Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and seventy-four.
Tonight we present Sgt. Smith in Model Behaviour, Part 1 of 1
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Dead Kitchen Radio.
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 hears a tale from his father’s checkered history with the Capital City Police Department.
Sgt. Smith in Model Behaviour, Part 1 of 1
It was a Sunday, and Mulligan was dabbing at his plate’s last smudge of Hollandaise sauce with his final sliver of English muffin.
He leaned back from the square oak table – the same he’d grown up leaving chocolate milk rings on – and burped.
His mute father grimaced, and pointed to a yellow blob that had escaped his son’s fork and landed on the unzipped hoodie he insisted on always wearing.
“Yeah, yeah,” replied Mulligan, as he rubbed at the stain. “Listen, Dad, not that I’m complaining, but you cook for me when you have a favour to ask – so ask.”
The gray-haired former police sergeant let out a lungful of air, and nodded.
Rising, with a creak, from the thrice reupholstered kitchen chair, the old man moved down the short wood-paneled hallway that lead to his bedroom. After a moment of shelf shuffling and drawer slamming, he returned with a cassette tape and a rectangular player consisting of a transparent flip-out door bookended by a pair of black speakers.
With a fast moving BIC pen, the elder Smith scrawled a short preface on his always-near pad of paper.
The note read: “Capital City wasn’t in great shape in ‘89.”
It was the only warning he provided, but it was clue enough to the younger Smith. He knew his father had regularly carried a pocket recorder during the era to capture witness statements. The method saved on hand cramping when tongueless-ly attempting to convey information to his fellow officers.
Except for a very few, however, those cassettes had been destroyed at his father’s retirement.
Mulligan’s belly felt suddenly heavy as the play button was pressed.
The voice was a woman’s; high pitched, but comfortable speaking with a cop.
“It’s Doreen – but, listen: I was washing my panties at the Washeteria on Danforth, maybe an hour ago, so 10PM-ish, and this blond came in wearing a Capital University jacket and a Walkman so loud it could frighten an Amish village off their land.
“She struts past me with a pink plastic laundry basket piled high with her frillies and a stack of textbooks – and I notice she’s wearing jewelery. At the goddamn Washeteria.
“Really, it was nothing too over the top. Classy stuff, but, you know, girlish. There was a gold music note on her neck that would get you at least a hundred bucks in any of the downtown pawn shops, and a bracelet chunky enough to club a seal.
“Anyhow, she picks the machine at the end to dump her clothes into, then she sits up on the counter and starts digging through one of her books. I mean, not in a bored kind of way, she was seriously tucking in.
“Thing is, there was this guy in a white sweater, with a blue zigzag pattern – sort of Charlie Brown style, but thinner, and around his collar instead of his stomach. His teeth were perfect and I’d be willing to bet he had his hair done earlier today – and not cheaply, either.
“Their conversation started about math – he was maybe twenty-five to her eighteen or nineteen, and I guess he’d been through the same accounting course. I tuned it all out until he said:
““I’m done my laundry too – and that looks like a lot of stuff. Could I drive you home?”
“Well, there was one car in the parking lot, a cherry red Corvette with windows as black as a blind guy’s sunglasses.
“She looked impressed – and I couldn’t believe it.
“Before she went through the door with him, I put myself in her path.
““I don’t think that’s the best idea, hon,” I said.
“She looked my little black dress over and I know she was thinking, “Jesus, this woman dresses like a whore.”
“Hell, I almost blurted “that’s because I AM a whore, bitch,” but one of us had to maintain some manners.
“She didn’t actually say anything to me, she just kept talking to the guy. Told him she was down the road at The Gardens, and how she really appreciated it.
“Now, I know you’re thinking, “who is this street walker to judge who this girl wants to climb in the sack with?”
“But that ain’t it.”
The woman cleared her throat, and the tape reported a lighter being struck twice, then igniting.
“I don’t know how long he’d been haunting the place, but I’m sure he noticed the same thing I did: A good looking, but slightly overwhelmed, girl folding clothes with no wedding band on.
“Now, what’s a guy with that much expensive cologne on doing hanging around a laundromat after dusk? Waiting to play knight?
“Hell no. I can’t prove it, but that guy was either a rapist or an axe murderer.
“Worse, though, is that I know cars. You get in that pretty moving box, and you really don’t have any room to maneuver. A lot can happen in that tiny space before you can do anything about it.
“Hey, maybe I’m just being an idiot, but the news is always yammering about those missing blondes…”
Though the tape kept winding, there was a pause in the dialogue as a pencil scratched across paper.
“Yeah, actually,” said the woman, after reading an unseen request. “You’re lucky I’ve made it a professional habit to memorize license numbers.”
There was a juttering shift in the audio then, and, following a series of clicks, a man’s voice filled the speakers.
Mulligan recognized it to be that of Gus Kramer, his father’s former partner.
“You’re sure about the lawyer? Okay, in that case, why don’t you tell us what you’d intended to do with the Ms. Harrison once you knocked her out?”
The tape head ground on, but there was a deep silence before the response came.
“Yeah, sure guys, why not?” was the eventual reply. Despite the delay, the man’s tone was cool and clear. “She was the fifth. You’ll find the rest back at my house. The basement will be cold when you enter – I like how, er, pert it makes them, but I really keep it that way to slow the reaction.
“I built a tank in Dad’s old workshop; well, I had it built for me. I said I needed an incredibly strong giant aquarium.
“There’s two tubes on either side – are you familiar with casting resin at all? You mix two chemicals together and the goo hardens to something almost like glass. Sometimes, at booths in the mall, you can buy a tarantula in what looks like clear plastic. Basically the same thing.
“My first stab at a diorama was a failure. I started by dumping too much in, and I didn’t realize how hot the process would get – at her hips, she was screaming in agony. The whole place smelled like flaming chicken.
“I panicked a bit and finished filling the tank twice as quick. Her thrashing did a surprisingly good job of mixing things, and she was firmly stuck when the liquid stopped her bawling.
“The end product was terrible, because the resin cracked and went yellow from the heat, but she was good training.
“I ordered away for industrial stuff, which is way cooler, and number two taught me to do it in stages. She fought forever, though, and I ended up with something that looked like a woman curled in the fetal position at the top of a box, which isn’t exactly sexy.
“With number three I kept her unconscious till the bottom layer had already set, so that she had the use of the rest of her body, but her feet were pinned in place. From there it climbed a few inches of resin at a time, with a mix that allowed it to set as slowly as possible. Of course, she wanted to remain alive, so she stretched every muscle, with her back arched and face upturned to try and get that last breath.
“That definitely turned out sexy.
“Four is beautiful as well, actually – she showed me about the value of props, and now she’ll always be my naughty french maid.
“I had a school scene in mind for number five. I have a desk and plaid skirt at home waiting for her. Nothing more though – I prefer them topless. I thought I could strap her to her chair beneath the tartan, so that she could still move her arms a bit, and provide the randomness that’s really necessary for a life-like scene.
“Wouldn’t it be great if I could convince her to keep just one hand raised?
“I was so excited to see my beautiful liquid glass slide past her cherry lip gloss -”
The elder Smith stopped the tape, and his son sighed. He knew the case well enough, and that the man the press had dubbed The Cube Killer was long dead from a sharpened prison house toothbrush.
“I was wrong,” said the younger man, “you also cook before a funeral. The victim?”
Reaching into his pocket, the retiree retrieved a newspaper obituary for one Doreen Mitchell, mother of three. It indicated that viewings would begin Monday evening, and both Smiths wondered if the accompanying photo had struck many of those who habitually trawled the back-page column as inappropriate. Still, whatever the cut of her dress, the ferocity of the woman’s smile was inescapable.
Mulligan nodded, considering his words. Finally, he said, “I’ll get my suit pressed in the morning.”
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