Exclusive James R. Tuck Short Story and Giveaway: Twas the Fright Before Christmas


[From VBC: There are few things cooler than getting an awesome short story in my email from James R. Tuck. Get your Christmas fright on with the exclusive short below, then enter for your chance to win James’ Blood and Bullets, which will release on Feb. 7, 2012.]

A Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter short
by James R. Tuck

Blood and Bullets by James R. TuckTHERE WERE STILL TWO OATMEAL COOKIES LEFT but my glass was out of milk.


I had just swallowed the last gulp when what looked like a jolly fat man in a red suit slithered out of the fireplace. He tumbled out feet first and knocked into the tree. Tinsel swayed around ornaments, tossing multi-colored reflections from the twinkling lights into the darkened room. Snow fell off the treads of what looked like black boots, slushing onto brightly wrapped presents scattered beneath evergreen boughs.

As I watched from the couch in the dark the jolly fat man scrambled to its feet cursing. Its voice was low and smooth, the accent tinged with missing consonants. It looked just like it had earlier today when I watched it from the food court at the mall. Short and round, almost as wide as it was tall with a long white beard and hair that fell in waves from under the rim of what looked like a red stocking cap with a jingle bell on the tip of it. But the bell never jingled and the hat didn’t move. It was stiff. The red and white that was supposed to be a suit hung attached to its body like the skin of a lizard.

Santa Claus?

Yeah right. More like Satan Claws.

I flicked the lamp on beside me, cutting the twinkling darkness with a pool of incandescence.

The thing in front of me froze, sulphur yellow eyes slitting.

“Merry Christmas asshole.” I stood up off the couch, brushing off the bamboo slivers and cookie crumbs that covered my shirt. My left hand dropped the closed pocketknife into my pocket while my right held the whittled bamboo loosely by my side.

The thing by the fireplace gulped, distended Adams Apple bobbing through white beard. It pasted on a grin, trying to be reassuring. It might have worked but its were teeth too long, lips too widely stretched. “Ho, ho, ho. I . . .”

“Cut the crap jackass. I’m onto your game.” I held the sharpened bamboo stake up in front of me.

The thing in front of me just blinked, sodium yellow eyes shuttering up and down.

It was an Aswang, a shapeshifting monster from the Philippines. I had tracked it to a mall on the east side of Atlanta. Two kids had gone missing in the last week. The only things they had in common was that they were both Filipino and that on the day of their disappearance they had gone to the same mall and had their picture taken with Santa. It hadn’t been hard for me to spot this thing posing as Old St. Nick. It had set up at the mall, putting kids on its lap, asking them if they had been naughty or nice, and scent-marking the Filipino kids so it could track them to their home that night.

I had seen it do it to seven year-old Avelino Villanueva. That’s why I convinced his mom and dad to let me be here in their house tonight while they stayed with family. They knew the old tales of pedophilic, bloodsucking, witch-hags from their country. It had been easy to convince them to let me handle it. It’s what I do for a living.

Deacon Chalk, Occult Bounty Hunter at your service. You got monster-sized problems? I’ve got bullet-sized solutions. Or in this case, bamboo stake-sized solutions since the only way to kill an Aswang is to stake it with bamboo and then burn it.

The Aswang hissed at me, long thin tongue darting out between whisker-framed lips. It darted to the left with inhuman speed, a blur of red and white skin streaking toward the front door and freedom.

With a jolt it drew up short, feet slipping on faux-hardwood floors to spill him on his ass before he could touch the bundle of garlic bulbs I had duct-taped to the door.

I gestured around the room with the pointy end of the bamboo. “I was expecting you dumbass. I’m not here by coincidence. You’ll find garlic at every exit.”

The thing scrambled to its feet. Claws click-clacked on the Pergo. “You will not stop me!” The accent mangled even more as thick tusks began to curve out of an unhinged lower jaw. “Your blood will do to slake my thirst. It does not have to be the boy’s.”

It’s head lowered, skull shifting into a snouted nightmare with bulging sulphur eyes and brackish drool running from tusk and teeth. “But I will not get to have any fun with you beforehand like I would have with him.”

I took a step closer. “Bring it, you sick son of a bitch.”

The Aswang dropped to all fours, transformation complete. The boiled lobster colored skin was gone, covered now in coarse black fur that bristled over bulging muscles. Its head had shifted into a wide and thick pig skull on a trunk of a neck. Four-inch claws curved off its hands and feet matching the twelve-inch tusks that curved out of its jaw. Brackish drool hung in ropes off of blood red lips and wet snot snuffled out of its snout to spatter on the floor.

It hunkered down, preparing to charge.

I leaned back on my right leg bracing myself, bamboo stake held low behind me, left hand in my jacket pocket.

Its yellow eyes seeped with fluid, tusks and teeth gnashing together as it growled.

I took a deep breath, in through my nose, out through my mouth. Centering.

The Aswang burst into action. Driving forward with inhuman speed. It closed the distance between us in a flash, ripping through the air. Murderous teeth stretched wide. Vicious claws outstretched to rip me to shreds. Hot, stank, carrion breath washed over me, making my eyes water.

I jerked my left hand out of my pocket as its talons brushed the leather of my jacket. A fistful of blessed rosaries punched the monster in the face.

The effect was instantaneous.

The Aswang’s feet went out from under it, tumbling the beast over onto its back as it reared away from the holy objects with an ear-ringing squeal. Bristle-furred body twisted away from me. The skin of its belly stretched tight as its spine jerked to change the charge.

I struck.

The sharpened bamboo punched through that skin like a butcher knife through a water balloon. Chartreuse blood gushed out of the hollow tube of bamboo shooting out the end I held in my hand. It splashed, hot, wet, and foul on the legs of my jeans, soaking through.

Dammit. I should start wearing coveralls for this.

I rode the Aswang to the floor, hand jerking the stake, angling for the heart. You gotta get the heart or else you just have a pissed off monster to deal with.
Talons tore at my jacket as the monster thrashed under me.

Almost. . .

I shoved up, felt the resistance.


One last jerk on the stake and the Aswang went stiff, muscles locking in death. Its last breath went out with a shudder.

Standing, I stretched out muscles made tight with adrenaline. The Aswang lay at my feet. Now I would have to burn the body to keep it from coming back. I looked over at the fireplace it had come down. It looked big enough to do the job. Good thing I had my Zippo in my pocket.

First things first though. My eye fell on the last two oatmeal cookies, beckoning me from the plate on the coffee table.

Now where’s that milk?

Copyright 2011 James R. Tuck. Used with permission.

Find James R. Tuck online at his website, Twitter, Facebook and blog.


We have one copy of James R. Tuck’s Blood and Bullets, a Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter novel, for a lucky VBC reader. It’s urban fantasy, and one we’re pretty excited to read. For your chance, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The contest runs through Jan. 2, 2012. Open to U.S. and Canadian addresses only.

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10 Responses to “Exclusive James R. Tuck Short Story and Giveaway: Twas the Fright Before Christmas”

  1. Kristen Heyl says:

    Hope I win.

  2. Rain Maiden Jen says:

    I want to read more! Thanks for the post, I have Blood and Bullets on my wish list.

  3. Barbara Elness says:

    I loved the story, and I can’t wait to read Blood and Bullets.

  4. Amy Feltus says:

    Sound like a great Christmas read..

  5. Thank you all for your kind words! I hope you all have a great Holiday!

  6. Stephannie Bowen says:

    I’ve had my eye on this book since meeting James @ DragonCon’s werewolf panel and hearing about Deacon Chalk. Deacon instantly intrigued me and I can’t wait till I can finally dive head first into this mans world. I’ve read three of his short stories and immensely enjoyed his writing style. Feb 7th can not arrive soon enough for me to get my hands on this book!!

  7. Denise Z says:

    Until I read this snippet, I have to say I was not interested much in Deacon. He has, however, won me over. I really really like the dude. Thank you for the fun post and giveaway opportunity.

  8. Loraine Hunziker says:

    Sounds intriguing! Happy New Year!

  9. Etty says:

    I thought I’d have to read a book for a disocvrey like this!

  10. Frank says:

    I had never heard of James Tuck until I heard he was going to be at our local book store (Foxtales) for his signing and reading. I had the book 2-3 books down in my queue. After reading this story, his book is moving to the top of the queue.

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