• Published 28th Dec 2014
  • 712 Views, 35 Comments

Unexpected Turbulence, Remain Calm and Don't Murder Anypony - HapHazred

Octavia and Vinyl find themselves travelling by airship to Trottingham, only to discover that the engineer has been murdered on board. With Vinyl the prime suspect, it's up to them to find the real killer before he strikes again.

  • ...

Chapter Two: The Investigation Begins

Vinyl was quickly shut inside the small storage room behind the bar, making herself at home among the food and bottles kept there. She was given a chair, and even though she was technically a prisoner, she looked quite comfortable when Octavia closed the door on her, despite looking a bit scared. It really was unfair that Vinyl should take the blame for this, but Octavia knew that there were more important things at stake than arguing for her freedom. Vinyl was not the culprit, and that meant that there was a killer on the loose, putting everypony in danger.

Captain Gasbag had ordered everypony to the living room, ready for Stronghoof and her to interrogate them. This was, after all, an emergency, and none of them resisted. A few were outraged, to be sure, but they all agreed it was for the best.

"All right, everypony," Stronghoof shouted. "We all need you to calmly give your name and your reasons for travelling."

"Why do we need yo tell you that?" asked the fat pony from Prance. Doctor Schwartz sighed.

"Because currently, the only ponies we know are innocent are myself, the bartender, Stronghoof, and Octavia here."

Octavia paused, and thought. Was that true? Was Schwartz truly innocent? He had been with her when the airship had took off, and it seemed unlikely that he'd have had time to escape notice, and get to the other side of the airship. Aside from the restaurant area, there was only one way to go from the port side to the starboard side, and from what Stronghoof had said, only somepony with a key could have gotten through. That means Stronghoof, and the engineer, Cogs.

No, Octavia thought. It was too unlikely. Schwartz wasn't the killer: it didn't make sense.

What about Stronghoof, she wondered? He'd have to have been tending to the bar. He couldn't slip away... unless it was to get drinks or food. But again, the place were those things were kept, in storage, was isolated from the rest of the ship. He couldn't make his way from there to where Cogs was found dead without abandoning his post, and unlike a passenger stealing away, the barpony going missing would be far more noticeable.

Again, it seemed like he was innocent. But as for the rest of the passengers, that was yet to be confirmed. A worse thought struck her: could she prove the innocence of the captain as easily? She glanced at Stronghoof. Would he be able to vouch for the captain like she was able to vouch for Vinyl? Would she even care?

"Stronghoof, the captain would be able to get from the port side to starboard without going through the restaurant, correct?"

The barpony nodded. "Yes, that's correct. Why?"

Octavia paused to think. Would the Captain have a hoof in this? Think. If Gasbag wanted to commit murder, how would he best accomplish his goal?

Octavia frowned. No, that wouldn't make sense... if it was premeditated murder, the captain would just follow him to a hotel, or something... he'd have more than enough time. Why would he pick now to commit a murder? He'd be an obvious suspect.

"I suppose he is the one flying this thing. That doesn't leave a lot of opportunity to commit murder," she admitted to herself. No, it wasn't likely at all. Although that went for all the other passengers, too. Possible, but not likely. She'd have to wait and see how her investigation progressed.

"In that case, let's get started."

The first to speak up was the mare who had been near the Cog's body.

"My name is Fruitcake. I'm going to meet a team of hoof-picked bakers stationed in Trottingham."

Octavia narrowed her eyes. "Why would you meet a baking team?"

Fruitcake raised her eyebrow, confused. "...because I'm a baker too? And I'll be working with them?"

Octavia looked the mare from hoof to mane. She didn't quite fit Octavia's idea of a baker. Vinyl had thought she was a physical instructor, and Octavia had to admit she looked the part. She didn't look like she had anything to do with sugar, butter, cream, or anything else fitness related.

Fruitcake caught her confused glance. "I'm a really healthy baker, okay?"

"Um, all right. What about you, over there?" Octavia asked, gesturing towards the large pony in the corner. He was the pony who had been most outraged, and had babbled in his own language for a bit before settling down.

"Me? I am named Trofort, if you must understand it," he replied.

"And what are you doing on this flight?"

"I am art dealer," Trofort continued tersely. "I sell the paintings and the sculptures and all the pretty babioles."

"I see. So you're on your way to Trottingham in order to sell art?" Stronghoof asked. Octavia grimaced. She would much rather that he didn't assist the passengers in answering their questions: it would make covering up their motives easier if they were stressed. As expected, Trofort nodded.

"This is true. I am doing a deal."

Octavia leaned in towards Stronghoof. "Maybe not help him along next time?" she whispered.

It was time to investigate the two inventor twins, Flim and Flam. She sighed: this would be troublesome.

"All right... what reason can you two give for going to Trottingham?"

Flim grinned. "We designed a machine!"

"A flying machine!"



"We were going to have it presented before the Royal Board of Engineers. If we were lucky, we could have funds to start a brand new line of fliers!"

Octavia interrupted by raising her hoof. "I thought you said it was a... core? The Flim core or the Flam core?"

"That is just the power source. The design has many mechanical innovations, too," Flam explained.

"If we could have it manufactured on a large scale, we'd be rich!"

"Of course, we could just sell it for thousands of bits, but why be a millionaire when you can be a billionaire?"

They then threw their straw hats into the air for some form of dramatic effect. They were probably better showponies than they were engineers, Octavia thought.

She decided she had heard enough, and politely let them be. She'd have to decide if they were lying later... they could, after all, have been prepared. A lot of what they said sounded rehearsed, but was that just their sales pitch, or a cover?

There was one last pony remaining: the weatherpony, Sly.

If anypony looked suspicious, it was him. Quiet, reserved, and always with that strange look, darting from cloud to cloud.

"Yes?" he asked, his voice barely a whisper.

"Your name?"

"I told you my name."

"Tell me again," Octavia insisted. Sly blinked.

"I'm Sly. I work in weather. I look at the sky. I... know things about the sky."

"Like what?"

"Like what clouds should be where. Cumulus. Cirronimbus. Altocumulus. Cirrus. Green clouds. They're the worst."

"And why are you going to Trottingham?"

"Visiting family."

Stronghoof grunted. "That's a bit flimsy, as excuses go," he whispered to Octavia.

The cellist wasn't so sure. A pair of engineers, going to the Royal Board of Engineering, a baker on her way to a special baking team... all of these excuses were just so... convenient. Visiting family seemed like the first normal excuse she had heard on this whole trip, aside from being a member of staff.

"I'm not so sure," she replied under her breath. She pulled up a chair and sat down: her stomach was beginning to act up again. "Well, now that's over with, maybe we can get on to doing some real investigations," she said. "I think our first job is to search the ship."

The first place Octavia investigated was the machine room. Stronghoof tapped the humming engines playfully.

"I always liked machines. I once wanted to be an engineer myself," he admitted.

Octavia made a mental note of that fact. She was no detective: she had no idea what small piece of information could prove critical later on. All she really wanted was to find the killer and get Vinyl out of storage. She closed her eyes, and pictured the layout of the ship.

The engine room was situated above the cabins and restaurant, and could be accessed by the balcony. The only thing Octavia knew about Cogs was that before he died, she had seen him trot past her on the port side, and he had ended up dead on the starboard side. Where was he coming from?

The engine room? If he had wanted, couldn't he just have gone to the port side directly?

Octavia hummed in keeping with the melody of the machines. She pictured them as an orchestra, delivering a fine symphony. Yes, she could hear it now... the boiler was the drums, and the engines were the strings.

She smiled to herself. Of course, the ship had been delayed because of technical difficulties: it would make sense for Cogs to visit the Captain and discuss things before take-off. And what were these technical difficulties? Did they play into this somehow?

"Stronghoof... we were delayed, weren't we? Do you know why?"

"Something was wrong with the machines, I think," the barpony replied. "I don't know the details."

"Well, fortunately we have two ponies on board who might have an idea," Octavia said. "Better bring Flim and Flam up here: I think they'll have fun with around this place anyway."

Stronghoof frowned, concerned. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"Well, you'll keep an eye on them, of course. They are a rather likely pair of suspects."

"Why do you say that?" Stronghoof asked.

"Well, each and every passenger can testify that they were in the restaurant when we believe Cogs was murdered, right after take-off, but I don't think that's reliable. Due to their noise, and the fact that they resemble each other so closely, it's not so much of a stretch that one of them could have escaped notice and done away with Cogs, for whatever reason. It also makes more sense that they might have some relationship with Cogs that would encourage them to commit murder: they share the same field, after all."

"So you're saying that they have possible motive, and opportunity?"

"That's what I think. My only problem is that they seem too... insane to commit murder."

"Isn't that counter-intuitive?"

"Perhaps, but they don't strike me as killers," Octavia told him. Of course, she thought, Vinyl did always tell her that she always saw the best in others... not entirely true, but perhaps the DJ knew her better than she thought she knew herself...

"But if I'm up here keeping an eye on Flim and Flam, what will you be doing?"

"I had Doctor Schwartz stay in the restaurant for a reason," Octavia admitted. "I want to ask him some questions. I also need to have everypony's room numbers."

Stronghoof sighed. "Well, all right. I have the list in my register."

"Good, that will be very helpful. I also want to discuss things with Vinyl."

Stronghoof narrowed his eyes. "I still don't trust her. She was in the right place at the right time, after all."

"Yes, yes, but I could use her help. She may not act like it, but she's very smart."

"I'm not convinced."

"Then why are you even investigating anymore, hmm?" Octavia asked tersely. "If your mind is so made up, why not sit back, relax. Have a drink? I know I could use a drink right about now."

Stronghoof didn't reply instantly, but instead grumbled and trotted outside.

"Let's just get going, shall we?" he snapped. Octavia smiled to herself: she had won the argument.

Both ponies clambered down the metal staircase to the passenger level, and entered the restaurant from the balcony. Everypony was still there, which was both a good sign, and an annoying one. Octavia trotted towards Schwartz.

"All right, I'm going to discuss things over here," she told Stronghoof. "I'd recommend you get Flim and Flam up to maintenance as soon as possible."

Stronghoof nodded. "Okay, but please try to be careful. Because she's your friend, I don't think you're seriously considering Vinyl as a suspect."

That couldn't have been further from the truth. It scared Octavia that, having arrived on separate trains, it looked suspiciously like Vinyl had been avoiding giving any information to her. Octavia had done the same, of course, but it didn't help dispel that incredibly dark feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Before she was able to greet Doctor Schwartz properly, she yawned in a very unladylike manner. She checked outside: despite the clouds, it was very definitely night time. She shook her head, amazed that the investigation had taken so long. Time really did fly.

"Well? What about our little experiment?"

Schwartz smiled. "It worked quite well, I think. And I have a new suspect for you."

Octavia grinned. She'd never admit it, but she was enjoying herself.

Just before leaving to investigate the engine room, she had tasked Doctor Schwartz with creating a distraction in the restaurant. He was to flip a table over, make a lot of noise, or do anything he could to attract all the attention in the room. And when he did, he would stop, and observe.

"Our art dealer left, briefly. Didn't know such a big pony could move so quietly: I almost missed him."

Interesting. So Trofort had gone against their instructions and left? For what reason? It definitely warranted investigation.

"Good. That gives us another lead. Now excuse me, I'm going to see Vinyl."

She then slid behind the bar, remembering to pick up the register along the way. She'd need to check the room numbers later: it could make a vital difference to the investigation.

She unlocked the door, and peered inside. Vinyl was tapping her hoof and moving her head in response to some invisible rhythm. Her eyes snapped open when Octavia entered the small room.

"Hi," Vinyl said, sitting up.

"How are you holding up?"

"More worried about you than anything else. I'm safe and sound in here, after all."

It often surprised Octavia how caring Vinyl could be, when push came to shove. More often than not, she'd be ready with a quip or a joke, not concern. It was at times like these when Octavia could see what kind of pony her roommate really was.

"I'd like to discuss things with you."

Vinyl's ears flicked with interest. "Oh yeah? What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking about us being delayed. We were in the engine room, and I had Flim and Flam sent up there to check things out."

The DJ frowned. "That won't accomplish much if they caused the delay. They'll just say that they won't find any sign of damage or wear," she said, before understanding dawned. "Unless of course that's what you want to find out."

"Correct. I believe that any damage worth delaying the ship for would leave some trace, somewhere. If they don't find anything, well, that's one more reason to suspect them."

"And if they do find something?"

"Then they'll look innocent... or at least, more innocent than before."

"Is there anypony else you're thinking of?"

"I had the good doctor keep an eye on everypony whilst providing a distraction with which they could escape. Trofort, an art dealer, took advantage of our little ploy."

"Sounds suspicious."

"It is. I was going to use the register to find his room, then search it until something came up."

"And if nothing does?"

"Then I try something different," Octavia replied. "But if Trofort's room is on the starboard side, then that opens up a few theories."

"Sure, sure... and what will you do once you find the killer?"

"Stronghoof detains him. He's hiding, so he obviously doesn't want conflict. I doubt he can take us on, not if we gang up on him."

"Sounds risky."

"Well, this was never going to be safe, you know," Octavia said, smiling. Vinyl was not amused. "Oh, lighten up. There's nothing we can do about it so we might as well just get going."

"I guess," Vinyl admitted.

"Don't worry: I'll have you out of here soon."

"Sure, but that's just the start. Then there's the real killer we'll have to deal with."

"I'm sure Stronghoof and Schwartz can handle him... or her, together."

Octavia then opened the register, and began reading. It didn't take her too long before she found Trofort's name, and his room number too.

"Room number six. That's the starboard side."

"Well? What does that tell you?" Vinyl asked.

"Nothing much, but it does give me a few ideas."

"...like the engineer having seen something of Trofort's, and then being killed for it?"

Octavia nodded. "Exactly. Now excuse me, I have to go and investigate somepony's room."

"Why is it I under suspicion? What have I done to deserve this?"

Trofort was buzzing around his cabin furiously like an angry hornet. Schwartz kept interposing himself between him and Octavia, letting her search the room in peace

Why would Trofort sneak out of the restaurant? It wasn't to go to the bathroom as he had claimed upon investigation. He wouldn't have had to sneak out for that. No, he was hiding something, and Octavia wanted to know what it was.

There were only so many reasons that he'd want to leave for. If it was related to the crime, then it'd have to be either the body, or his room. Why? Octavia figured that he'd be hiding evidence, or tampering with the crime scene. The way he was sweating meant that he was afraid: Octavia decided upon inspection that whatever he didn't want her to find was in his room.

But what could he be hiding? What indeed? The murder weapon? They hadn't found that in room number ten. Octavia was under the impression that Vinyl's theory was right: Cogs must have seen something incriminating, and Trofort killed him for it.

The question was, what was it? And where would it be hiding?

Octavia wished that she had read more detective novels instead of her sappy romance stories. The ones where the hero could deduce things just by looking at a clock, or a mirror. All Octavia had was her reason, and a bit of knowledge on equine nature.

"Just pretend it's a symphony..." she muttered. "The allegro is done, and the brass is silent... waiting, hiding... where? Where?"

Schwartz looked at her as if she had gone mad. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I'm just thinking," she explained.

Where wouldn't she look? It couldn't be that complicated. Trofort was in a hurry. Just pick the most unlikely spot...

Octavia grumbled. No, that would be too simple. She had to pretend to be stupid. This wasn't a symphony... this was karaoke.

The bed. Trofort's luggage lay on top of it, open. There wasn't any sign of wrinkles on the covers.

Luggage, but no wrinkles? Octavia smiled. It had been flattened. Something large and flat was underneath, keeping everything straight. Something that wasn't meant to be there.

Octavia took a few steps back, then leaped onto the incredibly comfortable, double feather bed, spreading her hooves out. She landed with a bounce, taking up almost all the space.

Schwartz widened his eyes, confused. "Are you sure you're all right?"

Octavia nodded. "Oh, yes, but I do think that my leg his something uncomfortable..."

Trofort backed away. "Non, non, this is not... this is not allowed."

Octavia threw the quilt off and then the sheet. Underneath was a large, rectangular object. A canvas.

Octavia pulled the painting out, examining it attentively. Schwartz looked from Trofort to Octavia.

"It's a painting. Why is that so strange? Trofort did say he was an art dealer."

Octavia nodded.

"Yes, but I don't think this is the sort of painting he should have his hooves on. This, if my memory serves, is a Piecasso. Even you must be familiar with the name."

Schwartz nodded. "A painter and rock sculptor, right? My niece is quite infatuated with his work."

Octavia nodded. "Apparently, working on a rock farm is good for one's artistic talent. However, I don't need much creativity to guess how it got into Trofort's possession."

Trofort backed away some more.

"You're not an art dealer at all... you're an art smuggler."


Octavia smirked. "Language!"

Schwartz was a big pony. He was strong boned and muscular, and didn't have any trouble intimidating the criminal. Trofort babbled a little in his own language.

"Now then, all we need to do now is connect the dots, right?" Octavia said. "I can't imagine a canvas is easy to hide. Did somepony see it, perhaps? Maybe... the engineer?"

"I did not kill the pony!" Trofort exclaimed. Octavia scowled.

"It's looking awfully likely. Commit one crime, it's more than probable you'd commit another."

"I have class! I do not murder ponies," Trofort snapped. "Anyway, the ingenieur, he saw nothing. I was too good."

"I disagree. Schwartz? I think it's time we let Vinyl outside again, wouldn't you say?"

"One more!" Vinyl exclaimed, sliding the empty glass across the table. Octavia sighed.

"Vinyl, Schwartz isn't the bartender. He was kind enough to make you three drinks already..."

"Yes, but they put them in these silly sized cups," Vinyl replied, pointing at the containers with disdain. "Seriously, is this the sampler size?"

Octavia shook her head. She could tell Vinyl was feeling better now that she was beginning to be selfish and abrasive again. Even though she put on a tough face, it couldn't have been easy being locked up in storage, everypony thinking you were a killer.

"I think that's the regular size."

"Well, I want a large. Where is Stronghoof, anyway? Isn't he going to pay me back for locking me in his little storage room?"

"He's still babysitting Flim and Flam," Octavia said. "In fact, I think it's time I go up and check."

Vinyl nodded, and got to her hooves. "You know what? I'm going with you. My legs need stretching."

Both ponies went past Sly, who was muttering to himself. "Clouds are clearing up... much too late. Should have cleared up earlier."

He glanced at Octavia, and gave her the slightest hint of a smile. "Good work. I can tell you're smart."

Octavia couldn't help but grin: she all but thrived on praise. "Why thank you. Enjoying your clouds?"

"No. They shouldn't be here. We were scheduled clear skies. Doesn't matter. They're clearing up now... soon we'll be able to see the moon, stars... all the stars. I know about stars, you know? For travelling. Big Dipper, Ursa Major..."

"Yes, that's all very interesting, thank you," Octavia said. "I think I'll be moving on, now."

Leaving Sly behind, Octavia and Vinyl clambered up the metal stairs to the engine room. The noise was deafening: from the engines, yes, but also from the two brothers chattering. Stronghoof had his head in his hooves. It looked like he was about to go mad himself.

"You know that we caught Trofort, right?" Octavia asked. Stronghoof nodded.

"Yes, but I can't leave them in the engine room! What if they break something? The administration will have my head if they do!"

Vinyl snorted. "Man up! You've already let 'Tavi do the whole investigation for you, it's about time you toughen up a bit."

Octavia nudged Vinyl sharply. "Manners!"

"What? It's true, isn't it?"

Stronghoof sighed. "If you can get them to stop babbling for five minutes, you might even get something coherent from them. I can't, though: all they say is long and weird. They started talking about vectors! What kind of madpony starts comparing ponies to vectors? Mad, I tell you!"

Octavia sighed, and trotted over to the pair. Vinyl was close behind her.

"Well, gentlecolts, did you find anything interesting?" she asked. Flim continued examining some sort of furnace, but Flam span around to face the two mares.

"Why, yes indeed! The cause of the calamity that befell this brilliant machine. At first, it was quite the conundrum, wasn't it, brother?"

"It was! The pressure in the boiler was too high. Had we not found it and fixed it, we would have suffered a rather terrible engine failure in less than an hour."

"We'd have been disabled! Stuck until rescue found us."

Octavia frowned. "Why is this puzzling? It's disturbing, I appreciate that, but you said it was a 'conundrum'."

Vinyl tapped her friend's shoulder. "If they did maintenance before leaving, why would it be broken?"

The two unicorns nodded. "Exactly! We spend the next hour trying to figure out what in the Laws of Motion was going on, but so far... nothing."

Octavia tapped her chin, deep in thought. Vinyl looked at her, concerned.

"Are you thinking..." she began, unable to finish. Octavia nodded.


Both Vinyl and Octavia's blood went cold. "Cogs sabotaged the ship?" Vinyl asked.

"That could have something to do with why he was killed."

Octavia felt her airsickness returning, and with a vengeance. Vinyl helped steady her. "But Trofort... that doesn't fit. It doesn't make sense..."

Comforted by Vinyl's presence, she shook her head, clearing her mind of uncertainty. "We need to get back to the restaurant. I'm afraid that the killer is still on the loose."

"Sounds like a plan. Can you walk on your own? You're looking a little grey," Vinyl said. "Well, greyer than usual."

"I'll be fine, thank you," Octavia replied. "Now hurry!"

They both rushed past Stronghoof, who looked at them in shock. They clattered down the rickety metal stairs to the balcony, and stormed into the restaurant.

"Is everypony still here?!" Vinyl shouted. Schwartz looked up, surprised.

"No... Sly took off. He looked really panicked, too... Fruitcake went looking for him."

Octavia leaned on one of the tables. She felt like she was going to be sick. "Where is she now?"

It was at that moment that Fruitcake charged back into the restaurant. "I can't find Sly anywhere... but I did find..." she stuttered, holding out a small, blood-stained feather. Octavia held her head in her hooves.

"But Trofort is trapped... Sly has no motive... was he attacked? Was he the attacker? Could Flim have escaped Stronghoof? Would anypony have noticed? Fruitcake... no, there's too many things I don't know and it's driving me crazy!..."

Vinyl stopped Octavia forcefully by snapping her head around to face her. "Hey! Get it together. Remember the symphony? I don't know, some fancy-pants thing you like to mutter about under your breath..."

Octavia couldn't focus on Vinyl properly. "I'll have you know I only ever met Mr. Pants the one time..."

"That's not what I meant and you know it. Just chill. We can still figure this out if you're calm!"

Vinyl then took of her glasses, staring straight into Octavia's eyes, unblinkingly. Octavia stared back.

Her breathing slowed, gradually.

"Yes... yes, all right."

Vinyl smirked. "Jeez, you're high maintenance."

"Yes, I know. I'm sorry."

Vinyl patted her friend on the back. "Well, I guess we have another problem to solve."

"Yes, we do," Octavia said, summarizing everything she knew. "But we're not clueless just yet..."