• Published 24th Jan 2015
  • 288 Views, 3 Comments

Detective Applebloom - Shrike



What does investigator Anon do with his free time? He gets roped in to playing 'detectives' with Applebloom.

  • ...
 3
 288

Field-Test

“Nurse Redheart?” asked Snips, hoof raised. It struck Cheerilee as odd that Snips should be the first one to ask her a question, even if it was likely to be an inane one. His most ridiculous question so far had been directed at Mayor Mare, who had also volunteered to speak at the careers seminar. He asked her if paper made from Everfree trees was evil. They say there are no stupid questions, but Cheerilee was beginning to have doubts.

“Yes? What's your name?” Nurse Redheart asked.

“Snips.”

“Okay Snips, what's your question?”

“What's a bacteria?” he asked.

Bacterium, you mean bacterium, thought Cheerilee. However, it was a minor transgression, one Cheerilee was willing to overlook given that Snips had, perhaps for the first time in his entire school career, asked a sensible question.

“Good question. One moment please.”

Nurse Redheart took a piece of chalk and began to draw a rough sketch of a typical bacterium on the board, complete with stylised flagellae and other organelles.

“A bacterium, is a single celled organism.” she said as she drew. “It's not much to look at, but the way it responds to the environment is actually fiendishly complex. Tell me Snips, have you ever been ill?”

Snips nodded absently. Already he was regretting ever putting his hoof up.

“Many illnesses are caused by bacteria when they enter your body and start multiplying. The reason you start having fevers and just feel ill is because your body is battling the bacteria. Symptoms aren't directly caused by the bacterium, it's part of the body's immune response to-”

Nurse Redheart saw Cheerilee in the back corner of the room signalling to her that her allotted speaking time was coming to an end, and not a moment too soon. Nobody in the room was particularly interested in listening to a crash course in immunology, nor was Nurse Redheart too eager to provide one.

“I think our time is up. Thank you very much for listening.” the nurse said, moving to leave.

Cheerilee moved to the front of the room. “Everyone thank Nurse Redheart for coming today.”

The room echoed with superficial thanks.

“Okay then.” Cheerilee said, looking over a list of speakers. “Our next speaker is Anonymous, who I'm sure you've all heard of. He works as a private investigator. I don't know exactly what he does day-to-day, so I'll just let him explain.”

I took this as my cue to enter. When the opportunity to speak at the careers fayre arose, I was initially reluctant, since it would raise my profile a little higher than I was comfortable with. I reconsidered after I thought it might be a good way to dispel the accruing rumours that my work is less than savoury. I might even inspire some foals to become police detectives themselves, God knows that Equestria could do with some better ones.

I also didn't want to disappoint Applebloom by not speaking, because if I made her sad, then not even Celestia herself could protect me from the wrath of her sister and brother.

Cheerilee gave a genuine smile as I entered, which took me by surprise. Maybe it was because I perpetually wore a slight frown, or because I always wear a coat, but most ponies seemed naturally discomforted in my presence even if I'd never met them before. I came to attribute it to the notion that perhaps, on a very basic, subconscious level, they knew I wasn't one of their own.

“Whenever you're ready, Anonymous.” Cheerilee said.

I cleared my throat. “You can just call me Anon, or 'Nonny' or whatever by the way, everyone else does. Before we start though, I've got a question for all of you.” I said. “Where did I eat lunch today?”

As expected, I was met with a large number of blank stares, even from Cheerilee. They looked as though I just asked them how many bricks were used to make the school. One filly stood out in the sea of confused faces. She was smelling the air, and squinting at me.

Come on Applebloom, I know you can do it.

After about ten seconds of boggled silence, Applebloom raised her hoof.

“Yes, the filly the in the back.” I said, pointing to her.

“Sugarcube Corner?” Applebloom said.

“Are you asking me or telling me?” I said. She was right, and if the smug expression on her face was anything to go by, she knew it as well, but I always reminded her that she should be sure of herself. I wouldn't always be around to make a judgement call for her.

“Tellin' ya.” she said.

I looked at the rest of the class. “She's right.” I said.

The entire class looked at Applebloom simultaneously, confounded as to how she got that answer. Even Cheerilee lacked the power to keep her jaw from dropping slightly. Nobody spoke, and as the silence grew, so did their wonder.

“Okay then, would you mind telling the class how you knew?” I said.

Applebloom shuffled in her seat. “When ya walked in at the start, ya were smilin' a lot, so I figured you'd done and gone somewhere fun, that were my first clue. There were also a kinda faint sweet smell comin' off ya.” she said. “The main thing were how it kinda looked like ya were chewin' yer tongue, but ya were actually tryin' ta get somethin' sticky off yer teeth weren't ya, somethin' like a muffin?”

I hadn't noticed I was cleaning my teeth between sentences.

Mental note one: make conscious effort to keep control of your tongue when playing poker, it might come off as a tell.

Mental note two: never play poker with Applebloom. You'll lose everything.

The comment about smiling more was interesting. Maybe that's why Cheerilee offered a smile, because I was smiling right back at her. In any case, this was the first time I hadn't bothered to construct a make-believe scenario for Applebloom to solve. No physical evidence was planted. This was all her. I was simultaneously chuffed to bits, and a little scared at how quickly she picked up the key concepts of detective work.

“Applebloom, wherever did you learn to think like that?” asked Cheerilee, who had found the strength to form coherent sentences.

“From playin' detectives!” Applebloom said. “It's the best game ever miss.”

I stepped forward slightly. “What she just displayed is called inductive reasoning. Being able to make logical and strong connections between things from the evidence. You can also call it informed guesswork. That is what I do, and I use it to solve problems for ponies.”

“What kind of problems do you solve mister Anon?” someone asked.

“Almost anything, is the answer. Sometimes I'm asked to find lost ponies, sometimes I'm asked to investigate someone's spending habits. Some ponies say what I do is rude, but really, I just do as I'm told by whoever hires me.”

“So,” I said. “Since I'm here to talk about the job, how do you be an investigator? What do you need to know? Firstly, you need to be able to do inductive reasoning, like how Applebloom did a few moments ago, that's the most important part. If you can do that, you're already well on your way to becoming a police detective, an ECMB agent, or even a private investigator like myself. You know the best part? You can practise inductive reasoning for free, at any time.”

“How?” asked someone.

“Okay, the easiest way is to look at another pony, and ask yourself 'where were they an hour ago?'. Sounds hard, right? I'm telling you it's not. You just need to use your senses a bit more.”

I looked around the room for an example. Cheerilee was closest, and since she was nice to me, I thought I'd use this opportunity as a roundabout way of giving her a compliment.

“Take Miss Cheerilee, for example. I can tell you that yesterday, she had a hooficure, and bought a new perfume, which she is wearing today.” I said, I looked at her. “You smell lovely, by the way.”

Blood rushed to her cheeks. Apparently, she didn't know whether to act surprised or flattered, and formed an expression that was a weird combination of the two. The entire class erupted into a horrific ballad of wolf-whistles and cooing.

“How did I know? Well, I didn't, did I? You can never be 100 percent certain with inductive reasoning, but if Miss Cheerilee's reaction is anything to go by, I guessed right.” I said.

Cheerilee composed herself. “Okay then you big show-off. How did you know?”

“I smelt the perfume come from two places: on your arm and neck.” I said. God bless pony olfactory power. “What's the first thing you do with a new perfume? You spray a little on your arm first to see how it smells, and then you spray it on your neck. If it was a perfume you'd already used, you wouldn't bother to spray it on your arm first, because you already know how it smells, right? So, it had to be new.”

“And the hooficure part?” she asked.

I smiled. “That should be obvious. Your hooves are immaculate Miss Cheerilee. Barely a day's wear on them.”

The class bellowed more wolf-whistles and cheers of approval. Apparently Cheerilee was single.

“So you see? It's easy. You've just got to make an effort to actually see things.”

Applebloom raised her hoof. She had an extremely wide grin, almost malevolent.

“Yes?” I asked.

Applebloom did her shuffling thing again. Apparently it was an embarrassing question.

“You're single, right?” she asked.

“I, er, what?” I said.

“Applebloom! That is not polite!” Cheerilee said.

“And Miss Cheerilee is real nice...” she said, seemingly ignoring her teacher's cries.

Jesus Christ, how did this happen?

“I agree.” I said. I was reminded of a song by Eminem. The one about looking calm on the surface but shaking like a leaf inside. Lose Yourself or something. I feared I was about to do just that.

“So why don'cha... y'know.” she said.

I hate you, Applebloom.

If I could read Cheerilee's thoughts, I imagined I would see us thinking the same thing.

A colt at the front erupted. “Cheerilee loves Anon!” he chanted.

That was it. In seconds, the whole class was chanting right along with him, alternating 'Cheerilee loves Anon' with 'Anon loves Cheerilee' like it was the school anthem. I didn't know what to do, so I treated it like resistance to interrogation. Don't speak. Take away their power by smiling and laughing. Cheerilee had turned traffic-light red, only increasing in intensity as she tried to get the class back under control.

I glanced at my watch amidst the chaos. My allotted time was up, and not a moment too soon.

“Alright, settle down.” I said. Surprisingly, they wound down from their outburst when I asked them. I guess you do have to give an inch to get a yard sometimes, even if that inch comes at the expense of Cheerilee and myself.

“I think my time is up now. I'll close this out by saying this: investigation, or detective work, is not for the faint hearted. There'll be times when you can't make connections, and you'll get annoyed, maybe you'll lose self-confidence. Don't give up. Never give up. You'll find a way if you look hard enough. Always. Thanks for listening.”

I nodded my thanks to Cheerilee for having me and left. Outside, I opened my diary and flicked to today's date, adding a new entry.

12:00 – Careers fayre

13:00 – Speak to Rarity, coat repairs

16:00 – Apologise to Cheerilee, think of way to make it up - dinner?