A new Ace Spade story by Mo Conlan
(This is another short, short story in a collection of Ace Spade stories created using the nine-word prompt, three words each donated by Mo, Kathy and Patty. The words are ~ cigar, climax, photograph, cell phone, trample, music, dither (ing), rover, lace. Mo did not manage to work in the word dither, but she is still editing and possibly adding to this story.)
Ace Spade sat at his desk in the one room of the Ace Spade Detective Agency eating his deep-dish pizza supreme and glowering between bites. His Gal Fridays Penny and Goldy sat at the desk they shared and gushed over swatches of lace.
Penny was planning her wedding to Van Weatherman, a client of the Spade Agency who had shed his unfaithful previous wife and was about to make Penny the third Mrs. Weatherman. An 8-by-10 photograph of Mr. Weatherman sat prominently on Penny’s desk – teeth too good to be original and overly white, Ace thought. Tanned, toned and trying to look younger than he was.
Why in the world would a girl as fine as Penny fall for an old guy who hadn’t been able to keep his first two wives happy?
“You gals want to take give the bride stuff a rest and take a constitutional around the block?" Ace called to Penny and Goldy.
“We certainly do not, as we certainly know that you are only trying to get rid of us so you can smoke a smelly cigar,” Penny said. “It stinks up the office and it’s bad for your health.”
“You should take up gum, boss,” Goldy agreed. Goldy always agreed with her cousin Penny, who was the alpha in the relationship and who had wangled the job for Goldy, outsmarting Ace in the bargain.
Ace had been looking for a homely Gal Friday, one who would remain a spinster and stay with the agency for decades, the way his father’s Gal, Olive, had. When Goldy interviewed for the job, she looked homely enough in her baggy clothes, oversize glasses and frizzy neon red hair. But that had been a disguise she abandoned once the job was hers and she’d become indispensable.
Goldy was a dish, Ace thought, glumly, and would probably get married, too.
Ace had been married once when he was so young that it felt like a different lifetime, or somebody else’s life. Now, he was a rover, enjoying a light game of romance, but never taking it seriously.
His late dad had been a rover, too, Ace thought. But he always had his Gal Friday, Olive, to count on – 40 years of loyalty. In looking back, Ace began to suspect that their relationship had been more than mere business, but he didn’t want his thoughts to tread there. His father and mother had been celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary when the cruise-ship they were on began to sink and they had been trampled in the stampede to the lifeboats.
Ace wondered where Olive was now. She’d be in 80s, he thought, and probably still one hell of a woman. Age wasn’t going to get Olive down.
Wedding March music rang from a cell phone and Penny answered in a syrupy voice she reserved for her affianced. “Hi, honey,” she cooed.
This sound hit Ace’s ears like a drill bit on concrete. He popped ear buds on and turned on the radio. Ace liked to listen for the weather, sports scores and the occasional old radio shows re-aired, “Boston Blackie” and “The Fat Man” being favorites.
Now, he could see that Penny’s phone call was going awry; she was screaming and waving her hands. The call came to a climax when Penny threw her cell phone on the desk, sat down and began crying.
Ace took out his ear buds. “Something go wrong with you and Mr. Wonderful?”
“Only everything,” she stuttered out between sobs.
Ace hated when Penny cried, which was seldom; her pet swan Agnes, who resided mostly in a large crate in the corner of the Ace Spade Agency, became highly agitated when she heard Penny crying. Fierce honking from Agnes punctuated Penny’s sobs.
Ace ran his fingers through his hair. How had his office become such a zoo?
Goldy held one of Penny’s hands. Ace took the other and patted it.
“What’s up? I know some guys who know some guys who could rough him up a bit if the Weatherman’s not treating you right,” he offered.
Penny began to tell the tale between sobs.
“His,” sob, “bitch of a wife,” sob, “the second one, decided to come back,” she said. “They’re getting re-married, at the cathedral. She’s going to wear white,” Penny’s sobs reached a crescendo and began to subside once the worst of it was told.
Goldy and Ace looked at each other, silently asking, what do we do?
Ace spoke first: “Penny, I didn’t say this to you right off, but that guy isn’t half good enough for you. He’s a loser. And, his teeth aren’t real.”
Goldy nodded. “You were Homecoming Queen, for god’s sake; you don’t have to marry a loser!”
“Well, who can I marry, then,” Penny cried. “I’ve got my dress picked out.”
Goldy smiled, a big bright smile. “I always thought you and Ace were just made for each other.”