Works in Progress

The next Doc Talos novel in progress is Wolves, a story set in 1934, based on the classic Doc Savage pulp novel Brand of the Werewolf. It tells the tale of James Talos Jr.’s first meeting with the young woman he believes to be his cousin, Patricia “Rickie” Talos.

Alec Talos, younger brother of Doc’s deceased father, lives in the Canadian Pacific Northwest, and his estate is under siege by a vicious group calling themselves the “Werewolf Gang”. Looking to recruit assistance, Alec, his daughter Rickie, and a Native American couple, Jeremiah Travels-by-Water and Miriam Small Cloud, go south to Seattle, and run afoul not only of gang members, but the gang’s secret leaders, the Gnostic Archons.

In a burst of shocking violence, Alec is killed, and Rickie calls on her famous cousin, Doc Talos, for aid. At the snowbound Canadian Talos estate, these forces clash in a conflict underscored by occult manipulations that will shadow the Talos family for decades to come.

Here is the cover and a sample chapter from Wolves, written by R. Paul Sardanas, with painted illustrations by Iason Ragnar Bellerophon.

Chapter Two: Werewolf Gospel

I probably sat around too long in the suite. Part of me wanted things to be forced…for Dad or Jeremiah to waltz back in here so I could just blurt out my anger and confusion and let the chips fall where they might. I made another cup of coffee and drank it, looking out into the rain. But it was not in me to sit still. Get the damn show on the road.

I took the gun with me, the six-shooter. Hell of a cannon to be toting around on the street. I tucked it into the back waistband of my pants, snug against the small of my back. The raincoat covered it up beautifully.

I really didn’t have any use for umbrellas. The rain felt good.

Dad had gifted me the gun on my seventeenth birthday, calling it an heirloom my grandfather had supposedly used to precipitate mayhem all around the Old West. I’d honestly been unsure what to make of that tale even then…no speck of evidence for the existence of this legendary granddad appeared to exist. Aside from that one reference, Dad had no stories or memories to share about his own father. And what I had found when snooping in Dad’s study when he was away on business trips, was that his own history pointed in the direction of England, rather than any gunslinging Canadian wild west.

I hadn’t cared at the time. It was a gorgeous piece, and Dad had taught me to shoot guns when I’d still been wearing little-girl skirts, so finally having my own iron felt great.

But lies, it appeared, were far more in Dad’s methodology than I’d ever realized…or wanted to realize.

Well, at least for now, what the hell.

Accosting the preacher promised dubious benefits at best, but it gave me a line where I could avoid confronting Dad and Jeremiah for at least a while.

Cloud had thought the hotel was being watched. If so, watching Dad certainly, and he had to have been aware of that – maybe even counting on it – when he had gone to the Reds. But if they still had their eye on things, maybe they’d take an interest in seeing me talk to the pimp-in-a-collar. It didn’t seem likely that they’d do me any direct harm. If that had been in the cards, they could have raided our suite as soon as Dad and Jeremiah had left the building. There was a twist to all this somewhere. Maybe a little overt hellraising would get them to tip their hand. And if not, well, that’s what I felt like doing anyway.

I heard the preacher shouting – apparently at the curtains of rain, since no one else was around – as if I was approaching some harbinger of a tempest-apocalypse. However, as he saw me walking toward him, he stopped.

He gave me the eye, and Jesus he was a disturbing sonuvabitch. Black clothing interrupted only by the white square-front of his collar…a short growth of beard, and the lines of a smirk around his mouth. I remembered reading Wilde’s play with John the Baptist’s crazed sermons from down in a sewer…not the most comforting image to flash into my mind.

“Got a minute, Father?” I brushed wet hair back away from my face as I returned his look.

“Looking to get religion, or looking for some work, sister?” His eyes did not stay put on my face, but ran down my body without an ounce of shame.

“Neither. You talk to a kind of big-mouthed brave with a long face this morning? Goes by the name Jeremiah Travels-by-Water?”

“Minnow Bone? Sure.”

Rickie almost chuckled. “You seriously call him that?”

“The girls do. I’m sure he’d prefer Horse Cock, but you’re God-given what you’re God-given. He gets hook-ups from me when he’s in town. But he got that name when he lived here.”

“When he lived here…if we’re talking that long back, he must have some pretty deep connections.”

His eyes narrowed. “You don’t look much like a cop. Besides, I know every last cop in this town.”

“That’s good. Just a little less bullshit for me to expect from you then.”

“And here at first glance, I thought you had the look of a nice young lady.”

“Got that dead wrong. So, feel like telling me just exactly what the prick asked for?”

He gave me a long look. The rain cascading through his hair and down his face was disconcerting, as he seemed oblivious to it. I suppose I looked much the same, but I still thought of him as the crazy one here.

“I’m getting a little tired of you people,” he said.

“You people? Just who do you mean by that?”

“You Wolf Gang people. Look, I did what you wanted. Putting more of your delightful methods of intimidation to me aren’t going to get you anything more.”

All right. This was going off the rails too. I reached under my raincoat, took out the six-shooter, and held it visibly at my side. I honestly had no idea if it would work properly if soaked by the rain.

“Enlighten me as to what the hell you are talking about.”

“So you’re not a Wolf? Right, sure, I believe you.”

“So where exactly did you send my pal Minnow Bone?”

“To Jefe Alcachofa, Big Wolf. You going to use that gun? Or is it just for show?”

“Jefe Alcachofa? You telling me you are intimidated by someone calling themselves Boss Artichoke?”

“I told you, I’m tired of this. You are all round the bend, no offense.”

I felt a surge of temptation to raise the gun and put it to his head.

“You’re not the only one tired of this. Who told you to do what? And none of your goddamn attitude.”

“It’s really simple, sister. I’ve got a message of redemption that I stand here every day and give to fucked-up souls just like you. And for those who need to get their rocks off first, well, I’ve got ladies who can take care of that. But if you’ve got some kind of gang war going on, will you please leave me out of it?”

“If you don’t tell me just exactly who is doing what to whom, I’m going to lose my basic gentle nature.”

I could see him gritting his teeth.

“All right, sister. If you’re not a Wolf, you are about to get fucked by the Wolves. I would hate to see that, actually. I don’t like to see girls in trouble. I take care of ladies, you know. Jeremiah told me he wanted a girl who can take kinky stuff, and that’s okay, if no one’s getting hurt. I don’t really like him much, he’s full of shaman talk…I don’t need to hear that, it says in the Commandments to put no gods before me, you know? He’s never done one of my girls bad in the past, so I’m willing to consider him for a client…but if he’s mixed up with gangs these days, I draw the line. They want to pull their own scam on him, well…Jefe Alcachofa said he was going to have his own sister be the hook-up, so I shouldn’t have any qualms about a lady’s safety.”

“You’re quite the piece of work. So you got the strong-arm from these wolves even before Jeremiah showed up?”

“You got it.”

“So you’re going to cross them now? What, you grow some stones?”

“You’re the one waving a gun at me at the moment. Listen honey, do with this intelligence what you will. The Wolves told me to send Jeremiah to them. He doesn’t know it’s them. My instructions were quite clear to make him believe he’s getting one of my own girls.”

“A set up.”

“It’s not a sting. I told you, I know every cop in this town. And I have a unique perspective, if you feel like coming down off your high horse. I think all this is about religion.”

“All right, I’ll bite. About religion, how?”

“Real werewolves are creatures of God. ‘Then Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come. By the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil.’ Genesis 49. Listen and learn, sister.”

“Thanks, that cleared it all up for me.”

“My pleasure.”

This was not going to get me anyplace useful. If I squeezed him for the address where he’d sent Jeremiah, by the time I got there I’d be ten steps behind, with Dad already clamped in some kind of vise. I needed to just go back to the hotel and toss this all in their laps…probably while holding my gun on whatever whore Jeremiah brought back…apparently the head wolf’s sister.

“Speak of the devil,” said the preacher.

I was sufficiently wrapped up in my own thoughts so as to not notice the car approaching, until it pulled up beside us, splashing water on my boots. I turned, looking at a dark coupe. The driver’s side window was in the process of being rolled down.

Revealed in the open window was a man with slick black hair, and the most girlish face I’d ever seen on a male.

“Miss Talos,” he said, “whatever the details of this conversation, I’m sure I’m not going to like them. I think it’s gone on long enough.”

“So who are you, pretty boy?”

He flinched a little at the insolence, which prompted my lip to curl in a little smile.

“Get in the car, Miss Talos.”

“Like fuck I will. I actually have come to the conclusion that I need to have another conversation, with some other gentlemen you may know.”

“I’ll tell you one more time. Get in.”

Now I did raise my gun, and pointed it right at his pretty face. “Gonna make me?”

“Actually, yes. You’re inconveniently tall, Miss Talos. Bend down a little, will you? Look past me into the passenger seat.”

Truthfully, I wasn’t quite ready to shoot what appeared to be an unarmed man. But I was just about ready to put a slug into each tire on this side and then run for it. But I was soft enough to do what he said. I leaned down and looked in.

Cloud was in the other seat. And from the seat behind, another guy was reaching forward to hold a knife very close to her throat.

I got in, dripping all over the back seat.

Hand over the gun if you don’t mind, Miss Talos.”

He pulled the car away from the curb. His eyes flicking between the wet road and the rearview, he reached one hand back.

I gave him the six-shooter.

“Pat,” Cloud said, “Pat…”

“It’s all right.”

“Of course it’s all right,” the man with the pretty face interjected. “Patricia Talos, I’m Seńor Corto Romasanta.”

“The artichoke boss.”

He gave a small laugh.

“Jefe Alcachofa. That was my father’s nickname, actually. A very wealthy man…wealth acquired through an empire of farms in Catalan. I just inherited it.”

“And this should interest me why?”

“I don’t see that it should interest you at all. Except perhaps I covet your father’s land and holdings as a Canadian branch to such a profitable enterprise.”

“You can’t just buy a ton of farmland? I’ve given it some thought…there’s a legend about old Spanish gold being buried up there after privateers beat it north with all they could carry out of Old California.”

“You’ve seen right through me, Miss Talos. Pirate gold.”

“This is really fun. You intend to actually tell me something that isn’t ten tons of horseshit?”

He glanced back over his shoulder. Jesus, with a little wave in his hair and lipstick, he’d be a dead ringer for Dorothy Sebastian.

“Speaking of old history, do you and your father talk much about it?”

“So this is a grudge of some kind. And what’s with all the mysticism?”

“Mysticism?”

“Come on. Werewolves? The preacher was dropping his share of funny trivia. I never knew there was a werewolf in the Bible. And this organization you’re referring to…otherwise known as the Werewolf Gang?”

“Most young ladies of my acquaintance find the mystical in life alluring.”

“So it’s all to get girls.”

He laughed.

I bit back the further sarcasm I wanted to unload. That wasn’t going to get me anywhere.

“Where are we going?”

“Back to the train station. I’m going to escort you home to Canada.”

“Seriously?”

His eyes went to the rearview again. “Yes, Miss Talos. Time for us all to go back to Canada. Your father as well. My sister will be with him.”

“Your sister.”

“My twin, actually.”

“That’s nice. The preacher mentioned her. She’s the whore Jeremiah – Minnow Dick, or Bone, whatever you’ve been calling him – is taking to my dad.”

“My sister Cere is no prostitute. She’ll approximate the role of one for a certain length of time, though. There is ritual that’s advantageous for us to see consummated.”

“What the…”

“We’ve talked enough, Miss Talos. Please relax. We intend to restore you and Small Cloud to your father and his shaman. I have no interest in harming you.”

“Restore is a funny word.”

“I’ve heard it said that all daughters are truly in love with their fathers. You’ll have the opportunity, as few women have, of displaying the reality in that.”

The car slowed, coming to a red light. I stole a quick glance at the thug beside me in the seat, who had kept his knife hand close to Cloud’s throat the entire time. He had the look of a dumb hireling. But Cloud picked that moment to speak up, which was actually terrific timing.

“What do you mean you’re giving me back to Jeremiah?”

“Exactly that. It won’t be anything you haven’t done a hundred times before. Just lay there and look at the ceiling.”

“What a bastard…” Cloud was getting angry. Better and better. “It’s just like I told you, Pat. They’re going to throw me down the gullet of a stakaya.”

We braked to a stop at the red.

I lunged forward and clamped my hands on both sides of Romasanta’s head.

“I always thought this hostage bit was stupid when I saw it in the movies,” I said. “Your buddy there moves his knife one inch closer to Cloud, I’m going to snap your goddamn neck.”

“Miss Talos…”

“Shut up. Instead of the train station, let’s drive to my hotel. Right now.”

“You have this little regard for your friend…”

“You just intimated that you want her alive for something. Pretty dumb of you…”

“Esteban, cut the little bitch’s throat.”

So I did it. I’d roughed up people, yeah, but I’d never killed anyone. But I twisted his head with all the strength I had, and I’m no thin-stemmed marigold. My stomach lurched a little, and I braced myself to hear an ugly snapping sound.

I might as well have tried to twist a tree trunk. Christ, this swan-neck with the pretty face on top of it? Where did he get the strength? He didn’t give an inch.

I probably froze like an incredulous idiot. Next second he’d taken a hand off the wheel, picked my gun up off the seat, whipped his arm back and clocked me right in the face with the gun barrel. Cloud was screaming, but it wasn’t the horrible kind of screaming that would sound wet from a slashed throat.

Romasanta was laughing. “Werewolves have tough necks, querida.”

Wolves is scheduled for completion and release in 2022. Please check back for updates and news about this new Talos Chronicle adventure!

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