Maggie had finished lacing up her black leather cross trainers, and was tying her hair back with purple elastic. Tige, the brown and black Shepherd, whined in anticipation. The morning had begun well: sunny, and full of spring scents. The view from the kitchen window seemed to beg her and Tige, to step out of the house and venture down the road.
She looked through the front window and knew something was wrong.
My car is gone, she thought.
Personal items that had filled the car’s console were strewn all over the verge of the street. After she called the police, she decided to take Tige for a ten-minute walk.This was all the time she was game to allow, as the dog had already spent ten minutes sniffing, panting, and whining all around the spot where the car had been. Maggie cringed when she realised that Tige was responding to his former training as a police drug dog. She wanted to be near home when the police called her mobile to let her know they were there to take prints from the items tossed from her car.
She scratched between Tige’s ears, and he relaxed. He had never been quite obedient enough to exit the training school, and enter a working squad. She thought about the sunny morning, like this one, a year before when her brother’s oldest friend, Sandro, had introduced Tige.
He had said, “Your bro told me you live alone now. Tige needs somewhere to go, and someone kind and active to care for him.”
He had smiled at her, and his eyes were warm. But Maggie still remembered the words because she felt the words kind and active made her sound like some mature age cat lady. Her shrug of indifference had turned to acceptance after she’d spent an afternoon with the dog.
Maggie and Tige knew that there were drug dealers in the block of units two doors down from their neat cottage home. Strange cars with one or two occupants were parked near the front at all hours of the night, and people came and went on certain days from the middle unit downstairs. The people used the driveway side door which opened onto the cracked asphalt driveway. It was a tiny bit too much activity for a flat that contained two single men. There were no loud parties, and no one carried packages to and from the scratched door that once had an immaculate coat of charcoal gloss paint. However, Tige would growl and sniff whenever the two young men walked past him, and got into their car parked on Lyons St. He did it in a way that Maggie knew his old drug dog instincts had kicked in.
Now my car’s missing, she shook her head regretfully. Tears filled her eyes.
Apart from the drug dealing, other inner city problems were changing her big town life. There was that couple, in the unit next door to the dealers. They harangued each other to frustration, in clear view of the neighbours, at least once a week. The speeding guy around the corner drove his utility past at around 15 kilometres over the limit. The couple who lived on the other side of her semi-detached had nasty arguments in their bedroom, separated by a brick wall from her own. The details of their vicious jabs, physical and mental, filtered through the wall vent. Finally, she often observed two youths, whom she hadn’t clearly identified, looking in car windows up and down the street. Her former home, only a street away, had been so much more peaceful.
Thinking about all this, and her stolen car, dulled her enthusiasm for the morning. She strolled past the block of units.
The dog lead abraded her hand as Tige lunged and bolted away from her. He went out of sight, down the asphalt driveway behind the flats. She hurried after him, rubbing the strained muscle that ached at the top of her right shoulder. She froze when she saw Tige had sunk his teeth into the trousers of one of the drug dealers, and was growling every time the dealer twitched. The young man, who had always looked cocky and swaggered across the footpath when Maggie saw him, was pale and still.
Her mouth felt dry. That dog has gotten under my skin. What if he sinks his teeth in, and they take him away?
Maggie commanded Tige, “Come here.”
Tige turned his head, and released the trouser leg, but he lunged and barked as the young man took two steps back towards his door. Maggie poked Tige with a bent stick from a nearby Maple tree. Tige boomed, and kept his eyes on the man.
A police car entered the block and slowed to a stop by Maggie’s house. A blue uniformed constable followed the path to her door and rang the bell. His partner got out of the front seat of the vehicle and fetched a large black bag from the rear seat. Tige growled, as the young man moved back against the wall, his face now hidden in the shadow from the upper balcony.
Maggie ran towards her house.
“Excuse me, officer,” she called. “My dog has a neighbour bailed up, two doors down.”
The officer with the black bag turned and she saw it was her brother’s friend Sandro.
He shook his head, “Tige has someone bailed up?”
“Yes.” She waved him forward as she walked.
They walked back to the flats, and the Constable noticing what they were doing, followed behind.
The two dealers were now outside their flat, where they were frozen in front of a barking and growling Tige.
Sandro drew himself up to his full height, expanding his chest.
“Well, well, this is interesting. How are you, Peter Jaans?”
The young man, who had been the first to be bailed up by Tige, narrowed his eyes and stared.
Sandro continued, “I’m the one who busted your brother John for carrying about 300 balls of ice out at the Rainbow festival. I suggest you let me search your place, just to prove you’re nothing like him.”
Peter leapt past Tige, sprinting away with the constable in pursuit, and Tige running beside them.
Sandro slapped the cuffs on dealer number two, who was cursing. Sandro turned to Maggie and asked her to watch the black bag which contained the fingerprinting kit. He marched number two over to the police car, and pushed him down into the back seat. At the corner, the Constable had one circle of a pair of cufflinks around the arm of Peter, while Tige barked. His tongue lolled, out of a wide doggy grin. Maggie laughed at the dog, as she watched the Constable finish with the cuffs, and move Peter towards Tige.
Tige’s first arrest, she thought. She glanced at her watch. And we’ve only been up 55 minutes.
She grabbed the bag, went over to the police car, and waited for Tige and the constable to get there.
The constable shoved Peter into the back seat. The two occupants bumped heads as they wriggled to get comfortable. The constable took the black bag from the ground and put it in the boot.
Sandro stuck his head out the window, “Sorry there won’t be any fingerprinting, Maggie. This takes priority. The crime was most likely committed by one of these guys’ customers anyway. We have back up coming to search that flat.”
She sighed, and said “Well, I have comprehensive insurance if the car doesn’t turn up, or isn’t fixable.”
As she watched the police men drive away down the block, Maggie patted Tige’s head. She grabbed Tige’s dust-covered lead and they set off through the dappled Maple shade.
“Let’s work up a good appetite for breakfast, super police dog,” she said.