213 – Mulligan Smith in Resolution, Part 1 of 1
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and thirteen.
Tonight we present, Mulligan Smith in Resolution, Part 1 of 1.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Asunder.
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, discusses the nature of blood relations.
213 – Mulligan Smith in Resolution, Part 1 of 1
“Remember that taxi I was waiting around for last week – the one with the corpse in the trunk?” asked Mulligan.
Walmart Mike reflected on the question while chewing stoically on his hash brown, careful to appear as if he hadn’t been anticipating the full tale since the incident.
“Yeah, I seem to recall,” he replied, after a sip of orange juice.
“Well, it was actually two bodies.”
Mike took another drink. “Yeah, read it in the papers, boy and his girl.”
Smith nodded, and eyed the busy Burger King. He wasn’t a fan of their work, but an increasing dislike of McDonald’s seemed to be an occupational hazard for his friend, the Walmart Greeter, due to overexposure. Usually he’d have sprung for some Denny’s, but both men were, for the moment at least, on a tight budget.
“I was hired to find Daren Lennox, by his parents. He’d been calling semi-regularly, from a blocked number, but didn’t talk much and often sounded pretty messed up.
“His Mom spent our opening interview weeping, and informing me that she was sure he was dead this time. Had some choice names for his off-and-on girlfriend, Delilah, and plenty to say about Daren’s crack habit.
“We had the conversation at their kitchen table. Not their crisply laid out dining room, just their simple, chrome-legged, mail-collector and sandwich holder. I got the impression talking over their son’s crimes was a common occurrence for the spot. Then there was the kid – Daren’s. It was cold, but they’d sent her outside to entertain herself on the backyard’s huge play structure. I could see her through the window glass, swinging listlessly and staring back at me.
“Papa Lennox said Lennox Jr. was a rotten apple. Spoke a lot about his responsibilities, and kept telling me he was only trying to find him for the betterment of the family.”
Mulligan took a bite of cold Croissan’Wich.
“Family is a funny thing,” said Mike. ”Before I straightened up, in – I dunno, early ‘73 maybe – I knew these two tribes, the Lemons and the Haywards.
“I used to hang out with Nicky Lemon, who was a bit of an idiot but way more reasonable than the rest of his kin. I mean, we made a few bucks by dipping unrepentantly into the tills of local convenience stores, so I guess he wasn’t that reasonable, but the rest of his people were frothy and full-o’-pissed-off.
“One Saturday night, Clyde Lemon – Nicky’s older brother, and a mean drunk – picks a fight with Stubbles Hayward, and accidentally beats the guy to death with a tire iron in the parking lot of the Pretty Kitty strip club.
“It sobers up Clyde, and he disappears the same evening, heading to parts unspecified. This leaves Nicky panicked, as he figures he’s the only male of his generation left to take the bullet that he knows is now owed.
“Doesn’t happen that way. Sunday morning, while Mr Goodyear’s wife is out buying him a bunch of stuff for a care package, a pair of Haywards kick in his apartment door and put five bullets through his nanny, and seven through his toddler.
“Too far, too far, and I couldn’t blame the head Lemon when he went ape shit in return. It was a little much to ambush the school bus though. By the time those bastards were done picking through the seats, they’d killed three Haywards, and left the other thirty or so kids traumatized for life.
“Things really hit the fan after that.
“I was keen on maintaining my friendship from afar, but I heard about it when Clyde and his sisters were all stabbed to death in a public washroom at a neighbourhood picnic. Everybody said security was tight at the event, but I guess the Haywards brought in a pro. They found nearly a whole generation of Lemons dead in stalls, the bloody mess draining away into the toilet.
“Nicky was out of town when it happened, and he stayed that way for a long while.
“The oldest generation of Lemons and Haywards died within two days of each other. Gran and Grampy Lemon’s car exploded on the highway between their house and their church. Rumour was that someone had actually bought a landmine especially for the occasion, but I could never figure how that would work. The eldest Haywards were accounted for ten years later, when a plea bargaining hog farmer included them in his checklist of bodies he’d been asked to feed to the pigs.
“The only people who walked away happy were the professionals who’d been paid.”
Walmart Mike rubbed the fried potato crumbs of his from his fingers before concluding.
“I guess my point is, soon as family is involved, business sense goes out the window and people will do anything for the stupidest of reasons.”
The PI, who’d also finished his breakfast, lifted his soda and found nothing but ice.
“Yeah,” he said. “family is exactly what tripped me. When I went to visit his girlfriend’s relations, they all told me he was scum, and wanted nothing to do with him. It was the mom, mostly, riling them. Given how much they seemed to hate him, I figured they couldn’t be close enough to him to know the details I wanted. My second visit, though, I backed it way up. Talked to her sister, alone, instead.
“She was calmer. Apparently, not long previous to his disappearance, he’d said he was going clean. I’d listened to the same from his parents, but they’d been quick to add that they’d heard it a thousand times already, usually when he was attempting to borrow money for another rock.
“The next day, while wandering around, I’d met this kid who’d known Lennox, and he’d said that Daren was dealing on corners previously, but had stopped.
“Well, I’m thinking he’s maybe got some old debts, and is laying low. I’ve met guys who think going clean is some kind of get out of jail free card as far as their outstanding tabs go, but improved morals don’t often impress crack dealers who’re down a half-grand.
“The schoolboy tells me he’d seen Daren and his lady not long before, and that they were stuffed into a taxi by an aggressive third party. The cabbie surfaced, but his car didn’t. He said he’d been given the boot by a trio of hijackers, but I suspected it was really just one who happened to know the other two.
Forgetting the status of his empty cup, Mulligan attempted to sip at his beverage, and received nothing but gurgling in response.
“At that point I’m figuring I’m dealing with a simple drug-related murder. That seemed to pan out when I came across the vehicle in question sitting in your store’s parking lot. Cops took one look at Daren’s record, and I guess they assumed the same as well.
“It nagged at me though.
“I only fully realized how much time the girl had spent at Grandpa Lennox’s house when I went back after the discovery. It’s tough to see the reasoning behind a chronic failure, but I think Daren and Delilah knew they were poisoned, and didn’t want to mess up the child.
“They also must have known that if they were going to get clean, they had to do it on their own. I think they had, actually. I pulled some strings for a favour, and found a nice little nest egg in their bank account. Nothing huge, but exactly one nice little nest egg bigger than I’ve ever seen addicts be able to maintain.
“I’d met again with my clients to let them know, as I’d already waived my fees over the phone, but I figured I could give them some comfort if they knew that their son had been working hard to make things right.
“We’re talking, and I’m staring out the window again, at the girl – she’s climbing, totally oblivious to me, and she’s at the apex of this plastic tree-house thing. While waiting till Father Lennox is done telling me how it might all be for the best, I’m thinking that the equipment probably provides better shelter than my apartment.
“It hits me.
“If I had to guess – and I do, at least until the trial – Daren and his sweetheart were leaving the city. They were taking the girl. They were clean, yeah, but I’ve known a few junkies in the past, as I’m sure you have too, and it’s easier to stay sober if you don’t have close friends making bad suggestions. Their families probably didn’t seem like great support systems, and they likely thought they’d be further ahead just starting new.
“I don’t mention my epiphany, of course, but I do let them know about the nest egg, then I leave. The description the cabbie provided matched any thug I’ve ever heard of: Unshaven and angry. What I’d realized, though, was that it was also a pretty good match for what Lennox Senior might look like if he’d been losing sleep over no longer regularly seeing the little girl he’d had so much part in raising up until that point. Hell, he’d probably expected to see her off to college.
“Perhaps he saw her as a chance to fix the errors he’d made the first go-round.
“The uniforms sounded pretty grumpy that they hadn’t thought of it themselves, but the taxi-man found the photo of that particular passenger all too familiar.”
It was Walmart Mike’s turn to nod, and, for a time, the pair sat silently on their formed-plastic benches, their gazes turned towards the tray upon which they had piled their discarded food containers.
Finally, Mulligan stood to carry the crumpled papers and cardboard boxes to the trash. With a shrug of his shoulders, he watched the remnants slide into the murky depths of the bin.
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