Undead Man’s Hand – Chapter 17

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There was a contingent of barefoot orphans who roamed through Deadwood, wreaking havoc and causing as much trouble as possible. Whenever they spotted the Utter Freight wagon rolling into town, they felt like it was Santa’s sleigh.

A little boy in rags was the first to spot it. “Candy!” he shouted as he and his cohort made chase.

Jane was in the back of the wagon, otherwise preoccupied with a new bottle of whiskey. Well, newish. She’d already downed a fifth in celebration of her victory over Dapper Dan. Her stomach was queasy, her head ached, but what the hell, she took another swig anyway.

The wagon was jostled as one of its wheels crossed over a rock in the road, causing Jane to slush her booze all over herself.

“Goddamn it, Charlie!” Jane shouted. “Is it too much to ask for a smooth fucking ride?!”

Charlie responded with his best impression of a naughty schoolboy being chewed out by his teacher. “Sorry Ms. Cannary.”

A chorus of “candy, candy, candy” rang out. Charlie looked to his left, then to his right. Ragamuffins had him surrounded.

“Oh Jane Dear,” Charlie said. “You might want to watch that wicked tongue of yours.”

“Aww what the fuck,” Jane said as she corked her bottle and moved to the back of the wagon. She poked her head out to see more children closing in.

“Whaddya want?!” Jane barked.

“Candy!”

“Hold on, critters.” Jane liked to pretend that the urchins were a bother but truth be told, the Utter Freight’s candy dispersion efforts had been her idea. There was little to look forward to in Deadwood and Charlie, Jane and Bill had long decided that bringing back a few free comforts for the downtrodden masses was worth a modest profit reduction.

Charlie brought the wagon to a halt and the hoard of children surged to the back. Jane returned to the back of the wagon with a burlap sack. Inside there was a smorgasbord of teeth rotting goodness. Peppermint sticks, licorice, lemon drops, molasses chews, butterscotch and all sorts of treats.

“All right you nincompoops,” Jane said as she started tossing handfuls of candy at the crowd.

The kids did what kids are known to do. They started bonking each other over the head and pushing each other in the name of claiming as much sweet, delicious candy as possible.

“There’s no need to kill each other you dopes,” Jane said as she tossed out more handfuls. “Plenty to go around.”

The kids didn’t listen so Jane shouted in the loud, angry tone she usually reserved for Charlie. “Hey!”

The rabble snapped to attention.

“That’s more like it,” Jane said as she continued the candy dispersement.

It was never a good idea to keep the Utter Freight wagon stopped for too long. The road instantly clogged with townsfolk looking for letters from their family or packages they were waiting for.

Doctor McGillicuddy soon showed up and tapped the end of his cane against the side of the wagon.

“Top of the morning, Charles.”

“And a good day to you, Doctor.”

“Did the medicine come in?” the doctor asked.

“Let me see,” Charlie said. “Jane?”

“What the fu…” Jane remembered the children and stopped herself. In a more pleasant tone, she inquired, “What is it, Charles?”

“Have we got Doctor McGillicuddy’s medicine back there?”

“Hold on.”

Jane loved kids but wasn’t one to mince words with them. She handed the sack to one particularly ugly child.

“Here doofus,” Jane said. “Pass the rest out all fair and equal like.”

Jane ducked back into the wagon, paused, then ducked her head out and addressed the kid again. “And if you run off with it and keep it to yourself, so help me God I’ll…”

“Jane!” Charlie called out. “The good doctor is waiting.”

“Goddamn it, Charlie!” Jane shouted. “Go suck on a big fat hairy…” She remembered the children again as she searched through the packages. “Peppermint stick.”

A minute later, Jane poked her head out of the front of the wagon and handed a parcel wrapped in brown paper up to her partner.

“Thank you, my lady,” Charlie said.

Out of earshot of the children, Jane was able to get out a “Shut the fuck up, Charlie” before returning to supervise the candy distribution.

Charlie handed the package down to the doctor.

“Good of you to do this, Charles,” Doctor McGillicuddy said.

“No worries,” Charlie said. “How are the patients?”

“More every day,” Doctor McGillicuddy said as he walked off. “Thank you.”

The wagon was surrounded. People barking questions about their packages, kids demanding more candy.

Charlie stood up. “People.”

No one paid him any mind. He cleared his throat and tried again, a little louder. “People, if you’ll please disperse. I’ll be dropping everything off at the depot and you’ll be able to pick up your goods there imminently.”

Everyone kept yelling. On each side, people put their hands on the wagon and started rocking it back and forth.

“Ughh,” a disgusted Jane said as she pulled out one of her pistols. “Cover your ears, varmints.”

The kids had been through Jane’s methods of crowd dispersement before. She blasted three shots into the air and all the adults ran off.

Jane reached into the wagon and retrieved one more sack. Toys. So many toys. Little dolls and puppets, tiny wooden horses, tops, yo yos and more. Once again, she handed the sack to…

“Here doofus,” she said. “And remember…”

“I’ll be fair, Miss Jane,” the boy said.

Jane squinted her eyes to make herself look more fearsome, but it was all in good fun.

“You better be.”

Charlie snapped the reigns and the wagon was off.

“Your good deed for the day, Jane,” Charlie called back.

Jane uncorked her bottle and took another pull. “Fuck off, Charlie.”

Up front, Charlie shook his head.

“She’s quick on the draw, I’ll give her that,” Stephen said quietly. “But you let a woman talk like that to you?”

“Stephen,” Charlie said. “In my experience, one does not ‘let’ Jane do anything.”

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One thought on “Undead Man’s Hand – Chapter 17

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

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