• 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 5 "Hammerfall"

Chapter 5

“Hammerfall”

Chaos ruled the streets as the zebra ran for cover from the shooters. There were at least four of them. All of them had battle saddles on. I was reminded of the buffalo slaughter back in Appaloosa. The difference this time, was that I was going to stop it before the slaughter happened.

I looked over at Tahrihi and ordered, “Stay here with Cross, call the police and tell them I sent you.”

Cross looked ready to protest, but Tahrihi put a hoof on his shoulder to calm him. Cross walked up to me, his green eyes looking up at me worriedly, “You’ll come back right?”

I hugged my cousin tight and said solemnly, “I promise.”

I looked over at Seeker who was nuzzling his wife tenderly. He gave his wife a look that spoke words no mouth could give. She reached up and kissed him on the mouth. Then she spoke something in zebra I didn’t catch, but it wasn’t for me.

Seeker then looked at me, determination burning in his eyes and said, “We can’t let them slaughter my people.”

“I’ll head down and see if I can hold them off,” I replied with a nod, after letting my cousin go. I levitated out Blackbird and checked to see if she was loaded.

Seeker gave his wife one last tender kiss, and another to her belly. Then my zebra companion went for the window. “I’ll sneak behind them, keep them busy for me.”

I nodded and ran out of the apartment, Blackbird fully loaded and ready to go. I dashed out of the building and took cover behind a nearby news stand. A zebra couple was huddled behind it as well. The husband was nursing a wound to his leg while his wife cried over him.

She looked at me and I gave her a grim look. “I’ll cover you two, get inside!”

She nodded and started helping her husband walk away. One of the shooters noticed the couple and aimed his battle saddle at them. I aimed Blackbird and shot him in the leg. He grunted in pain, turning his attention to me. I ducked behind the news stand to avoid the bullet rain.

A hoof suddenly appeared beside me. I looked up to see one of the shooters looking at me. His face was obscured by a ski mask allowing only his eyes to shine in the street light. He looked at me, and then aimed his battle saddle directly at me. Suddenly he was attacked from behind by Seeker, who bucked the guy in the side. The shooter was disoriented for a minute, Seeker then moved like a blur, removing the saddle from him and taking the barrel in his teeth. He then swung the battle saddle like a baseball bat hitting the shooter upside the head.

The shooter flew back a few feet as I gaped at Seeker. He just gave me a smug smile and ducked before a bullet could hit him. Another masked stallion tried to cover his friend but Seeker jumped into an alley for cover. I used the distraction to jump out from behind the news stand and fire at the shooter. He fell back as the bullet penetrated his left shoulder.

Just then another assailant appeared behind me armed with rather large knife. He swung it at me and I ducked attempting to aim Blackbird at him. Unfortunately for me knife between his teeth sliced at Blackbird, causing the revolver to fly out of my magic. Before I had a chance to go for my gun he tried to aim his battle saddle at me. I quickly changed direction and slammed my left hoof into his face. Then I wrapped my front hooves around the barrel of the battle saddle, literally ripping it off his back.

I chucked the weapon aside before he struck back, delivering a swift buck to my stomach. My assailant picked up the knife and tried to cut me again. I dodged but still he managed to cut me across the chest. I grunted in pain and fell back, trying to stop the blood flowing from the deep cut across my chest.

Just as he was about to cut me again Seeker appeared. He glared at my opponent evenly and said in a cold voice, “Your friends have already run off, I suggest you do the same…”

The shooter didn’t say anything, just held the bloody knife smugly in his teeth. Seeker then loosened the bracelets on his forelegs. As they came loose a blade formed around the outer edges of each. These weren’t just pieces of jewelry he kept on. They were chakrams, weapons that were difficult to use, but incredibly deadly in the hoofs of a master.

He held the chakrams loosely in his forelegs, before standing on his hind legs and falling into a battle stance. The assailant charged at him but Seeker dodged, slicing one of his blades along the stallion’s flank. The now wounded stallion attempted to buck the zebra, but my friend was much too fast. Seeker dodged and weaved around the legs, slicing both of them with his blades.

The assailant screamed in pain as his forelegs dripped with blood. I used this opportunity to grab Blackbird in my magic. I aimed at the stallion’s knife and fired, the bullet knocking the knife away. Seeker then performed a sweeping kick to his face. The stallion fell back and glared at Seeker, before running as the sound of sirens drew nearer.

Seeker was about to run after him in hot pursuit, but I put a hoof on his shoulder to stop him. “The police have them," I assured him, “there’s no need.”

“They attacked my people, Private!” Seeker spat. “They were lucky I did not kill them myself!”

“Your people are the ones that need your attention, Seeker.” I reminded him, pointing to the zebra nearby. Many were huddled over hurt loved ones, trying to help them as best as they could. Seeker’s blue eyes blinked and he sheathed his chakrams.

“You are right,” Seeker admitted, “my people need attending first.”

_________________________________________________________

“Never thought I’d see the day when this kind of hell would break lose in the streets,” Shinebadge growled, as police officers and medical ponies went to work. He turned his world weary eyes to maenad said grimly, “We’ve got a perimeter set up around the whole district. Those bastards aren’t getting away.”

“Thanks, Shinebadge,” I said, as a nurse finished patching up the cut on my chest. Luckily it wasn’t as deep as I had originally thought; so, it’ll heal eventually, most likely leaving behind another scar to add to my growing collection.

I frowned when I saw that the cut on my trench coat remained prominent. Rarity was going to kill me when I got back home.

I climbed back to my hooves and left Shinebadge to do his job. Zebra families everywhere were taking care of their loved ones. Many were wounded but so far nopony died in the attack. That was a relief for the ages.

I looked over and found Seeker safe in the forelegs of Tahrihi. The zebra couple spoke softly in zebra, more words that were meant for only each other. It made me miss Twilight; I wondered what she was going through and hoped she was okay…

I felt a tugging on my ripped trench coat and looked down to see Cross looking up at me, sorrow and trauma apparent in his lime eyes. He buried his head into my chest for comfort and sobbed into my coat. Poor kid probably heard everything from where Tahrihi hid him. I lowered my head resting it on his gently.

Cross spoke after his sobs finally slowed, “Is it always like this?”

“Not always,” I replied honestly, “but even this pales in comparison to some of the things I’ve seen.”

Cross’ voice was shaky as he spoke, “I didn’t think it would be this crazy. All those ponies… just killing each other for some stupid reason…” I felt his tears soaking into my chest.

I hugged my cousin warmly. Poor kid, he didn’t deserve to have all of this happen to him. He shouldn’t be seeing stuff like this. I should’ve left him back with Lazarus, I thought guiltily.

Using my magic I picked the colt up and placed him gently on my back. He buried his face in the back of my neck as I carried him. I looked over as Seeker came up. His expression was sympathetic when he saw Cross. “Tahrihi tried to keep him out of the fighting, but he saw and heard a lot of it when he got worried about you.”

Cross didn’t respond to Seeker, just kept his face in my coat. I returned Seeker’s look and said simply, “I’m taking him home, we’ll take care of the shooters tomorrow.”

Seeker nodded understandingly and went back to help his people. I walked away, Cross on my back, just trying his best not to cry too much. I was reminded of Tailspin; these two would get along pretty well.

I heard Cross speak after about ten minutes of me walking the dark streets of Manehattan, “Private, how do you do it?”

“Do what?” I asked, looking back at my cousin as he lifted his head.

“Just stay so strong,” Cross asked. “You were just part of a fight and you then get up and walk me home like it’s nothing.”

“Because Cross,” I replied firmly, “somepony has to know what they are doing. It’s a hard life, I won’t deny it. I just figure, if I can take it on, than nopony else has to.”

“You’re amazing, Private,” Cross mumbled, closing his eyes and nuzzling the back of my neck affectionately. “I hope I can be like you when I grow up.”

I just smiled and continued my trek through the dark streets of Manehattan.

_________________________________________________________

“A shootout!” Lazarus ranted for the twelfth time “My son got caught up in a shootout! All because he followed your stupid case!”

“I understand, Uncle Lazarus.” I said as I stood in his office. “Obviously I didn't know that it would happen!”

“You should’ve just given him back to me!” Lazarus shouted at me “He almost got hurt being with you! You’ve been nothing but trouble since this whole thing began!”

“I found a lead on your heirloom” I explained flatly “Just be thankful I’m still willing to do all of this”

“Did you hear nothing I said?” Lazy shot back

“I did hear what you said” I fired back “Cross was informed it could be dangerous. He chose to come of his own accord.” Secretly though, I was angry at myself for giving this jack ass a chance to say I told you so. Worse yet, Cross could have been hurt or even killed.

“He’s a colt!” Lazarus bellowed, slamming his hoof on his desk. “He’s not old enough to make wise decisions for himself!”

“Never underestimate the young, Lazarus” I answered, and then I turned away, not wanting to speak to this man anymore.

I went by the laundry room to check on my trench coat. I left it in the care of the maids to wash out some of the blood stains. I would have to sew that rip though. Rarity was not going to be happy when I got back to Ponyville.

I entered the laundry room to find Pinetail working on ironing some suits. She curtsied upon seeing me. “Hello, Master Private, can I help you?”

“I left my trench coat around here somewhere,” I explained. “Did it go through the wash?”

She shook her head and replied, “Sorry sir, I didn’t put it through yet. The stitching was just put in.”

“Stitching?” I noticed my trench coat just lying down on a nearby chair. I looked it over; the rip in it was almost completely fixed. It looked to have been done by magic judging by the powder left behind on the seam. I looked over at Pinetail and asked, “Did you fix this?”

She shook her head again, “No sir, I was going to put in the wash and I found it like that. I asked around the other maids and they said they didn’t touch it. Somepony with an awful lot of talent must have fixed it.”

Talent?

Hold on…

______________________________________________________

“Did you have it custom made?”

“How did you guess?”

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

“You have an interest in fabric or something?”

“There you go, that arm won’t break now…”

_________________________________________________________

I put the trench coat on my back and walked out. Pinetail gave men a confused look as I moved. Now I know, what Cross was trying so desperately to hide. I walked down the hallway, careful to avoid Lazarus’ office.

I entered Cross’ room to find the colt reading a book on his bed. He seemed to have calmed down since the shooting. He gave me a small smile and asked, “Hey Private, do you wanna see some of the souvenirs I bought from Zebra Town?”

My grey eyes closed and I said simply, “Take it off.”

“I’m sorry?” Cross put down his book and looked at me.

“Your trench coat,” I pointed to the grey trench coat he was wearing. “I know why you’re wearing it.”

“What are you talking about?” Cross asked defensively. “I um, had it made to look like yours.”

“Then explain this,” I said my horn glowing and my glamor spell turning the stitch line on my own trench coat green. Then Cross’ whole body turned even greener than usual. The DNA on my coat matched the colt’s. His green eyes grew huge behind his black glasses.

“Private, wait!” he begged. “Please, I can explain!”

“Then go ahead” I said simply, putting my trench coat on the back of a chair.

He looked down at his hooves and said, “Promise you won’t laugh.”

“I promise,” I said with a smile. “Now, show me what you’ve been hiding.”

Cross looked at me for a long time. Finally he sighed and removed his trench coat for the first time since I've met him. On his flank was a cutie mark... of a sewing needle.

He saw my expression and looked down in embarrassment, “My special talent… is sewing.”

“Cross,” I said softly as walked to his bedside, he didn’t meet my eyes. “This is what you’re all embarrassed about?”

Cross finally met my eyes, his expression sullen. “It’s sewing, Private, not archery, or animal training, or math or anything that’s cool.” He sighed. “Of all the cutie marks I could’ve gotten…”

“When did you get it?” I asked.

“Ironically,” he replied, holding up his discarded trench coat, “just when I finished making this. I was still looking for my special talent. Then I thought, maybe my talent would be detective work like yours. So, I tried to get into the part by making this darn thing.” He threw it aside and looked back down at his hooves. “Right when I was finished,” he complained, as he pointed to his cutie mark, “this stupid thing showed up!”

“Cross,” I shook my head “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Sewing is a great talent for anypony to have.”

“It’s not as cool as detective work, though,” Cross said glumly, pointing to my own cutie mark. It was a magnifying glass looking at a notebook. It showed my prowess for looking at details and solving crimes based on those details. Cross stared at it jealously. “I mean, you get to do so many cool things. You get to go on so many amazing adventures. You are so strong and not afraid of anything at all.”

I was quiet for a long time, and then I finally admitted, “When I faced Nightmare Moon, I was scared. More scared than any other time in my life.”

“That doesn’t sound like you” Cross looked up at me, trying to defend his image of me. “You took her on all by yourself.”

“Cross I almost died,” I said with a sigh. “If Rainbow hadn’t gotten there in time, I would’ve fallen into a chasm and died.”

“But…”

“Cross I’m not some invincible hero” I admitted. “There are a lot of times I’m scared. You lock me in a room and I’ll freak out like you wouldn’t believe. A wise stallion once told me, if somepony tells you he's not afraid, stay away from him, 'cause either he's lying, or he's crazy.”

“But, Private…” Cross said, looking ready to cry again.

“Cross, if I had to be honest with you,” I said looking down, “there are some days I wish that I would have a cutie mark like yours.”

“What?” Cross exclaimed in shock. “But, it’s sewing, Private! It’s so, so…”

“Normal,” I said simply. “Some days there is nothing I’d like more than to just live a life without the crimes and detective work”

“Why do you do it then?” Cross asked. “If you want a normal life, why keep doing what you do?”

“I do it because it’s what I was created to do,” I replied, pointing to my cutie mark. “I was given a talent, a skill that allows me to help ponies. Do you remember when you fixed that filly’s doll?”

“Yeah,” Cross said with a small smile. “She was so sad when she broke it; I knew I might get caught, but I wanted to help her. She was so happy when I fixed her doll.”

“That’s what I’m talking about,” I told him with a warm smile. “Cross, we don’t get to choose what talents we have. Only what we do with them.”

“It was cool to help her like that,” Cross admitted, with a slightly bigger smile.

“Does your dad know about this?” I asked

“No,” Cross said adamantly. “I’ve worn the trench coat every time he was around.” He looked down. “He’d be disappointed in me.”

“Hey,” I said, putting a hoof on the colt’s shoulder. “Whatever your dad thinks, know that you are your own pony. At the end of the day, you make the decisions you want with your life. Many will try and mask them as their own decisions, but you always have a choice, Cross. The key is having the tenacity to see it through.”

“I’m learning from the element of tenacity after all,” He said with a laugh to which I laughed in turn. He then smiled and plopped himself back down on his bed. “It’s been a long day,” he said with a big yawn. “I’m tired for real this time.”

I just smiled and used my magic to pull the covers over the colt. He put his glasses on a night stand and looked up at me sleepily. “Private, thanks for finding out. I’ve never talked to anypony about this.”

“I’m your family,” I said, rubbing my hoof on his dark mane affectionately. “It’s part of the job description.”

Cross closed his lime green eyes and smiled contently. He was a good kid overall. To think he’s hidden this part of himself for so long. I walked outside and closed the door to his bedroom gently.

When I walked down the hallway a ways Pinetail came by again. She had a phone levitated in her magic as she spoke, “Sir, a stallion named Seeker is on the phone.”

I nodded thanks and put the phone to my ear asking, “Did they find them?”

I heard Seeker’s accented voice reply, “All of them, they tried to cut across some rooftops but forgot that the ERPD has pegasi on their team.”

“So who were they?” I asked.

“All of them were factory workers,” Seeker said firmly. “Three of them have alibi’s for the theft, but they’ll go away for what they did to my people. The last one though, he’s the most interesting.”

“Who is he?” I inquired earnestly.

“Cast you scan spell on the coin, and then on the blood on your trench coat, if you haven’t washed it yet.”

I followed his instructions. I cast the glamor spell on the coin, the DNA glowed green as usual. Then I looked at my trench coat. The blood stains that weren’t mine, glowed green as well. The thief was among the shooters it seemed.

“The DNA matches,” I said into the receiver. “Who was the guy?”

“Hammerfall,” Seeker said simply. “I have him down at the precinct; he’s willing to talk…”

I hated to imagine what methods Seeker had to employ. His reaction during the shootings still rang in my mind. This is a stallion who takes actions seriously. This strike on his people won’t go unpunished in his eyes.

Three years ago, I would’ve done the same thing…

_____________________________________________________

The next day I found myself in an interrogation room with Seeker by my side. I sat in front of Hammerfall who was looking very nervously at my zebra friend. I turned my grey eyes to Hammerfall and said, coldly, “You know, I don’t appreciate it when ponies cut me with knives.” I gestured with my hooves to where my trench coat got cut.

“Look,” Hammerfall replied defensively. “I wasn’t the one who cut you.”

Liko” Seeker said furiously. “Check his hind legs where I cut him. The scars are still there.”

“Yeah!” Hammerfall fired at Seeker. “Well, you and every one of you striped mongrels deserve it! You’re lucky I didn’t slice your throat you damn ze-“

Seeker walked up and slammed Hammerfall onto the table between us. Seeker kept pressing his fore hoof on Hammerfall’s head. “Twenty-seven! Twenty-seven of my people shot at like animals! I know all of their faces! Their names! What could possibly make you think you could get away of such a thing?”

Hammerfall glared at Seeker but then I got in his face. “Let me make it perfectly clear. My associate is not exactly in the mood for games. Now, you will answer a question for me.” I held up his coin in my hoof “Why was your coin discovered in the air vent of my uncle’s home?”

His eyes grew wide and he gasped, “Where did you get that?”

“From a vent of the house where you stole the Eye of Truth,” Seeker explained.

“How did-“Hammerfall looked up. “Look, I’ll admit it! I was going to steal it for some client who wanted it enough to pay me, but I didn’t steal it! Somepony else was supposed to.”

“Explain,” Seeker said, his voice low and threatening, “Or I will finish what I started last night.”

“About three weeks ago I got this call from some rich guy. He wanted me to steal something from Lazarus Eye; he offered me twelve thousand bits to steal the Eye. Only thing is I didn’t want to get blamed for theft, so I got Gear Grinder to do it instead.”

“That’s insane,” I pointed out. “Why the hell would Gear Grinder go along with all this?”

“That traitor is banging a zebra and doesn’t want anypony finding out,” Hammerfall said with contempt. “Some whore named Maui or something.”

“Maua?” Seeker said, looking at me “That would explain why she didn’t tell us.”

So Gear Grinder stole an important artifact to cover up his relationship with Maua? Then why wasn’t his DNA on the coin, or anywhere for that matter.

“We’re done here,” I said firmly, as Seeker dropped Hammerfall fall to the floor unceremoniously.

I looked down at him with contempt. “Hammerfall, I’m placing you under arrest for conspiracy, attempted murder, and slandering a police officer. May Celestia have mercy on your soul.”

Seeker and I walked out, I looked over at the Zebra. “Hey, you all right?”

Seeker’s blue eye looked to the floor, and he said, “Please forgive my brash behavior. I simply wished to see that lami pay for what he did.”

“How’s Tahrihi?” I asked gently.

“She is…” he paused for a moment, “comforting.”

“She’s only worried about you,” I said to him. “You’re the father of her foal after all.”

“You’re right,” Seeker said, his blue eyes looking up. “Now, we need to find Gear Grinder.”

Suddenly a uniform ran up to us and spoke frantically, “Private Eye! You got a phone call! It’s urgent!”

I nodded and went to the phone area. I lifted the receiver to my ear, and heard a gravelly voice on the other end, “Come to the warehouse next to the fabric factory. If you do not, Cross Eye dies…”