• Published 1st Aug 2020
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Ponyville Noire: Misty Streets of Equestria - PonyJosiah13

Scarred from their final encounter with Zugzwang, Phillip Finder and Daring Do struggle to make peace with the past while balancing a slew of new mysteries that will take them beyond Ponyville.

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Case Fifteen, Chapter Three: Catching Up

Phillip and Daring pushed through the revolving doors of the Ponyville Police precinct, sighing and stretching as they entered. Daring looked around the lobby, remembering the first time she had stepped through that revolving door. The black and white tiled floor had been dingy and scuffed, the waiting area next to the door furnished by old, creaky furniture, featuring an ancient coffee machine and water dispenser. She glanced down at the floor that had been stained by blood from the prisoner that two cops had dragged past her.

But now the lobby was pristine, the summer air cooled by a low-humming fan. A few ponies sat on the inexpensive but comfortable couches, a pegasus stallion taking a cup of water from the cooler and warm coffee from the dispenser for his wife; though their faces were far from happy, they were no longer avoiding the eyes of every officer who passed by. A gray-maned burro, his uniform and corporal’s chevrons clean and well-pressed, bent down to speak to a teary-eyed young stallion, resting a comforting hoof on his shoulder.

As Daring and Phillip proceeded through the lobby, a low rumble of voices followed, like the wake from a ship. Daring gritted her teeth, imagining the hisses of accusations and suspicion...but then she listened closer and realized what their observers were saying.

“Is that them?”

“It’s them! Detectives Finder and Do!”

“He’s even more handsome than he looks in the papers. What a dreamboat!”

“You think she’d sign my notebook?”

“I saw her, man. She took on Roaring all on her own. Nearly took him out the first time, too!”

“Whoever they’re after doesn’t have a chance!”

“Hey, detectives! Go get ‘em!”

The voices were like a beam of light through the fog of fatigue that was clinging around her. She turned around and shot a smile and a tilt of the pith helmet at the smiling creatures cheering them on.

“And you tell Rainbow not to get a swollen head,” Phillip muttered through a small grin as they proceeded through the doors to the interior of the station.

“Ah, don’t be such a grump,” Daring grinned, booping him as they headed for the stairs.

They climbed up to the second floor and headed to the detective’s offices. Entering the main area, they found a mess of cubicles stretching through the open area, with creatures bustling through the maze-like rats searching for cheese. A constant clatter of voices, ringing phones, hoofsteps, and rustling papers filled the air.

“How does anypony get any work done here?” Daring mused as they proceeded along a hallway, squeezing up against the wall to try to stay out of the near-constant stream of detectives rushing past them.

“You get used to it,” Phillip said, spotting his target. They trotted up to one of the doors along the outer edge of the maze. The lettering on the frosted glass window had been recently replaced, the name on it declared in fresh, bold lettering:

“Sergeant Red Herring, Major Crimes.”

Phillip paused at the door, staring at the name and letting out a quiet sigh. With a swallow, he knocked at the door.

“Come in,” a voice grunted from inside.

Phillip opened up the door and they entered the office within. Red hadn’t had much time to decorate his new office, but there were still a few pics set up on the white wall. One was a photograph of his academy graduating class: he was nearly unrecognizable in the middle row, third from the left, with his shorter haircut and wide smile. The smaller middle picture was Red, younger and adorned in a well-pressed dress uniform, one wing draped around a pale yellow pegasus with wavy green hair and one hoof placed atop the head of a red pegasus colt with a frizzy, leonine blonde mane.

The third picture was taken on a houseboat, surrounded by the sapphire waters of the Maresippi River. Red was standing in the center, mugging for the camera with a bottle of beer clutched in his wing. Next to him was Lug Wrench, sunlight reflecting off his glasses, his oily mane tussled by the wind. His foreleg was around Trace’s shoulders: the unicorn’s horn was alight as he held up the camera, and his smile was small but genuine.

Phillip forced himself to turn away from the picture to face the rest of the room. Red was currently sitting behind the desk, turned away from the mess of paperwork tossed across it as if a small tornado had passed through the room, staring instead out the window at the sky painted by the setting sun with a scarlet that almost matched his coat. Flash was sitting on a cushion in front of the desk, looking over an autopsy report. Autumn Blaze was sitting next to Flash, chattering away.

“Oh, hey, there you are!” she cried, greeting them with a broad grin. “Didja find anything at the Heavenly Bawdy?”

“Not much helpful,” Phillip admitted. “How goes it here, mates?”

“About the same,” Flash admitted.

“I told Detectives Sentry and Herring everything I could remember about Eagle Trust and what happened at my motel room,” Autumn chirped. “We’re making a great team!”

“A team that doesn’t have much to go on,” Red commented, spinning around in his chair. “There wasn’t much evidence at her motel that we or Twilight could find, and since that fink took all of her physical proof, there’s not much we can use to go after Eagle Trust.” Red glanced over at Autumn, who had scowled briefly at the mention of the intruder but showed no sign of starting to turn nirik. “Flash and I already dropped by the place, but they basically told us to fuck off and come back with a warrant,” he added.

“I’m back,” Twilight called, reentering the room with a glowing crystal floating next to her head.

“Ooooh, tell them about the car!” Autumn said, bouncing in her seat slightly.

“What car?” Daring asked.

“We got followed on the way to the station!” Autumn said.

“What?” Daring and Phil both cried.

“I just liked writing: stories, plays, musicals, you name it,” Autumn said, leaning out the passenger window to enjoy the sun on her face and the wind blowing through her mane. “And the best stories I wrote were the ones that made other people happy. But when I left the Grove to travel, I figured I could do more than just write stories. I could write freelance for papers, talk about the problems that everycreature knew about but wasn’t talking about: corruption, pollution, discrimination, poverty. And I still write stories, too!” She smiled. “I’ve been all over Equestria and beyond: Thrussia, Mount Aeris, Prance, Gerwhinny, Nippony, you name it. I’ve done some good: helped get a lousy mayor voted out in Prance, got some pollution laws passed in the Fillypines after the ponies protested a chemical factory…” She gave Twilight a small grin. “Unfortunately, being a kirin and a nosy reporter means I wear out my welcome pretty fast everywhere I go. But, there’s a whole world out there, full of creatures that need some smiles!”

“I see,” Twilight smiled as she turned onto Silver Street, checking her mirrors. “Autumn, it’s great that you’ve dedicated yourself to trying to make this world a better place. It’s why I started working in forensics, too.”

“Oh, I’m sure!” Autumn said. “It’s good to know that there are good ponies out there, trying to--Twilight, what’s wrong?”

Twilight’s eyes were fixed on the rearview mirror, staring at a dark blue Mustang Economy Coupe with tinted windows that was trailing behind their truck.

“I think that car’s following us,” Twilight said, fixing her eyes on the road. “He’s been behind us for five turns now.” She squinted at the plate. “ZM1 2HR,” she murmured to herself.

“You sure?” Autumn asked, turning around to watch the car.

“Don’t look at it! We don’t want him to know that we’re onto him!” Twilight snapped, turning left onto a residential street. “I’m going to try to make sure, hang on.”

Autumn let out a nervous chuckle. “This is kinda like in a detective novel,” she said through a grin, keeping her gaze on the mirror. The blue two-door followed around the turn with them.

Twilight slowed to a halt at a stop sign, then turned right. A red van pulled in behind the forensics truck, trundling behind them at a lazy pace.

“Maybe he’s not following us,” Autumn said hopefully.

“We’ll see,” Twilight said, sweat running down her mane. She drove carefully through the narrow, winding streets of the neighborhood, glancing at the mirrors every second. Autumn kept her eyes on the passenger side mirror, one hoof tapping at the door like she was trying to send a telegraph.

Twilight stopped at a stop sign, throwing a terse smile at a cluster of chattering children that crossed in front of her, then turned right again. The red van puttered off to the left as they passed around a curve shaded by thick trees. Both mares kept watch on the reflections, but instead of the blue Coupe, a newspaper filly on a bike pulled in behind them, whistling cheerfully as she tossed a paper onto a porch.

“Guess he wasn’t following us after all,” Autumn grinned at Twilight. Twilight gave Autumn a relieved smile as they paused at a stop sign. “Let’s get back onto that Silver Street, we’ve got time to make up!”

Twilight proceeded through the stop sign, paused to allow a griffon and a thestral playing basketball to step aside, then trundled down the road to a four-way intersection, reaching the line just as the light turned red. The street sign on the corner announced that they were now on the corner of Silver and MacHillard. Twilight hit the left signal, sighing in relief as she settled back in her seat. “Thankfully, those detective novels are just fiction,” she said.

“Funny you’d say that, after everything you’ve been through,” Autumn commented as the light turned green.

“Point,” Twilight replied, turning back onto Silver Street. “But just because--”

A growl of an engine prompted her to look back in the mirror. Her face fell in a moment when she saw the shape behind them. The blue coupe, license plate ZM1 2HR, was pulling in behind them, closing in fast.

“Oh, no,” Twilight muttered, hitting the accelerator.

“Should we call for backup?” Autumn asked, rolling up the window and looking down at the radio in between their seats.

“Good idea,” Twilight said, lifting the mouthpiece with her magic and clicking it on. “Breaker, breaker. This is Bishop One, 10-33 on Silver and Magnolia. We’re being followed by an unknown car: Mustang Economy Coupe, license Zebra Mike One Two Hotel Romeo.”

All that answered them was a hissing of static. Twilight gulped and clicked the radio again. “Breaker, this is Bishop One. Does anypony copy?”

More static hissed back at them. Twilight looked up in the mirror to see the coupe was practically tailgating them, close enough that they could see a dark silhouette behind the tinted windshield. “Fiddlesticks,” she muttered.

“Now what?” Autumn asked with a swallow.

Twilight let out a groan, her eyes darting from mirror to street, then her face brightened with an idea. “Hang on!” she said, slamming the brakes and swerving onto a side street with a squealing of tires. Autumn yelped, bracing against the door as the truck rumbled around the corner. The pursuing Coupe had to brake hard to try to follow them and got stuck behind a pair of cars that pushed in with blaring horns.

Roaring down the road, Twilight swiveled her head from side to side. “There!” she cried, turning onto a decline, descending into a parking garage. Darkness overtook the truck like the garage was some great beast that had swallowed them whole; the headlights from the truck revealed rows of cars sitting in dusty parking places beneath dim, bare bulb lights. Twilight swerved around a cluster of parked cars and slithered into a parking space in a shadowed corner as her horn sparked with lavender magic.

Waves of purple energy spread over the truck as Twilight turned off the engine with a clicking. The blue paint of the truck turned into white, the decals faded away, and the license plate’s numbers blurred and shifted.

“Get down,” Twilight urged Autumn, ducking beneath the windows. Autumn slithered down as well, carefully peeking over the window. She realized that she was holding her breath when she noticed that her breath wasn’t fogging the window.

Twenty seconds passed. Thirty. Forty. Autumn glanced down at Twilight, who had her horn sparking faintly as she maintained the illusion spell. “Maybe we lost him,” she smiled.

A pair of headlights pierced the darkness like the eyes of some beast searching through the night for its prey. The blue Coupe trundled slowly into the garage, turning up their row. Autumn gasped and curled up into a ball, covering her head. Twilight’s breath came hard and fast, her horn flaring faintly with every heavy exhalation. Sweat ran down her mane into her eyes, making her grunt in irritation as she blinked the salt out of her gaze.

Tires crunched against stone and dirt as the vehicle came closer; the beams from the headlight passed over them like some hostile, foreign sun. Both mares tensed up, as if the slightest movement, the slightest noise would give them both away.

A moment later, the light passed them by and the sound of the car retreated. Autumn slowly looked up and caught the tail end of the car driving on. It circled the level, then headed back outside, disappearing into the sunlight.

Both mares breathed a long sigh of relief. “Nice work, Twilight!” Autumn grinned at the unicorn, giving her a playful punch on the shoulder.

Twilight let out a relieved smile as she climbed back into her seat. “Actually, I read that in a detective novel, too,” she admitted. “At the time, I thought you couldn’t make an illusion spell on the fly like that. Guess I was wrong.” She started the truck back up again. “Okay, we’ve wasted enough time. Back to the precinct!”

“I suspect he was using a jamming device to jam our radio,” Twilight said.

“I should’ve been with you,” Flash frowned, taking Twilight’s hoof. “If I’d been--”

“Flash, it’s okay,” Twilight said, squeezing his hoof. “Autumn and I came out of it all right. We’ll be more careful in the future.”

Flash looked unsure, but he nodded after a moment.

“Unfortunately, I already checked on the car,” Red commented. “That plate was stolen from a different car weeks ago, and we’re still trying to find the car, and our suspect. And Gold Signature.”

“I’ve told Detective Herring and Flash here all I can remember about Gold,” Autumn volunteered. “I just hope he’s okay.”

“We’ll find him, Autumn,” Twilight assured her.

“I’m sure,” Autumn said, grinning at Phil and Daring. “You’ve got these two working for you. You’ve taken down a bunch of crime bosses, cleaned up what used to be one of the worst cities in Equestria in terms of crime rates...heck, you two are practically heroes! We can stop Eagle Trust, too!”

Daring let out a small, slightly embarrassed smile. “Nice to hear some optimism,” she confessed, some part of her noting that the branded skin felt warm.

“Life’s too short to be negative!” Autumn declared, booping her on the nose. “I gotta get back to my motel room, I’ve got a lot of writing to do!”

“We’ll have some officers escort you back and keep an eye on your room for you,” Flash offered, signaling to a couple of patrol officers who were speaking to a detective outside. Both of the unicorns gave Autumn confused stares but nodded when Flash gave them their instructions.

“Bye! See you later!” Autumn waved at the detectives with a smile as she trotted out after escorts.

Red let out a puff of air. “Boy, she’s a weird one,” he commented.

“Not the weirdest we’ve met,” Daring pointed out. “What did Mortis say?”

“Uh…” Flash muttered, running a hoof over the file before him. “Here. She says that the cause of death was a type of neurotoxin taken from a...waterspike fish?”

“Lagospherodi diogen,” Twilight said, illuminating her horn and conjuring up a holographic image of a pale yellow and gray fish with spines all over its rotund body and disproportionately wide, bloated eyes. “A type of poisonous blowfish from Nippony. Its organs contain a lethal dose of a neurotoxin, and there’s no known antidote for it. The meat is a delicacy there: according to one book I read, a Nipponese chef has to study for three years to be allowed to prepare it. A single miscalculation can make the entire meal poisonous.”

“Okay, so how did our killer get it?” Flash asked.

“That fish is only native to the Nipponese shores, but you can buy it in some markets,” Twilight mused.

“We’ll have to check with fish markets, too,” Flash added, scribbling a note in his notepad.

Red stretched with a groan. “You two get anything useful at the Bawdy?” he asked.

“Very little,” Daring admitted. “I get the feeling that Petina and her crew didn’t really want us around.”

“Well, until we get something, we’re running low on leads,” Red grumbled. “I can put out a BOLO on your intruder and Gold Signature, but until then, there’s not much we can do but wait.”

“C’mon, there’s probably a few markets that are still open,” Flash said, standing.

“Rookie, what’re you gonna do?” Red asked. “Check every fish market in Ponyville and ask them if they carry this lugosphere diophen?”

“Lagospherodi diogen,” Twilight muttered, mainly to herself.

“And we’ve got some other things to check on right now,” Red added, picking up some of the papers on his desk and flopping them onto the table. “Sorry, Sentry. Just because you’re a detective doesn’t mean we only deal with one thing at a time anymore.”

Flash opened and closed his mouth a few times, glancing at the darkening sky, then sighed and nodded assent. “Okay.”

“I’ll keep going over the trace evidence from Quick’s home,” Twilight said, kissing Flash on the cheek before exiting. “I’ll see you all later tonight!”

“Aces,” Phillip nodded.

“Now what?” Daring asked, rolling her shoulders. "We could check the markets ourselves--"

“Phil!” a voice called. Looking out the doorway, Phillip spotted Bumblebee wandering through the room, head turning on a swivel. When he spotted Phil, he hurried over.

“Phil, you gotta come,” he said. “It’s your parents.”

Phillip’s heart leaped into his throat. A memory of his mother’s scream echoed in his mind, and he smelled the blood that had poured from her back. He sprinted out of the office, following Bumblebee, with Daring right on his tail.

Huffing and puffing, Bumblebee led them down to the first floor and into a side office. Hearing his mother’s voice, Phillip burst ahead, pushing open the door into the blank interview room. Prowl was sitting on one end of a table, notepad in her lap, her calming countenance turning into surprise at his entry. On the other side of the table sat Rain and Bobby, Rain resting her hoof on the table next to a paper cup of coffee, her husband’s hoof atop hers.

“Mom, dad!” Phillip cried, entering. “Are you okay?”

“We’re fine, son,” Bobby said, greeting him with a reassuring hug.

“What happened?” Phillip asked, trying to order his hooves to stop shaking, failing to exorcise the images of his wailing mother lying bleeding on the red clay from his mind.

“It’s fine, son,” Bobby smiled at him. “We just had an unwanted visitor drop by.”

“I’m back, hon,” Bobby called from the hallway, closing the door to 221 Honeybee behind him and latching it shut. The bags dangling from his sides clanked and rustled against his body as he entered, placing the bags on the counter. A low, familiar droning noise was coming from outside, like a buzzing that came from the air itself vibrating with ethereal music. Smiling, Bobby followed the noise to the door to the back porch.

His wife was sitting in her wheelchair on the back porch, playing her didgeridoo. Her hooves gently embraced the swirling red, blue, and white tribal patterns painted over the hollowed eucalyptus. Her eyes were closed as she buzzed her lips into the instrument, the unceasing sound rolling over and over in the air as she breathed through her nostrils with practiced ease.

Bobby just stood at the door with a wistful smile on his face, watching his wife playing: sitting still in her chair, movement barely visible, she looked like a feature of the landscape, as ancient as the soil itself; indeed, a sparrow fluttered over from the bare branches of the cherry tree in the backyard and landed atop Rain’s instrument, head tilted as it listened to her song.

Finally, after an eternity that passed in heartbeats, Rain’s recital ended. She lowered the didgeridoo, prompting the sparrow to fly off with a tweet of thanks, and turned to smile at her husband. “You were staring at me while I played again,” she playfully chided.

“You know I can’t help it, Rainy,” Bobby grinned, exiting onto the porch. “Every time you play, you look just as beautiful as you did the day I fell in love with you.”

“You’re such a dork,” Rain giggled, reaching out her forelegs to him.

“Our son had to get it from somewhere,” Bobby smirked back, taking his wife into his embrace and kissing her sweetly on the lips, running a hoof through her long mane. Rain hummed in contentment as she returned the kiss, gently ruffling her husband’s ponytail.

A rapping at the door ruined the moment quite neatly. Sighing, Bobby released his wife and reentered the house, holding the door open for her as she trundled in on her wheelchair. Proceeding to the front door, Bobby peeked out the window to see an off-white pegasus clad in a trenchcoat, his scruffy blue mane falling about his face. The visitor’s head swiveled from side to side as he looked around.

Bobby opened the door a crack. “Are you looking for Phillip Finder or Daring Do?” he asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” the pegasus nodded, licking his lips and blinking his emerald eyes.

“Sorry, mate, they’re out at the moment,” Bobby replied. “But if you wanna leave a message with me--”

He was interrupted by the pegasus bursting forward like a switch had been thrown, the door ramming him in the chest and knocking him back with a grunt. A wheezing Bobby could only watch as the guest shoved his way into the door.

“Mate, if you want to see them that badly--” Bobby grunted, rubbing his chest as he followed the intruder inside.

The pegasus’ eyes focused on Rain as he entered the living room. She instinctively bristled, pulling away a bit with her wheelchair. “His mom, huh?” the pegasus grunted with a small sneer. “So he’s a stinking crossbreed mudpony, too.”

“Excuse me?” Rain said with a growl.

“You two listen,” the pegasus said, stalking over to Rain and gripping the arms of her wheelchair, leaning down close to her face. His stinking breath, reeking of alcohol and poor dental hygiene, struck her like a slap. “When your freak kid comes back, tell him that if he knows what’s good for him and his family, he and his bitch will stay away from the Heavenly Bawdy, and stop snooping around Quick’s death. She--”

A harsh “Ahem” pierced the air, accompanied by the rattle of a cutlery drawer opening. The pegasus turned to find that Bobby had entered the small kitchen-dining room and was now glaring at him over the wood countertop. As the intruder watched, the glaring earth pony pulled a large knife and a knife sharpener out of a drawer, moving with deliberate casualness. He placed the blade against the sharpener and slowly drew it across the metal with a shiiing.

The pegasus blinked at the knife, then looked up at Bobby. The elder pony kept his gaze fixed on the emerald irides, bringing the knife back to the top of the sharpener and drawing it down with a slow rhythm, making a musical shiiing, shiiing, shining with every repetition.

“That’s my wife and my son you’re messing with,” he growled, a cold fire burning in his wizened blue eyes.

The intruder gulped, the color draining from his face until he was white as a sheet. “Oh-gosh-look-at-the-time-I-gotta-go-have-a-nice-day-bye,” he said, turning and heading for the hallway with his tail between his legs.

Something whistled through the air and struck the wall next to the pegasus with a loud THWACK. The intruder froze, slowly turning to look at the quivering knife stuck in the wall inches from his head.

“Why don’t you sit down and make yourself comfortable,” Rain said coldly, driving herself towards him and using her didgeridoo to push the trembling stallion into a chair. “I’m sure my son and some of his friends would like to meet you.”

Phillip sighed. “Dad, you shouldn’t have opened the door for him,” he chided. “If he--”

“Lesson learned, son,” Bobby said, raising a hoof. “Let’s just be grateful that no one was hurt.”

“Damn, you guys are cool,” Daring grinned. “We should bring you out with us on cases.”

“No, thanks, that was quite enough excitement,” Rain chuckled.

“Where is he?” Phillip growled at Prowl.

“He’s in a holding cell,” Prowl replied, nodding down the hall. “He’s already lawyered up, he--hey!” she called to Finder, who was now storming out of the interview room.

Daring followed him down the hall to the locked metal door that blocked the path to the holding cells. Sergeant MacWillard was sitting behind the duty desk, scribbling on a clipboard.

“I guess you’re here to see our new friend Cross Breeze?” he commented, glancing over his shoulder at the lines of surveillance crystal feeds projected from the wall behind him. The scruffy-maned pegasus was currently sitting on the ripped, flattened mattress in Cell Number Seven, staring at his hooves.

“Messing with family is a scummy thing to do,” MacWillard commented, grunting in pain and shifting in his seat. “If you want, I can kill the surveillance feed for a couple of hours,” he added, pulling a small bottle of painkillers out of his pocket and shaking a couple of white pills into his talon.

“Tempting,” Phillip admitted, the thunder rolling and roaring in his chest. “But no. Just need to talk to him.”

MacWillard nodded as he swallowed the pills dry, reaching beneath the desk and hitting the button. With a buzz, the steel door opened and Phillip pushed through, with Daring right behind him.

A concrete hallway of barred doors stretched out before them. They trotted past a few occupied cells, the tenants throwing out catcalls, taunts, and insults at their backs, before stopping at number seven.

Cross Breeze looked up at them: a glimmer of defiance flashed briefly in his green eyes, but it soon vanished, replaced by a look of defeated contempt.

“The pony from the bar in the Bawdy,” Daring growled.

Phillip gripped the steel bars that separated him from his foe: some part of him, the storm inside the thudding heart that beat against the idol of Angkakert tucked beneath his vest, imagined bending the bars aside and pouncing on his prey, dreamed of hearing him beg for mercy.

But he shook those thoughts aside. He wasn’t that pony anymore. He couldn’t be.

“Who sent you?” he growled at the prisoner.

“I’m not saying shit until my lawyer gets here,” Cross Breeze replied, shooting them a half-formed attempt at a glare. “Nothing except this. Stay away from the Bawdy, detectives. There’ll be others.”

Phillip’s other hoof lunged up and seized the bars with a crash of metal. Cross Breeze yelped and scrambled away from the door, comically tumbling off of the bunk with a chorus of yelps.

“Phil,” Daring said, laying a hoof on his shoulder. He glanced at her, hot breath coming fast through clenched teeth, then slowly let out a long sigh and released the bars, turning and stalking away.

“You got lucky,” Daring scoffed at the cowering pegasus through the bars and turned to follow Phil.

Author's Note:

Just to solidify where Phillip gets it from.

I originally was going to just use a regular blowfish as the toxin, but the real-life blowfish doesn't kill quite as fast as I wrote it in the script, so I just made one up.

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