"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves..."
Pastor Judah Creed took solace in his work. Like a shepherd, he devoted each of his days to his flock, hearing them, nurturing them, and most of all, guiding them through their darkest days. He found purpose in his new home of Gaius, New Mexico; being that the up-and-coming town had brought in an endless stream of lost souls every Sunday. The offerings to his father's house were far from modest, and the growing population often left his tardiest parishioners standing--not that any of them had seemed to mind. Judah was blessed with a silver tongue; he was a rusher, with the kind of charisma that dwarfed all other voices outside of the altar. Whenever he wasn't preparing sermons, offering guidance, or expanding the church he could often be found offering a helpful hand to the local townspeople. Like all good Protestants Judah worked hard without the demand of gratification. Such piety made him a revered person in Gaius, causing many of his peers to consider him a pillar of the community.
Late one night, Creed was woken by the sound of glass shattering. He cautiously reached for his lantern and proceeded down the steps of his living quarters. Downstairs, a sound of thunder rumbled preceding a bolt of lightning which lit the room. The white light revealed a shattered pile of glass beneath one of church’s windows. Upon discovering the area of impact Creed saw a dying crow twitch over the pile of broken glass.
“Help…me…Father!” A desperate voice pleaded over and over. The soft voice bellowed, starting low as a whisper, but gradually increasing in volume. The Pastor frantically turned his lantern in search of a sobbing damsel but found nothing.
As he turned his back he saw a young woman kneeling at the altar with her hands clasped in prayer. She looked beautiful in the moonlight. Her hair was comprised of lengthy auburn locks, complemented by eyes as green as a virgin meadow, and a creamy skin tone with only the slightest tinge of a bronze hue. Her face carried much youth to it whilst her modest curves extenuated a more womanly physique.
Upon looking closer Judah noticed that the young woman’s garments had been soaked with rain, tattered in holes and cuts, and stained with blood. Her body rapidly shuddered in fear before her eyes darted towards him. Before he could begin to inquire she had already begun to explain. “F-foul creatures were hounding me, in the dark. I fled--but the storm had stolen all sense of direction. I kept running a-as fast as I could, but I could still hear the beasts howl-l. Just when I though the creatures would end me, I opened my eyes and saw your church.”
“Fear not child, your prayers have been answered.” The Pastor assured her.
He walked over by his podium and withdrew a robe from the nearest drawer to cover the shivering woman, before walking her down to the first row of church pews. She clasped his hands and smiled. “Thank you, Priest. The lord has truly blessed me.”
Judah’s hands had recoiled. He was taken back by the heat of the young woman’s hands and the strength of her grip. “What is your name, child?”
“Abigail.” She smiled as they heard a rumbling behind them.
The doors had ripped open with another thunderous pounce as a young man appeared in the door way. The young man was of average stature, with black hair, thick brows, a brown mustache, and a faded chinstrap beard. His silver eyes gleamed like stars but his stern face made them all the more bizarre. He was dressed head to toe in black, apart from a white, ten-gallon sheriff hat that was spotted with blood. He held a large burlap sack in one arm and stroked the brown whiskers on his chin, before licking some of the blood out of his mustache and walking slowly to the pair.
The priest rose from his pew. “What in God’s name?!” Abigail quickly moved behind the priest, slamming the man on his back whilst digging a knee into his chest and her fingers into his neck. “I’m afraid your god can’t save you, but don't worry, you'll meet him shortly. Just so you know, this isn’t”—
“Personal?” The pastor interjected. He cackled in a manner that unsettled the two ruthless bandits.
“You mind letting us in on the joke?” Josiah asked, gritting his teeth. It annoyed him that his victim was beginning to lose his mind. Seeing the fear in fallen prey is what gave him the most satisfaction from his hunts, but the laughter had stripped him and his spouse of that prize. Even the holiest of men had wet themselves at the thought of meeting their maker in such a ghastly fashion, so why was fool still laughing?
“Certainly!” Judah smirked. With lightning speed he sprung both legs beneath Abby’s pits and flung the girl in the tattered dress to her husband. In reaction to the priests startling strength they both backflipped, landing on their feet in the center of the church. The strays both growled, until the priest’s eye’s glowed yellow. “Small world isn’t it.”
The three beasts howled, honoring the rules of their forefathers, before halting their transformations to fully revert back to their human forms.
“That’s better” stated Judah. “So what is your story? No wait, it’s more fun if I guess.” He looked at them inquisitively trying to read the slightest hints in their body language. “Obviously you two aren’t local--if you were you’d be answering to me.” Creed paced back in forth. “Now let’s see…two strays on the run stumble in a new town, presumably looking for a fresh start. Their own survival is determined by their ability to kill and steal efficiently. If you two have been doing this for awhile you must have developed enough control to lay low, and have gotten smart enough to avoid crimes of opportunity. You pass up the small stuff and aim for the big score—bank robbers! Now that's the ticket.” He smiled at the burlap sack, now circling them like a shark. “Banks are big money, but that takes weeks of planning, planning and proximity. You need a place to hide, with close enough access to the town, but with enough distance to keep the locals from getting suspicious, so how do you pull it off? Where did I fit in?...Eureka!” The priest snapped his fingers. “You hide in plain sight, first taking away an element the town needs, then filling that void with your new identities. Sweet Lord almighty that is brilliant! You kill the man of God to become the new voice of God, that way your words remain unquestioned. Not only are the sheep afraid to deny you, they practically beg you to accept them, so they can feel accepted by God. Then in the time between heists you snack on the poor souls no one would miss, do the job that needs doing, and ride off into the night to do it all over again.” He stopped pacing then gazed back at the two outlaws. “How did I do?”
Josiah grunted. “We’re leaving now.” He dipped a hand into the sack and threw a small pouch of gold coins at Judah’s feet, “for the damages.”
Josiah and Abby headed towards the door before Judah spoke up. “It must be lonely, without a pack.”
They stopped then held hands. “We’re in a pack of two.” Abby proudly announced.
“Even true love has its limits. You’re both mastered this lifestyle, I can tell that much wasn’t a guess, but sooner or later all strays reach a dead end. Tell me, how long do you think you can keep fighting the world before it bite’s back?”
They both remained silent, and released their hands. Neither had given much thought about the elephant in the room.
“It took decades for me to find love, only to lose in a single moment. For a time I tried to convince myself that the pack was eternal and that love was fleeting, but such a lie only cheapened the richest experiences of my life. What if I were to tell you there was a way to have both?”
“I’d say you talk too much preacherman, just get to the damn point already!” Josiah exclaimed.
“Fair enough. I have need for many services in this town, services that are not for the faint of heart, or the weak-stomached. If the pair of you could utilize your skills to benefit my interests there could be many advantageous rewards, one of which being an invitation back into a pack. I suppose what I’m trying to ask is, how interested are you in my interests?”
The two wolves glanced in each others eyes, pondering the matter for several seconds before confirming their decision.
Gaius, New Mexico Territory, 2 hours before dawn
Abby smashed in the door of Doctor Judd Wallace while Josiah scaled the walls on the back of the house.
“What was that noise?” Mrs. Wallace asked, hearing their border collie bark furiously in the distance, before whimpering silent.
“Damn dog probably broke something. Get back to sleep woman.”
The floorboards creaked as the Wallace’s eyes fluttered open. Doctor Wallace reached for his lantern but it had moved away from the nightstand. He could hear the rocking chair move back and forth as a lantern lit. Josiah placed the lantern on the floor as he chewed another piece of flesh from the family dog’s neck.
“What the hell are you?”—
Josiah cut him off. “It isn't safe to keep a flame so close to the bedsheets, you'd be surprised how fast everything could go up in flames.”
“Honey, what’s are they—Aagggh!” Mrs. Wallace screamed as Abby jumped into their bed sniffing each of them.
“Sorry, I just needed to be sure that you're sheep. You wouldn’t believe the kind of night We’ve had." She took another whiff of the homeowners. "Splendid, now, let's make this quick.” Abby drilled her nails through Mrs. Wallace’s sternum, moving her digits past the ribcage and crushing the heart whilst she slashed Mr. Wallace’s throat with a single nail from her other hand. Josiah stared at the light leaving the doctor's eyes, soon noticing that some of the blood that squirted from the gash in deceased's throat had landed on the corner of his mouth. Josiah smiled briefly before licking his lips.