Smells Like Dark Honey

Jason Kocemba 9718 words 48 minute read

‘Beware the Hound’ said the sign tacked to a white painted gate.

The Honeyman saw no Hound on the path beyond the gate and no Hound on the lawn that flanked the cottage. What he did see, over and above the preponderance of molehills on the lawn, was the prospect of a sale.

Anyone who inhabited such a quaint abode, with its low stone wall and white gate, its red front door and floral window boxes, could not possibly resist The Pitch. Large neon arrows next to the word ‘profit’ appeared in his mind’s eye above the cottage roof, which, as with many aspects of commerce, had the unfortunate effect of ruining the entire aesthetic.

The Honeyman laid his tray of jars on the low stone wall next to the gate. He lifted the leather strap from his neck and placed it on top of the jars. He smoothed his white apron onto his thighs, he tugged the cuffs of his shirt out from beneath the arms of his blazer. He tilted his straw boater to just the right angle of jaunt. He took one jar of clear and one jar of dark from the tray.

He scanned the grounds for the Hound. The molehills on the lawn reminded him of tiny volcanic cones, each pregnant with the possibility of eruption. He saw no Hound spoor. The neon ‘profit’ flashed. The arrows pointed. He nodded to himself.

He balanced the dark on top of the clear and then pressed the latch on the gate with his thumb. It didn’t give at first but after some concerted pressure, the latch popped open with the loud thunk of metal striking wood. The gate swung inward with a squeal.

From behind the cottage came a deep throated bark.

The Honeyman looked up at the sound and the dark jar began to slide.

The largest dog, no, the largest Hound he had ever seen bounded into view around the corner of the cottage. Its fur was short and burnt umber in colour, its head was huge and seemed to fly towards him on black-tipped, ear-shaped wings. Its legs were so long it could well have been running on stilts.

The Hound spotted the Honeyman and barked again.

The dark fell.

The Honeyman caught it without taking his eyes from the Hound.

He stepped in and onto the path and used the bottom of the jars to pull the gate towards him. The Hound flung a barrage of warnings at the Honeyman. The latch clicked into place.

The Hound lolloped across the lawn, jowls a-flap. One massive paw destroyed a molehill.

The Honeyman glanced down at the low wall and gate, and then up at the Stilt Legged Hound.

The low barrier would pose no obstacle. The Hound would vault the gate with ease, knock him to the pavement, and leave muddy paw prints on his apron as it mauled him. The authorities, or worse, Mother, would find him spread-eagled, his innards exposed and chewed, a jar of honey clenched in each fist.

Horrified at this bloodied vision of himself, he took several steps back from the gate until he felt his heals hang out over the curb and into the street. He wheeled his arms to keep his balance.

The Hound skidded to a halt at the gate and placed both fore-paws, replete with immense black claws, on top of the wooden slats. It stood tall enough to look the Honeyman in the eye. He half expected the Hound to strike up a conversation: “Stay out!” the Hound might say, “Or else I shall have to resort to violent conduct.’

The Hound barked.

The Honeyman took fright, stiffened, lost his balance and fell back off the curb. He held his hands up to protect the merchandise, and landed on the bony part of his bottom. He yelped in pain, the Hound barked and a car screeched to a halt beside the Honeyman. He could have turned his head, puckered his lips and kissed the bumper. He was sure his seat cheeks would be black and blue for a month. He placed the jars carefully on the curb.

A man, with wild curly hair and a long, wiry beard, got out of the car and strode towards the Honeyman. The man leaned down and measured the distance between the Honeyman and his bumper with his eyes. “You’ll live,” he said and then offered his hands. The Honeyman took the proffered aid and strong calloused hands grabbed his and hauled him to his feet.

Before the Honeyman could offer his thanks the man shifted his attention to the lawn beyond the gate and the Hound that stood upon it. The man pulled a notepad from the chest pocket of his dungarees, turned a page, tapped it with a dirty finger and nodded. “Got a mole problem, right enough,” he said. Then he looked at the Hound as if noticing it for the first time. He stared down at it. The Hound seemed to grin back. “So. You keep salesmen out but you tolerate the damned moles?” He brushed a stray lock of hair from his forehead. “Well, I’m a Molecatcher and I ain’t sellin’, I’m here to fix yer problem.” The Molecatcher reached to open the gate. The Hound’s grin became a snarl, and then a single loud bark.

The Molecatcher snatched his hand back. “Easy, boy,” he said, hands out, palms forward. He took four quick steps back. The Honeyman dodged aside and watched helplessly as the Molecatcher shuffled his boots towards the jars. The boots stopped a good six inches short of the honey and the edge of the pavement.

“I’m fine, thank you,” the Honeyman said, looking up at the ear of the Molecatcher. There were flecks of grey in his unkempt mop of black hair. And from this proximity it would have to be said that the Molecatcher smelled a little stale.

“Glad to hear it,” the Molecatcher said, without taking his eyes from the Hound.

The Honeyman did not think he sounded in the least bit glad. Perhaps a different tack. “The Hound seems reluctant to leave the grounds. I expect it could easily vault the gate if it felt so inclined.” He checked on the jars of dark and clear on the curb. They were fine. He rubbed at the base of his spine as unobtrusively as he could.

“I’d thank you for that slice of wisdom pie but I don’t think it polite to turn your back on a Hound,” the Molecatcher said.

“Pardon me, but I would say it was impolite to turn your back on someone you almost hit with your car!”

The Molecatcher turned, his politeness toward the Hound apparently forgotten, and took one step forward. Yes, stale with a hint of sour. “I’m real sorry that I nearly hit an idiot who fell onto the road in front of my van. That idiot is lucky I was coming to a stop anyway, or that idiot might have had more to be sore at.”

The Honeyman blinked and took a step back. In the honey trade it was always profitable to be polite first and a salesman second. “Yes, sir, you are quite right. Thank you for stopping. I got a bit of a fright and gave my behind a bit of a wallop. Please excuse my rudeness.” The Honeyman had sold to worse prospects than this and in worse initial circumstances.

“Aye,” the Molecatcher said and smiled. “No harm done. No harm done.” He seemed to like being called ‘sir’. “I got a bit of a fright myself.” He turned back to regard the Hound.

The Honeyman picked up the dark and clear and moved to stand beside the Molecatcher.

The Hound looked from one to the other. It saw no threat, hopped down onto all fours and trotted away to disappear around the side of the cottage.

The Honeyman sighed. “How would one sell honey to a Hound?”

“Never mind that, I got mole trouble,” the Molecatcher said.

“I’m afraid we have trouble slightly more dangerous than moles.”


“I fail to see how moles could be more trouble than a Hound.”

“It’s a point-of-view thing, right? If you’re a worm, well worms could’na care less for Hounds. But they care a whole helluva lot about moles.”


“Yup. Vicious and cunning little buggers, moles.”

The Honeyman brandished his jars. “Well, sir, since I am no worm, moles could not, and will not, prevent me from selling these. The Hound, however, makes it rather difficult. Also, your solution to the mole problem will be near impossible to conduct while the Hound is masticating on your buttocks.”

The Molecatcher scratched at his stubble. “Exactly correct, my straw-hatted friend. Well, there are ways and then there are ways.” He walked to the rear of his van, opened the doors, leaned in and after a bit of rummaging came out carrying a pair of heavy black gloves, a rake, a rope and a large canvas bag. He dumped this assortment of hardware at the gate. The canvas bag hit the pavement with a clatter and a clank.

The Honeyman watched the Molecatcher tie a running bowline and made a loop at one end of the rope. He produced a handful of large u-shaped nails and a hammer from the canvas bag and banged the nails along the length of the rake handle.

There came a bark and a growl from behind the cottage. The Honeyman looked up to see the Hound trotting back towards the sound.

The Molecatcher threaded the rope through the u-shaped holes and fussed with the loop that hung out over the prongs of the rake. He hefted it, wooden handle in one hand, the rope in the other. He pulled the rope and the loop at the head of the rake shrank. He teased out the loop, nodded and then pulled on the heavy black gloves.

When the Honeyman looked back over the wall the Hound had gone.

The Molecatcher stepped up to the gate holding the rake.

Alarmed, the Honeyman stepped forward but stopped sort of actually touching the Molecatcher. “You don’t intend to capture the Hound with that, do you?”

“Sure do.”

“But…but the Hound is not a mole.”

“Correct again. And, like you, I’m not a worm.” The Molecatcher depressed the latch. Again, there came the loud thunk of metal striking wood and the gate squealed as it swung inward. Again, there came a deep growl and a bark from behind the cottage. The Honeyman watched a gladiator step onto the bloodstained sands of the arena, the high sun glinted from his bronze pauldrons as he held his trident and net ready for combat.

“Close it behind me, will ya?” the Molecatcher said.

The Honeyman blinked. A bronze clad gladiator? More like a clown dressed in dungarees.

The Honeyman pulled the gate closed with the bottom of his jars.

The Hound loped into view and when it spotted the Molecatcher, in its territory, no less, it flattened its ears and its barking trebled in speed and quadrupled in volume. My, what huge lungs you have, Grandma.

On the path, the Molecatcher shuffled forward on bent knees and held the end of the rake with the prongs and the loop towards the Hound.

The Honeyman backed away, a jar in each tightened fist. “Get out of there, man!” he shouted.

The Molecatcher stepped off the path and lifted the rake. He seemed to use the loop of rope at the end as a sight to adjust his aim. The Hound galloped towards him. The Honeyman imagined what would happen next: the Molecatcher would be bowled over and the Hound would be at his throat. The ridiculous rake and rope would tumble, useless, out of his still twitching fingers.

The Hound leapt the last two meters. The Molecatcher kept his head low and raised the rake. For a terrible moment the Honeyman thought the loop would be too small and the Hound would not fit, but then the forward momentum popped its head through. Its chest butted the tines of the rake, the loop, which had become a noose, tightened, and the Molecatcher was forced back several steps by the force of the impact. The rake began to jerk and thrash as the Hound snarled and lunged, its paws scrabbled and scraped up tufts of grass.

The Molecatcher held on grimly, his arms shaking and jiggling as the Hound fought and pushed, growled and barked. It alternated between trying to escape and trying to sink its fangs into the tantalising morsel just a rake length away.

“So you have it. Well done,” the Honeyman called. “Now, what are you going to do with it?”

The Molecatcher shot the Honeyman a look that was almost hot enough to set fire to his boater.

The Hound tugged hard with all four limbs, the rake slipped several inches before the Molecatcher could re-establish his grip.

“Why dontcha come help?” the Molecatcher said between gulps of air.


“I could do with a hand, mate.”

“Me?” the Honeyman said. “What would the owner think when he saw the two us wrestling his Hound with a rake?”

“For the love of Pete.” The Molecatcher did not take his eyes from the Hound. He leaned and swayed as he anticipated each push and pull. His arms flexed and shook, the muscles vibrating with the strain. The ferocity of the Hound had not eased one iota as it bucked like a bronco.

“Throw it down and flee,” the Honeyman said.

“No time,” the Molecatcher said. “It’ll. Get. Me.” He was struggling to form words through his breathing.

The Honeyman looked at the jars in his hands, he looked at the red door at the end of the path, he looked at the veins protruding from the Molecatcher’s temples. Then he looked at the white canines and drool flecked jaw of the Hound. The last thing, the very last thing, he wanted to do was enter that arena, to get involved in that madness.


But with the Hound neutralised, would there still be a chance of a sale?

The two of them should have no trouble manhandling and outsmarting a mere dog, no matter the size of said dog. The Molecatcher had already achieved the hardest part by capturing the beast, all the Honeyman had to do was help secure it. And if that was the case, then anything was possible.

“All right. Hold on for just a moment longer.” The Honeyman placed the dark and clear on the wall beside his tray. He depressed the gate latch and pushed it open.

The Hound turned at the sound of the gate and charged towards the Honeyman dragging a Molecatcher-sized anchor behind it.

“Around me,” the Molecatcher shouted. “Run around me!”

The Honeyman scuttled diagonally across the lawn towards the Molecatcher and away from the Hound. He needed to get within the radius of the rake. Within the Circle of No-Hound. Something tugged at his leg and when he looked down, he was terrified to see the Hound jaws had clamped its jaws around the cuff of his tweed trousers. He sprawled onto the lawn. One of his elbows sank into a molehill and his head bounced off the turf. His boater rolled away towards the path. His leg was tugged again, he felt his trousers being pulled down. He looked up in time to see the head of the rake thrust forward and hit the Hound in the chest. The noose drew tight against its throat. It growled, let go of the Honeyman and snapped its jaws at the Molecatcher. The Honeyman scrambled to his feet, pulled his waistband above his aching bottom, and stood close behind the Molecatcher. Whose odour had grown richer and sharper. The Honeyman didn’t mind it now, he was just glad that the Molecatcher was there between himself and the the Hound.

It had seemed to the Honeyman that the Hound had enjoyed playing its own private little game. But now? Now, there were two intruders in its domain, it had been roped and thwarted and had failed to take a satisfactory chomp out of either one of them. The Hound was no longer having fun. It looked and sounded exceedingly mad.

“Grab hold,” the Molecatcher said.

The Honeyman placed both hands on the wooden handle of the rake. The force of each jolt and tug made it almost impossible to keep a grip. How had the Molecatcher managed this long?

They were dragged and jerked this way and that as the Hound fought to escape restraint or strained to close the distance. It seemed like eons to the Honeyman before the Hound finally began to ease its struggles. Its froth-covered tongue hung out the side of its muzzle, its ribcage moved in and out as it panted like a bellows. Winded, the Honeyman thought, but not (as yet) defeated.

“So,” the Honeyman said. “Any more bright ideas?”

“Don’t let go,” the Molecatcher said. His head swivelled on his thick neck as he looked for something.

“Hilarious. Quite, quite―”

“Over there,” the Molecatcher said. “We’ll tie the mutt to it.”

The Honeyman followed the gaze of the Molecatcher and saw, to the left of the cottage, a delightful cherry blossom tree in full bloom: the flowers were a lighter shade of pink than the Hound’s tongue. The trunk of the tree was about the width of the Molecatcher’s thigh.

“We’ll shuffle over, on three. Grip tight. We might have to drag ‘im,” the Molecatcher said. “Okay?”

The Honeyman nodded.

The Hound growled.

They shuffled back towards the blossom tree. The Hound lunged at them and the sudden lack of resistance made them stumble a few steps in the precise direction they wanted to go. The Hound, realised it was being led, lowered its head and shoulders until its chest touched the grass. It started to pull with all four limbs and a deep growl that the Honeyman could feel through the shaft of the rake. The stiff limbs of the Hound scraped four furrows into the lawn as they dragged it to the tree.

All three were panting now. The Honeyman imagined his own tongue hanging out the corner of his mouth, dripping foamy saliva onto the lapels of his blazer.

“Hold ‘im. I’ll tie it on,” the Molecatcher said.

“No!” the Honeyman said, panicked. “I can’t- I won’t be able to hold it.”

“Okay, okay. Steady now.” The Molecatcher took one hand off the rake and made several fists with it, loosening off his forearm. He repeated the action with the other hand. “I’ll hold it, you tie.”

The Molecatcher manoeuvred the loose end of the rope towards the Honeyman with his foot.

“What kind of knot should I use?” the Honeyman said.

The Molecatcher made a deep sound in his chest, almost like a growl of his own. “D’ya think it knows how to untie knots? It don’t matter, just make sure it don’t come undone.”

“Use the right knot for the job,” the Honeyman said. “I only sought a second opinion. No need to be so rude.”

The Molecatcher said nothing, he didn’t need to with a facial expression like that. The Honeyman looked at the loose end of the rope. The Molecatcher kept the tension tight. The Hound watched them with a curious and angry eye.

A Round Turn with Two Half Hitches or a Bowline? The Bowline would be quicker to tie, and could probably be tied one-handed but it might loosen if the Hound bounced around a lot. The Round Turn with Two Half Hitches needed more rope but the turn would help ease any perturbations while he completed the knot.

“I’m ready,” the Honeyman said. Credit where credit is due, the Molecatcher held his peace.

“On three, then. One, two, three!” the Molecatcher said.

The Honeyman let go of the rake and grabbed the rope. The Molecatcher pulled and jiggled the rake to distract and confuse the Hound. The Hound, having somewhat rested, renewed its struggle to either bite the intruders or escape.

The Honeyman wrapped the first loop around the tree and then ran out of slack. The rope twitched and he dropped the end. He snatched it up, hoping that the Molecatcher had not seen. “Please try to keep the rope steady.”

“Hurry up,” the Molecatcher said in a strained voice. But, wonder of wonders, the movement on the rope did ease, and the Honeyman found enough rope for the second loop around the trunk. Now though, there would not be enough rope to tie two hitches. “Need more slack,” he said.

The Molecatcher grunted, more slack appeared. The Honeyman tied two quick hitches and pulled the rope tight. He nodded to himself.

The Honeyman moved up beside the Molecatcher and took hold of the rake. The Hound quieted.

The Molecatcher looked at the tree and the knot, and then at the Honeyman. “Will it hold?”

The Honeyman said nothing. He gave the Molecatcher a look that he hoped said something like: oh come now, I’ve been tying knots since I was ten and they always hold.

“Will it hold?”

“Of course it will hold,” the Honeyman said.

“Okay then.”

The Molecatcher let go of the rake and ran for the path. The Hound lunged at him as he sped past, thus yanking the Honeyman forward.

The Molecatcher reached the gate in one piece. “Come then, Knot Master!” The Hound strained forward, its focus on the Molecatcher. The Honeyman could barely hold on to the rake, his hands were so tired.

“Oh bother,” the Honeyman said. He dropped the rake and began to move in a wide arc around the Hound. The Hound renewed its barking and ran at him. The very thought of fangs lent length and haste to his stride. He joined the Molecatcher at the gate and turned to watch the Hound strain on its leash. The rope bit into the bark of the tree and the knot held.

“Well,” the Molecatcher said. “It held.”

The Honeyman was about to utter an angry retort, when the Molecatcher nodded companionably at him, almost a gesture of respect. The Honeyman forgot what he was about to say.

The Molecatcher turned away and depressed the latch on the gate: clunk-screech. The Honeyman watched the Hound go completely and utterly berserk at the end of its tether. The tree shook and cherry blossom petals fell around the Hound like large flakes of pink snow.

The Molecatcher strode to his van, opened the passenger door and reached in for something. He returned to the gate and applied a liberal squirt of oil to both hinges from the nozzle of a red oiling can. He swung the gate back and forward a few times until the high-pitched screech had gone. He nodded to himself and muttered: “No charge.”

The Honeyman spotted his straw boater leaning against a molehill. He hurried over the lawn, trying to ignore the barks and growls, picked up his hat and brushed soil from the brim. He jogged through the now silent gate. Back on the pavement, he took a handkerchief from his breast pocket, mopped his damp brow and replaced his hat on his head at just the right angle of jaunt. He folded and tucked the handkerchief back into the pocket of his blazer. He plucked the jars of dark and clear from the wall. He filled his lungs as full as they would go and then let the air out at half the pace. He walked back through the gate and up the path to the red door of the cottage. His eyes flicked from the Hound to the door and back again. The Hound had stopped barking and lay beneath the tree. Its head tracked the Honeyman as he moved up the path.

He climbed two small steps and stood at the threshold of the property. A brass knocker sat above a vertical letter box. ‘Mr & Mrs Grieves’ was engraved on the brass nameplate at the top of the letter box. The Honeyman stood on the ‘Welcome’ mat and balanced the dark on top of the clear, noting with some satisfaction that there was almost no evidence of a tremor. He took the handle of the knocker between his thumb and middle finger, and rapped three times. Hard and slow. The Hound barked after each rap like a hoarse echo.

“Where is it?” a voice whispered from behind the door.

The Honeyman took a step back. He grabbed the dark before it began to slip. The vertical letter box had opened inward revealing a brown eye, a nose and part of a long dark moustache.

“The Hound, you idiot, the Hound!”

The Honeyman swallowed. “Sir, your Hound is tied to the blossom tree.” He gestured vaguely to his left. “It is quite unharmed. Secure, but unharmed.” Never admit to damaging a potential customer’s property, even if you had.

“Really? I wish you’d killed the bastard thing!”

The Honeyman took another step back, his heals hung out over the top step. With a sense of déjà vu he thought that if he fell, he might fall back into the road. The base of his spine throbbed hard.

“Yes, well,” he said taking a deliberate step forward. “It is a somewhat…boisterous beast.”

The brown eye studied the Honeyman. The letter box clicked shut. There came sounds of a bolt being withdrawn, a chain being disengaged, a lock turning. The door opened to reveal a short man wearing pyjamas.

“Who are you and what the hell do you want?” His lips were hidden under the hairy shadow of his moustache. “And who the hell is that?”

The Honeyman turned. The Molecatcher waved from the path. “Mole problem, Mr. Grieves?”

“Forget the bloody moles. What about the Hound?”

The Molecatcher frowned. He looked past the side of the building. “Safe. Sittin’, watchin’, waitin’.”

The Client stepped out onto the Welcome mat. His slippers were a green tartan. His right pyjama trouser leg was ripped and most was missing up to his knee. His shin was bandaged and blood had seeped through to stain it. He looked to his right, trying to see around the corner where the Molecatcher had looked. He did not step off the mat. In fact, it seemed the Client looked primed to bolt indoors at the slightest provocation.

“Right,” the Client said. “You.” He pointed at the Molecatcher. “Kill the bastard lawn breakers.” He pointed at the Honeyman. “You. Take whatever you’re selling and get the hell off my doorstep. I’m not interested.” His moustache puffed out as he spat each word.

The Honeyman was tempted to grab that growth on his upper lip and rip it off. Instead, the Honeyman advanced another assertive step.

All the better to show you the wares, my dear.

He launched into The Pitch.


“Okay, okay, shut up. Just shut the fuck up,” the Client said. “I’ll buy a jar.”

“Yes, sir, of course,” the Honeyman said. “But let me first say that to appreciate the unique flavourings, the connoisseur should always have something to compare—”

“I’ll take both. Bloody hell. The clear and the dark.”

“Oh, wonderful. Good choice, sir.”

“There was a choice?” the Client said. He glanced over towards the side of the cottage. He had been doing that throughout the entirety of The Pitch. It had been monumentally distracting. “Wait there. I’ll get my wallet.”

The Honeyman turned, caught the Molecatcher’s eye and tipped him a wink.

“You’re no Hound, but you got a bit of terrier, I reckon,” the Molecatcher said. He began to feed a pink rubber hose into a molehill on the lawn. He pulled a blue cylinder from his canvas bag and attached one end of the rubber hose to it. He flicked a gauge on the side of the cylinder with a fingernail, then gave the nozzle on the top a few twists.

The Client reappeared at the door carrying an open wallet. He looked at the Honeyman.

The Honeyman named his price.

The look of fierce annoyance on the Client turned into one of astonishment. But before he spoke, they heard a drawn out growl and a sharp bark. They turned as one to look at the side of the cottage.

The Molecatcher ran towards them up the path, hefting his clanking tool bag. “It’s comin’!” he shouted.

The Hound bounded around the corner. It spied not one quarry, but three. Was it grinning again? The Hound charged.

The Client stepped back into the cottage and began to close the door. The Honeyman had his foot in the door jamb. He had not fallen for the old I’ll-just-get-my-wallet trick for, well, longer than he’d care to admit.

The Molecatcher leapt onto the threshold and his shoulder hit the door. The door flew open and the Client fell back.

“Get in!” the Molecatcher ordered.

The Honeyman stepped quickly and smoothly through the door and the Molecatcher slammed it shut.

The Hound hit the door with a loud thump. A moment later there came the sound of a frustrated yelp followed by scrabbling claws.

The Honeyman turned to see the Client begin to rise from the floor, the Molecatcher placed a heavy hand on his shoulder.

“What the hell?” the Client began.

“Shhh,” the Molecatcher said.

The Client seemed a tad taken aback. His colour, already in the rosy pinks, deepened to scarlet.

The Molecatcher dropped his tool bag onto the hall carpet, grabbed the Client by the front of his pyjamas and covered his mouth and nose with his other hand. The Honeyman noticed that the pyjamas were speckled with various stains and that one more ounce of pressure would cause the top button to ping off. The Honeyman did not care to see if the Client had a chest that was as hairy as his upper lip.

“Shhh, now,” the Molecatcher said.

The Client nodded. The Molecatcher looked at the Honeyman. “Hound?”

The Honeyman set the dark and clear next to a rotary phone and a pile of unopened mail on an entryway table. He leaned down and pulled open the vertical letterbox. The spring creaked and twanged next to his ear.

The Hound sat on the top step, its eyes level with the letterbox. It stared at the Honeyman, its tongue and teeth visible as it panted. The Hound wore the rope noose like an over-sized string tie, one frayed end of which almost touched the top step between its front paws. There was no sign of the rake.

The Honeyman closed the letterbox carefully. “It’s sitting on its throne, grinning like a tyrant,” he said.

The Client had turned an interesting shade of plum. “Oh, sorry,” said the Molecatcher and let him go.

The Client pulled away and inhaled with an exaggerated gasp. He got to his feet and rearranged his pyjama top. His eyes flicked from the Molecatcher to the Honeyman and back again. His colour returned to normal.

He sighed. “Looks like we’re stuck. Who fancies a cuppa?”

“Now yer talkin’,” the Molecatcher said and rubbed his hands together in the time-honoured fashion.

As usual, The Pitch had worked beautifully but the Honeyman had not yet finalised the transaction. The honey sat there on the entryway table, unsold. “Thank you,” he said. “A cup of tea would be lovely.”

“Follow me,” the Client said. He went through a door at the end of the hall.

The Molecatcher left his tools on the hall carpet and followed.

No point in being too forward or too pushy, the Honeyman thought. Not quite yet, anyway.


The three of them sat at a stained and unpainted table on unstable wooden chairs. On the table, a teapot hoisted a flag of steam above its spout. A bowl of granulated sugar and a bowl of white powder sat beside the teapot. The Client said it was the best he could do for milk. There was a golden spoon in the sugar, and a silver spoon in the powdered milk.

They sat in silence as they waited for the tea to brew. The Honeyman scanned the kitchen: there were no dishes in the sink and the floor gleamed. He wondered how he might drink his tea without milk.

“I hated that animal at first sight,” the Client said.

The Molecatcher stole a glance at the Honeyman. The Honeyman raised his eyebrows.

“She brought it home knowing I would hate it. She was right.” He poured each of them a mug of weak looking tea. Water bewitched, Mother would have called it. The Client put down the teapot and took a sip of his tea. He didn’t bother with the sugar or the powdery milk. He stared at the surface of the table and got a faraway look in his eye. “I told her that we couldn’t keep a bloody dog, and started to let her know my feelings about it. The Hound stepped in front of her and growled. I backed right the hell off.”

The Honeyman decided to take his tea black. He heaped three spoons of sugar into his mug. Honey would have been better.

“I couldn’t get near my own wife. It guarded her. She would whisper to it and stroke it and coddle it. And when she did she would stare at me. And you know what? She left. Packed a suitcase and left. There’s a note on the fridge that says: ‘Beware the Hound’. That was six and a half days ago. It won’t let me leave.”

The Molecatcher supped his tea. He didn’t seem to care about the milk situation. “Bad luck, mate.”

“Luck? Hell no. I should’ve never allowed her to leave.” A tear rolled down one of the Client’s eyelashes and fell into his tea with a plip.

The Honeyman held his mug cupped with both hands. The more he heard about this woman who had out-smarted this loathsome little moustachioed man, the more intrigued he became.

The Client refocused his gaze on the tabletop and kept talking. “I think she meant for the Hound to just slow me down, to give her some time to escape. But I thought, what’s the point? Good bloody riddance to bad rubbish.”

There came a bark and growl from the other side of the kitchen. The Client froze. All three turned their heads toward the sound.

The indistinct outline of the Hound was visible through the frosted glass of the back door. A paw scraped slowly down the dimpled glass. It barked once more and sat still, looking in.

“It doesn’t like me talking about her,” the Client said. “It sits there and scratches. That’s where it was when you first opened the gate.” He took a sip of tea. “When it left to investigate, it was such a bloody relief not to have to look at it. It came back, though.”

The Molecatcher downed what was left in his mug and clunked it down on the table. He stood up and motioned for the Honeyman to join him. The Honeyman placed his full mug on the table, untouched.

The Client stared at the wavy silhouette of the Hound and said: “It always comes back.”

The Molecatcher gently closed the kitchen door behind them. “That man is off his effin rocker.”

“Indeed,” the Honeyman stage-whispered. “I should complete the sale and then I think we should leave by the front door and make a run for the gate. With the Hound at the back—”

“No,” the Molecatcher said. “He’s mad as a fruity cake, but we can’t leave him to starve or die of a broken heart—”

“I’ll call Sergeant Smith once we’re away, he—”

“No Smith, no polis,” the Molecatcher ran a hand through his greasy hair. “We’ll help him. I could’ve left you sitting in the gutter but I helped you, didn’t I?”

The Honeyman frowned. “Yes, but—”

“And wasn’t there a Hound you needed help with? Wasn’t there a gate that needed oilin’? Wasn’t there a lawn full of molehills that needed seein’ to? I can’t leave until the job is done and done.”

“Fine. I’ll leave and get help. All right? You stay and keep everything calm. Keep our heart-broken friend out of trouble until the police arrive.”

The Molecatcher grabbed the Honeyman by his blazer lapels and pushed him against the wall. The Honeyman bumped against the entryway table which caused an avalanche of mail to slide off and hit the floor. He looked down and was relieved to see the jars were still sitting on top of the table.

“I said to never mind about the effin polis. We help our friend in there. You and me. The two of us.”

The Honeyman shifted his gaze from the jars to the rotary telephone. The Molecatcher shoved the Honeyman aside and grabbed the phone and yanked the chord out of the wall. “No polis. You and me can handle one fruity cake and one bleedin’ Hound. Right?”

The Honeyman swallowed hard. He now knew that the Client wasn’t the only one that needed professional help.

“Besides,” the Molecatcher said. “I need to light the fuse.”

“Of course I’ll help.” The Honeyman straightened his bow-tie and tucked his shirt into his waistband. He reset his collar. “We couldn’t possibly leave that poor man within this terrible situation.”

The Molecatcher bent over, opened his tool bag and began to rummage.

The Honeyman pondered whether he should grab the clear and dark and make a break for it. Out the front door, up the path, through the recently oiled front gate and away. In slow motion, he would be a sight to behold. Once safe, he would, of course, honour his commitment to get help. It would be utter madness to stay.

The Molecatcher produced a pair of snips from the tool bag and cut the telephone cord in two. He placed the telephone back on the entryway table and the moment for escape passed, untaken.

“Right. We can’t leave. So much more still to do,” the Molecatcher said. He looked the Honeyman up and down: from his grass-stained trousers to his soiled boater. “I gotta admit you keep surprisin’ me. When I first saw you teeterin’ on the edge of the curb I took you for a shirker. But you surprised me when you helped with the rake, you surprised me with your sales technique and now you’ve surprised me when you agreed to help. I want no more surprises. No more talkin’ of leavin’ and gettin’ help. We are all the help that man needs. And, anyway, I’ve got a plan.”

The Honeyman felt his shoulders squaring of their own accord. He never thought of himself as someone who could surprise anyone. He felt his chest begin to rise. Was that pride? Had he even surprised himself?

“And if you get that leavin’ feelin’ again, I’ll have to impress upon you to remember not to shirk, won’t I?” the Molecatcher said.

“Right you are, and thank you, I think,” the Honeyman said. “But if you don’t mind, could you perhaps elucidate on your plan?”

“Aye,” the Molecatcher said. “Let’s go through to the kitchen and I’ll tell you both what I have in mind.”


The fuzzy outline of the Hound drew the Client’s eyes. The Honeyman was unsure if the Client had heard a single, solitary word the Molecatcher had said.

The Molecatcher stepped between the Client and the Hound. The Client looked up.

“Listen, mate,” the Molecatcher said. “You need to help us to help yourself.”

“The plan is quite workable,” the Honeyman said.

”Leave?” the Client said.

The Molecatcher rolled his eyes. “I told you. We capture the Hound, I fix the moles, you buy a couple of jars of honey. We three go grab a coffee and a bacon buttie at Joan’s Cafe. Sound good?”

“What if I don’t want to leave?” the Client said. “She might come back.”

“Look, I don’t care if she comes back. She left you. Get over it,” the Molecatcher said. “I’m going to have the pleasure of helping your pathetic carcass and you, my sad little friend, are going to help us capture the Hound.”

The Client looked like he couldn’t decide whether the Molecatcher was his salvation or a deepening of his purgatory. The Honeyman knew how the Client felt. He smiled his encouragement.

The Client considered for a moment. He focused on the Molecatcher. “What the hell do you want me to do?”


The Molecatcher retrieved his tool bag from the hallway and proceeded to fabricate a cunning apparatus with the contents of the canvas tote. He hammered u-shaped nails from the back door, across the ceiling and onto the frame of the hall doorway. Each time the Molecatcher hammered a nail, the Hound barked and growled and scrabbled its claws down the frosted glass. The Molecatcher handed one end of a length rope to the Honeyman. “Pick a knot and tie it to the door.” The Honeyman was pleased to be asked and tied a constrictor knot to the handle of the back door. The Molecatcher threaded the the rope through the nails. He left the end dangling at the doorway between the kitchen and the hall.

“We’ll get to you in a minute,” the Molecatcher said addressing the Hound. He glanced at the Honeyman. “Ready?” The Honeyman replied with a weak smile. “Okay, we’re ready.” He looked at the Client at the other end of the hall by the front door. “Are you ready?”

The Client looked like he was about to be sick. The bandage on his calf looked very bright and white, the bloom of blood a shadow. He opened the door, stepped out and shouted: “Here I am, Hound! Here boy!”

The Honeyman and the Molecatcher watched the Hound’s ears prick up and its head swivel and then it was gone.

“It’s coming!” the Molecatcher called. The Honeyman moved to the back door ready to open it.

Over the shoulder of the Molecatcher, the Honeyman watched the Client step back into the hallway and shut the front door. The Client was hyper-ventilating and he no longer looked about-to-be-sick green, he looked about-to-faint-dead-away white.

The wavy outline of the Hound reappeared at the back door. The Honeyman backed off and collided with the kitchen table.

“Don’t shirk it, man!” the Molecatcher shouted at the Client as he held the rope in one hand. “Wait until you see it, get its attention, and only then do you come in. In. That. Order.” The Molecatcher looked at the Honeyman: see what I have to deal with? “Now. Are you ready?”

“You better bloody believe I’m ready,” the Client said.

The Honeyman did not like the flat, inflection-less tone of his voice. He watched the Client pick up the clear and the dark from the entryway table and step out of the open front door. “COME ON THEN, YOU BASTARD!”

“You haven’t paid!” the Honeyman said.

“The Hound’s comin’,” the Molecatcher said.

The Honeyman left the kitchen, squeezed past the Molecatcher and hurried down the hall.

“Hey! Wait! Where d’you think you’re bleedin’ goin’?” the Molecatcher said.

The Honeyman ignored the Molecatcher and peered out the front door.

The Client stood on the top step, right arm lifted up and back. The dark was held in his fist ready to throw.

The Honeyman reached out to grab the his arm.

The Hound skidded around the side of the house.

“If you don’t man your post right this effin second, I’ll gonna have to add you to my EFFIN list, you EFFIN SHIRKER!” the Molecatcher bellowed down the hall.

The Honeyman’s fingers missed the jar and brushed the arm of the Client as he let fly. The dark flew in a perfect flat arc and smashed on the forehead of the Hound. Globules of dark honey, matted fur and shocking red flew in all directions.

The Client transferred the clear to his throwing arm and lifted it in preparation.

The Honeyman grabbed his wrist.

“LEMME GO!” the Client screamed. Spittle sprayed from his mouth, some of which stuck to his moustache.

“You. Have. Not. Paid!” the Honeyman shouted as he wrestled the clear from the Client’s grip. The jar came free and the Honeyman staggered back against the house.

One moment the Client was standing there on the top step, the next the Hound smashed into him at chest height, and he was gone.

The Client screamed obscenities at the Hound many of which were meant for his dear, now departed (but still, if you believed his tale, very much alive), wife.

The Hound sat astride the apoplectic Client and closed its immense jaws around his scrawny neck. The Honeyman was grabbed by the collar and yanked back inside the cottage. The Molecatcher slammed the front door. They listened to the Client scream.

The Molecatcher shoved the Honeyman backwards down the hall. He stumbled and hit the entryway table with his hip. The drooling jaws! The Honeyman shivered.

The screaming stopped.

The Molecatcher peered out of the vertical letter box. “Tsk. So much for him. At least the fruity cake had a bleedin’ go, eh?”

The Honeyman heard wet tearing sounds and growling. “Is he…?”

“Dead? Oh, I should think so. Hound must’ve been hungry.”

The Honeyman felt his face grow cold. His eyes wobbled in their sockets, as if they’d become loose. He felt like he was going to faint. He leaned over and dry heaved once, twice.

The Molecatcher took the Honeyman by the hand.

“At least you got one of ‘em back,” the Molecatcher said motioning to the jar of clear. The Honeyman could hear sounds of noisy mastication. His head was full of images that were red, meaty and oozing with dark honey. His nausea began to build again.

The Molecatcher pulled the Honeyman. “Come with me.” They went down the hall to the kitchen. The Honeyman felt like a child being led by a parent. “Same plan. We’ll do it with the two of us. Okay? You take this,” the Molecatcher said and swapped his hand for the rope that hung from the door frame. “We’ve still got jobs to do.”

The Honeyman followed the rope with his eyes, up to the ceiling and then down to the back door. As if on cue, the silhouette of the Hound reappeared there. It was clear even through the distortion of the frosted glass that it was licking its chops. The cat who got the cream. Which was all kinds of wrong: cream wasn’t red, and the Hound didn’t have an ounce of feline about him.

“I’ll open the front door,” the Molecatcher said. “When the Hound comes to my shout, you run in and open the back door. I’ll close the front door, join you. Hound comes in. I’ll pull the rope and you close the kitchen door. Trapped Hound. Got it?”

The Molecatcher was still talking about trapping the Hound. The same idea that had just killed the Client. The Honeyman shook his head. He wanted nothing more than to sit down and have a proper cup of tea with some milk and honey in it. He would wait for help. Someone was sure to see the half-eaten corpse of the Client on the front lawn, weren’t they? That was the sane course of action, wasn’t it?

“Listen, you filthy shirking turd. You will help me. It won’t work with just one person, we need to close both doors together. Now, snap out of it,” the Molecatcher said.

The Honeyman understood how the Client could hate the Hound so much. He understood, oh yes, but it wasn’t the Hound he hated. Oh no. “I’m ready.” His voice sounded as flat as the Client’s had been.

“Okay then.” The Molecatcher strode to the front door, opened it and stepped out. The Honeyman didn’t want to be alone with the Hound. He had seen, first hand, what the silent regard of the Hound could do to a man’s sanity.

The Molecatcher mumbled something to the bloodied corpse of the Client. “Here poochie, here boy!” the Molecatcher shouted in faux happiness.

The Hound disappeared from its vigil.

The Honeyman crept across to the back door and gripped the door handle.

“Big beautiful beast!” Perhaps it hadn’t been faux happiness after all, perhaps it had been a genuine emotion. “It’s here, man. Open it!”

The Honeyman turned the handle and pulled open the back door. The front door slammed shut. He turned his back on the open door. As he navigated the table and chairs he expected the full weight of the Hound to fall on his back. The Molecatcher appeared in the kitchen door and grabbed the rope, his eyes focused behind the Honeyman.

The Honeyman squeezed past and reached back in to take hold of the door handle. All he could see was a parallelogram of lawn in the back garden. Shouldn’t the Hound have made it back round the cottage by now?

They waited, poised.

The shadow of the Hound appeared on the lawn.

“Wait till it comes in,” the Molecatcher whispered. He sounded very excited.

A muzzle appeared in the door frame. It sniffed and moved into full view. The Hound sat down on the back step. There was a large cut on its forehead and the eye below the cut was oddly misshapen, as if deflated. The fur on its head and neck stuck up in spiky tufts, clotted by blood and honey. Some kind of stringy liquid stretched and bounced from its jowl.

“Come on then,” the Molecatcher said in his playful tone. “Come and get us, boyo!”

The Hound tilted its head to the side, either to triangulate the sound or to look through its good eye, the Honeyman was unsure.

“Perhaps Mrs Grieves trained it not to come into the house,” the Honeyman said.

“Shut up, you worthless piece of shirking excrement.” The Molecatcher did not alter his happy tone or blink as he watched the Hound. “Plan B. Be ready. Do your job, or so help me.”

The Molecatcher shoved the end of the rope at the Honeyman. He let go of the door handle and grabbed the rope. The Molecatcher stepped into the kitchen.

“What are you—”

The Molecatcher held up an erect index finger. It was inches from the nose of the Honeyman.

The Hound watched the Molecatcher move forward and produced a low rumbling growl deep in its chest.

The Honeyman heard Mother’s voice in his head tell him to leave. To go right now.

He had been obeying that voice without question his whole life. He did not hesitate. He dropped the rope and began to back away up the hallway.

He watched the Molecatcher advance and pick up a teacup at the kitchen table. He held it for a moment, put it down, and picked up the teapot instead. “Here poochy poo,” he said and threw the teapot.

The Honeyman turned and ran. The teapot smashed, the Molecatcher cursed and the Hound barked. The Honeyman opened the front door. There came another sound of breaking crockery, a yelp and then a full-throated yell: “YOU SHIRKIN’ BASTARD!”

The Honeyman paused mid-way out the door and stole a glance down the hallway.

The Molecatcher came out of the kitchen, his face twisted in a crazed fury, he snatched the hanging rope and pulled it as he ran out into the hall. He was still trying to enact his plan.

The Hound bounded out of the kitchen barely a step behind.

The Honeyman pulled the front door shut behind him and ran down the steps without looking.

His foot sank into something soft and he fell. The Client! He hit the path on all fours. The clear flew out of his hand and rolled away onto the lawn. He skidded a few inches and relieved his palms, elbows and knees of most of their skin. Somehow, his boater stayed on his head.

Inside the house, the Molecatcher let out a deep scream and the Hound made a strange sound that was a cross between a bark, a howl and a yelp.

The Honeyman struggled to his feet. He would not look back at the Client. The fleeting images he had seen at the door were more than enough, thank you very much, and he did not want nor need to focus on the grisly details. If he looked, there was a very real danger that he might become entranced by the sheer red horror of it all. Halfway to the gate he remembered the clear and began casting about for it. He couldn’t lose two.


It had come to rest on the remains of a molehill. There was a white string, like some sort of albino worm, sitting on the grass next to the jar. His first attempt to pick up the clear failed because it somehow conceived to slip out of his grasp and fall back onto the grass. He looked at his palms and saw that they were sheer with blood. He wondered if it was his or if it belonged to the Client. He used the heals of both palms to pick up the jar.

The front door opened behind him. He whirled around, expecting to see the Hound, but it was the Molecatcher. He left the door open behind him and limped down the steps and around the corpse of the Client. His left leg from the knee down was a shredded mess. He left a bright trail of blood behind him on the path. His eyes were fixed on the Honeyman.

“You shirking arsehole,” the Molecatcher said. “Moles first, then you. You are an undone job that needs fixin’.”

The Honeyman backed away fast, holding the clear between his slick palms. Perhaps he should pray for forgiveness? It had always worked with Mother.

The Hound appeared through the front door. The yellow and black handle of a screwdriver stuck out of its flank. It too left a trail of blood, but was steadier on four legs than the Molecatcher was on one and a half. The distance between the Hound and the Molecatcher shortened dramatically.

The Honeyman collided with the gate. It hit him under the buttocks, at the top of his thighs. His arms flew up and the clear slipped from his palms and into the air. He toppled back over the gate and into the street. His head would have broke open on the pavement if not for the back of his boater being crushed by the force of impact. The clear hit the pavement beside his head and exploded, sending glass and honey into his hair and face. It felt as if he had been stung by several bees at exactly the same moment. He knew what being stung felt like.

He sat up and shuffled on his knees to the gate. He felt like a penitent after a long pilgrimage. He left bloody palm prints on either side of the ‘Beware the Hound’ sign. The Honeyman imagined Mrs Grieves pat the Hound on the head and then tack the sign to the gate with a smile on her face. He saw her lift her small briefcase and give the time honoured middle-finger salute to the cottage. He saw her pat the Hound one last time before turning on her heal and never looking back.

The Honeyman forced his watery eyed gaze up from the sign.

The Molecatcher knelt on the lawn beside the albino worm. He had a cigarette lighter in his hand. He brought the flame to the albino worm. The worm sizzled and caught fire: sparks and smoke issued from it. The fizzing end of the worm inched its way closer to the flattened molehill.

The Hound was almost upon the Molecatcher. The Molecatcher only had eyes for the burning fuse. The Honeyman opened his mouth to issue a warning but just as he was about to speak the Molecatcher looked up and stared straight into his eyes.

“You’re next,” the Molecatcher said and then frowned. He raised his face and sniffed at the air. “Smells like dark honey,” he said and then the Hound was upon him.

The Molecatcher twisted as he fell and landed on his back, his head next to the spitting fuse. The sparks disappeared into the molehill and smoke poured out. The Hound clamped its jaws around the Molecatcher’s neck and the fangs sank in with a crunch.

The Honeyman winced. The Molecatcher flailed. His hand bumped the handle of the protruding screwdriver, grabbed it, pulled it out, stuck it back in, pulled it out, stuck it back in. Slower each time.

The Hound slowed too, and then stopped. Its jaws remained clamped around the neck of the Molecatcher.

There came a dull whump of concussive sound. The kind a gas cooker makes when you light it after a moment of running the gas, only louder.

On the lawn, clods of earth and spouts of flame erupted from each and every molehill.

The Molecatcher let go of the screwdriver and his hand fell to the turf.

The Honeyman stood on trembling knees. He felt dizzy as he gazed at the tableau: the eviscerated corpse of the Client lay near the front door; the Hound and the Molecatcher lay in a bloody lovers embrace on the lawn; yellowed and blackened loops of grass connected all the molehills together.

The Honeyman picked up his tray from the low wall, unmindful of getting blood on the wood. His bottom and palms and elbows and knees and the side of his face hurt terribly. He looked at the smashed jar of clear honey on the pavement.

“What a waste,” he said to himself. “Two smashed and nothing to show for it. Mother will *not *be pleased.”

He walked away, and imagined Mrs Grieves doing the same. He did not want to look back because he was sure she had not.

But he did look back, at least once, as he hastened away down the street.