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Literature
Fox on the Run: Chapter 8
Chapter 8: Alway's Judys
Judy turned her head to the side, following the EMC’s guiding paw on her chin. She winced as disinfectant-soaked cotton swabs dabbed the gash behind her ear. She didn’t realize at the time, but that fall from the bike left a little road rash on the back of her head. Judy did not notice until the adrenaline from the chase began to subside.
The squirrel dressed in medics who tended to her wounds finished applying a grey bandage to her head and gave her work a quick double check.
“It won’t need stitches, which is good news since we don’t have to shave your fur,” said the medic, who packed away her tools. Judy thanked her luck that she would not be partially bald for the foreseeable future. “I want you to take it easy on your shoulder, though. If it continues to hurt, come in to the clinic at General, we’ll fix you up.”
“Thanks,” said Judy, trying her best to sound cheerful.
“Anything
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Literature
Fox on the Run: Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Who Are You?
"Fast forward a little bit," Judy told her co-worker as they both peered at the monitor. "She said it was after school, so probably around 3:30."
Judy and Fangmeyer had hurried back to the precinct after questioning the former Mrs. Terrence Wiskberg. Judy wasted no time finding Francine, and the two of them began digging through the surveillance camera footage at the train station. Fangmeyer had split up from them to avoid being seen in the precinct as a group. Judy asked Clawhauser to keep a sharp eye on Bogo's desk to make sure they would know if he left his office, on the off chance that he stumbled across the two of them conducting public espionage.
"We're looking for two ocelots, right?" Francine asked.
"Yes, mother and child. She'll probably be wearing something fancy since it was a Friday afternoon," Judy said. While she did not share Chelsey's taste in fashion and couture, it would make it easier to spot her in a crowd. That was the whole idea of
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Literature
Fox on the Run: Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Dr. Wiskberg
Judy and Fangmeyer were the second group to arrive at Flake's that day for 'lunch'. When they arrived, Pops simply nodded his head towards the back corridor and Judy and Fangmeyer made their way to the back room. When they walked in, Clawhauser and Francine were both discussing something over a box of bear claws.
"Hey!" Clawhauser greeted them. "Any good news?"
"We have a new lead, but I'd rather wait till Wolford gets here. Any word from him?" Judy asked.
"He said he was on his way not too long ago. The feds must be done with him and Grizzoli if they're letting them just wander off for lunch," Francine commented.
"That's good," Fangmeyer said. "If they're done, that means they've found something.
"In the meantime, Clawhauser, why don't you tell me what the chief has been up to?" Judy asked.
"Well, at first nothing. Perhaps he was expecting you to need a moment before breathing down your neck, all things considered. But this morning he came by asking for
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Literature
Fox on the Run: Chapter 5
Chatper 5: Softball
Waiting was always the worst part of any case. The majority of cases needed some kind of lab work in order to confirm evidence that would hold up in court. On the one hand, it could come as a welcome respite from a case that Judy had otherwise wrapped up. On the other, it could be a painful waiting period that kept her from finding their suspect sooner. In either case, she and Nick almost never made an arrest or pressed charges until the lab could confirm their suspicions, and that could take anywhere from a few hours to days.
 
The lab rats received tons of work to filter through from the crime scene at Spitz’s house, so they would likely be working through the night as it was. When Judy showed up with a single strand of fur, there was hardly enough time to explain herself.
 
“Please, I just need to know what you can tell me from this,” she asked.
 
“Officer, do you have any idea how buried we are right now?” the
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Fox on the Run Story Cover :iconjohnsoneer:Johnsoneer 80 8
Literature
Fox on the Run: Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Spitz
Judy sat quietly at her desk scrolling through arrest records. She peered at the screen closely, crossing off non-matches for this 'Spitz' character that Finnick mentioned. As her search turned up no leads thus far, her mind began to wander back to her conversation at Flake's. She had a team now, and that changed the nature of her investigation from the ground up.
 Back at Flake's
Judy finished explaining everything she knew, sparing no details, even about their pillow-talk with Nick the night before. Once she finished, her coworkers looked at her hesitantly.
"I know it sounds far-fetched," Judy said. "But knowing Nick, this is exactly the kind of thing he would do."
"So let's say we catch them, then what?" Francine asked.
"Dart everyone within a ten-yard radius and bring them in for questioning?" Wolford suggested.
"We need to make contact with Nick first. If the bombs are already in the city, then arresting Pumar might just push his buyers to a
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Literature
Fox on the Run: Chapter 3
Chapter 3: The Crafty Devil
Apparently roll call did not last much longer after she left the bullpen. Judy didn't make it past four strides into the lobby before hearing a familiar concerned voice call for her.
"Judy!" she heard Clawhauser say from behind her.
"Gotta go, Benny. Sorry," she said without turning. Judy was eager to start hunting down Nick and was not in the mood for any condolences from her coworkers. A moment later she felt Clawhauser's paw on her shoulder stop her abruptly. She turned around to find the chubby predator somehow right beside her.
"Woah," she breathed.
"Cheetah," he said, gesturing to himself. He leaned over and put his paws on his knees, speaking softly to her. "Listen Judy, I know what you're going to do and I want to talk to you." Judy frowned.
"You can't stop me Clawhauser," she said softly.
"I know. Please, just . . . here. Let me walk you to your cruiser," he said a bit apprehensively. He looked at her with a hopeful smile as they began to slo
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Literature
Fox on the Run: Chapter 2
Chapter 2: The Ultimate Con
Judy sat quietly in the cold steel chair in the interrogation room running her thumb over the picture of Nick with the wanted criminal. It still felt unreal somehow, as if she were watching a film or a performance contained into one picture. Nick’s shirt was unbuttoned, revealing a graphic t-shirt he wore underneath with a faded but colorful logo on it. He was looking up towards the canopy with his paw on the sliding door, as if concerned about being spotted. Judy’s other arm remained strapped to a machine showing variations in her heart rate and blood pressure as one of the ZBI agents threw more questions at her.
“Have you any knowledge about Officer Wilde’s connection with Victor Pumar?” the moose asked.
“I told you already that I had no idea who that mammal was until a few minutes ago,” she said bitterly.
“Please, yes or no answers only,” he reminded her.
“No,” she said sternly. The
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Literature
Fox on the Run: Chapter 1
Chapter 1: And He Was Gone
Judy quietly scrolled through the article on the tablet in her lap as she sat upright in bed. She scratched her chin lightly as she continued to look over the horrifying photos from the attack on the other side of the world. The images on screen were terrible enough, but she knew only the tamest could be published in the news. There were likely real horrors from the tragedy she would never see. As she read she huffed a heavy sigh, one that was loud enough for her roommate to hear.
"I know you're still awake, Carrots. I can hear you caring," Nick called out from the kitchen. She rolled her eyes and peered up from her tablet to see the fox make his way into the bedroom, tossing an apple between his paws.
"Things aren't looking any better in Griño," she said sadly, turning her tablet towards Nick who leaned over the bed frame to take a closer look. He frowned and shook his head.
"That country has been on fire for a thousand years," he commented. "Not
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Literature
Contraband: Part 5
Judy sat in the precinct break room where the TV replayed footage of Jaeger's arrest on ZNN. Blue and red lights flashed onto a creamy-white jet that was refused takeoff clearance. Jaeger walked with his paws in cuffs in a dignified fashion towards the backseat of the chief's cruiser, escorted there by the buffalo himself. The news anchors continued to repeat what information they had, which was hardly the full story. She hoped that this particular case would not lead her in front of cameras again. That did not end up well for her first case.
She sighed with disappointment, as she was not the one to make the arrest. However, part of her felt like it would be difficult to take satisfaction in arresting Jaeger. Something about his sincerity when he apologized to her, before trying to kill her, left a bad taste in her mouth. At the moment, she was not sure she would be in any mood to gloat anyway.
She almost died, and that fact shook her a bit. Being cops, it was pretty customary to be co
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Literature
Contraband: Part 4
Judy was in early the next morning compiling evidence and filing a report on the previous night's events for the Chief. Unsurprisingly, she was relentless with the details. She listened to the audio tapes of her conversation with Jaeger over and over again, paying close attention to anything that could reveal more. But after a few hours of analysis, the case seemed to cool down for her. Nothing they had thus far was incriminating of course, but she began to realize it was not particularly suspicious either. She groaned rubbed her brow as the morning quickly vanished and she yearned for a break when the phone on her desk rang.
"ZPD, this is officer Hopps speaking" she said, calmly scooping up the phone.
"Hi Hopps, it's Clawhauser. I've got a package at the front desk waiting for you," Benjamin said, with a slight giggle.
"Huh, I don't remember ordering anything."
Clawhauser laughed again, "Oh I don't think you did, honey-bunny."
With that, he hung up and Judy made her way to the lobby.
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Literature
What Goes Around
The bus rocked to one side as they rounded a corner near the outskirts of the Meadowlands in the northern-most part of Zootopia. Wolford and Delgato were vibrantly cracking jokes about last-year's trip a few seats in front of her. To her side, Higgins and Pennington were politely exchanging small talk about family life with kids and schools and whatnot. Towards the front sat Nick, who had the rapt attention of four other officers explaining a very embarrassing story about how her first case led her to questioning mammals in the 'Secret Palms Oasis' naturalist club. The officers surrounding him threw their heads back in laughter as he described the way Judy recoiled at the sight of an elephant instructing a yoga class.
Laugh it up, fuzzball, she thought. She could not contain the wicked smile on her face as she peered at her partner from a few rows back with firey determination. He went too far on his last practical joke, and now was about to experience bunny-flavored vengeance.
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Literature
The Long Version
Nick was nervous. It was not a feeling that occupied him frequently so it did show on his face, if one was paying attention. As smooth and collected as he could appear, Judy could always tell. His mouth would smile but his eyes stayed wide open instead of the usual half-lidded smirk he wore as often as his dress-shirt.
"How am I doin' so far?" he whispered to her as they continued through the burrow.
"Quit your fussing, sweetheart. You're doing just fine. Just relax, be yourself, and don't eat any of my brothers or sisters," she jested.
"Carrots!" he hissed as a few of her younger siblings, who heard the exchange, looked up at Nick with wide nervous eyes.
"I'm just kidding guys!" she reminded them, before turning back to Nick. "I honestly think they like you. It'll be hard for them not to stare because I don't think we've ever actually had a fox in the burrow before."
"Well good, cause these hallway ceilings are trying to kill me," he muttered. The Hopps Family Burrow was expansive on
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Literature
Getting the Point Across
The door to the small house opened again, and the protective fox peered outside using his incredible vision to see through the night, carefully searching for any more of them. He spotted the broken window to his left, and the scorch marks around the door where they had blown their way in, but no movement. His car was still parked across the street where they left it, and right now it was their best option. The door swung open the rest of the way and Nick emerged with Judy's paw in his, leading her towards the car.
Her breath shook and her feet wobbled a little, clearly having a hard time keeping balance. Her eyes were still wide, but now the only lights she could see were the distant glows of the skyscrapers above them. She was cold in her sleeping clothes, and she clung to the briefcase in her paw tightly, but neither of those facts seemed to dawn on her. Nick led her to the car and settled her in before climbing in himself and setting off quickly, the rear tires giving a squeak as th
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Literature
Contraband: Part 3
Judy and Nick got the biggest earful from Bogo on record. The shouting lasted so long that when they finally emerged from his office, Fangmeyer, Higgins, and Clawhauser were standing outside the door their performance. Clauhauser even kept time, saying it was a new precinct record.
The house burned all the way down, along with any evidence it had and the neighboring houses on either side. When Bogo told them to go covert, this is not what he had in mind. The damages were massive and while their evidence was strong, it was all gone now. All they had to go on now was a party that night and the name 'Jaeger.' It was hardly much to work with, and certainly not worth destroying half a city block for while nearly leaping to their deaths. It would take some time to get Judy's samples back from the lab, so they had to operate under the assumption that there was meat at the casino and they would have to catch the culprit that night.
Judy and Nick sat at their cubicles back to back scouring thei
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Literature
Contraband: Part 2
The next morning Judy had to explain to Chief Bogo why it was nearly noon and her partner had not shown his face at work yet. It was a difficult task since all she got from him this morning was a text reading 'Hold down the fort' and he did not answer any of her calls since. He was going to be nose-deep in paperwork for being this late, but if he didn't show up soon with a good explanation, he could get in real trouble, perhaps even suspended.
Judy propped her forehead up by her paws on her desk with a groan. Harsh words would soon become a shouting match if he did not show up soon. She spent the morning going over the case file to distract herself. The information was sparse but unusual. The casino that was raided was in the northern part of the rainforest district, far away from city center. McHorn had compiled evidence for weeks before the bust, but nothing on the list lead him to suspect meat was being served there. All the supply was frozen and packaged with no label, and there wa
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I work with numbers all day. As a creative outlet, I write stories, and I happen to love writing in the universe of Zootopia. You can find all my stories here, or on Fanfiction.net as well as Archive Of Our Own.

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Hello dearest readers. 

As I mentioned on my other postings for chapter 8, this latest chapter for Fox on the Run will serve as the end of Season 1, if you like to think about it like that. I've exhausted my buffer and my poor beta readers need a break. I'll spend the next few weeks or so drafting out the next few chapters and refining them down so that I'm not publishing anything rushed. 

Be on the lookout for more chapters next month. And for my followers, you can expect a little teaser on my Deviant page before the next chapter goes up.

Cheers.
Chapter 8: Alway's Judys

Judy turned her head to the side, following the EMC’s guiding paw on her chin. She winced as disinfectant-soaked cotton swabs dabbed the gash behind her ear. She didn’t realize at the time, but that fall from the bike left a little road rash on the back of her head. Judy did not notice until the adrenaline from the chase began to subside.

The squirrel dressed in medics who tended to her wounds finished applying a grey bandage to her head and gave her work a quick double check.

“It won’t need stitches, which is good news since we don’t have to shave your fur,” said the medic, who packed away her tools. Judy thanked her luck that she would not be partially bald for the foreseeable future. “I want you to take it easy on your shoulder, though. If it continues to hurt, come in to the clinic at General, we’ll fix you up.”

“Thanks,” said Judy, trying her best to sound cheerful.

“Anything for our blues,” the medic added and then turned back towards the ambulance that was parked by the front steps of the Natural History Museum.

Police tape was drawn around the entrance, and a lingering crowd surveyed the scene, not that there was anything to see anymore. A few mammals were treated for mild scrapes or bruises sustained while clearing a path for the suspect on the motorcycle. Judy herself was likely the most injured mammal after the whole ordeal. Her shoulder ached, especially when she rolled her arm backwards, but no damage was permanent. She was more concerned about the pile of reporters snapping photos of the crime scene.

Up to that point, the investigation had been a complete secret from the public. While the greater details of the threat remained under wraps, thank heavens, a dramatic and loud chase in the busiest part of town was sure to catch the press’ attention. Anytime there was an ongoing search, the press would run headlines endlessly until they had more to go on. Before she could investigate out in the open, but now she had to worry about probing questions, since she was the one who watched the suspect ride away. She winced again, thinking about what kind of earful she would get from Chief Bogo.

“Not feeling too stricken I hope, Officer Hopps?” a voice asked her. She groaned, not bothering to stand to greet him. She recognized that uppity voice all too well.

“Thank you for your concern, Agent Savage,” she said, her voice dripping with disdain.

“Haven’t lost your bite, have you?” the striped bunny asked, folding his sunglasses into his coat pocket.

“Only my suspect,” she said before leaning her forearms on her knees in a slump.

“Yes, I’m aware,” Savage said. “I don’t suppose you have any idea where they went?”

“Just check the traffic cameras,” Judy suggested, though she suspected it was fruitless since he was asking her.

“We have. Traced the suspect to The Meadows, where they disappeared. The press is aware that the suspect got away and are now on a fox hunt with the description of the rider and vehicle, though it will do little more than make good television.”

“I’m not sure what other use I can be to you, Agent Savage,” Judy said with an exhausted shrug.

“As of now? You likely won’t be,” he stated coldly. “But knowing about the escape route through the subway would have helped a great deal. That was before you let the suspect disappear.”

Judy frowned and furrowed her brow at the goading remark. Agent Savage’s face sported the same vague indifference he usually wore. His paws were in his pockets and his suit was still neatly pressed.

“If you came over here to rub my face in failure, you’ll need to wait for me to wash the concrete off of it first,” she fired back at him with contempt.

“I know your type, Hopps,” he said, folding his arms over his chest. “I don’t need to rub your face in failure. You’ll likely take care of that for me.”

“Then why come over here?” she asked.

“Because I’m curious,” he said, and knelt down a little, resting his arms on his knees and looking her in the eye. “Where were you before this whole mess started?”

“Investigating a lead,” she replied honestly. “Down by the Docks.”

“Did you find anything?” he asked with an eyebrow raised. “Remember who you’re talking to when you answer.”

“No. We searched a vacant building and gave up right before I heard you call out for backup.”

“Hmm,” he pondered. “From the docks to downtown in less than 90 seconds. I could argue that as reckless.”

“Reckless? I jumped off a bridge in front of a speeding motorcycle and you’re commenting on my driving?”

Agent Savage relented and stood back up, apparently satisfied with her snark.

“I suppose I simply expected more from one of the ZPD’s best and brightest,” he said with a sigh.

“And I expected the ZBI to know how to set up a perimeter,” said Judy. “Are you going to tell me who we were chasing today?”

“No,” he said, and made a move to leave. Judy rose to her feet and stopped him.

“I’ve complied with your interrogations out of professional courtesy, Savage. The least you could do is show a little in return,” she growled.

Agent Savage stopped and turned on his heel, facing her with haughty annoyance.

“I am well aware of that badge you have on your chest, Officer. But the one I’ve got in my pocket means I get to ask the questions. I decide what you know and when you know it. So you will just have to keep offering your oh-so-gracious ‘professional courtesy’ until I decide you’re ready to know more.”

Judy held her back straight and her eyes focused. She was a statue depicting the ideal professional police officer. However, internally she was debating the number of ways she could mop the floor with this pompous rabbit in a physical altercation. She wished she could be like Nick and not care what kind of badge he had in his pocket. He always spoke his mind, and even if it got him into trouble, it seemed satisfying.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” she said through gritted teeth.

“Leave the suspect to us, Hopps,” he said, resuming his scowl of disinterest.

“Of course,” she said, more as a remark of frustration than a reply to his statement. Agent Savage turned to leave again and waved a paw over his shoulder at her.

“Don’t worry, Hopps. We’ll get him soon enough,” he called out.

“Her,” she answered back.

Agent Savage froze. His shoulders softened their slump and his ears perked in the most subtle way. If she weren’t a bunny herself, she might have missed it. He took a moment to continue staring out towards town square, quietly digesting her statement, before facing her again.

“I beg your pardon?”

“The suspect,” she replied. “It was a vixen. White fur, blue eyes, mid-to-late twenties.” Judy was finally able to take a bit of satisfaction that something she said got to him. She was unsure of whether it was a good idea to share the information with him, as any advantage over Savage’s team was crucial. But in that moment, she enjoyed knowing something he didn’t.

After another moment of staring straight at her, Judy expected him to follow up with more questions. But he did not. Instead, he slowly turned and walked away from her again without another word. Judy was left standing on the steps to the Natural History Museum with a look of stark unease on her face. As much as she wanted to see Jack Savage flustered, something about it did not sit right with her.

Her phone rang before she could think any further on him. Judy quickly pulled it out and noticed it was Wolford. He and Fangmeyer had gone back to the Docks to take another look at the car outside the storage building they raided earlier that day.

“Did you find anything?” Judy said as soon as she answered.

“The car’s gone.”

“What?!” she barked into her phone.

“Yeah, Fangmeyer and I showed up a minute ago and it vanished. The storage unit is no different either. All I could pick up with my nose is a mammal I don’t recognize, fertilizer, and a damp rag on the floor.”

“Do you think they could have been close by and took advantage of how quickly we got out of there?”

“Could be. My guess is that they have a close watch on the traffic cameras and got spooked when we came into this part of town. In any case, we’re down a lead. Should we put out an amber alert for the car?” Wolford asked.

“No,” Judy said with a sigh. “We can’t do that without asking the chief first, and the ZBI would certainly know what we’re up to then.”

“So what’s the play?” he asked.

“The fertilizer and the new mammal might be important, so stay there and see what else you can find,” she said, making sure she was out of earshot from any ZBI agents at the scene.

“Gotcha,” he said confidently. Judy frowned, then quickly raised her phone back up to her ear.

“Wait, wait! Wolford?” she bumbled.

“What’s up?”

“The rag, you said it was damp?”

“Yes?” he said, seeming a little unsure of what she meant by it. “I already gave it a good sniff. Nothing odd about it.”

“Is it dirty? What does it smell like?” she asked quickly. A moment of silence went by as Wolford presumably gave the rag in question another good sniff.

“Doesn’t smell like soap or any chemicals. Just some dirt and a little tree pollen, like someone used it to wipe down a countertop or window.” Judy could hear the confusion in his voice so clearly she could practically see him waving the cloth around in frustration.

“Ok. Is there a kitchen in the storage house?” she asked.

“Hmm. Hold on,” he said, the phone going silent. She was in and out of that unit so quickly that she could not recall seeing one herself. In the back of her mind, a voice told her she was getting desperate, hoping to find a clue out of a rag. The other voice told her that even the most mundane detail has a story behind it.

“Huh,” Wolford said after another moment. “No kitchen, but I just tried the sink in the bathroom.”

“And?”

“Nothing! I doubt there is even water in the toilet, though I’m far too scared to open that thing up to check.”

“Then where did the water on the rag come from?” Judy wondered.  “You said it smells like someone wiped off the window with it?”

“Yeah.”

“Could they have wiped off a car instead?” she asked. Judy was pacing now, walking in tight loops and recursively asking questions like an eager journalist.

“That would explain the pollen smell. Hopps, there are black marks on one side in straight lines like they used it to dry off the windshield wipers,” Wolford realized. “They definitely used this on a car.”

Judy stopped her pacing and looked out over the city. From the center of town, one could see down the lengths of the avenues that connected all the separate districts with Savannah Central as the heart of the city. Judy was looking straight down Amazon Avenue that led northwest.

“How does a car get wet?” she asked rhetorically.

“Rain,” Wolford followed along.

“And where is the only place it has rained in the past week?” Judy was looking at the answer from across town, where Amazon Avenue vanished into the thick undergrowth of giant trees and winding roads.

“The Rainforest District,” Wolford confirmed. “Hopps, that part of town is overflowing with traffic cameras!”

“Which means I am headed back to the precinct to start checking them. We have a time window and a license plate, so that’s all we’ll need.”

“Shit, Hopps, remind me never to try to hide something from you.”

Judy actually laughed and bid her coworker goodbye. With a few more swipes of her phone, she ordered a delivery of kale and beet salad, and a large fig and root bowl for Francine. They would need their spirits if they were going to watch cam footage for the rest of the night.






“Thanks so much for dinner, Judy!” Francine said cheerfully from her cubicle. Judy commandeered the cubicle beside her so they could search as a team. She needed to bring her smaller keyboard and mouse along with her, otherwise she would be dancing on the keys with her feet. Francine’s upbeat attitude was a welcome change of company from the conversation she had with Agent Savage several hours earlier.

The night dragged on with no luck thus far. The canopy in the Rainforest District was positively lousy with cameras. One would think that would be the last place Nick would decide to establish an emergency HQ. But in this case, the cameras were a double-edged sword. Even if they could find where the bad guys were hiding, they had access to the same camera network she did. If the police mobilized and stormed the place, they would be long gone by the time they got there.

At that moment, however, Judy would have been grateful to catch a single car just to save her from staring at her computer screen any longer. The black sedan they were after was so mundane it blended in all too well with the city traffic. The slightest loss of focus might mean she’d miss it. There were many entrance roads into the Rainforest District, and they had to watch each for a one-hour window. Even if Francine's help made it half the time, they still had twelve more cameras to check between them, and it was already very late.

“How about some coffee?” Judy asked as she tapped the pause button.

“We’ll need it,” Francine admitted, “but not quite yet. I don’t want to burn out before midnight.”

“Thanks for helping me with this, Francine,” Judy said with a smile.

“Oh, don’t mention it. I feel bad I wasn’t able to help out during all the fun this afternoon,” Francine jested, referring to the chase with the mysterious arctic fox.

“Fun,” Judy echoed, “is one word for it.” Without thinking, she began rubbing her shoulder gently.

“How’s it feel?” Francine asked, noticing her partner nursing her injury.

“My shoulder is still angry with me, but my head feels fine. I’m just thankful I won’t have to go bald on one side of my head to get stitches.”

“Hey,” Francine said with her arms crossed. “What’s so wrong with not having any fur?” That made Judy snicker. Her laughs soon bubbled louder as she began leaning over her knees and supporting herself. The joke was only mildly funny, but Judy’s laughter was full and genuine. After a few days of constant stress, it was a welcome respite.

She finally breathed and looked back up to her coworker, who was smiling down at her.

“Sorry,” Judy said after a moment spent collecting herself. “It’s been a long day.”

“No worries, Judy. I’m glad your shoulder’s okay. You said it was an arctic fox on the bike?”

Judy nodded and turned back to her screen, resuming watching the cars drift in and out of her monitor. “She was good, too.”

“Good?”

“She was capable. She outmaneuvered me, even when I had the drop on her. Not to mention she’s the only suspect to ever escape custody during a midcity 10-80. I feel like an idiot for ever thinking Nick could ride a motorcycle at all, let alone like that,” Judy confessed.

“It’s weird how we haven’t heard about this fox yet,” Francine said. “We know more about Pumar than we do about her.”

“What we know about Pumar so far came from Jack Savage, but he’s been unwilling to give me anything more,” Judy grumbled.

“Did Agent Savage know anything about the fox?”

Judy wondered that as well. She thought back to her conversation with Agent Savage in the interrogation room, after his colleague finished questioning her while strapped to a lie detector. He seemed like he knew everything about the case aside from where the suspects were. He was generous with the information he gave her, but that was likely because he wanted her on his team. Now he was worse than a spiteful sibling on the Hopps farm.

“He did seem a little weirded out when I told him about the vixen,” Judy remarked.

“I thought I remembered something about a white fox from a while back,” Francine wondered aloud.

“We get arrest reports on foxes all the time,” Judy sighed, resting her chin on her paw. “Chances are you saw a white fox or two when you filed them.”

“Yeah,” Francine agreed. “I see so many records and reports, it’s hard to keep track.”

Judy watched closely as more cars came and went from the tunnel between Sahara Square and the Rainforest District. She could not get the image of that vixen out of her head. Judy was exhausted from the chase and had run as fast as she could to try to catch the suspect. But when the vixen removed her helmet, she looked almost calm and not even out of breath. It was like the act of taking off her helmet was more annoying than being chased by police.

Whoever she was, she knew the city and she knew how to move. Most thieves and assailants thought they were ready for a fight, or that they were fast enough to outrun the police. But their vanity was always their downfall, especially when they underestimated Judy. She was always in tip-top shape and ready for anything the city threw at her. This was the first time she ever considered herself outmatched by a crook.

Judy shook her head, not daring to feel sorry for herself. That vixen pulled a cheap shot by hurling her helmet at her by surprise. She was not going to get away with a trick like that next time.

“Ok, that’s it for this cam. I’m going to stretch for a minute before I start the next one,” Francine said and rose from her seat. Judy felt the ground shudder a bit as the massive elephant placed her feet on the ground.

“Ok,” Judy called out as she turned back towards the screen.

Truth be told, Judy was spent as well. The previous day could be described as a long one, but today’s antics were beyond exhausting. She found it hard to believe that she chased down a dik-dik with Fangmeyer that same morning. But despite the pull on her eyelids, Judy was happy to be spending time getting slightly closer to finding Nick rather than going home. Her apartment felt foreign to her without him there.

Judy sighed as her thoughts drifted to Nick. She was glad he was not shot, but she was furious with him still for putting her and her coworkers through everything. Above all, though, she missed him. There were only a handful of cases she ever tackled without him, and even then she frequently called him up to bounce ideas off of his brain while he was still training at the police academy. His presence was always a reassurance that even when things got difficult, he would be there to help her. Ever since her first case, when Chief Bogo demanded her badge in front of most of the precinct, Nick was there to stand up for her. She had only ever seen the end of her rope a few times, and every time Nick was there to pick her back up.

She knew she loved him. She always heard the old phrase ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’ and used it as a mantra for being thankful for the time she spent with him. She knew if they ever separated, it would be difficult for her not having him there. But to actually experience it was something more painful. Mammals talked about heartache all the time, especially in sappy music or romantic films. One thing she was not prepared for was the nausea. Thinking about him in danger with two, now three, dangerous criminals on all sides made her sick to her stomach. Thinking about being alone in their shared apartment made it even worse, and no sappy song ever started with ‘I feel like puking’.

The timestamp on Judy’s monitor finally pinged and signaled for her to move on to the next camera. She sighed and paused the screen, allowing herself the brief and beautiful moment of rest by propping her head up against the table and laying on her forearms. Fatigue could change even the most harsh of surfaces into the flocculent comfort of a familiar pillow. She worried for a moment that she might fall asleep. Even if she did, Francine would return soon and wake her up. All she needed was a quick breather.

Breathing in slowly, then out her nose calmly, unwelcome thoughts of Jack Savage’s tone seemed to flee from her mind as the air eased from her lungs. In again and out again, and the endless fight for details and clues stopped clamoring her brain. In once more and out once more, and the fearful thoughts of missing Nick and bombs going off began to ease their grip on her consciousness. She breathed in one more time, and she was out.





Chief Bogo stood by the window of his office with his hooves tucked behind his back. The early morning sun was still very yellow as it cascaded through the blinds and across the room. His face did not change expression as his guest waited for a response from him. The cape buffalo sighed, wanting anything but to be police chief in moments like this.

“There’s nothing else I can do for her,” the chief admitted.

“I know. I’m sorry, David,” his guest said softly. Bogo was grateful to hear his name from a familiar voice again.  

“I don’t suppose we’ll get a reason out of her if we asked,” he pondered.

“Would you want it, even if she did?”

“No,” Bogo said softly. “I suppose not. But I need your best guess. When that little team started up, you promised to keep an eye on them for me. What do you think she was looking for?”

“I honestly don’t know, David,” she said. “Up till now, everything was more or less by the book.”

Bogo raised a hoof up and lifted one of the blinds. He peered through the opening out towards the parking lot where ZBI agents spat back and forth at each other. They were a group that did not like surprises, something Bogo shared in common with them. When they came into his office minutes earlier, neither party was in good moods.

“Things are different now,” Bogo said, turning away from the window. “The public is going to catch onto this investigation sooner or later. If the press learns of an impending bombing, it might spook the attackers into acting faster. We’ll need to find them before that happens.”

“And if Wilde continues to run?” she asked.

“Then catch him,” he said simply as he sat down at his desk. “He’s dug himself into the biggest hole I’ve ever seen. If we catch him now, perhaps he can use that sly tongue of his to only lose his job. But if he keeps running, we’ll need to assume the worst.”

“Please, David, you know that fox well enough to know he’s not a murderer. And he’s certainly not willing to kill for money of all things.”

“Hmf,” Bogo grunted. “I thought I knew all my officers before this week. Now I’m not sure what to think anymore.”

“David,” she started, folding her arms over her chest. “I know this is different than anything we’ve seen before, but you trust me, don’t you?”

“Of course I do, Kanya,” he said firmly.

“Well, I trust Hopps, and I also trust Wilde. No bombs are going off in this city on their watch,” she said confidently. “You just need to have a little faith.”

“This is more than ‘a little faith’, Kanya. We’re betting the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of innocent mammals, on a fox not being a con artist.”

“We’ve worked together for nearly 30 years now, and never once have you questioned the resolve of one of our own. Don’t tell me you’re starting now.”

“Ugh,” Bogo groaned again and rubbed his snout with his hoof. He pinched his brow and frowned. “You really believe Wilde is still our own?”

“No,” Kanya said and smiled a little. “He was never one of ours. He was always Judy’s.”

“What if you’re wrong?” Bogo said sternly.

“I’m not.”

Chief Bogo sighed and looked over the files on his desk. The ZBI left them for him to peruse, confident he wouldn’t find anything to help his officers out of the mess they’d dug themselves into. The evidence was solid, and Internal Affairs would know soon enough. He looked up to his coworker and friend with regretful eyes.

“Keep an eye on Hopps. She won’t take too kindly to what’s about to happen, and if we’re wrong about Wilde, she’ll probably do something stupid like get herself killed,” Bogo ordered.

“And the others?” she asked.

“They know what they’re getting into. The mistakes they make from here on out are on them.”

“Alright,” she said, turning to leave. Bogo watched as his old friend walked just as confidently as she ever did, despite things turning sideways. She was always the one who remained calm when things went south. He never had to remind himself that she was their first choice. It always made sense.

“Officer Fangmeyer,” he called out one more time. Kanya stopped and turned to look at her old friend again. He pointed a demanding finger at her and glared, trying his best to earn the stars on his collar.

“Catch that fox,” he said sternly.

“Yessir,” she said, and left.






“Hopps. Hey Hopps, wake up,” Wolford said as he lightly nudged Judy’s shoulder. She groaned and slowly opened her eyes, only to wince them shut as the daylight blasted her brain with its unwelcome brightness.

“Wolford?” she mumbled as she lifted her head up from her pillow. The crick in her neck reminded her that she spent the night asleep at her desk, and she noticed that her pillow was actually just a pile of papers arranged in a light tan folder that offered little in the way of comfort. She did, however, feel a nice pressure from her shoulders. She noticed a ZPD tundra coat draped over her shoulders like a thick duvet. The extra fabric spilled into the corners of her cubicle. It must have been Francine’s, Judy thought.

“What’s going on?” she asked, rubbing one eye. Wolford looked at her with a solemn expression.

“Francine has been placed on administrative leave,” Wolford said.

“What?” Judy whispered. Her eyes and ears were now at full attention, and any remaining drowsiness fled from her features. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” he confessed. “Higgins is escorting her out now.”

Judy wasted no time shuffling the warm coat off her shoulders and began running down the hallway towards the lobby. When she got there, she immediately noticed Clawhauser wearing a somber look on his face as well. Officer Higgins walked alongside Francine with a hoof on her back. He gently guided her along towards the exit, where he would drive her home in the back of his cruiser.

“Francine!” Judy called out as she leapt beside her elephant friend. “What’s going on?”

“Oh,” Francine said with a little jump in her eyebrows. “Hi, Officer Hopps. Sorry, but it’s personal business and I’ll be home for a little while.”

“Francine, please, tell me what happened,” Judy argued. Francine did not look down towards her. She simply continued walking under Officer Higgins’ guidance.

“Thanks for your concern, Officer Hopps, but you really shouldn’t trouble yourself with me. After all, we’ve never actually worked together,” Francine said with a slight shrug of her shoulders. Judy stopped with a puzzled look on her face as she watched Francine slowly make her way to the doors and out of sight.

Administrative leave usually sounded like free vacation to those outside of the department. An officer accused of brutality or excessive force was often placed on administrative leave, which usually got the public upset because they were being let off easy. The truth was that the only difference between being on house arrest and administrative leave was the ankle bracelet that sent the cops coming if you strayed too far. She couldn’t leave her house, she couldn’t communicate with friends or family, and she would stay there until whatever investigations underway were completed. The idea of Francine being punished for anything was ludicrous to Judy.

She noticed Chief Bogo standing beside her now, joining her gaze at the doors where Francine vanished into. She turned to the chief and shook her head.

“Why, Chief?” was all she could say.

“There is nothing I can do, Hopps,” Chief Bogo explained. “The ZBI have evidence of her accessing classified files on their server late last night. They have camera footage in the building of her loading unauthorized documents from one of the ZBI’s computers. We still don’t know what she was looking for, but it’s out of my hands now. Internal Affairs will take it from here.”

The ZBI’s temporary office was on the third floor of the building. They set up shop there with all kinds of secure servers and equipment to help them track Pumar. Judy turned and looked upwards towards the third floor offices where the ZBI were stationed.

Leaning up against the third-floor railing and looking out over the lobby was Jack Savage. He was wearing the same stoic look of indifference he usually did. His gaze was directed towards Judy, making it very clear that he was watching the scene unfold from his perch.

After staring at her for a lingering moment, he gave the railing a satisfied pat and turned away.
Chapter 7: Who Are You?

"Fast forward a little bit," Judy told her co-worker as they both peered at the monitor. "She said it was after school, so probably around 3:30."


Judy and Fangmeyer had hurried back to the precinct after questioning the former Mrs. Terrence Wiskberg. Judy wasted no time finding Francine, and the two of them began digging through the surveillance camera footage at the train station. Fangmeyer had split up from them to avoid being seen in the precinct as a group. Judy asked Clawhauser to keep a sharp eye on Bogo's desk to make sure they would know if he left his office, on the off chance that he stumbled across the two of them conducting public espionage.


"We're looking for two ocelots, right?" Francine asked.


"Yes, mother and child. She'll probably be wearing something fancy since it was a Friday afternoon," Judy said. While she did not share Chelsey's taste in fashion and couture, it would make it easier to spot her in a crowd. That was the whole idea of expensive clothing, after all.


"Try the other platform," Judy said, scratching her chin. Francine tapped the keyboard and the screen flashed to the next camera over, showing tracks three and four. The platform was packed with wayward mammals heading to and from various places. A few were hugging and greeting loved ones while others were exchanging goodbyes.


"A little further forward," Judy suggested, and they forwarded the footage by ten minutes. A new train was at the station boarding, and Judy finally caught what they were after.


"There!" she said, pointing to the spot where an ocelot was holding her son's paw in one hand and her smartphone in the other. "Ok, hit play."


Francine tapped the keys again and they both watched as the seemingly preoccupied mother guided her son towards the train. She took one glance up, confirming the train, track number, and timing before kneeling down to her son's level. They talked for a moment, likely going over what he needed to do once he got on the train. She pointed to her cheek, and her son leaned up onto his tiptoes and gave his mom a quick kiss before heading towards the open doors of the train with his backpack buckled on tight.


"Pause it there," Judy said, and Francine tapped the spacebar with her trunk. "Show me all the cameras in the building at this timestamp."


With a few keystrokes, the screen split up into 12 frames, each containing a frozen image of the crowd at the train station in various locations. The screens were likely a little small for Francine to really see any details, but to Judy, each image was larger than the TV her family shared back at the Burrows. Her eyes quickly darted from one image to the other, scanning each for anything suspicious.


"What are we looking for?" Francine asked sheepishly.


"Terrence bought that ticket for his son. If you were going to set bombs off in a public place, what would you do first?" Judy asked.


"I'd make sure my loved ones were safe," Francine said, nodding.


"Exactly. And since our informants have described him as nervous, I bet you he would need to see it for himself," Judy reasoned, moving on to the next camera. There was also the chance that he trusted his ex-wife to handle the simple job of getting her son on a train, but she doubted Chelsey could be described as reliable. What was more likely, and it pained her to think about it, was that Nick had shown Terrence the same footage she was currently looking at as a way to gain his trust. He did, after all, steal credentials for the traffic cameras.


"Is that him?" Francine asked, pointing to the screen on the bottom right corner with her trunk. Judy focused in on the spot and noticed a predator leaning over the balcony that overlooked both platforms. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, which was suspicious on a hot day, but he was faced away from the camera.


"Play it."


Francine hit play and they watched as the hooded figure looked out over the crowd. Chelsey was already on her way out of the station before the train had set off. More passengers continued to wander onto the train as the conductor called the train's destination and departure time.


"Hopps, something's been bugging me about this guy," Francine said as they both watched the scene play out.


"What's that?" Judy asked, not tearing her gaze from the screen.


"This Terrence guy, he bought chlorine from Nick's informant, right?" Francine asked, and Judy nodded. "Well, I was on Zoogle earlier looking at how chlorine bombs are made. They're pretty common for science classes to get kids interested in chemistry, but they are not that explosive. Even with a load of the stuff, it wouldn't be as powerful as the bomb they set off in Griño."


"Yeah," Judy remembered. "That was my reaction as well. My brothers made one when we were kids out of a plastic bottle, and all it did was pop like a small firecracker."


"Granted, it might still be dangerous if they get enough. But if Pumar's buyers are paying big money, then they won't take anything less than C4 or something similar."


"Maybe Nick is planning to con the terrorist organizations with a cheap dud rather than a risky plastic explosive," Judy guessed. Francine certainly had a point, and she doubted even Nick would be bold enough to swindle terrorists with a mammal like Pumar looking over his shoulder. However, her attention at that moment was not on chemistry, but rather the hooded figure on the screen. Even if Terrence was in on the scam, the possibility of blowing up his own son was probably too risky for him to leave to chance.


The train doors finally closed, and a moment later the train began to move. The hooded predator watched the train depart for a few seconds before turning to leave. Judy saw his eyes shift from side to side as he made his way through the crowd.


"That's him!" Judy exclaimed. The face on the screen was definitely the same as the one in the photo she carried in her pocket. He walked with purpose towards the exit of the train station and out of the camera's view. "Follow him."


Francine switched cameras again, and this time they watched as Terrence walked out of the station and towards the pickup area where cars and cabs waited to take mammals into town. He made his way towards the edge of the curb and, as if the timing were synchronized, a black sedan drove up to the curb and the door opened up for him. He got in and the car immediately drove off. Francine switched to another camera as the car made its way through downtown. Judy waited until they could find a good angle to see who else was with Terrence.


"Stop there!" she nearly shouted, looking at the screen with wide eyes. The car was in the middle of a dense intersection, and both occupants were clearly visible. The passenger was Terrence while the driver was Pumar.


"That's our mountain lion," Judy realized.


Victor Pumar looked none too pleased about chauffeuring Terrence around town. His scowl was visible even with the shoddy resolution from the traffic camera. But if Terrence was his supplier, then he could easily strong-arm the wanted terrorist into helping him make sure his son was safe. No Nighthowlers, no bombs, no money.


"Let's see where they went," Francine said, hitting play again.


They continued to follow the car as it snaked its way through downtown and up towards the southern parts of the city. Judy could catch glimpses of Pumar from time to time as they drove along. Something about his glare disturbed her, even though he was simply driving. His eyes were piercing and his paw gripped the steering wheel as if it were holding something of value to him.


It took a moment for her to realize it was disgust she was seeing on his face. Perhaps Terrence was talking his ear off or the car stunk of something fowl, but Judy couldn't help the feeling that Pumar was disgusted by the city he was driving through.


"They're heading to the Docks," Francine noted, leaning forward in her chair. "The cameras are either broken or nonexistent out there. We might lose them soon."


Scat. This was likely no accident. There were plenty of areas of the city not covered by the traffic cameras, but Nick would know exactly where each of those would be. She watched as they took one turn down Iris Boulevard, and Francine tapped the spacebar with a sigh.


"That's as far as we go," she said sadly. Judy was disappointed she could not see more, but there was still plenty to work with from what they found.


"Run the plate," she said confidently as she jotted down the number on her notepad. Francine quickly switched her applications from the traffic cameras to the automotive registry and pulled up a query page. Judy read the plate number aloud and Francine fired the number into the system. They got their answer in seconds.


"Registered black sedan to a John S. Cooper. The address listed is right in that area," Francine stated.


"John S. Cooper," Judy pondered, putting a paw to her chin. There was nothing particularly suspicious about a simple name, but a sedan being registered to a mammal they had not heard about did not sit right with her. "Hmmm. What does the 'S' stand for?"


Francine quickly pulled up the owner's profile and found the full legal name in the corner.


"Slick?" Francine said, raising her eyebrow. Judy's eyes shot open, and she could not fight back a smile as she gazed at the screen.


"That's Nick! He must have pulled some strings to get that car registered in a fake name at the DMV. You're positive the address is in that neighborhood?" she asked Francine frantically.


"It's just a few minutes from where we last spotted the other two on the cams," the elephant confirmed.


"This is it! Nick has led us right to him and he's got Pumar and Terrence in the building!" Judy exclaimed, giving an excited hop before reaching for her phone and dialing Wolford's number. It rang three times, and each felt like an eternity for the bunny.


"Talk to me, Hopps," he said a moment after he picked up.


"Wolford, are you with the ZBI?" she asked quietly.


"No, they relieved me and Grizzoli after lunch," he said.


"Do you have non-lethals on you?"


"Only my tranq and the taser with a few cartridges. No armor or riot gear."


"That'll work. We got a hit on our fox. Meet me and Fangmeyer at the top of Iris Boulevard near the docks. What's your ETA?"


"Uhm . . . I'd say 12 minutes, but 4 minutes if I come with the lights and siren on," he said.


"No sirens, we need to keep them surprised. We'll meet you then."


"Now we're cooking with gas!" Wolford exclaimed, and Judy hung up the phone.


"Keep your radio ready," Judy told Francine as she began to make her way out of the cubicle.


"Wait, shouldn't I go too?" Francine asked, looking around to make sure no one was eavesdropping on them.


"There is still a chance they're not there, so we can't risk having the whole team in one place so the ZBI doesn't get suspicious. Even if they are there, I'm sure we can handle them," Judy replied with a confident smile.


Judy had not felt so gleeful in days. She knew where Nick was, she knew who was with him, and they had no idea she was coming. The best part was that the ZBI was none the wiser. All she needed to do was catch two perps and bring Nick in, which was nothing she could not handle, especially with Wolford and Fangmeyer. The hard part then would be clearing his name, which she hoped he had a plan for. She smirked and furrowed her brow.


That fox better have a good reason for this mess.




Judy checked then rechecked her belt. She had her tranq on one hip and a police-issued taser on the other. Her cuffs, light, radio, phone, and Kevlar vest were all where they needed to be. Her two teammates stood on either side of her, checking their own equipment by their respective cruisers. Once they were all satisfied that their gear was in order, they huddled around Judy's car.


"We don't know for sure that they're in there," Judy began, "so we can't call for backup until we know they are. Fangmeyer, that'll be your responsibility. Wolford, if we don't see anyone, we'll need your nose to go to work."


"What if they are in there?" Wolford asked.


"Then they won't see us coming. Pumar and Wiskberg should be considered armed and lethal, but it's four on two so we can play this by the books."


"Four?" Fangmeyer asked.


"That's assuming Nick is in there with them. If he's not, don't save your darts. We need them both in cuffs, not necessarily conscious."


"What happened to 'by the book'?" Wolford asked with a skeptical eyebrow.


"Agent Savage said himself that 'by the book' for terrorists means shoot first, ask questions later. Only difference here is we won't be firing bullets," Judy explained. "The door is open so we won't need to breach. Watch the corners and stay sharp. You guys ready?"


Wolford gave his tranq a yank and cocked it back before looking at her with a confident smile and nodding. Fangmeyer also nodded and kept her own weapon holstered. They both tuned their radios to silent and drew their flashlights. Judy nodded back with a determined look and turned on her heel, keeping close to the wall that lined the street corner. She peered around the corner at their target building and quietly assessed her options.


It was an old storage unit house only 3 floors tall. The dry cleaning store on the left side looked closed down, and the store to the other side was available for rent. She doubted there were any entrances from the buildings on either side, and the windows were barred. That left the front door and any exits in the back. Her training taught her that her perps would try to make a run for it out that way, so she would need to close those off first.


The black sedan was parked out front, and the front door swayed ever so slightly in a light breeze. Judy breathed and gripped her tranq in one paw and flashlight in the other. She turned the flashlight on, her coworkers following suit, and stepped forward silently.


They quickly made their way across the block and kept their weapons low. Before long they made it to the door and Judy threw it open. Fangmeyer took point, checking the corners. Wolford was right behind her and immediately began sniffing before Judy followed behind and looked for signs of movement. There was still plenty of sunlight in the lobby of the store, but around one corner towards the back there were neither lights on nor windows, and Judy felt jealous of her predator coworkers who could probably see much more than her.


"Clear," Fangmeyer called out from one hallway in the back.


"Clear," Wolford answered from the lobby.


"Clear," Judy said and turned back to her team. "You catch anything Wolford?"


"Nothing much. I've got some mammal in here I don't recognize, but that could just be the landlord."


"Let's hit the next floor," Judy said quietly before turning a corner towards a large metal door labeled 'stairway'. She kept her ears on a swivel, listening for any signs of movement above them. Fangmeyer grasped the door handle and swung it open. Judy pounced forward with her tranq out and aimed it up the stairs.


They made their way to the next floor, clearing it the same way they did the first. The corridors were lined with large metal doors latched with bolt locks, likely filled with dusty furniture and other assorted junk. Judy's ears stayed at attention as she swept the area.


"Got something," Wolford called out. "Smells like fertilizer."


"Could be a Nighthowler lab," Fangmeyer suggested, "or a gardener who keeps their extra materials in storage."


"Not picking up any Nighthowlers," Wolford said looking to Judy, who nodded back at him.


"Let's clear the third floor," she decided, and they each headed back to the stairwell. As they made their way quietly up to the next floor, Judy's hopes began to fade. She had not heard even the slightest bit of movement, and if there were three other mammals in the building, she would have at least heard them try to hide.


"Clear," Fangmeyer called out from the end of one hallway. Wolford cleared the other end and signaled back.


"Clear," Judy said, a slight twinge of defeat in her voice. She was certain they would have bumped into at least some evidence by now after clearing the building. It was not out of the question to begin searching the storage units, but if they had caught them by surprise, Wolford's nose would have picked up something.


"That car out front was the one you saw on the cams, right?" Wolford asked, keeping his tranq down.


"Yes," Judy replied, her ears beginning to droop.


"Hey," Fangmeyer said reassuringly. "They're not here, and that's ok. We thought that might be the case. We'll tear this place apart until we find something else to go on."


"I know," Judy said, crossing her arms over her chest. A setback did not mean the case was over, and she had plenty to search through before the day was out. She turned and holstered her tranq. "Let's start with the car and work our way up the floors."


Just then, her phone buzzed in her pocket. Judy carefully brought her phone out and eyed the new message from Clawhauser on the screen.


*TURN ON YOUR RADIO* it read.


Judy nearly jumped and fumbled about for the radio on her hip, scrambling to twist the volume knob until it clicked. At first there was a hectic static, drawing the attention of both Wolford and Fangmeyer. After a brief moment of continued static, she heard the uncharacteristically frantic voice of Agent Savage.


"Repeat, all nearby units, respon~~" his voice called out before being lost to static. "Suspect is a fox ~~~ red motorcycle. We believe the fox to be connected with known terrorist Victor Pumar. Suspect was last seen fleeing custody at ~~~ fourth and Oasis."


Judy nearly dropped the radio trying to hitch it back to her hip. Her eyes were wide, and her ears stiff as boards.


"That's Nick!" she cried. "Let's go!"


"Hold on," Fangmeyer exclaimed, but Judy was already halfway down the stairs with Wolford right behind her.


"Hopps!" Wolford shouted, having trouble keeping up with her.


"I'll take my cruiser!" she shouted over her shoulder as she zoomed back across the block to where her cruiser was waiting for her. Her radio continued to call out for backup as their location updated every few seconds.


"He's headed west! Let's cut him off downtown!" Judy said again before leaping into her cruiser and firing the engine up loudly. She mashed on the siren button and her car lit up before tearing down the road. She could see in her rearview mirror her coworkers making their way into their respective cruisers and firing their lights up too.


"This is Officer Hopps! I'm on Iris Boulevard en route to intercept!" she shouted into her radio.


Her car's engine continued to roar as she swept through one intersection after another. Each car in front of her began to slow and pull over for her as her siren continued to wail. Her cruiser darted up each road and screeched around the corners as she made her way back uptown towards Savannah Central.


"Suspect is turning left towards downtown," the radio crackled. "See if you can box him~~."


Judy's paws clenched around the steering column as she sped forward. If she didn't hurry, the ZBI were likely to start shooting soon. Thoughts of seeing Nick's body on the pavement flashed in front of her eyes. She bit down, teeth clenched, and continued to press forward.


The screen on her dashboard highlighted the nearby officers on a map, most of which were making their way towards the scene. She noticed them following a path towards the denser part of town. If Nick was on a motorcycle, he might try to lose them in the traffic.


Soon enough, she zoomed past another intersection into downtown, blipping her siren to warn the oncoming traffic. She finally positioned herself in front of the line of patrol cars heading her way and caught a glimpse of a black SUV with police lights blaring. She turned hard, falling in line behind them as they screamed through downtown.


"Break off, Officer Hopps," a voice ordered on the radio. "See if you can cut him off before he gets to the park."


"Roger that," she responded into her mic before veering off towards the precinct. She could not resist the urge to peek down at what the ZBI cars were chasing, but she could not see anything past them. She hit the brakes hard, rounding a sharp corner before heading back up towards the park that marked the center of Savannah Central. The entire place was littered with various mammals and other vehicles going about their day. Judy cursed as she mounted a curb to get around a line of stopped cars and finally found herself in the middle of the intersection.


"He's cutting back towards the precinct," one officer called.


Judy lowered her window and stuck one ear out. She could hear the squeal of a motorcycle engine roaring in the distance and fast approaching. She blipped her siren again, warning the nearby mammals of her presence, and positioned herself in the busiest intersection, holding traffic in both directions.


"He's in the bike lane. Hopps! Clear a path!" she heard Agent Savage shout. Judy realized halting traffic meant that Nick could weave through the cars, but the larger SUVs were stopped in traffic. She quickly reversed her car and blipped her siren again, prompting a few drivers to nervously back away from her encroaching cruiser.


She heard the motorcycle whizz by, but she could hardly catch a glimpse of it. It nearly barked in protest as the rider screamed past Judy's cruiser. She quickly put her car in gear and followed, this time close enough to see the helmet and bike suit Nick was wearing.


"Get back here!" she yelled, finally looking right at him. Judy realized how angry she was with him in that moment. Innocent lives were put at risk during this chase and he was only making it more difficult for her to clear his name as he ran. She was so close now, and the fire in her belly was raging.


"~~This is Officers Wolford and Fangmeyer. We're coming down towards you now!" Judy heard Wolford say over the radio. She hailed back to box Nick in at the top of the park. Right as Nick rounded a corner towards an exit from the park, both cruisers from Wolford and Fangmeyer screeched sideways to a halt, blocking his exit.


"He's cutting back," Wolford hailed. The bike's back wheel spun, spewing smoke as he re-directed himself back towards Judy. She slammed on the brakes and angled her car off to one side as the ZBI cars began to catch up with her. He was now boxed in, with only the lake to one side and buildings on the other. He didn't stop, instead mounting the curb and using the bike to climb the steps of the Natural History Museum. A few frightened pedestrians jumped out of his way as the motorcycle squealed passed the archway in the entrance.


"We've got him closed in," she heard Agent Savage announce as the black SUVs blared their sirens and mounted the curb, effectively cutting off any exit towards the park. A few agents got out of their cars and began following the motorcycle into the building with their firearms drawn.


"No," Judy whispered as she saw them chase him down with their guns ablazing.


"Wolford!" she barked into her radio. "Back up!"


Judy fired her car back up and began tearing down the street. Wolford was only just fast enough to unblock the road for her as she stormed out of the perimeter and towards midtown.


"Where are you going, Hopps?" Fangmeyer asked.


Judy was afraid to answer. This could be her only opportunity to catch Nick before the ZBI got to him, and she could not risk them catching on. She made her way down the street towards a familiar subway train tunnel that connected to the Natural History Museum. She and Nick actually crashed a train into that tunnel during her first case, and that was something the ZBI would not be aware of. She quickly parked her car at the edge of the street and leapt out of her cruiser.


She peered over the edge of the bridge that ran over the train tunnel. She waited and held her breath, not wanting to miss any sign that Nick was making an escape attempt through the subway line. A few moments went by in agonizing silence as she pleaded to hear something. Nick was smart enough to remember the train station at the base of the museum. He had to be.


Sure enough, Judy caught the sound of a motorcycle engine howling and echoing off the walls of the subway tunnel. The engine was getting louder as he made his way through the tunnel and towards the exit that lead out to a bridge over midtown.


"Okay, okay," she hissed as she steeled herself, gripping the guardrail that kept mammals from doing what she was about to. She positioned herself over the edge of the railing and let go.


Judy fell for a few brief seconds before her legs painfully collided with the wood supporting the train tracks. She looked up just in time to see the headlight of a motorcycle making its way along the track and barreling towards her. Even if he did see her, he was moving much too fast to stop in time.


Judy grunted and kicked hard off of the ground. She leapt into the air and re-positioned her legs to brace for impact. She collided with the visor of his motorcycle helmet hard and her chest groaned as much of the air was forced from her lungs.


"Nick, stop! It's me!" she yelled, hanging onto his helmet strap. She could not see his face through the tinted visor, but she heard him jump in surprise at the smaller animal clutching his helmet and blocking his view. A paw rose up reflexively to sweep her off, but that caused the bike to list to the side and lose balance.


"Nick! Stoooaaaahhh!" Judy cried as they both fell to one side and began to roll painfully on the concrete that lined the side of the bridge. The bike's engine howled again as the wheels came off of the ground and began to roll. The windshield shattered as the bike came down and flipped in the air once before bounding off of the tracks and tumbling over the side of the bridge towards the city streets below.


Judy's elbow and shoulder ached wildly. She groaned as she tried to sit up and assess the damage to her body, thankful she still had all her joints intact. The backside of her vest had taken most of the impact, but she would certainly be feeling that spill for weeks to come.


She got up and peered over the bridge, looking down to where the bike had fallen. She sighed in relief as no one was hurt. The motorcycle lay steaming on the ground with shattered mirrors and an engine that was still idling somehow.


"What were you thinking?!" Judy screamed as she turned to face Nick. But he was gone. Or rather, he was halfway down the wall that lined the street beside the tunnel. He climbed down the ivy that grew along the wall and slowly started to make his way to the street.


"Hey!" Judy shouted and took off after him. She carefully gripped the ivy herself and began to shimmy along the wall. She was a good 30 feet above the street, and while the fall would probably not kill her, she did not fancy falling that far onto concrete. Nick was ahead of her though, and rapidly nearing the bottom. She took a deep breath and let go from the wall for a moment, falling briefly before catching another part of the ivy vines. She prepped and did it again, falling for a moment and catching herself before she fell too fast.


She was gaining on Nick now, but he would be on the ground any second. She performed her maneuver again, but this time the ivy in her paws gave way and ripped out of the brick wall.


"Wooaah!" she exclaimed as she clung tightly to the ivy branch in her paw. The ivy continued to rip away from the wall as small pieces of concrete and plaster dust spewed outwards. She fell farther and cried out for a moment before the last part of the vine caught against the wall and stopped her descent.


Judy had her eyes shut tightly, holding onto the vine with trembling paws. When she finally peeked, she noticed she was dangling a few inches from the ground.


"Oh," she said sheepishly and stepped onto the sidewalk. She looked up just in time to see Nick making his escape away from her and into an alleyway. She sprinted after him, her feet and legs aching after a couple of hard falls. She followed him into the alley and immediately noticed it was a dead end.


Finally, Judy thought. She had him cornered, so there was no more running from her. She looked down from the brick wall that lined the alley and focused in on the fox in the bike suit, who was trying in vain to reach for a nearby fire escape.


"Nick," Judy sighed as she walked towards him, only to stop once she got closer to her fugitive. Her heart sank in her chest as she looked at the only part of the fox she could actually see. Bike suits covered all extremities to protect against road rash in case of a fall, but they almost never covered the tail, and this fox's tail was white.


Judy drew her tranq and trained it on the motorcyclist that had finally stopped running and turned to face the bunny.


"Who are you?" Judy called out.


The fox raised its paws up to his helmet and undid the strap, pulling off the helmet with a groan. Judy's eyes darted from the helmet to the fox's face. It was a girl.


"Who are you!?" Judy ordered again menacingly. The female fox looked at Judy with annoyance. She had soft white fur and brilliant blue eyes. She was slim and looked about the same age as herself. She observed Judy with a hard glare before finally offering a shrug.


"Sorry," she said, giving Judy a cocky smile. Judy was about to shout again when the fox hurled her helmet at the officer with all her strength. She sidestepped the massive round garment and pulled her tranq up again. The fox was rushing her at full tilt, and Judy was in no mood to issue warnings.


Judy fired her tranq as the fox approached, aiming for her midsection. Just before the dart made contact, the fox reached over to one side and picked up a lid from a nearby trashcan. She held it up as a shield and the dart collided with the round piece of tin with a clunk. Judy reached up to cock her tranq back and load another dart in, but the fox was upon her.


She leapt back as the fox swept her leg under her feet. Due to the chase, Judy's feet did not move as fast as she needed them to, and she tumbled backwards. The fox took the opportunity and swept the trashcan lid in her paw to the side, catching Judy in the shoulder. The bunny flew to the side and landed against the wall with a hard thud, hissing in pain.


When she looked up, the vixen was sprinting down the backside of the alley and out towards the street where her motorcycle lay in shambles. Judy took off after her, but her legs groaned again underneath her and she could not keep up.


Eventually, the fox made it to the bike, hoisted it up, and zoomed off, leaving Judy in her exhaust trail.


Judy stood in the center of the street, where multiple mammals watched along with her. She could still hear the faint sounds of a motorcycle engine as the vixen disappeared from view.

Chapter 6: Dr. Wiskberg

Judy and Fangmeyer were the second group to arrive at Flake's that day for 'lunch'. When they arrived, Pops simply nodded his head towards the back corridor and Judy and Fangmeyer made their way to the back room. When they walked in, Clawhauser and Francine were both discussing something over a box of bear claws.

"Hey!" Clawhauser greeted them. "Any good news?"

"We have a new lead, but I'd rather wait till Wolford gets here. Any word from him?" Judy asked.

"He said he was on his way not too long ago. The feds must be done with him and Grizzoli if they're letting them just wander off for lunch," Francine commented.

"That's good," Fangmeyer said. "If they're done, that means they've found something.

"In the meantime, Clawhauser, why don't you tell me what the chief has been up to?" Judy asked.

"Well, at first nothing. Perhaps he was expecting you to need a moment before breathing down your neck, all things considered. But this morning he came by asking for a report on all your activities from yesterday," he recalled.

"What did you tell him?" Judy asked.

"Funny thing was, I didn't have to lie at all! Yesterday morning you were out on patrols and bumped into an old friend before coming to get lunch with me here. Then, you went back to the station before partnering up with Sir-Howls-A-Lot for afternoon patrol. He knows the rest from the Spitz report. On paper, you have been the vigilant busybody you've always been!" he said happily.

"Huh, we're lucky that our leads haven't taken us away from patrol duty," Fangmeyer noticed.

"Chief is not an idiot," Judy said. "He'll assume I'm investigating Nick's whereabouts one way or another. If he's turning a blind eye or waiting for me to slip up, I'm not sure. But when I have real evidence to go on, more than just whispers, I'll be required to report that. If the chief finds me withholding evidence, especially from a case like this, I'll be badgeless."

"This case is as time-sensitive as it gets," Fangmeyer said. "If you get evidence and act on it immediately, you could tell the chief that there was no time to call it in. If he's on your side with this, he'll take that with no questions asked."

"So it all depends on if he's on my side, or the ZBI's," Judy clarified. She took a seat on a crate of napkins and plastic cutlery, rubbing her brow thoughtfully.

"Have a little faith," Clawhauser said. "Chief might be forced to play by the rules with the ZBI, but he's always stood by his officers in the past."

Fangmeyer nodded in agreement, along with Francine. They were right, after all. Judy's first case was certainly a bad example of the chief's devotion to his officers. But ever since that case, he treated her with the respect and dignity he offered everyone else at the precinct. Given the opportunity, he would stick his own neck out for any of his officers, and Judy believed that included her as well.

"Mmmm, smells like conspiracy and bear claws!" Wolford said, peeking his snout through the door.

"Wolford, come inside before you start running your mouth," Fangmeyer scolded. Wolford shrugged her off and eagerly made his way to Clawhauser, who handed him a frosting-drizzled pastry. The room quickly grew quiet as all eyes fell on Judy, waiting for her to start the impromptu strategy meeting.

"Where the ZBI are in their investigation might change the plan, so Wolford, you're up first. What did they have you do this morning?" she inquired.

"Hmph," he grunted as he swallowed a chunk of the treat and licked his fingers of icing. "Well, can't say where they got the lead from, but they found the van in your photo."

"They did?" Judy asked.

"Yeah. It was abandoned outside a warehouse at the docks. They spent last night with bomb-bots making sure there were no devices attached. They had me and Grizzoli sniff the thing top to bottom," Wolford said, gesturing to his nose.

"And what did you find?" Fangmeyer followed up.

"Well, the good news is that I have Pumar's scent now," Wolford explained. "He's a foreigner and still smells of Griño, so he'll be easier to track. The other guy in the photo was hardly there at all, the ocelot."

"And Nick?" Judy asked.

"That's the bad news. He was definitely there, and he picked a spot to ditch the van out of sight from the traffic cameras near the water where their scent was impossible to track afterwards. License plate check was blank, so he might have tampered with DMV registration records. Pretty sure Agent Maple is looking into that now," he said with a frown.

Judy frowned as well. It was troubling that Nick would go so far as to tamper with government records like that, even if he used his connections at the DMV to do it. What was worse was that if he left any clues for her to find at the van, they would be picked up by the ZBI first. Then again, these were all things he did with Pumar present, so perhaps he felt like he needed to prove his value to a dangerous criminal. Trust, he would say, is what makes a con possible.

"What about Savage?" Judy asked.

"No idea. He took Agent Stockbreed or whatever somewhere else, didn't mention where," Wolford shrugged.

"Brocktree," Clawhauser corrected. "Wherever he went, he left the chief pretty cross with him. I tried to probe the chief for more, but he was in no mood."

"That's ok. If his lead was more solid, he would have taken his whole entourage with him. Fangmeyer and I caught up with a new informant named Willie who sold our mystery boss some chemicals. He's an ocelot by the name of Terrence, unsure about the last name. Francine, could you dig up anything on him?" Judy asked, turning to the elephant in the room. Officer Pennington nodded hesitantly and pulled a small folder from her pocket. It looked like she printed it out specifically for Judy to read.

"I did, but you're not going to like it," she started. She held the folder in her trunk and extended it to Judy, who took it carefully and scanned through the first page. Her eyes shot open immediately as her eyes glanced over the case file name.

"The Nighthowler case?" she asked, astonished.

"No way," Wolford gasped.

"Not just the case, Max. I couldn't find anything on this guy at first, not even parking tickets. I thought he didn't exist or that we had the wrong mammal, but there's only one ocelot named Terrence in the census. But then I found that we had him logged as a key witness during the Nighthowler case," Francine explained.

"Key witness?" Clawhauser asked.

She looked up at Fangmeyer with a solemn look on her face. There were elements of her first case that came back to haunt her, from time to time. At first, it was the notoriety. Her press conference and subsequent bust of the mayor garnered plenty of attention, not all of which was pleasant. But that subsided eventually. There were other occasions when a predator would treat her poorly, citing her prejudice as the root of species tensions in the city. This, however, would be the first time that case put more lives in danger.

"You're right Francine, this is bad," Judy said coldly. "He was one of the mammals that went savage."

"Shit," Wolford cursed. Clawhauser put a paw over his mouth and stopped chewing for a moment.

"It gets worse," Francine said. "Before he went savage, he was a professor at ZU with a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He attacked one of the students and mauled a pig's leg pretty badly. He lost his job as a result."

"The college probably didn't want to be seen as harboring violent teachers. Can you imagine passing out one day, then weeks later, you wake up and you're fired?" Fangmeyer said with a scoff.

"If he tried to get hired elsewhere afterwards, it didn't work. He didn't file taxes last year. His driver's license expired and he never renewed. His last known address is now vacant. The only current information I could find on him was his full name and his ex-wife's address," Francine explained.

"Ex-wife?" Wolford cringed. Francine slowly nodded with a dark expression on her face.

"Read that on a pred-rights website. They separated less than a year after the Nighthowler case. She won full custody of their son easily, arguing that a violent male could not be trusted around a child."

Judy saw Wolford grip the cardboard box he was sitting on so tightly that his claws punctured the side. He grunted and his lip quivered in a vile anger that Judy witnessed only once before, when a mammal threatened his mother.

"That disloyal . . ." he started.

"Max," Fangmeyer soothed her coworker with a paw to his shoulder. He took a deep breath and relaxed his paws from their vice grip, continuing to scowl at the folder in Judy's paws.

It was much more common that mothers won in custody battles, but it happened more so in predator families. It was easier to convince a jury that a male was a danger to the child when he had fangs and claws, even if the mother had them too. It was one of the few pred-rights subjects that received little activist attention. After all, who would dare rip children away from their mothers?

"An address is enough for now. Fangmeyer and I will head over there to see what we can find out about Dr. Terrence Wiskberg from his ex-wife," Judy read aloud from her file. "Great work, Francine. See if you can find any more information about his whereabouts, or something to tie him to Pumar from the past few months. Wolford, head back to the station and see if the ZBI needs you again. If they do, keep an eye out for anything Nick might have left us. Clawhauser? I need to know as soon as Agent Savage is back at the precinct. Any questions?"

There weren't any questions. Clawhauser smiled and gave a short salute, nodding towards Judy as she went around the room making eye contact with everyone present. Once she was confident that everyone was set to go, she bid them good luck and headed out with Fangmeyer once again.

The cruiser roamed past the brilliant skyscrapers in downtown towards the more ritzy parts of town. The closer to the action the neighborhood was, the higher the rent prices tended to get. There were, of course, more affordable options not too far from city center. Judy and Nick lived in a good example of just that. What her apartment lacked in space or luxuries it made up for in location, so the rent was still pretty high.

This neighborhood, colloquially known as Savannah Heights, had both location and flair. The houses were townhomes that were at least four stories high with large windows and clean sidewalks. The cars were nicer, and the shops and restaurants were more expensive. The neighborhood was not as wealthy as the heart of downtown, which was reserved for the CEOs and famous newscasters, but it was certainly out of Judy's price range.

"Up here," Judy said, pointing to a vacant parking spot. Fangmeyer pulled in and looked at the stoop of the address in question.

"Nice place," Fangmeyer noted as she stepped out of the cruiser. A pack of gazelles wearing nice clothes and jewlery passed by as Judy placed a few coins in the meter.

"Must be nice not having to be at work during the day," Judy murmured under her breath.

"I'm sure they're gearing up for the night shift later," Fangmeyer jested, which made Judy smile a little. The house was a nice example of the neighborhood with faded brick and a stone-lined stoop. Judy easily hopped up each step and gave the doorbell a ring. At first, no one came to the door. She looked at Fangmeyer, who shrugged before giving the bell another ring.

"Coming!" Judy heard someone sing from inside. A few moments later, a smartly dressed ocelot with gorgeously maintained fur and a golden bracelet answered the door. The first thing Judy noticed was her age, which was likely around her own. Her wide, rehearsed smile vanished as she noticed Fangmeyer.

"Ugh," she groaned. "Has that boy done something? I swear if he's in deep, I'm not posting any bail money."

"No ma'am, we're not here about your son. We'd like to ask you a few questions about your ex-husband, Dr. Wiskberg," Judy said. The female ocelot's eyes drifted down in surprise at Judy's voice and a toothy smile returned to her face as she regarded her.

"Well aren't you just the cutest thing in the world!" she exclaimed with a paw to her cheek.

Judy swallowed a groan at her high-pitched nasally tone and kept herself in check. Being a bunny in the burrows meant getting called cute was few and far between. But no matter how often she insisted, strangers would still call her cute in the most patronizing way from time to time. Often they just didn't realize what they were saying, so Judy adopted a two-strike policy, only voicing her discomfort if they persisted. This particular mammal, however, was likely going to persist regardless of what Judy said. Sometimes, to get the job done, she had to bite the bullet.

"Please, if it's not too much trouble, can we come in?" Judy asked patiently.

"Why, of course! Come on in," the ocelot said as she happily waved the both of them in. Judy made her way inside, Fangmeyer ducking below the entryway and into the front hallway with only a little effort on her part. The kitchen was groomed to perfection, as if the maid fairies had just finished, which Judy expected they might have.

"Please, call me Chelsey. What can I do for you two officers?" she asked pleasantly.

"We'd like to ask you a few things about your ex-husband," Judy repeated.

"Hmmm. Jules?" Chelsey asked.

Judy blinked, then shook her head in confusion. It took her a brief moment to realize that by ex-husband, Chelsey was unsure of which one Judy meant. She felt the soft tug of judgement creep into her head. It was the same part of her that assumed that predators who went savage did so because of 'biology', so she did her best not to let that part win.

"No, we mean Dr. Wiskberg," she clarified.

"Oh, Terry," Chelsey said with a frown. "I swear, that Nighthowler thing was, like, a gift from heaven."

"What do you mean by that?" Fangmeyer asked, carefully masking any surprise by Chelsey's statement.

"Well, Terrence was a nice guy and all, and he took care of me well enough, but he wasn't Mr. Right, you know? He was always talking about fancy science stuff that I don't care about, and whenever he got worried he'd get this super sketchy look on his face. I was worried about how I was gonna make my break when one day, viola!" she said as she gestured to herself, or her kitchen, or the world at large with another cheeky smile on her face. "No more Terry. He mauled that pig up so bad that lawyers were practically lining up at the door to handle my divorce."

Judy really did need to keep herself from groaning this time. Her flippant disregard for her husband's well-being and borderline sadism left a horrible taste in her mouth. Judy hated arriving at conclusions before hearing the whole story, but no matter how badly she wanted to avoid being judgemental, it did not take a detective to understand that she married for money. She could not imagine that Dr. Wiskberg married her for much more than her looks. Their age difference was enough to raise eyebrows.

"Do you know where he is now?" Judy managed to ask.

"Not a clue in the world," Chelsey said with a wave of her paw. "Don't you cops have, like, records for that?"

"His file returned a vacant apartment in the Meadows under last-known-address," Fangmeyer said.

"Hmph. I bet he's a bum by now. That might explain why the alimony checks stopped coming in. I sent some lawyer to serve a subpoena on my missing funds, but apparently you can't do that to unemployed guys after a certain time period. Deer-scat, I bet he had more," she pondered.

"He was still unemployed after you divorced?" Judy asked, now approaching disgust.

"Hm? Oh yeah, no one would hire him when they found out he went nuts! When I think about what those sheep did those years ago, I just thank heavens that was not me."

"I'm sure," Fangmeyer mumbled.

"When was the last you heard from him?" Judy followed up.

"About three weeks ago. He called to arrange a trip so that our son Gregory could go visit his grandparents out of town," Chelsey said.

"Is that where he is now?" Judy asked.

"Mmhmm," she answered with a happy nod. "I got the next week all to myself! I'm taking the girls out dancing tonight, then I've got a new mister-mister takin' me to the opera this weekend!"

"If he's homeless, how could he afford to send his son out of town?" Fangmeyer asked.

"What do I look like, an accountant?" Chelsey asked with a nearly insulted tone.

"No," Fangmeyer responded flatly.

"Whatever, I don't know. He offered to have him out for this week and I'm not one to ask."

"Did he seem extra pushy? Like he wanted his son out of town this week and not later?" Judy asked.

"I guess? I mean, he kind of popped up out of nowhere and made sure Greg had everything he needed to get to his folks' place. He even bought the train ticket," Chelsey remembered with a shrug.

"Can you tell me when this train was?" Judy asked.

"Sure. It was last Friday after school got out. I've been as free as a bird ever since," Chelsey said proudly. "Can I ask what this is all about? Is Terry in some sort of trouble?"

"He might," Judy commented, "Don't worry, your son will be just fine."

"He didn't involve me in anything, right? I swear I have no idea what he's doing," Chelsey said, suddenly seeming more interested in Judy's answer rather than her floppy ears.

"It's alright, Chelsey. I'm sure you'll be just fine," Judy said. She took just the slightest satisfaction at how Chelsey's nerves continued to twist when she left the question open-ended. With that, Judy closed her notebook and stuffed it back into her pocket, offering a professional smile to her hostess.

"That will be all. Be sure to call if he makes any contact with you, or if you learn about his whereabouts. That will make this all go much smoother," she said confidently.

"Oh, I will Officer!" Chelsey said frantically. "If I had anything more to give you, I would! I'm not above being a rat."

"Easy, Chelsey, some of our good friends are rats," Fangmeyer said sternly as she followed Judy towards the door. Judy could hear her furiously apologizing if she made any offense and offered to help ask around or bribe or anything to get her out of something incriminating. Judy simply shrugged her off and made her way back to the cruiser with Fangmeyer in tow.

"Talk about a motive," Fangmeyer sighed.

"Which part? The unemployment, the vagrancy, the divorce, or the ex-wife?" Judy asked.

"Well, I'd argue that two minutes with a mammal like that could drive anyone psycho. But imagine if you passed out one day and then all of that happened? One day you're a respected doctor of biochemistry living in a house like that, the next you're unemployed, divorced, broke, and can't even see your own son five days out of the week?"

Judy nodded along, taking in just how horrible it all was for Terrence. She heard of mammals that had fallen further, but never from so high and never all at once. All that trauma and change would have most mammals looking for someone to blame. If it were Judy, she would probably blame herself. But another mammal? One who married a female half his age for her looks? Perhaps he ran out of anyone specific to blame, so he blamed everyone.

"Let's get back to the station. We need to talk to Francine again," Judy said as they climbed back into the cruiser.

"You have an idea of what Terrence is up to?" Fangmeyer asked.

"If I only had one mammal I cared about in the city, I'd make sure he was out of town before I set bombs off."

As it turned out, Agent Savage would have a similar idea.









"One moment please!" Vivienne called out after the doorbell rang a second time. She hurried from the kitchen towards the front hallway, her footsteps causing small creaks in the floorboards. She was quick to give herself a once-over in the mirror, making sure she looked her usual self before undoing the lock on her front door. She did leave the chain in, though.

"Hello?" she called out, peeking her nose out through the crack in the door. Her eyes immediately found a dapper gray rabbit with stripes on his face, wearing a trim suit and a seemingly indifferent expression. He was accompanied by a badger, also wearing a suit, who scanned the outside of her house with alert eyes.

"Vivienne Wilde?" the rabbit asked her.

"Yes?" she asked hesitantly.

"My name is Jack Savage, I'm with the ZBI," he explained.

"What can I help you with, Mr. Savage?" she said politely.

"I was hoping I could speak with you about your son, Nicholas?" he asked. Vivienne shot a careful look at the badger behind him, reluctant to answer her question. Agent Savage seemed to take notice.

"Brocktree, hang back for a moment," he ordered in a hushed tone. "Is it alright if I come in, ma'am?"

After another moment of hesitation, Vivienne slowly closed the door and undid the chain before welcoming the rabbit into her home. He closed the door behind him and followed her to the living room. The walls were lined with a green floral-print wallpaper, and a lovely red sofa and armchair awaited them.

"Can I get you anything?" Vivienne offered.

"Oh no ma'am, thank you. I'll only take up a minute of your time," he said. He took a seat that was a bit too large for him and rested his elbows on his knees, sitting forward.

"Is Nick alright?" she asked him.

"He's alive, if that's what you're asking," Agent Savage assured her

She took a deep breath through her nose and closed her eyes for a moment before turning her attention back to her guest. "He is in trouble, isn't he?" she asked.

"Why do you say that?" Agent Savage pondered.

"You're the ZBI, right? The only reason you knock on a fox's door is if someone is in trouble," she said matter-of-factly.

"Well, perhaps I'm here as a background check before offering him a position? He is a police officer after all," the rabbit defended himself.

Vivienne scoffed. "If you had good news, you would have said so at the door," she said, motioning her head towards the front entryway.

"Hmm," Agent Savage nodded. "You are observant, Mrs. Wilde."

"Please don't drag me on, Mr. Savage. What is happening with my son?" she asked sternly

Savage propped his chin up with his paws and soured his expression, returning her stern look. "We believe he might be involved with a known terrorist," he said.

"What?" she nearly gasped. "Mr. Savage, my son has far from a clean record, but he has never hurt anyone."

"I am aware of his history, Mrs. Wilde. I understand he began ditching school at a young age to run scams in town, not long after your husband passed?" Agent Savage inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"Yes, well, he wasn't all that well behaved after a bunch of kids began picking on him. When my husband passed away, it hit him pretty hard. But that does not make him a monster," she argued.

"Your husband, he died from blood loss after a car accident, correct?" he asked her.

"That was 22 years ago. I fail to see what that has to do with Nick's current affairs," Vivienne replied angrily, crossing her arms.

"I understand that the EMCs at the scene took their time with the sheep in the other vehicle before turning to your husband. The file says the sheep was only treated with a bruised shoulder and a headache, yet they spent 14 minutes on him while your husband was dying. The EMCs were also prey, were they not?"

Vivienne scowled and looked at the floor. It was not something she liked to remember. She could still feel her own rage when a doctor explained to her later that an injured predator was more likely to lash out at emergency personnel, so they were likely afraid to get close. She was not sure which was more insulting: that fear killed her husband, or prejudice.

"My son is not a murderer," she said coldly.

"Ma'am, I just need to know if he had any contact with you recently," he tried to reason with her, his paws back down on his thighs.

"He's my son. Of course he calls me," she uttered, a fire slowly starting to build in her gut directed at the mammal sitting across from her.

"I am aware that he also purchased a plane ticket to Pawaii and a hotel for the rest of the week. Did you know about this as well?"

"He wanted to treat me to a nice vacation. Is that a crime?" she spat.

"Must have been expensive. I see you did not take him up on it," Savage said, gesturing to her.

"I volunteer with a mother's group for predators, helping raise kits. This week is the week we bring in all the members from out of town, and I'm hosting guests so I couldn't leave," Vivienne said with another shrug, as if to say his assertion was ludicrous.

"And when you asked for a different date, he refused and demanded you go this week, correct?" Savage asserted. Vivienne did not answer, nor did she need to. Her silence answered his question for him.

"Mrs. Wilde," he began softly. "It is not uncommon for violent criminals to try to warn their loved ones about a large-scale attack before the act. I need to know if he contacted you in the last 48 hours, or if you might be able to tell me his whereabouts."

Vivienne could barely keep from trembling as she shook her head and closed her eyes. Her paws were filled with fistfuls of her dress.

"He's lived with a bunny for nearly a year and hasn't bothered to introduce her yet," she commented. She continued to shake her head, fighting back tears threatening to find their freedom.

"Has he contacted you?" Agent Savage repeated himself.

She shook her head harder; this time a tear did streak down her cheek, which she quickly caught and rubbed away.

"Please leave," she all but whispered.

Agent Savage did as his hostess asked and rose from his seat. He offered his apologies and his condolences for her husband before making his way back to the door.

"If you hear anything from him, please let me know," Savage requested, pulling out a business card and placing it on the table by the door. Vivienne followed him out, opening the door for him more out of reflex than anything else. Years of being a welcoming host ingrained politeness into her bones, even when she did not care for her guest's well-being, apparently.

"Thank you for your time," he said graciously before heading down her stoop, taking his coworker with him.

Vivienne didn't respond. She slowly closed the door and held her paw against the doorknob for what could have been ages. She rested her head against the door, closing her eyes and wishing the truth away as if it were all a dream. There were moments when she was gripping the door with all her might, and others where she barely hung onto it at all. Her ears stayed down, and her entire body remained motionless. After a few silent minutes went by, she finally heard the shuffling of floorboards from behind her.

"Is any of that true?" she muttered, keeping her head against the door. She could hear him breathe, but he did not speak. He always had something to say to wiggle his way out of things. Why of all times would he choose now to be timid?

"Mother . . ." Nick said solemnly.

"Is any of what that rabbit said true?" she said a bit louder, turning to face him. His ears were down as well, and his eyes were filled with melancholy. He was holding a boarding pass in his paw with her name on it, holding it out towards her. He didn't answer her question, and it sank daggers into her gut.

"Mother, please," he said, a hint of desperation in his voice as he gestured to the ticket in his hand. She furrowed her brow and scowled at him fiercely before stepping to the side and pointing to the door.

"Get out of my house," Vivienne breathed. Nick's face contorted in a way that precious few had actually witnessed before. She watched him silently make his way to the door and open it, not daring to look her in the eye any longer. He simply placed the ticket on the table, put on his father's hat, and he was gone.
Chatper 5: Softball

Waiting was always the worst part of any case. The majority of cases needed some kind of lab work in order to confirm evidence that would hold up in court. On the one hand, it could come as a welcome respite from a case that Judy had otherwise wrapped up. On the other, it could be a painful waiting period that kept her from finding their suspect sooner. In either case, she and Nick almost never made an arrest or pressed charges until the lab could confirm their suspicions, and that could take anywhere from a few hours to days.


 


The lab rats received tons of work to filter through from the crime scene at Spitz’s house, so they would likely be working through the night as it was. When Judy showed up with a single strand of fur, there was hardly enough time to explain herself.


 


“Please, I just need to know what you can tell me from this,” she asked.


 


“Officer, do you have any idea how buried we are right now?” the small grey rodent asked as he gestured to the room full of scurrying rats.


 


“I know Remy, but please. If we can get a positive I.D. on this strand, we might be able to find the killer,” she pleaded.


 


Remy sighed, and after a brief moment took the small plastic baggie from Judy’s paw and rolled it up, holding it underneath his armpit.


 


“Why didn’t this come in with the rest of the evidence?” he asked.


 


“Well, funny story actually,” Judy began with a laugh. “I was on my way back when my sister Harriet called – ”


 


“—on second thought, it doesn’t matter. I’ll let you know what I find as soon as I can,” Remy assured her, and with their conversation concluded, made his way back towards the lab.


 


Judy gave a satisfied smirk. Her ability to play mammals like that certainly proved useful from time to time, and it was a skill she owed entirely to Nick. Her smirk soon faded as she realized that she was now in the waiting period, and it was unlikely she would hear anything new for the rest of the day.


 


Her phone’s clock told her it was late, and the other members of her team were all asleep by now. Judy made her way back to her apartment, all the while going over the various bits of evidence she had thus far. Normally, she had Nick to bounce ideas off of, and his absence left her feeling uneasy.


 


That uneasy feeling amplified as she opened the door to her apartment. The silence felt strange. Not having him quip about their day made the walls feel unfamiliar. What was worse was climbing into bed alone for the first time in a long while. The auto-thermostat kept the bedroom cold, just as he liked it. But instead of crawling into the covers and warming herself by his side, Judy held her knees to her chest and wondered. She thought about where he was, about what he was doing, and whether or not he was thinking about her in that moment. It was not easy to calm herself enough to find sleep, but she needed her rest to tackle the case in front of her, so eventually she nodded off.


 


The next morning felt strange. Once again, Judy was alone in a room meant for two. This time she knew why, and it made her hold the sheets a little tighter in her paws. She spent as little time as she could going through her morning routine, trying her best not to dawdle on activities that reminded her of him.


 


Judy arrived early at the precinct, even by her standards. She hoped that Remy would have some news from the lab for her, but sadly he did not. She decided to spend her time before roll call digging up some more info on the network. When she got to the cubicles, she was surprised to find Francine at her desk staring holes into her computer screen.


 


“Francine?” Judy said. The elephant nearly jumped with a start, looking down to find Judy staring up at her.


 


“Hi Judy,” Francine said with a smile.


 


“Have you been here all night?” Judy asked.



“Oh no no,” Francine reassured her. “I got here not too long ago. I had to leave yesterday to go pick up the kids, but I was getting close to something so I got here a little early. I just wanted to see if I could dig something up before you got here this morning.”


 


Judy smiled at her coworker’s dedication. She never had any reason to doubt Officer Pennington’s resolve, but Judy had never worked much with her in the past. Even if it wasn’t much help, it was good for her spirit to see Francine working so hard.


 


“Thanks Francine. It means a lot, even if you didn’t find anything.” Francine shot Judy a sideways glance.


 


“Who says I didn’t find anything?”


 


“Did you?” Judy said excitedly. Her ears perked up as Francine smiled at her and patted the spot on her desk beside the keyboard. Judy wasted no time and leapt up onto Francine’s desk to peer at the screen. The screen was practically as tall as Judy was, and the keyboard was about the size of her bed.


 


“At first I wasn’t digging up anything, but then I remembered that the ‘officer’s notes’ section of arrest reports often don’t get scanned into the text file, so they’re not searchable. I was reading for anything that might have something to do with what your informant described as ‘pool-cleaning supplies’ when I found this arrest record a few minutes ago.”


 


Francine pulled up a file that showed a scanned arrest record of one ‘William Vanderhoof’. The photo on the screen displayed a strange mammal that Judy did not recognize, looking at the camera with a vague indifference.


 


“What kind of mammal is that?” she asked, looking for the entry under ‘species’.


 


“A dik-dik. It’s a bit like a small deer with horns,” Francine explained.


 


“Hmm,” Judy pondered as she began to read aloud. “Arrested for possession with intent to distribute, charged with loitering and posted bail. Looks like a run-of-the-mill dealer.”


 


“I thought so too, but look here at ‘officer’s notes’,” Francine said as she scrolled down to the bottom of the page. Judy read the section Francine mentioned and noticed the detailed account of the arrest, written in sloppy handwriting.


 


Suspect was found at the corner of Birch and Vine in the Rainforest District. When questioned, he asserted he was simply waiting for a friend. Found three bags of nip, enough change to stock a cash register, and a backpack containing about twelve pounds of chlorine. When asked about the chemicals, he simply said the customer asked for it. Chlorine? Really? If all you want is to keep your pool clean, then just go to Harry’s Hardware down the block like a normal mammal.


 


Judy’s eyes widened. The last sentence was verbatim what Finnick had told her the day before.


 


“Who was the officer on this file?”


 


Francine smiled again and scrolled up. The top of the file in bold letters read Arresting Officer: Wilde.


 


“That’s gotta be him,” Judy said confidently.  “When was this arrest reported?”


 


“Last month,” Francine mentioned.


 


“I was visiting family for a few days. Nick met me out there, but he must have made this arrest before finishing his last shift! Francine, this is exactly what we needed this morning.” Judy smiled at her coworker. Francine smiled back before looking at the watch on her wrist.


 


“We better get to roll,” she said, already beginning to stand up from her cubicle.


 


“When you get back, see if you can pick him up on traffic cameras during the past week on that spot. If he still visits the spot, then we can grab him. Text me if you find anything.”


 


“You got it,” Francine affirmed, offering hearty thumbs up. Judy made her way to roll call with a new spring in her step. She knew there was a reason she liked Francine.


 


 




 


 


 


Roll call started early, and the Chief wasted no time in getting right to the assignments.


 


“Officers Wolford and Grizzoli, the ZBI has requested some sniffers in their ongoing investigation, so I’m sending you upstairs. You’ll be meeting with Agent Maple,” Bogo ordered. Wolford shot Judy a quick glance, then looked backed to the Chief and nodded before joining his coworker out the door.


 


While Judy was hoping to have Wolford with her that day, she decided it was useful to have a mammal taking a closer look at what Savage was up to. Wolford was smart enough to know that.


 


“Lastly, Officer Hopps is in need of a temporary partner for the day. Do I have any volunteers?” Bogo asked. Judy was surprised to find more than a handful of officers raise their paws. The sight would normally be heartwarming, if it weren’t for the fact that she needed to chase down her leads and wanted someone on her team with her.


 


“Alright then. Officer Snarlof, you and Hopps are in the Rainforest District today.”


Judy thought about raising a paw and suggesting she be given a solo assignment for the day. It would certainly be insulting to poor Snarlof, but she could not afford to waste time on normal patrols that day with an officer she needed to keep secrets from. Before she got the opportunity to, Officer Fangmeyer stood up.


 


“Sir? Officer Delgato is still on vacation. Would it not make more sense to pair two officers who are both missing partners?” Bogo looked back down at his docket and shot Fangmeyer a glance.


 


“Ah, yes. I was going to put you on the ‘Spitz’ case. You would rather spend today on standard patrols with Hopps?” Bogo asked. Fangmeyer nodded, keeping her expression respectful. Bogo then turned to Judy.


 


“Any complaints, Hopps?” he asked.


 


“No sir,” she said firmly.


 


“Well then, you’re both on Rainforest patrol today,” he finished and turned his attention to the rest of the room. “While we’re waiting for lab results on the ‘Spitz’ case, I want everyone’s eyes peeled. Remember, Pumar is our number one priority. I don’t care about species profiling right now, if you see a mountain lion that looks even a tiny bit suspicious, call it in. Dismissed!” Bogo finished. With that, he made his way to the door and headed back upstairs.


 


Judy fell in line behind Fangmeyer as they both made their way outside into the parking lot. Judy’s phone buzzed, displaying a text from Francine.


 


*Vine and Birch. He’s there now.*


 


“Yes!” she hissed. Fangmeyer made a point of ignoring whatever she was happy about and got inside the cruiser on the driver’s side. Judy quickly joined her, struggling for a moment with the seatbelt that was two sizes too large for her. She gave up completely on being able to see out the window of Fangmeyer’s cruiser.


 


“Nice work at roll” she said. “Thought the chief would chew you out for second-guessing him.”


 


“Bogo doesn’t care about feeling in charge, he just wants the work done,” the large tigress commented. “I’m guessing we have something to go on this morning?”


 


“Thanks to Francine, yes. We’re looking for a dik-dik named William Vanderhoof. A small-time dealer, might have some info on our buyer of chlorine.”


 


“Where to?” Fangmeyer inquired.


 


“Birch Street and Vine.”


 


“Got it,” she said, putting the cruiser in gear and setting off. “We hear anything from the lab rats yet?”


 


“No,” Judy replied. “As soon as we do, we’re going to have to move on that evidence as fast as we can. Right now, that is our best advantage over the ZBI. If Spitz’s killer is involved with Pumar, then finding him might lead us to Nick faster.”


 


“What makes you think that Spitz’s killer is involved with Pumar?” Fangmeyer asked.


 


“Not much,” Judy confessed. “Spitz was employed for some scavenging work by a new mystery boss around the same time Pumar would have been in Griño detonating a bomb. Whoever this mystery boss was, he paid top dollar for secrecy and might have killed Spitz to keep him quiet. If that’s the case, whatever Spitz was scavenging for might be linked to the bombs Pumar plans to sell here in the city.”


 


“What does a bomb salesman need a scavenger for?” Fangmeyer asked.


 


“Materials, perhaps. Pumar’s supplier is still unknown, and whoever they are, they’ve got to be good at chemistry to weaponize Nighthowler toxin.”


 


“Chemistry,” Fangmeyer clarified. “Good enough to mix a jar of chemicals to throw police off the scent of a rotting corpse?”


 


“Exactly,” Judy said. “I think Spitz’s killer might be Pumar’s supplier.”


 


“Hmm,” Fangmeyer wondered. “It sounds plausible, but can I be frank, Hopps? It sounds a bit like we’re grasping at straws here. I’m hearing a lot of ‘maybes’ so far, and we can’t arrest anyone on ‘maybe’.”


 


“You’re right,” Judy conceded. “The honest truth is that all of this is stemming from my conversation with Finnick. He was given information directly from Nick, and so anything Nick left us is coming from him.”


 


“If that’s the case, shouldn’t we be interrogating your informant?”


 


“Nick wouldn’t have told Finnick too much, to keep him from being an accomplice. We need to trust that Nick told him exactly what we needed to hear,” Judy explained.


 


“I see. So we’re following Nick by following your informant.” Fangmeyer nodded. “Can’t say it isn’t working thus far. I just hope we’re following the right trail.”


 


Judy was about to retort when her phone buzzed again. This time it was from Clawhauser.


*ZBI split up into two today. One team took Wolford and Grizzoli, the other is just Agents Savage and Maple. Not sure where they’re going. Chief seems to be putting up a fight. Sounds like they’re keeping him in the dark.*


 


Judy thought about what the Chief was actually up to. All things considered, he was unlikely to sit back and let the feds handle things. Nor was he likely to be made one of the ZBI’s henchman. She and Fangmeyer made their way through the tunnel that separated Savannah Central and the Rainforest District, popping out the other side into a blinding sun.


 


“Fangmeyer, you’ve been working with the Chief for a long time, right?” Judy asked.


 


“Sure have,” she said with a nod. “Going on 24 years now.”


 


“Really?” Judy said, astonished. She knew Fangmeyer had been on the force for some time, but she had no idea just how long. It was hard for her to imagine the Chief as a young bull.


 


“Yeah,” Fangmeyer replied. “Why do you ask?”


 


“I was just wondering if you might know what’s going on in his mind? If it’s not too much to ask,” Judy said carefully.


 


“Hmm,” Fangmeyer pondered. “He takes everything seriously. The ZBI will need him to cooperate before this is all over, and the evidence against Nick right now is pretty overwhelming.” Judy frowned and reluctantly agreed that the Chief was in no position to play favorites.


 


“But,” Fangmeyer continued, “Chief Bogo has lost officers before, and I don’t think he intends to do so now.”


 


Whether or not Fangmeyer was just trying to cheer her up, Judy was unsure. She had faith that Nick was still hers, but to solve this case she needed to have faith in her fellow officers as well, and that included the Chief.


 


“Hm,” Fangmeyer smirked. “The last time I saw that look on your face, you broke the record for most parking tickets written in a day.”


 


“What?” Judy said, shaking her head out of her previous thought.


 


“You’ve got this fire behind your eyes, sometimes. Makes a cop glad to be a cop.”


 


“Thanks,” Judy said, rather bashfully. “It means a lot coming from a senior officer.”


 


“I was a little afraid that kind of look would have vanished by now after a few years on the force. The beat does that to some mammals,” the larger officer noted.


 


“Is that what happened for you?” Judy asked. She blinked, wondering what on earth possessed her to be so bold. “I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that! How rude of me. Here you are trying to be nice to me and I’m questioning your resolve!” Judy asserted, waving her paws in the air to try and wipe the assuming question from the air as if it were on a chalk-board.


“Easy Hopps. Don’t worry, I get it,” Fangmeyer reassured her. “I think we just became cops for different reasons. You clearly wanted to prove yourself and make a difference in the world. That takes guts and determination.”


 


“Well I’m sure you have your reasons for being in this line of work. I don’t think you’d stay for 24 years otherwise,” Judy said with a smile. Fangmeyer’s mouth flattened.


 


“I suppose. My only interest was making sure my kids grew up in a safer place than I did.”


 


Judy did not comment any further. The tiger’s face grew rather sullen at the mention of her childhood, which Judy guessed was not as peaceful as her’s had been on the Hopps farm. Years ago, the apex predators in Zootopia were often recruited very young by organized crime, so there was no telling what kind of trials Fangmeyer endured to escape that life. Instead of any more probing, she decided to change the subject.


 


“Speaking of kids, how’s the family?” Judy asked.


 


“Oh, the boys are doing just fine. Richard is studying hard, and Parker is a bit of a pawful. They are both fans of yours, by the way.”


 


“What? No, I’m sure their real hero is their mom,” Judy stated. That comment made Fangmeyer smile softly, giving Judy the satisfaction that the tiger was officially cheered up.


 


“Hopps, is that our guy?” Fangmeyer said, pointing out the windshield. Judy stood in her seat to see over the dashboard. Sure enough, a relatively small deer dressed in a sloppy set of denim jeans and a windbreaker leaned up against the wall of a nearby thrift store at the edge of the intersection.


 


“That’s him,” Judy said confidently.


 


“Looks like we’ve got a runner,” Fangmeyer observed as she pulled farther forward and into a parking spot.


 


“What? He’s not running,” Judy observed.


 


“Did you see the way he leered at the cruiser as we drove by? Trust me Hopps, limber up.”


 


Judy was not one to question the advice from a senior officer, but she also found it hard to believe she could tell he would bolt just from a look. Judy preferred to work with hard evidence before jumping to conclusions. She made that mistake on her first case, and she was not keen on repeating it. But sure enough, as she and the tigress approached him, he tossed his cigarette and began walking in the opposite direction keeping his hands in his pockets. Judy did as Fangmeyer suggested and rolled her shoulders in anticipation.


 


“Ready?” Fangmeyer whispered.


 


“Whenever you’re ready,” Judy confirmed. Fangmeyer smiled and placed a paw to her mouth before calling out to him.


 


“Excuse me sir! ZPD, we’d like a word.”


 


She may as well have fired a starting gun, because the dik-dik bolted forward down the sidewalk. The two officers wasted no time pursuing him, calling out for the other pedestrians to step aside.


 


“Stop! ZPD, clear the way!” Judy shouted as she avoided a hare pushing a long stroller. Fangmeyer fell a bit behind as she was having trouble making a safe path around the crowd.


 


Judy began to get closer as the runner shot a glance over his shoulder. When he saw the rabbit beginning to close on him, he veered to the side and headed down a different street.


 


“Keep on him!” Fangmeyer called out from Judy’s side. The tiger had elected to avoid the sidewalk and instead ran in the street at full tilt. She caught up to them quickly and began to box the dik-dik in. Just before Judy was ready to make a move, a herd of wildebeest emerged from around the next corner. Their perp took the opportunity and headed straight into them, vanishing behind a forest of legs. Judy dove underneath their legs and continued the chase. Behind her, she could hear Fangmeyer calling out for the crowd to make way.


 


Judy followed as he began to toss trash cans to the ground in his wake. She easily vaulted over them and used the opportunity to observe the path forward. The road split into two directions in front of them with an alley between two larger townhomes in their direct path.


 


“I’ve got an idea!” Judy called out behind her. Fangmeyer was now catching up to them, running in the street again. “Force him into the alley!”


 


“I got right, you get left!” Fangmeyer answered, grunting as she kicked her legs into high gear. While Judy was certainly capable of maneuvering and dodging, she was impressed with Fangmeyer’s top speed.


 


Judy was now close enough to hear the small mammal panting as he pushed ahead desperately. He veered in one direction, looking to make a sharp turn at the next split in the road. Judy quickly drew her tranq and fired. The dart zoomed past his left foot and made him jump in reflex towards the other direction. He turned to head down the other street, only to find Fangmeyer nearly on top of him blocking his path to the right. He carefully jumped away from her, just out of her reach, and headed directly forward towards the alley.


 


Judy saw his figure plunge into darkness as he passed into the shadow of the homes on either side. She and Fangmeyer were now sprinting right beside one another as they entered the alley behind him. Time for her idea.


 


“Throw me!” she called up towards Fangmeyer.


 


“What!?” the tigress balked.


 


“Now!” Judy called out as she kicked off the ground with both her legs as hard as she could. Fangmeyer carefully caught Judy by her midsection and drew her back. Judy made herself small, keeping her eyes on the perp nearing the alley exit as Fangmeyer hurled her forward with her next stride. Judy turned for a moment, facing the wrong direction while her body felt weightless. The poor dik-dik could only gawk as he saw Judy sail past him through the air. She turned her hips and shifted her legs forward before colliding with the ground and rolling to a stop. She stood and faced the perp who was now coming towards her.


 


“Woah!” he exclaimed, almost falling forward trying to stop in time. Judy was ready with her paws up and legs set to pounce if he tried to make it past her. He wheeled around to face the other direction, only to find Fangmeyer staring down at him with her paws over her chest.


 


“Nice throw,” Judy complimented her colleague.


 


“I was second-base on the softball team against the fire department,” Fangmeyer commented, keeping her eyes on their prey. Judy could almost hear Nick’s voice comment on the word ‘softball’. If he ever heard this story, that would undoubtedly be a new nickname for her.


 


“Woah, woah, I didn’t do nothin’,” the runner said with his hooves up, backing up against the wall.


 


“I’d hardly call running from the police and reckless endangerment ‘nothin’,” Fangmeyer scolded him.


 


“You guys were chasin’ me! I didn’t do nothin’ wrong!” he spat.


 


“Take it easy, Mr. Vanderhoof, we just want to talk,” Judy assured, deciding now was a good time to play good cop.


 


“You cops usually chase the folks you ‘just want to talk’ with?”


 


“Only when they run,” Fangmeyer added.


 


“I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ to you guys.”


 


“Oh? If we take you in for reckless endangerment and resisting arrest, we’ll also confiscate anything you got on you, and a little birdy told us you sell nip in your spare time. What do you think, Hopps? Should we search him?” Fangmeyer asked her. The dik-dik became suddenly quiet and nervously glanced at Judy.


 


“Please, Mr. Vanderhoof, we’ll waive the resisting arrest and endangerment charges if you cooperate. We just need some info on one of your buyers,” Judy pleaded. Their perp huffed and leaned against the brick wall to his side.


 


“Fine. But don’t call me Mr. Vanderhoof. I ain’t my dad. I’m Willie,” he corrected her.


 


“Thank you Willie,” Judy said, relaxing her posture. Fangmeyer kept her arms crossed but gave Judy and Willie enough space to speak without being crowded.


 


“I haven’t dealt for the big bosses in years,” he said defensively.


 


“I know,” Judy said. “I read your file. You recently got booked for loitering at the same spot we found you at. Care to tell us why you haven’t found a new corner?”


 


“Cause that was the deal,” Willie said nonchalantly.


 


“Deal?” Judy queried.


 


“Yeah, with the fox cop. Said he likes to keep contacts in the underground, in case he needs a favor. I had to stay in this area, and I had to talk when he came askin’. In return, he said he wouldn’t book me as long as all I sold was nip.”


 


“Sounds like a good deal,” Judy commented.


 


“Yeah, well, lyin’ no-good crooked copper said I wouldn’t be bothered by any of the blues. But here you are,” he said, gesturing at the two of them.


 


“We’ll make good on his deal,” Judy said. “Just tell us about the chlorine.”


 


“The pool stuff?” he said with an eyebrow raised. “That ain’t drugs or anything, I just got it at Harry’s.”


 


“You bought chlorine at the hardware store and sold it like drugs?” Fangmeyer asked, a little skeptically.


 


“Hey, I don’t ask questions when my customers are payin’ good money. Charged the cat nearly double what I paid for it, but he didn’t seem to mind none.”


 


“That’s what we’re curious about, Willie. Whom did you sell it to?” Judy asked.


 


“A cat named Terrence. Terrence something-or-other. Last name ends in ‘berg’, I think. Real bookworm nerdy type. Pretty sure he was a doctor or something,” Willie disclosed.


 


“What makes you say that?” Fangmeyer asked.


 


“He gave me this list of chemicals that would have worked if I couldn’t get the chlorine he wanted. There were these crazy-long words that all ended in ‘ide’ that I couldn’t make heads or tails of. I just went to the store and found a brand of pool cleaner where the ingredients matched the words on the list.”


 


“Did you ask why he came to you instead of getting it himself?” Judy questioned.


 


“Sure, at first. He offered more money so I shut up about it. My guess is he didn’t want his face on cameras anywhere.”


 


“Why’s that?” Judy asked.


 


“He kept his hood up, lookin’ real shady and makin’ sure no one saw us talking. I can tell a new customer when I see one. The regulars know that it’s much less suspicious if you’re relaxed about the buy. The new ones are always nervous about gettin’ caught, which makes ‘em look super twitchy, and this guy looked like he never even jaywalked before.”


 


“Can you describe him for me?” Judy requested as she pulled out her notepad, jotting things down.


 


“He’s a pred, but not one I’ve seen before. Brown fur with spots, and super-wide eyes,” Willie said, pointing to his own eyes to illustrate his point.


 


“You called him a cat. So he’s a feline?” Fangmeyer asked.


 


“Kinda, but not like you. He’s smaller, but not young. He’s probably middle-aged, I’d guess.”


 


Gears began turning in Judy’s head as she worked together what Willie was telling her. A smaller feline with brown-spotted fur, middle-aged and nervous-looking. Her paw reached into her pocket and pulled out the photo Agent Savage left her.


 


“Was it an ocelot?” Judy asked with mounting excitement.


 


A look of confusion appeared on Willie’s face. “A what now?”


 


Judy looked at the photo in her paw, making sure to cover up Nick’s face with her thumb before showing it to the dik-dik.


 


“The mammal driving the van, is this him?”


 


Willie squinted and looked at the photo in her paw. He first noticed the large, aggressive mountain lion. His eyes then drifted to the ocelot driving the van, and his eyes widened.


“Yeah! That’s him. I’d recognize that nervous twitchy cat any day. Who’s the bigger cat with him?” he asked.


 


“Bad news, that’s who,” Judy muttered before shooting Fangmeyer a glance. The tigress wore a dark expression and glared back at her.


 


“Thank you Willie,” Judy gratefully said as she turned to leave.


 


“Yeah, whatever. Next time you wanna shake me down, talk to the fox-cop first ok? We have a deal,” Willie shouted confidently.


 


This made Fangmeyer stop and turn. Willie’s confident expression immediately soured as he nervously watched as the large predator got down onto one knee and glared at him at eye-level.


 


“Let me make one thing clear to you,” she nearly whispered. Willie could feel her breath on his fur. “If you ever sell your merch to kids, I’ll know. And if that happens, you’ll wish the fox had brought you in instead of me.” Willie swallowed, practically quivering as Fangmeyer’s feline eyes leered holes into his soul.


 


“You’re the boss!” he declared with a salute before scampering off down the alley with his tail tucked firmly between his legs. Fangmeyer continued to frown and scoff as she emerged from the alley beside Judy.


 


Judy was preoccupied with the photo in her paw. She had observed it endlessly since she got it. She looked for any other signs or clues that Nick might have left her. This time, she analyzed the ocelot driving the van. His eyes were sharp and focused, full of nerves but not of apprehension. He had the look of a mammal not afraid to get caught, but rather afraid to fail.


 


“This isn’t looking good,” Fangmeyer grumbled with a dissatisfied shake of her head.


 


“What do you mean? This is a huge lead for us. We now know this cat’s name before Savage does,” Judy said assuredly.


 


“I mean for Wilde,” Fangmeyer clarified. “Making deals with drug-runners for info is hardly ‘by-the-book’.”


 


“True, but that’s nothing new. His contacts in the underground have led to some of our biggest busts, so as long as they deliver, the Chief adopts a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy and Internal Affairs never inquires into anything,” Judy explained.


 


“I know, but even if that was nothing but rainbows and sunshine, which it’s not, Nick is in real trouble here. If what we suspect about this ‘Terrence’ guy is true, then Nick has made an on-the-books deal with a known drug dealer who is supplying chemicals to a bomb maker.” Fangmeyer hissed the last part to drive the severity of the situation home.


 


Judy walked a little slower. For the first time, she was hoping that the evidence that led her to Nick was not very solid. If Nick was to be prosecuted once this was all over, the more evidence against him hurt his chances of coming back home to her. She sighed, reminding herself that Nick must have thought this through. Besides, she was not about to let Internal Affairs keep Nick from her.


 


“We’ll find a way to deal with that when we get there. Right now, all that matters is finding Nick and stopping those bombs from going off,” Judy said confidently.


 


Judy’s phone began buzzing and playing a familiar marimba tune from her side pocket. She quickly pulled it out and answered.


 


“Hello?”


 


“Officer Hopps, it’s Remy,” a small voice squeaked at her. “I have results in from the fur sample you gave me yesterday.”


 


“Yes?” she said excitedly.


 


“Yes, sorry I can’t give you much to go on. All I can say definitively is that the fur is from a Leopardus Pardalis, commonly known as an ocelot,” Remi stated.


 


“I see. And you are certain that was the species?” Judy asked.


 


“Yes. If I had more fur, I could cross-reference the sample with our records to see if we ever arrested this particular mammal. Then we would know for sure who it was.”


 


“That’s alright, Remi. I think we know who we’re looking for now anyway. Thanks so much for your help,” Judy replied with a sigh.


 


“Anytime, Officer.”


 


Judy hung up and placed her phone back into her pocket, not bothering looking up at Fangmeyer. She really did not want to see the look of sympathy that would be on the tiger’s face. She simply soldiered on towards the cruiser with Fangmeyer in tow.


 


“I need to give Francine a call,” Judy muttered. “She’ll need to find us a bomb-maker named ‘Terrence’.”


 


 

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:icondrummermax64:
DrummerMax64 Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2017
Thanks for the watch dude! :D
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