Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty-nine.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the collected jabberings of Captain Ignatius Pigheart – tales that’ll warm the cockles of any musky urchin.
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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.
Tonight, we introduce Will Coffin, a man of unusual knowledge and charms.
Flash Pulp 129 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 1 of 3
Will Coffin ran his eyes over the shimmering expanse of parking lot, idly wondering what made the power lines hum on a hot day, and dipped his hand into the small bag of sunflower seeds that sat beside him on the bench. He hated his new spot outside of the Eats & Treats, it got too much sun during the day, and there were never any pigeons around to feed, but his old haunt had burned to the ground, and he didn’t feel comfortable loitering in a vacant lot.
Still, people knew where to find him.
He was spitting out the last of the seed husks when he noted Bunny Davis, from the north tower, crossing the street. She was wearing a long, white-fuzzed bathrobe.
Will tossed the plastic sack in the garbage, and laid mental odds regarding her destination: the interior of the chain-store, or his own curb-side office. He stood at a fifty-fifty split until she was close enough that he could better make out her face, and then the odds began to slide. When her housecoat slipped open to reveal her puffy body covered in blood, Coffin moved to stand.
“Will, I need help.”
Rather than interrupt, he simply waited out the obvious part of the discussion.
“I’ve killed Tim!”
It was the last coherent statement she would make for a while, as Bunny seemed to begin an attempt to curl her extremities into herself. Her arms became locked against her rough face, covering the spider-lines left on her cheeks and nose by drink, and she sank to the ground.
“Come on now,” Will said, placing a hand on her shoulder- the knotted knuckles of his long fingers looked out of place on the white fuzz. “You’ll hurt your knees that way.”
He lifted her to his.
Embarrassed on her behalf, regarding her robe, he attempted to draw it closed without bringing her attention to the fact that it had been open. In the end he had to take off his own beaten leather jacket, and place it over her knees. She’d been relatively oblivious during the process, resorting instead to expressing herself through an unwavering, extended-squeal.
Coffin suspected it might have been a scream too large for her throat.
Mr. Nickels, from the east tower, came into the view, hustling his wheelchair across the street while raising a hand to Will. As he neared, he took in the weeping white fluff, and his course altered slightly – instead of intersecting the bench, he sailed towards the store’s automatic doors and disappeared inside.
Unmindful, Bunny continued her kettle-screech.
After a while, Nickels exited the shop. In his lap was the victory prize of a pack of smokes, having been won after ten rounds of jawing with Lornie, the shop’s owner. As he passed, he gave Will a quick nod, then turned, setting his jaw as he made to cross during a blinking yellow light.
Will eyed the sky.
The time was coming when people would be arriving home from work, and he wanted to be clear of the street by then. Between five and midnight, they too shared the neighbourhood.
He stood, pacing a little, which seemed to be enough for Bunny to finally get a grip on the emotional valve that had given way. Her squeal contracted to a halt, and she looked up at Will. She attempted to speak, but at first she could only manage a cough.
After a moment, she did a poor job of spitting a combination of blood and mucus onto the pavement, then she tried again.
“We were just sitting around talking. That song, “Heart of Glass” came on? I love that song.” She made a sound that could have been either a throat clear, or a laugh, and spat again. “Tim says ‘Shut that —-ing thing off,’ but I’ve got half a bottle of backbone in me, and I figure, —- that, we know they ain’t home in the place above or below, so why not have some fun? I turn it up a little and that’s when he —-ing kicks me on the leg, just below my ass. I don’t know if he was aiming for my cheek, or what, but he probably would have broken my tailbone with those —-ing work boots of his.
“I go over, and suddenly I’m staring at the bottom of the table and realizing how much gum we’ve actually shoved under there. He reaches across and turns down the radio, then sits down to butter his toast like nothing ever happened – like he can just ignore that —-. I sat up, got the rest of the bottle down, and went into the kitchen to get the cleaver with the wood handle that my Mom left me when she passed. I’m standing there, and I’m yelling at him, and he just looks so mad that I’m pretty sure if I put the cleaver down, he’s going to pick it back up again, and that’ll be the end of me – but then he starts laughing, and I KNOW if I put it down, it’ll be the end of me.”
Her telling was interrupted as she began to shiver, and Will, glancing at his watch, decided it might be best if they got traveling. He stood, offering her a hand.
As they waited out the cross traffic at the light, Bunny continued.
“Well, after a while he sort of realized we were at a standoff. He decides he’s going to go into the kitchen, and he grabs a fish fillet-er out of the block. I’d followed him into the room, screaming not to —-ing move, when I really should have been running out the —-ing door. Anyhow, he gets the knife and he starts threatening again, and every now and then he takes a swing at me. At first he’s just trying to scare me, but then he cut me, “ she raised a hand to her stomach, but never broke stride on the cracked asphalt of the crosswalk. “I was sure he was going to really mean the next one, so I brought the knife down on his forehead like I was chopping wood. Damned if Tim didn’t fall straight over on his spine – toes of his boots up in the air and that handle pushin’ down his nose – just like Daffy Duck catching a frying pan with his face.”
Her story carried them through the front door of her building, past the red brick work, the Sears artwork, and the fake potted palms flanking the elevators. A Vietnamese woman, holding a brown paper bag of take out, stood waiting. The up button was already illuminated. Bunny distractedly attempted to knot the front of her robe, failed on the first attempt, and had to loosen it once she had succeeded. After a ten minute wait, the panels slid open, and the three rode upward while trying to ignore the unsettling grinding noises of the ancient hoist.
Bunny led the way as they exited, directing him to a long a barren hall, adorned only with a harshly-patterned carpet that reminded Will of his few experiences with Las Vegas casinos.
The smell of the hall filled his nostrils as he passed through it. His stomach growled at the smell of a simmering curry, but was quickly quelled by the stink of a chain smoker. Beneath it all, there was something more: a vague hint of sulphur.
Will followed Bunny’s lead in keeping the door as closed as possible as they went through, but the entryway contained nothing but a filthy rug and a pair of worn sneakers.
“Huh.” Will said, passing through the small dining room, towards the kitchen. He was familiar with all of the interior layouts of the towering apartment blocks that populated his neighborhood.
Upon viewing the sprawled body of the former Mr. Davis, his initial thought was that the knife – a thick bladed affair, its long wooden handle smoothed by years of honest use – had pushed Tim’s nose so far down that it might have been almost funny, if it didn’t look so uncomfortable. He considered pulling the handle up a bit to give the dead man some breathing room, but decided it wasn’t worth leaving the weepy killer to explain why it had been wiped down.
“I want to tell him I’m sorry,” said Bunny.
“Huh.” Will said again.
The cooking area was long and narrow, with a small, floral-topped table on one side. Over the knife-scoured counter a pass-through revealed the living room’s lop-sided couch, from which peeked yellow stuffing from numerous cigarette burns.
“Do you know the price?” Coffin asked.
“Yep,” she replied.
“Go into the bedroom and wait.”
He watched until the white robe had disappeared through the doorway, then bent low over the corpse.
Unzipping the right hand pocket of his beaten jacket, he pulled forth a silver charm on a length of slender chain. The talisman had something of the appearance of a hook, but it’s sharpened point bent into a swirl of intricate lacing, so that threading anything onto it required some maneuvering. At the base of the hook, stuck firmly through the middle, was a drying hunk of meat, which Will made every effort to think of as nothing more than beef jerky.
He dipped the links onto the body’s left cheek, and let the cold metal drag along its temple.
Then he tugged.
The un-affixed hook had suddenly taken on weight, but Coffin put his arm to it, and out popped the ghost of Tim Davis, as if pulled by an ethereal magnet.
“That —-,” said the phantom.
Will shrugged. “I don’t think the police are going to think so – that’s a mean slash across her belly, and you have a look about you which suggests you may be the the kind of fellow around which a lady might require a little self-defence.”
The apparition narrowed its gauzy eyes.
“You looking to move in on my woman?”
“No. Bunny wants me to tell you she’s sorry.”
“Sorry? Oh, I’ll make her —-ing sorry.” Tim took a step towards the doorway, but was stymied at the end of his tether. Without turning, he demanded to be let go.
“Fine,” Coffin replied. Dropping his grip, the chain went suddenly limp, passing through the spectre and landing in a heap on the battered linoleum.
Davis attempted to bring another leg forward, but found himself pulling against a terrific force.
“What?” was all he managed before he dropped to one knee. His efforts were useless, however; he tumbled into his own remains, once again assuming their exact position.
Will rubbed a tired eye, then picked up his artifact and re-pocketed it.
As he pushed his way into the bedroom, Bunny jumped to her feet.
“Is it over?”
“I told him.”
“Did he say anything?”
The leather jacket raised in another shrug.
Realizing any further answer he gave would be just as unlikely to satisfy her, she moved on.
“About what I owe you – there’s a flat screen in the living room…”
“No, you may need to pawn it for bail.” The woman’s eyes misted as Coffin spoke. “I’ll just take this twenty-one inch, it’s a better fit to the price of the job. I’m going to go, but you need to call the police as soon as I’m out. Show them what he did, and tell them what you told me. Just be patient, and you’ll make out all right – but, by the crushing damnation of Kar’Wick’s-brood, don’t mention I was here.”
Will believed firmly that people better followed his instructions if he spiced them up with some of his professional jargon.
He scooped up the small TV, then waited for some response from his patron.
He exited the apartment, pausing at the door only long enough to hear the three flat beeps that began a 911 call.
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.
Will Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song – A New Man, by Kevin Macleod of incompetech.com
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