“Step right up! Step right up!”
While Gunther was pleading Slade’s case to deaf ears, a flashy salesman set up a cart just outside the Bonnie Lass’ double doors.
The only thing slimier than this lowlife’s pitch was his appearance. He had a devilish black beard, the kind that came down his face to a point just like the letter, “V.” His mustache curled upwards at each end. He wore a red velvet suit, wrapped his neck up with an ascot, and carried a cane topped with a golden ball. Sitting on his head was a top hat that extended an extra two feet above his cranium.
“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up for a taste of Doc Faraday’s Miracle Cure-All!”
A large group gathered to listen to the huckster’s silver tongue wag away as it made all manner of suspicious promises.
“Step right up and purchase a bottle of the last medicine you will ever need!” the man said. “Lead an insurrection against indigestion, a revolution against devolution and decertify your decrepitude!”
Men. Women. Young and old. Several suckers were already holding the bottles they bought.
“Heart palpitations will listen to your stipulations, constipation will no longer be a source of consternation and you’ll never fight another bout with the gout!”
The show drew Gunther’s interest. He immediately sized up the charlatan for the fraud that he was, but he wanted to see where the doc was going with his routine.
“Ulcers will be ousted, your pain will be drained and tumors will become mere rumors!”
“Doctor,” an old woman said.
“Yes, my dear!” the salesman said.
“I got the worst pain in my bones. Will this help?”
The salesman didn’t flinch an inch.
“But of course, madam, but of course!” he said. “Bid me a moment as I tell you a tale of an elderly gentleman I met not more than fifty miles away who suffered from the most abominable, most abysmal case of rheumatism I’ve ever seen in my entire medical career. Let me tell you this man could barely move without crying out in debilitating pain. One sip of my Miracle Cure-All and…do you know what he did?”
The crowd waited for an answer with baited breath.
The so-called doctor was quite a showman. He jumped up and clicked his heels in the air. “Why, that gent started dancing about like a wild man, thanking me, thanking Jesus, thanking Mary, thanking Joseph, thanking God Almighty himself for bringing me to him so that I was able to introduce him to Doc Farraday’s Miracle Cure-All!”
Doc raised a bottle in the air. “Now remember, dear, dear patients, one spoonful will bring a fever down, two spoonfuls will cure a seizure of the heart and return it to its regular beating rhythm and as a trained physician, I can recommend half a spoonful a day every morning as an excellent regimen to ward off diseases, disorders, and other various and sundry maladies of the body, mind and spirit.”
“Does it cure flatulence?” a cowboy asked. That question drew dirty looks from the crowd. “I’m asking for a friend. He uh…he farts a lot.”
“Indubitably, sir, indubitably,” Doc replied. “Patients have reported to me that one swig of Doc Farraday’s Miracle Cure-All has given their bodily odors a robust, flowery scent with just a hint of lavender.”
Everyone reached into their pockets and pulled out their money. Gunther had enough and walked on.
“Excuse me, sir!”
Not realizing that he was the sir in question, Gunther kept walking.
“You there! Constable!”
Gunther stopped in his tracks and turned around. The good doctor abandoned the crowd, clutching a roll of dollars in his fist.
“Good day, sir!” the doctor said with an extended hand. Gunther hesitated. The doc was dirty for sure and the old timer didn’t want any of that existential muck to rub off on him. But, not wanting to be impolite, Gunther took it and shook it anyway.
“Faraday’s the name,” the salesman said. “Doctor Elias T. Faraday by way of Boston, Massachusetts.”
“Uh huh,” Gunther said, doing his best impression of an interested person.
“Oh,” Doc said. “But I’m no relation to the Chestnut Hill Faradays, I assure you. A band of beggars I’ll have you know. I wouldn’t trust my billfold around any of them if I were you.”
“I’ll remember that,” Gunther said.
“And you are?” Doc asked.
“Gunther,” the old man said. “Beauregard of the Kansas Beauregards. They’re all assholes but I love ’em just the same.”
“Yes, yes,” Doc said. “A man of good humor. I like it!”
The doctor handed Gunther a black bottle. Printed in cursive lettering on the bottle’s label were the words, “Doc Faraday’s Miracle Cure-All.”
“A gift for you, sir,” Doc said. “The very last medicine you’ll ever need. My way of thanking you for your efforts to protect this burgeoning metropolis.”
Gunther looked the bottle over. “What’s in it?”
Doc stroked his beard. “Ah, an astute question, my good man! Let me see. It’s a vast array of only the finest narcotics I assure you. Laudunum. Opium. Baking soda. Tree bark shavings. Dogwood tree leaves. Beaver mucous. Spider eggs, but only for texture. I’ll tell you as to date the scientific community is in a state of flux as to the alleged curative properties of spider eggs…tonic water, raspberry juice, cocaine…”
Gunther’s one eye lit up. “Did you say, ‘cocaine?'”
“Indeed, sir, indeed, plucked from the leaves of the finest coca plants I’ll have you know.”
Gunther pulled the cork out of the bottle and smelled it. “Ugh! That’s worse than an outhouse after a backyard barbecue.”
“No one ever said that the path toward vim and vigor was an easy one, sir. Tell me, do you suffer from any infirmities?”
“Infirma-what-ities?” Gunther asked.
“Infirmities,” Doc said. “Aches. Pains and the like.”
“Now that you mention it, my back always feels like a bull ran over it.”
“Then please,” Doc said. “Take a sip and feel like a young man again.”
Gunther looked at Doc. “Horse shit,” Gunther said. “What kind of flim flam scam are you runnin’?”
“This is all on the level, good sir, I assure you,” Doc said. “My reputation as a Harvard trained doctor of medicine is on the line with every bottle I purvey to the public and I tell you I would never commit an act of indiscretion that would put my good name into disrepute, sir.”
“Here goes nothin,'” Gunther pressed the bottle to his lips, took a pull, instantly sprayed it out of his mouth in a fine mist, then offered a trail of obscenities not repeatable in mixed company.
“Son of a bitch, Doc! Did you stick a horse’s pecker in a bottle and collect the piss?!”
Doc slapped his knee. “That’s a good one, sir but no, no my good man, Doc Faraday’s Miracle Cure-All may be an acquired taste, but it is one you shall have to acquire just the same in order to extend your life many, many years past your natural expiration date!”
“Shit,” Gunther said. He handed the bottle back. Doc took it and tucked it into his coat pocket.
“I’ll just keep my date with the grave if its all the same,” the old man said.
Gunther walked off again.
“I could not help but catch some of your impassioned plea as I peddled my wares outside the local house of ill repute…”
“Do you just love listening to yourself talk all day?” Gunther asked.
“Indeed I do for oration is one of the many gifts our beloved creator has bestowed upon me but to get to the point at hand, am I to understand our Marshall intends to stave off a band of miscreants on his own?”
“That’s the long and short of it,” Gunther replied.
Doc grabbed his lapels and puffed out his chest. “Then sir, I should very much like to lend a hand in this, Highwater’s darkest hour.”
“You?” Gunther laughed at the thought.
“Are you handy with the steel?”
The good doctor let his cane drop to the ground. He shot his arms straight out to the left and right. Out from under his cuffs popped two sterling silver revolvers. Gunther was impressed.
“An invention of my own design,” Doc said. “Spring loaded contraptions that respond with the mere flick of a wrist.”
“I really don’t give a musty ox shit, Doc,” Gunther said. “Are you comin’ or not?”