• Published 30th Oct 2018
  • 1,189 Views, 582 Comments

Ponyville Noire: Kriegspiel—Black, White, and Scarlet - PonyJosiah13

War has come to Ponyville. As a criminal mastermind, a cruel pirate, and a mare with mysterious motives fight for control, Daring Do and Phillip Finder are put to the test with new cases and new foes.

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Case Eight, Chapter Four: Bottgilia's Betrayal

“No, no, no, don’t tell me we lost them!” Hewn Oak shouted, pacing the dispatch room. “A truck full of armed heathens does not disappear!”

“Sir, I’m trying,” Stellar Lights said through gritted teeth, her neon green eyes flicking through the multiple projections displayed in front of her. The images displayed the abduction from various angles, captured by the unblinking eyes of surveillance crystals. In the top middle projection, the truck sped past, followed by Daring Do; a few moments later, the same truck turned the corner and raced towards the crystal lens, with Daring Do doing circles in midair to avoid the bursts of gunfire.

“We’ve got them heading down Daisy Street towards Five Corner Boulevard after Daring loses them,” Stellar Lights reported. “But the crystal at the Boulevard starts malfunctioning, look.” She pointed to an image that showed a crossroad of streets with a single concrete island in the middle of the intersection, bearing a pair of flagpoles and a fountain. The image froze and began to shiver in its projected frame, then jumped several seconds ahead.

“Somepony must’ve jammed the crystal. They could have taken any turn out of there,” she continued, lighting up her horn with a magenta glow. The projections changed to crystal views of the five streets that ran out of the Boulevard. “I can’t see that truck in any of these views.”

“Well, they can’t have disappeared, unless they possess some great magic,” Hewn Oak stated gruffly. “Keep looking! And somepony get in touch with Detective Evidence!”

“They won’t have gone that way,” another stallion declared, entering the room. The bright orange earth pony with a set of tire tracks on his flanks shook his black bangs out of his green eyes and approached the map, hobbling on a right hind leg that was unnaturally twisted inwards. “If I were them, I’d have turned off Daisy and cut through this alleyway here, gotten off onto Highdale. No security crystals there.”

“Detective Rubber, what of the truck itself?” Oak asked.

“It’s definitely the same one that hit Best Seller,” Burned Rubber replied. “Twilight Sparkle managed to get a tire track off the ground from there, and we compared it to the track that Doctor Mortis got from the Best Seller H&R scene. They matched. License plate’s already a dead end: it was stolen off a hatchback moons ago.”

“Then do you have anything at all?” Oak asked.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” Rubber declared, puffing out his chest proudly. “I started looking at registrations for Chevroneigh pickups of that model with that type of hood ornament. I’ve managed to narrow down the suspect list considerably, but there is one pony who stands out. Or should I say, one donkey.”

He pulled a file out of an inner pocket in his suit. “Bentley Browndust, a part-time mechanic who lives in the Dockside District. He’s been suspected of a number of hit and runs and being a runner for various gangs, but nothing’s ever been proven. Not only is he the registered owner of a Chevroneigh pickup, but I also found out that he recently purchased a lot of red paint.”

Hewn Oak looked over the file, studying the accompanying photograph of a tall dusty brown donkey with green eyes and a sandy mane that stuck up everywhere as though he had a hedgehog sitting on his head. “Miss Lights?”

“This is the best image of the driver I can get,” Stellar Lights reported, zooming in on a fairly close shot of the front of the getaway truck. The windows were tinted, but enough light shone through to provide a faint image of a mane of sandy brown hair.

Oak grunted. “Send a—”

“Cruiser to his address and put out a BOLO, already done,” Rubber declared. “Trace and the others got any luck finding him?”

“None so far, they are still trying to pick up the trail,” Hewn Oak said. He looked back at the map. A single blinking red dot that slithered down the road indicated the position of Trace’s car. “I wish I could offer more assistance, but we are stretched thin as it is already.” He gently stroked the rosary necklace about his neck. “May the Alicorns watch over them,” he prayed. “If our quarry is fiendish enough to perform this abduction in broad daylight, there is no telling how low they may sink.”

“What I’m still working on is, why did they bother kidnapping Shoe Shine?” Daring pondered as she flew over the streets, following Trace’s Hayson Commander down the road. Phillip leaned out of the passenger window, his eyes scanning the sidewalks and the road ahead.

“Maybe he knew something he shouldn’t have,” Red suggested, flying alongside her.

“Nah,” Daring shook her head. “If they didn’t want him to talk, they’d have just shot him. And they took Dimmig, too. Why?”

“Maybe because she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time?” Red shrugged. He thought for a moment, then muttered, “Or maybe they want to put pressure on him. Get him to talk.”

“Talk about what?” Daring asked.

“Maybe what he did with those statues,” Red suggested.

At that moment, Trace pulled his car over and waved up at the two of them. They both swooped down, landing on either side of the vehicle.

“Rubber pulled through,” Trace stated. “We’ve got a suspect for the truck: Bentley Browndust. He’s got an address in the Dockside District. Hop in.”

Daring and Red climbed into the back and Trace whirled the vehicle around in a tight and highly illegal U-turn, putting on his siren as he did so. Red and Trace both exchanged glances as they fastened their seat belts.

Bentley Browndust lived in an apartment on a single block that stood on a small boulevard road off of Flotsam Avenue. Trace switched off his siren as they approached and pulled the vehicle smoothly up to the curb. A cruiser was already waiting in front of them.

“Apartment nine, detectives,” a pegasus officer standing by the front door declared. “He’s not in there, but my partner’s canvassing the neighbors. We haven’t touched anything.”

“Good,” Trace nodded. They proceeded up to the second floor and found the door to apartment nine hanging open, a large chunk of the doorframe having been blasted off; the officer took position outside the door as the detectives entered. The apartment itself was almost spartan. The living room held only a desk with a single chair and a sofa, with a radio in the corner. The kitchen appeared to have been mostly unused, and the bedroom was almost equally vacant, save for a dresser, a closet, and a loose stack of library books in the corner.

“Well, this should be quick,” Red commented.

“Don’t bet on it,” Daring said dryly.

Phillip stood in the center of the living room, his eyes panning over the floor and walls. A single disturbance in a layer of dust over a ceiling tile immediately caught his attention. “Daring,” he pointed.

She flew up and lifted the tile away, extracting a gray lockbox from the space above. The box was secured with a small padlock.

“I can get past that,” Daring declared, reaching into her pocket and extracting her bit bag. She pretended to glance out the window. “Hey, guys, look. There’s a yak on a unicycle juggling chainsaws outside.”

Red and Trace both rolled their eyes but obligingly turned their backs as Daring extracted her trusty (and illegal) lock picks from the hidden pocket in the bag. It took her all of three seconds to defeat the lock and open the box, cueing the stallions to turn around.

“I swear he was there a second ago,” Daring shrugged, rifling through the box’s contents. There were a few files, each with notes and photographs inside. On top of the folders was a color photograph of a griffon, having apparently been plucked from its proper folder. The picture appeared to have been taken surreptitiously, for the griffon’s head was turned away, staring down at the newspaper folded open to the crossword puzzle on the table in front of him. The griffon was tall, but fairly skinny, almost underweight, and wore a dark blue suit. He had a golden-brown body and a creamy head, his downfeathers ruffled. His green eyes were focused on the newspaper. Phillip turned the photo over to reveal a note written on the back of the photo: Owes me a favor.

“So who’s this?” Phillip mused, setting the photo down on the desk and switching on the desk lamp. He bent over the picture, studying the griffon with his magnifying glass.

“Bloke works manual labor, judging by the scars and calluses on his claws; fishmonger, I’d guess,” he declared. “Recently came into money: that suit is brand new. The hat is a lot older, out of fashion. He’s attached to it. Family heirloom, most likely.” He peered closer. “Burns on the brim...pipe smoker, maybe.”

He turned the photograph upside-down and studied the open newspaper. “He’s left clawed,” he continued, noting the position of the pen on the paper, pointing downwards to the griffon’s right. “And well-read: he spelled ‘isthmi’ correctly, that’s not something the average pony would know.”

“And I’d recognize that bar anywhere,” Daring added. “That’s the Gold Griffon’s Head.”

“Well, looky here,” Trace announced, coming out of the bedroom. In his magic, he held a miniature camera with straps around it that appeared designed to be worn on the chest, and a remote trigger that led down to the hoof.

“Looks like this is supposed to be worn underneath a coat or something,” Trace said. “Interesting little toy. Probably used it for surveillance.”

“This griffon is important to him,” Phillip stated, holding up the photo. “He opened this box recently and took out this picture. That means something.”

“This guy have a name?” Red asked dryly.

Trace rifled through the folders in the lockbox. “No, no names,” he reported. “Bentley probably relied on memory.”

“We could still ask around at the Griffon’s Head,” Daring suggested.

“If that’s our only real lead right now,” Trace grunted. He called the officer standing post at the doorway inside. “Keep this scene secure until a plainclothes gets here to examine the scene properly. We’ll be following up on a lead.”

“Yes, sir,” the officer nodded.

The group exited the apartment building and piled back into Trace’s Commander. With a grumbling of an engine, they headed south for the river.

The Gold Griffon’s Head hadn’t changed since the last time that Phillip and Daring had arrived. It still sat on the side of a little street, with a flashing red neon sign in the window that advertised the fact that the bar stocked Manticore Rare. The construction site across the street was coming along nicely: the scaffolding was now mostly covered in walls and windows to form what would be an office building of some sort. The cacophony of construction equipment and vehicles could be heard from blocks away and the smell of gravel and smoke clung to the air, where it intermingled with the varying flavors of alcohol that hovered over the Griffon’s Head.

Daring confidently opened the door and entered the tavern proper. The place was still lit primarily with old-fashioned oil lanterns, harkening back to the days when the Dockside District was the focal point of Ponyville’s booming shipping industry. A few griffons sat around circular tables, talking in low voices, though the conversation abruptly halted when Daring entered the room. She led the three stallions to the bar, where a dusty griffon in a white vest and black bowtie stood waiting.

“Bottgilia,” Daring greeted the bartender with a grin.

“What’s up, amica?” the griffon asked with a faint grin. His eyes darted to a photograph hanging on the wall, behind which, Daring and Phillip knew, was a bullet hole.

“We’re here to ask if you’ve ever seen this griffon,” Daring said, pulling out the photograph of the suited griffon and placing it on the bar. “And to ask if you’ve got any Manticore Rare, dry.”

“The latter I can definitely give you,” Bottgilia replied, plucking a bottle of dark red liquid and a glass out from behind the bar. “As for that lad…” He frowned in thought as he studied the photograph, filling Daring’s glass without looking.

“Yeah, I think I know who he is,” he nodded. “Hang on a sec, I’ll give him a ring.” He disappeared through a doorway in the back of the bar.

“That was a little too easy,” Phillip muttered. Daring nodded with a frown as she knocked back most of her bourbon in one shot.

Bottgilia returned a moment later. “All right, he’s on his way down here now,” he announced. “Can I get you gents anything?”

“Not on the job,” Phillip grunted, looking around. Trace shook his head.

“Ah, maybe just a lager,” Red shrugged, stepping up to the bar. “Help me stay focused.”

Bottgilia nodded and started pouring out a tall glass for Red, handling the bottle with care in order to maintain the perfect foam and drink ratio. The ponies stood at the bar in contemplative silence.

Yet there was motion all around them. With furtive shuffling of chairs and the muted scrapes of claws on wood, the few griffons that were in the tavern were quickly and quietly pushing themselves away from their drinks and scurrying out the door, casting nervous glances at the intruders as they exited.

The four remained standing coolly at the bar, but the quiet exodus had not gone unnoticed. Muscles tensed, hearts beat faster, ears perked up, and hooves slid closer to holsters.

“He’ll be here soon,” Bottgilia said after a minute of quiet.

“This griffon,” Phillip stated. “What’s his name?”

A single bead of sweat, illuminated by the unforgiving light of the oil lanterns, slid down Bottgilia’s neck. “Tha-that doesn’t matter,” he stammered. “He’ll be here soon. Only a couple minutes away.”

“Bottgilia, is there something you’re not telling us?” Phillip said, his voice lower.

Bottgilia’s reply was wide-eyed silence, more sweat trickling down his brow.

“We’re going,” Trace declared, heading for the door.

But at that moment, there was the sound of tires screeching from outside as two low, black cars mounted the curb in front of the tavern. “Shit,” Trace muttered. He and Red quickly shoved over a couple of tables and they ducked behind them, both drawing their pistols.

A dark green griffon in a dark cloak and mask kicked the door open and began spraying fire from a .45 Trotson, the weapon roaring out its battle cry. Splinters of wood flew as the bullets struck the wooden walls and floor. Utilizing the provided cover, two other griffons, each wearing a trenchcoat and a bandana over their beaks, followed through the door and took cover beside two wooden support pillars. The griffon with the submachine gun stepped fully through the door.

Trace popped his head out from behind cover, his horn alight. The green griffon opened fire, this time a well-aimed burst from the shoulder. The bullets struck against Trace’s shield spell, the air rippling with golden energy, each impact sounding like a hammer against metal. Trace grunted and stumbled slightly, but fired three times. Each of his own rounds struck true: blood spurted from the griffon’s body and he fell with a grunt, the weapon clattering against the floor.

The two other griffons fired their pistols from around the pillars, forcing the group to stay hidden behind the makeshift cover. Red fired his hoofgun blindly over the top of the table, but hit nothing but air.

“Red, get ready,” Phillip ordered, pulling out his boomerang. “Daring, smoke the one on the left. Trace, keep them busy.”

Daring nodded, extracting a smoke bomb from her shirt. Red gripped his pistol in both hooves, letting out an exhalation through his mouth. Trace reloaded his pistol and began to blindly fire over cover. Daring chucked the smoke bomb out over the top of their cover. It detonated in a plume of smoke: coughing and hacking could be heard from behind the column as the griffon crouched down.

With a snap of his wrist, Phillip’s boomerang spun through the air, arcing around behind the column on the right. There was a solid thwack of wood against bone and the griffon hiding behind the column grunted in pain and shock, staggering out from behind cover to expose his head.

Red wasted no time, jumping up and opening fire. His first bullet whizzed just above the griffon’s yellow-crested head. The griffon regained his balance and tried to dive for cover, desperation shining in his green eyes, but Red’s next two shots both struck him in the chest. The griffon tumbled to the floor with a crash and a cry of pain and lay there, twitching and moaning as dark red blood ran onto the wooden floor.

A creaking behind them alerted Daring almost too late. She turned around, hoof darting into the narrow hoof grip and drawing the foreleg-mounted revolver as one of the doors to the back was kicked open. A short griffon with a bandana over his beak darted in, head lowered, bringing his sawn-off shotgun around to bear.

Daring’s first shot went wide over his head, striking the wall behind him. “Shit!” she cursed, flying forward as the griffon skidded to a halt, aiming his shotgun. Daring reached into her pocket and snapped out her wrist: her kusarifundo entangled the barrel of the shotgun and she yanked it to her left as she dodged to the right. The shotgun roared with a flash of fire and smoke and she felt a hot blade slice its way across her side. Her momentum sent her barreling into the griffon and they both tumbled over. She punched him in the jaw to daze him, but motion above her made her look up.

Another griffon was coming through the door, carrying a pistol and a stolen police shield, with the “POLICE” painted over and replaced with an image of a silver claw. His blue eyes glittered with sadistic glee as he aimed his oversized revolver down at her. The griffon beneath her seized her foreleg in the iron grip of his talon, preventing her from moving.

But the air whistled and a familiar boomerang sailed over the griffon’s shield and struck him in the forehead. He staggered with a grunt. Seizing upon the advantage, Daring struck the griffon beneath her again, forcing him to let go, then darted at the shield-bearer. Grasping the shield with both hooves, she rammed the griffon in the face with the metal, knocking him off balance and bloodying his face, then closed in and pressed the pistol against his throat.

She realized what she was doing right as she pushed the trigger, but was too slow to stop herself. The metal abomination kicked sharply, letting out a muffled cough. The bullet tore through the griffon’s throat and exited out the back of his neck. The blue eyes had just enough time to widen in shock before they dimmed, and the dead griffon fell back to the floor.

“Don’t move!” Trace barked. Forcing herself to turn away from the body of the griffon she’d just killed, Daring turned to see that Trace, Red, and Phillip were covering the other two griffons with their own pistols. She looked down at the revolver strapped to her foreleg, the lever trigger still pressing against her hoof. A faint trail of stinking smoke still rose from the shortened barrel; the cursed brand on her hoof burned as though the metal of the trigger was red-hot from the forge. She grunted and reholstered the weapon as Trace and Red cuffed the remaining griffons, her heart still thudding hard against her chest.

“Trace, call for backup,” Red instructed his partner. Trace nodded and stepped outside.

Phillip walked over to Daring and glanced down at her side, his eyes widening. “You’re hurt,” he observed, already extracting the first aid kit from his vest.

Daring glanced down. One of the buckshot pellets from the shotgun had grazed her side. Blood was trickling out of the small wound on her side, running down her leg.

“I’m fine,” she said, taking a small roll of gauze from the kit and applying it herself, ordering her hooves to stop shaking as she bandaged the injury. “He just grazed me.”

“You’re fucking lucky,” the griffon snarled from the floor. Daring noticed that he had a tattoo of a silver claw on the back of his neck. A glance around revealed that his companions all had one as well.

“Shut up,” Red spat at him.

Bottgilia peeked over the top of the bar, trembling. Phillip stalked over to him and seized him by his vest, yanking him up close to his face. “You called them,” he snarled.

Bottgilia shivered. “You...your names are mud with Whitestone these days,” he whimpered. “She threatened to burn this place down if you showed up and I didn’t…” He swallowed, quailing before the icy wind that blew from Phillip’s stormcloud gray eyes. “I didn’t have a choice!” he protested. “I didn’t have…”

A growl erupted from Phillip’s throat and he seized Bottgilia around the neck with both hooves. He slammed the griffon’s head against the bar hard enough to crack the wood. Bottgilia cried out in pain and tried to push Phillip off him, but the stallion held on, pinning his head down against the bar with a foreleg against his neck.

“You had a choice!” Phillip shouted, snapping his wrist out. With a rapid clicking, his baton appearing in his hoof. He raised the weapon over his head. “You had—!”

“Phillip, stop!” Red barked. Phillip froze, panting. He looked down at the trembling griffon beneath him, frightened tears leaking out of his eyes, then looked up at the baton in his shaking hoof. He collapsed the weapon and tucked it back into his pocket, then shoved Bottgilia back with a grunt and walked away.

“Go outside, get some air,” Red said. “I can handle this.”

Phillip and Daring both exited the tavern, stepping out onto the sidewalk. Trace walked back in, having already called in backup. The two sat on the sidewalk; the cold air of the river embraced them both, prompting them to huddle up against the wind.

“You okay?” Phillip asked, putting a foreleg over her.

“I…” Daring shuddered, massaging her right hoof, where the cursed brand still dug into her flesh. “I forgot how easy it was,” she admitted. “I had the guy right there, gun in hoof, and I...I pulled the trigger before I could think.”

“It’s not your fault,” Phillip reassured her. “You didn’t have time to think. If you stopped, he would’ve shot you.”

“It’s just…” Daring shuddered. “I’ve always criticized Trace and other cops for shooting first, but put in the same situation, I…”

“You don’t have to be okay with it,” Phillip said. “But it’s what happened. You stopped the bad guy, and you got out alive. Sometimes that’s the best outcome.”

Daring sighed. “What about you?”

“I…” Phillip retracted his hoof from her shoulder. “I…” He grimaced. “There’s no excuse. I just...you got hurt, you could’ve died, and he sold us out…” He shook his head and blinked heavily.

“At least I’ve got you guys to stop me,” he muttered.

“That wasn’t Lucky Bit, and you’re not that stallion,” Daring stated. “We’re not going to let you fall that low again.”

“Thanks,” Phillip nodded.

Daring smiled briefly at him, then grunted. “We’re wasting time here,” she muttered. “For all we know, Shoe Shine and Dimmig are dead by now. We gotta figure out where Bentley and this griffon are.”

Phillip frowned in thought for a moment, then an idea seemed to cross his mind. “Mavri.”

“You sure?” Daring asked. “We’ve already been bitten in the ass once.”

“He did help us out before,” Phillip pointed out. “And if he agrees to help, it’ll be a big risk to himself.”

Daring frowned, but gave a reluctant nod. “The problem is finding him. We can’t leave until we give a statement and clean up this mess, and even then...”

Something seemed to catch Daring’s attention. She looked up and her eyebrows shot up, then she stuck her hoof in her mouth and whistled shrilly. “Hey, kid!” she shouted.

With a blur of colors, Rainbow Dash flew down and landed in front of them, her yellow weather team vest flapping in the breeze. “What’s up?” she asked, practically glowing with eagerness.

“Dash, we need you to find a griffon,” Daring instructed her. “An older black griffon named Mavri. He wears a fishing vest and smokes Crystal Crown cigars. You’ll probably find him hanging around the river 'round this time. When you find him, tell him that Daring and Phil need to talk to him.”

“Got it!” Rainbow Dash saluted, and in another blur of colors, she shot back into the sky.

“She’ll find him faster than we could,” Daring said to Phillip.

Phillip nodded. “Remains to be seen if he’ll talk.”

Author's Note:

It's a dark day when the ones you thought you could trust turn on you. Who can we trust now?

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