• 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 21: Confrontations.

The museum wasn’t a very pleasant place. Perhaps it would be, after it was finished. But to Blueblood it looked, and felt, like a tomb. Its few displays, the offerings that had been buried with the departed, in the hope that he would remember his old life fondly.

Blueblood looked around with a sour expression, surrounded by darkness. It had been a long walk from the palace to Ponyville, and his aunt’s moon had ascended towards the midnight position in the interim. Which was fine; it meant everything was essentially on schedule.

His letter to the killer had been direct and to the point, and he was quite certain it would bring her here. And confronting her here, in the room where Filthy Rich had died…

Blueblood sighed.

“I’m sorry, old boy,” he said to the floor. “I know it seems cruel. And a little reckless. And truth be told, I guess it is.

“But I don’t really have much choice, either. Disproving the Crowns’ case isn’t enough. I have to actively prove she didn’t do it. And right now, the evidence in Miss Rarity’s favor is circumstantial at best.”

Then, righting himself, “Well. All that said, hopefully we won’t be meeting for a while yet. But in any case: after tonight, Miss Rarity should be free.

“I hope that brings some comfort.”

He heard the front doorknob rattle then, heard somepony press vainly against the sealed portal.

Blueblood frowned. The wards on the door were specific, barring access unless the pony seeking entrance had a legal right to do so. He’d had a bit of trouble with entry himself, probably because his right of entry was vicarious. But after a moment, the magic had finally let him in.

Still. According to the unicorn who had placed them on Miss Rarity’s behalf, the ward had been specifically structured to include family members, in case Sweetie Belle had wanted to enter. So the murderer should have had no problem…

Ah, now the door was opening. Still, the portal’s tardy response seemed odd. Perhaps she’d become uncertain of her standing within her own family, or her right to consider herself such, and that had confused the door’s protections? After all, such charms were seldom perfect. And after what she’d done, insecurity would certainly be understandable.

Still, he mused, such self-reflection was certainly unexpected. Perhaps there was hope for the old girl after all.

He waited as the mare slowly made her way through the admission hall’s exhibits, uncertain, her eyes not yet accustomed to the gloom. Moments later, she was entering the music hall where he waited. Blueblood watched her carefully, not daring to breathe. Then, at the proper moment, he hit the lights.

A dozen crystals flared in their sconces, flooding the room and all its contents with illumination. Antique instruments in glass cases hung on the walls alongside portraits of long-dead composers, while several stands displayed larger instruments, busts, and of course the incriminating gramophone recorder beside which Blueblood stood.

The mare winced in the sudden light, taking an involuntary step back.

“Ow! What the actual fuck?” Sour Sweet demanded, eyes still closed.

Blueblood realized his mouth was open, and closed it.

“What?” he exclaimed. “What the deuce are you doing here?”

Then, walking quickly to her, “Look, you’ve got to get out of here—”

“Ohhh, no,” she interrupted, still blinking a little. “When I saw you sneaking in from Canterlot, I knew something was up. You’d never ditch your carriage on a trip that long unless you were up to something! And anypony with half a brain could figure out what.”

“Well, be that as it may—”

He tried a grab for her arm, but she neatly sidestepped him.

“Come on, Blue! You think I’m going to let you face down a murderer alone?”

“I’m not exactly ‘facing down’ anyone, really.” He said indignantly. “Well, I mean, yes, stage one does involve a confrontation. But I happen to have a plan. It is a subtle, well-engineered—”

“Oh, come on!” Sour Sweet snapped. “A wendigo in a glass-blower’s shop is subtle! A porn statue smashing through a stained glass window is subtle!”

Blueblood opened his mouth to give a heated reply, then paused, head cocked to one side.

“Wait. They make those?” he asked, genuinely curious.

Eyes wide with frustration, Sour Sweet stamped a forehoof. “Blue! Focus!”

“Yes, indeed,” said a third voice from behind her. “While I appreciated being able to enter unheard, I think I’d like your full attention now.”

Sour Sweet’s shoulders slumped, and she stared at Blueblood, seething.

“Surely you’re not going to blame me for this?” he demanded.

“I was considering it,” she growled.

“Now, children,” Spoiled Rich sneered at them both, “let’s play nice. How about you both just move away from the entryway, and towards that whatever-it-is by the far wall.”

Sour Sweet turned to face her then. Shoulders oddly relaxed, eyes dangerously narrowed.

“And why should we do that, instead of just kicking your ass?” she hissed.

“Because, my dear,” Blueblood said softly, “that thing she’s holding is the murder weapon.”

Still gloating, Spoiled motioned with the alien device for the other ponies to move to the room’s opposite wall. They did, Sour Sweet’s mouth pursed into a thin line of aggravation as they retreated.

“Mind you, she’d be a fool to use it,” Blueblood added contentedly as they took their new positions by the gramophone.

Spoiled Rich’s eyebrows went up in a mix of amusement and incredulity.

“Oh? And just why is that?” she asked.

“Because, any moment now, the police are due to arrive,” he said. “And since you were good enough to bring the murder weapon with you, not to mention holding it against the two of us, I think your best bet will be to simply confess, and throw yourself upon the mercy of the court.”

Spoiled Rich stared.

Blueblood nodded to himself in the ensuing silence. Meanwhile, Spoiled Rich was looking frantically from the front door to the other two ponies and back again, Sour Sweet staring at him more anxiously by the moment.

“Aaaaany minute now,” he said, continuing to nod. His eyes had narrowed into a cagey look, focusing on the direction of the conspicuously silent door.

Finally, Sour Sweet spoke.

“You… did send for the police, right?”

“Of course,” he said, still nodding.

“And it was before you left home?”

He stopped nodding, giving her a look of minor irritation. “What? Of course it was before I left home. These things take time, after all.”

“Yes, I know these things take time! I’m just trying to figure out how you would beat them here by this much…”

“I arranged for notice to be sent with specific timing…“

Sour Sweet gaped. “You arranged?!?”

Blueblood frowned. “Well, of course! I couldn’t risk her seeing me tipping them off, could I?”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, so you risked both our lives instead! So much better!”

“Well, I didn’t know you’d be here!” he huffed. “And in any event, once Akane and Hepzibah saw the note, I knew--”

“You left them a note?!?” she screeched. “Are you kidding me?!?”

“Are you implying that my family isn’t responsible?!?” he demanded, rounding on her.

Sour Sweet stepped forward. “No! No, I’m saying that you’re irresponsible!”

Blue stepped forward as well, their muzzles now almost touching “Now, see here! I’m not the one who barged in on a murder confession--!”

“No, you just left a note instead of talking to somepony when your life—“

“I’ll have you know I calculated every aspect of this—!“

“Well then, why didn’t you just COMPLETE the thought, and—!“

“SHUT UP!” Spoiled Rich screamed, waving the revolver at them both. “SHUT UP! SWEET CELESTIA’S FLAMING TITS, SHUT! THE RUT! UP!!”

And then, muttering, “Luna’s dapples, it’s like listening to my parents.”

Sour Sweet and Blueblood both took an involuntary step back, staring at the weapon in Spoiled Rich’s trembling hoof. The immediate problem was no longer that she wanted them dead. It was that the device she held operated solely by mechanical pressure, not by will or intent. Which meant that, under current circumstances, it might well go off by accident.

Not that Spoiled Rich would likely object, of course. But Blueblood knew that he certainly would. And that was of far greater importance. Especially considering that, in addition to himself, Sour Sweet would also be a target.

“There’s no point in killing either of us,” Blueblood pointed out. “The note I left was rather detailed. Our deaths would only incriminate you further. And this time with deliberate murders, not an accidental death.”

“Shut up,” Spoiled Rich snarled. “You don’t know anything!”

Blueblood raised a haughty eyebrow. “Oh?”

Taking on his most superior smile, he began, “Very well, then. Let us consider the facts before us.

“Your choice of weapon, while confusing at first, could hardly be called inspired,” he began. “A matter of happenstance, obviously. You got lost in the palace last Grand Galloping Gala, which is the most likely time for you to have acquired it.

“I’ve seen a variety of royal security systems in my travels, and I can assure you that Equestria’s is by far the most relaxed. Probably because unlike my dear aunts, other monarchs have to worry about being assassinated. And the palace’s magical security is always lowered somewhat for public occasions, to avoid any accidental mishaps. Foals are sometimes brought into the grounds, after all, and not all the spells that protect the place are benign.

“So, on those few occasions when the palace is relatively open, deadly wards are depowered en masse in favour of more guard ponies at various stations. After all, it’s not as if the princesses are in any real danger, so what’s the harm?

“I think we know the answer to that question now. Whether there were no guards stationed at the hallway that night, or whether they’d left their posts to help deal with Discord’s guest and their antics, I don’t know. But what I do know is that, for you, curiosity overcame caution.

“You entered the restricted wing you’d discovered below the palace proper. And when you saw the weapon – revolver, I believe the proper term was – you realized that the wards protecting it were down. Any other time of year, electrical glyphs worked into the doorway would have denied you entrance into the wing. Well, unless you had a key, of course. And in any event, breaching the display glass would have blasted you into charred bits.

“But that night, luck was with you. The oversight of having no non-lethal protections within Starswirl’s old artifacts hall, combined with timing, dumb luck, and your own opportunism, and the weapon was yours.

“The decision to actually use the weapon might have seemed sudden,” he mused. “But I do suspect that on some level, you’d already recognized that your marriage was disintegrating around you.

“Then again, perhaps you considered such opportunism a sign of strength,” he went on conversationally. “The zeal a pony needed in order to advance herself in society. Or, perhaps, did having such a weapon give some sense of control you were lacking?”

Spoiled Rich’s face hardened as she blinked back tears, focusing her weapon exclusively upon Blueblood.

For his part, Blueblood shrugged.

“Then again, perhaps you just needed somepony to blame for the downward turn your private life had been taking,” he said. “And, when that time came, perhaps the weapon would be the way you would punish them. I confess, I don’t really know which. Perhaps all of the above, to varying degrees.

“What I do know is that your husband’s involvement with Miss Rarity’s latest charity gave you what you needed: somepony to blame for the state of your family. Well, besides yourself, of course. And when you were ready to destroy that someone for your failures, Miss Rarity made the perfect hook upon which to hang your homicidal hat.”

“They’d been spending more time together, more and more, for months!” Spoiled Rich seethed. “We were married. Married! He had no right to go off playing bachelor colt every other night and weekend, playing with his outdated toys with some damned—”

“Miss Rarity, however, was not the final straw,” Blueblood interrupted smoothly.

Projecting his voice to cover what he hoped was the approach of assorted hoofsteps, he said, “It was your daughter, Diamond Tiara! Her ever-growing association with the Rarity household. Staying for dinner multiple times a week, and recently even spending regular nights there. That was what made up your mind.”

The murderess’ voice was a hoarse whisper. “Shut up…”

“I’ll admit, it was all most puzzling to me, even with the weapon’s discovery,” Blueblood went on, idly inspecting a nearby portrait frame for dust. “Not how you did it, of course. Even bearing the revolver’s alien nature in mind, with your unusual hoof dexterity that was never a question. It was motive that was such a poser.”

Frowning, he wiped his hoof on his kerchief before continuing, “After all, it was always obvious how much you loved your husband. Even depended on him, even as you strove to drive other ponies away from him. So, why do it at all? And how did Diamond Tiara fit into it?”

His voice was almost kind as he said, “It was because… you were afraid.”

In a sudden gesture, Spoiled Rich reared up, grasping the revolver with both front hooves, struggling to keep it still as she kept Blueblood in her sights. Tears, still flowing, had long since ruined her mascara. Her breathing was raspy, and hard.

Sour Sweet’s eyes were wide, darting between stallion and mare. “Um, Blue…?”

But the noblepony ignored her, casually pocketing his kerchief as he spoke.

“It took me a long time to see it. And even then, I’ll admit I needed help,” he said. “I’ve simply never known that kind of fear. Fear of loss. Of not being first, and only. A fear which, by all outward appearances, you abated only through your control over the lives of others.”

“It wasn’t like that!” the murderess spat.

“I know it wasn’t.”

“I was happy!” Spoiled choked. “It wasn’t just the money and the connections, it was him! Our daughter!”

And then, in a shriek, “And that bitch was taking my family away from me!”

Blueblood nodded. There it was, the final confirmation. The true motive for this seemingly motiveless crime that had baffled him for so long.

“You knew that Miss Rarity would be here that night,” he said, still ignoring the weapon pointed at him. “Her work on the museum, while not advertised, was no more a secret than any of her other charity works. She was the one you’d meant to kill.

“But you didn’t know that she’d stayed home with her sick sister. And, you didn’t know that your husband had come here earlier than usual… ironically, to tell Miss Rarity that he would be distancing himself from the project, and from her, for your sake. Just as you didn’t know that he’d made dinner reservations for the two of you the following night, to tell you he was done with the museum.”

Spoiled blinked, her voice an astonished whisper. “What…?”

“There was another matter he was going to explain as well, regarding your daughter,” Blueblood said, almost kindly. “But that’s hardly my tale to tell. What I can say with certainty is that when you’d arrived here, you’d come for Miss Rarity’s life, not Filthy’s.

“I can only imagine how seeing your husband here instead filled you with rage. Perhaps you saw him pocketing the letter he’d only just written to another mare. Perhaps you didn’t. But you brandished the weapon just the same. Of course, you’d meant it as a confrontation, not a murder.

“But… you didn’t know how it worked, did you?”

Spoiled swallowed, shaking her head slightly. She lowered again to three hooves, the fourth still keeping the weapon trained upon him. Her eyes were filled with loss, the other mare in the room forgotten.

For his part, Blueblood concentrated on keeping her attention away from the sound of desperate voices outside, muffled by the warded door they were trying to force open.

“Of course not,” he went on. “How could something like that just explode in your hooves by accident? Ridiculous! Magic requires intent to function, by its very nature. Any schoolfoal knows that. A weapon should logically be no exception.

“Yet, your husband was dead, just the same.”

“I didn’t want him to die,” she choked. “I just didn’t want him to—”

She cut herself off, glaring at him. Swallowing back her tears, eyes hard. Again, she raised the revolver, her hoof far steadier than it should have been.

“What I said about the note before was completely true,” Blueblood pointed out.

“So?” Spoiled demanded in a suddenly hysterical voice. “What’s that prove? Nothing! Your reputation’s garbage, everypony knows it! You find a new way to embarrass yourself every Gala, and then hire on whores to mince their way through your apartments at the palace every night. No one will believe the word of a missing libertine over mine! And if the princesses were going to intervene, they would have by now.

“Your disappearance will be seen as an obvious ploy,” she went on through gritted teeth, her voice lowering dangerously. “The two of you fled the price of your courtroom failure, to start up a new life somewhere far away. Your precious note, just a last-ditch attempt to save face, to make the guilty seem innocent.

“But none of that matters tonight, especially not for you. I’ve already killed. I’m already guilty. It won’t matter if I do it again. And I know how the weapon works now.”

“Of course you do,” Blueblood nodded, smiling again. “And you’ll use it, I’m sure. Even with the evidence against Miss Rarity, even with your first killing being an accident, I knew the moment I saw you in court that you were a murderess.”

Again, Spoiled’s fragile mask of composure shattered and fell away.

“How?!?” she screamed, stabbing the revolver at him as she advanced. “How could you possibly have known?!? I had the perfect reputation, the perfect fall mare! HOW COULD YOU HAVE KNOWN?!?”

Blueblood gave a patronizing chuckle.

“Because, my dear, when it comes to reading ponies like yourself…”

His smile broadened with an almost tangible condescension as he finished, deliberately slow enough for even a true dullard to follow.

“I. Am never. Wrong.”

Blueblood bowed low.

There were twin explosions, like the booms of massive fireworks, deep and deafening in the enclosed space.

But even as the noblepony fell, the constabulary surged in through the warded door at last, flooding into the museum, those who entered the music hall staring at the tableau before them in horror.

The prince collapsing to the floor, bleeding out rapidly.

The alien weapon in Spoiled’s hoof as she spun to face them, wild-eyed, surrounded by smoke. The revolver’s hammer desperately clicking again and again on its spent chambers.

The young gold-coated mare, crying out as she rushed to the unicorn’s side. Blood staining her arms and barrel as she tried in vain to catch his fall.

The pain was momentary, strangely enough. His body felt light, even warm. His legs gently gave way beneath him, their strength flowing away like melting wax as he involuntarily settled on the floor.

Shadow encroached his vision from all sides, but he was able to make out Sour Sweet.

Wait, was she crying?

He heard her say something. It sounded like, “Idiot.”

Well. She was alright then.

Blueblood managed a smile. Then darkness overtook him, and he knew nothing more.