Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Forty-Seven.
Tonight: Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3
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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.
In this, the middle chapter of our current serial, a rash of violence breaks out between a man in love and the woman he once charmed.
Flash Pulp 047 – Sap: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3
There was a moment in which the only movement on the small porch came from the dancing flame of the dimmed oil lamp that Annie Eleutherios, once Annie Henley, had carried into the sharp breeze.
“I beg your pardon, ma’am, I know you’ve a lot on your mind just at the moment, but I think we would all be best served if you’d allow me to take the light from your hands,” Blackhall said, reaching out to the woman’s white knuckles.
“I appear to owe you many favours, sir, but it will take more than the removal of this torch to spare Wilfred my anger.” She spat out each phrase like cannon shot. Her brow was furrowed over the dark blue of her eyes, and a vein upon her forehead began to visibly twitch.
“While I agree that your husband’s fate is a matter of discussion, it’s your digestion for which my concern currently extends.”
She released the lamp into his grasp.
“My fate?” Wilfred’s eyes moved from his wife to the man he had thought, until recently, would assist him in retaining his marital status.
Annie began to retch noisily. With a look of surprise, she stumbled to the railing and emptied her stomach.
“I apologize. A man of greater knowledge might have made the transition easier for you, but I’ve only the crafts I know.” Blackhall turned to Wilfred, whose face was still puffy from his evening’s ale. “Get her some water.”
Eleutherios moved sluggishly inside.
As he waited, Thomas removed his coat, placing it about the woman’s shoulders, even as she continued to expel her supper into the darkness beyond.
The illness had passed by the time of Wilfred’s return, and Annie was wiping at the last of the spittle on her chin as he once again stepped onto the porch.
Her movements were of such a speed that he had barely time enough to stumble back – as she pounced, her hands locked into raven’s claws. It was only Thomas’ swift left arm snatching her bodily from the air that kept Wilfred’s eyes in place.
“Be calm.” He told her, and yet her limbs flailed wildly, as if she were a cat caught about the belly.
“Do you not recognize me, Annie? Do you not know your love?” Wilfred asked, his back hard against the door.
The woman discontinued her thrashing.
“Know you? KNOW you? Am I not the woman who’s scrubbed your well-marked drawers for these last nine years? Am I not the woman you drunkenly shake to consciousness when the fancy takes you? Have I not made your meals, cut your hair, raised your child – what of little Michael?” The point of her finger was the only source of her attack now, and she used it vigorously.
Setting the woman gently down, Thomas saved the cup, still in Wilfred’s hand, from an untimely end.
“What of Michael? Is he not the light of both our eyes, the fruit of both our seeds?” Even as he spoke, Annie seemed to strain her finger in preparation to plunge it into his chest.
“No – you’ve no idea of what the role of a father is. You’ve spent these years gallivanting. If it were not for my father’s money-sense we’d long have been driven into despair. You spend no time with him, you make no effort to raise him up – the sadness in his eyes is instilled there by the lack of your attentions.”
“Whenever I speak with the boy, his tone is always one of adulation. He was under the power of no elixir, and yet I hear no such brutality.”
“How could you, as I’ve done nothing but fill the boy’s ear with fool’s tales while you’ve been napping off your drunk and living on the dowry you stole. You’ve stolen my family’s land! My innocence! You’ve stolen nine years from my life! You’ve made me a mother while I was forced to drift through your sick dream!”
“I loved you! I love you! I’d do anything!”
In taking off his coat, Blackhall had laid his rifle against the porch’s white-stained rail. Before either man could move to stop her, Annie had lifted it to her shoulder, aimed at Wilfred’s chest.
She set the lock.
Wilfred threw up his arms.
She pulled hard at the trigger.
Blackhall allowed no pause after the woman’s discovery that the weapon was unloaded – a motion which saved Wilfred some injury, as she immediately set about turning the firearm into a club.
Using his forearm as a shield against the blows, Thomas stepped between the two, wrestling the rifle from the maltreated wife. Disarmed, Annie backed to the far side of the porch – breathing heavily – and Wilfred sat down directly where he’d stood, fear still creasing his brow.
Thomas offered him the cup he’d previously rescued.
Huffing from his panic, the assaulted man drank greedily.
“Further violence will not be necessary,” Blackhall said, turning to Annie, “I have already taken care of the matter.”
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