The Last of the Hard Boiled Dicks Episode IV.

Is That a Gun in Your Pocket, or Are You Just happy to See Me?

A Mugsy Phlegmming Caper

A Cheap and Tawdry Detective Noir Mystery 

in Serial Form and Three Part Harmony

Episode IV. The Piano Tuners and the Free-Lance Ornithologist


 A mysterious woman in a wet raincoat pays a visit to the Mugsy Phlegmming detective Agency. She entrusts Mugsy with an envelope. The sound of a terrible crash from the street below distracts Mugsy. He goes over to the window to investigate, and by the time he turns back, the woman in the wet raincoat has vanished. Mugsy is visited by Mr. Fontaine, the man in the lime green mohair leisure suit. Fontaine, pulls a gun on Mugsy and attempts to steal the envelope. It looks like he may get away with it, until Gladys swoops down from her perch, knocks the gun from Fontaine’s hand and steals the envelope. Fontaine lunges for the parrot as she flies away and he meets his own untimely demise as he falls from the window to the street below. 


 Episode IV. The Piano Tuners and the Free-Lance Ornithologist

 I leaned out the window and looked down at Fontaine’s body. It looked like a broken doll from the disco era as it lay crumpled on the ruins of the piano on the sidewalk below. I actually kind of felt sorry for the guy. Guess I wasn’t quite the hard boiled dick I thought I was.

However, my brief reverie was disturbed by the sound of footsteps in the hall outside my door. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I was developing a preternatural cat-like sixth sense for danger. A shadow darkened the frosted window of the door, followed by the sound of knuckles sharply rapping on the glass.

Office Door

“Hold on, I’ll be right there,” I said, as I looked around for Fontaine’s gun. It was laying around somewhere. Whoever was out there, turned the knob and started to open the door. I saw Fontaine’s gun laying in full view on the floor. I had to do some pretty fancy footwork, but managed to kick the pistol under the desk just as the door swung open. I was busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest.

I turned to face my latest visitor, expecting the worst. I was relieved to see Elvert Bisbee, the freelance ornithologist from across the hall. “Hey Phlegm,” he said “I gotta talk to you. There’s some strange stuff going on around here.”

“Come in and close the door Elvert … and please don’t call me Phlegm. You know I hate that nickname. It’s just not dignified,” I replied. “What’s up?” I tried to act casual.

“You know that old biddy, Miss Crabclaws, who teaches piano upstairs?” he said. “Well, I just ran into her as I was coming into the building a little while ago and she told me a couple of guys claiming to be piano tuners shoved her piano right out the window. Boy, was she ever pissed off. She was waving her cane around like Igor Stravinsky conducting the Rite of Spring. I thought for sure old lady Crabclaws was gonna club me over the head with it … and there’s more.”

“Like what? I asked, feigning complete innocence. I glanced out the window and saw Gladys roosted on top of the All Nite Laundromat and Pizzeria across the street. She still had the envelope in her beak.


“Well for one thing,” he continued, “someone switched our signs around in the hallway, which is weird enough. But then, I open my door to find two goons tossing the place. When I ask them what the Hell they think they’re doing, they claim to be piano tuners, apologize for the mixup, and leave, just like that. Piano tuners, my ass! More like some kind of hired heat if you ask me. Piano tuners don’t go around dressed like the Blues Brothers and acting like characters out of Men in Black. You’re the private dick around here. What’s it look like to you?”

“Sounds like they were on a mission, that’s for sure,” I said. “Maybe looking for something, but I can’t imagine what,” I lied. I heard the sound of police sirens in the distance. There was no time to waste.

“By the way, have you seen Gladys?” he asked. “I can’t find her anywhere.”

“Nope,” I lied. “I haven’t seen hide nor hair of her – or feather nor beak, as the case may be.” I hoped he wouldn’t notice the bird shit on the floor under the hat rack where she had roosted. I glanced out the window. Gladys was nowhere to be seen on the roof of the All Nite Laundromat and Pizzeria.

“Elvert, this is all pretty damn fascinating and mysterious,” I said, “but I’m late for an appointment. I have a mani-pedi and a facial scheduled down the block at that tattoo joint, and you know how those people can be. The last thing I need is for them to be pissed at me while they’re working around my face with a tweezers.”

Tattoo II

“I didn’t take you for that kind of boy Phlegm,” Elvert said sarcastically. “You should let them ink you. They did a portrait of Gladys that covers my whole back. I’ll show you sometime.”

“I can hardly wait,” I said, distractedly. “Don’t let that door hit you in the ass on the way out.”

He left, closing the door behind him. I thought about grabbing Fontaine’s gun, but figured it would only get me in trouble. I snagged the starter pistol and sock full of nickels from the desk drawer instead. I listened for the sound of Bisbee’s office door closing. When I was sure the coast was clear, I put on the  fedora, pulled it down low on my forehead, took a slug of Jack and headed out the door.

Thrift Shop Fedora