by CSyphrett and Starsky Hutch 76
New York City:
Wilhelmina “Billie” Gunn walked the streets of New York City in her blue uniform, wearing a sour expression. Her partner, Benny “Tubby” Watts, walked by her side, silently until he noticed something.
“Look at this guy,” Watts said, indicating a young man across the street.
“He can’t be that stupid,” growled Billie.
The young man rushed forward and grabbed a purse off the shoulder of an old lady, accelerating away. Billie took off right after him. Watts was a distant third and huffing and puffing after one block.
A patrol car rolled up beside the struggling Watts. “What’s going on, Tub?” asked Ray Croft.
“Purse snatcher — huff — Billy the kid — huff — that way,” said Watts. Croft nodded to his partner, and the car accelerated ahead.
Vinnie Corso cursed as he ran. This was his third run here, and some flatfoot was trying to keep up with him. He looked over his shoulder. She was hanging in back there. Time to go for his foolproof escape route. Vinnie headed into a subway entrance and took the steps three at a time. He jumped the token gate and headed right for the train, sliding his hand in to prevent the door from closing, then boarded with a grin. Stupid cop, he thought. No one catches Vinnie the Flash. He settled in for his ride to his next purse snatching.
A pair of blue-clad legs stopped in front of Vinnie’s peripheral view while he was counting the money from the old lady’s bag. He looked up, starting to tell the bystander to move on. He flinched, however, when he saw the angry glare directed at him. Vinnie tried to stand up to get away. The cop brought her arm across his neck, slamming him hard against the safety glass. The snatcher was still trying to get his breath back when something tried to jam up a nostril.
“One excuse,” said Billie Gunn, “and the train gets some more graffiti.”
Vinnie felt something warm trickling down his leg. He rode to the next stop silently and was glad when some other cops came to take him away — anything to get away from that nut. Who would have thought she would jump on a moving train?
“Officer Gunn,” said Captain August, “what in the world were you thinking, holding a suspect at gunpoint on board a crowded subway car?”
“I didn’t want him to try to get away, sir,” said Billie in a matter-of-fact voice.
“Handcuffs wouldn’t have worked, you suppose?” said August.
“He’s a slippery customer,” said Gunn.
“Take a vacation, Gunn,” said the Captain. “I don’t want to see you for a week.”
“Yes, sir,” said the officer. Gunn left the office, unsure what she would do with all that time.
“Hey, kid,” shouted Benny Watts from across the room. He was the only one who called her that to her face. “Bolander said to give you this.” He waved an envelope in the air.
Billie walked over and took the letter, opening the envelope with a single rip of a thumb. She read the contents, smiling at the end.
“I’m going to Texas, Tub,” Gunn said. “I’ll see you in a week.”
Billie Gunn grabbed her bag from the overhead luggage rack and got off the plane as fast as she possibly could. She hated the cramped quarters, and she hated most of all the people who were stuck with her on the flight. It was almost as bad as riding the subway back home.
She walked into the terminal, feeling much better. Two old guys came up from behind her, talking about the good old days. They seemed to be gun nuts of some kind, but she tuned them out. Nothing worse than some old farts talking about the glory days.
A young man stood at the entrance to the airport with a sign. Billie noted her name was on the sign, as well as a Lawton and a Morrigan. One of the two old guys waved at the man, and he nodded. What kind of shooting contest would let these guys in?
“I’m Billie Gunn,” Wilhelmina said to the driver.
“Danny Leong,” said the guy with the sign. “The car’s out front.”
He didn’t offer to take their bags as he almost glided ahead of the trio, then threw the sign away at the next garbage can. Danny opened the trunk of the Lincoln he had driven to pick up the mismatched guests, carefully packed the traveler’s luggage, and shut the lid.
“Uncle Greg is going to throw a dinner for everyone tonight,” said Danny. “The shootout will start tomorrow in the morning. Any costume and mask is welcome, if you want to wear it.”
“No costume for me,” said one of the old men. Billie had thought he was smiling at first, but she realized his face was drawn up in a rictus.
“No need to drag out the tuxedo for me, either,” said the other old-timer.
“Miss?” Danny said.
“I don’t have a costume,” said Billie. “This is the first time I’ve been to one of these things.”
“Don’t worry about it, kid,” said the grinning, crotchety old man. “Queen Arrow doesn’t have much of one, herself.”
“Don’t start, Cully,” said the other.
Billie Gunn had never seen so many people with firearms in one place before. Additionally, there were numerous people with bows and quivers of arrows, most of whom looked like international versions of Green Arrow. These were the members of the Green Arrows of the World, she knew. Among that group she spotted the prominent hero of Mexico, Flecha Verde, whom she recognized from news reports.
Greg Sanders had been greeting guests the whole day since the trio arrived, and dinner was being prepared for the numerous guests that had been asked to the ranch. He approached the head of the dining area outside the main house with a genuine smile of welcome.
“Hello, everybody,” said the Vigilante. “This is the fifth annual Heroes Shootout, so most of ya know the itinerary for the contest. For those of you who don’t, the events consist of stationary shooting, mobile shooting, quick drawing, and single- and dual-combat shooting. I regret to inform y’all that some of the invitees, such as Red Arrow, Queen Arrow, Arrowette, and others, had personal business to attend to this year. I hope all of you will make Billie Gunn welcome, since this’s her first time here. Good luck tomorrow, but I think the Vigilante Cup is staying home with me this year. Enjoy the festivities.” Greg smiled as he went to check on dinner.
Billie was suddenly determined to beat the other attendees out so she could win the trophy, even though she hadn’t been interested in winning moments before Greg’s speech. That Vigilante Cup was going home in her bag, just so she could wipe the smile off Sanders’ face.
The next day, the attendees assembled at the shooting range with their weapons. NYPD street cop Billie Gunn hadn’t seen so many masks and costumes since the Crisis on Infinite Earths, when New York had briefly become hero central. Looking around, she saw that, besides herself, the two old guys named Lawton and Morrigan she had seen at the airport the day before and Danny Leong were the only ones in civilian clothes. The old guys had brought their weapons of choice, too. All she had was her service nine-millimeter caliber, but she was determined to outshoot everyone else.
Danny went to the announcer’s booth as a line assembled at the targets. “The first contest is the stationary target. Contestants are to shoot at the bull’s-eye three times and then step out of line to wait for the next round. Cully Morrigan will shoot first.”
The old man with the grin stepped up, and Billie found out how hard a goal she had set herself when he shot three perfect bull’s-eyes in a row with an old Colt .45. “Brother,” she said to herself as the longest day of her life started.
By the time the single-combat round had come around, Billie was in the top fifteen and was glad to be there. She had held her own so far, but what she needed was a high score through both combat alleys. Who would partner up with her? Everyone else seemed to have already buddied up with someone.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, pushing her nervousness away. Then she stepped into the Hogan’s Alley, ready to shoot anything that flipped into place. She came out the other side in the top ten.
They clapped her on the back when the score was read out over the PA.
Billie Gunn hoped someone would partner up with her without her asking. One by one, archers and gunmen went into the combat alley, and ranks changed just like that.
“I don’t have a partner,” Greg Sanders said, walking up to her. “I was wondering if you would help me out.”
“Sure,” said Billie. “I seem to be short a partner, too.”
“Thanks,” said Greg with a smile.
“Did you plan that?” asked the policewoman, suddenly suspicious.
“Nope,” said Greg, smiling wider. “I was hoping to get Queen Arrow as my partner this year.”
“Your turn, Sanders,” said the gruff Cully Morrigan from behind them.
“So it is,” said Greg, drawing his red bandanna up to cover the bottom of his face. “Ready, partner?”
“Right behind you,” said Billie, checking her pistol before she entered the shooting range.
“The kid’s good,” said Floyd Lawton as he watched the scoreboard. Quick fingers checked his revolvers without thought. He and Morrigan were the last in line.
“She’d have to be to get invited to the ceremonies,” said Morrigan, wiping sweat from his curled lip.
Danny Leong announced that Billie Gunn and the Vigilante were in the lead when the two cleared the other side of the Hogan’s Alley.
“Throw in the towel?” asked Floyd, seeing Billie smile. It was the first smile he had seen from her since they had arrived in Texas.
“I’d rather get my face worked on by the Joker again,” said Cully, drawing his Colts. (*) “Let’s get it over with.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Adam Blake: Times Past, 1954: Blake’s Seven, Chapter 1: Hired Thugs.]
Stellar Studios, Los Angeles:
Sylvester Pemberton walked into the large room at Stellar Studios, carrying his cosmic converter belt over his shoulder. His gaze shifted over to the far right end of the room when he heard a thud. It was the sound of an arrow striking a target.
“Late night target practice, Roy?” he said to the archer in question.
“It’s not like I have much else to do on a Saturday night,” said Roy Harper, mentally adding, unless I wanted to go to Texas this weekend. The young man known as Red Arrow pulled another arrow out of his quiver to take aim at the target. He’d definitely given thought to attending the Vigilante’s Heroes Shootout, but like last year’s shootout it was far too soon after Oliver Queen’s death. As Speedy, Roy had accompanied Green Arrow to Greg’s target competitions for the first three years. To go there alone would still bring back the painful memory of his mentor’s death during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, especially with all those Green Arrow knockoffs from around the world who attended every year. (*) He’d wait another year before going back.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Final Crisis,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (March, 1986).]
“Why not?” Sly said, tossing his converter belt down on the workbench. “You’re young, single, and living in one of the most exciting cities in the country. You should be out having fun!”
“Well, technically, I may be young. But according to my birth certificate, I should be drawing Social Security in a few years. Hell, my little brother Rob is a couple of decades older than me now. (*) I can’t even relate to people who are supposed to be my age according to how I look. I dunno… I guess some of us are better at adjusting than others.” He let the arrow fly, and it landed in the bull’s-eye next to the first.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: Green Arrow and Speedy: Targets.]
“Ouch,” Sly said.
“Speaking of being better at adjusting, why are you here tonight?” Roy said. “Aren’t you engaged now?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: Times Past, 1972: Time, See What’s Become of Me? Epilogue: The Proposal.]
“She’s on a stakeout. Another ‘I think my husband’s cheating, so I want you to follow him to prove I’m not paranoid’ case. At least, that’s what she calls them.” Syl laughed. “I’d hoped to see her, but that’s the price you pay, dating a private eye.”
“I’m sure Jonni says the same thing about dating someone in our line of work,” Roy said.
“I’m sure.” Syl smiled as he opened the front of his converter belt and began to tinker with its insides.
“That thing on the blink?” Roy asked.
“Just a routine check,” Syl said. “I want to make sure it stays in perfect working order. It’s pretty sophisticated technology, and I’ve been having to do some pretty unsophisticated things with it. I came close to losing all functions except flight! I wouldn’t want to go through that again. Flying is fun, but you can only do so much with it in a fight.”
“Say,” Roy said thoughtfully as he took aim at the target again. “Your girl’s name is Jonni Thunder, isn’t it? Any relation?”
“Not that I know of,” Syl said.
Sylvester looked up from his converter belt for a second, when a ghostly image appeared in front of him, clad in the rags of a familiar costume and older than the last time he had seen him. “Wing?!” he exclaimed. The image suddenly faded from view.
“Did you say something?” Roy asked, turning back from his archery practice.