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FCM012 – Operation People Mover

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FCM012 - Operation People Mover

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Hello, and welcome to FlashCast Minisode 012 – costarring Mobsters Jason, of Talk Nerdy 2 Me, and Janelle!

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Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

* * *

If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://flashpulp.com, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

FP345 – Blow: A Bunny Davis Tale

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty-five.

Flash PulpTonight we present Blow: A Bunny Davis Tale, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we encounter Bunny Davis with monkeys on her back, and her shaman friend nowhere in sight.

 

Blow: A Bunny Davis Tale

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

It was painfully early and Bunny was painfully sober.

Her walk had carried her past two separate Wal-Mart outlets, both of which she’d swore at loudly; a six car rush-hour fender bender, the drivers of which she’d shouted down; and Capital City’s own mayor doing a live feed business opening for the local cable station’s morning show.

In that instance, she’d been so annoyed at having to maneuver around the crowd that, as his comically-large scissors descended on the red ribbon strung over the KFC’s doors, she’d vigorously told the posturing idiot what a shitty job he was doing.

The initial moment of the first distraction had been almost welcome though.

Two blocks beyond the opening she’d been brought to a halt at a throaty, “hello.”

The stranger was perhaps five years her elder, but the hints of gray in his hair worked to make his handlebar moustache nearly respectable. His blazer was worn enough to come across as vintage, but the Zeppelin t-shirt he wore beneath was clean enough to keep him from looking like a vagrant.

Tucking the little wooden box deeper into the crook of her right armpit, she paused and replied, “yeah?”

It was his smile that fucked it up.

Years earlier she’d driven a cab, for a few weeks, to make rent. The hours she was given left her mostly in the downtown area, ferrying suits between office skyscrapers. They all had the same ritual as they stepped onto the pavement – a sort of tug-and-tighten they would give their ties and jackets as they exited. Watching them she could tell that most didn’t even realize they were doing it. Practice had made it habit.

She’d quit the job because she couldn’t stand the paperwork junkies’ shitty tipping, and the assholes who ran the stand wouldn’t let a woman work nights.

Now, watching Handlebar pull on his lazy, aren’t-you-special grin, she could see the routine in it as clearly as any one of the execs’ last second preening.

A Skinner Co. Production“Oh,” he answered, “you know – it’s a nice morning. The kind that makes me wanna say hello to pretty ladies passing through the neighbourhood.”

It pissed her off more, somehow, that she knew she looked like shit that morning. Despite days of exhaustion, she’d slept no more than two hours before the maddening stability of sobriety had driven her from her bed. An additional sixty minutes of rattling around the apartment without managing to wake Will had pushed her into her sneakers and through the door.

Still, as Tim had told her every time he’d quit and restarted drinking, “a fisher’s gonna fish.”

“Huh,” she said, as her feet regained momentum. “Have a good’un.”

Before she could carry herself beyond conversational range, however, he asked, “aw, c’mon sweetie, you ain’t got five minutes to talk?”

“Nope.”

“Hey, no need to be bitchy.”

Her mother would have told the jackass to “blow.” She could almost see the way the woman’s curled mouth dropped the word like a stone – but the response was out of bounds for Bunny. The comeback was all too predictable from these sorts of idiots. No, for today’s hovering sidewalk vulture you had to reach deep.

With the sun shining in her all-too-clear eyes, Bunny had no problem finding the anger to dig.

She stopped and opened the case.

“#####y?” she asked. ”Up until now this was the politest ####ing conversation I’d had so far today. I told the guy in the Honda, who called me a ####bag when I suggested he not yell at his ####ing twelve-year-old, that he’d spend the last seconds of his life giving himself a rim job after I peeled off his ####ing head and worked his tongue like Jim ####ing Henson.

“I don’t ####ing know you, and this ain’t a ####ing online dating site.

“Your bull#### flirtation is just an annoyance, though, until you start pullin’ the excuses – and that’s exactly what bitch is, right? Because it’s gotta be me being pissy and not the fact that your douchebaggery is apparent even to passing ####ing strangers.”

She imparted a final a consideration into the belly of his inappropriate-for-the-season t-shirt, then left.

Soon he was watching the city burn to the ground around him.

The next interruption flew down from the stoop of a brick apartment building that looked to have been built during the ‘70s, but recently re-polished and rented at a price only trust funders and overworked yuppies could afford.

“Hey, smile,” said the slow voiced polo shirt. He was sorting his mail as he spoke.

“What?” she asked.

“You’d look even prettier if you’d smile,” he replied.

“Well, while we’re trading beauty tips,” she replied, “you’d look a lot less like a puckered ###hole with your mouth shut.”

“Hey, I was trying to be helpful.”

“Yeah? Is this one of those shows where you ambush me then go through my wardrobe next and tell me what ####’s not in style? Because I generally don’t take advice from random ####adoos wearing tiny alligators on their shirts.

“Now, if this #### isn’t about to get televised, I’d suggest you show some ####ing respect. If unknown people – generally on your worst sort of days – came up to you randomly and commanded you to lose that ####ing golf gut, you’d get pretty pissed. You’ve got a wedding ring on, and I’m not a ####ing public service sent to your ####hole neighbourhood to beautify the place, so keep your tips for ####ing Cosmo.”

He shrugged and muttered, “bitch.”

“Oh, #### it,” she replied, again opening the case.

Bunny waited long enough to realize the wannabe fashion consultant was being attacked by a pack of feral homeless men, then she proceeded towards home.

The walk’s third, and last, interloper made no effort to disguise his intentions.

“Hey,” he said from the entrance way of a two-pizzas-for-the-price-of-one dive called The Deepest Slice, “you look pretty tired, wanna come have a sit on my face?”

Having spent most of her fury across the entirety of the morning, she answered in an equally direct fashion.

“You kiss your sister with that mouth?” she asked. “‘Cause if you don’t start talking to me only in the way you’d talk to your sister or mom, I swear to #### I will reach down your throat with two hands and sell your organs to the pie-man for pepperoni meat.”

“Jesus,” replied the commentator in the Oakland Raiders jacket, “lighten up. I was joking.”

“####ing hilarious. Now it’s my turn.”

She’d discovered the blowgun’s wooden box, and the handwritten note within, while pulling volumes from the apartment’s hallway bookshelf. At some point it must have been set on top of a row of hardcovers, but, at some point, it had fallen behind the tomes and hidden.

The missive was direct but informative:

A curiosity imported from the Pacific. There appears to be no occult connection, but the poison on each missile brings on violent hallucinations for hours after impact. No long term effects recorded, though the drunk next door is now unwilling to talk to me.

In all honesty, if I never hear from the man again the full dollar I used to coax him into the experiment will be worth every cent.

Though the device is fit but to repel home intruders, or to liven particularly dull luncheons, use it wisely.

Blackhall          

Bunny had just been guessing at the cat-caller’s family make-up, but the man’s cheeks were soon slick with tears, and his throat ragged from begging his older sister, Lorelei, to not make him wear the tea party shoes.

“My toes, my toes are bleeding LoreLore – why are you making them bleed?” he was asking the air, from a fetal position on the pavement, when she finally strolled away.

Twenty minutes later, as Bunny dug for the passkey that would let her into her building’s lobby, she couldn’t help but feel like she’d certainly used the device with maximum wisdom.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FCM011 – The October 31

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A Skinner Co. Production

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Hello, and welcome to FlashCast Minisode 011

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* * *

Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

* * *

If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://flashpulp.com, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

FP344 – The Silver Dollar Samurais

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Silver Dollar Samurais, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Donut Button – thanks to all who’ve used it!

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present the tale of a young warrior, Darlene Crowe, as she takes to the field with her father watching.

 

The Silver Dollar Samurais

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Darlene’s eye was not on the ball.

The breeze had quit trying to push through the hanging ball diamond dust, but the sun seemed to have doubled its intensity in an attempt to bake the dirt out of the air. Even as a curve flew from the pitcher’s fingers, the outfielders shifted from cleat-to-cleat in boredom.

Twenty feet to her left, Darlene’s father was stuttering his way through an explanation regarding a spilled coffee, and, even over the shrill cheers of her first strike, she could hear his heartfelt, but protracted, apology.

She had never wanted to be here, and the unsightly enthusiasm at her failure annoyed her.

This was no tournament game, it was just another entry in the long August season, but Darlene’s opponents, the Mooretown Medusas, had arrived with an especially energetic group of parents. Their crisp pinstripes had contrasted heavily against the t-shirts of the Silver Dollar Samurais, and by this, the fourth inning, the Medusas held a three run lead.

Her father hadn’t forced her to sign up for the sport, but she’d read the worry becoming chronic along his cheeks and brow, then made the decision herself: Thursday nights would be baseball night, a nice, normal, childhood activity.

It wouldn’t have been so bad, Darlene reflected, if the adults of Mooretown weren’t constantly shouting criticism at the supposedly “playing” eleven-year-olds.

As if to drive her point home, a round faced man in a loosened tie shouted, “swing or go home, little girl!”

In truth, Darlene was one of four female Silver Samurais, which was four more than the Medusas had fielded.

Placing her bat to her shoulder, she descended into a well-honed state of focus.

The world shrank, and everything became immediate. A practiced scrutiny judged the flex and lean of the boy on the mound, and skilled fingers – though in a grip they found strange – steadied themselves on the taped handle.

A Skinner Co. ProductionEven the crowd seemed engaged by the girl’s intensity, and a hush fell over all – all except the coffee soaked man in the white polo who was still waiting on her father’s apology. In the silence Dad’s “d-d-d-d-d-didn’t” carried clearly to the plate, as did the exasperated reply of “Jesus, talk normally,” from the Medusa fan.

It was enough of a distraction to slide the second strike across without even a swing.

Darlene frowned.

Five years earlier she’d had her hair laid across her mother’s lap, as the pair watched an old samurai flick, Ichi, when the phone had rung. It was their preferred Saturday night activity, but both knew to expect the possibility of a sudden end.

After a short-worded conversation, the six-year-old had sleepily asked the standing woman, “good guys being hurt?”

“Not while I’ve still got my sword in my hand,” Mom had replied with a smile.

Twenty minutes later the plainclothes police officer had been gunned down by a muddle-headed alcoholic upset over his defeat in a child custody case.

It had left only Darlene to care for her too-gentle father, but the girl knew somehow that it was what her mother would have wanted.

By the time the third pitch was in the air, Darlene was already running.

There’d been an involuntary, “hurk,” and she’d turned to see the coffee-wearing man’s face now fully inflated. Though Dad’s palms remained open and exposed, the Mooretownian had caught hold of his handmade Silver Dollar Samurais shirt, and the attacker’s right fist was slipping backwards in increased frustration.

The red-cheeked man had not appreciated the suggestion that it was his own enthusiasm, and possibly slightly drunken state, that had sent the styrofoam cup flying – nor had he enjoyed waiting through the length of time it had taken Darlene’s father to make it.

The punch landed sloppily across the still stuttering apologist’s left cheek.

From her position on the far side of the chain-link backstop, the eleven-year-old had made a decision. Had she trained for the last five years just to watch Dad be pummelled in the stands of a crummy little league game?

Not while she had her sword in her hand.

She snapped off the matte black batter’s helmet, and, with the addition of a single half-loop from her pink hair elastic, adjusted her spritely blonde ponytail into a combat-ready topknot.

When Darlene once again lifted her bat, her grip was unlike any ever used by a major leaguer.

Despite the stickiness in the air and the silliness of her bright yellow uniform, it felt good to run. Too often this ridiculous sport had come down to waiting for a brief moment of activity. The sense of personal command had always been one of her favourite things about kenjutsu practice: She might not be able to control the world, but her blade moved only where she placed it.

The samurai landed in a flat footed stance with her arms braced at her side. Her weapon’s hilt was low to her belly, and the club’s shaft stood as ramrod straight as her spine.

There was no wavering in either.

“I will strike you in three seconds if you do not release my father,” she said, though she had to fight not to clench her jaw.

The damp man in the second bleacher row turned, though he did not think to release his grip on Dad’s now-crumpled collar.

“Three,” she said.

She knew he was probably just too surprised at the demand to react quickly, but she lept anyhow. Stepping lightly between an oversized pleather purse and a denim ensconced Silver Dollar supporter, as if they were no more than the silent grasses lining a still pond, Darlene closed the distance and swept her stand-in sword upwards.

Before the impacted forearm had even finished its new skyward arc, however, she’d checked her swing and pivoted. With a two-fisted grip, she planted the tip of her aluminum temporary-katana in the meat of her opponent’s calf muscle.

The seizing of his leg left the irritable pugilist empty handed and on his back for several deep exhalations. The watching crowd, who’d unanimously opted to give the combatants a respectful distance, had, in turn, stopped their own breathing.

Darlene simply waited, with the sun at her back and her makeshift gunto raised.

A lone cicada sang to them from somewhere beyond the outfield fence.

Despite the collective anticipation, by the time the girl’s adversary had righted himself he no longer had any interest in discussing the incident. Instead, with sullen jowls, he announced to no one directly that he would wait out the second half of the game in his car.

For ten full minutes the Medusan coach expounded loudly on the inappropriateness of the incident, but, when it became apparent his Silver Dollar counterpart wasn’t likely to forfeit, justice had to be held to benching Darlene for at least the rest of the game.

Still, she’d been reminded of the taste of combat, and her stinging gaze sweeping the field was impossible for the Medusans to ignore. Nerves alone lost them the game at 7 to 5.

The win was her first, but, upon returning home, Darlene decided Thursdays would instead be better spent quietly with her father – perhaps they could learn the nuances of temae together.

For his sake, though, she would occasionally call the traditional ceremony a tea party.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP343 – Bloodsucker

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present Bloodsucker, Part 1 of 1

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Download MP3
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Donut Button – thanks to all who’ve used it!

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present a chilling tale of unpleasant people and unpleasant endings.

 

Bloodsucker

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

The tick held little memory.

There had been a time when its life was leaf bound, but its very existence had changed the moment the brown beast had wandered by. The buffet’s horns had shaken the green home of its birth, and, once gravity and instinct had drawn it so close to the thing’s warmth, the tick had had only to slice its feeding hole and begin to drink.

In turn, and despite the thousands of years the massive moving-meal’s kind had sprinted through the area’s grass and trees, its personal experience had been confined to the verdant fringes pacing the wide rivers of pavement – much as the tick had been, until recently, restricted to the horizons of its leaf.

Also as with the tick, a brief impact, followed by an unexpected flight, changed the deer’s life course irrevocably. Interstate 83, a too-soon addition as far as the animal’s survival instinct was concerned, was unusually empty for the hour of travel, but, though he’d spotted the approaching fawn from three-hundred-meters, Darren Peck had no interest in shifting lanes to avoid the creature.

It was not his first run-in with what he called “a rat with antlers.” His wife, before their separation, had been aghast at his tales of gore, and the excited way in which he’d told the drinking buddies he often gathered around his kitchen table.

Initially he’d stopped to check for damage, but on this, his eighth collision, he simply considered buying a hoof stencil so that he might both decorate his rig and not lose count. Double digit math was not his strong point.

There was something to the idea he liked. Delma had left, she claimed, not because he had a tendency to yell when he had an occasion to drink, nor because he considered any time he wasn’t in the truck such an occasion – no, she’d gone, she’d said, because he was “so goddamn stupid.”

Well, if he was so stupid, how’d he come up with such a great idea as the hoof stencil?

Snickering, he cranked the volume on the same copy of Hank Williams’ Hey Good Lookin’ that he’d driven to for the last twenty years.

Hell, while he was considering it, wasn’t she really the parasite – just like that goddamn deer? Hadn’t she fed off his paycheck while sitting around telling their five brats what to do? How hard was it to take care of a house when you had a small army to do it with?

“Parasite,” she’d said – and to the goddamn judge too. He smiled at the thought of giving Delma the same treatment he’d given the now distant, but still whimpering, antlered rat.

They could send as many notices as they liked, he’d be damned if he’d pay a dime of child support to any of those ingrates.

Peck began to howl along to the tune, asking, “how’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with meeeee?”

He’d just cut off a tan Honda Civic who’d been riding in the fast lane when, for a passing instant, he almost believed he’d fallen asleep: The sudden shaking of the wheel in his hand was rough, vigorous, and not altogether unlike the feedback given by the rumble strips at the highway’s edge. Still, there had been no unexpected passing of terrain, and no sense of missing time.

After the seven seconds of airbrake-riding that Darren needed to settle on the notion that he was mid-earthquake, it was already obvious that it was no such boon.

Kar'WickNo, even as the tick continued to feed on the shattered and forgotten deer, Kar’Wick’s knotted thorax gorged itself upon the sky, and a thorny monolith – which, in truth, was but one of the forgotten god’s eight ebony limbs – set its broad weight across the highway. All vehicles fortunate enough to know immediate and final escape became naught but dross amongst the corkscrew spires of the Spider-God’s towering appendage, including the caterwauling driver.

In the desperate, but brief, window during which the news of Kar’Wick’s arrival outpaced the Spider-God itself, Peck was not missed.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FCM010 – The Donut Button

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Skinner Co.

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Hello, and welcome to FlashCast Minisode 010

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  • Dominatrix farm work
  • Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

    * * *

    If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://flashpulp.com, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

    FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

    FP342 – Coffin: Shifter, Part 3 of 3

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    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and forty-two.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Shifter, Part 3 of 3

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    Download MP3
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    (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

     

    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Dead Ends

     

    Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

    Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his unusually sober roommate, discover the truth regarding the werewolf factory.

     

    Coffin: Shifter, Part 3 of 3

    Written by J.R.D. Skinner
    Art and Narration by Opopanax
    and Audio produced by Jessica May

     

    The teenage werewolf had used the term ‘factory,’ but Bunny hadn’t understood the implications until they were idling alongside the brick and glass exterior of a hundred-year-old warehouse on the west side of Capital City.

    To ease the anxiety of the drive she’d taken to free associating a list of every type of alcohol she’d ever consumed, starting with her earliest stolen sips of Popov. She’d been amazed at both the size of the catalog and her ability to recall any of it, but the red brick shadows had stolen any amusement she’d provided herself.

    She said, “you realize this is the ####hole every ‘70s movie mob boss used to kill the flunkies who’d failed them, right? I mean, hell, I’m for busting some ghosts and all that ####, but these sorts of places are usually union.

    “I’m as happy to kick Slimer’s ass as the next person, but I don’t #### with union guys.”

    Outside, two men in white hooded sweaters pushed open a side door and scurried to the gate that held the ambulance at the road. Once they’d unfurled the lock and chain, the pair paced the front wheels to the yawning maw of a loading dock.

    Bunny did not enjoy watching the building swallow the vehicle whole, nor was she encouraged to see the rusting metal shutter roll down behind them.

    “Now what?” Coffin asked the nearest of his paramedic captives. “Do they usually come to you, you to them?”

    “They will arrive for the gurney,” answered the demonic mimic from behind his bloodied mask. His face had paled beyond the simple pastiness Bunny had noted at their first meeting.

    Even as he spoke, another ivory clad duo appeared from within a grimy-windowed office in the rear of the warehouse, but the newcomers’ patient tread gave Will and Bunny a moment to survey their situation.

    The structure could have been any poorly maintained factory from the era before electronics. Its cement floor was stained with ancient grease, and the massive chamber’s paint had peeled to such an extent that there was more bare stone showing than lizard green. The roof was held aloft by visibly splitting timber, and in places the tiling had given up under the weather’s pressure.

    Despite the conditions, Coffin counted at least twenty frost-uniformed figures labouring among the shipping containers, industrial equipment, and work benches that lined the walls.

    Beside the lopsided office leaning in the corner stood a series of twelve thick cubes, each four feet high by seven feet deep and faced with a porthole hatch. Over each entry was a panel of glass that, at least for the moment, seemed to look only into darkness.

    Jeffrey, the boy they’d saved, had called the array “the kennels.”

    The center of the space was dominated by a long assembly line. Bunny – though tempted to point out she’d often seen the same sort of chrome rollers used to shuffle off beer cases full of empties – had been cut short by the discovery of something unexpected. At the line’s head, posed in such a variety of states of distress that it reminded her of an art college student’s tableau commenting on the nature of beast and man, stood at least six dozen translucent werewolves.

    “###damn,” she said, “it’s the DTs. I knew this was gonna ####in’ happen. I’m too ####ing sober and I’m seeing ####.”

    As she spoke the ambulance’s doors swung wide, and the smell of rotting meat flooded the sterile pocket of medical equipment.

    CoffinInspecting the greeters, another snatch of teen-wolf’s description returned to Bunny: “The cultists all dress alike. Bulky white hooded sweatshirts, oversized white or light grey track pants with elastics at the ankle, and the sort of semi-disposable sneakers you can buy at Walmart for less than the cost of a Big Mac meal. Their hoods are usually pulled low over their eyes, and their mouths are covered by a filter mask – the kind of thing people on TV wear while dry walling. The mask has a plastic white grill on its front, and it projects from their faces, almost like an animal snout.”

    Coffin’s reaction, however, was to drop his right hand into the pocket that held the Crook of Ortez – the occult talisman whose very purpose was to raise the dead – while his left came up to scratch his chin.

    “So,” he said, “this is what you Kar’Wick worshiping spider-fondlers are wearing these days? Not exactly the cloaks and robes of yesteryear, is it?”

    “Fuck,” answered the baritone voice on the left, “it’s the Coffin.”

    “Call Barger,” replied the soft soprano on the right.

    “Who?” asked Will.

    The pair spun and began to sprint away without further discussion.

    “That’s right you run, you ####in’ Island of Dr. Moreau rejects,” shouted Bunny – then, to Will, she added, “I see they’ve heard of us. Maybe this won’t be such a pain in the ass after all.”

    In reality the news of their arrival landed amongst the cultists in one of two ways: Approximately half of the group summoned a sudden trajectory towards the opposite emergency exit, while those who remained produced a glistening throng of identical six-inch stilettos.

    Their daggers’ thin blades were silver, and their hilts were wrapped in rough red cloth.

    It took seconds for the attackers to close the distance, but it was a wide enough gap to introduce another surprise: The captive paramedics stepped from their vehicle and placed themselves at Coffin’s side.

    They’d removed their cloth surgeons masks, and their jaws flared with the freedom. Their gaping twelve inch mouths revealed descending rings of teeth, both with a blue worm-like tongue thrashing at the spirals’ center.

    If it were not for the cracked canines across the cheek of the rightmost, Bunny would not have been able to tell the thin-limbed men apart. Still, she was happy that they were facing the approaching mob and not herself.

    After a quick search for a weapon, she came up empty, so, sidling slightly behind the nearest EMT, she did her best to look mad. In light of her sobriety, it took little effort.

    The violence was brief.

    The carnivore in need of dental work was able to shatter the knife-arm of the lead man, but the white-clad Kar’Wickian at his side found purchase in the monster’s belly with his blade.

    At the sight of his injured comrade, the silent shark-faced driver howled. The noise, a warbling shriek that echoed with the frustration of a thousand years spent stranded and starving on a plane of existence it had never asked to visit, was enough to slow the advancing wall of thugs – then the werewolves were on them.

    Coffin had taken up position astride the rear of the ambulance, and the Crook of Ortez cut a steady arc through the air about his head. The tools influence, with the strength lent to it by the moist plug of flesh caught at the center of its complex hook, was enough to raise the spirit of each of the sixty-eight wolfen victims.

    The motley collection of former street sleepers and abandoned teens could not have explained how it was that their corporeal existence had been suddenly restored to them, they knew simply that it was an opportunity for revenge, and they took it.

    Then, for a time, there was only ripping flesh and the screams of the dying.

    Before the ethereal beings of ragged fur and yellow claws could fully dismember their prey, however, Coffin lowered his talisman, ensnaring the Crook’s velocity in his palm.

    Those who would soon be corpses fell instantly, and the smell of freshly spilt blood, mingling with the laboured final breaths of those unfortunate enough to still be living, was all that marked the passage of the apparitions.

    Will could not tell if their quickly fading howls reflected frustration or joy, but the answer would have to come later – there were more important matters at hand.

    He levelled a finger at the remaining paramedic, who was now rocking the form of his fallen companion in his arms. “I’ll decide if your friends’ sacrifice is enough to keep you from joining him later. You’ve got ten minutes to help yourself to the buffet, then we’re going to need a ride home.”

    Bunny was already two steps ahead as he began to move towards the kennels.

    She had no interest in waiting around to watch the snacking.

    The tiny cells that had been used to hold those the factory workers had infected with lycanthropy were, unfortunately, empty.

    Still peering into one of the dark viewing ports, Coffin said, “the same full moon that made Jeffrey change must have marked the harvest time for their last batch.”

    “####,” replied Bunny. A dozen “hairy situation” jokes came to mind, but none of them seemed appropriate.

    The silence from biting her tongue, though, only meant having to listen to the vigorous wet snapping that was emanating from behind her.

    She suggested they check the office, but, before she’d finished rifling the desk, the rolling shutter at the far end of the floor let out a groaning complaint and retracted.

    She expected a SWAT team, or at least six minivans full of cultists, but instead a single black BMW pulled confidently onto the cement and parked adjacent to the emergency vehicle. Three passengers exited. Each wore a suit, one carried a pistol.

    “Stay here,” said Coffin, so, even as he moved to meet the newcomers, the drunk returned to her search.

    “Even cultists gotta have a stash of J-####ing-D, right?” she asked the stacks of paperwork and rotting technical manuals that littered the space. As if by request, the next drawer revealed, beneath a perfectly arranged set of white sweats, an unopened bottle of Wild Turkey.

    She sighed.

    The gray-haired woman wearing the most expensively cut of the suits did all the talking.

    “Will Coffin?” she asked.

    “The Coffin is fine,” he replied.

    Her fingernails were a natural pink, but gleamed with expert care.

    His hands remained deeply planted in the worn pockets of his leather jacket.

    “I was wondering when you’d stumble across this little operation,” she said. “I’ve heard you’re a man who can be reasoned with. A man who understands that his title comes with some discretion – and some benefits.

    “Now, I am not blind to the history of animosity between our organizations, but we are no longer a mere cult – I mean, really, what is a cult? A bunch of people gathered together to work towards a shared purpose? The concept certainly sounds like a business to me – and that’s what we are now: A business. In the last year this operation alone took in over three million dollars.”

    Will raised a brow, but said nothing. The woman continued.

    “You doubt me? The hides are the big ticket item, of course, but they are also the easiest to ship. Fur is murder, but it’s not illegal. You would be hard pressed to convince any customs people that the dog-faced skins we ship to Chinese medicine men are anything more than rabbit-based knockoffs.

    “We waste no part of the were-buffalo, though. The whole process is carried out on a tray so that even the blood can be collected for use in sacred texts – at a thousand dollars a vial.

    “You should see the line in action: From the sound of the enchanted bolt gun down to a skeleton at the end of the conveyor belt in under ten minutes.

    “Anyhow, my point is that I understand the nature of death and taxes.

    “As I said, this is a profitable venture, but profit is meant to be shared. I recognize that you have some claim to this market, and I’d much rather pay taxes than wage death.

    “If you will accept a yearly sum of one hundred-fifty thousand surely there is no reason for us to continue this passé war against you and your slovenly sidekick?

    “Take the money and leave that slum you live in, Mr. Coffin.”

    “The Coffin,” he insisted. His right hand was again wrapped round with the Crook of Ortez, and his left now moved to a deep pocket in the interior of his jacket.

    She snorted. “You will be IN a Coffin if you don’t – is that smoke?”

    Even from across the broad floor, Bunny recognized her cue. “####ing suits! Kill three of you sons of dog ####ers and five more’ll come around in your place suing for damages. Burn your ####ing #### down though – well, that’s a ####ing matter for the cops, and just the ####tiest sort of industry regulation, ain’t it? And what you think they’ll make of these bits of dead albino-dressing mother####ers on the ground?

    “I’m pretty sure that ####’s gonna require a #### ton of paperwork. You may have to work the weekend.

    ”Still wasn’t worth a bottle of Turkey to set, but desperate times and all that ####.”

    “What are two more bodies if we’ve already got to explain this many?” replied the woman.

    Bunny frowned.

    “Forget it, just shoot them,” the suit told her underlings. She then turned.

    The pistol raised, and the Phantom Ambulance roared to life with its sirens in full effect. Jackknifing backwards, the full force of its thick engine – meant for high speed response and emergency reaction – pinned the gunman to the BMW’s passenger-side wheel.

    There was a brief grinding of gears, but, before the vehicle could align itself for a second hit, the two remaining Kar’Wickians abandoned their gurgling associate and dove for their car.

    If they had not left the gate wide they would not have made it.

    “Did you just burn everything that might tell me where to look for these jackasses?” asked Coffin, as he gave a nod to the idling, and re-masked, paramedic.

    “Nope,” replied Bunny, who retrieved a thick sheaf of paper from the waistline of her jeans.

    For a moment the pair stood, side by side, watching the flames gather along the office’s makeshift ceiling.

    When it began to climb into the splintered rafters, Coffin asked, “Dorsets?”

    Bunny shrugged. “Nah. Maybe later, maybe not. At the moment I feel like James Brown after a twelve-hour angel dust concert. I need a ####ing nap.”

    Seconds later they were back on the road and headed home – but, she reflected, at least they didn’t have to stop for traffic lights.

    (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

     

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