Chief Bogo glanced over the documents in front of him and sighed. No matter how many times he read them, they didn’t seem to change the answer, and every time he came to same conclusion the knot in his stomach tightened a bit more.
If things continued on their current course, a full-scale mob war would come to Zootopia.
Going by the evidence in front of him, a casual observer might not reach the same conclusion. They would see the ZPD keeping an eye on persons of interest. Mammals having meals, casual chats, and so forth. True, some of these mammals had never spoken to each other before, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. Pointing out that most of them were suspected members of various gangs and crime families might not even register to them. But Bogo hadn’t gotten to where he was by missing the small details and not knowing how the wind was blowing. OK, yes, fair’s fair that he had missed something big with regards to certain ZPD applicants being capable police officers, but he admitted those mistakes. When it came to crime though, he knew what he was seeing, knew how to read between the lines.
He was glad that the detectives in the MCU had seen it too, and as a department, they had brought it to his attention. Several investigations were starting to overlap, too much not to be noticed by Captain Vines and his squad. The worst part of it was that this had all started after the death of Detective Henry Coulton last week. Usually, when an officer died, the crime families kept their heads down. The ZPD had a lot of things to investigate, but a police officer’s death in the line of duty, whatever the reason, garnered a lot of attention from their fellow officers. Enough that the families did their best to stay out of sight, especially if it was suspected that one of their own had done the deed. That hadn’t been the case for years; most police officers’ deaths, as infrequent as they were, were usually because of arriving at domestic disputes where one mammal had a shotgun, or some mammal with a grudge of some kind against some part of society suddenly snapped.
That being said, a decade ago, before Bogo became chief, the death of an officer might have been celebrated due to corruption and plain racism on the part of the officers. That had improved a lot after he took office, but even he had to admit the force still had its issues. His own views on smaller mammals had clouded his judgement for a long time on how valuable they could really be. Hopps proved him wrong on that, and then his views on foxes had almost caused him to do the same thing to Wilde when he first joined.
And now here they were, in front of him and about to take on one of the hardest jobs he could ask of detectives. He was confident they would rise to the occasion, but that confidence had been proven to be misplaced before. However, that was more his issue than theirs.
He looked up from the documents to the two mammals who were sat across from him, in a chair that was still far larger than necessary for them. He really had to do something about that at some point. “So, Detectives, are you ready?”
“As ready as we can be under the circumstances, sir,” Judy answered, gathering copies of the same documentation the chief had. Nick did the same, having remained uncharacteristically silent during the discussion, or at least as quiet as he could be during a conversation.
“You OK, Wilde?” Bogo asked.
“Just a bit contemplative, sir. If you told me I’d be put in this position five years ago, I’d have laughed.”
“Well I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t think you were capable of it,” Bogo pointed out.
“What about Internal Affairs, sir?” asked Nick.
“I spoke with Bagheera this morning. Considering the facts of the case, and the work you’ve done so far, we’ve decided you could probably do without the additional stress worrying if Internal Affairs thinks you’re doing the right thing. You’re gonna have enough stress with… well, everything else. So, consider the matter closed.”
“Good to hear sir, thank you,” Nick said genuinely. Bogo knew the fox hid it well, but he was always concerned about how people viewed the only fox on the police force, more so on how that might reflect on his fiancée than anything else.
“Now, let’s get this out of the way,” Bogo said, and made to stand. He led the way out of his office and down to the first floor’s bullpen, holding the door for Wilde and Hopps after entering himself. Normally, this room would be used for handing out assignments for the regular on-the-beat officers, but today it was serving a different purpose and was packed to the rafters (literally, in the case of giraffe officer Melman). While some of the officers inside were still beat officers from Precinct One, the rest had been ordered here from the other precincts. Among the crowd was also a small smattering of detectives. In the corner at the back stood Captain Samuel Vines of the Major Crimes Unit. As Hopps and Wilde’s superior officer, he was going to be there, but by his stance, he was taking a paws-off approach to the presentation. Bogo liked that; it showed that Vines trusted his two newest detectives, and as such, they were doing a good enough job to warrant that trust. He’d deny it with his dying breath, but Bogo had a soft spot for his two smallest officers, and it was good to see them thriving in their new roles. It gave him more confidence that this presentation to the officers would go well.
A little more concerning was that after this, the pair would have to address the press as well. Or rather, Wilde would. No one was putting Hopps in front of a camera again if it could be avoided. It still made Bogo chuckle a little that she would rather face down a herd of stampeding elephants than answer a few questions from the press, though considering what had happened the last time she was answering questions on a major story, he understood.
“Alright, alright, shut your mouths and listen up!” Bogo bellowed, causing the assembled officers to quiet down and pay attention. “We’ve got a lot to get through in a short time. I’ll let Detectives Hopps and Wilde go through the major details, but I will say that what we discuss does not leave this group of officers here unless given authority by Detectives Hopps and Wilde. Are we clear?”
That really got the officers’ attention.
“Hopps?” Bogo gestured to her. As Nick was going to be talking to press, she was going to brief the officers, as it was less likely to cause a riot. Again.
“Thank you, sir,” Judy said as she hopped easily onto the podium. Nick moved to a computer nearby, clambering up the chair. A round of sniggering rose from some of the officers from other precincts, though those stopped because of the myriad glares from the assembled Precinct One officers. Nick placed a USB drive in the computer, which was linked to a projector on the ceiling that pointed at the screen behind Judy.
“Thank you for coming today, everyone,” Judy said as the projector powered on. She turned to Nick, who waved a small, in his paws at least, remote and lightly tossed it to her. She caught it in both paws. While not overly large for her, she shifted it under her arm so she would have one free hand ready to progress with the slides. “As you are no doubt aware, one of our own was gunned down last week in pursuit of a dangerous criminal. This briefing is to appraise you of the situation with said criminal and his associates, and to inform you that you are all now part of Operation Triad, the naming of which will become clear in a few moments.” She tapped a button on the remote, bringing up the first slide. Behind her, the screen flickered to life and showed the mugshot of one rather muscular panda.
“This is the criminal known as Dragon. Official identity unknown, but what little information we know from the Chinese authorities is that he turned up on the streets of Hong Kong at a very young age. Alone and uncared for, he soon became an errand boy for the local Triad-organised crime families before working his way up the ranks to become the chief enforcer of the Jade Triad, the largest and most powerful group in the city for the last thirty years. Convicted of multiple assaults, batteries, robberies, and extortion, and suspected in at least four murders of government officials and rival gang leaders. He spent very little time in jail due to the rampant corruption in the city’s law enforcement division. He served under this mammal.” She paused as the slide changed, showing an aged red panda. “Known as the Master, but officially named Shifu Dá Sī Tīng. The leader of the Jade Triad for twenty of those last thirty years after, allegedly, murdering his superior, one Xīniú Dēngguāng, a rhino. Said rhino was found with multiple cuts to the throat, his eyes removed and placed in his mouth. And no, that is not hyperbole. There are photos in the dossiers that will be provided at the end of the presentation. They are… not pleasant,” she finished before forcing herself not to shudder. She then continued to list the other members of the Jade Triad they were tracking, flicking through mugshots as she did so. “The other members are Tai Lung Wuxi, snow leopard; Liu Tiānshǐ, mongoose; Rogen Gao, rat; Jo Li Shé, tigress; and finally, Tran Jiāochā, fruit bat.”
“Roughly five years ago, as part of a campaign to get rid of corruption in the force, the Chinese authorities removed most of the high-ranking police officials in Hong Kong and placed the remaining officers under the command of Chief Inspector Tequila. One of his first actions was a campaign of raids against the Triads, and he was so successful that he managed to dismantle some of the oldest Triad families in just under four years, including the Jade Triad. Most of these members were either arrested or killed during the raids, but unfortunately, the mammals in Shifu’s inner circle, the ones we just discussed, escaped. Eventually, they made it here, to Zootopia.”
She let the fact sink in for a few seconds, watching the officers’ reactions. While most were interested, there were a few wary looks. She glanced to the front row and saw Officers Bhrast Akela and Kelsey Sabor taking notes. Judy was glad they were there, especially Bhrast. The wolf’s investigative skills were gonna be useful in this. Judy cleared her throat loudly, causing the minor bustle to die down from the assembled mammals. She continued with the presentation.
“The next parts of this are speculative at best due to the nature of the case. Detective Wilde and I were called to the middle of one of Sahara Square’s deserts where a polar bear victim was discovered dead, desiccated after being buried in the arid landscape for maybe two to three weeks. During the course of our investigation, we discovered this bear had multiple injuries, but the cause of death was that they had been beaten to death by a mammal a third of their size. Possibly a panda. And that polar bear was Kevin Koslov, a major enforcer to the Tundratown crime syndicate and suspected of being under the employ of Mr Big.”
Any officer who hadn’t been paying attention was suddenly all ears. Judy looked over at Nick, who nodded slightly, urging her to continue. “These mammals have also been identified in the assault of one Luther Hill, a badger who only survived because of his extensive military training and his access to a pistol and a shotgun. There was also an assault on two Flying Rhinos gang members, who they just couldn’t be bothered dealing with. And it gets worse — we now have a further two associates of the Big mob dead along with two other mammals, all killed at the penthouse of the Zootopia Deluxe apartments. One Raymond Koslov, brother to the first victim, and a member of the Stone-Cold Killers gang, Julius Hopperson. Along with those victims, two members of the Jade Triad were found dead as well. The first, Tran Jiāochā, was found having had the entire lower right quarter of his body bitten out of him by Raymond Kozlov presumably, since the rest of his remains were found inside Raymond’s mouth.” Judy took a second to scan the room to see how the officers had reacted to that. It was very likely they’d encountered similar scenes in their time on the force. Most seemed to take it as well as expected; she didn’t expect anyone not to get at least queasy at this.
“I have a question!” a voice she didn’t recognise called out. Judy swiveled toward the voice and saw a male lion beat officer with his hand raised, but in the most sarcastic way possible. Before Judy could react, telling him to hold his question to the end of the presentation, he continued. “How come you and the fox are in charge? Sounds like politics to me, am I right, guys?” he asked, turning to the other officers. While some seemed to nod in agreement, he seemed surprised that the majority of the police in the room were now glaring at him. Judy rolled her eyes as the officer looked around in confusion. She sometimes forgot that some police were still not happy about having a meek bunny and a sly fox on the force and detectives no less, an act which was possible thanks to her supportive superiors and colleagues.
Who, she noticed, weren’t saying anything. She quickly looked out of the corner of her eye and saw Bogo just on the edge of her vision, a smug grin on his face. She quickly glanced to Vines and saw a similar one on his muzzle. A further glance revealed the others that knew her, or her reputation, also had some grins. She didn’t need to look behind her to know Nick would be wearing his smuggest grin, the one he knew infuriated her. Well, time to nip this one in the bud, she thought.
Judy bounced in place once, and then leapt in the air high above the heads of the mammals in front. She landed with a purposefully heavy thud in front of the unfortunate lion, who visibly jumped. “Do you have something to say to me, Officer… Prince?” Judy asked, looking down at his badge.
Surprised by the bunny’s actions, Office Prince turned to Chief Bogo and opened his mouth to speak. However, Judy reached up into his open mouth, placed her paw carefully around one of his lower incisors, and yanked the lion’s mouth down to force him to look at her. Many mammals gasped in response — she literally had the lion by the teeth. “I was the one who asked the question Officer, not Bogo. Do you understand?” The lion, not having many options, nodded slowly. “Good. What’s your first name?”
“Uhhh…” the lion managed, his mouth becoming incredibly dry from being open and Judy’s growing intensity. He sounded terrified.
“John Prince, yes?” The lion nodded, Judy’s paw still around his tooth. “Well John, the reason myself and Detective Wilde will be in charge is that we’ve been detectives for over a year, we’ve been working this case from the beginning, we’ve faced down the leader of the most powerful crime family in the city, along with his very large amount of polar bear enforcers, and we are still alive. If you also forgot, we uncovered the largest conspiracy in the city during my first couple of months on the force. What I mean to say, John, is that we are very, very good at our jobs and know this case inside out. Do you understand?”
“Do you think this is still political? Just shake your head if you don’t.”
“Also, while I don’t know you personally John, your captain did say that you were one of his best street people, knowing the ins and out of your precinct like the back of your paw. He also mentioned your commendation for spending almost 16 hours looking for a lost cub, who you miraculously did find. Skills like that is why you were recommended for this task force, which will help with your promotion prospects. What will not help is being sent back to your precinct for being a racist lump who’d rather make snide comments behind the backs of his direct superiors, which myself and Detective Wilde will be while you are on this assignment. Got it?”
“Good,” she finished, and finally removed her paw from his tooth. John kept his mouth open in shock, and Judy glanced around to find that others were looking at her paw in terror.
“Oh, that?” she said, wriggling her paw in the air as she turned back to John. “Predator teeth don’t scare me.” She lowered her voice an octave before continuing. “In fact, I really quite enjoy them, as my fiancé Detective Wilde can attest to.”
She smiled as she saw John’s ears turn bright red and felt the heat coming off him in waves. The rest of the mammals were silent, until Bhrast Akela burst out laughing, followed by Kelsey and then the rest of the room. “Get used to it newbies, it gets worse!” Bhrast managed to say in between guffaws.
“Alright, settle down everyone,” Judy said as she hopped back over to the podium. “Now that we’ve established the pecking order, back to work. Anyway, before I was rudely interrupted, I was telling you about murder victims,” she reminded, which got the last few chuckling officers to calm down. “The final victim found at the scene of the hotel was the previously mentioned Shifu, the leader of the Jade Triad. The interesting thing about his death is that he was found to have been killed by a quick, simple break of the neck. Why? We don’t know, but due to what has happened after this, we suspect Dragon killed him and took control of the remaining Jade Triad members. He was spotted last week in the company of one of the high-ranking lieutenants of the mafia… by Detectives Charlie Hunter and Henry Coulton.
That caught everyone’s attention.
“Yes, that Henry Coulton. The one who was murdered by Dragon, which is part of why you’re all here.” Judy sighed. “I know what some of you are thinking,” she said, making sure she was staring Officer Prince in the eye. “He’s a panda, a leaf eater, harmless, right? Even with everything I’ve told you, I can see that some of you might not be taking this seriously. You. Are. Wrong. And if you’re not careful, you’ll be DEAD wrong, just like Coulton. He was given all the information you have, that these mammals are deadly with hand-to-hand combat and seem to have acquired firearms, but he and his partner still thought they could take him. On their own. They didn’t even call in the sighting, and now Coulton is dead, having given his life to save his partner.”
She let the words sink in. Looking around the room, she was glad to see the message seemed to be getting through to most mammals; even the rhinos and elephants were looking wary. “Now that you have some idea of how dangerous this ONE mammal is, remember, there are four more just like him who are still alive.”
Judy then went on to list the injuries that were identified on Kevin’s body, making sure they were well aware of the internal one inflicted by the rat, Rogen. She then prompted Nick to show the security footage of the assault on Luther Hill. As the scene unfolded, she said, “Again I must reiterate that the only reason Mr Hill survived was his military training and luck. Without those, he would have bled out on the bar floor.
“So, what we have here are five mammals who are merciless killers with their bare hands and are seemingly determined to take on the biggest crime syndicate in the city out of either bravado or desperation. And unfortunately, they seem to be gaining support for this venture from the other crime families. Officer Wilde and I have been receiving witness reports since Coulton’s murder, and we seem to be hitting on a pattern. Witnesses have spotted them all in conversation with various crime families. Dragon talking with Jack Khartoum was just the start. It’s too early to be sure, but we think they’re gathering allies for a push against Big’s territory. That means mob war, and we’re going to stop it.” She took a breath and ploughed on. “The purpose of Operation Triad is to stop that from happening. We need to find these mammals before this gets any worse. We’ve got enough problems with the current gangs in the city without them trying to kill each other. That’s why all of you will be out in the city tracking down any leads. Many of you have connections with the crime syndicates in question. Use them. Hell, if we’re lucky we’ll get enough evidence to put those guys behind bars, too. But our top priority must be to stop a mob war from breaking out into the streets, because that means members of the public will be caught in the crossfire. Are you up to it?”
“SIR YES SIR!” the mammals rang out, something Judy didn’t expect. Momentarily flustered by the response, she got herself together.
“I want you to study these documents today. Tomorrow, we’ll be handing out assignments to teams, and due to the dangers involved, you will all be armed with lethal ammunition. While on this case, you WILL check in as per spec. You WILL NOT engage these mammals without calling for backup if you can help it. Detective Wilde and I will be lead investigators, but be aware our orders will be backed by Captain Vines and Chief Bogo… and that includes double time on all hours worked on this case and bonuses for everyone when we catch them.” That revelation got a small smattering of applause.
“Now for the fun part. We’ll also be informing the public of the danger these mammals pose… and there will be a tip line set up.” The groan that came from almost every mouth was about on par with what she expected. “Yeah, I know, I know, but it’s needed. Mammals on the task force will be tasked with manning the phones on that line.” Another round of groans, louder and more heartfelt. “Oh, and John?” Judy got the lion’s attention. “You’re on that until I say otherwise,” she said with a smug grin. John went to protest, but thought better of it and nodded. Judy would only keep him there for a couple of days. His file showed that he was too good of a beat cop to keep him there, but someone had to be the first mammal on it.
“You’ll all be based in Precinct One for the duration of this investigation. Please make your way to the spare offices past the MCU and begin reading through the dossiers. Detectives Salica von Fledermaus and Angua von Uberwolf will be there to field questions and help with the case. Detective Wilde and I will be taking part in a press conference in a little bit, and we’ll join you soon after to start assigning tasks. Dismissed.”
After the room cleared, Judy took a deep breath and sighed. “Great work, Carrots,” Nick said as he walked over to the podium, extending an arm to help her down. While she could easily get down herself, the small gesture of chivalry from her mate was appreciated.
“I’ll say,” Captain Vines praised. “Good work on handling Prince. Shows the rest of them who’s in charge.”
“Indeed,” Bogo said as he joined them. “You sure you don’t want to speak to the press…?” he started to say, but when Judy’s eyes went wide with terror, he chuckled. “Just kidding. I think Wilde will fare better there.”
“No issues there, Chief,” Nick said.
“Good. Now let’s get this over with, and when today is over with I expect you both to get some sleep. I’m seeing a lot of restless nights in our immediate futures.”
“Ah, the rewards of public service,” Nick said with no attempt at hiding the sarcasm. Judy rolled her eyes as Bogo led the way out of the room, followed by herself, Nick, and Captain Vines bringing up the rear. This meant than when Bogo stopped short, the two smaller mammals were momentarily squeezed between the others as Nick walked into the back of Bogo’s legs, followed by Judy and Vines in short order. Confused, the detectives looked around the bulk of Bogo to see what the hold-up was. And they were immediately dismayed to see that Charlie Hunter was blocking their way.
“Hunter. Glad to see you’re up and about,” Bogo said softly, though there was the merest hint of disapproval in his voice.
“Thank you, sir,” Hunter replied and saluted, despite being so obviously off duty. The cougar was wearing grey sweatpants and a black faded Gnus and Roses t-shirt, and judging by the dark rings under his eyes, he had not been sleeping well. He also winced slightly, obviously still in pain from where his partner had tackled him out of the way.
“No need for that,” Bogo said, despite returning a half-hearted salute himself. “Especially since you’re off duty for recovery. At least, that’s what the captain of your own precinct has told me.”
“I’m fit for duty, sir,” Hunter said as he slowly lowered his arm.
“I somehow doubt that,” Captain Vines chimed in.
“With respect sir, that’s not your decision to make.”
“Perhaps, but you still look like you would keel over if I poked you in the ribs,” Vines said, jabbing a finger towards the cougar, who flinched in response.
“Why are you here, Hunter?” Judy asked, causing Hunter to notice Nick and her for the first time. After a few seconds, he simply turned back to the two larger mammals.
“I wish to volunteer for the task force you are setting up for the Triads…”
“How the hell do you know about that!?” Bogo hissed between his teeth. “We just informed the involved officers and haven’t made it public yet.”
“Well, I didn’t know until you just confirmed it, sir,” Hunter replied with a hint of smugness. “My friends at Precinct 26 kept me in the loop that a few of their number had been called to a meeting today here. My colleagues in the other precincts told me the same. And when I followed the officers from my precinct here, then saw all of them come out of the bullpen, well... I made an educated guess. I think that shows that I would make an excellent asset to the team.”
“No way,” Nick and Judy answered together.
“I don’t remember asking you pelts,” Hunter snarled.
“ENOUGH!” Bogo shouted, drawing the eyes of the few mammals in the hallway, who all quickly made sure they were elsewhere. “You are on very thin ice, Detective. Especially when you just insulted the leaders of the task force you want to join…”
“THEM!?” Hunter cried, shocked at the revelation. “But they’re the ones who fucked this up in the first place! If they had done their job, Coulton would still be alive.”
A snarl from Nick caught everyone’s attention, and as they all stared at him he looked ready to go for Hunter’s throat. Judy, however, placed a paw on his and he stopped immediately. He looked down at her as she shook her head. He huffed, shrugged, and then waved towards Hunter, letting her take the lead.
“Hunter,” she began, her voice steady. “Even if you weren’t injured, you would in no way have been selected for the task force. For one, you’re too close to the case now.” She paused at that, not revelling in the hypocrisy of the statement, even if it was true. “And even if you weren’t, your actions clearly show you are not suited...”
“Listen, long ears…”
“Shut. Up,” Judy interrupted, slamming her foot to add emphasis. “You and your partner went against procedure and orders, and you attempted to apprehend a dangerous mammal by yourselves. You didn’t call it in, you underestimated him, and if it wasn't for your partner, YOU would have been the one to pay the price. Actually, no scratch that. It would have been you and your family that would have paid. Kids growing up without a father, your wife a widow. Did you want that Hunter? To miss them grow up? For your wife to lose the person, who for some reason, is the love of their life? The possibility of her having to find comfort with another mammal? Your kids maybe having a different father figure in their life? Is that why you tried to play hero?”
Silence filled the world for a few seconds until Nick had to ruin the mood. “Damn Carrots. You taking night howler on the sly? Cos that was savage.”
“YOU FUCKING BITCH!” Hunter roared, taking a step towards Judy and raising his paws. Before anyone else could react, Vines stepped forward, pressed both his paws on the sides of Hunter’s chest and squeezed. The effect was immediate, Hunter’s recent injury causing him to let out a cry of pain before Vines released him, making Hunter drop to the ground.
After the cougar had stopped writhing on the floor in pain, Vines lifted him up, spun him around and cuffed him. “Detective Hunter, you are under arrest for the attempted assault on Detective Hopps.”
“I didn’t fucking touch her…” Hunter said, his voice wheezing.
“Which is probably the only reason neither her nor Wilde have your blood on their paws. Now, we’re going to take a walk to the cells so you can calm down. Afterwards, I’m fairly sure Bogo, your captain, and Internal Affairs will want a nice chat afterwards. Isn’t that right, sir?” Vines finished, turning to the police chief.
Bogo nodded in response. With that, the wolf led the pained cougar towards the holding cells of Precinct One.
“You’d think he would have learned a lesson from his partner’s death,” Nick said, placing a paw on Judy’s shoulder. The rabbit hadn’t flinched for a second, but the way her nose was twitching betrayed a moment of fear that had erupted within her before her fight-or-flight response had kicked in. “You OK, babe?”
“I’m fine. You?” Judy responded, letting out a shallow breath.
“Because you have your tranq pistol out of its holster,” Judy said, pointing to Nick’s other paw as she turned to face him. Nick glanced to said paw and back to her, seemingly surprised to find it there.
“Huh, guess my paws were thinking faster than my head. Not sure if that’s a good thing.”
“I’ll let it slide if you put the damn thing away, Wilde,” Bogo said, covering his eyes with one hoof. “I’ll take care of Hunter later. You both still good for the press conference?”
“I’m pretty sure being hopped up on adrenaline won’t help too much, but yes sir,” Nick said, Judy nodding in response as well.
An hour later, in a safehouse owned by one of the city’s crime families, Liu knocked on the door of Dragon and Jo Li’s shared bedroom. A few seconds later, the door was opened by the unkempt form of Dragon.
“You’re gonna wanna see this boss,” she said before tapping on her phone. On his nightstand, Dragon’s own phone buzzed. The panda nodded at Liu and quietly shut the door, not wanting to wake Jo Li. He retrieved it and clicked the EweTube link Liu sent him, making sure to keep the volume down.
“This is ZNN at Precinct One, where Chief Bogo has called a special press event…” the video began. Dragon watched in silence for the full length of the conference. Then watched it again. After the third viewing, he got up and dressed before waking Jo Li.
“Get the others, and contact the representatives of our alliance. The shit just hit the fan.”