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Carmine Gumshoe
by on June 23, 2022
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—————————[MANEHATTAN POLICE STATION. PRECINCT #5. 2:53 PM.]------------------------
We arrive at a familiar scene. Familiar to me, at least. I hear the clatter of the moving gate, the comments from the others in their cells. We go past the hallway, down to the room where I see my supposed client in with two other ponies. A mare and a stallion. I recognize the mare immediately, Chief Xenon. Despite her odd name, she’s very plain looking. Dirty blond mane all tied up in a neat, professional bun, and donning a drab tan button-up and belt. We’re friendly enough. We used to be, at least.
The stallion’s a different story, but a story I could sort of piece together. Dark coat, darker, greased-up styled hair, yet sparkling green eyes that drew you right in. Lawyer. Definite lawyer. Sat beside him at a table with her hooves encased in silver chains was my cousin, tied up like she were some animal. Even now I thought I'd see her trying to calm herself down with small talk with her lawyer... given our last conversation, I was under the assumption she might be getting a sneak peak into what being a lawyer's like, but no. Berry looks... different. There's some obvious stress that comes with being incarcerated, especially on improper charges but... I couldn't quite place what bugged me about her. Her strawberry blonde hair was thrown back in that messy ponytail... her coat had stayed the same off pink-red color that I never could really describe. Her eyes were...
I saw it now. She would once jokingly say that her blue eyes glimmered and shone brighter than the clearest ocean as a means of mimicking her mom's bizarre speech patterns, but these sapphires were void of any light. Something about her screamed “I’m different.” Like someone I knew was wearing her face, pretending to be her, hiding whatever grim shadow lurked beneath.
What happened to you, Bers?
We enter just as soon as Xenon leaves. I hear her say “You got your work cut out for you,” on her way out. I don’t doubt it, this seems like an open and shut case.
I continue forward and enter the self-imposed radius for what's acceptable to begin a conversation.
"Hey, Berry..."
"Sup," she said with a sniffle; likely caused from this dusty room and not for any powerful emotion. Her eyes look behind me... like she was searching for something at my back, but ultimately fell flat when that 'something' didn't show. She chewed the inside of her bottom lip, I could see the bump moving inside her mouth. The silence was... very, very distracting. How was I supposed to start this off? I've never interviewed family before. Seems she didn't know exactly what to say either, as she more or less just raised her brows and moved her head like she was guiding me to speech. "Wwwweeeeeeell...?" she'd begin. "Don't you wanna know what happened? Isn't that why you're here? I should introduce myself, yeah? Strawberry Cream, high school senior, and accused murderer! Or-- oh, are you on a photography job this time? I bet the magazine's paying big money to see how good I look in this orange jumpsuit, huh?"
"What?"
My question was involuntary, but my surprise was clear as day on my face. This isn't how she normally talked.... especially not in a high stress scenario like this. I kind of expected her to have everything ready. Ever since I’ve known her she’s been like that: calculated, organized; hell, she should be telling me how I should proceed with this. It has to be stress. That's what I brushed it off as... stress. I guide her along with kind words and reasurrance.
"Hey, Bers, I'm tryin' to help."
Her response was a wry laugh, "Haha, I don't need help; I need to get out of here. The walls are buzzing so bad and... and, ugh my head is pounding. The lights sound like voices, whispering... talking about me. I know it's just my imagination, Carmine, but it's really scaring the shit out of me. I want out..." For the length of a gnat's little leg, I saw a glimpse of the cousin I'd known. Scared, confused, protected only by her frantic attitude. Her weird outburst earlier should just be chalked up to fear. I would be, too. She shakes her head and continues on, "Now-- Now, I'm sorry but I don't need you here. I need you to find--"
The lawyer stands up and slaps both hooves on the ground in order to sap his attention away from the two of us. I can see his disapproving glare. Most ponies have the decency to at least try and hide it, but he didn't seem to care all too much that his opinion was being broadcasted. He speaks in a forced southern drawl— a more gentlemanly tone compared to my rougher country dialect... but it's very clear this is not his native way of speaking. It's almost cartoonishly so. “Well, now I have ta agree with the lady while she errs on the side of caution as you certainly are an unexpected image in our visage! I hope you will pass your forgiveness unto the both of us, for we simply knew not to expect a man smelling of convenience store and cheap drink. I didn’t expect the young Mettle to show up with a bummish archetype. Especially in Manehattan!”
I... I can’t tell if he’s making fun of me, or if he’s just dumb. I decide to test the waters by not only answering him back, but cranking up my accent to hick levels of bad. “Well, sir, be as it may my Mama always taught me it ain’t ‘bout how you look, it’s all ‘bout how you cook up the dumplins! You sound so smart, sir! Where’d ya get yer schoolin?”
He seems to take it well if the way his note upturned had anything to say about it. Maybe he just thought I fell for that fake as hell accent. With a clap of his hooves, he announced, “Ah, please! Call me Sweethoof Montgomery, sir. I was born and raised in Canterlot, I was. Went to Lunar Law School t’ earn my degree. Did most of my work in Appleloosa, where I helped the simpler folk.”
Must’ve been a long-ass time in Appleloosa in order to get that accent. I don’t even think they have that kind of drawl there.... “How long were you in Appleloosa for?”
“About three full moonlit nights!" the fool so proudly declared.
He adopted such a heavy accent in three months? So he is just an idiot.
It seems Berry also understood the gravity of her situation at this point. Her head was cradled to care with both of her silver-wrapped hooves and, in a rare moment of weakness, she bowed her head and whimpered, "I'm so screwed. This is it for me-- an idiot for a lawyer and my lifeline's encouraging him. I'm going to jail... they're gonna make me wear *this* all the time... all they're gonna serve me is lima beans and I'll be forced into being someone's prison wife... oh, I'm not even cut out to be someone's *non*-prison wife. And I *hate* lima beans!" Her tone lowered as she spoke on... it almost seemed like she was more upset over the food than anything.
I guess Mettle decided that he couldn't dare witness this burning trainwreck for a moment longer. Berry was starting to break and I'll admit, I was having a bit of fun testing this guy's brains... “Are you two going to actually do something or are we just having a hick off?”
Montgomery and I both exchanged nervous glances. We were both to blame, I’ll admit. He quickly adjusted his tie and walked back to his client's side. “I so sincerely make my apology. Won’t allow m’self to get wrapped up in no nonsense no more! Ms. Cream. Please... give your testimony to Mr. Gumshoe.”
All of us focus our attention on her. She’s nervous, and I see that thinly veiled façade break into a gloomy scowl. “Okay... I'll try, but only if we can talk about her next."
"Her?" I ask, puzzled. Montgomery explains, "Ms. Cream wishes to see her girlfriend. We will discuss this later. Go on, Ms. Cream.”
She seemed to accept that. That smile came back, which was a good sign. Berry took a deep breath and began. “Um. I guess I should preface this with saying I didn’t kill him. At least... I don't *think* I did."
It's never a good thing when all they can say is that they "think" they didn't kill someone. What sense does that make? No sir! I don't think I chiseled the man's innards out with a screwdriver, no! Those types of phrases were normally spewed by a terrible liar who couldn't fully commit to the lie or someone who didn't remember. I can't think of many other reasons why. “What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“Well. He invited me to his classroom that evening. He said he wanted to talk about my grades. I thought it was odd, but I didn’t mind. Baseball's been interfering with a lot of my classes but art's gotten the worst of it. I thought it'd be a fun elective where I get to draw a really pretty goldfish or make clay pots. Cheap bastard didn't even have a pottery wheel..."
"Focus, Berry. We can't get off subject."
My words put her train of thought back on the tracks. She had a look of guilt about her, like these weird little tangents couldn't be helped. I haven't seen a trauma cope like this before. "Sorry, sorry. It's hard to focus," she continued. "I, uh... anyways. When I got there, I took a drink of soda and passed out. Next thing I know, I had lights shining in my face, Tinhorn was dead and my hooves were put in cuffs. The end."
I blinked. I may have blinked and stared for a pretty long time, but I was just... dumbfounded. "That's it? That's all you have for me? You met up with him, conveniently passed out, then woke up and the guy was dead? Unbelievable."
I see the light in the poor mare's eyes start to fade a little. Yet, she inched forward. “Oh, so sorry! I totally forgot the part where I stood over his body and plunged the knife wherever it would give. Over and over and over and—”
For once, it seems her lawyer and I were on agreeable terms. Even as a joke— as twisted and morbid as a joke as it is— this is completely damaging to her case. The two of us scream “Berry!” at the same time in order to get her to shut up. She didn’t even flinch… just smiled.
Such an useless testimony. I continue my questioning, this time in order to learn more about the professor. “Your relationship to the professor, what was it? Was he nice? A little too nice?”
Mettle scoffed, “I’ll say.”
Strawberry paid him no mind. “He was alright. I thought it was kinda cool that he'd come in to school to teach even if he had some problems at home.”
My ears flicker. Problems? So this stallion, he was in some trouble perhaps? I know all too well what the struggle is like... but maybe there’s something to it. “Problems, huh? Like what kind?"
"Ohhh, dude was broke. He never flat out admitted it, but you could tell if you paid attention. He started eating cheap-ass lunches, for one. It used to be takeout every day, but a few weeks ago he began to bring, like, those one bit noodle soup packets. His expensive looking watch disappeared, too, I think he pawned it off. He'd also get real sweaty whenever he got a phone call... I was thinking it'd be his wife, who left him about a month ago, or some loan agency. I saw the phone number on the display and decided to look it up. It was a loan agency. Bull & Mako, I think it was called.”
I'd almost forgotten how good she was at this... maybe in some cases, she's better than me. She'd have to be in order to be a lawyer, it ain't just about studying law... it's about studying every individual in the courtroom, too. The defense. The prosecution. The client. The judge... and all the jurors, too. Whatever she chooses to be, she'd be damn good at it. I write down everything she tells me in a little journal; I've got a pretty good memory, but I don't wanna risk anything with Berry's life on the line. "That's a lot more about him and less about you... but it'll help."
Montgomery recovered from the earlier embarrassment and spoke up. "If, I say, if Mr. Tinhorn owed someone money... does that mean they might want him dead?"
Mm. I hummed and weighed the idea out. "Not... likely, sadly. A dead guy can't get you your money back. They might rough him up a little, but the only way he'd be useful to him dead is... well, black market organ trading. If they did *that*, then we wouldn't have found Tinhorn's body... it'd probably be in a bath tub right now and he'd still be alive right up until they--"
"Thank you, Mr. Gumshoe!" barked Montgomery. He didn't need me to finish what I was gonna say, the details were gruesome and likely not for everyone's ears. At least he understood my point now.
With an indifferent shrug, I look back at the young pegasus in the room. "Hey, Mettle. We're goin', 'kay?"
I see Mettle exchange a glance between the lawyer, his friend and I. “Me? The hell am I going?”
He was the one who wanted me in here, so I figured it'd be best to bring him. “I work better when I bounce ideas off of others. ‘Sides, you’re the one that dragged me out here... so come on. We only have till tomorrow.”
Like it or not, I won’t be getting much from Berry until I learn more about the victim. Seems for whatever reason, the case all revolves around him… as I step out and say my “Goodbye for nows,” I ask myself only one question: How is Berry involved?
—————[PINE HALL HIGH SCHOOL ART ROOM. 3:47 PM]—————
We arrive on scene at Pine Hall High School's arts building. It’s a separate complex from the main building, it’s got all your band and art programs, along with choir and dancing and the like. Can’t say I’ve even set foot in this building before... but after today, I definitely don’t want to.
Police and forensics are sweeping the scene with a fine-tooth comb. Every nook and cranny is getting a looksee. A man lets us through the yellow tape and instantly Mettle and I are violated by the stench of blood.
It was... It was horrible.
They weren’t kidding when they said the crime scene was a mess. Brutality didn’t even begin to describe it. A white outline in the shape of a pony’s body marked where Tinhorn's corpse was discovered. Laid on his side, much like sleeping... I look to my left and see Mettle putting on a brave face. He’s trying not to look but the smeared blood on the chalkboard and floor keep magnetizing his eyes to the scene. I feel a twinge of guilt eat away at me. Maybe this wasn't a good idea.
“Hey,” I softly say, “You can wait outside. See if they got the report.”
But the Stronghearts may as well have been mules, they're so damn stubborn. He quickly shook his head and said, "No! Berry needs my help. I'm going."
It'd take us longer if I told him no, and I already knew that. Instead, I simply continue on and say, "Okay". We approach the scene a little closer. I see a couple things that stand out. Two outlines, for one, about ten feet from where Tinhorn's outline lay. I’m assuming this is where Strawerry was discovered. I see blood... but also...
“Carmine!” Mettle cried. He was already hovering over a strange splotch of blood. I look to see where he’s standing, and I see it.
Strawberry
Her god damn name’s written out in blood. Etched in just where his left hoof's outline would've been.
“Wh— What does this mean...?”
“I don’t know yet, Mettle.”
“Why would he write her name if she didn't kill him?" He continued while he danced and tip toed right on my last nerve. This is why I don't have partners. When I'm trying to think, I need quiet. I need no one to bother me. I know he's trying his best, but having his constant 'What's going on!?' in my head is making things harder than they should be.
“I need time to think! Now... quiet. What we know about the attack just from looking at this room. Think about it. Pretend you’re the killer. You’re standing over the professor, you’re stabbing him multiple times. Wouldn’t you notice him writing your own name in blood?”
“Yeah, but... what if he played dead until Berry passed out?”
“Dude would need will stronger than a minotaur's to do that. If the man's getting it as much as we think he did, he'd have no shot in playing dead. Something like this is hella personal... they would've made sure he survived."
We pause in a moment of silent contemplation... and a small prayer for the victim. While Mettle stares at what used to be, I find myself drawn to the irregularities. I see subtly clean square on the ground. The dust on the floor made a clean outline. Someone used a dustpan here recently. Why?
“Mettle, did the professor break a pottery urn or something recently?”
“Huh? No. Not that I can remember. Why?”
“No reason.” It’s probably best to keep this to myself, but I look in the nearby trash bin. Beneath the crumbled up papers and candy wrappers, I see shards of glass, rounded and thick and some... sawdust? I’ll need to remind myself to look at that later. The glass makes me think of a cup, and my suspicions were confirmed by the circular bit on the end that looked like the bottom of a glass cup. This might have been what Berry drank from when she talked about her soda. What I don't get, is why hide it? Assuming Berry's the killer and the cup was dropped in the struggle, why would she clean that up and not the body? If someone else were behind this, then... yeah the same question applies. Why?
Something else screams out at me. The cabinet that sits behind Tinhorn's body, it seems to be an ordinary art cabinet. I might as well be thorough... but it’s locked. A four-digit combination lock is stopping me from opening it. Just as I jiggle it, I hear a voice call out from afar.
“Mister! Mettle! Wait!”
I look up and see a forest green unicorn hurriedly running down the steps to the ground level. He’s wearing round eyeglasses, and he keeps his dark blue mane center-parted like he's threatening to form a bowl cut any second now.
“Is that Meeks?” Mettle asked aloud.
Meeks. I kind of remember that name. He’s another one of Mettle and Berry's friends, kind of the lowest rung on the ladder, if you get my drift. Berry keeps complaining that he won't take 'no' for an answer when it comes to asking her out. I feel kinda bad for him... but they also seem to like him enough to keep him around. The only member absent from this Motley Crue of high school weirdos was some kid who liked to play with puppets... Berry's best friend. As far as I know, he ain't makin' an appearance in this neither.
He stopped to catch his breath when he reached us. A few heavy gasps and he perked right back up. “Sorry! I didn’t hear that you were coming until just a few minutes ago. I’m... supposed to talk to you. I’m the one that discovered the body.” I guess he knew it'd take me a minute to simmer on what he'd just said, as his attention focused on Mettle. "How is she?"
The pegasus very quickly responded, "Not good. She's still askin' about... y'know. Her."
Meeks very solmenly nodded his head. "Well... last I heard, her dad and her went out of town last night. No doubt they've heard of the news, but whether they stopped, it's a different story. Why now of all times...?"
I was only half listening to the two. Whatever they were talking about, I really couldn't care. Yes, Berry's girlfriend was a mystery... yes, there's a chance she may even be involved, but she's not here. That news may upset Berry, but I can only work with what I have in front of me. Right now? What I've got in front of me is a locked cabinet, of which I really wanted access to. "Hey, I know what y'all are talkin' about is sensitive, but I need in here. 'S there any way I can get in this?" I nod toward the cabinet. The younger unicorn nodded and very quickly went to the padlock.
"Haha, sorry... sorry. I meant to pass it along to the officers today, but I got really busy." All it took were two seconds and the four numbers would roll into its magical combination. I didn't get a good look at it, but he knew well enough we might need to make multiple trips in it, so he simply took it off and put it on the tray of the chalkboard. Since he was here....
"So, you say you found the body, huh? What was it like?"
Then came the shuffled I've expected from one who's had an encounter with death. He averted his gaze from me at first, then took in a deep breath. "Yes, uh... well, I was here late. I'm a part of a lot of clubs and extracurriculars, so I was in the library printing fliers for the chess club. I was just about to leave when I saw... someone going into the Arts Building--"
"Was it Berry?" I ask.
"I... can't say for sure. It was dark and I couldn't see anything identifying. They were wearing clothes... dark and baggy. I just know I saw someone for sure. I thought to leave it alone... but it was so late, and I didn't know why anyone would be there. So I tried to check it out... and just looked at the only classroom with a light on. Tinhorn's. I had only peeked through the window, when I saw both of them lying on the ground. I thought they were both dead."
So far, it seems plausible. The only thing that concerns me is how late he stayed. Sure, it’s not uncommon for some students— especially the more ‘teacher’s pet’ type to stay late… and Meeks had already said he was making flyers for chess club. “So, what did you do?”
“Well, I… uh, I panicked at first. I didn’t go in, I just saw the bodies and… and blood… and I ran to a pay phone to call the police.”
Again, it sounds reasonable. What else was he supposed to do? I can’t get mad at a high school kid for not securing the scene, checking for pulses, all that. Silently, I congratulate this young stallion for doing the right thing. “You didn’t see anyone go in or out?”
“No, I…” the stallion trailed off, then swallowed. His eyes flickered behind his round, thick glasses, like he was thinking. “…But I did see the door shut! The— the one in the hall. The killer must have left right as I turned up!”
The hope we have for Strawberry’s innocence began to flicker. If this is true, then someone else was in the room… which means that it’s very likely Berry didn’t kill him. It wasn’t proof, but another branching path. There’s a chance whoever left could’ve been unrelated.
I can’t think of much else to ask the little nerd, not for now. Since the cabinet was now unlocked, I could peer in.
…Yeah, I don’t know what exactly I was expecting. Art supplies out the wazoo. On the left side of this large, aluminum cabinet is a bunch of… well, stuff. Brushes, rulers, crayons and that associated stuff. The right section was a bit more free, it likely held canvases and easels but for the time being it was completely empty. I probably won’t find anything in here.
“Well, Mettle, we know our next stop. Bull & Mako Loan Services… I think it’s time we pry into Tinhorn’s life just a little bit more.”
We begin our steps out, but the voice of a speckled, young stallion stops us once more. “Wait, sir! I— I, uh… I have a… there’s— I don’t know if you know, it might help— but—”
He’s sweet, but god damn does he need to work on his speech. “It’s okay,” I say, trying to coax it out. “What is it?”
The stallion stares at me like a deer in headlights. It doesn’t take long for me to guess that he knows something. Something previously kept a tight lipped secret. Whatever it is, it seemed juicy. He knew I was watching too; I could see that subtle look of horror. Was he remembering the bodies?
The pause takes longer than he must have believed, as Mettle was the one behind me to speak up and push his friend out of a trance. “Yo! Meeks. Come on, we got things to do. What is it?”
He releases one shaky breath. Something’s gotten in to him…
Does he know who the killer is?
I start to eye him with a suspicious glare. He takes note and retracts, “A— Ah, huh… um— Mr.— Mr. Tinhorn always had a fondness for Berry, y’know! There’s rumors. Um… that they were? Together?”
It’s like the kid’s a random word generator for the dumbest shit he could possibly say. That’s what he stops me for? I roll my jaw and blow a breath through my nose. Berry’s smart. Smart enough to not date her god damn teacher, at least. I could forgive the stallion for implying Tinhorn to be a creep— hell, the man’s already sketchy in my eyes— but to imply that my cousin was in a willing relationship with the guy made my blood boil. Berry just turned eighteen, so while it’s all technically legal, it leaves a disgusting, vomit-taste on my tongue that some creep used his status as a teacher for this.
It wasn’t even worth a response. I push past four eyes and on to the next goal… I try to forget what on Earth Meeks was talking about, but the more I thought about it, the more it made some kind of sense.
It answered the question of why she was even here. “Talk about grades,” my ass, I’ve seen her report card. Sneaking in for a talk with her teacher? That sounds like something a bit more plausible.
Onward we go to wherever this strange ride takes us.
Post in: Lore
Topics: lore!!! gang!!!
Carmine Gumshoe
avengers crossover using my girl Strawberry "Berry" Cream Berry’s very vague gf is a friend’s OC who will not be elaborated on, thank you thank you, she is not the killer, get that out of your head rn
Trip Wire
Gdi, there goes my theory >:c
Crystalline Passage
She probably is Disclaimer: this is joke
Cally Ber
This is so very well written. The whole time I saw this in black and white with slow jazz, everyone talking like it's the 40s. Awesome job, Carmine. You never disappoint.
Carmine Gumshoe
stop being nice to me, i can’t handle it bUT AH THANK YOU