New Pulp Press

"Bullets, Booze and Bastards"

Sample story from Devious Pilgrims


Pamplona, Spain
April 12th, A month ago

SHE’D WALKED OVER to his table. We need to get the Who-What of this from the beginning. Dr. Grigor Bolian is pondering recent events, separating the scheme from fate. This one definitely falling in the fate category. He’d been sitting outside the hotel café at a two-seater table, sipping a glass of white and people watching.
That’s the important word, alone, nobody bothering anybody. Grigor didn’t ask for this; he didn’t plot or plan. No traps were set, so-to-speak.
Jessie Cole introduced herself with a little quiver and a half full whiskey already in her hand. An intelligent person would know the details of this woman before feeling her damp palm, seeing the jitter in her shoulders. The doctor had inhaled her scent. He could smell the pheromones.
Lets create a personals ad, shall we? Grigor thinks.
Mid-fifties, looks totally early forties. Curvy lady 38-32-43, 5’3”, 132 lbs. A sun and fun sort of gal. Can adapt to many lifestyles. Your happiness is number uno! Just divorced but not letting that get me down.
Forty minutes later they are in his hotel room and naked.
“Oh c’mon, darling, tighter.” Jessie says this when he ties her wrists with the silk scarves she’d given him – yellow, royal blue, cherry red. “Don’t be a pussy,” she says, an attempt at humor, then she does a snort-laugh.
Now the doctor wants to poison the bitch just for that stupid laugh. Mushroom tea is the best way. Mushrooms can take six days to a half-month to kill a person, mostly kidney failure. More than enough time for him to travel elsewhere.
“—Maybe too tight,” Jessie says. Her fingers have gone numb.
“Just keepin’ it real.”
“You’re so ethnic.”
Amanita Ocreata. Ramaria formosa. On occasion Dr. Grigor Bolian will whisper the names to himself. Isn’t it poetic, almost symphonic? Listen. Gyromitra esculenta.
Boletus subvelutipes. Amanita phalloides. His passions live in shadowed ground, under spruce and pine, amid Douglas-fir and oak, the beech trees and eastern hemlock, laurel and rhododendron. Many gather in fairy rings.
Fairy rings, can you believe it? Such a kick.
“I’m not a tea person,” the woman tied to the headboard says. Her thighs and stomach are fleshy, pale and loose, a Jackson Pollack spray of blue veins. “Tea gives me gas. Believe me, darling, that’s not an ordeal you want to go through. Talk to my ex, I’m sure he’d have stories to tell.”
God, really? Grigor can’t believe it. Pity the dear boy.
Some mushrooms have a white, cottony veil, some come with pores of scarlet and brilliant orange, others pale yellow, others a bruised, inky black. Dr. Bolian will discuss these creatures to anyone who shows the barest interest. He will spice his narrative by describing how efficient each kills.
Recently he acquired a new employer – an artist whose work he’s always admired, particularly the man’s bullfight sketches.
One wonders if they have fairy rings in Spain.
“See what you do to me?” Jessie says, “See how comfortable I feel? I can even discuss my bowels with you.”
“I’m honored.” A forced half smile.
This afternoon Dr. Bolian brought one of his favorite mushrooms to the hotel, the Amanita ocreata, a.k.a., the Death Angel. When discovered and picked, it has the look of a small, circumcised penis.
“Perhaps you could order me another whiskey.” The woman nods to the empty glass tumbler on the floor by the bed. “Bourbon beats the hell out of tea.”
“Oh you’ll love this tea.” He doesn’t want to think about the woman flatulating. Bad enough he has to see her naked. An hour or so ago he’d taken off his clothes. Just before that, Bolian had placed a folded square of paper, something like a tiny envelope, next to a coffee cup on the nightstand. Now Grigor taps the powdery contents into the cup. “It’s an aphrodisiac, you know.”
“—Good, very good,” comes a whisper, not from the woman but from a place inside Grigor Bolian’s brain. “Go for the potions, that’s the spirit!”
Today the disembodied voice Grigor has named The Commander is doing its very best to guide his life again.
“Oh and let me give you additional kudos!” The Commander says. Congrats on being practically invisible. Best look for a man in your circumstance, my friend.
Average looking men are perfect for all sorts of clandestine ventures. But you must work on your walk. Too cocky. Too I’m Letting You Live in My World, if you my drift. One needs to develop a humble walk.” The Commander has a Reaganesque quality. Oh, it’s unmistakable. He is Grigor’s invisible boogeyman, his Hollywood Ah-Shucks cowboy.
“—Are you listening to me?” Jessie Cole going all pouty on him.
“You are in my every thought.”
“I’m being serious here.”
The commander is right. Dr. Bolian does have other business, more important business. The artist, Raymond Mack, has sent the doctor two sets of photographs, three of his daughter, Lili, and three of Isaac Stalin, his target, the man he’s been hired to kill. He only needs to see the photos once but he is a man who likes to cross his “t”s and dot his “i”s. He keeps the pictures in the inside pocket of his tan linen suitcoat.
“Is ‘Bolian’ an American name?” The Commander again.
“It’s Armenian,” Grigor says, the umpteenth time. You’d think the bitch would pay attention.
“Your men grow fine mustaches.”
“No one in my family wears a mustache.”
“—Excellent. Eighty-three percent of the men in America don’t wear facial hair, either. It says, ‘I must hide my face from you. I am a man with secrets’ No facial hair, no secrets. This is bullshit, of course, but it sounds right to people, sounds honest and American.”
These thoughts are interrupted by the woman.
“Did you tell me the tea was an aphrodisiac?” She’s perked up.
“That’s what people say.”
“—What people?”
“Orgasms can go on for hours.”
“—What people?”
“Those in the know.”
“Is that the truth?” Flirting with him; actually batting her eyes. “Are you sure you don’t want to take advantage of little me?”
The woman is totally naked and tied to the bed. Dr. Amazing has fucked her twice. Advantage taken. Points scored. It’s the tied up part that excites him. Grigor wonders what parallel world the female creature calls home.
A breeze goes through the open windows of the hotel room, billowing the gauzy white curtains, the air damp and chilled. The northwest part of Spain has showers and clouds in April.
“This should be great fun,” The Commander says. Grigor pictures his imaginary friend’s head wobbling as he talks, Mr. Shaky Head. “You’re quite the card. Due to your Armenian heritage, no doubt. Are the Armenians similar to the Jews? I got so tired of the Jews. They ruined my movie career, you know.”
Muted laughter occurs when Grigor ignores him.
He doesn’t blame The Commander. Bolian is willing to accept his share of the responsibility. A man who kills for fun and money is going to get harassed by the paranoid movie-political types.
Dr. Grigor Bolian once diagnosed himself as a Schizophreniform Disorder in 1989, the year he received his MD at the University of Virginia, that winter roughly coinciding with Ronald Reagan giving George H. W. Bush the keys to the country. Grigor realizes his condition has lasted far more than six months, the limit for his original diagnoses. He should be calling himself schizophrenic by now, but he hates going there.
“Such a troubled expression, darling,” the naked woman in the bed next to him says. The woman is a smoker who enjoys a good tan. Her bronze, dried skin has that cracked oil painting look. Her lipstick is faded from the day and the sex. The color bleeds along the tiny wrinkles of her lips. She tells him, “You are quite the lover.”
“I’ll order us a pot of hot water,” he says. “It’s tea time.”