Will the Real Duke Please Stand Up

I've been doing some editing. You won't need to go back and start over. When I started this venture it was a quick and dirty placeholder, unfortunately. Sloppy writing on my part. Bad grammar, typos and the occasional use of hand where paw was more appropriate. Nothing that would change the story.

There is a quick reference to a standing gag from Night Court, which most of you out there should be fairly familiar with.

3:30 PM The Zootopia Courthouse

Officers Trunkaby and Addison were sitting on the benches outside of the courtroom when Judy and Nick finally exited. More precisely, Greg was sitting on the bench, and Francine was half perched on it, her massive frame taking up almost half of the length of the long piece of furniture. They both rose and approached their colleagues before the assembled members of the press could converge on them.

"How'd it go, Judy?" The elephant reached down with her trunk and adjusted her equipment belt.

"Nothing but opening statements. Ben warned me the trial for a case this big might take a while, but I had no idea!" The bunny's left foot began kicking on the floor, her claws making a distinct tapping noise. "I'd almost feel better doing paper work, or, dare I say it, parking duty."

"She'll get used to it." Nick bumped fists with the rookie polar bear. "She'll learn how to use the time to her benefit." He looked up at Francine. "I think I got a pretty good read on the jury while the lawyers were blabbing." The fox had divided his attention between the jury box and the defense attorney's table. The latter he had tried to keep discreet.

"What brings the two of you down here?" By now Judy's foot had stopped tapping. Her whole body was shaking visibly now. It was as if she were trying to jump out of her own fur. Bunnies were little bundles of raw energy and emotion. Sitting so still for so long was playing on her nerves something awful. Besides which, her blood sugar levels were down. The short lunch break the court had taken had not been nearly enough for a species that was evolved to graze.

"It's our case with Detective Bruin. We need to get a feel for where the loot might be going. Do you think your favorite prisoner might be able to give us anything?"

Nick and Judy looked at each other. There was a moment of silence as if they were conferring with one another, but not a word was spoken. After a few moments of... whatever it was, Judy slightly arched an eyebrow and Nick shrugged ever so slightly.

"We'll go down to holding before we sign out." Judy finally said aloud. "No promises, he's pretty slick. Gives weasels a worse name than the guy Dad plays cards with."

"Thanks guys." Trunkaby said. "We can check in with you in the morning."


In the small side room that she had been taken into when she entered the courthouse, Dawn Bellwether was going over the opening round of the trial with her attorney, being granted a few moments before she would be shuttled back to the prison. This time and in future, she would be moved in and out of the building via the sally port and the prisoners route.

"I think the fact that some animal threw a rock at you spells out just how you must feel about the way you and other prey have been treated in the past. The fact that a wolf jumped to your aid is telling as well, both about you and him." Joyce Hamel was inclined to take every advantage that came her way. She had known going in that winning the case was pretty much out of the question. Sure, she would try her hardest, but the facts were all there. At best she could turn them around to get some reasonable doubt on some of the charges.

This was the very reason the ewe had been forced to accept a public defender. There simply weren't any firms that had been willing to take on such a high profile case where the outcome was so much a forgone conclusion.

"He's different from what I'm used to, that officer. Predators are usually big and loud, intimidating us sheep." Dawn had been bullied fiercely as a child by a large timber wolf in her class. The teacher had never been bothered to do anything about the situation, which her father had declared (not realizing his young lamb could hear him from her room) was because she too was from a predator species.

"Look, I don't like what you did, or why, but I will see to it that your get a fair shake." The vixen was a little annoyed still with hearing that line from her client about how predators behaved. She'd encountered enough species-ism in her own life. She really didn't need it being shoved into her muzzle. "Remember, just keep your head as high as you can in the courtroom, and no matter what any mammal out there says, you don't react."

There was a quick tap at the back door to the room, the one which led to the holding cells and the prisoner loading dock. Hamel went and opened it. On the other side, Officers Wolford and Delgato were waiting. In the hall, Fangmeyer and McHorn stood a couple of paces away facing down each direction of the hall.

Wolford held out a paw, showing the cuffs he had removed from his belt. The ewe looked pointedly at the bandage still taped behind his ear. She cast her eyes to the pawcuffs and put her own hooves forward. As the metal snapped shut around her wrists, she quietly whispered "I'm sorry." to the officer. He merely looked down into her face and nodded fractionally. The vixen took in her client's changed behavior for a moment and then began packing her notes into the satchel which sat on a chair in the room.

The pair of uniformed officers took the prisoner from the room and the group formed up into the same formation they had taken going into the building that morning. McHorn in the lead. As he passed by Bellwether, Delgato gave her a shove meant to put her into the center as Fangmeyer turned and came up on her right side. It was overly rough, and the ewe stumbled slightly, almost bouncing into the tiger.

"C'mon, Delgato, that wasn't necessary. Remember the rules, no contact with the prisoner." Wolford visibly bristled at the lion. They had been partners for some time now. The white canine was seriously considering putting in for a new one. While not outright specist, the cat was definitely more aggressive with prey animals.

"Says the guy who talked with her this morning."

McHorn rumbled under his breath. He was beginning to lose patience with the two other males assigned to this duty. "As Bogo would say, shut it, animals. We have a job to do. Let's just get it done so I can get out of this vest and shove some food down my neck." The rhino paused just long enough to stare over his shoulder at Wolford and Delgato.

Lieutenant Hunter and his team met them at the loading dock. The doors of the transport were already level with the platform, so McHorn merely pulled off to the right while Fangmeyer and Wolford ushered the little sheep in ahead of them. She took the seat she had been in, and waited patiently while the tiger shackled her cuffed paws to the short chain that was bolted to the bench frame, and then proceeded to do up the safety restraints.

Once McHorn was assured the the prisoner was secured, he closed the back doors and locked them, slamming his large hoof three times on the one panel. He waited until he heard the click of the wolf's key on the other side, and the responding three thumps from within. He then jumped with a significant thud to the concrete of the garage floor and got into the vehicle next to the driver.

It was a long, silent ride back to the prison, with a sheep deep in her own thoughts, and the two males on board glaring at each other once in a while.


Nick walked his partner over to one of the medium sized vending machines in the lobby. Reaching into a pocket, he pulled out a few coins and made a selection. He stooped down and retrieved the compressed alfalfa bar and handed it to her. Judy tore the tough wrapper open with her teeth while he put a few more coins in the slot and chose his own snack. He probably could have waited until supper, but it might be a while yet. Besides, Judy tended to be a little self-conscious about eating alone.

"I think maybe I should have first go at Duke, Carrots. You know, one hustler to another?"

The press was still waiting for them down by the front doors, hoping to get at least a couple of sound bites for hungry editors who were breathing down their necks for every last detail that could be poured into the next morning edition or played on the news broadcasts. There were a number of audible groans when the pair turned the other way, moving further into the bowels of the vast building.

"A surprisingly articulate idea there, slick. He's not exactly my number one fan, is he?" Judy chewed vociferously on her bar. They tended to leave little bits stuck in her teeth, something she always forgot until she looked into a mirror. Nick had never mentioned it, though she assumed he thought it was funny.

"You'd be surprised there. You've never really come down on him too hard, a lot easier than some of the guys from over on the third, from what I hear." Nick took a bite of the cherry flavored turkey jerky he was eating. "Word has it he was actually impressed with how you managed to catch him and save Fru-fru that first time you met. First time he'd ever been run down on foot."

"Yeah, but I'll never get him to admit that to my face."

"Well, that's a given, sweetheart." Nick popped her lightly on the top of the head.

By this time, they had gone down in the elevator to the holding area. It happened that Duke Weaselton was due to stand before the court that day for a hearing. Given the trivial nature of the misdemeanors he was charged with, he would probably be handed a fine and time served. Standing joke was that just about every minor offender had been sent out on an exchange that went:

"Charges from the prosecution?"

"The usual."


"The usual, your honor."

"Alright, then, the usual. Fifty dollars and time served!" Slamming of the gavel.


Duke had indeed been released, though given how often he had been in lately, the fine had been increased to Fifty-four dollars and sixty cents. Seems the cost of supper for overnight holding had gone up, and the city was being very conscientious about every cent being spent.

While he was waiting to get his few meager possessions back from the officer in charge of personal effects, he saw the two officers in dress blues headed his way. He chuckled inwardly at the discomfort that the uniform caused the fox. Every now and then the two had crossed paths in their various operations. When he'd gone over to the opposition a few months back, it had been something akin to betrayal to Duke's way of thinking. He was still holding a small grudge about the threatened icing, though he suspected the rabbit never would have let him get away with it.

"Hey Wesselton, we'd like a quick word with you!"

"C'mon, Officer Fluff, a game is a game, but this is getting downright distoibing."

Nick nudged his partner on the shoulder. She just grinned at him. He wasn't the only one with a sense of humor. The short stroll and snack had improved her outlook considerably.

"Look, Duke, we just want to talk. After that, we'll gladly drop you off wherever you want."

"I ain't gon be seen hanging around with no cops. Bad for business." Duke roughly grabbed the small bag of items the pig behind the half door of the effects locker had finally finished going through on the inventory list. It was still better than dealing with the sloths down at the DMV.

"Fine." Nick turned to said pig. "Got a quiet room we can borrow for just a couple minutes?"

The pig pointed to a small break room just down the hall. Judy nodded her thanks and herded the weasel into it before he could begin to complain. Nick shut the door behind them and grabbed a chair, sitting on it backward, his arms draped over the back.

"Look, like you pointed out, the game is starting to get old, and you have a business to run. It's our job to shut you down. How about we play a little ball here and see if we can't pull off a small hustle for old time's sake?" He pulled off his shades and let the scrawny male see he was actually serious.

Duke looked at him with a lot of doubt. This was Slick Nick, even if he was wearing a badge. He didn't trust the todd any further than he could have thrown an elephant. He turned his eyes to Judy. She was an open book, if ever there was one. Could have made a killing playing poker against her. He gave it a little thought. She was a by the book officer. If she gave her word, she kept it.

There were several moments of silence.

Finally Duke pulled himself out of his usual slouch. It made him look at least an inch and a half taller. The scrawny little thief was replaced with a slender, calculating young mammal. If he hadn't been wearing the same baggy jeans and wife-beater shirt that they were so used to, Nick and Judy would have a hard time believing he was the same animal they had arrested just the day before.

"Alright, this is the deal." Gone was the Zootopian-Italian accent. "I deal only with the two of you. Nothing ever gets traced back to me, and we don't meet in public unless you are actually arresting me."

The officers just stared at him for a moment. Judy opened and closed her mouth a few times. When it opened for the last time, what came out was a hearty laugh. It was long and loud, to the point that tears began streaming down her muzzle and she had to sit down. She started to hiccup slightly and Duke just smirked. She got it! She got it good!

Nick was starting to worry about his partner's sanity.

"He hustled us, Nick! How many times have I told you, anyone can be anything?" She took a deep breath and slapped a paw on the table a couple of times.

"Everyone needs a gimmick out there." Weaselton said simply. "If they think I'm an uneducated slob, they don't think I can possibly have connections to get what I want. They assume that they are taking advantage of a moron." It had been working for the better part of an octade now. It was all window dressing. His mother had been a prop assistant on some television productions back when Duke was a boy.

"So, what is it you want? Whatever it is, it most certainly isn't going to come cheaply."