by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from Pulp Fiction, screenplay by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary
A silver Porsche whipped the corner leading to Ozzie Cobblepot’s home, in hyper-drive. Easily doing one-hundred-and-thirty-five miles per hour, the Porsche stopped on a dime in front of Ozzie’s house. The Arranger got out of the driver’s seat, walked up to the front doorway, and rang the doorbell.
Ozzie Cobblepot opened the door and did a double-take at the tuxedo-clad man. “Hello?”
The Arranger looked down to his notebook and then up at Ozzie. “You’re Ozzie, right? This is your house?”
The Arranger stuck out his hand. “I’m the Arranger. I solve problems.”
“Good, because we got one,” Ozzie said.
“So I heard. May I come in?” the Arranger said.
The two men walked to the dining room. “I want to convey Ms. Quinn’s gratitude with the help you’re providing on this matter. Let me assure you, Ozzie, her gratitude is worth having.”
In the dining room, Franko Morelli and Floyd Lawton stood up.
“Hello again, Franko. And you must be Deadshot. Much like Ozzie, here, your reputation precedes you. Let’s get down to brass tacks, gentlemen. If I was informed correctly, the clock is ticking, is that right, Ozzie?”
“Your wife, Bonnie…” he said, looking at his pad, “…comes home at 9:30 in the A.M., is that correct?”
“That’s right,” Ozzie said, nodding.
“I was led to believe if she comes home and finds us here, she wouldn’t appreciate it very much,” the Arranger said.
“She won’t, at that,” Ozzie said. “Given my history, she’ll assume the worst.”
“That gives use forty minutes to get the hell out of Dodge, which, if you do what I say when I say it, should by plenty. Now you’ve got a corpse, minus a head, in a car in the garage. Take me to it.”
The three men hung back as the Arranger examined the car. He studied the car in silence, opening the door, looking inside, and circling it. “Ozzie?”
“Yes?” Ozzie said anxiously.
“Do me a favor, will you? Thought I smelled some coffee in there. Would you make me a cup?” the Arranger asked.
“Sure, how do you take it?” Ozzie asked.
“Lotsa cream, lotsa sugar.”
Ozzie exited, and the Arranger continued his examination. “About the car, is there anything I need to know? Does it stall? Does it make a lot of noise? Does it smoke? Is there gas in it? Anything?”
“Aside from how it looks, the car’s good to go,” Franko said.
“Positive?” the Arranger asked. “Don’t get me out on the road, and I find out the brake lights don’t work.”
“Hey, as far as I know, it’s tip-top,” Franko said.
“Good enough; let’s go back to the kitchen,” the Arranger said.
Back in the kitchen, Ozzie handed the Arranger a cup of coffee. “Thank you, Ozzie,” the Arranger said. Pacing as he thought, he laid out for the three men the plan of action. “OK, first thing, you two,” he said, meaning Floyd and Franko, “take the body, stick it in the trunk. Now, Ozzie, this looks to be a pretty domesticated house. That would lead me to believe that in the garage or under the sink, you got a bunch of cleaners and rags and things like that, am I correct?”
“Yeah, exactly,” Ozzie agreed. “Under the sink.”
“Good. What I need you two fellas to do is take those cleaning products and clean the inside of the car. And I’m talking fast, fast, fast. You need to go in the backseat, scoop up all those little pieces of brain and skull. Get it out of there. Wipe down the upholstery — now when it comes to upholstery, it doesn’t need to be spic and span. You don’t need to eat off it. Give it a good once-over. What you need to take care of are the really messy parts. The pools of blood that have collected, you got to soak that up. But the windows are a different story. Them you really clean. Get the Windex, do a good job.
“Now, Ozzie, we need to raid your linen closet. I need blankets. I need comforters. I need quilts. I need bedspreads. The thicker the better, the darker the better. No whites. Can’t use ’em. We need to camouflage the interior of the car. We’re going to line the front seat and the back seat and the floorboards with quilts and blankets. If a cop stops us and starts sticking his big snout in the car, the subterfuge won’t last. But at a glance, the car will appear to be normal. Ozzie — lead the way; boys — get to work.”
The Arranger and Ozzie turned, heading for the bedroom, leaving Floyd and Franko standing in the kitchen.
“A ‘please’ would be nice,” Floyd said, calling after him.
The Arranger stopped and turned around. “Come again?”
“I said a ‘please’ would be nice,” Floyd repeated.
The Arranger took a step toward him. “Let’s set the record straight, Mr. ‘I once fought Batman’ Deadshot. I’m not here to say ‘please.’ I’m here to tell you what you got to do to keep your @$$ out of Blackgate. And if self-preservation is an instinct you possess, you better do it, and do it quick. I’m here to help. If my help’s not appreciated, lotsa luck, gentlemen.”
“It ain’t that way, Arranger,” Franko said. “Your help is definitely appreciated.”
“I don’t mean any disrespect,” Floyd said. “I just don’t like people barking orders at me.”
“If I’m curt with you, it’s because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast, and I need you guys to act fast if you want to get out of this. So pretty please, with sugar on top, clean the #^@%!*& car.”
Ozzie and the Arranger stood in the master bedroom. Ozzie had gathered all the bedspreads, quilts and linen he had. The Arranger was on the phone. “It’s a 1974 Mustang… white… Nothing except for the mess inside… About twenty minutes… Nobody who’ll be missed… You’re a good man, Joe. See ya soon.”
Both Franko and Floyd were inside the car, cleaning it up. Floyd was in the front seat washing windows, while Franko was in the back seat, picking up little pieces of skull and gobs of brain. Both were twice as bloody as they were before.
“I will never forgive your @$$ for this $#!^. This is some #^@%ed-up, repugnant $#!^!” Franko cursed.
“Did you ever hear the philosophy that, once a man admits he’s wrong, he’s immediately forgiven for all wrong-doings?” Floyd said.
“Get outta my face with that! The man who said that never had to pick up itty-bitty pieces of skull with his fingers on account of your dumb @$$.”
“I got a threshold, Franko. I got a threshold for the abuse I’ll take. And you’re crossin’ it. I’m a race car, and you got me in the red. Redline 7000, that’s where you are. Just know it’s dangerous to be driving a race car when it’s in the red. It could blow.”
“You’re gettin’ ready to blow?” said Franko. “I’m a mushroom-cloud! In fact, what the hell am I doing in the back? You’re the one should be on brain detail. We’re trading. I’m washing windows, and you’re pickin’ up this guy’s skull.”
The interior of the car had been cleaned and lined with bedspreads and quilts. What once looked like a portable slaughterhouse could now actually pass for a nondescript vehicle. The Arranger circled the car, examining it. Franko and Floyd stood aside; their clothes were literally a bloody mess, but they had a sense of pride in what a good job they had done. “Fine job, gentlemen. We may get out of this yet.”
“I can’t believe that’s the same car,” Ozzie said.
“Well, let’s not start patting each other’s backs quite yet,” the Arranger said. “Phase one is complete — clean the car, which moves us right along to phase two — clean you two.”
Franko and Floyd stood side by side in their pinstripe suits, covered in blood, in Ozzie’s backyard. Ozzie held a plastic Hefty trash bag, while the Arranger held a garden hose with a gun-nozzle attached.
“Strip,” the Arranger ordered.
“All the way?” Floyd said.
“To your bare ass,” the Arranger ordered.
As they followed directions, the Arranger enjoyed a smoke. “Quickly, gentlemen; we got about fifteen minutes before Ozzie’s better half comes pulling into driveway.”
“This morning air is pretty chilly,” Franko complained.
“Are you sure this is absolutely necessary?” Floyd asked.
“You know what you two look like?” the Arranger said.
“Like a couple of guys who just blew off somebody’s head,” the Arranger said. “Yes, stripping off those bloody rags is absolutely necessary. Toss the clothes in Ozzie’s garbage bag.”
“Now, Ozzie, don’t do anything stupid like putting that out in front of your house for Elmo the garbageman to take away,” Franko said.
“Don’t worry, we’re taking it with us,” the Arranger said, tossing them a bar of soap. “Ozzie, the soap. OK, gentlemen, you’re both been to County before, I’m sure. Here it comes.” The Arranger hit the trigger, and water shot out, smacking both men.
“Damn, that water’s cold!” Floyd exclaimed.
“Better you than me, gentlemen. Don’t be afraid of the soap; spread it around,” the Arranger said as two men, trembling, scrubbed themselves.
The Arranger stopped the hose, tossing it on the ground. “Towel ’em.”
Ozzie tossed them each a towel, which they rubbed furiously across their bodies. “You’re dry enough,” the Arranger said. “Give ’em their clothes.”
“OK, fellas, in the one-size-fits-all category, we’ve got swim trunks, one red — one white. And two extra-large T-shirts. A Hard Rock Café Metropolis shirt, and an I’m with Stupid shirt.”
“I get the I’m with Stupid shirt,” Franko said.
In their T-shirts and swim trunks, Floyd and Franko looked a million miles away from the pin-stripe-suited gangsters that had walked into the house.
“Perfect. Perfect. We couldn’t have planned this better. You guys look like… what do they look like, Ozzie?” the Arranger asked.
“Dorks. They look like a couple of dorks,” Ozzie said. The Arranger and Ozzie laughed. The latter in his trademark “Waugh, waugh.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha,” Franko said in a deadpan voice. “They’re your clothes.”
“C’mon, gentlemen, we’re laughing and joking our way into prison,” the Arranger said. “Let’s speed this up.”
They started walking through the house to the garage. The garbage bag was tossed in the car trunk on top of Marvin. The Arranger slammed it closed. “Gentlemen, let’s get our rules of the road straight. We’re going to a place called Monster Joe’s Truck and Tow. Monster Joe is sympathetic to our dilemma. Now, I’ll drive the tainted car. Franko, you ride with me. Floyd, you follow in my Porsche. Now, if we cross the path of any cops or capes, nobody does a thing ’til I do something.”
He threw Floyd his car keys. “I drive real fast, so keep up. If I get my car back any different than I gave it, Monster Joe’s going to be disposing of two bodies.”
“Why do you drive fast?” Franko asked.
“Because it’s a lot of fun,” the Arranger said.
Floyd and Franko laughed as the Arranger got in the car. “Let’s move.”
Inside Monster Joe’s, the Arranger counted out three-thousand dollars to an older man in a dirty T-shirt, Monster Joe. Joe’s office looked like the office of every tow yard on the planet — a filthy, disarrayed mess.
“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again — your business is always welcome,” Monster Joe said.
“I would think by now I’ve earned the equivalent of Frequent Flyer miles,” the Arranger said.
“I’ll tell ya what, if you ever need it, I’ll dispose of a body part for free,” Monster Joe said. The two men laughed.
Floyd and Franko waited by the Arranger’s Porsche. “We cool?” Franko asked.
“Like it never happened,” the Arranger said.
Franko extended a hand to Floyd. “I apologize for being in your face like I was.”
“You had every right; I screwed up,” said Floyd. “I didn’t know that gun. I shouldn’t have been waving it around.”
“So, where do you boys live?” the Arranger asked.
“Gotham Heights,” Franko said.
“The Holiday Inn on fourth and main,” Floyd said.
“I see a cab ride in your future,” the Arranger said. “I’ll see you two around, and stay outta trouble, you crazy old coots.”
“Thanks, Arranger. It was a pleasure watchin’ you work.”
The Arranger smiled. “Call me Winston.” The Porsche then shot off down the road, leaving the two men left alone.
“Want to share a cab?” Franko asked.
“Sure,” Floyd said. Holding up the black snap briefcase they’d taken from the apartment, he said, “And what about this?”
“Just hold onto that until Harley gets back from Florida,” said Franko.
Deadshot looked at him quizzically. “You sure about that?”
“Yeah,” Franko said casually. “You going to see Lance later on?”
“You bet,” Floyd said.
Franko reached into the pocket of the swim trunks and pulled out his billfold. He pulled out several hundred-dollar bills. “Pick something up for me. Tell him to give me the usual.”
“Sure. No problem,” Floyd said.
Later, Floyd Lawton sat at a table with two women inside the kitchen of an old house on the outskirts of town. One of them was Jody, a woman who appeared to have a fondness for earrings. Even though Floyd was at the same table, he wasn’t included in the conversation. He was bored almost to the point of tears.
“Floyd, you can come in now!” a voice from the other room said.
Lance, to all appearances, was in his late twenties, with a wild and woolly appearance that went hand-in-hand with his wild and woolly personality. In actuality, Lance had been selling experimental drugs to the super-villain community for nearly half a century. He’d never had a day job, never filed a tax return, and had never been arrested. As if he were trying to be ironic, he wore a dirty lab coat over a Captain Carrot T-shirt.
Three bags of a glittery powder rested on Lance’s workbench. Lance and Floyd stood at the side of the bench.
“Now, this is X-123, from TylerCo. Very good stuff. This is RH44-E, a new derivative from STAR Labs. Different, but equally good. And this is CH-X123 from Hartz Industries of Germany. Now, the first two are the same, forty-five an ounce — those are friend prices — but this one…” He pointed to the CH-X123. “…this one’s a little more expensive. It’s fifty-five. But when you shoot it, you’ll know where that extra money went. Nothing wrong with the first two. It’s real, real, real, good $#!^. But this one’s a #^@%!*& fountain of youth. You’ll be dancing around like an eighteen-year-old.”
“That’s a bold statement. And I got better prices in Quebec.”
“This ain’t Quebec. Coke is dead as disco. Heroin’s old news. Youth is the drug of choice in our circle, and it’s hot as hell.”
Floyd took out a roll of money that would choke a horse to death.
“Give me three hundred worth of Fountain of Youth. If it’s as good as you say, I’ll be back for a thousand.”
“I just hope I still have it. A lot of guys weren’t there for the Humanite and Karkull’s big rejuvenation shindig and need what I can give them. (*) Whaddya think of Trudy? She hasn’t got a boyfriend. Want to hang out an’ get high?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: JSA Reserves: All This and Earth-Two.]
“Which one’s Trudy? The one with all the junk in her face?”
“No, that’s Jody. That’s my wife,” Lance said.
Floyd and Lance giggled at the faux pas. “I’m on my way somewhere. I got a dinner engagement. Rain check?” Floyd took out his case of the works, his utensils for shooting youth-enhancing drugs. “You don’t mind if I dose up here?”
“Me casa, su casa.”