Harvey Mills flicked on the neon sign that had buzzed under Mills & Son Butchers for decades. The word “open” sprang to electric red life, as did an animated falling cleaver. It was supposed to fall on a neon pig, but the big had burned out long ago and Harvey didn’t see the need to replace it. After all, he already had all the customers he was ever going to have, no matter what he chose to decorate the place with.

Behind the counter, Harvey Mills Jr. was already sharpening the knives. The poor boy was simple, but over the years that it had been just the two of them he’d proved that there was an admirable butcher behind those thick glasses. Best of all, the boy didn’t ask questions.

Hellen Branderburger was the first customer of the day. She pulled her beat-up old Eagle around back. “Good morning, Harvey,” she said. “I’ve some meat to submit to you for butchery. Think you can make me a nice pot roast out of it?”

Harvey peeked under the sheet. It was Hellen’s identical twin sister, Ellen Brandenburger, sans a few vital bits. He looked at her and raised an eyebrow.

“You know that we had solved our differences long ago by agreeing only to go out on alternating days,” Hellen said. “I had tired of her abuse. This was the last time she took two days in a row by getting up early. Luckily, no one wil notice.” She flashed a pile of hundred dollar bills beneath Harvey’s nose. “Will they?”

“I do believe I’ve had a sudden attack of amnesia,” Harvey said, “for I do declare I can’t recall a word you’ve said after ‘pot roast.'” He turned to Junior. “Get it started.”

The last person to arrive was the librarian, J. Custerwood Davis. He’d been hunting, and had what looked like a pair of buck under a tarp in his truck that doubled as the local bookmobile. “I’d very much appreciate it if you could get the horns off clean,” he said to Harvey. “They’d be lovely to decorate the reading room in the library with, I think.”

Harvey lifted the other part of the tarp, revealing the body of Gussert McLaughlin, shot through the head. “And this one?”

“That one’s going in with the venison to make some nice sausages for the library opener,” said Davis. “It also means someone won’t have anymore overdue books or constantly be taking showers in the bathroom. It won’t be a problem, will it?”

Shaking Davis’s hand, Harvey took the proffered $100 bills that had been concealed in the friendly outstretched paw. “I have a sudden sensation of memory loss,” the butcher said. “I’ll have to avail myself of a book on the subject.”

“I can help with that, I think,” said Davis.

“Junior!” Harvey cried. “Get it started.”

As the neon light flicked off, Junior walked over to his father. “What if they tell somebody?” he said haltingly.

“We’ve done a little butchery for everybody in town, Junior,” replied Harvey. “I think we’ll be just fine.”

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