The Last of the Hard Boiled Dicks Part III
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 Three ~
III: The Man in the Lime Green Mohair Leisure Suit
Ms. Pennyraker had vanished like a puff of smoke in a magic show, leaving the door open behind her. I closed the door and went back over to the window to see what had happened down on the sidewalk. I opened the window and leaned out to have a look. A small crowd had gathered around what was left of a wooden upright piano that apparently had fallen from the roof.
Once again, I heard the floorboards squeak on the landing outside of my office. Someone was out there. “I’ve really got to get that fixed,” I thought vacuously. I quietly reached into the desk drawer where I kept the starter pistol, a sock full of nickels and a half empty bottle of Jack. I still had a trick or two up my sleeve. I grabbed the half empty bottle of Jack and took a slug. Then I crept over to the door and jerked it open. There was a strange man in a lime green mohair leisure suit, just like the dame had said.
“Please excuse my disheveled appearance,” he said. “I hope I did not startle you. I must confess, I am a bit shaken. I was nearly crushed by a piano that appears to have fallen from your roof. It believe there may be more to this than meets the eye.”
That certainly explained the sound of the piano crashing to the sidewalk. I tried to wrap my mind around it. I didn’t like the look of this at all, especially whatever sartorial statement he was trying to make. I was at a loss for words and made a lame attempt at small talk to try to buy some time. “Is that real mohair?” I asked. I was distracted by other thoughts, like how a piano could fall from the rooftop and why anyone in their right mind might still actually wear such a ghastly relic of men’s fashion. I guess there’s no accounting for taste.
“Yes it is,” he replied. “Thank you for asking. I can give you the name of my tailor, if you so desire, but I have more pressing business at the moment. May I come in?”
I asked him to come in and we both sat down. He was a strange looking character. Not exactly little, like Ms. Pennyraker had described. But, then again, she was a tall drink of water herself. His complexion had kind of ghoulish cast and his hair was not so much red as it was orange. He seemed edgy to the point of being manic. He reminded me of Cesar Romero as The Joker in Batman. It had been one of my favorite TV shows as a kid, but this guy gave me the heebie jeebies in all kinds of ways.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” he said. He spoke with a trace of a foreign accent. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but he sounded vaguely like Boris Badenov from Rocky and Bullwinkle. He even made Ms. Pennyraker seem a little bit like Natasha Fatale, but I was letting my imagination run wild. “You may call me Mr. Fontaine.”
“Where you from Fontaine?” I asked.
“Moscow,” he replied, “Moscow, Idaho.”
It was a stretch, but I wondered if this joker was related to the infamous black marketeer, Count Fontanovitch who had been linked to a number of high profile scams that included gun running, art theft and industrial espionage. He had dropped off the face of the planet after supposedly peddling priceless artifacts that vanished from the national museum in Bagdad.
“So Fontaine, what brings you here today?” I asked.
“I am here on behalf of someone who would like to be your patron and benefactor. It seems you are in possession of a package for which I am prepared to make you a rather handsome offer,” he said.
“Not so fast Fontaine. I’m not that kind of boy and I don’t come cheap. How do I know you are who you say you are and who says I even have this package you say I have?” It was then I realized the fragrant, hot pink envelope Ms. Pennyraker had given me was still right out in the open on the desk, between us. I saw Fontaine glance at it, and I pretended not to notice.
“Drink?” I asked, trying to act nonchalant. “Occasionally,” he said “but not before dark and never on Sunday.” “Then I hope you don’t mind if I do,” I said.
I reached for the desk drawer. I’d feel a whole lot better if I could just wrap my fingers around the cold blue steel of the starter pistol. “Here, Mr. Phlegmming, the bottle is right here on the desk where you left it.”
“I’m just getting a glass,” I said “My Mother always told me it’s bad manners to drink right out of the bottle in front of company.” He reached into his leisure suit as I reached into the desk drawer. I was relieved to see him pull out a business card. I left the gun in the drawer and pulled out the glass.
“Allow me to present my credentials,” Fontaine said. He extended a business card towards me. I reached for the card, but he let go of it before I had it in my grasp, and it fluttered to the floor. Without thinking, I bent down to pick it up. I picked up the card and looked up. He had the package in one hand and a pistol in the other. What a sucker I am, I thought. One of the oldest tricks in the book. I guess I was entitled to a rookie mistake, but this looked bad.
“It would be a good idea, Mr. Phlegmming, if you neglected to mention any of this to the authorities,” he said. “They might not take such a benevolent view of you practicing your business without a license. Neither would your patron.”
“That doesn’t look like much more than a pea shooter Fontaine, and besides, I don’t think you have the cojones to actually pull the trigger on an unarmed man,” I said. I was bluffing, but trying to buy some time anyway I could.
He leveled the pistol at my chest.“ I assure you Mr. Phlegmming, this is quite real, my ‘cojones’, as you call them, are in perfect working order, as is my trigger finger. Now, if you will excuse me…” He rose from the chair.
There was an earsplitting shriek and a flapping of wings. “Drop the gun punk!” Gladys squawked as she flew from her perch on the hat rack. She swooped down and landed on Fontaine’s shoulder, digging her talons right through his mohair suit and into his flesh. Fontaine never saw it coming. He yowled in surprise and pain and the gun fell to the floor. Gladys snatched the envelope in her beak and flew away, landing on the window sill.
Fontaine came around the desk and moved towards the open window where Gladys was perched. Gladys started flapping her wings, Fontaine lunged and dove for the bird, just as she flew away. Fontaine kept on going right on through the window. He actually looked like a graceful diver as he sailed through the air, before landing with a sickening thud on the wreckage of the piano that still lay on the sidewalk below.
I leaned out the window and saw Fontaine’s crumpled body on top of the piano. “Guess the piano didn’t do much to break your fall Fontaine. Bet that’s gonna leave a mark,” I said sarcastically. It felt disrespectful to the recently deceased, but I figured that’s what any real hard boiled dick would say in a situation like this.