Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and thirty.
Tonight we present, Mulligan Smith in Checking It Twice, Part 1 of 1.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Flash Mob.
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 meets friends, both old and new, while seeking reasons for good cheer at a mall.
Mulligan Smith in Checking It Twice, Part 1 of 1
The five-year-old only had one thing on his mind.
“Mom,” he said, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom.”
His mother, a red-eyed woman of thirty, was deep into a search of the diaper bag she’d latched to the side of her shopping cart. Within the steel buggy, her other offspring, a baby girl, was crying.
“Mom!” repeated the boy.
“Tyson, if you can’t be quiet for ten minutes while Mommy gets Anna sorted, we’ll skip McDonald’s and head straight home.”
Frowning, the boy drifted to the railing which overlooked the mall’s main set of escalators and gazed angrily at the Christmas throne below. The seat, nestled amongst a cluster of over-sized tree ornaments, remained empty, and the sign which read “back in an hour” was still in place.
“Jerk,” said the child.
In his focused state, he failed to register the two older men also at the rail.
“Yeah, no kidding,” replied Mulligan Smith. The PI was sipping at a slurpee and eying the same holiday arrangement.
Not long previous, the youth had been at the head of a line waiting for photos with the chair’s occupant, but the red-suited man had departed suddenly. His gruff exit had left behind several disappointed children, Tyson amongst them.
Walmart Mike, having run into Smith while off duty and shopping, cleared his throat.
“I was a Santa once. I was doin’ it for a bunch of the guys who hung around the West Side Social Club. I didn’t have kids, so I was the one nominated to wear the suit. I didn’t mind all the ho ho ho shit, really, but afterwards Eddie Coonan asks me if I mind walking Mickey Commiskey’s brat home.
“Does it right in front of the little guy, too. Boy thought I was old man Claus, so what could I do, deny him a chance to have Papa Noel escort him home?
“Full of egg-nog as I was, I said yes. Problem is, about halfway there, the damnedest thing happens: Another Kringle rushes me and grabs my obligation.
“I go sprinting down the alley after him, but I only get maybe ten feet when all of a sudden Jimmy Needles is in front of me. He liked to tell people he was known as Needles for the switchblade he carried, but it was really ‘cause he’d do anything for a plunger’s worth of horse.
“Anyhow, he’s got his sticker, and I can smell his breath – a mix of his rotting innards and the chicken balls he must have had for lunch – then he’s on me me like a sewing machine: jab, jab, jab, jab, jab.”
“I can feel myself full of holes, and I figure I’m a goner. Over Jimmy’s shoulder I can see the impostor hauling off Commiskey’s urchin, and I know that, even if the doctors stitch me up, Mickey’ll just unzip me again.
“Then, all in a rush, I finally managed to pull my .38 from under the huge black belt I was wearing.
“I pop one in the junky’s belly, and the other Claus, who’s just about on the far street, turns to see whats happened.
“I’m thinking I’ve only got seconds till I bleed out, so I go for it – you know, for the kid’s sake.
“I summon all the pissed off I got left, and I cover the distance like an angry Father who’s caught his daughter’s prom date pants-less.
“”You will let that little fucker go or I will climb down your chimney as you sleep, and smother every member of your family.” I say. “I will peel them apart and fry them to a crisp, on your own stove, before serving them to you for breakfast.”
“He must have thought I was serious, or that I was a good shot, cause he let the l’il bastard go and ran.
“It helped that Jimmy was lying on the pavement behind me, screaming, I guess.”
A short-skirted elf in green was returning to the display below, chased by a fat man in red. The pair were giggling.
Mike smirked, then continued.
”Frankly, it’s surprisingly tough to tell how dead you really are. The suit’s stuffing is what saved me. Had some serious soreness after, sure, but I received worse on dates I’d still call a success.
“It was Coonan of course – I’d never had a problem with him, but he must have figured he could get my and Commiskey’s crews into a dog fight, leaving his to scavenge the pieces.
“Needles made it to a hospital, Eddie blew town, and I was fine. Seemed like a Christmas fucking miracle. Years later, though, I learned the kid thought I was the real Santa the whole time.
“Messed him up a bit, but he turned out to be a nice guy.”
The trio stood silent a while, each alone with his own thoughts.
Tyson’s eyes widened.
“Wait – is that man not really Santa either?” he asked.
Smith was discreetly aiming a camera as he replied. “Nah, kid, that’s just a normal idiot who’s about to be served with divorce papers.”
The boy beamed.
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