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Mystery Night in Ponyville
A FiM fic by (Insert Pen Name)
Part I: The Scene of the Crime
You’re Invited to a Mystery!
This coming Wednesday night, Princess Twilight Sparkle will be hosting an exclusive Whodunit Party at her recently erected Fortress of Friendship (name under review)! Join us as we tuck into a nice, tender, juicy, fictional murder mystery! Snacks will be provided, doors close at 7:30.
Also, please dress like a famous detective. Because why not?
Hope to see you there!
-Princess Twilight Sparke
PS: don’t let the fancy invitation fool you, girls. It’s just the seven of us, like always.
Rarity pulled her garment against herself as a chill wind blew in from the north, bearing with it the last errant flecks of a light late-autumn snowfall that had blanketed the town in a fine white coverlet. The lightweight brown cloak had been merely an aesthetic choice, and the white unicorn was beginning to regret having not chosen something warmer to wear for her friend’s soiree mystereuse. Beneath her cloak, she wore a plain green waistcoat, and upon her head she wore the sort of hat that might be referred to as a “deerstalker”, if ponies were much in the habit of stalking their cloven-hoofed, forest-dwelling cousins.
As she neared Twilight’s palatial treehouse, Rarity found herself joined by two other familiar ponies, each approaching from opposite directions. Both were also dressed for the occasion.
“Howdy Rarity, Fluttershy,” said Applejack, decked out in a somber grey suit and trenchcoat. “Y’all ready fer Twilight’s little murder mystery?”
“As if I’d dress this way for any other reason,” said Rarity with good-natured sarcasm.
“Point taken,” said Applejack. “How ‘bout you, Fluttershy? Reckon yer detective skills are up to- Did you dye yer hair?”
“What?” gasped Rarity.
Fluttershy recoiled in embarrassment beneath the sudden inquisitiveness of her two friends. Unlike Rarity, she was dressed for the elements, sporting a blue woolen sweater and white scarf. However, beneath her white croche hat, Rarity could just discern that Fluttershy’s usual pale pink locks were now a distinct strawberry blonde that perfectly complimented the blush on her cheeks..
“Darling, why in Equestria would you dye your beautiful mane so?” asked Rarity.
“It’s, um, part of my disguise,” said Fluttershy meekly. “I want anypony to recognise me.”
“Kinda takin’ it too far if you ask me,” remarked Applejack.
“Well I think it looks lovely,” said Rarity, coaxing a small smile out of her self-conscious friend. “Besides, if anypony here needs a dye-job, it should be you, dear Applejack. Honestly, I’ve seen more colourful attire in a funeral home.”
“It’s not like I had much choice,” Applejack retorted. “The dang movie’s all in black and white; how am I supposed to tell what the dang colours are? ‘Sides, at least I didn’t pick the most obvious detective there is, ‘Miss Originality’,” she added, taking a playful swipe at Rarity’s deerstalker.
“Somepony had to do it,” Rarity said haughtily. “It might as well have been the one pony among us with the poise to pull it off. Although this vest is getting rather itchy.”
Their dispute resolved (or at least concluded), the three mares let themselves through the palace’s main doors and strode through the surprisingly spacious antechamber to another, smaller set of doors. Here they knocked, and were soon let in by their hostess’s number-one assistant. He himself was dressed to the nines in tasteful little suit, and an adorable little moustache that had been so heavily waxed and curled that it very much resembled plasticine (which it very likely was).
“Bon soir, mes amis,” said Spike as he stroked his improbable facial hair. “That’s fancy-talk for ‘how’s it going?’ Come on in! Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie are already here. And I’m making nachos!”
They found their two more vibrant friends sitting together on a large red sofa before the fireplace. Rarity winced at the sight of them, unsure as to which had committed the greater crime against fashion and good taste.
Pinkie Pie might have looked fairly hard-boiled, dressed as she was in a large, floppy overcoat. Upon her head, however, sat a small, round, flat-brimmed hat that had been dyed an appalling shade of crimson, such that it was now locked in a furious three-way clash with both her hair and the upholstery of the couch. Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, was dressed in a tacky (or at least grossly outdated) cream-coloured suit which clashed instead with the bandage she was nursing on the side of her nose.
“Rainbow Dash, what happened?” gasped Fluttershy.
Dash groaned and narrowed her eyes in the direction of the mare beside her.
“Nothing,” she began sardonically. “Just that somepony needs to learn that it’s not cool to break into other ponies’ houses and then yell at them while they’re in the shower!”
“Awww, cheer up Dashie,” chirped Pinkie Pie. “I said I was sorry. Besides, it makes you look tough!”
“It makes me look stupid,” grumbled Dash.
“Who looks stupid?,” asked a familiar voice from the doorway.
Ponyville’s resident Princess had just appeared in the room, plainly dressed in a rough cleric’s habit with a red rose pinned to the scapular. Rainbow Dash immediately began to snigger.
“And what’s so funny, Rainbow?”
“Nothing,” Dash snickered. “You look great.”
“Of course I look great,” said Twilight obliviously. “I spent all afternoon making sure it was historically accurate. Anyway, now that we’re all here, let’s begin!”
In a purple flash, Twilight produced for them a large, brand new book with a magnifying glass emblazoned on the cover.
“I hold before you one of the most difficult whodunit books ever written!” she declared. “And we are going to solve it together!”
“That’s nice,” nodded Rainbow Dash as they took their seats at the table. “So how far did you read ahead on us?”
“W-what?” squawked Twilight. “I would never… I mean, that would be just…”
Five merciless grins continued to beat down upon the hapless alicorn.
“Okay, I might have peeked a little at the first page… But it was an accident, I swear!”
“That’s okay, Twilight, I believe you,” said Fluttershy gently.
“You do?” asked everyone else in the room.
“No, not really. But I forgive you anyway.”
“Whatever,” shrugged Rainbow Dash. “Just don’t spoil it for the rest of us, okay?”
A few moments later, the six mares were seated comfortably around the table, with both notepads and nachos poised and at the ready. From the book, Twilight read aloud with glowing enthusiasm:
“Late September, AE1891. You and several others have all been invited to the opulent countryside estate of the wealthy earth-pony baroness Lady von Kumquat…”
Pinkie Pie snickered loudly.
“You are greeted at the door by Lady von Kumquat herself, along with her mild-mannered butler Alfalfred,” continued Twilight. “Oh, and there’s visual aids, hold on…”
She soon produced two fully-illustrated cardboard figures from a plate in the middle of the book and set them on the table in front of her. The image of a mare in a red dress was obviously meant to be Lady von Kumquat.
“I don’t like her,” announced Rarity straight away. “Look at the cut of her sleeve; she’s clearly hiding something!”
“Uh, I don’t think you’re supposed to really pay much attention to the pictures,” said Twilight. “They’re just visual aids.”
“Um, isn’t that kinda what visual aids are for, though?” ventured Fluttershy.
“Nah, I’m with Twilight on this one,” countered Applejack. “I used to draw better than this in Grade 2.”
“Moving on…” said Twilight. “No sooner have you made your introductions when there comes a loud knock on the front door that echoes across the hall…”
No sooner had she read this when there came a loud knock on the front door that echoed across the hall, causing everypony’s hair to suddenly stand on end.
“Wow, that was pretty neat,” said Pinkie Pie.
The knocks were soon succeeded by the faint creak of the palace doors, followed by the growing clatter of frantic hoofbeats coming down the hall. Seconds later, the doors to the room burst open, allowing a bespectacled and visibly distressed grey mare to enter the room.
“Princess Twilight Sparkle!” gasped the mare, whom everyone immediately recognised as their local Mayor’s sometimes seen administrative assistant. “You’re needed at Town Hall at once! Something terrible has- Why are you all dressed like that?”
“We’re solving a mystery!” said Pinkie Pie. “A kumquat mystery!”
“I see…” the mare nodded in such a way to illustrate that she clearly didn’t.
“Sorry, this is all a little sudden,” said Twilight. “You are…?”
“Er, Raven, Your Highness…” answered the mare with a bow. “I serve as administrative assistant to Mayor Mare.”
“Yes that’s right, now I remember,” nodded Twilight. “Sorry, I don’t believe we’ve spoken before.”
“The pleasure is all mine Your Majesty,” said Raven with simpering politeness. “Or is it ‘Your Grace’?”
“Honestly, I’m not too sure myself,” laughed Twilight.
“Hey, uh, not to interrupt or anything,” interrupted Spike. “But you mentioned something ‘terrible’?”
“Oh, shoot, that’s right!” swore Raven. “Princess Twilight Sparkle! You’re needed at Town Hall at once! Something-”
“Yeah, yeah, get to the dang point!” shouted Applejack.
“Mayor Mare has been attacked!”
A great gasp of genuine horror filled the room.
“Attacked? How?” cried Twilight.
“There’s no time to explain!” explained Raven. “Follow me to the Town Hall! You can all see for yourselves!”
* * *
The mad dash to Town Hall was uneventful and not worth narrating. Upon arrival, Raven was visibly distressed to find a small crowd had already braved the cold to gather outside the Hall. As they approached, the front doors swung open, and a team of nurses strode out, pushing a steel gurney heavily wrapped in blankets.
“Madame Mayor!” cried Twilight as she pushed through the crowd.
“Please, Princess, she’s not well,” said Nurse Redheart.
The Mayor lay semi-conscious and groaning beneath her blankets, her head bound in great wads of gauze. On all sides, ponies pressed in close for a look as the gurney passed, but the other ponimedics held them at bay. Only Twilight and Spike were permitted to stay near.
“What happened to her?” Twilight asked Redheart.
“Sharp blow to the back of the head,” explained the nurse with clinical coolness. “Possible concussion.”
“Raven said she’d been attacked?”
Redheart hesitated a second before answering.
“Not my place to say,” she said, and that was all that Twilight got out of her.
The Mayor was soon wheeled into a waiting ambulance, and the crowd dispersed. Twilight and her companions remained, until Raven finally beckoned for them to follow her inside and up the stairs to the Mayor’s office.
“So what are we doing here, exactly?” asked Spike as they went.
“Madame Mayor was attacked,” said Raven. “I thought you’d have realised the gravity of the situation by now.”
“Yeah, but what does that have to do with us?” asked Applejack.
“Well isn’t it obvious?” replied Raven with growing annoyance. “I need you all to investigate this horrible crime!”
Everyone came to a stunned halt.
“Y-you mean like an a-actual murder mystery?” stammered Fluttershy.
“Well, not a murder mystery per se, but yes, that’s the gist of it.”
“Okay, so why us?” asked Twilight.
“What do you mean? Why not you? You girls are pretty much the only reason anything gets done around here!”
“And we’re happy to be appreciated,” Twilight interjected, “but isn’t this more of a matter for the police?”
Now it was Twilight’s turn to be the centre of bewildered attention.
“Why are you all staring at me?”
“Er, Twilight, darling, Ponyville doesn’t have a police force,” explained Rarity sheepishly.
“Yeah, where have you been living all these years?” added Rainbow Dash.
“Wait, what?” asked Twilight. “No police?”
“You ever see any police ponies around here?” asked Applejack.
“Well, no, but… I just assumed… No police, seriously?”
“We never had any room in the budget,” said Raven with a resigned shrug. “And then you girls showed up with those Elements of Harmony and, well, let’s face it: why bother with traditional law enforcement when you’ve got a bunch of holy-magical heroines that’ll work pro bono? And it’s not like we have a whole lot of crime around here to begin with either, so… yeah.”
Twilight suspected she could feel a headache coming on.
“Okay,” she said with a quick shrug. “We’re on the case. Show us the crime scene.”
The stairway led up into a small reception area with a heavily cluttered desk which Raven identified as her own. The Mayor’s office, which occupied most of the top floor, lay behind a set of panelled double doors directly across from the stairs. Two other doors off to the side led to a unisex washroom and a large file room where more recent documents were kept, thus saving the Mayor (or, more frequently, Raven herself) the bother of having to run all the way down to the main archives in the basement of the Hall.
After taking all this in, the seven ad hoc detectives continued to follow Raven through the double doors into the Mayor’s spacious office.
Mayor Mare was a pony of simple tastes and grandiose personality, and this was reflected in her choice of decor. Tall rose-coloured drapes hung over the equally tall arched windows that lined the curvature of the outer wall. Tall emerald ferns sat in tall terracotta pots in the corners, and the walls were sparsely hung with portraits and photographs of the Mayor herself in the company of various important figures. Many of these were also tall, and those that weren’t were at least set high up on the wall so the effect was largely that same. In fact, just about the only thing in the room that didn’t achieve serious altitude in its design or arrangement was the Mayor’s polished walnut desk, but this was balanced out by the great velvet-upholstered chair that towered behind it.
It was not hard to determine the scene of the attack. Upon the floor before the desk were strewn a number of disturbed items, consistent with having been swept from the desk in the heat of the moment. And yet the rest of the room was apparently spared the carnage, a sign, Twilight noted, that the Mayor had been taken by surprise without a struggle.
“Alright,” she said, “If we’re going to do this, then we’re doing it right. Spike! Get out your pad and start taking notes. Anything we say, anything we find, anything you think is worth remembering, you write it down. Got it?”
“Got it, Twilight!”
“Good. Alright girls, let’s spread out and look for clues!”
“Yipee! I know just what we need!” squealed Pinkie Pie, who promptly hopped over to the Mayor’s beautifully engraved gramophone, and produced a record from within her coat.
“Wait, Pinkie, no, that could be-”
The pink pony suddenly drew a deep breath and blew half an attic’s worth of dust from the surface of the turntable.
“...evidence,” finished Twilight glumly.
There was no point in stressing the matter further; the record player clearly hadn’t been touched in months.
“The Mayor sometimes has migraines,” explained Raven. “She doesn’t much care for music on the job these days.”
“Her loss,” said Pinkie Pie, as the smooth, subtle notes of a Las Pegasus jazz number filled the room. “There, now it’s a real murder mystery!”
With the proper investigative atmosphere now attained, Twilight rounded on the beleaguered secretary.
“Alright Raven, let’s start with you. What can you tell us about the attack?”
Raven swallowed nervously, then took a deep breath and began her testimony.
“I didn’t see any of it, I’m afraid. I was just outside at my desk all evening. The Mayor’s normal office hours are until 6:00, but she works late some nights, and I have to be around in case I’m needed.”
“Did anypony come in to see the Mayor?” inquired Twilight.
“No, I didn’t see anypony come in. Her last visitor today was around 3:30, give or take.”
“And you stayed behind your desk the entire evening?”
“Well, no, not the entire evening. I was in and out of the file room a few times… but only for a minute or so at a time,” she added hastily. “I was actually just on my way back to my desk when it happened. I heard this thumping sound from inside the office. I just assumed the Mayor had dropped something, so I called out and asked if everything was okay. When she didn’t answer I checked inside… and that’s how I found her…”
Raven paused to take another breath.
“Go on,” said Twilight gently.
“S-she was lying right there on her face,” Raven stammered, gesturing at a spot right in front of the desk. “I ran over to see if she was alright, and when I saw that she was still alive, I ran out to go get help.”
“So you’re the one who alerted the ponimedics?” asked Twilight.
“Yes, that’s right. And then I ran to find you girls.”
“And so here we are,” murmured Twilight. “Can you think of anypony who might have wanted to hurt the Mayor?”
Raven considered this for a moment.
“She had her detractors, but nopony ever who struck me as dangerous, no.”
“Did you hear anything else before you came in? Voices, maybe?”
“No, I… no.”
“And you saw no sign of anypony else in the room?”
“Well, I… I didn’t really think to look,” admitted Raven. “But I didn’t notice anypony else, no.”
“Big curtains like these, anypony could’ve been hiding in here, waiting until the coast was clear,” noted Rainbow Dash as she scanned the room.
“Still doesn’t explain how they got in without being seen,” said Fluttershy.
“Lotta windows in this place,” suggested Dash. “Could’ve come in through one of those…”
Meanwhile, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Rarity began looking over the objects on the floor. In addition to a number of scattered papers were the battered remains of a large picture frame, the picture itself lying face down, several quills, the spilt contents of an upended inkwell, and a tall liquor bottle half full of a murky, amber-coloured liquid.
“Berryshine,” muttered Applejack with thinly-veiled contempt. “Not sure which is the bigger mystery with this stuff: what in the hay Berry Punch puts in it, or how in the hay ponies keep buyin’ it.”
“Ponies need something to tide them over until Cider Season,” laughed Rainbow Dash.
“Did Mayor Mare drink a lot o’ this stuff?” Applejack asked Raven. “Or, a lot o’ any stuff?”
“I’m… not really privy to that information,” said Raven awkwardly.
Meanwhile, Rarity held aloft the broken picture frame.
“And I do believe we have our murder weapon,” she said triumphantly, holding her beautifully engraved magnifying glass over one corner.
Twilight and Spike leaned in for a better look. Sure enough, the the corner of the frame was marked with blood, and a single long hair was stuck in the joint; silvery grey for the most part, but vibrant pink at the root. The rest of the frame just barely held together.
“I wonder why the attacker used this particular weapon?” Rarity pondered.
“It was close to the door,” suggested Pinkie Pie, indicating a spot just right of the door where the picture had clearly hung.
“Perhaps, but we mustn’t rule out some other, more intangible motive…”
Rarity turned her attention to the painting the bloody frame had held. Turning it over revealed it to be yet another flattering portrait of the Mayor, leaning statesponylike against a marble pedestal, which bore the inscription: “May 17, AE 2008”.
“The year she first took office,” explained Raven.
“Possibly somepony who disapproved of the Mayor’s governance, then?” suggested Rarity.
“It’s possible,” agreed Twilight. “In fact, I’d say it’s very probable, but I think Pinkie Pie’s right about the frame itself.”
“Whoo-hoo, I win again!”
Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash had just finished investigating the office windows.
“So much for my window theory,” she said glumly. “All of them are latched tight from the inside. Nopony’s opened them in weeks.”
“Who would, in this chilly weather?” murmured Rarity.
“So the attacker must have come in through the door while Raven was in the other room,” suggested Twilight. “They grabbed the nearest thing they could find, namely the picture frame, and then *wham*!”
“So how’d they get back out again?” mused Applejack.
“I still say curtains,” said Rainbow.
Fluttershy, meanwhile, had been gazing wistfully out the windows this whole time. Luna’s moon was full and well into the sky by now, and the effect of the moonlight upon the freshly fallen snow was simply… magical. As her gaze turned downwards, however, she quickly noticed something on the narrow balcony just outside the window.
“Girls!” she gasped. “Come over here to the window! I found a clue!”
The others hurried over to the window just as Fluttershy managed to undo the stiffened latch and push the window wide open. At the edge of the balcony, just left of the window frame, was the unmistakable presence of fresh hoofprints in the virgin snow. Rarity and Applejack carefully stepped out for a better look, and immediately noticed further signs on the roof of the Hall. A wide slot in the snow ran from a small dormer window down to a rough pile where the base of the roof met the balcony, from which the hoofprints began, as though somepony had slid down the roof from the window above.
“I don’t suppose you checked those upper windows as well, Rainbow darling?” asked Rarity with a sweetly-sarcastic smile.
Dash let out an annoyed growl, but flew back inside nonetheless. A second later, the dormer window swung wide open, and Rainbow appeared in the opening.
“Wasn’t even fully closed,” she called down.
“I thought as much,” announced Rarity, turning her attention back to the hoofprints. “These marks are fresh, no more than an hour old at the most, and clearly belong to a mare, and a pegasus at that.”
“Now how in the hay do ya know all that?” asked Applejack skeptically.
“Elementary, my dear Applejack,” tittered Rarity. “It was still snowing up until an hour ago, and yet these tracks are clear and pristine, and so must have been made after the snow stopped. As for the pegasus part, how else could one have reached that upper window?”
“She’s got a point there,” shouted down Rainbow Dash.
“Furthermore, these tracks simply end at the edge of the balcony, and…” Rarity paused briefly to look over the edge. “...since there is absolutely no disturbance on the ground below, we can only conclude that the pony who left these must have flown away.”
“Fair enough, I suppose,” conceded Applejack. “But how do ya know she’s a mare?”
“Oh please, give me some credit, Applejack,” scoffed Rarity. “You honestly mean to suggest that I can run my own boutique for five years and not know a mare’s hoof when I see it?”
“And you’re sure it’s a mare?” asked Twilight.
“A mare or a very dainty-footed stallion,” said Rarity with a shrug.
“The only dainty-footed pegasus stallion around here is Bulk Biceps,” interjected Rainbow Dash. “And he definitely wouldn’t fit through this little hole.”
“Besides, Bulkie wouldn’t hurt a fly!” added Fluttershy.
The yellow pegasus immediately found herself rather closer to the centre of attention than she was comfortable with.
“‘Bulkie’?” snickered Dash. “Seriously?”
“Focus, girls!” said Twilight. “So, we know how the culprit got out of the room without being seen… So now we pretty much know the whole story!”
“We do?” asked everypony else.
“Yes, we do! Our attacker comes up the stairs and enters Mayor Mare’s office while Raven is in the file room. She finds the Mayor in front of her desk with her back to the door, and takes advantage of this to catch her unaware. So she grabs the picture frame off the wall, hits the Mayor over the back of the head, then flies up to the ceiling, exits through the dormer window which nopony will notice is left open, slides down the roof, and takes off before Raven can come in and investigate. Everything fits!”
“Egad, Twilight! Genius!” cheered Pinkie Pie, before suddenly returning to earth. “Er, no, wait, something doesn’t add up.”
“What do you mean?” asked Twilight.
“I dunno, it just sounds kinda... silly. And not good-fun-Pinkie-silly either. I mean, who just walks into somepony’s room and hits them over the head right away?”
“It do sound a mite contrived,” Applejack nodded in reluctant agreement.
“And why would Mayor Mare be facing her desk from the front, anyway?” added Fluttershy.
“Hmmm, those are all good points…” muttered Twilight. “Spike, are you getting all this?”
“Yeah, yeah, good points, got it.”
Wrapped in her thoughts, Twilight wandered silently back over to the Mayor’s desk. One item immediately caught her attention: lying neatly on the front end of the desk was a thick brown envelope with a large white shipping label.
“Pony Express…” Twilight read aloud. “This was delivered today. Did any couriers come by today, Raven?”
“No, none at all,” said Raven, visibly perplexed. “I sign for all of Mayor Mare’s correspondence, so I would know.”
“Then somepony delivered this to her personally…” said Twilight darkly.
“So we’re looking for a courier now?” said Rarity.
“I can see it,” said Rainbow. “A lot of pegasi work over at Pony Express. It’s as good a place as any to start looking.”
“But why would a courier want to hurt the Mayor?” asked Fluttershy.
“Why should anypony want to hurt anypony at all?” countered Applejack.
“Oooh, what if it’s not really a courier, but a pony pretending to be a courier?” suggested Pinkie Pie.
“That’s also a possibility,” nodded Twilight. “But it’s the only lead we have right now, so it looks like our next stop is Pony Express.”
“Not tonight, it’s not,” said Raven. “Their office closes at 8:00.”
“And it is getting kinda late,” Spike yawned.
“Fine, whatever,” sighed Twilight. “I guess this is as far as we’re going tonight. Alright girls, rest up and meet me at the Fortress of Friendship first thing tomorrow morning. Next stop: Pony Express…”
To be continued...