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Strength of a Bear

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The next day, Carla received a formal apology from Chief Yenez along with the assurance that Adom Selah was permanently off the case. That afternoon, the debacle hit the morning papers making the PoA police look like incompetent, jack-booted, fools.

Mickey had to verbally dodge reporters who kept calling to interview Carla. She didn’t need Sid to tell her not to talk to the media; she really did not want to. The entire experience with Selah left a foul taste in her mouth.

What did surprise her was to learn that the horrified agouti mother on the subway wasn’t terrified for her child; she was a former police officer and wife to the 3rd Precinct detective with whom Carla had left Bian. She had recognized a false arrest as it was happening; and called her former chief.

At lunch, Det. Oates and Det. Sousa-Oliveira arrived at the office and asked to speak with her about the case. They would speak there.

“We brought Pizza,” Sousa-Oliveira announced setting down several large boxes from Deli Siciliano. “A peace offering for everyone.”

Det. Oates provided two 2-litre bottles of soda.

“Are you handling the case now?” Carla asked, daintily accepting a piece of Heavy-veggi-chunky-cheesy pizza.

“It is still under the jurisdiction of PoA,” Oates said. “But, they only have two detectives and one is now suspended.”

“Chief Yenez asked us to help since Det. Williamson is at the CLEAn testing lab in Angel City,” Sousa-Oliveira explained. “I had a very long talk with Ms. Nguyen and was able to track down the she-panda she saw with Randall the day before he was murdered. She has a rock-solid alibi, she was on a flight to visit her father who is ill. He lives in Shanxii.”

“Ms. Bian’s alibi is…”

“She is much too small and gentle to have done such damage to Randall,” Carla said. “She couldn’t have done it.”

Oates chuckled. “There is that but also she works for the Zootopia Public Library Rainforest branch and was facilitating an all-day symposium about tracing your ancestry that ended at 4:30 then she hosted a talk about the history of Zootopia from 5 to 10 p.m.”

Carla sighed. “I remember when I had that much energy. I am worn out after an 8-hour day these years. So, what do you want of me?”

“Your son’s message said you saw Ms. Nguyen with a male Asian Sun Bear. Could you tell us about that encounter?” Oates asked.

“Oh,” Carla muttered and dragged her memory back to the day she bought Barulhenta, her bird. Shelly found out that meant noisy in Portuguese. She explained what she and Daniel were doing in the Rainforest District and seeing Bian and the male and hiding.

“Why did you hide?” Oates asked.

“I didn’t want her to see me. That was silly because she didn’t know me from a hole in the wall,” she explained with a self-deprecating chuckle.

“Did you hear what they were talking about?” Oates asked.

Carla shook her head. “The day I introduced myself to Bian, it never occurred to me to ask her who he was. She did say her brother and his wife are in Zootopia, so I guess that’s who it was.”

Sousa-Oliveira nodded. “She told me about him. He didn’t take the news she was pregnant and unmarried very well. She said he was so angry, he hasn’t spoken to her much.”

“When did she tell him?” Oates asked.

“The day she called you, Ms. Ursane, after she saw Randall with the she-panda.” He glanced at the curious faces. “His alibi checks out; he was home with his wife and child all day.”

“So where does that leave you?” Carla asked a little afraid of the answer. “A… are you still looking at me?”

“No,” Oates answered. “Ms. Adame let us review the security footage the day you had a pawdicure. You walked in with no broken claws. We confirmed the time you spoke with your son through his partner. You talked almost two hours with him from 7 to 9.” Oates was surprised by that.

Carla giggled, “I did lose track of time.”

“Also, one nosy little Deputy Flynn said he patrols your area and you were home all evening.” Sousa-Oliveira smiled with amusement.

“I suppose I now OWE him a rhubarb pie,” Carla admitted. She frowned. “But that leaves you with no suspect.” Panic hit. “Will Randy have no justice?”

“The DNA testing should be wrapping up and we should have all that evidence when Det. Williamson returns from the CLEAn lab. We wanted you to know where the case stands,” Sousa-Oliveira said patting Carla’s paw. “By the way, my wife was incredibly impressed with how you handled yourself on the subway with Adom Selah. She said you avoided what could have been a terrible scene. I wanted to thank you for that; my son is autistic and was on the verge of a public meltdown. Your calm demeanor prevented that.”

The rest of the lunch was almost celebratory. The detectives left, lunch was cleaned up, and the office fell back into its normal routine.