Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary



The Last of the Hard Boiled Dicks ~ Episode VI ~

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

The Last of the Hard Boiled Dicks Episode VI

A Mugsy Phlegmming Caper

A Cheap and Tawdry Detective Noir Mystery 

in Serial Form and Three Part Harmony

~ Episode VI ~ 

Things Ain’t Now, Mama What They Used To Be 

Now Let’s See ~ Where Were We???

Mugsy is visited by the free lance ornithologist, Elvert Bisbee, who is looking for Gladys. He informs Mugsy of the suspicious and sinister activities of the two piano tuners. Mugsy heads out the door to find Gladys, and the envelope and to meet his date with destiny.  He receives a text message from Imma Pennyraker, telling him to walk towards the river. After descending the stairs, he pauses to check on the action in the street, and witnesses Fontaine’s body being spirited away in a black Mercedes SUV. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, he spots Gladys roosting on a “No Parking” sign across the street. Careful to avoid Miss Crabclaws, Mugsy starts to cross the street in an effort to approach Gladys and retrieve the envelope. He glances back to see the piano tuners come around the corner. They spot him but are temporarily detained by Miss Crabclaws. Musgsy starts to cross the street and is almost hit by a van, just as Gladys takes off and starts flying towards the river. The door of the van slides open and someone yells: “Get in now if you want to live!” Mugsy dives into the van telling the driver to “Follow that parrot and step on it!” 

~ And now ~

The van took off and careened down the street, first bouncing off the curb, then nearly swerving into oncoming traffic. I flopped around like a fish out of water, trying to get up off the floor. This was the second time in an hour I found myself in a such a compromised position. I hoped it wasn’t becoming a habit.

Her sultry voice hit me like a velvet hammer. “So, we meet again, Mr. Phlegmming. I did not think it would be so soon, but things are happening more quickly than expected. I presume you have the envelope?” I heaved my bulk onto the seat and and found myself face to face with Imma Pennyraker. She was no longer dressed in a wet raincoat, but she still looked as munchable as a box of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies. “The envelope is somewhere safe,” I said. “Actually, it’s a long story, but Gladys has it. That’s why we need to follow that parrot.” Ms. Pennyraker said something in Russian to the driver, who gunned the engine, jumped the curb and started driving on the sidewalk to get around traffic and keep up with Gladys.

Imma Pennyraker

I looked back and saw a police patrol car stop outside my office building. Miss Crabclaws was all over the cops before they could even get out of the car. She brandished her cane like a rapier, slashing and poking, pointing at the ruins of her piano, then thrusting the cane back towards the cops as she ranted and raved. Maybe this was what Zorro might have looked like at the elder hostel, hopped up on meth and reliving his salad days. The piano tuners were jacking a pizza delivery car. One of them had a gun leveled at the pizza guy who was backing away with his hands in the air. Bisbee came out of the building and started sprinting after us. “Hell Hounds On My Trail” started running through my head. This was no time to be singing the blues.

“She’s heading towards the river” I said. “ We can’t let her out of our sight!” Pedestrians screamed and dove out of the way of the van. We swerved back onto the street just in time for the bridge. Gladys was flying across the river. She had swooped down, keeping close to the water and then veered east towards the main part of the city. I heard brakes screeching and horns honking. I looked back and and saw traffic stalled out in gridlock and the pizza delivery car jammed up in the middle.


We crossed the bridge, keeping our eye on Gladys. She seemed to be heading towards a ramshackle shanty on the river bank. “That’s the old boat house,” I said. “Turn left on that access road just across the bridge, but do it fast. We’ve got to lose that pizza delivery car.” It was starting to get dark and that was going to make everything more difficult. Gladys was looking for a safe place to roost for the night. It would be almost impossible to find her in the dark. I hoped that’s why she was heading for the boat house. It would be a good place for us to hide too, if we could just lose the piano tuners.

Boat House

We turned onto the frontage road and headed for the boat house. The street on the other side of the bridge was not in view. I couldn’t see the piano tuners which meant they couldn’t see us either. The boat house came into view, but Gladys was nowhere to be seen. It was getting dark fast. We had no time to lose.

We pulled up to the boat house. I got out of the van first. I heard Imma Pennyraker say something to the driver in Russian before she got out. The van pulled away and kept driving down the frontage road. “I told Giorgio to drive the van away and lose it. We can’t take the risk of somebody spotting it here.” she said.

The boat house was in disrepair, but still relatively intact. There were a couple of broken windows, but the roof looked sound and there was a working door. I turned the knob and was relieved to find it unlocked. I pushed the door open and tried to get a look inside. It was already dark as a dungeon in there but still light enough to see shadowy forms. I could just make out the shape of a flat-bottom row boat on a set of saw horses. Before stepping totally inside I looked back in the direction we had come from. It was almost too dark to see, but someone was definitely walking up the road in our direction.

Broken Window

“Quick, get inside,” I said. “Someone‘s coming!” We ducked inside and closed the door behind us. It would have been dark as pitch, but the lights from the town were enough to illuminate the place to see just enough to get around. I heard foot steps crunching on the gravel outside the boat house, then they stopped. I pulled the sock full of quarters out of my pocket and held it over my head like a black jack. I was prepared to give whoever it was a good crack across the noggin.

Boat House Door

The door swung open with a creak. A shadowy figure stood in the doorway. “Hello,” he said. “Is anybody in there?” He started to come through the door. I raised the sock full of quarters and got ready open up a can of whoop-ass on the intruder. Before I could move, I heard flapping of wings and felt something rip the sock right out of my hand. There was an ear-splitting screech. “Drop the gun punk!” It was Gladys! I heard Bisbee’s voice. “Gladys? Is that you girl? Come to Papa!”

I peered into the dusk and recognized Bisbee with Gladys perched on his shoulder. “Jesus Christ Bisbee!” I said “You scared the Bejeezus out of me! How the Hell did you find us?”

“Glad to see you too, Phlegmm,” Bisbee said. “I knew about this boat house and figured Gladys might try to roost here for the night. By the way, you’re welcome.”

“For what? I asked. “I have no idea what you’re talking about?”

“ I knew you had a shitload of trouble following you, so I pulled the lever on the back of a garbage truck. It dumped a full payload into the street. Hell of a mess. Stopped traffic dead going both ways. I think the piano tuners are probably still stuck in that quagmire.”

The Package

I heard a deep but sensuous voice behind me. It massaged my libido like the scrub brushes in a car wash. “They’re not piano tuners.” Imma Pennyraker stepped out of the shadows and outside into the dim twilight. She was holding the envelope in her hand. “Gladys dropped the envelope onto the floor when she knocked your weapon out of your hand. We are fortunate, indeed,” she said. She stood facing us in silhouette with the river at her back. The reflection of the lights of the city sparkled on the placid water like a million emeralds. She looked like an Amazon river goddess.

From the East Shore

Bisbee let out a low whistle between his teeth. “You’ve been holding out on me Phlegmm. Who’s this tall drink of water?”

“I’d introduce you, but I don’t know her real name.” I said. “I’ve been getting the run-a-round ever since she darkened my doorway. Perhaps the lady would like to tell us her real name and explain what this is really all about?”

“I’d be happy to,” she said. She held out the sock full of quarters. “Mr. Phlegmming, perhaps you’d like to put this back in your pocket? Not only does it enhance the cut of your trousers, but you may be needing it later. Now let’s step inside and I’ll explain everything. We haven’t much time.”

Thrift Shop Fedora

The Last of the Hard Boiled Dicks ~ Episode V ~ Follow That Parrot!

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

The Last of the Hard Boiled Dicks Episode V

A Mugsy Phlegmming Caper

A Cheap and Tawdry Detective Noir Mystery 

in Serial Form and Three Part Harmony

Episode V ~ Follow That Parrot

Our Story So Far

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. Gladys roosts on the roof of the building across the street, the envelope still held in her beak. Mugsy is visited by the free lance ornithologist, Elvert Bisbee, who is looking for Gladys. He informs Mugsy of the suspicious and sinister activities of the two piano tuners. Mugsy heads out the door to find Gladys, and the envelope and to meet his date with destiny.

Episode V ~ Follow That Parrot 

I stuck the starter pistol in the back of my waistband, gangsta style and stuffed the sock full of quarters in my right hip pocket. It created an unseemly bulge, but then again, that might actually help me get lucky. That sock full of quarters might just get me out of a jam somewhere up the road, especially if I needed change for a parking meter or a vibrating bed in a fleabag hotel. I had the giddy feeling that anything could happen. I wondered about the dame and immediately felt a pleasant vibrating sensation near my groin. I was just beginning to enjoy it a little too much when I remembered the burner phone Imma Pennyraker had given me. I’d put it in my other pocket and forgot about it.

I let it vibrate for a couple more seconds before I pulled it out. There was a text message: “ Walk towards the river and someone will contact you. I.P.”

I stepped out into the hallway, quietly pulled the door shut behind me and tried to sneak down the stairs without making the floorboards squeak. It was no use. The floorboards chirped like a nightingale floor in a samurai castle. I stopped and held my breath. I could hear Bisbee rustling about in his office, but miraculously, it seemed that he had not heard my departure. The last thing I needed now was him tagging along as a sidekick. He would insist on showing me his tattoo.

I stopped on the front landing and peeked out the window before stepping out into the street. A black Mercedes SUV with black-out windows pulled up to the curb and stopped with the motor running. Two hulking brutes in black Armani suits got out, picked up Fontaine’s body, and put it into the car. They got back in, pulled away, and drove  towards the river. I heard sirens in the distance. I stepped out onto the sidewalk. Music rumbled from the strip club. Sketchy looking characters came and went from the tattoo parlor. Ms. Crabclaws was out there, waving her cane around and ranting at a group of skaters who were standing nearby.  I spied Gladys down the street in the other direction, perched on top of a No Parking sign. Thank God she still had the envelope in her beak. I was glad that Gladys was perched down the street in the direction I had to go. At least that made things easier. The sirens were getting closer. Ms. Crabclaws had probably called the cops. I was running out of time.

Tattoo II

I started walking down the sidewalk. I needed to cross the street to get to Gladys. I looked back just in time to see the piano tuners come out of the alley, turn the corner and start walking up the street in my direction. Ms. Crabclaws saw them and blocked their path. I heard her launch into a vicious tongue lashing. I glanced back to see her waving her cane around like a light saber. I knew she’d delay the piano tuners for only so long. They had spotted me and were stepping around her as she continued her tirade. I started to cross the street and heard a tremendous screeching of brakes. A Dodge minivan covered with bumper stickers had stopped inches away from flattening me like a pancake. I was momentarily frozen in my tracks but quickly snapped out of it and jumped back onto the curb. Gladys flapped her wings and took off. She was flying in the direction of the river.

The side door of the van slid open and somebody said, “Get in now if you want to live!” I noticed the campaign bumper sticker on the side of the van that said Cheney-Satan in 2008. Now there’s a portentous omen, I thought, as I dove for the door.

Cheney-Satan Campaign Sticker

As the van pulled away, I could see the two piano tuners coming down the street. Bisbee gaped in disbelief from the upstairs window. Gladys was flying away. “Follow that parrot!” I said “and step on it!”


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