The guy lived in an airplane hangar, for chrissakes. Why not just wear a sign that says, “Please make more fat jokes.” Then again, it’s not like there are a whole lotta places to live in King City. And when you deals in this many comics—thousands and thousands on pallets like the one that had been shipped to Mr. Bob Romano—hell, you may as well just move in yourself. The room for Gorofsky’s considerable bulk was probably just a perk. Not that the guy was feeling to perky, duct-taped to his computer chair and pistol-whipped.
Ah, well. The cost of doing business.
Mr. Bob Romano had bought a pallet off the guy, curious to see if it would yield anything. A lotta dealers dealt in bulk like this: a hundred, two hundred bucks would buy you a thousand comics, selected at random. A giant grab bag, if you will. A lotta junk, but usually some fairly high-yield books to make it worth your while.
But this smart-ass Gorofsky. First he sends the thousand books, but seven hundred of them are copies of Marvel Super Heroes Special, Winter ’91. Barely worth the paper they’re printed on.
“The fuck is this?” Romano said on the phone.
“Well,” Gorofsky said with a giggle barely suppressed, “it is the first appearance of Squirrel Girl. And it’s by Steve Ditko. You do know who that is, don’t you?”
Gorofsky mighta gotten off light with the whole stunt, the disrespectful tone, and even that grave insult to Mr. Bob Romano’s intelligence. But then he had the nerve to hang up on Mr. Bob Romano. Hanging up on Mr. Bob Romano was like smoking—it might make you look cool, but it could send you to the hospital. Or an early grave.
“Found anything good yet?” Hughes said.
Bronson came over with an armload of books and half-shrugged. “Good, but not great. Some first printings of Wonder Woman #219, Captain America #25—”
“That the one where he dies?”
“Well, those’ll be worth something,” Hughes said, “Right?”
“Yeah, well, they’re not giving them away, that’s true,” Bronson said, “but, man, with all this stuff in here? It’d take all night to go through ‘em, and even if we found a thousand more of books like these, a couple more years and they’ll be worth as much as Superman #75.”
“Not worth the trouble, really.”
“Fuck,” Hughes said.
Bronson set the books down carefully. “But I’ve been thinking...”
“Hey, fatbody!” Bronson said.
Gorofsky looked up and peered at them through the blood dried over his eyes. He said something that was muffled by the duct tape over his mouth. Bronson came over and wiped some of the blood off Gorofsky’s face.
“Hey, man,” Bronson said, “This is some okay stuff you got in here, but really, most of it is junk. Right? So why don’t you just save us some trouble and tell us where your stash is, your personal collection.”
Even behind the duct tape, there was no mistaking his words: “Fuck you!” But he also couldn’t help glancing to his right. Hughes saw it too.
“The file cabinet,” they both said.
The bottom drawer was locked. “Shit,” Bronson said.
Hughes pulled out his .38. “Gimme just one second...”
“Whoa, wait, are you nuts! I’m no Bob Overstreet, but a bullet hole will really bring any book down a couple grades, man, I can tell you that.” Bronson checked all the other drawers in the cabinet and found a tiny key taped to the bottom of the top one.
Inside, there was a few high-grade Silver and Golden Age books, but nothing particularly spectacular. And then...
“Holy shit,” Bronson said.
“Is that what I think it is?” Hughes said.
Amazing Fantasy #15. The very first appearance of the amazing Spider-Man. Story by Stan Lee. Art by Steve Ditko.
“Holy shit,” Bronson said, “I mean, it’s not really high grade, but—but, still...I mean. Holy shit.”
Gorofsky struggled in his chair. Tears flowed freely down his cheeks.
Hughes went over and knelt in front of him. “Don’t take it so hard, big fella,” he said, “It’s just the cost of doing business.”