The Knight With Two Swords Is Out

The paperback edition of The Knight With Two Swords has been released today.

I spoke a little about the lesser known female characters of the book (and Arthurian lore) over here on Cat Rambo’s blog.

Ebook edition to follow on December 26th.


Published in: on December 21, 2018 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cover Reveal: Merkabah Rider: The Mensch With No Name

Here’s the cover for Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name. Look for this one sometime in late March or early April.

Art by Juri Umagami, design by Shawn T. King.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.47.40 PM

Published in: on December 20, 2018 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Whisperworld and My Guide To RPG Storytelling Is On Sale

Two other books of interest on sale this December –

First up is Whisperworld from Erica Lindquist and Aron Christensen…

The Wrath of God destroyed the old world and what’s left of humanity huddles in the shadows of the Tears, strange black spheres that protect the last cities from the storms. No one knows what they are or how they work, but if you listen, you can hear them whispering… But now the spheres are failing, falling silent.

When one of the Gardeners who protect and maintain the Tears is murdered, Julia and her partner, Zach, are summoned to find out why. Their search for a killer will take them from Angel City’s crumbling skyscrapers to the salt flats of the Pacific Desert.

But what they find goes far beyond murder, threatening to wipe out the last remnants of civilization. Perhaps they can save their city – but first they have to save themselves.

Check that out here –

The other, again from Aron Christensen, is My Guide To RPG Storyelling, a how-to style guide for creating NPC’s, planning games, and engaging tabletop players.

Both 99 cents. Jump on it!

Lily Quinn On Sale In December

Natalie and Eric Severine’s saucy paranormal detective Lily Quinn’s first outing Undead or Alive is on sale this December….

My name is Lily Quinn. I’m a bounty hunter. I work for the College of wizards to hunt down monsters that go bump in the night. If they’re hot, sometimes I bump right back.

There’s a vampire in my city and my employers want him dead. His creator, too, if I can find the guy. I don’t have much to go on, but I think I can oblige my magical bosses. Vampires are deadly and beautiful – just the way I like them. If I’m not careful, I’ll be the one who ends up dead.

Xmas deal - LQ

Published in: on December 9, 2018 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ashe Armstrong’s A Demon In The Desert is On Sale!

If you picked up the new edition of Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter, you may have seen the ad in the back for Ashe Armstrong’s A Demon In The Desert, a nifty weird western novel featuring a demon hunting orc named Grimluk.

Ashe is running a .99 cent sale on Amazon this month for the first of the now three book Grimluk series, A Demon In The Desert….

The Wastelands mining town of Greenreach Bluffs is deteriorating: with each passing day its inhabitants grow more fearful and paranoid, plagued by…something. They suffer nightmares and hallucinations, there are murders at the mine; the community is on the brink of madness and ruin and, as events escalate, realization dawns: the town has a demon problem. Two attempts at hunting it down fail, Greenreach Bluffs is at breaking point…and then Grimluk the Orc strides in out of the Wastes to answer their call for salvation.

Head over to to pick up a copy and get hooked.

Xmas deal - Grim

Published in: on December 1, 2018 at 6:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Red Dead References: Western Film Homages In RDR2

Well like many people I’ve been playing a lot of Rockstar Games’ glorious, sure to be Game of The Year Red Dead Redemption 2….too much, really.
Image result for red dead redemption 2

As an avid western film and history fan I’ve been thrilled by the amount of period detail in every nook and cranny, and having put in several hours gameplay, I’ve noticed quite a few visual callbacks to western movies – classics like The Wild Bunch and Outlaw Josey Wales, etc. I thought it might be fun to list some examples. A couple of these are pretty obscure, and could well be my own wishful thinking.

I’m only three chapters into the game, but these are some of the references I’ve noticed so far.


Every time I peel the hide off a rabbit I’m reminded of hapless Jeff Bridges in one of my favorite westerns, Bad Company.


Muddy Valentine sure reminds me of the sloppy streets of this Michael J. Pollard movie, Dirty Little Billy. Couldn’t find a good pic of the town itself, but the cast seems to wade in mud and horse shit.

With it’s unpainted, under construction buildings (and tyrannical Emerald Ranch boss), I was also reminded of the muddy town of Harmonville from Open Range, a movie that informs much of RDR2’s fashion sense as well.


Speaking of fashion, the custom legendary animal skin hats the trapper crafts are obviously a callback to Jeremiah Johnson.


Though the bear attacks are right out of The Revenant….


The unrepentant Rebels of The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Long Riders are somewhat akin to the Lemoyne Raiders that plague you around the town of Rhodes, though the latter movie’s preferred mode of dress seems to inspire the various bounty hunters and Pinkertons that come after you in the course of the game. Two Carradines from The Long Riders pictured here at what could very well be Clemens Point.

nobodyMy Name Is Nobody sees Terrence Hill and Henry Fonda square off in the streets of New Orleans, obviously the reference for the town of Saint Denis.
silenceThe snowbound country of West Grizzly and extraterrestrial-plagued (look it up) Mount Shann reminded me instantly of the Corbucci classic The Great Silence, and it’s surely where the devs got their love of the broom handled Mauser pistol.


The town of Presbyterian Church from McCabe and Mrs. Miller seems to lend its look to the hilly town of Strawberry (is Strawberry a reference to Moebius’ seminal western comic Blueberry? I might be reaching there).


The assorted bumbling Klansmen one can encounter in the game are surely in part a reference to the idiotic (and flammable) proto-Klansmen depicted in Django Unchained.


I know I’ve seen that scarecrow riding around the wheat fields – I think near Emerald Ranch. Hard to distinguish this from actual game footage, but this shot is from Slow West with Michael Fassbender.

Finally (and this is just a bit of fun on my part), I doubt anybody at Rockstar has read my Merkabah Rider series,Merkabah Rider series, but it doesn’t stop me from using this engraving customization to mock up an approximation of the Rider’s Volcanic pistol.

What are some visual references you’ve noticed? I may amend this post as I progress through the game.

The Apotheosis of Osirantinous in Further Tales of Cthulhu Invictus

Golden Goblin Press has published the second of their Cthulhu Invictus anthologies, tying into their Call of Cthulhu RPG line of the same name, which pits investigators against the denizens of the outer dark in ancient Roman Times.

Further Tales of Cthulhu Invictus - Digital Format

Further Tales of Cthulhu Invictus marks the return of my talisman salesman and occult expert Damis of Nineveh and his compatriot Modus Macula, who appeared in the previous volume.

In this outing, The Apotheosis of Osirantinous The Reborn and Everlasting, Damis and Macula are part of Hadrian’s imperial train as he tours the Egyptian province with Empress Sabina and his lover, Antinous when the Emperor’s growing melancholy take a strange, dark turn, particularly in regards to his obeisance to his increasingly influential Brynthian concubine.

Damis, readers might remember, was the student and traveling companion of the near legendary ancient wonderworker Apollonius of Tyana, who famously healed the sick and announced the death of an emperor as it happened thousands of miles away in the years immediately following the time of Christ.  At this point in his career, Modius Macula is a Praetorian in the direct service of Hadrian.

When Damis notices Hadrian’s favorite Antinous consume the offering meant for a god at a festival, and the Emperor puts out a call to the sorcerers of Egypt for a demonstration of the lethality of Egyptian magic, the old philosopher begins to suspect the machinations of the Old Ones in the steady rise in influene of Hadrian’s lover and calls on Modius to help confirm his suspicions.

Marble_Busts_of_Hadrian_&_Antinous,_from_Rome,_Roman_Empire,_British_Museum_(16679053956).jpgHadrian may be my favorite Roman Emperor. He toured his own frontiers extensively and was a supremely devout (or superstitious) man, which of course, makes for a fertile ground for storytelling. The romance of the sireless Emperor and his concubine Antinous has been ficitonalized many times over, and is irresistable for its mysterious end in the Nile River. Much of this story is inspired by the ancient accounts of Hadrian’s tour, including the demonstration of the Egyptian sorcerer which kicks the story off.

In this excerpt, Damis’ investigation leads deep into the necropolis of Tuna el-Gebel outside Hermopolis, where he hopes to consult the hieroglyphs in the tombs of the priests of Thoth….


Macula bribed one of the tomb guards to grant them access into the catacombs. By torchlight they passed into the dark, mummy crowded tunnels beneath the necropolis. At least it was cool.

2010-11-01-14-49-03-7-at-tuna-el-gebel-priests-placed-a-votive-animal-iDamis led with purpose, though Macula could not fathom how he knew where he was going.  The Assyrian said nothing, and Macula, not wanting to spoil whatever internal navigation he was working from, followed quietly. The torch made the shadows in which the dead reposed shift and move so that he laid his hand superstitiously on the hilt of his gladius. His heart beat so behind his breastplate that he was half surprised he didn’t hear it banging like a smith’s hammer. He imagined the rooting of tomb rats as the scrape of linen wrapped feet and the stir of old bones.

As they passed deeper in, the character of the silent tenants shifted dramatically. No longer human, they found themselves navigating passages cluttered with mummified birds and diminutive caskets with animal faces painted upon them.

“Baboons,” Damis said, pointing to one, as if he had heard Macula’s thought. “And ibis. Sacred to Thoth. We are near. There! Lend me your light.”

They moved to a dead-end corridor. Damis squinted at a series of faded pictograms on the wall.

Macula could make nothing of the words, but saw a serpentine arrangement of yellow globes emerging from the river, as a barge bearing eight figures lifting a mummy with a scarab beetle for a head sailed toward it.

Damis studied the wall and its glyphs for some time.

“Can you read these marks?” Macula asked, his own voice startling in the silence of the crypt. He could usually pick out a few words among the symbols, but these were gibberish to him.

“These are R’lyehian glyphs. There are the gods of Egypt as they are now,” Damis intoned, “and there are the gods that came before the benben mound rose from the primordial waters of Nun, and the ibis egg which contained Ra and his light chased back the darkness. On those dark waters the Khemenu sailed,” he finished, tapping the barge with his finger.

“The what?”


“Immensely powerful, primal deities, pictured here with Apep the serpent of chaos,” he said, indicating the snaky coil of circles in the river. “Once revered as creator gods here in Hermopolis, now they are mostly forgotten by all but the initiated. Ra superseded their influence. Apolonious taught me that always they have sought to return, to pull down our world and drown it in the black waters. There was once, in the time of Nephren-Ka, and may yet be, a nefarious cult of the Khemenu, known as the Possi of Khepri, the god of the morning sun, an aspect of Ra.”

“The sun is revered as good, right?” Macula said, squinting at the wall.

“The doctrine of the Possi was bawut – abomination,” said Damis. “Khepri is but the name they used to hide their evil god, a priestly servant of Apep, whose true name brings ill-fortune. Khepri is the scarab-headed god of becoming, of rebirth. The scarab rolls its eggs in dung, you see. They hatch within and eat their way out.”

“So what?” Macula was getting annoyed at all this esoteric nonsense.

“Some believe that all of life is a sphere floating in the waters of oblivion. The Possi taught that our world is the dung ball rolled by Khepri around the Khemenu from which they may be induced to emerge and devour the world, remaking this reality as they please. Their dawn, our dusk.”

“You believe this?” Macula said.

“It may be that Antinous believes it,” said Damis. “And Hadrian. The Possi seek to pervert the death of Osiris. Their purpose is to prepare a candidate for a certain time when the stars are right, as they will be this evening. They will perform a ritual to open the floodgates and release the waters of Nun into the Nile itself. They believe that immersing their candidate in those waters will transform him into their god.”

“You think Antinous is one of them?”

“He is a foreigner, and has the Emperor’s heart in his hands. His rise in favor could be well timed.”

“Hadrian saved him on the lion hunt only a week ago. Why kill him?”

“Perhaps in order to spare him for his true destiny. Poor Hadrian believes his young madman will give his youth to extend his lover’s life for the glory of Rome,” said Damis sadly, averting his eyes. “In reality, he seeks the end of all things.”

Even if none of this mystic palaver proved true, it was troubling for Macula to think of the sway Antinous had over the Emperor, playing upon his lust and superstition. If he had convinced Hadrian he was some kind of god in the making, what else might he convince him to do? Maybe he intended to get Hadrian to declare him his heir. Then, in a way, the fears of Damis would be truly realized. Rome undone.  Another Caligula ruling the earth.

Macula was no assassin, but a potential threat to the Empire was another matter. Antinous would have to be removed. Personally, he was surprised Sabina hadn’t poisoned the young cinaedus long ago.

Then he heard murmuring from somewhere in the blackness of the catacombs behind them.

“Someone’s there!” Macula hissed.

“Listen!” Damis urged, holding up his hand.

They heard a voice intoning strange words that made Macula’s neck hairs rise. Then there was a scrabbling as of many somethings coming down the tunnel. He remembered Damis’ dream, and half expected to see a carpet of scarabs come flowing out of the dark.

He drew his sword.

Beside him. Damis produced something from his robe, a kind of waxen snake candle, covered in green glyphs. Its tongue was a forked wick.

“Whatever happens, Macula,” Damis said, holding the snake up to the torch till it ignited and began to drip wax like venom, “you must find the source of that spell and slay the utterer.”

“What are you doing?”

He took Macula’s sword by the blade and dripped wax on the flat three times.

“Counterspell. You will be able to fight with this.”

Then he began muttering his own incantations as the effigy gradually melted in his hand.

Macula turned toward the voice and advanced, fighting panic as though he were facing wild tribesmen on the frontier again.

A horde of diminutive things attacked him in the dark as he stepped from the torchlight. He hewed right and left, hacking a path for himself. Twig-like claws raked at his legs and scurried up his back. Sharp somethings pricked at the bare points between his cuirass and arms. No scent of blood met his nostrils as he slashed and stabbed. None flecked his arms, only puffs of dust and the faint sweet scent of natron. Something on his shoulder stabbed at his ear and seizing it, he flung it against the tunnel wall, hearing it break into tinkling pieces. His unseen attackers made no outcry.

The murmuring grew steadily louder as the light of Damis’ torch diminished behind him.

Finally, having slashed his way through a knot of invisible nightmares, the chanting of the sorcerer ceased. Macula heard the flap of sandals on the stone ahead and ran.

He reached out at the sound of huffing breath and was rewarded with a fistful of linen. Finding the wearer, he threw him down and stabbed, feeling the comforting sensation of yielding flesh and spurting blood, the rattle of a dying man.

Far back, he heard the muttering of Damis, and called for him.

After a few moments Damis’ torch lit the passage. He found he was straddling the corpse of a bald priest with a scarab on his inner wrist.

“Pachrates’ apprentice,” Macula gasped.

“If he’s a priest of Thoth, I am the messiah foretold by the Jews,” said Damis.

Macula’s attention was drawn to the niches in the walls of the tunnel, recognizing the area packed with mummified animals through which they’d passed. The recesses were all empty. Feeling something prick his leg, Macula plucked the dry beak of an ibis from his cingulum militarae.

Pick up Further Tales of Cthulhu Invictus here –!/Further-Tales-of-Cthulhu-Invictus—Digital-Format/p/116311624


Published in: on October 31, 2018 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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It’s October 25th, 2018.

How do you write about a bona fide miracle?

As readers of the blog know, I lost my wedding ring in the ocean at Juanillo Beach a couple weeks ago. If you haven’t read about that, you should, to appreciate this story. Go on, I’ll wait.

As I said, my wife and I had plans to melt her ring down, use some of the metal in a new one for me, reforge our wedding bands.

Well, two days ago my wife’s having a bath, and I notice her ring is off, sitting on the shelf behind/over the toilet. I think to myself that I should move it, but then I figure, eh, when she gets out of the tub she’ll get it.

Later in the day, my eight year old daughter Willow’s also having a bath, as we’re getting ready to take her and her siblings to a bowling birthday party for a girl in her class.

She emerges in a towel, her eyes red from crying.

“What’s the matter?” we both exclaim.

It seems that she put her clothes on the shelf behind the toilet, and after her bath, picked them up.

She heard a clink.

Mom’s ring had gone right down the toilet.

Willow is something of a problem solver. She doesn’t typically panic. She’s good that way.

So she grabs the plunger….

Well, you can guess what happened at this point.

My wife just laughed. We both consoled her. It was too ridiculous a coincidence, and we didn’t want her upset. We had an hour before the party. Sandra ran to Sears to buy a wet/dry vac, and I called a plumber.

The plumber didn’t have good news, when he found out we were on the second floor.

“Well, a plunger doesn’t just suck, it first pushes, so she probably pushed it further down the pipe. And if you’re on the second floor…”

“Yeah, I know,” I say.

“We can come and take a look, snake a camera down the drain, see if we can see it, give you an estimate, if it’s even possible.”

“OK,” I say, make the appointment, and hang up. “Nobody use the toilet. Plumber’s coming in two hours.”

Looks like I’m not going bowling.

“It’s OK, honey,” I tell Willow. “The ring’s just metal. What’s important is the love….and the story.”

Sandra returns breathless with the wet/dry vac. She got it for thirty five dollars with a coupon she had. She’s wanted one for a while anyway (she’s the handy one in the family). No big deal.

I’m getting the kids dressed, when I realize we need wrapping paper, and tape, and a birthday card. I hear her turn on the vac as I’m putting on my shoes. I don’t hear the telltale rattle of the ring going up the hose. Oh well.

I go to Rite-Aid, buy the stuff, come back.

Sandra is beaming.

“I got my ring back!”

She had to duct tape a slim attachment to the hose to snake it in the drain, but she has successfully gotten it back.

She puts it in a drawer, I cancel the plumber (who congratulates me) and we go bowling, happily back on track.

The next day, I get a friend request on Facebook from a familiar face, with a message, with a picture attached.

This picture….


Sometimes you just let a miracle speak for itself

The message is from Rossell Mercedes, the tour guide who promised to keep an eye out for my ring, and who took a photo of Sandra’s.

He introduces me to Merfin Vladimir Suarez, the gentleman with a Garrett metal detector (pictured) who found my wedding ring at Juanillo.

A couple days later, after a lot of Google Translate and Paypal mishaps (it was sixty bucks to ship the ring back – that’s a lot of Dominican pesos, and I’m not rich, but I also wanted to reward the guys)….


It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. But God-sent miracles, or, if you prefer, very fortunate confluences of events, do occur.

I thanked Merfin and Rosselle profusely.

Roselle told me in parting –

“Everything that we receive and we did not have before is a blessed thing.”

Every so often we get back what we had and lost. That’s a blessing too!

-Hasta Pronto!






Published in: on October 25, 2018 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  

The Slasher Cycle Theory

Today some deep thoughts on slasher cinema from that deep thinkin’ pumpkinhead, Jeff Carter, author of Criterion from Crossroad Press and keeper of the Compendium Of Monsters.

Hallowe’en greetings, Ed-Heads.

I like to watch and review an entire horror franchise every October (see previous posts here and here). While every franchise has its ups and downs, nothing could prepare me for the mind shattering downward spiral of the Howling sequels. To spare you that suffering, I’ve pulled back for a wider look at the franchises in general.

In film school we were taught about Christian Metz’s ‘Genre Cycle Theory’. He wrote that each film genre begins in the Experimental Stage, evolves into the Classic Stage, devolves into the Parody Stage and ends in its Deconstruction Stage. With luck, the genre is reborn and the cycle continues.

You can see these rhythms play out across all forms of cinema. Without the masterful deconstruction of the Western genre in Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven’, we would never have received Paul Hogan’s ‘Lightning Jack’.

In my analysis of the great horror franchises, however, I have discovered strange mutations undreamt of by any stuffy French film critic. I give you Jeff C. Carter’s ‘Slasher Cycle Theory’.

These are more than just common tropes. They are essential rites of passage, and every great horror franchise must eventually pass through some or all of them:

The Original

Hilarity Ensues


Die Monster Die

Missing Monster



Return to Roots

Das Preboot

Hilarity Ensues – while this sounds like Metz’s ‘Parody Stage’, these are not outright parodies like the Wayans brothers’ ‘Scary Movie’ series. This is when humor is injected into the horror, for better or worse.

Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4, Friday the 13th Part 6, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Child’s Play 4, Howling 3, Phantasm 2.

howling nuns

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of Howling 3: The Marsupials

3D!!! – For a genre that must constantly innovate, the gimmick of jumping off the screen is irresistible.

Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street Part 6, Friday the 13th Part 3, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 7.

Freddy 3D glasses.jpg

Get ready to dodge Dream Demons.

Die, Monster, Die – Slashers are notoriously hard to kill, but sometimes a tired franchise needs the promise of a ‘final chapter’ to get its viewers back.

Examples:  Nightmare on Elm Street Part 6, Friday the 13th Part 4, Halloween H20

jason dead

Fairly convincing….

Magic! – Sometimes the monsters are human, and sometimes there is a supernatural evil at work. During the Magic! stage, however, we get into some Harry Potter sh*t. I’m talking spells, dream demons and magic swords.

Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street Part 6, Friday the 13th Part 6, 7, 9, Halloween 5 & 6, Howling 2

howling magic

When being a werewolf is the least interesting thing about you…

Missing Monster – Probably the strangest mutation is when sequels lack their own main character.

Examples:  Friday the 13th Part 5, Halloween 3, Hellraiser 8

Michael on TV

Doesn’t count.

Spaaaaace – In these movies, no one can hear you scream.

Examples: Jason X (Friday the 13th Part 10), Hellraiser 4, Leprechaun 4


Houston, we have a problem.

Return to Roots – With luck a franchise will shake off the gimmicks and return to its roots. Unlike the ‘Classic Stage’, which codifies the core elements, this is a hard won perspective about what audiences love about the series. Next to the originals, these are often the only scary movies in the franchise.

Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street Part 7,Halloween 7,Child’s Play 6, Phantasm 5

chucky smile.jpg

You can’t keep a Good Guy down.

Das Preboot – The unhallowed graves of infamous monsters are rarely left undisturbed. More often than not they are desecrated, updated and demystified with lousy prequels and reboots.

Examples: Nightmare on Elm Street 9, Friday the 13th Part 12, Halloween 9, Howling 4, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 5.

Robert says

How can the ‘Slasher Cycle Theory’ help you? Let the growing pains of our favorite franchises inspire you. The next time you’re feeling stale, try some magic, or take a trip to space. If that doesn’t help you return to your roots, perhaps you can go Back 2 Tha Hood.

Hit/Run in 18 Wheels Of Science Fiction from Big Time Books

Image result for 18 wheels of science fiction

Big Time Books and editor Eric Miller, publishers of the trucking anthology 18 Wheels of Horror, are rolling back your way with a new book, 18 Wheels of Science Fiction.

“18 Wheels of Science Fiction – a Long Haul into the Fantastic” contains 18 short stories, all set in the trucking universe. The visionary writers in this new volume from Big Time Books deliver stories about rogue self-driving trucks, wormholes through spacetime, cyborg drivers, the eternal loneliness of life on the road, and more speculative tales. It is the follow-up to the hit anthology “18 Wheels of Horror.”

They’ll be kicking off with a mass signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, and I’ll be there, along with Eric Miller, and writers John DeChancie, Gary Phillips, Lisa Morton, Del Howison, Paul Carlson, Kate Jonez, Michael Paul Gonzalez, Janet Joyce Holden, Sean Patrick Traver, Jeff Seeman, Carla Robinson, and Lucio Rodriguez. Special guests Steven and Leya Booth from Genius Book Services, and possible late appearances by cover artist Brad Fraunfelter and writer Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.

That’s at Dark Delicacies  3512 W. Magnolia Blvd. Burbank, CA  91505 818-556-6660 on Sunday, November 4th from 4-6 pm.

My story Hit/Run involves, as you might guess, a driver who perpetrates and then flees the scene of a late night collision, only to find himself pursued at a truck stop by a pair of mysterious figures.

Here’s an excerpt –
Image result for 18 wheeler at night

THE SOUND OF A STOLEN KISS of metal going down the I-10 West at 90mph was preceded by the high-pitched beeping of collision warnings, the roar of the air horn, and the shriek of tires. The collision was inevitable though, unavoidable.

The station wagon had been parked on the highway median strip on the left side of the road, an inadvisable place to pull over on a dark night. The taillights had winked on suddenly like the eyes of a predator springing from a dark bush, and before Matt could recognize the other driver’s intent, the car had pulled right into his path and gunned its engine, attempting to beat his 18 wheeler. Coming from a dead stop it had no more chance of doing that than Matt had of avoiding it.

The truck hit the right quarter panel and sent the station wagon spinning wildly off into the night like a swatted fly, the headlights and taillights flashing intermittently. It left the road and tumbled into the shallow gully off the right-hand shoulder.

The car’s horn, which the driver had not thought to use before, now blared insistently, unbroken, a prolonged wail receding as Matt pulled past. A trail of broken glass marked its passage across the black-streaked highway, glowing like bits of red rock candy in his taillights. The headlights, one atop the other, shined feebly from the depression beside the road.

Matt slowed, and started to switch to the emergency band.

There was no one else on the road in either direction. It was two-thirty in the morning. He had opted to drive all night to make his drop off at seven AM in Bakersfield after a prolonged stop in Quartzsite for a blown tire had put him behind schedule.

This was not the first collision in his career. The rig had sustained minimal damage, but the other car looked bad. The plaintive blare of the horn wasn’t dwindling.

There’d be consequences from this one. He’d be grounded at least, maybe worse depending on the condition of the station wagon’s occupants. The driver, at least, was unconscious or immobilized. Had there been others in the car? Passengers shaken and smashed in their restraints? Children thrown about the interior or ejected into the desert?

But it hadn’t been his fault. The other driver had taken a stupid risk and put himself in jeopardy.

Matt made his decision.

Someone would come along soon and see the wreck.

Someone would come.

It hadn’t really been his fault, after all….