(Content Warning: Violence, Murder, blood, Gore, language.)
Anna adjusted her pink mini skirt and smoothed the wrinkles from her matching jacket. Her sun-streaked brown hair was combed just right, and her make-up assistant had just finished applying the last layer of brand-named cosmetics. She reached down, grabbed her bosom, and lifted them just right to show off enough cleavage to make anyone drool. Anna looked perfect and was ready for her live broadcast at the Brentwood construction site.
The stage was set behind Anna with flashing police lights and officers surveying the area. Emergency responders could be seen lifting a black body bag into their ambulance, which at this point served as a moving morgue. The sky was dimming as the last of the dying light faded into the horizon. The hour was at hand, and with a quick thirty-second countdown, Anna grabbed her microphone and stepped in front of the camera.
“Good evening, I’m Anna Dewitt reporting live for WHSQ here at the Brentwood construction site where multiple bodies were found hacked to death, leaving behind a grisly trail of blood. Police are investigating the horrific scene behind me, and it looks like the Ghost of Brentwood has attacked again.”
Mark, WHSQ’s director, ruffled his forehead and made a slashing motion with his neck, which Anna ignored. She didn’t care what he thought. She was the star of this show.
“Anna, what are you doing?” Mark asked through Anna’s earpiece. “Stick to the facts. Stick to the facts!”
Anna displayed a lopsided grin and continued despite Mark’s protests. She moved along the cacophony of ruby lights, and the camera followed her every movement.
“As you can see behind me, emergency personnel are loading the victims’ bodies into multiple ambulances, which leaves this timid reporter terrified, to say the least. For those unfamiliar with the Ghost of Brentwood, let me just give you all a brief history…”
Mark crossed his arms in an “X” formation and chopped them down. “God damn it, Anna! What the fuck are you doing?”
Anna reached up to her soft feathery ears and removed her earpiece. The constant yelling annoyed her to no end. She lifted her blue eyes and looked directly at the camera. She wanted to make sure she had everyone’s attention.
“Two years ago, a plethora of crime scenes were discovered where victims were hacked to death with what investigators could only describe as an ax. The murders were so bizarre in nature, and it didn’t take long for the public to view those murders as something paranormal. Thus, the Brentwood Ghost was born. That onslaught of carnage has continued to this very day, and one has to wonder—will authorities ever apprehend the Brentwood Ghost? From where I’m standing, it doesn’t look like it. Stay tuned for more information. We will keep you updated on this developing story.”
Anna tossed the microphone to her assistant and walked away from the camera. She noticed Mark’s red face as he stomped toward her. Oh, boy… here it comes. Again.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Mark huffed. “We talked about this before. You can’t throw bullshit in the wind during these important news events and hope it sticks to something. We have to stay true to the facts! Leave your fucking ghost stories at home!”
“I’m not spewing fake news, Mark,” Anna retorted. “The people believe in this ghost, and so do I. I’m going to prove it!”
“You’re disgusting!” Mark roared. “When I get back to the studio, I’ll have a long talk with Tim, and then we’ll see what happens!”
Mark stormed away, leaving Anna smiling. She knew there was no way Tim Sheppard, the president of WHSQ, would ever fire her. Not after she had that steamy affair with him two months ago. Anna had pictures and HD video proof to prove it.
Anna sat in her cushioned chair, placed a cigarette between her ruby lips, and inhaled deeply. As the nicotine-filled smoke poisoned her lungs, she felt a power that only Gods could know. She sat still, watching the crime scene with prowling eyes waiting to snag the next big scoop.
The previous day…
The sun shone brightly in the hazy-blue sky, baking Brentwood like a piece of raw meat over a campfire. The heatwave was relentless, with temperatures soaring over one hundred degrees.
Tex Holden woke up that morning sweating like a busted water hose, but that didn’t bother him. In fact, he was excited because today, of all days, he was starting his new job down at the Brentwood construction site. They were building new homes over on Scrawley Street, and Tex couldn’t wait to get started.
All his life, he enjoyed building things, and even though his father left when he was only six years old, Tex could always be found hammering something in the back of his mother’s farm. She would always say, “That boy isn’t good at building things, but he sure does try!”
Over the years, Tex went to Brentwood Community College and studied carpentry. I wish I could tell you that he graduated at the top of his class, but that would be a lie, and I must remain steadfast to the truth. Tex dropped out after one hour of classes because he said all that reading hurt his head.
He stayed on his mother’s farm doing various chores she thought he could handle. She even paid him a generous wage which he never spent because he didn’t understand the meaning of materialistic things. The only thing he cared about was doing a good job.
When his mother died from cancer, Tex moved into the city to get away from the haunting memories that plagued his dreams. That old farm became an asylum of heartfelt treasures that crumbled to pieces right before his eyes. He saw his mother in everything and knew it was time to move on.
Tex took a cool shower, put on his construction uniform, and raced out of his low-rent apartment. The outside heat almost took his breath away, but he breathed it in and smiled. The day was waiting for his skillful hands, and he didn’t want to disappoint.
When Tex arrived at the construction site, his boss Hank clocked him in and showed him where he would be working. The smell of sweating men and women percolated the dust-filled area, and Tex felt right at home.
Hank pointed to a pile of boards nestled ever so neatly on a wooden pallet and said, “Your job is simple. I want you to nail those boards to the frame.”
Tex followed Hank’s demanding finger as he pointed to the framework. “I can do that, boss!”
“That’s great!” Hank gleamed. “Make sure everything is even and straight. I’ll come back and check on you in a little bit.”
Tex lifted his eyes and curled his lips. “No problem, boss! I’m ready to get ‘er done!”
Hank lifted his clipboard and jotted down some notes. “That’s good. I’ll see you later.”
The heat was bearing down like a fire-breathing monster, but Tex didn’t mind. He saw a wooden hammer and a bucket of nails resting by the pile of boards. He scooped them up and got started. The salty sweat stung his eyes like a thousand swarming bees, and the orange hard hat baked his skull like a dead turkey on Thanksgiving. It was a mandatory safety rule that all employees wear them while in the construction zone, but Tex didn’t like it.
He placed board after board onto the frame of the house and nailed them in place. His hammer swings were strong and steady, and Tex was sure that his good work would be appreciated. Pounding nails was an easy job, and he remembered his time on his mother’s farm fixing the broken wired fence. His mother would be so proud!
A few hours later, Hank made his way back to Tex. When he saw Tex’s craftsmanship, his mouth fell to the ground. The boards were off-centered.
“What’s going on here, Tex?!” roared Hank. “Those boards are NOT straight and even!”
Tex crinkled his brow and scrunched his lips. “Um… I don’t know what happened. Maybe the heat is frying my brain, ha, ha, ha!”
Hank scowled. “Listen, I don’t know how things work in your world, but if you don’t fix this, I’ll have no choice but to fire you.”
“Sure thing, boss,” Tex said, hanging his head low.
“That’s right! I’m the boss, and don’t you forget it,” Hank bragged. He pulled out his clipboard, wrote some more notes, and warned, “I’ll be back to check on you later.”
Tex couldn’t believe his bad luck; he was sure he did a good job. He retraced his work and concluded that the nails he used allowed the boards to sway. Tex searched the surrounding area and found a bucket of screws strapped to a bundle of construction supplies.
That’s the ticket! If I use screws, those boards won’t be able to drift, and then I’ll get that pat on the shoulder!
Tex yanked with all his might, but the plastic strap holding the screws wouldn’t break. He looked around, wishing he had a knife but found the next best thing—a fire ax. He grabbed the wooden handle and felt the weight of the blade. With one good swing, the yellow strap was broken, and Tex began his labors.
He pried all the boards loose and removed the nails. Tex didn’t have a drill, so he took a deep breath and used a screwdriver to remount the wooden planks. It was tedious work, but the job was finished. Tex put the lid back on the screws and saw Hank stomping towards him.
Now, I’ll get that praise I so warmly deserve!
Hank took one look at Tex’s work and yelled, “What the fuck did you do?! This is worse than before.”
Every single board was off-centered. Tex wiped the sweat from his forehead and gushed, “I’m doing the best I can, boss. I’m sorry if I disappointed you.”
Hank looked at Tex’s red face and decided to give him another chance. It was against his better judgment, but the heat was devastating everyone. “Alright, listen up, Tex. I guess I can give you one more chance. It is hot, and it wouldn’t be fair to let you go without a fair chance, so fix this right away… and I’ll let you stay.”
Tex was beyond overjoyed. “Okay, I won’t let you down!”
Hank made a note on his clipboard, nodded, and took his leave. He had high hopes that Tex could do the job. The construction industry had a high turnover rate, and good workers were hard to find. He had faith that his third checkup would yield positive results.
It took Tex several hours, but he managed to get the boards hung. They were straight and flush—just the way Hank had wanted them, but Tex wanted to go above and beyond his duty.
These boards need some color. If I paint them, Hank is sure to be pleased and might even give me a raise!
He wandered the area and found a pallet with paint cans and spray bottles bundled together with a plastic strap. Everything he needed was right there within his grasp. A cocky grin filled Tex’s face, and with another mighty swing with the fire ax, the supplies were free to use.
There was admittingly one problem. Tex was color blind, so he didn’t know what color he was using. No matter, he thought. They have to be one solid color. Why would a construction site use different colored paints anyway?
The heat continued to beat Tex down, and his clothes were soaking wet. As he sloshed more paint on the wall, he noticed a dark shadow rapidly approaching. He turned and saw Hank running towards him.
“Tex! What the hell did you do?!” screamed Hank. “I never told you to paint anything, and you totally fucked it up anyway! Every single board is a different color!”
“No buts!” Hank growled. “You can’t hammer, you can’t screw, and you sure as shit-fire can’t paint worth a damn! As far as I’m concerned, you’ll NEVER be good at anything! You’re fired!”
Tex said nothing at first and just stared into oblivion. His world was spinning out of control, and the ground rumbled beneath his feet. Every muscle in his body was clenched to the point of bursting. He held in the bubbling rage, but the force was too strong to contain.
“I’m doing the best I can!” thundered Tex. “I’ve done all this hard work for you in this blistering heat. You should be thanking me, but instead, you berate me like some toddler!”
Hank rolled his eyes and fumed, “That’s real sweet because a toddler could do this job better than you!”
Tex balled his fists and cursed, “You can’t fire me, you fucking dickhead!” His words shocked him, but Tex went along with the madness. He saw the fire ax resting next to the empty paint cans and hissed, “Wait… I have something for you. A gift of sorts…”
Hank hesitated and then uttered, “A present for me? Well, I love getting gifts!”
Tex grabbed the ax and snarled, “It’s not that kind of gift, dumbass! Consider this a going away present!”
With the sun blazing down, Tex swung the ax like a wild man trapped inside a burning forest. The blade dug deep into Hank’s skull, spewing crimson ichor all over the freshly painted boards. That would have been enough to send a clear message and to sate a crazy man’s madness, but Tex wasn’t finished.
Hank was dead, but there was a whole site of thirsty co-workers, and Tex was ready to deliver the liquid goods. He raged through the construction yard hacking everyone within his grasp. Most people ran for their lives, but the work area was caged off to keep pedestrians from entering, and Hank was the only one who had the key.
Some people fought back but were no match for Tex’s overpowering hands. Others gave in and accepted their fates like lambs to the slaughter. At the end of the day, Tex bathed in the bloodbath he had created and gave himself a big pat on the back. He searched every dead body and took what money they had on them. A good day’s pay for a job well done.
Before leaving, Tex searched Hank’s body and found the gate key in his back pocket. He stared menacingly at Hank’s flesh bubbling underneath the sun and remembered his last words…
You’ll never be good at anything!
You’ll never be good at anything!!
“Hey, would ya look at that… I think I found something that I’m really good at, Hank! Ha, ha, ha!”
Anna patiently puffed away a whole pack of cancer sticks until, at long last, she realized that the story was dead in the water. She rose from her chair and stomped her cigarette out on the dark pavement. Her news team had already left, and the police officers were busy writing reports and taking pictures.
She took a deep breath and walked towards her car, which was parked several feet away on Scrawley Street. Her legs felt tired, but the movement felt good after sitting all evening. She thought about the journalistic oath and how telling the truth was the right thing to do, but the Brentwood Ghost was real. She could feel it in her bones.
After I prove my theory, this story will be the truth, and I’ll be on top of the world!
Anna fumbled through her red purse and found her car keys. When she inserted the key, the window revealed a tall shadowy figure standing right behind her. She quickly turned and saw a man wearing a bloody construction uniform.
“W-who are you?!” she stuttered.
“My name is Tex…” he said, flashing a devilish smile, “and I’m tired of pretending to be a construction worker. I wanted to tell you that there is no such thing as the Brentwood Ghost. It’s true I started my killing spree two years ago, but I am not a ghost. I am a man of flesh and bone, and I hunger for sweeter meats to paint the town red!”
“Agh!” Anna screamed.
Tex revealed the fire ax he had hidden behind his back and swung it fiercely. The sharp blade split Anna’s skull right at her hairline and left her body twitching on the sidewalk.
Warm blood painted the white walkway, and Tex marveled at his good work. He stomped his boot down on Anna’s skull and removed his ax with a loud CRACK! Tex knew deep down that his momma would be very proud. Her son was the most talked about person in the city. Sometimes dreams do come true. All you have to do is put in the hard work and watch it spill over!
“Ha, ha…” laughed Tex staring at Anna’s limp body. “You might want to fix your hair. It’s a little… off-centered!”
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Cancer sticks is the best name for cigarettes. Have I commented that in one of your other stories when you used it before? They should legally have to be labelled as that on generic packets, maybe it would help people quit. Tex is a proper horror movie character, with quips. Very pulpy, nice shift when the bad guy wins.
Thanks Graham! Yes I believe you did. I can't stand those things, so I tend to call them "Cancer Sticks." :) Thanks again!!
I think I'll have to use that term in the new prompt about people sharing cigarettes in a parking lot.
I did. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/qjy864/
Ooo an ax murderer story! Haven't read one of yours for a while. Great fun 👍🙂
Thanks Zelda! I'm glad you liked it. I've been busy preparing the launch of my first book, but I still have time to write these stories.
What’s your book called?
The book is called Tales from Mr. Macabre. It comes out August 12th :)
A short story collection?
It's a short story collection with an overall narrative.
I enjoyed this story because it was laced with action and dialogue between the main characters. and has a storyline. On this site, I see too many stories, written in first-person narrative, with no dialogue whatsoever. Also, stories of a person's mental health problems, their inner demons, bullying and sexual harassment do become tedious..............and that doesn't mean I am not a caring person.
Thank you so much, Bob! I've always liked writing stories that are entertaining and I'm so glad that you found this story. I know what you mean about the other stories. I've read first person, and second person stories that are all good, but do get a bit tedious. I think that might be a reflection of the world we live in, so I write stories that hopefully take readers minds off of all that. Thanks again! :)
All kinds of horror in this one :) Tex's murder spree being the main one of course, coupled with the inability of anyone to stop him. It seems he really did find something he was good at. There's a second kind of horror underneath this. A much less dramatic, everyday horror, that both Tex and Anna partake in. They refuse to accept reality, in lieu of doubling down on what they *feel* is true. In Anna's case, that leads to sensationalist news about ghosts. Not great, but better than Tex who snaps and goes a murderin'. So both characters...
Thank you so much for those wonderful comments and insights! I'm so glad you liked this one. It ended up being longer than I had planned, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. It was one of those stories that wasn't planned, so things kept changing and I was really surprised with the final version. Thank you so much for reading!! :)
Author's Note: Hello my dear readers. I hope you enjoyed this story. If you would like to see a short flash fiction video of this story, check out my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKmYJlgyKyzFGYC7Zqkf2jw