Halloween is right around the corner, so I wanted to write something creepy. Here’s a piece of light horror flash fiction about a strange, rich old man and a young portrait artist. It’s about 815 words and has an estimated reading time of a little over 3 minutes. Let me know what you think!
The mysterious old rich man told me his name was Frederik Haas.
I was a struggling artist back then before I learned to make money off my portraits, and he contacted me out of the blue one day. He said he heard good things about me from the art professors at the university, and he asked if I could come to his mansion and do a portrait.
It was my first commission in nearly a month, and I needed it desperately. Rent was due in three days, and I was short. That’s the main reason I went against my gut instinct when I spoke to Mr. Haas over the phone.
You see, he had a strange way of speaking. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but he creeped me out. And then when I tried to look him up online, he was a “ghost” – absolutely no information about him out there.
So, I swallowed my doubts that cold October night near Halloween, and I drove out to his estate on the outskirts of the city. I took a long, winding road lined with trees and bereft of many streetlights. It was rather dark, and, oddly, the closer I got to his address, the more my radio began to tune out with static.
Mr. Haas’ mansion was impressive. I parked my car in the driveway, walked up the red-brick stairs, and knocked on the door. I waited a few moments before an old woman in a nightgown opened it and glared at me.
“Yes?” the woman demanded.
“I’m Darrell, the artist. Mr. Haas sent for me – for his portrait.”
I had to go through the whole story before the woman, who was evidently the maid, let me in. She led me to Mr. Haas’ study, where I found him reading a dusty old book of Edgar Allan Poe stories.
“Ah! You must be Darrell. Please, sit down.”
Mr. Haas was a strange-looking old man. He walked with a silver cane, and he had a glass eye I couldn’t keep from staring at. What remained of his hair – little patches of white – poked wildly from his misshapen bald head.
He was dressed for the occasion, though, wearing formal attire.
“So, tell me about yourself, young man,” Mr. Haas said.
“Not much to tell,” I began. “I just graduated from art school, and I’m looking to make it full-time as a portrait artist. It’s been tough, though.”
“Ah, I can imagine! You know, some of history’s greatest artists were desperately poor. But I will make sure to pay you handsomely.”
“That’s great.” I didn’t know what else to say, so I just watched him. He watched me closely, too, and he kept staring at the door behind me.
“So? Shall we get started?” he asked.
I unloaded my supplies and set up the canvas. Mr. Haas took a seat near his desk and got in position for the portrait. Still, he looked behind him at the door every so often, and it was making me nervous.
“Are you waiting for anyone?” I asked.
“No … why do you ask?”
“You keep staring at the door.”
Mr. Haas nervously laughed. “Oh, why, I just don’t want Mina, my maid, to interrupt. Do you mind if I lock it?”
“Well, yes, I do mind.”
The old man didn’t lock the door, and I was relieved. However, I had a funny feeling about him and the mansion, and I began to second-guess my decision to come.
Finally, I said, “You know, Mr. Haas, I’m not feeling too well. I’m very sorry, but can we reschedule?”
Mr. Haas was gracious about it, and he implored me to call him next week to reschedule a time for the portrait. I left his mansion right as a terrible thunderstorm rolled in, and I drove away as fast as I could.
I thought about the curious old man a lot in the ensuing weeks. Why did I feel so uncomfortable around him? Was it the strange inflection of his voice? Was it his glass eye? Or the fact he kept looking at the door for some reason?
About three months later, I got an answer to my questions.
A friend from art school called me and told me a university benefactor had been arrested and was suspected of being a serial killer. He frequently lured students to his large estate, dismembered them, and buried them in his basement. All with the help of his elderly maid.
His name was Frederick Haas.
I looked up his name online and saw his mug shot. As I stared at his wrinkled face and hideous glass eye, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and thought to myself that I could’ve been one of his victims. Instead, I was the lucky one who got away.