Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and sixty-five.
Tonight we present, Mulligan Smith and The Favour, Part 1 of 1.
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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, private investigator Mulligan Smith is given a lesson in temperament by his friend, Billy Winnipeg.
Flash Pulp 165 – Mulligan Smith and The Favour, Part 1 of 1
The only light in the Tercel came from the dash-panel’s green glow.
Billy Winnipeg shifted in his seat – the fifth time in a two-minute span.
“Listen,” said Mulligan, “if you want to ride along, fine, but sit still already. Every time you move I think he’s here.”
Smith had perfected his hush on hundreds of similar watches, and bristled at the interruption to his semi-comatose slurpee sipping.
“I can’t feel my thighs anymore,” Billy replied.
The PI took a long haul of his drink, eyeing the rain as it collided with the windshield.
“So,” asked Billy, “uh, this guy we’re waiting for – big dude? Anger issues? Will he have a gun on him? If he’s got a weapon maybe I should wait over by the bus stop, pop him one in the nose before he realizes what’s happening.”
“Whoa there, Charles Bronson, we’re not here to start a fight – he’s not some crazed meth-dispensing satanist, he’s a pot dealer, and we’re here to do him a favour.”
The radio whispered a bombastic ad for a carpet liquidator.
“Do a favour for that sort of guy,” said Billy,”and it’s likely to come back to grab your ass and call you sunshine.”
“What does that even mean?”
“Well,” replied Winnipeg, “when I was seventeen we moved from the town I’d grown up in. I wasn’t pleased about the whole thing, having to leave my friends just at the end of high school – well, I mean, pretty close to the end, me and my compadres were, you know, studying at our own pace – but, anyhow, the thing I knew I’d miss most was a girl named Candace Harrison.
“Her boob was the first boob I ever touched. We never really dated, but we got friendly when we were twelve or so, and hung-out on and off till I left. The groping was probably a lot more special to me than it was to her – I happen to know I wasn’t the only person who could say the same. Wasn’t her fault though, her dad had a mouth like a rabid hobo, and I think she just wanted someone to care for her.
“The worst part was that it happened behind the the town’s public pool maintenance building the day before I was going. I spent long months in Iroquois Falls wondering if maybe something would have come of it.”
Billy stretched, rearranging his posture.
“Three years later, I bought a car. Just a beater. Drove it five hours to see her though. I mean, I told myself, and everyone else, that I was doing it to meet up with old friends or whatever, but I was always really just hoping to see her.
“I was pretty excited by all the landmarks I recognized – the convenience store I used to go to for candy and to stare at the covers of dirty magazines, the park where a firefighter had died saving people and they’d built this statue everyone said his ghost lived in, even the house where the old lady had thrown a rock at me once after I did a bad job of cutting her lawn – well, like I said, I was getting my hopes up.
“I drove by her parents place, and there she was, standing outside. Somehow she’d gotten older faster than me. Still – well, doesn’t matter, because her boyfriend, or fiancee, or whatever, was with her. They were arguing.
“She said ‘Get out of my parents house and never come back,’ and all hell broke loose.
“When he hit her, I came in throwing punches like Clint Eastwood chucks bullets.”
“I had him apologize before he passed out.”
Winnipeg cleared his throat. He rolled down his window.
“I was trying to impress her I guess. Thought I was doing her a favour – she deserved better than that jackhole. He didn’t press charges, and neither did she, and I even went to visit him in the hospital. Gave him the ‘You ever lay a hand on her again -’ speech. Truth is, I kind of overdid it, and he ended up getting fired for missing shifts at the particle board factory, or whatever. He used the whole thing as, like, a life changing experience, saying he was a different man, he realized what a bastard he’d been, blah, blah, blah, and would she please take him back.
“She believed him. I figured, if I wasn’t going to get her, I could at least take the credit.
“We had a quiet dinner while he was floating around on morphine, and she kissed me more than she should have when I dropped her off at her parents’ place. She jumped out too quickly for me to do anything about it though.
“Next time I saw her was two years later. We’d sent a few emails, but neither of us were terribly great at writing, and we just kind of stopped. Mom had asked me to go get this ugly chair her friend was giving her, and she’d rented me this sweet van, which was good, because my Buick had died by then. Anyhow, with everything that had happened, I convinced myself I shouldn’t feel weird about dropping in.”
A lumbering city bus squawked to a halt at the curb, throwing a fan of water onto the sidewalk no more than twenty feet from the parked car.
Mulligan nodded for his friend to continue.
“When I got there, just after lunch, all I found were two drunks and a black eye. The cab hadn’t even warmed up from the air conditioning before I was back behind the wheel. Went five blocks, threw the furniture in the rear, then drove till nightfall.”
Smith set his hand on the door handle, and Winnipeg delayed him.
“My point is, maybe if I’d stayed out of it – if he’d kicked her ass, then run away – he would have left, and her life would’ve been different. Or mine. Gotta watch your favours.”
Zipping his hoodie, Mulligan rubbed at his chin, then exited the vehicle.
As he prepared a speech on how disappointed the boy’s mother would be when she knew of his nocturnal activities, the PI approached the fourteen-year-old who’d stepped down from the public transport.
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