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He lived in New York City, a place where, on average, someone was hit by gunfire every eighty-eight minutes. This annoyed him greatly because it was so hard to get noticed in a place like that. And if he was going to succeed as a paid killer, he was going to need a reputation. So right now he was out to make a name for himself—a name other than the one he had.
When he was born in March of 1963, his parents—Curtis and Edna Dillon of Newark, New Jersey—were thoroughly unaware that one year earlier, Robert Allen Zimmerman of Duluth, Minnesota had released his first album under the pseudonym Bob Dylan. So, looking back, it was purely a case of bad timing when Curtis and Edna named their son Bob.
Sure, it was spelled differently, but it sounded the same, and that was all that mattered. As a consequence Bob Dillon endured a humiliating childhood, all too frequently being forced by neighborhood bullies to sing the Dylan classic, "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35."
Bob hated doing this, not only because he couldn't sing and because he knew his off-key rendition would inevitably result in taunting and laughter, but also because he hated the song and couldn't understand why it was titled as it was since there was never any mention of women, rainy day or otherwise, much less those numbered twelve and thirty-five.
Neither could he ever understand how the song reached number two on the pop charts in 1966. To Bob it was just an endless succession of unimaginative variations on "They'll stone you when you're driving in your car ..." This carried on interminably until it reached its obtuse chorus of, "Everybody must get stoned!"
Bob always imagined his childhood wouldn't have been so bad had he been forced to sing "Like a Rolling Stone" or "Mr. Tambourine Man"—songs he actually enjoyed. Fortunately, Bob possessed a resilient and compassionate character, so he never blamed his parents for the abuse he suffered at the hands of neighborhood bullies. In fact, except for the murderous profession he eventually undertook, Bob never showed even the slightest ill effect resulting from his name.
So, yeah, Bob planned on making a name for himself alright, but right now he had a contract to fulfill.
He opened the door and found himself standing at the top of a flight of stairs leading down into darkness. He hit the light switch, illuminating his khaki jump suit and the case he carried. It was dented and scuffed, evidence of a lot of jobs. A lot of killing.
Bob crept cautiously down the creaking wooden stairs, dodging spider webs as he descended into the dank basement. He crossed to a corner of the room where he set his case on the damp concrete floor. He flipped the rusting brass latches and threw it open.
As he reached into the case he glanced at his wrist and the solid-plastic Casio timepiece: 2:00 p.m. "Right on time," he muttered to a cockroach that scurried past.
With a practiced, almost mechanical, skill Bob picked up a long, slender tube and screwed it into an exotic-looking curved wooden handle. He attached a valve gate to the apparatus then connected one end of a hose to the tube and the other end to a small compression tank. Those tasks completed, he carefully opened a valve and pumped the plunger on the tank and then flipped the valve gate, watching as the cylinder pressure gauge jumped to three hundred pounds of attention. He smiled.
"I am here to deal death," Bob mused out loud. He chuckled to himself.
Next, he pulled a two-inch hole-drilling attachment from his case and attached it to the business end of a battery-powered Black and Decker drill. Then he tested it, whrrrrrrzzzzzzz.
Satisfied with his tool, Bob knelt and bored a hole near the baseboard. He pulled a penlight from his pocket, peered into the hole and saw what he was there to kill: Periplaneta Americana, a.k.a. the American cockroach. Dozens of them.
"If I had my way," Bob said wistfully, "your deaths would be much more dignified."
This wasn't idle chatter.
Not at all.
For Bob dreamed of a day when things would be different. Bob Dillon, Brooklyn exterminator, had invented an all-natural pest-control method that wouldn't poison the environment like conventional methods. In a best-case scenario, it was a method that just might make Bob rich.
His idea revolved around members of the Reduviidae family, insects commonly known as Assassin Bugs. These murderous invertebrates occupied a specific place in the overall scheme of things. Diagrammed, it looked just like this:
KINGDOM-Animal --PHYLUM–Arthropoda ---CLASS–Insecta -----ORDER–Hemiptera -------FAMILY–Reduviidae ---------GENERA–(several) ------------SPECIES–(several)
These menacing insects hunted and killed others in their Class with gruesome efficiency, using their rigid and powerful piercing mouthparts to puncture the outer layer of their prey and pump in a paralyzing saliva. The Assassins injected their quarry with amylase and pectinase, enzymes which pre-digested and liquefied their victim's internal tissues, which the Assassins then sucked up through their rostrum like a buggy milkshake.
Bob was working with eight species of these insects. He planned to cross-breed these species in hopes of creating the consummate Assassin Bug—a robust, hybrid strain of predacious insect exhibiting the most desirable combination of hunting and killing traits. One species of Assassin with which Bob was working with was the Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus), a voracious predator known to attack without hesitation and fearlessly suck dry insects twice its size, including even the largest species of cockroach.
The Wheel Bug was a stout grayish-black brute whose prothorax fanned upwards into a half-wheel of menacing coglike teeth along its midline, hence its common name. It's distinctive abdomen was characterized by what looked like tail-fins from a 1959 Cadillac. These dark dorsal ridges lay on its back at 45 degree angles and accentuated the bug's aura of menace.
Bob was also working with Masked Hunters (Reduvius per sonatus). These were relentless stalkers which brazenly entered human dwellings to secure meals of bed bugs, termites, and other insects. Stealthy and powerful, these rust-brown bugs had an intimidating and enlarged muscular thorax, as if augmented by doses of steroids and a weight program. Masked Hunters were known to pursue their quarry with an unforgiving single-mindedness that was both admirable and terrifying.
Bob imagined that the successful cross-breeding of these insects would result in a revolutionary new approach to pest management, not to mention a steady income. However, until he perfected his process of hybridization, Bob was forced to work for a franchised pest control outfit that flooded the environment with noxious poisons and required its employees to wear personality-robbing, soul-killing uniforms.
Over the left breast-pocket of Bob's uniform was a patch featuring a smiling, cartoonish insect underscored with the name: "BUG-OFF." Below, a smaller patch announced that this employee's name was "BOB." Bob found it all quite distasteful, but he had a family to feed and he took that responsibility very seriously. So every day he swallowed his pride, donned the uniform, and went to work. And today his work had brought him to the basement of a home at 536 8th Street in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.
Bob withdrew from the wall long enough to seize his killing device. He inserted the far end of the tube into the hole, then, almost shamefully, he pulled a white, air-filtering mask over his nose and mouth and moved his trembling index finger toward the trigger. The digit tensed as if to pull, but before engaging his weapon he stopped and relaxed his grip.
Just then another man approached, a man whose patches said "RICK" and "SUPERVISOR." The man spoke as supervisors often do, "Goddammit Dillon, now what's the friggin' problem?" His accent was unmistakably New Joisy.
Bob pulled down his mask.
"Can't do it, Rick," Bob replied. "I can't triple-up on the parathion anymore; it's unsafe. It gets into the food-chain."
"Yo, fuck you and the food-chain, Mr. Greenpeace, you got a goddamn job to do!"
And that did it. Bob reached the end of his rope with Rick, and, for that matter, with Bug-Off. Family or no family, Bob decided it was time to take the plunge with his own idea. His long-time dream would finally be tested on a practical basis. But first he had to get something out of his system.
Bob started by focusing intensely on Rick.
"Hey, yo! What are you starin' at, numbnuts? Get back to work." Rick tried to turn and walk away, but the unusual menace in Bob's eyes mesmerized him, and he stood helplessly as Bob raised his spray wand and inserted it into Rick's nose.
Bob pressed forward with the wand, lifting Rick's fleshy nostril while backing him toward the wall, his trigger finger twitching. Rick's nostrils flared back in fear. He knew what a triple dose of parathion would do, even to a fat-ass, son-of-a-bitch like him.
"You know Rick, you're right," Bob said. "I do have a job to do. First I've got to write a detailed letter to the EPA, with copies to the FDA, Labor Department, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and, what the hell, maybe even the Justice Department. I think they'll be quite interested in some of the more esoteric violations you encourage us to commit every day."
With the tube in his nose, Rick spoke with a funny accent, "Hey, Vov, if dis is avout a waise, all you have to do is full the vand out of my dose and we cad dalk."
"It's too late for talking, Rick. The gig's up," Bob said.
Rick didn't like the sounds of that, so he squinched up his eyes anticipating his imminent extermination. But, in a notable demonstration of restraint, Bob dropped the spray wand and ripped the grinning-bug patch from his jumpsuit.
"I quit," he said.
As Bob walked away, Rick regained his swagger. He retrieved Bob's spray wand and waved it in the air, yelling, "That's it! I've had it with your shit, Dillon! Your ass is fired!"
Bob waved goodbye with the middle finger of his right hand and headed up 8th Avenue to Union Street, then over to 4th to catch the Broadway Express, or even the Local. It would be the longer way home, but at least he wouldn't have to make any transfers. And the thing Bob needed most before he faced Mary with the good news was some uninterrupted time to think.
Though they deny it for propriety's sake, every national government worth a damn has at least one branch employing in-house assassins. The former Soviet Union had the KGB and the lesser known MVD and GRU. Great Britain has MI5, Israel has Shin Bet and the Mossad. In the United States, the CIA, NSC, FBI, and the Justice Department all have their own "cleanup men" on staff.
In lesser-developed countries small, unofficial police squads do the work; as do, for example, the Tonston Macoutes in Haiti. But most of those killers are relatively crude mercenaries compared to the outside professionals who are available for hire.
Klaus was considered, by those who knew about such things, to be the world's best assassin. There were others, of course, and among those who kept track there was general agreement on who the top five or six were at any time.
At this particular time, holding down the number two spot was an inordinately tall Nigerian whose name was unknown. The Far East boasted the world's number three killer in a man called Ch'ing. From the European community, coming in at four and five respectively, were the stunning and deadly Chantalle and the British cross-dressing dwarf, Reginald. The U.S. had a relative newcomer on the list—up eight spots with a bullet since the last survey—at number six. He was from Oklahoma and was known only as the Cowboy.
These people worked for governments and, occasionally, for absurdly wealthy members of the private sector. They lived in a small world and were keenly aware of their rankings on the charts, not unlike professional tennis players. One's fees was often negotiated based on one's current standings.
Klaus had been ranked number one for many years, handling even the most difficult assignments with aplomb. He had killed in twenty-seven countries, in both hemispheres, bypassing with minimal effort even the most elaborate security precautions. But Klaus was by no means a mercenary in the pure sense of the word. He did not accept every job he was offered; he was choosy, and he rigorously applied the same criterion to each offer. No amount of money could sway him from this.
Klaus' features leaned toward the Mediterranean. He was GQ handsome and somewhere in his fifties. His dove-grey eyes were warm and sad, not at all what people normally thought of as killer's eyes. His dark hair was sifted with grey and neatly styled.
Klaus' current job had brought him to one of those volatile African nations that confounded cartographers by changing names several times every few years. He was about to execute another contract.
The towering Nigerian had not been consulted on this matter for two reasons. One, assassins typically did not like to kill on the same continent on which they lived. The second, and more utilitarian reason was that the employers in this matter simply did not want to screw around with second best.
Klaus passed unnoticed through a doorway into a tall building on a street just off the parade route. Once inside, he slipped unseen through another door which led to some stairs. He quickly climbed the steps of the cool, dark stairwell still carrying in his right hand the small well-worn suitcase covered in a nondescript brown fabric. At the top of the stairwell, sunlight outlined a doorway which opened onto a roof. Klaus stopped at the door's sunlit perimeter, pulled a silenced handgun from his waistband, checked it, then calmly opened the door and eased into the damaging ultraviolet rays.
He scanned the roof and spotted a lone member of the military police positioned near the roof's edge smoking a cigarette, an old Soviet-made rifle slung uselessly on his shoulder. Troublesome, Klaus thought, but no problem. He slipped behind a bulky imported Eastern-Bloc air-conditioning duct, intentionally banging his suitcase on the dull metal to get the guard's attention.
The guard turned toward the sound and half-heartedly readied his old Soviet weapon. He figured some children had come onto the roof for a better view of the parade below. Just the same, he went to check it out.
He rounded the corner to Klaus' hiding place—Fwump! Fwump! Two silenced shots entered him from behind—one in the head, the other just right-of-center between the shoulder blades. Kill shots. Extremely professional.
The guard wobbled for a moment, a look of "Shit, I should have looked behind me" in his eyes. As he wobbled, Klaus snatched the maroon beret from the guard's head, then stepped aside as the guard crumpled limp to the ground, the burning cigarette still stuck to his dead lips.
"Sorry," Klaus said, and he meant it. Klaus didn't like to kill anyone who did not, in his estimation, deserve to die. But in matters of self-preservation, he was willing to make exceptions. That's the kind of guy Klaus was. "Besides," he reasoned aloud, "the cigarettes would have killed you anyway."
Excerpted from Pest Control by Bill Fitzhugh Copyright © 2011 by Bill Fitzhugh. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted June 14, 2014
If you’re here for your latest life lesson, it’s this: Don’t ever answer an exterminator ad. You might find your life terminated, after the CIA takes a hit out on you. Sure, the money sounds good and all, but fifty grand ain’t what it used to be. And if I have a choice between life and death, I think I’ll go with life, Bob.
PEST CONTROL finds us in the midst of a painful existence of one Bob Dillon (not to be confused with the Bob Dylan) who has some trouble with bugs after he shoves a garden hose up his boss’s nose. Yes, the man has anger management issues, and he’s probably breathed in his share of toxic fumes (which doesn’t really help his cause). What he lacks in employment, though, he more than makes up for in spirit. Or you could just call it gusto. He hops up on desks and shouts to the heavens and breeds beetles in his spare room and deals with one pissed off landlord on a semi-regular basis.
If that isn’t bad enough, he also has a hit man named Klaus (not to be confused with Santa) breathing down his neck. There’s also a little person who has a penchant for pink panties, which wouldn’t be so bad except the she is a he; a hit woman (after all we’re equal opportunity employers here) with a fondness for shoving white truffles down the gullet of her latest victim; a cowboy with his own rodeo and a fondness for killing; and other nefarious individuals who shall not be named.
If you’re looking for the straight and narrow, you won’t find it here. What you will find are enough strange individuals to fill an entire city block, an over-the-top plot that at times had trouble maintaining believability, dialogue that shuddered, a narrative that might have had a loophole or two in logic and a bit of a jump in time, and pages plastered with dead insects in every possible manner known to the pest community.
If you can believe it, this was even musical material. While I’m not sure I understand that particular angle, I did find myself amused at what took place over the course of this tale. If you have a penchant for half-baked tales that could have been composed on the back of a napkin after you (and possibly the author) surrounded yourselves in a smoke-filled haze, then this story’s for you. Just make sure you wash your hands first and then possibly after.
Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Posted September 5, 2012
No text was provided for this review.
Posted February 10, 2013
No text was provided for this review.