Tag: Bunny

FP271 – Coffin: Balm, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and seventy-one.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Balm, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp271.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


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, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his drunken roommate, find themselves speaking with a dead man beside a lonely Nevada highway.


Coffin: Balm, Part 1 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


Coffin: Balm“Keep an eye out for landmarks,” said Coffin.

“Landmarks?” replied his tispy traveling companion, Bunny, “It’s a goddamn desert! Take a left at the sand and bushes, but be sure to stop when you hit the sand and bushes – careful, though: If you see the ####ing sand and bushes, you’ve gone too far.”

The pair’s temporary escape from Capital City had continued southward onto the morning-lit highways of Nevada. Coffin, behind the wheel of the rented Ford Focus, frowned at her response.

“You’ve been more of a smartass than usual lately, something you want to talk about?” he asked.

“Yeah, the same two things I’ve been nagging you about since we got on the jet plane – where the #### are we going, and why the #### are we going there?”

As he’d done each previous time she’d asked, Coffin began chewing at his thumbnail.

“Fine,” he replied, ”you’re going to meet my first.”

“What? Christ, I don’t need to know that much about your sex life.”

“No, my first ghost.”


Though she’d met many of Will’s acquaintances, Bunny could hardly call any of them close friends of his – at least not in the traditional sense. Receiving calls from distant family was one of the few times he had the courtesy to leave the room when answering the phone, and, on those occasions, he was sure to shut himself away in his room.

The personal nature of his confession, and the unusually soft tone in which he’d delivered it, left her silent.

A few miles later she waved a hand at the faded red pole that marked their turn, but Will had already seen it.

The Focus wasn’t built for off-roading, but they hadn’t gone far into the scrub when Coffin cut the engine. His rough-seamed leather jacket creaked as he turned towards Bunny, and his eyes locked on hers.

“Listen, this fellow’s from another time. He can get – excited.”

“Are you seriously ####ing telling me to be a good girl while we’re at Grandpa’s house?” asked Bunny.

Will’s lips twitched.

“No, this guy has been solidly of the same disposition for two hundred years, he could use a dose of modern habits. Just try to be patient.”

With that, one of Will’s hands went to the car door, and the other touched the silver chained talisman which rested within his well-worn pocket.

The man in the stetson had already righted himself by the time they exited the car.

Before she could complain about the unseasonal heat, Bunny found herself laughing.

“It’s a ghost! It’s a cowboy! It’s a friggin’ ghost cowboy!”

If her left hand hadn’t been occupied by a bottle of Fireball whiskey, she might have clapped.

The phantasm wore a close cropped beard, and a gun belt under his stained shirt and ragged vest.

“Hey pardner!” shouted Bunny.

“Simmer down,” said Coffin.

“You the rootin’ tootin’-est?” she asked. “How’s your fast draw?”

The apparition wiped at his chin with a gloved hand and gave her a hard look.

“Holy ####, you’ve got a lot of jingle in your jangle, pilgrim,” she continued, as she staggered closer. The motion, however, seemed to interfere with her commentary.

“Shit, I’m out of Roy Rogers jibber-jabber,” she confessed.

Despite the admission, the dead cattleman drew his weapon.

Suddenly, Bunny was no longer smiling.

She raised the bottle to her lips and swallowed hard. “Hey buffalo ####er, you keep pointing that spook gun at me and you’ll wish you’d died a pacifist.”

It was then that Coffin stepped in. “Ambrose, I’m surprised you’d draw on a lady.”

“Lady?” asked the spectre, as he holstered his weapon, “only a lady of pleasure, at best. To what do I owe the intrusion? Have you returned to once again attempt to solve my problems?”

“Yes,” said Will. “Though, this time, you apparently actually asked for it – or so I was told by the northerners.”

“I suppose I did.”

The cowpuncher paused to tip his brim to Bunny, and the lush raised her drink in reply, though she didn’t meet his stare.

“Coffin,” began the shade, “I’ve seen many things from my resting place – I’ve seen ‘em light the sky with nuclear fire, and neon. I’ve seen pavement pressed over the landscape, and I’ve seen men and women on their last legs as their debt-ridden husks carried them out of Vegas.

“Last spring, though, I was witness to a happening worse than any other I’ve encountered in my long camp.

“A beast of a car pulled up – bigger than any I’ve seen so close. Out pops a wiry maniac – a lad of twenty-five, cackling like he’s just made his fortune in the city. Except, of course, this is the middle of nowhere, and the girl following him out onto the dirt isn’t so sure about his attitude.

“I figured at first I might be about to witness one of the few acts of human congress that hasn’t changed much since my time, but, once they’re at my feet, the lass ain’t so sure. Her boy won’t stop laughing, and no one’s telling any jokes.

“She took a step back towards their vehicle, but he wrapped his hand in her blond hair, and threw her in the dirt.

“Then he had a knife in his hand.” Ambrose cleared his throat. “Hell, I drew on ‘em. Yelled a bunch and kicked sand. Course, he saw none of it, just kept sawing that wicked blade across her throat and rambling about the police.

“Eventually he jumped up, like he’d finished a good night’s sleep, and started digging. About halfway through, though, he started weeping and accusing her of abandoning him.”

Bunny exhaled cinnamon into the morning air, but held her tongue.

It was a moment before the shade found his own.

He raised his milky gaze to the blazing sun.

“She’s been here with me since,” he finally said, ”and I need you to take her home.”

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP235 – Coffin: After the Jump, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and thirty-five.

Flash PulpTonight we present, Coffin: After the Jump, Part 1 of 1.

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp235.mp3]Download MP3
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Geek Radio Daily.


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, urban shaman, Will Coffin, and his tipsy roommate, Bunny, find themselves seeking answers from the living, while contemplating the dead.


Coffin: After the Jump, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


CoffinDaytime traffic had long drained away, and the Konitzer Bridge, a span over Capital City’s Lethe River, stood empty but for the trio of late night pedestrians beneath its gray iron-struts.

Will Coffin, who was in the lead, was providing some historical background to his companions.

In the December cold, his words were steam.

“Like a lot of the grand expansion projects from the ’50s, the thing was falling apart by the mid-’70s. The second construction crew lost three more guys in a sudden collapse, bringing the toll to five. Word got around that the whole stretch of road was cursed – which isn’t actually true – but it provides a certain mystique to the rock-bottom addicts, depressed teens, and betrayed lovers, who come to jump.

“Doesn’t hurt that the other two bridges actually lead somewhere people want to go, leaving this a lonely place to stew awhile.”

The second in line raised his brow, and tugged at his lavender shirt-cuffs.

“I know large gentlemen who will make you familiarly intimate with the workings of your lower intestines if you do not let me go.

“Listen, be smart. I always get what I want in the end, so just deal now and we’ll get it sorted before we freeze where we stand.

“What are you even looking for – money? I can hand you plenty of cash, but there’s no ATM out here, genius.”

Bunny, whose arm was extended beyond the rail, released her now-empty bottle of Silent Sam vodka, and mumbled a count of the seconds until it impacted.

“Well, Don,” she said, “you’re a bit of a ####ing dabbler, aren’t’cha?”

“Wait, you’re hear to scare me away from Judy? She – I haven’t seen her since she got the divorce papers.”

Coffin cleared his throat.

“Don’t you mean since you tried to end her marriage by murdering her baby? Whatever the case, it’s not the woman, but the poisonous dog you gave her, that we’re here to discuss.”

Don’s eyes widened.

“Uh,” he said.

“Yeah,” replied Bunny.

Before continuing his tour narration, Will raised himself onto the lowest rung of the safety barrier, and craned his neck and shoulders over the ledge.

“It feels a bit precarious, but if you really lean out, you can see the pylons that hold the bridge up. They built them seamless, to avoid giving the Lethe something to wear at, but their greasy cement is often the last solid thing the suicides touch.

“It’s not quite as far a fall as they think, but the water moves quickly, and generally finishes the job.” Having completed his survey, Will stepped down, and turned to his captive audience. “Who created the hex that was tattooed on the mutt? I’ll repeat the question as many times as necessary, but, I warn you, each asking is going be considerably less pleasant.”

“You can threaten to kill me,” said Don, “but he can do things to me that make death look like a kindergarten nap-time by comparison.”

“Coffin ain’t here to give you a hug, either,” replied Bunny. “Frankly, the way you treated that little girl, I’m about ready to jab you myself.”

Her unsteady hand held an angle-bladed knife, with a golden spine.

“Wait, did you say Coffin?” asked the once homicidal suitor.

By way of answer, Will produced a silver chain from his pocket. Holding high the hook that was affixed at its end, he gave Don a clear view of the meat plug speared within the barb’s intricate loops – then the shaman gave the talisman a pendulum’s swing, which built in speed to full revolutions.

Don stepped back, as if to run, but found Bunny at his shoulder, and an unpleasant pressure on his spine.

“####,” she said, ”I’ve never held anyone hostage before, this is kind of fun.”

The dusting of snow which had settled in the pavement’s cracks, and upon the chill girders, took to the air, and, below, waves began to form on the black expanse of water.

The charm gained momentum.

Don, now gripping the railing with one hand, and holding closed his suit jacket with the other, thought he caught sight of a swimmer. As he squinted against the wind, he became sure it was a woman in a tank top, her arms beating uselessly against the flow.

He spotted another, a thick-armed man wearing overalls, and another, a boy of fifteen, with hair past his shoulders and a bare back.

They did not glow, but teemed with luminescence, as if the afterimage of a snuffed candle.

“Holy ####ing nightmare-LSD trip, Batman,” said Bunny, “look at ‘em all.”

A dozen forms were now visible, and pained faces continued to break the surface.

“I – I can’t,” pleaded Don, his chin trembling.

As the hum of the spinning trinket intensified, he realized the swimmers were making progress. The tank-topped woman was now out of sight, beneath the cusp of the ledge, and he was unwilling to lean forward to make out her progress in ascending the supports.

He wondered how many were below, scaling the slick columns.

As four translucent fingers curled over the concrete-lip at his feet, Don began to weep.

Before the phantasm could make further progress, however, a turning taxi’s headlights danced across the trio.

In response, Will lowered his arm, letting the silver links coil about his wrist.

With little sputter, the gale ceased.

All was still.

“You will tell me where you purchased the hex,” said Coffin, “and you will open a trust fund for little Victoria, which you will deposit a thousand dollars into, monthly, for as long as I allow you to live. You will never sleep with a married woman again, unless her husband’s in the bed with you. Finally, If I ever smell your name associated with the occult, I will be sure that you are right here, and available to provide me with a profuse daily apology.

“Do you understand?”

Don did.


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

180 – Mulligan Smith in Nurture, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and eighty.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Mulligan Smith in Nurture, Part 3 of 3.
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp180.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by Words with Walter.


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, Mulligan Smith and his short-tempered friend, Billy Winnipeg, find themselves caught up in a high-velocity chase.


Flash Pulp 180 – Mulligan Smith in Nurture, Part 3 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


Mulligan SmithMulligan Smith and Billy Winnipeg were on the highway, and traveling well over governmentally recommended speeds.

The Tercel was juddering under the strain, but, given the furious police sirens that were chasing him, the PI had little interest in slowing.

He’d never expected the job to be a simple one – no case was, when children were involved – but the real trouble had begun when he’d handed Winnipeg his cellphone.

The client was a fellow he’d worked with on a few other matters, although he was never entirely clear what the leather-jacketed customer’s interests were. He seemed to be some sort of life guru, although, in truth, Mulligan wasn’t quite sure – he was happy to take his cash, however, and, as Smith’s father had vouched for the swami’s integrity, he wasn’t losing any sleep over where it came from.

Unusual, though, was the amount of communication the man had required on this outing. He’d kept up a steady stream of prodding, via texts, and, as the private investigator was busy handling the wheel, he’d delegated the responsibility of replying to his occasional accomplice, Billy.

During their original rushed conversation, the client had demanded Mulligan approach the situation with extreme caution, so he’d opted to bring along his easily enraged Canadian friend. Beyond the warning, he’d also been provided a name, apparently straight from a business card the abductor had left in his possession. Poking around the alleged-snatcher’s credit information had initially brought few leads, but, just after lunch, a rental car appeared on the man’s Visa, and Smith was quick to hit the road after coaxing details out of a counter-jockey over at the Budget office.

Distance was the enemy then, so he’d made his next call while nosing his baby-blue car towards an on-ramp.

After the third try, the former client at the far end of the line had answered.

“Mulligan,” said the cracking male voice.

“Yep. Hey, listen, I need a favour.”

“I didn’t think you were calling to take me out for dinner.”

“Let’s not discuss your eating habits on the phone, you never know who might be listening.”

“Screw you, that Jenkem thing was years ago and I didn’t – ”

“Uh huh,” replied Smith, “listen, poo-huffer, I’m not all judgemental like your boss, so there’s no reason to explain to me. I’m just asking you to punch a rental license plate through your bleep-bloop-OnStar-bullpucky, and come up with a location for me – then I need you to do it again every half hour till I find the guy I’m looking for.”

“Is this really necessary?”

“Dorian, you know I don’t discuss details – unless its an emergency.” Mulligan had spun a little casual menace into his voice. “If you think about it, I’m pretty sure you prefer it that way – and, yeah, I assure you, this is an emergency.”

It was as he was jotting down the initial set of GPS coordinates that Smith had received the first request for information from the man paying him. That’s when he’d decided to promote Winnipeg to public relations.

For a time, things had proceeded smoothly. Accumulating only one speeding ticket, and catching a break when the hunted had apparently stopped for gas, a half-day’s worth of bent speed limits brought the pursuers directly behind the silver Buick in question.

Pulling alongside, Mulligan had confirmed the man in the driver seat as his suspect by his cheap suit and poor haircut, but he’d been surprised to also see a woman sitting in the rear. At first he’d thought she was terrified, as her eyes seemed unnaturally open, but a few seconds of observing her glazed look had left him wondering if she was aware of anything beyond the blanketed bundle she was absentmindedly holding to her chest.

The suit had broken off the conversation he appeared to be having with his companion – which she seemed in no condition to respond to – and gave the flanking Tercel a brief inspection.

Ignoring Winnipeg’s motions to pull over, the rented car had picked up speed.

“Give me the phone,” Mulligan had said.

“It’s out of juice,” was his friend’s sheepish reply.

“I just heard it ding like three seconds ago!”

“Yeah, but that was the last of it. Don’t you have a car charger?”

They’d been cresting a hill, and the long straightaway before them had given a perfect vantage point to the speed-trap ahead.

“No, but it doesn’t matter,” Mulligan had said, “we’ll have some company once he passes that cop, and we can straighten the whole thing out while the tot-toter is getting a ticket handed to him.”

The lead car had blown right by the black-and-white, which made no response.

“Stop napping and get back on the job!” Billy had shouted, as if he might rouse the slumberer.

Time and distance had grown short, and Smith had considered his client’s words regarding extra protection. Rummaging through the glove compartment, he’d retrieved a pistol.

“Uh,” Winnipeg had begun, while Mulligan cranked at his window. “I don’t think -”

Then the PI had fired five times, towards the clouds.

The inert siren had suddenly become quite active.

The cat-and-cat-and-mouse game continued for two more miles of open blacktop, then, without explanation, the rental jerked sideways, rolled onto its roof, and came to a stop not five feet from the line of trees that neighboured the road.

Leaving a thick black peel behind him, Mulligan made a U-turn, which was quickly imitated by the trailing patrol-car.

Grinding his already over-taxed vehicle to a halt, Smith lept from the car and down the gravel siding. Standing beside the nearest still-spinning rear-tire were Mulligan’s suspect, and a haggard woman who was taking turns attempting to wipe away her tears, and hold closed her ratty blue blouse.

To Mulligan’s practiced eye, she had the look of a working girl who’d aged badly while on her corner.

“Where’s the kid?” asked the PI.

“That son of a #####, magician” replied the hustler, wiping a smear of blood from his cheek. “I dont’ know how he did it, but he pulled me right off the highway. I don’t have the beast. He took it – carried it into the woods, by its neck.”

The responding officer approached the scene, weapon drawn, but the conversation he was overhearing was too interesting to break up immediately.

“You kidnap a baby,” said Winnipeg, “you hire a prostitute to tend it, then you try and tell me David Copperfield was waiting here to make it disappear? Have fun in prison pal, I’m sure your cellmates will find your spleen delicious.”

“It’s not like that, it’s – it’s not even a real child. The magician took it and, I’m sure, if you’ll just-”

Billy’s rebuttal to his solar-plexus ended the conversation.

“Hey now,” said the policeman, handcuffing the kidnapper while still keeping his weapon drawn. “This the same tyke I’ve been hearing about all morning? The bunch of you have a lot of explaining to do.”

Leading his captive to the rear-bench of his patrol car, the uniform began to rattle off a status update into his radio.

A black Chevy Lumina pulled to a stop just head of the parked Tercel, and a woman Mulligan didn’t recognize – wearing a Van Halen t-shirt, and a pair of jeans with a mustard stain on the left knee – stepped out of the passenger-side door, and stumbled down the embankment.

She was carrying a pamphlet of some sort, and, to Smith, it seemed as if she were attempting to avoid eye contact with anyone. When she walked passed him, he took a guess as to why – she stank of rum

The intruder beelined to the weeping hooker who was wiping a thick string of snot from her nose.

“C’mon,” the tipsy newcomer said, “don’t worry so much about that toddler, I’m sure he’s in a better place.”

Bunny was little interested in mentioning that she was on hand with Coffin, when, not sixty-seconds previous, he’d been holding the little brute’s mouth open with a rock, and wielding a pair of pliers in his free hand. Internally, she reminded herself not to look over at her ride’s trunk.

Meanwhile, Smith was chiding himself for not having considered that that might be why the woman had continued crying – he’d assumed she was complicit, and upset because of her capture.

“Can you tell me what happened?” asked Mulligan.

“He paid me fifty bucks…” started the mewling woman, ”I don’t really remember much. There was a baby, I know there was a baby – but, but it’s teeth…”

She broke down again.

“There’s a place for people who’ve, you know, uh, seen what you’ve seen,” said Bunny, reaching out to adjust the whimpering woman’s shirt, and tossing a sharp squint at the prying private detective. “It’s been around forever – it was started by some old dead bugger who saw a need to keep – I mean for, uh, special cases. Tough, long term, cases. I know its called the Sisters of Silence, but its not like a nunnery or anything – I asked and its OK if you still #### and drink and whatever. Work hard enough, and get clean, and, uh, maybe, you know, one day you might even meet that little ba – er, angel, again.”

Having concluded her proselytizing, and leaving behind her leaflet, the drunk hobbled back across the road and disappeared behind the tinted windows of the dark sedan.

After several hours of examination and explanation, and despite the lack of success in the official search for the infant, Smith found he had to smile: charging his phone revealed a missed, cryptic message from his client, indicating the child was somehow recovered and safe – and there was also the fact that Mulligan considered every moment of the incident to be billable.


(Part 1Part 2Part 3)


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

179 – Coffin: Nurture, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and seventy-nine.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Coffin: Nurture, Part 2 of 3.
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp179.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by Words with Walter.


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 his roommate, Bunny, find themselves involved in an unusual deathwatch.


Flash Pulp 179 – Coffin: Nurture, Part 2 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


CoffinThe man which Will had mentally nicknamed “The Hustler” had wasted an hour of his time that afternoon, and Coffin’s patience was running short.

“Look, you’ve hassled me every day for the last week. I’ve got your card, but you’ve got my answer. I am not now, nor will I likely ever be, interested in letting you make bank on some poor bastard who’s stuck waiting around for the afterlife, I’d no more put you in touch with anything serious than I’d entrust you with atomic weaponry, or, for that matter, my non-existent sister.”

Bunny, who felt odd about drinking around aggravating strangers, leaned forward on the bench that acted as Coffin’s ad hoc office, and tossed a Mr Big wrapper into the Eats’N’Treats’ trash barrel.

She indelicately licked the last of the chocolate from her teeth, then addressed the tie-wearing interloper.

“Listen, I don’t mean to stick my #### in your eye, but you ain’t been welcome since the first time I laid my beady ####ing peepers on your skeevy ###, back when you were still hanging out with that hypno-chatty cannibal ##### – why don’t you go searchin’ under another mushroom for yer ####in’ cookie makin’ elves?”

Before the rejoined could pull on a smirk and attempt to parlay his lemons into some sort of unwanted lemon-aid, a red Grand Cherokee bounced roughly over the curb. It’s tires held a brief shouting match with the pavement, then the vehicle came to a full stop, directly in front of the trio.

The nearest window slid down.

“I’m late, I’m sorry!” said the reckless driver, a man who appeared to be in his mid-forties, “Mom didn’t call me till just now, but he’s been dead since this morning!”

“Who died?” asked Bunny.

“His twin,” replied Will, standing.

As they piled in and pulled onto the roadway, Coffin caught sight of The Hustler jotting down the SUV’s license plate numbers.

He knew he had no time to do anything about it.

* * *

The house that was their destination stood along a shady lane on the west side of the city.

Rory MacGillivray’s body – boxed and besuited – was set up on display in the dapper front-parlour.

“It’s my mom’s place,” explained Alister, the surviving brother.

The man was having difficulty moving his gaze away from the dead face that was his mirror image, but a shove from Will coaxed him to comforting his keening mother.

“So,” Bunny said, once the client was out of earshot. “What’re we doing?”

“Well,” replied Coffin, digging the plastic container he’d demanded they stop to purchase out of its plastic bag. “Rory over there – and Alister too, actually – have death insurance. A few years ago I was paid handsomely to deal with their superstitions. Frankly, I have my doubts, but they’ve got a family tradition – from when they were still roaming the Scottish highlands – that, well, when they die this big cat comes around to try and steal their soul, unless it’s distracted.”

“Jesus, I ain’t ever had a cat that I’ve been able to tell to do ####.”

As she spoke, the duo retreated back into the entrance-hall.

“Me either, that’s why I’ve got a fist full of catnip.”

With consistent generosity, Will began to spread plant matter over the carpet.

“You’re just gonna chuck that everywhere?”

“Cleaning up afterwards isn’t part of the service. Once this is done, we’re going to hang around telling each other riddles – the thing loves ‘em, and it’ll try to answer one if it’s presented. If nothing happens by midnight, we go home while brother Al takes over. Then we’re here in the morning, to let him finish the meet and greet stuff, and the process ends when they bury Rory, tomorrow.”

During their self-guided tour they’d managed to thoroughly dust the well appointed ground-floor, so Coffin turned his attentions to the staircase that lead upwards.

The extra distance from the mourning matriarch’s wailing gave the small cluster of bedrooms a feeling of tranquility that was absent on the lower level.

Will was tossing the last third of his supply about the hardwood when he noticed a woman sitting behind a partially closed door, on a crisply made bed. There was a child nursing at her breast. He gave an embarrassed smile, and began to turn away, but was met with no reaction. His companion, who’d taken the opportunity to open a fresh mini-bottle of Bacardi, also noticed the vacant countenance.

“The dead guy’s wife, I guess,” said Bunny, “I’d have likely gotten that stoned too, if I’d actually given a #### about Tim when I killed him.”

Approaching from yet another chamber, a stooped man with steel gray hair entered the corridor.

“She’s been saddened by recent events – but so have we all. Worry about my boy, not his bint, and I’ll take care for wee Johnny when we’ve got Rory in the ground.”

Saying nothing more, the old man hobbled to the steps and disappeared.

Coffin cast another glance in the widow’s direction, but still met no response.

He sprinkled the last of his herbs in front of her entry, then, shrugging, left.

Their first task complete, the shaman and the drunk took up seats at the rear of the viewing area, and began to pose questions to which neither were allowed to answer.

Bunny found it a very long ten hours.

* * *

Coffin was awake and standing at the kitchen counter when the call came. Closing a leather-covered, and yellow-paged, notebook, noting the caller ID, he finished his milk and answered the phone.

“Yeah? Did you see the kitty? You didn’t fall asleep, did you?”

“No, it’s not that – you need to come right away. Someone needs to stand vigil. I’ll be at the store in ten.” Without waiting for a reply, Alister hung up.

Snatching up the remote, Will increased the television’s volume until Bunny snorted awake and lobbed a couch cushion at him.

“What’s yer problem?” she asked.

“Trouble back at the wake,” he replied, zipping his leather jacket in preparation for meeting the night’s cold.

* * *

Once given a brief explanation, the police that wandered the house largely ignored the tired pair of hired mourners stationed again on their folding seats.

They were at the end of their client’s briefing.

“The guy, who you say took the infant” said Coffin, “was he wearing a cheap gray suit, two sizes too big? Did he smell like Hai Karate?”

“I was a kinda too focused on the shotgun to think about smelling him,” replied Alister, “but, yeah, I guess.”

“How’s your sister-in-law doing?” asked Bunny.

“I can’t be here,” said the grieving twin, “I need to help look for John Robert.”

Dodging past a woman in uniform, he exited the house.

Rubbing at the side of her nose, Bunny broke the ensuing silence.

“Who steals a widow’s kid when the dad’s body isn’t even planted? That’s ####ed up.”

“That moron hustler – but it’s not human. I’ve done some reading, and I’m fairly sure it’s a suckling.”

“More voodoo? Mama was raising a demon baby?”

Coffin cleared his throat.

“Not intentionally. These folks all seem to believe the little one is genuine, so there was probably a real pregnancy. The thing must have murdered the real son pretty early on, and replaced it – maybe even while they were still at the hospital. Hard to tell the difference when they’re so fresh, especially when it’s constantly feeding. I wonder if it had anything to do with Rory’s accident? Pops might have realized he was raising a cuckoo-child.”

For a while, Will chewed at his thumbnail and listened to the chatter of the passing cops.

“What do we do?” Bunny asked, after rattling off five open-ended puzzlers into the empty air.

“Once the idiotic fast-talker is found, I know of a nunnery of sorts, up north, and they can handle junior. Since Alister has buggered off, we need to stay here and ensure Rory makes it through to the other side. I ain’t giving these people their money back, and my strengths are mostly in dealing with the dead – I do, however, know of a guy who specializes in handling the living.”


(Part 1Part 2Part 3)


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