New Pulp Press

"Bullets, Booze and Bastards"

Sample story from:
Two Pumps for the Body Man
A Diplomatic Noir

Shouts and sirens drowned the urgent chatter on Jeff Mutton’s two-way. The diplomatic security agent shut his catalogue – women’s footwear – and grabbed the phone. “What is it?” he demanded of the Marine standing post.
“National Guard up and down the street. I’ve zero visibility at Alpha gate.”
“What’s the problem?”
“Saudi troop transport parked in front of the camera.”
The radio blasted static. More chatter. Mutton didn’t understand the Arabic, not even after two years in the Kingdom. But he understood his crawling nerves and the prickling hairs on the back of his neck. He turned down the radio and paced like a bulldog, restrained by the phone’s short leash. Squat, muscular, square-shouldered, Jeff Mutton resembled a bulldog: no neck, a glower, a crewcut.
“Lock us down now!” he ordered. “No one in or out. I want everyone under a desk.” Everyone meant a score of souls at the American Consulate, a bitch of a situation in the bald desert heat, Saudi militants all around. “I’ll get Hassan to work the truck. Give me one minute, then hit the duck and cover.”
More sirens as Mutton dialed. Popping: gunfire. “What do you make of it?” he asked his deputy.
“Interior Ministry,” said the cool Yemeni. “Going after their fifty most wanted.”
Mutton knew the neighborhood. A maze of old buildings opposite his compound. “Can you reach Ghani? His truck’s blocking our view at Alpha gate. We need –”
 – the hi-low alarm wailed, obliterating all other sound, Mutton’s voice included. “Dammit!” he shouted. “Meet me at Post One!”
Mutton crouched behind his desk and locked the footwear catalogue in a drawer with his Bible. He spider-crawled to the Mosler safe and grabbed his Sig Sauer P229. He eyed the shotgun rack, decided he was going outside, and grabbed his short-barreled Colt. He slid a polished black holster onto his belt and locked an 11-round clip in the Sig. He took his Kevlar vest off a peg and shouldered in.
Mutton pushed through the heavy door to the lobby. There stood Hassan, the big Yemeni majestic in his floor-length thobe. No Kevlar. Cool.
Mutton signaled and Decker released the locks on the heavy ballistic doors. Mutton pushed out. Shouts and sirens filled the afternoon. The heat pressed down as Mutton crouched along toward the gate. Hassan moved beside him, erect and unaffected.
“Not a drill,” Mutton told the guards in the control room. He looked out the ballistic door separating his secure environment from the threat outside. National Guard lorry in front. Squad cars at either end of the street. Masked soldiers guarding an empty prison wagon. Up and down the street goons from Interior carried themselves like cops anywhere: glowering and severe, thick black mustaches drooping like frowns, sharp noses and heavy foreheads over thick-lidded eyes. They gathered in clusters and spoke into radios, handguns in black leather holsters, straps crossing at the back of their white thobes.
“What do you make of it?” he asked Hassan, stalling, unwilling to go out.
“Standard round up.”
Mutton looked again. Up the street to the left the mosque, minaret peering over his wall. Behind the mosque the Kingdom Hospital, it’s glass façade rising twenty stories above his 40-acre compound. Mutton looked for Ghani.
“There!” A Filipino guard pointed with his radio.
A line of bearded men, bound at wrist and ankle, marched toward the prison wagon. They wore short, dirty thobes. They walked in a hobbled line.
“Terrorists,” Mutton said, unconvinced.
Hassan Ali lifted his chin. “Ghani.”
Mutton saw the handsome commander emerge from Hajrayn. He moved fluidly, a man most at ease raiding terrorist safe houses.
Mutton radioed Post One to kill the alarm and unlock the door. An eerie silence settled. Ghani stepped in and the Marine locked it back down.
“My friend,” Ghani said. He hadn’t broken a sweat. “You like it?”
“Not in my front yard, no.”
“Not to worry, my good friend. It is protection. To keep our best allies safe.” Ghani’s eyes twinkled. Stubble darkened his cheeks.
Mutton hated having to trust Ghani. “What’s going on?”
“We had a tip.”
“You couldn’t warn me?”
Ghani shook his head. “I am sorry. Eyes and ears everywhere.”
Mutton understood. He also eavesdropped. “What have you found besides prisoners?”
“My good friend. We will do forensics on the crime scene.”
“Weapons? Explosives? Maps? Any leads on what they were watching?”
“We will persuade them to talk.”
“The consulate?”
“As yet, I do not know. You can’t rule it out.”
“Commander Ghani, the truck –”
 – Loud pops erupted. POP POP POP. Ministry agents rushed in packs toward the intersection, toward the gunfire. POP POP POP. Ghani whirled and pushed the door but it didn’t budge. He pushed until Mutton pulled him back. Both men watched through the blast-resistant glass – agents rushing into Hajrayn, weapons drawn.
Mutton lost his breath before he heard the blast. They all hit the deck. On the street now agents ran from the intersection. A cloud of dust and smoke, then a thick plume, pushed out from the maze and up over the buildings opposite the consulate.