• Published 22nd Jul 2012
  • 8,207 Views, 208 Comments

The Magician and the Detective - Bad Horse

Has Holmes met his match in a travelling showpony?

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4. Holmes unmasked

Her appearance was prefaced by a sudden bang and a burst of intense light, so that I could not say whether she teleported in front of us, or simply galloped in while we were deaf and blind. The Great and Powerful Trixie proved to be a aquamarine mare with snow-white hair – in the literal sense, having just a touch of blue to it. Her stage costume was covered in stars, and her cutie-mark, I realized with a start when she unfurled her cloak and it was briefly visible, was a cross between the stars of Arch-mage Sparkle and the half-moon of Luna herself.

She regarded us with an indifferent eye, as though our presence were an unfortunate necessity and our opinion of little value, then began begrudgingly to perform a series of unusual and alarming tricks. Her manner reminded me immediately of Holmes.

It was not the sort of magic show one would hope to see at a filly's birthday party. Any parent who unwittingly hired the Great and Powerful Trixie for such a performance could rightfully have sued for emotional damages. A good stage performer impresses the audience, but also forms a bond of mutual, if perhaps unequal, respect with them. Trixie's methodology was instead to shock and awe her audience into submission. The intimacy of the cafe, which could have been used to enhance rapport by a more sensitive performer, only made Trixie's performance more terrifying. One young colt began neighing uncontrollably in fear when Trixie burst into flames a few feet away from him, and had to be removed by his parents. The audience, for its part, appeared not to be enjoying the show so much as attempting to spite Trixie by proving that they could endure it.

After another disturbingly powerful display of magic followed by shocked gasps and a smattering of pro-forma hoof-stamping, Trixie relaxed her tense, aggressive posture, and stood calmly facing the audience. She lowered her horn penitently, and looked at us for the first time with inviting, sympathetic eyes.

"Trixie is sorry if she has disturbed you. Let everypony take a few moments to relax. Breathe deeply. That's good. Look at Trixie. Listen to the sound of her voice. Take another breath. Everything is fine, you are perfectly safe, and comfortable, and – WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON THE CEILING?"

I saw with horror that Trixie was standing on the floor beneath me, while I, my table, and my partly-eaten sandwich were suspended from the ceiling of the cafe. Ponies neighed in terror and twisted and threw their hooves up – or rather down – to catch themselves as they fell. I may possibly have been among them.

Then I realized that it was Trixie who was standing on the ceiling, laughing. She must have gradually levitated and rotated herself as she spoke, without my noticing, leading to the illusion that I was standing on the ceiling. I held a hoof to my head until the vertigo and disorientation went away. Ponies who had fallen down in their panic stood up and resumed their places sheepishly, or in some cases headed for the door.

She spun in the air and landed on her hooves before us like an acrobat, smiling broadly.

"It seems some ponies can't tell up from down. Perhaps Trixie should do something simpler for them." An uninflated balloon appeared in one of her hooves, and she held it to her mouth and blew it full of air. She then held it up triumphantly. A few audience members who did not get the joke applauded half-heartedly.

She pushed the balloon aside and suspended it there by magic. She then produced another balloon, of a darker color, and inflated that to a smaller size, then tied it off and held it next to the first. The balloons then moved apart and together, bouncing off each other several times, until they came together and did not bounce, but merged; then I saw the smaller, darker balloon inside the larger one.

"Remarkable," Holmes said.

"What, that?" I muttered. "It didn't seem very impressive to me."

"That is because you are ignorant of magical theory," Holmes said. "The starting and ending points of any teleportation must be connected by a magical line of energy. Imperfections in this line temporarily disrupt the space around it. To teleport anything through the stretched surface of an inflated balloon without breaking it requires near-perfect discipline. There are only a few unicorns in the world who could do that. Assuming it was not a more mundane trick, such as having a balloon constructed with a thick, non-elastic patch."

I raised my eyebrows in appreciation.

The mare on the stage looked about her triumphantly, but her expression quickly turned to disappointment, and then angry contempt, as she saw the bored audience shared my initial opinion of her balloon trick.

"Incidentally," Holmes added, "detecting and suppressing these nearly-inevitable disruptions are among the key principles of magical defense fields such as the one protecting the museum."

Trixie impelled the balloons rapidly out into the audience, where they stopped in front of an orange unicorn filly, who blinked at them uncertainly. Trixie released them, and the filly watched as they dropped slowly to the floor. She watched them roll away, then looked back up at Trixie, who sighed and looked down. I almost felt sorry for her at that moment.

"Trixie has been greedy," she announced. "Trixie is up here having all of the fun. Would somepony else like to play?"

Mr. F., who appeared to be the only member of the audience genuinely enjoying the show, raised a hoof excitedly, and Trixie called him up. She asked his name. He told her, and added that he was the museum curator, and also that he was enjoying the show very much, and had been persuaded to come by his companion, Mr. Fetlock Holmes. At this he gestured to Holmes.

Holmes rolled his eyes. Then he dropped the tourist act, removed the hat and the glasses, and favored Trixie with his usual enigmatic smile.

I have been present on many occasions when some criminal first became aware of the personal presence of Fetlock Holmes, the great sleuth whose ability to see into the criminal mind must have seemed god-like to those it was directed against. No matter how hardened the criminal, their first reaction, without exception, was to flinch away from him and take an involuntary step back.

The Great and Powerful Trixie leaned towards Holmes with a hungry smile, locked eyes with him, and took a step forward.

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