Judy nodded agreement with Nick’s angry yelp. Ramses was going to get away if he kept blowing out the tires of every patrol car that got close to him. “Delta 9 to all cars, don't get right on Ramses' tail! We just lost 35 that way. McHorn! Are you alright?” she added.
“Fine,” he answered with disgust. “Just bruised and banged up.”
“We need backup,” she continued almost without pausing. “We've got to box him in, it's the only way to stop him! 49, where are you?”
Up ahead Ramses' truck suddenly swerved violently as a patrol car shot out of a side street and nearly rammed him. “Trying to ram him,” 49 shouted. They could see two tigers in the front seat. Ramses managed to straighten out and pull away from them, spewing more nitrogen behind him. 49 had to run up on the sidewalk to avoid it. Nick yanked hard on the wheel, taking them up on the opposite sidewalk.
Judy was prepared this time and held on tight but the car still bounced them around wildly. “Tyrone! Is that you?”
“Yep! I was doing a right-along for old time’s sake when it hit the fan,” Tyrone radioed back.
“51, en route. Where is Ramses headed? I'll set up a 10-93 for you,” Rhinowitz butted in.
Nick glanced at the street they were on and his eyes widened. “He's headed for the prison!” he shouted. “He's going to try to spring Bellwether after all.”
Judy relayed the information quickly. Pennington, in car 17 radioed in she was near the prison and would assist 51 in setting up the 10-93. “Make it fast,” Judy implored her. “We can't get close enough to keep him in sight! If he turns off we'll lose him.”
Nick waited until she was done. “We won't lose him,” he said confidently. “He's going for his sister, count on it.”
Judy had to agree; everything pointed to a well-thought-out plan to break Bellwether out of jail. She had one objection though. “He didn't know we'd be coming to his hideout,” she said, hanging on as Nick slid them around another corner, still desperately trying to keep Ramses in sight. “Maybe we forced him to move before everything was ready.” Nick and Fangmeyer slammed on their brakes simultaneously as Ramses' truck spewed liquid nitrogen across the entire alley he had turned into. Judy nearly slid off her seat onto the floorboards as they screeched to a halt.
Tyrone yelled at them on the radio. “My nephew grew up around here! He knows a shortcut!”
Nick waved at him then threw it into reverse. Tires squealed as they backed up, lurched to a stop, then peeled out again after Fangmeyer, laying down rubber the whole way. Judy fumbled hastily for her seat belt. “I'm gonna be black-and-blue after this,” she yelled over the engine.
In spite of everything Nick still found time to leer briefly at her. “Want me to massage it and make it all better?” he purred. She laughed and didn't answer.
Fangmeyer whipped his car around a corner and into a major thoroughfare. Way ahead, just barely visible, was the top of Ramses' truck. A panel was open and his two goat assistants were visible from the waist up, holding some bulky tubing or something.
“Delta 9, are you seeing this?” Tyrone called. “What is that? Can you tell?”
Nick and Judy shook their heads together. She keyed the mic as Nick stood on the accelerator. “No idea,” she answered, “but it can't be good. 17 and 51, be advised, suspect ETA at your 20 in less than a minute, and they're up to something on the roof of the truck so be careful.”
Both cars 10-4'd as others radioed in they were approaching the scene as well. There were so many coming it was practically the whole ZPD. Nick frowned. Ramses was smarter than this. He had to know they'd radioed ahead to set up a blockade and surround him. What was he up to? He didn't really think he could get away with this, did he?
Judy heard his heartbeat change and looked over at him. “What?”
“I don't know,” he growled. “Everything we know about Ramses says he's careful and methodical. This is too slapdash and haphazard. It doesn't feel right.”
Worry lines etched themselves between Judy's eyes. “We're about to find out,” she said. “Look!”
Up ahead the truck fishtailed as it screeched to a halt in the entrance to the prison parking lot. They could see flashing lights everywhere and more moving in to surround him. The goats had the tubing on their shoulders. Fire and smoke shot out of the back ends of them, followed an instant later by twin explosions on the ground halfway between them and the nearest squad car.
“Rocket launchers!” Judy shouted in fear.
A wild crackle of gunfire ripped the air as every officer there opened up on them.
Behind the ranked police cars, they could see prison guards peering over the high walls, aiming rifles at the panel truck. Even in the daylight, they could see muzzle flashes as the guards fired. It looked like every guard in the prison was on the walls firing at the truck.
A stray round spanged off the hood of their car. Nick and Judy ducked involuntarily. “Yikes!” He yanked the wheel over to get out of the line of fire. Beside them, Fangmeyer did the same thing in the opposite direction.
Before Nick could get the car stopped two things happened: first, a ramp in the side of the truck dropped down and Ramses sped out of it on a motorcycle. Then at virtually the same instant, there was a huge explosion, followed by liquid nitrogen spraying all around the truck. It flew twenty yards in every direction, coating and freezing everything it touched. A huge pool of it followed, expanding rapidly as rivers of the dangerous liquid flowed out of gaps torn in the truck by the initial blast. The two goats at the top of the truck, standing in their hatches, were frozen solid in mid-motion.
Judy gasped as her seat belt nearly cut her in half when Nick slammed on the brakes. They slide to a halt just inches from the spreading pool of nitrogen. He threw it into reverse to get away from it. Around them, officers were running for their lives as the pool reached their cars, flash freezing the tires and everything it touched.
Ramses launched his motorcycle into a narrow alley and moments later the growing pool of nitrogen completely engulfed the entrance preventing anyone from following him. The sound of his engine quickly died in the distance.
Ice cold fog drifted up from the bubbling nitrogen, giving the warm day a wintry chill. Judy shivered as she pushed open the door and climbed out. Nick came around to her side of the car to survey the area. Fangmeyer and Tyrone silently joined them. The rest of the police officers stopped running and began quietly drifting back toward them as the nitrogen slowed down and quit spreading.
The panel truck, ripped and burned, was frosted white with the sub-zero cold, as were Ramses' two cohorts on top of it. He'd sacrificed them for his own safety without so much as a backward glance.
A low, angry rumble caught Judy's attention. She glanced sideways at Tyrone. He was growling deep in his chest. He saw the three of them looking at him and growled louder. “If I ever get my claws on Ramses I'll have him for lunch! I wanted to be a cop to stop things like this!”
“I know what you mean, Unc,” Fangmeyer nodded in agreement, the tone in his voice matching his uncle's.
“I think we can all say 'amen' to that,” Nick added. Cold fury was stamped on his face, obscuring his normally pleasant demeanor.
“I wanted to make the world a better place,” Judy said, remembering a line from her long-ago, childhood play about Zootopia. “But this,” she waved a paw at the devastation before them, “isn't what I had in mind.” Their radios crackled with Clawhauser demanding an update. She reached through her open door and snagged the mic. “Ramses escaped and his two accomplices are dead,” she snapped more harshly than she intended.
Bogo's voice interrupted Clawhauser before he could do more than gasp. “Charlie Papa to Delta 9, say again?” Charlie Papa, C.P., short for Chief of Police, was Bogo's normal call sign on the radio.
Judy repeated her first report, adding, “Ramses had his truck set for self-destruct or something. It blew up sending nitrogen all over the place. It froze his buddies in their tracks and stopped the rest of us from following him when he made off on a motorcycle.”
Bogo's voice was more subdued when he answered her. “10-4, Delta 9. So he didn't make it to the prison to spring Bellwether?”
“Negative,” she replied. “He was giving it everything he had though. It was definitely his target.”
“10-4,” he said. “Seal off the area, I'm on my way.”
“10-4,” she said absently.
Clawhauser came back on, his voice eager and helpful. “By the way Delta 9, I checked on those mechanics you asked about? It seems Bellwether hired a bunch of new employees while she was in office. Two of them were goats who were assigned to maintenance in the helicopter hangar. They're the ones who didn't come in this morning.”
The four of them stared at each other in surprise and mounting anger. “How many is 'a bunch', Clawhauser?” Judy asked quickly, eyeing the frozen forms on the truck.
“43,” he answered cheerfully. “She assigned 'em everywhere. There's even three of them working at the prison.”
“The prison?!” Nick shouted, swinging around to take in all the guards still looking at them from the walls. “No! No! No!” he gritted yanking out his phone and dialing frantically.
“Nick?” Judy looked at him. Her eyes flew open wide as she realized what he was thinking. “No!” she screamed, looking at the prison where every guard there was crowding together to look at the wreckage of Ramses’ truck.
“I’m calling the warden, get him to check on Bellwether,” he told the rest of the cops watching him in confusion. “Come on!” he shouted at the phone, “Pick up! Pick up!”
Finally, someone answered and he started talking before they could finish their introduction. “Bellwether assigned some new guards to the prison while she was mayor! They may be trying to break her out! Get someone down there to check it out! Hurry!”
Whoever it was said something indistinct and questioning.
“Detective Nick Wilde!” he practically screamed in frustration. “I'm one of the cops outside right now! Get someone to check it out!” This time Judy didn't find listening to half a conversation entertaining at all.
He hung up, stabbing viciously at the button. Fangmeyer and Tyrone were staring fixedly at the prison, their paws balled up into fists. Sirens in the distance, growing louder, bespoke of other police cars coming their way. TV vans were approaching from down the street as well.
Judy laid a gentle paw on Nick's arm to calm him down. He glanced down at her and took a deep breath. “Don't worry, angel face, We're not going to go off the deep end. Well, not yet anyway.”
Fangmeyer barely glanced at him. “Speak for yourself, buddy. I don't need the Night Howlers to make me go savage right now.” Tyrone, standing beside him, growled in agreement.
Judy felt a measure of sympathy for them. She felt the same way. “If they did break her out, it means all this,” she waved a paw at the scene before them, “was just a diversion to draw the guards away from their posts and pin us down so we couldn't follow them.” She indicated the guards up on the wall.
Nick laughed bitterly. “Yeah, and we didn't even see it coming! Some 'heavy hitters' we are,” he added morosely.
“Knock it off,” Tyrone snarled. “Ramses had weeks to plan this thing. You can't blame yourself for not figuring it out during the middle of a high-speed chase. No one could.”
Judy laid her head on Nick's shoulder. “He's right . . .” she started to say before being interrupted.
Clawhauser's frantic voice suddenly came over the radio, cutting her off. “Calling all cars! Calling all cars! Warden Anderson reports three guards have aided and abetted Dawn Bellwether in escaping from prison! All four of them are to be considered armed and extremely dangerous.”
Reporters were piling out of their vans and cars, running toward them with mics and cameras outstretched.
Fangmeyer slammed his fist down on the hood of his squad car, leaving a huge dent in it. He let out a jungle roar of frustration and anger at the top of his lungs. Tyrone and the other officers all around them echoed him so loudly it sounded as if they were actually back in the jungle for a minute. Pennington was trumping in anger, her higher-pitched trump sounding loud and clear over the noise of the howls and roars coming from all sides. Judy even found herself growling in rage.
In spite of everything, Nick couldn't stop himself from grinning down at her. “You know, it still sounds cute when bunnies growl.”
She punched him in the side. “Oh, haha.” She turned back to the prison, ignoring the reporters crowding around them to ask what happened. “In the meantime, it looks like Zootopia just got its first pair of super villains.”