12

I think I read this in the 90's.

As I recall, a guy found out his wife was cheating on him. While flipping through the phone book, he finds an "Exterminator". He calls the number and is offered a two (or three) for one special. Asks for time to come up with another name. Each time he calls back with a list of names, he's offered a better deal for more names. At one point, asks how many people have to die for him to become King of England. Finally gets down to asking how much for everybody on the planet and the answer is "free".

14

Got it - It's Neil Gaiman's We Can Get Them For You Wholesale , written in 1989. It's in several anthologies including Smoke and Mirrors , which is where I first read it. It's also been adapted for short films and graphic media.

From early in the story:

But the love of a woman can do strange things to a man, even one so colourless as Peter Pinter, and the discovery that Miss Gwendolyn Thorpe, twenty-three years of age, of 9, Oaktree Terrace, Purley, was messing about (as the vulgar would put it) with a smooth young gentleman from the accounting department-after, mark you, she had consented to wear an engagement ring, composed of real ruby chips, nine-carat gold, and something that might well have been a diamond (£37.50) that it had taken Peter almost an entire lunch hour to choose-can do very strange things to a man indeed.

Around the middle:

“Bulk rate?”
“Of course, but I doubt that sir would be interested in that.”
“No, no, I am. Tell me about it.”
“Very well, sir. Bulk rate, four hundred and fifty pounds, would be for a large job. Ten people.”
Peter wondered if he had heard correctly. “Ten people? But that’s only forty-five pounds each.”
“Yes, sir. It’s the large order that makes it profitable.”
“I see,” said Peter, and “Hmm,” said Peter, and “Could you be here the same time tomorrow night?”

And near the end:

“Well, I’m sorry it’s so late, only I was wondering… How much would it cost to kill everybody? Everybody in the world?”
“Everybody? All the people?”
“Yes. How much? I mean, for an order like that, you’d have to have some kind of a big discount. How much would it be? For everyone?”
“Nothing at all, Mr Pinter.”
“You mean you wouldn’t do it?”
“I mean we’d do it for nothing, Mr Pinter. We only have to be asked, you see. We always have to be asked.”
Peter was puzzled. “But-when would you start?”
“Start? Right away. Now. We’ve been ready for a long time. But we had to be asked, Mr Pinter. Good night. It has been a pleasure doing business with you.”

  • Outstanding. This had been driving me crazy for a few years, although I thought it might have been Gaiman. Thanks!! – Jeff Feb 15 '15 at 0:26

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