stepped forward and got up in his face. “I’ll stick with you, thank you, and there’s not much you can do about it. You’re wasting time.”
The Hornet glanced at Kato, who only shrugged. No help there.
He waved Kato on and the bodyguard dashed off at a fast trot, carrying Axford. Then The Hornet gestured for Casey to come with him.
They sprinted for the power sub-station he had seen earlier. Along the way they were confronted by a few more dacoits, whom he easily dispatched with the gas gun. One last dacoit flashed around a corner and The Hornet slugged him with a vicious uppercut that left the man’s jaw at a nasty angle.
The Hornet knew, however, that although Fang’s guards must be having some trouble tracking them due to the destruction of the surveillance system, the respite wouldn’t last. Doctor Fang’s men would recover from their temporary disarray and converge on them.
They needed to act quickly.
They reached the crevice in the rock tunnel and peered through it at the power station. Then he ordered her to stand aside and shield her eyes. He aimed the Hornet Sting once more.
The edges of the gap in the rock glowed, and expanded. Bits and shards of stone flew in all directions until the opening was wide enough to accommodate them.
They stepped through, taking care not to touch the super-hot borders of the gap in the rock wall, and alighted on a vast metal grilled catwalk which ringed the upper circumference of a gigantic hollow.
Below them stood several buildings resembling concrete bunkers. Pipes and power conduits ran in a metallic spider web around the buildings and the cavern walls.
On a low platform he saw the helicopter version of the Black Beauty. Presumably the platform would rise into the ceiling and give forth somewhere above ground, similar to the large elevator which had delivered him and Kato deep into the bowels beneath Chinatown.
The centerpiece of the complex was a colossal transparent cylinder which extended from the roof of the center building up to and into the ceiling of the cave. Fluorescent green and yellow gases sparked and swirled inside the tube, throbbing with lambent energy.
Workers below, in hard hats and jumpsuits, were pointing up at The Hornet and Casey, raising the alarm. Behind them, in the tunnel from which they had just exited, the sounds of running feet indicated the approach of more of Doctor Fang’s guards.
The Hornet grabbed Casey’s elbow and guided her about twenty feet along the catwalk. He stopped, turned back, and blasted the area of the catwalk on which they’d just been standing into smithereens.
No way Fang’s dacoits could get to them through the gap in the tunnel wall now.
A klaxon sounded and the men below took up machine guns, spattering gunfire at The Hornet and Casey. He shoved her down in the corner of the catwalk, out of the line of fire, and crawled toward the edge.
Rather than bring any of his arsenal to bear against the men below, however, he aimed the Hornet Sting at the pulsating cylinder of energized gases. He’d never seen anything like it, and deduced it must have special significance to the operation of the power station.
He was right.
Under the Sting’s assault, the tube fractured, leaking out gases which, heavier than air, rolled down the sides and across the sub-station floor like a flood of seawater through a broken levy.
The men threw down their weapons and ran for their lives. The Hornet heard roiling explosions inside the concrete buildings, and the lights flickered and dimmed.
He turned back to Casey, elated at his bit of good luck in so quickly putting the power plant out of commission.
Doctor Fang held his secretary from behind. A dagger which The Hornet recognized as a keris was pressed against Casey’s throat, drawing a bead of blood.
Faster than thought, The Hornet whipped out his gas gun and fired at the two women.
Casey gasped out “Britt,” and then fell forward unconscious, while Doctor Fang, surprised by her captive’s sudden deadweight, accidentally let the other woman slip to the ground.
The Green Hornet was stock still at the double shock: Casey uttering his name, and Doctor Fang unaffected by the gas.
He came out of it and dove at Fang, wrestling her to the ground. She kneed him in the stomach and he doubled up with a woosh, rolling toward the catwalk’s edge. He scrambled to his feet as she lunged toward him, dagger outthrust, and managed to grab her wrist before the deadly blade gutted him. Fang kicked at him and clawed with her free hand while they struggled back and forth for the keris, until finally his greater weight and strength overcame her and they fell back to the catwalk floor.
He held her pinned down, face above hers, and smelled the iron scent of the blood coating her skin and soaking her robes. He looked down.
The keris was buried, up to the hilt, in her abdomen.
She reached up, pulled his mouth down toward her red lips, and kissed him, passionately. He pulled away.
“You will serve the Council of Seven yet, Green Hornet. Or as I’ve just learned, Britt Reid. The Si-Fan will not allow you to turn away from them so easily. And the Doctor is accustomed to getting his way.”
“The Doctor? Who do you mean? I thought you were a doctor? Or a scientist, to create all this?” he asked, indicating the immense underground headquarters and power plant.
“I am as nothing compared to him.”
“Who is he?” The Hornet demanded.
“He has been known by many names,” she whispered. “Shan Ming Fu, Doctor Natas, Hanoi Shan, Li Chang Yen, it matters not. He is a genius of the highest order, a scientist and a medical doctor. You Westerners will yet shake with fear of the legions at his command.”
“Did he create the killer hornets?”
“Of course…” Her voice was fading.
“And designed this underground complex and power converter? And an antidote to my gas?”
“Yes. And devised the scheme to encourage you to join us. He wishes to expand his power base in this city, with you as his local representative. And he will, one way or another.”
“Why me? Why not just try to eliminate me?” The Hornet asked.
“You effectively control the city’s underworld—or could, if you just went a few steps further. He will control you, and thus the city, its industry, and the workers. Beyond that, it is not for us to question the desires of the Great One.”
The Hornet wondered how much the mysterious Doctor knew about him, or thought he knew. But there wasn’t much time—the light in her eyes was rapidly dwindling—and instead he asked: “What about the original Doctor Fang?”
“He served Shan Ming Fu as well,” said Fang’s daughter.
“But that was thirty years ago!” The Hornet said.
“Indeed it was. The Doctor will still lead the Council in another thirty years, and more, until long after you and I are dust.” Fang sighed and looked almost beatific, at peace with her failure and her fate.
The sour stench of blood pumping from her stomach was sickening.
“Doctor Fang, where is Shan Ming Fu?”
It was too late. Bloody froth foamed from her cold purple lips. “Shan Ming Fu,” she gasped. “Grandfather…”
Doctor Fang was dead.
The Green Hornet took off, hoisting Casey over his shoulder, as the power sub-station went up in flames. He imagined Kato would want to get a look at the strange power converter, but that was a thought for the future. If they survived, perhaps they could return and investigate the remains of Doctor Shan Ming Fu’s advanced technology.
For now, though, it was a race through the corridors and tunnels, finally leaving the reverberating destruction behind.
Every so often The Hornet stopped to utilize Kato’s sonar scanner, then kept going. In thirty minutes of trudging uphill through the dank warrens, he never encountered any more of Fang’s men. They must have been under orders to evacuate the complex in certain circumstances.
He finally came upon a set of tunnels that looked familiar, leading to the exit below the Gold Dollar Show Bar, only to find the way blocked by rubble and debris. The whole place was starting to come down.
He turned and raced back to an intersection, checked the scanner and saw another potential egress. He pulled out the pocket watch communicator and tried it.
“Kato, come in. Kato.”
Was there too much rock between The Hornet’s location and the surface, blocking communication? Or had his friend not made it out?
He put the thought aside and plowed onward and upward, finally arriving at a claustrophobic storeroom with a trapdoor in the ceiling. It was similar to the arrangement at the Gold Dollar. He pulled down the ladder and somehow got Casey up it. He rolled her away from the trapdoor, flung the heavy door shut, and collapsed in exhaustion, chest heaving.
The Green Hornet was in excellent shape, or at least he had thought he was before this escapade. When this was all over, he’d institute an even more vigorous training and exercise regimen with Kato.
A mammoth underground explosion rocked like an earthquake. The walls shimmied and shook. He scooped up Casey again and raced past shelves of knick-knacks and bric-à-brac in a darkened store. He reached the front entrance and kicked the door open, smashing the lock.
The Green Hornet burst onto the street, still carrying Casey over his shoulder, and found himself outside Sai Woo’s Curios. He scanned desperately one way, then the other. The ground under Chinatown was shaking, rocking the Chin Tiki, the Golden Lotus, the Gold Dollar, and other surrounding structures.
The buildings’ inhabitants poured out, seeking the relative safety of the open streets.
The Hornet peered around again. He was conspicuous, wearing a mask in the middle of the night, with a woman’s dead weight hefted over his shoulder. People started to point.
Where the hell was Kato?
He turned around again, then back, and there was the Black Beauty, engine humming almost silently. He rushed to the car, gently set Casey in the back, and climbed in after her.
Axford was snoring in another corner of the back seat.
Kato smiled. “Where to, Boss?”
Lenore Case stirred as the Black Beauty approached her apartment.
She sat up and rubbed her eyes, then looked around the back seat, alarmed.
“Don’t worry about him,” The Green Hornet replied. “We unloaded him on the sidewalk outside the Sentinel to sleep it off. In fact, he’s probably awake and inside by now.”
“Raising the alarm about the dastardly ‘Green Harnet,’ no doubt,” Casey said.
The Hornet smiled. “No doubt.” He pressed a button, and the barrier between the back seat and front rose, affording them a moment of privacy.
“Well?” Britt asked.
“Are you going to raise the alarm about the dastardly ‘Green Harnet’?”
“Not unless you don’t allow me to help you wherever I can,” Casey replied. “I’m certainly not going to just sit on the sidelines after this.”
“You mean,” he said, “you’re cutting yourself in for a piece of The Green Hornet’s action.”
Casey smiled. “Bingo.”
“Good, I think I can live with that split.” He lowered the barrier and continued to speak to Casey. “You can start by huddling with Mike Axford tomorrow morning. Chat him up about your time in captivity, reminding him that neither of you ever saw The Green Hornet, only Fang and her minions.”
Casey nodded and Britt continued. “There’s no proof at all The Hornet was ever in league with Fang, and in fact you’re convinced The Hornet had a part in your rescue. Now, why would The Hornet do that if he was in on it with Fang? It must have been an elaborate frame-up. Your job is to convince Mike to take that angle with his story.”
“Got it,” Casey said. “Eventually Mike’s take on it will spread and the public furor against The Hornet will die down—at least for the time being.”
“For the time being.”
The Beauty pulled up in front of Casey’s apartment house. He pulled off his mask, tossed his hat on the seat next to it, and walked her to the front door.
Casey turned and grabbed him by the back of the head. She kissed him goodnight.
He returned the kiss, and then asked her, “How did you know?”
“Two things. First, tell Mr. Scanlon to be more careful in the future that he isn’t watched coming in and out of your house, or rather the house next door. Speaking of which, you probably want to ditch that set-up with the ‘for sale’ house next to yours.
“Second, don’t wear the cologne your secretary bought you last Christmas, when you’re out and about as The Hornet, and expect your secretary not to notice.”
Britt Reid nodded. “I’ll see you bright and early at the office, Miss Case. You’ve had your day off, now it’s back to work, we have a paper to run. And a Green Hornet to clear.”
Casey shook her head, kissed him again, and went inside.
The Green Hornet and Kato rolled homeward.
They had won this round, but the shadow of Doctor Shan Ming Fu hung over them, and the city.
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