The Hornet's Girl
Copyrights go to who owns them.
Ok, I've decided to expand my one-shot. I was planning on expanding it anyway but I wanted to see how it would be accepted. This is a rewrite of the one shot I posted up here. I researched Prohibition era Detroit. It was a fascinating colorful era and I'm surprised that it's not really talked about. It wouldn't surprise me that Striker and Trendle were inspired by the events going on in Detroit and created the Hornet because of it.
A crash course and context of 1930's Detroit. It was a major bootlegging point during Prohibition. The Detroit River connects Lake Huron in the west with Lake Erie to the east, a perfect shipping line (it still is one of the busiest waterways in the world). A big chunk of the booze that came from Canada passed through Detroit at one time or another. And it wasn't always by boat. In the wintertime, the Detroit River would freeze over and the rumrunners would actually drive to and from Canada over the ice.
Everyone thinks of Chicago and New York as the dangerous spots during this time. And they were bad. But Detroit's underworld was just as ruthless. A loose confederation of Jewish gangsters (something to keep in mind later) called The Purple Gang ruled the city from roughly 1927-1935. You name it, they did it. Everything from bootlegging to murder. Most famously some of their members were hired out mercenaries during what came to be known as the Dryers and Cleaners War in 1928. By using intimidation, they made sure that union policies were kept.
They more or less scared Al Capone from taking over eastern Michigan (he wanted control of it not just because of its location, but because of the huge population there at the time). The Purple Gang managed to get away with so much because everyone was too scared to stand up.
The gang began imploding after 1931 when the Collingwood Manor massacre happened on September 16th. There was a bookmaking group that got into really deep trouble with the gang. Some upper members decided enough was enough and invited the bookmaking group to a 'peace conference'. It was really an ambush and the unarmed bookmakers were gunned down.
Amazingly, the conspirators were arrested and found guilty of the murders. This struck a huge blow to the gang's power. They weren't invincible anymore and could get charged just like everyone else. The group had completely fractured into obscurity by the mid '30's.
Ok, the history lesson's over. I've pushed the date further back. It's now July 1931, a couple of months before the Collingwood Manor massacre. Britt Reid as the Green Hornet poses as a bootlegger for The Purple Gang, working his way through and trying to bring them down. This is the generation before the television series Green Hornet, that's why Mike and Frank are depicted as younger.
Enjoy and destory (constructive criticism, please).
Seven Minutes in Heaven
July 18th, 1931 was a typical Saturday night at Detroit's Club of the World. And "typical" means "busy". The live band bared a jazz standard through the smoky air. Couples spun fast, their shoes clicking on the worn out 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. It was flowing out of the taps like tomorrow was the end of the world.
"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. Owning and running the Claire Salon got Mom and me so far. There weren't many options available for a 24 year old unmarried woman in Detroit. And Mom and I wouldn't hear of my Uncle Frank helping us. We could take care of ourselves. Now if only my big brother Liam would pass his last year at Flint's GM Institute and get a good career at Ford or the other car companies around Michigan, then I won't have to worry about doing this anymore.
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 Millie go instead?"
"I'll send somebody for your guy. Benny was specific; 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 in the middle 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, don't look so glum. It only lasts for seven minutes 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 with frightened rabbit eyes. That 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. 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. Something about the way he looked at me made me want to run. And I had to play seven minutes 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. Then 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. Nor was I happy that he was making me do this. He knew when he hired me that I wasn't going to give anybody favors and he still betrayed me. 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."
"Quite the kidder, ain't she? Can't help but smile when she jokes," Benny nervously laughed before he frowned. "Cut the wisecracking, Jack. That is unless you want to make your bed in the streets and wait in line at the soup kitchen. It's only seven goddamn minutes! It'll be over before you know it!" he opened the door closest to him. "Now smile, shut the hell up and get in there!" His hand slammed into my back. I stumbled into the backroom.
Benny and Hank tried hard to make the Club of the World a top notch joint. And it was for the most part. But that backroom seriously needed updating. The heady 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 ninety degrees outside, his full suit was hidden under a thick green overcoat, a white silk scarf and black leather gloves. A green fedora sat on his head, hiding thick black hair. 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…for the last couple of years Uncle Frank had made it his goal to capture him, the most wanted criminal in Wayne County, just behind the Purple Gang. 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 up to me. I looked down. 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. "Looks like you've got yourselves a deal." He spoke over my shoulder. The mask distorted his voice into a hollow sound.
"Excellent, Herr Hornet." I saw Mr. Krieger rubbing his hands, a satisfied smile on his face.
"We leave you two lovebirds alone," 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? Not that I had any other choice, I sighed and reconciled myself to it. How did Queen Victoria 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, let's get this over with." The woman mumbled angrily as she unfastened the black choker around her neck. The Hornet cringed. He didn't want to do it anymore than she did. Krieger was up to something and Hornet needed to find out what and why. Also, it could be a setup. Perfect way to catch you with your guard down, literally.
"You don't want to do it, do you?" He asked as he sat down on the bed. Sweat dripped down his face beneath the mask and overcoat. The middle of a Michigan summer and he was bundled up for the winter. God, it was hot. Hornet hoped she wouldn't mistake his sweating for nervousness.
"As long as it keeps a roof over my head, then I do."
Hornet nodded. It had been two years since Wall Street fell apart. Many people were struggling to get by on what little they had. Desperate times called for desperate measures. "Here," he took out a stack of dollar bills held together with a white strip of paper. As Britt Reid, the owner-publisher of The Daily Sentinel, he had plenty of disposable income. Not only did it fund his vigilante activities as the Green Hornet, but it also insured that he didn't need to worry about money, even in these tough times. "For the pleasure of your company."
She looked at him with curious blue eyes. "You aren't going to make me play?" Her voice showed her suspicions. Hornet didn't blame her. Even though he was on the side of law and order, he still was seen as a dangerous racketeer.
"What would be the point of it?" He shrugged his shoulders and put the money next to him.
"Huh," she refastened the choker. "You know, you're a lot more decent than the Sentinel makes you out to be." The Daily Sentinel was called "the most honest paper in Detroit" for good reason. If Hornet had a dollar for every scathing article reporter Mike Axford wrote on him, he'd be richer than the Rockefeller and Ford families put together.
"Don't look at me through rose-colored glasses. I'm not a man you want to anger." He patted the bed beside him. "What's your name?"
"Jack." She sat down, making sure she was several inches away from him. Hornet decided not to mention it. "Jack Scanlon. And yes, it's short for Jacqueline."
"Scanlon?" Hornet felt his eyebrow arch. "Are you related to the assistant D.A.?" Frank Scanlon wasn't just Reid's college friend but the Hornet's confidante in the legal community. He knew Frank was married and had an older brother, but he had never mentioned any other relatives.
"He's my uncle." Jack nervously played with a black chandelier earring. "Well, now what do we do?"
"You're free to go, Miss Scanlon." The Hornet said, passing the stack of bills to me. "I'll handle your boss and the others. Have a good night."
"Thank you, Mr. Hornet." I said, tucking the stack inside my dress bodice. I got up, opened the door and stepped outside.
The others were outside, watching me. I walked past Mr. Krieger. He eyed me suspiciously. I wondered how much he overheard of our conversation. 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.
"So…did you please him like I knew you would?"
"I told you I'm not going to be that girl, Benny. Don't try to force me again unless you want to die." 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.
"Awful fast, weren't you, Herr Hornet?" Krieger looked around the backroom. Hornet had taken care to mess up the bed and make it look like he'd taken advantage. Still, Krieger eyed him suspiciously.
"I'm here for business, Mr. Krieger, not pleasure."
"An enterprising man, I like that." Krieger smiled through slit eyes as Benny came back and closed the door. "Gentlemen, I'll be brief since I'm on a tight schedule. I'm willing to pay both of you handsomely. Five thousand upfront and another ten thousand once we finish."
"And what do we have to do to earn such a generous reward?" Hornet folded his arms across his chest.
"Simple, destroy the Purple Gang." Krieger didn't blink.
Benny scoffed and barked a sharp laugh. "Are you nuts? The cops and Scanlon can't bring them down. What's to say we can?"
"Be quiet, Benny. I want to hear him out." Hornet argued. "That's very kind of you to be sure. But everyone knows that the Purple Gang won't go down without a fight. What makes you think that lowlifes like Benny and me can do it?"
"I have a plan and that's why I need both of you to help me. Both of you are bleeding dry kissing up to them, what with protection fees and serving them at the drop of a hat. Hornet, can you imagine all the people you could provide the rum for? Benny, you can own all the clubs in town, not just this place, how high up on the ladder can you go? Once they're out of the way, how far can you expand your empires?"
Hornet was unnerved. Krieger was persuasive, maybe a little too persuasive. Just like that leader of theirs. The memory of listening to that man's powerful voice on the newsreel echoed in his ears. It didn't matter that Hornet didn't know a word of German. The man would tell the crowd to jump and they'd say "How high."
Before they could say more, Kato opened the door and hurried in. "The G-men are on their way." Damn it, the Hornet cursed silently.
"Raids," Benny groaned. "We'll have to finish this another day. Find somewhere to hide, quickly!"
"Let's go," Hornet put a hand in his pocket, where his gas gun was lying. He and Kato hurried out of the room. At the end of the hallway was the changing room, where Benny had let them in earlier.
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 was sitting on my lap. 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 airily. 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. 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 had 2 sides, turning around like the lazy-susans in your kitchen. I hurriedly put my drink on the other side, turned it around and relocked just in time. 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. Or as Grandmother Zipporah would say, "a proper boy any mother would want". 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 narrowed. 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'm so sorry about that." I put on an apologetic smile.
"Well, since you put it that way," he relaxed and even gave a sheepish smile. "Just be careful next time." He turned around. "Hey Chief, there's nothing important here." I waited until he was gone before closing the door.
By this time, the Hornet and Kato had managed to get out of the stuffy closet. Hornet was glad when he heard the policeman saying that he was leaving. He thought he was going to suffocate. "Are you ok?" Kato asked.
"Yeah. Is there another way out of here?" The Hornet asked Jack.
"The employee entrance, this way," Jack 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. She pushed the painting up and checked through the peephole. After a few seconds, she pushed down the painting, opened the switchbox and turned the doorknob.
The hot July wind whistled through the alley. They were too far away from the river and the lake to benefit from the breezes that constantly blow over them. "I'm sorry but you two are on your own from here on out." Jack apologized.
"That's fine. We should be able to reach the Black Beauty from here." Kato said.
The two men stepped outside. But something was bothering the Hornet. "Miss Scanlon," he stopped and faced Jack. "Why are you helping us? I doubt your uncle is going to be pleased with you when he learns of this." Of course, he knew Frank wasn't going to be upset if Hornet got away. If anything, he would be pleased beyond all belief that his friends and allies had gotten away.
Jack thought for a moment before answering. "For the same reason you didn't take advantage of me in the backroom earlier."
He nodded, feeling a smile form underneath the mask. "Thank you, Miss Scanlon. Let's roll," the Hornet said to Kato. The two ran down the alleyway and faded into the dark streets of Detroit.