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|“||We’re not gonna forget this if that’s what you’re thinking. This is big time, baby.||„|
John "Ace" Merrill is the main antagonist of Stephen King's short story The Body, its 1986 film adaptation Stand By Me, and the secondary antagonist in the novel Needful Things. He mainly bullies Gordie LaChance and his friends.
He was portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland, who also played The Caller in Phone Booth, David in The Lost Boys, Bob Wolverton in Freeway, Jonathan Kendrick in A Time To Kill, Freddie Lee Cobb in A Time to Kill, Robert Doob in Eye for an Eye, and Quintas Corvus in Pompeii.
In the story, Ace and his gang are the town bullies of Castle Rock, Maine, and mostly pick on Gordie LaChance and his friends. At one point, Gordie and the others go to look for the body of Ray Brower, a missing local boy. When they find the body, they run into Ace and his goons, who start harassing them and demanding that they take the body and the credit for finding it. When Gordie's friend Chris Chambers, the de facto leader of the boys, refuses, Ace threatens him with a knife, showing he is willing to kill them for the body. Gordie pulls out a handgun and threatens to shoot unless Ace backs off. Merrill and the others leave, and Ace vows revenge.
Ace returns in the novel as the secondary antagonist, by now a hardened criminal who has spent his life in and out of prison. He has a personal vendetta towards the local Sheriff, Alan Pangborn, for arresting him. He returns to his hometown, and meets Leland Gaunt, who gives him a job delivering guns to his shop, in return for a map that is supposed to lead to a treasure of silver dollars.
During the climax, Gaunt has Ace team up with Danford "Buster" Keaton, who is killed by Deputy Norris Ridgewick. Gaunt later tries to corrupt Pangborn, by showing him a video convincing him that Ace was the one who caused the accident that killed his son and wife, but it backfires when the video shows them wearing their seatbelts, and that's what really killed them. When Pangborn and Gaunt finally confront each other, Ace pulls a gun on Pangborn's love interest Polly, threatening to kill her, only to get killed himself when Ridgewick shoots him in the head.
- In the film adaptation of Needful Things, he is replaced by the character Danforth Keeton.
- In the Family Guy episode "The Three Kings", which parodies Stephen King stories, he was portrayed by the late Adam West.