Chief Bogo's voice rang through the main lobby as Nick and Judy reentered the precinct. They both looked up to see the buffalo standing at the railing of the second floor, staring down at them; how long he had been there beforehand was anyone's guess. As soon as he had their attention, he pointed silently at his office.
It was not the first time he had called Nick to his office in such a manner. In fact, he had done it several times to several officers in the short time since Nick had started his job. Even Judy was not safe from the dreaded Bogo Call.
Nick smiled up at the chief and half-saluted with two fingers. "I'll be there in a second, Chief As—"
"Now, Wilde!" Bogo barked, so loud that everyone else in sight stopped what they were doing and stared at Nick, wondering what he could have done.
The amount of eyes staring at him made him uneasy, so Nick decided it would be wise to obey Bogo's order. He turned to Judy and shrugged. "I'll meet up with you here afterward?"
Judy nodded and patted the folder under her arm. "I'll take care of this while you talk with the chief."
Nick forced a smile. "Sounds dandy," he mumbled.
They went their separate ways immediately, with Judy retreating to her cubicle and Nick making his way to the stairs. As he passed Clawhause, he could hear the cheetah struggling not to snicker.
"Is something funny, Officer Clawhauser?" Nick asked, not slowing his pace, nor shifting his glance to him in the least.
Clawhauser didn't answer. Instead he quickly picked up a donut and began munching on it. When he was sure Nick was out of range, he started chanting, "Nick is in trouble! Nick is in trouble!"
Nick could hear him perfectly, but pretended not to. He ran a hundred scenarios through his mind about what Bogo could be mad with him about this time. From them, he came up with a few good candidates—an arrest where he exercised a rather large display of aggravation, pulling over the same sloth seven times for speeding without issuing a ticket, or that one time he sent the chief a text meant for his florist.
Whatever it was, Bogo was about to go through the same old routine. He would sit Nick down for a short, loud lecture, shoot down any counter-argument Nick might have, and then send him on his way so he could go back to playing his Gazelle app on his phone.
In no time at all, Nick was at Bogo's door. The chief was standing outside it, waiting for him. He silently motioned for Nick to enter, which the fox did, before following him inside. Nick plopped down on the oversized chair opposite the chief's desk, and as soon as Bogo closed the door behind him, he quickly asserted, "I gave that pig a fair warning first."
Bogo blinked in confusion. "What?"
Bogo snorted. "Whatever." He walked around his desk and sat down. "Officer Wilde, you have another appointment with Dr. Wood, tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock."
"Oh, so soon? It feels like it was only yesterday I saw him for the first time."
"That's because it was." For some reason, Bogo did not seem as angry as he seemed to be out in the lobby. In fact, he seemed quite calm—which raised all sorts of red flags in Nick's mind. "He called today and asked to see you again as soon as possible. I told him you were busy on a case, but he was most insistent."
Nick shrugged. "Well, he did say he wanted to see me again at the end of our meeting." He raised an eyebrow. "I'm not paying for these out of my own pocket, am I, Chief?"
It was a half-joke, but Bogo didn't react. He didn't snort, he didn't narrow his eyes, he didn't so much as lean forward in his seat. "Wilde, he asked for just you." Nick waited for him to continue. "Dr. Wood has seen every predator on the force. The purpose of the meetings was to psychologically evaluate you all on the ability to perform your duty as cops." He pointed at Nick. "He only asked to see one predator again. You."
The news did not immediately unsettle Nick. He was used to being "psychologically evaluated"—just another way of saying "judged"—by countless animals throughout his life. But the weight of Bogo's words slowly began to fall on him. "So… He cleared all the others, but not me?"
"He hasn't said anything about you yet either way," Bogo responded. "That's why he wants another session with you. Unlike the other predators on the force, you seemed to not give him enough of a clear answer as to whether or not you are a threat."
Nick coughed sharply. "A threat, sir?" He put his paws in the air. "I'm not a threat."
"I know that, Wilde," Bogo quickly responded. "But Dr. Wood needs to say so before Assistant Mayor Rolfe is satisfied." He picked up a file that had up to that point been hiding underneath a pile of other assorted papers on the corner of his desk. "This is Dr. Wood's notes of your appointment yesterday."
The folder was beaver-sized, but even so, it was filled with so many papers that it seemed to struggle to stay closed. Nick found himself gaping at the size of the thing; how Dr. Wood had taken so many notes from the time they spent together was beyond him. For a minute, he even worried about what the notes were about. He hoped that there was nothing in there on his feelings about Judy, and prayed that if there was, Bogo hadn't read them.
"He asked me to read through them, or at least his notes on potential issues you might have worth considering," Bogo continued, "but frankly, none of this is my business." He unceremoniously dumped the folder in the wastebasket beside his desk. "I would rather resign than fire you, Nick. You're not a threat to society. No animal is just because they're a predator."
The unexpected actions and words from the buffalo touched Nick in a way he never felt before. Nick was used to being ridiculed and mocked and even threatened simply because he was a predator. Even after joining the ZPD, he still faced massive prejudice based on him being a fox. While he had the admiration of many others now, and the trust from all the other officers—this was probably the first genuine, heartfelt display of respect he had ever gotten in his life.
At a loss for words, all he could say was, "Thank you, sir."
Bogo nodded, before standing up. "Get to the bottom of this, Nick. For all the predators in Zootopia."
Nick stood as well and saluted. "You can count on me and Judy, sir."
Bogo raised an eyebrow, the side of his mouth turning into a small grin. "'Judy', eh?"
Nick cleared his throat. "Carrots, sir. That's what I said. 'Carrots'."
"You said 'Judy'."
"I did not."
Bogo walked over to the door and placed a hoof on the handle. "I'm going to open this door, and I'm going to yell at you. And you are going to play along—or I will give the entire precinct permission to laugh at you. Do you understand?"
Nick had completely forgotten that the chief had come in here angry in the first place. Now, suddenly, it made sense; Bogo had simply pretended to be angry in order to have a private conversation with him without raising any suspicions.
"Yes, sir," Nick responded. Before Bogo could open the door, he quickly added, "Tomorrow morning at 10?"
Bogo silently nodded, then opened the door. As soon as light from the outside crept into the room, he was already yelling. "If I hear one more complaint about your aggressive behavior, Wilde, I'll muzzle you myself! Do I make myself clear?"
Nick assumed his patented half-lidded grin, stuck his paws in his pockets, and exited the office. "Eh, she was a pig anyway," he responded.
Nick froze. Officer Swinton, a pig who usually worked as a prison warden, was just walking past as he had uttered it. She now stared at him, tapping her foot, hooves on her hips.
Nick dropped the smile. "Oh, like you haven't heard it before, Swinton," he said defensively, before brushing past her and making his way back to the stairs.
Within a few seconds, he was back in the lobby, walking up to the front desk. His snout barely reached the desk, and he had to fight the urge to glare at Clawhauser, who was still snickering in his chair.
"So," the cheetah asked, "what did you do this time, Nick?"
Nick rolled his eyes. "Oh, you know, I was busy minding my own business, walking home with two armfuls of watermelons, as one does—"
"You arrested a pig, huh?"
"Yep. Apparently I was a little too rough when I did." He stood tall, paws behind his back, and smiled. "It won't happen again. I promised."
Clawhauser narrowed his eyes at the fox, not believing him in the least. "Really? You promised?"
Nick nodded. "I sure did." His grin widened, however, as he lifted one of his paws up from behind his back. Two of his fingers were crossed.
Clawhauser's snickering returned. "Oh, Chief Bogo is going to be so mad when he finds out!" he chuckled.
Nick knew he was in no trouble, of course, and played along. He dropped his smile and clutched his heart in mock plea. "Oh, my dear Benjamin, I surely hope you won't tell the dear chief about my little white lie, will you?"
"Oh, absolutely not, Nicky." Clawhauser raised his tail and grabbed it. "I promise," he added with a wink.
Nick stared at him in confusion. "No, that's…" He glanced around, hoping nobody was watching. "Ben, that's not something you can do in public."
"It's not?" Clawhauser looked at his tail, still grasped by his hand. "Then what does this—"
"Ben!" Nick snapped.
The cheetah quickly let go of his tail. "Sorry!" he apologized. He sat straight up in his chair and tried again. "I mean, I promise, Nicky," he repeated, with another wink. This time, he curled his paw into a fist, like he was ready to punch Nick in the face.
Nick continued staring at him in disbelief. "Ben," he sighed. He raised his paw and crossed two fingers. "Are you even seeing what I'm doing here?"
"Oh. So I'm supposed to do this?" Clawhauser uncurled his fist and spread his fingers out, pressing a few close to each other and spacing them out again.
"No, that's the Vulture Sal—" Nick put a paw on his forehead. "Ben, Ben, Ben, work with me." He raised his paw again. "It's. So. Simple." He crossed his fingers, then pointed at it with his free paw in a ta-da gesture. "See?"
Clawhauser stared at Nick's paw for several seconds, then at his own. He was silent for a moment, then grabbed his own paw and began manipulating it with his free one. It was blocked from Nick's view while he worked, but when he was finally done, he removed his free paw and smiled at Nick, proud of his accomplishment.
It was a thumbs-up.
Nick had a hard time believing that he was having this much difficulty trying to teach a single paw gesture to the cheetah. "Ben, I swear to God. I have never had this problem in my life. I feel like I'm dealing with—"
"Nick!" Judy's voice cut them both off.
"Carrots!" Nick quickly finished, whirling around and forcing a grin. Judy was walking up to them, a fresh case file tucked under her arm and a grin on her face.
"Carrots are a dollar a pound at HZB," Clawhauser whispered in his ear.
"Not now, Ben," Nick snapped back in an equally quiet whisper, still maintaining his smile in Judy's direction.
A few seconds later, Judy was at the desk. "I've got the investigation report right here. The junk yard is thirty minutes away according to the Zoogle Maps."
Without her having to ask, Clawhauser had already fished the keys to one of the cruisers from under the desk. He dangled them in front of Nick. "Here you go. Have fun, you two!"
Nick smiled and reached out to grab the keys. Before he could, however, a gray blur shot in front of his paw, snatched the keys, and began walking to the front door. "Not so fast, Slick. You're shotgun." As she exited, she called behind her, "Again!"
Clawhauser and Nick watched her leave, both speechless. Finally, Clawhauser was able to ask, "I take it she heard about your driver's test?"
Nick sighed in resignation. "Yep." He lowered his aviators in front of his eyes and started following her. "Keep working on that thing, buddy," he called over his shoulder. "Look up some ZooTube videos if you have to."
As he left, he could hear Clawhauser whipping out his phone and doing just that.