A/N: Nick is now a killer. How will Judy handle Nick's actions?

Chapter 32 - Links in the chain

Morning at the ZPD was always what the young Judy Hopps looked forward to. Each day had the potential to become something new and exciting. A chance for her to make the world a better place for all mammals.

Of course that naive lagomorph no longer existed. The Judy Hopps that greeted each sunrise with such zest and hope had become disillusioned. Her view of the city, and of the many mammals within it, still rang as true as it had when she first stepped off the train. But those she had held in such esteem, her heroes since she was a child, had been tainted by reality.

Seeing such opposition to her fox when he first joined the force had been the original catalyst. The speciest attitude of many of her fellow officers had opened her eyes to the fact that police officers, those that had sworn to uphold the law without bias or judgment, were hypocrites. But she took her disapproval and buried it for the good of her brothers in blue. Not everyone there looked down on Nick or herself and so she felt the need to protect those officers in solidarity, but the knowledge remained.

As time had gone on, she had learned to ignore what she saw more for Nick's benefit. He never wanted attention brought to himself and, because she loved him, she honored his wishes in the matter. It was not until the ultimate betrayal by the mammal she had looked up to, the one who had become more like a second father to her than simply her boss, that she broke. The rage she had felt at the bovine overwhelmed anything she had ever experienced. It was in that moment, when she found the piece of hidden scrap paper, that the one responsible for the torture and brutalization of her beloved fox had become as hated by her as the mammals who actually did the deed. To her, Bogo had become the same as them.

No, she was most certainly not the same rabbit she had been. And so when she received the text from Nick yesterday morning, she didn't even flinch while reading it.

Nick: Dealt with. Send Wolfie. Moving on.

In the past, Judy might have been horrified by the idea of Nick killing someone. Now she simply waited an extra day to pass it on to make sure he had time to distance himself from the area to avoid detection. These weren't random mammals. These weren't innocents. They were monsters. And it was vengeance.

'Good riddance.'

Sitting on the curb a few houses down, Nick watched through the rental car's windshield as Mr. Twitchery pulled out from his driveway and headed for work, just as he had the day before. Nick checked his watch and noted the time, seeing that it was only a couple of minutes different from yesterday when he had watched the house.

'Clockwork family.'

With as rigid a structure that rabbits naturally kept to, he knew that Mr. Twitchery would not arrive home until the end of the day. He wasn't sure what the buck did for work but he knew it was a seven-to-five job. Plenty of time for the house to be empty. Mostly.

'Counting down…' He keyed a timer on his watch and tapped the steering column while keeping his eye on the front door. Twenty-two minutes later a yellow school bus appeared and stopped in front of the house just in time for two young bucks to race out the door and disappear into the vehicle before their mother had even reached the doorway to say goodbye. She gave them a half-hearted wave while rolling her eyes.

Nick spared only a glance at the two kits, only making sure they actually got on the bus before locking his eye back on the mother. The dull, grayish brown fur beneath a pair of black spandex pants and striped short sleeve shirt did not scream 'cultist' but Nick knew better than most the false fronts one can provide to the world.

An hour went by with the fox barely moving at all, taking breaks only to look at the time or take a drink from one of the many bottles of water he had stashed in the car after his stakeout the day before. So far everything had been progressing the same as it did yesterday morning. No one came by the house and the bunny inside stayed home. Her car did not move and beyond watching her prune the bushes out front, she gave no indication that she would even be setting foot outside of the home.

Finally, assured that no one would be showing up unannounced, Nick slowly exited his car making sure to close the door quietly. It wasn't likely that anyone would pay attention to a loud slam of the car door, but he erred on the side of caution. He did not need his target getting advance warning of his approach.

Checking the holster under his trench coat, Nick unsnapped the guard leaving his revolver easily accessible. Pulling the brim of his hat low, the vulpine walked casually to the opposite side of the road directly across from his car and turned right, his destination only three houses away now.

It was only seconds later that Nick found himself walking along the laid out cobblestone path to the front porch area. He had to bury both his cop and hustler instincts to glance around in case someone was nearby. If there was a investigation into anything that went on, a fox looking shifty was something that would be sure to get mentioned.

There was no hesitation in his movements. A few strides to the front steps, two more across the small porch before standing directly in front of the door. Three quick raps on the wood. All of his movements done with a purpose. And only seconds later was he rewarded with the sight of wide, fearful eyes and an uncontrollable twitchy nose.

The bunny's natural instincts hit her hard as she froze at the sight of the fox in her doorway. Watched as he pushed back the fedora revealing the scarred tissue over his muzzle. The deadened eye staring blankly into the void. She didn't even need her to see the ear to know it was no longer attached to him. She had done the very deed herself. There was no mistaking who the reynard was in front of her.

Her mind had gone blank, frozen in horror at what she was facing, a nightmare become real. By the time she came to her senses enough to think about bolting from the room, she found that she had been unconsciously shuffling backward as he advanced. Her eyes darted around the room looking for an avenue of escape before catching the glint of light coming from the fox's paw. The doe spared a glance at them and blanched. The metal claws, sharper than anything she had ever seen, warned her exactly what would happen should she try to flee. Distracted, she didn't notice that she had backed up too far, finding her knees giving out as she collapsed onto the couch in her living room.

Leaving the shaking rabbit to her own devices trusting that she would not be trying to run anywhere after he had flashed his claws in her direction, Nick grabbed hold of a love seat nearby and hauled it in front of the couch. The chair, something that could easily fit two rabbits side by side, was a bit tight for him, however he made the most of it, pulling out the revolver and laying it on the arm next to him.

Two large forms warily approached the front of a rather ramshackle building situated off the beaten path in the Rainforest District. The bigger of the pair, a lion standing quite a bit taller than his wolf partner, pushed past the unkempt long grass and leafy bushes, taking care to make as little noise as possible.

Delgato kept his tranquilizer pistol aimed directly at the front door in case whoever may be in the house tried to surprise them. Wolford followed closely behind and to the right, covering his partner. Both had tranqs at the ready, but they also had their sidearms ready to be drawn at a moment's notice. The detectives needed information on whoever had been firing but they were not foolish enough to rely only on darts when live ammo might be necessary.

Seeing that the coast was clear for the moment, Delgato and Wolford quickly hurried to the front of the building before pressing their backs up against the wall. Keeping an ear out for any sounds that would indicate a moving suspect inside, Delgato reached out and touched to door knob, trying it to see if it was locked. When it didn't move the lion made a grimace, his hopes on a silent entry being dashed. He was about signal to his partner they should circle around back in hopes of finding another way in when the wolf's waving paw caught his attention.

"D," he whispered just loud enough to reach the feline's ear. "This isn't a real door." He ran the tip of his digit around the opening. "There's no gap against the concrete. It's fake."

Puzzled, Delgato looked for himself and noted the lack of any operational hinges. Closely regarding the knob, he realized it hadn't moved not because it was locked, but because it was screwed in place against plain wood. Acting on suspicion, the lion turned towards the window next to him and gently rapped his claw tips against it. A dull thud was all he got in return, telling him there was no hollow area behind it. The windows were props as well. Whoever was this paranoid either had reason to be or was completely off their rocker.

With a hand gesture, Delgato sent Wolford around to the right while he himself headed down the left side of the house to try and find another opening. Not until the two regrouped at the back of the building did they get lucky. A back door left partway open.

Wolford put up a paw and moved up to the opening. Drawing in a deep breath, he flinched and pinched his eyes shut. "Decomp," he mouthed to his partner. "Day, maybe two." He grabbed another whiff and shook his head. "Alone."

Keeping their pistols drawn, the two of them entered the small building emerging into a sparse kitchen. Very little in the way of appliances, it consisted of a small fridge, a gas range stove that looked forty years old at least, and a rusted sink.

The room was dark though neither mammal was affected by it too much, their natural night vision coming in handy for the task ahead. Predators on the force usually made the first entries into darkened crime scenes specifically because their night vision could be used instead of flashlights keeping any perpetrators from seeing them approach.

An empty doorway separated them from the next room over and the partners quickly made their way through, guns at the ready. It was a modest sized room that seemed to take up most of the house. A medium sized bed sat in one corner near an electric heater while two chairs occupied the far wall. The room appeared empty and Wolford signaled to Delgato that it was clear.

Delgato turned to radio it in and suddenly let out a loud yowl causing the timber wolf to spin around, finger on the trigger and ready to fire. It took a moment to register what he was seeing.

A chair was placed up against the wall, not four feet from where they had entered. It was a rather ordinary chair save for the ropes wrapped around the arms, legs, and back of it. What was sitting in it though was far more disturbing.

They could tell what the mammal was based on the hooves and whitish-gray wool along the ram's arms. The rest of the body however was covered in a black cloak. One that was all too familiar and made the predators stomachs roil in revulsion. The face was obscured but a dark stain had formed over the center, the copper-like scent of blood easily distinguishable to the canine and feline.

"Get Bogo on the line. Tell him he's gotta get down here now. And tell him to bring Madge."

No words were spoken, merely the boring of a lone green eye deep into hers. It was a tense situation for the bunny. She had to force herself to face the fox in case she needed to read his body language to try and escape an attack, however the piercing gaze made the doe avoid his good eye by switching to the other. This was a mistake, for the milky white orb with seemed to stare right into her very soul.

"Who are you?!" She had no option left besides feigning ignorance. "Why are you in my home?!" It was a long shot at best as he wouldn't have come to her house without knowing. There was nothing tying her to any of it.

His brow raised in an almost mocking gesture. As if to say "Really?" without ever uttering a sound. He continued to tap the revolver against the chair, never letting the rabbit forget about the loaded weapon before her.

Rachel started to fidget uncontrollably. The sight of the maimed fox in front of her was making her ill. Not just because of his appearance, but the memories of the night flooding back over her. While she had been a part of the cult and their dealings, that was her first time in being so brutal. The next few times were far easier on her, but that night stayed fresh in her mind.

"Look, I don-" she tried again however this time Nick wasn't having it. Raising his paw he cut her off mid-word.

"I don't want to hear any of that bullshit. You knew what you were doing. You enjoyed it." The mixed expression on the rabbit's face told him there was more truth in that statement than false but he no longer cared for excuses.

"I have no ide-"

"Eddie pointed me to you." The words died in her throat as the reality set in. "He's dead by the way. Gave you up to try and save his wool. Didn't work. And you are going to give me the name of the next one. Then you are going to go to Precinct One and turn yourself in to Detectives Wolfard and Delgato. You will tell them that you have become so overwhelmed with grief that you cant take it anymore. I advise you to avoid Officer Hopps. If you don't, I won't report you to the cops. You just will go missing. Do we understand each other?"

"W-wait…" her words trembled as her body tried to refuse saying it, but she needed to know. "You aren't going to kill me too?" she asked, terrified of the answer.

"I'm going to be completely honest with you, Rachel. Only the fact that you have children is what is keeping this gun from being aimed right between your eyes. I know what it's like to have a parent cut down as a child, and even though their mother is a monster, I don't want them to be the ones to find you dead."

The atrium of Precinct One was crowded and far noisier than anything Rachel expected. Several large predators being led through the lobby in cuffs was not surprising to the doe as she had always believed that predators were violent by nature, all of them killers. The sight of a fair number of rabbits though gave her pause. One in particular looked especially cruel with a sneer on his muzzle and covered in blood that was obviously not his. The gnashing of his teeth towards the arresting officer was something Rachel never imagined seeing her kind do.

But then again, I'm here for doing the very same, aren't I? She was under no illusion. She knew exactly what she had done and during the time she participated in the heinous acts the only time she had ever hesitated was when she was first approached by the mysterious 'Beta' wolf. That was until her face-to-face with the fox earlier that day. Seeing the mammal in her house, having to stare at the wounds she had caused and understand exactly what she had done to the fox had made her stomach roil. It was easy to forget about them if she never had to see them again, but the way the reynard had looked at her, with anger, and hatred, and so much pity, she found herself loathing her own self.

She was grateful he had spared her. She did not think she would have done the same in his situation. The mention of her kits growing up without a mother was unthinkable, and even if she would spend all the rest of her days in prison, it was better for them to not think she had abandoned them.

After waiting patiently for the arresting officers to process the criminals, Rachel approached the front desk. Her throat was tight and her paws felt clammy. She knew that turning herself in meant the end of her life and seeing her family, but it was better than the alternative.

"Hello?" she called up to the large cheetah behind the front desk.

Clawhauser gave a start at the voice since he didn't see anyone in front of him, but working with Judy Hopps for so long had made the big cat wise to smaller mammals and was rarely mystified for long. "Oh, hello ma'am! Welcome to Precinct One. What can I do for you?"

"Um…is there a, um, a detective Delgato here?" She paused before taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders, meeting the cheetah's gaze without flinching. "I want to make a statement."

Post A/N: Nick is moving down the line with a vengeance.