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Well. Today sure has been eye-opening.
I found out how Holmes pays his half of the rent, but that was just the beginning. A day with Fetlock Holmes is a day like no other. Everything seems so normal at first, but then things keep happening and you find yourself caught up in his excitement. I understand why he chose his job, I really do. There’s never a dull moment.
But perhaps I should take a moment to gather my thoughts. My head is still spinning from the day’s events.
It was as the sun escaped the horizon that I awoke to the sound of somepony torturing a violin. It scraped along every nerve and fibre of my being like metal squealing against metal. Furious, I stormed out of my bedroom and into the main living area.
“What the bloody hay are you doing?” I shouted, though my voice may have lost some of its force as I noticed who else was in the room.
An imposing stallion with light brown fur and a short golden mane stood just inside the room. He spared me a glance before turning back to Holmes, who was reclining calmly on an armchair with the offending violin pressed against his neck. The bow was attached to his other hoof and sat poised just above the strings. He, too, gave me a quick look without so much as an apology.
“Holmes,” grumbled the new stallion, “You made me promise to come get you if something interesting happened. Well, this is right up your alley.”
The pony he addressed sighed in annoyance. “Yes, you have said that already. I’m waiting for some details.” Holmes glanced at me again. “Watson, this is Lestrade. Lestrade, Watson.”
Lestrade cleared his throat. “That’s Inspector Lestrade, thanks.”
I nodded in belated greeting and approached the pair, all thoughts of violins and anger gone from my mind. “And what exactly is a policepony doing here?” I directed the question towards Holmes.
“They come to me when they get stumped. So, often.” Now that definitely piqued my interest.
“Are you a detective or something?”
“Consulting detective, actually. The best in the world.”
Lestrade barked a laugh. “That’s because he’s the only one in the world. The title doesn’t actually exist outside of his head.”
“Do you want my help or not?”
The inspector sobered quickly. “You want details? Right. A little colt was found dead in an alley yesterday morning with his head bashed in.”
I felt my throat close at the revelation and I swallowed repeatedly. I was an army doctor and had seen my fair share of dead stallions and mares, but something about fallen children hit me deep inside.
“Is that all?” Holmes asked casually. “Probably a mugging gone wrong. Young pony skulls can be quite fragile.”
“’Is that all?!’” I exclaimed incredulously. “Don’t you have any shred of compassion?”
Lestrade looked at me with an eyebrow raised. “How long have you known Fetlock Holmes, Mister Watson?”
“Doctor. I’m a doctor. And not very long, but why should that matter?”
“Compassion,” began Holmes conversationally, “Is an odd defect found in the limbic system of the brain. It has no useful function and only serves to make observations subject to the inaccuracies of extreme emotion. If I broke down crying every time I heard of a horrible tragedy, there would still be horrible tragedies. Do you understand?”
“That is why it matters,” muttered Lestrade.
I could barely believe my ears. “So you don’t even care that the little colt is dead?”
“You misunderstand me.” Holmes adjusted his position to look me in the eyes. “I care, definitely. I want the killer to be caught just as much as you do. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do: catch the killer. Would you mind telling me how getting upset would assist me? I’d love to know.”
My mouth worked but nothing came out. By Celestia, I thought, he’s right! I honestly couldn’t think of anything to counter with.
One of the greatest lessons in life is humility. “I’m sorry. I understand now.”
His eyes widened in surprise, which in turn surprised me. It was an expression I didn’t know he had. “You are an odd pony, Watson.”
“Nopony wants to admit they were wrong. It goes against the basic instincts we all have. Arguments are seen as battles, and we all want to win them so badly that most never even consider being wrong.”
Lestrade coughed impatiently. “This is all bloody fascinating and everything, but can you just confirm if you’re taking the case?”
“Yes, I’m taking it. I’ll visit the crime scene soon.”
“Thank you.” With a nod, the inspector left the room and thumped down the stairs.
With all thoughts of arguments and humility gone, I was reminded of the subject at hand. “You didn’t seem very interested in the case before.”
“I changed my mind.”
“Because if it was just a mugging gone wrong, he wouldn’t have come to me. I think there may be more to this.” A little smile graced his lips as he considered the possibilities.
“And that excites you?” I was slightly concerned.
“Of course. The thrill of the hunt, slowly piecing together a mystery, contending with dastardly villains! What’s not exciting about that?”
“The fact that those things rarely happen in real life.”
“Oh really?” He curled up on the armchair. “Tell me, Jog Watson, what does happen in your ‘real life’?”
“Well… Ponies contentedly deal with daily frustrations while trying to slowly piece together a happy and ultimately fulfilling life.”
“Boring! You can keep your real world, I shall have no part in it.” Leaping from the armchair, he pulled a long dark coat from the coat stand and slipped it on. “I have a case to solve. If you’re still curious about how I pay my half of the rent, you are welcome to accompany me.”
With nothing else to do, I took him up on his offer and donned my leather jacket, making a mental note to look for a slightly more modern coat later.
I confess, boredom was not the only reason I followed Holmes down the stairs and into the street, nor was fear of complacency the only reason I climbed into the carriage with him. It was curiosity that stood foremost in my mind, dictating my actions. If that sounds like I am relinquishing responsibility for myself then I apologise, but that is certainly how I felt.
We had an interesting conversation in the carriage on the way there that began when I asked how he knew where to go considering the inspector didn’t give him the address.
“I read the paper. The violent death of a colt in a Trottingham alley? That’s front page material. Naturally, they provided the address so ponies could all go and gawk at the bloodstains, or whatever it is normal ponies do.”
“You must have read the paper before the inspector arrived though. Are you saying you remembered a tiny detail that you didn’t even know you would need?”
“Not at all. I’m saying that due to the big publicity behind this case, Lestrade would want to find the killer quickly. To do that he would put his best ponies onto it.”
“So why did he come to you?” I didn’t mean it in that way, but when Holmes started laughing I couldn’t help but join in. It was refreshing to see him laugh, especially after his anti-emotion speech not too long ago.
“I like your wit, Watson. In answer to your question, he comes to me when his best ponies aren’t enough. I am his ‘ace in the hole’, if you like card game analogies.”
I took a moment to sum everything up for my own benefit. “So you knew just from reading the front page that Lestrade would come to ask for your help?”
“In essence, yes.” He was smirking at my dumbfounded reaction.
“Do you make these kinds of assumptions often?”
Holmes gave a strong laugh that I did not reciprocate, for I had yet to see the humour. “Oh, you have no idea, my dear Watson.”
From those words it became apparent that my clear intellectual inferiority was not a burden on him, and that he was apparently warming to me as a pony. It gave me hope that living with this strange stallion wouldn’t be quite as unbearable as I first imagined.
The crime scene was cordoned off by policeponies, as I expected. They held back a hungry crowd of journalists and a curious pack of pedestrians. Lestrade was standing at the mouth of the alley talking to a little old mare clutching a broomstick like it was her only child.
Our carriage stopped before the police line and we exited to the flash of cameras. In a split second, my comparatively weaker deductive powers decided that Holmes had been in the spotlight before and thus attracted a lot of media attention when in public.
My companion seemed less than thrilled by the attention, turning his coat up and moving past the crowd quickly. I followed, stumbling slightly as I was blinded by the cacophony of white that accompanied my exit from the vehicle. That seemed to only excite the vulture-like journalists and made my progress that much more difficult.
Eventually, I caught up to Holmes as he waited impatiently on the other side of the police line. He jerked his head – ‘follow me, and be quick about it’. I did as much, and the policeponies did not hinder my advance. Whether it was because they had been told about me or I looked like a detective with my jacket and cropped mane, I still don’t know.
We trotted purposefully up to Lestrade and the old mare.
“Ah,” exclaimed the inspector upon spotting us. “There you are, Holmes. And… Doctor Watson too?”
“He was curious about how I work,” explained Holmes.
“Yeah, we’re all a bit curious about how you work, but this is police business. We can’t just let civilians go snooping around crime scenes.”
My companion cocked his head and smiled.
Lestrade sighed, realising his error. “Just this once. I’m breaking enough rules letting you snoop around.
“If those rules are stopping cases from getting solved then perhaps breaking them is the best solution. May we inspect the scene now?”
A nod was all the answer we received as the inspector turned back to the old mare. I followed Holmes through the alley until we reached the marked area. A chalk outline on a dark stain cast quite an image, one that I’ll not soon forget.
“Pity,” muttered Holmes.
“It is,” I agreed.
“They should’ve left the body.”
“The outline can only tell us so much.”
I shook my head. “Why am I even surprised that’s what you’re talking about? Anyway, the poor colt died yesterday morning. It would not look a pretty sight.”
Holmes seemed almost offended. “I can account for decomposition!”
“That’s not really what I meant.”
“Regardless, they should have left the body.”
“They probably have photos of it.”
“Indeed, but I can’t inspect very thoroughly through a picture. We shall have to make do with this.”
He stepped around the stain and outline carefully, eyes darting across the scene and occasionally looking further down the alley. I stood and watched with interest. So this is what he does, I remember thinking. He solves crimes and is apparently o good at it police actually request his help. It certainly fit his personality, that’s for certain.
“I’m done here,” he said, straightening up after looking at the ground a few metres away from the outline.
“Any clues?” I asked, genuinely enjoying myself despite the matter at hand.
Holmes swept past me and I quickly followed. The old mare was sitting on her doorstep being comforted by a policepony.
Lestrade noticed our approach and trotted to meet us. “Well?”
“Do you have a picture of the body?” The inspector flipped one out from his coat pocket and hoofed it over. Holmes glanced at it barely a second before looking up. “Was there anything missing from the body? Any traces that he had been searched?”
“Nothing. He was left where he dropped.”
“Perhaps not a mugging gone wrong then. What’s that object on his right eye?”
Lestrade took a breath before answering and I leaned forward in anticipation. “It’s a butterfly. A dead butterfly. We think it’s unrelated, probably just died and fell out of the sky.”
“That's extremely unlikely.”
“I guess I’ll arrest the bloody dead butterfly then. Case closed,” the inspector replied dryly.
“What kind of butterfly was it?”
“I don’t bloody know – hey, Silvertap!” he called to the mare comforting the old pony.
She trotted over quickly. “Sir?”
“What kind of butterfly was it?”
“A Wet Flier, sir.”
Holmes looked at Silvertap with a smirk. “From its name I assume they are fond of the wet seasons?”
“That’s right, Mister Holmes. Trottingham and the countryside around us has plenty of them around this time of year.”
Lestrade shook his head. “Holmes, if you’re just wasting time because you don’t have any leads-“
“I’m gathering knowledge, Lestrade. Have we not met?”
“Alright, but enough about the damn butterfly. Silvertap, go back to Mrs Oak.”
As the mare quickly trotted away, Holmes didn’t miss a beat. “Who was the colt? Does he have any family?”
“A mother and a father, no siblings. His name was Whippy Feather.”
“Which school did he go to?”
“Trottingham First Start School, near the northern public park.”
“Good. I’m going to interview some ponies, can I trust that you won’t reprimand me?”
Lestrade seemed to argue internally, but it wasn’t long before he nodded. “Alright, but I want some results.”
With that, Holmes and I slipped past the cameras once more and hailed a carriage. I admit I wasn’t very talkative, as I was still trying to absorb all the information I had been subjected to. Strangely, only one question popped into my mind as we rumbled towards the school.
“First Start School?” I asked stupidly.
“They changed the name a few times over the years. Merely politicians and officials trying to justify their jobs.”
“So what is a First Start School in old-pony language then?”
Holmes chuckled. “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
When we arrived at the school, the first thing I noticed was how subdued it seemed. There were no shouting or playing children to be seen. It unnerved me slightly.
The receptionist was remarkably helpful, probably assuming we were policeponies. She had been crying a bit, judging from the redness around her eyes, and many of the staff we passed were somewhat haggard in appearance. The death of little ponies would have a large effect on those who spend time with them, I supposed.
The classroom we entered seemed very quiet considering how old the students were. The teacher was writing sums on the blackboard, but nopony was really concentrating. There was a sad aura around an empty desk in the front row. Clearly, Whippy Feather had worked there.
“Can I help you?” asked the teacher.
Holmes stepped forward. “Yes, we were sent here to conduct some interviews with you and your students. I believe my secretary would have called ahead to let you know.”
The lies seemed so natural and believable that for a moment I seriously wondered why I hadn’t met his secretary yet.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t get any messages.”
My companion sighed irritably. “My apologies, ma’am. She often forgets to do this. Is it alright if we conduct the interviews anyway?”
“Of course, of course. The room next to this one is empty. If you want, I can send them in one by one.”
“That’s very much appreciated, ma’am. Though I would like to interview you first.”
The mare nodded and trotted to the door. “Now class, behave yourselves until I come back.” As I followed her out, I noticed that none of the students were particularly thrilled or rowdy at the prospect of being teacherless for a few minutes.
In the next room, we sat behind one of the desks and had the teacher stand.
“So, what is your name?” asked Holmes.
“I am Cheerilot.”
“And why did you become a teacher?” I realised at this point that he was trying to make her feel at ease, and thus more talkable. If there is one thing ponies love to talk about, it’s themselves.
“My sister and I always loved helping other ponies learn and be happy, so we both became teachers. Not here, of course. She works in a lovely little town far away.”
“A very admirable goal in life. Now, I’m sorry if this is blunt, but we need to ask about Whippy.”
She nodded solemnly. “I know. If it helps, I’ll tell you anything.”
“Thank you.” I felt slightly chilled at his display of emotion. It was so convincing! “Did he have any friends in his class?”
“Two. Popluck and Apple Crunch. They…” she bit her lip.
“Yes?” prompted Holmes.
“They… used to bully some of the other ponies. I don’t like speaking ill of the dead, so is it okay if I just leave it at that?”
My heart went out to the teacher at that moment. She swallowed and blinked her eyes quickly. Clearly, she had been maintaining her persona all day and we were cracking it.
“Of course,” my fellow interviewer said soothingly. “That’s all we really need, thank you so much. Please send the first students through.”
She sniffed and straightened her back before leaving the room. How hard it must be to have to hide your emotions all day long. I wouldn’t be able to bear it.
“You only asked her three questions,” I whispered in the few moments that we were alone.
“How observant of you, Watson,” he smirked. I was really starting to hate that smirk.
“So what could you possibly have gained from three questions?”
“Whippy and his friends bullied the other students. His death could be a revenge attack.”
“You’re treating the children as suspects?”
“There is no reason not to.”
My reply was cut short by a little colt walking into the room. He looked very nervous, so I smiled to try and ease his nerves. It only seemed to make him more anxious.
“There’s no need to be scared. We’re policeponies,” I said with a straight face. It felt wrong and right at the same time, conflicting my strict military training with the natural desire to be kind to little ponies.
“What’s your name?” asked Holmes.
“Popluck, sir.” I was surprised. This was one of the bullies? He barely reached my chest!
“So, Popluck, do you like this school?”
“No, the homework is stupid and they make me sit next to fillies.”
I chuckled, as did Holmes. At the sight of our laughter, Popluck visibly relaxed.
“Do you like animals?” I wondered where my companion was going with that question.
“Yeah. I have a dog at home and he’s awesome. We run around all day and never get tired.”
“He sounds very cool. What about bugs? Do you like bugs?”
“I like spiders and stuff. They look cool.”
I saw the slightest twitch on Holmes’ lips. “What about butterflies?” In an instant, I understood his angle of questioning.
“Butterflies are lame! They're stupid and only fillies like them!” Popluck proclaimed vehemently.
“Of course they are. Well, thank you very much Popluck. You can go back to your class now.” The colt did as much, clearly happy with himself and his answers.
Beyond that first interview, they all followed the same formulae and I confess that I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have. However, I will still list the ones I can remember. Perhaps I should have written them down at the time, but alas the thought did not cross my mind.
A little filly named Mariposa, who had pink fur and red hair, claimed that she loved butterflies.
Another filly named Goldentap, with a brown mane and white fur, also claimed she loved butterflies.
The colt named Apple Crunch, who had orange fur and a dark brown mane, expressed dislike for butterflies, considering them for fillies just like Popluck did.
A third filly, Crimsqueak, liked butterflies. Her fur was a muddy red and her mane was light brown.
A colt named Red liked butterflies. His fur was grey and his mane was black.
Another colt, named Dupe, expressed venomous dislike of butterflies, much like Popluck and Apple Crunch, though he wasn’t actually friends with them and admitted to being bullied by the trio.
That was all I could remember, but Holmes was kind enough to fill in the remaining seventeen students:
Sunny Daze, filly, yes.
Ruby Pinch, filly, yes.
Compass, colt, no.
Jazz Hooves, colt, no.
Comet, colt, no.
Cinnabelle, filly, yes.
Ballad, colt, no.
Gumdrop, filly, yes.
Wind Whistler, colt, no.
Flash, filly, no.
Ferio, colt, no.
Sugar Grape, filly, yes.
Riverdance, filly, yes.
Parula, filly, yes.
Papermoon, colt, no.
Mini Medley, filly, yes.
Heart Bob, colt, no.
Not quite as descriptive as I wanted, considering these children are potential suspects, but I doubt I would remember their individual colours anyway. That list should come in handy if one of the students is caught doing something they shouldn’t be, even though I do still think it’s a little ridiculous to suspect them.
After the interviews were complete, we left the school and caught yet another carriage. I was surprised that Holmes would willingly spend so much money to avoid walking. When I said as much, the reply was surprising.
“Riding in these things helps me think. I’m always moving forward which helps my mind process information quicker.”
“And what are you processing right now?”
“That it was strange how much the colts at that school hated butterflies. I understand the normal young colt behaviour, but they seemed quite enthusiastic with their hatred.”
“They are young, they get enthusiastic about everything.”
“Possibly. Or one of them is the killer and they placed a butterfly on the dead colt because they associated him with something else they hated.”
I barked a laugh. “That’s quite an assumption.”
Holmes smiled and looked out the window. “Yes, it’s not a very strong theory. But you asked what I was thinking and I told you.”
“Thank you. So besides that, do you think you gained anything from those interviews?”
“Not really, no. I simply had to try and rule out the students.”
“And have you?”
“Almost. There are a couple of possible suspects among them, but I don’t have enough to go on.”
I thought for a moment, scratching my chin. “You know, now that I think about it I’m not sure a colt or filly as young as they were would have the strength to beat somepony to death.”
“Even children can access adrenaline. Surprising feats of strength are uncommon but not impossible.”
“Alright,” I conceded that point. “But maybe we should find out the autopsy results before making any more assumptions.”
Holmes laughed heartily. “Jog Watson, you are a stallion after my own heart. Where do you think I told the drivers to go?”
Looking out the window, I saw we were approaching a large double story building that obviously was the police station, judging from the blue and white stripes across many surfaces.
“You know they don’t keep the bodies at the police station, right?” I had to make sure.
“Other window, Watson.”
And there I saw the small grey building. A more fitting description for a morgue there has yet to be. Inside, it was just as emotionless as expected. But then, putting bright colours everywhere would not distract from the fact that dead ponies ended up here. In a way, the dull atmosphere was perfect.
The receptionist (I never knew that morgues had receptionists) apparently knew Holmes and showed us through one of the doors where a stallion with grey hair and a white coat sat behind a desk.
“Holmes,” he said gruffly, but he stood to shake hooves with us.
“Clockwork, this is Doctor Watson.”
“Hello,” I said with a reserved smile.
“Pleasure. I take it you’re here about that colt?” My companion nodded. “Right. Repeated blunt force trauma to the muzzle, broke the bones and pushed them up into the brain. Didn’t suffer much and death was quick.” It seemed Holmes wasn’t the only one who didn’t like mincing words.
“Is the damage consistent with any type of weaponry?”
“No. Bare hooves did it.”
“Now that is interesting. Watson, what do you think?”
I thought back to every wound I had seen while in service, from the small to the deadly. I knew what kind of damage ponies could take. “A full-grown stallion could accomplish that in one or two strikes, but you say repeated, so perhaps a mare did it.”
“Mares are biologically weaker in that department, yes, but you’re ignoring a possibility.”
Sighing, I cocked my head. “Alright, let me hear it.”
“A full grown stallion could accomplish this effect in one or two strikes, you said. How about a colt?”
“Not this again.”
“Simply answer the question.”
“Alright, a colt would clearly need to strike the victim quite a few times to do it.”
“Good. Clockwork, how big were the hooves that beat little Whippy to death?”
The coroner growled. “I hate knowing their names, Holmes. They were small, judging from the bruising. It was a small pony, be it mare, colt, or filly.”
“Excellent.” Holmes swept out the door without another word and I once again had to hurry to catch up.
“What exactly is ‘excellent’, if I might ask?”
“More evidence for my student theory.”
As we stepped into the afternoon musk, I couldn’t help but chuckle. “You’re really not going to drop that, are you?”
My companion looked up at the cloudy monochrome skies before replying. “The rains are coming, Watson. I’m trying to build us a raft so that we are not swept away.”
“You think this isn’t a one-time killing?”
His smile was all the answer I needed.
Our return to the flat was accompanied by the setting of the sun. Tomorrow, we will be interviewing Whippy Feather’s parents and see where that takes us. It’s a vague plan, and I know there are a hundred things that Holmes is not telling me, but I’ve become somewhat invested in this case so I put up with the lack of specificity.
It’s strange, a couple of days ago I had never met this odd stallion whose emotions seem to have an on and off switch that only he can access. I never imagined I’d be going all over the city tracking down clues to catch a murderer.
And to think I was worried about drifting into my older years on the coattails of complacency. I have honestly never felt more alive and alert than I do now. Living and spending time with Fetlock Holmes is like taking a cocktail of military-grade stimulants, and I’m forming an addiction.
Doctor Jog Watson