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Killing Time: Short Story Response to billybuc's Photo Challenge Prompt (5)


Ann loves to write stories and poems and is always eager to meet challenges issued by other writers or herself, to exceed her comfort zone.


Responding to the fifth of Bill Holland’s challenges, I wanted to tackle a genre I hadn’t ventured into before. Challenges are great and photos can bring much to mind, nudging the muse to play with ideas. This started as a vague scenario, then, as often happens, it developed itself into something for which I wasn’t quite prepared!


Killing Time

I was supposed to meet the agent at eleven o’clock on this April morning. There was a house I’d noticed online, for sale and just the ticket for my entrepreneurial skills and secret plans.

For years I’d thought about owning a bed and breakfast, somewhere I could live but big enough to let a few rooms in the holiday season. A little extra pocket money wouldn’t go amiss and I’d welcome the company, something to do.

As I wandered along the main street, I felt safe. Friendly nods and ‘Hello!’s made me feel welcome. I was early for the viewing, on purpose, as I wanted to get a feel for the place before making any decisions. I rested awhile on the bench outside a drug and hardware store, watched the world go by whilst mulling over my plans. Do up the place, get the necessary licences, sort out health and safety regulations, then decorate and advertise my latest venture.

Something in the store window caught my eye; an earthenware plant pot with ‘Blighty’* written round its waist. Well, I’m English so I thought it’d look great in my new establishment. It was a good omen for today’s viewing; also a perfect ornament for the guests’ sitting room. I bought it.


I browsed further down the road. A Victorian style clock with lavish footings and ornate headdress commanded respect. No one could have picked an edifice more out of keeping with the neighbourhood. But what are clocks for if not to be noticed?

It shouted over the street, telling me my visit was almost due. Armed with the usual list of questions regarding ownership, size of land, annual rates and amenities, I approached the house.


Having met up with the agent outside, I could now carefully explore the numerous rooms to see if they fitted my expectations and plans.

The setting couldn’t have been better. Overlooking a wide inlet, with panoramic views from the rear, this weather-boarded mansion had ample proportions, suitable for a variety of guests. Its pastel green told the visitor to expect tranquility and rest, a quiet escape from a busy life.

It comprised of ten bedrooms, a few small ones in the attic space and several larger suites on the first floor. Leisure and dining facilities would be on the level immediately off the road. What better than to dine whilst watching the light dance on the waves or the movement of water traffic!

Then there was the basement, unseen from the road, where the land dropped to offer further space for accommodation. From here, on the water side, one could watch from generous windows the vagaries of the tides and the passing of leisure boats. On the road side there were smaller rooms set into the bank, each of which afforded a grill over a small vented pane with no view to or from the road. They were currently used as laundry rooms.

Yes, this would be perfect for my requirements.

I bought the house, did my renovations and opened up for business just before the summer season.

Several couples and families checked in for a night or two as they toured around this spectacular area. The visitors’ book had a collection of favourable comments and signatures. Then Mr Hunter arrived.

A tall, gaunt man, Mr Hunter was alone. He had little luggage, was planning on staying for two nights, and was happy to chat in the evenings. I learnt much about his background, how he came from a small family, now all passed away. No ties, no close friends. He seemed a little lonely but happy to socialise, enjoying new places and meeting people along the way. Indicating the pot I’d bought, he mentioned his interest in militaria, so I told him I’d been a soldier and I had a collection of weapons.

The laundry room was prepared. Mr Hunter wouldn't be missed. I had my first victim.



  • an informal term for Britain or England, used by soldiers of the First and Second World Wars.
  • Military slang - a wound suffered by a soldier in the First World War which was sufficiently serious to merit being shipped home to Britain.

Please note that any actual similarities to persons or places in this story are not intended.

The Muse

© 2020 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 30, 2020:

Thank you, Lawrence, for reading and commenting.

Yes, writing is always hard work, even if the muse flows we have to keep a tight ship. Glad you're enjoying it all!


Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 29, 2020:


Great story, loved the twist at the end.

As for my muse, we've agreed to only work on one story at a time, though she can throw 'spanners in the works' anytime!

I'm pleased with the output in the arrangement though it can be a lot of work.

Having said that, I'm just finishing one story off, and polishing it up, but the muse has started me writing one in a totally different genre which I'm really enjoying.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 16, 2020:

Hello Chris! Good to see you.

No motive other than he likes weapons and killing. Either got a taste for it in the army or joined the army because he wanted to kill - who knows? I once met someone whose reason to join was exactly that!

Glad you enjoyed the story, Chris. I'm also glad that you picked up the hints, as I re-wrote it a little because the ending was rather abrupt on the first publication.

Keep safe and well.


Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on May 16, 2020:

Well, that ending knocked me for a loop. I like a good B&B, but now I'm spooked. I reread the story and picked up on some hints that this person had something specific in mind.

I have one question, Ann. What was the motive? It sounds like this person intends to commit this act many more times. What is the driving force? You hint at something in the second to the last paragraph. This person had been a soldier and had weapons.

Loved your writing. Enjoyed the story.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 14, 2020:

Thanks for your interesting comments, Kyler. You took it a lot further than I did! The implication was torture of someone whom no-one else would miss. But then a story is supposed to provoke the imagination!

I'm not satisfied with the abrupt ending myself, though it was supposed to shock and contrast with the tranquil atmosphere. I have been exploring ways to modify the whole thing so we'll see.

Thanks for the visit. Keep safe and well.


Kyler J Falk from California on May 13, 2020:

The ending was such an abrupt change in direction that I'm not sure whether to be surprised and delighted, or upset at the figurative whiplash! Perhaps that was the goal, a normal character with a normal thought process all to hide a dark secret? Takes me back to thoughts of serial killers in real-life, the type to use extraordinary normalcy to lure in victims.

Then again, with the laundry room being prepared and having referred to them as a victim I could take a funny and vulgar approach to this. Perhaps the character plans to create a romantic raucous with this man, one filled with, "officer vs. enlisted" role playing, and this sexual extravaganza would take part all over the property. Exploring the fantasies they would have on long deployments but they could never act upon. Far-fetched, but I made myself laugh so I couldn't help but mention it!

An interesting story, Ann!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 02, 2020:

No, you're not dumb! If you didn't get it straight away, then that's my fault. I think it's just too sudden, though I did try to include some subtle hints - maybe too subtle!

Thanks for your kind comments, Rinita.

Keep safe and well.


Rinita Sen on May 02, 2020:

Chilling story. Of course, well written. I did not get it right away. Dumb me. Had to read the comments. Gosh! Then re read. You're brilliant!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 01, 2020:

Thank you, Nithya, for your lovely comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Keep safe and well.


Nithya Venkat from Dubai on April 30, 2020:

Great story and what an ending! I did not see that coming. I enjoyed reading your story and it is a fantastic reply to Bill Holland’s challenge.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 30, 2020:

Denise: Yes, I suppose it is! Thanks for reading. Good to see you.

Keep safe and well.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 30, 2020:

Thank you, Devika, for your encouraging comment. I'm glad you liked this.


Denise McGill from Fresno CA on April 29, 2020:

It's Arsenic and Old Lace. I didn't see that coming.



Devika Primic on April 29, 2020:

Hi Ann this is incredible! Well told with a great surprise. Your style in writing a story is unique and gave me a lot to think of here.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 29, 2020:

Hello Laurie. Thank you and I'm glad you enjoyed this. I tried to leave a few clues but I'm not sure they worked! Didn't want to give too much away too soon.


Laurie S Novak from Michigan on April 29, 2020:

You really do write expressively! I enjoyed it. A little taken a back with that last sentence, though. LOL


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 29, 2020:

Thank you, Flourish, for such a great comment! I'm not sure if it's a woman or a man. I actually intended it to be male but I think because I'm female, readers here automatically think the character is too. Hopefully other hubbers don't think I'm harbouring such inclinations though!

Yes, normal on the outside, sociable and welcoming - the most dangerous type if so inclined.

I appreciate your visit, as always.


FlourishAnyway from USA on April 29, 2020:

You must do more! This woman is not right and I love her nonchalance. It reminds me of Kathy Bates in that Stephen King movie who was the author’s “biggest fan.” She was seemingly normal on the outside but not so much inside. Great writing!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 28, 2020:

Hello Genna. Thank you for your kind words.

I wanted subtle but thought it might be too much so! Killing Time can mean Time for Killing but I thought I needed something else - I came up with a couple which weren't subtle enough so it stayed as is. I'll hone it eventually!

Great to see you here and thanks for reading.

Keep safe and well.


Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on April 28, 2020:

Reading through this story that is so well written, we can't help but wonder about buildup to where this tale is heading, and how it ties into the title. "Yes, this would be perfect for my requirements," is a chilling but subtle preview. And your description of the old house is just superb. Still, I never expected that last line Whoa! Well done, Ann.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 27, 2020:

Hello Zulma! I'm afraid I tried to lull you into a false sense of security. Thank you for your comments. Good to see you today.

Keep safe and well.


Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on April 27, 2020:

OMG, Ann, I honestly did not see this ending coming. I was prepared for a sweet story of strangers coming together. Well, I supposed they did, but not in the way I expected.

Well done.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 27, 2020:

Hello Shyron! Lovely to see you today.

Thank you very much for your comments. I'm sorry I gave you such a shock!

Blessings to you too. Keep safe and well.


Shyron E Shenko from Texas on April 26, 2020:

Ann, I was resting and watching the water activities and then WHAM! I became the victim of your most interesting story.

Way to go!

Blessings my friend.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 26, 2020:

DreamerMeg: Thank you. I was hoping the contrast worked! I appreciate your visit.

Keep safe and well.


DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on April 26, 2020:

OOHHH Chilling. Everything so "normal", then that last line! Excellent.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 26, 2020:

Hi Shauna! I seem to be giving everyone the heebie jeebies! I didn't even start out with that ending in mind; it just happened as soon as I mentioned the basement!

Thanks for a great comment and your kind words.


Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 26, 2020:

Holy shit, Ann! You caught me by surprise - again! Your muse was really working overtime with this one. What started out as a lovely day with our protagonist searching for a quiet place to live an eek out seasonal income turned into the beginnings of a nightmare.

You are a gifted writer and a master storyteller, Ann!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 26, 2020:

Thank you Eric! Sorry I didn't let you know sooner! Thanks for coming back.


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 26, 2020:

Ann, You sure surpirsed me with that ending! I was just reading and thinking "what a nice story, then the bombshell ending, This is certainly a very good story, Ann.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 26, 2020:

Yes so I reread. Looking back; "Having met up with the agent outside, I could now carefully explore the numerous rooms to see if they fitted my expectations and plans." Why didn't you say for the bed and breakfast? And the basement sitting right on an inlet? That is spooky all by itself.

Best of fun, thanks again.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 26, 2020:

Thank you, bill. Sorry I caught you off guard. Please don't have nightmares!

I was hoping that some of what I meant to be subtle hints might have worked but it seems not. Didn't want to leave too many though - how does one keep the balance?

I appreciate your great comments and glad you enjoyed this.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your Sunday despite the disquiet!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 26, 2020:

Hello Linda! Yes, I gather that you lived there from reading your comments on the challenge hub. That's also why I put the disclaimer in as I didn't want the owner of that house being accused of being up to no good! I hope it doesn't give you the shivers as it's such a lovely house.

Thank you for reading and for leaving your kind comments.

Keep safe and well.


Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 26, 2020:

Damn, Ann, I never saw that coming. I was taking an enjoyable stroll through your story and suddenly I'm facing a serial killer. My sense of calm has now been shattered for the day, thank you very much. :)

Wicked imagination, Ann, and brilliant as a bonus.

You did not disappoint, my friend. Thanks for a great Sunday morning read.


Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on April 26, 2020:

Good golly Ann, where'd that come from? I did not see the story going in that direction. Good job (and by the way, these photo prompts were taken by Bill in the town in which I live. I'll never walk past that green mansion again without a shiver)

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 26, 2020:

Haha! No, Eric, never you. I was trying to create a false sense of security though, so I guess it worked! There were supposed to be a few subtle clues but maybe too subtle...

Thanks for your visit. Much appreciated, as ever.

Keep safe and well.


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 26, 2020:

I was so calm. You carried me away to an idyllic place and space. But not to disappoint but in fact I think I am your victim. Yikes!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 26, 2020:

Thank you, Liz, for such kind words. I had hoped the shock would hit the reader as I'd tried to contrast the setting and mood. Glad it worked!

Stay safe and well.


Liz Westwood from UK on April 26, 2020:

Wow! I didn't see that coming at the end. It was like you set the scene, gradually building it up for the reader. An idyllic guest house setting then whoosh! You pulled the floor out from under us with a shock at the end. Brilliant writing.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 26, 2020:

Hello Ruby! Thanks for a great comment. Glad I caught you by surprise.

Keep safe and well.


Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 25, 2020:

Oh my goodness! I didn't see this coming, in fact I thought the house buyer was a woman. I am sitting here thinking I should read it again, no, not necessary, you wrote a thriller in disguise. Wow!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 25, 2020:

Thank you, Lora, for reading and leaving your supportive comments. Glad you enjoyed this.


Lora Hollings on April 25, 2020:

Really nice job of creating an intriguing scenario out of bill's photo prompts and then gradually building up to a surprise ending, Ann. Wonderful work. I really enjoyed it!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 25, 2020:

Thank you, John. Glad you enjoyed this and I appreciate your kind comments. Keep safe and well!


John Hansen from Gondwana Land on April 25, 2020:

You did a great job with Bill’s photo prompts, Ann. Great descriptions in this story and the ending was a total surprise. I really enjoyed this.

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