At the end of the aisle, the man stopped and stared at the guillotine. “That ever been used?’’ he asked.

“It’s very old,’’ Mr. Chan said, “so I’m sure it was used at one time.’’

The man walked past the guillotine and went from one torture implement to the next, studying each one carefully. He stopped at the iron maiden. “Will getting in that kill ya?’’ he asked.

“Not immediately,’’ Mr. Chan said. “You should step in it and see how it feels.’’

The man laughed nervously. “If I get in it, you’re not going to close it on me or anything like that, are you?’’

“Of course not,’’ Mr. Chan said.

The man stepped into the iron maiden. He settled back, testing the feel of his head in the head space.

Mr. Chan quickly closed the door and turned the bolt, locking it. He could hardly hear the man’s screams.

The shop door bell tinkled at the same time as the blade of the guillotine suddenly dropped. A metallic sound reverberated in the back of the shop. Mr. Chan raised the blade and tied it in place, although he was certain he had secured it before this. When finished, he heard voices in the third aisle and walked over to it.

A middle-aged couple were both holding masks. She was petite with gray streaked black hair. He was on the verge of being obese, bald and with a large bright red handlebar mustache. Both were dressed in shorts and Hawaiian-style floral print tops, as if they has just stepped off of a cruise ship.

“Welcome to my shop,’’ Mr. Chan said from the end of the aisle.

The woman looked up and saw Mr. Chan’s shadowed figure and let out an involuntary gasp. She dropped a mask of Hannibal Lecter on the floor.

Mr. Chan took several steps forward. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you,’’ he said.

The man picked up the mask and put it on a shelf. “We shouldn’t have just come barging in here,’’ he said. “But this sure is an interesting shop you have here.”

“I apologize,’’ the woman said. “When I first saw you . . .in the light . . . well. No offense but I thought you were Quasimodo, you know, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She placed her fingers on her lips where they fluttered, nervously.

“You have to forgive Wanda,’’ the man said. “She’s the timid type.’’ 

“It’s just that we never do anything like this,’’ Wanda said. “We saw your sign out on the street and just had to see what kind of shop it was so that we could tell the folks back home about it. Those heads and that doll in your display window, well, they look so lifelike.’’

“There she goes,’’ the man said, “just jabbering on.’’ He put the mask he was holding in his hand to his face. It was Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask from “Friday the 13th.’’ 

“You look horrifying, Frank,’’ Wanda said.

Frank lowered the mask and looked at Mr. Chan. “Did you know your coat rack is laying on the floor?’’

“Yes, it fell over and I haven’t had time to pick it up,’’ Mr. Chan said. “Was there anything in particular you were looking for?’’

Frank put his mouth close to Mr. Chan’s ear and whispered, “Do you have any kind of sex potions? It’s for the little missus. She’s lost interest and we’re in town for a few days to celebrate our twenty-third anniversary. You know what I’m gettin’ at?’’

Mr. Chan glanced at Wanda who was looking at a female vampire mask.

“I think I have exactly what you need,’’ Mr. Chan whispered back to him.

The couple left the shop with a bag that held two masks and a bottle of Mr. Chan’s potion.

He righted the coat rack and brushed off his hat and coat and hung them on it. He went behind the counter and took out a small cardboard box from a lower shelf. He placed it on the counter and sorted through the items inside it: watches, wallets, earrings, rings, a mailman’s name tag, a change purse. Just as he found a man’s ring with 666 engraved on the inside, the door to the shop blew open.

Startled, Mr. Chan dropped the ring. It rolled under the counter.


The Devil is in the Details

Mr. Chan stared into the shop display window. The six shrunken heads that had been hanging in the display were gone. The rest of the items were untouched.

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