"The Murderer At The Cabin," by Robert Holt, in All Hallow's Evil, edited by Sarah E. Glenn, Mystery and Horror, LLC.
As I have said before, occasionally I will get a page or two into a story and think Okay, the Best Of slot is yours to lose, friend. Don't screw up.
Mr. Holt didn't screw up. The odd thing is, this tale is more horror than mystery, and therefore not my usual thing at all. But the concept is clever and the follow-through is close to perfect. I worried about revealing too much and everything I am about to tell you appears in the first quarter of the story. But if you have an intense dislike of spoilers feel free to stop reading this and go find the story.
Lexington is a very bad fella. He's a serial killer with a complicated system of picking his victims and a suitably insane motive. As the story starts he is looking for a new person to focus his attention on. And he finds one in a cabin in the woods where a dozen wealthy people are holding a meeting. So he takes his hatchet and prepares to single out his first victim.
Now, you might well be saying: hold it. This is nothing special. It's the plot of any slasher movie.
Yes, but here's the twist. The people in the cabin have paid big money for a high-grade murder theatre experience, complete with elaborate props and make-up. So when Lexington starts his work they think it's part of the show.
Okay, now it's up to a slightly clever slasher flick.
Then how about the second twist? Unlike the seemingly omniscient monsters in those movies, Lexington doesn't know about the mystery theatre aspect and he is as baffled by his victims as they are by him.
What we have here is a failure to communicate. And that's a lot of bloody fun.