by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from True Romance, screenplay by Quentin Tarantino
Stretch O’Brien entered the Beverly Wilshire lobby alone, carrying the suitcase. He spotted Elliot Blitzer and went in his direction.
Elliot saw Stretch approaching him. He said to himself, quietly, “Elliot, your motivation is to stay out of jail.”
Stretch walked up to Elliot, and they shook hands. “Where’s everybody else?” Elliot asked.
“They’ll be along,” Stretch said.
Maggie O’Brien and Dick Ritchie entered the lobby and joined up with Stretch and Elliot.
“Hi, Dick,” Elliot said.
“How you doin’, Elliot?”
“Well, I guess it’s about that time,” Stretch said.
“I guess so. Follow me,” Elliot gulped.
The four of them stepped inside the elevator, and Elliot pushed the button for Lee Donowitz’s floor. As luck would have it, they had the car to themselves. Poor-quality elevator muzak was playing as they rode in silence.
“Elliot,” Stretch said.
“Get on your knees.”
“What?” Elliot said, not sure if he heard him right.
Stretch hit the stop button on the elevator panel and whipped out his .38. “I said get on your knees.” Elliot dropped to his knees immediately. Dick and Maggie reacted with horror.
“Shut up, both of you. I know what I’m doin’,” Stretch said.
The cops’ room erupted in pandemonium. “He knows!” Dimes said.
“How the hell could he know?” Nicholson said.
“He saw the wire!” Dimes said.
“How’s he supposed to see the wire?” Nicholson said.
“He knows something’s up,” Dimes said.
Stretch’s arm shot out, wrapping his hand around Elliot’s torso three times and lifting him from the floor. His other arm elongated to put the .38 against Elliot’s forehead. “You must think I’m pretty stupid, don’t you?”
Elliot stared at Stretch, his eyes filled with terror.
“Don’t you?” Stretch bellowed.
“No,” Elliot said, petrified.
“Don’t lie to me! You apparently think I’m biggest fool in the world!” Stretch shouted. “Don’t you? Say ‘Stretch, you are, without a doubt, the biggest damn fool in the whole wide world.’ Say it!”
“We gotta get him outta there!” Nicholson exclaimed.
“Whatta we gonna do? He’s in an elevator!” Dimes exclaimed.
“Say it, dammit!” Stretch shouted.
“You are the dumbest person in the world,” Elliot whined.
“Apparently I’m not as dumb as you thought I am,” Stretch shouted.
“No. No, you’re not!” Elliot squealed.
“What’s waiting for us up there? Tell me, or I’ll pump two right in your face,” Stretch shouted.
“He’s bluffin’ ya, Elliot,” Nicholson said into Elliot’s earpiece. “Can’t you see that? You’re an actor, remember — the show must go on.”
“This guy’s gonna kill him,” Dimes said grimly.
Elliot began to cry. The .38 was still pressed against his forehead.
“Like Nick Carter used to say: If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize,” Stretch said. “I want you to tell me what’s waiting for us up there. Something’s amiss. I can feel it. If anything out of the ordinary goes down, believe this — you’re gonna be the first one shot. Trust me — you screw with me, you die. Now quit making me mad, and tell me why I’m so nervous.”
In the cops’ room, Dimes and Nicholson hollered directions to Elliot. Both were in a frenzy. If they knew the horrifying spectacle Elliot was confronted with, they would have been beside themselves.
“He’s bluffin’ — I knew it. He doesn’t know %^&$!” Dimes yelled.
“Don’t blow it, Elliot. He’s bluffin’. He just told you so himself,” Nicholson said.
“You’re an actor, so act, $%^$^&!” Dimes hollered into the microphone.
Elliot still hadn’t answered. “OK…” Stretch said. With the .38 up against Elliot’s head, Stretch’s palm wrapped over the top of the gun as if to shield himself from the splatter. Maggie and Dick couldn’t believe what he was gonna do.
Elliot, tears running down his face, started talking for the benefit of the people at the other end of the wire. He sounded like a little boy. “I don’t wanna be here. I wanna go home. I wish somebody would just come and get me, ’cause I don’t like this. This is not what I thought it would be. And I wish somebody would just take me away. Just take me away. Come and get me. ‘Cause I don’t like this anymore. I can’t take this. I’m sorry, but I just can’t. So, if somebody would just come to my rescue, everything would be all right.”
Back in the cops’ room, Nicholson and Dimes shook their heads. They each had a well, that’s that expression on their faces.
Stretch eased Elliot back to the floor and put down the gun. He hugged Elliot and said, “Sorry, Elliot. Nothing personal. I just hadda make sure you’re all right. I’m sure. I really apologize for scaring you so bad, but believe me, I’m just as scared as you. Friends?”
Elliot, in a state of shock, hugged Stretch back, sobbing. Dick and Maggie stared at each other in both relief and amazement.
Nicholson and Dimes listened open-mouthed, not believing what they were hearing.
Back at Dick’s apartment, Floyd was still lying on the couch watching Sandman Mystery Theatre on TV. There was a knock from the door. “It’s open,” Floyd said, keeping his attention on the television set.
The front door flew open, and the four soldiers of the Gorilla Mob rapidly entered the room. The door slammed shut. All had their sawed-off shotguns drawn and pointed at Floyd.
“Whoa…” Floyd said, grinning through his pot haze.
“Are you Dick Ritchie?” Lenny said, puzzled at Floyd’s unfrightened expression.
“Do you know a Stretch O’Brien?” Lenny asked.
“Do you know where we can find him?”
“He’s at the Beverly Wilshire,” Floyd answered. He held up his honey-bear bong and said, “Any of you guys wanna hit?”
“Guess not,” Floyd said, lowering the honey-bear.
“Where’s that?” Lenny asked.
“Well, you go down Beechwood…”
The door to Lee Donowitz’s hotel room opened and revealed an extremely muscular guy with an Uzi strapped to his shoulder, standing in the doorway. His name was Monty.
“Hi, Elliot. Are these your friends?” Monty asked.
“You could say that,” Elliot said shakily. “Everybody, this is Monty.”
“C’mon in,” Monty said. “Lee’s in the can. He’ll be out in a quick.”
They all moved into the room. It was very luxurious. On a large screen, dailies from an unfinished World War II movie about Sergeant Rock and Easy Company were playing. Another incredibly muscular guy, Boris, was sitting on the sofa; he, too, had an Uzi. Monty began patting everybody down.
“Sorry, nothin’ personal,” Monty said.
He started to search Stretch, but Stretch backed away. “No need to search me, daredevil. All you’ll find is a .38 caliber.”
Boris got up from the couch. “What compelled you to bring that along?”
“The same thing that compelled you to bring rapid-fire weaponry to a business meeting,” Stretch said.
“I’ll take that,” Boris said irately.
“You’ll have to,” Stretch said.
The toilet flushed in the bathroom. The door swung open, and Lee Donowitz emerged. “They’re here. Who’s who?”
“Lee, this is my friend Dick,” Elliot said, “and these are his friends, Stretch and Maggie.”
Boris pointed to Stretch and said, “This guy’s packin’.”
“Really?” Lee said with a raised eyebrow.
“Well, I have to admit, walkin’ through the door and seein’ these Soldier of Fortune poster boys made me a bit nervous,” Stretch said. “But, Lee, I’m fairly confident that you came here to do business, not to be a wise guy. So, if you want, I’ll put the gun on the table.”
“I don’t think that’ll be necessary,” Lee said after a moment of consideration. “Let’s all have a seat. Boris, why don’t you be nice and get coffee for everybody.” They all sat around a fancy glass table, except for Boris, who went to get the coffee, and Monty, who stood behind Lee’s chair.
“Oh, Mr. Donowitz…” Stretch began.
“Lee, Stretch. Please don’t insult me. Call me Lee.”
“OK, sorry, Lee. I just wanna tell you, Coming Home in a Body Bag is one of my favorite movies. After Apocalypse Now, I think it’s the best Vietnam movie ever.”
“Thank you very much, Stretch.”
“You know, most movies that win a lot of Oscars, I can’t stand. Sophie’s Choice, Ordinary People, Kramer Vs. Kramer, Gandhi. All that stuff is safe, geriatric, coffee-table garbage.”
“I hear you talkin’, Stretch. We park our cars in the same garage.”
“Like that Merchant-Ivory clap-trap. All those jerkwads make are unwatchable movies from unreadable books.”
Boris started placing clear glass coffee cups in front of everybody. He filled everyone’s cup from a fancy coffee pot that he handled like an expert.
“Stretch, there might be somebody somewhere that agrees with you more than I do, but I wouldn’t count on it,” Lee said.
Stretch was on a roll, and he knew it. “They ain’t plays, they ain’t books, they certainly ain’t movies, they’re films. And do you know what films are? They’re for people who don’t like movies. Mad Max, that’s a movie. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, a movie. Rio Bravo, that’s a movie. Rumble Fish, that’s a freakin’ movie. And, Coming Home in a Body Bag, that is a movie. It was the first movie with cajones to win a lot of Oscars since the The Deer Hunter.”
Inside the cop’s room, they were all listening to their conversation. “What’s this guy doin’? Makin’ a drug deal or gettin’ a job on the Metro Daily Star?”
“My uncle Roger and uncle Cliff,” Stretch continued, “both of which were in ‘Nam, saw Coming Home in a Body Bag and thought it was the most accurate Vietnam film they’d ever seen.”
“You know, Stretch, when a veteran of that war says that, it makes the whole project worthwhile. Stretch, my friend — and I call you my friend because we have similar interests — let’s take a look at what you have for me.”
“Thank God,” Dimes said, rolling his eyes as he listened over the wire planted on Elliot.
Stretch put the suitcase on the table. “Lee, when you see this, you’re gonna die.”
In the lobby, the four henchmen of the Gorilla Mob were at the front desk. The man behind the desk wore a Garrick in ’88 button on his lapel.
“What was the guy’s name?” Lenny asked, turning to Dario.
“Donowitz,” he said.
“How can I help you, gentlemen?” the man at the front desk asked.
“Yeah, we’re from Warner Bros. What room is Mr. Donowitz in?” Lenny said.
Lee looked over the cocaine and sampled it.
“Now, that’s practically uncut. You could, if you so desire, cut it a helluva lot more,” Stretch said.
“Don’t worry, I’ll desire,” Lee chuckled. “Boris, could I have some more coffee?”
“Me too, Boris,” Stretch said.
Boris filled both of their cups. They both, calm as a lake, took cream and sugar. All eyes were on them. Lee used light cream and sugar, and he began stirring this cup. Stretch used very heavy cream and sugar.
“You like a little coffee with your cream and sugar?” Lee laughed.
“I’m not satisfied till the spoon stands straight up,” Stretch said.
Both were cool as cucumbers.
“I have to hand it to you, this is not nose garbage,” Lee continued, looking at the merchandise, then looked up. “OK, Stretch, the merchandise is perfect. But whenever I’m offered a deal that’s too good to be true, it’s because it’s a lie. Convince me you’re on the level.”
“If he don’t bite, we ain’t got nothing except possession,” Dimes said.
“Convince him,” Nicholson said, crossing his fingers.
“Well, Lee, it’s like this,” Stretch said. “You’re getting the bargain of a lifetime, because I don’t know what I’m doing. You’re used to dealin’ with professionals. I’m not a professional. I’m a rank amateur. I could take that, and I could cut it, and I could sell it a little bit at a time, and make a helluva lot more money. But in order to do that, I’d have to become a drug dealer. Deal with cutthroat junkies, killers, worry about getting busted all of the time. Just meeting you here today scares the $^&%$ outta me, and you’re not a junkie, a killer, or a cop — you’re a movie-maker. I like you, and I’m still scared. I’m a punk kid who picked up a rock in the street, only to find out it’s the Hope Diamond. It’s worth a million dollars, but I can’t get the million dollars for it. But you can. So, I’ll sell it to you for a couple’a hundred thousand. You go to make a million. It’s all found money to me, anyway. Me and my wife are minimum-wage kids. Heck, my pop worked Carnies to make ends meet. Two hundred thousand is the world to us.”
“Elliot tells me you’re fronting for a dirty cop,” Lee said.
“Well, Elliot wasn’t supposed to tell you anything,” Stretch said. He turned to Elliot and said, “Thanks a lot, big mouth. I knew you were a squid the moment I laid eyes on you.” He turned back to Lee and said, “He’s not a dirty cop — he’s a good cop. He just saw his chance, and he took it.”
“Why does he trust you?”
“His kid brother and I were friends growing up,” Stretch said.
“If you don’t know anything, why does he think you can sell it?” Lee asked.
“I mighta B.S.ed him a little,” Stretch said, grinning.
Lee started laughing. “That’s wild,” Lee howled. “This guy’s a madman. I love it. Monty, go in the other room and get the money.”
Stretch, Maggie, and Dick looked at each other.
Back in the cops’ room, Nicholson and Dimes exchanged looks. “Bingo!”