Red Right Hoof
Chapter Two: The Surprise
It felt like eternity as Scootaloo and I stared at each other, unable to say a word. Thousands of thoughts were spinning in my head, suggesting implications and horrible thoughts, most of which I wasn’t able to comprehend. But in the end, they all led to a simple conclusion. A look in my friend’s eyes confirmed that she was thinking exactly what I was thinking. Words hung between us like a pair of scissors, ready to cut the line that held the world’s integrity together.
The meadow around us was silent. Not a single bird was chirping. No insect made the slightest noise. The world shrunk to three ponies, one of whom was dead.
“Let’s… Let’s not be hasty,” I said eventually, unable to put up with the silence anymore.
“Hasty with what?” What was that supposed to mean? Was she mocking me?
“What I’m saying is, let’s not jump into rash conclusions, is all.”
“Applebloom, listen to yourself.” Scootaloo shook her head. “Do you know any other pegasi with this color of coat and feathers? And mind that Ponyville isn’t a big town at all.”
“Just because we don’t know anypony with this coat hue, doesn’t mean there are no such ponies, though.” I wanted to convince her, but I didn’t believe my own words either. As a matter of fact, I wanted to convince rather myself than her.
“This is the route she takes every day, and barely anyone even ventures into this region, unless they’re traveling north.” Scootaloo turned towards the body again. “I don’t know what happened here, or how, but it did.”
I sighed. “Do you really believe Rainbow Dash could have murdered this person?”
“Murdered?” she mused. “As a matter of fact, no, I don’t think so. But it seems she was directly responsible for this pony’s death.” She drew out the feathers again. “Look at these. They’re ragged and covered with dirt. When you murder someone, you usually have an advantage over your victim. And Rainbow Dash isn’t the type that would let herself to be surprised. No, I don’t buy the murder explanation. I think they were fighting, and this lady… well, lost.”
“So, let’s report it to the poli-”
“No.” Her voice hit me like a whip. How did she do that? “I won’t even let anyone consider Rainbow Dash being a murderer.”
“Don’t you think that even if we managed to deduce as much, the professionals won’t be able to?” I grimaced. “Besides, what do you want to do? Take the feathers away, so they don’t have a clue leading to her?”
Scootaloo looked deep into my eyes. I didn’t like that look at all. “No,” she said, “there will be no case at all. We are going to get rid of the body.”
“What?!” I exclaimed. “This isn’t the best time to be joking around, Scoot. In case you haven’t noticed, we are not playing some game here. We are dealing with an actual dead body!”
“And that’s why, to protect Rainbow Dash, we must take it away from the crime scene!” she shouted at me. I waved my hooves to quiet her down. After all, we were still pretty close to the town’s suburbs.
“And then what?” I crossed my hooves. “Do you have any plans for what to do when ponies will start looking for a lost mare, smart girl?”
“Yes. Yes I do.” Scootaloo smirked. “I am going to get to the truth behind this myself. And I will prove Dash’s innocence.”
“You can’t be serious…”
“I am one hundred percent serious.” She was. I had known her long enough to be able to know when she wasn’t exactly sure about her own words. And this definitely wasn’t one of these cases. She was convinced she wanted to do this, and there was no way to persuade her not to. “Now, I am aware how… problematic this is. Even if I get to the bottom of it, I’ll have to admit that I played vigilante and mixed myself into a crime investigation. So I am not going to force you to help me with this, unless you want to.”
I stayed silent, as my instincts and my common sense fought with the stupid and irrational loyalty to my friend’s beliefs. I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to end this madness before it had an opportunity to get out of hoof. If I had gone to the police station at that very moment, everything might have gone the easy way, and even if it meant betraying Scootaloo’s trust, she would have thanked me when it all was over. But, of course, I had to make the stupid decision.
“You’re insane, Scootaloo,” I said eventually. “Without somepony to control your reckless behavior, you would probably end up hurting at least yourself.”
“Yes!” she exclaimed with a cunning smile. “I knew I could count on you, AB.”
I freed myself from her crushing hug. I swear, sometimes I think she has no idea what a ‘serious situation’ means. “So what’s your plan, detective?”
“First of all, we can’t just stand here, right?” she replied with barely withheld enthusiasm. “Our clubhouse is the nearest safe place from here, right?”
“I thought you wanted to get rid of the body!”
“I do. But first we need to take it somewhere, where nopony will be looking for it. We’ll think of what to do with it later. Maybe we will notice something important in the meantime. Now let’s go!” Without any hesitation, she approached the corpse, and just like it was a bag of apples, she started to load it on her back. Have I mentioned that she was a psychopath? Because I was becoming surer of that with every action she took. “Don’t just stand there, Applebloom. Help me with this.”
Fighting my instincts, which were not sure if it would be better for me to throw up or run away, I hesitantly took some of the corpse’s weight on my shoulders, flinching under the touch of ice-cold body. Soon we were slowly carrying it across the field, almost perfectly masked by the tall grass.
Suddenly, I tripped over something, nearly falling to the ground. Something was lying in the grass, barely visible in the falling dusk.
“What are you doing?” Scootaloo asked, also almost losing her balance.
“There’s something here. It looks like a suitcase.”
“A suitcase? Here?”
“Yeah.” I picked it from the ground and showed her.
“Okay, let’s take it and go. We’ll check it out later.”
* * *
Long years ago, when we first saw that terrible ruin, we couldn’t believe that it had ever served any purpose to anyone. The clubhouse from Applejack’s childhood was in a shape for which ‘terrible’ would be a big understatement. Basically everything was either broken or rotten, and it didn’t look safe to even walk on its floors.
At first I wanted to just leave it as it was and never speak of it again, but the truth was we needed some space for ourselves and it didn’t look like we might have another chance to have a clubhouse of our own, unless we built one from scratch. So eventually I changed my mind and grabbed a hammer.
When I think of it now, it feels like working on this clubhouse was the first thing in my life that I did with genuine passion. At the very moment when I stepped inside for the first time alone, the whole concept of the final look appeared in my mind, and I started to make it reality at once. Surprisingly enough, making it habitable was relatively easy, or at least it felt relatively easy to me, and I managed to do the basics rather quickly. But even after we had actually turned that sad wreck into an actual clubhouse, I didn’t stop my work on it. It became the apple of my eye, my baby. I constantly kept improving it, fixing broken parts, decorating… slowly it became the clubhouse every foal could ever dream of.
Even after all these years, there was still something to be done with it, and I gladly devoted a fair portion of my spare time to play with it. Not long ago, with some of the money I had saved (working on a farm is hard, but it pays off good) and Applejack’s connections, we managed to provide it with electrical wiring, so now it had not only electric lighting, but even a fridge and a radio.
If I was to name one thing in my life that I was really proud of, it would be the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ clubhouse.
With Sweetie Belle gone, we weren’t spending as much time there as we used to. Scootaloo and I still liked to hang out there, invite friends and throw little parties, sometimes even spend nights there, but without Sweetie it wasn’t the same anymore. It didn’t hold me from sweeping the floors regularly and watering the flowers though.
“Turn on the light,” Scootaloo asked. I was dizzy from all the stress and confusion, and I just blindly followed orders. If she told me to jump off a cliff, I wouldn’t even ask why.
She carefully placed the body by one of the walls and swept a drop of sweat from her brow.
“Please turn her around,” I asked Scootaloo. We managed to close the mare’s eyes, but the terrifying tongue still stuck out of her mouth, and it made me sick to just look at her face. I sat heavily on the couch. “Now what?” I suddenly felt very tired. Not only I had a long day of work behind me, but also all the strained nerves finally started to loosen up. Besides, carrying a dead body around wasn’t an easy task either.
“Now,” said Scootaloo, as her eyes rested on the suitcase, “let’s see what’s inside this thing.”
“Do you think it’s connected?” I asked. “I mean, things like this don’t usually get tossed around like trash, and it looks… expensive.”
We both examined the suitcase. It looked very solid, was pitch-black and used a code lock. It made a very official impression, like it belonged to a person that was very important. I could almost hear it saying “it’s unwise to open me”, but after some point of critical mass of bad decisions you don’t care anymore. You just say “screw everything, let’s see how far we can go until we fall miserably” and jump on the crazy train ride with the rest of the world that has gone crazy.
I didn’t care about the consequences anymore. I just followed what Scootaloo was doing. What was done was done, and I couldn’t turn back now. My brain decided that I can’t get into any bigger trouble, so I might as well get over it. Was it Scootaloo’s psychopathic personality that was slowly taking over me?
“It’s locked,” I stated shortly.
“Nothing a good old crowbar can’t deal with, right?”
“Yeah, but it would be destroying private prop-” I broke off. “It’s in the toolbox behind the couch…”
I have a confession to make. I love tools. And not just like to have them and operate with them. I have some kind of primal lust for good quality tools. I have a feeling that it’s not exactly healthy, but every time I see a new type of a screwdriver or a good hammer, I have to buy it. I need it. Normal girls my age like to collect expensive perfumes or clothes, while the only thing I ever felt like wearing was my immortal bow I inherited after my mom. I don’t think I’ll ever stop wearing it, even though they all tell me I’m too old to wear one.
But yeah, tools. They just kept coming since I couldn’t stop, and it meant that I constantly needed bigger and bigger toolboxes to store them all. The one I currently had behind the couch was already huge enough for me to have to step into it as I was looking for something, and I knew it wouldn’t be enough forever. Addictions are a horrible thing.
Scootaloo trotted towards my toolbox while I laid on the couch, trying not to think too much about what we were doing. At that point, I was pretty sure I had had enough stress for one day. And I didn’t expect any more.
“Aaahh!” screamed Scootaloo.
“Aaahh!” answered something from… inside the toolbox.
“Aaahh!” I followed mindlessly. When your brain is not capable of controlling your emotions anymore, you can only do whatever the others are doing. Like a sheep, no offense to the sheep. Basically, I had no idea whether I was even scared. I just screamed to follow the group.
“Aaahh!” Our trio kept screaming until the voice from the box had come to its senses.
“What are you doing here?” Spike awkwardly stuck his head out of the toolbox.
“What are w e doing here?” Scootaloo looked like she had just been hit in the face. “Spike, this is o u r clubhouse! The question is what are you doing here!”
“I… nothing. Sorry. No reason. I was just… passing by.”
“You are hiding in my own personal favorite toolbox,” I said, fighting down my headache, “and you claim you don’t have a reason to do so. What the hay are you doing here?”
Spike stood still for a while, red like a tomato. “Do you promise not to tell Twilight?”
“We don’t know,” Scootaloo and I said in unison and hoof-bumped. We did that involuntarily, not even looking at each other, whenever we said something at the same time.
“Depends on how bad it is,” I added
“And on our mood.” Scootaloo smirked.
Spike hung his head down. “Twilight and her stupid books. She read somewhere that eating too many gems becomes addictive to dragons. Which is not true! I’ve been eating gems almost every day since I can remember, and I didn’t notice any signs of addiction. Still, she didn’t believe me and decided to limit the amount of gems for me, so… I have to hide.”
“But why here?” Scootaloo dramatically threw her hooves in the air. “And why in Equestria would you hide from us? Did you want to give us a heart attack?”
“I… sort of panicked,” he shrugged. “And gems taste terrible if they’re not chilled, so I prefer to use a freezer, and you have a big one- hey, what is Spitfire doing here?”
“Huh?” I completely forgot about the body out of all this! “Who?”
“W- what are you talking about, Spike?” Scootaloo asked, suddenly very pale. “This is not Spitfire.”
“Yes, she is.” The dragon jumped out of the box. “I couldn’t mistake that hair. Is she asleep or something?”
“Who’s Spitfire?” I had no idea what or who they were talking about.
“There’s no way this would be her…” my friend mumbled to herself. She looked more terrified with each passing second.
“She does look a bit different without her Wonderbolt uniform on, doesn’t she. Hey, Spitfire!” Spike took a step towards the corpse, but Scootaloo grabbed him by his shoulders.
“Spike, just go home,” she said with trembling voice. “Go home, and don’t tell anyone about what you saw here. Not a word to anyone. Forget everything what you saw tonight, do you understand?”
The dragon took a step back, just now realizing that something wasn’t right. His eyes were shooting between me and Scoot. “What is going on?”
I looked at my friend, and she hid her face in her hooves.
“Please, we don’t want to drag you into this,” I said to Spike. “This isn’t something you want to be a part of, trust me. This isn’t a thing anyone would like to be a part of.”
“You know how not convincing that sounds, right?” he replied, giving me an ironic-gloomy look. “Seriously, did something bad happen? Why isn’t she-”
“She’s dead!” Scootaloo shouted. Her eyes were glistening like she was just about to burst into tears. “Happy? This mare, who you claim is Spitfire, is dead. That’s what happened.”
Now it was Spike’s face’s turn to drain of any color. “What? This isn’t funny, you know…”
“Like hell, tell me about it!” I barked at him. I knew I shouldn’t have. But I was very, very tired.
“Did…” He hesitated. “Did you do this to her?”
“What?” I looked at him with disbelief. “Why would you even say that?”
“I don’t know, maybe because there’s a fucking dead body in your clubhouse! What did you expect my reaction to be?”
“What is wrong with you?!” I shouted at him. “How dare you-“
“Guys!” Scoot’s whip voice silenced us instantly. She sat down, staring at the floor. Just now I could see how tired she was too. She did her best to keep the positive attitude all that time, but even she had her limits. At that moment she looked like a little pony that had bitten much more than she could chew. She slowly raised her head and looked me deep in the eyes. “We need help.”
I sighed, relieved. “Good. I’ll go to the poli-”
“No,” she cut in again. “Spike, with your flame you can send a letter to anyone, right?”
“To anyone I know personally, yes.” It seemed that he had had enough already and was beyond the point of asking questions. “But only Celestia has the ability to send something back to me.”
“We don’t need a reply.” She stood up and opened a drawer. From inside she brought a sheet of parchment, a quill and a bottle of ink. “Write just: ‘Come here ASAP. We need you.’”
Spike didn’t object. He scribbled the words quickly and looked at Scootaloo. “To…?”
Spike shrugged. He rolled the letter and lit it up with a short breath of green fire. It disintegrated, getting slowly eaten by the odd flame. I often wondered if it was a natural ability of dragons, or if Spike wasn’t an ordinary dragon. After all, he didn’t even have wings, and I used to think that all of them have a pair. I even wanted to ask him that a few times, but I was afraid that it might hurt him. I don’t know why, it would feel odd to just walk to a dragon and ask why he doesn’t have any wings.
The smoke dissipated into thin air.
We all jumped when a sudden flash of green flame lit up the darkness outside and a muffled ‘pop’ echoed between the trees. Our hearts stopped for a while. Within a split second my brain had already created a few scary scenarios with absolute certainty that we were doomed.
The door to our clubhouse opened with a bloodcurdling howl. From the darkness emerged an obscure silhouette of a white-coated pony wearing a fedora and a wide smile.
“Well, I did expect some kind of welcome,” said Sweetie Belle, “but I must say this form managed to surprise me.”