Undead Man’s Hand – Chapter 5

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Solomon “Sol” Starr was a thin, kindly man with a mustache and dark hair parted to the right. He was born in Germany to Jewish parents but as a boy, his family moved to America.

Eventually, he found his way into Montana politics and formed a friendship with one Sheriff Seth Bullock. They bonded over their mutual disdain for government work. Of course, they disliked it for different reasons. Sol had grown wary of the incessant brown nosing that was expected of an assistant to the Governor just to get ahead. Bullock just didn’t want to get shot…again.

Sol stood outside the shop and dipped a paintbrush into a can of black paint. Carefully, he amended the sign hanging next to the door to read, “Starr and Bullock: Hardware Merchants.”

“Looks swell.”

The voice was familiar. Sol turned around and was delighted to see his old friend.

“Seth!” the shopkeeper said as he hugged Bullock. “Good God man, you’re finally here!”

“I am.”

“I told you not to go sniffing around those Larson boys,” Sol said.

“You did.”

“Not the best touch up,” Sol said as he pointed to the sign. “We’ll get a new one.”

“I like it,” Bullock said. “Your indecipherable handwriting has a certain charm.”

The duo entered the store. Bullock’s heart swelled as he looked around. Brand new shovels. Pick axes. Knives. Buckets. Any tool or gear a miner could possibly need.

For once in his life, something had worked out.

“What do you think?” Sol asked.

“It’s amazing,” Bullock replied.

Sol hopped up on a stool behind the counter. “And with your cash, we’re going to expand and become the only game in town.”

“That’ll be something,” Bullock said.

“I mean, really,” Sol said. “Why trudge around the hills like a dummy on the small chance you might find a shiny rock when you can just make money selling shovels to all the dummies instead?”

A customer in the back of the store with a beard full of dirt cleared his throat.

“Oh, not you, Pete!” Sol shouted. “I’m talking less skilled miners than yourself, obviously.”

Pete shook his head and went back to browsing. Sol leaned over the counter and whispered to Bullock, “He’s been at it three months and hasn’t found shit!”

Bullock snickered.

“Sol…”

“What?” Sol asked. “Oh no. Here comes your serious face.”

“Just tell me I’m not going to lose my life’s savings,” Bullock said.

“You are not going to lose your life’s savings,” Sol repeated.

“Thank God,” Bullock said.

“In fact, we’re going to become pretty well-off,” Sol added.

“Really?” Bullock asked.

“In a few years.”

“Fuck.”

Sol pulled out a large ledger and dropped it down on the counter with a thud. “Loans. Rent. Supplies. Expenses. No business is a success overnight but we’ll get there. Until then…”

The shopkeeper tapped a button on his register to make it go “ding” then pulled out a crisp ten dollar bill and slid it across the counter. “First week’s wages, partner.”

Bullock smiled, picked up the bill, folded it and put it in his pocket. “Thank you partner.”

“Let me guess,” Sol said. “Martha is not enthused.”

“Oh shit,” Bullock said. “You don’t know the half of it. She’s got a shotgun pointed at the front door as we speak.”

“But Finnegan’s Row is the classiest part of Deadwood!” Sol said.

“That’s what I told her,” Bullock said. “Still, I can’t believe I actually have to rent that shit hole.”

“Finnegan is a crooked landlord,” Sol said. “Most people in town are a crooked something or other. If you want a better house, you’ll have to build it yourself. Not exactly a lot of skilled carpenters around. If it doesn’t involve pussy or booze, most folks just can’t be bothered.”

“So I’ve noticed,” Bullock said.

A fist rapped on the door. “Hello!” a voice called from outside. “Welcome wagon!”

“Oh no,” Sol said.

“What?” Bullock asked.

“You’ll see,” Sol answered.

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