• Published 7th Jun 2013
  • 2,755 Views, 193 Comments

Pinkie Pie is Dead - chrumsum

When you lose something worth living for, you get something worth dying for.

  • ...

4 - Princesses

Neither of the guards say a word as they march me down the street. It’s hard to keep my dignity intact, being shepherded by the two stallions as if they were taking me to class. Thankfully, there still aren’t many ponies awake yet. Only a few windows are creaking open as ponies reluctantly look up at the gray skies and choose to head back to bed. It doesn’t take me long to figure out where we’re going: back to the station.

The Ponyville Police station isn’t exactly impressive. It’s touched up in the usual cheery Ponyville fashion with the woodwork sporting engraved hearts and flowers. Very intimidating. There’s scarcely any need for a police force, so the whole place is underfunded, getting only a footnote at the end of the town’s tax revenue. And it shows.

We march past the heavy oaken doors, which look like they haven’t been polished since Ponyville was founded, and into the main hall. The guards loosen once inside. It’s easy to see why. They’re home. In my home.

It doesn’t look like a police station anymore as much as it does royal barracks. Guards line the sides of the corridors, patrolling the building and peering into the cramped offices, where a few cubicle monkeys are desperately trying to avoid their judgmental stares. There are even guards outside the Chief’s office. Unbelievable.

“Expecting war?” I ask incredulously. “This is a police station, not a damn fortress.”

They don’t even so much as grace me with an answer. “Keep walking,” one says stiffly. One of them puts their hoof on my shoulder, and I slap it away. There’s a sudden silence. The guards look up from their conversations, and officers watch from behind their papers and staplers. I stare at him, daring him to try for it again. His eyes narrow, ready to call my bluff.

“I think I can take it from here,” I say slowly, not hiding the disdain in my voice. Our eyes stay locked until the guard looks up and nods to the armored ponies standing by the door to the Chief’s office. Without a word, they pull their spears to their sides, staring straight ahead as I walk past.

“Mind your manners,” grunts one. I don’t bother responding. I’m trying to figure out exactly how long the sticks up their asses are. I barge into the office in one hell of a mood. The Chief looks up in surprise from his spot behind his cluttered desk when I slam the door behind me. His back wall is adorned with dozens of plaques and medals that he’s earned from sitting right there all day.

Yeah, I’m mad. I shouldn’t take it out on him, but I do anyways.

“You know, Chief,” I snarl, “if you wanted to see me, a friendly reminder would have sufficed. I didn’t need a fucking babysitter to find–”

“Detective Sideways!” he growls in response. “You will kindly watch your language and do yourself the favor of showing a little respect.”

I’m about to tear into him again when I realize we aren’t alone. Slowly turning to my left, I realize who’s standing behind me.

I’m not a fan of the monarchs. That much isn’t hard to figure out. But when two almighty, and for what I know, immortal rulers of the land are staring at you with a look of disappointment that could sour milk, it’s hard to keep your tail from going between your legs. Celestia and Luna. Dammit all.

“I... uh... Princesses. Sorry about the uh... I didn’t know you were here,” I say, lowering my head in an uncomfortable bow. The Chief sighs, surprised I’m smart enough to humble myself. Princess Luna is less than amused. She pushes back a lock of her glittering mane in disgust.

This is your investigator, Mr. Book?” she demands, shooting a dirty look at the Chief. “A vulgar mouth such as his deserves not the dignity of being given such a great burden.” Her voice makes me want to sink into the floorboards and vanish. I keep staring downwards.

“I apologize on behalf of Detective Sideways,” clamors the Chief. “He’s not exactly–”

“There is no need for apologies, Mr. Book,” answers another voice tenderly. Princess Celestia. A hoof touches my chin and lifts my head upwards. I find myself staring into her eyes. She smiles warmly, and like the sun she raises, I feel the warmth of her grin on my face. “These are trying times for us all. I’m certain Detective Sideways meant no ill will.”

I nod dumbly, like an awestruck colt discovering for the first time what a mare truly was. “No, your Majesty,” I say quietly.

She removes her hoof, standing fully. She’s taller, larger than life. An angel. “She was your friend, wasn’t she?” Princess Celestia asks.

“I think she was a friend to everyone,” I answer.

Celestia nods wisely, casting an indecipherable look to her sister, who sighs uncomfortably.

The Chief coughs into his hoof. “Well, with that out of the way... We were just talking about you, Detective Sideways.”

“Nothing but good things, I bet.”

“We were... uh...” He fumbles with one of the numerous stress balls on his desk. I’ve known him long enough to know he’s going to tell me something that I won’t like. “Thing is–”

“We believe,” interrupts Princess Luna, her expression stone-cold, “that it is in the better interest of Equestria that you relinquish your investigation to a royally appointed detective.”

“Come again?”

“We appreciate your service, Detective Sideways. However, even you must realize that this case is far above the responsibility of–”

“Some Ponyville cop?” I challenge. Princess Luna’s expression goes from stone to steel, and I mentally slap myself. Cutting off a goddess. I’ll be adding that to my resumé.

“I believe you are misunderstanding our interests, Detective Sideways,” coos Princess Celestia, trying to find peace before Luna does the smart thing and wipes me off the face of the planet. “This is in no way a challenge to your position. I’ve read your files. You’re a fine detective.”

I know she’s lying, but her voice is too kindly to hold it against her. I stare straight ahead at the wall behind her.

“The truth of the matter is, however, that this murder is of incredible sensitivity to the balance of Equestria. I know you understand the gravity of Pinkie Pie’s murder.”

I chew the inside of my mouth. Tastes like stale oats. “I do.”

“Then please understand that we are relieving you of a burden you do not want. I trust your experience as a detective, but the consequences should you fail in apprehending the suspect of this case are...” She lets the sentence trail, and her sister wastes no time in picking it up again.

“You’ll be known as the detective who failed in arresting the biggest criminal Equestria has seen since the rule of Discord. Are you prepared for that kind of threat to your dignity and potentially your life?”

“I won’t fail.”

“You can’t guarantee that.”

“I won’t fail,” I insist. I look Princess Luna dead in the eye, and it takes everything I’ve got to keep myself from shaking. “I swear by everything I have that I won’t fail. I’ll find the killer, I’ll bring him to justice.”

“Let it go, Sideways,” advises the Chief, leaning back in his chair heavily. “You have to realize that this is beyond you. Beyond us. Let somepony who knows what they’re doing handle this instead.”

“I know what I’m doing.”

“Your pride is blinding you, Detective,” sighs Princess Luna, as if she were talking to a child. Relatively speaking, I suppose she is. “We understand your frustration. However, we implore you to realize that your stepping down reflects in no way on your standing as an officer of the Ponyville Police Department, nor on your honor as a stallion. This is about the fate and justice of Equestria. Not you. So put this pettiness aside and do what is best.”

The Chief looks at me uneasily. He knows all too well that if any other pony were telling me this, they’d be scraping themselves off the concrete before they could even finish their sentence. I won’t lie, even now I have to hold myself back. My temper is always like some frothing, growling caged mutt, dragging me where I shouldn’t go. But even then... I have to realize that she’s right.

I do something I haven’t done in a long time. I tell her the truth.

“You’re right. It isn’t about me. That’s not why I’m doing this. I’m doing this because it’s about her. About Pinkie Pie. This isn’t about my honor or pride. I don’t care about it. That died long ago, your Majesty.”

Something in my voice makes her expression soften, and she looks hesitantly to Princess Celestia, who watches on silently.

“This is about what I owe her. Pinkie Pie gave me something I didn’t have before. She gave us all a friend, but she gave me more than just that. She gave me hope. You know what that feels like? So please... I...”

My knees go weak and, slowly, as if they were resisting, they bend, and I bow. My muzzle presses into the dirty floor.

“Please. I’ll do anything.”

I feel naked, suddenly. Exposed. Even the Chief is looking away, embarrassed for me, as I humble myself before an authority I’ve never mentioned without a curse word to describe them. It’s pathetic, it’s sad, it’s shameful. My cheeks are burning and my gut twisting. But it doesn’t matter, because she’s worth it.

Neither of the Princesses say a word. They watch me like cats sizing up prey, waiting for a single twitch of insincerity or doubt to give me away so that they could pounce and swallow me whole. They don’t get it.

“Rise,” Princess Celestia says simply. I obey. Her horn flares, and a sound like tinkling glass bells floats around the room. She levitates a scroll across the room and into my hooves. It’s officially sealed with the royal crest, and on a finer parchment than I could probably ever afford. She gives me a nod, and I open it.

It’s full of words I could probably never understand no matter how long I went to school for it. I do recognize one of them, though. My name, neatly written on a line beside the signatures of both Princess Luna and Celestia.

I look up at them in disbelief. Princess Celestia nods, and Princess Luna even gives me a slight smile. Angels. Both of them. They knew all along.

“Make her proud, Detective,” Princess Celestia says gently.

It’s hard to make any words come out of my mouth. But I manage a weak “thank you”, and a slow nod of my head. Even when they dismiss me and I walk out of the office, I can’t quite feel my hooves as they walk down the hallway. There’s a weird twist in my gut. The officers and royal guards become nothing but blurry faces passing me by. I find myself outside. I look up. A light drizzle caresses my face.

Well, you’ve done it, Sideways.

Now what?

I can’t answer. I amble down the streets of Ponyville, suddenly lost and confused, with nothing but my revolver nestled in the crook of my front leg and my notebook in my pocket. Questions and half-formed ideas float through my brain, incoherent. Without really meaning to, I stop in front of a familiar drug store. I look at the sign, and it seems to stare back at me, an old friend soured that it’s taken me so long to return her call.

I haven’t smoked in five years. Quit after momma died.

My mouth does feel awful dry.

A few bits later, I’m lighting up underneath that same sign. The rank of tobacco fills my lungs, slowing my heart. I exhale, and the smoke swirls around my nuzzle in complex patterns and forms. The old fortune tellers read the future in smoke. I’m not so lucky.

Taking an uncomfortable drag, I head off into the empty streets of Ponyville. The only warmth in the cold rain comes from the glow of a lonely cigarette and its cloud of gray-blue smoke.