FP223 – Mulligan Smith in The Master of the Wild Kingdom, Part 1 of 2
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and twenty three.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Jimmy and the Black Wind.
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, private investigator, finds himself nearly in the company of the obscenely wealthy.
Mulligan Smith in The Master of the Wild Kingdom, Part 1 of 2
Mulligan’s troubles began when the first courier found him at the entrance to his preferred 7-Eleven. The helmeted youth had stopped him short on the curb before the PI had had time to take the opening sip of his slurpee.
“I’ve been looking all over for you. They said you might be here though. Mulligan, right?” asked the eighteen-year-old on the bicycle.
“Yeah,” replied Smith.
“They described you to a T, man. Said you’d have the hoodie on and everything. Got some ID?”
“Who described me?”
“Hell if I know his name. One of the fat cats up the food chain.”
The PI displayed his driver’s license, and was handed an envelope for his trouble.
As the pedaller moved back into traffic, Mulligan ripped open his delivery.
He’d expected some contract paperwork from a client, but, instead, he found non-refundable, round trip plane-tickets to Orlando, a printed confirmation for a pre-paid hotel room, and a pass for a courtside seat to watch the Magic play the Heat.
Smith stood for a time, savouring his beverage.
Finally, with a shrug, he pulled his car keys from his pocket.
After double-checking the travel bag he kept in the Tercel’s trunk, he made for the airport.
* * *
Smith had never been much of a basketball fan, but the intensity of the game had drawn him in. Better yet, after returning to his hotel room, he’d discovered a convention’s worth of plastics engineers occupying the bar, and he’d spent the remainder of the evening learning the oddities of the industry.
The next morning, as he boarded his return flight with a slight hangover, he found his ticket had bumped to first class. His interest was piqued, but he felt little concern about the situation – few of his enemies had this kind of cash to waste.
Twenty minutes into the flight, a trimly suited man with curly brown hair gave him a friendly wave. His mouth smiled, but the eyes behind his sharp-lined glasses did not.
Before Mulligan could consider approaching him, the man indicated the safety card the PI had studiously ignored at takeoff.
Leaning forward, Smith found his seat-back pocket bulging.
Within was a small tape recorder, heavily covered in duct tape. At first pressing play seemed to provide no result, but, by holding it directly to his ear, Mulligan found he could hear a voice beneath the grinding wheels of the player.
He punched the decrepit technology’s rewind button, and tried again.
“Hello,” said the tape, “I am Mr. Jeff. Do not approach me, or I will void the cheque I have paper-clipped to your emergency guide. I am working on behalf of Mrs. Olivia Barger, although all of your payments will be signed as a consultation fee from Good Homes Plastics – which is to say, I have been directed to inform you of your employment.
“Mrs. Barger would also like to apologize for the theater required in this hiring, but it is necessary. It would be much to my employer’s benefit to have hidden her true identity, but she feels it is imperative that you understand the danger related to this undertaking. She knows all too well what kind of pains her soon-to-be-former husband might inflict.
“You will be examining Mr. Charles Barger for any sort of impropriety which he might find embarrassing during his turbulent divorce trial.
“We hope that you appreciate that explaining away dead investigators is the worst sort of media attention.
“You will not record this tape. When we land, you will leave the player on your seat and debark. Failure to follow instructions will result in immediate contract termination.
“Once certain conditions, which I can not discuss, have been confirmed, you will be provided further guidance.
“It is a pleasure doing business with you.”
The Bargers were constant news fodder, and Mulligan knew that Olivia would easily be the richest client he’d ever taken on. He’d read much about the supposedly underhanded dealings of the plastics giant, including the Internet rumours regarding the hooker he’d supposedly had turned into a statue of herself, but he’d never had business with the family.
Still, the cheque was for ten grand. He decided to take it as vacation pay.
* * *
Three days later, as Smith exited his father’s apartment building, the second courier arrived..
After the dance of identification was complete, Mulligan ripped open the newest envelope.
Though it was unsigned, he could not help but read it in Mr. Jeff’s even tone.
“Hello Mr. Smith,
“It was great to see you at the Plastics Showcase. Attached, please find your speaking fee.I’ve also included information regarding the island you were asking after, and took the liberty of setting up a viewing tomorrow, at midnight. Please approach quietly, the inhabitants do not enjoy the company of strangers.”
At the bottom of the paper was a set of GPS coordinates, but there were no travel arrangements attached, simply a cashier’s cheque for fifty grand.
Smith turned and went back upstairs.
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