FP405 – Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and five.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the works of Mike Luoma

 

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, private investigator Mulligan Smith finds himself at the center of an online web of deceit and broken hearts.

 

Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 3 of 3

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

 

As Mulligan continued his tale the Tercel picked up speed, ramping onto the knotted highway that ran through Capital City’s heart.

“You’ve got to understand, I’m a little too familiar with Ashlin Wisconsin as it is. There are a half dozen companies aiming to hook-up bored married people too selfish to end their current relationship, and they’re one of the first things I look for when I stumble across a roamer’s credit card bill.

“When the call came in offering up the philanderer’s password, my client, a rather clever woman, held out on payment unless she met someone in person to hand the money across to. She’d been very convincing.

“That was all set up for the next afternoon.

“Before that was to happen, I got ahold of my former client, the wife of the dog-fight-gambler, and asked for a quick sit down. I may have implied it was over legal ramifications of her stiffing me, but I was very friendly about it.

“I’d already known her ex had an Ashlin Wisconsin subscription. Found it on the bill – which was easy since the classy guy was too in hock over his Escalade to get his own plastic, and was thus using my ex-client’s own cash to cheat on her.

“The payments stopped, which should have sent the account into hibernation and killed access to the site. Once the sales pitch arrived, however, it became clear that everything was still in place, and the back catalogue of messages could still be read.

“When I asked why they’d be giving the milk away for free, my former patroness only said ,’yeah, isn’t that weird?’

“Now, there was a chance that some over enthusiastic sixteen-year-old has decided to turn spousal vigilante and start selling off stolen Ashlin Wisconsin passwords, but I had a notion that there was something more to it. My thinking was this: If the account had remained magically activated, maybe the responsible party was someone actually at the company itself.

“Figuring I had a morning to blow before the meeting anyhow, I did some leg work. Or finger work, I guess, since I was mostly Googling. Whatever the case, I discovered a few things, including the interesting fact that, despite their name, Ashlin Wisconsin was a local company.

“Well, by the time lunch rolled around I had my client convinced that I’d be the one sitting at the designated table in Spinerette’s, which is the kind restaurant I’d have to starve through five cases to afford.”

FP405 - Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 3 of 3To his right, the PI’s father raised a brow. It was enough to pull a chuckle out of the detective.

“Yeah, I had a rack of lamb. It was alright,” replied Mulligan. “Anyhow, I’m halfway through my job-expensed meal when this woman comes in toting black Jackie O glasses and a trenchcoat that’d put most spy flicks to shame.

“She catches sight of me – I’m wearing a tie full of sheep grease and a collared shirt that’s seen one too many spin cycles – and she wheels on her heel, trying to make it seem like she’s suddenly remembered that she’d left caviar on the stove or something.

“I am clearly not the lady she is looking for.

“Still, I stand up and say ‘Hey, Anita!’

“She stops. She turns. She sits.

“Once everyone stops trying to side-eye us, I put the envelope on the table. Thing is, I’m already aware she doesn’t really need it.

“‘Don’t worry,’ I say, ‘I know everything but I’m not here to drag your name to the cops or the papers, well – probably not. Depends on how honest you are with me in answering the next few questions.’

“‘Fine,’ she says, but I can’t see how she’s taking it otherwise because her pupils are still lost behind her thick lenses.

“Not that I don’t admire it, but isn’t what you’re doing illegal?’ I ask.

“‘It’s all covered in the EULA, the legalese they don’t bother to read when they sign up for the site,’ she replies. ‘We tell them that none of the information provided is going to remain secret, if not in so many words, and we make ourselves very clearly not liable for any physical, emotional, or financial damages that may be incurred by people using the site. So far we haven’t had a judge test the wording, but it seems like most of the people who end up caught don’t want to push the point too hard.’

“‘How do you pick them?’ I ask.

“‘The tech staff maintains a supposedly-secret Post of the Week that they print out to hang in the shadows behind their filing cabinet, where they think I won’t notice. It’s incredible how fast they can find scummier messages to top each other with. People can be so foul and ridiculous and strangely beautiful all at once, and nowhere does that show more than in semi-anonymous online flirting.

“‘I also do personal searches through the database for accounts that’ve had dozens of failed password entry attempts. Those usually give me a good idea of whose wife or husband is already living with the fear that something is happening behind their back.

“‘I suppose it was the same back when there was such a thing as privacy, but today no one realizes there’s always some bored technician just down the hall from your digital hideaway, and she or he can hear everything you’re saying if they want to bother.’

“‘But you’re not some bored tech,’ I reply, ‘You’re Anita Bider, Ashlin Wisconsin’s founder and CEO. You’re also the unfortunate victim of a rather public divorce. I’d be pretty angry too if I discovered through the tabloids that my spouse was running around with a quasi-famous socialite heiress. I guess that’s why you started the site? To sell out the same sort of jerks?’

“‘She had that face, like maybe I was going to get a visit from her security staff later that evening, so I figured I’d just keep going.

“‘I’m not going to get in the way of your questionable legality, and I’m not even going to tell my client about this discussion. I am, however, going to give you a call when I pull a gig from a weeping husband or wife. I don’t mind splitting the fee if you’re willing to save me the footwork.’

“Anita simply shrugged, handed across a business card with her cell number, and left.”

The trio sat in silence for a moment, to digest both the tale and the Sonic they’d just eaten, then Mulligan again cleared his throat.

“Anyhow, all that to say: I’ve got a few extra bucks. Who’s up for miniputt? I’m buying.”

 

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.

Spread the word!

    FP404 – Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 of 3

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and four.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 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 works of Mike Luoma

     

    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 involved in a high-speed chase.

     

    Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 of 3

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

     

    “So, a month and a half later I’m working this gig. Another wandering penis, though this one with a different victim almost every night. Guy’s a friggin’ ghost though. Always meets his dates at their door, never gets out of his coupe, always brings them to the same place. A week’s work and he was giving me nothing – well, certainly nothing that was going to earn my client her alimony.

    “It’d be a helluva check too, as Johnny Rocketcrotch replaces his BMW every six months and the only place he brings his dates is the sort of country club that’d make a clown in a hoodie like mine ten times before the valet could insist I was lost. To make matters even more fun, the car’s tinted like it was Dracula himself driving, so the Nikon was useless unless I could get up near the windshield.

    ”That’s the kind of shot you only get once, if you know what I mean.”

    As the PI spoke, his companions watched Capital City’s east side slide by the baby blue Tercel’s windows. It was a warm day which left Walmart Mike, still toting his empty cup in his hand, to simmer in the dusty – but not altogether unpleasant – smell of the ancient sun-baked upholstery.

    “I ain’t no private dick,” the greeter asked with a snicker, “but it seems to me that they don’t roll out beds at country clubs – well, hell, maybe they do, I ain’t ever been in one, but it seems like an awkward place to push rope, unless his gals were into crinkle-faced spectators?”

    Smith Sr. snorted from the passenger seat, as, wheeling through a wide left turn, Mulligan picked up the thread of his story.

    “Actually, you have a point there. See, this was one of those idiots who figures he has a technique. It was so cookie cutter I could easily make out its shape even from the distant shadows.

    “He’d meet these ladies online – which I’ll get into later – then he’d roll them out to his little elite shanty to fill them full of wine. No doubt the grape juice came with impressive labels. They’d talk; he’d open up about himself, you know, try to make her feel like she was exactly what he’d been looking for.

    “No mention of his wife, but that’s too big a hurdle for a one-date guy to jump – and, yeah, it was always just one date.

    “They all concluded the same way: After dark, the BMW peeling out of the high fenced parking lot like the gate was a starting line. Then they’d take the long way towards downtown at twice the speed of light.

    “I don’t know what too-practiced lines he used to talk them into it; I mean, I guess they thought it was a fun first date and he probably convinced them they were on the start of a road together. Whatever the case, about half of them would, uh, operate his gear shift while he pushed the straight-six to the edge. He’d drive with about the same recklessness if he was successful or not, but I could always tell how well he was faring by his hands. He’s one of those guys who argues in short, snide sentences, and if she said no he’d end up delivering these tiny pissed-off karate chops at the end of all of pinch-mouthed statements.

    “There was no such verbal kung fu on the evening I caught up to him.”

    Turning away from the scrolling cityscape, Smith Sr. delivered his son a raised brow.

    “Yeah, yeah,” replied Mulligan, “I’m getting to it.

    “So: Different lady almost every night, different car twice a year, but always the same way back to the heart of the city. It’s strange what patterns people’ll fall into.

    “I waited till he was pulling off the waterfront, and his temporary sweetheart’s silhouette had disappeared from her upright position in the passenger seat, then I let myself be made. I mean, not badly enough that he brings things to a halt, but I pull up a half-block behind him and give him a kiss of the high beams so that I know he’s noticed.

    Mulligan Smith in The Cheat“Now, the Tercel is no match for his German missile. He punches it, and I’m left in the dust by the time he takes a right onto Independence Avenue. He slows just a bit crossing the rail line, and looks up from the blond bobbing mop in his lap – bam: There’s a baby blue shitbox on his rear bumper.

    “Well, he really hammers it at that point and slides onto Bay at the last possible second, no doubt watching the Toyota blow by in his rear view.

    “He makes a quick turn onto Delaware after that, probably thinking he’s clever but all the time following the same old route.

    “Thing is, I’d cut over a dozen blocks back, and was already standing at the corner of Bronson. Just as he’s strutting by the bus stop I’m huddled in, a baby blue Tercel creeps onto the pavement, barricading both lanes at the next crossroad. Johnny stops to consider his options, and she lifts her head high enough to see what’s going on over the far side of the dash. The whole thing took four seconds, tops, but there was no mistaking what was going on in that photo.

    “He was so flabbergasted at the sight of the camera that Dad had time to drive the second Tercel by to wave.

    “I was trotting like Astaire till I got back to his wife’s place.

    “Do you know how bloody long it took me to find that second car? Hey-zeus. I had him cold, but all I collected was a few hours of half-pay footwork and the deli sandwiches I expensed.

    “The client delivers the rejection across a table that contains more hardwood than I’ve got flooring my entire apartment, and I’m reminding myself that suing the clients is bad for the reputation of my business. I was still feeling the sting from the previous month too, so, despite my attempts at good behaviour, I was working up to at least using some language the maid would have to clean up after – then the wife makes her peace offering.

    “See, the reason she was stiffing me on the bill was because she’d gotten his Ashlin Wisconsin password – but she was afraid there would be strings attached or a fake out after she brought the material to court. She asks me to look into the source.”

    Mike cleared his throat. “Ashlin, Wisconsin? Never been.”

    Mulligan smiled. “Nah, it’s a website. Ashlin Wisconsin is a dating site for married folks.

    “She asks if I’m interested, and, mind firmly on my rent bill, I say, ‘sure, but it’ll cost you five days fee up front.’ She cuts the check right there on the table.

    “Hell, if I’d known what I was going to stumble into, I might’ve done the job for free.”

     

    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.

    Spread the word!

      FP403 – Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 1 of 3

      Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and three.

      Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 1 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 works of Mike Luoma

       

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

      Tonight we present a tale of betrayal and violence influenced by Jurd’s current international travel status – that influence mostly being exhaustion.

       

      Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 1 of 3

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

       

      They were sitting in the blue Tercel, Sonic cups in their hands, and Mulligan was saying, “no offense, Mike, but the first guy was a Walmart cheat.”

      Smith’s mute father only nodded.

      From the backseat the wrinkle-faced greeter replied, “none taken, but how do you mean?”

      “He was like one of those shirts they sell with under-sleeves and a collar sewn in to make it look fancier. He drove an Escalade, but his car was easily bigger than his house. In fact, when I pulled up to that shack I was left wondering if his wife would even be able to cover my bill. I mean, I don’t mind folks with priorities, but she and I were on the same wavelength: A guy with a ride like that is out to impress someone – unfortunately, it wasn’t her.

      “She was sick of it: Sick of his nights away, sick of the tiny shanty he left her alone in, and sick of waiting for him to get his act together.

      Mulligan Smith in The Cheat“She’d be damned if the grubby palmed bugger would hold onto the SUV through the divorce, however, which is why she hired me.”

      Walmart Mike took a long draw on his Miami Sunset slush, then asked, “so where’s the excitement? Sounds like every other creeping Johnny to me.”

      The senior Smith offered a grin that revealed no details.

      “Sure,” answered Mulligan, “seemed like an easy gig. Nice huge box to follow around, then some quick work with the Nikon and I could call it a day. Thing is, he meets this red head in front of her apartment. She’s wearing one of those wide neck sweaters, black stretch pants, and knee high boots. He honks but stays in the truck. No chance for pictures.

      “Now, I figure we’re headed towards Chez Costly Cuisine, or some other excuse to fill her full of white wine, but, instead, I find myself having to keep an eye on his tail lights all the way out of the city and into the woods north of town.”

      Mike raised a brow. “Secluded cabin? Romantic hay ride? Park and grope?”

      “None of the above,” replied the PI. “They stopped at a farmhouse. Big spread with a massive black gate. I gave the driveway a pass and did a loop around the fields. I found a bush on the far side under which to tuck the Tercel, then I jumped the fence and did my best to stay low till I’d made the barn.

      “The thing was large enough to shade most of Amish country, and it was packed full of shouting.”

      Mulligan paused to finish off the last of the blue raspberry ice at the bottom of his cup, then lobbed the trash into the barrel beyond his window.

      “Must’ve been fifty people and a dozen mutts in there, and that’s not including the two rotties in the pit.”

      “That dog fighting thing in the papers was you?” asked Mike.

      The retired sergeant answered with a nod while his son only smirked.

      In the backseat the audience of one rolled his eyes. “Hey-zeus, what a romantic fuckin’ scumbag.”

      “No joke,” said Mulligan. “Worse, I got spotted. Fortunately the kid, eighteen maybe, was a yokel who figured I was watering the paint.

      “”Next round’s starting, you in?” he asked. Once I offered a fifty he didn’t look at me twice.

      “Now, I gotta admit, I was already feeling pretty displeased, but letting that fifty ride on dog versus dog had me palming my taser. Maybe thats why I swung for the fences instead of calling the uniforms first thing.

      “I stood around taking in everything but the match. Easy access to the hayloft from the other side of the barn, and the elevation offered a perfect overview of the crowd. No one was paying enough attention to the ladder to notice somebody scaling it, but I suspected that none of the jackholes would be terribly enthusiastic if I pulled a camera and started trying to take pictures.

      “Now, I gotta be honest, I could’ve simply climbed up, did my duty, and scrammed, but I had another idea.

      “Like I said, it was a swank spread, but it wasn’t arranged to act as a place of business, or even an arena of combat. In the end I joggled the elbow of the guy holding the bets and asked where a fellow might conduct business a little more elaborate than just watering the outside wall.

      “He seemed reluctant to send me into the main house, but after I made clear I guessed I could drop trow in the unofficial latrine area if he could deal with the resulting smell, he sent me inside.

      “In I went, through the kitchen, second entrance on the left, just as I was told, but I raided the fridge on my way back. Then it was just a matter of timing.

      “When the current combatants were too mangled to keep fighting the greedy bastards would just pop open two more cages and toss a sliver of steak into the little fenced in arena – but that last time they were too late. I guess it’d been enough to get those thick necked bowsers snarling at each other previously, but, even as that hunk of cow was flying through the air, I was already at the top of the ladder. The hick taking bets nearly got the gate closed before I let fly with double handfuls of farm raised ground beef, and the smell of blood lit up the pooches like a pinball machine with Tommy on the flippers.

      “They hit the crowd like rabid Pac-Men, and I framed a nice shot of fearful date snuggling close to scuzzy hubby for safety. They ran, I switched to the outside door. She quivered in his arms, he took advantage by laying a kiss. Then they ran for their ride.

      “I was gone by the time sirens replaced the sound of snarling dogs.

      “At that point you can imagine that I was feeling pretty pleased with myself – but, when I returned to the shack to collect my cheque, Mrs. Jackass tells me she was just about to call. Apparently she doesn’t need me anymore, she’s got him, as she puts it, by his shriveled testies. For all my trouble I managed to collect expenses and nothing more.”

      “I feel for you,” said Mike with a snicker, “but at least you – you know – took a bite out of crime.”

      Mulligan shrugged. “Well, actually, it was a month and a half later that things got really interesting.”

       

      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.

      Spread the word!

        FC111 – Time Travelling, Teleporting, Radioactive Mutants

        FC111 - Time Travelling, Teleporting, Radioactive Mutants

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        (Download/iTunes/RSS)

        Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 111.

        Prepare yourself for: Unliving dolls, the Budapest smile club, the October 31, dill pickle vodka, and Tony Dibbs

        * * *

        Huge thanks to:

        * * *

        * * *

        * * *

          Mailbag:

        • Send your comments to comments@flashpulp.com!
        • Big thanks to Rich the TT, Zack Mann, & Mr. Harron for their commentaries – as well as Nutty, for coming out to the haunt and her promo work!
        • Where to leave FlashCast feedback, or Flash Pulp feedback, as per Janelle‘s demands.

        * * *

        Audio-dacity of Hope:

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

        Art of Narration:

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

        Backroom Plots:

      • FP402 – Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop
      • * * *

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

        * * *

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

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

        Spread the word!

          FP402 – Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop

          Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and two.

          Flash PulpTonight we present Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop

          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 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.

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

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

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            FC110 – #OpRaleigh

            FC110 - #OpRaleigh

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            Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 110.

            Prepare yourself for: Floridian crime, the Holy Grail, Operation Raleigh, personal vampires, and Coffin.

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            Huge thanks to:

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

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              FP401 – Coffin: What’s Eating You?

              Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and one.

              Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: What’s Eating You?

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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 we begin our slow approach towards Halloween with a tale of Capital City tricks and treats.

               

              Coffin: What’s Eating You?

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

               

              Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his sobering apprentice, sat on the faux-wood plastic bench of a Capital City bus stop.

              It was the sort of chill spring afternoon that, to Will, always felt more like fall.

              His roommate’s thoughts were moving in a different direction.

              “Hey-zeus,” she said, “it’s cold as Kris Kringle’s nuts out here.”

              “I dunno,” answered Will, “perhaps it’s last year’s lazy raking job by the city workers, but I’d say it’d make for a solid evening in October.”

              Some days were better than others for the recovering alcoholic. Some were worse.

              Today was definitely worse.

              “Maybe it’s always been this dog-molestingly f#cking miserable outside and I didn’t notice it under the fermented potatoes’ heat,” she replied, her neck craning above her fully-buttoned denim jacket.

              Spotting a jaywalking woman wearing several layers of filth-blackened sweaters while pushing a shopping cart brimming with empty cans, Bunny reminded herself that she was supposed to be working on her perspective.

              “I guess if it wasn’t for my ass freezing to the seat this’d be some decent Michael Myers weather,” she added.

              “Who?” asked Coffin.

              “You know, the crazy Halloween f#cker with the knife and the mask.”

              “Sorry, you’ll have to be more specific, I’ve known a few Halloween crazies with knives and masks.”

              It was a rare thing, in those days, for Coffin to crack a joke – and rarer still for Bunny not to be able to tell if his comment was serious or not.

              “Halloween as in the movies, not as in the kiddie candy orgy,” she answered.

              “Oh, yeah,” said Will.

              The silence returned, and the bus did not arrive.

              “Have you read up on the candy man?” the Coffin finally asked his student.

              “Like, that crazy b#stard with a hook for a hand that appears if you say his name three times?”

              Will turned, his eyebrow raised.

              “Huh?” he asked.

              “Another movie – but, in that case, the answer is no.”

              Shifting to his left and seeing no approaching chariot, Coffin leaned back against the cold plastic, placed his hands in his pockets, and said, “this’d be a few decades back – a simpler era, if you believe the nostalgia. You know, back when the outfit options were mostly Dracula, Mummy, or Ghost.

              “Jarvis Beauford was the sort of old man who cared for nothing more than network news broadcasts, and, even then, simply as proof that the world was going to hell just as he kept telling those who’d listen.

              “Honestly, I can’t imagine there were many of those left by then.

              “He’d spent thirty years working for the city before I ran into him, and his major preoccupation was road kill.

              “Raccoon didn’t quite make it across the street while some van-wielding mother of seven was distracted by a screaming baby? Someone poison a stray dog because it wouldn’t stop wandering into their yard with thin ribs and an empty belly? Sixteen wheeler plow through, over, and around a fawn too fresh from the forest to realize it shouldn’t be wandering across the western highway?

              “Jarvis was the guy you called.

              “Best thing to wash away the stink of the day, he’d claim for the fifteen years he managed to keep his first wife, was a good dose of cheap beer. Hard to say if it was his liquid habits or his amateur taxidermy that finally pushed her away, but I’m guessing it was a little of both.

              “The western end of town was still in the middle of collapsing then, and it was mostly a jumble of cheap World War II housing filled with the usual mix of hollow-pocketed young families, bone-broke students, and those so old they talked about the place in terms of ‘back when it was nice.’”

              Bunny coughed and said, “so far the most unbelievable part of your story is that that neighbourhood was ever not full of craft beer drinking ###holes and greed-eyed yuppies.”

              Coffin leaned forward. “As I was saying, it was Halloween night in an age before grubby-fingered looters weren’t allowed to trick-or-treat after dark.

              “Jarvis had his light on, but it was grimy enough that he didn’t notice me standing in the gnarled mess of his rioting bushes when he shoved open the screen door for the kid in an unusually realistic E.T. costume.

              “”Trick or treat,” says the kid, as he catches some tossed confections.

              “”Little of both, maybe,” replies Jarvis, while grinning like he’s been gifted a tanker full of Milwaukee’s Best.

              “Beauford seems reluctant to let the moment end, but the lingering gets weird so finally he starts retreating – then the kid does something that takes us both by surprise: He unzipped his neck and chin to reveal a soft round face and a glowing mop of brown hair.

              “”I can’t wait!” says the delinquent, and he digs into his bag with both rubber-gloved hands.

              “Jarvis’ face is fighting with itself; he can’t seem to decide if he wants to stop the gluttony or if it’s the greatest thing ever. The grown man giggles, pans his view up and down the sidewalk, giggles again, does nothing.

              “I’m maybe ten feet away, but I can clearly hear the smacking of the boy’s teeth as he chews.

              Coffin“The candy man’s face drops. He can’t look away, but his giddy glee has become total confusion.

              “E.T. turns a little as he ducks down for a second sweet, and I can see the blood running down the front of his costume. I can see the gap where his lip has split to the gum line. I think he knew I was there and it was for my benefit. He even flashed a smile that pulled the slice wide, revealing the pearly whites beneath.

              “Then he stands up and in goes the next mouthful.

              “Now, you gotta understand that I was new to working alone at that point, and – well, before this recent explosion there was very little occult business to be undertaken beyond the occasional haunting. The season has its rep for a reason, though, even if it hadn’t meant much for two centuries.

              “Still, it’s the thinnest the veil gets, as they used to say on In Search Of…, and I’d read up on this wee bugger in a Blackhall tome.

              “Kids’d apparently summon the thing back when the world was brimming with mystic juice and people were willing to sacrifice a cat or two for a harvest festival urban legend. A shapeshifting imp – really just a trouble maker raised to play into the sick sense of humour they had when everyone was dropping dead of plague.”

              “- and people these days talk sh#t about violent video games,” said Bunny.

              Will snorted.

              “As it turned out,” he continued, “between the booze and the blood, that was about all old Jarvis could take. Poor bugger went over like a carp landing on deck.

              “I had to do something. I mean, it’s one thing to set a minor demon free to roam the streets out of curiosity, but it’s quite another to watch a guy in a dingy white undershirt flop to death on his porch.

              “No cell service back then, of course, so there I was, running around his wood paneled living room, knocking over empty Busch cans and tossing aside stacks of TV Guide in search of a phone.

              “You could read those walls as easily as the dog-eared copies of Penthouse Letters spread across the living room table. Here was a miserable man, wallowing in his mire.

              “How miserable? The kind that frames his divorce papers and hangs them on the wall.

              “The kind that has stuffed heads on plaques as the only type of other decoration in the space he most uses.

              “There were three long rows of decapitated animals. It looked like he’d placed them side-by-side, in the order he found them, starting at the door. When he’d completed the loop he’d simply nailed the next stapled-together fawn skull a level down and begun again. Raccoons, a variety of breeds of cats and dogs, deer of various sizes: I’m no expert in the field, but there seemed to be very little care for the condition in which he scraped them off the road. Some skin was so rotten you could see the foam padding beneath.

              “Then I toured the kitchen. Stacks of dishes, rinsed but left haphazardly on the counter – and a pot, the bottom of which smelled sugary sweet.

              “There wasn’t a phone near the table either, where I found the hammer and a shopping list.

              “Well, I didn’t know, as Beauford tossed a wad of hand-wrapped candy into the tyke’s pillowcase, that he’d spent hours crafting the soft taffy, nor that he’d been just as careful in inserting the shards of a number of shattered razors into the cooling goo. I didn’t, but the imp must’ve caught on somehow.

              “I don’t think it knew what would happen, but at that point I don’t think either of us were sweating Jarvis’ heart attack as I crept away to find a too-late payphone.”

              Bunny snorted and said, “perspective is a greasy f#cker like that.”

              The bus arrived.

               

              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.

              Spread the word!

                FCM019 – Roadtrip!

                FCM019 - Roadtrip
                Welcome to Flash Pulp Minisode 019 – Roadtrip!

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

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

                Freesound.org credits:

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

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

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                  FP400 – Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 3 – The Hag

                  Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred.

                  Flash PulpTonight we present Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 3 – The Hag

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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, Thomas Blackhall – master frontiersman, student of the occult, and grieving husband – completes his tale regarding the beginning of the end, and the woman who stole his wife’s cadaver.

                   

                  Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 3 – The Hag

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

                   

                  Vengeance outweighed the woman’s grief, and the consolidation of her power began even before her boy’s reanimated body had fully let go of its living warmth.

                  Setting the child to dancing a shadow of a jig, she sent the riderless pony to town, as an omen of what would follow, then made her way west.

                  It was her intention that his cavorting would keep him close until such time as she discovered a method to properly raise him. However, a life filled with emergencies – shattered limbs, reluctant births, fickle curses – had left the Hag with a keen mind for priorities, and, as a python is said to eat an elephant, she began with the tail of her problem and moved ever forward to overtake her goal.

                  First she returned to any who had imparted wisdom to her custody, so that she might demand any secrets they had held in reserve. Though none of her former teachers furnished a solution for true resurrection, fraud, extortion, and flattery would eventually bring her a deep knowledge of the three forms of magic.

                  The school of the written word and inscribed sigil soon covered her body in images of power and deception. It was from an Egyptian book collector that she collected the pattern that imbues longevity, but it is only due to his phantom that I was able to pass that same design on to you.

                  She’d approached him as a broken soul in need of opportunity to correct her tragedy, and his own timeless greed for education made him too quick to sympathize. The Hag, however, was a woman who insisted on absolute discretion, as she demonstrated by slitting his throat and removing the flesh of his back.

                  Longevity is not invulnerability, as his ghostly lips later informed me.

                  I myself learned, in nearly two decades in the bush, that a life of endless walking leaves too much time to obsess; too much time to over-think. I can not imagine the effect magnified by a century’s span.

                  By the occasion on which she again crossed Ibsil, her transgressors were long dead – she cared not.

                  In exchange for his freedom, a mute friar locked high in a coastal tower had taught her many phrases of destruction. In his youth his transcription work had carried him across a decaying tome seemingly forgotten upon the shelves of his remote cloister. Unthinking, he had hoisted the volume and begun the penitent process of re-copying its text. It was under his breath that he whispered the tones that pushed out the monastery’s eastern wall, but he had, by then, already achieved the majority of his reproduction.

                  Even after the removal of his tongue, the memory of the index had followed him into the tiny room that marked the fate his brothers prescribed, and a lifetime’s confinement had left his recollections too close to his quill fingers.

                  Once his furtive letters were written, though, his freedom lasted as far as a mile offshore. Then, as a noose-tied-stone was lobbed overboard, the sloop he thought employed for his escape was revealed to be the vehicle of his demise.

                  The ruination of Ibsil began with a chortle and a word like a thunderclap.

                  Within seconds the streets were filled with those attracted to the noise and dust of the collapsing masonwork that was once the town’s church, and so The Hag spoke of plague, for those who would hide, and of fracturing, for those who could not.

                  Her tongue parted the gathered like a violent wave, and she formed corrupt sentences whose shapes and sounds called forth arcane energies to snap limbs, rupture eyes, and cleave architecture.

                  In a week she’d flattened every residence and stable, flushed out every farmhand and cellar dweller, and set flame to anything that might provide a safe haven she’d missed.

                  Finally, when the townspeople of Ibsil, ruined by contagion and violence, no longer had life enough to writhe on their own, she raised their shattered husks and set them to dancing for the supposed amusement of her son’s uncomprehending corpse.

                  This continued for a fortnight, with any unlucky enough to wander into the remote village joining the festivities, and it only stopped when the cadavers she most favoured began to tear and sunder under her rough treatment.

                  Yet her real desire, the secret of true resurrection, eluded her.

                  Centuries rolled beneath her feet. The world shifted about her, but the Hag, and her mystically preserved boy, continued on.

                  In time she fell in with the children of the Spider-God, the hooded Kar’Wickians. She was not one for friendship, but the arachnid’s spawn have many social advantages that her hermitry denied her. In exchange for her skills, and an occasional conjuring lesson, they provided her a great web of volunteers – for there was no shortage of restoration tales to authenticate, though most led solely to frustration.

                  Raiding ancient texts from the cult’s hidden library, she learned many of the rituals of symbolism, the most primitive of the magical schools but also extremely powerful in its elementary nature. It is much more than modest voodoo doll making. Though the age of artifact creation is distantly passed, it is said this symbolic art of material manipulation, in combination with rites from the written and spoken schools, were the forge by which the Crook of Ortez and its ilk were created.

                  Eventually she found her answer in one such relic, the Distilling Catafalque.

                  Now, there was perhaps an age when the world was so saturated with ethereal energies that the Catafalque might have taken the carrion of but three or four mystically-drenched dead to operate, but the arcane had begun to leech from the land, and naught but a few locations remained upon the globe that contained some power.

                  The hinterlands of the united Canadas was one such place.

                  I had met her twice before our final encounter. On the first occasion – well, I have publicly claimed innocence by stating that it was simple error that caused our paths to cross, but, in truth, I had come to snatch the Catafalque from her very hands. Rumours of her passage, and her collection of the dead to power the device, came from the mouths of phantoms and the whispers of the fading animal lords- but I had not comprehended the size of her rotting army, and fear had driven me off from that initial meeting.

                  It was not long after, however, that she took revenge at my interruption by snatching up my Mairi’s body to join her column.

                  I carried not but mundane tools into our final confrontation, out of concern that her attunement to the preternatural might signal my presence. The thousands of capering cadavers had aligned themselves into a whirling spiral, and I was left to creep, sweaty-browed, through the dancing rings. My pen is too weak to convey the anxiety of slipping between those exuberantly jerking, absolutely silent, figures.

                  Thomas Blackhall, a fantasy fiction podcast brought to you by the Skinner Co. NetworkAt their center stood The Hag, an orb of light in one hand while the other rest on the torn and muck-covered jacket of her unchanged son’s shoulder. She was watching as each thrashing puppet climbed, in turn, atop the black-veiled platform their lifeless shoulders had carried across the face of Europe, over the salt, and through the dense wildwoods. There was smoke at each closing of the plush curtains, but no further evidence of its sacrifice’s passing.

                  I let out no yip or call upon my assault: No, my very heart ceased to beat so that the noise would not arouse her.

                  It was a whisper I had mastered that lit the fuse of my explosive bundle, and even that was almost too much.

                  There was recognition in her face as the payload landed at her feet, but not time enough to react. Even in the last she attempted to shield the boy from the blast, and in so doing proved that I had right to worry: Though her belly was pulled asunder by the explosion, the bones of her cradling arms absorbed the force without yielding. Still, the tattoos that formed the greater portion of her defense were but simple ink in form, and so burned as easily as the rest of her skin.

                  The ritual, already in motion, went on.

                  Though I had dared not search beforehand, it was my deepest hope that Mairi had not yet entered that eternal slumber. My boots seemed to gain weight with each step – with each face that registered as not her own – but an uncountable period of running along the still-rollicking spiral brought me to the woman I had sought for long decades.

                  With wet cheeks, I pulled her from the line, and, in her place, I lay the Hag and her boy upon the platform.

                  I will confess again that I knew. I knew the pact she’d made with the Spider-God, I knew that there was not enough power left in the world, unless the abomination might find some weak soul with which to barter the last of its vitality to plant a seed that would bloom into invasion.

                  I knew, and that is why, even years before the encounter, I had begun my project of apology – and I do apologize, though I can not bring myself to regret the return of Mairi to my side.

                  We have two hundred years to correct my error. Now, to the extent of your title’s responsibilities – and those carried by the other branches of my now sprawling legacy – the matter is in your hands, Coffin.

                  Yours till victory, or the rise of Kar’Wick,

                  Thomas Blackhall

                   

                  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.

                  Spread the word!

                    FP399 – Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 2 – The Mother

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

                    Flash PulpTonight we present Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 2 – The Mother

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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 tell the tale of a mother outcast in a haunted world, and the strange roads down which her choices would lead her.

                     

                    Understanding: a Blackhall Tale, Part 2 – The Mother

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

                     

                    In those dark times there was no gentle path for a solitary mother living a nomadic life, but the tricks and skills the woman had gathered through her youth were just as pliable beyond the boundaries of the county in which she was raised.

                    Menu3The old Roman roads were not so old when she began, and she slipped from the vineyards of the west to the steppes of the east just as a wind shifts and stirs at its own command.

                    Nona had bestowed a keen eye for comfortable hedges and the signs of a welcoming dooryard, but it was not long before the softest turf and sweetest bites of stolen pie were reserved entirely for her ever-growing infant.

                    There was little security in her position, and she received no small abuse from those villages that wished to claim a righteous position. Oft was the night that she slept fitfully on a spine bruised by flung stone. No family requiring her discreet service in dispatching an unwanted lump left by a lustful evening wished her to remain longer than necessary, and it was rare that a household besieged by supernatural threat was in any condition to host once she’d cast out the imp or phantasm that had assaulted it.

                    No matter the bramble or stolen hayloft in which they slumbered, however, the woman would not let her child slip into sleep without his hearing the refrain of her love. There was no joy without him, there was no road worth taking. A whiff of his infant skin was enough to drive the cow dung scent from any barn, and to make comfortable whatever awkward pose she might be required to maintain so that he might snore soundly in her arms.

                    In time, she herself took to wearing a triple-belt across her chest. The boy quickly learned to name and pluck those roots and petals that could be of use, and it was not unusual for the pair to pass a day without a meal they had not pulled from the wild dirt.

                    Yet, there were advantages to setting her own course. Few were the winter months she spent in snowy lands, and there was no rumour of arcane knowledge she could not chase.

                    There was an ancient deaf man who imparted the secret of how to entreat with the Animal Lords in exchange for an illumination trick she’d learned at thirteen, and an oracle on the shores of the western sea who recounted the ritual to summon a lightning elemental as barter for the skulls of a dozen murderers.

                    The Mother had simply made use of a long knife and the conveniently hung bandits that lined the highways as warning. She had not inquired as to the collection’s purpose.

                    In a damp Mediterranean necropolis she came across a chiseled inscription in a marble sepulcher. It required two years of learning a dead language, but she considered herself lucky in having a monk to blackmail over the problem of a village girl she’d formerly been called to aid.

                    It was this engraving from which she learned the art of raising the departed. Not their spirits, perhaps, but at least their corpses.

                    Here then, was a true secret, and from the age of six through eleven, the boy was shown a goodly life. It was an easy thing to terrify a town into a stiff fee by sending its recently interred citizens cavorting through the central square, and – be the tale vampires or ghouls or vengeful shades – the greater her reputation grew as an exorcist, the more plush their pillows became.

                    She began to take what Nona had refused – but not for herself, for the boy.

                    A renowned tailor found his daughter visiting his window as he cowered in his bed, and the lad found himself in a new suit of fine purple velvet. A cordwainer’s mother insisted on marching repeatedly from her grave to the local tavern, and the youth began to travel in supple leather boots.

                    By the eve of his twelfth birthday their bellies no longer went unfilled, and the child had taken to riding a small pony between preoccupations.

                    It was upon the back of the beast which he was perched when the townspeople of Ibsil rose up. Perhaps it was the boy’s display of finery in comparison to their own muck-covered rags that put the question of fraud in their mind, but, whatever the case, a close watch by soft footed deer hunters had turned out the woman’s proximity on the third afternoon of a beloved blacksmith’s rising.

                    The doting mother had become especially brazen in her methods, as the dead man in question had, in the year before his passing, crafted a sword of some reputation that her son wished to receive as reward for their supposed-intervention – but the daylight timing mixed with the nervous crowd to leave many at hand willing to lift stones against them.

                    Her leg’s were strong, however, and the pony well-shoed – nor was it the first flight of rocks she had endured. She was giggling by the time they reached the cart path bend that marked the township’s boundary, as there were but a straggle of hard-willed delinquents left at their rear, and those too busy attempting to find ammunition with which to maintain their barrage.

                    It was a last effort missile by a farmer’s son of especially thick arm that struck the little prince from his steed – but it was not the projectile itself that did him in, it was the short fall to the hard path below that snapped his neck.

                    All that came after was due to nothing more than a coincidence of angle and unconsciousness.

                    Surprised at their own success, and suddenly realizing just how far from the comfort of their homes they’d wandered, the pursuers scattered, leaving the grieving woman to weep over the broken body of her boy.

                    It is said that she did not stand again until she’d torn every strand of hair from her scalp in despair, and that those tufts that would eventually regrow would only come back as ivory as a bairn’s conscience.

                    Yet she did stand, for it came to her mind that if it were already within her ability to raise his husk, then surely somewhere the knowledge must exist to reunite his cadaver with his spirit.

                    So it was that her child became the first of what would become a long column of the dancing dead, though it would be centuries before my Mairi followed.

                     

                    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.

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