SPOILER WARNING: This Ponified episode contains heavy reference to the BBC Series Sherlock's 1st episode, A Study in Pink. DO NOT READ IF YOU OBJECT TO THESE SPOILERS! Sherlock © the BBC
All MLP Characters © Hasbro. Unofficial names used where real names are unknown.
Applejack hobbled through the park, cane and all. The pigeons avoided her. Just as well. She didn't feel like company, not animal, and not...she glanced ahead. Was that... nah. Couldn't be. She limped past the bench and the familiar looking pony who sat there, reading the paper.
An equally familiar voice from the direction of the bench. “AJ!” She ignored it. Not now, not here, that pony could mean any AJ- “Applejack!” No avoiding it, then. She turned around to greet the familiar pony who extended a hoof in greeting. “Heartstrings! Lyra Heartstrings. We were at Swirl's together.”
“Yes, I remember, yes, Lyra, hello, hi.” Applejack switched the cane to her left leg so she could shake Lyra's hoof properly. She noticed a streak of white in the unicorn's mane that she hadn't seen before.
Lyra followed Applejack's gaze and blinked as if remembering. “Yeah, I know, I got old.”
“No, no...” Applejack said politely. She trailed off, unsure of how to continue what was the first real conversation she'd had since...
Lyra saved her the trouble. “I heard you were abroad somewhere getting shot at? What happened?”
Applejack glanced at her leg. “Got shot.” She smiled grimly. Lyra was silent at that. Privately, Applejack hoped that maybe the revelation that she'd been shot would cut this little meeting short.
As it turned out, it didn't. Lyra had insisted on treating her to lunch, and then coffee, and now they were sitting on the bench, sipping at their drinks. As such, Applejack felt obligated to continue the conversation. She took a sip, then spoke. “Are you still at Swirl's, then?”
“Teaching now, yeah,” Lyra said. “Bright, young things, like we used to be. Celestia, I hate them.” They both laughed. “What about you?” Lyra asked. “Just staying in town 'til you get yourself sorted?”
“I can't afford Canterlot on an army pension,” Applejack admitted.
“Ah, and you couldn't bear to be anywhere else,” Lyra said with a grin. “That's not the Applejack I know.”
“Yeah, I'm not the Applejack you kne-” She stopped herself from saying any more bitter words.
Lyra either didn't notice the tone, or pretended not to. “Couldn't Mackie help?”
The earth pony scoffed. “Yeah, like that's gonna happen.”
“I dunno,” Lyra continued. “You could…get a flatshare or something?”
“Come on, who'd want me for a flatmate?”
The unicorn laughed.
Applejack looked at her curiously. “What?”
“Well you're the second pony to say that to me today,” Lyra said.
Second pony? “Who was the first?”
In the mortuary of Starswirl the Bearded Hospital, a purple unicorn unzipped a body bag lying on the slab. She pulled apart he flaps and sniffed the air as she observed the cadaver. “How fresh?” she asked.
“Just in,” the attendant, a caramel coated earth pony, answered. “Sixty-seven, natural causes. Used to work here. I knew him. He was nice.”
The unicorn zipped the bag back up and stood away from the table. “Fine. We'll start with the crop,” she said.
A leather strip at the end of a handle slapped against the dead pony's skin. The magenta glow surrounded it seemed to increase as the impacts became more violent. From the observation window, Caramel winced with each hit. The purple pony's expression was almost vicious as she lay about the corpse, covering it's entire back with lashes. Finally, she stopped, as suddenly as she'd begun.
“So, bad day, was it?” Caramel asked, reentering the room. He gave a small laugh.
The unicorn ignored the attempt at levity. “I need to know what bruises form in the next twenty minutes. A pony's alibi depends on it. Text me.” She jotted something down on a notepad.
Caramel shifted nervously. "Listen," he began, and waited until the mare looked at him. "I was wondering, maybe later, when you're finished…"
She interrupted him. "Are you wearing mane gel? You weren't wearing mane gel before."
Caramel blinked. Caught. "I, uh, I refreshed it a bit."
"Oh." She nodded slowly, then returned to writing in her notebook. "Sorry, you were saying?"
"I was wondering if you'd like to have coffee." Caramel finished.
"Black, two sugars please." The unicorn slapped the book shut, pocketed it, and headed for the door. "I'll be upstairs."
Caramel watched sadly as she left. "Okay."
Lyra knocked on the door to the lab before opening it. Applejack followed her in, smiling in thanks when the unicorn held the door for her. Across the room, a light purple unicorn who was pipetting something into a petri dish looked at them curiously before returning to her experiment. Applejack looked around the room; in the years since she'd trained here, the electronic equipment had grown to outnumber the older devices.
“Well,” she said, “bit different from my day.”
Lyra laughed lightly. “You've no idea.”
The other unicorn spoke up suddenly. “Lyra, can I borrow your phone? There's no signal on mine.”
“Well what's wrong with the landline?” Lyra asked. She seemed irritated.
“I prefer to text,” the unicorn explained.
“Sorry, it's in my coat.” Lyra walked over to a lab stool and sat down.
Applejack decided to lend a hoof. “Uh, here.” She withdrew her own phone from a pocket and held it out. “Use mine.”
“Oh.” The purple pony seemed surprised. “Thank you.” She trotted over towards Applejack.
“It's an old friend of mine. Applejack,” Lyra said, by way of introduction.
The purple pony took the phone and started typing. “Alpacastan or Arock?” she asked.
Applejack blinked in surprise. Had she just... “Sorry?”
“Which was it, Alpacastan or Arock?”
Applejack glanced at Lyra, who smiled. She was sure that the mint unicorn hadn't had the chance to call ahead, but still... “Alpacastan," she answered. "Sorry, how did you-"
A stallion entered the room, mug in hoof. "Ah, Caramel!" the purple unicorn greeted as she returned the phone. "Coffee. Thank you." She lifted the proffered mug, then tilted her head as she noticed a change in the morgue attendant's appearance. "What happened to the mane gel?"
"It wasn't working for me," Caramel answered.
"Really? I thought it was a big improvement," the unicorn said. "Your head's too…big now." She took a sip of coffee and walked back towards her experiment.
"Okay," Caramel muttered resignedly as he left.
The purple unicorn took a sip and set the mug down before returning to work. “How do you feel about the violin?” she asked abruptly.
Applejack glanced at Lyra again. The green unicorn still had the same little smile as she toyed with a stray test tube. “Sorry, what?”
“I play the violin when I'm thinking,” the other unicorn continued. “Sometimes I don't talk for days on end. Would that bother you? Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other.” She ended with a thin smile.
Applejack all but glared at Lyra. “You…you told her about me?”
“Not a word,” Lyra said, shaking her head.
“Then who said anything about flatmates?”
“I did.” The purple unicorn had finished with whatever she'd been doing and was now grabbing a coat from atop a table. “Told Lyra this morning that I must be a difficult mare to find a flatmate for. Now here she is, just after lunch with an old friend, clearly just home from military service in Alpacastan.” With a brief sparkle the coat flew into place. “Wasn't a difficult leap.” She punctuated the end of her sentence by tying a scarf around her neck.
“How did you know about Alpacastan?” Applejack asked.
The unicorn ignored the question. “Got my eye on a nice little place in Central Canterlot. Together, we ought to be able to afford it. We'll meet there tomorrow evening, seven o'clock. Sorry, gotta dash, I think I left my crop in the mortuary.” She walked around Applejack on her way to the door.
“Is that it?” Applejack asked?
The unicorn stopped at the door and turned back. “Is that what?”
“We've only just met, and we're gonna go and look at a flat.”
The unicorn seemed genuinely puzzled. “Problem?”
Applejack almost laughed at the seeming cluelessness. If Lyra was pulling a prank..“We don't know a thing about each other, I don't know where we're meeting, I don't even know your name.”
The purple unicorn's stared at her like a hawk. “I know you're an army doctor, and you've been invalided home from Alpacastan. I know you've got a sister who's worried about you, but you won't go to her for help because you don't approve of her, possibly because she's an alcoholic, more likely because she recently walked out on her husband. And I know that your therapist think your limp's psychosomatic. Quite correctly, I'm afraid.” Applejack glanced at her bad leg as the unicorn finished. “It's enough to be going on, don't you think?” The unicorn opened the door and exited. Applejack was wondering how she'd know all of that when the unicorn's head appeared in the doorway again. “The name's Twilight Sparkle, and the address is 221B Baker Street. She winked as she bid them farewell. “Afternoon.” The door swung shut, and Applejack looked at Lyra for explanation.
“Yeah,” Lyra said. “She's always like that.”
Applejack returned to her apartment to consider her options. On the one hoof, this kind of convenient coincidence couldn't be overlooked; how often did one find a complete stranger so willing to share a flat? On the other, she knew next to nothing about Twilight Sparkle, apart from the fact that the mare knew far more about Applejack than she possibly could. Time to start solving that. She pulled out her phone and read the last text that had been sent from it. It was brief, to the point, and only added to the mystery: “If brother has green ladder, arrest brother. TS” Alright, so the text was a dead end. But there were other ways of finding out about ponies. She limped to the desk and flipped open her netbook. A few clicks later, and she had the name Twilight Sparkle entered in a search box. Now then, time to even the knowledge gap.
In an abandoned tenement building, a cupcake glowed briefly and rose before falling, the glow vanished. A unicorn dressed in pink stooped to pick it up, hoof trembling. What followed... was already a foregone conclusion.
Baker Street was easy to find. At precisely seven, Applejack was making her way up the street to the door of 221 B. She reached the door and looked around, but saw no sign of the purple unicorn. Thinking perhaps she was already inside, she raised a hoof and rapped on the door.
“Hello.” Applejack turned to see Twilight Sparkle climb out of a cab that had just pulled up.
“Ah. Ms. Sparkle.” Applejack extended a hoof in greeting.
“Twilight, please,” the unicorn insisted as she responded in kind.
“Well, this is a prime spot,” the earth pony commented. “Must be expensive.”
“Well, Ms. Matilda, the landlady, she's giving me a special deal,” Twilight said. “Owes me a favor. A few years back, her husband got himself sentenced to death in Florideer. I was able to help her out.”
“So you stopped her husband being executed?” Applejack wondered how she'd managed that.
“Oh no, I ensured it,” Twilight replied with a smile.
The earth pony was still wondering how Twilight had managed that (and considering the possibility that she was some kind of hitmare) when the door of 221B opened and an older looking donkey greeted the unicorn.
“Twilight! Look at you!” She hugged the purple mare briefly, and then noticed the earth pony.
“Ms. Matilda, Dr. Applejack,” Twilight introduced.
“Hello!” Applejack walked around the hoof the donkey offered and into the building. Best to see the flat quickly and decide. The landlady ignored the snub. “Come in!”
“Thank you,” Applejack said. No need to completely ignore manners.
“Shall we?” Twilight asked as she followed Applejack inside.
The flat was up a set of stairs, and the unicorn quickly overtook her slower companion. She waited at the top, seemingly impatient as Applejack rounded the first (and fortunately, as far as this flat was concerned, last) landing and paused to catch her breath. As the earth pony reached the top of the stairs, Twilight swung the flat door open and spun inside. She turned back to face her potential flatmate as Applejack finally made it into the room. The earth pony glanced around the place. It seemed nice, except for the excess of clutter. Cartons of old books, a dusty pillow with the Equestrian flag, a box of crockery, and other assorted odds and ends took up the better half of the sitting room.
“Well,” Applejack allowed, “This could be very nice.” She limped around the corner and had a look at the kitchen. Also nice, though the table was covered with test tubes, glassware, and measuring cups. “Very nice indeed.”
“Yes, yes, I think so,” Twilight agreed. “My thoughts precisely. So I went straight ahead and moved in-”
“As soon as we get this rubbish cleaned up-”
The simultaneous speaking gave them both pause, and Applejack realized that all of what she had assumed was Ms. Matilda's old stuff was in fact Twilight's possessions. “Oh...So this is all-”
“Well, um...” Twilight sifted through some of the assorted 'rubbish' “Obviously I can straighten things up a bit,” she said, somewhat chagrined. Finding a stray paper of some import, she took a knife and affixed the former to the mantle piece with the latter. Applejack noticed the other odd object sitting over the fireplace.
“It's a skull,” she said, pointing at the equine remain with her cane.
“Friend of mine,” Twilight explained. “When I say friend...”
“What do you think then, Dr. Applejack?” Ms. Matilda enquired. “There's another bedroom upstairs, if you'll be needing two bedrooms.”
“Well of course we'll be needing two,” Applejack said. She blinked in confusion. The landlady didn't think that...did she?
“Oh, don't worry, there's all sorts 'round here.” Whispering conspiratorially, she added, “Mrs. Turner next door's got married ones.”
She did. Applejack glanced at Twilight, who'd shed her coat and scarf and was busy putting away some of the numerous books. If Twilight was, that could make things very awkward.
Ms. Matilda, meanwhile, had gone into the kitchen. “Oh, Twilight, the mess you've made!” she scolded.
Applejack picked up the pillow and thumped it down on one of the comfy chairs in the room. She flopped down, glad to get off her leg. Twilight had opened up a computer on the desk, reminding the earth pony what she'd learned about the unicorn. “I looked you up on the Internet last night,” she began.
“Anything interesting?” Twilight asked.
“Found your website. The…Science of Deduction.”
The unicorn seemed pleased at that. “What did you think?”
Applejack looked at her askance, as if she'd found something funny. Twilight's expression looked as if she'd eaten something sour. “You said you could identify a software designer by his tie, and an airline pilot by his left hoof?” Applejack asked, skeptical.
“Yes,” Twilight stated. “And I could read your military career in your face and your leg and your sister's drinking habits in your mobile phone.”
Well, that was true. “How?”
Twilight smirked and turned back to the computer as Ms. Matilda walked back in reading the paper.
“What about these suicides then, Twilight? Thought that'd be right up your street. Three, exactly the same.”
Something out front had caught Twilight's eye, and she peered out the window. “Four. There's been a fourth.” A car door closed outside. “There's something different this time.”
“A fourth?” Ms. Matilda asked.
Twilight turned to face the doorway as a prismatic-maned pegasus in a trenchcoat flew up the stairs and landed at the threshold. “Where?” Twilight demanded.
“Brayxton, Canterlot Gardens,” the pegasus replied. Applejack supposed she was a cop.
“What's new about this one? You wouldn't have come to get me if there wasn't something different.”
“You know how they never leave notes?” the pegasus asked.
“This one did. Will you come?”
The unicorn paused to consider it. “Who's on forensics?”
Twilight grimaced. “Whooves won't work with me.”
“Well he won't be your assistant!” The pegasus was getting impatient.
“I need an assistant!” Twilight replied.
“Will you come?” the pegasus prodded.
“Not in a police car. I'll be right behind.”
An expression of relief passed over the blue pony's features. “Thank you.” She nodded tersely at the others in the room before flying back downstairs.
Twilight stood where she was until the front door slammed. Then she leapt into the air, ecstatic. “Brilliant! Yes! Ah, four serial suicides and now a note! Oh, it's Hearth's Warming!” She grabbed her coat and whirled into the kitchen. “Ms. Matilda, I'll be late, might need some food.”
“I'm your landlady dear, not your housekeeper,” the donkey admonished.
“Something cold will do,” Twilight amended. She whipped the scarf out of her pocket and replaced it with a set of socks from the table. “Applejack! Have a cup of tea. Make yourself at home. Don't wait up!” The kitchen door that led into the hall closed behind her as she left.
“Look at her, dashing about.” Ms. Matilda smiled. “My husband was just the same.” She looked at the earth pony kindly. “But, you're more the sitting down type, I can tell. I'll make you that cuppa, you rest your leg.” She turned into the kitchen again.
A spike of anger shot through Applejack. “Buck my leg!” she yelled. Ms. Matilda jumped; the anger fled. “Sorry, I'm so sorry,” Applejack said. “It's just sometimes this...” she indicated her leg. “Rotten thing...”
“I understand dear, I've got a hip.”
“Cup of tea would be lovely, thank you,” Applejack said. She picked up the paper and read the headline: Transport Minister Third Strange Suicide.
“Just this once, dear,” Ms. Matilda warned. “I'm not your housekeeper.”
“Couple of biscuits too if you've got 'em.”
“Not your housekeeper!” The donkey left. Applejack started reading the paper in earnest. There was another picture below the large one of the victim, just the mane visible...a rainbow mane. The door opened as she unfurled the newspaper the rest of the way. There was no mistaking it. The policepony who'd just visited Twilight was the DI in charge of the case.
“You're a doctor.”
Surprised, Applejack looked up. Twilight was standing at the door, a thoughtful look about her. “In fact, you're an army doctor.”
“Yes,” Applejack replied. She put aside the paper and got to her feet.
“Seen a lot of injuries then. Violent deaths.” The purple mare had walked closer, silently evaluating her.
“Bit of trouble too, I'd bet,” Twilight continued.
“Of course. Yes. Enough…for a lifetime, far too much.”
The unicorn paused, then asked, “Want to see some more?”
“Oh, Celestia, yes.” Twilight hurried back down the stairs, Applejack at her hooves. They bumped into Ms. Matilda at the bottom. “Sorry, Ms Matilda, I'll skip the tea,” Applejack apologized. “I'm out.”
“Both of you?” The donkey looked surprised.
Twilight turned around. “Possible suicides, four of them? There's no point sitting at home when there's finally something fun going on!” She hugged the landlady in glee.
“Look at you, all happy, it's not decent,” Ms. Matilda scolded.
“Who cares about decent?” Twilight said as she ended the hug and headed for the door. “The game, Ms Matilda, is on!” She raced to the curb as Applejack closed the door behind them. “Taxi!”
A cab pulled up, both ponies got in, and they were off, though to what, exactly, neither of them could be sure.