The marble eyes of the doll with the ponytails sticking out of both sides of its head stared at him with icy penetration.
Mr. Chan took the keys from his coat pocket and unlocked the shop door. The bell above the door tinkled. The smell of rancid meat was exhaled from within, like the last expelled breath of a dying man. He closed the door and hung his coat and hat on the coat rack and turned the “open” sign on the door. He then heard the sound of scraping on the floor coming from the middle aisle. Using his cane, he quickly went to the aisle.
The man he had put in the iron maiden was on his stomach, crawling on the tiles. His fingernails were gone and his hands were bloody. His shirt and pants were torn and there were gaping wounds in his side, shoulder and legs from where the spikes had gone through his body. There was a trail of blood and feces that followed him. His face was white as chalk and there was the look of madness in his eyes. “Why?’’ he groaned with every breath.
“How did you get out?’’ Mr. Chan exclaimed.
Avoiding the grasp of the man’s ravaged hands, Mr. Chan stepped around him. He grabbed the man’s foot, and using all of his strength, dragged the man to the laboratory door. Before opening the door he looked at the iron cabinet where the man had been for three days. A pool of the man’s blood was at the bottom and streaks of blood were on the inside of the front door where the man had tried to claw his way out.
Mr. Chan opened the door and dragged the man into the laboratory and turned on the lights. He rolled him onto his back and gazed at his head. “Even shrunken, it wouldn’t bring me much,’’ he said.
The man moaned, painfully.
Mr. Chan poked him with his cane. “Shut up, you. I don’t know who let you out but you’ve caused me all sorts of unexpected trouble this morning.’’ He put on a plastic apron and a pair of rubber gloves. “Heaven knows what diseases you’re carrying,’’ he said, glancing at the man’s deathly, yellowish pallor. He got a pair of regular scissors, a hacksaw, forceps, and a scalpel from a table top. He knelt on the floor, removed the man’s shoes and socks and cut the man’s clothes away. He tossed the scissors aside and sat at the man’s feet. “I’ll put what parts of you I can use later in the freezer, but some parts of you will have to immediately be incinerated, beginning with your stinky feet.’’
He put the hacksaw to the man’s right ankle and began to saw.
With what little strength the man had left, he tried to escape Mr. Chan’s grasp. As the saw tore into his skin and then bone, the man let out hoarse shrieking until he passed out.
When done, Mr. Chan put the man’s heart, lungs, eyes, genitals, nipples and teeth in the freezer. The rest of the man’s body he tossed in the incinerator.
He cleaned the laboratory, the iron maiden, and mopped the middle aisle floor. He locked the laboratory door just as the shop bell tinkled.
“I’ll be right with you,’’ he yelled.
When he arrived at the front of the shop, there was no one there. The shrunken heads that had been in the display window were lined up on the counter. “Who’s doing these things?’’ he said aloud.
He scooped up the heads and carried them to aisle one and set them on a shelf next to a taxidermied squirrel shot through with an arrow and a raccoon with a knife in its skull. He returned to the counter just as the mailman came through the door carrying a box.
“How are you?’’ Mr. Chan asked him.
He set the box on the counter. “I’m fine.’’ He looked around the shop. “This is an interesting place. You’re kind of hidden away back here. Do you get much business?’’
“When getting customers, the devil is in the details. A shop like mine would never be permitted on a main street.’’ Mr. Chan looked at the shipping label on the box. It was from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “You’re a new mail carrier,’’ Mr. Chan said to him.
“The last mailman who had this route disappeared recently.’’
The mailman took from a small box next to the cash register a small plastic bag. He held it up to his eyes and stared closely at the set of teeth inside the bag. “These look incredibly real, down to the cavities,’’ he said.