“We’ve got a new case, Ortus.”
The panda in question was staring at his official police notepad, scribbling something in verse. Harrowhark Nonagesimus, his partner, was typing on the computer mounted between their seats.
Ortus Nigenad looked up. “Another case? I’d much rather prefer speed trap today, as I’m right in the middle of a quatrain.”
“It’s our duty to uphold the law, to the fullest of our ability,” she said, removing her hat to let her long ears stick up instead of being pressed flat to the back of her head.
He sighed and put his notebook and pen away. “Alright, where to?” Ortus started the car and threw it into gear.
“Murder, in Precinct 1,” said the tiny black rabbit.
Ortus practically jumped. “There’s been a murder?”
“Double murder. Husband and wife. Bodies were found at the Zootopia Central Library. Let’s head there, maybe we can speak to the librarian who found them.”
“Why the library?” Ortus groaned as he pulled out from the station.
“I do not know. How would I know that?” Harrow asked.
Normally, things are quite peaceful in the heart of Zootopia, at least crime-wise. Lately, there had been a string of robberies throughout the Nocturnal District, all without witnesses. Most of the police force was stuck guarding shops and banks this week, looking for all suspicious animals.
The library was closed for the day, which meant the crime scene hadn’t been disturbed. The bodies of two otters, identified by family as Magnus and Abigail, were lying, stabbed to death in the 900s. Two books of genealogy records had been ruined.
Turns out, the librarian saw nothing. She was just an old cat who found them dead in a pool of their own blood right after lunch. She introduced herself as Aiglamene.
Ortus took photos, prints, and samples, while Harrow did the questioning. That’s how it always worked between them. Well, not that they had solved any murders, but Harrow always did the talking while Ortus did the dirty work.
“Did they have any books checked out? These two here seem to be genealogy records from the last ten years.”
“I don’t know. What were their names again? I can look them up in the system,” said Aiglamene.
Turns out, they had checked out most of the library’s genealogy records in the last month. The ones that were now ruined were at least identifiable. Precinct 2 census and death records. Last week, it had been Precinct 3, and the week before that, all the records from the Rainforest District.
After an hour of questioning the staff and looking up who checked out books yesterday, they left. Besides about fifty library patrons who were all now suspects, they learned nothing new.
Ortus sent out to have everything analyzed, but she didn’t expect much. Unless they could find something on one of the library goers, this case was as good as over. There were no prints on the bookshelves but those of the victims, identifiable by their shape. Well, unless the murderer had been another otter.
To Ortus’s good fortune and Harrow’s chagrin, they were put on speed trap for the afternoon. They caught two speeders, a punk weasel and a drunk moose.
Harrow spent the evening looking up the address of each and every one of the forty-eight patrons who had checked out library materials, making sure to mark down which sections of the library they chose books from. No one else had checked out anything lower than 740, but that was close enough. As long as they had been in the same room before the murder, they were suspect.
She also noted how the magazines were close to the 900s. The same patron who checked out three books on the history of manga (740.6.87, 740.6.12, and 740.6.30) also checked out some magazines. The latest issues of, “Foxy Furries” and “Cats? or Pussies?” The main suspect was one Gideon Nav, a red fox.
The next closest suspects were either two young ferrets, or a sparrow. Harrow looked up each of the four animals in the police database, but none of them had a record. The only one who was even mentioned was the fox, but only because she was a private investigator who had helped out on a few cases in the past.
She would still have to interview them all tomorrow with Ortus, but it was looking more and more like this case might go unsolved. When Harrow sent Ortus the details over their work email, he replied with the poetry he had written, which went from the joys of life to death metaphors hallway through. Absolute drivel.
Gideon Nav, P.I., was prowling around the Nocturnal District, asking questions about a suspicious raccoon, when she got stopped by the police. She immediately thought of the many things in the past month she had done for cases that were sort of illegal, but surprisingly, none of that came up.
This tiny rabbit cop was asking her about magazines. What the fox? Turns out, there had been a murder yesterday in the library where she had checked out the latest installments of her favorite hentai.
“What time did you enter the library?” The rabbit, or rather, Officer Nonagesimus, asked.
“I stopped by the gym for my morning workout at 7.” She flexed her biceps to give some credibility to that. “Then at 10, I went home and showered. By 11, I was at the library.”
“I see you checked out the materials at 11:47. Did you stay longer?”
“No. I’m not exactly going to read magazines at the library.”
“You could have. The library does not record when patrons leave. Was there anyone with you who could verify your story?”
It took a moment for the sparks to ignite in her brain, but somehow she figured out that this rabbit didn’t even bother to check and see what the magazines were.
“You don’t check out hentai, and bring a friend. I mean, unless it’s your girlfriend, and she’s into that sort of thing. But I’m lame and don’t have one.”
Gideon heard a car door slam, and the officer’s partner finally came over. Huh. A panda. Who put these two together? Why not give the rabbit a big scary predator to protect her? Maybe this panda was big and scary, but just hadn’t shown it yet.
“Sorry, I was finishing editing my latest sonnet,” was all he said.
Officer Nonagesimus kept asking Gideon questions meticulously, like trying to wring all the water out of a dish towel. The panda stayed quiet, not looking the slightest bit scary.
By the end of the hour, Gideon Nav felt like she had told the story ten different times, each time in increasing detail. The carpet in the library was a dark violet, there was a yellowed patch on the white wall next to the magazine rack, and most importantly, she saw no otters in the, where was it? 800s? 900s?
They finally got in their official police SUV, and drove off. The panda had said one other thing, and it was to correct the, eamb, maybe, of the rabbit’s sentence. Otherwise, he was mute.
Gideon went right back to her job as if nothing had happened. She wasn’t there at the time of the murder, right around 12:30. And even if they needed more evidence, she could easily pull out her receipt from the gas station from 12:15. So life could easily go on, as per usual.
No one knew squat about the raccoon, even though he had been all over town yesterday. None of the shop keepers who reported seeing him got a name. He just showed up, asked some really suspicious questions about which stores were rolling in cash, then booked it.
Most of the stores he visited were small places. Stores that might only have a worker or two, and very few customers. A crystal shop, a clothing store selling only homespun wool, an art gallery, etc. But every place, this mysterious raccoon wanted info on the big box stores. Did Walrusmart have a big stash of cash somewhere in their warehouse? How much money could someone get if they sold off all the medicine in the Nocturnal District’s three biggest pharmacies?
None of this made any sense. There were a couple of points rolling around in Gideon’s brain.
1 - Why would he reveal his targets?
(i) - Why reveal his targets to mom and pop places that were more likely to go to the police?
2 - Was his goal to throw off the police?
3 - Or maybe he wasn’t even working for the robbers. Maybe he overheard something and was afraid to go to the police.
None of these theories could be discounted, but none of them could be explored, either. In order to get a warrant to search video footage from the stores who had cameras, she would need to go to the police. Gideon really did not want to have to spend more time with the police today than she already had.
So she gave up, went home, read her magazines, tried drawing some of her own comic ideas (which ended up horrible, by the way), then took a nap. Unfortunately, having a nocturnal client meant she had to wait until night to call and ask questions. Fortunately, that meant she got to nap in the afternoons.
And most unfortunately, her phone ringing woke her an hour later. Gideon picked up without looking at the name.
“Your presence is requested at the Zootopia Police Headquarters immediately. All suspects in the murder case of Abigail Pent and Magnus Quinn are to be questioned in the next 24-hours.”
Gideon groaned instantly. Not again.
“Will you be there, or will we have to pick you up in cuffs?” It was that little rabbit again, her shrill voice even more piercing over the phone.
“Oh, I bet you’d like to get me in cuffs.” She put on the best sultry voice she could manage while still groggy.
Gideon could practically see Officer Nun-something-or-other scowling through the black screen. “Just be there.” Then she hung up.
Nearly three hours later, Harrow had interviewed the ferret teens (probably innocent) and the sparrow (dying of cancer), but Gideon Nav had yet to show her face.
“Ortus, get your keys. We’re going to fetch that fox.”
He gave her a look that said he’d rather not be disturbed during his poetry writing. “Give her some time. She’s a P.I. She’s probably just busy.”
“No. What she‘s doing is obstructing the law. This case will go cold in 48 hours, if we don’t go get her now—”
“Sup,” said a confident voice from the hall.
Harrow popped her head out the doorframe. “About time you showed up. We’re done with the other witnesses. You’re the last one.”
The annoying fox was giving her a look. She couldn’t quite place it. Gideon Nav’s mouth was crooked up in a sultry smile, but her body was tense from ears to tail. It was a mix of I want you to die in a hole, alone, and why yes, hate-mating does sound like a wonderful idea right now.
Harrow hated that entire singular moment with more parts of her than she knew existed.
She popped back into the blank room, taking a seat next to her partner. After three attempts to nudge him out of his poetry stupor, she took the notebook right out of his thick paws. He made as if to grab it, but then Gideon walked in.
For the first few minutes, she shuffled through her papers, asked for identification, taking as long as possible when reading her the information she needed to know about this interview.
Something in Gideon’s face twitched impatiently. The knowledge that she knew she was taking her time made it all worth it.
“Now, Gideon Nav,” she said after twenty minutes had passed with very little accomplished, “tell me, in detail, everything you did yesterday from the moment you entered the library to the moment you left it.”
So she did. Harrow already had her notes from yesterday, and there wasn’t a single change in her story. The wall was still mysteriously stained a bit too close to the magazine rack for comfort, the carpet was still dark violet, and she still did not commit any murder.
Eventually, Gideon pulled out her wallet, and deposited a small scrap of paper onto the immaculate wooden table.
“What’s this?” Harrow asked. Ortus’s eyes perked up, but only slightly.
“A receipt from the gas station yesterday. It says here I was at the pump at 12:17. You can ask the hot mink who works the counter to confirm my story. I asked her on a date and she flat out turned me down.”
Harrow made note of the name and location of the station. She would have to question that mink now. Great. More work on her plate. As if they were going to let up her regular duty load while she’s on an important case.
“I must have flexed my biceps on accident six times,” the fox continued. “She must have somebody back home. No way any animal would turn down these guns.”
Harrow jabbed Ortus in the side again. It took only two jabs this time to get his attention. “Ah, yes. Well, that’s all the questions we have. I’ll escort you out.”
Harrow watched them leave, listening to their voices echoing down the hall.
“I’m Officer Nigenad. Ortus Nigenad.”
“A pleasure to meet you. Do you take a lot of notes?”
“What? No, I write poetry.”
Harrow couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation, but she knew it likely wouldn’t last long. Anyone who would willingly listen to Ortus rant about his poetry for more than a quarter of a second must either be crazy, or insane.
Gathering up her notes from the day, she headed back to her cubicle. None of the witnesses were even a little bit suspect. The ferrets had been studying with tutors, the sparrow was with her caretaker, and now this.
This left open too many variables. Any person in the city could have entered and simply sat in a chair until it was time to murder the otters. No one was going to have information on that. Not even the librarians knew who went in and out the doors of the library, even if they had talked to them. It was a very large building.
Besides, how had she not considered that the murderer likely wouldn’t check out anything? That would automatically make them suspect. From there, all their secrets could be blown open.
Harrow’s smooth white chair was comforting when she slid into it. She leaned back just a moment, letting the gentle curves of the seat back relax her. But she didn’t sit complacent for long. Now, it was time for the real work to begin.
Three days and one unsolved raccoon mystery later, Gideon Nav was on a new case. Two young ferrets had come up missing, and it was her job to find them. Their names were Isaac and Jeannemary. Though they had different parents, both went to the same high school and were best friends.
The red fox had traced them back to the public library three days ago. As far as their parents knew, they were working with their history tutors on Saturday. They had been at the interview with that rabbit cop, but their parents didn’t even know about that. Had they been kidnapped? Murdered like that otter couple? Gideon didn’t know what happened, but she knew exactly where to go.
Which is how she found herself at the Zootopia Police Station in Precinct 1, talking to a hot lion at the front desk.
“My name is Gideon Nav, I’m a private investigator. I need to speak to Officer Nun-jester, or something. Little black bunny. She and her panda partner questioned me a couple days ago about a murder.”
The lion in question gave her a curt, “You may set up an appointment for next week—”
“I can’t wait until next week!” Gideon practically shouted. “Two ferrets are missing. They might even be dead.”
At this, the lion finally looked up from her computer screen. “Well, that does sound important. What was your name again?”
“Gideon Nav, P.I.”
“What’s yours?” Gideon added after a slight pause.
“Coronabeth Tridentarius,” she replied with a subtle wink.
Just a few moments later, Gideon was being escorted through the building by slightly scrawnier looking lion in full uniform. She had introduced herself as Ianthe.
“Are you by any chance related to the lion at the front desk?” Gideon asked.
“Why yes,” drawled Ianthe. “She’s my sister.” Ianthe shot her a quick glance, hard and scrutinizing.
“Don’t even think about it.”
“What?” Gideon asked.
“I think you know what I mean.”
Gideon knew exactly what she meant. They passed some of the same hallways she had seen the other day, even passed by the same interrogation, ahem, interview room.
Finally, they reached a room filled with cubicles of all shapes and sizes. In a particularly small one, they found Officer Nonagesimus. She was hunched over her computer, typing furiously.
Ianthe knocked on the drywall. “Harry, you have a visitor.”
The rabbit startled, then turned around. She scowled at Ianthe, then she saw Gideon. That scowl went from, I wish I could murder you to I’m murdering you tomorrow, would you prefer to be roasted or scalloped?
“Harrowhark. It’s Harrowhark Nonagesimus. How many times have I told you?”
“Hey, I’ve got some info on your case,” Gideon said, trying to keep things from going feral.
“Unless you’re about to confess, get out. Both of you.” Harrow turned back around, and started punching the keys again, this time more vigorously.
“The two teen ferrets went missing after the interview.”
Harrowhark snapped back around. “Ianthe, leave. Nav, sit.” She pointed to the giant window on the far wall and an empty black chair respectively.
“Fun,” crooned Ianthe and intoned Gideon at the same time.
Gideon sat, and found that it was not a comfortable chair. It poked into her back in all the wrong places, forcing her to sit ramrod straight. Her tail had nowhere to go, so it stuck out the side and draped on the floor. She eyed Harrow’s nice curved one, silently hoping they would swap, but knowing it would never happen.
“What happened to Isaac and Jennemary?” asked Officer Nun-whatever.
“I was contacted by their parents to find them. Neither of them have been seen at home since the murder. They saw you for the interview, but their parents didn’t know.”
Officer Harrowhark got out a notepad and started writing. “Any idea where they were last seen?”
“With you, I assume. I’ve got no leads. I was hoping you might know something.”
The rabbit paused in her scribbling and looked up. “That was also the last I saw them. Do you think they were taken because of the murder?”
“I don’t know. For all we know, they could be at a hotel, having a good time without their parents around.” Gideon saw Harrowhark’s face scrunch up at the thought. Officer Nun indeed. “Do they have something we can track them with? A debit card? Cell phone?”
“Probably. Do you have the contact information for their parents?” She gave the officer their numbers.
“I’m getting paid to find them,” Gideon said. “So how can I help?”
“By leaving this case alone,” she replied, and went back to her computer.
“But it’s my job to find them. I can’t just skip out and let you handle this. I’ve worked with the police before.”
“No,” Officer Nun said. “I’ve got a partner already, and no matter how unfocused and stupid he is, I don’t need another one.”
Gideon and Harrowhark stared at each other for what seemed a whole minute. “Fine, I won’t make those poor ferret families keep paying me for a case I’m not working on.” She stood, turning to leave.
Just as she was around the corner of the drywall, she heard Harrowhark say quietly, “Alright, I’ll let you help.” Gideon’s ears perked up in curiosity. What made her change her mind?
Instead of musing over her questions, she sat back down and got to work.
An hour later, they had started tracking the ferrets’ phones, grabbed Ortus, and were piled in the squad car.
Ortus was driving, as usual. Harrow never told him, but it wasn’t because of her height. It was so he wouldn’t be able to write poetry while she was driving. Gideon Nav had called shotgun, and was quick enough that she actually got it. So Harrow was stuck in the back seat, listening to them.
“Wait, who’s Matthias Nonius?” Gideon asked when Ortus started talking about his poetry epic that was encroaching 16 volumes.
“You haven’t heard of him?” Ortus sounded wounded. Typical.
“He’s only the greatest cop that ever lived. Put away twenty murderers back during the early years of Zootopia. I’m writing his life story in verse. So far, I’m on the 16th murderer. Four and a half more to go, then I’ll start querying to get published.”
“He sounds totally epic. Someone should make an anime about him. You ever seen Fullscale Alchemist? It’s about these two lizard wizards who...”
Harrow tuned them both out, and went back to tracking the teens. “They’re in the Meadowlands?” It came out as a question, because it made no sense. Why would a pair of teenage ferrets be hanging out in the Meadowlands?
Ortus slowed down by the curb to ask, “Train or cablecar?”
It was Gideon that answered. “The train is normally the fastest route anywhere, I use it to get everywhere. But it’s too many stops going from Savannah Central out to the Rainforest District. I saw we take the cablecars.”
As much as she hated to admit it, even to herself, Nav was spot on. The train doesn’t go directly from Savannah Central to the Meadowlands. It goes out of the way to Tundratown first, then backtracks. And, it involves a switch from the Zootopia Loop to the Rainforest District Line, which are on two different tickets.
That’s when Harrow noticed Gideon was looking back at her, waiting for her approval. At least she understands where the authority lies. Unlike Ortus.
“We’ll take the cablecars.” Harrow confirmed, earning herself an annoying smile from the fox. Why did she ever let this stupid fox come along?
Just a few short minutes later, they were on their way to the Rainforest District. The green cable cars were thankfully protected from the rain, but just barely. Harrow stood huddled in the middle, as did Ortus. He didn’t want to get his poetry wet. She did not want to get wet, at all.
Gideon Nav was leaning over the edge, looking down at the trees below, obviously not caring if she got soaked. “Every time I have a case in the RD, I try and spend as much time in the woods as I can. There’s always something new to explore on each level. I found a new restaurant last month. Maybe we could eat there later?”
She looked back at the two of them quizzically. Did she actually think they would agree to something like that?
“Sure,” replied Ortus. “Sounds fun.”
Harrow elbowed him.
“What?” He asked, rubbing at his side. “It would be fun. Do you not agree?”
Harrow hmmphed and looked away from him. This place is absolutely miserable. Who in their right mind would want to spend more time than necessary here?
“Harrow?” Gideon was still staring at her, waiting for a reply.
“It’s Harrowhawk, and no. I’m not interested in eating dinner in this district.”
It was Ortus’s turn to nudge her. “Come on Harrow, it’s just dinner.”
“Please,” added Gideon, that insufferable grin back on her face.
In the end, it was her growling stomach from skipping lunch that answered for her. “Fine. But only dinner.”
The two of them went back to talking about nothing important, so Harrow watched the rain. Whenever the wind blew, she got misted in the face with water. It wasn’t that cold, but it was just enough to make her hate this whole situation. Maybe they should have taken the train.
Eventually, they reached their destination. They hurried to get off the cablecar before it rambled past the wooden platform. Once there, they had to trek through the woods. They were about halfway to canopy to level, which was just one level below the sprinklers.
Despite their best efforts to keep umbrellas over their heads, they were soaked by the time they were got close to Isaac and Jeannemary, which made Harrow even more miserable than she already was.
Turns out, the tracking device couldn’t decide what level they were supposed to be on. So they decided to head down and check the forest floor first. There were a few houses down there, but they were directed away from them and further into the underbrush.
Harrow kept having to wipe water off the screen of the tracker to keep it from getting waterlogged. It still might end up shorting out. How would the teens’ phones survive this constant drizzle? Maybe they put them in something waterproof, like a jacket pocket or backpack.
It was Gideon who spotted the phones, together in a plastic bag. They had been discarded along the edge of a path, right near a big tree. Gideon went to grab them, but Ortus held her paw back.
“Don’t touch. You might smudge the fingerprints.”
“Do you not see the rain?” she asked.
“Fingerprints can last up to six weeks submerged in water.” Harrow supplied, then took a pair of tweezers out of a small pouch at her belt. She pick them up carefully, moving them into a dry patch.
Ortus pulled out his phone to use as a flashlight, shining it on the bag. She gave it a through rundown before giving up.
“No prints. Whoever touched this last was using gloves.”
At this, Gideon did snatch it up. Harrow watched her take out the phones carefully, shielding them from the rain. Both of them still had power, and turned on.
“Do you think they’re bugged?” she asked, looking up at Harrow.
“We’ll have to have them examined at the station. If we can get the passcodes from their parents and permission to search through them, there might be some useful information on there.”
Gideon shrugged and put them back in the bag and sealed it shut. “But we didn’t find the kids.” The fox’s voice cracked slightly. Harrow looked at Ortus, wondering if he heard. He was staring off into the woods, away from where they had just came from.
“Do you think they’re further in?” he mused.
Harrow shook her head. “Probably not. This was likely a distraction.”
“Like the raccoon,” Gideon said.
“What raccoon?” Ortus asked.
Gideon looked over at Harrow. “The day you interviewed me on the street, I was trailing a raccoon. He went all over the Nocturnal District, spreading false lies about where the robbers were going to hit.”
“Do you think they’re connected?” Ortus asked.
“They could be,” Gideon mused. “What if the robberies are a distraction for the murders? What if it’s the other way around? Maybe whoever did this is looking to stir up chaos for some reason.”
Harrow gave a single snort of laughter. It was short and quiet, but she still regretted it.
“What?” Ortus gave her a confused look. “How is that funny?”
“It’s ridiculous!” she exclaimed. “No one in their right mind would plan out two major crimes in two districts, and have the resources to execute both. That’s just not plausible.”
Neither Gideon or Ortus could come up with a decent argument against her, so they ended up staring at each other in silence.
It was Gideon who broke the silence. “Dinner?”
Harrow looked at her watch. It was later than she thought. “Alright. We can work on this later.”
“Tomorrow,” Gideon amended.
Harrow gave her the best glare she could manage while miserable. “Later.”
“Fine. If you want to work on it later, go ahead. But after dinner, I’m going home and going to bed.”
“Fine,” she snapped back. “Let’s just get out of this rain.”
Ortus gave her a look she couldn’t quite place. “You do have an umbrella, you know that right?”
Harrow glanced up at the umbrella she held over her head, then back down at the ground. “I don’t like rain. It’s cold and wet and irritating. And it gets everywhere.”
Gideon howled with laughter, and Harrow honestly had no idea why.
When Gideon woke the next morning, she was surprised at how she didn’t completely hate all of yesterday. Harrow didn’t jab at her as much as she had the other day. Maybe she was just too focused on the case to think up witty remarks.
Gideon checked her phone, an older Andragon, and was not pleased to see that there were six calls from Harrow. And it was only 9am. When she checked the call logs, they were spaced out, starting back at 2am.
For the love of blue berries, what the fox?
She reluctantly rolled out of bed, and started getting ready. While hurrying out the door, a blueberry muffin in paw, she punched the numbers to call that annoying rabbit.
Harrow picked up immediately. “Nav?” she asked with an almost panicked voice.
“Why the fox did you keep trying to call me all night? Miss me already?”
“I’ve got some bad news.”
“Did Ortus drop his poetry book in the toilet?” Gideon hopped into her car, starting the engine.
“Just get down here Nav.”
“Get down? I had no idea you were that interested in me.” Harrow hung up. Huh.
When Gideon walked in the front door to the ZPD, Coronabeth was once again at the front desk, looking as stunning as ever.
“Hey!” she called out. “I’m looking for Harrow. Any idea where to find her?”
Coronabeth saw her and gave a little wave. She waited for Gideon to reach the counter. “Yesterday, you didn’t even know her name, and today you’re coming in here like you’ve been going out with her for months.”
Gideon shrugged. “I guess working on a case with an officer you can’t stand does things to you. But don’t ask me. I wouldn’t know.”
Coronabeth laughed, then gave her a look she ought to know well. It was similar to the one she got from her sister the other day.
“She’s in the interview room with Ortus. I think she’s got a new case, or something.” The lion pointed back towards the hall. “Don’t ask me, I know nothing,” she joked.
With a sigh and a small wave, she headed off towards the interrogation room.
Sure enough, Harrow and Ortus were in there, but they had someone with them. A little brown bird in a wheelchair was busy coughing up something. Gideon hurried over to thump her on the back.
“Sorry,” was the first thing she said after she coughed up a bunch of mucus into a tissue.
“No problem,” Gideon replied.
“Gideon, I’d like you to meet Dulcinea Septimus,” Harrow introduced.
Looks like Gideon wasn’t the only one anxious to be on a first name basis.
She held out her paw to be shook, and the grip was surprisingly strong for a sick bird. There was one empty seat, along the far wall. Gideon dragged it over, watching Harrow’s face intently as it made a loud screeching noise. Priceless.
“Dulcinea came in to report a missing animal.” Ortus began, but then Dulcinea took over.
“My caretaker, Pro, wasn’t at home this morning. He’s my roommate, so it was pretty odd that he would be gone early in the morning.” She paused then added hastily, “Well, not my roommate in that way, I mean, he’s got his own room. He’s just...”
“What kind of animal is he?” Gideon asked, hoping to make it less awkward.
“Did it look like he just walked out? Maybe he went on an errand,” asked Ortus.
Dulcinea shook her head. She then pulled out her phone, and started scrolling through pictures. “Look at this.”
She held it up for all three of them to see. “There’s scratches all over the doorframe, like someone was trying to get in. And the lock has been broken. I don’t want to stay here long, I’ve got to get that fixed before someone notices my front door is practically wide open.”
“Let me go fetch someone, and I’ll have them send an officer to watch your house.” Ortus got up and walked out swiftly. Who knew he could walk swiftly?
Harrow stopped scribbling in her notebook long enough to say, “Do you need someone to look after you until we find him?”
“Did someone say stay the night with a pretty bird?” came the voice of Ianthe from the hallway. “Because I volunteer as tribute.”
Gideon’s eyes snapped back to Harrow. What did she just say? Did Harrow just swear?
And why the fox was that cute? Focus, Nav. No time for pretty(?) animals. Murder mystery time.
“I mean that. I’ll stay with her until she finds her friend.” The words were surprisingly sincere. Even through all those feathers, Gideon could see Dulcinea blushing at them.
“Go on, then,” Harrow said. “Just take her home right now. We need to sort out the details and start solving this case.”
Ianthe pushed her wheelchair out the door, and around the corner, chattering mindlessly in her ear.
By this point, Ortus was back. “Judith and Marta are going to check out the damage and help her get the lock fixed. If only we had the rest of the officers here. Too bad they’re working on the robberies.”
“How many other officers work in the downtown area?” Gideon asked.
“Too many. Especially when Augustine and Mercy are around. I’d rather they died.” Obviously, Harrow was in a horrible mood that just seemed to be getting worse.
“So,” she continued, “how are we going to find her caretaker? Are we going to go check for prints?”
“No.” Ah yes. Harrow was in a particularly pissy mood. “Follow me, both of you.”
She headed out into the hall, then through a door, then up a flight of stairs. “Some of the evidence from the last few days has been analyzed.”
“Cam assured me she wouldn’t let Pal stay up all night working on it. I told her I wouldn’t let you do the same, but I think I failed three days ago.”
Three days ago? When had Harrow last slept? Gideon tried to gauge her level of sleepiness, but the only thing showing on her face was rage, anger, and an extra dose of malice.
Harrow opened a big white door labeled “forensics.” Inside, was your typical lab. Beakers, microscopes, the works.
An aardvark and an owl were standing near one of the tables, squinting at something tiny. They looked up at footsteps.
“Oh, hello Harrow. Hello Ortus,” said the aardvark.
“Hello Pal, Cam, long time no see.” Ortus replied.
“Who’s your friend?” asked the owl.
“Gideon Nav, P.I.” She introduced herself and stepped forward to shake paws. Neither of them took her paw, theirs in rubber gloves, probably covered in some gross biohazard substance.
“Camilla Hect,” Ortus pointed at the owl, “and Palamedes Sextus,” then the aardvark. “They’re head of our forensics team.”
Gideon nodded at each of them instead of shaking paws. “Nice to meet you both. And by the way, nice name Sexpal.”
The aardvark shot her a very Harrow-esque look, then sighed.
“We’re here to pick up the results from the library, and from yesterday if you’ve got those done yet.” Harrow said.
Sexpal took off his gloves and went over to another table. There was a stack of Manila folders. He plucked out two of them, and handed them to Harrow.
“We’ve got both done. Not much for us to do lately, what with the rest of the team temporarily in the Nocturnal District.” Harrow ignored everyone, typical, and started rifling through the notes.
They said goodbyes just as quickly as their hellos, and left.
In the end, they had to go back to the library. It was still closed, big yellow caution tape roping off the area where the otters had been murdered. It was the librarian from the other day that let them in and took them back.
“So,” the old cat started, “how’d you get roped into this murder, Gideon?”
Gideon shrugged. “I guess it was inevitable. How are things with the library shut down?”
Of all the stupid things in the world, Gideon deciding now of all times to get into a casual conversation with the librarian had to be the stupidest.
“Oh, we’re all fine. Most of the staff took off. They would rather not be around the scene.”
Without warning, Gideon reached over to side-hug the old librarian. Harrow felt her brain short circuit. Who gets that close to their local librarian?
“We’ve got to work now, but I’ll call you later, mom.”
Harrow’s brain did another flip flop.
They ended up in the 900s, looking right at the bookshelf full of census records. The two bloody books were on the floor. Someone had stacked them neatly, careful to not mess up the wet pages. Now, they were dry and crusty.
Harrow added them to the stack of notes she held, and picked a table for them to sit at.
“You sure you should be touching those?” Gideon asked.
Instead of responding, she handed her the case files and started flipping through the blood stained pages. These two thick tomes had all the death records for the past twenty years, but she really only wanted the records for this year.
Gideon and Ortus started shuffling through the case info, which was less important right now. If she were to find what she thought might be in here, then she’d hopefully be able to crack this case wide open.
And there it was. Protesilaus Endoma. He died in the hospital almost three months ago.
“Look at this.” She flipped the book around for them to see and pointed at the entry with his name. “Dulcinea said her caretaker went missing this morning. But he’s been dead for three months.”
“Why would she lie to us?” asked Ortus. “Does it benefit her somehow?”
“Hey, wait. Look at this.” Gideon was pointing to something on the other page. “Her name is here too. It says she died of cancer.”
Sure enough, under the red stains was the name Dulcinea Septimus.
“Was that even Dulcinea we spoke to?” Ortus asked, starting to look nervous.
“I don’t know,” she replied honestly. “I assume not, as it says here she’s dead, but maybe she faked her death.”
“Maybe she murdered the otters and kidnapped the ferrets. You said they were at the library? What if they saw the murder happen?” Gideon’s questions were important, but they didn’t have enough information to answer any of them yet.
Harrow rubbed at her forehead with her paw. “Every criminal has a motive. What’s Dulcinea’s motive?”
“But it might not even be her,” Ortus added.
“Assuming it’s the real Dulcinea who killed the otters,” Harrow snapped, “what’s her motive?” This case was quickly becoming too complicated.
“Chaos?” Gideon suggested. “Or was it some personal beef?”
“Why the library then? If it was personal, couldn’t she have done it somewhere more discreet?” Harrow glanced back at the records.
“No, wait. I’ve got it.” Both Gideon and Ortus sat up straighter. “The bird we met isn’t Dulcinea. Dulcinea and her caretaker were murdered carefully in the hospital, as to not arise suspicion. To cover up the murder, she would have to come here and destroy the records somehow.”
“So the otters just got in the way? And the teens?” Ortus asked.
“Fox,” Gideon swore. “One of the moms of the teens said they were with their history tutors. The otters.” She flipped through the papers, grabbing the case file on Magnus and Abigail.
“Magnus works at the Natural History Museum. Abigail is a grad student, studying archeology.”
“Ianthe. And Marta and Judith. They all went with Dulcinea.” Ortus stood quickly. “We have to tell them.”
“You’re not going anywhere,” said a deep voice from behind a shelf. A shot rang out.
Ortus dropped to the floor, scrambling to get his chair in front of him for protection. Harrow went for her gun, and to her surprise, Gideon had one too. They both fired, then threw themselves to the ground, flipping the table on end.
Return shots fired as they ducked behind the thick oak. Harrow popped up when they stopped, firing off a full round. “We need to get out of here,” she whispered. “Too many places for them to hide.”
She reloaded as Gideon fired a round between the bookshelves. When Harrow looked over the table again, she saw a figure duck behind the 900s and run towards the exit. Ortus had his gun ready this time. He aimed at the fleeting figure.
“Follow him!” she ordered.
All three of them took off running, taking different rows to chase the enemy. Harrow heard more shots from her left, towards where Ortus had gone, followed by a pained yell.
Harrow darted around the end of the row, and aimed at whoever had just shot her partner. She loosed three bullets. They all hit. Their pursuer went down.
Gideon popped out from her row, going over to see who had been shooting at them. Harrow rushed to Ortus’s side.
“Where are you hurt?” she asked, but it wasn’t necessary. The bullet had gone in his side, and he was losing a lot of blood. She pressed the pads of her paws to his wound, trying to stop the bleeding.
“Gideon!” she choked out.
The fox rushed over to her side. “What do you need?” she asked.
“Something to stop the bleeding.” Ortus’s breath was labored, and he made little noises as she pressed her paws harder.
Gideon ripped off her shirt, and wadded it up. Harrow got a glimpse of her bandeau, and she felt her face flush. She forced herself to look away. Nav pressed the shirt to Ortus’s wound swiftly, and Harrow wiped her paws off on her pants.
“We need backup,” Gideon said. “What other cops are available?”
Harrow racked her brain. The only three cops she could think of that were in the area were currently at “Dulcinea’s” house, or maybe at a locksmith. She needed to call Ianthe and warn her.
“I’m calling Ianthe.”
Gideon felt like everything that had happened in this past week had gone horribly wrong. First, she had to drop the raccoon case. There were absolutely no leads; she didn’t even know the name of the suspect.
Then, she was interviewed by Officer Nonagesimus, twice, which was horrible. From there, she got roped into a big murder case. It started out fine, just a trip to the Rainforest District and two dead otters.
But then everything went downhill.
Gideon was staring down at Ortus as he bled out in the library. Harrow had just hung up after talking to Ianthe, learning that Dulcinea had shot and killed Marta, left Judith with a couple of bad bullet wounds, and fled into the city on wings that were apparently not full of cancer. Or maybe they were, but she was at least well enough to fly.
Gideon looked over at Harrow as she called the paramedics for Ortus. Her face was as tight and unreadable as ever.
“We’re at the Zootopia Central Library. But you should send one to where Officer Tridentatius is as well. She’s currently one mammal down at a private residence.” They didn’t know the address, so Harrow just gave them Ianthe’s cell number.
Ortus started reaching for something with an arm.
“Whoa. Stay still.” Gideon reached for his paw with one of hers, but wasn’t quick enough. He pulled his notebook out of his pocket.
“Take it,” he rasped between labored breaths. “Take my poetry.”
“You’re not dying.” Losing a lot of blood doesn’t necessarily mean death, right?
“I know, but either way, I don’t want blood on it.”
Oh, well, that made more sense. Gideon wiped off a paw on his uniform shirt, then took it and pocketed it.
Harrow was currently hovering over their assailant’s body, now deceased. “He’s a German Shepherd,” Harrow called to her, “Do you think he was supposed to be the fake Protesilaus Ebdoma?” she asked.
Gideon shrugged. “If your theory is right, then probably. If not, I hope we didn’t kill a nurse. Is that bad luck? That should be bad luck.”
An ambulance finally arrived and took Ortus to the hospital. They gave Gideon back her shirt, which was covered in blood. So she trashed it and stole a thin, white medical blanket to wrap around her shoulders.
Harrow and Gideon walked back to the squad car, intending to head over to where Ianthe is, when they realized two problems. One, they had no idea where she is and no desire to call her. Two, Ortus has the keys.
So instead, they walked back to the station, trying to decide what to do with their time.
“We could put out an arrest warrant for the fake Dulcinea,” Harrow started, “but no one except Ianthe would see it. And I doubt she’s excited for a repeat of earlier today.”
“What about Coronabeth?” Gideon asked, wondering if behind that pretty face is a more vicious one that could easily take down a few baddies.
Harrow scoffed, “The secretary? She only got her job because Ianthe begged John. And I think Ianthe’s annoying boyfriend Naberius paid him as well.”
“Who’s John?” she asked, searching for anyone else that might be able to help them.
“He’s the chief, but he’s dealing with the robberies. He’s got Augustine and Mercymorn with him. They do everything together.”
“Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call them. You know, just in case things get worse.” Could they get worse? Gideon decided she did not want to know the answer.
Harrow sounded practically stunned when she said, “That’s actually, well, it’s not the worst idea you’ve ever had.”
Gideon’s eyebrows rose. “Oh? What was the worst, then?”
“Making us eat dinner in that dreadful weather.”
Gideon laughed. “That was fun, Harrow. I mean, the food was good, despite the rain.”
“It was decent.” Harrow countered.
“Decent? You call a four star restaurant decent? What do you normally eat? Porridge and leeks?”
The look Harrow gave her suggested that maybe she did eat porridge and leeks every day.
“You need to get out more.” Gideon nudged her in the side, then realized what she was doing, and stepped away. She flinched in preparation for some sort of retaliation. But none came. She was just staring at the sidewalk.
“You all right?” Gideon asked. “I’m sure Ortus will be alright. As they say, it’s only a flesh wound.”
She never heard her answer, because Harrow’s phone rang. Harrow picked up.
“What do you want?” she snapped. Must be Ianthe.
“Well, deal with it yourself. We’re heading back to the station to radio John. And don’t call me Harry.” Yup, definitely Ianthe.
Harrow pushed the end call button as fast as she had pulled the trigger just an hour ago. When she slipped her phone into her pocket, Gideon saw it was a Carrot. Did all rabbits have some weird pact that forced them to buy Carrot phones, or was it just for the aesthetic?
“Do Cam and Sexpal know how to shoot?” she blurted, hoping that maybe she’d get lucky.
She shot her a very Harrow look, ouch, and said, “They work in forensics.”
They were almost back to the station. Gideon could see it across the road, a block up.
“What about bombs?” she asked, “Well I mean, they must have taken chemistry at some point, surely they could whip up something explosive.”
Harrow came to an abrupt halt mid-stride, causing Gideon to walk right into her. She whipped around to face her. “We don’t even know where that bird went! Do you not understand the situation we’re in? This isn’t some game, like whatever it is you do as a P.I.”
“Thanks for insulting my profession,” she growled back, “I’m the one taking time out of my day to help you with this. Listen, we’re obviously not going to find her today. We’re both covered in blood, Ortus is in the hospital, and we don’t have any help except stupid Ianthe.”
They probably looked like complete morons to the random citizens just trying to walk next to them.
“You go call your chief. I’m gonna go home, get some rest, and come back tomorrow.” Gideon felt the exhaustion from the gun fight set in. “And you get some rest, too. I don’t want you getting hurt because you decided to stay up all night working on this.”
Harrow still looked mad as fox, but her posture screamed tired. She opened and closed her mouth a few times, probably trying to come up with some stupid response.
“Fox it,” Gideon muttered, and pulled her in for a tight hug. “Just don’t die, ok?” Harrow sputtered and tried to push out of her arms. She held on for a moment more, then let go.
“See ya later!” Gideon waved over her shoulder as she jogged off towards the parking deck where she left her car that morning. Things weren’t perfect, heck, they weren’t even great, but somehow, she had hope.
Harrow sat in the most uncomfortable chair in existence. Not even her stupid regulation black chair could compare to the hardness of this wooden chair. She was still in the same uniform she wore earlier, but she had at least washed her paws clean of Ortus’s blood.
Ortus laid in a sterile bed, asleep. Why did she except him to be awake? Of course, they would have to knock him out to patch him up.
She had radioed John, but he said they weren’t able to leave quite yet. Maybe two or three days, and they’d be done with the robberies. Now she was on her own.
It was late, very late. She had already taken samples from the body of the German Shepherd, and given them to Palamedes. She stared blankly at the case files from the past two days, but she wasn’t reading them anymore.
Her eyes snapped up at the sound of Ortus’s voice.
“Where are we? The hospital?”
She updated him on what had happened, well, mostly everything. Everything but the talk with Gideon. That was unnecessary.
“So, we just wait for John to get back?” he said, reaching for a glass of water on his bedside table.
“Sounds like it.”
He reached for where his pocket would normally be, probably looking for his poetry. Then he looked down at what he was wearing.
“Oh, why did I think I’d still have my uniform on?” He laughed lightly at that. How he had the audacity to laugh at a time like this, she had no idea.
“Any idea if Judith is alright?”
Harrow shook her head. “I haven’t seen her. I only know what Ianthe told me.”
Ortus sat the water back down. “Do you have a notebook” There was one on the table with a pen. She handed them to him. “Can you believe it? I’m only four volumes away from finishing the Noniad.”
Harrow could believe it, but she didn’t like it. A good cop should be on duty at all times, ready to protect the city, not lounging on a couch writing stories.
“Does Gideon still have my notebook? That has most of volume sixteen in it.”
For a few minutes, they just sat in silence as Ortus stared down at the paper, but didn’t write a single word.
“Harrow?” he asked softly.
She stared at the window and looked out at the streetlights. “Yes?”
“I—I hate to say this, especially now, but, I don’t think I’m cut out for this. I mean, I enjoy helping people and working with you, but I could have been killed today. You and Gideon were shooting before I’d even remembered that I had a gun.”
Harrow looked down at her partner, not at all surprised by the words coming out of his mouth. She really didn’t know what to say. He was a lousy cop. Why he even joined the force in the first place, she’d never know.
He stared back, as if waiting for some sort of reply. What could she say? If he chose to leave, that was his decision.
“I’ve been thinking about quitting for a few months now.” He fumbled with the pen in his paw. “I grew up watching all the black and white movies made about Matthias Nonius. It just seemed right for me to go to the academy after high school. I’ve been an officer for twelve years, and every day I wake up wondering if today is the day I get shot. I’m only 32, and I already fear dying. What kind of a life is that?”
Harrow shrugged and looked back out window.
“Why do you do it?” he asked her.
She knew why, and she knew that Ortus knew why as well. “I’m their legacy,” was all she said in response.
Ortus nodded. “They would be proud.”
Would they? Would her parents really be proud of the rabbit she grew up to be? She let her partner get hurt. What kind of animal did that make her?
When Ortus fell back asleep, she slipped out quietly.
She took the train back from the hospital to her apartment. Normally, she walks from work back to her one room apartment and Ortus takes the train. She lives right downtown, but he lives further out, close to the Rainforest District. But she didn’t feel like walking today.
When she opened the door to her apartment, she was greeted with silence, which was odd. She had a couple of noisy neighbors who were usually loud at this time of night. Not that she was ever ready to go to sleep yet.
They must be out, probably partying somewhere. College students are so dumb.
She ran to the bathroom down the hall, hoping to get in the shower before all the other animals did. It seemed no one was here tonight, which normally would be nice, but for some reason felt a bit lonely.
After her shower, she sat at her desk for a while, going over the case info. This time, she really did read it. Everything she saw from Palamedes supported her theory. The blood samples included both those of the otters and ferrets, though only the teens had been taken.
She listened to the interviews she had recorded on her phone. The teens sounded nervous, too nervous. They were probably with the fake Dulcinea at the time. The bird’s voice sounded a bit robotic, like she’d been preparing her speech for a week. If only she’d picked up on it sooner.
Harrow was about to close her phone, but she clicked on the recording of the interview with Gideon instead. Something about Gideon’s voice both soothed her and also made her brain go livid. When it was over, she listened to it again.
The words didn’t matter, they were just her recollection of her day at the library. It was the tone that got to her. At points, Gideon sounded bored. At others, joking. It was like she couldn’t decide between two sides of a coin.
Harrow let it play a third time. She remembered the room, the way Gideon sat in the chair, perched on the edge, like prey about to flee. She remembered how Gideon kept running a nervous paw through the fur on top of her head, how it stuck up slightly, like it hadn’t been trimmed in ages.
After a couple more times listening to the way the words washed over her, she finally shut it off and went to bed. Maybe there still was hope for this case. Maybe she wouldn’t end up like her parents.
But in the end, when she finally felt her eyelids drooping, she knew it was only hope.
It was nearly noon, and Gideon was still in bed. She’d gotten no calls from anyone, none from her foster mother Aiglamene, not even a single call from Harrow. It was nice to not be up early, solving crimes.
But the lazy day didn’t last long. She’d barely pulled out a magazine from her nightstand when her phone buzzed. Gideon groaned and looked to see who was calling. Harrow.
“Hey, carrot queen, what’s up?” It was Harrow’s turn to groan.
“I looked through the case files. All the evidence piles up towards my theory.”
Of course it did. She never doubted Harrow’s theory in the first place. “Wanna meet up for lunch? We could discuss it more then.” The words were out of her mouth before she really thought them through. What was she thinking? Of course Harrow was going to say no.
“Sure. Do you know any good places?”
Gideon had to check her phone for glitches, just for a second.
“Umm, yeah, sure. There’s a cafe downtown that has great sandwiches.”
Half an hour later, they were seated across from each other in a booth. The cafe was done up in some sort of weird, colorful theme, which she could tell Harrow was already hating. Her scowl deepened when she saw the menu was done up in the same bright colors and abstract shapes.
Harrow had ordered water, while Gideon asked for a soda. Everything Harrow ordered was as boring and bland as possible. Plain bread, one slice of cheese, only lettuce. Gideon chose something that looked good at random.
“So...” Gideon began, “where are you from? Were you born in the city?”
Harrow gave her a confused look. “Why?”
“I don’t know,” she shrugged, “I just figured I should get to know you better.”
Harrow stared at her for a long time before answering. “I was born in the Burrows. My parents moved to the city soon after. Naturally, I went with them.”
The waiter arrived with their food.
“I’m a foster kit.” Gideon said proudly, “Aiglamene, you know, the librarian, took me in when I was a kit.”
Gideon rambled for a bit about her childhood, told some of the funnier stories, some of the harsher ones. The time she broke her arm as a kid, sneaking in to the movies to see the good action flicks. All throughout, Harrow remained quiet.
“What about you?”
Harrow looked up from picking at her sandwich. “What about me?”
“You have any fun stories?”
“Not really.” She didn’t elaborate. Instead, she told Gideon everything she had figured out about the case.
For the next hour, they went over case details, putting the evidence together. Finally, after they had all the facts compiled, they paid and left.
Once they got outside, Gideon thought to ask, “How’s Ortus?”
“He’s doing fine. I visited him last night.”
“I still have his poetry book.” Gideon pulled it out of her pocket and handed it to Harrow. “Give it to him for me.”
She took it, and stared down at it for a moment. “I think he’s going to quit.” The words were barely more than a whisper.
“I wouldn’t blame him, especially after yesterday. He seems more like the creative type anyways.” Harrow didn’t look up from the notebook.
“You think they’ll assign you Ianthe?” At that, Harrow jammed it into her pocket with more force than necessary.
“If John tries to make Ianthe my partner, I’ll kill him.”
Right then, Gideon noticed how on edge Harrow seemed. Like something in her was about to snap. Was it Ortus? Or the case? What if it was something else?
She was about to reassure her, but then Harrow’s phone rang. Why does everyone have absolutely horrible timing with calls?
“What now?” Harrow sounded like she could have punted the phone if she knew it wouldn’t break.
But then her whole stance changed. Something in her relaxed. She practically sagged compared to how she looked before.
“I’ll be right there,” she said after a minute of listening, then hung up.
“What happened?” Gideon asked.
“Ianthe found the ferrets.”
“Dare I ask, alive or dead?”
Gideon felt her own body relax a bit. “Thank fox,” she sighed. “Some good news, for once. Where is she?”
“Did she mention seeing Dulcinea?”
“No, just the ferrets. She said they were tied up somewhere, alive, but half frozen to death. They’re at the Tundratown hospital now.”
Gideon offered to drive after realizing that Harrow didn’t have a car. Did Harrow even drive? Was she even tall enough to drive?
Twenty minutes later, they were in the waiting room at the coldest hospital Gideon had ever been in. The door kept opening automatically when someone walked by, letting in a cold breeze.
Ianthe was further in the hospital, sitting by herself in a chair, reading a medical pamphlet. She must really be bored. The skinny lion stood when they walked into this other sitting room.
“Where are they? Are they alright?” Gideon asked.
“They’re in a room right now, getting warm. I can take you to them if you want.” Both her and Harrow nodded.
They got in the elevator, heading up three floors.
“How did you find them?” Harrow looked practically ecstatic.
Ianthe looked shocked, like it was so simple. “Why Harry, I just looked through Dulcinea’s things.” Her voice was absolutely infuriating. Based on Harrow’s face, she might have to protect Ianthe from murder in the next five minutes. “She had a lot of notes written down. Turns out, she’s behind both the murders and the robberies.”
Gideon nudged Harrow. “Told you they were connected.” Harrow glared back.
Harrow, ever the practical one, suggested, “We need to call their parents. Let them know they’ve been found.”
Gideon vowed to do that the moment they got to their room.
After all the worrying, the ferrets turned out to be totally fine. At least physically, if not mentally. Dulcinea had taken them with her when she was spotted by their history tutors.
Dulcinea was a fellow grad student studying with Abigail, and they noticed something off about her one day a couple months ago. The usually perfect student was skipping class and forgetting to turn in her papers.
They had been looking through the genealogy records, as well as some medical ones, to try and figure out if her diagnoses had suddenly gotten worse. Why Abigail didn’t just ask her, seemed a little weird to Gideon. But whatever. They were dead now. It’s not like you can ask dead animals questions.
Everything Harrow assumed about the interview was correct. Dulcinea had forced them to lie under the threat of killing their parents. After Ianthe had gone with Dulcinea to watch over her while her locks were broken, she pulled a gun, shot Marta and Judith, then flew off.
She had already hidden the teens somewhere in Tundratown, so she tied them up outside, probably figuring they would die before someone got to them. It still didn’t explain why their phones ended up in the Meadowlands, but that was probably just to throw them off the trail.
Based on the information Ianthe found, Dulcinea had been using the robberies as a way to lure some of the cops out of the downtown area. From there, she was hastily trying to cover up the deaths of Dulcinea and Protesilaus.
“But why kill the bird and the dog in the first place?” Gideon asked. “We still don’t know her motive. What’s she after?”
“Her real name is Cytherea,” Ianthe said, “Maybe she had a criminal record and was hoping to take a new name?”
“We’ll have to look her up in the system later. For now, I’ll call their parents and let them know they’re alive and healthy.” Harrow used the hospital phone to call both sets of parents.
Ianthe took off, leaving the two of them alone with the teens. Gideon started talking to them, trying to keep them from freaking out about the whole kidnapping.
“My name’s Gideon Nav.” She shook both of their cold paws. Thankfully, neither of them had been outside long enough to get frostbite. “I’m a private investigator. Your parents hired me a couple days ago to find you two. Too bad Ianthe got to you guys first.”
Jeannemary looked absolutely stunned. She just stared up in awe. Gideon showed them her identification, which really wasn’t much, just a business card with her name. She let Jeannemary keep it.
“If you ever need me, just call that number. I always, well usually, leave my phone on. But only if you need a P.I. You’ll probably never need one. Hopefully.” Isaac nodded, but was quiet. They’d had a long few days.
“I’m sorry if this is a weird question,” Jeannemary said after a moment of silence. Gideon waited patiently for the question, not sure what to expect.
“How big are your biceps?”
Gideon caught Harrow glancing over from her place by the phone as she showed them off to the teens. She gave Harrow a roguish wink, which made Harrow scrunch her face up in annoyance.
After a few more minutes of mindless chatter, Harrow confirmed that all four parents were on their way. Gideon sighed in relief.
They both stuck around to talk to their parents, listening to the teens tell their story again. Gideon felt the rush she always felt when finishing up a satisfying case. It was that rush that attracted her to becoming a P.I. in the first place.
Harrow stood mostly in stony silence, chiming in when they talked about their part in solving the case. Eventually, they left the parents with their kits, heading out into the night.
“Hey,” Gideon said to Harrow once they were in her car, “at least Ianthe found the teens. That’s what, one thing she’s done right?”
Harrow scowled. “She could still end up my partner in the next year. I’m not going to listen to her call me Harry for the next ten years. I’d rather die.”
“Wow, ok, that’s harsh,” Gideon laughed, “But what if Ortus doesn’t quit?”
“He’ll quit.” Of that she was sure. “Once Ortus makes a plan, he always follows through. He’s written sixteen volumes of poetry about his childhood hero over the last seven years. If that doesn’t scream dedication, I don’t know what does.”
Gideon drove quietly for a while, leaving her in silence. Just as they left Tundratown, she broke the peaceful silence with her jarring voice.
“What if I decide to be your partner?”
Harrow blinked a few times, not sure if she heard correctly.
“What? Surely it can’t be that bad of an idea.”
“I’ve been a P.I. for a few years now; all I’d have to do is pass the training at the academy. What do you say?”
“No.” Harrow didn’t need some stupid fox around, getting in her way. If Ortus quit, she’d just beg to be left without one.
“Why not?” Did she actually sound a little bit offended?
“You wouldn’t know the first thing about duty.”
“You wound me, Harrow. Of course I know what duty is. I work for clients all the time.”
“No,” she repeated. This had to be the stupidest thing Gideon had said in the last week. Absolutely pathetic. What would she even want with being a police officer anyways?
“Just drop it.”
For a moment, she thought Gideon might argue back, but all she said was, “Alright.”
They sat in silence all the way back to the city. Harrow leaned her head against the bottom frame of the window, not focusing on anything in particular. Gideon hummed some annoying tune, but at least it was better than her dumb jokes.
At some point, Gideon turned off the main road, heading towards one of the suburbs.
“Where are we going?” Harrow asked, coming out of her trance.
“Oh.” She had completely forgotten about that. “Wait, how will we get in?”
“It should still be unlocked, since Marta and Judith, well, you know.” They both looked anywhere but each other.
Once they arrived at her house, they stopped talking altogether. Gideon gathered up all the papers she could find that looked incriminating, while Harrow sorted through them at the dining room table. Any communication that was absolutely required, they did through grunts or hand gestures.
Harrow could barely focus. She noticed that Cytherea didn’t use some weird code, and that she had a tendency to doodle. But that was it. That’s all she could process.
Her brain kept trying to go back to their conversation in the car. It reminded her of when she was first assigned Ortus as her partner. She begged John not to give her one, but he insisted she work with someone, for safety. There were a lot of other reasons, too, but she didn’t care.
The memory of her parents burned in the back of her mind, but she refused to allow that to surface. She didn’t want to think about them, nor their deaths. Not now, not while she had to focus on this case.
A quiet noise from another room jolted her back to the present. Gideon popped her head around the corner of doorframe.
“Isaac’s parents are calling me.”
What the fox? Did they leave something in the room?
Gideon picked up. “Hello?”
Harrow watched as a myriad of emotions danced across Gideon’s face in an instant. Without putting the phone down, she said, “We need to go,” and ran to the door.
Harrow followed her, gathering up the evidence and throwing it in the back seat.
Gideon was saying something to Isaac’s parents. “We’ll be right there, just hang on.”
“Cytherea,” Gideon interrupted.
That told her all she needed to know.
Gideon drove like a maniac. Well, at least it seemed that way to Harrow. She was probably only ten over the speed limit, but it felt like more. They rolled right through stop signs, completely ignored red lights. Thankfully, there weren’t many animals out and about in this part of town today. They must all be at work.
Once she hung up, Harrow called Ianthe. No use. Ianthe had been called out to help with the robberies as soon as she left the hospital. It would take her at least an hour to get there, and that was pushing it.
“So,” Gideon began, “we’re on our own then?” Harrow nodded.
She loaded her gun, then Gideon’s. They only had one round each. If it was only Cytherea, they might stand a chance. But if she had anyone with her, this would be a bloodbath.
By the time they got to the hospital, in the elevator, and ran down the hall to the room they had left the ferrets in just an hour ago, Cytherea was gone. The parents of Isaac and Jeannemary were alright, but they couldn’t say the same for the teens.
Both young ferrets had been hurt, and it didn’t look like things were going well. A couple of nurses were desperately trying to close wounds, but there were too many. Both of them had been shot at least five times.
They stayed with the parents for a full hour, long after the nurses had declared them dead. Gideon sat in the only chair in the room, while Harrow did her best to reassure their parents. There was really nothing she could do for them, besides ask about what happened for record’s sake.
The nurses eventually wheeled their bodies away. Both sets of parents went with them to the morgue, which left Gideon and Harrow alone in that bland room.
Gideon had her head in her paws, starting blankly at the floor. She kept asking, “Why?” like saying it a hundred times could change the outcome.
“Gideon,” Harrow whispered. She didn’t seem to hear. “Gideon,” she repeated, louder. This time, her head perked up. “Let’s go home.”
They drove in silence, much like they had earlier. Harrow completely zoned out. She didn’t want to think of the teens, nor her parents, nor anything else. She didn’t snap out of it until Gideon pulled into a driveway she didn’t recognize.
“Gideon?” she asked tentatively.
“My place,” she said. Her voice was quiet and emotionless. “I’m not leaving you alone.”
Harrow felt a bit hurt that Gideon couldn’t trust her to take care of herself, but there was something else there. Something that wanted her to stay.
They went inside, and both sat down on a big couch. Harrow curled up on one end, while Gideon sprawled out across the rest of it. She turned on the tv, flipping through channels until she found some random sitcom. Harrow wasn’t watching. Based on the uncharacteristic silence from the other end of the couch, neither was Gideon.
Eventually, the show ended, and the news came on. Gideon turned off the tv. They sat in awkward silence until Harrow finally had the courage to speak up.
But she didn’t know what else to say. The memory of her parents’ bodies kept floating up, along with that of the teens. She clutched a pillow to her stomach tightly, her head buried in her knees.
She felt Gideon move. “Harrow? You ok?”
“I—I don’t know,” she answered truthfully.
Suddenly, she felt a pair of arms encircle her. She squeezed her eyes shut, but didn’t push Gideon away.
“Are you really all that choked up about a pair of teens we barely knew? I know it’s horrible, and probably if we’d stayed a bit longer things might have ended up differently. But we can’t change what happened.”
Harrow felt the tears at her eyes long before she heard herself crying. Gideon pulled her closer, letting her rest her head on her shoulder. She held her there for a long time, even after she ran out of tears.
Just as she felt herself starting to doze off, she heard Gideon say, “I know this probably isn’t the best time to bring this up, but my offer to be your partner is still on the table.”
Harrow’s whole body went taught. No. She couldn’t do that to Gideon. What if she got hurt? What if she ended up dead, like the ferrets, like her parents? Something inside her flared up, hot and angry.
“No!” In just a few seconds, Harrow was on her knees, leaning over Gideon, a paw fisted in the front of her shirt. “We just watched two teens die. You’re willing to put yourself in that kind of danger? For what? Justice? What could you possibly have to gain out of becoming a cop?”
“Who ever said there has to be a reason? Can’t I just want to help animals?”
Harrow’s blood was on a rampage through her body. “No one just signs up for this to ‘help animals.’ No one signs their life away for such a stupid reason.”
Gideon cocked her head to the side. “Why did you join the force?”
“I—“ Harrow snapped her jaw shut before she could say anything. “We’re not discussing this now.” She let go of her shirt, turning away.
Gideon grabbed her jaw, forcing her to look her in the eyes. “Talk to me, Harrow. Don’t just close yourself off.”
Harrow stared into her golden eyes, all the fight leaving her body, replacing itself with cold fear. She tore her gaze away. Gideon reached for her paw, squeezing it. “Please, Harrow.”
It was those two words that broke her.
“My parents died when I was ten.” Gideon gave her paw another reassuring squeeze. She felt her lungs open up, heard her erratic breathing slow down. “They were both cops. They had been working on some murder case, something gang related. They went in at night with a couple others, hoping to surprise the enemy. But they didn’t come home.”
Gideon pulled her close again. “They were gone, and I was all alone with my great aunt.” She felt a paw at her back, rubbing slow circles. “I can still see their bodies, a big white sheet pulled over them. The doctors kept telling me it was ok, but I knew it wasn’t. They left me behind.”
“I’m so sorry, Harrow,” Gideon said, “I never knew my parents, so I don’t have any idea how that feels. But you shouldn’t have had to go through that alone. No kit should have to go through that.”
Harrow let go of the pillow she still clutched and grabbed onto Gideon instead. She felt horrible, like her insides had just been taken out and rearranged, but something about telling Gideon felt right, like she’d spent her whole life waiting for this moment and now it was here.
Gideon pulled back abruptly. A lot of horrible thoughts went through her mind. Did she do something wrong? Was Gideon going to leave? But she didn’t go away, she simply stared down into her eyes.
“That decides it then.” Decides what? “I’m applying for the academy as soon as this is over. I’m not letting you get stuck with Ianthe for the rest of your career. No one deserves to be partnered with that bitch. Especially you.”
Harrow wanted to argue, she wanted to tell her no, don’t do this, go and live a normal life, but then Gideon was kissing her. It felt...not the worst thing she’d ever felt. It was sloppy, and she had no idea what to do. But Gideon was warm, and somehow she couldn’t bring herself to tear away.
She put a paw on the back of Gideon’s neck, pulling her closer. She knew Gideon was smiling, she could feel it. It was that same grin she kept giving her when she knew Harrow was looking. The one that made her face flush and her stomach clench. She was probably smiling too.
That night, she didn’t go back to her own apartment. She let Gideon pick her up off the couch and carry her back to her room. She let Gideon lay down next to her, and clung to her warmth and comfort. Gideon’s strong arms held her all night, and for once, she didn’t feel so alone.
The next morning, Gideon woke up, expecting to feel Harrow curled up next to her. But she wasn’t there. She sat up, frantically searching around for Harrow. Where was she? She bolted out of her room, and found that Harrow was up, making something in the kitchen.
Harrow must have heard her, for she looked back and smiled. Gideon walked over until she was just behind Harrow and reached her arms around to hold her, placing a kiss on the top of her head. “Good morning,” she murmured into her fur.
Harrow leaned back into her embrace for just a moment, but that moment felt like an eternity. “Do you really like blueberries? Or was there a sale at the store?”
What? Gideon pulled back, confused. “Everything in your fridge is either blueberry flavored, made with blueberries, or is just a box of blueberries.”
Oh. Gideon laughed, still holding on. “It’s a fox thing.”
Harrow was making them blueberry pancakes, which smelled delicious. Unlike her, who burnt everything she attempted to cook, Harrow’s pancakes came out perfectly. So perfect, that Harrow even tried a bite. She spit it back out, but hey, at least she tried it.
Either the world was against them, or Ianthe was, or maybe both, because right as she dug into the second pancake, Harrow’s phone rang. They both stared at each other for a moment, looking at Ianthe’s stupid face on the screen before Harrow picked up.
“If you’re not dead, or dying, or someone isn’t about to kill you, I’m hanging up.” She punched the button for speaker.
“Oh, Harry,” she said in that snake-like voice, “do you really hate me that much?”
“Just get to the point,” she snapped.
Once she became a cop, priority number one was kicking Ianthe’s butt from the Polar Straights all the way to the bottom of the Bayou and back again.
“I was just wondering if you happened to be busy right now.”
Gideon leaned over her plate to say, “Yeah, she’s busy with me. Been busy all night.”
Harrow’s face went beet red. That right there was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
“Well,” mused Ianthe, “if you’re not interested in how I found Cytherea’s new hideout, just say so.”
“Where are you?” Harrow didn’t hesitate in changing the subject. Gideon scarfed down the rest of her pancakes. She would need all the energy she could get in case there was a big fight.
Ianthe gave them the location of Cytherea’s base. Turns out, she hadn’t gone far. Actually, she had picked out one of the one bedroom apartments, one building over from Harrow’s place apparently.
“Do you think she knows where I live?” Harrow asked her, whispering so Ianthe wouldn’t hear.
As scary as that sounded, Gideon couldn’t rule out the possibility. Weren’t the addresses of all police officers kept at the station? With so little people there, she easily could have snuck in and rifled through them.
While Harrow finished talking to Ianthe, Gideon went to get her weapons. She carried around her gun normally, because that looks like something a P.I. might have. But her real skill lay in fencing. She’d been taking lessons since she was kit, and was almost as good as the instructor.
She strapped her big two-hander to her back, and loaded up her gun, grabbing some extra bullets just in case. They would have to stop at the station to get Harrow’s gun, and anything else they might find useful. Maybe she could get Cam and Sexpal to make them some sort of last minute chemical bomb.
Harrow hasn’t brought anything with her except the case papers—which she had left in the car—and her phone, so she was waiting at the door by the time Gideon was all set. Her jaw dropped at the sight of a big sword.
“You’re not really planning on getting into a sword fight, are you?”
“Yes,” Gideon replied, completely serious. “As long as I can get in range, Cytherea is gonna end up hacked to pieces.”
Harrow shook her head, but Gideon saw the little smile on her face. As soon as she went to open the door, Gideon scooted in between her and the door, blocking her.
She groaned. “This is no time for your stupid games, Nav.”
Gideon tucked a hand into the small of her back and pulled her close. She looked down at Harrow with what she hoped was a stern gaze. “I’m applying to be your partner as soon as we get done with this. Nothing you say or do can stop me.”
Harrow opened her mouth to argue, but Gideon silenced her with her mouth. It was only the second time they’d kissed, but she already knew she’d never grow tired of kissing Harrow. Even if they lived for 10,000 years, she’d still enjoy holding Harrow tight, making her blush with sweet words and even sweeter kisses.
Eventually, they let go of each other and piled into Gideon’s old jalopy. It wasn’t as nice as the squad car Harrow and Ortus shared, but it was good enough for her. And it had a cassette player. What car nowadays could play cassettes?
Gideon rifled around in the center console for just the right one. There. She had labeled it, “Guns Blazing,” and it had all the best songs. It took her all four years of high school to collect the right cassettes and copy them over in the right order. But it was worth all the time she spent working on it.
To her surprise, Harrow didn’t comment about her wasting time, or criticize her tastes. She just sat still, looking out the window, lost in thought.
She reached over to take her tiny bunny paw, and Harrow startled. “I swear we’ll make it out alive. One flesh, one end.” Harrow gave her a weird look for that one, but Gideon didn’t bother explaining. It was something Aiglamene said occasionally, and it just seemed to fit the moment.
When they pulled in to the station, it was pretty much empty. Coronabeth was at the front desk, looking bored. She waved at her as she went past, but didn’t say anything.
Harrow went to the supply room to get some guns and ammo, so Gideon snuck off to the forensics lab. Sure enough, Palamedes and Camilla were up there, doing something sciencey.
“Hey,” she started, hoping they didn’t find her next question too ridiculous, “you guys got any chemical bombs?”
Camilla gave her a stern over-the-glasses look, except she didn’t have any. What would an owl need with glasses?
“Me and Harrow are going after the murderer. Thought you might be able to whip up something quick.”
Sexpal gave Cam an unreadable stare. She stared right back, folding her wings across her chest. Long after Gideon had started to feel awkward, he sighed and held out his paw. Cam took off her lab coat and handed it to Sexpal. She had on a regular police uniform under all that white fabric.
From behind a counter, she pulled out a couple of long knives, and a few guns. Gideon’s eyebrows flew up. Was she about to load them with weapons? Why did she have all those weapons in the forensics lab? Instead of handing them to her, she started suiting up herself.
“You coming with us, then?” Gideon asked.
Cam gave Gideon that same look from before, the one that said she did not trust Gideon with even a butter knife. “I’m going along to make sure neither of you get into too much trouble.”
She scoffed. What trouble? When did she ever get into trouble?
When she was done, she motioned for them to head out. Just before they left, Sexpal called to Cam, “Go loud.” Gideon gave him a double thumbs up.
They found Harrow waiting by the front door with three different guns and a whole box of ammo. She seemed a little surprised at the addition of Cam, but not much. She must have seen Cam like this before at some point.
“Ready?” Gideon asked.
“Ready.” Harrow confirmed.
And with that, they were off.
Harrow looked up at her apartment from inside Gideon’s car. Ianthe was standing outside the building next door, in regular clothing, doing her best to blend in with the civilians. Despite how well she fit in, she still looked like a total bitch.
Gideon shut off the engine, and, in the name of all things dumb, kissed the steering wheel. She whispered something that sounded like, “I’ll be back, baby.” They all piled out swiftly. No one bothered to pay the meter.
Cam cracked her neck and pulled out her twin knives. She looked prepared for anything. Ianthe sauntered over, throwing an arm around Harrow’s shoulder. Gideon glared as Harrow shoved her arm away.
“Harry, are we still not friends? Don’t you want to say something before we head off to battle?”
Harrow looked right at her, stared deep into her eyes, and said without hesitation, “I hope Cytherea kills you.” Then, she took Gideon’s hand and headed towards the apartment building.
They all filed up the stairs, as there was no elevator. When they reached the seventh floor, Ianthe headed out into the hallway. She motioned for all of them to get up against the wall, which they did. After they all had their weapons out and ready, she walked to the door that Harrow assumed was Cytherea’s apartment and knocked.
They waited for a few minutes. Then a few more.
But nothing happened. No one came out from inside. They were all just standing there like idiots when two walruses in towels slinked by, giving them weird looks. A minute later, they could hear their whispered voices echoing out from the bathroom.
“Silas, what do you think that’s all about?”
“I don’t know. How would I know? Let’s just avoid them and hopefully they won’t shoot us.”
Harrow almost felt bad for them, but she had no time for that. Where was Cytherea? Had Ianthe been mistaken?
After a few more minutes of standing there in silence, she could tell Gideon was getting restless. “Why can’t we just knock down the door?” she whispered.
“Shh!” Cam warned. “Do you want to let her know we’re here?”
“Let who know?” Something moved at the end of the hall, where there was an open window.
Harrow rounded on the voice to find herself staring right at Cytherea. She was perched on the windowsill, her frail wings holding two small guns. Without warning, she fired off a warning shot. Everyone dived down, realizing a bit too late that they had no cover.
Cam zigzagged her way across the hallway, dodging bullets like a movie hero. She slashed at Cytherea, who simply jumped out the window, escaping outside.
Ianthe ran to the window and fired off a few shots, but none of them hit. Cytherea was staying well out of range.
“So we climbed up all these stairs for nothing?” Gideon asked.
That’s when they all remembered Cam could fly, and told her to stall while they went back downstairs.
“Why me?” she asked, mostly to herself, as she sheathed her knives and climbed out the window. “If I die because of you idiots...” she called back to them.
“Don’t worry,” Gideon yelled back, “we’ll let Sexpal know you died loudly.” Honestly? How could she joke at a time like this?
After running back down the stairs, Gideon was the first to reach the lobby. She pulled out her sword, though it probably wouldn’t be much use. A couple of confused citizens screamed and hid behind a potted plant.
“Sorry!” Gideon yelled behind her as she ran out the front door. Harrow and Ianthe were right behind her, guns at the ready.
Cam and Cytherea were still up in the sky, flapping their wings furiously, trying to claw at each other. Neither were gaining much ground either way.
Harrow let out a sharp whistle, trying to signal her. She must have heard, for she dived towards the ground.
But then something, or rather someone, rammed into Harrow. Gideon brandished her sword and plunged it though whatever it was that was on top of her. It was another German Shepherd. Did Cytherea have an endless supply of dog soldiers?
Three more German Shepherds surrounded Gideon. She went to right to work with her sword. Harrow had doubted her at first when they were back at Gideon’s house, but once she saw her in action, wow. She could barely tear her eyes away from the dance-like nature of her fight.
Cam landed on the ground, but Cytherea stayed up, out of firing range. Well, that was a simple but effective strategy.
Harrow turned to Cam. “Did she say anything while you were up there?”
“No. She knew I was just a distraction. I tried to get my claws on her, maybe drag her down here, but she’s so fast.”
Harrow looked around for something to help them, anything. They needed a way to force her back to the ground where she would be in range. Then she saw exactly what she needed. There was a street sign on the corner. Harrow cocked her guns and ran straight at Gideon’s car.
She bounced off Gideon’s hood, up to the sign, then off the building next to them. Just because she was tiny, didn’t mean she was helpless. Harrow fired off two whole rounds at Cytherea before gravity pulled her downwards. One of the bullets hit her wing, and she went down.
Harrow barely managed to roll when she hit the ground, jarring her shoulder. Gideon was there to pick her up, helping her reload. “You alright?”
“Yeah,” she breathed. “You?”
Cam had her knives out again, and was going after a pair of dogs that had come from the other direction. She used her wings to her advantage, flipping around them in the air before stabbing them in the back.
Where was Ianthe? Harrow looked around, but didn’t see her anywhere. Had she bailed on them?
Harrow wasted no time in heading straight towards Cytherea who was now on the ground.
“What do you want?” she called to her, still trying to figure out what Cytherea’s motives were. According to the papers Ianthe found that were now in the back of Gideon’s car, she was behind both the murders and the robberies.
But what could she gain from either of those? Was it like Gideon had said the other day? Did she just crave chaos?
They both stopped moving, pointing their guns at each other in a standoff.
Cytherea laughed. “I’m sure you went to Dulcinea’s house.” She paused to hack up some mucus. Maybe Cytherea did have cancer, like the real Dulcinea. “If you’d bothered to look through all my notes, which I totally should have burned, you’d have seen one thing that stood out.”
Harrow thought back to her short time studying the notes the other day. Honestly, nothing stood out to her. What was she supposed to notice?
When she didn’t answer her, Cytherea went on. “Did you not see the drawings?”
Oh. Those. She had, but she wrote them off as doodles, like how she used to doodle when she was young. But that was before her parents died. She hadn’t drawn anything since.
She tried to remember what they looked like, but nothing came to mind. All that came to mind was the dead bodies of Isaac and Jeannemary, which wasn’t all that helpful.
Gideon had finished up with the dogs, and came to stand by her side. “You never told me Cyth was an artist.”
“How was I supposed to know those doodles were important?”
Cytherea was hacking up more mucus, and some blood. Harrow could probably shoot her right now, while she was busy coughing, but it didn’t seem right.
As much as she hated to shoot a sick bird, Ianthe apparently had no problems doing so. From somewhere across the street, she peppered Cytherea with bullets. She didn’t bother asking questions, didn’t even try to figure out what sort of master plan she had in mind. She just aimed and fired.
After Cytherea went down, that was it. The big battle they were expecting turned out to be short and uneventful. But maybe that was good. No one else died or even got hurt, aside from Harrow’s sore shoulder. And that made Harrow happy.
Harrow stayed up every night since Cyth died trying to decipher her notes. Which was not healthy, so Gideon made her come to bed. She had to literally pick her up and drag her. Eventually, Harrow started coming to bed at a normal hour and getting full night’s rest.
She moved out of her little one bedroom apartment, coming to live with Gideon instead. Gideon found one morning that her fridge was suddenly stocked with something called vegetables, mostly kale, whatever that is.
Harrow wouldn’t let her spend the whole day playing video games, unless she got to play, and then she insisted on playing until she won. Which she never did.
Gideon finally got around to applying for the police academy, which she passed in just a few weeks with flying colors. Ok, maybe she didn’t know the law so well, but she could beat all the other, bigger animals in five seconds, flat. Besides, that’s what she had Harrow for.
They did end up partners, much to Ianthe’s chagrin. Ianthe begged John to let her work with Harrow, but then Gideon gave her a good talking to—actually, she kicked her butt—and suddenly Ianthe didn’t want to be Harrow’s partner anymore. She only occasionally calls Harrow, only if she’s really desperate, to which Harrow says in monotone, “I wish you were chained to a coffin, encased in ice, and placed in a tomb,” then hangs up.
Ortus finally finished his twenty volumes of poetry, and got it published somewhere. He keeps inviting them to his poetry readings, but they keep putting it off. He reads enough of it when they see him to last them a lifetime. Cam and Sexpal sometimes come over for dinner and video games, though not in their lab coats. Sometimes, the five of them just hang out somewhere and do nothing for an hour or two.
One random morning, a few months after finishing their big case, Gideon woke up before Harrow, which is rare. Usually, Harrow is up, making breakfast. But when she cracked open her eyes, Harrow was still asleep, curled up with her back pressed to her side.
Gideon tried to get out of bed gently and not disturb her, but she failed. “Gideon?” Harrow asked sleepily.
She reached over with a paw, trying to grab on to something. Gideon took her tiny paw in her bigger one and rolled her over, pulling her close. Harrow opened her eyes, staring up at her.
“Morning,” she murmured.
Gideon answered with a light kiss to her forehead. “I’m surprised you’re still snoozing.”
Harrow tightened her grip on Gideon, as if she might just hide in her embrace. “When did—when did—” Apparently, her brain hadn’t fully woken up yet.
“I just woke up, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
Harrow shook her head. After a moment she said, “When did this happen? Us? When?”
Gideon laughed. “You’re seriously asking me this now? Are you just now realizing we’re a couple?”
She felt Harrow grab her shirt, her paw clenching tight. “That’s not—I just—”
“Then what do you mean, oh carroty mistress?” At that, Harrow punched her. Or at least she tried to. It was more like groggily dragging her fist up her arm.
She couldn’t help but laugh again, which apparently made sleepy Harrow annoyed. She propped herself up on one arm, her other hand grabbing more of Gideon’s shirt. “When did you steal my heart?” she asked with the articulation and volume of someone who was completely drunk, but trying not to be.
Gideon completely lost it. For a full ten minutes, she laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more. Each minute she failed to stop, Harrow face got redder, and the paw that held onto her shirt got tighter and tighter.
When she was finally able to get a hold of herself, she pulled Harrow back down onto the bed, tucking her back against her side. She wrapped her tail around Harrow’s middle and whispered in her ear, “It’s called a hustle, sweetheart.”
She flipped over and tried to punch her again, but Gideon rolled out of the way. “You know you love me,” she said.
Harrow thought about it for a moment, then let her arms relax. “Do I know that?” She looked over at Gideon, and gave her a heartwarming smile that she rarely got to see. “Yes. Yes I do.”