Flash Pulp 101 – The Murder Plague: Harm's Return, Part 2 of 3
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and one.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Tom Vowler’s new collection “The Method and Other Stories”.
An award-winning book of short tales that will make you cry with its tender moments – and by repeatedly punching you in the belly.
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, Harm Carter attempts to locate a telephone with which to report a death by wine magnum.
Flash Pulp 101 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 2 of 3
I’ve never been much for fraternizing with the neighbours, but after spending over a decade in one location you can’t help but meet on occasion.
In truth, I rather liked the Hernandezes.
On a particularly chill night, two years previous to the evening of my return from the cabin, Mr Hernandez – George – had spotted my shivering form awaiting a locksmith to remedy the puzzle I’d presented myself by accidentally bolting my keys on the far side of the front door. He’d kindly invited me inside his own home, and, as he prepared a pot of coffee to resuscitate my partially frozen internals, I’d had a rather pleasant discussion with his wife, his daughter, and himself, regarding the vagaries of fly fishing. The trio were obsessive anglers, and even Velma, fifteen – who I, at first, thought might be simply providing a submissive echo of her parent’s enthusiasm – seemed to show a genuine interest in netting maximum fish flesh. I’ve long enjoyed the pleasures of others, and the more intense their mania, the more I take from it. Anyone with a ferocious regard for what occupies their free time is usually willing to provide a cheap education on the topic, and an understanding of all things is what I have a ferocious regard for.
By the time of the smith’s summons I felt as if I’d waded through the streams of Montana, and the Dakotas, myself.
I was not surprised, therefore, when, on my final visit, I found their door ajar and a bountiful supply of gear apparently on its way to, or from, some distant lake or river. I normally might have considered the disarray of the luggage and rods as unkempt, but my mind was largely occupied with the ugly fact that I’d recently laid Catarina, my now former chef, in her death bed by means of blunt trauma. As I clumped up the cobblestone walk in my hiking boots, I formulated how I would frame the discussion required to use their phone. In retrospect, I’m sure they would have let me use it readily, but in dire situations I find it helpful to let my mind grind over fine details, instead of circling the unalterable.
Having encountered no one to deliver my prepared speech to though, I found myself somewhat flustered as to how to proceed.
However, the predicament seemed dramatic enough to warrant my pushing onwards, although I announced my self-welcome liberally.
I attempted to strike a balance in my tone between friendly and I’ve-just-had-to-kill-someone.
Night had again fallen, and the only lighting in the interior came spilling up from the half-spiral staircase which led from the basement, illuminating a long tract of pictures depicting smiling fish-slayers and their captured prey. Atop the photos, curving with the adjoining wall, ran a series of especially prized, but now retired, rods.
I’ve never been squeamish about the individual death of a bass, and my reaction was likely tempered by recent events, but I found it difficult to stare down so many suffocating fillets at once. Casting my eyes up the second half of the spiral, I came across what I, at first, thought was an optical illusion.
There appeared to be a man standing directly above me, but his shoes were slightly askew, as if he were on tip-toe.
“George?” I asked the hovering fellow.
I began striding up the steps.
It was obvious well before I reached landing that he was in no condition to talk; his face was black and bloated. It was also at that time that I realized the Hernandezes did not have a carpet running along the stairs, but that I was in fact tromping through a thick path of what I rather suspected was dried blood.
My legs found it quicker to finish the journey than to reverse, so I suddenly found myself on the second floor. Forcing my eyes into a closer inspection of George, I noted that he’d had several loops of high-test fishing line wrapped about his neck before apparently being pushed over the edge of the railing which overlooked the entryway below. The loose end was tied about a lighting sconce, which had pulled away from its upper-moorings under the weight.
I could not help but feel better illumination was necessary when dealing with the likelihood of an executioner lurking about, so I was forced to flip the sole switch that I could locate, the one which engaged the awry fixture.
Laying not five feet further down the short hallway was the body of Velma, a cracked oaken plaque with a sizable Marlin mounted across its front masking her face and the point of trauma which had disgorged so much of her cranial matter across the closest wall.
As I began to retrace my path, my eyes ran over the boning knife still held solidly in the girl’s right hand. My inspection had turned up no evidence of such a wound on the first body along my approach, and a hypothesis quickly began to form.
Given the scale of the operation, and the size of George, I could only guess that a third party was involved in the lynching, and that the unseen conspirator – the one who’d left their vitals pouring down the staircase – had, for whatever reason, soon after received the long end of Velma’s blade. The injured had likely then retaliated at the betrayal by clubbing the girl with the nearest heavy object, the wall ornament.
I suspected that the absent party was Mrs. Hernandez, and, further, as I could clearly see from over the edge of the hanged man’s perch that the descending trail lead deeper into the house and not towards the exit, I believed that she was likely still somewhere amongst the dark spaces of the first floor.
I had no interest in discovering if the wound had been fatal.
Watching not to slip on the flaking blanket of brown, as my feet plummeted down the stairs, I deserted the crime scene.
It was only after the door was firmly shut behind me, and the remnants of my breakfast disposed of in a professionally groomed array of rose bushes, that I noticed Doctor Henley, across the street, as he observed from the safety of his living room’s bay window.
He waved to me.
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