In the months since he had come out of a strange magic spell that had trapped him like a fly in amber for decades, Roger Parsons had been intensely interested in learning how the world had changed over the last thirty years. (*) Whether it was technology or race and gender relations, many changes had transpired, indeed.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Bulletman and Bulletgirl: The Castaways.]
Of course, he hadn’t spent all of his time stuck in a library; he continued riding horses and keeping himself in top shape through several outings in the backwoods. He’d even visited a gym a few times before finding it too confining. Now he felt ready to return to action. Saying farewell to his new friends Jim and Susan Barr, who had presented him with a super-hero costume designed for modern times, he traveled back to the West. He decided to start in Denver and go from there. The city had really grown since he had seen it last, but with some effort he found the home of an old friend of his.
The old man who opened the door to the tiny Spanish-style, five-room house did a double take when he saw who was at the door. “My God! You must be Roger’s boy. You look just like him!”
Roger chuckled. “Pete, I know you won’t believe me, but I’m the same Roger Parsons you knew in ’53.”
The old man shook his head. “Can’t be. He disappeared. If’n he’d lived, he’d be twice your age by now.”
“We gonna stand outside and talk like a couple of hens, or you gonna invite me in for some of your day-old coffee, Pete?”
Pete let him in, then pulled a pistol from beside the door. As he closed the door, he raised the old Colt .45. “OK, sonny, what’s your game? Old Pete ain’t got nothing worth stealing.”
“Pete, I’m the same man you knew — honest!” said Roger. “Why I look so young is, for me, it’s been only a few months since I last had your coffee.”
Later, as Roger Parsons finished telling how he had been brought forward in time along with Lance O’Casey and the others, Pete shook his head. “So what now? You planning to continue being the Golden Arrow?”
Roger nodded. “I’d hoped to, yes. I’m still learning about the way things have changed, but I see a strong need for heroes today, what with the drug epidemic, rising crime rates, and, of course, the commies.”
Pete thought for a moment. “A lot of the old crowd is gone, retired, or dead. You got one helluva challenge ahead of you. Still, the Golden Arrow returning might help straighten out this city, and from here, more of the west. You heard about our Nazi problem?”
Roger sipped at his coffee. “Hey, Pete, this is good coffee!”
Pete looked pleased, then responded. “Ain’t all my doing, you can thank Mr. Coffee.”
Roger looked surprised. “The triple-B cook? Why, he must be what — a hundred and twenty or so by now?”
Pete shook his head. “No, not him. Mr. Coffee is the name of this here coffee-maker, you know, as advertised by Joe DiMaggio.”
Roger looked at him blankly.
“Joe DiMaggio, former baseball player for the New York Yankees?” prompted Pete. “Was married to Marilyn Monroe for a while?”
Pete went on. “Right. You’re missing… what is it, fifty years?”
“Thirty-two, Pete. Thirty-two,” said Roger. “Hey, you got a TV? You, who didn’t even own a radio? Called it a ‘dang infernal contraption,’ as I recall.”
Pete snickered. “Well, times change. Gotta do something with my time. Here, let me turn the sound up. This Captain Marvel movie is pretty good. Fred McMurray did a good job playing the Captain. But casting that Elvis fella in the third movie as Junior was somebody’s stroke of genius.”
“Ah… Fred McMurray I remember. Especially him and Barbara Stanwick in Double Indemnity.”
Pete nodded. “Have some more coffee. I’ll fetch pictures of my kids. Say, what the–?” Pete turned the sound up as the movie was interrupted by a news break message on screen.
“This is Shannon Moore for Channel Three News, reporting live from the parking lot of radio station KDEN. About twenty-five minutes ago, controversial talk show D.J. Davey Free was gunned down by a person or persons unknown. Police believe the shooter or shooters may belong to the neo-Nazi organization known as the White American Resistance, or WAR for short, whom Free had been highly critical of many times on his show.
“Just earlier today he had challenged a caller, saying, and I quote, ‘Why don’t you scum-sucking dirtbags show your faces here today and call me what you just did to my face, you cowardly slime,’ unquote. Reportedly, a caller had called Free — whose real name is David Friedman — several slanderous anti-Semitic names. We will be following this story all the way as developments arise, and personally I hope and pray that whoever did this is caught quickly.”
From the studio, news anchor Joplin Carter asked Ms. Moore if the police had any leads they cared to discuss.
“Joplin, as of yet, all they have is a possibly cream-colored V.W. microbus seen leaving the parking lot right immediately after the shooting. But that is not a definite.”
“Thanks, Shannon. That’s Shannon Moore reporting live from the parking lot of the KDEN radio station, this TV station’s sister station.”
Behind Carter, a photo appeared on screen showing an angry-looking Caucasian with a short-clipped mustache and a brush-cut, his black hair peppered with white.
“White American Resistance leader Reverend Josiah Claybourne denies any involvement of his organization with the shooting. Police no doubt will still investigate this so-called religious band.”
As the station broke for a commercial, Pete turned the sound back down.
Roger Parsons was frowning in thought. “Pete, remember that gun-running gang I was investigating in ’53, involving that sidewinder, Cy Hardwick? (*) The one that took me across the Pacific following a lead?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Trail of Death,” Whiz Comics #154 (April, 1953).]
Pete thought a minute, then said, “Yeah, me and Sheriff Dalton brought that case to a close after you vanished. Turned out Hardwick was neck-deep with a bunch of leftover Nazis. Say, you think there’s a connection? We never did get their leader.”
“That Claybourne looks a lot like the man I saw while following a lead in Dallas just before I shipped out for the Pacific,” explained Roger. “Older, but the same man. Of that I am certain.”
“After thirty-two years?”
“Pete, for you it’s been thirty-two years, for me, just a few months. And yes, I am sure. Looks like the Golden Arrow should check out this group. Where are they?”
“Just outside of town, and seeing as how you got here by cab, I better show you where they are — in civvies,” said Pete. “Tonight you can go back in costume and maybe sneak in and whump a bunch’a them bastards.”
“Pete, I’m one of the good guys,” said Roger. “I don’t whump on people just because I don’t like their politics. And, to tell you the truth, I still ain’t sure about this new costume the Barrs gave me, or why I’d need a mask when I never needed one before.”
Pete shook his head. “Guess you have been gone a long time. Trust me, you’re gonna want to use the mask. OK, come on. My truck’s outside.”
That night, clad in his new black, yellow, and gold outfit, and sweating beneath his constraining black cowl, the Golden Arrow checked his quivers and bow, made sure his hunting knife was sharpened, and took the keys of the old pickup truck. He had found a safe place to park it while investigating the compound, though he missed going on horseback.
At the compound of the White American Resistance, the two hundred-some members were on full alert, not because of the police but because of a special visitor. This was a man who could very well spell doom for the western archer, a man who called himself Gunhawk.
The Golden Arrow made his way quietly through the woods, using a pair of infrared goggles supplied by the Barrs, and amplified his own well-trained forest senses. The goggles mostly sat around his neck, used only sparingly, but his intention was to make good use of them in this soft penetration via an old mining road he had been shown earlier in the day by his friend, retired state police officer Pete Gallagher. Golden Arrow felt he could easily investigate the encampment of the White American Resistance, even with the heavy police presence on the main roads.
As of yet there was no evidence to link this so-called Christian survivalist cult to the murder of controversial talk show host Davey Free, but no other group had the motivation or the capabilities to do such a hit.
Near the center of the camp, Golden Arrow, hidden behind a tree, thought he had been spotted and prepared silently but swiftly to string his bow.
“Who is the masked man?” That question, asked by someone within the camp, had put him on alert, but the response gave him a moment to relax and listen some more.
“Gunhawk. He’s one of the Real American Heroes crime-fighting group and reportedly a good friend of our leader.”
Golden Arrow made a mental note to investigate this group further when he returned to Pete’s. Cautiously, he made his way to where he could hear and see the rally being held in the center of the camp.
On a stage he could see a patriotically clad cowboy figure waving to the assembled members of the congregation. There were a little more than two-hundred people altogether, counting women and children, and he estimated there were roughly a hundred and twenty men altogether, plus various others on patrol or guard duty.
“You all know me?” the colorfully clad cowboy asked into his microphone. “I am Gunhawk, Real American Heroes member, genuine quick-draw shootist, and, proud to say, the son of legendary crime-fighter, the Golden Arrow!”
On the ridge, Golden Arrow winced. Who was this guy?
“Now, my daddy’s dead, but he taught me how to be a costumed crime-buster, and I learned how to draw and shoot. And instead of a bow and arrows, I use my pistols for Christ and America!”
Loud cheers and whoops were the crowd’s response.
“Today somebody murdered a Jewish D.J. to make this here very group of good Christian patriots look like the bad guys. Well, I know you’re not the bad guys! You good people are the true defenders of the American way!” There were more cheers and shouts.
“The RHA has offered to help the police find out who really killed that individual, even though he was a hate-mongering, Zionist anti-American! Why? To show America and the world that white Christian patriots will not meekly march to the slaughter just because someone wants to make us look like killers. Yes, we kill! We kill in self-defense, to defend our families and our country. But the person or persons, probably ZOG operatives, will be caught!”
Golden Arrow was wishing he had brought a tape-recorder or something, since he couldn’t figure out whether Jim Barr had built one into his newfangled costume with all the other gadgets. He had many questions for Pete, indeed.
Meanwhile, Pete Gallagher was restlessly channel-surfing. Cyndi Lauper was pumping up Wendy Richter for her match against the Fabulous Moolah on Saturday Night Main Event. Pete grumbled a joke about hair by Crayola and changed the channel. Click. Gary Saunders and Steel the Wonder Horse were rescuing Virginia Mayo from a burning building. Click. Elvis was romancing Ann Margaret, and who could blame him? Click.
A news report about the day’s events. There was no real news of the murder, although the authorities were still making inquiries, and the investigation was continuing. Mention was made of the RAH offering to help out, but the authorities were not taking that offer seriously. Considering their links to white power groups, one of them even might have pulled the trigger, Pete knew.
The ringing of the phone almost made him jump out of his skin for a moment, before he answered. It was Tim O’Leary, an old friend of Pete’s who had retired only recently. “Hi, Pete! Figured you’d be up.”
“Well, old habits are hard to change! What’s up, Tim? This is unusual.”
“Tried to call you earlier today, but you were out. Wanted to see if you wanted to join us volunteers helping answer phones and make calls, that sort of thing.”
“This have to do with the murder today?”
“Sure, what else? You know anything useful?” Tim knew that Pete remained in contact with some of his best sources.
“Heard the RAH wanted to get involved.”
“Yeah, right, those yutzes! Last thing the force needs is those idiots mucking around. I’d be willing to bet that Gunhawk pulled the trigger. He claims to be a crack shot, after all.”
“Was he around town today?”
“He’s supposedly been out at the compound all day giving a seminar on pistol fighting. Just what those jerks need — more dangerous ways to hurt people.”
“Hopefully someone will blow his own foot off,” Pete suggested. Both men chuckled.
“Hey, Pete, you heard this bozo is now claiming the Golden Arrow as his father?” said Tim.
Pete’s ears picked up. “The Golden Arrow, now there’s a name from the past. I knew him when I was a rookie cop.”
“Yeah, he disappeared in, what, 1957?”
“It was ’53, I think. But he never would’a held for his son being involved with that racist garbage.” Pete knew his old friend better than that.
“I hear ya. Hey, mind if I stop by for lunch tomorrow? I wanna sell ya on the great benefits of being a volunteer down here.”
“OK, sure, about twelve. My house guest will be up by then, I’m sure.”
“House guest? One your children visiting?”
“No, the son of an old friend of mine. You’ll like him. Good kid, he is.”
“OK, see ya tomorrow Pete! Have a good night.”
“You too, Tim.”
Pete had been occupied on the phone and hadn’t seen the pickup truck’s headlines nor heard the back door open, so he was a bit startled to see the costumed figure before him.
“Roger! I hardly recognized you in that crazy getup. Didn’t expect you back so soon.”
“Pete, I got questions,” said Golden Arrow, pulling off his cowl and shaking out his long blond hair, then quickly shedding his outer costume as if fearing that the artificial fabric designed by Bulletman was about to spontaneously combust. “Starting with, who is Gunhawk?”
“I’ll fix some coffee; this is gonna take a while.”
As Pete fixed up his coffee maker he began. “A few years back, this young yahoo made his debut as a trick gun shootist, and yes, he’s fought some criminals and even made a few videos promoting his hard-line brand of Christianity. He got into some trouble last year for making some anti-Jewish remarks, and it was discovered he mostly fought and killed black or other non-white criminals. So far, all self-defense, but he joined two other clowns who call themselves American Eagle and Flag Man, and they call their team Real American Heroes. All of them’s, far as I know, without powers, but with a bit of talent — if not too bright.”
“How so?” asked Roger, looking comfortable once more now that he was back in his traditional short-sleeved buckskin jacket and blue jeans.
“Well, they all belong to some white power group or other. Each of them has publicly said the U.S. sided with the wrong side in World War II. Believe that the U.S. is controlled by something called the Zionist Occupational Government, or ZOG. Don’t get me wrong, these boys are not bright, but they ain’t stupid. And they are dangerous.”
Golden Arrow nodded. “This Gunhawk did demonstrate some real pistol skills, and good shooting, too. So what’s this about him claiming to be my son? The boy barely looks twenty-five!”
“Roger, I just found out about that myself. Hey, you disappeared completely in 1953, right? Should’a figured someone would’a clamped onto your fame and try and make it into something they could use, even if the timing is obviously a few years off. Just surprised it didn’t happen sooner.”
“The dangers of being a mystery-man,” sighed Roger. “Well, I probably did something foolish just before I left. I fired an arrow to land at his feet with a little message. It said, ‘I am back.’ Then I used the confusion to leave.”
“Gonna be interesting to see what happens next, indeed.”
Golden Arrow didn’t know it, but he had been followed, and he was being listened to now.