Skulls ( 1,193 words )


This short story may be added to an upcoming anthology called Slices. It is part of a larger story, just a glimpse really. Another possibility is the whole story becoming a novella as opposed to a short story in the anthology. You are led to know the killer at the end here but the tale is more complex and not so predictable. It follows two cops tracking down a sadistic serial killer in a small country town in the US. This was a challenge as I am from the UK but I have been wanting to get cracking on a tale set in the US for some time. I would appreciate feedback, thanks in advance.


Jake and Paul stretched their legs upon disembarking from the dusty police car before heading up the driveway towards the house, anxious, hearts pounding as the truth grew warmer. Paul, shovel in one hand, studied a schematic of the house drawn on a crumpled piece of paper. 

Paul stopped and faced Jake lost in his own thoughts. ‘Skulls’ had eluded the police department for two years. His approach, his style, his kills remained the same.

 “Where the hell is Jody? Left her a message. Not heard from her for a few days. Must have called in.” 

Jake shrugged.

“Thanks for getting here on time, good start, I like punctuality. But Jody. Yep, where she at. Not like her to be late. Should be here to meet us.”

Jake sighed. “So this could be Skulls’ third victim.”

Paul slowly swung his head side to side. “It’s been several weeks since she vanished. Phone call same as before. This house, abandoned for some time, like the previous one he had used,” his voice lowered, “like most of the homes round here.”

The house left a bad taste in Paul’s mouth, and not just due to the dank odours of  dilapidated property but what he feared inside. Cracked paintwork and mold had formed a rotten shell around the two storey house. Overgrown weeds stretched up and away from the house as though needing to bend away from the stale stench.

So much of the real estate up and down the street resembled the unkempt nature of this property. A factory nearby had closed.  Many folks simply tucked tail and left town.

Just one thought filled his psyche: it’s him again, same killer, same style, another body.

Paul tapped a number on his iphone.

A voice recording: Hi, sorry but I am not available to take your call, please leave a message. Bye now. Paul left a quick request to return his call and tapped to disconnect.

Paul shook his head and tapped another number. Sweat beads lined his brow. The humid afternoon just intensified the fetid stench drifting from the house.

“Hello.....hi, its Paul Reynolds, Homicide....Jody was supposed to meet us at the house, she is not here........yea.....yep....ok......she is not at the station.....have you tried her home.....I left a message.....ok....bye now.”

Jake anxiously waited.

Paul slipped his phone into a pocket. “Ok. She must be held up. You are supposed to be on training right now, so, I will explain some processes as we move along. Jody is the experienced one though. She's been visiting his burial sites for many months, thinks she has found a pattern in Skull’s movement, we may be able to get ahead of him.”

They walked around to the back of the house. 

Paul began tapping his sidearm impatiently. He checked the rough schematic again and noted a point on the drawing. His eyes searched the dense grass as though looking for some elusive ‘X’ marking the spot.  Jake hurried behind him. The foul odours flowing from the house caught his senses; he looked over his shoulder at the smashed windows and peeling paintwork. Any semblance of a house offering a warm home had departed this residence a long time ago.

“Ok, here.”

He dug as close to the spot as indicated on the drawing. The crumpled paper inside a brown envelope, tightly sealed, were anonymously posted to the precinct, just as before. For the force, this was a wake up call along the lines of a nuclear two minute warning siren. The faster someone examied the burial site, the quicker Jody found herself figuring out the location of the next kill.

Jake appeared flummoxed over a nagging thought as he stroked his sweaty chin stubble. “I read up on the guy from Jody’s files, seems Skulls wants us to find his victims. The last two were missing their heads.”

Paul paused digging, raising his trilby hat with one finger. “Yep, he phones in the burial locations, a real calculated psycho on our hands. It seems to be his sick way.” He nodded at Jake. “You ok on this one buddy. I know you would have liked some good old fashioned conventional cases but understand now, homicide is everything but conventional.”

“Yes, the first body, all we found was scraped bones.... “Jake paused, “That right. clean, stripped, but, missing the head?”

“Yep, guess the bastard likes his trophy.” Paul replied, “Second the same, and actually not that far from here. Same story, phone call, here is where it’s buried, we dig, missing head.” Paul’s tone deadpan.

He stared down at the deepening and ominous hole being dug, the stench from the house no longer bothered him as much as the chill in his bones as he continued to dig.

The shovel struck a hard surface. He cleared the earth around the object – a wooden box.
Paul did not need to open the box, same ossuary as before. He whipped out his phone and hit a number. “Hi, its Reynolds, Homicide, get forensics down here......yep, I am pretty sure.....ok.” He slipped the phone away. 

“Jesus...” Jake craned his head forward for a closer look.

Paul hoisted the box out of the hole and opened it from a front latch. He recoiled upon viewing the contents. As expected, cleaned to a glistening white, human bones – but again, no skull. He swiftly sealed the box, thumping it shut.

“Ok, I need to check that smell.”

“You going in the house,” Jake trembled a little, slightly pale. “I thought I was ready for this, guess not.”

“Stay here Jake, I’ll go check inside, Forensics will be here soon.”

Paul headed into the house through a weathered back door into the kitchen. The smell became overpowering, a dense almost suet thick odour that permeated the air. Paul wanted to hurl just like his rookie partner.

Blood. Lots of it, covered much of the rotten wood floor and threadbare carpets. As he entered the dining area, Paul tried to focus ahead in the dim light on a table littered with fleshy objects. 

Skull’s latest hiding place and where he - worked.

Paul whipped his gun from the holster, cocked it, and trained the sights on the bloody scene ahead.

Eyeballs, jugular muscles, and other putrid remains of body parts left strewn across a table next to a handsaw with serrated crimson teeth. Across the floor, several large glass containers full of murky water, and a large box of detergent. 

His pulsating eyes searched the room before fixating on another table at the other side of the room – Jody.

Her body torn, empty eye sockets – but incomplete. 

The killer found himself sidetracked before he could finish macerating her, Paul thought, is Skulls lurking nearby. Then he almost tore his phone from his pocket. 

A shovel cracked as it buried into Paul’s head sending him to the floor where his body shook for a few moments before resting.

Jake looked down at Paul’s half open eyes. The blow, immediately fatal.

“I really love how much you guys follow my lead. But that bitch just got too close boy. The great Skulls gets away again, foils the officers at the scene.” 

Jake thrust his skull against the shovel’s edge carving a bloody gash that seeped streams of blood down his face. He dropped the shovel, removed a pair of gloves, and slipped them into a garbage bin. 

Dazed, passing out, he lay on the floor – and waited.

About Stephen Crowley

I write short stories and flash fiction plus currently writing novellas. My chosen genres are a mix of horror, scifi, fantasy, and drama. You can chat to me here on the blog or through my linkedin account


  1. Great story! I really liked the twist at the end also.

  2. Not my preferred genre for reading, but liked the fast action pace and the ending was completely unexpected - good story. Conveyed a lot within a short length.

  3. Thanks guys for the honest feedback. If you are writers, I am happy to reciprocate. On the tales, I will post others here. There is another horror tale called 'Between Floors' and more will be posted. Any competition entries will be previewed here. For my upcoming anthology, if you wish to be a guest reader before it goes up on Kindle, PM me here. Thanks again folks.


Please do not post promos (unless you are an author, and then ONLY your work). Please do comment on any fiction published here. I am keen to hear from writers starting out to published authors.