Serial Story: The Green Haunt Strikes!




Hello all --

Inspired by my Pulp-era hero, I have attempted to write a Pulp-style story. This is not an origin, but rather a single short adventure to introduce the character and to experiment with the Pulp form.

Words of warning: In the tradition of many great Pulps, this story does not feature the "hero" a great deal. There will be some bang-up super-hero action, but not for a while.

Constructive criticism is certainly welcome, especially from any afficionados of the Pulp form. Thanks!

The Green Haunt Strikes!
King’s Row. February, 1938

Chapter 1: Malloy Gets a Lead

It was just past midnight, and it was bitterly cold in King’s Row. Snow the color of ashes fell in tiny flakes and swirled across the cracked sidewalks in the bone-chilling breezes that blew between dilapidated warehouses. Barney Malloy pulled his threadbare overcoat tighter around his shoulder and adjusted his scarf, but his hands were still shivering so badly that he could scarcely read the hasty notes he jotted down on his notepad. He paused and peered into the darkness, cursing the run-down neighborhood and its broken streetlights as he searched the gloom for signs of his contact.

Malloy tensed and listened – footsteps approached, crunching faintly in the new-fallen snow. “Hello?” he whispered.

From the gloom, his contact appeared – a run-down looking gangster with a rumpled hat and a severe case of buck teeth. His name was Charles Puggles, but everyone called him the Chipmunk.

“Uh, hey Malloy,” the Chipmunk said, looking about nervously. “Hell of a night, eh?”

“You’re late, Chipmunk.”

Chipmunk shrugged. “Sorry, Malloy. Business, you know…”

“Sure. You boys knocking over warehouses again?”

Chipmunk pasted an exaggerated look of surprise on his face and shook his head. “No, Malloy. We’re legit now. Completely legit.”

Malloy waved a five-spot in front of his face, and Chipmunk’s eyes followed the bill as though hypnotized. “Then I guess,” Malloy said, “you wouldn’t know anything about some artifacts going missing from the Museum two nights ago.”

The crook, still watching the bill, nodded. “Yeah, I mighta heard something about that.”

Malloy reached over and tucked the fiver into Chipmunk’s breast pocket. “What’d you hear?”

Chipmunk grinned, his head bobbing excitedly. “You’re practically right on top of the guys that done it, Malloy. I hear that they’re in a warehouse not two blocks from here, waiting for the buyer to show up.”

Malloy asked for the address, and carefully wrote it down in his pad. Chipmunk craned his neck to watch, trying to read Malloy’s shorthand upside-down.

“Say, Malloy,” Chipmunk said, squinting at the notepad, “You gonna mention me in the article this time?”

The reporter shook his head, chuckling, and said “So these guys are pros? They aren’t keeping the stuff they stole?”

“You didn’t hear this from me,” Chipmunk replied, grinning, “but the crew that done it was Stumpy Johnson’s. Antiquities just ain’t Stumpy’s thing, you know?”

Malloy nodded. Stumpy Johnson was strictly smash and grab, and spent more time in prison than out of it. Only his buddy-buddy relationship with Sonny Morelli kept him from going up the river for the rest of his days.

Malloy fished a cigarette from a cheap case and lit it. Chipmunk looked at the smoke eagerly, but Malloy ignored him, slipping the case back into his coat pocket.

“You got anything else for me, Chipmunk?”

Chipmunk’s face fell, any visions of bigger payoffs disappearing. “Naw, Malloy. It’s been a slow week, you know? And the big boys don’t always tell me things.”

“That’s because you’re a rat, Chipmunk.”

“Aw, Malloy, why d’you say things like that?” The crook stuffed his hands into his pockets and slouched over. “That ain’t nice. I just want to be in the papers…”

Malloy grinned and slipped his notepad into his pocket. “See you around, Chipmunk. I’m gonna go check on a warehouse.”



Chapter 2: Something Fishy

Malloy walked past the warehouse three times before he noticed the rust-eaten address sign lying on the sidewalk, crusted with snow. Standing next to the sign, the reporter peered through the collapsing chain link fence at the squat, black mass of the warehouse. Condemned tenements rose on either side of the warehouse, giving the entire neighborhood a palpable aura of dilapidation and abandonment. The flicker of trash fires shone in a few tenement windows, but otherwise the entire block seemed lifeless.

A single black sedan was parked in front of the warehouse, turned at an odd angle as though the driver had lost control in the final moments of parking. Malloy belly-crawled under the fence and approached the car, drawing his notebook from his pocket and thumbing to a blank page. He quickly jotted down the plates – no doubt stolen – and tried to open the trunk, to no avail. Watching the front of the warehouse for signs of movement, Malloy continued around the car.

The reporter froze as he approached the front fender. The entire fender and half of the engine compartment had been caved in, looking as though the car had been hit with a boulder, or had had a safe dropped on it. The front tire had been smashed nearly parallel to the ground, and oil and gasoline leaked from the wounded auto onto the snow.

“Ho-lee cow,” Malloy said under his breath. Fascinated by the damage, Malloy continued to circle the vehicle, until he reached the driver’s side door. He peered in, and then recoiled violently, falling to the snow and scrambling backwards on his hands.

Malloy blew out a shuddering breath, and slowly rose to his feet. Suddenly thankful for the gloom, he peered at the car, reluctant to get too close, yet compelled to determine if his eyes had seen truly.

The driver of the car was still aboard, but his head was missing, the neck cut with surgical precision. The body was draped in strings of rank yellow flowers and bones, all soaked in blood from the grievous wound that had obviously ended the man’s life. Of the head, there appeared to be no sign, though Malloy was reluctant to search the area for the missing appendage.

Instead, the reporter crept past the car, towards the front door of the warehouse. As he approached he fancied that, in the permeating gloom of the night, he could see the faint flickering of a ghastly green light through the filthy, paned windows that fronted the warehouse. Diverting from his course, he approached one of the windows and rubbed at it with his jacket sleeve until the filth was sufficiently moved about that he could see within.

The windows afforded a view of what was once the front office – an overturned desk, some scattered chairs, and a carpet of half-rotted papers testified to the room’s former occupation. A narrow door with a trestle provided access to the warehouse proper, and through the door’s smashed-out window, Malloy could see figures moving about on the warehouse floor. Barely visible through the twisted wreckage of storage shelves and packing crates was the flicker of a perverse green fire. The black outlines of human figures moved back and forth in front of the horrid illumination, casting grotesque shadows on the wreckage around them. But the strange illumination and filth of window’s interior precluded the discovery of any further detail.

Malloy stood transfixed, squinting at the distant figures, and was nearly ready to retreat to the distant safety of his car when a gargantuan figure moved in front of the office door. The man, if it was a man, filled the doorway, his tiny head barely visible below the huge mass of his shoulders. The figure seemed to be peering into the office, and Malloy fancied that he could hear sniffing and grunting coming from the creature. Panicked, the reporter fell to his knees and cowered below the level of the window until the snuffling sounds retreated.

As his fear subsided, Malloy’s reporter instincts took over. Prodded by an insatiable curiosity as to the identity of the gigantic figure, and its purpose within the warehouse, Malloy crept to the front door of the building. He tried the door and, finding it open, slipped through the narrow aperture and into a musty gloom that smelled of rotting paper and damp cloth. As the door slowly closed, Malloy did not see a shadow-cloaked figure slip through the narrowing gap behind him. As silent as a falling snowflake, the newcomer was briefly silhouetted as he slipped through the door, and then vanished into the inky blackness of the unlit warehouse.