Friday, August 23, 2013
Steven Long, a Texas-based true-crime author, longtime journalist, and fearless animal activist has covered some of the most important criminal cases of the last two decades.
Now, he's taken his talent for narrative writing to the pages of fiction with the The Sauceda Trilogy. Best known for his true-crime bestsellers Out of Control, Every Woman's Nightmare, and Death Without Dignity, which won a 1987 Gavel Award from the State Bar of Texas, he majestically spins fact-based fiction.
Below is an excerpt from Sauceda, the second of three books in Long's trilogy. It is the tale of three generations of the wealthy Patchcock family in a narrative certain to leave readers asking for more. You're in for a treat:
Excerpt from Chapter Six
Monsignor Juan Antonio Francis Xavier Villarreal was also disturbed by the drunkenness, cursing, and even fistfights that had broken out in Bean’s tiny courthouse and barroom. His wagon was as handsomely equipped as Patchcock’s, perhaps even more so. The floor of the Conestoga was covered by a Persian rug. Silver candlestick held tall tapers next to the kneeler by his bed. A Pullman chair reclined next to a table for reading the Holy Scriptures prior to saying the divine office as was his priestly duty at certain hours of the day. On the table next to his well thumbed Roman Breviary sat a copy of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, a novel released by the popular American author the year before, but which had only now reached his rectory. Villarreal felt no guilt at reading the American humorist. He believed all priests must have a heart filled with laughs and songs as well as Psalms.
The monsignor wondered if the Baptist preacher who had joined the trip read Twain, or was he as dour as he had found so many of the sect? The man seemed pleasant enough to be sure, yet he appeared to be rough hewn and unlettered. Perhaps he didn’t read at all. The priest looked across the wagon floor at the chamber pot making sure it was empty for the night. It was. He had no intention adding to its contents so shortly after dusk and decided to put on his greatcoat and pee behind the wagon. He drew the strings open at the back and eased his great girth down onto the snow-covered sand. The bite of cold was refreshing to him as he climbed down the steps. As Villarreal stood wetting a wagon wheel he looked toward the river and saw lantern light and wondered who could be foolish enough to leave the comfort of camp to sit in the snow while the flakes continued to fall – even if there was the raucous sound of inebriates breaking the quiet of a cold winter night.
The moon was full over Langtry as Villarreal shook off the final drop of urine and tucked his manhood back into the front flap of his winter underwear expertly buttoning as he did so. He looked away from the man and at the lighted windows of Bean’s courtroom and bar then turned back to the man sitting by the river with a glowing lantern. He then looked at Patchcock’s wagon, the candle and lantern glow from inside creating the unmistakable silhouette on the white canvass of two figures in the rhythm of making love. The priest looked away, but then looked back, stealing a furtive glance at the act forbidden to him. It was something he had never witnessed, and believed he would never have the opportunity to see. The temptation was powerful as he felt himself becoming aroused and cursed his weakness as he ran toward the river to get away from the mortal sin he was without absolute doubt committing. It was a sin that could banish him to hell and he needed the rush of cold air on his face to rid himself of the cursed sight he had just witnessed.
Halfway to the river he bent down and scooped up snow, brushing it on his face to chill himself.
“Hail Mary, full of grace,” he recited, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus, Holy Mary, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
Loathing his frailties, Villarreal cursed himself. Returning to the Holy Mother’s loving bosom had always saved him from lust and it did so again as the fever left him as soon as it had come. He looked toward the river, again watching the figure with the lantern. The man raised both arms in the air as if giving praise, and then he heard the faint singing of a Protestant hymn vaguely familiar to him in the crisp clear early night air.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,” the preacher intoned toward the night sky.
Villarreal turned his back to the man, now knowing it was the Baptist preacher.
How different they are, he thought as he took the first step back toward the camp. No Catholic priest would be demonstrative in such a way.
“I once was lost, but now I’m found,” the Baptist continued. “Was blind, but now I seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
The song became a scream as Villarreal whirled to see a giant figure tower above the man, and then lift him from the ground into the air. The creature’s bare white canine teeth sparkled with their whiteness in the moonlight as the wifwolf then went for the man’s neck, instantly cutting off all sound, and then came away dripping with blood falling white upon the snow. Terrified, yet mesmerized, the priest stood motionless, then backed toward the camp as the giant beast again raised the flailing man toward his lips this time ripping away the throat and then holding the hair and flinging the body until it was separated from the head. The creature held the head in triumph as Villarreal watched horrified remembering the revulsion he had felt the first time he saw Caravaggio’s Medusa in the Uffizi in Florence.
Now instead of a Baptist preacher singing, the priest heard the howl of a wolf pierce the night sky as he bolted toward the wagon of Patchcock and Margot, then even in his fright thought better of the idea and burst through the doors of the judge’s bar.
“Holy Mother of God,” the priest shouted. “The Baptist is dead from a monster that has beheaded him. Holy Mother of God. Come with me, I must pray over him.”
Sauceda is available now from Amazon.