Later that night, Pete Gallagher was dreaming, remembering the very day that he had first met the Golden Arrow.
It was the summer of 1950, and Pete Gallagher was a rookie Highway Patrol officer in the mountains of Colorado. He and his partner, Sam Jones, were on a routine patrol when they got a call of a gunfight. Being closest to the location, they were to go in cautiously, and backup would be arriving soon, the radio dispatcher told them.
Jones, an experienced officer, knew where the gunfight was taking place: the old Koresh ranch, not far from where the two men had been driving along, enjoying the fresh air and talking about baseball.
It seemed to Gallagher that, within seconds, they were pulling into the driveway of a rather old and rundown ranch, one that had once thrived but was on its last legs now.
As they approached, they could see several cars and many men. Some were wearing suits and packing pistols or rifles. Shots were fired at them, and Sam pulled back a bit, found a safe parking spot, and the two of them leaped out with pistols drawn. Pete grabbed their shotgun, too.
Shots were exchanged. Whoever these men were, they were hard cases, hellbent on getting both the people inside the old ranch house and the two highway patrolmen.
“I think I can sneak around those trees over there and maybe get a drop on that guy who seems to be giving orders. Get on that radio and see where our backup is. Let the office know we’re in a war zone!” That was Sam, the older, wiser guy, always with the orders.
Sam made a move for the copse of trees and went down in a hail of hot lead. Pete fired toward the bad guys but wasn’t able to hit anyone. Then someone was coming up behind him as he reloaded. Pete turned to see a thin young man in a blue suit aiming a machine gun at him.
Pete tried to close his pistol so he could fire it, when the young man went down with an arrow in his shooting arm. Pete swiftly made it to the injured man and grabbed his machine gun, just as he saw an amazing sight.
A blond man wearing a short-sleeved red buckskin jacket, blue jeans, and a blue bandana around his neck, and carrying a bow and a quiver, was dispatching golden-tipped arrows with the speed of a master archer while riding a white stallion heading toward the fray.
“Son of a bitch! He’s for real!” Although Pete had only heard rumors about his existence, the Golden Arrow had arrived and made short work of the criminals. He was no mere myth after all.
Then, while he checked on his partner, Pete called to the house. Whoever was in there was reluctant to come out, which was understandable. However, the fact that no one was shooting at them and that the police were on hand relaxed the situation.
Golden Arrow jumped off his horse White Wind, landed next to Pete, and pulled some rudimentary medical supplies out of a saddlebag. “Not much, but these should stop the bleeding,” he said, handing Pete some strips of cloth and a small bottle of whiskey. “For the pain,” he explained at Pete’s quizzical look. “Thank God he’s alive.”
Pete nodded his thanks. Despite his colorful attire, the guy seemed to be all right.
Out of the farmhouse came a tall, handsome man also wearing a suit, but a less-expensive one than those worn by the outside shooters. “Agent Tom Parker, FBI,” he said, showing his badge. “I got two injured inside; how soon is help coming?”
Pete looked to the sky a moment and said, “Momentarily, I suspect. Officer Gallagher, Highway Patrol. What the hell was going on here?”
Agent Parker paused for a moment to light a cigarette, then offered one to Pete, who accepted, and Golden Arrow, who waved it away. “Witness protection program. I have two members of the Caprizzini mob and their families. These pieces of garbage you guys took out are from the same mob, trying to keep them from going to court. We thought we had a safe spot, but someone must’a seen us or talked.'”
In the present, Pete woke up just as, in his memories, sirens could be heard. The next three years would see him and Golden Arrow become friends, and Golden Arrow had even told Pete his life story, which sounded like an Old West story from an old dime novel rather than anything contemporary. In fact, most of Golden Arrow’s adventures sounded like they’d occurred in some place stuck in the previous century, instead of the ’40s and ’50s. Despite his prodding, Pete never did get any straight answers about that. And then, in late 1953, the Golden Arrow up and disappeared while investigating gunrunners. (*) And despite rumors over the next couple of years that the Golden Arrow was still fighting crime, Pete knew it wasn’t his friend. After all, Roger Parsons never had any reason to wear a mask like this Johnny-come-lately calling himself Golden Arrow. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Trail of Death,” Whiz Comics #154 (April, 1953) and Golden Arrow: Times Past, 1966: Whatever Happened to the Golden Arrow?]
For years Pete had been convinced that his friend’s bones lay bleached in the sun or buried under dirt somewhere in the vastness that was the West. Now that very man who had saved his and Sam’s life was still looking like he did when Pete last saw him in 1953. Meanwhile, Pete sure had changed, from a healthy vital police officer to a man who was getting old and restless over being retired, and sick of seeing the country take one step forward, then two steps back.
Looking in the direction of the living room, where he could hear the television, Pete said to himself, “Son, I think you came back to one hell of a mess, and thank God you did.”
Shannon Moore was nervous as she drove up to the compound of the White American Resistance, even though her crew members were relaxed. Of course they were; they were experienced reporters. As for her, she had previously worked a garden tips show before being hired by KDEN, and her first actual live report had been the shooting itself.
Today was a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon, and these yahoos were ready for a television interview to give their side of the story. Maybe this Gunhawk clown would talk to her. She thought he was an asshole, but a handsome one nonetheless.
At the gate, the guards told her the interview was canceled. “Why?” was all she could ask.
“Don’t know, blondie,” the swaggering, rifle-toting guard told her. “But if I was you, I’d turn around and head home, for your own safety. Unless, of course…” He grinned evilly, showing a mouthful of rotten teeth. “…you wanna interview me on what a good husband I’d make a hot filly like you.”
Shannon responded with a sincerely faked smile. “Thanks, darling. Maybe some other time.”
“Curiouser and curiouser,” stated Randy, her sound man.
“Well, that’s the breaks guys,” Shannon said. “I would love to know what’s going on in there, but don’t know of any other way in. You guys?” Both shrugged.
Meanwhile, within the encampment, the Reverend Josiah Claybourne was quite agitated, and his agitation had not been lessened by his fiery sermon this morning. No, what was bothering him was that, last night, someone had somehow gotten into the camp and had fired a golden arrow at the feet of his guest, Gunhawk, and the arrow had a note on it. I am back. What the hell did that mean?
Golden Arrow was dead; he had to be. Gunhawk had gone pale, then threatened to kill whoever was responsible. Claybourne would have been more than happy to allow his gunfighter to go after this mystery person.
And yet, could he have somehow — by suggesting that Gunhawk tell everyone that he was the son of the missing hero — inspired the original to come out of retirement? Retirement? What had happened to that blond savage, anyway?
Why now? Just when things were going so well for his operations. More than a decade ago, several old-time heroes had returned, but Claybourne knew the Golden Arrow hadn’t been part of that group, trapped by Sivana all those years. No, Claybourne, like a lot of people, figured the arrow-shooting hero had been killed or at least seriously injured years ago.
The Reverend Josiah Claybourne was snapped out of his thoughts by the ringing of his red phone, a phone very few people had the number of.
“Reverend Claybourne,” he cautiously answered.
“Reverend, it’s me, Karl.”
“Karl, where are you?” Claybourne felt apprehensive about hearing from his assistant security chief via phone after the man had been missing last night when that arrow had come flying out of nowhere.
“Phone booth outside of someplace called, uh, Kim’s Groceries, in Denver. In a rainstorm that’s not gonna lighten up anytime soon.”
Jesus! thought Claybourne. Was he off drinking and whoring when he should have been on patrol? Well, if so…
“Sir, I have important intel concerning a masked man.”
What? Claybourne wondered to himself. “Go ahead, Karl.”
“Last night, I was patrolling in sector nineteen and spotted a pickup truck which shouldn’t’a been there. I was approaching it when I spotted a guy come outta the woods, and he was wearing some sort of costume and carrying a bow. Right away, I figured trouble, and when he jumped into the truck, I rolled into the back, rode into town, and found out where he lives and who he is.”
Good, good! chuckled Claybourne to himself. This is good!
“And get this, sir! I heard the name the Golden Arrow mentioned. Wasn’t that the guy Gunhawk claims was his father?”
“Yes, this guy must be a ZOG agent. Give me your exact location, and I’ll send a couple of boys pick you up and scout the situation. Are you, uh, in uniform?”
“Oh, yes, sir. Reverend, and forgive me, please. I stole somebody’s raincoat.”
“Easily forgiven, my son. Now, the location info, please…” Inside himself, Claybourne was ecstatic.
Elsewhere, Gunhawk was checking his twenty-odd pistols, including the two six shooter Colt .45s in his holsters, and he began polishing these silver-plated six-shooters. He considered himself to be an outstanding example for white American youth to follow, and did not at all like some clown showing up and spoiling his party.
“Whoever crashed the party last night is goin’ ta find themselves facing a genuine Christian patriot, yessir,” he told himself for the umpteenth time. He was agitated and angry, and he looked up with surprise when Claybourne entered without knocking.
“Christ almighty, Rev! Be careful! I could’a shot you!”
“Sorry, G.H,” said the reverend. “I forgot myself. I have good news, though. We should soon know who this so-called Golden Arrow is.”
“Good — I want his head! Disrupting my show, er, talk last night! Who does he think he is, anyways?”
Claybourne sighed heavily. “He thinks he’s the Golden Arrow, judging from the color of this arrow and his message coming as you were talking about your alleged father. If he is indeed taking up the role, then he may be a difficult case, but you… you can handle him.”
“Damn straight! Er, pardon, I mean darn straight. But what if he is the original Golden Arrow?”
“Then he would be pretty old. I first encountered him when I was but nineteen and barely got away. Two years later, I was in charge of an operation he damn near shut down before he disappeared. I would think he’d be well around eighty or such by now. He got started when I was just a kid.”
Gunhawk assumed a smug look. “Eighty or eighteen, I can still take him out.”
Both men laughed.
Pete Gallagher arose in the morning, put coffee on, and found Roger Parsons still sitting in front of the TV and still in his buckskin jacket.
“You stayed up all night?”
“No. I dozed for a while. Hey, look!”
On the television, a breaking news banner interrupted the gospel show that had been on.
“This is Garrison Homes for KHIZ-TV. There is a shocking break in the D.J. Davey Free murder case. We take you live to our crime beat reporter, John Kline. John?”
John Kline was standing in front of the Denver Police Plaza building. “Garrison, in a surprising twist on recent events, a robbery in progress at Devlin Furs last night was stopped by the American Eagle, and information found on one of the alleged criminals led police to the headquarters of the White Warriors, a splinter group of the White American Resistance. I have been told that one of their members has already confessed to the killing.”
Pete swore. “I’ll be damned. That goof actually broke the case! Why, I–”
He was interrupted by a shout from outside. “In the house! This is the Gunhawk! Come on out, ‘Brass Bowman,’ or whatever you call yourself.”
Pete looked out the window of his door. “What th’–? That star-spangled cowboy is outside with some other idjits in cammies!”
Roger sighed, donned his new cowl mask, grabbed his bow and quiver, and headed out without bothering with the rest of the new costume. “Guess I better see what my ‘son’ wants.”
Standing outside were the Gunhawk and several members of the WAR security force. Golden Arrow walked outside to meet him face to face, with Pete following closely behind.
“What can I do for you?” Golden Arrow asked.
Gunhawk looked at the archer and said, “For starters, drop your weapon. You’re under arrest for that murder of the radio guy a few days back.”
“Hey, idiot, you know how to use a radio?” Pete said, spitting on the ground at Gunhawk’s feet. “That case has been wrapped up. Your buddy, American Eagle, solved that one, you yutz!”
One of the security men pulled a pistol and fired at Pete, hitting him in the chest. As he fell, he whipped out his own Colt .45 and fired back, hitting his assailant. Gunhawk pulled his matching pistols and fired at Golden Arrow, who had quickly whipped an arrow out and fired back.
As the arrow left his bow, a bullet struck his side. While falling, he had notched a second arrow, then fired it at another gunman who was raising a machine pistol. Gunhawk went down with a shocked look on his face, the archer’s first arrow in his chest.
From the ground, Golden Arrow fired a third arrow and felled a third attacker. Just then, sirens wailed, and Golden Arrow could hear shouts. He rolled over to Pete.
“Did… did you get him, Roger?” asked his old friend.
“I got him, Pete,” Golden Arrow said.
Pete smiled, blood dribbling from his mouth. “Goddamn this hurts. Martha? Martha, I see you.” His eyes rolled back as his spirit left him.
A police officer ran up. “Sir? Do you need an ambulance?”
Teary-eyed, Golden Arrow looked up. “I’m fine. Been shot enough to know a flesh wound. As for my friend, it’s too late.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I knew Pete. He was a good man.”
Golden Arrow stood up. “The best.”
Tim O’Leary had flashed his badge and credentials to get into the hospital to see the Golden Arrow. He entered the emergency room, where the still-masked hero was having his side wound cleaned and bandaged. “I knew as soon as I saw the arrow that pinned that Gunhawk clown to the van, you were back. Son, indeed!”
“Hi, Tim,” said Golden Arrow. “Sorry about the confusion, but Pete and I figured it was a good cover to explain my presence. After all, time travel is hard to explain.”
The nurse doing the work on his side said, “My son’s in high school. He says it’s a branch of physics he wants to explore. Maybe, Mr. Arrow, you can help him.”
Golden Arrow looked at her. “If I could explain what happened to me and how it worked, I would gladly tell him about it. My being here now was more accident than intent. I had nothing to do with it.”
O’Leary thought about it a second, then smiled and said, “It’s good to have you back, Golden Arrow. But I tell you, it’s gonna be a lot harder for you, if you go around killing people all the time.”
“Self-defense has already been ruled the case, Tim,” said Golden Arrow, sounding exhausted. “Besides, I’m not a killer. At the time of the firefight, I was a little too rushed and in shock at Pete’s death to pick a non-lethal target like I always have before. I just fired, is all, and fate took over.”
Elsewhere, the American Eagle was talking on a telephone. “I’m telling you, Flag, this man is dangerous! Took out ‘Hawk with one shot, plus a couple other guys, and the police say he’s clear of any charges. We got to get this guy! No matter who he claims he is, ‘Hawk was our friend.”
And at the White American Resistance camp, Reverend Josiah Claybourne was also vowing revenge. Several years of planning had gone out the window. “By God and Hitler, this archer is gonna suffer for his sins!”