The sleek Mercedes pulled into the small town’s single-pump gas station. A wrinkled old man sat in a chair by the door, his fedora pulled over his eyes. Benny lowered the car’s smoked glass window.
“Pardon me, can you tell me how to get the Old Oliver place?”
The man raised his head just enough for Benny to see gray stubble carpeting his gaunt face.
Getting no further response, Benny asked, “So, do you mind telling me how to get there, old timer?”
The old man spit a gob of russet-colored juice toward a coffee can spittoon, and wiped an oil-colored trickle from his chin.
“The name’s Claude and not old timer.”
“Okay Claude, how do I get there?”
He pointed down Main Street with a bony finger.
“Follow the road out of town three quarters of a mile and stay to the right when the road forks. Turn left after another mile. Just before the four mile bridge turn left again. When you reach a gravel road, follow it to the house.”
“Thanks,” Benny replied.
“You’re going out there because of that ad in the city papers about the home tour and free dinner, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Benny replied, “Why?”
Claude sat forward in his chair. "Are you a serious buyer or a looky-lou? I know they don’t take kindly to freeloaders wanting a house tour and a free dinner.”
"I’m a realtor specializing in Victorian resales,” Benny replied. "But, I doubt it’s in the condition advertised in the paper. Regardless, I’ll get the owner to come down to what I will pay.”
“Maybe, and maybe not," Claude replied.
“I guess we’ll see,” Benny scoffed. “Thanks for the directions old ti . . . , I mean Claude.”
Benny drove off devising a way to scam the owner. He followed Claude’s directions, which returned him to the road fork. The gravel drive sat just before the fork.
“Oh, you schmuck,” he said, realizing the old man sent him in one big circle.
The three-story Victorian sat on a stone foundation, and from a distance appeared to be in perfect shape.
"I am going to make a fortune off this place,” Benny said, stepping onto the porch.
He knocked, and the leaded glass and oak door opened slightly. He stepped inside to a marble-floored foyer flanked by heavily furnished rooms, whose musty, polished wood aroma hung in the air.
"Hello, anybody here?" he hollered.
A few seconds later, a muffled voice replied, "Come in, I'm down here!"
“Down where?” Benny called out.
“Follow the hall straight ahead, and take the stairs. I’m in the basement.”
Benny followed the narrow hall. His footsteps echoed on the wood floor as he stepped between Persian rug hall runners. Benny made a mental note to use the creaking floor as leverage.
Mid-way down the hall, the floor beneath him gave way. He tumbled into a darkened chasm with the rug wrapping around him.
Benny slammed to a stop. Vertebrae crunched and his lungs deflated in a loud,
He sprawled across several evenly spaced iron bars with tiny, ripsaw-toothed edges that ripped into his skin. Barely conscious and paralyzed except for his eyes, Benny’s chest rose and fell sounding shrill and forced.
“Hello again. I’m so glad you could drop in. Oh! I just made a joke.”
Thunderbolts of pain shot through Benny’s brain. His frightened eyes darted toward the voice.
Claude, the old man, stood next to a furnace where flames licked at a grate placed above it.
Claude pulled a leathery, brownish clump from his pocket and bit off a piece. He held it out to Benny.
“Care for a chew? Dried liver is much better than regular tobacco. It’s chewy, retains the juices, and you don’t have to worry about cancer killing you.”
Claude grabbed an axe off the woodpile, and felt the edge. After running the edge along a sharpening stone along the edge he raised it over his head. Benny could only watch through the tears pooling in his eye sockets.
Claude chuckled and split a fire log in two with a loud crack. After feeding the log into the flames, the cellar quiet echoed with another chop. Although he felt nothing, Benny’s horrific screams echoed in his mind.
“I’m sorry you got the quick tour, but looky-lou’s and devious real estate agents are time-wasters. However, we did promise a free meal. I hope you like your meat cooked medium.”
Claude seasoned the severed leg and set it on the grill. After sharpening an carving knife, he removed Benny’s liver and hung it over the fire to dry. Several seconds later, the room faded into darkness.
Harold ‘Hal’ Kempka is a former Marine, and Vietnam Veteran. His short stories have been published in Thrillers Killers and Chillers, Black Petals, Night to Dawn, Golden Visions, House of Horror, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Microhorror, Flashes in the Dark, Blood Moon Rising, The New Flesh, Sex and Murder, and The Shine Journal, among others. Hal also has stories appearing in upcoming anthologies from Pill Hill Press and Blood Bound Books. He is a member of the FlashXer flash fiction workshop, and lives in Southern California. His emailaddress is: firstname.lastname@example.org