• Published 10th Sep 2012
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Red Right Hoof - Japko



Cutie Mark Crusader Crime Investigators, yay!

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Chapter Four: The Spies

Red Right Hoof

By Japko

Chapter Four: The Spies

“What in the world is it?” The Boss’ voice didn’t sound happy at all.

“Sir, you wanted me to call you whenever I had something.”

“Of course I did, I remember that. What is it? It’d better be good and important news.”

“I’m sorry, sir. This is classified enough not to talk about it in any other way than in private, I’m afraid. Your eyes and ears only.”

“Good. Okay then. Fine…”

“When should I see you, then?”

“Immediately. Come to the office immediately.”

The pony slowly put the receiver away and let out a long sigh. This could have gone a lot worse. His heart was still pounding, adrenaline humming in his ears. Of course he was doing what he was specifically told to do, but still, directly waking up the Boss was something he had never done before, and he had no idea what to expect. He was afraid that the intercom would blow in his face with blind fury. The pony wondered how the Boss would have reacted to someone else doing it. Sure he was rough with him, but considering that he was always angry about something, and how rough he was with basically everyone, the pony sometimes felt like he had somehow gained his sympathy over the months, especially if he managed to stay cool against the constant nagging and complaints. It wasn’t the first time when he questioned the honesty of those anger outbursts. Like it was all a weird, twisted part of the training.

Nevertheless, there were situations in which the Boss was still terrifying, no matter what. The pony knew how being suddenly woken could affect some ponies. His wife was the best example, especially when he got unexpected calls in the middle of the night. And she was nowhere close as scary as the Boss. Well, not usually, at least.

He was in the office about a minute ago, but he found his chief already wearing his suit and tie, and smoking a fresh cigar. Had he really been sleeping after all?

“Go on, son, make it quick.”

The pony smirked inside. “I have an update on the state of the case and some information about the suspects.” He put a dossier on the desk carefully, so it wouldn’t fall off with the rest of the stacks of paper. “Do you want me to give you a brief, or will you read it by yourself?”

“Both,” the Boss said immediately. “Start with the information about the suspects.”

“Yes, sir. We have the identities of all three of them.”

“Three of them?”

“Oh, right, I’m sorry. Well, there are three now. And… and one dragon. Do you still want me to begin with the identities?”

The Boss looked baffled for a split second. “All right then. If you think it would be better to start with the situation update, go for it.”

“Our agents kept observing the suspects without intervening. The body was taken into the forest, north of Ponyville, into a small house in a tree. It looks like a foals’ clubhouse, probably belonging to the suspects. As it turned out a small dragon had been hiding there, and they scared each other, though they all clearly know each other. A while later, another filly, probably the same age as the two suspects, arrived and received a magical letter just before entering the clubhouse. Around twenty minutes later, the dragon left the house and returned to Ponyville. Then, the suspects, um…” he hesitated, “they crammed Agent PF13’s body into a fridge and left, taking the documents with them. One of the agents stayed to secure the scene and is awaiting further orders. Another agent, with the sent backup, followed the suspects, who headed towards the western suburbs to a place that seems to be home to one of them, meeting a pony named Rainbow Dash on the way, and, for some reason, asking her for a feather from her wings. Further information is unavailable, because curtains had been drawn in the room they ended up in, and the agents couldn’t get close enough to eavesdrop without raising suspicion.”

“I see. Now give me the identities.”

“If I may share my thoughts, this doesn’t look good, sir. As I said, we know identities of all three of them. The first one, the earth pony, is Applebloom, the youngest member of Ponyville’s Apple Family, owners of Sweet Apple Acres. The second one’s name is Sweetie Belle. That’s the unicorn that arrived later. We found her in the Fillydelphian University’s files; she’s a first-year law student. Now I think I should mention the first unusual thing about them. Both of them are siblings to bearers of the legendary Elements of Harmony. Applebloom is sister of Applejack, the Element of Honesty, and Sweetie Belle’s sister is Rarity, the Element of Generosity.

“The third one is a pegasus. Her name is Scootaloo. Unimpressive history, no siblings, however we have information about her being close with another Element holder, Loyalty, Rainbow Dash. Therefore, all of them are connected to at least one of the ponies who were titled national heroes multiple times. And that’s not the end,” he added, seeing his superior’s eyes widening with every word he said. “I haven’t said anything about the dragon. His name is Spike, and he’s-”

“I know who he is,” said the Boss faintly, shaking his head. “I know the bearers of the Elements as well. Twilight Sparkle’s personal assistant is a part of this as well then. So Celestia’s protégée seems to be involved too.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but… does it make any sense to you? Do you have any theory what this could mean? Does it really mean that Equestria’s heroes, Celestia’s students, are involved in this international operation? That they could have organized the murder of our agent? And why would they use their younger siblings to deal with the body, if so?”

Suddenly, the Boss burst into laughter. He kept laughing for over a minute, until tears started rolling from his eyes, as the pony stood in front of his desk, absolutely confused.

“Oh dear,” he said eventually, still chuckling. “I’ve worked for… I can’t even tell how many years here, and I thought I’d seen everything already. But this case! I am speechless! I don’t know where to even start. I have no idea why and how ponies so close to Celestia herself would do anything like this. Is this treason? If so, it doesn’t make sense. Sure, these files are very important, but if they wanted to betray us, they could have done it so many times already, and with affairs of much bigger magnitude. Did their families turn against Equestria without them knowing? Maybe they don’t approve of our work! And you know what, agent? Nothing of what I just said makes any sense!”

* * *

The barbecue outside seemed to be a big party. There was a lot of laughter, loud music and jingling glass. The window was a boundary between two different worlds. In one of them ponies laughed, danced and got drunk. In the other, three fillies sheepishly stared at a broken suitcase. A suitcase full of papers filled with text that seemed to have no sense to it, like it was written in some kind of code.

“Well,” Scootaloo broke the silence, “we’re screwed. I mean, I think so. Are we screwed? Because I think we are.”

“This… really complicates things,” Sweetie said.

“I expected many things. But not quite something like this,” I added.

“I know, right?” The sudden change in Scootaloo’s voice brought me out from my reverie. I looked at her. She was smiling from ear to ear. “Do you understand what we’re looking at? This is classified data! This is spy stuff!”

“I have a question, ma’am.” Sweetie Belle raised her hoof. “How in the wild world of Equestria can you be happy about it?”

“Come on…” Scoot’s eyes wandered between the two of us, like she couldn’t comprehend our lack of excitement. “Don’t be like this, guys! Look at us! Have you ever been on such an adventure? We have found a suitcase filled with classified data, apparently encrypted too. You have to admit it. This is cool.”

This wasn’t cool. This wasn’t cool at all. It was a nightmare. Like always, every single time, we hadn’t thought anything through and put ourselves in danger. Serious danger. Come to think of it, it was exactly what Scootaloo had said before opening the case. It was just what we were. The Cutie Mark Crusaders – the troublemakers. And this time... this time I had no idea how in the world we would be able to get ourselves out of such a mess. Terrible, awful, tragic… fun?

I was shivering, sweating. My head felt light, like I was about to pass out. But under the thick cover of fear, was there something else? Did I let myself still be excited about this situation? Was I even more excited? Is there a point after which you can safely say you can’t get into any more trouble and you just lean back, laugh and roll with it? I couldn’t answer these questions, but I couldn’t think of it getting more scary, at least concerning us. The only thing that could become worse would be us getting caught. So…

“One thing is for certain,” I said. “No matter what, we can’t let anyone know we are in possession of these documents. If anyone knows, then yes, we are screwed.”

“What do you expect us to do then?” Scootaloo’s eyes pleaded. “We should just leave it? Let it go?”

I sighed. “I wish I could say it. But I know us. We all know us, girls. Even if we dropped it, we would never forgive ourselves. This has gone too far for us to give up. And even if we decided to stop now, at least one of us would, sooner or later, get back to it on her own. No. Let’s face it, we are beyond the point of no return. And you know what? We can do it. And even if we can’t, do we even have a choice?”

“Eh, you know what?” Sweetie Belle replied. “I’ve come to Ponyville for the first time in months, and within these, I don’t know, two hours, you’ve managed to provide me with much more entertainment than I had in Fillydelphia. I don’t believe this is the last surprise. And with each new one we tend to question ourselves.

“No, we can’t go back now. And I hate you for it, but you’ve managed to get me excited as well. If we managed to let ourselves go this far, we can’t be unsure whether to keep pushing forward or not. Let’s just embrace the fact that we’re a part of this and there’s nothing we can do about it anymore. Let’s go.”

“Go? Go where?” I didn’t expect Sweetie to say something like that at all!

“Where do you think we could go?” Scootaloo grinned towards me. “We’re spies now. Let’s spy on Rainbow Dash!”

* * *

Rainbow Dash was well known for her aversion to staying on the ground longer than absolutely necessary. She was literally addicted to flying, way more than an average pegasus. Even if she decided to rest for a while, sit or lie down – mostly to read, because she didn’t like to sleep either, which often resulted in random naps during the day – she did it on tree branches or in the clouds. This meant that she wasn’t technically living in Ponyville. She had her own home made of clouds, floating just outside the town’s suburbs. At this moment I was pretty sure that she made it specifically to make our lives harder.

“So, what’s your plan then?” I asked Scootaloo, who seemed to be thinking very hard.

“Huh? Oh,” she replied, “I was just wondering how to use your help here. Since, you know…” She flapped her wings a few times.

“Yeah, I was just about to ask you how you expect us to be of any use here,” I said. “At least one of us could be back in your house and keep the documents safe.”

We decided it wouldn’t be the best idea to wander around town with a suspicious looking suitcase, so we left it in a safe place. In a spot where no one would ever dare to even peek, not to mention stick a hoof in. We left it under Scootaloo’s bed, the land of horrors and grim mysteries. We were pretty sure no one would be interested in the suitcase, since no one could know about it, but I had already learned that I should never underestimate the power of a coincidence, or rather blind bad luck. Besides, I couldn’t shake off that paranoid feeling of being watched. So I couldn’t say I was fully comfortable with something as important unprotected. It would be better if at least one of us guarded the secret documents, just to be safe.

“Relax.” Scootaloo bounced off the ground and hovered above our heads. “No harm will be done to them. Anyway,” she said slowly, poking Sweetie’s horn, “maybe you have some cool spells in your magic dictionary that would be able to help us somehow?”

“Sure,” the unicorn frowned, “and I will also make you invisible and grow you a second pair of wings. I don’t know if you remember anything from the last year, but I went to Fillydelphia to study law. Law, remember? It’s not the same as magic.”

“I know, I know… I just hoped that maybe you know at least some spells to help us communicate or whatever.”

“Are you sure she’s not home at the moment? It’s pretty late already.” Sweetie nervously looked around.

“Naah.” Scootaloo waved her hoof in reply. “She never comes back home before really late night hours at Fridays.”

“But what if she does tonight?” I asked. “Sure we can be here and keep watch whether or not she is coming back, but it seems we don’t have any way to communicate with you when you’re up there in the clouds.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” the pegasus replied. “You know my relationship with Dash, she treats me like a sister and allows me to visit her home any time I want.”

“But it’s the middle of the night! It has to look suspicious, no matter how you look at it.”

“I’ll think of something if I have to.”

“You can think now, just saying.”

“No time!” Scoot soared towards the cloudy house, grinning. “Besides, I don’t like to think in advance. Waste of brain powers.”

That said, she propelled herself with a few strong flaps of her wings and, not even looking around, flew straight to the main door.

“And you wonder why we argue so much,” said Sweetie Belle, sitting on the ground beside me. “What a lovely strategy, not to think ahead so none of her precious brain power goes to waste. Her strongest side, after all.”

I didn’t reply.

At that point, all we could do was to wait either for Scootaloo to come back with or without a piece of the puzzle or for something to go terribly wrong. As the time passed, my nerves once again began to tighten. When you’re stressed, the best way to relieve it is to just talk, to have a simple conversation to take your mind off the things causing the stress. Sadly, we couldn’t talk. We had to be vigilant and look out for any sign of danger. What the danger could be – we had no idea. And it stressed us out even more.

Time was passing extremely slowly, but from my rough estimates it was already after midnight. There was no sign of Scootaloo coming back, and my mind had already started forming ridiculous grim scenarios in which someone had been there before us to set a trap which Scootaloo was supposed to carelessly fly into and she wouldn’t ever return. Minute by minute the scenarios evolved, including interrogations, torture, world-wide conspiracy and much more. It happened to me a lot. I have a vivid imagination and it often works against me. I can’t be allowed to think too much, otherwise I’ll eventually convince myself that the world is ending.

The tension was slowly becoming insufferable.

“Boo.”

I had no idea I could jump, especially that high, from a sitting position. This time I couldn’t hold back a high-pitched scream, as I was suddenly startled so much that my world turned into white void of blind fear. Suddenly I found myself on four hooves in a position unsure whether to run or attack. A split second after, when I regained my senses I saw Scootaloo rolling on the ground, laughing, and Sweetie Belle with the most furious expression on her face.

“Are you completely out of your mind, you moron?!” she yelled at the pegasus, who couldn’t catch her breath from laughter. “Did you want to give us a heart attack?”

I just stood there, panting heavily with adrenaline boiling in my veins. Scoot could never resist a prank like this, and it wasn’t the first time she had used her sneaking skills to softly approach me from behind and, as Sweetie said, try to give me a heart attack. I hated her for that. She knew I was startled easily and she abused that knowledge.

“One day I will kill you for this.” I kicked her in her blank flank.

“Oh come on, lighten up, gals,” she said, wiping tears off her eyes, still chuckling. “I have something. Something good.”

“Wait, what? Really?” Sweetie seemed quite surprised by this news.

In response, Scootaloo showed us a piece of paper.

“A letter?” I frowned. “Were you seriously scouring through her correspondence, Scoot? That’s not cool, you know.”

“Oh forgive me for I have sinned,” she replied with venomous sarcasm. “Oh and I also have a suitcase full of secret documents under my bed and a dead body in a fridge, but I totally agree, reading someone’s letters is the worst felony I have committed in my life. Besides, it was in the trash.”

“Fine.” I sighed. “Let’s see what we have here. Sweetie Belle, could you give us some light here, I mean if you are able to perform a spell like th- ow! Hey, what was that for?”

Dear Rainbow Dash

We are sad to announce that, despite your extraordinary skills, which you have proven many times already, and highly positive marks on your teamwork and commanding abilities, we are unable to accept your application to the team of The Wonderbolts.The reason, however prosaic, is unable to overcome at the moment. The Wonderbolts are unable to hire another member to the team for as long as the team is full. When we have a vacancy, we will let you know.

Yours sincerely,
Soarin, The Wonderbolts

I bit my lip. “So…”

“So before we even start discussing this, the letter has to return to where it took it from, Scootaloo,” immediately said Sweetie Belle, interrupting me.

“But it was in the tra-”

“Doesn’t matter. Do it, and let’s get out of here.”

* * *

“Well, girls, no matter how we look at this, we have made some progress,” said Sweetie Belle, sitting on the headboard of Scootaloo’s bed.

We were back in Scoot’s house. The first thing I did after coming back was to check under the bed and see if the suitcase hadn’t been stolen. Luckily, it seemed untouched. Green Rose, the least problematic roommate in all of Equestria, was already asleep, and according to Scootaloo, there was no chance she could ever be woken up by a third party, even if the house was being incinerated by a rabid dragon. Nevertheless, we still preferred to stay quiet.

“I’m not sure if it was the best idea to leave the letter there though,” I said. “I mean, it is a hard evidence in our case, no matter whether we consider Dash guilty or not. If it gets thrown away permanently, we will lose an item very important to our investigation.”

“I am aware of that,” she instantly replied. “But keeping the investigation to ourselves is the top priority now. We have super -secret documents and we have to worry about our flanks. Say, Scoot, was the letter on top in the trashcan?”– the pegasus nodded –“then we can assume she received it not long ago. She probably got angry and threw it out as an impulse, and there’s a high chance she’ll want to get it back. We can’t risk her getting suspicious after not finding it where it should be. Also, haven’t you found anything else?”

“No.” Scootaloo shook her head. “I am pretty sure there was nothing else we would find interesting, and I know her house very well.”

“What does it tell us?” I asked, scratching my head. “Can it count as a motive?”

Sweetie opened her mouth to say something, but Scootaloo took her ground. “Of course it can. I mean…” she hesitated, looking at Sweetie. She signed for her to continue.

“I mean, think about it. Rainbow Dash, for a long, long time tries to get to The Wonderbolts. She does everything she can to be seen by them, in which she succeeds a few times. She manages to get to the academy for the best fliers in Equestria and scores very high. We can say she becomes obsessed with the idea of becoming one of them. And what does she get? Nothing. She doesn’t get accepted, and why? Because there are no slots available. Now, what would a psychopath do in a situation like this?”

I nodded slowly. “Make a slot available.”

“Exactly.” Scootaloo sat back on her bed and poured some of the cold coffee to her cup. “It’s not hard to come to such a conclusion when you think about it. It’s easy… almost too easy. If we look at the case, having only dry facts available, not knowing our suspect, this sounds like a logical explanation, especially with the knowledge about her obsession. But we are in a better position than a detached observer. We know Dash. We know she is definitely not a psychopath, so we can assume it’s a part of the plan of our killer.”

“I agree.” Sweetie jumped off the headboard. “But that leaves us with at least two important questions we don’t know answers to. One – in what way is the letter connected to the case? Did the killer use an opportunity like this to achieve their goal or did the killer arrange it? If the first theory is true, they must have planned to frame Dash for a longer period of time, tracking her moves and waiting for the right time to strike. If the second one is true, it means that either the letter was forged – which would be risky – or this case is bigger and there are more figures involved, like that Soarin who wrote the letter. We must also take into consideration the possibility that it’s no more than a coincidence, no matter how unlikely it is.

“The second question, much more problematic if you ask me, is how the damn suitcase is connected to all this. Nothing we have at the moment has any logical connection to it. Should we include it as a part of the frame? If so, how would that be important to make Dash look guilty of murder? Or maybe the suitcase is the core of the whole problem, and the body is a smokescreen to make it look less important? But if the documents a r e important, why were they just lying around? And why around Spitfire? Were they lost by the culprit? Was Spitfire some kind of an undercover agent? This is really making my head hurt.”

“If only we were able to understand what’s written on those papers,” I sighed, “maybe we could understand at least some of it.”

“Don’t you know anyone who is good at beaking codes, Sweetie Belle?” asked Scootaloo.

“From what I know, there are a few specialists in one faculty of my department, but there is no way I’m dragging them into a case like this, especially since we’re trying to keep it a secret. Besides, do you think any of them would care enough to help a first year student? Well okay, Doctor Feint possibly would. Maybe. He’s a nice guy and he likes me. But I already mentioned why I think it’s not the best idea, and what’s also problematic, he’s probably far away in Fillydelphia, possibly even farther, since it’s summer vacation.”

“So what’s our next step?” asked Scootaloo with a disappointed look on her face.

“We have to focus on what we’ve got,” I replied. “And all we’ve got is one track now, which leads us to Soarin and The Wonderbolts. I can’t think of a reason not to look into that however we can. But there is one thing we haven’t discussed yet, and which, I think, is very important.”

They both looked at me quizzically.

“Don’t you think we’re running out of time with every passing minute?” I said. “We’re talking here about a celebrity missing. Someone will notice it very soon. And if she indeed was some kind of agent, it can be safe to assume that they’ve been looking for her already for some time. I know we can say to ourselves that we shouldn’t worry too much, that there is nothing that can connect us to the case, but sometimes the smallest negligence can expose us. And the flowing time is our disadvantage. We have to act fast if we want to get out of it in one piece. The problem is…” I hung my voice. “The problem is that I have no idea how we can get out of it in one piece.”

* * *

All the lights on Sweet Apple Acres were out when I came back home. It wasn’t surprising at all, since everyone in my family preferred to go to bed early and wake up early to catch more daylight for work. Of course it was Saturday tomorrow, but it’s hard to break habits for specific days of the week. Since Granny Smith passed away it changed a little bit, but still, it was difficult to see lights on in the house after midnight. Of course from time to time Applejack or even Big Mac liked to go out for a Friday evening, but they never stayed late if they were home. I had no idea whether or not they were sleeping or hanging out with friends, so I decided to quietly sneak in without anyone noticing. I was a big pony already, but my sister’s motherly complex forced her to interrogate me every time I was out for “too long”. And I have to admit – I am a terrible liar. If she caught me and asked what I was doing, I could come up with a story, but I doubt she would believe any of it. Besides, I was certain Applejack was angry with me leaving my work in the middle of a busy afternoon. Did all of that happen with only a few hours? It was really hard for me to believe that. It felt like a week. And left me as tired as it actually was a week.

Scoot and Sweetie agreed with me that waiting was not advised, but we also all agreed that staying up all night with nothing to do would be a terrible idea and that it would be way better to get some sleep and have a fresh mind in the morning. We had to come up with some sort of a plan and each of us promised to think of something by sleeping over the issue.

As I lied in bed I tried to think of a way to push our pitiful investigation forward. What could we do anyway? We were just three girls from a small town. We weren’t important in any way, so how could we even make an appointment with someone like Soarin (who, as Scootaloo explained, was one of the most important Wonderbolts in the team, like Spitfire)? And if we somehow could, what then? Threaten him? Tie him up and squeeze the answers out of him? I almost laughed out loud at those thoughts. All we could do was to observe him from afar and maybe search his house for clues like we did with Rainbow Dash’s home, but it would be a thousand times more risky. The fact that they all lived in the sky didn’t help. Scootaloo was the only one who could get there, and even with her persuasive personality, she was only one pony. The more I thought of it, the more difficult it seemed.

“Talk about biting more than we can chew,” I whispered to myself, wrapping a blanket tightly around my body, despite the night was hot.

So, an extraordinary adventure happened to a bunch of ordinary ponies. Was that what I expected it to be? Was that a cruel joke the fate had pulled on me, having heard my thoughts and hopes? Did it really think a dead body in my fridge and a suitcase full of encrypted intelligence documents was something I would want and enjoy? Was that a challenge? A punishment? A spectacle for the fate to laugh at? Different thoughts spinned inside my head, and I was sure I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep that night.

A loud knocking sound brought me out from my reverie. I looked around, confused and startled. I had no idea what was going on for a while. Bright sunlight poured through my window, and for a second I wondered whether everything that had happened wasn’t just a bad dream. But another staccato of knocks dispelled the doubts. It was Scootaloo, floating by the window and bashing the glass with her hoof. I grunted and slowly crawled towards her and opened the window.

“Guess who I just saw in town,” she said, poking my head with her hoof.

I almost broke my legs running down the stairs. I passed Applejack in the kitchen, barely seeing her. “Where are you going, Applebloom?” she shouted after me, but I didn’t bother to reply. With a delay, my brain communicated with my nose, and I stopped with my hooves almost screeching on the path and ran back. Right, it was Saturday morning after all. I grabbed two freshly baked fritters from the counter and ran off, almost trampling my sister on the way.

“What in the hay are you-” she started again, confused.

“No time, sis! See ya!”. I stormed out of the house and followed Scootaloo downtown.