STATE OF THE
readers on the state
of each of his projects.
Shadows of Self
Note: This is an early draft subject to change.
I figure I should write one of these things, the book read. To tell my side. Not the side the historians will tell for me. I doubt they’ll get it right. I don’t know that I’d like them to anyhow.
Wax tapped the book with the end of his pencil, then scribbled down a note to himself on a separate page.
“I’m thinking of inviting the Boris brothers to the wedding,” Steris said from the couch opposite the one Wax sat upon.
He grunted, still reading.
I know Saze doesn’t approve of what I’ve done, the book continued. But what did he expect me to do? Knowing what I know . . .
“The Boris brothers,” Steris continued. “They’re acquaintances of yours, aren’t they?”
“I shot their father,” Wax said, not looking up. “Twice.”
I couldn’t let it die, the book read. It’s not right. Hemalurgy is good now, I figure. Saze is both sides now, right? Ruin isn’t around anymore.
“Are they likely to try to kill you?” Steris asked.
“Boris Junior swore to drink my blood,” Wax said. “Boris the Third—and yes, he’s the brother of Boris Junior, don’t ask—swore to . . . what was it? Eat my toes? He’s not a clever man.”
We can use it. We should. Shouldn’t we?
“I’ll just put them on the list, then,” Steris said.
Wax sighed, looking up from the book. “You’re going to invite my mortal enemies,” he said dryly, “to our wedding.”
“We have to invite someone,” Steris said. She sat with her blonde hair up in a bun, her stacks of papers for the wedding arrangements settled around her like subjects at court. Her blue, flowered dress was fashionable without being the least bit daring, and her prim hat clung to her hair so tightly, it might as well have been nailed in place.
“I’m certain there are better choices for invitations than people who want me dead,” Wax said. “I hear family members are traditional.”
“As a point of fact,” Steris said, “I believe your remaining family members actually do want you dead.”
She had him there. “Well, yours don’t. Not that I’ve heard, anyway. If you need to fill out the wedding party, invite more of them.”
“I’ve invited all of my family as would be proper,” Steris said. “And all of my acquaintances that merit the regard.” She reached to the side, taking out a sheet of paper. “You, however, have given me only two names of people to invite. Wayne and a woman named Ranette—who, you noted, specifically, probably wouldn’t try to shoot you at your own wedding.”
“Very unlikely,” Wax agreed. “She hasn’t tried to kill me in years. Not seriously, at least.”
Steris sighed, setting the sheet aside.
“Steris . . .” Wax said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be flippant. Ranette will be fine. We joke about her, but she’s a good friend. She won’t ruin the wedding. I promise.”
“Then who will?”
“I have known you for the better part of a year now, Lord Waxillium,” Steris said. “I can accept you for who you are, but I am under no illusions. Something will happen at our wedding. A villain will burst in, guns firing. Or we’ll discover explosives in the altar. Or perhaps someone will show up, without explanation, to assassinate you. It will happen. I’m merely trying to prepare for it.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Wax asked, smiling. “You’re actually thinking of inviting one of my enemies so you can plan for a disruption.”
“I’ve sorted them by threat level and ease of access,” Steris said, shuffling through her papers.
“Wait,” Wax said, rising and walking over. He leaned down next to her, looking over her shoulder at her papers. Each sheet contained a detailed biography. “Ape Manton . . . The Dashir boys . . . Rusts! Rick Stranger. I’d forgotten about him. Where did you get these?”
“Your exploits are a matter of public record,” Steris said. “One that is of increasing interest to people.”
“How long did you spend on this?” Wax asked, flipping through the pages in the stack.
“I wanted to be thorough. This sort of thing helps me think. Besides, I wanted to know what you had spent your life doing.”
That was actually kind of sweet. In a bizarre, Steris sort of way.
“Invite Douglas Venture,” he said. “He’s kind of a friend, but he can’t hold his liquor. You can count on him making a disturbance at the after-party.”
“Excellent,” Steris said. “And the other thirty-seven seats in your section?”
“Invite leaders among the seamstresses and dockworkers of my house,” Wax said. “And the captains of the constable watches of the various octants. It will be a nice gesture.”
“Very well,” Steris said.
“If you want me to help more with the wedding planning—”
“No. This is the perfect sort of thing to occupy me. Though someday I would like to know what is in that little book you peruse so often.”
The front door to the mansion burst open down below, and booted feet thumped up the steps. A moment later, the door to the study burst open and Wayne all but tumbled in. Darince—the house butler—stood apologetically just behind.
Wiry and of medium height, Wayne had a round clean-shaven face and—as usual—wore his old Roughs clothing, though Steris had pointedly sent him new clothing on at least three occasions.
“Wayne, you could try the doorbell sometime,” he said. “Nah, that warns the butler,” Wayne said.
“Which is the point.”
“Beady little buggers,” Wayne said, shutting the door on Darince. “Can’t trust them. Look, Wax. We’ve got to go! The Marksman has made his move!”
Finally! Wax thought. “Let me grab my coat.”
Wayne nodded, glancing toward Steris. “’Ello, Crazy,” he said, nodding to her.
“Hello, Idiot,” she said, nodding back.
Wax buckled on his gun belt over his fine city suit, with vest and cravat, then threw on his duster. “Let’s go,” he said, checking his ammo.
Wayne pushed his way out the door, barreling down the stairs. Wax pushed by Steris’s couch. “I . . .”
“A man must have his hobbies,” she said, raising another sheet of paper and inspecting it. “I accept yours, Lord Waxillium—but do try to avoid being shot in the face, as we have wedding portraits to sit for this evening.”
“I’ll remember that.”
“Keep an eye on my sister out there,” Steris said.
“This is a dangerous chase,” Wax said, hastening to the door. “I doubt Marasi will be involved.”
“If you think that, then your powers of investigation are suspect. It’s a dangerous chase. She’ll find a way to be involved.”
Wax paused by the door. He glanced back at her, and she looked up, meeting his eyes. It felt as if there should be something more to their parting. A send-off, of some sort. Fondness.
Steris seemed to sense it too, but neither said anything. Their relationship was one of convenience. That was that.
Wax tipped his head back, taking a shot of whiskey and metal flakes, then charged through the doorway and threw himself over the balcony railing. He slowed himself with a Push on the silver inlays in the marble floor of the entryway, hitting with a thump of boots on rock. Darince opened the front door for him as he leaped out to join Wayne at the coach, for the ride to . . .
Wax froze on the steps down to the street. “What the hell is that?”
“Motorcar!” Wayne said from the back seat of the vehicle.
Wax sighed, hastening down the steps. He approached the thing, looking in through the window. Marasi sat behind the steering contraption, wearing a fashionable dress of lavender and lace. She looked much younger than her half-sister, Steris, though only five years separated them. She had a glint of eagerness in her eyes as she turned to him. “Are you going to get in?”
“What are you doing here?” Wax asked, climbing in with some reluctance.
“Driving. You’d rather Wayne do it?”
“I’d rather have a coach and a good set of horses.”
“Stop being so old-fashioned,” Marasi said, moving her foot and making the devilish contraption lurch forward. “Marksman hit the bank, as you guessed.”
Wax held on tightly. He’d guessed that Marksman would hit the bank three days ago. When it hadn’t happened, he’d thought the man had run for the Roughs, taking what he’d stolen and cutting himself free.
“Captain Groslen thinks that Marksman will run for his hideout in the Seventh Octant.”
“Groslen is wrong,” Wax said. “Head for the Lean Narrows.”
She didn’t argue, steering around a horse carriage. The motorcar thumped and shook until they hit the new section of paving stones, where the street smoothed out. A lot of trouble just so people can drive these contraptions, Wax thought sourly. Horses didn’t need ground this smooth.
The vehicle picked up speed. This was one of the newer ones that the broadsheets had been spouting about, with rubber wheels and a gasoline engine. Wax did have to admit that the turning was much smoother. It was still a horrible lifeless hunk of destruction.
“You still shouldn’t be here,” Wax said, clinging to the inside of the machine as Marasi took a corner at speed.
She kept her eyes forward. Behind, Wayne had leaned halfway out of one of the windows, holding his hat to his head and grinning.
“You’re an attorney,” Wax said. “You belong in a courtroom, not chasing a killer.”
“I’ve done well caring for myself in the past. You never complained then.”
“Each time, it felt like an exception. Yet here you are again.”
Marasi did something with the stick to her right, changing the motor’s gears. Wax never had been able to get the hang of that. She turned as she did so, darting around several horses, causing one of the riders to shout after them. The force of the motion pushed Wax against the side of the car, and he grunted.
“What’s wrong with you lately?” Marasi demanded. “You complain about the motorcar, about me being here, about your tea being too hot in the morning. One would almost think you’d made some horrible life decision that you regret deep down. Wonder what it could be.”
Wax kept eyes forward. Behind, Wayne leaned back in and raised eyebrows—Wax could see his face in the mirror.
“She might have a point, mate,” Wayne said.
“You’re not helping.”
“Wasn’t intending to,” Wayne said. “Fortunately, I know the horrible life decision. You really should have bought that hat we looked at last week. It was lucky. I’ve got a fifth sense for these things.”
“Fifth?” Marasi asked.
“Yeah, can’t smell worth a heap of beans. I—”
“There,” Wax said, leaning forward and looking through the glass at the front of the motorcar. A figure bounded through the air in their direction.
“You were right,” Marasi said. “How did you know?”
“Marks likes to be seen,” Wax said, slipping Vindication from her holster at his side. “Fancies himself a gentleman rogue. Keep this contraption moving steadily, if you can.”
Marasi’s reply was cut off as Wax threw open the door and launched himself out toward the street. He fired down and Pushed on the bullet, launching himself upward into the air. A Push on a passing carriage sent it rocking and Wax into the air just above Marasi’s motorcar.
He landed on the wooden roof, grabbing the lip in one hand, gun up beside his head, wind blowing his mistcoat out behind him. Ahead, Marks moved down the thoroughfare in a series of Steelpushes. Wax felt the comforting burn of his own metal, deep within.
He launched himself forward, off the car and out over the roadway. Marks always performed his robberies in daylight, always escaped along the biggest roadways he could find. He liked to be seen, liked the notoriety. He probably felt invincible. Being an Allomancer could do that to a man.
Wax left the motorcar behind, sending himself into a series of leaps over the thoroughfare. The rushing wind, the clear air up high, brought clarity. Cleared his mind, calmed his motions as quickly as a Soother’s touch. His worries dissolved, and for the moment, there was only the chase.
Marks wore red, an old busker’s mask covering his face, black with white tusks like the demons of the Deepness from old stories. The two chased over the city, using motorcars, lampposts, signs, and the occasional dropped bullet to propel themselves.
A Coinshot thief. An Allomancer. There was a chance he knew, a chance he was a part of whatever Wax’s uncle was up to. Wax had a hunch. This man had support, had information a common thief—even an Allomancer—shouldn’t know. The Set were helping him.
Marks Pushed toward the industrial district. Wax followed, bounding from motorcar to motorcar, never landing, each Push throwing him into the afternoon air. He might not care for the machines much, but they certainly did have a lot of metal. Amazing, how much more secure he felt while hurling through the sky a hundred feet up, as opposed to being trapped in one of those horrible motorized boxes.
Marks spun in midair and released a handful of something. Wax cursed, Pushing himself off a lamppost and jerking to the side. Coins sprayed into the motorcar below, hitting the hood and wheel. The vehicle swerved toward the canal.
Rust and Ruin, Wax thought with annoyance, Pushing himself back toward the car. He tapped his metalmind in a heartbeat, increasing his weight twentyfold. He came down on the hood of the car.
The smash crushed the front of the car into the ground, stopping it flat, wheels flying off to the sides. He caught a glimpse of stunned people inside, one bleeding from the forehead, before launching himself up in a Push—releasing his metalmind—after Marks. The red-clothed thief shot high along the side of one of the city’s shorter skyscrapers. Wax caught only a glimpse of red as the man Pushed himself in through a window on the top floor.
Wax shot up into the sky, windows passing before him in a blur. As he reached the height of the top floor, he tossed a coin in the window after Marks.
Gunfire sprayed out of the window; Marks had been lying in wait. Wax Pushed himself toward a different window on the same floor, cracking the glass with two shots, then increasing his weight and crashing through. He skidded on glass, raising Vindication toward the wooden wall separating him from the next room over.
Burning steel let him see sources of metal. The desk behind him, where a frightened man in a suit cowered. The metal in the wires in the walls, leading to the dark electric lamps. All radiated small blue lines, leading toward his chest.
A few pointed through the wall into the next room. These were most faint; obstructions blocked the vision somewhat. One of those lines quivered, however, as someone in the next room over turned. Gun raised.
Wax clicked Vindication.
He fired, then Pushed, flaring his metal and drilling that bullet forward with as much force as he could. It tore through the wall as easily as it would paper.
The metal in the next room dropped to the floor. Wax jumped, increasing his weight and throwing it against the wall, crashing trough. He twisted through the wreckage, raising his gun, and landed on a floor beside a patch of blood and a discarded gun. Marks was a Coinshot as well; he would know how he’d been spotted.
Wax cursed, spinning, gun out. This room was some kind of clerk’s office, with several men and women pressed against the floor, quivering. One woman raised a finger, pointing out a door. Wax gave her a nod, pushing up to the wall, then glanced out.
A filing cabinet crashed down the hallway toward him. Wax stepped back out of the way, then ducked into the hallway with his gun out.
The gun immediately lurched backward. He grabbed it with both hands, holding tight, but the next push launched his other pistol out of its holster. Wax growled, but turned and dropped the gun, letting it spin out of his fingers and tumble through the hallway to hit the far wall.
Marks stood at the other end of the hallway, lit by electric lights on the wall. He bled from a wound to the shoulder, his face hidden behind the black-and-white mask.
“There are a thousand criminals in this city far worse than I am,” a muffled voice said from behind the mask, “and yet you hunt me, lawman. Hero of the people.”
“You stopped being a hero weeks ago,” Wax said, striding forward, mistcloak rustling. “When you killed a child.”
“That wasn’t my fault.”
“You fired the gun, Marks. You might not have been aiming for the girl, but you fired the gun.”
The thief stepped back. The sack slung on his shoulder had been cut, either by Wax’s bullet or some shrapnel. It trailed banknotes. No coins that Wax could Push on.
Marks glared at him through the mask, eyes barely visible in the electric light, then he growled and ran to the side, holding his shoulder.
Wax Pushed off his guns behind, thowing himself in a rush down the hallway. He skidded to a stop, then Pushed off the light behind, bending it against the wall as he entered the room after Marks, passing cowering people in the clerk’s office beyond. He grabbed a handful of pens from a cup on a desk before throwing himself out the window, twelve stories in the air.
Banknotes fluttered in the air, trailing behind Marks as the man fell. Wax increased his weight, trying to fall faster, but he had nothing to Push against and the increased weight helped only slightly because of air resistance. Marks still reached the ground before him, slowing himself by pushing off something he’d apparently dropped out of the window.
The man hit the ground, then pushed his anchor away, theoretically leaving Wax without anything to use to slow himself. A pair of dropped pens—with metal nibs—were enough, barely, to slow him.
The chase continued, again the two men using motorcars and lampposts to move, but Marks was slowing. He made for the slums, as Wax had originally guessed he would. The people there still covered for him, despite how his robberies had turned violent. They didn’t care that he killed, only that he stole from those they felt deserved it.
You won’t reach that safety, Wax thought, Pushing himself up over a lamppost, then shoving on it behind him to gain speed. He trailed just after Marks, each of his bounds mere inches behind the other man. He raised one of the pens. Could he hit Marks? Slow him? He didn’t want a killing blow. This man knew something.
The slums were just ahead. It would be too easy to lose track of him there. Next bound, Wax thought, gripping the pen. Careful, don’t Push it if it could hit people watching. Bystanders gathered on the streets, watching the Allomancers chase. He had to—
One of those faces was familiar.
Wax lost control of his Push. Stunned by what he’d seen, he barely kept himself from breaking bones as he hit the street, rolling across cobbles. He came to a rest, then threw himself up on hands and knees.
No. Impossible. NO.
He scrambled out of the street, ignoring a horse that nearly trampled him. The rider cursed at him as Wax searched the faces alongside the roadway. He didn’t care about Marks. That face. That face.
The last time he had seen that face, he had shot it in the forehead. Bloody Tan.
The man who had killed his wife.
“A man was here!” Wax shouted, pushing through the crowd. “Long fingered, thinning hair. A face almost like a bare skull. Did you see him? Did anyone see him?”
People stared at him as if he were daft. Perhaps he was. Wax raised his hand to the side of his head.
He spun. Marasi had stopped her motorcar nearby, both she and Wayne climbing out. Had she actually been able to tail him during his chase? No . . . no, he’d told her where he thought Marks was going.
“Wax, mate?” Wayne asked. “You all right? What did he do, knock you from the air?”
“Something like that,” Wax mumbled, glancing about one last time.
Rusts, he thought. The stress is digging into my mind.
“So he got away,” Marasi said, folding her arms, looking displeased.
“Not yet he didn’t,” Wax said. “He’s bleeding and dropping money. He’ll leave a trail. I’m not losing him this time too. Come on.”
“I need you to stay behind as we go in there,” Wayne said. “It’s not that I don’t want your help. I do. It’s just going to be too dangerous for you in those slums. You need to stay where I know you’re safe. No arguments. I’m sorry.”
“Wayne,” Wax said, walking past. “Stop talking to your hat and get over here.”
Wayne sighed, patting his hat and then forcing himself to put it down, leave it in the motorcar. Wax was a right good fellow, but there were a lot of things he didn’t understand. Women, for one. Hats, for another.
Wayne jogged over to where Wax and Marasi peered into the slums. It seemed a different world in there, not the same city at all. The compact, high tenements cast deep shadows in the afternoon. As if this were the place that dusk came for a drink and a chat before sauntering out for its evening duty.
The sky inside the slums was strung with washing lines, derelict bits of clothing hanging down like hanged men. Wind blew out of the place, happy to escape, carrying with it uncertain scents. Food half cooked. Bodies half washed. Streets half cleaned.
“The Lord Mistborn didn’t want there to be slums in the city, you know,” Marasi said as the three of them entered. “He tried hard to prevent them from growing up. Built nice buildings for the poor, tried to make them last . . .”
Wax nodded, absently moving a coin across his knuckles as he walked. He had lost his guns somewhere, but had bummed some coins off Marasi. It never was fair. When Wayne borrowed coins off folks, he got yelled at. He did forget to ask, sometimes, but he always offered a good trade, so what was the problem?
As they penetrated deeper into the slums, Wayne lagged behind the other two. Need a good hat . . . he thought. The hat was important.
So he listened for some coughing.
Ah . . .
He found the chap nestled up beside a doorway, a ratty blanket draped over his knees. You could always find his type in a slum. Old, clinging to life like a man on a ledge, his lungs half full with various unsavory liquids.
The old man hacked into a glove-wrapped hand as Wayne settled down on the steps.
“What, now,” the man said. “Who are you?”
“What, now,” Wayne repeated. “Who are you?”
“I’m nobody,” the man said, then spat to the side. “Dirty outer. I ain’t done nothing.”
“I’m nobody,” Wayne repeated, taking his flask from his duster’s pocket. “Dirty outer. I ain’t done nothing.”
Good accent, that was. Real mumbly, classic vintage, wrapped in a blanket of history. Closing his eyes and listening, Wayne thought he could imagine what people sounded like years ago.
He handed over the flask of whiskey.
“You trying to poison me?” the man asked. He clipped off words, left out half the sounds.
“You trying to poison me?” Wayne repeated, working his jaw as if his mouth were full of bits of rock he kept trying to chew, to little success.
He opened his eyes and tipped the whiskey at the man, who smelled it, then took a sip. Then a swig. Then a gulp.
“So,” the man asked, “you an idiot? I had a son that was an idiot. The real kind, that was born that way. Not right in the head. Well, you seem all right anyway.”
“Well, you seem all right anyway,” Wayne said, standing up. He reached over to take the man’s old cotton hat off his head, then gestured toward the whiskey flask.
“In trade?” the man asked. “Boy, you are an idiot.”
Wayne pulled on the hat. “Could you say a word that starts with ‘H’ for me?”
“Rusting wonderful,” Wayne said. He hopped back down the steps onto the street and ditched his duster in a cranny—and along with it his dueling canes, unfortunately. He kept his wooden knucklebones though, in one pocket.
The clothing he wore underneath his duster was roughs stock, but not much different than what they wore in these slums. Buttoned shirt, trousers, suspenders. He rolled up the sleeves as he walked. The clothing was worn, patched in a few places. He wouldn’t trade it for the world. Took years to get clothing that looked right. Used, lived in.
Never trust a man with clothing that was too new. You didn’t get to wear new, clean clothing by doing honest work.
Wax and Marasi had paused up ahead, speaking to some old women with scarves on their heads and bundles in their arms. Wayne could almost hear what they were saying.
We don’t know nothing.
He came running past here mere moments ago, Wax would say. Surely you—
We don’t know nothing. We didn’t see nothing.
Wayne wandered over to where a group of men sat under a dirty cloth overhang while eating bruised fruit. “Who’re those outers?” Wayne asked, using the accent he’d just picked up from the old man.
They didn’t even question him. A slum like this had a lot of people—too many to know everyone—but you could tell if someone belonged or if they didn’t. It was easy. And Wayne belonged. Now, at least.
“Conners for sure,” one of the men said. He had a head like an overturned bowl, hairless and too flat.
“They want someone,” another man said. Rust and Ruin, the chap’s face was so pointy, you could have used it to plow a field. “Conners only come here if they want to arrest someone. They’ve never cared about us, and never will.”
Wayne grunted. “Maybe there’s money in it.”
“You’d turn in one of our own?” bowl-head said with a scowl. “I recognize you. Tedin’s son, aren’t you?”
Wayne glanced away, noncommittal.
“You listen here, son,” bowl-head said, wagging his finger. “Don’t trust a conner, and don’t be a rat.”
“I ain’t a rat,” Wayne said, testily. He wasn’t. But sometimes, a man just needed cash. “They’re after Marks. I overheard them. There’s a thousand notes on his head, there is. He’s not really one of us.”
“He grew up here,” plow-face said. “He’s one of us.”
“He killed that girl,” Wayne said.
“That’s a lie,” bowl-head said. “Don’t you go talking to conners, son. I mean it.”
“Fine, fine,” Wayne said, moving to rise. “I’ll just go—”
“You’ll sit down,” bowl-head said. “Or I’ll rap you something good on your head, I will.”
Wayne sighed, sitting back down. “You olders always talk about us, and them, don’t know how it is these days. Working in one of the factories.”
“We know more than you think,” bowl-head said, handing Wayne a bruised apple. “Eat this, stay out of trouble, and don’t go where I can’t see you.”
Wayne grumbled, but sat back and ate the apple. It didn’t taste half bad. While the others watched Wax and Marasi, he helped himself to a couple more.
It happened soon enough. The men of the fruit-eating group broke apart, leaving Wayne with a basket full of cores. They split with a few amicable gibes at one another, each of the four men claiming he had some important task to be about.
Wayne took another bite of the apple, bruise notwithstanding. Wayne stuffed another apple in each pocket, then stood up and sauntered off after bowl-head. He tailed the fellow fairly easily, nodding occasionally at people, who nodded back as if they knew him. They didn’t, but they knew enough people like him that they immediately returned the nod, assuming they’d merely forgotten his name.
It was the hat. Put on a man’s hat, surround your mind with his way of thinking, and it changed you. A man in dockworker’s clothing passed by, shoulders slumped, whistling a sad tune. Wayne picked up the melody. Rough life, that was, working the docks. You had to commute each day on the canal boats—either that or find a bed out near the waterfront, where you were about as likely to get stabbed as have breakfast. He’d lived that life as a youth. Had the scars to prove it, he did. But as a chap grew, he wanted more to his days than a fight on every corner and women who couldn’t remember his name one day to the next.
Bowl-head ducked into an alley. Well, every rusting road in here felt like an alley. What bowl-head entered was an alley’s alley. Wayne stepped up to the side of the tiny roadway, then burned bendalloy. That set up a nice little bubble of sped-up time around him. He strolled around the corner.
Yup. There he was, bowl-head himself, crouching beside a rubbish pile, waiting to see if anyone followed him. Wayne had almost made the bubble too big, catching the man in it.
Sloppy, sloppy, Wayne thought. A mistake like that on the docks could cost a man his life. He fished a blanket out of the part of the rubbish pile that was inside his bubble, then wandered back around the corner and dropped the bubble.
Inside the speed bubble, he’d have been moving so quickly, bowl-head wouldn’t have seen anything more than a blur—if that. He wouldn’t think anything of it; Wayne was sure enough of it that if he were wrong, he’d eat his hat. Well, someone else’s hat. A hat, at least.
Wayne found a set of steps and settled down. He pushed his hat down half over his eyes, sidled up to the wall in a comfortable position, and spread the ratty blanket he’d taken out of the trash over himself. Just another homeless drunk.
Bowl-head was a careful one. He waited inside the alley a whole five minutes before creeping out, looking back and forth, then hastening to a building across the street. He knocked, whispered something, and was let in.
Wayne yawned, stretched, and tossed aside his ratty blanket. He crossed the street to the building that bowl-head had entered, then started moving to the shuttered windows, one after another. The ancient wooden shutters were so splintery, a good sneeze might have made them fall apart. He had to be careful, lest he get splinters in his cheeks as he listened at each window in turn.
The men of the slums had an odd sense of morality to them. They wouldn’t turn in one of their own to the constables. Not even for a reward. But, then again, a chap needed to eat. Wouldn’t a man like Marks want to hear just how good his friends were?
“. . . was a conner for sure,” Wayne heard at a window. “A thousand notes is a lot, Marks. A whole lot. Now, I’m not saying you can’t trust the lads; there’s not a bad alloy in the bunch. But I can say that a little encouragement will help them feel better about their loyalty.”
Ratting out a friend: completely off-limits.
Extorting a friend: well, that was all in the name of good fun.
And if he didn’t act grateful, then maybe he hadn’t been a friend after all. Wayne grinned, slipping on his sets of wooden knucklebones—the weapons fit over his four fingers, and didn’t have a speck of metal on them to be used by a Coinshot.
Wayne stepped back, then charged the building. He hit the shutters with one shoulder, crashing through, then tossed up a speed bubble the moment he hit the floor.
Wayne rolled, coming up on his feet in front of Marks himself, who was bandaging a wound at his shoulder. The man still wore his red trousers, though. He snapped his head up, displaying a surprised face with bushy eyebrows and large lips.
Rusts. No wonder the fellow normally wore a mask.
Wayne decked him across the face, laying him out with one punch. Then he spun, fists up.
The other occupants of the room, including bowl-head, stood frozen just outside the edge of his speed bubble.
Wayne grinned, heaving Marks up onto his shoulder. He took his knuckles off, slipping them into his pocket, and got out an apple. He took a juicy bite, waved farewell to bowl-head—who looked forward with glassy eyes, frozen—then tossed Marks out the window and followed after.
Once he passed beyond the edge of his speed bubble, it automatically collapsed. He was already out of the building by then.
“. . . What the hell was that!” bowl-head yelled inside.
Wayne heaved the unconscious Marks up onto his shoulder again, then wandered back down the road, chewing on his apple.
“Let me talk to the next ones,” Marasi said. “Maybe I can get them to say something.”
She felt Waxillium’s eyes on her. He thought she was trying to prove herself to him. Once, he’d have been right.
They walked up to a group of young outcasts sitting on the steps of the slums. The boys watched them with suspicious eyes, their skin dirty, their clothing too big but tied down in places. That was the style, apparently, for youths of the streets—the clothing of an adult, but tied tightly with cords.
They smelled of the incense they’d been smoking in their pipes. Marasi stepped up to them. “We’re looking for a man.”
“If you need a man,” one of the boys said, looking her up and down, “I’m right here.”
“Oh please,” Marasi said. “You’re . . . what, nine?”
“Hey, she knows how long it is!” the boy said, laughing and grabbing his crotch. “Have you been peeking at me, lady?”
Well, that’s a blush, Marasi thought. Not terribly helpful.
Fortunately, she’d spent time around Wayne and his occasional colorful metaphors. Blushes would happen. She pressed onward. “He came shooting through here less than an hour ago. Wounded, trailing blood, wearing red. I’m sure you know who I’m speaking of.”
“Yeah, the man of hours!” one of the boys laughed. “I know him!”
The man of hours was a figure from stories, a red-clothed mistwraith who stole children from their beds.
Treat them like a belligerent witness, she thought. At a trial. She needed to learn how to deal with people like these boys in the real world, not just in sterilized practice rooms.
First step was to keep them talking. Well, that didn’t seem too tough, with these boys. “Yes, the man of hours,” Marasi said. “Where did he go?”
“To the edge of dusk,” the boy said, laughing. “Haven’t you heard the stories?”
“I’m fond of stories,” Marasi said, slipping a few coins from her handbag. She held them up. Bribery felt like cheating, but . . . well, she wasn’t in court. And these boys did know something.
The three boys eyed the coins, a sudden hunger flashing in their eyes. They covered it quickly, but perhaps showing off money here in this place was not terribly wise.
“Let’s hear a story,” Marasi said. “About where this . . . man of hours might be staying. The location of dusk, if you will. Here in these tenements.”
“We might know that,” one of the boys said. “Though, you know, stories cost a lot. More than that.”
Behind her, something clinked. Waxillium had gotten out a few coins too. The boys glanced at those, eager, until Wax held one up and then Pushed it into the air with a flip, shooting it up until it was lost in a blink.
The boys grew uncomfortable immediately.
“Talk to the lady,” Waxillium said softly, with an edge to his voice. “Stop wasting our time.”
Marasi turned to him, and behind her the boys made their decision. They scattered, obviously not wanting to deal with an Allomancer.
“That was very helpful,” Marasi said, folding her arms. “Thank you so much.”
“They were going to lie to you,” Waxillium said, glancing over his shoulder. “And we were drawing the wrong kind of attention.”
“I realize they were going to lie,” Marasi said. “I was going to catch them in it. Attacking someone’s false story is often one of the best methods of interrogation.”
“Actually,” Waxillium said, “the best method of interrogation involves a drawer and someone’s fingers.”
“Actually,” Marais said, “it does not. I realize you are joking. Maybe. Anyway, what is wrong with you today, Wax? I realize you’ve been flaunting your ‘tough roughs lawman’ persona lately—”
“I have not.”
“You have,” she said. “And I can see why. Out in the Roughs, you acted the gentleman lawman to stand out. You yourself told me you clung to civilization, to bring it with you. Well, here you’re around lords all the time. You’re practically drowning in civilization. So instead, you lean on being the roughs lawman—to bring a little old-fashioned justice to the city.”
“You’ve thought about this a lot,” he said, turned away from her, scanning the street.
Rust and Ruin, she thought. He’s turned the conversation on me again. He thought she was infatuated with him. Arrogant, brutish . . . idiot! She puffed out, stalking away.
She was not infatuated. He had clearly implied there would be nothing between them, and he was engaged to her sister. That was that. Couldn’t the two of them have a professional relationship now?
Wayne stood on the street nearby, watching them and sloppily taking chunks out of an apple. He leaned against a building, near the stone steps leading up to it.
“And where have you been?” Marasi asked, walking up to him.
“Apple?” Wayne said, handing another one toward her. “’s not too bruised.”
“No thank you,” Marasi said. “Some of us have been trying to find a killer, not a meal.”
“Oh, that.” Wayne kicked at something beside him on the ground, hidden in the shadow made by the steps. “Yeah, took care of that for you.”
“You took . . . Wayne, that’s a person at your feet! Rusts! He’s bleeding!”
“Sure is,” Wayne said. “Not my fault at all, that. I did knock ’im upside the head, though.”
Marasi raised a hand to her mouth. It was him. “Wayne, where . . . How . . .”
Wax gently pushed her aside. When had he come over? He knelt down, checking Marks’s wound. Wax then looked up at Wayne and nodded, the two sharing an expression they often exchanged. The closest Marasi had been able to figure, it meant something between “nice work” and “you’re a total git; I wanted to do that.”
“Let’s get him to the constabulary office,” Wax said, lifting the unconscious Marks.
“Yes, fine,” Marasi said. “But aren’t you going to ask how he did this? Where he’s been?”
“Wayne has his methods,” Wax said. “In a place like this, they’re far better than my own.”
“You knew,” she said, leveling a finger at him. “You knew we weren’t going to get anywhere asking questions!”
“I suspected,” Wax said. “But Wayne needs space to try his methods—”
“—on account of my being so incredible,” Wayne added.
“—so I did my best to find Marks on my own—”
“—on account of him being unable to accept that I’m better at this sorta thing than he is—”
“—in case Wayne failed.”
“Which never happens.” Wayne grinned and took a bite of his apple. “Except that one time. And that other one time. But those don’t matter, onnacount of my getting hit to the head enough times that I can’t remember them.”
Marasi sighed inwardly, falling into step with the two. They had so much history, one with another, that they moved in concert without giving thought to what the other was going to do. Like two dancers who had performed together countless times, each knew the other’s role as instinctively as his own.
That made life particularly difficult, however, for the newcomer who tried to perform with them.
“Well,” Marasi said to Wayne, “you could at least tell me what you did. Perhaps I could learn from your methods.”
“Nah,” Wayne said. “Won’t work for you. You’re too pretty, mate. In an unpretty sort of way to me, mind you. Let’s not go around that tree again.”
“Wayne, sometimes you completely baffle me.”
“Only sometimes?” Wax asked with a quiet growl.
“I have to save some of it for you, mate,” Wayne said to him, thumbs behind his suspenders. “Some craziness for all, with no respect for privilege, class, sex, or mental capacity. I’m a rusting saint, I am.”
“But how,” Marasi said. “How did you find him? Did you make some of these people talk?”
“Nah,” Wayne said. “I made them not talk. They’re better at that. Comes from practice, I suspect.”
“You should take lessons,” Wax added.
Marasi sighed as they approached the entrance to the slums. The human flotsam who had once cluttered the stairwells and alleyways in here had melted away, perhaps finding the attention of several lawmen too discomforting. It—
Wax paused. Wayne did as well.
“What—?” Marasi began, right as Wax dropped Marks and reached for his mistcloak pocket. Wayne shoved his shoulder into Marasi, pushing her away as something zipped down out of the air and clacked against the paving stones where they’d been standing.
Marasi let Wayne tow her to relative cover beside a building, both of them craning to search the skyline for the sniper. Wax took to the air with a dropped coin, a dark spot of twisting mistcoat tassels, hands outstretched holding coins. In that pose, he looked more primal, like one of the ancient Mistborn from the legends. Not a creature of law, but a sliver of the night itself come to collect its due.
“Aw, hell,” Wayne said, nodding toward Marks. The body slumped in the middle of the road, and now prominently had a wooden shaft sticking out of it.
“Arrow?” Marasi asked.
“Crossbow bolt,” Wayne said. “Haven’t seen one of those in years. You really only want them for fighting Allomancers.” He looked up. Above, Wax gave chase, shooting off toward the top of one of the buildings.
“Stay here,” Wayne said, then dashed off down an alleyway.
“Wait—” Marasi said, raising a hand.
But he was gone.
Those two, she thought in annoyance. Well, obviously someone didn’t want Marks to be captured and potentially spill what he knew. Perhaps she could learn something from the crossbow bolt or the corpse itself.
She knelt down beside the body, checking first to make certain he was dead—hoping perhaps that the crossbow bolt had not finished the job. He was dead, unfortunately. The bolt was firmly lodged in the lung. Marasi shook her head, reaching into her handbag to get her notepad and do a write-up of the bolt fletchings and the position the body had fallen in.
You know, she thought. The assassin is lucky. They couldn’t have known that bolt would deal a killing blow. If I were looking to make sure Marks was finished off, I’d certainly . . .
She heard something click behind her.
. . . double back and check.
Marasi turned slowly to find a ragged-looking man leaving an alleyway behind her, holding a crossbow. He inspected her with dark eyes. Then he heard something and turned.
Marasi stood, intending to do something, but the next part happened quickly. Before she had time to take a step, the man rushed her. He fired the crossbow over his shoulder, causing a Wayne-like yelp to come out of the alleyway, then grabbed Marasi by the shoulder as she tried to run.
He whipped her about, raising something cold to her neck. A glass dagger. Wax dropped to the ground in front of them, mistcoat unfurling around him.
The two stared at one another, a coin in Wax’s right hand. He rubbed it with his thumb.
Remember your hostage training, woman! Marasi thought. Most men take a hostage out of desperation.
The man breathed in and out, ragged, his head right next to hers. She could feel the stubble of his chin and cheek against her skin.
They don’t want to kill, she thought. This isn’t part of the plan. You can talk them down . . . speak comforting words . . . seek common ground and build upon it . . .
She didn’t do any of that. Instead, she whipped her hand out of her handbag, holding the small, single-shot pistol she kept inside. Before even considering what she was doing, she pressed the barrel against the man’s chin, pulled the trigger . . .
And blew the bottom half of his head up out of the top half.