In a room full of manure it’s tough to find the right pile. Hardy reluctantly tossed two bits to a mean looking unicorn hulking near the door.
Inside, they all looked like desperate ghosts, too pale, too skinny. Above the bar bottles gathered dust. Each table was weighted with old wax and provided with multiple candles.
The barkeep pointedly looked away whenever somepony thrust a shaking spoon into a flame, cooking waxy stones into caustic syrup. Otherwise the clientele stuck to the shadows along the walls.
For several minutes Hardy stood near the door staring daggers in every direction. The candles burned bright, hiding everything outside their circles in shifting murk. All Hardy heard was heavy breathing and needy sighs.
With a snort, he clopped towards the bar. A sallow orange earth pony squinted at him from the other side.
“Whadda ya want?” she demanded.
Hardy put ten bits on the counter.
She poured him a cup so watered down it wouldn’t foam.
“Know a fella named Two-teeth?” he asked loudly.
“Never heard of him,” she said with a pointed glance towards the far corner.
All ten bits slid into her apron.
A wan white pony clambered wildly out the door. Why did they all have to run?
Hardy wasn’t much on distance anymore, but lucky for him they didn’t call it molasses because it’s sticky. Slow junkies were Hardy’s personal favorite type.
The white, shaking colt had dropped out of breath in a surprisingly convenient alleyway. There was just enough streetlight for Hardy to make out the faded form of a paintbrush on the poor kid’s flank.
“Look I don’t plan to hurt ya,” Hardy spat out up front, failing to keep from sounding winded. “I just need to ask you a question about a book.”
“Ah, shit, pal, anything but that,” Two-teeth stammered. “Somepony, else turns up out there, they’ll know it was me. You don’t understand.”
“I’m just lookin’ for my friend.”
“You don’t get it. They’ll kill me.”
“I can get ya outta here, bud,” Hardy offered as kindly as the gruff old bastard could.
“You don’t understand. They’ll find me!”
“You don’t understand; I already found ya.”
The kid clammed up tight, a sad quivering pile of nothing good.
Hardy sighed and took off his coat. Turning sideways the old brute flexed his back legs.
Cocking his head towards his own cutie mark, “Time was, pal, I could kick a brick to dust.”
Silence did all the talking for a bit.
“How long it been since you painted anything?”
“I got thirty bits in that coat on the ground. That can buy you ticket far away and whole hell of a lot of art supplies.”
Quiet overtook the conversation again.
“Okay, fine!” the colt finally blurted.
“I’m listening, kid.”
Hardy didn’t see the surprise in Two-teeth’s eyes until it was too late.
A splash of stars and fade to black.