Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and fifty-six.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Strangely Literal podcast.
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, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny Davis, mouthy drunk, find themselves considering a case of arson.
Coffin: Dealing, Part 1 of 3
Beneath the unyielding white glow of a streetlight, Will Coffin surveyed the charred remains of his favoured Eats’N’Treats. He wore a scowl on his face.
“This is getting to be a bit frustrating,” he said. Bunny pulled her coat tight against the chill air and snorted, but he continued. “This is the second store I’ve had burnt to the ground.”
“Yeah, I’m sure Lornie, the shop-keep, thinks its a ####ing tragedy that you’ve gotta find a new bench,” his companion replied. “Now let’s get going, It’s cold as penguin ####, and I’m out of booze.”
It was Coffin’s opinion that it wasn’t just the lack of liquor that had made her surly. She’d seemed aggravated since the previous evening, when he’d pressured a reluctant informant with an afterlife of eternal drowning. The fire sirens which had broken their daytime slumbers had done little to better her mood, although neither had realized the reason for the clamour until they’d awoken to the evening news.
The discovery had spurred him to the phone, and, before he had finished making his calls, Bunny’s vodka had run dry.
Will cleared his throat. “You can head on to Dorset’s, and get a drink, if you like. I have an appointment.”
“Ain’t you threatened enough folks this week?”
“Do I look like I’m about to start a fight?” he replied, as he returned his hands to the crossbar of the empty baby carriage. The creaking buggy, which he’d finally managed to borrow from a woman three floors below their own, was at least two-decades old. “It’s not that kind of meeting.”
His tipsy friend couldn’t help but smile. “Oh yeah? Hope you also brought some scissors, if you’ve got a hot date with the ####in’ mummy.”
Coffin was still considering his response when a round bundle, nearly the size of a great dane, came trundling from the shadows beyond the now single-walled portion of alley. Its gray fur was mangy and unkempt, and its white muzzle was stained with muck and dirty water. At first glance, it was only the double tail, and immense size, which set the raccoon apart from its mundane brethren.
“Ho, Will-o, how’s tricks?” it asked.
“Same as always,” replied Coffin.
“Sorry to hear ‘bout your inferno,” said the animal, “this whole place has taken a dive in the last three hundred years.”
“Wasn’t #### all here, three-hundred years ago,” interrupted Will’s roommate.
“Exactly my point, madam,” nodded the beast. His black-eyes sparkled in the streetlight, and his rodent-like hands worked excitedly at his whiskers. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced, my name is Pisky.”
“Great,” said Bunny. She began picking at her teeth with her tongue.
The four-legged bandit gave the woman’s unbrushed hair, and fry-grease stained jeans, another long look, then asked, “you want to leave your fella behind and tip a bottle or three? I’ve a mountainous stash, in a culvert on the far side of town. Nice soft mattress too. Maybe you won’t wanna come back, though.”
“I ain’t gettin’ any closer to his bed than I am to yours,” replied the drunk, “but at least he’s human.”
“Exactly,” said the former forest lord, as he stretched out his size and let a trill roll into his voice. “Look at me – I assure you, it’s ALL magic.”
“Get any nearer and you’ll think you were talking to Bob-####ing-Barker.”
“Anyhow, my man,” said the masked entity, as he redirected his attention to Coffin, “you got a little something extra you could spare? I’m pretty hungry these days.”
“What happened to Korda’s body?” asked Will. “He was saturated with mystic juices. He should have lasted you at least a year.”
“Temptation is a rowdy mistress – I was a bit greedy.”
There was a silence, which Coffin broke by muttering, “junky.”
The unnatural creature reared. “Don’t talk down to me, lunchmeat. I know your wife.”
Will’s jaw tightened, and his right hand slipped into his jacket’s pocket.
At the sight, Pisky raised his paws, and retreated a step. “Hey, hey, I’m cranky, and I apologize. It was a long trip here. I spent part of the afternoon napping on a Walmart, but the maintenance guy happened to come around to bugger with the heating equipment. Now I’ve got an empty belly and a kink in my neck.
”Forgive my crusty prattle, and let’s get down to business.”
Coffin shrugged. “It’s a tense time, all around. I originally called you here because I needed a favour – I have an address that requires looking into.”
“Why not just chat up your ghosts?”
“It’s government property, and they try to keep the murders off the grounds. Besides, you still owe me for Korba, and I need it kept quiet.”
“Quieter than dead folk? Interesting.”
“First, though, we have a new priority: You’re going to lead me to whoever trashed my place of business.”
“C’mon now, that’s a long walk out in the open.”
With a smile, Coffin gave the ancient pram a squeaking shove.
“You bastard,” said Pisky, with a lick of his lips.
The shaman knew he’d comply to the indignity, however. They’d both inhaled the stink of the occult that the arsonist had left behind – and the raccoon was hungry.
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