Post series: The Boarder

Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 5) by Stephen Bustanoby

  1. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 1) by Stephen Bustanoby
  2. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 2) by Stephen Bustanoby
  3. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 3) by Stephen Bustanoby
  4. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 4) by Stephen Bustanoby
  5. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 5) by Stephen Bustanoby

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Part 5

That night at dinner, no one broached the subject of Oscar’s death. The atmosphere was as it always was. Mrs. Milkie talked about her day of volunteering at the nursing home. Floyd was quietly hunched over his plate, mechanically shoveling food into his mouth. Robert’s meeting tomorrow with the university officials pretty well occupied his mind. He was going over in his head all potential questions they would have for him and the answers he would give. This account is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. He was, as always, confident things would go his way. They always seem to. 

Perhaps, because of the importance of the meeting tomorrow, his brain stopped itching, and the ember in the back of his head cooled off. Even as Mrs. Milkie yammered on and on, his mind was at rest. Very unusual.


The following afternoon Robert rushed through the door of the boarding house. He was on top of the world, his meeting a resounding success. Robert captured the university account. He wanted to share this good news with somebody, so he went into the kitchen; it was nearing supper time and found Mrs. Milkie adding something to a pot on the stove. As Robert walked in, he announced, “The man of the hour is in the house!”

Mrs. Milkie turned from the large pot she was tending, saying, “Sounds like you had a wonderful day.” Robert wanted to hug her, yet something in her tone of voice, and the set of her mouth stopped him. She sounded almost accusatory. 

“Well, it sure smells good in here, I’m famished,” he said enthusiastically. Mrs. Milkie looked at him in silence. Her eyes like a falcon’s. Dark, shiny, and very alert.

“Robert, why don’t you get ready for supper. Floyd won’t be joining us; he says he’s not feeling well.” Robert thought, ‘the guy looked like he was at death’s door this morning.’ 

“Sorry to hear he’s not feeling well.”

Mrs. Milkie turned back to her pot and said over her shoulder in a flat, monotoned voice, “It will be just the two of us tonight.” Robert shrugged uneasily, then went to his room to change and clean up.



“This is my famous chicken stew,” Mrs. Milkie announced as she brought two good sized bowls to the table; aromatic steam rising and filling the room. Per usual, grace was said, “Dear Lord, thank you for this bounty you have provided. And thank you for the wonderful day Robert had. Please bless him with all he deserves.” 

With that, Mrs. Milkie said, “Let’s dig in while it’s hot.” Robert went at the stew like a dog on a bone.


“My goodness, you were hungry,” stated Mrs. Milkie as she brought Robert his second bowl full. “I should say. I didn’t get a chance to eat all day I was so busy. And with all the excitement, I don’t think I could have eaten anyway.” 

Mrs. Milkie sat, hands folded in her lap, watching Robert eat.

“You know, it’s kind of a blessing Floyd is not with us this evening. I need to discuss something with you.” She said in a low monotone.

Robert thought, ‘here we go, she’s going to put the pinch on me for higher rent.’

“Robert, you know my interest in solving crimes and the group I belong to, ‘Chasing Shadows?’” 

Robert felt a little weird. Physically. He shouldn’t have eaten so fast. 

“Ah, yes, Mrs. Milkie, you have told me of your group.” His eyeballs itched, and couldn’t focus very well. 

“By the way, you may call me Ellie.” Her face changed. The falcon eyes were back, and her lips disappeared into a straight line above her chin. “May I call you Jason. Jason Bohn?”

Robert’s feet and hands tingled. His head felt like it weighed a hundred pounds. The spoonful of stew he just put in his mouth dribbled over his lower lip and chin and back into his bowl. 

He suddenly couldn’t swallow.

“Robert…..let’s use your real name… Jason. I had a wonderful day too. I want to show you something.” She stood and turned, opening a drawer in the china cabinet and removed a file folder. He saw the folder. His folder from his room!  If he could, he would have jumped up and wrung her neck, but he could barely move. And his breathing didn’t feel right. He had to take a breath and exhale consciously. If he didn’t think about breathing, he’d suffocate.

“You see, I had some suspicious feelings about you from the beginning. Your outward appearance and presentation of yourself struck me as…. plastic. Not real flesh and blood. Oh, you did a very nice job covering up the real you. However, you seemed so…..guarded. So calloused. I said to myself; I think Robert is hiding something. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. And oh, I guess I am a nosy old woman, but my intuition told me you were up to something. Maybe it’s because of my group, the ‘Shadow Chasers.’ It causes me to see evil behind every door. So, I searched your room, and, oh my Jason; you weren’t very careful with some very incriminating items.” 

I was shocked! And somewhat pleased at what I had found.” 

What did that old bag do to me?!

She came around the table and stood next to Jason/Robert. She moved his bowl across the table and laid the file folder under his face. “Let’s see what we’ve got here.” First, she pulled out the xerox copies of newspaper reports from San Diego, Irvine, San Bernardino, Yuma, Tucson, and Prescott in Yavapai County. She arranged the pages in a semi-circle on the table in front of Jason. She had them in chronological order dating back ten years. “Oh, I’m sure you’ve been at this for longer than ten years.”

Wha… tha’ fuck… isss.. dis?

She then placed two sandwich bags containing hair under his drooping head. One snowy white, the other a gaudy mauve color. Next, she put two gallon-sized Ziplock bags beside the hair. The bags were frozen from the dry ice kept in the hidden chest, kept out of sight in Robert’s/Jason’s room’s closet. “The news articles never mentioned that you also kept the breasts of your victims. Though we both know that souvenirs are a big part of what you do.”  

“I’m sure there is a psychosexual explanation for the breasts.”


“I can only imagine what else you did to those poor women,” scolded Mrs. Milkie, hands-on-hips, looking down at Jason/Robert with disapproval.

The last piece of paper in the file folder was a copy of a driver’s license. The picture was Robert Washburn; the name was Jason Bohn. “If we had the time, I would like to know who you use for fake ID’s. These are very good compared to the ones I have.”

Jason/Robert was still conscious; he was very alert. His body, however, had folded in on itself in paralysis. He looked like a ball of waded paper. Drool hung from his lower lip. 

“Now, I’m sure you are curious as to why you are in the condition you are in…yes?”  Mrs. Milkie sounded like someone happily playing a parlor guessing game.


He couldn’t move his eyes. They wouldn’t close or blink. He stared down at the table, his vicious and vile obsession in full view.

She pulled two vials and a capped syringe from the pocket of her apron, placing them next to the baggies of hair. “Sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide are in these two vials,” she said, hands clasped under her chin and smiling proudly at the two vials like she had just viewed a newborn grandchild for the first time.

“One drug makes you drowsy, and the other causes paralysis. They are the same drugs used in lethal injections. But I just put them in your stew.” She picked up the syringe and removed the cap. “To have these drugs is completely illegal. How I got my hands on them is another story. Let’s just say I know some very…what’s the word….dicey, people.” 

She tittered behind her hand.

“And now, since I uncovered your secret’s, I think it only fair that I share some secrets of my own.”

“Secrets you will take to your grave.” 

She moved a chair closer to Jason so she could speak in his ear. “Oscar? That was me. Arsenic poisoning over an extended period. The poor man with only one leg. I did him a favor.” “Miss Winkler, the woman who’s room you now have smothered with a pillow. I put phenobarbital in her nightly tea so that she was already unconscious when I put that pillow over her face. Poor dear, just was not happy.” 

She sighed as she told these two secrets, as someone recalling bittersweet memories.

“Oh….the nursing homes, yes. I helped twelve poor souls go to their maker. They were, after all, ready to go.” There was another sigh of fond remembrance. 

“And now, dear Floyd. Feeling poorly as he’s been, made him very unhappy. Of course, slow arsenic poisoning isn’t pleasant, but he only has a short time left of suffering before he’s gone.”

Jason/Robert was sweating. Mrs. Milkie took a linen napkin and dabbed his forehead, saying, “Oh, I do go on and on. Now about you.”

She held the syringe so he could see it. 

“This is my concoction,” she announced proudly. “Potassium mixed with digoxin to stop the heart.” She used an alcohol swab to wipe an area on a neck vein. “The coroner will list a heart attack as the cause of death.” 

As she slid the needle into his neck, she said, offhandedly, “This was no more than putting down a vicious dog.” 

Stephen Bustanoby

Stephen is a new writer with several recent short story publications. He grew up with Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and

NIghtmare Theater. We can find horror in the most benign, mundane situations, and that’s what I look for.

Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 4) by Stephen Bustanoby

  1. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 1) by Stephen Bustanoby
  2. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 2) by Stephen Bustanoby
  3. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 3) by Stephen Bustanoby
  4. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 4) by Stephen Bustanoby
  5. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 5) by Stephen Bustanoby

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Part 4

Robert found the TV remote and was surprised to see the late model Sanyo flat screen. It looked so out of place in a living room decorated, circa, nineteen-thirty. He wasn’t interested in the local news. It would be the same as every small-town newscast he’s seen the past twenty years. 

He was not disappointed. 

A trash dumpster fire, several minor car wrecks, and the weather; then there was a news alert. A cookie-cutter news broadcaster sat behind the news desk with a somber look on his face. A look he probably practices in the mirror every morning. 

He stated: “In Yavapai County, investigators are working two murder cases that, preliminarily, could be linked to the ‘Widow Killer’ who has terrorized the southwest for close to ten years.” Robert saw Mrs. Milkie out of the corner of his eye, dish towel, and dish in hand. “Turn that up a little, will you, Robert?” He inched the volume up a couple bars. He already knows how this turns out.

“We go now to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Station, where Sheriff Matt Boone is about to address the media.” 

‘All this hoopla over a couple old ladies that got what they deserved, and he despised the public interest in something very private to him,’ Robert fumed.

Sheriff Boone spoke: “It is highly likely that the serial killer known as the ‘Widow Killer’ has claimed two victims in the Prescott area. Both victims were residents of a gated retirement community, which shall remain unnamed. Both victims were found in their bedrooms by cleaning staff. The nature of the killings does match the MO of the ‘Widow Killer.’ The FBI has sent personnel to join our task force in tracking down the killer and bringing him to justice.” 

The sheriff turned to leave as reporters shouted questions at his back.

“My goodness,” gasped Mrs. Milkie. “He’s come to Arizona.” 

Robert was bored. So much fanfare over two old ladies. But his memory had crystal clear images nobody could see but him. He just had to close his eyes and watch. And, of course, he had his trophies. Bagged and well, hidden so he can look at them any time. 

“You say, he’s,” started Robert, “How do you know it’s a he?”  Robert knew what she’d say; he just wanted to hear Mrs. Milkie spout off in her know it all way. 

“FBI profilers generally state serial killers are male, twenty to forty years old, loners and maladjusted in their social skills.” 

His brain itched and burned. 

Robert grinned, “So according to your description, I could very well be a serial killer.” He kicked himself for saying that, but he was pissed. And amused.

He was different. 

She giggled behind her dish towel, “Oh Robert, I know people. You wouldn’t hurt a fly.” 

He laughed, “Not unless said, fly landed on my delicious butterscotch pudding.” 

Mrs. Milkie laughed heartily. Robert joined in laughing…at her.

The following morning, Robert and Floyd sat down to breakfast. Coffee pot and cups already on the table. Mrs. Milkie could be heard in the kitchen, humming while preparing scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. The two men drank their coffee in silence. Then Robert noted, “I guess Oscar is sleeping in this morning.”

Floyd looked up at the mantel clock on the china cabinet, “Unlike him to sleep in. But he’s been feeling poorly last couple days,” said Floyd sipping his coffee.

Mrs. Milkie swept into the dining room, carrying a platter piled with eggs, sausage, and toast. “Good morning, good morning,” she gushed while placing the platter in the middle of the table and then sat. She stared across the table at the empty chair next to Floyd. “That’s odd, Mr. Fanning hasn’t missed breakfast since he’s been with me.” 

She turned to Robert, “Would you be a dear and let Oscar know breakfast is on?”  Robert said, “Sure,” stood and took his coffee with him. 

He went up the stairs to Oscar’s bedroom door and tapped lightly. Nothing. He took a couple of sips of coffee and rapped a little louder, “Oscar, breakfast is on.” Silence. He tried the doorknob, and the door swung in. He pushed the door open wider and walked in, seeing Oscar on his back, mouth wide open, teeth in a glass on the nightstand. Robert stepped closer. Oscar’s eyes were as wide open as his mouth. It looked like he was scared to death. And dead he was.    Robert put his cup down next to the teeth and put an ear to Oscar’s chest. No heartbeat. He placed his ear next to Oscar’s mouth. No breath.

Robert trudged down the stairs and into the dining room, “We should call nine-one-one, I think Oscars dead,” he said it in a tone someone might use to report a dead canary. Floyd looked up from his plate, expressionless. 

Mrs. Milkie jumped up, “Oh my, oh my, are you sure?” 

Robert was already getting the old rotary style phone, “I’m no doctor, but he looks like it.”

Mrs. Milkie hurried upstairs, trailing, “Oh my’s!”  

Robert placed the call to nine-one-one and then waited on the front porch. He started laughing and was having difficulty controlling himself. He kept picturing Oscar’s toothless mouth jacked wide open, and his eyes bugged out. He walked out into the yard, covering his mouth as he laughed harder. Robert finally got himself under control. Then he pictured Floyd, calmly finishing his breakfast while Mrs. Milkie raced around, ‘Oh my’ing!’ That got him laughing again.

The sounds of approaching sirens calmed him down. He hoped to God he didn’t start laughing when the paramedics got there.


Oscar appeared on a gurney as the paramedics wheeled him down the walk to the ambulance, Mrs. Milkie following them, giving her report to a paramedic with a clipboard. Robert stayed in the living room watching the action through the bay window, the occasional giggle escaping.

Stephen Bustanoby

Stephen is a new writer with several recent short story publications. He grew up with Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and

NIghtmare Theater. We can find horror in the most benign, mundane situations, and that’s what I look for.

Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 3) by Stephen Bustanoby

  1. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 1) by Stephen Bustanoby
  2. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 2) by Stephen Bustanoby
  3. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 3) by Stephen Bustanoby
  4. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 4) by Stephen Bustanoby
  5. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 5) by Stephen Bustanoby

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Part 3

Mrs. Milkie sat at the head of the table. After saying grace, she dished out the food. 

Robert found the meal to be bland. Very little, if any, salt, pepper, or other spices. He imagined this was what the food was like in the nursing homes, keeping aging digestive tracts in order.

Robert found Oscar and Floyd to be as bland as the food. They actually could have been brothers. Same stick arms covered in liver spots like tattoos, waddle hanging over the neck of their wrinkled t-shirts and complexions you’d find on a mortuary, ‘dearly departed.’ Their dispositions bordered on sulky and depressed.

A conversation was initiated by Floyd, who asked how Mrs. Milkies ‘hobby’ was going. Around bites of chicken, he asked, “So, have you caught any bad guys lately?”  

Mrs. Milkie daintily dabbed her lips with a linen napkin, then said, “I think we are getting close on the Sandra Wilkes case. We do not believe she just ran away from her home, leaving her two small children alone. Her relatives say that it is completely out of character for Sandra.”

Robert stopped eating. What’s this? 

“The police are checking phone records, and, of course, their primary suspect is the ex-husband. All by the book as they say,” Mrs. Milkie finished.

Robert wondered, what the hell? Finally, he spoke, “It sounds like you have an interest in law enforcement.” He wondered if she would like to go with him on his next kill. Oh, that’s right—she is the next kill. His giggle nearly escaped through the potatoes in his mouth.

Mrs. Milkie dabbed her lips, “Well, yes, I’m what you would call an amateur sleuth. A junior detective. You see, I belong to an internet club called ‘Shadow Chasers.’ We take real, unsolved cases and chat online about our theories on who did it, why, and how.” 

Robert smiled as he watched and listened as Mrs. Milkie talked. Isn’t that cute? A bunch of geriatric G-Men solving crimes. He would like to give them a good, juicy case with plenty of gore.  

“So, we believe the ex had the motive and opportunity to rid himself of a woman who would not let him see the kids and was taking him to the cleaners for alimony and child support.” 

Robert asked, “So this hobby must take a lot of your time, and as busy as you are, how do you find the time to solve cases?”  She ain’t gonna have any time once I’m through with her.

Mrs. Milkie stood and started collecting dishes, saying, “Oh, I just dabble with it. I really don’t have the time I would like to pursue cases.”

The dishes cleared, Mrs. Milkie brought in the butterscotch pudding on a serving tray. She dispensed the pudding and sat. “My real interest in crime is with the serial killers,” she said with a gleam in her eye. “The psychology behind a mind that can kill and torture human beings fascinates me.”

Robert blurted out, “Don’t you mean torture and kill?”  

Mrs. Milkie tittered behind her, napkin, “Of course, torture then kill.”

Robert watched Mrs. Milkie eating her pudding. The itch at the back of his brain had become a smoldering ember. The memories of his last two victims spiked across his mind.

Floyd Evans asked, “Serial killers?  They’re the scariest bunch. Don’t they make you afraid?” Mrs. Milkie placed her spoon in her empty bowl and folded her hands on the table.

“Yes, they are the scariest bunch, because they walk among us, looking and acting as normal as anybody. Yet there is a monster that lurks underneath their ordinary-looking lives.” 

Do you mean like the guy sitting to your left?  Robert had to clench his teeth to coral a laugh.

Oscar Fanning was dozing over his unfinished pudding.

Robert wanted in on this, so he asked, “Mrs. Milkie, what do you believe makes a person into a serial killer?” 

She straightened up and lifted her chin, saying, “I believe, and many experts concur, that genetics and early childhood trauma creates a mind that has to kill, to satisfy something they are lacking. It’s an uncontrollable urge that the killer cannot deny.”

To Robert, she looked and sounded like a teacher. Like a ‘know it all.’ He hated ‘know it all’s.’ His mother was a ‘know it all.’ Though she didn’t know shit. The ember in his brain grew warmer and brighter.  

There would be a point of no return. Then its time for the kill.

She continued, “I bet you didn’t know that we all are just one genetic marker away from being a serial killer. Especially if you have suffered a major childhood trauma plus that genetic component.” 

Floyd shook his head, “Not me.” I was raised right by God-fearing parents who did not ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’ If I sassed or lied, something like that, I got me a whopping with the strap. That’s what kept me on the straight and narrow.” 

Oscar was now snoring into his pudding.

“Well, I think we’ve had enough stimulating table talk for one evening,” said Mrs. Milkie, as if she were addressing children. Robert stood, offering to help with the dishes. “Oh, no, no, you gentlemen, relax. It won’t take but a tic to have them done. In fact, the seven o’clock news comes on in a few minutes. I like to listen to it when I’m in the kitchen. Help yourself to the TV.” 

Floyd tottered up to his room. 

It took more than a totter for the one-legged Oscar to negotiate the stairs. But he made it

Stephen Bustanoby

Stephen is a new writer with several recent short story publications. He grew up with Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and

NIghtmare Theater. We can find horror in the most benign, mundane situations, and that’s what I look for.

Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 2) by Stephen Bustanoby

  1. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 1) by Stephen Bustanoby
  2. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 2) by Stephen Bustanoby
  3. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 3) by Stephen Bustanoby
  4. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 4) by Stephen Bustanoby
  5. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 5) by Stephen Bustanoby

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Part 2

Mrs. Eloise Milkie owned the house outright after her dear Albert passed on two years ago. Thinking about that, she wondered, has it been that long already?  The large house had five bedrooms and three baths. 

Mrs. Milkie started taking boarders last year when it became apparent that Albert’s pension and insurance were not enough to pay for the older home’s upkeep and cover utilities, taxes, and home insurance. Not to mention daily expenses for food and the such, plus her weekly visit to ‘Claires House of Beauty.’ She liked to ‘keep herself up’ as the neighbors would say, and at eighty-years old, why not?  She dressed fashionably (for her age) and carried herself about town as if she were off to the Queen’s ball. Always addressed as Mrs. Milkie, except for a very few close friends who called her Ellie. 

She lived in the same house for fifty years. It was hers and Albert’s first home, and she was well known out and about the neighborhood and well-liked. She was always there to lend anybody a helping hand. She also volunteered at the two nursing homes in the area, four times a week for a few hours a day. On Wednesday nights, she’d put on a talent show for the nursing home residents to help them come out of their shells. She played the piano, led sing-alongs, and occasionally (when her hip wasn’t too noisy) showcase a few jaunty dance steps. Wherever she went, Mrs. Milkie spoke: “Of spreading joy and cheer to the joyless and cheerless.”


She liked to cater to older men and women at her boarding house, especially those who seemed alone in the world with health problems and no apparent next of kin. 

Mrs. Milkie liked for everybody at the boarding house to feel like one big happy family.


When the dusty, silver Ford Econoline van pulled up out front of the boarding house, Mrs. Milkie looked expectantly through the lace curtains to see who had come to visit. Out stepped an ordinary-looking man dressed in a suit that managed to represent all shades of brown. 

He stretched, then walked through the gate in the picket fence. He stopped a moment to take in the colors and aromas of all the blooming flowers. 

Mrs. Milkie liked him right away.

Just as Robert Washburn raised his hand to ring the bell, the door opened. There stood an elderly woman dressed as if for a formal occasion. The hairs on the back of Robert’s neck bristled. This woman looked like his mother would have looked at this age if she were still alive. The resemblance spoke to the monster in his head, who gibbered hateful remembrances of his mother.

“And who do I have the pleasure of meeting on this fine morning,” she asked warmly. 

Robert was still working on the resemblance this woman had to his mother. A mild trance distracted him. 

“Hello, young man, may I help you?”  He blinked several times before he responded.

“I saw your sign for the room to let, so I thought I’d stop and find out more.” 

Mrs. Milkie’s smile bloomed. “Well, you come right in, and we’ll have a talk.” She pushed the screen door open for him and stepped back to let him in.

“Actually, you are in luck. I just brewed some fine English breakfast tea…I do hope you’re a tea drinker.” Robert followed her into the kitchen where there was a nook by a bay window, shaded by Azaleas. 

“I do enjoy tea from time to time, but I’m mostly a coffee drinker.” 

She was busy with the tea set and said over her shoulder, “This tea will make you a staunch tea man. Please have a seat.” He slid into the nook, while she placed a silver tray with teapot steeping and all the condiments in the middle of the table. She poured the tea, asking, “Cream and sugar?” 

“Please.” Robert watched her; he could not shake images of his mother. Not good images.

“So, tell me about yourself. What brings you to this part of Flagstaff?” 

Robert took a sip of tea, saying, “You just might make me a tea man after all.” She smiled demurely. “Well, the short version is I’m here on business, I travel the southwestern states for my cleaning supply company and have a great opportunity to land a deal with the university.” He took another sip. It was good. 

“Oh my, all that traveling. It must be exciting seeing all parts of the southwest. That’s my favorite part of the country.” She sipped, “In fact, my late husband and I had planned many travel excursions when he retired.” 

A widow!

“But alas, poor Albert had a bad heart and went suddenly.” 

He offered a canned, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” 

Mrs. Milkie went on with her rat-tat-tat monologue. That bristle at the back of Robert’s head started to itch. But it’s too soon. He had two, just a week ago, but he could not ignore the itch. He returned his focus to the conversation, which was the prattling of a lonely old woman.

“So, now I have this big house and all the expenses that go with it. We had no children to give the house; taking in boarders made the most sense. I cater to elderly folks and transient people. You know, someone who just needs a place to stay for a short time while they’re in town visiting relatives, or, like yourself, here on business. I also volunteer at the nursing homes in town. It helps fill my days. Well, it is helping the less fortunate ones. The elderly, the feeble, you know, the ones who really have no one to care for them in their old age.” 

Robert sat, smiling and nodding in all the right places while paying attention to every fifth word of her lengthy, lonely old widow, monologue.

“My goodness, I’ve been doing all the talking, I can be a real chatterbox. Tell me, what do you do to fill your days? Other than work, of course. Are you married? Children?” 

‘She talks fast and a lot, just like mother did,’ he thought. “I’m sorry to say that I am not very interesting—no wife or kids. Aside from working, which takes up a lot of time on the road, I like to explore the new cities and towns I travel through. It’s relaxing to take walks and drive around these small towns. I like to meet new people.” Mrs. Milkie sipped at her tea, smiling at Robert.

“Well, shall we talk turkey?”  she began. “The room is a hundred dollars for the week. I provide an evening meal and a light breakfast; in hotels, it’s called a continental breakfast; it’s all part of the weekly fee.” 

Robert nodded, “That sounds like a very reasonable deal.” 

“Tsk, tsk,” fussed Mrs. Milkie, “I forgot to say, I have housekeepers come in once a week to clean and do laundry.”

Robert nodded, saying, “I’ll take it.”

Mrs. Milkie beamed, “That’s wonderful!” 

Then a shadow seemed to veil her face. “I have to let you know something. I think it’s the law, but even if not, you should know. It’s ethical.” Mrs. Milkie looked so somber. “Someone died in the room in which you will be staying. Just two days ago. That’s why I had the sign-out.” 


Robert thinks he can live with that. “That won’t bother me. Even if there’s a ghost,” he said with a wink and a grin. 

Mrs. Milkie laughed, “No ghosts.” She continued, “It was poor, Miss Winkler. She came to me with a bad heart, and that’s what got her. Oh, the room has been put to rights, I can assure you; cleanliness wise.” 

He said, “I’m sure that it has.”



Robert settled into his room. Supper was served at six pm, sharp, so he had forty-five minutes to kill. He showered and changed clothes and then stretched out on the bed. Pretty comfy. At the top of his mind was Northern Arizona State University. This was an account he’d been working on for some time. He has meetings tomorrow with facility managers. He needed to impress. Capturing this account, providing all their janitorial and paper product needs, would make his year.

At the back of his mind was Mrs. Milkie, in the form of that familiar itch that preceded a killing binge. Images of past victims, dead and mutilated, scrolled across his mind’s video screen. Every victim had Mrs. Milkie’s face. 

The feeling he was experiencing was somewhat different. With all his past victims, he had never interacted with them prior to the ritual of the kill. It was also that Mrs. Milkie reminded him of his mother, more than any previous victim. Mrs. Milkie added a new layer of rage and shame. A new dimension to consider with this kill. 

He was excited. For the first time, he got an erection thinking about a kill, though sex was never part of the ritual. ‘Now, where did that come from?’  He wondered. 

He had to be careful, though. Rage could make him careless. Oh, but he will have Mrs. Milkie. When the time comes, he would no longer be in control. The black seed in his brain would be pulling the levers and pushing the buttons. He was just an innocent bystander.


Supper was roasted chicken, baked potatoes, and green beans with hot buttered biscuits with butterscotch pudding rounding out the meal. There were four people at the table, Robert inheriting poor Miss Winkler’s chair. To his left was Mr. Floyd Evans, a retired high school teacher. To Floyd’s left was Mr. Oscar Fanning, who had worked in the logging trade—forced to retire when a cable broke, whipping through the air and snatching his leg from his hip. Both men were in their late seventies.

Stephen Bustanoby

Stephen is a new writer with several recent short story publications. He grew up with Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and

NIghtmare Theater. We can find horror in the most benign, mundane situations, and that’s what I look for.

Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 1) by Stephen Bustanoby

  1. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 1) by Stephen Bustanoby
  2. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 2) by Stephen Bustanoby
  3. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 3) by Stephen Bustanoby
  4. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 4) by Stephen Bustanoby
  5. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 5) by Stephen Bustanoby

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Part 1

Robert Washburn had black and disturbing secrets. He camouflaged his evil corruptness dressed in polyester suits (never straying from any shade of brown), sporting a flat-top haircut, and being overweight from eating nothing but fast food and drove an older model Ford Econoline van. His occupation was more cover than livelihood as a thirty-five-year-old, traveling salesman, representing a line of cleaning supplies for a small company located in Tucson, Arizona.  

Robert was such an unassuming man he could be invisible. 

He enjoyed the freedom of the road. He loved the southwest people, the climate, and the many interesting natural sites and beauty. He had no family, so his free time was his.

He also had the freedom to engage in his favorite, black and demented fantasies with a deadly passion.  

Killing and mutilating widowed elderly women.


The press usually hung serial-killers with a nickname that will draw the public’s interest and readership. Robert (AKA Jason Bohn) Washburn curses under his breath as he reads, “Widow Killer Strikes Again” on the front page of his newspaper. What he does to full fill his needs are private and personal. He hates having his intimate theatre splashed across TV and printed media.

‘It’s mine, goddamn it, and no one has the right to know me and what I do!’

He was currently living in a motel in La Mesa, California, in San Diego. He had just moved his operations north from San Ysidro near the Mexican border. 

There were two victims he left behind.

During the day, he would call on the facility managers of condominium and apartment complex’s selling his products and services. 

At night he would hunt. As part of the hunt, he would scour obits online or in the local papers, looking for recently widowed elderly woman. He also attended a lot of funerals, where he could gather useful information about the grieving widow. With enough research, he could get to know the deceased and the survivors fairly well. Almost like he’s part of the family. He enjoyed funerals and doing the research. He felt as though the funeral service was there to satisfy him.  

One particular morning he had several addresses he would soon be visiting. 

His obsession starts as an itch in the back of his brain. It then grows warm, heating the black seed in his forehead. The black seed grows, working its way to the places in his mind that feed the compulsion to mutilate and kill.

Fantasies about past murders dominate his mind: the sounds, the smells, and the tactile sensations of the killings.

He had a secret compartment in the floor in his van with boxes of chemicals hiding its location. In this compartment were his kill kit stocked with various knives, scalpels, duct tape, bottles of ether, rags, and a sewing kit with black thread, needles, and latex gloves.

Police attributed six victims to his current killing binge in early August in the general San Diego area. Six victims of the ‘Widow Killer.’ 

He had good intuition when it was time to move on. Law enforcement was pulling out all stops to end his reign of terror, as the reporters inform in their usual, overly dramatic way. 

“It’s not terror!  It’s salvation!”  Robert yells in the coffee shop where he’s having his breakfast while reading the paper. The outburst was not intentional. His last doctor, unaware his patient was a serial-murderer, said he had impulse control problems. Sometimes he can’t control himself. His condition goes back to his childhood when he would vivisect neighborhood cats. He just couldn’t help it!

He felt like he had one more kill in him before he left for other fertile grounds.


Robert was so nondescript that he blended in. Invisible in a crowd of faces.  So common-looking was he that no one could remember if a stranger was hanging around before a murder. Oh, but he was hanging around, watching the comings and goings of his next victim. 

Not very well kept-up, he would target older buildings. This meant older locks, easy to pick, or breakthrough. He’d often find windows open or unlocked, giving him access to his victim. His blood lust was high; nothing would keep him from satisfying himself and doing his moral duty. 

That would be tonight.


His pick didn’t work on the lock, so he used a small pry bar to pop the door open. 

“Yes?” came a wavering voice, an old person’s voice, from the back bedroom. Lorraine Winscott was sitting up in bed with her covers pulled up under her chin. 

Standing at the foot of her bed, Robert said, “I’m here to help you.” 

He genuinely meant it. He laid the satchel he brought with him on the foot of the bed, unzipped it, and began removing his tools. 

Though he said he would help her, there was a sense of violent intent in his stony, gleaming gray eyes. Death hung over him like a cape. 

“Are… going to hurt me?” 

Robert stopped what he was doing and looked Lorraine in the eyes, “No, sweetheart, I’m here to help you. Remember?  I just told you.”

“Then you’re a doctor,” she stated hopefully. 

Robert smiled as he finished unloading his satchel. 

What Lorraine saw was not a human smile; it didn’t touch Robert’s eyes, which remained steely and unforgiving. His mouth poorly mimicked a smile, showing all teeth and no compassion.

He took a rag and upended a bottle of ether into it. 

He walked to the head of the bed, saying, “Okay, honey, just relax; let’s see what we can do for you.”  He put his free hand behind her neck and then covered her mouth and nose with the ether-soaked rag. The old woman had no strength with which to resist. 

She unwillingly gave herself to unconsciousness as the ether did its part.

Robert yanked the bed covers away and threw them against the wall. He then took the scalpel and cut away Lorraine’s flannel nightgown, flinging it to the floor. He took a length of clothesline and wrapped it several times around her neck, pulling it tight and twisting it into a knot.

She couldn’t struggle or make a sound, as she surrendered her life to a creature posing as a human being.

He used a long, curved surgical knife to remove her breasts. These he placed in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag and then placed it in the satchel.

Next, he put on a headband that held an LED light mounted on the front. He turned it on and looked into the satchel for the black spool of thread and sewing needles. He expertly threaded the needle and then spread the old woman’s legs. 

He used his forehead lamp to exam the woman’s genitals. Once satisfied, he began sewing the labia’s shut. 

Robert doubled stitched. 

He took the scalpel, cut a lock of hair from the woman’s head, and placed it in a small sandwich bag.

Robert wiped blood from his tools and gloved hands on the bedsheets and repacked his satchel. He walked to the head of the bed and spoke down to the figure below him. “Mother, now you know, it’s not right to use your private parts to entice those men. Jesus tells me so. I won’t let it happen anymore.” 

“Now…it can’t happen anymore.”

This he had preached, to a multitude of dead and mutilated women, over the years. The murder, the mutilation, and the closing sermon never varied.


Robert’s father was killed in a bar fight the previous year before his mother abandoned him when he was twelve years old. In that year after his father’s death and before his mother disappeared, he heard his mother bring strange men into the house. 

He remembered peeking through the crack in his bedroom door and watching his mother dance for these men and take off her clothes. The men would wrestle her to the floor and put their dirty parts in her. And she laughed and laughed. 

Once, when he was watching, his mother looked over and saw him. He was too scared to move and close the door. She just smiled and laughed as she stared into his eyes.  


In Flagstaff, Arizona, an older, white, clapboard house was well maintained, with a ‘Room to Let’ sign in a front window. Rose bushes lined each side of the walk that led to the front porch. Azalea bushes bloomed all around the house, wrapping it in a rainbow. The finishing touch was a white picket fence. Robert thought this scene could have come from Norman Rockwell’s portfolio. 

A discrete sign was above the porch that announced, ‘Mrs. Milkies Boarding House.’

Stephen Bustanoby

Stephen is a new writer with several recent short story publications. He grew up with Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and 

NIghtmare Theater. We can find horror in the most benign, mundane situations, and that’s what I look for.