Slylock Himself Does Not Count As A Woodland Friend.

Sly, I really aint likin dis.

“Not your job to like it.”

We’re somewhere northwest of the city; I’m not sure I could tell you anything more definite than that. I know to get here we had to drive all night through a whole lot of town that you didn’t realize were even there until you were leaving them.

Harry Ape has learned since the last time we tangled.

A Chraming Vacation Home.

The bank job he pulled was pedestrian enough. He walked in with a gun, walked out with sacks of cash. Nothing we haven’t seen before. But he’d done his homework. Not ten minutes after he walked out the bank door, he was on the Underground and on his way to a wealthy if carefully inconspicuous retirement.

The Underground do their job well. Their expertise isn’t so much in getting people where they’re going without being seen, though they’ll do it if they can. Where they shine is snatching folks out of the jaws of the police. You can catch up, but the second you do, your target vanishes and show up at the other end of the country. They play keepaway with you.

It’s not even a matter of chasing the criminal, it’s more like chasing a piece of luggage. You’re not matching wits with the perp, you’re matching wits with an army of professional distractions. Here’s what I mean:

We were only a block away from Harry Ape in Des Moines, when the stoplight malfunctioned. By the time we got everyone to move out of the car’s way, they’d popped him in an unmarked van and he was gone.

We were on his tail in Jefferson City, and they conned the local brothel madame, Ladybug was her nome de pander, though she wasn’t, to sending her girls out where they’d get arrested. With no officers available, Harry caught a bus. At least the bug was mad enough to tell us what she knew.

Which led us to Breux Bridge, it’s down somewhere in Louisiana. I actually saw Harry face to face, at the other end of a crowded park, but then suddenly a little girl starts screaming that she’s got fifty dollar bills for anyone who can guess her name. Had a voice like a foghorn too. By the time I waded through the riot, there was nobody there.

We tried putting out a tip on TV, with a number to call. A little old lady in Odessa Texas called in to say that the monkey we were looking for had been staying next door, but she’d taken so long getting the call through to us that he was just leaving. Turns out that a baseball came through her window and smashed her TV just when it was about to give up the hotline number, and she’d spent an hour calling around various sheriff’s offices trying to find it.

Trailing someone the Underground’s got ahold of is like playing the villain in one of those kids movies. If you want to kidnap the adorable princess or whatever, you’ve got to get past all her woodland friends. Except I really don’t wanna picture Harry Ape dressed as an adorable princess, so I’m gonna go ahead and forget I ever made that simile.

It was just luck that we managed to follow him here, but we have him cornered. We know for a fact he’s holed up in a little shack up on this crag. Nice view, but hardly luxurious. Something tells me this is where they planned to stash him while they waited for a chance to slip him out of the country. Still, they’ve got to have a backup plan. This can’t be the dead end it looks like. Do I risk calling their bluff, and seeing what the backup plan looks like?

Now that’s an idea.

About half an hour later, you can see smoke rising from the mountainside.

Within five minutes, there’s an eagle carrying belaying gear up the side of the crag.

Five minutes later, somebody at the foot of the mountain, if they happened to be watching the crag, would have seen Harry Ape rush out carrying two sacks of money that’d shrunk considerably over the past few weeks. They would have seen him vanish into the sparse shrubbery, and then they would have seen him working his way steadily down the mountainside on a rope.

Right into the arms of myself and every available man the sheriff’s office had.

How’d you figure he’d pull something like this, Detective?

Nice to be treated with respect, for once. “That bridge was flimsy as hell. You coulda cut that place off completely by cutting the ropes, pulling the pegs, posting a guard on the end, or just lighting a fire. The hideout was too obviously a dead end to really be one. All I had to was force somebody’s hand.”

But sir! Man, did you hear that? He called me sir! How did you know they wouldn’t just spirit Ape away again?

“Well, deputy Greek Chorus, it was just a matter of changing who I matched wits with. I might not have much luck against the Underground, but I know I can outsmart Harry Ape.”

And next time I fight the Underground, I’ll be ready.

I’m coming for you, little woodland friends.

The Final Word.

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