Few things have stopped me dead in my tracks during a spot of exploration quite like the time I stumbled upon a severed leg in Red Dead Redemption 2. Rockstar's expansive open-world provides the backdrop for many chance encounters as you journey through Arthur Morgan's story, and since I started playing, I've come across many memorable side quests and random instances. From fishing to hunting wanted criminals and giving an injured person a lift back to their barn on my trusty steed, there's been no shortage of distractions from the main story. Still, nothing has stuck in my mind or gripped me quite as much as spotting a bloodied limb on the ground one fateful day. Sure, it's a gory and disturbing sight in and of itself, but what's more chilling is the journey this leg set me on across the old American West.
This will contain some spoilers for one particular side quest, so if you're new to Red Dead Redemption 2 and you want to experience it for yourself, turn back now.
First leg of the journey
As someone who came to Rockstar's RPG later than most, I'm still discovering all of the secrets and notable landmarks of its virtual Wild West. Whenever I step back into Arthur Morgan's cowboy boots, I much prefer hitting the open road and seeing where it takes me next. So, just as I've done many times before, I hopped onto my horse and set out to see what else this expansive setting has to offer. Naturally, my curiosity is going to get the better of me when I see a bodiless leg on the side of the road, so I'm all too quick to get off my horse and take a closer look. Nothing quite prepares me for what I go on to find next.
Now, if you've played Red Dead Redemption 2, you've no doubt found this leg yourself and know exactly why this one instance is hard to forget. As I approach it, I discover a bloody trail and start to follow it up a slight incline. I'm then greeted by a most grisly scene: The disembodied head of a very unfortunate fellow, covered in blood, with a rolled-up piece of paper sticking out of his mouth. To the right, a message crudely written in white paint can be seen on the hillside that reads, "look upon my works".
It's… unsettling. I feel a chill run down my spine as it dawns on me that what I'm seeing is a killer's handiwork. Worse still, the culprit behind this heinous crime appears to be very proud of it. Once I take a look at the note that was crammed in this poor victim's mouth, I realize that this killer has purposefully left a clue at the scene as if they're challenging me to find them.
Suddenly, I feel compelled to swap my cowboy hat for a detective cap and track down this killer like some kind of old-timey Western equivalent of Sherlock Holmes. With a growing sense of dread, I head back out onto the open road; overcome with apprehension and anticipation. If this gory display is any indication, I'm on the hunt for a very dangerous individual who seems to think it's okay to hack someone's head clean off to send a message… Can I really find them and put a stop to their crimes? Or will I pay the same price as this first victim? There's only one way to find out, and my only hint is a sketch on a torn piece of paper.
While I'm equally horrified and intrigued to solve this gruesome mystery and bring the killer to justice, I don't have much to go on right now other than that single scrap of paper. So, I decide to continue to explore and occupy my time with other quests and events. Maybe, just maybe, I'll stumble upon another clue along the way that will get me closer to finding this killer. Eventually, I do come across yet another gory scene with all of the eerie hallmarks of one I came across before. Dismembered body parts, one more gloating message, and yet another clue. The severed leg clearly wasn't part of a one-off murder. With this next clue, I now know for certain that I'm on the hunt for a serial killer – someone who relishes in their deathly craft and taunts me with these paper sketches.
The two pieces of paper are clearly part of a complete map, and there's seemingly one more scrap left to complete the image. I head out on the road again, knowing full well that there's probably another poor victim out there who holds the final piece to this rather unsettling puzzle. It's quite some time before I find the third crime scene, though. Tucked away beneath a tree with branches that have grown over in a horizontal direction, it's as though the tree itself is trying to conceal the horror from passersby. A message written across the moss-covered bark tells me to "behold" the victim – I can't say I don't feel daunted by the prospect of coming face to face with the person responsible for each of these ghastly scenes.
With the clues now forming a whole picture, all that's left for me to do is head to the final destination. I foolishly end up doing this final step of the questline when it's nighttime both in-game and in the real world. I didn't sign up for a horror game when I stepped into the world of Red Dead Redemption 2, but it sure feels like one as I race on horseback in the dead of night to confront a sinister serial killer. Of course, my fear only grows when I lay eyes on the entrance to the murderer's abode – naturally, it would have to be a very creepy basement that leads below ground to a room full of nightmare fuel.
As I inch my way down, I can feel myself shy away from the screen. I can't see the killer yet, but they have to be close. There's going to be a jump scare, I think to myself. I can feel it in my bones. Letters in the room below the surface start to build up a picture of who this killer is, and before long I see more mutilated corpses and skulls. Finally, the culprit decides to show his face, and I meet the man responsible for these heinous crimes in the flesh. After all this time, I've really found him.
While the final confrontation is certainly one of the most memorable ends to a side quest in Arthur Morgan's adventures, the whole build-up to this moment is what will truly stay with me. I never imagined randomly finding a severed leg would take me on such a horrifying journey to track down a serial killer with a penchant for dismemberment and mutilation. I also didn't expect this ongoing side quest to transform my cowboy escapades into a veritable horror show, but chance encounters are just one of the many reasons Red Dead Redemption 2 makes such a lasting impression.
If you're on the hunt for the dastardly killer yourself and you need some help, we've got you covered with this Read Dead Redemption 2 killer clue locations guide.