Flash Fiction Month 2019, Day 17
“Password?” grunted the bouncer through the metal shutter.
There was the sound of a bolt being drawn. The door swung open.
Grant tipped his hat and made his way down towards the basement, the “Oontz, oontz, oontz” of the music getting louder with every step.
Larry was at the bar as always, eating a Wilson’s Snack Pie: “Scrumptious Steak,” it looked like.
“I’m after some information,” said Grant.
“Aren’t you always?”
“Well I’m not here for the twelve-dollar mojitos.”
“Two-for-one on Fridays,” Larry pointed out. “But point taken. What is it this time?”
“Missing person.” He slid the photo across the bar. “You know anyone who might know something?”
“Not here, but try the docks. I hear Big Martha’s having trouble shifting her merchandise: if one of her competitors has anything to do with this disappearance, I’m sure she’d be only too happy to send you their way.”
“That’s Big Martha to you.” Big Martha gestured to a chair across the table from her in the cramped, damp cabin.
Grant took it. Down below, he could hear the bilge pumps running full bore.
Big Martha poured out a second glass of bourbon—and one for Grant.
He took that too. “I hear you’ve been having difficulties recently.”
“That’s no secret, but it’s not why you’re here. What is it? Do I owe someone money? One of my boys up to no good?” Big Martha ran a thumb under the strap of her eyepatch. “You wouldn’t be here if you wasn’t gonna tell me.”
Grant took a deep gulp of bourbon and shook his head. “Nothing like that. Just been asked to find someone, that’s all.” He set the Polaroid down on the table.
Big Martha put her hand over it. “You don’t come to me with questions. You want stuff, that’s my job. You want answers, get ‘em from Larry. I keep my head down and my goods coming—it’s not in my interests to meddle.”
“Larry seemed to think you might want someone else to meddle for you this time around.”
Big Martha lifted her hand from the photo and studied it.
“Afraid I can’t help you,” she said, after a pause, “but I hear quite a few of my customers have been absent lately. There’s one name keeps coming up.”
She rummaged through the wastepaper basket by her chair and brought out a shiny plastic wrapper: “Wilson’s Snack Pies,” it read, in friendly, old-timey letters. “Chunky Chicken.”
“You think I should call the customer helpline?” asked Grant.
“I think you should talk to Tinfoil Kev.”
Tinfoil Kev was in his office, which was in the stairwell of the car park of the old Computer City.
“The steel rebar in the concrete stops them getting at your brain,” he explained, peeling the wrapper from a succulent Wilson’s Snack Pie. He held the pie—Piquant Pork—between his teeth while he smoothed the plastic-coated foil against the oil drum that served him for a desk. This wrapper joined several others (similarly neatly flattened) in a filing tray by his side.
“Who’s ‘them’ exactly?” asked Grant.
Kev took the pie out of his mouth. “Them,” he repeated, but more meaningfully this time. “There’s only two things can protect you: electromagnetic shielding, and protein. Are you getting enough essential amino acids?”
“I assume so, yeah.” Grant needed more information, but Kev didn’t seem like the sort of person who’d need any sort of push. Sure enough…
“These Wilson’s Snack Pies are the ideal source of nutrition: full of goodness, and very moreish indeed. Not surprised Martha’s clients are drifting away. People only use drugs to fill a void. And these pies?” He took a big bite, savoured it, and swallowed. “These fill it much better.”
He wiped his fingers on his cargo pants before adjusting his hat.
“But there must be more to those than just what it says on the packet. Everybody’s got secrets, right? And I get the feeling you’d be the one to know them.” He placed the photograph on the rusting surface of the oil drum.
But “Oh, no,” said Kev, taking Grant by surprise. “If you want to know more, you’ll have to go to the source…”
Grant made his way through the Wilson factory floor, belly gun drawn and ready. Something wasn’t right here: Wilson’s Snack Pies were huge. The machines should have been running 24/7, but these didn’t even look used.
“So you’ve found me.”
Suddenly, she was there, walking between two industrial ovens. But then…
“You were never really missing, were you?”
“No,” she conceded. “But of course, it was never really me you were looking for.”
“What?” Grant lowered his weapon.
“Why don’t I show you downstairs?”
Grant followed her into the walk-in freezer, where she swung aside a set of shelves to reveal a hidden passage.
“It’s time you learned the truth about Wilson’s Snack Pies,” she said as they reached the bottom of the stairs.
“I think I already know,” he said, revolver still in hand. “Wilson’s Snack Pies: they’re made out of—”
“Only the choicest cuts of free-range meat!” A moustachioed man in a white suit swivelled in his chair to face them. “I’m Roger Wilson, delighted to meet you!”
Grant lifted his gun once more. “Why are you here?” he demanded.
“Why, for the same reason you are, of course! For the same reason this entire fictional universe exists: to sell my high-quality savoury treats.”
Wilson pointed to Grant’s pocket. “You’ve been showing that photograph to a lot of people today. Why don’t you take a look at it yourself? See what you’re really searching for?”
Clumsily, Grant retrieved the photo from his right pocket with his left hand.
There was no face, no image, only a single phrase: “The delicious taste of Wilson’s Snack Pies.”
The gun slipped from Grant’s fingers and clattered to the floor. “Wilson’s Snack Pies,” he murmured, tears streaming down his face. “They’re delicious.”