Detective Liner stared down at the brutally dented door lying flat in the entryway of Room 208 before turning his gaze to the contents of the dormitory proper. "That's . . . interesting," he muttered in a husky baritone that carried faint traces of deliberate intimidation regardless of the circumstance. The room's only occupant was Deputy Surefire, who had already begun turning out the furniture drawers in search of clues. Aside from the broken door, the place was spotlessly clean. Liner turned to Sheriff Badge. "Check with Deputy Warrant and the officers; make sure that the perimeter is still intact." Brass Badge departed without a word, leaving only Twilight and Spike standing next to the Detective.
Twilight cleared her throat. "You'd better get back to the library, Spike."
"Huh? Why?" asked Spike with a mixture of surprise and disappointment.
"Now we don't know where Three Strike is," Twilight elaborated as she stepped around the fallen door. "If she escaped, she may go after Derpy." The unicorn turned about to make sure that her partner understood her seriousness. "Someone has to make sure that she's okay. I can count on you, right Spike?"
Understanding that this wasn't the time to express his dismay at leaving the police work behind, Spike nodded. "You got it, Twilight."
As the violet-scaled dragon darted off down the hallway, Liner stepped around the fallen door. "Smart move, but can he really handle it? Perhaps I'd better send-"
"No," Twilight interrupted. "Spike's been working hard at learning how to defend himself, and he's certainly not a child anymore." She smiled a bit. "I'd actually feel sorry for Miss Strike if she tried anything with him on guard duty."
"Good enough," Liner remarked as he moved to check the windows. "Locked." He gazed about the room. "And no other exits. Magic?"
"I can check for that," Twilight volunteered, her horn beginning to shimmer. She closed her eyes as a glowing pink haze began to descend over the room. Deputy Surefire jumped at the sight of it, but Liner had a steady hoof on the officer's shoulder. A few moments later, the haze disappeared and Twilight's eyes snapped open.
"Well?" Liner inquired.
"Nothing," Twilight gasped, more than a bit of surprise evident in her tone. "There's not a trace of magic in this room."
"Fan-tastic," Liner groaned, pulling the brim of his fedora low. "At least I can scratch 'teleportation' off the list of possibilities."
Sheriff Badge appeared in the doorway. His large mustache shook with the sound of his gruff voice as it hid his mouth from view. "Perimeter checks out; nopony left this inn after the sighting of Miss Strike in the room. Even the civvy volunteer swears by it."
Detective Liner sighed and rubbed at the top of a short dresser with his hoof. "Stop wasting your time, Surefire. Look's like this place has been wiped down; I'll probably have to call in a C.S.I. unit just to get anything substantial. Now we just have to noodle out how an earth pony left a locked room."
Deputy Surefire sprang up from underneath the bed, holding a small object in his outstretched hoof. He smiled. "Not such a waste of time after all, eh?"
Liner took the small glass cylinder in hoof. It was clearly an empty bottle for prescription medicine. He read the name of the drug from the side label. "Ventium?"
"What?" exclaimed Twilight. "That can't be right."
Liner offered the bottle to her. "You've heard of it before?"
Twilight Sparkle confirmed the name on the label herself before looking back at Liner. "It's an experimental anti-psychotic that they tested at a few mental hospitals almost a year ago. I read about it in one of the library's medical journals."
Liner raised an eyebrow and scratched at his stubble. "So, what you're telling me is that you can't exactly pick this up at the local pharmacy?"
"Not even close," said Twilight, confusion beginning to dominate her tone. "This was only used on ponies with the most hopeless cases of mental illness in all of Equestria, maybe 20 subjects total and mostly criminals at that. What makes this even weirder is that Ventium was declared largely ineffective as a treatment option and disposed of." She looked hard into Liner's eyes. "As far as I know, nopony in the world should be able to get a hold of this."
Detective Liner walked slowly to the window and looked out at the golden streetlights of Ponyville.
"Even putting all that aside," Twilight continued. "Why would Miss Strike have it? She seemed pretty normal, all things considered."
"Two possibilities that I can think of," Liner replied in his husky baritone. "Either our perp's crazy," He removed his shades to reveal a pair of narrowed eyes. "Or she's crazy like a fox."
Sheriff Badge snorted. "Well, thank Celestia that we've got Detective One Liner on the job. Yeesh."
The wooden door to the Ponyville Library's guest room creaked open, pushed by the dull emerald pommel stone on the end of a sword handle wrapped in black leather. The gem captured only the faintest hint of the moonlight that shone from the chamber's round window. The extended arm of a violet-scaled dragon held the sheathed blade against the door. His emerald eyes and angular face emerged from the darkness as he stepped inside.
"Derpy?" Spike whispered, his slitted pupils scanning back and forth. A few moments of silence passed before he lowered the sword and scabbard to his side. Spike relaxed his tense form and exhaled slowly. The soft snoring of Derpy Hooves gave answer to his question. Everything else about the room appeared to be in order . . . with one possible exception. His eyes narrowed when he began to stare at the comfortable chair sitting by the bed.
Spike breathed in and shuddered slightly, his eyes widening. He sniffed deeply, hoping for another whiff of that pleasant and familiar smell that he'd caught on the air. When his efforts turned up nothing, he dismissed the event and took a few careful steps toward the sleeping pegasus mare.
Derpy lay on her side underneath the comforter with her back to the doorway. The covers rose and fell in steady rhythm with her peaceful breathing.
A blank and observant gaze had been the first expression on Spike's face when he approached. As he watched Derpy Hooves over the course of the next few seconds, his brow furrowed and his mouth transitioned into a frustrated scowl. Spike turned about and exited the room, careful to shut the door with as little noise from the aging hinges as possible. He leaned back against the wooden surface and gave his sheathed blade a pensive stare.
"Get your mind right, Spike," he whispered to himself. "There's no way that anything in the guest room smells like sulfur."
Episode 03: "Cleaning House"