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Flash Pulp 135 – Influence, Part 1 of 1

1 Mar

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-five.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Influence, Part 1 of 1

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(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the free audio-novella, Boiling Point.

Find out more at http://neilcolquhoun.com

 

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 tell a chiller tale, regarding Clifton Wade – a man who finds himself in a tenuous situation.

 

Flash Pulp 135 – Influence, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Clifton Wade leaned against the exit, his eyes locked on the ground, and the sliver of light that was the only illumination in the tiny room.

His breathing seemed to bounce from the ceramic tiles and close walls, in perfect time with the metronome tapping of the dripping sink. He whimpered in the darkness of the bathroom, his left hand solidly locked on the brass knob, and his right on the white, plastic, light switch.

Flooding the room with fluorescence was tempting – so much so that his fingers were sweating. He knew, however, that he couldn’t; if he flicked on the glowing tubes, he would be unable to tell if a shadow passed over the far side of his meager barricade.

Fearful tears stung his eyes.

There was little he agreed with his Mother-in-law on, but now, as he wished himself invisible, her words rose to taunt him.

“Cliffers, you should have that doody-mouth washed out with soap.”

In the apartment beyond, a latch rasped, and the sharp click of a suddenly-released handle brought his lungs to a halt. He brushed aside the pink bathrobe, hanging down the back of the door from a white hook, and pressed his cheek to the cheap plywood.

At first there was nothing, but, after a moment, a dragging tread began to shuffle across the carpet, approaching his hidden position.

The glimmering thread, at his feet, dimmed – grunting snuffling filled its place, and he clenched against the urges of his bladder. Long seconds were measured by the ever-leaking faucet.

With a final snort, the sounds moved further along the hall, and the faint sheen returned to the tiles.

He knew it was only a brief respite.

* * *

ChillerIt had started an hour earlier, while he’d been sharing a breakfast of bran flakes with his wife of twenty years, Vanessa.

“Maybe we could consider looking into a nice place for your mom to go to? I don’t mean like a home with meanie nurses and rude neighbours – I could get a second job and swing one of those fancy golf villas in Florida? Like that pamphlet we got in the mail?” he’d said.

“Oh dear, sweetie! How in the heck can you even start talking like that? Mama doesn’t know any place but ours!”

“Honey-bunches, when you first asked if she could move in, you said it was just going to be for a bit.”

“Darnit: “The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.” Mama sent me that quote – I don’t remember who it was by, but it’s on Facebook – and she’s absolutely gosh darned right.”

“I have shown patience – but she… she always tells us what to do. I don’t like spending my evenings watching The Bold and The Beautiful. I don’t want to learn to knit! I don’t like that she picks out what we wear! I don’t think it’s appropriate that she makes me a packed lunch every day for work, and that it always includes stuff I repeatedly ask not to have! I don’t like bananas, however much potassium she may think I’m deficient of!”

“She’s just trying to do what’s good for you.”

“Honestly, honey, I love you, but – she kind of scares me.”

“Jeepers! You’re impossible when you’re like this. Let’s wait till Mama’s here, she always knows best, she can talk some sense into you.”

“Oh, #### off,” he’d replied.

It had just slipped.

Vanessa wasn’t a child – she didn’t say “I’m telling” – but he knew she’d thought it. He could read it on her cockamamie face.

* * *

There was a knock

“Mamas gotta number two. Please don’t be in there much longer, Cliffers. Poopy, or get off the pot, as they say.”

Clifton decided he had no choice but to face his fear.

Picking the knife up from the counter, he blew a kiss towards his wife’s punctured corpse. Her body was smeared in a mixture of Mr Bubble and blood, and lay awkwardly on top of the rubber-ducky patterned bath-curtain which she’d ripped down as he’d chased her into the tub – but he could see none of it in the dark.

He turned the door handle.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 134 – Coffin: Debts, Part 1 of 1

26 Feb

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Coffin: Debts, Part 1 of 1

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(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes.

It’s like a version of the Matrix, in which we write, record, and produce, three podcasts a week of pulpy flash fiction.

To subscribe, click here.

 

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, with his drunken companion in tow, must discuss a vital matter with a remnant of the dead.

 

Flash Pulp 134 – Coffin: Debts, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Will Coffin, and his acquaintance, Bunny, stood at the edge of an empty lot.

Weeds had broken through the cracked pavement which otherwise smothered more than half of the space. At the rectangle’s center sat three low cement pillars, whose exteriors were covered in graffiti that might have been recognized as tribal art in any other age.

Insects hummed invisibly in the grass tufts, and the sun baked Coffin within the heavy leather of his jacket.

“Fifteen years ago,” he said, “this was a convenience store. Those columns were the foundation that held up the roof. If I squint, I can almost still see the freezers that used to be wedged between them.”

Bunny nodded, not quite sure why her roommate had coaxed her so far from her vodka and coke.

“What happened?” she asked, hoping to hurry the trip along.

Will stepped from the sidewalk, crushing a fresh sprout of thistle beneath his boot-heel.

“Well, it burnt down. Electrical failure – poor wiring mixed with a bunch of melted ice cream and a stack of Zippo-lighter-fluid.”

“Oh. I thought it was going to be some god—-ed hell-beast with flamin’ feet, or the ghost of some arsonist —-ing hobo.”

“No. My interest largely came after.” Coffin rubbed the sweat from his palms onto his jeans, then dipped his hand into his pocket. “First though, do you see anything out of the ordinary?”

“Well, you ain’t terribly —-ing normal, but the rest is just an empty lot.”

He puckered his lips and let out a breath.

“There’s a girl who died here. Adele. She was eleven. Her Mom used to come by and leave her wreaths on the third of every June, the day it happened. There was a lot of public outcry at the time – everyone knew the store was a hazard, but it was cheaper for the owner to pay the occasional fine than to undertake repairs.”

“OK?”

Will Coffin“She’s been a great source of information for me – easily the most reasonable phantasm I’ve ever met.” He squinted. “Doesn’t mean I haven’t had to bargain. The kinds of things I need to squeeze out of these leftovers are rarely fun to discuss.”

Bunny continued to look puzzled, and Coffin realized he was stalling. He pulled his silver chain from his coat, letting the intricate hook trawl through a patch of prickly greenery.

After a moment, there was a tug on his hand. With a wrench, he plucked a pale girl into view, as if he’d pulled her from the lot’s craggy earth.

“Holy —-,” said Bunny. “Oh – sorry, I forgot you’re a —-ing kid.”

“I’m -” said the ghost.

“She’s -” said Will.

“Sorry,” continued Coffin, “I’m used to the days when I had to translate for your Mom. This is Bunny, a friend of mine. She can apparently see you without requiring an artifact.”

“Very nice to meet you.” The girl turned her smoking eyes towards the new comer. “You don’t need to worry about your language; I’ve certainly heard worse from the vagrants that squat here after dark. I may look young, but it’s been many years since I was searching for Benjamin, and got pinned in old man McWerter’s store.”

“Benjamin?” asked the stunned drunk.

“My little brother. I thought he was still at the candy rack, so I ran in – I only found out later that McWerter had carried him to safety through the back.”

As she spoke, Adele’s skin blackened and flaked away, carried from her body by currents that were the result of unseen heat. Exposed underneath, eternally, was renewed flesh.

“Twelve —-ing monkeys on an — -zeppelin,” said Bunny.

The combusting child raised a scorched eyebrow.

“My apologies,” replied Will, “- she’s new to the world.”

Coffin sat, unmindful of the bushes, or passers-by. He leaned against the nearest paint-splattered pillar, and made himself comfortable.

He waved a hand at Bunny, and she joined him..

“How’s your Mom?” he asked Adele.

“She’s alright. I guess a chatty grandmother died in the tub, on the floor below her, and they haven’t gotten bored of swapping their stories yet.”

“I’ll let her know that your brother got that job I mentioned last time. He’s started as an assistant engineer, but, considering his degree, in a couple of years he’ll be doing more design work on the cars, and less double-checking of other people’s math. He bought a dog with his first paycheck – named it Addie.”

“Wow. Thanks for sharing, but you haven’t even asked me your favour yet.”

Coffin swallowed, considering his words.

“We’ve known each other a long time. There’s another piece of news I haven’t given you, but I wanted you to hear it before the crews roll in. They re-sold the lot last month. In the morning they’ll be bringing in equipment to start moving dirt on a new McDonald’s.”

The dead child made a sound no living throat could – a mix of a giggle and a groan.

Tears sizzled, then evaporated, on her cheeks.

“What happens after?” she asked.

“I’m sorry,” he replied, “I don’t know.”

“Will – can you stay and talk till they come?”

“I owe you that much.”

It was the same service he’d provided her the first time she’d died – although, then his windpipe had been seared from the heat of dragging her from the building.

It troubled him little to appear as if a muttering vagrant, when the workers arrived with the dawn.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 133 – Sgt. Smith and The Rescue, Part 1 of 1

23 Feb

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present: Sgt. Smith and The Rescue, Part 1 of 1

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(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes.

It’s where the magic happens.

To subscribe, click here.

 

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’s father relates the tale of a sudden promotion during his early days in law enforcement.

 

Flash Pulp 133 – Sgt. Smith and The Rescue, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Mulligan,

Let me tell you how I became Sheriff of Mill County.

It was 1956. Things were different back then.

Mill County was a tiny office up north, but they needed the help – there was the sheriff, a good and reliable man, his wife, Ellie, who covered dispatch, Neddy Thompson, Whisky Taylor, and myself.

Ellie was six months pregnant, Neddy was too young to know the difference between his sidearm and his brain, and I was a mute. Worst off, though, was Whisky. Back then you didn’t think of drunks like you do now. People drank, and Taylor was one of those guys who rode out on the macho routine. We didn’t treat him as we should of – that is, with treatment – but he knew all the local riff-raff by their first name, and his hard drinking and stiff breath left everyone looking at him like he was John Wayne. In general it didn’t do to question his slurring too much.

One Sunday morning, though, Whisky and I were out staring at the pavement passing under our wheels, when we received an excited shout from the radio.

“Shots fired at 884 Maple.”

Until then the closest I’d ever gotten to a shots fired call in Mill County was the occasional complaint about someone poaching pheasant in the off-season. Those, at least, we could pass onto the game warden.

On went the lights, and down went the pedal.

Saturday was always a busy night, down on the drag – that’s when the farmers and factory boys would slosh between the two bars that hunkered across from each other at the town’s major crossroads. The Sheriff and Neddy were sleeping off a hard night’s drunk-wrangling, and the nearest alternate back-up was an hour away.

We made a hard stop in front of a one-story bungalow, and Whisky says “I’ll go round back”.

Then I was alone on the dusty cloth seats of the Chevy Bel Air.

Well, hell, my lack of a tongue meant I couldn’t yell a warning as I was approaching the house, but they knew plenty well we were there, as my wobbly partner had felt no need to spare the siren. Stupidity in the line of duty was my bread and butter at that age, so I strolled up the walk like I owned the place. I hadn’t even drawn my gun when I got the warning.

“Hey, you. Yeah, you, broke-mouth – you stay back, or Lady Fillmore will have plenty to complain about.”

I’d gotten to know Dina Fillmore via previous disturbance reports, and Lady wasn’t the term I’d have used to describe her. The wife of Bobby Fillmore – who ran one of the gin joints I mentioned previously – she was known as a stickler, and her ability to find fault in every person, and situation, she encountered, was the stuff of beauty-salon legend.

It was well understood, however, that she was largely passing on the bile fed to her by her own husband, who often left her in such a condition as to require the steady hands of the beauticians to cover her injuries.

I backed up to the road, figuring I’d put the car between myself and the revolver that the voice was waving from behind a curtain.

While I was still taking cover, there came the sound of a scuffle, then a shot. My weapon was definitely in my hands by then, but there wasn’t much I could do. If I kicked in the door, I’d likely just catch a bullet in the belly, and the drawn shades made it impossible to know what was going on inside.

I started tapping out a Morse code update for Ellie, as quick as I could, trying to tell her to wake the Sheriff. It was so painfully slow.

Before I was done, Whisky came stumbling over the fender.

“Bobby shot me!”

He showed me his arm – it was bleeding, but barely, and his tone was one of indignation, not massive internal injury. I wondered then, and I wonder now, if he maybe just cut himself in his panic to get out of the line of fire.

“Either of you jerks comes waltzing up here again and I’ll start aimin’ straight,” came the voice from the house.

We didn’t have many options – we couldn’t even lean on the local firemen, as they were just an all volunteer squad of chicken-pluckers from the packing plant. We kept the rubberneckers in their houses, and waited for someone with a higher pay-grade to arrive at the scene and make a decision.

Whisky tried screaming a bit of a dialogue back and forth, but the gunman would have none of it. The sound of Dina’s complaints came shredding through the window screen, but, at that distance, her voice was nothing but a string of pleading shrieks.

Despite his complaints, Whisky refused to leave the scene. I suspect he was mostly concerned about his long-term reputation. It didn’t shut him up any.

The Sheriff was pretty blurry eyed when he pulled-up, with Neddy in tow, and when I beeped to let Ellie know, she told me, very seriously, to take care of him.

“Galdang, galdang,” he said.

“C’mon out, Bobby,” said the Sherrif.

“Screw you,” replied Fillmore.

The Sheriff raised his aviators, and gave his eyes a good rub. That’s when the waiting began.

The day grew warmer, then colder. We sat in the car to rest our legs; we stood up and paced. We put on jackets, and took turns refilling our two thermoses of coffee from the Chinese place on Elm. Eventually some highway guys, from Walmont, came to help out – they brought donuts, and joined us in our vigil.

The boys kept trying to talk to him, but the later it got, the more we became worried about his intention to end the situation with a bullet. Neddy was sure it was going to be in Dina, but I’d suspected for a while that the whisky-dispensor’s shack was soon to be the odd-man-out – that the town had one bar too many for the size of the market – and it seemed to me that he was working himself up to ending his problems at his own hand.

I passed about a few notes saying as much, and, despite a round of jibber-jabber from Neddy, which included a suggestion he go home and retrieve his own hunting rifle, the Sheriff decided he was going to sweet talk his way into the house.

After a long hour of creeping and gentle conversation, he was in.

Nothing more happened till dawn.

There were no cellphones then, and, as stupid as it was, we didn’t really think to leave many messages with dispatch. It was just a case of nothing going on, and not thinking it through.

Both patrol cars were off the lot, so Ellie came in the family sedan that they’d invested in for after the baby’s arrival. She didn’t stop for the mail box, or the neighbour’s picket fence – she barely even stopped for the porch. We should have been at hand to prevent her from such a stupid thing, but she was so fast, even for being so pregnant.

I’d never thought of her as a big woman, but she’d been born into raising a cow herd on her parent’s plot, and she swung her belly like a wrecking ball as she bounded up the steps.

Lack of sleep, and the kind of high-powered chemicals that make a woman’s body fit to house a child, gave her voice a level of command usually reserved for ranking celestial beings and four star generals.

“Bobby Fillmore, you step out onto this porch immediately.”

If I were him, I’d have swung the door wide while begging for redemption.

Ellie was a woman ahead of her time – she’d always insisted on uniform slacks to work in, and wore a pair of Doc Marten boots, just like those of us who rode around in the cruisers.

The still unborn Avery, who would eventually come out weighing eight pounds and ten ounces, gave her the extra momentum necessary to kick through the locked door, revealing the captor within.

He may have been a suicidal nutter, but he’d been raised at a time when it was impolite to point a loaded gun at a pregnant woman – or maybe he just didn’t think a woman of her size, and state, would be a problem – whatever the case, he held the weapon across his chest as he addressed her.

“What?” he said.

She didn’t bother responding, she just laid him low with a swift kick.

As Bobby writhed on the floor, she snatched up his pistol. She disappeared further into the house for a moment, then we saw her coming back, directing her husband like an errant child, and pulling Dina along behind her.

Whisky was yelling from where he’d stationed himself as a lookout, but, by then, he’d decided his wound was probably fatal, and had taken to openly drinking away the pain of his already healing scab.

Neddy and I rushed in, but the fight was basically over. We handcuffed Bobby and hauled him away.

In the end, the fallout was that the Sheriff quit. He told me he couldn’t risk doing his job if it put Ellie in the danger of someday attempting another rescue. Whisky was offered pension if he retired early on his supposed gunshot wound, and Neddy was deemed too young – and eager to retrieve his rifle – to take on the mantel. That left me.

For for three weeks, I was the new interim sheriff in town. Before proper elections could be held, however, the powers-that-be juggled things, and the highway patrol out of Walmont were extended to cover the area.

With half of the town’s major problem centers closed while Fillmore was serving time, I couldn’t blame them.

My brief term made a great resume point, though – and I’d had enough of backwaters – so your mom and I were soon on our way to Capital City.

Anyhow, enough of one old man’s prattling, Jeopardy isn’t going to watch itself.

Love,
Dad

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 132 – Mulligan Smith and The Navel Gazer, Part 1 of 1

21 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-two.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present: Mulligan Smith and The Navel Gazer, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes.

You may need to buy a new iPhone every year, but a Flash Pulp is forever.

To subscribe, click here.

 

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 meets a fellow conspirator while watching for a corpulent criminal.

 

Flash Pulp 132 – Mulligan Smith and The Navel Gazer, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Security at the building was tight; Mulligan had already been asked to leave twice, and he suspected his picture was now hanging behind the reception desk, or beside the bank of monitors that tied together the boxy-cameras mounted on every corner and in every hall.

He’d been lead to the rental condos by a snail’s trail of paperwork that followed his accountant-turned-embezzler target, but the nature of the twenty-six floor tower – a home for out-of-town businessmen and government workers who required lodging while visiting the city to complete lengthy projects – meant the staff were well paid to root out anything that might make the occupants uncomfortable.

Smith, with his black hoodie and prying eyes, had fallen into that category.

Still, he knew the rotund accountant was somewhere inside, and the employees could do little about the PI spending his time in the small park adjacent to the rear of the building. Although it made a great selling point for the rare family who rented space in the glass and cement structure, it was on public land, and Mulligan was left alone to maintain his vigil with an unobstructed view of the tenant’s sedans and SUVs.

It was his third day, and he was beginning to feel like he’d memorized the face of every resident without having come across a match for the man whose receipt signature had led him to his stakeout. He’d spent much of the time accompanied by a silent eight year old, who busied herself with a pair of cracked, folding opera-glasses, which she used as binoculars, and a multi-pronged pocket knife, which made Mulligan nervous for her fingers.

On the previous evening he’d matched the urchin to her parents: a suit and a drunk, who let her run wild as soon as the work day began. Neither had the mustachioed look of the wide-mouthed, and beady-eyed, CPA.

Mulligan SmithThe girl’s clothing appeared costly, but unwashed, and her nails were grimy from the hours she’d spent hunkered down in the sand-pit that provided a soft landing to the playground’s winding yellow slide. He’d never seen her climb the plastic steps; she’d simply used the pit to lower her profile as she surveyed the same door he pretended not to be watching from his paint-flecked picnic table.

They’d successfully ignored each other for the most part, but, on that third afternoon, the stringy-haired blond-spy took a seat on the bench across from his own.

She tore the plastic from a package of Lunchables, and offered him a cracker with cheese and pepperoni.

“No thanks,” he replied, retrieving his own brown paper bag of food and fishing out a half eaten PB&J.

The stack of sodium went down in a single bite, and she eyed him as she prepared the next.

“Are you here about the clone?”

Suppressing a laugh was a talent Smith had learned young, and he returned the stern look of consideration that she gave him.

“What do you know about it?” he asked.

Her gaze widened.

“I used to like to swim in the basement, but last week I saw him – I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but he was yelling at me ‘cause I was running beside the pool.” She completed her cracker sandwich and scratched an errant itch at her temple. “I know I’m not supposed to, but he could have said it nicer.”

Mulligan cleared his throat.

“Listen, normally you shouldn’t talk to strangers in the park – ”

“You’ve been here a long time, and you look OK.”

“It doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t talk to strangers.” As he spoke, her face slid into dejection. He felt compelled by guilt and curiosity to fill the growing hush. “- but, uh, you saw a man in the pool who you think is a clone?”

“Yep.”

“What gave you the impression that he’s the result of some terrible science experiment gone awry?”

“Huh?”

“Why do you think he was made by a mad scientist?”

“He’s got no belly button. I’ve seen that on TV!”

“So you’ve been hanging out here watching for him?”

“I’m investigating and waiting.” She ripped open the Kit Kat bar provided for dessert. “I ain’t swimming with no clone.”

Smith nodded.

“A good plan.”

This seemed to be enough to affirm her theory, and they finished their lunches in silence.

As he swung a leg out to deposit his trash in a proper receptacle, the girl stood with a sudden exclamation.

“Holy crapoli! There he is!”

She dived to the turf as a tanned man in a breezy tropical shirt made his way out of his crisp black Cadillac – entirely oblivious to either of them – and entered the condominium.

Mulligan covered his annoyance with a string of muttered pseudo-cussing.

“Frakking Shazbot! That effing a-hole!

He’d noted the high-cheek bones and lanky face on several occasions during his wait, but it hadn’t truly registered till that moment.

An hour later, as two uniformed police officers lead the gaunt man from the same doors the PI had been surveilling, Smith congratulated the excited amateur sleuth.

“You’re pretty sharp to have noticed his missing navel, and it isn’t your fault you didn’t know that a tummy tuck could also remove his innie or outie. Next time you can Google it – my clients have been looking for this guy for a long time, and I’m guessing a laptop might be the kind of reward that would help keep you out of trouble. Just don’t bring it with you into the pool – and, seriously, don’t talk to strange men hanging out in parks, whatever they may look like.”

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 131 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 3 of 3

18 Feb

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the collected jabberings of Captain Ignatius Pigheart – tales of high seas, high adventure, and hilarity, straight from the lips of the Captain himself.

Buy the stories at CD Baby

 

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 discovers the source of his vexation, and receives an uncomfortable proposition.

 

Flash Pulp 131 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 3 of 3

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

 

As the doors slid open, Will Coffin came face to face with Bunny Davis, whom he hadn’t seen since his brief conversation with her dead husband, a week ago.

“Whoa – er – hi,” she said.

“Hello,” he replied.

As he spoke, Will moved from the elevator, his eyes scanning the corridors that stretched-out on either side.

“Can I talk to you for a sec?” asked Bunny.

“Sure.”

Despite his answer, Coffin began strolling along the carpet, heading left. After a pause, she followed.

“I really -” her throat caught, and it was a few paces before she collected herself. “I want to say thank you for talking to Tim, but – well – things have been pretty —-ed up lately. This is actually just my third night home – would you believe they wanted to charge me with murder? If I hadn’t started crying, that walrus- —-ing judge would have had me still in the can.”

Will nodded.

“So you’re out on bail now?”

“Yeah. Sort of. I mean, they let me go without paying anything, but I think it’s because they know I’m too —-ing broke to try and make a break for it.”

“Huh,” he replied. They’d reached the end of the hall, and Coffin turned back towards the way they’d come, retracing their steps at a leisurely saunter.

As he passed Bunny, her face pinched.

“Hey – whatcha doing here at this time of night, anyhow?”

“Well -” he spoke with a distracted tone, and, as he walked, his hand fumbled with something in his right-hand jacket pocket. “I noticed the smell of sulphur while I was over at your place the other day. There are a lot of stinks in a building like this, but it still struck me as odd.”

“I remember that. Really, I kind of thought it was coming from Tim’s —. —-ing Tim.”

“Yeah, well, I asked a, uh, knowledgeable friend about it, and when she didn’t have much to say on the subject, I started doing some footwork. Details like that bother me. In the end I found a couple of twelve-year-olds who told me everything I needed to know, once I’d threatened to rat about their nicotine habits to their mothers.”

“Kids? —-ing Kids.” she replied, brushing back a loose bushel of her gray-stranded hair.

It was then that he realized she was probably more than a little drunk.

They crossed in front of the elevators, and continued on.

“Children tend to hear about these things a lot sooner than their parents, and its really the strength of their faith that causes the problems.” Mid-stride, Will snapped from his reverie, and turned on the woman. He looked over her faded t-shirt and frumpy jeans. “Did you know that there were seven other murders in this building in the last five months? A father who killed his family, and then pitched himself over the balcony, and another couple, like you and Tim, who managed to strangle each other to death.”

“Nooo?”

Coffin scrutinized her bloodshot eyes.

“Will you come to the trash room with me?”

“Uhm -” Bunny pinched her gin-blossomed nose. “I don’t even – fine, whatever, but can I ask you a favour? Wait, you aren’t going to try and —-ing murder me, are you?”

“Sure, and no, of course not-” Will’s gaze had once again become unfocused, and he doubled his speed in moving back to the chromed elevator call signal. “I mention the murders because, of all the fatalities in the building over the last while, you’re the only one to survive the crime-scene.”

There was a high pitched ding, and the doors slid open. They entered, and Will lit up the button that would send them to the basement.

Bunny cleared her throat.

“My favour is kind of about that – I know you said sorry to Tim for me, but I – I don’t think he’s gone. I think he’s still hanging out in the apartment. He talks to me sometimes. Calls me names.”

Will nodded again.

“Yeah, that would make sense.”

“Sense? Seriously, how does that make any —-ing sense at all?” Her mouth was open as if she was about to go on, but the pungent smell of rotting egg began to fill the descending box.

Coffin extended the bent right arm of his leather jacket, as if he were suddenly a Victorian gentleman offering a stroll. In his grasp hung his silver chain, with the intricate hook dangling above the floor.

“Put your hand on my coat,” he requested.

She did, and he continued.

“The kids told me the story.” As he spoke, they both watched the digital floor-indicator count down. “Last winter there was a homeless man who froze to death against the double doors that lead into the garbage bay.”

“Took five —-ing guys to pry him off – I watched the whole thing from my balcony. Reminded me of the end of The Shining.”

“All right, well, they said his name was Sulphur Jack. Supposedly he spent the night hammering on the entry, begging to be let in – and that people heard, but ignored it, which is why he promised to avenge himself with his dying rasp. Apparently you smell him coming, with an odour like rotten eggs, and it drives you mad.”

Bunny’s eyes grew large.

“Holy —-. Is that true!?”

Will Coffin“Not really – I doubt the story about the knocking and revenge is true, at least, but, in a case such as this, sometimes it doesn’t matter. He was probably just some drunk looking for shelter who had the bad luck to pass out before someone exited the door and gave him the chance to sneak inside, but occasionally a legend picks up enough momentum to take on a life of its own – especially if there’s a death involved.”

Even with a belly full of gin, Bunny raised a skeptical brow.

“It wasn’t always like this,” Coffin said. They passed the second floor, and the stench became almost too much to ignore. “Twenty-five years ago, when I first got started, even adepts who knew what they were doing could barely manage a table-thump with a room full of focused people and the proper tools. These days it almost feels as if someone like you, who doesn’t mean to do it on purpose, can’t drink themselves into a stupor without stumbling into an entity.”

With a cheerful beep, the feeling of sinking stopped.

As the exit slid back, their new view was not a pleasant one.

Across a barren expanse of gray cement stood a figure in a shabby raincoat. His lips were blue, and his skin ashen. The right side of his face was torn away, exposing the muscle and bone below, and thick yellow mucus streamed from his exposed nostril.

“Holy —-,” said Bunny.

“It’s very important that you don’t take your hands off the leather,” replied Will.

Then he stepped from the elevator, with the woman still firmly affixed to his sleeve.

As he crept forward, he apologized.

“Sorry, they did mention that he was missing the flesh that stuck to the door.”

Coffin took a deep breath, and immediately regretted it – but, to reassure the former Mrs. Davis, he kept talking.

“This handsome fellow is essentially an urban legend powered by a bunch of hormonally over-active imaginations and the afterimage of a ghost that doesn’t have enough willpower left to make its own way. I know it’s tough to remember that when you can see snot dripping from his nose, and freezing upon the ground, but I’ve never found closing my eyes to be any help, because then you know they’re there, you just can’t see them.”

Although he watched their progress intently, the beggared form remained motionless and silent.

Five more steps and they’d closed the distance. With his free hand Will brought forth a key.

He held the nickel-plated shape into the view of Jack’s bulging, lidless, pupil, then spoke.

“This is a copy to the garbage area entrance. I got it from the manager of the building, and he’s also agreed to have it crazy glued outside, in the crack beside the jamb. By tomorrow morning it’ll be buried in the stuff, but that shouldn’t be a problem for you.”

Coffin felt spiny icicles spear through his hand as the apparition took hold of the metal.

Then the man disappeared, and his reek with him.

Flexing his palm, Will scooped the token from where it had fallen. He tucked both it, and the silver chain, out of sight.

“I think we’ve convinced the spirit of the dead man to move on, so long as we keep our bargain. I’d appreciate it if, tomorrow, you could start spreading the tale of why Fadi has a key cemented into the wall. We need to make an addition to the myth to be sure.”

Reaching into her rear-pocket, Bunny fished out a small plastic bottle of vodka. She removed the lid with gusto, and swallowed the contents in a single slug.

“OK,” she said, smacking her lips. “Listen. I don’t know what the —- that was, but I do know that if I go back up to my place, my dead —-ing husband is going to be slapping my — and calling me —–y —-ing names. Can I stay at your place or not?”

Will was startled at the suggestion. He spent a long moment weighing the annoyance of an inebriated visitor against the constant haunting of his own wife.

It wasn’t the first time he’d given someone sanctuary – he guessed that she must have heard such from whomever had originally spread the word of his craft to her ear.

“Fine,” he said, “but you clean up your own mess, buy your own food, and, if you’re more than a couple of days, you’ll need to start pitching in for my bills. No one stays more than a month, I’m not looking for a roommate.”

He didn’t realize then that it would be many years – well after the story of Sulphur Jack had been entirely forgotten – before their association ended.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

Will Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song – A New Man, by Kevin Macleod of incompetech.com

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

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Flash Pulp 130 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 2 of 3

16 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the collected jabberings of Captain Ignatius Pigheart – frothy tales of mermaids and seamen, as recounted by the Captain himself.

Buy the stories, full of humour and high adventure, at CD Baby

 

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 must ask a difficult question.

 

Flash Pulp 130 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 2 of 3

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

 

Stepping from the elevator, Will adjusted his hold on the television he’d recently received as payment from Bunny Davis, and moved towards the small office that adjoined the lobby. Between the slats of the aqua-marine blinds, which the building’s superintendent had hung to provide some privacy within the glass walls, Coffin could see the short Lebanese man behind a stack of paperwork.

As the manager noticed his approach, a hand went to the rosary Will knew he kept tucked in the A-shirt he wore beneath his polyester armour.

“Can I ask a favour, Fadi?” Will said through the open doorway, while balancing the TV against the jamb.

“Of course, my friend.” Fadi tried to smile.

“Rewind the tape twenty-minutes.” As he spoke, Coffin’s eyes tracked to the monitor displaying footage from the only working security camera in the entranceway.

The smile finally took, and the little man rose from his cluttered desk, making his way to the ancient VCR.

“Things are well?” he asked, his fingers stabbing at the device’s faded buttons.

“As well as ever,” Will responded. “You may want to call Kim and her friends to come by tomorrow morning though, you’ll have cruisers parked out front pretty soon.”

There was a moment filled with only the hum of the tape machine taking back time. The office dweller sucked in his lower lip and released it from between his teeth with small pop.

“That should be enough.” With a metallic clunk, the recording process began anew.

“Thanks,” said Coffin.

“No problem, my friend.” the manager replied. His grin had faded.

Will gave a quick good bye, then departed. As he did so, he saw the suit move to grab the phone – likely to make an appointment with Kimberly Berg, a mutual acquaintance who ran a crime-scene cleaning crew.

It was a short walk to his own apartment, and, after storing the twenty-one inch set in a bedroom closet stacked full with screens of all sizes, he threw his coat across the red wing-back chair which made up the only furniture in his living room.

He spent a few seconds staring at the sliding glass which lead to the balcony, then turned to face the kitchen. Stepping onto the cold tiles, Will flicked on the lone still-functioning fluorescent bulb, and considered his options. As he completed gnawing down his thumbnail, he strolled back to his bed and reached for the cheap portable phone he kept on an adjacent nightstand.

He called his sister-in-law.

The conversation took about forty-minutes, and he spent the majority of it listening, or saying “sure”.

Once he’d hung up, he stood, and his knees popped in complaint. He always felt older than his years following a talk with Peggy. Shuffling back into the hall, he spared another glance for the patio door, then re-entered the kitchen and prepared some frosted flakes with milk.

He was half way through the cereal when he dropped his bowl in annoyance.

Unable to bring himself to hold off any longer, he strode across the living room’s rough carpet and moved the locking mechanism downward.

Will didn’t bother retrieving his jacket – he didn’t need the silver chain to speak with Sandra.

Sandra was always there.

He dropped a socked-foot onto the cement outside.

Grasping the warm steel of the railing with both hands, he coughed to clear his throat, then spoke.

“Hello.”

Eighteen floors below, Sandy commenced untangling herself.

She lifted her upper body in a crisp push up, and, despite the fact that she whispered into the parking-lot pavement, her voice carried to his ear as if she had snuck up behind him while he was chasing a mystery through one of the thick tomes that lined his bedroom shelves.

“Hello, Will,” she replied, beginning to crawl towards the wall that ran the height of the building. “How are things? How’s your Mom?”

“Yeah, funny – listen, I need a favour.” His eyes never left her form as she once again forced her fingers bloodily between the cracks in the brickwork.

“Hon, if you want to come down here and have a chat, I’d love to provide you any favour you’d please. You know I’ve been missing you.” She had almost cleared the height of the first balcony, and her useless legs beat a sloppy rhythm against the mortar-work as she climbed.

“Tim Davis, from the south tower, had an accident this morning.”

“Yeah, Will, I’ve already heard about Tim. Didn’t seem like much of an accident, the way I was told it. Speaking of bladed objects to the face, do you remember the time that manifestation of Santa Claus came at you with those promotional steak-knives? Back at the Wallmalton Plaza? Long time ago I guess. Do you still hate Christmas because it? Watching you chucking presents to fend him off must have been one of the funniest things I ever saw. You’re lucky for that jacket, or it would have been you, and not that poor fleet of plastic reindeer, who ended up perforated.”

Her stalling chatter had brought her a third of the way to him, and he could see the trail of her progress staining the route. He knew that the bonds of her prison pulled tighter as she rose; that once she surrendered her will to the inexorable gravity that pulled her back to her twisted fetal position, all of the nail and flesh she’d grated away would also find its way home; but he still couldn’t help but feel a little heart sick for the fingers that had once probed his defenses for ticklish spots.

Will Coffin“There was a smell of sulphur before I went in. Other than the obvious, I can’t think of anything that would leave that sort of stench lying around. Also, after chatting with the former Mrs. Davis, I don’t think she’s capable of killing anything under her own power – even with the provocation she had. I feel like there’s something more at work.”

He took in a deep breath.

She had made it past the three-quarter mark, and he was sure she was getting faster with every attempted ascent. It was time to make his closing pitch.

“Oh, I forgot to mention, I talked to Peggy tonight. You wouldn’t believe what happened to Vilmer Jr. last week at school.”

Although their network of conversation carried much information, the dead rarely had news on the living. On those nights when Will came to talk of her sister’s family, the phantasm would often stop before even reaching the mid-point, not wanting to risk shortening the chat.

“If you have anything interesting to tell me by tomorrow morning, I’ll gladly spend some time recounting the details of Vil’s shop-class saga.”

Sandra paused, and he knew he had her – she might have been homicidal, but she wasn’t unreasonable.

“Will, you really are a dick sometimes. Fine, but you better be here early. Hey, in the meanwhile, how about telling me what else you got up to today?” She had resumed climbing, although at a slower pace.

“Sorry,” he replied.

He turned and pushed back the flimsy curtain, quickly stepping over the threshold and pulling the seal tight behind him. As he reset the small lock, Sandra’s muffled scream emanated through the heavy barrier. He felt a flush of respect for the strength with which she resisted the unseen hands that tugged her back to the center of her universe, the small patch of ground she’d inhabited for the last ten years.

Unfortunately, respect was no help when she finally flopped over the edge of the balcony, and began rubbing the juicy nubs of her fingers against the glass. He dumped the remainder of his cereal down the sink, and marooned the dirty dishes on the kitchen table.

“Sometimes you aren’t a very good wife,” he shouted.

The phone began to ring, and he was pleased at the unexpected distraction. As he retreated into the depths of his apartment to answer, however, he was chased by the squeaking sound of a wet squeegee on a filthy windshield.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

Will Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song – A New Man, by Kevin Macleod of incompetech.com

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

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Flash Pulp 128 – The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

10 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty-eight.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Flash Pulp Facebook page.

Join now, and get half off the cost of your next free Flash Pulp episode.

To join us, click here.

 

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, the Collective Detective finds itself investigating the loss of an Internet icon.

 

Flash Pulp 128 – The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

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

 

The 2nd of January

Welcomebot: Welcome To #CD-Chat, Harrisment!

FrameScalpel: I’m not saying most of her fans were following her for the right reason, but, honestly, her ability to cut clips in a way that fit her music was fantastic. She was like a combination of Thelonious Monk’s sense of timing, and Banksy’s sense of humorous visuals with a message.

MitchSlap: – and there was also her overdeveloped rack.

Harrisment: Stick it, Welcomebot.

Frame Scalpel: Hey Harris. Just explaining to MitchSlap why IdolChan was so great.

Harrisment: I was kind of under the impression it was the amount of cleavage she showed in her video blogging.

FrameScalpel: Screw you guys.

Harrisment: Ha, kidding, kidding. Lady like that wouldn’t continue to have the following she does if she hadn’t had some talent.

MitchSlap: I’m sticking with my theory that she’s actually a fake personality Spike Jonze used, but, seriously, at this point don’t you think the only reason anyone remembers her is because of the mystique of her disappearance?

FrameScalpel: No.

Harrisment: I do think that’s part of it, but Scalps has a point. She’s still the person I start throwing out links to when I find someone who’s under the impression that the vidder-community is all crappy dance music layered over badly edited anime-clips.

FrameScalpel: WTF

Harrisment: Hah – I don’t mean YOUR badly edited anime-clips.

FrameScalpel: …

Harrisment: Joking. You know I’m a fan of your work.

MitchSlap: Whatever – how far into your search have you gotten?

FrameScalpel: Well, I’ve been through all of her email addresses, her twitter account, and her Facebook communications. She had thousands of followers, and chatted with nearly anyone who’d send her something, but everything was routed through an encrypted anonymizer service, which I have yet to break, and I can’t find a single message that I can trace back to a meat-space friend. I still have no leads as to who she really was.

Harrisment: Well, don’t take it too hard, if you did know who she was, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’m between tasks at the moment, I can lend you a hand, if you’d like?

FrameScalpel: Sure, I’d appreciate it.

MitchSlap: Well, if you ladies are going to spin your wheels on this, I may as well crack the case for you. Send me what you’ve got.

* * *

The 5th of January

To: framescalpel@thecollectivedetective.com
From: harrisment@thecollectivedetective.com
Subject: IdolChan Clue

Hey,

I think I may have found something. I was watching video #23 – the one in the park? – and I finally caught a break: there’s a moment where she’s busy talking about how little respect she gets from idiots on youtube, and a guy with a dog jogs by. She mentions how cute the mutt is at 2:36, then she swings her phone around to record its passing.

If you look closely, you can catch a glimpse of the city skyline over top of the trees. I know you were thinking she was from New York, because of her accent, but that’s totally the Transamerica Pyramid – she’s got to be from San Francisco!

You weren’t around in the channel, so I passed the info onto Mitch. He seemed to think he could make some use of it, although, of course, he wants to play king and keep his hunches to himself. Still, who knows, that tool might come up with the next piece. I’m going to see if I can figure out which park she was recording in – the timestamp says it was around lunch on a Tuesday, maybe it’s somewhere near where she was attending school?

I feel like we’re getting close.

Harris

* * *

The 8th of January

To: harrisment@thecollectivedetective.com; mitchslap@thecollectivedetective.com
From: framescalpel@thecollectivedetective.com
Subject: Just Got Back

Hi, sorry about taking so long to reply.

First the greyhound was late getting into San Fran, then I had to figure out the stupid local transit. Five hours on a bus had me cranky, and maybe a bit confused, and I accidentally got on the wrong trolley.

After I finally got everything figured out, I had to walk another half-hour to her house. It looks a lot like the street view, but it seemed bigger, and a little more run down, in real life.

I’d imagined a lot of possibilities before I knocked on the door – I mean, it’s been years since IdolChan’s last video, so she’d be in her late twenties now – but the old woman who answered wasn’t what I’d expected.

I knew the address was right, I’d been staring at it long enough to have it permanently burnt into my brain, but all I could come up with when the lady answered the door was “Hi, is Lara here?” and she says “Speaking.”

I nearly fell over – but the woman had IdolChan’s eyes, and it was then that I realized that she must have been named after her mom.

We talked, and I explained about the search, and how Mitch had plowed through reams of yearbooks to find her. That’s when I started cluing in to how little Mrs. Dunning knew about the level of fame her daughter had, and has, online.

Even after my story, I’m not sure that she really got it.

Actually, at first she seemed pretty weirded out by my even being there, but, once she realized I wasn’t some crazy from the Internet, she wanted to talk about things. Eventually she showed me around the house.

The last room she brought me to was Lara’s.

It’s a time capsule, really – it’s got all these stuffed kittens on the bed. I admit, we both ended up crying.

The theories are wrong. She wasn’t Spike Jonze in disguise, she wasn’t killed in a car accident, she wasn’t kidnapped, and she wasn’t hired away by MTV to do video production.

Mrs. Dunning explained to me that she’d been sad for a long time after the move from Brooklyn, that she’d never really made any friends once they’d re-located – that she was lonely.

On her 18th birthday, with her ‘net down, and leaving only a short, soggy, note for her mom, she grabbed a bus and jumped from the Golden Gate.

After a while, we both dried up, and I just kind of drifted out the door. As she said good bye, Mrs. Dunning seemed to take a little comfort in the fact that, online, IdolChan’s legend lives on.

I’m going home now, but, if it’s all the same to you guys, I’d like to leave this case open indefinitely.

FS

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 127 – Mulligan Smith and The Bystander, Part 1 of 1

8 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty-seven.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Mulligan Smith and The Bystander, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Flash Pulp Facebook page.

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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 out in the cold.

 

Flash Pulp 127 – Mulligan Smith and The Bystander, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Regardless of the dusting of snow, a small crowd had come to gather outside 240 Maple, most of them having been drawn in by the blinking red bubble-lights of the four police cruisers parked along the road.

Mulligan, his hoodie zipped tight against the chill, watched as the KOCC reporter wrapped her story. Once the cameraman had barked out a quick confirmation that the transmission had completed, and even as the onlookers’ retinas were still aglow with the directional light’s after image, the one man crew, and the correspondent, hopped into the bright-blue news van and gunned the still idling engine.

The PI had used his rubber-necking of the brief broadcast as an opportunity to eavesdrop on the whispered conversations that shot amongst the bystanders, but his time had been largely spent listening to the spouting of an old man whose hat would’ve better served a Cossack. The pseudo-Russian had gone on at length, in a stage whisper obviously intended for more than just his wife, that if there were this many police on hand, they certainly must have the flasher in custody.

Despite the bumper-to-bumper parking, Smith had his doubts.

With his excuse for silence gone, he struck up a conversation with a wispy haired fifty-something, whose face was lost deep in her massive parka.

“Funny what some people will do,” he said.

“Yeah, guess so,” she replied in a thick Wisconsin accent. “Must be a real perverted-type.”

Mulligan Smith“Usually I’d agree, but I’m not so sure this time.” Mulligan took a step closer as he spoke. “Generally a pervert can make do just jumping out of the bushes at a park, or trawling bus-stops – by the time they get around to breaking and entering, it’s not just to share a brief view of their pride.”

“Oh?” replied the parka. “Then what happened here?”

“My guess is that the culprit is seeking attention. They probably don’t get much of it in their regular existence.”

“That’s not what the news-lady said, and everything I’ve read in the paper has made the flasher out to be a goddess in a gas-mask – a little beauty with some sort of weird fetish.”

“Yeah, well, these stories have a way of taking on a life of their own, and legends spring up. Have you ever heard of the Mad Gasser of Mattoon?”

“Uh?”

“The Mad Gasser might have been a person running around Virginia and Illinois in the ‘30s and ‘40s. See, supposedly there was this fellow with a spray gun – the old type that looks like a bicycle pump with a can stuck to one side and a nozzle at the far end – and he’d creep about in peoples bushes until they were sitting around at home watching TV, or whatever – then he’d user the sprayer to try and gas them through cracked windows, or even nail holes.”

“Gas? Did anyone die?”

“Nope, a few folks got sick though.”

“Are you saying you think she used something on her victims and that’s why she wears the mask?” the woman seemed pleased with the idea.

“No, the mask is just so she doesn’t get caught. What I’m saying is that the police chief in Mattoon actually ended up declaring the whole thing a hoax – likely just the product of hysteria, and maybe some chemical releases from a nearby factory.” Smith shrugged. “I don’t know what the reality was, but, as I mentioned, these things tend to collect their own mythology. Maybe claiming you were awoken in the middle of the night by a supple, nude, twenty-year-old makes for an easier confession than the reality of having the bejesus scared out of you by a, uh, stout mother of four, whose children are all college-aged.”

The woman’s eyes grew large, but Mulligan went on.

“Truth be told, I’m actually working for the first victim. Seems he feels his original description of the assailant may not be the most helpful thing in the world, but he’s got too much pride to go back to the police for a second round of red-faced recounting.”

“Why does he still care?” the ex-Wisconsinite asked, her voice now a squeak. “It’s never happened to the same person twice, has it?”

“Well – never mind that if this were a crime committed by a man, the outcry would be triple what it is – the basics are that my client, despite the fact that the increasing media coverage is handling this almost like a case of prankster-ism, spends most nights waking up in a sweat, and now has to get out of bed to check his door locks a dozen times an evening. I do understand a bit of where you’re coming from, though – a guy with that much money rarely has a kind word for the help, and if he’d been more honest in the first place, his pride wouldn’t be in such a bind.”

“How did you know?”

“Well, first off, I actually bothered to look into who’d temped in the house when, and if, each victim’s main cleaning lady was unavailable.” He wanted to be stern with her – he knew he should be. He damned himself for smirking. “You were the only coincidence. If your employers had paid you more heed while you were busy dusting their shelves, they could have recognized you themselves – but then, my suspicion is that if those men had been less inattentive while you were tidying, you wouldn’t have felt the need to make your nocturnal visits.”

He’d thought the woman would break down crying at the news, but she seemed increasingly happy just to be noticed.

He decided he’d actually allow the interview when the KOCC lady called later – it was the least he could do after getting the aging mother fired, and he suspected she’d enjoy the spin he’d give her saga.

He let out a short laugh before continuing.

“Anyhow, it didn’t help that you were pretty easy to spot in the background of the last incident’s news footage. Those boots are pretty tall, and your coat is pretty long, but, if people were paying a little more attention, it’s definitely noticeable that you’re not wearing any pants.”

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 126 – Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 3 of 3

4 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty-six.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Walker Journals.

Ever been to a funeral where you’re greeted at the door by the guest of honour’s slobbering mouth?

Find all the tips you’ll need to survive the zombie apocalypse at http://youtube.com/user/WalkerZombieSurvivor

 

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 wrestles with her conscience – and the undead.

 

Flash Pulp 126 – Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 3 of 3

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

 

[Text to be posted Monday]

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

Flash Pulp 125 – Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 2 of 3

2 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty-five.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Walker Journals.

Undead Boy Scouts may attempt to consume your brain-matter. You’ll need more than a pocket knife and a knots badge to be prepared.

Find all the tips you’ll need to survive the zombie apocalypse at http://youtube.com/user/WalkerZombieSurvivor

 

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 Departed stops for a beverage and a conversation, as the zombie apocalypse continues on about her.

 

Flash Pulp 125 – Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 2 of 3

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

 

[Text to be posted Monday]

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

Many thanks to Wood, of Highland & Wood, for the intro bumper. You can find their podcast at bothersomethings.com

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