Detective Applebloom

by Shrike

The Student And The Master

“Close, but no, you didn't get everything.” I said. She was close. Really close. I fought the urge to let my jaw drop.
Between Applebloom and I rested a plethora of items. Plastic bags containing the most inconsequential of items, photographs of objects you wouldn't spare two glances at, if you even spared one glance. Exactly the kind of things left at crime scenes.
“Aww.” she said. A solitary sigh accompanied her despondence. “What'd ah miss?”
This filly...
We were playing the same game we always played whenever I happened to be at Sweet Apple Acres. Today, Applejack needed an extra pair of hoofs to hold some beams in place while she fixed up the barn; a request I was happy to oblige. I told myself I did it out of the goodness of my heart, but really, it was because I couldn't get enough of her cooking. After dinner, Applebloom pounced me, demanding we play at 'detectives'.
It was a game where I'd take a selection of things: stray hairs, crumbs of food and bits of mud among other things, and place them in a room, so as to resemble a crime scene. I'd then watch Applebloom as she walked the grid, giving her hints as she went along, letting her photograph the bits of planted physical evidence and bag them. When she was satisfied that she'd found everything of interest, we'd sit together in the lounge, and she'd try to reconstruct the make-believe scene.
This time, I'd upped the ante. I'd deliberately made our first few games easy. Obvious things like fat, muddy hoofprints. She solved those ones with ease, perfectly placing who had been there based on the physical evidence.
Now I'd made the clues a little more subtle, and it had defeated her, if only barely.
“Let me tell you what you got right, first.” I said. I spied the bag nearest to me, picking it up with my mouth. Inside were red hairs. “You placed Big Mac in the room, that was right.”
A faint smile shot across her face, but it disappeared quickly. “That one were easy though.”
“Don't beat yourself up. I made this one a little harder than the others.” I said, putting the bag down again. “You also placed Granny Smith there, that was right too.”
“The smell, right? Only she uses that shampoo.”
“Yep. I swabbed her hair while she was asleep and dabbed it all around the room.” I said. She snorted a laugh.
Only a little bit creepy.
Her chortling was so infectious that I was soon guffawing along with her. Applejack must have heard the ruckus and got curious.
“Playin' detectives again?” Applejack asked, leaning against the doorframe.
“Yeah!” Applebloom said. “Mean ol' Anon made this one real tough though.”
“It's no fun if you get it right every time.” I said. I turned to Applejack. “She's getting better though. If I'm not careful, soon it'll be her that ponies ask to solve their mysteries.”
“Now wouldn't that be somethin'.” Applejack said. We both looked at Applebloom, who was grinning from ear to ear. She might've burst if her ego got any more inflated.
“You hear? He went and combed Granny Smith's hair while she were sleepin'!” she said.
Applejack balked at the notion and tried stifling a snigger. “Now that's just weird. Worse than weird, it's downright creepy.”
“You won't like what's coming next then. Promise you won't hit me.” I said. Applejack raised a hoof to her forehead and rubbed her face.
“Can't do that Anon.” she said.
“I, er, I might've... swabbed you as well.” I said.
“What?!” she said. If she had been drinking, she probably would have done a spit-take.
“That's one of the things you missed, Applebloom. There was a second scent in the room. I applied AJ's sweat to one of the bedposts.” I said.
Applebloom didn't seem to care that she missed it. She was lying against the sofa, immobilised by a particularly hearty bout of laughter. Her eyes were red from rubbing away the tears. She was probably imagining me creeping up on Applejack in a sneak suit, cotton bud in mouth, dabbing at her armpits. Not far from the truth.
Someone will go one of two ways after being embarrassed like that. They'll either lash out in frustration, or run away, tail between legs. Applejack chose the former, if her hoof suddenly connecting with my ribs was a worthy way of determining. Laugher is a good painkiller though. Sure, I was probably going to be sore in the morning, but Applejack would have to live the rest of her life with the knowledge that I violated her. Even if it was in the most platonic way possible.
“Ugh. Just ugh. Do I gotta take out a restrainin' order on y'all now?” she said, shaking her hooves as though they were wet. “Ah feel like I need a shower or somethin' now. I'll get ya back fer this. Y'all can be sure a' that.”
“Do what you must.” I said, through a veil of jovial tears. “I've already won.”
I didn't notice Applejack leaving, but when Applebloom and I had finished laughing, she was notably absent. Big Mac'll find that hilarious, I thought.
“Aaagh... that hurts.” I said, rubbing where Applejack had kicked me. “Worth it though.”
“This's been the best one yet Anon!” Applebloom said. “Sis' won't forget that in a hurry.”
“For my sake, I hope she does.” I said. “Right, where were we... oh yeah, the other things you missed.”
I held up the bag of hairs again and passed it to Applebloom. She looked between me and the bag for a few seconds with her brow furrowed.
“Ah thought you said ah got that one right?” she said.
I smiled. “There's two types of hair in this bag. You didn't notice, but they're slightly different colours and thickness. Who else do you know that has red hairs?”
She scratched her mane for a bit while I held back another bout of laugher. She scratched for so long that a small bundle of her hairs came out with her hoof when she stopped. She looked at her hoof.
“Ah'm so dumb.” she said. “Ah was the other pony in that room?”
“See, you did know.” I said. “The more you practice, the less you make those kind of mistakes. Believe me.”
“But it takes so long ter get better.” she said.
I sighed. “Y'know, even I used to make mistakes like that.”
Her eyes lit up for a moment. “Fer real?”
“Yeah.” I said. “I remember I once fluffed a job because I trampled over some hoof marks without knowing it. When I found them, I thought they were left by someone else. I spent a whole day chasing myself without realising it. When I eventually found out I was following my own hoofprints, I felt dumb too. So y'see Applebloom? Nobody's perfect. Especially not me.”
She pondered for a moment. “Not even Princess Celestia or Princess Luna?”
“Nope. Everyone slips up eventually. Even the princesses.”
Her crestfallen attitude gradually lifted like a veil. “Ya should've worn them hoof-covers.”
“Yep. I should've.” I said, matter-of-factually. Even if it was advice from a filly, it was correct. If things continued like this, by the end of the season, she'd be better at preserving crime scenes than the morons at Ponyville PD. “Which brings us neatly to the last bit you missed. Let me show you, come on.”
She followed me up the stairs and into her room. On the floor rested various tidbits. Adhesive photo rulers mostly. The floor concealed another clue, however, one that I hoped she would find the second time around.
“Bear in mind what I said earlier.” I said. “I said it had to do with hoofprints.”
I watched her secure hoof-covers around her legs with rubber bands. I thought the action came a little too naturally to her, almost like she was tying her bow or brushing her teeth. Just another thing that needs doing before starting the day.
She walked the grid, slower this time. Up and down, left and right, taking one set of steps before stopping and examining the floor. She made a very long stop next to the wardrobe.
She looked to me. “There's somethin' here. Looks like...dust? Ah can't make out the shape, it's almost the same colour as th' floor?”
“Are you asking me or telling me?” I said.
“Tellin' ya.” she said, in a firmer tone.
To my surprise, she walked away from the planted hoofprints. The planted clue were my own horseshoes, which I had stomped around in some sawdust from the barn construction before transferring them to the mock-scene. One clue for everyone in the household.
She walked up to her dresser, where a few pieces of school apparatus were stored neatly in little desk-tidies. I thought she'd take a pencil and try to trace the outline of the dust.
Instead, she took the glass of water, also on the table, and poured it next to the hoofprints. The tiny wood shavings absorbed the trickles of water, causing them to darken. Now they stood out clearly against the floor.
If I hadn't been sitting down, I might have fallen on my ass for the shock. I hadn't thought of doing that. If I were a teacher, I'd have been slapping gold stars all over her workbook, and when I ran out of those, I'd draw smiley faces until the pen ran dry.
“Ohh, they're horseshoes.” she said, not realising that I'd almost had a stroke. She went back to the dresser and took a pen and paper. Placing the paper over the wet woodshavings, she began tracing.
When she was finished, she took her drawing and held it up to the light, like she was examining an x-ray. She came over to me.
“Hoof please.” she said.
I couldn't help but grin as I lifted my hoof and she placed the tracing against it. They matched perfectly.
“You caught me, Detective Applebloom.” I said. “I still win though, since I had to help.”
“That ain't fair! Ya didn't help much!” she said.
I chuckled. “Alright, you can have that one. Y'know what this means though?”
“It means I'm gonna make it tougher next time.” I said. “Much tougher.”