Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 4) by Stephen Bustanoby
- Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 1) by Stephen Bustanoby
- Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 2) by Stephen Bustanoby
- Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 3) by Stephen Bustanoby
- Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 4) by Stephen Bustanoby
- Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 5) by Stephen Bustanoby
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 is a new writer with several recent short story publications. He grew up with Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.