Category: Flash Pulp

Flash Pulp 025 – Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Close Encounters

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Five.

Tonight’s story is another chapter in The Ongoing Adventures Of Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space entitled Close Encounters, Part 1 of 1

(Previously On Joe Monk: 1 – The Music Room)

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This episode is brought to you by MayTunes.com

You should’ve listened to the audio version for the gag.

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

This evening we return to chronicling the adventures of Joe Monk, in a time before his ascension to the galactic throne, as he makes his first descent onto a strange and alien planet.

Flash Pulp 025 – The Ongoing Adventures Of Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space – Close Encounters, Part 1 of 1

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

Joe Monk stepped from the long silver tongue that had descended from his ship’s landing module. He was nude, which was fine: the ship wouldn’t have let him accidentally suffocate himself by opening the door onto a planet that wouldn’t support him, and the welcoming party simply didn’t know any better.

Having to descend from such a height had given Joe the sense of a great occasion, and by the time he’d finally reached the red dirt at the foot of the slope, his shoulders were set and his stride full of purpose.

“Hello!” he said, raising a hand in greeting.

He took a moment to inspect the gathering. They seemed to be divided into two categories: four legged beings that looked much like Earth frogs, and buxom blondes that looked much like Earth buxom blondes. The frogs were adorned with swatches of a purple, red and green latex-like material, while the majority of the blondes wore light cloth gowns of a dazzling white.

The nearest frog shuffled to Monk’s feet, spitting out three unidentifiable plants as an offering. Keeping its face low to the ground, it retreated.

One of the white gowned locals stepped forward, welcoming Joe with a noise he wouldn’t be able to reproduce without belching.

The blonde approached, arms sliding under his own, pulling him close in a tight hug.

“Tha, Thank, Thank you?” he said.

They parted, the expectant eyes of the crowd upon him.

In the hush, Joe’s attention was drawn to a ground effect vehicle that was fast approaching from the east, a rust coloured cloud rising behind it.

As Joe turned to face its approach, so did the crowd.

The machine came to a stop in a sweeping fishtail, the momentum of its wake carrying dust over the white gowns and spherical eyes of the gathered.

A being just taller than Monk’s knees swung itself over the side of the vehicle, landing with gusto.

“Boy howdy, am I ever glad to see you, you pudgy little monkey spawn!”

The crowd parted to allow the newcomer through.

“Look at that antique! You a hot rodder or something? You got this thing mounted to some sort of super-jacked freighter out by the primary star? You must be a man with an eye, even in the back-end of the cluster you don’t see much vintage Earth work. Oh yeah, surprised I know it’s not a replica, huh? I’m a hot rodder too, man! I misspent my youth crusing through that end of the universe – this is all before the restrictions kicked in of course – it was like the wild west out there.”

Monk, who’d seen a movie called Hot Rod in the ship’s library, a B-piece about people smashing large land vehicles into each other, had only the vaguest idea of what the imp was talking about.

The helmet shaped gnome cast its two black-goggled eyes over the landing module’s markings.

“Wait. A. Minute. Hey-zeus, you’re that kid, aren’t you? I remember you! You’re that bottle baby they fired into the black reaches as the last hope for his hideously self-destructive planet, yadda, yadda, yadda. Man, all races are so angsty in their teen-phases, but listen: All that was going on while I was there! There was a lot of talk amongst the guys that your leaky sieve would be toast before you made it past Pluto – me and a buddy even spent a few weeks trying to track you down a couple of years after your ejection from the solar system, figuring your tub would be great to chop and drop. Didn’t honestly think you’d still be alive at that point. You know, I probably have a betting pool stub on that somewhere – I wonder if I went for or against? Uh, anyhow.”

It was a lot for Joe to take in. He sat down on the cold ramp.

“Hey – I’m sorry, kid. You look rough. Is this your first landing? I don’t mean to run you down, it’s been a while since I’ve had someone I can talk to without my lungs aching afterward.”

“I’ve never had anyone I can talk to at all.” Joe said, cupping his face in his hands.

“Nuts. Listen, let’s try this again. There’s a guy from your planet named Shakespeare, are you familiar with his works at all?”

Joe shook his head. The microfilms were in the library, but he’d always found the language nonsensical.

“Great, then call me Macbeth.”

The goggled-gnome extended a four-pincered hand, and Joe took it up in a shake, finally encountering a familiar ritual from his hours of film watching.

“Joe Monk,” he replied. “Uh, Macbeth, what is this place?”

“Its like Honolulu kid. They think you’re a tourist. These poor jerks have been waiting for some schmuck to land on this backwater for something like 3 days – er, maybe like ten earth years – and they figure you’ve come here with a bag full of buffalo nickels to spread around. When they find out you’re just a cultural relic from a forgotten age, they’re going to be pretty upset. We should leave.”

“We?”

“Yeah, listen, hah, funny story, I wasn’t even planning on stopping here, but my one-seater was getting low on juice so I figured I’d swing by and give the local meat a try. Suddenly, blam, couple of hooligans steal my ride right off the fueling pad.”

“I… if you know how to operate the controls, I guess we could go back to the ship later. I’d like… er, what do you think the local customs are here – between species I mean.

“Oh, Grud, You really are a tourist.”

“No! I just, I’ve never…”

“Listen, I’m sure there’d be plenty of takers here, but really, we should leave. I’ll personally take you on a Pervert Safari if you’ll lift me off this planet, but lets go all right? Wait, you don’t know how to operate this dingy? Seriously? You NEED me to come along, kid. Let’s roll.”

“Computer, that’s the computer that runs the ship, I think it was supposed to teach me how to fly the module, but we haven’t been speaking much lately.” Joe’s eyes were resting on a blonde endlessly entwining its golden hair around its fingers.

“Kid, you don’t understand the coincidences of the universe, you don’t want -”

“Bring me a female. Now.” Monk stated, hoping he sounded as convincing as Tarzan.

Macbeth brought his claws together with a rattle, then spent a moment hopping between his two legs. Finally he turned to the crowd, presenting a series of gestures that would have been lewd on any planet. Pulling in as much air as he could swallow, he followed the motions up with some verbal commands.

Some of the crowd entered discussion, but its largest part broke away, popping open hatches in the dusty plain and disappearing inside.

“All right, they’ll probably take an hour to decide who gets you, lets have a look at the controls while we’re waiting.” Macbeth hobbled up the ramp, Joe close behind.

By the time a frog and blonde pair appeared at the doorway, Macbeth was deep into a pre-launch checklist.

Joe followed them eagerly back down the ramp.

* * *

Ten minutes later the trio had returned.

“What’d’ya mean? You asked for a female. You’ve gotta be kidding me! What do you think this is all up here?” the imp said, waving a claw across Monk’s chest and then hooking the appendage in the direction of the blonde. “That’s where, you know, their business is at. The males uncoil and then they just bend over the lady frogs and -”

The contortions on Joe’s face cut the story short.

“Anyhow, kid, them’s the Kilmargon facts o’ life.”

Monk dropped heavily into a beige chair as the gnome shooed the locals down the ramp.

Without further discussion, Macbeth returned to the command console, his pincers dancing across the dials and sliders.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 024 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Four.

Tonight’s story, The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This episode is brought to you by Little Wing Children’s Things.

Cuz babies poop. A lot.

For product and ordering information search for Little Wing Children’s Things on facebook or email littlewingchildrensthings@yahoo.ca

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

This evening we bring you the finale of our current Thomas Blackhall serial. In this chapter, we open with gun fire.

Flash Pulp 024 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

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

The snap and flare of the Brown Bess brought Thomas to one knee, his ams preparing his Baker rifle with mechanical reflex.

His finger lay on the trigger, his heart sure he would once again have to end a man. It would be the first time since the sun drenched porticoes of Ciudad Rodrigo, and the war against the little dictator.

As the musket’s echo rolled from the clearing, a momentary stillness settled.

Mitchum Melbain broke the silence.

The naked youth had moved from the trees, his skinny legs fish-belly white in the moon’s glow, sobbing as he ran.

At this series of shocks, some amongst the hooded mob stepped back, seeking the safety of the forest’s shadow.

As the boy approached, the man who’d spent the evening berating the house began to issue commands. Another white satchel appeared in the musketeer’s grasp.

Thomas’ grip steadied.

The entrance to the cabin swung open.

The door had been built wide and tall, and yet the widow Bigelow was forced to stoop as she stepped from her home.

Squinting, she spoke:

“Is that you under there, Sam Allen – with your missing pinky, and one leg to too long – firing upon my cottage? It has been many a year since I’ve taken you over my knee, but by the grace of the Lord and the thousand chariots of his hoary host, I’ll send you to Nancy in such a condition she’ll be spoon-feeding you the baby’s millet for the next month.”

All force seemed to have left the gunman’s hands, weapon and satchel hung uselessly at his sides.

“You’ve shot and shattered the china platter given to me by Arthur’s Mother, on the morning of our marriage: Is your anxiety over my reputation lessened by the destruction of my service dish?”

The woman moved forward, her riot of gray hair a trailing cloud.

“If not, I believe I still have a half-dozen plates in good enough condition to meet your tastes.”

She stopped, placing her hands upon her hips, squaring her stance no more than an arms length from the mob’s leader. Her cotton gown rustled with the breeze. The man had flipped the bottle of gin he carried, and was now twisting at the neck of his makeshift club.

“It’s terrible enough,” she continued, “that you’ve come skulking onto my homestead after the witching hour, but must you all play at ghosts as well? In my day it was the reproached who felt a need to cover their shame during a charivari, not the gathered.”

Mitchum, muddied from his stumbling approach, finally reached the woman, falling to his knees and clinging at the hem of her nightclothes.

She extended a hand to stroke his head, lifting his face to look upon her own.

“It will be all right, my love. A quick spanking and these naughty boys will be soon off to their beds.”

“How dare you, harlot! How dare you corrupt one so young, how dare you speak to us as you would errant children!” The ragmen’s voice had once again found his throat.

“Ha! Without my walls to muffle your rantings, it all comes clear!” In her tone, Blackhall could hear the satisfaction of a puzzle solved. She began to point at the gathered masks. “Edward Smith? Willy Templer? Is that Sanderson the younger or elder under there? Arthur would not be pleased to see you behaving so.”

Their leader stepped forward, attempting to regain lost ground. His new position forced him to crane back his neck to meet the widow’s eyes.

“How dare the name of an honourable man such as Arthur Bigelow touch upon the lips of such a strumpet as would set up in his very house, unmarried, with a boy some four decades her junior!”

Despite his bluster, when the leader of the ragmen turned for affirmation, he found his small army huddled amongst the shadows of the treeline.

“Mitchum is a full two years older than you were when you married Chelsea Thompson and threw away your dowry on that fool’s errand you call an Inn. Yet lie not to me, Morton Van Rijn, this has little do with with whom I bed – it is my still you’ve come to smash, and like as not, you’ve carried that gin bottle as false evidence to place this ruckus at the feet of Constable Melbain’s ruffians.”

Thomas watched the remains of the mob disperse as if smoke on the wind, leaving only the rooted gunman and the visibly sharking Van Rijn to stand against the woman and her weeping beau.

“I! You! Arthur!” With his free hand, Van Rijn ripped at the confines of his mask, his breath coming in ragged gasps once his red face was exposed to the night’s air.

“Bring not my departed husband into this conversation again. I care not if you’ve sainted the wagon rut he attempted to run from the river to this field, ardent spirits would not be my business if your society had not taken it upon itself to whisper so about my time with Mitchum. Despite my service, no longer will the town entrust me with the suckling bottles for their babes – fine, then I shall supply the suckling bottles for their public houses. It is not easy to live as a marked woman of age, but I will not stand to be accosted by busy-bodies.”

The inn-owner howled, raising his glass club in a vicious arc.

For the first time that evening, Blackhall saw a look of fear cross the widow’s face.

The crack of shot once again filled the hollow amongst the trees.

A damp stain began to spread along the trouser-legs of the nearly forgotten musketeer. Dropping his weapon, he ran from the clearing.

With care, Van Rijn lowered the remains of his club, the shattered neck having opened a gash upon his palm.

A hundred yards away, Blackhall’s arms had once again found their training, and were busy slamming home a fresh load. Even as he worked the Baker rifle, his eyes remained fixed upon the moonlit trio.

The widow, her composure regained, leveled a finger of exile at the nearest pines, her gaze locked upon Van Rijn.

Slowly the man turned, the ruined pillowcase dropping from his grasp and onto the field below.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Functional Friday

Flash Pulp
Tonight’s episode will cap our second month of putting out Flash Pulp, so I thought I’d throw out some stats:

Episodes: 23

Script Word Count Total: 20,946-ish (¼ of a short novel)
Total Run Time: 2h 37m 10s (4 minutes over Apocalypse Now.)
Shortest Episode: #5 – 03:45 – The Neighbourly Farmers*
Longest Episode: #22 – 12:48 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1of3

Episode Breakdown:

Mulligan Smith Stories: 9
Thomas Blackhall Stories:  8
Kar’Wick: 2
Chiller: 2
Joe Monk & SF: 1 each

(*The last time I did this, I claimed the shortest was Red Mouth’s Legacy Pt 6 – I was wrong.)

Flash Pulp 023 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Three.

Tonight’s story, The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This episode is brought to you by OpopanaxFeathers.wordpress.com

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

In the second chapter of our current tale of Thomas Blackhall, we open upon our hero, unsure of his course, as he hunts hooded bandits through the timberlands of Lower Canada.

Flash Pulp 023 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

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

The moon’s efforts made little difference amongst the brush at the base of the tall pines, and Blackhall’s greatcoat felt the pluck of many hidden briars as he pushed west.

He knew the men he followed were somewhere ahead, but dense forest and the desire for stealth had left him lagging. Still he crept on, experience having taught him patience.

As he moved he listened for a snatch of conversation on the wind and watched for the dancing shadows of a fire.

What little breeze stirred the stillness between the trees, ceased. Through the darkness came a noise – the rattle and clash of metal upon metal.

Blackhall, dropping all pretense of concealment, began to make his way north as rapidly as the entangling wilderness would allow.

His plunge was brought up short at a clearing, the moonlight finally reaching him unchecked. To the east was a house, small but well kept, and, at Blackhall’s estimate, some forty acres of plowed field beyond.

He had come upon the circular expanse at the southern most tip, but from his vantage point he could easily make out the white hoods of those he’d been hounding. Although he’d only noted two from his window, a dozen had gathered amongst the trees nearest the house. Most held pots and pans, and busied themselves rattling them together. At their center, their boldest member stepped forward, waving his gin bottle and shouting at the shuttered windows. The distance and ruckus prevented Blackhall from making out his words, but his agitation seemed genuine enough. What concerned him most, however, was the linen faced member who moved naught, but kept his musket close across his chest.

Frowning, Blackhall began to tread along the clearing’s edge, taking care not to reveal himself.

Two hundred yards from the gathering, he paused.

From amongst the clamor came something new – buried beneath the crickets and the mob, the sound of crying reached his ears. Pushing back his broad brimmed hat, he cocked his head, breathing in the humid air.

After a moment he crept forward in a duck walk, releasing his sabre from its scabbard.

With a slow hand he slid the point between the gnarled branches of a dense thicket, halting his advance as his hilt offered resistance.

He spoke:

“I apologize for interrupting in your time of distress, but I suspect you may be able to clarify a few things. If you’ll please join me amongst these shadows, I would have words with you.”

To Blackhall it seemed as if the bush were birthing, a boy crawling from its shadowed womb, the work of the scratching hands of the forest visible along his back, arms and legs. As the youth looked up, Thomas recognized the sandy hair, wide brow and small nose. He removed his coat, draping it about his companion’s bare shoulders. At closer range he could tell the boy was older than he’d first thought, yet still no more than one-and-twenty, with a child’s face and gawky limbs.

“Ah, you must be Constable Melbain’s errant brother?”

“Yes.”

“Your name then?”

“Mitchum.”

“Mitchum – we’ll briefly gloss the matter of your nude disposition, as expediency is likely best. Do you know why those men accost yonder house?”

“You are not with them then? It is a Charivari, sir. A warning to Mrs. Bigelow.”

In the distance the pot banging had moved from random chaos to a marching beat. The entire party was easily visible, now standing plainly away from the trees after finding courage in coordination.

Their center-man still led the slow advance, his rant unabated. Even at his distance, Thomas could see the damp circle of froth and spittle that had begun to form upon his linen guise.

“Your situation begins to explain itself. I have seen a few such rituals before, mostly amongst the French vineyards – I do not recall weapons or masks however. In fact, what I do recall is a lot of bawdy, out of tune singing, and copious local wine, all at the base of some red-faced couple’s window. It was often because an unpopular widow or widower had re-married before the end of mourning – has Arthur Bigelow been dead so short a time?”

“Arthur’s been in his grave nearly a decade. Patricia has been on this land for nigh fourty years, she practically raised this town, what right do they have to come slithering from the night to terrorize her?”

Thomas cleared his throat.

“Mitchum, I might guess by the daring of your attire, especially amongst so high a tide of mosquitoes, that they may have some dispute with your, uh, relationship with the widow Bigelow.”

The boy’s eyes hardened.

“Our business is ours, not my brother’s, nor the town’s.” He exhaled. “I must add, there is more than one motivation that might send an armed mob up from the village after Patty. Still, I am surprised that anyone would dare.”

“If you are here at the wildwood’s edge, where is Mrs. Bigelow precisely?”

“Well, we were taking a dip in the pond round back of the house when we heard the approach – she told me to git, and so I did. There’s a voice she has which’ll send you running to the trees without your clothes, and I was about where you found me when I could finally hear my brain over my pounding heart. My first thought was to run on for town and find Gareth, but it was my second that it was just as likely my brother was one of the intruders.”

As the boy talked, Blackhall’s eyes stayed upon the gathered throng.

The voice of the Ragmen ceased his raving, turning to the musket-bearer.

He pointed.

The man with the Brown Bess brought forth a white roll the size of a thumb, ripping at the end with his teeth.

Thomas stood, setting his sabre back at his belt and making a quick check of his Baker rifle’s breach.

“Come. Now.”

Making best efforts to stoop amongst the cover of the brush, he once again began to run.

He’d yet to cover half the distance before the gunman had primed and readied his weapon.

The thug lifted the long barrel, sighting the house through his hood’s ragged slits.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 022 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Two.

Tonight’s story, The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This episode is brought to you by the Flash Pulp fan page on Facebook.

Maybe it’ll draw people’s attention away from all those drinking pictures your friends just tagged you in.

Find it at here.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

This evening we bring you the first chapter in a new serial featuring Thomas Blackhall. In this episode, he encounters the town of Bigelow, a small settlement at the edge of civilization.

Flash Pulp 022 – The Charivari: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

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

At the point where the Kakibonga dripped into the Winipekw, Thomas Blackhall stumbled across the town of Bigelow.

The hamlet was little more than a line of houses scratched into the riverbank, its center point marked by a single spoke thrust into the woods.

After weeks of scrambling through dense brush, eating only deer jerky and hand-caught fish, Thomas was startled to find himself at the end of that spoke, the mouth of an immaculate roadway open before him.

He ran his fingers along the weeks of growth at his chin, eying the scene.

The road itself rolled gently away towards the shore. Along the water’s edge ran another road, and at this corner stood a house that had grown beyond its seams, boxy additions thrusting out in every direction, some of the extensions connecting onto extensions of their own. The walls of the rambling structure were a solid white, but the doors and window frames had been marked in the brightest of the rainbow’s palette.

From a green door in the rear, a mustached man exited, an axe cocked over his shoulder.

He began to walk towards Blackhall, humming.

“Come to raise a glass?” shouted the man, when he finally spotted Thomas. There was scorn in his voice.

“In truth, I didn’t know there was a glass nearby to be held, but if yonder sprawling castle is an Inn, I could certainly find my thirst.”

Blackhall had moved to close the distance, and now offered a more formal greeting.

“Thomas Blackhall,” he said.

“Morton Van Rijn,” the man replied, taking the offered hand. “Welcome to Bigelow. I apologize, I mistook you for Lefevre, one of the local farmers. He often aims to walk the road before drinking himself into blindness, he claims it keeps him from getting lost on his way home. His beard is nearly as wild as your own, I dare say. Anyhow, whatever the foul excuse, the more whom use the road, the happier I am.”

Blackhall noted the man’s discreet attempt at wiping his hand clean as he talked.

“Well, if I might find a basin and a scrap of mirror, I’d be happy to do away with the confusion,” he replied, tugging at his whiskers. “I’ve come from the Western District, and it’s been some time since I’ve had to worry on polite company.”

Van Rijn’s face brightened.

“You’re more than welcome to board at The Loyalist. If you’ll honour me with news from the South over dinner, I’ll be happy to give you a room free for the night. Your thirst is your own affair however – while I run the finest Inn in two hundred miles, I do not sell ardent spirits. My wife and I are the founders of the Bigelow Temperance Society, whose ranks include the majority of the members of Bigelow worth acquainting. The town itself houses three hundred, with the same number again of farmers who’ve settled the clearings in the surrounding area – of those some twenty-five are members of the Temperance Society, no small feat for a place largely made up of woodsmen and mosquito-bitten field tenders.”

Thomas nodded.

“Whiskey must be no small problem if it was deemed necessary to organize against it.”

“Yes, well, what I meant was, outside the ranks of The Society, in Bigelow polite company is as scarce a commodity as sobriety. Despite the population there are no less than three public houses – well, two proper public houses and Ginny Melbain’s parlour. There is no proper law however, as Constable Melbain has little interest in enforcing against his sister’s enterprise, and the drunks would not stand to have the law applied inequitably.”

“What of this road then? This doesn’t seem like the work of lackadaisical liqour hounds,” Blackhall asked, glancing in the direction of his promised bed and basin.

Van Rijn’s hands swung wide, the axe still firmly in his grip, his broad face breaking into a grin.

“This road was founded by Arthur Bigelow, who also gave his name to the town, as its first inhabitant. I have taken up his worthy task, knowing full well that the legislature will not step in to regulate the principality without ease of access, access I intend to provide with this highway. Each summer I have pushed the forest back further than Bigelow’s original cut, and each spring I salt the ground to prevent the brush from retaking my progress. I regret that my duties at The Loyalist have prevented me from making it my full time occupation, but it is my hope to one day bring the full might of The Society to bear on the problem.”

In Thomas’ minds-eye, a vision of twenty-five of Bigelow’s most upstanding citizens zoomed out to encompass the distance required to interlink with the nearest settlement of size. His legs ached. He eyed Van Rijn’s single axe.

“A worthy task, and if you’ll pardon my currently grizzled appearance, I’ll gladly take you up on that offer of dinner. Who might I speak to at the Inn about a room?”

* * *

The accommodations were cramped but comfortable. After bathing and scraping clean his face, Blackhall found himself suddenly coming awake to a sharp rapping at his door, scarcely aware that he’d set his head upon his pillow.

“Yes, coming,” he muttered, running his fingers through his mussed hair.

To Thomas, supper seemed a long time in arriving, although the gathered members of The Bigelow Temperance Society filled the period with much talk. In the end, every aspect of the meal was too dry for his liking, but he found himself pleasantly surprised at how quickly the plates were cleared and the gathering dispersed.

As he stepped onto the veranda that faced out upon the river, Blackhall began his ritual of pinching Virginian tobacco into one of the fine Spanish papers he carried. As he completed his task, a passerby who’d been strolling the water’s edge set a booted foot upon the entryway’s lowest step.

“Well, this is certainly the first gentleman I’ve ever come to encounter as a stranger on this porch, might I ask your name?”

“Thomas Blackhall.”

“Ah, then the name’s not been twisted amongst the gossip. I am Constable Gareth Melbain. Do you have business in town?” The lawman called up a wad of phlegm and deposited it on the wood planks at his feet.

“I thought I might wet my throat, little more,” replied Thomas.

“I wasn’t sure of your character, given your meal company. Still, it seems to me you’ve come a long way to nowhere for a drink. Mayhaps it is because you’ve heard of Ginny’s parlour, found in the blue-washed house at the end of this same street. She’ll likely give you a sample if you mention my referral.”

With that, the constable moved off the stairs.

“One last thing: do not take Van Rijn’s word on Bigelow as gospel. I knew Arthur, and he was a good man, whatever his wife may have become.” The man walked a step, and turned back to face the still silent Blackhall. “- and yes, I fully admit my younger brother ought know better.”

He strolled on.

By the time Blackhall had burned his fingers upon the smoldering stub of his cigarette, the weight of the food and the song of the river had lulled him to a rest. Deciding to forgo town politics, he instead retreated to the interior of the inn, and took to chasing after his interrupted slumber.

* * *

He was brought awake hours later by the sound of two mares whinnying outside his window.

Cracking the thin white curtains, he took in the scene.

Some twenty drunks had gathered at the edges of the town’s sole crossroads – some along his window, some across the way, along the graying timbers that he’d been told were the outer wall of Pullman’s General Store. Many of the bystanders held lanterns high as five men stumbled about in the center of the gathering.

Two of the men were busy harnessing blinders upon the spooked horses, while another pair fended off the increasingly animated protests of the muddy shirted fifth.

Through the pane of glass, Thomas’ ears could make out the back and forth of betting amongst those arrayed along his vantage point.

Satisfied with their results, the two men who’d been working the lashings stepped back, one of them giving the guardsmen instructions to clear the way – as the man shouted Blackhall recognized the face as that of Constable Melbain.

With no little force the brutes emptied the road of the pleading man, and without delay Melbain began a countdown from three, which ended with both animals receiving a sharp whip blow. The sudden pain sent the beasts hurtling up the salted path and into the darkness between the pines.

Laughing, the crowd began to stream along behind, leaving the corner once again silent.

His sleep disturbed, Thomas dressed and shuffled into the common room.

Pulling a book from the shelf adjacent the fireplace, he settled into a nearby rocking chair.

* * *

As the embers sank into ash, a chapter’s worth of the history of Canterbury had been enough to once again put him on a path to sleep.

He slipped into his room, taking a moment to peek between the lace to ensure a lack of further disruption.

Motion amongst the shadows of the store caught his eye.

Creeping from the darkness came the shape of a man, the moon illuminating the white pillowcase that was taut about his face. The mask was held fast with a thin rope at the neck, and to allow vision, two ragged black holes had been cut from the linen.

The man moved away down the forest road, but before Thomas might stray from the window, the meager light gave away a second ragman, the gin bottle in his hand catching the night sky’s reflection.

His stupor forgotten, Blackhall strode quickly about the room, collecting together his satchel. Pulling his greatcoat over the sabre he’d strapped to his hip, he snatched up his Baker rifle and shouldered the pack that once again contained the entirety of his possessions.

With a last look into the lane way – now empty – he exited his room and stepped from the green door at the rear of the building, the night insects roaring their greeting.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 021 – Character

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-One.

Tonight’s story, Character, Part 1 of 1

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This episode is brought to you by Maytunes.com

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

This evening we present to you a thriller on the nature of backgrounds, and the lives lived in them.

Flash Pulp 021 – Character, Part 1 of 1

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

McGillicuddy had been running The General Store since his father, Pop McGillicuddy, had fallen dead at the register.

Everyone in the area had agreed, in solemn tones, that it was how he would have wanted it. Privately, the junior McGillicuddy often wondered if the old man might have had a few more years if he hadn’t been surrounded by Hershey’s bars and beef jerky.

Still, his Mother had had him up on a stool hocking smokes before Pop’s socks were cold, and he’d remained behind the counter for the majority of the fifty-seven years since.

It was now a warm May Friday, and he was passing across a green pack of menthols while attempting to place the two couples who’d entered together.

“Out of towners? You look like one of the Merkel kids though – maybe one of Mary Merkel’s?” he asked the lamp-jawed twenty-one year old who’d stepped up to pay for his girlfriend’s habit.

“Yeah, Mom, er Mary Platt after she married Dad, but I guess Mary Merkel when you knew her, she actually died five years ago. Last week though, I get this call from the attorney who handles the estate, and he says that Granny Merkel also passed, leaving me the farm.” The boy held out a twenty. “I didn’t have much better to do this weekend, so I figured we’d drive out to see if it was worth selling.”

“Huh,” the old man said.

He’d long considered the people both the best and worst part of manning the counter in such a rural area. He often found himself gumming the day away with the same friends he’d had since grade-school, but, as the only gas for thirty miles, he just as often found himself dealing with the same handful of local miscreants week-after-week.

The Merkels were largely regarded as a bunch of ruffians, but he’d never had trouble with the old woman, who’d come in weekly to buy her lotto numbers.

“Your Gran was a good lady. Don’t remember much about your Ma, though I’m sorry to hear she’s gone.” He handed back some change.

The boy nodded, his short friend stepping up to the counter and laying down a five while shaking his bag of Ringolos.

When all debts were settled, the group cleared out, lamp-jawed Platt tossing McGillicuddy a wave.

As the bell above the door rang their exit, the old man took up his paper, returning to the tale of Nelson Miller’s prize catch.

* * *

When dusk began to settle on the horizon, McGillicuddy stepped out into the heat, broom in hand. In recent years he’d found it tougher to spot the candy wrappers and soda cans that built up along the edges of the small patch of pavement, so he’d taken to heading out a might earlier than his father had, to ensure a pristine lot.

The hum of motors in the distance brought him to a halt, his hands resting atop the worn handle.

A black SUV roared by, its horn blaring – seconds later a battered white van followed, the noise of its engine nearly blotted out by the music that flooded from its open windows.

McGillicuddy recognized the van, but couldn’t place it. Guessing the hooligans were off to Fiddler’s Tavern over in Barkley, he shook his head and reflected on a time when cars were unsafe enough that those sorts of problems resolved themselves.

He lifted the broom and began wrangling a large pile of Werther’s foils that Bill Johnson had likely turned out from his truck’s cup holder. Dumping the full dustpan into the nearby trash barrel, McGillicuddy recalled that Bill was just as careless with his childhood Hubba Bubba wrappers.

“It’s always the same miscreants,” he muttered.

* * *

He was counting the till when the lamp-jawed inheritor re-entered.

McGillicuddy was startled by the arrival; he hadn’t heard an engine pull up.

The boy had pushed the entrance open with great effort, staggering down the aisle with one hand sliding along the magazine shelf for support. His legs seemed to be causing him trouble, as if they were rapidly increasing in weight.

“Cuz-,” he said, collapsing sideways.

As he fell, his flailing arm caught a wire rack full of Doritos. A red, orange and green avalanche buried him on the floor.

McGillicuddy stood a moment.

The lump of snacks remained still.

The old man’s hand went to the phone, but a second interruption came slamming through the door.

It was the mousy girl that the Platt boy had been holding by the waist earlier in the day. She had none of her boyfriend’s lack of energy as she came running at the counter.

As she attempted to speak, her throat would allow only a series of soft clicks. Her face and shirt were soaked with tears and sweat.

She swallowed hard and once again opened her mouth to speak – a spray of vomit drenched the counter’s transparent scratch-ticket display instead.

McGillicuddy did hear an engine then, the store’s glass door gleaming with the approaching headlights.

His newest paralysis broken, the old man once again reached for the phone, but as he did so, he glanced out the window to size up his latest customer.

It was Cindy Merkel’s boy, he realized, finally placing the ratty white van. He hadn’t seen that delinquent much since Gran Merkel had passed, and Sheriff Blair had been forced to set Deputies Jelly and Cameron on putting him out of the old woman’s house.

The tall youth stepped down from the running board, and pulled a goat mask over his eyes.

It was his only attire.

Reaching behind the driver’s seat, Goat-head pulled forth a red handled wood axe.

McGillicuddy was hypnotized watching the streaker stride across the lot. A high pitched tone began to drift from the girl’s throat as a greasy hand pushed open the door. She began to scramble over her own half digested Big Mac and Coke, in an attempt to find safety.

The old man dropped the phone receiver, grabbing the girl’s arm and pulling her over the sick.

Goat-head, the Merkel kid, approached with an even stride, the axe head slick with scarlet liquid.

“Always the same miscreants,” McGillicuddy said, his father’s double-barrel clearing the counter.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 020 – Mulligan Smith and The Long Ride

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty.

Tonight’s story, Mulligan Smith and The Long Ride, Part 1 of 1

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This episode is brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes.

If Steve Jobs didn’t think Flash Pulp was fantastic, would he allow it to be listed in iTunes?

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Find Flash Pulp on iTunes via the in-program search, or try this link.

Remember: Steve Jobs may have implied it was a good idea.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

This evening we follow Mulligan Smith as he navigates the tangled streets of Capital City while attempting to deliver a passenger.

Flash Pulp 020 – Mulligan Smith and The Long Ride, Part 1 of 1

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

The Tercel was crowded at the best of times, a garage sale’s worth of randomness spread across the baby blue backseats. Smith and the girl had spent ten minutes in animated discussion at the brightly lit menu, but it was only once they’d reached the window itself that Mulligan realized the drink holders were already occupied by a pair of abandoned coffees.

As the highschool girl working the register watched on, passenger and driver both broke into a flurry of nervous activity – the PI craning to check the backseat’s cup holder, the woman attempting to roll down her window by hand in an effort to eject the old drinks. She was having difficulty however, and a giggle escaped her lips even as her frown deepened.

She switched hands, but she overcompensated, and another tug snapped the black and chrome crank at its base. The sound interrupted Mulligan, who’d been explaining that the window had long ceased to function properly.

His passenger started to cry then, dangling the wreckage from her calloused fingers.

Behind them the balding man in the white Buick SUV, aware only that his whopper was probably getting cold, hammered out two bleats of his horn.

The girl with the headset lifted the tray of drinks and thrust them into the car. Mulligan decided to simply leave the trash cups on the steel sill, accepted the large paper bag with rapidly blooming grease spots, and nosed the Tercel out of the drive-through lane, before halting between two yellow lines in the emptiest corner of the parking lot.

He reached out his arm, attempting to encircle the woman, but the gear shift began to dig into his hip. She didn’t seem to register his efforts anyhow, so he sank back, letting the engine idle.

The radio gurgled at a respectfully low tone.

As she regained her composure, her eyes wandered the dash. Mulligan, realizing he might finally be of some use, reached into the bag, pulling forth a sheaf of brown napkins.

The woman plucked the topmost from the pile, smearing tears and makeup into the blue and yellow logo.

As she snorted loudly, he gently pulled the crank from her hand, tossing it amongst the ruins on the rear bench. He also took a moment to rip the stapled receipt from the bag, partially tucking it under the pristine floor mat behind the passenger seat, surrounded by dozens of its cousins.

Her tears were easing, and she raised an eyebrow at him – even in her haste to enter the vehicle, she’d noticed the collection.

“For tax purposes. All my on-the-job receipts go in the pile, and once a year I clean out the car.”

She nodded, still dabbing at the corner of her eyes.

He reversed out of the lot then, drifting into the anonymity of late night traffic.

The woman spent the journey with her eyes fixed on her window, inspecting each passing car and pedestrian. The city slid by – offices, sidewalks, bus stops, apartment buildings, townhouses.

Eventually they found themselves maneuvering the twisted streets of a suburb.

The car finally came to a stop in front of a large two story house, its porch entrance set well back, a trim line of hedges providing privacy from the street. An array of stark white bulbs lit the grass like the noonday sun.

The woman stepped from the car, bending to gather her small cloth bag. She attempted to speak, but all that came out was “Thuk”.

Instead, she unthinkingly extended her right hand to Mulligan, who gently took it before she could realize and pull away.

After a long moment the heavy gray door that fronted the house swung open, a large woman with a precise haircut stepping out onto the porch and eying the pair as she lit a smoke.

Mulligan let go.

“They’re waiting for you. Beth is great,” he motioned towards the interloper. “It’ll be OK. Call me tomorrow and let me know how you’re settling in.”

His client stood, cradling her wrist. As she hobbled along the stone-paved path, the fresh cast reflected the yard’s harsh light.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 019 – Eventide

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Nineteen.

Tonight’s story, Eventide Part 1 of 1

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This episode is brought to you by opopanax.wordpress.com

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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

This evening we bring you a tale of love and horror, a story about the difference between night and day.

Flash Pulp 019 – Eventide Part 1 of 1

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

May 16th

Ellis flipped off the monitor and stood, his kneecaps popping, the office chair he’d been using wandering into a trajectory dangerous to the cat.

Mittens J. Nelson dodged the furniture, and after a reproachful glare at his inattentive master, padded from the room.

Rubbing an eye, Ellis began collecting up the detritus of his day – a stack of empty soda cans, half a plate of pasta left from supper, some McDonald’s wrappers from lunch. Tossing what he could, he slid through the apartment in the dark, bouncing off the recliner and entering the kitchen to deposit his dishes. There was a note on the counter.

“Hope your reports are finally done. (If they are, why aren’t you in bed with me already?) The coffee maker is set to go for the morning, I thought you might need it. Miss & love you, XOX, Monica.”

He smiled, flipped off the light, and again walked into the darkness, this time towards the bedroom.

As he slid between the cool sheets, Monica rustled.

“Love you,” she said.

“Love you too,” Ellis whispered, settling his limbs amongst her familiar contours.

“Love you,” she repeated, and he realized her words were likely echoing from some deep dream.

“Love you too,” he repeated, once again smiling.

“Murder you,” she said.

He told himself it was just part of the dream.

Still, he didn’t reply.

After a moment the room’s silence was broken only by the couple’s rhythmic breathing.

June 5th

To celebrate the closing of The Michigan Deal, Ellis and Monica had spent a night dancing. Ellis had resisted at first, he had a long standing anti-dance policy, but Monica insisted, and the cut of her new red dress sealed the deal.

It was late by the time they’d returned home, and slightly later by the time they’d re-mastered how to use their door key. Floating past the entry closet on a cloud of daiquiris, Monica shooed away Mittens J., who’d begun to entwine himself around her leg.

Fixing Ellis with a wicked eye, she released the bonds of her dress.

An hour later Ellis was at the fridge, looking for something to help down the advil he hoped would proof him against the pain of the coming morning. Mewling his discontent, the cat slammed its head into his ankle, extravagantly massaging his calf with its neck.

Grabbing the Meow Mix from the top of the fridge, he located the feline’s dish and filled it to the brim.

Having downed the Advil with two mouthfuls of milk straight from the container, Ellis made his way along the hall to the bedroom, gently weaving, occasionally lifting a hand to the wall to straighten his course.

Finally managing a controlled crash onto the bed, he leaned over Monica, planting an awkward kiss on her temple. Her first response was to continue her whistling snoring, but after a moment a thought seemed to swim into her mouth from the depths of her slumber.

“I’ll gut you like a rotting catfish,” she said.

There was a brief stretch of silence as her gentle wheeze continued.

He decided to sleep on the couch.

June 8th

“I’m sorry, really, I don’t know why I’d say those things, but you know I love you,” she said, taking a long sip of her iced tea.

They’d ordered twenty minutes previous, but the smiling girl in the black apron had yet to return with their plates of cheese cappelletti. Still, Ellis was glad that the patio area of Bistro-nauts had remained empty for most of their discussion.

“Listen, I know, I feel like an idiot for worrying about it, but you’d be pretty freaked out if every now and then, while coming to bed, I informed you I was going to shiv you in the dark.”

“Just wake me up next time OK? I thought you were sleeping on the couch because you were mad at me for something, you really had me worried.”

The smell of baked cheese drifted to the table, their server close behind.

June 12th

Monica had spent another breakfast apologizing, departing for work with a kiss and a naughty promise for atonement.

Ellis dragged his slippered feet to the couch, lifting his phone to call Bill at the office. It was the third day in a row he’d begged off with a feeble excuse, and Bill, with a chiding tone, suggested he use up some vacation time.

Ellis agreed.

Turning off the cell entirely, he curled up on the plush couch cushions and pulled the scratchy woolen blanket over his head, hoping to blot out the bright morning.

Fifteen minutes later he snorted awake, tossing off the blanket and coming suddenly to his feet.

In his dream Monica had been standing over him in the living room, a black handled fillet knife in hand, muttering: “gut you, cut you, gut you, cut you, gut, cut, gut, cut,” – the chant that now filled the reality of his nights.

June 15th

There was nowhere within the apartment to escape to, and nowhere he wanted to be without the shining Monica of daylight.

He held her even as she murmured.

He’d tried the couch, ear plugs, falling asleep to music – the unknown had only pushed slumber further away.

In the shadowed bedroom he could see no horizon, no time before this period of endless fatigue, and certainly no end to it.

He shook her awake.

“Er, what?” she asked, her puffy face coming off her pillow.

“You were talking again,” he replied, the relief of hearing reason from her mouth nearly bringing him to tears.

“Jesus, Ellis, it’s,” she fumbled for the clock. “4 am! I’ve actually got to work in the morning you know.”

She rolled over.

June 17th

For nearly an hour, Ellis stood at the foot of the bed, Mittens J. Nelson kneading at his socked feet.

Earlier he’d spent an eternity on the mattress, Monica’s slurred words building a ball of tension in his stomach that eventually choked his lungs and brought the taste of bile to the back of his throat.

So he’d gotten up to leave – but his now regular exodus had been halted by a snort and change in the tone of Monica’s sleep muttering.

He’d waited, inwardly pleading for quiet, and, for an instant, he’d held the salvation of silence.

He squeezed his traveling pillow as a child embraces a teddy bear.

There was a grunting snore, and the spell was broken. A croaking toad’s tone drifted from the bed:

“Gonna rip you open, Ellis. Gonna mash your insides between my fingers like ripe bananas.”

It was too much for the fear and frustration rattling around in his sleep-starved brain. Seeing no escape, he’d frozen for that long hour, joined only by the cat.

Finally, a new idea took root, fertile in the muck of his brain’s fetid exhaustion.

Kicking away Mittens J., he adjusted his grip on the pillow.

He began to shuffle towards the bed.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 018 – Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Part 3 of 3: The Irritable Pornographer

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Eighteen.

Tonight’s story, Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Pt. 3 of 3: The Irritable Pornographer

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This episode is brought to you by Little Wing Children’s Things.

Founded by a stay-at-home Mom, Little Wing produces a wide variety of hand crafted items – including cloth diapers, slings, and bibs – all made with a philosophy that minimizes mess and maximizes environmental friendliness.

For product and ordering information search for Little Wing Children’s Things on facebook, email littlewingchildrensthings at yahoo.ca

Little Wing Children’s Things – providing the tender softness you want cradling your beloved kinder as you haul the needy bugger around.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we bring you the final entry in Mulligan Smith and the Digital Digit. In this episode Mulligan comes face-to-face with Peter Richards’ blackmailer – as well as a fist.

Flash Pulp 018 – Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Pt. 3 of 3: The Irritable Pornographer

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

It was late on Friday afternoon, and the warmth of the sun on Mulligan’s face had him longing for a nap.

“This doesn’t look much like a computer server room,” he said, shading his eyes and inspecting the view of the city through the sliding glass door. “Or, for that matter, a porn set.”

Mulligan had found the office in a re-purposed three bedroom condo on the ninth floor of a building whose interior was largely made up of mirrors, fake marble and senior citizens.

“We don’t have any servers on-site, we host internationally,” the bald man in the white and black button-down shirt replied. “This is our space to operate the front end, do design work, host meet and greets. You gotta love the view. All of our shoots happen offsite though, it’s more organic.”

“Bet you can meet and greet a lot of folks at once on a couch like that,” Mulligan replied, turning back to the former living room.

“Hey – we’re a respectable organization. My models are classy, in the pin-up tradition, none of that video with twenty pounds of rubber and a camera in their colon or anything.” The desk had been setup to dominate the room and Theo Melto, the bald man, spoke from deep within a heavy leather chair behind it.

“We?”

“Well, I’m the executive staff, I pay the talent and I write the checks for wardrobe – but I have five models working for me, and a tech monkey who looks after the servers, does the site design and such.”

Melto leaned forward, stroking his salt and pepper beard.

“You said you were a investigator. I figured you wanted to ask me about one of the ladies. Couple years ago I had a girl whose Dad sent a guy out from Ohio to come track her down after she’d run off. Fine. I’m a business man, I’m more than happy to help you out, but you’ve got to understand that I can’t give out the real names of the girls to just anyone – and there’s also the the expense of losing a valued employee to consider.”

Mulligan unthinkingly jiggled the clasp of his zipper and nodded throughout the man’s speech. As Melto finished, the PI dropped onto the champagne-coloured loveseat across from the desk.

“Are you aware that one of your models, Baroness Ludmilla Anastasia, AKA Joanie Melons, AKA Sensational Nancy Knickers, AKA Margaret Templeton, has multiple locations on her site in which she coaxes her members to send in pictures of their members?”

“Sure, all the girls’ sites have basically the same thing on ’em. Helps community building and makes the guys feel like they’ve got a connection to the girls. We usually send out a canned response about how hot it was, and print out the hilarious ones for the back of the design room.”

“At least one of those pictures has been linked to ongoing blackmail. Seems like terrible customer service for such a respectable organization.”

“What?” Melto’s lips tightened, his neck reddening. “Wait a minute while I get Nicole out here.”

He stood and stalked down the short back-hall, pushing open the last door on the right.

It slammed behind him.

Moments later he exited, heading immediately into the washroom. A woman in her early twenties followed as far as the hall. She crept into the office area, a manila folder clasped tightly to her “Pabst Blue Ribbon” t-shirt, her eyes never leaving the carpet.

“Hi,” she said, her face hidden behind her bobbed hair.

Mulligan sighed.

When the proprietor finally returned, the red of his neck had seeped across his face.

“My spider-sense is telling me you’re concerned about your business here. My client, Peter Richards, just wants the pictures destroyed and his money back,” Smith said.

Melto stayed silent, his damp hands rhythmically clenching.

The woman hefted the file folder onto the desk and the trio gathered around its splayed contents.

“Look at that view. Look at the quality of that wood. That’s gotta be quite a desk in quite an office – guy getting paid like that shouldn’t be whipping it out on the clock,” Nicole the tech monkey said, brushing aside some errant hair. “Doesn’t help that he sent it from his work address.”

“How could you do this? I gave you a job! I’m your friggin’ Uncle!”

As he shouted, the smut-peddler’s hands continued to throttle a neck that wasn’t there.

“Probably because you didn’t pay her enough,” Mulligan said, stepping between them. “You’ll be paying now though – my client, specifically.”

“Why would I do that? I wasn’t involved in this.”

Mulligan smiled and said, “because-”

Melto hit him in the face.

It was an awkward punch, off balance and poorly planned. Smith rocked back to soften the blow, then returned the favour with an open handed slap. It was always Mulligan’s preferred reponse when exchanging limbs with an amateur: a punch might hurt, but it would also likely anger – a slap brought on only tears.

The bald man began to well up immediately, snot sliding into his beard.

Massaging his jaw, the PI continued:

“Are you aware that ‘The Baroness’ is afraid of being carded while buying smokes? Better yet, are you familiar with the laws of the land regarding the depiction of the genitalia of a minor?”

Mulligan thrust his throbbing hand into his pocket.

“Fire your tech girl and pay Richards from your own wallet. A few folks are going to be by on Monday to double check your employee headcount, and it would be a shame if someone were to feed them a detailed history justifying the fat severance you’re going to be paying the model you had to let go over the weekend.”

Mulligan zipped his hoodie.

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 017 – Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Part 2 of 3: The Baroness

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Seventeen.

Tonight’s story, Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Pt. 2 of 3: The Baroness

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This episode is brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes.

Wouldn’t you like to break up the chain of Ray Parker Jr. songs constantly repeating on your ipod? Just gotten enough of Depeche Mode? My Chemical Romance have you all cried out? Why not subscribe to Flash Pulp on iTunes. Crank your playlist up to eleven.

You can find the feed at Skinner dot fm, or via the itunes’ podcast search.

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we rejoin private investigator Mulligan Smith, hot on the trail of the woman alleged to be blackmailing his client.

First though, we’d like to send out a quick note to those who have subscribed via iTunes and joined the Flash Pulp facebook page. Many thanks.

Flash Pulp 017 – Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Pt. 2 of 3: The Baroness

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

Mulligan found the girl in a trailer park on the outskirts of Capital City.

He’d spent the bottom of his morning in a Starbucks with his laptop, researching “Baroness Ludmilla Anastasia”, and attempting to shield his results from other customers.

There’d been no personal information available, which, given her vocation, the PI had expected. Eventually he’d located a contact number for the company that maintained her website, Melto Productions. After name dropping a police commissioner, he’d eaten his lunch while waiting out the hold music, until, finally, an aggravated man had come on the line and barked out her agent’s phone number.

Mulligan hadn’t bothered to call – the reverse directory gave up the address easily and shortly there-after he’d scooped the keys to the Tercel and snapped shut his notebook.

Twenty-five minutes of driving later, he found himself nosing the baby blue clunker along the uneven pavement of Elm Terrace. As he pulled up to his destination, he noted a rangy twenty-something in red Adidas track pants had stepped to the double-wide’s screen door.

“Yeah?” the man in the bright pants asked.

“Name’s Smith.” Mulligan, weighing his approach, opted to apply some angular momentum to the truth. “I work with the police. I need to speak with your girlfriend.”

He stepped onto the homemade porch. “Immediately.”

It wasn’t the inclusion of the police that the investigator thought of as a gamble, he was on first name terms with most of the uniforms working the east side of the city. The real risk was in assuming the guy was so small time he was living and sleeping with the talent.

“Hold on,” Agent-Boyfriend said, disappearing into the darkened interior.

Her website had largely featured pencil skirts and crisp-rimmed glasses, so when a teen in a white tank top and sagging grey sweatpants bounced down the iron step and onto the plywood patio, Smith had to take a moment to re-imagine her in work attire.

“HEY BILLY-” Her raspy voice rocketed into the shadows behind the screen. “You wanna go get me some smokes?”

Mulligan momentarily wondered if Billy, no doubt eavesdropping, had any eardrums left.

“The hell, why don’t you go get ’em yourself?”

“You know that douche-canoe counter jockey always cards me.”

There was a pause from within.

“Fine.”

Agent-Boyfriend slammed through the door, across the deck, and into his Honda Civic. After a moment of fighting with the ignition, the hatchback roared away from the cement slab that made up the home’s front yard.

“Now that he’s gone, we can talk,” she said, pulling a cigarette from the elastic depths of her cotton pockets.

Mulligan’s fingers plucked a lighter from his jeans, sparking the flint and applying it to the girl’s dangling addiction.

She continued:

“You’re here about the pictures, right? I’ll tell you straight up that I don’t have them. I don’t want any trouble, and I don’t want to hear any whining about your Wife or Boss either. I can’t help what you did.”

“I’m actually a private dick, here on behalf of a client,” Smith replied.

“Oh, things must be getting serious. You don’t really look like the kind of guy who takes pictures of his junks and mails them to people anyhow.”

“If people are emailing you pictures of, uh, their junks, but you’re not getting them, who is? Your agent?”

“Billy? Hell no, that jackass still uses a pager. A friend of mine got us all set up with the agency, and our site. Maybe it’s old Theo, the guy who owns the whole thing, who’s actually getting the money.”

Mulligan nodded, thanked the girl for being so forthcoming, and turned back to the Tercel.

“Hey,” the girl said. “That was some pretty big help I just handed you – if you manage to find the one running the scam, will you let me know?”

She took a long drag, exhaling through her nose and mouth simultaneously. Her eyes took on some of the hard countenance that was so familiar to her fans.

“I figure I deserve a cut.”

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.