I was cold and sleepy, and I wished I were somewhere else. Anywhere other than here, downwind from a herd of sheep. A few feet away, his back against a large boulder, Miguel Martinez sat with an old Remington rifle across his knees, a stubby, hand-rolled cigarette dangling from his lips. I craved a Marlboro, but, since I’m trying to quit, I resisted the urge.
The sky was cloudless, black as velvet and casually strewn with stars. There was no moon. My butt was sore from sitting on the hard ground, and I stood to stretch my legs.
"Here, senor," Miguel whispered as he tossed me a thermos. "Have some coffee."
I had to admit my opinion of Miguel had improved a bit. I’d first met him in the local cantina, where he’d polished off a bottle of mescal all by himself. He’d been surly and not just a little scared, thoroughly shaken by his previous encounter with the night beast. But this evening he was sober and steady. He might still be scared, but he was determined to bag himself a goat-sucker, no matter what.
I poured myself a cup of strong, black Mexican brew, and leaned against a boulder to drink it. I checked my watch, and the softly-lit face of my Timex told me it was almost one in the morning.
I was getting too old for this kind of stuff.
I heard the scrape of boots on rock and heard gravel roll downhill. I turned, my hand reaching toward the .38 revolver I’d borrowed from Jim Gunn. I pulled it from my belt as lovely, raven-haired Consuela appeared from the shadows. Miguel’s sister held a basket in one hand.
"Damn it, Consuela," I growled. "I might have shot you."
"Sorry, Senor Walker," she replied. "I thought you and my brother may be hungry."
Miguel rose, a smile on his face. "Si," he agreed. "I am starving."
Suddenly, we heard a commotion amid the herd of goats. "Consuela, stay here." I whispered urgently, and then Miguel and I scrambled across the rocks to get a look at his livestock.
The herd was moving down the narrow valley, away from the spot they’d been grazing. We pushed our way through the panicked animals and there, in the glare of my flashlight beam, we saw something that froze my blood in my veins.
It was about five feet tall, with an oversized skull and giant, glowing eyes. Long spikes, like porcupine quills, lined its back and it had two vicious claws. Its mouth was filled with razor-like teeth, and it crouched on the body of one of Miguel’s goats, blood dripping from its chin.
It was the Chupacabra.
And it was real.
Miguel raised his rifle, but the creature sprang at the scrawny youth, knocking him to the ground with its body. Miguel screamed, and the rifle went off, sending a bullet harmlessly into the sky.
The creature made no sound of its own, but it tore at Miguel with its claws. I pulled the feeble .38 from my belt and fired off a shot that buried itself in the ground a few feet from the struggling forms. The creature stopped its attack then, and turned those giant eyes on me.
It came at me then, covering ground at an incredible rate, and as it leapt, I fired again. This time the bullet caught it in the right shoulder, and the hideous beast twisted in midair and plummeted to the ground.
It let out a blood-curdling hiss and scrambled off into the shadows.
For several moments I stood there, unmoving, arm and gun extended in front of me, breathing hard, my heart pounding in my chest. The entire encounter had taken but seconds.
"Miguel!" I heard Consuela cry and it snapped me out of spell. I found my flashlight and rushed to her brother’s side as she came scrambling down from the rocks. He was a mess. His shirt was torn to shreds, and there were long gashes in his chest and arms. He was breathing, thank God.
Suddenly Consuela was at my side. "Walker, is he…?"
"He’s alive. But we’ve got to get him to a doctor."
It took over an hour to carry Miguel back to his family’s farm, and it was nearly dawn before we were able to get a doctor from the village to come out and treat the kid. But by the time I finally gave in and lit up my first cigarette of the day, it looked like he was going to pull through. Jim Gunn picked me up at the Martinez house around seven.
As we drove through town back to his lakeside villa, I noticed a bearded peasant beside the road, watching intently as Jim’s dusty car drove past. His eyes were hidden beneath the brim of a straw sombrero, and there was a dirty burlap sling on his arm. His right arm.
As I watched the peasant recede into the distance, Jim said: "So, tell me the truth, old pal. Did you see it, Walker?"
"Yeah, Jim," I said. "I saw it."
Friday, November 07, 2008
The Walker Files: Chupacabra, Part 2
And now, the exciting conclusion...