• Published 25th Jul 2012
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Under A Luminous Sky - Jake The Army Guy



Twilight and an investigator from Canterlot must catch a killer

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Chapter Seven: Breaking The Law

Under A Luminous Sky

by

Jake The Army Guy

Chapter Seven: Breaking The Law


Ponyville General Hospital.

Paradoxical to being in one of the more rural areas in Equestria, it was actually one of the most advanced medical centers outside of Canterlot. Some of the latest technological and magical healing devices were installed in high-tech patient rooms, and cutting edge surgical techniques were often fielded here. The large, shining white complex with seemingly countless windows upon multiple floors stood tall among the humble homes and shops that dotted the town. The late-afternoon sun gleamed from those windows, like the many eyes of some feral beast blinking out to the countryside.

Bentgrass, Twilight and Rainbow stood on the crest of a large hill to the left of the massive structure. After making their way there, stealthily following the sheriff and his deputy, the group had tried to walk into the front door. The rude nurse who worked the front desk had stopped them with the aid of a few orderlies who would seem more at home on a professional hoofball field than at a hospital. One in particular, a pegasus with underdeveloped wings whose bulk would put Big Macintosh to shame, hadn’t said anything beyond monosyllabic grunts of agreement when the nurse had told them they weren’t allowed inside by order of Sheriff Shackle.

The pale inspector stood silently, evaluating the building for several minutes before speaking. “Alright, you two wait here. I’ll be back in a little while.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Bright Eyes,” Dash said, stopping him with a hoof as he tried to walk down the hill. “I know you’re not thinking of just leaving us here. After all this, we’re coming with you.”

Bentgrass shook his head. “No, Ms. Dash. We shall have to be very clandestine with this. It is easier to hide one pony than three.” He turned to face Twilight, who hadn’t said a word since their unpleasant encounter with the sheriff. “Besides, what I shall be doing will not be... strictly legal, and I do not wish to—”

“I don’t care.”

He blinked several times, his tail freezing to the side. “Ms. Sparkle?”

“I said I don’t care,” she said, shooting a cool gaze at Bentgrass. “Ponies are dying. It’s obvious that the sheriff,” she scowled at the thought of the fat stallion, “cares more about his little record than innocent ponies. If this is what we have to do to stop the bloodshed, then I’m in.”

Rainbow walked up next to her, placing a wing on her shoulder. “Me, too. Besides,” she said, a flush of red coming upon her face, “I've, uh... kinda broken into this hospital before.”

A moment of silence as Bentgrass looked at the two mares. Finally, he gave them a small smile. “Very well, then. Let’s go.”

Rainbow and Twilight fell in line behind Bentgrass as he trotted towards the back of the hospital. The sun had begun to fall behind the large hill they stood on, masking their movements in slight shadow. Walking as quickly as he could while remaining quiet, he finally reached the wall of the building, crouching next to one of the ground floor windows. Smaller windows, barely larger than a pony was wide, were spaced along the ground, showing hints of the lower levels. The two mares lined up next to him as he peered his head to gaze inside the nearest window. He saw a small care room with a single bed, occupied by a pony that seemed to be unconscious. Crouching below the window, they crept along the wall before finding themselves beside a door. Bentgrass tried the knob, sighing when it refused to turn.

“Keep watch,” Bentgrass said. He leaned his head down to his coat pocket, coming up with a small black satchel. Unzipping it with his teeth, a small tool fell into his hoof. One end had a wide rubber piece, which he took in between his teeth. Sticking out from the other end was a small bent piece of metal with several smaller bars beneath it, each a different size and with jagged bends and twists.

Lowering his head to the knob, he pushed the bent piece into the lock. A series of clicks came as he twisted his head slightly back and forth. Twilight peered over and saw him manipulating the smaller metal bars with his tongue, one poking out and wiggling inside the lock before receding and another replacing it. After a few moments and several more bars tried, a louder click sounded and Bentgrass turned his head, the knob turning with it. As he placed the tool back in its bag, Rainbow slid inside the now open door. Twilight walked up as Bentgrass put the satchel away.

“Do I even want to know where you learned that?”

“Probably not. Ladies first, Ms. Sparkle,” he said with a slight bow.

Bentgrass eased the door shut behind them and the trio found themselves in a long white hallway. Cold fluorescent light poured from the ceiling, and waxed floor tiles echoed their hoofsteps back to them. Numerous doors lined both sides, each with a clipboard hanging next to them.

“Wow, that’s a lot of clipboards!” Rainbow turned to Twilight with a grin. “You sure you don’t work here, Twi?”

“Shh!” Bentgrass ushered them into an open door just as an orderly rounded the hallway on the opposite end. The three stood, holding their breath as the mare walked passed the door. After the hoofsteps receded, Bentgrass peeked his head out the door. Deeming it clear, he motioned for them to follow.

Twilight made her way outside and stared down the hallway. “So, how do we know where we should be going?” she whispered.

“Most likely, the morgue will be in the basement. We shall head down.” With light hoofsteps, Bentgrass moved down the hallway, the others following suit.

“Great,” Rainbow moaned. “As if it wasn’t creepy enough. ‘Hey, I got a great idea, let’s keep the room full of dead bodies down in the dark basement!’”

“Would you prefer they keep the stockpile of corpses in the lobby?” Bentgrass whispered as they rounded a corner to find a set of wide stairs. Rainbow halted for a brief moment before grunting and following down. Twilight let out a grim chuckle.

When they finally reached the bottom of the stairwell, Bentgrass sidled up to the door, slowly turning the knob and cracking the door open. A few muffled voices came from around a corner. Motioning to be silent, he gingerly pushed the door open, hugging the wall. On the other side of the door, a long hallway stretched out before them. The floor was made of cold concrete, and the walls were unpolished metal. The only light provided came from small incandescent bulbs overhead. A single door sat on the side of the hall they crept down, keeping as snug to the wall as possible. Bentgrass slowed down as the voices became more clear.

“Of all the times! Thirty-five years I've been sheriff of this town, and only three months from retirement all Tartarus decides to break loose!"

Peeking his head around the corner, Bentgrass saw Sheriff Shackle and Deputy Bale standing before a pair of large doors at the far end of the hallway. Each door had large windows on their upper halves, and a large black sign hung above them, the words Mortuary Affairs: Authorized Ponies Only written in white block letters. Bentgrass darted his head back when Sheriff Shackle abruptly turned around. Though the hallway was quite long, easily twenty lengths between them and the door, Bentgrass’ keen hearing picked up the conversation.

“Sheriff Shackle, maybe Ms. Twilight was right,” Deputy Bale said.

“Quiet with that!” he snapped. “I won’t have that kind of crazy talk floating around. A pony running about killing. Ha! It’s absurd!”

“B-B-But Sheriff, what about their hearts? And that strange mark on their fla—”

Shut up! I will not have you questioning my authority as well!” His voice suddenly got very cold. “Or perhaps you’d like me to contact your parents in Hoofston. Tell them the kind of lifestyle life their daughter leads.”

A loud gasp came from the timid deputy. “No, sir! Please, they’d disown me!”

“Then you will keep your mouth shut and do as I say!” He stomped his hoof to the ground, the hollow sound echoing almost as loud as his voice. “Now, nopony is to go in that room except for me, do you understand? Nopony!”

“Yes, sir,” came the meek reply.

“Good. Now, I have to go talk to Mayor Mare, try to smooth this over before the papers get wind of it.”

Bentgrass shoved the two mares backwards as the Sheriff’s hoofsteps began to approach. Quickly reaching for the doorknob, he blanched when it would not turn. Twilight's tail began to twitch behind her as he hurried for his lockpick.

“Now, I shouldn’t be more than an hour. If Doctor Well tries to leave, you keep him here until I return. I wish to have... words with him in private. Oh, and Deputy Bale.” The hoofsteps paused. “Remember what I said. No more of this... murderer talk. Understand?”

“Yes, Sheriff Shackle, sir.”

“Very good.”

Twilight silently urged Bentgrass to work faster, the quiet clicks coming far too slowly as the hoofsteps began to come closer again. She saw Rainbow all but bouncing on her hooves, her ears splayed to her head. Small, wet clucks came as Bentgrass manipulated the picks with his tongue. Twilight’s horn began to glow, preparing to teleport them out as the hoofsteps sounded almost around the corner.

Finally, with a slightly louder click, Bentgrass twisted his head to the side and pushed on the door. He barely had time to remove his pick from the lock when Rainbow and Twilight shoved him inside the room. He fell into the room, easing the door closed just as the hoofsteps rounded the corner. None of them dared to breathe when the steps stopped just on the other side of the door. The soft clicking of Rainbow’s chattering teeth was the only sound in the dark room as they waited. Twilight felt a wing wrap around her, and she leaned into her friend.

After a few agonizing moments, the steps resumed, followed by a series of grunts as the Sheriff retreated slowly up the stairs. The trio let out a collective sigh as Twilight’s horn glowed, casting a lavender glow across the room. Several shelves of medical equipment lined the walls.

“Man, I can’t believe I actually liked that colt!” Rainbow whispered as she separated herself from Twilight. “Talking to Bale like that! I outta fly out there and kick his sorry flank!”

“Yes,” Bentgrass mused. “The dear Sheriff is quite an unseemly fellow.” He walked away from them into the darkness, his eye glowing softly. “However, we have more pressing matters at hoof. We must get inside that room!”

“How? There’s only one door.” Twilight walked up next to the pacing Bentgrass.

"Could you teleport us in?"

Twilight shook her head. "I have to either see where I'm going or have physically been there before." She furrowed her brow in thought. “Maybe we could talk to Bale. She sounds like she wants to help us.”

Bentgrass shook his head. “No. While she may be sympathetic to our case, she seems the dutiful type. I doubt she would betray the Sheriff, loathsome though he may be.” He paced for a few more moments before jerking to a halt. “Wait! When I looked around the corner, there was a beam of sunlight pouring into the room. There must be a window! We should be able to crawl in.”

“But those doors had pretty big windows. If she so much as turned around, she’d see us.”

“You’re right, blast it.” Bentgrass tapped a hoof to his chin. “We shall need a distraction.” He pondered for a little bit, his eyes darting back and forth. Suddenly, his ears perked up and he smiled, turning to face Rainbow.

“What?” Rainbow took a step back, slightly disturbed by his leering gaze. “What?”

“Ms. Dash,” Bentgrass said, eyeing her up and down, “when we were speaking to Sheriff Shackle, I noticed that Deputy Bale’s eyes tended to... linger on you.”

“Uh, okay. So?”

A quiet slap from Twilight’s hoof hitting her face came as Bentgrass rolled his eyes. “Specifically, your posterior.”

Rainbow turned to look at her cutie mark. “Oh. Oh!” She turned back, chuckling softly. She looked back up and saw both Bentgrass and Twilight staring at her. Rainbow looked between them both several times before her eyes widened. “W... wait. Y... you w... you want me t...” She waved both her hooves in the air. “Oh-ho-ho no! No way! Not happening!”

“Ms. Dash, please. We must get inside that room and examine the bodies!”

“Okay, so, have Twilight do it!” she said, pointing at her friend. “She’s got that whole ‘sexy librarian’ thing going on, right?”

Twilight blushed softly. “I-I do?”

Bentgrass sighed. “I need Twilight in the room with me. She knows intimate details about this case.” She took another step towards Rainbow, who backed away from him. “Besides, the Deputy has already made her... interest in you quite clear.”

Rainbow stared at him, before walking up to Twilight. “Come on, Twi,” she said, a note of desperation in her voice, “you know how long I’ve been fighting those rumors.”

“Look, Rainbow.” She placed a hoof on her shoulder. “You know I wouldn’t ask you this if there was any other way.”

Several moments passed as Dash’s eyes darted between the two, desperately searching for an ally. Finally, she grunted loudly. “You owe me for this, egghead!”

“I am very grateful, Ms. Dash,” Bentgrass said as he walked to the door, motioning for Twilight to follow him. He looked back at a clock on the wall. “Now, give us approximately five minutes to reach the window, then approach the deputy. Remember, you must encapsulate her complete attention."

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Rainbow muttered. She walked to a large metal bin and looked at her reflection, adjusting her mane with a hoof. “I know how to flirt. You two just be quick.” Satisfied with her mane, she flashed a smug smile into the reflection, nodding slightly before her scowl returned.

As they walked out the door, Twilight stopped and touched Rainbow’s leg. “Thank you, Rainbow.”

Dash merely grunted as she stared at the clock on the wall. Twilight eased the door shut behind her and followed Bentgrass up the stairs.[

“Do you think she can hold her attention long enough?” Bentgrass asked.

“Trust me, if there’s one thing Rainbow Dash is good at, it’s basking in adoration.”


After a few more close calls with the staff, including one harrowing moment when the muscle-bound pegasus orderly nearly ran into them while carrying an entire hospital bed on his back, they once more found themselves outside the hospital. Bentgrass was leaning down to check the several small windows that lead to the basement levels.

“So, why was Ms. Dash so resistant to our little plan?”

Twilight followed behind him, scanning for anypony watching them while he checked the windows. “Well, I’m sure you’ve noticed that Rainbow is pretty tomcoltish.”

“It would be rather difficult not to.”

Anyway, she’s been like that her whole life. Ponies see that about her and they just assume that she... well, you know...”

“Prefers the company of mares?”

“Exactly.”

“Hm. Ah, here it is!” he whispered. He knelt down and peeked into the window. “The coast seems to be clear.” He ducked his head down and once more pulled out his lockpick. “Being that it’s not true, I can see how that would be quite aggravating.” Taking the tool in his mouth, he set to work, soft clicks coming from the window while Twilight faced away and scanned for followers.

“Yeah. Don’t get her wrong, she has nothing against ponies of... that persuasion, she’s just tired of the leers and rumors. They only really started dying down recently.” She sighed. “She’s not going to be too happy when this is over.”

A hard click came and Bentgrass slowly opened the window, putting his pick set away. “She’ll be even more upset when she finds out that the slabs the bodies are on are quite far away from the door,” he said casually as he stood up.

Twilight stared at him. “Wait, so the deputy wouldn’t be able to see us?”

“Most likely not.”

“Then, why did you...”

Bentgrass looked at her with a slight smile.

All was quiet until Twilight gasped loudly. “Special Agent Bentgrass!” she whispered.

“What?” he said, easing himself down the windowsill. “Even the most sophisticated amongst us are allowed a... certain modicum of pettiness from time to time.”

Rainbow Dash was one of Twilight’s best friends. She had stuck by her through thick and thin. Yet in that moment, Twilight couldn't help but suppress a quiet chuckle. Clearing her throat to regain her composure, she slid herself down the open window.

The cold, metallic floor clicked under Twilight’s hooves as she set down, instantly crouching down. A rank stench of ammonia and bleach hit her, causing her to snuffle and wipe her nose. Looking around, Twilight was struck by the sterility of the room; it was immaculate, shelves along the walls neatly organized with medical instruments and supplies of all kinds. Along the far left wall, rows of pony-sized metal doors were set into the wall, each with a tiny placard bearing a pony’s name, age, and race. She shivered at the thought.

Across the room was a door with a small window. Staying crouched, Bentgrass crept over and slowly peeked over into the window. After a moment, he snuck back to Twilight. “Doctor Well’s office. He appears to be asleep. Over there,” he said, pointing to a pair of slabs standing in the middle of the room. Upon both there were white sheets with small stains of red covering roughly pony-shaped lumps. Twilight gulped hard.

Keeping a steady eye on the door to the doctor’s office, Bentgrass walked over to the first slab, Twilight trailing behind. He reached a hoof to the sheet, looking underneath it. A quiet gasp came from him, causing Twilight’s knees to shake. How bad could it be if it shocks him?

Slowly, Bentgrass lowered the sheet, looking over his shoulder at Twilight. “Ms. Sparkle, I believe it would be best if you stood by the wall.”

“I can handle it,” she said, though the tremble in her voice made her doubt even herself.

“Twilight, this is... quite gruesome.”

“Bentgrass, we don’t have time for this!”

He sighed. “Very well, Ms. Sparkle.” With that, he took a clean corner of the sheet in his mouth and yanked it away. Twilight had to stifle a scream.

What lay under the sheet had at one time been a unicorn stallion, but it hardly resembled a pony anymore. Twilight tried desperately to look away, but her body refused to answer her mental pleas. A hot, sickly feeling welled up in her gut. She fought to contain her lurching stomach, but then a glint of light from the pony’s head caught her eye. Once she saw the space where an eye should have been, the fight was over. Twilight ran over to the sink near the wall and vomited. She stood by the sink and spat a few times while Bentgrass continued to examine the body.

“Take no shame, Ms. Sparkle,” Bentgrass said, his eyes not leaving the carnage before him. “I myself am slightly... disturbed by the level of violence displayed here.” He leaned in towards the body, seemingly immune to the sight and smell of death.

Taking a few slow breaths, Twilight stepped next to him. The smell of decay and gore slammed into her nostrils, causing her to fight back a second wave of nausea. Steeling herself, she turned back to the remains. “It’s... it’s so...”

“Yes,” he said. “This makes no sense! Berry Punch’s murder was clean, meticulous, pointing to a killer of sound mind and forethought, but this. This is almost... feral in its execution.”

“How... how could a pony have done this?”

Bentgrass didn’t answer her. He scanned the corpse up and down before his back stiffened slightly. “I don’t believe a pony did. Look,” he said, pointing to a series of wounds on the body’s leg.

Twilight crept closer, still tasting bile, and looked where he pointed. A cluster of jagged wounds sat just below the left hind knee. Looking closer, she saw tiny punctures arranged in a semi-circular pattern. Her eyes widened. “Those... those look like—”

Bite marks, yes. Much too small to be equine.” He looked up at her. “And yet most definitely not a timberwolf.”

Stepping around Bentgrass, Twilight worked her way up the body, still fighting her stomach, and examined the torso. Large smears of blood obscured the stallion’s deep blue coat. More of the small punctures lined the torn sides of each wound, with similar marks adorning the exposed rib she could see. Even the stallion’s horn was dotted with bites.

Suddenly, something caught her eye. Leaning as close to the body as she could manage, a small lump underneath what looked to be the remains of the pony’s stomach stood out from the rest of the carnage. She squinted, before recoiling and waving to Bentgrass. “Agent Bentgrass, I think there’s something in his stomach.”

Bentgrass gently pushed her out of the way, leaning in much closer than Twilight had. A moment of squeamish panic hit her. Please don’t let him reach his hoof in there...

“What... is this? Twilight, hoof me those forceps.”

A pair of mouth-operated forceps floated over to him. Taking the tool in his mouth, Bentgrass gingerly began to tend to the shape. From her vantage point, Twilight couldn’t see exactly what he was doing, and she was grateful for that; the idea of digging around inside the horror before her made her already empty stomach lurch.

After a few moments of prodding, Bentgrass finally stood back up straight, a small, gore-covered ball held in the forceps. Twilight took a few massive steps back as he turned to walk to a sink next to the one Twilight had used a few minutes ago. He bent down and set the thing inside the basin, spitting out the forceps on the counter. Twilight heard water running gently for a few seconds, followed by a gasp from Bentgrass.

“Oh, my word.”

Unable to contain her curious nature, Twilight shuffled towards the sink and peered in. Her tail froze behind her when she saw what the small shape had become. Laying in the middle of the basin, surrounded by reddish water, was a tiny blue ball of hair sprouting two sets of insect-like wings. Four spindly legs jutted out from the ball of fur, and a pair of large eyes stared back at her. “It’s... it’s a... parasprite!”

Bentgrass was silent for a moment. He reached a hoof over and grabbed a surgical probe from the instrument pallet next to the sink. Slipping his hoof into the attached ring, he gently began to prod the dead creature. “Not an ordinary parasprite. Look.”

Twilight took a closer look at the creature, and immediately noticed what he meant. The thing’s jaw was held open by the probe. Parasprites normally had a single row of small, rounded teeth, useful for chewing anything they could get their hands on. The creature laying in the sink had several rows of razor-sharp, serrated teeth, some jutting out at wild angles, giving the small thing a shark-like appearance. Looking higher up, Twilight only then noticed its eyes; instead of the single-hued orbs like usual, both eyes were spotted with blobs of red, looking like tiny drops of blood in a cup of water.

Bentgrass continued to poke at the thing. “Perhaps a... genetic anomaly? Or some sort of mutation?”

Twilight had no answer for him. She had only even seen a parasprite once, and she hadn’t been too intent on studying them at the time. She looked once more towards the mangled body across the room. “So, wait. One little parasprite... did all of that?”

Silently, Bentgrass slid off the probe and walked back to the body. He looked it up and down for several seconds before motioning to Twilight. “No. Come, look.” She stepped next to him and looked where he was gesturing: another cluster of jagged bite marks, this time along the pony’s neck. “See? The bite marks are different sizes. This was more than one parasprite, most likely an entire swarm.”

“An entire swarm? All with the same genetic mutation?”

Bentgrass huffed. He walked quickly to the nearby cabinet, and returned with a small plastic bag. Taking the forceps in his mouth once more, he picked up the dead parasprite and gingerly placed it in the bag, sealing it with a hoof. He put the bag in his coat pocket and stepped back, running a hoof through his mane. “Yes, I agree. This makes no sense!” He walked to the slab next to them and pulled back the sheet, this time only halfway along the body. Twilight could see it was a pale lavender pegasus mare in a similar state as the body before her. Bentgrass’ tail twitched furiously behind him.

After a few moments of silence, Twilight voiced the concern that began eating at the back of her mind. “So... maybe the sheriff was right? Maybe it was just an animal attack.”

Bentgrass said nothing. He leaned into the second body, examining it. Suddenly, his tail froze and his ears splayed across his head. “No,” he said, once more beckoning Twilight to his side. She walked over and stood next to him. “See there?” He gestured his hoof to the gaping hole in the mare’s chest. Her stomach still tumbling in her gut, she leaned in to see where he pointed when she gasped lowly. “Indeed. Her heart has been removed. Two clean slices.”

Bentgrass walked back to the other body. “This one as well. This is definitely our pony again.”

Twilight stepped back from the slabs towards the open window, desperate to smell something other than death. “So what? He just randomly found these two bodies and did his thing? That’s ridiculous!”

“I agree, I cannot—”

“So anyway, Deputy!”

Twilight jerked at the sudden shout from outside. She whipped around to face Bentgrass. “Rainbow must be losing Hay Bale! We have to go!” She reached her hoof up and grasped the edge of the windowsill.

“Yes, “ he muttered, shuffling towards the window. “Though this rai—” He froze in mid-step, glaring back at the second body.

“Bentgrass! What are you doing?” To her horror, Bentgrass was walking back to the slabs. She glanced out the window, the sun almost set in the horizon.

“What... is that?”

Turning back, she saw Bentgrass standing almost with his muzzle on the dead mare’s leg. Grunting, she lowered herself back from the window and walked over to him. “Agent Bentgrass, we don’t have time for this! We need t—”

Her words caught in her throat when she saw what Bentgrass was staring at. On the mare’s hind leg, just above her cutie mark of a cloud partially covering the sun, a series of marks somehow stood out from the rest of the wounds. When she squinted, she could almost make out some kind of pattern.

“Twilight, give me that bottle of alcohol on the counter.”

“Bentgrass, I think we’ve done eno—”

The bottle!” he snapped, a fire in his mismatched eyes.

Taken aback, Twilight slowly floated over the small bottle. Bentgrass yanked it from the air with his mouth and leaned into the body. A small stream of alcohol sprayed from the bottle, cleansing the stray blood from the wound. The clatter of the bottle falling to the floor mixed with the quiet dripping as both ponies stared at the body before them.

Now that the ichor had been cleared away, a bizarre pattern stood out on the mare’s light-purple flank; a wide crescent moon shape opening upwards towards her cutie mark, Twilight guessed it around two hooflengths wide. A long cut snaked up and down connecting the two points of the crescent, the lazy waves reaching almost the bottom of the moon. Centered above the crescent was an odd shape, like two parenthesis mixed together with a third facing up bisecting them.

“Twilight. Twilight!” Bentgrass lightly shook her, snapping her back to reality. She turned to face him. “Go check the stallion. See if he has a similar mark.”

Nodding absently, Twilight walked over to the other slab. She leaned down next to the stallion’s left hind leg, just above the safety pin cutie mark, still partially obscured by ichor. “Yes, he’s got one t—”

“What are you two doing here?”

Twilight jerked upright. Doctor Well stood in the middle of the room, a clipboard hovering beside him. His lab coat was wrinkled and disheveled, and his mane looked wild and unkempt. “Sheriff Shackle said you two weren’t allo—”

Doctor Well!” Bentgrass stalked over to him, coming nearly muzzle to muzzle with him. His ears were flat against his head, and he stood taller than normal, bearing his full height down on the doctor. Doctor Well gulped loudly as the imposing stallion stared at him, eyes blazing. “I shall only ask this once,” Bentgrass said, his tone dripping venom. “Those patterns on their flanks,” he said, gesturing towards the slabs. “Did Berry Punch have a similar mark on her?”

The doctor stood silent for a moment. Finally, his shoulders slumped, and his head hung low.

Bentgrass took a step back, his eyes narrowing. “You lied to me.”

“Doctor Well,” Twilight said, quickly stepping over to him, “I don’t understand. This is important information! Why wouldn’t you tell us?”

“My guess is he was... persuaded by the good sheriff to keep that information private.” Stomping his hoof, he turned around and walked towards the open window.

“But, why?” Twilight’s gaze was as pleading as her voice. “Ponies are dying! Why would you do that?”

“I... I had no choice!” Doctor Well spoke clearly, but looked down at his hooves. “I got in trouble a few years ago. I got called in to perform emergency surgery on a young filly. When I got the page, I was... at the pub.” He looked up briefly to see Twilight flash a look of disgust and backpedal away from him. “I swear, I only had a few drinks! I thought I was okay! But, she... she didn’t...” He slumped down to his haunches, his voice reduced to a few blubbering moans.

Across the room, Bentgrass glared at the doctor. “And Sheriff Shackle covered for you, yes?”

Doctor Well nodded, still quietly crying. “He... he put in his report that the death was unavoidable. He never said anything else about it. Then, last week, he comes in and asks me to... lose one of Berry’s autopsy photos. He threatened to tell the hospital board, my wife!

Bentgrass took a few measured steps towards him. “And because you are too spineless to live up to your mistakes, you agreed.”

The doctor looked up at him, tears still falling from his eyes. “Y-you don’t understand! You don’t live here! You don’t work here!”

Suddenly, Bentgrass shot towards the doctor, reaching down and grabbing his collar with a hoof. He lifted the blubbering doctor to eye level, his eyes twitching. “And if I ever find that you are withholding evidence from me again, neither shall you!” He held the shivering doctor for a few more moments, his eyes boring into him, before he roughly dropped him and turned back towards the window. “Let’s go, Ms. Sparkle.” He looked over his shoulder at the doctor laying in a heap on the floor. “The stench in here is getting to me.” With that, he climbed out the window.

Twilight quietly walked to the window. She reached up and grabbed the sill when Doctor Well called out.

“Twilight?”

She looked over her shoulder. Doctor Well stood once more, his whole posture screaming defeat. “Y-you understand, don’t you?”

Twilight held his gaze for a few seconds before slowly turning her head and climbing out the window.

The sun had almost set, golden rays shooting out from beyond the hill before Twilight. A small gust of wind rolled over her and she leaned into it, hoping to wash away the dirty feeling from the morgue. Looking up she saw Bentgrass standing facing away from her, digging a rut into the ground with his forehoof. She slowly walked up to him.

“Agent Bentgrass. Are you... okay?”

Bentgrass took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. “Yes, Ms. Sparkle. I’m... I’m alright.” He still faced away from her, staring at the sky. “I do not suffer corruption well.”

“I still can’t believe it,” Twilight said, walking next to Bentgrass. “Why would he lie like that?”

“The fear of losing everything is a very powerful motivator, and in the wrong hands, it can be used to ruin even the best amongst us.”

“I just can’t believe it.” She gazed up. The golden and reddish colors were beginning to fade from the sky. Several stars were almost visable through the haze of sunset. “A cover-up, run by the sheriff! I always thought things like that only happened in books." She turned back to Bentgrass. "Well, at least now we can get Shackle out of the way."

"Not likely."

"But we have evidence that he's covering this up!"

Bentgrass sighed. "Evidence that was obtained illegally. Besides, getting the orders to remove him would take several days." He frowned. "Even the secret levels of government are plagued by bureaucracy."

"This whole thing seems so... unreal," Twilight said, looking back at the sky.

Bentgrass slowly scanned his head around the evening sky. “There are many... undesirable aspects of a pony’s mind, most of which we as a society prefer to ignore. They are the very reason Division Six was created and tucked away. Sometimes those aspects break the surface of the peaceful culture we have built. Only certain ponies are able to handle it.” He turned his gaze to Twilight, his normally hard eyes now very soft. “Ms. Sparkle, I must apologize for dragging you into all of this. I can’t imagine you wanting to see such things as you have in the past few days.”

“No, it’s okay,” she said, still gazing upwards. “Ignorance may be bliss, but too much bliss can be dangerous.”

He let out a small chuckle. “Indeed.”

“So, what’s the next step?”

Bentgrass sighed. “I must admit, I’m not sure. With all the new information we gained tonight, more questions have been posed than answered.” He turned and walked towards the road back to town. “I highly doubt the answers will just magically fall into our lap, though. Perhaps we should—” He stopped, suddenly noticing that Twilight was no longer beside him. Turning around, he saw Twilight standing still, her eyes wide. “Ms. Sparkle?”

“Magic,” she whispered. “Magic! Of course, why didn’t I think of it before?” She ran up to him. “Do you still have the parasprite?”

“Yes.”

“Good! I have an idea! We need to get to the library.”

Bentgrass opened his mouth to question her when a flutter came from above them. Rainbow Dash set roughly on the ground next to them, a deep scowl on her cyan face.

“Ah, Ms. Dash. I trust everything went swimmingly with the deputy?”

Rainbow grumbled something under her breath.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

She looked at him, hatred burning in her eyes. “I said I have a date with Deputy Bale. It was the only way to keep her in the hallway when you two eggheads started yelling in the morgue!”

Behind her, Twilight tried her best to hide her smile. Bentgrass let his be obvious as he faced Rainbow. “Actually, Ms. Dash, I rather think the two of you would make quite the cute couple.”

“Cram it, Milquetoast!”

At this Twilight walked up to Rainbow and put a sympathetic hoof around her shoulder. “You know, Rainbow, I’m sure Big Macintosh wouldn’t really mind if you brought another mare into the bedroom.”

A series of strangled stutters came from Rainbow, her head darting between her tormentors. Finally, she let out a loud scream and took to the sky, the gust of wind mussing Twilight’s mane as a streak of rainbow soared out of view.

Bentgrass turned to Twilight, a playful smirk on his face. “Why, Doctor Twilight Sparkle! That was downright rude!”

In her mind, every time Rainbow had called Twilight an egghead or a nerd flashed before her. As she trotted away from him, she turned over her shoulder with a sly grin. “What? Just a... certain modicum of pettiness.”

Bentgrass let out a quiet chuckle and moved to follow her.

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