by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from True Romance, screenplay by Quentin Tarantino
Dick Ritchie’s apartment in Los Angeles was standard issue for a young actor. Things were pretty neat and clean. A nice stereo unit sat on the shelf. A framed picture of a ballet dancer’s feet hung on the wall. Dick was asleep in a recliner, still wearing his clothes from the night before. His roommate, Floyd, was lying on the sofa watching the Crimson Avenger TV show from the ’60s on the television.
The sound of four hands knocking on his door woke Dick up. He shook the bats out of his belfry, opened the door, and found the cutest couple in Los Angeles standing in his doorway. Stretch and Maggie O’Brien immediately started singing, “Hello My Baby,” like the frog in the old Chuck Jones cartoon.
“Hello my baby,
Hello my honey,
Hello my ragtime gal–“
“Hi, guys,” Dick said.
“Guess what, Dick? I’m a married man,” Stretch said proudly.
“Get outta here!”
Maggie threw her arms around Dick and gave him a quick kiss. After she broke, Stretch grabbed his old friend in a bear hug, and then Stretch and Maggie walked into his apartment.
“Wow. Neat place,” Maggie said.
Back at the Astro World trailer park, which had a neon sign in front of it in the shape of a planet, Marty O’Brien’s white Chevy Nova pulled in. It parked by a trailer slightly less kept up than the others. Marty stepped out of the Chevy, drinking out of a fast-food soda cup as he opened the door to his trailer.
He stepped inside the doorway and then, before he knew it, a gun was pressed to his temple, and a big hand grabbed his shoulder. “Welcome home, Plas. We’re havin’ a party.”
Marty was roughly shoved into his living room. Waiting for him were four men: Virgil, Frankie (a young wise-guy), Lenny (an old wise-guy), and Toothpick Vic (a fireplug pit-bull type).
Sitting in Marty’s recliner was Ape-Face, the son of the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City. Marty was knocked to his knees. Dario and Lenny picked Marty up and roughly dropped him in a chair. He looked up and saw the sitting Ape-Face staring at him curiously.
Several things stood out about Ape-Face immediately. He was enormous, seven feet at least and popping with muscles. He was very hairy and had a flat-top haircut. He wore an expensive, well-tailored suit and a long, camel-hair overcoat. But most noticeable of all, like his name suggested, he had the face of an ape.
“Tell Toothpick Vic to go outside and do you-know-what,” Ape-Face said. In Italian, Frankie told Toothpick Vic what Ape-Face had said. He nodded and left.
Marty’s chair was moved closer to Ape-Face. Dario stood on one side of Marty. Frankie and Lenny ransacked the trailer, tossing around mementos from Marty’s all-too-brief time as a super-hero and his later career as a carnival Indian rubber man when his Plasticman powers began to fade. Virgil had a bottle of Chivas Regal in his hand, but he had yet to touch a drop.
“Do you know who I am, Mr. O’Brien?” Ape-Face asked.
“I give up. Who are you?” Marty said.
“I’m the Anti-Christ. You get me in a vendetta kind of mood, you will tell the angels in heaven that you had never seen pure evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man who killed you. My name is Vincenzo. I’m here representing my father, the man your son stole from. I know you were once somewhat of a hero. Not the hero your father was, but a hero nonetheless. So I assume you’ve heard of us before. Am I correct?”
“I’ve heard of the Gorilla Boss,” Marty said. “But I thought he was old and sick.”
“Recent events of the past year have changed that, which I’m sure you’ve also heard about through your little super-hero grapevine. (*) That only makes this insult to his person all the more vital to set right,” Ape-Face said. “Now, we’re gonna have a little Q and A, and at the risk of sounding redundant, please make your answers genuine.” He took out a pack of cigarettes and held it out. “Want a Chesterfield?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: JSA Reserves: All This and Earth-Two, Chapter 3: Villains Rejuvenated.]
“Your son Stretch and that whore girlfriend of his brought this all on themselves,” Ape-Face said, lighting a cigarette. “And I implore you not to go down the road with ’em. You can always take comfort in the fact that you never had a choice.”
“Look, I’d help ya if I could, but I haven’t seen Stretch–”
Before Marty could finish his sentence, Ape-Face slammed him hard in the nose with his fist. “Smarts, don’t it? Gettin’ slammed in the nose messes you all up. That pain shootin’ through your brain. Your eyes fill up with water. Ain’t any kind of fun. But what I have to offer you. That’s as good as it’s ever gonna get, and it won’t ever get that good again. We talked to your neighbors. They saw a Mustang, a red Mustang, Stretch’s red Mustang, parked in front of your trailer yesterday. Mr. O’Brien, have you seen your son?”
Marty looked defeated. “I’ve seen him.”
Ape-Face smiled. “Now, I can’t be sure of how much of what he told you. So in the chance you’re in the dark about some of this, let me shed some light. That whore your boy hangs around with, her pimp is an associate of mine, and I don’t just mean pimpin’. In other affairs, he works for me in a courier capacity. Well, apparently, that dirty little whore found out when we’re gonna do some business, ’cause your son, the cowboy, and his flame came in the room blastin’ and didn’t stop ’til they were pretty sure everybody was dead.”
“What are you talkin’ about?” Marty said.
“I’m talkin’ about a massacre. They snatched my father’s narcotics and hightailed it outta there. Would’a gotten away with it, but a whore hiding in the commode filled in all the blanks. It wasn’t too hard to figure out who your boy really was.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“That’s of minor importance,” Ape-Face said. “But what’s of major importance is that I believe you. Where did they go?”
“On their honeymoon,” Marty said.
“I’m gettin’ angry askin’ the same question a second time,” Ape-Face growled. “Where did they go?”
“They didn’t tell me,” Marty said. Ape-Face looked at him with irritation. “Now, wait a minute and listen. I haven’t seen Stretch in three years. Then yesterday, my seventeen-year-old runaway son shows up here with a girl, sayin’ he got married. He told me he needed some quick cash for a honeymoon, so he asked if he could borrow five hundred dollars. I wanted to help him out, so I wrote out a check. We went to breakfast, and that’s the last I saw of him, so help me God. They never thought to tell me where they were goin’. And I never thought to ask.”
Ape-Face looked at him for a long moment. He then gave Virgil a look. Virgil, quick as greased lightning, grabbed Marty’s hand and turned it palm up. He then whipped out a butterfly knife and sliced Marty’s palm open and poured Chivas Regal on the wound. Marty screamed.
Ape-Face puffed calmly on a Chesterfield. Toothpick Vic returned to the trailer and reported in Italian that there was nothing in the car. Virgil walked into the kitchen and got a dish towel. Marty held his bleeding palm in agony. He handed Marty the dish towel, which he used to wrap up his hand.
“From my father, I obviously got my good looks, as well as the ability to bench-press a Buick. But my mother, God rest her soul, was Sicilian. Sicilians are great liars, the best in the world. And my Ma was the world heavyweight champion of Sicilian liars. Growin’ up with her, I learned the pantomime. Now, there are seventeen different things a guy can do when he lies to give him away. A guy has seventeen pantomimes. A woman’s got twenty, but a guy’s got seventeen. And if you know ’em like ya know your own face, they beat lie detectors to hell. What we got here is a little game of show and tell. You don’t wanna show me nothin’. But you’re tellin’ me everything. Now I know you know where they are. So tell me, before I do some damage you won’t walk away from.”
The awful pain in Marty’s hand was being replaced by the awful pain in his heart. He looked deep into Ape-Face’s eyes.
“Could I have one of those Chesterfields now?” Marty asked.
“Sure.” Ape-Face leaned over and handed him a smoke.
Marty lit the cigarette and said, “You know, I heard about you.”
“Do tell,” Ape-Face said, puffing up.
“Sure. Back when I was a hero, there was talk about how Gorilla Boss wanted an heir, someone to carry on after he was gone, someone with his brains, but his strength, too. Of course, he couldn’t have a child that wasn’t a dumb animal without the aid of science, so he married into another high-powered crime family, and they had you whipped up in a lab. His genes, along with your mother’s. Me, personally, I don’t buy it.”
“You don’t?” Ape-Face said, amused. After all, wasn’t he sitting right in front of him?
“No. All that sci-fi stuff? I just think your mom liked $%^$^%ing monkeys.” An audible gasp escaped Ape-Face’s henchmen.
Ape-Face looked at him for a moment, the amusement leaving his face, and then jumped up, whipped out an automatic, spun around, and pumped three bullets into Marty.
He paused. Unable to express his feelings and frustrated by the blood in his hands, he simply dropped his weapon and turned to his men. “I haven’t killed anybody since 1978. Damn his soul to burn for eternity in Hell for makin’ me spill blood on my hands! Go to this comedian’s son’s apartment and come back with somethin’ that tells me where that punk went so I can wipe this egg off of my face and fix this family for good.”
Toothpick Vic tapped Frankie’s shoulder and, in Italian, asked him what that was all about. Lenny, who had been going through Marty’s refrigerator, closed the refrigerator door and found a note held on by a ceramic banana magnet that said: Stretch in L.A.: Dick Ritchie (555-5676).
“Boss, get ready to get happy,” Lenny said.