The persistent, irritating sound of an alarm clock shattered the restless sleep of a middle-aged earth stallion. Without opening his heavy eyelids, he reached over with his hoof and hit the snooze button. Just a few more minutes of sleep...
Wait a minute, he thought as he looked at the face of his clock. It was ten ‘til eight, and he would be late if he didn’t get out of bed immediately!
The azure-coated stallion, Hard Boiled, jumped out of his bed, stumbling as his sweaty hooves stuck to the sheets, causing them to wrap around him. He grabbed the sheets in his mouth and wrenched them off of himself.
Now to get his proper clothes on. He walked over to his wardrobe and removed his trenchcoat and hat, putting them on. Manehattan winters were cold and brutal, and even ponies with their heavy fur coats would be cold if they didn’t wear some sort of protection from the elements.
Hard Boiled searched around on his desk, looking through beer bottles and empty snack bags as he located his badge and gun. He found his six-shooter revolver and holstered it. He found his badge, picked it up with his hoof, took it in his mouth, and pinned it to his coat. Thankfully, he didn’t cut his tongue with the pin this time.
Those unicorns don’t know how good they have it, he thought. Though, then again, if he were a unicorn, he probably wouldn’t have passed the rigorous physical requirements to make it onto the force as a detective. He would’ve been stuck behind a desk someplace. But that wasn’t what he wanted. Hard Boiled was a detective, not some pen-pusher or bureaucrat.
Unfortunately, these past few months had been nothing short of a drag for Hard Boiled. All of his cases had led to nothing but dead ends. Those few criminals who he had managed to find had evaded his capture. He was left with a bitter taste in his mouth.
He moved his hoof up towards his head, rubbing his temples. He had a terrible hangover from last night. He hoped it would go away, and he ran out the door to his apartment. Thankfully, Hard Boiled didn’t live too far away from the police station. It was just three blocks away. He walked out of the front door of the apartment complex and out into the bustling, frigid streets of Manehattan.
Manehattan: the crime capital of Equestria. As the most populous city in the nation, it was no surprise that this city had attracted its fair share of crime. Mobsters and kingpins ran massive drug cartels and gang operations, and entire sections of the city were no-go areas at night, even for police.
The mayor had promised some years ago to clean up the city and reduce crime, but she spoke nothing but platitudes. Hard Boiled suspected that the mayor was on the take. How else could he explain the missing evidence from the evidence locker, or the hours-long “meetings” the mayor had with the chief of police, or the cases that the mayor and the police chief had personally ordered shut against Hard Boiled’s instincts as a detective and against his urgings otherwise. She was either corrupt or incompetent, and Hard Boiled didn’t know what was worse.
If Hard Boiled was the chief, he’d run things a lot differently. He’d be a hell of a lot tougher on crime. But unfortunately, he was not a candidate for that particular career track, and even if he was, he doubt he could accept the position. He had been a detective for thirteen years, and couldn’t see himself doing anything else with his life, let alone manage a bunch of ponies while being cooped up in some office.
He gazed up at the dark grey sky as he galloped at a brisk pace towards the police station. The sun was just coming up, and ponies were heading off to work. Snowflakes pelted Hard Boiled’s coat and covered the ground in a white slush, compacted and made dirty by passing carts, carriages, and ponies.
Normally Hard Boiled took his time on the walk so he could gaze around, but didn’t today for obvious reasons. Not that there was much to look at, anyway. It was all the same stuff, with very little changing from day to day or in the thirteen years Hard Boiled had lived in the city.
Just the same old run-down apartment complexes surrounded by beat-up junker wooden carts. Just the same old trash in the streets which never got picked up. Just the same bunch of teenage fillies and colts hanging out and probably set on committing crimes.
He rounded the corner onto fifth street.
Just a bunch of sleazy motels for one-night stands. Just an old diner which he had eaten at many times with a blue-plate special which wasn’t that bad, but wasn’t that good, either. Just an appliance and radio store screaming its killer deals in the form of a yellow and red sign.
He rounded another corner onto Platinum Avenue.
Just an old city park with graffiti all over the benches. Just a bunch of homeless mares and stallions sitting around a burning trash barrel, waiting for alms which he would not give them today because he was in a hurry, or any other day because he simply didn’t have it to spare. Just that one unicorn mare with the brilliant hot pink mane living in a refrigerator box next to the water fountain in--
Wait. The pink mare was not in the refrigerator box. He thought this was incredibly odd. Every day for two years, he had passed by the same pink mare in the same refrigerator box, day after day. She had been there without fail. Whether it was raining, snowing, or a hundred degrees outside, she had simply sat in her cardboard refrigerator box, gazing out at the passers-by with a forlorn look on her face, never speaking a word. The only thing which ever changed was that she had a tarp she placed over the box when it was raining. But today she was gone, and her box sat in a crumpled mess next to the water fountain.
Now this is odd, Hard Boiled thought. He could have shrugged her disappearance off as her just going to find some food or use the bathroom. He figured that she would HAVE to leave at some point. Nopony could just sit in the same cardboard box for two years. But the box was crumpled up, so she must have left for good.
Perhaps she has simply found a home, he thought. But what about the crumpled box? Hard Boiled looked down at his watch. He figured he could run over and investigate the box and still make it in time for work. His curiosity got the better of him, and he walked over to the box until he was about three feet from it.
His jaw opened as he looked into the white snowy ground next to the box and saw many red droplets of what appeared to be blood. The box was also covered in it, as well. He saw dozens of hoofprints in the snow, all clustered around the general area of the box.
Goodness, he thought, Someone must’ve come up and attacked that mare! They must’ve had a fight, which explains the blood and all of these hoofprints in front of the box.
He could make out two sets: one smaller set and one bigger set. He figured the smaller set was from the mare, and the larger set was from her attacker. The hoofprints looked fresh, and he deduced that they couldn’t have been more than a few hours old. Hard Boiled reached into one of the pockets of his trenchcoat and pulled out his instant polaroid camera, taking a snapshot of the scene.
He walked around to the other side of the box to see if he could find any set of hoofprints leading away or towards the box. However, he could not see any.
How odd! Did the attacker cover his tracks? He looked around, but couldn’t see any evidence of that, either. Perhaps the attacker was a pegasus, or a unicorn who knew how to teleport. That would explain the lack of hoofprints leading up to or away from the box. But what about the mare’s absence? She must’ve been killed, and her body was taken away. That or she was kidnapped.
Hard Boiled glanced at the box, scanning his eyes across the blood. There was a lot of it, but not nearly enough to indicate a murder. It was more likely a struggle. He got out a small plastic evidence bag from his coat, leaned down, and scooped some of the bloody snow into it. As he was leaning down, his eyes widened as they caught something that he hadn’t seen the first time.
Against the white snow, he glanced another pure white object... a feather. He reached over with his hoof, and the feather stuck to it through static electricity. He glanced at it. It was about eight inches long, too long to be from any bird. Not that any birds would’ve been around; they had all flown south for the winter, anyway. This feather must’ve been from a pegasus. White was an uncommon pony coat color, but it couldn’t have been from any other creature. He put the feather in his pocket, as it was potential evidence.
So, the white pegasus attacker flew up to the mare’s box, got into an altercation with her, during which he lost one of his feathers. He won the fight, either killed or kidnapped the mare, and then flew off with her body.
Hard Boiled just needed to interview any potential witnesses. He walked over to a pony sleeping on a park bench and prodded him with his hoof.
“Wha’? Whadaya want?” the sleeping stallion asked, crankily.
“Sir, I was wondering if you had seen that pink unicorn mare anywhere recently.”
“Whazzit? No, no, they can’t. Tell them to leave.”
“Well, thanks anyway,” Hard Boiled said, walking off. “Useless junkie,” he added under his breath.
Hard Boiled turned around to see a homeless mare walk up to him.
“I happen to have seen that mare,” said the green pegasus, “Her name’s Ivory.”
“Yeah, I saw some white pegasus fly off, carrying her. She was yelling and screaming, but then she stopped, because I think he gagged her or something. He headed south.”
“So she’s still alive?” Hard Boiled asked.
“As far as I know, yeah.” the pegasus mare answered.
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“No, thank YOU. It’s not too often that we get police around here. Most of the time that crime happens in the park to homeless ponies, nopony cares.”
“You’re welcome,” Hard Boiled answered, and then glanced down at his watch. He saw that he was now running ten minutes late.
“I have to go,” he said, galloping away towards the police station. Thankfully, though, now he had an excuse for his tardiness: he was on a kidnap case.
Hard Boiled opened the door to the police station, removed his hat and coat, and placed them on the rack. He walked past the receptionist and other administrative ponies in their cubicles, over towards the elevator, and pressed the button. Hopefully, by the time he got to his desk, his chief wouldn’t notice his absence.
However, he would not be so lucky. The door opened, and the chief himself walked out of the elevator. He was a portly old earth stallion with a red coat and white mane, and his name was Gold Badge.
“Ah, if it isn’t Hard Boiled! Glad to know that you’ve finally decided to come into work. What has it been, now, two hours? Follow me to my office,” he said, and got into the elevator, Hard Boiled following behind.
“No, chief, it’s only been twenty minutes. I’m sorry I was late, I--”
“You what? You were drinking and woke up hungover? Don’t act like I can’t smell it on your breath. What if there had been a murder or robbery or kidnapping and we needed you to go investigate?”
They walked into Gold Badge’s office as the chief sat down at his chair, which creaked under his weight.
“Actually, chief, that was what I was going to--”
“Do you even care about solving crimes in this city at all, Hard Boiled? Because it seems to me like you don’t.”
Hard Boiled grimaced and held his tongue. The corrupt and incompetent police chief, accusing him of not caring about crime? Why, if he had half a mind...
“Chief, there was a potential kidnapping in the park today. I was late because I was investigating it and trying to determine what happened,” he said.
“Ah, were you? I don’t believe you. You’re lying. If you really were investigating a crime, you’d have collected evidence! And I don’t see any--”
Hard Boiled reached into his pocket and pulled out the bag of bloody snow, the polaroid picture of the crumpled box, and the white feather, setting them on the chief’s desk before he could finish his sentence.
“Well, I’ll be damned, Hard Boiled; I underestimated you. Looks like I won’t have to give you a write-up for being late, after all. So, where did this crime happen?”
“In the park, Chief. I noticed this blood and feather on the ground next to a box which had been destroyed in a fight. I interviewed a mare at the scene, and she said that there was a kidnapping.”
“And what prompted you to go and look at this?” Gold Badge asked.
“Because there’s a homeless hot-pink unicorn mare who lives in this refrigerator box, and I’ve seen her there everyday for two years. I noticed she was missing today, and I walked over--”
The Chief interrupted, “I’m sorry, but did you say a homeless mare?”
Gold Badge let out a hearty laugh, slamming his hoof down on the table as he uncontrollably guffawed.
“What is it, Chief?”
“Hard Boiled, you’ve been a detective for HOW many years?”
“And how many times have I sent you to investigate a crime against a homeless pony?”
“Um... I believe never, sir.”
“Yes, that’s right. NEVER. And do you know why?”
“No, but I don’t particularly think that her being homeless has any relevan--”
“Because they’re HOMELESS! You’re a detective; think about it. If we find some homeless pony murdered, who’s going to even know their name? Who will even report the crime to us? Where do we start looking? If somepony is murdered who has a home, chances are that there’s a neighbor who saw something. Maybe they have a husband or wife who could’ve done it, or who could’ve seen something. But with homeless crimes, we usually have nothing to work with. As a detective, I’d expect you to know this.”
“But, Chief, in this case I actually do have evidence. I have a feather from the pony who I believe kidnapped this homeless mare.”
“Ooh, a FEATHER. You know, one in three ponies have feathers.”
“It’s white, though. How many white-coated ponies do you know of?”
The chief paused for a moment, scratching his chin, before answering, “Torrance down in accounting is white.”
“No, she’s actually cream-colored. Look at this feather again. It’s pure white, as white as the snow I found it on.”
The Chief glanced at the feather, was silent for a moment, and answered, “Hmm, well, pure white is a very rare coat color; I’ll give you that. But that’s still not very much to work with.”
“On the contrary, Chief, it’s a lot to work with. I just have to search for any white pegasi with criminal records, and go talk to them. I can narrow down a list of potential suspects from there. The list shouldn’t be more than ten ponies long.”
“Alright... I suppose I can let you pursue this. But if this doesn’t pan out to something, I’ll expect you to work extra hours to make up for it.”
“That won’t be an issue,” said Hard Boiled as he walked out of the office towards the criminal record archives.