"The price will be one million bits."
"Accepted. Will that be one hundred and sixty thousand after each?"
"No, it will be one million each. Six million in total."
"I'll have to speak to my associates."
From Manehattan to Ponyville was something of a comedown, the hitmare mused as she alighted the Friendship Express at Ponyville Station. The consumate professional, she had gone to scope out the area whilst she was waiting for the decision from her superiors. Many in her trade hated the idea of calling their employers 'superiors', since often they were some of the lowest of the low. But the hitmare didn't mind. She was the highest paid professional in the world and for that, she would call them whatever they wanted. Ponyville Station was a rural one and she was on the street within moments, taking in her surroundings. As ponies passed she smiled brightly, but quickly moved on, looking for somewhere to stay. There had to be a hotel in this place.
No hotel. Even Baltimare had a hotel. This was a crucial detail without which she would have to reject the offer. Oh well, it was ambitious anyway.
"Hi there! You must be new in town. You see, I saw you walking down the street and I didn't recognise you and I recognise just about everypony around here so you must have just arrived. I'm Pinkie Pie, what's your name?"
"Oh, hi Pinkie Pie. I'm Astral Quartz."
"Oooh, fancy pants! Where are you from? With a name like that, it must be Canterlot! No? Coltven? Calmarey? Casaflanka?"
"Manehattan! I think my friend Applejack once went to Manehattan. I'll ask her about it just as soon as I've finished welcoming you to Ponyville! Wait, let me get the welcome wagon!"
"That's quite alright Pinkie. I feel very welcome."
"So are we friends? I like to make friends with everypony, it's just the best-"
"Yes, we're already friends. Could you please tell me where I can stay? There's no hotel and I need to stay for a week or so."
"Ohhh, you're staying! That's so cool! Come with me!"
The hitmare followed Pinkie as she bounced over to a strangely-shaped building that looked like it should be made out of baked goods.
"This is Sugarcube Corner! You can stay here! This is where I live, but with the Cakes of course, that's Mr and Mrs Cake, and their two foals, Pound and Pumpkin, but I'll have to ask them first but they'll probably say yeas and I just know we're going to ave all kinds of fun!"
Pinkie led her to meet the Cakes, and the hitmare smiled. Pinkie was so open, it was going to be so easy to do the job on her. In fact, it would be easiest to leave her until last. Then she could make a quick getaway, which was another important part of the plan. She'd head west, out into the desert, and lie low for a while. Or maybe even explore the west coast.
"Hello Mr & Mrs Cake. I've just arrived in town and I'm looking for somewhere to stay. Of course, if it's too much trouble... no? Well that's very kind of you Mrs Cake. I'll pay you for the room and board... you're far too kind."
Once she was settled into her basic but charming room, somepony knocked on the door.
"Astral Quartz? Somepony's here to see you." The voice was that of Mrs Cake. As a hitmare, she was always suspicious of visitors. It was a tough business and if you had a free week, it paid to go after a competitor. And once you're at the top, everyone wants to know you off. Literally.
In this case, though, it was just some colt who looked like a lackey of the postal service. He was holding a piece of paper and looking very pleased with himself.
"Are you... Astral Quartz?" He asked in some kind of thick accent, reading her name from the paper.
"Yes. Is this for me?"
"Yes. Here you go."
Our offer is eight hundred each. No reply will be considered assent.
These few words were all that was on the paper, and they were in an unfamiliar script. It didn't mater to the hitmare. She'd expected nothing less than seven hundred and fifty each, and was pleased with the little extra. Once she was back in the room, she burnt the note and began planning properly. She'd managed to make up a profile of each target using newspapers and the Company's network of informants, and some of them seemed exceptionally difficult. And she only had a week before the authorities would have time to trace each job back to her. No method was perfect, and she needed to meet everypony before she chose how to do it. Of course, making it look like an accident was preferable, and even made some of the more lazy police forces believe that there was just a spate of suicides, but it didn't work for everypony.
Looking at a map of Ponyville, the hitmare outlined her targets mentally. She knew where they each lived and she had to work at a rate of one her day. Today was Sunday. Tomorrow was Monday, and that made it time to take out her first target. The hardest targets always came first, and nothing was harder than a paranoid, solitary pony with a scream loud enough to wake Princess Luna at midday. Monday was Rarity.
Monday morning found the hitmare making preparations. Of course, she didn't have to make the hit today. She could spend the day simply working out how best to do it. But she'd have to start before too long.
Any business is easy to infiltrate because they're open for customers to walk in. And that's exactly what the hitmare did, approaching Carousel Boutique and observing where the windows and exits were. Thankfully, thick drapes covered a large number of the windows and the upstairs was too high to jump from. She stepped inside, closing the plate glass door as she did so.
"Hello and welcome to Carousel Boutique. I'll be with you in just a moment, but if you'd like to browse the rack on your right, you'll find all the latest winter styles." This was a rather manicured voice, which the hitmare took to be Rarity's. She did as she was told, and leafed through some expensive and fashionable dresses without interest. Once Rarity turned around, it would be a different story.
"Sorry about that. Ah, what a wonderful mane you have! So well looked-after! I simply must find you something that matches and does it justice!" Rarity exclaimed, rushing over. "Anything you have your eye on?"
"Well I was actually planning to trust your wisdom, Rarity. So many of my friends in Manehattan have recommended you, I made the trip here just to pick up one of your exclusive designs." The hitmare had been planning to flatter the pony, which was practically guaranteed to win over a fashionista like Rarity. But she'd made a mistake. If Rarity spoke to anypony else, then she'd tell them that this pony had made the trip to buy a dress. But that wouldn't help with the other targets. That mistake had, unfortunately, sealed poor Rarity's fate.
"Oh, why thank you. I will make sure that you look absolutely fabulous, don't you worry! I think something like this will bring out your eyes, my dear."
Back in Manehattan, the hitmare could afford uniquely designed outfits from Hoity Toity's personal line, but she was willing to allow this... local mare to have her fun. It wasn't as if she'd be designing any more dresses.
"Ribbon? What do you think? I'm not sure." Rarity twittered.
"No ribbon. Too poofy for me, I'm afraid."
"Oh you have no idea how nice it is to be talking to a pony who knows about fashion. Most of the ponies here really don't know anything." She continued, waving scissors around in a disconcerting way. "Let me just pin this hem up, I think that a slightly shorter cut would suit your legs, they're just so delightful."
"Oh yes, that looks fantastic. You really know how to make me look my best."
"Oh, well, of course my dear. It's so easy with a pony as fabulous as you."
Whilst Rarity fastened lace, the hitmare noticed a grumpy-looking white cat wander into the room. It reminded her that she needed to scope out the rest of the building before doing anything rash. Cats couldn't talk, but other ponies could. And they'd expose the so-called accident before the hitmare could escape.
"Oh Rarity this is just divine."
"Oh, well. Yes. Would you like me to package it?"
"I'm afraid there's an itchy seam just here, on my right foreleg. Could you fix it?"
"No problem at all! If you'll just take the dress off, I'll get that sorted for you."
"Thank you so much. You've been so helpful. Could you direct me to the little filly's room?"
The hitmare began checking doors as soon as she was out of Rarity's sight. Finding the itchy seam would take Rarity a few minutes, so she had time to check that nopony else was in the building. Of course, nopony was, but she did discover a bedroom which looked as if it belonged to a young pony. She would have to lock the door.
"Rarity, I was wondering. Could you do my mane too? I've noticed how amazing yours is, and since I'm going to a ball later today, if you could give me a design that matches the dress, I'm sure everypony would be asking for your business."
It was almost too easy. The purple-maned pony practically tripped over her own hooves in her rush to get her customer over to the hair salon. And there, the hitmare had everything she needed.
"I'd like a perm, but whatever you think will suit me. Anything else would probably be ruined on the train." She mock-complained as Rarity dunked her mane into a bowl of water.
"Yes, I was thinking a perm anyway."
Once Rarity had styled her mane and was about to put her under the heat machine, the hitmare took her chance. And afterwards she looked back with satisfaction at how clinical it had been. In a fluid movement she ducked under Rarity's hooves, grabbing the mare around the waist, and ramming her backwards and upwards. The metal machine made a thunking noise as Rarity's head hit it, knocking her out. Then the hitmare turned and sat the limp body in the chair so that she could use the machine to deliver the final blow. Setting it to its highest heat, she forced the purple-maned head into the opening and held it there with a steely embrace. After a few minutes Rarity came round and began struggling, but it was far too late for that. Within ten minutes, the hitmare was carrying Rarity's body upstairs, trying to avoid sniffing the horrible burnt smell.
She laid Rarity down on the bath mat and ran a tub full of warm water before going to look around the rest of the boutique. The doors and windows were locked, drapes covering the windows. The machine that had killed Rarity needed a clean, but she'd do that later. Everything was ready to set the scene.
The bathroom was perfect - partially plastered and with only a small window. The scented candles the hitmare had noticed whilst using the facilities would be the cause of death. She lit them all, but deliberately tipped the largest one over so that it lit the shower curtain. Ponies were naturally afraid of fire, but as the plastic curtain was consumed the hitmare barely moved. She'd been in enough situations involving arson that she'd stopped caring. Rarity was arranged on the floor nearest the door, her head closest to the rapidly expanding fire. Before leaving, the hitmare punched the door a few times to make it look as if Rarity had struggled, then kicked Rarity's pathetic hooves to induce bruising. A skilled coroner would be able to tell that it didn't match perfectly, but hopefully the burns would eliminate any need for it.
The hitmare exited the room and used a screwdriver to lock it, then headed out of the boutique, taking her dress. It didn't even matter if anypony saw her leave, because the fire wouldn't take hold for a few minutes, and she had an alibi.
On her way back to Sugarcube Corner, carrying the awkwardly shaped package the dress was in, she contemplated her good work. It had only taken three hours or so after she left for the boutique, and the first target was already done. Now she just had to keep an eye on the newspaper and hope they ruled it an accident. Awkwardly, if they didn't, she would be prime suspect, but it had been so clean and easy that she seriously doubted any world-class policeponies would be able to conclusively call foul play.
In the end, the hitmare chose to join the horrified crowd outside the smouldering remains of Carousel Boutique. She had no concerns about the quality of the job - the roof had collapsed and destroyed almost all of the upper floor, so the chances of them finding anything were non-existent. The offending hair styling machine was either melted or crushed beyond recognition, and it had taken a team of ten pegasi four hours to retrieve Rarity's body. One look and the police force had ruled it an accident - she'd obviously perished in the accidental fire. A terrible shame, the hitmare said to the other ponies.
Tuesday was Rainbow Dash day, she thought. Fast pegasi were easy to do - flying accidents were horribly common and a fatal one would be so easy to fake. Anyway, Rainbow Dash had an arrogant attitude that meant that upon hearing of her close friend's death, she would push herself to the limit. So easy for it to be a slip. They might even suspect suicide - Rainbow Dash and Rarity, secret lovers perhaps?
The difficulty with doing a job on pegasi was that she couldn't fly herself. So as soon as Rainbow Dash was awake and ready to fly around all day, it would be too difficult to achieve anything. So a stealth mission it was, to be carried out in the dead of night. And Rainbow Dash's weakness was for two things - arrogance, and the Wonderbolts.
Once the Cakes and Pinkie Pie were asleep, the hitmare left by the window and headed for Rainbow Dash's house. It was in the sky, granted, but that wasn't an issue. Once underneath, she simply packaged up the uniform in brown paper, wrote the address, and forged a postmark. Then it needed to be thrown onto the doorstep. Her first attempt missed, but fell back down. The second attempt worked to perfection, landing exactly where she'd aimed. Now she had to hope that her target would sleep in late. She made her way back to the cake shop, pleased that another job was complete. But two in such a short period would attract attention, so she would need to spend the rest of the day lying low. As she climbed back into the uncomfortable spare bed, she decided to go and see Applejack under the pretence of an order of apples. Any extra information on the pony would be helpful.
"Well hi there. How can I help you?" Applejack said in her country accent as the hitmare approached the Apple family's cottage.
"Hello, are you Applejack?"
"I sure as apples am! Who might you be?"
"I'm Astral Quartz. I'm actually a representative of the Yuletide Manehattan Cider Association."
"Oh, I thought you might have heard of us. Well nonetheless, we like to drink winter ciders, you know. Ones brewed during the slow season. We think they have the best flavour."
"Well that's very nice. But we only brew cider after harvesting time."
"No no, we're looking to get some apples. We brew it ourselves."
"Oh, well in that case were you looking to take them away with you now? Only Big Macintosh is away speaking to somepony."
The hitmare smiled. "It's quite alright. I'll probably come and collect them tomorrow when I have a cart, but I'd like to negotiate a price. Then, I know how many bits to bring."
Applejack, the savvy businesspony, realised that she might be in with a chance to make a big sale. "Just how many apples were you looking to buy?"
"We were thinking somewhere around a ton. We have a lot of members."
"I see. Well, come indoors and we can negotiate."
Before they could go inside, a large red stallion came sprinting up the path.
"Now, what's all of the fuss about Big Macintosh?" Applejack said, looking confused.
"There's been an accident." Her brother panted, coming to a screeching halt. "It's Rainbow Dash."
The hitmare followed Applejack into town, but without quite as much urgency. It was bad luck that the stricken pegasus had spiralled straight into the town hall, but it couldn't be helped. The hitmare just hoped that her victim hadn't survived the crash.
"Oh my... Rainbow." The orange pony gasped as she saw what remained of her blue friend being stretchered away.
On the outside, the hitmare was distraught. Inside she was pleased. She'd badly made a Wonderbolt costume, deliberately so it looked like an inept pegasus had created it. But the fabric was a woolen blend that absorbed water in a big way. Once Rainbow Dash had flown through a few clouds, the suit would have weighed as much as six of the Royal Guard. Of course she'd immediately fallen to her death. And everypony was saying what a tragic accident it had been, Rainbow Dash not realising that the material had that property. Her love for the best flying squad had been her undoing.
Applejack was extremely upset and went running straight to somewhere that the hitmare didn't know. So she just had to be content with the fact that she was a third of the way through her job. But Applejack's terrible grief actually played into her hands. She just had to hope that she was going to be at Sweet Apple Acres the next day. To avoid being around large number of crying ponies, the hitmare then went back to Sugarcube Corner. The Cakes already knew the news and they speculated in hushed tones over whether Rainbow Dash had done it deliberately over the loss of Rarity the previous day. Pinkie Pie was nowhere to be seen, which was strange. Previously the hitmare had noticed that she was almost always hanging around the bakery. Maybe she'd gone out to buy ingredients, or to comfort her friends.
Mayor Mare announced a memorial service to be held the next afternoon for both Rainbow Dash and Rarity. The hitmare sent a note to Applejack, asking if they could meet in the morning because she'd like to attend the service and still had to get back to Manehattan in the evening. Just before she went to bed, the affirmative reply arrived. But Pinkie Pie wasn't back.
Ponyville was in a sombre mood on Wednesday, designated Applejack day. Clearly another death would verge into the suspicious, so the hitmare had to be careful. Her plan for the apple pony was simple yet effective.
"Oh... hi Astral. How ya doin?" Applejack asked, opening the door to the cottage.
"Not so good. Are you feeling okay?"
"Not really. But I'd like you to have the apples. No point you wasting a trip."
"Oh, well only if you're sure. Of course, discussion of the price is completely inappropriate, so we are willing to pay whatever you ask. With our respects."
"You're so kind."
"So, do you have the apples?"
"Erm, no. I was going to buck them for you this morning. We don't normally keep that many apples in our barn at one time."
The hitmare accompanied Applejack into the orchard. Whenever she asked where to get the apples from next, the hitmare replied that they needed to go further into the orchard. It was going so swimmingly. Within the hour they were out of sight of the cottage, and Applejack was looking depressed.
"I'm sorry for being so miserable. It's just that I missed Rainbow."
"Quite understandable. She really was an amazing pony."
"And Rarity too, although we didn't always see eye-to-eye."
"It's so sad that you had to suffer this double loss."
Applejack nodded, bowing her head. "But I'm best to be cheerful. It's what they would've wanted."
The hitmare smiled, and as Applejack turned to buck the next tree, she made her move. Her hind legs moved almost as fast as Applejack's, hitting her in the head and knocking the rodeo pony down. Since Applejack was a tough customer, the hitmare didn't hesitate in following the blow up with two quick stamps, ensuring that her companion was out for the count.
Then it was exceedingly simple. The hitmare simply found a particularly thick patch of trees and bushes then dug a deep hole. She could have finished Applejack off with brute force, but it was messy. She preferred to simply make it easy, and dragged the unconscious Applejack over to the hole. The pony fell eight feet to the bottom with a thud, and the hitmare smiled before filling it in. She left a large pile of rotting apples on top of it then headed back to retrace her steps.
"Big Macintosh! Hello?" The hitmare shouted. The stallion came running, looking concerned.
"What's the matter? Where's Applejack?"
"I'm so sorry! We were talking about Rainbow Dash, you know, and suddenly she got upset and ran off into the orchard! She was faster than me and I couldn't keep up!" She said, looking upset.
"I'll go and look." Big Macintosh said. "You don't need to stay."
"I'll be no help. I'm so sorry."
The stallion didn't pause to continue the conversation and disappeared into the orchard. The hitmare was confident he'd never find Applejack, so she headed for town, maintaining her sombre expression because it blended better with everypony else. Of course, they's assume that Applejack had got upset and run away. By the time they knew otherwise, the hitmare would be safely away in hiding. But still, she needed to be careful. If the Apple family got upset, they might blame her.
The memorial service was, of course, most upsetting. For propriety, the hitmare attended. She'd already banked over two million bits because of these ponies, and whilst she didn't know why she was required to finish such a strange group of ponies, she didn't question it when somepony was willing to pay.
The Mayor spoke stirringly of both ponies' contribution to the town, and Twilight Sparkle lamented the fact that Applejack was too upset to attend. Which of course, reinforced the idea that she was simply upset, not dead. And the hitmare liked that. Anything that meant they didn't suspect murder.
But now she faced a dilemma. Normally she was only expected to do a job on one pony, or a couple. Maybe even three if they wanted no witnesses. But she had to do six jobs, all in a week. Ponies were going to become suspicious before long, not because any of the deaths were suspicious, but because of the coincidence. It could even attract attention at a Royal level. Although that was what was going to happen when the hitmare did her next target. She knew all about Twilight Sparkle's connections with the rulers of Equestria. And this was going to be tricky. Once Twilight was gone, she had a day at best before the Princess would be there. And the Princess was too good at seeing through the lies that ponies told and finding their true nature. That couldn't happen. It could ruin her career in Equestria and make her the most wanter pony. She'd even find it difficult to work abroad. Whatever happened, she had to be extra careful with the bookish nerd. She was a nest of vipers ready to bite.
Thursday was Twilight Sparkle day, but it was also time for a new persona. Now she was a therapist from Manehattan, ready to offer counselling to those ponies most affected by the recent deaths. Morphing into this role was especially easy since the only surviving pony who knew anything about her was Pinkie Pie, who hadn't returned home for another night. If she'd run away, it was going to be difficult to do the job on her when the time came. But she was so trusting, it would be an easy job. The hitmare wasn't concerned.
First thing that morning she paid a visit to Ponyville Library, where she knew she'd find her purple target.
"Hello?" Twilight asked, only opening the top half of the door.
"Firstly, let me offer my deepest condolences. I believe you were very close to the... well."
"I was. And thank you."
"May I come in?"
The hitmare stepped into the library and immediately smelled old books. It wasn't unpleasant, but there was nowhere like it in Manehattan. A new smell.
"May I ask who you are?" Twilight said, shutting the door.
"Of course. I am Astral Quartz. I am a specialist grief counsellor who works in Manehattan."
"Oh good. I think I could use your help." The other pony replied, looking upset. "You came at the right time."
"I actually came here for a holiday, but with everything that has happened, there was no way I could simply sit by. This kind of thing simply never happens in small towns."
"I know. I'm just so... so sad that they're gone..."
"It's okay. Let it out." The hitmare said, allowing Twilight's tears to dampen her coat. "Grief is part of the healing process."
"Actually." Twilight said between sobs. "I think you'd better see Fluttershy. She's far worse affected than me."
For the first time, the plan hadn't gone as expected. Now the hitmare found herself heading for a cottage on the edge of the Everfree Forest. Twilight, once decided on something, was too difficult to persuade otherwise. Oh well. Fluttershy was an easy target. She was so meek she'd probably lie down and wait for the executioner's axe.
The hitmare knocked, and heard something break inside the cottage. "Fluttershy? Are you okay?"
"Go away!" Came the screamed reply.
"Fluttershy, I'm a grief counsellor. Let me in, please."
Rather unexpectedly, the door then opened. "Of course. Come in." Fluttershy said, her yellow cheeks stained with tears.
"Fluttershy, what happened!" The hitmare exclaimed, trying not to let a tone of contempt into her voice. She was supposed to be a counsellor.
The cottage was a mess. All of the furniture was wrecked, and there appeared to be a bunny cowering in the corner.
"I don't know! One minute I was crying, the next all of my things were ruined!" The pegasus bawled, pulling the hitmare into an unexpected hug.
"It's okay. We'll sort it out."
"Sort it out! What do you mean sort it out!" Fluttershy suddenly screamed, pushing the hitmare so hard that she stumbled into a side table that was missing two legs. "I don't know who you are but I hate you!"
Something was hurled at the hitmare, so she made a quick getaway. The plan was ruined by this terribly violent reaction to grief. Although, she was pleased to find her criminal mind quickly cooking up new plans. She could go back to the cottage, kill Fluttershy with some item, then say she was insane and did it to herself - the rest of the house would support that. Or she could get Fluttershy to brutally murder Twilight, then fake a suicide. Whatever happened, it would have to happen the next day. All she had to do now was visit Twilight again.
Twilight was out, and her assistant, a disgustingly cutesy dragon called Spike, said he didn't know where she'd gone. Now there was nothing she could do but wait for the next day, and two unexplained deaths on the same day would guaranteed suspicion. Oh well, nothing the hitmare could do. She was winging it now, so to speak.
"Spike, please ask Twilight to organise a meeting for me."
"Sure, what do you need?"
"I need Twilight and Fluttershy here, tomorrow night. It'll be sensitive, so it might be best for you to come too."
"Okay, no problem."
Somewhat happier with herself, the hitmare made her way back to Sugarcube Corner. Pinkie Pie was back but doing something in her room, so the hitmare didn't press the issue. She just went straight to the spare room and passed the time thinking about how she would spend the money. She was certainly going to be very rich. But the next evening would be very difficult - a triple murder was always difficult to pull off. Now that Pinkie Pie was back, it should be easy to finish the job. By Saturday afternoon, she'd be in the desert and miles from justice.
"Astral? Are you okay?" Mr Cake asked, sounding very awkward.
"I'm okay. Just a little upset."
"That's quite alright. Would you like a cake?"
"No, thank you. You're kind to offer."
Mr Cake went away.
The hitmare was staying in her room with the door barricaded shut. She'd explained this by saying she was overcome with grief - news had come through that morning that there was no trace of Applejack. In reality, she just wanted to avoid any kind of contact with other ponies until that evening. Nothing could ruin her plan now.
She did go downstairs for lunch though, since she was so hungry. Pinkie Pie was out somewhere, but the Cakes had put on an extra-special spread to try and cheer her up, which was nice. She ate as much as she could, realising that she might need it if she was on the run in the sparesely populated west. After thanking them profusely, she went back up to her room and packed up her sparse possessions. She'd only be there one more night and a quick getaway in the early morning was paramount.
Then, just as it started to get dark, she went to the train station. It was to check the timetable and see when the best morning train was. Apparently it was at half past four, which suited her just fine. But there was a train to Canterlot sitting at the platform and the hitmare knew that if she boarded it, there was no risk of prison. She could leave Ponyville forever and continue her life without risk by simply boarding the train. She might even be able to persuade her superiors to part with a fraction of their offered sum if she was really clever about it, although it was against the professional code of practice.
In the end, she knew she had to go through with it. Less than 12 hours until she was safely on the train, although this was the hardest part.
The library had the lights on as she approached. When she knocked on the door there was no sound from inside, but Twilight quickly let her in.
"Thank goodness you're here. I put Fluttershy to sleep. She's tired herself out crying and screaming, so hopefully you can do something."
"I can. I've seen this reaction before, but I need time to perform it. It's easier when she's tired." The hitmare lied, stepping into the tree and waiting for Twilight to guide her to Fluttershy. "Is Spike around?"
"He's looking after Fluttershy."
The pair of ponies went up the stairs, where Fluttershy was sleeping peacefully in the guest bed.
"Anything I can bring you?" Twilight asked quietly.
"I need three cups of strong tea. Do you take tea, Spike?"
The dragon shrugged.
"Well, two of tea and whatever Spike wants. When they're brewed, let me have them. I'll put a calming pill into Fluttershy's which will hopefully stop the mood swings until I can talk to her."
Whilst Twilight was away, the hitmare simply messed around with various books she'd picked off the shelves and seemed interested, whilst Spike looked sickeningly concerned for Fluttershy.
"Okay. Now please wake Fluttershy." The hitmare said, sprinkling powder not just into Fluttershy's cup, but into all three. Spike and Twilight were distracted waking their friend.
"Drink these. All three of you." The hitmare said, making a show of giving Fluttershy hers. That put Twilight's mind at rest and she drank her tea without question.
Fluttershy was in kind-and-good mode and so did as she was told. Spike hadn't waited to be told twice.
The hitmare, satisfied, got up and made her way back down the stairs.
"Hey, wait, where are you going?" Twilight's voice said, but it was clearly fading towards the end of the sentence. When the hitmare reached the door, she looked around to see three unconscious bodies at the top of the stairs. Then she left, switching off the lights and shutting the door.
She didn't nice to cover up the deaths because heavy metal poisoning was so rare. Even if a well-qualified doctor realised what it was, it would take them a long time to link it to murder. The hitmare only needed eight hours. Nopony would realise what had happened until she was past Canterlot and heading for Manehattan.
Sugarcube Corner was quiet, shut for the night. The hitmare climbed the stairs to the spare room and shut it behind her, barricading it for safe measure. She'd be up before anypony knocked. Then she slept, much more soundly than she had for the past five days. Her job was almost complete. Murdering Pinkie Pie in her bed would be exceptionally simple, and even better, she knew Pinkie Pie was in there. Only the party pony would snore quite as enthusiastically as she did.
The hitmare woke as the door was smashed open. The noise of the chair she'd wedged under the handle breaking was what woke her, and she was instantly glad she'd done it. It was pitch black in the room, but for the door, which was now letting a strange orange light in. The silhouette of a pony filled the hitmare with dread. She must have been discovered.
Leaping out of bed, she scrambled towards the window, her only escape. But it was shut and she didn't have time to break it before the pony reached her. The only thing left for the hitmare to do was discover the identity of her attacker. If it was another hitpony, that was it. But if it was somepony else, like a policepony, she might be able to overpower them. Her hooves slid into a combat stance without her thinking, ready to attack and make her escape.
But before the hitmare could find out who the shadowed figure was, a single shot rang out. The bullet, something rather new to Equestria, hit the hitmare in the shoulder, the force knocking her into the wall. She slid down it, wondering what had happened and why she was suddenly in intense pain. A warm liquid suddenly surrounded her hind legs, and she wondered if some water was leaking from somewhere.
Pinkie Pie stepped out of the shadow with a twisted smile. In her hooves was a metal tube which the hitpony didn't recognise. When Pinkie Pie crouched down next to her stricken body, she realise she didn't have the strength to attack.
"I bet you thought you could get me next, huh?" Pinkie sneered. "Well, I've adapted my party cannon into this."
The hitpony stared unseeing at the object. It meant nothing to her now, but five minutes ago it would have changed her life forever.
"I hit you in the shoulder so I could tell you, but now I have so there's no point waiting around."
The hitpony found herself most irritated by the way that Pinkie Pie continued to use her sing-song voice.
"Bye bye, Glory Hider."
The next shot from the tube hit the hitpony, who was indeed called Glory Hider, in the eye. She didn't see it or feel it and she died before the bullet had continued far enough to hit the wall behind her.
"Now I'm going to turn you into cupcakes!"
One skill that the hitpony had always possessed was the ability to wake on command. And she did so at precisely half past three in the morning. But she didn't wake in Sugarcube Corner. Instead, she found herself in a dark room with a well-lit exit, which was burning her eyes.
She was extremely cautious when using the exit. Obviously somepony had caught up with her, probably another hitpony. Now she just had to escape with her life and claim her money. But when she made her way around the corner, something terrifying caught her eye.
There were a large series of mirrors, creating a strange effect where the pony in the reflection appeared eight or nine times. But the hitmare could see herself in the mirrors. This wasn't because she could see her reflection, but because she could see herself. A statue of herself.
The statue stared at her with blank eyes. The hitmare was unnerved. What was this?
"Hello Glory Hider."
Glory hadn't heard her name for years, and it shocked her. The voice came from behind her, but when she looked, it was coming from a speaker.
"Please. I'm giving you a chance to escape with your life. But you must complete your task." The voice obviously belonged to Pinkie Pie. "You must kill me, then you can go."
"Where are you?" Glory asked out loud.
"I'm around. You might have heard of it. It's called Cat and Mouse. And you're the mouse."
The voice faded away. Glory left the creepy statue and headed for a strange structure that resembled an auditorium. If she wanted to win, she had to keep moving. Who knew what Pinkie Pie was capable of?
The structure turned into a kind of ladder or scaffold, which Glory quickly scaled. Once at the top she'd hoped for a view of the entire building, but it was obstructed by blackness. Now she had to climb down, and who knew where her stalker was hiding?
"Oh Glory, you really shouldn't do that." The voice said when she started to go back down. "At the top, look right and reach out. You'll find a ladder."
The ladder did exist. Whilst Glory didn't want to use it, Pinkie could clearly see her, and maybe she was giving her a sporting chance.
The ladder led back down near the statue. When there, Glory tried making stupid faces. There was nothing from the voice. This suggested that she was once again out of sight.
A plan occurred to her.
Pinkie walked into the room she'd left Glory in when she was asleep. She actually didn't know where her prey had gone. She followed the room out into the creepy mirror area - she'd particularly liked that one. Such a funny prank.
She turned and saw nothing more than the statue where she'd left it, and all those mirrors. Then she laughed.
"Oh Glory, that was a great effort. I must commend you. But you just lack that instinct that you needed." She said happily, drawing a strange tube out from somewhere. She pointed it at the statue and fired.
The statue moved in inch in fright before the bullet killed it. Then it fell to the floor in a heap, crimson regret spreading out across the mirrored floor.