167 – Mulligan Smith and The Crumble, Part 1 of 3
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and sixty-seven.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Nutty Bites Podcast.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, Mulligan Smith and his lumbering friend, Billy Winnipeg, find themselves wondering if, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Flash Pulp 167 – Mulligan Smith and The Crumble, Part 1 of 3
Mulligan Smith, Billy Winnipeg, and the PI’s client, Gerald Brewer, were standing in an alley on the west side of Capital City, avoiding the eyes of the hipsters that made up the majority of the local population.
Gerald was lighting a joint.
“Yeah,” said Mulligan, “it’s fine, and I’m sure Billy will survive, but step back; I don’t want to spend the rest of the day smelling like I’ve been watching The Big Lebowski.”
Brewer snickered. It was the first sign of good humour Smith had seen from his newest employer.
“Used to love watching that movie with Graciela,” said the smoker, “if I was really hard against a project deadline, or just generally in a crap mood, she’d get me laughing with her terrible Jeff Bridges.”
For a brief second the grieving man’s face contorted, as if he was considering an impression of the impression, but, before he could begin, he shook his head and took a deep drag from his combustible.
“It’s stupid how much of your life becomes off limits when someone dies. There isn’t a single movie in my collection I can watch right now, at least not without, like, linking Michael Keaton saying ‘I’m Batman’, to the last time we watched it, when Gracie was giving me a foot rub, or whatever the ####.”
There was a pause as the man broke down, and, after a moment, Billy began to shuffle from side to side, his massive boots bouncing a flattened soda can between his heels. Mulligan gave his companion a hard look, which brought the shifting to a stop, and the trio stood in silence as tears and ash fell to the pavement.
Finally, Gerald cleared his throat.
“Sorry,” he retrieved a wad of tissue from his pocket and cleared his nose. “Anyhow, the cops aren’t doing enough – the way they’re talking they think she was having an affair.”
From what Smith had heard, he couldn’t blame them for the assumption. The woman had been found dead in her own bed, wearing a black corset, black stockings, and a made-up face marred only by the vomiting she’d conducted just before her death.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that her husband was leading a software development project in Italy at the time, Mulligan would have pointed the finger of blame at his client – in truth, he hadn’t entirely ruled out the possibility. The rushed contract had only a digital signature, and this was the earliest opportunity, after a long flight, a police interrogation, and some funeral arrangements, to meet.
“They won’t even admit there’s a connection between this and the killer giant,” Gerald continued. “I don’t know if he’s the one who did it, but the symptoms and timing are too similar to be a coincidence.”
His pinched fingers flicked away the remains of his illicit blaze.
“Let’s go,” he said, “I need something to drink.”
As they stepped onto the sidewalk, Smith knew he’d come to the point he was hoping to avoid.
“I do find the situation with this giant,” the investigator looked at his notes, “- Ortez, to be more than just happenstance, but, do you, uh, think he knew your wife at all?”
Passing a couple in skinny-jeans, the traveling group fell into another silence. Smith had already scheduled a visit to Ortez, whose roommate had expired in a way that seemed to perfectly mimic the death of Mrs. Brewer, but the matter which had likely slowed the official connection of the incidents – the social and economic gulf that separated the pair of victims – had Mulligan guessing at motives.
Gerald, his eyes now bloodshot, reached for the door to a combination bakery and coffee shop.
He kept his gaze on the rustically planked oak-entrance as he asked Smith, “are you implying that Gracie was seeing someone on the side?”
While the sleuth considered his response, the thirsty man rattled the handle.
“Closed!?” shouted the widower. “In the middle of the god damn day!? Everything in this neighbourhood is going to hell.”
Winnipeg had nothing with which to console the man but a shrug, and a facial expression which read as, “wish I could help, but I only work here.”
“She -” replied Mulligan “uh, you know, she wasn’t exactly dressed for a quiet night alone.”
“You too?” asked Gerald. “Fine. Listen: I told you we’d been talking earlier in the evening, before Monica – her sister – got worried about her not answering the phone and went over, and she’d been OK. Ever heard of Skype? Gracie’d spent a good hour, and no small amount of baby oil, proving to me how much she loved me. She wasn’t having an affair, she just didn’t have a chance to finish cleaning up before she died.”
He swung his worn sneaker heavily into the unyielding wood.
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