Frank Scanlon took a deep breath of fresh morning air. Sunlight sparkled off the hood of his car as he left it at the curb of the State Home for the Lost and Orphaned. The large brick and stone building towered at the top of an imposing set of steps. Its big wooden doors opened on rusty hinges, squeaking an echo into the open ceiling of the foyer.
Margaret Carter met him in the middle and shook his hand.
"Quite the night, Mr. Scanlon."
"Indeed. Very eventful. How is he?"
Mrs. Carter sighed and took him to the elevator. "For a boy who was held captive by such a cruel man, brutalized and terrified…he's doing well. Eating everything we put in front of him. Although I must say I'm a little surprised by how cooperative he's been. A completely different John from the last time I saw him."
Scanlon smiled. "Britt Reid has that effect on people."
The elevator doors opened to the medical wing. Through the largely empty hall of beds to the private rooms. John was in the last, sitting up straight as one of the Orphanage's doctors checked his head.
John pulled away the moment he saw Scanlon and Mrs. Carter enter.
"Doc, c'mon. You've checked my head twice today already. Don't you think that's enough?"
The doctors smiled and stood back.
"He's going to be fine, Ma'am. Another full day of rest. Tonight he'll be able to leave."
"Good. Thank you, Doctor."
The man gathered his things and nodded a goodbye. He closed the door behind him. John stared up at Scanlon though his eyelashes.
"I suppose you want to hear my side of the story, huh?" He finally asked. Scanlon sat down on the edge of his bed.
"…Maybe? What the hell kind of lawyer are you?"
Scanlon put his hand out. "Easy. I know it's strange but…I've got enough information to put things together. Mrs. White has been quite helpful in that department. Everyone in the apartment has. So helpful I doubt you'll even have to testify against Jack Rickert."
John laid back. "Yeah. They were all okay people. Mrs. White especially. I wouldn't mind testifying against that guy, though. Might even be fun to watch him squirm for a change…." He swallowed and scratched at his bandage.
"It was… kind of nice to finally see him meet somebody who wouldn't take his crap."
"The Green Hornet?"
John shot a look to him. "Yeah…"
"The Hornet was busy last night, even before he came to you. We have everybody involved in this either down at the County Lock-up, or with arrest warrants out on them. Thanks to him."
"But you're not going to arrest him, right? He's not as bad as you all make him out to be, y'know. He…he seemed to care about me last night. "
Scanlon shook his head. "No…no, I'm not going to go after him for this. The Hornet did a good turn. In his own way, of course."
" I, uh, I just hope he's okay. The last thing I remember before the Hornet's partner gassed me…he and Jack were really going at it…."
Scanlon leaned back, a knowing look on his face. "Oooh. Don't you worry. The Hornet's fine. Now, Jack on the other hand…."
John grinned, relaxing. "Yeah. Right."
The DA patted the boy's knee and stood. "I'll be back later. Britt and the others too. We have a surprise for you."
"My, my. Don't we look stiff. Rough night?"
Britt Reid scowled as he lowered himself into a chair.
"What gave you that idea, Frank?"
"Besides you sleeping until three in afternoon?"
Britt's neck cracked as he twisted it side to side.
Casey appeared from the kitchen with Kato.
"Lunch. And you better not say no, Mr. Reid."
Britt swallowed. "Yes, Ms. Case."
He stood, more bones cracking in his back. "Geez, Britt. You really are out of practice."
Britt grabbed Scanlon's arm as he passed. "What did you want me to do, Frank? I wasn't going to kill him, you knew that. But I wasn't about to let you have him without so much as a slap on the wrist. You knew that too! So what's with the needling, huh?"
Frank eased his arm from under Britt's grip. "Needling? I'm not needling. If you took it that way, I'm sorry. How could I, Britt? You did a good thing: saved John and put the bad guy away."
Scanlon's voice hardened. "Only the bad guy can't actually speak at the moment. He's stuck in semi-consciousness. Until he wakes up fully, I'm relying on his buddies you didn't scare their mouths shut. Lucky for John, they've given me enough that he won't have to testify."
The District Attorney fixed his glass and faced Britt. The afternoon sun caught the concealer over his cuts because he hadn't bothered to rub it in properly.
"That kid will never forget how the infamous Green Hornet saved his life. All he wanted to know this morning was if you were okay or not; if I was going to arrest you. You're his hero-his own Lone Ranger, as ironic as that is.
"You know every villain you meet will exploit any weakness they find in you: physical, mental, emotional. They've done it with Ms. Case and they'll keep doing it. You've saved her because, as much as you don't want to admit it and as much as I shouldn't be saying this…you love her. They did it with John, without knowing it. Regardless, you came this close to losing. Remember that, Britt. Remember that because it's a lesson worth learning."
"Britt, Mr. Scanlon: lunch." Casey called again.
"We're coming, Ms. Case."
Scanlon looked to Britt once more from over the top of his bifocals. He saw the hurt and the conflict in his friend's eyes. Realizing the truth is hard, isn't it? Britt Reid would have to love at the risk of losing that precious love. He knew it, deep down, even before Frank Scanlon had dared to shove it in his face.
"I just wanted you to know how I felt, Britt. That's all."
Britt held Mary's hand on one side, Bridgett's on the other. He felt the seven year old practically vibrate.
"I can't wait to see him! You think John'll tell us about the Green Hornet? That had to be so scary!"
"I don't know, Bridgett. We'll have to see."
The Orphanage was preparing for night, tucking in all the children. Save for one.
John appeared at the other end of the foyer, walking in between Scanlon and Mrs. Carter. He saw Britt and halted. Bridgett pulled her hand free and took off toward him. She hit with a choking embrace and this time John didn't shove her away.
Britt smiled and knelt down next to Mary.
"Go say hello to your brother." he whispered. She peered up at him, still silent. John pulled Bridgett gently to the side. He approached slowly, calling his sister's name. In a split second, she was running from Britt's side and into his arms. John held her to him as if never to let go.
"Mary! Mary, Jack's gone! He's never going to hurt us again. I made sure of it. Just like I told you I would."
Mary reached up with a little hand to touch the bandage over his eye. John pushed it away.
"I'm okay. He tried but he couldn't beat me."
She let go and turned around to look at Britt. They walked to him and Britt knelt to gather the two in his arms.
"You know how to age a man real quick, John. You know that?"
The boy laughed. "Yeah, don't I?"
They then went to Casey and Kato, greeting both just as warmly. Bridgett, Scanlon and Mrs. Carter rejoined them.
John and Mary were back with Britt, leaning into him. He was leading them toward the doors.
"Where are we going? Back to the apartment?"
Britt smiled sadly, hiding a grimace as John unknowingly nudged a bruise over his ribs.
Scanlon suddenly cut in front of them and pushed the heavy doors open. His car again sat at the curb. A passenger was waiting. He stood and step out. John pulled to a stop on the top step, staring hard at the figure.
He knew that face. Even in the fading light, he recognized it. A quick bewildered look to Britt, Scanlon…Casey, Kato and finally Mrs. Carter.
"Who is that, John?" Mary whispered.
"…That's our dad, Mary."
And the man was suddenly taking the steps two at a time.
As much as tried to stop himself from jumping into the man's arms, John couldn't resist the urge as the man closed in.
"John! Mary! My God!"
He crushed them, covering them both in kisses and all but sobbing into their hair.
"My babies. I'm so sorry. So, so sorry. I should have taken you with me all those years ago! I'll never forgive myself for being so selfish!"
John shook his head, eyes brimming with tears. "I doesn't matter now, Dad. It doesn't matter."
"It does matter! Your mother…the mess she got into…. That Jack fellow…you! The Green Hornet! To think I could have saved you two from this…."
"Why are you here?"
The man straightened, still clutching them to his body. He pointed with his chin toward the others.
"Mr. Scanlon called me soon after they'd learned what had happened. Flew me in on the first flight out of Tucson. Told me the whole story-as much as he knew of it, anyway. Said I shouldn't lose hope because everything was being done that could be done.
"I stayed at his office the entire night, until the Green Hornet broke the whole thing wide open. Since then, your friend Mr. Reid and Mr. Scanlon have been nothing but kind-especially Mr. Reid."
He went to Britt and stuck out his hand. "I know I…I told you how much I appreciated you taking them in; treating them like they were your own. I know I did but…I gotta say it again."
Britt smiled ruefully as he shook the man's hand. "I should thank you…for having such great children. They taught me more than I figured on. I wish…I wish they were mine. But, heh, that just wouldn't work, I know that. They need you."
John's eyes narrowed. "Wait…wait. What's going on here? Britt?"
Britt stepped around their father and knelt in front of him. "You don't belong here, in this Orphanage. And as much as it hurts to say this…you don't belong with me, either. Not when you have a real family to take care of you and your sister."
"Your father has come for you, John." Mrs. Carter spoke up. "We've all had a nice long talk and it's settled. You and your sister are being released to him."
"And because of the fact you are such a minor, John, I couldn't have you and don't need you here for the trial." Scanlon added.
John felt his father return behind him, hand on his head. "We can leave tonight, John! Right now. You know…" his voice was soft. "I remarried after your mom and I divorced. She's a real nice lady. Loves kids…but she…she couldn't have any of her own. So when I phoned her and said I was bringing you back…. You'll love her, John. And you'll love Arizona. We've got a real nice place."
The boy blinked, trying to processing all these changes. He saw Bridgett standing amidst the adults.
He swallowed. "If…if we have to go…I want Bridgett to come too."
Bridgett blanched, unsure to stay put or run to John. She looked at Mrs. Carter, so hopeful. Tears fell down her face.
"Oh, please! Please, Mrs. Carter. Ma'am. Please! I want to go. Can I?"
Mrs. Carter patted her head and sighed. "Yes. If Mr. Clarkson will have you too. It's a big change from having none to three children."
The man beamed and held his hand out to Bridgett. "Not at all! My wife and I…we always wanted kids, like I said. I knew mine were somewhere, but I had no idea we'd get so lucky. I'd be glad to take her."
"Then consider the paperwork done. She's yours."
Britt was still crouched in front of John. The boy looked back to him. "Then…um…I guess this is goodbye.
"I guess so. Bags are packed and ready to go. Mr. Scanlon will drive you to the airport."
John smiled through the tears and felt Britt's strong arms around him. "You take care of yourself, John. Don't forget us back here, huh?"
"Never! And you…" John pulled away just enough to meet his eyes. "You gotta come and visit us. Okay? You have to."
Britt raised his eyebrows at their father.
"We'd be honored to have ya, Mr. Reid."
Britt nodded. "Then I'll have to get out there as soon as I can."
He reached into his pocket and pulled out…a book. "In the meantime, here's something for that long flight back."
John took it, almost reverently. "The Lone Ranger, by Gaylord Du Bois! You mean…I can have it? It's mine?"
He looked down at it, running his hand of the cover. A choked "Thanks" and one last, crushing hug. Mary did the same. They moved to Casey. John kissed her on the cheek.
"I, um…never told you this. Really only mentioned it, kind of, to Britt, but…. You reminded me so much of our mother. You have no idea how much. She was just as kind and pretty as you. If only she could have had your chances in life…. That's why I didn't mind you holding Mary that day in Britt's office. Because, right then, you were her."
Casey felt tears begin to well. She quickly brushed them away as she hugged him again. "Thank you, John." she whispered into his hair. Clutched Mary and kissed her forehead. They went to Kato last.
"You…you told me how to say buddy in Chinese, but I can't remember what it was."
"That's right. Xiong di."
Kato smiled. "Xiong di."
John hugged him tightly around the middle. "I'll remember that from now on."
John let his sister get to him. Kato whispered something in her ear; something that made her smile and hugged tighter.
"John, Mary! Wait!"
Everyone turned to see Nurse Jennie Cameron pushing the front doors open. John and Mary reached her before she'd even stepped out. Jennie bent to kiss both their heads.
"We're going home, Jennie. My dad, he's come for us-for Bridgett too!"
"That's wonderful!" she brushed hair off his bandage. "You're brave boy, John. I'll miss you. Good luck."
John took Mary by the hand and went to their father. "We should probably go now."
Scanlon left the others to follow the four down the steps to his car. He opened the back door for the children and the front passenger side for the father. Casey's arm slipped around Britt's as the engine started and the car pulled away. He covered her hand.
"Did you put it in there?" she whispered as they all waved goodbye.
The three waved through the back window as they left. John slunk down in his seat and eagerly flipped open the book. Something on the title page caught his eye, however…. He turned back to it, staring. Uncomprehending. Ran a finger over it.
…The Hornet seal. The Hornet seal? The Hornet Seal! What! He clambered to look out the back window again. The figures on the steps were just visible before the car turned the corner. John swallowed, pinched himself-even touched the sticker again. Bridgett and Mary had yet to notice…his father was too busy talking to Scanlon.
But the District Attorney…. He went out of his way to catch the boy's eye. Was that a smile and a wink?
No…no, it can't be. How could it be? Britt Reid was the….? John stopped himself. Thought about it…and the more he thought about it, it made sense. In his mind's eye, he saw Britt's smiling face cover itself with the mask of the Green Hornet. Saw the kindness in the Green Hornet's eyes last night and instead it was Britt looking back at him.
The Lone Ranger's great nephew….
John laughed out loud, clutching the open book to his chest. He kept laughing until tears ran down his face.
That lousy dope!