Pest Control: An Assassin Bug Thriller #1

Pest Control: An Assassin Bug Thriller #1

Bob Dillon can't get a break. A down-on-his-luck exterminator, all he wants is his own truck with a big fiberglass bug on top -- and success with his radical new, ...

About The Author

Bill Fitzhugh

Bill Fitzhugh is the award‑winning author of eight satiric crime novels. The New York Times called him "a strange and ...

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

His eyes were metallic blue jewel beetles peering out at the world from underneath a pair of furry black caterpillars. He was in good shape for thirty-five, with broad shoulders and nicely muscled arms. Topping off his six-foot frame was a swarm of dark, wavy hair and a gentle smile that lent him an affable aspect, a chewy niceness. Just looking at him you’d never guess he was a professional killer.

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.

Bob Dillon.

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 pro-thorax 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.

Mystery Delivered Monthly

The Poisoned Pen Press Newsletter

FacebookTwitterEmail
Goodreads