"—our client, Mr. Râtelier!"
"Uh... Rares?" Rainbow eventually said. "Are you okay? You're not, like, having a stroke or something, are you?"
"Oh, I am in quite good health, I assure you," Rarity said. "The simple fact of the matter is that Mr. Râtelier did shoot Mr. Piega—but he did not shoot him dead."
“What on earth is that supposed to mean?” Lieutenant Stickler sputtered.
“It’s quite simple, actually,” Rarity said. “But first, allow me to fill in those facts of the case that my assistant failed to mention.”
“Firstly,” she said, “The matter of Mr. Râtelier’s impotence.”
“I-I beg your pardon!?” Willow sputtered, her wrinkled cheeks turning crimson.
“Magical impotence,” Rainbow Dash explained. “Seriously, Rares, you’ve gotta stop doing that.”
“Mr. Râtelier’s magic cannot extend more than a few feet from his body,” Rarity continued. “This will become important later. Secondly, the location of the gun at the time of the murder.”
“Hey, I told them that!” Rainbow said. “The revolver wasn’t in the room, remember?”
“Ah,” Rarity said, smiling. “But as the good Lieutenant said, darling, Willow’s account only proves that it wasn’t on the wall. And there’s something else.”
“You see,” Rarity continued, “Willow did, in fact, tell us that the gun was missing on the morning of the murder—but she also told us something else: that when she asked Mr. Piega about its absence, he was utterly unconcerned.
“This, of course, indicates that Mr. Piega knew where the gun was—and I do too.”
“Well?” Lieutenant Picker asked. “Where was it, then?”
“It was in his own coat pocket!
“You see, when Rainbow and I went down to the funeral parlor, hoping to get a look at Mr. Piega’s body, we arrived too late—his body had already been turned to ash. His clothes, on the other hand, had been saved by a very astute funeral technician—and upon inspecting them, I discovered several useful things.
“The first of these,” she said, “was the presence of fresh oil stains in the left front inside pocket of his suit jacket, indicating that he had been carrying a metallic device of some sort in it—a mechanical device like, perhaps, a revolver.
“With this, and Miss Willow’s account,” she said, “we can safely conclude that the weapon was on his person up until the time of the murder!”
“What!?” Rainbow cried. “But—but that makes no sense!”
“I must agree with your assistant,” Lieutenant Picker said. “You cannot seriously be suggesting that he shot himself?”
But Rarity shook her head. “No, that isn’t what I’m suggesting at all. What I am suggesting is, in fact, the final fact of the case—one that even I almost didn’t pick up on. It is, in fact, the central deception of this entire affair!”
“Well, spit it out already!” Lieutenant Picker spat.
“That fact,” Rarity said, grinning like a madmare, “is that the revolver wasn’t the murder weapon!”
Another moment of complete awed silence, broken at last by Lieutenant Stickler’s strangled cry:
“Then what was!?”
Rarity gestured towards the desk. “Lieutenant Picker, if you would be so kind to look in the bucket behind you, I think everything will become quite clear.”
Picker quirked an eyebrow at her, but nonetheless turned around and approached the ice bucket sitting atop Mr. Piega’s desk. He peered inside—and his eyes grew wide.
His horn lit, and he withdrew something from within the melted icewater. Facing forward, he held it up so everyone could see.
“An ice pick!?” Rainbow cried.
Rarity smiled. “Indeed.” She took the tool from Picker’s grasp and twirled it around. “This is the weapon that was used to kill Mr. Piega!
“You see, Mr. Piega wasn’t shot—not at first, anyway. He was stabbed. Right through the temple.”
“And what proof do you have of that?” Picker demanded.
“A bloodstain,” Rarity replied, “on the inside of Mr. Piega’s lapel. Two perfectly parallel streaks of blood, as if something had been wiped off on it. The killer probably assumed that it would be obscured once the blood on the outside soaked through, but he didn’t factor the jacket’s material into his equation. Mr. Piega was wearing wool, which, despite being a natural fiber, is surprisingly water-resistant—or, in this case, blood-resistant!”
She laid the ice pick down on the desk, beside the revolver.
“Then, afterwards, the killer shot him from medium range, aiming for the stab wound. The wound was so small, the bullet completely obliterated it. Perhaps a mortician who was experienced with gunshot wounds would have noticed something off, but I doubt there is anyone with that sort of expertise here in Copseville—and the killer was banking on the same thing.”
“But why would anyone do that, though?” Willow asked. “Either way, they’d still be the one with the murder weapon! How does that help them?”
“Two reasons,” Rarity said. “The first goes into why this crime was committed.”
“You see,” she continued, “the motive to this crime is vitally important. It reveals certain truths about the way the murder was committed, and how. And the motive for that crime is—in fact—standing right behind you, Miss Willow!”
Willow blinked, and turned around to face—
“The painting?” Rainbow said. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“It has to do with everything, darling,” Rarity said. Her horn lit, and the sheet that had obscured the work lifted—revealing a beautiful mountain landscape of greens and blues, rendered in delicate watercolour.
“You will note,” she said, “that the artist’s signature is a pair of initials—S.B.” She turned to address Rainbow Dash. “Care to take a guess at whose those might be, darling?”
“How should I know?” Rainbow asked.
Rarity tisk-tisked her. “Really, darling? You met the mare earlier today!”
“Met the—” Rainbow’s eyes grew wide. “Swallow Breeze!”
Rarity smiled. “Precisely, darling.”
She turned to the caretaker. “Miss Willow, do you happen to recall if a ‘Swallow Breeze’ ever took a stay at the Bottega?”
“Oh, yes, of course,” she said. “The dear was with us for several months—she only left last week. But what does she have to do with any of this?”
“Swallow Breeze,” Rarity said, “Was Mr. Râtelier’s niece—and the former master of his Atelier.”
“Really?” Willow gasped. “I had no idea!”
Rarity nodded. “Indeed. I do not know how, but somehow Mr. Piega was able to attract the flesh and blood, the pride and joy, of his greatest rival to his Bottega.
“This is the real reason Mr. Piega invited Mr. Râtelier to come here,” Rarity said. “To show him that his own kin had betrayed him for his rival!
“Mr. Râtelier, of course, didn’t take this very well. And it’s here that another fact of the case becomes important—you will recall that I mentioned Mr. Râtelier’s troubles with magic earlier.”
“His magical impotency,” Picker said.
Rarity nodded. “Precisely. You see, this was a crime of passion—Mr. Râtelier’s rage at the betrayal of his niece obscured his judgment, and in that rage, he grabbed for the closest weapon within reach—the ice pick. Within moments, he would have driven it deep into Mr. Piega’s skull—killing him before he even had the chance to pull out the weapon he had himself prepared, in case of this very scenario.”
“You’re saying Mr. Piega had the revolver on him because he was afraid Mr. Râtelier was going to kill him?” Rainbow asked.
“Precisely, darling!” Rarity replied. “Well, perhaps he wasn’t expecting to be murdered—but he certainly took the precaution. This is also why that revolver was loaded, when this revolver—” she tapped the one on the desk “—was not.
“Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to avert his own death—but I suspect he had the revolver out of his pocket before the end. It would have clattered to the ground...”
She stepped around the desk and examined the floor.
“Ah, and here’s your proof!” she cried. “A dent, in the wood of the floor, right where the revolver would have fallen. Quite convenient for Mr. Râtelier that that happened; otherwise, had he not known about the revolver, he wouldn’t have been able to disguise his crime.”
“Disguise his crime?” Willow asked. “But... he shot him right afterwards! How is that ‘disguising his crime’?”
“It’s quite simple,” Rarity said. “You see, once the deed had been done, there was no escape for Mr. Râtelier. The window was too small to escape through, and he couldn’t have left through the door—you would have seen him yourself, Miss Willow. He was trapped, which left him only one recourse: he needed to do something to take suspicion off of himself.”
“Something,” she said, “like pinning the blame on someone else, under the guise that they were trying to pin it on him—a frame-by-frame, if you will.”
Rainbow’s eyes widened.
“So... Thimble—” she began.
“Was a red herring!” Rarity finished. “And, darling, the exact deduction you made earlier is precisely the one Mr. Râtelier wanted the police to make!”
“But—how?” Picker choked. “How could he have fabricated all of that?”
“Easily,” Rarity said. “Getting Thimble outside was as easy as summoning him with that bell over there and sending him out on a fool’s errand. The hoofprints under the window would have been harder, especially given his magical inadequacies, but...”
She lit her horn; the sheet that had covered the painting drifted over to her, as did the glass paperweight that had resided on the desk. She wrapped the latter in the former, forming a sling of about a meter long.
“...by doing this, he would have had no trouble.” She lifted it up so they could see the bottom of the sling. “Note the colourful stains in the fabric. These are off of that painting—the sheet would have been damp, you see, where it had touched the snow.”
“As for the note, well,” Rarity said, “I think with a quick bit of comparison you’ll find that it was written using this.” She patted the typewriter at the desk.
“But... but how could he have had time for all of this?” Picker said. His face had turned almost the same shade as Stickler’s—but then it turned white as sheet. “The revolver...”
“I see you’ve reached the same conclusion I have,” Rarity said. “You see, the revolver served a dual purpose. Firstly, it allowed for the murderer to have killed Mr. Piega from outside the room. But firearms also have a property that is unique to them, in the world of weapons—they are quite loud! Firing one was sure to bring everyone running—and of course, one would expect a gunshot victim to have died when the shot was fired.
“Had Mr. Piega actually been shot, there would only have been a matter of seconds between the murder and the murderer’s apprehension, nowhere near enough time for them to tamper with the crime scene. But in reality, Mr. Piega wasn’t shot—he was stabbed! And, in fact, he was stabbed long before the revolver was ever fired, thus giving Mr. Râtelier all the time he needed to frame Thimble!”
“And this,” Rarity cried, that maniacally triumphant grin once more taking over her face, “was the second purpose of the revolver! To disguise the time of death!”
She stood there, panting and grinning like a madmare while her stunned audience looked on, for a few more moments.
Then, coughing, she recomposed herself.
“And that,” she said, “is how the crime was committed.”
It was Lieutenant Stickler who broke the silence.
“So we were right, then!”
“What do you mean, ‘we were right’?” Rainbow asked, frowning.
“About Mr. Râtelier,” Stickler said. “We arrested the right pony after all!”
“Yes, I suppose you were right,” Rarity said. “In much the same way as a broken clock.”
“Twice a day?”
“No,” Rarity said. “Completely by accident. And now that you know the full story of what happened, there might actually be a chance that your good luck will hold up in court.”
“Alright, but here’s what I don’t get,” Rainbow said. “If Mr. Râtelier did the crime, then—”
“Why on earth did he call for a detective?” Willow finished for her.
“That should be obvious, at this point,” Rarity said. “It’s because the one thing in his plan that he failed to account for was the utter incompetence of the police. Isn’t that right, Lieutenant Picker?”
“We never investigated,” the Lieutenant murmured. “So we never found any of his fake evidence...”
“And so his trap backfired,” Rarity concluded. “He needed someone else to look into the crime in order to exonerate him, and my name was the first to come to mind.
“But while he may have overestimated your abilities, Lieutenant,” she said with a flourish, “he most certainly underestimated those of the great Detective Rarity!”
“...And so,” Rarity said, “here we are.”
Meetings with clients can be awkward in any line of work.
Moisi Râtelier nodded. “Here we are,” he echoed.
Meetings with clients you just doomed to a lifetime in prison are even worse.
Moisi smiled. “I suppose I owe you an apology, Madame Rarity. I had assumed that the Duchess’ claims about you were exaggerated; it appears that was never the case.”
“No need to apologize, Monsieur,” Rarity replied, smiling back. “You almost had me.”
“I will take that as a compliment.”
“Wait, so...” Rainbow cocked her head to the side. “You aren’t angry?”
“Oh, I am,” he said. “At myself. If I hadn’t lost my temper, none of this would have happened. Framing Prepuzio’s assistant was my last hope, but I knew justice would come for me eventually. One way or another.”
His teeth clenched, and his brow furrowed. “That bastard... using my own family to get to me...”
“Yeah, about that,” Rainbow said. “There’s something that’s been bothering me.”
“How come you sent Swallow Breeze to us, instead of your assistant, or anyone else?” Rainbow asked. “Like, you knew she’d betrayed you—why would you trust her not to do it again?”
“I suspect it’s because he wanted to ask her why,” Rarity said. Moisi nodded.
“Once again, you are correct, Miss Rarity. It seems nothing gets by you. I was hoping she would come with you to Copseville, or at least understand that I bore her no ill will. Perhaps a foolish hope, but a hope nonetheless.”
“Relations between myself and Swallow have always been... strained,” he said. “But she is still family.”
“Funny,” Rarity said. “She said the same thing about you.”
Moisi’s eyes widened, just a fraction. The corner of his lips twitched upwards.
“Now then,” Rarity said. “Regarding my payment...”
He looked at her with amusement.
“Really, you still expect me to pay you? Even after all of this?”
“You are a businessman, Monsieur Râtelier,” Rarity said. “And we had an arrangement. Besides, I think you’ll quite like what I have in mind.”
“Oh?” Moisi said, one of his thin eyebrows quirking with curiosity.
Rarity nodded. She leaned in and whispered something through the bars.
Râtelier nodded, and drew back as she finished.
“Yes,” he said, grinning. “I think I can arrange that.”
Rarity stood up from her stool, its wooden legs complaining loudly as they scraped against the stone floor of the prison.
“Well, we’d best be off, then,” she said. “I think we’ve earned a bit of a rest. It was a pleasure, Monsieur.”
“No, Detective,” Râtelier said. “The pleasure was all mine.”
Rarity headed for the door. Rainbow cast one last glance back at the prisoner.
“Later, Pencil-Stashe!” she said, before following after her boss.
“Pencil... Stashe? Only one pony has ever...”
His eyes widened.
“It was you!” he cried, throwing himself against the bars. “La Démone Arc-en-ciel! IT WAS YOU!”
But they were already gone.
A month passed. Several cases came and went during that time, though they were all small ones, and not very notable.
It was just after the latest of these cases that Rarity received a package, wrapped in brown paper, and tied with twine.
“Alright, I’ve gotta admit,” Rainbow said, flopping onto one of the sofas. “This is waaaaay better to come back to than a normal office.”
“You see, darling?” Rarity said. “I knew you’d come around.”
She took her own seat in one of the chairs, and set the package down on the coffee table.
Rainbow glanced over. “Hey, what’s that?”
“It’s a package, darling.”
“Yeah, I don’t have to be a genius detective to see that,” Rainbow said, rolling her eyes. “Who’s it from?”
“The Attleier d’ Râtelier,” Rarity said. A letter opener floated over to her; she neatly cut away the bindings of the package. “The name should ring a bell.”
“Oh, yeah!” Rainbow said. “The art case!”
“Precisely, darling,” Rarity said. “And I believe this is our payment.”
The brown paper fell away, revealing a framed canvas—and on it, a spectacularly rendered portrait of the two of them, Rarity in her trenchcoat and hat, Rainbow standing nobly beside her with her wings spread.
Rainbow whistled. “Dang. Even I can tell that’s good.”
“It is indeed,” Rarity said, beaming. “And there’s a note.”
Dear Detective Rarity (and her assistant),
I hope this letter finds you as well as I am. Life at the Atelier is everything I could have ever dreamed of! I’ve been apprenticed under Master Scuro. He’s tough on me, but I’ve learned a lot already, and I know one day I’ll make him proud. And best of all? He’s allergic to eggs!
I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done for me, but enclosed is a token of my appreciation. If you should ever need more, you know who to ask.
Forever in your debt,
Rainbow looked up from the letter. “So the favor you asked from Mr. Râtelier was...?”
“To arrange an invitation to study at his Atelier for our young friend,” Rarity said. Taking hold of the painting, she crossed the room to the mantle. “It was only fair, after he tried to frame Thimble for his crime.”
She hung the painting by a nail above the mantle and stepped back. It fit the space perfectly.
“What do you think, darling?”
“It’s a bit narcissistic to hang a picture of yourself in your office, isn’t it?”
Rarity pouted. “So that’s a ‘no’, then?”
“What? No way!” Rainbow said. “It’s perfect.”
“Wonderful!” Rarity said. “Now, then. On to the next case!”
Said Rainbow to Rarity, on the train ride home from Copseville:
“So. Dime store paperback, huh?”
Said Rarity to Rainbow:
“Impossible, darling. We’re worth at least two bits.”