This movie looks great. An unathletic nerd dreams of becoming an Olympian, chooses ski jumping because the UK hasn’t had one since 1929, and goes for it.
As a spokesman for nerds everywhere, I demand this film sweep the Oscars in 2017.
This movie looks great. An unathletic nerd dreams of becoming an Olympian, chooses ski jumping because the UK hasn’t had one since 1929, and goes for it.
As a spokesman for nerds everywhere, I demand this film sweep the Oscars in 2017.
U.S. Marshall Rainier Slade and his trusty deputy Gunther Beauregard are joined by traveling snake oil salesman Doctor Elias T. “Doc” Faraday in a stand against the nefarious Buchanan Boys.
Strap on your chaps and get ready to ride back to the Old West, 3.5 pardnahs. This here’s the first part in an ongoing novel sure to appease the Mighty Potentate.
TRIVIA: By now, Old West movie buffs may have figured out which actor Slade is a parody of. Feel free to share if you caught it.
Any idea who BQB had in mind when he created Gunther? HINT: think TV instead of movies.
Oh, and if you’re one of them cowpokes who prefers a mobile friendly format, mosey on over to Wattpad. Hell, BQB only started posting this story up there on Wednesday and its already ranked #932 in Wattpad horror.
There Smelly Jack laid, face down in the dirt, defeated and humiliated, his hands and feet hogtied behind his back. His brothers, cousins, and brother-cousins were all arranged similarly in a line that stretched the entire length of the the road.
Slade and Gunther stood watch over the wanton criminal, ignoring his demands for clemency.
“Dammit Slade, ‘aint you an officer of the law?!” Jack asked. “You’re just going to let them damn dirty Injuns take me away?!”
He didn’t show it, but the Marshall enjoyed letting Smelly Jack sweat.
Standing Eagle approached.
“Let me do the talking,” Slade said to Gunther.
“Since when do you do any talking?” Gunther asked.
“Don’t do the fake Injun talk shit,” Slade said. “He hates that.”
The Chief embraced Slade, who in turn, just let his arms hang down at his sides. Slade’s machismo would not allow him to hug another man.
“I am glad I was able to save your skin, Slade,” Standing Eagle said.
“So am I,” the Marshall replied.
Gunther raised a flat palm in the air. “HOW!”
The Chief rolled his eyes and glared at Slade as if to ask, “Really?”
In turn, Slade shrugged his shoulders as if to reply, “Afraid so.”
“How what?” Standing Eagle asked Gunther.
Gunther doubled down on his ignorance and repeated “HOW!”
“How what?” Standing Eagle asked. “How do you chop wood? How do you skin a deer? What do you want to know how to do?”
Gunther was overcome by bewilderment.
“ME GUNTHER,” the old man shouted. “ME…WHITE…LAW…MAN. YOU…BIG WARRIOR BRAVE! ME GIVE YOU…MANY THANKS…FOR CAPTURING BAD MEN!!!”
Standing Eagle asked Slade, “Why is he doing the fake Indian talk shit? I hate it when white men do the fake Indian talk shit.”
“Tried to tell him,” Slade said.
“I can speak English, white man!” Standing Eagle said to Gunther. “I always study the ways of those who intend to do me harm.”
“Oh,” Gunther said. “Well, thanks just the same. I reckon we were up shit creek without a paddle until your canoe came along.”
“Don’t mention it,” Standing Eagle said. The Chief grabbed Jack’s carcass, hoisted it up into the air, and put it over his shoulder. “Time for this monster to get what’s coming to him.”
Jack wrenched his bound up body to and fro but it was no use. “SLADE!!!! YOU GOTTA DO SOMETHIN’!”
“Whoa,” Slade said.
“Whoa?” the Chief asked.
“He’s got to stay,” Slade replied.
Standing Eagle allowed Jack’s body to drop to the ground. The outlaw screamed like a little girl the entire way down until he landed with a magnificent thud.
Slade was a tall man in his own right, but most men looked like dwarves when compared to the mighty Standing Eagle. He looked down at the Marshall with great disdain.
“We had a deal, Slade,” Standing Eagle said. “This fiend and his family have burned our homes, murdered our people, kidnapped and raped our women. You promised me justice will be done!”
Slade nodded. “He’ll swing. I guarantee.”
“You guarantee?” Standing Eagle asked. “How many guarantees have my people received from YOUR people that we will not be harmed, that we will not be forced from our lands? Your guarantees mean nothing to me!”
“Chief,” Gunther said. “What I think the Marshall’s tryin’ to say is that we got our own rules and we got our own big chiefs back in Washington that want to see Smelly Jack and his boys dead for all the havoc they’ve caused all these years. We’ll be in big trouble if we let him go.”
“HANDSOME JACK!” Jack shouted. “I TOLD THAT NEWSMAN HE WAS SUPPOSED TO CALL ME HANDSOME JACK IN THE PAPER! I OUGHTA TRACK THAT SHIT HEAD DOWN AND…”
Slade pressed his boot down on the back of Jack’s head, not so hard as to pop his skull open, but just firmly enough to keep the prisoner quiet. After a second or two of compliance through silence, Slade returned his foot to the ground.
“I already wired Judge Sampson,” Slade said.
“Shit, there you go, Chief,” Gunther said. “Judge Sampsons’ a real stickler, let me tell you. That old cuss would hang his own mother for stealin’ a piece of candy. You got nothin’ to worry about. Smelly Jack’ll be twitchin’ at the end of a rope in a week, just as soon as the Judge gets to town and makes it all formal like.”
“HANDSOME JACK!!!” Jack yelled.
“SHUT UP!” Gunther and Standing Eagle yelled at the prisoner in unison.
Doc stuck a bottle in Standing Eagle’s face. “Chief, would it be possible for us to set aside our cultural differences over a drink of my Miracle Cure-All? Not that you need it, as you appear to be a specimen of perfect health and virility but one can never be too careful when it comes to preventative medicine.”
The bottle was instantly slapped out of Doc’s hand. It went sailing through the air then shattered on the ground, spraying its contents everywhere.
“I know your tricks,” Standing Eagle said. “You offer a gift as a gesture of friendship but then it ends up being laced with diseases from across the great ocean.”
“Not as such, no,” Doc said. “Its mostly just cocaine and spider eggs for texture.”
“Slade,” Standing Eagle said. “Out of all the white men I have ever met, I always believed you were the one without a forked tongue…”
The Chief grimaced. “…but now I am beginning to see the prongs…”
“I’m…” The man of few words struggled to speak but all he could come up with was, “I’m sorry.”
Standing Eagle turned his back on the lawmen and walked toward a group of warriors. Slade and Gunther followed behind.
“Chief, this is all just a big misunderstanding,” Gunther said. “The Marshall, he ‘aint much of a talker so I don’t know what happened, maybe something somehow got mixed up in whatever chat you two had before all this happened but I swear Ole Smelly Jack will get what’s comin’ to him.”
Jack rolled over on his side, only to yell out in pain as he shifted his body’s weight onto his elbow. “HANDSOME JACK!”
Slade drew his Colt and fired a round that landed in the ground just an inch away from Jack’s head, setting off a small explosion of dirt.
“Say it again,” Slade said.
“I’ll be good,” Jack replied.
Standing Eagle folded his arms and stared at Slade and Gunther with disgust, as if they were just a couple of lowly rats in the great warrior’s eyes.
“My name is Standing Eagle,” the Chief said.
“We know,” Gunther replied.
“No,” the Chief said. “You do not know. The mighty eagle has the power of flight. With his majestic wings, he can soar high above the clouds, look down upon the world in awe, and travel anywhere at any time.”
Doc missed out on this conversation. He chatted up a pair of ladies, attempting to impress them with his massive vocabulary.
“But I am not Soaring Eagle, nor am I Flying Eagle. I am Standing Eagle, for an eagle is at its strongest when it knows exactly where it wishes to be and refuses to use its wings to leave. This land is my home. It is where I was born and where I will die, of old age I hope but in battle if I must. I do not need to leave for the earth provides us with all that we need to survive. There is plenty for my people and there would be plenty for yours if you would live the way you were intended to. Instead, you take, and take and take to fill the bottomless pits of your empty souls. I fear one day the white man will take until the world becomes a rotten, spent husk. I do not envy anyone living when that day comes. But until it does, I will stand with brothers and my sisters, my elders and my children, in the place where the spirits decided I should be long ago. I will fly away for no man.”
“Chief…” Slade said.
“Slade,” Standing Eagle said, “We had a relationship of trust. You were a man of your word, more so than any other man who held your position in the past. Together, we’ve kept the peace between our people for a year, but now that you’ve destroyed our trust, I fear our peace will soon follow.”
Standing Eagle pointed to one of his men. He was shorter and skinnier. His face was covered with war paint. He and his leader exchanged words in their native tongue.
“This is Wandering Snake,” the Chief explained. “He is our most powerful shaman.”
“A what-man?” Gunther whispered out of the corner of his mouth.
“Some kind of holy magic man,” Slade answered.
“Silence, imbeciles!” Standing Eagle said. “He is the vessel through which the spirits make their will known and…HE WILL NOW SEAL YOUR DOOM!”
Gunther looked a little nervous. Slade was as nonchalant as ever.
Wandering Snake proceeded with an elaborate dance, during which he chanted in a steady rhythm.
Standing Eagle translated.
“Filthy, incompetent white men! You have angered the spirits. You have disrupted the slumber of our ancestors. Once again, you prove that your treachery and lies know no boundaries…”
“Chief,” Gunther interrupted. “Is this going to take long?”
“The man you call Jack Buchanan…and his kin…their vile misdeeds have caused much misery and suffering…”
“It’s just that I’m hungry as hell and need to get a steak in me,” Gunther complained.
“SHUT UP, DUMBASS!” Standing Eagle shouted. “I’M TRYING TO CURSE YOU, HERE!”
Slade nodded at Gunther, a sign that he wanted the old man to pipe down. As a good deputy, he did as instructed.
Wandering Snake pulled off a visually stunning twirl. He was very limber and spry.
“The spirits have decreed…that if the Buchanans do not pay for the lives they have taken with their own…then your farm lands will grow useless…your…yes, your lives will be filled with torment….”
Wandering Snake kept up with his performance, dancing and chanting away. However, Standing Eagle stopped translating and appeared to be deep in thought. He stroked his chin, looked up to the sky, then after a minute, looked at the two lawmen and declared…
“…and when your people die…they will not completely die. Their souls will move on but their bodies will remain in motion, shells of their former selves, wandering about aimlessly as they search for the flesh of the living to devour…your punishment will be to fend off their attacks until the end of time.”
Silence. Wandering Snake took a breather.
“Is that it?” Gunther asked.
“That’s it,” Standing Eagle said. “Why, do you want more?”
“Not especially,” Gunther said.
A warrior walked up leading the Chief’s horse, a white paint with brown spots. Standing Eagle mounted his noble steed. He didn’t bother with a saddle.
“Mark my words, Slade,” Standing Eagle said, pointing a finger toward Smelly Jack. “If he doesn’t die, you’ll wish you had.”
The warriors packed up and together they rode out of town, their noble chief leading the way.
“Damn,” Gunther said. “There goes some pissed off Injuns.”
“Yup,” Slade replied.
The law men looked at each other. Gunther budged first.
“You don’t think…”
Slade chomped on his cigar. “Nah.”
“I didn’t think so.”
Leaving Slade on watch, Gunther returned to the Bonnie Lass, where the patrons were hiding behind the bar, under tables, and so on.
“You can come out now, chicken shits,” Gunther said. “The desperadoes have been apprehended, relieved of their shootin’ irons, and there’s no more danger at all. Now we just need some folks to help us stand guard over ’em until the Judge arrives. Pays fifty cents a day and all you gotta do is point a gun at a bunch of tied up reprobates.”
Literally every hand in the bar shot up into the air.
“Yup,” Gunther said. “I figured as much.”
Jack Buchannan earned the nickname “Smelly Jack” due to the fact that he and soap weren’t exactly good acquaintances. His hat and duster were covered in stains. That’s because he never bothered to wash either of them. Ever.
His beard was filled with little chunks of food. Amongst the populace, there was a difference of opinion as to whether Jack was saving his lunch for later of if he was just a sloppy eater. The answer was likely a little from Column A and a little from Column B.
Worst of all, he was bat shit crazy, a murderous psychopath who should have been thrown in an insane asylum the day he was born. And that’s just what his mother had to say about him.
BLAM! Jack blasted his Remington straight in the air. His boys were rowdy. Anxious. Itching for a fight. They shared their leader’s grooming habits. Most of them were Jack’s brothers. Some were his cousins. Some were even his brother-cousins. The Buchanan family tree was more of a flat, branchless log.
“WELL, WELL, WELL, WHAT HAVE WE GOT HERE?!”
Jack hopped down off his horse and got right up in Slade’s face. The outlaw’s rancid breath wafted into Gunther and Doc’s nostrils, giving each man an upset stomach. Slade took the brunt of the odor but didn’t budge. He moved for no man.
“Rainier Slade!” Jack said. “‘Aint you the no good rotten louse who lead the posse that put my brother Dave on the end of a noose?”
Slade and Jack locked eyes. It was on.
“Yup,” Slade said.
“Why in the hell did you go and do that for?” Jack asked.
Slade studied Jack’s face. It was barely visible behind all the unruly whiskers. “He broke the law.”
Jack laughed. He laughed and laughed and laughed some more. His boys joined in. Then abruptly, the killer shouted ever so maniacally, “I AM THE LAW!!!”
Spittle sprayed all over Slade’s face which, as you might expect by now, did nothing to dissuade our hero’s steadfast resolve.
Jack spotted the bottle in Doc’s hand. “What’s that?”
Doc’s favorite question. He handed the bottle over. “Why it’s my Miracle Cure-All, sir! Please, do help yourself, its been known to calm even the most unruly of dispositions.”
Down the hatch. Glug…glug…glug. “Not bad,” Jack said as he passed the bottle to his boys, who each took a taste. “Could be stronger.”
“Oh, as a man of science I assure you any stronger and you wouldn’t be alive,” Doc said.
Jack pressed a finger into Slade’s chest, pushing it hard, as if in an attempt to push it straight through.
“‘Aint no law out here ‘cept what the strongest man says is the law,” Jack said. “Might makes right, if you got the steel you make the deals and if you take the lead then you’re dead. Simple as that.”
Gunther cleared his throat. “I wonder if there might not be some kind of peaceful resolution to be had here.”
“SHUT UP OLD MAN!” Jack shouted. “I ‘AINT TALKIN TO YOU!”
“All right then,” Gunther replied.
“Tell you what, Marshall,” Jack said. “I’ll give you till the count of three to walk your sorry ass away before I blow your head clean off. And I’ll enjoy it too because I miss my brother somethin’ awful.”
Slade chomped on his cigar. He was moved enough to come out with a full sentence. “Looks like you got plenty of brothers to spare.”
“Yeah,” Jack said. “But Dave was my brother AND my uncle, so he was doubly special to me.”
Gunther and Slade traded glances. Neither one of them wanted to bother trying to figure out the scenario that made that possible.
Jack reached his hand downward, curling his fingers over his sidearm. Slade did the same, as did the rest of the Buchanan Boys. Gunther held his Winchester tight. Doc prepared to flick his wrists.
At this point, you, the noble reader should imagine yourself viewing this scene on a big screen television. The camera whips around quickly to each character and zooms in on their eyes, leaving you, the viewer, to wonder what is on their minds. Is this for real? Is everyone about to kill each other?
Throw in an emotional song filled with trumpets, whip cracks, and men grunting in a guttural manner and you’ve got the quintessential Western movie showdown scene.
“Rain,” Gunther whispered. “If you got an ace up that sleeve of yours, now would be the time to play it.”
Slade had nothing to say.
Jack started the count. “ONE…”
“Aw shit,” Gunther said. “Well, I had a good run.” He looked up to the sky. “I’m a-comin’ Mavis.”
Doc looked around. “I say, gentlemen, I just recalled that I have a very important appointment tomorrow morning and it would be quite rude of me if I were to die and miss it so I think I shall just excuse myself and…”
Slade took out his cigar and inserted two fingers into his mouth, one on each side. He blew a loud, sharp whistle.
Rustling sounds. War whoops. On the rooftops on the stores lining each side of the street, over a hundred Native American braves appeared, bow and arrows and rifles at the ready.
Behind our trio, a dusty cloud barreled down the road. Galloping sounds. More battle cries. A hundred more warriors on horseback.
“Rain, you magnificent son of a bitch!” a wide eyed Gunther said.
Jack didn’t share that assessment. “Goddamn pussy!” he said to Slade. “Lettin’ Injuns do your dirty work!”
Insults like that didn’t bother Slade. He was the type of man who had to respect a man before his insults could bother him.
“Boys,” Gunther said. “I reckon y’all will want to let your steel hit the ground and put your hands up now.”
The Buchanan Boys may not have been known for their brain power, but they knew when they were outfoxed and outnumbered, so they did as instructed.
Chief Standing Eagle. He stood over 6’5″ and had a bare, broad chest with muscles upon his muscles’ muscles. He wore a full feathered headdress. It was colorful. White. Red. Black. It shook gracefully as he dismounted his horse.
The look in the warrior’s eyes when he saw Jack. It was definitely personal. Even Jack knew it.
“Aww shit, Slade!” Jack cried. “You can’t do this!”
Standing Eagle and Slade traded nods. The Chief walked forward, darted out his right hand, clasped it around Jack’s throat and lifted him off the ground, high into the air.
“Slade…SLADE!!!” Jack’s whining was interrupted by coughs and sputters as the Chief tightened his hand. “You can’t turn me over to this…to this…SAVAGE!!!”
Slade was right where Gunther had left him, still in the street, concentrating on his duty. The Marshall finished his chaw and traded up to a cigar, chewing on it as he squinted through his half-closed eyelids under the blinding high noon sunlight.
“I’ve recruited a special deputy,” Gunther said.
Doc put his hand out. Slade shook it. “Obliged,” was the most gratitude the stoic was able to muster.
“A distinct honor to meet you, Marshall,” Doc said. “Doctor Elias T. Faraday, M.D. by way of Boston, Massachusetts though I assure you I’m no relation to the Chestnut Hill Faradays, lousy beggars…”
“He’ll chew your ear off and spit it out if you let him,” Gunther warned.
The three men stood in a row, watching and waiting, waiting and watching. Had you, the noble reader, been facing them, you’d of seen Slade in the middle, Gunther on the left, and Doc on the right.
“‘Fraid there weren’t any other volunteers,” Gunther said. “Bunch of pansies.”
Slade chewed on his cigar. A few moments passed.
“Miss Bonnie sends her regards,” Gunther said.
“Oh?” was Slade’s response.
“Oh that perked you up, huh?” Gunther asked.
More cigar chewing.
“My mistake,” Gunther said. “Since you don’t care I’ll spare you the details.”
“What?” Slade asked.
“Well,” Gunther said. “I don’t recall her exact words but she left me with a general impression that if you buy the farm today she’ll be broken up about it.”
The end of Slade’s cigar glowed red with an inhale. Smoke billowed out of his mouth in an exhale.
“Yeah?” Slade asked.
“Yup,” Gunther said. “Gal even offered to come back you up. I turned her down, of course, a gun fight being no place for a lady and all.”
“Right,” Slade said.
The side of Slade’s mouth not chomping on the cigar curled up in a virtually unheard of smile, then quickly disappeared.
“I saw that,” Gunther said.
Doc pulled out the bottle of snake oil he was carrying in his suit coat pocket and waved it in front of Slade’s face.
“Marshall,” Doc said. “I couldn’t help but notice you speak in the manner of a man with a sore throat. One sip of my Miracle Cure-All will…”
Gunther pushed Doc’s hand away. “Trust me,” the old man said to Slade. “There’s still a taste in my mouth like I licked a gopher’s rear end.”
Slade paid no attention to any of it. Nothing was going to distract him from the impending showdown.
“Suit yourselves, gentlemen,” Doc said as he took a gulp. “More for me.”
The church bell rang twelve times. Noon.
“You two should walk away,” Slade said through gritted teeth. He said most of his words through gritted teeth. That’s just what tough guys do.
Gunther put his hand on his boss’ shoulder. “Son,” he said. “I’ve lived my life. Had my Mavis. Had my younguns. Explored all over this country. Anything else I do is just extra cream in the butter churn if you ask me. Don’t worry about me none, I’m with you till the end.”
Slade grunted. Gunther knew that meant, “Thank you.”
Doc ruined the moment by clapping loudly. “Bravo, sir, bravo! Finer words were never spoken. To that sentiment, allow me to add that I too have traveled through many a town in this new world. I’ve seen many a hamlet torn asunder by fiendish bullies and you, Marshall Slade, are the first man I’ve seen brave enough to fight for all that is good and just in the world. You move me so that I simply must be a part of your stand.”
Another grunt from Slade. Even Gunther was impressed.
“Maybe there’s more to you than I thought, Doc.”
“Plus, I’ll be able to sell even more bottles of my Miracle Cure-All once the distinguished members of the press spread tales of our glorious victory across the continent,” Doc said.
“And you ruined it,” Gunther replied.
Clip clops. Loud yelling. Hoots and hollers. Guns being fired in the air. Thirty some odd Buchanan Boys rode their horses through town. Leading up the pack?
None other than the notorious Smelly Jack Buchanan himself.
“Step right up! Step right up!”
While Gunther was pleading Slade’s case to deaf ears, a flashy salesman set up a cart just outside the Bonnie Lass’ double doors.
The only thing slimier than this lowlife’s pitch was his appearance. He had a devilish black beard, the kind that came down his face to a point just like the letter, “V.” His mustache curled upwards at each end. He wore a red velvet suit, wrapped his neck up with an ascot, and carried a cane topped with a golden ball. Sitting on his head was a top hat that extended an extra two feet above his cranium.
“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up for a taste of Doc Faraday’s Miracle Cure-All!”
A large group gathered to listen to the huckster’s silver tongue wag away as it made all manner of suspicious promises.
“Step right up and purchase a bottle of the last medicine you will ever need!” the man said. “Lead an insurrection against indigestion, a revolution against devolution and decertify your decrepitude!”
Men. Women. Young and old. Several suckers were already holding the bottles they bought.
“Heart palpitations will listen to your stipulations, constipation will no longer be a source of consternation and you’ll never fight another bout with the gout!”
The show drew Gunther’s interest. He immediately sized up the charlatan for the fraud that he was, but he wanted to see where the doc was going with his routine.
“Ulcers will be ousted, your pain will be drained and tumors will become mere rumors!”
“Doctor,” an old woman said.
“Yes, my dear!” the salesman said.
“I got the worst pain in my bones. Will this help?”
The salesman didn’t flinch an inch.
“But of course, madam, but of course!” he said. “Bid me a moment as I tell you a tale of an elderly gentleman I met not more than fifty miles away who suffered from the most abominable, most abysmal case of rheumatism I’ve ever seen in my entire medical career. Let me tell you this man could barely move without crying out in debilitating pain. One sip of my Miracle Cure-All and…do you know what he did?”
The crowd waited for an answer with baited breath.
The so-called doctor was quite a showman. He jumped up and clicked his heels in the air. “Why, that gent started dancing about like a wild man, thanking me, thanking Jesus, thanking Mary, thanking Joseph, thanking God Almighty himself for bringing me to him so that I was able to introduce him to Doc Farraday’s Miracle Cure-All!”
Doc raised a bottle in the air. “Now remember, dear, dear patients, one spoonful will bring a fever down, two spoonfuls will cure a seizure of the heart and return it to its regular beating rhythm and as a trained physician, I can recommend half a spoonful a day every morning as an excellent regimen to ward off diseases, disorders, and other various and sundry maladies of the body, mind and spirit.”
“Does it cure flatulence?” a cowboy asked. That question drew dirty looks from the crowd. “I’m asking for a friend. He uh…he farts a lot.”
“Indubitably, sir, indubitably,” Doc replied. “Patients have reported to me that one swig of Doc Farraday’s Miracle Cure-All has given their bodily odors a robust, flowery scent with just a hint of lavender.”
Everyone reached into their pockets and pulled out their money. Gunther had enough and walked on.
“Excuse me, sir!”
Not realizing that he was the sir in question, Gunther kept walking.
“You there! Constable!”
Gunther stopped in his tracks and turned around. The good doctor abandoned the crowd, clutching a roll of dollars in his fist.
“Good day, sir!” the doctor said with an extended hand. Gunther hesitated. The doc was dirty for sure and the old timer didn’t want any of that existential muck to rub off on him. But, not wanting to be impolite, Gunther took it and shook it anyway.
“Faraday’s the name,” the salesman said. “Doctor Elias T. Faraday by way of Boston, Massachusetts.”
“Uh huh,” Gunther said, doing his best impression of an interested person.
“Oh,” Doc said. “But I’m no relation to the Chestnut Hill Faradays, I assure you. A band of beggars I’ll have you know. I wouldn’t trust my billfold around any of them if I were you.”
“I’ll remember that,” Gunther said.
“And you are?” Doc asked.
“Gunther,” the old man said. “Beauregard of the Kansas Beauregards. They’re all assholes but I love ’em just the same.”
“Yes, yes,” Doc said. “A man of good humor. I like it!”
The doctor handed Gunther a black bottle. Printed in cursive lettering on the bottle’s label were the words, “Doc Faraday’s Miracle Cure-All.”
“A gift for you, sir,” Doc said. “The very last medicine you’ll ever need. My way of thanking you for your efforts to protect this burgeoning metropolis.”
Gunther looked the bottle over. “What’s in it?”
Doc stroked his beard. “Ah, an astute question, my good man! Let me see. It’s a vast array of only the finest narcotics I assure you. Laudunum. Opium. Baking soda. Tree bark shavings. Dogwood tree leaves. Beaver mucous. Spider eggs, but only for texture. I’ll tell you as to date the scientific community is in a state of flux as to the alleged curative properties of spider eggs…tonic water, raspberry juice, cocaine…”
Gunther’s one eye lit up. “Did you say, ‘cocaine?'”
“Indeed, sir, indeed, plucked from the leaves of the finest coca plants I’ll have you know.”
Gunther pulled the cork out of the bottle and smelled it. “Ugh! That’s worse than an outhouse after a backyard barbecue.”
“No one ever said that the path toward vim and vigor was an easy one, sir. Tell me, do you suffer from any infirmities?”
“Infirma-what-ities?” Gunther asked.
“Infirmities,” Doc said. “Aches. Pains and the like.”
“Now that you mention it, my back always feels like a bull ran over it.”
“Then please,” Doc said. “Take a sip and feel like a young man again.”
Gunther looked at Doc. “Horse shit,” Gunther said. “What kind of flim flam scam are you runnin’?”
“This is all on the level, good sir, I assure you,” Doc said. “My reputation as a Harvard trained doctor of medicine is on the line with every bottle I purvey to the public and I tell you I would never commit an act of indiscretion that would put my good name into disrepute, sir.”
“Here goes nothin,'” Gunther pressed the bottle to his lips, took a pull, instantly sprayed it out of his mouth in a fine mist, then offered a trail of obscenities not repeatable in mixed company.
“Son of a bitch, Doc! Did you stick a horse’s pecker in a bottle and collect the piss?!”
Doc slapped his knee. “That’s a good one, sir but no, no my good man, Doc Faraday’s Miracle Cure-All may be an acquired taste, but it is one you shall have to acquire just the same in order to extend your life many, many years past your natural expiration date!”
“Shit,” Gunther said. He handed the bottle back. Doc took it and tucked it into his coat pocket.
“I’ll just keep my date with the grave if its all the same,” the old man said.
Gunther walked off again.
“I could not help but catch some of your impassioned plea as I peddled my wares outside the local house of ill repute…”
“Do you just love listening to yourself talk all day?” Gunther asked.
“Indeed I do for oration is one of the many gifts our beloved creator has bestowed upon me but to get to the point at hand, am I to understand our Marshall intends to stave off a band of miscreants on his own?”
“That’s the long and short of it,” Gunther replied.
Doc grabbed his lapels and puffed out his chest. “Then sir, I should very much like to lend a hand in this, Highwater’s darkest hour.”
“You?” Gunther laughed at the thought.
“Are you handy with the steel?”
The good doctor let his cane drop to the ground. He shot his arms straight out to the left and right. Out from under his cuffs popped two sterling silver revolvers. Gunther was impressed.
“An invention of my own design,” Doc said. “Spring loaded contraptions that respond with the mere flick of a wrist.”
“I really don’t give a musty ox shit, Doc,” Gunther said. “Are you comin’ or not?”
The Bonnie Lass. It was named for its owner and proprietor, one Miss Bonnie Lassiter, declared by the populace to be the most beautiful woman in all of Highwater. A wood carved outline of her sultry shape adorned the sign hanging above the swinging set of double doors to her saloon.
Gunther strolled on in.
Drinking. Gambling. Wine, women, and song. Women especially. Ladies of the evening, even though it was daytime.
A fight over a fixed card game was in full swing. Grown men punched one another and slammed their opponents in the back with wooden chairs that conveniently splintered and cracked into pieces upon impact. There was even a fair amount of glass bottles being cracked over heads with reckless abandon.
The ladies were quite bored with it all. They milled about the bar, clad in fancy, frilly lace dresses, their hair done up perfectly, faces painted like works of art.
“Hey,” Gunther said.
No one paid the old man any mind.
Still nothing. Gunther pulled out his sidearm and fired a round into the air. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at the codger.
“That’s more like it,” Gunther said.
“GODDAMN IT, GUNTHER!” came Miss Bonnie’s sweet though presently angry voice from upstairs. “WAS THAT YOU?”
Embarrassed, Gunther removed his hat and held it over his heart. “Yes, Miss Bonnie.”
“WHAT KIND OF A HORSE’S ASS SHOOTS A GUN INSIDE A PLACE OF BUSINESS?!”
Gunther hadn’t really thought about it. “I’m sorry, Miss Bonnie.”
“ARE YOU GOING TO FIX THE HOLE?!”
Gunther hadn’t thought about that either. “Yes, Miss Bonnie,” he said. “First chance I get.”
“YOUR CEILING IS MY FLOOR YOU KNOW! ARE YOU TRYING TO GET ME KILLED?!”
“Point taken, Ms. Bonnie.”
The cowboys let go of the various headlocks and holds they had on one another and gathered around the deputy.
“Gents,” Gunther said. “As you’re all well aware, the Buchanan Boys are on the way and old Smelly Jack Buchanan himself has put out the word that any man who stands in the way of his lootin’ and robbin’ and rapin’ and what have you is a dead man.”
Gunther stretched his boney arm toward the swinging doors.
“Out there on our main thoroughfare stands our man of the hour, Marshall Slade.” There was a tinge of pride in Gunther’s voice. “Who among you is man enough to stand with him?”
The room grew quiet. All the men looked at the walls, their boots, anywhere to avoid looking directly at the man who was about to lecture them.
“Well golllll….eee,” Gunther said. “Don’t y’all go and volunteer at once now, I’ll never be able to count everyone up.”
The general feeling in the room grew grim. The men were ashamed of themselves. They knew it. Gunther knew it. He did his best to play on it.
“This is our town, ‘aint it?” Gunther asked. “We built it, didn’t we? Who in tarnation does Smelly Jack think he is, that he can just waltz in here like he owns the place and take everything that ‘aint nailed down?”
Waldo Fleming, who in addition to his employment as the Bonnie Lass’ bartender served as the town’s illustrious mayor, was a goofy looking sourpuss. Hair parted straight down the middle, buck teeth and he always looked like he was sucking on a lemon.
“Ahh, hell, Gunther,” Waldo said. “Who are you to bullshit us about standing up for what’s right? Why, I’ve seen you and every other Marshall before Slade hightail it out of town like cats with their tails stuck between their legs whenever shit got bad. You’re just as yellow as the rest of us!”
Shock. A look of total shock took over Gunther’s face. “Them’s fightin’ words, ya’ ornery son of a motherless goat!”
“It’s the truth!” Waldo fired back.
Gunther put his hat back on. “Mayyyybe it’s the truth,” he said. “Or….” The old man raised a finger in the air to make a point. “Maybe, just maybe, I never had faith in any other Marshall we had before like I do with the one we got now.”
The group of degenerate barflies mulled that one over for a spell.
“Do you really?” Waldo asked.
The old man never could bluff. “No,” he said. “But he’s the first Marshall crazy enough to stand up for us and we can’t very well let him do it on his lonesome now can we?”
Martin Blake was a ranch hand who worked on a spread on the outskirts of town. He never failed to spend his pay at the Bonnie Lass, or to offer his two cents in any discussion.
“Slade’s an asshole,” the burly brute said as he slammed his beer mug down on his table.
Gunther spun around so quickly his fake eye almost popped out of its socket.
“Did you just say what I think you said you lousy, good for nothin’ sack of…”
Blake stood up and rested his hands on his big brass belt buckle. “Yeah, I did,” he interrupted. “Slade’s a fool. He’s gonna get everyone in town killed. He oughta stand down. That’s all a man can do when he’s up against a crew of roughnecks. Let Buchanan have his way with the town. Anyone who tries to stop him is just going to piss him off and egg him on to kill more innocent people.”
Claps. Foot stomps. Shouts of “Here, here!” and “‘Atta boy!'” and so on. The crowd was with the ranch hand.
“Stand down,” Gunther said. “That’s what y’all think the Marshall, our duly designated officer of the law, ought to do, is that right?!”
“YEAH!!!!” said literally everyone.
Gunther stopped by the bar, picked up an abandoned beer, and swilled it down. He didn’t care who it belonged to. “So that’s the path this country is on now, is it?”
He stepped back to the center of the room. “Well, is it?”
Burt Townsend, the local blacksmith, stood in the corner with his back against a support beam, an apron full of soot and a face weathered by too much time near a hot fire. “Blake’s right, Gunther. Slade’s playing a dangerous game here.”
“I can’t believe my own ears,” Gunther said. “What a sorry sack of so and so’s y’all have become…that y’all are such a bunch of weak kneed, lily livered spineless swine that you’ve tricked your soft, sad little mush brains into believing the bad guy isn’t Smelly Jack. That Marshall Slade is the bad guy here.”
The old timer paced back and forth as he continued. “That our town being sacked is just part of life in the West, something we should just become accustomed to, like tornados and coyotes and the like? Is that it?”
“Yes,” Townsend said. “Sorry, Gunther, but that’s exactly it.”
Waldo and Blake had always been degenerates, but Townsend had always been a reputable individual. His words hurt Gunter a little more. What really hurt though was that the old man secretly agreed with the crowd, but he wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction of letting them know that.
From upstairs came the sound of footsteps moving around, followed by a door opening. Miss Bonnie herself, in all her fiery red haired, big blue eyed, attractive and sensual glory, burst out of her bedroom wearing scandalous black lingerie that left little to the imagination.
She leaned over the bannister and looked down toward Gunther. “Is Rain in trouble?” she asked.
Gunther nodded then quickly averted his eyes, scanning about the room to find anything, anything at all to look at other than the scantily clad beauty. It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested but rather, he still considered himself a married man, even though his darling Mavis had passed on a decade prior.
“Yessum,” he said. “A bit of a spot.”
“Is there anything I can do?” Miss Bonnie asked.
That question elicited an endless supply of laughs from the lecherous losers.
“Why no, Ma’am,” Gunther said. “On account of you being…well…a…”
“What?” Miss Bonnie asked.
Just then, Roscoe Crandall, a tall, gangly looking doofus who loaded crates at the mercantile, ran out of Miss Bonnie’s bedroom with his pants around his angles, his pink polka dotted drawers on full display.
“Dammit, woman!” Roscoe yelled. “I ‘aint finished yet!”
Roscoe made a move to grab the little lady but ended up being grabbed himself. He was then thrown over the railing and down to the saloon’s main floor, where luckily for him, a table broke his fall.
“You’re finished when I say you’re finished, pervert!” Miss Bonnie shouted.
“I…I want…my money back,” Roscoe managed to say before he passed out.
“NO REFUNDS!” Miss Bonnie hollered. She turned back to Gunther. “You were saying?”
“Well,” Gunther said. “No doubt you can handle yourself, Miss Bonnie, but I just don’t think I’d be able to sleep at night if I went and put a woman into harm’s way is all.”
The redhead turned around. “I figured as much. Tell Rain I’m rooting for him just the same.”
And with that, the wealthiest woman in Highwater returned to her room and shut the door.
Gunther used his one good eye to give the contingent of cowards the evil eye.
“May it never be forgotten that the only one of you with the decency to offer a helping hand was a female,” the old man said.
Gunther knew it. The whole room knew it. Every man in the joint put his head down in shame, except for Roscoe. He was fast asleep.
“Pathetic,” Gunther said as he headed through the double doors. “PA-THET-IC!!!”
In the dusty, horse dropping infested main street of a two-bit town, a young man stood and waited patiently. He was a quiet fellow who cast a stoic figure. He didn’t care much for most people. They irritated him to no end and it was impossible for him to pretend as though they didn’t. From the pained expression on his stubbly face to the bulging vein in his forehead, the townsfolk knew it was best to just steer entirely clear from this man’s general vicinity whenever possible.
Beads of sweat formed on the stoic’s forehead as the sun grew higher. He checked his pocket watch. A half-hour to go.
He adjusted his Stetson. It was black but that didn’t mean he was the bad guy. After all, he didn’t live in a black or white world. He knew all about the various shades of grey.
His shirt was black too. Pinned to it was a shiny star, emblazoned with the words, “U.S. Marshall.”
Rainier Slade. The Marshall Service had sent him all over the West and he’d been on his latest assignment for a little over a year.
Highwater, Kansas. Drunkeness. Debauchery. Lewd behavior. Non-stop criminal activity. And that was just the town fathers. Slade had truly waded waist deep into a putrid swamp of depravity, but he was determined to clean it all up and instill a sense of a law and order.
Or at the very least, he’d die trying. In fact, there was a good chance that he was about to do just that when an old man with a Winchester rifle slung over his shoulder strolled up the street determined to talk the young man out of it.
Gunther Beauregard. He wore a feather in his hat. He felt it added some character. And he certainly was one. Farther past sixty than he would have preferred to have been, his hair was long and gray, and just as unkempt as the bushy beard on his face.
His left eye was a glass one, the result of losing a fight he picked in his youth over an insult levied at him. As an older, wiser man he’d of just walked away. Youth is wasted on the young, he thought. The plight of the elderly is to possess a vast well of experience to rely on in any given situation, only to be too exhausted to do a damn thing with all that knowledge.
He had a star too. His was pinned to his vest. It wasn’t as shiny, but that wasn’t because he was only a Deputy U.S. Marshall. It was because he’d had his star longer than his latest boss. Much longer, in fact.
The old man reached the young man and they exchanged pleasantries. That wasn’t an easy feat, as neither man was particularly pleasant.
“Howdy, Rain,” the old man said.
Slade spat a tobacco laden loogie on the ground and gave a bare minimum acknowledgement.
Gunther had a gap between his two front teeth big enough for a horsefly to buzz through. Inevitably, air blew through the opening in such a way that left the occasional whistling sound mixed in between his words.
“Son, I realize you’re the numero uno honcho around here and you call the shots, so don’t go takin’ what I’m about to say as some kind of insubordination…”
Slade nodded. Even that much felt like an annoyance to him.
“…but I’m not sure you’re aware that in prior situations such as this one, past holders of your esteemed office would conveniently find themselves busy whenever shit went down.”
Slade raised an eyebrow. It felt like a lot of work.
“You see,” Gunther said. “We go and mend a fence, or find an old lady with a cat stuck in a tree or do somethin’ that takes our attention away from the locus of the chicanery at hand and that-a-way if there’s ever an inquiry by the Federales regarding our alleged dereliction of duty, we just say we’re painfully sorry but we was doin’ our duty elsewhere and unfortunately we missed out on all the action but don’t worry on account of we swear we’ll try harder to get ourselves killed the next time.”
‘Slade’s jaw worked on the hunk of brown gunk in his mouth. He didn’t bother to think about Gunther’s proposal.
“No?” Gunther asked.
“No,” Slade repeated. He had a low, raspy voice, kind of like he was always in need of a lozenge.
Gunther shook his head. “Are you some kind of ijit?”
“Do you want to die?”
Slade kept his gaze fixed on the road ahead, not even bothering to look at his number two.
“I want to do my duty.”
Gunther chuckled. “Well, shit,” he said. “Why don’t we just go crawl up in our beds, blow our brains out and save the Buchanan Boys the trouble?”
Now Slade looked at Gunther. “Because when I die…I’ll die with my boots on.”
That was a sentiment the old man respected. A brash, youthful notion, seeing as how dead men have no need for footwear, but a noble thought just the same.
The boss’ eyes were back on the road. “If you want to clear out, go ahead.”
Gunther slapped Slade on the back. “Nah. I may be practical, but I ‘aint yella. Hang tight.”
The old timer walked across the street. Slade didn’t bother to ask where his compatriot was off to, but just in case he was wondering, Gunther said, “We need more deputies.”
Highwater, Kansas. 1880. The Old West was a time of expansion and opportunity for some, oppression and violence for others. Dangerous desperadoes ran wild leaving lawmen struggling to maintain order.
U.S. Marshall Rainier Slade is a genuine stoic, a quiet man with a raspy voice, a permanent scowl on his face, and a disdain for humanity that leaves him using the bare minimum amount of words necessary to get his point across. His deputy, the elderly, pragmatic yet loyal Gunther Beauregard does most of the talking.
Together, they work to enforce the law in a town filled with drunkeness, debauchery, and mayhem. Meanwhile, there’s a tentative peace between the townsfolk and a nearby Native American tribe, made possible only by the good rapport between Slade and Chief Standing Eagle.
The world Slade knows crashes down around him when the dead start refusing to die, thanks to the evil endeavors of Henry Alan Blythe, Attorney-at-Law for the Legion Corporation, and his newly recruited flunkies, the Buchanan Boys.
Will Slade save the day? Will the West be lost? And when the dust settles and the last undead brain gets a bullet through it, will our hero choose the scandalously alluring brothel owner Miss Bonnie, or the prim and proper bible thumping Widow Farquhar?
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