Double Entry was not having a good morning in my Equestria dreamscape. He was standing on the front porch of his house trying to figure where his morning copy of the Ponyville Express was. Unfortunately it was not an uncommon problem for him since the pegasi stallion who delivered the morning paper seemed to possessed no sense of aim. In fact Double Entry was certain that all he did was fly over the houses on his route and dropped them from whatever height he was at. Assuming that as long it landed somewhere on the customers property his job was done.
Unfortunately this meant that one often had to fair bit of searching through the bushes, hedges, roof and lawn just to get the morning news. Even more infuriating was when one discovered that the paper had landed in a puddle of standing water ruining it. So it was that this morning found the Mayor's Accountant rummaging around his garden looking for his copy of the morning paper. It hadn't rain last night, but the town received its first snow so not only was it cold outside but the white shape of the newspaper was trickier to spot. He was just about ready to give up and just read the copy at the town hall when he spotted his copy resting over by his dormant flowerbeds. Finally! Now he could go inside and warm up with a mug of coffee.
As Double Entry lowered his head to pick up the paper he noticed something laying under one of his low bushes. What was that? The earth pony stallion picked up the morning edition in his mouth and went over to examine the alien object. He had left his glasses inside so he had to get close to clearly make it out. Suddenly he bolted upright, dropping the paper as he galloped back indoors. A mug of coffee and the morning paper were the last things on his mind now.
Fluttershy heard the door knock as she was cleaning up after giving all of her animals their morning breakfasts. It was the pegasus pony Sweet Wind. The violet mare was obviously distressed and informed Fluttershy that the Mayor had asked if she could come into town immediately. There was matter that needed her expertise concerning animals right away. Baffled the butter yellow mare grabbed a long mauve scarf and then closed up her cottage and flew off with Sweet Wind into the brisk morning air.
There was a large crowd gathered around Double Entry's front lawn when Fluttershy and Sweet Wind arrived. The two pegasi mares kicked up a small clouds of snow flakes as they flared to land, Fluttershy looked around confused at the gathering of ponies standing in the cold morning air. It was not a festive gathering. In fact the crowd appeared to be generally worried and were discussing something with the Mayor. Noticing Fluttershy's arrival the Mayor broke off her conversation with the other ponies and trotted over. "Oh Fluttershy! Thank you for coming so quickly. It has been a rather chaotic morning ever since Double Entry came galloping into the Town Hall with his discovery." "Um, Mayor what discovery are you talking about?" Asked yellow pegasi. " All I know is that Sweet WInd said you needed to talk to me right away." The Mayor nodded her head causing her pearl gray mane to bob. "Yes, of course, It is right over here. My accountant discovered it this morning while searching for the morning paper. When he saw it he immediately came and got me. I will warn you though it is not a pretty thing, but with your knowledge of animals you were the first pony I thought of." Fear flickered over Fluttershy's eyes teal green eyes for a moment. Then she closed them and took a long slow breath when they opened again she had a more professional demeanor to her. "Okay, lets get this over. Show me." She said.
Under the bush was the body of a rabbit. As Ponyville's chief animal and wildlife expert Fluttershy recognized the male rabbit from his dark chocolate brown fur as one who had lived just outside of town called Little Hops. The rabbit had been dead for several hours since it was already rigid from the freezing temperatures. The first thing that Fluttershy noticed was large puncture wound in the throat as if a large spike had been driven into the poor creature. Also it appeared as if something had carefully split the ribcage open along the sternum. Fighting the rising queasiness in her stomach she continued her examination of the scene of the attack. Several things struck her as odd.
She was able to trace Little Hops footprints within about six feet of the bush, but she was unable to determine what had attacked him. She could find no tracks from a predator pursuing the little rabbit. She came to the conclusion that the attacker must have been hiding nearby in the bushes and lunged out to ambushed the little guy. Unfortunately the area around the bush had been trampled so thoroughly by curious ponies that any tracks or any useful information she could've used had been destroyed. Then there was the lack of blood. Having lived in on the edge of the Everfree Forest and being very knowledgeable in the animals of the forest she had come across many carcasses from attacks. Very often the ground around the body would be soaked with blood. But even carefully digging under the snow produced none. It was as if something had sucked the rabbit almost dry before cracking open the chest cavity. Once it had cracked the rib cage the attacker was apparently a picky eater since it ate only the heart, liver, and kidneys but did not touch any of the other muscle tissue or organs in the body. Also the attacker had been a very neat eater since scenes like this are usually covered with tufts of fur of feathers from the predator tearing them off the body. There was none of that.
As Fluttershy was examined the scene when a question suddenly formed in her head. Searching the crowd she found Double Entry who was standing nearby and talking with the Mayor and a couple of his neighbors. "Um, excuse me. Sir! Um I have a couple questions for you." "Yes," asked the Dover Gray stallion. Fluttershy took a moment to construct her next question. "Um, is your bedroom in the front or back of your house?" "My bedroom windows is right there." He pointed to pair of windows not more than twelve feet from the bush where the body laid. "And you heard nothing unusual or alarming last night?" Asked the pegasi. "Um, you weren't waken by any sounds during the evening? Any sounds of an um, oh, a struggle or screaming?" "No, young mare I heard nothing." Said middle age stallion. " I had pleasant nights rest last evening. Why do you ask?"
Fluttershy lowered her head and pawed the snow with her right front hoof for several seconds before looking up again at the Mayor and Double Entry through the pink bangs of her long curled mane. "Well, uh, it is just that when a rabbit or hare is attacked, injured or really scared they usually produce a very loud, high pitched cry. Even with your windows closed, um it would have been very loud and disturbing, but you said you heard nothing. That means whatever killed Little Hops did it so quickly that the little guy never got a chance to scream." The mare shivered a little and not just from the cold morning air. "Mayor can you do me um, a favor and inquire with Double Entry's neighbors and see if they heard anything last night? I want to look at the area around the body again."
This time Fluttershy took to the air and hovered about twelve feet above the bush where the corpse was. Sweet Wind hovered over to where Fluttershy was. "Whatcha looking at it from up here for?" Asked the violet mare. Fluttershy did not look at the other pony, her attention was solely on the ground beneath her. "Well, um sometimes when one of my animals wanders off um, into the forest I find it easier to uh, spot patterns of movement from above than from the ground." She sighed. "So many ponies have walked around the body that determining what actually attacker was is impossible. The ground is a trampled, so I was hoping if I started searching over a wider area I might find out where the attacker came from and what it is."
Slowly flying in an ever increasing circle away from the body Fluttershy continued her search. Her eyes intently focused on the ground and bushes looking for any sign of where the attacker would've entered or exited the front yard. A print in the snow or dirt. A broken twig or signs of a body passing through the bushes that bordered Double Entry's property. She even looked for signs of scat or tell tale traces of musk marking denoting that the attacker had marked this territory as its own and it planned to return and dine further on the carcass. Nothing. Even with the area trampled around the body she thought should be able to find some tracks from the attacker. She found nothing but pony hoof marks of all sizes. She was able to trace Little Hops path onto property and that was all. She entertained the idea of the attacker being a large owl but discounted that theory since attacks like that often produced slide areas where the momentum of the attacker carries both it and its victim forward from the initial point of contact, and even with the trampled ground she saw no sign of that. Besides unless they swallowed it whole owls were not neat eaters. Her orbits were now taking her off of Double Entry's property and into road and adjoining fields but still she could find nothing unusual. Once again she was able to pick up Little Hops path across the road and into a grove of trees nearby but that was all. This was bothering her more and more since felt that she knew every type of predator that lived in the Everfree Forest and the adjoining countryside, but this assailant was foreign to the butter yellow mare. Even more surprising was that the attack took place not in some remote outlying area but almost in the middle of Ponyville proper.
After about forty minutes she was no closer to determining who or where the attacker had come from. At this point she was out of ideas and she noticed the Mayor was waving for her attention. She hoped that maybe the Mayor had had more success than her. As she landed next to her she already knew that the answer was no. "Sorry Fluttershy dear." Said the Mayor. "I asked all of Double Entry's neighbors on both side of the road and no one heard a thing last night." The Mayor thought for a moment. "Fluttershy dear is possible that the Little Hops was not killed last night maybe it happened a day or so ago?" Fluttershy shook her head. "No Mayor. I um, can trace Little Hops tracks through the snow all the way across the road and into that grove of trees." She pointed with a front hoof. "We did not receive any snow until last night which would've cover these tracks. Besides if Little Hops was um, killed a day or so ago I would expect to find signs of decomposition. Even with the cooler weather we've recently experienced it would've happened." Fluttershy sighed and hung her head. "I'm sorry I have not been of much use to you." The Mayor shook her head. "On the contrary dear. You've been very helpful. This is a very serious matter now" Fluttershy shook her head slowly. "How can you say that? I have been unable to determine where or what the attacker was that killed Little Hops." The older grey mare just smiled at her. "Exactly, and that by itself tells me a lot." Reading the look of confusion on Fluttershy's face the Mayor elaborated. "Dear you are the most the knowledgable pony in the area when it comes to animals. Therefore if you are not able to identify what it was that killed that rabbit then it most likely something that we should be concerned about. I need to go talk to the crowd and Double Entry. Then I am going drop by the Library and see if Twilight can come out here and see if she can find any magical clues to this mystery. Now I don't like asking this of you, but after Twilight comes out and see the body and where it was found can you make certain that Little Hops gets buried properly?" Fluttershy nodded and the Mayor wandered off to address the crowd. To be continued.