Chapter Eight

The anesthetic fog finally dissipated, leaving Casey feeling more awake than asleep. The first thing she saw once her eyes opened and adjusted to the light was the bottle of clear liquid hanging upside down from a T bar. The tube meandered from the end of the bottle to a needle secured in Casey's left arm.

Her mind slowly refocused with her vision. She remembered the horrific pain, now reduced to a dull ache thanks to the precise work of the surgeon and the wonders of modern medicine. She also recalled seeing Kato in his valet uniform in the hospital as she was brought to her room. Or was that a dream, Casey pondered. She saw a terrycloth bathrobe neatly draped on a chair near her bed, monogrammed with Britt's initials. The momentary break from unconsciousness played in her mind. She had indeed seen Kato, responsible for bringing her the robe.

The nurse removed the thermometer from Casey's mouth. She studied the location of the mercury amid the numbers written on the glass tube. "Very good," she announced as she shook the thermometer. Casey's nurse was older and clad in traditional white. She made the annotations in Casey's chart. "Everything looks fine, Miss Case," the nurse smiled.

"May I have that robe?" Casey asked.

The nurse hung Casey's chart on the end of the bed before retrieving the robe. "Your boss's butler brought this by for you," she said. "He told me to let you know everything was all right, and that Mr. Reid would be by to see you when he finished in court." The bed was adjusted to allow Casey to recline at a 45 degree angle. After Casey was upright the nurse slid the robe between her back and the mattress, adjusting the garment over her shoulders. "I thought Mr. Reid was killed last night," the nurse commented as she worked, "but that young man said he was fine."

Casey smiled with a deep breath. "It's a long story," she said. "You'll no doubt be able to read about it in tomorrow's Sentinel." Casey's stomach emitted an audible grumble. "When can I eat?" she asked the nurse. "I haven't had a thing since yesterday at lunch."

"Be glad you hadn't eaten when you took ill," the nurse advised. "If you thought you were sick on an empty stomach, a full stomach…"

Her thought was interrupted by Mike Axford barreling into Casey's private room. "Guilty!" he announced with a gleeful, singing tone. "Cornhusker's guilty!"

Tim Wilson walked in behind Mike. He was smiling but lacked the other physical expressions of joy Mike exhibited. "Hi, Miss Case," he said in his customary soft tone.

The nurse turned for the door. "You'll have something to eat soon, Miss Case," she called before she left.

Casey's skin was pale, and the after-effects of her medical ordeal were evident on her face. Still, she smiled upon seeing her co-workers. "What happened?" she asked.

"Oh, Casey," Mike said, "you should've seen Tillman's face. The first thing that happened this morning was the judge charged Tillman with conspiracy to kill Britt. Tillman's chin was on the floor. Then, when Mr. Scanlon stepped up and said, 'I call as my first witness Britt Reid', ho boy, was Tillman shocked! I wish I'd had a camera with me. That look on his face when Britt took the stand was priceless."

"After Mr. Reid testified," Tim continued, "Sinclair was frantic. He didn't ask any questions, he just started rattling off accusations against Mr. Reid and the Sentinel. Poor Mr. Scanlon didn't get to sit down for five minutes, what with all the objections he was raising. The judge told Sinclair if he said one more word he'd be held in contempt of court."

"So," Mike said, gesturing with his hands for emphasis, "Sinclair requests a recess right after Scanlon calls me as a witness and they swear me in. We come back, and bang! Tillman's changed his plea to guilty. Once he found out his men were in custody, he even pleaded guilty to hiring the Green Hornet to kill Britt. He threw himself on the 'mercy of the court'."

"On the 'mercy of the court'?" Casey repeated. "After shooting a judge?"

"That's what we said," Mike said with a laugh. "Tillman will be lucky if Judge Clement doesn't have an electric chair installed in the courtroom when he's sentenced!"

Tim stood by Casey's bed. "How are you, Miss Case?"

"Fine," she replied. "You know, Tim, the Green Hornet saved my life." She restrained her smile as her eyes immediately shifted to Mike to watch his reaction to her statement.

"Bah!" Mike snorted at the mention of the name.

"It's true, Mike. The doctor said another half an hour and my appendix would have ruptured."

"I'll bet you have quite a story to tell," Tim said. "May I talk to you about it when you're well?"

"Sure, Tim."

Britt opened the door to Casey's room. He saw the two reporters at Casey's bed. "Okay," he said, jerking his thumb toward the corridor, "hospital rules only allow two visitors. You two have to leave."

"We were here first," Mike protested.

"Yes, you were, Mike, but I have seniority," Britt grinned. "Anyway," he added, "you two have assignments to complete. Mike, I want to see your Tillman editorial in three hours."

Mike bounded to Britt's side. "You got it, Boss," he said with a hearty pat of Britt's shoulder. "C'mon, Tim," he called as he reached the door. He left the room, but Tim lingered at Casey's bedside.

"I believe you about the Green Hornet, Miss Case," Tim said. "I ran into him last night, and he wasn't as bad as Mr. Axford presented him. He broke up a robbery, and he told me Mr. Reid was alive. He was almost nice to me."

Mike stuck his head inside the door. "You coming, Tim?"

"Sure," Tim replied. He leaned close to Casey and whispered, "Don't tell Mr. Axford what I said about the Green Hornet, please."

Casey smiled. "I promise."

"See you later, Miss Case," Tim said. He turned for the door, stopping in front of Britt. "Thanks for giving me the opportunity to cover a big story, Mr. Reid."

"You did a good job, Tim. You're going to be an asset to the Sentinel for years to come."

"Thanks, Mr. Reid," Tim said with a hint of red creeping across his face. He closed the door behind him.

"You need to make him the crime reporter permanently," Casey suggested. "He likes the Green Hornet."

"Now, what would the Green Hornet do without Mike hounding his every move?" Britt asked. He walked to Casey's bedside and leaned over to kiss her forehead. "How are you?"

"A little sore from the surgery," Casey replied, "but I feel fine. I can't thank you enough for sticking your neck out for me to get me here."

"And I can't thank you enough for turning your transmitter on to warn us," Britt whispered.

"I don't know why I did," Casey said, a mischievous gleam in her brown eyes. "I mean, after that date last night…"

Britt held up his hand with his index finger extended to stop Casey. "I have that on my calendar, as soon as you're well," he promised. He went to the door and pulled it open. "Meanwhile…" Britt leaned out the door and motioned into the corridor. He returned to Casey's side and took a seat in a chair next to her bed.

The door opened again and Kato backed in, pulling a serving cart. The aromas from the cart reached Casey first. Kato pushed the large table to the side of the bed. "Your lunch, Miss Case," he announced with a bow. Britt smiled as Casey watched Kato set a plate of chicken parmesan, potatoes, and white corn on her hospital tray. An identical plate remained on the cart for Britt. "We checked with your doctor to make sure this is permissible," Kato assured Casey.

Britt removed the fork from his rolled-up linen napkin and began to enjoy his lunch. Casey received pampered treatment from Kato, who unrolled the napkin for her. Even with the hunger pangs begging her to eat Casey ignored the food for a moment to watch Britt. The argument about her emotional attachment to her boss renewed itself in her mind. She shooed the thoughts away. Whether she suffered from love or a crush, she knew one unarguable fact: Britt Reid commanded her utmost respect.

"Thank you," Casey beamed, overwhelmed by her boss's gesture.

"What?" Britt said with a wink and a grin. "You expect me to let you eat hospital food after I stood you up for dinner last night?"