Friday, May 05, 2006

Return of the Green Hornet

Copyright 2006 Terry F. Phillips Sr.

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Return of the Green Hornet
Fan Fiction by Terry Franklin Phillips Sr.

"There you, are," Mr. Stryker. "Box 5551210. That's the safety deposit box that matches your key."
"Thank you."
Robert Stryker set the box down on the table in the small cubicle and flipped open the end nearest him. The lid opened silently. Inside the box were just three documents -- a deed and two automobile keys. He looked briefly at the deed to find it was for a condominium and then looked at the two keys. They were clearly for two different automobiles, both Ford products, he guessed. He held the keys up to the light and compared the way they were cut, obviously not the same.
He stuffed the deed back into the box, noting the address in his electronic organizer, but put the keys in his pocket.
Outside the bank, he decided to return to the office.
The Daily Sentinel was just a few blocks from the bank. Case decided to enjoy the walk on this fine spring day. He ignored the traffic noises and smell. How much different this was from the Western ranch where he had grown up.
In the newspaper's lobby, he nodded to the pretty receptionist who smiled back and took the elevator to the penthouse office suite.
He looked again at the name plate on the door. It said "publisher," but he found it puzzling that he should be chosen to take the mantle of this great metropolitan newspaper with so little experience. That was just one of the puzzles he had faced since arriving in town.
At his desk he pizked up the telephone an dialed Lenore Case's extension.
"Miss Case, would you come in here, please?"
The door opened a minute or so later and he was greeted by another feminine smile. This one, however, was on the face of a matronly lady old enough to have children, perhaps grandchildren, his age.
She sat pertly on the chair facing his desk. Stryker couldn't help but think she must have been quite a looker in her day.
"Miss Case, I went to the bank and used the key you gave me. There were three items in the box."
"A deed and two automobile keys," she said, interrupting him.
"Yes. But I find my puzzles multiplying."
She looked at him quizzedly.
"You knew what would be in that safety deposit box."
She nodded.
"OK, what are they? I mean, what do the keys open?"
"The deed is to a condominium Mr. Reed, the former publisher of The Daily Sentinel, owned before he became ill and died. You will have to ask his valet, Kato, about the automobile keys. I know Mr. Reed owned a convertible that he never sold. Perhaps the keys are to that automobile."
"The keys are to two automobiles, Miss Case," Stryker said.
Insitead of the reaction he expected, Miss Case just smiled with an attitude of "I'm one up on you," and said, "Perhaps Kato can help you with that, too.
"Is there anything else, Mr. Stryker?"
"Not right now. Thank you."
"I don't need a valet," Stryker said, knowing no one could hear him but the four walls. On one of those walls was a painting. It was a painting he liked but which seemed out of place in the office of a newspaper publisher. The painting seemed very old. It depicted a masked cowboy on a white horse. The horse was rearing up on two feet.
Stryker thought it a cowboy, though he looked more like an old west law enforcement officer of some sort. Maybe a Texas Ranger out of uniform. But why the mask?
He thought the painting might be nothing more than a reminder of the newspaper's role over the centuries -- an agent of fairness and justice. But why the mask?
Stryker tried to tackel some of the paperwork on his desk. Miss Case said it would help him understand the workings of The Sentinel, but it was obvious she was the real administrator of the day-to-day operation of the newspaper.
Soon, he decided to take the afternoon off, visit the condo left to him and, perhaps, fire a valet he didn't need.

The taxi pulled into the drive in front of the condo at the address on the deed.
Stryker paid the cabbie and looked the home over. Then, he rang the bell at the door.
A man dressed in a white coat quickly answered.
"Come in, Mr. Stryker, I've been expecting you."
Stryker looked over the valet after he had stepped into the house. The man was obviously oriental -- hece the name Kato. Although his gray hair and a few facial lines betrayed age, his body seemed fit and he moved with a fluidity that betrayed physical fitness.
"Would you like somethign to drink?"
"Just a Coke or maybe iced tea with lemon and artificial sweetener," Stryker said, sitting on a sofa across from a fireplace.
The valet bowed slightly and left the room.
He seemed nice enough. It was too bad Stryker would have to fire an old man like that. Maybe, if they changed his duties, he could keep him on. With the salary he was being paid by the newspaper, he could certainly afford it.
"Here you are, Mr. Stryker."
The valet took a glass from the siler tray he was carrying and handed it to the young publisher.
"Is there anything else?"
"Yes, Kato, -- first, please sit down."
Kato took a seat near the sofa and waited for Stryker to speak.
"Kato, I went to the bank today and found two automobile keys in the safe deposit box."
"Mr. Reed had a convertible he was very fond of. It was made in the mid-60s."
"There were two keys, Kato. And they don't match."
Kato moved like lightning, despite his age. A kick exerted its maximum force in the spot where Stryker's face would have been, but he had moved.
The next half minute or so was a ballet of fighting moves. It was obvious to Stryker that Kato was holding back as he used feet and hands to try to defeat his new employer.
But Stryker did very well.
Soon, Kato stopped, bowed, and grinned at Stryker very satisfied.
"You are the genuine article," he said.
"Excuse me?"
"I had to be sure you were who you said you were. Miss Case was right. You have been well trained."
"Do you want to explain to me why I shouldn't call 911 and have you arrested?" Stryker said, pulling his cell phone from an inner pocket of his coat and flipping it open.
"Why do you think you were chosen to be publisher of Daily Sentinel when youhave virtually no experience in newspapers?" Kato asked, dropping his humble valet personna.
"How would you know anything about me?"
"You graduated from college, began serving a tour of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. You were in Iraq for a tour of duty. You thought about re-enlisting but changed your mind when out of nowhere you received an offer to become publisher of The Daily Sentinel. Am I right, so far?"
The oriental fastened his eyes on Stryker, alsmost as if mesermizing him.
"OK, you've got me," Stryker said. "Now, can you answer some questions for me? Let's start with the big one first. How did I get this job? You seem to have all the answers."
Kato began walking in front of the couch as Stryker took his seat and began sipping his drink.
"Excuse me, would you like a drink. Would you get it or shall I serve you?"
"Nothing, right now," Kato said, smirking."Your job.
"You were chosen by Miss Case and myself after Mr. Reid's death. He had been ill for quite a while and though he wanted us to replace him, we couldn't do it until after he had died.
"You were chosen because our connections seemed to indicate you have the talents to do the job we need to do."
"How would you know if I could be a publisher or not?" Stryker decided to play along, though he honestly didn't know whether to believe Kato or not.
"Not that job!" Kato said with a touch of disgust in his voice."That is only window dressing."
"Oh? So, what, pray tell, is my real job?"
"The answer to that is found in the two keys you found in the bank box. May I see them please?
"Follow me," Kato said as he started across the room. Stryker followed.

Kato led Stryker to a garage in the condominium. Setting there was a beautiful 40-year-old Chrysler convertible.
"Wow," Stryker said with admiration. "This is a honey! I think I'll --"
Kato turned the nut driver on a ratchel wrench hanging on a peg board in the immaculate garage. Stryker jumped back as clamps rose from the floor and attached themselves to the axles of the convertible. Immediately the garage was bathed in green light and the floor beneath the car swiveled. As it did so, the convertible swung beneath the floor and in its place a black sedan of no obvious make rose from the floor ans swung upright into place.
"This is the car that goes with the second key," Kato said.
Stryker stared, unable to talk for a moment.
Kato swung the driver's side rear door open and motioned for Stryker ro enter.
Inside, he found a green mask, green hat and a green topcoat. On the mask was the drawing of an insect that looked at first like a bee and then, he thought, wait, this is a hornet. A green hornet!
"OK," Stryker said, wonderinf he could get past Kato and out of the house. "I know what this is. When I was a kid, we read news stories about the Green Hornet. Now, I know where he lives, or where his car is stored. Do you plan to kill me?"
"Now, Mr. Stryker, we know you better than that. Guess again."
"OK, so I'm supposed to become the Green Hornet? Well I won't do it."
He shut the door of the car and stepped back as Kato went to peg board and once again caused the floor to flip and the convertible to re-emerge while the black car swung underground.
"Let's go back into the house where we can talk more comfortably," Kato said.
In the living room, Kato made a telephone call, talking in low tones so he might not be overheard by his new boss.
He went into the kitchen and returned with two large glasses of iced tea with lemon.
"You think Green Hornet was a criminal?" Kato said, after passing one of the drinks to Stryker.
"That's what I've been told, yes."
"Not true," Kato said. "Mrs. Reid let the underworld think so. He even had Mike Axford and the other Sentinel reporters fooled."
For the next few minutes, Kato told Stryker the story of how Britt Reid decided to follow in the footsteps of his famous ancestor, a Texas Ranger shot and left for dead by the Cavendish outlaw gang.
"Then, that answers another question. The masked man astride the white horse in the painting in my office," Stryker said.
"He was known as the Lone Ranger," Kato said, mentally noting this was the first time Stryker had used a personal pronoun indicating ownership of any of the opportunity being given him.
At that moment, the fireplace slid upward revealing a man wearing black horn rim glasses stepping down a staircase into the living room. The fireplace slid back into place when he was in the room.
"Mr. Stryker, meet Frank Scanlon, district attorney."
"Former district attorney," Scanlon corrected Kato while extending his hand to Stryker who had jumped up when the fireplace moved. "I've heard a lot about you, Mr. Stryker. Welcome."
Stryker shook hands, noting the thick ear pieces on the glasses.
Scanlon grinned and removed them from his face.
"Here, try them on," Scanlon said. "Just don't try to walk. They are specially made prescirption glasses."
Stryker looked at Kato and then put the glasses on his head. He saw Kato reach into his pocket and then heard a buzzing sound, like a bee or a hornet.
"A signalling device," Stryker smiled. "Very clever" and handed the glasses back to Scanlon.
"Have a seat, Mr. Scanlon," Stryker said. "Let's talk."
The mood had changed tremendously from the caution Stryker had exhibited when he first entered the house. Now the three men laughed and visited, quite at ease with one another.
"So, I take it, you worked -- covertly -- with Reid, helping him avoid the police."
"Of course," Scanlon said. "After all, he was on our side.
"Mr. Stryker, you are a very young man, but surely you must have learned by now that sometimes agents of good must operate outside the law."
"That sounds like 'Mission Impossible' where the agency disavows any knowledge of the agent's existence."
"Exactly. Before I retired, there were many times the police's hands were tied. Sometimes through badly written laws, sometimes through ineptitude and yes, admittedly, we had some crooked cops. Britt Reid made a real difference as The Green Hornet, and we believe you can, too."
Stryker was sold. He believed he had made a difference in Iraq and now, with the help of his new friends, he was prepared to fight those who would corrupt America.
"I can't wait to get started," he said, raising his glass in a toast. Kato and Scanlon joined him.