**The following excerpt from my new book “Under the Blood Moon” was inspired by a story my father told me. The book comes out August 17 from Dark Ink Book.
Guadalupe, New Mexico, is usually a pretty quiet town. That is until the body of a county official is discovered without any skin. More bizarre murders follow, not to mention a rattlesnake invasion, a demon gives birth at a park, and a boy disappears from the middle of a swimming pool. A prosecutor suspects a high-end resort development is at the heart of it all, and discovers a conspiracy of the living has opened the door for an ancient evil seeking revenge for old and new betrayals that threatens even his own family.
At La Sol Bakery on Flor Street, Phil Nunez tapped his fingers on the glass counter he had just cleaned. After another long day of ovens and dough, he wanted to get home for dinner and watch the Golf Channel. He loved his family, baking, and golf. The order depended on the day and how he felt.
“María, vamos. Please.” He scowled at this wife who said she’d only take a minute to finish up, but that minute stretched to fifteen every time. María wiped down shelves in preparation of closing the bakery for the evening. Hips made wide from too much sampling of their pastries, she shook them with each swipe of her rag. Still, on some days, the jiggling reminded him of their young days in the back of his Ford station wagon at the drive-in.
“How long, María? I’m starving, woman.”
“You ain’t starving, hombre.”
He laughed and rubbed a circle on his plump belly. A tribute to his own fondness for the variety of fresh Mexican bread they made daily.
“Oh, remember the birthday cake, Phil. The Worth family’s going to pick it up in five minutes.”
“Dammit, I completely forgot about them. I got it in the cooler. I hope they hurry up.”
“Well, go get it. The sooner they come, the sooner we go home. My corns ache like the devil.”
Phil headed to the walk-in cooler in the back where he often took refuge to cool off during the scorching summer months in Guadalupe. He brushed his hands among the boxed cakes on the shelves and found the one he wanted. “Worth” was written in his wife’s neat handwriting on a pink note taped on the side. He set the box out on the counter, where his wife popped gum and complained more about her sore feet.
“Just got to write ‘Happy Birthday, Susan’ on it,” said Phil, who was more talented with the icing tube than his wife.
He lifted the paper sheet from the top. His face emptied of color.
“What is it?” María said. “My feet are swelling.”
He took a step back, grabbed the trash can, and vomited.
“Phil, what’s wrong for God’s sake?”
His shaky hand motioned toward the cake. She looked down at it and screamed.
Pink and gray maggots covered the entire top and sides of the cake. They squirmed like a realized bad dream. From out of the middle of the cake arose more of the hideous insects, as if they were newly forming amid the flour, sugar, and eggs. The cake heaved with the maggots like an animal taking a final breath.
Then the cake burst, throwing the insects, icing, and crumbs against the walls as well as on the faces of Phil and María Nunez. She fainted and he again threw up in the wastebasket as the maggots continued to wriggle across the floor.