Chapter Fifty-Nine – Choosing Sides

Nick sat in front of Officer Pennington's desk, frowning as he watched the elephant try to make a clear space on its cluttered surface, shuffling splayed papers into a disorganized stack. Folders with coffee stains, loose sheets, and even a few bent-edged photographs were swept up into the haphazard pile, and Nick couldn't help the scorn that lifted his lip. Didn't they keep all this stuff online now? How were they going to find anyone with such outdated habits?

Despite the disastrous state of her desk, the elephant managed to sound condescending as she finally looked over at him. "I'm surprised you're here Mr. Wilde," she swept a handful of loose paperclips into her desk's open center drawer. "Something to add to your statement?"

Nick wanted to yell at her in that moment. Scream at the system that judged him with such bias, and had let this happen in the first place. He swallowed his rage, thinking of the real reason he was here.

"Who is this assailant, and how did she find Judy and I?" He asked, sitting up in his chair. "I want your assurance – for what little its worth – that we'll be safe from a second attack."

Pennington's large ears, wide at the sides of her head, opened to their full size at his tone. "Little worth?" She narrowed her eyes.

"You heard me," Nick growled. "If I wasn't dating a mammal who happened to be prey, you wouldn't have bothered collecting any information."

"Is that so?" She sat back in her chair, sending creaks up into the air.

"It is," Nick shot back tersely, wondering why she seemed so serene. "If it had just been me run off the road, you lot would have thought I'd done something to deserve it."

The elephant blinked. "Have you?"

Nick grimaced. How typical. Fishing for incriminating information.

His stomach knotted as a small part of him admitted there was plenty of information to find. He didn't want to reinforce the stereotype, and cursed at how quickly he had gone to the crime boss. Maybe he did deserve all of the mistrust and prejudice.

"I'm the victim here," he shot back. "Remember?"

Pennington sat up as her chair groaned once more in protest. "You are Mr. Wilde, which is why I find it odd you are being so combative and defensive," she flicked him a knowing glance. "Stop acting like you've done something you shouldn't, and I'll stop treating you like you have."

Nick snapped his mouth closed.

"I have reviewed your record," the officer continued. "And I know that you're trying to build an honest life for yourself."

The fox's eyes widened at her candor.

"I also know that you have been sighted in Tundra Town on multiple occasions in the last year."

"I didn't realize it was a crime to travel—."

She held up a wide hand, cutting him off. "I also know that your 'former' employer is well-versed in using the mammals around him to further his own gains," the elephant looked down her trunk. "At any cost."

Nick crossed his arms over his chest, feeling his frown deepen.

"If you could help us with information on Mr. Big, I might be able to help you," Pennington's voice had gone soft, almost gentle. "You wouldn't have to owe him anymore. You could be free."

Nick tried to swallow, but it caught in his throat.

"Think about it," she offered. "Whatever you decide won't hold up our ongoing investigation in this hit and run," she rummaged in the stack of papers and withdrew a folder. "Here is a list of precautions you and your girlfriend should take. Once our suspect chooses her target, she doesn't let up until…," Pennington trailed off, looking downcast.

"Until what?" Nick had gone rigid.

"Until she's ruined both of your lives – or taken them," she whispered.