|In the Eye of the Beholder
Author: pat weakley PM
60's Green Hornet story. Adapted/updated from the radio episode "Exposed". Britt Reid has to put aside his feelings about his father's death in order to help the newly elected D.A. F.P. Scanlon solve a mystery involving contaminated beauty products.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Mystery/Crime - Words: 7,464 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 5 - Published: 06-20-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6069506
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
29Patricia Weakley Page
The Devil You know
In the Eye of the Beholder
Sometimes it doesn't pay to get up in the morning. Beauty creams always seemed to be more trouble then they're worth. Even a bargain could be a pain. The label on the jar had the name of a big name manufacturer. It would have cost a lot more at a big department store. The man at the discount store had said that it was a close out item. Mrs. Wyman hoped that it would make the wrinkles go away. Maybe then Mr. Wyman would stop looking so hungrily at those young mini-skirted girls as he waited at the bus stop.
Mrs. Wyman's screams could be heard by the neighbors in the apartment next door.
Dimly lit and smelling of stale beer, old cigarettes, and greasy fried food, the bar wasn't much to write home about, but the atmosphere wasn't why the newly elected D.A. F.P. Scanlon was there. Hidden in the shadows of a booth near the back, he had a good view of whoever came through the front door.
A tall man entered and walked casually to the bar. He asked the bartender something, ordered a beer, and paid for it with some change. Broad shouldered, and narrow hipped, he wore his suit with athletic grace. Scanlon had to smile as one of the bar's female patrons turned her head as he passed by. Tall, dark, and handsome, that was Britt Reid to a "T". Despite all the troubles with his father's conviction and death, young Reid was still considered one of the city's most eligible bachelors.
"What're you having?" Reid asked, joining the D.A. in the booth. The suspicious look in Reid's pale aqua eyes didn't do anything for Scanlon's hopes of cooperation.
"Beer," Scanlon replied. "Pabst, Blue Ribbon," he added, turning the bottle around.
"Need another?" Reid asked, noting the half-empty bottle.
"Nope," Scanlon answered, and poured what was left in the bottle into the empty mug in front of him. "One's my limit. I like to keep a clear head."
Reid nodded, more to himself, than to Scanlon. "So why did you ask to meet me here? This place is kind of far from City Hall."
"That's why," Scanlon said. "I'd like to keep this meeting under wraps, if you don't mind."
"I see," Reid said thoughtfully. "What's all this secrecy about?"
Scanlon tossed him a photo.
Reid looked at it, frowning grimly.
"One of our detectives showed me this. And others."
"Yeah. This is one of the worst."
Reid gave a low whistle, "One of the worst… Tell me about it."
"Contaminated beauty creams are showing up all over town," Scanlon explained. "A woman buys a jar of the stuff at some discount store because it's a well-known brand at a super cheap price. She gets it home, puts it on, then winds up being burned by the stuff."
"Why hasn't this hit the news yet?"
Scanlon frowned distastefully. "Apparently the mayor and city council want to keep it quiet. They don't want people to panic if they discover they can't trust the stuff they buy at the local drugstore At least that's what the commissioner said when I asked him what kind of progress was being made on the case."
"What kind of progress has been made?"
"Slow. The guys assigned the case haven't been able to get anywhere. I have a feeling there's pressure being exerted on them not to give this case the attention it deserves. I think our local business community would rather pay off the victims than discover the real culprit."
"So why are you coming to me?"
"Quite frankly," Frank admitted, "I don't know what to do. I don't believe in leaking information to the press, but how can I live with myself if I keep quiet? People need to be warned."
"Is that all you want me to do, put in a blind item warning people about possibly contaminated beauty creams?" Reid asked. "That's not going to accomplish a hell of a lot. I could be opening myself to a major lawsuit without proof. Are you willing to let me quote you?"
Scanlon sighed, "That's the problem, isn't it? Proof. Even if you quoted me, there'd still be no proof."
"So, what do you want then?"
"I need someone who can conduct an investigation without interference from City Hall. Somebody who can get the proof to put the perpetrator behind bars for a long, long time. I don't think this case is just some whacko going around contaminating jars of cold cream. Somebody's making the stuff, and they're using labels that are hard to distinguish from the real thing. That takes money."
"Do you think the mob is behind it?"
"I don't think so. What would they accomplish by maiming innocent people?
Reid stared thoughtfully at the still-full mug between his hands. He glanced up at Scanlon. "Would I be putting my people in danger?"
"I have no idea. I can't guarantee their safety."
"What would you be getting out of this?"
"Justice, like what my father got when you put him in prison for a crime he didn't commit?" Reid asked bitterly.
Scanlon shook his head sadly. "I realize you have every reason to hate me. If I had stuck to my guns and insisted that more evidence be gathered, not just settle for what I was given, maybe your father would still be alive. But I was from out of town with the least amount of seniority among the then D.A.'s staff. How the hell was I to know that I was being set up?"
"So that's your excuse? New kid on the block, too ignorant of "big city" ways to conduct a thorough case?"
"I'm not trying to make excuses for what I did," Scanlon replied. "If I could go back into the past and change everything, I would, but I can't. I can't bring your father back as much as I, or you, want.
The only thing I can promise you is now that I have been elected as D.A., I'll do everything I can to clear your father's name."
"I see," Reid said after several moments of quiet consideration.
"Will you help me?"
"Yes, but only because I want to stop whoever's responsible for this," Reid said, tapping at the picture Scanlon had handed him. He rose from the booth. "You'll be hearing from me, Mr. D.A."
"You girls new in town?" the hairdresser asked as Lenore "Casey" Case and "Clicker" Binnie walked into her beauty parlor.
"Yeah," Clicker answered in a soft southern drawl, "We just got hired at that plant down the street.
The hairdresser studied Clicker's blonde locks as she slid into the chair she was lead to. "Looks like you could use a new cut and a perm."
"Give me the works," Clicker answered, "I got a hot date tonight and I want to look real good."
"I've been hearing about that new makeup being put out by Mary Quant," Casey said as she settled into a chair to wait for Clicker. "I heard they're all the rage."
"Somebody told me you can pick that stuff up at a discount store for a fraction of you'd have to pay at Macy's" Clicker added.
"You don't ever know about those discount stores," the hairdresser advised. "Sometimes the stuff they sell is okay, but other times it's not even the real stuff."
"Not real? Couldn't that be dangerous?" Clicker asked. "You know, I think I heard something back home about a woman who got badly burned by some stuff she bought at a discount store." She gave a little shiver of sympathy.
"I know what you mean," said one of the other women in the shop, joining in the conversation, "A cousin of mine has a friend who bought some moisturizer from that little store on Market. That poor woman was just trying to take care of some dry skin. Anyway, she wound up getting burned something terrrible. Her doctor says she's going to need plastic surgery. But who has that kind of money?" She shook her head in disgust.
"I hope I don't get a hold of any of that stuff," Casey said with a cringe, "What store did you say it was?"
"I don't remember the name," the woman said, "I always buy my stuff from Woolworth's. They don't make you pay an arm and a leg. But I don't know about that new stuff. I always go with Maybelline myself, or L'Oreal if I'm feeling flush. But anyway, I think it's on Market and Campion or something like that."
"Oh, you must mean Paisley's," the hairdresser said.
"Yes," the woman said, "That's it."
"Well, I know where I'm not going when I need to get some makeup," Casey said. She was thoughtful for a moment. "Clicker, don't you know somebody who's a lawyer?"
"Yeah, my brother's best friend is a lawyer," Clicker answered, quickly picking up Casey's hint. "Maybe if you'd give me that friend of your cousin's phone number, I can have him talk to her."
"What good would that do?" the woman asked.
"She might be able to sue that store or even the company who made that moisturizer. Who knows, she might get a big enough settlement to pay for that plastic surgery she needs."
"I didn't think about that," the woman said, "I bet she didn't either." She pulled out a small notebook and a pen. "Give me your number, I'll call my cousin and get her friend's phone number."
"Hi, Mrs. Collins, my name's Ed Lowery, I'm a lawyer," The tall, lanky man said through the speaker near the front door of a narrow apartment building. "My friend's sister said you might want to speak to me."
"I don't know…" came the hesitant voice over the speaker. "I really can't afford a lawyer…"
"Please, if you'd just give me a few minutes of your time. That's all I'm asking."
"I don't know…"
After a long pause, Lowery turned to go. He almost was relieved. Clicker might be right, the woman would likely not want to talk to a reporter, but that still didn't stop him from feeling like a cad when it came to misleading somebody who had already been victimized once.
Finally with sigh, the woman's voice came over the speaker, "Okay."
A buzzer sounded as the door in front of him clicked open.
A heavily veiled woman opened the door at Lowery's knock. "I don't know if I should be doing this," she said as she ushered him in.
As he removed his hat, Lowery took a quick look around the apartment. It was very small but extremely neat; the kind of place he'd imagine belonging to a maiden aunt or somebody's grandmother. It didn't help his conscience at all.
"Would you like some iced tea?" she asked.
"Yeah, thanks," Lowery answered. "It's looking to be a real scorcher today." he added as he sat on a stiff couch that was covered in plastic.
"Doesn't it take a lot of money to hire a lawyer?" Mrs. Collins asked as she carried two glasses out from her kitchen.
"I work on a contingency," Lowery explained. "If we win, I get a portion of the settlement. If we lose, you're not out a cent."
"I don't see how you can make any money doing that,"
"I'm a one-man office," Lowery said as he accepted the ice tea, "Because of that, I have a low overhead. I only pick the cases I know I'm going to win."
"Do you think I might have a good case?" the woman asked.
Lowery took a sip. The tea was good, but sweet. Too sweet. He put the glass down on the coaster the woman had put on the coffee table. "Tell me about it, and I'll tell you if we have a case."
"Well, you see, I wanted to buy some of that new Estée Lauder moisturizer, but it's too expensive at Macy's, so I went to this little place on Market…" Mrs. Collins paused for several moments, her hands nervously caressing the ice tea between her hands. "I wish I'd never gone. The pain… sometimes it's almost too much to bear…" She shakily set down the glass and began to sob into her hands.
"I'm sorry, I know this must be difficult," Lowery said.
Mrs. Collins slid the veil off her head. "Look at me," she said in a choked voice. "People stare at me wherever I go. Oh God…. What am I going to do? I'm a freak, a… a… monster!"
Ed Lowery swallowed hard against the sour lump that rose in his throat. Her face looked like melted wax covered with red, weeping blisters. He shuddered. He had seen a lot of terrible sights in his life, but this had to be one of the worst. No way could he continue this deception.
"Mrs. Collins," he said guiltily, "I have a confession to make. I'm a reporter for the Daily Sentinel."
"Oh no," Mrs. Collins cried, "Please lord, don't parade my shame in front of everyone," she begged.
Lowery placed his hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry. I won't. I promise. My boss wants me to find out who did this. That's why I'm here. I need your help."
"What can I do?"
"Do you still have that jar of moisturizer?"
"Yes, but I don't know how that can help."
"Give me the jar and any cream left in it. I'll give it to somebody who might be able to figure out where it came from. Maybe it'll give us a line on to who did this to you."
"Can you do that?"
"Yes. I promise you, I'll do whatever I can to catch the people behind this. And I know my boss will too."
"Yeah, yeah," Ed Lowery grumbled as he crawled out of bed. "Just a damn minute, willya?" The banging on his apartment door kept getting louder.
"I toldja hold your horses," he angrily threw his door open, "What the hell are you doing waking up a guy in the middle of the damn night…"
A fist in the mouth, followed by one in his belly, dropped the reporter to the floor. He violently was shoved back into his apartment with a low kick in his back, and the door loudly slammed shut. "We'll do the questioning, smart-ass," a rough voice growled as Lowery was pushed up against the back of the door.
Lowery found himself facing a ski-masked hoodlum. Another ski-masked man was already tossing the reporter's small living room.
"Where's the stuff?" the hoodlum demanded.
"You know what stuff. The stuff that old dame gave ya. Where is it?"
"I gave to my boss."
"Britt Reid. He owns the Daily Sentinel. You want his address?
A smashing blow shut Lowery's mouth. "You bein' a smart-ass, Smart Ass?"
"No," the reporter forced out between rapidly swelling lips, "Just being helpful, that's all. I don't want any trouble."
"Well, you got it, Smart Ass, when you opened that dame's door. Keep your nose outta things that don't concern you." Lowery was hit in the face again, "Tell your boss to shut the investigation down or we're gonna shut him down. Permanently."
A sap against the head sent Lowery down for the count.
Britt Reid waited patiently while Frank Scanlon read the paper in front of him. This time he had chosen their meeting place. The Pink Pony Club had lots of curvaceous distractions to keep any possible prying eyes otherwise occupied. A pretty blonde dressed in a pink skintight outfit that left nothing to the imagination passed by him. He smiled watching the long pony tail swing with the seductive sway of her rounded hips.
"So, what do you think?" he asked when the older man had finished reading.
"Interesting," Scanlon said, handing the report back to Reid. "Looks like the cream was heavily contaminated with hydrochloric acid."
"Looks like it," Reid agreed.
"So where does that lead us?"
"I don't know yet."
Scanlon studied the jar Reid handed him along with the report, "What about this?"
Reid smiled tightly, "Now that's something significant. The real jars are completely different from this one. Do you have any of the other jars that we could compare with this one?" he asked Scanlon.
The D.A. shook his head, "I wish I did. This is the only one. All the others managed to get lost."
"Yeah, right," Britt said doubtfully.
"How's your reporter doing?" Scanlon asked.
"He's okay. His attackers went through his place like a tornado. I guess they didn't believe him when he said he gave the jar to me. I've put him up a hotel until his place is cleaned. Now he's grousing because his mouth is too swollen for him to eat steak. On my ticket, by the way," he added wryly. "All he's able to eat right now is soft foods, but the doctor says he should be back to normal in another week or two."
"It could've been worse," Scanlon said thoughtfully, "Do you want to drop this investigation before any more of your people get hurt?"
Reid shook his head, "No. Especially now that they've hurt one of my own," He looked the D.A. steadily in the eyes. "They've made this personal. I intend to get whoever's responsible and make them pay," he said grimly.
Scanlon looked uneasily at the jar in his hands, disturbed by the harshness in Reid's voice. "I don't want this to become a vendetta, that's not the right way. I want to bring whoever's behind this to trial. That's where it belongs. In the courts to be judged by twelve good men, just and true."
Britt didn't look satisfied. "I take it you want to pursue this to the end too?"
Scanlon nodded his reply.
"I've heard rumors that someone's put a price on your head. You could be putting your own life in danger," Britt said.
"I've heard the same rumors, but I can't get the victims' faces out of my mind. It could've been my wife or daughter. Tomorrow it could be some kid getting herself dolled up for a high school prom. I have to stop this. City Hall may not want this case pursued, but I do. Those victims deserve their day in court, and that's what I intend to do."
Britt nodded his understanding.
"So, where do we go from here?" Scanlon asked.
"A lot more legwork, I'm afraid," Britt answered, "We have to start looking for a place that has its own press for making labels, plus machinery for making and filling jars with different kinds of creams. This isn't something you can pull off in your basement."
"That's a tall order," Scanlon said thoughtfully, "This is a big city. We're going to need to narrow that down, a lot."
Britt handed the lab report over to Scanlon. "Keep this, I have a copy. I think we should start with the ingredients list. Somebody's buying that stuff in bulk. We track that down, and we'll have our man."
Scanlon scanned the report again. He frowned doubtfully. "I hope we get a break on this."
Britt shrugged. "Sometimes we have to make our own breaks," he said cryptically as his finished his drink.
"Scanlon's right. We have to stop it now," Britt said thoughtfully after he finished telling Kato everything that he and the D.A. had discussed.
"The Black Beauty is ready whenever you are," Kato said eagerly.
"Good," Britt replied with a slow smile. He was ready for some action. "Let's go.
Dressed as the Green Hornet in a dark green overcoat, matching hat and mask, Britt followed Kato who was dressed in a black chauffeur's uniform and mask. They walked down the stairs to the garage in the townhouse's lower level. Kato walked to the pegboard above a workbench and twisted the end of a socket wrench hanging there. A small door in the pegboard opened revealing a number of buttons. Kato pressed one and the overhead lights turned a dim green. He pressed another and a powerful motor began rumbling beneath the floor. Another button and four thick bars slid out of the outer corners of Britt's convertible's back and front bumpers. Heavy clamps rose from the garage floor to grasp the bars. Kato glanced at the clamps and bars, making sure they would hold. The Green Hornet nodded his approval.
Kato pressed the last button and the motor's growl deepened. The floor under the convertible began to tip over slowly, carrying the car with it. The Black Beauty rose out of the dark depths, the dim overhead lights playing along the shield-shaped grill of the massive car. The floor settled back into place with a satisfying thunk.
"Excellant," the Green Hornet murmured, pleased at the results. Months of headaches, sweat, and frustration had gone into designing a system that could handle the weight of two full size vehicles, especially when one of them was not only as heavily armored as a tank and as well armed as one.
"Ready?" Kato asked.
"Yes," the Green Hornet said, not bothering to keep the anticipation out of his voice.
Kato pressed the last few buttons causing the clamps on the bars in the Black Beauty's bumpers to release and snap back into the floor as the bars themselves slid into the big car's bumpers. The Black Beauty's driver and rear passenger side opened.
After he and Kato had settled themselves into their seats, the Green Hornet began arming himself from the locker hidden behind the front seat. He pulled out a slender green gun, slid out a cartridge, and checked the level of the fluid inside it. "Hornet gas gun, check."
Next he pulled out a slender black rod, and flipped aside the domed part at one end. A soft buzz filled the air. "Hornet sting check."
Kato checked the indicators on his control panel, "Everything's a go, Boss."
The Green Hornet nodded. "Let's roll, Kato."
The rear of the garage slid up as the Black Beauty silently rolled out. It passed through the townhouse's back yard. The patio furniture appeared as green ghosts in the big car's polarized headlights. The rear fence rose up, allowing the Black Beauty to pass through into a narrow alley that had been blocked from the main streets many years ago. At the end of the alleyway was a brick wall that opened on the Black Beauty's approach. On the other side of the wall a tattered billboard with two lovers locked in a minty kiss separated. They rejoined after the Black Beauty had passed by as if they had never parted. Kissin' Candy Mints. How Sweet They Are.
"Where to, Boss?" Kato asked.
"Market and Campion," the Green Hornet answered, "There's a place there called Paisley's. We're going to the ask the owner a few questions."
"Got it," Kato replied, gently increasing the Black Beauty's speed.
Sam Wong froze in fear. He had just locked the front door when he saw the long, black limousine pull up across the street. Not a lot of cars like that showed up in his neighborhood, and those that did meant nothing but trouble. Calling the cops was the last thing on his mind. They rarely arrived in time to stop any kind of trouble. Instead, he went to the front counter and reached for the shotgun he had hidden there.
"Don't move," said a deep voice behind him.
"The Green Hornet," Wong breathed as he slowly turned around.
"In the back," the Green Hornet said, motioning with the green gun in his hand.
In the back room the storekeeper noticed the Green Hornet's man standing guard near the back door. There was nowhere for him to run. "I don't understand," Sam said, "I pay my fees…"
The Green Hornet tossed him a small white jar. "Who gave you this?"
"I have a supplier. He comes in once a week."
"Not this stuff," the Green Hornet responded harshly, "Where did you get it?"
The Green Hornet's man moved toward Sam.
"Some guys," Sam gushed out in a panic.
"They gave me a case of it. It was cheap."
"I don't know."
"Not good enough." The Green Hornet nodded to his man.
"Again," the Green Hornet said impatiently, "Who gave you this stuff?"
"I don't know who they are. Honestly. But they also gave me a case of some other stuff, some kind of "miracle cream" they called it."
"This is it," Sam said, leading the Green Hornet back into the store. He reached for a jar. "They wanted me to recommend it to all my customers. It's supposed to be made of all natural ingredients," he explained.
"Sunshine," the Green Hornet said, reading the label on the jar. "Goodnight, Mr. Wong," he said, and pressed the trigger on his gun.
"No!" Wong gasped as he was enveloped in a green fog.
"I've heard of this guy, Sunshine," the Green Hornet said to Kato once they were back in the Black Beauty. "He just spent a lot ofbig money opening a factory on the north side. He's styling himself as the new health products guru,"
"Think we should pay him a visit?"
"Damn right. His place is on Orange Grove and Raymond. Don't spare the horses."
A few short moments later the Black Beauty pulled up in front of a wrought iron gate that was set in a high wall. "Do we do this quietly or directly?" Kato asked.
"Let's not have Mr. Sunshine guess our intentions," the Green Hornet answered. "Use the rockets."
Kato flipped a switch on the control panel next to him. The Black Beauty's front parking lights folded down. He pressed a pair of buttons. Slender rockets shot out, striking the gate in a flash of bright light. The Black Beauty rolled smoothly through the shattered gates.
A long driveway led them up to brightly lit house, "You know," Kato said, "If this guy's on the up and up we could have cops on our butts in minutes. I'd hate to have to fight our way out of this place."
"I don't think we're going to have to worry about that," the Green Hornet replied. Armed gunmen emerged from out of the house, peppering the big car with bullets. "I think he's relying on his own 'talent'."
"Have at it."
A gas nozzle appeared from a panel set low in the center of the Black Beauty's grill. Green hornet gas sprayed out, blanketing the gunmen in a heavy fog. The gunmen collapsed where they stood.
Not wanting to wait until the sleeping gas dissipated, the Green Hornet and Kato donned gas masks and headed for the building's front door.
A benevolent looking man with long blonde hair and dressed in a simple robe of homespun linen greeted the two men as they entered the house's foyer.
"Hello, I'm so glad you could make it," he said with a broad smile.
"You were expecting us?" the Green Hornet asked as he and Kato removed the gas masks.
"Yes, of course. I figured sooner or later you'd coming sniffing around my place. You do seem to have a talent for nosing out the most profitable schemes this city has to offer."
"I take it you're Johnny Sunshine."
The man made a grand bow, his grin getting bigger, "In the flesh. I'm so glad you could make it."
"Why?" the Green Hornet asked suspiciously.
"I have need of your services," Sunshine answered.
"What kind of services?"
"Well, you see," Sunshine said, "I need a partner who has your unique qualifications. I have no taste for violence. In fact, I abhor it—"
"Especially if it involves putting yourself in danger," the Green Hornet interrupted.
"Exactly," Sunshine replied smiling, "While obviously with that car and your helper," he nodded in Kato's direction, "You're not above using violence to achieve your objectives. Look at what you did just to visit me."
"Judging from the thugs you have, I'd think that my uh, services, would be superfluous."
"Hardly, they're a bunch of idiots, not a single brain between them. While you're clever enough to be a true asset to my plans."
"And what plans are those? Besides maiming innocent people, that is?"
Sunshine shrugged offhandedly, "To make an omelet, it's necessary to break a few eggs."
"I'm sure your victims see it differently."
Sunshine shrugged again.
"So what are those plans you're talking about?"
"Quite simple really, money."
The Green Hornet looked at Sunshine in disbelief, "You mean you're ruining the lives of innocent people just so you can make a few bucks?"
"Everyone does it, my dear friend. It's always about money, whether it's the war in Vietnam or the soap powder that goes in somebody's washing machine. It's always about money. Money, lovely, lovely money is what makes the world go 'round. You wouldn't believe what people will pay just to look a few years younger. Slap a label on a jar, give it a fancy name, make some outrageous claims, and you have people standing in line waving all their lovely, lovely money in the air begging to buy it."
"And why was it necessary to hurt people?"
Sunshine sighed, as though it was tiresome to have to explain himself. "You have no idea how competitive the market is. There's always somebody with some new product to promote, and worse, people are such creatures of habit. By sullying the reputation of some of the old standbys plus that of my most likely competitors I have opened doors for my own products."
"Just add a few herbs and viola, instant money," the Green Hornet said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Precisely. Instant money. That's what it's all about, separating fools from their money. Today, it's all about whatever's the most mod, tomorrow it'll be all-natural products, a particular market I am in the process of cornering by the way, and the day after who knows? Maybe I'll start spinning on the floor, speaking in tongues." Sunshine preened, tossing his golden locks, "Imagine me in one of those bright white Sunday-go-to-meeting suits, wouldn't I look fabulous on TV, especially in color? Billy Graham wouldn't be able to touch me."
"Especially if you eliminate all the competition."
Sunshine smiled widely, "Now you have it. That's where you come in. I need your help eliminating my competitors and anyone else who gets in my way."
"Very interesting," the Green Hornet said thoughtfully. "And what would be my cut?"
The Green Hornet shook his head, "Too low. My car uses a lot of gas, and those rockets aren't cheap. Neither am I."
"How about thirty?"
The Green Hornet nodded to Kato and turned to go. He paused for a moment, "Be careful Sunshine," he sneered, "I'm not above eliminating my competition either."
"Okay, fifty," Sunshine said hurriedly, "But you're going to have to prove your worth to me."
"Bring me the D.A. Scanlon. His attempts at an investigation have been annoying me. I need him as an example to anyone else who might think of looking into my business."
"Deal," the Green Hornet answered, "How about we meet at the factory where you make your stuff, on Howard and Chaykin?"
"Very good," Sunshine nodded. "Tomorrow night at ten?"
"Make it eleven and you have a deal."
The dog had to be walked. Helen had told Frank she or their daughter could do it, but he had refused. It had always been his job. One final walk before everybody went to bed. It was a chance for him to get out of the house and think without the TV or stereo pulling at his attention. He was not about to change his routines just because the young publisher had told him his life was in danger.
His dog, an elderly collie, growled threateningly, her hackles rising as a man in a dark chesterfield overcoat approached them.
"Come with me," the man said in a deep voice.
Scanlon hesitated, but not for long. Out of the corner of his eye he could see a long black car alongside the curb. The black clad chauffeur standing next to the car made it clear he had nowhere to run.
"My dog," Frank said seeing the gun in the man's hand, "Don't hurt her. She's old and it'd break my daughter's heart if something happened to her."
The man nodded his understanding. "Can you put her in the backyard?"
Frank nodded, his mind racing, worried about the danger he might be exposing his family to.
"Don't try to escape," the man warned. "You won't be hurt if you cooperate."
Frank petted the dog who was whining her confusion, "It's okay girl, it's okay," he said quietly, glad that she had not started barking. He hoped it really was okay as the man walked with them back to the house. The black car followed silently, without even a low rumble to disturb the neighbors. It was too late to blame himself for not telling the police about the possible danger to his life. A bitter voice in his mind wondered if that would have done any good.X
Eleven. The Green Hornet was punctual if he was nothing else. Johnny Sunshine had to give him that. The masked man led the D.A. through the factory's front door. The chauffeur, alert to any threat, closely followed behind them.
Sunshine smiled his welcome as the three men approached. His own men flitted into their hiding places.
"Well done, my friend," he gushed, welcoming the Green Hornet with open arms. "Well done."
"Let's get this over with," the Green Hornet growled.
"Are we in a rush?" Sunshine said facetiously.
"Look," Scanlon said, "Couldn't you at least tell me what this is all about?" he asked.
"You mean the condemned man has a right to know what he's dying for?" Sunshine said.
"Something like that."
"Nah," Sunshine said without a moment's thought. "That sounds so 'old-school'. Anyway that always seems to give the 'good guy' a chance to escape. We can't have that can we?"
"You want me to take care of him here?" the Green Hornet asked, as he pulled out a snub-nosed police special.
"Sounds good to me," Sunshine said agreeably, "Except how about you use this?" One of his men came at the crook of his finger and opened the box he held in his hands. "I feel this gun would be so much more appropriate. Why I even have a few of your hornet seals along with it. Uhmm, excuse me, actually they're duplicates that I had made up especially for a previous occasion. You surely remember that one don't you? Thomas Bold had been such a pain. Always wanted a bigger cut, you know. So, of course, I had to take care of him. And what better way than to pin all the blame on a certain masked man."
"So The Green Hornet didn't kill Bold?" Scanlon asked.
"Of course not," Sunshine answered as if the D.A. was being impossibly dense. "Why would he? Bold was nothing to him. Did you even know him?" he asked, directing his question to the Green Hornet.
"No," the Green Hornet replied, "I wondered who'd killed him. And pinned the murder on me," he added tightly.
"Well, now you don't need to wonder anymore. Now this murder, will be all yours," Sunshine said handing the pearl handled .45 over to him, "Lovely thing to consider, isn't it? The gun that was used to darken the Green Hornet's reputation will be used by the Hornet himself to darken it even further. Why, you might even be a mass murderer. Who'da thunk it?"
The Green Hornet thoughtfully weighed the heavy gun in his hand.
"For God's sake, you're not thinking…." Scanlon raised his hands in protest, "I have a wife, a family."
The Green Hornet pointed the gun at Scanlon.
"You won't get away with this. The police won't rest until my murder is solved." Scanlon said, backing away from the masked man.
"My God, don't they ever come up with something new?" Sunshine said mockingly. "It's always the same old line. You'd think somebody would come up with something more creative. Jeez."
Suddenly, the Green Hornet twisted around, firing at Sunshine, sending the man's longhaired wig into the air.
Sunshine dove for the floor, pulling out the gun he had placed in the small of his back. Aiming for the Green Hornet's heart, he fired at the same time he hit the floor.
Frank shoved the Green Hornet out of the way, placing himself between the masked man and Sunshine. The bullet hit him hard in the chest. He went down heavily, gasping for air, clutching where the bullet hit him.
The Green Hornet grabbed him by the back of his collar and pulled him to the shelter of some machinery. "That was a stupid thing to do," he growled at the D.A.
"I thought you said this thing was bullet-proof. I feel like I've been kicked in the chest by a mule" Scanlon said, pulling aside the front of his shirt to reveal a vest of black material.
"The bullet didn't go through, did it?"
"So quit your bitchin'," the Green Hornet growled.
Spotting the Sunshine's bald dome disappearing behind machinery near the back of the building, the Green Hornet grabbed Scanlon's shoulder, "Stay put."
Pulling out his gas gun, the Green Hornet moved out in a crouching run. Kato shadowed him on his right. A gunman dropped his weapon when a slender dart from Kato's hand pierced his shoulder. Kato followed up with a flurry of kung fu moves sending him quickly to the ground. Another gunman joined in the fray, only to be quickly dispatched in turn. The Green Hornet fired a spurt of Hornet gas as two men came out of their hiding places. They collapsed against each other. Using Kung Fu and his slender darts, Kato continued to run interference as the Hornet stuck to Sunshine's tail.
Sunshine slammed through the back door. Trapped by a chain link fence, he paused, gasping for breath, looking for a way out.
The Green Hornet came charging through the door. "Die! God damn you, Die!" Sunshine screamed, pulling his gun.
Suddenly, a two by four plank of wood caught him upside the head. Lights out.
"I thought I told you to stay put," the Green Hornet said to Scanlon who stood over Sunshine's inert form.
"I saw a back way," Scanlon explained.
Loud sirens broke through the air.
"The police?" Scanlon said.
The Green Hornet nodded. "They got a tip."
Kato came through the door and joined them. "We better move, Boss."
"Thanks," Scanlon said. "I owe you."
"No," The Green Hornet said, "I owe you. Twice." He prodded Sunshine with the toe of his shoe, "Now comes the hard part," he said, "Now you're going to have to put him away."XI
"You know we're going to have to stop meeting this way," Scanlon said dryly as he sat down in a chair across from Reid. "If we don't quit meeting in bars we're going to wind up as alcoholics."
Britt chuckled. He tossed the newspaper in front of the D.A.. "I wouldn't mind being a drunk if I continue to get stories like this. You did great, Sunshine's going to be behind bars for a long time."
"Thanks, I couldn't have done it without you."
"It looks like this was only the latest of Sunshine's schemes."
"Yeah, it seems that he's a confidence man from way back. First he sold Bible subscriptions for nonexistent bibles then useless cure-alls, anything to make a buck. He's wanted all over the country. Now that I'm done with him, a lot of people are waiting in line for their turn at him."
"Mayor's got egg on his face too."
"Yeah, it appears that the cosmetic companies were paying him a load of bucks to keep the contamination story under wraps."
"Would hurt sales," Britt said bitterly.
"That was the thinking."
Scanlon sighed thoughtfully, "Depends on you, I think."
"Are you planning on continuing with the Green Hornet?"
Britt's eyebrows rose in surprise. "How…?"
"It was a number of things, coincidences, you might say, you know, similar height, weight, build, things like that." He smiled wryly. "Actually, I guessed. And your reaction proved it."
"What're you going to do about it?"
"I've thought a lot about this," Frank reluctantly admitted. "You've broken the law as the Green Hornet and as an officer of the court I am required to bring you in, but…"
"But…" Britt prodded.
"I can't do it. You're a good man. You risked your life as the Green Hornet to bring Sunshine to justice. And this wasn't the first time. I've done some homework and I'm convinced that whatever he is the Green Hornet is not a threat to honest people. To the criminals, the racketeers, the crooked politicians who run this city, most definitely yes, but not law abiding people.
"Have you thought about having the Hornet show his true colors," Scanlon continued, "That he's not really a criminal? I'd be glad to help."
"I can't," Britt replied. "The Green Hornet is only effective because the crooks believe he's one of them. They fear him because they think he'll do anything to achieve his ends. Just like they do. The only way to fight fire is with fire."
"No Britt, there is another way to fight fire, to fight crime. It's with justice, with the law," Frank said.
Britt looked doubtful.
"Will the Green Hornet remain on the side of the law?" Frank asked.
Britt gave the D.A. a solid look, "Yes, on my father's grave, yes."
"I thought as much," Frank said, "I want to work with you, if you're willing. This is a big city to clean up and I need all the help I can get."
Britt smiled brightly, "Good!" He pulled out some papers, "I have some plans I'd like to show you…"
"Well, you did say that we can't keep meeting in bars, so I have some plans here…"
"Wait a minute…"
Britt grinned. "You weren't the only one who did some hard thinking. I was planning on making a proposal, but..." he shrugged, not finishing his sentence.
Frank shook his head. "I have a feeling I'm in for a very interesting time."
"You are, Frank. You are."