The Gem Theater. It was the largest, most popular brothel in Deadwood. Naturally, it was also the rowdiest.
Prostitutes milled about in various states of undress. Some weren’t that bad looking in the right light. Others looked better in the dark or after a few beers.
Filthy roughneck miners were the establishment’s main clientele. They stank from long days spent out in search of gold. And what little treasure they found, they were happy to fritter it away on cheap booze and cheaper women.
Long before Al Capone or John Gotti, there was Al Swearengen, the man who ran his criminal enterprise with an iron fist, all the while posing as a humble businessman.
Al’s hair and mustache were greasy due to the black shoe polish he rubbed into it daily to keep the gray at bay. At a casual glance, he looked like any good barkeep. He wore an apron to keep the liquor from staining his clothes. He took orders from customers and poured brews promptly.
He even responded to employee grievances. Lorelai, a working girl in her late twenties who looked as though she might have been a beauty before she lost a tooth and drank one too many, sloshed up to the bar.
“Al,” Lorelai said. “Phil’s back and he’s smellier and uglier than ever. I think he shit his pants.”
Al’s last name was apt. He didn’t just swear. He was an artist who used obscenity as the paint that he applied to the canvas of life. There was a certain Shakespearean way to which he told people off.
“Sweetheart,” Al said. “When the the world turns upside down and all that makes sense ceases to be, thus generating a sequence of events that leads to a fucking knight in shining armor barging his way into the joint and demanding to see my finest toothless whore posthaste, I guarantee you that I’ll point him in your direction without delay.”
“But until that momentous occasion comes,” Al said. “Go fuck Phil.”
“Ughh!” Lorelai stomped her foot in protest then walked away.
Al looked across the sea of drunk barflies before him.
“Whores. Am I right?”
The barflies nodded and offered various expressions of agreement.
A young man in his early twenties stepped out of Al’s back office and closed the door. He tied his long hair back in a pony tail and had a scraggily beard. He approached the bar.
“Al,” the young man said. “That situation you wanted to tend to…it uh…needs tending to.”
“As we speak?” Al asked.
Al wasn’t one to suffer fools lightly. He sighed.
“Jesus Christ, Mike. Is this an issue that must be acted upon without delay?”
Al removed his apron, folded it neatly and stowed it underneath the bar. He did the same with the towel he had over his shoulder.
“Mitsy!” Al yelled.
Mitsy was a particularly corpulent wench sitting in the corner who, at the moment, was working her feminine whiles on a sleepy octogenarian in the back corner.
She stood, adjusted her plentiful bosom, then walked over.
“Al,” Mitsy said. “I think Ralph is about to bite.”
Al took a look at Ralph, whose face was firmly planted down against the table, drooling away.
“Dear, I wouldn’t wager that wrinkly old fuck has bitten anything since George Washington was in diapers,” Al said. “Your services are needed here. Listen up, boys!”
A few heads turned. “Mitsy can pour beers and shots. If you need some kind of special mixed drink, I recommend that you go and fuck yourself, because this isn’t France.”
Al and Mike walked to Al’s office.
Once they were out of earshot of the barflies, Al asked, “Is he alive?”