Canterlot: Capital of Equestria and seat of the Princess. It is a city for the rich, the famous and the paranoid. Understandably there’s a lot of work here for a private detective, especially one who doesn’t belong to any of the local political factions.
Moving here from Trottingham had to be the best decision I ever made. I always found it strange that ponies in Canterlot will keep secrets from their friends and then give them easily to an outsider. It’s probably a unicorn thing, or perhaps earth ponies are just more trustworthy.
Still, it had been a quiet week so far. The political infighting always dies down just before the summer solstice as Equestria shifts into party mode. The Canterlot Symphony Orchestra had a royal performance coming up and every night club had a full event list. Ponies from every walk of life were getting together and having fun, everypony except me.
My work was all about fixing disruptions: finding missing items, solving disputes and finding evidence for clients. There’s not much to fix when everypony is having fun.
I stared morosely at the finished crossword puzzle from this morning’s paper; they didn’t last as long as they used to. I picked the paper up and flung it across the room to the pile. The paper hit the side of the haphazard pile, knocked it down and scattered old newspapers onto the floor.
I considered the newspapers, the full bin and the “miscellaneous” pile of junk sitting in the corner of my office. I didn’t have anything else to do today, so I decided to clean up a bit.
I chose to start with something simple, my mystery wall: a collection of pin boards covered in newspaper articles, notes, surveillance photographs and anything else could be useful in future. I began to search it for old material I could discard, starting with a hastily scrawled note reading “Beware of the Panther”.
If there was one basic truth that I had learned in my career as a detective is that, “In the harmonious world that we live in, anything strange or unusual will always lead to something wrong”. At the time I had no idea what “beware of the panther” could possibly mean and I’d decided to discard the note.
As I moved to tear the note down I was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Come in,” I called out. The door opened as a beautiful unicorn walked into my office.
“I do hope I am not interrupting, but I saw your advert—oh, but this room is so... filthy.” The unicorn turned and left, slamming the door behind her.
This is why you should keep your room clean. First impressions are important and ponies will judge you on this sort of thing.
I didn’t want to lose a client over this mess, so I invoked my special talent, “reset.”
Time froze and reversed itself, taking the world back to where it was before the unicorn had arrived. The ability to reverse time by short periods is my special talent, but it’s a bit limited in that I can’t go further than forty two seconds into the past. It’s good for fixing mistakes, avoiding traps and winning at card games. Incidentally, my name is Time Turner (1).
This still left me with a client rapidly approaching and no way in Tartarus to clean this up in time I had available, so I decided to meet her halfway. I made good use of the head start and nipped out the door into my office’s waiting room.
Outside, I locked my door and brushed my mane back with a hoof. The only visible sign to show that time had been rewritten was the movement of sand in the hourglass on my flank as it flowed down from the upper bulb.
Composed, I made my way down the stairs to meet the unicorn mare. “Hello there, Miss,” I greeted the unicorn with a smile.
“Good morning, gentlecolt.” She returned my smile and said, “I am Rarity and I am looking for a ‘Detective Time Turner’, who I believe has his office in this building.”
“Well lucky for you, Miss Rarity, you just caught ‘Detective Time Turner’ on his way out to an early lunch.”
“Oh,” she said, “I hope I’m not interrupting you, Mr Turner; I’ll wait for you in your office.” Before Miss Rarity could continue past I lifted a fore hoof to interrupt her passage.
“Not an interruption at all, however I’d be delighted if you were to join me for lunch and save yourself from waiting in my office.” Better that she come with me than see the office.
“Why thank you, Mr Turner,” she replied with a nod. “I would be most delighted to accept.”
I walked past Rarity and motioned with my head for her to follow. “Allow me to show you to my favourite Cafe.”
Just across the street from my office sat the best café in Canterlot. Café Noir follows the theme for which it is named with dull lighting and private booths for diners. The walls are painted in a dull brown and every lantern hangs over a table to keep the light localized, with controls so occupants can dim the light for a private moment.
I make it a point to try and meet all my clients here, rather than in my office. Meeting in Café Noir allows me to use the mysterious air of the café to enhance my own credentials as a detective and the private booths provide a comfortable place to discuss business.
As we entered I gave a friendly wave at the waitress and led Rarity over my usual booth. The waitress knew well enough that I would want a few minutes alone with my client before she came over to ask for our order. We took our seats across the table from each other and made ourselves comfortable.
“Well, Mr Turner,” Rarity said. “Thank you for interrupting your lunch. Could we discuss your services while we eat?””
I gave her a nod and a smile, “Of course, Miss Rarity. While we wait for the waitress,” I asked in a welcoming tone, “would you like to tell me what has brought you to me?” It is important to keep a client as comfortable as possible. Usually anything that requires a detective tends to be awkward for a client to ask about.
“Well, Mr Turner,” she began, a slight blush appearing on her cheeks. “It’s probably a rather trivial thing to ask a detective, but my darling little kitten has gone missing.”
Don’t laugh, I told myself as I fought to keep a straight face. It’s what the client wants, remember? It was a bit trivial, but I didn’t have anything else to do.
“May I ask what your kitten looks like, along with its name and breed?”
Rarity’s eyes lit up. “Thank you for taking this so seriously, Mr Turner. I honestly thought you would refuse to take my case. Well, her name is Opalescence: she’s white, with long fur and purple ribbon in her mane.”
“A Purrsian breed kitten?” I guessed and Rarity gave me a nod. “That’s a very popular breed here in Canterlot, their temperament and appearance matches the city quite well.”
“Detective,” Rarity asked with a slight giggle. “Are you implying that I’m not from Canterlot?”
I flicked my eyes across her appearance. “Yes.”
“Might I ask how you figured that out?”
“Well first, you just told me.” Rarity rolled her eyes at me. “Second, you carry yourself with pride like most Canterlot ponies, but its pride in your ability and not your wealth. You’re also hiring me, so you do have some wealth. That would make you a self-made mare from somewhere else.”
I leaned back in my seat. “There’s not much room in Canterlot for somepony to make themselves. The wealthy tend to crush competition and you don’t look like somepony who’s been crushed.”
“I think I’ll take that as a complement.”
“You should, but I digress from the subject at hoof.” I brought my hooves together. “So, Miss Rarity, why have you come to me instead of going to the animal shelter instead?”
“A few reasons, Mr Turner: Opal has been missing for four days now and she still has not returned to my hotel suite, nor has she been rescued by the animal shelter. However my greatest problem is that I simply cannot work without her.”
I raised an eyebrow, “she’s vital to your work?”
Rarity’s eyes wandered as she looked for an explanation. “You could say Opal is my inspiration, or perhaps you could call her a critic.” Rarity leaned forward onto the table, “I’m a clothing designer and I work very hard to make all my designs chic and unique. Whenever I have Opal around my work seems to get easier. Perhaps she’s a calming influence or a natural reminder of grace.”
She looked across the table at me, “I’m still a newcomer to the fashion industry, Mr Turner. I need all the help I can get. I simply must get Opal back and her disappearance has simply been the worst possible thing!”
As her outburst reached its peak, Rarity was leaning across the table and shaking me in her hooves. “You simply must get her back! I need her so much!” She fell onto the table and burst into tears. I glanced around the café and noticed that many of the other patrons had stopped to watch us. I reached up to the lantern above the table and turned it down.
So, I had a stunningly beautiful mare crying in front of me over a missing kitten and no way for me to turn her down. Even though I can be an emotionless mule sometimes, I wasn’t entirely unsympathetic.
“I’ll find her, I promise,” I said to her.
Rarity pulled me into a hug and her tears flowed down onto my shoulder. “Thank you, Mr Turner,” she said between sniffles. “Thank you so much.”
“Just Turner will be fine, Miss Rarity.” She moved back to her side of the table and brought a napkin to her eyes. The gloom quickly disappeared from her face as she moved back from the dim light.
“Well I suppose we can start with lunch.” I signalled for the waitress, and she appeared as soon as I raised my hoof.
“May I take your orders, sir and madam?” A notepad and pencil hovered nearby.
I ordered for the pair of us, “We’ll have two daisy sandwiches, a plate of hay fries and one of your famous chocolate sundaes for my friend here.”
One of the benefits of being a regular at any café is that they start to anticipate your requests. The order I gave to the waitress was for the same meal I ordered every time I brought a client in, so when I placed my order the waitress immediately returned with it pre-made for us.
“That was rather impressive service,” Rarity noted. “I can see why you would take your lunch here.”
“Well I helped the owner out a while back, so service tends to be quick and occasionally there’s an extra helping as well.”
I turned the lantern back up so we could eat and noticed that Rarity had already returned to her pristine self. During the dim lighting at some point she must have fixed her mane and returned her makeup back to the way it was before her outburst.
We ate in silence, Rarity used her magic to daintily eat her sandwich while I was stuck doing it the “earth pony way”. A lot of the more “upmarket” unicorns tend to look down on anypony eating directly off the plate but Rarity paid no attention to it.
As Rarity began to finish her sandwich I brought up a crucial topic. “So Miss Rarity, since you’ve convinced me to take your case, we need to discuss my fees.”
“Oh, yes of course,” Rarity agreed. “Whatever you need to find my little darling.”
“I think you’ll find my rates reasonable and fair.” I listed off my only slightly extortionate list of prices and expenses to Rarity, who agreed without hesitation. I wondered briefly if I should have charged more.
I took some of the hay fries from the shared plate for myself, and Rarity took the opportunity to ask a question as I ate.
“Turner, might I ask how you are going to find Opal?” She gave a slight smile. “I hope that it would not take too long, I’d like to be able to go home with her soon.”
“My methods are based upon the fundamental harmony in all things, which is centred on the principle of disharmonious events leaving an impression on the underlying harmony.”
Rarity blinked. “Beg pardon?”
“Well when something disharmonious happens, like Opal’s disappearance, it creates a disturbance in the harmony of the world.” I pressed a hoof down on the cushion back of my seat. “When disturbed the subtle harmonics of the universe will start to influence the world around the disturbance.” I pushed harder against the seat to increase the indentation my hoof made around it.
“Strange coincidences and events will surround disharmonious events. So all I need to do is follow the trail of chaos and it will eventually lead me to Opal.” I took my hoof away from the seat, letting it return to normal. Despite my attempt to explain, Rarity didn’t seem to understand any of my speech and had simply been nodding her head and making “uh-huh” sounds as I spoke (2).
“Alright,” she said. “When will you start?”
“Right away, once I have some of my tools from my office I’ll start my search.” I slid my way out of the booth.
“One more thing, Turner,” Rarity said and then began to smile. “Would I be able to accompany you?”
I paused for a moment to consider this. I usually work alone, and I don’t allow clients to follow me because they tend to get me into trouble.
“Well I don’t usually…”
She gave me puppy dog eyes. Rarity was around nineteen years old and had enough youth in her face to make her parasprite grade adorable.
Don’t give in, I thought to myself. Don’t give in because you’ll know you’ll regret it and sweet Celestia she can be adorable when she tries… ah horse apples.
“I suppose it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”
“Why thank you, Turner. I will just finish my dessert while you get your things. I shall meet you outside your office again once you are ready.”
I left Rarity to her chocolate sundae, well aware that she had managed to manipulate me again.
I unlocked my office door and got out a pair of saddlebags. I then went around my office to find anything I thought could be useful to me on this case. I started by packing my detective’s fedora and a scarf to keep me warm during the cold mountain nights, followed by a rope and a magnifying glass. I’d probably end up using everything except the magnifying glass, which I only carry because a detective is expected to carry one.
I decided to spend a few moments flipping through the pile of newspapers to catch up on current affairs. Most of the focus in the articles went toward the events surrounding the lead-up to the summer sun celebration next week. One interesting article detailed the sudden spike in illegal alcohol sales as the city’s party atmosphere built up.
Other subjects included Hoity Toity’s new fashion line, the antics of the Princess’s personal student and the other mundane things that newspapers tend to rag on about.
There was a knock on my front door downstairs. I looked up at the clock on my wall and realized that I had been reading my back issues for a good twenty minutes. Time can really get away from a pony when he’s reading.
I snatched up an issue of the paper that had a feature on the illegal alcohol racket for later reading and a book of crosswords that I hadn’t finished yet and put them in my bags along with a set of pencils.
With everything I could think of I went downstairs to meet my client and – Chaos willing – find her kitten.
(1) The nature of Time Turner’s ability also means that few ponies will actually witness it without being innately resistant to changes in time, us for example.
(2) As above Rarity probably does not understand Time Turner’s explanation. We also suspect Time Turner does not entirely understand it either and simply uses it to sound clever.