A black-and-white streak shot across the parking lot, and the pit bull hit
the gunman like a miniature locomotive. The man screamed and went down, the
Uzi firing an arc of tracers in the sky. And Lester ran past, stopped
almost in front of the Green Falcon, fired a shotgun blast at another man,
and then skidded on his belly behind the protection of a car.
The Green Falcon ran towards the street—and was almost struck by a cab
that whipped into the lot with a shriek of burning rubber.
Ques hit the brake, and Gracie shouted, "Come on, fool!" as she threw the
door open. The Green Falcon heard a bullet hiss past his head, and then he
grasped the door and hung on as Ques reversed out of the lot and sped away
Gracie pulled the Green Falcon in, and they got the door closed, but Ques
still kept a leaden foot on the accelerator. "Slow down!" she told him. "We
don't want the cops stopping us!" He didn't respond, and she slapped him on
the question mark. "SLOW DOWN!"
Ques did, but only by a little. "They had guns," he said
shakily. "Real guns!"
"What'd you expect drug dealers to carry? Slingshots?" She looked at the
Green Falcon. "You in one piece?" He nodded, his eyes huge behind the mask.
"We were circling the block, waiting for you to come out. We figured you'd
never get out of this neighbourhood alive. We were almost right, huh?"
"Yes," he croaked.
"Welcome to the big city. You find the Watchman?"
"I did." He drew a couple of deep breaths, could still smell the gunsmoke.
"And something else too." He gave the library card to Ques. "That's where
we're going. I think it's the Fliptop Killer's name and address."
"Not that again!" Gracie protested. "Man, we're taking you home!"
"No. We're going to Santa Monica. You don't have to get out of the cab if
you don't want to—in fact, I'd rather you didn't. But I'm going to find
the Fliptop, with you or without you."
"It'll be without me, all right," she answered, but the way he'd said that
let her know he was through talking about it. The man had a mission, and he
was going to do it come hell or high water. She settled back into her seat,
muttering, and Ques turned toward the Santa Monica freeway.
The address was near the beach, so close they could smell the sea. The
building was dark-bricked, one of those old art-deco places that probably
used to be a hotel when Santa Monica was young. Ques pulled the cab to a
halt in front of it and cut the engine.
"I want you both to stay here," the Green Falcon said. "I'm going in
alone." He started to get out, but Gracie caught his arm.
"Hey, listen. If the Fliptop's really in there, this is the time to call
the cops. No joke."
"I don't know that he's in there. It's an old library card; he might have
moved. But if he's there, I've got to see his face for myself. Then we can
call the police."
"She's right," Ques told him. "Listen, it's crazy to go in there. You don't
have a gun or anything."
"The Green Falcon," he said adamantly, "never carries a gun."
"Yeah, and the Green Falcon's only got one life, fool!" Gracie didn't
release her grip. "Playtime's over. I mean it. This isn't some old serial.
This is real life. You know what reality is?"
"Yes, I do." He turned the full wattage of his gaze on her. "The reality is
that...I think I'd rather die as the Green Falcon than live as an old man
with a screwed-up bladder and a book of memories. I want to walk tall, just
once more. Is that so terrible?"
"It's nuts," she answered. "And you're nuts."
"So I am. I'm going." He pulled loose from her and got out of the cab. He
was scared, but not as much as he thought he'd be. It wasn't as bad as
indigestion, really. And then he went up the front steps into the building,
and he checked the row of mailboxes in the alcove.
The one for apartment D had BOWERS on it.
Apartments A, B, and C were on the first floor. He climbed the stairs,
aided by a red-shaded light fixture on the wall, and stood before apartment
He started to knock. Stopped his hand, the fist clenched. A thrill of fear
coursed through him. He stood there facing the door, and he didn't know if
he could do it or not. He wasn't the Green Falcon; there was no such
entity, not really. It was all a fiction. But Julie's death was not a
fiction, and neither was what he'd been through tonight to reach this door.
The sane thing was to back off, go down those stairs, get to a phone, and
call the police. Of course it was.
He heard a car's horn blare a quick tattoo. The cab, he thought. Ques,
urging him to come back?
He knocked at the door and waited. His heart had lodged in his throat. He
tensed for a voice, or the sudden opening of the door.
The stairs creaked.
He heard the cab's horn again. This time Ques was leaning on it, and
suddenly the Green Falcon knew why.
He turned, in awful slow motion, and saw the shadow looming on the wall.
And there he was: the young blonde, dark-eyed man who'd slashed Julie's
throat. Coming up the staircase, step by step, not yet having seen the
Green Falcon. But he would, at any second, and each step brought them
The Green Falcon didn't move. The killer's weight made the risers moan, and
he was smiling slightly—perhaps, the Green Falcon though, musing over the
feel of the blade piercing Julie's flesh.
And then the Fliptop Killer looked up, saw the Green Falcon at the top of
the stairs, and stopped.
They stared at each other, standing not quite an arm's length apart. The
killer's dark eyes were startled, and in them the Green Falcon saw a glint
"I've found you," the Green Falcon said.
The Fliptop Killer reached to his back, his hand a blur. It returned with
the bright steel of the hunting knife, taken from a sheath that must fit
down at his waistband. He moved fast, like an animal, and the Green Falcon
saw the blade rising to strike him in the throat or chest.
"IT'S HIM!" Gracie shouted as she burst into the alcove and to the foot of
The killer looked around at her—and it was the Green Falcon's turn to
move fast. He grasped the man's wrist and struck him hard in the jaw with
his right fist, and he felt one of his knuckles break, but the killer
toppled backward down the stairs.
The man caught the railing before he'd tumbled to the bottom, and he still
had hold of the knife. A thread of blood spilled from his split lower lip,
his eyes dazed from a bang of his skull against a riser. The Green Falcon
was coming down the steps after him, and the Fliptop Killer struggled up
and backed away.
"WATCH OUT!" the Green Falcon yelled as Gracie tried to grab the man's
knife. The killer swung at her, but she jumped back and the blade narrowly
missed her face. But she had courage, and she wasn't about to give up; she
darted in again, clutching his arm to keep the knife from another slash.
The Green Falcon tensed to leap at the man, but suddenly the killer struck
Gracie in the face with his left fist and she staggered back against the
wall. Just that fast, the man fled towards the front door.
The Green Falcon stopped at Gracie's side. Her nose was bleeding and she
looked about to pass out. She said, "Get the bastard," and the Green Falcon
took off in pursuit.
Out front, the Fliptop Killer ran to the parked cab. Ques tried to fight
him off, but a slash of the blade across Ques' shoulder sprayed blood
across the inside of the windshield; the Fliptop Killer looked up saw the
man in the green suit and cape coming after him. He hauled Ques out of the
cab and leapt behind the wheel.
As the cab's tired laid down streaks of rubber, the Green Falcon grasped
the edge of the open window on the passenger side and just had an instant
to lock his fingers, broken knuckle and all, before the cab shot forward.
Then he was off his feet, his body streamlined to the cab's side, and the
vehicle was roaring north along serpentine Jericho Street at fifty miles an
The Green Falcon hung on. The killer jerked the wheel back and forth,
slammed into a row of garbage cans, and kept going. He made a screeching
left turn at a red light that swung the Green Falcon's body out from the
cab's side and all but tore his shoulders from his sockets, but still the
Green Falcon hung on. And now the Fliptop Killer leaned over, one hand
gripping the wheel, and jabbed at the Green Falcon's fingers with the
knife. Slashed two of them, but the Green Falcon's right hand darted in
and clamped around the wrist. The cab veered out of its lane, in front of
a panel truck whose fender almost clipped the Green Falcon's legs. The
killer thrashed wildly, trying to get his knife hand free, but the Green
Falcon smashed his wrist against the window's frame and the fingers spasmed
open; the knife fell down between the seat and the door.
Beachfront buildings and houses flashed by on either side. The cab tore
through a barricade that said WARNING—NO VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT.
The Green Falcon tried to push himself through the window. A fist hit his
chin and made alarm bells go off in his brain. And then the Fliptop Killer
gripped the wheel with both hands, because the cab was speeding up a
narrow wooden ramp. The Green Falcon had the taste of blood in his mouth,
and now he could hear a strange thing: the excited shouts of children, the
voices of ghosts on the wind. His fingers were weakening, his grip about to
fail; the voices overlapped and intermingled, said, "Hold on, Green Falcon,
And then before his strength collapsed, he lunged through the window and
grappled with the Fliptop Killer as the cab rocketed up onto a pier and
early-morning fishermen leapt for their lives.
Fingers gouged for the Green Falcon's eyes, could not get through the
mask's slits. The Green Falcon hit him in the face with a quick boxer's
left and right, and the killer let go of the wheel to clench both sinewy
hands around the Green Falcon's throat.
The cab reached the end of the pier, crashed through the wooden railing,
and plummeted into the Pacific Ocean twenty feet below.