• 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 Seven, Chapter Three: Revelations

“He’s still not talking,” Red commented, staring at Douglas through the one-way mirror of the interrogation room. The elder donkey sat sullenly at the table, forelegs folded across his chest, glaring back at the mirror.

“Don’t mean the drugs are his,” Phillip said, standing at Red’s side.

“He’s actually pretty smart,” Red commented gruffly, as though it slightly pained him to admit it. “He gets a good lawyer, he could turn it around and make it look like we’re framing him.” He snorted. “The establishment coming down on the head of the innocent, hardworking donkey. I can almost see the bits shining in his eyes.”

“And Twilight calls me cynical,” Phillip said.

Red sighed. “Fucking ponies like him will always see us as these corrupt jackbooted thugs,” he muttered. “Always watching us, always calling us out for everything we do wrong, accusing us of everything under the sun on evidence flimsier than cardboard. I’m fucking sick of it.” He huffed through his teeth. “We’re trying to protect them,” he continued. “We might’ve been a shithole of corruption before, but that’s changed. We’re the only reason most of these ponies get to sleep safely at night. What more do they want?”

“Red...” Phillip said softly, his tone as uncertain as a pony standing atop a twenty-foot high diving board over an inflatable foal’s pool.

Red let out a growl and huffed. “I’m fine,” he grunted.

Phillip shrugged it off. “Speaking of Twilight, I’m gonna go see her.”

“Sounds good,” Red nodded.

Phillip turned and started down the hallway, but a doorway to his left opened up and Trace Evidence stepped out, shaking his head and mopping his brow.

“No luck on either of the two workers,” Trace muttered. “And Prowl’s wrapping up checks on the ponies living in the apartments. A few of them have some red flags in their backgrounds, but nothing’s solid.”

“Bugger,” Phillip muttered. “Well, keep trying. That poppydust belongs to somepony there.”

Trace sighed. “Do you really think that this has anything to do with Deco going missing?”

“I don’t know,” Phillip shrugged. “We’ll figure it out.”

He proceeded down the hallway to the staircase and descended to the basement. The sound of straining violins guided him to the laboratory. As always, every table of the large, open space was covered in scientific equipment of every description and type, and the shelves on the walls groaned beneath the weight of the textbooks and binders atop them. Doctor Suunkii and Twilight Sparkle stood at a table in the back, Suunkii bending over a microscope while Twilight gathered small test tubes filled with a rainbow of colors in a rack.

“Hello, Phillip,” Twilight greeted him as he entered, setting the test tubes in a careful order.

“G’day,” Phillip said. “What’ve you found out from the scene?”

“Well, I did check the doorway,” Twilight said, handing the rack of test tubes to Suunkii. “There was no sign of any magical tampering with the charm. That means that either somepony on the inside unlocked the door, or they had a key.”

“How hard would it be to copy a key for a lock like that?” Phillip asked.

“The physical key would be as simple as pickpocketing a key and clamming it,” Twilight stated. “But the enchantments on it would require somepony with years of practice in lock magic. This is not something that an average unicorn could do.”

Phillip nodded. “What else?”

“The traces of blood on the dart you recovered are a match for Deco Line’s blood type,” Doctor Suunkii said, carefully placing an eyedropper in a test tube of scarlet liquid and extracting some of it. “I am currently performing chemical tests upon the toxin on the dart to determine its composition.”

He carried the eyedropper over to a series of small vials in a row before him, each filled with a few drops of a clear liquid and what looked like wisps of cloud. “How’d you get enough toxin to fill all of those?” Phillip asked.

“A revolutionary technique for creating sufficient samples of liquid,” Suunkii explained as he dropped some of the red liquid into the first vial, causing the liquid and clouds inside to turn red. Suunkii threw the eyedropper into a trash bin and used a fresh one to extract a few drops of a yellow liquid from the next test tube. “The liquid sample is mixed with distilled water and heated to evaporation. Then it is condensed back into a liquid and mixed with a sampling of clouds, which then take on the sample’s chemical properties. The cloud is then heated and turned back into a semi-liquid sample.”

He pointed at a contraption on the table beside him. A flask sat on a Bunsen burner, attached to a long glass tube that ran in a spiral to a larger beaker filled with cloud.

“It’s ingenious, really!” Twilight exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear as she watched Phillip examining the apparatus. “We studied the applications of Skywalker’s Absorption and Disbursement Principle in Weather Magic, but to see it made into a use like this is nothing short of incredible! I mean, it’s not how I would’ve done it, but still, I—”

“Twi,” Phillip interrupted gently. “Love to learn more, but this isn’t the moment.”

“Right, sorry,” Twilight nodded, looking a little put out.

“Anything else?” Phillip asked.

“There were traces on the scrap of cloth that you found in the doorway,” Suunkii replied, continuing to add colored chemicals to the samples of the toxin. “Specifically, sap from multiple different varieties of tree. Once we have separated the trace down to its individual components via centrifuge, we can begin making a more accurate identification.”

The door opened and Flash Sentry walked in, holding a sheaf of papers. “Oh, hey, Twilight,” he said, smiling and waving at Twilight.

“Hello, Flash,” Twilight smiled.

Flash started to say something, but then spotted Phillip and snapped himself back to attention. “Oh, hey, Phil. I went back to the art gallery to do some more investigating, and I found something odd.” He handed Phillip the sheaves of papers. “These are security reports for the past week,” he explained. “I noticed that every night at around one-thirty in the morning, an alarm goes off for a fire door in the back. I talked to one of the security guards: he said that they got a new security system installed last moon, and the alarm is a glitch that they haven’t gotten around to fixing.”

Phillip ran his eyes across the reports. Sure enough, each of them had an entry for 0130: Alarm activated, fire door north gallery. Security sweep completed, nothing unusual noted. The blue ink of the sentence carried a heavy weight of boredom and annoyance that could almost be felt on the paper it was written upon.

“I’ve already started working on tracking down who installed the system,” Flash said. “They gave me a description of the worker and the phone number for the company that they called. I left a message, still waiting for them to call back.”

“You’ve done aces, jackaroo,” Phillip said with an approving nod, prompting Flash to flush with pride.

“What company was it?” Twilight asked.

“Netitus Security,” Flash answered.

“We have records for them here; every security worker needs to get a license and registration to work,” Twilight stated, smiling shyly. “If you wanted, I could help you check workers’ records.”

“I’d like that,” Flash replied, a faint blush coloring his cheeks. “Hey, what’s this?” he asked, tapping the vat of clouds.

“A Skywalker Liquid Enhancement apparatus!” Twilight cried, looking ecstatic. “It uses Skywalker’s Absorption and Disbursement Principle to allow for examination of trace liquids. Here, I’ll show you how it works…”

She dove into an explanation of the process and the theories behind it, complete with projecting images with her magic into the air to enhance the presentation. Flash listened attentively, occasionally nodding slowly and making a brief comment.

“Look at him,” Phillip whispered to Suunkii, half-smiling. “At least half of what she’s saying is flying right over his head.”

“I do not think that he cares,” Suunkii commented, giving the couple a brief glance before returning to his work. “To see her happy is sufficient for him.”

“Oh, to be young,” Phillip mused. “Right, let me know if you find anything else.”

“We will,” Suunkii nodded as Phillip exited. He walked back out of the laboratory, climbed the stairs to the main floor, and exited the precinct. Daring Do was waiting outside, leaning against the wall and smoking.

“We need to head back to the gallery,” Phillip said.

“So let’s get this straight,” Phillip said, staring at the fire door. “You’ve come to expect the alarm for this door to go off at the same time every night.”

“That’s right,” nodded Tight Lock, the head of security for the Ponyville Gallery of Art. He was a tall, stout unicorn with a gray coat and light blue hair, including a thin mustache. He was wearing a dark blue uniform with a golden badge upon his chest. He had a cutie mark of a closed padlock imprinted on a badge. He, Phillip, and Daring were standing in the northernmost room of the museum, a room filled with sculptures.

Daring scanned the room. The fire door was a standard steel door with the precautionary “Not An Exit—Alarm Will Sound” sign on it. She’d already checked the outside and confirmed that there was no handle on the exterior; seemingly the only way to open the door was with the push bar on the inside. She looked around the room and spotted the sole surveillance crystal mounted on the wall opposite. The telescope-like tube slowly panned back and forth, sweeping over the room.

“So what happens when the alarm goes off?” Phillip asked.

“SOP demands that every time an alarm goes off, we send a guard down to check the door and ensure that all is well,” Lock explained.

“And what does that involve?” Daring asked.

“The guard comes down, checks to make sure that the door is still locked and secured and that there are no signs of intruders,” Lock explained.

“Show me how you’d do it,” Daring said, stepping back.

Lock looked at her for a moment, then shrugged and stepped forward. He hit the door a couple times to check that it was still shut tightly, then inspected the lock. “Secure, no sign of tampering,” he declared. He then turned and looked around the room, checking around as though looking for intruders amongst the few visitors roaming the exhibits.

“And let me guess,” Daring commented dryly. “You guys are so used to this thing going off that you come here not expecting any trouble.”

“I train my guards to take every security threat seriously,” Tight Lock said firmly.

Daring shook her head. “I’m thinking you’re right, Phil,” she said to her partner. “Whoever installed that lock tampered with the alarm. Having the alarm go off at the same time every night would condition the guards to not expect trouble.”

“How would you get past this door?” Phillip asked.

“It’s impossible to open from the outside,” Tight Lock insisted.

“Every door can be opened,” Daring replied. “Let me check the lock, I think I have an idea.”

Tight Lock frowned at her, but reached out and pushed the door open, waving at the security crystal. As soon as he opened the door, an alarm bell began ringing, but it quickly shut off. The ponies milling through the exhibits paused and looked around, then slowly resumed their business after deciding that nothing was amiss.

Daring leaned in close to the lock and frowned. “Magnifying glass,” she said to Phillip, holding out her hoof. Phillip pulled his magnifying glass out of his vest and handed it to her. She lifted it to her eye and squinted at the lock.

“Aha,” she muttered, taking out a pen and picking at the lock. A small white substance came away, clinging to the pen. “Putty,” she said. “You put that in the lock, just enough that the door will still shut and lock, but you can open it from the outside with a bit of leverage; crowbar or a screwdriver or something. And look at that.” She pointed to some small marks on the doorway.

Tight Lock’s eyes widened. “But...but the security crystal!” he protested. “No one could’ve—”

“Slide a mirror under the door, wait until the crystal was looking the other way, then get through the door and hide behind one of the sculptures. Probably that one there,” Daring said, nodding to a nearby marble sculpture of an eagle on a stand near the door. “Evading the one guard would be a cinch. Then...I’d probably just get out through the main door. It’d lock behind me, and no alarm.”

Tight Lock opened and closed his mouth a few times, then scowled. “I’m going to see who was on the last few nights,” he declared, quickly storming over to a door marked “Employees Only,” which he threw open and marched through, descending a flight of stairs.

“So what’s the goal here?” Phillip asked Daring, walking out after him.

“If it has anything to do with Deco Line being kidnapped, I’m willing to bet it’s got something to do with that exhibit,” Daring replied. “And with Scarlet,” she added in a snarl.

Phillip frowned. “Let’s see if the surveillance center is down there,” he said, following Lock through the Employees Only doorway. The two descended the stairs into the basement, walking past a set of boilers and sealed boxes to a door marked “Security” in white letters. They could see Tight Lock inside, shouting at another pony.

“I think we should wait here for a bit,” Phillip commented dryly. Daring nodded silently. They stood outside silently until Tight Lock was finished his rant, then he opened the door and stormed out, not even acknowledging them. Phillip then approached the door and opened it up.

Inside was a sizeable room with a counter that ran almost the length of the room. Projected images over the walls displayed live images from the gallery’s surveillance crystals; a board of buttons and lights sat at the head of the room. Sitting at the counter was a uniformed chubby blue unicorn with white hair and the cutie mark of an eye and a crescent moon. He looked around at their entry.

“Huh? You can’t be in here!” he protested.

“Detectives Finder and Do,” Phillip introduced themselves. “We’re looking into Deco Line’s disappearance.”

“Oh…” The guard’s jaw dropped as recognition spread across his face. “Yeah! Yeah, I know who you are!” He held out his hoof. “I’m Night Watch. How can I help you?”

“We need to check surveillance feed for the Artiste Fou exhibit for the past few days, every night around 1:30 to 2 AM,” Phillip said, shaking his hoof.

“Okay!” Watch nodded, sitting down at his chair. He started tapping crystals embedded into the walls, changing the projected images to an image of the gallery of surrealist paintings. Watch rewound the image to 1:30 AM the previous night, giving them a green-tinted view of the room in night vision.

“Advance the image slowly,” Phillip said, watching the image. Walker stroked a green crystal a quarter circle clockwise and the image began to fast forward at a steady pace. Phillip and Daring stared at the projection but saw nothing out of the ordinary.

“Okay, the night before that. Last Tuesday,” Daring said.

Watch rewound the image to the instructed time and once again proceeded through the night. Once again, neither detective noticed anything unusual.

Without being prompted, Watch then scrubbed the image back to Monday night and they began to watch the screens in silence. One-thirty passed without incident, then as one fifty-five rolled around, Daring raised a hoof. “Wait, I saw something there,” she muttered. “Back it up a couple minutes, then run it forward slowly.”

Watch fiddled with the crystals, then the image began to track forward minute by minute. Daring’s rosy eyes squinted at the image, moving in so close her nose was almost touching the projection.

“There,” she said, pointing. “That painting moved.”

Phillip and Watch squinted at the painting of the boat in the center wall of the gallery. At one-fifty-six and thirty seconds, the painting was leaning against the wall.

At one-fifty-six and fifty seconds, the painting suddenly shifted a bit to the right.

“What the?” Watch stammered. “How did…?”

“Someone got in the gallery and did something to that painting,” Daring concluded. “Probably used some kind of spell to freeze the image while they worked.”

“I don’t know how we didn’t notice that,” Watch said, sinking into his chair.

“Don’t blame yourself,” Daring replied. “Whoever this is, they’re very good.”

“As good as you were?” Watch asked innocently.

A flash of heat raced up Daring’s foreleg and she gritted her teeth, suppressing a grunt of pain. “Yeah,” she growled. “As good as I am.”

Watch’s eyes widened, but before he could stammer out an apology, Daring turned and stormed out of the room. Watch looked at Phillip and let out a breath. “Wow, I’m just pissing everypony off today,” he mused.

Phillip gave him a completely unamused glance and followed Daring out.

“So, now Twilight and Suunkii are studying samples from that painting,” Phillip said as they walked back down Jetsam Street. “Good instincts on that.”

“Scarlet’s at the head of this,” Daring growled, staring at the slush at their hooves. “I know it.”

“Proving it is another matter,” Phillip replied, looking up as they walked past the jewelry store. The lights were all out and Crime Scene: Do Not Cross tape was stretched across the doorway into the store. A young donkey police officer, barely old enough to start shaving, was standing sentry outside, blinking heavily as he fought off sleep.

“What do you think she’s after?” Daring asked, pausing and looking up at the building. “Fraud? Maybe she faked the paintings and Deco clued into it?”

“I don’t know,” Phillip said, staring at the side door in the alley. “But once we find out where Deco Line went and who took him, we might have more of an idea—”

The side door suddenly burst open and a pony stumbled out. The light gold pegasus was coated in snow, his long, damp purple hair hanging over his face. His wings were tattered, the feathers having been violently ripped out; blood from multiple scratches and cuts covered his body, and he was limping on two of his legs. The stallion’s cutie mark was a paintbrush and a red zigzag line. Panting and gasping, Deco Line looked up at them as the door slammed shut behind him.

“Help me,” he wheezed and collapsed into the snow. Blood leaked from a bullet hole in his side.

Phillip rushed forward and bent over Deco, taking off his vest and draping it over his body. “Officer, get an ambulance!” he barked to the dumbfounded officer, who jumped and ran off to find a gamewell.

Daring stared open-mouthed as Phillip opened a pocket on his vest marked with a cross in permanent marker, pulled out a set of dressings, and began to stuff them into the bullet wound on Deco’s heaving chest. She turned and looked at the closed alley door.

“What. The. Fuck,” she breathed.

Author's Note:

Well, that's made things more interesting, hasn't it?

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