Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and sixty-one.
Tonight we present, Unheard Of, Part 1 of 1.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Walker Journals
Dead men tell no tales. They just moan. Constantly.
Find out how to deal with it at youtube.com/walkerzombiesurvivor
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 bring you an auditory tale of crime and injury.
Flash Pulp 161 – Unheard Of, Part 1 of 1
The Denny’s lunch service had been rolling along smoothly until the waitress with a name-tag declaring “Jenny” dropped her double order of Moons-Over-My-Hammy.
She couldn’t really be blamed, however, as she’d caught a premature glimpse of the stubby shotgun beneath the coat of the restaurant’s latest customer – or assumed customer, as the whisky-smelling arrival had no intention of asking about the soup of the day.
In truth, Brian Stokes wasn’t entirely sure what he’d come for – he’d told himself repeatedly it was robbery, but the liquor seemed to speak of something different.
Morgan Shaw, a slight blond sitting in a booth facing the entrance, was having an interesting day.
The previous afternoon she’d been asked to come down to the restaurant by a reporter, Terrance Herrera, who was interested in discussing her recent discharge from the military. She was pleased to discover Terrance was quite a nice fellow, and, although they’d technically completed the interview, she’d decided to stay and finish her pancakes, while conversing on Stella Ramos, the woman who’d referred him to her story, and a scientist she’d met in an acoustic research lab she’d visited upon her return from overseas.
It was the fact that she would have already gone if she’d stuck to her original plan that first came to mind when Stokes exposed his weapon. She grabbed for her cellphone.
“All eyes on me!” said the gunmen. He was quick to hone in on Morgan’s busy thumbs, but, before he could make anything of it, she dropped the device.
“We’re all going to be friends now, because you’re all going to listen to me. First off, you there -” he pointed towards gray-shirted Jenny. “- close the blinds.”
The woman moved with a speed her Sunday customers scarcely could believe she had.
The commands continued.
“Everyone away from the windows. Get over on the far side of the booths and sit on the floor. You too, back in the kitchen. Come out here or I’ll go in there.” He cleared his throat. “Then, uh, wallets out. I’ll be passing around a bag shortly.”
The majority of the patrons slid along their benches in compliance, but Morgan sat still. Terrance’s hands flitted in an urgent blur.
“Get away from the glass or I’ll throw you through it,” screamed Stokes, his firearm shaking involuntarily.
“She can’t hear you, she’s deaf,” said the reporter, keeping his tone flat.
His busy digits completed the swoops and dips of the signed message, and the woman was quick to pick up her purse. They were the last of the parade to find seating on the harsh-patterned carpet.
Seven patrol cars had been deployed on the road that day, initiating an early Spring police effort to bring down traffic speeds on the major thoroughfares. They’d spent their morning pulling over tardy church-goers, but, now, the spat of panicked text messages which emanated from the beleaguered establishment were met with an already mobile response.
The converging sirens made the situation apparent well before the would-be thief had even cleared the register.
Despite his chain of expletives, Stokes smiled.
“Well, guess that’s it.”
The full clarity of forty ounces of whisky, and a life wasted, had finally struck him.
A phone rang behind the welcome desk, and he made short work of ripping its cord from the wall.
“I ain’t leaving here. The second they open the door, I’m startin’ shooting. They’re gonna have to drag our bodies out.”
He ratcheted the gun and began to pace.
“Just gimme an excuse to use this thing. Any excuse,” he muttered with increasing agitation, as he stalked the empty aisle of seating.
Terrance silently indicated to Morgan that everything would be OK. Her only reply was a frown.
The clock counted off seconds, then minutes, as the coward worked at his courage.
While Stokes moved, he sampled cooling bacon and melting ice cream from the abandoned plates. With the sirens off, the only noises in the room were muffled weeping, and his groaning ramble.
Then the bass started. At first it seemed like nothing more than the rowdy result of exuberant youth, but it soon became apparent that it was no passing traffic. With the blinds drawn, the source remained unclear even as it seemed to scrape between the scattered vehicular barriers and cease motion in front of the handicap-only parking – closer to the building than the septuplet of cruisers.
The floor began to vibrate with a rhythm only a smattering of the hostages recognized, but the former Lieutenant was one of the few. Her rant became a furious storm, and the stir caught the reluctant suicide’s attention.
“I think she recognizes the song, she calls it, uh, stress?” shouted the newspaperman.
“I thought you said she was deaf? What in the sweet, sweet, tears of the weeping baby Jesus could she possibly know about it?”
“Uh, she’s asking if the car that just pulled up is a red 1967 Ford Fairlane?” replied Terrance.
Stokes risked pulling back a snatch of blind.
“Its red, yeah. Looks old. The hell?”
Morgan’s signals had become frantic, but repetitive.
“Dammit,” said the drunk, “what is she saying!?”
The reporter glanced at the expectant face of the teary ten year old not a foot away. “Uh, poop, poop, poop.”
As the music hit a lull, a car door slammed.
Stella Ramos’ fists were full. In her left was a hardhat with built in goggles and ear protectors. In her right was a box which the officers watching her movements immediately misidentified as a cat carrier.
When she was a girl, Stella had been known for over-reacting. She’d found little acceptance amongst the mill workers’ children of the small town of Hattiesburg, and she’d clung desperately to those few she had befriended. At twelve she’d been involved in a schoolyard fight with five kids of similar age – one, a girl named Amanda Darr, who’d she’d thought of as a compatriot, had turned on her during the chants of “Fella.” When the lone female amongst the aggressors had started punching, the rest of the mob had been quick to join in.
All involved had been suspended for a week, but it was only Stella who’d avoided the rough mercy of the school nurse’s iodine. Her fury had allowed none closer than the reach of her fist or foot.
It was this same tenacity, and need to prove herself, that had driven her to her physics PhD.
She’d been at work when she’d received the text message, a simple cry for help that said only “man with gun in restaurant.”
It had been all the summons she’d required.
Ignoring the warning shouts of the officers behind her, she put on the helmet.
The song had been a favourite of Morgan’s while on patrol – although she knew it more recently only through the resonance that shook the chassis of the car, the pair had still spent many hours sharing the reverberating memory as they’d displaced the dust of country back roads, hand in hand.
She aimed the curved dish that projected from the face of the beige box – the prototype result of an intensive ninth months funded by the American government under the name of Project Moussai – at the single eye that tracked her movement from behind the blinds.
Stokes, in response, claimed it as his moment of truth.
As the rising gun-barrel became visible between the green slats of the window shades, Stella flicked the cat-carrier’s sole switch. There was a brief sound, as if an electronic kitten had sneezed, then the obstructing pane of glass evaporated. Behind the dispatched window, the intended-killer’s eardrums followed suit, and he fell, thrust into unconsciousness by the sonic-laser’s trauma.
After two lengthy legal trials, his permanent hearing, and Stella’s employment, were the only casualties of the day.
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.
– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.