FP323 – Misdirection
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and twenty-three.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo 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 we present some sleight of hand meant as nothing more than a light piece of entertainment – a release after a long winter, and a long week.
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Derrick, eleven, hated the always-startling bleat of the store’s door buzzer, but, as he crouched behind the Pringles display at the end of the chip aisle and tried to disappear within his bulky winter jacket, he wished the thing had been used properly over the last ten minutes.
His mother was the problem of course – she’d been busy with her routine of making eyes at the clerk who operated the remote locking system, and the double-chinned man had been too absorbed in her giggling and the flirty fingers running through her bleached hair to give the would-be-customer pounding the button from outside much of a looking over.
Worse, the counter jockey had shown some doubt as to the intruder having a gun when he’d first been threatened, so, as proof, the thief had pulled out a compact black pistol and pointed it Derrick’s Mom.
“Now do you want to get to business, or should I?” asked the white t-shirt and red ball cap wearing gunman. His brim was drawn low over his brow, but, instead of hiding his face, it simply forced him to tip back his head to see where he was aiming his weapon.
The boy did his best to remember details, but the panic brought on by the thought of losing the last of his family – his father and sister had perished in a car accident some three years earlier – fogged both his brain and his vision.
One row over, hunkered beside a selection of band aids, cleaning supplies, and stationery, a thin faced man in a black sweater whispered, “wanna see a magic trick?”
“Shut up or the peanut gallery will quickly become the shooting gallery,” said the bandit. Despite the threat, and follow-up tears from the smock-wearing employee, the minor interruption was enough to draw the weapon’s muzzle towards the floor.
The fearful son’s attention, however, was still on the apparent magician, who was now holding up eight fingers: three on one hand, and five on the other.
At the front of the store, the cashier’s blurred vision was causing issues in moving five dollar bills from the register to the plastic bag he’d been informed to put it in, and the ground had caught as much as the sack had. This was not an acceptable loss to the goon, and he demonstrated as such by slamming the pistol through the row of tchotchkes and lighters that adorned the counter.
“Get it all, and hurry the fuck up.”
Derrick’s mother, noting his distraction, took a step back, hoping to put some distance – and possibly the island containing stir sticks and lids for the store’s watery self-serve coffee – between herself and danger; instead, it attracted trouble.
“Where do you think you’re going?” asked the hood from behind the depths of his redirected gun barrel.
She stumbled, then stopped, as the stale cheeto and scratch card air caught in her tightening throat.
“Mom!” shouted Derrick. The death-dealer swung to the child, then returned to the still-not-breathing woman.
“Sit. The Fuck. Down,“ the man replied. “Christ, does this look like a public school to you? What kind of mother takes her kid to the 7-Eleven after midnight anyhow? And you, Minnesota Fats, what the hell is taking you so long to fill that bag?”
As apparent encouragement, the would-be shooter stepped closer to the bottle-blond, his free hand reaching for purchase on her t-shirt.
Unsure of what to do, Derrick turned to the nearby stranger for help, but the man only hoisted a single hand with five fingers – then four.
The un-buzzed door let out a single denying clunk.
What the child didn’t know was that the man in the hoodie wasn’t any sort of illusionist, he was simply very good at visualization. He could see the distance to his Blue Tercel, parked outside; he could picture the thick wallet sitting in the sticky-bottomed passenger-side cup holder; and he could count the strides it would take to reach the car – even for a big man.
At three fingers the boy no longer knew where to look.
At two the tough had begun to spin on his heel.
At one the entryway exploded inward, only to be replaced with the shadow of a crashing bus in the shape of a man.
Billy Winnipeg, nearly seven feet tall and well over two hundred pounds, with his forgotten wallet still in hand, was remembering the day he’d lept through the plate glass of a Manitoba laundromat after mistakenly thinking a patron was yelling at Mother Winnipeg. Once he’d explained, adrenaline had caused all three to laugh and laugh at the mistake, even as his face had bled onto the linoleum floor.
Billy was not laughing now.
However, it was twenty feet from the door to the gunman, and the Canadian, for all of his crazed bravery, was a deadman. The robber tacked his weapon away from the terrified mother, leveled it at the approaching blur, and steeled himself to pull the trigger.
That’s when he felt the double bee sting at the base of his neck.
The supposed illusionist had managed some sleight of hand after all: During the distraction he’d moved ten feet closer to the counter, and he now held a taser in his grasp.
There was a soft crackle from the pair of wires hovering over the Doritos, and a single bullet misfired into yellowing ceiling panels.
Then Billy closed the distance.
As the brutality distracted the rest, Derrick emptied his over-sized pockets of the cold medicine and household cleaners he’d been told to take. His mother would be mad, he knew, but the uniforms and sirens would soon be at the scene – and, besides, as he caught glimpses of the now moaning gunman, the boy could easily see that it wasn’t worth it.
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