Once, when Rainbow Dash was a filly, her mother had taken her to a watercolours exhibition at the Cloudsdale Art Museum. As anyone who had known her as a filly (and most who knew her as an adult) could have predicted, this proved to be a terrible decision for just about everyone involved.
She had meant well, Rainbow Dash’s mother, she really had. She’d recently read an article in one of her magazines about how an appreciation for the arts was important for the mind of a developing child, you see, and as she loved her developing child very dearly, she decided it was time for her daughter to be exposed to the world of high art.
Unfortunately, her daughter was Rainbow Dash, a mare whose childhood relationship with ‘high art’ could be described less by ‘oil and water’ and more by ‘oil and a pegasus who really, really doesn’t get why she can’t play with rainclouds around the watercolours’.
In Rainbow’s defense, putting an exhibit of watercolours in a building made entirely out of water vapor probably wasn’t the best idea to begin with.
Thus ended the last time Rainbow Dash had ever been allowed into a major artistic establishment. She’d spent the next six hours sitting in the office of the local police station while her mother had tried to convince a very irate curator not to press charges. She would become very, very acquainted with that office of over the years.
So when Rarity had called her over to the Boutique to show her her the newly minted office of Carousel Investigations, she had been expecting to see something similar: cluttered desk, walls of filing cabinets, corkboard covered with mugshots, etc.
“What do you think, darling?” Rarity asked, standing beside Rainbow. “Too much?”
Really, Rainbow reflected, she should have learned by now not to expect anything typical when it came to the fashionista.
“It’s, uh… It’s fine, I guess,” she said. “But it’s not really an office, is it?”
Indeed, it more resembled a sitting room. Three chairs stood in its center, upon a woven rug, a decorative coffee table between them. A sofa reclined against one wall, and a fireplace—it had to be fake, Rainbow decided, the boutique didn't have a chimney—had been set into the other, a variety of ornaments decorating its mantle. The walls were papered a light green, broken up every so often by a framed photograph or print.
It was cluttered, yes, but in a homely way. It looked as though someone had been living in it for a long time, even though Rainbow knew that just a week ago it had been used for extra storage.
But even so…
“Offices are supposed to be, y’know…” Rainbow said, twirling a hoof. “Busy. Intimidating. Desks and office supplies. This looks like my mom’s living room.”
“You’re thinking too traditionally, darling. An office is a state of mind.”
“No, I’m… pretty sure it’s just a room,” Rainbow said. She grabbed a picture frame off of a side-table and gave the picture of Opalescence inside a wary look. “And this ain’t it.”
Rarity rolled her eyes and plucked the photograph from Dash’s hooves.
“Well, I considered going for something more stereotypical,” she said, crossing the room to the fireplace, frame in tow. “Briefly. But I just couldn’t stand the thought of meeting clients in such a dreary environment.”
She set the picture frame down on the mantle and adjusted it until she was satisfied.
“A detective’s typical clientele is often not in the best of spirits to begin with. The least we can do is make them feel comfortable.”
“It’s still not an office, though,” Rainbow said, settling into one of the chairs. “Like, what if we need to intimidate a client? There’s no way you could do that here.”
“Why would we ever need to do that?” Rarity asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, I dunno. What if they did the crime?”
Rarity laughed. “Rainbow, that sort of thing only happens in dime-store paperbacks where the author couldn't come up with a better mystery. Why in Equestria would a criminal ever want to hire a detective?”
Rainbow didn’t have an answer to that, so instead she folded her hooves and cast another glance around the room. Her eyes landed on one spot in particular.
“Kinda empty over the mantle,” she remarked.
“Ah, yes,” Rarity said, smile turning to a grimace. “That. I haven’t quite decided what to put there yet.”
“I still have that sword from the Blueblood case,” Rainbow said. “Do you want that?”
“Oh, heavens no, darling,” Rarity said. “It looks so much better over yours.”
Her hoof rose to her chin. “No, I’m thinking something more along the lines of a photograph… or a—”
But she didn’t get to finish; the sound of the bell at the front of the shop cut her off.
“Sounds as though I have a customer,” Rarity remarked. “Excuse me for a moment.”
“No, I’ll come.” Rainbow hopped out of her chair. “It might be a client.”
There was only one pony standing behind the counter when they arrived, a pegasus who looked to be in her late thirties and wasn't much taller than Rainbow Dash. And given the look on her face, either Rainbow had been right, or she was there to make a return. Rarity, for one, was really hoping for the former.
"Welcome to the Carousel Boutique," Rarity said. "How can I help you today?"
The mare glanced down at a scrap of paper in her hoof, then back up at the two.
"Is there a 'Detective Rarity' here?" she asked. Definitely the former, then.
“Speaking,” Rarity said. “How can I help you?”
“I’m here at the request of my uncle,” she said. “He’s asked for your services.”
Rainbow quirked an eyebrow. “Your uncle? Why didn’t he come himself?”
“He’s been arrested for murder.”
"Not much of an office," the mare remarked, settling into one of the chairs (Rarity and Rainbow had already taken a seat in theirs). “Are you sure you’re real detectives?”
“Quite sure,” Rarity said, pointedly ignoring the Rainbow’s smirk. “But I’m afraid you’ll have to forgive us; normally it is our job to find a murderer, not to assist one.”
“I understand this may be unusual.”
“’Unusual’ is an understatement,” Rainbow said. “What does your uncle want from Rarity, anyway?”
“Perhaps it would be best if you took a look at his letter for yourselves,” the mare said, holding the paper out to them. Rarity’s magic engulfed the stationary and brought it over to where she and Rainbow could see it. It read as follows:
You’ll have to forgive your uncle for contacting you so abruptly, and in such a crude manner, but I am in desperate need of your assistance. A terrible crime has been committed, and I have been wrongly accused of perpetrating it. Alas, my claims of innocence have fallen on deaf ears. I have been arrested for a murder I did not commit. Furthermore, I am convinced that this is no accident: I have been framed, my dearest niece, and I do not know by whom.
What I ask of you is simple: I need you to find a detective. Her name is Rarity; she lives in the town of Ponyville. I am convinced that she may be my only recourse in this matter.
I am being held in the police department in Copseville; ask her to meet me there. Tell her I am prepared to pay any price she may ask for her services, as my fortune will do me no good if I am sent to the gallows.
I believe, after everything, you at least owe me this.
Yours sincerely, and forever your uncle,
“Moisi?” Rainbow remarked, pronouncing it like ‘noisy’. “What the heck kind of a name is Moisi?”
“Quite a famous one,” Rarity said, returning the letter to its owner. “That wouldn’t happen to be Moisi Râtelier, would it?”
“That’s correct,” the mare said.
“Then that would make you Swallow Breeze, would it not? I confess, I only know you through your work.”
The mare—Swallow Breeze—nodded. “Right again.”
“Then this is quite dire, indeed,” Rarity said. “We shall be on our way to him at once. She craned her neck over to look at Rainbow Dash. “If your agenda for the day is clear, of course.”
Rainbow snorted. “Rares, I don’t even own an agenda. Of course I’m coming.”
“Wonderful.” Rarity turned back to Swallow Breeze. “Will you be joining us?”
“Oh, no,” she said, shaking her head. “Frankly, whatever it is my uncle has gotten himself wrapped up in, I want no part in it.”
“Oh? Then why help him in the first place? Surely if you wanted to keep your hooves clean, you could have ignored his request entirely.”
“He’s still family,” Swallow Breeze said. “And as he said in his letter, I owed him.”
“I see,” Rarity said. “Well then, we must make preparations. If you would excuse us…”
“So the art dealer has been framed, hm?” Rarity said, once the mare was gone. “Quite an ironic turn of events, don’t you think?”
“Art dealer?” Rainbow asked, raising an eyebrow. “What art dealer?”
Rarity gasped. “Rainbow Dash, do not tell me that you have never heard of Moisi Râtelier!”
“Okay, I won’t,” Rainbow said. “Remind me who he is again?”
“Only one of the two most important people in the art world!” Rarity exclaimed. “Honestly, Rainbow, one of these days we must get you cultured.”
“I’d rather go blind,” Rainbow muttered. “So what makes him so important?”
“He’s the owner, patron, and dealer of the Atelier de Râtelier, one of the most prestigious artist’s workshops in all of Equestria.” She hopped off of her chair and headed for the coat stand by the door, upon which sat two very familiar articles of clothing. “And the mare we just had the honor of meeting is its distinguished former master!”
“Oh, so she was a painter?” Rainbow said, following her with a few flaps of her wings.
Rarity let out an exasperated sigh, even as she removed the trenchcoat from its rack. “Yes, Rainbow, she was a painter. Quite a famous one. Surely you’ve heard of Celestia in Blue?”
“Oh!” Rainbow exclaimed. “Yeah, even I know that one. That was her?”
Rarity smiled, her hat settling onto her head. “It seems there’s hope for you yet, Rainbow.”
She whirled around, now fully costumed in the clothes of her trade. Her devilish grin had returned.
“Now, let’s see if there’s still hope for Mr. Moisi, as well.”