The Hispanic man lit his cigarette with the flame, then put the
pistol-shaped lighter back into his pocket. "What kinda party you dressed
The Green Falcon didn't answer. His nerves were still jangling, and he
wasn't sure he could speak, even if he tried.
"You lookin' for a score or not?" the man persisted.
"I'm...looking for the Watchman," he managed to say.
"Oh. Yeah, I should've figured you were. Didn't know the old creep had any
Somebody called out, "Paco! Get your ass over here, NOW!"
The man sneered. "When I'm ready!" and then he sauntered toward the group
of others who stood around the Mercedes.
The Green Falcon went through the door and into the darkness.
He stood on a narrow staircase, tried to find a light switch, but could
not. Two steps down and his right hand found a light bulb overhead, with a
dangling cord. He pulled it, and the light bulb illuminated with a bright
yellow glow. The concrete stairs extended beyond the light's range, the
walls made of cracked grey cinder block. The Green Falcon went down, into
a place that smelled as damp and musty as a long-closed crypt. Halfway
down the steps, he halted.
There had been a sound of movement over on the right. "Anyone there?" he
asked. No answer, and now the sound had ceased. Rats, he decided. Big ones.
He came to the bottom of the stairs, darkness surrounding him. Again he
felt for a light switch, again with no reward. The smell was putrid: wet
and decaying paper, he thought. He took a few steps forward, reaching out
to both sides; his right arm brushed what felt like a stack of magazines or
newspapers. And then the fingers of his left hand found a wall and a light
switch, and when he flicked it, a couple of naked bulbs came on.
He looked around the Watchman's domain.
The basement—a huge, cavernous chamber—might have put the
periodicals department of the L.A. Public Library to shame. Neat
stacks of books, newspapers, and magazines were piled against the
walls and made corridors across the basement, their turns and windings
as intricate as a carefully constructed maze. The Green Falcon had
never seen anything like it before, there had to be thousands—no,
hundreds of thousands—of items down here. Maps of Los Angeles,
Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and other municipalities were
mounted on the walls, tinged with green mold but otherwise unmarred.
Here stood a stack of telephone books six feet tall, there were
multiple stacks of old Hollywood Reporters. The place was an immense
repository of information, and the Green Falcon was stunned because
he'd never expected anything like this. A bank of battered filing
cabinets stood against one wall, more newspapers stacked on top of
them. There had to be thirty years of accumulated magazines and papers
just in this part of the basement alone, and the chamber stretched the
length of the motel. He couldn't restrain his curiosity; he went to
one of the filing cabinets, which had precise little alphabet letters
identifying their contents, and opened a drawer. Inside were hundreds
of notebook pages covered with what appeared to be license plate
numbers and the make and color of the cars that carried them, all written
with an elegant, almost calligraphic handwriting. Another drawer held
lists of items found in various trashcans at scores of locations and
dates. A third drawer bulged with pages that seemed to record the
routes of pedestrians through the city streets, how long to the second
they stayed in this or that store or restaurant, and so forth.
And it dawned on the Green Falcon that this was exactly what the watchman
did: he watched, recorded, filed away, all to the service of some bizarre
inner logic, and he'd been doing it for years.
Something moved, back beyond the room in which the Green Falcon stood.
There was a quick rustling sound of papers being disturbed...then silence.
The Green Falcon wound his way through the maze, found another light switch
that illuminated two more bulbs at the rear of the basement. Still more
periodicals, maps, and filing cabinets stood in that area of the basement as
well, but there was a cot too, and a desk with a blue blotter.
And a man in a long, dirty olive coat, huddled up with his back wedged into
a corner, and his Peter Lorre eyes looked as if they were about to pop from
"Hello," the Green Falcon said quietly. The man, gray-bearded and almost
emaciated, trembled and hugged his knees. The Green Falcon walked closer
and stopped, because the Watchman was shaking so hard he might have a heart
attack. "I've come to talk to you."
The Watchman's mouth opened in his sallow face, gave a soft gasp, then
"I'm looking for someone you might help me find." The Green Falcon
described the man. "I think he might be the Fliptop Killer, and I
understand a man fitting that description used to come around here. He
might have been friends with a girl named Dolly Winslow. Do you know the
man I'm talking about?"
Still no response. The Watchman looked as if he were about to jump out of
"Don't be afraid. I'm the Green Falcon, and I wish you no harm."
The Watchman was so terrified there were tears in his eyes. The Green
Falcon started to speak again, but he realized the futility of it. The
Watchman was a human packrat, and Amazin' Grace had been right: there was
nothing to be gained here.
He took off his mask and threw it aside in disgust. What had made him think
he could track down the Fliptop? he asked himself. A red matchbook from a
dead girl's hand? A glimpse of the killers face, and an ill-founded
yearning for a counterfeit past? It was ridiculous! He was standing in a
motel's dank basement with a drug deal going on over his head, and he'd
better get out of here as fast as he could before he got his throat cut.
"I'm sorry to have bothered you," he told the Watchman, and he started
walking towards the stairs. He heard the Watchman gasp and crawl across the
floor, and he looked back to see the man rummaging with frantic speed
inside an old mildewed cardboard box.
This is no place for me, the Green Falcon realized. In fact, there was no
place at all left for the Green Falcon, but Cray Flint's mop was waiting at
the Burger King.
He kept going to the stairs, burdened with age.
"`Dear davy,"' the voice rang out. "`I am sorry I can't come to Center City
this summer, but I'm working on a new mystery..."'
The Green Falcon stopped.
"`...and I'm very busy. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate your
letter, and I like to hear from my fans very much. Enclosed is something
that I want you to have, and I hope you'll wear it with pride. Remember to
respect your elders, put up your toys, and do right..."'
He turned, his heart pounding.
"`Yours truly, the Green Falcon."' And the Watchman looked up, smiling,
from the yellowed, many-times-folded letter in his hands. "You signed it,"
he said "Right here. Remember?" He held it up. Then he scrambled to the box
again, rummaged, and came up with an old wallet covered in multicolored
Indian beads. He flipped it open and showed what was pinned inside. "I kept
it all this time. See?"
The plastic button said THE GREEN FALCONEERS. "I see." Cray's voice
"I did right," Davy said. "I always did right."
"Yes," the Green Falcon nodded. "I know you did."
"We moved from Center City." Davy stood up; he was at least six inches
taller than the Green Falcon. "My Dad got a new job, when I was twelve.
That was..." He hesitated, trying to think. "A long time ago," he decided.
A frown slowly settled on his deeply lined face. "What happened to you?"
"I got old," the Green Falcon said.
"Yes, sir. Me too." His frown started to slip away, then took hold again.
"Am I still a Falconeer?"
"Oh, yes. That's a forever thing."
"I thought it was," Davy said, and his smile came back.
"You've got a nice collection down here." The Green Falcon walked amid the
stacks. "I guess gathering all this takes a lot of time."
"I don't mind. It's my job."
"Sure. Everybody's got a job. Mine is watching things, and writing them
down. Keeping them, too."
"Have you actually read all these papers and magazines?"
"Yes, sir. Well...most of them," he amended. "And I remember what I read,
too. I've got...like...a Kodak in my brain."
Did he mean a photographic memory? the Green Falcon wondered. If so, he
might recall the man Gracie remembered? "Davy," he said in his heroic
voice, "I've come to you because I need your help. I'm trying to find the
Fliptop Killer. Have you heard of him?"
Davy nodded without hesitation.
"Can you think of a man like the one I described? A man who was a friend
"Dolly Winslow," Davy finished for him. "Yes, sir. I remember him. I never
liked him, either. He laughed at people when he didn't think they were
So far, so good. The Green Falcon felt sweat on the back of his neck. "I
want you to concentrate very hard, like a good Falconeer. Did you ever hear
the man's name?"
Davy rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand, and his eyes took on a
steely glint. He walked to a filing cabinet, bent down, and opened the
bottom drawer. Looked through dozens of envelopes. And then he pulled one
of them out, and he brought it to the Green Falcon. On it Davy had written:
23. "Dolly's room," he said. "He cleaned his wallet out in her trashcan one
The Green Falcon went to the desk and spilled the envelope's contents out
on the blotter. There was a torn-open Trojan wrapper, two dried-up sticks
of Doublemint gum, a few cash-register receipts, a ticket stub to a Lakers
"His name's Rod Bowers. It's on the library card," Davy said. "His address
The library card had been torn into quarters, but Davy had taped it back
together again. And there were the name and address: Rodney E. Bowers, 1416D
Jericho Street, Santa Monica.
"That was over a year ago, though. He might not be there now," Davy said.
"The Green Falcon's hands were shaking. Davy had taped together another
piece of paper: a receipt that had been torn into many fragments. On that
receipt was the name of a business: The House Of Blades. On December 20th,
1986, Rodney Bowers had bought himself a Christmas present of a John Wayne
Commemorative Hunting Knife.
"Did I do right?" Davy asked, peering over the Green Falcon's shoulder.
"You sure did, son." He grasped the younger man's arm. "You're..." He said
the first thing that came to mind: "The number-one Falconeer. I have to go
now. I've got a job to do." He started striding, his pace quick, toward the
"Green Falcon, sir?" Davy called, and he paused. "I'll be here if you ever
need my help again."
"I'll remember," the Green Falcon answered, and he climbed the stairs with
the taped-together library card and the House Of Blades receipt gripped in
He went through the door into the parking lot—and instantly heard someone
shouting in Spanish. Somebody else was hollering from the second floor, and
there were other angry voices. The man named Paco was standing next to the
Mercedes, and suddenly he drew a pistol—not a cigarette lighter this
time, but a .45 automatic. He shouted out a curse and began firing into
the Mercedes, glass from the windshield exploding into the air. At the same
time, two men got out of another car, flung themselves flat onto the
pavement, and started spraying Paco with gunfire. Paco's body danced and
writhed, the .45 going off into the air.
"Kill 'em!" somebody yelled from the second floor. Machine-gun fire
erupted, and bullets ricocheted off the concrete in a zigzagging line past
the Green Falcon.
Oh, my God! Cray thought. And he realized he'd come out of the basement
into the middle of a drug deal gone bad.
The two men on the pavement kept firing. Now figures were sprinting across
the parking lot, shooting at the men on the second floor. Machine-gun
bullets cut one of them down, and he fell in a twitching heap. The Green
Falcon backed up, hit the wall, and stayed there—and then a man in a dark
suit turned toward him, a smoking Uzi machine-gun in his hand, his face
sparkling with the sweat of terror. He lifted the weapon to spray a burst
at the Green Falcon.