Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty.
Tonight we present Mulligan Smith and The Old Lady, Part 1 of 1[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp050.mp3]
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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 we join PI Mulligan Smith, as he tells us a tale of foreign nations and local customs.
Flash Pulp 050 – Mulligan Smith and The Old Lady, Part 1 of 1
“There’s a certain type of neighbourhood, semi-industrial with low income housing nearby, that, no matter where I’ve been, always looks about the same – and it always has the same type of bar hanging around the scuzzy edges.”
Mulligan took a sip of his water and let the old man take his shot. It was a near thing, but the three refused to find its way into the far corner pocket.
“Always the same folks too.
“I was in this little hole called Nicolette’s, with my arm around a lady maybe ten years older than me. Her breath stank like unfiltered cigarettes and skunky beer.
“The big difference between this place and most of the others, was that this time none of the other patrons seem to speak English. Actually, they probably all could, at least a little, but it was obvious none of them were about to do it around me.”
Mulligan paused to sink the thirteen, then scratch on the eleven.
“It was my first time in Montreal, my first time in Canada, outside of Toronto, really, and I was surrounded by Terminator 2 extras – everyone there seemed to be culturally a decade back or so. Thing was, I was with a friend, Billy Winnipeg. It’d take longer to explain why than it’s gonna take for me to finish cleaning the table on you,” Mulligan’s bravado brought a smile to the old man’s lips, “but I’ve never met anyone who could top Billy’s politeness – or his ability to find himself amongst a fist fight.
“While I’m chatting up the woman, and noticing that her hair has been dyed so many times it’s crispy, Billy is working the room, putting his nose in other people’s business. He was asking after a guy named Jean Marc, the best description of which we’d heard so far was “he has a funny moustache” – to my mind, that was basically everyone in the room.
“Winnipeg was doing most of the talking, in what even I could tell was broken french, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was still the center of attention somehow – or more the opposite of that, I guess, like everyone wanted to make sure they weren’t looking at me, and they also wanted everyone to know they weren’t.
“It was mid-winter, and it was cold. Billy always wore these black gloves; ugly and too big, but he made me buy them for him at a Wal-mart, and I bet they were warm. It wasn’t my first go-round in a bar with him, and I’d noticed something: he had this thing he did, every time he was edging towards a fight, where he’d cock his gloves just as someone was about to say something over the line, and the moment they dropped that one offense too many, he’d shoot them off with a flick of his wrists. He’d do the whole dance with a smile on his face – every time.
“Before we went in, I’d asked Billy to take off the gloves. As I leaned in and whispered something to the woman that would have gotten me slapped in polite company, I noticed they’d somehow slipped back on.
“I was fairly sure the lady on my arm was Mary Josee Babbette, or at least that was my guess based on the “Pink Hair and always wears ripped jeans” description that I’d gotten from another local. The woman had approached when Billy and I had started nosing around, and she was the only patron to show me any interest.
“She kept giving me big sloppy grins, which I think were supposed to be seductive, and she kept gently bumping against me – although it was tough to tell if that was intentional, or she was simply so drunk she couldn’t maintain an upright posture.”
The old man worked the table; his arm was sure, and Mulligan no longer bothered to pause in telling his story.
“I think Mary Josee was only supposed to be pressing me for info but by the time I’d bought her a third drink, a courtesy she seemed unaccustomed to, her fingers were hanging from her lips, and her eyes were batting, in a way that could only be natural to her.
“I told her I was from out of town. I told her I found the French accent irresistible. I told her the backseat of my Beamer was amazingly comfortable.
The old man snorted, then reset his shot. Using the bumper as a guide, the one went down.
“Despite the gloves, Billy had been doing a pretty good job up until then. I gave him a wave and let him know I’d be back in a bit, then headed for the door. Mary Josee was tight on my elbow, and I was at the cusp of the play, so I sold it: I threw my head past her tangled mane and give her a little nibble on the neck.
“It smelled like a rat’s nest full of rotting Marlboros.
“She giggled a ragged smokey giggle, and within a beat, I heard a chair go over backwards.
“”Eh, yew,” I hear from behind me.
“”Wha?” I reply, turning to face the accusing tone.
“”Eh yew, azz-oh.”
“Sorry pal, no time, I’m just about to show the lady my Beamer, you know?” I gave him an idiot’s smile and squeezed Mary Josee’s hip. She was trying to squirm away from me at that point, and her eyes were locked on the guy I was pretty positive was Jean Marc.
“Billy had stopped working the tables.
“Billy was watching us intently.
“”Yeah, huh? Dat’s my o’ lady!” Marc said.
“Winnpeg cocked his hands.
“Jean grabbed Mary Josee’s forearm, and gave it a twist, sending her sideways over a table, and toppling the glasses of a trio of spectators.
“I wouldn’t say Billy is a muscled guy, I mean, you wouldn’t put him in a bodybuilding competition. He’s just one of those guys who’s so towering his arm can’t help but carry a Buick’s worth of momentum. He works with lumber for his day job, and he has hands like the gnarled roots of a two-hundred year old pine.
“Billy said “Hey,” and as he said it, snap went his wrists, and the gloves hit the floor.
“There was a thud, and Jean Marc went down on the table that had broken Mary Josee’s fall. It was all too much for the old hardwood, and one leg collapsed under the weight.
“”Hah,” said Winnipeg, clapping his hands together and eying up the room.
“In the mean time, I was busy getting groggy Jean back on his feet. I figured I had about ten seconds before Billy’s size was no match for the amount of cheap beer flowing through the room, and I was out of there in under two. I put our little rented Honda Civic in gear, having thrown the Quebecois across the backseat, and, finally, Billy came out the front door, looking like a man who’d just been promoted at the factory. He took his time cramming his knees into the tiny passenger side, and only closed the door once he was settled. Somehow, he had the ridiculous gloves back on.
“We found a deserted lot, plenty of those in the area, and it took very little time, with Billy standing over my shoulder, to get everything I needed out of Jean.”
The old man completed his clearing of the table.
“Looks like you’re on today – another game?” Mulligan asked, grinning at his loss.
The old man nodded, grabbing the worn plastic triangle and starting to rack.
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.