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FP434 – Mulligan Smith in Slice of the Pie

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Slice of the Pie

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Human Echoes Podcast!

 

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 hears the tale of Jimmy Two-Slices and his legally dubious pizza parlour.

 

Mulligan Smith in Slice of the Pie

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

 

It’d been a hell of a day, and Mulligan wanted nothing more than to sip his slurpee in calm silence.

Walmart Mike, occupying the passenger seat as it nosed its way through downtown Capital City, had other thoughts.

The old man moved to arrange hair he no longer had, then chuckled to himself.

“Your fake paraplegic reminds me of an old pal of mine, Jimmy Two-Slices.

“Jimmy ran a pizza place out of a little house that’d been renovated into a restaurant three owners back. The only thing that changed when he moved in was that he painted every surface, inside and out, tomato-sauce red.

“Now, I say Two-Slices ran the establishment, but it wasn’t exactly like he owned it, if you know what I mean. The deed was in the pocket of fellows higher up the chain, he was just managing.

“I was there for the grand opening, and the food was crap. Tasted like I was eating cardboard slathered in rotten pepperoni. Didn’t matter much though, because, the way the suits saw it, the less business he did the better.

“See, most of what went in and came out of the shop was just on paper. Every Wednesday was a supposed bumper crop of sales. I mean, Jimmy was lucky if he shifted a couple of pies through the door, but the situation went a long way towards covering the inexplicable tax income for quite a number of broken-nosed mouthbreathers.

“Thing is, there wasn’t an evening when I’d wander in there that Jimmy wasn’t singing along to some whiny country song and tossing dough he’d probably never sell. That’s why they called him Two-Slices, by the way: If you were stupid enough to order one, he’d always double it for you because there was so much extra lying around.

“It was quiet though, because most of the boys couldn’t stand his taste in music. I’ve never cared one way or another, so I’d go in when I needed ancient cold coffee and a moment alone. I remember being in there one time, gnawing on a wedge of sand smothered in cheese and watching the flies gather on the windowsill, when a couple lads from the far side of town tossed a brick through the front window.

“Jimmy starts giving the kids what-for, figuring they’re just a pair of a-holes from the block, but we both knew better when a bottle of Smirnoff with a smokey chaser followed.

“Professional job too. Most amateurs overfill their cocktails, which causes no more fuss than a bunch of splashed stink and maybe a small puddle of flame, but these guys knew to give it some room to breathe – as professional as French protesters.

FP434 - Mulligan Smith in Slice of the Pie“My first thought was to get out the door. The flaming gas was making its way across the tomato-coloured floor and counter like a frat boy at a bordello: Hot, heavy, and likely to burn down in seconds.

“Yet there’s Two-Slices shouting ‘Help me!’ and, the thing is, he meant it. That’s when I knew he was in trouble.”

Despite himself, Mulligan raised a brow.

“The Molotov wasn’t a big enough hint?” asked the PI.

“Nah, that’s the cost of doing business. It’s like this: I go on shift at Walley World you know I’m workin’ hard for my minimum wage, but it’s still just a job. I like the people and the paycheck, but if some guy came in with a gun I wouldn’t be getting into a wrestling match over it. If some meathead with a fist full of fire were to try and torch the place I wouldn’t be toastin’ my buns tryin’ to save the friggin’ jogging pants.

“Jimmy though, he’s got his apron off and he’s trying to smother the heat. Well, what if he succeeds? That place wasn’t worth more than the change in my pocket, but I wasn’t about to have my reputation crapped on by having it get around that I hoofed it when Two-Goddamn-Slices stayed to beat back the inferno.

“We got it under control, but there was plenty of smoke damage by the time we were done, and a couple uniforms came around to check what was what.

“‘Just a little problem with the oven,” says Jimbo, and they look from the glass on the floor to the brick and up to the scorch marks nowhere near the kitchen.

“Hell’d be serving Dairy Queen before those guys volunteered for paperwork, though, so they shrugged and took off.

“Still, those up the ladder were not pleased. Better in some eyes to have shepherded the insurance claim through the courts than to have drawn the eyes of even a couple street-walking blueboys.

“It wasn’t two weeks after that that the news came down, though they waited a few months before actually applying the torch, you know, to avoid suspicion. In the end, the near-miss actually gave them some cover, as they could pull in folks who’d swear to the oven already having issues. They even had a legit repairman come in and sign off on the thing once Jimmy was done repainting, just so they could wave his report in front of the judge.

“I wasn’t there for the roast, not my bag, but I heard about the tears Jimmy was leaking when the fire crews arrived. I remember thinking it was a shame too, because, even when he knew it was going to end, he kept on pushing his pies, and he was actually getting pretty damn good at it. He’d even started showing up early to pummel the dough, and the sauces had all started being handmade.

“Got to the point where I wouldn’t even groan when he handed me across a helping.“

The old man paused and smiled at the memory.

Mulligan, his slurpee now empty, slid up the highway’s on-ramp.

“So, are you trying to say that sometimes even when you try you can’t win?’ he asked. “I guess it’s being realistic, but maybe wait for a day when I haven’t lost an insurance fraud paycheck?”

“No, what I’m saying is you gotta consider the flip-side. There’s this idea out there that crime is all cash and ladies with questionable morals, but the truth is – and I know you know it – you don’t rob a chump of his twenty bones because you’re looking to get rich, you do it because you need a sandwich to fill your empty gut. You think those ladies with supposedly questionable morals are there because the pay is good and their dates are gentlemanly good times? No, but everyone’s gotta eat, or, worse, feed their family.

“So one fake wheelchair jockey managed to slip past a Smith: It sucks, but probably not as bad as whatever convinces a fella to spend his entire life looking over his seated shoulder so he can earn enough to cover his shitty apartment’s rent.

“Now quit your whining and I’ll buy you some dinner. I know a place. It may not be the greatest you’ve ever tasted, and the paint may make you feel like you’re trapped in a ketchup bottle, but Jimmy Jr. won’t let us leave hungry.”

 

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.

FP423 – The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3

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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 run from a car crash and find ourselves under the watchful eye of the law.

 

The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3

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

 

September, Year One
Excerpt Source: Verbal Debrief Following Operation El Soñador

Adviser: Major Nelson Wily
Subject: Corporal Jennifer Glat, AKA Ms. Atlas

Atlas: I’d have thought the target would simply surrender once injected with a foreign substance and having his arm shattered in a wrecked vehicle, but I rarely understand the motives in this sort of incident.

We deployed to the scene after a unit involved in [redacted] detected the signature of a dangerous strain of bioengineering.

Wily: Did you actually see any of the new dogs in use?

Atlas: Yes, we had three helping us with door knocking. They’re really just smaller versions of the room-sized machines immigration uses to weed out potential medical problems in green card applicants – cancer, lung issues, inherited conditions, whatever might be a drag on the healthcare system – but they’ve managed to cram it all onto the quadruped mechanical frames that normally only hunt the stinkier narcotics.

Wily: Huh.

Atlas: Anyhow, as I was saying, the dog’s footage clearly indicated five runners, and, since we knew [redacted] and his bodyguard had nothing more than an empty needle on them, we figured the [redacted] had to have been squeezed into one of the absconders.

Head and I were sent directly from the facility in [redacted], and, as per orders, we split duties. He went aloft to coordinate the drone and helicopter patrols, and I was left to ground pound with law enforcement.

As all highway and sideroad access had been locked down at the first sign of contamination, we were 90% sure the target was still within the city limits.

Wily: Just like we had him locked down at [redacted]? Hell, just like we’ve locked down the border in general?

Atlas: [redacted]

Excerpt from the interrogation of Aurelio Medina
Conducted [REDACTED] at [REDACTED], the afternoon of the subject’s escape
Interviewer: Major Nelson Wily

Aurelio: Honestly, at first I couldn’t even believe I was able to stand up. I mean, I looked over and the trio of teen girls seemed to be all right, but the brothers were clustered around the youngest, yelling at him to get up. He wasn’t going to though – not then, not ever.

At least they got to escort his casket back when they were deported.

Anyhow, I ran. Eight blocks over I found a 7-Eleven, amazingly one with an exterior payphone, and I managed to dial my, uh, friend, whose name and address I can’t seem to remember. He drives a cab under the table. I remember sitting on the bench, clutching my arm and breathing heavily. I was probably in shock, but no one approached to ask if I was okay. There were never even news reports that I’d been spotted there, although plenty of people had wandered along to buy smokes and lottery tickets.

FP423 - The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3It was like I was invisible.

I was a sitting duck on that bench. I kept losing consciousness. I had this dream that my mouth had disappeared, that I was helpless and alone, and it seemed like I woke and wasn’t able to scream. Maybe I did.

A second time I floated up, and I was lying in the cab, but the beating of the crash had set in. My body felt bruised and swollen, and it felt like I was expanding to fill the whole back seat. My cousin told me later that he was afraid I was going to push out the windows or break the doors.

Wily: Why didn’t you seek medical attention? Your, uh, friend didn’t want to get caught with you?

Aurelio: Ha – yeah, right. I was a border jumper who’d fled from a car crash partially caused by a US government hunting machine. I’d been injected with what I thought was a high powered drug causing me to hallucinate all sorts of weird things, and I had no money to cover whatever care I needed even if I could get it.

No, I don’t blame him for not dropping me at the hospital – I thank him.

Wily: So where did you end up?

Aurelio: Let’s just say it was a townhouse shared by a few others. I was given a mat in the basement, and I guess my cous – uh, friend, had to fight pretty hard to keep me there. His roommates had seen the news, and they weren’t excited about having a bunch of guys in riot gear pounding down the door. They simply wanted to be left alone to earn a few bucks and help their people back home. I don’t blame them either.

There were more dreams while they argued. My arms weighed a million pounds and I couldn’t lift them. My fractured bones were grinding against each other like the other half of my forearm was a snake trying to cuddle up to me..

For a night and a day and a night, I slept, then I rose hungry. So hungry.

There was a cup of water beside me, and I drank it in one long gulp. No one was around, they all had jobs to be at, so I stumbled to the fridge on the main level and pulled it open. It was a mix of stuff – fresh vegetables, takeout leftovers, random condiments – I ate it all.

It was while I was chugging down the last of the milk that I realized I was using my broken arm to lift the carton. The pain was gone, and so was the break.

The thing is, I was still exhausted – or maybe it was the big meal making me tired. Whatever the case, I refilled my water cup and went back downstairs.

Now, you have to understand, this wasn’t a fancy place, this wasn’t a McMansion in the suburbs, it was a dozen bodies living in a too-small space, but, with my belly full, my body whole, and my bed firmly in America, I went to sleep pretty satisfied.

I dreamt I was flying.

Shouting woke me a few hours later. The owners of the food I’d eaten were chewing up my friend and he was trying to keep them from heading down the stairs to kick my ass.

Still, I felt lighter. Trimmer. Limber.

Turning the corner at the top of the landing I figured I’d make some apologies, promise them that I’d pay them back as soon as I made a few bucks – and, by the way, did they know of any jobs?

Thing was, they all stopped to stare as I came into the kitchen. I was spreading my hands wide, you know, to show I was sorry and didn’t mean any harm, and I felt my shoulders brush against the walls.

September, Year One
Excerpt Source: [redacted].com/rambling/Aurelio.html

Author: Head

Title: You Will Believe a Man Can Fly

Body:

So there I was in the helicopter, but, if I’m totally honest, I wasn’t crazily into the whole thing. Sure, it was neat to be deploying clusters of drones from a whirlybird, and to mentally send those whizzing around the block, but, once I’d gotten yelled at for losing a couple toys while conducting an alleyway re-creation of the Deathstar Trench run, most of the fun was out of it.

We’ve done things I can get behind. We’ve made a difference, I think, but – well, chasing some poor bastard who really only wanted to blend in and live a not-miserable life didn’t seem like the best use of a guy with an illegal computer in his brain and a woman who can punch buildings sideways.

That isn’t to say, though, that it didn’t have its moments.

I’m sitting there, supposedly scanning social media for any personal communications or sightings that might give us a lead, but really just boredom trawling, when the chopper’s heat rig – usually used to bust grow ops with hot roof tiles – goes nuts.

It was the fever caused by the serum that gave Auerlio away.

Well, I mean, that and his giant soaring wings.

 

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.

FP422 – The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twenty-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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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 hear the tale of Aurelio Medina, a man on the run.

 

The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Excerpt from the interrogation of Aurelio Medina
Conducted [REDACTED] at [REDACTED], the afternoon of the subject’s escape
Interviewer: Major Nelson Wily

Aurelio: I loved Mexico, but I wasn’t sure I could survive my corner of it. While there were many places in my beloved country that I’d heard were beautiful and untouched by the violence upon my doorstep, I knew there was little chance I’d ever see them in my Abuelito’s broken down pickup.

Yet America was inescapable: It arrived to me on my cousins lips and through the very air around my radio. If you don’t want people to come to this country, why do spend so much time advertising yourselves?

We sometimes sat on the roof of our squat home, waiting for the summer heat to drift out the open windows, and I’d wonder what made this patch of desert so different than what I’d seen beyond the fence outside Ciudad Juárez.

When I asked my grandfather he’d just say, “it’s the same sand.”

Every now and then a relative from down south would come by, looking to stay before meeting with the sort of unshowered fellas who run secret trucks across the border. They’d always make the same pitch to me – you’re young, strong, smart, come with me – but my answer was always no.

The old man had spent most of my life looking after me, and, though he’d never admit it, his knees were getting bad enough that he needed me to return the favour.

They weren’t the only people trying to sucker me into something though, and some weren’t willing to take no for an answer.

[inaudible]

Aurelio: No, it wasn’t fear – not exactly, anyway. One day Tito was down at the shop, grabbing a pack of Marlboros, and he caught a local tough guy, Bruno, screaming names at his aunt. Apparently Mrs. Rojas had given his mother an ear full of news on her son’s misdeeds, and even some gangsters still blush to hear their mama is disappointed in them.

FP422 – The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3Bruno hit his tia, slapped her across the cheek, really, and my Tito gave him some of the same. I can’t imagine there was much force behind his stick arms, but the thug got back in his truck and took off.

Pops was shaking when he stepped into the kitchen and told me the story. He finished by saying it was the end of it, but we both knew it wouldn’t be. It wasn’t even the end of it for that day.

We were on the roof, that night, when an SUV came barreling down the road and swung into our yard. Abuelito stood, shielding his eyes and telling me he thought it was Mr. Torres come to return his ratchet set, and there was a Pop-Pop-Pop.

The engine noise was disappearing over the horizon by the time I managed to make it to the patch of dirt where my grandfather had fallen.

Maybe I could have moved south. Maybe I should have. My nearest relatives, though, were really only an hour’s drive away – well, if it was a quick line at the border.

I guess I knew who to ask, enough of my cousins had gone over, but I also knew I couldn’t trust anyone who knew Bruno, and that made things tricky.

That’s how I found myself in the back of a short box truck, huddled behind a plywood board that was supposed to fool immigration into thinking it was the back wall of the storage area. It was me, a couple with a baby, four thick-armed brothers who complained the whole time that they’d had a better plan but had been held up visiting family, a trio of teen girls looking to be nannies if they could stay away from the grabby-handed bastards behind the wheel, and two others.

Listen – those two others… they’re the ones who did this to me. One looked: Well, let’s just say he was making a statement with his knuckle tats – but his partner’s fingernails were manicured, and he was getting a nice suit dirty. They also knew the white guys behind the wheel.

Wily: Interesting – and these two men held you down and gave you wings?

Aurelio: [Inaudible]

Wily: Sorry, just a joke. They look, you know, majestic – I mean, they’re feathered at least. A pair o’ leathery bat wings would be creepy as hell.

Aurelio: Just fix it. Please.

Wily: Oh, yeah, that’s just what I need, a bunch of Texan taxpayers getting wind that we’re giving you free medical care.

Both: [Laughter]

Wily: Honestly, we don’t know how to help until we know what you were stuck with. Finish the story okay? Every little bit helps.

Aurelio: It was a long trip, and it was hot. There was a lot of moving and braking and moving again, and there wasn’t enough room for more than the lady with the baby to sit down. Eventually we stopped, it must have been six hours in, and there was a pause.

We could hear talking outside the truck, then a curse, and the guy who originally took my money started yelling “run!”

Well, we weren’t sure if he was talking to us or to his partner, but we were halfway to the door before the engine gunned it and the floor lurched forward. Papa caught Mama who held baby, but we all went down like bowling pins.

Knuckles managed to get one of the double doors open, and we see a dog.

I don’t know if they call them that over here too. I mean one of those four legged robots that sniff drugs and such at the crossing.

Wily: Yep.

Aurelio: It was a big dog, bigger than they look on TV at least, and it was chasing us at top speed. I swear it was digging pits in the pavement as it ran.

Tats and the suit started arguing, then a well-tended finger was raised in my direction, and I was grabbed. Everyone else was already screaming, so I joined in, but it didn’t matter. I don’t know if it was just the panic, but the needle looked huge – like the kind of thing you’d see in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Anyhow, they poked me, and we made it maybe three blocks. The driver was hauling too fast for his corner, though, and we went sideways. Both doors were flapping by then, and we started tumbling around in space like barbie dolls caught in a dryer.

Suddenly, I was on the lawn. I don’t know if I passed out, or if I just don’t remember the middle bit, but my arm was broken. I realized there was a trail of us, spread across a kids playground like discarded toys. One of the white guys had jumped from the cab and started running, so the dog headed his way.

That’s when I went the other.

 

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.

FP420 – Mulligan Smith in Inheritance, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twenty.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Inheritance, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 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

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Mob

 

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 watch a torch pass as we honour our fallen dead.

 

Sgt. Smith and Son in Inheritance, Part 3 of 3

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

 

Mulligan Smith sat, in the clean-floored apartment he’d rented since moving from his parent’s home nearly twenty years previous, thinking about his dead father and the word ‘Pentel.’

He was shaking.

It had been twelve hours since he’d learned of the murder, and no more than fifteen since the knife had found the old man’s belly. A hush-toned phone call from a friend on the force, who’d been summoned to the scene, had delivered the news.

Smith had seen his father just that morning – had, in fact, lent him his cellphone after a sudden appearance in the Denny’s at which the private investigator had been conducting a meeting with a suspicious husband.

Mulligan was no stranger to loss, but the weight of not knowing who was responsible – not even having a loose end onto which to grab and unravel the mystery – clutched at his lungs and spine like a stone gargoyle.

Twelve hours and he was no closer to an answer. “Pentel” was all he had.

Sitting on the loveseat that acted as his living room’s only furniture, Mulligan again scanned the rows of filing cabinets aligned against the walls. Over half of the boxy metal shelves contained his father’s notes, assembled by date across a lifetime together. The others overflowed with archives kept from previous jobs, and receipts filed away for tax purposes.

Despite Mulligan’s searching gaze, none seemed to hold any answers.

He knew too well that the city was full of blades eager to trade a petty death for a wallet, but the only thing that had been missing at the scene was Mulligan’s own phone. The uniforms on duty hadn’t even known to look for it until he’d mentioned the device.

The PI had immediately set about running down the short list of former acquaintances and enemies who might bear a grudge at an old arrest, but the sergeant had retired so long ago that most had either died, given up on vengeance, or were never likely to cease rotting in jail.

He had held a brief interview with Bobby Sweet, the most recent to be released from prison.

Mulligan had ambushed him while Sweet was hassling his roommates for cigarettes on his halfway house’s stoop.

“The ornery mute who put you under all three times is dead,” Smith had opened.

The Sweets had a legendary history of felonies and public offenses – many unknown, some nothing more than myth – and the sergeant was as mixed into it as any who’d survived the Capital City police force for decades.

“Oh yeah, that’s a goddamn shame,” said Sweet, and Mulligan had nearly lept the trio of steps between them before his brain took the time to process the comment and realized the aging con actually meant it.

Mulligan SmithAnnoyance at his own lack of control had been enough to push the detective back into his Tercel, where he’d sat gripping the wheel for a good five minutes, not sure if he would scream or tear up.

He’d done a little of both on the drive to his father’s home.

There’d been nothing at the square kitchen table but silence, yet Mulligan had remained, absorbing the emptiness of the place.

It had come to him then in small pieces – something slightly askew: His mother’s always dusted and replaced collection of salt and pepper shakers appeared turned slightly inward; the cupboard drawers not quite as flush as the old sergeant had been sure to close them; even the worn rugs seemed out of line with the pattern on the linoleum he’d once enacted his toy car chases upon.

Maybe it was just his imagination, Mulligan had thought, or maybe someone had come to search the house while trying to make it appear as if they hadn’t.

Smith’s own ensuing three-hour-long hunt turned up nothing but frustration. He’d been on his way to the door, exhausted and pulling his black hoodie over his collapsed shoulders, when he’d reached for the ancient family photo that had eternally adorned the wall next to the entrance. Here was the last time Ma, Pa, and child had smiled together on film.

A slip of paper had fallen from behind the frame, the handwriting immediately obvious as his father’s own.

“Pentel” was all it said.

As he’d done with every other scrap his father’s pen had touched, Mulligan had carried it home for filing. He’d never considered where he’d picked up the habit.

Now, staring at the photograph he’d relocated to the top of his gray steel filing cabinets – it’s placement marking it as one of the few ornaments to adorn the white walled apartment – Mulligan despaired at what he’d lost, and what he would never learn.

The old man had been his best friend in many ways, but there was so little he’d truly known about the figure who’d raised him. He’d read the work tales, sure, but who had he been before the uniform? Where had his tongue gone?

He was sure he would never know.

Pentel?

“The Pentel method,” he suddenly said aloud, his mouth tripping on a recollection his mind had forgotten.

Pleased to have some reason to keep busy, his hands and eyes were soon digging through his collection of parchment. Reading through the stacks of notepad and stationary pages felt almost as if exhuming a grave – here was the memory of every conversation he’d ever had with the codger, here was every argument, every Sunday invitation to Eggs Benedict, (as if they couldn’t just assume it would happen, as it always did,) and every recollection of the former cop’s cases gone by.

Trivialities, questions, and reviews of television shows – but also Pentel.

Pentel repeated a surprising number of times – once a year, slipped sideways into some other conversation, but often there.

Though the elder Smith was a mute, he’d never been short on discussion. The method had been lost in a landslide of such facts and novelties.

“That pencil on notepad trick reminds me of the Pentel Method MI6 used,” the letter said, in response to a cheating husband case from a half-decade previous, “get a Roller Writer with which to scribble your text, press it hard against the clean side of a sheet of paper, and bam – you have a perfect invisible duplicate until someone sketches over top in ink in that same way. Then you just need to burn the original.”

The conversation had looped back from there, returning to a joke about the husband losing his shirt in the divorce just as he’d lost his pants in Mulligan’s photo.

It was a short sprint to the junk drawer, and a ballpoint pen.

There was no response when he shaded the empty portion below the message.

Flipping it flat on its face, however, brought up a full page, dense with text – the problem was that it started mid-sentence.

Mulligan returned to the previous day’s papers, but the story, something about a boy named Ezra that the Sergeant had apparently known in his youth, still was not at its beginning.

Grabbing up a sheet from just the week previous, and one from the days just after the junior Smith had hung his shingle as a private detective, the son’s hands became calm and steady, even if his tears said otherwise.

Somewhere in the hard steel shelves was the killer’s name, Mulligan was sure. Why else had the house been searched? Where else would the old man have hidden an answer?

He would find it – and the monster who’d ended the last of his family. Then he’d show the bastard some of the other tricks the old man had taught him.

First, however, he had a lifetime with his father to explore.

 

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.

FP402 – Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and two.

Flash PulpTonight we present Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Melting Potcast

 

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 Tony Dibbs, a man with absolute power.

 

Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop

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

 

He was dressed in the uniform of the plainclothes detective. In an age of t-shirts and low hanging shorts, however, his cheap suit and tie marked him a cop as quickly as if he were still knocking around pavement squatters in his patrol blues – but Tony Dibbs didn’t mind, he was proud of his occupation.

In fact, he was proud to be Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop – so much so that when speaking in the third person, as he often did, it was entirely how he referred to himself.

The shack in question was two stories high, but old enough that the extra space didn’t mean extra money. The siding was wood and original to the place, but rot had set in and the nails had begun to give. Pulling free of their bonds, patches of the long white slats had warped, and were now really only being held together by luck and the natural settling inherent to decades of being ignored.

As he reached the halfway point of the yellow front lawn, the road-facing screen door swung out like a yokel’s skewed jaw. A woman in a cotton nightshirt stepped onto the stoop.

“Yeah?” she asked, her eyes having pegged his profession immediately.

“Fuck off, Tasha, or we’ll talk about last Saturday night,” answered Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop.

Tasha was uninterested in discussing snorting a one-night-stand’s cocaine, in the bathroom of a dive bar, with the man of the law, and, as if a nosferatu, an imperceptible shuffling step carried her back into the shadows beyond the house’s entrance.

Percy, Tasha’s inconstant love interest and source of inestimable weekend drama, was in the backyard, nestled close to a flaming barrel in which he was igniting garbage he could not afford to have tagged for the city to remove.

“I’m no fire warden,” began Dibbs as he approached, “but I’m pretty sure setting light to bags full of half-eaten McDonalds is a crime in this town. Probably falls under the same law regarding leaving burning bags of dog shit on people’s steps.’

With a slow turn, Percy looked over the officer, then shrugged his shirtless shoulders and prodded his smoldering pile with a singed length of tree branch.

“Must be a pretty slow day downtown if they’re paying you a salary to come hassle me about waste disposal,” he answered.

“Oh?” asked Tony, “you figure that’s what I’m here about?”

The lumber paused in its rotation, then churned through a flattened collection of boxed wine husks.

“I don’t see what else it might be,” replied Percy, but his eyes were now intent on the point at which his stir met the flames.

“Remember that time, when you were ten, and you felt bad about shooting your neighbour’s dog with that pellet gun but you insisted on blaming it on the kid across the street anyhow?”

The stick stopped.

“Who?” asked Percy.

“You know, Bobby Mills, the kid across the street.”

“No – I mean -”

“You should’ve learned a lesson about coming clean back then,” replied Tony. “You sure you don’t have something you want to say?”

“I’ve got plenty I’d like to tell you, but maybe you should explain what the hell this is all about before I start providing commentary on that fugly suit?”

Tony nodded. He liked a little fight, it made the job more interesting.

FP402 - Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop“I wouldn’t talk,” replied the cop, “you have exactly two collared shirts, and one doesn’t really fit anymore. You only have the other because you won’t stop going to job interviews that will never hire a high-grade dumbass such as yourself.”

Percy pursed his lips and tossed a stack of crudely shredded cardboard boxes onto the fire. It pulled a smile from the detective. He didn’t require his special talent to read the meaning behind the red creeping into his target’s face.

“That’s a mighty fist,” said the psychic, “take your swing so they can paperclip the photo of my black eye to your resisting arrest sheet.”

Instead, Percy asked, “why are you here?”

“Two years ago you and your brother, a former meth head, murdered your mother.”

The stick in the fire began to move again. “Uh – former?”

“Your brother’s dead.”

“Shit. I guess it was inevitable, but I always hoped he’d, you know, pull out of it.”

“If he pulled out at all it was so he could then back flip into a pool brimming with rocks. He couldn’t even speak when I wandered by his gurney down at Cap City General. He still told me plenty, though.”

Up the short hill, behind the gauzy curtains that offered a view from the home’s kitchen, a round face of five appeared at the window.

“How’s your talking going, Perceval?” asked the curly haired girl.

“Perceval,” snickered Dibbs, knowing full well that young Sierra was the sole person allowed to use the name. The child was, in fact, the real reason Percy ever bothered coming back. She wasn’t his but he’d grown fond of her.

With an eye roll, Tony motioned that he should send her on her way so they could get on with business.

“All’s well,” answered Percy, “I’ll be in soon, Stay Puft.”

“Don’t give me your nice guy bullshit,” Tony muttered, in a tone low enough to keep fireside, “I know about Clifford the Big Dead Dog, remember?”

The child disappeared into the shadows.

“Yeah, the mutt thing is true, but I’ve felt shitty about it for years, and I’ve changed a lot since I was fourteen.”

“You people never change.” answered the cop, “I’ve seen what you people are really like. I’ve seen the memories of the deviant porn you people dig into when you think no one’s looking, I’ve rifled through the lies you people tell your loved ones to keep them out of your way.”

“Who the fuck are you and what the fuck do you want?”

“Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop – and that brings me to the matter of your mother, and your murderous tendencies.”

“Screw that – she asked me to help her a bunch of times, but I did no such thing.”

“Did you miss the psychic part of the title, asshole? In the end you and your brother put a plastic bag over her head and divided her earthly goods to buy crank. Almost got away with it too. The Medical Examiner was an idiot to call it a heart attack, her cancer docs had tested her system up and down, and, except for her lungs, she was as strong as a horse.”

The fire burned on, and Percy watched it. Finally, he said, “yeah, when Ma went I did have to sell a lot I didn’t want to, but every penny went to paying the ridiculously overdue rent on the shitbox behind us. I’d already learned Maury’s lesson for him, and I’ve never touched meth. Did he tell you all this as he was sick or something? You can’t seriously be trusting the blathering of a dying addict?”

“They never do believe me,” replied Tony, “but that’s always part of the problem. I can’t haul you in for something the M.E. screwed the pooch on just because I have the ability to pick through your brain like a roasted chicken carcass. Tough to keep oversight on the ability to see everything, you know? They learned that back in the NSA days.

“Still, you’re coming in one way or another.”

“You just said there’s no proof!”

“Yeah, well, the jury won’t know any better, will they? I know a guy who’s planning a robbery later this evening, and he’s pretty excited about the idea of shooting someone.”

The fire-tender turned then, confusion plain on his face, and Tony hit him hard across the mouth with a cheap looking revolver.

“Now your blood’ll be found on a weapon at the crime scene, such a shame,” said the officer.

“But – I didn’t – I haven’t -” he began to answer, but the ringing in his ears was too heavy to continue.

“That’s what they all say. Good luck explaining things to the judge, be sure to start with killing your mother before getting to my psychic powers,” replied the self-appointed arbiter.

Smiling, Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop, returned to his car.

 

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.

FP394 – The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The P.G. Holyfield Appreciation Dept.

 

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, Thomas Blackhall, master frontiersman and student of the occult, chases dark portents into a small town on the river’s edge.

 

The Weeping Woman: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

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

 

On a morning so fierce and dry it made even the greenest timber seem at threat of flaring up from simple exposure, Thomas Blackhall stumbled into the village of Malhousen.

He had been summoned over the mystic aspect of an apparent impending demise.

Malhousen proper was little more than a trading post facing down a small churchyard, but the two dozen families that populated the surrounding rocky lands were on friendly enough terms to call each other neighbour, and the occasional mail delivery seemed to indicate that the government agreed on the designation.

Still, visitors were a rare thing that far off in the bushlands, and there was no public house, nor inn, motel or tavern – as a field-tromping farmer had passed word to Thomas that any with interest enough to make the journey likely did so because they knew someone in the area well enough to board with them.

“If you need a place to stay, though,” the muck-handed man with the broad straw hat had said, “I’m sure a few coins could clean mother’s sewing parlour for the evening.”

The offer had stood as long as it took Blackhall to explain what had brought him.

Strolling beyond the low white fence that separated the churchyard cemetery from non-hallowed turf, Thomas came to the river that had given the town its name, then cast off his gear with the tender concern of a man who’d just spent a full two weeks cursing at its weight.

Retrieving a small pouch from his breast pocket, he lay his great coat across his packs and sat upon the sandy bank to take in the current’s breeze. In time his fingers found a fine Spanish paper and stuffed it with tobacco, then, in more, the sun nuzzled the horizon.

Not being the Sabbath, there seemed to be only the church’s red-faced Scottish priest to glower at the stranger loafing away the afternoon.

At first, as his smoke had chased the water bugs downstream, Blackhall had thought that the cleric was simply the type to disapprove of all outsiders, but, by the hour at which his stomach began to call for supper, Thomas had decided the Scot likely knew why he was at hand, and that the holy man wanted nothing to do with his occult concerns.

It was his thinking that a true busy body could not be content to maintain a distance, but the priest had spent his day at just the distance necessary to be always aware of Blackhall’s position.

As Thomas began to consider what he was carrying that might appease his complaining appetite, a man exited from the trading post, walked the short breadth of its porch, then joined him on the riverbank via the fence-side route.

Blackhall: A Skinner Co. Fantasy Fiction Podcast“I apologize,” said the prematurely-graying newcomer. “I’m Wyatt, the man who requested your presence. I would’ve joined you earlier, yet – well, you may’ve noted that business is sluggish, but what customers I receive depend on the regularity of my habits.

“I should also mention that my ears aren’t of much use. Though I could hear till my eighteenth year, they’re long gone now. It makes me poor conversation, as I talk too much about nothing and with little response. I’ve some skill at reading lips, but there are few here who will allow me to practice. They have fields to till and cows to slaughter, I suppose.”

“You’re sole occupation is running the store?” asked Blackhall, his words slow and clear.

The man raised his brow.

“The store?” repeated Thomas, his fingers waving in the squat shack’s direction.

“Oh, I act as middleman between those who grow beats and those who grow potatoes. The potato men come to me for their beats, the beat men come to me for their potatoes, and I make barely enough between them to taste either.

“In addition, the same boatman who collects the post brings up a selection of needles and dry goods that I resell. Despite my deafness I hear complaints over even that tiny profit.”

Blackhall nodded, and the shop keep smiled to have a friendly ear.

“The truth,” he continued, “is that I receive a child’s treatment because of my conversational difficulties. You’ve been a kind audience, but those who care for anything beyond inquiring about carrot seed often grow loud, which is a body posture as much as a tone, and neuter their language to a level more appropriate for a mush-headed bairn.

“It is usually those same folks who can’t scratch their own names, and thus can’t simply write out their orders and questions for prompt service.”

“It must be a lonely life,” Blackhall repeated until the man caught his meaning.

“It’s the postal counter that most keeps me in place,” replied Wyatt. “I’ve made a tangle of friends across the globe with those simple scraps of paper, and I collect more news than a dozen broadsheet hawkers. It was those same that gave me your name to search out when the matter of the death bringer raised itself.

“Still, as you can perhaps tell, I do long for the simple pleasure of seeing a face react, instead of outwaiting the slow transmission and careful composition of a letter.”

The conversation continued forward in little ways until dusk, but, due to their minor discussion, they did not note the departure of the flame-haired priest on his sagging, silent, pony.

By the time the frogs had begun to sing and dew was forming on the grass, Wyatt and Thomas were no longer alone.

Several men with lanterns, slurring courage and raising enough noise to find each other despite the wobbling of their illumination, began to gather about the white picket fence.

Their filth-kneed pants marked the crowd as farmers, but Thomas could discern nothing more as they took to shouting commands and demanding answers, simultaneously and without deference for his neighbour’s bellowing.

The priest was close behind.

It was as the Father moved to the forefront and raised his arms for silence, however, that there came, from beyond the river, the keening sound of death – a high and jittering wail that was no more dampened by the babble of men and water than would be a bullet.

Then the evening’s trials truly began.

 

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.

Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

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

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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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.