By: Jake Hatcher, Official Bookshelf Battle Private Eye
POP CULTURE MYSTERY QUESTION: Han or Greedo: Who Shot First?
It was early morning. My five o’clock shadow had become a midnight blackout. I needed a shave like a madman needs sanity.
A ray of sunlight kissed my face but I was too tired to pucker. I closed the blinds and leaned back in my chair, my trusty fedora covering my face, leaving me in my own little world.
I drifted off in a space between slumber and reality, hovering on the verge of both but not quite entering into either. It’s nice when you’re too sleepy to care, but not too tired to enjoy it.
The sensation was short lived. I heard the scraping sound of an envelope being pushed underneath my door.
It was from Delilah. My new employer’s attorney had my heart twisted in knots though I’m sure the feeling only went one way.
Isn’t it strange how quickly we become attracted to that which we can’t have?
I opened up the envelope and read it.
A rogue pilot and a green alien walk into a bar. They shoot at each another. One lives. One dies.
That’s not the setup of a hilarious joke. It’s the beginning of your next pop culture mystery.
“Who shot first – Han or Greedo?” That’s been a question on the minds of geeks, dweebs, nerds, and assorted poindexters since the original Star Wars graced the big screen in 1977.
Some think Greedo shot first. Others believe it was Han. Both sides have their arguments. Both have their critics and detractors. It’s a question that has raged through the geekosphere for years with no resolution in sight.
I want you to provide that resolution, Hatcher. Did Han shoot first? Did Greedo? My 3.5 readers want answers!
Bookshelf Q. Battler,
Bookshelf Battle Blog
I crumpled up the paper and tossed it into my waste basket. Green aliens and space pilots shooting at each other. Who cares?
During my World War II days, over a thousand Nazis had taken shots at me. I’m still here. They’re not. It never mattered to me who shot first as long as I was the last man standing.
First? Second? Doesn’t matter. Betsy always comes out on top.
Delilah’s men had set up my office with fancy new fangled beep boop machines.
There was a big one on the desk and a little one I was expected to carry around with me.
Of all the phony baloney cock and bull inventions of this new world, the “cell phone” is the one I least understand.
Seriously, I walk out the door and I still have to be reachable by every Tom, Dick and Harry from here to Kalamazoo? In my day, if a fella wasn’t around when you called him, you’d just call him back later. There wasn’t anything so important it couldn’t wait.
Now everyone wants to call everyone else all the time, day or night and the ironic part is that few people ever have anything important to say.
“Who shot first?”
That very question took this old gumshoe’s mind back to late 1948.
I was around three years in on the job as an LA cop and had been promoted quickly to Detective. My partner was the irascible Mickey Finn. Believe it or not but back in those days, I actually liked the guy. Of course, that was before I caught him playing doctor with the first Mrs. Hatcher.
The Gilded Lilly. What a dive. I’d seen city trash dumps with better character and more respectable clientele.
Mugsy “I’m Just a Legitimate Businessman” McGillicuddy
It was owned by one Mugsy McGillicuddy. Back then, Old Mugsy was the boss to end all crime bosses in the City of Angels. The man was bald as a cueball, uglier than original sin, and was so fat that he bared a striking resemblance to three hundred pounds of crap stuffed into a one hundred pound bag.
Mickey and I strolled through the front door, dressed in our finest business attire. The bird on stage tickled our eardrums with her high notes while waitresses peddled cigarettes and cheap hooch. The whole place stunk with a mixture of smoke and dime store perfume. Kind of reminds me of my second ex-wife, come to think of it.
In the back corner booth, there was a rogue’s galley of ne’er-do-wells. It was a veritable who’s who of LA scumbaggery.
There was Ratface Wally. He wasn’t actually that bad looking but he’d squealed on his old New York Boss, Carmine Labrazza, singing a song for the coppers like he was auditioning for the opera. Mugsy had taken Wally under his wing, giving him protection in exchange for underworld secrets regarding his East Coast competition. That was one of the many reasons why Mugsy was universally despised, even by his fellow wiseguys.
Then there was Handsome Hank. It was an ironic nickname, like calling a fella Lefty when he’s a righty or Slim when he’s fat. That chump looked like the Gestapo had goose stepped all over his money maker, then turned around and did it again.
Sitting in between them was Tips Malone. They called him “Tips” because he was always generous with his billfold, doling out the cash to every dame that smiled at him. Tips was the man Mickey and I had come to see. After all, he was Mugsy’s second-in-command.
“Officers!” Tips said. “I’d offer you a drink but I know fine upstanding law men such as yourselves wouldn’t have anything to do with it.”
“You’re right,” I replied.
“Speak for yourself,” Mickey said. “Whiskey, straight up.”
Tips snapped his fingers to get the attention of a short, perky waitress who immediately ran off to get Mickey’s drink.
Boozing on the job. The warning signs of Mickey’s dirt bag ways were there. I just wish I’d seen them before it was too late.
“Where’s Mugsy?” I asked. “We’re here to serve an arrest warrant on him on a silver platter.”
“You’d run in a fine, respectable businessman like Mr. McGillicuddy?” Tips asked.
“We’re gonna lock up that big lug and bury the key smack dab in the middle of the Great Mojave,” I answered.
Tips clapped his hands, feigning applause.
“Bravo, Detective Hatcher,” Tips said. “Bravo. What a boy scout you are. I’m afraid I can’t help you, though. I haven’t spoken to Mr. McGillicuddy in days.”
“Hold on while I hitch up my boots,” I said. “Sounds like it’s going to get pretty deep in here, see?”
Mickey Finn – Hatcher’s Ex-Partner and Self-Declared Life of the Party.
The waitress brought Mickey’s drink. Old Mick sucked it down like it was liquid gold. Irony is a bitch in blue suede shoes, isn’t she? Back then, I was the sober one and Mickey was the palooka who was three sheets to the wind and ready to set sail to any port in town. Today, I’m sad to say it’s vice versa.
“Fellas,” Tips said. “Why don’t you leave us a moment?”
Wally and Hank got out of dodge while the getting was good. Mickey was buzzed but not too plastered to realize that the other shoe was about to drop. Gutless coward that he was, he didn’t want to be anywhere around when it happened.
“Pardon me while I visit the little boy’s room,” Mickey said. “You two behave now.”
As soon as we were alone, I heard the unmistakable sound of a clicking revolver coming from Tips’ direction. He’d had it pointed at me underneath the table the entire time.
“I think you’d better get back on the horse you rode in on, copper,” Tips said.
I opened up my trench coat and gave the felonious goon a peak at Old Betsy. She was sitting snuggly in her holster, just itching for a fight.
“I have a toy too and I came to play, see?”
“I’d expect nothing less,” Tips replied. “But surely you realize I have the drop on you. I’ll have you deader than a doornail before you can even reach for your shooting iron.”
“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe you’re such a lousy shot that I’ll paint the walls with your brains before you know what hit you, see?”
Things were getting heated. The “sees” started flying back and forth across the table like a squad of supercharged geese.
“Maybe you I’ll shoot your schnozola off your stupid face to remind you not to poke it where it doesn’t belong, see?” Tips said.
“Yeah?” I asked. “Well, maybe I’ll fill you full of so many holes you’ll be able to do commercials for the Acme Swiss Cheese Company, see?”
It was a see-off.
“You ‘aint a bad guy Hatcher,” Tips said. “But you’re in over your head. Maybe you ought to learn a little something from your
partner about how to play ball. We’ve had Old Mick on the payroll for quite some time now. You can get a little bit of the green stuff for looking the other way too.”
“I could do that,” I said. “But I’d never be able to look the other way from my soul and it would ache worse than a monkey stuck in a meat grinder if I sell out to a two-bit hood like you, Malone.”
Tips Malone – Gentleman Gangster
Tips nodded and raised his left hand in a “stop” motion. With his right, he sat his revolver down on the table.
“Sportsmanship Hatcher,” my adversary said. “Let’s start with our steel on the table.”
I had to admire the guy. He had the drop on me and he gave it up to play fair. I retrieved Betsy and sat her on the table in front of me.
“Is that a Schotzenhauer?” Tips asked.
“Sure is,” I replied. “Model P58.”
“What a beauty,” Tips said. “She see a lot of action in the war?”
“Lost count after I sent a thousand Nazis to meet their maker,” I said. “They had a lot of explaining to do.”
“Won’t we all?” Tips asked. “Won’t we all.”
“On three then?” I asked.
I said one. Tips said two.
There was no three.
Just two loud BLAM BLAMS!
Tips was stone cold dead with a hole in his forehead deeper than the Grand Canyon. I was fine. Tips had always been a notoriously bad shot and I knew it. Hell, I used it to my advantage.
To this day, I’m not sure who shot first. It was possible that I’d popped Tips’ head open like a ripe casaba melon only to have him squeeze off an errant round in the last reflex movement of his pathetic life.
Then again, as I looked at the hole in the wall just a few inches away from my head, it dawned on me that Tips might have squeezed off the first round and missed, his lousy aim giving me the chance I needed to get the drop on him.
Good Old Betsy. After an all Nazi diet for years, she was hungry for any degenerate she could find.
And LA had an endless supply of them.
I walked to the bar and found Mickey. He was working on round number three.
“Hatch my boy!” Mickey said as he patted me on the back. “Have one with your partner!”
I plopped a one-dollar bill on the bar as an apology to the barkeep for the mess I was about to leave him with.
“Sorry Mac,” I said. “Big pile of trash back there for you.”
“Happens once a day in this joint, copper,” the bartender said as he ran a white cloth up and down the bar for no apparent reason. “You might want to skeedaddle before Wally and Hank come back though.”
I plopped my hand down on Mickey’s shoulder.
“Just one more,” my partner said.
“For Christ Sakes, man!” I said, giving Mickey a taste of my backhand. “You’re an officer of the law! Get ahold of yourself!”
“Well excuse me Father Hatcher,” Mickey said with slurred speech as he walked out the door with me. “I didn’t know you’d joined the priesthood.”
“Stuff it, Mick,” I said. “I think we need to have a talk about proper police procedure. You’re due for a refresher, see?”
My mind drifted for awhile. Finally, the flashback was over and I was concentrating on my 2015 life again.
“I don’t know how I’ll ever figure out which one of these space weirdos shot first,” I said, staring at Mr. Battler’s letter in my hand. “Same thing happened to me and I’m not sure myself.”
Who shot first? Han or Greedo? Star Wars fans, stop by bookshelfbattle.com tomorrow for a discussion of this vexing question!
Copyright (C) Bookshelf Q. Battler 2015. All Rights Reserved.
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