Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-One.
This evening’s episode is brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes and high-powered medication, prescribed by my dentist.
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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight we once again delve into the case files of Mulligan Smith. We open upon our hero, lounging at a bus stop.
Flash Pulp 031 – Mulligan Smith and The Bully, Part 1 of 1
It had been a miserable Tuesday for Mulligan, who’d spent the better part of it on a bus-stop bench while attempting to avoid a vagrancy pick up, or actually having to get on a bus.
“You gotta be careful when you’re pushing a guy. You push a fella and he doesn’t fall over, you’re going to look like an idiot. Especially not good if you’re in the middle of a crowd, you’ll lose all the momentum. Dude takes a push and doesn’t fall over, he’s likely to come back a little more confident.
“You gotta get in close at first, make sure you got enough arm extension, make sure to get a good hand placement – if you can, try to step into it, it helps overcome some of the difference between you and the other guy, weight-wise.
“If you’ve got the time to chat it up, try to circle him into standing next to something – a step or curb is fantastic, but a bench, pothole, anything that’s going to throw his balance off when he goes over backwards.”
The eight year old ran his forearm across his nose, his sleeve catching a mix of mucus and tears.
Across the street a woman with gray hair, and a large tan handbag under her arm, exited from a side-door to the row of conjoined townhouses.
As Smith watched, her handbag began to squirm.
Mulligan stood up.
“I gotta get going kid, I’ll see you around.”
* * *
Thursday, Mulligan found himself back on the bench. He’d arrived after lunch this time.
An hour before the school buses started rolling along their routes, a bald man in a black windbreaker had pulled into the townhouses’ parking lot and exited his Escalade. As the man walked from his vehicle, his hands were in constant motion – checking his cell phone, looking at his watch, lighting a cigarette, running his fingers over his close-cropped goatee, checking the phone again, smoking, smoking, smoking.
Mulligan attempted to look interested in the Sharpie-work that covered the bus stop’s advertising.
The goatee looked at his phone sharply, stamping out his cigarette. Taking the three concrete steps in a single motion, he disappeared into the building’s side door.
A half hour later, the metal exit swung wide, the man stepping into the sunshine with a large tan handbag under his arm.
A big yellow pulled up, blocking Smith’s view.
The eight year old came slamming off the bus, achieving a full run before he’d reached the sidewalk. The twelve year old that followed was slower off the mark, waiting for the bus to slide away from the curb before accelerating in chase.
Once the lumbering giant had elbowed its way into traffic, Mulligan noted the SUV had left the lot.
* * *
On Friday, the Escalade’s return cut him off mid-sentence.
The twelve year old, who he’d been lecturing, took advantage of the gap.
“I don’t need to listen to some idiot who wears a sweater during the summer, what are you, some kind of wino? I should just call the cops and tell them you’re a crotch grabber.”
Smith was attempting to put together a pithy reply as he watched the goatee slam his door and stride across the lot. He was smoking once again, but his opposing hand never left his bulging pocket.
Without waiting, he disappeared into the building.
Mulligan took a step towards the street, and was caught short by the sobbing of the battered eight year old.
He turned on the predator.
“I don’t have much time right now, but this kid is almost half your age. Just leave him alone.”
“Shove. It.” the twelve year old replied, his eyes bright, his face twisted into a coyote’s grin.
The visit was much shorter than Smith expected, and the man burst from the door, guiding a massive Tibetan Mastiff by a leather leash.
At first the animal seemed reluctant to follow, but at the smell of the fresh air, it frenzied. It shot down the steps, dragging the man behind it.
Mulligan turned to the twelve year old, but the boy was distracted, his eyes locked on the mountainous dog.
Smith realized it was fear of the beast that had shut his mouth.
“You know what? I’m going to go steal that guy’s dog, then I’m going to come back here and have the thing eat your face off.”
With that, he began crossing.
The man had managed to dig into the grass to stop his forward movement, but he was having difficulty gaining the upper hand on the animal. Spotting Mulligan’s approach, he began to edge towards his SUV.
“I suppose you’re aware that you’re in possession of stolen property?” Mulligan asked.
The dog halted his rampage at the sound of the PI’s voice.
There was no rush to Smith’s stride, he didn’t want to make the goatee’d man feel hurried.
“You must have just come from the puppy mill – but, dog-napping from a dog-napper? Why bother paying for the milk when you can rustle the stolen cow, huh?”
As he came closer, he noted the dog wrangler’s ill fitting suit, his over-polished, and under priced, shoes.
“You’ve actually solved a problem I’ve been trying to work out for a few days, and I’m sure Mister Xi, the rightful owner of this beautiful – and frankly, expensive – pup, will be generous upon the return of his traveling companion. I’m sure we can work out a deal.”
A hard look came into the second-hand thief’s eyes, his lips flattening. Mulligan knew he’d played his hand wrong.
“Listen, we can discuss this,” he said, close now and still maintaining his easy walk.
The goatee drew his weapon from his bulging pocket.
Mulligan was relieved to see an awkward grip holding a movie-sized hunting knife.
The hoodie’s sleeve made it easy to hide the stun gun; with an arch of his back, the man fell heavily onto the grass.
With a quick check of the prone thief’s pulse, Mulligan took hold of the leash.
The baffled dog tilted his head at Smith, then fell in happily behind the quickly departing PI.
He returned to the bench, but the bully was gone, leaving only his sniffling victim.
* * *
It was Monday, and Mulligan had been passing through the neighbourhood, so he’d opted to pull the Tercel into an empty corner of the lot he’d spent the previous week observing.
As he sipped from his slurpee, he watched the two boys once again step from the yellow bus.
The taller of the two had immediately begun his harassment, pushing at the younger boy’s bag.
The eight year old had listened well the previous Friday.
There was a brief exchange while the terms were negotiated, the younger child punctuating his words with finger stabs in the direction of the departing bus.
Then he began to bark, loudly and at length.
The older boy turned, and Mulligan could see his face was a mix of rage and frustration.
The bully sprinted away, his former victim still howling at his retreat.
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