• Published 30th Oct 2018
  • 1,192 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 Five: Wares, Wharves, and Warehouses

Responding officers arrived in fairly short order and led the surviving griffons away. The corpses of the dead shooters were nonchalantly placed in the back of an ambulance and carried off to the morgue as officers took statements from the detectives.

The four watched as Bottgilia was carried out of his tavern in hoofcuffs, his head bowed. The officers placed him into the back of a cruiser and slammed the doors shut.

“Whitestone’s got a lot to answer for when we find her,” Trace muttered.

“He had a choice to not rat us out,” Red grunted. “He’ll have to answer for that.” He turned to Phillip and Daring. “Tell me you’ve got something.”

“We do have an idea,” Phillip muttered. “But he might not talk to police.”

“Well, do what you need to,” Red grunted. “Long as we find this fuck. Trace and I are gonna head back to his apartment to search for more clues.” With a final nod, he and Trace climbed back into their car and drove off, following the paddy wagon and cruisers. Phillip and Daring were left standing in front of the tavern alone.

A streak of colors abruptly descended from the sky and landed in front of them. “Hey, I found that griffon you were looking for!” Rainbow Dash chirped, puffing out her chest. “He said he’ll meet up with you underneath the docks near the Old Fisher’s Grill.”

“Thanks, kid,” Daring nodded. “C’mon, Phil.”

She scooped Phillip up beneath his forelegs and took off, heading southeast. Rainbow Dash flew after them, eagerness and excitement shining in her eyes. “So what next?” she asked. “Do we get to grill ‘em? Teach ‘em a lesson?”

Daring sighed and rolled her eyes. “Kid, you—”

“Let her come,” Phillip urged. “Won’t hurt.”

Daring studied Rainbow Dash for a few silent moments. The younger pegasus clasped her front hooves together and gave what she evidently hoped was a game-winning smile. “I won’t get in the way!” she pleaded. “I’ll do whatever you want me to, just ask! I’ll—”

Daring sighed. “Fine. Just stay out of the way.”

“Yes!” Rainbow Dash cheered, spinning around in midair.

“Come on, we’re wasting time,” Daring said, flying east once more, with Rainbow Dash close behind them.

The Old Fisher’s Grill was easily recognizable. The restaurant had an old wooden sign depicting a griffon with a pipe clenched in his beak holding onto a fishing pole affixed to the front of the building; the sign was worn down, the paint fading and peeling and the edges eaten away with mold, but the bright lights from inside the restaurant proper were very modern.

Across the street was a small boardwalk with docks that extended out like sharply angled limbs into the sun-kissed waters of the Maresippi river. The docks were crowded with boats, ranging from small open fishing boats near the shore to larger sailboats and houseboats farther out into the water. The air was filled with the music of a pier: creaking wood, flapping canvas, and softly dinging bells, the lapping of water, the cries of seagulls and constant chatter of voices all mixing into a strange, oddly comforting melody.

The trio alighted on the front of the docks. Phillip sniffed the air briefly, then turned and walked to the edge of the dock, jumping off onto the shore. Rainbow and Daring followed. Underneath the boardwalk, the dark sand of the shore angled sharply down into the water and small shafts of sunlight through the wooden slats breached the shadows. Garbage of every description littered the little beach, mostly broken bottles and cans and discarded cigarettes, and seaweed clung to the wooden pillars.

Phillip sniffed again, then proceeded forward confidently. It took a while before Rainbow and Daring picked up on the scent of Crystal Crown tobacco, concealed amidst the other odors of the water and garbage.

A golden brown griffon with dark brown feathers wearing a gray fishing vest sat on the edge of the beach, his fishing line cast out into the water. A cigar was clenched in his beak, making him look very similar to the sign on the Old Fisher’s Grill. Next to him was an open basket, with some fish already neatly stacked inside, and a smaller blue griffon with gold accents on his plumage. The blue griffon looked up as they approached, glaring suspiciously at the three of them.

"You sure about this, Mavri?" he asked, glaring at Phillip, who returned his gaze coolly.

"I'm sure, Gallus," Mavri replied, casting his line out again with a relaxed indifference. "Go make sure that no one else comes along."

"But—" Gallus started to protest.

"It's okay, son," Mavri replied. "I trust them."

"Well, I don't," Gallus replied, but he obeyed Mavri's command. He trotted past the three ponies, glaring at them every step of the way.

As he trotted past him, Phillip glanced down and noticed some red scars running along the inside of Gallus' forelegs. Gallus shifted away from him and climbed up to the surface.

Daring silently signaled Rainbow Dash to stay back; she pouted a bit but nodded.

"Don't mind him," Mavri explained to the trio. "He's had some bad experiences with police; can't say I blame him, really. He's a good lad; just needs some support."

"Good of you to take him in, then," Phillip said as he approached. “How they biting, Mavri?”

“Well enough to keep me fed and watered for a good few weeks,” Mavri said, lightly jiggling the line to tempt a large silvery salmon towards the hook.

Phillip sat down next to Mavri and pulled out a cigarette. “Good to see you again,” he said.

“Likewise,” Mavri nodded, pulling a lighter of a pocket and flicking it open to expose a small flame. Phillip gratefully lit his cigarette over the lighter and puffed on it.

“But you’re not here for a social call,” Mavri continued. “Your friend was pretty insistent that I meet you.”

“Need help finding a griffon,” Phillip said.

“You found two,” Mavri commented. “That’s a good start.”

Phillip looked sideways at Mavri. “Griffon might be involved with a suspect in a kidnapping,” he continued. “Took a stallion and a young hen.”

“I see,” Mavri nodded. He reeled his line back in and cast it out again with an expert flick of his wrist, sending the weighted line floating back out over the water and gently dipping beneath the surface. “Do you have any ideas as to who this griffon is?”

Phillip pulled the photograph of the suspect from his vest and showed it to Mavri. Mavri studied it for a moment, then nodded. “That’s Acqua Salata,” he said. “He works at a fishmonger’s next to the shooting gallery, to the west of here. I sell him my fish sometimes.” He studied the jacket. “He got into quite a bit of money pretty recently, but he wouldn’t talk about where. Makes me think he owed something to the wrong ponies, you ask me.”

“Thanks,” Phillip nodded. “Really ‘preciate you doing this, mate.”

“Don’t have to thank me,” Mavri replied, jiggling the line slightly to try to tempt a sizeable trout to the bait. “Last week, a pony I know from the market I buy food at was found in an alley with his head missing. He’d tried to talk about drug dealing in his neighborhood to the wrong ponies.” He looked sideways at Phillip. “Y’know what they said about him? He was a rat fink who sold out his family.”

Daring let out a hissing breath. “Bastards,” she grunted.

“It’s what griffons do, amica,” Mavri replied, casting the line out again with another artistic swish and flick. “Griffon rule number one: look out for you and yours first. And if that means looking the other way when a pirate wants to make some profit, so be it.”

“So what are you looking out for?” Daring asked.

Mavri gave a small, ironic smile. “I’m too old to really give a fuck,” he grunted. “And my daughter’s long moved away. When you’re as old as I am, you really have more time to think about how absurd some of the things we take for granted are. Like crime bosses. And kids giving up and cutting themselves in an alleyway.” He glanced up towards where Gallus had disappeared.

Phillip nodded and stood up, dropping his fag on the ground and grinding it beneath his hoof. “Take care of yourself. Hoo roo, mate.” He stood and started to leave.

“Phil,” Mavri called, looking up. “You and your friends be careful. Plenty of griffons around here would be more than willing to sell you out for some breathing room.”

“Yeah, we know,” Daring commented dryly. “Bottgilia tried that.”

Mavri flinched slightly and looked down, sighing bitterly. “Well...just look out for yourselves,” he added, turning back to his fishing pole. “And since no one else in this place is gonna say it: thank you.”

With a final nod, Phillip, Daring, and Rainbow Dash climbed out from beneath the boardwalk and reemerged into the sunlight. Gallus shot them a brief scowl, then retreated back down to Mavri.

“You heard him,” Phillip declared, stretching. “That gallery’s just west of here.”

Behind Phillip’s back, Rainbow and Daring glanced at each other. “Race you?” Rainbow offered with a grin.

“One of us has to carry him,” Daring pointed out. Phillip turned around, his eyes widening, then began to run.

“I’ll do it,” Rainbow shrugged and nudged Daring. “You need the handicap anyway.”

“I’m not that old!” Daring protested.

“Then prove it!” Rainbow dared. And with a swoosh of color and a startled cry of protest, she was off, Phillip hanging underneath her.

“Hey, no fair!” Daring shouted, chasing after them, though she couldn’t help a smile creeping up one side of her face.

The shooting gallery was a long, low building, with advertisements of targets and a grinning griffon holding a rifle. The fishery was right next door: its open display area loaded with shelves of stacked fish on ice. Their fresh smell tingled at the nostrils of the three ponies as they landed across the street from the store, Phillip dusting himself off and shooting Rainbow Dash a very dirty look.

“Hey, you need something?” a griffon wearing a trenchcoat leaning against the building behind them asked, leaning forward with a conspiratorial grin. “I got plenty of stuff that’ll fix you up. I can make you feel real good for…”

His eyes widened as Phillip and Daring both turned around, recognition swiftly followed by panic. He turned and flew out of sight, leaving behind a few of his feathers.

“It never ends,” Phillip sighed, turning back to survey the market. Several griffons were gathered around the counters, which appeared to be the makeshift stage of some sort of show.

“Hey-y-y-y...yah!” two of the fishery workers cheered as they tossed an enormous halibut back and forth, much to the delight of visitors.

Phillip approached, but Daring stuck out a foreleg and stopped him. “There’s no way he’s gonna want to talk to a cop,” she stated. “Let me try to talk to him.”

She pulled a small bag out of the inside of her shirt and stepped into an alleyway, ducking out of sight. From the bag, she extracted a dark purple dress, a gray sunhat, a set of red-rimmed reading glasses, and a small makeup kit.

“These new Bags of Holding are great,” Daring commented, doffing her helmet and handing it to Phillip. “Bigger on the inside and they never get that much heavier.”

“Pretty expensive, though,” Phillip commented.

Within seconds, Daring Do disappeared, and A.K. Yearling took her place.

“Cool!” Rainbow Dash said in awe as Daring completed her disguise by drawing a fake mole just above her lip and carefully adding in more wrinkles and crow’s feet.

“Okay, wish me luck,” Daring said, booping Phillip as she passed by. She strolled up to the fishery, studying the displays of fish with a critical eye. The varying scents of the available meats—tuna, salmon, halibut, even pike—made her mouth water in delight.

“What can I get you, little lady?” a tall blue griffon behind the counter called to her with a broad, welcoming smile.

“Three tuna,” Daring said, slapping down a sizeable collection of bits on the counter, far more than the listed price for the fish. “And a word with Acqua Salata.”

The griffon looked from the bits to her, then nodded. “Acqua!” he bellowed into the back of the store. “Pony here to see you!”

Acqua Salata emerged from behind a curtain and walked up to Daring, frowning at her suspiciously. “Do I know you?” he asked.

“Bentley sent me,” Daring said quietly.

Acqua’s eyes widened and he glanced around. “How about we discuss this somewhere a bit more private?” Daring offered.

Acqua grunted and led her over near the back of the store, near some sealed crates.

“What does he want?” Acqua grumbled. “We’ve made the deal fair and square, that’s the end of it.”

“See, he’s not sure,” Daring said through the mask that was her smirk, playing what she hoped was the correct hunch. “Bailing you out of your debt and giving you enough to buy fancy smoking jackets and top-end mead might not be enough for your end.”

“I say it is enough,” Acqua scowled and started to turn away.

“I’d be more careful if I were you,” Daring cautioned, not moving. “A fishmonger like yourself flashing that money around? Bound to raise some questions. Questions you wouldn’t like having to answer,” she added, glaring at him.

The defiance evaporated from Acqua’s expression and he swallowed. “I already gave you my father’s old warehouse. What more can I give you?” he whimpered.

Daring forced herself not to grin in triumph. “This warehouse,” she said. “Where’d you get it anyway?”

“I inherited it from my dad,” Acqua explained. “He used it for some business of his that went under, but he couldn’t sell it. It’s just an old rotten warehouse full of junk. Bentley said he could trade that off for the money I needed, so I gave him the keys. Just helping out a neighbor, he said.”

“Where is it?” Daring pressed.

Acqua blinked. “On...forty-seven Breakwater street. Why…?”

Daring leaned in close, removing her glasses to display her rosy eyes. “Listen to me carefully,” she whispered. “You’re in with ponies you don’t want to be indebted to, and once the dust settles from this, you’ll be marked. You need to run. Get your bits, get anyone you care about and run.”

“Daring Do…?” Acqua breathed, eyes wide with disbelief. “How…?”

“I’m sorry for tricking you, but I needed to get you to talk; lives are at stake.” Daring put her glasses back on and walked out. “Do what I said: run. And sell that smoking jacket. You’ll need the bits...and honestly, that color looks stupid on you.”

She proceeded to the front of the market when she was stopped by a loud whistle. She turned to see the tall blue griffon carrying three fresh tuna in a bundle.

“Hey-y-y-y-y-y-yah!” the griffons cheered as the tunas were tossed to Daring. She instinctively reached up and caught them. The three fish gave off a pleasant, mild odor, and their flesh was wonderfully moist.

“Thanks!” she nodded with a smile and exited. She walked back across the street to the alleyway where Phillip and Rainbow Dash waited.

“Well?” Phillip asked.

“Forty-seven Breakwater Street,” Daring stated, whipping off her disguise and stuffing everything back into the bag. “And we’re having tuna for dinner,” she added, putting on her helmet.

“Great,” Phillip nodded. “Let’s go. And can we please walk this—”

“Nope,” Daring said, snatching him up and carrying him into the air. Rainbow Dash followed after, grinning from ear to ear in excitement.

Forty-seven Breakwater Street proved to be a warehouse that sat by itself at the end of a dead end road that was mainly sided by rundown brick and wood storehouses and businesses. Like its neighbors, the warehouse that had once belonged to Acqua Salata’s father was long dilapidated, its white paint fading, its wooden boards rotting, and its windows boarded up. A sign that read “Salata Ice Water” in barely legible letters hung by a single nail over the door: next to the door, a metal sliding door was held shut with a padlock. The entire building was surrounded by a perimeter of chain-link fence.

“Something’s going on in there,” Phillip muttered from their hiding place atop the abandoned building across the street, studying the warehouse through his binoculars.

“You sure?” Daring asked, peering through her field glasses.

“I don’t see anything weird,” Rainbow said, squinting.

“All of the windows are boarded up; boards on some of the windows are a lot fresher than the rest of the building,” Phillip stated. “The padlock on the garage door is recent, and there are fresh tire tracks in front of it. Somepony’s been in there, somepony who doesn’t want anypony to see what’s going on inside.” He frowned.

“Daring, we need to find a way inside,” he said. “Dash, get a gamewell and call the police down here.”

“Will do,” Daring nodded. She flapped across the street to the roof of the warehouse as Rainbow Dash took off in search of a phone.

Daring walked across the roof of the warehouse. The only chimneys or vents atop the roof were all too small for her to fit in. There was a door providing access to the interior, but a closer inspection revealed that the door had been welded shut. Frowning in irritation, she took off and began a circuit of the building, with Phillip stealthily following her from the ground.

Near the back was a window that, like all its neighbors, had been boarded up. However, there was a small gap in the boards, only a little larger than her head. There was a black tarp behind the window, but as Daring passed, it flapped faintly. Curious, she leaned forward and carefully brushed the tarp aside.

She found herself looking in through the window onto a balcony that ran along the perimeter of the warehouse. There were only a few dusty cardboard boxes atop the balcony, but she could hear voices from below. The room was lit by the yellow-green glow of thermal lamps hung from the ceiling.

She frowned at the narrow space between the boards, lightly tapping one of them. It was wet and rotten, shifting in its position. She pressed against the board and pushed, carefully ramping up the pressure bit by bit. The board cracked and creaked, then snapped off. Daring pulled the board back inside, then hovered outside the window for a count of twenty, listening for any sign that somepony had heard the noise.

There was no response. She dropped the wood onto the ground, then dropped down and grabbed Phillip beneath his forelegs. "Got a way in," she said, flying up to the window.

Phillip grasped the edges of the window and slipped his head through, looking from side to side. "Clear," he whispered, then carefully slithered through and dropped to the floor. Daring doffed her hat and began to carefully squeeze her way through the gap. First her head, then her forelegs, and finally her hind legs, all pushed through one part at a time.

The two ponies crouched on top of the balcony, breathing slowly and evenly. The voices were louder now. They crept over to the railing and peeked over.

The warehouse was a large open area, with boxes of supplies—food and water, a field toilet, some guns and ammunition, and a bedroll—laid out to one side. The pickup truck was parked in the middle of the warehouse, in front of the garage doorway. A cluster of ponies stood in the middle of the warehouse, talking. A quick scan revealed Bentley himself standing in the midst of the baker’s dozen figures.

“Gotta say, these are some pretty sweet digs you got here,” a blue unicorn grinned, looking about the warehouse.

“You’d be amazed how far a little kindness towards your neighbors can go,” Bentley smirked. “I needed a secondary hideout, he needed to pay the rent. A win-win for us both.”

“And it’ll make a nice base for the NMD,” a thestral nodded approvingly. Daring’s eyes went to a tattoo on the batpony’s foreleg: the letters NMD in scrawling cursive.

"Nightmare Moon Disciples," she hissed bitterly.

"So whose side are they on now?" Phillip muttered.

“Yeah, you’ve been real generous to us,” another pony grunted, studying Bentley. The speaker was a turquoise unicorn with a bushy red mustache and narrow eyes. He had a cutie mark of three red stars and wore an expensive-looking yellow-white coat. "We made a good find with you, Browndust."

"Star Cluster," Phillip growled, glaring at Flash Sentry's former partner.

"I thought he got locked up," Daring replied, recognizing the mustached pony.

"Released on insufficient evidence while Tumbler was still chief," Phillip replied. "Cold fired him when she took over."

“But what I’m worried about right now is them,” Star continued, nodding towards something to the side. Daring and Phillip followed the gaze of the other ponies and gasped.

Dimmig and Shoe Shine were sitting off in a corner of the warehouse, tied back to back to a pillar and gagged with duct tape. They sat staring wide-eyed at their captors, shivering and whimpering faintly. The huge gunpony from the abduction circled the two like a hungry wolf, sneering with his nicotine-stained teeth and hefting the massive machine gun, occasionally slapping the pan magazine to make sure it was firmly set into place.

“Those two are gonna tell us where they hid the Innsbeak Statues,” Star Cluster declared with a nasty grin. “And once we get our hooves on them, we can get ourselves in good graces with Whitestone.”

“But I thought Zugzwang was our boss now,” one of the Disciples said.

“I’ve lived in this city for years; I was a cop for thirteen years before Cold Bitch fired me,” Star snarled. “I’ve seen lots of gangsters come and go. Whitestone’s been a boss for as long as I’ve been here. Zugzwang?” He scoffed. “Nopony gave a fuck who he was until last winter. He’s not gonna last, and when this war starts, I want to be on the winning side.”

Daring and Phillip both retreated back behind cover. "What's the plan?" Daring whispered, her hooves and wings beginning to itch with anticipation, with the urge to go.

"We gotta get those two out of here," Phillip hissed urgently, voice taut with tension. "If I can create a diversion, you—"

He never got to finish that sentence, because there was a startled shout from below and something grabbed both ponies by their necks and yanked them off the balcony, slamming them to the concrete floor. The breath was knocked from Daring's lungs, and she tasted blood, her tongue lighting up with pain where she'd bitten it. When she looked up, she found herself surrounded by the Disciples, all of whom were glaring down at her. Phillip was facedown, with a large stallion pinning him down with a hoof to the back of the neck.

“Hi,” Daring grinned nervously up at the group. “Somepony order a pizza?”

“Well, what do we have here?” Star Cluster sneered, his horn alight with an orange glow as he held Daring down with his magic. “Two sneaky little bitches, that’s what.”

He withdrew a large gold-plated pistol from within his coat and racked the slide with a menacing cli-click. “And they're about to get what’s coming to 'em.”

Author's Note:

Will Daring Do escape with the hostages? One thing's for sure: something's fishy in the Dockside District!

Save your tomatoes and cabbages, please, I'll see myself out...

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