Flash Pulp 018 – Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Part 3 of 3: The Irritable Pornographer
Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Eighteen.
Tonight’s story, Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Pt. 3 of 3: The Irritable Pornographer
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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight we bring you the final entry in Mulligan Smith and the Digital Digit. In this episode Mulligan comes face-to-face with Peter Richards’ blackmailer – as well as a fist.
Flash Pulp 018 – Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Pt. 3 of 3: The Irritable Pornographer
It was late on Friday afternoon, and the warmth of the sun on Mulligan’s face had him longing for a nap.
“This doesn’t look much like a computer server room,” he said, shading his eyes and inspecting the view of the city through the sliding glass door. “Or, for that matter, a porn set.”
Mulligan had found the office in a re-purposed three bedroom condo on the ninth floor of a building whose interior was largely made up of mirrors, fake marble and senior citizens.
“We don’t have any servers on-site, we host internationally,” the bald man in the white and black button-down shirt replied. “This is our space to operate the front end, do design work, host meet and greets. You gotta love the view. All of our shoots happen offsite though, it’s more organic.”
“Bet you can meet and greet a lot of folks at once on a couch like that,” Mulligan replied, turning back to the former living room.
“Hey – we’re a respectable organization. My models are classy, in the pin-up tradition, none of that video with twenty pounds of rubber and a camera in their colon or anything.” The desk had been setup to dominate the room and Theo Melto, the bald man, spoke from deep within a heavy leather chair behind it.
“Well, I’m the executive staff, I pay the talent and I write the checks for wardrobe – but I have five models working for me, and a tech monkey who looks after the servers, does the site design and such.”
Melto leaned forward, stroking his salt and pepper beard.
“You said you were a investigator. I figured you wanted to ask me about one of the ladies. Couple years ago I had a girl whose Dad sent a guy out from Ohio to come track her down after she’d run off. Fine. I’m a business man, I’m more than happy to help you out, but you’ve got to understand that I can’t give out the real names of the girls to just anyone – and there’s also the the expense of losing a valued employee to consider.”
Mulligan unthinkingly jiggled the clasp of his zipper and nodded throughout the man’s speech. As Melto finished, the PI dropped onto the champagne-coloured loveseat across from the desk.
“Are you aware that one of your models, Baroness Ludmilla Anastasia, AKA Joanie Melons, AKA Sensational Nancy Knickers, AKA Margaret Templeton, has multiple locations on her site in which she coaxes her members to send in pictures of their members?”
“Sure, all the girls’ sites have basically the same thing on ’em. Helps community building and makes the guys feel like they’ve got a connection to the girls. We usually send out a canned response about how hot it was, and print out the hilarious ones for the back of the design room.”
“At least one of those pictures has been linked to ongoing blackmail. Seems like terrible customer service for such a respectable organization.”
“What?” Melto’s lips tightened, his neck reddening. “Wait a minute while I get Nicole out here.”
He stood and stalked down the short back-hall, pushing open the last door on the right.
It slammed behind him.
Moments later he exited, heading immediately into the washroom. A woman in her early twenties followed as far as the hall. She crept into the office area, a manila folder clasped tightly to her “Pabst Blue Ribbon” t-shirt, her eyes never leaving the carpet.
“Hi,” she said, her face hidden behind her bobbed hair.
When the proprietor finally returned, the red of his neck had seeped across his face.
“My spider-sense is telling me you’re concerned about your business here. My client, Peter Richards, just wants the pictures destroyed and his money back,” Smith said.
Melto stayed silent, his damp hands rhythmically clenching.
The woman hefted the file folder onto the desk and the trio gathered around its splayed contents.
“Look at that view. Look at the quality of that wood. That’s gotta be quite a desk in quite an office – guy getting paid like that shouldn’t be whipping it out on the clock,” Nicole the tech monkey said, brushing aside some errant hair. “Doesn’t help that he sent it from his work address.”
“How could you do this? I gave you a job! I’m your friggin’ Uncle!”
As he shouted, the smut-peddler’s hands continued to throttle a neck that wasn’t there.
“Probably because you didn’t pay her enough,” Mulligan said, stepping between them. “You’ll be paying now though – my client, specifically.”
“Why would I do that? I wasn’t involved in this.”
Mulligan smiled and said, “because-”
Melto hit him in the face.
It was an awkward punch, off balance and poorly planned. Smith rocked back to soften the blow, then returned the favour with an open handed slap. It was always Mulligan’s preferred reponse when exchanging limbs with an amateur: a punch might hurt, but it would also likely anger – a slap brought on only tears.
The bald man began to well up immediately, snot sliding into his beard.
Massaging his jaw, the PI continued:
“Are you aware that ‘The Baroness’ is afraid of being carded while buying smokes? Better yet, are you familiar with the laws of the land regarding the depiction of the genitalia of a minor?”
Mulligan thrust his throbbing hand into his pocket.
“Fire your tech girl and pay Richards from your own wallet. A few folks are going to be by on Monday to double check your employee headcount, and it would be a shame if someone were to feed them a detailed history justifying the fat severance you’re going to be paying the model you had to let go over the weekend.”
Mulligan zipped his hoodie.
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.