Merc Rule 40

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

Merc Rule 40: Never bring a knife to a gunfight. You’ll need at least six.

Now why in the hell would six knives do you any good against a gun? You may recall that the most common model of pistol floating around the merc community is a big beauty known as the. 44 Longhorn. A heavy, six-shot piece of stainless steel artistry that’ll look like a cannon to anyone standing on the other end of it. It bucks like a stallion when you fire it. Blows holes in men so big, that, were you so inclined, you could stick your head into.

So naturally, when one of those puppies cuts loose, folks hit the deck. If you happen to be drawing a knife when that shot lets off, you ain’t likely to keep a very good grip on it. At least, the way Grifter Montoya tells it.

Following that logic, it stands to reason that a fella might up and drop a knife every time a gun goes off. And when the one doing the shooting goes to reload, you might want another blade to hand, ready to do the good Lord’s work.

Now that ain’t exactly how it went down. Grifter ain’t as skittish around gunfire as I’m making him out to be. But I like to razz the kid, and the truth ain’t far off from it either.

Me and Spivey had made our way back west. Out through the dunes of Hell’s Lake, and into a little oasis the locals call Jericho Hill. Promised a buddy we’d stop in and feature him in the book I’m working on.

We didn’t make it halfway into town before we ran into trouble. Well, not us so much as Grifter Montoya. Lad was standing in the middle o’ the street, arms akimbo, fists buried in his poncho. Across from him stood a greasy looking bastard. Didn’t recognize the man, but I couldn’t say that about his shooter. It was none other than the aforementioned .44 Longhorn, sitting polished  and ready in his holster. That pistol might o’ been the only thing clean about his grizzled appearance.

Couldn’t really blame him for squaring up with Grifter. Everyone knows you never trust a man in a poncho. Unfortunately, on this particular occasion, the man in the poncho was a friend o’ mine. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the lad. Grifter is a dirty, lowdown, backstabbing son of a whore. But he is my friend. So me and Spivey move to curtail this little encounter.

Grifter’s having none of it. Little bastard waves me off. “I can handle this, pendejo.” He says it in such a nonchalant way, I ain’t sure whether he’s calling me the dumbass, or the other fella.

He comes out of his poncho with a knife in each hand and grins across at the fella. Ol’ Greasy pulls his Longhorn and blasts the knives away. Grifter pulls two more, and the fella repeats the drill. The third time Montoya takes his time, can’t seem to find two more knives. But after a moment produces them all the same. He fumbles one as Greasy fires at it. Naturally, this is where the razzing comes from.

Greasy laughs and says, “I can do this all day.” He fires his last round, and Grifter’s hands are again empty as his final blade flicker away in the noon sun.

“So can I.” He flashes a wolf smile. Reaches into his poncho and produces three knives in each hand. Good-looking ones, and so sharp you can heard the air cut in half as it blows around ’em. Nothing like the crooked shards of metal and tied hemp he was wielding moments earlier.

Greasy’s smile fades when his gun click… click… clicks… as he cycles the empty cylinder hoping for one more round.

I won’t get into the particulars of what happened next. ‘Cause it ain’t pretty. But that’s why you never bring a knife to a gunfight. You’ll need a damn sight more’n one. 

But if you’re anything like Grifter Montoya, you probably carry another twenty.

Now, you may find yourself thinking, “but Coyote Joe, you said I’d need at least six knives. And if I only brought six, that’d mean I’d be outta knives when he ran outta bullets. Why not say ‘at least seven’ instead?” It’s a fair question to ask. But after he fires six shots it ain’t a gunfight anymore, now it is?

Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc

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