Black Friday is here and we’re discussing the season with James Tuck’s Deacon Chalk from Blood and Bullets.
He lives to kill monsters. He keeps his city safe. And his silver hollow-points and back-from-the-dead abilities help him take out any kind of supernatural threat. But now an immortal evil has this bad-ass bounty hunter dead in its sights. . .
Ever since a monster murdered his family, Deacon Chalk hunts any creature that preys on the innocent. So when a pretty vampire girl “hires” him to eliminate a fellow slayer, Deacon goes to warn him–and barely escapes a vampire ambush. Now he’s got a way-inexperienced newbie hunter to protect and everything from bloodsuckers to cursed immortals on his trail. There’s also a malevolent force controlling the living and the undead, hellbent on turning Deacon’s greatest loss into the one weapon that could destroy him. . .
Shop ‘Til You Drop
I hate the mall because people are monsters.
Scratch that. People aren’t monsters. They’re worse. Trust me, I know monsters and after this morning I would rather deal with them anytime.
Monsters I can shoot.
I stood at the top of the escalator outside of Bath and Bodyworks watching a mob of people who had lost their minds. Shoving and scratching, they wrestled over small bottles of lotion designed to smell like a Christmas bakery which could be yours for the low price of one dollar and your sanity, but only for this very special shopping day. I love a nice Lemongrass Sage body spray as much as the next guy, but fuck that.
I have faced down bloodsuckers, the walking dead, voodoo goat-men, and a host of other creepy crawlies. That’s my job. Deacon Chalk, Occult Bounty Hunter at your service. Have silver bullets, will travel. Point is, if you are dealing with a pack of Werewolves I will jump in without hesitation but I was not getting in the middle of a pack of crazed shoppers on Black Friday. No. Way. In. HELL.
This is why I turned to my left and saw what I saw.
A monster was standing outside about fifty feet from me in front of Toy Depot holding a red balloon and a cup of coffee.
He didn’t look like a monster. He looked like a short, dull, older man in a cardigan and khakis. Someone’s gentle grandfather who would smell of butterscotch and would softly tousle your hair while he told knock-knock jokes that were funny when he was your age.
He didn’t look like a monster to the oh-so-busy shoppers moving in currents of commerce. They walked right by him without a blink, all of them shifting slightly, just enough, to pass around him like a rock in a stream. That was the tip off.
Standing in the center of the walkway on the busiest shopping day of the year? He should have been knocked down in two seconds flat. Stepped on like a flower in a stampede of humanity on a shopping mission. Instead he stood there nonchalantly while everybody just slipstreamed to the side like he was surrounded by a Teflon forcefield.
He was watching the children dart through the aisles of Toy Depot.
My hand was under my jacket. Fingers touching the grip of the Desert Eagle under my arm. My palm itched with the desire to yank it out.
Someone bumped my elbow, driving my hand into the butt of the gun.
The plump redhead didn’t even slow down, hustling on past with her even plumper boyfriend who was laden with bags and bundles. He looked back and gave me a sad shrug from under his burden of name brand bags and emasculation. I pulled my hand away and held it by my side, fingers clenched. Son of a bitch. There were too many civilians around. I couldn’t start blasting; someone would be caught in the crossfire. I would have to handle this discreetly.
I hate being discreet.
I needed a closer look to see what exactly I was dealing with. I stepped into the flow of people and began walking toward the monster. People jostled, rubbing on both sides of me. I kept my eyes on the thing. It was easy to do since I was a head taller than most of the crowd around me. Pushing, I stayed on the edge of the flow so I would pass close to the thing. Each step I brought me closer. The thing kept watching the store, taking small sips from the coffee cup. Reaching deep I grabbed ahold of the power that lives inside of me.
Five years ago, while hunting the monster that killed my family I got dead. An Angel I had rescued resurrected me with her blood. I came back stronger, faster, and tougher than a regular human. I can also sense and read supernatural stuff, like radar for weirdness. This is what I pushed out in the direction of the thing I was walking towards.
My power moved out, passing through the humans like they weren’t there. It brushed up against the monster when I was only a few steps away. I felt it connect, searching out his nature.
My mouth filled with the putrid taste of stagnant water.
I fought down my gag reflex, chewing it back, swallowing it down. The flavor was green and brackish, coating my throat and clotting my nostrils. It tasted like that cucumber left in the bottom of the refrigerator and forgotten. The one that liquefied in the bag becoming a sack of stank-ass sludge. It tasted like that smells.
I reeled my power in with a jerk. It snapped back inside me like a bone breaking. The foul taste settled on the back of my throat, not choking anymore, but still there, hanging on like wet paint. I hate my power sometimes. It’s tied in with my other senses. Which is why it manifests as random bits of insight that I have to figure out. My mind tumbled around the information I had.
Tastes like swamp water filtered with ass, stalks children, and can make people ignore its presence.
One step away from it I clicked on what I was dealing with.
The Boogeyman is a southern monster. Parents threaten children who won’t go to bed that the Boogeyman will get them. Thing is, boogeymen are real. Inbred third cousins twice removed from the Fey, they’re malevolent puddles of water in skinsacks who eat the lifeforce of children.
My hand clamped down on the Boogeyman’s arm. Squishy, it felt like a water balloon under my fingers. His face jerked toward me. Wet, moss colored eyes sloshed up, wide and startled. His face was almost blurry, skin slipping left and right, unanchored to any structure underneath. I pulled him close, nose scrunching, nostrils flaring at the smell of soured laundry wafting off him. The balloon slipped from his hand, rising up like a helium-filled dream. The ribbon slipped up my cheek as it passed.
The glamour he was projecting rolled up and over me like a blanket, flapping to surround me. People immediately began stepping around us like we weren’t there.
My teeth gnashed down. “Don’t make a scene. I know what you are, just come along quietly.” I jerked his arm for emphasis. Something sloshed under his skin with a liquid roll. For a long second it didn’t move, just stood there blinking at me.
Then it threw the coffee in my face.
Hot liquid gushed across my open eyes, scalding away my vision. I jerked my hand to my face, wiping the boiling cappuccino away. People shouted behind me as some of them caught the few droplets that had missed scorching my eyeballs. My fingers slipped off the Boogeyman’s arm as it yanked away.
Blinking furiously gave me blurry vision that cleared a little with each stutter of my eyelids. The slippery bastard was darting across the crowds, people stepping aside from the glamour he was throwing. My eyes still burned but my vision was clearing. I could see. My fingers were sticky with coffee as they curled around the grip of the Desert Eagle .357 under my jacket.
There were still too many people around. I couldn’t start blasting, not that it would do any good. My gun was loaded with silver hollowpoints. Dealing with a fey, even a white trash version of one, required iron. Good thing one of the knives in my boot was cold iron. I was going to have to get close if I wanted to take this thing out.
I really wanted to take this thing out.
Pushing out into the crowd bustling by, I shoved across the current of humanity. Shoppers cursed me as I elbowed my way towards the Food Court where the Boogeyman was turning a corner next to the overpriced pizza by the slice eatery.
I had to catch him before he got out of the mall.
Swinging my elbows wide, I bullied my way through the mass of shoppers. I am a big, scary guy. 6’4, around 300 pounds, with a shaved head and a long goatee. Covered in ink, I look like a thug. It was enough to break the trance of most of the sale-driven consumers who were clogging the walkway I was trying to cross. It only took me a few moments to reach the over-priced pizza by the slice eatery and turn the corner.
The Boogeyman was gone.
Shit. Shit! SHIT!
The Food Court opened up in front of me. The tables in the center were clotted with people, all seated and eating mounds of disposable food. Around both sides were eateries of all kinds. The elegant cuisines of multiple cultures reduced to the equivalent of a culinary Kleenex. Each eatery had a line or people waiting to hand over dollars for sustenance.
I had to catch this Fey bastard. If I let him get away then the blood of his next victim was on my hands; and that I would not have. No way in hell.
Still moving I pushed through each line, cutting between people, eyes darting left and right, looking for some sign. Shouldering between a gaggle of moms and a tangle of teenagers I damn near tripped over him.
He was kneeling down, counting quickly under his breath. On the ground was a disposable packet of salt that someone had dropped and someone else had stepped on. The cheap paper packet was torn, grains of salt scattered in a small puddle.
Fey are strange creatures, even the inbred third cousins twice removed. They have weird glitches in their nature that run across the entire race.
They have to keep their word.
They are mortally allergic to iron.
And they have to count every granule of salt that is spilled in their path.
Thank you Jesus, Mother Mary, and all the saints for letting me catch a break.
“Gotcha!” My fingers clamped on the back of his neck, curling into a handful of loose skin. The glamour slapped around me and we were immediately ignored by the other people in the food court, including people I had just shoved past. Hauling him up I began dragging him toward the restrooms. People stepped aside without looking at us. The Boogeyman didn’t fight to get away, he fought to go back and finish counting the salt on the floor. I muscled him into the Men’s room, kicking the door open.
A hard yank and a harder shove tossed the child-eating fey into the tiled room. He tumbled and rolled across the ceramic floor. A college kid stood at a urinal, fingers still on his freshly zipped fly. His eyes slid past the Fey’s glamour, turning to me in surprise.
My thumb jerked toward the door. “Maintenance. We got a pressure problem with the pipes. This bathroom is closed.” I didn’t have a maintenance uniform, or any tools, but the kid just nodded and hustled out the door. I slapped the deadbolt on the door with my palm, locking myself inside with the Boogeyman who was pissed.
Turning back I saw that the Boogeyman had climbed to his feet. It stood by the handicapped stall. Its skin had taken on a greenish tinge and began to swell and bulge. Its slippery face distorted in anger, brackish water running from bulging eyes. Rubbery lips stretched wide to reveal twisted black teeth made of sharpened pieces of swamp cypress. Two lichen colored tentacles slithered out of that maw, waving in the air, round suckers biting, seeking flesh to pull and grip.
I knelt down, jerking up my pants leg. My fingers closed on the leather wrapped handle of the cold iron knife clipped inside my boot top. It slid free of its sheathe as the boogeyman charged across the space between us.
Pushing off the door behind me I slammed into the Fey. It felt like hitting a rubber wall. The Boogeyman had no bones, just sticks of wood inside its skinsack. With a BOING! it slapped around me, wrapping along my torso and the arm holding the knife. The skin began to squeeze me, the liquid inside acting like a hydraulic coil. The two tentacles latched around the back of my head and down my back, suckers biting like tiny, razor-sharp beaks of murderous parakeets. Pain flared in a dozen spots, my skin snipped away in little gobbets where they struck.
I couldn’t move the arm with the knife, the water Fey had it locked in a wrap of skin. My free hand scrabbled at it, trying to find a purchase. We slammed into the handicapped stall, the Fey giving a high-pitched squeal of murderous joy as I slammed it against the wall, trying to get it off me.
The world was going black, dark spots dancing in the edges of my vision and the red haze of unconsciousness creeping in when my fingers dug under the edge of the skin flap trapping my arm.
I gave a vicious yank, pulling with all the strength I had left and the skin lifted with a squelch. Driving my hand forward shoved the cold iron knife into the swollen skinsack smothering the life out of me. The edge slipped in and hot, putrid water gushed over my hand. The Boogeyman gave a shrill, skreening cry and tried to fling itself off me; convulsing to get away from the hated cold iron blade. My free arm clamped down on it, hugging it close to me, pinning it in place as I shoved harder with the knife, jerking the edge left and right to widen the hole.
I held it over the toilet, the malevolent water gurgling into the bowl with retching splashes. The skinsack deflated as the porcelain bowl flooded with evil swampwater. It took a few seconds for the skinsack to drain completely and hang in my hands like a shredded inner tube. Rot set in immediately without the magick of the Fey that had lived inside of it. In disgust I tossed it in the toilet with the Feywater. The stench was awful as it quickly began to dissolve into a curdled sludge.
The Feywater in the bowl gurgled, surface shimmering into a semblance of a face, like a dim reflection. Words floated up, echoing hollowly in the bowl. Fey magick tinged the air, pecking at my skin.
“give. . . me. . . your skin. . .”
My boot lifted up and rested on the chrome handle.
My foot pushed down. The toilet whooshed clean water into the bowl, swirling the Fey away. I turned away and stepped out of the stall battered, tired, bloody from the biting tentacles, and soaking wet with stinking Feywater.
And I still had to do my shopping.
I hate the damn mall.
WANT MORE DEACON CHALK? Don’t miss That Thing At The Zoo, a FREE e-novella available 1/27/2012 everywhere ebooks are sold.
And Blood and Bullets, A Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter novel, available 2/7/2012 everywhere books are sold. Only from the fine folks at Kensington Books.
Meet James Tuck!
James R. Tuck is a former bouncer and has been a professional tattoo artist for the last 15 years. He owns Family Tradition Tattoo in Marietta, Ga and lives just outside of Atlanta with his wife, two kids, and four dogs.