• Published 24th Aug 2012
  • 5,169 Views, 238 Comments

Murder on the Mind - totallynotabrony



Vampire Cheerilee tracks down a serial killer

  • ...
11
 238
 5,169

Chapter 3

After running a brush through her mane and making sure there were no residual traces of blood around her mouth, Cheerilee stepped out the door. The sun was beginning its downward arc, and the mare slipped her shades on. Her lavender coat protected her skin, but her eyes were sensitive to the harsh light.

The restaurant was downtown, and it looked like a fancy place. Cheerilee was wondering if she should have dressed up, when she spotted Blossom. The other teacher waved her over.

There were a few more that had come with Blossom. The group greeted Cheerilee warmly and they went into the restaurant together.

Smells from the kitchen made Cheerilee’s mouth water. From previous experience, however, she knew she wouldn’t be able to eat anything. Any time she had tried, the results had not been pleasant.

“Is this a good table?” asked Blossom.

“It looks fine,” answered Cheerilee.

“It’s always nice to meet someone new,” said one of the others, named Dancer. Cheerilee remembered that she coached the school’s ballet team.

“What brought you to Fillydelphia?” asked Fern, the biology teacher.

Cheerilee repeated the same story about moving from Canterlot that she’d told her class. Fortunately, she was not asked about the Changelings this time.

A waiter came and everypony ordered. Cheerilee selected a pasta dish that sounded good, although she wasn’t going to taste a bite.

The conversation around the table continued for a while, and Cheerilee realized that she was enjoying herself. It was always nice to make friends, even if you were about to deceive them.

When the food came, Cheerilee put her plan into action. A single drop of blood rolled out of her nose and fell into the plate of pasta. She clapped her hooves to her face.

“Oh my gosh, do you have a nosebleed?” asked Blossom. Cheerilee nodded, a little blood leaking past her hooves for effect. She got up and made for the washroom.

Once the door was closed, the mare faced the mirror. Cheerilee watched the crimson drops run backwards up her face. She’d discovered an ability to exert control over her own blood, and it was as fascinating as it was creepy. After taking a moment to put on a face that appeared nauseous, she went back to the table. “I’m sorry ladies, the sight of blood puts me off my appetite.”

The other mares nodded sympathetically. Blossom asked, “Do you think you’ll be okay?”

“I’m not sure.” Cheerilee sighed. “I wouldn’t want to ruin the evening for the rest of you. Maybe I should go home and rest.”

There was general agreement, and Cheerilee left money to cover her uneaten meal. After exiting the restaurant, she headed in the direction of her house for a block before turning a different way. It was still early, and she had a murderer to catch.

▼▼

The office building was mostly dark. One or two lights were on, and Cheerilee saw the silhouette of a patrolling security pony. She could imagine why. When a company executive was murdered while working late, it only make sense to hire guards.

Cheerilee was still searching for a pattern in the deaths. The first two murders appeared to have no connection, and now she had been led to an investment company headquarters that looked like another dead end. It was a disturbing thought that they might be random killings, because anypony could be the next target. She doubted that, however. Every murder appeared to have been planned, not carried out on a whim.

The building was rather short and squat, made of solid stone and brick. Cheerilee contemplated it for a moment from the shadows across the street. Her goal was to get inside undetected and have a look at the scene.

Creeping to the front door, the mare found it locked. Cheerilee sighed. She’d have to do things the hard way. After backing off and checking to make sure nopony was looking, she dashed across the street and straight up the side of the building.

She got to the second floor window without a problem and used the sill as a place to propel herself upwards. The sill of the third floor presented itself and she clamped her mouth on it. Her fangs scratched two little white marks in the stone. After hanging for a moment to make sure her perch was secure, Cheerilee reached up and stabbed a hoof through the glass.

The sound of the breaking window brought the guard running. Cheerilee hauled herself into the office amid the shards of glass. She took a moment to prop the desk chair against the door, blockading herself inside.

There was still some police tape and other things scattered around. In the center of the floor, a large bloodstain had soaked into the carpet. The victim’s throat had been cut from behind. Cheerilee couldn’t help but notice that every murder in the series had involved bloodshed. No poisonings, strangulations, or anything else.

With the security pony pounding on the door, the schoolteacher paused a moment to drop some bits on the desk to pay for the broken window. Cheerilee searched around, but nothing appeared suspicious at first glance. She glanced at the trash can and spotted a familiar logo on a partially crumpled piece of paper. It was a letter from the Timber Construction Company, the same outfit that was working on the apartment building she'd visited the first night.

The security guard had stopped trying to get in. Cheerilee, staying to the shadows beside the window, peeped out at the street below. She saw him down there, watching the broken window for her to come out. Off in the distance was the sound of a police siren.

Cheerilee removed the chair from the door and checked the hallway. After picking up the letter from the trash, she darted across to the next office. The mare dropped a few more bits, and crashed through the window.

The three story drop was staggering, but Cheerilee picked herself up and took off at a lightning gallop, shards of glass working themselves out of her skin. She slowed down a few blocks later, well away from the place the police would begin looking.

Cheerilee considered the letter. It could be her first real clue. She might have to go visit Timber Construction. How convenient - the address was on the paper.

▼▼

A sliver of glass had managed to find its way under one of Cheerilee’s eyelids. She managed to stand the irritation until arriving back home. Working carefully with tweezers and Luna’s mirror, she began the delicate process of extracting the shard.

The mare gasped in surprise as the Princess appeared, breaking her concentration.

Luna raised her eyebrows. “I’m sorry, Cheerilee. I can see you’re...in the middle of something.”

“It’s no trouble, Princess.” The schoolteacher blinked away bloody tears and did her best to appear unconcerned. “I found something interesting tonight.”

Luna motioned for her to talk, and Cheerilee explained about the letter. Timber Construction had been writing to turn down a contracting job because the company didn’t believe it was a good business deal. It wasn’t much, but now there was a connection to another murder.

“I’ll be investigating the company as soon as I can,” Cheerilee finished.

The Princess nodded. “Very well. In the future, though, take a moment to clean yourself up if you need it. I’ll understand.”

Cheerilee ducked her head, wiping away blood. “Yes, Princess. I’m getting better at blocking out pain, and I didn’t want to keep you waiting.”

“The mind is a powerful thing,” said Luna. “Often, it’s not the physical barriers that hold us back, but mental ones.”

Few ponies knew that better than the Princess. She had not been the same since her separation from Nightmare Moon. The damage done was not to her body. Since coming to work for Luna, Cheerilee had begun to see a lot of similarities between the two of them. Perhaps that was why the royal pony was so intent on mentoring the vampire.

After saying goodbye to Princess Luna, Cheerilee began making plans to visit the construction company the next night.. One way or another, she’d find out if they had anything to do with the murders.

▼▼

The night was quiet. Most ponies had gone to bed early in preparation for the coming workday. Cheerilee watched the Timber Construction building. It was a utilitarian brick structure with offices in the front and a warehouse area in the rear. Nopony appeared to be around, but the small number of windows made it difficult to tell.

It had taken a while to decide on an entry point. From her position on the ground, Cheerilee was able to tell that the building had a skylight by observing a few flying bugs that were highlighted by the glow from within.

There was very little around that Cheerilee could use to scale the side of the building. She looked at the corner of the brickwork near the back of the structure. The only way to grip the surface was to use a lot of force to generate the required friction.

With the point of the corner at her nose, and her hooves pressing against the bricks on either side, Cheerilee started up. Getting a grip required even more pressure than she thought. The mare eventually climbed out on top the building, hooves sore and scratched deeply by the rough bricks.

The skylight Cheerilee had guessed at turned out to be a perfect way in. It was propped open slightly to act as a vent. She carefully examined the interior of the building, noting a few dim lights on for security, but no ponies around. After opening the skylight wider, she dropped down inside, silent as a shadow.

It seemed like there would be more incriminating evidence in the office spaces, so Cheerilee headed in that direction. There was a marked difference between the two sections of the building. While the warehouse had a high ceiling, the office was instead two floors high. The more civilized spaces had clean tile floors and tasteful decoration.

Cheerilee tread carefully in the office, although there didn’t appear to be any security around. She hadn’t encountered any problems yet, and was aware that things could sometimes be too easy.

She discovered her first challenge almost immediately. There were far too many filing cabinets and other records to sort through in one night. Cheerilee hadn’t gone up to the second floor yet, but there were bound to be more there.

Sighing in frustration, the mare moved forward to begin her search but stopped suddenly as she sensed something. Cheerilee couldn’t tell what exactly she had noticed, but it made her cautious. She wasn’t used to her senses missing things.

For perhaps a minute, the schoolteacher stood as still as a statue, not moving, not breathing. She slowly turned her head to look this way and that, managing to hear the soft compression of the cartilage disks between the vertebrae in her neck. If she could hear that, then certainly she could hear anything else that moved in the building.

Cheerilee still felt a prickle of apprehension, and couldn’t figure out why. She took one step back in the direction she’d come in.

As her hoof came down, there was a simultaneous noise from behind. Cheerilee jerked her head around, but only caught sight of a blur of motion before she was knocked off her feet with an impact harder than any she’d ever felt before.

Cheerilee twisted in mid-air, throwing her front legs forward instinctively as the office wall came rushing up to meet her. She punched a mare-sized hole in the brick wall and tumbled out onto the street, the bones in her forelegs shattered.

Struggling to get up, Cheerilee was in a panic. Whoever - or whatever - had attacked was clearly dangerous, even to somepony with her abilities. Without any information about her assailant, the smart move would be to recover and try another approach. Some might call it running away.

Cheerilee glanced over her shoulder at the building. The schoolteacher managed to elevate her body to balance on just her back legs. It was awkward and slow, but she was at least moving again. There was not a sound from the Timber Construction building as she hobbled away.

▼▼

At school in the morning, Cheerilee saw that Note was not the first student to arrive. The young pony seemed to always be early, and she wondered why today was different. He came in just before the bell and seemed to be more introverted than usual.

Cheerilee did her best to stay focused. She’d never allowed one of her jobs to affect the other, and despite her worry about what had happened the previous night, there were young minds to teach.

Lunch period, however, the teacher had to herself. She sat quietly at her desk, thinking about what had happened. The only sound was that of ponies in other parts of the school and her heartbeat. Cheerilee had fallen into the habit of keeping her heart moving, thinking it added a nice touch to her illusion of being a normal pony.

She still had no idea what had happened the night before. Despite Cheerilee’s state of alert, she had been surprised and overwhelmed. It was very troubling that there might be something out there more dangerous than her.

Students began coming back in, and Cheerilee’s mind turned back to school. Again, Note was one of the last ones to enter, still keeping his head down. He didn't even try to strike up a conversation with the mare beside him, Golden Ring. Concerned, the teacher kept her eye on him for the rest of the day. He occasionally caught her looking, and quickly averted his gaze.

Note appeared to slowly grow even more anxious, and at the end of the day he practically sprinted out the door. Cheerilee packed up her work, intending to take the class’ quizzes home with her to grade. She noticed that Note had forgotten his bookbag in his haste to leave.

Lost items happened from time to time, and Cheerilee usually took it upon herself to return them. She retrieved a file of contact information from her desk and looked up Note’s home address. His bag would have to be returned later. The teacher had other business to attend to first.

The Timber Construction building had a crew of ponies standing around outside when Cheerilee showed up in the late afternoon. Their focus was on a pony-shaped hole in the wall. A few of them were chipping away broken bricks in order to square the hole off so it could be repaired.

“Who’re you?” one of the workers asked.

“I’m Smiley Cheer from the Fillydelphia Daily News,” explained the mare. “There have been reports of vandalism in the area, and by the look of things it must be a serious problem.”

Note’s bookbag was plain black, and it looked like something a reporter might carry. Cheerilee had carefully crafted her cover story on the way to the place she’d been the previous night.

The work pony shrugged. “If you want to talk to the boss about it, he’s inside.”

Cheerilee thanked him and headed in, through the front door this time. After asking the secretary, she was directed to a tan unicorn stallion.

Crosscut stared forlornly at the inside of the hole in the bricks. He was fit, and kept his brown mane cut short in utilitarian style. Cheerilee got the impression that he had worked his way up from a simple laborer to be head of the company.

“Sorry to bother you,” said Cheerilee, raising her voice over the noise of the workers chipping at the bricks. “I’m from the newspaper. I was hoping I could have a few words with you.

“Yeah, sure,” said the stallion.

“Has this happened before?” Cheerilee asked. “Who could have done such a thing?”

Crosscut stared at her incredulously. “Do you have any idea how much effort this must have taken? I build and repair buildings for a living and I’ve never seen unexplained damage like this.”

Cheerilee nodded. “Was it a break-in?”

“That’s the strange thing,” said Crosscut. “All the debris and broken bricks ended up on the other side. If anything, it was a break-out.”

“What do the police think? Have they been here?” asked Cheerilee.

“Nothing was taken,” explained Crosscut. “But they don’t even have a suspect.”

“Well, I wish you the best of luck in figuring this out.” Cheerilee almost meant it.

Crosscut sighed. "Thanks."

The mare thanked him for his time and left the building, her expression changing to disappointment once outside. The detour to Timber Construction hadn’t yielded much.

Cheerilee sighed and turned towards Note’s house.