Category: The Murder Plague

Flash Pulp 101 – The Murder Plague: Harm's Return, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and one.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 2 of 3
[audio:]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by Tom Vowler’s new collection “The Method and Other Stories”.

An award-winning book of short tales that will make you cry with its tender moments – and by repeatedly punching you in the belly.

Find it on Amazon, or find links to special editions and more at


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, Harm Carter attempts to locate a telephone with which to report a death by wine magnum.


Flash Pulp 101 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 2 of 3

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


I’ve never been much for fraternizing with the neighbours, but after spending over a decade in one location you can’t help but meet on occasion.

In truth, I rather liked the Hernandezes.

On a particularly chill night, two years previous to the evening of my return from the cabin, Mr Hernandez – George – had spotted my shivering form awaiting a locksmith to remedy the puzzle I’d presented myself by accidentally bolting my keys on the far side of the front door. He’d kindly invited me inside his own home, and, as he prepared a pot of coffee to resuscitate my partially frozen internals, I’d had a rather pleasant discussion with his wife, his daughter, and himself, regarding the vagaries of fly fishing. The trio were obsessive anglers, and even Velma, fifteen – who I, at first, thought might be simply providing a submissive echo of her parent’s enthusiasm – seemed to show a genuine interest in netting maximum fish flesh. I’ve long enjoyed the pleasures of others, and the more intense their mania, the more I take from it. Anyone with a ferocious regard for what occupies their free time is usually willing to provide a cheap education on the topic, and an understanding of all things is what I have a ferocious regard for.

By the time of the smith’s summons I felt as if I’d waded through the streams of Montana, and the Dakotas, myself.

The Murder PlagueI was not surprised, therefore, when, on my final visit, I found their door ajar and a bountiful supply of gear apparently on its way to, or from, some distant lake or river. I normally might have considered the disarray of the luggage and rods as unkempt, but my mind was largely occupied with the ugly fact that I’d recently laid Catarina, my now former chef, in her death bed by means of blunt trauma. As I clumped up the cobblestone walk in my hiking boots, I formulated how I would frame the discussion required to use their phone. In retrospect, I’m sure they would have let me use it readily, but in dire situations I find it helpful to let my mind grind over fine details, instead of circling the unalterable.

Having encountered no one to deliver my prepared speech to though, I found myself somewhat flustered as to how to proceed.

However, the predicament seemed dramatic enough to warrant my pushing onwards, although I announced my self-welcome liberally.

I attempted to strike a balance in my tone between friendly and I’ve-just-had-to-kill-someone.

“Hallo, Hernandezes!”

Night had again fallen, and the only lighting in the interior came spilling up from the half-spiral staircase which led from the basement, illuminating a long tract of pictures depicting smiling fish-slayers and their captured prey. Atop the photos, curving with the adjoining wall, ran a series of especially prized, but now retired, rods.

I’ve never been squeamish about the individual death of a bass, and my reaction was likely tempered by recent events, but I found it difficult to stare down so many suffocating fillets at once. Casting my eyes up the second half of the spiral, I came across what I, at first, thought was an optical illusion.

There appeared to be a man standing directly above me, but his shoes were slightly askew, as if he were on tip-toe.

“George?” I asked the hovering fellow.

I began striding up the steps.

It was obvious well before I reached landing that he was in no condition to talk; his face was black and bloated. It was also at that time that I realized the Hernandezes did not have a carpet running along the stairs, but that I was in fact tromping through a thick path of what I rather suspected was dried blood.

My legs found it quicker to finish the journey than to reverse, so I suddenly found myself on the second floor. Forcing my eyes into a closer inspection of George, I noted that he’d had several loops of high-test fishing line wrapped about his neck before apparently being pushed over the edge of the railing which overlooked the entryway below. The loose end was tied about a lighting sconce, which had pulled away from its upper-moorings under the weight.

I could not help but feel better illumination was necessary when dealing with the likelihood of an executioner lurking about, so I was forced to flip the sole switch that I could locate, the one which engaged the awry fixture.

Laying not five feet further down the short hallway was the body of Velma, a cracked oaken plaque with a sizable Marlin mounted across its front masking her face and the point of trauma which had disgorged so much of her cranial matter across the closest wall.

As I began to retrace my path, my eyes ran over the boning knife still held solidly in the girl’s right hand. My inspection had turned up no evidence of such a wound on the first body along my approach, and a hypothesis quickly began to form.

Given the scale of the operation, and the size of George, I could only guess that a third party was involved in the lynching, and that the unseen conspirator – the one who’d left their vitals pouring down the staircase – had, for whatever reason, soon after received the long end of Velma’s blade. The injured had likely then retaliated at the betrayal by clubbing the girl with the nearest heavy object, the wall ornament.

I suspected that the absent party was Mrs. Hernandez, and, further, as I could clearly see from over the edge of the hanged man’s perch that the descending trail lead deeper into the house and not towards the exit, I believed that she was likely still somewhere amongst the dark spaces of the first floor.

I had no interest in discovering if the wound had been fatal.

Watching not to slip on the flaking blanket of brown, as my feet plummeted down the stairs, I deserted the crime scene.

It was only after the door was firmly shut behind me, and the remnants of my breakfast disposed of in a professionally groomed array of rose bushes, that I noticed Doctor Henley, across the street, as he observed from the safety of his living room’s bay window.

He waved to me.


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

Flash Pulp 100 – The Murder Plague: Harm's Return, Part 1 of 3

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode One Hundred.

Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 1 of 3
[audio:]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by Tom Vowler’s new collection “The Method, and Other Stories”.

Think you might know what a deformed brother and sister are concocting a half-mile underground?

We assure you, you do not.

Find it on Amazon, or find links to special editions and more at


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 introduce a new character, Harm Carter, as he finds himself in an awkward position after having laid his hired help low with a blunt object.


Flash Pulp 100 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 1 of 3

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



I write this recounting based on my own journals, and my memories of the times. I can not be sure that each quotation of dialogue is accurate, but I can at least promise that it is my intention to relate the truth to the best of my abilities.

If there are moments that seem shocking and unbelievable, I apologize, for they seemed just as shocking and unbelievable to myself as they happened.


The moment that I understood that I’d found myself in a desperate situation came as I dropped the wine bottle to the kitchen’s floor tiles, and it landed with a blunt thud instead of a sharp crack. The muted response was largely due to the volume of blood draining from Catarina.

I plucked the phone from its charging station and tried for a dial tone, but came up empty eared.

As I was fussing with the number pad, the blood pool was growing. Realizing my foot was suddenly warm and moist, I looked down to see my left sock wicking up the encroaching puddle. Seeing my handiwork, anxiety filled my legs and I fled the house, leaving the red trail of a single stained foot along the white hall carpet.

Without thinking, I re-entered my Ford Explorer, whose engine was still ticking away the heat of my recent journey. I sat in the driver seat, my hands at ten and two, but I did not reach for the keys. Instead I took a deep breath, and considered, for a brief moment, what had happened.

I’d awoken that morning in my mountain cabin six hours to the north. It was looking to be one of the last pleasant stretches of the season, and I’d had little time to visit since giving it the traditional spring rub down, so the Monday previous I’d shuttered my office for a week and left the world to fend for itself.

What a mistake.

The vacation had been pleasant enough, mostly in that it had allowed me to indulge my prime hobby, photography. I’d taken reams of film while walking the woods, but I’d always maintained a policy of otherwise utilizing no technology more advanced than a cast iron stove while on retreat.

The lack of email or ringing cellphone had struck me as quite freeing, and I’d traveled home feeling a smug Luddism that prevented me from wanting to ruin the moment by engaging the radio.

I was surprised to see Catarina’s car in my driveway as I pulled in, but it wasn’t uncommon for her to arrive a day early. Years previous, while my wife, Kate, lay on her deathbed, she had told me: “Get a cook – when you remarry, I’d rather you do it on a full stomach.” Catarina had been the result of that command.

Although I’m man enough to be able to keep clean my own slovenly trail, I’ve never been able to manage even finger painting in the culinary arts, and Kate knew all too well my weakness for buttery victuals. Still, if I wasn’t entirely sure about dinner, I often preferred to give my dedicated chef those evenings off – it was an easy excuse to engage in a little drive-thru-consumption misbehaviour.

To make matters worse, once I’d welcomed myself into my own home, I discovered that the meal she’d obviously been working hours to make was not something I was likely to enjoy: pan roasted chicken breasts stuffed with smashed almonds, mascarpone and lemon, with a side of roasted sweet garlic and almond soup.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” she replied, her eyes on me as her hand maintained a steady stirring of the soup.

“I appreciate you coming in today,” I began. I hate to disappoint anyone, but I’d had a long drive, and I’d really become enthused by the idea of a quarter pound of greasy beef for dinner. Honestly, I was also mildly annoyed that the woman had once again forgotten that I have a long standing position that nuts are simply an alternative form of wood, suitable only for covering in chocolate or feeding to squirrels. “I’m really not feeling well after my trip – must have eaten a bad bit of trail mix, you understand. I’m sure I’ll be tip-top by the morn, so if you wouldn’t mind packaging all of this up, I’ll be happy to eat it as tomorrow’s lunch.”

It was my actual intention to simply throw it all out once she was gone, as I had done a half-dozen times previous when her meals came up short or involved some flavour she refused to remember my distaste for, but there was no reason to hurt her feelings over the matter.

To help ease the blow, I plucked a bottle of Pegasus Bay pinot noir from the rack and moved to retrieve two glasses.

I think she sensed the lie; to be fair, at the time I didn’t realize how much investment I should put into convincing her of the falsehood.

As I set the stems upon the counter, she turned in a blur, raising high the chef’s knife she’d used to slice the chicken.

The overhead grip was an amateur mistake: it gave me just enough time to panic and side-arm the bottle into her temple.

After a moment of coaxing her to rise, I understood there was no hope of her returning to the land of the living. That’s when I dropped the wine, tried the phone, then made my exit.

Out in the Explorer, I spent a long moment trying to understand what had just transpired. Realizing my cellphone was still inside the abattoir my home had become, I decided I ought to see if the Hernandez’s, my next door neighbours, would let me make a call.

First though, I must admit, I peeled off my dirty socks, rolled them into a red and white yin yang, and pulled on my hiking boots.

There is a feeling of embarrassment in expecting to have to report a death while barefoot.


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