Ok, this is an idea I was toying around with before I wrote Bad Medicine. Yes, this is set during 1930's Detroit, MI, during the last year of Prohibition (repealed in 1933). This is during the early years of the Hornet, before the beginning of the radio drama. I believe that the Hornet would've established himself as a bootlegger when he started operating. If I remember correctly, due to its location on the Great Lakes System and closeness to Canada, Detroit was one of the major bootlegging points in the country during Prohibition. This is a hybrid of the radio drama and the 1939 serial The Green Hornet.
This probably would've ended up becoming Donnie's intro story, had I not decided to set it during the present day. I've changed some things. Donnie's not a doctor, back then she probably couldn't afford to go to college, let alone med school. Also, she's not Scanlon's goddaughter in this shot but his niece. Finally, her name is Jack. Otherwise, she's still plucky, independent and stubborn. All of this was dancing around in my head before Bad Medicine. Encouraged by EV, again, I thank you, I've decided to post this one shot. I might expand on this story, depending on the reaction this story gets from readers/reviewers. So please, feel free to share constructive criticism. And, as always, enjoy.
Club of the World
July 15th, 1932 was a typical Friday night at Detroit's Club of the World. And "typical" means "busy". The live band blared a jazz standard through the smoky air. Couples spun fast, their shoes clicking on the shiny dance floor. Others sat out at the booths and tables, giggling over glasses of champagne, scotch, and gin. Just because booze was illegal didn't mean that it was despised. Detroit was one of the hotspots of bootlegging.
"Jack, you're such a sweet girl, don't cha know?" My "date" slurred into my ear. I forced a smile as I pushed a lock of short black hair behind my ear. I was his "girl" for the night, a companion provided by the club. Hey, it was the Depression and I had to find some way to help pay the bills. My day job as a hairdresser at the Claire Salon only got me so far. There weren't many options available for a 24 year old unmarried woman in Detroit. And I was certainly too proud to ask my Uncle Frank for help. I could take care of myself.
I squirmed nervously as his hand rubbed on my thigh hiding underneath my buttercup-yellow evening dress. I thought I had made it very clear to him that I wasn't going to anyone's bedroom, least of all his.
"Hey! Jack! Benny wants you in the back!" Hank yelled from the bar. Uh oh, I thought as I looked over at the muscular bald man with a red face. If somebody got called "to the back" it meant the club's owner, Benny, was making a deal. And he needed somebody to "sweeten" said deal, if you get where I'm going.
I carefully brushed my "date's" hand off my thigh. Man, I'm so glad I decided to wear a longer skirt. "I'm kind of busy at the moment. Can't Yvonne or Camille go instead?"
"I'll send somebody for your guy. Benny was specific; he wanted you and nobody else. You need to get back there. Now."
When the bar manager said I had to go, he meant it. Sighing, I stood up. "I'm sorry, darling, I've got to go, but somebody will be joining you shortly." He was too drunk to notice. I made my way back, slipping behind the royal purple curtain that separated the guestrooms from the main club room.
I saw Benny at the end of the dimly lit hallway. The small nervous man resembled Peter Lorre squashed into black trousers and a white coat. He wasn't alone. A small man dressed in black was also with him. He looked like a chauffeur, even wearing the thick goggles and messenger cap. As a result, I couldn't see much of his features. He looked like he was from Asia but I couldn't really tell.
Benny came over to me. "Aw, Jack, you're such a sweetheart…" he cooed as he held up his hand so he could pinch my cheek.
I gripped his fist and stared him down. "Don't call me "sweetheart". Ever…" I groaned. Benny quivered and looked at me with frightened rabbit eyes. The man had the courage of the Cowardly Lion. I thought I heard the chauffeur chuckling.
"You're a fiery one, aren't you?" A soft voice with a light German accent came down the hall. We looked down. Tall and athletic, his dark blonde hair and soft blue eyes made him quite the looker. He wore a light gray suit, a red armband sat proudly on his right forearm. A crooked black cross inside a white circle sat prominently on said armband. It looked familiar but I couldn't remember where I'd seen it.
He smiled politely as he kissed my hand. My smile was frozen as I fought the urge to flinch away. I don't know why, but something about him felt very…off. I was convinced this wasn't somebody to cross. And I had to have a good time with him? "I think he'll be very pleased with her, Herr Benny."
So this wasn't who I was supposed to "entertain". I felt a little relieved before the worry returned. Who was it?
"I offer only the best, Mr. Krieger." Benny eyed me. He wanted to put his arm over my shoulder. One scowl from me convinced him otherwise. He forced a chuckle. "You know how to please the guys; don't you Jack honey…?"
By this point, I was more than a little annoyed. I didn't appreciate Benny's subtle catcalls. At least the chauffeur and Mr. Krieger were being quiet. "Don't push your luck, Benny." I growled. "I'm not that kind of girl, you know that."
"Aint she a kidder? Can't help but smile when she jokes," Benny nervously laughed before he frowned. "Cut the wisecracking, Jack. Unless you want to make your bed in the streets," he opened the door at the end of the hallway. "Now smile, shut the hell up and get in there!" His hand slammed into my back. I stumbled into the room.
Benny and Hank tried hard to make the Club of the World a top notch joint. For the most part, it was. But they really needed to update that backroom. The dense smell of cheap incense and tobacco smoke made me cough. Lit candles sat around, more for cutting costs than setting a romantic mood. A king-size bed reigned in the back. At least Hank made sure fresh sheets were put on it after each time the backroom was used.
My "guest" was standing in front of the bed. Despite it being well over 90 degrees outside, his full suit was hidden under a thick green overcoat, a matching fedora, a white silk scarf and black leather gloves. And he was…faceless. I squinted, trying figure out how he did this. As my eyes adjusted, I could make out something that looked like a green surgeon's mask. Like the bandits in the Western serials, he had tied it over his nose and mouth, leaving only his eyes exposed. Stitched into the material was a white hornet in midflight.
"Green Hornet…" Oh my God…Uncle Frank had made his entire career around catching this guy, the most wanted criminal in Wayne County for the past couple of years. I swallowed. He wasn't going to find me scared. I clenched my fists, determined to keep from shaking. My nails cut into my palms.
He slowly walked to me. I looked down as he pushed a stray lock of hair back. A gloved hand cupped my chin and lightly pushed it up. I saw the deep green eyes studying me carefully. I had expected to feel like a champion horse on the auction block. Instead, he was being…gentle. Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad after all. "You've got taste. I have a thing for blue-eyed girls." He spoke over my shoulder. The mask distorted his voice until it sounded hollow. "Looks like you've got yourselves a deal."
"Excellent, Herr Hornet." I saw Mr. Krieger rubbing his hands, a satisfied smile on his face.
"We'll let you lovebirds be," Benny snickered before closing the door. I now was alone in the darkened room with the Hornet.
We were quiet for a couple of moments. I don't know who was more nervous. He didn't move and his eyes kept watching me. I was unable to read him. Oh why did I agree to take this job…I cursed silently. Was losing my dignity really worth a weekly paycheck and the occasional gifts from the men I kept company with? I decided that it was. How did that lady put it when her daughter asked what to expect on her wedding night? Close your eyes and think of England? Good thing I've got an active imagination, I thought.
"Alright, might as well get it over with." I grumbled as I fumbled with my black choker.
"You don't want to do it, don't you?" He asked, sitting down on the bed. The words didn't surprise me as much as his tone of voice. Instead of stating the obvious, he was politely and honestly asking me.
"I have to because it's the only thing that's pretty much keeping me fed and off the streets." I responded, unsure what he had planned.
"Here," he put his hand into his overcoat pocket and pulled out a stack of bills held together by a slip of white paper. "For your time,"
I looked at him, wondering what tricks were coming with this. "You're not going to force me?"
"What would be the point of it?" He shrugged his shoulders, putting the money next to him on the bed.
"Huh," I refastened the choker. "You know, you're a lot more decent than I expected." I was thinking of the articles from The Daily Sentinel, called "the most honest newspaper in Detroit". If I had a dollar for every scathing article reporter Mike Axford's written about the Hornet, I could buy the club out from Benny and still have enough to retire.
"Don't view me through rosy-colored glasses. I'm not somebody to anger." Hornet patted next to the money, observing me expectantly. "What's your name?"
I sat down beside him, leaving a hand span of space between him and me. If he noticed or cared that I wanted to stay away from him, he didn't show it. "Jack Scanlon, and yes, its short for Jacqueline."
"Scanlon?" His dark eyebrow arched. "I know the D.A.'s married, but I wasn't aware he had a daughter."
"I'm his niece," he nodded. An awkward pause ensued before I decided to break it. "Is there anything else I can do?" I asked as I tucked the money into the bodice of my dress. I hoped not.
"No thank you, Miss Scanlon. You may go." He shook his head. The doorknob twisted, clicking open. Hornet and I looked to see who was interrupting.
It was Mr. Krieger. "Herr Hornet, since you no longer need the fraulein's services, we really do need to discuss the final arrangements." They must've overheard us then.
"Of course," Hornet looked at me and shook my hand. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Scanlon."
"Thank you, you too," I said, standing up and walking past Mr. Krieger. He eyed me suspiciously. I shivered as I went into the hallway and turned towards the club's main room.
"Well," Benny asked nervously as he tailed me. "How did it go?"
"It went well," I wasn't lying. Nothing bad had happened and I had even gotten some cash. I decided to let his insipid mind fill in the blanks.
"Are you sure, because you sounded kinda anxious to get out of there…?"
"Didn't your mama ever teach you that it's rude to listen to others' conversation?" I barked at him. He flinched back. Good, I thought irritably, he won't be bugging me for a while. Ugh, my throat was parched. "If anybody asks, I'll be in the changing room."
"Why're you going there? Your shift doesn't end for a few more hours." He put up a weak front. Benny was so easy to walk all over. Sometimes, I felt a little guilty for being mean, but then again, I considered it compensation for having to work for a little worm like him.
"I need a drink." I passed through the curtain.
Aw, this is much better, I thought as I propped my feet up on the ottoman and took a nip of spiced rum. This was the real stuff too. Benny must've spent an arm and a leg for it. I curled against the puffy back of the arm chair, my open copy of Pride and Prejudice next to me. I took a deep breath. There's something wonderful about the smell of old perfume and laundry detergent of the changing room. Call it weird but it's soothing. The light-bulbs lining the makeup mirrors flickered. Dust motes danced around the hanging costumes. It was a great place to relax. And I had it all to myself.
Then I heard it. The intercom quietly clicked on and the trumpet wailed a few notes in a flighty tone. Aw man, I got up and hurried to the medicine cabinet. We were having a surprise visit from the G-men. And they weren't as easy to fool or bribe as the local cops. The band is supposed to play the first few notes of the song that's about a bumblebee when there's a raid going. Anyway, that's our cue to hide everything and anything that can bring the club down. Like illegal booze.
I pressed the hidden button underneath the cabinet, unlocking the swivel. The cabinet was double-sided, turning around like the lazy-susans in your kitchen. I hurriedly put my drink on the other side, turned it around and relocked it. The door suddenly opened.
"Oh my…!" I about jumped out of my skin when I saw that it was the Green Hornet and the chauffeur from earlier. The chauffeur hurriedly closed the door behind them. Footsteps came close. "Quick, in here!" I pushed a rack of dresses back and opened the storage closet door that had been hidden behind said rack. They rushed inside among the skimpy showgirl outfits and closed the door. I pushed the costumes back just as the door leading into the changing room opened.
It wasn't a G-man, just a tall and skinny beanpole of a policeman. He was a rookie by the looks of his wide green eyes and neatly trimmed blonde hair. Perfect. Easy pickings, I thought as I walked over to him. "Honey, what's the big rush for?"
"Um, ma'am, have you, uh, seen the Green Hornet and his muscle?" He was nervous. Obviously this was his first run. "They were seen running down this hallway."
"I'm afraid you'll be wasting your time, but be my guest, dear." I swept my arm around the room, inviting him inside to look. I wasn't too worried. The closet door was well hidden behind the costumes and the two men hiding back there were smart enough to stay quiet until I had convinced him to leave.
"You've been drinking rum, haven't you?" The green eyes narrow. Whoops. He must've smelled it on my breath. Now I'm in trouble…what do I do?
I suddenly remembered a magazine ad that I had seen in the Claire Salon. A bright red apple with the words Silver Horse Orchards underneath it, it'll have to do. "Oh, yes. I had dinner with my uncle about half-an-hour ago. I was drinking dry apple cider and I accidentally got my glass mixed up with his. I didn't know it was spiced rum until I took a sip. If you've seen the stuff, it looks just like cider. I chewed him out pretty good for having that stuff." I put on an apologetic smile.
"Good thing you did," he relaxed and even gave a sheepish smile. "Just be careful next time." He turned around. "Hey Chief, there's nothing important here." I wait until he's gone before closing the door.
By this time, the Hornet and his chauffeur have managed to get out of the closet. "He fell for it, hook, line and sinker," I said with a wry smile, why didn't I become an actress?
"Is there another way out of here?" The Hornet asked.
"The employee entrance, this way," I led them to the other side of the changing room. The door was disguised as a wall, a painting and light switchbox hiding the peephole and doorknob. I pushed the painting up and checked through the peephole. Nobody was out in the dark alley. Perfect, I thought as I pushed down the painting, opened the switchbox and turned the doorknob.
The hot July wind whistled through the alley. We were too far away from the river and the lake to benefit from the breezes that constantly blow over them. "I'm sorry but both of you are on your own from here on out." I apologized.
"That's fine. We should be able to reach the Black Beauty from here." The chauffeur said.
They stepped outside. "Miss Scanlon," the Hornet stopped and faced me. "Why are you helping us? I don't think your uncle is going to be very pleased with you when he learns of this."
I tried to think for an answer. He was right about my Uncle Frank. Then I thought of how kind the racketeer was to me earlier. "For the same reason you didn't take advantage in the backroom." I know it's a crazy answer, but it was the best I could come up with at the time.
He nodded. I wondered if he was smiling under that surgeon's mask of his. "Thank you, Miss Scanlon. Let's roll," the Hornet said to the chauffeur. I watched as they ran down the alleyway and faded into the dark streets of Detroit.
Note: I have expanded this story in the new story called The Hornet's Girl.