Mikael downed the last shot of whiskey and made a hiss through his teeth. The empty plate before him stunk of what used to be near-raw steak from an underfed cow, poorly cooked and coated with nothing but a thin layer of oil.

The bartender came up to him, flipping on the air filter after coughing once or twice. The bar had begun to fill with dust again. The fallouts were always bad this time of year. “That’s your meal, slim. Time to pay up.”

Tired and sore, the man was dissatisfied with shitty food, but he still shelled out the three 9mm bullets onto the bar and tipped his hat. “Before I go, gent, mind if I could have some of your delightful bread back there? You know… for the road?”

Snatching up the bullets before the other ruffians at the bar got greedy, the greasy bartender sneered and went into the back, leaving Mikael out there all by his lonesome with a bar full of semi-empty guns.

Mikael was smart, though. Smarter than these guys anyway. He could feel the glares on his back and he knew they all wanted a piece of that ammo he’d brought in. Few people afforded Guss’ Steak and a shot of whiskey, let alone a block of carbo-bread for the road.

He began licking the edge of the shot glass and glancing around him for available exits. The fellow to his left, who was nursing a well paid-for beverage, smirked when their eyes met.

“Something on your mind?” Mikael asked.

The old fellow tipped his hat to the stranger and spoke up, “Just fancying your choice of payment, son. Was wonderin’ if I might offer you a deal.”

“Yeah? Well hurry up, my bread’ll be done compressin’ soon enough.”

With a rub of his chin the old fellow leaned over, “I gots me a skimmer outside; beautiful as can be and runs great. You’d be able to get by a ride from here to Union City on just three, maybe four of them there bullets you’re packin’.”

“How much?”

“Aw shucks. For you? I’ll let it go for eh…” The guy hesitated and Mikael knew he was going to try and skim him before he spoke up. “Four 12 gauge slugs and that there knife on your boot.”

The scoff from Mikael as the bartender came out with his bread was enough to let the guy know he wasn’t falling for it. “No thanks, mister.” He dropped a shell on the bar and nodded to the tender as he snatched up his bread. “Keep the change.”