Doctor McGillicuddy kept an office in town. He earned a meager living doing what he could to keep the denizens of Deadwood alive and in exchange, they’d cough up what they were able to afford, or at least the handful of honest folk did anyway.
Bullock stood back as the doctor reviewed the deceased. Since its discovery in the stable, it had since been stripped naked, washed and laid out on a table.
“So what’s the story, Doc?” Bullock asked.
“Oh,” Doctor McGillicuddy said. “If it is a story you’re after, I can tell you this man is some poor drunkard, a vagabond who stumbled into the stable in search of shelter only to be kicked in the back of the head by an ornery horse. In his final moments, he lifted up a bale of hay, crawled under it and expired.”
“Sounds possible,” Bullock said. “Until you get to the hay part.”
“Indeed,” Doctor McGillicuddy said. “But if you’d prefer the truth over a ‘story,’ then I can tell you this man is Patrick Farley, well known about town as an associate in the criminal dealings of one Al Swearengen. It would appear that Farley died as the result of a gunshot wound. One could only assume that said wound was motivated by an underhanded business deal gone awry, though if you choose to investigate this matter further, I bid that you not indicate to anyone that you heard such assumptions from me.”
“Swearengen?” Bullock asked.
Doctor McGillicuddy stroked his long beard.
“Mr. Swearengen would have the general public believe, or at the very least, not publicly admit in mixed company, that he is anything but a humble bartender,” the doctor explained. “In truth, he is very much the true ruler of this town. Through a system of corruption, graft violence and intimidation, he controls everyone and everything. He makes a fortune in the process though you wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at him.”
“Ahh,” Bullock said. “Merrick warned me about him.”
“Yes well,” the doctor said. “If only the imbecile had the good sense to warn you yesterday, or better yet, to not have dragged you into this mess at all. I did my best to warn you.”
“I thought you were just being an asshole,” Bullock said.
“Perhaps I am,” Doctor McGillicuddy said. “For thinking that I’m able to be of service to a town that is hellbent on destroying itself through vice and villainy. However, the criticism I offered of you yesterday wasn’t meant against you personally but rather, it was intended to steer you away from the position without uttering a negative word about Swearengen in public. Those who speak ill of that man outside of closed doors do not last long.”
The doctor pulled a white sheet over the deceased, then took a seat behind his desk. Bullock followed and took the visitor’s chair.
“All the world’s a stage,” Doctor McGillicuddy said. “And the people, merely players.”
“What’s that now?” Bullock asked.
“It’s a line from a play,” the doctor said. “William Shakespeare. Oh it doesn’t matter. Mr. Bullock, what you must know is this town’s political system operates as if it were one large play. Town office holders are but mere actors, you see. We pretend to have power when in fact, we have none. Merrick is a man who fancies himself a hero for shutting himself up in his office and writing about the heroics of others. He’d never take up a firearm in the name of justice in a million years. Meanwhile, the Reverend has a distinct deficit of bats in his belfry.”
“I’ve noticed,” Bullock said.
“He simply agrees with whatever Merrick says,” the doctor said. “The man hasn’t a clue what’s going on. He just feels as though serving on the town council is way to give back, to pursue his Christian duty.”
“Farnum is a decent enough fellow, though as a mayor, he’s a bumbler,” Doctor McGillicuddy said. “He enjoys the pomp and circumstance of the office, but quite understandably, he is scared to death of Swearengen. Thus, he will never cross him.”
“And you?” Bullock asked.
Doctor McGillicuddy sighed and stared off into no particular direction for a moment before giving his answer.
“I once hoped that a peace could be bartered between the natives and the white man,” the doctor said. “There’s no reason why we all can’t live together in harmony. I visited the indigenous peoples often to lend them my medical services. I even struck up a dialogue with Crazy Horse until…”
Bullock finished the doctor’s sentence. “Custer’s last stand.”
“Precisely,” the doctor said. “All hope for peace is gone now. These days, I while away my hours patching up drunks and treating the rotten, gangrenous genitalia of those who dabble much too often in harlotry.”
“No offense,” Bullock said. “But you don’t seem like the type that would roll over for this Swearengen fella.”
“Not easily,” the doctor said. “However, I have more pressing matters to tend to. The plague, for instance.”
“The plague?” Bullock asked.
“Smallpox,” Doctor McGillicuddy said. “A terrible epidemic. Hundreds quarantined into a series of tents on the outskirts of town. Al pays all the expenses necessary to tend to the inflicted. In turn, I keep my mouth shut on all the violence he inflicts.”
“Well,” Bullock said. “I best go bring him in.”
Doctor McGillicuddy laughed. “Did you really just say that?”
“I did,” Bullock said. “If he killed a man, then he needs to answer for it.”
“O Mr. Bullock,” Doctor McGillicuddy said. “I assure you that you will soon learn your options are threefold. One, return that ridiculous badge and forget you ever accepted it.”
“Not happening,” Bullock said.
“Two,” the doctor said. “Join the rest of us in our little game of ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.’ Ignore Al’s chicanery. Hassle an occasional drunk to justify your existence and then collect your pay.”
“Also not happening,” Bullock said.
“Then I fear you will soon find out that your third and final option will come when Al sends you the way of Sheriff McKenna,” Doctor McGillicuddy said.
“The Sheriff before me?” Bullock asked. “Merrick said he died of natural causes.”
“Oh yes,” Doctor McGillicuddy said as he leaned back in his chair. “I assure when that after he was shot, stabbed, and thrown off a roof, it was quite natural for all of his organs to shut down.”
“Shit,” Bullock said.
“Indeed,” Doctor McGillicuddy replied.