Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and fifty-five.
Tonight we present, Mulligan Smith in Making the Call, Part 1 of 1
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Phoenix Fraser the Crime Fighting Dog.
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, our intrepid private investigator receives a lucrative offer.
Mulligan Smith in Making the Call, Part 1 of 1
The silver-haired man plucked at his jumpsuit’s sleeve as he told his story.
“Olivia’s always been out to get me. She knows I get depressed on my birthday, so, every year, there’s a knock on my door; not at my secretary’s, not a buzz at the gate, not a visitor in the lobby – it’s a knock on my door. The courier is well dressed, he is excited to have the job. and he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. He just stands there in his rented suit, grinning like an idiot, and holding the brightly wrapped box towards me.
“Well, usually. Sometimes it’s something the size of a wallet case, but one year it came in a crate that stood nearly as tall as I do.
“The packaging doesn’t matter much, as it’s always the same bloody thing inside anyhow. They may all look different, but a gun is a gun is a gun, so far as offing yourself is concerned.”
“Maybe she means it for protection?” suggested Smith, as he shifted on his stool.
“The weapons always come preloaded with a single bullet.”
“Well,” replied the private investigator, “your ex-wife might just be superstitious: My mom wouldn’t give a wallet as a present without slipping a quarter in the change pocket.”
“She signs every card with a Hemingway quote.”
“Ok, it’s twisted,” said Mulligan, “but you have to admit, it’s sort of classy.”
“You need to help me get her. You need to help me make it stop,” replied the storyteller in the orange outfit.
The detective took a moment, staring at the blank white roof, before responding.
“Look, Mr. Barger, we’re both aware that if I hadn’t stumbled across your illegal entertainments you wouldn’t be here. I’m not eager to work for a man with a grudge.”
From behind the glass barrier, Charles Barger, former CEO and billionaire, straightened his prison uniform.
“I’m a businessman. I don’t hold you responsible for my downfall anymore than I would hold Mercedes responsible if I crashed my car. As I mentioned, she was always out to get me: I had a weakness, and Olivia exploited it – you were just the tool.
“Perhaps there was a time when I was angrier, but I’ve done my homework since. You’re good at what you do, and I like people who are good at what they do. I don’t mind being beat by the best – and now I require the best.
“Do this job for me, and I’ll pay you thrice the wage she provided. Let’s get that bitch.”
Smith’s lips sputtered quietly in consideration.
“You told me a story, so let me tell you one,” he said. “It’s my father’s, actually. It’s about something he refers to as the Alien Rule.
“In the late ‘70s he wanted to get away from the city – for personal reasons – so he spent a bit working with a sheriff’s office in a little backwater. A village with maybe a few hundred people living in it. One day he hears from a guy named Surly Davis. Surly wasn’t what his mom called him, of course, but everyone in a place that small has a nickname.
“Anyhow, he rings up Deputy Pops one morning, and he’s shouting about UFOs. As it happened, Davis was known to yell about a lot of things, and I guess extraterrestrials was one of them. You’ve met the type, I’m sure: Fellow with a third grade education who knows everything because he’s misread it from grocery store tabloid headlines, and always has a “get outta my sight, you goddamn delinquents” ready for any nearby children.
“Whatever the case, Dad makes the drive, and, sure enough, there’s a crop circle the size of a battleship stretching across Surly’s field. Well, it wasn’t like the fancy loops you see on tv – just a winding series of lines leveled through the wheat, with a few widening patches where everything had been pushed down.
“Pops is a patient guy, but apparently he was losing it a bit with Davis. See, the elder Smith figured it was maybe a rampaging animal, or even a couple of kids, so he’s walking the pattern, trying to imagine what it might mean – but Davis is following him the whole time, complaining.
“Over the course of the day, and with a flask helping to lubricate his train of thought, the farmer somehow merged his UFO theory with his delinquent preoccupation. He was sure the local miscreants had summoned them to mess with him. Said they probably learned how from ‘that Close Encounters of the Third Kind movie’.
”Unable to take conspiracy-talk anymore, Dad waves him off and drives back to town. He dials a pilot friend of his – an hour’s drive away – and asks for a ride in his plane. Sweetens the deal with fifty bucks from the policeman’s ball fund.
“He goes aloft, comes back, and doesn’t report much.
“A few of the locals, pals of his, ended up approaching him before he could break the department’s budget any further. Guess they’d gotten sick of having their kids shouted at, so half the town’s residents had had a bit of wine the previous night, then headed out with some planks. Took ‘em till dawn, but one of them was an engineer, and he put in the effort to create a plan that left them with a drawing of a man proudly displaying his middle finger.”
Mulligan zipped his hoodie.
“Right,” he said, “I appreciate the flattery, I really do, and I’m sure I could overcharge you for plenty of billable hours, but there remains the detail that I sort of loath you.
“You can blame your wife for your woes all you like – frankly, I don’t much intend on working for her again either – but you should keep Dad’s rule in mind: ‘Sure, it may be an alien, but, when you’re an asshole everything tends to look like an anal probe.’
“Chin up, though. Since I put you in jail it’s pretty unlikely Olivia will be delivering a fresh gun this year.”
Barger was still mustering a reply as Mulligan replaced the black-corded receiver and made for the door.
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