Undead Man’s Hand – Chapter 15

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Wild Bill Hickok was the most recognized celebrity in the West. A gunslinger for hire who took the jobs most reputable lawmen wouldn’t go near, his exploits became the stuff of dime store novels, newspaper articles, and tall tales told around a campfire.

He was a tall man who wore a long, grey coat over his fancy suit. His prized possession was his hair. It too, was long and it flowed far past his shoulders. No pony tail. He just let it hang naturally. A compliment might have been that it made him look like a noble lord, though his personality did not reflect that premise. An insult might of been that it was a womanly style, but no one in their right mind ever insulted Wild Bill.

There are many theories on why he wore such a large, wide-brimmed hat. Some say that he was so hot that his head needed the extra shade. Others opined that he was so quick on the draw that it was only sporting to make himself more visible to his opponents.

Or, maybe he just really liked enormous hats. Whatever it was, it was a secret he kept to himself.

Like any celebrity, he had his own entourage. These men weren’t just hangers-on. They were the gunmen that Bill had long trusted to watch his back.

On Bill’s right was Jack Vermillion. He preferred to be called “Texas Jack” but some called him “Shoot Your Eye Out Jack.” That nickname was self-explanatory. He had a penchant for shooting the eyes of bad men out. He felt it sent a message to evildoers across the West that he was looking for them.

Jack never smiled. His face was one of perpetual anger. All day long. Night too. Too much time spent thinking about the gruesome acts he had to commit during the Civil War. He’d been a cavalry man, and though he wore plain, grungy clothes, he still wore his saber on his hip to prove that he’d once been somebody.

The man to Bill’s left was John “Turkey Creek” Johnson. His friends just called him Crick. Earlier in his life, he’d been a lawyer and an accountant but found that shooting men for a living was a more respectable and less stressful career. His mustache was pencil thin and he always wore a snappy suit.

Wild Bill was more than just a celebrity. He was, in fact, a superhero. He had the power to bullet anywhere. He did it with a pair of 1851 Colt Navy Model revolvers. Custom made, they featured ivory grips and had his name etched onto each handle.

Like any superhero, he had his fans. As he and his compadres walked through Deadwood, a ten-year old mop topped boy ran up to him.

“Will you do it, Bill?” the boy asked. “Huh? Will you, will you, will you?”

Bill smirked. The boy tossed his apple into the air. In a flash, Bill pulled his revolvers and obliterated the piece of fruit before it hit the ground.

“Wow,” the boy said.

Bill tussled the kid’s hair, then moved on down the road with his posse.

Sure, every hero has admirers, but they also have more than their fair share of detractors. There’s just something about power that makes people want to challenge it.

“You ‘aint shit, Bill Hickok!”

Bill sighed. When he stopped, Jack and Crick stopped. The trio looked to the street, where lecherous drunk Morris Ashby was slandering Bill’s good name in between belts from the bottle of bourbon in his hand.

“Killing Bill Hickok don’t make you Bill Hickok, shit for brains,” Jack shouted.

“We’ll see about that!” Morris yelled.

“How many times do we have to go through this, Morris?” Crick inquired.

Morris hiccuped. “As many times as I damn well please.”

The drunk reached for a piece strapped to his hip. He pulled it out but Bill shot it out of his hand, then shot the booze bottle, smashing it to pieces.

Morris belched. “Same time tomorrow, then?”

Bill tipped his hat and the crew was on the move once more.

“You’re going soft, Bill,” Jack said.

“Yeah well,” Bill said. “I’ve got a lot of bad to make up for and if I shoot every asshole I come across, I’ll never be let through the pearly gates, will I?”

Fans. Check. Detractors? Check. There’s one more type of person any superhero inevitably encounters on a regular basis – someone in desperate need of the hero’s special power.

A sobbing woman ran out of ramshackle house. A gruff, bearded man chased after her with his belt in his hand.

“Bitch, how many times do I have to tell you to have my breakfast waiting for me before I wake up?” the man asked.

“I’m sorry,” the woman replied.

“I’ll make you sorry.” The man raised his belt high in the air and was about to bring it down when Bill fired, opening a hole up right in the middle of his hand.

The sorry excuse for a husband dropped to the ground, screaming and clutching his wounded hand as blood sprayed all over.

Bill looked down on the man. “Next one will be through your pecker.”

Despite the excruciating pain he was in, the man felt the need to nod to Bill, thus indicating he got the message.

“God Bless you, Bill Hickok,” the woman said.

“Ma’am,” Bill said as he tipped his hat.

The trio marched onward.

“See what I mean?” Jack asked. “Soft.”

“The old Wild Bill would have at least fucked her,” Crick noted.

“You mean the young Wild Bill,” Bill said. “The old Wild Bill doesn’t have time for such distractions.”

The trio reached the Grand Central Hotel. It was a large brick building with a luxurious facade, home to many of Deadwood’s most infamous citizens.

“Who are you meeting, Bill?” Crick asked.

Bill reached into his pocket and retrieved a handful of bullets. Their tips were so shiny that they gleamed in the sunlight. He loaded them into his revolver, then holstered his weapons.

“Someone you’re better off not knowing,” Bill said.

“That narrows it down to just about everyone,” Crick said.

“I’ll need you boys to sit a spell,” Bill said.

Crick and Jack looked confused.

“You going in alone?” Crick asked.

“As I said, this is someone you shouldn’t know.”

“I don’t like it,” Jack said.

“You don’t like anything, Jack,” Bill replied.

“That’s true,” Jack said.

Crick and Jack found themselves a spot on a bench on the front porch as Bill stepped inside.

In the lobby, guests walked about, lost in their conversations. They weren’t the sort of high faluting hoi poloi one would have found in the lobby of a big city hotel. Rather, they were unwashed, unhappy, and prone to arguing with one another over the most minor of insults.

Off to the left, there was Aunt Lu’s Cafe. Freed slave Lucretia Marchbanks was Deadwood’s best cook, and even people who weren’t guests of the hotel often popped in for a bite of one of her succulent dishes.

Wack. Wack. Wack. Lu stood behind the counter, bringing down a humongous butcher knife onto a slab off beef over and over again.

A surly looking customer walked past the counter and headed for the lobby.

“Sir!” Lu called out. “You forgot to pay.”

Bill didn’t like the looks of the man and put his right hand on the handle of his left revolver just in case.

“Fuck you nigger bitch,” was the customer’s response.

The man pulled out a cigar, put it into his mouth and was about to light it up when Lu’s butcher knife came sailing through the air, slicing the cigar in half before finally chopping its way into the wall.

The customer, his face filled with fright, plunked a few coins down on a table and ran for the lobby.

Lu stepped around the counter to retrieve her knife.

“Howdy Bill,” Lu said.

“Lu,” Bill replied.

Lu pulled the knife out of the wall. She counted the notches in the wood. “Shit. Fifth asshole this month to try to take advantage of my delightful nature.”

“No man can resist your cooking, Lu,” Bill said.

Lu smiled. Luckily for her, all those years over a hot stove hadn’t affected her beauty one iota. She drummed her fingers over Bill’s chest.

“That what brings you here, Bill?” Lu asked. “To get things cooking?”

Bill grinned. “Would that it were, but duty calls.”

Lu pouted and walked back around the counter. “You’re no fun, Bill Hickok.”

Bill surveyed the room. All the customers seemed happy. Normal. Then Bill noticed him. In the back corner, a timid man with a face full of pock mark scars sat alone, staring off into nothingness.

“He been here long?” Bill asked.

“Him?” Lu asked as she pointed at the man with her knife. “Creepy little man. Came in before dawn.”

Bill knocked his knuckles down on Lu’s counter. “You’re a peach.”

“About time someone realized it,” Lu replied.

Bill swaggered to the back of the room and stood over the man’s table.

“Jericho?” Bill asked.

“Mr. Hickok,” the man said. His voice was soft and sullen.

“Let’s move,” Bill said.

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9 thoughts on “Undead Man’s Hand – Chapter 15

  1. […] Chapter 15       Chapter 16       Chapter 17 […]

  2. He pulled it out but Bill shot it out of his hand, then shot the booze bottle, smashing it to pieces. – I don’t like the double use of out. I would remove the first one. He pulled it but Bill….
    Fans. Check. Detractors? Check. – should be a question mark after fans to maintain symmetry.
    “About time someone realized it,” Lu replied. – It’s a perfectly fine sentence. But maybe “About time you realized it” ??

    • I’m not really going for a romance between them. Just some flirting. I felt like that meant she was unappreciated by the town.

      I only came up with her yesterday. She was real and ran Aunt Lu’s Cafe in the Grand Central Hotel.

      I needed there to be a meat cleaver in the vicinity for later. The character with it at first was just going to be a random throwaway. Then she kind of became interesting.

      She and another character might have something going on. Haven’t totally decided yet. Not with Bill obviously as alas he won’t be around much longer.

      • Clearly you’ve never been a woman in the flirting situation. “someone noticing”, subtly puts the woman down. You noticing is direct and says everyone else already thinks I’m fab, what took you so long?

      • I assumed as a black lady/former slave in 1876 she was put down by everyone, thus someone noticing her goodness and calling her a peach yields a surprise that someone noticed.

        I don’t know. Eh, I’ll think about it. It started off as some story filler then it sort of built the character a little bit but there isn’t a romance between her and Bill.

        I theorize another character and her may be up to some hanky panky behind the scenes. I haven’t decided yet. She only came into play yesterday.

      • I’m just saying when flirting there are rules. LOL. Things women will say and they won’t. And she isn’t just a freed slave, she’s a slave with enough to get her own place. She has skills.

      • I was also trying to get across the idea that she’s hot, as in to get the reader to think she’s hot if she had the confidence to hit on the top celebrity of the day.

        Although I did find a photo of her online. She and all these other characters were more or less average.

        Actually, the real Jane wasn’t winning any beauty contests. Nor Charlie.

        Alas, I have betrayed my #OscarsSoPretty activism and just made everyone hot. I attempted to make a nuanced character with Slade who could feel one way one minute and another the next. It was awful. All characters from now on shall be cartoons.

        At any rate, I just don’t have the skills to explain how they were all average to below average looking people, but they had hopes and dreams so you shouldn’t think badly of them, reader.

        Or I might have the skills. The reader just doesn’t want to hear it.

        Sadly, everyone is hot unless they’re bad. I have begun to notice this. Last novel and this one every random criminal either has buck teeth or a lazy eye or is bald or fat or has something wrong with them.

        Sigh. I have sold out #OscarsSoPretty

      • Oh and other than that, what did you think of Wild Bill? He’s a pretty cool historical person. Had a very unique difficult to describe hat and look. I went for that he was like a celebrity superhero and then just had him shoot random things to prove his power. Like Superman who can’t go five minutes without hearing someone call for help, Bill can’t walk down the street without someone needing him to shoot something.

      • laughing. it’s good. it’s going somewhere.

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