# The Muffins of Madness, Chapter Two: Chapter 2 I got to Canterlot by airship, and by the time I landed it was almost sundown. I had dinner during the flight, some kind of vegetable soup. The food here is all vegetarian; one of the hardest things I've had to get used to. I don't mind it so much anymore, but there are days I could kill for a decent cut of steak. The rest of the ride I spent going over the case so far in my head. It seemed straightforward: young mare gets knocked up, wants to track down the rich father and make him pay. But that was the problem. The job was too simple. She didn't need to come all the way out to Applewood, any other detective could handle a job like this at half the price. Why hire me, specifically? Who gave her my name? Maybe you're just overthinking it, Marlowe. I found a room at the Hotel Coronet, not far from where I got off the airship. A long time ago it might have been a classy place, but now it was a worn-out shell with dirt between the floor tiles and chipped paint on the walls. The clerk was a tired old unicorn stallion with a dull brown coat and a red-brown mane the same shade as the countertop. He was the kind of guy who looked like he'd fade into the background if he stood still long enough. He took my name and passed me the room key without so much as a word. His daughter had a little more personality, and was easier on the eye. She had the same light brown coat and red-brown mane and tail, but on her the colors made me think of chocolate mousse instead of dusty old countertops. She didn't give a name; she just introduced herself as "the bellmare." She looked the part, too: she had on a bright red vest with a white shirt and black bow tie, and a little red cap on her head. Her cutie mark was a pink heart with a call bell in the center. "Never mind that, I can manage," I said as she began to levitate my suitcase. "It's no trouble at all, sir!" she insisted. Despite my best efforts the suitcase was wrenched out of my hand, and we started down the hall together. "Your room is on the third floor, end of the hallway on the right," she said as we approached the staircase. "You've got a very nice view of the street from your window!" From what I'd seen of the neighborhood so far, I didn't think there'd be many nice views no matter what part of the hotel I was in, but I kept that thought to myself. I had the impression that whatever charm the Hotel Coronet might have was thanks more to her efforts than to her old man. "Been in Canterlot long?" I asked as we tromped up the stairs. "All my life, sir! Is this your first time visiting?" I confirmed that it was. She helpfully gave me a quick rundown: the city was laid out in terraces, divided by canals fed by the waterfall that came from higher up the mountain. The main part of the city was a single circular terrace, divided into six districts and bisected by a road that started at the Palace and ended up in the hills somewhere. The hotel took its name from Coronet Terrace, north of the main terrace at a lower level, close to the airship docks. "I have a map if it helps you," she said, floating a folded piece of paper from one of the pockets of her vest. "The layout can be a little confusing if you've never been here before." "Thanks." I slid the map into my jacket pocket. "You know the town pretty well then?" "Perfectly well, sir." "Ever hear of a guy named Prince Blueblood?" I thought I noticed a hint of curiosity in her eye, but she had a pretty good poker face. "He's one of the Royals, isn't he?" "Is that what he is? I thought 'Prince' was his first name." My charm bounced off of that customer-service smile like hail on a sidewalk. It was all business with this one. "The Royal Family is very old, and there are a lot of branches to it," she explained, "but Celestia and Luna are the ones who rule Equestria. Since they're immortal, succession isn't really an issue, so the other titles are mostly honorary." "I see. Have any idea where I might find him?" "Prince Blueblood?" she paused in the middle of the hallway, running through her mental file cabinet. "Well, I think he has an office at the Palace, so you could try him there. He also has a villa somewhere in the hills, I know that much. It's near the Sparkle mansion, I think." "All right, thanks. Is this the room?" We had stopped outside a door at the end of the third floor hallway, the number "316" on the door in raised gold lettering. "Sure is!" I was about to put the key in the lock when it was suddenly levitated out of my hand. The door swung open, and the bellmare led me into a small, simple room. It was old and shoddy, like the rest of the hotel, but someone had done an admirable job of keeping it clean. I had a feeling this was the bellmare's doing as well. She set my luggage down on the bed and returned the key. "We serve breakfast in the morning until ten," she said pleasantly. "Dinner service usually ends at sundown, though. We can probably do a sandwich for you if you're hungry--" "Thanks, but I already ate," I said. "Here." I reached into my pocket for a bit, but the bellmare shook her head politely. "No need for that, sir." She turned to go, but paused when she reached the door. "You probably won't have much luck if you go to the Palace," she said. "He does have an office there, but I don't think he uses it much. You might do better if you tried him at home. Or at one of his clubs." She was starting to sound like she knew Blueblood personally. It made me curious, but I didn't expect to get anything out of her if I asked. "What clubs does he belong to?" I asked instead. "The Weymouth Club, I think," said the bellmare, staring thoughtfully at the light fixture on the hall ceiling. "Also, a lot of the Royals are in--" She cut herself off suddenly. I frowned. "Something the matter?" "What? No, it's just...I was trying to remember the name of another club. I remember a lot of the Royals were involved in it a few years ago, but I...well, I'm not even sure it's around anymore." "Just to satisfy my curiosity, you remember what it was called?" "Nope, sorry." The customer-service smile was back in place, and I didn't think I could get past it again. "Well, thanks for the information." "You're quite welcome, sir! Will there be anything else?" "No, I think that takes care of me for now." "Let us know if you need anything else!" And with that, she spun around and trotted out into the hall. The door swung shut behind her. I sat down on the bed and lit a cigarette while I let our conversation sink in. The Weymouth Club, eh? That was probably worth looking into. The villa in the hills sounded like a good lead as well. I looked out the window. The sun was long gone and the twilight was starting to fade; it was probably too late to do any real sleuthing. My conversation with Prince Blueblood would have to wait until morning. In the meantime, I reasoned the Pegasus Mail office should still be open, so I wrote out a quick message to Derpy Hooves on some hotel stationary I found in the desk drawer. I let her know that I'd arrived in Canterlot and had found a couple of leads I was going to follow up on. I noticed there was a phone on the desk as well. Phones are odd devices in Equestria, powered by some kind of embedded magic. I don't quite understand how it all works, but in practice it's close enough to what I'm used to. Not every town has them yet, though. I wasn't sure if Derpy would have one, but it stood to reason there would at least be one somewhere in Ponyville. I made an addition to the note I'd written: "If you can get to a phone, you can call me at the Hotel Coronet, Coronet Terrace, in Canterlot. I'm in Room 316. Evenings are best. Leave a message with the bellmare if I don't answer." That was probably good enough. I folded the note and went back into the hallway. The hotel seemed pretty quiet; guess it must not be a big tourist season. Either that, or it's not the kind of joint where people stay checked in for very long. Or ponies, rather. I headed downstairs to the lobby. I was hoping for the bellmare again, but instead her curmudgeonly father greeted me at the counter. "Got an envelope?" I asked. He grunted, and dipped his head under the counter. He emerged a moment later, an envelope floating in his horn aura. "Thanks." I took it and headed out the door. Canterlot was situated halfway up the side of a mountain, and the climate was a nice change after the heat in Applewood. Once the sun went down, though, it got downright chilly. I headed in the direction of the Pegasus Mail office I'd noticed on the cab ride here. At the counter, a sea-green pegasus wearing the standard brown delivery uniform took my letter and my express postage and gave me back a receipt. She told me the message would be in Ponyville by morning, and then promptly shut her window. Looks like I'd made it there just in time. On the corner outside the Pegasus Mail office was a newsstand, so I grabbed a copy of the day's paper. I noticed a peculiar headline: "Cutie Mark Killer Still At Large." "Would you like anything else, sir?" A sky-blue unicorn with a light pink mane was behind the counter, beaming up at me with the same customer-service smile that had looked so good on the bellmare. "Yeah, a fifth of Everfree Mist and a pack of Camels, if you have any," I told her. She floated me up a glass bottle and to my mild surprise, a small pack of cigarettes. For as long as I've lived here I've never met a pony who smoked; cigarettes are mostly imported from Saddle Arabia for the benefit of creatures who do. When I'd moved to Applewood it had taken forever to find a shop that carried them. Outside of large cities they can be nearly impossible to find. They call them 'Camels' here too; small world, eh? One of my first surprises was that ponies can make just about everything humans can, and have made them. It's just the little differences that take some getting used to. Cigarettes have a weird carroty flavor that bothered me at first. They make their whiskey too sweet; about the only brand I've found that tastes anything like what I'm used to is Everfree Mist, so I stick with that. Equestrian brandy is made from apples instead of grapes, and they don't call it brandy. It's called "applejack," named after a pony who apparently invented it, and from what I gather the entire supply comes from a single farm outside Ponyville. I turned back towards the hotel with my purchases. The last bit of evening light had gone, the stars and the moon were out. The streetlamps had come on, along with the colored magical lights and signs that let you know the less-reputable establishments are open for business. The more things change. Coronet Terrace hadn't looked like much to me so far, and the streetlight didn't improve it. Cabs went to and fro, pulled by gruff-looking stallions, carrying inebriated ponies between saloons and gambling joints lit by magic in pink and green and yellow. On the street near the hotel, I spotted a knobby-kneed teen-aged earth filly, green mane and yellow coat, wearing high striped socks and some kind of gaudy-looking saddle I doubted her mother would like. She didn't look like she was out there to sell Filly Scout cookies, and the older unicorn she was talking to didn't look like he was there to buy any. He had a tan coat, with his black mane oiled back. Gold rings around his front hooves. Dark tie, coal black jacket, pinstripes, hat to match. Gangster suit. The more things change. I passed close by them on my way to the hotel steps. The stallion must not have liked the cut of my jib, because he looked straight at me with a smile that said I should mind my own business. When he pulled his lips back I noticed he had a gold tooth to match the rings on his hooves. I also noticed that he had a strange black pin on his lapel, shaped like some kind of squid or octopus. I walked by him with a look that told him I could make anything my business, and I could mind it just fine. Then I was up the steps, and he went back to buying his cookies. The lobby was empty when I stepped back inside the Hotel Coronet; it looked like the grumpy old unicorn had turned in for the evening. A call bell sat on the counter in his place, along with a neatly-written sign informing me that I should ring for service. I went up to the third floor instead. Back in my room, I opened the window and let out some of the stuffy air. On the bathroom counter were some drinking glasses. I poured myself a slug of Everfree Mist and sat down by the window, sipping slightly-too-sweet whiskey and smoking carrot flavored cigarettes. I cracked open the newspaper I'd bought. The horses' language gives me a bit of a headache; they write everything in some half-backward script that I still have trouble reading. I can make out the basics, though. It sounded like Canterlot had a serial killer on the loose. Went after mares, and left the bodies at random locations around town, horribly mangled. The more things change. There was something curious about it, though: all the victims were blank-flanks. The horses in this place all have these special symbols on their hindquarters, called cutie marks. Each individual's mark is different. Children don't have them, they come in when they get older. The victims in these crimes weren't children, though; they were all fully grown. Somehow, the killer had managed to erase the marks from his victims. That chilled me. Each pony's mark is unique, and is connected to their destiny somehow. I've been here for two years now and I still don't quite understand how it all works, but I understand that a cutie mark is something deeply personal, something beyond the physical. Something like a soul. For that to be erased... The paper wasn't very comforting bedtime reading, so I threw it away and poured myself another drink. I listened to the sounds of Coronet Terrace, let the crisp night air fill up the room. Tomorrow I would go and see Prince Blueblood, and find out if Miss Derpy Hooves had been telling the truth about Dinky's parentage. If she was, I'd see too it that the Prince took responsibility for his little foal. If she wasn't, I'd bill her for two days at double-rate plus travel expenses. Either way, I was looking forward to blowing out of Coronet Terrace as soon as possible.