Ace Harmon in Caution: Slow Children

Episode 1
In which our Hero, Ace Harmon,
ruins a Persian rug,
gets some help from a pirate ninja,
and experiences his dream vacation.

If you're a fan of the pictures--and who isn't these days--you've probably seen a big climactic showdown or two. Like the moment in which Jimmy Stewart has finally tracked down the dame who posed as his mistress and chases her to the top of the tower just to watch her dive off the edge like he thought he'd seen once before. It's this huge buildup of stress, suspense, and action in this final moment to end all moments. As a member of the audience, this is what we come for. Unfortunately, endings aren't usually like that. Instead of fiery breakups, relationships often fade away. Instead of big shootouts, standoffs usually peter out and end with an anti-climactic raid or a brokered deal. Instead of closure, all we usually get is more questions. Any good shamus will tell you that it's these anticlimactic endings we'd rater be involved in. It's just a whole lot less stress for a hard day's work.

The hatchetman shoved me through the doors, sending me sprawling on the throw rug in front of the door. I looked around, trying to take stock of the situation. The room was made out like an office, tables and computers all around, a few boxes scattered here or there. To the left Butler sat in a wheelchair, a lightbox flipped open in front of him, Ms. Jackson standing behind and reading over his shoulder. On the other side of the room Ms. Dumont stood, gun in one hand, disc in the other, and James in front of her looked partially scared and partially bored. Directly in the middle of all this sat Dennis--and I mean literally, since you could take it metaphorically and it would work as well--tapping away at some portable picture box as if the whole world was in harmony.

Butler started pecking away at his keyboard. "Ah, Mr. Harmon," said Ms. Jackson, her speech stunted as she waited for each word to appear on the screen. "How nice of you to join us. I hope you'll excuse my interpreter, but you seem to have broken my jaw." Butler glared at me as he waited for Ms. Jackson to finish. "I hope Mr. Johns, my head of security wasn't too rough with you."

"Screw you both!" yelled Dumont, Dennis turning fearfully towards her. "If you," she said, pointing at Butler, "hadn't double crossed me, I'd be far away enjoying my early retirement." Despite the anger in her face, I couldn't help but watch the way her lips parted and her tongue rolled with each word. "And you," she said, her ire knocking me out of my trance, "you had to surprise us all, didn't you?"

"Actually, I probably could've told you that I wasn't the wet sock you were looking for."

"Shut it!"

"You may as well give up now, Christie," said Ms. Jackson, Butler clicking away furiously once again. "You're outnumbered four to one, we have your brother, and your hostage means nothing to us."

"Four to one?"

"Myself... myself... Ace and Mr. Johns. No, don't say myself. Say Mr. Butler. No, literally say your name." Butler started banging the keyboard furiously and attempting to yell. Veronica backed away a little, trying to keep out of Butler's reach. "I can't read that, Mr. Butler. It's just gibberish." Butler slammed his head into the laptop angrily, sending it spinning onto the floor in front of him.

I heard the goon's gun cock as I tried to stifle my laughter. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some movement in the window behind Ms. Dumont.

"Drop your weapon, Ms. Dumont." Johns had his heater pointed right at her. She spun and tried to take aim, but Johns fired into the wall behind her before she got the chance. I kept to the floor as the bullet ricocheted off. "I wouldn't do that." The dame's eyes widened like the mouth of a river, her hand shaking as she faced off against Johns. Butler meanwhile had started fumbling with his blankets after what I could only assume was a piece of his own. I gripped the edge of the carpet, waiting for my moment. Dennis was once again back at his game, apparently not even phased by the gun shot.

"Drop it or I will shoot you," said Johns taking a step towards her, his foot landing on the corner of the rug.

I spun quickly, lifting the carpet just enough to send Johns slipping to the left. The corner of the rug flew up in the air, leaving a flimsy protective layer between me and Johns. I cringed as the he threw lead in my direction, a hole perforating the carpet and sparking off the ground in front of me. A second shot rang out from Ms. Dumont as I scrambled out of the way.

I rolled towards Butler, now slumping in his chair, his wig blowing as Ms. Jackson screamed and huddled behind him. I grabbed for Butler's heater under his blankets, his mitts slipping on my arm plaint as I tore the... taser out? My shock was short lived, a slug hitting Butler hard in the chest and heaving his legless susan over backward. The slow kid had scrambled under a desk, game still flashing in his hands.

"Don't even think about it Ace." The dame had the gun aimed at me, James still struggling in her arms. I glanced at Johns, noticing the rose of blood blooming out of his forehead and running between his lifeless eyes. "You're all out of luck. Might as well make this easy."

Slowly, I lowered my newfound taser and set it on the ground. "You don't have to do this, doll. You've already popped Butler and Johns," I said, carefully choosing my words. "How the hell did you hit him in the head while falling, anyway?"

"I was aiming for his arm. He kind of fell into it." I looked at the shot again. It was dead between the eyes; the kind of shot snipers dream about. "But I hit Butler dead in the chest," she chimed in as she noticed me weighing the options. "Care to try it?"

"Let the kid go, Dumont."

"Why should I? I've got the disc and I've got you." She flourished the gun at me. "He's not worth a dime to me." Behind her I saw a head pop into view in the window.

"You're a bitch, Christie. A cold-hearted dame with a royal flush. And James is the ace up your sleeve. Why blast the boy? He's not gonna talk." James shook his head. "See?" She paused, considering what I had said. Her pondering mug shifted into a smirk.

"I'll probably kill him anyway, but at least I could put you out of your misery first." She raised the gun and cocked it. As I closed my eyes, waiting to be dropped like an overflowing grocery bag, I heard glass shattering and a shot ring out. I jerked back, expecting the dampening blood on my chest to slowly dissolve into darkness as I faded away.

It was all over in a second. As the dust settled, Ms. Jackson's sobbing was the only thing I could make out above the ringing in my ears. I opened an eye, slowly patting myself down, looking for the wound. It wasn't there. James was down on the ground, Christie's body slumped on top of him, a dart in her neck. I scrambled towards them noting a figure encased in black climbing through the window behind where they lay.

"Mr. Harmon," said the man, his voice immediately recognizable. He nodded at me as he pulled his mask off, two more ninjas following through the window.

"Ace!" the kid yelled, pulling himself out from under Dumont's body and scrambling towards me.

"You alright, kid?" I asked. He nodded, clamping onto me like a kid on a puppy dog. I looked over at Butler. Ms Jackson was huddled over him, the blood already pooling around his body.

"I'm sorry we're late, Mr. Harmon," Mr. Ton said.

"Late? I wasn't expecting the cavalry. I figured I was a goner."

"Hardry, Mr. Harmon. You got us the evidence we needed. That was arr we asked of you. The rest was our probrem to sorve." I stared at him, noting the two other ninjas had already grabbed the disc and disappeared. Dennis sat in the middle of the room still smiling and button mashing.

I took the kid by the shoulder sand looked him in the eye. "Take care of Dennis, would you?" He nodded and headed over to his neighbor. "If you could've taken these guys out all along, why didn't you?"

"It's arr about timing, Mr. Harmon," he replied.

"I need a smoke," I said, fishing in my coat for a gasper. I pulled one out and lit up. "So what happens now?"

"The porice wirr be here soon. Ms. Dumont can terr her story. She's only unconscious. We'd appreciate if you wourd testify, but we wirr give you the money regardress." I shook my head.

"So I still get the cash?"

"Yes, Mr. Harmon. You furfirred your part of the bargain."

"Well hot damn." I took another drag, letting the nicotine calm my nerves. Even professionals feel the stress of situations like these. "Listen, I'd like to get the kid home. If you want to give the police my number, feel free, but I'd rather blow and catch some rest before I make a statement."

"Of course, Mr. Harmon. My men wirr meet you berow with the case. And thank you again." He turned and began tying Ms. Dumont up.

"Come on James," I said, taking his hand and heading for the door, Dennis in tow.

"So that's it?"

"Yeah kid. Seems that way." All in all, it turned out ok. The case was solved, the kid was safe, the bad guys were dead, and I got paid. The only thing I missed out on was a pretty bird who turned out to be a cuckoo. "Let's go home, kid."

As we started down the stairs, Dennis still playing his game, the kid looked at me. "Thanks, Ace."

"Sure thing, kid. Sure thing."


The sun shone down on the beautiful beach before me, the water gently cresting as little waves caressed the sand. All around, beautiful women in grass skirts carried drinks and grub to relaxing guests. It was paradise incarnate, the exact kind I had dreamed of for years. The only thing missing from this picture was a pretty bird of my very own.

"Someday," I said benignly, mostly to myself. I snapped the travel brochure shut and looked around at my drab office. Sure, the place was pretty much empty but at least it wasn't in cinders anymore. I had made out pretty well, all things considered. It was sad that half a mil didn't go as far as I'd have liked, but when the property value of my office alone is half that, there's not a whole lot to do. Between covering the renovations and paying for a few upgrades like a nice computer system for my new junior detective, the money was two-thirds in the hole already.

Once I'd taken care of medical fees, I wasn't left with much. And don't go thinking I had a health plan or nothing. Being a shamus meant HMOs were a pipe dream. Sure, I had a couple hundred grand left, but given everything the kid had done for me, I figured a college fund was in order. And I had enough left over to eat for a couple weeks while I waited for a new case.

I picked up the horn and dialed. After a couple of rings, I caught a voice on the other end. "Mrs. Song's Chinese Restaurant. What you want?"

"It's Ace Harmon, Mrs. Song. Can I get an order of pad thai, an order of chicken fried rice and, what the hell, an order of the lo-mein surprise?"

"You keep eating like, you have heart attack before I even come."

"Yeah, Yeah. Just get the grub over. I'm starving here." I dropped the receiver back on its hook before she had a chance to reply. Mmm-mmm. Greasy lo-mein surprise. My favorite. And if I was lucky, I'd get a good fortune this time.

Is this the end for Ace Harmon, Retro Detective?
Find out next time, when we begin a brand new adventure for

Ace Harmon, Retro Detective

In which our Hero, Ace Harmon,
sees God in a whole new light,
convinces a nun to take up a bad habit,
and empties the city's coffers.

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