"I am familiar with the angel with horns, Gazelle, yes," the young fox said, removing her sunglasses and hooking them into the neckline of her black tee-shirt. She casually leaned on the desk in front of Officer Clawhauser, resting her chin on her left hand.
"Have you heard the latest gossip about her?" the fox asked, leaning forward conspiratorially.
"You mean about her getting out of her modeling contract with Preyda?" Clawhauser asked, raising his eyebrow at her.
"Well, why she was able to get out of the contract," the fox said in a hushed voice.
The next few minutes were spent with the fox telling Clawhauser in a varying degree of animation the latest gossip about Gazelle and that up-and-coming elk photographer. Clawhauser was in heaven.
Eventually, the fox cleared her throat.
"I'm actually looking for Officer Nicholas Wilde," she said, straightening up and smiling winningly at Clawhauser. "Can you point me in the right direction?"
"Nick? Nick is patrolling his beat right now… are you a friend? I can tell him you stopped by..."
The smile flickered on the fox's face for a moment. She almost imperceptibly stiffened.
“Can't I just wait for him here?" she asked.
Benjamin Clawhauser, despite all of the donuts and the gabbing about celebrity gossip, was actually a very good cop. He was very, very good at reading people. He noticed, but didn’t acknowledge, how uncomfortable the fox suddenly looked.
"Oh my," he said, sighing. "Are you here to report a crime? And you're only comfortable talking to a fellow fox, right?"
The fox blinked.
"Yep," she said after a moment.
"Oh, I can understand that. Once when I was a cub my mother was mugged and she was too scared to come here!" Clawhauser said, standing up and leading the fox towards the back of the main building. "This was before they hired all those jungle cats in the 90’s as part of that Feline initiative, you know... It can be so difficult to be from an underrepresented species...."
The fox made a noncommittal murmur of agreement as Clawhauser led her down a brightly lit hallway and situated her in a small room with a table and three chairs.
"So just wait here," Clawhauser said, once he had sat the fox down at the table. "I'll go page Nick. He's a good cop, very fair, don’t worry. What is your name?"
Another hesitation from the fox, Clawhauser mentally noticed.
"Victoria. Vicki," she said hesitatingly.
"Vicki.....?" Clawhauser pressed. The fox audibly sighed.
"Vulpecula," she said grudgingly.
"All right," Clawhauser said in a forced sing-song voice, "I'll page him and his partner Judy right now. You'll like her too, she's good with people," and then shut the door.
Clawhauser hesitated on the other side of the door. He really should use the police intercom - it was procedure, after all. But the girl had looked so worried... It's possible, he told himself, she's mixed up in something and doesn't want a record... A lot of female foxes, he knew, made money by what they called being escorts... Sighing, and looking around to make sure no one saw him, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket.
(Also, where had he heard the word Vulpecula before? That was bothering him, too. He could have sworn it was someone’s security question in the force, all of which Clawhauser manually entered in an ancient and not particularly safe system. Maybe it was the surname of someone’s first girlfriend. Or mother’s maiden name. Or elementary school. Something…)
"Nick, your personal cell phone is really supposed to be on vibrate or silent when we're in the cruiser," Judy Hopps said disparagingly as the dulcet tones of Gazelle streamed from Nick's pocket.
"But this is my special ring for Clawhauser," Nick protested, as he pulled the cell phone out of his pocket. "So it probably is about work."
"Why wouldn't he use the radio?" Judy asked suspiciously. "He knows we're in the car..."
Nick shrugged at her.
"Who knows? Maybe it's secret. Maybe Gazelle is in the station or someone stole his doughnuts and he wants us to take the case because he suspects Bogo.”
Nick answered his phone and leaned back lazily in the passenger seat of the police cruiser as Judy rolled her eyes.
”Clawhauser, my friend," Nick said expansively into the phone. "How is my favorite cheetah doing on this fine morning?"
Judy saw Nick frown slightly as he listened to Clawhauser.
"A fox?" he asked blankly. Judy noticed a slight crease appear on his forehead above his sunglasses. "Uh-huh... Female, young... Yeah..."
Judy, for reasons she did not totally understand, felt herself tense up slightly.
"Is she... I don't know, wearing like... uh... I mean does she look like a..."
Judy felt herself tense up even more.
“Her name is Vulpecula?" Nick said, sounding surprised. "Really? Huh. What? No, there aren't any elementary schools called Vulpecula in the city… maybe you’re thinking of the Vole Academy…All right. We'll... We'll be right there."
He hung up the phone, staring at the cover of it for a moment before placing it slowly in his pocket.
"What was that about?" Judy asked, frowning.
"I'm not sure," Nick said hesitatingly. "But turn around, will you? I told Clawhauser we would head back to the station…”
"Why?" Judy asked patiently, looking over her left shoulder on the deserted street before turning into the left-hand turn lane.
"Most people don't always check their blind spots if they know the street is empty you know,” Nick said, smiling slightly.
“Nick! Why are we going to the station?”
"A fox wandered into the station wanting to see me today," he said. "Didn't want to talk to anyone else. Clawhauser thinks maybe she is, a, you know. A street walker."
"Why?" Judy asked, glancing at him sideways.
"A lot of vixens are," Nick said shrugging. "And they are frightened of cops but often see crimes. I think he thinks that is why she only wanted to see me. A fellow fox, you know."
Judy nodded, frowning slightly. How terrible would it be to witness a crime and not feel able to tell anyone. She shuddered slightly.
"Why did the name Vulpecula surprise you?” she asked after a moment, “it sounds like an unusual name...Pretty, though"
Nick shook his head. "No, it's a last name. This one is Vicki, apparently. It's a fairly common fox last name."
Nick felt Judy's unasked question. "I've known a few people with that last name," he said hesitatingly.
"But no Vicki’s..." Judy prompted, turning into the ZPD parking lot.
"Don't think so..."
"I thought you knew everybody," Judy said.
"What's with the interrogation, Carrots," Nick said, suddenly sounding irritated.
"Hey, I'm not the one constantly saying they know everyone," Judy snapped. As soon as the words left her mouth she winced slightly. She hadn't meant to sound so... bothered by this situation.
Pulling into a parking spot, she glanced over at Nick, who was staring out the window, quietly drumming his fingers On the windowsill of the car. He was wearing those sunglasses, of course. Judy shook her head slightly, wishing she had sunglasses to wear and cover her own eyes. Sometimes she felt so... exposed.