Only the mundane could ever hope to stand out at Marechal's betting parlor in black hours, when Motorball wrapped for the day and winnings were cut and re-cut depending on the clout of the bettor and the result of the action, usually in that order unless someone forgot where they were and caught a temper over it. A few were tough enough to tilt the books fair and leave the parlor walls a little bluer in the bargain, but most weren't tough enough by half. Start trouble at Marechal's and you'd more than like be racing the next week on three different bodies. Lucky, and you could watch from the money hall, even put a few credits on your old parts. Unlucky, and the Factory Enforcers would take home some extra spending money for their hush.
So despite the gaudy creased pants and the checkered suit with one sleeve longer than the other on account of a botched replacement job, no one noticed Two-Tone as he sat in the parlor cloakroom twitching like he'd just shot a man. He lit a cigarette and stole away a few nervous drags behind the starched collar serving as his mask for the evening. Every cyborg that passed by could have his number and he regarded each with a deathly gaze, but none returned it. The bounty notice must not have gone out yet, he thought, but it would soon enough. And Marechal's was second only to Kansas Bar as the worst place in Iron City for a chump fugitive to pop up—no shortage of Hunter-Warriors prowling around eager to make up for bad bets with easy scalps, and Two-Tone's would be easier than most.
"Where the fuck are you, Condor? Eight years together and you've never left me sweatin' like this."
He'd killed before, just enough to start losing count. Usually it was grunt work for the feeding hands, like blotting out alley pushers getting too big for the role or letting everyone know what happens to crooked Motorballers who go straight and stop taking the right falls at the right times—common labor. But murdering a Factory Enforcer was different. Doing it with a gun was worse. That fact that it was a gun of his own design might add a few thousand to the tally but Two-Tone figured that only really mattered to the lucky dog who made the kill. Maybe they could swing a trip to Zalem out of it.
Some of the faces moving through the cloakroom were getting curious—that meant it was time to go; working a rendezvous at Marechal's was a bad idea in the first place and now that word was out it was only going to get worse. Two-Tone popped a pair of cigarettes between quaking teeth and tossed the rest of the pack in a planter, making for the street-level exit with chin tucked and shoulders spiked, one hand parting the crowd and the other tight like cold death to the piece.
No sooner had he emerged from the parlor when Condor came into view through the smoke of next door's hookah den, cloak flapping wild behind as stout metal legs carried her along fast as they could.
"Late's dead tonight, lady. The hell took you so damn long?" Two-Tone spat, loud enough to sound indignant but not so loud to draw attention or lose either of the cigarettes.
Condor adjusted her copper pince-nez and had a look like she was the one with her neck on the block. She was an odd duck, standing a hair under five feet on legs that could have been longer had she wanted them longer. Her left arm was cybernetic and the other was missing, which Two-Tone never could figure out considering she was a righty and had the money for a replacement. The boys called her mousy but if she were a man they'd just call her sharp. Two-Tone wanted to call her any number of things, and he would have if she weren't the only chance he had at seeing tomorrow.
"Had to take care of some business you don't have time to ask about. Marker's on."
"Didn't catch it, but I've been gettin' looks. What's the number?"
"Seventy grand. You should be dead five minutes ago."
Two-Tone sucked the life of out of his smokes and let the poison dance around a bit in his lungs.
"I should be in the Badlands sippin' Brume Vintage five minutes ago if you had your shit together, so don't go crackin' wise on me."
"Business. Wanna keep wasting time? We take the aqueduct out to the Stacks, straight shot. I've got transport waiting."
She was fidgeting more than normal but Two-Tone was running on the kind of paranoia that only saw shadows. He stole a look at the nearby bounty kiosk and caught his face in criminal glow for the first time: same checkered suit, same starched collar, same cut of stubble, even the same dumbstruck expression. Like someone just took his picture in the parlor cloakroom and nailed it to the wall.
"Alley behind me, twenty feet off, right side. You first. Tick tock, Two-Tone."
Between the cigarette smoke and the hookah smoke and the panic kicking down his front door there wasn't any room left to think rationally, and Two-Tone wasn't much for that sort of thing to begin with. He stepped heavy into the narrow alleyway and kept stepping, on and on, so focused on senseless minutia he hardly noticed the blade run through his throat. Even if he had a pithy remark ready—which he didn't—there was no air by which to give it life. So Two-Tone died quick and quiet on the damp pavement next to Marechal's betting parlor with a pair of cigarettes still burning between his teeth.
And the last thing he saw before death turned out the lights was mousy Condor, with a Hunter-Warrior badge in her hand and a seventy thousand credit smile on her face.