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The Secret of El Arenque Rojo, Chapter 7: Chihuahua Showdown

by Jason Toon

Every page in Woot 2012 Calendar includes a QR code that, when scanned after each month begins, takes you to a new chapter in The Secret of El Arenque Rojo. In Chapter 1, video store owner Roy Odom found a box of mysterious VHS tapes. In Chapter 2, he started to notice some odd coincidences and symbols in the movies on the tapes. He sought the help of an unusual film professor in Chapter 3; discovered that the implications were bigger than he'd ever imagined in Chapter 4; and had a disquieting dream before being betrayed by a confederate in Chapter 5. The turncoat had a change of heart in Chapter 6... but will it be too late?

Where is she? Dr. Chamberlin Duke fretted. He hadn't thought Evelyn Sayre the type to be late, especially in pursuit of an invaluable piece of film history like the VHS tapes in the box on his cheap hotel bed. That kid was intense. Hadn't he been the one to instill her love of cinema? He had done the right thing in reconsidering his plan to flee with the tapes. There was no way she would let him rest for a moment, much less long enough for the sustained and quiet focus necessary to produce a well-reasoned scholarly paper-

BOOM! The hotel room door flew open and slammed into the wall next to it. Shapes stood silhouetted against the Mexican sunlight. One stepped forward. A small one. Evelyn Sayre. She glared at him with a fury beyond her tender years. Duke squinted at the others massed in the doorway. OK, there was Roy Odom, the video-store owner who had found the tapes in the first place. But who else…?

"DUKE!" Sayre yelped. "You WORM! I can't believe you thought you'd get away with this!"

"I - I knew I wouldn't," he stammered. "It was a moment of weakness. It soon passed. That's why I called you. To - to make amends. I expected you hours ago."

Sayre crossed her arms and smiled, her eyes narrowing further. "I had to pick up some friends." Then, turning to the shapes in the doorway: "¡Ataque!"

Duke no longer knew if he was still sane, or awake, or even alive. A wave of muscle, bandoliers, tattoos, luchador masks, and sombreros swept through the room. In an instant he was pinned, utterly immobile. He stared up at a circle of wrestling banditos, his mind flailing at reality, the garish masks of the luchadors framing sadistic grins. Duke tried not to think about what they would enjoy doing to him. Sayre's head popped up in this hellish circle.

"Meet los Estereotipos," she smirked. "Their organization was once assisted by my father" - the luchador banditos all crossed themselves at the mention of the elder Sayre - "and they pledged to put themselves at my family's disposal ever since. They're willing to do anything I tell them. Anything." As if by pre-arranged signal, one of the Estereotipos reached down into Duke's gaping mouth, grabbed his tongue, and twisted it, hard. The others roared with laughter as Duke thrashed and whimpered.

"Now, are we going to have any more problems with you?" she asked in a menacing singsong.

"Dthoh! Dthoh! Ah pahmudth," Duke, his eyes wide with terror, answered as best he could with his tongue still clamped between the Estereotipo's fingers.

"I hope not. I would hate to put my old friends here through any more trouble. Do you want to give them trouble, Duke?"


"Oh, good," she smiled with mock warmth. "Because we have very important work for you to do. And that work would be very difficult for you to do without a tongue." She nodded toward the Estereotipo, who gave the tongue a last savage tweak and let it go. More raucous laughter.

She walked toward the door. "Leave your things, Duke," she spat over her shoulder. "We have an appointment at Secreto Mortal Studios. We've missed it once already because of your little antics. You won't want us to miss it again."

One of los Estereotipos yanked Duke up roughly into the air by his shirt, scowling - then set him gently on his feet, bowed with a broad smile, and held his arm out like a maitre d' showing Duke to his table. Duke told himself he would make sure he never heard that awful laughter again.

As the procession filed past him on the landing outside, Roy Odom realized nobody had brought the box. He picked it up off the bed and followed.