Pest Control 

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The carpenter had just finished fixing the tarp when they burst in. Two men, dragging a third between them. He recognized them as Johnny and Vic Tully — enforcers for a local mobster.

“Jesus, what’s that smell?” said Johnny.

The carpenter wiped his hands with a rag. “Can I help you gentlemen?”

They pulled the man over to the counter, and forced his hand palm-down in front of the carpenter. The man had a freshly minted black eye.

Johnny grinned. “This guy owes Mr Vardas a finger. You’re going to take it for us.”

The carpenter leaned back against the cash register. “That isn’t my line of work.”

“You know Mr Vardas, right? You’re operating a business in his territory. Look on it as back taxes. A one-time lump-sum payment.”

Vic walked around the counter and placed a heavy hand on the carpenter’s shoulder. The carpenter looked at the hand, and then back at Johnny.

“Mean to tell me you gentlemen aren’t able to do this thing yourselves?”

Johnny ran a thumb across his lips. “Mr Vardas wanted us to see how you’d do it. You know, as a craftsman.”

The black-eyed man whimpered.

The carpenter shrugged, and fetched his toolkit. Johnny sniffed.

“But seriously, what is that smell?”

The carpenter took out a mallet. “Vinegar. I got ants.”

“Ants. Well, they must be a problem in your line of work.”

“You have no idea. Whole state’s rotten with them.”

The carpenter held up a chisel. Johnny’s eyes moistened.

“You’re going with the chisel then?”

“That’s right. A chisel and a mallet. I figure that’s the most efficient method, to remove a finger.”

He placed the chisel on the knuckle of the man’s pinkie, and raised the mallet. He looked at Johnny.

“You know Johnny, I do know Mr. Vardas.”

He brought the mallet down hard with a dull crack.

Johnny looked at the chisel quivering upright, pinning the cuff of his jacket to the counter.

The pinkie remained attached.

Johnny’s eyes cut up. “What the hell? This is a new jacket.”

The carpenter spun round and slammed the mallet into the side of Vic’s head in one smooth movement. Vic looked confused, as if he’d forgotten why he was there, and then he folded to the floor.

The black-eyed man shook off Johnny’s grip. He walked to the door, and locked it.

“I did some work for Mr Vardas actually,” said the carpenter. “A fine mahogany bookshelf.”

The black-eyed man marched over to the tarp behind the counter.

“And he was so impressed, he gave me another job, right away.”

The black-eyed man lifted the tarp, revealing two newly crafted coffins.

“See, he’s been having his own problem with pests. Two tax collectors, who like keeping the taxes for themselves.”

The black-eyed man cracked his knuckles.

The carpenter reached forward, and brushed Johnny’s cheek. “But don’t look so worried, kid. I treated the wood with vinegar, so the ants won’t get you.”

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Originally from England, Phill is currently based in Shanghai, working as a writer

and editor for a children’s education company where he works on comics, poems,

short stories and songs. In his spare time, when he’s not flitting between writing

projects, he draws, runs, and gets mildly obsessive about film history. He has a

phrase related to writing tattooed in Mongolian script on his left arm. Follow him on Tumblr at

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