Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-eight.
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 Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his recently sober apprentice, find themselves unexpectedly asking questions in a seedy boutique.
Coffin: Weakness, Part 3 of 6
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
“Well,” said Bunny, “you know what they say: ‘third porn shop’s the charm.’”
The paramedic to her left grunted, but beneath its surgical-mask disguise its spiraling rows of teeth flexed and salivated. His eyes were fixed to a rental ad featuring a woman kneeling before a broad pair of hairy legs.
Catching his gaze, Bunny winced.
“It’s not what you think,” she said, “no one actually gets eaten in Flesh Eaters V.”
Though perhaps it was indeed what had first drawn its attention, the truth was that the driver of The Phantom Ambulance had been caught wondering how it was that it had come an unknowable distance into this horrible dimension of delicious temptation only to find itself acting as chaffeur, between lewd dens that smelled of sweat and meat, for the very entity that denied it a meal.
On the far side of the counter’s clouded glass, a woman with thick plugs in her earlobes and a look of boredom on her face shrugged at Coffin for a second time.
“I’m not really supposed to discuss the customers,” she repeated.
“I understand,” replied Will, “but I’m asking on behalf of the elderly woman who recently woke up to discover him at the foot of her bed. This guy would probably be browsing a lot of sleep fetish material.”
Dragging her focus across his battered leather jacket, then his companions, the clerk bit her lip.
Coffin pushed. “He’d be pretty though – too pretty, you’d think, to be lurking in a place like this. No offense.”
“Yeah, I know him. Valentine Giovanni. I actually figured it was a fake, and I respect a little flair – most people just stick to John Smith around here – but it’s how he introduces himself when you call his voicemail, and I’ve always just gotten his voicemail. He’s always quick to show though. Kind of, uh, disturbingly quick.
“He definitely started on the sleep fetish thing but, well, the guys big on variety. I thought I’d seen it all till he started asking us to import foreign films that’d make my pupils bleed. In the end we weren’t even sure how legal they were, so we had to tell him we weren’t going to anymore. He still constantly comes in looking for something new though.”
Her arm moved across her stomach as she spoke, and the ring-heavy fingers of her right hand wrapped themselves around the nautical scene depicted on her left forearm.
After a moment’s pause she uncoiled and scrawled a phone number.
“You didn’t get any of this from me. The owner would be pissed if they knew I was giving out details about such a big spending customer.”
* * *
It was Bunny who left the message.
“Hi, this is, uh, Marilyn, on behalf of Ms. Flores. She’d like to extend a, er, financial opportunity. In exchange for certain, you know, services, that she feels you can provide.”
Seconds after making his appearance in the 7-Eleven parking lot she’d suggested as their midnight meeting place, however, Valentine Giovanni was on to the fact that something was amiss.
Perhaps it was the strange man in the surgical mask who wouldn’t stop staring at him from behind the wheel of his parked ambulance, perhaps it was the fact that the Marilyn, waiting at the center of the pool of light, was clad entirely in denim.
Whatever the case, he first turned to leave, then, at the approach of running boots, began to fade entirely from existence – a maneuver he usually undertook only under the cover of darkness and in the privacy of an unexpectedly invaded bedroom.
His crisp blue irises and finely lined cheekbones were nearly translucent when the Crook of Ortez, Coffin’s most constant tool, swung wide and planted its intricate hook deeply into his left eye.
“Gah!,” he said, jerking forward and becoming again whole.
“Get in the ####ing ambulance or I’ll poke the other,” suggested Bunny.
Two blocks later, with the incubus clutching his wound and Will still clutching the attached chain, the story began to come out.”.
“I needed money,” the night visitor was saying while trying to breathe through his pain, “I – the world has gotten strange in the last two hundred years, and I do not just mean the flux of mystic energies. You must understand that I am driven to see these things, I can not help myself. When the internet arrived, there was so much to see, to order, to hire and, eventually, to pay for.”
“Uh,” said Bunny, “can a guy like you even get a credit card?”
Giovanni sighed. “There are ways. There are people who will help those like me procure things not easily had. It is much more dangerous, however, to run up debts with those same sorts of people.”
“Let’s see,” replied Coffin, “the news anchor wouldn’t want her career ruined by a sex tape, the trophy wife wouldn’t want her marriage interrupted, and I guess being outted as a gay Catholic school principal is a tough gig. How much were you asking for the blackmail?”
“They – I do enjoy variety, but I was told – made – to record every victim. How much? As much as I owed, plus interest. Too much, I guess, since that scammer Pendleton got wind of the situation.”
“What did that matter?” asked Bunny.
“Pendleton had information, or he thought did. About the, uh, people I was working for.”
She frowned. “So you killed him. Them.”
“They – the people – did, yes.”
It was Coffin’s turn to pose a question.
“Who are they?”
Even with one eye, Valentine’s gaze made it clear he thought it ridiculous for Will to even inquire.
Standing, Coffin brought up his left hand, pulling Giovanni along with him. As the daemon grasped at the chain above, Will’s right deftly undid the button on the man’s well cut slacks and dropped them to the floor.
Suddenly the shaman’s right hand was full of a new instrument Bunny had not yet seen. A bone handled pocket knife, with a blade of silver and a sharp series of serrated edges at its base.
Placing the cold edge beneath Valentine’s rapidly retreating scrotum, Will repeated himself.
“Who are they?”
“The – merda – the damnable spider children, alright? They were the ones who hired Jenny GreenTeeth, they were the ones who hired the cleaners, and they were the ones who made me pay for it.”
“I used to know a girl in high school we called Jenny GreenTeeth,” muttered Bunny, “she’s probably Jenny NoTeeth now though.”
With the information out, and the joke made, the apprentice had expected an end to the ugly scene playing out on the bench opposite.
Instead, Coffin brought up his knife and, with a sure flick of his wrist, removed the only tool the incubus had ever known.
A meal or a morsel, the paramedic did not discriminate.
Flash Pulp is presented by https://www.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.
Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/
Text and audio commentaries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.
– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.