Judy woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. She felt on top of the world this morning and couldn't wait to see Nick. After a lightning fast shower, she decided not to wait. She threw on her uniform, grabbed a box of Lucky Chomps and headed upstairs to surprise him. She was surprised to discover his apartment was directly across the hall from the elevators, and realized that's how he beat her Monday night when they were racing to get ready for their shopping trip. She giggled to herself that he's busted now, and tapped on his door.
“I can smell you through the door, Fluff,” he whispered from inside.
“And I can hear you,” she sang out gaily. “Now open up.”
He opened the door and she pounced on him before realizing he hadn't put on his shirt yet. His arms grabbed her as he staggered back from her unexpected assault. Dropping the box of cereal, and ignoring the fact they might fall, she pressed her lips to his, kissing him deeply and passionately. Resigning himself to the inevitable, he let gravity take its course and toppled backwards onto the sofa, pulling her down with him. She squealed happily in his arms, pressing her mouth harder against his. After a long breathless moment she sat up astride him, holding him down with a paw on each shoulder.
“You sly fox,” she exclaimed. “Your apartment is right across from the elevator. No wonder you beat me back to it Monday night!”
“And you were a vision to behold too,” he told her smugly, but honestly.
She lowered her head until they were nose-to-nose. “Flattery will get you kissed, right here and now, Mister Wilde,” she mock-threatened him.
“Oh no,” he exclaimed in a high, false voice. “Anything but that!” His expression changed, along with his voice. “I love you, Fluff. I love you more than life itself.” She melted against him for another long, passionate kiss. Moments later her stomach rumbled, embarrassing her into letting him go. “I guess we can't live on love alone,” he chuckled lightly. “We need food too.”
She jumped up. “I brought some cereal,” she offered, scooping the box off the floor where she'd dropped it when she tackled him.
He got off the couch. “And I've got some milk in the fridge. Get some for both of us while I finish getting dressed,” he told her, disappearing into his bedroom. She hummed happily as she searched his cabinets for bowls and spoons, feeling a quiet sense of domestic bliss. “Don't forget the blueberries,” he called.
“Don't worry, mammal O'mine,” she returned gaily. “Everything will be ready for Milord when he emerges from his chambers.” She set out bowls, spoons, napkins, cereal, milk and fruit. His coffee pot was full of fresh coffee so she poured him a cup, then added cream and sugar the way she'd watched him do. After a moment's thought, she poured a second cup for herself and fixed it the same way. She'd never been much of a coffee drinker, but she took an experimental sip and decided she liked it.
He appeared out of the bedroom, fully dressed in his uniform, ready to go. He ran his eyes over everything. “Hmm. I could get used to this,” he smiled. “Breakfast looks good too,” he added.
She blushed. “Sit down and eat.”
He poured a bowl of cereal and milk, added some sugar and a handful of blueberries. “How did you find all that stuff last night?” he asked between bites.
“I Zoogled predator-prey relationships and it came up with this huge, long list of rumor and gossip sites,” she told him, “but when I got to the very end of the list, there it was. It was the only one that didn't look like a rumor mill so I took a chance and started reading it. And I'm glad I did!”
“You and me, both. I wonder if Tyrone and Gazelle were one of the couples they said they interviewed?” he mused.
“I wondered the same thing,” she nodded. “Bogo might know.”
“I don't think we can just come right out and ask him though,” Nick argued. He pantomimed sticking his head through a door. “Hey, Chief Buffalo Butt, did your old partner ever mention that he and Gazelle were interviewed for some earth shaking research no one ever heard of?”
“Okay, I'll call him Bogo instead of Buffalo Butt,” he conceded with a saucy grin.
She shook her head. “You're terrible.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she knew what he was going to say.
“You know you love me.”
She couldn't help but smile. “Do I know that? Yes, yes I do.”
He leaned over and kissed her. “That's because you're a smart bunny.”
She tilted her head. “Oh, so I'm a smart bunny because I love you? Is that how it works?”
He finished off his cereal. “Yes, absolutely,” he said around a huge mouthful of cereal. “And the more you love me, the smarter you'll be.” He tossed his dishes in the sink.
She shook her head over his slovenly, bachelor habits. “Then I'm going to be the smartest bunny in the history of the world,” she smiled at him as she rinsed the dishes and put them in the dishwasher. He pulled out a packet of papers and started leafing through them. “What are you looking for?” she asked, drying her paws off with a pawtowel.
“I was looking through the packet I got from the ZPD, to see if Bogo's cell phone is listed in here. We could text him the info and let him read it himself.”
Judy shook her head. “Don't waste your time, Nick. He only gives it out to close, personal friends.”
He tossed it aside. “Figures. Oh well, we'll write the link on paper and let him type it in.” He grabbed his house keys. “Ready?”
“Always,” she smiled eagerly.
“Good,” he grinned. “In that case, first things first,” he said, closing the door she was trying to open. He pulled her into his arms for another kiss.
“Mmm,” she purred, melting into his embrace. They both poured themselves into the kiss so strongly they were still tingling when they sat down in the bull pen to wait for roll call.
They sat down beside Rhinowitz and he immediately started telling them about another street racer who was caught by the night shift. Only this time he'd lost control and run into the side of a building in the Rainforest District. No one was hurt, but it caused a lot of damage. “I hear Bogo's pretty upset about it,” he finished.
“He should be,” Judy replied indignantly. “We're trying to help those idiots and they're just making it worse for themselves and everyone around them. Don't they have any self-control?”
Officer Snarlof, sitting just behind them chuckled deeply. “Told ya she sounds like Bogo,” he reminded Rhinowitz.
“Who sounds like me?” a familiar voice asked.
They glanced up to see Chief Bogo towering over them. Snarlof nodded at Judy. “Rhinowitz was telling Hopps how upset you are at those street racers and she said you should be.”
“Hmp!” he snorted. He didn't look entirely displeased with the comparison.
He took his place behind the podium. “All right, settle down.” He ran his eyes over the assembled officers. “I see some of you are still a little bit worse for the wear from your shots yesterday.” It was true. The night howler antidote shots were actually a derivative from the night howlers, and gave the subject a splitting headache that left them sensitive to light, nauseous, and weak as a kitten. The effects sometimes lasted up to 36 hours after getting the shots. Some of the officers looked like death warmed over. “Well, you should have gotten the shots back when I told you about them, and had it done over the weekend. You'll just have to work through it. I can't afford to go another day with only half my officers on the street.” He shuffled some papers. “Fortunately, we seem to have a pretty light day ahead of us. Most of the action took place last night with that street racer.” He looked around the room. “Hopps and Wilde are trying to come up with some kind of legal option for these idiots, but until and unless, they do, they're to be treated the way they deserve. Arrest 'em and lock 'em up! Impound their cars and get 'em off my streets!”
He shuffled through some more papers. “For those of you who might have been hanging onto the toilet yesterday . . .” amused chuckles floated through the air, accompanied by pained groans, “. . . you might not have heard about officer Wilde's little brainstorm.” He gave them a quick summation of how Ramses might try to use the liquid nitrogen. “Clawhauser will be rotating you to cover the prison today; an hour for each unit. There'll be four units on guard at all times, one on each side, so some of you might wind up pulling double duty. It can't be helped. That's why I need everyone working today.”
“Hopps and Wilde, report to my office. I want an update on those street racers. The rest of you, get out there and keep it peaceful today!” He stomped out, Nick and Judy trailing in his wake. In his office he slapped the sheaf of papers on his desk. “Well, what have you got on the racers?”
Nick and Judy glanced at each other. “Nothing yet,” she answered for them. “It's only been one day, Sir.”
He nodded brusquely. “I figured as much. And the other matter we discussed?”
“Judy found a web site with some fascinating information on that subject, and some of it might even bear on the thrill of the hunt thing Lance was talking about,” Nick said. Bogo gave him a puzzled look. “You'll have to look at it yourself, Sir. We didn't have your cell phone number or we would have texted the information to you.”
Bogo nodded. “Copy it down,” he said, and gave it to them. “No one else is to have that number, or know that you have it. Understood?” They nodded in unison. “In that case, get out there and catch some criminals.” He waved them away.
They hurried out. Clawhauser yelled at them as they went by that they were on first rotation at the prison, west side. They waved acknowledgment at him without stopping. Judy did her best imitation of a lead foot, street racer getting them there in less than ten minutes. She pulled over under a tree and killed the engine. Nick picked up the mic. “Car 63, 10-23,” he reported.
“10-4,” Clawhauser answered. “Pennington will be relieve you in an hour.” He was referring to Francine Pennington, the elephant officer.
“10-4,” Nick said. He hung up the mic and settled back with Judy to watch the prison and the surrounding area. He doubted Ramses would try a jail break in broad daylight, but you never knew. Before he forgot, he sent Bogo a text with the link to the web site Judy had found. He put the phone away and looked around. “It's probably going to get boring after a while, just sitting here, but right now it's kinda nice to relax for a change.”
Judy smiled at him. “Spending time with you is always nice.” She shifted in her seat to get a better look at him. “Why do you think Bogo wanted to ask us about the 'other matter',” she wondered, making quote marks in the air.
“Maybe he's afraid we'll decide to take off and head for the hills,” he shrugged.
She hesitated. “Is that something you want to do?”
He shook his head. “Fluff, I'm a city kid, born and bred. I won't leave Zootopia until they turn out the lights.” He crossed his arms comfortably and put his feet on the dash. “You?”
Her relief was obvious. “Not a chance,” she smiled. “I've wanted to be a cop my whole life. I'm not going anywhere.”
“Even though we don't all stand around and sing kumbaya?” he grinned, repeating something he'd told her the first day they'd met.
“Even though,” she agreed lightly.
There was silence for a moment, then he stirred himself. “What about him being able to perform marriage?”
This time the silence was more uncomfortable. “My parents would freak out,” she finally said. “Having you as a guest under their roof was one thing – something I never thought I'd see in a million years,” she admitted, “but marriage?” She shook her head. “I can't lose you, Nick. I can't. I won't! But my parents . . .” She trailed off uncertainly.
He nodded. “I don't see my mom very much, and when I do, she's always asking when I'm going to get married. But this, us . . .” He shrugged. “I don't know either, Judy. I just don't know.”
“We should ask Tyrone and Gazelle how they handled it,” she said wistfully.
He tried not to laugh. “In your dreams.”
“Maybe not,” she responded fiercely. “We're in the same boat they are. They might be sympathetic, and Bogo talked like he and Tyrone are still tight.”
He dropped his feet to the floorboards. “Wait a minute, are you serious? Gazelle is the pop star of the year, the whole decade maybe! She must have a million mammals a day trying to see her, talk to her, interview her, beg her for money; the whole nine yards. She's not going to see us! We're complete strangers!”
“Not if Bogo introduces us,” she returned quickly.
He held us his paws. “Whoa! Wait a minute, Carrots. You think Chief Buffalo Butt is going to be a go-between for us and them? Introduce us, arrange a little tête-à-tête?”
“Nick,” she reproved him quietly for his derogatory name calling.
“Alright, sorry,” he said quickly. “Bogo.”
She plunged ahead before he could say anything else. “You haven't been paying attention, Nick. After we found the missing mammals, he changed his tune toward me 180 degrees. And when we solved the whole case, he gave me back my badge! He'd never even taken me off the roster, or off the payroll; I checked. But it's not just me, its you too. Clawhauser told me he kept tabs on you the whole time you were at the Academy, got daily reports on your progress.”
Nick blinked in surprise. “What?”
She nodded. “Back when Manchas went savage, and Bogo tried to take my badge and you stood up to him? . . . no one had ever done that to him before. Everyone around the station was telling me about it when I came back. They said he was flabbergasted, kept talking about it.” She reached over to take his paws in her. “Nick, you really impressed him that night. You forced him to look at the way he was treating me, the way he was treating other mammals, and, kinda put everyone else in their place at the same time too,” she said proudly. “Not bad for one little speech. What you did that night, changed – everything!”
Nick was stunned.
“He's taken an interest in us, Nick. Not as Chief of Police, but as one mammal to another. He saw his best friend, his partner, go through the same thing we're going through and the whole time he thought they were the only ones.” She smiled ruefully. “And now he knows there's more of us. The more I think about it, the more I think he'll be happy to introduce us to them. I really do,” she concluded softly.
Nick had managed to recover and was watching her with quiet amusement. “You know, if you ever decide that being a cop isn't doing it for you, you've got a great future in sales.”
She punched him playfully. He grinned, glanced around to make sure no one could see them, then kissed her quickly. She shivered as the tingle went all the way down to her toes. “Stop it,” she protested. “I can't think straight when you do that.” This time she punched him harder.
“Did it ever occur to you that's the point?” he teased. She tried to punch him again, but this time he caught her paw in his. He kissed her paw then sat back. “Alright, let's say you're right; Bogo is on our side. That doesn't automatically mean Tyrone and Gazelle are. They don't even know us.”
“If Bogo introduced us, they would,” she argued.
“Tell you what,” he offered, “if you can get him to agree to it, fine. But if he blows his top, it was your idea, not mine.”
“Chicken,” she teased.
“Practical,” he countered smoothly.
Before she could reply the radio crackled to life. “63, this is 17. You two quit yakking and get outta here. You're relieved.” Startled they looked around. Francine Pennington was parked right behind them, shaking her head in amusement.
Nick grabbed the mic. “Thanks for sneaking up on us, 17,” he quipped lightly. As Judy started the car and pulled out, he continued, “63 to base, we're 10-8 for assignment.”
“10-4, 63,” Clawhauser answered. “10-19 to Savannah Central.”
“10-4.” Nick tossed the mic on the dash. “I didn't realize we'd been talking so long.”
“Time flies when you're having fun,” Judy said gaily. Her nose wasn't as acute as his, but in the close confines of their squad car his scent filled the air, and it was heavenly. It was also very distracting.
“Base to 63, what's your 20?”
Nick grabbed the mic. From the corner of his eye he saw Judy perking up at the possibility of some action. Talking and kissing was great, but it was time to bag some bad guys. “Just passing Little Rodentia,” he told Clawhauser.
“10-19 to the pharmacy at 1243 Elm Street, 10-31, multiple suspects,” he answered quickly.
“10-31, crime in progress!” Nick whooped. “Hit it, Fluff!” She was already ahead of him; she floored it as he flipped on their lights and sirens. Acceleration pushed him back in the seat as the scent of her excitement filled the air. He laughed wildly as she wove in and out of traffic, “Thrill of the hunt, Judy! Thrill of the hunt!” She laughed with him, unable to deny the adrenaline rush surging through her.
They slid around a corner and she stomped on the brakes to keep from hitting mammals running from the pharmacy. It looked like a remodeled office building, an older two-story building, nicely refurbished and updated. At the moment though two of the windows were shattered, while screams echoed from within.
Nick and Judy threw themselves out of the car, pulling their weapons. Before they could do any more the heavy sound of engines revving came from inside the pharmacy. It sounded like motorcycles. They paused uncertainly. Then there was a squealing of tires; Nick saw quick movement inside. He yelled wordlessly at Judy and they both hit the ground as three motorcycles smashed through more windows out into the parking lot. One of them swerved and nearly went over. The rider, a goat wearing a dark helmet, slowed to regain control then gunned it after his companions. Judy saw a bag full of medical tubing slung across his back as he pealed out.
She and Nick dove back into their squad car. “Did you see that?” she shouted at Nick.
“I saw it,” he yelled back grabbing the microphone. “63, 10-80, three male suspects on motorcycles, eastbound toward Sahara Square, the Canyon District. Need immediate backup!”
“Why do robbers want medical supplies,” Judy continued as if he hadn't spoken.
“How should I know? Ask 'em when we catch 'em.” He was interrupted by the radio.
“63, this is 24, ETA 2 minutes.”
“Nick!” Judy screamed. He looked up the street; the two motorcycles in the lead turned north bu the third one began dropping into the winding roads of the Canyon District. She couldn't turn fast enough to follow the leaders; their car shot over a slight rise, becoming airborne for a split second. It slammed back down then they were bouncing down into the twisty, winding roads, their car bucking and shimmying like a wild thing. Nick was thrown up in the air, banging his head on the roof as Judy fought the wheel.
“Ouch!” He fumbled hastily for his seat belt, clicked it, then tried to get Judy's on her without interfering with her driving but it was impossible. He scrambled after the microphone. “24, two suspects have turned north toward City Central. We're still 10-80 going east.”
“10-4,” Snarlof replied.
“63, this is 35, westbound to your 20.” McHorn was in Sahara Square heading their way.
“10-4,” Nick managed. “Make it fast. This motorcycle is leaving us in the dust.”
It was true. In the twisting, winding roads of the Canyon District, the smaller, lighter vehicle could slow down, turn and accelerate faster than their bigger, heavier squad car. Their suspect was rapidly pulling away from them. Assuming he didn't turn too sharply and wipe out, he was going to get away if McHorn didn't stop him.
“Whoo Hoo!” Judy shouted. She pointed ahead and Nick let out a howl as he saw the motorcycle swerve wildly as McHorn breasted the crest of the road and nearly ran him over. The cycle laid down rubber as he was forced to turn north. Judy tapped the brakes and whipped the wheel over, executing a near perfect slide around McHorn's car to go blasting up the road after their suspect, almost right on his tail now.
“Great work, 35!” Nick shouted on the mic. “Take Aloe to Wall street, then 10-93 to force him into Tundratown. He'll wipe out on those icy roads!”
Judy's eyes widened at his words. “Good thinking, Nick!”
He grinned at her, “Thanks. I take kisses as rewards you know.”
Even in the midst of their high speed chase she giggled, “If we catch him you'll get double.”
“10-4, 63,” McHorn replied. “It'll serve him right.”
Snarlof came on the radio, “24 to 63, negative contact with suspects. Repeat, negative contact.”
“10-4. 63 to base, put out a BOLO for two motorcycles driven by male goats wearing dark helmets with canvas bags full of medical supplies.” BOLO was police shorthand for Be On Look Out.
“10-4, 63, but you just did it yourself,” Clawhauser laughed.
“35, this 49. 10-20 at Wall Street for 10-93. Stay on Aloe in case suspect doubles back.” Fangmeyer had set up the blockade at Wall Street before McHorn could get there and was telling him to hang back in case the suspect tried to get away.
“10-4,” McHorn acknowledged.
“Wow,” Judy exclaimed. “Everyone is getting in on it today.”
“The thrill of the hunt,” Nick laughed. “They don't want to miss out.” He pointed ahead suddenly. “Fangmeyer did it! He's turning into Tundratown!” The motorcycle wobbled as the suspect nearly laid it over avoiding Fangmeyer's car, turning into the tunnel.
Judy whooped in elation as they went roaring into the tunnel to Tundratown. Nick pumped his fist at Fangmeyer, waving him to join the pursuit. The tiger gave him a toothy grin as he laid down rubber coming after them. They heard him over the radio; “49, 10-80 with 63, heading into Tundratown.”
“He's on Blizzard Street!” Judy shouted. “Whoops! No he's not,” she laughed a split second later as the motorcycle spun out on the icy roads then skidded a hundred feet before plunging into a semi-frozen pond with a gigantic splash. A wall of water sloshed over the sides of the pond, soaking startled passersby. A back tire, slowing spinning, was all that stuck up above the water.
Nick chortled with glee at the sight. Judy slowed down carefully and he dove out of the car before it came to a full stop, rolling in the snow, once, twice before springing to his feet in a dead run. He skidded to a stop by the pond as the bedraggled goat staggered unsteadily out of the freezing water, slapping the handcuffs on him before he knew what was happening. “You're under arrest,” he crowed triumphantly. He gave Judy a conspiratorial wink over his shoulder; it was his first time to actually handcuff someone and arrest them. She thought he looked rather pleased with himself.
Fangmeyer must have thought the same thing. “Want ta pose for a picture, Wilde?” he chuckled, exiting his car.
Nick grinned proudly. “Yes, absolutely.”
Judy giggled in counterpoint to Fangmeyer's deep throated laugh, but obediently snapped some pictures with her phone. Fangmeyer leaned on his open car door and keyed his mic, “All cars be advised, Wilde just lost his virginity.” Chortles and catcalls came across the air along with congratulations and atta-boys.
Judy helped Nick get their prisoner into the car. Shutting the door, she placed a gentle paw on his arm. “Congratulations, Nick. Does this help make up for the Junior Ranger Scouts?” He'd told her about his childhood dream of joining the Junior Ranger Scouts only to be thrown out because he was a fox. She searched his eyes.
“Graduating from the Academy made up for that,” he smiled. “This is so far past it there's no comparison.” He put a tender hand on the side of her face and she leaned into it. “Don't worry about me, Fluff. I'm better than I've ever been in my whole life – and I owe it all to you.”
She smiled . . . then suddenly got the feeling of being watched. Nick felt it at the same time she did. They turned . . . and saw Fangmeyer watching them with an unreadable expression on his face. They stepped back hastily from each other, panic rising.
Fangmeyer held up his paws in a placating gesture. “It's none of my business,” he assured them. “I kept my cousin's secret, I can keep yours.”
Nick shot a glance at Judy as something clicked in his head. There was only one tiger he knew of who shared their secret, “That wouldn't be Tyrone Stripeson, would it?”
Fangmeyer was startled. “How did you kno . . .” He stopped in dawning realization. “Bogo. Chief Bogo told you didn't he?”
Judy nodded, acutely conscious of their prisoner sitting just behind them in the back of their squad car, wondering if he'd seen them too. She wasn't sure how much he could hear, and didn't want to take any chances. She pulled Nick away from the car as nonchalantly as possible. “He said they were partners until he quit to be with – uhm, her.” She was reticent about saying Gazelle's name out loud in public.
Fangmeyer nodded in understanding. “Yeah, her. Tyrone was my hero growing up. He was the big brother I never had – just sisters. So when he left the force for her I blew up at him, screamed, yelled, told him I hated him; the whole nine yards. But after a while . . .” he trailed off.
“Yes?” Judy prompted him.
Sirens were approaching from the direction of the tunnel back to Sahara Square; others were coming. He heard it too. “Took me a while but I got over it,” he finished quickly. “We're good now. But you two need to be more careful,” he warned them as cars began pulling up.
Nick nodded quickly. “Bogo says the same thing.” He turned away. “Hey everyone! Come see what we fished out of the drink!” he called to the officers piling out of their cars. Flashing lights from their cars bathed the surrounding buildings in alternating red and blue.
The next few minutes were a blur of congratulations, coarse jokes and laughter as they crowded around to slap him on the back for a job well done. Watching the well known initiation take place, Judy knew that whatever anyone may have thought about a fox on the police force before, was being washed away. And the expression on Nick's face was the punctuation that proved he was well and truly over his childhood Ranger Scouts debacle.
Despite her delight at him receiving such a round of acceptance, she took a moment to check out their prisoner, but he was so cold and dejected he wasn't paying attention to anything. She smothered a satisfied grin, now certain he hadn't seen her and Nick's momentary indiscretion. When she opened the door to get on the radio to call for a tow truck, his only reaction was to shiver from the blast of cold air coming in.
All the way to the station other officers continued to call in to offer their encouragement to Nick for making his first bust. True to form, Clawhauser added his own effusive praise, and Bogo even appeared briefly on the balcony to give an approving nod.
Judy punched Nick in the side.
“Hey!” he protested. “What was that for?”
“So you don't start getting a swelled head,” she informed him primly. “You're already about to bust a button on your shirt. You're still just an ordinary cop, you know.”
He grinned with open delight. “Sweetheart, that is the whole idea! It's what makes it so good.” He did a little hop, skip, and jump of celebration.
Snarlof, standing nearby, chortled deeply in agreement, “Lighten up, Hopps. You're too much like Bogo.” A round of chuckles filled the air from the other officers. “Bogo junior!” someone called, setting off more laughter.
Bogo chose that moment to bellow down from his office, “Back to work! All of you!”
“See?” Rhinowitz grinned at her. He sketched a half-salute then trundled out the door with the rest, trailing deep chuckles in his wake.
Clawhauser tapped Nick on the shoulder. “Now comes the not-so-fun part,” he smirked, “the paperwork!” He handed him a sheaf of arrest report forms. “One form for each arrest; keep the rest, you'll need them.”
Even the prospect of filling out forms couldn't dampen Nick's spirits. “Sure thing,” he said brightly. He glanced at the big wall clock. “As soon as I finish why don't we grab something from the lunch wagons outside,” he suggested to Judy. The watering hole in city central was a natural gathering place for downtown workers to congregate during their lunch breaks, so every day dozens of lunch wagons, selling every kind of food imaginable, gathered too, competing for customers and prime locations to attract them. The combined menu from them was better than the highest priced restaurant in town.
“Sounds good,” she answered brightly. She trailed along behind him as he found a table in the squad room and began filing out his forms before transferring them to the computer. She thought she might have to correct his work but he proved he'd been an apt pupil at the Academy; he got it all right on his first effort.
“You probably don't know,” he asked over his shoulder, “but why fill out forms with pen and paper then turn around and do it online? That's kinda stupid.”
“Nope, it's very stupid,” she countered, “and you're right; I don't know. I asked around once and nobody knows. It's just,” she made quote marks in the air, “the way things are done.”
He shook his head in derision, “Figures.” He shoved himself back from the desk. “Let's go.” He dropped off the arrest form on Clawhauser's desk as they walked out.
A profusion of delectable odors hit them as they stepped outside. Judy took a big whiff. “Ooh! Is that shrimp fried rice I smell?” She turned her head back and forth trying to locate it.
Nick sniffed once. “Sure thing. This way.” He led off confidently around the watering hole to a lunch truck covered in oriental designs. “Two orders of shrimp fried rice,” he told the busy kola behind the high counter.
“Today was his first arrest,” Judy told cook quickly. Nick gave her a puzzled glance.
The kola's eyes widened and he broke into a big smile. “Congratulations, officer . . .?”
“Wilde,” Nick told him.
“Congratulations, officer Wilde. Your first arrest means your first order is on the house!” He scurried away to fill their order.
Nick looked at Judy in surprise. “Really?”
She nodded, enjoying his reaction. “Yep. These guys are out in the open where its easy for them to be robbed, so they always support the police any way they can. This is one of those ways.”
Nick was suitably impressed. “Wow.” When the cook returned with their orders he thanked him gratefully. They found a nearby bench that had just been vacated and sat down to eat. “Did this happen to you too?”
“You mean after Bogo nearly fired me for arresting Duke Weaselton?” she quipped. “Yeah, Clawhauser told me about it so I came out and got some lunch before I tracked you down that day.” They ate in comfortable silence for a few minutes, content to simply enjoy being together. “Remember when I said everyone wanted to get in on the chase, and you said it was the thrill of the hunt?” Judy finally asked, breaking the long quiet.
He nodded, “Sure do. Bogo even said he misses the excitement.” He finished his lunch and tossed their containers in the trash.
“He did, didn't he?” Judy agreed. “I think Lance is really on to something with the this whole thrill of the hunt thing, and it fits with what we were reading last night in that article.” She set her drink down. “If we're only a couple thousand years away from the jungle instead of millions, it stands to reason we'd still have a lot of those old instincts in us . . . and it would explain the night howlers, like you were talking about.” Her excitement was building. “Nick! This could really be something big!”
“It could also be a problem,” he cautioned her.
He nodded. “Think about it, Judy. If any of this stuff is actually true, it means Flash and Lance and all the rest of them aren't going to be cured of their racing by – well, by anything. It's in their DNA.” He spread his paws helplessly. “How do you cure that?”
She shook her head, “You can't. Nick! We have to find something safe for them to do before they hurt someone.” Desperation tinged her voice.
He turned to watch some cubs playing and running around the grounds. “Like what?” he wondered. “You want 'em to chase each other around like a bunch of cubs? They're a little too old for that.” Two cubs were chasing a third, who ran around a tree to lose them, but they followed him.
“There's got to be something,” she insisted. “I don't want them hurting anybody, but it's not right to throw them in jail either, not over something they don't have any control over. It'd be like throwing us in jail for, you know, us,” she finished in a whisper, looking around to make sure no one heard.
Nick nodded absently, still watching the cubs. They rounded another tree then started back toward the first one, following an oval path in the dirt where other cubs had chased each other before. He sat up suddenly as lightning struck his brain. “Hey!” He grabbed her and pointed at the cubs. “That's it!”
Her ears stood up straight in surprise. “What's it?” She could hear his heart racing like Flash's car.
“A race track,” he exclaimed, pointing at the dirt path the cubs were following. “A race track for cars!”
She looked back and forth from him to the cubs. “For cars? Nick, it'd have to be huge!”
He got up, unable to contain his excitement. “Yeah, yeah, but think about it, Judy. A giant, oval track, maybe somewhere outside of town, where they could all race each other around and around in circles; no traffic in the way, no lights or stop signs, nothing to run into, no pedestrians to worry about,” he was grinning ear-to-ear, “it'd be perfect!”
She was still trying to wrap her mind around the size of a track for cars to race on. “It'd have to be gigantic,” she protested. “Where would you put something like that? How would you make it?” Her eyes bugged out as another thought occurred to her, “How much would it cost? Nick!” Her voice was desperate. “That's impossible!”
“Dumb bunny, sly fox,” he chuckled. “I specialize in the impossible.”
She punched him, but couldn't help but grin anyway. “Alright, so how you're going to do it, Mister Smart Alec?”
“Easy,” he grinned, “I'll tell Bogo and let him have all the headaches of setting it up.”
“Ha!” she snorted. “If he's crazy enough to go for that idea, he's smart enough to make sure you have all the headaches of setting it up.”
They were both wrong.
Bogo shook his head after Nick finally ran down from explaining the idea. “That's way too big for any of us,” he began slowly. He held up a placating paw, “I'm not saying it's a bad idea; actually it's pretty good, but we're just cops, Wilde, we can't tackle a project this size. You're going to have to get City Hall in on it. You know Lionheart has been reinstated as Mayor by the City Council,” they nodded, “so it'll have to be up to him. Of course,” he cast a jaundiced eye on Judy, “since you arrested him in the first place, I'm not sure how well he'll take to helping you.”
She blushed but refused to back down. “I was just doing my job,” she insisted stubbornly.
Bogo nodded sympathetically. “I know, I'm just warning you.” He glanced at Nick. “Maybe you should leave Hopps out of this one.”
They both said at once. Bogo wasn't surprised. “Don't say I didn't warn you,” he shrugged. He pushed a button on the intercom. “Clawhauser, officers Wilde and Hopps need an appointment to see Mayor Lionheart about the street racers. The sooner the better.”
“The mayor? Give me a minute to check,” the cheetah puffed good naturedly.
“Fine.” Bogo turned back to them. “While we wait, I read that article you sent me. I forwarded it to Lionheart. He wrote back to say he's been following the meteor strike theory for several years, but he'd never heard of the predator-prey angle being connected to it.” He gave them a stern look. “I'd keep that one to yourselves if I were you.”
They nodded. “Uh,” Nick said.
“Fangmeyer knows. He said Tyrone was his cousin?”
Bogo nodded casually, “Yeah. He was royally bent out of shape when Tyrone quit the force but he finally came around. I think it was Gazelle who convinced him, but I never asked.” He shrugged, “Fangmeyer won't be a problem. He's a good mammal.” He paused. “Have you thought about marriage,” he asked, clearly uncomfortable with such a personal question.
They exchanged looks. Judy silence indicated to Nick he should take the lead. “We're still working on it, sir. Judy doesn't want to do anything without her family knowing, but they'll argue against it for sure. My mom,” he hesitated, “I haven't see her in so many years I don't know what she'd say.”
Before he could say more he was interrupted by the intercom. “Chief Bogo?”
He pressed the button in relief. “Yeah?”
“I got them an appointment tomorrow morning at 10,” Clawhauser reported enthusiastically.
“Good.” He looked at them. “Ten o'clock tomorrow morning, full dress uniforms.” Without waiting for their answer he glanced at the clock over his door. “But you've still got several hours before your shift is done. Get out there and catch some more bad guys.”
It was a clear dismissal so they left quickly.
The rest of the afternoon was slow though, so slow the hours began to drag. They took another rotation guarding the prison for an hour, this time on the north side. Their shift was finally done and all the officers wanted to take Nick out to a cop bar for drinks to celebrate his first arrest.
The rest of the night was spent in semi-drunken revelry, drinking, swapping stories, telling jokes and even dancing when a live band came out and began playing. Regina, one of the lionesses from Precinct 3, was there, teasing all the predators, dancing with first one then another. Even in her uniform she cut a striking figure, garnering most of the attention for the night.
It was getting late when Judy finally steered Nick out of the bar. They wobbled back to the station to get her truck then slowly drove home. He was already snoozing by the time she parked and she had to wake him. She stayed with him until he was safely in his apartment. They shared a tipsy kiss then said good-night. Back in her place she tossed her clothes to the four winds, collapsed on her bed and was out like a light.