• Published 10th Sep 2012
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Red Right Hoof - Japko



Cutie Mark Crusader Crime Investigators, yay!

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Chapter Three: The Detectives

Red Right Hoof

By Japko

Chapter Three: The Detectives

The Boss looked deep into the pony’s eyes. A heavy curtain of smoke hung between them like a thick veil, almost opaque to his sight. But the pony felt like the Boss could see him clearly anyway, like he was being observed through a one-way mirror.

He believed that this time he could make a proper poker face. Yesterday’s words hurt his pride much more than he thought they did, and he made his best effort not to show any weakness this time. He tried his best not to speak first, though the pressing silence was almost unbearable.

Eventually, the boss leaned back in his chair and laughed.

“You’re making progress, son,” he said, letting out another cloud of smoke. “Slowly, but still. Good to know at least one person here tries to do their job.

“So, what news do you have for me?” His face once again turned into an impenetrable mask of absolute seriousness.
The pony felt crestfallen by sudden mood changes of his superior. “I, umm…”

“We may have all night,” the Boss hissed angrily, “but I have more important things to do than listening to your idiotic stuttering!”

They indeed had all night, and it made all the employees more edgy than they normally were. After Thursday’s disappearance of Agent PF13 everything went crazy. The small council ordered a crisis state, making everypony work overtime and without so-called “unnecessary breaks”. After a long night and most of the following day of searching, basically everyone was sleep deprived, tired and on the verge of beating up their colleagues. The fact that it was Friday evening didn’t help the issue. However, the Boss and the rest of the directorate was adamant. There was no rest until the agent was found, no discussion.

The pony hesitated before speaking up. He didn’t know how the Boss would react to what he came with. Knowing him, the outcome was totally unpredictable.

“I… have some good news and some-”

“Don’t play games with me, kid!” A puff of smoke hit the pony’s face like a physical blow. “This is supposed to be a status report, not some stupid play with tension.”

The pony clenched his teeth, but quickly calmed himself. No beating around the bush? Let him have it then.

“Our agents have located Agent PF13.”

The Boss’ eyes flickered, but his face didn’t show much change. “Finally something! Bravo! It’s nice to know that the taxpayers’ money doesn’t entirely go to waste.”

“She was confirmed dead.”

This time the grayish stallion couldn’t keep his countenance. The flickers in his eyes vanished, giving place to sharp icicles aimed towards his subordinate.

“What do you mean ‘dead’?”

“Exactly what the word stands for, sir.” the pony said coldly, his eyelid not even twitching. “Agent Spitfire, codename PF13 was found dead today at 17:13 CEqT just outside the northern borders of Ponyville by the scout agents PM03 and PF24.”

“Have they secured the body? What has the inspection shown? Was it retrieved from the crime scene already?”

“That’s… the strangest part, sir. According to the common procedures, in these circumstances our agents have to monitor the crime scene from safe distance for at least six hours after having found the body. And it says in the report that at 20:42…” the pony hung his voice.

“At 20:42 what?” The Boss’ face suddenly went very pale. “For Celestia’s sake, if you stutter once again while giving me a report, you’re fired! I’m warning you.”

The younger pony gulped. “It says that at 20:42 two unidentified, late teenage fillies came to the crime scene and took the body with them.”

“Two fillies?! This is getting ridiculous!” All the papers jumped on the desk as the stallion hit it with his hoof. “And why are they still unidentified? And what about the parcel?”

“Their descriptions and photos were sent with the report as well. Our specialists started working on them immediately. The photos are poor quality, but Ponyville is not a big town, so they should be identified relatively soon. They also took the suitcase with them.”

The Boss stayed silent for a longer while, breathing deeply.

“They didn’t intervene?”

“No.”

“Good,” the Boss said, getting off his chair. “I want them monitored full-time, without any interventions. No matter what, you got that? Anything happens, you report to me, at any time of night or day. Finding out those fillies’ identities is the top priority now. Tell the news to the whole crew, and make a full-time shift schedule. I’m calling the crisis state off for a while, since the agent was found. Let everyone who isn’t needed right now get some rest. We need the whole team in good shape, because this situation can mean anything. Don’t let your guard down. This case smells very fishy to me.” He approached one of the wardrobes and opened it. A hinged bed slowly descended on the floor. “I am going to get some rest too, cause I can barely think straight. But I’m staying here. In case of any news, and I mean any, call me here through my internal number. Now good night.”

* * *

“You are insane. Completely nuts. What is wrong with you?”

Sweetie Belle wasn’t happy. She walked around our clubhouse, constantly shaking her head and muttering something to herself, occasionally shouting out loud comments referring to our sanity.

At first we wanted to tell her the whole story in one go and in detail, but not only did it turn out Scootaloo and I had a problem with keeping the details consistent, but also Sweetie seemed closer and closer to exploding with each word said, so we had to consider cooldown breaks. One thing was certain: Sweetie Belle didn’t approve of our decision to remove the body from the crime scene, especially since we mentioned the mysterious suitcase that came along. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t blame her for that. The more she grumbled at our foolishness, the more I realized how stupid of me it was to let myself get dragged into this whole mess. To let Scootaloo play with my brain which was always so soft to other ponies’ opinions and points of view. I hated to admit it, but I couldn’t help but agree that Sweetie was right.

She didn’t even want to look at us, only walked in circles and made her anger very clear to us. She was a skilled drama queen, but, after all, she had a great teacher.

Everypony has to have some kind of a personal hero when they’re growing up. Many are too proud to admit that they do look up to someone else, no matter if it’s a pony close to them or some public figure, but it’s rather obvious to me that to build our own character we need a model. For Scootaloo, who was raised as an orphan, it was a pony she admired all her life, Rainbow Dash. I had my beloved sister Applejack, who basically taught me everything I know. Sweetie Belle… well, she and her personal idol didn’t always get along perfectly, but she had never denied that she wanted to be like the sister of her own, Rarity.

A long time ago, if somepony had asked me, I would say that the only thing these two had in common was the sole fact that they were biological family. To be honest, I’ve never really known Rarity that much. Sure, I knew all of my sister’s closest friends, at least to some degree, but it’s not like I was actually friends with any of them. Well, maybe except Pinkie Pie, but everyone is friends with Pinkie Pie. The age gap between us was a natural boundary that wouldn’t let any knowledge about the depths of our personalities flow, so I rather knew each of them much more by face than by heart. Rarity was probably the most distant to me. She was too occupied with keeping her style and reputation for me to get to know her at all. Basically, all she was to me was her style and reputation. Which, of course, was the exact opposite of who Sweetie Belle ever was. Whenever I tried to compare my friend and the obscure figure of her sister, I could never feel a common frequency. And I would have never guessed they could ever become similar in any way, at any point in time.

As it turned out, I was wrong.

Back in day, if the word ‘style’ was mentioned in the same sentence as Sweetie Belle, the idea was so ridiculous you couldn’t help but smirk. She was a clumsy filly that couldn’t touch anything without breaking it. She unwillingly, but constantly, put herself in any kinds of trouble, of course beside all the trouble our trio put ourselves in again and again as the Cutie Mark Crusaders. And on top of that, she was devoid of any sense of taste. She often dreamed of becoming a designer, but she was nowhere close to having any sense of what looked good and what didn’t. She has always had a stunning voice though, and nopony could deny that. She was a wonderful singer, but she would never show off her talents publicly, probably scared that something would go terribly wrong. When Sweetie announced that, instead of following the path of a musician, she chose law, I was afraid that the only chance to set her straight in that matter would just be gone.

And somehow, in a magical way, this ugly duckling had managed to turn into a beautiful swan. When did it happen? Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe it was a long process that I neglected to pay attention to, and one day I just realized the Sweetie I had known had become a whole new pony. A pony that started to acquire her own taste and style, a filly that slowly turned into a pretty mare. Against all odds, Sweetie started to resemble her big sister. Suddenly, when I saw them both walking down the street, I could easily tell they were indeed true sisters. But even with all that, Sweetie Belle was much more to me than just style and reputation. With all the changes, she still was our beloved friend, a real Cutie Mark Crusader.

Yet, there were times when Rarity’s school of drama definitely spoke through her. Like right now. Such overly emotional behavior was their common hallmark.

“I can’t even think of a single reason why you would even consider doing something as reckless and stupid as stealing a dead body from a crime scene you had found by accident!” Her voice vibrated with the impression of absolute self-righteousness. “To be honest, the idea of Scootaloo doing something like this doesn’t surprise me that much, but you, Applebloom? What stupid reasoning did she use to bring you into this?”

I opened my mouth to say something, but Scootaloo cut in. “You didn’t even let me get to the point!” she shouted, swinging a crowbar in the air. It was a good crowbar, very good quality steel. It looked really pretty in my collection, and I avoided using it so far, because I didn’t want to risk it getting a scratch on its original varnish. Seeing Scoot picking it up without asking for my permission and carelessly playing with it made me feel a bit uneasy, but I withheld my protest. I prefer to think that I’m not that weird yet. There will be time for that when I’m older.

“Oh look,” Sweetie Belle ground out, “there’s a point in your logic. I can’t wait to hear it.”

These two loved to argue. At this point I could tell for sure that the thing they missed the most while Sweetie was outside Ponyville was the ability to yell at each other. They rarely agreed about anything and used almost every chance to confront their conflicting opinions. Even if there wasn’t a good reason to argue, they usually managed to find one. Their creativity was almost endless. There were times when I would get irritated by that, but I managed to get used to it and treat it like a normal thing. Besides, it’s not like they disliked each other. Quite the contrary – these squabbles seemed to make their bond even stronger. It was their sport.

“Maybe if, for once, you kindly shut your pretty mouth when I’m talking and let me finish a single sentence-”

“Maybe if, for once, you kindly make any sense!”

“See?” Scootaloo turned to me. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about.”

I sighed. “Girls, I know you must enjoy it, but this is definitely not the best time to argue. We have a serious problem here.”

“That’s my point!” My unicorn friend smacked her hoof to the floor. “I don’t think you even see the seriousness of the problem. And I still don’t see a single reason.”

“Just show her, Scoot,” I said.

“Show me?” asked Sweetie, baffled. “Show me what?”

“This,” Scootaloo said, picking up the feathers from the couch and waving them before Sweetie’s eyes, “is what we found right next to the body. Do you understand now why we had to do this? If Rainbow Dash is involved in this in any way, I will do everything to protect her, and…” She stopped, seeing how Sweetie Belle’s face became even whiter than usual.

“Oh Celestia…” murmured the unicorn, “this is not good at all, girls. This is bad.”

“Look, I know what you’re thinking,” I interrupted quickly, “but this doesn’t have to mean that it was a murder, and that-”
“No. Dammit, girls, this is really bad. Before I came here, I went to see Rarity first to say hello. And Twilight was there too, asking about Dash.

“No one has seen Rainbow Dash since yesterday.”

The silence that fell was as heavy as a boulder. Sweetie Belle hid her face in her hooves. “Why didn’t you tell me this first? It complicates everything!”

“Well duh, I know it does!” Scootaloo shouted. “This is the reason why we took the body with us.”

“And your motivation was what? To ‘protect’ Dash? From what? From being accused? Has it even crossed your mind that it might not be the case after all? Look at these feathers. Look at the body. Both look like they would after a brawl. And the only thing that came to your minds was that Dash was the person who killed this mare? You didn’t consider a possibility that they could have been on the same side? Maybe someone else killed her and took Dash with them! Maybe she is in life-threatening danger right now, and your so-called protection is standing in the way to help her. Is it so hard to use your head from time to time?”

She was right. I knew she was right, and so did Scootaloo.

“This doesn’t add up,” she continued, “the theory of Dash being the culprit here. You say it’s Spitfire, one of the Wonderbolts. Rainbow Dash has always wanted to be one of them and she met some of them personally, probably including this Spitfire. We don’t have any reason to consider this option more likely.”

“So what do you suggest?” I asked.

“If it was just murder, I wouldn’t consider it, cause what you’ve done is a crime, and I don’t want to see your, or should I say our now, sorry asses in a jail. But this seems like something much more serious, and there might be lives at stake. Applebloom, Scootaloo, we have to go to the police.”

“But we still can-”

“Shut up, Scootaloo,” she barked, “you’ve done enough already. This is beyond us. Drop it. I can go alone, but it’ll be better for both of you if you come with me.”

I just nodded; I knew we had to do it. Scootaloo murmured something about not having much of a choice and she agreed too.

I turned to Spike, who still sat on a couch, petrified and apparently completely forgotten by the rest. “Spike, listen to me. You weren’t here, okay? You’ve seen nothing, you haven’t heard a word about any dead mare whatsoever. Are we clear?”

The dragon nodded.

“Answer me, are we clear?”

“Y-” he stuttered, “yes. Girls, I’m begging you…”

“Just go.” I pushed him towards the door, and watched him leave without looking back.

“Do you think he’ll be okay?” Scootaloo asked, peeking through the curtains.

“He’d better,” I replied, “I don’t want to see him hit by any collateral damage. What do we do with the body? Put it in the fridge?” I felt like some switch in my brain had clicked and let me think more clearly.

“In the fri- okay, makes sense.” Sweetie waved her hoof. “But if we come out of this with our flanks in one piece, we throw the fridge away. And don’t expect me to touch the body either. And take that damn case with you when you’re done. I’m waiting outside.”

* * *

When we left the clubhouse, it was already after dusk. The sun managed to make its way beyond the horizon, but it wasn’t full night yet. The last remains of orange glow glimmered on the west. The sky was dark purple with the first stars coming out, and I could feel the first waves of cool evening air soothing the world after full day of the sun’s heat. Normally I would enjoy it – I always found early evenings during summer time the most relaxing and pleasant. The wind stops blowing, the air gains its one of a kind smell and taste, the night bugs start their concerts in the grass…

But not this time. This evening was marked with death, murder. It was filled with fear and confusion, guilt and concern. The cool air against my skin left the impression of a dead body. The owls in the trees stared accusingly from the branches. I was scared. Not of anything in particular, not even of the idea that Rainbow Dash could be in life-threatening danger or even already dead. It was this obscured, fuzzy fear, putting things in the corner of my eye, sending shivers down my spine and bristling my coat. I felt observed from the shadows, like I was a part of a twisted show that had set me up with an odd situation and watched how I would react to it.

Sweetie was right. No matter the outcome, what we did was a crime. A crime we dragged her into without thinking. She definitely was angry with us much more than she showed, and I couldn’t blame her. The fact that my thoughts revolved around this made me feel even worse. I was worrying about myself, while us answering for what we had done was the smallest problem here. In fact, it-

“Hi, girls!” A rainbow-colored shape flew above our heads and did an effective loop.

“Hi Rain-” We froze at the exact same moment. My jaw dropped, and I turned to my friends, probably looking like an idiot. But that didn’t matter, cause their faces looked pretty much the same. Sweetie Belle only silently said “what?”.

Scootaloo was the first one to come to her senses.

“Hey Rainbow Dash, hey! Wait up!” she yelled, starting to run in her direction, spreading her wings.

“What the heck are you doing?!” Sweetie Belle hissed through clenched teeth.

“Shhh!” Scootaloo hissed back and soared into the air.

“What… what the, what… What is this idiot doing?” Sweetie babbled, not looking at me. “Is she really, I mean… what in the flying…”

“I don’t know, but hush,” I replied, “we can hear them from here.”

“Hi there Rainbow Dash,” Scootaloo happily shouted. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Where have you been?”

“Oh, you know, here and there… Training and, uh, stuff. What’s up?”

“Do you remember that fanclub you had there? The one I kind of used to be the leader of back then?”

“What?” Sweetie Belle whispered to herself.

“Yeah, I remember something,” Dash replied with a voice that probably was supposed to sound casual.

“You know, they still exist, and they asked me for a favor, as their former leader. They’re all too shy to do it for themselves, so they came to me, and I’d really hate to let them down, so… Could you please give me a feather from your wings?”

“Oh. Ooooh.” My unicorn friend smirked. “That blockhead is brilliant. You clever orange bastard you.”

I nodded.

In response, Rainbow Dash only flapped her wings, and with a twisting move she swiftly pulled out one of the feathers with her teeth. “There you go. Now I’ve got to go, cause I am really late to one thing I totally forgot about,” she said and rushed towards Ponyville, leaving a rainbow trail on the background of the violet sky.

“Who’s the boss?” Scootaloo laughed, landing and stirring a cloud of dust in our faces.

“Let me see, let me see. You earned a cookie with this.” Sweetie Belle trotted towards her.

“I think I earned at least a kiss,” the pegasus said with a triumphant grin.

“Guys, correct me if I’m wrong,” I interrupted, “but I think this sort of changes our plans. Are we still going to the police now then we know Dash is safe?”

“Hell no!” they both shouted in unison. “We first need to see if these feathers match,” Sweetie added, “and we need some reasonable light. I can try magical light, but my aura can screw up the color perception. Then, we will decide what to do next. Scoot, can we go to your place?”

“I guess so. My roommate doesn’t care about anything, ever. We could bring an elephant there and she wouldn’t even notice anything suspicious. Let’s go.”

And so, we took a turn and headed towards the western suburbs. After a while I noticed my two friends start chatting as my thoughts drifted away. And then I realized one more thing. The fact that we had just seen Rainbow Dash relieved me much more than I thought it would as well. All the fear and concern backed off, replaced by a new thing – excitement. As much as I hated to admit it, I finally started to understand how Scootaloo must have felt from the beginning. It didn’t matter that this whole situation was grim and terrifying. It was something we all hadn’t encountered for a long time. Adventure. Weird and twisted. An extraordinary adventure for a trio of ordinary ponies. Suddenly, my heart didn’t want me to go to the authorities.

Scootaloo lived in a small house near the edge of town. It was a mixed neighborhood, filled with many young ponies, usually loud and lively till the curfew, and often beyond, especially on Fridays. At this hour many of them were out, still playing some games, hanging out, having barbecues and much more. Many of them waved and shouted greetings to Scoot, but she only answered shortly and moved on. We tried to act natural, but some of the nervous atmosphere had to leak through, especially considering that we had the suitcase. Luckily, no one seemed to even notice it.

When we finally entered the house, we immediately closed the door behind us and headed to Scootaloo’s room. Walking through the hall, we had to pass by Green Rose’s room.

“Hey, I’m back,” Scootaloo said, peeking inside.

“Mmmhmmm,” we heard in response. Green didn’t even look at us, being completely absorbed by the book she was reading. She was always reading something and didn’t like to interact with other ponies. She probably hadn’t even noticed our arrival, and the hummed reply was just a reflex to a situation in which she heard someone’s voice. I’d known her for quite some time already but we had never had any real conversation. Scoot was right – it didn’t matter that she was home. We could even talk about us having killed someone and she wouldn’t notice. And if she did, she probably wouldn’t even care.

It was interesting to compare these two flatmates’ rooms. While Green Rose’s was spotless and shiny, Scootaloo’s cave was… It looked like a post-apocalyptic landscape. Everything was everywhere. Books and comic books laying around, empty or half-empty cups on the floor, messy bed. If I didn’t know my friend, I would assume someone had somehow found out about our secret and pillaged the room for something.

“Make yourself comfortable,” she said, “and I’ll make us some coffee, cause this may be a long night. I hope there are some clean cups left.”

The first thing we did was to draw the curtains so no one could see anything from the outside. And as soon as she came back with a jug of strong, cheap coffee, we started investigating the feathers.

“Yep, these are definitely the same color,” Sweetie stated eventually. “No chance of a mistake. These belong to Rainbow Dash.”

“So, where does it leave us?” Scootaloo asked, sipping from her cup.

“We have to adjust our hypotheses then,” I said. “We have a confirmation that these feathers found at the crime scene belong to her, because it’s rather safe to assume they don’t belong to any other Pegasus, since the probability of finding an exactly matching coat color is basically zero. And we can, of course, eliminate the option that Dash herself was killed or kidnapped there. This makes the theory that she was responsible for that death more possible. However, this doesn’t add up at all, if you ask me.”

“Why do you say so?” Sweetie finally took off her fedora and hanged it on the bed’s edge. “I mean, I agree, but I want to see if we agree.”

Another wave of excitement struck me at that moment. We were actually investigating a crime. It was so thrilling! “Let’s just think about it for a while,” I started. “Let’s say she did kill Spitfire. What happened then? The body was just lying there in the grass; it wasn’t buried anywhere or even hidden. That would mean only two things – she wanted someone to find her, or she panicked. The first one doesn’t make sense, so I’ll drop it unless you can think of a reason not to. The panic option sounds much more logical. We all know Rainbow Dash and we know she would never murder anyone. But she is very impetuous. I can definitely imagine her getting into a fight, even a very tough fight if the reason were serious. I don’t know if she would ever lose her mind to strangle another pony to death, but let’s assume she would.

“That would explain why we found Spitfire’s corpse just lying there.” I started circling around the room, trying not to step on anything on the floor. “In this scenario, Dash realized what she had done, panicked and fled, leaving the crime scene how we found it later. However, how would you guys act afterwards if you were in her place? I know that after we left our clubhouse I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were being watched, and that if we stumbled upon somepony, they would know about everything. And all we did was take the body. Imagine what Dash would have to feel if she had actually killed Spitfire. No way she could just casually greet us and have a chat. She would rather avoid others and feel absolutely paranoid about everything. Not to mention that she probably saw us carrying this suitcase, and that would be another alert in her head. I don’t believe Rainbow is our culprit.”

“Pretty much what I was thinking,” said Sweetie, standing up. “She may be many things, but she is not a good actor. She wouldn’t even be capable of putting on an act like that. This whole case looks weirder with every minute.”

“What about the fact that she hasn’t been seen for the whole day?” Scootaloo interrupted. “It was a normal working day, and according to what we’ve already determined, nopony could find her. I didn’t know, cause I was in the field today and I probably couldn’t have seen her anyway. Doesn’t that seem fishy to you?”

“Oh, but it does,” I agreed, “and I was just about to get to it. As I already said, I don’t buy this simple explanation, that Dash is the killer. But we have physical evidence in form of these feathers. And that, girls, leads me to one conclusion. Rainbow Dash was…” I hung my voice.

“Framed,” Sweetie Belle finished for me. “I agree. This is the most logical explanation.”

Scootaloo nodded. “So, the first wild theory that popped into my mind seems to be true after all. But it’s hardly making sense as a whole anyway. Why would anyone ever try to frame her into a murder? I don’t have the slightest idea how to explain it. Do any of you?”

“Nope.” Sweetie shook her head.

“But I can think of something that might give us some answers,” I said.

All three of us slowly turned our heads towards the black suitcase lying on the bed. The aura of mystery almost glowed on its surface. It was calling to us, begging to be opened.

“Of course, if we assume it’s a frame,” my unicorn friend said slowly, “we should keep in mind that it’s also a part of the killer’s plan. The contents of it may serve the purpose to confuse us.”

“Yup!” Scootaloo kneeled and stuck a hoof under her bed. “But it’s the only trace we have. So let’s get to it!” She grunted and brought out a heavy crowbar.

“So, you hoard crowbars too, or do you have something to tell us?” I asked with a furrowed brow.

“Don’t ask.”

She brought the suitcase on the floor, and I stomped on the handle. Then she carefully placed the end of the tool in the split by one of the locks.

“We can still turn back,” she said with a sly grin. “We can still go to the police station, give it to them and hope that we won’t get sentenced by interfering with the law. We can still back off…”

“Do it,” I said. Sweetie only nodded.

“Ladies,” my pegasus friend started with an exalted tone, “we gathered here, after a long time, to once again throw ourselves into deep trouble, just like we are supposed to. Like always, we are going to mess up and probably hurt ourselves somehow trying to clean up after this. But we will not hold back, because this was sent to us by destiny! This is another step in our never ending struggle to find our special talents. Some would not approve of us investigating a crime, but it will never discourage us. Because this, my friends, is the job for the Cutie Mark Crusaders!”

With a loud crack, the lock fell apart as Scootaloo pressed against the crowbar with all her weight. After that, the second one let go without a problem. With my heart beating in my chest so hard that I was afraid it was about to break my ribs, I slowly raised the lid.

“What the…” Scootaloo hung her voice.

The case was filled with lots of sheets of paper, carefully tied with a few paper tapes with a few words repeating over and over on them.

TOP SECRET TOP SECRET TOP SECRET TOP SECRET TOP SECRET TOP SECRET

Sweetie Belle’s hind legs seemed to give up and she sat on the floor. Once again, her face drained of every last bit of color.
“What does it mean?” I asked her.

“It means…” She gulped. “It means we’re in much deeper trouble that we could have imagined.”