Undead Man’s Hand – Chapter 6

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Bullock had found himself in the unenviable predicament of being swarmed by Deadwood’s most revered dignitaries.

First came a man in top hat and tails, though the lime green stripes didn’t say much about his sense of fashion. (Much of anything positive, anyway.)

Nervously, he read some prepared notes from a piece of paper in his trembling hand.

“Delighted to make your acquaintance, Mr. Bullock. Mayor E.B. Farnum…”

The mayor looked up from his paper and stretched out his hand. “That’s me.”

Bullock shook his hand. “Hello.”

“…at your service and…”

The mayor squinted at the paper. “…if there is anything I can do to make your stay in our humble town more pleasant, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”

“Thank you,” Bullock said.

The mayor scratched a rash on his neck, then folded up the paper and returned it to his pocket. “Honestly, I’ll level with you and tell you that was just some standard bullshit I say to all new people.”

“I figured,” Bullock said.

“At least new people who are worth a shit or two,” the Mayor said. “And further, I suppose if you think of something I could do to make your time here more pleasant, you’re welcome to tell me, though in truth, there won’t be much I will be able to do about it, so tell me or keep it to yourself. Your call.”

“OK then,” Bullock said.

“Achoo!” The Mayor sneezed then wiped his snotty nose across the sleeve of his spiffy outfit. “Pardon me. Allergies.”

Next up was a bespectacled man wearing a green eye shade. “A.W. Merrick, Mr. Bullock. Publisher, Editor, and Lead Journalist of the Deadwood Dispatch.”

“Mr. Merrick,” Bullock said.

Merrick held up a copy of his paper. It featured a photo Bullock had taken of himself long ago when he ran for Sheriff in Helena. Next to it was the headline, “Hero Sheriff Holds Back Angry Mob, Finishes Hanging.”
The newsman shook Bullock’s hand. “Mr. Bullock, you have no idea how pleased I am to meet you in person. When I heard the details of your heroics, I was so intrigued that I paid the Helena Clarion a pretty penny for the rights to reprint their story.”

“Just doing my job,” Bullock said.

“Oh no sir,” Merrick said. “Do not sell yourself short! There isn’t another lawman I can think of so dedicated to his duty that he would carry out justice at great risk to his personal safety. Sir, let me tell you, that’s just the kind of commitment to decency and moral fortitude that we need around here!”

Farnum threw up his hand in a “stop” motion. “OK, don’t hog the man all day, Merrick. Mr. Bullock, the Reverend tells us you two have already met.”

“We have,” the Reverend said. He walked up to Bullock, wrapped him up in an embrace, and ran his hand up and down Bullock’s back.

“Oh shit,” Bullock said. “He’s a hugger.”

“I am,” the Reverend replied as he pulled away. “It’s good to see you again, friend. I didn’t know of your excellent moral character until Mr. Merrick filled in all the details for me. I am so humbled to be in the presence of one of God’s finest Christian soldiers.”

The last man in the group had remained quiet the entire time. He was tall, but had a slight frame. His hairline was receding.

As for his facial hair, it was a remarkable work of art that he must have spent at least an hour a day working on. His mustache was long and protruded outward to form points at both ends. The beard itself extended all the way down past his collarbone and it too came to a point.

He wore a plain black suit and a bow tie.

“Mr. Bullock,” the Mayor said. “Allow me to present renowned combat surgeon, Doctor Valentine McGillicuddy.”

“Quite a moniker,” Bullock said as he put out his hand.

The doctor stared it for a moment and then begrudgingly shook it. “Yes.”

“Combat surgeon?” Bullock asked.

“Indeed,” Doctor McGillicuddy replied.

“Probably got a lot of stories,” Bullock said.

“Several, yes,” the doctor said.

“He’s a man of few words,” the mayor said. “Anyway, welcome to town, try not to get yourself killed and check your whores for rashes.”

The mayor scratched the red spots on his neck again. “I’ve heard it’s a good idea. I wouldn’t know. I don’t patronize houses of ill-repute, being the mayor and all.”

“I should hope not,” Bullock said.

The mayor opened the door. “See you around, Bullock.”

Merrick shut the door. “Not so fast.”

“Oh horse shit, Merrick,” the Mayor said. “Don’t even…”

Before the illustrious mayor could finish his words, Merrick had his arm around Bullock’s shoulder. “Mr. Bullock, are you aware that our dear town sheriff, Mr. Angus McKenna, passed away recently of natural causes?”

“I hadn’t heard,” Bullock replied.

“Stop wasting the man’s time,” the Mayor barked.

Merrick ignored him. “Mr. Bullock, I’ll have you know that the Reverend, the good doctor and I form the town council and we’ve been mulling over what a blessed twist of fate it is that a remarkable law man with such grit and courage as yourself happens to have made his way to us at the precise time we are in desperate need of law and order.”

“You’re the only one who has been mulling that over, Merrick,” the doctor said.

“The man just got into town,” the Mayor said. “He’s tired. Come on, let’s get out of his hair.”

“Gentlemen,” Merrick said. “Let’s put it to a vote.”

“That’s out of order,” the Mayor said as he scratched his neck. “You can only call something to a vote when there’s an official town council meeting in session.”

“The bylaws state that a town council meeting can be called to order whenever there’s a sufficient quorum present and I see all three members in the room.”

“I’m leaving,” Doctor McGillicuddy said.

“Doesn’t matter,” Merrick replied. “Two out of three and I now make a motion to call this meeting of the Deadwood town council to order. Can I get a second?”

“Damn it,” the doctor said.

Merrick nudged the Reverend. “Ahem. Reverend.”

“Hmm?” the Reverend replied.

“Do you second my motion to call this meeting to order?” Merrick asked.

“Oh yes,” the Reverend said. “This is all very exciting, isn’t it friends? Seconded.”

“Merrick,” the Mayor said. “Mr. Starr and Mr. Bullock are reputable businessmen. You can’t just fuck around…excuse me…mess around in their place of business all day long. Let’s go.”

Sol sat back and observed the entire show as if it were a twisted play unfolding before his very eyes. Bullock wasn’t sure what to make of the spectacle himself.

“Honorable members of the Deadwood town council,” Merrick said. “I move that we offer the position of town sheriff to our new resident, Mr. Seth Bullock. Do I have a second?”

Silence.

“You’re embarrassing yourself, newsman,” the Mayor said.

Merrick tapped the Reverend on the shoulder. “Seconded!” the Reverend said.

Doctor McGillicuddy slapped his forehead.

“And now for the official vote,” Merrick said. “All those in favor?”

Merrick shouted “aye,” then nudged the Reverend until he shouted “aye.”

“Dr. McGilliguddy,” Merrick said. “What say you?”

The doctor gave Bullock the stink eye and looked him over until he found a tiny bit of lint on Bullock’s shoulder and pulled it off.

“Nay,” the doctor said as he held up the lint. “This man clearly does take pride in his appearance, as evidenced by this abnormality, and if his attention to personal details is anything like his dedication to the law, then I should say we will all be doomed under his watch.”

Merrick was displeased. “Come now, Doctor…”

“Nay, I say!” the doctor said.

Doctor McGillicuddy distinctly winked his right eye at Bullock, then said. “And this man will not accept the position…if he knows what’s good for him.

“Two out of three,” Merrick said. “The motion carries. Mr. Bullock, on behalf of the town council, I hereby offer you an appointment to the position of town sheriff. Specifically, if you accept, you will finish out the last remaining year of Sheriff McKenna’s term for a wage of fifty dollars a month.”

That statement was the first thing that piqued Bullock’s interest in the entire conversation.

“Fifty bucks?”

“A month,” Merrick repeated. “And of course, if you wish to continue after the year ends, you will have to run for a four year term and curry a majority of town wide votes.”

Bullock wasn’t expecting any of this. “Can I think on it?”

“Of course, Mr. Bullock,” Merrick said. “Think away. I realize this is a big undertaking but we would be so lucky to have you.”

“That’s just great,” the mayor said as he marched out of the store and slammed the door behind him.

Merrick left his parting words. “I hope you’ll take it.”

As for the Reverend, “May God rain his blessings upon you, friend.”

Doctor McGillicuddy said nothing. He joined his fellow dignitaries outside.

Once they were alone, Bullock consulted his friend.

“What in the hell was that collection of assholes?” Bullock asked.

“Those men, I’m sorry to say, are our benevolent town fathers,” Sol explained.

“Holy shit,” Bullock said.

“A fair assessment,” Sol said.

“Should I take the job?” Bullock asked.

“Oh no,” Sol said as he threw his hands up in the air.

“What?” Bullock asked.

“I’m not saying anything,” Sol said. “Seth, I’ve known you long enough to know that the quickest way to get you to do something is to tell you not to do it.”

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