Merc Rule 1

Written by J. D. Wiley --- Art by J. D. Wiley

Merc Rule 1: Never touch a merc’s hat. No, seriously.

There’s no better example of why you should keep your mitts to yourself than a story about my partner, Spivey. He’s as laid back a merc as you’d ever like to meet, make no mistake. But finicky about his hat. And not a man to be taken lightly.

One time we’d just finished a job on the outskirts of Babylon. Wasn’t a difficult one by any stretch, but every successful job entitles a merc to some R&R. In this case Ryback’s Refuge. Most notorious hive of scum and decadence along the still-attached west coast.

Now, this wasn’t a nice place. Wasn’t a clean place. The ladies were mean as badgers and tougher than me and Spivey put together. And the booze was like somethin’ you’d squeeze out of a bloated rat. But seeing as I ain’t one to break from tradition–mercs are creatures of tradition, after all–we decided to kick back and celebrate the best way we knew how.

Not five seconds through the door, one of the Karnachev bros snatches the bowler hat right off of Spivey’s head. A stack of envelopes goes spilling across the floor like someone upended a post bag.

A word of preface: a merc’s home is where his hat is. Literally. They keep all manner of private effects tucked inside. Stuff that ain’t nobody’s business.

Now Spivey ain’t one to get worked up easy, and some folks take that as weakness. But it’s the quiet ones that are most dangerous. What Karnachev hadn’t counted on was them envelopes being love letters. So when he started tossing ’em around the bar, threatening to read ’em, or worse… Spivey lost his damn mind. He beat some respect into that Russian. Respected him right through the damn floorboards. Made good and sure that anyone watching wouldn’t go anywhere near him or his hat again. Then gave a public service announcement for the slow learners in the crowd. “Next man who touches my hat catches a bullet!” Safe to say no one else was interested in making the same mistake.

And that’s why you never put your hands on another man’s headwear, fashionable or otherwise.

Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc

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