"What do you mean they found nighthowlers in Kris' locker?!"
Nick sighed, glancing over at Judy. "They found pellets, the real non-blueberry nasties, in his locker, Carrots."
"-Is an intelligent, well adjusted, nigh on pacifistic fox who we all love and would never be involved in that stuff in a million years," he interrupted, slouching down and cradling his head with a paw. He shook it a few times before sighing. "Oddly enough, I'm just as confused as you are."
Judy furrowed her brow, about to shoot back a response, only to check herself instead. Closing her eyes, clenching a paw, her foot drummed furiously against the train floor as if she wished to wear through it.
"I'm guessing," Jack said slowly, "that you think someone else put them there. Right?"
"Yes!" The two cops said at once, turning to face him.
"What if someone didn't?" came another voice, a quiet voice. Nick and Judy turned to its source, a meek looking red panda. Retsuko shrugged. "I'm just saying, what if…?"
"-He wouldn't have," Judy cut in, walking up to her. "We know him. He's kind, intelligent, charming…"
"Wasn't Bellwether that?"
Judy froze, closing her eyes and turning away. "No. It's not like that."
"What if it is?"
"It… it can't, it…" she began, stuttering a few times. She looked into Retsuko's eyes, biting her bottom lip with her buck teeth, before turning on the spot and marching into Nick. He hugged her tightly by reflex as she began sniffing.
She mumbled slightly, his ears peeling.
She mumbled a few more times, Nick only making out the word 'please…'
"Please not again…" she whispered, pulling in another sniff.
"I… I don't want to be tricked again…"
"Carrots, Kris would have nothing to do with this."
"Retsuko doesn't know him. We do."
"I knew Bellwether…"
"But it's true," she sniffed. "I want him to be innocent. I think he is! But what if I'm wrong? It wouldn't be the first time!"
"Judy," he barked out, grabbing her shoulders and rooting her in place. "How well did you know her, huh? When?"
"My.. my graduation," she sniffed, still emotional. "Then three short meetings."
"So, what, not enough lines from her to count on your paws? And what do you and Kris have? The day he got his father back, our little meetups with the family, the baby shower! In just one of those, you probably talked to him more than you ever did to Smellwether. So, you know him, I know him, and if you believe that he didn't do it, I'm going to guess that you're right and he didn't."
She sniffed a few times more, before bottling it up and wiping away her tears. "I'm sorry, I…"
"I just don't want to make the same mistakes all over again."
Nick nodded, and he held her paw as she composed herself. "How about we get some Judy-on-duty, thinking this through, huh?"
She paused and nodded, turning back to Retsuko. "Okay. Understandable idea. However, from character studies, it's unlikely. For a start, what would the motive be?"
There was a quiet pause, before Haida, who'd been sitting behind Retsuko, put his paw up. "What about the obvious ones? Money, revenge, some political cause?"
"His father is a well respected academic and they're both well off" Nick countered. "As for revenge, he's a calm and patient mammal who teaches others meditation. He has a girlfriend, and being a recent immigrant, it's not like he has any beef..."
"-Language, Nick," Judy warned.
"Right," he noted, rolling his eyes. "It's not like he had any peas and turnips with Zootopian society."
"Recent immigrant?" Haida asked, his head cocking a little.
"From Canidea," Nick brushed off.
Haida's eyes went wide. "Prince Edward Island?"
"-His father had an ice fishing accident, didn't he?"
There was a long pause as all the mammals turned to face him. "How did you…" Skye began.
"I met him on a bus, the day the howler warning came out," Haida stated, energy coursing through him. "Kristofferson Silverfox, remember Fenneko doing her thing?"
Retsuko's eyes widened. "Yes, I do now."
"Right. And, pinch of salt from an ex-Smellwether voter here, I don't see him messing with that stuff on purpose."
"What about fame?" Jack asked, gathering the crowd's attention. "Or infamy! The same destructive desires that drive those school shooters in the States. A dark, inwardly twisted ideology, fuelled by a nihilistic core, seeking to find release in carnage and immortality through fame…"
"Okay, those blank stares say no. Just an idea." He paused, looking up at Skye. "What do you think?"
She just shrugged, her paws coming out as she signalled that she didn't have the slightest idea. "All I know is that his Aunt's side of the family will be messed up. I'll be there for them, whether I'm actually good at it or not."
"Right then," Jack noted, looking forward. "SavageSkye out."
Nick nodded, glancing at the map on the train. "Next stop," he noted, before looking at Haida and Retsuko. "You two don't need to come, you know?"
Haida shook his head. "I'll be there. They're going through a lot, and if they need me…"
Retsuko nodded along too. "I was thinking that it would be interfering a bit, but Haida's right. A colleague at work was falsely accused of something a while back and it was hard, so if we can give some help here, why not? Anyway, what if you need support?"
Judy looked up and smiled. "Thanks, it's appreciated."
She nodded as the entire gang got up. Getting off at the next station, Savannah Central, they slipped past the queue for the stairs and entered a lift, given Skye's leg. Up, out, and into the light of watering hole plaza. Everything seemed both busy and peaceful, in a way that a normally operating city would be. Judy kept her eyes peeled, as if expecting a cop car, the fox family, or even some protestors. She was wound up tight, which only relaxed when she stepped through the doors of Precinct One.
"Oh Em Goodness…"
"Hey, Spots," Nick began, rushing forwards.
"Look at you and your little posse… Now, I'm excluding Judy from this, as I know you can't…"
"-Call a bunny cute, but you have the ke-yootest liddle pack of friends I've ever seen. What are you all doing here today?"
"Did a family of foxes arrive recently?" he asked. "Three of them. Teen son and pregnant wife?"
"Oh, those guys," he said, nodding. "They came in earlier and asked to see their cousin who was taken in. They seemed pretty upset."
"Yeah," Nick sighed. "So are we. Where are they?"
"I let them into one of the private rooms, first on the left," he said.
"And the cousin. Kris Silverfox?"
"I don't know," he said, both Nick and Judy's eyes widened in alarm. "But we did have an 'anonymous vulpine' brought in earlier and put into an isolation cell."
Judy slapped her forehead. "Of course, youth protection… -Yes, that's him, thanks Ben!"
She raced off, Nick pausing to look at him. "If an older silver fox arrives, send him our way too." Ben nodded, before Nick followed on, Jack, Skye and Retsuko tagging along after. Clawhauser smiled especially at the adorable little red panda, his eyes then flicking up to the final member of the group, widening as he did so. "Oh Em Goodness!"
"You look just like my nieces favourite stuffed toy!"
"-I mean it's such a coincidence."
"Look, here on my phone. Just past all these pictures of Gazelle, musical genius and angel with horns. Look, there, you look just the same."
"Yes…" he grunted, checking the time and finding it far too early for alcohol.
"I mean, it must be amazing. I think I'd also make a cute plushie, you could have a donut stuck in my folds instead of your cute teefies…"
"I mean, what must it be like to have such an honour?"
Meanwhile, the rest of the gang made their way to the rooms. The goings on during cases could often result in grieving families, both of the victims and the perps, alive and dead. As a result, there were a set of private rooms off in one area of the Precinct for this purpose. After all, if a kit had just lost his parents and needed to be kept somewhere safe, the last thing anyone wished to do was put him in a police cell.
As a result, the rooms had comfy furniture, bold colours, selections of children's toys and a TV and, in all of that, Nick and Judy found the fox family, huddling up on one sofa, silent in their grief.
Ash looked up, his eyes red. "You came?"
"Yeah, Mr," Nick said, before making a spitting noise. "Of course we came. How're you holding up?"
"I…" he began to say, before huffing. "Rough."
"He saw it," Mr Fox said, looking up. "The arresting officer brought everyone out to watch the lockers being opened and then dragged Kris off, right in front of Ash. He probably thought that it might be him that they were going after."
"I… I did," he said, setting off a round of sniffing from his mother. She held him closer, grabbing him and holding him tight.
"D-don't worry," she told him. "Everything is going to be okay. I…" she sniffed again. "This might all be a bad dream."
She was cut off as Haida entered, their eyes meeting for a second.
"Oh thank god, it is a dream."
She chuckled. "A horrible dream where my nephew is arrested and my new kit's plushy comes to life."
"Oh-for-goodness," he began, before looking up. "Miss Hopps, you still have that famous carrot pen on you, right?"
"Yes," she said, picking it off of her belt. "Why?"
"Just want to borrow it for a second," he said, before turning to Mrs Fox, just as Catano entered the room, pausing as she spotted Haida and Retsuko.
"Oh, hello again."
The pair waved, as Retsuko turned to a confused Judy. "She came into our office one time and we talked a bit."
"Indeed I did," Catano said, before turning to her colleagues. "Ben told me you were here. Nick, Judy, quick walk and talk."
They nodded and slipped out, though it quickly turned into more of a jog and talk as Catano speed-walked out into the back of the Precinct. "We found the howlers all right, someone dropped a tip, and it led us to that courier."
"He's not involved," Nick said.
"Listen, I know this kit. He's nice, kind, thoughtful, intelligent. I know him well, so does Judy. Unless it was completely unwittingly, he'd never get involved."
Turning a corner, they paused as they reached Bogo, the buffalo waiting in the observation room of one of the interrogation cells. Both Nick and Judy looked in and sighed with relief. There he was, sitting on a chair in a lotus position, calmly meditating.
Catano was silent for a second or two before looking back. "He certainly seems different to what I'd expect. The only suspects I've seen act like that are those breaking the law for 'religious' purposes. Usually spiritualists caught with certain drugs, and more recently some of those climate protesters. He seems at peace with himself, despite the trouble he's in."
"He's a very well adjusted mammal," Judy said, paws on her hips as she glared back at Catano. "He's doing it to keep calm, given that he just found nighthowlers in his locker and was dragged away."
Catano nodded. "So, is he a relative of Nick's?"
"Sort of," Nick confessed, turning to Bogo. "Remember that teen kit I saved a while back, you let me attend his therapy sessions later on."
The chief nodded.
"That's his cousin. I met him on that night, and we're friends with both their families." He paused, before looking up. "I'm going to be his new cousin's godfather…"
Bogo nodded. "Fair enough. But you do understand that this personal connection means that you're off the case. At least as long as he's a suspect."
Nick sighed, nodding his head. "Yes sir."
"Okay," Catano sighed. "If you know him that well, you can still help. What do you think of this case?"
"It has to be a plant," Judy stated.
"Because we can think of no reason for him to be involved," she said. "He's happy, well off, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, he…" She broke off, sniffing. "Yesterday he tried to teach me meditation."
"He hasn't even been in the city that long, little more than a year at most," Nick added. "He emigrated here so his Aunt and Uncle could look after him while his father was sick. His father then moved over too. That means no time to get to know the underworld, the recruiters, to get locked into the systems that were at play. He was too busy doing schoolwork and sports!"
Catano paused, nodding her head. "I'll keep that in mind. In any case, Oates and I will be interviewing him once his father arrives. Thanks for the help though," she said. "And I'm sorry."
The pair nodded, before making their way back to the other room. They entered to see Skye talking to Mrs Fox, the pair holding paws. The pregnant vixen looked up at them, her paws moving over her heart. "What's going on?"
"He's being held in an interrogation cell until his father arrives," Judy said.
"You saw him?"
"Yeah, and he seems fine. He was meditating to pass the time."
She nodded, taking in a calming breath. "Good, I… -He's like a son to me. As long as he's okay."
"What next though?" Mr Fox asked.
"They'll be interviewing him," she explained. "What happens next, I don't know, but Zootopia has very good youth justice laws. If they think he was suspicious, the worst that might happen is that he has to wear a tracker while things go forward."
"Did you put in a good word?" He asked.
"Lots, but they also know our relationship to your family."
"Which means?" Ash asked.
"We're off the case, conflicts of interest and such," Nick explained. "Though it seems that Catano will be handling it from now on. She's a good officer."
"As two non-biased mammals, we can agree with that," Haida piped up, gesturing at himself and Retsuko. "She was very committed the one time we met her."
Judy nodded. "And, once our two best detectives get back from their foreign investigation, I'm sure they'll get to the root of this before you can say…"
"-Where's my boy!?"
Everyone turned to face the door, ears and tails dropping as they saw Dr Silverfox standing there.
He looked terrible. His jaw hung down and quivered, lines of worry were etched across his face while his paws shook as if he was shivering. It all added up, crowned by his fearful eyes, and magnifying the frailty that his illness had left him with vastly. He looked old, weak and scared, and the room felt colder in his presence.
"Will…" Felicity said.
He sniffed once and then twice. "Is he okay? Is he…"
His sister in law struggled to stand up given her current state. Instead it was Judy that rushed up to him. "He's in a cell, meditating to pass the time," she said.
"Where? I need to see him, I need to see him."
Judy kept her face level and professional, nodding. "I'll take you to the place," she said.
His voice was silent, hanging there for a second or two, before he nodded. "Thank you."
She led him on, reassuring him as he went. "I'm sorry. But it's going to be alright, I promise."
One Year before…
"Hey, kit. You can take that sign off of you, you know?"
Kris paused, thinking for a second or two before shaking his head, the unaccompanied minor sign beneath him jiggling left and right as he did so. "Thanks, but I'm good."
The beaver across from him, dressed in an Air Canidea uniform, nodded, pausing as he spotted the waitress come across. "Ah, there's the good stuff," he said as a tree-bark poutine was placed in front of him. "Well, good for airport food at least. -Though it is a Hoofer Hut after all."
"I've never actually been to a Hoofer Hut," Kris noted, as his food arrived too.
"Wait, aren't there any on the island? I mean, I know it's really tiny, my Ma comes from Kingston and they've got about the same pop as your entire province, but I'd still expect there to be a Hoofer Hut or two."
"They do," Kris said. "My father just never took me into one. The closest we got to that kind of place was on friends' birthdays."
"Hmmm, the more you know," the staff member muttered, looking on as Kris tucked in. The silverfox leant down with his fork and spoon, twirling up a helping of his smokey grub pasta before taking a bite.
"So, how's the first time?"
Kris gave a reasonable nod. "It's good."
"Ha. A lot better than what you might get on that plane of yours, though it seems you took the right option on getting a late nighter. Try and snooze on the way. It gets in at ten in the evening local time, but that'll be about one in the morning here in Otterpaw."
Kris nodded. "Though it'll actually be two for me. Maritime time zone."
"Ah, figures," the beaver said, moaning a little as he chewed on his maple-bark fries. "These are about perfect this time of year. -Though when homemaking them, if you have the time, you can cook them real slow to caramelize the sugar. Then freeze and deep fry like you would with regular fries." He moaned a little, nodding.
"Might I try some?"
The beaver paused, cocking his head slightly. "Now I know that I can eat little bits of pred food and you can eat veg, but I didn't know that you could eat bark."
"Well, most mammals can eat the inner white-bark. In small amounts, it's probably a very good source of fibre."
"Well, be my guest then," the beaver offered, handing one over. Kris scraped the inner bark up and took a bite, sampling the flavours before swallowing.
"Not a big fan, but I can get why you'd like it."
"For a start," the beaver said, taking the remaining bit of hard bark back. "-I also eat the best bit."
"Very probably," Kris agreed, before turning back to his pasta.
"And again, you can take off that sign."
They both ate a little more before the beaver chuckled. "I'm sorry…"
"No, don't worry," he sighed. "But I've helped a bunch of eight to eleven year old unaccompanied minors get on their flights and such over the years, and I can't remember just how many of them were big and bold saying that they were grown-ups, that they could do this themselves, and that they didn't need some beaver who was trying to be cool with them to guide them around. They've pleaded with me to hang their signs away, or hide them, -especially the eleven-year-old girls, who are both brash and really fashion conscious. But you're thirteen and a half, right?"
"So, a good chunk above the minimum 'flying solo' requirement. You could do this without me, and I can trust you to slip away that sign when sitting down and such. I mean, you weren't accompanied during the hop over from Charlottetown, were you?"
"No," Kris said, pausing slightly as his ears lowered. "But a family friend could drop me off there, and it's not a big airport or anything."
"Yup, I remember flying there once on a turboprop before they built the bridge. I'm guessing you were on one too when coming here, a dash-eight most likely."
"A Dash-8 Q400."
"Hmmm. Plane fan?"
"I read the inflight magazines and cards."
The beaver nodded. "Reading the cards, keeping the sign on you, I'm guessing you're just a bit nervous, playing it safe."
Looking up, Kris nodded a few times, before turning back down to his food. It was good, and he was hungry, but he found himself messing around with his fork a little.
"Hey," the Beaver said, leaning forward. He slipped his paw onto Kris' and looked up at him. "Now, if you were doing this solo, some busybodies might have a problem with this, but I'm the one accompanying you here so they can go cuss off as I've got a job to do." He paused, breathing out. "I know that having a dear family member with a serious illness is horrible. I know it's got to be a whole lot worse for you, as you're still young and this is your dad and your only parent, and you're going across a continent to live with some far off relatives in a city that's recently been in the news for about the worst reasons I can think of. I don't know how much worse that is, so maybe these words are sounding crappier than the Saint Lawrence just east of Montrenard, but it's going to be okay. It's going to be okay, Kristofferson. It's going to be okay."
Kris nodded back, taking a deep breath in. "Thanks. I… -I am a bit nervous," he said, "about my father. But it's going to be okay." He paused, looking up at his escort before looking down at his sign, managing to crack a smile. "It's why I'm glad I'm getting this escort, and why I'm keeping this sign on me. Things can be rough in life, and things can go wrong. But there are rules in place to guide you, and they'll keep you safe and help to fix any mistakes if you respect them. Follow them, and they'll help sort it out and pull you back on track." He paused, before looking up. "And there's good mammals along the way to help you out."
"Why thank you."
"It's more than that, though," Kris said. "My Dad is really ill, and I'm going to be a burden on my new family. They're all relying on me to keep it all together. But I can do that: I can do my best, I can follow the rules, I can trust in others and let them trust me. I can keep my head clear and calm and make the right choices, even if they're little ones like keeping this sign on. They all add up, but I'll be making the right choices and doing the right things, and it'll mean that everyone else will get their happy ending too."
The beaver smiled, raising his cola. "Well, good sir, I can drink to that."
Despite his nerves, Kris felt good, and his raised his glass of apple juice and clinked it against the beaver's. He was at a very confusing and worrying time in his life, but if he followed the instructions, he was confident that things would turn out just fine. If he made all the right choices and actions, it would all work out for everyone. He was confident that he'd see his father again.
One year later…
This was odd… This was very odd. But Kris remained calm as the tiger officer took the sheet from the headmistress's secretary. He was looking through it, trying to find a reference? Was it to do with the locker numbers. "Tchhh, so be it," he muttered, before turning, waving over one of the school caretakers. Kris watched him move over with a key towards… -His and Ash's locker? No, he was going to the lower one. His one. Why was he opening his lock…
He knew what they were. He knew exactly what they were, even though he'd only seen them once in a newspaper article. But they fit the bill, and with this kind of reaction from the police and the others, fear and tears and anger, there could only be one thing that they were.
Four of them, in his locker, and now the police officers were turning to him and…
This couldn't be real, right? How could they get there? He'd never seen them before, and now the pawcuffs were coming out, and the officers were coming for him. He felt Ash's paw grip his own and he suddenly realised how thankful he was for it, and how useless it was in the grand scheme of things. He knew how much trouble he was in, he knew exactly what was coming next, and there was nothing he could do. Nothing anyone could do.
He needed to say yes, but he felt the words freeze in his mouth, only managing a nod instead. That was his name, yes. This wasn't stopping, no. Things were going to get worse.
The tiger leant down and grabbed his left shoulder, yanking in its socket and spinning his world around. He felt an instinct flash through him, calling back to his karate training, but he let it slip from his mind. That would make it worse. Just stay calm, and…
"You are hereby under arrest for possession of an illegal and dangerous substance, you have the right to remain silent…"
Okay… This was really happening. Just keep calm, just do what he says… But his ears peeled as he heard the commotion behind him, and he felt the bite as pawcuffs, actual pawcuffs, bit into his arms, locking them in place.
"Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. As a youth, any interrogations will be conducted with an attorney and legal guardian present."
He registered what was said, but his mind was still occupied by the noises around him. Looking around, scanning, locked in a semi-panic before he turned and found himself face to face with his terrified cousin.
He was panicking.
Was he okay?
"Do you understand?"
Kris closed his eyes and took a deep breath in. He needed to get this under control, he needed to make sure that Ash was okay. Refocussed, he looked back at his cousin. In his martial arts he'd had instructions on fighting in groups, with partners, and what to do if they were to receive an injury. Do what you need to do to keep them safe, so you can then stop worrying about them. He'd always worry about Ash, so he had to make sure that his cousin would be fine.
"Do you understand?"
-Right. -Silence, attorney, dad, nothing going on until then.
That… That was okay. He could manage that. He even managed to smile a bit, as if he played by the rules they could surely clear up this misunderstanding and everything would be okay. That cleared, he turned to Ash. "D-don't worry. There's probably a good explanation, I'll be fine."
"Do you understand?"
"Yes sir," Kris replied, closing his eyes and starting some breathing. Just keep calm for now, use some meditation techniques and this should float by.
He was jolted out of any pre-trance by the slam of a giant paw on his back, pushing him along.
"Any biting or related threats will result in the use of a muzzle…" the officer warned, another good reason to keep calm. "-Any attempts at escape will authorise the use of force…" As he said it though, the noise from behind him rose, cut through by a scream.
Kris closed his eyes. Keep calm, get this over with, stay strong for everyone. It's a simple mistake, it had to be.
"-You will be taken to Precinct One immediately where contact will be made with your guardians..."
The pain in the voice pulled too hard and he glanced back, getting a fleeting glimpse of his cousin before being pushed around a corner and out of view. He looked forward and carried on walking, just focussing on keeping calm. A few students peered out of the windows, and he heard the noise of them racing up as he was taken by. Down some steps, the tiger putting his paws on the cuffs, the metal biting in a little in a cold reminder, and they came to the exit doors. Pausing for a second or two, Kris closed his eyes and tried to calm himself again, succeeding at it. He felt calm as the doors were pushed open and he was marched out, passing a crowd of stunned students who'd been looking at the police cars, before finding himself in the back of one. The door was slammed shut and the tiger got in the front, before he lit up the lights and off they went.
"Aren't you going to say anything?" he asked, a growl in his voice.
Kris looked up at him. "I… I think it's best to stay quiet until I'm with my father. Then we can sort this mistake out."
"Mistake?" the tiger growled, flashing an angry glance back through the divider.
"I don't know how those things got there," he said, innocently enough. It was true! He had no idea but, once everything was ready, they could sort it out. The tiger was already starting a sarcastic rant, Kris' ears folding back as he realised that he thought he'd brought them there on purpose.
But he ignored him.
The officer had read them himself. There were rules in place to keep things safe, and he was going to follow them, as that way they could get everything fixed up. Closing his eyes, taking a deep set of breaths in and out, he pushed the sounds of the outside world out and focused on himself.
Keep calm, keep quiet, follow the rules like a good mammal, and soon he'd be with his dad and safe.
"I said out!"
Kris began waking from his meditative trance, only to be whipped straight out of it as the tiger pulled him out of the cruiser. They were in a secure area, underground, in what looked like a car parking lot. As he observed his surroundings, he noticed that he was in a fenced off area and, outside of that barrier, there were parked police cars.
He didn't get much time to see anything more though as his march on continued.
Just keep calm and keep quiet. Then all this can be sorted out.
Entering into a small room, the door locking hard behind him Kris noticed a height chart on one wall, opposite an officer with a camera. He guessed that this was where a mugshot of him would be taken…
An actual mugshot…
Though he tried to remain calm, he couldn't help but get a bit unnerved as the whole thing played out. He was well aware of the fact that he'd just been arrested, but each little step of the process just pushed home how real this really was.
"I am now going to uncuff you, you will take the board present and follow the instructions as your picture is taken. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Kris replied, keeping it simple as he picked the board up. He followed the instructions, standing in the expected positions as the pictures were taken, before being moved along.
Another room, in which a wolf officer, his ears lowering as he saw the young fox, performed a quick pat down. "The Chief told me to put him in an interview cell to wait for his father," he noted, the tiger nodding in return. The big cat turned to move away, but his gaze lingered on Kris as he went.
"Come on now."
Kris turned to the wolf officer, who was gesturing at him to move along. Nodding his head, he did so.
"Want a glass of water or anything? Hungry?"
"No thank you," Kris said. Keep it small, keep it polite. Walking through a mix of different corridors, they turned, and Kris found himself being led into a bland room with a table and chairs inside, along with what was most likely a two-way mirror. He walked in, moving towards one of the seats.
"Hey, you okay Kit?"
Kris looked back. "I think it's best to use my right to remain silent now, until my dad gets here. No offence."
"Probably the smartest move," the wolf noted. "None taken."
He shut the door behind him with a cold clank, and Kris let out a long breath. He'd just been arrested at school. He was now in a prison cell.
This was bad.
He sat down on his chair and cradled his head in his paws. How… How could those things have gotten into his locker? How bad was this going to be…
Taking a deep breath in and out, he calmed himself down. He knew good cops, who could find out the real reason. He needed to stay calm and follow the rules for a little bit longer though, panicking would just hurt everyone.
But it was going to be okay.
After all, it shouldn't be long until his dad got here. He could be strong for him.
As he closed his eyes to meditate again, he could find true solace in that.
It kept him going until the door clicked open again, the familiar voice he'd been waiting for speaking out. "Kris?"
Looking up, he smiled as his father rushed in, speeding over to embrace him. They hugged, tight and long, the older fox slipping his head over his son's shoulder and nuzzling into his kit. "Don't worry, we're going to sort this whole mess out."
Kris nodded, his muzzle rubbing into his father's. He savored the warmth and the connection, and he felt safe again. "Thanks," he said, suddenly feeling a bit emotional. It was funny in a way, the nerves and fear hadn't gotten to him, but the feeling that this silly thing could all be sorted out, and that he'd stayed strong for his father, had. He sniffed a few times, only for a female voice to speak out.
"I understand that this is an emotional moment, but we need you two ready if we're going to make some headway."
Glancing forwards, he noticed a cheetah officer sitting on the other side of the table, alongside two other mammals, a gemsbok and a horse. His father shifted away from him, turning to sit down. As he did so he held his son's paw with a tight grip, his son holding back.
"I am Officer Kii Catano," the cheetah introduced, before gesturing to the horse beside her. "Detective Oates and I will be interrogating you today as part of our investigation into the discovery of nighthowler pellets in your locker. In accordance with the Zootopian Youth Justice Act of 2003, both your legal guardian and a legal representative are here for the duration."
There was a pause as Kris turned to face the gemsbok, who was sitting himself down next to him. The large oryx turned and nodded, holding out a paw. "Peter Refu, nice to meet you."
"Kristofferson Silverfox," Kris replied, holding out his. "I'd have preferred this to be under improved circumstances."
They met and shook for a few seconds before the young fox took a breath in and out, looking forwards. The cheetah stared back at him for a second or two, before glancing down at her papers, shuffling them a little. Kris tried to feel calm, telling himself that he could answer their questions and they'd get it all cleared up, but he couldn't help but feel an unsettled pit of nerves twisting and growing in his stomach. They clenched harder and firmer as the cheetah looked up, her eyes meeting his, a decidedly predatory glint shining out from deep within. "Then let us begin."