This story is by David Elderton and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Hey, neighbor, got an ax?”
The man with the gruff voice was mostly hidden by the trees separating the campsites.
“Sorry, no. We bought wood at the campground entrance,” Rob lied.
Rob disliked his camping neighbor. The man arrived an hour earlier in a loud rusty pickup, killing any chance for a quiet night.
Rob’s family was there to connect beyond the reach of technology. Rob’s son, Ezekiel, who went by ‘Easy,’ suggested it. Rob married Lisa not long after the unexpected death of his first wife. He agreed they needed some bonding time.
All three sat around the campfire, waiting for the flames to die down.
Lisa wore a scoop-neck top, micro shorts, sandals and…nothing else.
Easy reached into the cooler and gave the hotdogs to Lisa.
“Thank you.” She stared at the vacuum sealed package, wondering how to open it.
Lisa stood up, then bent over at the waist for the roasting forks. Her loose top hanging free provided an unobstructed view of her proud, unrestrained breasts.
Rob dutifully stared at them. Lisa, a former model, sported an exquisite pair and knew it. Rob broke his gaze and observed his sixteen-year-old son was transfixed by them. Easy couldn’t help himself.
Lisa straightened up, ending the show.
Rob went back to watching the neighbor. Something wasn’t right about him. Rob went to his Mercedes SUV and retrieved his customized Glock 23, resting in an alligator-trimmed holster. He put it on, checked the magazine, racked a round into the chamber and holstered the gun. He was ready to defend his family, in case he finds an ax, he chuckled.
Rob had attended multiple gun training schools, achieving ‘Top Gun’ in several. Earlier, Rob was teaching Easy the ‘double tap,’ firing two rounds center-mass in quick succession. Rob was pleased with Easy’s accuracy.
They ate hotdogs while watching their neighbor through the trees drag branches towards the fire ring. When the pile was sufficient, he doused it with gas. He tossed a lit match at it, creating a loud whooomph! as it ignited. The flames reached twenty feet high.
Rob shook his head. “He’s an idiot. Or crazy.”
“But the fire looks pretty,” Lisa said.
Rob noticed Easy was studying the effects the chilly night air had on Lisa.
The three sat in silence, watching their flames dwindle down. At length, so did the neighbor’s fire.
“Hey, neighbor,” the gruff voice called out, “you’re welcome to come share my fire.”
“Thanks…neighbor… but we’re going to bed soon. Goodnight,” Rob said.
“Easy,” Rob began, “I know things have been rough since Mom died, but it’s time to move forward. Lisa and I think moving-”
“Sure, Dad. Let’s move.”
Rob and Lisa exchanged looks. This had been a major disagreement last week.
“What changed your mind, son?”
“I realized I’ve been holding on to things I need to let go of. Now, I’m ready to move forward.”
“I really appreciate your attitude adjustment, Easy,” Rob said.
“Sure. I’m really tired, though. Goodnight.”
Easy got up, left the globe of firelight and dissolved into the darkness.
“I’m going to bed, but I’m not sleepy.” Lisa winked, as she retired to their tent.
Rob sighed. He was in ‘Protector’ mode. He had to stay up and keep watch. After Easy entered his own tent, Rob focused on the neighbor.
As the embers faded, Rob could see the adjacent campsite better. He counted nineteen lighted candles the neighbor placed around the perimeter of the concrete picnic tabletop. The man did a silent dance around the table. As he scrutinized him, something seemed familiar. Rob wondered if he knew him.
Hours passed. The candles burned out and the man just stared into his fire. Rob decided to go to bed.
Rob settled in the tent, but he kept on his pants and gun. He saw Lisa was asleep…and naked.
He sighed. Again.
Rob awoke when he became aware of tree shadows prancing on the bright tent wall. He unzipped the door, peered out and saw the man had rebuilt his fire as high as before.
Rob looked at his Rolex Cosmograph. It was 2 a.m.
He zipped up the door and went back to sleep. Later, he thought he heard woodchopping.
Rob bolted upright. Their ax was sunk into a stump near the campfire. Rob went outside to retrieve it. The ambient light was enough to navigate the area. When he reached the stump, the ax was gone.
A shrill, piercing scream fractured the silence, then abruptly stopped.
Rob raced back to the tent, Glock in hand.
By the tent door, Rob saw her lifeless body sprawled face up. Then he saw the man holding a bucket. The man stared at Lisa, mesmerized by her naked body, even though he’d just buried an ax in her skull. Rob processed all this in an instant, mentally thanked Lisa for giving him this tremendous advantage, as the man wasn’t yet aware of Rob’s presence. He leveled the gun at the man’s chest and pulled the trigger.
Rob’s eyes shot open wide. His Glock had never failed before! Without hesitation, he racked the slide, ejecting the bad round and chambering a new one.
The man startled out of his depraved trance, but was frozen by fear. Rob aimed at the man’s panic-stricken face and pulled the trigger again.
Then Rob recognized him.
Rob dropped the gun and drew his backup knife just as the man overcame his shock and threw the bucketful of gas onto Rob. A lit Zippo struck Rob in the chest.
The whooomph! is louder when you’re inside it.
“Run, Easy!” Rob yelled before succumbing to excruciating screams as the ravenous, relentless flames consumed his life.
Long minutes passed, until the night reclaimed its ominous silence.
Easy watched as the man surveyed the campsite, illuminated by Rob’s flickering remains.
The man extricated the ax from Lisa’s skull.
“Now, boy, I’m a’comin’…fer YOU!”
The man cocked an ear, trying to locate Easy.
“Was that your…pirate voice?”
Easy materialized out of the darkness.
“Yeah! Scary, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, scary.” Easy rolled his eyes.
Bobby ogled Lisa, appraising her naked corpse. “What a body! Mmm-mmmm! What a fun time! Killed her too soon, huh?”
“Yeah, you really didn’t think that through, did you, Einstein,” Easy taunted. “Hey, if you want Dad’s Rolex, better get it. It’s worth $20K if it’s not burnt up.”
Easy glanced over at the smoldering clump that had been his father just minutes before.
“Looks like Dad is almost out.”
Bobby took the watch off Rob’s charred wrist. “It looks ok. Hey! You said he didn’t have a gun! He almost killed me!”
Easy drew a breath. “No, Bobby, I said you didn’t have to worry about it and you didn’t. Did he shoot you?”
“Well, no, but I’ve never seen a gun misfire that many times in a row.”
“It didn’t misfire.” Easy picked up the Glock and removed the firing assembly. “See? I ground the tip off the striker, so it couldn’t fire. I swapped out the good one with the bad one this afternoon.”
He held them up so Bobby could compare the difference, then installed the good one.
“There. No evidence of tampering,” Easy said.
“Clever!” Bobby was impressed. “So, when do we get the $200 million?”
Easy drew another breath, slower this time. “We?”
“Yeah, you and me. You wouldn’t inherit anything if I hadn’t killed them.”
“Bobby, our deal was the Rolex and the Mercedes. Together, that’s $175K.”
“Yeah, but that’s not much compared to $200 mill-”
The .40 caliber hollow-point tore into Bobby’s chest. He collapsed to his knees, confusion contorted his face.
“Seriously?” Easy asked. “You’re surprised?”
“Why?” Bobby strained.
“You’re dying. Do you think you have time?”
“Ok, then. Three reasons. One, I killed my bitch mom so it’d be just me and Dad. But he couldn’t understand that.”
Easy picked a cocklebur off his sleeve. “Man, I hate these things,” he muttered.
“Two, Dad married the first pretty face he saw. Great tits, but total airhead. And she gets the money? I don’t think so. He just met her, but loved her more than me. I realized I’ve been holding onto things I needed to let go of.”
Easy sounded like he was giving the weather report.
He placed a hand over his heart. “Bobby, we’re friends, right?”
Coughing up blood, Bobby scowled at Easy as he would a rabid dog that had just bitten him.
“As my friend, I need you to make this an open and shut case for me. Y’know, pissed off ex-employee attacks former employers’ family, but heroic father kills him before dying. Which…brings us to Three; you gotta die.”
Bobby gurgled, “You motherfu-”
Bobby toppled over dead.
“I really appreciate your attitude adjustment, Bobby.”
Easy assessed his shot placement and grinned. Two hits, center-mass, just like one of Rob’s double-taps.
“Now…I’m ready to move forward…”
I don’t want to meet that kid… anywhere. Great story.
David Elderton says
Thanks! I appreciate you taking the time to read it!
Linda Newlin says
No matter how many times I read this, my skin crawls!
But does it crawl in a good way?
Thanks for reading it again!
J. H. O'Rourke says
Awesome story! Loved it from start to finish. Thought the line “I really appreciate your attitude adjustment…” both early on and near the end was especially clever and creepy. Well done!!
I had several “tie-ins” that I thought make this a pretty tight story.
It was fun to weave them in!
Thanks for the kind words!
Kay Queen says
Loved it. Very interesting from start to finish.
Kay, thanks so much for reading it!
I appreciate your kind words!