There was a moment, in the midst of all the chaos, when Mordecai found his gun aimed directly at Mitzi May.
There was really only one way to resign your position in this business.
"I'd like you to teach me how to shoot."
Mordecai looked up slowly from the ledger and regarded Mitzi with a carefully raised eyebrow. "Does this command come from Atlas?"
"It's a request, not a command," she said with a frown. She cocked her hip to one side and planted her fist against it. "And it comes from me."
"And Atlas knows, of course."
"No, no." She put a hand to the side of her face, brow furrowed in apparently sincere concern. "I just know he would fret if he thought I felt unsafe, the dear, but I do want to be cautious given our… activities here. I thought you'd be the best one to ask."
Mordecai drummed his fingers against the desk with restrained annoyance, but he had to admit she had a fair point. Anyone even distantly connected to this business should have the means to defend themselves, and Atlas had made it clear that he intended Mitzi to become a permanent fixture here. There were surely many a wife of many a liquor baron who kept themselves blissfully unaware of the worst of their husbands' business dealings, but Mitzi was a little too sharp for that. Sharper, he suspected, than even Atlas fully realized.
"It isn't quite so simple a task as you make it sound. It will take some time, if you expect to learn properly, and I'm certain we both have many other things to occupy our hours." He realized even as he said the words that they were not an outright refusal, and anything less was sure to be taken as acceptance by her. But he had trouble simply saying no to her, and not just because she would soon be functionally almost as much his boss as Atlas was.
There was… something particular about his relationship with Mitzi, distant though it was. He would never be so absurd as to call it a connection or a bond, but there was a sort of understanding between them, a clear awareness of where they stood in the world, this pair of strays pulled up from nothing by Atlas's guiding hand.
When they were introduced, Mordecai had first noticed, before Mitzi's many more obvious traits, her conspicuous lack of an accent. He'd gathered through the general social chatter that she was from Georgia, or somewhere in that region, yet she spoke with a respectably flat Midwestern tone that was too meticulously neutral to be at all natural.
He noticed because he had spoken that way too, once, when he had been younger and greener and so desperate to stamp out the word choices and vowels sounds inflicted on him by his family so that the men he worked for might someday stop sneering and start taking him seriously.
Unlike him, Mitzi had gained some of her expected accent back now, though in a very deliberate way, a purposeful harnessing of manufactured southern charm. He only heard what he suspected to be her natural way of speaking when she'd had far too many drinks and started chatting with her old bandmates while Atlas was away on business.
Still, there was a very unrehearsed laughing lilt to her voice when she responded, "Oh, don't worry about that, honey. We'll have plenty of time together between trips to the tailor's."
It took more effort than he cared to admit to keep from self-consciously shoving his sleeves back up past the elbows.
There was a moment, with his sights aligned perfectly to the center of Mitzi's back, when he remembered his hands over top of hers, shifting her fingers and adjusting her grip, teaching her how best to find her target and make her shot.
She would be nobody's hired muscle, but he was confident she could do enough damage with enough accuracy to successfully escape an attacker. Provided, of course, that she knew she was being targeted.
Mordecai was pacing, a nervous habit he thought he had broken himself of long ago, but he supposed these were extreme circumstances.
Mitzi's anxiety was more subdued but equally obvious, one hand clutching at the hem of her skirt while the other worried at the pearls around her neck. She sat on the corner of her bed like this and watched Mordecai for several silent minutes before finally snapping, "Would you sit down?"
He stopped short and glared at her. "I apologize if I find the solution we've arrived at somewhat troubling."
"You think I don't? It breaks my heart that this is all we can do." She let go of the pearls and brought her hand up to her mouth, and for one terrifying moment, he thought she might start to cry, which would be entirely too much to deal with at this moment. But she merely closed her eyes, took a shaky breath, and looked back up at him with renewed determination. "But unless you've come up with something better, this is all we've got."
He turned away and took a few more agitated steps. "No, there's nothing else," he admitted.
"Then you know what we have to do."
There was a rustle of fabric and the quiet rumble of a drawer sliding open. When Mordecai turned his head, Mitzi was carefully unwinding a silk handkerchief from around the dark metal of a familiar revolver.
It was a smart decision to use her own gun, the one he had first furnished her with for use in their lessons. Few knew she had it, and only the two of them knew exactly where it came from. Should anyone pull the weapon from the bottom of the river and somehow connect it to the crime, it would only be one of many gone missing from the Lackadaisy arsenal over the years and written off as stolen long ago, something that could have been picked up by anyone.
He took a few steps in her direction, stopping just barely arm's length away. "You know this may not solve everything," he warned, "and whatever the final outcome, this was your decision in the end."
"Yes, you've made that very clear," she said, and though her expression was sorrowful, her arm remained steady.
He reached out to take the gun from her, fingers curling carefully around the cool metal. Mitzi's grip tightened suddenly underneath his as he moved to pull it away, and she set her other hand over top of his knuckles, keeping him in place.
"You'll make it quick, won't you?" she asked quietly. Her eyes were downcast now, avoiding his own.
Mordecai had the brief, strange impulse and turn his hand over, grip her soft fingers as tightly as he now held the gun. He ignored it studiously.
"Of course," he promised. "Quick and clean."
His aim was dead center, equidistant between the gentle curve of each bare shoulder blade, and it was a pleasingly symmetrical image.
There was a moment, and then he turned instead and shot Viktor through both knees. It seemed a fair compromise to his mind.