Archive for the ‘short story’ Category


Monday, August 30th, 2010

A chilling news article I read recently inspired this new short story of mine. Might make you think twice about accumulating too much clutter in the living space. This morbid little tale is based, as we say in the trade, on true events:

Captain Joe Quinn, commander of the Baltimore police diving team, rode in the back of the van with the rest of his squad Jack Weller and Frank Dorsey. They climbed into their black rubber wetsuits, goggles, regulators and oxygen tanks. Quinn quipped it was the first time in their careers they had brought scuba gear to dry land.

“The smell was so bad Robertson keeled. He had to be given smelling salts and taken back to his squad car,” he said.

The decrepit warehouse building lay on the outskirts of the North Side. The impenetrable winter darkness was oily as the van sidled up alongside the lone Baltimore PD blue and white already on the scene. Red cherrytops strobed the shadows with ominous sanguine neon flares, pulsing the shadows of the derelict facade of the warehouse, making the looming face of the structure resemble a huge skull. Already, the powerful stench emanated through the night air. The diving unit cops poured the bottle of Old Spice aftershave on the cloths and pressed them to their faces.

Patrolman Dale Robertson sat on the bumper of the car, his face the color of Milk of Magnesia, pressing a cloth over his mouth. His partner Ramon Menendez had one over his. A pile of steaming vomit was on the ground near him and puke had got on his uniform. The cop regained his composure and stood up by his partner in their heavy leather coats and briefed the three diving team officers. He spat out the words between inhales of the cloth, gagging from the stench in his mouth. “Homeless guy named Wayne squatted in the lower floor of the warehouse–. “ Robertson pressed the cloth to his face, sucking air. “Guy’s an eccentric loner known locally as a pack rat who hoarded so much trash he had to burrow through the clutter to get around his home. Nobody’s seen him for months. Few hours ago security guard passing by heard him screaming for help when he was doing his rounds and called 911.”
“Help me!”
They all heard it.
A voice from inside the warehouse, buried deep within.
“We’ll take it from here.” Quinn nodded to Weller and Dorsey and they shoved their regulators in their mouths quashing the smell. Tightening their goggles, activating their walkie-talkies and switching on their flashlights, the diving squad trudged in the boots they wore in place of fins towards the door to the first floor of the building. The wet suited shadows resembled Creatures From The Black Lagoon in the explosive backlight of the torches in their hands.
They went in.
What the police diving team saw stopped them cold after a few more steps.
Mountains of garbage fifteen feet tall filled the ground floor of warehouse room. It was literally tons of trash like an indoor junkyard. “Help me.” The voice was faint, weak and quivering with terror, location impossible to pinpoint amidst the vast landscape of stinking rubbish. Cherrytop red flares bloomed through the filthy tempered glass windows, pulsing over the towering heaps of refuse like a mountain range of steaming shit.
Quinn took a deep breath and pulled on his regulator. “This is the police. Where are you?” he bellowed into the room, jamming back in his oxygen mask before the involuntary gag reflex choked him.
“Here. Help me. I’m here.”
The diving team stood by the doorway before the trash piles of Brobdignian proportions. Through his goggles and the noisy respiration of his air tank, Quinn watched the blast of his flashlight diffusing through smelly waves rising from the valleys and peaks of paper and furniture. Wrappers, newspapers, mattresses, food containers, cloth, dumpster garbage were heaped everywhere. The team leader was thinking he did not sign on for this. It would haunt his dreams. These were the worst living conditions for a human being he’d ever seen. How could this guy have lived like this? The area must be a Center For Disease Control Department level hot zone of germs and bacteria and putting a call into the CDD was the first thing he was going to do once they pulled this guy out. Quinn shot a glance to Weller and Dorsey. In their apprehensive goggled eyes saw they were thinking the same thing he was. “We’re going in,” he said. “Remember this is a search and rescue and the sooner we pull this guy out of here the sooner we go home.”
“Man, that’s the last time I ever complain when my wife tells me to take out the trash,” Dorsey quipped lamely. The others tried not to grin so the stench didn’t get in their mouth.
Quinn gave swift “fingers out” combat hand signals.
Dorsey. Right.
Weller. Left.
The disturbed, disgusted faces of his team members nodded, eyes tearing up behind their goggles from the contaminated toxic atmosphere. “We split up, start from three corners and move in,” Quinn directed. “One of us should bump into him somewhere in there.”
The three scuba cops fanned out around the edges of the walls.
Then they forged into the trash pile.
Quinn’s boot sank in a mushy oatmeal of wet paper as he hauled away gloved handfuls of the paper, wading into the murk. A wall of garbage caved in, revealing a tunnel burrowed through the huge mounds of rotting rubbish; a darkened rat hole about three feet high wending deep into the refuse. He shined his flashlight inside the foul gloom, crawling on his hands and knees, moving further into the trash tunnel. “You boys find anything?” He choked into his walkie-talkie.
“Negative, sir–.”
Then he heard the scream, a hideous hi-pitched shriek of sheer agony and terror. It was Weller. “Tom!” Quinn yelled into the walkie-talkie. Hammered the buttons. Got nothing but static. “Tom, do you read over?” No response. Not good.
“Captain!” Dorsey’s strained worried voice crackled over the radio, from somewhere deep in the trash heap. “What happened to Weller? Can’t see shit in here.”
“I’m in a tunnel of some kind.”
“Me too. It’s like a rat hole looks like the guy dug. Goes on forever.
“Should we call for backup, sir?”
Static squelch.
“Weller. Weller do you read? Over.”
“Should we call for backup, sir?”
The walkie-talkie went dead.
Quinn stood and rose up in the tunnel, head and shoulders bursting through the surface of the junk pile, his wetsuit slimed with crud, filth and a putrid goo of liquefied vegetables and rotted food that dripping down his goggles. He wiped the sticky mess away with his rubber glove to see he was up to the midriff in the middle of a sea of trash, waves of garbage rearing over him on all sides, all sense of direction lost.
Then he saw it.
The trash moved, jolted, violently surged.
Something else was in there with them.
It was big.
Very big.
He heard the scratching.
A huge, fast slithering scuttle through the tunnel.
“Help me. Oh God.” The homeless hoarder begged for rescue somewhere in the mess. Where was he?
Drawing his sidearm, Quinn gripped the .9mm Glock and submerged into the trash heap, lowering onto his knees into the burrowed tunnel. He shined his flashlight into what looked like how his decorated veteran father described the channels the Vietnamese tunnel rats had burrowed under jungles in ‘Nam. But this tunnel was far nastier, for instead of dirt and roots walls, it was garbage and cans and rotted fruit and decaying milk cartons and God knows that else. Cockroaches scuttled like shiny greasy thumbtacks from the beam of the light as he elbowed and kneed his way forwards on his belly, gun and flashlight pointed ahead.
Quinn had a bad feeling about this. And he felt in his gut he was alone.
The light of the flashlight had turned a reddish hue.
The ground was wet. He had not noticed because of the wetness of the trash and the moisture on his black rubber wetsuit looked colorless, but on the clear plastic lens of the police flashlight he now saw that wetness was blood. The ground was soaked in gore, like a lake. And he was all wet.
A new smell, distinct like copper pennies assailed his nostrils and he knew it was human blood.
There was a shadowy lump ahead, blocking the way.
It was Weller.
One half of him.
Gone below the waist.
Gnawed where he was cleaved.
Something sounded behind Quinn.
The tunnel was so tight there was no room to maneuver. Quinn looked out the corner of his eye at the manlike hulking silhouette by his feet in the red glow of the beam. The gun in his hand was useless since the thing was behind him.
“You saved me.”
“Sir, are you okay?” A surge of relief spread though him.
It was the homeless man.
“Just fucking hungry.”
But the derelict had a tail.
Several tons of flammable paper.
A dripping whisky bottle soaking the mulch.
Quinn raised his Zippo and thumbed the flint wheel.
He lit the fire…

Short Story “The Buzzard” In Weird Tales Magazine

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

My new short story is out now in the fall issue of Weird Tales Magazine.  It’s a horror western tale called “THE BUZZARD” about a spooky duel between a badly wounded cowboy pursued by a relentless vulture.  On the stands now. The link to the magazine’s site is

Short Story “In The Mix” In Dark Delicacies Ii: Haunted Horror Anthology

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Got a new short fiction called “IN THE MIX” in the fine new horror anthology “DARK DELICACES III: HAUNTED” edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb published by Running Press. (See first rave review here).

It’s a hard-boiled urban horror tale about an amoral young rapper in East Saint Louis who gets more than he bargained for when he kidnaps a legendary local rap producer at gunpoint to produce his record.  I urge everyone to check out this good scary horror collection that includes stories by a lot of terrific writers including Simon Clark (who has a truly horrific monster tale), Clive Barker, Chuck Palahniuk, Mick Garris (whose seriously fucked up L.A. savvy story is my personal favorite) Richard Christian Matheson, David Morrell and others. Get it HERE.

And anyone in the LA area should not fail to check out Del’s bookstore Dark Delicacies in Burbank, the best horror shop in Hollywood. Other soon-to-be-published horror stories of mine include “THE BUZZARD” appearing in Weird Tales Magazine and “COLORBLIND” coming out in Cemetery Dance Magazine sometime in the near future.

The Guns of Santa Sangre Part 3!

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009


Eric Red: For a little something different I give you, “THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE”… This is a werewolf western, a tale told in three parts, with a new chapter appearing on the site every two weeks. This isn’t a movie, isn’t a comic, it’s a serial, like the old pulp novels used to be. It’s kind of an experiment, but hopefully a fun one.

The story is 100 proof action western with some pretty twisted and nasty spins of lycanthrope lore. Hell, even Fallon said he was disturbed, so we must be doing something right, eh folks? It’s not for kids. Each chapter will feature a vivid dime novel cover graphic by ace production illustrator and concept designer John Gallagher who provides the startling visual accompaniment to our horror horse opera.

So saddle up and ride hard for the full moon, gang!

Story: Eric Red Art: John Gallagher

PART 3 of 3

The gunslingers exchanged laconic glances.  “This is bad.”

The other bandits were disrobing, their bodies convulsing.

The cowboys’ frightened horses suddenly reared, neighing in raw terror, nostrils snorting, hooves pawing the air, pitching the gunfighters out of their saddles to the dirt.  The force of the impact knocked the wind out of Tucker, Bodie and Fix.  As they crawled to their hands and knees and looked around, what they witnessed was beyond comprehension.  Mosca and his men were going into seizures, screaming and howling, frothing at the mouth, their entire bodies spasming.  Beneath their skin stretching elastically and growing thick black hair, their bones were lengthening and rearranging with cracking, ripping, squishing sounds.  Their lower legs began to bend and extend like the hind legs of dogs or wolves, kicking up the dust, which filled the air and turned them into nightmarish silhouettes.  Long talons popped out their nails in splatters of blood as the claws cut through the flesh of their fingertips.  Their hands curled and elongated into foot long talons.  Tucker grabbed for his fallen pistol that lay by the foot of one of the bandits and saw that foot sprout fur and the toes grow pads and bloat into a paw.  The three horses belonging to the gunfighters rolled and tumbled down the hill, throwing up huge clouds of dirt, until the steeds rolled themselves upright and stood outside the perimeter, rearing and watching the action.

Scrambling to his boots, Bodie drew both revolvers, silver bullet tips glinting in the cylinder, and stood to face the bandits.  His eyes widened.  The gunslinger was staring right in the furry face of Mosca whose skull jawbone dislocated as the front upper teeth stretched forwards, cartilage crunching, further and further, jagged white fangs slicing through the gums like rolls of razors, as the nose became a black snout that jutted two feet out of the face to give him the head of a gigantic wolf.  Hairy, pointed ears twitched.  Saliva and froth spewed from the mouth on the head of the werewolf as its long tongue slathered and swept hungrily.  The spine stretched and bullwhipped as the rib cage became narrow and deep and hollowed like a dog and on its huge back paws with its long arms and massive talons, the werewolf towered eight feet over Bodie.  A thick, bushy and furred tail swept behind its haunches. The full moon splashed down on the scene like a searchlight, silhouetting the creatures the bandits had become.  They had all turned into werewolves and fifteen of the hissing, snarling, roaring monsters surrounded the gunslingers on all sides.  Their horrific transformation complete, the wolfmen crouched, ready to pounce.

“Aim for the hearts!”  Shouted Tucker.

Barrages of bullets exploded as the gunfighters’ pistols blazed away and they pumped silver into the chests of eight of the werewolves.  The cowboys were dead shots and punched ragged holes into the beasts’ rib cages over their beating hearts.  Instantly, several werewolves roared and howled in dying agony, dropping to the ground, huge paws and talons slashing the air until they stiffened, fell still and died in the dirt, blood jetting like fountains from their wounds.

As soon as they were dead, the werewolves instantly transformed back into men.  The inhuman shapes of the creatures’ awful physiognomies shrunk, reverting to the small broken filthy naked bodies of the bandits sprawled on the ground.

Immediately, their werewolf brethren set upon the human carcasses of their comrades and ate them whole.  The beasts’ savage canine jaws ripped and tore flesh and muscle from bloody bone and gulped it down viciously, eyes red coals, clawing and slashing one another to get at the chow.  The werewolves were distracted in their cannibalistic feeding frenzy long enough for the gunfighters to get to cover for a few short moments.  The cowboys tightened themselves into a circle, facing the werewolves who again closed in on all sides, shrieking and spitting in mad eyed rage.  The hairy creatures reared and crouched, spitting and slavering, glaring at the gunfighters, and then they attacked.

Tucker, Bodie and Fix blasted away with their irons, unleashing gunshots that leapt like bolts of lighting their muzzles as they fired into the mob of wolfmen, sending a few more straight to hell.  As eight of the beasts clambered over one another to tear the cowboys to ribbons, the three men hit the ground and rolled on their stomachs through the open doors of church, talking the battle into the belly of the beast that was Santa Sangre.

Inside the pueblo chapel, the gunfighters ducked behind a blood-smeared pew, emptied their guns into the wall of monsters.  Tucker unslung his Winchester repeater and gave Bodie and Fix cover as they reloaded their pistols with silver rounds from the belts strapped on their chests.  They were instantly surrounded as the fearsome hairy creatures advanced on them through the open doors of the church and closed in right and left through the pews like a pack of titanic wolves.  The air was rent with a supernatural cacophony of throaty roars.  Bodie and Fix rearmed and spun their cylinders shut with a whizzing whirr, a Colt pistol in each hand.  The gunfighters took deadly aim at the werewolves who leaped for them just as they unleashed lead with their guns.

Pumping a shot smack into the heart of a wolfman, Fix saw it slammed back into the pueblo wall and sink to the floor smearing a snail trail of gore as it reverted to dead human form.  The other creatures hungrily devoured the corpse and tore at one another to get a mouthful of a ripped off severed leg, tugging the limb in their jaws like mongrels fighting over a bone.

Twin inhuman shadows fell over Bodie who whirled to see two creatures pouncing towards him.  With a gun in each hand he shot them in the hearts and it was two dead stinking bandits that landed on him before he shoved them off and fired at the other monsters over the pews.

The close quarters of the church rang deafeningly with the roars and snarls of the creatures and the deafening gunblasts reverberating off the walls.  Combined with the horrid fetid stench of the creatures, the smell of gunpowder and cordite and their own sweat of fear, the gunfighters were nearly overcome.

One of the bullets ricocheted in a shower of sparks off a holy water fountain and the sparks quickly ignited the hanging curtains by the busted windows.  A snake of flame slithered up the curtains and coiled across the wooden beams of the ceiling, a viper’s nest of fire quickly spreading over the roof.

Tucker raised his rifle to his shoulder and squeezed the trigger just as a werewolf dived on him, slavering jaws spread wide as an open bear trap.  The creature landed mouth first on the long steel barrel of the Sharp’s rifle and when the weapon discharged it exploded its skull in a gory raining galaxy of brain and fur and bone fragment as its head was blown clean off.  The heavy carcass of the monster landed on the gunfighter, who yanked the barrel of the rifle out of the grisly trailing viscera of the blood jetting neck stump still dangling a loosely attached lower jaw.

But the werewolf was not dead.

Its decapitated torso became violently animated and its sinewy forearms struggled to slash at the cowboy pinned under it with its very sharp and still intact talons.  Tucker pulled the trigger repeatedly but he was out of bullets, silver or otherwise.  Desperately, he quickly brandished the Sharps rifle gripping it by the stock and the hot barrel that seared his palm as he braced it against the wolfman’s powerful limbs, pinning the talons away from his face the claws slashed viciously at.  “Boys!”  He yelled in panic.  The haunches of headless creature’s hindquarters pumped, its rear legs climbing against the floor, padded back talons digging into the blood slippery wood, pushing itself and the cowboy trapped below it forwards with terrible strength.  Tucker struggled, his grip on the gun keeping the monster off him weakening as the jagged claws whished through the air by his face to claw it off.  Suddenly, the cowboy felt an awful searing pain in his shoulder and winced as blood sprayed his face from a ragged wound.  He was going to die, he knew it, and gave a last hopeless sidelong glance across the floor to see Fix drawing one of his pistols from his holster and tossing it skidding around and around in circles across the floor right into Tucker’s open hand.  That same hand closed around the handle of the Colt Peacemaker and jammed the muzzle of the long barrel under the left side of the chest of the werewolf where the heart was and his forefinger squeezed the trigger, blowing the still pumping heart out the back of the monster’s spine and the creature fell across him, very dead.

Santa Sangre was engulfed in flames by now and angry tendrils of conflagration plumed across the wooden rafters of the church as smoke billowed through the fulgurations of fire.  Pieces of blazing timber dropped from the ceiling inferno onto a few of the werewolves and they instantly ignited, fur spewing flames, but still the burning creatures attacked.  Hell had come to earth.

“Get those people the hell of out of here!”  Tucker yelled to Bodie as he cranked off shot after shot with his Winchester rifle at the wall of hair, fangs and claws.  Fix gave his buddy cover as Bodie leaped over the pews, scrambling across the burning alter.  Bodie could already hear the muffled screams and cries for help of the trapped villagers inside the back room.  Reaching the door, he crisscrossed his arms, firing the pistols in his hands on opposite directions, smoothly shooting two werewolves coming at him on either side straight through the hearts.  The twin beasts fell, swiftly transforming back into men and were quickly devoured by three wolfmen resembling eight-foot tall fiery torches.  The stench of burning fur and rank canine flesh choked Bodie as he jerked back the wooden beam bolting the door and flung it wide.

A flood of grateful peasants poured out of the room like a tidal wave of water from a burst dam.  Bodie held them back but they froze in their tracks when the people got an eyeful of the spectacular horrific tableau of the fiery church swarming with werewolves that blocked their way.  “Give ‘em guns and ammo!”  Yelled Tucker but Fix was already on it, grabbing a belt of silver bullets and shoving them into the waiting hands of the villagers.  He grabbed an armload of rifles and pistols from the bandits’ weapons stockpile and dumped them on the altar.  The peasants swiftly took up arms and grabbed fistfuls of silver bullets and stuffed in the breeches and cylinders of the firearms.  The naked women, the fight back in them, also brandished weapons.  “Shoot for the hearts!  El Corazon!  El Corazon!”  Tucker yelled, and put a round square the left side of a rampaging wolfman, dropping it in his tracks, to demonstrate.  The Mexicans crossed themselves in awe as they saw the corpse go from beast to man but then they got busy shooting werewolves.  The air filled with gunfire as bullets screamed and ricocheted.  Fangs and claws and fur flew.  All was chaos.  A final battle of good and evil was taking place as side by side, the gunslingers fought with the villagers as one army, delivering the relentless hordes of werewolves to perdition.  They fired until their guns were empty, hammers clicked uselessly on spent chambers and they were out of silver bullets.

More monsters reared out of the flames.  Forced back, the humans retreated to the vestibule.  The creatures blocked their escape through the doors of the church and advanced on them, enraged.

Then Tucker saw it on the floor.

A last canvas ammo belt filled with silver bullet cartridges.

The cowboy leapt forwards and picked it up, falling back into the huddled group of his fellow gunfighters and the villagers cornered against the vestibule.  Even though he had the ammo belt, but knew in the time it would take them to reload their guns, the werewolves would tear them asunder.

So Tucker pulled his arm back and heaved the last ammunition belt as hard as he could at the wolfman leading the pack.

The creature caught it in his talons.

It was the beast whose eyes Tucker recognized as Mosca, the bandit leader.  Its black rubbery lips pulled back in a drooling leer over the rows of bloody fangs as it held up the ammo belt as if to display it triumph.  Flames licked across the fur of its arms but it paid it no notice.

The other ten werewolves stomped forwards through the burning pews, their hind legged paws collapsing the cindered wood in showers of sparks and timber as the creatures gathered right and left of the leader of the pack.  Mosca threw his snout back and roared savagely, clenching the canvas strap lined with silver slugs.

The werewolves did not see that the canvas belt had caught on fire.

Flames were licking the metal casings, turning them red hot….

Just like Tucker planned.

He winked at Bodie and Fix.

“Get down!”  The three gunslingers shouted as they jumped up and dragged the villagers behind the altar, shielding the peasants with their bodies.


The air was rent with deafening gunfire, as every single one of the 75 silver bullets in the burning ammo belt held in the wolfman’s paw fired in staccato sequence like a string of firecrackers going off, bullets flying in every direction, the rounds peppering the werewolves and making them dance spastically as they were riddled with silver bullets.  Bloody eruptions like red flowers appeared in their heads, arms, legs, and stomachs.

And hearts.

With final despairing yelps of defiance and pain, the remaining werewolves dropped dead, crumpling onto the incinerated pews and floor of the immolating chapel.

As their bodies returned to human form, the flames cremated the corpses until all was ash.

The men who walked like wolves walked no more.

The people raised their guns and cheered.

The open doors to the church lay open, beckoning out to the bright moonlit fresh night air and safety.  There wasn’t much time.  The gunfighters and villagers saw Santa Sangre was coming down on their heads.  Pieces of the roof fell in burning piles of torched timber.  “Go!”  The gunslingers grabbed the villagers and hauled them through the smoldering aisles, ducking the fiery debris raining down and exploding in showers of flame and sparks all about them.  The people plunged headlong through the open doors of the church and they ran and fell and tumbled down the hill.  Behind their fleeing figures, the roof and parapet of the pyre of Santa Sangre collapsed in on itself and the blazing steeple crashed to earth.

The heavy mission bell hit the ground and sounded in a last single ringing gong that sang over the town and the desert echoing across the land.

The only silver left was one bullet in the chamber of Tucker’s gun.

In the final hours before dawn, the gunfighters had scoured the rubble of the church, searching in vain for the slugs they’d slammed in the hearts of the werewolves, but the bandits were ash and unaccountably so were the bullets that killed them.  Bodie said it didn’t make any damn sense.  Fix said it was just part of a whole lot of things that didn’t make any damn sense and never would.  “You win some you lose some,” Tucker said.

Tired, wounded and downhearted, the three gunfighters trod down the hill.  The whole village stood waiting for them. The gratitude and respect in their faces sobered the gunfighters, who watched as the men bowed.  The peasant who had first walked up to them the day before and brought them here with promises of silver now bid them farewell with no silver, yet something of greater value.  “You are men of true honor.  There is no price to this or measure of our people’s thankfulness,” he spoke softly.  “We will never forget you and your legend will be told by our children’s children.”

“Hell, we didn’t have nothing better to do,” said Tucker, who always said something.

The villagers brought the gunslingers their horses and saddles and they mounted up.  As the three gunfighters rode to the top of the ridge, they were bathed in rosy dawn light.  The men sat in their saddles wearily, looking behind them down into the valley. Santa Sangre lay in ashes, but the tiny villagers were already sifting through the smoking rubble, like ants on a dirt hole.  Fix shook this head.  “They’re rebuildin’ the damn church.  Don’t got money to eat but they already rebuildin’ the damn church.”   He took a pull of the bottle of whisky and tossed it to Bodie, who had a swig and chucked the bottle to Tucker.

Opening his gloved fist, Tucker held out the last silver bullet that was all that remained of the treasure.  “This silver wouldn’t buy us a drink, boys,” he spit.  “We’re as broke as when we rode in.”

“Somebody had to kill them son of a bitches.  They had it coming,” said Fix.

“Boys, we done some bad stuff before, maybe tomorrow we’ll be bad guys again, but today we’re the good guys,” said Bodie.

They all smiled at one another, nodding.  “Good deeds could get to be a bad habit,” added Tucker ironically.

“So what we gonna do about you, Tucker?”  Said Bodie, indicating his fellow gunslinger’s bandaged shoulder.  “You got bit.  That means you’re gonna turn into one of those werewolves.”

“Don’t know if it was a bite, mebbe it could have been a scratch, I disremember.”  Tucker eyed his companions with a wry glint in his eye.  “Reckon I got a month before the next full moon and you boys find out.”  He eyed the lone silver bullet in his hand then chucked it to Bodie, who caught it.  “Which case, you’ll know what to do with this.”

“We’re friends until then.”

“Until then.”

They laughed, their friendly voices carrying across the rough badlands.

The Guns Of Santa Sangre rode off.


The Guns of Santa Sangre Part 2!

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009


Eric Red: For a little something different I give you, “THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE”… This is a werewolf western, a tale told in three parts, with a new chapter appearing on the site every two weeks. This isn’t a movie, isn’t a comic, it’s a serial, like the old pulp novels used to be. It’s kind of an experiment, but hopefully a fun one.

The story is 100 proof action western with some pretty twisted and nasty spins of lycanthrope lore. Hell, even Fallon said he was disturbed, so we must be doing something right, eh folks? It’s not for kids. Each chapter will feature a vivid dime novel cover graphic by ace production illustrator and concept designer John Gallagher who provides the startling visual accompaniment to our horror horse opera.

So saddle up and ride hard for the full moon, gang!

Story: Eric Red Art: John Gallagher

PART 2 of 3

The jefe grinned, spurred his horse and the gunfighters rode with the bandits up the paved hill to the pueblo church of Santa Sangre.

They tethered their horses on the rail in the shade behind the cathedral and dismounted.  About twenty other horses, saddles and bridles were tied to the same rail.  Tucker saw the early afternoon sun moving down the sky in the direction the distant Durango Mountains and by instinct gauged they had five hours until nightfall and the rise of the full moon.  The stark sunlight was blinding and bleached the outside of the church blank white, but inside the open oaken doors the interior of the cathedral was pitch black.  The bandits stood back to allow their guests enter the doorway.

When the three gunfighters set foot inside, the smell nearly pitched them backwards.  It was the disgusting, gorge-rising stench of one-month worth of dead meat, rot and death in stifling enclosed quarters. Tucker, Bodie and Fix stepped into the church with revulsion.  Their spurs jingled, ringing the catacombs of the Santa Sangre.  Diffused light filtered through the broken stained glass windows into an area more an animal cave than a mission.  The silhouettes of more than a dozen bandits hunkered and sprawled in the pews.  Some chewed on bones.  Others played cards.  Still others slept curled up like dogs, snoring loudly.  Sunlight glinted on the dull metal of guns and blades of knives and machetes.  Decayed and fresh chunks of human meat and flesh were piled everywhere on the tiles.  Bones and skulls, gnawed clean, were piled waist high. The blood pooling on the floor was shiny and wet or and black as dried paint.  Flies swarmed in a steady maddening drone.  Blood dripped.  In one corner of the defiled abattoir of the church once known as Santa Thomas, several naked young women sat cowering in the darkness, hugging their knees.  They shivered bruised and limp, eyes dead, too broken to care as they waited to be used at the whim of the bandits.

In the murky darkness, shiny things gleamed.  The shimmering came from gleaming metal objects placed all around the room.  It was silver.  Statues.  Candlesticks.  Plates.  The precious metal shined regal and bright in the church, and the reflections flashed in the eyes of the three gunfighters.

It was what they had come for.

But nothing prepared them what they faced and had to get past to get it.

The blasting light from the sun through the doorway behind them silhouetted the three cowboys and cast their shadows thirty feet ahead down the aisle as they walked tall through the grisly pews.  The gunslingers’ eyes were riveted on the silver treasures before them.  Their lips opened and drew breath at the riches they beheld.  The silver beams danced on their faces and they forgot the unspeakable horror all around them as they approached the altar, hypnotized by the glory of the silver, more than they could have dreamed.  Then the silver was suddenly swallowed in shadow when a wall of blackness descended as the big oaken doors were slammed shut behind them.

The gunfighters turned, hands by their guns.

The jefe and the bandits stood at the other end of the pew by the closed doors with their arms crossed.  On both sides, the other bandits, acting drunk or sleepy, were rising from their spoor to regard their new visitors.  It seemed they were salivating.  Mosca grinned, flashing rows of gold teeth, and spread his arms wide in generosity and welcome.  “Mi casa su casa.”

“You’re a real nice bunch of guys.”  Tucker spat.

“Stay and party with us.  Have a drink.  You want a woman?”

“We’ll pass.”  Bodie winced at the sight of the brutalized females.  Some of the bandits standing nearby were sniffing the scent of the gunslingers.  Fix shot one of them a look that made them retreat fast.

The jefe spoke softly.  “I ask you again, amigos, what have you come here for?”

Tucker looked at Bodie and Fix, then looked at the bandit leader and came right out and said it.  “Silver.”

The bandit leader walked down the aisle between the pews, nodding, eyeing the treasures of the tabernacle.  “Si.  Entiendo.  Much silver.  Mucho dinero.  You want this, si?”


“Then take it,” Mosca shrugged affably.  “It is yours.”

Tucker kept his hands near his pistols.  They were outnumbered ten to one.  “Just like that?”

“Si, just like that. Take it and go.”

The gunslingers exchanged glances.  “Thanks.”

“With our regards.”   With a wave of his arm, Mosca gestured for his men to open the front doors of the church.  “Hombres, fetch the saddlebags of the caballeros so they may take the silver.”  A group of bandits lifted the beam and the oaken doors swung wide, blasting daylight into the church, as they went outside.  The jefe just stood with his arms crossed presiding over the slaughterhouse of a defiled cathedral scattered with piles of human remains, bones and drying blood that festooned the walls, floors and pews.

“What’s the catch?”  Asked Tucker.

Mosca shrugged.  “We have no use of silver.”

“So we heard,” Fix quipped.

The jefe chuckled.  “Or gold.  Or dinero.  Men like us, we take what we want.  Nobody stops us.  What need have we of dinero?”   The bandito walked up to Tucker, seeming to sniff him.  His breath was foul and canine, but his eyes were powerful and primal as a wild coyote and owned the gunslinger’s gaze with the respect of the strong.  “You have killed many men, si?”


“And you.  And you.”  The jefe nodded at Bodie, and then at Fix.  “I see this. You are cruel men, yes, and strong.  Muy gusta.  So I make you this proposition.  Ride with us.”  The gunfighters exchanged laconic glances.  “Join us.”

“Thanks, but we ride alone.”

“Lone wolves, eh?”

“Something like that.”

The bandit leader threw his head back and laughed.  His men laughed.  It was contagious.  Even the gunslingers laughed.  “Lone wolves,” smiled Mosca.  “We know about wolves, amigos, and because of this I tell you it is true what they say.  Lone wolves are easy targets.”

“We’ll take our chances.”

“Join us, amigos!  You will never be alone.  And you will live forever.  Be free.  But the choice is yours.”  Three bandits came back through the open doors of Santa Sangre carrying the gunfighters’ saddlebags, and dropped them at the floor of their owners’ feet.  “Your silver,” said Mosca, gesturing to the tabernacle.  “Take it all.”

Warily and incredulous, Tucker, Bodie and Fix eyed one another and the bandits.  The offer seemed good.  With one hand near a gun, each one of the gunfighters began using the other hand to grab the candlesticks and stuff them in their saddlebags.  When they taken all of the candlesticks, they greedily grabbed the shining silver platters, their adrenaline beginning to pump.  Nobody stood in their way.  Their saddlebags were nearly full and brimming with silver before the cowboys went to the back of the alter and lifted the two silver statues of the Virgin Mary.

Then they heard the sobbing.

There were many voices weeping.

Tucker looked at Fix who looked at Bodie and they put down the precious statues and walked to the small room in back of the tabernacle.  There was a door and that door had a small slot and when they opened the panel through the hole they saw the fifteen surviving villagers of the town locked in the room.  The people were still alive, just barely, but badly beaten, held captive and imprisoned in the back of the church.

“Damn,” whispered Tucker.

“Damn, gasped Bodie.

“Those sons of bitches.  They’re gonna eat those people,” choked Fix.

Crammed in the small room like human cattle in a stockade, the peasants saw the hard sympathetic faces of the shaken gunmen through the slot in the door.  They fell to their knees begging and pleading pathetically for help in their native tongue.  The unfortunates’ eyes were horror holes.  “Please…please….please..,” the gunfighters heard the words over and over, unable to tear their gaze from the miserable wretches and the three forgot about silver.

A voice behind them broke the spell.  “Forget about them.  Those are not men. They are sheep.  They are the weak.  We are the strong.  The strong eat the weak, as wolves eat sheep.”  Mosca shut the slot on the door.  “You three are strong.  You must join us.  Here you belong amigos.  With us.”

The gunfighters turned to face the jefe.  “What’s going to happen to them?”  Tucker asked.

“What happens to all sheep, amigos…the slaughter.”

“Those aren’t sheep.  They’re people.  You have everything they own.  That’s enough.  Let ‘em go.”

“Join us or take the silver and go, amigos, before I change my mind.”   A malignant threat entered the tone of the pitiless bandit leader’s voice as his grin became strained and tense, disgusted by the cowboys’ sympathy he took as a sign of weakness.

The gunfighters regarded one another.  They had seen all manner of human cruelty wherever they rode but had never come across the raw savagery that lay before them in Santa Sangre.  It stirred a buried humanity in their hardened hearts.  In their minds were etched the faces of the captive villagers behind the door and the gruesome evidence of their imminent fate was splattered all around the church.  It was the worst thing they had ever seen.  They wanted to do something.  They wanted to draw their pistols and murder all the bandits.  But the silver statues were in their hands and more money than they had ever seen was stuffed their saddlebags.  A terrible choice tore their consciences.  But they were just three.  The jefe studied them closely, his feral, animal eyes sizing them up, testing them and taking their measure, seeing what they were made of.

Bodie looked at Fix.

Fix looked at Tucker.

Tucker eyed both of them.  “There’s too many of ‘em.  We can’t help these people.  Let’s go.”

Decision made.

Walking to their saddlebags on the floor with the empty clink of the spurs on their boots in the silent mission, they crammed the statues of the Blessed Virgin in the treasure filled pouches and tied them tight.  Ready to leave, they were about to heave the saddlebags over their shoulders when they looked up and saw Mosca standing blocking the open doorway, silhouetted against the lowering sun.  “Just one thing you must do for me before you go, amigos.”

Tucker lowered the saddlebag and stood upright, facing the jefe.

“Give me a gunfight.”

“You and me?”

“Si.  If you are faster then me, then you may go with the silver.”

Lowering his hands to his sides, fingers hovering by the stock of his pistol in his holster, Tucker shot a glance for Bodie and Fix to back off as he stood in the center aisle between the pews and faced Mosca standing with his arms crossed in front of the door.  The other two gunslingers braced for the battle they were ready for when they first stepped into Santa Sangre.  Each turned to face the army of bandits on either side of the church who were slowly stepping near their rifles and pistols, watching them like a pack of wolves and the gunfighters’ hands hovered by their holsters.  Mosca spoke softly, facing off for the showdown with Tucker, but yet his arms remained calmly crossed.  “Your move.”

The gunfighters figured they were dead.

Tucker drew first, firing a shot right between Mosca’s eyes.  The bullet put a neat red hole in the jefe’s forehead, spritzing a spray of matter behind his head.  The bandit remained standing with his arms crossed.  The air was taut with tension with Bodie and Fix ready to draw on all the other bandits but none of them made a move.  Mosca just stood there, shot in the head and Tucker watched him, the barrel of his raised pistol drifting smoke from the barrel.  Suddenly, shockingly, Mosca’s eyes popped open, daylight glinting off the rows of gold teeth as his mouth spread in a crazy grin.  “You got me, amigo.”  With that, the jefe drew his pistol and Tucker shot him five times, fanning and firing his pistol until it clicked empty, the bullets slamming home into Mosca’s chest in a tight pattern that tore cloth and spurted blood.  The jefe was laughing all the time, unharmed.  “I let you win again, amigo.  Mira.  As you can see, bullets do not hurt us.  We live forever.  We are the strong.  You can be like us.  Impossible to kill.  Men like you should ride with us.  Join us.”

The gunfighters were struck speechless faced with men who bullets did not faze.  They knew at that moment that every word the peasant spoke about the fiends was true.  Tucker looked at his companions.  “Grab the silver.  We’re getting out of here.”

Mosca stood aside to give them wide berth, giving them his gold grin the whole time.  As the gunfighters walked out the doors of Santa Sangre with their saddlebags laden with untold riches, the bandit leader said four final words in parting.  “You will be back.”

And the three gunfighters fled the church of the men that walked like wolves without looking back, shaken to their spurs as they tied their saddlebags to their horses, swung into their stirrups and rode out of the hellish place.  Their three horses left trails of dust in their wake as they galloped down the hill through the town away from Santa Sangre, hard charging up the ravine and hurtling out into the desert wastes of Durango.  It seemed to them that even over the thundering sounds of their hooves they could hear the ringing laughter of the bandits on the wind after they were miles away.

Tucker suddenly reined his horse.  “No.”

The others stopped and faced him their saddles.  “What are you doing?”  Fix demanded, gasping and sweating.

“We gotta go back.”  Tucker stated it like a simple fact.

“You nuts?  We got the silver! We got all!  We’re rich!”  Bodie yelled.

“I’m done doing the wrong thing.”

“We can’t kill whatever those are.”  Fix’s voice was full of dread.

“Silver bullets can.”

“Give me one damn reason.”

“Those people. We owe ‘em.  Gave ‘em our word.  We can’t let those sons of bitches murder them people like that.  If we ride away now with their silver, we’ll never live it down and we’ll be nothing ever again.  I’m sick of things I’ve done, boys.  It’s time to stand up.  I want to make a difference for a change.”

Bodie looked wildly at Fix.  “You ain’t with Tucker on this are you, Fix?”

“Tucker’s right about one thing,” said Fix, his eyes hardening with resolve.  “Them son of a bitches back there got to go.”

The peasant had been waiting patiently for hours for the gunfighters by the blacksmith’s shop on the other side of the ridge, where they were to regroup if the men had lived to get the silver.  The Mexican had heard the gunshots and knew the hour was nigh, but when he saw the three riders gallop away from the church on the horizon and keep riding south, his heart sank.  They were leaving.  Sunlight glinted off silver in their saddlebags and he knew the men had the silver and were taking it.  They had stolen his people’s only protection and salvation and he and his family were doomed.  So this is how it ends, thought the peasant.  What had he expected with such men?  They were no account gunfighters and killers no different than the evil ones who had taken his people and his church.  The peasant dropped to his knees and gripped his crucifix and prayed.  He prayed for his people.  He prayed for their passage from this world to Heaven.  He felt himself of dust and nothingness and in his wretchedness he huddled in the utter emptiness of the desert where all was weakness and brutality and ugliness and death, but he was a simple man and under the hot sun in the dark hour of his abandonment and despair, his faith filled him.  His prayer was simple.

Deliver Us From Evil.

Then as he opened his eyes and cast a hopeless glance into the horizon, the Mexican rose to his feet, unable to believe his eyes.

The figures of the three riders were riding towards him.

“I knew you would not forsake us, senors.”

“Aw, shut up.  We’re all gonna get killed but we’re gonna take some of those sons of bitches with us.”

The sun was sinking low.

Tucker tossed the saddlebags to the ground and the silver spilled out.  “If we’re gonna melt this into bullets we better get busy, we got two hours at best.”

And they worked.  They melted the silver.  They poured it in the molds for the bullets. They dropped the molds hissing and steaming into cold water buckets.  Dumping the rounds out, they used pliers to extract the copper bullet heads from their cartridges and used the bullet press to insert the new slugs.  The hours passed swiftly.  The pile of bullets grew.  By twilight, when they had melted down all the silver and turned it into bullets they had exactly 237 rounds and daylight was a memory.

The sun dropped below the bloody horizon by the time The Guns Of Santa Sangre rode to the doors of the church.  They were draped with ammunition belts loaded with silver bullets, and each of them carried a rifle slung over their shoulder and had two pistols stuck in their holsters.

Mosca sat on the step waiting for them, his eyes like destiny.  “I said you would be back.”

“Let them people go.”

“And if we don’t?”

“We’ll kill all you son of a bitches.”

The jefe smiled ironically to himself, tossed a pebble, then rose to his feet, brushing off the seat of his pants.  “You should not have brought my mother into it, gringo.  My mother is not a bitch.  She heard how you insulted her and she is very angry. She is here now.  With us.  Look.”  Mosca pointed to the sky and the full moon on the rise, an omnipresent white orb looming like a hallucination in the feverish nocturnal desert atmosphere.  The gunslingers saw the moon but looked quickly back to the bandit leader, whose voice had disturbingly changed, becoming guttural and coarse.  “Mi madre ve y oye todos, she sees and hears all.  My mother, the mother of my men and I, is the moon and we are her children, comprende?  The children of the night.  Los ninos de la noche.  She is full.  I love her.  Amor a mi madre.  Tonight she shall enjoy watching as you die very very badly, gringos.”

Bodie, Fix and Tucker looked around and realized that while Mosca was talking, fifteen bandits had quietly surrounded them like prowling coyotes, closing off the road up the hill.  Tall, hulking shadows lurked in the pale moonlight and their eyes seemed to be glowing red.

Mosca grinned, flashing his rows of gold teeth.  He closed his mouth, smiling, working his jaw, his tongue moving inside his cheeks.  Then he put his hand on his mouth and spat something into it.  Reaching out his fist, he opened that hand and in his palm were a pile of gold teeth.  The gunfighters looked at the bandit leader who looked back at them, his mouth opening as his lips pulled back in his fat face revealing rows of toothless gums. Then, before their eyes, new teeth pushed through the gums, sharp and white and canine.

To be continued…

The Guns of Santa Sangre Part 1!

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Eric Red: For a little something different I give you, “THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE”… This is a werewolf western, a tale told in three parts, with a new chapter appearing on the site every two weeks. This isn’t a movie, isn’t a comic, it’s a serial, like the old pulp novels used to be.  It’s kind of an experiment, but hopefully a fun one.

The story is 100 proof action western with some pretty twisted and nasty spins of lycanthrope lore.  Hell, even Fallon said he was disturbed, so we must be doing something right, eh folks?  It’s not for kids. Each chapter will feature a vivid dime novel cover graphic by ace production illustrator and concept designer John Gallagher who provides the startling visual accompaniment to our horror horse opera.

So saddle up and ride hard for the full moon, gang!

Story: Eric Red
Art: John Gallagher


“We are poor,” the Mexican peasant said, “we have no money to pay.”  He stood humbly, sunburnt head bowed, feet bare, holding his straw hat contritely.  “They have killed our women and children.  This is not the worst of it, senors.  They have taken over the church.  In our village, our church was Santa Tomas, but now the people call it Santa Sangre.  Saint Blood.  These who have come, they drink our blood, eat our flesh, they are men that walk like wolves.  Will you help us, please?”

The gunfighter looked at the other two gunslingers.  He spit tobacco juice in the dust and spun the cylinder of his revolver.  “What’s in it for us?”


“Thought you said you didn’t have no money.”

“It is the silver in the church.  Plates.  Statues.  A fortune, senor.”

“It belongs to the church.”

“The church of Santa Sangre now belongs to them, senor.”

“So we kill them for you, we take the silver, that it?”

“You will need the silver.  You will need it to kill them, senor.  You must melt it down into bullets that you shoot through their hearts.  It is the only way to destroy the werewolf.  What silver is left after you kill them, you may keep.”

“How many?”


“We’ll think about it.”

“But you must leave now.  Tonight is the full moon.”

The gunslinger they called Tucker studied his spurs, then looked laconically sideways at the gunman known as Fix and the other gunfighter Bodie.  Bodie shrugged.  Tucker rose to his feet and grinned down at the peasant.  “Hell, we got nothing better to do today.”

The four riders rode out.

It was a three-hour ride to Santa Sangre.

It was mid morning

They had ten hours till sundown.

None of the three gunfighters bought the Mexican’s story.

Except the part that there was a church and it had silver.

If it was there, it was there for the taking.

Sangre was the Mexican word for blood.  The superstitious peasant had said the name of their church had been changed to Santa Sangre because of something terrible that had happened there and the gunslingers demanded to know what they were going up against.  They were told it was the werewolves that had changed the name of the church.  It was they who called it Santa Sangre, in honor of their God.

On the long hot ride, the peasant told the gunmen his tale.  His village was in a small valley in Durango, below the church of Santa Tomas.  They were farmers and the crops had been meager this year.  It had been exactly one month ago on night of the full moon when the town first heard the baying howls out on the mesas they knew were not coyotes.  Coyotes yipped, but these wolves bayed, an unholy sound that curdled the blood and seemed to come from everywhere.  The people huddled fearfully in their huts.  The dogs in the town barked feverishly until the howls grew ever louder and the strongest dog cowed.  The moon hung like a great silver platter, more omnipresent than before.  Out in the mesas, the howling surrounded them.  So the men of the village gathered their rifles and stood outside their houses, protecting their wives and young from what was to come.

The Priest had prolonged their lives by bringing them into the church. That the pastor made all of the men leave their guns and machetes outside the church quickened their deaths, but those weapons would not have saved them in the end.  He gathered his flock and against the protests of the more macho farmers had cajoled and begged and led his congregation into the chapel, where he had bolted the doors with a heavy wood beam.  They gathered in the pews and he took the altar and led his town in prayer.  From outside the stone and wood church, the roars of the wolves shook the night. The people lit candles that flickered gleaming on the rows of silver candlesticks and silver plates and silver statues of the Blessed Virgin that adorned the nave.  They were a devout congregation and all extra money went into manufacturing these offerings to their Lord.  The people knelt and prayed, huddling together for safety as they heard the muffled howls and roars outside the walls growing ever louder until the stained glass windows rattled.

Then all at once the windows exploded inwards and surging wind from the outside snuffed out the candles.  In the sudden darkness came the man-sized, hairy shapes leaping through the shattering glass, moonlight gleaming on their furry talons, rows of white fangs and red eyes.  The werewolves were too many to count as they fell on the praying villagers in the pews, ripping them limb from limb.  The Priest was the first to die, his head shorn from his shoulders rolling over and over down the aisle spraying blood on the pews as a wolfman sunk its powerful jaws into the pastor’s decapitated but still thrashing body, dug into his ribcage, and chewed out his beating heart.  It was pandemonium.  Through the broken windows the ghastly glow from the full moon poured onto the nightmare tableau like stage lighting of a play by Satan.  Fangs snapped strung with blood and meat.  Red eyes glinted in the darkness.  Huge muscled and tailed hairy figures dragged the villagers to the ground and fed.  The women were stripped of their clothes by claws that raked over their nakedness as the werewolves violently ravished them before eating them.  The massive canine haunches of the beasts pounded themselves between the women’s thighs and pulverized their womanhood even as they tore out their throats.  Children were swallowed whole.  The church was bathed in blood and guts during the unspeakable savagery.  Screams and roars and rending flesh and bone became a deafening symphony of death echoing in the recesses of the rural church.

A handful of peasant men, cowarded by the carnage, abandoned their dying wives and children and pried loose the wooden beam that blocked the door, fleeing into the night.  The unlucky few that grabbed their rifles and machetes and rushed back into the church to shoot or hack the werewolves soon discovered the uselessness of such weaponry against creatures such as these, and those unfortunates swiftly joined the dead, dying and devoured.  As the others ran for their lives away from the church and back to the village for their horses, they did not look back but could hear the awful roars and the screams and the ripping of meat and that was enough.

When the cowards reached the stables they found their horses disemboweled, the dead animals submerged in a lake of blackish blood filling the corral.  The men knew they would only be able to flee the werewolves on foot.  But when they looked back up the hill to the defiled church, they saw the big four legged shapes up on their haunches watching them, red eyes warning them to stay put.

They stayed put.

Just before dawn the werewolves retreated into Santa Sangre and the church doors were closed.  Such was their fear, the surviving townsmen had remained frozen in place in the stables, some soiling themselves, too afraid to budge.

The full moon waned and a pale sun rose.

As it did, the men heard strange and frightening new sounds come from inside Santa Sangre.  Howls of wolves became cries of men, as flesh and bones tore and cracked amidst violent thrashing and thumping noises.  The villagers had wondered with desperate hope if the werewolves were dying or dead.  By then the sun was full up and all sounds within Santa Sangre ceased as the men stood below in the village watching the too quiet church.  Then a creak as the doors opened.

The bandits stepped out into broad daylight.

The big men were bearded, longhaired, swarthy, scarred, and filthy.  Their faces and hands were smeared with dried blood and all were naked.  The bandits commanded two of the village men to walk one mile southwest and bring them the horses with their clothes that were tethered there.  The men of the town debated in urgent whispers whether to find more rifles and shoot these fiends who now were of human shape.  Naked, unarmed and perhaps vulnerable.  As if in reply to their question, they heard the anguished sobs of women that the villagers grimly recognized as the cries of their daughters.  The bandits dragged out five naked young women through the doors of Santa Sangre, their bosoms and buttocks nude and bleeding from scratches, blood streaming down to their feet from between their legs from unimaginable violations.  The wolves who now were men clenched the women in front of themselves like body shields, the animalistic fiends grinning sadistically in the hot daylight.  The bandits rubbed themselves obscenely against the hindquarters of the girls, becoming aroused, and lapped their tongues in their victim’s ears.  The girls’ eyes begged their fathers to save and not abandon them, tears flowing down their bloody cheeks and the villagers below knew that they would do the werewolves bidding now and forever. Whatever that may be.

For the next four weeks after the bandits had taken and occupied the church now called Santa Sangre, the villagers had done the werewolves bidding and become their slaves.  They had brought the bandits food, clothes, and drink.  When the food ran out, one brave but foolish peasant had offered his life for his daughter and walked up the long hill like a condemned man to the gallows through the front doors of the church and was never seen again.  At night the villagers lay awake and wept and listened to the sobbing of their wives and children from the chapel below the shadowed steeple of Santa Sangre.

And they watched the moon grow fuller night by night, until the peasant left to find a few brave gunfighters who would help them rout this scourge.

They would be The Guns Of Santa Sangre.

These were bad men themselves.

Tucker, Bodie and Fix were fugitives who had been run out of the United States where all three had murder warrants on their heads.  For years they had ridden out west with the cattle rustling syndicate known as The Cowboys, American’s first example of organized crime.  They had made many runs across the Tex/Mex border, stealing cows from the Mexican ranchers and herding them across the border into New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona where the beef was sold on the cheap to the cattlemen and businesses of frontier towns like Tombstone.  The three gunslingers had shot many men during the illegal cattle raids including several Federales who had recently dogged the Cowboys.  The U.S. had started clamping down on the lawlessness, and when a Government posse intercepted the gang of Cowboys and told them to surrender the herd, several of the Cowboys had opened fire on the lawmen.  Tucker, Bodie and Fix had not hesitated drawing their pistols and shooting down the members of their own gang to stop them from killing the Marshalls.  They had taken the wounded Government men to a town and seen they got medical attention, but the hard eyes of the wounded Marshalls had the gunfighters’ faces etched in memory and the law would be coming after them.  A Cowboy was a Cowboy.  So Tucker, Fix and Bodie rode that night for the border, not stopping until their horses’ hooves had splashed through the waters of the Rio Grande and they crossed safely over into Mexico.  They vowed they would ride no more with the gang of killers and thieves called The Cowboys, or do that kind of work.

Even bad men had their good points.

But they meant to steal the silver, not waste it on bullets.

Bad men were also bad.

The gunfighters rode together with the peasant across the dusty desert of Durango under the burning sun on the road to Santa Sangre.  The full moon hung faint as a ghost in the cloudless sky on the horizon, like a portent.

In the late morning, the riders stopped to rest their horses in a shady mesquite ravine by a burbling creek.  Tucker, Bodie and Fix wetted down their animals.  Passing a flask of whisky, they took pulls and watched the peasant in rags who sat on a rock praying desperately to a cross on a string of beads in his hands.  “The Mexican’s a fool, either ignorant or crazy,” said Fix.

“It’s easy money, boys,” said Bodie.

“We don’t even know there is any silver,” Tucker pointed out.

They looked at each other.  Bodie shook his head.  “That town has come up against something that’s for sure.  That man is scared shitless, no lie.  I say he’s telling us the truth, or what he thinks he is.  Likely, it’s just bandits.  Bad ones.”

“I got no problem killing bandits.  But we’re keeping the silver.  Our regular rounds should do them vermin right nicely.”

“Then we keep all the silver.  Ignorant peasants won’t know the difference.”

The bad men drank to that.

They reached Santa Sangre by noon.

The four men rode over the ridge overlooking the village.  Tucker, Bodie and Fix told the Mexican to stay put, drew their guns and dropped from their saddles onto the dirt into a low crouch and moved swiftly to the edge of the embankment to survey the scene and get the lay of the land.  Peering over the edge, the gunfighters scoped out the town in the valley below.  It was a impoverished settlement of adobe huts with thatch roofs, a well, a corral, and barns.  A poor, humble town like countless others in Durango.  Tumbleweed and dust blew.  On the other side of the basin was a hill upon which sat the church that had come to be known as Santa Sangre.  It was a wood and white pueblo construction with a steeple and iron mission bell.  The large oaken doors were wide open.

Down on the desolate streets of the town, a few figures on horseback trotted and milled amidst a few scraggy chickens.  The gunfighters squinted in the sun to make the interlopers out.  The riders were clearly men, not wolves, although they were hairy and feral, with beards and long hair.  Their clothes were baggy and loose fitting and they carried many guns with rifles slung over their shoulders and pistols hanging out of holsters on leather belts.  Some wore sombreros, some didn’t.  None wore boots and all were barefoot in their stirrups.  No villagers were in sight.  Tucker looked at his fellow gunmen.  “Those look like ordinary men to me.”

Bodie surveyed the area, fingering his Sharps rifle.  “I make out about twenty horses tied to the back of that church.  The rest of those son of a bitches must be in the mission.  We’re gonna need to get past them to get the silver out of there.”

“What our move?” Fix looked to Tucker as they usually did.

“Let’s ride down and take out the bandits in the town,” Tucker said. “The other bandits will have to come through the church door to get us, n’ if we dig in we can pick ‘em off as they come out.”

“This’ll be a good kill.”

They gunfighters got back in their horses, but the peasant wanted them to ride with him first a short ways down an arroyo on the near side of the ridge.  The trail led to a small brick building of the local blacksmith’s shop.  Sledgehammers, anvils, kilns, and chains littered the dirt floor of the shed.  “When you get the silver, senors, you must bring it here and we will melt it down to make the bullets,” the Mexican said as he showed them a bullet making press beside the big cast iron pot heating over the wooden fire.

“Yeah, sure, right.”  The gunfighters threw one another bemused glances, humoring the peasant, because none of the three gunmen believed the story about wolfmen or the silver bullets that were required to kill them.  They told the peasant to wait for them here and when they got the silver they would return.

“Good luck,” said the Mexican.  Good luck was right, because none of the gunfighters had any intention of coming back.

If or when they got any silver, they would be long gone.

The sun was high and brutally hot.  The gunfighters rode fearlessly into the town and through the adobe huts and corrals of the village that was quiet as a cemetery.  Five bandits rode their horses around the area eyeballing them.  The big hairy men in the loose fitting clothes and cut off vests were armed to the teeth in their dusty weathered saddles, their shirts open showing the black hair on their unwashed chests.  Swarming flies buzzed around them.  Their horses seemed cowed and fearful of their owners, eyes wide with fear.  Tucker, Bodie and Fix just kept riding, like nothing was happening.  More bandits appeared as if out of nowhere.  Now there were ten.  The gunfighters rode on through the town, hands near their pistols, waiting for the bandits to make a move, but the slimy banditos just watched them curiously, and assembled.

“Wolves who walk like men my ass,” chuckled Bodie.  “These are just plain old banditos boys.  But I can see how the villagers might’ve gotten that impression bein’ as these varmints are mangier than coyotes.”

“We don’t need to waste the silver on bullets, that’d be too good for ‘em.”

“There’s sure a lot of  ‘em,” said Tucker.

Then all of a sudden the jefe was right in front of them, straddling his horse and blocking their way.  Mosca was a huge, fat Mexican man with long hair and ammunition belts crisscrossing his chest who looked very strong, despite his girth.  “What are you doing, here, senors?”  He said in a gravely sing song voice, grinning wide to reveal a full mouthful of gold teeth glinting in the sun.

“Just riding through,” said Tucker, holding Mosca’s visceral gaze.

“You can ride lots of places, yet you are here.”

“It’s a place as good as any.”

Another bandito rode up.  This one held himself to his saddle with just his powerful knees, because his hands were occupied gripping the naked ass of a nude village girl facing him in the saddle, his hands pumping her buttocks slowly and deeply up and down on his hips.  His was not wearing pants.  The unclad girl submitted passively to her rape, her body lacerated with bleeding cuts, sore and bruises from being scratched and chewed.  Her bare breasts hung against his chest, arms draped to her sides, head limp on his shoulder, eyes wide and glazed, brutalized past caring.  Tucker, Bodie and Fix watched the spectacle in disgust, the true horror of the situation sinking in.  The bandit eyeballed them with a drooling grin as he finished with the girl, holding fistfuls of her butt, slapping her hips onto his harder and harder as he started to grunt and his thighs tightened and veins in his neck bulged as he roared with release.  The gunfighters stared on in utter mortification, fingers tickling the stocks of their holstered pistols.  Holding their gaze, the bandit slowly smiled, getting hard again inside the girl, and holding her limp thighs, starting humping her in the saddle slowly and lustfully all over again.

The three gunslingers regarded one another with cold murder.

Mosca grinned at them with a wide mouth of gold teeth.  “Come with us, amigos. Drink.  Be friendly.”  He smelled like a dog.

Tucker kept his eyes on the bandits who now surrounded them on all sides, tightening his horse up next to Fix and Bodie’s saddles.  Leaning in, he scratched his nose and whispered.  “I savvy we get inside that church see if that silver is there at all and this ain’t no big goose chase.”  His companions nodded slowly.

Tucker looked at Mosca and tipped his hat.  “Lead the way.”

To be continued…

Welcome to my Blog!

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Hey there and thanks for checking in with the blog. Besides writing and directing films, I write short stories as well. The magazine Weird Tales is publishing “THE BUZZARD” in June, and “IN THE MIX” is coming out in the horror anthology book Dark Delicacies III in September. In the meantime, just for the New Year, I’d like to share a creepy new tale with you exclusively for ARROW IN THE HEAD. I got the idea while I was staying in a hotel in Secaucus New Jersey that was huge and mostly empty, and there were these lonely maids and all these Do Not Disturb signs and, well, do you ever wonder what’s behind them? Enjoy…


The Do Not Disturb sign had hung on the door of room 510 for three weeks straight. It had been up the entire time since Jane Williams had joined the housekeeping staff of the Route 9 Hotel in Provo, Utah. Berry, the Latino girl who had the maid job before her, told her the room was occupied and the Do Not Disturb sign had been there the whole time she had worked there and that had been the full summer. The hotel manager Mr. Sweeny told Jane when she took the position to just leave the guy alone, his credit card is good and he’s all paid up. The only time they heard from him was when he called room service and asked for the big bucket of ice. He did it three times a day and housekeeping was to leave the bucket outside the door. A few hours later the empty bucket was left outside the door, where housekeeping would refill it with ice and put it back.

Right from the beginning, cleaning the rooms on the 5th floor, that constant Do Not Disturb sign made Jane uncomfortable. Why would somebody never come out of their room? Those linens must not have been changed in how long? If she were the owner of the hotel she would have at least requested that housekeeping changed the bedding. But she wasn’t the owner, Sweeny was, and he was paying her and the one time she said something he told her to shut up about it. The guy paid his bills and business was intermittent off the Interstate during the fall months. Berry had told her over drinks at the local Ramada Inn bar that it bothered her too. But it wasn’t Jane’s business and she needed the job. Berry’s leaving the open housekeeping position came at a fortuitous time for the 20-year old single girl who needed the money, even though the job paid little more than minimum wage.

Jane put the fresh bucket of ice outside the room.

Pushing the cart of housecleaning supplies into room 504, Jane changed the bedding, switched the towels, replaced the little soaps and shampoo, turned down the bed, disinfected, cleaned the trash buckets and set out new mints, flushing a used condom she found under the bed She rolled the cart out into the stained grey-carpeted hall.

The ice bucket was gone. Room 510 had taken it and the Do Not Disturb sign was still there. The maid couldn’t resist. She snuck up to the door of 510 and put her ear against it, listening for what she could hear inside. At first nothing. Then she heard a hissing sound. The hiss was regular, coming at intervals, a hiss then silence, a hiss then silence. What was going on just beyond the door? She both wanted to know and didn’t want to know at the same time. She crouched down, eavesdropping and listening, gazing down the hall at the drab lane of doors leading off the elevators, the stairs and the soda and ice machines.

The hotel, mostly used by conventions and businessmen in the Provo area, was like a million others. Jane thought the place smelled of mildew and bleach constantly. She kept listening to the door, hoping she wouldn’t get caught or that whomever was in Room 510 doing who the hell knows what wouldn’t walk out and see her and get her fired. For long moments, she heard nothing.  The sound of a door opening up the hall made her snap to attention. She leaped up and ran back to her cleaning supplies cart, just as an elderly husband and wife left their room arguing and heading to the elevators to their RV where they would continue on their retirement trip around the United States after they had breakfast downstairs. As she was pushing her cart, Jane froze as she heard a door open behind her and the thunk of an empty metal bucket placed on the ground. Before she could whirl to see inside the room, the door had shut, the Do Not Disturb sign swinging lazily on the latch.

And the next week it was still up. Jane filled the ice buckets, cleaned the other rooms, and stewed. Her mind wandered as she busied herself with her chores, her thoughts just went places, and these days they went what lay beyond the door to room 510. The occupant must go out at night, she decided. He had to eat and all he ever ordered from room service was ice. At the end of her shift as she walked through the parking lot to her car, she looked up at the side of the 5th floor of the hotel, looking at the window of 510, but the shades were always drawn. Over drinks at the Ramada, Jane asked Charlene, one of the night shift housecleaning crew if the maid had ever seen Room 510 leave and she said nope, she hadn’t. Sweeney said leave the guy alone and just deliver him the ice. It didn’t make sense to either girl. What did the guy eat if he didn’t have food stockpiled inside? He never left. He couldn’t live on ice. Actually Jane had read guys in India could live on ice. Charlene wondered if 510 was a vampire. Jane reminded her that vampires didn’t drink ice. Three drinks later, Jane was still wondering about that Do Not Disturb sign.

One day, Room 509 directly across from 510 was vacant. The Maid brought the filled ice bucket and set it according to routine outside the door. Quickly, she ducked into 509 and quietly closed the door. Pressing her eye against the peephole that stared across the hall to 510, she watched the door with the ice bucket in front of it. It was a long wait. Then the Do Not Disturb sign twitched as the latch slowly turned. The Maid’s heart jumped in her chest as she squinted through the peephole to see the door crack just a little, then a little more, the room dark beyond with no lights on inside. Soon, the long, marble pale fingers of a hand reached around through the crack of the door, grabbed the ice bucket, and pulled it in, closing the door. It reminded Jane of a toy she had as a kid where you put a coin on a box and a mechanical glow in the dark plastic hand would slowly crank out of the box, grab the coin, and snap back in. Now the door was shut again. Moments later, Jane tip toed out into the hall, noticing a fresh scent of Lysol in the air, and put her ear to the door of 510. At first nothing. Then from inside she heard the squishing. A wet slushy sound. Then a snap. Jane’s eyes widened, disturbed, and she pressed her ear harder to the door. She heard the hissing sound. She heard the slushing, squishing sound. A sharp pop. A crunching. Then a hisssssssssssssssss. Then silence. That was enough. Jane fled, truly creeped out.

For the next hour, Jane was preoccupied with cleaning up the puke in the corner of a room from some kids on the 4th floor. Then she changed the towels in the bathroom and wiped the counters dry. Suddenly, there was a loud thud on the ceiling above her, like somebody fell down.  It was only then that saw the open door of the room she was cleaning and the number 410, and realized she was directly below 410. Hours later the empty ice bucket had not been put outside the door as usual. Towards the end of her shift, Jane found herself standing outside 510 with the perpetual Do Not Disturb sign, knowing full well that she should rightly go down to the front desk and tell Sweeny she thought that the occupant had fallen or had an accident, but knowing if she did there was the chance the manager would tell her not to do what she was about to do now, which was to knock and if there was no answer use her key and let herself in. To Disturb.

Then she would never know. So she knocked. No answer. Knocked again. Silence. Jane listened at the door. Nothing. So she reached past the Do Not Disturb sign, pushing it aside, grasping the door handle and slowly opening it. The smell of Lysol air freshener, incredibly thick and floral, assaulted her through the opening door, where it sat in the air. Jane gagged. She said hello. Nobody answered. It was black as pitch beyond the door as she stepped inside to a completely darkened room with the drawn curtains. Entering cautiously, throwing the wall switch, she turned on the standing lamp. Many boxes of Lysol aerosol cans were stacked floor to ceiling by the wall, and more boxes of discarded ones. The room was surprisingly neat. The bed was made. The light cast a dim illumination over the bed. It was empty. The bathroom door was closed. The maid approached step by step. Hello, she said apprehensively. Jane noticed how wet the carpet was as the cold water soaked through her sneakers just as she opened the bathroom door. It was empty, but the shower curtain was drawn. Jane pulled it back.

Berry lay dead in the tub, naked in a state of gray semi-decay, eyeballs black with hematoma. The maid’s legs had been eaten, the flesh and bone chewed off below the knee on the left and a huge meaty shag around her exposed femur on the left. The ice cubes dumped over the body, to preserve it for feeding and keep it from rotting, had largely melted. The tub was brimming red with blood and foul cold water. The sink was lined with knifes, forks and cleavers, cleanly washed and gleaming sharp. Jane took all this in and started to scream in a split second, but that was all it took for the Cannibal to rush out of the closet and grab her from behind. The pale, naked figure covered her mouth and broke her neck with a quick, violent twist. Jane Williams died instantly. Her body dropped into his arms and he eased her onto the closed toilet seat, where she slumped into her own lap like a discarded rag doll. The Cannibal lit a cigarette and fretted over the situation. At least he had food for a month. It wasn’t his fault. The last two maids would still be breathing if they had just paid attention to the sign on the door.

Three simple words, familiar at every hotel.

Can’t people read?