by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from True Romance, screenplay by Quentin Tarantino
The Lyric Theater in Gotham City had two screens. One featured Stellar Studio’s new release, The All-Star Squadron. The other was showing a triple feature: The Streetfighter, Return of the Streetfighter, and Sister Streetfighter. Inside, Stretch O’Brien sat by himself in the darkened theater, enjoying his newfound freedom.
Incarceration, as short as it had been since the Junior JSA caught him and his partners in crime in the Junior Injustice Society, had been tough on Stretch. (*) The seventeen-year-old had never been one for confined spaces, so the very idea of spending the next couple of years in juvenile hall had been intolerable. Having the inhibitor on his ankle, sapping his stretching powers, had been made his short stay a living hell. So when the first opportunity presented itself, he bolted, running as far as his feet could carry him. As soon as the heat died down, he did his best to blend in by buying a fake driver’s license with a different name, even using his stretching abilities to adjust the features of his face enough so he looked different than the infamous member of the Junior Injustice Society. An old friend he’d known for four years got him a job at his comic-book shop, where Stretch was able to put his vast knowledge of pop culture to good use while he laid low for a while. Life had definitely changed for him since his old days as a super-stretching street punk, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Junior JSA: The Junior Injustice Society.]
His only regret was that his best friend Mitch, AKA Bluestreak, wasn’t able to escape along with him. He and the fast-footed Mitch had been best friends since childhood, and the two had joined the Junior Injustice Society together during their brief dalliance with super-villainy. Stretch hoped he would be able to go back there someday and get his friend out. For now, though, he was glad to have his own freedom, even if it meant living under a false identity and working a regular job.
Stretch sat with his legs over the back of the chair in front of him, nibbling on popcorn, eyes big as saucers, with a big smile on his face. On screen, Sonny Chiba, as “Streetfighter” Terry Surki, drove into a group of guys, fists and feet flying on the silver screen.
A young, attractive girl about his age stepped into the row of seats just behind Stretch’s, arms full of food. Stretch turned and saw the beautiful honey blonde all alone, moving toward him. He turned his attention back to the screen, trying not to be so obvious.
When she was right behind him, her foot thunked a discarded wine bottle, causing her to trip and spill her popcorn all over him. “Oh, look what happened,” she said, embarrassed. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry. Are you OK?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. It didn’t hurt,” Stretch said, grinning.
“I’m the clumsiest person in the world,” the girl said.
“It’s OK,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. Accidents happen.”
“What a wonderful philosophy,” she said, picking popcorn out of his hair. “Thanks for being such a sweetheart. You could have been a real jerk about it.”
She sat back in her seat to watch the movie. Stretch tried to wipe her out of his mind, which wasn’t easy, and got back into the movie. They both watched the screen for a moment. Then she leaned forward and tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me… I hate to bother you again. Would you mind too terribly filling me in on what I missed?”
Stretch turned to look at her, jumping on this opportunity. “Not at all. This guy here, he’s Sonny Chiba. He’s an assassin. Now, at the beginning he was hired to kill this guy the cops had. So he got himself arrested. They take him into the police station. And he starts kickin’ all the cops’ butts. Now, while keepin’ them at bay, he finds the guy he was supposed to kill. Does a number on him. Kicks the cops’ butts some more. Kicks the bars out of the window. And jumps out into a getaway car that was waiting for him.”
“I thought Sonny was the good guy,” the girl said.
“He ain’t so much good guy as he’s just one bad mother. Sonny don’t mess around. He messes dudes up for life. Hold on, a fight scene’s up.” They both watched, eyes wide, as Sonny Chiba did what he did best.
By the time the theater lights went up, the girl was sitting in the next seat to Stretch. They were both applauding.
“Great movie. Action-packed!” the girl said excitedly.
“Does Sonny kick ass or does Sonny kick ass?” Stretch said, extending his hand. “My name’s Stretch. What’s yours?”
“Maggie White. Pleased to meet ya.”
Outside the theater, with the marquee lit up in the background, they both performed unskilled martial arts moves. Stretch and Maggie broke up laughing.
“Where’s your car? I’ll walk you to it,” Stretch offered.
“I took a cab.”
“You took a cab to see three kung fu movies?” Stretch said.
“Sure. Why not?”
“Nothing. It’s just, you’re a girl after my own heart,” he said with a smile.
In a dingy hotel room, the sounds of the city flew in through an open window: car horns, gun shots, and sounds of violence. Paint was peeling off the walls, and the once-green carpet was stained black.
On the bed nearby sat a huge, open suitcase filled with clear plastic bags of cocaine. Shotguns and pistols had been dropped carelessly around the suitcase. On the far end of the room, against the wall, was a TV. A cartoon, Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew, was playing.
At the opposite end of the room, Drexel Spivey and Floyd Dixon sat at a table. On this table was cocaine, as well as little plastic bags and a weigher. Floyd was black, and Drexel was white, though you wouldn’t know it listen to him.
Big Don Watts, a stout, mean-looking black man, older than Drexel and Floyd, walked through the door carrying hamburgers and french fries in two greasy brown paper bags. He stared in confusion at the two younger men.
“You lie like a big dog,” Drexel was saying.
“What the hell are you two goin’ on about?”
“Floyd say he ain’t scared a’ no Red Robin,” Drexel snorted.
“Sheee… anyone say he ain’t scared a’ super-heroes is lyin’ his ass off,” Big D said.
“I heard that,” Drexel said, nodding.
“Hold on a second, Big D. What about that big bruthah, Carnage?” Floyd said. “He weren’t afraid a’ no cape.”
“You hear from Carnage lately? All he had was some fancy gizmos, and he got taken down by a white girl super-hero, too!”
“Preach on, Big D,” Drexel said.
“Look here,” said Floyd. “All I’m sayin’ is they just people like you an me. They bleed, too.”
“Sheee–! You smoke enough sherm, your dumb ass’ll do a lot a’ crazy-ass things,” Big D said. “But going after any o’ them is just plain stupid.”
“Heard that,” Drexel said. Drexel and Big D bumped fists.
“Yeah, that’s right, laugh. It’s so funny, oh, it’s so funny!” Floyd yelled. He took a hit off of a joint. “There used to be a time when a brothuh just had to worry about cops. Then the ’60s came, an’ they started showin’ up again. And now we even got other brothuhs like Blackwing and Paragon coming down on us.”
“Well, you know what they say, Bro’… If you can’t beat em, join ’em. Why don’cha get yerself a cape?” Drexel said. Drexel and Big D busted up.
“Go on, laugh,” said Floyd. “See how you laugh when one o’ them comes down on you.”
“So you are afraid of them…”
“You say you ain’t, but you is.”
“Damn skippy he is.”
“Me thinketh he doth protest too much,” Big D said in a mock English accent.
“The hell with you!” Floyd said.
“Why you trippin’? We jus’ playin’ with ya,” Drexel said. “But admit it. You wouldn’t wanna take on Batwing, much less no Red Robin.”
“What? I’d beat that li’l punk’s ass!”
“Ha! Back off, you ain’t beatin’ nothin’.”
“The #%% I ain’t!”
Drexel and Big D got up from the table, walking away in disgust, leaving Floyd sitting all alone. Big D sat on the bed, turning his back to Floyd, watching the cartoon.
Drexel walked back to the table. “I’m gonna show you what you do if you ever run into a cape with a little demonstration,” Drexel said. “Big D, toss me that shotgun.” Without turning away from Captain Carrot, Big D picked up the shotgun and tossed it to Drexel.
“All right, check this out,” Drexel said, gesturing to his shotgun. “Now, pretend this is Red Robin. And you’re you.”
In a blink, he pointed the shotgun at Floyd and blew him away. Big D leaped off the bed and spun toward Drexel. Ready for him, Drexel fired from across the room. The blast hit the big man in the right arm and shoulder, spinning him around.
Drexel fired again. Big D was hit with a blast, full in the back. He slammed into the wall and dropped. Drexel collected the suitcase full of cocaine and left. As he got to the front door, he surveyed the carnage, spat, and walked out.