"Did you ask Nicholas Wilde to murder Zweihorn and River?" the elephant said.
Judy didn't know how much time had passed after Nick had been arrested and she herself had been cuffed. It must have been hours, but it could have just as easily have been days for all that she could tell. She couldn't remember what she had said to the officers as she had been dragged out of the conference room and into an interrogation room, but whatever it had been had clearly done nothing to convince them of either Nick's innocence or her complete lack of knowledge about the crime that he had been arrested for.
Judy had been left alone then, her paws re-cuffed to connect to a ring in the plain metal table that dominated the interrogation room, with only her own thoughts for company. The sounds of life in the police station had seemed far off, just the unintelligible murmur of voices and the tread of distant feet, and it had almost seemed as though she had been forgotten. Her mind had leaped from thought to thought, torn between trying to logically demonstrate why Nick had to be innocent and a deep wordless well of helpless despair. Eventually, when it seemed as though she had cried every tear she had, the jumbled mess of her thoughts had cleared for a brief moment and a voice spoke in her head in Nick's voice. "They want you to panic," the voice had said, the cadence and intonation a perfect match for the fox.
Judy had tried to imagine Nick sitting in the chair that the elephant interrogator now occupied, trying to picture the way that he would look at her or what he would say. She felt about half-crazy doing it, but the world itself seemed to have gone crazy without her. The reality of Nick's arrest after their perfect kiss had seemed impossible in the moment, but it had refused to go away no matter how long she was forced to wait. Nick couldn't have possibly murdered anyone, let alone Zweihorn or River. Judy felt it in the core of her being, an immutable truth that she had clung to as she forced herself to calm down and listen to the words her subconscious had fed her. She had looked at the empty chair and the phantom Nick in her mind had winked as he nodded approvingly, sprawling back and kicking his feet up onto the table as though he didn't have a care in the world. "I know how they do interrogations," Judy had said as she straightened herself up, speaking into the empty room in a voice that crying had turned into little more than a rough croak.
"Attagirl, Carrots. You're not going to let them see you going all blooey, are you?" her imaginary fox had said, and Judy had shook her head despite herself.
Maybe it wasn't what Nick would have said if he had actually been there, but it was true. Judy had spent her entire life studying everything she could get her paws on in order to get closer to her dream of becoming a police officer. She did know how police conducted interrogations, and she absolutely would not allow herself to fall apart when they finally decided to send someone in. Her goal had to be to get as much out of them as possible and—"You've got to save yourself first," Nick's voice interrupted her thoughts as the natural conclusion came out in his words, "You can't do anything for either of us in here."
Judy had swallowed a bitter lump at the thought; although she had imagined the Nick figment shooting her a wry grin, gesturing at the chain that connected her to the table, it felt horribly similar to abandoning Nick to set his plight aside and focus on getting herself free. Judy had nodded to herself, wiping at her swollen eyes, and as though a spell had been broken she was alone with her thoughts again. By the time that the elephant had entered the interrogation room, she was ready to face him, and her answer to his first question was almost instantaneous. "I absolutely did not ask him to kill anyone," she said firmly, "And I know he didn't kill either of them."
The elephant, sitting in the same chair that Judy had imagined Nick in, regarded her evenly, seeming to evaluate her as she did the same to him. He had, she was sure, been trying to keep her off-balance, first by letting her sit alone for hours and then abruptly entering and asking a question without so much as an introduction. He was perhaps middle-aged, and while his gray skin was rough and loosely wrinkled in the way typical for an elephant he didn't look fat underneath his enormous conservative suit. When he gave Judy a wide smile his curving tusks gleamed a pearly white that contrasted sharply with his yellowing teeth and one shining gold crown on a molar. His beady brown eyes set beneath an enormous sloping brow seemed to shine jewel-bright as he spoke in a voice so deep that Judy felt it as much as she heard it. "Where are my manners? Detective George Moulmein," he said, shaking his head in apparent embarrassment in such a way that his ears, larger than pillowcases, wobbled sympathetically.
He stood up and offered Judy one enormous paw, stretching across the table to accommodate her lack of reach from both her significantly shorter arms and the chain connecting her paws to the table that prevented her from leaning too far forward. His grip was delicate, although he likely had the strength in a single paw to completely crush all of the bones in Judy's body, and he shook with two gentle pumps before settling back into his chair, which gave a mild groan of protest at his bulk. "Judy Hopps," she replied, although if he didn't already know that he wasn't much of an interrogator or a detective.
Moulmein sat silent a moment, filling his side of the interrogation room simply by existing in a space hardly large enough for an elephant. It wasn't nearly as gloomy as the one in which Judy had herself interrogated Zoya Medvedeva, but it was a near thing. The cinder block walls had been painted a cheerless shade of white the color of maggots, and the floor was wavy black linoleum that dully reflected the glare of the brilliant overhead lights. Judy could practically see the gears in Moulmein's massive head turning, the different pathways he was considering bringing the interrogation down at his realization that, no matter how puffy or bloodshot her eyes might be from crying or how frail she seemed in comparison to him, she was not some weak little bunny who would fold at questioning. "Things aren't looking very good for Mr. Wilde, Judy. Do you mind if I call you Judy?" Moulmein said, and his voice had a note of sympathy in it that Judy doubted was anything close to genuine.
"If you'd like," Judy said, although it was taking all of her focus to stay nonchalant.
She had had to force her foot to stop tapping, digging her blunt nails into her palms as she didn't ask the questions that she wanted to. In the moment, Judy wanted nothing more than to ask how Nick was doing, to ask for the charges against him to be explained in some kind of way that made sense, but she thought if she started she might not be able to stop. "They're not looking good, Judy. Killing three mammals—"
"Three?" Judy interrupted before she could stop herself, and she thought she saw a brief smile of triumph cross Moulmein's face before his features reset themselves into a kind of mournful sympathy.
She bit her tongue to clamp down on any further words as Moulmein used his trunk to reach into his suit jacket and fish out two tins, one of rolling papers and the other of loose tobacco. Still using his trunk, he opened one of the tins and pulled out a sheet of paper, setting it down on the scuffed metal surface of the table. With equal care, he opened the tin of tobacco and pinched off a generous helping, delicately sprinkling it along the center of the paper. His trunk briefly left his business on the table to dab at his tongue, and then he used it to dexterously roll a cigarette larger than a rabbit-sized cigar and place it in his mouth. Moulmein pulled a pack of matches, any one of which was practically the size of a torch to Judy, out of his left pants pocket with one paw, but used his trunk to pull out a match and strike it against the surface of the table and light his cigarette.
Moulmein took a deep drag of his cigarette as he used his trunk to shake out the match, and it was only after he blew a plume of blue-gray smoke at the ceiling that he spoke again. "My wife hates these," he said, pulling the cigarette out of his mouth with his trunk and holding it in front of his face, "Couldn't stand the smell, even before we got married."
Judy was sure that the elephant was deliberately trying to bait her into saying something else, or was simply trying to make her wait as long as possible before explaining himself. She wouldn't have admitted it to him, but it was working; she had to resist the urge to try jumping across the table and demanding that he explain himself even as she tried to figure out what he meant by three mammals. "I can't count how many times I tried quitting for her," Moulmein said with a bemused chuckle, "It never stuck, though."
He ground his cigarette out against a metal ashtray set on the table out of Judy's reach and sighed. "But we've got a son now. A great big strapping lad already and he's only five."
Moulmein paused in his recitation, looking at Judy through the remaining haze of cigarette smoke. She could feel a numb kind of horror at what he seemed to be implying. Murdering two police officers, even crooked ones, was not the sort of crime that society tended to forgive. Murdering a child, though, was the sort of crime that even hardened convicts would want to see punishment for, and Judy's thoughts instantly jumped to Nick's safety, her heart hammering in her throat. "He's got weak lungs, though. Asthma, the doctors call it. The smoke makes it worse, so I'm trying to quit for his sake. For both of them. Do you understand?"
Judy nodded mutely. "There are some mammals you'd do anything for, they mean that much to you," Moulmein said, his tone thoughtful, "Angela Zweihorn was married, you know. She had a daughter, not even two years old yet."
Moulmein leaned across the table, and his eyes were hard as he looked into Judy's. "Mr. Wilde didn't just murder Tony River and Angela Zweihorn. When he crept into the Zweihorn house he murdered little Elly Zweihorn's father, too, and left her an orphan. Elly's only family in the whole world is Angela's sister now. Imagine the call Chief Bogo has to make. Imagine that little calf growing up without her mother or father, with nothing but a few fading photographs to remember them by."
Judy's first thought, which she found shameful enough, was that no matter what else Nick had been charged with it didn't include the murder of a child. Whether Moulmein had meant to do so or not, though, he had given away a valuable detail. The photograph she had seen, which supposedly showed Nick at the front door of the Zweihorn house, didn't seem to match up with the details of what Moulmein had described. It hadn't made any kind of sense to her that whoever had taken the picture hadn't intervened to stop Nick, and the story made even less sense if Nick was accused of murdering two rhinos. Her revolver might have the stopping power to kill a single rhino, if it was aimed carefully and used at point blank range, but it didn't seem very likely that anyone, especially a fox, would be able to do so on a second rhino before getting torn apart. She tried to focus on the details, to pick anything else that would prove that Nick couldn't be the murderer, and her answer to Moulmein was as firm as she could make it. "Nick didn't kill anyone. I didn't kill anyone," she said, "I want a lawyer and I want one for him too."
Moulmein sat back and chuckled, the solemnity with which he had spoken about Elly Zweihorn vanishing as he switched tactics. "You're the bunny who wants to be a cop, aren't you?" he said, and he continued without waiting for an answer, "Maybe it's not too late for that to happen, but think about what's happening right now."
"I want a lawyer," Judy repeated, "I want to hear everything about the crimes Nick's been arrested for and I want to know what you're charging me with."
"Nick," Moulmein said, shaking his massive head, "You keep calling him that. He really got to you, didn't he?"
"He's a good mammal and he has the right to a lawyer," Judy said, doing her best to stare the elephant down.
Moulmein, to her satisfaction, was the first to blink. "If you want a lawyer, fine, you can get a lawyer. But I want you to think about what's happening with Mr. Wilde right now," the elephant said, putting a special emphasis on Nick's name, "He's not in this station. He's in the county jail, probably in a room a lot like this one with someone from the D.A.'s office laying his options out for him."
Judy started to say something but the elephant plowed on. "His very limited options. A pred killing two police officers and a third innocent mammal isn't going to find a sympathetic jury. Any halfway competent prosecutor could send him to Old Sparky to fry. The D.A. has plenty to choose from and an election coming up next year. Mr. Wilde's best hope is to get a life sentence by giving you up."
The horror Judy felt at the idea of Nick being executed for a crime he didn't commit fell away only at her indignation that Moulmein thought so little of Nick. "There's nothing to give me up for!" Judy said, just short of shouting, "He didn't kill anyone and I never asked him to! I never would!"
"Sure," Moulmein said, "Sure, let's say that's true. Do you really think that matters to the D.A.? There's an awful lot Chief Bogo won't tolerate in this station but he doesn't run the county jail."
"What are you saying?"
The smile Moulmein gave her was the most cynical Judy had ever seen, beyond anything she had ever seen across Nick's face. "Maybe Wilde falls down a staircase or two on the way to the interrogation room. It happens. Plenty of witnesses to say he was fighting the whole time he got dragged out of the station, so who's to say he might not take a tumble?"
Judy couldn't keep her mouth from falling open, and Moulmein pressed his advantage, leaning in and lowering his voice until it was barely above a rumbling whisper. "He only needs one working paw to sign a confession. There's no telling what he might go through... Or what he might say. With all the evidence against him, it's basically a formality anyway."
Moulmein reached one paw over to the ashtray and started grinding the butt of his cigarette into it until the cigarette was all but pulverized. Judy couldn't take her eyes off the cigarette or the way that it fell apart under the elephant's grasp. "So save yourself, would you? Maybe you didn't ask Wilde to kill River and Zweihorn, but who's going to believe that? They arrested you. Embarrassed you. Humiliated you, I'd bet, until you'd give anything to make them pay."
"I'd never... I'd never do that," Judy protested.
She was more stunned by hearing the very words her mind had put into Nick's voice than by hearing the unfortunately plausible motive that Moulmein had laid out for why she might want River and Zweihorn dead. But while she knew that she had to get free herself first she absolutely refused to do it by lying. "Then maybe this Nick of yours gets it into his head that you want it done. Maybe an innocent little bunny says something in the heat of the moment that the fox who cares enough to help her decides to act on as a favor. He's already got a grudge against Zweihorn and River anyway after some kind of argument at the police station that we have a number of witnesses for, so maybe he thinks it's a matter of killing two birds with one stone."
Judy could vividly remember when she and Nick had confronted Zweihorn and River, and the way that Nick had seemingly effortlessly broken River's composure with just a few words. "That's not what happened," Judy said, but her voice wasn't nearly as steady as she would have liked.
"Judy, please," Moulmein said, and she couldn't tell if his apparent desperation was real or not, "Don't you understand? If you don't give me anything Wilde's going to sell you down the river to save his own worthless skin. He tricked you, but it's not too late to make sure he doesn't get away with it."
"That's not the kind of mammal Nick is and that's not the kind of mammal I am," Judy said.
"He's already done it before when he gave up Mr. Big," Moulmein replied, "You're nothing to him, not when his neck is on the line."
"You don't know him," Judy said, and while it took real effort to keep her voice steady, she believed what she was saying with every fiber of her being, "I do."
The elephant sighed. "You'll regret it," he said, "You can't trust a fox."
Moulmein stood up and tugged at his suit jacket to straighten it. "You haven't been charged with anything yet and I know you know what that means. I'll give you some time to think. "
Judy did. Without formal charges against her, the clock was ticking on how long the police could detain her; if she could resist breaking, and as long as Nick didn't say anything to incriminate her, then all she had to do was to wait. Wait, and keep her faith in Nick. When she looked at it that way, she really only had to do two things, and while she was terrible at one of them she knew she could do the other. Moulmein had meant to prod her into betraying Nick, but he had instead given her the means to save him. For the very first time since Nick's arrest Judy could feel an ember of hope, small and feeble but nonetheless burning, glowing in her heart.
I skipped the author's notes in the last chapter because I felt that it kind of undercut the moment to switch from the chapter's end to my explanation of things. I did, however, write author's notes, so I'll begin with everything for the last chapter before moving on to the notes for this chapter, which means that these notes are particularly long.
The title of chapter 37, "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise," comes from a song written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1928 for the Operetta New Moon. Although it was originally written as a tango, there have been many jazz versions that change the tempo. Although the title itself worked as a reference to the events of chapter 37 taking place in early morning, I chose it because the lyrics are about yearning for a lost lover, which seemed particularly appropriate. In fact, starting with chapter 34 I've had some ulterior motives in choosing chapter titles, as while that's the point where things seem to be resolving themselves the end wasn't quite reached.
For chapter 34, the lyrics to "I'm Sitting on Top of the World" indicate that the singer is like Humpty-Dumpty and about to fall from their excellent spot, which worked well with how events proceeded in chapter 37. For chapter 35, as I had briefly mentioned in the notes for the chapter itself, the lyrics to "The Letter Edged in Black" are about receiving bad news, and for chapter 36 the lyrics to "Jailhouse Blues" are about being lonesome in jail, which was a minor bit of foreshadowing.
Sunrise on Friday, September 02, 1927 was at 6:18 AM, and considering that Nick and Judy planned on being to the Precinct One station for 3 in the morning that is indeed a while before sunrise.
Electrically amplified phonographs didn't become commercially available until 1926; since Nick had to leave his house before then, his phonograph would be acoustic only and thus lack any kind of volume control, which is why he can't simply turn it down but instead stuffed a handkerchief in it.
The piece of music that Nick listens to on the morning of the raid is "La création du monde," a 1923 work by Darius Milhaud, who was also the composure of "Le bœuf sur le toit," the piece that Nick was listening to when Judy first met him. "La création du monde" is French for "the creation of the world" and tells the story of the world's creation based on African folklore. Darius Milhaud was inspired by a visit to New York in 1922 and incorporated jazz elements into the work, which makes it an interesting sort of compositional piece considering that it is played by an orchestra. The segment that Judy thinks sounds atonal isn't just her emotions; it's from movement IV, "Le Désir," or as it's called in English "The desire of man and woman."
Nick imagining walking down the streets of Purris but being unable to imagine turning around and walking back is probably the most obscure reference I've ever used. The protagonist of Look at the Harlequins! by Vladimir Nabokov suffers from this as a psychological condition, compared to my use here as something of a fear of the past. Look at the Harlequins! is an interesting work, as it is in many ways Nabokov's response to the fame and notoriety that his most popular work, Lolita, brought him. Lolita was made into a very popular (and at the time polarizing and controversial) film by Stanley Kubrick in 1962, gets a nod in the song "Don't Stand so Close to Me," by the Police, and is the namesake for a particular fashion.
The natural assumption many people made is that the author of a story like Lolita must be some kind of sexual deviant. Nabokov himself, however, was strictly monogamous and totally devoted to his wife, and Look at the Harlequins! contains what can be read as an exaggerated caricature of the sort of person Nabokov was falsely assumed to be. I'd definitely recommend giving it a read.
Incidentally, my favorite book by Nabokov is Pale Fire, which stands as arguably the first example of hypertext poetry. The book consists of an unfinished poem 999 lines long, followed by a metafictional literary commentary by a neighbor of the supposed author. As Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies, I was incredibly happy to see a passage from Pale Fire used as part of the baseline test for Replicants in Blade Runner 2049, which was in turn one of my favorite movies of 2017.
Nick's watch having its second hand on a smaller dial inset into the main one is fairly normal for a watch made in the 1910s; as previously mentioned wrist watches only started becoming popular as a result of military needs in WWI.
"Petting party" was 1920s slang for a make out session, particularly one that happened in a car or a room away from others. "Necking" was slang for kissing.
The Griess test is a test for nitrite ions that dates back to 1858, and was historically used to test for gunshot residue (GSR) prior to the more modern development of X-ray spectrometry. As described, a sample is prepared and then added to the Griess reagent, which will turn pink in the presence of nitrites.
The koala who performs the test, Stockwell, is named after the Stockwellia genus of trees that includes eucalyptus, the natural foodstuff of koalas.
As for this chapter, the title "After You've Gone" comes from a 1918 song first recorded by Marion Harris and subsequently covered by dozens of different artists. As the first chapter after Nick's arrest, it seemed appropriate since Judy is the viewpoint character and we only see what she does.
The idea of the subconscious came from the French psychologist Pierre Janet and the term subconscious itself was first used by Sigmund Freud in 1893. Its usage here is therefore not an anachronism, although it does suggest that Judy might have taken at least some kind of introductory course on psychology in college. This is the first chapter since chapter 4 to not have Nick in it at all, as I'm not going to count Judy's imagined version of him. In any case, Head Nick, to use the terminology of Battlstar Galactica, was definitely intended to be Judy's own thoughts as she thinks Nick might express them rather than an accurate representation of what Nick would do if he was actually there.
As mentioned in chapter 14, "blooey" was 1920s slang for falling apart emotionally.
George Moulmein, the elephant detective, takes his name from the George Orwell short essay Shooting an Elephant, which is set in Moulmein, Burma during the British occupation. The story, which may or may not be autobiographical, describes a British police officer who receives word of a rampaging elephant and goes about killing it in such a way that makes clear Orwell's contempt for imperialism. It's a great story worth reading and quite short; I definitely recommend it.
Strike anywhere matches predate matches that need to be struck on a strip on the matchbox itself, which was a safety development to help prevent the matches from spontaneously combusting from being jostled in their box. Strike anywhere matches were first created in their most basic form around 1816 and continuously improved, and they remain pretty common today in the US particularly for use in survival kits or camping gear.
Asthma has been known since antiquity, but it wasn't until the end of the 19th century that effective medicines started to be developed to treat it. Smoke can indeed trigger asthma, so Moulmein's efforts to give up cigarettes do show his concern for his son. Although packs of cigarettes were available in the 1920s, as have been referenced earlier in this story, then as now some people preferred to roll their own.
Angela Zweihorn did mention having a sister in the last chapter she appeared in, chapter 19, which is also when the confrontation with Nick that Moulmein references occurred.
Generally speaking, under US state law, you cannot be detained by the police for more than 72 hours without having charges filed against you. The requirement to have your Miranda rights explained only came about after a Supreme Court decision in 1966, decades after this story is set, hence its absence before Judy's interrogation begins.
Another major part of your Miranda rights, beyond explaining your right to remain silent, is to explain that you have the right to legal counsel during questioning. Before the requirement for this disclaimer went into law, it was quite common for police in the US to take advantage of people's lack of understanding about the law, particularly by coercively questioning them when they didn't even know they could have an attorney present. As an aspiring police officer who has focused basically her entire life on that goal, Judy would be well-aware of her legal rights, and she is making a smart play by trying to get a lawyer.
However, particularly in the 1920s, there were plenty of dirty tricks that the police could and did use to prevent a suspect knowledgeable about their rights from taking advantage of them. Forced confessions were unfortunately somewhat common although they obviously violate the rule of law that police should ideally uphold. Moulmein does at least imply that Bogo won't allow the dirtiest of tricks to be done by his officers, which is a point in Bogo's favor for a police chief of the time period. Although Judy is an idealist, she's not stupid and is well-aware of what is being implied, which I think makes her emotional decision to talk anyway understandable. Moulmein, for his part, really should stop once Judy says she wants a lawyer, but after successfully goading her on he keeps going.
"Old Sparky" was a nickname in common use in Illinois for the electric chair, a method of execution that was popular in the US in the early part of the 20th century prior to the widespread adoption of execution by lethal injection. The Cook County State's Attorney, the office which has the function of District Attorney as described in chapter 17, is elected every four years, and 1928 would have been an election year.
River and Zweihorn were the officers who arrested Judy after the murder of Thomas Carajou occurred while she was scoping out the Thief of the Night for illegal alcohol and ended up splashed in alcohol herself but didn't have her badge. As Moulmein describes, Judy wanting revenge is certainly a plausible motive for someone on the outside looking in.
To sell someone down the river is to betray them, and it's an American idiom that is likely in reference to the literal practice of selling slaves transported along the Mississippi River prior to the American Civil War. Mark Twain used it in Huckleberry Finn, so it was certainly in use by the 1920s.
As always, thank you for reading, particularly after a cliffhanger like last week's chapter! This chapter is somewhat unique in that it's one scene without a single break, but my general philosophy has always been that chapters should be as long as they need to be, and in this case it seemed appropriate to end the chapter here rather than including the next scene. I'd love to know what you thought!