"So, Lily, how are you liking your new job?" the black-furred jaguar asked the human woman sitting across from him. Lily smiled.
"Working as a hospital record keeper wasn't my first choice, but so far it seems to be wonderful. And the steady paycheck isn't bad either."
Renato chuckled as they waited on their orders. They were sitting on the outdoor patio of Misty's on the Vine, awaiting their orders.
"I felt the same way when I started out working for Mr. Big," Renato said as their grizzly bear waiter re-appeared to place a chicken salad before Lily and a broiled chicken sandwich before Renato.
"From what I've heard, he sounds like quite the gentlemammal."
"Si, he is very kind to those who are... eh... loyal to him," Renato said, taking a sip of his tea.
"I'm just happy to finally feel like I'm doing something, for the first time in a long time," Lily said, a wistful smile on her face. "Even if it is just keeping track of medical records."
"That's an important job, Lily," Renato said, "with so many different species and all the many different treatments to keep track of."
Lily's smile grew. "Thank you Renato," the human woman said, reaching across the table to take one of her jaguar companion's large paws in one of her slender hands. Renato's smile matched Lily's as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze, and the two sat like that, in comfortable silence.
"O-officers, I'm so sorry for the actions of my brother. I'm not really sure just what it is that he's d-done now though," Charlie stammered out as he looked between the serious faces of the fox and bunny standing before him, feeling a sense of deja vu from a few months ago, when Charlie had been called out to Bunnyburrow to deal with the actions of Edwin.
"He... he assisted in the abduction of our kit," Judy said, her violet eyes rimmed with red. The new piece of information nearly floored the armadillo before them.
"Oh my goodness, I... I don't... I'm so sorry!"
"Mr. Shellison," Judy started, her face calm and collected, "has your brother been in contact with you recently? We need to know if he's mentioned anything to you about where he might have t-taken our son."
"Do you mean since his e-escape? Well, no. I-it's as I told the officers who interviewed me on the very day he disappeared from the institution, I haven't heard anything from my brother," Charlie said, feeling guilt for not having anymore information to give the two officers and looking down at his feet.
"Well... do you think that Edwin," it took all of Nick's concentration not to snarl out the name, "can be convinced to talk about the location?"
At that Charlie looked up. "Maybe... maybe if I were to talk to him..."
"I think that that could be arranged," Nick said.
"Alright, I don't see her, but keep moving," Mike said from atop Eli's head. They had tried to follow the river in order to lose the demented badger who seemed to have Eli's scent, and at first, it had seemed to work. But while completely off balance, Honey was not stupid. She had tried to cut them off downstream, forcing Eli and Mike to change their route. Mike still kept trying to get a signal, while they moved to circumvent their pursuer once more. "I got half a bar for a second there, so I think that we need to keep moving south... and hope that she doesn't have a cell phone jammer on her."
"Okay," Eli huffed, following the directions as they were conveyed to him from Mike, mostly verbal, but some in the form of a quick tug on the human boy's hair from the mouse. Especially when Mike felt that Honey was nearby.
"I won't let you get back to your mothership!" Three rapid sharp tugs had Eli crouching in a shrub as they heard her voice calling out, again. "And I promise you that if you do not surrender yourself, immediately, I'm going to have to enhance my interrogation methods!" Without uttering a word, Mike communicated to Eli to slowly back out and around a bend with a fallen tree in the underbrush. Mike had once more started to get a signal on his phone, but as the badger had gotten nearer, it had once again slipped away. Taking a quick survey of the surrounding area, he started to guide Eli in a southerly direction once more.
At that very moment...
"Just give us the location, and we can work something out," Ralph offered, being the good cop. While normally very stoic and naturally intimidating, thus making her the go-to 'bad cop' when she and Ralph would interrogate suspects before they were reassigned different partners, Nadine's face was a a glowering mask bearing down on the frightened, paw-cuffed armadillo.
"B-but... th-the creatures... I j-just w-wanted to understand them!" Edwin meekly protested.
"That," Nadine spoke with a deep growl, the tigress taking a step forward, causing Edwin to shrink in on himself and curl up slightly, defensively, "was a child that you helped to abduct. A CHILD!"
Edwin gulped. Ralph put on a relaxed smile, doing his best to not growl himself. He had seen the shell-shocked expression on Nick and Judy's faces. Having known them ever since they had been a fresh recruits, he had never once seen that look from them before. And now that he and Nadine had a child themselves, he understood how he would have felt in the same situation with his little Rosalie.
"Now, Doctor Shellison, we can be reasonable about this situation," Ralph continued, "and your cooperation could mean the difference between being sent back to the mental institution... or being sent to prison. You just need to take a moment and consider which one sounds better to you."
Sweat was condensing on Edwin's forehead as the words sunk in. "B-but... my research!" Edwin stated, jumping a little as there was a knock on the two-way glass. The tigress and timber wolf officers shared a look before getting up and heading out the door of the interview room. Edwin sat there, nibbling nervously on the ends of his claws, when the door opened again. Edwin had expected either the tigress or the wolf to return, maybe even the large and terrifying Cape buffalo. He had not been expecting the sight of his brother Charlie entering. Edwin looked at his brother, feeling a small ember of hope spark to life, but frowned when he saw the haggard-looking appearance of the other armadillo. He watched as Charlie took a seat across from him at the table.
"Oh, Eddie," Charlie started, his voice laden with emotion, "you've really done it this time..."
"B-but... Charlie... I-I... I just wanted..." Edwin trailed off upon seeing the look in his brother's eyes. It was a look that filled him with more dread than anything else. It was the look of utter disappointment.
"Eddie... you need to tell them where the child was taken."
"B-but," Edwin said in a small voice, "i-it's not a child... i-it's a creature." Just outside the glass, Judy had to mentally restrain herself from screaming out He's my kit! Not some creature to study! She drew strength from her mate, who seemed to her to be thinking along similar lines, based on the scowl on his muzzle.
"Eddie," Charlie said, a little more sternly, "he is a child. And you helped to cause this. You have to help fix it. Please, just think about what mom would say if... if she were still with us."
Edwin looked down at his cuffed paws and let out a shuddering sigh. "I'm sorry." it came out in just barely a whisper. Charlie reached across the table and gently rested a paw on Edwin's. "Okay..."
"Alright, around here is where we're going to start our grid search," Stuart said, holding up a map of the rainforest district and beginning to direct groups of bunnies, grouped by the first letters of their first names, to different sections of the district. The various assorted family members very quickly set about the search in their assigned locations.
"Let's go find our grandkit!" Robert said to a fire hydrant a few feet away from Stu. Marian cleared her throat, and the arctic fox remembered to put his glasses back on. As amusing as that would normally have been, everyone was much more focused on the task at paw.
"Right-o!" Stuart said, his brow furrowing. He felt the gentle touch of his wife's paw resting on his shoulder and he turned to see Bonnie and her worried smile. "We'll get our grandkit back," Stu softly said.
"Of course we will!" Marian said, her paws wringing as she said it.
"You're darn right!" Robert said with a growl.
"Grandma, grandpa!" Both sets of grandparents, and over a dozen bunnies, turned to the source of the voice, to see Thomas sprinting towards them. "They got an address!"