He left the laboratory, closing the door behind him, and carried the tray of fingers to the front of the shop and placed it on the counter.
The front door of the shop burst open and then slammed shut. The bell fell from the door. The coat rack teetered on its wooden legs for a moment, and then tumbled over. His hat rolled across the floor.
“Who’s there?’’ Mr. Chan called out as he whirled about. From all directions there was the sound of steady breathing. The air was filled with the smells of ozone and ash. “Show yourself,’’ he demanded.
The young, blonde woman from the day before appeared on the other side of the counter. She picked up a finger and bit into it. “Very tasty,” she said. “Anyone we know?’’
Mr. Chan took several steps back. He held his cane out like a lance, as if to protect himself. “Who are you?’’
She took another bite of the finger. “I told a little white lie yesterday. It wasn’t a friend who disappeared. It was my brother. He and I belong to the same coven. That’s his ring you’re wearing.’’
“He didn’t tell me he was a . . .’’ Mr. Chan stammered, unable to finish.
“A witch,” she said. “Did you give him a chance to tell you what he was before you rendered him unconscious somehow and then ripped out his tongue?” She bit into the finger. “That is what you do first when you’re going to shrink someone’s head, isn’t it? You remove their tongue while they’re still alive.”
“He came in looking for a Halloween costume. How was I supposed to know?’’
“We’ve all turned a blind eye to what you do here because we knew it would only be a matter of time before you had to pay the price for what you do,” she said. “Dead things don’t stay dead. When they come back there’s usually hell to pay. But in this case it was my brother and a fellow witch you turned into a novelty, and for that there is no waiting until he returns.’’
She tossed aside the remainder of the finger and raised her hands.
“Please, wait,’’ Mr. Chan cried out.
The next moment he found himself tied to the chair in his laboratory. The woman was standing by the dissection table. A small mound of Wanda’s cooked flesh remained in the pan. She poked at it with her finger. “Too bad we don’t have time to exchange recipes.’’
A pair of tongue tearers rose from one of the tables, flew across the room, and landed in her open hand. She turned it over in her hands, examining it. “I’ve seen these before, but never used them. I want to do this right.’’
“Please, don’t,’’ Mr. Chan begged.
She stood in front of him and pushed his head back with one hand. With the other hand she forced his clenched mouth open with the pliers-like tongue tearers and grasped his tongue with them. As he screamed, she ripped his tongue out.
“Well, that was easier than I thought it would be,’’ she said. “But I’m certain my brother didn’t enjoy it any more than you did.’’
Mr. Chan spat out blood. Tears rolled down his cheeks.
“I won’t bother with removing your teeth,’’ she said. “That’s optional. But getting rid of your eyes is a must.’’
Mr Chan frantically shook his head.
“My brother had such pretty eyes,’’ she said as she looked into Mr. Chan’s.
She set aside the tongue tearers and summoned a spoon with a jagged edge from a table. She caught it in front of his face. She gripped his hair with one hand and with the other hand dug out the right eye, and then the left eye.
Blood poured from Mr. Chan’s mouth and from his empty eye sockets.
“I’m going to forgo the hard labor,’’ she said. She flicked her wrist and a pot of boiling water appeared on the stove above a large flame.
The bell above the shop door tinkled.
“Oh damn,’’ she muttered. She left the laboratory and walked to the front counter. The mailman was standing there looking at the fingers.
“Can I help you?’’ she asked.
“Mr. Chan was going to make me some finger foods,’’ he said. “These must be them.’’
“Yes, they are,’’ she said. “They’re very good. Go ahead and take them.’’
He picked up one of the fingers and bit into it. “Mmm, it must be filled with sausage.’’
“Something like that.’’
“How much do I owe him?’’
“He told me to give them to you as a way of saying thanks for delivering the mail,” she said. “He’s permanently closing the shop.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, but it’s really nice of him to give me these for free,’’ the mailman said. “Tell him I said thanks.’’ He picked up the tray and left the shop.
She turned the sign on the door to “closed,’’ pulled down the shade, and then returned to the laboratory.
Mr. Chan was spitting out blood.
“Now just a few things left to do,’’ she said.
She took the hacksaw and put it to his neck.