Judy was sitting on a carved log stump in the backyard, diligently doing her ten (and only ten, on pain of Nick’s snark) forearm curls with a two-pound dumbbell, when her mom came up to her, bearing a pitcher of lemonade and a pair of cups on a tray.
“What’s up, Mom?” she asked, setting the dumbbell down.
Bonnie set the tray on a second nearby stump, then pulled up another to sit beside her. “Oh, just checking up on you. How’s your arm?”
Judy rubbed her shoulder and grimaced. “Weak. I’m working on it.” She looked closer at Bonnie’s troubled expression and lowered ears. “Something on your mind?”
“Judy, how do you know that Mr. Big person?” she asked, her voice serious. She began pouring out a cup lemonade and handed it to Judy.
“Like I told you, he’s a prominent Zootopian businessmammal,” Judy said, taking the cup from her and sipping as she tried to come up with an innocuous answer. “I saved his daughter from being crushed when I was pursuing a suspect in Little Rodentia, and later he helped us in resolving the Night Howler case. Fru Fru ended up naming her daughter after me, which made me her godmother, which I gather is a pretty big deal in their family. So he’s taken, er, kind of a personal interest in me.”
Bonnie’s nose twitched, obviously not ready to accept this explanation. “But Judy, doesn’t he seem, well, odd to you?” Her voice dropped down to a conspiratorial whisper. “Are you sure he isn’t with… the Mob?”
Judy, who’d had been taking another sip of lemonade, only barely kept herself from spewing it into Bonnie’s face. When she’d finished swallowing, she managed to ask blandly, “What was your first clue, Mom?”
“Well, that huge white limo, all those polar bears giving folks the hairy eyeball, the way Nick seemed so nervous around him.” Bonnie paused in surprise. “Wait, do you mean you knew?”:
“Yeah, Mom,” Judy replied. She raised her paw to stop Bonnie’s next question. “In Zootopia Mr. Big basically is the Mob.”
“For pity’s sake, why haven’t you arrested him then?”
Judy rubbed her paws over her face briefly, trying to form the right words. “Look, Zootopia is… complicated. Mr. Big is one of those complications. He’s a mobster. He runs protection rackets, illegal gambling, tax evasion schemes, you name it. But he doesn’t tolerate drugs or mammal trafficking, and he doesn’t let anyone who might get a clawhold in Zootopia. Also, he keeps an eye on things in Little Rodentia, which for the longest time the ZPD didn’t even go into because most of their cops are megafauna who would as much a danger to innocent citizens as criminals. He’s the devil we know. So the ZPD puts up with him, because the alternative might be a mammal that would stoop to drugs and prostitution, and possibly worse things, like Volkov.”
Bonnie was still looking disturbed. “And you’re all right with that?” she asked.
“It doesn’t matter if I am or not. It’s the way things are. With Mr. Big in power things are, if not perfect, at least stable.” She shrugged. “Stable is good. It means people can get on with their lives without worrying about the future too much. Unstable… Well, you saw the news during the Night Howler crisis.”
“I just…” Bonnie shook her head. “You really want to go back to that? To making compromises like that? I thought you wanted to make Zootopia a better place.”
“I do,” Judy said, trying to fight the feeling of uncertainty growing in her heart. “It is a better place now. The Night Howler incident brought up… Well, a lot of stuff that had been ignored, or pushed aside. People are talking to each other about the city’s problems, not just working around them or pretending they don’t exist.”
“But Mr. Big isn’t one of those problems?”
“He is… but there are worse ones in the city. Would I prefer him to be an honest mammal instead of a crook? Sure. Whatever his faults, he’s got a code he sticks to, and so far it’s been in Zootopia’s favor.” Judy ran her paw over her ears, flattening them to her head briefly as she thought. “It’s like the Night Howler plants. You know that they’re dangerous. They made your own brother go crazy and bite you. But Dad still uses them to keep the bugs out of the crops. Should he stop, because you know something bad might happen if someone chews on them?”
“No, of course not,” Bonnie said, shaking her head. “But they’re just plants. They don’t mean to hurt anyone.”
“They’re still dangerous,” Judy pointed out. “But you keep them around anyway, because they’re usefulness outweighs their risks. Same goes for Zootopia putting up with Mr. Big.”
Bonnie was still frowning. “That sounds like an awful lot of compromising, dear.”
Judy let out a very Nick-ish snort of amusement. “Don’t I know it....”