Category: Mulligan Smith

FP419 – Sgt. Smith and Son in Inheritance, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and nineteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Sgt. Smith in Inheritance, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2 – Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp419.mp3]Download MP3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Neverland Podcast

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we see off an old friend.

 

Sgt. Smith and Son in Inheritance, Part 2 of 3

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

 

John Smith and Ezra Doss walked on, under elm bough and bright stars and the morning’s dawn. They lost the rails in places, bringing terror to their hearts that was matched but by the triumph of again stumbling across the rotting metal that marked their path.

Three days they marched, sleeping under the summer moon just long enough to be awoken with the sure thought that the Dead Queen was close at their heels.

Legs aching and eyes gritty from exhaustion, both boys fell to tears when they spotted the first stranger either child had seen in years. The round faced woman was naught but twenty feet from the tracks, showing through a halo of green foliage, and it was only once the youths were upon her that they realized she was occupied with fence mending.

“Where’d you tykes come from?” she asked with a smile, her rough gloves wiping away their tears. “Ain’t nothing out there but trees and trouble. I suppose you must be runaways? You fellas leave a couple panicked parents back in Spruce Falls?”

Neither Smith nor Doss had any notion of where Spruce Falls might be, but they nodded in unison.

“Come, my husband, Mr. Delaney, is about to heave a berry pie from the oven, and I’m afraid if we don’t help him eat it he’ll spend the next two days lazing and bellyaching. Once we’ve had your assistance with that chore we’ll pay you in kind with a ride back to town.”

The gray haired woman then ushered them to a table, asking no questions regarding Smith’s missing tongue, and fed them two slices for every one cut by Mr. Delaney, to which the aging farmer playfully complained.

As John cleared the plates, the married couple took to harnessing their beasts and buttoning down the house for a brief excursion.

Though Smith did not see it, it was then that Ezra pocketed another stolen trophy.

After an hour’s wagon ride through low hanging trees, they came to a cluster of houses set beside a broad river, and in it a plain whitewashed building simply marked CONSTABLE.

Sgt. Smith and Son in InheritanceA brown-haired boy of perhaps seventeen was just pushing through the door, but the Delaneys stopped him with a wave.

“These two’ll need a word with Mr. Severin,” said Mrs. Delaney, and it was enough to send the messenger back inside.

Ezra offered a quick thank you, and lept from the wagon’s edge.

Smith, frustrated, not for the first time, that his lack of tongue could not offer up his true sentiments, leant across the clapboard and shook both Delaneys palms with grateful vigour.

The Constable had not appeared by the time they had turned their cart and made for home.

John smiled at Ezra.

Doss smiled at Smith.

The one-day sergeant would often wonder afterward if perhaps their entire relationship had not been built on such miscommunications. He had grinned at their freedom, but Ezra, reaching into his pocket, was smirking at his prize.

In his palm was a folding knife, its handle made of stag horn except where the locking mechanism was bolted, with brass plates, at the tip.

This second act of theft, following on the revelation that Ezra had snatched the supposedly-mystical coyote mask before their departure, was too much for Smith – with no tongue with which to express himself, the ten-year-old’s fist clenched.

“We better get moving before the Constable actually arrives,” said Doss, and it was only the fact that the boy stood two inches shorter that kept John from punching him.

Setting his legs in such a way to make clear his half of the conversation, Smith stood, waiting.

“Idiot!” responded Ezra, and he turned. Sprinting down the boardwalk, the thief disappeared between an inn and its neighbouring grocery.

Smith thought it likely he’d come running back within the hour, as he’d done on those occasions when they’d angrily parted ways over a contested game of Hide-and-Seek or Coffin. It would be the last he’d lay eyes on him until both were young men, however.

Perhaps it was the lack of tongue, or perhaps the scars scrawled in specific patterns across the youth’s back, but Constable Severin took rare pity on the boy.

When no parents came knocking, and no reports of missing mutes filtered from distant detachments, the Constable left the orphan to sleep in the office’s rarely used second cell. Severin found the child’s silence meant most forgot he was at hand, but the lad’s worth was proven when his quiet observation noted the tiny pistol William Salter unstrapped from his ankle upon his fifth drunk and disorderly detention.

Severin had learned to fully ignore the man’s rantings about targeted harassment all too well, and it was Smith handing across a hastily scrawled message that put both beyond range before Salter could deploy either barrel of his Dillinger.

In the years that followed, Smith would gain an education in police work, rail riding, and the true nature of the world outside the Dead Queen’s domain, but it was only once he’d crossed the southern border, into America, that he made effort to prove his existence.

It was a long fight with bureaucracy, especially as what origin information he did provide was entirely fabricated, but, in the end, those behind the red tape preferred to document one more John Smith than let an able body walk as a ghost among them.

Once arranged, the mute thought no more on his early days. Though he tried his luck at many occupations, none seemed so interesting as his first – still, it was a newspaper article that, in many ways, pinned the lawman’s badge upon his breast that he would wear till the day he died.

A murder had taken place to the east, a scandal sheet novelty from Capital City. A socialite known as Mother Beatrix had had her throat apparently slit by her husband, a thin-faced drunk. What made the item of interest was that it had happened at a party, in full view of the guests. The drunk had swaggered into the midst of a costumed affair, gathered in a rough sack all items of value displayed on shelves and in nooks, then he’d stifled Mother Beatrix’s ongoing complaints about his intoxicated hooliganry by laying the blade of a stag-handled knife across her neck.

Witnesses would later swear that Mr. Beatrix was, in fact, in a east-end club at the time, and his belly too heavy with scotch to have overtaken a flight of stairs, much less Mother Beatrix.

What started as a vague suspicion became a secret compulsion, as collected in notebooks piled deep with press clippings. Some mentioned the stag-handled knife, many did not. Most often there was simply a discrepancy of locations: Reports of two versions of the same murderer, one oblivious, the other homicidal.

So began a slow simmering chase, yet Smith could not stop the velocity of his course. He fell in love, married, had a son. Through hard work, and perhaps some gentle blackmail, John rose through the ranks of law enforcement, his skills and quick pencil work carrying him where his tongue could not.

He worked hard to keep his first lifetime – that of Ezra, the Dead Queen, and the secrets his tongue had been removed to keep – separate from that of his second, but the doppleganger deaths continued on every five or six years, and each fed his obsession as if gas to flame.

Though he’d named his child Mulligan in an attempt to bless the boy with a new beginning after the generations of Smiths that had been muffled at the Dead Queen’s command, he could not help but teach the child to collect each scrap of paper handed to him by his father. It was not lost on the man that he had taken up the very sort of training regime involving hidden and obtuse lore, that he had so hated when he himself was a child.

In time he found that he was not forgotten. On a quiet street, decades after Smith had thought his mind had let go of the details of the Dead Queen’s stare, a girl the age of his own son had approached him with a message.

“We are glad to see you well, Mute. Surely now you realize that the magic you thought dead has, in truth, returned to the world.”

It was not the words, but the fact that the girl’s demeanor was so true to that of her great-grandmother, the Dead Queen, that convinced Smith. They talked and wrote for some time, and many old ills were forgiven on either side.

Despite his hopes, however, they had no more knowledge of Ezra, nor the coyote’s cloaking face, than he.

On occasion, in the years leading to his retirement, Smith would walk the edges of a crowd gathered at a murder scene and think, just briefly, that he’d caught sight of Doss’ now aging face – yet always the visage would fade from the gawkers well before the sergeant could navigate the wall of bystanders.

In his final years, his wife long dead and his friends well established, Smith took his greatest joys from discussing petty matters with his only child. His letters were copious, and Sunday brunches of Eggs Benedict were the norm.

It was with a strange tingle of excitement that the old man received a text from his son that read, “Do you know anything about a wooden coyote mask? I’ve got something interesting under the west side of the Lethe bridge.”

Hating to waste words that were not on paper, the ex-policeman had called a cab without bothering to reply.

He found nothing but discarded Smirnoff bottles and the gurgle of the river on the bank beneath the bridge until he turned at the sound of approaching footsteps.

Along came Mulligan, the black hoodie he’d worn as his uniform since the death of his mother zipped tight, yet, as he stepped close, there was a knife in his hand.

Smith knew it to be the blade he had seen Ezra produce on that warm August morning. It would be the second last earthly sight of the old man’s life.

His eyes lifted from the horn grip, still lodged in his belly, to the man he had thought his child – but now the hood was filled with naught but a coyote mask and a gloating chuckle.

Smith’s legs, those reliable spindles that had carried him from the distant shore of the Winipekw and across many a cold Capital City sidewalk while on patrol, gave out, and he rested for the final time.

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

FP418 – Sgt. Smith in Inheritance, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and eighteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Sgt. Smith in Inheritance, Part 1 of 3

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp418.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Neverland Podcast

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we delve into the knotted history that would one day make Smith a Police Sergeant, a dedicated father, and a haunted man.

 

Sgt. Smith in Inheritance, Part 1 of 3

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

 

The resort on the banks of the Winipekw had long ago separated itself from a world concerned with wars and plague. What had once been the town of Hearse had both contracted and decayed, leaving but the massive lake house, and a cluster of out buildings that rose and fell with the passing decades.

In young John Smith’s time, he knew every one.

His games of hide and seek, played with the single other child at hand, a boy by the name of Ezra Doss, had known little respect for the tool sheds and barnyards that housed the equipment that fed the majority of the retreat’s residents, though they’d shown some care for Mr. Madison and his swinging blacksmith’s hammer.

Doss and Smith, eight and ten respectively, had learned in time that they had much in common, though they rarely thought to pass notes on such topics. Smith’s parents had promised a quick return after a month’s voyage to the south, but he had not seen them since the age of five. Ezra’s mother had also departed on the sole transportation in or out, the supply boat that moored once monthly.

She too had promised a quick return and not met her guarantee.

“I’d have abandoned me too, if it meant living in this place,” were Ezra’s lone words on the matter.

John had spent his entire life between the sprawling walls and surrounding timberlands, his only outside contact coming from the steady inflow of books and news journals demanded by the woman the forty or so inhabitants of the Winipekw’s shores called the Dead Queen.

Though Smith was a mute, Ezra had been happy to have a guide about the place upon his arrival at the age of six. They’d been cast together since, as those who were meant to act as communal babysitters in their parents’ absence were happy enough so long as the pair entertained themselves and kept up with their lessons.

There was much to see beneath the monolithic roof beams and along the rough-stone patios. Cruel looking farm implements lurked in the barns, robins nests and raccoon hutches at the edges of the tended lawn, and, on the top most floor, in a highly restricted but little observed library, stood a series of glass cases containing artifacts of mystic origin – supposedly.

By ten the someday policeman had decided the magical nature of these ancient tokens was nothing more than a legend tended to by a group of religious fanatics. The Dead Queen, sitting always by her fireside even on the stickiest summer days, was nothing more than an invalid, and the only subjects of worth in his years of tutelage were the reading skills that had taught him of the outside world, one Allan Quatermain or Three Musketeers adventure at a time.

It was a bitter pill to think Smith had had his tongue cut free by the old woman, his supposed teacher and keeper, to safeguard arcane words that had no power.

The Wooden Coyote MaskThe relics were not without their entertainments, however. It was easy for a youth of that age to lose his gaze in the gleam of the silver dagger’s wicked blade, and there was a mask of wood, carved to appear as if a coyote’s face, whose empty eyes seemed to follow the viewer at any angle.

“Keeps better track of us than any of these blind-idjit adults do,” Ezra had often commented.

Though Smith had long heard tales that the knife might summon duplicates of anyone whose blood it tasted, or that the canine face could transform to mimic whomever its wearer desired, the boy had discovered a different truth when he’d lifted high the glass and experimented with each.

No twins came at his sliced finger, and no mirror displayed anything but the ornate disguise when the cur’s visage was donned.

It was then that John came upon the notion that his guardians were in fact captors, that they had likely done away with his and Ezra’s parents, and that their plans were nefarious at best.

Even the apparently rotting woman all called the Dead Queen was likely just a convalescent infected with the sort of disfiguring illness that the pulp novels often considered a sign of a corrupted mind.

So it was, at ten, that Smith – knowing full well that the ship’s master would not transport any load that would ruin his regular contract – had begun to patrol the outer woods, looking for any sign of life beyond the compound.

After a week’s fruitless hunting he’d literally stumbled across the overgrown rail tracks that had once acted as the ruined town’s lifeblood.

What followed was a months’ planning and rationing. Tins of crackers crept quietly from the kitchen, and uncooked potatoes went, uneaten, into a hidden cloth sack.

Every note on the subject Smith scrawled on paper scavenged from the back of books and the notebooks in which he did his school work, and each missive was carefully burnt shortly after writing. Even then, he dared only pass his ideas to Ezra when deep enough amongst the pines to be sure of their solitude.

“Better than my intention of murdering the captain and stealing his freighter,” Doss had chuckled when Smith revealed his proposal.

There’d been no question that the boys would depart together.

Later, when he realized the depths of his mistake, the getaway’s mastermind would admit that, though he’d convinced himself it was the one chance to save the other lad, he’d likely been simply too afraid to trek into the unknown without company.

Smith’s last sight of his childhood home came as he exited a rear door under a low-hanging August moon. The weeds and grass beyond the creaking screen seemed awash in silver, and the insects that buzzed at their approach hummed as if carrying the electricity of their excitement.

Though their escape seemed likely to end abruptly under the snap and crack of a decaying rail trestle, and again when they fought their way across a river whose current nearly carried them from history entirely, they did not stop until dawn – and still just long enough to open wide a cracker tin and demolish the crumbs within.

It was then that Ezra revealed his pilfered memento, the stolen coyote mask, and the real trouble began.

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

FP416 – Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall Chronicle

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and sixteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall Chronicle

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp416.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Green Light, Red Light

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Mulligan Smith, private investigator and lifelong resident of Capital City, finds himself drawn to the edge of civilization by one Molly Blackhall.

 

Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall Chronicle

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

 

There were no windows in the room, only empty expanses of bare plywood nailed onto a sloppily erected frame. To Mulligan’s left was a door, to his right a simple table holding a camping lantern that acted as the sole source of light. Beneath him was a creaking wooden chair to which he’d been zip-tied, and before him sat the man with the gin-blossomed nose he’d come to think of as Red Parka.

He knew that just beyond the walls was a view to steal the breath from a Capital City Morlock such as himself, but it did him little good.

Red Parka shifted on his stool, settling the hunting rifle across his lap into a more comfortable position.

There was rarely any magic in Mulligan’s job, and here was the epitome of the mundane: He’d often wondered if this was how he might perish, in some dingy hovel at the hand of a man with petty reasons and a terrible need for a shower.

From beyond the crookedly hung door, in the room that made up the other half of the shack, there came a trio of knocks.

Smith could hear Blue Parka, the one who’d tazed him, rise to answer the summons.

“Yeah?”

“I’ve lost one of my tourists, have you seen an idiot in a hoodie stumbling around out here?”

Smith knew the woman’s voice, longed, in fact, to hear it say just a few more words, but Red Parka’s arms stiffened at the intrusion, and the gun barrel hovered above his knees.

It would do no good, Smith knew, to drag Molly into the calamity.

She’d been the one who’d summoned him to the Arctic Circle. They’d been introduced when he’d had need of a bush pilot on a previous job, and she’d been impressed enough with his work to ask for assistance when the small community of Suinnak had charged her with rum running.

Her email had been as straight to the point as Blackhall herself.

I realize chasing bootleggers sounds a bit ridiculous to a fellow who can walk a block and pass three bars and a booze megastore, but these folks generally see limited supplies, and a sudden bump in the market can cause a lot of havoc. I’ve been the only one in and out lately, so they figure I must be the source, and I haven’t been able to spot any amateur moonshiners while waiting for my court date.

I hate to have to ask – and I think you know it – but I could really use some help.

In truth, Molly’s face, and his trip north, had floated to mind more than once in his idle hours parked outside cheap motels and heavily-curtained bungalows, and he’d been eager to be of assistance.

“I haven’t seen him,” answered Blue Parka.

There was a pause, and Molly lost the majority of the politeness in her voice.

“I heard he was coming here to visit,” she insisted.

Red Parka had the stock of his weapon under his arm now, the barrel endangering the ground midway between Mulligan and himself.

“Nope,” said Blue Parka, “probably best to go back to your plane and wait to see if he shows.”

The door closed. Smith felt his shoulders relax.

At least she’d be safe.

When he’d arrived, a day earlier, it had been an easy enough thing to locate the real origin of the free-flowing liquor. His filing cabinets at home were filled with letters from his ex-police-sergeant father that provided advice along the lines of, “it takes money to catch money,” and he’d known exactly how to begin the search.

Tonight, Mulligan Smith, private investigator and lifelong resident of Capital City, finds himself drawn to the edge of civilization by one Molly Blackhall.Locating the most notorious drunk in town had only taken three sets of questions, and, as the PI had told Molly when he’d retrieved his bribe from his travel bag, it wasn’t as if the community was about to be overrun with 18-year-old single malt Talisker scotch.

She’d grown red faced and angry when he’d handed the cup to a fellow obviously killing himself with such.

At the first drink, the man had denied knowing anything about locals involved in distilling.

At the second, both men were chuckling, and Molly joined them in a sullen cup.

At the third she too was laughing, as Mulligan laid out his usual jokes and admitted, sheep facedly, that he rarely drank.

At the fourth, the interviewee, still denying he knew anything, did admit it was better booze than the locally made stuff.

When they’d reduced the bottle by half, the private investigator had found his feet suddenly, thanking his host for his time.

“Perhaps you could top my glass before you go?” the drunk had asked.

“Sorry, I need to save some reward for someone who can help,” Smith had replied.

The tippler’s face went to war with itself for thirty seconds, twisting between resolve and thirst, then the man had stood to point at the shack on the hill.

Smiths’ victory was quickly forgotten, however, as Molly landed on a decision that seemed to have been hovering at the edge of her mind for a while, and dragged him back to the cabin she occupied when visiting the remote hamlet.

Two hours later, half-sobered and sweating from exertion, she’d apologized for growing angry over tweaking the old lush’s weakness to dig for an answer.

“We Blackhalls have always had a temper,” she explained.

They’d fallen asleep soon after.

Awaking to her satisfied snoring had given him the chance to creep up the hill and be tazed.

He’d expected to find a still – instead, seconds before being electrified, he’d discovered just a spout to collect snow and a pot-bellied stove that struck the PI as a fire hazard, especially in an all-wood shanty.

That’d been half an hour ago, but now there was a hitch in his chest as he realized the distance between them was so close that he could hear her muttering as she followed the thin trail down the hillside.

“Oh,” she was saying, “I’m-a go back to the goddamn plane…”

In the next room, Blue Parka returned to murmuring. He’d been at it when Smith had originally arrived, and until this second interruption the chanting had been the only relief from Red Parka’s thick mouth-breathing.

Smith returned to the impossible task of finding some leverage that might keep him out of a shallow permafrost grave.

He considered using his increasingly angry bladder as an excuse to attempt to run, but he doubted he’d make it far from Red Parka’s rifle given the barren white slopes that surrounded the hut.

Blue Parka’s droning stopped, and Mulligan’s bladder doubled its demands.

He had little interest in finding out what the pair had in mind once done singing for the day.

It was apparently just another interruption, however.

“You gotta see this,” called the crooner, “there’s a – I think it’s a wolverine? – out front. Bring the rifle.”

Red Parka stood and pulled the door shut behind him.

Through the flimsy barrier Smith heard Red Parka ask, “is it dancing?”

“Maybe it’s rabid?”

The slamming of the outside exit cut off any further conversation.

Breathing heavily, the PI began to thrash in his bonds. The chair went over sideways, but did not break. The zipties dug into his ankles and the flesh of his wrists, but did not give.

Still, it was shouting and gunshots from the far side of the cabin that brought his flailing to a halt.

Then the air filled with the scream of a chainsaw.

As he lay askew on the rough planks, the tip of a high-speed cleaver pushed through the wall and sliced downward in a long diagonal stroke.

Two more incisions followed, and the splinter-edged triangle fell inward.

Molly Blackhall said, “so, sometimes you’re out in the woods and some bloody beavers start lodging up on the river you figured you could use to exit. I keep this Mama Jama to clear the runway, as it were.”

“You shouldn’t have come back,” answered Mulligan, “they’re armed with worse than chainsaws. If that animal hadn’t come along…”

“Oh, she’s part of the plan too.”

“You have a pet wolverine?”

“It’s not a pet, it’s more like a friend,” she replied. “Anyhow, talk less, escape more.”

She did him the favour of using a knife to remove his bonds.

Still, the PI could not resist a final peek into the adjoining room to see the product of the seemingly neverending incantations. He thought the man had been simply whistling while he worked, but the only changes he could spot in the plain chamber were the location of the barrel, which was now at the center of the floor, and the nature of what it held.

Then he was again being pulled along by Molly’s insistent grip, though this time through the ragged hole and down the hill.

White powder crunched underfoot. The mountain range on the far horizon watched impassively. Behind them echoed more shouts, and more gunshots, and perhaps even a gravel-throated chuckle.

It was at that moment Mulligan Smith realized he was in love, but he would be left wondering, for a long while afterward, how the Parkas had transformed a barrel of snow melt into wine.

He would not see the pair again, nor would the people of Suinnak, but the discovery of the supply – and the signed confession they nailed to the Game Warden’s office before they departed – were enough to clear Molly for a brief southward vacation.

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

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

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and five.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp405.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

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

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

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

 

Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 3 of 3

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

 

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

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

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

“That was all set up for the next afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She stops. She turns. She sits.

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

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

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

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

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

“‘How do you pick them?’ I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

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

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and four.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp404.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

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

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Mulligan Smith, PI, finds himself involved in a high-speed chase.

 

Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 of 3

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

FP403 – Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and three.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp403.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

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

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we present a tale of betrayal and violence influenced by Jurd’s current international travel status – that influence mostly being exhaustion.

 

Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 1 of 3

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

 

They were sitting in the blue Tercel, Sonic cups in their hands, and Mulligan was saying, “no offense, Mike, but the first guy was a Walmart cheat.”

Smith’s mute father only nodded.

From the backseat the wrinkle-faced greeter replied, “none taken, but how do you mean?”

“He was like one of those shirts they sell with under-sleeves and a collar sewn in to make it look fancier. He drove an Escalade, but his car was easily bigger than his house. In fact, when I pulled up to that shack I was left wondering if his wife would even be able to cover my bill. I mean, I don’t mind folks with priorities, but she and I were on the same wavelength: A guy with a ride like that is out to impress someone – unfortunately, it wasn’t her.

“She was sick of it: Sick of his nights away, sick of the tiny shanty he left her alone in, and sick of waiting for him to get his act together.

Mulligan Smith in The Cheat“She’d be damned if the grubby palmed bugger would hold onto the SUV through the divorce, however, which is why she hired me.”

Walmart Mike took a long draw on his Miami Sunset slush, then asked, “so where’s the excitement? Sounds like every other creeping Johnny to me.”

The senior Smith offered a grin that revealed no details.

“Sure,” answered Mulligan, “seemed like an easy gig. Nice huge box to follow around, then some quick work with the Nikon and I could call it a day. Thing is, he meets this red head in front of her apartment. She’s wearing one of those wide neck sweaters, black stretch pants, and knee high boots. He honks but stays in the truck. No chance for pictures.

“Now, I figure we’re headed towards Chez Costly Cuisine, or some other excuse to fill her full of white wine, but, instead, I find myself having to keep an eye on his tail lights all the way out of the city and into the woods north of town.”

Mike raised a brow. “Secluded cabin? Romantic hay ride? Park and grope?”

“None of the above,” replied the PI. “They stopped at a farmhouse. Big spread with a massive black gate. I gave the driveway a pass and did a loop around the fields. I found a bush on the far side under which to tuck the Tercel, then I jumped the fence and did my best to stay low till I’d made the barn.

“The thing was large enough to shade most of Amish country, and it was packed full of shouting.”

Mulligan paused to finish off the last of the blue raspberry ice at the bottom of his cup, then lobbed the trash into the barrel beyond his window.

“Must’ve been fifty people and a dozen mutts in there, and that’s not including the two rotties in the pit.”

“That dog fighting thing in the papers was you?” asked Mike.

The retired sergeant answered with a nod while his son only smirked.

In the backseat the audience of one rolled his eyes. “Hey-zeus, what a romantic fuckin’ scumbag.”

“No joke,” said Mulligan. “Worse, I got spotted. Fortunately the kid, eighteen maybe, was a yokel who figured I was watering the paint.

“”Next round’s starting, you in?” he asked. Once I offered a fifty he didn’t look at me twice.

“Now, I gotta admit, I was already feeling pretty displeased, but letting that fifty ride on dog versus dog had me palming my taser. Maybe thats why I swung for the fences instead of calling the uniforms first thing.

“I stood around taking in everything but the match. Easy access to the hayloft from the other side of the barn, and the elevation offered a perfect overview of the crowd. No one was paying enough attention to the ladder to notice somebody scaling it, but I suspected that none of the jackholes would be terribly enthusiastic if I pulled a camera and started trying to take pictures.

“Now, I gotta be honest, I could’ve simply climbed up, did my duty, and scrammed, but I had another idea.

“Like I said, it was a swank spread, but it wasn’t arranged to act as a place of business, or even an arena of combat. In the end I joggled the elbow of the guy holding the bets and asked where a fellow might conduct business a little more elaborate than just watering the outside wall.

“He seemed reluctant to send me into the main house, but after I made clear I guessed I could drop trow in the unofficial latrine area if he could deal with the resulting smell, he sent me inside.

“In I went, through the kitchen, second entrance on the left, just as I was told, but I raided the fridge on my way back. Then it was just a matter of timing.

“When the current combatants were too mangled to keep fighting the greedy bastards would just pop open two more cages and toss a sliver of steak into the little fenced in arena – but that last time they were too late. I guess it’d been enough to get those thick necked bowsers snarling at each other previously, but, even as that hunk of cow was flying through the air, I was already at the top of the ladder. The hick taking bets nearly got the gate closed before I let fly with double handfuls of farm raised ground beef, and the smell of blood lit up the pooches like a pinball machine with Tommy on the flippers.

“They hit the crowd like rabid Pac-Men, and I framed a nice shot of fearful date snuggling close to scuzzy hubby for safety. They ran, I switched to the outside door. She quivered in his arms, he took advantage by laying a kiss. Then they ran for their ride.

“I was gone by the time sirens replaced the sound of snarling dogs.

“At that point you can imagine that I was feeling pretty pleased with myself – but, when I returned to the shack to collect my cheque, Mrs. Jackass tells me she was just about to call. Apparently she doesn’t need me anymore, she’s got him, as she puts it, by his shriveled testies. For all my trouble I managed to collect expenses and nothing more.”

“I feel for you,” said Mike with a snicker, “but at least you – you know – took a bite out of crime.”

Mulligan shrugged. “Well, actually, it was a month and a half later that things got really interesting.”

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

FP393 – Mulligan Smith in Con-tingency

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Con-tingency

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp393.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Creative Audio Dept.’s Dog Days of Podcasting

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight our PI, Mulligan Smith, finds himself surrounded by cosplayers, comic hawkers, and conjugal criminals.

 

Mulligan Smith in Con-tingency

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

 

Twenty feet to Mulligan’s left Mitch and Mike, wearing matching blue t-shirts with SECURITY emblazoned across the chest, were hassling Godzilla.

Smith had met the enforcers the day previous, at which point the PI had sworn he was alone at the con, whatever the closed circuit cameras might show. They’d been nice enough, if a little eager to look hard for a couple of tall accountants working to avoid entrance fees. They’d pressed hard about the massive attendee in the Stay Puft Marshmallow costume, but, in truth, after passing a few stern words to Billy regarding the concept of proportional response, the detective had cut the Canadian loose at the door so that he could get some work done.

In retrospect it had been a solid decision, especially in light of what Winnipeg had done to the greasy fellow who’d repeatedly demanded the various costumed heroines roaming the floor, “kneel before Zod.”

It was not the first comic convention Mulligan had haunted, but it was certainly the first he’d be receiving a paid fee for.

The stack of Italian giallo flicks he was carrying would definitely be coming out of his take-home profit, however.

Mulligan Smith - The Flash Pulp PodcastFive feet to his right stood Lex Luthor, Superman’s greatest nemesis, with his arm wrapped tightly about the waist of Supergirl. Smith knew the tall blonde woman was the Man of Steel’s cousin, but he still doubted Mr. Kent would be pleased to witness the scene – then again, he reflected, neither would Marcia Addison.

Though this Lex was but one of many bald-capped Luthors in the crowd, he had the distinguishing feature of being the only pretend psychotic-billionaire married to Marcia, Smith’s client.

As for Supergirl, she stepped away quickly, a shudder shaking her cape.

Turning on the black-suited cosplayer, she asked, “the hell!?”

Addison replied with a lopsided grin and a, “well I am the villain, you know.”

With one eye searching the show floor, Mulligan broadly shook his head, leaving Lex under the impression that he was being judged. The fact that the hoodie-wearing investigator was holding his phone aloft, apparently taking pictures, simply reinforced the idea.

Luthor didn’t care.

“What?” he asked his apparent spectator, “look at her – tell me you weren’t tempted to lift this little skirt…”

His white-gloved hands flicked at her hem and Smith gave up on his head shaking.

Sure the storm was already thundering on the horizon, the PI kept his cell’s camera steady and spoke as rapidly as his tongue would allow.

“Someone emailed Mrs. Addison about your convention schedule and your reputation. She was already considering a divorce, but – well, I doubt you’ll have much travel money once the judge is through with-” and that was all he had time for.

Though they’d missed the harassment entirely, shortly after Mulligan had spoken the word “schedule” Mitch and Mike had begun to curse, and by the time the judge had come up they’d realized they were too far on the wrong side of the hall to stop the avalanche.

Billy Winnipeg had had plenty of time to pick up momentum as he’d approached from the balcony overlooking the floor, and the show patrons were quick to part before a man whose black sphere of a costume might be mistaken for a moon.

“He was the Death Star! The Death Star! Fuuuuuuu-” was all Smith could make out before wind and the sound of howling rage blocked all noise.

The impact of the tackle was enough to shake the tower of t-shirts on sale behind Luthor, and, though he didn’t know it then, the black eye would easily last him till the opening court date.

Mulligan could only shrug, unwilling to argue with his friend’s policy on public harassment.

Besides, wasn’t that a Blood and Black Lace poster two booths down?

 

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

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

Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

FP374 – Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 3 of 3
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp374.mp3]Download MP3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by We Are Not Here To Please You

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, our private investigator, Mulligan Smith, finds himself haunting a too-white nightmare with a tazer in his hand.

 

Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 3 of 3

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

 

The Hampton Holistic Healing Center sat on a wooded forty acre spread an hour’s drive from Capital City. It had taken some effort to accidentally blow a tire along the road running the length of the western edge of the property, but, once accomplished, Smith had managed to stumble around the outlying cabins nestled between pine branches for a full half-hour without notice.

Though the spa had signs posted at the gate claiming it was closed for maintenance, the frosted icicle lights that marked its well-swept dirt paths were at full glow, and the regularly spaced faux-stone speakers continued to exhale a constant stream of Yanni’s keyboard work.

Smith blamed the music for his foul mood. The unending demand for calm was getting to him, and every flute trill and harp strum only forced his molars tighter together.

The main house was a shambling collection of extensions, and Mulligan had had several entries to pick from as he avoided the lobby’s porch. Still, his stranded-motorist lie had been sorely tested when, after the first dozen hallway doors had been checked, he’d had to turn a quick corner while pretending not to hear a very tanned fellow in tennis shorts’ shouts of “hello?”

Now though, standing at an open second floor closet with Mr. Tennis still searching for him down below, Smith was again ready to gamble.

He’d remembered the triple H name from Victoria Woodward’s enthusiastic social media endorsements of its online community’s postings. Her brief mention in that afternoon’s yoga class had immediately brought its all-caps dislike of science, and the supposedly jack-booted government it saw as funding its misuses, to mind.

Every suite looked the same. Clean, neat, and eager for someone who needed expensive spiritual cleansing. The crisp white seemed to stretch on forever, as if the place were an MC Escher work inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, and he knew each door he pushed through was a possible finale to his thin story.

Discovering the multimedia closet that was Yanni’s secret lair had provided an opportunity – and not just to end the Casio siege – but Mulligan was running out of time, and he knew it.

Ten seconds of silence fell over the incense thick hallways and heat-heavy carpets, then, once the PI had arranged the inputs directly into his phone, a new keyboardist stepped to the mic.

As a child Smith had often watched his parents blow a sad wind from the house by rolling aside the living room rug and threatening the lamps while flailing away to Ray Charles’ high-speed fingers. He could think of no better remedy to the cloying air of the Hampton Center.

The thrum and thrash lasted less than a minute. Ray got to ask what he’d said twice, then Mulligan cut the music and briefly gave up breathing.

Along the hall and to the left he could hear pounding footsteps climbing the service stairs – but beyond that, from the level below, came the shriek of a toddler disclosing its grievances at maximum lung capacity.

It meant having to expose himself by descending the broad main staircase and scuttling across the area that acted as a lobby and group meeting space, but the pillows scattered about the ground floor were empty, and it was a better alternative than the supposed man-with-car-trouble trying to blow by his tanned pursuer.

The wail continued even as the PI zeroed in on the passage behind the reception desk, but the surprise of his sudden entrance was enough to startle the child into a brief silence. Staring down the back of the woman holding Addison, it was tempting to reach for his tazer, but it was his phone he retrieved from the depths of his pocket.

He’d sent the picture before she’d even fully turned.

Sierra Hampton, the holistic center’s founder, had obviously been expecting the man with the tan.

There was a beat during which neither spoke, then Smith’s phone gave off the Rockford Files answering machine beep that marked an incoming response to his photo.

It read, “You were right, Capital City Daily has an article up saying there’s been three measles cases reported on the eastside.”

Mulligan Smith, Private Investigator: A Skinner Co. Network PodcastMulligan’s father hated to text, but went through stationary like he had a deeply held vendetta against trees. Smith knew he had questions, but he also knew the stubborn mute wouldn’t ask any of them until he could express them in longhand.

Looking up from the screen, Smith said, “it’s interesting how stupidity spreads like a virus. One person catches it, and suddenly a whole community is infected.”

“What?” asked Hampton, her voice startling the baby from whimpering itself to sleep.

“Science isn’t a conspiracy,” answered Mulligan, “it’s not out to get you. There’s no profit in giving your kid autism, there’s only a lawsuit. Half the labcoats in those grad classes are trying to figure out how to cook their own narcotics, you don’t think they’d love to blow the whistle on implanted tracking devices or whatever crackpot theory you hug?”

Several assumptions crossed Sierra Hampton’s face, but, in a decision that surprised Smith not at all, she finally landed on the most paranoid – and thus the option that allowed her to be the most self-righteous.

“What are you going to do, thug? Arrest me for the crime of taking care of a sick child? Where’s your uniform, officer? Too ashamed to wear your swastika in public?”

Smith coughed.

“Hey, I’m no cop, I’m just some poor sap who happened to break down while on a country drive – but, like I said, it’s funny how ideas get around – like the idea the police might suddenly have that this tot looks a lot like Posey Cotton’s baby.”

“It’s not!”

“Oh, I believe you.”

Despite the spread of angry red spots across the child’s skin, the head of curly black hair was an easy match for Addison’s grandmother’s photos.

“Still,” he said, “while they’re verifying, uh, whoever this is, I wonder if they’ll find any connection between you and Posey in your guest list and bank accounts? Will they find a quack in your employ when they look at who signed off on vaccination records for kids who somehow managed to pick up measles?”

He actually knew the answer to this last item, and the tender nature of the case meant it hadn’t even cost his client more than a couple of hundred dollars.

Whoever Dr. Bowers was, he was soon going to be simply Mr. Bowers.

”Most importantly though,” Smith continued, “how big a tin foil hat did you have to talk Posey Cotton into for her to agree to cover up the death of her own kid? You got a lot of land here – how many times do you figure you’ll have to imply the cops are Nazis before they bring out the cadaver dogs?

It was then that Mr. Tennis entered the room, and, without having noticed its movement, Mulligan found his hand was in his pocket and tightly wrapped about his tazer’s grip.

He was unexpectedly eager to use it.

He would not get his chance, however.

The trio stood there in silence for a five full minutes, then black body armour and red lights swept the compound as SWAT poured through the building like furious antibodies seeking an infection.

It would be another ten hours before Mulligan had finished barely-answering the official questions.

The papers would never mention the stranded motorist, but he would at least find comfort in the fact that Grandmother Woodward was happy to expense his flat tire.

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

FP373 – Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3
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(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, our private investigator, Mulligan Smith, finds himself stretching both his limbs and the truth.

 

Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3

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

 

Mulligan finally got lucky during his third yoga class.

The studio was a converted loft apartment overtop a vegan restaurant, with a pass-through kitchen at one end and a bay window, overlooking the pedestrian traffic below, at the other. Though Smith doubted he could afford the habit if he weren’t expensing it, a rainbow of twenty mats were already laid out on the parquet floor as he entered.

The first two sessions had been conducted by a bearded willow tree named Dakota. Dakota was a nice enough fellow, and he’d done a bit to correct Mulligan’s Dolphin pose, but the PI was quite pleased to find him absent that Sunday afternoon.

Still, as the room began to fill with the recorded sounds of flutes and chimes, the investigator again felt the guilt of wasted time. Grandmother Woodward, his client, certainly had the cash to spare – she’d made that clear as they sat through tea in her Victorian style garden – but it frustrated the PI that he couldn’t even claim to be learning anything useful.

Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3Years of sitting in the less-than-ergonomic front seat of the Tercel while waiting out errant spouses and insurance frauds had already made Smith a well-practiced pupil. It was not uncommon, in the fifth of a probable ten hour watch, for Mulligan to simply step out of his vehicle and Downward Dog right there on the pavement.

The remorse disappeared at the sight of Victoria Woodward.

She was wearing black leggings and a spaghetti strap top that did nothing to hide the light blue stone of her belly-button piercing.

“Namaste,” she told the class as she took her position at its head.

Suddenly Mulligan’s Dolphin slipped again, and his back refused to stay straight during his Plow. Not so badly that he embarrassed himself, of course, but certainly enough to draw Victoria’s eye.

Finally, after a serene hour of stretching, the session came to a close.

Smiling, Smith walked to the ornate rack of wooden coat hangers, pulled his sweater from its resting place, then approached his newly returned teacher.

“You’ve been away?” he asked.

Briefly biting her lower lip, his client’s daughter – the mother of the supposedly missing toddler, Addison Woodward – replied, “yeah?”

It was hard to remain nervous, however, under the glare of Mulligan’s practiced grin.

“Thanks for your help today,” he continued, “I’d heard you were really good but you haven’t been around the last couple of times I’ve been in.”

“Oh! Yeah, I was at a spa – it was fantastic, just a few days in the country with the trees and the birds and nothing to worry about, you know?”

Mulligan nodded and did his best to ignore the way her tone seemed to be trying to convince him of the truth of her words, but, before he could respond, she changed the subject.

“You said someone recommended me? Who?”

Smith’s hunch had come to him the previous evening, as he’d picked apart a Denny’s club sandwich. He’d spread three photos of the yoga instructor on the booth’s tabletop, alongside a column of website printouts. The photos were from the first day of his investigation, after which Victoria had immediately disappeared.

Though they’d provided no hint as to her location, her social media profiles had made it clear that she considered her yoga class as more than a job, so he’d known where to wait for her return.

His search had also uncovered something he found considerably more troubling, however.

It had started with postings about GMO wheat crammed between videos demonstrating proper pose posture, but, the further the detective scrolled, the deeper the well grew. Items began to crop up in her feed about black site prisons, about the dangers of vaccines, about the fascism of the American state.

He’d had to back away from his keyboard when, two status updates below a photo of baby Addison, he’d stumbled across a diatribe written by Victoria that began, “The conmen that make up the scientific community…” and had continued on for twelve more paragraphs.

Was it pleasant? No, but plenty of people were a parent and unpleasant at the same time.

So where was the child? Probably with a babysitter, as the mother had always claimed.

Yet, later, as he’d drained his milkshake and buried the photos beneath his mute father’s notes from the press conference – Smith always filed his observations, just in case – his half-formed suspicion had grown into a no-you’re-just-being-paranoid hypothesis.

Now, with a conscious effort to keep his friendly smirk in place, Mulligan filled his nose with the thick smell of freshly lit incense and played his hunch.

“Posey Cotton,” he answered.

The senior Smith had called in some favours still owed to the former police sergeant, but no one in the beehive of activity surrounding the Cotton baby’s case could draw any connections between Victoria and the missing child’s mother.

Mulligan caught the hesitation in the yogi’s response, and noted the briefest tug at her left cheek.

Suddenly he was sure he wasn’t wasting Grandma’s time at all.

“Poor Posey,” replied Victoria, “that whole thing is just so sad.”

“I know, right?” answered Mulligan as he tugged at his sweater’s zipper. “Anyhow – gotta see a sorcerer about my chakras and all that.”

Smith’s feet carried him to the stairwell at such a pace that he nearly forgot to call out a “namaste” as he departed.

He had an appointment to make.

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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

FP372 – Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp372.mp3]Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Mulligan Smith, PI, finds himself contemplating a possible kidnapping while standing on the warm pavement of a Walmart parking lot.

 

Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Mulligan stood to the left of the scrum of reporters, his cabbie-capped father beside him and a sad imitation of coffee in his hand.

A gull wheeled overhead, riding the gentle breeze to hover above the cluster of dress-uniformed policemen on the far side of the wooden platform, and Smith wondered for the third time if this Snipe hunt was ever going to get underway.

With a look of mourning, he tossed the barely cooled cup onto an already congested trashcan.

His father already had a response scrawled out across a thin white sheet of notepad paper, “it may have been complimentary, but it’s hard to be complimentary,” but the PI replied only with a groaning chuckle and a shake of his head.

The knot of deep blue began to breakup, reforming to face the crowd and revealing a petite woman of perhaps twenty-nine. Posey Cotton’s blond curls wavered gently at the edge of her knitted beanie, and her tears ran clear to the black cloth of her dress and leggings.

Stepping onto the makeshift stage that had, until recently, been a gardening display, Commissioner Ender approached the bristling collection of extended arms.

Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3“Mrs. Cotton would like to make a plea directly to the public,” Ender told the mics, “but I ask that you hold your questions. Clearly it’s been a rough two hours.”

An intern from the Capital City Star shot a garbled inquiry from the back of the crowd, but the Commissioner’s stare, and the grumbling of his fellow journalists, brought him to silence.

Taking the hush as acceptance of his terms, Ender stepped away and allowed the grieving mother to come to the forefront.

Dabbing at her eyes, Posey took a deep breath and began.

“I don’t know why, two hours ago, you stole my angel from my Escalade. I turned for a second, and you snatched her. You must see how special she is, though – please, please don’t hurt her. You can still make this right. I promise I won’t be mad if you just let her go.

“Kinney, if you’re watching this, know that Mama loves you. Everything’s going to be okay.”

Having delivered her clearly rehearsed piece, Cotton unleashed a broken squeal then began to weep.

The sobbing struck Mulligan as honest enough, but there was something about the delivery that had left a whispering in the PI’s ear.

Still, he wasn’t convinced it was related to his case. He was looking for a toddler, sure, but it hadn’t been snatched as far as he knew – at least, not according to anyone but the Grandmother who’d hired him. He felt a little bad about working a case that seemed like little more than an expensive way to get some baby photos, but the bills weren’t going to pay themselves.

Mulligan’s train of thought was interrupted by the landing of another sheet of paper in his palm.

It read, “She looks dressed for the camera.”

Raising a brow at the chunky gold pendant on the end of her long chain, her coiffed hair, and her somber but well put together silhouette, the junior Smith had to give his elder’s ex-cop eye its due. It was all the push his imagination needed to understand what the whisper in his ear was trying to say.

“Yeah,” he replied, “she doesn’t look like a Walmart shopper, she’s looks like the kind of Whole Foods yuppy who thinks Walmart is where infants get grabbed.

“I see some blush, some concealer – but no mascara, huh? She’s not just dressed for the camera, she’s dressed to cry.”

No longer willing to finish the conversation, the Smiths turned from the Commissioner, now fielding questions, and returned to the PI’s rust-spotted Tercel.

The detective wasn’t convinced the two incidents were related, but he was uncomfortably sure this newest missing child wouldn’t be found alive.

 

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

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

Freesound.org credits:

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

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