Ace Harmon in Caution: Slow Children

Episode 1
In which our Hero, Ace Harmon,
deals danger within 100 yards of a school,
puts the scotch back in hopscotch,
and gets an education in betrayal.

The problem with living in a city is that it's really hard to have a race against time when you've got to get through crosstown traffic. Sure, John McClane made it look easy and exciting in Die Hard with a Vengeance, but everything looks easy when you've got Samuel L. Jackson by your side. In reality, even a gun and a badge won't guarantee you can grab some shmoe's ride and whip crosstown like the midday express. The first problem you run into is whether the driver even speaks English or a reasonable facsimile thereof. And let me tell you, Abib is just as likely to pull his own rod and drop lead in your chest as he is to acquiesce and mitt me the keys. Then you have the issue of traffic, and if there's gridlock, you're straight up screwed. After that, you've got angry drivers who will run you off the road or drop a Mexican roadblock in front of you simply cause you're in a hurry. In this apple, everyone's in a hurry, unless you don't wait your turn, in which case they somehow find time to make everything drag for you. Go figure.

When I finally got the old lady on the horn it was apparent that James was off at school. She told me that I could find him in the computer lab since he usually stayed after to help out. I hopped a cab, hoping that I'd make it to PS273 before the kids were belled out and tossing back malts at the local haunts. Unfortunately, God and the Department of Transportation had other plans. When the yellowjacket pulled up in front of the school, the yard was full of squealers playing like it was recess and the teachers were all inside. I paid my fare and ducked inside, using my detecting skills to track down the lab.

As I peeked in the door, I noticed that among the kids in there, James wasn't to be seen. I whistled at the teacher and pulled her outside. "Where's James? His grandma told me I could find him here."

"Is she alright?" the teacher asked, concern covering her face like a well made ski mask.

"Yeah. She's fine. I spoke to her on the phone not two hours ago. Why?"

"James was picked up by a friend of the family a few minutes ago," she said earnestly. "She said his grandmother had an accident."

"Who picked him up?"

"Miss Dumont." That bitch! "James said she was the sister of his neighbor," I heard the teacher say as I turned and ran back down the hallway. There was no time to lose. If I was lucky, I'd spot them before they got too far.

I burst out of the front doors stopping on the stoop to look around. Across the street, I saw the skirt ducking into a red cruiser with the kid in the back seat. I was about to yell out to her when I noticed two lugs coming towards me, their hands in their jackets. I watched the car pull away and shot a look at the brunos before ducking back in the school. If we were going to have it out, we'd do it inside where there was less of a chance of an innocent getting zotzed. The last thing I wanted was a showdown with kids running around.

I booked it down the stairs figuring the basement was the best place to set up. I could hear the goons hot on my tail. Yanking my heater from its fireplace, I ran to the end of the hall, ducked behind some lockers and got ready to burn powder.

Shooting a gun is a zen-like experience. You close your eyes, listen, and breathe for a few moments, calming your body to steady the shot. Taking aim at a living target is almost surreal; the world slows down and you get a moment of the fear--assuming, of course, that you don't like killing people, which I don't. The trigger only takes a gentle squeeze to pull. The snap of the gun and bang of the muzzle are so loud and violent that it seems like it's not actually happening, kind of like an out of body experience. And then there's the sudden calm; the world going silent as your target collapses and the bystanders freeze in momentary fear. No matter how many times I've plugged some deserving rotten apple, it never stops feeling like that.

When I heard the torpedoes reach the bottom, the footsteps suddenly stopped, the hallway dormy. I knew they couldn't see me from my battlestation, so I simply waited. After a moment or two, I heard one set of footsteps slowly sneaking down the hall. I took a deep breath and got ready, knowing I had six slugs to take down at least one target.

I spun out low, knowing my chances of a leg or gut shot were better and fired two rounds quickly. The goon slid to the floor as the first shot clipped his hip, the other slug ricocheting down the hallway. I spotted the backup sliding out from the stairwell and popped one more into the floundering goon on the ground. I could see his body go limp in the corner of my eye as I dove for cover. The return fire was rapid, shots slamming into the wall behind me as I slid across the lino. My left arm burned as I felt hot lead rip through my bicep. Luckily, this wasn't the first flesh wound I had gotten. Better still, I'm right handed.

I pulled myself further into the doorway, trying to make sure I was completely covered as the bullets rained in. After a moment or two, the Chicago lightning stopped echoing and I could hear the quiet moans of the lug I pumped full of lead.

"Come on out, Mr. Harmon," the other bruno called over his comrade's cries. "You didn't think you could break the boss's jaw and get away with it, did you?" I heard the goon step over his pal as he waited for an answer.

"Come and get me, greaseball!" I called towards the back wall, baiting him. I hoped the echo might make him think I was further down, but how often do these things actually work out? I grabbed the flask from my pocket and tried to use it as a mirror to see how close he was. With a quick flash, I could tell I had about 15 seconds before he was on top of me. I began counting the footsteps as I quietly set the flask down and slipped my iron back in its holster. Two more steps. It was now or never.

I leapt out from my fox hole landing face to face with the goon. I hit his hand as he spun towards me, knocking the gun up and showering us with dust and asbestos as it fired into the ceiling. He swung downward, trying to pistolwhip me like in the pictures. I stepped to the right, the gun missing my head and his forearm connecting solidly with my shoulder, sending rivulets of pain shooting through my punctured arm. I grabbed his lapel and slammed my forehead into his mug. Blood spluttered down his face as he fell back, dropping the gun.

"You tried to coldcock me, you ass!" I said, standing over him and shaking away the pain.

"It always worked in Halo." I gave him a boot to the face, dropping him cold.

Without another thought, I grabbed my flask from the doorway and popped it open. I took a swig and poured some over the bullet wound in my arm. It stung like... It stung so bad, my grasp of the English language suddenly failed me. Difficult to believe, I know.

As I came up the stairs, several teachers were huddled at the top. "Call the cops. The gunmen are down there." The crowd split like the Red Sea as I pushed my way through holding my arm.

I needed to split fast, before the cops got here and held me for questioning. Even a PI doesn't get to walk if he's been tossing lead near a school. I pulled myself out to the corner and waved a cab with my good arm.

"Whoa there buddy," the cabbie said as I ducked in the back. "I don't want blood all over my cab."

I pulled out a couple sawbucks and tossed them through the window, making sure the bundle of moolah was obvious to the hack. "You take me, and there'll be more when we get there." I saw the greed light up in his eyes.

"Sure thing, pal. Where to?"

I thought for a moment. If Dumont had James and Butler's goons were already on my ass, there was only one place this was all leading. "To Koreatown, mac. And make it skippy."

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

In which our Hero, Ace Harmon,
takes a ride on a forklift,
gets up close and personal with Optimus Prime,
and finds him self tongue tied.

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