The Misdeeds of Sadie Quinn - chapter one

The blue uniform loomed in my wing mirror, obscuring the knowing wink of the red and blue lights of the patrol car. The joke’s on you, Sadie Quinn.

My tiny car idled on the grass verge of a quiet country highway – a road on which I had a reasonable expectation of encountering a tractor, a utility vehicle or two. Not law enforcement.

“Yes, officer?”

Hoping to buy some time, I hadn’t yet wound the window down, so relied on the fact the man could lip read my greeting. Given all I could see of him was his crotch and the lower half of his stab-proof-vested torso, he would have to lip read through the steel of the car’s roof.

His right hand made a circular motion.

I reached for the window crank and yanked it into life. The first revolution unplugged the glass from the seal with a pop, and the violent movement of the pane against the grimy rubber at the window’s base produced an ear-splitting squeal.

It moved little more than a centimetre.

I placed my other hand on top of the first, bent into the movement, and forced the crank around in a series of jerky movements. Screak, screak, screak

Despite the crisp mountain air funnelling into the heat-fog of the car’s interior, a band of sweat wrapped itself under my breasts and around my ribcage. 

One of the officer’s fingers tapped against the cell phone in his hand.

On the fourth revolution, the officer flipped open the phone casing. On the fifth, the pane thunked home into the window slot and he planted his feet, squarely facing the car door.

“Do you know why I stopped you?”

I pulled my mass of long, brown hair away from my neck to vent some of the heat rolling off my body, and watched the loose, shuddering knob of the gear stick turn one full rotation before deciding on my approach. “I don’t, but I’d hazard a guess you wanted a close-up look inside an original Holden Barina. 1988. Classic hatchback.”

I thought I heard the officer snort, but given he’d waited for four of my elevated heartbeats to respond, like he was taking the time to gather his patience, I could have been mistaken.

“We’ve had a call to our Roadwatch line about a car with this number plate weaving across the road. Any particular reason you couldn’t keep to the left-hand lane this afternoon?”

I let the breath I’d been holding escape in a whoosh. I’d been expecting a “hands where I can see ’em”, or at the very least an unintelligible directive shouted through a mega phone on his approach to the car. It could have been disappointing if the relief surging through my veins wasn’t so complete.

I sucked in a sharp breath as a new fear gripped me.

My possessions, crammed into the boot and above the parcel tray, meant the goat would have been obscured from view on the cop’s approach, but it was only a matter of time until he peered into the car. He’d make me set her loose.

I’d had two objectives in mind when I set out on the road that afternoon. “Flee” and “with haste”.

I hadn’t wanted to complicate matters by stealing a baby goat, but when it stepped out onto the road and nearly put a kid-shaped dent in my front fender, it gave me little choice.

Once the smoke from my tyres had cleared and my pulse settled from a drum roll to a rumba, I opened my door and stepped out onto the rough bitumen to ask if it was lost. With a single blah-ha-ha-ha, it trotted past me and jumped into the car.

I looked from its disappearing rear to the mountains of the Central Plateau on the horizon, as if I could see into a possible goat-coloured future. Shrugging my shoulders, I climbed back into the driver’s seat.

The kid had decided I was hers to keep. Who was I to argue with a goat?

And now the little ball of energy was responsible for my current predicament.

I issued a sigh, knowing I’d protect her at all costs anyway.

The officer’s fingers drummed on the roof and I knew I shouldn’t have pushed my luck with the “classic hatchback” comment.

From the back seat, the goat nuzzled my hair and mouthed my recycled tin earring with a clack of teeth.

“Shhh,” I hissed, even though she’d said nothing.

The officer placed a hand on his hip. “I beg your pardon?”

I pushed the goat away and focused on the blurry edges of the truth of my situation, of what I could pull to the centre.

Grimacing for the benefit of his crotch, and sucking air through my teeth for that of his ears, I said, “No power steering. I’ve only had her a couple of days and she takes some getting used to. She’s an honest car, but drives like a tank.” I attempted to give the dash an affectionate pat, but my coordination failed under the presence of his uniformed authority and I ended up slapping it like I was meting out bad-car discipline.

The officer hmmed and stepped in close to the bonnet, his right thigh resting against the peeling paintwork of the driver’s side.

He tapped something into his phone. No doubt, the recently expired date of the Warrant of Fitness. “Turn off your engine please.”

If the cop worried about the possibility of me being a flight risk, he hadn’t looked closely enough at the duct tape holding on the front bumper or the blockish style of the car’s body. The window might have been a clue.

It was then that the goat decided to make her presence known. Her snout found the soft pink shell of my ear and bleated out a shrill goaty laugh. Blah-ha-ha-ha.

I jerked my head away from her and my foot slipped off the clutch, throwing the car into a bunny-hop, which would not have been quite so bad in itself were it not for an officer of the New Zealand police force standing in front of the groin-level wing mirror.

The mirror pumf-ed as it connected with the officer’s soft parts.

With a hiss, like that of a deflating balloon, he collapsed on to the bonnet.

His pale eyes locked onto mine and widened. It might have been in recognition, or disbelief at his rotten luck. Possibly both.

There was something familiar about the fairness of his hair, the alarming icy-blue of his irises.

Then they closed and with a shmeee of flesh sliding on metal, he disappeared over the end of the bonnet.