Settling the Score
"There's no escape, Donnie. The door locked when I pushed it closed." Jones shrugged his shoulders.
"Jones," I coughed. "Are you out of your freaking mind?"
"I'm not going to jail, Donnie." His nonchalant attitude boarded on callousness. "I'll never be able to practice again. What's the point of living if you can't do what you love?"
"You should've thought of that before you made that deal with the devil!" Mike sputtered in-between coughs.
"Mike, you're not helping." My eyes burned. "Your gambling addiction came back. Wilbur tried to help you."
"I'm in too far." Jones held back his coughs. "Manuel's going to skin me. He threatened so when I tried to back out during the escape attempt. Said that my inability to practice would be the least of my problems if I didn't help."
"Manuel just got caught. He'll never bother you again. My uncle will make sure of that." My vision was swimming. I was beginning to get a headache. Mike's coughs were now few and far between. We were being poisoned by noxious smoke. Time was running out.
"My life's over Donnie!" Jones shouted. "I've lost everything!"
"Not everything," I struggled to keep my balance. My lungs craved fresh air and I felt sick to my stomach. "It's not too late. It's never too late. You don't want to kill, Jones. I about lost my mind when I killed someone last night and that was in self-defense. I'm never going to forget those frightened eyes, Jones! They'll haunt you forever! Please…let us out of here!"
Silence. I lay down. It's not the fire itself that kills the most people. It's the smoke. The closer I was to the ground, the higher chance I had of survival. I could barely see and was lightheaded. My eyes were heavy. I wanted to sleep. No! I dug up every inch of resolve. You're NOT going to die Donnie!
"I never told you this Donnie, but you were always my favorite." I felt Jones' figure kneel beside me and roll me on my back. "You're not going to suffer." Thank God, I thought gratefully. We're going to get out of here. Then I heard the loud click of a syringe being uncapped. "Don't worry. It's fast acting. It'll be over before I'm done." What was he…? I saw a needle coming at my neck.
"No!" I screamed, punching him. His arms flew back. I grabbed his wrists and fought to keep them away from me. After everything I had been through, I wasn't going to let him win! Jones pushed hard against my hands, trying to get the needle close to me. "Jones, you can die if you want. But Mike and I aren't going with you!" We rolled over. I had to get that syringe out of his hand. Pulling up his right hand, I slammed it hard against the concrete floor.
"Argh!" Jones yelled. I heard clattering as the loaded syringe rolled away. Before I could plan my next move, Jones managed to get out of my grip and pushed me backwards.
Although the sleeping bag I had landed on cushioned some of the fall, I could still hear my head smack against the concrete floor. "Donnie!" Mike coughed. What little vision I had left was dancing in front of me and my ears were ringing. I could hear Jones cough as he was feeling for the syringe on his hands on knees. I had to take him out! My hands felt around. I needed some kind of weapon. My hands touched cold metal. It was the oxygen tank. Perfect! I grabbed the heavy green canister just as Jones returned. He had found the syringe.
"Stop fighting Donnie, you're only making this harder for yourself." Jones shuffled over on his knees. I waited until he got close enough. Now! I aimed the bottom of the tank at his face and thrust it into his face. Bones popped and the canister throbbed as it made contact. Jones fell back. He didn't move again. Just to be on the safe side, I took the syringe and bent the metal needle against the floor. It bent, now completely useless. Was he dead? No, I don't have time to check.
I had to make sure Mike had a chance.
Hornet pushed the supply door open, followed closely behind by Kato and Frank. At the other end of the long hallway, sitting in a hard metal chair was…"Casey!" He ran over. Her foot was resting on a folded up sweatshirt, the dark blue and gold S.U.G. logo blared out against the white. "Are you ok?"
"Yeah, but Donnie's not." She struggled to keep her voice level. "I fell and sprained my ankle. She helped me out of there and went back to find Mike and O'Connor. I heard a heavy door slam shut in there."
"How long ago was this?" Frank asked.
"I don't know. But I don't have a good feeling about it. You need to get them out of there!"
"Frank, get Casey down to the emergency room. Find Bruce and Van and tell them that we may have injured in the Tombs." Hornet ordered. Frank helped Casey stand up and they hobbled down the hall. "Let's go, Kato!" He ordered as he turned on a flashlight.
They descended into the dark bunker. No wonder they called it the Tombs, Hornet thought nervously as he scanned the area. There was nothing except a long hallway on the other side. They ran towards it. As they reached the entrace, there was the thick smell of burning charcoal. There was a closed door at the other end of the hallway. Thick smoke rolled through the cracks. It was cool to the touch. "Donnie?" He called out as he tried to open it. It was locked. There was no response. Oh no…"Find a fire extinguisher!" Kato didn't need to be told. He was already heading back to Ward F to get one.
Hornet extended the Sting and turned it on. Turning off the safety, he aimed it at the door and pressed the trigger. Seconds passsed slowly as the frequency device warmed up. The door began to rattle. Hang on Donnie, we're here. He kept repeating to himself as he fought to keep the Sting from flying out of his hands. Don't give up now.
I can hear Mike's breathing through the oxygen mask. He's out cold but should be ok. Hopefully Hornet will be here soon. My headache is worse. My eyes are so watery that I can't see. I know I should try to find some way out. But I can't. I'm so tired…I want to sleep…no Donnie, don't…you do and you won't wake up. My eyes hurt. Let me close them for just a few minutes. There, that's better, they don't hurt as bad. Stay awake. Help's coming. My breathing is slowing down…no…I'm so tired. I'm warm. I must be back at Uncle Frank's house, warm under the blankets on my bed.
The door's beginning to rattle. That's got to be Uncle Frank coming to wake me up. Any minute now and I'll soon hear my annoying parrot imitating him, telling me to get up. "Let me sleep, Hippo." I mumble and pass out.
BANG! The door flies open and Hornet folds up the Sting. Thick black smoke makes it impossible to see and hurts his eyes. Hornet covers his mouth and nose with his hand and goes in. Crouching down, he feels around, trying to find somebody. He feels a body, still warm. Grabbing the tied up ankles, Hornet pulls him out. Once out in the main bunker, he takes deep breaths of fresh air and looks down at who he saved.
It's Mike, passed out and tied up. An oxygen mask is fastened around his face, connected to a green oxygen canister. Kato runs back, having found a fire extinguisher. He hurries into the little room again, followed by the sound of spraying foam. Hornet returns to the room, taking another deep breath before going in. He finds another foot. Again, it's warm. Grabbing both feet, he drags them out. The smoke stops rising. Kato must've put the fire out.
"Make sure everyone's out." Kato says between coughs. "I'll take him."
"Do that," Hornet coughs as he crawls on the ground. He has to close his eyes, lest they burn. Come on, Reid, he tells himself as he feels along the floor. The room can't be too big. Finding the wall's edge, he follows along it, establishing a border. Seconds tick into minutes. Where is she? His hand bumps into something. It's a bunch of hair. Is it…? Hornet continues feeling around the mass of hair until he feels a familiar hairclip holding it up. "It's ok, Donnie we're here." He says aloud as he scoops Donnie up and hurries out into fresh air.
Once out, Hornet gulps down air greedily. Mike and Kato are gone. He can see the figures of Kato, Bruce and Van by a gurney at the entrance to the Tombs. He can just make out Mike lying on it. There are cut loops of rope on the floor. Kato must've cut Mike loose. On the ground is Jones O'Connor, his bloody nose flattened. His arms are crossed over his chest and his eyes are closed. He's dead then. And Donnie...?
He hears a soft moan and feels something tightly grip his overcoat. Could it...? Looking down, he sees Donnie's hand clenched around a handful of his coat. Her chest slowly rises and falls. She's alive. Hornet begins walking to the other end of the Tombs. The fluorescent lights of the hallway is blinding. As his eyes adjust, he sees an empty gurney.
Hornet carefully lays Donnie on the waiting gurney. He gently pulls her fingers off his overcoat. A bunch of hair falls over her face. He brushes it out of the way. "Is she…?" Van asks. She's scared.
"She's breathing. We got here in time. I saw O'Connor back there, is he…?" Hornet looks at Kato.
He grimly nods. Bruce begins wheeling Donnie down the hallway. Mike, the oxygen mask now off his face, loudly coughs and drowsily opens his eyes. "They're in good hands." Van smiles at Hornet.
"Hornet…?" Before he can be stopped, Mike swipes at Hornet's face. The mask goes flying off, clattering as it lands. What just happened, Britt tries putting together what has just happened. Mike's eyes widen in surprise. "Britt…? You're the Hornet?" He shouts.
Kato throws a short and fast punch at Mike's face. His head slumps back, eyes closed. He's out cold. Hopefully he'll think that his seeing Britt as the Hornet is a hallucination when he comes to.
"Here, this fell when he hit you." Bruce says casually to Britt. It's his mask. Britt takes it. They know now. What should he do?
Van nods. "You 2 better get out of here before security comes." She and Bruce smile at him. They're going to keep his secret.
"Thank you," Hornet put his mask back on. "Let's go, Kato." Both of them walk through the storage closet and out to where the Black Beauty's waiting.
BEEP…! BEEP…! BEEP…! I slowly wake up. Where am I? I blink. I'm lying in a bed. Something is beeping loudly next to me. I'm hooked to an Iv drip. Something's clipped on my index finger. I'm at the hospital. How did I get here? The last thing I can remember is going into…now I remember! Somebody must've gotten me out then.
"Hey kiddo," Uncle Frank says next to me. His face is all blurry. I'm not wearing my glasses. He passes them to me. I can see him smile as I slid my glasses on.
"What time is it?" I ask. Light seeps through the slits in the window blinds.
Uncle Frank checks his watch. "Half past 9 in the morning. You were admitted shortly after 11 last night. Do you remember anything?"
"Barely…" I remember seeing Mike on the ground. "Mike and Casey, are they ok?" I ask.
"Both are fine and well. In fact, Mike just got discharged. You hooking him up to that oxygen tank is probably what saved him. That and a guardian Hornet." He smiles at me.
So Britt did come for us last night. He was going to catch… "And Jones?"
Uncle Frank sighs. "He was dead by the time Britt and Kato pulled him out of the room." Jones…my mind slips into memories of med school, back before things got bad. Back when he was a good man and passionate doctor. My thoughts are interrupted by the door opening. "Well, well, well. Aren't you a sight for sore eyes?"
I look up. Britt has come in, carrying a bag from the 24 Hr. Breakfast Bar and a cardboard carrier with two cups of orange juice. I smile, happy to see him. The bruise on his face is lighter and his eye wasn't as swollen. "Hey Frank, why don't you go home and get some rest? I'll stay here with Donnie."
"Sounds good," Uncle Frank stands up. "Stay out of trouble you 2," he leaves the room, closing the door behind him. Britt pulls the attached tray around to us and places the bag and carrier on that.
"What's all this?" I ask as Britt pulls out 2 black carryout containers and plastic utensils.
"I don't think hospital food is the most appetizing stuff in the world." He opens one container. It's fruit salad and bacon. He also passes me some unbuttered toast, wrapped in napkins "That's for you." He opens his, a steaming steak and cheese omelet. "And this is for me."
"Thank you, Britt." I open the container of butter and slather some on a warm piece of toast. "You remembered I can't have eggs." I laugh as I nibble on the still warm toast.
"Hey, the last thing I want right now is to get slapped."
"Are you still mad at me for that?" I swallow some orange juice.
Britt looks at me with mock disbelief. "Donnie Anders, I've been punched, kicked, hit with bomb fragments, tied up and risked smoke inhalation last night to save you. And you think I'm mad at you over a silly little thing like that?"
I giggle. "Always trying to put a smile on my face, aren't you?" Just like Jones…I pause, getting lost in my thoughts again.
"Donnie?" Britt's warm hand folds over mine. "Frank told you about Dr. O'Connor, didn't he?" I nod. "Look, don't blame yourself. You were trying to defend yourself and Mike…"
"It's not that." I look at Britt. "He was a good man once. There was such passion for his work. I just don't understand how somebody good can turn…bad." I can't think of a better word.
Britt nods. "I know." Sadness comes over his face. "I don't get it either. But I'm going to tell you something, you can call it a secret if you want." He leans in close, our foreheads touch. "Dad once told me that if a house burns down, you can do either 1 of 2 things. Wallow in the ashes for all you lost or roll up your sleeves and start rebuilding."
"Wise words." He sinks his fingers into my hair and begins softly rubbing my scalp. I don't know what else to say. "Um, this is where we're supposed to kiss, right?" Great job, Donnie. That was really smooth.
Britt laughs softly. "Are you hinting for one?"
What am I supposed to say? Why can't love come with an instruction manual? "What if we get interrupted again, like the last few times we were this close?"
"Then we'll chase them off together like we've done before. But I'd like one, that is, if you'd like one too."
I pretend to think. "Yes, I'd like one, please." We kiss. My body tenses before relaxing. I'm feeling something and it's not fanfare and fireworks. I rub his bruised face as he bunches my hair in his hand. I like what I'm feeling, but I don't think I'm ready for more yet. We part, looking at each other nervously. "Uh, thank you."
"You're welcome," Britt sighs. "Donnie, I think I should tell you this, but I'm not sure if I want a relationship right now."
Oh boy, what do I do? I wanted to kiss him, not ask that we'd be together. "I'd never ask you to give up Casey. You love her and I can't forgive myself if that happened."
"Yeah, and of course there's the whole 'can't risk my enemies hurting you to get to me,' reason. But…I don't think I'm ready to get into a relationship with anybody yet. And that includes Casey."
That's what it was. I finally get what the feeling is. I'm not ready. "I'm not ready yet, either. I want to get through residency first. I'll be too busy with that and of course, helping the Hornet. But I'll be happy even if we decide to stay friends. I love you, Britt and I want to be part of your life. That is if you want me to be."
"Of course, I do, Donnie. I don't know what I'd do without Casey or you. And I'll always be part of yours." He kisses my forehead one last time before changing the subject. "Breakfast is getting cold, might as well finish eating."
I'm discharged in the late afternoon. Britt and Kato take me home. When we open the front door of the apartment, we see Casey arranging a bright bouquet of daisies in a lime green and white polka-dot vase on the kitchen table. She's sitting while she's arranging them. Her foot is propped up on another chair. "Welcome home!" Casey smiles when she sees me. "Just in time too, Hippo's been calling for you like crazy."
"Donnie! Donnie! Donnie!" Right on cue, the parrot cries in sing-song fashion from my room.
"He most certainly is," Britt says with a wry smile. He gently kisses Casey on the forehead.
"What's all this for?" I ask.
"I brought them." Mike? I look into the living area. He's sitting on the sofa, nervously turning his fedora in his hands. He stands up when he sees us enter. "I wanted to say thank you, Donnie, for helping me back there. One of the docs told me that you got me some oxygen and bought me some time until we were found."
"That's sweet of you." It is sweet, who knew that he had it in him? Casey, Kato and Britt share a secret smile. They're used to this. "I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, Mr. Axford, it's no big deal."
"Please call me Mike. Mr. Axford's my father and he's been dead these past 10 years." Mike shrugs his shoulders. "God Lord, it's hard to believe that a minor amount of charcoal can cause some major problems. I woke up with a headache and I still have it. Had some really weird dreams too…"
"That's not unusual," I say. "Hypoxia, fancy way of saying no oxygen to the brain, can lead to hallucinations."
"They were weird alright. One involved you, Britt."
Britt raises an eyebrow. "Oh yeah, Mike?"
"Yeah, I saw the Green Hornet above me and I swatted at him. His mask fell off and it was you under there. Then I blacked out again."
Casey and Donnie look at Britt out of the corner of their eyes. He didn't tell them about that. He and Kato start laughing. It's contagious. Casey and Donnie can't help but laugh too. Mike smiles too, trying hard to not laugh "I'm being serious!"
Britt looks at a confused Mike. "I believe you, Mike. But you're right, that was a weird one."
"If Britt's the Hornet then I'm Batman." Kato grins.
"Oh great," Mike pulls out his buzzing cell phone. His eyes brighten. Oh boy, Britt thinks. Gumshoe Mike has a lead. "Hey Boss, I got word that the First National Bank was robbed by a loony dressed in purple. I'll go check it out."
"Be careful, Mike." Of course, Mike doesn't listen. He's gone and out the door. Stubborn old goat, Britt chuckles to himself and nods at Kato. They needed to get home as soon as possible.
"I think you 2 know what that means…" Casey smiles at Britt and Kato.
"Hop to it, we'll be here if you need us." Donnie looks at them knowingly.
Britt smiles. Another adventure is going to begin. "Let's roll, Kato."