Category: Flash Pulp

Flash Pulp 035 – The Last Ghost Story: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-Five.

Flash PulpTonight: The Last Ghost Story: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This evening’s 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.

Tonight we present the second entry in our current Blackhall serial. We re-join our hero as he  prepares to enter a house of haunted repute.

Flash Pulp 035 – The Last Ghost Story: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

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

Thomas Blackhall, and Porter the skeptic, rode along the dead-straight roadways of Perth, leaving behind the store fronts and wooden walkways to find a chill in the night breeze that ran amongst the long stretches of wheat.

“Your saddle seems a little loose to be conducting such an adventure,” Blackhall said.

“Oh, I’ve ridden after stronger spirits than those, no worries,” Porter replied, adjusting his grip on the reins.

“It may be my own liqoured tongue that has me pressing the point – but I must say that while we’re not likely to spy one this eve, I have encountered phantoms in the past.”

“Oh, I can count you amongst the believers, Master Blackhall? Then why would you propose to come along?”

“In part, it is because I have been told these lands are the last bulwarks for the preternatural, and I have interest to see if that includes the spirits of the dead,” Blackhall took a bite of jerky he’d fished from within his greatcoat, “but also, because ghosts are terrifying, and you’ll likely hurt yourself.”

“What?”

“Oh, quite scary. Just remember that they’re literally ethereal. They may be able to get up a bit of a rattle, or some screaming – if you’re lucky, they may even toss about some tableware or a book, but they can’t easily injure you.”

“Huh,” replied Porter, taking the measure of his companion through squinted-eyes.

The conversation slid into silence.

* * *

Once they’d reached the entrance to the farmstead, they turned their horses onto the rutted path that lead to the Tyler’s dooryard.

The house was set well back on its generous plot, and it seemed to Blackhall that the ride along this shadowed lane took twice the time of their approach from town.

“How is it that Milly Tyler came to her end?” he asked.

“Her husband, Nelson, thought she’d made a cuckold of him – a tale likely whispered by his whiskey. Their land bore little, and Nelson had turned to drink while waiting for his crops to wither. One day he made the accusation, and laid her low with a shovel. He carried her into the house and dropped her in the kitchen.” Porter slapped at a persistent mosquito that hovered about his stubble-laden face. “After getting hold of some kerosene, he set the place ablaze, hoping to blame an accidental fire for consuming his wife. It was his bad luck that a wagon load of St James the Apostle’s Anglicans were on their way back from services. They spotted the smoke early on, and while Nelson wept and watched, they formed a bucket-line from the pond, singing their hymns. They managed to save most of the structure – I’ve heard the ground floor is black with soot, but that the upper has been mostly left as it stood when the constable came about to collect Nelson.”

The house was near now, a looming black casket against the moon.

Blackhall shook himself from his dread.

“Whatever we may find inside, remember to remain calm, and that Milly is no more able to harm you now than she would have been on her meanest day of life.”

The two men dismounted, hitching their rides to a gutted window pane.

Pushing open the smoke-blackened slab of the pine front door, the pair peered at the interior.

To the left, a hole in the wall, eaten there by the fire, allowed moonlight to flood the kitchen. It seemed little darker within than without. To the right lay a dim space that must have once been a sitting room. It now sat empty.

They shuffled inside.

Fingering a bit of curling wallpaper sagging from its place on the kitchen wall, Thomas spoke.

“The Anglicans must have worked quickly.”

He sought to keep his voice jovial, to prevent Porter from imbuing the place with fear.

“Let us check the upper story, and if no more fitting prize can be found, we’ll take a scrap of this paper to mark our passage,” Porter replied.

From overhead came a slam, as if a door had caught the wind.

Neither man spoke.

Porter took breath, turning to place his foot on the lowest step.

Allowing the wallpaper to return to its wilt, Blackhall followed.

Two rooms, and the narrow entrance to a linen closet, stood at the top of the stairs. One of the dust-filled chambers had obviously once been decorated in the bright colours of a nursery, and the other, the men assumed to be the shared bedroom of the former occupants.

Against the darkening of the soot on the ground floor, the spaces seemed to hold little menace.

As they reconvened at the head of the steps, Porter reached for the closet door, still in search of superior evidence.

Standing within, trisected by shelving, was the scarred and ruptured form of Milly Tyler.

She raised a single accusing finger at Porter.

The man bolted, taking the stairs three at a time. At the mid-point of the staircase, he tripped, tumbling the rest of the length.

“Wait!” Blackhall called, the form having disappeared.

Porter would have none of it, having sighted the writhing glow of Milly, now upon the spot she must have smouldered.

She began to scream.

He broke from the front door, rushing towards his mare.

The beast had heard the ruckus within, and reared in panic at the speeding figure.

With shrieking whinnies, both horses snapped their leads, bolting from the yard.

A moment later, Thomas stepped into the bite of the night air, reassuring words still on his lips. The banter died away as he came upon Porter’s body, the skeptic’s skull having been crushed at his mare’s startled kick.

A gust of wind slammed shut the marred pine door.

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 034 – The Last Ghost Story: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-Four.

Flash PulpTonight: The Last Ghost Story: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This evening’s episode is brought to you by Opopanax Feathers:

A rainbow nightmare filtered through the storming rage of a feral teddy bear.

Find it at OpopanaxFeathers.wordpress.com

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 present the first entry in a new tale of Thomas Blackhall, frontiersman and occasional student of the occult. Our story begins after the witching hour, in a small town in the Dalhousie district.

Flash Pulp 034 – The Last Ghost Story: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

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

William Stern’s Tavern was nearly empty. Conversation had guttered until only a small knot of regulars, and a sprinkling of loners napping in their cups, remained.

The recent Evans murder had dominated the bar room early in the evening, but as the night had worn on, and the barley had grown heavier, the talk had turned to the occult.

“There are no ghosts,” said Porter, the raised eyebrow of the group.

“I swear to you, when I was not eight years old, I watched my Granny’s phantom walking the hall,” replied O’Connor, a half-pay sergeant.

“Tell me not of childhood dreams as if they were truths. How many dead have there been in history? If there truly were spirits, they’d have to start charging rent at the Tower of London.”

“What of Milly Tyler’s old place?” Bigs Calhoun had been silent a long while, and, until his interjection, the debaters had assumed he’d nodded off.

“The only curse on Milly Tyler’s farmhouse is that the land she settled could barely grow grass, much less wheat,” Porter replied.

“My oldest lad once told me that he and the Casey boy went up that way one evening. Apparently neither of ’em could step in and count to ten once the door was shut. Felt fingers up his spine, he said.” Bigs took a long inhale from his mug.

Porter snorted.

“Next you’ll be telling me they brought a third boy with them,” he dropped to a dramatic hush, ” – but he never returned.”

“Isn’t it usually the smart-mouthed know-it-all who gets it at the end of those stories?” asked O’Connor, smiling across the table at his skeptical companion.

“Yes, but if you held so truly to every tale you heard at your Father’s knee, you’d be out wandering the roads looking to trade your prize cow for magic beans.”

“A wager then?” Calhoun asked.

Porter realized the smell of approaching gambling must have been what had roused Bigs from his stupor.

“At what rules? Shall I implant a dagger at the site and catch my coat, only to mistake it for the grabbing hand of poor Milly Tyler? Shall I enter and repeat Milly’s name three times, hoping she materializes? Shall I spend the night and see if my hair has turned snowy by morn?”

“Your jests reek of excuse.” O’Connor said, his smile fixed.

“I’ll happily follow whatever course you suggest, but I see a flaw in your plan: one of ye believers would have to follow along to attest to the truth of my testimony.”

“I believe you’re an idiot, not a liar,” the sergeant replied. “We shall reconvene here at lunch, on the morrow, and you can report what terrors befell you then. What of the wager?”

“I might suggest the night’s tab,” said Stern, the barkeep, from behind his well polished mahogany slab. “I’ll hold it till lunch – although I’m not terribly optimistic for the condition of your stomachs.”

“Whatever the condition of my gullet, if you’ll extend us the courtesy, I’ll be sure to order up the Sunday patrons a mess of eggs – at Porter’s expense,” O’Connor replied.

“Fine then, and I’ll beg you to be off to your haunted house, or otherwise rent a room and clear the tables, as Mrs. Stern has trouble managing the gluttony of the Sunday faithful when left to herself.”

Those still waking, stood.

They were at the door when a shadow broke away from a darkened table, approaching.

Holding up a hand in greeting, Thomas Blackhall stepped into the glow of the kerosene lamps.

“I’d like to come along,” he said.

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 033 – Strangers In The Net, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-Three.

Flash PulpTonight’s tale: Strangers In The Net, Part 1 of 1

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

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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.

Tonight we present a tale about friendship and duty, writ large in the glow of a computer monitor.

Flash Pulp 033 – Strangers In The Net, Part 1 of 1

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

March

It was the middle of the night, and Maria was groggily clicking at her digital crops while doing her best to ignore the flu churning in her stomach.

The red glare of a friend request appeared on her screen.

She’d recently given in to adding strangers to her list, in a bid to make her gaming life simpler, and when the name “Anthony Holderbrook” appeared, she assumed it was someone looking for a neighbour.

In her NyQuil haze, she clicked “accept”.

* * *

May

She was at work, bored. The small airfield was dead: it was a rainy Tuesday, and most of the field’s clientèle were hobbyists too nervous to fly in slick weather.

Her time was spent at the office’s Ikea desk. She considered herself little more than a glorified gas station attendant, but at least she had the receipt tracking PC to keep her entertained.

In the last few months she’d gone from casual game player to addict, her online empires ranging from mafiosi to vast agricultural fiefdoms. With the clack of her fingers she could raise an army to grow untold grapes, or sheer any count of sheep.

Still, her new found power had come at the expense of a cluttered friends list, and she’d spent the afternoon attempting to cut those she considered dead weight. Her eyes once again hovered over Anthony’s name. She couldn’t recall him ever having sent an item or in-game request. Her cursor hovered over “remove”, but she re-considered, sliding over to his profile link.

Anthony was an older man, close shaved and trim. Most of his pictures had him in front of fighter jets, or with his wife in their suburban backyard.

A chat window popped up – her sister, back from Lake Tahoe, and in tears about husband-Mike’s constant complaining that the weekend would have been better spent in Vegas.

Maria closed the browser window, reaching for her phone.

* * *

Early June

Maria’s eyes happened upon his status message in her news feed.

“We are FUBAR. I’m sorry, Min. I love all of you.”

Anthony had changed his profile image to a professionally shot photo of him in uniform. Maria didn’t know much about the military, but he certainly seemed to have a colourful chest full of medals and ribbons.

As she snooped, a new update appeared.

“Mohole 2 went twenty miles deep. Everything is eggs.”

The smell of drama drew her to his personal page. She spent the following hour continuously hitting refresh.

Nothing changed.

After a time, she became entangled in a barn raising.

The next day, while negotiating her allegiances with a committee of digital ranchers, it struck her to check for updates.

The older messages had been removed, replaced with:

“Gin makes me talk too much.”

It was then that she decided to google Holderbrook, only to find the now familiar face staring back at her: from old photo ops in Baghdad, from over the desk at a congressional hearing, from the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic.

They were all captioned “Four-Star Air Force General, Anthony Holderbrook”.

Between harvests, she dug into his profile.

The blandness of his six months of history convinced her it was real.

* * *

Late June

Maria had been checking his page hourly. Nothing more had slipped from his status messages, and many of her friends had tired of her constant weaving of conspiracy around every news article that mentioned him.

“Less than forty minutes and we’re all dead.”

The update hit her stomach like a stone.

She started a letter to her Mom, found she was taking too long, included her sister. Hitting send, she realized she should update her faithful lieutenants, the ones who would have to know now that she had been right.

She began a new message, and, looking to copy and paste the status, she flipped back to the General’s profile.

It had updated.

“If you have access to an aircraft, take it up immediately – that is an ORDER. Uno Ab Alto.”

It was like he had meant it just for her.

Gary had given her a few lessons on getting into the air, she knew she could do it.

Kar'WickShe began to polish off her message. Moe with too many goats, Hannah with her need for everything to be pretty instead of functional; they’d spent many long days together, they’d served her well, they ought to know the end was coming.

Her fingers blazed at the keys.

Completing the dispatch, Maria logged out.

The office began to buck and sway – she realized she’d taken too long.

Across the field the bone knotted carapace of Kar’Wick, The Spider-God, thrust onto the shattered sky.

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 032 – Lucy, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-Two.

Flash PulpTonight’s tale: Lucy, Part 1 of 1

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This evening’s episode is brought to you by The Two Gay Guys on youtube.

Invite Chef Buck and his side-dish Louis into your heart, and mouth, with any one of their delicious range of video recipes.

Find out what they’ve got cooking!

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 present another Chiller tale; a meditation on the lines between truth and suspicion, trust and necessity.

Flash Pulp 032 – Lucy, Part 1 of 1

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

Billy Mutters was standing in the rain, living up to his name.

He had made a full circuit of the dark perimeter of his lawn, lingering especially at the thickly forested ravine that lay at the rear of the house. It had been a major reason behind his enthusiasm, when he and Ella had bought the place. Its edges were too steep to climb without effort, and the gash, which ran straight out for two miles before opening onto the lake east of town, made an effective moat against neighbours.

Lucy hadn’t been next door getting in the trash, she hadn’t been across the street making time with Milly Tremore’s Jack Russell.

He eyed the gash again, cocking an ear.

The wind and water were all he could hear.

“You pregnant idjit,” he said to the ravine.

He turned and made his way back to the house’s sliding patio door.

* * *

Ella had spent the following morning fussing with her dusty computer, and, after luring Billy into the kitchen with a ham and pickle sandwich, she presented him with a stack of flyers to staple to telephone poles.

“You may be retired, but I’m fairly sure I can squeeze some useful work out of you yet.”

“She’s probably just gone to have her puppies,” he replied. “I’m sure she’ll return when business is done. What use is a pregnant hunting dog anyhow?”

She pushed the flyers at him, her face no longer smiling.

“Don’t give me that, I’ve seen you up on your comfy chair with that mutt. You get your bones moving and find that girl.”

He carried off the second-half of the ham and pickle, as he left to rummage for his staple gun.

* * *

After a week, the flyers hadn’t worked. Neither had driving the neighbourhood yelling her name, knocking on people’s doors, or wishful thinking.

Ella mourned daily, printing out pictures of the dog at various stages of her life, often commenting on the spaniel’s beautiful flopping ears or soulful eyes.

So, after a week of it, and already feeling the ache in his hip, Billy pulled on his boots and worn hunting jacket, preparing to descend the muddy side of the gash.

He’d once given the self-contained forest a brief exploration, a decade previous when they’d first purchased the house. He’d found the prickly thicket that grew wild amongst the scratching pines to be too much – after a quick survey he’d headed home, with no interest in a return trip.

This time, as he followed the trickle of a creek that lay on the floor of the small valley, he’d nearly pushed through all the way to the lake. At the point where the ravine was wildest, and the forest thickest, he was brought to a stop by the sound of whining.

Pushing through the brush, he found her.

Her leg was ensnared in a pincer of three jagged rocks, and the awkward position made him think she’d likely fallen from the largest while drinking from the feeble stream.

He approached quickly and she lifted her head in greeting, licking at his face and hands.

It was then that he noticed her maw was bloody, and that she had been gnawing at the entrapped leg. Through the smear of fur, he could see she’d broken the skin. It was quite a mess, but nothing that was likely to be serious.

Lifting her free of her stone shackle, he carried her home.

* * *

The vet was optimistic.

“She’s chewed it up pretty good, and she’s a bit malnourished, but otherwise she’s fine. Keep applying the cream till the tube is out and try to keep her from licking it off. The hair won’t grow back entirely for a while, but pretty soon it’ll just look like a little rough patch, and after a few months you won’t be able to tell the difference.”

Ella smiled at the news, her hands rubbing either side of Lucy’s face to force the dog’s lips into different positions: surprised face, fat face, wind-storm face.

“What about her pups?” Bill asked.

He’d pushed himself too hard coming out of the ravine, and was now leaning heavily on the wicker cane from the front closet – maintained there by Ella, in case of such acts of selfless stupidity on his part.

The vet’s eyes flickered from his paper work to Billy, then back again.

“Hard to say. She’s not pregnant now though.”

* * *

He spoke his mind over the following evening’s ravioli.

“I think she ate them. I think she was starving down there for a week, and she just…”

Ella dropped her fork, staring at him.

Without speaking, she stood. Lifting her plate from the table, she dumped the untouched pasta into Lucy’s nearby dish.

She left.

After a moment the sound of Alex Trebek welcoming that night’s competitors drifted into the dining room.

He picked at his meal, eying the dog as it ate greedily.

* * *

It was a month later, and Lucy was seated on the passenger seat of his truck, her head lolling out the window. The last four weeks had been tough on Billy. He’d been quick to anger when the dog entered the room, and his skin crawled every time the beast would take a loving lick at Ella’s face.

Then opening day of turkey season had come.

Following their yearly ritual, he’d loaded up the truck with supplies for a full day’s expedition, leaving at the first hint of dawn.

The highways had turned into back roads, the back roads had turned into dirt paths.

Bouncing along a fire access route, he brought the Ford to a stop and killed the engine. The silence of the trees settled in on all sides.

Realizing where she was, the cab became filled with the dog’s excited panting.

He opened her door for her, letting her take in the wild air.

Stepping down from the driver’s side, he reached into the bed of the truck, and snapped open the large plastic case that housed his shotgun.

As the dog ran delighted circles around the truck, he loaded the weapon.

With Lucy close behind, he put the gun over his shoulder, and hefted a shovel to the other.

He marched into the woods.

“Accidents happen. I’m sorry. You did what you had to do, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, too.”

He sighed.

“I can’t have no baby killer in my house.”

He’d been explaining his position since they’d started the journey.

Finally, he threw down the shovel.

She was too close.

“All right, git you.” He couldn’t bring himself to put authority into his voice. The best he could manage was to get her to sit.

Sighting down his barrel, he shuffled a few steps backwards.

She stood.

“No! Sit!”

She sat.

Still too close, he took another quick step back.

As he fell backwards, the shotgun fired into the air.

The same moss covered stone that had tripped him, now caught his hip bone at a sharp angle.

At the sound of snapping, Lucy ran to her master.

* * *

He awoke and it was dark. The pain was ferocious.

His mouth was dry.

As he groaned, the dog came to his face, licking him. The pain of swatting the dog away ripped down his left side.

He passed out again.

* * *

He thought he’d been awake for quite a while, although he couldn’t really remember if it was a dream or not. The pain in his hip was everything now, although some moments were clearer than others.

He seemed to recall the dog occasionally disappearing into the tall grass, although she sat watching him now.

He often thought of Ella, and sometimes he was convinced she was looking for him, that a search would be there soon. Sometimes the dog just sat there staring and panting.

He became aware of another pain as the world grew dark, and then light again. Before noon had returned, hunger and thirst were his primary preoccupation.

A moment of clarity came, and, at his call, so did Lucy.

With the left side of his body screaming in protest, he ratcheted the gun.

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 031 – Mulligan Smith and The Bully, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-One.

Flash PulpTonight’s tale: Mulligan Smith and The Bully, Part 1 of 1

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This evening’s episode is brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes and high-powered medication, prescribed by my dentist.

Locate us using the in-program search, or click this link.

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 once again delve into the case files of Mulligan Smith. We open upon our hero, lounging at a bus stop.

Flash Pulp 031 – Mulligan Smith and The Bully, Part 1 of 1

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

It had been a miserable Tuesday for Mulligan, who’d spent the better part of it on a bus-stop bench while attempting to avoid a vagrancy pick up, or actually having to get on a bus.

“You gotta be careful when you’re pushing a guy. You push a fella and he doesn’t fall over, you’re going to look like an idiot. Especially not good if you’re in the middle of a crowd, you’ll lose all the momentum. Dude takes a push and doesn’t fall over, he’s likely to come back a little more confident.

“You gotta get in close at first, make sure you got enough arm extension, make sure to get a good hand placement – if you can, try to step into it, it helps overcome some of the difference between you and the other guy, weight-wise.

“If you’ve got the time to chat it up, try to circle him into standing next to something – a step or curb is fantastic, but a bench, pothole, anything that’s going to throw his balance off when he goes over backwards.”

The eight year old ran his forearm across his nose, his sleeve catching a mix of mucus and tears.

Across the street a woman with gray hair, and a large tan handbag under her arm, exited from a side-door to the row of conjoined townhouses.

As Smith watched, her handbag began to squirm.

Mulligan stood up.

“I gotta get going kid, I’ll see you around.”

* * *

Thursday, Mulligan found himself back on the bench. He’d arrived after lunch this time.

An hour before the school buses started rolling along their routes, a bald man in a black windbreaker had pulled into the townhouses’ parking lot and exited his Escalade. As the man walked from his vehicle, his hands were in constant motion – checking his cell phone, looking at his watch, lighting a cigarette, running his fingers over his close-cropped goatee, checking the phone again, smoking, smoking, smoking.

Mulligan attempted to look interested in the Sharpie-work that covered the bus stop’s advertising.

The goatee looked at his phone sharply, stamping out his cigarette. Taking the three concrete steps in a single motion, he disappeared into the building’s side door.

A half hour later, the metal exit swung wide, the man stepping into the sunshine with a large tan handbag under his arm.

A big yellow pulled up, blocking Smith’s view.

The eight year old came slamming off the bus, achieving a full run before he’d reached the sidewalk. The twelve year old that followed was slower off the mark, waiting for the bus to slide away from the curb before accelerating in chase.

Once the lumbering giant had elbowed its way into traffic, Mulligan noted the SUV had left the lot.

* * *

On Friday, the Escalade’s return cut him off mid-sentence.

The twelve year old, who he’d been lecturing, took advantage of the gap.

“I don’t need to listen to some idiot who wears a sweater during the summer, what are you, some kind of wino? I should just call the cops and tell them you’re a crotch grabber.”

Smith was attempting to put together a pithy reply as he watched the goatee slam his door and stride across the lot. He was smoking once again, but his opposing hand never left his bulging pocket.

Without waiting, he disappeared into the building.

Mulligan took a step towards the street, and was caught short by the sobbing of the battered eight year old.

He turned on the predator.

“I don’t have much time right now, but this kid is almost half your age. Just leave him alone.”

“Shove. It.” the twelve year old replied, his eyes bright, his face twisted into a coyote’s grin.

The visit was much shorter than Smith expected, and the man burst from the door, guiding a massive Tibetan Mastiff by a leather leash.

At first the animal seemed reluctant to follow, but at the smell of the fresh air, it frenzied. It shot down the steps, dragging the man behind it.

Mulligan turned to the twelve year old, but the boy was distracted, his eyes locked on the mountainous dog.

Smith realized it was fear of the beast that had shut his mouth.

“You know what? I’m going to go steal that guy’s dog, then I’m going to come back here and have the thing eat your face off.”

With that, he began crossing.

The man had managed to dig into the grass to stop his forward movement, but he was having difficulty gaining the upper hand on the animal. Spotting Mulligan’s approach, he began to edge towards his SUV.

“I suppose you’re aware that you’re in possession of stolen property?” Mulligan asked.

The dog halted his rampage at the sound of the PI’s voice.

There was no rush to Smith’s stride, he didn’t want to make the goatee’d man feel hurried.

“You must have just come from the puppy mill – but, dog-napping from a dog-napper? Why bother paying for the milk when you can rustle the stolen cow, huh?”

As he came closer, he noted the dog wrangler’s ill fitting suit, his over-polished, and under priced, shoes.

“You’ve actually solved a problem I’ve been trying to work out for a few days, and I’m sure Mister Xi, the rightful owner of this beautiful – and frankly, expensive – pup, will be generous upon the return of his traveling companion. I’m sure we can work out a deal.”

A hard look came into the second-hand thief’s eyes, his lips flattening. Mulligan knew he’d played his hand wrong.

“Listen, we can discuss this,” he said, close now and still maintaining his easy walk.

The goatee drew his weapon from his bulging pocket.

Mulligan was relieved to see an awkward grip holding a movie-sized hunting knife.

The hoodie’s sleeve made it easy to hide the stun gun; with an arch of his back, the man fell heavily onto the grass.

With a quick check of the prone thief’s pulse, Mulligan took hold of the leash.

The baffled dog tilted his head at Smith, then fell in happily behind the quickly departing PI.

He returned to the bench, but the bully was gone, leaving only his sniffling victim.

* * *

It was Monday, and Mulligan had been passing through the neighbourhood, so he’d opted to pull the Tercel into an empty corner of the lot he’d spent the previous week observing.

As he sipped from his slurpee, he watched the two boys once again step from the yellow bus.

The taller of the two had immediately begun his harassment, pushing at the younger boy’s bag.

The eight year old had listened well the previous Friday.

There was a brief exchange while the terms were negotiated, the younger child punctuating his words with finger stabs in the direction of the departing bus.

Then he began to bark, loudly and at length.

The older boy turned, and Mulligan could see his face was a mix of rage and frustration.

The bully sprinted away, his former victim still howling at his retreat.

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 030 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty.

Flash PulpTonight’s tale: Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 3 of 3

(Part 1 – Part 2Part 3)

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This evening’s episode is brought to you by Mexican Wrestling.

Seriously, how awesome are those masks?

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 present another chapter of our current Mother Gran serial. In this final installment, we are provided a glimpse into the motivations of our elderly, baby-snatching heroine.

Flash Pulp 030 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 3 of 3

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

The sun was slipping behind the hills to the west, when an excited Mickey Spokes pulled his buggy up short at the gate. Joren had seen the boy’s dusty plume approaching, and had altered his path back from the fields while fishing in his pocket for a handful of loose oats. As the farmhand stepped onto the lowest of the gate’s rungs, Thunder snuffled up the offered grains with flapping lips.

“I haven’t seen you this excited since your Ma found Old Man Pilfer and Dame Madison in the middle of misusing her outhouse.”

Mickey smiled.

“Nor since your senile Gran was found standing naked in the Humphrey’s kitchen, smiling and mumbling after crumb cakes.”

“Neither senility or hunger were at fault when it was your Father standing-”

“One of the Turner girls has gone missing.” Mickey said, his sudden interjection bringing a laugh out of Joren before the seriousness of the matter had settled into his ears. “Three-Leg Turner says a coyote must have come and snatched her in the night, right from her bed – but, Jeanie told the gathered women on The Loyalists’s veranda that she thought it more likely the babe awoke in the night, and wandered off on its own.”

“A picky coyote to have selected from such a menu, but aye, babes will walk,” Joren said, his fingers once again digging into his pocket.

“Ma says a woman ought to at least cry while telling such a tale, but given the unseasonably warm days and the long sleeves Jeanie has been seen to wear, Ma also thinks it may be the case that she’s already had reason enough to cry herself dry.”

“What of a search?”

“Constable Wills has gathered as many upright citizens as he might, and they pound the thickets as we speak – I myself am part of the effort, having ranged ahead with Thunder here, to see if the child might not be walking some back lane.”

“More like you’ve been wandering up and down the roads telling tales. At least if any you leave in your wake should see the girl, they’ll know not to take it for a forest-ling,” Jory told the truth with a smile, a trait Mickey had always found hard to anger at.

“I should be about my business,” the boy said, taking hold of the reins.

He stopped short, placing a hand above his brow with exaggeration. “Hark, could yonder form be the missing girl? Nay, wait, it seems to me to be the lovely form of your cousin Ella.”

Joren threw the remaining oats at Mickey as the boy cracked the leads with a laugh.

* * *

Amongst the silent hay, the two women sat on either side of the serving tray, their legs crossed.

Gran had waited until the Spokes boy had roared from the gate before making her way down the long cow path to the barn. Balancing the platter with teapot, a bowl of honey, and two cups, she’d used her free hand to climb the steep rungs to the loft, all with such silence that her guest was startled to see the steaming service rising up from the ladder’s gap.

The tray itself was a finely crafted slab of maple, its edges flourished with a motif on each side: Dragon, Fish, Monkey and Goat.

Mother Gran served as the mousy woman fussed at the sleeping child in her arms.

“The same hands that coaxed her into that bed will eventually knock her out of it, mark my words. It may not be long afore its Jeanie herself lying up in this hayloft.” The old woman dipped a spoonful of honey into the steaming cup, stirring slowly. “Still, his fourth wife, and yet you’re the first I’ve heard to ask of her babe – and lucky in your case that it was but one. Return now to your dentist in the north, and speak not of this unless the need be true.”

The women talked a while longer, until, as night settled, Joren left the gate, turning his mules northward. From amongst his load of hay came the sigh and hush of a mother’s love reclaimed.

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 029 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Nine.

Flash PulpTonight’s tale: Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 2 of 3

(Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3)

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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.

Tonight we present the second entry in our current Mother Gran serial. In this chapter, we learn how it is Gran came to her canine predicament.

Flash Pulp 029 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 2 of 3

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

The night before the long run from Turner’s hounds, Mother Gran had slowly come awake, a well timed pint of apple cider, and her aging bladder, ensuring her the early alarm.

She dressed by the moonlight that filtered through the window, bent low to kiss Henry, and slipped from their room.

Gran had spent the better part of sunset collecting fireflies from the wheat fields and ditches, entrapping them in a glass bottle, the exterior of which was rounded, to emulate the form of a raspberry. Tipping up the edge of the cheesecloth she’d laid across the container’s opening, she cast her breath into the jar, the breeze stirring the gathered bugs within. Amongst the loose grasses she’d sprinkled inside, a multitude of pinpoint stars began to pulse and glow.

With a quick hand she exchanged the cloth for a lid, atop which, a worn wooden rod projected. After tightening down the cover, she gave the bottle a gentle turn, righting it so that she now held a torch with a berry-bulb in place of flame.

The walk was a slow one, as Gran reckoned it better to risk only when necessary, and never before. She held to the animal tracks and hunt trails, occasionally leaving the broken paths entirely, her sixty-eight years of memory calling up routes long overgrown.

It was no small distance, and her shadow had drifted through the tall grasses of many meadows before she reached her goal.

When she’d finally intersected Puddle Lane, she took her bearings and began to tread south – time was becoming short and she knew there was little chance of encountering even the most drag-heeled of Sarah Melbain’s tavern patrons.

She came to a gap in the windbreak of trees, and spent a time observing the shuttered cabin nestled within.

Shucking her muck covered dress, she hung it upon a branch at the head of the cart-path marking the homestead’s entrance. Eying the dipping moon, she separated her torch’s halves, the captives within eagerly taking wing into the night air.

Gran was no longer as muscled as she’d been at forty, but even at sixty-eight she could give her youngest grandchild, Joren, a tough arm-wrestling – no small feat given that the lad was sixteen, and a dervish during the harvest.

Without the rustle of her hems to betray her, she crept through the shadowed dooryard, her passage as silent as a sparrow’s wings.

With a damp finger she’d taken the breeze, ensuring she would stay downwind of the pair of mountainous wolf hounds that slept noisily by the shack, yet still her flesh prickled with each dream twitch and wheezing yowl.

With an eye on the snoring guards, she pushed gently upon the wooden planks of the shanty’s entry, steeling herself against any encounter.

Luck was with her, and the door swung silently under the hum of nocturnal insects.

What she found within was a darkened interior, not unlike many such of the area. A large central room housed a dozen sleepers. In a far corner stood a rough hewn table, and opposite, a wood stove whose fuel had run empty for the evening.

She’d carried ten babes of her own, an even count of five of each, and in her final days of pregnancy, she’d been old enough that no schoolboy would mistake to call her anything but Ma’am. She doubted that the slight frame of Mrs. Jeanie Turner could have lied her age up to ten-and-eight, yet there the girl slept at the center of the room, in the marriage bed of William Turner, a sea of mattresses and makeshift cots snoring about her.

Gran’s feet had trained at the cradles of her own brood, and without noise they carried her through a closer inspection of the room – a blond baby who snorted with each breath; a brown-haired girl in pigtails, her arms wrapped about a doll carrying the scars of many a hasty mending; the sunburned face of the eldest, Burton, who she knew to scrap with any Sunday School classmate that dared to speak against his family.

With patience and a steady nerve, the old woman’s search led her to her prize. She lifted the toddler from the dresser drawer that acted as his crib, her bird-hands tightening his gray blanket against the cold.

There was an anxious moment as she opened the door to a steadily brightening horizon, but she found the dogs still prone at their station.

Her feet were wet with dew by the time she re-took the road. Locating a plush mat of grass, she set the infant down and quickly re-dressed.

She’d covered a country mile before the bundle stirred, its eyes fluttering open to meet her own.

“No?” the boy asked.

“Shush now,” Gran replied, smiling down at him.

“No!” the boy said, his eyes filling with panic.

He began to wail.

Reflex told her free hand to take up her hem, even as her head turned to scrutinize the road behind.

In the dawn light, two dirty-gray points came streaking from amongst the trees, turning to trace her route without slowing.

Lowering the child’s blanket across its face, she brought the sobbing infant to her chest and began to run.

As she gathered speed, the bawling ceased, and her feet were lightened to hear her burden begin to coo.

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 028 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Eight.

Flash PulpTonight’s tale: Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 3

(Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3)

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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 introduce a new recurring character, Mother Gran, who, in this opening chapter, we find mid-stride.

Flash Pulp 028 – Missing, A Mother Gran Story, Part 1 of 3

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

Puddle Lane was more than a wagon path, but less than a road. At it’s southern end, it came to a loose three-way corner: Puddle Lane, Soggy Bend and Gallagher. At its northern tip, the lane merged into Strawberry Road, a moniker Mother Gran had always appreciated for the attempt to maintain some of its neighbour’s whimsy.

“Old Man Gallagher never did have much of a sense of humour,” she thought, her knobby knees pumping.

She took the corner at full speed, tilting from Puddle onto Soggy.

She’d had a good head start, but the bundle in her arms was getting heavy, and she could hear the gallop of Turner’s wolf hounds as they closed the distance.

It was another half-mile to the blossoming white flowers of the crab apple tree, but, even in her dusk, her legs were well muscled from a lifetime of papoose toting and field work.

Still, she knew it would be a race.

The slapping paws of the dogs rounded the corner – she could hear the dampness in their hot breath.

A quarter mile, and she could feel the tightness in her lungs.

She began to sing:

“O where are ye gaun?
Says the false knight upon the road.”

A laugh caught in her throat, cutting the song short. She hadn’t run this hard in many a year.

She adjusted her grip on the gray rag.

“O where are ye gaun?
Says the false knight upon the road.

I am gaun to the schule,
Says the wee boy, and still he stood”

Reaching the tree, she broke from the roadway, grinning. The deer path was narrow and grass covered, but she’d known the route since childhood, and her feet were sure.

“What’s augh the sheep on yonder hill?
Says the false knight upon the road.”

She could see the mound now, its northern face piled high with John MacMillan’s transplanted field stones.

“They are my pap’s and mine.
Says the wee boy, and still he stood””

Her heart’s pounding, and the approach of the dogs, merged into thunder in her ears.

“How many of them’s mine?
Says the false knight upon the road.”

Finally, she could hear expectant chittering, and the familiar sound gave her legs new wind.

“A’ them that has blue tails.
Says the wee boy, and still he stood”

It had been the same song since winter’s first thaw – although she usually came with bucket in hand, not such a frail load.

The entire brood had gathered to meet her approach, and at their sight, she knew she would make it.

“I wish you were in yonder well.
Says the false knight upon the road.”

The lead hound recognized its error in the final moment, but its companion wasn’t prepared for the sudden loss of speed.

The old woman had breezed passed the malodorous family without slowing. Her passage, however, had set the matriarch skunk, plump from Gran’s table scraps, on edge.

The collision was cause enough to outrage the nervous mother.

“And you were down in hell
Says the wee boy, and still he stood.”

The dogs reversed course, beginning the long run home to carry the stink to their master.

Gran slowed to a stop, resting against the white trunk of a downed spruce.

As she adjusted her skirt, her palm came away sticky with froth from the hounds’ jaws.

She wiped her hand clean, and with spider-fingers, plucked the wrappings away, revealing the contents of her parcel.

She smiled to see the toothless grin of the babe within.

The lyrical portions of tonight’s story were derived from Child ballad #3, as collected by Francis James Child.

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 027 – Mulligan Smith and The Pregnant Pause, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Seven.

Flash PulpTonight’s story: Mulligan Smith and The Pregnant Pause, Part 1 of 1

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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 another glimpse into the case files of Mulligan Smith, as he relates a late evening incident at a local greasy spoon.

Flash Pulp 027 – Mulligan Smith and The Pregnant Pause, Part 1 of 1

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

Mulligan and the old man were sharing a park bench and a bag of sunflower seeds.

“There’s a short hallway at the top of O’Doyle’s stairs, and the walls are filled with framed newspaper clippings – all starring the same starchy old lady, Mrs. O’Doyle. In the majority of them she’s holding the diner’s pride, a burger larger than your head.”

Pausing, the PI spat seed husks into the bench’s adjoining trash barrel.

“Really, the frames are all bolted to the walls, and the clippings are just there to act as landing lights for the drunks trying to find the washroom. As one of the few 24-hour eateries in a college-town’s sea of bars, it’s a popular place around closing time.

“It was supposed to have been just another stop, but I’d had to use the facilities. I’d been in and out of meat market dance clubs all night looking for a guy last seen in the company of a client’s missing party-boy son, and I’d had my share of virgin Bloody Marys. I knew two things about the jabberwocky I was chasing: he seemed to have quite a few friends hanging out downtown, and he had a head like a rubber ball, round and bald.

“I’d found out about his spherical noggin from the missing’s last confirmed contact, his hysterical girlfriend. Given her level of conversation, I was glad to get that much out of her.

“On the other hand, his plentiful friends were actually more of a suspicion – I was fairly sure I’d spotted more than one of the people I’d been talking to snapping cellphone pictures as I was walking away.

“Not a great situation: not only was I not getting any info, but he probably knew what I looked like.

“Anyhow, the problem with the hallway is that it has a blind turn onto the staircase at the end of its run, and we’re talking a hall that’s already barely wide enough to steer down once you’ve had a couple of wobbly pops.

“I hadn’t been drinking, but I can only assume collisions like mine are pretty common, at least at that hour.”

Mulligan cleared his throat.

“So I knocked a pregnant lady down a staircase. What was she doing out that late anyhow?”

He scooped another handful of seeds.

“In the end we were both lucky.

“Before she’d finished her backbone-slide down the stairs, I’d noticed something funny: a man with a hat and a very round face was watching me instead of the expectant tumbler. I mean, the conversation and cutlery rattling had ceased entirely, and from the top of the banister I could see everyone taking in the lady wobbling and going over, their heads slowly turning like it was a lopsided tennis serve.

“That is, everyone except that single face, seated beneath a drink cola sign, staring at me.

“Well, Mom-to-be hadn’t even touched down at the bottom, and I knew. Not only that, he knew I knew.

“After apparently watching me toss a pregnant woman down a flight of stairs to get at him, I guess he was pretty scared – when I finally tackled him half a block later, he started babbling everything I could ever ask of him.

“Oh, the lady was fine, actually pretty happy to have the story to tell once I’d talked her husband out of a round of fisticuffs and a lawsuit.”

Smith shook his hand, emptying his palm of husks.

“Found the party-boy in a dumpster though. Too bad about that.”

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 026 – Known Unknowns: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Twenty-Six.

Tonight’s story: Known Unknowns: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

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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 open upon one of the many passing incidents in the history of Thomas Blackhall’s westward journey across the wild lands of North America.

Flash Pulp 026 – Known Unknowns: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

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

The trio faced each other, the creek puddling at their knees.

The eldest, Michael Vos, stood near the west most bank, a hatchet in his fist. The youngest, Renee Girard, stood ahead of the grassy overhang of the east bank, his right hand white-knuckled around a hunting knife.

Further up the flow stood Thomas Blackhall, his Baker rifle maintaining the space between the two.

“Renee, I cannot believe you’d cheat me – four months, with our backs aching while we built the dam and chute, it was always fifty-fifty. Our first strike and you’re holding out on me – I was to introduce you to my sister!”

“You’re a fine one to talk, you spent more than half that time sleeping off your drunk while I was moving rocks and sawing timbers.” Renee, red faced, kept his knife low, as if preparing for his partner to leap the distance between them.

“How is it you already know the value of your gold?” Thomas asked Michael. “I rode hard from town when I saw Renee at the saloon, and you were still napping off your celebratory spirits when I arrived. I’ve met the little assayer, with his neat collars and sharp cuffs, and he doesn’t strike me as the kind of fellow to maintain a brace of pigeons to exchange notes with whiskey-eyed prospectors. Unless you conferred with Beebe Plain’s silver and gold man in a dream, you should not yet know the value of the nugget I saw Renee flashing about.”

“Master Blackhall, why exactly are you here? I believe you startled us both when you suddenly appeared upstream.” The iron head of Michael’s hatchet dipped as he talked.

“I’m here for the same reason I’ve been here twice before, that monstrous junk pile you call a dam. Now, answer the question.”

The older man’s eyes swiveled between his red faced partner and the lowered Baker rifle.

His hatchet fell fully to his side.

“I planted the nugget.”

He shrugged.

Renee took a step back, his face filling with confusion.

“Why would you do such a thing?”

“All those nights you told me about that rich old gal you’ve got eating out of your hand back home…”

“I also told you that my cousin was bitten by the loup-garou , a, uh, werewolf, and that my Mother is regularly visited by the spirit of St. George – yet, I do not see you riding into town on Sundays, nor loading silver shot. Idiote, I could not have bought the mine out from you if you’d lent me the money. What you do not know is, if I ever show my face back in Gros Apanee, they’ll cut me up and sell the meat to the farmers on Jean Baptiste Day, just to get some of their coin back.”

“Fine, well, now you have the truth of the matter, so give me back my money.”

“Give you back your money? You just tried to fool me into buying this barren trickle!” Renee sucked in his lower lip, letting it go with a pop.

“Well, what you don’t know is, I don’t have a sister,” Vos muttered.

Renee exhaled and continued.

“Besides, I already gave you your share.”

Blackhall once again interjected, this time speaking quickly:

“As I’ve said, I met Beebe Plain’s assayer in passing while I was in the mayor’s office, he struck me as a knowledgeable man of his field, with a fair hand.” His eyes were still leveled at Michael, an eyebrow raised.

“It wasn’t cheap to buy a nugget that size. I, uh, told Jans the German that I’d pay him the second half when I got my share back.” Michael tapped his hatchet against his leg as he explained his predicament.

Renee groaned.

“I know what you think, Michael, but, I – I gave you all that was left. Jans took the rest over cards at Melbeau’s tavern.”

Both men were now eying the waters of the creek, rather than face each other.

Thomas did not let the pause last more than a few seconds.

“There’s nothing left here for either of you, and what neither of you know is, I’m on my way back from having lit a ten minute fuse at your dam. As I have told you both repeatedly, the inhabitants of Beebe Plain on la Petite Riviere are not particularly pleased with finding themselves suddenly at Beebe Plain on la Petite Crique. Now the Mayor has insisted. My suggestion is that you both stand aside, or prepare to swim.”

With that Blackhall strode from the stream, disappearing into the trees.

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.