Showcase: Stretch O’Brien: Weekend in Vegas, Chapter 3: Hide and Seek

by Martin Maenza

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A knock came to the door of the luxury hotel suite on the fifty-fifth floor. Ape-Face opened it but was disappointed when he only saw Lou Rossi standing there. The hireling stepped into the room and closed the door.

“What the #^@% is going on here, Louie?” asked Ape-Face as he went to the bar and fetched his drink. “When I told you boys to bring the O’Briens back here to their room, I thought my instructions were very clear and concise. Follow them to the club, get them to the car, drive them here, and bring them up. Was that so #^@%ing complicated?”

“No, boss,” Lou Rossi said, his head turned down like a child being scolded. “It’s just…” There was a crash of glass breaking, and Lou winced. Then he looked up to see a crack in the mirror over the bar where Ape-Face had thrown his drink glass.

“I don’t want to #^@%ing hear ‘it’s just’…” Ape-Face said. “Did you get the O’Briens or not?”

“We did get them, boss, and brought them to the car like you said.”

Ape-Face paced the room. “Well, then where the #^@% are they? Why have you not brought them up to me?”

Lou swallowed. “There was a car accident on the strip, see. Bobbie got hurt, and the O’Briens used the confusion to get away.”

Ape-Face pounded his mighty fist down hard on the top of the dresser, splintering the wood. “They got away?” The mob leader was quickly losing his temper, as evidenced by the acts of aggression and his raised voice. “You let them get away? We traveled all the #^@%ing way across the country to get them, and you let them get away!”

Lou gestured. “Their stuff is still here. Maybe we could go through their suitcases, find their money or something.”

Ape-Face lunged across the room and got into Lou’s face. “This isn’t about the #^@%ing money, you moron! They stole cocaine that rightfully belonged to my father and sold it for a fraction of what it was worth. Yes, the coke sales put a small dent in our cash flow, but there’s no way to recover the lost revenue or the goods. But it is about more than just #^@%ing cocaine. This is about righting an injustice done against our organization and my family! Is that understood, you stupid $#!^?”

“Understood,” Lou said.

There was a knock on the door. Both men turned to it. “Get that!” Ape-Face instructed.

Lou checked the peephole in the door before opening it. “Looks like someone from the staff,” he said.

“See what the #^@% he wants, then get rid of him!” Ape-Face barked.

The man nodded, opened the door slightly, and asked, “Yeah? What do you want?”

“Room service,” said the young man with dark hair dressed in white. He had before him a cart covered with a long, white, linen table cloth. A number of covered dishes as well as a single red rose in a vase sat on top the covered surface.

“We didn’t order any room service,” Lou said.

The young man said, “I don’t take the orders, I just deliver them. The kitchen said to deliver this here, so that’s my job.” He began to push the cart toward the door, which Lou still had partially closed. “Sir, please, may I just put the food inside?”

From the back of the room, Lou heard Ape-Face’s voice. “Let ‘im in.” Lou did as he was told, opened the door, and stepped aside. The young man wheeled the cart into the center of the room.

The young man then noticed the damaged furniture and cracked mirror. As he turned quickly to leave the room, Ape-Face, who was facing the window to keep his face hidden, said, “Not so fast.” The young man turned around at the source of the voice, and Ape-Face turned as well.

The young man let out a gasp of surprise to see the simian features.

“Lou, the door!” Ape-Face snapped. The hireling quickly closed and locked it. He then began to approach the man from the other side to block his path.

“What…? What’s going on here?” the young man stammered. He started to back toward the wall.

“Louie, I was just thinking,” Ape-Face said as he began to crack his knuckles. “I just remembered that the one we seek has some special talents, just like his old man. I almost wonder if he’d be just cocky enough to try and slip back here disguised as someone else.”

“Yeah?” said Lou. “Like who?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Ape-Face said as he reached into his pocket. “Maybe as a #^@%ing room service delivery boy!” The young man’s eyes widened in terror.

Ape-Face pulled out his pack of Chesterfields and took out a cigarette. He lit it with a silver lighter and took a few drags. He began to pace the room slowly.

The hotel employee kept his eye on the well-dressed mobster. “I… I… don’t know what’s going on,” he stammered. “But I won’t say anything to anyone. I swear!”

Ape-Face lunged forward, and the lit end of his cigarette jabbed into the top of the young man’s hand. He let out a scream in pain. “Did that hurt?” Ape-Face asked. “It was an accident. Accidents happen all the time. Did you know that most of the serious accidents that occur in the home happen in the bathroom?” Ape-Face turned to his associate. “Louie, take him back to the bathroom and show him what I mean.”

Lou Rossi grabbed the young man by the arm. “Sure thing, boss,” he said. Lou was pretty strong and was able to drag the young man.

“Let me go!” the young man screamed. “Help!”

Lou smacked him hard in the jaw with his fist. “Shut up, kid. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.”

Ape-Face turned to watch them disappear in back and began to chuckle.

He failed to see a form slip out from underneath the table cloth that covered the cart and take the shape of a man.

Stretch O’Brien tried his best to move quietly and quickly to the suitcases in the corner of the room. He was glad that he and Maggie hadn’t completely unpacked before going to dinner. There was a good chance he’d be able to slip out undetected.

Stretch could hear the painful screams coming from the back bathroom as Lou Rossi beat the young man. It sounded like someone beating a side of beef. He felt a bit sorry that the man was being attacked for no reason, but Stretch had to look out for himself first and foremost. He quickly got the items into the last of the bags and closed the lids. Both let out a loud snap, and Stretch winced.

Ape-Face turned at the sound. “Well, I’ll be a son of a bitch!” he said. “Louie, get out here!” Ape-Face reached for his gun.

The mobster glared at Stretch. “You got a lot of #^@%ing nerve, O’Brien. I can respect that.”

“Yeah,” Stretch said as he slid the two cases back behind him toward the patio door. He raised his arms above his head at the same time, slowly. “Respect it enough not to kill me?”

Ape-Face chuckled. “You’re funny, kid.” He clicked the chamber of the gun. “But not funny enough.”

Lou Rossi entered from the back room, his hands bloody. He got one look at Stretch and said, “Damn! How’d he do that? I thought the delivery guy was him in disguise.” He reached for his own gun in his jacket and got O’Brien in his sights.

“I misjudged our friend here, Louie,” Ape-Face said. “He’s much more trickier than I gave him credit.” The mobster raised his gun. “He was willing to let us beat the crap out of some innocent bystander just so’s he could grab his stuff to scoot. Too bad he #^@%ing forgot that the only way out of this room is through the two of us.” He turned to Louie. “Let’s waste ’em!”

The two men began to open fire on Stretch O’Brien. Shots rang out as bullets hurtled from the Magnums.

Stretch began to twitch and contort his body at blinding speed. Ducking and dodging, bending and leaning, O’Brien stretched his lanky body into various contortions. As the bullets whizzed past him, they dotted the walls and shattered the sliding glass door into millions of shards.

But he could only stay on the defensive for so long. Sooner or later, one of those bullets might connect. If he wanted to get out of this predicament alive, Stretch had to go on the offensive. He dived across the room, flattening his body as he went. He slid under the nearby couch like a snake would under a rock.

“Where’d he go?” Lou asked.

Ape-Face let out a guttural growl as he tossed his spent weapon aside. “We ain’t playing no more #^@%ing hide and seek, O’Brien!” The mobster grasped the far end of the couch and lifted it over his head easily with his enhanced strength.

Stretch looked up from the floor as Ape-Face towered over him, the couch held high above his head. “I’ll crush you like the #^@%ing bug you are!” The mobster started to bring the couch down hard.

Zipping between the half-ape’s feet, Stretch then grabbed the thighs as he went past. “Missed me, missed me,” he said as he pulled on Ape-Face’s legs hard. Between the unbalanced couch, the downward momentum of the heavy object, and the unexpected pulling of his legs, Ape-Face toppled down to the floor. The couch soared across the room, smashing one of the glass coffee tables.

Stretch rolled into a ball and crossed to the far side of the room, only to end up in a full standing position. “The big ones always go down hard,” he said.

“Don’t move!” Lou Rossi shouted as he stepped forward, his gun firmly outstretched.

Stretch turned with a smile. “Can’t shoot me when you’re out of bullets, buddy,” he stated.

“I ain’t out of bullets,” Lou said. Stretch just nodded with a dumb grin on his face. Lou turned his gun so he could check the chamber.

That’s when Stretch expanded out his hands like two giant cymbals and smacked both sides of Lou’s head at once. “Ever seen Girl Happy?” Stretch asked. “This reminds me of a song from that film — Do the Clam! ‘Dig right in and do the Clam, dig right in and do the Clam’!” He continued to smack Lou around until the hired gun fell to the floor. “Well, guess I tired you out then, eh, Lou-Lou-Belle?”

Suddenly, Stretch was grabbed from behind by a big bear hug. The strong arms forced the air from his lungs, and he had to gasp for each breath. He turned to see that Ape-Face had recovered from his fall and was as stirred up as a nest of hornets. “Where’s the witty comebacks now, you #^@%ing freak?” Ape-Face spat. “Your fancy tricks ain’t nothing compared to my sheer strength. See, that’s what happens when you mess with my business: you get the squeeze put on you hard!” His arms tightened around his prey. “Hope you’re ready to die, you bastard!”

Stretch was feeling the pressure of the mobster’s powerful hug. “Say…” he managed to utter, “don’t… uh… you Italians like to… ooph… do that kiss… ugh… of death thing? Here’s my… eeeye… cheeks.” Stretch elongated his neck up, then slammed the side of his face hard against Ape-Face’s nose and mouth.

The mobster began to struggle as Stretch’s elastic body began to cut off his air supply. Stretch hoped that the man-ape wouldn’t think to bite him or anything. Ape-Face tried to squeeze his opponent to get him to relent and then began to panic. He tugged at Stretch’s body where he had it held to try to pull him away.

Finally, Ape-Face let loose his firm grasp to grab for Stretch’s head. That’s when Stretch pushed himself away, tumbling toward the shattered patio door. As he bounced through the opening, his outstretched hands grabbed the suitcases.

Before Ape-Face could pursue him, Stretch and the luggage had gone over the railing. It was a fifty-five-story drop to the street.

“It’s now or never, come hold me tight. Kiss me my darling, be mine tonight,” Stretch sang in a cheerful tone as he gently sailed down in the evening breeze. His legs were wrapped around the luggage to keep it from dropping, while his arms and hands were outstretched to form a living parasol. “I wonder if this is how the Penguin used to escape Batman.”

As he got closer to the street level, he heard a voice yelling out to him, “Stretch! Stretch!”

He worried for a second that it might be Ape-Face or his boys already on his tail. He didn’t think the monkey man would have gotten down to the lobby that fast, but the other two guys could have arrived by now. Stretch craned his neck to see where the voice was coming from. He then realized who it was. “Maggie, I thought I told you to wait for me at the Rio,” he said.

There was Maggie, waiting near the parking lot with the rental car. “I was worried sick about you going back, so I got the car and came after you. Quick, get in!”

Stretch let the bags drop the last few feet into the back seat of the convertible, and he landed in the passenger seat in front. Leaning over to give her a kiss, Stretch said, “Baby, you’re the greatest! We need to hit the highway fast.”

“Consider us gone, Mr. Kramden!” Maggie stepped on the gas, and the car pulled away with a squeal of tires.

And once more, the O’Briens were on the run.

Continued in The Legion of Justice: Saving the Past

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