Flash Pulp

now browsing by category

 

FP410 – The Murder Plague: Recoil

Flash Pulp's The Murder Plague: A science fiction fantasy podcast

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and ten.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Recoil

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Forum

 

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 we attempt to survive another encounter on the streets of Capital City alongside our hero, Harm Carter, a victim of the homicidal paranoia that infects the city’s inhabitants.

 

The Murder Plague: Recoil

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Let’s talk, for a moment, about gunfights – and, more specifically, about gunfights at a time when a solid portion of the population has been infected in such a way as to think they’re the new Gary Cooper in town.

In my more adventurous years, as a young man on foreign soil, I’d occasionally found myself firing the rifles Uncle Sam kept handing me. I have never been a master shot, but, honestly, the technique we employed in dispensing ammunition across the countryside was often more a matter of statistics than precision.

All that to say: Even before Hitchcock’s disease convinced every grandmother to hide a revolver in her purse and every Saturday hunter that he should find a bell tower to climb, I’d already survived the lottery that is the high-velocity exchange of projectiles on more than one occasion.

Even then, I recall, a week or two into my own madness, encountering a darkened baseball diamond. Nothing overwrought, just a neighourhood lot with a chain-link backstop, two benches, a plywood concession stand, and a playground set off to the side to keep the local softball team’s kids entertained while they were swinging bats.

A cargo truck had been stationed in the outfield, and a tall-legged canvas tent had collapsed onto second base. Bottles of water waited on open palettes, and a stack of folding chairs sat, un-deployed, not far from the vehicle.

The scene rang of an aborted attempt at a governmental emergency response. Perhaps they’d tried setting up an evacuation point – I couldn’t tell what had happened to disappear all involved, but there was definitely a feeling as if the hulking rig had been vacated with haste, like a landlocked Mary Celeste.

Flash Pulp's The Murder Plague: A science fiction fantasy podcastIn search of supplies, I’d been crawling along the garden path between a two-car garage and a bungalow that’d had every one of its windows thoroughly shattered. I remember thinking the fluttering of the lace curtains blown through the living room’s missing bay window quite beautiful as I sat watching for any movement in, or across from, the park.

Feeding yourself when all is paranoia is a tricky matter. I’d spent the previous weeks stepping into booby traps, and there was no greater bait than the rations I suspected were abandoned to the feral grass.

Still, my stomach’s rumbling was a persuasive counter-argument, so the debate lasted a surprising while.

An hour into my vigil a cloud bank fought the moon for dominance of the sky, and my brain chemistry shifted from wait to run. Stooping low, I sprinted, full-tilt, from my location to the shelter of the metal bumpers lining the diamond’s car-less gravel lot, then along the wooden outfield fence and into the relief camp’s shadow.

From that distance I could see more signs of sudden passage – papers spread around the disordered turf and medical paraphernalia toppled near the thick rubber tires – but I could also make out the flat brown packaging that indicated a stack of MREs in the rear of the flatbed.

Things were going really well until I stepped onto the back of the truck.

The two-story houses on the far side of home plate all looked to have been picked from the same catalogue. Most were undamaged, and each one sported equally dark windows and closed garages at the end of paved driveways.

From the second floor of the third home from the right, however, a blinking light of death took to looking for me. Someone was waving a silenced automatic weapon in my direction.

Muzzle flash wasn’t my only sign of danger, though: The exploding bottles of water to my right were also a pretty good indication. I went over the truck’s side backwards, like a Navy diver enters the drink, but I landed like a drunken albatross in high wind.

Yet there was no chance to complain about my injured spine, as the winking flare was already busy conducting heavy duty body-work on the Army’s chariot.

Now, I wasn’t without my own means, but I was as well off chucking rocks at that distance as I was using a pistol. That did not stop me, however, from pulling my automatic from its pocket and making the first noises of the night.

At the least, I figured some excitement in the shooter’s direction would do little to steady their aim.

While throwing away my bullets, I ran. I hustled past the guest team’s bench, the surface splintering under the flicker, and made a dive for the concession stand.

There was definitely a proper door to the shack, but it was around back and I didn’t have the time. Instead, I plunged head long into the large hinged flap that would normally be pinned up to indicate the stand was open for business, hoping all the while that it wasn’t locked.

It was definitely locked.

The panic in my feet was such, though, that it didn’t really matter. The spinning slats of wood they rotated into place to hold the sheet down snapped under my impact, and the hatch gave way far enough to deposit me firmly on the cement slab that made up the floor.

There were two people already sheltering inside.

The man was maybe twenty-five. His hair had been close-cropped at some point, but it’d been quite a while since he’d seen a razor. He was dressed in jeans and a dark blue t-shirt, but I could have easily pictured him in a uniform before the collapse set in. She was maybe eighteen, wearing black stretch pants, a thick gray sweater, and a ponytail that seemed to bounce in defiance of the misery around her.

When I think on that moment I’m always slightly relieved I didn’t kill them, but, honestly, if I hadn’t emptied my weapon ahead of my arrival I’d likely have done exactly what the disease insisted.

They ran then, out the door I hadn’t used. There was a half eaten sandwich on the ground, a small guttering candle, and a harness with three grenades strung across it.

I didn’t wonder, then, how the pair had managed to stick together without murdering each other. I did wonder how anyone could possibly forget such useful equipment when departing, but I was too far distant from ordinary human perspective to understand that sort of surprise anymore.

Whatever the case, I stopped consideration of the matter twenty feet into their escape, when the fellow’s head blossomed three red stitches.

The woman did not pause, but she did scream as she doubled her speed and disappeared between a white Escalade and a maroon Mini Cooper across the way.

There must have been more twinkling from the second floor rifleman, as the SUV’s rear window shattered, but the block settled into silence once the runner was safely in the shadows.

I was left to wait and consider.

It’s hard to know where my will to survive stopped and the disease began. I obsessed about the grenades – how I might use them to defeat the deadly light blinking in the distance – but, the truth was, there was no hope I could cover the ground and remain free of some copper and lead marbling. My logical mind won that argument at least.

My brain worked every corner, rattling every scrap of material I had at hand, but there’s the reality of combat in a nutshell: It’s good to be fast, and it’s good to be accurate, but it’s not always enough.

In the end the madness decided on making a run for the truck. I can see now that I would have been just as dead as the t-shirted lad no further than ten yards from my shelter, but there was a strange commonality between the Murder Plague and being a contestant on Jeopardy. Tension makes the solution harder to see, and there is a constant need to do something. Sometimes that meant anything.

Loading another clip into my marble thrower, I did my best to steady my hand, and stood.

As I’ve said, there’s too much randomness in a firefight for my liking, but there are some rules that seem to hold. One is that chucking bullets will lead to bullets being chucked back at you. This scales all the way from a small bank robbery to the invasion of a Middle Eastern nation. If you’re going to do unto others you either have to massacre them all or accept the same kindness.

Even as I pulled back the hatch and let fly with my peashooter, the blinking became a brief nova, then portions of shredded flower-print curtain and beige house-siding began to rain across the lawn.

Deciding that was the perfect time to shop, I beelined to the brown bags, grabbed a double armful, and made for the same garden path that’d brought me there.

I’m glad I never came across the girl again. I suspect – no, I believe – that she acted out of revenge, meaning she wasn’t sick but a simple, angry, innocent. I’m also not sure I would have survived a second encounter: Even sane she’d thought to do what her lover hadn’t, bring some grenades.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

- and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP409 – Chum

FP409 - Chum

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and nine.

Flash PulpTonight we present Chum

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Melting Potcast

 

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 we present a tale of summer miscreancy and the unexpected phantasms of childhood.

 

Chum

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

The twelve-year-olds, Chuck and Grim Tom, were sitting on the splinter-filled bench that ran the length of the camp’s convenience store. They were sipping Dr. Peppers.

“Ain’t nothing interesting ever happen here,” Chuck was saying, his can already half empty.

Grim Tom smiled.

“That’s not true, there was that time the Gupta’s trailer caught fire, and the pig roast is tonight,” he replied, his can still half full.

Filmore Park, Capital City’s finest – or at least nearest – RV site, spread out from their perch. To the left, just behind the sparklingly-clean Canyon Stars of Filmore’s jetset, was a hilltop view of Lake Pichimonga. The hill itself was beset with jagged stones, inhabitable only by stubs of persistent grass, ensuring the richest campers prime scenery without disruption from the rabble.

To the right, down the sloping road that cut through the more tightly-packed sprawl, lay the small dock, the swings, and the hurly burly surrounding the boys’ own modest motorhomes.

Grim Tom had befriended Chuck during the first summer either had spent visiting the park. Now, after three seasons of water fights, preteen politics, and fireside crushes, they felt as if they had spent their entire lives scaling the moss-covered boulders and roaming the woods surrounding the rows of electrical outlets.

Finishing his soda with an extended slurp, Grim Tom lobbed the tin husk towards the recycling barrel and turned to witness the approach of a distant engine.

From beyond the corner of the store came the largest RV either youth had ever encountered. Its towering white walls seemed to bulge under their own weight, but every surface wide enough to contain a window had been converted into an expanse of glass.

Its flat nose provided a clear view of the clean-cut man behind its wheel.

“Huh,” said Chuck.

“Yeah, I’ve never seen a rolling shack like that,” answered Tom.

For a moment the stranger smiled, and it appeared to the boy as if the newcomer’s mouth was filled with rows of off-white spines, like porcupine quills, but then his lips closed to a tight smirk and the child knew it must have been a trick of the light.

As it passed, the vehicle moved through a slow turn, giving ample time to visually pry at the tautly-curtained windows that ran along its flanks. By the time it had claimed a prime spot overlooking the lake, they had seen little enough to have their curiosity roaring.

Grim Tom settled back on the bench, saying, “so much for nothing interesting ever happening.”

He smirked as he spoke, but the smile dropped away when his friend returned to a topic that would not remain buried.

“Okay then,” replied Chuck, “let’s see what’s inside THAT one.”

Chuck’s goal for the summer had revealed the afternoon of their first reunion of the season. They’d been inspecting the crayfish stocks in Miller’s Stream, the management of which they took to be a serious matter, and Charles had recounted his plan in short sentences while hopping along the stream’s archipelago of time-flattened boulders.

Alison Piper, Chuck’s quasi-girlfriend the year previous, had often proven her courage to her companions by pulling open the screen doors of darkened campers and rooting around in their fridges. On occasion she also brought back tales of booze bottles lying about or rubber penises left in the open, and these had gone far to draw on Chuck’s affections. To Tom, there’d never been any malice in the acts, only bravado, but he’d done his best to discourage the trespassing nonetheless.

He’d been less than thrilled when Chuck had begun to talk of the Grimaldi’s mammoth Zephyr as the Everest of such endeavours.

It was true that the trailer was the largest in the makeshift neighourhood, but Mr. Grimaldi was also one of its most ornery inhabitants. It would not go well for the burglars if they were caught munching down cold hot dogs from his mini-fridge.

Sauntering towards the edge of the convenience store’s porch, Grim Tom said, “give it up, I ain’t going to prison for any icy weiners.”

“They won’t send you to prison,” replied Chuck, who stood to follow, “they won’t know we were there! Even if we were caught, though, they’d just give us a talking to. It’s not like we’re stealing anything. Besides, they’re strangers who wouldn’t recognize us. Anyhow, they’ll be at the pig roast tonight for sure, right? That’s probably why they came, so we can sneak in then, easy peasy.”

On those few occasions when Grim Tom had been caught out by his strong-fingered mother, he knew it was usually one of Chuck’s arguments-by-avalanche that got him there. He was not willing to surrender the fight.

“Look at that monster, it has cost more than old man Filmore paid for the land itself. Any time they leave it’ll be locked tighter than your mom’s undies.”

“That’s when we use the glass hammer!”

Tom groaned. The window breaker, plucked from a roadside safety kit Chuck’s grandfather had given him after buying an upgrade for his big rig, had been the boy’s other obsession of the summer.

“They’ll definitely toss us in the clink then,” said Grim.

“Screw that,” replied Chuck. “It’s like what Dad said when he took wood from the Grimaldi’s pile over the spring – if they can afford that monster they can afford some new lumber – or, in this case, a new window.”

Though it had not been either’s intention, their wandering feet, guided by nothing more than the usual patterns of patrol they fell into when strolling the park, had carried them across the unfamiliar vehicle.

Most of the curtains were still firmly drawn, but, midway along its rounded exterior, the upper half of a dutch door had swung inward. A woman, perhaps only slightly younger than the driver, stood at the open portal.

She was blond, though Grim Tom thought he caught a hint of pastel pink and blue shimmering at the ends of her sweeping ringlets, and she wore a shimmering yellow blouse that seemed to float, barely there, about her shoulders. Her flesh was pale, her chin a gentle point, and it was apparent, as the silk shifted on her slight frame, that she wore no bra.

It was only when she chuckled that the youths realized they were staring. With red faces they wheeled, returning the way they had come at twice the pace of their approach.

“I definitely don’t want to go in there now,” said Tom.

“I’m definitely going in there now,” replied Chuck.

FP409 - ChumThe argument continued for seven hours. It was debated on the swings; it was discussed as pocket knives hacked at pine branches intended for their fort’s roof; it was argued at length under the stars and over marshmallow roasting sticks.

In the end, as the adults’ tinny rock music blared from the beach on the far side of the grounds, Grim Tom maintained he was only there to stop Chuck from going too far.

He claimed too far was even approaching the RV, and then he claimed too far was tugging at the transparent plastic door of the main entrance.

There was no time for him to mention that it was too far before Chuck’s hammer landed.

As the tool arced overhead, however, Tom did see the full length of the door swing wide, revealing the strangest sight his young mind had ever attempted to process.

Here was the man, no longer wearing the light blue polo shirt he’d driven in with. His mouth was agape, and he did, in fact, have a double row of spines for teeth, their heights irregular and their caps ending in jagged splinters.

The blond woman was also there, also topless, her sleepy eyes peering over his right shoulder.

To the left, another set of eyes looked on from beyond the corner of the entrance’s lower half. Tom knew it to be a child, but it barely registered. The lack of legs was all he could truly focus on: The lower halves of both male and female, just below the gently fanning slits that murmured along their ribs, were made up of nothing more than large fish tails.

Then the hammer landed, and both boys were thrown back by the sudden flood of water that shot from the shattered door. The tide was too much for the mer-family as well, and the flow carried them roughly down the iron steps – apparently largely ornamental – and onto the campground dirt.

Standing, Grim Tom took in the trio of fish folk, their fins glimmering under the stars like the surface of the Pichimonga down the barren and rocky slope, and said, “I am SO sorry.”

“Yes! Outside!” giggled the child, now obviously also tailed, and no older than four by human reckoning.

“Oh no,” answered his apparent mother. She began to crawl to his side.

“Five minutes at most and we’ll be drown,” the father shouted in her direction, panic in his voice.

Given the woman’s gasping breaths, Tom suspected she already knew.

Grim’s gaze tracked to the horizon. “Could the Pichimonga keep you alive? What if we dragged – uh, I mean, helped you into it?”

Flopping over, so that he might see his attacker, the father’s face was drawn tight with anger, but he seemed to know too well that he had little time to accuse or argue.

“The hell did you think you were doing!? No, nevermind.

“Yes the lake would be grand, but the stones and the distance are too much – we’ll be gutted or dried up before we get there. You’re onto something though. Get your hands about my munchkin and get him inside.”

Together Chuck and Tom were able to lift the child inside, then helped hoist the mother, her gooey skin appearing human but feeling more fish, and pulled the father across the black iron steps.

Inside, the table and benches, the couch and counters, the kitchenette and shelves: All was plastic except the plush bedding across their sleeping pads. The flooring was nothing more than a collection of pleasantly coloured stones never intended to be stepped upon.

“I can’t lift myself to operate the gas. I can turn us left, towards the slope, but you’ll have to push us in,” announced the man, his spines flashing as he spoke.

The child had taken to crying now, the novelty of his freedom having fled, and the mother held him across her scaly lap, cooing soft songs between which she gulped uselessly at the air.

“I’m sorry too,” said Chuck, too in a hurry to wait for a reply, and the humans departed to set their legs into the act of shoving.

There was a brief second in which Tom suspected the man might just be lying, and might, in fact, have intended to throw the RV in reverse and flatten the pair of intruders. Instead, the red blinkers flared, and it began to roll forward at a gentle pace.

With mighty grunts, the boy’s splayed hands imparted every ounce of momentum they could muster and the behemoth began to move at a greater pace. Tom could not tell if it had been five minutes, all told, when they watched the rear of the beast slide over the lip and begin its descent.

He guessed it a jarring ride, if the bumping and thrashing of the tail lights were any indication, but it somehow remained upright as it coasted over the rocks that marked the shoreline and into the drop off beyond.

Only the topmost of the roof, and the dual beams of its headlights, remained to mark its landing place against the darkness of the water.

Of course, the unexpected plummeting of such an expensive investment was noticed immediately by the adults partying a few hundred yards down the shoreline. A running crowd met Grim Tom and Chuck as they strolled, in a daze, towards their summer homes.

Endless suspicion flowed around the duo’s culpability in the gossip that followed them till the year’s close – but, strangely, no one ever came forward to claim the vehicle as their own, and, once fished from the water, no evidence of ownership, nor even bodies, were found within.

The motorhome was not the last item to be cast into the lake that season, however: Chuck’s hammer soon followed.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

- and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FCM020 – The Picard Phase

FCM020

FCM020 - The Picard Phase
Welcome to Flash Pulp Minisode 020 – The Picard Phase

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

* * *

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

- and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP408 – Bug Report

FP408 - Bug Report

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and eight.

Flash PulpTonight we present Bug Report

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Paul Cooley’s The Black

 

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 we present a chilling tale of long distance miscommunication and the intimacy of strangers.

 

Bug Report

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

FP408 - Bug Report

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

- and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FPSE24 – Mouthy

raven

Welcome to Flash Pulp Special Episode 24.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mouthy

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Hugh J. O’Donnell’s The City

 

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 we present a fairy tale of the oral tradition, as told in the Capital City style.

 

Mouthy

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

I operate in special collections. That is to say, I focus on the mystical types – these days I see a lot of shapeshifters, slendermen, and even some of the fish people out of the Pacific corridor.

Anyhow, it was late Tuesday night, or early Wednesday morning if you want to look at it that way. I was on on my last pick up before kicking off, and I was looking forward to downing a couple Blind Russians and heading in search of the underside of my sheets, but it was a tricky situation. My package was on the upper floor of the former owner’s home, while the former owner himself was wandering the lower level.

Nice place too. Vampires, man, they don’t know inconspicuous. I can blend in anywhere from Kinshasa to Portland, but you drop a vampire anywhere and it’s always the same thing: Biggest suburban castle for sale on the market, casket-moving sized car with the windows tinted like a third-world dictator’s, and no effort at all to beautify their lawn.

I’ve been around, and never have I met a vampire that cares about their lawn. They just never get to use them.

FPSE24 - MouthyAnyhow, I’m a professional, so it’s still not such a big deal. Bingo-bango – I’ve got the prize in my bag and I’m about to hit the bricks when I hear the blood-sponge moaning from the floor below.

“You sure you made the arrangements?” he’s asking, and I’m wondering how a Boston casket-sleeper gets all the way to the West Coast – I mean, did he move here before he was bit? Did he come in a dirt filled sedan trunk? – when his manservant replies, “of course, have I ever failed you?”

Seriously, who has a manservant these days?

Both of them sounded like they were gearing up for war though, which is a big no-no these days.

I heard the front door open, and I was out the window and onto the McMansion’s roof faster than Jeeves could finishing bowing subserviently to the the Lincoln Town Car’s rear passenger window and skitter to the driver seat.

There’ve been plenty of dead folks in my day-to-day, and I’ve gotten pretty used to what a walking corpse is supposed to look like. As the car’s heavy black slab was swinging shut I caught a glimpse of the nosferatu, and I’m telling you there’s pale and then there’s pale. It ain’t pretty when a vampire gets nervous enough to bite its lip.

Well, I was tired, I was exhausted even, but it was the first time I’d ever seen a bloodsucker scared, so I kicked a leg over Lucy and followed at a safe distance.

It was a pretty straightforward ride across a half-hour’s worth of the city, and it ended at a covered parking structure adjoining an unmarked office. The whole area was filled with little business plazas and industrial shops, so I figured Abbott and Costello were headed to one of them.

I waited.

And waited.

Eventually I wandered into the garage itself, and figured out that there was a glass and metal entrance leading directly inside. For privacy, I guess. It wasn’t locked, so I readied an excuse – I’m a simple courier who must have pulled the wrong door, teehee – and went in.

There was a satyr, just across the threshold, who was pulling a fedora over his horns and adjusting his trenchcoat. I followed rule number one and did my best to look like I knew where I was going. He didn’t even bother to glance down at me, so I just kept on trucking.

Ten feet ahead there was a desk, and the space to my left opened onto a dozen uncomfortable chairs and a coffee table full of long-expired National Geographics.

The receptionist, a bird-eyed woman with carefully applied makeup and a bright yellow blouse, watched my approach silently, but her face was already asking a question.

Closing the distance gave me just under three seconds to figure my next move.

I could’ve been about anywhere if the waiting room was all I had to judge by, but suddenly there was a squeal in the air, and even I know what that means.

“Could I get a booking today? Soon?” I asked.

“Funny seeing one of you here,” she replied.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at her directness, I suppose – she looked to have been the commander of that waiting area for a long while, and she must’ve seen all types in her tour of duty.

With that in mind, I played it soft.

“Yeah, well, cavities can happen to anyone, right?” I said with a smile, because part of me can’t help but demonstrate that I really do have perfect chompers, even when lying through them.

She didn’t reply, she just waved me towards a seat.

I sat and listened to the 24-hour adult contemporary station. Across from me was one of the closet cousins – a shadowy lump of an entity with bloodshot eyes floating in a pool of darkness and big mitt hands covered in rows of teeth.

I worked hard not to draw any attention to myself, and thankfully he didn’t try and start up any conversations. I was practically snoring by the time my name was called.

A short hallway led to a small room, and before I knew it I was seated and there was a blazing light cutting into my pupils.

At that point, I knew I had to come clean.

“Listen,” I said, “my raven parked outside is getting peckish so I’ll make this quick. You hold on to what you need to pull and I’ll come around to cut you in on whatever they would’ve collected if they’d thought to hold onto their molars.”

The dentist nodded. I guess he’d been waiting for one of us to make an offer.

Tough gig, tooth fairy, but some days are better than others.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

- and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP407 – The Plague Wagon: A Blackhall Chronicle

FP407

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and seven.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Blue Mask

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Hugh J. O’Donnell’s The City

 

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 we hear the whispered tale behind the black ambulance said to haunt the backroads of Capital County.

 

The Blue Mask

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

The trio stood before the Stunted Rooster, a public house not far north of the Capital City county line, and whispered to each other in the muted shouts of drunks stumbling home after quenching a Saturday night’s thirst.

In truth, Greene knew Cooper only because the man occasionally shoed his horses, and knew Rimbault not at all beyond his hasty self-introduction, but, as is often the case when confronted with the unexpected, the knot of men had become fast friends when brought up short on the Rooster’s veranda.

Tonight we hear the whispered tale behind the black ambulance said to haunt the backroads of Capital County.Shrugging at the merchant and blacksmith, Rimbault said, “I’ve heard of the thing – they call it the Plague Wagon. It’s said to be an ambulance of sorts, operated in service of the rich. The families on the west side of the city, their wealth knowing few bounds in regards to matters of beloved daughters and prodigal sons, apparently keep an enclave of witch doctors and wild-eyed surgeons sequestered along the coast, where the air itself also carries healing properties. This carriage is intended to ferry them across the highways and backroads with utmost speed and comfort.

“Death the leveller indeed, but they do do their damndest to save themselves.”

There was little detail to remark upon in the coal-coloured ambulance, beyond the monochromatic theme of its jet-black curtains, wheels, and woodwork, yet it left its viewers with the unpleasant notion that there was no surface upon which to safely rest their eyes.

Having apparently oriented himself along the hand drawn map between his fingers, the driver again set the vehicle to forward.

The ebon Shire horses at its head gave their audience no attention as they passed.

“Yesss,” replied Cooper, his voice slow, as if speaking were helping draw out some memory from the depths of the recent alcoholic flood. “My boy, Billings, made mention of it after returning from a season in the lumber camps. As he related the tale, I seem to recall there is a unique strain of illness, highly deadly but easily transferred.

“Eventually nodules the size of an egg raising from their arms, and likely to burst at the slightest disturbance – it is the character of the contagion that any flesh thus touched then begins to boil in a similar nature, planting the illness anew.

“The weight of these tumors upon the chest and neck is the cause of death, as they inevitably smother the sufferer.”

“I pity for the passenger who must roll through these rough roads,” said Rimbault, his eyes still following the retreating wheels.

“I pity highwayman who attempts to waylay them,” snorted Cooper.

“If you must pity someone,” said Greene, “pity the driver, whose called upon to act as a sort of nurse in the transaction. It’s said to often be a poor fellow who is ill in some way himself, or someone so destitute that his family needs the money more than the man. I’ve heard each trip is well paid, but few hired survive more than three such expeditions.”

“Oh, where did you hear that?” asked Rimbault.

“Well, in all honesty, though I have enjoyed your renditions, I was given an evening’s dissertation on the topic by Bill Gelbert the milner, who said he’d heard it from a Smith. He told the tale as we both sheltered from an unexpected storm at the Ox and Mule. The thunder was heavy and it seemed an appropriate topic to fill the time between cups.”

“Funny,” said Cooper, ”I’d swear it was a Smith from which Billings took his account as well.”

There was a pause then, as the slow-trotting carriage rounded a distant corner.

Finally, in a too-loud tone, Rimbault announced, “plenty of Smiths in the world I suppose,” then lit his pipe. He did not add his following thought, which was that anyone wandering the countryside spreading stories should have thought to give a false name early in the proceeding.

His companions made no notice of the redness in his cheeks, nor the smirk on his lips, as they likely assumed both to be the result of ardent spirits.

The trio nodded in unison before exchanging goodnights, each now eager for the comforting warmth of their beds – and so it was that Thomas and Mairi Blackhall were able to undertake excursions, in the pleasance of each other’s company, without fear of catching the eye or interest of any who might wonder at the funerary rot that tainted the woman’s smiling face.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

- and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP406 – The Blue Mask

FP406

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and six.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Blue Mask

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Pop Mockers

 

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 we find ourselves visitors to the shores of the Island of Corosia, and walk among the contagions that rage across it.

 

The Blue Mask

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

The island nation of Corosia supported two cities of size and a dozen hamlets yet unconsumed by the urban march. To its many passers-through there was a familiarity about the nation that had been carried to its shores in the suitcases of beach-bound tourists and over the satellite signals pirated by its inhabitants. It was in the cut of the military uniforms worn at checkpoints and by billboard-displayed leaders; it was in the brightly coloured t-shirts worn by the nation’s teenagers; it was in the chords and rhythms of the music leaking from open-windowed vehicles and kitchen radios.

The beauty of the spot, mixed with its location along the tradewinds, had left it a thick history of exposure to the shifting tide of inquisitive outsiders. Many gods had once swept ashore, then many prophets, then, finally, those mock deities broadcast to the heavens from studios abroad.

Yet, in spite of this familiarity, or perhaps because of it, there was also a deeply ingrained skepticism to Corosian society.

There were few who would not lend a traveller a ride along the isle’s dusty roads, but all would be sure to later joke that they’d checked afterwards that the stranger hadn’t stolen the seat.

Still, the Corosians were as upset as the rest of the world at the televised collapse of the town of Harthomas, Pennsylvania.

Every Western news network shifted its unsleeping gaze to the events in Harthomas, and legends regarding the misinformation in those transmissions would spring up almost as quickly as the arrival of commercial breaks. For forty-eight hours the world observed the quarantined population of ten thousand collapse into madness even as their government raced for a cure.

The footage of weeping faces and inexplicable undertakings was only interrupted by the occasional newsdesk rebuttal to federal suggestions to discontinue broadcasting. Whatever say in the matter the powers in question held, answered the blazer wearing anchors, they had lost it when they’d allowed the virus to escape a research laboratory just south of Pittsburgh.

So viewers watched while packs of wailing children swept through the streets of Harthomas, their arms raised in trembling need of a hug, and as a suddenly famous hard-faced bank teller led them on an extended, if eventually futile, chase. They watched as lovers held each other tightly for hours, their tears staining each other’s shoulder, until, without warning to the patrolling news drones above, they cast themselves down from rooftops and balconies. They watched as crowds of fifteen and twenty would wrap their arms about each other in solace-seeking knots, their chests heaving with their tears, until dehydration and exposure would take them, though their corpses were held in place until the weight of the decaying human web simply became too much for those few fatigued mourners who remained.

FP406 - The Blue MaskThe Melancholy, as it came to be called, was thus well known to the Corosians – although, as the coverage spread into rumours that cases of infection had carried beyond the perimeter of the quarantine, the isle’s inhabitants took some comfort, in the thankful moments of their kitchen table prayers, that there was an ocean between their families and the troubles.

As the threat crept, on aircraft wings and on the decks of fishing boats, ever closer along the chain of islands that flanked their home, deception also slipped into their ears.

Their leaders began to appear before crowds and microphones to declare the illness a conspiracy, a tactic of the greed-stricken developers who had long lusted for their pristine coasts and unending sunshine. Just that week, they declared, they had turned back offers to have the men and women in their thick rubber suits arrive and lay out their needles and tents supposedly intended to heal. With great confidence the khaki-garbed rulers scoffed, pointing out that it was only upon such invasions that their neighbours had even begun to grow sick.

Truly, they said, such ministrations carried sickness, not the cure.

This version of reality gave succor to many, but there were some who doubted.

One such, a physician of some renown who had gathered knowledge from many lands before settling in the place of her birth, was known to publicly ask, “what of the terrible images they’d seen from the heart of the persecutors’ own lands?”

“It is said their black arts can tailor plagues to any need. Obviously a controlled release is simply a tactic to make them appear free of guilt as they steal what they could not buy,” came the response. “If they were willing to do such things to their own people, what mercy would they have for those they wished to unseat?”

The physician was told to hold her tongue.

Divine appeals continued. Rites were planned. Breath was held.

It was not long before any who might be considered tainted by distant infection, visitor or resident alike, were expelled or sent into hiding; be they at hand to help the impoverished at the island’s core, or simply to enjoy the sands along its edges.

Faith became central. In some quarters forgotten gods were resurrected and invoked. Offerings were left upon shop stoops and in the entranceways of homes. Smiling faces in costly suits declared a cure had arrived, but the images from but a few shores away made salvation seem no closer than the newscasters themselves.

Soon the Corosians turned to the traditions that had been handed to them from grandparent to parent.

A night of ceremonies was planned – masquerades of a sort, a culturally ingrained ritual of prayer and pleas for celestial amnesty.

Little could they have known that the infection had been carried into their midst – even as they donned garb in every shade and moved through the customs of dance and religious observance – by fisher folk who’d secreted cousins from the nearby danger, and by smugglers too destitute to give up the opportunity of providing much needed supplies to their beleaguered neighbours.

Nor did the Corosians realize that they themselves then spread the contagion through their sacramental sweat, consoling embraces, and profured handshakes.

On the soft beaches of a half-dozen villages countenances of red, yellow, and green hoped for safety, their exhortations aimed to move a power they thought greater than their own, but, as masked faces, both angelic and demonic, mingled in the shadow of the mountain that marked Corosia’s heart, the most important fact among their missing knowledge was the identity behind the soft-smirk of a sole blue mask roaming the islands eastern edge.

Years later it would be realized that it was their own daughter behind the cerulean visage – the very physician who had warned against isolation. Yet, she was twice as infectious as any other. With every flung droplet of sweat, with every passing brush of exposed flesh, she spread a sickness of her own design, her advanced craft having allowed her to engineer a curative epidemic so furious it would eventually wipe clean the plague of irrationality already incubating in the population.

For that evening, however, the mask simply grinned.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

- and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FC112 – #OpIndie

FC112 - #OpIndy

FC112 - #OpIndy

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(Download/iTunes/RSS)

Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 112.

Prepare yourself for: The Hunger Games salute, mailing body parts, self-defeating nazis, Ashley Madison, and Mulligan Smith.

* * *

Huge thanks to:

* * *

* * *

* * *

* * *

Audio-dacity of Hope:

  • Check out the new items on the store!
  • * * *

    Art of Narration:

  • Email Opop to bother her to start doing the Skinner Co. Ink!!
  • * * *

    Backroom Plots:

  • Mulligan Smith in The Cheat (Part 1Part 2Part 3)
  • * * *

    Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

    * * *

    If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://skinner.fm, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

    FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

    FP405 – Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 3 of 3

    FP405

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and five.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 3 of 3
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Download MP3

    (RSS / iTunes)

     

    This week’s episodes are brought to you by the works of Mike Luoma

     

    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, private investigator Mulligan Smith finds himself at the center of an online web of deceit and broken hearts.

     

    Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 3 of 3

    Written by J.R.D. Skinner
    Art and Narration by Opopanax
    and Audio produced by Jessica May

     

    As Mulligan continued his tale the Tercel picked up speed, ramping onto the knotted highway that ran through Capital City’s heart.

    “You’ve got to understand, I’m a little too familiar with Ashlin Wisconsin as it is. There are a half dozen companies aiming to hook-up bored married people too selfish to end their current relationship, and they’re one of the first things I look for when I stumble across a roamer’s credit card bill.

    “When the call came in offering up the philanderer’s password, my client, a rather clever woman, held out on payment unless she met someone in person to hand the money across to. She’d been very convincing.

    “That was all set up for the next afternoon.

    “Before that was to happen, I got ahold of my former client, the wife of the dog-fight-gambler, and asked for a quick sit down. I may have implied it was over legal ramifications of her stiffing me, but I was very friendly about it.

    “I’d already known her ex had an Ashlin Wisconsin subscription. Found it on the bill – which was easy since the classy guy was too in hock over his Escalade to get his own plastic, and was thus using my ex-client’s own cash to cheat on her.

    “The payments stopped, which should have sent the account into hibernation and killed access to the site. Once the sales pitch arrived, however, it became clear that everything was still in place, and the back catalogue of messages could still be read.

    “When I asked why they’d be giving the milk away for free, my former patroness only said ,’yeah, isn’t that weird?’

    “Now, there was a chance that some over enthusiastic sixteen-year-old has decided to turn spousal vigilante and start selling off stolen Ashlin Wisconsin passwords, but I had a notion that there was something more to it. My thinking was this: If the account had remained magically activated, maybe the responsible party was someone actually at the company itself.

    “Figuring I had a morning to blow before the meeting anyhow, I did some leg work. Or finger work, I guess, since I was mostly Googling. Whatever the case, I discovered a few things, including the interesting fact that, despite their name, Ashlin Wisconsin was a local company.

    “Well, by the time lunch rolled around I had my client convinced that I’d be the one sitting at the designated table in Spinerette’s, which is the kind restaurant I’d have to starve through five cases to afford.”

    FP405 - Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 3 of 3To his right, the PI’s father raised a brow. It was enough to pull a chuckle out of the detective.

    “Yeah, I had a rack of lamb. It was alright,” replied Mulligan. “Anyhow, I’m halfway through my job-expensed meal when this woman comes in toting black Jackie O glasses and a trenchcoat that’d put most spy flicks to shame.

    “She catches sight of me – I’m wearing a tie full of sheep grease and a collared shirt that’s seen one too many spin cycles – and she wheels on her heel, trying to make it seem like she’s suddenly remembered that she’d left caviar on the stove or something.

    “I am clearly not the lady she is looking for.

    “Still, I stand up and say ‘Hey, Anita!’

    “She stops. She turns. She sits.

    “Once everyone stops trying to side-eye us, I put the envelope on the table. Thing is, I’m already aware she doesn’t really need it.

    “‘Don’t worry,’ I say, ‘I know everything but I’m not here to drag your name to the cops or the papers, well – probably not. Depends on how honest you are with me in answering the next few questions.’

    “‘Fine,’ she says, but I can’t see how she’s taking it otherwise because her pupils are still lost behind her thick lenses.

    “Not that I don’t admire it, but isn’t what you’re doing illegal?’ I ask.

    “‘It’s all covered in the EULA, the legalese they don’t bother to read when they sign up for the site,’ she replies. ‘We tell them that none of the information provided is going to remain secret, if not in so many words, and we make ourselves very clearly not liable for any physical, emotional, or financial damages that may be incurred by people using the site. So far we haven’t had a judge test the wording, but it seems like most of the people who end up caught don’t want to push the point too hard.’

    “‘How do you pick them?’ I ask.

    “‘The tech staff maintains a supposedly-secret Post of the Week that they print out to hang in the shadows behind their filing cabinet, where they think I won’t notice. It’s incredible how fast they can find scummier messages to top each other with. People can be so foul and ridiculous and strangely beautiful all at once, and nowhere does that show more than in semi-anonymous online flirting.

    “‘I also do personal searches through the database for accounts that’ve had dozens of failed password entry attempts. Those usually give me a good idea of whose wife or husband is already living with the fear that something is happening behind their back.

    “‘I suppose it was the same back when there was such a thing as privacy, but today no one realizes there’s always some bored technician just down the hall from your digital hideaway, and she or he can hear everything you’re saying if they want to bother.’

    “‘But you’re not some bored tech,’ I reply, ‘You’re Anita Bider, Ashlin Wisconsin’s founder and CEO. You’re also the unfortunate victim of a rather public divorce. I’d be pretty angry too if I discovered through the tabloids that my spouse was running around with a quasi-famous socialite heiress. I guess that’s why you started the site? To sell out the same sort of jerks?’

    “‘She had that face, like maybe I was going to get a visit from her security staff later that evening, so I figured I’d just keep going.

    “‘I’m not going to get in the way of your questionable legality, and I’m not even going to tell my client about this discussion. I am, however, going to give you a call when I pull a gig from a weeping husband or wife. I don’t mind splitting the fee if you’re willing to save me the footwork.’

    “Anita simply shrugged, handed across a business card with her cell number, and left.”

    The trio sat in silence for a moment, to digest both the tale and the Sonic they’d just eaten, then Mulligan again cleared his throat.

    “Anyhow, all that to say: I’ve got a few extra bucks. Who’s up for miniputt? I’m buying.”

     

    Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

    Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

    Freesound.org credits:

    Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

    - and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

    FP404 – Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 of 3

    Mulligan Smith in The Cheat

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and four.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 of 3
    (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Download MP3

    (RSS / iTunes)

     

    This week’s episodes are brought to you by the works of Mike Luoma

     

    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, finds himself involved in a high-speed chase.

     

    Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 of 3

    Written by J.R.D. Skinner
    Art and Narration by Opopanax
    and Audio produced by Jessica May

     

    “So, a month and a half later I’m working this gig. Another wandering penis, though this one with a different victim almost every night. Guy’s a friggin’ ghost though. Always meets his dates at their door, never gets out of his coupe, always brings them to the same place. A week’s work and he was giving me nothing – well, certainly nothing that was going to earn my client her alimony.

    “It’d be a helluva check too, as Johnny Rocketcrotch replaces his BMW every six months and the only place he brings his dates is the sort of country club that’d make a clown in a hoodie like mine ten times before the valet could insist I was lost. To make matters even more fun, the car’s tinted like it was Dracula himself driving, so the Nikon was useless unless I could get up near the windshield.

    ”That’s the kind of shot you only get once, if you know what I mean.”

    As the PI spoke, his companions watched Capital City’s east side slide by the baby blue Tercel’s windows. It was a warm day which left Walmart Mike, still toting his empty cup in his hand, to simmer in the dusty – but not altogether unpleasant – smell of the ancient sun-baked upholstery.

    “I ain’t no private dick,” the greeter asked with a snicker, “but it seems to me that they don’t roll out beds at country clubs – well, hell, maybe they do, I ain’t ever been in one, but it seems like an awkward place to push rope, unless his gals were into crinkle-faced spectators?”

    Smith Sr. snorted from the passenger seat, as, wheeling through a wide left turn, Mulligan picked up the thread of his story.

    “Actually, you have a point there. See, this was one of those idiots who figures he has a technique. It was so cookie cutter I could easily make out its shape even from the distant shadows.

    “He’d meet these ladies online – which I’ll get into later – then he’d roll them out to his little elite shanty to fill them full of wine. No doubt the grape juice came with impressive labels. They’d talk; he’d open up about himself, you know, try to make her feel like she was exactly what he’d been looking for.

    “No mention of his wife, but that’s too big a hurdle for a one-date guy to jump – and, yeah, it was always just one date.

    “They all concluded the same way: After dark, the BMW peeling out of the high fenced parking lot like the gate was a starting line. Then they’d take the long way towards downtown at twice the speed of light.

    “I don’t know what too-practiced lines he used to talk them into it; I mean, I guess they thought it was a fun first date and he probably convinced them they were on the start of a road together. Whatever the case, about half of them would, uh, operate his gear shift while he pushed the straight-six to the edge. He’d drive with about the same recklessness if he was successful or not, but I could always tell how well he was faring by his hands. He’s one of those guys who argues in short, snide sentences, and if she said no he’d end up delivering these tiny pissed-off karate chops at the end of all of pinch-mouthed statements.

    “There was no such verbal kung fu on the evening I caught up to him.”

    Turning away from the scrolling cityscape, Smith Sr. delivered his son a raised brow.

    “Yeah, yeah,” replied Mulligan, “I’m getting to it.

    “So: Different lady almost every night, different car twice a year, but always the same way back to the heart of the city. It’s strange what patterns people’ll fall into.

    “I waited till he was pulling off the waterfront, and his temporary sweetheart’s silhouette had disappeared from her upright position in the passenger seat, then I let myself be made. I mean, not badly enough that he brings things to a halt, but I pull up a half-block behind him and give him a kiss of the high beams so that I know he’s noticed.

    Mulligan Smith in The Cheat“Now, the Tercel is no match for his German missile. He punches it, and I’m left in the dust by the time he takes a right onto Independence Avenue. He slows just a bit crossing the rail line, and looks up from the blond bobbing mop in his lap – bam: There’s a baby blue shitbox on his rear bumper.

    “Well, he really hammers it at that point and slides onto Bay at the last possible second, no doubt watching the Toyota blow by in his rear view.

    “He makes a quick turn onto Delaware after that, probably thinking he’s clever but all the time following the same old route.

    “Thing is, I’d cut over a dozen blocks back, and was already standing at the corner of Bronson. Just as he’s strutting by the bus stop I’m huddled in, a baby blue Tercel creeps onto the pavement, barricading both lanes at the next crossroad. Johnny stops to consider his options, and she lifts her head high enough to see what’s going on over the far side of the dash. The whole thing took four seconds, tops, but there was no mistaking what was going on in that photo.

    “He was so flabbergasted at the sight of the camera that Dad had time to drive the second Tercel by to wave.

    “I was trotting like Astaire till I got back to his wife’s place.

    “Do you know how bloody long it took me to find that second car? Hey-zeus. I had him cold, but all I collected was a few hours of half-pay footwork and the deli sandwiches I expensed.

    “The client delivers the rejection across a table that contains more hardwood than I’ve got flooring my entire apartment, and I’m reminding myself that suing the clients is bad for the reputation of my business. I was still feeling the sting from the previous month too, so, despite my attempts at good behaviour, I was working up to at least using some language the maid would have to clean up after – then the wife makes her peace offering.

    “See, the reason she was stiffing me on the bill was because she’d gotten his Ashlin Wisconsin password – but she was afraid there would be strings attached or a fake out after she brought the material to court. She asks me to look into the source.”

    Mike cleared his throat. “Ashlin, Wisconsin? Never been.”

    Mulligan smiled. “Nah, it’s a website. Ashlin Wisconsin is a dating site for married folks.

    “She asks if I’m interested, and, mind firmly on my rent bill, I say, ‘sure, but it’ll cost you five days fee up front.’ She cuts the check right there on the table.

    “Hell, if I’d known what I was going to stumble into, I might’ve done the job for free.”

     

    Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

    Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

    Freesound.org credits:

    Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

    - and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.