Undead Man’s Hand – Chapter 39

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Glowing paper lanterns hanged from wires that had been strung between rooftops, lighting up the street below as townsfolk gathered around a rickety stage.

A juggler warmed up the crowd, tossing oranges into the air, catching each them before they hit the stage and sending them just as quickly back into the air.

Kapow! The crowd “oooed” and “ahhhed” as a single golden firework launched into the air and exploded, lighting up the night sky.

First came the drumbeat. Then the trombone. The clarinet. The flute. Processional music as a band led a colorful cast of characters through the crowd and up onto the stage.

A man in a top hat held his face as close as he could to a torch he was carrying without melting himself. His visage was smeared with white makeup, his lips coated with red lipstick, his eyes had been outlined ever so darkly.

“Hush!” the performer said. The crowd instantly obeyed, ceasing all gossip and revelry. Their eyes were transfixed on the show.

“Wandering thespians are we,” the performer said with a flourish. “The Vagabond Players, to be precise. For the entertainment of the gentry, our time upon the stage shall surely suffice.”

The performer paced about the stage, never taking his eyes off the audience. “Mortimer Snodgrass ’tis my name and tomfoolery is my trade. But the star of our show puts me to shame and leaves me feeling quite dismayed.”

Wild Bill stood calmly behind a curtain, waiting for his cue.

A buxom blonde with a beauty mark on her cheek strutted up to Mortimer. “Tell us who it is, dear Morty, before another second ticks off the clock…”

“My sweetest Bertha, it is none other than…”

The crowd went insane as Bill stepped out and fired his guns into the air.

“…Wild Bill Hickok!”

Bill took a bow and smiled. Moments later, the applause died down.

“William!” Mortimer cried. “‘What tale shall we recreate first?’ is the question I now…ask ya’”

The juggler returned and got his oranges in the air again. Hickok put bullets through all three pieces of fruit, spraying the players with citrus. The audience cheered.

Bill holstered his pistols, rested his hands on his belt, and then surveyed the crowd. “Howsabout the time I shot the worst fiend in Nebraska?”

Deep within the crowd, a drunk off her ass Jane was having quite a time.

“Bravo!”

Jane whistled and slapped her hands together. As she did so, she swilled whiskey out of the bottle she was holding all over everyone around her, but she didn’t care.

“Bravo, Bill!” Jane shouted. “Goddamn it you’re the best fucking actor I’ve ever seen!”

Jane took a pull and nudged a very sullen looking Charlie in the ribs.

“Isn’t Bill acting the shit out of this, Charlie?”

Charlie kept to himself. That only made Jane nudge harder.

“Well,” Jane asked. “What do you think?”

Finally, the businessman gave in. “I think there’s nothing sadder than seeing the greatest gunslinger who ever lived yucking it up like a clown for pocket change.”

Jane tossed Charlie a look that was indescribably vile.

“Goddamn, Charlie,” Jane said. “Anyone ever tell you that you’re the turd in the moonshine?”

“All the time,” Charlie replied.

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