• Published 24th May 2018
  • 2,169 Views, 138 Comments

Pronoia/Paranoia - TooShyShy

Twilight Sparkle is transferred from Canterlot's elite police force to the boring town of Ponyville. She expects this to be the end of her detective work, but she couldn't be further from the truth.

  • ...

Chapter 3: Sunset

When Spike and Twilight first met, he asked her if she ever thought she would become a cop.

He knew his own answer to the question: Maybe. He knew he was going to do something, much like all of his brethren who'd forsaken the Dragon Lands in favor of an unwritten future. But whatever he poured his heart into, it was going to be an uphill battle. Equestria was a living thing. When he put his ear to the ground, he could hear the steady beats of the behemoth's heart. Every wind was an exhale.

But Twilight? Twilight was a butcher. She too had seen Equestria as a living thing, breathing and sweating under the heat of its own star. But she'd also seen a corpse rotting in that very same heat. She'd cracked open the rib cage, letting the guts and viscera spill onto the ground at her hooves. Somehow it continued to breathe, its heart pumping even as its veins were severed. A curse, an inspiration, a home, and a grave. That was what the city was to Twilight and she never wanted to leave. It was everything bad and everything beautiful at the same time.

She'd told Spike the truth, one hoof circling the rim of her teacup: No. But the question had continued to circle Twilight's mind in much the same way, long after her empty cup had been taken away and Spike—earning himself an incredulous look—had ordered “something stronger”. It was still circling her head, even as she threw herself into her first real case since moving to Ponyville. Its presence reminded her of why she'd chosen to join the law enforcement team in the first place.

“Dragon's weed.”

Twilight rolled the name across her mouth as if she was trying it out. So much of her knowledge had little to do with her job. It was just odds and ends, random scraps of information taken from her eternal love affair with the written word. It was her swelling intellect that had helped cement her place in Canterlot. But sometimes the things she filed away were relevant, even downright helpful.

Dragon's weed—often mistakenly referred to as “dragonweed” or some equivalent—was a plant known to thrive in almost any environment. It was most commonly found in rural areas, near certain dangerous parts of Equestria, and of course around the Dragon Lands. But it had been known to pop up in the most unexpected places, like in the basements of abandoned houses. Celestia only knew how it managed to do that.

Rarity shot Twilight a puzzled look, laying her notebook on the kitchen table. She knew Twilight wanted her to come over—as Spike had eventually told her after a hearty session of half-assed flirting—but she hadn't exactly been welcomed with open hooves. Truthfully, she felt kind of unwelcome. She'd stayed more out of politeness and the fact that Twilight was her boss than anything remotely personal.

From looks alone, nopony would have guessed Rarity was on the force. Even in her uniform, she looked like a fancy city pony playing dress-up.

Twilight didn't like to judge—Spike had been practically laughed out of the academy just for being a dragon—but her first impression of Rarity had been less than favorable. To her surprise, Rarity had turned out to be one of the most competent members of the team. She took her job very seriously and she was excellent at sweet-talking would-be perps into dropping incriminating information. Most importantly, she could handle herself if things got rough.

Having throughly searched the library, Rarity reported finding nothing out of the ordinary. No books out of place, no mysterious hoofprints, no secret rooms concealed behind shelves. If it hadn't been for what happened outside, its mundane interior would have been expected.

“Dragon's weed,” Twilight said again.

She briefly took stock of everything she had done up until that point. To her disappointment, it wasn't much. Twilight had made all the necessary arrangements to further the investigation, but that merely amounted to giving Spike a quick call. She hadn't assigned herself any field work, as was normally a crucial part of the whole process. Normally this was because Twilight was trying to figure shit out. But in this case, she just couldn't think of anything that she needed to do.

She'd been pacing, but she suddenly stopped and raised her eyes from the wooden kitchen floor. Ah yes, Rarity. Rarity had come over expecting something.

“It's a type of plant,” Twilight said. “It's usually fatal if eaten by itself, although only in large doses. A small amount will induce vomiting and possibly jaundice. Ground up and mixed with certain herbs, it is often used as a stomachache remedy.”

She was about to rattle off a few more paragraphs, but she forced herself to shut up. Now wasn't the time. Maybe later, when this was all sorted out and Spike could lend her his ear. Twilight knew he found her long-winded explanations incredibly dull, but he listened. On the other hoof, Rarity was clearly on the verge of falling asleep.

Sensing Twilight was done for the moment, Rarity gave her the full details of her report from memory. She spoke in an unusually precise manner, outlining everything as if each mundane detail was its own revelation. In actuality, she was just describing what the interior of the library looked like. This might have bored most officers, but Rarity trusted that Twilight could make something of it.

One thing that Twilight didn't seem to realize—or maybe she simply didn't care—was that everypony on the force believed in her. Even though they never showed it, they looked up to Twilight. She had way more experience than any of them and they knew they could never measure up.

“And where is Raven?” said Twilight.

Raven was the local librarian. She had no qualifications for such a position, but she was the only one who wanted it. From what Twilight understood, Raven had also traded her life in Canterlot for a permanent stay in Ponyville. Why anypony would do such a thing voluntarily was beyond Twilight. She understood seeking a quiet life, but Ponyville?

“Out of town,” said Rarity. “Apparently she was invited to her sister's wedding in Manehattan. We've gotten in contact with her and she has promised to be on the next train.”

Twilight casually tapped her hoof on the kitchen table, tilting her head up to look at the ceiling. Everything in Ponyville was so rustic. She couldn't think of a single building that a team of skilled ponies hadn't built with their bare hooves. But that seemed like a given, seeing as the town had been initially settled by Earth ponies. They hadn't had the luxury of unicorn magic. Maybe that was why Ponyville seemed so mired in the past. Canterlot had thrived on technological evolution, while Ponyville had made do with their fertile soil and strong work ethic.

“Excellent,” said Twilight. “There's one more thing I would like you to do.”

She had just realized that there was some field work for her. She'd forgotten it for a moment, but one glance at the setting sun through the kitchen window had brought it back. It might have very well been the most important thing she did that day.

“Yes, Detective Twilight Sparkle?” said Rarity.

With how little ponies—especially ponies at the station—used her official title, this unexpected courtesy actually made Twilight smile.

“I need you to look over all of the reports from last week and see if you can find anything related to poison,” said Twilight. “You can use my office. If Spike calls or shows up there, tell him I'm at Sweet Apple Acres.”

She caught Rarity's confused expression as she headed for the door, but Twilight ignored it. She had no time to clarify that she hadn't gone crazy. She was used to ponies—especially ponies who took orders from her—wondering if she'd lost her mind somewhere in the labyrinth of a new case. She had, but it felt to her like the case had just absorbed her consciousness. Twilight had become one with the mystery and it wouldn't be long before they reached an understanding.

Rarity might not have known it, but she had the makings of an actual officer. If she actually applied herself, she might have even been able to score Twilight's old job in Canterlot. That wasn't the kind of praise Twilight dished out lightly, but it was true.

Sweet Apple Acres was the backbone of Ponyville. That farm had singlehandedly carried the town through a series of collapses. Even when the winters got tough, the citizens just needed some of that good old-fashioned Apple family cider to keep their spirits up. As such, the Apple family had become a beacon of prosperity and hope, guiding Ponyville through the bad times and cheering them on during the good times. Granny Smith—the oldest surviving Apple still in Ponyville—had even been elected mayor three times. The Apple family was as close to an untouchable legacy as one could expect in such a small town.

Quite frankly, Twilight didn't care about family histories or legacies. She'd beaten and battered the reputations of families three times as powerful as the Apple family. She liked to drive the stake right through the innocent exterior and she refused to stop until she hit bone. That was just how she was as an officer. They could board up their closets all they wanted. Eventually, Detective Twilight Sparkle would find those skeletons.

It was past dinnertime when she arrived at Sweet Apple Acres. It wasn't a long walk or anything. In fact, the farm was the closest Twilight had to an actual neighbor. But with how much Ponyville liked to turn in early—everypony knew nothing good happened after seven PM—it was near-impossible to find a good time to call on anypony after Celestia started lowering the sun.

There were three fillies sitting on the porch. They seemed to be playing chess, but as Twilight approached she realized that it was actually some childish off-shoot of the classic game. All of the pieces had been replaced by apple slices and pastries. Twilight didn't speculate on how this effected the actual strategy portion of the game.

“Excuse me,” she said.

The giggling fillies looked up from their game. Twilight recognized one of them as Apple Bloom, the youngest of the four Apples. The information had never been relevant to either her minimal social life or her investigations, but it was impossible to not know every member of the Apple family by name. It was just one of those things a pony magically knew after moving to Ponyville.

“I'd like to speak to Applejack,” said Twilight.

She noted the worry on Apple Bloom's face when she said that. Everypony in town—even the young ones—knew who Twilight was and probably where she was from. With how she'd made a point to withdraw at every turn, Twilight knew she'd earned more than one rumor. Little did they know that every rumor about her was true. She was just as tough and unforgiving as the more paranoid of the citizens claimed. It was smart of them to be afraid of her, even if they'd done nothing wrong. The Apple family wasn't exactly above the law, but they were the oldest and most respected family in Ponyville. If anypony from the police force was calling on them—attired in their uniform and with badge on full display—it must have been bad.

The front door opened and another pony stepped out onto the porch. The sight of her almost made Twilight do a double take.

“Pinkie?” she said.

It was indeed Pinkie Pie, smiling with food all over her face like she'd just won an eating contest. She looked as if she'd shoved her whole face into a pie and just went to town like she hadn't eaten in weeks. But that was Pinkie's usual eating style, so it wasn't too surprising. Twilight had seen Pinkie with food on her face more times than she cared to count. It had happened so much that she'd stopped reprimanding her for coming into work with bits of frosting in her fur. Smell-wise, it didn't seem to matter. Even if she was completely clean, Pinkie always smelled like she'd taken a bath in cake frosting.

“Oh hi, Twilight,” said Pinkie.

She flicked her tongue out, catching some chunks of pie dangling from the sides of her muzzle.

Twilight rubbed her forehead. Was she the only sane creature in Ponyville? No, of course she wasn't. How silly of her. There was always Spike. Rarity as well, if she was being completely honest with herself. So two ponies and a dragon. The only mentally sound creatures in the entire town. Wonderful. Maybe Twilight would finally give in and have that stiff drink Spike was always saying she needed.

“What are you doing here?” said Twilight.

Pinkie shrugged. Twilight was convinced that Pinkie didn't even realize she was an officer. Maybe she'd wandered into the station one day and bluffed her way into a position by complete accident. Even given the fact that actual qualifications and skills were a polite suggestion for law enforcement in this town, Twilight found it hard to believe that Pinkie was at all aware of her own career.

“Me and Big Macintosh were having our weekly pie-eating contest,” said Pinkie.

Praying to Celestia that wasn't a euphemism, Twilight rushed ahead.

“You are an officer of the law and this is a murder investigation,” she said. “Put your uniform back on and do your fucking job.”

Pinkie pouted.

“Grumpy,” she said.

Fortunately, that was the extent of her objection. She rapidly wiped the remainder of the pie from her face, then bid farewell to the three fillies. Humming an annoyingly bouncy tune to herself, she skipped away. If Twilight was forced to say one good thing about Pinkie, it would be that Pinkie usually did what she said. When and how Pinkie interpreted her orders was a bit of a coin toss, but she seemed to understand that Twilight was her boss. That was a lot more than could be said about Rainbow Dash. Pinkie never would have made it past basic training in Canterlot, but Ponyville was actually the perfect fit for her. Judging her based on Ponyville standards, Twilight had to admit that Pinkie wasn't the worst cop this town could ask for under most circumstances.

Just as Pinkie vanished from sight, Applejack stepped out onto the porch. Her and Twilight had never spoken formally, but that went for Twilight and just about every pony in town. All of her conversations were either strictly professional or extremely brief and awkward. Twilight didn't particularly care if the townsponies found her amiable. They didn't have to like her, they just had to answer her questions.

“Evening,” said Applejack. “I take it you have some questions for me.”

She motioned for her sister and her friends to leave. The three fillies hurried into the house, Apple Bloom shooting Twilight another worried look before they disappeared into the house.

Twilight couldn't really pick favorites or anything, but she kind of liked Applejack. There wasn't much anypony could dislike about the hard-working mare. Despite knowing very little about Twilight, Applejack had been friendly and hospitable at every turn. She'd done her best to make Twilight welcome without overstepping any boundaries. Maybe if they'd known each other under less unfortunate circumstances, they could have been on friendly terms. Other than Spike, Applejack was the only one in Ponyville Twilight felt was deserving of such closeness.

“It's about your scarecrow,” said Twilight.

Ignoring Applejack's confused look, Twilight reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a piece of notebook paper. She'd copied the report word-for-word, right down to the punctuation. She could have taken the original, but she wanted to leave it where it was. For all intents and purposes, that original report was basically evidence.

“2:15 PM on Friday,” said Twilight. “A mysterious figure was reported to be lurking outside of the schoolhouse. Further investigation revealed it to be a scarecrow. After asking around a little, it was determined that this scarecrow belonged to the Apple family farm. The owner—you—arrived at 2:40 PM to pick up the scarecrow and return it to its rightful place. You were then charged a small fine of three bits. Is that correct?”

Applejack nodded, even though she couldn't really be sure of the time. She personally thought the fine was a bunch of hooey. But she decided not to drag Twilight over the coals about it. As misguided as it seemed to her, Twilight was just doing her job.

“Darned if I know how my scarecrow ended up outside of that schoolhouse,” said Applejack.

Twilight pulled out a notepad and quill. She nodded to herself as she wrote down this new information.

“So your scarecrow was stolen?” she said. “I don't remember you filing a report or anything.”

Applejack eyed Twilight curiously. Twilight was certainly a strange pony. But in her experience, that was a common trait of city-dwellers. Most of them were socialites or artists who did a bad job of blending into small town life.

“I thought my sister took it for a prank or something,” said Applejack. “I asked her, but she said she had nothing to do with it. Strange, isn't it? Scarecrows don't just up and leave by themselves.”

Twilight paused in her writing, her quill hovering over the notepad. In her head, she'd created at least fifty different profiles for murderers. These profiles consisted of the usual character traits, behaviors, and idiosyncrasies that seemed to be common with specific types of murderers. If a pony shared more than five traits with one of these profiles, Twilight considered them a prime suspect. She liked to categorize things and killers just happened to be rather easy to categorize.

Out of all the ponies she had met and arrested over the course of her career, eighty-percent of them fit into one of those profiles. Twilight herself was a Calm Calculated Poisoner—or CCP—and Spike was a Pedantic Protective Stabber. To some extent, nearly everypony Twilight met—criminal or otherwise—fit into one of those profiles. After all, nearly every pony was capable of murder under the right circumstances.

Applejack fit into two of those profiles, but there were complications. Her love for her family might have given her a motive, but Twilight found it hard to believe that a murder like this was motivated by vengeance for a wronged family member or a desire to protect one's own from harm. No, this was done for attention. If it had been a simple matter of revenge or something like that, the killer could have stopped at poisoning. But they'd made a spectacle out of it, forcing everypony in town to pay attention to their macabre work. It was almost like they'd crafted this whole thing as some kind of demented love letter to Twilight.

“May I see your scarecrow?” said Twilight.

Applejack trotted off the porch and headed towards the barn.

“Of course,” she said. “Right this way.”

Applejack would have made a great cop. Twilight reluctantly admitted this to herself as she followed her to the barn. Applejack was honest, she loved Ponyville, and she had an excellent work ethic. If anypony was going to bust their ass for the town they'd been born in, it was Applejack. But it wasn't something Applejack wanted to do and Twilight could respect that. A long time ago, it had been the last thing in the world Twilight herself wanted to do. But times had changed. Times had changed and suddenly Twilight was the one with the badge. The irony wasn't lost on her.

The barn was filled with hay and old farming equipment. There wasn't too much to see. But having never stepped hoof in a real barn before, Twilight was slightly fascinated. She'd always imagined barns as being dismal and boring. But in contrast to Ponyville, the barn had a certain life to it. All things considered, it was rather cozy.

“Here we go.”

Applejack moved a bale of hay and an old rake aside.

Twilight had been silently freaking out over the interior, but she suddenly remembered that she was on duty. Her gaze snapped to Applejack, her expression turning from mute delight to indifference. She wasn't sure what she was planning to do with the scarecrow. Drag it back to the station for evidence? She supposed that was the obvious thing to do. She couldn't wait to explain all this to Spike. He'd probably get a kick out of it.

“What in princess coronation?” said Applejack sharply.

Twilight rushed over to get a closer look at what Applejack was standing over. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw what had caused Applejack such astonishment and distress. It wasn't a pretty sight.

The scarecrow was lying on its side as if it had fallen over. Closer inspection seemed to suggest it had been posed, its limbs carefully arranged to make it look as if it had simply pitched over onto its side. As an art piece, it might have been meant to express wanting or defeat. But with its vacant eye sockets, it wasn't able to express anything other than the pitiful surrender of an inanimate object. However, somepony had made some other very specific alterations to the once innocent—and alarmingly life-like—creature of straw. It had been stripped of its long coat, leaving its doll-like body effectively naked. It had been carefully sewn up in places, bits of loose straw tucked out of sight to make the thing even more life-like.

But it wasn't the care in which it had been stitched up that made Twilight pause. It wasn't the bizarre but ultimately innocuous alterations that made her wish every door had closed in her face and every skeleton had remained in its respective closet. She no longer wanted to tear open the flesh of Equestria and partake in its grimy insides like some kind of grotesque ceremony. Twilight had already eaten the rotting meat that was Canterlot's dark side, shoveling it into her mouth as if the corruption sustained her very being. For the first time, she was actually gagging, recoiling, reacting like a normal pony who had come across something unimaginably horrific.

There was a thick dark line of red paint splattered across the scarecrow's neck. To the blissfully unaware, it was no more than some innocent vandalism. But to Twilight, it was the unraveling of her world. It forced her to take it all in: the scarecrow's position, the paint across its neck, its more life-like appearance. It was no longer a scarecrow. It was a corpse. The corpse of a memory that had died years before Twilight had ever been sent to this sun-forsaken town. But it was still inside her, walking around and breathing as if it had earned that right.

“You alright, sugarcube?” said Applejack.

Twilight sputtered out the first sentence that came to her mind.

“I need a drink.”

All those years ago, Twilight had told Spike the truth. She had never imagined herself becoming a cop. It was never something she'd wanted, something she'd dreamed about, or even something she'd considered. If anything, it would have been a stop on the express. An exercise to test her intellect and her puzzle-solving skills. Certainly not a long-lasting career that earned her many honors and the occasional private audience with the princesses. But that wasn't how things turned out.

By contrast, her older brother Shining Armor had always wanted to work for the police force. Even before he was old enough to join the academy, he'd prepared himself for what he felt was the only viable career choice. Like Twilight, he'd had options. He could have done almost anything he wanted with his intelligence and skills. But unlike Twilight, there was only one thing he actually wanted to do. It was the only thing he could allow himself to succeed at.

So he graduated from the academy and quickly became one of the best in Canterlot. He was adored by every pony on the force, feared by criminals, and praised by his boss on a daily basis. He often called himself “the only true force of justice in the city”, a hyperbolic little joke. But as much as he tried to stay humble, the truth was that Shining Armor was a force of justice. In less than two years, he'd done more to keep the streets of Canterlot safe than almost anypony else. He was the first to really get his hooves dirty and take all the risks, while his fellow officers took refuge in their paperwork.

It was Twilight who found him that day. She still remembered it, even though she'd put so much alcohol between her and that moment. But she couldn't erase it. No matter how long she held its head underwater, it always managed to suck in just enough air to stay conscious. Over time she grew somewhat numb to it, accepting the series of images that would be forever burned into the inside of her head. But she could never forget. Everything before that moment seemed like a dream compared to what happened afterward.

He was lying on the floor of his bedroom. He was on his side. Twilight would have preferred he look peaceful. Sometimes she'd broken down and tried to rearrange the memory, tried to alter her own perception so he looked like he'd just been sleeping. But she couldn't. One glimpse would have seared the image into her memory, but she'd done more than just glance at his body. She'd walked over to it and felt for his pulse, even though she knew for certain he wouldn't have one. The second Twilight had glimpsed his slit throat, she'd known he was gone. He'd been gone for what seemed like hours, just lying there, his eyes wide with terror and seeing absolutely nothing.

They did eventually catch the pony who did it. It was Twilight's fourth case, a completely unrelated mystery involving a jewel thief. The thief—Fleur Dis Lee—was caught. Her slippery partner confessed to no less than ten home invasions over the past year, one of which had gone bad when he found himself in the house of Canterlot's finest. He referred to it as “an accident”, but Twilight suspected revenge had been on the stallion's mind. Shining Armor had put a lot of ponies behind bars. He'd made more enemies than any other officer in the city.

Twilight raised the glass to her mouth and took a long sip. The booze stung her throat on the way down, but she hardly flinched at the sensation. This was what she'd asked for. Something to burn away the images competing for dominance in her head. A strong and unrelenting taste, as bitter and hostile as the coffee she'd come to adore.

Ponyville had only one bar, although the title was somewhat of a misnomer. It was less a “bar” and more of a place that dared to serve both sugary treats and booze, the latter of which was often ignored by the average citizen. Twilight might have been the first pony to order “something strong”--her exact words to the bemused bartender—while passing on the various pastries. She knew she wasn't allowed to drink on duty, but screw it. She'd already broken another rule by not staying to make sure the scarecrow was actually taken away by a confused Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash. Sometimes even Twilight got sick of having a perfect record.

She had her phone out and was listening to the message Spike had left for her. At the sound of his voice, Twilight had felt an odd twinge in her chest. He sounded so normal. He hadn't come looking for her, even as the hours wore on and she didn't make an appearance at the station. He'd probably excused her absence as more proof that she was working her flank off on this case. Spike had always been one to worry about Twilight, but his worry was hardly ever misplaced. He knew she could handle herself on the dangerous streets of Canterlot, so he didn't go out of his way to find her when she disappeared for hours on end. The same went for Ponyville.

Twilight pushed the nearly empty glass away from her. It was late. Far too late to be in some “bar”--the name still wasn't wholly appropriate—while there was a murderer waiting to be caught and an undoubtedly worried Spike at home.

According to his message, Spike had made some excellent progress in tracking down dragon's weed. Granted, he confessed a moral objection to the name. It was a little too late to do anything about it, but he wondered aloud why it had to be dragon's weed. Dragons were often given the short stick when it came to naming things. Dragon's Breath was the name of a particularly potent type of booze, there was a sleazy club in Manehattan named The Dragon's Heart, and there was a common household pest often referred to as the “dragon beetle”. To be accepted in normal society, Spike had to prove he was better than potentially lethal alcohol, a club frequented by crime lords, and a type of beetle that needed to be exterminated by a flamethrower.

Spike had found a bunch of dragon's weed growing near the Everfree Forest. He didn't dare venture inside, but a cautious and quick look suggested there was more further in. A brave soul could have plucked some of the fluorescent orange bulbs from the little patch near the entrance or even journeyed deeper inside if they were feeling particularly foolhardy. Dragon's weed was notoriously hard to miss, especially if one was looking for it.

But how had the killer managed to obtain it? While the area near the Everfree Forest wasn't entirely dangerous or off-limits, anypony seen going near the place would have instantly aroused suspicion. Such a strange incident would have warranted a report from Fluttershy.

Fluttershy worked as a secretary at the station. She was not an officer in the strictest sense, but she did live near the Everfree Forest. Although she never visited the place herself, she was always conscious of what was happening around the forest. As Twilight had discovered after somepony slipped Poison Joke into Lyra's oatmeal, Fluttershy had adopted a sort of casual awareness. She subconsciously registered every pony who came and went, noting the exact date and time of their visit to the infamous forest. Surely if anypony had been lurking near the forest, Fluttershy would have reported it.

Of course, it might have been somepony Fluttershy knew. Somepony whose visits to the forest weren't cause for alarm. But was there anypony in Ponyville who fit that description? No, certainly not in Ponyville. But there were stories and rumors, the bulk of which had been dismissed by Twilight. However, those were probably just nonsense. They were the expected product of a town so mundane that even its deepest lore needed to be exaggerated for the sake of tourism. There couldn't be anypony actually living in the Everfree Forest. That was pure fiction and Twilight could hardly believe there were ponies who believed it.

Spike also mentioned that he'd “found something interesting” in that Missing Pony case from all those months ago. Twilight had forgotten about that one. Normally Missing Ponies cases were meant to be entirely her department. But this one had started and ended very quickly. She hadn't even had time to read through the official report before she was being told that Dinky had been found. The filly had been gone for several hours, but the report had been filed less than an hour ago. Then about thirty minutes after the report was filed, the filly was found in her own home by her mother. Dinky had apparently gotten lost while playing hide and seek—how somepony got lost in Ponyville was beyond Twilight—and had eventually found her way home. Case closed, or so Twilight was assured by Dinky's relieved mother.

Now Spike was suggesting they should reopen that case, even though it had barely been opened the first time. Was Twilight being gullible if she assumed everything was connected? Was she overreacting if she began to believe that nothing that had happened since she came to Ponyville was an isolated incident? Surely that was far-fetched. She couldn't really believe that somepony had been stringing her along ever since she'd been dropped in this town.

But the scarecrow made her doubt. If Spike was right about there being something in that Missing Pony case, she had even more reason to suspect some grand design.

She pulled the glass back towards her. Somepony in this town knew a lot more about her than they let on.