The title of this short story, Deceit, sums up the deception at the heart of it. It was written for Thrillers Killers and Chillers, and tells the story of a family weekend to the country which doesn't go according to plan, and has a twist in the tail, although if you follow the clues you might guess the ending...
Note: Contains swearing and mild references to sex.
Darkness descended quickly. Orange tinted clouds rolled and billowed forward. Grey layers began to form above the forest like a bank of fog.
The rain was coming.
Dan Foster closed the sash window. A few silvery beads of rain hit the pane, then some more, leaving intricate, vein-like threads clinging to the glass. Water reflected the low light from the cottage as it rolled towards the window ledge, collecting like shuddering mercury pools along the sill.
A reflection in the glass caught his eye.
Her shadow moved.
He turned to face his 15-year-old stepdaughter. Her hair was down, released from the ponytail that she always wore. It softened her delicate features. She looked somehow older. Beautiful. More appetising.
He licked his lips. Thinking about what was to come. His expression was cold, despite his deceptive smile.
A stilted silence curled around them. The rain came heavier against the windows, quickly replacing the hush of the previous hour.
‘I’m going for my shower,’ Louise said. ‘It’s freezing up there. Can you stoke the fire or something?’
His blue eyes glittered through the darkness, easily pulling her into his gravitational field like a wayward satellite. His voice was like sandpaper. ‘Sorry, love. I’ll get some more wood.’
Her tongue flicked behind the curl of her lip. ‘Good, ‘cos it always gets cold in this place. My other stepdad kept some firewood in the shed. Should be plenty in there. There’s a torch in the utility cupboard.’
‘It’ll be toasty by the time you’ve had your shower,’ Dan said, glancing at the time. It was approaching 7.30pm and he needed to call his wife, Diane – Louise’s mother – to let them know they got to the cottage okay. They had left London that afternoon for their long weekend in the Lake District.
Diane would follow as soon as she finished work. She’d been talking about it for weeks, and planned a romantic weekend.
He’d planned death.
He removed the mobile phone from his shirt pocket, dialled Diane’s number, and heard her voicemail. He realised she was driving, otherwise she would have picked up. ‘Hey, it’s me. We got here okay. I got a bottle of red waiting for you. Watch out for the rain. See you soon.’ He placed the phone on the side table and grabbed his jacket from the back of the sofa.
Louise stopped on the stairway and watched him.
Dan opened the utility cupboard in the kitchen and found the torch. He noticed Louise watching him, her expression galvanised with a frosty veil. She was still, askance eyes silently gauging him.
An hour didn’t seem long, but he desperately wanted to take her before Diane arrived. There would be enough time afterward to enjoy the girl even more.
He closed the cupboard and opened the back door to the darkness.
There was little wind - just the soft hiss of the rainfall through the trees, and a hint of coolness. He stepped out, panned the torch across the darkness. An eerie, maligned forest glowed briefly in the flashlight before sinking back into the blackness. Water cascaded down his face and into his mouth. It tasted tinny.
He made his way down a narrow path towards the outhouse. Slick paving slabs glowed beneath his light. A rickety old shed emerged from the gloom.
He lifted the latch and stepped inside, listened to the downpour as it drummed softly against the corrugated roof. Dust particles flitted through the amber torch beam. Thick, gauzy cobwebs wavered in the draught seeping through the old windows. He sensed movement, flashed the torch.
Long legged shadows scuttled along the far wall.
He shone the torch around the worktops, gazed at the stacked firewood by the windows, and slowly grazed the light across rusty tools hanging from hooks on the far wall. A large shovel stood against the worktop.
But it was the large rusty screwdriver on the edge of the counter that made his eyes dilate, and mouth salivate. He could almost hear the its raw sound, the squelch of metal against bone. It would cause maximum damage and minimum fuss.
Adrenaline squirted into his stomach at the thought of driving it into Louise’s skull. A pulse shot into his groin. He grabbed the screwdriver and slipped it into his back pocket.
He moved the shovel to the corner, by the door, then reached for the logs. He managed three in his arms and made his way back outside. He looked up; saw Louise hovering at the window like a distorted reflection. She remained expressionless, yet there was something in her pale aura that intrigued him, invited him. She vanished from view.
He pulled the logs in tight to his chest and angled the torch towards the back door. Silver flecks of drizzle danced in the torchlight and guided him back towards the door.
* * *
Louise stepped out of the shower, grabbed a towel and quickly dried herself to stave off the cold.
Beyond the bathroom door, the darkness heaved; the stairway creaked.
She looked up, held herself still. No other sound came.
The light from the bathroom cast an eerie glow cross the landing. But there was no evil shadow lurking, except in her imagination. She eased forward, peered around the door.
Through the banister rails, she could see Dan in the front room, stoking the fire. Relieved, she quickly dressed in fresh underwear and left the bathroom.
Dan looked up at the thick umbra clinging to the landing; saw her shadow casting elfin sprites across the walls.
He slipped the screwdriver into the back of his trousers and slowly ascended the stairs. He reached the top, stood at the edge of the darkness clouding the hallway.
Light from her room cast a harsh diagonal slash through the dark.
He oozed forward, placed a hand against her door and slowly swung it open.
She was facing the mirror, dressed in her underwear, her long, dark hair caressing the small of her back.
Darkened thoughts pounded his frontal lobe like a persistent headache.
Two years had drifted by since he first met her mother. At first, his disposition was naturally cautious with her, after all, she’d just lost her husband in a terrible, freak accident. But he was patient. He rarely stayed longer than a year with any of them, but this widow came with a prize worth the effort of entering into marriage with her – hr newly acquired fortune from her late husband.
And this one came with an added bonus: the girl.
Of course, thirteen was a little too young for his tastes, so he patiently waited for the onset of puberty. Now Louise was ripe and oozing sexual odour.
She would be his first child.
Sometimes the urges felt like a strong wind, blowing anti-clockwise around his mind, whipping up the dust and debris before settling swiftly into dark recesses. He had no control over them, especially since Louise’s recent flirtations. He knew the esoteric glances, the calculated flashing of her legs or a naked shoulder served only to entice him into her subtle sexual games. She teased him, she knew what she was doing, but he somehow kept from imploding.
He had been looking forward to the chance to get both of them alone. He’d been planning this for months. The cottage was perfect, on the edge of a forest, isolated. No one for miles. No interruptions. No distractions. No help.
He could do what he wanted once he’d killed them – he could play with them, bathe them, dress them and fuck them.
He’d planned everything. Right down to the lies he would tell the police.
Now his urges were swelling with each kill, and so was his fortune. He’d come here to kill, to finish what he’d started two years ago. Diane’s fortune, the townhouse back in London, and the cottage, would become his. Then he could move on to the next poor bitch.
Movement brought him to, and he glanced up.
He crept forward.
* * *
Minutes. That’s all it took to for him pin her to the wall and rip at her underwear. He slipped his hand into her knickers.
Her stomach contracted, churned. She squeezed her eyes shut. Fluid spilled from her pores and dribbled down her face.
He could smell her fear. He knew he was hurting her. Her whimpers made him swell and he quickly unzipped himself and forced himself inside her.
She winced; skin sickened.
The more intensely he looked at her pain, the more excited he became. He slipped his right hand behind his back and grabbed the screwdriver from his back of his trousers.
Tears formed in her eyes, gluing together her eyelids.
The smell of sweat clung to the air like dusted particles; the sound of sex sullied the silence, but another sound broke through the atmosphere, and it made Dan stop.
The slow dip...dip...dip of dripping water filtered through the hallway.
He looked to the darkness beyond the bedroom door, his heartbeat stifling his thoughts. He turned back to Louise.
Her eyes clouded with fear. He continued, but the constant drip made him look again at the doorway. He thought the sound was drawing closer.
A sound spilled from Louise’s mouth; hot breath over cold lips. ‘No…’
Dan looked down at her. His grip tightened around her throat; a red handprint seared her alabaster flesh. He was still inside her. He had to finish, had to kill her. He continued to thrust, his body pinning her to the wall as he neared orgasm.
He grabbed the screwdriver, swiftly aimed it at the centre of her skull.
She saw it; her eyes shot wide, body jolted.
He held her firm; thrust the tool down towards her face.
A scream punctured the silence and startled the darkness into momentary retreat, quickly followed by a muffled thud. A long, pitiful moan clung to the walls for some time before eventually petering out.
Blood oozed across the wooden floorboards. The table lamp flickered from the floor where it had fallen, intermittently highlighting startled, ghostly faces.
The body sprawled near the door twitched for a while as severed nerve endings struggled to function. Red sinew and cartilage glistened; muscle bulged through the deep laceration across the neck. Veins continued to pump blood for a short while.
Diane Porter threw down the shovel. Droplets of rain threaded down her face. She looked at her daughter.
‘What the hell took you so long? A second later and would have had me.’
Diane stared down at her husband. He was still twitching. The bony white of Dan’s spine poked through the sliced muscle and seemed the only thing keeping his half-decapitated head attached to his neck.
‘I couldn’t find the damn shovel,’ Diane gasped. ‘Son of a bitch must have moved it.’ She stepped over the body. ‘Anyway, what does it matter? It’s done.’ She couldn’t hide her exhilaration. ‘We did it, Lou. I can’t believe it went exactly to plan. You had him right where we wanted him.’
Louise’s voice was cold. ‘Two years’ deception well spent, don’t you think?’ She stared down at her dying stepfather. ‘Fucker didn’t see that comin’
Diane’s eyes were like blackened stones. ‘At last his money is ours.’
Dan was the third man they had despatched in the last four years. A rich, stupid fool.
Louise slowly wiped Dan’s spattered blood from her mouth and neck. She smiled, licked her lips. Her body tingled from the adrenaline. The urge to do it all again was strong, needy, but that was the trouble with deceit. It was like an addiction – and she couldn’t wait to do all it over again.