Update: Red River Rangers was published at Amazon on August 29, 2014 and at Barnes & Noble and Smashwords on November 29, 2014. A Strange Alliance, a Red River Rangers Novelette that continues to follow Cat’s journeys through the weird west, will be available February 19, 2015.
The sun sank into a crimson horizon, long shadows of towering mesas fading in the dusky coming of night. A lone coyote dug into a fresh, shallow grave. The dirt he flung out behind him speckled the light of the setting sun, dark fireworks celebrating the coming meal.
He stopped digging and nosed the dirt, sniffing to check his progress, catching the scent of leather, bourbon, and flesh. The coyote resumed his quick pace, eager to sate the ever present hunger nagging at him all the days of his lonely existence. Another coyote howled in the distance, a low growl rose up to strangle the reciprocate mournful cry in his throat.
Another sound came from an unexpected direction, and he paused his excavation. Twitching ears picked up a gravelly sigh, followed by a soft moan beneath him. Once again he put his muzzle to the earth between his paws, smelling the same still-fresh corpse as before. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a nub of flesh growing from the dirt. He yelped and jumped aside, crouching low to watch, anticipating a fight for his meal.
Instead of a snake as he’d expected, a hand emerged, dirt tumbling from shaky fingers. The head and elbow broke loose from the earth simultaneously. The corpse emitted a high screech that got another yelp from the coyote. Spent, the head and arm fell back against the freshly dug ground, perhaps laid to rest for good this time. The coyote could hope, anyway.
He crept closer, extending his neck to sniff from a distance.
He bared his teeth as he drew closer to the corpse, a low whine struggling with a growl inside his chest. Still a few feet away, he stopped to crouch again, the spindly muscles of his haunches tightly coiled and ready to spring away if the corpse moved again.
The coyote inched closer, the whine winning the battle for purchase and climbing up and out. Raised hackles doubled the appearance of his size, but did little to bolster the malnourished creature’s courage. The closer he crept, the more he trembled.
Inches away from the head, he closed the distance and sniffed his prey.
The other hand shot up from the earth beneath him and plunged into his body, past his bony chest, gripping his spine. The already freed hand grabbed a fistful of hair at the back of his neck.
The coyote struggled in the grip of the corpse, ripping out his own hairs in a mindless attempt to break free. Droplets of blood from his torn flesh misted the air, falling to sprinkle the lips of the dead woman. The final rays of the setting sun revealed fleshy lids pulling apart, ripping out sutures as they opened over glazed gray eyes.
She got a good grip on the flesh at his neck, now that the hair had been ripped away.
He still struggled, panicked, thinking of nothing but escape. He dug his paws into loose earth and tried to back away, lifting his head up and away from her face.
The corpse slowly opened her mouth, tearing more stitches through the thick flesh of her lips. As though celebrating newfound liberation, the corpse grinned and drove a pair of elongated incisors into the coyote’s neck, moaning as she drank from the animal.
When his struggle weakened, she released her grip on his spine to seek out a more substantial source of nourishment.
Kidney. Lung. A heart might be nice.
Realization crept up her spine, scratching against bone with icy bladed fingers, screeching echoes in her mind, Monster.
Three days after they’d hung her for the brutal massacre of a group of teens out at Red River Ridge, Catherine Cartwright rose from her grave.
To be continued in…