• Published 27th Dec 2014
  • 1,300 Views, 46 Comments

Moonwing - Samey90

A filly gets murdered in the bat pony district of Canterlot. Scootaloo and Archer take the case.

  • ...

Crime and Punishment

In the middle of the part of the lower district of Canterlot inhabited mostly by bat ponies, there was a small bar that, unlike other similar establishments in the neighbourhood, offered not only traditional bat pony cuisine, but also dishes more palatable for other kinds of ponies. Scootaloo really liked it – it was bringing memories of her last meeting with Apple Bloom when it was the last stop of their pub crawl.

Scootaloo smiled at the memory of that fateful day. Apple Bloom, tired after visiting numerous pubs, bars, watering holes, and dives Canterlot had to offer, first tried to play pool with one of the patrons, only to find out that if someone’s cutie mark was a triangle of red balls with “147” above them, the chance of defeating them was rather poor. Then she forgot that they weren’t fillies anymore and called Scootaloo “chicken”, prompting an amused reaction from the other patrons, who dared Scootaloo to eat some chicken. Scootaloo, being even more tired than Apple Bloom, accepted the dare. It didn’t end well.

The door opened and Archer came in with a smile on her face and a pair of large saddlebags on her back. She walked through the hall and joined Scootaloo at the table. “Hello,” she said. “Schwalbe didn’t show up yet?”

“No,” Scootaloo replied. “Maybe she’s sleeping...”

“Schwalbe, sleeping?” Archer shrugged. “No way. Guess she went to those caves without us...”

Scootaloo shook her head. “You seem quite happy today,” she said. “Something happened?”

Archer smirked. “Button and I had the best sex in ages. Also, he kinda proposed to me, I think.”

Scootaloo felt that the patrons were looking at them. The bat ponies had become used to them since they usually visited the bar during the night shifts or if they needed information, but now they were definitely attracting their attention. “You may want to speak a bit more quiet,” Scootaloo deadpanned.

“Oh, come on,” Archer muttered. “You and Shady–” She was interrupted by Schwalbe who somehow managed to approach them unnoticed.

“Hello,” Schwalbe said in her usual monotone. “Tried to find Stellar’s mother. Got a few hints.”

“What hints?” Scootaloo asked.

Schwalbe sat at the table and ran her wing through her mane. “The family’s from Hollow Shades. Father got killed before Stellar was born. Mother... No known job. No address. No name. Looked similar to Moonwing; that’s all I found.”

“Nopony knows her?” Archer asked, raising her eyebrows. “How is that possible? There aren’t so many bat ponies here...”

Schwalbe looked into Archer’s eyes and smirked, seeing her shudder under her gaze. “Three thousand in Canterlot. Over twenty in Hollow Shades. About ten more scattered throughout Equestria. Even I don’t know all of them.”

“But how come no one knows her?” Archer asked. “They should know a name... She has to work somewhere, dammit!”

“Was probably someone’s undertenant,” Schwalbe replied. “Nopony asks. Stellar didn’t know her job, remember? Went to rich ponies...”

“Yeah, we remember,” Scootaloo said. “We think she was a burglar or a prostitute...”

Schwalbe narrowed her eyes and nodded. “If a burglar, I’d know her. Convinced some of those to stop stealing. Convinced some others to stop breathing...” She smirked, showing her fangs.

“You do realise that we can arrest you for that, don’t you?” Scootaloo asked, staring into Schwalbe’s eyes without blinking. “If you catch somepony, you give them to us, get it?”

“Just try,” Schwalbe muttered. “Bats need teaching. You arrest them, they only learn new tricks and go back to crime. When they misbehave, I give a warning. I warn again and again. They either learn or ignore me. And then...” She licked her lips. “... I teach them.”

“Well, they can’t really learn from you... Mainly because they’re dead,” Scootaloo said. “Prison at least gives you a chance. I know lots of ponies who–”

“Babs Seed,” Schwalbe interrupted her. “Didn’t warn her. Boot camp, then a bolt through the heart.”

“Fuck off...” Archer muttered. “For every Babs Seed there’s one Cloud Kicker...”

“Wasn’t it you who went to her after Moonwing died?” Schwalbe asked. “Some wounds never heal.” She spread her wings, revealing her scar.

“Schwalbe, stop showing off,” Scootaloo said, seeing that Archer was about to tackle the bat mare. “Your wings don’t impress anypony anymore. Also, it’s not that I don’t like discussions about crime and punishment, but maybe we’ll talk about that after checking those caves, okay? Possibly over a glass of beer.”

Schwalbe shot Scootaloo a nasty glare, but didn’t say anything. She stood up and gestured them to go with her. Scootaloo and Archer followed, walking out of the bar. Schwalbe took off and flew down the street. Scootaloo, much to Archer’s dismay, did the same.

Soon, the street ended with an entrance to a large cave. It seemed that for the dwellers of that place it wasn’t any difference; the cave was divided into small flats, their walls made of stone, bricks, plywood, or even thick cardboard or fabric. Some more spacious houses were dug in the solid rock. Several dirty foals were playing in the narrow passage between two rows of provisional flats. Somepony was yelling something; somepony was screeching, making Scootaloo cover her ears. The air was permeated with a thousand of different smells, ranging from moderately bearable, such as bananas, to downright sickening. Scootaloo shuddered, smelling week-old blood. It seemed, however, that those were just remains of somepony’s lunch.

“Like it?” Schwalbe asked. “The surface is for tourists. Getting why nopony knew Moonwing’s mother?”

“What’s that?” Scootaloo asked. “I’ve been in other caves inhabited by bat ponies. Living there was expensive and they looked much...” She looked for the right word. “... cleaner.”

“Used to be a good neighbourhood,” Schwalbe replied. “Not so much after Berry Punch’s case.”

“So it’s this place!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “I guess the news about a monster living nearby didn’t exactly help the real estate agents...”

“Exactly,” Schwalbe replied, flying between a maze of ropes, strings, and poles somehow keeping the cubicles below together. “A bat has nowhere else to live – they end up here.”

Scootaloo sighed. “Just something for a lonely mother with a blind daughter...”

Schwalbe nodded. “Still better than canals of Manehattan. Also, it’s still a cave. Nothing better than a cave, even if you have to get rid of changelings first.”

“Maybe,” Scootaloo replied, shuddering. Just like many pegasi, she felt the best in open spaces. She couldn’t get rid of a feeling that something was squeezing her stomach. She looked at one of the buildings below. A piece of dirty, ragged cloth that served as a door was moved aside. Seven bat foals walked from behind it and flew somewhere, flapping their wings erratically and bumping into things. Scootaloo was watching them when she realised that someone was missing. “Where’s Archer?” she asked.

“I’m here, thanks for caring,” Archer replied, pushing herself through the crowded street. “I had to explain to some kid that my saddlebags are mine and then I had to explain to his father that his son is an idiot and he totally deserved that. And I stepped into a puddle.” Archer sighed. “I hope it was water, though with all those kids here I’m not so sure...”

“No whining,” Schwalbe muttered. “Soon we’ll get outta here...”

“Great,” Archer said. “Not everypony here has wings, you know...”

Schwalbe ignored her and turned, disappearing behind the plywood wall. Scootaloo and Archer followed her, nearly bumping into a bat pony hanging from a horizontal pole attached to two other walls. He woke up and muttered something angrily, but they didn’t hear him, trying not to lose Schwalbe. She landed on the ground and trotted to some side tunnel, behind the backyards of the houses, if a pond of stinky water with some stalagmites sticking from it could be called a backyard. Scootaloo landed next to her, while Archer walked to them, carefully stepping on the stones protruding from the pond, trying not to get her hooves wet.

“You know what’d solve the problems of that place?” Archer muttered. “A large fire. Which is waiting to happen, by the way, just like an epidemic of cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, and whatever shit you can think of.” She groaned, throwing her head back. “How’s that even possible? Bat ponies’ district or not, it’s still a capital, for fuck’s sake! Some of them are Luna’s guards!”

“Luna’s guards are in the barracks,” Schwalbe said calmly. “Their families live there.” She pointed at the place they came from. “Here’s the fun place.”

“You call that fun?” Archer sighed. “There’s a whole cave of fillies that can end up like Moonwing and no one cares about them! Right under the capital of Equestria!”

“Hold your horses, as you say in Equestria,” Schwalbe replied. “Seen a lot of poor ponies. Poorer than those. Starving, but they cared about the place they lived in. Those don’t. Apparently it’s fine for them.”

Archer only shook her head and took off her saddlebags. She opened them and took her bow and a quiver with arrows.

“Rate of fire over stopping power?” Scootaloo asked. “You should’ve taken a gun.”

“In the caves?” Archer looked at her cousin askew. “To deafen you with echo and give away our position?”

“Whatever you prefer,” Scootaloo muttered, looking into Archer’s saddlebags and taking her helmet. “We’re not going to fight anypony anyway.”

Schwalbe muttered something, revealing a pair of straps on her forelegs. At first Scootaloo thought they were scrunchies or strange socks, but then Schwalbe pushed the back of the strap. A ten-inch blade slid from it with an audible swish.

“Teaching aids?” Scootaloo asked. Schwalbe nodded, hiding the blade.

They walked up the tunnel, next to several wooden signs with warnings. Archer stopped to look at them.

“Possibly Keter-class object inside,” she read. “Psychically hazardous effect. Any trespasser may die or become mentally and physically injured. Risk of falling stones or slipping on the wet rocks.”

“Not gonna go too deep,” Schwalbe said. “Twilight Sparkle buried that thing under a pile of rocks. Not gonna dig itself without pony’s help.”

“Would three ponies be enough for it?” Scootaloo asked, looking at the battered signs unsurely.

Schwalbe waved her wing. “Seen it working. Was weak twelve years ago and it had Berry back then. Well, weak for those things. Didn’t catch me then. Not gonna catch me now.”

“Also, somepony was here,” Archer said, looking behind a sign and coming back with a cyan feather in her hoof. “Looks familiar?”

“Our killer also likes to read warnings,” Scootaloo muttered. “Let’s go.”

Schwalbe led them down the tunnel. It soon got too dark for them to see, so they walked closer to her, turning on their flashlights and waiting as their eyes got used to the faint light coming from them.

Scootaloo felt that the fur on her back raised, chill running down her spine. She looked at Archer – she could barely see her silhouette, but seeing her cousin trotting behind Schwalbe was keeping her from running away.

The tunnel expanded into a wide cave. The crystals embedded in the walls were shining, casting ethereal shadows on the stalactites and stalagmites. Scootaloo stood, stunned, and looked at the ceiling. Schwalbe took off, flying to the opposite wall, and landed on a part of it that looked like an entresol.

“Nothing here,” she said to them. “Can’t really see what’s directly below me, though.”

Scootaloo also took off and made a circle just below the ceiling, trying to spot something in the dark corners of the cave. Archer only sighed and walked between the stalagmites that were so close to each other that they looked like a fossilised forest.

Scootaloo dived, seeing an opening of another tunnel in the corner of the cave. It was small and low and when she landed next to it, she thought that she wouldn’t want to go inside. She turned on her flashlight and aimed it into the darkness.

She shuddered, seeing what was inside. The corridor was short; just about twenty metres. Its bottom was filled with some green gas, oozing from the walls. Scootaloo decided that it wouldn’t be wise to go there and took off again, leaving the opening behind. She thought that she’d have to talk with Schwalbe about it. Closing the tunnel with a few rocks seemed like a good idea.

She saw Schwalbe hanging from the ceiling, her tail wrapped around the stalactite, and told her about the gas.

“Probably just poisonous,” Schwalbe replied. “Go back to the ground. Your wings disturb the air and I can’t smell anything.”

“Smell what?” Scootaloo asked.

“Moonwing was here,” Schwalbe said. “Same with the cyan mare.”

“Where exactly?” Scootaloo looked at the ground, but saw nothing.

Before Schwalbe could reply, they heard Archer’s voice. “Hey, girls... Yesterday, I was at home, sleeping after the night shift, then I argued with Button, went to work, you brought Stellar Dust, then I went back home and had sex with Button, right?”

“Right...” Scootaloo replied. “But why are you telling us that?”

“Because when Charge sees that, he’ll want to talk with me about that...” Archer muttered. Scootaloo and Schwalbe flew to her, trying to find the way between the stalagmites.

Finally, they found Archer in a small tunnel, similar to one Scootaloo found earlier. This one had no gas. On the bottom, in front of Archer, there was a cyan pegasus mare with blue mane, lying on her side in a puddle of stale blood. Her right eye was gone; the socket was filled with blood and remains of the eyeball. Scootaloo, wincing at the smell, walked around the body and saw a crossbow bolt protruding from the back of her head.

“Nice shot.” Schwalbe nodded. “You’re indeed my first suspect.”

“Do you know what was that?” Scootaloo asked.

“Of course,” Archer replied, shuddering. “I have one of those crossbows. They call them ‘tramp’s besties’, because they’re small but very powerful. It’s hard to reload them, but that’s not the point. A whore loads it at home and when a client gets nasty, it takes one shot to make them calm as a dead kitten.”

“Which is what we see here,” Schwalbe muttered, staring at the tip of the bolt and the mare’s bloodied saddlebags. “She was shot from the distance?”

“No,” Archer said. “See? It pierced her eye, brain, and the skull. It penetrated almost completely. She knew the killer.”

Schwalbe pointed her wing at something half-buried in stale blood. Scootaloo looked there and saw a golden coin. “Somepony paid her. Killed Moonwing, went to get the money, got a bolt to the head.”

“More or less...” Scootaloo muttered. “But who paid to kill a six-year-old filly?”

Author's Note:

That's how Schwalbe looks like. In-universe, Dr. Stable went kinda overboard, describing her coat as black in Thirsty – after all, he saw her in the cave (not in-universe, black and white don't really work when drawing ponies).