• Published 29th May 2020
  • 566 Views, 141 Comments

Murder at the Rarity Boutique - Coyote de La Mancha

When Rarity is accused of murder, there is only one stallion who can prove her innocence. And yes, he is exactly the pony you’re thinking of. But he isn’t who you imagine him to be.

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Chapter 13: You Have: No Tea.

As the thunder continued to rumble, the carriage touched down gently on the nearby street to avoid leaving tracks in the rain-soaked lawn. Blueblood wasn’t sure just what he’d been expecting the home of Octavia Melody and Vinyl Scratch to look like. But it certainly wasn’t this.

Before the ladies had moved in, it might have been a modest cottage. Or, he considered, perhaps they’d had it built for themselves. The quarter note-shaped bush that towered over him and Sour Sweet as they approached the door was certainly a singular piece.

But then there was the house itself. Its right half, painted in shades of purple and blue; the left, in sensible browns. All topped by a traditional thatched roof, and a chimney shaped like the pipes from a massive organ.

“Gee,” Sour Sweet muttered, “I wonder what they do for a living.”

Grinning, Blueblood rapped smartly on the door.

“One moment!” answered a cultured voice from within.

A few moments later, it opened to reveal a grey earth mare in a pink bow tie, her black mane cascading elegantly down her shoulder. The lady’s violet eyes grew wide as she took in her visitor’s identity, and then she bowed low.

“Your Grace,” she said.

He nodded, examining her carefully. “Good afternoon, Miss… Melody, I presume?”

Rising, she nodded as well.

Blueblood continued, “Excellent. I apologize for the intrusion, but may we come in? We have questions regarding some of the evidence of Miss Rarity’s case, and you and your partner may be able to shed some light on the matter.”

“Oh! Of course! Please, come in,” she said, stepping back. Then, over her shoulder, “Vinyl! Company!”

The two visitors entered the house, Sour Sweet mentally cursing weather pegasi and clunky padded duffel bags in general, and unicorns with weak-ass umbrella magic in particular. Still, she managed a smile when Octavia offered to take her bag.

“May I offer you both some tea?” Octavia asked, setting the bag gently on the living room table.

“That would be lovely,” Blueblood smiled. “Thank you.”

Meanwhile, a freshly-showered Vinyl Scratch was trotting into the room, still toweling her mane as she said, “Oh, hey, man! Wasn’t expecting you today, but since you’re here I was wondering what you’d thought about applying an aria function to…”

“Wait, Vinyl, it’s not—” Octavia started belatedly.

But by then, the white mare had stopped in her tracks, staring. Her towel fell to the floor, forgotten, while Octavia put her hoof to her forehead with a groan.

“Oh,” Vinyl said, taking in the situation. “Well… far out.”

There were several moments of introductions. Then, as Octavia busied herself setting the dining room table with silver and china, Vinyl approached the duffel bag.

“Should I put this somewhere?” she asked.

“Actually, no,” Blueblood said with a gesture of welcome. “In fact, the bag’s contents are why we’re here. But before we begin, I also have a message for you both.”

Octavia gave the merest pause in her hostess ministrations. “Oh?”

“Arpeggio asked me to send his best.”

“Indeed?” The cellist relaxed into a grin. “I had no idea he’d joined your household. What’s he up to these days?”

Blueblood chuckled. “Well, aside from teaching, he and his partners are busily raising a slew of children…”

Octavia was nodding. “…plus all his other students, who he’s probably adopted in all but name,” she added, still grinning.

“He’d hardly be Arpeggio if he hadn’t,” Blueblood agreed with a smile. “Rumor has it that he actually sleeps on occasion, but cursed if I know when.”

Meanwhile, in the other room, Vinyl had gently unzipped the duffel bag and was peering inside, her eyes growing even wider.

“Oh,” she cooed to the content within. “Ohhhh, look at youuuuu…”

“Um, Vinyl,” Octavia said gently, “Maybe before we start opening things we should… oh,” she finished quietly, as Vinyl carefully removed a large engraved wax cylinder and held it up to the light.

Silently, Octavia went to where her marefriend stood. For several heartbeats, both musicians stared at the newly revealed artifact in wonder.

“This is real,” Vinyl breathed, slowly sitting with her treasure.

“It’s a Tainter,” Octavia marveled. “You can see her mark on the end, here.”

Then, with more purpose, she added, “Here, let me help.”

A few minutes later, the recording was resting on a makeshift bed of folded crushed silk on the table’s center, the four ponies sitting around it, any thoughts of tea momentarily forgotten.

“I can get you the machine it was recorded upon,” Blueblood said. “But I thought you would likely have more suitable equipment already.”

Absently, both musicians nodded.

“Your Grace,” Octavia said, “Forgive me, I realize this may be a stupid question, but… do you know how much this is worth?”

“Actually, I don’t,” the stallion admitted with a slight shrug. “It came from the museum where Filthy Rich was murdered.”

Octavia and Vinyl stared at him.

“Filthy Rich was killed by something unknown,” Sour Sweet broke in. “Something that the prosecution thinks… well, you saw what those idiots think,” she ended with a snarl.

The musicians started, and Sour Sweet continued in a calmer voice, “But this was in the same room with him when he died, and it should have been recording when it happened.”

“The recording was marred by the firework show,” Blueblood added. “Overloaded. But I was thinking, if anypony could retrieve even part of what had happened there that night…”

Octavia, having regained her composure, was nodding thoughtfully. “…it would be Vinyl,” she finished. “She and Princess Twilight bonded over Thaumusical theory as soon as they met. They’ve been working together off and on ever since.”

Vinyl, for her part, was studying the wax cylinder with a frown. Finally, she straightened in her chair, shaking her head.

“Look, dude, you gotta understand...”

“Vinyl!” Octavia hissed.

“Oh, sorry, dude. I mean, Your Grace.”

While Sour Sweet watched and Blueblood struggled to keep a straight face, Vinyl paused, considering. Meanwhile, from where she sat, Octavia stared at her marefriend in growing apprehension and horror.

“…Grace Dude?” Vinyl offered at last.

“Oh, my sweet weanling Celestia,” Octavia moaned, burying her face in her hooves.

“‘Grace Dude’ does have a certain ring to it,” the prince grinned.

Vinyl grinned back. “Yeah, it totally does.”

“When,” Octavia groaned from behind her hooves, “when does the pain stop?”

Sour Sweet glanced over at the unicorns now happily gabbing away, and blew the mane out of her eyes.

“Yeah,” she muttered. “I’ll let you know.”

At first, Sour Sweet had been worried about more tea, and yet more cookies. Not that she had a huge problem with either one, but… sweet Luna’s shadow, how much ritual eating with tiny plates and cups did a pony need in one day? Or a week? Or even a feathering month?

But it turned out that her concerns had been groundless. Once Vinyl had successfully convinced Octavia that His Grace was fine with a less formal venue, the cellist had wasted no time in fetching an assortment of new additives for tea from the liquor cabinet while Vinyl had raided the fridge. China and fine silver vanished. Large earthenware plates and coffee mugs were secured instead, and a pleasant jazz album was set playing in the background while the four ponies sat down at the living room’s large table, the wax cylinder resting in its silken nest in the next room.

Ultimately, what resulted was what Blueblood happily called an ‘early high tea,’ Octavia called ‘tea without all the damned tiny food,’ and Vinyl just called ‘noms.’ And with the advent of the antique recording nearby, the conversation inevitably veered into Blueblood’s hopes for the recording’s restoration, which in turn led to Vinyl’s explanation of the musically-specialized magical theories she and Princess Twilight had been working on.

“…allowing the mid-high frequencies of the recorded voices to be recalibrated through their implied sympathetic link to the earlier samples,” Vinyl finished while refilling their mugs with a nice mint blend.

“That sounds like exactly what we need, then,” the prince said, pouring another shot of rum into his mug. “I confess I didn’t follow a great deal of the particulars you were explaining, but I know enough about magic to recognize a balanced equation when I hear one.”

“It is. It’s just… dude, look,” the DJ said, sitting down again, “what you’re asking for isn’t exactly what we’ve been working on. The theories should apply, but odds are against us recovering a whole lot. Heck, we might not get anything. And anything we do get is gonna be out of context, and the voices may not sound right, and...”

Sighing, the DJ put both forehooves on the table before her, looking down.

“I mean, I’m not saying I can’t do it,” she added. “I’m just saying that, without anything but theory to base this off of, I don’t know if I can do it right. And that’s a hell of a thing to have Rare’s future riding on. You know?”

“You’re far too modest, love,” Octavia said gently, placing a hoof on Vinyl’s shoulder. “For all that it’s still in the experimental stage, everything you’ve done thus far adds up perfectly. And, the same techniques should be applicable to recorded voice filtration and recovery, correct?”

“Well, sure, as long as it’s got a surviving record of him talking on it,” Vinyl acknowledged.

“Well, he’d made some previous recordings on the cylinder,” Blueblood offered.

“Okay, yeah, that should work,” Vinyl admitted. “It’s just…”

“Miss Scratch, I appreciate your candor,” the prince broke in gently. “And your reluctance. But I also trust your expertise. And it occurs to me that you are the preeminent expert in the field. So, even if what you retrieve is imperfect by your own standards, anything gained would be an improvement over nothing.”

“Yeah, okay, point,” Vinyl admitted. “But, you sure that we can’t get Twilight involved in this? I mean, a lot of the work behind the theory is hers. Sure, most of the music theory is mine, and Octavia’s contributed too, don’t let her fool you. But Princess Twi’s the one with the scary Thaum brain, y’know?”

“It does practically pulse with information, doesn’t it?” Blueblood smiled as he sipped.

“Indeed,” Octavia nodded contentedly as she added honey butter to her apple muffin. “Positively chocked full of pulsy knowledge.”

“Pulse, throb, pulse, throb,” Sour Sweet chimed in happily, helping herself to a slice of pie.

“I heard one time she stopped a timber wolf by flexing her brain,” Vinyl supplied, momentarily cheered again.

“Mmph, yeah, I think I heard about that,” Sour Sweet managed through a bite of cherries and crust. Chasing it down with drink, she added, “Crushed it to death against a basket of puppies, right?”

“Yeah, that was the one,” Vinyl deadpanned.

“Right, I think that’s quite enough rum for me,” Blueblood said, setting his cup down. “I really didn’t need that last image.”

“Yeah, that’s fair,” Vinyl nodded, contentedly, knocking her own drink back.

Then, with a more somber look, she said, “Seriously though, I’m not sure how cool I am with cutting her out of this, man. Princess Twi’s pretty awesome, and a lot of the work behind this has been hers. The discovery should be, too. Plus, you’ll get better results.”

“And in principle, I agree with you,” Blueblood admitted. “And, I admit it’s a risk. But on the off-chance anything you find comes up in court – even peripherally – the less she’s involved, the better.”

There were a few moments of quiet then, as the musicians contemplated this. Finally, Vinyl sighed. She and her marefriend exchanged glances, and the DJ reluctantly nodded.

“Without her help, it’ll take a couple of days,” she said. “But if you check back with us then, we should have something.”

Author's Note:

Belle Tainter was a brilliant composer and thaumusical researcher, and there are several innovations and inventions in her name which propelled both musical and communications technology forward dramatically during her lifetime. The wax phonograph was only one of her many accomplishments.

She also had a rather unfortunate cutie mark. The less said, the better.