Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and forty-five.
Tonight we present, Coffin: Drifter, Part 1 of 1
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Ladies Pendragon.
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 find Will Coffin, urban shaman, and his associate, Bunny Davis, awaiting a disreputable delivery.
Flash Pulp 145 – Coffin: Drifter, Part 1 of 1
On the previous evening, Coffin’s roommate had discovered a Western-movie marathon playing on a dusty cable station, and she’d nested in front of the television for a long vigil with her vodka bottle. Now, Bunny was eager to discuss her new found enthusiasm.
“John Wayne? I love John Wayne,” she reported.
“Sure,” replied Will, watching the street.
Except for the waiting pair, the Plexiglas bus stop, and the darkened street beyond, were empty.
“Bullets? #### you, I’m John Wayne. I mean, True Grit – Missing an eye? #### you, I’m John Wayne.”
“Uh huh,” said Coffin.
“Acting? #### you, I’m John Wayne,” she continued, while taking a sip of whisky.
“I heard he couldn’t properly ride a horse.” Will replied, frowning at her upturned flask.
Bunny wiped a trickle of escaped spirits from her chin.
“When’s this #### pusher going to get here?” she asked.
A friend had conveyed the tip to Coffin a few hours previous, and, despite the tardiness of its proof, he still felt confident in the lead.
“The old mute said our drifter would be getting off the seventy-three, and it hasn’t passed yet. It’s just running late.”
Bunny grunted. “Ever seen The Shootist? Now there’s a ####ing -”
She was cut short by the grinding lurch of a city bus rounding the corner.
The behemoth rolled to a stop, its doors fluttering open just long enough to eject a thin man in a heavy brown sweater, then it continued on down the road, eventually pulling to the left, and out of sight.
“You the guy wanting the stuff?” the lanky faced newcomer asked.
Coffin inspected the blackened rings under his eyes, the sloppy grin, and the constant flurry that were the man’s hands.
“You certainly look like the guy with the stuff,” he replied.
“Yeah, I’m Jimbo.”
Bunny thought, at first, that Will had suddenly placed a Twizzler in his mouth – she realized quickly, however, that it was actually an ornately carved length of red wooden tube.
Coffin made a sound familiar to any school-child who’d dabbled with spitballs.
Just below Jimbo’s jugular, a bright plume projected from a sharp metal base.
“Whoa! Where’d that ####in’ come from?” asked Bunny.
“The south Pacific,” Will replied. He tucked away his blowpipe and motioned for the man to follow him down the sidewalk. With the stumbling gait of a pedestrian not watching their footing, the newcomer trailed the conversing pair. “I don’t use it much. It leaves a mark, doesn’t work on everyone, and I’m down to seven darts. There used to be two dozen, but I’ve lost a few.”
“Yeah, and when I do get them back, I’ve got to sterilize them, which is a pain to accomplish without messing up the tail feathers.”
Coffin paused briefly, depositing some loose change into a newspaper vending machine and extracting a hefty sheath of weekend listings. He directed his troupe onwards.
“What the ####, anyhow? What do you care about this ###-bucket?” his drunken companion inquired.
“Well, every now and then someone with a little too much information needs to make some quick cash, and they end up tossing some concoction into a friendly drug dealer’s supply chain. Most small-time occultists are dealing in love potions, because, just like everywhere else, sex sells. Mixing the two is referred to as “drifting”. Thing is, these aren’t hippies hocking ditch herbs anymore – science has come a long way, and something like, say, meth, layered with a supernatural compound intended to invoke passionate fixation, can be a problem.”
The streets were damp from an earlier shower, which had kept passers-by to a minimum, but, as they turned into a shortcut which lead over a closing Home Depot’s empty parking lot, a late shopper in business attire pushed his clattering load of paint across their path. Taking in Bunny with her flask, and the heavy-footed shuffle of the slack-faced Jimbo, the suit’s cart picked up speed.
Once the interloper was out of earshot, Coffin continued.
“It’s never the people who get a little pinch here and there that are the real issue, it’s the guy who’s got a supply and is wandering with it. This guy isn’t local, he’s probably come all the way up here from Texas, or New Mexico – this is just another stop on the greyhound for him.”
“What’s with the traveling?” asked Bunny.
“He’s got to sell to live, and, for a while, people adore him as the bringer of goods. Attention is inevitable; he charges a fair price to part with the powder of his affection, and people eventually run out of money – but they still want it. Like anyone caught up in a forbidden affair, they get crazy, and before long he’s not feeling so comfortable about sticking around, because, by then, he’s also deeply involved with his stash, and he’s willing to leave everything behind to keep it safe. You can get a Greyhound ticket for straight cash and no questions, so, on the bus they go, off to play king for a day in the next city, pulling from his own supply the whole time.”
Having reached a point of deep shadow at the edge of a strip-mall construction site, Will called a halt to the procession. He frisked the man, and, taped to the flesh beneath the brown sweater, he found a thick packet wrapped in the white plastic of a grocery bag.
Coffin extracted the illicit goods and tucked them amongst the bright advertisements he’d retrieved earlier in the walk, ripping at the edges of the accompanying business section. He doused the wrapping from a yellow bottle which he pulled from his pocket, then tossed the package, and the remainder of the lighter fluid, into a trash barrel.
He chased it all with a match.
When he was confident the evening’s rain wouldn’t hold back the flame, he again set out.
Jiggling her nearly empty liquor cache, Bunny asked when they were heading home.
“Shortly,” Will replied. “With the dosages their love usually drives them to, many die between cities, on the buses. Some outlive their supply and turn vagrant, but their mind is always gone by then, and they just mutter to themselves about their obsession until they’re rounded up or die of exposure. The best we can do is to send him into a twenty-four hour clinic to make a confession about his chemical habits, and, when they can’t help him in the usual manner, hope that they get him a good psychiatrist.
“Means I’ll be down another dart, though.”
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