FP336 – Coffin: Masks, Part 2 of 3
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and thirty-six.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Talk Nerdy 2 Me
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, his normally tipsy companion, interrogate a ghost about the serial killer who slew him.
Coffin: Masks, Part 2 of 3
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Bunny had stumbled across the address while seated in the silent depths of the Capital City Library. Most of the Laughing Buddha’s murders had taken place in private homes, which – as she was little interested in collecting a Breaking & Entering charge – made it an even trickier matter to interview one of the victims. It was a stroke of luck, then, when a search told them of 255 Cypress Crescent’s “For Sale” status.
The real estate agent had given them a doubtful look when they’d arrived for their viewing, but had pulled the bulky gray lock off the door handle nonetheless. Her lips were pressed tight as they entered, but the voice that issued from her mouth was as soothing and practiced as any infomercial pitchman’s.
“The main access is into the kitchen – which makes grocery day a lot easier. The dining area, this way, has recently had all the carpet taken up, and – can you believe it – there was beautiful hardwood beneath. The previous owner didn’t even know what she had.”
Stepping into the empty cavern that was the living room, the Realtor reviewed Coffin’s battered leather jacket and Bunny’s denim ensemble.
“You’re in luck,” she said. “The seller had to relocate to Baltimore – work related – and, because of that, this place is about as cheap as you could ever hope for in such a great neighbourhood. There are three bedrooms upstairs, as well as a laundry nook. It comes with the washer and dryer. The basement, on the other hand, is unfinished but has plenty of potential. Which would you like to see first?”
Coffin passed the question on to his companion with a raised brow.
Before she might answer, however, the agent asked, “how long have you been married?”
“I’m not his wife,” replied Bunny, as her fingers absentmindedly rubbed at a ‘What Would Ghandi Do?’ pin on her threadbare collar. “I’m just here to make sure you ain’t makin’ him look like ###damn Tom Hanks and Shelley Long.”
The woman in the well-cut black blazer paused and said, “sorry?”
Bunny’s eyes narrowed. “The Money Pit? With Tom Hanks and Shelley Long? You’ve never seen The ####in’ Money Pit?”
“My wife’s dead,” interjected Coffin, as he put a boot on the stairs to the upper level. When he had their attention, he added, “- that’s why I need a change of scenery. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll take my advisor here and conduct a self-guided tour of the second story.”
With a neck stretch that read of deep experience with wasted afternoons, the saleswoman retrieved her phone and said, “sure.”
* * *
They found him in the bathtub, his left arm draped over the protruding tap and his head pushed into his chest by the lounging angle at which his body had taken its last gasps.
As Coffin pulled the man into an upright position with the Crook of Ortez, Bunny asked, “you were killed in the shower wearing a three-piece ####ing suit?”
The apparition replied, “I died, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be dignified.”
His voice was such that his words seemed to originate more in his nose than his mouth, and his first act upon being allowed free movement was to straighten his tie.
“Oh, #### yeah,” replied Bunny, “there’s nothing as classy as biting it in your bathroom – just ask Elvis.”
The spirit’s brow furrowed. He asked, “who are you, and why are you here?”
“I’m Bunny, and this is my – uh – my sidekick, Will.” Coffin coughed airily, but said nothing. She continued. “We’re here about the Laughing Buddha.”
The ghost’s brow reversed course. His eyes were suddenly open.
“Who?” he replied. His hand again went to his muted red tie, and his fingers tugged at the knot.
Closing the door, Bunny took a seat on the edge of the faux marble countertop and asked, “having a tough time remembering the guy who murdered you?”
The man’s voice now seemed to issue entirely from his nasal cavity.
“I don’t remember much about it…”
His unusually sober interrogator leaned forward on her perch.
“Lemme remind you,” she said. “You were apparently in here, showering in your Brooks Brothers discount special, or whatever the ####, when some ###hole came in and slit your throat, Pez-dispenser style. The papers say it was with something like a straight razor – the same one he used over his eight years of killings. Then he put a little Buddha statue on your bald spot and left.
“Did you get a look at him? Her? It?”
The victim only shook his head.
With a nod to his companion, Coffin asked, “why did the house take so long to sell?”
“People don’t want to buy a place someone’s been murdered in. They figure it might be haunted. I mean – there was no mess. You couldn’t even tell I died here. Still, it was taking forever to close on the property, so, a couple of months back, Madeleine had to just go.
“You know how it is.
“The insurance settlement had arrived, and she simply couldn’t take the stress of being here anymore. When she came home after work, all she could think about was my body sitting in the tub. She used to wake herself up crying – or that’s what she was telling Hannah Schuyler, anyway.”
Leaning back against the mirror, Bunny asked, “it must get lonely in here since she moved?”
“I’ve always been lonely,” the dead man replied over his sagging chin. “I do miss my wife fiercely though.”
“You still talk like you’re in the land of the living – maybe you’d like some news about what Maddy’s doing these days?”
The specter sniffed. “Uh, no offense, but she’s in The Charleston, downtown. It isn’t the sort of building you’d go unnoticed in if you were snooping – and it’ll be tough to peek through her windows on the twelfth floor, unless you can fly too.”
“No,” answered Bunny, “but we’re friendly with a guy there. Another The Ring-looking mother####er like you – uh, right, Will?”
Coffin’s long familiarity with the city backed her bluff.
“Yeah,” he replied, “there’s an autoerotic asphyxiation one floor over, actually. He’s pretty chatty because he’s afraid I’ll tell his Mom the truth about his ‘suicide.’”
The shade glanced at the chill white enamel he knew he would soon be returning to and sighed.
“It was Marshall Carver. I know because that’s how he answers his cell – just, ‘Marshall Carver.’ He dresses like the sort of person who does that too. I mean, who’s calling him that isn’t already aware of his name?
“I guess I shouldn’t let it bother me, but I was barely even dead and he was taking calls like the person at the other end had caught him waiting in line at Starbucks.
“He was looking right at me when he did it too. The flatness in his voice was probably the scariest part of the whole thing.
“Anyway, it was him. He planned it all. He even told me to put my hands up first so he could make some defensive wounds.”
Will snorted and said, “with that blade of his I bet he didn’t have to ask twice.”
The apparition gave a guilty shrug. “If you want anything more, you’ll have to ask Carver. When will you get back to me about Madeleine?”
“Soon,” replied Bunny, as Coffin returned the Crook to his pocket.
As they descended the stairs and bee-lined for the front door, she raised her voice and told the empty, echoing rooms, “it’s all about professional growth and interest. A Realtor who’s never heard of The ###damn Money Pit? #### that – that’s like going to a dentist who’s never seen Marathon Man.”
They had to visit two convenience stores and a gas station to find a payphone that still had its phone book, but an hour later they were standing on Carver’s neatly trimmed lawn.
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