This excerpt is from a previous version of Dead Girl Moon’s fifth chapter. Dead Girl Moon is written from Regina’s perspective but there were some places where her father’s voice crept in. I had to cut his perspective for the final draft but I wanted to share his parts with you here because I think they’re still pretty fun to read.
So this is a companion scene, really.
If you haven’t read Dead Girl Moon or any of the other Slaughter Chronicles stories, that’s okay. Here’s a little bit of context…
Regina Slaughter is a werewolf who was accidentally turned by her father when she was nine years old.
Both of Regina’s parents work for a religious organization called Sanctum. Sanctum specializes in killing werewolves (and other monsters).
Regina’s mother is WAY more fanatical than her father. And a lot meaner too.
It was early evening, and Joseph Slaughter was busying himself with cleaning his SIG Sauer and trying to enjoy a beer and ignore the guilt that wouldn’t stop gnawing at him. The plan was to kill time until Catherine went to sleep. Leaving her and Michael would be hard—they’d have to deal with the fallout of him disappearing; the investigations, inquiries, and miscellaneous upheaval that came when a Sworn Sword of Sanctum deserted. But it was either that or risk tearing them to shreds like he almost did Regina the day before.
At least she wasn’t experiencing any negative emotional side effects, so far. She bounced back rather quickly from such a horrible wound. Torn strands of muscle tissue were all that held her arm to her torso and the ball of her shoulder joint was a splintered mess. He’d have to keep a close watch on her over the next few weeks and nip the nightmares in the bud.
The rest of the house was, unlike his roiling thoughts, quiet and calm. Regina was settling down for her evening bath and his wife was sequestered inside what he liked to call her meditation alcove. Everyone was compartmentalized, in their proper place, and everything was going according to plan.
Joseph almost convinced himself everything was going to be fine when he heard Regina screaming from the bathroom.
When he kicked the door open he found Catherine holding her long sword, pointing it down into the bathwater. He had no illusions about what his wife did for Sanctum but she never took her weapon out of her sanctuary when she was home, not even to show Michael.
The long, two-handed beidhänder had only one purpose: killing demons.
Joseph stared with growing horror into the water. It was red, sanguine, and just below the surface he saw Regina pinned to the bottom of the cast iron tub, the point of the sword piercing her stomach.
“She’ll drown or bleed out,” Catherine said coldly. “Whichever comes first, it makes no difference to me.”
Joseph fired three rounds into his wife’s chest. The impact set her off balance and she stumbled into the wall, but she didn’t fall. But she took the sword with her and Regina broke the surface of the water with a siren wail scream.
Shrugging the bullet wounds off with a prayer muttered like a curse, Regina’s mother raised her sword. The weapon was plain, the cross-guard was of simple design, and a dull red stone graced the pommel. But as the words left her lips, the red stone began to glow, it pulsed with a fierce inner light and fire burst from the cross-guard and swept up the blade.
Joseph threw his gun to the floor, though he still had a few shots left, and embraced the wolf from the desert.
THE DAY BEFORE (AKA NIFTY TIME JUMP)
Daddy was on his way home from his third deployment in Iraq. Mother took Michael away to Vision of the Light Perpetual, where he trained every summer. While Michael was away at camp and Daddy was on deployment, Regina was locked in the tiny white room. That was how the world worked in Mother’s house. But that summer was special because Regina got to spend three whole days with Daddy before he went away again. No Mother, no Michael, just him and her.
Mother always said Michael was better than her, that he was smarter, stronger. He was going to be a knight when he grew up, just like King Arthur or Saint Michael. Regina wasn’t good for anything except repenting.
Mother and Michael left early in the morning, way before dawn so they could arrive in time for afternoon mass. Mother would be gone for three days. Usually Michael liked to spend summer away from the house because Regina’s screaming permeated the walls and interrupted his sleep, but that time his fourteen-year-old brain was enraged and pouty because he would miss Daddy’s homecoming. Even though Mother promised that she would come for him on the weekend and bring him home so he could spend at least a few days with Daddy before his next mission. Michael was too selfish to stop being upset despite the compromise. At the time, he was more aware than Regina of the fact that Daddy might not come home next time. Or if he did, he—or at least parts of him—would be in a box and very, very dead.
Regina remembered Mother telling Michael not to lose faith before dismissing her back to her room to pray until Daddy got home. Regina knew they were going to be gone for at least five hours. She waited until they left, until she could no longer see the car driving down the street, and then she turned on the TV. They only had a TV because Daddy insisted. Whenever Mother was there it was off, but when she was gone, Regina put on the Sci-Fi channel. She watched Army of Darkness until she heard heavy, booted footsteps tromping across the porch.
Joseph Slaughter was disappointed, of course, that his son was away, but his daughter was a balm to his soul—he always told her that. And she was so happy to see him, she was blindingly full of joy. She didn’t care that he had been gone gone for two years or that he would leave again within the month.
But that day was different from all the other homecomings because he was different. Though he picked her up and spun her around the room, though he cuddled her and praised her progress translating Acts from Greek to Latin without looking at the original for help, there was something in his eyes that wasn’t quite right.
Something happened to him out there in the desert, something he couldn’t make sense of.
He knew “demons” were real, the word wasn’t just a metaphor for evil people. While he carried out the will of the most powerful—and sometimes the most bureaucratic—navy in the word, his wife exterminated vampires and werewolves, aka demons, for a splinter branch of the Catholic Church, known as Sanctum. His wife never talked about her work, just like he didn’t. But he knew what she did and what was out there. He just never thought he’d become the thing she hunted.
On his second day back, when the press of the quiet, white walls of their home became too much, he took her hunting. Every so often he’d go out for big game with his battle buddies if they could take leave at the same time. But his favorite thing to do was wake up ridiculously early, burrow down in the rushes of the nearest lake, and wait for the ducks. He loved small game more for the peace and quiet than the killing. After a fitful night of listless insomnia he was so twisted up inside he needed to get out.
Joseph and his wife rarely argued about anything, but Regina’s exposure to the outside world was a subject Catherine could barely tolerate. She insisted their daughter never left the house as part of her training. Joseph, however, said that living like a hermit before she voluntarily made the choice to take her vows was morbid and inhumane. Catherine always ignored the insinuation that Regina’s commitment to Sanctum was a choice and not a duty. A requirement. But while she was gone, he was in charge, and he’d made the decision long ago that he was going to treat her like a normal kid, not a cog in a fanatical machine.
So, early that the morning, hours before dawn, he bundled up Regina in her neon orange visibility jacket and drove down to his favorite spot. As they waited among the water reeds and Normally, Regina would be lulled to sleep again by the song of dragonfly wings on the air as Daddy whispered to her about the things he saw overseas—how many people he killed, what he killed them with—he couldn’t talk about that stuff with just anyone. Some of his squadmates used the various ship chaplains or therapists to purge. He had his little girl, and while Regina had zero oracular powers and couldn’t hear the Vox Dei to save her life, she could hear Joseph Slaughter just fine.
BACK TO REGINA:
But that morning was different. Daddy was quiet and twitchy. He stared down the sights of his Model 12 Winchester but wouldn’t shoot anything, and he snarled at everything, even the smallest of noises, noises Regina couldn’t hear. A formation of September Teals crossed the sky right above their heads and he didn’t even blink. But when the whole world was still and tranquil he would shoot a round across the water at nothing. It scared her. And she gripped the stock of her little 20-gauge Remington like a life preserver.
Without warning, he jumped up out of their cover and screamed wordlessly at the sky. His voice tore free from his throat in a howl that shattered the stagnant water. Regina had never seen Daddy unhinged. Even though Mother said hunting demons changed men in strange ways, Regina never believed her daddy would change. He was always so solid, so in control. Nothing that Mother said was supposed to bother him seemed to bother him.
But now here he was, losing his mind.
Regina tried getting up to follow him as he ran away, but she found she couldn’t move. Something paralyzed her, and she didn’t know what it was, but looking back she recognized it as fear. Fear froze her human body in place when the wolf’s howl tore from his throat.
Eventually, her mind overrode her body’s stubbornness and she was able to stand. She could hear noises from deeper in the wood, and she gripped her 20-gauge so hard she couldn’t feel her fingers. Stiffly, slowly, she walked into the shadows, toward noises that sounded like pain and tearing and blood spilling on the ground. She tucked the stock against her shoulder and, despite the tingles running through her hands, she eased her terror-numbed finger on the trigger.
She didn’t have to walk very far before she found the wolf.
The doe hadn’t been fast enough. The wolf chased her down, felling saplings and uprooting brambles as he ran. He tore her head from her body, and her floppy doe ears drooped with the rest of her doe face against the base of a large oak. Her body lay a few feet away, artfully tackled to the ground and ripped wide open from ribs to tail. The wolf growled discontentedly at the doe’s innards as he chomped them down. At her approach, he lifted his nose from the doe’s pulverized heart and sniffed the air.
Regina did not know how she knew the gigantic wolf was Daddy, but she knew. His transformation was a miracle. He was at least fifteen feet long from nose to tail and stood at least seven feet tall from paws to ear tips. His fur was a burnished honey-tan, a black stripe ran vertically up his muzzle to his forehead. His shaggy neck and massive chest were splattered with blood and ichor. His eyes glowed like golden suns in the gloom of the forest.
His growling rumbled through Regina like thunder as he jumped away from the doe carcass, quick and effortless, toward her. Regina didn’t feel the impact, she didn’t feel his teeth tear through her orange visibility jacket. His jaws clamped down on her shoulder, and he lifted her small body into the air and slammed her into the ground.
Regina had been a very sheltered child, unlike Michael, who came home from Vision of the Light Perpetual with bruised eyes and ribs, and once even a crooked nose from a break that wasn’t set evenly. Skinned knees were a rarity for her. She had no experience, no words to make sense of the horrific pain his teeth brought to her. The only thing that saved her was her surprise. And somehow, with her free hand, she kept her grip on her Remington.
As her wolf father tried to tear her arm off, she instinctively lifted the shotgun across her blood splattered chest, stabbed the barrel under his chin, and squeezed the trigger.
The shot deafened her, but she got what she wanted. The wolf dropped her immediately, jerking his head away and shaking vigorously as if he got splashed in the face with water instead of bird shot.
She let the terror wash over her. Then she remembered she had a voice and began to wail, crying and screaming like a lost kitten. She cried so hard she didn’t see her wolf father transform back into a human. All she knew was one moment she was on the ground and the next moment he wrenched her up and cradled her in his arms.
She remembered him crying just as hard as she was, “Oh God! What did I do? What did I do?”
And then another miracle happened. Her left arm, reduced to bloody ribbons by his teeth, stitched itself back together. Muscle flowed seamlessly over bone. Blood coagulated, forming a thick, sticky glue that pulled the tatters of torn skin back into place. The pain faded.
“You turned into a wolf, Daddy.” She gulped for air and wheezed in his arms, he was squeezing her so tightly.
He looked down at her then, really looked at her, blood and tears streaking his face. His eyes were brown again, not gold, and his sandy blonde hair, his face, his bare chest were coated in blood. He ripped off her jacket and pressed his hand to wounds that weren’t there anymore. Only pink scratches remained of the massive bite.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, baby.” His face contorted into a mask of grief as he hugged her. Then he shook himself and stood, Regina still in his arms, and walked back to his truck.
“Daddy,” she cried, “Daddy! You’re not wearing pants.”
“No shit!” he laughed.