Chief Bogo stared the two officers, both sitting on the curb a few yards away from the wrecked police van, resting nose first against a cast iron lamp post. Wilde was sitting still, except for the occasional wince as a paramedic picked bits of glass out of his fur, while Hopps was breathing unsteadily into an oxygen mask, trying to clear her lungs out. “Are you up to this, Hopps?”
“I'm... kaff! I'm fine, sir,” she said, eyes red with tears, her small chest heaving up and down as she fought to catch her breath. “Gotta get our statements in before... kaff... the memories get blurry.”
Wilde, eyes also red and still tearing, looked only marginally better than his partner. “She's right, Chief. We need to get this done.”
He nodded. “Start from beginning then. What happened after you picked up Bellwether?”
“Everything seemed all right, at first,” the fox said. “I pulled out into traffic, heading towards the on ramp. But it looked like it was blocked by construction, or something. Must have been a set up, herding us into the ambush.”
“It was a Persian leopard, female. Maybe in her late twenties, early thirties I...” Hopps bent over coughing again.
“And your attacker?” Bogo prompted.
“Definitely a wolf,” Hopps said, regaining her breath. “Taller than average, black fur, wearing a gas mask and a suit.”
“A suit?” Bogo asked, eyes narrowing.
“Yeah, I thought it was weird too,” Wilde said, a ghost of a smile passing over his face. “Seriously, if you're going to ambush somebody, you should wear some practical coveralls. Much cheaper dry cleaning bill.”
“Nick, don't make me...” Hopps tried to raise an admonishing finger, and bent over in another coughing fit. Wilde looked her in concern, gripping her paw until she was able to talk again. “Anyway,” she said, “he fired a grenade right at us. Smashed a hole in the windshield. Tear gas.”
“I jammed on the brakes and tried to serve out of traffic, right into the damned lamp post,” Wilde continued. “Couldn't see anything between the gas filling the compartment and trying not to puke and cry my eyes out at the same time.”
“Did either of you fire your weapon?” Bogo asked.
“Didn't get the chance,” Wilde admitted. “By the time I fell out of the driver's seat and was able to see, the suspect had already pulled Bellwether out of the van and into the SUV that pulled up. Driver was a bear, I could see that much.”
“Polar bear?” the chief inquired.
“Brown,” Hopps said. “I think. Definitely not one of Mr. Big's I'm sure.”
“How did the wolf get the doors to Bellwether's compartment open?”
“My fault, Chief,” Hopps admitted. “I... I just couldn't breathe. I started hyperventilating, and then I threw up and started choking.”
“Sorry, Judy,” Wilde said, looking down at the sidewalk. “I didn't even see you were in trouble.”
“Not your fault, Nick,” she reassured him. “You were already out of the driver's compartment and blind as well.” She turned back to Bogo, her breathing slowing down, lung finally clearing of the gas. “Anyway, the wolf grabbed me by the scruff and pulled me out of the passenger seat. I had my dart gun, but I was too out of it to try and fire.” Hopps, being a bunny, was too small and light to use a proper pistol, or at least not a very large caliber one, so she habitually carried an optional reguation air pistol with tranquilizer rounds. “He disarmed me and pulled the keys off my belt. I'm sorry, sir.”
“Were you able to get a good look at him?” Bogo demanded.
“A little,” she said. “His pelt was black, like Nick said, but with some salt and pepper, gray hairs I mean. Couldn't see what color his eyes were through the mask. He was... very polite.”
Bogo leaned forward. “Wait, do you mean he spoke to you?”
She nodded. “Yes. He said, 'Sorry about this, Officer Hopps. Now please stay down.'” Hopps blinked, “Wait, how did he know my name?”
Wilde's ear perked up in interest. “Could have gotten it off your uniform tag.”
“Maybe, but by then I was face down on the ground where he'd dropped me.” She frowned. “No, not just face down. He made sure to set my face over the edge of side walk, so when I threw up I wouldn't choke. He could have just left me in the passenger set and grabbed my keys there. I'm pretty sure I would have suffocated though.” She shook her head in disbelief, “I think he saved my life.”
“One last thing,” Bogo said. “That suit he was wearing. Did he have a tie on?”
Wilde blinked at the question. “No, come to think of it. It was very stylish though. Italian I think.” The fox officer looked at the chief in curiosity. “Do you think you know this guy?”
“Not directly, but I've heard reports about him,” Bogo told them. “Almost urban legends. A few years ago in New Yak City, there were sightings of what they called 'The Wolf in the Nice Suit.' Black, salt and pepper fur, stylish suit with no tie, and tended to speak very softly and carrying a helluva lot of fire power. He and a few unidentified compatriots managed to shed light on collusion between the police and the local mob. Big scandal.”
“So he's a good guy?” Hopps asked, ears perking up.
“I wouldn't say good,” Bogo rumbled. “He's a vigilante who left a few bodies in his wake. Though most of them were criminals, or cops so dirty that they probably bathed in a pig wallow. Even then, most of his targets ended up with just bullets in their kneecaps. And at least twice, he took out armored cars with the same MO used here.”
“So what's his motivation for grabbing Bellwether?” she wondered. “She was already on her way to be tried for her crimes.”
“That's what we need to find out,” Bogo said. “From this point forward your top priority is to find the Wolf in the Nice Suit and Bellewether, and bring them both in for justice. Is that understood, officers?”
“Yes, sir!” they both replied.
“Good. Now get to work!”