Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Hornet's Sting




Some time ago I created a spec Green Hornet story for a small comics publisher. The company had been creating comics and pulp prose books for the character for some time at that point. Unfortunately, just before the release of the recent film version of The Green Hornet, the company lost the property to another publisher and my story was left out in the cold. Since the piece is very character specific, there’s little chance of ever placing it elsewhere. Therefore, I’ve decided to present it here as fan fiction.

AIKO
A Green Hornet Adventure
By Sam Agro
August 16, 2009

Aiko Shimizu winced as the sweaty man once again struck Kaori Fuchida hard across the face. All the other girls winced with her. Poor Kaori’s cheeks and forehead were swollen from the terrible blows she had endured. A single scarlet tear of blood wept from a small cut over Kaori’s left eye. She sobbed quietly. The sweaty man paused the beating for a moment, and took a handkerchief out of his pocket to mop down his glistening forehead. It was then that Kazumi Kitano finally spoke.
“This woman has done nothing wrong.”
Kitano spoke calmly, with no ascertainable emotion. His voice was almost soothing. Kitano stood impassively near the door of the room, hands clasped behind his back. He wore a business suit, and his graying hair and beard were neatly trimmed in the American style, but to Aiko it seemed that he was wearing the bright robes and long whiskers of an aging Japanese emperor. His bearing was regal, his attitude one of absolute command.
“She has done nothing to deserve this beating,” Kitano continued, “Save that she is the least attractive among you, and I wish her to be beaten.”
Moments ago the sweaty man and a second, smaller man had come for them. They’d removed Aiko and the five other girls from their locked cubicle, ushered them into this barren, cinderblock room and lined them up against the wall. The wall was icy and damp against Aiko’s skin, and she had shivered uncontrollably. At a single nod from Kazumi Kitano, the two men had dragged Kaori from the line. The small man held her arms and the large, sweaty man had begun the beating.
 “Imagine what I would do to you if you should somehow displease me,” Kitano concluded.
He then turned and exited the room with serene composure. The sweaty man gently took hold of Kaori’s damaged face. He smiled a hungry, animal smile, as his eyes wandered down the length of her supple young body. With snapped orders, the short man ushered Aiko and the remaining girls out of the room. As the door closed behind them, they could hear Kaori mewling pitifully in panic and disgust.           
Although her back was no longer against the damp cinderblock wall, Aiko felt she would never stop shivering.

District attorney Frank Scanlon’s dour features were more grim than usual. Britt Reid observed this from a worn leather chair as Scanlon stood, looking out the window of his office at the bustling streets of Detroit. To Britt’s left stood Kato. He too had been offered a chair, but as always, he remained standing. Outwardly, Kato appeared completely relaxed, but he was always ready to leap instantly into fierce action.
“Two of my best undercover men have disappeared,” Scanlon finally said, “I think it’s safe to assume they’re dead.” He turned away from the window then and looked soberly back at Britt.
“They were infiltrating the Kitano gang?” Britt asked.
“Yes,” Scanlon replied, “the gang is new to the city, but they seem to know a cop when they see one.”
Kato spoke then. “They are Yakuza, a very old, very evil organization. It would be nearly impossible for someone who does not know their traditions to pass as one of them.”
Scanlon nodded, and finally took a seat behind his desk, “The Kitano gang are involved in a number of criminal enterprises, but we suspect they are also importing young Asian women to sell into sexual slavery. I won’t have that in my city.”
Britt Reid stood, his tall, muscular figure a rigid wall, his handsome face a mask of quiet resolve. “The Green Hornet will pay a little visit to this Kitano. If he’s doing what you say he is, we’ll put a stop to it.”

Kazumi Kitano stepped lightly from his steaming bath. The two women attending him dried his body with large, soft towels. Involuntarily, they stared at Kitano’s vast, elaborate Irezumi tattoo. His body was almost completely covered with a terrible looking dragon. They were relieved to dress him and cover the intimidating image.
Kitano emerged from his chambers and passed between his bodyguards. They fell in step behind him as he walked. Taku, the sweaty one, was not too intelligent, but he was large, powerful and dangerous. Haru, though smaller, was infinitely more deadly, trained in the arts of fist and sword. Kitano had nicknamed them Rhinoceros and Crocodile.
Kitano entered the offices of the large warehouse he had renovated to his purposes. There were also private chambers for he and his bodyguards, large storage areas for the drugs and stolen goods he housed there, and, of course, locked cubicles for his feminine chattel. He had made the office comfortable. Indian rugs covered the cement floor, Japanese paintings adorned the walls, and two antique Katana and a short dagger sat on display in a wooden rack behind his desk.
It was nine o’clock in the evening, the beginning of Kitano’s many nocturnal hours of work. He took reports from his operatives, issued directives, and collected large stacks of money. Near midnight, a commotion rose outside his door. This happened occasionally, but Kitano was unconcerned. Few rivals ever got past his outer guards, and if they did, he knew that Rhinoceros and Crocodile would gladly lay down their lives to protect him.
            Kitano was genuinely alarmed when the two masked men entered his office but his face betrayed no hint of his surprise.
            “Welcome gentlemen, would you care for some tea?”
The taller of the two masked men answered. “Perhaps when our business is concluded Mr. Kitano.”
“I am at a loss gentlemen,” Kitano replied. “Since we have never met, I cannot imagine what business we might have together.”
Again the taller man answered. “Anyone with a criminal enterprise in Detroit must eventually deal with the Green Hornet.”
            Kitano had heard of the Green Hornet, of course, but had come to believe he was a mere legend. A boogeyman conjured to strike fear in the criminal class. Kitano’s sharp eyes flicked past the Green Hornet to his diminutive companion. He knew instantly by his intense bearing that this man was lethal. It seemed the Hornet had a Crocodile of his own.
“I understand you have women for sale. If so, consider me your new partner.” The Hornet said.
“A partner must bring something to the table Mr. Hornet. I can supply the wares, but what do you offer?”
“I offer you several very wealthy men who appreciate such merchandise, and my protection from the police and other gangs.”
“Protection? I can assure you sir, I am very well protected.”
The Hornet leaned on the desk and pushed his face down close to Kitano’s.
“Are you?”
Rhinoceros and Crocodile made ready to move, but Kitano stopped them with a raised finger.
“I had no trouble entering here, did I?” The Hornet finished.
“Indeed,” Kitano answered slyly. “It might be judicious to ally myself with such resourceful men. What are your terms?”
The Hornet leaned slowly back from the desk. “Thirty percent of all transactions involving the women,” he said, and five percent of all your other interests for protection.”
Kitano considered for a moment. His face betrayed no hint of emotion.
“It is a bargain, Mr. Green Hornet,” Kitano replied.
“If your commodities are acceptable,” the Hornet interjected. “Let me see the women.”

Aiko Shimizu paced the floor of the cubicle. The other girls were huddled together on the cots, whimpering quietly. Kaori had never returned, and they feared the worst.
Aiko felt frightened and trapped, but also furious.
Footsteps sounded in the hall and a key turned in the lock. Aiko stopped pacing and faced the door expectantly. The sweaty man opened the door and ordered them to follow. The other girls complied quickly, but Aiko’s anger welled up inside her, and she did not move. He grabbed her arm and dragged her, struggling, out of the room.
“Disobey if you wish, I will enjoy beating you. And what comes after I will enjoy even more,” The sweaty man growled, shamelessly ogling her body.
Aiko felt her humiliation and anger rise into her face in a searing flush as the sweaty man dragged her down the hallway.
Inside Kitano’s offices, Kato watched intently as the five women entered the room. The Green Hornet walked down the line, making a show of appraising the beauty of each girl. Kato followed behind him, making a similar display. However, at the fourth girl Kato paused for a moment, shocked at what he saw. He knew this woman. It was Aiko Shimizu.
When they were children, he had trained at her father’s Dojo for a time, and had often seen her running, laughing and playing on the grounds, flitting about here and there. He had nicknamed her Shouchouko, soaring butterfly girl.
He realized he had been staring at her. Suddenly, Aiko’s face contorted in anger.
“What are you looking at pig!” she shouted, “You wear the mask of a coward and a criminal, but I can see you are Asian behind your disguise!”
Kato regarded her intently. He was bursting with pride at her defiance, and he longed to tell her that he was her ally, but he knew he could not.
“How can you enslave and exploit your own people?” she cried, “You are lower than a beast!”
She spat directly into Kato’s face.
Kato rapidly wiped away the spittle. He reacted as he knew he must, drawing back his hand to strike her. Any other response would arouse suspicion. He was exceedingly relieved when the Hornet’s firm hand caught his wrist in mid-slap.
“Let’s not damage the merchandise Old Friend,” he said quietly.
Kitano spoke then, “I must apologize for this affront. She will be punished, of course.”
The Hornet could not dissuade Kitano from punishing the girl without belying his heartless criminal fa├žade. He said the only thing he could think of that might soften the severity of the reprimand.
“Leave no marks. She is an exceptional beauty, and I know just the client for her.”

Later, inside Black Beauty, the Green Hornet gravely regarded the back of Kato’s head and shoulders. Kato confidently maneuvered the powerful automobile away from Kitano’s warehouse through the back streets of the city toward their secret garage. Only he, who knew Kato so completely, could have sensed the subtle tension in his body.
“You know that girl,” the Hornet said quietly. “Who is she?”
“Aiko Shimizu,” Kato replied. “I trained with her father. He was a very good man. She was only 11 years old when I knew her.”
“We will rescue all these unfortunate women Kato, but perhaps we can get Aiko out first,” the Hornet replied.
“Thank you for staying my hand.”
Kato said no more, and the Hornet respected his silence.

            District Attorney Scanlon was again looking out the window of his offices. Kato too was at his usual post nearby. Scanlon listened intently, his eyes looking down upon the city he loved as Brit Reid spoke from the other side of the desk.
“It’s all true Frank. Kitano is selling young women, right here in Detroit.”
            Scanlon continued to stare out the window.
            “I’ll go to Kitano as a prospective buyer,” Britt continued, “I’ll purchase Aiko outright so we can get her out of there. I’ll wear a wire so we can record the transaction and snare Kitano.”
Scanlon turned back from the window and looked at Britt. “No… I’ll go in,” he said flatly.
Britt reacted with some alarm. “That’s not a good idea Frank. Your face is too well known. Leave this to Kato and I.”
“I’ll wear a disguise. I want to help get this guy”
“What if there’s trouble?”
Frank Scanlon chuckled ruefully, “Then I’m depending on you two to swoop in like the Cavalry and save my bacon!”

Scanlon looked quite convincing in his camouflage. He sat on a bar stool in Britt Reid’s opulent home as Kato’s talented hands transformed him with stage makeup. He had slicked Scanlon’s hair straight back, applied a Van Dyke beard to his chin and added a mole to his left temple. Some carefully applied lines in the corners of Scanlon’s eyes and mouth added a decade to his age. Dressed in his most expensive suit, Scanlon looked every bit the rich, amoral society man with an unwholesome sense of entitlement.
“Well, how do I look?” Scanlon inquired, “Do I pass as an affluent rogue.”
“You’re believable all right,” offered Britt. “Exceptional work Hayashi.”
“Simple really,” added Kato in his usual modest fashion. “A few easy tricks.”
Scanlon completed the picture by putting on his special glasses. Another of Kato’s “easy tricks” this clever feat of engineering and miniaturization, the glasses held a concealed listening device. It would radio everything that was said in Kitano’s lair to a special recording apparatus in Black Beauty.
The three men retired to the Green Hornet’s secret alley garage. Scanlon left first in Britt’s Chrysler 300 convertible, to which false license plates had been applied. The garage floor was then rotated to reveal Black Beauty. Kato piloted the powerful ebony automobile into the nighttime streets of the city, tailing Scanlon.
Inside Black Beauty, Scanlon’s voice crackled over the special radio transmitter in his glasses.
“Are you receiving me?”
“Loud and clear,” replied the Hornet, “Proceed to target.”
“Okay, just remember… you’re my Cavalry.”
The two automobiles sped rapidly through the night toward their dark objective.

Though they could not beat her, they found an extremely effective way to punish Aiko Shimizu.
They dragged her into the cinderblock room in which Kaori Fuchida had been beaten. Under the cold, impenetrable eye of Kazumi Kitano, Taku and Haru tore away her dress, brutally stripping her to her underclothes. They taunted her, shoved her about between them and reminded her of what happened to disobedient young girls in this room. Taku fondled her roughly, and told her of the violent pleasures he had taken with Kaori. Finally, Aiko began to sob uncontrollably. Taku pushed her to the cold cement floor.
“This will allow you some time to reflect on the consequences of your disobedience,” Kitano said coldly. “Another such outburst and your next punishment will be your last.”
Kitano turned out the lights and sealed her inside the frigid room.
Aiko was unsure how long she sobbed and shivered in the darkness, but it seemed like hours. She visualized the many worse indignities she might face when she was sold. She could not imagine how she would face the shame if her parents were still alive, wondering how she had disappeared and where she had gone.
When Taku and Haru finally returned to take her out of the room, she could hardly contain her joy, but that faded quickly. They dragged her into a large, opulent bath, where two of the other captive girls waited. They were all bathed by some older women, then perfumed and dressed in silk Japanese dresses. She felt like a horse being curried and harnessed for sale. It was more humiliating than the punishment, and indignation and rage again grew within her heart.
She began to feel that a defiant death would be preferable to a life of slavery.

Kazumi Kitano sat placidly behind his desk. The enormous, perspiring Taku, his Rhinoceros, stood behind him to the left. Haru, his lethal Crocodile paced back and forth across the opulent hand-woven Indian rug in front of his desk.
“I do not trust this green insect man Oyabun,” he fumed, “Please allow me the honor of killing him.”
“In good time, my faithful Crocodile. For now it pleases me to ally with this man. If he can bring us wealthy patrons where is the harm?”
“I do not like it. He will try to destroy us and take over.”
“Of course, I would expect no less of him. Like me, he seeks power. Can I condemn him for wanting the same things I myself covet?”
“But Oyabun, if he—“
Kitano raised a hand to instantly silence his underling.
“Calm yourself, my Wakagashira. Though Sun Tzu lacked the advantage of being Japanese, his insights into the art of war were most enlightening. He urges us to keep our enemies close to us. So I will do with the Green Hornet until I have no more use for him.”
At that moment an underling ushered in the man they were expecting. He was wearing an expensive suit and carrying a small valise. Kitano rose from his chair to greet him warmly.
“Mr. Barrington, I presume. Welcome to my humble shop. Was not the Green Hornet to join us, sir?” Kitano asked.
“Yes, but I saw no sign of him outside. I am most anxious to view your merchandise, I hope his lateness will not delay our transaction.” Scanlon replied.
“Perhaps not,” replied Kitano, “But in the meantime, can I offer you some tea? Or perhaps a glass of a 1787 Chateau Lafite?”
“The Lafite of course!” replied Scanlon, playing his part to the hilt.
Haru poured the wine, and delivered glasses to Scanlon and Kitano.
“To what shall we toast Mr. Barrington?” inquired Kitano.
“To beauty.” Scanlon replied, raising his glass.
“Most appropriate,” replied Kitano, and they tipped back their glasses. “Taku, fetch our beautiful lotus blossoms for Mr. Barrington’s enjoyment.”
Taku lumbered out of the room.
Nearby, inside Black Beauty, Kato and the Green Hornet were hearing, and recording the entire conversation.
            “The wine is excellent Mr. Kitano,” Scanlon offered, “I have been trying to acquire a few bottles of this myself.”
            “That too might be arranged,” Kitano replied. “Ah, here are the lovely flowers now.”
            Again, only the Green Hornet, so familiar with Kato’s demeanor, could have detected the subtle tension that entered his body when Aiko was brought into the room.
            “It’s going well,” the Hornet offered, though he knew it would do little to reassure Kato.
            Inside Kitano’s office, Scanlon made a great show of taking in the beauty of the three women being offered. He used the rapidity of his breathing, a nervous reaction to the danger he was in, to fake anticipatory stimulation at the proximity of the girls.
            “Oh, exquisite, Mr. Kitano, each one a great beauty. But this one, she is very special.”
            Britt and Kato had described Aiko perfectly, and he knew he had found her. Scanlon felt that things would go smoothly now. He was merely one very large cash payment away from rescuing this poor girl. He extended the valise, which was accepted by Haru.
            “I believe this is the agreed upon amount,” he said, and turned his attention back to Aiko.
            “For my own peace of mind, Mr. Barrington, I hope you will indulge me,” Kitano interjected. “I cannot let my business become compromised. How do you plan to… provide… for this young woman?”
            “Most efficiently, I assure you, Mr. Kitano,” Scanlon replied. “I keep a very large, remote estate in South America. If one of your men will help me transport the girl to my small, private airstrip, she will be immediately flown to this estate. Once there, my experienced aides will see she is carefully installed in her new life.”
            “Excellent, Taku, accompany Mr. Barrington to—“
            “No! I will never be your slave!” shouted Aiko suddenly, and lashed out at Scanlon, striking at his face with her small fists. She fervently wished her father had taught her Karate, as he had to so many boys, so she could attack more effectively. Though her blows inflicted little damage, they did, unfortunately tear loose Scanlon’s false beard.
            “What is this?” Kitano said. “A disguise?”
            With the speed of thought, Kato and the Green Hornet leapt from the car and rushed toward the warehouse. They knew Aiko and Scanlon were in mortal danger. Inside, they walked calmly past workmen unloading stolen goods. They had visited often in the intervening days, and their presence was not contested. Upon reaching the hallway to Kitano’s office they donned their gas masks. When the five men who regularly guarded Kitano’s office confronted them, all deception was dropped. The Hornet produced his Hornet Gun from beneath his coat, and sent a long spiral of emerald knockout gas at the men, and they dropped like sacks of mud.

When the Green Hornet and Kato coolly entered Kitano’s office the situation was grave. Two girls were cowering in a corner while Taku held Aiko in a bear hug from behind. Haru held one of the Japanese swords from Kitano’s display to Scanlon’s throat. Scanlon was unconscious and had a bloody contusion on his forehead.
The Hornet began to talk fast.
            “Is there some disagreement over price?”
            “This man is in disguise,” Kitano replied, eyeing the Hornet with a suspicious gaze. “Undoubtedly another of the undercover policemen who have been plaguing me. The only question is, have you also been duped, or are you in league with the authorities?”
            “This man has been meeting with me in good faith for many weeks. I had no idea he was a plant.” The Hornet walked over to Scanlon, removed his glasses, and tore away what remained of his false beard.  “Yes, I recognize him now. This is no mere policeman, this is Frank Scanlon, the district attorney.”
            Aiko moaned in sudden realization of her terrible mistake. This man might have taken her out of her terrible bondage if she had not spoiled his strategy.
            “How unfortunate,” Kitano said, “I dislike executing public officials.”
            “You miss an opportunity for profit my friend,” the Hornet coaxed, “Why not ransom this man to the city?”
            “I am afraid that would compromise my operation. No. He must die.”
            In that instant, the Hornet knew there could be no resolution without violence.
            “And I am afraid I cannot allow that,” he said.
            Kitano made a rapid gesture with his hand and instantaneously, Taku and Haru attacked.
            Taku hurled Aiko into the corner with other girls, and charged the Hornet much as a rhinoceros might have, fast and with little finesse. A quick sidestep allowed the Hornet to easily avoid Taku’s first awkward assault. He took up a boxing stance in preparation for the next onslaught. At his height, it was rare that the Hornet faced an opponent of greater size, but Taku was easily 4 inches taller and at least 60 pounds heavier. He would need all his considerable skill to overcome this massive adversary.
            Nearby, Kato faced a very different sort of opponent. Haru dropped the unconscious figure of Frank Scanlon to the floor and approached Kato slowly. He circled cautiously, sizing him up, the Japanese sword at the ready. Kato knew the first thing he must do is disarm this man. He could not prevail against an armed man for long. Though his heart ached to ensure that Aiko was unhurt, and to spirit her away from this awful place, he knew he must focus if he were to defeat Haru and effect that rescue.
            Haru made a short, probing attack, testing Kato’s speed and skill. Kato immediately countered with what appeared to be a high sweeping kick, but was in fact a clever feint. Instead he seamlessly shifted the attack, producing a Hornet Dart, which he unerringly delivered to Haru’s hand. Haru’s sword grip loosened for only an instant, but it was long enough for Kato to grab the sword by the blunt edge and pry it from Haru’s hands. He hurled the blade away from the fight, and it embedded itself deeply into the wall with a resounding thwunk. Haru regarded Kato with a wicked, crocodilian smile and calmly removed the dart from his hand. Kato knew this skillful adversary would not underestimate him again.

            When district attorney Scanlon emerged from his insensible state, the scene was shocking. The three women cowered in a corner of the room while Taku and Haru battled with his two disguised friends. The matches seemed too close to call at that moment. Kitano stood impassively near his desk, taking in the action. He didn’t seem at all worried, and that fact worried Scanlon a great deal. Not one to sit on the sidelines, Scanlon decided to leap into the fray. He knew Kitano, even at his age, was likely a skilled fighter.
When Scanlon struggled to his feet, Kitano noticed, and made a move toward the remaining sword and dagger in his display. Scanlon knew allowing him to reach a blade was a death sentence. He took a move from his college football playbook and sacked Kitano like an opposing quarterback. Kitano fell heavily to the floor. Scanlon then grabbed the Lafite bottle and cracked him hard on the skull, rendering him into the same blackness from which Scanlon had so recently emerged. Scanlon snatched up the phone on Kitano’s desk and desperately dialed 52 Division to call in some cops.

The Green Hornet fully understood the difficulties of facing a challenger of superior size. Taku had greater reach and greater power. Any single punch might be the last the Rhinoceros needed to put the Hornet down for the count. He kept himself in the huge man’s outer punch range, and used his speed and footwork to avoid Taku’s titanic roundhouse punches. When Taku struck out, putting himself off balance, the Hornet would surge inside his defense and land devastating combinations to his body and face. Unfortunately, they seemed to have no effect whatsoever on the giant, perspiring brute.
If the Hornet’s battle with Taku was like a prison yard brawl, Kato’s clash with Haru was like a sinuous, deadly ballet. The two men would first circle slowly, then come together in a sudden, elegant, lightning fast exchange of blows, blocks and flying kicks. It was beautiful and terrible to behold. Both men showed the bruises and blood of deftly landed strikes. It took all of Kato’s concentration to avoid looking at Aiko. He longed to make certain she was unhurt, but knew that one slip in his attention would allow Haru an opening. Then again, he thought, perhaps a slip in his attention was just what was needed.

Scanlon finished barking orders to the desk Sergeant of nearby 52 Division, immediately dispatching an army of cops. As he began to replace the phone receiver in its cradle he felt a sudden, excruciating punch to his left kidney. He spun instantly to face Kazumi Kitano, now dangerously conscious.
He instantly struck at Kitano’s face with the phone receiver. This time however, Kitano was more than prepared for his attack. He deftly parried the clumsy assault and landed a flat-handed blow under Scanlon’s chin, snapping back his head. Scanlon fell heavily onto the desk, and Kitano climbed on top of him. He clamped his powerful hands around Scanlon’s throat.
Aiko reacted to this threat to Frank Scanlon, whom she now believed was her only hope of escaping her dire circumstances. She leaped up and clawed at Kitano, trying to tear his hands away from Scanlon’s neck.
“No! Leave him alone!” She shouted, in anguished desperation.
This was the moment for which Kato had been waiting. He snapped his eyes toward the screaming girl, and Haru seized on this moment of weakness. He made a sudden spinning kick toward Kato’s head. Too late he realized his mistake. Kato had feigned weakness to draw Haru in to committing himself to a move that made him vulnerable. Kato ducked under the kick and grasped Haru’s leg. He spun the leg upward, and brought Haru’s head down hard upon the floor. Haru tried to scramble back up, but he was stunned and exposed. Kato delivered a series of blows to his face and he collapsed instantly.
In the same moment the Hornet reached the climax of his encounter with Taku. Having only a few seconds left to liberate Scanlon from Kitano’s crushing hands, he made a desperate maneuver, allowing Taku to punch at his head. Because Taku was punching downward at a shorter opponent, the Hornet was able to duck his head and let the punch smash against the hard shell of his skull. This was a terrible gamble, because the man might be powerful enough to actually crack his skull. Fortunately, his hard head prevailed. The bones of Taku’s right hand shattered against his skull and the huge man howled in pain. Though stunned, the Hornet was able to throw all his power into an elbow shot to the Rhinoceros’ gut. When Taku bent forward, the Hornet grabbed his head and smashed it into his knee. The giant finally passed out.

Scanlon was still struggling against the constricting fingers of Kitano, but he was losing strength. Kitano easily shrugged off Aiko’s desperate attack, and went back to choking Scanlon with renewed gusto. Scanlon could feel himself blacking out.
Kitano’s face, showing emotion for the first time, grinned in sick enjoyment of the final moments of the kill. Then the expression suddenly changed to one of unexpected shock. A strange object emerged from Kitano’s chest, like a wet, red finger. He released Scanlon’s throat and clutched at the strange finger protruding from his chest. Then, he gurgled horribly, blood spurting from his mouth, and toppled from the desk. Behind him stood Aiko, her hands scarlet with blood. She had taken the dagger from Kitano’s display and thrust it completely through his body, transfixing his heart.
Kato regarded the horrific scene before him. Aiko stood over Kazumi Kitano, her hands covered in blood, her eyes wide in shock. Forgetting himself, Kato moved toward her. She flinched away from him, sobbing, still believing him to be one of her oppressors. Shaking with terror she reached for the remaining Katana, pulled it from its sheath, and raised it in a trembling defensive pose. In a hot rush Kato felt pride, empathy and pity for this simple girl from a small village. He wondered if she could ever recover from this horrific ordeal.
Sirens sounded in the distance, and Kato knew he would have to maintain the charade of his criminal guise.
Scanlon began the little drama.
“Even you can’t fight an entire police division Hornet,” he said, “I suggest you and your deadly little partner make tracks while you still can.”
“Nobody tricks the Green Hornet Scanlon,” the Hornet snapped back. “Someday, very soon, you’ll regret crossing me!”
With that, he and Kato swept out of the room.
Aiko held the sword aloft for a moment, and then let it clatter to the floor. She collapsed, sobbing, into Scanlon’s arms.

Britt Reid and Frank Scanlon waited in the foyer of the recovery hostel as Kato entered the sun-drenched parlor. Aiko Shimizu sat in a wicker chair near a window, watching birds hop about in the branches of a tree. She seemed almost mesmerized.
“Aiko,” he said quietly.
She looked up at him, expressionless, offering no sign of recognition.
“Shouchouko,” he said.
Aiko looked intently at him then, slowly comprehending. Her lip trembled, and a single tear rolled down her cheek.
“Hayashi?” she choked. “Hayashi, tell me it is you!”
“Yes.”
Aiko leapt from the chair and embraced him.
“I know you have been through a terrible ordeal little butterfly, but it is over now,” Kato said softly. “ I have an old friend and a new friend waiting outside to see you. Things will get better now.”
Aiko looked into his eyes and finally managed to smile. To Kato, her face seemed brighter than the sunlight streaming into the room.        



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