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Black and White, Blue and Red

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Holly hadn't returned to her apartment since the night of the attack, and had been living in a hotel room, watched over by a pair of officers. That was a pretty clear sign of the importance of the case to the mayor, but the real sign of how important he considered it was that when Nick and Judy arrived at Holly's apartment building, there was already a police cruiser parked in front of it. From the time that the police had first arrived on the night of the attack up through the present, there had always been officers present at the crime scene. Their reports had been some of the drier reading in the case files; there were only so many ways to write that nothing had happened during a guard shift. One officer would watch the building itself while the other would stand guard at the door to Holly's apartment itself. From the officer who was sitting behind the wheel of the other patrol car, Judy had a pretty good idea of who was going to be waiting for them at the door to Holly's apartment. "Officer LaMerk," Judy said to the bear in the car, as cheerfully as she could manage, "How are you doing?"

The massive bear, who looked as though he was positively squeezed into the patrol car, gave a shrug that made the entire car shake. "I don't think the mayor's particularly happy with me or Grévy, but otherwise, you know, not bad."

Judy winced. It was a particularly petty piece of payback if the mayor was putting the pressure on Grévy's and LaMerk's precinct chief to give them guard duty, but she was hopeful that it wouldn't be much longer before she and Nick had what they needed to wrap up the case completely. "I'm really sorry about that," she said, "But I think we can prove that the mayor's grandson didn't do it."

"The sooner you can do that, the better," LaMerk said, "What do you need here?"

"We need to take one more look at Holly's apartment," Nick said, "Would you mind waiting by the door of the apartment building?"

LaMerk shrugged. "Wouldn't mind getting out of this car," he said, which Judy figured was as good as a yes.

Leaving LaMerk behind, Nick and Judy did a quick circuit of the apartment building before heading to the front, where the building's superintendent, Roger Cony, was waiting; Nick had called ahead on their way over. "How can I help you, officers?" Cony asked once he met Nick and Judy at the main door to the apartment building.

Judy looked around and then leaned forward conspiratorially, beckoning the older bunny closer. "Don't tell anyone, because we're not supposed to discuss active cases," she began in a low voice, "But we think Holly's producer and her costar were the ones who attacked her."

"Naw!" Cony said, eyes wide with shock, "You figured it out, then? Them other cops said they didn't find nothing."

Judy wondered what other cops had told the bunny that, since it was true that cops really weren't supposed to discuss active cases with civilians. She doubted it was Grévy, since the dour zebra was about as by the book as they came, and she thought that LaMerk would never hear the end of it from his partner if he did.

"Not all evidence is at the scene of the crime," Nick said smoothly, and in a low tone to match Judy's, he added, "They tried framing one of the lighting techs who used to work on her show."

Cony shook his head, looking almost overwhelmed by the revelation. "Two of you got to be pretty smart, figuring all that out. But what do you need my help for?"

"Well, here's the thing," Judy said, "We know that they're lying. But they planned things too well to leave behind any physical evidence at the crime scene. There were no prints on that set of bolt cutters, and we couldn't find them on camera once the assailant left the building. We just want to check out the crime scene again and find something we can pin them down with."

"Oh, sure," Cony said, nodding, "That makes sense."

Cony led them, limping, to the elevator. "Does your leg still bother you, Mr. Cony?" Judy asked.

The bunny chuckled. "Always does. It's worse when it's raining, but it always hurts."

Judy nodded sympathetically. "That must be difficult to live with," she said.

"I manage," Cony said with a shrug, "Don't see no use in complaining."

"Do you have one of the apartments near the top of the building?" Nick asked.

It was common practice for building superintendents to live in the buildings that they served, and Cony was no exception. "I'm on the ground floor," Cony said, "The street level ones are cheaper, but it works out better for me anyway."

The hallway didn't look too much different from how Nick had described it from his last visit. The broken glass was, of course, still gone, and there was still a tarp over the window to the fire escape. Police tape crossed the door to Holly's apartment, and Grévy was standing watch ramrod straight outside it. Judy watched with a certain fascination as the zebra's muzzle contorted upon seeing them, clearly wanting to say something but being unwilling to do so in front of a civilian. Nick, however, did not waste the opportunity to needle the zebra. "Grévy!" he cried enthusiastically, "How's it going? Anything to report?"

"Nothing," the zebra all but growled through gritted teeth, "What are the two of you doing here?"

Nick threw an arm around Cony, "The three of us, I think you mean," he said cheerfully, "Just taking one last look at the crime scene."

Grévy snorted but moved out of the way to allow the three mammals to enter the apartment. The major evidence had been taken away and logged; there were no longer any loose flower petals on the floor, but there were markers were they and the set of bolt cutters hidden in the bouquet of flowers had been. The blood from Jacques's head wound had dried to a brown stain on the carpet.

"You know, this apartment is kind of crowded," Nick said, looking around.

It was true; as Judy had noticed the first time that they entered the apartment, the relatively large space was absolutely packed with furniture and nick-knacks. "Would you mind letting us into the empty apartment next door to this one?" Nick asked, "It'd make it easier for us to visualize things if there wasn't so much stuff."

"Well, I guess," Cony said, "But the floor plan's different. It's a mirror of this one."

"Even better!" Judy said cheerfully, "Maybe that'll help too. You know, seeing things in a different light."

The superintendent made no further protest and led them out of Holly's apartment, past the dismissive gaze of Grévy (if Judy had to guess, she would say that the zebra was probably thinking that they had wasted a trip), and to the door of the apartment next to it. Cony fumbled with his ring of keys as he tried to unlock the door to the empty apartment. "Sorry," he said with a nervous laugh, "Arthritis's acting up a bit."

"No problem," Nick said, with a nonchalant shrug.

The apartment located next to Holly's wasn't just empty; it was completely gutted, down to the baseboards and the studs. It looked as though it was in the process of being renovated, as the rear wall had had drywall put up, but it hadn't been mudded yet and the seams were plainly visible. There was a somewhat lighter line running down the floor where a wall had once stood. "There used to be three apartments on each side of the hall, right?" Judy asked, pointing out the line.

"Ayuh, that's right," Cony said, "Remodeled about eight, ten years ago. One of old Mr. Drove's ideas. Thought that mammals'd be willing to pay enough to make up for having fewer apartments, but I think he just wanted a nicer one for himself."

Cony laughed, and then continued, "Seemed to work, though. His son's been on me for not having this one ready to rent out again, but he's too cheap for contractors and I can only work on it during the day or we get noise complaints."

"That hardly seems fair," Judy commiserated, "But this is perfect. We're going to walk through the crime again."

"Do you need me here for this?" Cony asked, "Begging your pardon, but I've got some things to take care of."

"Oh, this shouldn't take too long," Nick said, placing himself between Cony and the door, "We might have a few more questions about the building for you."

Cony nodded, but he didn't seem particularly happy about having to spend more time with them. Judy pulled out her notes and flipped through them. "It all started when Holly's boyfriend buzzed her apartment to let her know to unlock the main door for him," she said, "Now, this panel's the same as the one in Holly's apartment, right?"

She had walked over to the apartment door and gestured at a panel set in the wall to the side of it. It looked pretty straightforward, just a metal rectangle with a grille in it above three buttons labeled "TALK," "LISTEN," and "DOOR." "They're all the same," Cony said.

"See?" Nick said, "We do need you a little longer. Now, the button labeled "DOOR" unlocks the door at the entrance to the main lobby, where the elevator is, right?"

"That's right," Cony said.

"And outside the lobby, there's a bigger panel with all of the apartments listed, right?"

"Ayuh, same as any other apartment building," Cony said.

Judy grabbed her radio and spoke into it, "LaMerk, could you buzz Holly's apartment, please?"

"You don't really have to test it," Cony said hastily, "You know it works, right? Holly's boyfriend wouldn't have been able to get in if she didn't buzz him up."

While he had been talking, LaMerk had replied over the radio. "Buzzing now, Hopps."

The coarse electric buzz of the intercom system was perfectly audible from the apartment next door. "That wall must be awfully thin," Judy said, looking at the wall that was shared between Holly's apartment and the one that they were in.

"I—I guess so," Cony said, "Never really thought about it much."

"Hmm," Nick acknowledged, "Anyway, the next part is where we need to figure things out. We know that it had to be Holly's costar, Thomas Lupowitz, who was the assailant. Holly's producer is way too tall. We've got a phone log showing a cellphone call from Rich Wolf to Lupowitz at what would be about the right time for it to be Wolf telling Lupowitz that Holly had buzzed her boyfriend up."

"The camera footage we have shows that Lupowitz came in through the fire escape window only a few minutes after Holly buzzed Jacques up," Judy said, picking up the thread of the sequence of events, "He jammed a shim into the window so that the alarm wouldn't go off, then broke the glass and came in. He made his way down the hall and knocked on the door to Holly's apartment. He had a pair of bolt cutters hidden in a bouquet of flowers, so when Holly looked out of her peephole all she saw was the flowers. Jacques always got her flowers for her birthday, so she didn't think about it twice. When Holly opened the door, Lupowitz used the bolt cutters to cut the security chain on her door and forced his way in. Holly ran into the bathroom and locked the door, so Lupowitz tried breaking it down with the bolt cutters until Jacques arrived. When Jacques showed up, Lupowitz hit him in the head with the bolt cutters and fled the same way he came in, and disappeared down the fire escape. Holly had called the police while she was in the bathroom, so the first responders showed up and they got a hold of you to pull the video."

"That's right," Cony said, his earlier unease having vanished.

Judy flipped through her notes again. "So you haven't been in Holly's apartment since the attack until we went into it a few minutes ago, right?"

"Naw, of course not," Cony said.

Judy flipped her notebook shut and gave Nick a glance, which he returned with a nod. "So if we search your apartment, we're not going to find the bracelet that Jacques was going to give Holly?"

Cony shook his head emphatically. "I don't know nothing about any ring, and I don't appreciate you accusing me of stealing from my tenants."

"Well," Nick said, a slow smile spreading across his face, "We didn't say anything about a ring."

Cony's face drained of blood beneath his fur, and the insides of his ears went nearly white. "Well—I—I must've misheard, is all."

"Maybe," Judy said, "But we've got another idea for how things went, don't we?"

Nick's grin became positively predatory. "We realized that the cameras on this floor aren't aligned properly," he said, "When this floor switched from six apartments in each hallway to four, you kept the doors in the same position for the apartments closest to the elevators, but for the ones at the end of the hall, the doors ended up much further down the hall then either of the ones they replaced had been. The cameras don't actually see the doors to this apartment and the one across the hall from it.

"The cameras only record eight hours of footage at a time. So you had quite a setup, didn't you? You hid in this apartment long enough before you were going to commit your crime that you knew there'd be no footage of you walking down the hallway from the elevator. You could have easily jammed that shim into the window frame of the fire escape to keep the alarm from going off in advance, and then all you had to do was open the window from the inside, break it, and throw some of the pieces of glass far enough forward to be seen by the cameras. You've been Holly's super ever since she moves in, so you knew Jacques would bring her flowers for her birthday. He does every year, after all. And I bet you hear a lot, being the building super.

"After you hit Jacques, you actually left down the fire escape, and made your way around the building to the old coal cellar door, where you could get back in without being picked up by one of the cameras, and then waited for the police to show up. You lied to us about that coal door when you said you didn't have the key; we checked before we came up and there are fresh scratches on the lock. Did I miss anything, Officer Hopps?"

"It was very clever," Judy admitted, "You made us think that the attacker came up the fire escape, which you wouldn't be able to do with your bad leg, but you could manage to go down the fire escape perfectly well. You ended up getting pretty lucky that there were so many other mammals who might have wanted to hurt Holly—"

"I didn't," Cony blubbered.

Tears had begun to silently roll down his face as Nick laid out the crime, and his voice was thick with tears. "I didn't mean to hurt her or her boyfriend," he said, his voice shaking, "I read that interview she did. She just wanted to meet you, Officer Hopps. I—I thought if I just scared her... And... I thought Jacques would be fine, like on the show but—but I nearly killed him, didn't I? Oh God, if she had been slower... and if I had hit her..."

The bunny had collapsed to his knees and was sobbing into the bare baseboards of the empty apartment. It took a moment for him to regain enough composure to speak. "I was going to give the ring back. I don't know why I grabbed it in the first place," he admitted, "Once Holly moved back into her apartment, I was going to say I found it and give it back. You have to believe me."

He looked up at Judy, his face wet with tears. "Please, you have to believe me."

"It'll be a hard sell," Nick said, "But if you cooperate, we can see what the D.A. will do."

"Anything," Cony sobbed as Judy cuffed him, "Anything."

"That was some fine work," LaMerk said.

Following the arrest and Cony signing a confession, Mayor Escurel had wasted absolutely no time in calling a press conference. At Judy's fervent (and Nick's somewhat more reluctant) insistence, LaMerk and Grévy had joined them behind the mayor as he did his level best to take full advantage of the resolution of a high profile case. Following the official statement, LaMerk, Grévy, Nick, and Judy had broken away while the mayor kept answering questions for the press.

"You too," Judy replied, "I'm impressed you were able to even find Roberto, let alone catch him."

The bear laughed and shook a massive paw dismissively. "It was all Grévy. She remembered that there were some tips called in from the college about a black-furred rodent of some kind trying to sell drugs and made the connection that it might have been Roberto."

Grévy smiled, which made Judy remember that immediately following Roberto's arrest, the zebra had actually been joking around with her partner the bear. Although the zebra's attitude had certainly colored Judy's opinion of her, it was a reminder that Grévy was a thinking, feeling mammal and not just a petty roadblock. "The mammal we caught with Roberto trying to buy the pills couldn't give up Roberto's address fast enough," she said with a small laugh, "If they were any smarter, they would have kept doing their deals there rather than on the campus in front of cops."

It actually was kind of funny that Roberto and his would-be buyer had been so short-sighted as to not notice the police officers in their duty uniforms not ten feet away, so Judy and Nick shared a laugh. Afterwards, no one said anything else and the silence between the four mammals began to grow awkward, none of them moving, until LaMerk gave his partner a nudge that may have been subtle from his perspective but was strong enough to noticeably rock the zebra forward.

"I may have misjudged both of you," Grévy admitted.

Judy chose to enjoy the sentiment and ignore what it had taken to get it out of the stubborn zebra. "Mammals can change," she said, "Try to keep that in mind."

Grévy nodded. "Take care, officers," she said, and the zebra and the bear walked away.

Nick and Judy were on their way back to their patrol car when the mayor caught up with them. "I'm not entirely happy about how all of this went," Escurel said with a sigh, "But I don't suppose that I can blame you for any of it."

"So what happens with Roberto now?" Judy asked.

"I think my lawyer can get him down to probation on a suspended sentence if counseling is part of the deal," the mayor said, with a small shake of his head, "But Roberto does need help."

On that point, she was in absolute agreement with the mayor. "The voters might like that," Judy offered, "Balance out being tough on crime with some compassion."

Escurel shot her a wry smile. "Preparing to run for office yourself?" he asked.

Judy laughed. "Never."

"Never is a very long time, Officer Hopps," Escurel said, and then left the pair alone.

As they got into the car, Nick sighed. "What's wrong, Slick?" Judy asked.

If anything, she expected him to be proudly bragging that he had solved the case, considering that it had been his insight that what the cameras in Holly's apartment building had shown had been carefully setup to manipulate their conclusions and from there determining that the only mammal who had the knowledge and opportunity to take advantage of the setup was the building super. "I was just thinking," he said, "Now we have to write the report. And you're going to insist that we take care of it today."

Judy laughed. "Come on, Nick! It'll be fun!"

"Fun for you, Carrots," Nick said darkly, but he was smiling.

Detectives Black and White were in a small home office, both huddled around a desktop computer. "I think this password I found on the back of this picture frame might unlock the computer," White said, and carefully typed it in.

The computer chimed agreeably, and White began to click through various file folders. When she got to one and opened it, both she and Black recoiled. It wasn't possible to see what it was, since the camera was framed such that their faces and the back of the monitor were visible. "You're telling me this guy gets off to piglets' little tails?" Detective Black asked in disgust.

"How long has he been a detective?" Nick asked, interrupting the drama playing out on the screen of Judy's laptop.

Despite Nick's whining, the report hadn't taken too long to finish up, and in recognition of the work they had done, Bogo had let them go home early. The way that he had phrased it was that tired officers were a danger to themselves and the public, but Judy had seen that it was just his typical gruff bluster. Mercifully, Nick hadn't felt the need to antagonize the chief, and they had decided to spend the extra free time catching up on the episodes of Black and White that Nick hadn't seen yet. Judy shrugged. "Five years, I think. They said it in the first episode."

"He certainly doesn't act like it," Nick observed.

They were on the episode that had most recently aired, sitting close together on Judy's bed and watching the show on the small screen of her laptop. Judy was about to launch into a joking defense of the show when Nick's stomach gurgled, which made her remember that they hadn't had anything to eat since the bagels that Nick had brought to the station on his way back from showering and changing at his condo that morning. "You know," Judy said, "I still have to try the gumbo at the Brier Patch without all the extra spices."

Following a much more pleasant tasting dinner than the first lunch that Judy had eaten at the Brier Patch, they were leaving the restaurant and walking past the outdoor patio seating area when someone called their names. "Officer Hopps! Officer Wilde!" Holly waved the pair over.

She was sitting at a table with her boyfriend along with Hyperion, Heather, and Bruce. The dingo's chair must have been significantly shorter than that of the bunnies he was sharing the table with, because the top of his head was about even with Jacques's, who was otherwise the tallest mammal at the table. "Jacques insisted on leaving the hospital," Holly explained.

"And Heather was kind enough to volunteer to look after me so Holly won't worry herself sick," Jacques finished.

Heather was, as Judy recalled, a nurse, which made her particularly well-suited to keeping an eye on Jacques. "I thought it was time for Bruce to meet my family," Heather said, smiling fondly at the dingo.

Nick turned to Hyperion. "So how did you get pulled in?" he asked.

It was something that Judy had been wondering herself. Hyperion hadn't successfully made contact with either of his sisters, which made his presence a little puzzling. Holly coughed delicately. "It's kind of a funny story," she said, "I got a letter from Hyperion that the studio said they 'misplaced'."

Judy was willing to bet that whoever at the studio was responsible for removing the letter from Holly's dressing room drawer had been trying to cover their own tail by ensuring its return, but she supposed that it was one part of the mystery she'd have to satisfy herself not knowing the answer to. "The two of them," Hyperion said, indicating his sisters, "Were willing to hear me out if I paid for dinner."

"I picked the place," Heather added helpfully.

It didn't look as though they had eaten yet; they had a bottle of wine on the table and everyone except Jacques had a glass. Considering that he was probably on some kind of medication, that was probably for the best. "Don't let us interrupt you," Judy said, not wanting to get in the way.

"I wanted to thank you," Holly said, "Both of you. For figuring out who hurt Jacques... and for bringing my family back together."

It was somewhat strange to think of, but the crime really had brought Holly's family together. Judy thought that it was likely that Hyacinth Leaves had destroyed the letter that Hyperion had written to Heather, and if it hadn't been for the attack it was likely that his letter to Holly would have never been 'found.' She guessed that Heather would have eventually introduced Bruce to Holly, but probably not nearly so soon. "What about—" Judy began asking before she was cut off.

"Our mother can deal with it," Heather said firmly, "We're all going together to pick her up from her dialysis treatment after dinner, and she can decide if staying in her kits' lives is worth accepting their choices."

That was a conversation that didn't seem likely to go well. Then again, it was as she had told Grévy. Mammals did change, and perhaps all it would take in Hyacinth's case was for her kits and their mates to stand up to her in a unified front. "We won't keep you then," Nick said, but before they could walk away, Holly called back to Judy. "Wait!"

"Officer Hopps," Holly said, the inside of her ears flushing red, "Could I have your autograph?"

She pulled a newspaper article out of her purse that Judy recognized as coming from shortly after Bellwether's arrest and thrust it and a pen at Judy. "Absolutely," Judy said, bending over the table to sign it.

"Maybe you could return the favor," Nick said, pulling a promotional photo of Holly from out of one of his pockets.

Judy wondered if he had stolen it from the studio. "And would you mind making it out to Benjamin Clawhauser?" Nick asked.

"This was nice," Judy said, as they approached the train station.

"It was," Nick agreed, "Maybe next time we can do dinner and a show at a theater. Something a little more highbrow than a police drama."

"That sounds a lot like a date," Judy teased.

Nick's smile spread across his face slowly, a genuine one that Judy didn't get to see very often. "It can be whatever you want it to be," he said.

She thought about it. Over the course of working the case with Nick, she had gained a further appreciation for the fox. There were plenty of reasons, and good ones at that, not to date him. He was older than her (but not by too much), he was cynical and frequently smug (but he had the heart and compassion of an optimist buried deep in his chest), they were partners on the force (but what did the rules on fraternization say about partners), they weren't the same species (but Heather and Bruce seemed so happy)... And yet...

"I'd like it to be a date," she said.

"How does our next day off sound?" Nick asked, getting up.

While they had been talking and Judy had been thinking, Nick's train had arrived. As Nick started walking to the open doors of the train that would take him to the station closest to his apartment, Judy grabbed him by the paw and pulled him around. "You're not getting on that train," she said.

"I'm not?" he asked.

"No," she said, "You're coming back to my place with me."

"I am?" he asked, grinning slyly.

Judy grabbed his tie and pulled him down into a kiss. "You are."

Author's Note: First up, at the end of the last chapter I promised a shout out to anyone who figured it out before this chapter went up. There were some great theories; BubbleBtch got the perpetrator wrong, but correctly deduced that the empty apartment was part of it, and JustNibblin pegged Roger Cony as the culprit.

There's a kind of bittersweet feeling I get when I come to the ending of a good story; there's the pleasure in seeing how it all ends and the sadness in knowing that's it's done. I don't know if you're feeling that, now that you've come to the end, but I feel something similar as I come to the end of the first fanfiction story I've written. While this is the end of the story, it's not the end of my writing; if you enjoyed Black and White, Red and Blue, perhaps you'll enjoy my next story, A Study in Gold, the first chapter of which is up now. It's not a sequel, or even set in the same universe; A Study in Gold draws heavy inspiration from the original Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock stories, and is set in what I imagine a Victorian era Zootopia would be like. It will be thematically and stylistically very different, but it seemed like a fun challenge for me to try to expand my horizons as an author. Check it out here!

A Study in Gold

I will also say that I'm not done with the work I've put into Black and White, Red and Blue either. It took me months to plot out the story to the point that I was satisfied with my outline and I started writing it; I do plan on writing a sequel, but I'm not going to start posting chapters until I've got something that I think is worth reading. In the meantime I have no intention of stopping posting other works, since holding myself to at least one chapter a week has done wonders for my discipline as a writer. I think, and I hope you'd agree, that I got better as the story went on.

Whether you've been a reader from the very beginning, or you've been able to binge through the entire story in a single sitting some time after I published this, I want to say thank you again. I'm not always so great at expressing my own feelings, but the support that I've gotten has been incredible and has on more than a few occasions been the bright spots in otherwise dark days.

Before I hit publish and put this chapter and story entirely to rest, I figured that I'd also post some answers to questions that I've gotten.

Is Rich Wolf a reference to Dick Wolf, executive producer of Law and Order ?

Absolutely, yes. Most of the names that I came up with are references to something, and Rich Wolf was a pretty obvious and easy one for me to go with. A lot of other names are just references to the species, although some are marginally more complex. The mayor Pablo Escurel and his grandson Roberto take their last name from the Old French word for squirrel. Officer Grévy is named after Grévy's zebra, one of the three species of zebra. Her partner, Officer Bill LaMerk, is named in a somewhat convoluted reference back to Stephen King's Dark Tower series, which features a cyborg bear named Shardik (itself a reference to a book of the same name by Richard Adams, also the author of Watership Down). Cybernetics in the Dark Tower series are primarily the work of two companies: North Central Positronics and LaMerk Industries. The Leaves/Leaps family are all named after plants that start with an H; Hyacinth Leaves's insistence that her last name is Leaves and not Leaps is a direct reference to Hyacinth Bucket (supposedly pronounced bouquet) of the TV series Keeping Up Appearances. Holly's boyfriend's stage name is a pun on jackrabbit, and his actual name uses the French word for rabbit as a last name. The forensic technician, Willow H. Caldwell, is named in reference to W.H. Caldwell, the naturalist who was the first scientist to prove that platypuses are egg-laying mammals. Holly's costar, Thomas Lupowitz, has a name constructed in a similar fashion to Clawhauser; I took the word Lupo, meaning wolf in Latin, and simply appended a common name ending. I never bothered naming the actor who plays Lupowitz's original partner on the show Black and White, but the character he played, Amarok, has a name borrowed from a giant gray Inuit wolf of legend. The perpetrator, Roger Cony, has a first name in reference to Roger Rabbit and a last name taken from the word coney, an archaic term for a rabbit.

The show Black and White isn't as bad as I thought it would be.

That's not actually a question, but it is a fair observation. My original intent was to never show any scenes from the fictional TV show so that you could imagine how bad it was rather than being able to judge for yourself. After all, no matter how bad the writing is in the samples I provide, you could always imagine something worse. I changed my mind when I came to think that it added more to the story than it took away. In particular, I like the contrast between the show, which is pretty overwrought and action packed, and the actual story that I wrote, which you may also find overwrought but is definitely not action packed. All of the traditionally exciting bits that are in my story, like the initial attack and chasing down a suspect, are only ever described and never shown; I figured that it was a somewhat more realistic depiction of police work than if I made it more like a typical modern police procedural. I love police procedurals, so even though I have more than a few of the tropes in my story, I couldn't resist kind of tweaking the conventions of the genre. I also thought that the use of the show as a framing device for Nick and Judy spending time together outside of work worked pretty well; chapter 13 in particular is probably my favorite of the whole story.

How much of this did you have plotted out ahead of time?

From the time that I wrote the first chapter, I knew who the culprit was and I had the broad outlines of the story fleshed out. I had also already picked out the characters that I was positioning as red herrings, although some of them changed quite a bit from how I originally intended them. My initial intent for the mayor was for him to be more or less as he's described the first time he's mentioned: bland, not particularly cunning, and weak-willed. My early version of Roberto was a kind of spoiled brat, so that the dynamic would be that it was believable that a personally weak but politically powerful mayor was bending to the whims of his selfish grandson. As I actually started writing the chapters that they were to appear in, however, I figured that making the mayor far more clever and politically-adroit than suspected made him more compelling. I also thought that making Roberto more of a tragic character made the story more interesting, as it also made it seem more likely that he could be the victim of a framing by someone else.

The actual logistics of how the crime was committed was something that I gave a lot of thought to and consumed most of my preparations. It's also at least part of the reason why I'm taking some time to work on something else before I try coming back with a sequel; I found it tough to come up with a compelling mystery that used modern technology to good effect rather than not including it at all or hand-waving it away like a cell phone in a horror movie.

Can I use your characters in a story of my own?

If you want any of the original characters that I created to show up in a cameo in one of your stories, or for your characters to watch Black and White, go right ahead! All I ask is that you give credit in the notes of your story.