The Durleys hire a pest control company to control their rat problem. The poor technician has to deal with not only them, but an unexpected surprise. (Inspired by a conversation on the way to din...
By Mayura Nacht
One more check, Diana Quatermain told herself as she pulled up in front of the house. Setting the parking break, she switched off the ignition and gathered her clipboard. She glanced at the name on the service card and cringed. Not these people .
Opening the door of her white pickup truck, she took a moment to compose herself and paste on the friendly, adorable smile that was famous amongst her co-workers for disarming even the most frazzled client. It was best to appear confident and sincere when dealing with a client who had a rodent infestation, she reminded herself, shutting the door with a hard slam. Everything usually went smoother.
That's not to say she didn't have her share of problems, being a female exterminator for Eaton Rodent and Pest Control. People didn't want to believe she knew what she was doing. Since she was also short and stocky, they somehow thought she was afraid of heights. There had been a number of chauvinistic pigs who'd even gone as far as to call her "little lady" and told her to call her boss to get a "big man" to come deal with their rats instead. Diana loved the looks on their faces when she told them that her boss, Louisa, would be more than happy to hear their concerns.
Retrieving her torch and gloves from the tool box in the bed of the truck, she steadied herself to deal with the newest chauvinistic pig on her tally sheet. If she was lucky, the wife would be home instead, although she was almost worse than him. Unlatching the stepladder from its rack, she pulled it down, hefted it over one shoulder, and, balancing her torch on her clipboard, headed up the front walk.
"I am certain I heard one go off last night. You should have gotten here sooner."
Diana kept smiling as Petunia Dursley let her into the house. Part of her wanted to explain their policy on checking rat traps, again, but she knew it wouldn't help. This was the third time they'd been out there this week and it was only Tuesday.
"I'm terribly sorry Mrs. Dursley," Diana smiled. "We try to be here as quickly as possible, but I have to obey the traffic laws."
"We should have been first on the list this morning," Petunia replied tersely, stepping away to allow Diana to enter.
Wiping her feet on the door mat, Diana entered, turning to allow her client to shut the door. Even though she knew where the hatch to the attic was, experience had taught her to wait for Petunia to lead the way.
The attic hatch was in the linen closet on the upper story which had been emptied for easier access. The contents neatly stacked on the bed in the spare bedroom for the time being.
It took a minute for Diana to set up her step ladder and open the hatch. Perching on the second to top rung, she stuck her head up and checked the closest traps. Below her Petunia continued a running commentary on how many rats she supposed were up there.
"All night long they kept me up. They ran back and forth and I know I heard at least eight or ten of them. I hope there's not more. If you find a dead one, I don't want to see it. They're vile things and I don't want to see their mangy bodies. You do have a bag to carry all the bodies out in, correct?"
"I always have one in my clipboard or pocket," Diana assured flipping on her torch and shining it up in the attic. The rat traps closest to the hatch were empty and the bait was still there. Feeling slightly disappointed, she slowly began scanning the rest of the attic.
If she could find one rat, she'd be happy. Then she could snatch the corpse, reset and bait the trap and be on her way.
Suddenly her light caught a large shape. Frowning, Diana traced the shape with her torch. It was too large to be a rat, but it was right amongst the cluster of traps she'd left along the North side.
Pulling herself a bit further in, she balanced on the top of her step ladder, the light still on the shape. Clutching her torch tightly, she hoped that someone was playing a prank on her, because if that was what she thought it was then she might actually take Sam up on his offer to go to the pub after rounds tonight.
It was the body of a man, in his forties she guessed. His head was twisted so that it faced away from her. She could see the bald patch on the top of his head, which for some reason bothered her immensely. Dark rumpled clothes that appeared several sizes too big pooled around him, obscuring the rest of his body. The collar on his jacket was pulled down, revealing a large reddish purple bruise that ran in a straight line dissecting his neck and shoulders.
"Did you find any rats?" Petunia's voice echoed behind her. "There's more than ten of them aren't there? I told you yesterday you put down too few traps."
"There aren't any." Diana fought the urge to rush back to the hatch and hurl herself through it.
"That's absurd! I know I heard them! Are you blind?"
Diana, didn't answer. Stay calm, remember you're a professional. You handle dead bodies all the time. This one just happens to be bigger than normal.
Quickly she flashed her light down the rest of the North side of the attic, checking for more bodies, human or rat. Nothing.
"What is taking so long? You said there weren't any bodies. Do you know what you're doing?" Petunia snapped, drumming her fingers along the ladder.
Oh, there's a body.
Diana crawled back to the hatch as quickly as she could, but before she got turned around she heard a gasp. Petunia had climbed up the ladder after her and was staring, open mouthed at the corpse.
"I AM TELLING YOU THERE IS A DEAD MAN IN MY ATTIC!" Vernon Dursley roared into the telephone, deafening the officer on the other end. He'd arrived home just in time to hear his wife let out a scream, and hurried to her rescue as quickly as his bulk would allow.
After helping his shaking, barely coherent wife to their bedroom, he'd stalked back to the attic hatch to address the technician, only to find her climbing down the ladder, her face pale.
He didn't approve of this young woman being his technician, but he didn't have a choice in the matter according to her boss. Right now, he didn't care.
"NO! I wouldn't have called you if this was a prank!" he yelled. Fingers clenched tightly on the receiver, he half-listened to the officer, as if getting ready to punch the man on the other end. "I've NEVER seen this man before in my life! I don't know HOW he got into my attic, he's just THERE!"
At the kitchen table, Diana sat watching him, her hands clutching her clipboard and wondering what she was going to write on the service card about this. Attic checked, no rats, one dead man, need to use different bait. She didn't think Louisa was going to believe her. Hell, she barely believed herself.
"NO I'M NOT DRUNK! YOU CAN ASK THE TECHNICIAN, SHE'S THE ONE WHO FOUND IT!"
Diana's head snapped up as Vernon stalked across the room. He shoved the phone at her.
"You talk some sense into them!" he snapped. Towering over her, he waited as she put the receiver to her ear.
"Hello?" she asked.
"Are you the technician?" the slightly exasperated voice of the officer inquired.
"Yes, and no, he's not drunk." She paused. "I'm not drunk either," she added.
"Can you tell me what happened?"
Diana went over everything she'd done, adding information from yesterday's inspection. . Remaining calm and professional, she answered each question the officer asked as clear and concisely as possible. When she was finished she handed the telephone to Vernon and sat back.
Vernon gave a few affirming grunts before hanging up.
"They're sending someone finally," he snarled. "You're to wait here."
For once, Diana didn't bristle at the condescending tone.
"Bloody hell," Sam muttered staring at Diana as she finished her paperwork at the office two hours later. "A corpse, in the attic?"
"I'm not making it up, I COULDN'T make this up," she declared, dumping her service cards on the billing agent's desk.
"No wonder you asked me to wait before heading to the pub," he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "How do you suppose he got in there?"
Diana shrugged. The question had been bothering her all night. "That's what I can't figure out. That's the big mystery. It's like he magically appeared there or something."
"Perhaps he's the rat king? Or maybe he turned into a rat only to be caught by the trap when he got hungry?" Sam half-joked, giving her a wink and a cheesy grin.
Diana sighed and grabbed her coat. "Come on, you said you'd buy me a drink."
In a secluded glen, a circle of black hooded figures watched their master pace.
"Has anyone seen Wormtail?" Voldemort questioned.
"Not since he left on his information gathering mission yesterday," one of the hooded figures replied. There were several polite nods and someone mumbled, 'thank goodness'. No one bothered to comment further.
"We'll have to start without him," the Dark Lork hissed.