Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Sixteen.
Tonight’s story, Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Pt. 1 of 3: The Busy Husband
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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.
Tonight’s episode marks the beginning of a week’s worth of adventure with the hooded PI, Mulligan Smith.
In this opening chapter, Mulligan awaits the necessary components for a proper coffee, as well as the facts of his case.
Flash Pulp 016 – Mulligan Smith and The Digital Digit Pt. 1 of 3: The Busy Husband
It was quarter after nine in the morning, and Mulligan was seated at the deep end of an expansive maple dining table.
As he’d staggered up the walk he’d passed two uniformed school children, and once inside he’d found himself sitting across from the remains of their breakfast – rogue mini-wheats and toast crumbs littered the hardwood.
Over the wreckage, a bald toddler glared at him, its round face leaning forward, its eyes tightened into accusatory slits. The stark white walls were windowless and unadorned, making it difficult for the PI to do anything but return his stare.
The woman who’d met him at the door frequently popped in and out of the room, occasionally taking a single dish and dropping a comment from her scattered internal dialogue.
She re-materialized, placing a mug of coffee at Mulligan’s hand.
“He should be down any moment,” she said.
The woman took a long look at the cup.
When the drink had been offered, about twenty minutes previous, Smith had responded to her questioning by letting her know that he generally enjoyed two tips of milk and a pinch of sugar. Now he waited out the pause, opting not to mention his currently uncut beverage.
“Oh.” The woman said, lifting a coaster from the decorative-heap atop the nearby sideboard, and sliding it under his mug.
Nodding, she turned back to the kitchen.
Mulligan cleared his throat.
“Sorry, could I trouble you for a bit of milk and sugar?” he asked.
As she once again began to disappear through the adjoining arch, a series of clicks and thuds drifted down the staircase.
She glanced at the landing, then scuttled from the room.
Perfectly coiffed, Peter Richards, the client, descended the stairs.
Nudging aside the toddler – who seemed no happier to see his father than he’d been to see the PI – Richards pulled out the chair across from Mulligan. There was an awkward moment as the new arrival attempted to find an undampened surface on which to rest his cuffed wrists.
“Good morning,” the businessman in the well cut suit said.
“Good morning,” the investigator in the black hoodie replied.
Reappearing at the doorway, the woman now balanced an overflowing bowl of Cheerios in her right hand, and another cup of black coffee in her left. Taking the measure of the room, she dropped the Cheerios at Smith’s end, the coffee at the other.
“You’ve met my wife?” Peter asked.
The woman fled the room.
“Yes, she seems – well intentioned,” Smith replied, eying his spoon-less cereal.
“Indeed, indeed.” Richards inspected his coffee briefly, then pushed it away.
“Listen,” Mulligan said, leaning over his bowl. “You look like the kind of fella who packs a lot into a day, and I don’t think my hanging around is doing your wife much good. I got your fax with the contract, let’s just get to the basics of what I’m looking at and we can fill in the details as I need them.”
“Fine.” The suited man set aside the blackberry he’d begun to thumb at.
“It began two weeks ago,” As his client spoke, the PI looked about for something to use in place of his missing cutlery. Amongst the sideboard’s decorative plumage he located an over-sized bit of silver, a gravy ladle, that he found quite effective. “I was involved in an email exchange with a woman who -”
The child across the table had received a revelation: no one was paying him any attention.
“HOOOOOOOO,” he shouted in retaliation.
Casting about the maple, his father located one of the escaped mini-wheats and thrust it into the boy’s mouth.
“As I was saying,” Richards began.
“HOOOOOOOO,” the boy interrupted, wheat mush running down his chin.
Mulligan, having tunneled his way through a patch of the Cheerios, scooped some of the sweet cereal run-off into his mug. Standing, he handed both bowl and ladle to the toddler, who cracked a smile in exchange.
With the room once again silent, the client cleared his throat.
“I had the situation in hand…,” his explanation was interrupted this time by his wife, whom neither man had noticed once again at the doorway. She began to cry hysterically, her birdlike body shaking with the sobs.
“No, I mean…,” he started, but she had already pulled the child free of its prison and run up the mahogany staircase.
The well dressed man stood.
“Look, I need to deal with this. The woman blackmailing us is ‘Baroness Ludmilla Anastasia’, just google it.”
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.