A few minutes after they left the prison, the radio crackled to life. “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 way 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. There was a sound of squealing tires and 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 peeled 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 suspect goats 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 were turning north but 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.
McHorn made it, though.
“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 the 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 getaway.
“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, slowly 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 Tyrone 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 proving 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 ‘em!”