• Published 11th Feb 2021
  • 1,627 Views, 53 Comments

A Woman Worth Saving - Undome Tinwe

In a city as corrupt as it is beautiful, Detective Rarity searches for her missing lover, Officer Twilight Sparkle, with the help of her former mentor, Celestia.

  • ...

Chapter One: The Caged Canary

I knew she was trouble from the moment she walked into my office.

Not because she was a mysterious dame with more charm and beauty than you could shake a stick at, or because she exuded danger and sensuality like a pair of crimson lips dripping with blood — she wasn't me, after all.

No, I knew Twilight Sparkle was trouble the moment she opened the door because she was a damn copper, and she didn't even have the decency to hide it well.

"Miss Rarity?" she asked with the voice of someone used to asking questions. She wasn't wearing her uniform, but I knew as soon as she opened her mouth that she was either a copper or an egghead, and she was too pretty to be an egghead. Pretty enough to be a honeypot, even, but I wasn't enough of a sap to fall for her.

It's really quite remarkable how much hindsight makes rubes of us all, isn't it?

"At your service." Even though I knew she was trouble, I couldn't help but play along. Dangerous women held a certain appeal to me, you see, especially the ones that didn't realize how dangerous they were. "How may I help you, Miss...?"

"Sparkle. Twilight Sparkle." She might as well have given me her title too, with how officially she said her name. "And I hear that you deal in information that's difficult to find."

"Well, Miss Sparkle, as you may have seen in elegant calligraphy on the sign outside, I'm a Private Investigator," I replied, taking pride in my chosen profession. "Discovering secrets is one of my many skills." A thought occurred to me then—perhaps she wasn't in uniform because this wasn't an official call. Even coppers had personal problems they couldn't beat into submission sometimes.

I smiled. "So, what sort of information are you interested in, dear? Surveillance on a wayward girlfriend? The identity of your wife's lover? Or do you want to know where your wife and girlfriend are meeting up for a secret tryst so you can watch?"

"Nothing like that." Ah, I still remember how stone-faced she was as she stepped into my tastefully-decorated office! Later, I would learn that she was using most of her brainpower to keep her poor little cheeks from blushing red at my words, but at the time, I truly believed she thought nothing of my flair. "I'm looking for some information about one of your clients. Buggy Seagull."

It seemed like she was on official business after all. How drab. "A lady never kisses and tells, Miss Sparkle." I shot her a playful smirk, determined to get some kind of reaction out of her.

I did, but not the one I'd expected or hoped for. "Please." Twilight's eyes widened as she pleaded with me, brimming with crocodile tears. "He's kidnapped my friend's brother, Zephyr Breeze. She's worried sick about him, and we just want him back."

"If Buggy has him, then he should've paid off his gambling debts, no?" It was starting to get tedious, playing with her. I cut to the chase. "Maybe you should come back with a warrant next time, Miss Sparkle."

Twilight actually looked disappointed when I called her out! "Darn it," she muttered. "How'd you know?"

I actually gasped at that, if you can believe it. "You really think you were fooling me?"

"You could at least pretend to be a little surprised." Twilight pouted. "I've never done undercover work before."

"As well you shouldn't," I agreed. "Leave that to the professionals. So, what is it that you really want, Detective?"

"How did you—?"

"A lady never shares all her secrets." I gave her my best mysterious smile.

"Does a lady do anything?" Twilight asked before her expression turned serious again. "And I was telling the truth, before. Fluttershy really is my friend, and her brother really is missing. I've exhausted all my other leads, but I managed to find out that you've worked for Buggy before. Can you tell me where he might have taken him?"

It was too bad I didn't have a cigar on me at the time. It would've complimented my devil-may-care attitude perfectly as I gave my reply. "Like I said, I take my clients' confidentiality very seriously. Especially ones with ties to The Nightmares. So unless you have a warrant..."

"I guess I was wrong about you."

My oh my. What an intriguing statement that was. Twilight Sparkle had her own flair for the dramatic, as it turned out. I appreciated that. "Excuse me?" I asked, taking her bait.

"I remember some of the old case files from my first days on the force," Twilight explained. "You used to call in anonymous tips sometimes. You helped us rescue people in danger and bring justice to those who needed it."

Old memories started flooding back, memories I didn't want to remember. But I guess the past always has a way of catching up with you, and no good deed goes unpunished. "I noticed you said that those tips were anonymous," I said, smiling with all the innocence I didn't have anymore.

"My mentor— the former chief— figured out that it was you after we arrested Dr. Caballeron when he tried to have A.K. Yearling killed. You were the only one who could've known about it."

"Oh," I said, understanding dawning. "You're Celestia's protégée. No wonder you're such a do-gooder. I've heard the stories about her. Is it true that Nightmare Moon once offered her a private island if she dropped the investigation against her, and that she threw the offer right back in her face?"

"She believed in doing the right thing, no matter how hard it was. I think you used to as well."

"Perhaps we did." This time when I smiled, I made sure to show my teeth. "And now Celestia's gone, along with all the other good coppers in this city, if there ever were any. I grew up, Miss Sparkle, and I suggest you do the same."

"There's still good people left in this city," Twilight argued, and the sincerity in her tone was so pure that it made me listen with more than just my ears. "Some of us aren't giving up on trying to save it. Please, Miss Rarity, I know that part of you remembers the woman who helped us save lives. You can still hold on to that."

I was wrong about her being a good candidate for a honeypot. She was something far more dangerous: a goody two-shoes believer.

And Harmony help me, she was making me remember what I'd tried so hard to forget.

"The Nightmares own a warehouse under a shell company on the northeast corner of Meadowbrook and Clover." I sighed, feeling a warm feeling in my chest that I really would rather have done without. "It's where Buggy likes to take those who've crossed him."

"Thank you." Twilight paused as she turned to leave the office and my life. "Umm, afterwards, can I buy you a drink tonight?" She was so adorably nervous that the warmth in my chest threatened to blossom into something beautiful. "I'd like to thank you for your help."

I should have said no. This dame was nothing but trouble, and all that talking would only bring back that part of my heart I fought so hard to keep cold.

Still, Twilight Sparkle was far more than a copper with a pretty face, and part of me was curious about what the protégée of someone as legendary as Chief Celestia herself was like. At least, that's what I told myself.

"I'll be at Joe's at eight tonight," I said, already regretting it. "Just don't try to make me be a good girl again." The words sounded so pathetic even to my own ears, a final attempt to pretend like I wasn't losing all my skills at charm in front of this straight-talking copper.

"No promises." And when Twilight smirked and gave her answer, my heart jumped, and I knew it was too late for me already.

Rarity parked her car by the curb and hoped that it wouldn't be stolen while she was gone.

Normally, she would have taken a cab to this type of locale, but time was of the essence, and she didn't have time to waste on such measures. Hopefully, her intel was accurate — she couldn't afford a dead end, not now.

Unfortunately, her intel only led her to this block. Rarity glanced down along the row of dilapidated buildings, half of which were boarded up and the other half looking like nobody had ever inspected them for hygiene or safety or anything else, which was probably true. This wasn't the type of place that attracted anyone honest.

Which was unfortunate, because Rarity needed information, and she needed it fast. She'd hoped that her destination would be obvious to her, but it seemed that even a place like this still did its best to hide its more obviously illegal establishments.

Looking down at the end of the block, she noted three figures standing underneath a flickering streetlight, their faces barely illuminated enough to see. Two of them wore police uniforms, and they loomed over the third, who was dressed in little enough that Rarity wondered if it counted as indecent exposure.

She smiled grimly as she saw one of the coppers advance towards the streetwalker. "C'mon, doll," he said, his voice as oily and sleazy as he looked, a lecherous smile on his face that sent revulsion through Rarity's stomach. "Ain't no reason to be so cold," he whined, as she backed away from him.

"Yeah," the other one said, and though his tone was more kindly, Rarity could sense the edge beneath it. He was the more dangerous one. "It's not like you don't do this as a job anyways, right? How 'bout a free sample for Canterlot's Finest?"

"My boss ain't gonna like that," the woman protested. "I've got a quota to fill, y'know?"

"We'll be fast," the first cop replied. "And what your boss don't know won't hurt no one." He reached out and roughly grabbed her by the arm, leaning in. "Not like anyone's gonna snitch, right?"

That was Rarity's cue to make her presence known. "On the contrary, I think you'll find that The Nightmares care quite a bit for their bottom line," she said breezily, not daring to show any fear. "It's quite fortunate that they send people to make sure that everyone's behaving properly. Now, officers, I assume you were about to pay this good lady for her services? I wouldn't want to have to report anything untoward back to my employers."

The two cops eyed her suspiciously, no doubt trying to figure out just who she knew and whether she could be intimidated into silence. Rarity kept her expression perfectly pleasant as she added, "There's really no reason to add more work to Fancy Pants' desk, is there? He's such a busy man."

All three of them flinched at the name. The lecherous one glanced at his partner and they shared a silent understanding between them. "We should investigate the reports on that shooting on Fourth Street," he told his partner.

"Yeah." The two of them hurried away without saying another word, not willing to call a bluff with such high stakes.

"I ain't been shirking on the job," the woman immediately informed Rarity once the cops were gone, fear evident in the way she almost huddled in on herself. "You saw that those pigs tried their funny business on me first, right?"

"My affairs here have nothing to do with your employment," Rarity reassured her. "I'm here to conduct some business."

"Oh, well, I guess I could give you a discount for helping me out with those two," the woman replied, her posture shifting back to something more seductive. "But I can't go lower than twenty percent or I'll be in big trouble." She held out a hand. "Call me Candy."

"As much as I'd love to partake in your services, Candy, I'm afraid I'm actually after some information." Rarity reached into her purse and pulled out a wad of bills. "As you know, The Nightmares pay handsomely for those who can provide the right kind of help."

The other woman tensed again. "What kind of information do you want?"

"I'm looking for a dive they call The Sunset Lounge," Rarity said. "My employers were unfortunately not kind enough to provide an address, and as you can imagine, I'm not eager to report a failure over such a... minor lapse in communication." Technically, every word she'd said was true, just lacking in some crucial context.

"Ah, gotcha," Candy replied, relaxing. "You're looking for a door between twenty-three and twenty-four, behind Seventh Street."

"Thank you." Rarity handed over the bills. "Pleasure doing business with you, ma'am."

The other woman counted up the bills. "Pleasure's all mine. And if you ever wanna have some fun, you know where to find me." She winked, and Rarity let herself laugh softly.

"I'll bear that in mind, darling."

Rarity set off again, looking at the crumpled piece of paper in her hand and hoping that the rest of the information there was correct. As expected, she ended up in a grimy back alley, the type that had her clutching the pistol in her purse a little tighter as she scanned the rotting wooden doors for the right numbers.

She finally found the door near the end of the alley, looking a little nicer than the ones around it. Stepping over a broken bottle, she knocked twice, then three times, and then twice again.

The door creaked open, and a raspy voice called out. "What's the password?"


The door opened wider, revealing a woman who was dressed to impress, assuming you were trying to impress a drunken thug. Dark red eyes glared at her from behind the short-cut mop of rainbow-coloured hair on her head.

"You're not a copper, right?" she asked, her eyes narrowing. "I already had one try to sneak in here a couple of days ago. We don't serve their kind around here."

"Really?" That hadn't been part of her intel. "Isn't that quite a bit of potential revenue lost, not allowing any officers in here?"

"Our clients like that they don't have to worry about any coppers, even dirty ones. And the owner's got enough pull with The Nightmares to not worry about any of 'em getting pissed and trying to bust the place."

"I can respect that." Rarity smiled her most dazzling smile as she pulled out a business card and handed it over to the bouncer. "And I assure you, I have no great love of the law." Especially right now.

"Huh, a Private Dick." The woman shrugged. "Well, as long as you don't make any trouble you can go in."

"I'll be on my best behaviour," Rarity promised. After all, she had a very important first impression to make.

The door opened all the way as the bouncer grumbled something under her breath, and Rarity stepped inside The Sunset Lounge.

As to be expected for a speakeasy, the club reeked of sin, the pungent, ever-present cloud of cigar smoke surrounding Rarity as she took a deep breath, appreciating the cloying odour of moonshine that lingered on her tongue.

She glanced around the dimly-lit room, taking the measure of all the patrons. Nothing out of the ordinary — just the usual assortment of people who desperately needed makeovers, from dockworkers with stained shirts to businessmen in poorly-tailored suits to thugs from various gangs throwing glares around that threatened to erupt into a barfight if the wrong words were said.

On any other day, Rarity might have considered saying those wrong words. She'd used a good scuffle as a distraction to get to a mark more than once, and the sight of a bunch of sweaty men and women crawling all over each other made for a great chaser after drinking some of the swill she'd had the misfortune of tasting.

Today, though, her mark wasn't any of these patrons in this place that existed beyond the law. Instead, she was sitting on a chair atop the rickety wooden stage in front of a piano, her long, elegant fingers gliding across the keys that were as ivory-white as her skin. Her hair billowed like an aurora as she leaned her head back and crooned softly into the microphone set down next to her.

Rarity walked up to the counter and ordered whatever was on tap, not paying attention to what it was as she swirled it around her glass without drinking, her eyes focused on the singer as she played her heart out in a melancholy melody that tugged at the soul and filled it with grief for the loss of better times.

Celestia was positively radiant, a shining beacon of beauty in this dark place.

The years had been kind to her, Rarity noted as the angelic singing voice tapered off into a slow piano solo. She looked nearly the same age as when she'd retired early from the force, with only the slightest suggestion of wrinkles around her eyes to indicate the passage of time.

"Hey beautiful, haven't seen you around here before." A gruff voice pulled Rarity's attention from the singer, and she turned to face the woman who had spoken to her. She was dressed in more leather than a cow and wore a chain with an eagle-head crest dangling from it around her neck. "And I never forget a pretty face."

Rarity resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Griffons. Sometimes she wasn't sure if they were a gang or simply a collection of punks with no idea how to woo someone. "I'm afraid my dance card is already full, dear." Her hand hovered over her purse, just in case.

"Hey, c'mon." The woman leaned in closer, until Rarity could smell the alcohol in her breath. "Don't be like that, babydoll."

A sigh slipped from Rarity's lips as she prepared to tell the thug off much more forcefully. She really didn't need to deal with this sort of thing tonight, but that was a speakeasy for you.

"Gilda, lay off." The bouncer from earlier appeared as if out of nowhere, and placed a hand over the Griffon's shoulder. "The lady said she wasn't interested."

"Aww, you're no fun, Rainbow." Still, Gilda acquiesced, allowing Rainbow to lead her away from Rarity, though not before she shot the P.I. a leer and licked her lips in a gesture that Rarity assumed was supposed to be enticing.

With that sideshow over, Rarity focused her attention back on her main objective. She waited for the final notes of the piano to die off before standing up and politely applauding with the rest of the crowd. Celestia acknowledged the admiration with a small bow before leaving the stage and allowing the audience to return to their vices.

Rarity manoeuvred her way through the crowd to sit next to her at the bar. "That was a marvelous performance," she said after Celestia put in her order. "Music is always much more enjoyable when it comes from the heart, no?"

"Indeed it is, detective," Celestia replied smoothly.

"Really, am I that obvious?" Rarity said, pouting. "First the bouncer marks me at the door, then you do it without even looking at me. Honestly, it's enough to wound a girl's pride."

The singer let out a soft laugh, practiced and possibly even sincere. "I wouldn't feel too bad about it. Rainbow Dash is both experienced with spotting those related to your profession and quite perceptive despite her brash attitude."

"And you, of course, were the greatest detective of your time, chief." For the first time that night, Rarity took a sip of her drink. It burned pleasantly going down.

Beside her, Celestia tensed, still not turning to face her. "Former chief," she corrected, some strain finally entering her voice. "I haven't been on the force for a very long time." The message was clear— Rarity wouldn't be able to make use of any of her former contacts.

That wasn't why she was here, though. "Your investigative skills are as sharp as they've always been, it seems."

"What do you want?" It also seemed that Celestia was tired of playing games.

"I need your help in a missing person's case." So that was what it was like to be on the other side of things. Rarity had to admit it wasn't pleasant in the slightest. "The Nightmares kidnapped someone I know, and I need help recovering her."

"The police station is on Third Street," Celestia replied immediately. The bartender set down a glass of whiskey in front of her, and Celestia picked it up before getting back up to her feet. "I hope you find whoever it is you're looking for, detective."

"Are you truly going to just walk away?" Something about seeing this person she'd heard so many stories about so flippantly dismissing her stirred a fire in Rarity's blood, threatening to boil it in her veins. "I tell you that someone is in danger, and you won't even lift a finger to help? What happened to the woman who had the entire criminal underworld quaking in their boots?"

Rarity slammed down her drink to get Celestia's attention, forcing the other woman to finally face her. Celestia's eyes were filled with so much pain and regret that Rarity almost shut her trap. Almost. "They used to say that it was easier to bribe the statue outside the station than you," Rarity continued, holding her gaze with her own. "The Celestia from the stories I heard would never have been caught dead in a place like this without a warrant for the owner's arrest. What happened to her?"

"Same thing that happens to everyone trying to make a difference in this city," Celestia said with a grunt, downing her drink with worrying speed. "She realized she'd be happier making music than arrests."

"Is that so." Rarity began toying with her drink again, putting just the smallest hint of disdain in her voice. "And is she happier being a canary in one of Nightmare Moon's clubs than she is stopping her from destroying this city from the inside out?"

"It wouldn't matter if you put a bullet between her eyes," Celestia said, finally turning away from Rarity. "A hundred people even worse than her would step up to fill the void she left behind."

"Even so, you won't even try to save one life?"

Celestia snorted. "If your mark's got herself tangled up with the Nightmares, then she's beyond saving." She began walking away, and Rarity was finally forced to play her trump card.

From her purse, Rarity withdrew a necklace with a small crystal set into its center. In the dim lighting of the Lounge, it almost seemed to glow with a purple-pink effervescence. "The woman I'm looking for is Twilight Sparkle."

Celestia froze, her eyes locked onto the piece of jewelry. "I see," she said softly.

Rarity wanted to feel smug, but all she could muster up was a deep sadness. "So, can I count on your aid, darling?"

When the singer didn't reply, Rarity feared that she might still refuse her. However, Celestia eventually let out a sigh and motioned for her to stand up. "Not here. Let's go to the backroom."

The pair set off towards the stage and the door near the back of it. Celestia unlocked the door and ushered Rarity in. Then, in the dingy cellar that had a cracked vanity sitting in one corner and piles of crates everywhere else, the former police captain turned to face the private investigator. "What did Twilight get herself involved in, and why can't you go to the police?"

"I don't know who's clean or not," Rarity replied simply, "and you know that it's worse than a fair coin toss if the copper I go to for help will rat me out to the Nightmares instead of just laughing in my face."

Celestia nodded, that ever-present sadness still sitting in her eyes. "So it is. And who might you be? I don't think we've been introduced before."

"Rarity." Nothing else needed to be said. There was no way a mind like Celestia's wouldn't remember her name.

"Ah, the private investigator in the Caballeron case." Recognition flashed on her face. "Didn't the Nightmares make up most of your clients in your early days?"

"They still do," Rarity replied. "I've been helping Twilight build a case against them in the past few months." It felt odd saying that out loud. Part of Rarity still winced inwardly at professing such a dangerous statement, one that could easily get her killed or worse if the wrong person overheard it. "Today was going to be the day I gave her the final pieces of evidence she needed to start getting warrants.

"We were supposed to meet behind the vet's place on Fifth and Platinum, but when I got there, she'd already been taken." Rarity focused on the facts, willing herself to stay calm and collected and calling upon a lifetime of training to not let any emotion show. "There were signs of a struggle, but I couldn't track the movements of the kidnappers."

Celestia shook her head. "That stupid, brilliant girl. I should've known she'd go and do some foolish thing like this after I left."

"She couldn't stand to see what Nightmare Moon had done to this city," Rarity replied softly. "She was willing to die to see justice done, and I'm very much hoping that you'll help me prevent that from happening."

To her credit, Celestia didn't even hesitate before walking over to her coat rack and putting on a stylish, understated set of jacket and hat. "This doesn't change anything, Miss Rarity," she warned. "Once we find Twilight, I'm returning here and forgetting all about this police business again."

"Fine." What the former chief did wasn't any of her business anyways. "If you want to walk away from her again, I won't stop you."

Celestia glared at her. "I had my reasons."

Rarity snorted. "I told myself the very same thing for far too long. But like it or not, Celestia, I don't believe you're quite as jaded as you pretend to be."

"Believe what you wish, Miss Rarity. Just be prepared for disappointment as well." Despite her words, Rarity saw the same uncertainty that she had felt when Twilight had first walked into her office. "I want to take a look at the crime scene, to see if there's anything I might recognize."

"I'll take you there." For the first time this night, Rarity's heart flared up with hope, and the world looked just a little brighter as the pair of detectives walked out of The Sunset Lounge and into the Canterlot night.