Monday, January 13, 2014

Werewolf Action (As You Like It)

I've got a new werewolf story coming up in Dark Discoveries #26. To amp up the alliteration, it's also a Weird Western... and it's appearing in a special issue dedicated to Weird Western action.

It probably goes without saying that this is definitely my cup of campfire coffee. Can't wait to read this issue. Looks like some interesting nonfic, and stories by Gemma Files and Gary Braunbeck to boot.

Even better: Whole deal is due out at the end of the month from JournalStone. You can pre-order a copy right here. And if you want to sample the goods, here's the opening of my tale, a piece called "Fever Springs":

Mr. Beaumont bought the werewolf somewhere in Eastern Europe.

Actually, a foreign business agent purchased the monster for him. A man with a face like a pine knot. He arrived at Beaumont’s bank on a Sunday afternoon. The bank was closed, which was just as well, because the agent had made the trip in a cast-iron prison wagon.

Not, of course, as an occupant. There was only one man locked in the wagon… or a thing that (at that particular moment) looked like a man. The agent had purchased the creature from a monastery where it had been locked away for years, howling in a solitary cell like a madman. At any rate, that was the agent’s story. Beaumont believed the tale was little more than embroidery, designed to add an element of personal danger and (as a result) raise the agent’s price.

In truth, Beaumont cared not at all where the creature came from. He cared about two things and two things only: 1) what the creature could do for him, and 2) the business at hand. And so Beaumont stared into the eyes of the man with the pine-knot face. Just as he had suspected, he did not like the particular gleam he saw there. In his experience, that gleam was a sign that a man had dreams. Beaumont himself had none at all. It was his belief that time spent dreaming was better spent planning. But the banker did not speak of that. Instead he spoke of other things.

“The full moon rises next Tuesday,” Beaumont said. “I’ll pay you after that.”

“But Mr. Beaumont, I have other business to attend to. If you doubt the veracity of the goods—”

“I have no doubt about the goods. I have done my research. And I don’t believe you’d have purchased a prison wagon to deliver a bucket of hokum to me.”

“Still, I have pressing engagements,” the agent said. “I can’t linger here for a week.”

“Then you won’t wait for your money?”

“But, sir—my business…”

“Yes, sir. Your business.” Beaumont opened a desk drawer and withdrew a small stack of letters. “At present it intersects with my own, and this is a matter I do not take lightly. You have an appointment with me today. Next month, you have another in Denver. And then another in San Francisco a month after that.” Three times, Beaumont tapped a stout finger against the envelopes. “And it seems you’re selling the same merchandise at each stop.”

The man’s pine-knot face seemed to split as his jaw dropped open. Only slightly. He searched for words with grim effort, not understanding that it was a pointless exercise. For now that Beaumont’s accusation had been plainly spoken a feeling boiled up in the thick-set banker, a feeling that another man was of the opinion that Beaumont could be played for a fool. That was not a feeling that set well in Mr. Beaumont gullet or belly, and especially not in his brain.

“You thought you’d sell the wolf to me. Then sell him again. Then sell him one more time after that. Was that your plan?”

“Sir, I—”

“Did you plan to kill me yourself, or was the wolf going to do it?”

“Mr. Beaumont. Please. If you’ll only listen…”

But listening was a waste of time. This Beaumont understood all too well. So he pulled a Colt revolver from his desk and put a bullet in the foreign agent’s brain. The man’s skull cracked like a walnut in a hot fire. A red flower, not unlike a carnation, seemed to bloom on what remained of the agent’s forehead, and his puckered lips loosed his last breath with the same small effort they would employ in releasing a lie.

Soon the face and the lips were covered with blood. Then the dead man slid out of the chair. Beaumont returned his pistol to the drawer, along with the money he had intended to pay for the werewolf.

Next he rifled the agent’s pockets and found the man’s wallet.

The wallet was fat.

Beaumont smiled.

All in all, it was a good day’s work.