Another challenge for The Green Hornet! He and his aid, Kato, are investigating the sudden appearance of a blushing Chinese girl. What's this? She claims to have information on Kato's brother? Is he alive? Or is this all just a rouse to draw out The Hornet? Only time will tell!
Disclaimer: I only own my personal characters
The Green Hornet vs Shanghai
I had nearly four seconds to hide the letter before Britt waltzed through the front door. Elvis was barking by my foot, tearing the envelope to shreds. That was convenient of him. Saved me the trouble. The letter was stuffed down my shirt in none-too-specific way. If he tried to find it, it would not be so hard. If he did go looking for it, I may just twist his arm backwards and snap it off.
I was being irrational.
"Hey Kato!" Britt said, all smiles, grins, and utter suspicion.
"Nothing's wrong. I didn't do anything. No letter came. I'm going out. Geez!" I shouted, stalking out of the room and slamming the door before the barking Elvis followed me out.
It wasn't until I was on my bike and blasting down Pasadena Highway faster then I should have been that I realized I'd blown up on Britt. He had no idea what was wrong with me. What I had just gone through and I was not about to let him in either. I had no business asking that of Reid or The Green Hornet. I didn't know how I was going to handle it myself.
My phone buzzed in the back pocket of my jeans. There was no way to reach it and keep myself from flying off the roadway doing ninety mph at the same time. I knew it was Reid. I owed him something for storming out. I had to call Shanghai. I had to pull over. Was it light when I left? It's dark now. What day is it?
I pulled off the highway. I'm not sure where I was exactly. I knew I took the side streets off the end of Pasadena to the main road taking me out through Arcadia. I drove through Huntington Drive, Myrtle Ave, and then lastly ended my run at the Live Oak Cemetery. When I got off my bike, the helmet flew from my hands. It hit the nearest grave stone. I collapsed in the grass. The letter was pressed against my heart. I could hardly breathe. There was a scream. Perhaps mine.
The same words traced again and again as I had read them that morning:
wǒ bìng le, wǒ děi kàn yīshēngwǒ děng nǐ, gēge, wǒ kuài sǐ le, wǒ xūyào nǐde bāngzhù
The only Shong-di you have.
I pulled myself inside sometime after midnight. Elvis was waiting at the front door. His little corkscrew tail curled up over his back. His tongue flew out of his mouth at the sight of my bike. He practically vibrated as I walked inside. I reached down and stroked a hand across him. Hopefully it kept him quiet. This time of night, Britt should have been asleep. It took long enough for me to get back from Arcadia. I wasn't exactly trying to get here particularly fast either. I wanted Britt out cold. I didn't want him to speak to me. Until morning or something.
"Come on, Elvis." I whispered. I walked along toward the guest rooms where I kept myself separated from Britt. Not that he was not the best and only true friend I ever knew. Sometimes a guy needed his space. And this was working pretty well for us for now. The letter that had me fleeing the house earlier that morning migrated from my breast pocket to my pant pocket. I still wasn't sure what I was going to do about it. I needed to ask Reid. But how could I?
The pug trotted beside me as I opened the room door. I must not have been paying attention or I may have noticed Britt standing in the center of my room before I turned around and shut the door behind Elvis and me. By the time I saw him, it was too late to run. I considered fighting him. It was a fleeing thought. As fast as it came it was gone. He saw it too.
"Easy, Kato." He said instantly. I recognized the tone. He wasn't Britt Reid at this moment.
I automatically untensed.
Britt leaned against the end of my bed. His hands were in his pockets. I realized he was wearing his Green Hornet gear, less jacket and mask.
"I was about to roll out and look for you." He said. His voice was even, not loud or accusatory. "I'm not going to lie about how worried I was, Kato. Honest. You stormed out like I was the devil himself yelling about some letter that, by the way, Elvis threw up in the garage. I thought you left everything behind in Shanghai." He held up the partially or fully eaten envelope. It was in a plastic bag like an evidence item.
I had to hand it to Britt. When he became The Green Hornet two years ago he changed a lot of things about him. One of those was his level of intellect. He was becoming the detective he always dreamed of. He was the super hero and super villain at the same time. He even had the girl and the dog now too. I had to hand it to the guy, he grew up quick.
But that did not mean he had the right to get into my personal life. "It's nothing." I lied. Elvis had jumped onto my bed already, burrowing under my blankets in anticipation of a nightly cuddle.
The Hornet tossed the bag onto a table in the corner. "Come one, Kato. We're friends. Brothers. Tell me what's wrong."
I scoffed at the word which had been stabbing into my heart this whole day. Shong-di. Gēge. All words relatively similar in Mandarin.
My swift exhalation did not escape The Hornet.
"What?" he asked. His eyes darted over me. I felt like one of the goons we shook down in the night. He was looking for my secrets. My body shifted, as if being a moving target would keep my secrets more hidden then if I stood there and took his scrutiny. I had already decided I was not going through this tonight with him. Not Britt, or The Hornet. I hadn't realized my hand was reaching for the letter as if to hide it, shred it, or eat it. I must have done the same thing all other goons did. He knew precisely where to go. I had to admit, he was getting faster to. If I wasn't so wrapped up in my own life issues, I would have stopped him before he had the letter in his hand.
"No!" I exclaimed, reaching over him. "Hornet, give it back! Let go!"
Britt's back was to my chest. He was taller than me, a fact he used to his advantage every opportunity he could. This was just such a chance.
"What's the big deal?" he said, holding the letter up over our heads. One swift kidney punch and it would be mine once more. I delayed.
"Besides, it's all in Chinese for crying out loud! I can't even read a word of it!"
I paused and thought of that. I stopped struggling. "Oh, yeah. Right."
Britt turned on me. "What does it say?"
"I'm not telling you."
"Who does he think he is?"
"It's not true!"
"He's dead!" I screamed.
Elvis was out from under the covers. He barked a few times in excitement. The Hornet waited as I gathered myself up. This was the explanation he was waiting for.
"It says, in order, I'm sick, I need a doctor, I will wait for you, older brother, I'm dying. I need your help. Honestly, I didn't know what to say when I got it. He used my name. MY name. No one knows that name other than my family in Shanghai and Chou destroyed all of them when I was young."
Britt thought over what I was telling him. For once he wasn't rushing into things.
"So, your name is Hayashi Zhang?" he asked.
"No," I corrected, "Hayashi Kato. Kato is my last name. Zhang was my brother's name. That is why this is not making sense. It should say Zhang Kato. But it doesn't. I don't get it. He wants me to meet him in China. If he knew where to find me, knew my name, how much else does he know about me?"
The point was valid. I could see The Hornet was taking it all in. "That makes a little more sense." He said at last.
I gave him a thoughtful look.
"Oh, the guy that broke into the garage earlier is tied to a chair in the basement. He said his name was Zhang. Maybe they're relatives."
I think I fell off my chair.
So if I wasn't so busy trying to figure out where Kato had run off to, I may have paid more attention to the guy that broke into my garage. Well, actually there wasn't much "breaking" involved. He just sort of walked in when Kato left the door open. As I was Britt Reid when I tied the man to a chair, I decided to meet him again as Britt Reid. Kato agreed to go along with me for back up. Who knew what we were dealing with and what the person happened to know.
I was being cautious again. It was a nasty habit.
Kato was a few steps behind me, still sulking and moody from our encounter. He was underestimating me again. I wasn't particularly hurt by the prospect, but it was rather bothersome. Given another two hours I would have hunted him down too but I didn't tell him that.
So, dude in the garage. Well if that wasn't the biggest surprise of the week I didn't know what was. First of all I have to remind you people I tend not to be very observant. At least not enough to realize the dude was actually a chick. And this chick was dressed in leather.
I leaned over to Kato. "You didn't hire me a stripper did you?"
"No!" he said with some disgust. "Why did you put her in my work room?"
I shrugged. "It was available."
His eyes rolled.
The woman was shouting against the gag of rubber wire in her mouth. I dragged a chair over to her, sat on it backwards and leaned in. "Hi! What are you doing in my place?"
Kato came forward and took the cord out of her mouth. It was a nice move because I hadn't thought about that.
"Kato? You're Kato aren't you? You have to help us! Please you do!"
I gave my friend a strange look. The two of us were equally confused.
"I am sorry. But do I know you?" he asked.
"I need to find The Green Hornet!" she blurted out. "I heard the cops thought Britt Reid was him, and since you worked here, I thought you could do something. I need help. I need someone to help me!"
I sat back on the chair, my elbows propped on its back. I wasn't looking at the strange Asian woman clad in biker-black leather. I was more interested in my good friend who was attempting to remember where in the world he recognized the woman from. He seemed just as lost as I felt.
"Please, can you just start over?" Kato said. He was leaning on his workbench. The Hornet research was all shoved into a few stray drawers below him. Ok, so this may not be the best interrogation room in the world. I made a mental note to invest in that in the future.
It took a few minutes for our hostage to sit still enough to recount the amazing adventure she'd been through and how it connected so intimately with Kato's own past. My friend was standing by in shocked silence as he absorbed everything. I was partially lost the whole time until Kato decided to fill me in later.
Long story short, there wasn't anything the two of us could for the girl. So we sprung her loose and headed back to bed.
Yeah, it was totally awesome leaving you on the hook like that. Do you hate me? Be honest now because I am super jaded sitting here on the platform of a billboard sign. I have nothing better to do then to sit here and bother whoever is out there reading this blog crap. It's fantastic really. And the only reason I'm sitting here is completely Kato's fault. I got to tell you, he must have a think for this girl. I even sang "Kato and Wacko sitting in a tree". Instead of going after me with a knife in my sleep he actually just blushed and let it go.
Now I'm sitting here torturing you 'cause I've got nothing better to do before Kato comes running around the corner. I suppose I can catch you up with how we got here. That would be the gentlemanly thing to do. That and, as I said, I have nothing better to do.
Here's the lowdown, down low, deal-i-o. This guy named Zhang Kato was the actual blood brother of my dear friend Hiyashi Kato. He was currently in Shanghai, wrapped up in a situation he couldn't get out of without money and a lot of it. That, and he needed a fellow criminal. Whereas Hiyashi had taken the high road of masked vigilante, Zhang went down the path of actual criminal. He got trapped in the United Bamboo Triad. As a master at collecting on unpaid loans, he did relatively well for himself. Until now. Now, he wanted out. And he wanted that because the Chinese doctors have recently given him a death sentence. Until he can replace his position with someone equally capable of his work, the Triad is holding him prisoner. Kato could buy his freedom for the price of two million dollars and his own life as a replacement. It was a hard choice to make.
Where the girl came into this situation was relatively recent. Her name was Wen-Ming Liu. A former brothel worker, she fell in love with Zhang and has been working for his release ever since the diagnosis. She did the legwork to track down Hiyashi Kato, she dropped off the letter, and she was looking for some crime boss of equal value to exchange for Zhang's release.
That get you up-to-date?
Fine. So, after hearing tales about the notorious Hornet, and after a psycho ex-beau of mine came out saying I was him, the girl came here to plead for the Hornet's help. However, she only found Kato and me. I told her to look up her Hornet friend elsewhere. Kato professed he had no brother. She left.
Now you got the whole thing. And I'm hanging out here, next to a gigantic billboard proclaiming the latest active ingredient in Crest waiting for Kato to make his dramatic appearance.
This was my kind of fun.
This time I made the plan. Britt had been more open about that lately after the trash dump fiasco a couple months back and then the vacation that turned into a night of Hell in Los Vegas. I wanted something better that both of those.
I knew Wen-Ming would go looking around town for other crime bosses to replace the failed meeting with The Green Hornet. It was not hard to tail her. Knowing that at some point she would get into trouble was not a great leap to make. I was going to be there to save her.
No, I was there to save her.
As I sat on my bike, facing the intersection on the Los Angeles strip I thought hard about the Shong-di I left so long ago in China. I never wanted to face him again. Not after I left that place for good. I wanted out. I wanted out of the life he was planning to lead. And this is what he got for it.
I was glad to be away from him.
So why I was sitting in this intersection to save his girl I did not know. Why Britt agreed to help at all I could not understand. But here we were.
The long black Lincoln flew through the intersection. In the first three seconds of the pass, the back passenger door flew open and a ball of tied up leather was shoved out of the car. That was my que. I revved my bike. I only had five seconds.
I slid off my bike expertly, gliding through the air, tucking in and rolling across the asphalt until I met the body of Wen-Ming. Her face flew up to mine with features both terrified and relieved. Her mouth open, face twisted, she screamed.
I knew what was happening as if I had planned it myself. The world slowed. I breathed carefully in and out as the Lincoln turned a squealing circle in the intersection. Its engine roared. The gas pedal hit the floor and like a wild animal it leaped through the air toward us.
"Hold tight!" I yelled at Ming.
Before I knew it she was facing me with wide eyes. Her arms circled my chest. I drew her in tight. My grappling line was set. I had only to wait for the axel to appear. The world remained slow, carefully shifting forward in slices of reality. I had more than enough time to look around. I rolled, dragging Wen-Ming along until the two of us were under the car together. Then I hooked the line to the rear axle. The second I snapped out of my own mind, we were rocketing down the roadway, dragged behind the Lincoln continental and over the Los Angeles Strip.
And towards The Hornet.
All right. I fell asleep. Just a little for about three hours or so. Or three minutes. Something like that. Something small, inconsequential. Wow, now that was a hard word to say three times fast.
Oh, yeah. Crossbow.
I heard the revving engine hustling up the Strip like a hot rod out of Fast and the Furious. I wasn't sure how exactly Kato was holding on to that rear axle and not being pulled to pieces. Then that girl was attached to him. I saw a guy on Mythbusters once being dragged behind a horse and the road rash on him was sick. Sure Kato was wearing body armor-but there was only so much that was going to end up helping him.
The black car went rolling up the strip. It peeled the pavement right past my post. I was standing now. The crossbow braced against my right shoulder. I had one shot at this. No chance to reload. No chance to save them if I missed. Not fifty feet past me was a suicidal left turn. If I didn't get the line cut, Kato's momentum would strip him over the corner and straight into a brick wall.
Ok, so I was beginning to hate Kato's plans.
Three seconds after the car went by I saw Kato and Wen-Ming dragged behind it. I closed one eye. I set my body.
The heat of being dragged over the asphalt roadway on a hundred degree day was not something I expected to face. My pants were ripped from my ankles up to my thigh. My Kevlar lined shirt was smoking with the friction. It was painful. I angled my body to take the majority of the impact while Wen-Ming was over top of me. She was screaming, frightened, I had no way to comfort her until The Hornet saved us.
And he did.
When I was coming up with the crossbow idea I had all the confidence in the world that he would do all right. Now, not so much.
Actually, I was veritably terrified.
The wall was coming closer.
I counted the seconds. My eyes were closed. I waited for Britt to either shoot the cord, or miss and kill me.
He shot the cord.
We skidded off the open road and onto the concrete, rolling and tumbling until we took out a row of chairs and tables set outside some restaurant.
We had one minute to get to our feet and get to the Black Beauty before the Lincoln swung a u-turn and ran us down. Everything was down to minutes and seconds. I sort of wish we had more time. Perhaps the next time I was allowed to plan a mission I would give us more. I leaped to my feet and pulled Wen-Ming up beside me. Across the intersection. We had to get across the intersection.
I saw Britt. He slid down off the billboard stand after what I distinctly recognized as a victory dance. He had the switch for the Black Beauty in his hand. She was parked just below him in the bushes. One flick had her alive. The doors sprang open. He was in the driver's seat.
"Watch out!" Wen-Ming shouted.
I had my arms around her shoulder. I drug her down and out of the way as the Lincoln barreled just beside us. Another half inch to the right and we would have been dead.
The Black Beauty slid out of the bushes.
The door was open.
I pushed her into the back seat and went into the front myself. The Hornet and I switched. I punched the gas. The sight of the Black Beauty in broad daylight has a certain affect on people that I have worked very carefully to maintain. It inspired an immediate reaction of fear. It put people on edge. It made little kids cry. It was a bad car.
When my ride hit the highway, no one was going to stand in its way. Not even Edward Catanosa III, the biggest smuggler of everything Chinese this side of the mountains. His Lincoln screeched to a halt in a shower of burning rubber. The restaurants and streets cleared out. Cell phones started recording. I floored the gas pedal and pulled a circle to head back down the heart of the strip. Regardless that Catanosa was facing the same way, he did not follow.
He never would.
Kato looked like crap. He looked like something dragged through a desert, over a thousand giant cacti, and then dropped down into a canyon without a parachute. Regardless, he still wanted to drive instead of me. I let him. Wen-Ming was chillin' in the seats between us. She looked a little better than he did. The two of them could use a thorough cleaning.
Wen-Ming looked from one of us to the other. "You're, you're The Green Hornet!"
I nodded. "I am. And you are Wen-Ming Liu. From the looks of it your meeting with Catanosa went real well."
Her jaw dropped open a little.
"I know everything about you and your problem. I have to tell you, it isn't an easy one to solve. You've got a guy you need to barter out of China. He'll only be released if he has a replacement and money for the transfer. Now my question is why these guys think you have anything to trade for."
Her mouth was still open, looking between Kato and me. Kato and I had been worried, worried that he was going to be recognized. His face being half covered in blood helped mask everything a little more.
"I—he has a friend. His brother works for Britt Reid. We were hoping, well, he could help us." She admitted.
"And he didn't." I filled in.
She shook her head.
"How close were they? As brothers?" I asked, receiving an angry glare from Kato. I wasn't able to get the information from Kato so I figured why not ask. I was a curious kind of guy like that.
"They grew up together. When Hiyashi went to America, Zhang stayed behind. He stayed with his family."
"The Triad was his family. They taught him everything he knows. It's how they were raised." She sat up a little and glanced at my driver. "Thanks, for saving me."
I saw the smile he didn't show her. How cute of him. I think my little Kato just got himself a love interest. Too bad she was all about his brother.
He just nodded at her, unwilling to trust his voice.
I had to keep myself steady in light of these recent developments about my friend. Who would of guessed he was a triad trainee? If his brother was even half of what Kato was, then it was no wonder the mob didn't want to give him up easy. I had to contemplate our next move very carefully. I was not about to get The Hornet caught up with a Chinese mob deal, but at the same time I had a blood bred loyalty to Hiyashi. If he wanted to buy his brother out, we would do it in a heartbeat. I had to talk to him. Privately.
"Wait for our call." I told the girl, handing over a cell phone. "Stay wherever it is you are. Don't contact any other dealers."
"You'll help me?" she exclaimed with joy.
I quickly squashed that. "No. We'll think about it. Figure out what's best for us. I don't give two shakes about you're guy. Frankly Britt Reid is a man I'd rather kill then befriend and if leaving his executive associates brother to die hurts him, I'll do it." A mask of fear coursed through her. "But a chance to muscle in on a triad is not a chance I come across regularly. When I've decided, I will contact you."
Kato rolled up beside a curb. I flipped my door out and stepped onto the concrete. I offered the girl a hand, dragged her out of my car, then got back in and sped off. Kato and I had another long talk ahead.
"Triad! You never told me that!"
"I told you I grew up on the streets. On the streets, there are gangs, it is not my fault you did not make the connection."
"Connection, what connection? There was no connection! So I need something from you now, right now, where are we going?"
"To Glenda, didn't you see me drug across the Los Angeles Strip?"
"I did, thought you looked ok to me, so are we saving your brother or not?"
This made me go quiet for a long time. Usually when Kato and I fought, it was about stupid little things. Things like leaving the car door open, or forgetting to press record on a sushi flash drive. We both agreed on the severity of our current situation, but he was not budging on his opinion. He didn't care about Zhang Kato, living or dead. He didn't want to save him, and he certainly did not want to negotiate a trade between The Green Hornet and the Chinese Triad.
"Because you are planning on trading me!" Kato shouted. He swerved in and out of traffic. It was the first time I realized he was still actually driving and in broad daylight. At that we had about four cop cars tailing behind us. The truck directly in the rearview mirror was an unmarked police vehicle. The spotlight by its driver rather gave it away real quick. No one had his or her lights on. They were funneling us somewhere.
"Do you see that?"
Kato shrugged. "They've been back there. Last five miles. They want to see where we are going." Kato replied. "And stop changing the subject! My brother got himself into trouble all by himself. He can get himself out."
"But that note, he said he's dying. You won't help him even then?"
"But why? Kato, if I had a brother, I'd do anything I could for him! I do the same for you, remember when you were caught in a freezer in a McDonalds in Las Vegas? I came for you even then! What happened between you two?"
Kato didn't say anything more. He just kept driving. He knew as well as I did somewhere along the road would be a police block. He angled away from it every time, turning in smaller and smaller circles through the streets of L.A. when it seemed the cops had us squeezed off on either end, Kato surprised them and ran the Beauty right into the nose of two police cruisers, splitting their "wall" and forcing our way through. The other cops and unmarked vehicles bottlenecked behind us. The Green Hornet slips away one more time.
But slipping away wasn't enough for me. I needed to know what was going on in Kato's brain. Perhaps Glenda could give me a hand with him. Kato was done talking to me.
"Well, frankly I think you'll live." Glenda said with a smile. She touched her glove against my forehead, looking over all the new scars I would soon be sporting. "Lot of filth in there. Should debride it a little. It'll sting."
"Everything you do stings." I replied.
She giggled a little. "Yeah. I guess you're right." She walked across the room to her medical bag and grabbed a few bottles of something out of it. "So, what happened? Crash your bike? I told you one day that thing was going to kill you."
"You did not." I replied. I pulled the icepack away from my face as she came over to take another look. "And I was saving a girl."
Her eyebrow raised. "A girl. Cute?"
My eyes rolled.
"Oh, fine, don't tell me." She grabbed a syringe and doused the side of my face with it. I was braced for impact but when nothing terrible happened, I could not hide the façade of non-surprise.
She shrugged. "I could sting. Guess it didn't."
I sighed and let her work. I was back at Britt's mansion sitting at the kitchen table while the good doctor was cleaning me up. It felt a lot worse than it actually turned out to be which was nice. I did not want to mess up my pretty face, as Reid put it. The minute we got in the door, he placed the house call to Glenda and took off for the garage. Said he had some important calls to make, but I knew it was a lie. He could not get reception down there for one.
"You look ok." She said, getting my attention again. "So, who's the girl?"
"No one." I pulled on my button up shirt. I was road rashed from head to thigh, but none of it was that bad.
Glenda pulled back. She sighed, looking at me. "Oh, Hiyashi. No wonder Britt's worried."
My head snapped up. "Who told you that name? Britt?"
"Yeah. Right before he left."
I was at my feet. "Left? Where? When did he go?"
"He left the minute you got home." She told me. "Private jet. It's too late. He said he had a plan, one to save your brother. He made me come here to keep an eye one you."
I wanted to be mad. I wanted to run after him but Glenda was right. It was too far to catch him. I sat back down and thought about all that had happened. All that changed in just a short two days. My brother. Alive. The same brother I begged and pleaded on my knees to come to America with me. But he refused. He loved the game, he deified me to love the Triads. He defied flesh and blood. That was something I could never forgive. Or at least, I thought I couldn't.
Maybe I was wrong.
Britt did not share his plan with me. I did not know where he was going or what he would do when he got there. I could do nothing but sit here and wait. Nothing more or less. I looked up at Glenda. "Now what?"
First order of business: call up Kato's girl and figure out how I was getting a hold of the Triad when I got to Shanghai. That was the easy part. Second order of business: purchase myself a respectable looking Kato stand-in from the billions of Chinese people in the city. That was a little easier than even I anticipated. Everyone looked alike. I thought at first that was just something people said, but it was totally true! I paid a guy a hundred bucks to be my stand-in technology expert Kato. Next: get to my meeting with the triads on time.
Don't get shot by the same triads I was trying to make a deal with . . .
Now that's where things got a little bit tricky. No one told me that triads were gun toting wackos that preferred to sit there and speak Chinese to each other rather than speak English to me. Nice, huh? My Kato stand-in started getting cold feet, he was yelling in Chinese too. Some words I recognized from Kato's own blathering, but overall nothing. I did get the distinct impression that they were displeased about something. Then the glimmer of something hopeful.
One of the men approached me. I stood on my guard, just because.
"You are Green Hornet?" he asked.
I could have sworn I had said that already.
"I'm him." I said.
"We want in. We want transportation, protection, of our operations in California. The last time we sent a man, you had him put in a prison. We want assurance that you will not interfere in our transactions. Do we have a deal?"
I thought about that. I had taken down a lot of crime bosses in my time as The Hornet. Going back on my word here would be nothing new or extraordinary. And if it saved Kato's brother, I was all in for dancing around in a unicorn outfit and crapping marshmallows if they wanted me too. So I said what came natural to me.
"Sure. But I monitor all the shipments. Nothing gets into the ports without my knowledge. I provide you the transfers to L.A. Your men work under me."
The man nodded. "That sounds satisfactory."
"One more thing, I get fifteen percent of the take. Off the top."
There was a visible stir at my terms. At this point, I was just blurting out demands to try to sound important if not professional. After some internal squabbling, the men at least agreed with my words. First time in Shanghai and I already had one of the most notorious gangs by the gonads. Sweet. Sometimes I just loved being bad.
"And what of Zhang Kato. I assume you have brought a replacement?" the spokesman asked.
I shrugged. "Frankly I don't care about the guy at all." That was not a lie. "But I do care about something he was building for me on the side. After you had him sequestered, we lost contact. I really want my side hand technologist back if you don't mind." I was not polite about the request, regardless of how it sounded. I was also back to boldface lying again. I was literally making everything up as I went. I rather enjoyed it too, a chance to stretch my creative prowess.
"And his replacement? We cannot afford to lose such a brilliant mind for nothing at all."
I motioned to my stand-in Kato. "Frankly, I was going to switch Zhang for my own expert. But I don't see what the point is in that if he's planning to die in three months."
The spokesman looked surprised. There were more frantic murmurs.
"Oh, I know all about it." I told them. "I know he has three months to live. I know that without this switch you are in a real bind. But if he's dead you are just as bad off without me. So, I have a new proposition for you. You give me your dying techie and I don't call in your Chinese police and tell them exactly where we are right now. And give them all the evidence to arrest you and lock away the key." I was used to the frantic Chinese wrinkles flapping around with shock and surprise. I had them reeling, so I kept on going. "Or, I could completely ignore the cop route and just kill everyone right now and take over my own Triad in China." I whipped out my Hornet gun, it was decked out in a few extra barrels and LEDs just to make it seem a little more dangerous. The desired effect was met. Everyone backed up, a few people drew weapons. One man rushed me with a 9mm and silencer. He aimed the gun at my heart. I smiled a little on the inside. He fired.
The bullet was stopped by my vest lined in Kevlar. It hurt a little, the concussion of the bullet hitting into my chest could have knocked my breath away. But I was looking for impact here. I was making a statement. So I stood there as the impenetrable force, the guy who was just shot and didn't bat an eye.
Let's just say I got what I wanted.
She was standing at the window, watching the planes come and go with constant disappointment. We were standing at gate 4A at LAX waiting for the plane to appear from China. I had yet to say anything to her. I was sort of on edge to even approach her. But I knew why she was here and it was about the same reason I was. Britt Reid was coming back from China with my brother in tow. Well, sort of. The Hornet had bartered for his release. Britt was coming back to town on a different flight, out of a different country, just to keep up appearances.
I took a breath and looked down at my shoes. This was all pretty awkward on my end. I was mad at Britt for going alone, I was mad at my brother for leaving me years ago, but I was not mad at Wen-Ming. No, Wen-Ming was quickly becoming something more.
Something I was going to have to ignore.
My head lifted. I looked at the woman who had spoken.
Wen-Ming held a mixture of emotions as her eyes bore into mine.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
I shrugged. "I was told to pick up my boss. He was touring Asia on a whim."
"Three hours after you left." I had my answers ready. I knew she would raise them. "He has been working to establish a contact oversees for the paper. He's been gone the last few days in Russia and Japan."
She nodded a little. "Oh, ok." She said.
I indicated the plane. "China? Did you figure something out for your friend?"
"Your brother?" she corrected.
I conceded the fact.
"I'm not sure how, but yes." She had a genuine happiness and enjoyment to her. Her eyes lit up a little when she mentioned Zhang. I wished that same look was meant for me. "I can't wait to see him. I've been away for almost two months."
The announcer overhead declaring the latest planes beginning to unload interrupted us both. They announced her flight first. Britt decided to err on the side of caution and took a flight out of Japan instead. He would be coming in one gate over at 4B. They announced his next.
"I never was told what he had. What he was dying of." I told her. I am not sure why. I wanted to say it did not matter to me. I wanted to erase Zhang from my life but I wanted to see him so much more.
"Cancer." She said. "Doctors told him it was in his chest. He doesn't have long."
"And you still love him?" I asked.
She nodded emphatically. "I do."
There was nothing more to say. The men and women began to unload from her gate. Our conversation was cut short. She rushed the crowed of people and picked out the one man she had been looking forward to seeing for so long. My brother. My real Shong-di in the flesh and blood. I peered through the people to try to get a glimpse of him but I decided it was probably fruitless. Instead, I went to the next gate over and looked for Britt.
Like a real tourist, he stuck out like a sore thumb. It was not the wooden sandals, or the full out ninja costume or even the fake samurai sword I am not sure how he even got on the flight in the first place. Well, actually it was probably all of those put together. As ridiculous as he was, he is still Britt Reid. The Green Hornet. My boss and brother in arms. He was all I needed.
"Kato!" Britt exclaimed, rushing over as fast as wooden sandals would carry him. "I have the greatest stories to tell you!"
I am sure he did. I grabbed one of his bags and swung it over my shoulder as we went for the exit.
"First, there was this geisha chick who was like, all over me, and I was like, "Hey, I got a hot girlfriend to get back to," and she was all like—" He was looking off in the same direction I was. In no time, the two of us had paused in the busy airport terminal to watch the two people pass by in front of us. One was Wen-Ming Liu. Her face was full of oblivious joy. She had no idea.
The second was Zhang Kato, my blood brother. He was suave as always, his hair perfectly kept, his suit designer Armani. The world slowed to a halt until there was nothing left but Zhang and me. His head tilted back, whispering something seductive to Wen-Ming. But his eyes were locked on mine. He knew as well as I did the truth. He knew that everything the last few days had been a rouse. A lie.
Zhang was alive and well. He would not be dying of anything unless I put a bullet in his brain. So what was his game? Why was he so bent on getting out of China? Out of the Triad? And why instruct The Hornet to be the one to do it?
There were too many questions swimming around my brain. I knew Zhang was smart, as smart as I was and twice as deadly. My evil twin. He was going to be causing us trouble in the future. And Britt had no idea.
Time passed to normal. Ming and Zhang were already out of sight. Britt lost all enjoyment in his voice as he spoke to me.
"That was him, huh? I'm getting the impression we've been had, Kato, and I don't like it."
I nodded. "What are we going to do about it?"
"Wait him out. See what kind of game he's bringing to the table. Ming's an innocent. I don't want her getting hurt." He looked seriously at me. "This isn't the last we've heard of Zhang. Are you prepared for that?"
"Yeah. I am."
"It's settled then. Let's roll, Kato."
So that's the end! Or is it? As you may have assumed, this is a starting book for later ones that may involve Kato's brother as the archenemy. Neat!
Hiyashi was not a randomly chosen name, according to the serial book "The Hornet Chronicles" Kato's first name was indeed Hiyashi. I've been meaning to use it and finely got the chance.