Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and six.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Bothersome Things Podcast
A show about bothersome news and entertainment, brought to you by two men who enjoy dressing up to terrify trick-or-treaters, and, occasionally, their audience.
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 must uncover the truth behind who is chasing a well-dressed client.
Flash Pulp 106 – Mulligan Smith and The Tormented Husband, Part 1 of 1
Mulligan Smith watched the Olive Garden’s wait staff dance the supper two-step as his client, Ruben Micha, wound down his explanation for hiring the PI.
“I believe it’s my ex-wife. I don’t know why she has these people following me, they might be private detectives trying to catch me at something that’ll give her alimony leverage, or it might be a hitman, I have no idea.”
Mulligan chewed the end of the straw projecting from his iced tea and considered the possibilities. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d bumped into another investigator while working a messy divorce.
“Could be. If it helps, I doubt it’s a hitman. The kind of people dumb enough to get mixed up in a murder over something so full of obvious motive as a conflict between former husband and wife aren’t usually smart enough to do anything but drive up and shoot you the first time they spot you.”
His client’s mouth pressed into a tight line and his fingers began to fidget with the black and gold cuff-links that clasped his shirt-sleeves. His suit was sleek, but not new – it rang of a tone Smith had seen before: the moneyed man who has recently split from the woman who built his well-styled wardrobe.
“Can you describe the vehicle?” asked Mulligan.
“It’s blue. It’s a minivan. I don’t really know much about cars, my apologies,” replied Micha.
“- you’re sure its always the same one?”
“Yes. Always the same blue van, always the same bald man driving, and the same sharp-faced woman riding as a passenger.”
Smith nodded. It wasn’t much to work with, but the cheque had already cleared.
* * *
After sending out a few feelers that came back empty, Mulligan had resorted to the basics – to spot the tail, he’d simply begun following his own client. He soon thought he might have some possible suspects, but the questionable vans had never made an extended appearance, and he knew he may have been imposing his hopes on simple traffic.
Two weeks later, Smith was paranoid that he’d somehow slipped and frightened off whomever was hunting his client. He’d just bought a slice of pizza that he didn’t wish to eat under the sloshy eyes of the drunks that frequented Anthony’s, so Mulligan was sitting in his Tercel, wiping grease from his chin, and mentally running over the facts of the case.
His phone rang.
“They beat me, they beat me!” came Ruben’s strained voice through the tiny speaker.
Within seconds the rapidly cooling slice was forgotten on the passenger seat as the car’s engine kicked into life.
It was a quick trip.
Smith found Micha between two apartment buildings in a neighbourhood that left Mulligan wanting to sort out the situation as quickly as possible.
“It was the blue van! Where were you!?” was his greeting.
“I’m sorry,” Mulligan replied. “I’ll give you a ride to the nearest police station, I know a few folks there, they’ll get your report and get you home quick. Maybe they’ll turn up something I haven’t been able to.”
“No. My daughter is on the way here, I’m going to stay at her house tonight.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes – why? Are you unsure? What – are you on her pay now too?” the battered-man paced as he spoke, his mussed hair blowing about his face.
“No, I just think the police might be helpful. How did you end up here anyhow?”
Ruben scanned the buildings with a lack of recognition in his eyes, as if this was his first time seeing his surroundings.
A black Lincoln Town Car pulled to a sharp halt at the curb.
“That’s ‘Nessa,” said the shaken man.
As Mulligan helped him to the waiting car, the PI noted the blood spattered across the lapel of Micha’s now tarnished suit.
* * *
Smith called for a meeting the following day, unsure if his client was willing to trust him to continue his work. There was little he could have done about the situation – no man can be unceasingly vigilant, but he’d lost pay to a similar incident in the past.
Ruben was forceful that he stay on the case, that he, in fact, redouble his efforts.
Mulligan had done his best to reassure Micha that he would. He’d asked for his daughter’s number, in case she should have any info, and then he’d promised to track down the phantom van.
As soon as the man was mollified and had departed, Smith called Vanessa.
For the third encounter in a row, the client had been wearing the same suit.
They met at Vanessa’s office, and Mulligan explained the task he’d been entrusted with, and partially paid for.
“A blue van? It would be a Grand Caravan, actually, a 2002 blue Dodge Grand Caravan,” Vanessa replied, after a long moment of focusing on her laptop’s keyboard.
Smith reached for his phone to make notes.
“Don’t bother,” she said. “She didn’t divorce Dad, he’s just… He’s had a psychotic break due to trauma. He always wears the same suit – even though its ripped, he threw a fit this morning when I asked him to put on something else. I can’t be watching him constantly, but last night was the fourth time he’s been found wandering around, and I’m just lucky he was only mugged.”
Mulligan rubbed his right eye, mentally collecting together replacements for the funds he’d already spent.
“Three months ago Mom was crossing the street to a cab that was waiting, and she was run down by a couple in a Grand Caravan who were too busy yelling at their kids to watch for jaywalkers. The doctor says once he accepts it, he’ll start to recover.”
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.