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Carmine Gumshoe
by on April 11, 2022
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————————————————[FOUR YEARS AGO, STYLO APARTMENTS. 2:04 PM]-------------------------------------
Murder in the classroom!! Just last night police arrested a student of Pine Hall High School-- a senior and captain of the baseball team-- by the name of Strawberry Cream. The victim, known as Mr. Tinhorn, a beloved art teacher, was supposedly slain in his own classroom last night by Pine Hall’s team captain. This could very well spell trouble for her father, retired general Currant, who is the sole runner against Mayor Ironwing. We will release more details as they come along.
The shrill voice of the radio host somehow managed to wake me up from my third nap of the day, my whole head felt awful and dry. I didn't hear a single thing she said... it was all muffled. Noise. My focus was on my dry mouth. Like cotton balls clung to the roof of my mouth and the strings dug deep into the cracks of my tongue. I look up at the clock hung above my fridge and only now do I notice the time. Two O’Clock... I’m late for work. Again. That’s my third strike, which means that if I were to show up now, Mr. Quickee would have my head on a pike and sell me at a discount. Guess I should look in the classifieds for another job...
While the day began a little later than I planned, I was happy to actually get some sleep. I look at the photo that I turned face down in my drunken rampage last night. Instantly the tremors in my pause. Valor's gentle eyes stare daggers into my body, like a father who saw his kid acting up. It's like they move... they look at me, asking me, "What are you?" like he didn't even recognize me. After four years in this hell, I don't even recognize myself. The longer he looks at me, the angrier I get. He's dead. He can't judge me. He has no right to judge me, leaving me the way he did... but still he does. I place the picture back down and growl. "Don't look at me like that."
A knock at the door derails my degrading train of thought. It was so sudden, and so loud, that the noise alone was enough to make me release an involuntary gasp. I don’t get many visitors, aside from the Old Lady Catswell who lives a floor above me. I didn’t smell a freshly baked casserole, so my suspicions began to rise. My first guess was the landlord. Just thinking about it pissed me off. We agreed that I’d have another week on the rent.
“Listen here, you son of a bitch...” I began whilst I sucked in a breath. Not the smartest choice of words, given I believed I was talking to the man in charge of my apartment, but he had a history of being particularly greedy with me. I’m not the most likeable guy, but often times it seems like he’s determined to get under my skin. He may throw me out soon, but I had some sour words for him.
I swung the door open, fully ready for confrontation. I had nothin’ to lose, but he did. Only... it wasn’t him. My heart stopped. I felt the air around me chill to a nice, icy cold. I recognized immediately who it was. Mettle. Valor’s younger brother was standing on my doorstep, shuffling his hooves and letting the end feathers on his wings stretch and flex.
I think I was struck silent. As was he. He greatly resembled Valor, but with shorter, more wild hair with more red in his mane than my lost one’s cantaloupe colored curtain. The strands sticking up reminded me of a dancing fire. Fitting, given his fiery nature. Little freckles lined the top of his muzzle, giving him kind of a kiddish appearance, despite being only a couple years younger than me. Mettle hated them, but I’m pretty sure everyone else thought they were cute.
“...Carmine?” the young stallion spoke up, raising his eyebrows. He opened his mouth like he wanted to say something to me, but decided against it. I already knew what he wanted to say. ‘What happened to you?’ which was a fair question. I know I looked awful. I haven’t shaved in a while, and my hair’s grown well past how I normally kept it. Waking up from a hangover probably didn’t help my image at all.
We both know what happened. There was no use in talking about it. I finally answered him. My throat was probably hoarse, and my voice likely needed some dusting off before I said anything. I cleared my throat and tried to poorly hide the shock in my words. “Hey, Mettle. It’s good to see you... I haven’t seen you since the fune—“
“—Funeral, yeah,” he quickly interjected. “I wanted to check up earlier, but after everything, I just couldn’t.”
I understood. I feel like I should be mad. Four years. Four whole years have gone by without so much as a letter from the Stronghearts. Not a cent. Not even a “Sorry your husband-to-be blew up" card. They probably blamed me. I knew they already didn’t think highly of me from the get-go, but we all handle grief in different ways, and Mettle was the type to get rid of anything that reminded him of the incident. He probably sees me as the reason his brother ain’t here no more... and I can’t say he’s entirely in the wrong for thinking that. That didn't mean I was gonna treat him any less for it. “Don’t worry about it. Are you, uh, hungry? I was just about to cook breakfast.”
The younger pony in the room tilted his head and shot me an accusatory glance. "Breakfast? Isn’t it a little late?”
Great. I practically just admitted that I woke up recently. I try to hide my shame with a nervous laugh, and step aside. My apartment’s in no shape for visitors, but I still saw Mettle as family. Whether he thought the same was anyone’s guess. “Right... uh, coffee?”
“Sure.”
I can feel his judgmental gaze scanning the crushed cans and empty bottles. Nothing could be more shameful than having someone who once looked up to you find out just how far you’ve fallen. I tried to excuse the mess with a quick joke, “Sorry about the mess. Had a party of just me last night.” But Mettle wasn’t having it. He rolled over a half-empty bottle and scrunched up his nose. I could’ve sworn I heard him say “Disgusting” beneath his breath. I didn’t disagree.
He made his home on the couch while I began the brewing process on our respective coffees. If I remember correctly, he liked it a bit sweeter than I. With our mugs freshly made, I sat in the pizza-stained loveseat across from him and forced a smile. “So... what brings you here?” I asked him as I brought the mug to my lips. Good for my caffeine addiction, but awful for my mouth. It felt like my tongue had instantly dried.
“Just seeing how you’re doing,” the younger replied with a nonchalant shrug. “No one’s heard from you in a while, so I figured I’d give you a visit. See how you’ve been. It took going through your uncle to find your new address, though. I didn’t think Manehattan was your scene.”
It wasn’t. Canterlot will always be my home in my heart. It was the place I fell in love. I initially planned on staying, but the monuments and memorials of the fallen soldiers all served as a reminder of what I lost. Staying there would have only made things worse for me. “Eh. I get along fine here. It’s not so bad if you know where to go. The city skyline’s kinda pretty, even though I miss being above the clouds. How’s your family?”
“Fine,” Mettle answered. I didn’t doubt it. They suffered just as much of a loss as I did, yet they had each other to suffer the hardships with. You couldn’t have asked for a more tight knit family, or a better support group. That did bring some added relief. The question of why Mettle was still drinking my coffee has yet to be answered. 'Seeing how you're doing' is an excuse that more or less expires after a few weeks of tragedy. This wasn’t a simple wellness check.
He mentioned my uncle. I’m willing to bet he was talking about Currant, as he’s one of the few whose letters I’ll answer, and the only one who’s been sending me some money to eat on. Mettle seemed occupied. For someone who made it clear he wants nothing to do with me, he sure went through a lot of trouble to find me. Even went so far as to go through my uncle to find me. He wanted something from me, but I couldn’t possibly think of what. “Was there... something else you wanted?”
“I... uh. I might need a favor.”
Bingo. I’d be happy to help, if I can. If he was looking for money, he was in the wrong place. After I eat dinner, I’ll be flat broke. Still, I humor him and put on a brave face. “Whatcha need?”
“Have you been listening to the news lately? Did you hear about Berry?"
Berry? Did he mean Strawberry? She's probably the only friend I have currently... which is extra sad when you understand that we're also related. Cousins. In my better moments, I allow her to come over and get a few things off her chest. Not only is she the team captain of her high school's baseball team and practically covering every newspaper with a youth team sports column as 'The Angel on the Diamond' for her skill and... unfortunately, her looks. The latter's been a touchy subject for her... just last week she confided that she felt more like a model than an athlete, which isn't something someone as talented as her should feel. Her mom didn't help her neither, with all the magazines she's booked, agreeing to interviews with invasive questions, and overall not even listening to her daughter's needs... hence why Berry has to come over to her drunkard cousin's ratty apartment just so she doesn't spin the last thread she's hanging by. Things aren't all gloom and doom for her, though... just the other day she was by to tell me not only does she have a girlfriend, but her whole plan around their future together revolves around Berry getting rich going pro and then using that money to pay for a good law school. Past that point, if she can get a good career, the girl's on easy street. Good for her.
"Heard about her?" My ears swivel to better hear him. "Whatcha mean?"
The colt started to wriggle when he felt the heat... the very same trait shared by his brother long gone. "Well, uh... I don't know how to tell you this, but Berry's been arrested. For murder. They found her and her art teacher in the classroom dead... and she was near the knife, too. That's all I know, but I *know* she didn't do it."
He kept talking, but I was still repeating the same phrases he began with. Berry? A killer? I always pegged her to have a few anger issues... but murder was far off the table. This is the very same girl who cried when she saw a roach skitter by outside. No way did she have it in herself to slide a knife between someone's ribs unless she was at risk herself.
Still, I remain calm and sip my coffee. "No, I... I haven't heard. What makes you think she didn't do it?"
Mettle's face twisted again. Something wanted to come out, but he was weighing the consequences. "I... don't know if I should say, but... uh. Berry's... seeing someone. A girl-- why would she kill someone if she was happy, y'know?"
Oh, Mettle. A detective you are not. There were plenty of reasons I could think of off the top of my head. The girlfriend coaxed her, the girlfriend was in danger, the victim and girlfriend were caught together, it might not even have anything to do with the girlfriend. I sniffle... "It sounds like you have more of a hunch than you do evidence," I tell him with a soft smile. So his reason for visiting was here... he just wanted to tell me? Well, I should at least give the station a call and see how Berry's holding up. It's important she gets her well wishes...
But then Mettle continued to speak. "That's not all! I, uh... I want... well, you're good at detective work. Do you think you can... look into it? Maybe?"
Just like that, I felt the heat in my body disappear. I blink and lower my cup. "Mettle, I... I don't think that's a good idea. I know you're worried about her-- I am, too-- but this is a fresh police investigation."
That reserved little colt was gone. His temper flared up, much like the fire his mane resembled. With a snort and a stomp, he'd raise his voice. "Who else but you!? You were the one who uncovered the truth of the Bubble Swamp Witch!"
“Only ‘cause no one even tried to talk to her! She was just an old ostracized mare who wanted to be left alone—“
“The Food Critic Killer!"
“—Everyone was so focused on the cutlery, they didn’t even think to check the wait staff’s belongin’s—“
“The Miser Treasure! What about that? That was your first one?”
I gulped. Not only was that my first ever ‘case’ but it was the first one I solved with... him. The memories of that day came flooding back. Images of Valor pounded themselves into my brain like war drums. “Enough! Mettle, I love you— I do. But unless you need something else, you need to leave.”
The light in his eyes faded. I've seen it before. The very real act of all hope fading from someone's eyes. Each word was another rung on a very angry ladder. He begins with a sputter, then devolves into a vile train of thought. “...You’re kidding? You have to be kidding, right? My brother dies for you and you become this— this cranky ass drunk? Maybe it would’ve been better if—”
I felt my eyes widen and my chest start to tighten. The village idiot could fill in the words he was about to say. I cut him off with a stomp of my hooves. "If what? I know what you’re gonna say and I can promise you it ain’t nothin’ I haven’t already thought of. So go on. Get the words out there.”
Mettle was struck silent. He opened his mouth like he was about to say something, but I could see that flicker in his eyes that told him it wouldn’t be a good idea. He lowered his head and looked away. “Carmine, I’m—”
“Save it,” I snapped, growling. He said nothing else, but I kept replaying it in the back of my mind. He was right. Keeping on like this would be like spitting on Valor’s headstone, especially when my own blood needed my help. Berry’s been there for me. I ought to be there for her, too. He steps his hind to turn around, but I stop him by hiking my tone up just a little. “Gimme a second to get ready,” I say, turning to the bathroom. He tried saying something, but I wasn’t about to hear it. I just tuned out that white noise.
He's just a kid who's worried about his friend... and I'm a little worried for myself that I'm treating Berry's predicament so casually. I want to help, I really do... but as of yet I can't help but feel like everything I dip my hooves in just turns out for the worst.
I walk in and look at the man in the mirror. He looks like me, he mimics me, but when I look at him, I don’t see me. He disappears while I reach behind the cabinet to get the toothbrush... I wonder what he does when I'm not looking? He comes back when I put the cabinet back to form. We get ready in synchronized movements, brushing, spitting, all at the same time. We leave the mirror, we turn off the lights.
Maybe one day my reflection will look like myself again.
Post in: Lore
Topics: lore, backstory, loregang
Carmine Gumshoe
backstory Carmine time also Strawberry "Berry" Cream also having my other baby as a little cameo in all this, f you i hope to god i don’t leave this for years lmao
Crystalline Passage
>includes Strawberry 11/7
Gray Rivers Alto Yuri
The wait was worthwhile! >:>
Carmine Gumshoe
ty bestie :pleading_face:
Moonstruck
carmine knows how to write? God i wish i remembered how to read.
Vanil
Can you repeat that? I don't quite understand what you wrote
Carmine Gumshoe
i actually kidnapped an orphan to write this for me little Samuel gets to eat the good dog food tonight!!
Ephemeria Spring
lore!