• Published 24th Mar 2015
  • 326 Views, 20 Comments

Manehattan Takes Rarity - NeuroSparkle



When the Pony Everypony Should Know is found shot in a back alley, it's up to Beckett and Castle to solve the case.

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Chapter 1

Castle pressed a button on the elevator’s dial with his left hoof, while balancing a bottle cage containing two paper cups filled with deliciously smelling, freshly brewed coffee in his muzzle. Surely, he could be levitating it instead, but magic had never really been Castle’s thing. In fact, the only activity he ever used his horn’s powers for (other than trivial levitation of items under 500 gram) was writing; it was the one thing he considered worth learning and he felt truly bad for all the struggling Earth pony novelists out there who needed several years to finish a book, simply due to their physical limitations. Castle realised that this attitude towards magic was frowned upon in the high society to which he undoubtedly belonged, but, quite frankly, he didn’t care, as long as he still landed on the Manehattan Times’ Top 10 Most Desirable Bachelors list.

The lift’s door opened. Castle stepped out into the place he grew most familiar with over the last couple of years, other than his own apartment, that is: the 12th Precinct of the EQPD (which was, curiously, the official acronym of the Manehattan Police Department, as it was the first one to be officially founded in all of Equestria—you may guess why), home of the ponycide division and thus Beckett’s team. Speaking of Becket—Castle saw her sitting on her regular spot, finishing up a call. He walked up to her as she replaced the receiver on its counterpart on her desk.

“Morning, Beckett,” he said, after placing the bottle cage on the floor.

“Hey, Castle,” the cobalt blue earth pony answered. “Thank you,” she added before taking her cup and having a mouthful of coffee from the straw.

“Anything new on the case?”

“Our suspect confessed. He didn’t really have an alternative; murder weapon in his apartment, alibi busted… Ryan and Esposito are rounding up on a few formalities, which leaves me with just”—she took a deep breath—“paperwork.”

“Nothing else for me to do, then,” the writer said with a disappointed expression. “I’m afraid I’ll have to stay here nonetheless: my lovely mother is hosting another one of her acting school’s rehearsals tonight.” Seeing that Beckett did not catch the meaning of this statement, he clarified: “In my living room.”

“It’s okay, Castle. I’m sure there are more dead bodies out there just waiting to be discovered,” the detective replied, yet with a hint of compassion. Just when Castle opened his mouth to say something, Beckett’s phone rang. Their eyes met, exchanging the thought that involuntarily crossed both of their minds.

“Beckett.” Castle couldn’t hear what the pony on the line was saying, so he stared at her, waiting for a hint. She raised her eyes to him once again. “It’s a corpse.”

****

Beckett and Castle turned the corner into the alley. Trying to ignore the unpleasant smell coming from heaps of waste along the drab walls, the writer noted that the setting was almost too stereotypical to actually be a crime scene; the dilapidated buildings and sloppily mounted window bars simply screamed bad neighbourhood. It was difficult to imagine somepony lingering here, unless he had gang protection—or a death wish. The area seemed completely dead, except for a dozen CSU ponies canvassing the area and the rest of the police staff involved. In these parts, seeing a uniform meant running, running fast.

It didn’t take long to spot the reason they were here to begin with: At the very end of the cul-de-sac, a familiar turquoise unicorn was kneeling next to a stretcher with the dead body. Her horn, sticking out of her long, yellow mane, was glowing, as were some instruments around her.

“Hey, Lanie, what do you got?” Beckett asked, as the two partners approached.

“Female, unicorn, in her twenties. Two GSW to the chest, judging by body temperature and lividity, she was shot yesterday somewhere from 8 to 10 PM,” Lanie listed, in her monotonous work-voice.

“Could be a mugging gone wrong,” Castle commented.

“Sure looks like it,” the pathologist replied. “Her hoofbag is missing, we have no wallet or phone, and there’s nothing else left on her that could be valuable.” After a short pause, she added: “Except for some tiny gems on the glamorous dress, that is.”

“Does anything indicate another purpose of the crime?” Beckett asked, eyeing the victim.

“No signs of sexual assault, though there are some bruises around her hooves that do not look like signs of struggle, and she definitely got them while she was still alive. I’d have to take her to the lab before I can tell you anything else, and I’ll also send you the dental prints for ID.”

“What would an obviously upper class pony with clothes like these be doing here?” Beckett muttered, stepping away from the stretcher while CSU ponies carried it off. Adjusting her wavy, brown mane with deep blue streaks that had become slightly disordered since she had been looking down at the corpse, she added: “Especially this late.”

“Well, a rich unicorn, tired of the trivial glamour in her everyday routine, decided to taste the adventurous life of the shady and sinister undercity of Manehattan and ends up dead in the gutter. I suppose the folks here gave her a shot,” Castle speculated, with an amused smirk.

“We need to know who she is before we can make any assumptions, Castle.”

“How far are we on our anonymous caller?”

“Tech traced the call and are currently locating. Uniforms will pick him up and take him downtown as soon as they get a fix on him.”

“On the subject of getting a fix on something”—Castle paused for a moment—“where are Ryan and Esposito?”

“Speak of the devil,” Beckett replied, pointing her hoof at a dust cloud rushing down the alley. The cloud dissipated, revealing two pegasi, moving towards them at a colossal speed, who both tried to brake by stemming their hooves against the ground. Every muscle in Castle’s body tensed up, he squinted his eyes, prepared for a fatal collision—except, it failed to occur. Opening his left eye just a little, in case anything bad did happen, he saw that Ryan and Esposito managed to stop inches before crashing into their team leader and civilian consultant, and were now giving each other a hoof bump. Amused by the effect their appearance had on Castle, Beckett inquired:

“What took you so long?”

“We got a little… tied up with some of the witnesses,” Ryan, a white stallion with a short, peach coloured mane, explained.

“Yeah, they didn’t cooperate,” Esposito continued, uncomfortably covering a developing bruise of questionable origin on his deep red flank with his wing as inconspicuously as he could.

“Well, you’re just on time to do your work. Ryan, find out if somepony knows what happened here last night. If anypony has seen or heard anything, I want to know. These figures won’t talk to CSU so you should try and be casual. And Esposito, our victim’s cutie mark is three gems. Check missing pony reports and see if anything pops, if not, we need to call every jeweller and fashion boutique in the city and see who’s missing.”

“Beckett, now I’m not sure if you noticed, but this is Manehattan we’re talking about. The one thing that this place abounds more excessively in than criminals and drug addicts is boutiques. We need more clues than that,” was the ex-Wonderbolt’s slightly exasperated response.

“While we do not have any further clues, you go and do your job the traditional way.” Seeing that Beckett remained adamant, Esposito stomped away, shaking his head in annoyance.

“You know, he has a point,” Castle commented when the pegasus was out of hearing range.

“Maybe we get lucky.” Beckett’s mobile phone rang. She answered the call by tapping her jacket’s pocket where the device was contained, activating the pin in her ear. “Beckett. Bring him in, we’ll be right there.” After ending the exchange, she explained: “It’s the caller.”

****

Beckett opened the door to the interrogation room. Stepping in, she asked:

“So you are… Mr. Wooden Nickel?” Through the one-way-mirror between the observation and the interrogation chambers, Castle saw the grey earth pony sitting on the opposite side of the desk turning his ears.

“Aye, that’s me,” he replied, with a dash of resentment in his tone.

“I’m detective Beckett and I’m investigating this case. Now would you mind telling me why you decided to be so cryptic about your call this morning?”

“Oh, I can tell you alright. So I come out to catch some fresh air after a good night of work”—behind the one way mirror Castle wondered what sort of ‘work’ this could have been; then he decided it might better that he’d never find out—“and I see a dead body lying at my feet. If I call now, I know you folks will be lookin’ at me. I know my record Miss, you cops wouldn’t look a step further!”

“I have no interest in convicting you for a crime you didn’t commit,” Beckett said with no particular interest, keeping her tone as calm and professional as possible. “If you cooperate now, all potential obstruction of justice charges will be dropped. Is there anything or anyone you saw at the crime scene that you did not report when you called?”

“Nah, it was just the unicorn lady and lotsa blood.”

“What were you doing that night?” Castle sighed; he would find out.

“Aw nuthin’, just some partying,” the pony replied with a grin.

“Well let’s hope that’s all that it was. And had you heard or seen anything during the night, especially between 8 and 10 in the evening?” Nickel leaned back and closed his eyes, indicating he strained his poorly functioning brain.

“Now that you say, miss, I think I actually did,” he finally spoke. “I stuck my head out the window somewhere around… 9:30, it must’ve been, and I see this carriage leaving the alley. Not the scrappy wooden ones that you usually see, it was a nice one, with all sorts of fancy doodads and a nice black finish…”

“Did you catch the plate number?” Nickel shook his head vehemently. Beckett, who had clearly been hoping for a more informative conversation, stepped towards the door, sighing.

“You’re free to go.”

After leaving the room, she took a few steps towards her desk before Esposito ran up to her.

“Hey Beckett, looks like I won’t have to go through every single boutique in town after all. Just checked missing pony reports; this one came in this morning.” He pointed at a file on top of a batch of papers on his desk. It was flipped open; from a picture on the document a white unicorn, their victim, was glancing at Beckett. “Name’s Rarity; she’s owns a tailor shop in Ponyville.”

“Ponyville? Isn’t that rustic no-pony’s-land somewhere at the end of the world?” Castle asked, emerging from the observation room.

“Pretty much. Been there once; Place’s zero infrastructure. A real dump.” The pegasus paused to regain concentration. “The report has been filed by a Miss Twilight Sparkle, who apparently was a close friend of our victim and expected a call from her this morning, which she never made.”

“Alright, Esposito, you contact the next of kin and call Sparkle to find out what other close friends our victim had, and I want them all here ASAP. And when you're done with that, run her financials for anomalies,” Beckett commanded. With a word of acknowledgement, the pegasus sat down in front of his desk and started dialling a number. Castle was about to settle down on his usual place next to Beckett's table, when he saw Ryan coming out of the elevator door.

“Yo, I just went through the whole street, twice, and the bar Nickel was in, and guess what”—Beckett raised an eyebrow at Ryan's dramatic pause—“there was nothin'. I knocked at every single door, nopony saw a thing. As for that club, it's a shady place, but the owner installed a security camera covering a part of the room as well as the back door; Nickel's alibi checks, he was in the picture and, er, occupied at all times.”

“Did anypony make use of the back door?”

“Nopony whatsoever, except for Nickel at 5:48. His call came in a minute later.”

“If he’s off the suspect list, we have no leads at all until our victim’s family and friends get here and shed some light upon what the hay she was doing here in Manehattan,” Castle commented.

“Hey, I got sumthin’,” Esposito called from the opposite side of the room. He continued when his three teammates came closer: “Just pulled Rarity's financials; she was deep under water. Overdraft’s maxed, there's a one month old loan from the Equestria Bank which she hasn't paid her instalments on, but that's not it yet: there's also a 25 thousand bit cash infusion from a private investor dated back around half a year; I wouldn't be surprised if it was due. And guess who that money is coming from? This Applejack character who Sparkle listed as one of her closest friends to me, which means she's on her way here and we can ask her about it personally. There is also a transaction made to a cab service around 4 PM the day she was killed; I’ll have someone find out where she was going.” After a moment of reconsideration in the face of these new insights, Beckett spoke:

“Alright, here's the plan: as soon as Sparkle and the rest arrive from Ponyville on the train, you guys will question them, make sure Applejack is last and try to find out about her relationship with the victim. I want her in the interrogation room once we have enough information. Don't forget checking Rarity’s landline number's records. Castle and I will take care of the family.”

****

Beckett and Castle sat silently on the couch in the only cosily equipped room on the second floor of the 12th Precinct — if it could even be called a room at all. It was a small corner, accessible through two doors and easy to monitor through the glass panels, which the EQPD and especially the ponycide division used to interview witnesses who weren’t explicitly suspected of committing the respective felony. After being notified that the victim’s parents arrived from Fillydelphia and identified the body, the two partners prepared to meet them. To Beckett, or rather, to any cop who had ever worked ponycide, this was the toughest part of the entire investigation: Talking to the parents, or any family of the victim for that matter, and trying to console them, though they knew too well that the pain they were going through was literally inconsolable. Every time the elevator opened up, Castle expected to see the couple stepping out, ready to gauge the degree of their grief.

At last the door slid open once more, revealing two unicorns, late 40s, and their second daughter, whom the writer estimated to be between eight and ten years old. He sighed, seeing that all three looked utterly devastated. After a uniformed pony escorted the family into the room where the investigators were sitting (the filly stayed outside), Beckett got up to introduce herself. After she had finished with the formalities, she began:

“I know this is hard for you, but you need to tell us everything you know so we can find out who did this to your daughter. When was the last time you spoke with her?”

“She used to call every week, to tell us how things were going for her and Sweetie,” Cookie Crumbles, a purple unicorn mare and Rarity's mother, replied, wiping a tear from her cheek with her hoof. “Calling Ponyville was difficult, her phone bills were ridiculous,” she added, trailing off. “She called last Friday and she said everything was okay, she even told me something about getting a contract...”

“Do you know what that could have been about?”

“Oh yes, she did not really have a steady income off of her shop, so she depended on commissions from fashion celebrities.”

“Did she mention she would have to go to Manehattan for this?”

“She didn't say anything like that at all, but it would make sense if that's why she was here...”

“Was there someone she could stay with around here, or some frequent customers that you know of?” This time it was Castle asking the question.

“We were never involved in Rarity's work,” her father replied, without even raising his eyes from the floor that he had been staring at for the past minute. “But now it seems like we should have been.”

“Whatever happened to your daughter, it is not your fault; it's the pony's who shot her. Keep that in mind.” After a short pause, Beckett continued: “Did she have any enemies or utter any worries about anything lately?”

“Enemies? Oh no, nothing like that,” Crumbles exclaimed, her eyes filling up with tears once again. “Her work was a competitive business, but not to this extent!”

“We'll see about that,” Castle commented, earning a disapproving glance from his partner. “What about her acquaintances from Ponyville?”

“Her friends? They were some of the nicest ponies we've met, right Hondo? They loved her. Sweetie was raving about them whenever she was with us.”

“One last thing,” Beckett hesitated a second, “you said your other daughter was staying with her sister most of the time; could we have a word with her?”

“Only if it's absolutely necessary,” Flanks replied protectively. Castle could clearly see why; the filly was sitting on the floor outside the room with reddened eyes, sobbing into a soaking wet tissue. He cringed, imagining young Alexis in such condition.

“We'll give her some time,” Beckett stated.

****

“That was not exactly the most informative conversation we had,” she declared, once they were out of the room.

“Oh, we did get some insight,” Castle replied, with more enthusiasm. “A daughter who conceals a journey from a village to Manehattan from everyone, even her parents, and then gets shot mysteriously? You can't possibly think that isn't interesting.”

“Not everyone,” Ryan interrupted, coming around the corner. “Her friends stated they knew precisely why she was leaving, namely because she received a contract for large amount of decorations and costumes but she'd have to go to Manehattan to confirm. What she did not say is who made the offer.”

“Also Castle, she did not willingly withhold information from her parents, she just didn't explicitly tell,” Beckett added. Castle rolled his eyes in return.

“Did you finish up on the friends yet, Ryan?”

“Yes we did, here's what we found out: they all stated that they were close friends, and though there have been some clashes between individuals, including Rarity and Applejack, every single one stated that suspecting her of the murder would be obscene.”

“They could be covering for each other. Anything else?”

“Well, there’s this,” he pointed at his desk. There were two folders in the centre; one was rather flat, however the other’s size made up for this. “That’s all we have on them in our database: Twilight Sparkle’s record”—he put his hoof on the thin folder—“and this second one, which belongs an individual called Rainbow Dash. Sparkle just had one major property damage allegation some fifteen years ago; charges had been dropped after the Princess herself covered the reparation costs.” Castle whistled in surprise.

“That’s where our tax money goes, gentlecolts,” Beckett noted.

“Dash however is quite a different case. This mare has countless charges in vandalism, disruption of peace, flying under influence, speeding in populated areas, property damage and resisting arrest on her, and yet, she didn’t spend a single day in jail.”

“Sounds like me in my teens,” Castle commented.

“That’s the point, Castle. She might be a scallywag—”

“Nice usage of the word,” the novelist interrupted.

“Thanks Castle, but what I was saying, there are no accusations of violence or assault in there, so I don’t think there’s any connection to our case.”

“Are you sure?”

“Uh, yes. Because they also have solid alibis.”

“I suppose it still won't do any harm to pressure Applejack just a little; who knows, maybe she can tell us something interesting.“

****

“So, Miss Applejack, we found out you had provided Rarity some financial aid in the difficult times she had been going through...”

“Darn right Ah did. 25 thousand bit on tha hoof,” the orange-coated Earth pony answered with a proud smile.

“Too bad your generosity hasn't been rewarded, which you realised when she told you she couldn't pay. Thus you decided to resort to more extreme measures, when things unfortunately went south.”

“Whoa wait, what are you gettin' at?”

“We're getting at, why'd you kill her?” Castle, who had been participating in the interrogation this time, sitting right at the desk, replied. Applejack smashed her hooves against the wood and narrowed her eyes down to slits.

“Listen up, city boy,” she hissed. “Ah don' know how ya treat yer friends round 'ere, but where Ah come from, we don' murder ‘em. Yes, Ah gave 'er money, 'cos we 'ad a great harvest on tha farm this year and tha poor gal needed cash.” Applejack leaned back against the wall and crossed her front legs in front of her chest (a rather peculiar way to sit, as Castle noted). “Don'tcha think Ah'd at least ratified a real contract if Ah really cared to get it back so much?” Castle and Beckett exchanged glances. “Now, lookie here, pardner,” she said, “if ya don’ catch tha piece o’ dirt who did this to ‘er, ya’ll will ‘ave plen’y time filin’ murder charges on me. For yer murders!”

****

“Wasn’t her,” the writer stated, as they settled in front of the murder board.

“Do you have any better suspects, Castle?” Beckett replied, rolling her eyes. Noticing his thoughtful silence, she added: “We’ll keep her in mind then, if you don’t object.”

“Seeing as we went through everypony who might have been interested in her financial situation, we should proceed to checking her professional environment.”

“Think we already did that for ya,” they heard Esposito say, coming from the elevator. “Just got a call from the guy who checked the cab service, he found the driver. He said he brought Rarity downtown to this address.” The pegasus pinned a sheet to the massive whiteboard. Castle’s jaw dropped slightly, as he read the printed letters.

“What in Equestria would she be doing there? The apartments on this street are home to the crème de la crème of Manehattan!” he exclaimed. Ryan, who had accompanied his partner before and spent the last minute taking a call, joined the group in front of the board.

“I think I can answer that. I showed Sparkle the list of inhabitants of the building Rarity went to, and she identified one as a frequent employer of our victim,” he paused, for dramatic effect, “Sapphire Shores.” This time, Castle’s jaw’s drop was significantly more noticeable.

“Did I hear you right, Sapphire Shores?”

“What Castle, are you afraid that one of your idols is going to be besmirched by our investigations again?” Beckett riled.

“Not my idol, more like my daughter’s. She is the Pony of Pop after all!”

“Yeah right,” Esposito chuckled.

“I suggest we go and ask her a few questions, regardless of the success of her musical career,” Beckett stated, stepping away from the desk she was leaning against. “Let’s go.”

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