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Chapter 7


Outside the Prison


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. Belatedly she realized that was how he beat her Monday night when they were racing to get ready for their shopping trip. She giggled to herself, “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 backward 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 a 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?”

“Nick.”

“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 bullpen 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 is 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.”

“Hmph!” 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 will 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 to 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 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 jailbreak 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 a 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 up 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 payroll; I checked. But it's not just me, it’s 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. At the same time, she wondered what he was smelling from her?

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