It had all started with an anonymous tip. A simple message left for Detective Twilight Sparkle on a simple slip of paper.
Red Reservoir theft. Go to the Carousel in two nights. You will NOT be disappointed!
"How in the all of wide, wide Equestria did they find out about Red Reservoir? We did not even know about it until the Bureau's message less than TWO hours ago." Twilight had said to Commissioner Celestia in her office as the chief of all Equestrian Police Department (E.P.D) operations looked over the message itself.
"I don't know, Twilight. It does not bode well. It could mean the Bureau of Royal Investigation has a leak," the way Celestia had said it, it did not seem like it was a surprise to her and it would not have been to Twilight either, "Did you find the pony who left the note? Did you check the security feeds?"
"Of course, I had tried to trace who had left the message. I wouldn't be in this line of work if I didn't the knack for solving a mystery. Finding the pony responsible had been easy enough, the colt who sells the Canterlot Times right outside the building on the corner of Mane st and Royal Ct had left it. However, he had been given five bits to deliver the message by a mare who worked at Donut Joe's coffee shop who herself had been paid to deliver the message to the colt by a airship welder out by the air docks...I came straight back to you after that Commissioner. It was just going to be a wild goose chase, sadly." Twilight had been frustrated to lose the lead and it had showed in the frustrated tone of her voice as she recalled the events to Celestia.
"Still, that was very good detective work Twilight." Celestia had offered Twilight a smile and nod of approval, for Twilight the effect of calming her down had been immediate.
"Just doing my duty. To the best of my abilities," Twilight did her best to hide her blush but Celestia's smile was always infectious for her, "What is our next course of action, m'am?"
"Well, Twilight. I believe you have have a date to meet at the Carousel in Manehattan."
It was one of the numerous speakeasies that had sprouted in Equestria in the wake of the Prohibition Act. In particular the Carousel was one of the more elusive hot spots for illegal drinking, gambling, and prostitution. The first time it had appeared it had been all too easy to find, but within hours of when an EPD task force had been organized to shut it down the entire establishment had been emptied and abandoned. This had happened five times within the last year.
Only a few ponies who worked at the speakeasy had ever been positively identified but when it came to building a case and providing evidence about illegal activates there always seemed to be just enough missing to prevent any case from sticking. The ponies arrested had airtight alibis. One waitress had gone free after a truth serum revealed she had not known the drinks she had served had been alcoholic or not. She had taken orders for drinks with code names and had never seen what the ingredients were used. After that the existence of the Carousel had been a quietly accepted secret in the EPD, though Twilight herself was building a slow, cautious case against the mysterious proprietor (or proprietors) of the Carousel.
She had arrived in Manehattan early in the morning and it had only taken her until lunch to find out the Carousel's current location from the local precinct of the EPD. The latest location was in the corner of an old cinema theater, while news reels played pictures of the War at one end of the theater an older section of the theater which had been 'closed for reconstruction' hosted the Carousel. The broad stage had been left in place but all of the rows of chairs had been replaced with dining tables and an area cleared for a dance floor. The walls had been lined with privacy booths except for one which had been replaced with a bar. In the orchestra pit a band played a strong beat of the new "Jazz" music that had been sweeping Equestria.
Twilight had gone undercover before a few times so far in her career as a detective. Each and every time she did she would find herself going over the instructions from a Bureau field guide to going undercover written by an Agent Sweetie Drops. When infiltrating a secretive gathering of ponies DO NOT look secretive yourself! That is the first thing ponies look out for. Who looks like they have a secret and whose hiding in the shadows? BE casual! Blend in! Remember, hidden in plain sight is alright! She had immediately taken a table close to the stage and made herself comfortable.
Just as she had been undercover she put herself under the cover of the latest book by A.K. Yearling, "The Yakanese Griffon". While Twilight had been so caught up in the revelation Lady Plumsweet had discovered in Professor Tumturner's study while also thinking how she could insert her undercover/under cover double entendre in her case report Twilight had not noticed a mare had walked right up to her table until the other pony had coughed.
"WHAT?" Twilight had yelled most likely much louder than what a pony that did not want to draw attention to herself should have, "I-I mean, sorry, what did you say?"
"Ah, didn't say nothin' sugarcube." the orange mare drawled with a country accent, though to Twilight her amusement had been unmistakable. "The name's Applejack and ah was just deliverin' this here drink from the bar."
Applejack had winked at Twilight before she had placed a single glass of sparkling cider onto Twilight's table. Immediately, Twilight became suspicious, she replied "...I did not order any drink."
"No, you didn't," Applejack nodded, "Compliments of...another patron of the Carousel. They said you looked like you could use yourself a drink on account of the way your mouth was movin' while readin' that there book of your's."
Agent Sweetie Drops had not included in her field guide how to hide a deep red blush of embarrassment like the one Twilight had after she had heard Applejack's words. Keep focused Twilight! Don't lose your train of thought. Questions, remember the questions! Who had sent the drink? Why had they sent the drink? Twilight had asked Applejack, "Who sent the drink?"
"The mare sittin' right over...oh." Applejack had turned toward the bar to point but had stopped, Twilight noticed an honest look of confusion crossed Applejack's face before she turned back to Twilight, "Sorry, hun. It looks like she skedaddled. That's downright odd."'
"Odd? Why?" Twilight's curiosity flared while she looked over the glass of cider. Certain discolorations in the liquid would tell her if it was drugged in anyway.
"Well, normally when you send a pony a drink that's the biggest open invitation for...." Applejack trailed off and shrugged.
"Invitation? What kind of invitation?" A secret rendezvous? They wanted to send her a message? A death threat?
"Well, uh...you know..." Applejack looked mildly uncomfortable as she struggled to find the words. When she didn't she simply made to gestures with her hands. Her fingers looped together and made repeated motions together. Twilight was familiar with the gesture. She had seen it from convicts inside their jail cells and she had seen it a handful of times from more...bitter officers who liked to comment on the relationship they perceived she had with Commissioner Celestia.
"Oh. Oh my." Twilight had had no hope of hiding the blush that erupted across her features. She had coughed uncomfortably and stamped one of her hooves into the wooden floor beneath the table. "Th-th-that sort of invitation."
"Ayup" Applejack snorted and tried to cover her smile before she continued, "She's a regular here you can say. Ah'm pretty sure your gonna see her sooner than you think. My advice? Finish the drink before you do."
Before Twilight could ask her what she had meant by that or more details about her...admirer...Applejack had walked off back toward the bar. Twilight had to stop herself from chasing after Applejack, the last thing she wanted to do was bring attention to herself like that. Even if someway, somehow she had brought it upon herself without even trying.
Over the next half hour she sipped her drink only a few times. She had gone back to putting her face to her book but now she was much more guarded than before and observed the room around her. She had easily noticed something was about to happen before it started, there was a new energy in the air. The tables closest to the stage filled up quickly, some ponies even tried to move their table as close as possible to the stage. Without warning every single light in the Carousel had blinked themselves out. Twilight instinctively moved toward her hidden revolver strapped safely at her side but stopped herself.
The band had begun to play again and a single spot light winked to life and focused on the center of the stage curtain. There was something about the music that she had been unable to put her finger on. To her it sounded almost...like it was trying to draw out anticipation from the crowd. It had certainly looked like it had worked on many ponies, the way they stared in utter anticipation at the center stage. The music was seductive at this point. Twilight caught herself inhaling deeply and holding her breath as the music reached a crescendo. She had immediately let her breath go and chided herself for losing her focus. She next had tipped her glass back to her lips to drain the last of her drink when a voice, a playful, resonating voice filled her ears.
Aaaaaat laaaaast~ At last~ It's time for a good, good, good tiiiiime!
The unicorn that stepped out from behind the curtain looked like she had stepped out from a dream. Indigo curls that fell from her head failed to hide the gorgeous blue eyes framed with a a lighter blue rouge and the oh-so playful smile set in the white coat of her face that Twilight had been able to see with unnerving detail. That had not been all, before Twilight had been able to stop herself her analytic instincts had kicked in and her eyes traveled downward from the mare's face and over her body. Picking over every single detail on the mare. Every. Single. Detail. Twilight had been unable to stop herself from repeating to herself that her body seemed to be curved in just the right way, especially the way she wore the stunningly beautiful slim dress that matched the color of her mane all the way down...down...down...to below her cutie mark. A metallic bell stylized with a single diamond.
At some point during her 'investigation' Twilight had remembered to breath and immediately choked on her drink which she had forgotten to finish drinking. That had been why Applejack had warned her to finish her drink Twilight quickly decided as she beat on her chest and sucked in air. She had immediately regretted it as she realized that the Mare had locked her eyes on her and somehow her smile had become even more...playful. The Mare winked at Twilight before she continued her song.
Now that I'm here it's time~ Platinum Belle is here my darling, don't you worry. Don't you pout. The Queen knows how to have a good, good time!
Twilight could not help but notice when she had sung "my darling" she had winked again at Twilight. It had sent a uncomfortably new, warm feeling tingle its way down her spine. The Mare continued her song, sending a few more side glances toward Twilight and Twilight had sighed in relief when this...Platinum Belle had finished her song. Twilight struggled to pull her thoughts together, she could not be distracted. She needed to look for something suspicious. Something that would help with the Red Reservoir case. So long as Platinum Belle stayed on the stage Twilight had believed she could keep an eye on the rest of the Carousel.
Platinum Belle had not stayed on the stage.
As she had launched into a new song, Platinum Belle had made her way toward the side of the stage and down a set of stairs and onto the main floor of the Carousel. Twilight had not recognized the thumping sound when it had started, was it the Manehatten EPD? Had they found the Carousel and were busting down the door to save Twilight? No, it had been the beat of Twilight's own heart and though it had been loud it had not been as loud as Platinum Belle's voice that sang over it as she inched her way closer and closer to Twilight.
I've been oh so lonely, just me in my bed. I've been looking just everywhere. For a special-pony to share my bed.
Platinum Belle arrived at Twilight's table. Twilight placed her hands against the table as if she could use it as a shield to keep it between her and Platinum Belle. That had not stopped Platinum Belle. She just climbed and crawled across the table, stretching herself out across it until she had propped her head in her hands just in front of Twilight where she say.
I need a special-pony that's just...enough~
Platinum Belle next had reached out with one hand to...boop Twilight on her nose before in one graceful motion she had slid off the table and moved on.
Twilight all but collapsed forward onto the table and had been adamant that her blush could have set the table on fire. As she composed herself Twilight had noticed something that had been not there before in her drink. A small slip of paper. One just like the one that had been left on her desk in Canterlot. It had only two simple words.
Platinum Belle had tipped her about the Red Reservoir. For the rest of Platinum Belle's performance Twilight had sat stone-still, and had not let her leave Platinum Belle until she had disappeared back behind the curtain to the roar of approval from the crowd. While she seemed impassive on the outside on the inside Twilight seethed, now that she knew Platinum Belle was connected to the Red Reservoir she was able to pull the focus and calm she needed. She did not know if Platinum Belle was a victim or a threat, but either way Twilight would not let any pony come to harm just because she had been flustered by the stage singer.
No sooner had Platinum Belle disappeared Twilight had removed herself from her table and stalked toward the backstage. Careful to make it seem like she was headed toward the bar before carefully judging that nopony was watching her before she changed her course and had slipped behind the backstage. As she had left the sound of ponies enjoying themselves quickly disappeared as if a switch had been thrown.
"Hmm. A silencing spell. Very common for backstage in most theaters, so actors can rehearse or have their privacy. Just as useful for muffling a gunshot or a cry for help."
It had not taken her long to find Platinum Belle's dressing room. The door placard which had her name was studded with dozens of brilliant diamonds. Silently, Twilight upholstered her revolver and aimed it forward as she pushed the door open. That it was unlocked made her instincts scream that something was not right.
Inside looked just like any dressing room. A gigantic mirror lined with photos of Platinum Belle, a wardrobe closet, and some furniture. The fainting sofa seemed out of place to Twilight but what alarmed Twilight the most was what the room had been missing: Platinum Belle.
Twilight had no time to react before she had felt the cold barrel of a revolver press itself to the back of her head.
"Drop it. Who are you and where is she?" a gruff, accented and very male voice asked from behind her. Twilight had not expected that.
"Who-" Twilight had begun to say before the muzzle of the pistol was pressed hard against the back of her head.
"I said drop it!" the voice demanded again and Twilight had been able to tell he would not ask a third time so she complied and slowly placed her pistol at her feet, "Good, good. You know how to learn, eh? Now turn around."
Again, Twilight had no choice but to comply and did so and her eyes landed on a an older looking earth pony with a bad case of three o'clock shadow she had ever seen.
"Where is she? Tell me, and tell me where she hid it! No pony steals from Doctor Caballeron and lives to tell about it." Caballeron demanded and visibly shook with anger.
Twilight recognized that name. Caballeron. He was a big time mafia boss, known for smuggling exotic goods, be it artifacts or slave labor. Whatever had been stolen from must have had been very important to him to make him get his hands dirty. Twilight was determined to make sure that would be his last mistake.
"It sounds like something was stolen from you? What was it?" Twilight had asked and shifted her eyes around the room for anything that she could have used against Caballeron. If she tried to use her magic to levitate the revolver Caballeron would fire immediately, likewise if she tried a shield spell. Her only hope had to be keeping his attention focused on her.
"Something? Hah! Where do I begin? Appleshine! Rainbow Label! Zebrican tobacco! Cloud dust! I could go on and on. The Red Reservoir had things I had never even heard of."
Twilight froze. The Red Reservoir. The Bureau's code name for one of their largest storage facilities for contraband in Equestria. That was what had brought her to the Carousel. Less than six hours after it had been completely robbed by individuals unknown the Bureau of Royal Investigation had put out a high alert to every precinct of the EPD for whereabouts of the stolen contraband. Millions of bits worth of contraband had been stolen in a single night and the Bureau had been so desperate to get back the contraband before word was leaked to the public. Not only would it tarnish their reputation it would look extremely bad for the Monarchy at home and to Equestria's allies in the war. For Twilight it had meant something more, that the handwork of good ponies in the EPD, some of those who had given their lives, would go to waste if the contraband was re-released or sold elsewhere.
"You. You are the one who raided the Red Reservoir. Aren't you?" Twilight asked and in a moment she had seen her chance.
"Yes, it was me. I admit it was my finest work. I paid a small fortune to get my hands on just the location of the Red Reservoir," Caballeron had sneered and looked proud of himself, "but the pay off from selling the goods was...is going to be so much more! Now tell me where she is? She stole it and she thinks she can bargain with me for half the profits! It is all mine!"
Caballeron's eyes glazed over momentarily, Twilight had guessed perhaps he had been dreaming of the wealth he would have. It was the best chance Twilight would have and she dived for it. She threw her body low at Caballeron, caught off guard he fired a single shot but it went wide over Twilight's head. Her hands shot out and grappled Caballeron's arm as she tried to dislodge the revolver from his grip. Caballeron though still had one hand free which he used to punch into Twilight's rib cage. She hissed against the pain but managed to force his hand open and drop the revolver to the floor.
She switched tactics and drove her elbow back into his ribs again and again to force him off of her. It had worked and he took a step back, Twilight reached for the revolver but was surprised by the speed of a swift kick of Caballeron's hoof that knocked her back onto the fainting couch. Immediately she had rebounded off the couch for the pistol but she had been too slow. It was back in Caballeron's hands and pointed straight at her heart. Caballeron growled like a beast, "Now, where is Rarity?!?"
"Oh, Caballeron. Such manners. Don't you know how rude it is to call a lady by her first name?" the sing-song voice of 'Platinum Belle' had called from behind Caballeron. He turned just in time to glimpse the diamond studded bully club smack him across the skull before he fell unconscious to the floor. "Right, on time Detective Sparkle."
'Platinum Belle' or as reveled to Twilight, 'Rarity' stepped into the dressing room. Still dressed in her stage stunning outfit. Twilight would have cared if she had not had one burning question on her mind. "You arranged this. You arranged all of this. Bringing me here to the Carousel. Caballeron as well so that...you could get the drop on him and then...?"
"Why, meet you of course, darling." Rarity had said before she flashed Twilight a smile, "I have heard nothing but good things about the up-and-coming Detective Twilight Sparkle and I wanted to meet you to see if all the gossip was true."
"Gossip? About me?"
"Why yes, you are much more cuter in person." Rarity laughed. "I also believe that we will be the best of friends, you and I!"
"Friends? You can't be serious." Twilight had not expected this or anything else that had happened in the last few minutes. "Just who are you?"
"Like our dear acquaintance, Caballeron said. I am Rarity, the one and only. Though I do enjoy my stage name, Platinum Belle, if you would like to call me that I wouldn't be offended" with a free hand she placed it on her cutie mark and slowly slid off a transparent film from across her cutie mark. She had pulled off the image of the bell and underneath it was three diamonds. "I am very good with minding my appearance."
"Very clever, but what about the contraband? Do you expect me to walk away and let you keep it? Don't even think that you can convince me by offering a share."
"Good heavens no, darling! I wouldn't dream of it. In face I want you to take it all." Rarity had laughed again the moment Twilight's face looked completely dumbfounded again, "Yes, I am quite serious. I've seen how much Caballeron stole. If it was all re-released to the market the Underworld economy would be flooded and collapse overnight! Just think of it as a gift."
"A gift...from a criminal...mastermind to a detective of the EPD?"
"Why yes, don't we make quite the odd couple? I think it will be quite a thrilling experience."