Monday 29 October 2012


Just three days until Halloween, and here is the first joint runner-up story in the Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers Halloween Horror competition, The Granny Farmer by Lee Hughes.

It's great to see Lee's work on the circuit again; his unique interpretations and insights always make for terrifying horror, with a twist of humour that is all his own. 

When I judged all the stories, I scribbled notes on the manuscripts as I went through. On The Granny Farmer, I wrote a single word 'Superb'. I'm sure you'll agree...


Will Bennett's hand shook as he pulled out the bottle of scotch. He gulped it down fast and poured another, his hand a little steadier. He cried a little, drank a little more. Four-hundred grand, it'd only started out as a twenty-thousand pound loan for some gambling debts he'd racked up. He'd lost that too. In-between the cash losses he'd lost his wife, his home, everything and was still left with a debt that kept getting bigger and bigger until the lender had sent some heavies around to his premises to let him know that the next step was the breaking of bones. Those goons had just left. Will drained his glass and went to the window. He couldn't call it a shop any more, there was no stock, no money to buy anything with, collectors had black-marked him and the landlord was working on eviction. 

The phone rang, he ignored it. After the dozenth ring it was clear they weren't going to give up. He lifted the receiver.


“Bennett's Antiques?”


“You probably don't remember me but you use to act as an agent for my late husband, George Milliner.”

Yeah, he remembered George Milliner, he hadn't been in touch for nearly a decade, long before everything had turned to shit. 

“What can I do for you Mrs. Milliner?”

“Before he passed he wished for me to sell off his collections to ensure I needn't worry about finances.”

Will was about to tell her that there wasn't much he could do due to his predicament. Then he thought better of it, an opportunity like this would never come around again. “Sure, when would you like me to come around?”

“Whenever is convenient.”

“Later on this afternoon?”

“That'd be great, thanks.”

Will hung up the phone and made another quick call to let the 'man' know that he was going to be good for the cash.


Seeing the large house again brought back memories of when he was a new face to the game, but one that was earning a hell of a reputation for getting decent prices for collectors. Now he was in his late forties and whiskey ridden.

He rang the bell and waited. He'd only met Mrs. Milliner a couple of times and those had been fleeting. She opened the door and smiled. The ten years hadn't been too rough on her, then again ageing never seemed to have the same effect on the rich as it did the poor. 

“Glad you could come at such short notice.”

She stepped back to let Will pass.

“Would you like a drink, Mr. Bennett?”

“I'd love one, call me Will.”

“Then I'm Lydia. Tea, coffee, something stronger?”

“A scotch would do the trick.”

“I'll show you through to the sitting-room whilst I fix it for you.”

That was another thing he liked about the elite rich class, drink-driving never seemed to be frowned upon.


He mooched about the room, recognising a few of the items. 

“Mrs. Milliner, sorry, Lydia, which items were you thinking of selling?”

“All of them, apart from a few trinkets that mean the most to me. This old house is just too big for me on my own.”

Granny-Farming was one of the worst things you could do in the antiques business. Ripping off vulnerable old widows was frowned upon in any business, but sometimes, it was either rules or legs that had to be broken. He took a big gulp of his drink leaving it practically empty in the hopes that Mrs. Milliner offered to refresh it. 

“Well, if it's okay with you I'll have a look around, make some notes on a few items, work out some evaluations for the auctions.”

“Of course, I'll get you another drink.”


As he wandered he made two sets of notes, one with a low price to show Lydia, the second with the real price it would fetch. He'd only had a gander through half of the house and his figures showed he could skim enough to pay back his debt and still have a bit left over.

He was holding a rather fabulous large Italian Maiolica twin-handled vase up to the light. Six-hundred and fifty quid to her and a healthy two-grand for his hip pocket. As he was setting it down he heard a polite cough from behind him.  He turned and Lydia was there with a decent two thumbs worth of scotch in his glass.

She passed him the glass. “Do you think you'll have trouble selling the items?”

“It won't be an overnight thing, but I can get a lot of the items on the go and then we'll stagger the rest over the next month or so, don't want to flood the market, does that sound all right to you?”

“What's another couple of months - I've lived here practically all my life.”

He took another gulp. The scotch really was top of the range stuff, made a nice change from the gut-rot he'd had to drink of late. He tried to say something else but his tongue was asleep in his mouth and wouldn't rouse. He made a couple of noises that could have been vowels as the room began to spin, the floor tilted and he fell towards the ceiling as everything went dark.


His head was pounding, no hangover had ever felt as bad as this and his mouth was as dry as Ghandi's flip-flop. He tried to think where he was. It was becoming a habit waking up some place he shouldn't.  He remembered, it was one of the rooms in the late George Milliner's house. He recalled the events leading up to the darkness. He'd been looking at antiques, drinking good scotch galore and then the room spinning. He tried to sit up. His arms wouldn't move, they were behind him and bound. He groaned, had he been arrested?

“Hello?” he called, dry and raspy. “Mrs. Milliner?”

He was surprised when he gained an answer. “Coming, be there in a minute.”

He wiggled his way around so he could see the door. It was open a good few inches. The gap between door and jamb became filled with Mrs. Milliner. Her body and features became whole as she pushed open the door. She was smiling.

“Will, I hope I can still call you that after what's happened?”


“Leaving you sprawled on the floor like litter. I'm just not as strong as I used to be, otherwise I'd have lifted you up onto the chaise longue. All I could do was put on the restraints and leave you where you were until you came to.”

“The police?”

“Oh, they can't help you.”

He wasn't expecting them to help him. “I'm not following.”

“It's been six years since my husband’s illness began. We soon learned that no amount of money can fix some things. This...” she showed him what looked like a carved bone. “and another like it were the last things he ever bought. Do you recognise it?” 

She wafted it closer to his face but Will was still stumped, he'd never seen anything like it. There was nothing flashy about it, ornate yes, not ivory, just plain old bone, long and carved. Looked as though it might have had the marrow removed as there were stoppers in either end. He quickly evaluated it and reckoned he wouldn't pay over a tenner for one.

She answered for him. “It's a Soul-Bone, shamans use them to capture souls at death, stops the spirits of evil-doers from returning to cause bedlam. George bought them from a shaman, I thought George was a bigger crackpot than the seller. Funny how things turn out.” She wiggled the Soul-Bone. “I used this as George performed his death-rattle. Sucked his soul right up into it.”

“Huh?” His new favourite word.

“Open wide, Papa's got a brand new bag.” 

She tore out one of the stoppers and jammed the rim of the bone to his lips and twisted making his lips bleed. She applied more pressure, driving the bone against his teeth. Will kept them clamped. Lydia pinched his nose and bided her time. With a gasp his mouth opened far enough and she thrust the bone in deep, past his gag-reflex and a little bit more to boot. She unstopped the other end and blew like it was a trumpet. She sank back onto the deep shag and panted. Patting her pockets, trying to find her angina spray. The struggle had taken everything out of her.

She sprayed under her tongue and watched as Will Bennett convulsed on her carpet, spraying spittle that landed and sank into the weave.

Whatever electricity was arcing through him and causing him to fit subsided and the body went still. Her heart was calming, she went over to the static body on hands and knees.

She reached out and gently shook his shoulder. He opened his eyes and focused. He opened his mouth and exhaled, the breath misty in the air and rancid as rot. “Liddy?”

Her eyes widened and her mouth cracked into a grin. “Georgie!” She hugged him and his face worked itself into a grin much like a foot trying on a new shoe, testing it for roominess. “Your turn.”


George plied his wife with drugs, enough to overdose a horse and waited. Her pulse slowed, wavered and ground to a halt. He lifted the bone to her lips and began to gently suck. Once hopeful he'd captured her essence he put the stoppers in. His wife's body was dead, he closed her eyes with his fingertips.

There was no mourning to be done.

It was just dead meat.

He went to where Liddy had left the cleaning girl unconscious. He hadn't been sure that his wife would be capable of these tasks, he was glad he'd been proven wrong. He was young again, late forties, but that was better than late sixties and on the fade. In a few minutes he would have his wife back and she would no longer be sixty, she'd be young and strong again. George was looking forward to taking his new wife for a sexual spin.


He watched her eyes open and a smile rise like the tide upon her face.



“We did it.”

“We did.”

Liddy let him help her stand. They stood for a long moment eyeing each other up. George broke the silence first. “This is going to take some time to get used to.”

“I'd like to stretch my new legs.” She ended with a giggle and a twirl.


It seemed sunnier outside as they held hands and walked down the steps towards the sprawling lawns. The sound of a vehicle travelling fast up their gravelled road cause them to pause and turn. A white transit van was hurtling towards the house. It came to a screeching halt, spitting up gravel in every direction. The side door slid open and two men jumped out, both in boiler-suits and balaclavas.

“What in the hell?” demanded George. The two men were armed, one with a pick-axe handle, the other a sawed-off shotgun. The goon with the pick-axe struck George in the guts with it.

“Cheers for the tip-off Will. Mr. Grady says, 'Thank you' but he'll take it from here. Dave, do the do.”

The goon with the shotgun pointed and let off a shot that took away half of George's head. Liddy screamed. The second barrel cut that short as her insides flowered through her blouse.

“Let's load the van up, it's gonna take us a few trips.”


Bio: Lee Hughes likes to write but can be a right lazy bastard.


  1. Poor George...I mean, Will. Banging story, Lee. Some guys got nothing but bad luck. Congrats!

  2. Quite entertaining, Lee. This plot had me glued, and I loved the twisted, twist of an ending. Super congrats! It's good to read your work again.

  3. Damn, but it's good to see you back around Lee. This is classic Hughes right here. You set everything up so seamlessly that when the final piece clicks at the end, it goes off with a Magnum bang.


  4. Real roller coaster in the dark sensation. You don't see the headsnaps coming until they, well, snap your head. Deft characterizations that will stay in my head for a while. Twist hits hard and fast. Cool.

  5. brilliant story, Lee ! Loved it, all the twist right down to the end. Fabulous. No, as Lily marked it, superb.