Halt. It's important you reread Chapter 12. It underwent a great deal of revisions. Explanation in its post note. Short version: I felt cheap for reusing past content. That's enough for now though. Onwards!
The torrential downpour prompted many thoughts in Dawn Bellwether's mind as she watched it. To many, rain was depressing, but the ewe thought it cleansing under certain circumstances. Hearing the crunch of tires on gravel, Dawn redirected her attention to see Lionheart's car stop a relatively short distance away. Bolting towards it as the passenger door opened, Dawn got inside to find Lionheart offering her a towel. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Lionheart replied. He merged back onto the roadway and began driving toward their destination: his residence. "I've got my guestroom ready for you. It isn't much, but it's at least adequate."
"Thank you. I appreciate it." Dawn whispered. Her eyes drifted back to the rain outside. "Exactly how many are aware you had me released?"
"Not all that many." Lionheart explained. "I only told those pertinent towards your release." Taking the exit ramp for his home, he said, "I figured you didn't want too much unwanted attention."
"It seems you're not totally without braincells." Dawn's hoof immediately clamped itself over her mouth. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't've said that. It was rude."
"Doesn't make it any less true though." Lionheart countered. "Let's not beat around the bush, Dawn. I'm not the smartest of mammals. I essentially used everyone as a stepping stool to become Mayor. You especially. It's part of the reason I need your help. Between us, you're the one most suited for my current position."
Dawn gave Lionheart a sideways glance. His expression showed nothing except sincerity. "Mind explaining the who, what, when, where, and why of this epiphany?"
"Who: my therapist." Lionheart confessed. "I have weekly sessions every Friday. The what is something she pointed out following my own release from prison, which also tells you when. As for the where: in my office. Why is more complicated, but basically it boils down to a lot of self-reflection."
They pulled into the driveway of Lionheart's home and got out. Entering, Lionheart led the ewe to her room. "As I said, it isn't much."
The ewe let her eyes roam across it, from one wall to another, slow as a snail. In total honesty, it was quite larger than most places she had lived previously. However, the room was barren except for a small bed. There was one thing that stood out. "L3?" Dawn asked, inquiring about a carving in one of the bedposts.
"Leodore Lewellyn Lionheart." The lion muttered. "This was mine as a cub. Managed to dig it out of storage. It's the only thing I had close to your size."
"Oh." Dawn softly replied. Setting down the bag of her belongings, she said, "I can tell there's a question you want to ask, Leodore. Go ahead. You have my permission."
"Why? I want to know why, Dawn. I'm certain you had a reason for all of it. Please, tell me the reason behind it all." Lionheart was aware he sounded rather pathetic. The lion watched as she considered how best to answer, or what lie would be most convincing. Finally, after what felt like an excruciatingly long wait, he was given a response.
"My parents weren't the best." Dawn began, tentatively. "If I didn't achieve a high enough grade on something in school they'd beat me senseless. My mother was a veterinarian, so they never required to visit a hospital for medical care in the event of going a tad too far. As for my father, he was the epitome of a cruel, cold, collected, and heartless bastard. I still sometimes think he was a 'wolf in sheep's wool'."
"It only worsened as I got older." the ewe continued. "My punishments became more severe. I had always thought one day my mother was going to save me, but she never did. I was utterly alone. One night, police arrived when it was only my father and I. They were there to inform us of my mother's death. Her passing made everything worse than my most horrific nightmares."
"Eventually, my father was provided with the full account of what had happened. My mother was murdered by a predator when she refused to provide him with drugs from the hospital at which she worked. This information only sparked an even greater hatred towards predators within my father. I became the conduit through which he planned to exact his vengeance."
"He pulled me out of public schooling and hired the best private tutors his money permitted. I was subjected to an education which warped my mind, morals, and beliefs. By the time I graduated college, nothing of my former self existed other than a quiet voice in the back of my mind. Right after graduation, my father was also murdered by a predator, albeit in self-defense. His killer was defending their younglings from him because he tried to murder them. I was at the trial where my father's murderer was acquitted."
"Soon, I decided to enter politics. Even though my father was gone, his voice pestered me incessantly. I continued to move forward with his plans, but it never reached fruition. All my father's plans were halted thanks to Hopps and Wilde."
Lionheart gazed at Dawn sadly. "I'm sorry you went through all that. No one should ever have to endure what you did. Had I known…" He trailed off, not sure how to continue.
The two listened to the rain outside. Both felt a bit lighter, but also felt a greater weight now. Neither moved, waiting for whatever would happen next.
It was as though his windshield wipers were mocking him. The noise they made sounded oddly like 'Dumb guy. Dumb guy. Dumb guy'. Maybe he really was a dumb guy, but Bogo chose to blame lack of adequate rest. As lightning crackled across the sky, he drove as quickly and as safely as possible towards his destination.
In Zootopia, all law enforcement agencies answer to the Internal Affairs Bureau. Normally, Bogo took great pains to keep his subordinates out of their crosshairs, but he now needed to call in a favor with IAB's chief. The old grizzly owed him quite a few and it was time to collect.
Trekking through the maze of hallways toward Chief Uri's office, Bogo thought it ironic he'd visit this place. Ordinarily, no one other than the employees voluntarily set foot inside. Reaching his destination, the buffalo knocked.
"Enter!" Chief Uri commanded. Hearing the door open, the grizzled grizzly peered at his visitor. "Now, I've seen everything. What in blue blazes are you doing visiting me, Bogo? I don't have you scheduled for anything."
"We need to talk about something I can't have made public." Bogo began briefing Uri of the situation. Nearly an hour later, Bogo concluded, "Therefore, I'm here to collect that favor you owe me."
Uri pinched the bridge of his snout rather strongly. Exhaling a heavy sigh, he stated, "I had hoped it was only a rumor. Even, potentially, a grievous error by whatever lab was used." Slamming a fist down upon his desk hard enough to break it, Uri shouted, "FUCKIN' DAMNIT ALL TO HELL!" Shoving the two halves away, he stood and walked toward his window. "For the last couple of years, I've heard whispers some of my own subordinates were dirty. I never gave it much credence until recently. Not until one was proven on a mobster's payroll. However, this is far, far worse."
"I'm well-aware of that." Bogo replied. "It's why I'm here. I want a discreet investigation into every single one of my officers. I'm looking to purge the malignant cancer from our ranks."
"It isn't only your officers though." Uri stated. "It's the entire ZPD along with every mammal in affiliated agencies, both here and overseas. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for it. I only want you to understand the sacrifice it will require."
"It's a price I'm more than willing to pay."
Reopening an old cold case required a lot of paperwork. So much paperwork in fact that Wolford felt he'd end up getting carpel tunnel from having signed his name so many times. Fangmeyer was of similar mind, but she didn't complain nearly as much as her partner. After all, she had used a stamp of her signature instead.
"I still think that's cheating." Wolford grumbled from his seat on the other side of their shared desk. "I mean, imagine if someone else uses it. There's too much at risk."
"I keep it under lock and key." Fangmeyer reminded him. "Plus, there's only one key, which stays in my breast pocket at all times. The risk is minimal."
Huffing in annoyance, Wolford resumed his task of organizing all the old information.
To any outside observer, they behaved like an old married couple. The two were regularly teased for it as well. Yet, only a pawful of mammals knew their secret. Fangmeyer continued using her maiden surname after they had married to keep others from finding out she was mates with Wolford. Both strove to keep home and work separate, but it was always a challenge. Still, they made it work, and made it work well. They weren't normally permitted to work together anymore, so it was a treat for them whenever they did.
"I find it hard to believe no one ever came forward with any information." Fangmeyer stated, ending the silence between them. "He was so young, and nobody saw anything. It doesn't seem right."
Sighing sadly, Wolford said, "I know. I feel you. If, by some bizarre miracle, we have kits, cubs, pups, or whatever we call them, they'll have tracking chips implanted until their at least 17."
"Don't you think that's a little excessive?" Fangmeyer queried. "What if they're simply on a date? Are you going to storm into the room and drag them home by their ear or tail?"
"Yes. That's exactly what I'm going to do." Wolford answered quite bluntly. "I'll probably be old, but I'll never be old enough to have grandbabies."
Snickering, Fangmeyer whispered, "Hate to tell you this then, but I'm pregnant."
Fangmeyer waited for it to finally click in her mate's head. When it did, she watched him raise his eyes to her with his ears flat against his head. "Surprise, Daddy." she whispered with a grin.
Blinking a couple of times slowly, Wolford waited for his brain to reboot. "I honestly don't know how to take that."
It was about three hours later when the two walked out of Precinct One with a box of files in paw. Wolford was still grumbling about having to take work home with them. Fangmeyer simply shook her head. Neither realized the shadow moving along behind them.
The drive home never took too long for them, only living a few city blocks away. Fangmeyer set her box down in the living room, on top of their coffee table. "I'll get some coffee started. Then, we can resume where we left off earlier."
"As you say." Wolford responded. He opened his box and began rereading the papers inside for probably the fifth time that day. This time though, something stuck out that hadn't prior. "Hey. Jay Ichneumon's parents were government officials, right?" Getting a confirmative noise from his wife, Wolford stated, "It says here, his father worked for military researchers while Mrs. Ichneumon treated psychiatric patients as a psychotherapist. Where's that file Dr. Sandra gave us?"
"On the study table." Fangmeyer shouted. "I thought it was proven the abductor hadn't known who he kitnapped. What are you thinking?"
"Don't know yet. I'll tell you once I do." Wolford began skimming for the contents he needed. "Listen to this. It's kind of a journal entry. 'The little mongoose has proven himself more resilient than expected. Too bad I must break him. I hate to admit he has become my favorite specimen. It pains me to know his parents are out there pleading for any information on his whereabouts, but there's nothing anyone can do anymore. It's far too late.' Dr. Sandra has conclusive proof Jay was at that asylum."
Fangmeyer sat down next to her husband. "We already knew that though. Unless you've realized something else."
"I don't think Jay was the only kit taken. If I'm right, there were more kits abducted and subjected to experimentation elsewhere. Jay's probably the only one who managed to survive though. This journal entry has none of the identifying markers of being written by a doctor. I…I think this was written by whoever oversaw everything that happened there."
The sensation of a water droplet striking her nose woke Dr. Sandra. Eyes fluttering open, the sand cat realized she was no longer at home in bed. "Hello?" Her croak echoed throughout the room. Coughing, Dr. Sandra again croaked out, "H-Hello?"
"Oh, good. You're awake." Samantha greeted as she walked into the room. "I'm glad to see you've finally regained consciousness."
"Which do you serve? Jay? Or, my old employer?" Dr. Sandra asked, voice still rough.
"Does it matter? Perhaps it's neither." Samantha stepped close to the sand cat. "I know what you did. I'm here to have you answer for your crimes."
Dr. Sandra stated, "Trust me. I'll answer for them soon enough. I have no doubt of that. I only want to know if you're here for Jay, or my old employer."
"I'm here for Jay." Samantha eventually answered. "He told me about the horrid thing y'all did to him. I only wanted to know why?"
"Money has more influence than even the gods." Dr. Sandra explained. "I never wanted any of this. None of this was meant to happen." Taking a deep breath, she continued, "There's so much Jay has yet to understand about what happened to him." Suddenly, a repetitive 'plink, plink, plink' sounded, causing Dr. Sandra to jump. "Listen to me carefully: Tell Jay to visit Dr. Kraven. Inquire about Project Shaper. Do NOT engage the Invisible King until…"
The sand cat never finished. Her head exploded with a loud, resounding 'BANG'. Samantha dove for cover behind a metal crate as another was fired at her previous position. The vixen ran, and she didn't look back even once.
From his position, the sand cat's executioner purposefully failed to hit the vixen. His task was only to eliminate Dr. Sandra, which he had completed. He had received no instruction regarding any others. Though he contemplated tying loose ends, it wasn't part of the contract. Storing his sniper rifle away, he heaved the rucksack onto his back and proceeded to leave the immediate vicinity. Entering the vehicle waiting for him, he accepted the burner phone his chauffer proffered.
"It's done. I've exterminated Dr. Sandra. Her original captor got away." He listened as the other mammal spoke. "I understand. Yes, sir. I shall see you relatively soon. Is there anything else you currently require of me? Then, I shall await your call." Ending the call, he closed his eyes. "Driver, take me home."
Elsewhere, another also set their own phone down. Upon their desk sat a single photograph. There was nothing else except that. They examined it with keen eyes. Running a single claw along the frame's edge, they whispered, "I'll see all of you soon."
This is the first time our Big Bad is introduced, somewhat.
Although, our sniper assassin uses the term 'sir', don't immediately assume they are male. I haven't actually decided their gender yet.
I had written myself into a corner because of the previous version of Chapter 12. Thanks to its revisions, I'm freed myself. It's a major pain, but sometimes necessary.
In my head, the scene where Dr. Sandra is murdered, I see something similar to when Gibbs, Tony, and McGee rescue Ziva on NCIS. Only, there's no saving our poor sand cat.
A consummate professional would do exactly what our sniper did. He didn't deviate in the slightest from his mission. He did nothing more nor anything less than the details given to him.
Fangmeyer and Wolford's part was small, but it's meant that way. Their little supposed secret won't remain that way for much longer, and shit will hit the fan.
Dawn's backstory is a bit redundant. Multiple authors have her father being abusive. Few have her mother. I wanted both because it wouldn't have given her any way out. Either she obeyed and lived or…well, it wasn't that uncommon for parents to kill their children way back when if they saw fit.
As for Bogo, much like Palpatine, he's going to initiate a purge. All those allied with Job/Jay will soon find themselves targets. Having the Internal Affairs Bureau chief assist is a great way to ensure none remain.
Next Chapter: Nick begins to break from reality. Judy witnesses it. A potential candidate for our mysterious Big Bad is revealed.
Last Note: I want to elaborate one particular thing. Take a look at the final line of story content. The mention of a claw doesn't mean they are a predator. After all, Judy is a bunny, but she has claws, albeit blunt ones. Certain prey species do have claws. Also, we will meet three candidates in total who will reappear inconsistently.
Ciao for now.