Plot Summary

Extraction is a short story featuring Aloysius Pendergast and his brother Diogenes as young boys. Pendergast tells Constance Greene the story of his frightening encounter with a recluse who lived in New Orleans' French Quarter near Pendergast's childhood home of Rochenoire.



Detailed Plot

Pendergast's boyhood tutor, Monsieur Bertin, came to visit Pendergast at his mansion on 891 Riverside Drive in New York. While Pendergast, Bertin, and Constance Greene waited for dinner, Pendergast told Constance the story of his run-in with Maurus Dufour, a shadowy figure legendary to the children of the French Quarter.

Dufour never left his house and was greatly feared by neighborhood children. They told stories that he was a cannibal, an ax murderer, a torturer of animals. In particular, they regarded Dufour as a kind of sinister tooth fairy. Whenever children lost teeth, they would sneak over to the Dufour mansion and leave the teeth in a pot on the front porch. They did so not to get money, but out of fear that Dufour come to their homes in the night and take the teeth.

When Diogenes Pendergast lost a tooth at the age of six, Aloysius found him planning to take it to Dufour's home. Aloysius ridiculed his younger brother and tried to take the tooth from him, but Diogenes broke away and delivered the tooth as planned. Aloysius, who had followed Diogenes, snuck onto the porch and inspected the pot. He was surprised to find only Diogenes's tooth inside. He considered keeping the tooth and putting it under his own pillow, but instead threw it down a storm drain. At that moment Aloysius thought he saw a flash of movement at a high window inside the house.

Back at home, Aloysius chastised his brother for being superstitious. Diogenes flew into a panic, afraid that Dufour would come for him. Aloysius felt guilty and tried to comfort him but Diogenes was inconsolable. The next day Diogenes vanished from the house. He didn't turn up for dinner. When Diogenes still hadn't returned the next morning, the police were called. Pendergast's Uncle Everett questioned Aloysius and, hearing about the tooth incident, went looking for Diogenes at the home of Monsieur Dufour.

Diogenes and Everett returned later that day. Diogenes was pale and silent. He locked himself in his room and refused to come out for several days. Everett looked even worse. His cheeks and jaw were sunken and hollow, he had a cut on one cheek and blood on his collar. When he called for the housekeeper, his voice was heavily slurred. After confirming that the boys' father was returning the next day, Everett took a revolver and left the house. He did not return that night.

The next day, Pendergast's father Linnaeus showed him the letter Everett had left. The noted explained that after seeing the inside of Dufour's house, Everett could not allow such an abomination to go on living. He explained that he had appeased Dufour and convinced him to release Diogenes.

Linnaeus and Aloysius went to Dufour's house to look for Everett. The Dufour house was dark and heavy with the smell of rotten meat. It was pitch dark inside. Lighting a lantern, the Pendergasts were horrified to discover that every surface of the house  walls, furniture, and floors – were covered with patterns of intricately arranged children's teeth.

At the back of the house, the Pendergasts found a workshop with an antique dentist's chair and racks of bone-handled dental instruments. On a tray they found thirty-two freshly extracted adult teeth. Neither Everett nor Dufour were ever seen again.

At that moment, Pendergast's housekeeper Mrs. Trask interrupted to let the party know dinner was ready. Constance remarked that the story had sharpened her appetite considerably.

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