Seven Times

Levitating the tobacco pouch, I spilled a neat line on top of my paper. It was basically a day off for me, even though I was still in the office for it. My apartment wasn't terribly well furnished anyway.  I pulled the strings on the pouch to shut it with my magic and licked the paper in a single well practiced motion. The pouch was placed back in its place in my hat and a lighter was pulled out as I inserted the paper tube into my mouth. I clicked the device open revealing a small flame produced by a undying spell. I didn't muse on it. I do not muse on things. I swung my rear hooves up onto the desk and leaned back in my chair, replacing the well used gift in my brim and letting the hat it was secured to fall over my eyes. The smoke from the end curled up and around the brim, finally escaping somewhere around my ears. I gently blew the first puff out, sending the smoke down. I was relaxed. I was calm. Nothing could penetrate my silent revere. Maybe I would start on one of the many books that had begin to line my walls. I hadn't read any of the ones on the shelves, and the two on my desk had been read ten times  by now, even if it wasn't necessarily cover to cover.

“Mr. Eye, there is a Ms. Rarity here to see you.”

My teeth clamped together dangerously close to my cigarette. Naturally, the moment that I got calm there was a disturbance. Fine, my day off was shot. I swung my hooves off of my desk and pushed my hat up, quickly creating my myself into the picture of professional apathy. Reaching down with a hoof, I pulled open a drawer and grabbed a fresh notebook out, ruffling through the pages to ensure they were blank. The cross contamination of cases was mortal sin.

Ensured that I was well prepared to meet my latest femme fatale, I put my hoof to the closed circuit intercom that I had installed a few weeks back. When I pressed the button that was not my secretary’s voice I heard but an unfamiliar one, muffled by distance but there all the same, “-oh I know what you mean darling, they never seem to appreciate the work that goes into this kind of thing,” oh Luna help me she said 'darling.' This was going to be a long meeting. I cleared my throat into the intercom as a not-so-polite way of informing the two of them that I was ready to see the next potential client.

“Ah, it seems Mr. Eye is ready to see you Miss Rarity.” My secretary, Green Clover, was bar none the nicest mare I had ever met, and she had no qualms about telling me that bit of information revealed far more about me than it did her.

I released the button on the intercom as the door swung open to revealed what I considered a military grade weapon. A unicorn with a pure white coat and a finely cared for purple mane that fell almost to the floor. Of course this was just the base, on her body she wore what she probably considered businessware, but in my circles would be seen as little more than a shiny way to identify yourself as a large pile of money.

“I really do think that you could you an interior decorator in here,” Oh this was going to be fun, not five seconds had passed and she was already criticizing my taste in room layout. Not that I could blame her, it was just a bunch of books lying around, most of them still left in the mail packages that they came in...why was  I thinking about this? I did not care about this. I was a hard-boiled detective who did hard-boiled things like smoke cigarettes that I rolled myself and ignore ponies when they thanked me for not smoking and put ash trays in front of me. I did not think about interior decorations.

“But where are my manners? I am Miss Rarity, and you are Mr. Eye was it?” She took a seat in the chair across from me. I leaned on the desk willing myself to not treat it as a barricade between myself and Miss Rarity.

“Of course, you want to talk business,” her voice slipped slightly as her introduction bounced off of me with the same effectiveness as a muffin hitting a brick wall. After a moment of silence I shifted myself to look more interested as a signal for her to continue. “I need you to find five ponies and a dragon. They were friends of mine, and I would like to be able to have a little get together before we all slip away permanently.” She smiled at me. I tried to bore my eyes into the smile. It was like staring at a concrete wall, not one muscle was out of place. By Luna, she had a good poker face.

“I did a bit of digging, not literally of course,” Oh really? I couldn't tell. As if sensing my utter lack of humor, she had said it with a slight laugh causing my ear to reflexively twitch in annoyance under my hat “and know your normal fee for such a job. I am willing to pay you seven times that amount.”

I almost swallowed the cigarette in my mouth.

I was not a cheap colt. The fact that I always got the job done, discreetly, had given me a good reputation both above and underground. That gave me leverage, which I promptly turned into bits.

“Seven?” The first word out of my mouth and I sounded like a yearling. Wonderful impression Keen Eye, wonderful impression.

“Yes Mr. Eye, seven times your usual fee.” Leaning across the desk, she put her hoof gently under my chin and closed my mouth, “you should really take more care with that, darling, the expression on your face was not very becoming.” I didn't even realize that my jaw had dropped open.

Pulling myself together, I summoned what little dignity I had left and projected it so hard into my next statement that it almost made up for my prior performance by sheer force, “That's a lot of money to put together for a simple meet 'n greet.” I took a moment to look thoughtful and attempted put my mind in gear, doing the best I could to shove the voice gawking at the money involved to the back of my mind. The process was giving me some trouble. Scrambling, I went to a stock question that didn't mean much to buy some time, “what's the catch?”

“I'm not quite sure what you mean Mr. Eye,” she sent a slight smile my way that did not bounce off of me like a cupcake on a brick wall. My resolve was weakening. And what was worse, she knew it.

“Very few people are willing to throw around that kind of money for tracing down six individuals.” My mind had at this point managed to put itself back into working condition. She was slowly turning me into putty, and unless I gained control of the conversation there would be little that she could not get me to do.

“Well I can't give you much more than their names, darling.” She apologized, fluttering her eyes mercilessly. My ear twitched, and it was not in annoyance.

“Let's start there, ” the blank notepad flipped open to a page and my pencil levitated up to it. Years of practice kicked in and it started writing on its own accord without my conscious intervention. Yes, notes, information, I knew these things. For the first time in the conversation I felt my hooves hit solid ground.

She began to rattle them off, the pencil scribbling furiously as she listed the names, “Pinky pie, Fluttershy, Applejack Apple, Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, and Spike,” she paused for a moment on the last name, disguising it by taking in a breath before continuing, “All of them are mares, with the exception of Spike, he is a dragon.” Yes, you said that earlier. I could feel myself getting back in control.

“Oh don't worry, Twilight will know where he is.” She smiled coyly as she said this, taking back the reins. I returned a friendly smile, cold and apathetic as I could muster. The effort showed. “Speaking of Twilight, I know she was a prized pupil of Celestia herself for many years, and Applejack I suspect will be running her family farm, so that might be a fine place to start.” I continued to stare at her as my pencil scribbled down information at an alarming speed. “As for the others I can't imagine where they might be, although Rainbow Dash did always want to join the Wonderbolts.” Well those were fine little scraps of info to go on. I couldn't find my way to a soup shop let alone these six on this. But bits were bits and Rari-MISS Rarity has broken me down at that point. A moment of oppressive silence followed the finishing of the notes. For a time, we each sat, willing the other to flinch. My ear twitched.

“Well if that is everything, I shall take my leave darling, I do hope you'll be in touch.” She slid gracefully out of the chair she had been sitting in. A true mare through and through she was. I watched as she walked out of the office, the fine jewels covering her body moving back and forth hypnotically. She paused for a moment, a look on her face that I could not identify, “I expect that this will be done discreetly, if nothing else. I want the party to be a surprise.” The look vanished, being replaced by the smile That I knew only too well at this point. She continued her stroll out door and it clicked shut behind her.

A breath was released, and it took a moment for me to realize that it was  my own. I checked the notebook, satisfied that everything important was there. My cigarette had burned down to a nub, practically burning my lips. I snuffed it out in the well populated ash tray on my desk, the fact that I only got one drag off it sticking out conspicuously in my mind. By Celestia, I had even forgotten to smoke while talking to her.

Coming to terms with the fact that I wasn't immune to her charms and pocketbook, I assessed what I had, or more accurately what I did not, a disturbingly large collection of things that included a down payment. I swore furiously in the silence.

Sitting back in the chair, I lifted my front legs into the air again, placing them on the desk in front of me, reviewing what had just happened. I had just accepted a job from a mare named Rarity, who could mold me like putty in her hooves, for a ludicrous amount of money to find five ponies and a dragon who I had the names of, and some tidbits of information on half of them. My horn glowed as I pressed the butting to call my secretary without moving.

“Yes, Mr. Eye?”

“Do I have any appointments, sweet?” I had called her sweet for years, primary because I routinely forgot her name despite having her on staff for just under a century.

“No, Mr. Eye.” Not even a pause. Best secretary ever.

“Good, keep it that way, would you?”

“Yes, Mr. Eye.”

“You're a doll, sweet.” I hang up the phone and slumped backwards into the chair which had resumed its two legged stance. I had a nasty feeling that I was venturing into deep waters and didn't know how to swim. I went to put a hoof to my face, a bad idea that resulted in the chair toppling over backwards, sending me sprawling against the wall in an undignified matter.

The intercom crackled to life, “Is everything alright Mr. Eye?” Ah Clover, you really do care, don't you?

I used my magic to press the button for the second time in the last minute, “I'm fine sweet,” I responded in the most hard-boiled manner I could muster from an upside down position and a half crushed windpipe.

It wasn't very hard-boiled.

“Of course you are, Mr. Eye.”