January, 2023

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Issue #160

Welcome, Western Fans!

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
You're at the right place.


Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!

The Gambler
by Sharon Elwell
When the notorious gambler, Eleanor Dumont, shows up in Nevada City, she changes life for everyone—including herself.

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Under a Blood Moon
by Cory Andrews
Reginald Delcole is the most feared bounty hunter in the Arizona Territory. When he is sent to Buzzard Hill to find a group of vicious outlaws, he finds evil forces at play. Believing in the unbelievable may be his only way to make it out alive.

* * *

Rosalie's Owl
by Jesse Levi
Rosalie has always lived a life of comfort and ease. But when she travels west to join her husband, heartbreak and uncertainty follow. Will she find her husband? Could she find herself in the process?

* * *

Penumbra, New Mexico
by Nicholas Wagner
Private detective Minx Otero traveled to Penumbra to find a lost man. All that stood in her way were rattlesnakes, duplicitous settlers and an Apache raid.

* * *

Alias Jack Felton, Mystery Lawman
by Tom Sheehan
At the Big Dog Saloon they tell the story of a lawman storming in, guns drawn, and handcuffing an unknown man, then leading his prisoner and a girl out of town. Folks were never sure who was who, the good, the lovely, and the bad man full of curses.

* * *

Daisy Mae
by James A. Tweedie
Daisy Mae was the toughest woman in Juniper, Wyoming, and pity the man or woman who came between her and Bill Flanagan, the love of her life and the only man brave enough to marry her.

* * *

Want all of this month's Western stories at once? Click here –

All the Tales

Under a Blood Moon
by Cory Andrews

Reginald Delcole stopped his Tennessee Walker on the right side of the northbound trail so he could have a few sips of water from his canteen and check the map to see how far he had to go to reach Buzzard Hill. Reginald, "Reg" to his friends, was headed there to join up with two other bounty hunters. He knew nothing about the bounty, only to rendezvous at the sheriff's office, situated next to the town gallows pole, and he would be filled in on the job. The sheriff Reg did jobs for in Tucson, Lee Hunting, owed Buzzard Hill's sheriff a favor, and Reg was the best favor he could give him.

Reg has a perfect bounty hunter's record. No one's ever escaped from him, and all the ones that have been asked for alive have come back alive, albeit a little bloodied and bruised. Now if Reg is given the option, dead or alive, let's just say Reg don't mind doin' some killin'. Reg never went anywhere without his .45 Colt, a repeater, and knives which he kept sharp enough to shave with.

The hired gun dismounted from his black and brown horse, aptly named Justice, took a swig of water from the canteen and reached in his saddle bag. He pulled out the map of the Arizona Territory and a piece of beef jerky to gnaw on. Looking at the map he figured he had roughly 30 miles to go until he would reach Buzzard Hill. Reg checked his pocket watch and saw it was only 3 in the afternoon. The sheriff expected him no later than dusk, plenty of time.

An hour or so later, Reg began to see the red rocks and mountains surrounding Buzzard Hill in the distance. The air turned cooler in October in this part of the Arizona Territory and he saw more forest than he had before.

As he rounded a bend in the trail a strong smell pierced his nostrils, making his eyes water. The sight he came upon was quite gruesome. On each side of the trail were three saguaro cacti adorned with the severed heads of 6 coyot's. The animals had to have been killed recently, as buzzards were just beginning to pick at them. Their entrails lay in piles at the bottom of the cacti with flies swarming around, but the carcasses were nowhere to be seen. Reg's stomach felt a little sick from the sights and smells. Sick devil-worshippin' sonsabitches' did that, he thought. He patted Justice and rode on.

Another hour passed on without any other violent scenes to speak of, only a few other passing travelers that Reg gave polite nods to. Reg saw a post up ahead that would probably tell him how much further to Buzzard Hill. The wooden post staked in the ground had an arrow pointing north with words that vandals had had some fun with. Reg read the words aloud, "5 miles Buzzard HEll." Reg smirked while rubbing his stubbled chin.

Reg looked forward to this mystery job and the town. Tucson had been quiet recently, the action minimal. He gained such a reputation that criminals were reluctant to put up a fight when they knew he was on their tail. It had even been six months since he had killed anyone.

That man had suffered greatly for robbing his cousin's farmhouse and having his way with his cousin's young daughter. Reg found him in the desert camped out by himself. Being a master of stealth, Reg surprised the man in the night and beat him to a pulp. When the man regained consciousness he found himself naked, bound and gagged. Reg then took him for a ride through the desert, dragging him with his horse until all his flesh ripped off, along with his genitals. Reg stopped his horse's gallop when the man's skinless body came to a halt atop the burning coals of his fire. The law could be more brutal than the outlaws.

As Reg descended a hill on the trail, the town came into view. He passed a grand building dubbed the Prickly Pear Inn, a general store, a barber shop, and a gunsmith. The next block seemed to be all saloons and brothels. He thought about havin' a quick screw with one of the local whores before going to the sheriff's office, but decided to wait till the job was done. Best to not let any ass cloud his mind.

Reg made a left at the end of the second block. He could see the sheriff's office and the gallows pole at the far end of the dirt street. Three men sat in chairs on the front porch of the sheriff's office wearing wide brimmed hats and dusters, their horses hitched nearby. Reg imagined these men were the sheriff and the other bounty hunters he'd be working with. He didn't care much for being part of a team, but every once in a while it was necessary, and ta hell with it, he'd been told the money was right. That's all that mattered.

"Good afternoon gentlemen, name's Reginald Delcole. Y'all can call me Reg. Been sent up from Tucson by Sheriff Lee Hunting."

The brown skinned man with long black hair and a horseshoe mustache stood. A gold badge poked out from underneath his duster. He had to have been about three hundred pounds of solid muscle, and a long scar went from above his right eyebrow, across his nose and stopped below his jaw.

"Good afternoon Reg Delcole, I'm Sheriff Tom Ramirez, these are the Wilkins brothers, Wayne and Harvey, you'll be working with them."

"Pleased to meet y'all. So who we after that requires three bounty hunters?"

"Four men, the Butler-Shaw gang. In recent months they've gone on a brutal crime spree. They've robbed a bank, killing two employees and a citizen in the process. Broken into homes and slaughtered families in the middle of the night. They even stormed a brothel in town, stealing from the whores before raping them and slicing their throats. We have reason to believe their hideout is in the mountains west of town. Yesterday a traveler spotted them near Hawk's Cave, the Wilkins brothers know exactly where it is."

"We done grew up in them mountains, know 'em by the back of our hands," said the Wilkins brother closest to the sheriff. They both had missing teeth, shaggy brown hair, and even shaggier beards. Reg took them to be twins, and figured their parents had met at a family gathering. But if they knew the lay of the land and could shoot straight, Reg could give a dead horse's last shit what circumstances they were born under, just as long as they didn't get him killed.

"They sound like some pretty bad hombres. How you want 'em sheriff, dead or alive?"

"Alive would be nice, this town would enjoy nothing more than seeing the four of them hung at the gallows pole, but I don't think it's gonna be that easy. I figure you'll find yourself in a firefight. Try to bring one back alive so we can give the folks a show."

Ramirez handed Reg two yellowed pieces of paper with pictures of the four members of the Butler-Shaw gang and a summary of their exploits. The Butler's were burly, solid built, unshaven men, and the Shaw's looked to be Irish immigrants, thinner than the Butlers and clean shaven. The reward was not written on either of the papers.

Sheriff Ramirez lit a cigar. "And the pay will be $400 for each of you," he said.

Reg's eyes lit up. "I was just about to ask about that. Lee wasn't lying, the money sure is right."

"Lee says you're the best, that you're not afraid to kill. Just what we need."

"When do we leave?"

"You and the brothers go get some chow down at the Fire and Spirits Tavern. The beef stew and bread are delicious, I just wish they'd put the chili back on the menu. Anyway, the bill will be taken care of for you, after that get on your way. My advice is to stake the gang out for a little bit when you find them. Try to surprise them in the night."

"Alright sheriff, the brothers and I will come up with a plan and bring these bastards in for ya."

The Wilkins brothers and Reg made their way down to the tavern. They enjoyed the chow along with a few shots of whiskey and traded stories back and forth of huntin' down criminals. Wayne boasted of being proficient with a bow and arrow, and Harvey claimed he could hogtie a fella up faster than any bounty hunter in the west. Reg found the brothers amusing, but he had his doubts about them. That was ok because it was agreed upon by all that Reg would be taking the lead in apprehending the Butler-Shaw gang.

The brothers told Reg that taking distance, terrain and elevation into account, they could expect to arrive at a spot that overlooks Hawk's Cave around midnight to begin their stakeout. If they saw no sign of the gang they would camp there till morning, then look for tracks at the crack of dawn.

The crew ordered one more shot of whiskey each, clanked their glasses together, threw back the shot and made their way out the double doors. The bartender and a few of the townsfolk who overheard their conversation wished them luck. Unhitching their horses, the men saddled up and began the journey out of Buzzard Hill and up into the mountains.

Harvey Wilkins rode in front, his brother behind him and Reg in the back. He led them past the sheriff's office, and down an unoccupied dirt road toward the forest. As they approached the edge of the forest Reg could see where the trees split and a blazed path began.

Harvey brought his horse to a stop right before the trail began. A crudely etched sign dubbed this the Midnight Chooglin' Trail.

Harvey lit a cigarette, turned and said, "Now Reg, in about a mile or so the trail is gonna get pretty steep and rocky, we're gonna have ta be careful with the horses. Don't want 'em catchin' an ankle in a hole or buckin' and sendin' one of us over the edge of the mountain. Once the trail levels out we get about seven miles or so of easy flat trail before makin' a left on the Vitus Trail. We follow that for eight miles and at that point we have ta hitch the horses and make our way on foot up ta the cliff that overlooks Hawks Cave."

"I ain't too keen on leavin' Justice here behind," Reg said.

"Don't worry, We'll be hitchin' 'em at a post near an old abandoned cabin, they'll be safe. You'll see when we get there. We're gonna have ourselves quite the rock scramble to make it up to the cliff. No way in hell the nags will make it," Harvey answered.

Reg nodded his head satisfied with the response and said, "Well alright then gentlemen, let the huntin' begin." The men let out a hoot and spurred their horses in succession, directing them into the forest down the Midnight Chooglin' Trail.

Reg had never seen land like this down in Tucson. The forest, dense and dark, filled with tall pine trees and the ground covered with leaves. Crisp, cool mountain air felt refreshing to him after a lifetime spent in the dry heat of the desert. Despite the beauty of it all, Reg couldn't help but to feel a bit uncomfortable not being in the environment he was used to. Screw it, he thought to himself, I'm the best goddamn bounty hunter in Arizona, hell the whole west, done put away more scum than these two and that overgrown Mexican sheriff put together. I'll be fine, got more firepower on me than the goddamn Army.

The bounty hunters and their steeds traversed the steep, rocky section of the trail without incident. It had taken an hour but it had been worth it to go slow and avoid injury to the men or their horses. They rode in silence through the flat stretch of the trail, until reaching the junction with the Vitus Trail.

"Up here's where we're turning left!" called out Harvey Wilkins.

The sun began to fade in the west as twilight loomed near.

The Vitus Trail inclined slightly up the mountain, but free of rocks and debris. Harvey lit an oil lamp to help lead the way as the pines grew thicker and the forest became much darker down this trail. By the time they reached the abandoned cabin the sun was completely gone. Through the dense trees Reg spotted the moon, it shone bright and full.

"Well that full moon up above should work to our advantage if those boys are down below the cliff," Reg said.

Wayne Wilkins, pretty quiet till now, nodded in agreement and said, "Sure will make scouting a whole lot easier, plus we won't have to worry about havin' the lamps lit, they won't see us comin'."

The men dismounted from their horses and tied them to the hitching post. Each man provided their traveling companions with food and water before giving them a pat on the head and resuming the journey on foot. Reg had his .45 on his right, a repeater slung behind him, a large Bowie knife strapped to his leg and plenty of ammo. The brothers each had revolvers of their own, and Wayne his bow and silver-tipped arrows, and Harvery his lasso.

They walked down the trail drinking from canteens and eating jerky, they didn't want to start a fire to cook anything and potentially give themselves away to the Butler-Shaw gang. A half mile down the trail they came to the rock scramble. It went up almost vertically. The trees opened up here, the moon shone over the rocks and boulders, lighting the way.

"Now Reg, me and Wayne done climbed this scramble hundreds a times, so we'll go first. Be no good if you fell and took us all out. Just mind your footing, take it slow, and watch where we put our hands and feet," Harvey said.

Reg nodded, "Alright, sounds like a plan, don't you worry about me though."

Harvey started the climb, and Wayne followed. Once Wayne got over the first boulder, Reg began his ascent. The climb was going slow, but smooth, the full moon helped guide them up. Then as Reg was reaching up to place his right hand on a rock the loud howl of a wolf broke the silence. Reg's right hand slipped and his feet dangled, but his left held on. The wolf's howl was answered by maybe a half dozen other wolves.

"Son of a bitch!" Reg yelled. The brothers looked back. Wayne moved back down on top of the boulder Reg hung on to and lifted him up.

"Thanks partner," Reg said, lifting himself up the rest of the way.

"Don't mention it, I done got spooked the first time I heard a pack of wolves myself, almost shot my foot off that night."

Ten minutes later the bounty hunters climbed over the last boulder, and the land leveled out, they had reached the cliff overlooking Hawk's Cave. The smell of burning wood hit their noses. It came from down below, if it was from the fire of the Butler-Shaw gang the traveler's information had been good.

The men caught their breath, had a drink of water, and got in a circle.

Reg whispered, "Alight gentlemen let's get down on our bellies and crawl over to the edge of the cliff and see what's happenin' down there. No smoking and keep your voices low. We got ourselves a great vantage here, be a shame to give ourselves away. You fellas bring binoculars along?"

"I got a pair on me," Harvey answered.

"Me as well," said Wayne.

"Alright good, I'll make my way to the left over by that pine, Harvey you go to the right. Wayne climb up that rock over there that juts out a bit, just be careful. Let's hope these sonsabitches are already asleep or nearly passed out from whatever pisswater they been drinkin'."

The men crouched down and crawled over the dirt and leaves to their spots on the cliff. Reg reached the spot he would scout from first. As he peered over the edge of the cliff he could see a whole lot of what was goin' on without any help from the binoculars.

Outside the mouth of the cave, fire burned on the ground in a circle. Inside that circle wood burned in the shape of a five point star, a pentagram. Five men stood around the circle, each standing at a point. If the devilishness of it all weren't enough to complicate things, the extra body they'd have to deal with did.

Reg looked to his left. The brothers were staring back at him, their mouths agape. Fear was on their faces, that worried Reg.

Reg lifted his binoculars to his eyes to get a better look at the group. Four of the men were stark naked, the fifth man wore a black cloak and hood. The four naked men looked like the Butler-Shaw gang. The cloaked man was standing at the top point of the fiery pentagram, his back to the mouth of the cave.

Reg crawled away from the edge of the cliff, the brothers followed suit and they met behind the rock that Wayne was atop of.

"Just what in the fuck was that?" Harvey whispered.

"Well Harv I'd say that the Butler-Shaw gang is obviously the Butler-Shaw cult too," Reg answered. "Now some devil worshippin' voodoo hoodoo bullshit ain't gonna stop me from collectin' this bounty. I've heard some of these wackos take peyote that they get from the savages when they do these rituals. If they're in a sedated state it may make things easier."

"What about that big fella with the black robe on?" Wayne asked.

"I don't know about him. He doesn't look like any of the men from the posters, but the other four do. Maybe there's a fifth member of the gang that no one knew about," Reg said.

The brothers shrugged their shoulders. Harvey looked at Reg and asked, "Well Reg, you've taken down badder men than we have, what's the plan?"

"There's paths leading down each side of this here cliff, am I right?"

"Right as rain," Harvey said.

"Ok. First things first we even out the numbers. Wayne, you go down the right side and take out one of the Butler-Shaw boys with an arrow. Shoot to kill. I'll go down the left side and slice another's throat with my knife. Seeing as these fellas are in the buff, I don't think we'll get too much of a fight unless they have derringers shoved up their ass."

The brothers had no objection to Reg's plan.

"Harvey, you stick behind your brother. After he kills one of the men, you draw on the man in the cloak, get that sonofabitch hogtied fast. We're gonna have our weapons drawn on the two others. I see a chance to bring back three of them alive. Normally I kill if I'm given the option, but with how much money is being offered I think we'll get a big bonus for bringing back more than one alive."

"Ok boss, sounds good ta me," said Harvey.

"Just look for my signal for when to strike," Reg said.

The brothers went to the right and Reg to the left. Reg looked to the brothers and each began a slow, quiet descent down the paths that led to the clearing. Reg and the brothers reached the bottom of the paths at the same time, all three remained crouched. The circle of five devil worshippin' criminals were too occupied with looking to the sky and speaking in hushed tongues to notice the bounty hunters.

As Reg readied his hand to signal the attack, the light from the moon dimmed, darkening the night, and the fire died down to hot embers. Reg looked skyward and saw the most terrifying sight he ever saw in his life. The entire moon turned red, blood red. The deep howl of a wolf pierced his ears again, only this time much closer. He thought it crazy, but had it come from the fire circle? Four more higher pitched howls followed the first one and sure enough it came from nearby. Reg could make out the shape of the man with the cloak on. The man raised his arms to the sky and brought them downward in a fierce motion. At that moment a bolt of lightning struck the fire circle, lighting the pentagram aflame again. This time the fire roared with more intensity, lighting up the entire surroundings underneath the blood moon.

The man in the cloak remained at the top of the pentagram. The four members of the Butler-Shaw gang sniffed at the air and turned their attention towards the bounty hunters. Reg and the Wilkins brothers could see they were no longer men. Thick crimson fur covered their entire naked bodies. Hair even overtook their fingers and feet. Their foreheads widened and protruded. Their mouths hung open showing sharp fangs dripping saliva to the ground. Low growls emitted from their throats as they crouched down on all fours, peering at the men with bright yellow eyes.

Reg looked at the brothers, fear plastered their faces. This time he didn't blame them. Reg remained stoic in spite of his own fear of what he was seeing. He didn't believe in werewolves, but he did believe in what his eyes showed him at this moment. He looked at Wayne and Harvey, nodded his head and yelled, "NOW!"

At the moment the brothers and Reg stood, the wolves sprung from their hind legs, barking viciously. Reg pulled his .45 and fired two shots at the first wolf and another two shots at the second. He caught the lead wolf in the chest with the first bullet and the second bullet went right through its eye, taking a part of the skull and a floppy ear with it. The wolf bucked and yelped, but didn't fall to the ground. Instead it just growled even angrier at Reg before resuming its charge. Both of the.45 slugs struck the second wolf in its upper muzzle, sending shattered teeth, bits of skull and other canine gore flying, but leaving the lower jaw attached to the body. Its eyes were obliterated. The body with just its lower jaw continued to run, albeit aimlessly.

"Goddamnit you're folklore . . . superstition . . . myth!" Reg shouted. "Silver? Is that what it's gonna take?" Reg asked himself aloud. The first wolf with the hole in its head and missing ear drew closer and pounced. Reg didn't have time to wonder if one of his knives were silver or not, he knew his bullets obviously weren't. The first knife of his that Reg grabbed was a folding knife he used for guttin' fish. He flipped it open as the wolf flew through the air knocking him down and pinning him to the ground. Reg maintained his hold on the knife and thrust it into the wolf's stomach as its jaws were about to close on his neck.

The wolf let out a loud yelp of pain and ceased to live. Its disfigured head went limp, dripping blood and saliva onto Reg. Reg felt a scrape on his boot as he pulled the knife out of the wolf and pushed the creature off of him. The second wolf hadn't given up. Its lower jaw moving wildly, trying anyway it could to pierce Reg. He grabbed the wolf by the throat and saw the tongue remained attached, he plunged the knife into its esophagus, and the devil wolf was sent to its death.

Across the clearing from Reg, the Wilkins brothers had two wolves of their own to deal with. Harvey fired on the two charging hell beasts from behind his brother who in his state of fright struggled to nock an arrow. His bullets had the same effect that Reg's had, they simply blew out chunks of fur and flesh, but did not kill the wolves.

Wayne managed to get an arrow nocked as a wolf jumped atop his brother, sending him to the ground. Wayne shot the wolf in the rib cage, and it fell to the ground dead, but not before clawing Harvey's face deeply. Harvey screamed in pain as blood gushed from his facial wounds. His lips were ripped apart and his chin split into two hairy flaps of flesh, but he was alive.

The second wolf jumped Wayne before he had a chance to load another arrow. The wolf bit at his jugular, sending fountains of blood in the air. Steam came off the warm blood as it met the cool mountain air. The wolf ripped muscle and tissue from Wayne's neck, and at the same time its rear feet dug their claws into Waynes thighs and kicked backward, sending chunks of flesh flying behind him. Wayne was dead before his brother could lift himself up off the ground.

Reg had finished disposing of the second wolf when he saw Wayne being murdered. He charged over with the folding knife and pounced on the wolf's back before he could get to Harvey. The wolf was strong and struggled, whipping its head back and forth, but Reg held on enough to get his knife under the wolf's throat and slice it from end to end. The wolf died right away like the others.

Harvey struggled getting to his feet, walked past Reg and stared down at his brother who was torn to shreds.

"He died tryin' ta save me," Harvey said through bloodied lips.

Reg surveyed the scene. The four wolves they killed began to change back to their human form, with the exception of certain body parts that had been blown to bits. Even the crimson fur receeded. Reg picked up Wayne's bow and the rest of his silver tipped arrows.

"Harvey, take these, your brother said they were silver tipped. That's how he killed the wolf, my knife is made out of silver too. My bullets didn't work. I know it sounds fucking crazy but, we're dealing with werewolves here Harv."

"I know. We should've checked the almanac before we left. These are blood moon wolves. The blood moon is rare, only happens every few years, and lasts about an hour. I heard the stories growing up. There's plenty a folks 'round here who've gone missing and animals that've been found mutilated around the time of the blood moon. Reg, I've been scratched, and scratched bad at that. If I turn, promise you'll kill me."


"Hey Reg, you seen what happened to the one in the black cloak, you kill him too?"

"No. Shit, I lost sight of him. Where in the fuck did he go?"

Reg and Harvey surveyed the area looking for any sign of the man, but saw nothing. Other than the light from the fire the land was dark from the reddening of the moon. Reg grabbed a dry piece of wood and held it to the fire until it caught.

"Harvey, let's go over to the mouth of the cave. I think he may be in there watching us. Stay behind me and keep an arrow ready to fire."

With the torch in his right hand and the silver folding knife in his left, Reg started toward the cave. A low growl emanated from the cave as the men drew near. They were five feet from the cave when Reg saw the two red dots at his eye level. The men froze in place as the red dots came towards them.

Realizing the dots were the eyes of the cloaked man, Reg said, " Harv, it's him, fire!"

The arrow shot from behind Reg's left shoulder, but the eyes drew closer. Stepping into the light thrown from the torch, the cloaked man looked bigger than he had from a distance. He held the arrow in his fur covered hand. It did not puncture him, he caught it in mid air. If this was a wolf underneath the cloak, he didn't move like the others, he walked and stood upright like a normal man.

Reg charged the figure with the intention of sticking him with the knife and lighting him ablaze. Harvey shot another arrow, but it flew past the man's head into the cave. The man caught Reg by the throat with his left hand. His right hand grabbed Reg's wrist and twisted it one motion, breaking the wrist and causing Reg to drop the knife.

The man in the cloak lifted Reg up by his throat, and tossed him through the air. Reg struck his head on a rock as he landed near the fire circle. His head split open, slowly leaking blood as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Harvey loaded a third arrow and shot at the man. The man swiped this arrow out of the air too. Harvey, still in excruciating pain, did not load another arrow. He knew he would turn soon, so he might as well let this beast kill him.

The man turned the point of the arrow towards Harvey and slammed it into the center of Harvey's forehead. His skull cracked and brain matter and blood spewed out when the man ripped out the arrow. Harvey's arms flung out and he dropped to his knees, before falling to the ground. Still alive, but well on his way to dying, he crawled to his brother's side. He laid his arm over his brother's blood soaked chest, mumbled some gibberish, and passed on.

Reg slowly regained consciousness. He felt like he'd been caught in a stampede and trampled by a hundred steer. The heat from the fire had him sweatin' like a whore in church. He touched the back of his head. It was wet with blood, but he did not think it was serious, the flow wasn't heavy. His wrist was twisted and hurt like hell.

Staring up at the sky, the blood moon still hovered over. The next thing he saw was the red eyes of the man in the cloak staring at him from above. The man pulled back his hood. Despite having the mannerisms and gait of a man, the cloaked figure revealed himself to be another werewolf.

"Reginald Delcole!" The wolf spoke. Reg couldn't believe it. A werewolf spoke to him, and knew his name nonetheless.

"Yyyy yyy eeeee sss?" Reg stammered. He had never heard himself sound terrified before in his whole life.

"Reginald Delcole, you are a vicious and violent man. It does not matter that you kill in the name of justice. You still kill in brutal ways. For this we are recruiting you."

The voice of the wolf man sounded familiar to Reg. He wasn't sure if he understood right. The wolf didn't want to kill him? The wolf wanted him to work for him? A bounty hunter for werewolves? He thought maybe the Wilkins brothers had slipped him some hallucinogen.

Reg sat up and said, "Heh, so you want me to be part of yer wolf gang huh? What if I don't want to?"

The wolf bent over and pushed Reg back to the ground. Reg got a real clear view of the wolf's face for the first time. The wolf had a long, deep scar that ran from above his right eyebrow, over his nose, past the corner of his mouth and stopped below the jaw.

A hairy hand grabbed Reg's throat for a second time, and the wolf bellowed, "You do not have a choice in this matter!"

The wolf tore open Reg's shirt and drug his claws across Reg's chest. Blood seeped out and flowed over Reg's rib cage. The wolf pulled a branding iron from inside his cloak. The shape of a pentagram adorned the end of the iron. He placed a heavy foot on Reg's bleeding chest as he placed the branding iron into the fire.

After a few minutes the iron turned a bright red. Reg's struggles subsided as the blood loss drained his energy. Satisfied with the temperature of the iron, the wolf held it over Reg, said an incantation in a language Reg did not understand, and seared the flesh over Reg's heart.

The stench of burning hair and flesh filled the air. After several screams and curses Reg passed out once more.

Several hours later, right before dawn, a groggy Reginald Delcole began to wake. He rubbed his eyes and looked towards the sky. The moon was in the distance, its normal color of white. Had last night been a bad dream? He thought. Reg sat up and looked around. The fire pit a mere ten feet from him was normal— not in the shape of a pentagram. There were no dead bodies of wolfmen or bounty huntin' brothers to speak of. Maybe the whole thing had been a dream.

Reg stood, and reached in his pocket for a cigarette. He turned around and there he was.

"Hey boy! Good to see ya." He walked over to Justice and scratched the horse behind the ears before reaching in his saddle bag to get some breakfast for his loyal partner.

"Mr. Delcole! You certainly lived up to your reputation last night."

The deep voice came from the mouth of the cave, behind where Reg and Justice stood. Reg pulled his .45 and spun around.

"Who are you?!"

Reg couldn't see anyone in the pitch black cave.

"I said, Who the fuck are you?!" Reg shouted.

The sheriff of Buzzard Hill, Tom Ramirez walked out of the cave with his hands up, a wide devilish grin across his scarred face.

"No. Last night wasn't real. What'd you give me? Did you drug me, or was it those brothers who slipped me somethin'?"

"Mr. Delcole, you can drop the gun, if you can remember from last night, that will do you no good. Plus, you are one of us now. You will embrace it in time. Don't get sloppy like the Butler-Shaw gang, and eternity can be yours."

"Bullshit Ramirez, I ain't no devil dog."

"Reg, change that shirt, it's got a bit of dirt on it."

Reg slowly lowered his gun, but not his gaze from Ramirez. More cloudy visions of the previous hours came to him. He holstered the Colt and unbuttoned his shirt. Horrified at what he saw on his own flesh, the cigarette fell from his mouth. Tears from the claws of the werewolf were completely healed. Deep scars ran across his chest, and a pentagram had been branded into the flesh over his heart. He felt no pain whatsoever.

Reg stood silent. Sheriff Ramirez tossed him a badge, "Congratulations Mr. Delcole, you're the new deputy of Buzzard Hill."

The End

Cory Andrews hails from Easton, Pennsylvania. A cook by trade, and now an aspiring author as well, he's at work on a collection of western-horror short stories. When not cookin' or writin' you may be able to find him hiking in the rocky and rugged Pennsylvania mountains.

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