Knock Knock Knock
3:27 AM, the cheap digital clock displayed in faded red numbering. Years of abuse sitting on that nightstand were prevalent in the condition of the outdated timepiece. Dings and scratches marred the once shiny black plastic exterior, smudges and cracks rendered the screen nearly unreadable, and buttons that had lost their functionality a long time ago. Any sensible mammal would have it replaced immediately, yet there it was, still ticking away.
'One little flick of the paw…' The individual lying in bed next to the clock thought as she stared into the unwavering red glow, 'One swipe and that thing hits the floor.'
Seeing the demise of what had been tormenting her every morning for the past week seemed especially appealing right now. Sleep was a precious commodity to begin with, so waking up in the middle of the night really rubbed her the wrong way.
Knock Knock Knock
The sound took a few seconds to process. This was not the clock's fault, it would be spared for now. The same could not be said for the jerk banging on the door at such a ridiculous hour.
Reaching over to the wall, she flicked on a small light, wincing as her eyes struggled to adjust. The sudden brightness sent a shock that aided in warming up the brain, but she was far from awake. Now fully sitting up, a quick look around the room got her bearings. The whole place matched the state of the alarm clock. Dull, broken, and in desperate need of renovation. But that is just what comes with a cheap hotel room.
Rubbing one eye with her paw, she let out a deep yawn. Another glance at the clock and the reality of what time it was struck the rightfully grumpy mammal. Expletives spewed under her breath while she slid to the edge of the bed, which felt infinitely comfier than it did when she first lay in it several days prior. Slowly, she stood up, turning towards the only door leading in or out of the cramped space.
Knock Knock Knock
Again the noise came, but this time with considerable force. Whoever was waiting outside seemed determined, leading to the concern of the single occupant. Her gaze shifted from the door back to the small bedside table. The clock sat unfazed, time continuing to tick on, but the focus lay upon what rested next to it. The polished surfaces reflected brilliantly what little light shown upon it, contrasting heavily against the dilapidated status of every other belonging in that neglected room, sat a bright red shock pistol. Unmistakable in appearance, the model had been popular with law enforcement for a while, before being phased out in favor of more 'practical' options. Only a few individuals still owned the piece, mostly as collector's items. Seeing as they were duty weapons, the majority of surviving examples showed good amounts of wear and tear. The shining specimen laying on that dusty side table would certainly be a prized part of any collection, but its owner had other uses in mind. Maintained with the utmost care since it was first issued, that specific shock pistol was the last known one still in active service.
The tired mammal reached down and picked up her weapon, her paw feeling right at home holding the stippled grips. One small switch and the piece powered on, a soft blue glow emitting from under the golden muzzle shroud. It remained at her side as she walked the short few steps to the hotel room door. Why someone was out there at three in the morning, she did not know, but she had to be prepared.
Placing her eye up to the peephole answered several questions, but brought up a whole lot more. One thing was for sure though, she was not in any danger. A solid 'thud' emanated as the deadbolt unlocked, announcing to the two officers outside they had succeeded in waking her. The door squeaked as it opened, Carmelita stood there in her pajamas, now face to face with Nick and Judy, all three a mixture of concerned, confused, and tense.
"This better be good." Inspector Fox led, the discontent in her firm voice falling as Judy walked forcefully into the room.
"Shut up, lock the door, and sit down." Hopps did not mess around, she was stern and commanding, the look in her eyes made it clear she would not tolerate any nonsense.
"I'd do what she says." Nick chimed in as he passed by the bewildered vixen.
"Are you two alright?" Carmelita questioned, closing and locking the door behind them, her tone changed, noting how the pair looked as if they had just finished running a marathon.
"What did I just say?" Judy was out of patience, the night's events had taken quite a toll.
Normally a feisty one, the Inspector had to suppress whatever heated rebuttal she was ready to throw back, knowing instantly this was more important than her ego. An angry sigh conveyed what she thought of the comment to her guests.
"Good. Now, your partner, where is he?"
"Winthrop? He was at the station finishing up some paperwork last I heard, probably spent the night there again… Why do you ask?"
"If he were in danger, who would he go to for help?"
"If he didn't freeze up, he'd go to me. What is this about?"
"Last question, do you trust him?"
"With my life." Carmelita looked Judy dead in the eye, both to emphasize her point, and to get a read on her, "Oliver may not be the best officer in the field, but everyone on my team is personally chosen because they are the best at what they do. If you want to stand there and question the integrity of one of my own, then you better start explaining what is going on."
"Sorry," Hopps relaxed slightly, "but right now we don't know who to trust."
"Long story short," Nick began to explain, "we pretty much solved the missing mammal case you've been working on, you can thank us later. Turns out carrots here is one of the next targets. Anyway, we go to the station to get help and the only one there is your weasel friend. All the radios in the place are dead, and the next thing we know, BAM! Here comes the scary-white-truck taxi service to pick up their passenger. Officer fearless there says he's going to get help and bolts out of the place. I hit the alarm and we decide running away doesn't sound like a bad idea either. And, after realizing I am horribly out of shape, we ended up here. The end."
"You think Oliver…" Carmelita's thought trailed off as she processed the interesting retelling.
"All we know is it had to be someone, and he was the only one with us." Judy spoke softly.
"Look, Winthrop is a lot of things, but a traitor is not one of them."
"I get where you're coming from, heck, he might have actually found help and is waiting at the station for us to get back, but right now if we are making assumptions, we have to assume the worst." The rabbit's voice held the sincerest form of sympathy, while still conveying the severity of the situation.
"Why come to me? Why not Bogo?"
"It was Nick's idea. We could have hid out and waited for the chief to respond to the alarm, but whoever is in on this might be in the department, we couldn't be sure they wouldn't get there first, and we were not sticking around to find out. We really had nowhere to go, until Nick suggested you. He was very adamant that if there is anyone we could trust to stand by the law, you were it."
Carmelita thought for a moment, not realizing she was still holding her pistol at her side. As soon as she remembered the weapon in her paw, she placed it down once again on that small bedside table. Her eyes met with the face of the clock yet again, her gaze held deeply, as if to turn back time, replaying the events described to her, knowing how a mammal she trusted might have been the cause of it all.
"So what do you want me to do?" She said, finally snapping attention back to her early morning guests.
"How quickly can you have your team together?"
"Under these conditions, about an hour… What are you two thinking?"
"Whatever's going on, we're ending it. Today." Judy struggled, trying to force a smirk to emphasize her plan, the mix of thoughts and emotions still racing around in her head preventing it.
"Get me the details and we'll be ready for briefing at 4:30." Hesitantly, the vixen agreed, happy to get this whole thing over with, but nervous about the current state of affairs.
"Right," Hopps turned to her partner, "can I see that file Nick?"
"I thought you grabbed it…"
"Oh no…" Their eyes went wide, both realizing everything they had on Longfellow was left sitting at the station. "Slight change of plan. Get everyone ready, we'll have to brief at the station."
"Don't worry," Carmelita could see the concern both of the officers had with going back, "you'll have the best security in the world with you."
With that the Inspector headed out into the hall, still in her pajamas, and began banging on doors. Her tough voice commanding the sleeping agents to get up, as this time she 'was not giving them warning shots'. Whatever that meant, it seemed to be quite effective. A minute later, she returned, the sound of mammals scrambling to get ready following her. Without a word, she grabbed her own gear and stepped into the bathroom to change.
"Really think this will work?" Judy asked after a moment, allowing the bustling noise to fade into the background.
"What part?" Nick responded with a quick laugh, nothing had gone as planned thus far.
"All of it."
"Our biggest problem now is timing, especially since it's Interpol. Too early, and Sly's in for a very bad day, too late, and Longfellow could realize what's up and be long gone by the time we get there."
"What about Winthrop?"
"If he's innocent, he'll turn up soon enough, and you can be the one to apologize. If not… then that's up to Ms. Fox to deal with."
"Why me?" The bunny sat down on the edge of the bed, staring down into her paws as she contemplated what was about to go down.
"Because I'm pretty sure you're the one who suggested it was him."
"No… I mean… how did I get caught up in this whole thing? Why am I the big target here?"
"Oh…" Her partner took a seat next to her, realizing it was not the time for lighthearted remarks, he took a deep breath, "I… I never knew my father."
Judy was caught off guard, she looked over to see Nick staring off at nothing. Just as she was about to question where the tangent was going, he started up again.
"Whenever I asked my mom about him she always told me the same thing. 'Life has its ups and its downs, the hard part is never knowing which one is coming next. You have to make the best of whatever life gives you, put on a smile and just go with it. Do that and I promise no matter how bad something looks, something good will always come out of it.' It's taken me a while to figure out what she really meant by that. I always thought it was about adapting to the situation, being able to improvise, all that stuff. And as a hustler, that worked. But then, a clever little bunny decided to screw everything up for me. When you dragged me along on your case that day I thought I was done, I thought I was going to end up in jail or dead. To be fair, we did come close to both of those things, multiple times in fact- Anyway, I never thought that would change my life for the better, I never thought I could be anything more than what I was, and I certainly never thought that evil cop dragging me to my doom would become the best friend I'd ever had. What my mom was trying to tell me, what I now understand, is that sometimes things happen that you just can't control. But that's not a bad thing. It might suck right now, but something good will come in the end. In this case, that's putting Longfellow behind bars and saving all of the mammals he's taken."
The two sat for a moment, giving time to process everything said.
"Oh, and nobody will be trying to kill us, that's always a good thing." Nick threw out the half-joking remark, never one to let his emotions linger.
"Yeah, though that never seems to last long." His partner replied in a similar tone, the advice helping slightly.
"Ready?" Inspector Fox spoke as she stepped out of the bathroom. Her uniform was crisp and, despite the time, she had the same energy as every other time the two officers had worked with her.
"I'm not sure ready is the right word." Judy replied, still uncertain.
"Don't worry," Carmelita assured as she retrieved her pistol from the table, snapping it firmly into its holster, "Everything is going to be just fine."
With that, she pulled open the door leading out of the cramped room. The hallway outside was filled with Interpol agents, all geared up, ready and waiting. As soon as the inspector stepped out, every mammal snapped to attention. Her team was proud to be the best of the best, and they showed it, even at four in the morning.
"Listen up!" Ms. Fox's imposing voice commanded while she motioned for Nick and Judy to stay put inside her room, "An alarm was just triggered at the ZPD headquarters. It may not be what we're here for, but it is our duty to support the ZPD in any way we can. The current situation is unknown, but assume danger. I will be carrying precious cargo, if anything happens, that is priority number one. You know the plan. Mount up! We leave now!"
Carmelita moved back into her doorway, watching as the stampede of burly officers rushed past, all heading straight for their vehicles.
"Alright," She said as the last of them ran by, "come on."
The 'precious cargo' was now free to follow the vixen to her own car. She intentionally did not draw attention to Judy or Nick during her quick speech, nor did she as the trio made their way out of the building. Knowing someone had to be in on the attack led her to take extra precautions, even though she had complete trust in her team.
Driving to the station took only a few minutes, the hotel Interpol had rented out was only a few blocks away. As they approached, a sense of relief briefly swept over the vehicle's occupants. There was a lot of activity clearly visible both in and around the building, showing the alarm had done its job. Inspector Fox's team quickly set up their own redundant perimeter just out front of the one created by the ZPD. An officer, following protocol, had to ID Carmelita before allowing her to pull into the parking lot.
"Hopps? Wilde?" The cop asked, looking both surprised and confused at the mammals sitting in the back seats. "Uh, go on in, I'll have Fangmeyer meet you, he's probably gonna want to talk to you."
Nick and Judy watched the officer talk into his radio as their car was waved forward, quickly parking near the station entrance. Just as they got out, Fangmeyer came bursting from the main doors.
"Ju- Ni- What in the- What- What are you doing here? What happened?" The tiger appeared out of breath as he rapid fired questions."
"Slow down big guy, use your words." Nick teased with sincerity.
"Inspector?" Fangmeyer noticed the additional fox standing in the group, "The weasel! Is he with you too?!"
"Oliv- No- he's not. What's going on here officer? Where is the Chief?" Carmelita questioned right back.
"Bogo! He- He took half the cops in the city- took them to find you two! But you two are right here!"
"Took them where?" Nick interjected.
"This warehouse place, it was on some thing he found in the station, said it was urgent, left me in charge here."
"I need to talk to him, right now." Judy stated in the most serious tone she had ever used.
Fangmeyer let out a sigh, calming down enough to get a complete thought out, "We lost radio contact about twenty minutes ago. I sent some officers as runners to find him then report back, but they just left."
"Do you still have that file?" Nick asked, working up a plan on the fly.
"Yeah, hang on." The tiger ran back inside.
"I see where you're going with this." Judy commented before turning to Carmelita, "Bogo's in trouble, get your team over here, we have to brief and leave a-s-a-p."
True to form, every Interpol agent was huddled around them within seconds of the command going out. Fangmeyer returned with the file just as the last mammals found their place.
"Thanks." Hopps said, taking the paperwork from his paw. Gesturing towards the group, she addressed their commander, "Inspector, may I?"
"Of course." The vixen replied, speaking then to her team, "Change of plan. Officer Hopps will brief you, listen closely as we have to make this quick!"
All eyes fell on Judy, not even Carmelita knew the case details about to be disclosed. Once again, the young bunny found herself at the center of the crazy ordeal, but this time she was not hesitant, she did not question why, she accepted it, and she rolled with it. She cleared her throat and began the briefing.
"For the past week, you have been working on a missing mammals case. A case spanning several countries, affecting dozens of innocent lives, including mine... Through a very interesting series of events, my partner Nick and I have identified the culprit responsible for all this, a giraffe named Henry Longfellow. He has a heavily secured compound down by the rivers, that is where we are going. This is a search and rescue, not just for the mammals this monster has locked up, but for some of our own. Earlier tonight, this station was attacked, I was the target. Winthrop went missing during the confusion. The ZPD has already sent a group to Longfellow's location in response, but we've since lost contact with them. I'm not going to lie, this is dangerous, but Carmelita ensures me you are the best… and I am counting on it. The ZPD is counting on it. The mammals being held against their will, being tortured… and killed… Tonight, we are all counting on it…"
She looked around, meeting every agent there eye to eye.
"If you truly are the best, this is your time to prove it."
It's been awhile...
I could say how finals are coming up so I'm stuck with school work, or how busy the holidays get for me, but those are just excuses. Honestly, I've been neglecting this story. My motivation to write really dipped and I tried to justify it thinking nobody cared about reading this. Then I happened to come across one of you guys recommending my story to someone else on the internet, and I realized that I am in fact an idiot. I've said it before and I'll say it again, you guys are the best audience I could ever ask for. I'm sorry I kept you waiting so long, thank you for being patient.
This adventure in storytelling has been incredible, and I still can't believe how far it has come. All good things must come to an end though, and we're just about there. If you are reading this, I sincerely thank you for sticking around, for reading, and for dealing with my terrible scheduling. The last chapter is on its way, see you there.