Mr. Chan transferred the bell again. “Is your friend into the occult?’’

“He was,’’ she said. “He disappeared over a week ago. He’s a witch.’’

“Would I have known him?’’ he asked.

“Perhaps. He was very familiar with this shop. His name is Ben Hawthorn.’’

Looking down the middle aisle, Mr. Chan saw the door to the shop open. A policeman walked in.

“Excuse me for a moment,’’ Mr. Chan said to the woman. He walked past her and down the aisle. Just before he greeted the cop, he looked down the middle aisle. The young woman was gone.

“Can I help you, officer?’’ Mr. Chan said to the policeman.

The cop held up a poster with a picture on it of the little girl with pony tails. “This little girl has been missing for nearly a week. Do you mind if I put this poster up by the door so your customers can see it? Her parents are inconsolable.’’

“That’s understandable,’’ Mr. Chan said. “Of course you can put it up.’’

The policeman taped the poster to a wall and left the shop.

Mr. Chan placed the bell on the counter. He ripped the poster down, wadded it up and threw it in the waste basket. He then locked the door, turned the sign on the door to “closed” and pulled down the shade. He went to the laboratory and took the apron off of Wanda’s body and put it on. He then removed what she was wearing and threw her undergarments and nylons into the incinerator. He then filled a bucket with soapy water and shaved and washed her body.

He took the hand-crank meat grinder from a cabinet and clamped it on the dissection table. Using a butcher knife and bone saw he carefully dissected Wanda’s body. He fed her skin, fat, muscle and internal organs through the grinder. He put some of the ground meat in the freezer and some in the refrigerator. Except for the skull, he threw her bones into the incinerator.

At the sink he scraped off the tissue that remained on the skull and then scrubbed it clean. With Wanda’s skull in his hands he left the laboratory.

In the middle of the floor just outside the laboratory was the ring with 666 engraved on it. He picked it up and put it in his pocket.

He put Wanda’s skull in the display window, and re-positioned Ben’s skull so that it stared upward. He went to the front of the shop and put the bell back above the door and then put on his coat and hat. He then shut off the lights and left the shop.


Dead Things Don’t Stay Dead

Halloween morning Mr. Chan stood at his shop door holding a bag of parsley and admired how the ring looked on his finger, although it was a bit loose. He opened the door and was met with an exhalation of heat and the scent of sulfur. As he went in the bell tinkled. He removed his coat and hat and hung them on the coat rack. He pulled up the shade and turned the “open” sign. A sudden noise made his turn around.

The shrunken heads were lined up, upright, on the counter. Their leathery, withered faces and stitched eyes were facing him. The twine he had used to sew their mouths shut had broken on all of them.

“You took my life,’’ one of them said.

Another one said, “May you rot in hell for what you’ve done to me.’’

Ben Hawthorn said, “My murder will be avenged.’’

Mr. Chan grabbed the waste basket and threw the heads into it. He rushed to the back, opened the laboratory door, ran in and pitched the heads into the incinerator. He turned on the flames, shut the door, and stood back and listened to the shrieks that came from within the incinerator.

He then put on his plastic apron and took a tray of Wanda’s ground flesh from the refrigerator and set it on the stove. He turned on a burner and put oil in a pan and placed the pan on the burner. When the oil started to sizzle he scooped flesh into the pan, added salt, pepper and curry and fried it. He then opened one of the jars of fingers, with their fingernails extracted, and poured them onto the table. The liquid they had been kept fresh in smelled like brine, with an additional ingredient he couldn’t identify. He carefully pulled out the bones and cartilage, replacing them with spoonfuls of Wanda’s fried flesh. After placing the fingers neatly on a metal tray, he salted and peppered them and added sprigs of parsley.

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