• Published 12th Mar 2019
  • 683 Views, 62 Comments

Return the Night, or no Deposit - totallynotabrony

Detective Fit is stuck on a case involving a spree of anti-lunar graffiti. There are no clues, and Fit is getting desperate. Desperate enough to call the craziest consultant he knows.

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Chapter 7

The two of them stood outside the hotel. The sounds of the Cop Cavalcade carried out into the night. Fit wracked his brain and came up with a decision. “I’m going to go after them.”

Haven looked at him. “Tome’s parents? What do you expect to find in the middle of the night after a party?”

“I don’t know. But whether that was Mare Do Well we saw on the rooftops or just Mirror, I think it’s worth pursuing what she was pursuing.”

Haven started to turn away. “We’re off the clock.”

“This could be a breakthrough.”

She looked back at him. “So what if it is? What are you going to do? Just let Mirror handle it? She’s already basically taken the case from us. She’s tainted so much evidence that we’ll probably never get a conviction on anypony.”

“I’m confident,” said Fit. “She knows how the law works.”

“Are you sure?” Haven broke in. “Are you seriously throwing away everything you’ve been taught and your own convictions to follow her blindly? You’re my partner, but I can’t back you in this. I’ve told you what I think. You know what the rest of the office thinks. You’re alone in this.” Haven shrugged. “Well, maybe you have her.”

Fit’s stomach twisted. First Tree Hugger and now Haven leaving him alone tonight.

“I’m just going to go for a walk,” he said. “I’m just going to make sure Acerbic Cure and Library Long make it home alright. Then, I’m going home myself. I promise you.”

“Have you ever promised her like that?”

Fit thought on it. “No, actually.”

Haven remained staring at him for a moment before turning away. “Good night. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“You too.” Fit paused to watch her walk away, and exhaled as she rounded the corner of the building. He’d never felt the need to promise Mirror anything. When they’d worked together, that kind of understanding was implied. But he hadn’t told Haven that.

He turned and walked in the other direction, hurrying to catch up with Acerbic and Library. Spotting them up ahead under the streetlights, he held back, staying just within view. If they were sharp, they might recognize him from the party, but then, he was a cop, that shouldn’t make him seem suspicious. He hoped.

They walked for perhaps ten minutes until Acerbic and Library turned and went up the steps of a townhouse. Fit noted that it was only perhaps another ten minute walk to the hospital.

He paused for a moment to scan the rooftops, but saw nothing. He wasn’t sure if he was hoping to.

Turning to leave, he hesitated. It was also only perhaps a ten minute walk from the Midnight Motel on Tallpine Street, and close to being on his way home. Would Mirror be there? If so, she could tell him what she’d learned tonight from talking to Acerbic and Library. If she wasn’t there...well, it still wouldn’t be proof that she was running around as Mare Do Well.

Fit hesitated, but made his choice. His promise to Haven never said he wouldn’t make a detour along the way, and she would also probably like to know about Mirror’s conversation with Tome’s parents.

A short walk later, Fit found the Midnight Motel. The neon tubes in the sign out front flickered against the night sky. In the darkness, it was hard to tell if the place was decrepit or decent. He remembered Mirror was staying in room 101.

He didn’t bother with the front desk and went straight for the room, as the room doors were outside. As he approached, he slowly realized that the door wasn’t quite closed. A sliver of light from the room beyond showed through the crack.

Mirror, freewheeling as she may have been, did not do things by accident. Okay, maybe she did and was always quick with a comeback to disguise it, but several other scenarios also ran through Fit’s mind. He put his hoof on the knob and slowly opened the door.

The room was ransacked, though as Fit stared, he began to realize that all the furniture was in place. Everything strewn around had apparently come out of a battered suitcase. He slowly calmed down. Mirror was apparently just making herself at home.

Speaking of, he realized that he heard water running. The bathroom door was closed. Mirror must be inside, having a shower.

Fit wasn’t sure if he should stay. The door had been open-was she expecting somepony? Was she expecting him? Did she want him to show up to talk about Acerbic and Library?

Fit considered it, and then sat down on the bed. His hoof brushed against something and he picked it up. It was one of the enchanted tail bands that gave members of the Lunar Guard their distinctive batlike appearance. He’d worn one occasionally during his service. Mirror never took off hers.

Wait a second…

The water stopped. Fit stood up and turned, still holding the band. The door opened and a mare came out, drying her mane with a towel. She pulled it down from in front of her face and stopped short in surprise. “What the-Fit, what are you doing here?”

Mirror stared at him, bat eyes wide. Even despite her wet coat and mane, she wore an enchanted tail band.

Fit dropped the other one on the bed and took a sheepish step back, looking away. “Sorry. The door was open. I wanted to talk about tonight.”

Mirror started to dry her tail, but didn’t take her eyes off him. “Not much to tell. They didn’t like the questions and left.”

“I followed them to their place,” said Fit. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Yep, that about sums it up,” said Mirror. “We can talk more later.”

Fit frowned at her attitude and thought of the door. “Were you expecting somepony?”

“I wouldn’t want to keep you. Tree Hugger’s probably waiting on you,” said Mirror.

He could feel her pushing him out, and though he should have trusted his instincts and hers, after the night he’d had, Fit felt obligated to at least learn something. “I just wanted to ask you a few questions.”

When suddenly put on the spot, though, Fit’s mind seized. She’d already told him that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Where could he go from here?

He blurted, “I didn’t think you were still in the Guard. I don’t know how you still have a tail band, much less two.”

“You want one?” Mirror said. “Could come in handy.” She picked the extra up off the bed and offered it to him. “A gift to you before you go.”

He shook his head and declined. “Okay, I’ll take the hint. I probably shouldn’t have come. I just don’t know why you gave me your room number, if it’s going to be like that.”

“Stuff happens,” said Mirror brusquely. “You need to leave.”

Fit nodded reluctantly and turned for the door, contemplating his parting remarks. What could he say? Why was Mirror acting like this?

In the end, he said nothing, and went home.

Tree Hugger was sleeping soundly when he got there, which was good for her. Fit was envious that she never seemed bothered by anything that happened around her. He lay awake beside her, trying to figure out what had been going on with Mirror at her hotel room. Was she really that surprised to see him?

Okay, yes, walking in on a mare in the shower wasn’t polite. Mirror had always been private outside of work. Fit felt guilty, but he also couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t just that. Mirror was again working an unseen angle.

In the morning, Fit headed to work. He met Haven on the sidewalk, approaching from the other direction, and they walked into the building together.

“Did you get anything last night?” she asked.

“No,” Fit replied truthfully.

They both sat down at their desks. Across the room, Bulldog seemed to be in a decent mood. Fit realized Mirror wasn’t around and figured that contributed to it.

An hour passed. Fit caught up on a few things. Haven was busy restocking the emergency kit she kept under her desk.

Something was nagging Fit, but it took him awhile longer to figure out what it was. He was subconsciously expecting Mirror to tell him what to do next.

Well, she wasn’t here. He would have to do as he did before she arrived. Which was…

Fit blinked. No, the old wait and see approach didn’t work. He and Haven had clues now. They should follow them up.

He caught her eye. “Do you want to make another pass at the records office?”

Haven straightened up from her prepping. “I suppose. From what we learned yesterday, we might be able to find more.”

The two of them got up. As they walked past Bulldog’s desk, he said, “Your freak’s late today.”

If it had been anyone else Fit knew, he probably would have reprimanded Bulldog for it. But he knew Mirror wouldn’t care. Instead, he said, “She doesn’t really think of time like that. She always arrives exactly when she means to.”

Bulldog shrugged and didn’t reply. Fit and Haven headed past him towards city hall.

Deep in the records department, they made slight headway, turning up service records for both Acerbic Cure and Library Long.

Fit skimmed them, just to see if anything stood out. He noted that both of them had joined the service on medical waivers. Their first duty assignment was different, but after that the two of them had always been stationed at the same places. That must have been where they met. Married Guards, particularly those married to each other, were occasionally offered some leeway in assignments.

“Now that we’ve identified them, I kind of want to interview them,” Fit said. “I know we don’t have much to go on, but asking a few questions could get us more.”

“Wasn’t that what Mirror was already doing?” said Haven. “Do you think she learned anything?”

“I don’t know.” Fit frowned. “At the same time, I don’t know if I want to move on Acerbic and Library for fear of interfering with whatever Mirror might be doing.”

Haven gave him a look which Fit acknowledged with a nod. “We could try to go see her. If nothing else, to deconflict.”

“It’s lunchtime anyway,” Haven pointed out.

The two of them stored the files once more and headed out. There was one of the many corner diners in the city on the way to Mirror’s motel and they stopped for a bite.

After ordering, the two of them sat quietly on the bar stools. Fit took a sip of water. Haven inspected the napkin holder.

She asked suddenly, “Do you really think Mare Do Well is somepony besides Mirror?”

Fit considered it for a long moment. “If I had to give odds, I’d say sixty percent that Mare Do Well is real.”

“Mare Do Well isn’t real, it’s just somepony in a costume,” said Haven. “I’d say eighty percent that it’s Mirror herself.”

Fit raised his eyebrows. “Only eighty?”

Haven rolled her eyes. “You seem confident. Do you want to bet on it?”

“Alright. Lunch?”

“Sure. But I want to see both of them together before I’ll believe it.”

Their food came. Fit picked up his sandwich but paused before taking a bite. “If it makes you feel any better, I know an expert in illusions. It’s Trixie, if you’ve heard of her. I can send her a telegram. Maybe she can tell us something about disguises.”

“Trixie? The stage magician?” Haven asked. “How did you meet her?”

“Just in passing. She was in the Guard for a little while. We were both at the Wash Margin Guard station. She was on her way out as I was on my way in.”

“Hmm.” Haven chewed and swallowed. “I’m not sure I should trust your taste in consultants.”

Fit nodded. “Fair enough.”

After lunch, the two of them headed for the Midnight Motel. The door was still slightly ajar as they approached. Haven looked concerned, but Fit paused to knock. A few seconds passed, but there was no response.

He pushed open the door and stepped inside. Beside him, Haven gasped. “What happened here?”

Fit frowned. Just like yesterday, there were clothes and luggage items scattered everywhere. It was still messy, but now the bedside dresser was overturned, the mattress had been pushed askew off the box frame, and a lamp from atop the dresser had been broken on the floor.

“You don’t think there was a fight, do you?” Haven took a few steps forward. She picked up a hoof, staring at the tail band she had stepped on.

“Maybe,” Fit allowed. Had Mirror been expecting one? Was that why she wanted him to leave? Was she expecting somepony else and had been doublecrossed? In either case, who?

Haven looked at him uncertainly. “Is this enough to file a report?”

Was Mirror in over her head? Did she just want them to think she was?

“Let’s do it,” Fit decided. “If she’s really missing, we need to get searching as soon as possible. She wouldn’t want us to worry unnecessarily.”

“Okay,” said Haven, “But if she pops out and says ‘surprise!’ I’m not going to be a happy pony.”

“She’s not really into pranks,” said Fit. “She was weird, sure, and grated on a lot of ponies, but she never indulged herself at somepony else’s expense.”

“Does Tree Hugger know that you’re into her?”

Fit looked at her sharply, but before he could reply, Haven drew back. “Sorry, that was out of line.”

“You’re darn right it is. She’s too old for me and I couldn’t stand the lack of stability.”

Breaking off the conversation, he left the room and went to the front desk of the motel, asking the clerk to call the police.

After that, there was nothing to do but wait. Back in the room, Fit picked up the discarded tail band. He looked at it unseeingly, distracting himself thinking about a different kind of band: the wedding ring in his dresser drawer.

It used to be his mother’s. Not a traditional gift for an earth pony bride, but he wasn't expecting her to wear jewelry anyway. It was about the symbolism of the moment when he finally proposed. He'd been planning it for months.

He had a lot of time to think before the uniforms and CSIs showed up, Fit and Haven watched them comb the room, bagging and tagging. Aside from what might have been a fight, there wasn’t much evidence.

They stepped outside for a breath of fresh air and stood quietly together. Haven said, “Sorry again about earlier. I know you’re committed to Tree Hugger.”

“I can’t picture Cracked Mirror having a relationship with anyone,” said Fit. “I mean, when I first met her, I have to admit she was fascinating, but that was about it. Once you get past the Manic Pixie Dream Mare, there just isn’t any attraction. And, if I can be shallow for a moment, I don’t even know what she looks like.”

“So how do you know how old she is? How old is she?”

Fit shrugged. “Older than me. She outranked me, and was the commander at Wash Margin well before I showed up.”

Haven let a few seconds pass. “What do you think happened to her?”

“What, to make her the way she is?”

“I meant just now in her motel room.”

Fit considered it. “I don’t know. We didn’t find any blood.”

“She punched herself in the face to get us closer to Tome. You don’t think she faked a foalnapping?”

Fit wouldn’t put it past Mirror. But acknowledging that would delegitimize the crime scene status of the motel room, not to mention get them in so much trouble. He could only imagine Chief Sketchy’s reaction.

“If it gets us results,” he said.

“You know I don’t like doing things this far off the books.”

“I know. I didn’t ask her to do this.”

“Well, she’s the kind of pony who gives herself a black eye when you don’t even ask her to. I think we lost a say in how she’s working this case a long time ago.”

Another thing Fit had lost control over. He stared into the distance and said nothing.