• Published 26th Jan 2018
  • 2,367 Views, 38 Comments

Who-dunce-it? - RB_



It's always a bad sign when the highlight of the party is the murder.

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The Astonishing Accusation

The east dining room fell into silence as Rarity made her entrance. Not that it needed much help; the dead body was enough of a mood dampener as it was.

Rarity ran her eyes over those present. They’d all taken their seats, the same ones from earlier—though those at the end of the table had scooted closer to their neighbors.

“Well?” Fancy said, the first to break the silence. “The butler said you had something to announce?”

“I do,” Rarity said.

“Then hurry up and get it over with,” Mrs. Orange said. “I don’t want to be in this room with that any longer than I have to.”

“No, no,” Rarity said. She strode forwards, to the head of the table. “You can’t rush these things. And I don’t think you’ll mind much, because what I’ll be announcing…”

She tilted her head up, and there was that grin again.

“…is the identity of that’s murderer!”

The table erupted into chaos.

“Hey! Hey! Quiet!” Rainbow shouted, and they calmed. “Can’t you see she’s having her big moment, here? Yeesh, have some courtesy!”

“You mean you’ve solved it?” Fleur asked. “And, erm... pardon, but who is that?”

“I have indeed!” Rarity said. “And this,” she said, turning towards the uniformed mare who had followed her in, “Is lieutenant Cuffs, of Shetland Yard. The police arrived just arrived a few minutes ago. We met in the hall.”

“And I’m very interested to hear what she has to say,” she said. She’d taken post by the door; no one was getting out if not past her.

“I think we all are,” the Major added.

“Then we shall continue with no more interruptions,” Rarity said. “I will begin at… well, at the beginning, and proceed through everything I have uncovered.”

“And I will start,” she said, flinging out a hoof, “With you!”

“Moi?” Fleur said, suddenly the center of attention (and against her will, for once). “But I had nothing to do with this!”

Au contraire!” Rarity cried. “You had everything to do with this!”

Her eyes grew soft for a moment. “And I am sorry,” she said. “I really, truly am.”

But just for a moment, before the detective’s façade reasserted itself.

“Now, would you care to tell me how your miserable, one-sided affair with Blueblood began?”

The silence was deafening. Then:

“This… this cannot be true!” Fancy pants exclaimed. “You must have made some mistake! This, this is an outrage! Why, I’ve never heard anything so preposterous in my life!”

Rarity said nothing. She kept her eyes on Fleur, who had the look of one who has just been shot.

“How…” she croaked out, then licked her lips. “How did you know?”

“The letter,” Rarity said. “It was easy enough to deduce it was yours, given the true nature of your plus one. I imagine it came in the same envelope as your invitation, which is how it slipped under my notice while I searched your purse.”

“Wait, huh?” Rainbow cocked her head to the side. “Her guest?”

“Yes, of course,” Rarity said. She began to pace. “You see, I had already earlier determined that ‘Dela Crème’ was not who she claimed to be. When I confronted her, she revealed herself as an agent of the Perryton Detective Agency, as a bodyguard. As she was undoubtedly here as either Fleur’s or Fancy’s guest—as evidenced by her following us to the dining room despite not being invited personally—and as Fleur introduced her as ‘an old friend’, it was obvious that she was the one she’d been paid to protect.”

She halted. “I asked myself: why would Fleur feel the need to bring a bodyguard to this party? The answer came in the form of the letter, which had been printed on Blueblood’s own stationary. An affair, an unwanted one! Blueblood was harassing you, and you wanted out of it, and so you planned to confront him about it tonight!”

Fancy looked towards his wife. “Is… is this true?”

Fleur squeezed her eyes shut and ducked her head. When it came up again, her cheeks were tear-stained.

“Every word,” she said. The collective group gasped.

“But… why?”

“I never wanted to!” she cried. “It was just for fun, at first! He invited me to a party with some of my friends last autumn… I did not even think to say no! Then, every few weeks, another invitation, but with each, there were less and less friends, until it was just him and me. Then, only then did I start to realize what he had done!”

“Disgraceful,” Mr. Orange said. “Cheating on your husband like that, you should be ashamed! Why, I can hardly believe—"

Rarity’s head snapped in his direction. “I wouldn’t go saying things like that,” she said. “Or did you forget that you were having an affair with him, too? And yours was uncoerced, at that.”

He jerked back as if he had been struck. “I—you!”

“Bosquet no. 4,” she said. “I believe that’s the cologne you are wearing tonight, yes? Orange-scented, quite cheap despite the name? Funny that it should also turn up sprayed on an invoice I found in Blueblood’s study. An invoice signed by you! Disgraceful, indeed!”

She turned to Mrs. Orange. “You have my condolences.”

Valencia didn’t seem too distraught. “At least he was making someone happy,” she said.

“I, er, I didn’t let it go any farther,” Fleur said. She was speaking to all of them, but her leaking eyes were focused on Fancy. “He never… we never went farther than dinner. I refused to see him after that!”

Fancy stood, stepped forwards, and wrapped her in a hug. “I believe you,” he said. “I’m not mad.”

“Y-You’re not?”

“Not at you.” He squeezed her tightly, then withdrew, but remained at her side. She was weeping even harder, now, but she did her best to keep speaking.

“I left it there, and forgot about it… but then the invitation came, and with it, that damnable letter! It was the last straw!”

“And so you decided to end things, tonight,” Rarity said. “You would confront him, but you were worried. You hired a bodyguard, crafted a fake backstory to get her into the party without arising Fancy’s suspicions, for your own protection. Or perhaps… for revenge!”

All present gasped, save for Fleur and Dela.

“I, I wasn’t going to have her kill him!” Fleur said, though her words sounded hollow. “Just… just rough him up a bit, that’s all!”

Rarity shook her head. “It wouldn’t have mattered,” she said. “Because Dela Crème—or, by her true name, Stalwart Guard—was planning on committing murder tonight regardless!”

More gasps. Dela, who had taken a rather nonchalant pose, tilted her head up. “Oh yeah? How do you figure?”

“Your shoes,” Rarity said, striding forwards so that she was standing across from Stalwart at the table. “Any two-bit tailor could tell they’re steel-based simply by the shape and the sound they make when you walk. And I am no two-bit tailor!”

Rarity slammed her forehooves onto the table. “One does not wear steel-based shoes without the intention of causing harm. Besides which, you came here disguised. You could have gotten away with it easily, and only Fleur, who you could easily blackmail, would know who was really responsible. I suspect you were the one who came up with ‘Dela Crème’ in the first place.”

“Maybe I did,” Stalwart said, her posture growing more hostile by the second. “But why would I want to do something like that?”

“An easy answer, and a familiar one: revenge. When Fleur’s request came in, you must have jumped on the opportunity. But not revenge for yourself, no; for your beloved ex-commanding officer, who is currently sitting to your left!”

More gasps, though at this point they were beginning to sound forced.

“You were going to kill him for me?” the Major said. “I mean, I appreciate the sentiment, but that’s no way to act! You’re a soldier, not a murderer!”

“But he deserved it!” Stalwart said. “After what he did to you!”

“And what exactly did he do?” Mrs. Orange asked. Several others, including Fleur, nodded their agreement.

“Let’s not drag up the past,” the Major said, but Rarity shook her head.

“Tut-tut,” she said. “As I alluded earlier, you seem not to realize that the job of a detective is precisely that. And, as it turns out, that past was rather relevant, seeing as Stalwart here wasn’t the only one planning to commit murder over it!”

The major blinked. “Are… are you accusing me, now?” he said, rather indignantly. “On what basis?”

“On this basis!” Rarity said. “Rainbow, would you kindly bring me the case with the Major’s swords?”

“Sure thing, Rares.” The case was brought over, and Rarity took one of the swords for herself. The other she gave to Rainbow before assuming a fighting stance.

“Duel me,” she said.

“…I don’t think now’s a good time, Rarity. Aren’t we, y’know, in the middle of something?”

“On the contrary,” she said, sabre pointed towards Rainbow’s own. “En garde!”

She took a swing. Rainbow, reacting with characteristic speed, flicked her sword into the air, caught it in her mouth, and brought it around to parry.

She was quite surprised, then, when Rarity’s sword cleaved right through her own, sending the tip spinning through the air until—thunk—it embedded itself into the table, inches away from the Major’s empty plate.

Rainbow’s eyes opened about as wide as her mouth did, and what was left of the sword fell to the floor. “How—what did you do that for!?”

“Relax, darling,” Rarity said, levitating the other sword over to Rainbow. “You can have this one instead. Rather a good trade, I think; this one isn’t made from aluminum.”

“Aluminum?”

“Yes, indeed,” Rarity said, and she whirled back around to face her audience. “You see—and correct me if I’m wrong on any count, Major—during the Major’s campaign in Zebraha, he and his troops came to be stationed nearby to a zebra-owned gold mine. They were meant to protect the thing. However, there was a snake in the military, and his name, as you can no doubt guess, was Blueblood.

“Blueblood became the Major’s CO around this time, and he saw a golden opportunity. So, behind the Major’s back, he ordered the troops to take gold from the mines, illegally! This gold was loaded up and shipped back to Equestria—and straight into Blueblood’s coffers!

“Such a large operation couldn’t have gone unnoticed. But therein lay the problem: if it was discovered that Equestria’s prince had been responsible for this act, why, the scandal would have torn the country apart, not to mention threatened the current standing of the standing army! Therefore, the military’s higher-ups decided they needed a scapegoat, someone they could lay the blame on and then quietly shuffle to the sidelines. And that pony was the Major—or, more accurately, the Captain.”

She turned to face him; he had grown rather grey in the face. “Am I correct?”

“You are,” he said.

Rarity smiled. “Wonderful. Which brings us back to tonight. The Major planned to present Blueblood, publicly, with a pair of dueling swords. He would then—loudly, to attract attention—challenge him to a duel. In front of everyone, the prince would have had no choice but to accept. The duel would begin—but the Major would be the one with the real sword, which would cut through Blueblood’s aluminum sword like butter, as you’ve just seen. With Blueblood now humiliated and at his mercy, he would—”

“I would make him confess to his crimes in front of everyone,” he said. “And then I would drive my sabre right through that snake’s heart.” His face curled up like a pitbull’s. “He was a snake, you see. He’d curled up at the roots of this country, and he wasn’t letting go any time soon. He had his hooves in many pies, and every one of them turned to poison.”

He looked up at her, and there was a fire in his eyes. “I had to do it! For Equestria!”

“And Equestria would have thanked you for your service,” Rarity said, though whether or not she was mocking him was impossible to tell.

“But wait,” Fleur said; she seemed to be recovering. “Then neither of them poisoned him?”

“A very keen observation, Fleur!” Rarity said. “No, he did not actually get to kill Blueblood; someone else beat them, and you, and Stalwart, to the punch.”

No gasps this time. Instead:

“Well, why didn’t you start with them, then!?” Stalwart said. “You could have saved all of us time and embarrassment!”

“I, erm, must agree,” Fleur said.

“I have my reasons,” Rarity said. “All of which will become clear shortly. Also because I was doing my bit.”

“Well, don’t keep us waiting!” Rainbow said. “Who really killed him?”

“Patience, darling.” Rarity began to pace again, up and down the side of the table. “Now, it occurred to me, as I was interviewing each of you, that none of the eight of us had actually seen anyone slip the poison into, nay, go anywhere near Blueblood’s glass. Which meant one of two things: either we are all hopelessly unobservant—and I can assure you, I at the very least am not—or there was something that I was missing. So, I turned my thinking on its side.”

“On its side?” Fancy said.

“On its side. I asked myself: what if the champagne had been poisoned before it entered the room?”

She turned to address the butler. “Excuse me, Mr… I’m sorry, I think the one thing I haven’t deduced yet is your name.”

“It’s Butler, ma’am,” he said. “Brass Butler, of the Butler line”

“Ah. I see. Well, Mr. Butler, you carried the glasses from the kitchen to here, correct? Was there any point at which the glasses could have been tampered with?”

“None,” he replied immediately. “I encountered nopony in the hall, nor did the tray ever leave my sight.”

“I see,” Rarity said. “Then—”

“Then he’s the one who must have poisoned it!” Mr. Orange cried, throwing out an accusing hoof. He seemed to have at last recovered from the earlier revelation, and was now making up for lost time.

“Why would I kill him!?” the butler said. “He paid my wages! My family has served his line for generations! This whole affair’s put me out of a job!”

“An exquisite point,” Rarity said. “For every murder, there is a motive. Now, if I may continue?”

“If the glass hadn’t been poisoned in the dining room, and it hadn’t been poisoned on its way here, then where could it have been? Why, in the kitchens, of course! And this was made all the easier by a peculiar quirk of Blueblood’s, fueled by his own vanity: drinking from a separate bottle than his guests. And, on checking this bottle, which is still in the kitchens, I found that it had the same peculiar odor that the poisoned champagne had. The champagne had been poisoned before it even got to Blueblood’s glass!”

“But that means it could have been anyone who poisoned him!” Mrs. Orange said. “There are a hundred other guests besides us, any one of them could have done it!”

But Rarity shook her head. “Not so. You see, I have evidence to the contrary. But before I reveal that, might I ask you for your confession, Valencia?

The gasps had changed to relieved sighs. Oh well; Rarity knew she’d have them back in a minute.

Mrs. Orange squeezed her eyes shut. She sighed. “I see it’s futile trying to hide it any longer.”

She straightened up, and held her head high in defiance of her situation. “Yes, it was me who planned to poison the prince. The poison itself was easy enough to acquire, with my family’s wealth and resources; I kept it in my purse, in a little glass vial. It was just a matter of sneaking into the kitchens and dosing his bottle. I would have been back in the garden and far away from him by the time he got to it, and among the hundred or so other guests, it would have been impossible to determine it was me. It was the perfect plan.”

“But you did not work alone.”

Mrs. Orange’s eyes grew suddenly wide. “What—what are you talking about? Of course I did!”

Rarity gave a little titter. “One would think, in your position, you would know better than to lie—even if you are being blackmailed.”

“You see,” she said, becoming more animated in her movements, “there is one glaring weak point in the plan you just proposed, one loose stitch in the seams: how could you be certain to you get the poison into the drink unnoticed by the numerous kitchen staff? Why, with an accomplice, of course, to distract them! You would have arranged to meet at a specific time, and then gone on to enact your plan.”

One of the ponies present’s wide-eyed stare began to shift into something sharper.

“Perhaps with a discussion on the proper preparation of the pufferfish.”

The pony stepped back from the table, just a little bit.

“But that pony wasn’t an accomplice—you were their fall-pony. The accomplice was the true mastermind, the pony who did in-depth research into Blueblood’s mansion! The pony who most likely paid off his staff in order to learn his habits! The pony whose company, according to the invoice we found in Blueblood’s study, controls the shipping of your own products, and thus you are completely reliant on and easily blackmailed by!”

The pony licked their lips and scowled.

“I am talking, of course,” Rarity said, and here came the ruthless, nigh-manic look of the detective triumphant, and here came the accusing hoof, “about Fancy Pants, of Fancy Freight Industries!”

And there, as Rarity had predicted, returned the gasps of shock twofold.

Mon dieu!” Fleur cried. “It cannot be true!”

“Oh, but it is,” Rarity said. “You see, every murder has a motive. And, quite simply, Valencia Orange has none. I’ve seen how much money Blueblood was making her and her family, and Rainbow can confirm that. Why would she wish to kill her biggest customer?”

“She wouldn’t!” Rainbow said.

“Precisely! But what if someone else put her up to it?”

“But why?” Fleur asked.

“For you!” Rarity said. “Fancy Pants is a very keen stallion, very observant. He knew about your forced affair—and it distraught him so much he was willing to resort to murder! He arranged it all out of his love for you!”

Fleur looked frantically from her husband to Rarity and back again. “Is this true?”

“Supposing it was,” Fancy said, his words barbed. “It certainly is something I would do, and do gladly, under the circumstances you propose. But I hadn’t even crossed paths with Valencia at the point in the evening when this would have occurred. What evidence have you?”

“The best kind,” Rarity said. “You see, you would have gotten away with this all, but it seems your luck ran out at the last possible moment.”

She turned to Mrs. Orange. “Valencia, please open your purse. I believe there is something in there that could give us a clearer view of things.”

The purse snapped open, and, after a moment’s rummaging, an object was removed. Rarity took it in her magic and lifted it up for all to see:

A monocle.

“Fancy Pants is known in the fashion circles not just for his wonderful suits, but also for his distinctive taste in eyewear. He has his monocles custom-made in brass. And each one bears his initials.”

Rarity floated the monocle around, and everyone could see the tiny “F.F.” on the side of the frame.

“But as you can see,” she continued, “The monocle he is wearing now is considerably shinier than this one. It has no scratches on the lens; this has one or two tiny ones. It is plainly obvious that this one has seen more use, and that the one he is wearing now is a spare, a replacement he needed when he lost the first—the cord for which had previously broken and is currently residing in his pocket—and could not find it.”

She slapped the thing down on the table in front of Fancy.

“If, as Valencia stated during her interview, and as you stated just now as well as implicitly when you introduced us, you had not crossed paths before meeting outside the dining room, then how did your monocle end up in her purse?”

Fancy stared down at the monocle. Everyone present waited on bated breath, waited for his response.

Then:

“You are correct, Miss Rarity. I daresay, on every word of it.”

He looked up, and he was beaming. “Jolly good job. I couldn’t have asked for a better opponent in this endeavor. Truly splendid.”

“And to you as well,” Rarity said, and she was smiling too, though hers was the more fierce. “You nearly had me fooled.”

“All of this,” Fleur said, drawing their attentions. “All of this plotting, risking your life, your company, everything, you did it for me?”

Fancy turned towards her. “All of it,” he said. “I love you, my flower. I would risk it all again for you.”

Fleur sniffed. “It’s stupid,” she said.

“Such is love.”

They embraced, and they kissed, and it was perfect. As perfect as such a romantic scene could be, mere minutes before one of the parties would be dragged away to a jail cell for the rest of his life. Or perhaps that made it sweeter, who can say.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t destined to last.

“There’s just one thing,” Mrs. Orange said, and everyone turned to look at her.

“And what’s that?” Rarity asked.

“I never actually poisoned Blueblood.”