The Bull looked across the table at the other two people and tossed a small velvet bag towards them. “There,” he grumbled.

One of them, finely dressed in pinstripe suit, reached over to take it and opened it, pouring out the contents on the table. Twelve gems of various colors sparkled in the lamplight.

The other person grabbed one, a rich wine-purple cabochon, and looked it over with a loupe. “Hm.”

The Bull narrowed his eyes. “You mistrust my wares, throwback?” he growled.

The person looked up at the insult. He was also finely dressed, but there was a greasy look to his skin; the lamplight exaggerated his hooked nose and the scar on his cheek. His lips briefly twitched upwards. “We are brethren to the Great Father, just like you.” The Bull snorted at that.

“Peace,” the first man said. “We are not here to fight. Instead, we’re here to bargain.” He picked up a sky-blue gem, almost as big as his thumb, and looked it over. “I take it these will be our payment?”

Before the Bull could answer, a server dressed in simple woolens came and thumped several mugs of foamy brew on the table. “There ya are, sahs,” she said in husky tones better suited for the riqué films. “An’thing else?”

“No Maggie,” the Bull said. “Go back to your duties.”

Maggie nodded and walked to another table.

The other man looked at the girl before lightly glancing around the place. Mc’Gou always had a place in his heart for the rustic, and it showed in his saloon, with its simply carved tables and the quietly upholstered chairs.

“To answer your question,” the Bull said, “yes, this is your payment. Half of it anyway.” He held up a hand to silence any protests. “Half of it now, and the other half if you succeed.”

“If we succeed,” the first man mused, glancing down at the gems. Any of them could buy a fine home in the country and leave enough for a few year’s enjoyment. “Have you heard of us not succeeding, sir?”

The Bull grinned mirthlessly. “I can’t say that I have, but even I have my standards.” The man nodded.

“So,” the second said. “What can we do for you?”

The Bull looked around at the empty room as if looking for spies, and slid a thick envelope towards the duo. The first man took it and opened it, pulling out a photo. “Him?” he asked, his eyebrows lifting high in surprise.

“Of course we’ll accept,” the second said, glancing at the photo. “He has been a thorn at our side for years.”

“You know the rules,” the Bull growled. “Nothing even connecting with me or our clan. You get that?”

The second’s lips twitched again. “Of course.”

The Bull grabbed his tankard and drank a few swallows. “Then it’s settled,” he said, thumping it down.


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