Many things are always happening in Ponyville. Sometimes it is destroyed in random monster attacks and other times less destructive creatures disrupt the quite of the town. Still, crime is relatively low. There are not many criminal activities that take place there and even then, it usually doesn’t go beyond petty theft. Except that one time.
Fluttershy, the quite pegasus who lives in the cottage at the edge of town, was the first one to take notice of the incident. It seemed innocent enough at the time. You see, Fluttershy is known for her caring of woodland creatures and the like, and that day was no different. She was caring for the animals that gathered at her house every morning when she noticed an unfamiliar squirrel hobbling out of the Everfree Forest. It was hobbling because it was missing its right front paw.
Fluttershy occasionally saw creatures like this, animals that had happened to lose a limb as an infant through some accident or another, but the sight still set her heart into full caregiver mode and she took the squirrel immediately into her home to nurse it.
This was the norm for the rare occasions when she came across an animal such as this but this time it was a little different. Through her keen observation and knowledge of nursing, she realized that the squirrel’s paw had been lost recently. It had only just scabbed over and seemed infected slightly as if it had happened within the last two weeks. This was uncommon among adult squirrels or any other animal she knew for that matter.
Before she could examine the stump limb further, her pet bunny Angel came running inside and, after jostling her attention away from the squirrel, pointed her outside the door. When Fluttershy came to see what he was fussing about, she nearly screamed. Angel and a few other animals had brought another slightly larger bunny with them. This bunny was missing its left front paw, but this time there was blood. It may have happened just that morning.
“How could this happen?” she thought. It wasn’t the last one. Over the course of the day, several other critters came to her home with a family member or friend that had a single missing front paw. A beaver from the marshlands, a chipmunk from the Whitetail Woods, and also a small mouse that had apparently been missing its front right paw for more than a month. This was not some random accident, this was serious.
After nursing the animals the best she knew how, she raced into town to the library to find her friend, Twilight Sparkle. If anypony could figure out was going on, it was her.
Twilight is a unicorn from Canterlot who may very well be the smartest pony in Ponyville as well as the most magical. When she heard about the incident, she was stunned, partly because of the details and partially because she had never heard Fluttershy speak so much.
“Calm down,” she told her frantic friend. “I’m sure there is a logical explanation for this.” Twilight always attempted to take things calmly, even if that often didn’t end up being the case. However, Twilight was in the middle of drafting a speech she would be presenting as a guest speaker at the elementary school the following morning, and she and her assistant Spike would be busy for the remainder of the day.
Since Spike had claws instead of hooves, being a baby dragon and all, he could write with a pen just a little more adeptly than even Twilight could with her magic. She assured Fluttershy that everything would be all right and said she would come over first thing in the morning.
It wasn’t the most comforting thing but Fluttershy had faith in her friend and returned to her cottage. Though she tried to go to sleep in the evening, the thoughts of the poor animals danced in her mind, and she tossed and turned in bed. That’s when it happened.
Fluttershy bolted upright when she heard a loud squawking noise outside. “The chicken coop!” Fluttershy turned on her light and looked out her window just in time to see a shadow dash into the bushes. Gathering her courage, Fluttershy ventured out to her coop and peered inside. What she saw horrified her. One of her chickens was missing a foot. A small trail of blood let out into the general direction of the shadow. Someone or something was doing this heartless act deliberately.
Flying faster than she ever had before, Fluttershy returned to the library where Twilight was still awake doing late night studying. She hadn’t forgotten about the incidents, but had figured Fluttershy would be asleep by then. It took less than a minute for Fluttershy to convince Twilight to come to her cottage right away.
By the bright light of her own magic, Twilight inspected the animals with missing limbs as well as the newest victim and the small trail of blood. She stood still for several minutes and Fluttershy almost thought she had fallen asleep. However, Twilight was trying to figure out a riddle. Something didn’t add up.
“I don’t get it,” she finally said. “Why the chicken?” She paced back and forth while she thought further. “It’s the only thing in this case that doesn’t match.”
“What do you mean?” Fluttershy asked her. “Because all the other victims are mammals?”
“There is that, but it’s not what I mean. I’m talking about their paws. In each of these cases, the animal is missing a front paw. If this was the same perpetrator then it would have taken the end of the chicken’s wing, not its foot. Unless the culprit is changing tactics, what’s the significance of the chicken’s foot versus an animal’s front paw?”
Though she mulled it over for several minutes longer, Twilight couldn’t come up with any logical explanation. The perpetrator seemed to be taking limbs at random. But why would he or she do that?
Considering that the suspect might return to the scene of the crime, Twilight opted to spend the night to watch over the other animals. Unfortunately, the culprit did not return and the night was uneventful, though Twilight did manage to get some sleep. She had a schedule to keep and was to be a guest speaker at the elementary school, for which she was now ill prepared since she hadn’t had time to memorize her speech.
Though the case was important, she didn’t have any new leads and left for the school, though with Fluttershy in tow. The quiet pegasus was uncharacteristically talkative on the way, trying to convince Twilight to think about the case more. To her credit, Twilight was thinking about it, but wasn’t getting any closer than she already had. Fluttershy was being assertive though and it made it difficult for the lavender unicorn to concentrate. She very nearly lost her patience when they arrived at the school where both of them went silent.
School had not yet started and some of the children were playing outside. What caught their eyes was a little filly playing by herself with a stuffed bear. The stuffed animal was missing its right front paw.
“Excuse me, but what happened to your bear?” Twilight asked politely.
The young filly quietly replied. “I don’t know. I found her like this about two months ago.”
Twilight’s mind whizzed. “Fluttershy, how old is the oldest incident you know of?”
“I guess the mouse, about a month ago. Why?”
The cogs in Twilight’s mind were turning fast. Part of the mystery was suddenly making sense, if such a thing could be said to have any sense at all.
Twilight addressed the filly again. “Tell Cheerilee that I’m going to be a bit late this morning.” Then she walked away.
Fluttershy followed her quickly. “What’s going on?”
“I think I might know who did it.”
The two ponies walked through town until they came to a specific house. Twilight knocked and waited, but there was no answer. Nopony seemed to be home. Using her magic, Twilight unlocked the door and went inside.
Twilight hadn’t said who she thought the culprit was and Fluttershy didn’t know whose house they had just entered but was too nervous about being caught to ask.
“What are we doing here?”
“Looking for the missing paws. We know from last night that the culprit didn’t just sever the chicken’s foot, but took it. Why would anyone do that unless they wanted to keep it?”
The two of them searched the bedroom, the living room, the bathroom and several other rooms, but didn’t turn up any sign that the missing paws were there.
“Are you sure the culprit is keeping them? The paws would smell by now wouldn’t they?”
“True. Unless they were kept in a something sealed but…” In that moment, Twilight realized there was one place she hadn’t looked that fit such a description. She went into the kitchen and saw it. The refrigerator. She cautiously opened it and peered inside. Both ponies gasped. Twilight had been right about the missing paws. There were dozens of them, ranging from very small to the size of a beaver. The chicken’s foot was in there and so were several dolls’ hands. Twilight’s mind suddenly started to grind again.
“This is horrible,” Fluttershy said. Who did this?”
Twilight screamed, “Spike!”
“Spike? He’s the culprit?”
“No, but I just realized he’s a potential target. And I’m not supposed to be home today!”
Forgetting that she could teleport, Twilight galloped back to her library, knowing that the culprit could be there right then. Fluttershy followed close behind, afraid for Spike just as much as Twilight. When the library was in sight, they saw that the door was slightly ajar. Twilight burst inside and stopped.
Spike was on the ground sleeping, possibly through the aid of magic. He was spread-eagle with his arm outstretched under the hoof of a pony. The pony was holding an object with magic. Fluttershy and Twilight stared into her eyes and she stared back unable to move. Finally, Twilight said, “Lyra, put the knife down!”
Lyra Heartstrings stared for a moment before she slowly lowered the knife and dropped it on the ground. Lyra was a unicorn known for strange but normally harmless obsessions. One of those obsessions was with hands. Twilight had realized that the perpetrator was not severing the animals’ limbs because they were paws, but because they were the closest thing to hands.
The recent victim, the chicken and its foot, functioned similarly to a hand, which is why she had tried to take that instead of the wing. Lyra had worked her way up from a harmless doll to progressively larger living creatures until she finally reached the logical standpoint. A baby dragon who possessed hands.
Knowing that she was caught, Lyra gave up without a struggle. There was no apologizing that would fix the reputation she had just betrayed and she accepted it with a heavy heart. When the police arrived to take her away, she was heard whispering one thing. “I just wanted hands of my own.”
I swear, after the pony told me his story, it was like he disappeared into thin air again, it was uncanny. I did see him again after that, of course. He wasn't a ghost, if that was what you where thinking, there are enough of those around here. No, he was just kind of quiet and after a while, you stopped noticing him, a bit like my cloak, actually.
The room was getting a bit chilly and I was about to go and re-ignite the fire when the drunk at the end of the bar looked over towards me and began to speak.
“Don't tell me you're closhing already, I have barely had time to get round under my hoovesh.” The pony, who had introduced himself before as “my name is Maplewood, madam”, looked more than a little “round under his hoovesh” already, but I humoured him.
“Oh no, we're open all night,” I reassured him and when I was sure that nopony was looking, I used my magic to pull some more wood onto the embers and help push the fire along. “But you haven't paid me yet,” I reminded him.
“Oh yesh, you wan't a story?” Give me a glash of water and let me sober up.”
I complied with his request and he studied my mysterious eyes for a moment before he began drinking it. He must have suspected I was up to something, I do not have the world's best poker face, but he went along with it anyway. Before serving him the water, I enchanted it slightly, turning it into a really effective hangover cure. He was back to his senses in no time, tough I suspected that later this evening, he'd go back to drowning his sorrows with yet another bottle of liqour on the house.