by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from Pulp Fiction, screenplay by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary
No one said a word as Floyd Lawton drove Mia Wallace home. Both Floyd and Mia were still too shaken. The Malibu pulled up to the front of Mia’s house, and she got out. Still in a daze, she began walking down the walkway toward her front door without saying a word.
“Mia!” Floyd called out to her, making her turn around. “What are your thoughts on how to handle this?”
“What’s yours?” she asked.
“Well, I’m of the opinion that Harley Quinn and the Joker can live their whole lives and never ever hear of this incident.”
“Don’t worry about it. If the Joker ever heard of this, I’d be in as much trouble as you.”
“I seriously doubt that.”
“If you can keep a secret, so can I,” Mia said.
“Let’s shake on it,” Floyd said.
The two walked toward each other, holding out their hands to shake, and shake they did. “Mum’s the word,” Floyd said.
Mia let go of Floyd’s hand and silently made the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, and speak-no-evil sign with her hands.
Floyd smiled, turning to leave. “If you’ll excuse me, I gotta go home and have a heart attack.”
Mia giggled. “You still wanna hear my Fox Force Five joke?”
“Sure, but I think I’m still a little too petrified to laugh,” Floyd said, turning back around.
“Uh-huh,” Mia said. “You won’t laugh, because it’s not funny. But if you still wanna hear it, I’ll tell it.”
“I can’t wait,” Floyd said.
“Three tomatoes are walking down the street — a poppa tomato, a momma tomato, and a little baby tomato. The baby tomato is lagging behind the poppa and momma tomato. The poppa tomato gets mad, goes over to the baby tomato, and stamps on him–” She stamped on the ground for effect. “–and says: catch up.”
They both smile, but neither laughed. “The Joker would’ve liked it. See ya ’round, Floyd,” Mia said, turning to walk back to her house.
After Mia walked inside, Floyd continued to look at where she was. He brought his hands to his lips and blew her a kiss. He got in his Malibu, started it up, and drove away.
From across the street in a dark sedan with tinted windows, Franko Morelli watched with a pair of binoculars. “You had to pick now to develop restraint,” he said. “I’d hoped we wouldn’t have to drag this thing out.”
Tomorrow after the fight, he thought. There’ll be drinking and celebrating after Carlos takes the dive. Then it’ll be easy to push those two together.
Gotham City, 1968:
In the living room of a modest two-bedroom house in the lower east side of Gotham, a small boy sat in front of a TV set, engrossed in the antics of the cartoon, The Inferior Five.
“Carlos?” a Hispanic woman in her mid-thirties called out to him. She stood in the doorway leading into the living room. Next to her was a man dressed in the uniform of an American military officer. “Carlos, stop watching TV a second, she said. “We got a special visitor. Now, do you remember when I told you your daddy died in a P.O.W. camp?”
“Well, this here is Colonel Saunders. He was in the P.O.W. camp with Daddy.”
“Call me Speed, ma’am,” he said. “All my friends do.”
Colonel Cyril “Speed” Saunders stepped inside the room toward the little boy and bent down on one knee to bring him even with the boy’s eye line. “Hello, little man. Boy, I sure heard a bunch about you. See, I was a good friend of your Daddy’s. We were in the war together. Hopefully, you’ll never have to experience this yourself, but when two men are in a situation like me and your Daddy were, for as long as we were, you take on certain responsibilities of the other. If it had been me who had not made it, Major Ramirez would be talking right now to my son, Michael, and my little baby granddaughter, Kendra. But the way it worked out is I’m talking to you, Carlos. I’ve got something for you.”
The colonel pulled a gold wristwatch out of his pocket. “This watch I got here was first purchased by your granddaddy, Private Ernesto Ramirez, the day he left for Paris. It was your granddaddy’s war watch, made by the first company to ever make wristwatches. You see, up until then, people just carried pocket watches. Your granddaddy wore that watch every day he was in the war. Your granddad was a Marine, and he was killed with all the other Marines at the battle of Wake Island.
“Your granddad was facing death, and he knew it. None of those boys had any illusions about ever leaving that island alive. So three days before the Japanese took the island, your grandfather asked a gunner on an Air Force transport named Winocki, a man he had never met before in his life, to deliver to his son, his gold watch. Three days later, your grandfather was dead. But Winocki kept his word. After the war was over, he paid a visit to your grandmother, delivering to your father, his dad’s gold watch.
“This watch was on your daddy’s wrist when he was shot down. He was captured and put in a prison camp. Now, he knew if the enemy ever saw the watch, it’d be confiscated. The way your daddy looked at it, that watch was your birthright. And he’d be damned if they were going to put their hands on his boy’s birthright. So he hid it. Five long years, he risked life and limb to keep this watch hidden. They would’ve beaten the tar outta him if they thought he was holding out. When he died of dysentery, he gave me the watch. I hid it for him after that. Then, finally, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the watch to you.”
Colonel Saunders handed the watch to Carlos, who held out his small hand to accept it.
The twenty-seven-year old Carlos Ramirez awoke with a start. He was dressed in boxing regalia: trunks, shoes, and gloves. He lay on a table catching a few Z’s before his big fight. Shaken by the bizarre memory, he wiped his sweaty face with his boxing glove.
His usual trainer, Ted Grant, was out of the country. In his place was his assistant trainer, Klondike, an old fireplug of a man. He opened the door a little, sticking his head in the room. Pandemonium seemed to be breaking out behind Klondike in the hallway. “It’s time, kid.”
“I’m ready,” Carlos said.
Klondike stepped inside, closing the door on the wild mob outside. He went to the long yellow robe hanging on a hook. Carlos hopped off the table and, without a word, Klondike helped him on with the robe, which said on the back, Raging Ramirez.
The two men headed for the door. Klondike opened the door for Carlos. As he stepped into the hallway, the crowd went wild. Klondike closed the door behind him, leaving behind the quiet, empty locker room.
A taxi was parked in a dark alley next to an auditorium. Rain was pouring down into the cluttered alley from above, filling the uneven pavement. Inside the taxi, behind the wheel, was a female cabbie named Esmarelda Villalobos. She was a young woman with dark, smoldering Spanish looks. She sat parked, drinking a steaming hot cup of coffee out of a white Styrofoam cup and listening to the car radio loudly enough to be heard from outside.
“Well, Dan, that had to be the bloodiest and, hands down, the most brutal fight this city has ever seen. Ramirez was out of there faster than I’ve ever seen a victorious boxer vacate the ring. Do you think he knew Willis was dead?”
“My guess would be yes, Richard. I could see, from my position here, the frenzy in his eyes give way to the realization of what he was doing. I think any man would’ve left the ring that fast.”
“Do you feel this ring death tragedy will have an effect on the career of Carlos Ramirez?”
“Well, a tragedy like this can’t help but shake the world of boxing to its very foundation. Ted Grant, who was noticeably absent tonight, will most certainly drop Ramirez after this. He’s not a man who goes in for this sort of unnecessary brutality. He was a former heavyweight champion who made it without–“ Click.
Esmarelda shut off the radio. She took a sip of coffee and then heard a noise behind her in the alley. She stuck her head out of the car door to see what it was.
A window about three stories high opened on the auditorium-side of the alley. A gym bag was tossed out into a garbage trashbin below the window. Then, Carlos Ramirez, still dressed in boxing trunks, shoes, gloves, and yellow robe, leaped to the Dumpster below.
Gym bag in hand, Carlos climbed out of the Dumpster and ran to the taxi. Before he climbed in, he took off his robe and threw it to the ground. Soaking wet and naked except for trunks, shoes, and gloves, he hopped in the backseat, slamming the door.
Esmarelda, staring straight ahead, talked to Carlos through the rearview mirror with a thick Spanish accent. “Are you the man I was supposed to pick up?”
“If you’re the cab I called, I’m the guy you’re supposed to pick up,” he answered.
“Where to?” she asked.
“Outta here,” he answered.
She twisted the ignition key, and the engine roared to life. The meter was then flipped on, and Esmarelda’s bare foot stomped on the gas pedal. The cab whipped out of the alley, fishtailing on the wet pavement in front of the auditorium at a rapid pace.
The locker room door opened, and English Dave fought his way through the pandemonium that was going on outside in the hall, shutting the door on the madness. Once inside, English Dave took the time to adjust his suit and tie.
In the room, black boxer Mikey Willis lay dead upon a table. His face looked like he had gone dunking for bees. His trainer was on his knees, head on his chest, crying over the body.
Franko Morelli stood at the table with one hand on the trainer’s shoulder, lending emotional support. The other held a telephone. Looking up, he saw English Dave walking toward him. “What’cha got?”
“I’m prepared to scour the earth for this guy,” Harley Quinn told him over the phone. “If Carlos goes to China, I want a button man hidin’ in a bowl of rice, ready to plug ‘im!”
“I’ll take care of it,” Franko told her.
Carlos changed clothes in the back of the cab. He got one of his boxing gloves off and tried to roll down one of the backseat windows, but couldn’t find the roll bar. “Hey, how do I open the window back here?” he asked.
Esmarelda watched in the rearview mirror. “I have to do it,” she answered. She pressed a button, and the back window moved down. Carlos tossed his boxing glove out the window, then started untying the other one. Esmarelda couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “Hey, mister?”
“What?” he asked, still working on the glove.
“You were in that fight? The fight on the radio — you’re the fighter?”
“Whatever gave you that idea?” he asked, tossing his other glove out the window.
“No, c’mon, you’re him. I know you’re him. Tell me you’re him.”
“I’m him,” he said, drying himself off with a towel.
“You killed the other boxing man,” she said in a husky voice.
“He’s dead?” Carlos said with surprise.
“The radio said he was dead,” she answered.
He finished wiping himself down. “Sorry ’bout that, Mike,” he said to himself. He tossed the towel out the window and then began to dig in his bag for a T-shirt.
“What does it feel like?”
“What does what feel like?” Carlos said, finding his T-shirt and pulling it out.
“Killing a man. Beating another man to death with your bare hands,” she said worshipfully.
Carlos pulled on his T-shirt. “Are you some kind of weirdo?”
“No, it’s a subject I have much interest in. You are the first person I ever met who has killed somebody. So, what was it like to kill a man?”
“Tell ya what, you give me one of them cigarettes, I’ll give you an answer,” Carlos said.
Esmarelda bounced in her seat with excitement. “Deal!”
Carlos leaned forward. Esmarelda, keeping her eyes on the road, passed a cigarette back to him. He took it. Then, still not looking behind her, she brought up her hand, a lit match in it.
Carlos lit his smoke, and then blew out the match. He took a long drag of the cigarette and said, “So…” He looked at her license. “…Esmarelda Villalobos — very pretty — Esmarelda of the wolves. That’s one hell of a name you got there, sister.”
“Thank you. And what is your name?”
“Carlos, what does it what it feel like to kill a man?”
“I couldn’t tell ya,” Carlos said. “I didn’t know he was dead ’til you told me he was dead. Now I know he’s dead, do you want to know how I feel about it?”
Esmarelda nodded her head yes.
“I don’t feel a thing. You want to know why, Esmarelda?” Carlos said.
Esmarelda nodded her head yes.
“Cause I’m a boxer,” Carlos answered. ” And after you’ve said that, you’ve said pretty much all there is to say about me. Now maybe that son of a bitch tonight was once at one time a boxer. If he was, then he was dead before he ever stepped in the ring. I just put the poor slob outta his misery. And if he never was a boxer–” Carlos paused, taking a drag off his cigarette. “–that’s what he gets for entering my ring.”
Esmarelda dropped Carlos off at a phone booth and waited patiently as he made his call and spoke enthusiastically to the person on the other end. “What’d I tell ya? Soon as the word got out a fix was in, the odds would be outta control! Hey, if he was a better fighter, he’d be alive. If he never laced up his gloves in the first place, which he never should’a done, he’d be alive. Enough about the poor, unfortunate Mr. Mike, let’s talk about the rich and prosperous Mr. Ramirez! How many bookies you spread it around with? … Eight? How long to collect? So, by tomorrow evening, you’ll have it all? Good news, Scotty, real good news — I understand, a few stragglers aside. Fabian and me’re going to leave in the morning. It should take us a couple days to get into Knoxville. Next time we see each other, it’ll be on Tennessee time.”
Carlos hung up the phone. He looked at the cab waiting to take him wherever he wanted to go. “Fabian, my love, our adventure begins,” he said to himself in Spanish.
Esmarelda’s taxi pulled into the motel parking lot. The rain had stopped, but the night was still soaked. Carlos got out, now fully dressed in T-shirt, jeans, and a Grant’s Gym athletic jacket. He leaned in the driver’s-side window. “How much I owe you?”
“Gracias,” he said, handing her the money. “And here’s a little something for the effort.” He held up a hundred dollar bill. Esmarelda’s eyes lit up, and she went to take it. Carlos held it out of reach. “Now, if anybody should ask you about who your fare was tonight, what’re you going to tell ’em?”
“The truth. Three well-dressed, slightly toasted, white businessmen,” she replied with a smile.
He gave her the bill. “Bon soir, Esmarelda.”
“Sleep well, Carlos,” she said in Spanish.
He tweaked her nose, she smiled, and he turned and walked away as she drove off.