The Last of the Hard Boiled Dicks
A Mugsy Phlegmming Caper
A Cheap and Tawdry Detective Noir Mystery
in Serial Form and Three Part Harmony
~ Installment Two ~
II: The Woman in the Wet Raincoat
I was there to meet my first client. Floorboards squeaked as someone ascended the stairs and stopped outside my office. I jumped at the sounds of a car backfiring out on Bridge Street and three sharp raps on the frosted glass of the door. “Come on in, it’s unlocked” I said. The door creaked as it swung open. That’s when I got my first look at her.
She stood in the doorway, illuminated by a shaft of light streaming in from the hall; looking like a warrior goddess from Forbidden Planet. Jet black hair fell in cascading rivulets down the front of her glistening, wet raincoat. Her tootsies were tucked into a pair of cherry red stiletto heels; and she had a pair of gams that went all the way up to her knees. She was the kind of broad who could make a man steal Girl Scout Cookies, if that’s what mama wanted.
She was a swarthy lass, but a robust and coy beauty, nonetheless; and looked like the kind of chick who could take care of herself in a tight spot and probably K.O. any chump who double crossed her. Although she wasn’t exactly the kind of woman I would have met at a PTA meeting, she did look vaguely familiar. Perhaps it was just that she reminded me of a field hockey player named Mona I’d had a dalliance with back in Kansas City. Mona had thighs like a boa constrictor and nearly squeezed the life out of me during our moonlight romps on the center line of the hockey field. My imagination was on fire with a thousand questions as I wondered about this doll and what she might be up to.
Before I could invite her in, a huge parrot swooshed overhead and flew into the room. This dame was too cool to even bat an eyelash. “Friend of yours?” she asked.
The big bird roosted next to the fedora on top of the hat rack. “Allow me to introduce Gladys,” I said, “the African parrot who lives with a freelance ornithologist across the hall.”
“Drop the gun punk!” Gladys squawked. “She doesn’t mean you,” I said. “I think that’s all she knows how to say. I just hope she learned it from watching movies.”
The lady arched an eyebrow. “Freelance ornithologist?” she asked. “At first I thought the sign said “orthodontist” I said. It’s kind of a sketchy place for a freelance ornithologist to hang a shingle. I don’t think he’s playing it straight, but it’s that kind of neighborhood.”
“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me Mr. Phlegmming,” she whispered in a husky tone, “I really didn’t know who else to turn to. May I come in?”
I asked her to come in and sit down, so she could tell her story. I said “Mr. Phlegmming’s my father. My friends and associates call me Mugsy.”
“Thank you, but until we get to know each other a bit more intimately, it would be more appropriate to call you Mr. Phlegmming,” she replied. I felt my cheeks flush with heat.
“I feel it only fair to tell you that I Googled you, Mr. Phlegmming,” she said. “I already know a great many things about you. For instance, I know that you do not actually hold a professional license as a private investigator, but I think you are someone whom I can trust.”
“But I do hold a professional license.” I replied.
“Yes you do,” she said. “You hold a license to teach, but not a license to kill. The truth is, I don’t want a legally licensed investigator to handle this, because that would involve the authorities, and I simply can’t risk having them involved in any of this. In a situation like this it seems the only ones who can be trusted are outlaws.”
This babe was playing hardball from the get-go and the price of poker just went up. I leaned back in my chair and tried to size her up. She didn’t look like a working girl, but she wasn’t exactly what you’d call a straight arrow soccer mom either.
She’d already Googled me and the best I could do was ogle her. I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” I said “It seems that you know a lot more about me than I know about you.”
“I’m sorry, I should have introduced myself. My name is Imma – Imma Pennyraker. But you can call me Ms. Pennyraker.”
She gave me a name, but what was her game? I looked for a wedding ring to see if she might really be “Mrs.” Pennyraker, although I didn’t believe for a minute that ”Imma Pennyraker” was actually her real name.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Pennyraker. May I offer you a light refreshment?” I asked. “I have some cocktail weenies and finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off.” I had pocketed a stash of appetizers from a Chamber of Commerce Welcome Wagon Reception I crashed the night before, but, of course, I didn’t tell her that. I wanted to project an air of genteel sophistication.
“I’m afraid I don’t have an appetite for little weenies or the time for hors-d’oeuvres,” she replied. “To come straight to the point, I need to leave this with you,” She plunged her hand deep inside the cleavage of her raincoat. Before I could respond, she pulled out a hot pink envelope and thrust it in my direction.
I held the package in my hands. “Before I agree to take you on as a client, I need to know more – like who you are and what’s in this package.”
“Mr. Phlegmming, I can only tell you what you need to know at this moment. Any more information will only put you in grave danger. We haven’t much time. A strange little man in a lime green mohair leisure suit will come for the package. I think he followed me here. Under no circumstances should he be allowed to have it. You must do whatever it takes to throw him off the trail and await further instructions.”
“But how will I contact you?” I asked. “I will contact you with this cell phone only,” she said as she handed me a phone. It was a burner.
Just the thought of anyone wearing a lime green mohair leisure suit offended my sensibilities and set my mind reeling with shock and horror. Only a dangerous sociopath would make such an egregious and tragic fashion decision and expect to get away with it. I laid the package down on the desk between us. Just knowing where the lady had stashed it makes a guy like me all hot and bothered. The envelope smelled like an exotic, intoxicating perfume, but it also smelled like trouble.
I needed to think. I leaned back even farther in my chair, but I went too far. The chair flew out from under me and there was the sound of a tremendous crash as I fell flat on my back. I saw the shadow of a large object sail past the window, followed immediately by the sound of an even more tremendous crash on the street below. I struggled to my feet to see what the commotion was all about, but by the time I got up off the floor she was gone.