Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and nineteen.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Dunesteef.
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, PI, takes on an unpleasant case on behalf of a concerned mother.
Mulligan Smith in The Pinch, Part 1 of 3
The house sat slightly to the right of the center of its block, and was flanked on either side by nearly identical replicas of its brick facade and wooden porch. The neighbourhood, on the west-side of Capital City, had been claimed by the somberly dressed office dwellers of the downtown core, and many of the small front yards had been smothered in pavement, to make space for extra parking.
Stepping from his baby-blue Tercel, Mulligan engaged the recording application on his phone, and dropped it into his hoodie’s breast pocket.
The house had no visible bell, so he opted to use the red door’s ringed knocker. Given the resistance he encountered in moving it, however, he concluded the thing was likely only intended as ornamentation – nonetheless, he gave it three heavy swings.
Selina Givens, his client, answered the summons.
She wore her dyed hair well, and, if the alteration hadn’t been made obvious by her highlights, he would be hard pressed to guess she needed it coloured.
Mrs. Givens reached out a hand, and her shake was firm, and dry.
Mulligan asked about the boy.
“He’s upstairs, and expecting you, but he’s having another talk with Stuart,” she said. “I wish that man would take this situation more seriously, I’m concerned that harpy might have permanently scarred Jarrod – might have made him some sort of pervert or something – but his father can’t stop winking and nudging.”
Smith nodded. He knew Ms. Lacy’s garbage cans were his likely next visit, and he held little excitement for the appointment: Digging through a sex offender’s trash was rarely a pleasant experience.
“I understand,” he replied, “I’ll do my best to be gentle while we’re chatting.”
The woman’s eyes filled with flame.
“I didn’t hire you to be gentle. You find that harlot’s secrets, and you air them. You find out how many more there are, you find their names, and you make her confess. I want her fired, I want her shamed, I want her burned at the goddamned stake – whatever it takes.”
The private investigator could only continue to nod. He was relieved to hear a door click shut on the floor above.
“I’ll, uh, just head on up,” he said.
As he topped the flight of stairs, Smith caught his first view of Mr. Givens, a stocky man in a tie-less dress shirt and gray slacks. The man stood, legs set in a wide stance upon the beige carpet which ran along the hall.
“Listen,” said Stuart, “Jarrod’s a good kid, but he’s fifteen, and needed to learn some life lessons at some point anyway. I’m not saying I condone what she did, but who better to learn from than a social studies teacher?”
Smith had no response for the father’s half-smirk, and, instead, simply moved past the man and into his son’s room.
The teen seemed surprised at his entrance.
“Sorry to bust in, your mom said I was expected.”
The boy’s shaggy haircut made it difficult to identify his reaction. Without waiting for a proper welcome, Mulligan took a seat in the wheeled chair beside a desk cluttered with homework, and surveyed the area. Band posters, largely unrecognizable to Smith, covered the three of the walls, and the fourth was adorned with a thick layer of photos, which appeared to be the product of a cheap printer, on even cheaper paper.
Although the furthest corner was dominated by a large flat panel television resting atop a dresser, the device had been muted, leaving the overhead ceiling-fan as the chamber’s only source of background noise.
“Yeah, come on in,” Jarrod said, after the PI had made himself at home, “I was just going to run down the street and grab a bag of chips anyhow.”
Biting at his upper lip, Smith gave a sticker-covered binder a staccato drumroll with his fingers, and stared at the TV, but he found no help in the silent insurance commercial that was currently playing out across the screen.
He sighed. “How many people have you told?”
“Mom and Stu had me tell the police, and I’m about to tell you, so that’ll be four. What you really want to ask, though, is what happened? Last Friday there was a dance at the school. I was there with a few people I know. I’m not graceful, but when it gets late enough, and everyone is sweating in the dark, no one notices how bad I am. I was there with Ashely – we’re just friends – but she had to go home early, as her dad’s a real prick. She actually came back though. She’s the one who found us.
“I was coming out of the bathroom when I saw Ms. Lacy. She was wearing a black skirt and a blue blouse, and she was giving me a funny look. She stopped me in the hall, and I remember thinking that I’d never seen her with her hair not in a ponytail. It was just a little messy – she looked pretty fierce.
“”Come here,” she said.
“So I did. She put her hand on my shoulder, and it smelled like she’d had a bit to drink or something – sort of a sweet, wine smell.
“We went past the caf, which’s usually closed during after-school events, and she brought me outside, but behind the school, where the running track is.
“It was dark.”
Jarrod’s voice broke.
“It – I mean, no one’s ever done that to me. It felt good, while it was happening. Her mouth was so warm.”
For a time the only sound in the room was the electric whine that moved the fan’s faux-wood blades.
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