Categotry Archives: Flash Pulp

FP378 – Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 2 of 4

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The Drop of the Shoe

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-eight.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 2 of 4

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Skinner Co. Store

 

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 return to our tale of arcane murder and questionable dinner parties as Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his apprentice, travel northward.

 

Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 2 of 4

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

 

Perhaps the proximity to death reminded their driver, the last crew member of the Phantom Ambulance, of his own recently lost companion, or perhaps the phantasm kept to himself to prevent exposing the strings of saliva entwining amongst the spiraling teeth beneath his paramedic’s face mask. He could not help the desire, even if the carrion that might be his meal was forbidden.

Whatever the case, Bunny was happy the ring-mouthed chauffeur wasn’t feeling conversational.

The procession’s first stop was a short one, but, as Will explained it, still a diplomatic necessity. Wide Eye, the animal lord who held sway over the lands to the north of Capital City, was a ruler in decline, with his presence barely felt in his realm even in those days of growing power – yet, after a moment of silence over the corpse, the massive golden-pupiled owl had extended the smaller set of its four gray wings to summon a brown mass of rats bearing upon their backs a proper casket in which to lay the visiting dignitary’s remains.

The box was made of simple wood bound together with tree-bark twine, but the lumber – a collection of driftwood, ancient and splintered downed maple, and fragrant fresh pine – had been etched and shaped by a multitude of beaks and claws. A single shard no bigger than Coffin’s thumb might hold a magpie’s pattern intricate enough to be mistaken for Victorian wallpaper, while other slabs held delicate spirals dug by chittering and weeping squirrels. The only gap in the construction looked upon Pisky’s shadowed face, and in that poor light it now almost appeared as if the raccoon had found some peace.

Coffin had spent his brief time outside the surrogate hearse making insistent phone calls that otherwise would have felt inappropriate in the sanctified hush of their catafalque, but, two hours later, he finally broke the rattling quiet of the ambulance’s steady highway pace.

The Drop of the Shoe“I remember one time – in the mid-’80s I guess – when this woman came to us for help. Francine. She was a nice lady; big hair, heart, and hips. She was having issues with her husband, who she was sure was possessed.

“She was the sort to keep to herself, but he was the type that liked to roam downtown with the boys while wearing the too-tight pants of the era. On three or four occasions he’d woken her in the middle of the night. Once he was jabbering in a language she couldn’t understand, the next he was going through some sort of naked ritual dance in the living room.

“Sandy asked around, but none of the dead folks had heard anything. We were starting to wonder if another magic peddler was moving in on our territory, so we began taking turns following him in the evening.

“She figured what was going on on his second outing and set the trap.

“It was a fairly simple thing – he was heading into Mierau Park, off of Fifth, and it was as shady then as it is now. He must have just done another bump of coke, or whatever he’d bought, when he came down the last stretch of sidewalk to the subway.

“He was be-bopping to himself, his shoulders swaggering, and suddenly there was a five-foot-tall talking raccoon in a full tuxedo – Pisky insisted on the tux – demanding everything in his pockets.

“You’ve got to picture it, the guy was deep in Don Johnson territory: sport coat, pastel shirt, white guy Jheri curl, the whole thing. He pulled out a big baggy of suspicious powder, a wallet fat with the bills he planned on blowing that night, and a ring of keys, but Pisky didn’t even blink, he simply tossed it all in the air and ate the whole collection.

“Well, Francine’s fella wet his pleated teal trousers and ran. Far as I know he gave up his weekend ways.

“Pisky, though, spent the next two days raving about ants.”

Bunny shifted on the bench opposite and did her best to chuckle, but her mind was weighing the murder of a being that had lived hundreds of years.

 

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

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP377 – Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 1 of 4

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Coffin

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-seven.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 1 of 4

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Skinner Co. Store

 

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 sobering apprentice, are notified of an arcane murder.

 

Coffin: The Drop of the Shoe, Part 1 of 4

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

 

The restaurant, Spinerette’s, was packed with deep red leather and thickly varnished mahogany, but, from his view behind the small porthole in the swinging kitchen door, The Insomniac could see only the end of the banquet table that had been set at the center of the room. A forty-ish woman in a well cut suit, with close cropped graying hair and more than a passing resemblance to Judy Dench, was standing for a toast. Her champagne flute was in her raised right hand, and a skittering collection of thin-legged arachnids marched in and out of the sleeve cuff of her gesturing left.

In whispered Spanish the meal’s chef, Santiago, caught the intruder’s attention.

“You need to go,” he said, “there are only a few servers on hand, but they’re definitely better friends with those people than I am, and they’ll be coming for the next course shortly.”

Nodding, the sleepless man’s sharp elbows cut through a turn.

He asked, “how will you explain the missing meat?”

“If these people are dumb enough to think I’d believe I’m just cooking a bunch of eccentrics a roadkill meal, fine, I’ll tell them I tossed it in the rear for the mutt that raids the dumpsters.

”Listen though, I regret ever having had a part in this. Will – will there be problems? I meant no offense.”

Each step jarred the ache behind his eyes, but the meddler was moving quickly now, the paranoia of not being able to see who might be coming adding speed to his feet.

“I honestly don’t know,” he answered as he shuffled along a chrome alley of knives and hanging pots.

Entering the walk-in freezer, he took in what was left of the massive racoon. The beast’s ears were pierced with a dozen copper loops, but it looked as if someone had ripped out a dozen more, and, even though most of its lower body had been butchered to the bone, it still required two oversized black garbage bags to hide the shaved flesh of its torso and the canine grin full of shattered teeth.

Once the job was done the salvager retrieved his phone and messaged the man who’d saved him from the horrors that lurked in his dreams, then, with the bagged corpse straining his exhausted arms, he slipped out the back door and into the night.

* * *

Two hours later, Coffin and Bunny were in possession of the stretched and ripping parcel.

They were in an alley five blocks from Spinerette’s, and the sun was rising.

“Holy ####,” Bunny was saying, “no disrespect meant to the dead, but it’s like the set of a Nightmare on Elm Street is leaking out of that thing.”

CoffinA lack of transportation had hindered their arrival, and it was not the sort of neighbourhood in which a sack leaving a conspicuous trail of blood would go unnoticed. The hiding spot, behind the fenced rear of a spa that would open in the next forty-five minutes, was the best their informant had been able to do when a broken fibula had punctured the plastic.

Will, who’d hoisted the sacks to see if he could stem the flow of gore, dropped the remains without ceremony.

His trip to the now-abandoned restaurant had been brief.

Clearing his throat, he said, “I’m sure the back entrance used to be haunted by the leftovers of a guy who caught a broken beer bottle in the neck in the early 1990s, but he wasn’t there. In fact, I walked a half block over to talk with a woman who bled out from a failed abortion, Bernita, and she’s missing too. She was a soft touch; always happy to trade info for whatever family gossip I could scrape from her niece’s blog.”

Though she’d been left behind to keep watch on the remains, Bunny’s gaze had landed on everything in the cement lot but the cadaver.

“You’re sure this is Pisky?” she asked.

“Yeah, not a lot of other gigantic raccoons full of piercings in this neighbourhood,” replied Will. “Did you hear what I said about Bernita?”

“That dumb bastard saved your life, and this #### is sadder than weeping ####ing kittens with emo haircuts – still, you don’t seem terribly broken up over it.”

Coffin shrugged and began to dig in his pocket.

“What’d’ya got in mind?” asked Bunny.

“Calling the ambulance,” answered Will.

“Little ####ing late for that, ain’t it?”

“Not that kind. I plan on having a – vigorous conversation – with whoever’s responsible, but first we need to take a trip.”

Within moments the pair, their driver, and the corpse began their long northward procession.

 

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

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FP376 – Equity

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Chiller

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-six.

Flash PulpTonight we present Equity

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Skinner Co. Store

 

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 join one Capital City citizen, Moira, as she commemorates the life and death of her husband, Leonard.

 

Equity

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

 

Moira was raising a monument to her husband of forty years.

The parcel it stood on had been earmarked for a parking lot, but, given that he was dead, Leonard no longer had need of parking, nor the money it could bring in. It was but a sliver of the estate, but she’d spent the better part of a year pushing the paperwork across bureaucrats’ desks and through city council meetings.

The allotted land included the spot they’d met, although it’d been a small soup and sandwich restaurant at the time. It wasn’t the sort of thing he would’ve thought about, but she remembered. She’d been the manager at a tiny bank, and he’d been a lawyer so fresh on the job that he could still see the bar in his rear-view mirror.

Confusion over their order – both Reubens, but hers with a side of onion rings instead of his wilted salad – had drawn them into sharing a booth. Then again the next day, and the next.

He’d spoken endlessly of his clients’ missteps and mostly she’d just listened and thought him noble for trying to defend them.

Soon he’d needed dates for office outings, client parties, and city-sponsored balls.

They’d married six months later.

Now, in the warmth of a summer morning sun, her spotted flesh looked into his unflinching bronze eyes.

Although his grin had once been known everywhere, no photos had been seen of his face for some twenty years.

The platform wasn’t a tall one. She wanted teens and children to be able to climb up and pose with the man the mayor had occasionally called The City’s Lawyer. The youths might no longer recognize him, but Moira understood that the universal tomfoolery made possible by an easily accessible statue was a joy that stretched across every generation.

Her own children, a group of five born over the course of a half-decade, had kept her home in the evenings – but not Leonard. Never Leonard. He considered the cost of champagne no different an expense than the money he laid out in advertising for the firm he eventually came to control. His commercials had once been so prevalent throughout Capital City that his tagline of, “They broke it, but we’ll fix it,” had lingered well after the ads themselves had been relegated to nothing more than fading nostalgia.

In fact, his reputation as a rake was widespread enough that his guest appearances on C-Block, a Capital City-based sitcom that was popular just as their oldest son, Gregory, was first reaching high school, had largely revolved around the schedule juggling necessary to date three secretaries.

No one had considered how his children, or wife, might feel about the portrayal – and Leonard least of all.

His retreat into real estate and semi-retirement, a decade later, had been driven more by vanity than any slowing of his drive. He was too proud to admit he was unrecognizable from the broad-smiling tux model who’d bounced from nightclub to nightclub with thin-wristed socialites on his arm.

She’d never forgotten that either.

She was pulled from her reverie by the cough of a workman with better ways to be spending his morning. The last of the straps had been lowered and packed away, and she was now able to take a final look at her husband’s likeness.

The statue was not the man of the commercials and television cameos. It was not the grin that still shone on in grainy online videos posted by an aging but sentimental generation of television watchers. Here was the shirtless and beer-gutted man with an unkempt case of bedhead and a sharp turn to his lips that she had known.

Here was Leonard as she remembered him, and, thanks to his financing, as the city would as well – or, as it would have.

Kar'WickEven as she nodded and turned away, however, the buildings about the greenery began to sway, and the ground beneath her feet buckled. It was then that Moira took in a lesson that would have served Leonard well: That all legacies are fleeting.

Within seconds any who might have cared to remember were caught in the rising shadow of Kar’Wick the Spider-God.

 

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

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

MMN4 – Mazes & Monsters

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MMN4 - Mazes & Monsters

MMN4 - Mazes & Monsters

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Join The Mob for a viewing of the movie that made parents terrified of D&D!

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

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

FP375 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Cuckoos

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Joe Monk, Emperor of Space

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Cuckoos

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by We Are Not Here To Please You

 

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, Joe Monk, the last human and one day ruler of known space, finds himself in a seedy bar on the backwater world of Mengi.

 

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Cuckoos

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

 

Joe Monk, the man who would one day be Emperor, Macbeth, his craboid counselor, and the small fleet of interstellar craft that had begun to trail their roaming egg of a ship, had landed on Mengi as part of a PR tour on behalf of the Council of Ten Stars. The Council had funded the expedition as an educational venture. It was their hope that the novelty of seeing the last example of a dying breed would hold their youths attention long enough for the man’s simple but altruistic view of the universe to take root in their obviously increasingly degenerate neural networks.

In truth, however, the circuit was as educational for Joe himself as it was for any of the smart-mouthed adolescents who attended his rambling Q&A sessions, though much of his studies took place in the sort of low-cost fermentation dispensaries that grease the grind of a tight travel schedule.

His brief stint as lawman had brought Monk into contact with a dozen races, but the metropolitan worlds of the Ten Stars were awash in shape and colour. He was finding it difficult to keep personal identifiers separate from species names, and more than once a mottled green mouth or purple-furred set of ears had descended at his unintended bigotry.

Still, he had no trouble telling Asbelene and Oshkosa apart, and the fact that they were Krebbles, from the thickly populated jungle planet of Kerees, was very clear in his mind.

They’d told him so when they’d introduced themselves, but the Krebbles reputation was well known.

The vaulted ceilings of the orange-walled bar were lit in a low spectrum so as to be friendly to even the largest eyed patron, but to Joe’s thinking it was as if the night had flooded the room and brought with it the thick booze and high-nosed spices that filled Mengi’s tourist market.

Monk and Macbeth had seen and drank as much of the planet as they could manage, and the earthman had promised the unmarked establishment would be their final stop.

Still, he’d made the promise some two hours earlier.

As their conversation had progressed, Asbelene’s stool had slowly travelled around the bend of their round table. She’d first introduced herself while offering a gloved appendage wrapped in the deep shade of purple that covered her form in a velveteen crush of robes and veil. She knew all about his story, she’d said. She’d seen it on the NewsNets. What a romantic notion, the last of an entire race – but what a sad and lonely one, she’d added.

Monk had only been able to agree. Eventually, however, he tired of talking about himself.

“Been on Mengi long?” he asked.

“Quite a while,” replied Asbelene, “we can’t all hop around in our own ship you know. Besides, it’s warm here and the sun lingers. What more could you ask for?”

She lifted back the light veil that covered her brow to reveal a pair of human eyes. They were the same shade of purple as her garb. Joe couldn’t recall reading any books in the egg’s library in which a character had violet eyes.

He smiled.

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space“Oh,” said Joe, “the nomadic lifestyle has its advantages. There are a lot of gorgeous sights I wouldn’t have had a chance to see otherwise. You’re right though, it can be lonely. The scenery doesn’t change much between stops and I find it hard to sleep when I don’t have the thrum of the engines in my ears.”

“That’s funny,” Asbelene replied, “I’ve just travelled in freezer freight, but I’ve always pictured ship beds as tiny and uncomfortable.”

“The people who built my rocket pony had to guess at how big I’d get, so I’ve got room enough for two of me – actually, it may sound ridiculous, but my bed honestly is built for high G maneuvers and sudden impacts.”

Her robes shifted slightly right and she let out a distinctly human giggle.

Excusing herself, Asbelene stood and retreated to one of the personal sanitation rooms nestled in the shadows at the rear of the tavern.

With her purple figure briefly out of view, Joe remembered that he’d arrived with Macbeth. Optimistic at the likelihood of his companion’s own enthusiasm, Monk turned.

Macbeth was not smiling.

Neither was his conversation partner, Oshkosa.

Finally having caught the earthman’s attention, both of the self-appointed mentor’s eyestalks stiffened, and he hooked his large right claw across his shoulder.

“Can I talk to you over there?” he asked.

Joe couldn’t see much of anything but decorative pottery in the corner, but he knew it wasn’t really a question.

Once out of Oshkosa’s earshot, Macbeth immediately took to whispered yelling.

“Do you understand what these girls are!?”

“Friendly?” asked the human.

“Krebbles,” replied Macbeth, dropping the word heavily, as if it were the only response he required.

Joe nodded and tried to look serious. “Okay.”

Macbeth sighed a fermented sigh and nodded, but he still required assurance. “Okay?”

Monk did his best to give it. “Okay.”

“Great, I’m glad we’ve agreed to leave.”

Before he’d finished the sentence, Macbeth was already digging in his satchel for a method of payment that was actually valid in the establishment.

“Uh, you can head back if you like,” said Joe, “I think I’m going to spend a little more time getting to know Asbelene.”

The pseudo-crustacean dropped his bag.

“The Krebble? Do – do you know what their disgusting genetic imperatives drive them to do? They start as piles of formless goo! Goo! Then they steal your DNA! That’s what she was doing when she first shook your hand you know – but that’s not even the worst of it!

“She’s shedding under there. Her gooey, lusty, flesh is drying and flaking, and soon she’ll shed her current shape like a cocoon. She could be in there right now doing it! She simply wants to make herself appear to be a viable mate so she can plunder your breeding juices!

“These filthy Krebbles are built to endlessly evolve their reproductive systems by sucking down the seed of others! She’ll seem the perfect mating partner – rounded in all the ways you like, cooing in just the way you idiot monkeys enjoy – but they’re nothing but masquerading eugenic harlots.

“In terms you might understand, they’re cuckoo women! Cuckoos!”

Joe nodded. “Er, I think in this metaphor it would be the children who would be the cuckoos, right?”

“You. Idiot. Do you not understand what I’m saying?”

“You’re saying I’m in danger of having Asbelene be exactly what I’d want in a sexual partner, and perhaps, uh, misplacing my genetic heritage?”

“Yes.”

“That sounds suspiciously racist, but we’ll talk about it back at the ship – say in the kitchen, around breakfast time tomorrow? That’s when I’ll be back.”

With that, he turned.

It would be only another hour before the last man would see his first womanly form.

He was late for breakfast.

 

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

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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.

FC103 – Vile Acts

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FC103 - Vile Acts

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Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 103.

Prepare yourself for: Synthetic marijuana, nature’s pocket, a Russian moonbase, more on nursing home strippers, and Coffin.

* * *

Huge thanks to:

* * *

* * *

* * *

* * *

Audio-dacity of Hope:

  • Check out the new items on the store!
  • * * *

    Art of Narration:

  • Email Opop about Skinner Co. Ink at opopanax at skinner dot fm!
  • * * *

    Backroom Plots:

  • Coffin: Looking Down
  • * * *

    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://skinner.fm, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

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

    FP374 – Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 3 of 3

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    Mulligan Smith, Private Investigator: A Skinner Co. Network Podcast

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

    Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 3 of 3

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by We Are Not Here To Please You

     

    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, our private investigator, Mulligan Smith, finds himself haunting a too-white nightmare with a tazer in his hand.

     

    Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 3 of 3

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

     

    The Hampton Holistic Healing Center sat on a wooded forty acre spread an hour’s drive from Capital City. It had taken some effort to accidentally blow a tire along the road running the length of the western edge of the property, but, once accomplished, Smith had managed to stumble around the outlying cabins nestled between pine branches for a full half-hour without notice.

    Though the spa had signs posted at the gate claiming it was closed for maintenance, the frosted icicle lights that marked its well-swept dirt paths were at full glow, and the regularly spaced faux-stone speakers continued to exhale a constant stream of Yanni’s keyboard work.

    Smith blamed the music for his foul mood. The unending demand for calm was getting to him, and every flute trill and harp strum only forced his molars tighter together.

    The main house was a shambling collection of extensions, and Mulligan had had several entries to pick from as he avoided the lobby’s porch. Still, his stranded-motorist lie had been sorely tested when, after the first dozen hallway doors had been checked, he’d had to turn a quick corner while pretending not to hear a very tanned fellow in tennis shorts’ shouts of “hello?”

    Now though, standing at an open second floor closet with Mr. Tennis still searching for him down below, Smith was again ready to gamble.

    He’d remembered the triple H name from Victoria Woodward’s enthusiastic social media endorsements of its online community’s postings. Her brief mention in that afternoon’s yoga class had immediately brought its all-caps dislike of science, and the supposedly jack-booted government it saw as funding its misuses, to mind.

    Every suite looked the same. Clean, neat, and eager for someone who needed expensive spiritual cleansing. The crisp white seemed to stretch on forever, as if the place were an MC Escher work inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, and he knew each door he pushed through was a possible finale to his thin story.

    Discovering the multimedia closet that was Yanni’s secret lair had provided an opportunity – and not just to end the Casio siege – but Mulligan was running out of time, and he knew it.

    Ten seconds of silence fell over the incense thick hallways and heat-heavy carpets, then, once the PI had arranged the inputs directly into his phone, a new keyboardist stepped to the mic.

    As a child Smith had often watched his parents blow a sad wind from the house by rolling aside the living room rug and threatening the lamps while flailing away to Ray Charles’ high-speed fingers. He could think of no better remedy to the cloying air of the Hampton Center.

    The thrum and thrash lasted less than a minute. Ray got to ask what he’d said twice, then Mulligan cut the music and briefly gave up breathing.

    Along the hall and to the left he could hear pounding footsteps climbing the service stairs – but beyond that, from the level below, came the shriek of a toddler disclosing its grievances at maximum lung capacity.

    It meant having to expose himself by descending the broad main staircase and scuttling across the area that acted as a lobby and group meeting space, but the pillows scattered about the ground floor were empty, and it was a better alternative than the supposed man-with-car-trouble trying to blow by his tanned pursuer.

    The wail continued even as the PI zeroed in on the passage behind the reception desk, but the surprise of his sudden entrance was enough to startle the child into a brief silence. Staring down the back of the woman holding Addison, it was tempting to reach for his tazer, but it was his phone he retrieved from the depths of his pocket.

    He’d sent the picture before she’d even fully turned.

    Sierra Hampton, the holistic center’s founder, had obviously been expecting the man with the tan.

    There was a beat during which neither spoke, then Smith’s phone gave off the Rockford Files answering machine beep that marked an incoming response to his photo.

    It read, “You were right, Capital City Daily has an article up saying there’s been three measles cases reported on the eastside.”

    Mulligan Smith, Private Investigator: A Skinner Co. Network PodcastMulligan’s father hated to text, but went through stationary like he had a deeply held vendetta against trees. Smith knew he had questions, but he also knew the stubborn mute wouldn’t ask any of them until he could express them in longhand.

    Looking up from the screen, Smith said, “it’s interesting how stupidity spreads like a virus. One person catches it, and suddenly a whole community is infected.”

    “What?” asked Hampton, her voice startling the baby from whimpering itself to sleep.

    “Science isn’t a conspiracy,” answered Mulligan, “it’s not out to get you. There’s no profit in giving your kid autism, there’s only a lawsuit. Half the labcoats in those grad classes are trying to figure out how to cook their own narcotics, you don’t think they’d love to blow the whistle on implanted tracking devices or whatever crackpot theory you hug?”

    Several assumptions crossed Sierra Hampton’s face, but, in a decision that surprised Smith not at all, she finally landed on the most paranoid – and thus the option that allowed her to be the most self-righteous.

    “What are you going to do, thug? Arrest me for the crime of taking care of a sick child? Where’s your uniform, officer? Too ashamed to wear your swastika in public?”

    Smith coughed.

    “Hey, I’m no cop, I’m just some poor sap who happened to break down while on a country drive – but, like I said, it’s funny how ideas get around – like the idea the police might suddenly have that this tot looks a lot like Posey Cotton’s baby.”

    “It’s not!”

    “Oh, I believe you.”

    Despite the spread of angry red spots across the child’s skin, the head of curly black hair was an easy match for Addison’s grandmother’s photos.

    “Still,” he said, “while they’re verifying, uh, whoever this is, I wonder if they’ll find any connection between you and Posey in your guest list and bank accounts? Will they find a quack in your employ when they look at who signed off on vaccination records for kids who somehow managed to pick up measles?”

    He actually knew the answer to this last item, and the tender nature of the case meant it hadn’t even cost his client more than a couple of hundred dollars.

    Whoever Dr. Bowers was, he was soon going to be simply Mr. Bowers.

    ”Most importantly though,” Smith continued, “how big a tin foil hat did you have to talk Posey Cotton into for her to agree to cover up the death of her own kid? You got a lot of land here – how many times do you figure you’ll have to imply the cops are Nazis before they bring out the cadaver dogs?

    It was then that Mr. Tennis entered the room, and, without having noticed its movement, Mulligan found his hand was in his pocket and tightly wrapped about his tazer’s grip.

    He was unexpectedly eager to use it.

    He would not get his chance, however.

    The trio stood there in silence for a five full minutes, then black body armour and red lights swept the compound as SWAT poured through the building like furious antibodies seeking an infection.

    It would be another ten hours before Mulligan had finished barely-answering the official questions.

    The papers would never mention the stranded motorist, but he would at least find comfort in the fact that Grandmother Woodward was happy to expense his flat tire.

     

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

    Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

    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.

    FP373 – Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3

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    Mulligan Smith, Private Investigator: A Skinner Co. Network Podcast

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

    Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3

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    Download MP3
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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo

     

    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, our private investigator, Mulligan Smith, finds himself stretching both his limbs and the truth.

     

    Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3

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

     

    Mulligan finally got lucky during his third yoga class.

    The studio was a converted loft apartment overtop a vegan restaurant, with a pass-through kitchen at one end and a bay window, overlooking the pedestrian traffic below, at the other. Though Smith doubted he could afford the habit if he weren’t expensing it, a rainbow of twenty mats were already laid out on the parquet floor as he entered.

    The first two sessions had been conducted by a bearded willow tree named Dakota. Dakota was a nice enough fellow, and he’d done a bit to correct Mulligan’s Dolphin pose, but the PI was quite pleased to find him absent that Sunday afternoon.

    Still, as the room began to fill with the recorded sounds of flutes and chimes, the investigator again felt the guilt of wasted time. Grandmother Woodward, his client, certainly had the cash to spare – she’d made that clear as they sat through tea in her Victorian style garden – but it frustrated the PI that he couldn’t even claim to be learning anything useful.

    Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3Years of sitting in the less-than-ergonomic front seat of the Tercel while waiting out errant spouses and insurance frauds had already made Smith a well-practiced pupil. It was not uncommon, in the fifth of a probable ten hour watch, for Mulligan to simply step out of his vehicle and Downward Dog right there on the pavement.

    The remorse disappeared at the sight of Victoria Woodward.

    She was wearing black leggings and a spaghetti strap top that did nothing to hide the light blue stone of her belly-button piercing.

    “Namaste,” she told the class as she took her position at its head.

    Suddenly Mulligan’s Dolphin slipped again, and his back refused to stay straight during his Plow. Not so badly that he embarrassed himself, of course, but certainly enough to draw Victoria’s eye.

    Finally, after a serene hour of stretching, the session came to a close.

    Smiling, Smith walked to the ornate rack of wooden coat hangers, pulled his sweater from its resting place, then approached his newly returned teacher.

    “You’ve been away?” he asked.

    Briefly biting her lower lip, his client’s daughter – the mother of the supposedly missing toddler, Addison Woodward – replied, “yeah?”

    It was hard to remain nervous, however, under the glare of Mulligan’s practiced grin.

    “Thanks for your help today,” he continued, “I’d heard you were really good but you haven’t been around the last couple of times I’ve been in.”

    “Oh! Yeah, I was at a spa – it was fantastic, just a few days in the country with the trees and the birds and nothing to worry about, you know?”

    Mulligan nodded and did his best to ignore the way her tone seemed to be trying to convince him of the truth of her words, but, before he could respond, she changed the subject.

    “You said someone recommended me? Who?”

    Smith’s hunch had come to him the previous evening, as he’d picked apart a Denny’s club sandwich. He’d spread three photos of the yoga instructor on the booth’s tabletop, alongside a column of website printouts. The photos were from the first day of his investigation, after which Victoria had immediately disappeared.

    Though they’d provided no hint as to her location, her social media profiles had made it clear that she considered her yoga class as more than a job, so he’d known where to wait for her return.

    His search had also uncovered something he found considerably more troubling, however.

    It had started with postings about GMO wheat crammed between videos demonstrating proper pose posture, but, the further the detective scrolled, the deeper the well grew. Items began to crop up in her feed about black site prisons, about the dangers of vaccines, about the fascism of the American state.

    He’d had to back away from his keyboard when, two status updates below a photo of baby Addison, he’d stumbled across a diatribe written by Victoria that began, “The conmen that make up the scientific community…” and had continued on for twelve more paragraphs.

    Was it pleasant? No, but plenty of people were a parent and unpleasant at the same time.

    So where was the child? Probably with a babysitter, as the mother had always claimed.

    Yet, later, as he’d drained his milkshake and buried the photos beneath his mute father’s notes from the press conference – Smith always filed his observations, just in case – his half-formed suspicion had grown into a no-you’re-just-being-paranoid hypothesis.

    Now, with a conscious effort to keep his friendly smirk in place, Mulligan filled his nose with the thick smell of freshly lit incense and played his hunch.

    “Posey Cotton,” he answered.

    The senior Smith had called in some favours still owed to the former police sergeant, but no one in the beehive of activity surrounding the Cotton baby’s case could draw any connections between Victoria and the missing child’s mother.

    Mulligan caught the hesitation in the yogi’s response, and noted the briefest tug at her left cheek.

    Suddenly he was sure he wasn’t wasting Grandma’s time at all.

    “Poor Posey,” replied Victoria, “that whole thing is just so sad.”

    “I know, right?” answered Mulligan as he tugged at his sweater’s zipper. “Anyhow – gotta see a sorcerer about my chakras and all that.”

    Smith’s feet carried him to the stairwell at such a pace that he nearly forgot to call out a “namaste” as he departed.

    He had an appointment to make.

     

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

    Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

    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.

    FP372 – Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3

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    Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3

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

    Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Download MP3
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3)
    (RSS / iTunes)

     

    This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo

     

    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, Mulligan Smith, PI, finds himself contemplating a possible kidnapping while standing on the warm pavement of a Walmart parking lot.

     

    Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3

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

     

    Mulligan stood to the left of the scrum of reporters, his cabbie-capped father beside him and a sad imitation of coffee in his hand.

    A gull wheeled overhead, riding the gentle breeze to hover above the cluster of dress-uniformed policemen on the far side of the wooden platform, and Smith wondered for the third time if this Snipe hunt was ever going to get underway.

    With a look of mourning, he tossed the barely cooled cup onto an already congested trashcan.

    His father already had a response scrawled out across a thin white sheet of notepad paper, “it may have been complimentary, but it’s hard to be complimentary,” but the PI replied only with a groaning chuckle and a shake of his head.

    The knot of deep blue began to breakup, reforming to face the crowd and revealing a petite woman of perhaps twenty-nine. Posey Cotton’s blond curls wavered gently at the edge of her knitted beanie, and her tears ran clear to the black cloth of her dress and leggings.

    Stepping onto the makeshift stage that had, until recently, been a gardening display, Commissioner Ender approached the bristling collection of extended arms.

    Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3“Mrs. Cotton would like to make a plea directly to the public,” Ender told the mics, “but I ask that you hold your questions. Clearly it’s been a rough two hours.”

    An intern from the Capital City Star shot a garbled inquiry from the back of the crowd, but the Commissioner’s stare, and the grumbling of his fellow journalists, brought him to silence.

    Taking the hush as acceptance of his terms, Ender stepped away and allowed the grieving mother to come to the forefront.

    Dabbing at her eyes, Posey took a deep breath and began.

    “I don’t know why, two hours ago, you stole my angel from my Escalade. I turned for a second, and you snatched her. You must see how special she is, though – please, please don’t hurt her. You can still make this right. I promise I won’t be mad if you just let her go.

    “Kinney, if you’re watching this, know that Mama loves you. Everything’s going to be okay.”

    Having delivered her clearly rehearsed piece, Cotton unleashed a broken squeal then began to weep.

    The sobbing struck Mulligan as honest enough, but there was something about the delivery that had left a whispering in the PI’s ear.

    Still, he wasn’t convinced it was related to his case. He was looking for a toddler, sure, but it hadn’t been snatched as far as he knew – at least, not according to anyone but the Grandmother who’d hired him. He felt a little bad about working a case that seemed like little more than an expensive way to get some baby photos, but the bills weren’t going to pay themselves.

    Mulligan’s train of thought was interrupted by the landing of another sheet of paper in his palm.

    It read, “She looks dressed for the camera.”

    Raising a brow at the chunky gold pendant on the end of her long chain, her coiffed hair, and her somber but well put together silhouette, the junior Smith had to give his elder’s ex-cop eye its due. It was all the push his imagination needed to understand what the whisper in his ear was trying to say.

    “Yeah,” he replied, “she doesn’t look like a Walmart shopper, she’s looks like the kind of Whole Foods yuppy who thinks Walmart is where infants get grabbed.

    “I see some blush, some concealer – but no mascara, huh? She’s not just dressed for the camera, she’s dressed to cry.”

    No longer willing to finish the conversation, the Smiths turned from the Commissioner, now fielding questions, and returned to the PI’s rust-spotted Tercel.

    The detective wasn’t convinced the two incidents were related, but he was uncomfortably sure this newest missing child wouldn’t be found alive.

     

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

    Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

    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.

    FP371 – Ruby: The Lone Gunman

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    Ruby Departed: A Zombie Fiction Podcast

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-one.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Ruby: The Lone Gunman, Part 1 of 1

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Download MP3

    (RSS / iTunes)

     

    This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo

     

    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, Ruby must deal with both the hungry mouths of the horde and the feverish thoughts of a rugged individual.

     

    Ruby Departed: The Lone Gunman

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

     

    Ruby Departed: A Zombie Fiction Podcast

     

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

    Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

    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.

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