by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from Pulp Fiction, screenplay by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary
Floyd Lawton looked up, not believing what he was seeing. Under the table, his hand went to his .45 automatic. He pulled it out, cocking it.
“Customers stay seated, waitresses on the floor,” Punch said.
“Now means now! Do it or die, you hear me?!” Jewely shouted.
Like lightning, Punch moved over to the kitchen, while Jewely screamed out threats to the patrons, keeping them terrified.
“You in the kitchen, get out here!” Punch ordered. Three cooks and two busboys came out of the kitchen. “On the floor, comprende?”
The portly manager in the bad Green Lantern knockoff spoke up. “I’m the manager here. There’s no problem, no problem at all…”
Punch quickly moved to his side. “You’re going to give me a problem?” He reached around him and stuck the barrel of his gun hard in the manager’s neck. “What? You said you’re going to give me a problem? That outfit makes you think you’re a real super-hero?”
“No, I’m not. I’m not going to give you any problem!” the manager exclaimed.
“I don’t know, honey-bunny. He sure looks like the hero type to me!” Punch said.
“Don’t take any chances. Execute him!” Jewely said animatedly.
The patrons screamed. The man known as Deadshot watched all this silently, his hand tightly gripping the .45 automatic under the table.
“Please don’t!” the manager pleaded. “I’m not a super-hero. I’m just a coffee shop manager. Take anything you want.”
“Tell everyone to cooperate, and it’ll be all over,” Punch said.
“Everybody just be calm and cooperate with them, and this will be all over soon!” the manager repeated in a choked vice.
“Well done. Now get your butt on the ground with everyone else,” Punch said.
Inside the restroom, Franko Morelli sat reading a copy of The Golden Age by Jonathan Law on the toilet that Floyd had brought from Carlos’ apartment, oblivious to the pandemonium outside. “Quitting,” he grumbled to himself. “Who am I kidding? Like I could say ‘I quit’ to Harley Quinn.”
The cash register drawer flew open, and Punch stuffed the money from the till in a large polka-dotted bag. He then walked from behind the counter with the bag in his hand and said, “OK, people, I’m going to go around and collect your wallets. Don’t talk. Just toss ’em in the bag. We clear?”
Punch went around collecting wallets. Floyd sat with his .45 ready to spit under the table. Punch saw Floyd sitting in his booth, holding his wallet, briefcase next to him. Punch crossed to him. When he saw the look in his eye, his tone became more respectful, his manner more on guard. “In the bag.”
Floyd dropped his wallet in the bag. He eyed Punch up and down and said, “Circus in town?”
“Hah-hah. I make the jokes here, old man.” Using his gun as a pointer, Punch pointed to the briefcase. “What’s in that?”
“My boss’ dirty laundry,” Floyd said.
“Your boss makes you do his laundry?” Punch asked.
“When he wants it clean,” Floyd answered.
“Sounds like a pretty crummy job,” Punch said.
“Funny, I’ve been thinkin’ the same thing,” Floyd said.
“Open it up.”
Deadshot’s free hand lay palm-flat on the briefcase. “Afraid I can’t do that.”
Punch was definitely surprised by his answer. He aimed the gun right in the middle of Floyd’s face and pulled back the hammer. “I didn’t hear you.”
“Yes, you did,” Deadshot said icily.
This exchange had been kind of quiet, so not everybody in the restaurant heard it, but Jewely sensed something was wrong.
“What’s goin’ on, sugar pie?” Jewely said.
“Looks like we got a super-hero in our midst after all,” Punch said.
“Shoot him in the face!” Jewely exclaimed.
“I don’t mean to shatter your ego, but this ain’t the first time I’ve had a gun pointed at me,” Deadshot said.
“You don’t open up that case, it’s going to be the last,” Punch threatened.
“Quit causing problems,” the manager barked. “You’ll get us all killed! Give ’em what you got and get ’em out of here.”
“Keep your damn mouth closed, fat man,” Deadshot growled. “This ain’t any of your goddamn business!”
“I’m counting to three, and if your hand isn’t off that case, I’m going to unload right in your freaking face. Clear?” Punch threatened. “One…”
Deadshot closed his eyes.
Floyd shot Punch twice, up through the table, sending him to the floor. While still in the booth, he swung around to Jewely, who had aimed at Floyd, but was slowed down by the shock of Punch getting shot. Floyd fired three times. Jewely took all three hits in the chest. As she fell screaming, she fired wildly, hitting a punkish-looking patron.
“She shot me! I’m dying! Sally! Sally!” the patron screamed.
Floyd now brought the gun down to Punch’s face. Punch lay shot on the floor at Floyd’s feet. Punch looked up at the big gun.
“You picked the wrong guy, Pagliacci,” he said as he pulled the trigger and fired.
Deadshot’s eyes, still closed, suddenly opened. Punch still stood, holding the gun on him. “…Three.”
“You win,” Floyd sighed, raising his hand off the briefcase. “It’s all yours, Pagliacci.”
Floyd flipped the locks and opened the case, revealing it to Punch. A crimson light shone from the case. Punch’s expression went from fierce to amazed.
“What is it? What is it?” Jewely squealed from across the room.
“Is that what I think it is?” Punch said in amazement.
Deadshot nodded his head yes.
“It’s beautiful,” Punch said, mesmerized.
Floyd nodded his head yes.
“Somebody tell me what it is!” Jewely exclaimed, pouting and stomping her foot.
Floyd slammed the case closed, then sat back, as if offering the case to Punch. Punch, one big smile, bent over to pick up the case.
Like a rattlesnake, Deadshot’s free hand grabbed the wrist of Punch’s gun hand, slamming it on the table. His other hand came from under the table and stuck the barrel of his .45 hand under Punch’s chin.
Jewely freaked out, waving her gun in Deadshot’s direction. “Let him go! Let him go! I’ll blow your head off! I’ll kill ya! I’ll kill ya! You’re gonna die! You’re gonna die bad!”
“Tell that bitch to be cool!” Deadshot growled. “Say, ‘bitch be cool!’ Say, ‘bitch be cool!'”
“Chill out, honey!” Punch said.
“Let him go!” Jewely shouted.
“Tell her it’s gonna be OK,” Deadshot said softly.
“I’m going to be OK,” Punch said.
“Promise her,” Deadshot said.
“I promise,” Punch gulped.
“Tell her to chill.”
“Just chill out.”
“What’s her name?” Floyd asked.
Punch gave an almost hurt expression that their “fame” hadn’t preceded them and sighed, “Jewely. She’s called Jewely.”
“So, we cool, Jewely?” Deadshot said, keeping his eyes on Punch. “We ain’t gonna do anything stupid, are we?”
“Don’t you hurt him,” Jewely said, crying.
“Nobody’s going to hurt anybody,” Floyd said. “We’re gonna be like three Fonzies. And what’s Fonzie like?” There was no answer. “C’mon, Jewely, what’s Fonzie like?”
“He’s cool?” she said through tears.
“Correct-amundo! And that’s what we’re gonna be — we’re gonna be cool.” Floyd turned to Punch and said, “Now, Pagliacci, I’m gonna count to three, and I want you to let go your gun and lay your palms flat on the table. But when you do it, do it cool. Ready?”
Punch looked at him.
“One… two… three.”
Punch let go of his gun and placed both hands on the table.
“OK, now let him go!” Jewely insisted anxiously.
“Jewely, I thought you were gonna be cool. When you yell at me, it makes me nervous. When I get nervous, I get scared. And when guys like me get scared, that’s when guys like him get accidentally shot.”
“Just know: you hurt him, you die,” Jewely said more conversationally.
“That seems to be the situation,” Deadshot said. “Now, I don’t want that, and you don’t want that, and Pagliacci, here, don’t want that. So let’s see what we can do.” He concentrated on Punch and said, “Now, this is the situation. Normally, both of you would be dead as the Fantastic Fried Chicken. But you happened to pull this $#!^ while I’m in a transitional period. I don’t want to kill you. I want to help you. But I’m afraid I can’t give you the case. It doesn’t belong to me. Besides, I went through too much this morning on account of this case to just hand it over to your ass.”
“What the #^@%’s goin’ on, here?” a voice suddenly called out. Jewely whipped her gun toward the stranger. Franko Morelli, by the bathroom, had his gun out, dead-aimed at Jewely.
“It’s cool, Franko! It’s cool! Don’t do a damn thing. Jewely, it’s cool, baby. Nothing’s changed. We’re still just talking.” He turned to Punch. “Tell her we’re still cool.”
“It’s cool, honey-bunny. We’re still cool,” Punch said, sweating.
“What the hell’s goin’ on, Floyd?” Franko growled, gun raised.
“Nothin’ I can’t handle. I want you to just hang back and don’t do nothin’ unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
“Check,” Franko said, looking as if he were ready to plug Jewely at any second.
“Jewely, how we doing, baby?” Floyd said.
“I gotta go pee! I want to go home,” she whined.
“Just hang in there, baby. You’re doin’ great. Pagliacci’s proud of you, and so am I. It’s almost over.” He gestured with his gun at Punch and said, “Now I want you to go in that bag and find my wallet.”
“Which one is it?” Punch asked.
“It’s the one with the bullseye engraved on it.”
Punch looked in the bag and — sure enough – there was a leather wallet with a bullseye engraved on it.
“Bullseye! Now open it up and take out the cash. How much is there?”
“About fifteen-hundred dollars.”
“Put it in your pocket; it’s yours. Now, with the rest of them wallets and the register, that makes this a pretty successful little score.”
“Floyd, if you give this nimrod fifteen-hundred bucks, I’m gonna shoot ’em on general principle,” Franko said.
“You ain’t gonna do a goddamn thing,” Deadshot said. “Now hang back and shut the hell up. Besides, I ain’t giving it to him. I’m buying something for my money. Want to know what I’m buying, Pagliacci?”
“What?” Punch said.
“Your life. I’m giving you that money so we don’t have to kill your ass.”
“And don’t think I don’t appreciate it,” Punch laughed nervously.
“You might think I never heard of you because you’re small time. That ain’t the case. When you said your names, I remembered right away who you were,” Floyd said. Punch seemed to brighten a little. “I also know what you used to be.”
Punch’s grin began to fade as quickly as it had appeared. “You heard that, too, huh?”
“You threw it all away on a dame,” Floyd said. “Oldest story in the book.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Team Justice: Times Past, 1959: Justice in the Making.]
“I don’t regret it,” Punch said. “We’ve been happy together.”
“You might not regret her, but you’ve got regrets. I can look right at you and tell,” Floyd said. “When I say I’m buying your life, I mean I’m giving you a second chance. Take the money. Go far away. Get a new start and leave all this behind.” Floyd lowered his gun, laying it on the table.
Punch looked at him, to the money in his hand, then to Jewely. She looked back. Grabbing the trash bag full of wallets, the two ran out the door.
Floyd, who had never risen from his seat the whole time, took a sip of coffee. He looked at it disgustedly. “It’s cold.” He pushed it aside.
Franko slid into the booth across from Floyd. “I think you oughtta take your own medicine.”
“What’s that?” Floyd said, pulling out his tobacco pouch to roll himself a cigarette.
“There’s not that much difference between you and that guy,” Franko said. “You were right about me. I’m too far in to give it up, but you’d been walking the straight and narrow for decades before you got back in the biz. Just last year you were telling people you’d never work for hire like that guy who impersonated you, Lefty Burkowitz. (*) You even told me he was a chump for working for that monkey, the Ultra-Humanite, and that you hated the idea that anyone thought Deadshot would ever work for someone else! (*) And then, like that, you went and got back into the game, working for no less than another monkey, the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City — and all because you really needed the money? You were already a millionaire, Lawton! What gives?”
“Things… got complicated,” said Floyd, thinking back on it.
It had never been about the money, despite what he’d told Franko. Floyd had been born into money as part of the wealthy Lawton family, and although his fortunes had ebbed somewhat over the years, he was still a wealthy man. It was also true that he had disdain for hired guns; back when he first became Deadshot, he worked hard to establish a reputation for himself as a crime-fighter and Batman’s rival, even as he was secretly becoming a crime boss himself. (*) That Floyd Lawton never killed anyone and would never have lowered himself to working as a hired gun for anyone like Burkowitz. But things changed.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Replaced Batman,” Batman #59 (June-July, 1950).]
The reason he’d gone back into the crime biz was because of family. Although Floyd had never been married, he had been engaged in the 1940s to a society girl named Jessica Susan Torrence, whom he had known in his home town of Lawton, a company town built by his wealthy family. But after she broke off their engagement, he never saw her again for several years. He joined the U.S. Army during the war and became a top-notch sniper, relocating to Gotham City after his discharge, where he continued practicing his marksmanship with a private shooting range in a mansion he purchased. After his brief stint as Deadshot, he was put into prison for the next few years. In 1955, after getting out of jail, he learned that she’d had a son, but that she was also happily married to another man named Heron Cooper. (*) He was crushed, since he’d spent nearly five years in prison hoping to get back together with Jessie. She’d been the closest thing to the love of his life. He never met his son Eddie, a troubled young man who never settled down and ended up dying young, but in more recent years, he did meet his grandsons Mitch and Jake when they were grown up.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Adam Blake: Times Past, 1955: Blake’s Bullet.]
The two boys looked like twins, except for having different hair colors, though they were actually born to different mothers and didn’t meet each other until they were in their teens. Mitch and Jake, the Trigger Twins as Floyd called them, shared Deadshot’s love of firearms. They also shared his youthful tendencies for criminal behavior, and despite his caution, they took on the monickers of Marksman and Sharpshooter and began their own criminal careers as mercenaries. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Dragon Knight: Into the Light, Chapter 11: The Dragon Knight.]
Unfortunately, the Trigger Twins bit off more than they could chew when they took on one very important job for the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City and failed to follow through on it. Now their heads were on the chopping block. When Floyd Lawton heard through the grapevine that his own grandsons were in serious trouble with the Mob, he did something drastic to save their skins. Floyd Lawton became Deadshot again and did what he always swore he’d never do — work for hire to pay off his grandsons’ debt. Once he was back in the crime game, it was like the decades since he first became the would-be crime boss Deadshot simply evaporated away, and Floyd Lawton lost himself in the violence until he’d forgotten he had ever gone straight. The last few months had been so bloody that he’d had to flee up north to the independent nation of Quebec until things cooled down again.
“Anyway, say I went straight again — what am I supposed to do with myself? Grow old gracefully?” Floyd snorted.
“A guy with your talents can find ways to make money to pay for his Fountain of Youth without working for crooks. Even if you didn’t, at least you’d get to grow old. You know I was supposed to kill you, don’t you? I was supposed to set it up like you’d stolen the contents of that briefcase from the Joker’s daughter and take you out.”
“I kind of figured,” Floyd said, lighting his cigarette.
“But I ain’t going to,” Franko said. “After all the stuff that’s happened to the two of us since we hooked up, I figure we were both supposed to carry on for a while longer. And who am I to argue with the guy upstairs on that?”
“But you’re gonna keep on doing what you do?” Floyd said.
“I am what I am,” Franko said, holding up his hands. “I am what I am. Who knows? Maybe there’s an ultimate purpose for me being where I am. Can’t change fate.”
“Can’t argue with logic like that,” Floyd said.
“Anyway, we’d better get out of here,” Franko said.
Floyd threw some money on the table, and Franko grabbed the briefcase. Then, to the amazement of the patrons, the costumed waitresses, the cooks, the bus boys, and the manager, the two grizzled old gangsters walked out of the coffee shop together without saying another word.