After Judy had a moment to recover, she lifted the binder as though it were made of glass and delicately placed it back in the briefcase and added the three sheets of paper that had been crumpled atop Carajou's desk, adding the clothes that had been wrapped around the binder as padding and then closed the briefcase. As Judy clicked the latches shut, she turned to Nick. "We have to show this to Bogo," she said, and she was surprised by how calm she sounded.
Judy's heart was starting to pound in excitement, but it was as though she suddenly had too much energy to stand up or run for the car. The enormity of what she had found—what they had found—was consuming all of her attention, her thoughts running at dizzying speeds in unfocused bursts. It was as though she could see the connections linking every piece of evidence behind all the murders back to Lionheart and she realized how cleverly he must have managed it. What if all of the gang murders, even the ones before the shooting at Tundra Town Lanes, had been conducted in the same manner? She could picture Lionheart's paw behind events, first arranging one murder and then having the killer murdered in turn, all the while arranging clues so that they would point in any direction but back towards him. It was brilliant, in a sickeningly evil sort of way, that he must have arranged for some of the members of his own gang to be killed when the string of murders began, sacrificial pawns that would help keep the attention away from him. Lionheart must have been consolidating power with every murder, and if none of the other gangs knew that he was behind them they were probably starting to eye each other, which might be where framing Medvedeva for Carajou's murder fit in. The polar bear was almost certainly a member of the Black Paw and had no connection whatsoever to Lionheart's outfit, the North Side Pride. If the other gangs blamed the Black Paw, Lionheart might be able to rally them behind himself, absorbing the remaining gangs even as he continued to pick off any members who might threaten his leadership, until at last he controlled all of Zootopia's criminal underworld.
"He really does want to be king," Judy said, unconsciously speaking the words before realizing that Nick had been saying something while she had been distracted by her own thoughts.
Nick cocked his head to the side and gave her an odd look, which probably meant that what she had just said made just enough sense to be a possible response to what Nick had said but not enough sense for it to be an appropriate one. "I wouldn't say that about Bogo myself," Nick began, but Judy cut him off.
"I'm sorry," she said, "I was thinking about Lionheart. What did you say?"
"I said we might not want to bring all this into the police station since this briefcase and that viola case might look awfully familiar to a dirty cop. Then I asked you how much you trusted Bogo and, well..."
Nick trailed off, rolling his paw and Judy realized he must have thought what she had said was an answer to that question. Her heart started to slow down as she considered the question and what it meant for the rest of the ZPD. "You're right," Judy said, "I think we can trust Bogo but we need to make sure no one else sees this."
The chief of police had all but told her that some of the officers on the force passed information on to gangsters, and the last thing that Judy wanted was for word to get back to Lionheart as to how close they were to catching him. "No one?" Nick repeated, "Not even the other prohis?"
He rotated his wrist towards Judy so that she could see his wristwatch, and Judy was surprised to see that it was about eleven; the morning was almost over, and Dr. Tolmie had promised that he would be completely done examining the bodies of Scursly and Bauson by noon. As Judy had also asked the wombat to send the results over to her office at the Bureau of Prohibition, she understood the point that Nick was making. "Not even the other prohis," Judy said, "This'll be between the two of us."
"Hmm," Nick said as he hefted the viola case; although he was obviously stronger than Judy was, he obviously still found it heavy.
"Are you sure you trust me to lug this chopper around?" Nick asked.
His tone was light and his eyes sparkled with good-humored amusement as he teased, but Judy answered the question as though it had been sincere. "Of course I do," she said, and was rewarded by a brief change in his expression.
Before his features reset themselves into their usual position somewhere between mild friendly interest and open self-satisfaction, Judy thought that she might have seen something like gratitude or maybe even appreciation. "Come on," Judy said as she lifted Carajou's briefcase, "Let's go."
Just in case, Judy locked the door to Carajou's hotel room before they left and made their way back to the Buchatti. When Judy took the driver's seat, giving the briefcase to Nick so that he could hold it and the viola case on his lap as they drove, the memory of the dance they had shared suddenly jumped into her mind as she looked over at Nick in profile. What was he going to say before he noticed the scratches?
Judy absent-mindedly stroked at the fur on her cheek over the marks and then shook her head, trying to turn her focus back to the case. "Let's get a box we can put everything in before we go anywhere else."
Nick smiled, turning to look at her over his lap of cases, and his fur glowed red-orange in the light of the sun. "This fox just so happens to be an expert on boxes," he said with mock solemnity, placing one paw on his chest, "I know just the place. If you're on the owner's good side, anyway."
The water in the shower turned brown as it ran through Judy's fur, taking away the river filth that had coated the Camellac as she scrubbed at herself. Stopping at Nick's house had been his idea, and she had eagerly agreed when she realized that she could take a shower while he found a suitable box in his attic. It wasn't just a matter of wanting to look good before presenting the evidence to Bogo that made Judy want to take a shower. It wasn't even a matter of wanting to get whatever might be lurking in the river water out of her fur. Not that Judy wanted to appear before the buffalo wearing Nick's comically oversized suit jacket inside-out and stinking like the Zootopia River, but the shower was also an opportunity to think, and she felt as though she needed it.
Judy's excitement had seemingly dripped away with every second that had passed after they had found Carajou's guns and record book, and she had no idea why. She had never been good at waiting; when she had been a kit she had been the one awake at three in the morning on Christmas Day ready to start celebrating no matter how late her parents or siblings might have wanted to sleep. Nick had been right when he had said that she was impatient, and remembering that conversation brought back the memory of dancing with him in the Blind Tiger. She could almost feel him again, the warmth of the water becoming the warmth of his body and the faint stale scent of his musk that lingered in every room of his house becoming the rich and full scent of it she had smelled so close to him.
Judy tried to think of something else, but the memory refused to go away, the details suddenly exquisite. She could remember exactly how Isabel and her band played "Someone to Watch Over Me," every little flourish they had added to make the song their own, even how the song had sounded as the music filled the cheap little club. She could remember the way they had glided across the dance floor, and if her memory was embellishing the grace that they had danced with, what of it? It was a perfect moment, Judy thought, and then the answer to why her excitement had ebbed seemed to crystallize before her into perfect clarity. It was obvious.
It was Nick.
Once the case was solved, she would almost certainly never see him again. He would go back into hiding, hopefully somewhere nicer than Podunk, and she wouldn't even know where that was. Once she left the Bureau, she wouldn't even be able to check his file to see where he was placed. But wherever he ended up, no matter how nice it was, it wouldn't be Zootopia. She was the one who was going to end up in Zootopia with everything she had wanted since she was a kit. Judy had no doubt that Bogo would be as good as his word and she'd have a spot in the police academy once Lionheart got arrested, and from there she knew she had what it took to become a police officer. It would be the culmination of the dream she'd had for as long as she could remember, and with it suddenly so close it somehow didn't feel as appealing as it had when she had first arrived in Zootopia.
Judy had seen for herself how little care some of the police officers had for their jobs or the citizens they were sworn to protect. She still wanted to make the world a better place, and there was no doubt in her mind that toppling Lionheart and his gang with him would do that, but what would come next? It had taken Nick nearly getting killed by her own recklessness for her to realize how careless she had been with his life, but what would happen when Nick was no longer around to pull her back when she started to go too far? Judy was sure that she'd get a partner, and that partner might very well be a fine mammal; for all the bigoted and self-interested officers she had seen, she had also seen that there were some who seemed genuinely dedicated to their jobs. And maybe that partner wouldn't be sarcastic and wouldn't tease her. Maybe that partner would be another prey mammal who could go into any store or restaurant they wanted and wouldn't have to let society's scorn roll off their back. Maybe that partner would be more like Judy.
But they wouldn't be Nick.
The water had long since started running clear and was starting to get cold, and Judy turned off the tap. She stood there in the bathtub for a long moment, dripping water and not bothering to reach for her towel. Maybe... Maybe Nick could stay in Zootopia, Judy thought. Maybe he could stay.
The longer Judy turned the thought over in her mind, the less ridiculous it seemed. Mr. Big was in no shape to order a hit against the fox, and what remained of his former top mammals had been mostly picked off by Lionheart's machinations. It wasn't as though there wouldn't be any danger once Lionheart was behind bars, but maybe...
Judy had promised Nick that she would keep him safe and she had no intention of breaking that promise. But as she slowly toweled herself dry, she realized that she wanted him to be happy, too. He deserved it after everything he had done for her, whatever it was he wanted. She didn't think Nick would be happy going back to a quiet life of teaching math in a town where he was the only fox, but that was a decision only he could make. Maybe he'd want to leave the country entirely by going back to Purris and the life of cafes and jazz clubs she had seen in pictures on the walls of his bedroom.
As Judy got dressed in another one of the outfits that Nick had paid for on their trip to Marshall Fallow, she made up her mind. After Lionheart was arrested and there were no more distractions, she would simply ask Nick what it was that he wanted. He had promised that they would go out to celebrate after the case was solved, and it would be the perfect opportunity. Whatever it was that he wanted, wherever it was he wanted to go, Judy promised herself that she would see to it with the same determination she had pursued her dream of becoming a police officer.
Making the promise seemed to help because as Judy carefully styled her fur in the mirror so that the scratches on her cheek wouldn't be visible, she could feel something in the pit of her stomach that could only be her excitement returning. They really were so close to being done, and who knew? Maybe she could have everything she wanted and not just the job as a police officer.
By the time that they got to the Bureau's decrepit office it was almost half past noon, and the office was completely empty, all of the other agents apparently working in the field or taking a lunch break. That suited Judy just fine, as that meant that there wasn't anyone around to ask why Nick was carrying around the fairly large and somewhat dusty cardboard box he had found in his attic and then put the viola case and briefcase into. It was, unfortunately, somewhat flimsy, and he had to support the bottom to prevent the contents from falling out, but he had made it out of the car and into the Bureau's main office area without any complaints, although he had commented, "I'm afraid chivalry is dead," when they had approached the door.
Considering that he had to use both paws to keep the box together, Judy certainly didn't mind holding the door for him, not that she would have minded opening it even if he hadn't been carrying anything. Once they were at Judy's desk, Nick had carefully set the box down on Agent Ramses's desk and then leaned against Judy's desk as she sat down.
Judy's inbox at the Bureau of Prohibition had never had anything besides inter-office memos in it before, but that had changed. Besides a manila envelope that was labeled with the coroner's office's address, there was also a newspaper clipping. Judy set the envelope aside and read the article, which was only a few lines long. Underneath the headline "Tenement Fire Exposes Code Violations" it read:
A fire last night at the Grand Pangolin Apartments, located near the meat-packing district, shows again the need for the stricter enforcement of fire codes. The blaze resulted in the hospitalization of three mammals but no loss of life, though it was only the rapid response and action of the Zootopia Fire Department that prevented tragedy. Per Captain William Farrier, who led the effort to extinguish the fire, the Grand Pangolin Apartments had "unquestionably been illegally subdivided..." "...without proper care for ensuring the use of approved building materials or sufficient access to fire escapes."
The owner of the building refused to comment, requesting that all questions be directed to his lawyer. Investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing and arson has not been ruled out at the time of publishing. This fire, as well as the
The article ended abruptly as the entire piece had not been clipped, but the last complete sentence had been underlined in pencil and a note had been written in the margin of the article in what Judy recognized as Bellwether's even script. Bellwether's comment on the article, which gave Judy little doubt that her boss had been the one to leave it in her inbox, read "The police know how important my agents' safety is to me."
Judy felt a sudden puff of breath on her neck and realized that Nick had been read the article over her shoulder. "It's touching how much she cares," he said, "Or at least, how much she cares about making sure you know how much she cares."
The sarcasm in Nick's words was obvious, but Judy didn't think she could say much in Bellwether's defense without lying. Judy simply nodded and grabbed the manila envelope, fully intending on leaving the Bureau office in order to review the results of Dr. Tolmie's examination somewhere else. Before she could so much as stand up, though, the door to Bellwether's office opened and the ewe stuck her head out. "Agent Hopps!" she said cheerfully, "I thought I heard someone."
"Director," Judy said as respectfully as she could, nodding her acknowledgement of her boss even as she started to stand up to leave, "I was just—"
"I'd like a quick word," Bellwether interrupted, and her cheerful tone didn't change even as she glanced over at Nick and added, "Alone."
She beckoned Judy towards her, studiously avoiding even looking in Nick's direction again. Nick, at least, seemed perfectly content to ignore Bellwether in turn, and Judy walked towards Bellwether's office. Inside, Bellwether's office didn't look much different from the last time she had been in it, although there was a large glass jar on the corner of the ewe's desk that was about a third of the way full with coins and even a few dollar bills that hadn't been there before. Bellwether evidently noticed Judy looking at the jar because she smiled as she took her own seat behind the desk, gesturing for Judy to take the one in front of the desk. "Did you see that article I left you?" she asked, and she didn't even wait for a response before continuing, "The whole office was willing to pitch in once they heard your apartment burned down so I started a collection. Isn't that wonderful?"
Judy stared at the jar. She had never won the contest to guess how many jelly beans were in a jar at the Harvest Festivals she had gone to as a kit, but she thought that there had to be at least fifteen dollars in the jar. "That's... That's really great," Judy said.
She had never gotten the impression that her coworkers particularly liked her, but the evidence to the contrary was right in front of her. She thought it was a sign of the kindness mammals were capable of until Bellwether spoke again. "I'll keep the collection going for another few days. I would have given you what's been collected so far but you seem to be doing alright, aren't you dear?"
The little ewe's voice was sickly sweet even as she looked Judy up and down, apparently noting the clothes that she wore. It was true that the outfit she wore, a shimmering pale green and tan frock with a matching pleated skirt of a fabric that looked and felt like silk but wasn't, was one of the brand-new ones that Nick had purchased, but it had been among the least expensive of the clothes he had paid for. "I'm getting by," Judy said with her best attempt at keeping her voice neutral and her foot from tapping in irritation.
"Of course," Bellwether said, and then she leaned across her desk.
"How's your investigation going, Agent Hopps?" she asked, "Has that fox been any trouble?"
"There's still plenty to do," Judy said, which wasn't exactly a lie, "And Nick is... he hasn't been any trouble."
She had almost said that Nick had been terrific, but if Bellwether noticed her fumbling over her words she didn't comment on it. "That's good," Bellwether said, "It takes a firm hoof—or a paw in your case, I suppose—to manage a predator. You can't give them an inch, you know."
Judy made a noncommittal noise that could have been interpreted as agreement, and Bellwether continued. "I'll let you get back to the case, but I do one more tiny little question."
The ewe gave her a little smile and gestured with one of her hooves to indicate just how small a question it was, although Judy thought she knew what Bellwether was going to ask and certainly didn't consider it small herself. "Have you found anything we can use to throw the book at Wilde?"
Bellwether was looking Judy right in the eye, and it was all she could do to try to keep her dislike for her boss off her face as she answered. "No, no," Judy said hastily, and her words sounded horribly unconvincing to her own ears, so she kept going, "Nothing yet but, well, there's still plenty of investigating to do."
Judy flashed Bellwether a smile so forced and awkward that Nick probably would have been embarrassed on her behalf if he had seen it. "As long as you find something before you solve the case," Bellwether replied, "But you are still working on it?"
"Of course," Judy replied instantly, and she thought her words must have sounded at least halfway convincing, because Bellwether nodded her approval.
"Wonderful. Remember, he's only a fox," Bellwether said, and then she got up from her desk and started walking towards the door.
"He's only a fox," Judy repeated.
Judy didn't believe the words. She was amazed that Bellwether could even think that way, that her boss could be so callous simply because Nick was a predator, and she found herself looking forward to leaving the Bureau of Prohibition for good. Bellwether didn't seem to hear anything out of the ordinary in Judy's words, though, and she simply opened the door. "I do hope you solve this case soon," she said as Judy left her office, "Good luck, Agent Hopps."
The title of this chapter, "I'm Sitting on Top of the World," comes from a 1925 Ray Henderson song. The usage here is somewhat ironic, as Judy is just about to achieve everything she wants only to start questioning if she really does want it.
To be honest, this chapter largely exists to link events together, but I tried to give it an emotional core that is hopefully satisfying even as it goes about its business of being a transition. There are a lot of links in this chapter to events of previous chapters, which for your convenience I'm noting here among everything else.
A chopper was another nickname for the Thompson submachine gun, supposedly derived from its ability to inflict horrible injuries.
Nick and Judy danced to "Someone to Watch Over Me" in chapter 25 after Nick noted that she's not very good at waiting, and Nick did abruptly stop in the middle of something when he noticed the scratches he caused during the events of Judy's apartment fire in chapter 8.
As the story description alludes to and as was established in chapter 5, Nick was put in Podunk by the Bureau of Investigation to keep him safe from retribution for turning on Mr. Big, although he did also fake his own death as an added precaution. Judy did promise to take Nick back to Podunk in chapter 6 after they either solve Carajou's murder or a week elapses, and she seems to have largely avoided thinking about the implications of that beyond Nick's safety until this chapter. The modern Witness Protection Program does need the people in the program to abide by their rules, which includes no contact with people from their former life, in order to ensure their safety. In Nick's case, Judy would now be one of those people.
The time Nick spent abroad in Purris after his discharge from the military and before returning to Zootopia was first mentioned in chapter 5, and Judy spotted his pictures of the city on the walls of his bedroom in chapter 29.
Nick bankrolled a shopping trip for Judy to buy some clothes after her wardrobe was destroyed by her apartment burning down in chapter 15, at which time it was noted that he had paid for several outfits, so the fact that she ruined the clothes she wore while searching the Camellac doesn't mean she doesn't have anything that fits anymore.
Judy promised to keep Nick safe in chapter 6; for his part Nick promised that they'd go out on the town to celebrate once they solved the case when he and Judy talked about it in chapter 19.
The expression "chivalry is dead" was used at least as early as 1901, where it appears in the book From the Heart of the Rose: Letters on Things Natural, Things Serious, Things Frivolous by Helen Rose Anne Milman Crofton, so it's use here isn't anachronistic.
There were fire code regulations in Chicago in the 1920s; the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 had spurred much stricter requirements being put into place. Unfortunately, enforcement did remain something of a problem, and the owners of tenements were known more for cutting every possible corner in the pursuit of profit than in caring about the well-being of their renters. That Judy's cheap apartment was also something of a fire trap really shouldn't be too surprising.
Bellwether did in fact promise to pressure the police into investigating the fire at Judy's apartment when they spoke about it in chapter 11, and the newspaper clipping she left Judy certainly supports her actually doing so.
A farrier is someone who makes horseshoes, which would imply that Captain Farrier of the ZFD is probably a horse. In chapter 8 all of the firefighters that Judy saw were horses, and I noted in my comments that I thought it was logical based on the history of firefighting equipment for this to be the case.
Jelly beans were invented around 1861, and by the 1920s they were a common candy that could be purchased in bulk, although it's thought that they weren't associated with Easter until sometime in the 1930s. Guessing how many jelly beans are in a jar for the chance to win the jar or another prize is exactly the sort of game you'd expect a farming community in the early 1900s to have as part of their Harvest Festival. If you ever have the chance to enter a similar contest, remember that you don't have to guess—you can try to calculate how many jelly beans would fit in the jar by figuring out how many jelly beans tall and wide the container is and using the appropriate formula for volume of the container's shape.
In any event, if Judy's guess is right, $15 in 1927 is worth about $210 now. That's not a huge sum of money now, but it did have a decent amount of buying power in the 1920s, when a pound of bread cost about $0.10 compared to today's average of about $2.50.
Judy's dress would have been in style in 1927, although it's more conservative than flapper. The trade name Rayon for the artificial fabric made out of cellulose was first used in 1924, and a dress made out of the material would actually be relatively inexpensive. Therefore, Bellwether is being more than a little petty.
Also, since I posted the last chapter, yelnatsdraws on DeviantArt has posted some more 1920s Zootopia pieces. She's apparently considering doing a comic, which would be very cool. In the meantime, I recommend taking a look at her new 1920s Zootopia pieces.
As always, thanks for reading! I'd love to know what you thought!