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The next morning was Judy's day off, thank goodness. She woke up with Nick still wrapped around her, sleeping the sleep of the emotionally exhausted. Pulling herself carefully from his body nest, she slipped on her jeans and a flannel shirt, and then wrote a note and set it on the dresser, explaining she was going out for coffee.

She and Nick had moved in together about month after Judy had returned to duty, after surviving a mauling courtesy of Volkov, an insane Arctic Fox who had tried to take over Zootopia's underworld scene much the way Mr. Big had decades ago. Only this time she'd been backed up by a small army of pred supremacists, and a new and extremely dangerous formulation of Night Howler that made the victim more than willing to hunt and eat their victims, but left their intelligence intact.

In the months following, as Judy gradually recovered, Nick had helped her regain her strength and get ready to retake the physical exams to go back on street duty. Along the way they'd become lovers, in an easy going relationship that wasn't merely lust, but seemed more like a deep extension of their friendship. Moving in together had just been the next logical step. The fact that it got them out of the Pangolin Arms had only been a bonus.

She'd picked up her and Nick's usual from Snarlbucks, when she found a familiar looking polar bear waiting outside the coffee shop. Raymond, one of Mr. Big's henchmammals, was conspicuous in his usual dark suit this Saturday morning.

"Good morning, Raymond," Judy greeted.

"Good morning, Officer Judy," Raymond greeted her in turn with his deep Slavic accent, ducking his head to her respectfully. Curiously, Mr. Big's white limo was nowhere to be seen. "How is Officer Nicholas?" he asked.

"Still sleeping," she answered. "Does Mr. Big want to speak to him?"

"No," Raymond said. He rubbed the back his neck briefly, looking away from her as he answered, "I come this morning on my own."

Judy felt her ears rise to full attention. She'd never really seen the fifty or so year old bear outside of the times when he attended to Mr. Big's orders. She'd gotten the vague impression of a polar bear that was deeply loyal to the little shrew, but not a person with a deep interior life. "Sit down," she said, hopping up onto a nearby bench. The reinforced iron and an concrete bench creaked slightly as Raymond settled down on it. "What's up?" she asked.

"I wished to speak to you, about the body that was found last night," he said slowly, as if carefully measuring his words before opening his muzzle. "I should speak to Officer Nicholas on this matter, but… But is difficult subject. Very difficult."

"I can understand that," Judy said, mentally noting to tell Chief Bogo there was a leak, probably in Mr. Big's pay, on the force. "Take your time. I'm listening."

"Spasibo," he replied in Russian. "You must understand, I… I am not a good mammal. I do what I am told. I do not question. For most part, mostly, that is enough. But… sometimes… it is not enough."

"Okay," Judy said carefully, wondering where this was going.

"When I growing up, I was not smart. School was… frustrating. Always felt like big dumb bear. And Russia… was not a good place. Not enough food, not enough… of everything… and what there was, was bad," he continued. "But then Wall came down. Premier Gorbachomp calls for Perestroika, openness. My papa say we move to Zootopia, make new life. We come here. But things are still hard. I am still dumb, and not even know language very well, so am even dumber." As he spoke Raymond seemed to shrink into himself, shoulders hunching, elbows resting on his knees. "And then Papa die, and I cannot stay in school. Must get job. But what job is there for a big dumb bear?

"But then I meet weasel. He say 'You look like strong young mammal. I get you job.' So he takes me to Mr. Koslov. And Koslov say 'You work for me. I give you money. Enough money for you and your mama, so you can take care of her.' And I feel good, because I now can provide for her.

"And job is okay. I collect money from Mr. Koslov's businesses. I break legs of business owners who will not pay. I get myself a nice suit, so when I go to businesses I look important and they not argue so much. Mr. Wilde, Officer Nicholas' father, made me that suit. Very first suit I buy on my own. Was good suit. I look grown up. I look like Papa want me to look; important, respected.

"So I do good work for Mr. Koslov. He is happy, give me more important jobs, more money. Take packages from place to place. Take girls… from place to place." The mournful look on Raymond's face deepened. "Sometimes girls get hurt. Take them to doctor to... get fixed up… afterward. I feel bad for girls. After while I am thinking I do not like working for Mr. Koslov now. But I still dumb bear. Got nowhere else to go. And mammals who try to leave Mr. Koslov, they end up dead.

"But then new mammal come to town, Mr. Big. Funny little shrew. Tells Koslov that he will be the boss in town now. Mr. Koslov laughs. Soon Mr. Koslov's boys start turning up dead, and then Mr. Koslov not laugh so much."

"Nick and Chief Bogo told me about that," Judy interjected. "They said it was a pretty bad war."

"Very bad," Raymond agreed. "Lots of Koslov's boys die, some of them my friends. I start moving lots of packages for Mr. Koslov. Lots of drugs. Then one day I am told that we will be moving drugs to Mr. Wilde's place. Mr. Wilde says nothing when we bring drugs to his shop. But I see he is not happy either. He is scared of Koslov, as I am scared of Koslov."

Judy frowned. "Nick said his dad didn't care."

"Nicholas very young then. I think he not understand." Raymond hunched down a little further. "War start getting more bad. I am thinking Mr. Koslov not going to win it. Don't know what to do.

"Then one morning a little mouse comes up to me. Asks me if I work for Mr. Koslov. I say yes. Very small fellow. I lift up my foot, and I think if step on him, I make Mr. Koslov happy. But then mouse asks if I am happy moving drugs and girls, and I stop. Put foot down. Listen. He tell me if I come work for Mr. Big, there would be no more drugs, no more girls getting hurt. I ask him how do I know Mr. Big won't kill me. Mouse say Mr. Big would kill me, if I stay with Koslov. So then I start to think that working for Mr. Big might be a very good thing. But first I must prove myself.

"Mouse says Mr. Big wants a shop burned down, one that has lots of Koslov's drugs. I know which one he meant."

"Nolan Wilde's tailoring shop?" Judy asked.

"Da," Raymond agreed. "Two of Mr. Big's mammals, a polar bear and a wolf, come with me. We toss in Molotov cocktails and block the doors. All the drug go up in flames, along with three of Mr. Koslov's mammals. Very bad mammals. I think that this would prove myself to Mr. Big, but job not done."

"The wolf, he hands me a bag for gym clothes. It smells of blood. He say to me, 'Get rid of this for Mr. Big, and you will be one of us.' I know what to do. I take off the good suit that Mr. Wilde made for me, and I swim out to the middle of the harbor. No problem for big polar bear like me. I drop the bag and let it sink, so no one would find it. I did not look… to see... what was inside. I come back, and now I am one of Mr. Big's mammals."

"I see," Judy replied, when she was sure Raymond had finished. Because what else could she say? Then she asked, "Why tell me this now?"

"Because that bag was found. Because I am becoming old bear. Because…" Raymond sighed, a great tired rush of air. "Because I have wife that I love, and two boys that are now grown, both so much smarter than their dumb papa. And I would like to be able to look them in the face, and say, 'Today, for the first time in his life, your papa did the right thing.'"

"Do you think Mr. Big had Nolan Wilde killed?" she asked.

The polar bear shook his head slowly. "I do not know. All I know is the wolf who worked for Mr. Big gave me the bag, and it smelled of blood."

"Would you be willing to testify to that in a court of law?"

Raymond was silent for a long moment. Then he finally said, "Yes."

"Thank you," Judy patted his paw, then grabbed the now lukewarm coffee cups and hopped down, telling him, "You'd better get back to Mr. Big now."

"Da. Thank you, Officer Judy. Thank you." Then the tired old bear heaved himself up off  the bench and walked away.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 1st, 2018 04:25 am (UTC)
Yikes. Poor Raymond, poor Nick.
Aug. 1st, 2018 01:06 pm (UTC)
Loving the entirely logical background for the characters, despite how sad their stories are
Aug. 3rd, 2018 11:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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