• 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 3 "Gear Grinder"

Chapter 3

“Gear Grinder”

The factory before us was quite large compared to most of the factories I’ve seen. It was a square building with several smaller storage buildings surrounding it. Several workers, most of them earth ponies, were clocking in for the day. I also noticed that there were zebra among them as well. Most had papers in their saddlebags, probably work related. Both parties made effort to avoid one another.

I walked up to the front gates and the security guard, a tall and rather imposing looking tan colored stallion, spoke up. “You got business here?”

I held up my badge, he blinked a little at the sight of it. “Detective Private Eye, I’m here to see a guy by the name of Gear Grinder.”

“He should be in the main building,” the security guard said, as he worked a few switches to open the gate for Cross and I. “Just follow the workers and you should find him.”

“Thanks,” I said with a nod, as Cross and I walked through the gate and into the factory. Following his advice we walked among the workers. Just as we were about to enter the main building a voice spoke up from the crowd.

“We can’t let him do this!”

I turned to see a large and muscular earth pony stallion speaking while standing on a nearby wagon. The crowd immediately moved to surround him. Well, except for the zebra that just went into the factory, not wanting to get involved. The earth pony stallion, who was concrete colored with a cutie mark of a pair of hammers, spoke to the crowd.

“He cuts our wages! He threatens our jobs by hiring all of these zebra! I say it’s time the workers spoke out against such tyranny!” Several voices shouted in agreement.

I nudged a nearby worker and asked, “Who’s that guy?”

“That fellla is Hammerfall,” the worker explained, “second in command of the union. He's not exactly happy about all of the zebra being here. Honestly, I can’t blame him; our wages got cut pretty steeply to accommodate the extra hooves.”

“Who’s he speaking about?” I asked carefully.

“Guy who owns the factory,” he replied, “Some rich fella with no concept of us poor folk working for him. He goes by the name of Lazarus Eye… now that I think about it,” his eyes narrowed at Cross and I, “you both look an awful lot like him.”

Cross hid behind me as I spoke; obviously he was aware of his dad’s work habits. I knew spouting my name would be trouble here. I wonder how long things have been this bad? I shrugged. “Coincidence, you know a fellow by the name of Gear Grinder?”

“He’s coming up,” the worker replied, pointing to another muscular Earth pony with a short dark mane and a cyan colored coat. His cutie mark was a pair of gears and his face was not exactly happy. He looked up at Hammerfall with a disappointed expression.

“Shouting about the Zebra won’t change anything, Hammer,” Gear Grinder said firmly. “We’re a union, not a mob, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

“But Gear-“Hammerfall tried to speak up.

“I don’t want to hear it,” Gear Grinder spoke up. “I want you all to get back to work right now. We can’t get anywhere if we aren’t working our hardest. Lazarus will just use laziness as an excuse to put more of the load on us. As for the zebra, be thankful for the extra hooves, no matter where they come from.”

Most of the crowd murmured in agreement, they seemed to trust this guy. The crowd gave way and I walked up to Gear Grinder and said, “Octavia sent me.”

“So you’re the detective she has been talking about,” he said with a small smile. “What can I do for you?”

______________________________________________________

“A stolen heirloom?” Gear Grinder asked over the whirl of machinery in the factory. Hundreds of fabric products were being made for stores all around the world. I couldn’t help but notice Cross’ eyes starting to wander over the fabrics. I couldn’t read his odd expression.

I decided to move on. “Something called the Eye of Serenity,” I said as I held up the picture to Gear Grinder. “It's very important that my client get it back.”

“Who’s your client?” Gear Grinder asked suspiciously, his eyes narrowing.

Lying in this situation would be as effective as breaking a brick wall with a tooth pick. I sighed and gave the honest answer, “My name is Detective Private Eye, and Lazarus is my uncle.”

“And the kid?” he asked, pointing to Cross who was eyeing a string machine with great curiosity.

“That’s Cross Eye, he’s my cousin,” I explained.

“So, you’ll understand why I’m reluctant to hand out information to you,” Gear Grinder’s voice was wary but honest.

“I’m not here on some corporate espionage mission,” I explained. “I’m here to search for the owner of this.” I reached into my pocket and held the coin before him. Recognition entered his pale blue eyes. He reached for the coin inside it’s plastic bag and took it in his hooves.

“Huh, didn’t think anypony kept theirs” Gear said after about a minute of silence “This was given out almost ten years ago, I remember that was before all of this started.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked quickly “What happened ten years ago?”

“Ole Lazy started dropping the hammer on us,” Gear reminisced. “When this factory job started almost thirty-five years ago I was only a teenager. It was small but our owner didn’t much care how we ran things. That’s why we called 'em Lazy, because he basically sat in his office all day and didn’t bother us.”

“You’re telling me,” I said slowly, “that my Uncle Lazarus owns this factory?”

“One of several he has nowadays,” Gear explained, “but back in the day this factory was a gift from his old man. Something about him taking responsibility or something, aw hell, it was a long time ago. For twenty-five years he’d just give us the most minimal instructions to keep the factory going. Then suddenly ten years ago he comes in and demands some ponies take longer hours, cut our wages, and fire some ponies for seemingly no reason whatsoever.”

Ten years ago, that was when…no, it couldn’t have anything to do with that. Could it?

“So Lazarus decided to lay the hammer down on you,” I pointed out. “Was that when the union got started?”

“Not exactly,” Gear replied “I became head of the union when the factory opened. It was nothing serious, though, since our boss didn’t give a horse’s ass. When he started putting the hammer down, however, we started taking the union seriously.”

“So you know which members have this coin?” I asked.

“It was made back when the union was only about seven ponies, including myself,” Gear said firmly.

“Then hold still for a second,” I said, my horn glowed grey and the coin slowly turned green. No green showed up on Gear, so, he wasn’t the one in the vent. Even as he was holding the coin, the DNA wasn’t on him because of the bag.

“Where were you last night around midnight?” I asked.

“I was at home” Gear replied earnestly. “It was a long day at work yesterday, so I went home pretty much immediately. You can verify it with my neighbors I was there all night.”

“Looks like you’re in the clear,” I said slowly.

Gear gave a sigh of relief and then a warm smile. “Thanks, detective, you ain’t half bad, I’ll get you a list of everypony who received the coin.”

“I’d appreciate that,” I said, my expression stern.

As Gear headed for the office, I looked over to see Cross still staring at the strings running through the machines. I walked to him and smiled. “You have an interest in fabric or something?”

Cross broke out of his trance and looked over at me. “No! I mean, the machines are kind of cool, I guess.” He quickly changed the subject before I could reply, “So, was he the thief?”

“Nope,” I answered emphatically, “The DNA on the coin didn’t match his, and he has an alibi for last night. He is going to give us a list of potential suspects, though.”

“I didn’t realize being a detective was this much work,” Cross sighed. “I guess things aren’t always what you think them to be.”

“Hardly ever, Cross,” I replied, as I rubbed his mane, causing him to laugh a little. “Now let’s go check out that list.”

“Private,” Cross said suddenly, “All those things he said about my dad…

“What happened ten years ago?” His lime green eyes stared at me for a long time.

I debated whether I should tell him, but I didn’t know Lazarus’ side of the story. "Why don't you ask your farther?" I suggested slowly.

“He never answers me when I ask him anything personal. I guess he's just waiting until I am old enough to understand or something.”

Maybe I should have Dad talk to him about it when all of this is over. He deserves to know exactly what went down ten years ago. With Tailspin…

“Hey, get back here!” I heard a voice yell.

Cross and I ran towards the origin of the voice. We entered the office to see Gear Grinder on the floor, a nasty bruise on his side. He pointed to an open window and cried, “He went out that way!”

“Who?” I asked quickly.

“He stole the list! I tried to keep it from him and he up and bucked me!” He rubbed his bruise attempting to alleviate the pain.

I looked out the window and there he was, running away was the zebra from earlier. He had a paper in the pocket of his vest, which had to be my list of suspects! He wasn’t getting away on my watch!

I looked over at Cross and spoke urgently, “Call the police! I’ll try and slow him down!” I leapt out of the window and landed on the concrete floor. I ran after the zebra, leaving a stunned Cross behind.

The zebra had quite a head start, but he had the gate to worry about. As I pursued him he turned his head to look at me silently. His stare was firm and searching. Then he turned his head and made a run for the front gate. There two guard ponies stood, ready to intercept him.

“Hold on detective!” One of them called “We got em!”

Suddenly the zebra leaped into the air and delivered a swift kick to one guard. The other tried to pull out a gun but soon had his jaw smashed by a swift buck. The zebra then used his hind legs to wrap around the guard’s neck and literally backflip him into the meshed steel wall. The guard was knocked out but his comrade tried to tackle the zebra.

The thief simply ducked, and delivered a nasty uppercut to the guard’s jaw. He then bucked the guard in the chest before taking off. It was like I was watching those bad Pon-Fu movies Raiden used to make me watch. He took down two potentially armed guards with just his hooves. I pursued him, leaving the guards to tend to their wounds, both physical and mental.

I gave chase into the crowded streets of Manehattan. I knew the cops would be on him in minutes, but I had to stop him before anypony else got hurt. Whoever this zebra was, he wasn’t getting away on my watch.

He cut into an alley and started climbing a fire escape. I followed along, not far behind. When I came to the roof however, I found him not running, just standing there. His blue eyes gazed at mine slowly.

I wasn’t intimidated. “I don’t know who you are, but I’m trying to solve a mystery here. I would appreciate it if you gave that list to me.”

He held his stare; his eyes fell to the list, and then back at me. He then spoke for the first time since we met. His accent was evident, obviously some kind of homeland dialect, but the words he spoke would have gotten my attention if he spoke in plain Ponish.

“Prove you can get it…”

He crouched down into a fighting stance slowly. So this guy wanted a fight huh? Well, he was going to get one. I scraped my hoof on the ground, meeting his challenge. “I only want the list” I spoke firmly, as both of us circled each other like prowling lions “What do you want with it?”

His silence held, this guy was going to give me nothing unless I fight, huh?

I finally decided to make the first move; I leapt at him, preparing to punch him. He saw it coming and dodged to the left, delivering his own punch across my face. I flew for a second but recovered. Then he leapt at me, trying to deliver a flying kick like before, but I was ready for it, I dodged to the right and grabbed his leg with my forelegs. Then I used my strength to swing him around, he crashed into a nearby wall but shook his head and climbed back to his hooves.

I charged at him, my horn lowered, aiming to gore him. He dodged it and performed a sweeping kick meant to knock me off my hooves. I jumped up avoiding his legs. He charged forward and tried to grapple me, but I head-butted him, causing him to become disoriented. I then delivered a swift buck to his chest, sending him flying again. This time though, he used the momentum and his hind legs met the wall again, he then bounced off and launched himself at me like a missile. I was hit in the chest by his front hooves, knocking the wind out of me.

I then fell down and quickly got on my legs again. His blue eyes stared at me for a long time, he spoke again.

“You fight me, yet you know you have no chance of winning.”

I couldn’t tell if he was mocking me or complimenting me, either way I hissed back, “I make my own odds.”

He then did something unexpected again, he bowed his head. I gave him a long stare before asking, “Just who are you?”

“My name is Mtafutaji,” he said in his accented tongue.

I raised an eyebrow at the name. I’m not even sure how he pronounced it. “Um, what is your name in plain Ponish?”

“I am called Seeker by you ponies,” he explained, this was definitely the guy from before.

“Why did you fight me?” I asked, feeling a bruise on my side. “You could’ve just handed over the list.”

“I had to make sure you were one worthy of seeing it,” Seeker replied. “There are many dishonest ponies as there are dishonest Zebra. You have shown yourself to be fierce, or stubborn as many would say.”

“So you fought me to see if I was worthy of getting evidence?” I asked slowly.

“You've fought many enemies, Private Eye.” I was surprised he knew my name. “I have read up on you, but always you had help in fighting your foes. I wanted to see how you fare alone.”

“Okay,” I said slowly, “but what does this have to do with the list?”

“What you are seeking,” Seeker explained, “I am searching for it as well.”

“The Eye of Serenity?” I asked. “Why do you want that?”

Seeker was quiet for a few minutes, closed his eyes and finally said...

“To take back what was stolen from my people.”