Ace Harmon in Caution: Slow Children

Episode 1
In which our Hero, Ace Harmon,
finds himself in a sticky situation,
fights a very large man,
and uses a public restroom.

There are days when I'm just jonesing for something juicy but I've got squat. Usually, I close up shop early, toss my plates on the pavement and start hoofing it looking for the first grifter I spot--and in this apple, there's plenty. I get all gunhouse, brace the guy, and, if necessary, give him the Broderick. Most of the time I just dust my knuckles on him and send him packing. Sometimes I need a lifesaver and end up popping his schnozzle like teen with a nasty zit. The locals know me and if they don't a quick flash of my ticket gets me sent to the nearest speakeasy for a bourbon and a cool off. I guess I'm lucky that way.

When I saw the sharper waddling towards me green around the gills I was tempted to clean him up. I'd seen the guy pip a camera flasher a few days back but chose to hit the bar instead of hotfooting it after him. Now, he was an easy mark and right up my alley. Literally. Too bad I had a sweet case riding my pocket like it was the America's Cup. I was all ready to breeze by when the sucker dropped his puss and upchucked all over my dogs.

"Oh... Oh...." The whiskey wafted into my nose as visions of sugar plums puked in my head. "Shorry buddy... I... I..." Were this any other day, I would've nailed him to the cross and asked him to touch his toes. But I had a missing kid to find.

"Shut up and take a powder." I put my dogs to yapping, trying to ignore the chunks of corn and--is that green chile? Jesus--that covered my barkers. The man's cries of forgiveness followed me, but before I could get off the track, I was around the corner and hitting on all eight.

Normally I love the sound of sole against sidewalk, but each step felt like elmer's thanks to the homemade glue the drunkard had ejected. I would've spewed like an overfed baby in a burping contest if I had had to walk much father. Luckily, before I knew it, I was there.

The cave was a tall brick building complete with a tin soldier as a greeter. I hadn't seen a uniform that shiny since the army hired Lady Li's women of ill-repute to host a military mixer. Might've been the only time those boys ever actually stuck it to the Vietnamese. I hopped up to the doorway and strode right into the doorman's hand blocking the entrance.

"You can't go in there, sir," said the doorman. I hate it when some palooka doesn't want me to pick my teeth in his kitchen. I thought about tossing him a hard right hook, but I figured he was the kind of flounder that wouldn't bite. Besides, ever since I had smashed my right mitt in a bender down at Sam's Tavern my hand had been cracking like a whip in a three ring circus.

"Listen Mac. I've got a hot tomato slipping me some dough to pick her bother out of the national lineup." I lifted the key her ladyship had passed me and jingled it at him. "She gave me the key."

"Residents and approved guests, dick." The emphasis on approved made me think I wasn't exactly welcome.

"That's private dick to you bub," I snapped back.

"Funny, you don't smell like military." I glanced down at my vomit covered shoes and watched the puke glisten as I wiggled them uncomfortably.

"I was on the wrong end of a personal waterfall." I glared at him. "If you were doing something useful instead of standing around trying not to sneeze the gilt off your toy soldier uniform, maybe you'd know what it's like beyond your botanical planters and gold plated vestibule." He sneered in return but kept his hand out, wrinkling my raincoat as his grip tightened. "You gonna let me pass or do I have to answer your riddle first? Lemme guess, the answer's a newspaper." I snickered at my own joke, which, given the situation, probably wasn't the best idea.

His fist hit me like a bat, slamming me down. I felt my back crack as I whipped backwards in his grip. As I rebounded, he shoved me off my feet. By the time I was rolling into the street, knew the bruise on my face would be twice as bad as the one on my ass. I watched him turn, dusting off his white gloves as though he'd just taken out the trash. I guess it was time for the trash to get its revenge.

I pushed myself up unsteadily, spitting blood and grunting convincingly as I slipped my hand into my pocket. I took two quick steps and launched myself into the air, slamming the brass knuckles I had just slipped on into the top of his skull. His felt cap collapsed like milk carton under a child's foot and the resounding thunk meant I had connected solidly. The doorman fell to the ground obviously cooled. I shook the brass knuckles back into my pocket and wiped my vomit covered shoes on his uniform. I rummaged in his glad rags for any cash. There was a wad of bills in his flogger, but I'm no thief. I snagged a fin and slipped the rest back in his pocket.

"That's for the medical fees," I said and drifted inside.

The lobby was small, but ritzy. The floor was adorned with pretty red carpeting that led to a tiny gated lift. Across from the mailboxes sat a marble table with some floral arrangements and a door marked restroom. I guess even tin soldiers need to piss.

I fumbled in my pants for my pocketknife as I pushed my way into the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, I could tell my mug was dented pretty bad. I flipped out the blade and nicked my cheek, letting the blood slip into the neatly monogrammed hand towel so graciously left on the counter. A little cold water compress and my eye would be good as new.

The door hit me hard as I went to leave the bathroom. With a second kick, a spiffy torpedo shoved his way in.

"Mr. Harmon, I presume."

"Stanley Livingston, I presume," I replied, leaning against the wall and holding the wet towel up to my eye. "Listen, mac. If you're going to give me a stern talking to, that wet blanket had it coming. It's all Jake now. Besides, I got my ticket right here." I reached for my ID, but before I could pop my persona to the thug, he continued.

"This isn't about the doorman, Mr. Harmon. In fact, it was quite impressive how quickly you dispatched him, though I might recommend that you choose to exercise force before your mouth puts you on the receiving end."

"Wait, what? This isn't about the doorman?"

"It's come to our attention, Mr. Harmon, that you were recently visited by a Ms. Dumont. Since you're here, it's apparent you've taken the case. We would be willing to make it worth your while to forget her little visit, return her key, and go on your merry little way."

"I'm not about to wander off into the sunset simply because some dapper dandy tosses me a nifty chunk of change. And if you're so keen to buy me out before I even get a taste of what's inside that apartment, this has got to be one interesting case."

The man reached into his pocket and drew out an envelope. "This contains five thousand dollars, Mr. Harmon. That's more than you'll make in a month of cases." I popped the envelope open and peeked. "We highly recommend you take our offer."

"This is a check!" I said. "Mr..." I waited for him to fill in his name, but he just watched me. "Fine, mac, play it your way. Regardless, we run a cash only enterprise and your money is no good here." I tried to punctuate my sentence by ripping the envelope and enclosed check in half, but apparently it was a really well made envelope.

"We're sorry to hear that Mr. Harmon," the man said while I struggled with the check. "We do hope you'll reconsider. If not, the next time we meet will be under much," he paused cinematically, "less friendly circumstances." I continued tugging at the envelope as the door swung shut. Finally, I gave up and followed him back into the lobby. I watched through the entrance as he got into a sleek black Chrysler breezer and sped off.

I looked down at the wrinkled envelope. I guess it couldn't hurt to hold onto this in case all this is a dead end anyway, I thought, slipping into my jacket. I turned and headed for the stairs. As I began the first flight, I heard a moan from outside the door.

"Better get moving," I mumbled to myself. "Wouldn't want to give the lug another shot at the title."

Stay tuned for our next exciting episode of
Ace Harmon, Retro Detective

In which our Hero, Ace Harmon,
searches for clues,
discovers a hidden talent,
and gets a little help from some friends.

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