by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from Pulp Fiction, screenplay by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary
It was about nine o’clock the next morning at the Breakfast of Champions, a local super-hero-themed breakfast joint. While the place wasn’t exactly packed, there was a healthy number of people drinking coffee, munching on bacon, and eating pancakes and eggs.
Floyd Lawton and Franko Morelli sat at a booth having breakfast as they waited for their meeting with Harley Quinn, who was just returning from Florida. Deadshot had brought with him the black snap briefcase the two had taken from the apartment a couple of days earlier. In front of him was a big stack of pancakes and sausages, which he ate with gusto. Franko, on the other hand, just had a cup of coffee and a muffin. His face was badly bruised. A huge bandage was across his nose. Another decorated his neck. He seemed far away in thought. The waitress, wearing a designer Power Girl costume, poured a refill for both men.
“Thanks a bunch,” Floyd said. He turned to Franko, who was nursing his coffee. “You OK? That painkiller working?”
“Yeah, I’m all right. How about you?”
“Just a bit bruised is all,” said Floyd. “Even with a dose of Fountain of Youth, still gonna hurt like hell.”
Franko just nodded.
“Lighten up a little, fella,” Floyd finally said. “You’ve been sitting there all quiet.”
“I’ve just been sitting here thinking.”
“About what?” Floyd said with a mouthful of food.
“Miracles,” Franko said. “In the last few days we’ve been nearly killed twice, and here we are, sitting down having breakfast.”
“You say miracle. I say a couple of freak occurrences,” Floyd said.
“Do you know what a miracle is?” Franko asked.
“An act of God,” Floyd said.
“And what’s an act of God?” Franko asked.
“I guess it’s when God makes the impossible possible. And I’m sorry, Franko, but I don’t think anything that’s happened qualifies.”
“Don’t you see, Floyd, that doesn’t matter? You’re judging this thing the wrong way. It’s not about what. It could be God stopped the bullets. It could be he made Carlos come back and help me or tell you you needed to wear your bulletproof vest yesterday. You don’t judge things like this based on merit. Whether or not anything we experienced was a bonafide miracle is insignificant. I can’t shut my eyes to the possibility. And I can’t go back to the way I was.”
“So you’re serious? You’re really going to quit?”
“The life, most definitely.”
Franko took a bite of food. Floyd took a sip of coffee.
“So, if you’re quitting the life, what’ll you do?”
“That’s what I’ve been sitting here contemplating. First, I’m going to have to deliver the news about Carlos. Then, I’ll figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. Maybe I’ll get a real job.”
“Real job? Let’s not get carried away, here, Franko,” Floyd said. “What you’ve been doing for the last few decades, you can’t exactly put on your resume. When did you make this decision, anyway? While you were sitting there eating your muffin?”
“Yeah. I was just sitting here drinking my coffee, eating my muffin, playing the incident in my head, when I had what alcoholics refer to as a ‘moment of clarity.'”
“Oh, brother,” Floyd said.
“I gotta use the can,” Franko said. “To be continued.”
Two of the diners were a young married couple. At least, they looked young thanks to an incident involving Ian Karkull, emerald energy, and much of the super-villain community. (*) It had cost them most of their savings outside of their kids’ college fund. The young-looking man had the haunted eyes of someone who had been struggling with internal issues for most of his life. He smoked cigarettes like they were going out of style. The woman seemed overly bubbly, almost cartoonish. Like the waiters and waitresses in the restaurant, they were wearing colorful costumes. Unlike them, they had the option to keep theirs covered with trenchcoats.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: JSA Reserves: All This and Earth-Two, Chapter 3: Villains Rejuvenated.]
“No, forget it — it’s too risky,” the young-looking man said. “I’m through doing that.”
“You always say that,” the young woman argued. “The same thing every time!” She proceeded to pantomime him in a nasal tone. “‘Never again, I’m through, too dangerous.'”
“I know that’s what I always say,” he said grinning. “I’m always right, too, but…”
“But you forget about it in a day or two.”
“Yeah? Well, the days of me forgetting are over, and the days of me remembering have just begun.”
“When you go on like this, you know what you sound like?” she smirked.
“I sound like a sensible man, is what I sound like.”
“You sound like a duck,” she mocked. At that, she folded her hands under her arms and began imitating the flapping of a duck’s wings. “Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack…”
“Well, take heart, doll-babe, because you’re never going to have to hear it again. And since I’m never going to do it again, you’re never going to have to hear me quack about how I’m never going to do it again.”
“After tonight,” she finished, making them both laugh.
“Correct. I got all tonight to quack,” he replied.
A waitress came by with a pot of coffee. She was wearing what looked similar to a Wonder Woman costume, but there were red and white stripes where the blue with stars should have been, and blue with stars where the red should have been. The tiara also looked more like something a prom queen would wear. “Can I get anybody any more coffee?” she asked.
“Oh, yes, thank you,” the wife said.
The waitress poured the young woman’s coffee. The young man lit up another cigarette and asked, “Who are you supposed to be?”
“I’m Minute Maid,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“I don’t think I’ve heard of her,” he said, taking another drag off his cigarette.
“There’s not. The restaurant made her up.”
“Why not just be Wonder Woman?”
“I think they were afraid she might sue,” the waitress answered disinterestedly.
“Doesn’t sound like something Wonder Woman would do,” he said.
“Well, she did sue those two porno guys back in the ’70s,” his wife said as she raked a forkful of her crime-buster blintz into her mouth.
“It’s just that, with a name like Minute Maid, you sound like you should be serving orange juice instead of coffee,” he grinned. He paused, waiting for her to laugh at his joke.
Instead, she looked at him for a second, then said, “You want orange juice?”
“Naw… naw, I don’t want orange juice,” he sighed. The waitress left, and the youngish man took a drag off his cigarette.
His wife laughed as she poured a ton of cream and sugar into her coffee, changing it from an inky black to sickeningly sweet beige. “I don’t think she likes you.”
“That’s good, because I don’t think I’ll be leaving her a tip.” The young man went back into his earlier tirade. “Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, yeah… the way it is now, you’re taking the same risk as when you rob a bank. You take more of a risk. Banks were always easier! Federal banks weren’t supposed to stop you, anyway, during a robbery. They’re insured; why should they care? You don’t even need a gun in a federal bank. I heard about this guy, walked into a federal bank with a portable phone, handed the phone to the teller, the guy on the other end of the phone claims he was the Riddler and said, ‘We got this guy’s little girl, and if you don’t give him all your money, we’re going to kill ‘er.'”
“Did it work?” she asked, amazed.
“Well, hell, yeah it worked; that’s what I’m talking about! Guy walks in a bank with a telephone, not a pistol, not a bag of expensive tricks and a tacky costume, but a freaking phone, and he cleans the place out without lifting a finger.”
“Did the Riddler hurt the little girl?”
“I think you’re missing the point. It wasn’t the Riddler, and there never was a little girl. The point of the story is they robbed the bank with a telephone.”
“Oh… you wanna rob banks again?” his wife asked.
“I’m not saying I want to rob banks again. I’m just illustrating that if we did, it would be easier than what we’ve been doing.”
“So you don’t want to be a bank robber?” she asked, confused.
“Naw, all those guys are going down the same road, either dead or serving twenty. Look at how many of those old super-crooks from your pop’s time never made it out of sling.”
“Yeah,” she mused before immediately getting back to her previous train of thought. “And no more liquor stores?”
“What have we been talking about? Yeah, no more liquor stores? Besides, it’s not the giggle it used to be. Too many foreigners own liquor stores. They can’t speak English. You tell ’em, ‘Empty out the register,’ and they don’t know what it means. They make it too personal. We keep on, one of those freaks are going to make us kill ’em.”
“I’m not gonna kill anybody,” she said, shaking her head.
“I don’t want to kill anybody, either. But they’ll probably put us in a situation where it’s us or them. And if it’s not the foreigners, it these old guys who’ve owned the store for fifteen generations. Ya got Old Man River sitting behind the counter with a Magnum. Try walking into one of those stores with nothing but a telephone, see how far it gets you.”
“Well, you ain’t exactly a spring chicken yourself,” she teased. “You’re just looking like it these days. Besides, what else is there? Day jobs?”
“Not in this life,” he laughed.
“Well, what then?” she asked.
“Garçon! Coffee!” he called to the waitress. Then looked to his girl. “This place.”
The waitress came by and poured him some more coffee. “Garçon means boy,” she said, leaving quickly.
“Here?” his wife said, confused. “It’s a coffee shop.”
“What’s wrong with that? People never rob restaurants — why not? Bars, liquor stores, gas stations, you get your head blown off sticking up one of them. Restaurants, on the other hand, you catch with their pants down. They’re not expecting to get robbed, or not as expecting.”
“I bet there isn’t hero one in here. Even if they are dressed the part,” she said, looking around.
“Correct. Just like banks, these places are insured. That fat manager over there in the bad Green Lantern knock-off doesn’t care; he’s just trying to get you out the door before you start plugging the customers. Waitresses, forget it, they aren’t taking a bullet for the register. Busboys getting paid a dollar-fifty an hour’s not going to really give a damn if you’re stealing from the owner. Customers are sitting there with food in their mouths… they don’t know what’s going on. One minute they’re chowing down on a Dynamic Denver Omelette, next minute somebody’s sticking a gun in their face.”
The woman visibly took in the idea. The man continued in a low voice. “See, I got the idea last liquor store we stuck up. Remember all those customers who kept coming in?”
“Then you got the idea to take everybody’s wallet.”
“Uh-huh,” she said, nodding.
“That was a good idea.”
“Thank you,” she beamed.
“We made more from the wallets than we did the register.”
“Yes, we did,” she said with a nod.
“A lot of people go to restaurants. That means a lot of wallets.”
The youngish woman scanned the restaurant with this new information. She watched all the patrons eating, lost in conversations — the tired waiters and waitresses in their designer impostor super-hero costumes, taking orders and trying not to die of embarrassment. The bus boys, dressed like sidekicks, going through the motions, collecting dishes. The manager, with his fake power ring and bad combover, complaining about something to a cook dressed like a mad scientist. A smile broke out on Jewely’s face.
“Pretty smart,” she said excitedly. “I’m ready. Let’s go — right here, right now.”
“Remember, same as before,” Punch said. “You’re crowd control. I handle the employees.”
They both pulled on their masks and slid off their trenchcoats. He looked at her, and she back at him. “Well… it’s showtime!” And with that, Punch and Jewely grabbed their weapons, jumped up onto the table, and proceeded to rob the restaurant.
“I love you, pumpkin,” Jewely said.
“I love you, honey-bunny,” Punch said.
“Everybody be cool! This is a robbery! We don’t want any funny business!”
“Except from us, that is!”