Sullivan was both awed and dismayed by the eerie silence that greeted him and his Deputies on this cold, gloomy Autumn morning. During the week that had elapsed from Brutus's resignation the residents of the town for which Nottinghamshire was named had almost completely abandoned it.
"Almost everyone's gone, Sheriff." His Deputy-in-Charge; a ferret that the others called "Blackjack" because of his nearly jet black fur and tough, no-nonsense demeanor; said, flipping through a sheaf of notes.
"The only ones left are a few of the larger local landholders who're exempted from the Repossession Decree."
"And are, therefore, loyal to His Majesty." Sullivan grunted, completing Blackjack's thought.
"I guess." The ferret shrugged. "They all wanna know what you plan to do about bringin' 'em back." He stated.
Sullivan pounded an angry fist on the desk that he sat at. "Damned idiots!" He exclaimed. "How the hell can I bring 'em back when I have no idea where they've gone!"
Just then, the door to the office flew open and in stomped another Deputy, a lynx, who was trailing a rope and half-pulling, half-dragging along a hare, who was tied at the neck and wrists. "Deputy Sillus reporting, Sir!" The cat said with the slight hiss-like lisp common to his species. "I caught THIS," He wrinkled his nose disdainfully. "spying on us from the woods at the edge of town." The hare was probably no older than his late teens and his fur and clothing were torn and mud- and blood-stained from numerous small cuts on his face, shoulders and upper chest along with a good-sized lump over his right eye. Sillus had not escaped from the ravages of whatever fracas he and his opponent had engaged in either. His clothing was equally splattered and rent and a small chunk of flayed skin hung from the underside of one of his ears, a small rivulet of blood still flowing down into the matted, clotting fur below.
Sullivan frowned. "What's your name, son?" He asked.
"I'll not tell you!" The hare spat defiantly. "You're not MY father!"
The lynx gave a sharp tug to the rope causing his captive to wince in pain. "You'll answer the Sheriff if ya know what's good fer ya!"
"Deputy. Why don't you go and get yourself tended to." Sullivan said, his voice gentle but leaving no room for misinterpretation. The cat opened his mouth to argue, but the angry glare from Blackjack made him think better of his words. Sillus quickly turned and stalked out of the office, exchanging a hateful glare of his own with the prisoner.
Sullivan then turned his attention to the prisoner. "Cut the boy loose, Deputy." He ordered. Blackjack drew his dagger, which elicited a flicker of nervousness from the hare's eyes but whose expression was otherwise one of sullen anger. "Now, what's your name?" He asked again.
"Why should I tell you anythin'?" The hare growled.
Sullivan shrugged. "Well, unless you'd prefer that I call you 'boy' all the time. But I'd rather be able to call you by name. Mine's Sullivan."
The hare looked skeptically at both the wolf and the ferret. He was in REAL deep trouble now. When his father had come home that night a week ago and told them about the mass resignation of the entire law enforcement contingent of the Shire, he'd pleaded with his father to be allowed to join the new army that King Nicodemus's former Captain-of-the-Guard was trying to form to fight King Jenner's tyrannical rule. But his father had scotched that idea, telling him that "this is a war, son. There's gonna be plenty of killin', mark my words, an' I'll be dependin' on you to look after your mother, sisters an' brothers if I'm sent tomeet the spirits." But those words had not mollified him. Instead, he'd taken the first opportunity while the rest of the family was moving to the Locksley Estate to slip away and try to get a close-up look at their would-be oppressors. Unfortunately, he apparently hadn't hidden himself quite as well as he'd believed because the lynx had come out of nowhere and proceeded to thrash him and scratch at him. Sure, he'd gotten a few good licks of his own in; the cat would have scars of its own to prove that; but in the end the older and stronger animal had prevailed and soon had him subdued. He finally decided to swallow his pride and hoped that his father would forgive him for this small act of concession to the enemy. "My name's Declan Wyclyffe." He mumbled, spelling out the name and emphasizing the two "Y"sout of years of habit.
Sullivan nodded impassively and said, "Nice to meet you, Declan. I'm sorry about your run-in with the Deputy. He's young and a bit too eager to impress. I'll speak to him at some point."
Declan narrowed his eyes. "I know what you're tryin' to do!" He said, a measure of desperation in his voice. "You're tryin' to get me to tell you where the others are! Well I won't tell you even if you try to torture it out of me!"
Sullivan exchanged a look with Blackjack; who shrugged and gave Sullivan a confused lookof his own. "I honestly have no idea what you're talking about. My job here is simply to replace the Sheriff and the Deputies who resigned last week. That's all. I have no interest inwhere anyone went. I assumed that they were all at harvest." He said.
Declan eyed the new Sheriff suspiciously. Any idiot should have known that all of the harvests were completed.
Sullivan sighed. Obviously this kid was no bumpkin. While Sullivan would've given one of his canine-teeth to know where the town's inhabitants had run off to, he decided that even torture, for the moment at least, was simply too extreme a measure and would only do more harm than good. "Deputy." He said; reaching for a pen, ink and paper.
"Sir?" Blackjack answered.
Sullivan scratched out something, folded the paper and handed it to the hare. "Take our young guest to the hospital to have his injuries treated, then take him into the forest and release him. Anyone who tries to stop him will answer to me." To Declan he said, "Take this note to whoever's leading the townsfolk."
Declan frowned, but finally nodded.
"Good lad." Sullivan said, and sent them on their way.
A while later, Blackjack returned and reported to him. "The boy's on his way, sir."
Sullivan nodded pensively.
"Sir, shouldn't we have sent someone to follow him?" The ferret asked.
Sullivan shook his head emphatically. "No, Deputy. We'll find out soon enough what's going on. Until then, we've gotta get ourselves organized here. When the townsfolk left, they seem to have taken every last bushel of their food with 'em so I'm gonna have to get Jenner to send some our way or we'll all be diggin' for roots by next week."