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.”
“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…