Game Mastery


Digger is a character I played in a recent Deadlands game.  My characters are always quirky (with the exception of Joren who was my attempt at playing comedy’s straight guy), but they’re usually quirky in a funny way.  Maybe not to the other characters, but the PCs usually get a laugh out of them.  Digger is creepy and he gets a laugh, but it’s not a haha laugh.  It’s a laugh to relieve tension because there’s no other reaction to a character so creepy and fucked up.

Mort “Digger” Buchanon

“That Digger ain’t right in the head, I tell you what.”

“Why’s that?”

Old Pete took a swig of whiskey, and then another.  “Truth is I couldn’t tell ya.  But with some folks you jess know.  Kinda like cussing.”

Dan didn’t just know.  As far as he was concerned Digger Buchanon did a dirty job so nobody else had to.  Sure he had some weird habits, but who didn’t around here?  “Is it because of the rabbits?”

“Well, that’s part of it,”

“Lotsa folks shoot jackrabbits.  If they didn’t bunnies’ll dig up the cabbages.”

“Daniel,” Pete stared longingly at his now empty glass, “it ain’t about the shootin’.  It’s what he does after that.”

Dan didn’t speak, but Pete hadn’t expected him to.

“Each jackrabbit gets cleaned up real nice an’ ‘en he puts them in a box made from the same pine he buried your Pa in, and he lays them to rest in god’s earth.  Other folks shoot a bunny, they get bunny stew for dinner.  Not Digger.”

“So the man likes his work.  What’s wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong with that is his chosen line of work.  The man is an undertaker.  He puts our dead in pine boxes and puts those boxes in the ground.  It’s something what has to git done, I just wish he weren’t so happy about it.  Sometimes I wonder if he’s just waitin’ for good folks to die.”

Dan opened his mouth in knee-jerk protest, then closed it.  He sat quietly long enough for Old Pete to order another whiskey.  “Why ain’t we just lynch ‘im.  Or run him out of town.”  Neither statement was a question.

“He ain’t actually done shit.  That’s what creeps me out about him the most.  Everybody round town knows he ain’t right.  Anybody who talks to him for five minutes will come to that conclusion, but there’s no clear reason why.  It’s like he done somethin’ in his past and everybody knows about it, but we don’t know what it is.”

Dan nodded, his protests not five minutes ago already forgotten.

“But you can’t lynch a man who ain’t done nothing.”

Dan didn’t like it, but what the old man said was true.  He’d have to scare Digger out of town instead.  It was only a matter of time before he’d kill someone, and Dan didn’t want to see any of his friends die, especially when it could have been prevented.  Scaring out the crazy old undertaker was the right thing to do.

Dan prepared to run Digger out of town that very night.  He wore black trousers and his denim vest.  He made sure to polish his gun, so Digger would see the girth of the Colt Peacemaker’s barrel, even in the dead of night.  Dan worried for a brief moment that he’d be mistaken for a bandit as he fastened a bandanna around his face, but it passed.

Digger lived on the outskirts of town, as social miscreants were wont to do, and Daniel hadn’t realized that the walk would take so long.  He wondered if the moon was always that big.  It was yellow and looming.  Daniel tried not to think about it.  He had to focus.  He never quite knew why they said ‘the coldest hour is the one comes just before the dawn,’ but he knew the truth of it tonight.  Focus.  The weather didn’t matter.  If he couldn’t keep from getting distracted, Dan knew he wouldn’t be able to project the confidence needed to frighten this guy.  Dan saw Digger’s house and was instantly relieved.  Had he stayed out here much longer, he might have lost his nerve.  By all accounts, the nightscape was definitely on Digger’s side.

As he neared the door, Dan tried to put that last thought out of his mind.  The windows shed no light, for which Dan was thankful.  Digger must be sleeping.  Dan was also thankful when he discovered the door was unlocked.  Nerves aside, this was going perfectly.  Once inside, Dan waited a moment to let his eyes adjust before lighting a lone match.  It was all the light he needed.

Dan snooped around for a few minutes before noticing a steady ‘tink tink tink’ noise.  Had that been there the whole time?  It sounded like it was coming from the floor, so Dan headed for the basement.  The noise got louder and louder with each step.  The basement had two rooms.  The first was a storeroom.  Dan didn’t know what was in the second, but a sickly yellow light bled from under the door.  The Digger wasn’t sleeping after all.  Maybe Dan should just leave.  Nobody saw him come out here.  He could sneak back up the stairs and out the door just as easily as he had come down in the first place.  Dan did not want to knowwhat lay beyond the door with the yellow light.

And yet he did want to know.  It had nothing to do with curiosity though.  Dan was never the brightest kid, but he was an opportunist.  If he caught the undertaker in some unspeakable act, he’d be fully justified in shooting the man and doing the rest of the world a favor.  He had brought the gun for intimidation, but now he was actually prepared to use it.  He’d rather Digger was a dead man than a serial killer in some other part of the county.  He opened the door.

The source of the ‘tink tink tink’ noise became obvious.  Digger held a hammer.  In front of him was a six foot long pine box.  Digger didn’t turn.  Dan knew what the box was for, but he didn’t know who it was for.  Usually coffins are made to order when someone dies, and this town was small enough that Dan knew everyone.

“Hey,” Dan boldly squeaked, “we don’t like you much.  Umm.  You need to leave.”

The digger turned and finally acknowledged Dan.  He stood and Dan quivered.  This guy was big.  He took a step towards Dan and Dan held out his pistol.  He wondered if bullets would have any effect.  Digger reached towards a shovel, and Dan had enough.  He fired wildly, and wasn’t even sure if his bullet hit.  As far as Dan knew he was halfway up the stairs before his bullet hit either the wall or its intended target.

On his way out Dan didn’t even notice the frigid air or the gazing moon.  Dan didn’t even care that he could be thrown in jail if Digger talked to the Sheriff.  He was just glad to be out.

A thunderous boom split the air as Digger took the shot.  He’d never need much time adjusting to the darkness, and tonight was no exception.  His bullet caught the intruder in the back of the neck, severing the spinal cord instantly.  It also woke up half the town who came to see what the commotion was all about.  While it’s frowned upon to shoot a man in the back, everyone agreed that Digger had been justified in shooting the intruder, even if that intruder was only a lad with no criminal history, you just couldn’t argue with the circumstances.  Dan was buried a week later in a pine box he had seen just once before.

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