• Published 13th Jan 2013
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Equestria Noir Case 17 "Marked" - Jacoboby1



A mysterious thief, an even more mysterious artifact, a zebra population with a secret, all tie in to the latest chapter of Equestria Noir

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Chapter 1 "Uncle Lazarus"

Equestria Noir

Case 17

“Marked”

Written by: Jacoboby1 and ShatteredIllusions

Cover Art by: Skullman846

Chapter 1

“Uncle Lazarus”

“Darling, you really need to be more careful on your cases,” Rarity said, as she went about repairing my trench coat. She’s been doing all my personal tailoring since the first time my trench coat got ripped up. Bringing it back from the Alicorn summit did not help matters.

“Sorry,” I said sheepishly, standing off to the side. “I don’t mean to trouble you.”

“Not at all,” she replied, waving a hoof as she began fixing the holes in the coat with her magic. “Anyway to contribute to the stallion that helped Sweetie Belle is most welcome.”

“You’re really something else, Rarity,” I said with a genuine smile.

“Just one last stitch and done,” she said, smiling at her finished creation. "That should do it, but in all seriousness, Darling, try not to get it completely destroyed every case.” She levitated my grey trench coat back to me.

“No promises,” I said with a grin. I took the trench coat in my own magic and slipped it on, noticing a stack of fliers on a table. “What are those for?”

“Oh this?” she asked, levitating a pink flier in front of me.

I read the words aloud, “Looking to delve into the world of fashion? Stop by Carousel Boutique and interview for an apprenticeship.” I looked at her and tilted my head. “What brought this on?” I asked, curiously.

“Spikey Wikey suggested it to me,” she replied, smiling at the memory. “The little dear pointed out that all my talent and success is for nothing if I don't share my skills. So, he suggested I go about teaching a young filly or colt my craft.”

“That’s a good idea,” I said, nodding approvingly. “It’ll be a good experience, for you and the lucky foal.”

“I do hope so, Darling,” she said before turning her attention to several unfinished dresses. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Dear Sweetie Belle is going on a camping trip with her friends and she wants me to tag along. I'll need to work extra hard to get these ready for Fleur’s order in time.”

“All right,” I agreed amicably, turning to walk out. “If I spot any candidates for that apprenticeship I’ll send them your way.” I left Carousel Boutique behind and walked down the streets of Ponyville at a brisk pace, putting my newly repaired trench coat through its paces. Rarity was always so quick to volunteer when it came to repairs. I hoped this new apprenticeship deal would allow her to get some much needed down time.

Maybe I should take my own advice.

_______________________________________________________

I settled down on my couch across from my dad and stated, “Somepony from our family needs my help?”

“Specifically, your Uncle Lazarus” Dad said, taking a long sip from his hot chocolate. I swear he’s addicted to the stuff. “Do you remember him at all?”

“A little,” I admitted, taking a sip of my own hot chocolate. “He’s your younger brother right?”

“He's the middle child,” Dad explained. “I was the eldest; he was next, followed by your Uncle Slant. Anyway, a family heirloom called the Eye of Serenity was stolen last night. He’s asked me for help in finding it, and you can probably deduce what happened next.”

“You pointed him to me,” I answered.

“It may seem trivial, but that eye has been in our family since your great grandfather’s time. It’s very important to our family, and especially to Lazarus.”

“What can you tell me about him?” I asked, taking another sip. “I don’t remember very much to be honest with you.”

“There’s good reason for that," Dad admitted. “Lazarus was one of the many voices who objected to me marrying your mother. He was more like your grandfather than he’d care to admit. Stubborn, a little arrogant, and always looking ahead, that’s Lazy for you.”

“Lazy?”

“My pet name for him,” Dad said with a smirk. “It always drove him crazy, that’s what I liked about it.”

“Why aren't the police to looking for the eye?” I asked.

“I asked him that as well, but apparently he wants to keep this whole business quiet. That, and also your cousin has been dying to meet you.”

“I have a cousin?” I queried, raising an eyebrow.

I knew I had quite a few cousins on Mom's side of the family. Mom and Dad’s families were pretty different when it came to size. Mom’s family size was basically equivalent to the Apples. She had four sisters and two brothers. Dad’s side was much smaller. Mostly because nobles had the smallest amount of foals possible. This was the first I’d heard of a cousin on Dad’s side.

“You never met him before because he was born not long after Tailspin was. They’re about the same age,” Dad explained. “His name is Cross, and when he heard you could take on the case he was overjoyed.”

“I guess I have an admirer,” I said, with a slight laugh. “I’ll clear some things up here, and I’ll have to tell Twilight I can’t make it to see her animal levitating trick. You got an address for me?”

“Here,” he replied, handing me a card with the address written on it. “It’s uptown, not far from where our old home was.”

“All right, I’m going to call Sparkler and-“

Dad raised a hoof, silencing me. “Before you leave, I heard that you'll be attending a dinner with Twilight’s parents soon?” he asked with a sly gleam in his eyes.

My face turned red and I tried to play it cool. “Yeah well, you know, they are curious who she’s constantly working with.”

“I see,” he said with an impish grin. “Things are getting serious are they not?”

“Dad,” I groaned, feeling like a teenager again.

“I just want to know when I can be expecting grandkids…” My dad broke into laughter as my jaw dropped.

“I, no wait, she, I arrgh!” I stomped my way outside. I was not going to have this conversation with him. He was getting too much of a kick out of seeing me embarrassed.

Though, the thought of Twilight and I getting married had crossed my mind. So had the thought of starting a family with her. The idea scared me, but excited me as well. Maybe dad was right, things were getting serious.

That vision I had, way back in Appaloosa. Was that filly truly mine and Twilight’s? I still remember her words, I love you daddy.

I always did want a girl…

___________________________________________________________

After explaining the situation to Twilight I left via train to Manehattan. She was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see her perform her trick, but she understood it was a family matter and I needed to deal with it.

As I stepped off the train onto the platform I bumped into somepony trying to get on. “Hey, watch it!” I shouted in true Manehattan style.

The mare was clad in a black cloak with some kind of amulet holding it on. I couldn't see her face under the cloak but I somehow knew she was looking at me. She just walked right past me, her gaze lingering a moment too long as she entered the train. I just shrugged and walked out of the station.

When I got outside I saw a strange sight, all around me, a bunch of zebra families were getting off trains. I’d never seen so many zebra in one place before. Most were carrying only basic belongings, and didn’t give me a second glance. Though I’ll admit I gaped openly.

As I stared I noticed that the zebra were being led by police escort. Many of them were being directed by officers to various parts of Manehattan. Other officers were trying to keep a crowd of protestors away. The protestors held up signs that basically boiled down to "We don't want them here". I saw Shinebadge walking over to me. He gave me a half smile and said, “Didn’t expect to see you back in town.”

“I have family business to attend to,” I explained. “Don’t worry, I’m not here to steal a case or anything.”

His dark eyes were trained on me; I could tell what happened with the Discord case still rang in his mind.

I sighed, “Listen Chief, I wasn’t-”

“I don’t wanna hear it,” Shinebadge interrupted. “Ya reacted how I would’ve. I couldn’t ask for more, Private.”

“Anyway,” I said, ready to drop the whole subject. I looked at a family of zebra, trying desperately to contain their eager children, asking an officer for directions. “What’s with all the zebra?”

“They’re immigrating,” Shinebadge explained. “There's a plague running rampant through their homeland. Some decided they’d rather venture here than be stuck in some prairie without a future.”

“Where are they all staying?” I asked.

“Most are taking on factory jobs,” Chief explained, watching a zebra couple as they looked around in awe at the city. “They got a whole section set up downtown, used to be an old slums area until the Zebra took it over. We call it Zebra Town now.”

“How many are there?” I asked.

“Too many if ya ask me,” Shinebadge replied, as he gestured to the protesters. “See them nut jobs? They believe that the zebra have faked the whole plague to steal our jobs or somethin'. Just means more trouble for my boys keeping the peace.”

Just then, I saw him. It’s hard to tell with zebra, but he looked about my age, maybe a year younger. His mane was stylized like a Mohawk, similar to Zecora’s but with a more rebellious style I guess. His stripes adorned his body almost like tattoos that added to the mystery of him. His tail was braided and on his flank was a cutie mark of an eye, a single teardrop falling from it. His ice blue eyes met mine for a moment before he walked past.

I noticed he had a black vest on, as well as some brown bracelets on his forelegs. What really caught my eye though was the badge on his vest. I had to ask, “Who’s the new guy?”

Shinebadge looked at the Zebra and gave a shrug “Apparently he’s somepony the zebra trust. Sort of like a detective for them. He doesn’t talk much, only gave me his name, explained why he was important, and asked for a badge so that he could investigate something. He seemed all right, and the zebra listen to him, so I gave him the badge.”

“What’s his name?” I asked with curiosity

“I can’t pronounce his real name,” Shinebadge admitted, “but he just goes by Seeker. Like I said, he doesn’t talk much. I can’t really tell you anything else about him."

I caught Seeker’s gaze again, just the way he looked at me. It was like he was trying to assertion whether I was worthy of his time or not. Funny, Twilight mentioned I gave such a look to the criminals I was investigating. I simply shrugged and walked off. Shinebadge didn’t need me complicating matters.

Still I couldn’t shake the look Seeker was giving me. I couldn’t help but feel he was watching my every move. It was kind of creepy to be honest. Now I know how some of my suspects feel.

_____________________________________________________________

I stepped out of my taxi and gazed at the mansion towering over me. It was well over four stories tall, the walls made entirely of marble. The gardens outside were lush and teeming with all sorts of plants. Uncle Lazarus was definitely not worrying about his next meal anytime soon.

I paid my fare and watched as a young mare in a maid's uniform approached me. She was a teenager, probably still in high school, with a golden coat and a dark brown mane tied up under a bonnet. She curtsied before me and spoke in a rather refined voice, “Welcome Detective, Master Lazarus is awaiting your arrival in his office.”

I nodded and replied, “Lead the way then.”

She led me inside the mansion; I couldn't help but notice the walls were lined with various expensive paintings and some statues of ponies. Geez this guy was rich. I couldn’t help but feel a little peeved that for all his money he'd never even offered to help Tailspin out.

Then again, I might not have accepted it.

The maid opened a door leading into a lavish office. To the left over a small fireplace I spotted a painting of Adamus Eye. Even in paintings he looks like he thinks you are dirt. I never understood how my dad, who was at least a decent stallion at heart for all he'd done, could have come from a stallion like Adamus.

I looked towards the window and saw my Uncle Lazarus for the first time in over a decade. He was a unicorn, a few years younger than dad. His mane was jet black with streaks of grey in them. His coat was a lighter shade of grey then dad’s. A set of glasses rested on his muzzle, giving him an air of intelligence. He smiled upon seeing me and said, “You’ve grown a lot, Preventus.”

“Please, Uncle Lazarus,” I said, raising a hoof, “I prefer Private.”

“Whatever you say," he paused, narrowing his green eyes, "Private.” I could tell he wasn’t taking the fact I insisted on the name well, but he shrugged and said politely, if somewhat coldly, “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”

“Dad says you had something stolen?” I asked.

“Have a seat,” he said, gesturing to the chair that the maid brought up. I sat in it politely, as he explained, “The Eye of Serenity has been in our family for generations. Going all the way back to your great grandfather, Jeremiah Eye. He acquired it many years ago in a faraway land. Your grandfather left it in my care after everything that happened with…”

“You don’t need to get into that,” I reassured.

“Good,” Lazarus sighed in relief. “I was hoping we wouldn't have to open old wounds while there’s a bigger crisis at hand.”

“This heirloom, what is it exactly?” I said, taking some of the tea offered by the maid.

“Your grandfather never told me what it is exactly” Lazarus admitted, passing a photo across the desk to me. It was a sigil etched in some kind of black stone. It depicted an eye with a single tear drop falling from it. “Apparently it’s so important that somepony snuck in the middle of the night and stole it right out of its display case.”

“You picked me out so that word doesn’t get around that you couldn’t take care of a single artifact,” I deduced.

“You are quite clever,” Lazarus complimented. “Irenius was right to send me you.”

“I’ll investigate the crime scene and see what I can find,” I volunteered, as I took a sip of the tea. Then I looked Lazarus in the eye and spoke frankly, “I can’t guarantee anything, Manehattan is a big city, and the odds of finding the item are as small as the city is big.”

“Even still, I want you to do what you can,” Lazarus replied firmly. “It’s imperative that this heirloom be found.”

“I’ll see what I-“

“Dad?”

I turned and looked behind me, there in the doorway stood a colt, same age as Tailspin. He was a unicorn, with a Lincoln green coat and a short mane of black. His lime green eyes were hidden behind a set of black rimmed glasses. That wasn’t the most striking feature about him though; he was wearing a grey trench coat like mine.

Those green eyes grew wide upon seeing me as he squealed, “Dad, is this-“

Lazarus chuckled and looked at the colt. He walked to him and smiled at me “I don’t believe you two have met, Private, this is my son Cross. Cross, this is your cousin, Private Eye”

Cross stared at me as I walked to him. I held out a hoof in greeting and introduced myself, “Hey there, I’m Private. It's nice to meet you.”

Cross looked at my hoof for a long time before taking it. He smiled wide and said, “I’m Cross! It’s so amazing that I get to meet you! I’m your number one fan!”

He’s my what now?