FP221 – Mulligan Smith in The Pinch, Part 3 of 3
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and twenty one.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Dunesteef.
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, ends an uncomfortable case with an awkward conversation.
Mulligan Smith in The Pinch, Part 3 of 3
Smith had returned to his client’s house, on the west-side of Capital City, to find a black sedan parked on the paved lawn. Although Mulligan expected the carefully generic vehicle, he hadn’t anticipated a sudden thunderstorm, and slowed traffic had cost him the opportunity to intercept the stranger before they’d entered the home.
Killing the Tercel’s engine, he hopped a puddle and vaulted the short row of steps which lead onto the porch. He didn’t bother knocking.
“My apologies,” said Mulligan, as he slung back his damp hood.
The Givens had gathered on the leather couch in their living room, and McCrumb, the driver of the Ford and the police detective who’d first taken Jarrod’s account, was sitting alongside in a lazy boy. Stuart and Susan appeared to be drinking scotch over ice as their stiff-limbed son sat silently between them.
Smith didn’t know the cop personally, but he took it as a reassuring sign that the man was at the cusp of his chair, and leaning hard across the tidily arranged coffee table, instead of resting comfortably with a glass in his hand.
“All right,” said Mulligan, “you folks look pretty settled, so let’s just cut to the chase – I’d like to play a little something for you, if I may. You’ve probably already seen it, but I figure it’s best if we all refresh ourselves. Mrs. Givens, you said you had it on your PVR?”
Without responding, the woman dipped her hand into a wooden box filled with black plastic slabs and selected the proper remote from the half-dozen competitors.
The emblem of Capital City’s leading local news organization flashed across the screen. Susan was forced into a second excavation to adjust the volume to an audible level.
A female reporter was delivering the piece’s overview as a slightly out-of-focus camera watched a group of teenagers loiter outside of Acadia High School.
“The student body is shocked, and many parents are outraged, as word of the allegations has spread.” The image became that of Ms. Lacy, its graininess betraying the fact that it was likely snatched from a social network profile. “Arrested last night upon arriving at her home from a trip to unknown locations, Rebbecca Lacy, thirty-five, stands accused of having molested a local teen. Although the woman refuses to meet with the press, the boy’s lawyer provided the following statement.”
A mustachioed man, seated at a desk backed by bookshelves, came onscreen.
“Three days ago, on Friday, my client was lead into the backseat of the car owned by Ms. Lacy, where she proceeded to perform oral sex on a minor – er, him.”
The view moved to a blond reporter, microphone in hand, positioned before the high school, but Smith punched the TV’s power button.
“Funny thing, to get a lawyer for a criminal case. Have you got a call from above yet? I can’t imagine the government fellow handling your case is terribly excited about your statement,” he said.
“Well, it was also unusual to hire a private investigator,” said Susan. “We’re thorough people.”
“Uh huh. It’s too bad you and Stu weren’t so thorough in your parenting. Sorry – it’s sweet of Officer McCrumb to have given you the benefit of the doubt this long, but he mentioned an odd detail to me earlier, and, since I’m probably going to have to fight for my payday, I’m a bit touchy.”
In truth, the pair had not conferred, but Mulligan had no interest in making an enemy. He was glad to discover the bull had a solid poker face.
Smith moved close to the low table, so that he dominated Jarrod’s view. The PI paid no attention to the droplets which rolled from his hoodie and spattered a variety of nature scenes across a fan of National Geographic magazines.
“So, which is it then?” he asked.
The youth slumped, as the lawman began to rifle through his notebook in search of a half-remembered detail.
“I’m going to be honest,” said Mulligan, “I’m hard pressed to think of a person I dislike more than you, and you’ve only been working at it for fifteen years. There are a lot of kids that don’t get an opportunity to be believed – a lot of kids who never get a chance to say anything.”
McCrumb’s eyes widened, then shuttered into slits, which pleased Smith, who was rapidly running short of material to stall with.
“Was it the parking lot, or was it the track?” asked the flushed officer.
“I – I got confused. It was the parking lot,” said Jarrod.
“It was the parking lot,” Smith interrupted, “only once I let slip to your dance-date that your story didn’t make sense. If she was returning after convincing her dad to let her back out with the car, what was she doing at the rear of the building, by the track? You know what, save whatever idiotic excuse you’re about to make. When I discovered you were selling coke to your classmates, my life became considerably easier – also, your chums became considerably more conversational.
“Talk wasn’t what I needed, though.
“Given the air of paranoia you’ve created, I couldn’t go and friend a bunch of them online, so I did the next best thing: I blackmailed them for access to their cellphone pictures; nearly seven thousand photos of overly made-up teenage girls making duck-lipped faces.” Mulligan reached into the interior of his sweater and retrieved a trio of printouts. “Over the left shoulder of the pouter in red, you’ll notice a familiar wild-eyed partier. Then, here, same merrymaker, left of this peace sign. Saved the best for last though.”
The final image showed Jarrod’s crazed smile up close, and his bleeding nose was plainly visible.
“My guess,” said Smith, “Is that she caught you coming back from the bathroom with a blizzard on your face, and she took you outside to talk. You panicked, and told her you’d cry junk-toucher if she said anything. The next day she took off to ponder her moral dilemma with her crippled mother. Maybe you couldn’t find her and it freaked you out, maybe you’re a pansy, but, whatever the case, you pushed the red button and ended that poor woman’s career.
“It was never going to work though, McCrumb was always going to notice the problems once her story was known.”
The boy said nothing.
“Blackmail won’t stand in court,” said Stuart, pushing back the pictures.
“A drug test will do just fine though,” replied Mulligan.
McCrumb nodded. “Even if you argue that you were snorting at some other time, its going to be a tough case to make on behalf of a coke-head with bad memory.”
“You – you’re bluffing,” said Jarrod, “even if I had done it – which I didn’t – everyone knows cocaine is out of your system in like the first twenty-four hours.”
The policeman’s carefully maintained neutrality dropped into a frown. “Actually, a hair test is good for quite a lot longer. It’s more expensive, but I think I can convince the boys to spring for it.”
Susan pointed an accusing finger at Mulligan. “You bastard! Why would you do this?”
“I’ve done you a favour, though I know you’ll deny it. Frankly, I thought you should hear everything before the press at your doorstep: At least then you might feel like you got some use from my fees. Which I plan on collecting in full – and I’m very thorough.”
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.
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- SFX high school playground distant by nickpursehouse
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