Hard on the heels of Halloween comes this story! El Vengador is my first venture into paranormal horror.
Deputy Sheriff Michael Kirtchner gets an "unknown disturbance" dispatch call to a remote house trailer in the swamp. There, he discovers an old woman and a dog, terrorized by a mysterious beast, which he takes to be a bear. But when he contacts Game Warden Jeff Stuart to come trap the animal, Stuart tells him to get out if he values his life - this is no ordinary animal. Is Kirtchner up against a Swamp Ape - a Florida version of Bigfoot - or something more...sinister?
Based on a true story.
My recommendation? Don't read this at night.
Elsie Moore ungracefully mopped her perspiring brow on the hem of her dress, then continued cooking her dinner on the tiny gas stovetop. A small pot on the back burner bubbled merrily, releasing a spicy smell as white grains of rice, gradually turning a greenish-tan, churned up. As a waft of strong skunk smell drifted through the tiny trailer kitchen from the open window, she wrinkled her nose and stared down in distaste at the skillet containing crawfish and boudin noir while poking at it with a spatula.
The foul odor from outside was not helping her opinion of her ingredients. She wasn’t fond of blood sausage in the first place, but it had been cheap, and she didn’t get into town much for groceries, so she made do. Being unemployed, she wasn’t overmuch blessed with cash and didn’t have a vehicle, so she was forced to depend upon distant friends for a ride to town, or more often, she just walked ― which ended up taking the better part of a day. So inexpensive and quick to get hold of were the rules of the house. The crawfish had come from a Cajun friend who lived up the bay. She wasn’t Cajun, nor was she from one of the local Native tribes, but she knew people in both communities, and they looked after her when they could; she was a fairly skilled herbal healer, and had been known to treat strangers more than once. Abruptly the skunk stench increased to nearly intolerable volumes, and she turned away from the stove, covered her nose with her free hand, and fought back a nearly unbearable urge to retch.
"Damn," she cursed. "Ah’m gonna have ta git somethin’ done ‘bout that skunk den, an’ soon, don’t Ah’m gonna end th’ summer unable t’ eat nothin’ f’r the stink. It ‘uz bad enough in th’ spring when they moved in, but now it’s hot, Ah gotta keep th’ winners open, ‘r suffocate…" Her German shepherd let out a long whine from somewhere in the back yard, and she yelled out the window. "BILLY! HUSH! Ah ain’t got time f’r that racket!"
She returned her attention to her makeshift excuse for jambalaya ― not, she thought, that it would amount to much without any celery or bell pepper, but at least she’d found some wild onions that morning ― and tried to ignore the smell coming in from outside, and which was threatening to spoil her appetite for good. A buzzer sounded, and she reached up to turn off the timer, then put a lid on the pot of seasoned rice, switching off the burner to let the dish soak up the extra liquid and finish cooking on its own.
By the time the crawfish were cooked, the rice was ready. It was early for dinner, but Elsie’s day started early, out the door before full dawn, wild-crafting edibles to eke out her meager supplies of food and gather herbs for medicinals.
The sixty-three year old widow of ten years and three grown-and-departed children dumped the tiny pot of rice into a plate, then upended the skillet’s contents on top. Fishing a bent-tined fork from a drawer, she moved into the den, sat in her favorite chair, and began to eat. After a few minutes, she grabbed the battered remote control and turned on the television. Static and snow greeted her from that appliance, and she reached for another control, fiddling with it until the dish outside had picked up another satellite. The picture was still fuzzy and staticky, but at least she could see and hear the broadcast. Then she settled back with her meal to watch a series of game shows.
Halfway through her meal, Billy, her German shepherd, came to the front door, pawing and scratching as he whined.
"NO, Billy!" she told the dog. "Ah’ll let ya in at sundown, no sooner, an’ yew kin curl up onna foot o’ th’ bed like usual. Y’re s’posed ta be a guard dawg, not mah pet, even iffen ya are mah onlies’ real friend. Jus’ settle down! What’s got inta yew today, no how?"
The dog whined and scratched harder.
"GIT!" she called. There was a scrambling sound on the wooden stoop, then Billy ran around to the back yard, where he began to bark like a fool. "Damn dog."
All of a sudden Billy began to yelp, loud, high-pitched sounds like a dog in pain, or maybe in terror. This mingled with a low growling sound, and unexpectedly the trailer filled with a horrible, intolerable stench. Elsie shoved her half-empty plate onto the end table, grabbed the nearby plastic waste can, and threw up her dinner. Before she could even wipe her mouth, a deafening clamor sounded right outside, and the trailer shook. Billy let out a kind of canine scream, and this was followed and drowned out by an animal roar of rage. The trailer shook again. Elsie shot to her feet.
"BILLY!" she cried, alarmed. "Billy! What’s wrong, puppy-dog? Whatcha got treed?" She ran to the nearest window and looked out. She saw nothing. The trailer shook again. She looked down.
Practically beneath her, pressed up against the back wall of the trailer, was the hind end of some very large, powerful, furry creature. The color was an odd, ticked shade of browns and blacks, mottled with blotches of livid green. A roaring howl, which seemed to come from beneath her, fairly made her guts vibrate. She watched the animal’s hindquarters tense, and the trailer shook yet again. Just then, Billy let out a pitiful yip… and was silent.
El Vengador is based on a true story. Yes, there really was a deputy sheriff in the Pensacola, FL area who really did answer a call just like this.
Care to see what happens next? Have a look.