Tales of Gotham City: Gotham City Stories, Chapter 9: My World War II

by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from Pulp Fiction, screenplay by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary

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Carlos Ramirez beat the steering wheel and the dash with his fists as he drove down the street. “Of all the things she could forget, she forgets my father’s watch. I specifically reminded her not to forget it. Bedside table — I said the words: ‘Don’t forget my father’s watch.'”

The little Honda raced toward its destination as fast as its little engine would take it. “What am I doin’? Have I taken one too many hits to the head? That’s got to be it. Brain damage is the only excuse for this dumb a move. Stop the car, Carlos.” He kept on driving. “Stop the car, Carlos.”

He paid no attention to himself as he said, “I’m talkin’ to you. Put-your-foot-on-the-break!” Carlos’ foot slammed down hard on the break, and the little Honda skidded to a stop in the middle of the street. He hopped out of the car like it was on fire.

Carlos began pacing back and forth, talking to himself, oblivious to passersby and traffic. “I ain’t gonna do this. This is a punchy move, and I ain’t punchy! Papa would totally understand. If he were here right now, he’d say, ‘Carlos, you’re loco. It’s a watch, man. You lose one, ya get another. This is your life you’re messin’ around with, which you shouldn’t be doing, ’cause you only got one.'”

Carlos continued to pace, but silently. Then he stopped and said, “This is my war. You see, Carlos, what you’re forgetting is this watch isn’t just a device that enables you to keep track of time. This watch is a symbol. It’s a symbol of how your father, and his father before him, distinguished themselves in war. And when I took Harley Quinn’s money, I started a war. This is my World War II. That apartment in North Gotham, that’s my Wake Island. In fact, if you look at it that way, it’s almost kismet that Fabian left it behind. And using that perspective, going back for it isn’t stupid. It may be dangerous, but it’s not stupid. Because there are certain things in this world that are worth going back for.”

That was it. Carlos had talked himself into it again. He hopped in the car, started it up, and took off.

But Carlos wasn’t completely reckless. He parked his car a couple of blocks from his apartment to check things out before he went through the front door.

Carlos walked down the alley until he got to another street, then discreetly glanced out. Everything seemed normal. There were more or less the right number of cars in the street. None of the parked cars appeared out of place. None of them had a couple of goons sitting inside. Basically, it looked like normal morning activity in front of Carlos’ home.

Peering around a wall, Carlos took in the vital information. “Everything looks hunky dory,” he said to himself. “Looks can be deceiving, but this time I don’t think they are. Why waste the manpower to stake out my place? I’d have to be an idiot to come back here. That’s how you’re going to beat ’em, Carlos — they keep underestimating you.”

Carlos walked out of the alley and was ready for anything. He crossed the street and entered his apartment courtyard.

Across the street from his building, on the corner, was a yogurt shop. A big sign stuck up in the air, with the name Peachy Pet’s Frozen Yogurt and a graphic of a giant hand holding a big pink yogurt cone.

Carlos walked into the courtyard of his North Gotham apartment building. Once again, everything appeared normal — the laundry room, the pool, and his apartment door — nothing appeared to be disturbed.

He climbed the stairs leading to his apartment, number 12. He stepped outside the door and listened inside. Nothing. Carlos slowly inserted the key into the door, quietly opening it.

From the looks of things, his apartment hadn’t been touched. Carlos cautiously stepped inside, shut the door, and took a quick look around. Obviously, no one was there.

Carlos walked into his modest kitchen and opened the refrigerator. He took out a carton of milk and drank from it. With carton in hard, Carlos surveyed the apartment. Then he went to the bedroom.

His bedroom was like the rest of the apartment — neat, clean, and anonymous. The only things personal in his room were a few boxing trophies, an Olympic silver medal, a framed issue of Ring Magazine with Carlos on the cover, and a poster of Jerry Quarry and one of George Chuvalo.

Sure enough, there was the watch just like he said it was: on the bedside table, hanging on his little kangaroo statue.

He walked through the apartment and back into the kitchen. He opened a cupboard and took out a box of Pop Tarts. Putting down the milk, he opened the box, taking out two Pop Tarts and put them in the toaster.

When Carlos glanced to his right, his eyes fell on something. What he saw was a small, compact Czech M61 submachine gun with a huge silencer on it, lying on his kitchen counter.

“Holy $#!^.” He picked up the intimidating peace of weaponry and examined it. Then a toilet flushed. Carlos looked up to the bathroom door, which was parallel to the kitchen. There was someone behind it. Like a rabbit caught in a radish patch, Carlos froze, not knowing what to do.

The bathroom door opened, and Floyd Lawton stepped out of the bathroom, tightening his belt. In his hand was Carlos’ copy of the book The Golden Age by Jonathan Law. Carlos and Floyd locked eyes.

Floyd froze, inwardly cursing himself. A few seconds sooner, and he would literally have been caught with his pants down like some amateur.

Carlos didn’t move, except to point the M61 in Floyd’s direction. Ted Grant, his trainer, had taught him how to hide fear from his opponent. Otherwise, he’d have been a quivering pile of Jell-O.

Neither man opened his mouth. Then the toaster loudly kicked up the Pop Tarts. That was all the situation needed. Carlos’ finger hit the trigger. And muffled fire shot out of the end of the gun.

Floyd was wracked with what seemed like twenty bullets simultaneously lifting him off his feet, propelling him through the air, and sending him crashing through the glass shower door at the end of the bathroom. By the time Carlos removed his finger from the trigger, Floyd had slumped to the floor, unmoving.

Carlos stood frozen, amazed at what just happened. His look went from the still form of Floyd Lawton in the bathroom down to the powerful piece of artillery in his grip.

With the respect it deserved, Carlos carefully placed the M61 back on the kitchen counter. Then he exited the apartment quickly, not bothering to check for a pulse. The man looked dead enough.

Carlos, not running but walking very rapidly, crossed the courtyard coming out of the apartment building, crossed the street, going through the alley and into his car. He cranked the car into gear and drove away. The big, wide smile of a survivor broke across his face.

The Honda turned down the alley and slowly cruised by his apartment building. Carlos looked out the window at his former home. “That’s how you’re gonna beat ’em, Carlos. They keep underestimating ya.”

This made the boxer laugh out loud. He drove by the apartment, but was stopped at the light on the corner across from the Peachy Pet’s Frozen Yogurt.

Carlos was still chuckling, singing along with the radio, as Franko Morelli exited Peachy Pet’s Frozen Yogurt, carrying a couple of pints of frozen yogurt and two large Styrofoam cups of coffee. He stepped off the curb, crossing the street in front of Carlos’ car.

The boxer’s laughing stopped when he saw the burly man directly in front of him. Franko, in front of Carlos’ car, casually glanced to his left, saw Carlos, continued walking — then stopped. His expression said, “Am I really seeing what I’m seeing?”

Carlos didn’t wait for the big man to answer his own question. He stomped on the gas pedal. The little Honda slammed into Franko, sending him, the yogurt, and the coffee hitting the pavement at thirty miles an hour.

Cutting into cross traffic, Carlos was broadsided by a gold Camaro Z-28, breaking all the windows in the Honda and sending it up on the sidewalk.

Carlos sat dazed and confused in the crumpled mess of what at one time was Fabian’s Honda. Blood flowed from his nostrils. The still-functional tape player continued to play. A pedestrian poked his head inside.

“Jesus, are you OK?” someone asked him.

Carlos looked at him, spaced out. “I guess.”

Franko lay sprawled out in the street. Gawkers gathered around the body.

“He’s dead! He’s dead!” someone cried. His yelling made Franko come to.

Two pedestrians helped the shaken Carlos out of the wreckage, while the woozy Franko got to his feet.

“If you need a witness in court, I’ll be glad to help. He was a drunken maniac. He hit you and crashed into that car,” someone told him.

“Who?” Franko said groggily.

“Him,” the gawker said, pointing at Carlos.

Franko followed the Gawker’s finger and saw Carlos Ramirez down the street, looking a shambles.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Franko said. The big man took out a .45 automatic, and the gawkers backed away. Franko started moving toward Carlos.

Carlos saw the fierce figure making a wobbly beeline toward him. “Madre de Dios!” he exclaimed, having picked the habit up from his Mexican-born mother.

Franko brought up his weapon and fired, but he was so hurt, shaky, and dazed that his arm went wild. Instead, he hit one of the onlookers in the hip. She fell to the ground, screaming.

That was all Carlos needed to see. He was outta there.

Franko ran after him as the crowd looked on, agape. Carlos took off in a mad, limping run. The big man was hot on his trail with a cockeyed, wobbly run.

Carlos cut across traffic and dashed into a business with a sign that read Full Moon Pawnshop.

A pale boy, dressed like he was trying to look like Robert Smith of the Cure, stood behind the counter of his pawnshop. All of a sudden, chaos in the form of Carlos Ramirez entered into his world. “Can I help you with something?” he asked.

“Shut up!” Carlos yelled. He quickly took measure of the situation, and then stood next to the door.

“Now you just wait one damn minute,” the Goth-looking boy warned. Before he could finish his threat, Franko charged in. He didn’t get past the doorway, because Carlos landed his fist in Franko’s face.

The gangster’s feet went out from under him, and he fell flat on his back. Outside, two police cars with their sirens blaring raced by.

Carlos pounced on the fallen gangster, punching him twice more in the face. He took the gun out of Franko’s hand and then grabbed hold of his middle finger. “So you like chasing people, huh?” He then placed the barrel of the .45 between his eyes, pulled back the hammer, and placed his open hand behind the gun to shield the splatter. “Well, guess what, big man, you caught me!”

“Hold it right there, God dammit!” the kid behind the counter shouted.

Carlos and Franko looked up at the Goth kid, who was brandishing a pump-action shotgun, aimed at the two men.

“Look, mister, this ain’t any of your business,” Carlos said, astonished. He had assumed the kid behind the counter was a sissy who wouldn’t get involved.

“I’m making it my business! Now toss that gun!” Carlos obeyed. “Now you on top — stand up and come to the counter,” he ordered.

Carlos slowly got up and moved to the counter. As soon as he got there, the Goth kid hauled off and hit him hard in the face with the butt of the shotgun, knocking Carlos down and out.

After Carlos went down, the Goth kid calmly laid the shotgun on the counter and walked around to where Carlos lay.

Franko, from his position on the floor, groggily watched the pawnshop owner as he grabbed a hold of Carlos’ wrists and dragged him to a doorway. He opened the door, revealing a set of steps. “Zed? Guess what!” he called down excitedly. “The spider just caught a couple of flies!” Franko then passed out.

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