Welcome to Flash Pulp episode six.
Tonight’s episode is brought to you by JustinBowes.com. How many friends does the ad copywriter have with dis-used domain names they’ve registered and forgotten about?
Let’s find out.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
To round off our week we have a tale a little longer than normal, a telling chapter in the checkered history of Mulligan Smith. In this evening’s episode, the P.I. finds himself explaining transportation safety.
Mulligan Smith in The Trunk, Part One of One
“I don’t ride in trunks.” Mulligan said, laying one foot up on the rear bumper.
“Going for a ride in a trunk isn’t like on TV. My Dad started on the force at the tail end of the mob days, and if he got a couple of wobbly pops into him one of the first stories he’d always come up with was how nasty it was to have to clean up after someone who’d gone for what he’d call “a drive in the boot”.
“I’ve only been shoved in a trunk once, and I only survived because the guy who did it was in too much of a rush to frisk me properly.
Mulligan took a sip of his slurpie, continued: “I’ve killed two people in my life, and he was the second.”
He zipped his hoodie.
“It was late fall, it had gotten dark but it was barely after supper. I was working a missing person’s case and I’d been asked to swing by the client’s place. Sweet people really, an aging Ma and Pa. The Dad actually reminded me a lot of Lloyd Bridges. Too bad about that guy, had a long career with a lot of diversity, but whenever I think of him all that comes to mind is: “Picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue.” You know, from “Airplane!”.
“I’d knocked twice and my hand was getting cold holding open their metal screen door. I was actually thinking I was going to miss The Wheel Of Fortune when the wind died down for a second and I could hear shouting through the front door.
“I was worried Lloyd might be taking his stress out on Ma Bridges, so I overplayed my welcome and pushed on inside.
“As soon as I was through the front hall I could tell it wasn’t the man of the house shouting, the voice was too young and strong. All I knew for sure was that he had money on his mind.
“I edge into the kitchen, hands out, figuring I’ll play it like the ambassador of peace. Instantly the noise vapourises and everyone is staring at me like its breakfast and I’m a leprechaun that’s just burst out of their box of Lucky Charms.
“The three of them were standing around a shiny kitchen table – Mom, the lead actor from Sea Hunt, and a shaggy bushman who looks like he’s spent the last six months in the wilds of Alaska wrestling fresh salmon from the maws of grizzlies.
“I must have looked pretty surprised as well, the guy was holding a cleaver that looked like something out of a mid-’80s slasher movie. Long and hefty – the kind of thing they probably used in abattoirs around the turn of the century.
“Anyhow, the larger problem was that I’d found myself right beside the guy – from the hall it’d sounded like he was on the far side of the room but when I entered he was close enough that I could smell his beef jerky breath and see the grease in his ratty beard.
“I hope I said something witty before he hit me, but I don’t remember. The next thing I actually knew I was in the dark with a bad headache and blood in my eyes. At first I was pretty sure he’d hit me with the cleaver and it’d made me blind, but after a moment of pitiful moaning the smell of oil and dirt reached my nose and my fingers took the time to prod at the thing making my ribs ache, which I realized was the spare tire I was lying on. He must have whacked me with the cleaver handle and carried me out to the trunk before hightailing it.
“I started kicking – kicking above the wheel well, kicking the roof the trunk, doing my damnedest to put a hole through any piece of the bodywork. I was freaking out – if I’d been unconcious long enough, he would have already hit the outskirts of town, at which point I’d be totally pooched.
“What I really needed was a lot of people around, the more cops the better. The longer I listened though, the quieter it seemed. As time passed the trunk felt like it was shrinking, like there was less oxygen in the air to breath.
“I’d reached around for my cell phone and my pistol but came up empty.
“Like I mentioned earlier, my Dad had been a cop from the 1930’s till the early-80’s, and he carried the same .38 special the entire time. He’d only ever had to fire it on the range.
“When I got my license he passed it on to me. I think he hoped it’d bring me the same luck it’d brought him. The thing was tiny though. It’d have no problem killing a man, sure, but when I practiced with it at the range I got plenty of “nice lady’s gun” from hillbillies with nickel plated super-canons.
“I ain’t ashamed to admit that, once I’d reached down and felt the full ankle holster, I started crying.
“I held it like a choir boy at prayer.
“I remember the squeal of the brakes. I don’t know if it’s my imagination or an honest memory, but it felt like I was drowning in the smell of pine, as if I was pulling sap into my lungs every time I tried to take a breath.
“I can hear his Kodiak work boots dragging on the gravel, the jingle of his keys.
“He said something to me that I couldn’t make out through the trunk lid or over the sound of my stuttering heart. Then, suddenly, I could see a half inch of dark forest and dirt road.
“Wish I could say I was sprawled out like James Bond, ready to get the jump on the guy as soon as he opened the lid, but I never even gave him that chance.
“Pop, pop, pop – all six rounds through the trunk. I was able to sight my last shots a bit by aiming through the holes the first ones had made, but it wasn’t really a concern: the guy was a barn – there was no way I was going to miss him.
“The trunk spring finally pushes the hinge open and there’s Grizzly Adams looming over me, cleaver raised. Then he falls over and that’s that.
“I stood up. My ears were ringing but I hoped to be able to wave down some passing lights. Nothing. I search the car for a cell phone, mine or his, but nothing. The car is a mess: it’s got layers of McDonald’s wrappers, moldy home made jerky, odds and ends of rope, fishing tackle and knives of all sizes, with blades ranging from skinning to Rambo.
“I stood there for maybe two hours, it’s tough to know for sure when you’re in shock. Finally I pulled the keys from the trunk lock. I should have left him there for the police, but I was still frazzled, and all I could picture was this guy getting his face eaten off by passing raccoons while I was tramping the back roads trying to find some people or pavement.
“It took me another twenty minutes to get him packed away with the spare tire.
“In the end I called it in from a bell phone on the outside of a closed gas-n-go. My head was pretty clear by then, well, as clear as riding around with a body in your trunk will allow. I spoke to the cops first, then Lloyd – to let him know how his missing person’s case had been resolved, and to try to break the news about his son gentler than the police would’ve.”
Mulligan shrugged, his lips taking a tug at his slurpee, only to realize it had long gone empty.
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.