Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the collected jabberings of Captain Ignatius Pigheart – frothy tales of mermaids and seamen, as recounted by the Captain himself.
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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, Will Coffin must ask a difficult question.
Flash Pulp 130 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 2 of 3
Stepping from the elevator, Will adjusted his hold on the television he’d recently received as payment from Bunny Davis, and moved towards the small office that adjoined the lobby. Between the slats of the aqua-marine blinds, which the building’s superintendent had hung to provide some privacy within the glass walls, Coffin could see the short Lebanese man behind a stack of paperwork.
As the manager noticed his approach, a hand went to the rosary Will knew he kept tucked in the A-shirt he wore beneath his polyester armour.
“Can I ask a favour, Fadi?” Will said through the open doorway, while balancing the TV against the jamb.
“Of course, my friend.” Fadi tried to smile.
“Rewind the tape twenty-minutes.” As he spoke, Coffin’s eyes tracked to the monitor displaying footage from the only working security camera in the entranceway.
The smile finally took, and the little man rose from his cluttered desk, making his way to the ancient VCR.
“Things are well?” he asked, his fingers stabbing at the device’s faded buttons.
“As well as ever,” Will responded. “You may want to call Kim and her friends to come by tomorrow morning though, you’ll have cruisers parked out front pretty soon.”
There was a moment filled with only the hum of the tape machine taking back time. The office dweller sucked in his lower lip and released it from between his teeth with small pop.
“That should be enough.” With a metallic clunk, the recording process began anew.
“Thanks,” said Coffin.
“No problem, my friend.” the manager replied. His grin had faded.
Will gave a quick good bye, then departed. As he did so, he saw the suit move to grab the phone – likely to make an appointment with Kimberly Berg, a mutual acquaintance who ran a crime-scene cleaning crew.
It was a short walk to his own apartment, and, after storing the twenty-one inch set in a bedroom closet stacked full with screens of all sizes, he threw his coat across the red wing-back chair which made up the only furniture in his living room.
He spent a few seconds staring at the sliding glass which lead to the balcony, then turned to face the kitchen. Stepping onto the cold tiles, Will flicked on the lone still-functioning fluorescent bulb, and considered his options. As he completed gnawing down his thumbnail, he strolled back to his bed and reached for the cheap portable phone he kept on an adjacent nightstand.
He called his sister-in-law.
The conversation took about forty-minutes, and he spent the majority of it listening, or saying “sure”.
Once he’d hung up, he stood, and his knees popped in complaint. He always felt older than his years following a talk with Peggy. Shuffling back into the hall, he spared another glance for the patio door, then re-entered the kitchen and prepared some frosted flakes with milk.
He was half way through the cereal when he dropped his bowl in annoyance.
Unable to bring himself to hold off any longer, he strode across the living room’s rough carpet and moved the locking mechanism downward.
Will didn’t bother retrieving his jacket – he didn’t need the silver chain to speak with Sandra.
Sandra was always there.
He dropped a socked-foot onto the cement outside.
Grasping the warm steel of the railing with both hands, he coughed to clear his throat, then spoke.
Eighteen floors below, Sandy commenced untangling herself.
She lifted her upper body in a crisp push up, and, despite the fact that she whispered into the parking-lot pavement, her voice carried to his ear as if she had snuck up behind him while he was chasing a mystery through one of the thick tomes that lined his bedroom shelves.
“Hello, Will,” she replied, beginning to crawl towards the wall that ran the height of the building. “How are things? How’s your Mom?”
“Yeah, funny – listen, I need a favour.” His eyes never left her form as she once again forced her fingers bloodily between the cracks in the brickwork.
“Hon, if you want to come down here and have a chat, I’d love to provide you any favour you’d please. You know I’ve been missing you.” She had almost cleared the height of the first balcony, and her useless legs beat a sloppy rhythm against the mortar-work as she climbed.
“Tim Davis, from the south tower, had an accident this morning.”
“Yeah, Will, I’ve already heard about Tim. Didn’t seem like much of an accident, the way I was told it. Speaking of bladed objects to the face, do you remember the time that manifestation of Santa Claus came at you with those promotional steak-knives? Back at the Wallmalton Plaza? Long time ago I guess. Do you still hate Christmas because it? Watching you chucking presents to fend him off must have been one of the funniest things I ever saw. You’re lucky for that jacket, or it would have been you, and not that poor fleet of plastic reindeer, who ended up perforated.”
Her stalling chatter had brought her a third of the way to him, and he could see the trail of her progress staining the route. He knew that the bonds of her prison pulled tighter as she rose; that once she surrendered her will to the inexorable gravity that pulled her back to her twisted fetal position, all of the nail and flesh she’d grated away would also find its way home; but he still couldn’t help but feel a little heart sick for the fingers that had once probed his defenses for ticklish spots.
“There was a smell of sulphur before I went in. Other than the obvious, I can’t think of anything that would leave that sort of stench lying around. Also, after chatting with the former Mrs. Davis, I don’t think she’s capable of killing anything under her own power – even with the provocation she had. I feel like there’s something more at work.”
He took in a deep breath.
She had made it past the three-quarter mark, and he was sure she was getting faster with every attempted ascent. It was time to make his closing pitch.
“Oh, I forgot to mention, I talked to Peggy tonight. You wouldn’t believe what happened to Vilmer Jr. last week at school.”
Although their network of conversation carried much information, the dead rarely had news on the living. On those nights when Will came to talk of her sister’s family, the phantasm would often stop before even reaching the mid-point, not wanting to risk shortening the chat.
“If you have anything interesting to tell me by tomorrow morning, I’ll gladly spend some time recounting the details of Vil’s shop-class saga.”
Sandra paused, and he knew he had her – she might have been homicidal, but she wasn’t unreasonable.
“Will, you really are a dick sometimes. Fine, but you better be here early. Hey, in the meanwhile, how about telling me what else you got up to today?” She had resumed climbing, although at a slower pace.
“Sorry,” he replied.
He turned and pushed back the flimsy curtain, quickly stepping over the threshold and pulling the seal tight behind him. As he reset the small lock, Sandra’s muffled scream emanated through the heavy barrier. He felt a flush of respect for the strength with which she resisted the unseen hands that tugged her back to the center of her universe, the small patch of ground she’d inhabited for the last ten years.
Unfortunately, respect was no help when she finally flopped over the edge of the balcony, and began rubbing the juicy nubs of her fingers against the glass. He dumped the remainder of his cereal down the sink, and marooned the dirty dishes on the kitchen table.
“Sometimes you aren’t a very good wife,” he shouted.
The phone began to ring, and he was pleased at the unexpected distraction. As he retreated into the depths of his apartment to answer, however, he was chased by the squeaking sound of a wet squeegee on a filthy windshield.
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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