Ten years have passed since Stephen Thorn’s fiancee vanished without a trace, and he has grown into a prominent, if bitter, victim’s rights crusader. Despite the cold trail and lack of leads, he stubbornly refuses to give up the search. And then…he begins to hear her voice in the strangest of places. Pursued by his own organization and questioning his sanity, Stephen embarks on a grisly journey to save his long-lost love. As he unravels the truth of her disappearance, the body count rises and Stephen finds himself ensnared in a trap that had been set for him long ago. “Brutal, terrifying, and devastating…The Rattler is sure to be one of the very best things you’ll read all year.” – Nick Nafpliotis Adventures in Poor Taste
In addition to the exclusive pages, McNamara provided CBR with the following essay that details the true story that inspired “The Rattler.”
It was Christmas Eve and I had recently signed my divorce papers. My childhood friend Stephenie suggested that, what with her girlfriend back on the East Coast, we should spend the holidays together. She spontaneously suggested we leave San Francisco and spend the day exploring the more rural North Bay area across the Golden Gate Bridge.
We hadn’t made it a mile from her Potrero Hill apartment before her Saturn got a flat tire. Having no idea how to change a tire myself, I hovered uselessly while she rolled up her sleeves and put the spare tire on. Insisting our adventure could be salvaged, she called her girlfriend and asked to borrow her pride and joy, a ’62 Ford Ranchero. She loaned us the car but warned us that the gas gauge was unreliable.
To be on the safe side, we filled the tank and kept a fuzzy approximation of mileage and assumed consumption as we explored the less-populated other world across the bay. In the small town of Inverness, we had dinner at charming inn, toasting to our long friendship and the future ahead. As we left the inn we passed a pair of sheriff’s deputies on their way in for dinner.
Back in the car, we drove out into the night and had just started up a dark and curvy road when the car shuddered and stalled; we had critically underestimated the car’s fuel efficiency. We let the car roll off the road and onto the shoulder. In near complete darkness, without cell reception, we weighed the options of abandoning the car and walking back to the inn or waiting for another car to pass. I joked that it reminded me of the opening scene of American Werewolf in London.
Not long after, the lights of a large truck came up the hill behind us and Stephenie waved the driver down as he passed. He was in his late forties, with dark, unkempt curly hair escaping from underneath his un-ironic trucker’s cap. He was affable, if slightly annoyed that his holiday evening involved helping two stranded city kids. He offered to tow us to a gas station a few miles down the road, but first we had to get the car out of the shoulder we had let it slide into.
The truck driver tied a length of rope between his back bumper and our front; he was concerned we might tear the bumper off of the Ranchero so he suggested that I push while he gently pulled it onto the street. Once that was safely accomplished, he would stop, we would all get into his truck and continue on to the gas station.
As I strained to push the car off the road’s shoulder his truck seemed to gently hover in place until it suddenly began to move, taking the car with it. Success! I stumbled forward, expecting the caravan to come to a stop, when I realized that the vehicles were picking up speed. This man, whose name we never asked, was driving away with Stephenie and leaving me behind.
I broke into a run, hopelessly trying to catch up as they disappeared up the hill. The tiny red brake lights of the Ranchero danced back and forth in the darkness as Stephenie attempted to break free of the truck’s control, swerving and laying on the horn. Finally she pulled the Ranchero’s emergency brake and the rope, connecting her car to his, snapped.
His truck came to a stop shortly after. Stephenie jumped out of the car and we scrambled to the side of the road and to the cover of trees. The man had gotten out of his still-running truck and stood next to it. Lit in silhouette, he seemed to be considering his options.
After what seemed like an eternity he slowly got back in his truck and drove away, leaving us wondering if he was going to come back. Staying close the edge of the road and the relative safety of the woods we made our way back to the restaurant and to the deputies we had seen earlier.
We told them our story and they took us to a private filling station and gave us enough gas to get back on the road. They didn’t seem too concerned with our tale and wished us a happy holiday. We made it back to San Francisco in time for me to begin throwing up. The salad I had for dinner gave me the worst food poisoning I’ve ever had in my life. As I lay on the spinning bathroom floor, glued to the cold tiles beneath me, one thought permeated my mind… what if he had had a chain instead of a rope?
And that was where The Rattler begins.