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All That Glitters (Closed: MysteryFlare)

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Aspen Ray loved his job. How could he not? He got to solve mysteries! And catch bad guys! And, and...give directions to tourists! Detectives could do so many amazing things! 


....at least, he could, once he was promoted past intern...


But nevermind that! He would still be Equestria’s first ever Kirin detective! He threw himself happily into his work,  and did every job his superiors asked. Except his mentor wasn’t looking too happy right now. Donut Steel hovered in the doorway, and looked from Aspen Ray to the papers stacked all over the desk. He raised a brow questioningly.


Aspen just smiled proudly. “Look, Sir! I organized the papers like you said!”


“I see that,” Donut said, walking over to study them more closely.


“And I watered the plants! And adjusted the blinds the way you like them! And I got lunch too!”


A smile did grace Donut Steel’s face at that. “That’s real nice of you, Aspen. Dunno, uh, what we’d do without you around here. I appreciate it! But...” he pointed a single hoof at the papers. “How did you organize these, exactly...?”


“By smell!”




“Right! That pile smells all musty, and that one is fresh, and that one kinda smells like water damage, no idea what happened there. And so on! Oh, should I put sticky notes to label them? I should have thought of that earlier, hold on and I’ll do it now-”


“No, Aspen, that’s uh- that’s all right, you don’t need to worry about it!” Donut Steel gestured frantically to Aspen Ray, barely fighting a sigh of relief when he paused halfway to the supply closet. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about some reports we’ve been getting.”


Aspen gasped, wheeling back to Donut so fast he nearly crashed into a ficus. “Is it a crime? Do we get to do a mission? Can I come? I love crimes! I mean, investigating them! That’s what I meant!”


Donut took a seat at his desk, nudging aside the...sorted...papers. “One, please try to never say that in public. Please. Two...yes. They said three more creatures came in last shift with something stolen. And not a lot in common between them. All the spoons from the Creamery, a weatherpony’s journal, an older yak gentleman’s suit. And that’s just today.”


“I see where this is going!” Aspen Ray took the other seat across the desk, shifting in excitement. “We’re gonna catch the perp together! You and me, like a team! When are we starting? Where are we starting? Do I need to bring anything?”


“Slow down just a little, there. We’re just going to go around and ask around if anypony has seen anything for now, and talk to the victims. I’d like for you to take some notes for me as we go.“


Aspen Ray didn’t respond right away. He didn’t for long enough that Donut started really wondering if he should say something, because Aspen and quiet did not normally go together. Then, the Kirin beamed. “A real mission...” He leapt back out of his chair, dancing his hooves joyously. “I can’t believe it! I’ve been waiting for this day all my life! Sir, thank you so much, I’m going to be the best note-taker-person-thing you could ever have, I promise you! I’ll go wait outside!” And just like that, he was out the door and down the halls, before Donut could even get a word in edgewise.


Donut Steel let himself sigh this time. Figures. And he was looking forward to that lunch, too... 


He found the sandwich on the shelf by his desk and took it to the reception area. “I’m breaking to eat,“ he told the receptionist. “Kindly tell Aspen if he comes back in and asks. Tell him he’s doing good work and to watch for anything suspicious while I finish.”


And who knows? Maybe the kid would see something.

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She counted them once. Then she counted them twice. Then she counted them a third, fourth, and fifth just to be sure. The clocks sat there like clocks and nothing else, a steady tick-tock click, click, clicking. Every arm was in synch. They were an army, as monotonous and buzzing as any bee hive but not nearly as sharp or stinging. (Most of them anyways.)


The clocks struck eight. A flock of little wooden birds sprung into the morning air, trilling and a flutter. All in working order, she noted approvingly, even though her ears were flattened against the shrillness. 


...almost all of them. 


She had twelve clocks for sale. Each was lovingly made, artesian, hoof-crafted, brass pegs, shiny varnish, and intricate carvings that laced the sides, cradled the clock face as lovingly as nest eggs. Each was uniquely carved: monstrous and dark evergreens of the Everfree Forest made a beautiful frame accented with gold; applewood from the famous Sweet Apple Acres farm was whittled and chiseled into a red centered heart, home to a needle felt cardinal; weathered wood from the Dragonlands became a pillar, stark and sharp and cornered, and on and on. 


Her prized creation came from a brief stay in the Crystal Kingdom, trading with a glass blower. Colored glass translucently revealed the meticulous inner workings of a miniature chapel, complete with its own bell tower that would ring upon the hour. 


And now it was gone. She questioned the grass and the sky and her cart. She questioned the wind as it blew aimlessly.  


So, Cuckoo Maran did the only sensible thing anypony would do: she ran back into town screaming. 

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Aspen stood at the door, head held high, scanning every passerby. Hoofington wasn’t near as big a town as its neighbors, but the crowds could still be fair depending on the time of year and day of the week. On a weekday like this one, most creatures were at work or school. But quiet wasn’t the same as dead, and there were still plenty of possible suspects to observe. A trio of Hippogriffs trotted by at one point, their gem fragments dangling shiningly at their necks. Not an unusual sight. Even since returning to greater Equestria, they were often still drawn to seaside locales, reluctant to ever truly abandon one world for the other. Then, a Unicorn stallion perhaps on his way to an optometrist, going by the haphazardly bandaged brim of his glasses. An Earth Pony mare. A pair of Yaks.


Any of them could be their suspect. Or the next victim. Who knew what the thief would snatch next?


...Because seriously, he had no idea. An absurd number of spoons, a suit, and a journal? What did those things have in common at all?


He didn’t really get a chance to think about it though, because a scream pierced the air, and he whipped his head around to find the source. Somepony was running down the street yelling at the top of her lungs. A mare, he could tell, and not much else. He jumped out into the street and waved, calling out. “Excuse me? Ma’am? Ma’am! Slow down, what’s the matter? Do you need help?”



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The screaming grew louder. Not coherent, but louder, like the verbal equivalent of a stampede. 


Then the answer hit him - in the form of a unicorn mare.


Or, really, she slammed into him, hooves scrabbling and skidding on mist-damp bricks as they fell in a tangle of limbs, mane over tail. 


She apologized, sincere for a fraction of second, if that, before a wild, fur on end edge crept back into her voice. “Did you do it?!”

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Aspen’s head spun a bit from the impact. More than a bit. He was pretty sure he hit his horn, too, cause that familiar feeling of pins and needles wiggled its way down his spine. Not fun. “Uh, hi there, I think you’re standing on my tail,“ he started by way of greeting, still very upside down on the ground with a not at all happy looking lady standing over him. What did she just say? ’Did you do it?’ Huh?


“...You might need to be a little more specific cause I’ve done a lot of things. Let’s see, I sent Mom a letter earlier this week, I ate a pancake for breakfast, oh, when I was a foal I won my school spelling bee, you should’ve been there, it was a lot of fun, then there was that time...oh, you don’t mean anything like that, do you.” He scrabbled his hooves on the pavement and tried to wiggle out from under her, and oh look at that, people were staring now, too. He managed to at least turn over and look up at her. “I’m a detective! Mostly. Almost. Anyway! If you tell me what you mean I can help probably! Unless I can’t, but I’ll try! Please don’t hurt me, my boss wouldn’t like that.”

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