The next morning found Doc Pinket and Reverend Dallas at the local sawbones’ office, a fellow by the name of Smith.
Doc Smith told the duo that while Sally was resting in the bed from her ordeal, she was in no position to answer any questions. So, Doc Pinket and Rev. Dallas took it upon themselves to investigate the corpse of Paul Goodwin. Doc Smith informed the posse that the diagnosis of death made by Doc Pinket the night before had been accurate, but he revealed another detail. The victim had likely been killed by a Liston knife, which is a tool carried only in a surgical toolkit. Whomever was responsible for the killing had access to medical equipment and procedure. That made the list of murderers very small indeed.
Meanwhile, Ruckus and Walks With Moonlight proceeded to McCarty’s Drugstore to get a lead on the scrap of white cloth found hanging in the bedroom window. McCarty revealed that yes, it was silk, and it was also very difficult to come by. Further, no one had placed any orders for silk shirts in several months. Seemingly, that trail had gone cold.
Dr. Hedgewig was also up bright and early and was on hand to witness the release of Ralphie Simpkins back into the custody of his brother Jake. Some words were exchanged between the ruffians and Dr. Hedgewig, but all in all, the exchange passed without incident. However, Dr. Hedgewig and Ruckus (who had just come from McCarty’s) were not satisfied. They tailed the Wilderness Riders to a rat-hole saloon and begin openly antagonizing the Confederate raiders. Jake proved to be a smarter man than Ralphie, and rebuffed the attempts at being goaded into a fight. The Wilderness Riders lit out of the saloon without further incident.
Once the posse resumed their duties in law enforcement, they discovered the talk of the town was the murder of Paul Goodwin. The rumor mill was in full swing, as Ruckus soon discovered, when he had to break up a discussion led by Ida Mae Hobart that a Union sympathizer was responsible for the killings. Quickly, the burly gunslinger stared down the riot-waiting-to-happen and quashed those rumors with a steely gaze and a mean sneer. Earp would later comment that the outlaw-turned-adventurer may want to consider a career in law enforcement one day. Ruckus actually accepted the compliment from Earp and it actually brought a smile to hulking brute’s face.
Walter Jackson caught up with Doc Pinket in the street and stopped to thank him for the Posse’s intervention last night during the scuffle with Ralphie, but swore to the snake-oil salesman that he would not be victimized again, and showed Doc Pinket a brand-new Bowie knife. Walter stated that if Ralphie came looking for him again, he’d be ready. Also, the ex-soldier stated how well his arm had been set by Clayton Mansfield, and was rightly impressed by his skills in medicine.
Doc Pinket decided to enlist the drunk’s aid once again. Perhaps he could spot something in the body of Paul Goodwin that he could not. So, another trip was made to Doc Smith’s office, this time consisting of Clayton Mansfield and Doc Pinket. Upon seeing the gruesome body, however, Clayton Mansfield staggered out into the street, chucking up his lunch.
Doc Pinket seemed to know more about this killing, however, and while the drunk disappeared out the front door, Smith called out the old snake-oil salesman. He knew that Pinket’s act of being a bumbling old fool was nothing more than that: an act. He saw the thousand-yard stare in Pinket’s eyes, and he also saw what Smith himself had seen…both men had seen this type of killing before.
Doc Smith, sensing a kindred spirit, began to regale Doc Pinket about his days in Gettysburg. He shared a story of a madman who went thru the Confederate lines during the battle, hacking off healthy limbs and heads of sleeping Confederate soldiers. “The Butcher”, they had called him. Doc Pinket completed the tale by saying the Butcher had visited the Union lines as well, and let on that his missing arm was a casualty not borne of warfare, but the Butcher’s knife.
During all this, Walks With Moonlight had taken the opportunity to attempt to sneak into Mansfield’s room. Something didn’t add up about the drunk in the shaman’s mind, but her attempts at breaking and entering were sadly lackluster. Finally, it was Doc Pinket who thought to simply boot the door open.
Inside, Pinket found conclusive evidence of Mansfield’s secret. Several white silk shirts were hanging in the closet in various states of tattering. A doctor’s bag under the bed contained a black valise with an empty slot where a Liston knife should go, with the valise interior drenched in blood. Lastly, and most horrifyingly, a carpetbag under the same bed revealed a collection of heads, arms, and legs that had all been curiously and gruesomely stitched together in various configurations!
The Butcher’s identity was revealed! The Posse sprang into action and began combing the streets looking for Clayton Mansfield.
Doc Hedgewig had stayed behind in the Butcher’s hotel room, looking to examine the curious collection of body parts. He muttered something about “building a bodyguard” as he went about his task of examining the heads and appendages, but unbeknownst to him, one or two of the grisly conglomerations began to move…
Out in the streets of Dodge, Ruckus was finishing a lone patrol when Clayton Mansfield staggered out of the darkened alleyways, begging to be arrested! Ruckus quickly clapped the man in irons and stuck him on his horse. But, the Butcher soon took hold of the frail drunkard. Clayton Mansfield screamed in agony as the Butcher took hold, and the small man’s body twisted and contorted with the change. He grew two more feet, and developed claws on his fingers, fangs in his mouth and a mad, leering grin! Brandishing his black and blood-soaked Liston knife, the now-Butcher snapped the manacles like fortune cookies and grabbed Ruckus from behind and attempted to plunge the knife into Ruckus’ throat!
Reverend Dallas, Walks With Moonlight and Doc Pinket continued to hunt for Mansfield in the streets of Dodge when from out of the shadows, the Butcher’s hideous creations leapt from their hiding places assaulted the posse! Reverend Dallas fought back, but his shot from his trusty Winchester did little appreciable damage to the Walkin’ Heads. Walks With Moonlight was more successful, with her daggers landing flush into one of the skulls of the twisted creatures, killing it outright.
“Aim for their heads!” she called out.
Adjusting his aim, Rev. Dallas dropped his Walkin’ Head with a well-placed shot.
Ahead, a bellow of terror and alarm filled the air, and Doc Pinket recognized it immediately as Ruckus Nighthawk! Doc Pinket drew his Gatling Pistol and rushed off to aid the mercenary, leaving Reverend Dallas and Walks With Moonlight to combat the Walkin’ Heads.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hedgewig had his hands full with the Walkin’ Heads in the Butcher’s hotel room. The creatures attempted to bite and claw the undead scientist, but Dr. Hedgewig had managed to finally kill one of the gruesome creatures with a lucky shot from his sidearm, dropping one of the critters dead.
“Don’t struggle, Ruckus….after all, I’m a doctor! BWAHAHAHAH!!!!”
The Butcher cackled with mad glee as he attempted to skewer Ruckus like a pig. Ruckus reacted quickly however, and threw himself and the Butcher off his horse. The two collapsed in a heap on the ground, but the Butcher quickly recovered and slashed at Ruckus with his knife, drawing the outlaw’s precious blood and further incensing the madman.
As the Butcher moved in for the killing blow, three shots rang out in rapid succession, and the Butcher’s chest blossomed with two holes that oozed black ichor. The Butcher turned and was greeted with the sight of Doc Pinket holding a smoking Gatling Pistol.
Doc Pinket stared down the Butcher and spoke with an altogether different voice, not the voice of a drunken, rambling old fool, but a voice with edge and grim determination.
Pinket: (glaring at the Butcher) “We have unfinished business, monster. Face me!”
Butcher: (grinning madly) “Ahhh, ‘Dr. Pinket’…Is that what we’re calling ourselves now? That wasn’t the name of the fool whose arm I slashed off in Gettysburg. That’s not the name I remember. Tell me…does it hurt, Dr. Sa—?”
“Pinket” didn’t allow the monster to finish, and fired three more rounds into the monstrous Butcher, saying only, “Shut up and die.”
The Butcher, however, did not die, and Pinket could only watch in grim surprise as the bullet holes in the Butcher’s body closed of their own accord!
Butcher: (snarling) “Wait your turn, boy.”
The Butcher then turned back to the injured Ruckus and slashed at him once more with his knife! The mercenary quickly rolled aside, narrowly avoiding another deep wound from the Butcher’s knife.
Doc Pinket tried a new tactic. Flinging the Gatling Pistol aside, the so-called snake-oil salesman drew his own knife from his coat. If bullets wouldn’t work, maybe blades would! Pinket rushed at the Butcher and slashed with precision, plunging his knife into the arm of the Butcher down to the hilt!
The Butcher howled in agony and stared agape at the knife buried in his arm. He then turned to face Doc Pinket. The mysterious one-armed man who wasn’t what he appeared to be faced down the twisted monster who inhabited the body of a broken soul.
Pinket: (smiling) “Tell me, Butcher….does it hurt?”
WILL DOC PINKET GET HIS VENGEANCE ON THE BUTCHER? WILL REVEREND DALLAS AND WALKS WITH MOONLIGHT SUBDUE THE WALKIN’ HEADS IN TIME TO LEND A HAND? WILL DR. HEDGEWIG ESCAPE THE WALKIN’ HEADS THAT SEEK HIS UNDEAD FLESH? WILL RUCKUS RECOVER ENOUGH TO TIP THE SCALES IN THE DUEL? AND WHAT OF LEO NIGHTHAWK?
TUNE IN THIS SUNDAY FOR THE CONCLUSION OF “INDEPENDENCE DAY”, THE LATEST INSTALLMENT OF HORROR AND ADVENTURE IN “DEADLANDS: BLOOD ON THE PRAIRIE!”