Night of the Hornet
Chapter 1: What's the Buzz?
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. Owning people is bad, and pisses them off, and I really wouldn't want these folks mad at me. No money being made. Just for fun.
Thanks: To Anne Higgins for her Green Hornet fic, which started me thinking.
Slash: Yes, But not with the characters here. If you don't know what's going on before this story, you probably won't learn it here.
A shadow. Moving. The alley by the old Red Horse Garage. Interesting.
I'd been on the roof over an hour now, watching the suits in the Buick watching the street. Nothing yet to bust them for. Not as Officer Grayson. Maybe not as Nightwing. Maybe.
I'd been by earlier in my blues. Done the Officer Friendly bit. Driver introduced himself as Mike Carlin. ID said a PI out of Central City. Had Babs run it. Probably legit. Big company. Major bucks for a stakeout on an unused warehouse. Passenger had a business card. Robert Kane, Esq. of Dixon, McDaniel, Vincenzo, and Kane. Them I knew - through Bruce. Power players in civil law; big time, big name, big money. With a big problem if its enough to keep even a junior partner drinking styrofoam coffee in a rented Buick all day and past sunset here in the armpit of Bludhaven. Possibly my problem. They were camped a little to close to home base to make me comfortable, so....I watched them watch.
Now. Something interesting. Movement too careful to be casual. A pro. But not too good if they hadn't made me yet, or had but didn't care. Not too good, or so good that I didn't matter. I had the nightvision glasses. Focus.
Holy....old Mr. Lee? The vegetable man? OK, he lived in an apartment across the street. Had forever. But what was he doing playing ninja in an alley? And where the hell had he learned to do it that well?
Damn it, I knew Mr. Lee. He was a nice old man. A retired grocer. Played Go in the park in Saturdays. Came in to Hogan's now and then for a beer, and to watch baseball. Grew fancy mushrooms for Clancy. He was not the type to ghost down alleys and slide through locked second story windows - except that he just had.
OK. Check the rent-a-dick. Still sitting. Watching the front door. Probably bored into a coma by now. Hasn't seen a thing. Keep it that way.
Signal Babs that I'm following. She can run a check on Lee while I see what he's up to.
Move to the not-quite-locked window. Interesting. It is a garage. The outside of the building may look abandoned, but the inside looks ready to roll. Computer. Machine tools. A heavy black car on a lift, but only a few inches off the floor. Looks like the grandfather of the Batmobile - on steroids. Old, but still mean. Not your average Sunday drive. Wire front closet. It's hard to see thru the heavy mesh but some clothes, coats maybe, and - oh shit - an arsenal. Several pistols at least, probably a rifle in the back. Exactly what type of vegetables did this guy sell?
From the sound he's gone to the next room. Watching the watchmen. I take the chance to slip inside. Whatever this is, it's serious - and much too close to home.
Down the wall. Move behind the car. Behind the work bench. Whatever it is he's doing in here, I'm grateful he's kept the place spotless. Moving over dust is a dead giveaway. Even without footprints. the air patterns are hard to miss. Somehow I don't think my sweet old neighbor misses anything.
Check the weapons first. Nasty looking, heavy caliber, but the door is locked. They probably won't be part of any immediate fight. That's a good sign. If he planned a shootout he would have come here first. Only one car. It's not a chop shop. An old suit, a heavy coat, a uniform?. No living quarters. Not sex. Not illegals. No drug lab. No explosives. Not enough weapons to be dealing. Not enough of anything except the chumps out front sitting on their 'confidential matter' and the ninja grocer with a room of weird.
Move along the wall. Framed photos. Black and white and turning with age. White male in his twenties. Funky suit, double breasted, wide lapels, hat.. say 1930 something. Asian male about the same age, perhaps a few years older. It could be Mr. Lee. The age would fit. Mounted newspaper clipping with a photo. Hard to make out but it could be the same guys... running towards a dark car...hard to see the make... are they holding guns? and...oh,shit...is his face in shadow ? or..... crap! the door. Roll under the bench. Freeze low and think invisible thoughts.
Another thump. A car door? He's in the center of the room, to close to risk a look. From the sound, he's loading something in the trunk. Movement, metal on metal, a shift of light. He's at the closet now. I can see his feet. It's a good time to jump him if his arms are full - but not if he just picked up one of the pistols. Also, I'm still not certain that I'd want to. I still can't picture Mr. Lee as a villain. More sounds from the car. The trunk slamming shut. I risk a peek. The closet is empty. Good. There's a chance the guns are locked up again. Then the feet are back, walking along the photo wall. He's packing up. Also good. Whatever's going on, he's going to run rather than fight. Safer for everyone that way, and it gives me a chance to figure out which side I'm on before the fire fight.
A grinding noise. That's the car lift coming down. A familiar sound, same as in the Batcave. Heavy doors opening. Hollow sounding. A tunnel? Risk another look. Be prepared to follow - fast.
A click. The hammer draw. He didn't need the closet, he was already carrying.
"Your pardon,but would you please to stand up....slowly. Keep both hand where I can see them, thank you."
Shit! Focus on the window. Two seconds. If he's ready he could get off one shot.The Kevlar should hold, but I'd rather not be hit if I can help it. Attack would take four seconds. Two shots, higher risk at closer range, and somehow I don't think he'd fire wide. Move slowly. Hands up. No fear, no threat, try to get close.
The soft voice again. "Ah, Mr. Nightwing. You are, I believe, one of the 'good guys'." Very polite, but the pistol shifts to stay on target. He is a pro. "But why do you visit an old man?"
Good question. Don't answer. "Your friends out front, why are they in Bludhaven?"
"An excellent question. You are not with them?"
"If I was, would they be sitting outside?"
"Perhaps, but I do not think you would work for them. And you would not need such to work for you. So, why do I find you here at such a time?"
Move left, clear of the bench. "You tell me. Who are you? What would a big Cleveland law firm want with an old Chinese grocer. I don't think they're here to buy fortune cookies."
Balance back. Remember the rafters. Shoot the line and spin and roll and kick out and - MISS! I hear the gun fall but the old man is somehow under my leg and coming up to hit above the knee. My leg goes numb and I ride up the line to get above him to come down but he's gone again and almost to the car. I launch the last line between his legs and it twists and retracts hard, taking him to the floor. I land by the workbench, still with only one leg, and grab the pistol. Only one second, but by the time I look up he's free of my line and standing again. He's good. Too good. I'm hurt. And I still don't know why I'm even in this fight. Time for tactics.
People fear their own weapon. Stay level. Keep the pistol in tight. "Answers. Now. "
He's cautious, but still in position. "But Mr. Nightwing, I do know you. You do not use guns."
"That's the Bat. He's in Gotham. "
"Or you will shoot an old man? Without cause? You can put down the gun. Or keep it if you will. You will not harm an old man who does not threaten you. That is not what you do. That is not what you are. I know."
"No. But I'm willing to take out the windshield there. That should wake up your two friends. Whatever this is, you're willing to risk a lot to keep it. I don't think you'll abandon it if you don't have to. So why don't you just tell me which side of this fight I'm on. What is this? Who are you? And why are two clowns in overpriced suits looking for you?
"Your error, Mr. Nightwing. They are not looking for me." He shifts forward. Less tense. Less likely to attack.
One of the frames is on the bench. I risk a glance. The newspaper article. "That's him...and you."
It's not really a question. The Green...
A fast memory search. I need Babs. Early 'mystery men', reputation as gangsters, undercover, with the Nash boys, came out after they died...big story."Oh shit, you're... Kato?"
"Sadly, no. Or you would not have the gun, and I would be gone from here. I am an old man named Lee, but ..."
"You didn't die in the fire. Somehow, you escaped. But...If you're Kato, and that's Black Beauty... They're looking for the Hornet. "
Noise from the front room. Metal on wood. The guys in the Buick must have gotten tired of the view, or figured the streets were empty enough to risk a little friendly B&E. A high risk for the suit type, but not too high. Decision. Now.
"Mr...Lee. You do..whatever. I can discourage your visitors."
Out the window. Hope I'm making the right choice, but damn it, the Hornet.... Let's just say I identify with the secret identity bit. And, after all.....
" Breaking and entering is against the law"
'Really, Officer, it's not...." Just the detective. The mouthpiece was likely somewhere around, but with the brains to make himself scarce once the plan got iffy. That's why he gets the big bucks.
"Richard Grayson, BHPD. Crowbar, lock pick, lying in wait, looks like felony to me." He was carrying, which made the bust easy. Central City permit, of course, but not local. I could be a hardass about it if I chose.
"As I explained earlier, I'm investigating a highly confidential matter. I have a letter from Claudia Bromley, the Senator, and.."
"And I don't care. If you don't have a deed to this shop or a key to the front door, you're going downtown. Now, assume the position. You know the drill."
He did. No sense picking a fight with some schmoe on a beat. If it mattered enough he could get my ass later, after his boss talked to my boss. And they would. I was pretty sure of that. Whoever was playing, whatever their game was, they would vanish this bust by morning. It might take a few hours, though. Hours I could use.
I called a black and white. Didn't ask the dispatcher for a rush. Slow was good. Ignored a few veiled threats while we waited, and handed Mr. P I over to Janson and Collazo when they arrived. Good cops. Don't know them well, but we've worked. Got out of the trip myself with a promise to do the paperwork first thing a.m. Not that I'd have to bother.
Back to Nightwing. Back inside. Empty now. Well, not empty. Still a pretty fancy garage, but all of the interesting stuff was gone. No car. No toys. Good time to touch base with Babs.
Nothing on a B. Lee. At least, nothing much. Owns a few more buildings here and there. Maybe a bit more than his bank account says he should, but nothing to really tag. At least she confirms his home address. Nearby. Time for a visit.
A quick shot over some roofs. Check out the building. No blatant security. He was kind enough to rent a place with a balcony, but I don't take it. Trap for amateurs. Rope down. Kitchen window, over the sink. Always a safe bet. Nice counter to land on. Dark. Quiet. Means nothing. No sound but, lights on. Lenses in the mask protect my eyes. He doesn't look armed, isn't in position... don't move.
"Mr. Nightwing. Would you care for tea?"
That's new, but... possible. I might be a friend. " I assume you put the evidence somewhere safe."
"Evidence? Mr. Nightwing?"
Down from the counter. No threat, but centered. Ready. "Talk to me. I rousted your friends for now, but they will be back. So far no real firepower, but that's next. So... Lee if you prefer... what are those men, and what do they really want."
"They hunt a ghost. Do you believe in ghosts?"
"That's wasn't Dan Ackroyd sitting out front."
He pours hot water from the machine, walking past me. I am not a threat. "Come now. We will drink tea.
I follow him to the living room. No real choice. Levitz furniture, not bad but bland. Bought as a set. A little wear, but not shabby. Healthy looking bonsai. Good porcelain. He sets the teapot down on a tray with cups. Two cups. I was expected.
"I told you, they hunt a ghost. Not your western ghost. Not the ghosts in white that drift thru walls, but the real ghosts. The great ones that inhabit our fears and steal our sleep. The ones we fear more when we don't see them. The ones we fear when they do not appear. Those men work for a woman with such a ghost. One she will pay any price to lay to rest. "
We drink. Good tea. Shenyang Province. The man has taste.
"I am an old man. I do not fear my ghosts. "
A long pause. Should he trust me? Does he need me?
"The men will come back tomorrow. They will find the door open, and an old man working on a car. They will apologize. I will show them around, brag a bit about my hobbie. Show pictures of my grandchildren. They will learn nothing. They will leave."
Hardly the answer I want, but I'm not surprised.
"But will they come back?"
"Ah. That, Mr. Nightwing, is always the question." Gently, he put down the cup. " Accept an old mans thanks for keeping thieves out of his shop. Perhaps I will tune up that bike of yours. I am a good mechanic, you know."
He stands. So do I. A dismissal. I accept it for now. I have no choice. But from now on, I'm going to keep a close eye on 'old Mr. Lee'.
End Chapter One
KKR - 2003