Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and fifty-eight.
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, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny Davis, his tipsy friend, find themselves deep in conversation with a dead killer.
Coffin: Dealing, Part 3 of 3
The pause between the stringy-haired drunk, the leather-jacketed shaman, and the lacy-skirted stranger, was a brief one.
Bunny had no idea who John Koyle was, why he apparently looked like a rockabilly hipster chick, or what life choices had driven him to murder the trio in the next room, but she certainly knew she had a pistol in her hand, and she intended to use it.
Coffin’s reflexes were all that kept Priscilla Root alive.
“Whoa there, Quick Draw McGraw,” he told his companion, as he stepped into her line of fire. “Let’s hold a quick conversation, then shoot him.
“The name’s familiar – Koyle? Weren’t you some sort of murderous ferryman? Yeah, yeah, the dioramas are ringing a bell now. Blackhall mentioned you.”
“Such wonders you have, these days, with your electricity and your nail guns. Tools for a true creator, they are,” replied the man in the woman’s body. His words rolled from plump pink lips. “I’ve always heard artists only gain proper notoriety after their death – it took nearly two hundred years, but even I’ve gathered an appreciative audience – and you know of Blackhall, you say? Interesting, indeed. Certainly not a detail I was given before being asked to pass my message.”
Bunny had lowered the gun,and edged beyond Will’s shoulder, so that she might maintain a view of Koyle. The living room was sizable enough, but its crowded shelves left the space feeling tight – especially while holding the conversation across the dead fellow on the couch.
“You’re some kinda ####in’ murderous time traveling drag queen?” she asked. “Oh ####, I mean, I have no problem with how you wanna dress – it’s the murdering that makes me think you’re an ###hole.”
“No, I am something of a reincarnation. I’ve been given command of the rather pleasing body of Priscilla Root, former girlfriend of this sluggard,” Koyle threw a purple-thumbnail towards the cadaver he shared the sofa with, “and compatriot to the three in the kitchen.”
“Won’t be long before they all reek,” replied Coffin. Though his words were casual, his eyes roamed over the possessed woman’s arms. Beneath the sleeves of Root’s white-fringed vintage blouse, her limbs bore a interlocking maze of imagery: a school of koi fish flowed into the scales of looping dragons, whose smokey exhalations formed the tail feathers of a murder of crows.
Koyle smiled. “Oh, I’m quite used to it.”
“You said something about a message?” asked Will.
“Yes, well, in truth, you’re a wee bit early, but my bonfire was part of it. Your inebriate friend here, locked eternally, by my needles, into a position of prayer, will be the next. My, er, benefactors, want your knee bent, whatever the cost.”
“Holy ####,” said Bunny, “I don’t want to sound cliche, but I think I’m actually about to shoot a messenger.”
Despite her bluster, the killer’s grin remained. “Not this time. I have leverage, and I doubt you’re so hard hearted – harm me, and you harm Priscilla Root.”
“Fine, let’s just call the cops then – be pretty ####ing hilarious to spend your second lifetime in a jail cell, wouldn’t it? It’d give Coffin plenty of time to whip up some mumbo jumbo and fish you out.”
As if in response, a nearby car-door slammed, and the bewitched Ms. Root batted her lashes. “Do you think the local constabulary will arrive in the neighbourhood before the burly fellows, which I was asked to stall you for, manage to make their entrance?”
The security system gave a cheerful double bing.
“One of them has a gun,” announced Koyle, to the now lit hallway.
From the depths of the homemade art gallery, well beyond their view, came a deep-throated reply. “That’s fine, we’re carrying three of our own.”
The scuffle was short.
A distracted Bunny was disarmed by Koyle, who nimbly gained his feet and aimed a fist at her jaw.
Coffin stepped back, with his fingers in his pockets, but, before he might retrieve a talisman, a scream split the air. It had emanated from one of the unseen newcomers, and was immediately drowned in a rush of chittering.
Only one made it so far as the room’s entryway: A thick-chested man in a simple gray suit. He held a pistol, but was too blind to find any use for it. About his neck maneuvered a pair of large black squirrels, their grasping claws dancing along the material at his collar, and their probing teeth finding purchase in the soft flesh of his face.
He managed a gurgled request for help, then was set upon by a ragged-haired German Shepherd, which laid its broad mouth across his left-calf, and commenced to thrash.
The intruder toppled, and a flood of night creatures followed – it was a motley arrangement of malnourished tom cats, raccoons, and rats, which dragged him away.
Then the house was once again silent.
“The #### was that?” asked Bunny, from her new position on the floor, as she rubbed her swelling cheek.
Uninterested in further conversation with the madman, Coffin uncoiled his silver chain and started its ornate hook along a rhythmic arc about his head.
“Bloody sorcerers,” muttered Koyle, and Will took his swing.
The snare scarcely grazed Priscilla Root’s temple, but it was enough, and the translucent form of a howling John Koyle was tugged from her flesh.
Unlike his previous experiences with the Crook of Ortez, however, Coffin found it necessary to maintain a contest of strength with the artifact, or otherwise allow the haunting spirit to return to inhabiting the woman.
Priscilla sat, heavily, upon the already occupied couch, and began shrieking.
“Gettin’ punched by a hipster is the ####in’ worst. They’re nothin’ but knuckles,” said Bunny, as she gained her feet. She moved to hush the panicked screamer.
Will had worked to brace himself, but the greater the distance, the stronger Koyle seemed to pull towards his anchor.
To Priscilla’s gaze, Coffin was engaged in a bizarre mime act; a fight with a chain floating of its own accord.
“We need to know which is the new tattoo,” demanded the struggling shaman.
Without quite understanding the request, the weeping girl indicated a series of barbed swirls, worked into the skin of a geisha which circled the back, and palm, of her left hand.
“I’m sorry,” replied Will, as he released his charm. The links fell, as if suddenly unburdened, and Priscilla Root was re-invaded.
Before the persistent phantasm could voice a note of victory, Bunny hit him.
As she did her best to hold down the returned shade, Coffin conducted a hurried search of the house, and turned up a cleaver, obviously beloved by its former foodie owner, as well as the compressor and nail gun which Koyle had extensively misused.
Using a dishtowel as a cuff, Will quickly had Priscilla’s adorned arm pinned to the kitchen’s tiles, though a further set of similar restraints were necessary to quiet the maniac’s struggles. Once in place, though, there was time to plan.
Finally, as sirens filled the early morning, and under the staring eyes of Root’s dead friends, Coffin began his surgery, with a heavy drop of the butcher’s blade.
It was Priscilla alone who screamed, when he pressed the red-bottomed frying pan to her stump – and, even as he followed Bunny out the rear exit, the same wailing pulled the paramedics through the gore of the hall and living room, and to the injured woman’s side.
As they rounded the neighbouring industrial building, and looked for a hole in the fence so that they might cross the tracks, Pisky’s voice came to them from the thicket beyond.
“I’m a fool for a damsel in distress,” he said, “but I’m sure you’ll find a way to thank me.”
Bunny considered a response, but instead kept her mouth busy with the bottle of pretentious scotch she’d managed to locate in the recently abandoned dining area.
“That’s real sentimental of you, Pisky,” replied Will, to the unseen animal lord. “I rather suspect, though, that you only saved me because I’ve got what you need.”
Coffin tossed the cursed and still-flailing hand over the metal barrier, but did not wait for the chewing sounds of ripping sinew before continuing on.
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