Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Fifty-Six.
Tonight, we present Mulligan Smith and A Little Luc, Part 2 of 3
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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.
In this, the second chapter of our current serialization, Private Investigator Mulligan Smith makes unpleasant headway in his search for the French child he last saw being carried away from a public library.
Flash Pulp 056 – Mulligan Smith and A Little Luc, Part 2 of 3
Mulligan had to tell Billy to wait in the Tercel.
“Why can’t I come in?” the big man asked, his face drooping with puppy-dog disappointment.
“Because the last time I took you out in public, you nearly beat a man to death.”
“Hey – he was a kiddy-fiddler, he deserved it.”
“One: you weren’t sure of that until I made some calls – for all you knew, you could have been pummeling the slower half of a high strung gay couple having trouble with their lippy eight year old. Two: if you had just stopped him, instead of stomping him, we might have been able to actually ask him some questions. Now he’s got a uniform sitting in front of his room, and who knows what he’ll have to say when he wakes up.”
“I’ll stay quiet.”
“No, you’ll stay in the car. Here, you can play hangman on my phone. Maybe your Mom will call back with news from your lawyer.” Mulligan had been attempting to reach the woman for two days, without luck.
Stepping from the car, Smith moved down the cracked stone path of the shabby two floor apartment building. Ignoring the buzzer system, he busied himself with his watch until a gray haired woman pushed through the locked door. By the smell of her passing, Mulligan guessed she was likely heading out for more gin.
Walking by the broken elevator, he entered the building’s stairwell. The short climb required fortitude, and by the mid-point he’d taken to pinching his nostrils against the smell of musky urine.
He was glad when he finally arrived at the flat brown paint of apartment 204’s door.
He gave a police-style knock.
Shuffling noises came from the interior, but after a long five minutes, his summons remained unanswered.
“Timothy Mustard,” he said, although he still thought of Mustard as Mr Slug, a mental tag he’d given him when he’d first encountered the man giving young girls inappropriate glances in a battered Denny’s, “open, or I’ll start pounding doors up and down the hall while singing your biography like a wandering minstrel.”
There was a muffled curse, and Smith heard the rattle of a chain lock being disengaged. The entrance swung wide, and there stood the pot-bellied man in a gray bathrobe.
“I wasn’t ignoring you, I was just having a nap.”
Mulligan followed Slug through a barren entry area, and into a living room populated only by a card table, three mismatched folding chairs, and a TV atop a plywood side-table. The Scooby-Doo theme drifted from the battered set.
“You’ll excuse me if I get down to business before you’ve had your post-nap coffee, but I think we’ll both feel better when I’m gone.” After inspecting the cleanliness of the nearest chair, the PI sat.
Mustard motioned for him to continue with his left hand, as his right poured the cold dregs of a stained coffee pot into a spotty mug. He set the cup inside his small microwave.
“I’m looking for a guy you knew, Bryce Edwards – he managed to walk on charges from the same picture ring that brought you down,” said Smith.
“Yeah, I knew Bryce. Is he still hanging out with that jerk, Mitchell?”
“Maybe – short guy, kind of heavy?” Mulligan hoped the man didn’t watch the news.
“Yeah. That guy is a jackass.”
“Where can I find Bryce?”
“I don’t know.” As he spoke, Timothy kept his eyes locked on the microwave’s descending timer. “It’s not like we have a secret club house or anything.”
“Remember that I know your parole officer, and we could have a chat.”
Mustard cracked a thin smile.
“Oh yeah? Going to go have a chat with him about what you know regarding two men seen fleeing a library, one wearing a black hoodie and driving a baby blue Tercel? Going to have a chat about how a guy who looked a lot like Mitchell was left bleeding and in a mild coma?”
“All right, maybe the knowledge that I let one of your friends make off with that french kid means I’m not feeling conversational, but I’ve got someone waiting in the car, and he’s a chatty bugger – got us kicked out of the library for being too loud, in fact. Wait here, I’ll bring him up.”
Mulligan stood, his gaze locked on Slug’s, his head tilted, to play up the dark creases his lack of sleep had left beneath his eyes. He made his way towards the door.
The microwave beeped.
“Did you say French?” asked Timothy.
Mulligan’s stomach churned as he nodded.
“Two weeks ago, I was checking out an online forum, and there was a listing I thought was a little strange. It was something like, uh,” Slug licked his lips, “”Little” Luc Bessard, 8, for sale – slightly used. Speaks no English. Buyer responsible for shipping. Please contact Jean Marco at – uh, whatever the number was. I looked it up, and it was in Montreal.”
The PI had frozen in the entry area, and Mustard, noting the look on his face, quickly continued.
“There are hundreds of people who probably saw that post, but I happen to know for a fact that Bryce visits the site pretty regularly, he, uh, introduced me to it. Frankly, I thought something that crazy would have the police crawling all over it, or that it was some sort of “To Catch A Predator” setup.” The man took a slurp of his coffee, the heat steaming his over-sized glasses. “Mitchell was never too bright though.”
Mulligan made for the exit.
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