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Happytown

Chapter Text

Having Nick Wilde as a partner meant putting up with a stream of chatter and random observations as the fox’s quick mind jumped from topic to topic, which was why Judy noticed the rare spells of silence. And many of those spells, she noted like the detective she aspired to be, came when they cruised down Walnut Boulevard past the sign that read, “Happytown.”

That happened once every couple weeks; as the smallest officers in Precinct One, they were often sent to the small-predator neighborhood to assist the precinct there when needed. Which was a lot, because Precinct Four was understaffed and the requests for assistance had stacked up so much that Clawhauser kept one pinned up on the message board without a case number rather than put a new one up every day.

And the same thing happened when they made that turn from Magnolia Boulevard onto Walnut and drove the three blocks along the elevated line. Nick would be chatting about whatever donuts McHorn had left for them in the break room that morning, or about the criminal they’d collared the previous day, and then he’d trail off mid-sentence as though he’d forgotten what he was going to say.

The first few times, Judy prompted him and he picked up his train of conversation quickly. But if she didn’t prompt him, he’d come back to himself a little while after they passed the sign, often with a remark like, “What was I saying?” or “Sorry, lost my train of thought there.”

She knew that he’d grown up in Happytown, or at least she suspected it; he’d told her stories of his cubhood that lacked place names but fit with what she knew of Happytown. “The old abandoned factory we played in,” or “hanging out on the streets with a couple foxes, possums, raccoons, whoever.” She never pressed for details. Nick would tell her in his own time, and she knew only too well what it was like to have fond memories of the place you grew up and yet know for sure that you no longer belonged there. If her police duties took her into Bunnyburrow every couple weeks, she’d be delighted to see her parents, but it sure would be weird.

On this early spring day, Nick had his window down as she drove the cruiser down Walnut, and once they’d passed the sign, he said, “Hey, why doesn’t Precinct Two get more of the support calls for Four?”

Walnut was the last street where Judy didn’t have to pay close attention to maneuvering the bulky police cruiser down Happytown’s narrow streets. “Why should they?”

“This is technically part of Savanna Square. We used to say, ‘Savanna by day, Boneyard by night.”

“Boneyard?”

He grinned at her. “It’s a predator thing. But Two handles Savanna Square, right?”

“They do. But Two is all big species. I didn’t even meet any wolves at their cookout last week. Did you?”

Nick shook his head. “All the precincts are big species, though.”

“So we get the support because we’re more suited to it.” She’d never asked for nor gotten an explanation, but that was how she’d worked it out in her head. “If you want to stop coming here, we can talk to Bogo.”

“No. Just wondering.” He shifted his muzzle so his nose was out the window.

Which was funny from the guy who put salt in someone’s coffee if they made him file an unnecessary bit of paperwork, but Judy wasn’t going to follow up on it, especially since she was turning onto Goldrush Street and the cruiser barely fit between the small parked cars and the faded dividing line in the street.

Nick switched to what kind of lunch they were going to grab after the interview while Judy navigated them to 114 Fox Avenue and parked as close as she could. The whole block was apartment buildings, four to five stories tall, red and yellow and square on both sides of the street. Graffiti tags marked many of the corners and two of the doors she passed, but the door of 114 was clean, painted solid maroon—recently but not professionally, she noted, running a finger along the brushstrokes as Nick pressed the buzzer for apartment 405.

A high, shaky voice answered, “Hello?”

“ZPD, ma’am,” Judy said. “We’re here to interview you about the break-in.”

Static crackled in the speaker. “Oh, that was nothing,” she said finally. “There’s no need really.”

In Happytown, Nick often had ideas about how to proceed, so Judy stepped back. He gave a foxy eye-roll as he approached the speaker. “Mrs. Bandit, this is Officer Wilde. You called the police and said someone broke into your apartment. We have to talk to you.”

“I really don’t,” she said, and then stopped. “Did you say ‘Wilde’?”

Nick glanced at Judy. “Yes, ma’am.”

The intercom clicked, and then the door buzzed open.

The mechanical door gave way to a dark lobby that had once been elegant. Even to Judy, the room smelled gross, the residue of some harsh ammoniac cleaner unable to completely cover the aroma of day-old meat with a hint of rotting wood. The decayed banister to the staircase showed where the latter might be coming from, and she didn’t want to think about the former. The only brightly lit part of the lobby was over by a wall of gleaming brass mailboxes, next to which an ancient elevator bore a nearly as ancient sign that read, “ELEVATOR WILL BE FIXED SOON.” The floor had probably been a very nice tiled floor at one point, but now some of the tiles had been pulled up and the ones that remained were scratched and scarred, though at least mostly free of dirt.

“Do you know her?” Judy asked as the door clanged shut behind them.

Nick wrinkled his nose, but had a few weeks ago committed to trying to break his habit of commenting on every terrible smell they encountered. “I know everyone,” he said. “But I haven’t seen Mrs. Bandit in like twenty years. Wilde’s a pretty common name here. Maybe she thinks she knows me.”

They trudged up four flights of stairs to the fourth floor hallway, which like the lobby was swept clean and lit by only a couple working light bulbs. For predators, light wasn’t a big issue, so Judy let Nick lead the way to the apartment they were looking for, which happened to be in one of the shadowy areas.

He knocked on the door. While they waited, the door across the hall opened a crack, and one luminous eye peered out at them. Judy waved, and the door slammed shut.

The door marked 405 finally opened. A raccoon with grey fur all along her muzzle peeked out through about six inches and then closed the door again. The rattle of a chain being slid back, and then the door opened all the way.

The raccoon stood shorter than Nick, looking up at him and rubbing her fingers along the wool shawl draped over the shoulders of her light blue dress. “Officer Wilde?”

“That’s me.” Nick flashed his badge. “And this is Officer Hopps.”

He let Judy go in first, but even when she stepped in front of him, the raccoon looked over her head at Nick. So Judy sniffed and looked around the apartment.

A narrow window looked out onto Fox Avenue. The living room, neat and tidy, smelled of raccoon and flowers, probably the fresh purple peonies sitting on the windowsill. Lace cloths were draped over the backs of the two powder-blue armchairs and a knitted purple blanket lay in a pile near a depression in the cushions of the matching couch.

The old raccoon ignored Judy, staring up at Nick. “John Wilde? I taught you in tenth grade. So smart. I knew you’d do well. And a police officer!” She reached out to touch Nick’s badge.

He stepped back. “No, I’m Nick. Can you please tell us what happened yesterday?”

“Nick?” She peered up at the fox. “Are you sure?”

Judy kept an eye on Nick, but he was handling it well. “I’m sure,” he said. “I’ve been Nick my whole life. Now…what happened yesterday?”

She shook her head. “You look just like John.”

Now his professional demeanor slipped just a bit, and the corners of his mouth twitched upward as his nostrils flared. “Well, we foxes all look pretty similar.”

“Nick,” Judy said, stepping up.

“I know, I know.” The smile, what little of it there was, vanished.

“Ma’am,” Judy said, turning to Mrs. Bandit. “Yesterday?”

The raccoon seemed to see her for the first time. “Oh, yesterday. Well, the school was closed, like today, and I guess he didn’t know that. I came home from the store and I didn’t think anything was wrong except I noticed that my crystal bowl was gone.” She gestured toward the coffee table in front of the couch, which held a half-full cup of tea and a cloth mat with a large, elegant crystal bowl in the center whose facets sparkled with reflections of the outside sun. “I thought maybe I moved it to clean it and just forgot, so I went to the kitchen and that’s when he jumped out of the closet.”

“Who?” Nick asked. Judy went over to the closet in question and sniffed around, opening it with a pen to look inside.

“I didn’t get a good look at him. He ran to the window and jumped out. I saw him climbing down and running away in the street.”

“But at least you know what kind of animal he was?” Nick pressed.

“Oh.” Mrs. Bandit pondered this. “I suppose he was a fox. Yes, I could see the tail as he ran away. But there are a lot of foxes around here. He could be anyone.”

“Yes, he could.” Nick made a few notes. “You didn’t happen to notice his right paw, did you?”

“No.” She responded very sharply. “I told you, I didn’t get a good look at him.”

Judy turned from the closet that smelled mostly of old cloth and cleaning supplies. “And you found your bowl in the closet?” The raccoon nodded. “Why do you think he would break in in broad daylight?”

“Oh, well, the school was closed…” She paused. “I mean, I don’t think he knew the school was closed and I’d be home.”

“School’s closed again today?” Nick asked.

Mrs. Bandit nodded. “But Principal Jenny says we’ll be open again next week, once the money comes through from the city budget.”

“That’s terrible,” Judy said. “Though I bet the kids love it. This one year we had a lot of rain and the stream flooded the school. It took them a week to clean it up and all the kids had a party helping out.”

Nick was giving her one of those looks and a half-smile that usually went along with one of his “what a sheltered life you’ve lived” comments, but he kept quiet. Mrs. Bandit didn’t notice the look. “Oh, this isn’t so bad,” she said. “Last year we were closed a month and the year before that it was almost two months.”

“Do you mind if I take some fur samples from the closet?” Judy asked. “They might help identify your intruder.”

Mrs. Bandit dithered for a moment and then said, “I suppose that would be all right.” She turned to Nick. “Do you think they’ll find him?”

“I’d like to tell you we will, but the truth is we probably won’t,” he said.

“Nick!” Judy got out her fur-swabbing kit and prepared to collect from the closet floor. “There’s a chance.”

“I don’t want to lie to Mrs. Bandit,” he said, and his voice had a tone that made her stop, perk her ears, and think. That was his “I know what I’m doing” voice, and it meant there was something going on that he couldn’t talk about until they were in private.

Judy hated that tone because it made her feel stupid, but at the same time she respected it and she reminded herself that it usually wasn’t that she was being stupid. Nonetheless, she reviewed everything she’d done and said. It was all by the book. So there was something to do with this being Nick’s neighborhood, something she couldn’t be expected to know. She kept quiet and took her fur samples, and then took another from the windowsill just to be sure, though most of that fur was probably Mrs. Bandit’s.

When they’d left their cards behind and bid Mrs. Bandit good day, they walked down the four floors to the lobby in silence. “Well,” Nick said as they emerged onto the street by their car, “the car’s still here. That’s a good sign.” He flashed Judy a smile. “Want to look for expired parking meters before we go?”

“Gosh, that one never gets old.” She unlocked the car and climbed in the driver’s side. “So what was going on up there?”

Nick got in and closed his door and sat there for a moment. “Clearly she recognized the guy who broke in. You got that, right?”

“Oh, yeah, sure,” Judy said. She pulled out the keys and slid them into the ignition, but didn’t start the car yet.

He gave her a short, “Heh,” and then went on. “Like how she knew he was a he even though she didn’t get a good look at him? And how she knew he would know about school being closed?”

“And,” Judy remembered, “she got really snippy when you asked about his paw. Is that why you asked?”

“Partly,” Nick said. “And partly because I recognized his scent.”

“What? Seriously?”

“Sure.” He winked at her. “I told you, I know everybody.”

“Nick, this is great! Who is it?”

He leaned back in the seat. “His name is Five-Fingers Rousseau. He’s the son of Kevin Rousseau, guy I used to…pal around with, back in the day.”

“Five Fingers? That’s his real name?” Judy started the car and checked traffic.

“I think his real name is Freddy, but,” Nick held up his right paw and wiggled his three fingers and thumb, “he’s got an extra finger on his right paw. So everyone calls him Five-Fingers. Also because he steals stuff.”

Judy pulled out into traffic. “This is great. We’ve got fur samples and you’ve got his scent. We’ll go to Four and put out an alert for him.”

Nick laced his paws together. “You’ve been a cop longer than me, so I’m not gonna tell you how to do our job, but that won’t do any good.”

“Don’t be that way. The system works.”

He grabbed at the door to brace himself as Judy swung around a corner. “The system works, sure. But in this case, all we can prove is that he was in her apartment sometime. She’ll just say she invited him over for tea and cookies. Without her testifying that he broke in, he’ll go free.”

Judy didn’t slow down, though her enthusiasm did. “Why wouldn’t she testify?”

“Because she’s protecting him. Kevin was a popular kid in the neighborhood, and Freddie probably is too.”

“Then why did she call the police?” Judy asked triumphantly.

“I don’t know, maybe she called before she knew it was him and he came out and talked to her, something like that. Listen, Carrots, we used to use this all the time: They can prove where you were but not when, not without an eyewitness. So the most we’re gonna be able to do is hold him on suspicion and then release him.”

“Hmph.” She careened around another corner, grinning as the fox slid across the seat that was made to hold a rhino or bear. There were days when she’d let Nick’s cynicism pass, but this wasn’t one of them. She’d liked old Mrs. Bandit and wanted to help her out. “Wanna bet?”

Arms splayed across the seat and door, Nick got that half-lidded smile on his face. “What are we betting?”

“That we’ll get an arrest if we put his warrant out at Four.”

“You’re on,” he said. “The usual?”

That was a blueberry pie from Gideon Grey if he won, and a carrot cake from Judy’s favorite bakery if she won. “The usual,” she said.

“All right.” Nick straightened up in his seat and adjusted his hat. “I haven’t had a good pie since the last bet I won from you. Let’s go to Four.”

Chapter Text

If Judy ever had cause to question how lucky she was to be working in Precinct One, which she never did, a quick visit to any of the other Zootopia precincts would set her right. Where her building was a large, graceful monument to the peace and order provided by the police, the headquarters of Precinct Four was a large, squat monument to some city planner’s utter lack of imagination. Or, as Nick had put it the first time they’d driven up to the grey boxy building, “I didn’t know police came in Value Packs.”

“Odds for who gets to take this to Bellyacher,” Nick said, holding out a fist as they walked up to the dreary building.

Sergeant Bellicama, the warrant clerk for Four who would have to take their report and request the warrant, was a large elephant whose memory was unparalleled in the field of real or imagined slights anyone had committed against him. Judy had coughed once before giving him a document, and had been treated to ten minutes of a lecture on the importance of not spreading disease. Nick had a standing lecture about the body nets that long-furred species should wear so their shedding didn’t cause problems for others, not to mention he had once incautiously asked what had happened to Bellicama’s right tusk in a vain attempt to change the subject.

So Judy held out her fist, trying get her and Nick’s fingers to come out to an even number. Nick was always trying to outguess her, but he hadn’t yet realized that her strategy was to do whatever he’d done last time. So far it had worked a little better than half the time, but that was enough for Judy to keep doing it.

Last time Nick had held out three fingers, so when he said, “One two three shoot,” Judy held out one (if she did exactly the same as his, he’d catch on for sure). And Nick had also held out one finger.

She smiled sweetly at him. “Give my best to the sergeant.”

He pushed the door open and held it for her. “If I’m not out in fifteen minutes, call in Fangmeyer and Grizzoli.”

“Will do. Hi, Rainy.”

Sergeant Rainwater, a jaguar with a bright toothy smile, raised his paw to them. “Hopps, Wilde. Another Happytown crime?”

Nick held up the report. “We’d like to request a warrant for a suspect.”

“I’m sure Sergeant Bellicama will be delighted to assist you. Oh, hold on.” Rainwater dug under his desk and held up a small wad of netting. “Want to try this?”

Nick’s muzzle wrinkled. “I’ll take my chances.” He turned to Judy. “Enjoy your fifteen minutes of peace.”

“I will.” She beamed at him, which made him roll his eyes as he walked away, which was what she was after, so she bounced up to Rainwater’s desk as Nick slipped through the great glass-paned door to the back. “How you been, Rainy?”

“Not so bad.” The jaguar pulled out his phone. “Did you see this video of the tiger cub on the trampoline? It’s amazing.”

“Show me!” Judy stood on her tiptoes to see over the desk.

But Rainwater had only just started the video when his intercom buzzed and a deep female voice came through it. “Rainwater. Is that Hopps and Wilde?”

The jaguar stopped the video with an apologetic glance at Judy. “Ah, yes, sir. Wilde’s requesting a warrant and Hopps is, ah…”

“Just bouncing around,” Judy said.

“Officer Hopps, would you step into my office?”

“Yes, sir,” Judy said.

“She says yes,” Rainwater said into the intercom, and then raised his eyebrows at Judy. As the intercom buzzed off, he leaned over the desk. “What’d you do?”

Judy shook her head. “I don’t know. We parked in the right space and everything.”

Rainwater jerked his thumb toward the elevators. “Better get going before she calls back.”

“Right.” Judy hurried over, waving as she went.

She had to hop to reach the elevator button for the top floor. Then she tapped her foot as the cables whined and gears creaked, and the elevator groaned its way upward. Would’ve been faster just to hop up the stairs, but she didn’t want to arrive out of breath.

She’d only met Captain Whitehorn once, at a formal event where they’d barely talked. The captain was a rhino as driven as Chief Bogo, but unlike the big buffalo she had a reputation for being very even-tempered. “Sometimes too even-tempered,” Rainwater had told Judy once in a whisper, but hadn’t said any more.

Usually when she or Nick had to deal with Precinct Four business, they talked to Lieutenant Whip, a skinny cheetah perpetually on alert (“Not paranoid,” she reminded them often). So if there was something Whitehorn wanted to talk to her about, it had to be important.

Judy squared her shoulders and made sure her badge was straight before rapping on the door of the office. “Come,” said the deep female voice. Judy stood on her tiptoes to grasp the doorknob, turned it, and entered.

Whitehorn’s office, smaller and dustier than Bogo’s, was nonetheless tidier, and not just because of the lack of buffalo hair. Even the maps and notes on the corkboard were all set at precisely orthogonal angles, and when Judy scrambled up onto the chair to look across the desk at Captain Whitehorn, she gazed across a polished wood expanse marred only by a green blotter and a single file folder. “Officer Hopps,” boomed the rhino, setting both hands on the blotter. “Thank you for coming up.”

“Yes, sir,” Judy said, and then, because the captain didn’t say anything, “Nick—Officer Wilde—is requesting an arrest warrant for that robbery we went out on this morning.”

A crease appeared over the rhino’s eyes, and then cleared. “Ah yes. The Bandit case. You have a suspect?”

“We do.” Judy clasped her paws together. “Officer Wilde recognized the scent and description.”

“And you have an eyewitness who will testify?”

“I’m sure we can get one,” Judy said.

“Mm.” Whitehorn nodded her head slowly. “Make sure you do.” One of her massive hands pushed the file folder toward Judy. “I’ve asked Chief Bogo for permission to assign you to this case. It has several unique elements that I think fit your abilities.”

Judy leaned all the way forward to pick up the folder, nearly as tall as she was, and pushed the cover open. “A robbery?”

“A burglary. Councilwoman Sand, whose constituency includes Happytown, reported the theft of fifty thousand dollars last night.”

Judy got to that line of the report and whistled. “But this says it was taken from the apartment of Jenny Scar.” Species: coyote, the report read.

“She’s Councilwoman Sand’s assistant.” Captain Whitehorn laced her fingers together. “That’s one of the interesting elements.”

“Why didn’t she report the burglary herself?” Judy rubbed her chin and looked over the statement.

“Quite.”

“And why did she have that much money in her apartment?” She ran her finger across letters as large as her thumb. “It was a payment to the Sunshine Middle School?” She looked up. “Do schools in Happytown usually get paid in cash?”

“That’s another interesting question.” Captain Whitehorn smiled.

Judy came to the end of the statement. “You said several interesting features of the case? I can’t guess any more.”

“Two.” The rhino held up one finger. “One: It landed on my desk because it was reported by a Zootopia Councilwoman. Ms. Sand is the second most powerful member of the council, which some people would say makes her the second most powerful person in Zootopia if you happen to not have a good opinion of the new mayor. You have a history of investigating people in power and not backing down. That may prove useful here.”

Judy laid her paws flat on the desk. “You think Councilwoman Sand might be involved?”

“I said, ‘may prove useful.’” The rhino raised a second finger to join the first. “Two: The crime took place in Happytown, which means that it would benefit us to have the officer with the most thorough knowledge of Happytown’s criminal element involved in the investigation. Fortunately…”

“He’s my partner.” Judy felt a swell of pride whenever someone else on the force complimented Nick.

“Quite.” Captain Whitehorn tapped the desk. “And I think he should be just about done listening to Sergeant Bellicama’s complaint of the day, so take the file and get started. Chief Bogo will prioritize your other casework, but I want to impress upon you how important this case is.” She tapped Councilwoman Sand’s name on the statement with a force that made Judy’s paws and arms shiver.

“Yes, sir.” Judy pulled the file closed and took it to the elevator, already planning their first move.

One long elevator ride later, in the lobby, she found Nick and Rainwater arguing about the latest episode of Pestworld, a show she didn’t watch about a post-apocalyptic future overrun by huge zombie insects. “I’m telling you, Shannon is dead,” Nick said. “No way they bring him back to life.”

“I heard the actor is doing the rest of the season,” Rainwater said stubbornly.

“Flashbacks.” Nick shook his head and then spotted Judy. “Hey, Carrots. What’s the word from on high?”

“New case.” She brandished the folder. “Top priority.”

Nick’s ears and eyebrows rose. “Nice.” He turned to Rainwater. “Of course, it won’t be anything as important as cracking a city-wide conspiracy to frame predators, but I wasn’t officially a cop then.”

“We all know your resume.” The jaguar shooed the fox away. “Get going.”

“Jealous,” Nick said with a grin as they left the station and walked into a light rain.

“He likes sitting behind a desk.” Judy tucked the case file under her jacket.

Nick swept his long tail around his hips. “Yeah, but he’d also like to get a medal or a commendation sometime. You can tell by the way he looks over at the Wall of Fame.”

“Oh. Huh.” Judy hadn’t noticed that but made a note to look for it in the future.

When they got in the car, Nick didn’t reach for the new case file, but grabbed the old one, the Mrs. Bandit one, and flipped through it. He pulled out a sheet of paper and studied it.

“Don’t you want to know what the new case is about?” Judy waved the case file under the fox’s nose.

He shook his head and pointed at the page. “I wanted to check something in there. Look.”

The top of the page had the usual ZPD header and a date two days ago, and beneath that:

EMERGENCY SERVICES TRANSCRIPT, #1446-33-9

CALL CONNECTED 11:22 AM

OPERATOR: ZPD EMERGENCY, HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

CALLER: MY NAME IS MYRA BANDIT AND THERE’S SOMEONE IN MY APARTMENT. I JUST CAME HOME AND THEY JUMPED INTO MY CLOSET.

OPERATOR: ARE YOU IN IMMEDIATE DANGER?

CALLER: I DON’T THINK SO BUT PLEASE HURRY.

OPERATOR: I HAVE YOUR ADDRESS AS 114 FOX AVENUE APARTMENT 405, IS THAT CORRECT?

OPERATOR: MRS. BANDIT?

CALLER: YES, THAT’S MY ADDRESS BUT DON’T WORRY. DON’T SEND ANYONE. HE’S GONE THROUGH THE WINDOW.

OPERATOR: I’LL SEND A CAR OVER ANYWAY.

CALLER: IT’LL BE TOO LATE. I THINK HE ALREADY RAN AWAY.

Judy looked up from the page. “What about it?”

Nick tapped the caller’s first line. “Here she calls the intruder ‘they.’ Very progressive. She didn’t assume it was a guy.”

“So…she’s a feminist?”

He shook his head and moved his finger farther down. “Here she calls him ‘he.’”

“Oh.” Judy stared at the words and then up at Nick. “She knew him!”

“Uh huh.” He replaced the page in the folder. “Doubt it would hold up in court, but I’ll bet you a dozen carrot cake donuts he came out and begged her to be quiet while she was on the phone.”

She sank back into the seat. “So there’s no point in going after him. She’ll never testify that he was there.”

Nick held up a dark brown finger. “Not necessarily. We might get some information out of him. There has to be a reason he was there, right?”

Judy shook her head. “Something’s bugging me about it but I can’t place it. But anyway, Nick, we have more important things to worry about.” She pushed the new file folder at him. “Read that to me as we drive. I want to work out a plan of action on the way back to the ZPD.”

He took the folder. “All right,” he said. “But I don’t think we should give up on the Bandit case that quickly.”

“Why not?”

Nick pointed out the windshield. “Because Five-Finger Freddy just crossed that street up there.”

Chapter Text

Judy gunned the engine reflexively even before she asked, “You sure?”

The car leapt forward, and Nick clutched at the edges of his seat. “Hey! I told you, I know his dad. And I saw his paw. Pretty sure it was the five-fingered one. Yeah, there he i-is!”

Judy had wheeled them hard around the corner, and halfway down the block, amid raccoons, skunks, and possums, a young fox in a green t-shirt and blue jeans whirled to look at the police car and then took off down the street at a run.

“We’re never going to catch him in the car,” Nick managed to say as Judy hit the siren.

“Why won’t these people get out of the way?” She yelled out the window. “Move! Police business!”

Nick popped his door open. “Hey!” Judy yelled at him. “Not while we’re driving!”

“Then slow down!”

She had to slam on the brakes because the car in front of them wasn’t getting out of the way fast enough, and Nick took that opportunity to jump out. “Wait!” she yelled at him, but he was already three cars ahead, bounding over roofs and trunks—only one car larger than the police cruiser occupied the street, a car out of which a young elephant leaned to watch, and Nick dodged around that and vanished from Judy’s sight.

She smacked the steering wheel with a paw. Technically she wasn’t Nick’s superior, but she was the senior officer and he should listen to her. Not that he ever did. Should she call for backup now? If she did, it would go to Four, and even though they were around the corner, they wouldn’t send anyone for ages.

So she swerved the car into a space next to a hydrant—being ZPD had some parking privileges—and jumped out, locking it behind her. The crowd on the street didn’t exactly hinder her run toward the corner where Nick had disappeared, but neither did they hurry to get out of her way. “ZPD business!” she yelled, dodging left and right through raccoons, foxes, and bobcats, at one point leaping onto a parked car and back to the sidewalk to avoid a knot of people.

At the corner, she jumped up on a parked car again, an old beat-up green one, and looked down the street. Plenty of foxes hurried back and forth, but none wore ZPD blue. “Nick!” she called into her radio. “Come in!”

No answer. She stared down the street and stamped her foot once, making a hollow thump on the car’s roof. If she ran further without knowing where Nick had gone, she risked getting lost. But she couldn’t just wait for him and not do anything. Darn that fox.

“Hey!” A raccoon waved at her, the door of the corner café closing behind her. “Hey! Stop stamping on my car!”

“Sorry, ma’am!” Judy jumped down, but from the sidewalk she couldn't see anything.

The raccoon stood on tiptoe to look at her roof. “You dented it.”

Judy turned from the street back to the car. “I didn’t stamp that hard! It’s pretty dented anyway.”

“I’m going to report this. What’s your badge number?”

Judy’s ears got hot. “My name is Officer Judy Hopps. Now, I’m in the middle of a pursuit—”

“You’re not pursuing! You’re standing there!” The raccoon got her phone out and took a picture of Judy.

“My partner is pursuing,” Judy said desperately, moving away from the raccoon down the street. “Nick!” she called into her radio. “Where are—what’s your status?”

“You damaged my car!” The raccoon was talking into her phone now, still aiming it at Judy. “You’re all witnesses!”

None of the crowd seemed particularly interested in being witnesses as she swung the phone around, and a few ducked out of its way. She kept up her diatribe, following Judy down the street.

“Carrots.” Her radio crackled to life.

“Nick!”

“I lost him. Sorry. Where are you?”

“I parked right where you jumped out. I’m at the corner now, just past the,” she looked up, “Fashionable Tail store.”

“On my way back.”

“Hurry,” she muttered.

The raccoon was narrating her video now. “This police officer claimed to be in pursuit of a suspect, but she just walked down the street to get away from me and is now standing around again. She’s clearly avoiding me so as not to have to take responsibility for the damage to my car’s roof. And she won’t give me her badge number.”

“Ma’am!” Judy faced the phone and spoke loudly and clearly. “I’ve given you my name. We don’t have ‘badge numbers.’ That’s a thing in the movies. I have a department serial number which I am not required to give you. You can file your complaint with the Zootopia Police Department by going to our website, zpd.gov, and clicking on Contact Us.”

“A real police officer would have a badge number,” the raccoon said, keeping the phone up. “I don’t believe you even have a partner. You stamped on my car and then said you were in pursuit and you just stood there.”

“Nick,” Judy said into her radio, “meet me at the car.”

“I’m coming, Carrots,” he said, and her ears picked up his voice on the street as well as through her radio. He wasn’t far.

“How long is she going to wait for her imaginary partner to show up?” the raccoon asked her phone. She looked at the crowd around her, but though two bobcats had stopped to watch, they kept their distance, and everyone else moved past quickly, eyes down.

Judy drew in a deep breath and tapped her foot. A moment later, Nick’s smooth, familiar voice said, “Sorry for running off, partner. What’s going on here?”

The raccoon whipped her camera around to Nick and drew in a breath. Judy cut her off. “I jumped on this lady’s car to look for you and she says I’ve damaged it. She’s been recording me ever since.”

“Well,” Nick said as though Judy had asked him something as normal as the time of day, “is she getting your good side?”

His easy confidence relaxed Judy. “She’s been filming both sides,” she said.

“Why is she still filming?” He looked up at the phone. “Hi. Officer Nick Wilde. Why are you still filming?”

The raccoon lowered the phone an inch, then all the way down. “She said her partner was coming,” she said.

“Yup. That’s me. I’m her partner. Now, do you need anything else from her?”

Slowly, the raccoon shook her head. Nick smiled that smile he had and turned to Judy. “Are you ready to go, Officer Hopps?”

The raccoon turned to Judy the same way Nick did, unconsciously acknowledging her authority. “I’m ready, Officer Wilde,” she said.

Back in the car, Nick strapped in while Judy revved the car and spun them away from the hydrant. “Nice parking job,” he said.

“Blueberries,” Judy said. “If you run out on me one more time—”

“I’m sorry.” Nick leaned back in the seat. “There was no way we were going to catch him in the car. I stayed in radio contact. Protocol allows an officer to pursue on foot if the suspect evades vehicular pursuit.”

“Don’t quote the rules at me,” Judy snapped. “I was worried about you. What if he had a gang ready to jump you?”

Nick glanced at her. “You were worried about me?”

She stared straight ahead at the road, taking them out of Precinct Four. “Yeah.”

“Thanks.” He smiled and flicked his tail behind them, brushing it against the seat floor just enough to catch her ears. “I appreciate it. But no, he ran around a corner, I followed, he jumped through the back door of some store and by the time I got in, he was hiding or he’d gone out some other way.”

“Couldn’t you track his scent?”

“Tried to. Running fast like that he doesn’t leave scent behind. That’s why I took so long.”

“You didn’t take that long.” It was a relief to get out onto the wide streets of central Zootopia. Judy accelerated along the street.

“Carrots. You don’t have to speed to get back to the station.”

She grinned to the side. “What, a brave fox like you nervous to go a little fast?”

“When you’re driving, yes.”

“I haven’t had any accidents yet.”

“That just proves that rabbit’s feet really are lucky watch out for that truck!”

Judy tapped the brakes and swerved. “I saw him. Anyway, how do you live in Zootopia for thirty years and not learn how to drive?”

 Nick clutched the armrest. “Trust me, when I pass the department’s driving test I will take the wheel sometimes. What’s your hurry?”

“We need to get back to really look through this case. I’m itching to get started on it. And now we have to file a report on our pursuit, and I’m going to have to file a report on that raccoon. Ugh, I can’t believe her! I barely touched her car, and it was already pretty stamped on.”

He picked up the new case file and looked at it. “Huh.”

“What, huh?”

“I’m just making a noise.”

“Yeah, and I want to know what that noise means, Blueberries.”

He closed the case file and tossed it back. “So nice to have my opinion mean something. What do you think of it?”

Judy swung the wheel, spinning the car around a corner faster than she had to because she wanted to jolt Nick a bit. He didn’t say anything but his fur did fluff up. She grinned in satisfaction and eased off. The ZPD garage was coming up anyway. “I think it could be really important. The Councilwoman could be implicated in a serious crime.”

“True,” Nick said, stroking the fur on the underside of his muzzle. “But why pass it off to you? It’s Four’s case. If it’s so important, why would they just give up jurisdiction to a One team?”

“Whitehorn said…” Judy thought. “She said they respected my integrity to not back down before people in power. And they wanted your knowledge of Happytown.”

Nick’s ears folded back. “So she slathered us with compliments while giving us a case to track down.”

“Nick. She’s not a con artist.”

He stared down at the closed case file in his paw. “She’s doing an awfully good impression of one.”

“So why would they pass it off to us?”

He tapped the file with one claw. “I don’t know yet. If it’s dangerous, maybe? Whitehorn could be telling at least some of the truth. It might go easier for them if they put the ZPD’s biggest hero on the case.”

“Sand represents Happytown, doesn’t she?” Judy steered the car into the garage. “So what if Whitehorn is worried that some of the officers in Four would be more loyal to her than to the case?”

“Bribable, you mean.” Nick rubbed his whiskers. “Could be. But let’s be careful with this one.”

“Of course.” Judy parked the car in its space and smiled sweetly at him. “See? Brought you back safe and sound.”

“All in one piece except my nerves,” he said as he always did, and got out of the car.

They walked together through the hallways that led up to ZPD reception. Nick always wanted to take the back way, which he claimed was quicker, but Judy thought it was more that he liked the cool, dim hallways where he could smell people coming and hear anyone sneaking up on him. She liked walking out of the garage and through the little park to the ZPD’s front door, but today it was drizzling so it wasn’t worth fighting Nick over it.

When they got to the lobby, Clawhauser waved them down before they could get to the elevator. “Hopps!” he called. “Officer Hopps!”

“Hi, Clawhauser.” Judy hurried over to the big cheetah’s desk, Nick trailing behind her. “What’s going on?”

Clawhauser took a slurp from his huge cup. “You’ve got a visitor! He’s been here for two hours waiting.”

Nick cleared his throat. “We haven’t been gone two hours. We checked out at 9:42.”

“Maybe it just feels like two hours, it’s been a really slow morning you guys, anyway he’s been waiting a while to talk to you.” He took another long drink, and the odor of peanuts and chocolate wafted down to Judy. “I told him you were out on the Kinsler case and you might be up in Sahara Square and he went to look for you.”

“We solved the Kinsler case two weeks ago,” Nick said. “Remember the camel we arrested?”

“Oh right! Well, he didn’t find you, so he came back about an hour ago and he’s in the waiting room right now, you want me to get him?”

“No,” Judy said. “He can wait a little longer. We have to report to Bogo.”

“Ohhhh,” Clawhauser smiled. “I don’t think you’ll want to wait.”

That made Judy glance at Nick. He tilted his head, ears perking up. “I can handle the report to Bogo if you want.”

She bit her lip. Filing the report was a source of pride to her, and it made a difference that she knew that what she’d written was exactly what had happened. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Nick; it was that there’d never been an occasion when she had a reason not to be the one filing the report. He’d just done a good thing for her, helping her out of the predicament with the raccoon while acknowledging her authority in their partnership. Maybe it was time she returned the favor by showing him she trusted him enough to file a report.

“All right,” she said. “But don’t spend too much time talking about how you saved me.”

“Perish the thought.” He smiled that foxy smile that could mean anything.

Judy shook her head. She’d get a look at the report later. “Where’s this guy waiting?” she asked Clawhauser.

Chapter Text

Judy didn’t recognize the rabbit in the visitors’ waiting room, but he stood up as soon as she walked in, a big Bunnyburrow smile on his wide face. “Judy Hopps!” he said, and bounded over to shake her paw.

“Hi,” she said, returning the shake with a little less enthusiasm. “You’re from Bunnyburrow, aren’t you?”

His smile faltered a little. He adjusted the collar of his white shirt and smoothed down the brown fur under it. “You don’t remember me?”

“Uh…” She shook her head. “I’m really sorry. I’ve just come in from a pretty exciting morning. Help me remember?”

“I was in Mrs. Kicker’s Home Ec class with you? Remember when we made carrot soufflé and yours, uh…”

“Fell harder than a tree in Beaverdam,” Judy said. “That’s what Mrs. Kicker said. You were in that class?” He nodded. “How did your soufflé do?”

He scraped one foot along the floor, a little embarrassed. “Oh, it did okay. It got a gold star.”

Now Judy remembered the bunny who’d gotten the gold star for the carrot soufflé. “You know, I hated you for the rest of that week.”

“You weren’t the only one.” His smile came back.

“But…I’m sorry. I still don’t remember your name.”

“Ah.” His ears flagged with the corners of his smile, then came back up. “It’s Simon. Simon Grazer.”

“Oh! My parents know your parents.”

“Yeah! That’s kind of why I’m here, actually.”

Judy folded her arms, worried now. “Why, did my parents send you?”

“No, no. No, I work for the Bunnyburrow Beacon. And my parents were talking to your parents about you, you know how proud your parents are, and they thought it’d be a good idea for more of Bunnyburrow to know about the great things you’re doing. Not everyone reads the Zootopia Times, you know.”

“Oh, I know.” Judy rolled her eyes. Her parents hadn’t even subscribed until she’d moved here. She’d had to read the paper in the library to find out what was going on in the world.

“So anyway, I pitched the story to my editor and she loved it. A little bit of logistics later and here I am.”

He still had that big grin and big wide eyes that made Judy think of Bunnyburrow, especially of her brothers and sisters who were happy to stay there, content to believe that the worst thing that could happen to them would be that they might get bullied by a jerk or eat some bad spinach one day. Naïve, she thought, and then checked herself. Wasn’t that one of the things she liked about Bunnyburrow, that it was so peaceful that they barely even had a regular police force? Just because she would’ve died of boredom there didn’t mean it wasn’t a nice place. “So,” she said, “what do you think of Zootopia?”

His eyes got even bigger. “There’s so much of it,” he said. “I saw it come up on the train and I got ready to get off, but we rode through it for fifteen more minutes!”

“What was your favorite part?” The train ride into Zootopia was still one of Judy’s favorite experiences, the track winding through several of the most picturesque neighborhoods in Sahara Square, Tundratown, and the Rainforest District.

Simon blinked at her. “I guess…the train station? But the police station is really nice too.”

The train station was gorgeous, but Judy couldn’t help thinking he’d missed her point. “Did you come straight here from the train?”

“Sort of. I’m staying at the Impalasy Suites right next to the station. I dropped my bags off and took a cab. They said I could walk, but I wasn’t sure how safe it was.”

She tapped her badge. “My job is to keep the streets safe. Especially during the day, it should be fine.”

“I know, I know.” He bobbed his head. “I’m sure you do a really good job. But the paper is paying for it, so why not, heh heh.”

“All right.” She glanced back at the door. It would probably take Nick another ten minutes to get the report done. “How long will this take? I should tell my partner if it’s going to be more than a little while. We’ve got a lot of work to do today.”

Simon cleared his throat. “Ah, sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear. This isn’t just an interview. I’m following you around for a week. Did your chief not tell you?”

A week? Judy was aware even without Nick around that she wasn’t very good at hiding her emotions. “No,” she said. “You talked to Bogo?”

The other rabbit ran a paw over the brown fur between his ears, smoothing them back. They popped up again quickly. “My editor did. At least, she talked to someone at the ZPD and they said it would be okay for me to ride along with you. Maybe it wasn’t the chief, but it was someone who handles your media contacts? I think? She wouldn’t have sent me out here if we didn’t already have permission.” His nose twitched and he leaned forward. “Do you have problems communicating with the other officers here at the ZPD?”

“No,” Judy said quickly. Good gravy, was she going to have to spend a week watching everything she said around this walking recorder? “No, I'm sure I just missed a memo. Can you wait here a minute and I’ll go make sure it got approved. You know, uh, sometimes…paperwork…and bureaucrats…the ZPD really focuses on catching criminals…” She edged toward the door as she said this. “So sometimes, things…you know, little things…slip through the cracks…anyway, I’ll be right back.”

She closed the door of the waiting room carefully and leaned back against it, catching her breath. There had to be a mistake. But she had thought that Chief Bogo handled the media requests, and he would never have approved a ride along with her and Nick for a week.

Nick. Did Simon know about him? He’d likely have no better opinion of foxes than most of the Bunnyburrow bunnies, despite Judy making an effort to hang out with Gideon Grey and his boyfriend when she was home. Gideon loved making pies, but he sent a lot of them over to Evening Gulch, where the nocturnal predators didn’t mind pies made by a fox.

A little more composed, she hurried up to Clawhauser’s desk, where the big cheetah was getting an early start on lunch, or maybe a late start on his second breakfast. It was a big sandwich that smelled gooey, so you couldn’t tell either way. Nick wasn’t back from Bogo’s yet.

“Clawhauser?”

He gulped down his bite and wiped his lips, though he missed a corner where a bit of the sauce continued its way down through his fur. “Oh, hi, Judy. How’s your guest?”

“Who handles media requests for the ZPD?”

“Chief Bogo takes them all himself,” the cheetah said. “He insists.”

“I thought so.” Judy turned toward the upper level of the atrium.

“Except when he’s on vacation,” Clawhauser said, his mouth full of sandwich again.

Judy’s ears turned back toward the cheetah, and the rest of her followed. “Like he was a few weeks ago?”

“Uh huh!”

She waited, but the cheetah kept on eating his sandwich. Finally she stood up on tiptoe and put her paws on the edge of his desk. “Who handles the requests when Chief Bogo is on vacation?”

“I do.”

She managed to duck most of the sprayed sandwich bits. “Did you approve a media request from the Bunnyburrow Beacon?”

“Oh, wow, I don’t know.” He put the sandwich down again, his tail flicking around behind him. “I might have. I usually say yes. But usually the only people who ask are from the ZBC, and Chief Bogo likes us to be on TV.”

“There should be an official record of the request?” Judy loved Clawhauser, but sometimes he made her test how patient she could be.

“Yeah, there should be.” It took him a second. “Oh, you want me to find it?”

“If you could.”

She waited while he fumbled with his computer, wiped sauce off the keys, and then asked her twice for the name of the paper again. “Hey, look, here it is. Bunnyburrow Beacon. I guess I did sign it. Oh yeah! He wanted to ride along with you. It sounded like fun.”

Maybe Chief Bogo could revoke the permission. Judy turned back up to the office and sighed. “Is Bogo busy now?”

*

“What’s this about, Hopps?”

Chief Bogo barely looked up from behind his desk. Judy hopped up onto the chair and peered over it at him. “It’s this bunny from the Beacon, sir. Clawhauser approved his request to ride along with me and Nick for a week, and I really don’t think it’s a good idea. We’ve got this high priority case from Precinct Four, and it might be politically sensitive.”

“I know,” he rumbled.

“Good, then could you tell Clawhauser to revoke his permission. I’m sorry he’s come all the way down here. I’ll do an interview or something, but I can’t have him riding along—”

“I know about your case,” Bogo said. “And I know about the reporter. I approved that.”

Judy stared at the buffalo’s calm expression. “You? But Clawhauser’s signature was on it.”

“I review all of Clawhauser’s work,” Bogo said. “Wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, but—but you thought it would be okay?”

Now he looked up and raised his eyebrows. “Aren’t you the one saying we need to raise the profile of the ZPD especially in rural areas? How better to do that than by profiling Bunnyburrow’s favorite daughter?”

“Oh, I’m not—” She fumbled her words. “But the case.”

“Ah, yes, the case. Captain Whitehorn requesting our assistance yet again. I’ve reviewed the materials, Hopps, and the reporter signed the standard form agreeing to confidentiality in everything he witnesses until the ZPD explicitly releases it. And if there’s any political fallout, it’ll be nice to have a reporter in the car, won’t it?”

“But sir.”

“Either that,” he leaned forward, “or you may tell Captain Whitehorn that you’re not available for this case.”

“If you don’t want us working this case, sir, just deny her permission. You’re the chief.”

Bogo sighed. “It’s not that easy, Hopps. If I deny permission, she’ll say she’s got no suitable officers. The case will go unexamined and I’ll be “obstructive.” So I have to go along with her. But I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to make it easy.”

And if she told Whitehorn she wasn’t available, she’d be the one in trouble. “So Nick and I have to suffer.”

He smiled thinly. “Until one of you is promoted to Captain.”

“Yes, sir.” She saluted and left the office.

Nick had finished his paperwork and was gossiping with Clawhauser when she got back down to the lobby. “So,” the cheetah was saying, “McHorn put in for a change of address, and I think he’s been showering in the locker room every morning before everyone else gets here.”

“Interesting.” Nick barely came up to the desk, but he managed to affect a casual lean against it without straining to see over. “Trouble at home?”

“Has to be. Oh hi, Judy!”

Nick’s ears had flicked toward her; he already knew she was coming up behind him. She’d long since given up trying to sneak up on him. “Hey, Carrots,” he said. “I hear we’ve got a ride along? Chief wouldn’t kick him out?”

“No,” she said. “It’s complicated. Come on, I guess you should meet him if he’s going to sit in the car with us all week. How was the report?”

“I think I checked all the boxes.” He smiled his smug grin at her, so she knew he’d done fine.

“Great. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, partner. So who is this guy?”

“Reporter for the Bunnyburrow Beacon.”

“You know him?”

Judy sighed. “Yeah. We were in Home Ec together. He made a better soufflé than I did.”

Nick’s eyebrows rose. “Well. Sounds like quite the accomplished bunny. Don’t worry, I know what not to call him.”

She shot a look at him which failed to dislodge his smile. “I hope he’s just as polite.”

“I’ll leave it to you to correct his manners.”

She hoped so. Especially when she pushed open the front door and Simon’s big smile completely vanished when he saw Nick behind her. Judy cleared her throat and gestured. “Simon, this is my partner, Officer Wilde.”

Nick stepped forward, all sunshine and honey. “So pleased to meet you,” he said, extending a paw. “Judy’s told me all about you.”

“Uh.” Simon nodded, and shook quickly. “She has?” He looked back at Judy.

“I told him you’re a reporter,” she said.

“And he’ll be coming along with us?”

Judy answered quickly before Nick could. “He’s my partner. We work together.”

“Of course, of course.” Simon recovered his poise quickly, she’d give him that. Still, she noticed the way he spread his feet and angled them apart, so he could hop off in almost any direction; the twitch in his nose; and the slight widening of his eyes.

Nick’s smile seemed toothier than usual. “I can assure you that whatever myths you’ve heard about foxes, they’re exaggerated. Why, Ca—Officer Hopps and I have been partners for months and I only bit her the one time.”

“He’s never bitten me,” Judy said with a glare at her partner.

He turned his smile on her. “You’re forgetting the museum? So soon?”

Judy rolled her eyes. “The one thing that’s true about foxes,” she said to Simon, “is that they’ll say just about anything to get a reaction.”

“Just about,” Nick agreed without losing the smile.

“Ah,” Simon said, “what did he mean about the museum?”

Nick held up the case file Judy had gotten from Whitehorn before Judy could answer. “Shall we all go on a car ride together?”

Judy’s ears perked up. “Do we have a lead?”

“I thought we’d go talk to the assistant, Jenny Scar. She’s a coyote,” he said, leaning toward Simon. “Just so you’re prepared.”

“I’ve met a coyote.” Simon stood taller and thrust his chin out.

“Yeah, they’re all pretty much the same,” Nick said in his fake-agreeable voice.

“Nick.”

“Sorry,” Simon said. “I didn’t mean—”

“He knows.” Judy shook her head. “Come on, let’s go. Nick, you have an address for Ms. Scar?”

He brandished his phone and then turned back to Simon. “Do you get carsick?”

“No.” The other rabbit turned to Judy, head tilted. “Why?”

“Oh,” Nick said with a grin at Judy, “first time for everything is all.”

He strode ahead of them to the exit, bushy tail waving behind him. Judy sighed and followed, and Simon hurried after her, fumbling with his recorder.

She made an effort to drive more carefully, and Nick didn’t comment on her driving, but then, he was busy navigating them back to Happytown as they went over the file Whitehorn had given them and discussed the questions they wanted to ask Ms. Scar. “Hey,” Nick said, reading ahead. “Her statement says she thinks the burglar was a fox.”

Simon piped up from the back. “Does that mean she’ll be suspicious of you?”

Nick ignored the question. “She’s a coyote, so I’d trust her sense of smell.”

Judy turned to Simon. “Not necessarily. People in Zootopia know that what one fox does isn’t necessarily what all foxes are going to do.”

Nick didn’t say anything, but he smiled slightly, and Judy felt good. She also felt good when Simon subsided and didn’t comment further.

They didn’t go along Walnut Street, but came around through Sahara Square and Desert Palms, a fancy neighborhood that didn’t have wide high-traffic streets running through it. The edge of Desert Palms that bordered Happytown still had new paint on the apartment buildings and balconies with flowering plants hung over them, but the windows of the apartments were closer together and there were fewer houses. When there were houses, they were row houses, so much like the ones in Happytown that Judy thought they might have been built at the same time. Desert Palms houses had neat front lawns though, with no garbage in them and no spray paint on the trunks of the palms that lined the streets. They even had the house numbers painted on the curbs in happy yellow and blue, a color scheme that also adorned the hydrants and streetlights.

There were a few camels and rhinos here, and buildings sized to them, but mostly the buildings were Happytown-sized, and the people in the street were coyotes, wolves, gazelles, impalas, and a pair of oryxes that reminded Judy of her neighbor.

Jenny Scar lived in this part of Desert Palms, on Simoon Street in a small apartment building with a neat number 44 painted in yellow on a blue square beside the door and only four entries listed on the directory out front. Judy and Nick, with Simon trailing behind, buzzed the apartment marked, “Scar,” and after a moment a female voice said sharply, “Hello?”

“Ms. Scar?” Judy asked.

“Yes. Who’s this?”

“I’m Officer Hopps and I’m here with Officer Wilde. We’ve been assigned to investigate the money that was stolen from your apartment.”

After a moment’s silence, the voice said, “And who’s the other bunny?”

Startled, Judy looked at the dark glass above the intercom, and noticed that though Nick didn’t move his head, his eyes had moved to the same dark square. Must be a camera behind it.

“I’m—” Simon started.

Judy held up her paw. “He’s a reporter for the Bunnyburrow Beacon, trailing us for an article this week. If you’d prefer, he can stay down here.”

“Hey,” Simon said, glancing down the street where a pack of young wolves was laughing and joking around with each other.

“Sorry,” Nick said. “Police procedure. Chief Bogo might have authorized you to follow us around, but a witness in an investigation has the right to speak only in front of the investigating officers.”

“But why?”

“Because of intimidation,” Judy said. “Someone else in the room might have power over the witness to stop their testimony.”

“But I’m not going to do that. I don’t even know this person.”

“Ah well,” Nick said with a smile and a shrug, “a rule’s a rule. We could actually be fined or suspended if we bring you up there.”

“It’s fine,” Jenny Scar said through the intercom. “You can all come up.”

Darn. Judy had hoped that Jenny, too, was listening to the explanation and would take advantage of the rule to ask Simon to wait. It would do Simon good to stand here alone with those wolves down the street so he could figure out that they weren’t going to do anything to him. She also wasn’t sure, Bogo or not, that she wanted him sitting in on her investigations.

They didn’t have a good reason to keep him out, though, so up he walked under the wide skylight with a paw on the varnished wood banister. Judy didn’t recognize any of the prints up on the walls of the staircase, but Nick pointed to one and gave her a meaningful look. She shook her head slightly and he raised an eyebrow and returned just as slight a nod. He’d tell her later.

A coyote in a dark blue business suit opened the door to apartment #3 and gestured them inside. “Officers,” she said, but only extended a paw to Simon. “And the press. I’m Jenny Scar.”

Simon shook her paw. “Simon Grazer.”

She had a bright smile (teeth whitened) that nonetheless didn’t set off Simon’s alarms the way the wolves had. Maybe it was her soft floral scent or the pristine loveliness of her apartment, decorated in autumn gold and brown and orange. Even if she’d had the room to display them, Judy didn’t have half as many books as Ms. Scar had out on her bookshelf, and when she brought in flowers to spruce up her place, the flowers ended up smelling musty after a day or so. And her feet sank into the carpet as if it were really just the soft grass of a well-tended lawn.

“Mister Grazer, would you like something to drink?” Ms. Scar said. “I’ve got carrot juice.”

“Oh.” Simon’s ears perked up. He looked at Judy and Nick. “Am I allowed to accept a drink by police rules?”

He wasn’t being sarcastic. “It’s fine,” Judy said.

Ms. Scar turned to her. “I’d offer you some as well, but…you’re on duty.”

Nick and Judy exchanged a look. Was it alcoholic carrot juice? “Of course,” Judy said.

So they had to wait while the coyote poured a glass of carrot juice and spilled some on the counter. “So clumsy,” she said, and mopped up the spill, but then snagged a claw on her carpet and spilled more from the glass just as she was holding it out to Simon. He jumped back and didn’t get splashed, but Ms. Scar had to go get the carpet cleaner, a process which involved her knocking over two other bottles under the sink.

“It’s fine,” she said with a smile as Judy offered to help. “I’ve got it all under control.”

“It really doesn’t look like she does,” Nick murmured when Jenny left the room to throw away the paper towels.

“No,” Judy agreed.

“Just don’t step in that spot,” Ms. Scar said, hurrying back in, “and we’ll all be fine. Now, officers, what can I tell you?”

She had seated herself closer to Nick and was looking at him. He had their questions written down, and he was a predator, so Judy let him take the lead while she set her recorder on the table. “First of all, Ms. Scar—”

“Oh, do call me Jenny. Everyone does.”

The fox cleared his throat. “We were wondering why such a large amount of cash was in your apartment. You reported that it was going to a school. Is that the usual procedure?”

“Well.” Ms. Scar crossed her legs and smoothed out her pants. “No, to be honest. Normally we would of course deposit the funds directly to the school’s bank account. But the bank account was not in order. They had defaulted recently, I believe. So the bank required cash to re-open the account.”

“A transfer from the city account wouldn’t work?” Judy asked.

Ms. Scar—Jenny—spread her paws. “I only know what they told us. You’d have to ask the bank.”

Nick made a note on his mini-pad. “And you were not in your apartment at the time?”

“Nobody was.” The coyote pointed to a picture on the coffee table, knocking it over. She picked it up to reveal a stern-looking female camel. “Councilwoman Sand, who I work for, she gave me two tickets to the symphony at the Palm Arena, so I took Lisa—that’s my partner—and we were gone all night. Prissy stayed over at a friend’s house, because we were going to be out late.”

Lisa was in the report as Jenny’s spouse, but Judy didn’t remember a “Prissy.” “Sorry,” she said. “Who’s Prissy?”

“Our daughter. She’s off at school right now.”

Nick made another note. “And how was the money stolen? I mean—” He nodded to the door. “Was the door forced? The window?”

Jenny glanced at his pad. “Doesn’t it say in your report? I sniffed around after I made the call. I’m fairly sure the thief was a fox who came in through the window.”

Chapter Text

Through the window? Judy met Nick’s eyes and saw that he was thinking the same thing she was: what if this was also Freddie? Nick recovered first. “Of course that’s in here,” he lied. “But we’d like to get your full testimony on it, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Oh, of course. Well, Lisa was the one who noticed it first. She’s a wolf, you know. Bigger nose, better sense of smell. I’m sure you know what I mean.”

Judy put a paw on Nick, which stopped his tail from bristling any further. “And she said it was a fox?”

“I smelled it too once she showed me the place.” Jenny pointed at a door behind the couch Judy and Nick were sitting on. “There. He must have come in Prissy’s bedroom.”

“And where was the money?” Nick consulted the report while Judy reflected that the living room did not look like a young girl lived here.

“It was here in two suitcases. I was supposed to take it over to the school today. Councilwoman Sand gave me the day off so I could talk to you, but I was going to go in to the office once I’m done. I mean, there’s no more reason for me to stay home, is there?”

Privately Judy wondered if Councilwoman Sand just wanted a break from her clumsy assistant, but Jenny had been working for her for years and probably nothing breakable was even left in the office. “Of course not,” she said. “Mind if we take a look at the window? Officer Wilde might be able to get a scent off it.”

“Of course, of course.” She walked to the bedroom in front of them, and now Judy realized why her apartment was so pristine: nothing for her to trip over or knock over on her way to the bedroom. Her partner and cub must be very patient.

As they followed, Nick gave Judy a look, and she returned a slight shrug. It seemed incredible that two burglaries they were investigating both involved a fox coming in through a window. And if that were the case, how much more of a reach was it that they might both be the same fox?

Even Prissy’s bedroom, though the walls were plastered with smiling boy band posters, felt too neat and clean to Judy. She’d grown up sharing a room with a dozen other siblings, where someone else’s toys or clothes were always underfoot even after they made an effort to clean up. Stuffed toys sat on the pink-sheeted bed in a neat row, but no toys or clothes lay on the floor, and even the small dresser only had two pieces of clothing on it, both folded so Judy couldn’t tell what they were.

Simon hung back in the entrance to the room while Judy hopped up onto the window sill to examine the latch. It had been forced all right, the metal twisted and the screw forced out of the wood. Up here on the second floor, probably the Scars hadn’t thought they needed much more in the way of protection, but a flimsy window latch was nothing to a determined and experienced intruder.

While she was photographing the forced entry, Nick set down his pad and sniffed at the carpet around the window; the fibers would hold a scent better than the wooden sill. He got to his feet as Judy was finishing up her photos and turned to the expectant coyote. “I smell fox,” he said. “Probably male, but it’s hard to tell. There’s a lot of other scents. You shouldn’t have walked around the area.”

“But it’s Prissy’s bedroom,” Jenny said. “She wanted us to make sure it was safe.”

“Procedure, ma’am.” Nick sighed. “Course, we should’ve had an officer out here last night.”

“That’s what I thought,” the coyote said, her manner turning chillier. “I was surprised when the sergeant said nobody was available until today. I mean—fifty thousand dollars.”

“Yes,” Judy said. “Precinct Four only has large species who would have trouble fitting in this apartment.”

“Typical. So.” Jenny’s ears perked up and she leaned forward. “Can you identify anything from the scent?”

Nick had started to answer and then caught her pose and stopped for a moment. “Ah, no,” he said. “Fox and male, that’s all I got.”

Jenny sank back against the wall and her ears swiveled back. “That’s what Lisa said, too. I thought police might have more insight. After all, a criminal fox…” She laughed shortly, and gestured to Nick. “You must know how many of those there are.”

Nick snapped his muzzle shut. Judy stepped in front of him. “We’re only just starting our investigation,” she said, and started back toward the living room.

“Sure, sure. Are we done in here?” She smiled at them, but her smile looked fake to Judy. Then Jenny turned and banged her hip on the wooden dresser. “What else can I tell you?”

“Um.” Nick checked his pad as they walked back into the living room. “What form was the money in? I know you said it was taken in a large brown leather suitcase, but do you have pictures of the suitcase? What denomination were the bills, how many were there?”

“Well, I didn’t count them.” She made a clicking noise with her tongue. “But they were hundreds. So I suppose there were five hundred of them?”

“That adds up,” Judy said.

“Yes, I can do math.” Jenny’s claw snagged on the carpet again, ruining the increasing attitude in her walk.

“Who else knew the money was here?” Nick asked.

“An intelligent question.” She favored Nick with a smile. “Councilwoman Sand, of course, and our council treasurer. That’s Kylee Caravan. I can give you her number if you want.”

“Thanks,” Nick said, writing down the name. “Nobody else in the office?”

“I don’t think so.”

“So,” Judy said, “Ms. Caravan got the money and gave it to you personally?”

Jenny flicked her ears back. “Of course not. Her assistant did. I suppose he would know, too. He’s a gazelle named Daren.”

“Daren what?” Nick made another note.

“Er…you should ask Ms. Caravan for his information. I don’t know Daren personally.”

“We’ll do that.” Judy turned to Nick. “I’m done here. You?”

He nodded, putting his mini-pad into its belt pouch. “Thanks for your cooperation, Ms. Scar.”

“I must say,” she said, “I had expected that once the police finally arrived, there would be faster progress on the case. But, alas.” She gestured casually with one paw, smacking it into the wall behind her. “Despite all of Councilwoman Sand’s efforts to improve the police department…”

Maybe she would have gone on to say more, or maybe not; the trailing off felt to Judy like the coyote wanted to leave the rest to her imagination. But she never had the chance to continue, because Simon spoke up. “Where I come from,” he said, “we respect the officers who put their lives on the line to keep the peace.”

Jenny glared at him, with a hint of fang showing. “Nobody’s putting their ‘lives on the line’ here,” she said. “They made sure the thief was well gone before they turned up.”

“It’s okay.” Judy put a paw on Simon’s arm. “Thanks, we’ll be going now.”

“She was rude to you,” Simon said. “And you’re doing your job.”

“Rude?” Jenny drew herself up. Her tail, sweeping to one side, knocked over the glass of carrot juice. “I will not be insulted by a professional gossip.”

Simon’s eyes bulged. He wrestled his arm away from Judy. “Better a professional gossip than a snooty glorified secretary!” he yelled.

“Hey, hey.” Nick grabbed Simon with a firmer paw and dragged him to the door, throwing him outside and following him to make sure he stayed out.

“I’m so sorry for him.” Judy held her paws up because it really looked like Jenny might run at her. Fortunately, she wasn’t intimidated by all the little things predators did to scare her, and Jenny’s growl and bared fangs were more amusing than anything else. Her anger was scary not because Judy thought the coyote might assault her, but because she might report them to her boss. “He’s new in Zootopia and he’s just following us to write an article.”

“I’m sure Councilwoman Sand will be most interested in the people the police allow in their company.” The coyote’s tone remained frosty.

Judy could have simply left without making a bad situation worse, but she believed she could fix it. Think, she told herself. “I’d very much appreciate it if you wouldn’t,” she said. “You know how it is when your boss makes you do something you don’t really want to.”

“All the more reason.” The coyote picked up the glass she’d knocked over. “You should be thanking me. If my boss comes down on your boss, you won’t have to put up with so much.”

“Yes, but…” Judy breathed in. “It’ll just make things worse for me.”

“You mean Chief Bogo takes out his problems on his subordinates?” Jenny’s eyes gleamed.

“Doesn’t every boss?”

The coyote drew herself up. “I’m proud to work for Councilwoman Sand. She’s trying to build a better world and her problems aremy problems.”

Judy thought that Simon might have been right in his assessment of Jenny Scar, but that wasn’t an excuse for the way he’d spoken. She softened her tone still further. “We’re all trying to build a better world,” she said. “Again, I’m very sorry for the way he spoke. I will talk to him and make sure he knows that’s not appropriate.”

For a moment, she thought that even that might not be enough, and she added a soft, “Please.”

“All right, all right.” The coyote lowered her ears and brow. “But keep him away from me.”

“Of course.” Judy put on her best smile. “Thank you so much, Ms. Scar.”

Outside, Nick and Simon stood in silence, each one staring at his phone. They both looked up as Judy came out, and Simon started talking right away. “I’m not going to apologize,” he said with a glare at Nick. “She was being a—”

“Careful,” the fox said without looking up.

“A—a jerk about it. Expecting you to solve the case just from sniffing around the apartment!”

Judy put up her paws. “I thought journalists were supposed to observe, not get involved.”

Simon’s expression turned sulky, his ears flattening back. “That’s what he said.” He jerked his head toward Nick.

“Only not as nicely,” Nick said with a predatory smile.

“But the interview part was over.” Simon put his phone away. “And she was being mean to you.”

“People are mean to us all the time.” Judy shared a smile with Nick. “You should’ve seen this raccoon earlier. Not everyone gets what we’re doing. So we have to just take it and do our job.”

Simon’s ears came back up. He took his phone out and typed quickly. “‘Take it…and do our job.’ That’s good. That’s real good. So where are we going now?”

“Ah…” Judy glanced at Nick, who took the cue.

“Actually,” he said, “why don’t we get some lunch? Judy and I will take you to one of our favorite places.”

The advantage of the Bugburger truck was that you grabbed your food and ate it in the park, so that when Judy said, “Oh, I forgot the hot sauce,” and Simon volunteered to get it, he had to run all the way back across the street and down the block, which gave Judy and Nick time to plan.

“I’ll take Simon back to ZPD and let him observe me filing the report,” she said. “Can you find out who Daren is and interview him if possible?”

“Of course,” Nick said. “We going to do this all week?”

“We can’t take him on another interview.”

“Agreed.” Nick rubbed his muzzle thoughtfully. “What do you think of the case so far?”

“I don’t know.” Judy looked out across the park. “Whoever the thief was, he had to have known that money was there.” She hesitated. “Was the scent…familiar?”

“Could have been Freddy. It was muddled. But there aren’t that many fox criminals.” Nick scowled. “We don’t go around breaking into every window.”

“Especially not in Ms. Scar’s neighborhood. So.” Judy tapped her foot. “Jenny told someone, or her partner did.”

“Or their cub.”

“Or their cub. Or Councilwoman Sand, or Daren, or the treasurer, what was her name?”

Nick consulted his pad. “Caravan. I’ll try to get a meeting with her too. Ears up,” he added.

Judy perked her ears and caught Simon’s panting breaths. “I’ll see if I can contact Ms. Scar’s partner,” she said quickly. “Okay, got our plan.”

Simon spent a lot of the lunch talking about how weird the burgers tasted and talking about Mrs. Potter’s Carrotburgers back in Bunnyburrow. Judy had liked them, sure, but she hadn’t even gone back there her last visit. Of course, her mom and six oldest sisters were great cooks, so whenever she came home, especially on holidays when more of the family came back, all three kitchens were going pretty much full time.

When they’d finished their food, Judy told Simon the plan for the afternoon. “You and I will go file the paperwork, and Nick is going to go set up our interviews for tomorrow. We have a lot of ground to cover so sometimes we split up.”

“Oh. Okay.” Simon turned his head to Nick and then back to her. “So I’ll stick with you, I guess.”

“Sounds good.” Judy kept her smile bland, and Nick hid his behind his napkin.