Merc Rule 18: Scarcity: A loudmouth with all his teeth.
I still remember the day Loudmouth Gallagher became Gap-tooth Gallagher. Me and Spivey were kicked back at the Grit and Grandeur. Best damn watering hole in Jericho Hill, if I do say so myself. We were playing a game of Thieves Run with Birdie Bad Egg. We weren’t losing. Weren’t exactly winning either. Seeing as it can be dangerous to do either one. Birdie’s a real live wire and can be touchy about losing her money. But then, so can we.
Anyway, in wandered Gallagher, making noise as he’s like to do. Started jawing on about how he just ran a few mutants off into Hell’s Lake. Said he beat a confession out of ’em. That Birdie was their silent partner, leading folks into the dunes so the muties could ambush ’em with a stick-up. She’d advise her trusting patrons to hand over some coin to make ’em leave, and later they’d split the spoils.
At this point eyes started shifting around the bar. Me and Spivey were doing our damnedest not to make eye contact with Birdie. No sense stirring the hornet’s nest. But Gallagher ain’t getting the hint. He kept railing on about what a sneak Birdie was, and how he’d “handle the likes of that lowdown merc” if he ever caught up to her.
About then, Birdie stood up and announced herself. Gallagher had just enough time to realize his mistake before she laced her fingers through those brass knucks she carries and set to work on him. Gallagher’s a tough bastard, no mistake. You gotta be if you walk around with a mouthpiece like his. And every merc in the bloody business knows there’s no such thing as gender in a fight. Rules is rules. And in fighting, there ain’t none.
Fists started flying, and when the smoke cleared Gallagher was smiling through one less tooth than he had been earlier. Truth is, he’s lucky he only lost the one. When Birdie breaks out the brass most of her victims can’t chew anything tougher than soup when she’s finished. And aside from a bruise or two she didn’t look any worse for wear.
But as every merc knows, having a loud mouth swings both ways.
Gallagher backpedaled, all piss and wind about what a good con Birdie was running. How he wished he thought of it first. Saying all the right things. Sweet-talked her right into letting him join our card game.
Needless to say, me and Spivey kept our opinions about that to ourself. We like our teeth.
—Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc
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