Merc Rule 39: Restraint: What mercs exercise when there are too many witnesses.
Mercs ain’t known to be a patient bunch. Fact of the matter is, the bloody business typically calls for fellas who act first and think later. Or not at all, as the case may be. The boss of any given crew tends to land in that position by simply being able to tolerate the rest of the outfit without trying to kill anyone. And it oft takes a group of twenty to find one cool-headed merc with those requisites.
I’ve never fancied myself the boss. But of the two of us, Spivey’s always been the hothead. That don’t put me in charge, but it does make me the official tactician of the group.
So when things go sideways, Spivey does his best to follow my lead. As you might imagine, that don’t aways work out. But sometimes just having a few sets of eyes present can change things.
Me and Spivey were on the outskirts of the Cradle, scouting with Logan’s Outriders. Following a trail we suspect some Ashlanders left after they attacked some folks on the road. One of Logan’s young bucks, Clint Cuevas, is a hell of a tracker. He’s taking us down through valleys and up into the high country. All the while pointing out broken twigs, half-tracks, and tiny crumbs and human detritus our quarry is leaving behind. The kid must be half bloodhound ’cause until he pointed it out, I didn’t see a damn bit of it.
He’s good. There’s no question. But he’s a cocky son of a bitch and has a mouth on him like the sailors at the Combine. Every time he points something out, he throws a verbal jab at Spivey. It’s all in good fun. Or at least he thinks it is. But the longer this goes on, the hotter Spivey’s blood is starting to boil until that ol’ boy is good and rankled. Ain’t a lot of seasoned mercs willing to listen to trash talk from some punk kid for hours on end. I ain’t saying Spivey’s a saint, but he stayed calm longer than I would have. ‘Course, the jokes weren’t targeted at me, so I found the whole thing hilarious. ‘Til Spivey pulled a knife on Clint and drug him down off his horse.
It gets real quiet-like. All eyes are on Spivey’s knife pressed to the kid’s throat. The kid swallows, and Spivey looks around as if just realizing he’s got ten sets of peepers on him. He smiles slow and broad. A wolf’s smile. And says, “Had you goin’, didn’t I, kid? See, you ain’t the only one with jokes.” The fellas all laugh nervously and Clint rubs as his neck where Spivey grazed him. He’s not laughing anymore.
Yes sir, a blade in the hands of an ol’ boy like Spivey silences the chuckles real quick. And if it weren’t for a few of the other riders being there with us… Well, Clint might have found himself buried out in the woods with none the wiser.
There’s no greater force imposing restraint on a man than a handful of sure witnesses. Unless o’ course, you don’t mind killing those fellas as well.
—Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc
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