• 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 2 "Cousin Cross"

Chapter 2

“Cousin Cross”

Uncle Lazarus gave Cross and I some time to talk before I began my investigation. The colt was practically skipping with excitement as he led me down the hallway. We turned a corner and opened the door to his room. His horn glowed a light green and the lights came on.

The bedroom was average size for a colt’s, with a large bed and a window looking out towards the cityscape. What really caught my attention was what was on the walls. They were covered with all sorts of newspaper clippings and photos of all my cases.

“Got quite a collection here,” I said, looking at a picture of me standing next to Photo Finish after finding Sweetlight.

“I have a pen pal whose Dad works with the newspaper,” Cross said, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment. “He got all of these clippings for me.”

“Are these all my cases?” I scanned the pictures, recognizing several of them. I didn’t really try to get in any pictures after a case was done; but some reporters would insist and I’d have to stick around for a bit, or they’d get my picture anyway.

“Yeah,” Cross smiled. “It’s amazing to finally meet you!” His green eyes looked up at me in awe as he asked, “Is it true you actually took on Nightmare Moon?”

I chuckled a little. “I had help; Luna kind of defeated herself to be honest.” I tried to sound humble but I couldn’t help but smile a little at Cross’ idolization.

“Discord too!” Cross exclaimed. “I knew you were amazing, but to be an Element of Harmony too! The way you took him down was totally awesome!”

“I don’t mean to brag,” I said, turning to the colt and lowering my head so we faced each other, “but yeah, it was pretty awesome.” My eyes fell on Cross’ desk, it was covered with a lot of books, textbooks to be precise. “Doing a little light reading?” I asked.

Cross looked at me then adjusted his glasses. “Nah, that’s just homework, I was working on a physics paper before you came here.”

“Physics?” I asked, looked down at Cross in shock. “How old are you?”

“I’ll be eleven this summer,” Cross said, with a smile.

This kid is as old as Tailspin and he’s already learning physics? Back in my day we would still be learning our times tables at his age. Tailspin isn’t even learning this stuff. I looked at the textbooks and saw that a lot of them were pretty advanced levels of math, science, and economics. This kind of work I’d expect out of a college student, not a ten year old. “Where do you go to school?”

“I have private tutors,” Cross explained. “Look you don’t need to worry about all that.”

“I’m impressed more than anything,” I said with a smile. “Are you actually into this stuff?”

“Not really,” Cross admitted.

“Then what are you into?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.

“You mostly,” Cross admitted, his hoof scuffing the ground self-consciously.

Okay, I was moving away from flattered and starting to enter worried territory. Then I looked at his trench coat. “I see you got your own, huh?”

“Yeah,” Cross said, glad that the subject changed. “I got this a few months ago after you took down that Moondancer lady. Boy did she turn ugly after you and Twilight Sparkle performed that magic on her!”

“Did you have it custom made?” I asked.

“How did you guess?” Cross said in shock.

“No tag, the stitching is hoof stitched, and the fabric looks mashed together” I said simply.

“Wow!” Cross’ eyes grew wide in admiration. “You got all that just by looking at it?”

“Eyes and brains, my dear Cross,” I quoted, before noticing the time. “I need to go meet your dad about the missing eye. It was nice talking to you.”

“Can I come with you?” Cross asked, getting in my path of escape. “I want to see you in action!”

I couldn’t deny the eager look he had on his face. This kid really looked up to me so much he’d gladly volunteer for a case if it meant he could spend time with me. Luna, now I know how Rainbow feels with Scootaloo. He wasn’t going to let it go if I didn’t let him come.

I sighed and relented, “Alright, you can come.”

He leapt into the air with glee and smiled wide. “I won’t let you down, Private!”

Just as Cross turned to leave I saw his trench coat move a little. I caught a glimpse of a bit of silver on his green coat, but he moved too quickly for me to see it fully. I gave a small shrug, it was probably nothing.

_____________________________________________________

The display room was filled with all sorts of paintings, statues and other things a noble would like to show off. Cross walked beside me, his green eyes following my every movement, trying to match them. I’ll admit it was a little annoying but I couldn’t knock the kid for wanting to be like his idol. Still, that silver on his green coat was starting to bug me.

Lazarus gestured to a single display case in the middle of the room. It was small, only a few feet in volume and made of glass. The glass had a large hole cut into the side of it. I looked over at Uncle Lazarus with a serious look and asked, “What exactly happened the night it was stolen?”

Lazarus cleared his throat and replied, “At around midnight I was finishing up a report to send to another company over in Fillydelphia. Suddenly the power went off and I heard shouting. I came down here and discovered the item gone. I found my maid,” he gestured to the maid from before who was standing nearby watching us, “Pinetail, here in the room. She said she saw the thief up close.”

I approached the maid and smiled, "What did you see?”

Cross went over and studied the display case as Pinetail spoke. “Yes, sir, I was cleaning some of the display cases that night. I had just finished and was about to head off to bed. That’s when the power shut down and all of the lights went off. I was looking around for some light but I was interrupted when he came in.”

“The thief?” Cross spoke up, “What did he look like?”

“I didn’t get a good glimpse of him,” Pinetail admitted sadly. “It was too dark and I couldn’t see much that night. I heard a crash and saw a shadow go for the display case. He used some kind of device on his hoof to cut the hole.”

“What about video cameras?” Cross asked, eager to get in the action “We have cameras set up, can’t we catch a glimpse at the thief?”

“Cross,” I said frankly, “since the power was out during the raid, odds are the cameras went down as well.”

“Indeed,” Lazarus spoke up. “The cameras went out with the power; I would think you would know better Cross…” His eyes narrowed at his son.

Cross bowed his head in embarrassment; poor kid was only trying to help. I gave him a pat on the back and smiled down at him. “Hey, it’s your first case; you’re bound to make a couple of mistakes.”

He seemed comforted by that, I looked at Uncle Lazarus and spoke firmly, “Did you get a team to look this place over for DNA?”

“I’m afraid not,” Lazarus admitted. “I was hoping you could oblige me.”

I closed my eyes and my horn glowed a pale grey. My magic wrapped around the display case and Cross looked at me in wide eyed wonder. “What are you doing, Private?”

“Scanning Spell,” I replied, my eyes focused on the case, then on its pedestal, and then onto the floor. “Hopefully we can- A ha! There’s DNA here that doesn’t match!” I gestured to some displaced carpet that showed signs of having hoof prints. “Now we just need to add a little glamor spell and…”

Spots of green appeared on the display case. Cross’ eyes grew wide in awe, “What did you do?”

“Glamor Spell,” I explained. “I turned all of the DNA in the room green. Now let’s look around, hopefully we can find out how our thief got in.”

I followed the green leading away from the display case; it went up the wall in spots. I examined the spots closely and found a gooey substance on them. I used a swab to take a sample of the substance to study later. Whatever it was, it was meant to stick, I almost lost my swab in the attempt.

Cross pointed up. “The air vent!” he exclaimed, pointing at the vent up above. I noticed the grate was loose.

I used my magic to jiggle it a little; the vent came loose without much effort. I lowered the grate and looked at it thoughtfully. “Looks like the thief tried to screw it back on after he left. A bit haphazardly it seems, then again, he was in a hurry.”

“That vent goes around the entire mansion,” Lazarus explained. “It’ll take us hours to get a team together to search the vents.”

“I could climb in,” Cross volunteered. “I’m small enough, and I can fit in there.”

“Cross!” Lazarus shouted, “What have I told you about speaking out of turn?”

The colt’s ears drooped a little. He was only trying to help and he gets yelled at for it. I wrapped Cross in my magic and lifted him up in the air. He looked a little disoriented but his lime green eyes found mine. I gave him an encouraging smile “All right, I’ll levitate you up there, you climb around in the vents and follow the glamour spell for as long as you can.” I gave him a small flashlight. “Use this to help see.”

He took the flashlight in his mouth and nodded firmly. I levitated Cross into the air vent and heard the sound of him moving inside. Lazarus looked at me disapprovingly and said haughtily, “That’s my son you just stuffed in there.”

“Cross said he could fit,” I answered, “and fit he did.”

“He’s shown you his collection hasn’t he?” Lazarus asked out of nowhere.

“He did,” I answered, eyes narrowed. “When did it all start?”

“About half a year ago,” Lazarus said with a sigh. “Around the time your case with the Oranges made the news.”

“He has been my fan for that long?”

“Yes, but lately it’s become more and more apparent,” Lazarus said with a disapproving sniff. “He’s stopped focusing on his studies and started wearing that trench coat all the time. He never takes it off when anypony is around. Suffice to say, it’s not healthy for a colt to grow as attached as he has.”

“What does his mother think about this?” I asked.

Lazarus blinked, and then looked away for a minute before replying stiffly, “His mother isn’t around anymore.”

“Did she…?”

“No, she left the house not long after Cross was born,” Lazarus explained. “I have no idea where she went, and I think that’s for the best. She was never interested in being a mother.”

“I’m sorry,” I tried to apologize.

“It’s not your fault,” Lazarus gave a small sigh. “I just wish Cross would stop wasting his time admiring you and try to make something of his life.”

I was about to retort when Cross fell out of the air vent. I caught him in my forelegs and he readjusted his glasses. “Hey thanks, Private! You won’t believe what I found!”

“Talk to me,” I said encouragingly.

“That green stuff went all the way to the basement,” Cross explained excitedly. “I found a pair of wire cutters that was used to create the power outage.”

“Yes,” Lazarus agreed, “I already had the staff check down there and we found the wire cutters and where the thief cut the power line.”

“Yeah,” Cross reached into his trench coat pocket and pulled out a small metal coin. “I found this on my way there though; the green stuff was all over it.”

I looked at the coin, it was about the size of a bit, with a needle on one side, and a large number twenty-five on the back. I looked at Lazarus and asked, “Does this mean anything to you?”

Lazarus studied the coin for a second. “Not that I’m aware of, it looks like some kind of commemorative coin. Could be from a worker’s union.”

I set Cross down and put the coin in a plastic bag, “I’ll run this by a friend of mine, she’ll be able to identify it.”

“You think it belongs to the thief?” Cross asked, his green eyes looking at me expectantly.

I gave him a small smile, “Probably, good eyes finding it.”

I was prepared to walk out when Lazarus noticed Cross following me. “Where do you think you’re going young man?” he questioned.

“Um,” Cross looked down at the carpet then up at his father. “Private said I could come on the case.”

“Did he now?” Lazarus narrowed his eyes at me. I could feel his eyes boring into me. I was reminded of Onyx from not too long ago. Sad thing is, I’m related to this guy.

I gave a firm nod and looked at my uncle defiantly, “I’ll look after him and if he becomes too much trouble, I’ll send him straight home.”

“Please, dad!” Cross begged. “This could be my one chance to see Private in action!”

Lazarus sighed and finally said, “Alright, but if it becomes too dangerous you come home immediately.”

“Okay, dad!” Cross moved to stand beside me. “So, where are we going?”

I walked out, the colt beside me and replied cryptically, “Backstage.”

__________________________________________________________

We were walking through the busy streets of Manehattan together. Cross was by my side and was trying to imitate even how I walk. After about the fourth time I decided to speak up, “Cross, why are you trying to imitate me so much?”

Cross didn’t meet my eyes for a second, “It’s just, the way you handled yourself back there. It was so awesome to see you in action.”

“Cross, I’m nopony that special” I tried to sound as humble as I could.

“Are you kidding me?” Cross looked over in shock. “You took down Nightmare Moon, Discord, and all those other bad guys, and you say you aren’t special?”

“I just do my job,” I said firmly. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

“Still, I’d give anything to live like you do,” Cross said with a smile. “You get to have all these cool adventures! On top of that, you get to meet royalty, as well!”

I wasn’t going to tell him exactly how I met some of the royals. I don’t think an eleven year old colt needs to hear how I met Luna. It’s rather embarrassing, now that I think about it.

“So anyway,” Cross looked forward. “What's backstage?”

“You ever heard of Octavia?” I asked

“Octavia!” Cross’ jaw dropped. “We’re going to go see her?”

“You a fan of hers as well?” I asked with a small smirk.

“Kind of,” Cross admitted. “I like the music she plays and I go to her concerts whenever I can.”

“She can probably tell us where the coin came from,” I said, looking back at the coin.

“How would a cello player help us?” Cross asked confused.

“Let’s just say she’s got friends in…low places.”

_________________________________________________________

I flashed my old badge at the security guard and entered Octavia’s dressing room. I gave her a call to expect me to come after she was done performing. I must have not told her the right time because when I opened the door I found Octavia with her hooves around Vinyl. Cross was about to enter but I covered his virgin eyes and cleared my throat.

Octavia broke away from Vinyl and fixed her mane. “Terribly sorry, Private," she said sheepishly, "I wasn’t expecting you so soon.”

Vinyl was lounging on the couch they were using as a *ahem* love space. She looked at me with a smile “Long time no see, Private.”

“Good to see you two,” I said, uncovering Cross’ eyes, allowing him to stare in awe at Octavia.

“You’re Octavia!” Cross squealed in shock.

Octavia gave a smile and lowered her head to meet Cross. “Yes, that is my name, and who might you be?”

“I’m Cross! Private’s cousin!” Cross said excitedly. “I heard about how you and he took down Jumper Cable! You were amazing from what the papers said!”

“Well, aren’t you just the little charmer,” Octavia said with a brilliant smile. “I must speak with your cousin first though, feel free to look around while we’re talking.”

“Come on, kid” Vinyl said, walking to Cross. “I’ll show you all of Octy’s most embarrassing photos!”

“If you bring out the one of me drinking that milk shake I’ll kill you, Vinyl!” Octavia exclaimed as the pair walked away, Vinyl laughing the whole way.

I gave her a sly smirk. “Seems you two are doing well.”

“Oh, once she went and made that stupid tape she hooked me in,” Octavia admitted exasperatedly. “You aren’t….against it, are you?”

“My opinion?” I spoke honestly. “What you two do in the bedroom is none of my business. So long as nopony gets hurt in the process, I’ll stay out of it.”

“Thank you, Private,” she gave a small sigh of relief. “I just wanted to get that out of the way before we continued. Now, you said you wanted me to see something?”

I showed her the coin in the plastic bag. “You know a lot about this city and the ponies in it. I was hoping you or your men could identify this.”

Octavia’s violet eyes studied it slowly. “Yes, I recognize the coin. It’s a commemorative coin made for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Worker's Union's 25th anniversary.”

“Do they operate out of a specific factory exactly?” I asked, taking what she said down in my trusty notebook.

“It's a factory near Zebra Town belonging to the Irisbud group. Mostly a textile factory, it makes products that other ponies use in their products. I have a colleague who works at the factory. He has a coin just like that.”

“Anything else you can tell me about the coin?” I asked.

“Not much,” Octavia admitted. “I only know what I said earlier about it being given on its 25th anniversary. Just go to the factory and look for an earth pony stallion by the name of Gear Grinder, he should be able to tell you who got them.”

“Thanks, Octavia,” I said, putting the coin back in my trench coat. “Now I just need my cousin and you can go back to being seduced by Vinyl.”

Octavia blushed as Vinyl and Cross came back in. Cross looked up at Octavia with a smile, “Thanks for helping us, Octavia.”

“It was no problem really,” Octavia said dismissively.

“I hope you always sound great when you play,” Cross complimented. “I heard you playing last week at the theater. It was amazing”

Octavia smiled, “Nice to know the future generation isn’t totally helpless.”

“Come on, Cross,” I rubbed the colt’s mane. “Let’s get back to the case.”

_______________________________________________________

Perspective: Octavia

I watched the pair of them leave with a smile on my face. I then looked at Vinyl and asked, “You didn’t show him anything too embarrassing, did you?”

“Nah,” Vinyl dismissed. “Just your first concert photos that’s all. Nothing like the milkshake,” she said laughing, while I fought every urge to punch her. “Anyway, that Cross kid seems alright. Then again, he is related to Private.”

“He was a charming little colt” I mused, and then I looked over at Vinyl.

She raised an eyebrow slowly. “What is it, Octy?”

“I want one...”

_______________________________________________________

Perspective: Private

Was that screaming I heard just now?