Judy’s feet dragged as she left her tiny apartment at the Grand Pangolin Arms that morning, heading on her way to the precinct. It was fair to say, life wasn’t going as she’d hoped. It was going nowhere near where she had carefully planned out for herself. In the exact opposite direction, really. For the last month and a half, since the very first day since she had joined Precinct One, Judy had been assigned parking duty. Any chance she had been given to prove herself as an equal officer had been quickly and harshly shut down by the Police Chief and Judy had had it up to her ears with it.
Her indignant anger at her situation had faded from her almost as fast as a donut going down Clawhauser’s gullet, though. Instead, for the last week, she had been feeling nothing but resignation and a deep-rooted sadness. This was her dream, her passion in life, and no one seemed to care. More than that, she had dedicated her life to being an officer. She had memorized the ZPD handbook like the back of her hand and trained thrice as hard as any of the other cadets just to make the bare requirements. But Judy had pulled through. Graduated top of her class and been assigned to the highest ranked precinct in Zootopia.
It wasn’t enough. Nothing was ever enough. All anyone ever saw when they looked at her was a naïve, cute, dumb bunny. And it was beginning to seem that that was all anyone was ever going to see. Judy swore that the commute to the precinct took longer each day and she was sure that each day she was passed over in the bull pen, her ears drooped impossibly lower.
Clawhauser waved at her, half eaten donut in hand, as the front doors swished behind her. Judy just gave a small nod of her head as she passed him, whispering a small hello, and continued on to the looming doors of the bull pen.
Everything was the same as it always was; officers testing each others strength and shouting good natured insults at each other. As Judy clambered onto the empty seat at the front of the room, McHorn rolled his eyes at her daily struggle.
Once settled, she stared vacantly at the front podium, trying to push the voices of her parents out of her head. They still called her every night, worried about her being alone in the city. And, without fail, every night they would somehow mange to bring up the topic of her coming back home. Judy’s steeled resolve to remain in the city had substantially weakened everyday she was unable to help mammals the way she wanted to; everyday she was deemed incapable of helping mammals the way she wanted to.
Judy was drawn from her musings when chief Bogo entered the bull pen and the mammals around her began to grunt in his arrival.
“Alright, alright”, the chief placated.
When the chanting didn’t stop, he asserted, “Shut it!”
The room quickly fell silent as the Bogo slipped his reading glasses onto the bridge of his nose, shuffling around a few red folders containing the day’s assignments.
“Okay, we’ve got three items on the docket this morning. Everyone who does not receive an assignment will continue with their normal patrols.”
When the chief finished listing off the new agendas, Judy wasn’t surprised in the slightest that she wasn’t called upon. Chairs scraping against the old vinyl tiles filled the air as officers began to file into the hallway to begin their day. It took a moment, but Judy slowly began to lower herself to the ground as well, ready to head to the locker room where her meter maid vest and hat awaited her.
“Hold it, Hopps.”
The chief's gruff voice had Judy freezing halfway to the door. She turned slowly, not daring to hope that Bogo might actually be giving her an actual patrol.
“Yes?” Her voice was too high pitched. Her ears burned as she cleared her throat and repeated her inquiry.
“Don’t get too excited, Hopps. The mayor has been a rather annoying thorn in my hide for the last few weeks. Constantly asking why the first gradate of his ‘Mammal Inclusion Initiative’ is getting such bad reception because all she’s doing is pissing taxing paying mammals off with her high ticket count.” Judy tried not to flinch at his raised brow. She wouldn’t be getting all this negative attention if she was allowed to actually be helpful.
“Sir?” Judy questioned where he was heading.
Bogo let out a long-suffering sigh, shaking his head and pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Early this morning,” he started “we got in a call about a noise complaint. I am giving you this chance to do something other than parking duty only by the good grace of the mayor. One chance, Hopps. You screw this up and that meter maid vest is never leaving your person again. You don’t screw up and then we’ll talk about other small assignments you might be able to do. Do you understand?”
Judy was speechless for her part. It may not be what she wanted but it was a hell of a lot better than where she was at right now. She needed to speak. She needed to answer him. Now.
“I, um, yes? I mean, yes, sir! I understand. Thank you, sir!”
That last bit came out a bit desperate but she didn’t really care at the moment. This was it! Her big break. She was finally going to be able to help people. Her dream was starting to come back on track.
The tips of Judy’s ears were all Clawhauser saw when he looked up from his bowl of Lucky Chomps cereal.
“Down here!” Judy’s voice called from below the sight line of the front desk.
Carefully placing the bowl of sugary goodness on his desk and pushing it to the side, Clawhauser got up from his chair and leaned as much of the top half of his body as he could over the desk. Judy greeted him with a small wave and the largest smile he’d seen on her face since her first day at Precinct One. He couldn’t help the smile that stretched his own lips at the sight. He was probably the only friend she had at the station and that was saying something, considering he’d been hard pressed to get more than a greeting from her at any one moment.
Trying to contain his smile before it completely overtook his face, he returned her greeting, “Hey there, Judy! What’s up? Have you heard the new Gazelle single that just dropped? How’ve you been? Do you think they’ll be having a concert in Zootopia soon? Were you just heading out to grab the meter maid car?”
He suddenly gasped and brought his paws up to cover his muzzle. “I am so sorry! I know how much you hate being a meter maid. I shouldn’t have brought it up, and you were so happy too!”
Before Clawhauser could talk himself into a panic attack, Judy placatingly held up her paws.
“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Anyway, Bogo said that he would actually let me take on an assignment today! Well, not a huge one. It’s the call you got in this morning. About the noise complaint? The chief said to see you for everything I’ll need.”
If possible, Clawhauser’s smile got even wider than it was before.
“Yes, absolutely, of course!” He sat back down in his chair before frantically scrabbling through the scattered paper and rainbow sprinkles decorating his desk. After a minute, he withdrew a single piece of paper and turned around to face her again.
“Here you are, Judy. One noise complaint. I gotta tell ya, I’m really happy for you. I know you’re going to do amazing.”
Judy smiled lightly at him in gratitude as she came around the desk to read over the report with him. It was short, with very little information to go off of, but she refused to let that deter her. How much could there really be to a basic noise complaint?
The sound of Clawhauser choking on his spoon brought her back to the present. Giving him a worried look, Judy gently pat his back and asked if he was alright. Once over his coughing fit, Clawhauser looked at her with wide eyes.
“Judy, the noise complaint came from Happy Town.”
Being the way her career was, Judy hadn’t gone out to explore the city much in the last month and a half. She hadn’t ever really wanted to. As much as she hated to admit it, rabbits were generally more in tune with their emotions than other mammals, which was part of the reason mammals didn’t take them seriously. Being emotional was often seen as weakness in a professional setting, causing rabbits to struggle with other mammals for respect. And, while being more connected to their emotions did not hinder rabbits in any way professionally, Judy’s inner turmoil over her job caused her to temporarily loose that optimistic spark that was uniquely hers.
“What’s wrong with Happy Town?”
“There are a lot of things wrong with it, Judy. The name is a bit of a misnomer; Happy Town was built with great prosperity in mind but that’s not what ended up happening. Its run down and crimes there aren’t uncommon. Its residence are mainly predators who have a bad rep or can’t afford anything in one of the city centers.” Still seeing confusion on Judy’s face, he continued, “The thing is, people don’t tend to call in crimes that happen in Happy Town. Not unless it’s a shooting; certainly not something as common as loud noises. This one just doesn’t seem right, Judy.”
Judy bit her lower lip in thought. Based on what Clawhauser was saying, a noise complaint did seem strange but it wasn’t like she had much of a choice. This was the first police action she’d seen since the start of her career at Precinct One and she wasn’t going to throw it away. If she did, she was certain that Bogo would have her on meter maid duty until she retired, was fired, or quit once it became painfully clear she would not be getting her dream.
Judy finally let go of her lower lip and raised her head to give Clawhauser her signature determined look.
“I appreciate the information, but this is my assignment and I’ll be damned if I don’t fulfil it.”
As the precinct had no vehicles that could accommodate her size, and Judy wasn’t about to take the meter maid cart, she was stuck riding the subway. Looking up the quickest route to her destination, she was startled to realize that the city buses didn’t go into Happy Town. The closest they came was the edge of the boarder before promptly turning back around.
Stepping off the bus, Judy held her phone in her paw as she figured out which direction she needed to take first. Amethyst eyes flicking up and down the street, she finally recognized one of the landmarks she'd noted on the map earlier. Stuffing her phone in her pocket, she straightened her spine and moved down the street.
Taking in the buildings around her, she was beginning to understand Clawhauser’s worry. It seemed like two thirds of the buildings had their windows boarded up, the grass looked dry and brown. The whole area seemed to lack colour and vibrancy; everything painted in drab, dull tones. After two wrong turns, Judy alighted upon a six-story building with bars on all the windows and sporting the address of the noise complaint.
Stepping inside, she went to reach for the buzzer so that she could be let in the main part of the building, when she noticed that the glass door was slightly ajar. Pulling it open, Judy soon found that the door was unable to close properly anymore because someone had disfigured the metal door jamb. A small frown pulled at Judy’s lips at the realization and she shook her head. This wasn’t right. She hadn’t even known parts of the city like this existed but now that she did, she knew that she needed to do something about it.
After soon finding the one elevator to also be broken, Judy took to the stairs. Apartment 5B, the police report had said. Hopping the stairs two at a time, Judy soon stood in front of the door where the noise was said to be coming from. Giving three firm knocks, Judy called out to the residents.
“This is the police. We have received a noise complaint coming from this apartment, please open the door so we can talk.”
Judy waited for a reply but none came. Raising her fist, she knocked again and was about to call out when her right ear twitched. Her hand paused in midair, about to come down for a third round of knocking. Her head tilted involuntarily and her ear flicked toward the door.
The noise was muffled by the barrier, but Judy was a rabbit. A rabbit who came from a traditionally large family. She could recognize the sound of a kit crying in her sleep.
Judy’s heart stopped for a beat and then started to pound in her eardrums. That was the sound of a kit in distress, no one seemed to be answering her calls, and the noise was apparently loud enough to warrant a complaint this morning.
Still, just in case, Judy banged her first on the door, raising her voice as she asked someone to open it. She took a deep breath and straightened. This was a baby; she couldn’t wait for backup to arrive if it was possibly in danger at this moment. Calling out a warning this time, Judy readied herself to kick down the door.
It took four leaping kicks to finally knock the door away and she wasted no time in running into the apartment. The first thing Judy noticed was the smell. She couldn’t pinpoint what it was but decided to investigate later. At the moment, she swiveled her ears and used them to locate the location of the child.
Running toward what turned out to be a bedroom, Judy paused in the doorway, taking in a deep breath as she spotted the white wooden crib in the middle of the room. Paint had begun chipping off the bars and one of the legs remained level with the rest only by the well placement of a thick hardcover book.
Walking slowly toward the crib, Judy peered over the side to see the kit hidden by a blanket, it squirming underneath as it cried. She cooed to the baby as her paw reached in and touched the well-worn fabric of the blanket, delicately pulling it back to reveal the source of the noise complaint.
The baby was fast hidden beneath the fabric again when Judy’s paw released her hold on the wool. She stepped back, eyes wide, as she stared at the crib that housed a tiny, newborn, red fox kit with the bluest eyes Judy had ever seen.