“Oh, Lieutenant Stickler!” Rarity called out as she swept down the hallway, Rainbow following behind. “I have a favor to ask!”
The stallion in question jerked to attention, his cheeks as red as always.
“I cannot let you into the crime scene, ma’am!” he sputtered. “It’s—”
“Yes, yes, against regulations, we’re well aware,” Rarity said. “However, it wouldn’t be against regulations for you to enter the crime scene, am I correct?”
This seemed to catch him off guard. “I—suppose not, ma’am. Why do you ask?”
“I’d like you to confirm something for me,” she said, before leaning in and whispering something into his ear.
“Would that be against regulations?” she asked, stepping back.
“I... suppose not,” he said. “But are you sure...?”
Rarity nodded. “Quite sure.”
He disappeared into the office, the lock clicking behind him. Rainbow leaned over to Rarity.
“What’re you having him do?” she asked.
“Just confirming my theory,” Rarity said, smiling. “That’s all.”
After a minute or so had passed (it felt like twelve to Rainbow), the Lieutenant reemerged, carrying something.
“It was just as you said, ma’am,” Stickler said, astonishment in his voice. “Right there in the wastepaper basket!”
He handed her a crumpled sheet of paper, which she smoothed out. It was a typewritten letter, printed on good stationary. Rarity scanned through it, Rainbow reading it over her shoulder.
As they reached the end, they both began to smile.
“Well,” Rainbow said, stepping back. “I guess that settles that, huh?”
Rarity folded the paper into quarters and handed it back to the Lieutenant. Her smile was smaller, more mischievous than Rainbow’s.
“Yes,” she said, “I believe it does.”
“What’s going on here?” came a voice from down the hall. Rarity turned to look; it was Lieutenant Picker who’d spoken, and following closely behind him was Miss Willow.
Stickler quickly composed himself.
“Nothing at all, Lieutenant Picker,” he said. “Just guarding the crime scene, as per regulations.”
“Well, you can stop that now,” Picker said, joining their little group around the door. “I’ve just finished filing the necessary paperwork at the station. This crime scene is hereby decommissioned.”
Stickler looked at him suspiciously.
“You’re sure you filled out all the forms this time, Lieutenant Picker?”
“Well, all the important ones.”
“I hate to interrupt,” Rarity interrupted, “but does this mean we can enter the office, now?”
“He’s been keeping you out, has he?” Picker said.
“Yes,” Rainbow said, glaring at the lieutenant. “He has.”
“Well, it’s all yours now, ma’am.”
“Wonderful,” Willow said. “I can finally finish cleaning. Oh, I bet it’s just filthy in there!”
But Rarity shook her head. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to hold off on that, Miss Willow.”
“Oh?” Willow said. “And why’s that?”
“Probably so she can finally get a look at the crime scene, eh?” Picker said.
Rarity smiled. “Not quite. You see, I find that it’s best to explain who committed a crime from the scene of the crime itself. It aids in explaining things.”
“And it’s more dramatic!” Rainbow added.
“Wait just a moment, ma’am!” Stickler cried. “We already know who committed the crime—Mr. Moisi Râtelier!”
“And how do you know that exactly?”
“Well, he’s been arrested for it, hasn’t he?” Stickler said. “Only criminals get arrested!”
“You’re the one who arrested him,” Rainbow said, squinting at him.
“I fail to see how that’s relevant.”
“Regardless,” Rarity said, holding up a hoof, “I would like to go over the crime one more time. You may find that things are not quite as cut and dry as you assumed.”
“B-but this is preposterous!” Stickler said, his face now leaving ‘tomato’ and approaching beetroot. “It’s a mockery of the legal system! I—”
Lieutenant Picker laid a hoof on Stickler’s shoulder.
“Relax, Lieutenant,” he said. “I want to hear what they have to say. It’ll only take a minute.”
“If you tell me it’s against regulations, I’ll take your badge.”
“...You can’t do that.”
“Watch me,” Picker said. He turned back to Rarity.
“We’ll hear you out,” he said. “It should be at least a little bit amusing.”
“Wonderful. Go on in, then.”
The two policemen filed into the office. Rarity turned to the housekeeper.
“You as well, Miss Willow, if you don’t mind.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to miss this,” Willow said with a chuckle. “This is the most excitement we’ve had around here in ages!”
They assembled in the office, taking up positions around the room’s perimeter. For how large the room had seemed when peering at it through the window, with five ponies inside, it was surprisingly cramped.
“Alright,” Lieutenant Picker said, once they’d all settled in. “So who exactly is it you think is behind this?”
“In due time, officer,” Rarity said. “But you see, we’ve made a little wager—”
“—the nature of which is not important, but which requires my assistant to share her thoughts on the case first. Rainbow?”
She took a step back and gestured for Rainbow to take center stage, which the pegasus did with enthusiasm.
“Alright!” Rainbow said. “Let’s go over the crime, first.”
“We already know about the crime,” Lieutenant Picker said. “We were the ones who arrested the murderer, remember?”
“Well, I don’t,” Willow said. “I was only there for the end of it.”
Rainbow nodded. “See? She doesn’t. Anyway...”
“Mr. Râtelier arrived here this morning,” she began. “He met Mr. Piega in the main hall, and followed him to his office, where we are now. An hour passed, and then”—she mimed an explosion with her hooves—“Bang! Mr. Piega was shot with his own revolver.”
“Everyone assumed that Mr. Râtelier was the murderer because he was the one holding the gun—but you were wrong!”
Lieutenant Picker was unamused. “And how do you figure that, exactly?”
“Simple,” Rainbow said, her chest puffed out like a songbird’s. “There are two pieces of evidence that prove that it wasn’t Mr. Râtelier. The first is the gun.”
She gestured towards the mount on the wall, where one of the two revolvers still hung.
“You thought that the revolver that killed Mr. Piega was in the room with them, right?” Rainbow said.
“That’s right,” Stickler said.
“Well it wasn’t!” Rainbow said. “That revolver went missing that morning—before Mr. Râtelier even got here!”
Lieutenant Picker’s eyes narrowed. “Says who?”
“Says her!” Rainbow exclaimed, brandishing a hoof in the direction of Miss Willow.
“Oh, yes,” Willow said. “It was missing when I came to tidy the office that morning.”
Stickler blanched. “And you didn’t think to tell us this!?” he sputtered.
“Well, you never asked.”
“So obviously,” Rainbow said, “Mr. Râtelier couldn’t have shot him.”
“That doesn’t prove that it wasn’t in the room, though,” Picker said. “Or that Mr. Râtelier didn’t pick it up somewhere. It could have been hidden in the room ahead of time. Technically, all you’ve proven is that it wasn’t on the wall.”
Rainbow raised an eyebrow. “Seriously, dude?”
The lieutenant nodded. “Quite serious. Your argument is getting flimsier by the second, ma’am.”
“W-well, I did say that that was only the first piece of evidence,” Rainbow said. “And the second is right outside that window!”
She moved to stand beside the thin pane of glass.
“Obviously you all know about Copseville’s weird weather situation,” she said. “Like, how could you not? It’s kinda hard to miss when it snows in August.”
“You’re talking about the snow shipment,” Picker said. “The one that was supposed to go to Corpseville.”
“Where is Corpseville, anyway?” Stickler asked.
Picker shrugged. “Probably somewhere cold.”
“Well,” Rainbow said, “the snow fell the day before the murder.” She gestured at the white wasteland outside the window. “And obviously it was still there when the crime happened. Hey Lieutenant—what happens when a pony walks through snow?”
“...They get cold?” Stickler said.
“What—no!” Rainbow said. “I mean, yes, but that’s not what I’m talking about!”
“Then what are you talking about, dear?” Willow asked.
“Hoofprints!” Rainbow declared. “Hoofprints, like the ones me and Rarity found below this very window!”
“Below the window!?” Stickler cried. “But that would mean that Mr. Râtelier was telling the truth!”
Rainbow stepped out of the way. “See for yourselves!”
The two policemen clambered over to the window. Sure enough, there, fully visible, were the prints from earlier.
“Ridiculous,” Lieutenant Picker said. “Those look nothing like hoofprints.”
Rainbow blinked. “What? Yeah they do!”
“No, they don’t!” Picker said. “Hoofprints look like—well, hooves. They have a very distinct shape!”
He flailed a hoof at the window. “Those prints are smooth, and circular. Nothing like hoofprints at all.”
Rainbow stared at him.
“Lieutenant Picker,” Rarity interrupted. “Do you by any chance have a first name?”
“I do,” he said.
“It wouldn’t happen to be ‘Nit’, would it?”
“It is indeed, ma’am.”
“So you’re Lieutenant Nit Picker,” Rarity said.
“That’s correct, ma’am.”
Rarity nodded. “That explains quite a bit.”
“I guess that’d make you ‘Rules Stickler’, then, huh?” Rainbow remarked, nudging the portly policeman in the side.
“Eugene, actually,” he replied. “My parents wanted something exotic.”
“Well, even if they aren’t hoof-shaped,” Rainbow said, getting back on topic. “They’re still hoofprints. All that means is that they were wearing shoes.”
“And here’s the kicker,” Rainbow continued. “Those footprints outside? There aren’t any leading towards or away from them, they’re just under the window. Which means—”
“So you’re saying they must have been a pegasus,” Stickler said.
Rainbow nodded, gleeful.
“So if Pencil-Stash was telling the truth, and there was a pony outside the window, and that pony was the one who shot Mr. Piega, then the murderer must have been a pegasus who was wearing flat shoes, and who would have had access to this office, so they could steal the gun that morning.
“And there’s only one pegasus here who wears flat shoes, could get into the office without raising suspicion, and who had a grudge against Mr. Piega, and who was seen going outside right before the murder! And that pony is—”
She paused, for dramatic effect.
“—his assistant, Thimble!”
The two lieutenants just looked confused.
“Who in Celestia’s name is ‘Thimble’?” Picker asked.
Rainbow squinted at them.
“Did you two do any policework when you were here?” she asked, incredulous.
“We looked around a bit,” Picker said.
“I stood in front of a door!”
Rainbow facehoofed. “Ugh. Thimble is Mr. Piega’s personal assistant. Piega was shortchanging him. He obviously took it personally once he found out.”
“But—Thimble?” Willow said. “He was always such a darling—that poor boy would never do something like this!”
“Well, obviously he did,” Rainbow said. “And here’s even more proof!”
She slapped a piece of paper down on the desk. The others crowded around to see.
“Hey!” Stickler said. “That’s the paper the detective told me to retrieve from the wastepaper basket!”
Rainbow nodded. “And it’s also the last nail in Thimble’s coffin.”
The note was typewritten, plain—but its contents was anything but. It was a resignation letter, citing a long and passionate list of grievances, and at the bottom...
“Disrespectfully yours,” Rainbow read off, “Thimble.”
“Thimble wrote this?” Willow said. “I—I had no idea he was so angry!”
Rainbow nodded. “Obviously, Mr. Piega didn’t accept his resignation—which is why this note was found crumpled up in his trash can! And so, when Thimble found out that Mr. Râtelier would be coming to the Bottega, he seized his chance to use him as the perfect scrapegoat.”
“That’s what I said.”
Lieutenant Picker nodded, slowly.
“Though it pains me to admit it,” he said, his right eye twitching just slightly, “what you’ve proposed... has merit, even if it isn’t conclusive. Perhaps we were too hasty in our judgment on this case.”
“But,” Lieutenant Stickler sputtered, “but we followed regulations—!”
“Shut up, Stickler. The adults are talking.”
Rainbow turned to Rarity, a smug smile settled on her face.
“See?” she said. “I told you I knew who the murderer was. Looks like you’re going to have some redecorating to do!”
“You did well, darling” Rarity said. “But I have just one question.”
"As a pegasus... how exactly do you think Thimble fired the gun?"
Rainbow blinked. "Uh... with one of those fancy brace things, like Pallette knife had?"
"Really?" Rarity said. "You mean one of those firing braces? The ones that are typically custom-made, and have to be commissioned overseas?"
The smile faded from Rainbow's face.
"The kind that are typically very expensive, far outside the price range of a young assistant working for a pittance? The kind that have to be manufactured extremely carefully, in order to be at all accurate?"
Rainbow cast a glance at the revolver still mounted on the wall, with its tiny guarded trigger and itty-bitty hammer.
She began to sweat.
“Really, darling,” Rarity said, rolling her eyes. “You must learn to think things through.”
"...Maybe he stole Pallette's?" Rainbow said, grinning hopefully, but she didn't sound too convinced of it herself.
"Even if he could have, it wouldn't have fit him," Rarity said. "He's half his size."
"Hold on a minute," Picker said. "What are you two going on about?"
Rarity sighed, and stepped forward. “It’s this exact ignorance that the killer was relying on. Allow me to explain." She lit her horn. The second revolver came floating down from its mount.
“Firearms of this type were invented by griffons, and thus built for griffon talons. This makes them difficult to use for ponies," she said, showing the gun around. "The trigger, you see, offers too much resistance to be pulled with a feather, and the grip is not designed to be held by hooves; the recoil would send it flying.”
She flicked the cylinder in and out. It was visibly not loaded.
“It’s feasible that one could hold it in their mouth if they were so inclined.” She grimaced. “But the taste would be terrible, and firing it—just imagine what it would do to your teeth!”
She pointed the gun at the empty space behind the desk.
“If our Mr. Thimble had fired it in such a way, why, he wouldn’t be able to open his mouth, let alone speak!”
She pulled the trigger. The revolver’s click made Rainbow flinch.
"The only way for an earth pony or a pegasus to use a firearm like this one is to use a special type of brace," she continued, "which is both very expensive and very hard to get one's hooves on. There is a reason this sort of thing is primarily a unicorn sport. Thimble, who was being paid a mere three bits a week for his services, could not have afforded one—and the only one here at the Bottega was under lock and key the entire time. And there are other details that further cast doubt on Thimble's involvement, which I shall explain in a moment.”
“Therefore,” Rarity declared, “the odds that Thimble could have committed the crime are slim to none!”
“Great,” Lieutenant Picker said, crossing his hooves. “So you’ve just been wasting all of our time.”
“Oh, that was hardly a waste of time, Lieutenant,” Rarity said. She placed the revolver on the desk. “My assistant has laid out the facts of this case rather well—and you’ll find her deductions quite relevant, just as soon as I reveal the killer’s true intentions.”
“No, Mr. Thimble did not commit this crime,” she continued, as her audience listened on with bated, and not so bated, breath. “But you were right about one thing, darling, and that is that our client, Mr. Râtelier, did not shoot Mr. Prepuzio Piega dead."
"Then who shot him?" Lieutenant Picker demanded.
Rarity smiled. "Why, isn’t it obvious? It was—"