Before Mac had a chance to respond to her affection, Dash had taken flight. A wide smile found itself splayed across her lips as she flew over the rooftops. She couldn't deny how much fun it was to fluster Mac, especially when it was so easy.
Pushing the thoughts of her ever increasingly significant stallion out of her mind for the time being, she focused on the task at hoof. Flim and Flam using the town's money to buy the Apple's farm was a long shot, and if it wasn't true, then they'd be back to square one. Even if they did manage to get the money that was stolen, surely those crooked unicorn brothers wouldn't stop until they felt their vengeance had been served.
Her thoughts only served to strengthen her resolve. Her mind raced as fast as her wings, wondering where she should even start. It wasn’t as if they’d leave a notepad obviously titled “Evil Plan” lying around, however convenient that would be.
“C’mon, think,” she said, tapping her forehead with a hoof. In an act of desperation, she forced herself to think like somepony who’d be able to solve the problem: Twilight.
If I were an egghead, where would I go to try and expose two scammers?
Putting herself in Twilight’s head turned out to be more difficult than she thought. How could she think like somepony who’s main motivation was books? Nevertheless, she managed to come to a conclusion.
There seemed to be only once place to look that made any sense; the town hall. The only problem was, she was unfamiliar with Prairieville, and unsure of which building actually was the one she was after. Scanning from left to right, she tried to remember what the mayors office back in Ponyville looked like. Soon enough, she spotted a building with a short, but stately dome perched atop its walls.
That must be the place! Dash streaked downward. Everything was going smoothly so far. The only way it could’ve been better would be if she could have kicked Flim and Flam’s flanks instead of Macintosh.
She sighed in resignation and pushed the door open, stepping into the town hall’s cavernous foyer. The silence was surprising; it was as quiet as Twilight’s library. The reason for that was obvious enough: the only other pony in the building was a bored-looking clerk behind a desk at the far end of the room.
"Excuse me, you know where I can find like, town financial records and stuff like that?" she asked, stirring him from his trancelike state.
"Hey, aren't you a deputy?" Rainbow asked, before he could answer her first question.
He withdrew slightly against the counter, "Nope, that's my brother, Ruff. But I've got more than one job around here ya know."
"... Right. So I'm looking for town records," she continued.
"Records are in the farthest section to the right, in chronological order," he stated plainly, resuming his slouch against the counter. The body language was clear: why aren’t you gone yet?
"Thanks..." Rainbow added halfheartedly, trotting back towards where he had instructed her, ready for a boring time of searching though books for spending discrepancies.
Ugh! This is so a job for Twilight. she thought, picking out a record with an appropriate sounding date and set it, and herself on one of the uncomfortable wooden chairs.
As she cracked open the appropriate tome and began scanning through the numbers, she couldn't help but think about how well Mac was getting on with his plan of getting his money back. If he was even half as angry as he had been in the bar fight earlier that day, Flim and Flam would have no chance.
Getting a chuckle from the idea alone, she settled back down into the book before her, only to realize that without an exact hire date for the two town 'sheriffs', she had nothing to compare! Although elections were the typical way to pic a head lawpony, it wasn't unheard of for the mayors of some outpost towns like this to just pick a sheriff.
Seeing nothing referencing an election, she stood from her chair and revisited the deputy turned clerk.
"Is the mayor here? I need to talk to him."
"Dad—I mean Mr. Mayor is very busy, he has to make sure nothing goes wrong at the cattle auction, as it is our town's biggest annual event."
"Nonsense my boy!" A loud voice that Rainbow seemed to recognize echoed down a spiral staircase to her right leading to his office.
"Or, here he is now. Whatever," he mumbled. Dash could sense some family issues here, but didn't have the time or effort to try and help them resolve them. As the stallion came down the steps, she recognized him from the bar earlier!
"Doc?" she asked in mild surprise. "You're the mayor, and the bartender?"
Doc grabbed his Mayor's vest pridefully, "You bet!" he beamed, "As well as the baker, banker, barber, ferrier, blacksmith, grocer, and a right many other jobs!" he added, settling in front of the two of them. "When you've lived in Priarieville as long as I have, ya get accustomed to doing all sorts a jobs that need doin'. Now what can Mayor Holiday do for you, young filly?"
"Did you hire the two town sheriffs?" Rainbow asked bluntly.
"Why yes I did! Things have been peaceful, calm, and quiet since I brought them onto the payroll," he explained proudly.
Dash could see his pride meant a lot to him, and certainly didn't want to get on the town baker/barber/mayor's bad side for calling his judgement into question, but saw no other option.
"Bad news about your sheriff picks, Doc. Where I come from, we ran them out of town for trying to sell us bad cider, and trying to buy my coltfrie—I mean my friend's farm."
Doc's expression tightened up, clearly not happy about his ability to do his job being scrutinized. "You say Flim and Flam are crooked? Those are some mighty serious allegations, miss."
"I know, and I wouldn't be making them if I didn't think I could prove them! I just need your help," she pled, though Doc's previously nice demeanor seemed to be fading.
"I'd like ta believe ya miss, but you gotta understand, it's your word against theirs, and they're the sheriffs."
Rainbow was getting nowhere, she had to appeal to Doc somehow.
"I know you love this town Doc, and you'd never want to see anything bad happen to it," Dash began, hoping to convince him to at least give her a chance, "Which is why you need to help me run those two out of town! Nothing good will come of them being the law. Now, when did you hire them?"
Doc thought for a moment, his son still behind the counter, apathetic to the entire scene playing out before him. "Okay, if you can prove Flim and Flam don't have to town's best interest at heart, I'll take care of them. They were hired six months ago to the day."
That was all the confirmation Dash needed to get to work.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I must be gettin' down to the auction. The Mayor opens and closes it, you know."
His words rang alarms in her head. "Close? How much longer until it's closed?"
Doc produced a pocket watch from his vest and examined the time, "In about three hours I'd say."
"You won't regret this Doc!" she called, racing towards the book she had abandoned earlier. Diving straight into something she absolutely detested, she began comparing numbers to other numbers and figures to other figures, trying to figure out a way to nail the two phony pony sheriffs to the wall.
Macintosh didn't have time to react before Rainbow had taken off. For a moment more he just stood there, trying to wrap his head around the implications of what had just happened.
Was it just an apology for hittin' me? Was it a 'just friends' peck on the cheek, or somethin'... else?
Thoughts like these raced through his mind as he began moving in the opposite direction. He pushed those ideas out of his head, focusing instead on the task at hoof. The first thing he had to do was check out the auction. He prayed he wasn't too late to get his herd back as he approached the crowd. There were hundreds of ponies crowded around to watch cattle get sold to the highest bidder. Mac was from a simple town, and took pleasure in the simple things as well, but he simply couldn't imagine how the entire town could get so excited over something so terribly mundane.
Since he was a few feet taller than almost everypony in front of him, seeing the stage and those surrounding it wasn't too hard. Mac noticed quite a few deputies, but no Flim Flam brothers. He worked his way to the stage, still not finding any sign of the two he was looking for. Disheartened, he figured there was no harm in simply asking a passerby if they knew where to find the pair.
Taking a stroll out of the crowd, he settled on a bench next to none other than the nurse that had taken care of Rainbow Dash when he had brought her out of the desert.
"Hello there Mr. Apple, how are you feeling?" Ellie May asked—ever the concerned nurse, even off of work.
Relieved to see a familiar face—but somewhat off put by seeming to run into the same people in a rather large town— he let his mood lighten as he questioned her.
"A lot better, thanks. Any idea where I could find the town sheriffs?"
"Of course dear!" she answered cheerfully. "Just down the end of the main street through town, on your right, is their house!" she added, gesturing down the dusty road. "It's a big house, and barn, you can't miss it!"
With a renewed sense of confidence, Mac set off down the street, calling over his shoulder his thanks. An unusual smirk across his lips as ran through the thinning crowd. Soon, it was only him and a few other ponies on the poorly maintained road as a house and a barn rose up over the distance. Fueling his resolve was the thought of sweet, hard-hoofed justice against those who had wronged him.
He approached the front door and knocked loudly. He waited for an answer but received none after five minutes. Figuring he would at least find out how those rotten brothers had stolen his cattle in the first place, he walked to the barn on the side of the house, noticing how tightly locked up it appeared.
On top of the unusual security, it seemed the regular sized barn doors had been replaced with doors the size of the barn themselves. Mac stared in awe at the large doors, before noticing they hadn't locked them! A single strand of rope hung from one of the doors. Mac took it in his mouth and pulled as hard as he could, the heavy wooden structure creaking open far enough to allow the large pony access. What waited for him inside was simply mind boggling. It appeared to be a zeppelin, with what Mac recognized as a modified version of their automatic cider maker attached the the underside of the aircraft, as well as a cockpit type area mounted ahead of the device.
"So you've escaped from jail, and found our latest invention! Bravo, Macintosh!" Flim called from the barn door, beside his ever present brother.
"I suppose you were wondering how we made off with your entire herd? A few simple modifications to the Super Cider Squeezy 6000, and a touch of magic, and it was all too easy to ensure you and your friend ended up with no cattle!" Flim explained pridefully.
Mac glared at the two ponies, sure that if they had brought backup, he'd have seen them by now.
"And this!" Flam said hefting a large burlap sack filled with bits over his shoulder. "Is how much your cattle fetched at auction! Quite the sum!"
"So you two sold my cattle huh?" Mac said, walking towards the two of them.
"Thats right! And you can do nothing but sit back and watch as we buy your farm, and—"
Mac cut Flim off with a solid crack to the jaw. He crumpled to the ground in a heap, his brother in shock with a wide eyed expression before receiving his punch in the head. After both brothers were out cold in their hangar, Mac smiled. He was never one to take pleasure from the suffering of others, be it well deserved or otherwise. However, he harkened back to his earlier attempt to act a bit more unpredictable.
What's more unpredictable than a punch to the face? he thought grabbing the bag of bits and putting it into one of his bags.
"Gentlecolts," he nodded, tipping his hat as he stepped over the two motionless sheriffs. He walked out of the hangar and headed back toward town, ready to get back to Ponyville, and hire a shipping company to move his cattle from now on.
Rainbow finally had it! After hours of boring, tedious reading of figures, she was sure she had proof Flim and Flam were up to no good. Grabbing the book she had wedged her notes into, she dashed to the front of the building, only to find the mayor and his son had vanished.
"Oh, of course they disappeared!" she commented looking around for any sign of anypony. Seeing nothing, she casually stepped outside to bathe in the last rays of sunlight as the sun began its descent. Stretching her legs, she trotted towards the town square, where stage-hoofs were deconstructing the platform the auction had been held on. It seemed to have been over, Dash praying Mac had recovered something from Flim and Flam.
Just as Rainbow reached the center of town where she was to wait for Mac, she noticed a plume of dust coming over the hill opposite her. A red speck seemed to be leading the trail as it came toward her at full speed. Taking to the air, she hovered over him, "Did you get the money?"
"Eeyup. We need ta leave now though, before Flim and Flam wake up," he said, not dropping his pace.
"Okay then, I—wait, wake up from what?"
"Don't you worry 'bout that, let's just get to th' train station and get outta here!" Mac insisted, dodging and weaving through the various stragglers still hanging around from the auction.
"After all that boring stuff I just did?!" Dash protested harshly. "I thought we wanted to run them out of town?"
"Ah did, but right now, I'd much rather put this whole town ta my back and not return."
Rainbow was dumbstruck, not a few hours ago he was ready to hurl the Flim Flam brothers off a cliff himself!
"What's with the change of heart?"
"Because if we did that, then they'd just want revenge on me or you, and it would never stop! It'd just be an endless cycle of revenge until either one of us is dead, or we're both ruined."
Mac could see how upset all this was making Rainbow, "Don't you worry, they got theirs. Trust me."
"Fine... I guess we can go," she moaned, stuffing the book she had been carrying into an empty bag on Mac's back.
As soon as puffy white smoke from the locomotive came into view, Mac breathed a sigh of relief. Rainbow settled on all four hooves as they approached the ticket counter. There were a few other ponies in line to buy tickets, which made Macintosh a bit nervous. He hit Flim and Flam pretty hard, and were it anypony else, he'd have felt guilty as sin. However, the thought of being caught by two crooked sheriffs when they were this close to freedom kept him looking over his shoulder constantly.
One more pony in line, then we're outta here! he thought happily.
"Hold it right there, Macintosh Apple!"
That voice filled his heart with dread. It appeared he hadn't hit either of them hard enough. Turning to his left, he and Rainbow recognized the infamous brothers, and the Prairieville sheriffs department. Their faces now a slight more colorful than Dash had remembered.
"You two are looking better than usual," she sneered.
"Well, we have your friend here to thank for that. Something he'll be spending a lot of time in jail for doing!" Flam retorted.
"Assault and robbery! We'll be seeing a lot of Mac down at the station I think, dear brother!"
The deputies began advancing on the two of them. Dash could have easily taken flight, but she couldn't leave Mac behind after all he's done for her. Then she had another idea.
"I'll be right back Mac, don't let them arrest you!" she called, flying away from the train station and back into town.
"Where in tarnation are you going?" he called after her.
"You'll see! Just trust me!"